Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Western States Lead-Up

While my posts are always about runs or races, I thought it would be interesting to document the week leading up to Western States so that I could look back on it years from now and perhaps compare my expectations (this entry) to reality (the post-race write-up.) My intent is to put down a little something each day until race day...

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Friday, June 20th.
Having lost my potential pacer, Paul, to an injury, I am faced with the dilemma of whether to get one of the pacers listed on the Western States website or just go it alone and expect to possibly fall in with another runner during the latter stretches of the race. The current plan has my crew meeting me in five locations along the course. The fifth one may be optional for them as it could come around 3:00 a.m. if I am on my 24-hour goal pace. I may send them on to the finish when I see them at mile 78, just before crossing the American River.

I'm really concerned about the heat as it looks to be in the mid to upper 90s at the finish on race day. I use the finish as a gauge of the temperatures at the lower elevations on the course. My hope is that, it will be noticeably cooler in the higher elevations and I won't get down into the canyons until the hottest part of the day has passed. My 24-hour pace goal would keep me above 3000' until about 7:00 p.m., except for a brief descent to El Dorado Creek at mile 53. It's hard to find much information on what sort of temperatures to expect along different parts of the course, but I'll keep digging.

I am also debating whether to wear my pack. My current thinking is to not wear it early in the race, but take it for the evening hours, when it won't be so hot. I do plan to wear a hat and soak it at every aid station and creek crossing. I wonder if it ever rains at Western States?

My other debate is over what shoes to wear. I have some very comfortable Salomon Sense Mantras that are light weight, but have little cushioning. I haven't worn them more than about 25 miles, though. So, do I wear them some early then switch, or wear them in the later miles, when my legs are tired and less weight on them might be better?

It feels a lot like before the Georgia Death Race. I am having trouble coming up with a plan. Here's hoping the coming days find me ironing these things out...

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Friday, June 27

OK, so much for a daily update...

We arrived in Sacramento yesterday and met up with our friend, Donna, who will help Leslie with crewing. One roughly 100 mile drive later and we were in the Olympic Village, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics and host for the start of Western States. It is a neat area that is more populated during ski season than in summer. Near our accommodations in Squaw Valley Lodge is a town centre with various shops and condos above them. The architecture has a little bit of Alpine style to it. Ski lifts and trams head out in all directions to the mountain peaks that tower over us to the west.

Most of Thursday was spent figuring out where things were and adjusting to the three hour time shift. We found a nice Irish pub in the village and settled on dinner there. It was a nice spot and I think it may have been where Hal Koerner ate before the 2010 race featured in Unbreakable. I hope to have a better outcome tomorrow than Hal did that year.

On Friday, things get real. I woke up at 4:30 (having gone to sleep about 8:30) and read until everyone was up. We walked around and browsed the Western States Store. I really hesitated to get anything with the logo,knowing I would not wear it if I DNF'd. Ultimately, I did get a hat with the logo since most of mine are wearing out. While we browsed the Expo outside, we learned about a free 6K that climbs 2550' to the first aid station. Donna and Leslie signed up, got a bit of free gear and took off on a walk (its geared to walkers and runners) at 10:00 a.m. Meanwhile, I went to registration.

It is a multi-step process to sign in. First came the mandatory waiver, then I received a yellow band with my information. Next, I met with the folks doing the GI study, answered their questions, and gave a blood sample. Then, I was weighed with the result recorded on my yellow band and then band was taped around my right wrist. Now, it was swag time. I was given a Montrail have and went "trick-or-treating" along a long semicircle of tables. I don't do races for the swag, but when you pay about $400 for a race, it feels nice to get something...beyond the experience, I mean. I wasn't done yet, though. Next, I had my picture made for the website and then answered a brief survey...it was probably a 10-15 minute process, total.Andi don't get my bib and chip until tomorrow!

The mandatory pre-race meeting was held in a packed assembly hall. It had to have been 80 something degrees inside. It consisted mainly acknowledgements of the organizers, volunteers, and elite runners. The main takeaway for me was getting an updated weather forecast.  They predicted the highs for my pace would be mid 80s at around mile 62. The low will be in the low 40s at the start and top of the first climb.

The highlight of the day was nearly getting run over by Gordy Ainsleigh in his truck. Good karma or bad omen? We find out tomorrow...

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