Pace Report: Western States 100-mile Endurance Run

at the finish line

So Thursday I received an email that my friend who was scheduled to pace Western States 100-mile Endurance Run hurt his ankle and wanted to know if I was free to do so. With a quick check of the schedule, I quickly jumped in and said yes I was able to pace or crew or whatever was needed for Galen (runner #172 at Western States)

For Galen and other runners the day started very early on Saturday morning with a 5:00 AM start time. Along with the early start time the heat would play a huge factor when it came to being out on the Western States Trail that had runners starting at Squaw Valley and making their way to Placer High School in Auburn, CA.

I was able to start my day a little later as I met with a couple friends who were there to support and pace other sections of the run for Galen. Our day started at 12:30PM when we met up at Placer High School before making our way to check in at pacer central at Forrest Hill. Here we signed our waivers and got our pacer designated bibs.

pacer central at Forrest Hill

 After getting our self checked in, we then drove out to Michigan Bluff (mile 55 of the race) where we would spend most of our day in a single location. This is where we would see most runners cross through the aid station. Some runners looked very strong at this point, while others looked like the heat was starting to take a toll on them. For those who were strong they got in and out of the aid station as quickly as possible after refilling their hydration packs/ bottles and getting their weight checked by medical staff. Once we saw Galen come through we made a quick hike to the shuttle to get to our car and make our way back to Forrest Hill, where Jamey would jump in and pace him from miles 60 through 80.

Michigan Bluff station

Galen moving through Michigan Bluff

With Galen and Jamey off to take on a few more covers, trails, and cross a river, I jumped in the car and made my way to Green Gate, where I would take over the pacing duties and help Galen move to the finish line. At Green Gate, I got all of my goods together and anything else that Galen would need for the final 20 miles to get to Placer High School. Some of those goods that I got all situated were obviously my trail shoes (Skechers GObionic Trail), my hydration pack (Orange Mud), head lamp, hand held LED flashlight, spare batteries, and Galen’s head lamp and fresh shirt.

Once I got to the Green Gate station, I made my way down the hill to try to find Galen and Jamey who just crossed the river. When I mean crossed the river, I literally mean in the water moving across the river.  I spotted them about a half mile down from the station and we started making our way back up the dark path way. Here Galen switched head lamps for a stronger spotlight as we would be running through midnight to the finish.

a dark and lonely stretch on the Western States Trail

 At Green Gate, Galen quickly moved through the station, putting down some warm broth to help settle his stomach, refill his hand held water bottles (1 with Coke the other with water), threw on his new dry shirt and now we were off to tackle the final 20 miles that would include over 3,000 feet of elevation gain to the finish. Most of the trail that remained would be single track with several switch backs and loose rocked areas with some pretty nasty roots that could cause a tumble. In fact in the first 2 miles of taking over the pacing duties I kicked a tree root that I didn’t see and took a slight stumble and banged my knee up against a rock, which I didn’t know until the finish where there was better lighting that I actually got a bit bloody on the course after cutting it while hitting the rock.

For new the key to pacing Galen was to keep him moving and moving quickly through the aid stations. Fortunately, I was given some insight on how to pace this portion of the course especially in the evening. With the aid stations about 5 miles apart, it was easy to just break the run up into chunks focusing on getting from station to station rather than counting down double digit miles remaining. The major stations we would move from included Auburn Lake Trails (mile 85.2), Brown’s Bar (mile 89.9) and Highway 49 (mile 93.5).  A couple other stations that were on the route that we either just passed through or grabbed a quick refill were at No Hands Bridge (mile 96.8) and Robie Point (mile 98.9).

No Hands Bridge might have been the most amazing thing on the course as it was lite all the way across with white holiday style lights. After crossing the bridge we knew that there would be a pretty nasty little climb at Robie Point before we would officially exit the Western States Trail and make our way through the neighboring paved streets that lead to Placer High School. As we moved through neighborhood, I was completely amazed at the people on the streets at 1:45AM, many of them in lawn chairs cheering on runners as they came by as they enjoyed a beverage and some even held up signs.

We crossed a short bridge and we were in the final half mile to the finish line. We entered the stadium and with 3/4 of a lap to complete Galen would be well under his adjusted goal of 21 hours as he finished at 20 hours 56 minutes. Inside the stadium, Galen was greeted by his parents, wife and daughter along with other members of his training group. For me I continued along the track and exited the designated pacer / crew lane. Inside the stadium were other runners and crew members scattered on the infield of the track and stands some in sleeping bags.

Galen and his daughter receiving his finishers medal

After being part of this weekend, I am truly amazed to see what goes into this single event from the individual runner to their crew. The aid station support is amazing with all of their volunteers. Though I never have the intentions of running a 100 mile run myself, I will always be willing to participate by being part of a crew, pacer or just come out and support in the future. If you ever have a chance to see or to be part of the Western States 100, I suggest you seize the opportunity and jump in the event at some capacity. In just one experience with the event, I have gained even more appreciation for the community that I belong to as a runner and admire the runners that participate in this event.

For photos from Western States 100 check out the Marathon Living Facebook photo album.

The finish area just after 2AM

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