Tuesday, December 28, 2010

3 NonJoggers

If you haven't been listening to this podcast, you're seriously missing out. Russ McGarry, Gary the Vale, and Carl the Mailman.

Their theme song:

Two runners and a mailman in a basement in Portland
Discussing all the issues that no one finds important
Opinions, they got ‘em, but experts, they ain’t
Technology as current as Microsoft Paint
They cover lots of topics, from running to walking
And if they sound intelligent, that’s just the beer talking
These are not classes, they talk out their asses
No knowledge is dropping, but still there’s no stopping
The Three Non-Joggers podcast

Check 'em out at: 3 Nonjoggers

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Have TB - Tired Butt

Today was one of those days where I should've listened to both my body and my husband. Shocking admission on the last one there, I know.

It's been a long two+ weeks for me. I had a huge transcription project that took me at least a week to complete - including a 9-hr day one Saturday and 5 hours on the Sunday, I had a conference to prepare for and attend last weekend down in North Hollywood, and this week work has been unbelievable with a 3-day mediation in progress over a complicated trust litigation with which I was indoctrinated at my job when I started a little over a year ago. (Yes, this thing has been going on for over a year.) Last night things finally got hashed out, an agreement was signed . . . and over the last 3 days I've put in 28 hrs at work - 8.5 straight hours on Thursday and 12.5 straight hours yesterday. I finally got home last night around 9:15 after quickly stopping at McDonald's for a disgusting cheeseburger and fries. But I was starving!

All this culminated in me sleeping for almost 12 hours last night. I finally dragged myself out of bed at 10:00 this morning, then sat on the couch for another two hours talking myself into going on my run. Shorty told me to bag it and just rest, but oh no! I couldn't do that! I've hardly run in almost 2 weeks due to a bad kidney infection. I only ran 5 miles this past Wednesday when I was suppose to run 7. I have a freaking 50k coming up in February, for crying out loud! I can't bag a run because I'm exhausted. That would be stupid!

Well, I have to say, it was probably one of my top 5 worst runs. At about Mile 4.5 I was wishing I had my cell phone so I could call Shorty to come get me. Around Mile 7.5, the wheels totally fell off and I was completely dragging ass. Even the smallest of inclines had me walking. I managed a scorching 10:25 mm pace. I am, however, right proud that I managed to run up the last little hill to where I start my cool down walk - albeit at a snail's pace. But that's okay. I completely 8.75 of the schedule 10 - and I am now totally and completely exhausted.

I know part of the problem, besides working, working ... and working some more, is except for a holiday here and there, a day or two off to attend conference or a running event, I haven't had a vacation since last October. And I won't be getting one until May. I'm just plain ole worn out. As Shorty so aptly reminded me - I've been burning the candle at both ends and it's catching up with me.

Perhaps I should entertain the thought of listening to my body, as well as Shorty, and taking tomorrow off. . . . . We'll see.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Body Composition and VO2 Max Test

Our local university offers, through their Human Kinesiology Department, a body comp and VO2 max test, and it was just a little over 2 years ago (October 22, 2008) that I participated in the test for the first time.

The whole shebang consists of a nutritional analysis (you turn in 2 week days and 1 weekend day of very specific eating info), determination of your fat percentage vs. lean muscle mass percentage via the Bod Pod, the VO2 max test via treadmill, and upper body strength analysis. Karen and I were both participating in the analysis, so I took my camera along for documentation purposes.

First up was the Bod Pod - determination of fat mass v. lean muscle mass. We donned these simply gorgimous body hugging suits and caps, and lined to get our height measured and get weighed.

The Bod Pod:

Once the Bod Pod has been calibrated, you get in, sit down, and sit as still as possible for two "assessments," for lack of a better word. All in all, it takes about 5 minutes and produces immediate results.

After the Bod Pod, we put our running clothes back on then headed out to get all trussed up for the VO2 max test. This consists of having those sticky patch things stuck all over your upper torso so the necessary wires can be attached.

Prior to the VO2 max test, they have you hyperventilate for 20 seconds, then they quickly take your blood pressure. While I was breathing in and out as fast as possible, I was hearing comments about the muscles in my back and how great they looked, that they were rippling. Me! With rippling muscles! Hot da-um! It's nice to know that some of that strength training is starting pay off! Also, with regard to hyperventilating - it produces quite the rush. I highly recommend it to everybody!

During the VO test, they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, do an EKG, other "things," and, of course, your oxygen intake and output. After a walk/jog warm up, you get fitted with quite the charming headdress with a really comfortable rubber mouth piece and a nose pincher - something I believe all the fashionable people will be wearing soon.

Once everything's in place, the test begins. The treadmill is initially set at a 2% grade at an 11:00 mm pace, and every 2 minutes they raise the grade by 2%. Just prior to the raising, a tech asks about your comfort/pain level and another takes your blood pressure. The pain level is between 1 and 4, and the perceived effort level is between 1 (sitting on the couch) and 20 (yes, I think I'm dying).

The test continues until you call it quits. For me, it seems like things go along pretty hunky dory, then "all of a sudden" get hard. Nothing ever feels painful, but I do get extremely uncomfortable, so I have a hard time with the "pain" chart. I go until I get to the point where I feel if I continue, I'm going to blow chunks. My legs never feel tired, it's definitely all lungs (hence, VO2 max), and my exhaling comes out in very forced bursts. The whole time this is going on, though, everyone is encouraging you, telling you how great you're doing, which is really helpful. But finally enough's enough, you give 'em the "cut it" sign, and they slow you down to a stop and remove all the "gear."

During the Test:

My heart rate dropped fairly quickly, and within a minute or two, my breathing had returned to normal and I felt fine. . . . . which, of course, makes you think, "Crap! I could've gone longer!" (I'm told that's what everyone says.)

Once I was done with the treadmill, Karen hopped on and I continued with the rest of the assessment - bicep, calf, thigh, hip, and waist measurements, and upper body strength determination. Let's just say I always have had sucky upper body strength, and today it was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, I am very happy I managed to crank out 15 - count them, 15! - pushups. Okay, they were modified pushups, but I'll take 'em.

Part of the strength assessment is how many crunches you can do in 1 minute. You do them to the beat of a metronome, and the goal is 25 in the 1 minute. I had no problems with this, and actually did 26!

The part of the strength assessment where I really sucked was with the chest press. You do 2 presses of whatever weight is on the bar, then they add a little after each 2 presses. I managed to work my way up to 2 presses at 70 lbs., which leaves me in 35 percentile range. The techs/students, trying to be ever positive said, "Look at it this way - if you were in a room with 100 people, you'd be ahead of 35 of them!" Thanks guys.

When all is said and done, they and the professor go over your final results with you. My results show that, except for a percent here, a point there, a pound, things haven't really changed in the last two years. I'm both satisfied and disappointed at the same time. I had hoped that I would've made some progress, but at least I haven't backslid.

The Final Results - 2008 v. 2010

Percent Fat: 27.1 v 26.8
Percent Lean: 72.9 v 73.2
Est. RMR: 1,285 kcal/day v. 1,307 kcal/day (this is how many calories you burn at rest)
Fat Weight: 38.5 v 38.6 lbs.
Lean Weight: 103.7 v. 105.7 lbs.
Total Weight: 142.3 v 144.3 lbs.

VO2 Info:
RER (respiratory exchange rate) at the magic point of 1.10 was 173 two years ago, 163 this year, and if the following makes sense: 2008 - 42.2 ml/kg/min v. 40.1 ml/kg/min this year. I need all this explained to me again, but the gist of it is, I should be keeping my HR between 153 and 160.

I'm still in the "Moderately Lean" category, but I sure would love to get to the "Lean" category. It will be a couple of days before we get our nutritional analysis back, and I hope to gain some insight into what I'm doing right and wrong.

Unfortunately, due to some changes in regulations, they will no loner be able to do the VO2 max test because, if I understood them correctly, there's no physician on hand should difficulties be encountered. Rather, the treadmill test will be run to a predetermined stopping point based on your age.

Both times I've done this assessment, it's been in the "off" season, so I'd like to go back at a peak training time to see what kind of difference it makes.

If you have a university near you with a Human Performance Lab, see if they do assessments on community members. It's really a hoot and extremely informative.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

4 Strikes and Yer Out

In late July/early August, the back left quarter panel of our truck was damaged and had to be repaired.

A couple of weeks later, I left for Conference in Modesto on a Thursday. That Friday morning, literally as I was stepping out of the shower after a dreadmill run, the phone rang. It was The Hub. He'd gotten into an accident the night before - a large truck ran him out of his lane and into the merdian. And no, the driver didn't stop. My beloved Nissan was totaled. And yes, I asked him if he was okay. Granted, it was after I asked about the car, but I asked. For the record, he ended up with a pretty nasty concussion and whiplash. Was quite looney for about three weeks. It was very weird . . . but I digress.

This incident necessitated us having to purchase a car. Thankfully, Toyota was offering 0% interest. That, along with the Costco purchase program, got us a great deal on a 2011 Toyota Camry.

Fast forward about 3 weeks. I get home after work, but have to go back out to the car, which is parked with its butt toward our front door. As my vision connects with the back bumper, my brain, in slo-mo, realizes there are deep gouges in the bumper. Somebody had hit my car while it was parallel parked along the side of the building where I work. You can imagine my stifled cries of, "No!" (I spent the next week looking at bumpers whenever I walked out there, trying to find blankety-blank culprit who was too much of a jerk to leave a note. What goes around comes around, right? Well, at least one can hope so.) Since the cost of repair is only $60 more than our deductible, we didn't put in a claim with our insurance for this one. But again, I digress.

Fast forward once again to this morning. The Hub and I pick up Karen around 4:00 a.m., we drive to the airport and drop off The Hub for his week-long trip to Colorado, and Karen and I take off across 299, heading to Whiskeytown for what is anticipated to be a very wet 30k trail run. Bad weather is heading into our area, and some rain had already come down during the night. We're cruising along through the mountains, taking care to watch for deer. About 20+ minutes into the drive, we're following a truck, we round a corner and WHAM! Rock slide. Rocks up to the size of softballs are strewn across the road . . . as are two larger than basketball, albeit miniature boulders. Which I can't avoid. I hit one of the damn things. The car bounces over the top. There's a terrible crunching sound. I'm thinking $%*&!

We follow behind the truck and pull into the next large pull-out spot right behind it. There's already another truck stopped. The guy in the first truck gets out and says something to the driver of the second truck. Karen and I are getting out of my car to assess the damage. The guy gets back in his truck and they both drive off! Without saying a single word to us! I couldn't believe it! I guess getting to their precious last day of hunting was more important than determining that the people in the other vehicle are okay. Man, oh man, oh man was I mad! Crap, I'm still mad.

I pull out my flashlight, and Karen and I look to try and assess whether or not anything is leaking under the car. Nothing appears to be, but my front bumper, which, on a 2011 Camry, is basically the entire front of the car, is destroyed.

Karen calls 911 to get CalTrans out to clear the road, and since we're only about 10 minutes from Weaverville, we go ahead and drive into town to the gas station where there's more light and we can better assess any potential undercarriage damage. We tell a guy there what had happened, and he says more than likely there will be more rock slides the further east we go. With that information, and the fact that the hood of my car won't completely shut, we nix the run and head back home, stopping long enough to set a flare on the far side of the slide to warn other drivers.

So Two Questions: (1) When The Hub checks in this week, do I ruin his vacation by telling him what happened? He's going to ask how the run went, so what do I say? (2) Do I put yet a third claim in with my insurance company and chance getting canceled? I'm sure it's going to cost at least a couple of thousand dollars to repair the damage.

Thankfully, neither Karen nor I was hurt. However, that aside, suffice to say I'm totally and completely pissed off and depressed right now. There aren't enough brownie bites in the world at the moment.

McKenzie River 50k Trail Run - 09/11/2010

I’ve had a hard time getting into writing this report. I have no idea why. Most reports come easy to me, but this one - hope. My buddy, Marlene, called it “runner’s block” as opposed to “writer’s block.” Heh, heh. Anyway, I’ll give it my best shot.

First and foremost, the McKenzie River Valley in Oregon is absolutely spectacular. I had never been to that part of Oregon before, and it’s not an exaggeration to say the beauty that surrounded us took my breath away.

Karen, Vale, and I took off early Friday morning to make the 6-7 hour jaunt north. Who’s Vale, you ask? Vale (the informal version of Valencia) is a former foreign exchange student who lived with Karen’s boss’ family five years earlier. She was back in town for a 3-month visit and jonesin’ for a chance to get out of Dodge for a weekend. So when Karen asked if she wanted to crew for us on this run, she jumped at the chance, having no idea what she was getting into.

The ride north was fairly uneventful - with the exception of the elk that scared the pee-waddelin’ outta us. I should interject here that we were traveling in Karen’s brand new, less than 1,000 miles on it, Subaru Outback. The fog was intermittently really thick and sort of thick, and at one point, a few miles outside of Orick, we came around a corner and two bull elk were on the highway, standing in the right-hand lane - the lane we were driving in. I think I squeaked out, “Elk!” and Karen deftly maneuvered around them, but suffice to say that woke us up better than a cup of coffee ever could have. (It also necessitated a quick check of the underwear.)

After lunch in Springfield, we headed east toward the McKenzie River Valley with Vale at the helm. We had planned our arrival early enough to find all aid station areas - or so we thought (more on that later), including time to hang out at Sahalie Falls, which are absolutely beautiful. I cannot express enough the beauty of this river. It’s crystal clear, and no matter the depth, you can see all the way to the bottom. And we were going to have it as a constant companion during our run the next day!

Particularly spectacular were the Sahalie Falls, which is where the start of the race would be held. We took quite a few pictures here as we wanted to ensure Vale had plenty to show her family and friends when she went back home.

Karen had made reservations for us to stay in a cabin at the Holiday Farm Resort, and what a neat place this was! You could spit from the deck into the river, and the cabin was like a little home away from home. Very homey and comfortable with every possible amenity. The only thing it lacked was a oven and a dishwasher (of the automatic type), but nothing that a good grill and someone else to wash dishes wouldn't fix. ;o)

After a great meal at the main house across the road from the cabins, we settled in for the night and an early rise the next morning.

It was chilly at the start, but the weatherman called for a really nice day in the valley, with temps anticipated to reach the 70s. (Fashion Report: Black shorts, white tech shirt with purple piping, removable sleeves, and the ever present when racing hot pink gaiters.) The runners gathered around the RD for some last minute directions, Vale was taking photos, the horn sounded, and we were off.

We had just turned onto the trail when I had to pulled over to the side to make some adjustments to my running vest. Ensuring I wouldn’t be stepping in front of anybody, I hopped back on the trail and joined the conga line of runners. Within a short distance, the trail began climbing along the river. The roar of the water was so loud, you could barely hear yourself breathing. Suddenly, I hear a very quiet, “Excuse me,” in my right ear that scared the holy crap out of me so bad I actually let out a guttural scream. I let the guy by while he apologized profusely and I told him it was okay, that I had been in my own world. Remember - I thought I was the last person. This guy must’ve started late, and with the river being so loud, I never heard him coming. Talk about an adrenaline rush! That certainly carried me along for quite awhile.

Again, this part of Oregon is simply gorgeous. We ran through sections with lava fields on our right and a stunning lake, Clear Lake, on our left. No motorized water vehicles are allowed on the lake, and it is definitely a thing of beauty. I couldn’t help but stop a couple of times to take in my surroundings. I had also caught up with Karen by this time, and we ran into the first aid station together. Vale was dutifully ringing the cow bell as we came into sight, and it was a hoot hear this. She was unsure at first about the bell, but ended up thoroughly enjoying herself. At the end, she commented that people told her they liked hearing the bell and had thanked her. I told her it’s because out on the trail, sometimes it's hard to tell where the aid stations are until you’re almost on top of them. The bell lets you know your close and provides a real mental boost. I loved hearing that bell. It's even better when you know there's someone on the other end waiting specifically for you.

At the first aid station, we had to make up mileage by completing a .25 mile out and back past the station. I lost Karen on the “back” part as I desperately needed to use the outdoor loo. Vale had all our goodies for us, so I grabbed half a chicken/avo sandwich, a chocolate donut, and a Mojo bar, thanked her and headed back in the direction from which we’d come. And this is where I made my first mistake.

I forgot we were going all the way around the lake. There was no other runner in sight, so I ended backtracking back over a bridge and was making my merry way in the wrong direction. THANKFULLY, I ran into the last runner from the regular starters. Him: “You’re going the wrong direction.” Me: “Nope, I’m just the last of the early starters.” Him: No. You’re going in the wrong direction.” %^&*#! I thanked him, and with a sick feeling in my stomach and another adrenaline rush, hurried back along the trail. If by chance that guy is reading this - THANK YOU! If we hadn’t had our encounter, my race would’ve been over.

(Clear Lake)
Soon, and seemingly out of nowhere, the second aid station appeared. And here’s where I made my second mistake - the biggest trail running brain fart of all trail running brain farts. AS#2 was not where I expected it to be, so for some stupid reason, I didn’t think this was the actual aid station. Heck, Vale wasn’t there. Ends up the station was a 20 minute walk from where we thought it was going to be, and poor Vale wasn’t able to make it in time. She was so upset, she almost started crying, but pulled herself together and got to the next station. Me - I don’t know what the heck happened to me. Even when I went past the start area (albeit on the other side of the river), I kept thinking the 2nd AS was somewhere up ahead. I wasn’t wearing my Garmin, just a watch. I ended up losing all sense of mileage. On top of that, I was continually pulling over to the side to let the regular start runners go past me, and the trail at this point was littered with rocks and tree roots - all of which combined to make me feel like I was going really slow. The whole thing was extremely disconcerting, and put me a real funk.

No other early start runners had been in sight for what seemed like forever, so it was quite surprising when I came up on Karen and a lady she’d been running with for awhile. We commiserated with one another about the rocks and roots, and Karen was as chatty as always, but I could not pull out of my funk. I just kept wondering why, why, why was it taking me so long to go 12 miles? It . . . just . . . didn’t . . . make . . . sense. I didn't say anything to Karen because, well, because I was in such a frigging funk. (I did say I was having a total and complete brain fart, right?)

After maybe an hour and a half or so of wallowing in my self-induced misery - the cow bell! The cow bell! We’re coming into the 2nd aid station! I had completely run out of food, and there was smiling Vale with our bag of goodies. As Karen and I were re-supplying, a guy says, “Welcome to Mile 18.9.” (3rd AS) Me (incredulously): “We’re at Mile 18.9?” Him: “Yep.” I'm thinking, "What? Are you kidding me?" I couldn’t stop smiling! So instead of only going 12 miles in 4 hours, I’d gone 19. I was so frigging happy! And from this point on, folks, life was good!

Karen and I left the station together, but I lost her when she had to stop for a bathroom break. The trail at this point was extremely runnable the rest of the way, and I was able to put it in cruise control and totally enjoy myself. Vale was at the remaining aid stations smiling, ringing the cowbell, providing me with sandwiches and donuts, and I also munched on the aid stations’ brownies and watermelon. (I've come to LOVE watermelon when I'm doing these runs. Little nutritional value, but when nothing else tastes good, it helps to get me eating again.)

The last aid station before the finish line was manned by the local high school cross-country team. The young guys and their coach were so attentive and nice. The coach gave me a handy wipe, few details about the trail ahead, then smiled and sent me on my way.

Now, since the previous two aid stations, I had been playing leap frog with a young woman who I figured was from the regular starters. I would leave a station ahead of her, but not too long afterward she would catch up with me. I would try my best to keep her in my sights, but she would slowly move a little further ahead of me. It was quite the cat and mouse game, and it helped me push myself a little harder than I otherwise might have, and continued through the last 10+ miles of the race.

The trail finally popped out on a road, folks were there to send us in the right direction (left and up the hill), and realizing I could finish this run in less than 8 hours, pushed myself as hard as I could up the hill without puking. Ms. Leap Frog was in front of me, and I refused to let her too far out of my sight. The road finally crested, and I flew down the last quarter or so mile and crossed the finish with a grin plastered across my face. Vale was ringing the cowbell for all she was worth and grinning from ear-to-ear, as well. I said something about having hoped to finish in less than 8 hours, and the RD manning the finish line said, “You finished in 7:39.” Woo Hoo! Ends up it was actually 7:42, but that’s okay. Considering how I mentally blew up at the beginning, I was ecstatic with my finish.

Karen came in about 20 minutes behind me, choosing to stay with a woman who was struggling. The lady had finished in a great time the previous year, but had had a baby a few months before and was running about 20 pounds heavier. She thanked Karen over and over for running with her, but you know what? That’s what we trail runners do. I’ve done it before, and people have done it for me. We help our fellow trail runners in their times of need, and it’s a good thing.

The young woman who I played leap frog with? We talked while I was waiting for Karen. Ends up she was determined to finish ahead of me, so when I was using her as a reason to push myself, she was using me for the same reason. We both got a good chuckle out of it.

And Vale - she ended up having the time of her life! Absolutely loved crewing for us, meeting people, cow belling runners into aid stations. On the way home, she thanked us for giving her the best weekend of her summer.

We had a great weekend. I will definitely be going back to this race, if for no other reason than the simply stunning scenery.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SOB 2010

I've been asked a few times when I am going to have a race report for SOB, so here it is, in all its (faded) glory.

It was hot, there was still a lot of snow, and I finished 40 minutes slower than last year. The snow was good because it meant I could keep my Coolmax bandana filled, but I definitely couldn't run over it. Tried once and ended up on the ground. I sort of pissed and moaned about my time for awhile, but then my coach reminded me that I had said, "I know I won't have all the miles and training in that I normally would, but I just want to run SOB. If I finish, I finish. If I don't, I don't." . . . Oh yeah. . . . And he believed me?!?

The climbing did me in . . . . as did my now famous rotten handling of nutrition. I need to figure out some way of keeping stuff cold in a drop bag, even though it's sitting in the sun. I found very little at the aid stations that was appealing, and would've loved some chicken soup or a sandwich. The chocolate donut treated me well, but one of the few times Karen and I were running together, she had run out of food so I split my last donut with her.

Toward the end, I was downing watermelon and Coke like it was the only food on earth. The watermelon was so cold and sweet, and the Coke - well, it's the perfect "go juice," isn't it?

Although the climbing got to me, I was able to scoot along pretty dang well on the flats and downs. In fact, I'm very pleased with my performance in those sections. Just wish there had been more of them of which I could've taken advantage.

One humorous situation - I have a benign tremor in my left hand. When I get into the higher mileage, the tremor can be exacerbated. When I arrived in Siskiyou Gap the second time around, hand was shaking so bad, I had a hard time getting my bladder out of my pack. Two of the guys working the aid station ended up fairly worried and grilled me about my salt and fluids intake, and one even asked if my watch (which was on my left wrist) was too tight. I assured them that the shakiness was all just a part of me and nothing to worry about, thanked them for their concern and help. As I was leaving, I could still hear them talking about. I got the same reaction at the next station. Poor people! :o)

So one more run - McKenzie Forest in September - then I'm not allowed to run anymore races until after the new year. I reluctantly agreed to this, but I know it's for the best. . . . . . because I'd like to try for two 50-milers in 2011. We'll see . . .

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Crewing for Kate at Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run

How do you put into words an experience that seems to transcend words? Am I being a bit melodramatic? Perhaps. And if you think so, chalk it up to me still flying high from my friend, Kate, running the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run for the first time. And how does Kate’s running WS equal my melodramatic stance? I was very fortunate to be included as part of her crew. I got to watch this woman push through pain and exhaustion, propelling herself to an absolutely incredible finish. Kate’s story will, I am sure, be much more compelling, given she was the one running. But I am hopeful that my story will give you a small idea of just how special weekend was and this event was from a spectator’s (well, sort of spectator) point of view.

For the uninitiated, the Western States100-Mile Endurance Run is the granddaddy of all endurance trail runs. It is to trail runners what the Boston Marathon is to road runners. The race starts at Squaw Valley and traverses the Sierra Nevada Mountains, finally ending on the Auburn High School race track. For a complete history, go to WS History Overview. The race has been become so popular, that a number of years ago a lottery system had to be instituted in order to provide an equal opportunity for the many runners wishing to participate in the event.

When the time came, Kate threw her name in the hat, and imagine everyone’s surprise and excitement when it was pulled on her very first try! Karen, Kate’s sister and my running buddy, called me and all we could say to each other was, “Kate got into Western State! Kate got into Western States! We’re going to Western States, baby!” We had crewed for Kate at her very first 100-miler, Headlands 100, and come hell or highwater, we were going to be there for her at WS.

Fast forward about six months or so, and Karen and I, bubbling with excitement, leave bright and early Wednesday, June 23, for the 7+ hour drive to Squaw Valley where Kate and her husband, Rodney, had arrived the day before. Hugs and greetings all around when we arrived, and a relaxing evening with dinner and talk of the race and what had been going on in our lives over the past few months.

Thursday - We had been informed that at noon on top of the mountain, there would be an “opening ceremony” of sorts for the race. The tram ride up was spectacular and provided breathtaking views of the valley below.

Once at the top, we milled around for a short while, with me snapping pictures like crazy. (BTW - I ended up with 336 photos, but don’t worry. I won’t post them all here.)Suddenly we hear Kate yell, “It’s starting!” and I turned to find a line of people trudging up to the ceremony. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about moving at very high altitudes), the snow pack was such that we would not be able to get up to the regular ceremony site. By now, though, I had developed such an absolutely skull-splitting altitude headache, that not having to climb any higher didn’t bother me one bit.

Right on the dot at noon, the very casual ceremony began. First things first, the master of ceremonies said we were going to start by singing “America, the Beautiful,” and asked if there were any music teachers or musicians in the crowd who could get us started. Kate, Karen, Rodney, and I were standing at the front of the crowd, and without hesitating even a millisecond, Karen shoves me out front and says, “She will!” Oooookay . . . . what am I gonna say? No? I do believe my comment to the crowd was, “You gotta love your friends.” No problems, though. With the exception of starting the song a little high, I managed to get us all through it without passing out from nerves.

The ceremony was very nice and included an acknowledgment of those who had been involved in the race over the years and had recently passed away, including a horse who, along with his owners, had been a big part of keeping the trail in running order. The ceremony ended with a guy playing a suspended gong for about 10 to 15 minutes, and which echoed beautifully throughout the mountain top.

After descending back down the mountain and eating lunch, Karen, Kate, and I attended a very thorough crewing workshop, which was followed up by a trail condition update for the runners, a trip to the WS store, dinner, then helping Kate get her drop bags ready for the next day.

Friday dawned, and we were treated to eggs and the most amazing chocolate coffee pancakes by Kate and Rodney. Yum! I wish I could’ve eaten more, ‘cause they where delicious. After breakfast, we headed over the Olympic House where all the runners were checking in and we met up with our buddy, Russ, and his friend, Gary. Russ and Gary would be following Kate and last year’s WS winner, Hal Koerner, throughout the race for a piece Russ is hoping to present for airing on NPR’s “This American Life.” With a 5-person entourage that included Russ with a microphone and me snapping pics, when Kate went through the schwag line, one of the volunteers asked, “Who is that?” as in, “Is she one of the elite runners?” Well, she is to us, but naw, she’s just Kate.

I eventually left the throng to do a little more grocery shopping, everyone returned to the room, and somewhere in there Kate’s pacer, Glenn arrived. More greetings all around, back out to the Olympic House commons for another race briefing, then Russ, Gary, and I suited up for a run. Being as how Russ and Gary have both participated in 100 milers and we were at approximately 6200' in elevation, I was hoping against hope that they wouldn’t run my sorry ass into the ground. 9.70 miles and less than two hours later, I am happy to say I did not totally shame myself in front of them, although I know they were holding back their pace a lot to accommodate me. Thanks, guys. It was much appreciated.

Friday night dinner was suppose to be on me and Karen, but I managed to get out of most of the work with the run. Once back and after the pasta bake was cozy in the oven, I took a shower and we all hung out chatting. In the midst of all this, Russ was telling Glenn about how he, Kate, Karen, and I had become friends in the first place - which was when he ran up on me struggling through my very first 50k. Russ asked Glenn, “Are you Mudrunner?” Glenn says, “Yeah,” and I’m thinking, “Crap! He’s Mudrunner?!?” Russ says, “Well, I’m Rustyboy,” and goes on to tell how he, Kate, and I realized we knew one another via our online monikers and mentions our posting names, KateMD, Rustyboy, and me - Fatozzig. Glenn turned and looked at me in astonishment, “You’re Fatozzig?!?” I tell ya, you gotta love these online running sites. I was very surprised that he remembered my name since I hadn’t been on Kickrunners in awhile. So here we’ve all known of one another, and without knowing it was going happen, actually got to meet. It was a hoot!

Saturday morning dawned. Not bright and early, just ear-ly. With the race starting at 5:00, we were up by 4:00, although I don’t think anyone really got all that much sleep the night before. Once dressed and fed, Kate, Rodney, Glenn, Karen, and I headed over to the Olympic House and again met up with Russ. Gary was climbing up to the top of the mountain so that he could watch the runners go by. There was definitely a lot of nervousness in the air as we all watched the clock count down the final minutes.

I wandered a little way up the trail so I could get pictures of the runners as they headed out. Finally, you could hear the crowd counting the final 10 seconds, then with a shotgun blast, they were off! Although I saw Kate in the throng of runners, it was too late for me to get her picture.

Karen, Glenn, and I headed back to the room, and since Rodney was going to pack up the few remaining items and eventually head to Auburn, we got the rest of the stuff we would need throughout the day and night, made a quick stop for ice and much needed coffee, then headed to the first aid station at which we would be able to meet Kate - Robinson Flat, Mile 29.7.

There were quite a few people already at Robinson Flat by the time we got there, including a large contingent of aid station workers ready to help the runners with anything they needed. We knew we were there early enough to see the front runners, but were surprised when they came through approximately 20-30 minutes earlier than anticipated. We knew when they were coming through ‘cause we could hear the commotion further down the trail. Each runner was quickly weighed then sent on their way.

We were at Robinson Flat maybe 3 hours before Kate arrived, so we got to enjoy the whole atmosphere, watch the runners, help a couple who had missed their crew, cheer folks on, and generally have a great time. When Kate arrived, we had an ice filled Coolmax bandana, an ice cold wet towel, chilled bottles, and sandwiches waiting for her, then we sent her on her way. Ah crewing! Hurry up and wait, wait, wait . . . . hey, it’s our runner!! And within a few minutes he or she is gone again. Then hurry to the next station, wait, wait, wait . . . . but it’s loads of fun!

Since it would be a few hours before Kate got to Michigan Bluff, we headed to Foresthill for some lunch and to watch the front runners. The three of us were waiting for our burgers when we heard a commotion and there went two of the lead runners! Holy crap! It’s way too soon for them to be coming through! That’s when we realized that, barring some kind of disaster, this was going to be one exciting race. Thankfully, Karen’s cell phone had a signal almost everywhere we went, and from that point on, she was receiving continual updates from her friend back at home who was following the race via the Internet.

After burgers, ice cream, and a couple of hours of the heat in Foresthill, we headed back up the road to Michigan Bluff, grabbed our gear out of the car, then walked down to the aid station, which was no short jaunt (I can’t remember how far). There was still a lot of activity going on, and we planted ourselves across from the aid station and waited for Kate to arrive. In the meantime, it was tons of fun watching other runners come through, their crew working on them, with them, or, in the case of one young man, seemingly against him. I think it was just a matter of his folks having never done anything like this before, and they didn’t seem unsure as to what to do for him. Glenn’s friend, Kay, was there waiting for her husband, so we got to chat with her a bit before he came through about half an hour ahead of Kate.

It’s at Michigan Bluff, Mile 55.7, that runners have the first opportunity to pick up a pacer - if they come through around 8:00 p.m. or later. We had anticipated Kate arriving somewhere around 7:45/8:00, and Karen was excited as she was going to run from Michigan Bluff to Foresthill with her sister. I even asked her at one point, “You’re excited to run with her, aren’t you?” Big grin on her face, “Yeah!”

Right around the expected time, Kate arrived, got weighed, changed socks, and brought up the point that she hadn’t eaten much in the last stretch. I think she drank a little bit of soda and did eat a couple of pieces of banana, but not having eaten much over the past couple of hours wasn’t a good sign. I was hoping that Karen would be able to cajole her into getting more nutrition in her over the next 6.3 miles.

Once the ladies left, Glenn and I packed up the gear, road the shuttle as far as it would take us, then hefted it all up a good climb back to the car. I commented on not having our 3rd pack mule around and dutifully began thinking of a way to get even with Karen later (just kidding). I am (wo)man enough to admit, however, that packed down though we were, I was not about to look like a weakling in front of Glenn making that climb back up to the car. It was warm and humid, and I was sweating freaking buckets by the time we reached the car. I would gladly have dumped a bucket of water over myself, but didn’t feel like starring in my own personal version of a wet t-shirt contest.

Okay. Back to Foresthill, Mile 62, where we met up with Rodney and waited for the ladies to arrived.
After making two trips from the car, I was on my way back for a third to look again for Kate’s toothbrush when the two of them come running down the chute. I made a beeline back to Glenn and Rodney, who were already getting a chair and essentials set up in the “crew” area. While Kate dealt with her feet, Karen told Glenn that Kate hadn’t eaten anything and had hardly drank between the two stations, so he fetched some chicken noodle soup and ended up getting her to drink two cups worth. After getting her feet doctored up, bottle replaced, and food in her tummy, Glenn and Kate took off for the next part of the adventure . . . .
which brings us to a part of the crewing adventure that, well . . . . . (big sigh)

I had been having trouble keeping track of my keys since we left on Wednesday. I only had two (car/house) instead of the usual wad. Whenever we got out of the car, I made Karen watch me put the keys in the backpack. Problem solved. There’s where they will always be.

When Karen and Kate came in and I had run back to the aid station, I dropped everything in my hands in the seat of one of the chairs . . . including my car keys. Once we got Kate and Glenn on their way, Rodney, Karen, and I packed up, headed back to the car . . . . . and no keys. No, they aren’t in my pocket. We took everything out of the backpack. I ran back to where we had been and searched the ground with a flashlight. I asked people if they had seen any keys or knew of anyone who had found keys. Came back to the car - they gotta be in the trunk. They have to be. I asked the people announcing the runners if they could ask over the PA system if anyone had something with which to break into a locked car. I was ready to break one of the small windows to get into the car. Suffice to say, I WAS FREAKING OUT!!! Four-letter words were flying like the mosquitoes. Here it is after 11:00 p.m., we’re suppose to meet Kate and Glenn at Rucky Chucky Far and climb to Green Gate with them, we’re in the middle of frigging nowhere, and I can’t find my car keys!! Lord have mercy! Karen, with her cell phone dying, starts trying to get AAA to send out a tow truck to get the car open. Rodney needs to get back to Auburn as it’s getting very late and we finally convince him to leave. There were still plenty of people around, and the aid station wouldn’t be closing anytime soon.

Finally, finally at least an hour after we first started calling for a tow truck, the guy shows up (and this dude needed a bath - seriously), gets the car open, we pop the trunk, taking everything out, look through it all - - no car keys. How . . . is . . . this . . . possible?? Think! Think! Karen, out of the blue says, “I checked the pockets of the chairs and the keys weren’t there.” I have to be sure, so I drag a chair out of its bag, open it up . . . . and there are my keys. The entire time they had been in the chair, laying on the side of the road while we were, um, “assessing” the situation. I’m not sure who wanted to strangle me more, Karen or me. But I must say this about our friendship - neither of us has ever wigged out at the same time. If one is freaking out about something, the other has always been able to be the voice of reason. This time, Karen was the ultimate voice of reason. And from that point on, no matter what time of day or night, before that car got locked up, she’d ask, “Where’re the keys?”

Okay - Drama over, we head to Green Gate, Mile 79.8. Once parked, it’s a little over a 1.5 miles downhill to the aid station, then another 1.7 miles downhill to the river. We loaded up the pack with everything we thought Kate and Glenn might need and started the descent. We had no idea how long it would take them to get to Rucky Chucky Far, Mile 78.1, so we hustled down the dirt road then trail as fast as we could in the dark. We were wearing headlamps, but as many of you know, it’s just not the same as being able to see where you’re going in the daylight.

Going down to the river was fun. We passed a lot of runners who were going up to the aid station, and we gave them as much encouragement as we could. Some seemed genuinely happy to hear us cheer them on, some were barely making it up the road. We had a dozen chocolate donuts with us and offered them to a few, but never had any takers. Close a couple of times, but no takers.
I think Karen and I waited about an hour or so at the river before Kate and Glenn arrived. Karen hollered out, “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!” upon their arrival, then the four of us headed up to a “medical” area that had been set up a short distance from the river with chairs and honest to goodness real live podiatrists to look at feet. By then, Kate’s feet had been wet for so long, they were looking completely macerated. She was being plagued by a terrible blisters, including on her little toe (it looked like a “pig in a blanket”)and pressurized blisters under her big toes.

And here, my friends, is but one of the many reasons why I admire this woman so much. She is totally and completely exhausted, she’s been moving for over 78 miles and almost 24 hours, her feet look like milk toast and she’s in pain, yet she is more than capable of taking a needle and drilling holes in her big toenails to relieve the pressure and drain them, drain other blisters, and talk coherently with the podiatrist who is looking at her feet and shaking his head in a manner of “What in the world am I going to be able to do with this mess.” I kept my nose right in there because I’m very interested in this whole blister business (I get more than my fair share), but also because I am astonished at how together she is at this point. It’s just amazing to me.

The podiatrist did his best to patch her up, she painfully put her feet back in her shoes, and we began the 1.7 mile climb to the Green Gate Aid sSation. Karen was carrying the approximately 20+ lb pack this time and, consequently, was lagging behind us a bit. I kept up with Glenn and Kate, asking if they wanted a donut, trying to keep a chatter going in the hopes that is somehow helping. Eventually she flung her left hand out indicating “give me a donut” and got it down in a good amount of time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince her to take one “for the road.”

I found this trudge up the hill to be very interesting. The determination with which Kate moved up that hill, despite the pain in her feet and exhaustion, was truly something to watch. I don’t know how much help I was, but I tried to tell her when a particularly rocky or rutted section was coming up, and can only hope that my small banter and the “you’re doing great, Kate,” “You’re doing a great job,” “You’re gonna make it,” somehow helped. I like to think that Glenn’s and my conversation re skunks was encourage, as well. (grins!)

Once Glenn and Kate moved through the aid station, Karen and I said our goodbyes, “See you at Highway 49!” and began the 1.5 mile uphill walk to the car. I switched with Karen and took the pack for this next jaunt. I felt surprisingly good during both climbs. Not sure why, except maybe I’d gone past being tired (as it was now around 4:20 a.m.) and had reached some kind of weird zone. Or maybe it was the coffee we’d downed after our adventure in Foresthill. Whatever it was, it got me up that hill. And, as I told myself many times during the climb - it’s kinda hard to complain about a 3+ total mile climb when these runners are doing 100 miles.

Unfortunately, once we hit the car and I sat down, tiredness set in. The drive back out to Cool where we would catch the shuttle to Highway 49 aid station was, um, interesting, and once we hit the parking lot, Karen and I both agreed that we should get a little catnap, even though we felt guilty about it, if for no other reason than to keep me from crashing the car. She set her phone alarm for 6:30 (an hour’s worth of sleep) and within minutes was off in La La Land. I think I dozed for maybe 15-20 minutes and eventually just gave up trying. Karen finally came to around 6:15 and we packed up our gear one last time for the shuttle to the Highway 49 Aid Station - Mile 93.5.

Upon arriving, we found people in various states of sleep and awakening. More than a few were snoozing in sleeping bags. Granted it was early, but hey people! Runners are going to be coming through. Get up!

There was a guy a little way up the trail who would announce the runners and their numbers as they were coming through, so it gave those of waiting the ability to encourage them by name. With the first runner since our arrival, out came the cowbell and lots of hootin’ and hollerin’ on the part of Karen and me. This woke folks up, and soon had most joining in with the encouragement.

It was at Highway 49 that I made another mistake. The aid station workers were kind enough to provide hot water and instant coffee and hot chocolate for us crew persons. Having never made instant coffee before, I did mine up rather well with coffee, hot chocolate, creamer - the works. About 15 minutes after downing the whole cup, I began to regret my decision. The combination of the hours awake and my general low tolerance of caffeine, I got the kind of buzz that can only be described as jaw clenching. Karen and I had been talking to a guy about his runner, and soon I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to walk away before I hurt someone. Thank goodness for the runners coming through! It gave me an outlet for the “high” I was experiencing. I was hootin’ and hollerin’ and ringing that cowbell with a vengeance, I tell you!

We’d been at the station for about an hour when Kate and Glenn showed up. They later told us they could hear the cheers from the station and it gave them a lift to know they were close. Kate went through the requisite weigh-in, Glenn doused himself with some water mowed through a couple of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, Kate chowed down on a fruit smoothie, and soon they were on their way. Only 6.7 miles to go!

Okay, back to the shuttle and the parking lot, then off to Auburn High School where the runners would enter at the far end of the track and make their way to the finish line. Karen had called Rodney, told him we were en route, and to meet us there. We cheered each runner who came through, and to a runner, the looks on their faces were priceless because they knew they had done it! They had taken on the monster called Western States and had won!

While at Highway 49, a runner, Greg, who Karen and Kate had met at the WS training camp a few weeks before, had arrived exhausted and ready to quit. Karen had gone over to him, told his crew what needed to be done for him, and with a little bit of cajoling and not a small amount of “suck it up, you’re almost done, you can’t quit now,” managed to get the guy on his feet and moving.

Greg arrived at Auburn High School shortly before Kate, and we were both excited to see that he would make it to the end. However, in my zeal of taking his picture, I missed Kate and Glenn coming through the gate. I heard Karen yell, “She’s here!” and turned just in time get a picture of her handing off her waist pack to Glenn.

He had told her if she pushed it, she could make it in under 29 hours. After 100 miles and almost 29 hours on her feet, that girl put everything she had into finishing. I raced over to the finish line to get as many pictures as I could of her coming down the home stretch and ending with a victorious finish in 28:59:56!

It was smiles and laughing all around, folks. All of us - Rodney, Karen, Glenn, Gary, Russ, and I - we knew Kate could do it. And here she was! A buckle finisher at Western States! It was magical, I tell you. Absolutely magical.

At the Awards Ceremony, it was all I could do to not get teary-eyed when Kate went up and with a big smile accept her buckle. A dream had been realized. All her hard work and sacrifices over the prior months had paid off. She had left Squaw Valley the day before, embarking on a journey that would be the ultimate test, both physically and mentally, and came out on the other side a true winner.

Thank you, Kate, for the opportunity to be a part of something so special. It’s a memory that will not soon fade.