Sunday, 14 July 2019

WSER 100 miler 2019


The Grandfather of Trail Races - June 29-30, 2019

Author and Runner: Doug Richardson

Part A : The Selection and Prep
Part B : Logistics and Days to the Gun
Part C : Race Day

Part A: The Selection and Prep
It is fair to say that I was surprised to the maximum to get selected to run this race.  Firstly, in Australia there were only 2 races each year to qualify for WSER.  Now that has been elevated to 3.  I did UTA100 in 2017 and Blackall 100 last year.  You have time cutoffs in those qualifiers in order to gain your selection points or lottery tickets as the WSER system goes.  One lottery ticket per person per year and you can only accumulate those tickets if you keep running an eligible qualifier each year.

So, I had 2 tickets. 2 tickets competing against 20,000 tickets in a barrel.  Not 20,000 individuals, as people had multiple tickets in the draw.  Some runners like good pal Tim Lyndon had 8 tickets and a few others in the close running circles were on their first ticket.  Other runners from around the world may have had 64 tickets and still missed out.

Well the story goes I was hosting a beer tasting night at my place on the night before the lottery draw in early Dec last year and a few of us commented that the WSER draw was on tomorrow morning.  The subject lasted a minute as we all basically wrote off our chances and were too busy drinking (taste testing beer).

I awoke at some hour like 7:00am feeling a little dusty the next morning only to see or hear these FB messages come through on my phone.  I had a quick glance from my phone in bed and turned to my partner Sarah and half said something along the lines of “oh &#%*, I just got into WSER."  I immediately thought heat, cramp and that’s about it.

Never did I think I would get into it and I was banking on being in the lottery for a few years to boost my chances and hopefully get a group of friends to run it with me if we were chosen together.  I think I went to the beach that day and it was roasting hot and thought yep, try 100 miles in the USA canyons in this heat and then some!  I began thinking what had just happened to me today. 

The word got around that I was selected and coach Gary Mullins from TRT and I sat down over a coffee and a Bourke Street Bakery (looking for sponsors please) pastry or two of course and nutted out some plans.  This was all happening also when my Achilles on my left leg had caused some major concerns in the past 8 weeks and I was not really running.  I had gone to see the physio (initially Cam Hanson then Chris Beckmans at Square One Mosman).  They identified the Achilles tendonitis and had me on the straight and narrow early with no initial running and simply strength drills like calf raises, heel drops with weights, hopping, etc, until I could start some minor running.  I had plenty of time (6 months) up my sleeve so it was great to get the issues out of the way.  Not sure what caused the injury – well actually yes, I do, I ran a rock stair session (the famous Steve NRG Monday night one down at Greenwich) in racing flats about a week after Blackall 100km trail and once I cooled down the Achilles flared up – big time! Idiot!

I joked with Gary over our coffee that I will need someone to fend off the potential bear, rattlesnake and mountain lion attacks during the race as they have been sighted in the past on the trail and race and although rare, are noted as risks to the runners.  Then the joke became more serious when I asked if Gary was available to pace me for the final 38 miles of the race as per the rules.  He jumped at the chance and now all that was required was to do some training off the back of an injury and then book the trip.

I looked at my Strava and it seems I did only 77km in total over the 8-9 weeks since Blackall because of the Achilles.  So, Gary and I got busy on the plan and fast forward the time and the block of training I did looked like this for the campaign into the race:

Weeks to Race
Includes the actual race

I did no sessions at all of pace/intervals or tempos because: (a) coach said so and (b) coach said so.  Fast running will not help with Achilles injury recovery.  You need to stay disciplined.  Overall though, you could argue that I did not do an abundance of kms each week and I must say I really liked that approach especially for us old times approaching mid-40’s! (No comments Lu)

We gradually introduced hills as you can see by the metres gained as the block went on.  I enjoyed the hills and seemed to go better uphill than down that is for sure.  Trail runs were long and easy paced.  Trips to the Blue Mountains, Six Foot track course, Kedumba and the usual St Ives Garigal National Park became my local staple for trails.  Kiwi Joe was a part of these follies many times as we had races in the USA ahead of us.  We both did a 58-60km run on the day of UTA but on another route that suited us.  Something with elevation but mainly runnable and downhill.  I was told WSER was runnable in many sections.  It was simply the heat you needed to get over.

I sought council from Geoff Evison, Richie Bettles and Russ Evans whom have all experienced the race over the past 3 years in different years.  Brendan Davies even offered to help with questions but I was no top 10 threat so I got the direct guidance from the guys who would be spending the similar time on the course under the same conditions as I intended to.

I was always worried about the heat and hearing the word canyon repeated so many times, just made me think of the old Road Runner cartoons, in the dry searing heat and suffering big time cramps on the side of the trail pleading for help while cougars or bears were peeping ready to pounce.

Other than the running, I attacked the preparation with two other forms of arsenal, Altitude Training and Infa-Red dry saunas.

I signed up with Peak Altitude at the City and Brookvale locations and thanks to Bec and Scotty, I was in there twice a week.  I adjusted to the altitude chambers ok at first and was doing 45-50 mins each session at 3,500 to even 3,900m.  But after about 8 sessions I began struggling, heavy headed and blood oxygen count levels low and my body was telling me something so in the end I stopped out of the that training.  All up I did 10-11 sessions, but I think the training did help somewhat.  WSER’s highest peak is 2,780m I was told and that is only for one climb so you do not really need the altitude training but I though improving anyway I can would help. 

With 4-5 weeks to go, I read the section from Jason Koop’s book on Ultrarunning in particularly the section on WSER and he advised to get some dry sauna heat acclimatisation in.  So, I booked a 10-session package over near Waterloo at Koa and by the time I got into my 10th and final session (it was sub 10 degrees outside but 61 degrees inside the sauna), my body became adjusted to the heat and I felt ok for many of the 40-45 minutes sessions.  I even lost 2 kgs I think in the process so running the lightest as I have in a few years for sure with the added heat conditioning benefit.  My diet had not changed though, red wine, dessert, cookies and cakes and repeat.

To counteract cramp, I tried some flavored Tonic Water at the 30km mark on the 58km training run with no issues, so I was planning on having some of this during the race.  Only issue was the first crew station where I could get some was 30 miles in. Hmmmmmm…. I also planned on carrying a small spray bottle of magnesium oil to gentle rub into the adductors and legs.

Part B: Logistics and Days to the Gun
The WSER website is quite detailed and gives you tips on accommodation and logistics for crew etc, but I was lazy and did not start booking things until a few months out.  I nearly got caught out but managed to secure some quality accommodation in Auburn, California for the first three nights of our trip.

Gary and I fly out of Sydney to San Francisco direct on the Monday afternoon before the race (Saturday).  With the time difference we effectively landed in their local time which was before the Sydney departure time, so it felt like we used the flux capacitor.  Minimal sleep for me so Gary elected to drive to our destination of Auburn, which is where the race finish is.  The drive is 2 hours normally with no traffic but getting out of SFO airport during peak hours means the trip was close to 4 hours with freeway gridlock in sections.  Of course, I upgraded the transport to include sat nav and thus they gave us a big a*se rig

Sleep was good for the first night and we got used to the warm dry heat with a walk over to the Aid Station which is a trail running shop in town with a bar with beer and Kombucha on tap, so naturally we tasted the beverages with our host Paulo Medina making us feel welcome after I name dropped our Aussie legend Geoff Evison.

Back to the hotel for a swim as it was warm in that baking sun but before that we had some table tennis to attend to as Gary piped up how good he was.  Well after knocking him off 3 matches to nil, we jumped in the pool but I realised that table tennis bare feet was not a good idea on hot pavement.  I could feel some little heat blisters on the pad of the foot and under the big toe.  Idiot!

The afternoon we had scheduled to be back at the Aid Station as runners get together to run on the final few miles of the course for an out and back and to meet and greet.  At 6pm it was still 30 degrees (Celsius).  I was getting nervous now of this heat, but early forecasts did not have it above 32-34 for race day so I was OK with that for now.

Wednesday was another great weather day maybe a degree or three cooler.  We drove out past the town of Cool and parked the rig after tackling some 4WD roads, near Green Gate which is mile 79.8 of the race.  We ran to the bottom of the track in reverse of the race direction and reached Rucky Chucky (river crossing) and ran back up the hill.  About 8% gradient so on race night I would be walking that for sure with purpose.  In the evening, all international runners were hosted for a BBQ in a local Auburn town park and we met some WSER legends including Gordy Ainsleigh who was the first to run the course and has completed over 20 WSERs.

Thursday we left Auburn for the drive up to Squaw Valley where the race hub and start line is.  We had to cross the Stateline into Nevada first though to pick up NRG’s very own Raki Suman from Reno airport who was on my primary crew duties. A short back-track into Squaw saw us settle into our ski chalet and check out the surrounds. It was a handy 400-500m walk to the race epicentre and we attended the crew and race briefings over Thursday and Friday.  Luckily the forecast weather on course was for a ‘cool’ year meaning temps probably maxed out at 30.  We dodged a bullet there.  But the downside, there was ample of snow on course to make it slippery and slow for the first 15 miles or so.

I then packed my lightweight running vest with my limited food and anything I planned for the run and had it all done well before dinner on Friday night, so that meant I could relax and not worry about missing anything during the early hours of race morning when I scheduled to wake up at 4am.

Race plan or time goal?  Well initially, Richie had me thinking for a sub 24-hour silver buckle achievement but in all honesty, I simply wanted to experience the event and finish with a buckle (bronze) which meant beating home the 30-hour cut-off.  24 hours would be a dream goal, but it was not really at the forefront for me.  My plan though was taking it easy for the first 80 miles and see what I had to give for the final 32km.

The guided splits for 24-hour pace and 30-hour cut off pace are shown below in the official runner’s event guide.

Part C: Race Day (get on with it!)
Usual sleep of race nerves but I got perhaps 5-5.5 hours which is a win for me.  Awoke at 3:30am and replied to some of my overnight messages then got the running gear on and taped the feet and had some muesli and we strolled down to the start rego area and got the race bib.  It was chilly, approximately 4-6 degrees so I had arm warmers, t-shirt, buff around the neck and gloves on.  I had my hoodie on until about 5 minutes before race start.  As Geoff showed a few years back, you can walk up to the start line with 10 minutes to go and no-one is really interested in lining up first.  So, I loitered around the archway, making sure I was not in the middle as some were taking photos under the start arch.  I stayed there until eventually the big-name runners came in.  

Jim Walmsley, Camille Herron, Clare Gallagher, Brittany Peterson, Tom Evans and Ryan Sandes were all there on the front line, me to the far left, Brittany next to me, and Jim a handshake away.  Courtney D was back amongst some other runners.  Camille, I think had track spikes on… and she was jumping up and down on the spot and I thought what the!!  The rifle to start the race was closest to me of course but it wasn’t that loud when the countdown from 10 seconds was complete.

Here are the Facebook video links to the start, it was an amazing feeling seeing the shute full of crowd support. Simply awesome and so lucky to get away running with these super athletes on the front grid.

Above link is the start taken by Coach G – see about 40 seconds in on the right
Above link is video from . Race start is about at 24mins 30 seconds. Far right for me on the start line.  So much fun!

Start to Lyon Ridge at Mile 10.3
Obviously, I was not going to do anything stupid in the first massive climb of some 2,500 feet that lasted about 4 miles.  I settled into a power hike up the hill that averages 12% gradient.  I saw many people go by and I settled into a rhythm and then heard an Aussie accent behind me and introduced myself to young Aleks from Manly and we basically hiked the entire peak together.  Snow came into the equation soon and it was great to hike on the hard-packed ice and get into a slow trot on the flatter sections.  Clumps of crowd support were still lining the pink flagged route and when we cleared a ski lift terminal it became steep and rocky minus some snow and Majell an Aussie from team Salomon was taking snaps.  Great shot here of the climb.

The dry rocky section was soon over and then it was pure hard packed snow all the way to the top.  You had to follow the footstep marks in front when in this snow otherwise you would have fallen over and made some slides back down the hill.  Now I know why Camille had track spikes for this section! Reached the peak and the Squaw Peak Monument and the sound of cow bells rang out galore from the support at the top of the hill, the roar was amazing!

Then once you ticked over the climb, the terrain suddenly changed to dry sub-rocky single track for the descend, but with sweeping vistas of tall forest trees and rolling hills and valleys.  It was game on now, but I kept thinking the trail can’t be this good as we warned of a lot of snow until 30 miles in.

Well my thoughts proved correct as within a matter of minutes we came to another long section of  snow.  You had to climb tiny snow walls or look for the best footmarks to get you through.  I had run in minor snow before but nothing as extensive as this hard packed stuff.  I think I had about 5-6 spills over the next 12 miles, but it was fun, but I was taking it easy, slowed the pace and took small steps.  You would just complete a good section of snow, then be back on wet dirt and pine needles before entering new snow sections again.  Throw in sections where the snow had melted and was streaming cold water over rocks and there you have your trail folks for the next 3-8 miles really.  Wonderful trails though, a couple of switch backs but all single trail.  The field was sort of spread out now, but you could easily be within 5-10 metres of the next runner. 

I arrived at the small first aid station of Lyon Ridge in 2hrs 31 mins. Apparently the 24-hour time guide had runners arriving at 7:10am so already I was 21 mins behind that pace, but I was not aware of any of these splits as the only real time marker I took note of pre-race was to be at Foresthill 62 miles by 7:30pm.  The snow had certainly taken the pace off my running, but I was feeling fine.

Lyon Ridge to Red Star Ridge at Mile 15.8
Again, some more single track, that was amazing winding through the peaks of the ridge with amazing views.  Still in and out of snow with many undulations.  I was about 21-22km (13 miles) in and I started a normal small climb when suddenly, the adductor muscles on both quads tightened sharply and was I in a great deal of pain and trouble.  I tried to stretch out and even walk a bit, but no easing of the stabbing knife feeling was happening.  Immediately I thought what is going on, this is way too early for this.  My goal of sub 24 hours pretty much went out the window in my thoughts and now I was in a semi-panic looking to just focus on sitting down relaxing and push on to the next aid station and focus on just moving forward hoping to get a buckle and beat the 30-hour cutoff.  I had no tonic water at this stage either, but I did spray magnesium oil on the adductors, but nothing was helping.  Eventually the sharp pain went down, and I could walk again until I was comfortable enough to get back into a slow trot.

This really took me by surprise so early and as mentioned, I was more in caretaker mode now and just wanted to finish what I started.  I was not going to pull the pin that is for sure, I had travelled way too far for something like that and I had a mountain of support back home in Australia probably tracking my early progress.

Arrived at Red Star Ridge at 8:56am, 36 mins down on 24-hour pace.  Clearly the cramps had the impact on losing further ground.

Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon at Mile 24.4
At Red Star I took some time to compose myself and focus just on moving forward.  I asked the medic for any tonic water or something to alleviate cramps.  He offered some acid tablets (no not the hallucination type) and asked if I had been driving electrolytes which I positively replied but declined on the tablets.  I had some fruit and took on a couple of gels and Clif Chews at the aid station and moved forward to the next aid station but knew it would be a long stretch of 8.5 miles, so I made sure I had 1 litre of electrolytes with me and enough food.  My progress again was slow as I was very mindful of getting the cramps back again so soon, so I power hiked some inclines and took small steps on the runnable sections.  The trails were amazing again through, all single track and all through broken forest and the pic below was taken just before Duncan Canyon aid station for memory.

Arrived at Duncan Canyon at 10:45am, now 45 mins down on 24-hour pace. Losing further ground due to the easing back of the pace after suffering the cramps so early in the race.

Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat at Mile 30.3
Duncan Canyon aid station was buzzing.  Some music, some Elvis dress ups, plenty of food and aid station crew that were on point like F1 asking me questions on what I would like and getting them to fill water bottles and whatever.  It was getting rather warm though and very quickly, so I opted for clumps of ice to be stuffed down my left white arm compression sleeve.  I removed my right arm one at the top of the first climb as it was feeling tight on me – something similar that happened to me at Coast to Kosci in 2017, weird!

The ice on the arm was freezing but it kept me cool for a few miles and didn’t melt that quickly.  As the heat was building, we were lucky enough to go across 3 creek crossings and one was at least knee deep.  Unfortunately, the water crossing meant my feet in my shoes (Hoka Torrents) moved around a little in the water so I knew instantly I would be getting some blisters or friction further into the race.  My shoes were obviously heavy with water now, but they would soon dry out as I ran the drier sections – first world problems really but I did not want to stop to simply tighten up my shoes.  There were still some small snow clumps heading into Robinson Flat as can bee seen below at Mile 30.  

Here is where I met my crew for the first time (Gary and Raki).  I cramped up again in the adductors when approaching them but then drank some tonic water, put some additional stocks in my flask and grabbed some dry bars (the gels were somehow forgotten!) and I ate a bit more fruit from the aid station.  It was cloudy here, but I swapped hats and put on my ice cap (white) that I bought a few days ago in Auburn where ice can be put into the top of the hat to cool your head down.  I also grabbed the ice buff that my wonderful mother made where you put ice in the buff, and it has two snap buttons either end to keep the ice in place.  Both items were filled with ice here and put on me, even though I noticed it was not at all hot at this aid station, in fact I remember Raki wearing a hoodie at the time! 

I was still feeling good though with great energy levels.  Gary asked about my mental state, and I said I was great it was just the leg cramps that were causing the grief.

Arrived at Robinson Flat at 12:16pm, now 46 mins down on 24-hour projected pace.

Robinson Flat to Millers Defeat at Mile 34.4
The single track had ceased for now and we were on running on dirt roads with a downward slope most of the way.  Not overly pretty vistas but I could hear hunting rifles go off in the far distance.  I can see how the elites would be nailing this, but I was not about to burn the rockets or ruin my race.  This section was fine, and I had no issues with any further cramps here and made the Millers Defeat aid station in good time and apparently, I made back 2 mins from my 46-minute deficit.

Arrived at Millers Defeat at 1:09pm, now 44 mins down on 24-hour pace.

Millers Defeat to Dusty Corners at Mile 38
Again, this section was wider than single track, more like fire trail and again with a downward bias.  About a mile before the aid station I suddenly lost the head drinking nipple off one of my flasks.  That meant I would be down to one flask for a while if I did not attend to the matter, so I looked on the trail desperately and spent a good minute or more trying to find a tiny item on a large fire trail.  
Luckily the next runner behind me eventually came past and he found it within seconds, so another set of eyes did the trick. Thanks mate! 

Upon approaching the aid station, I was moving well in good spirits and I saw Paulo from the Aid Station so I high fived him and then when I arrived at the aid station I refueled with gels and fruit.  Fruit became my main source of fuel as it was the only thing I could really get down my throat fast, so watermelon, rock melon, bananas, mandarins, grapes and strawberries were my staple.  I would put bits and pieces in a zip lock bag and then put it in my running vest.  I also was stopping each time to have more ice put in my hat, arm sleeve and ice buff around my neck.  This worked an absolute treat as I was not really suffering from the heat.  

As I was about to leave the aid station an older gent asked if I was ok as I was trying to stretch my quads.  I said yeah just the usual adductor cramps for me and then I looked up to see who I was talking to and it was the one and only legend of WSER, Gordy A!  He even gave me some stretch tips, so I gave him a big thanks and a pat on the back (the guy is huge) and off I went.

Arrived at Dusty Corners at 1:48pm, now 38 mins down on 24-hour pace.

Dusty Corners to Last Chance at Mile 43.3
Once again, this section was dominated by overall declines and open running on mainly fire trails.  I was needing an extended bathroom break here so I was fortunate there were port a loo’s (port a potties as they called them) here.  As I was approaching the aid station a guy yells out there are hot women here…I had to laugh (I’m sure Sarah is too 😉) but I thought of when Richie told me there were girls in bikinis ready to ice you down with sponges as these sections are the warmest of the race.  Well I can report that it was all a mirage as the only service I got was the usual filling up of my two water flasks with water and electrolytes, more fruit in the zip bags and away I went but making sure to refill hat, sleeve and neck buff with ice.  A quick in and out post loo stop and I knew the next section could be tough.

Arrived at Last Chance at 2:42pm, now 37 mins down on 24-hour pace.

Last Chance to Devils Thumb at Mile 47.8
I exited Last Chance and you see all the support signs for certain runners giving encouragement telling them not to worry about the upcoming canyons and heat.  I was certainly not feeling the heat at this stage but let’s be honest it was only about 25-26 I would have thought.  The upcoming stage though had the fire trail section ceasing and it was a big drop down with quad bashing and single-track switchbacks and then a massive hike up.  I was hoping just hoping that I could get through this section cramp free!

The track is amazing to run here.  The switchbacks I took easy but was running slowly with light steps.  Only a few rocks here and there.  Once at the bottom you cross the famous swing bridge over the river and then immediately begin the climb back up towards Devils Thumb.  It is certainly steep and forget running it, but I simply was power hiking as fast as I could and putting my entire hands on each quad and getting the legs to climb climb climb.  I really was expecting sharp pains and cramps, but what I was doing different, perhaps by chance was using the thumbs of each hand and deeply massaging my quads as I was climbing.  Yes, it felt sore and uncomfortable like a full-on massage, but I found that by doing this the actual muscles were released a little and thus were not seizing up.  

Sure, it was hard work on this climb, but I felt comfortable, confident and I overtook perhaps 8-10 people on this section.  It was getting a bit warm and obviously having an aid station at the top was welcomed where I had a popsicle (ice block), woohoo that tasted awesome and bandied together more fruit and more ice and away I went.

Arrived at Devils Thumb at 4:02pm, now 32 mins down on 24-hour pace, so apparently, I took a further 5 mins off!

Devils Thumb to Eldorado Creek at Mile 52.9
The aid stations were now a bit closer together and rightly so as this is the hottest part of the day.  The next section I guess I will remember for a very long time.  I remember Richie’s race report saying it is certainly hard on the quads down to Eldorado Creek and it is the hottest part of the course.  Well he was right on both accounts, but I will have this section particularly the first bit etched in memory.  I was about perhaps a mile out of the aid station where the trail was open fire trail.  On either side of the trail tall pine trees had been cut down but there was plenty of bush and build up either side of the trail. 

I first heard a strange sound and thought nothing of it.  Then I heard perhaps the same sound three or four more times in quick succession.  The sound was not something you hear every day, it was a roaring sound, like the old lion in the centre of the circle at the start of those movie features.  I kept looking for anything on the trail up ahead.  I could see a female runner ahead about 80 yards or so and then another guy way past her.  I quickly looked back, did not see a thing but again heard the sound coming from the bushes on the left.  I am 99% certain it was a sound of a lion (cougar/mountain lion) so there was no way I was going to stop or slow down and in fact I sped up quite quickly to try and catch the people in front just incase there was more to unfold.  Luckily enough the sounds abated as I was travelling further on this section.  Maybe the number of runners going through the area was enough to keep them off the track for now.

I later chatted with the female runner when we were running together about five miles further on and she was a local who did not dismiss the idea that it was a mountain lion.  Bring on Forest Hill and my pacer and lion tamer Gary I thought and told her accordingly!

The track down to Eldorado was a bit like the descent from Last Chance but hotter with more sun hitting you (the hottest part of the race for me I think), a bit rockier, but not overly technical.  The aid station at the bottom is well stocked and more ice applied as the climb up Michigan’s Bluff was next. 

Arrived at Eldorado Creek at 5:10pm, now 30 mins down on 24-hour pace.

Eldorado Creek to Michigan Bluff at Mile 55.7
Similar to the Devils Thumb climb put perhaps not quite as steep and spaced out over a longer climbing distance, but rest assured these two climbs are the toughest on course after 45 miles plus under your belt.  Again, based on the stats and times it appears I made up another 10 places on the climbing.  I put all the hill training down to that for sure.  I came out of the climb still feeling very good and came around the corner to a large crowd at Michigan Bluff aid station and met up with Gary and Raki here after I had consumed some more fruit and picked at some minor foods and put more ice in the usual areas to keep cool.  It was just on 6pm and the temperature was comfortable enough.  The next aid station was a good 11km away so certainly had to re-stock with food here.

Arrived at Michigan Bluff at 6:01pm, now 21 mins down on 24-hour pace. Wow, must have made up 9 minutes on that climb!

Michigan Bluff to Foresthill at Mile 62
Michigan Bluff aid station is situated on a paved road so both sides of the road were rather crowded with crew and general onlookers giving out cheers.  Some of the Aussie crews were there supporting their runners and gave me a loud cheer as did many locals saying I was looking strong as I began running uphill on my way to the next aid station.  I did feel good actually and the next mile or three was dirt road with a bit of climbing before getting back onto single track and a descent before a short climb back up to Foresthill.  This is the section where I caught up again with the local female runner by the name of Kate and we chatted quite a bit about how awesome the day has been and of course the topic of mountain lions got a mention from the previous encounter.  It was her first WSER also.

Arrived at Foresthill at 7:28pm, now 13 mins down on 24-hour pace. Another 8 minutes clawed back apparently.

Foresthill to Peachstone (via Dardanelles) at Mile 70.7
I arrived at Foresthill about 7:20pm or thereabouts.  You can meet your crew on the road section before the aid station within 100 yards either side of the timing areas.  I met Raki and Gary before the school and changed shirt, got rid of excess baggage in my vest such as gloves and arm compressions and any old food.  I had more tonic water, grabbed two new buffs, one to put on my head now and then put my headlight over the top of that.  At this point, Gary could join me for pacing duties right until the end of the race.  It was still light, so we had a good 90 mins ahead before the headlights needed to turn on.

I guess I spent a good 5-10 minutes getting all new gear and restocking with food etc.  I had for some reason thought the 24-hour pace guide for Foresthill was arrival by 7:30pm (instead of 7:15pm) so by my calcs I was actually 10 minutes ahead when I arrived.  But it turns out after the race, once I began analysing and re-capping, I was 5 mins behind schedule.  Given this time of 7:30pm was the only real marker etched in my brain, I was working on the notion that I was just very slightly ahead of 24-hour time, so I was pleased. 

Gary and I took off from Foresthill through the long wide street past the school and there were plenty of people cheering on.  We then turned left onto California Street before we hit the trail, an initial fire trail.  We began chatting and were following a runner and his pacer about 100 yards ahead of us.  Time went by and then we hear a yell from behind us…"Hey runners, you are going the wrong way”!  Yes, indeed it appeared we were and missed the right-hand turn.  Great, I managed to navigate 62 miles without a hitch and now Gary gets me off course within in 5 mins……hahaha….to his defense we were simply following the runners in front but that is a lesson to us all, follow the course markings and not the runner in front.  We tried to yell out ahead of us to alert the runners we were following but we longer could see them, so I hope they found out their mistake not long after.

The trail then descended now onto beautiful single track and the pace was nice and we played leap frog with a few runners and now with their respective pacers.  No need for the torch yet, we stopped briefly at Cal1 the Dardanelles and had some ginger ale and I spotted some cheese quesadillas, yummo, just what I needed to get off the fruit and as it was getting a little cooler now (perfect conditions) I could stomach a bit more solid food.
During the next section to Peachstone (Cal2), we finally turned on our headlamps.  The trail was amazing, single track, runnable and a few ups and downs. 

Arrived at Peachstone at 9:21pm, now only 1 min down on 24-hour pace, but remembering I was not aware of splits other than Foresthill where I thought I was just slightly ahead.

Peachstone (via Ford’s Bar - Cal3) to Rucky Chucky at Mile 78
The trails here were initially single track under the headlamp and dark night sky where the stars were clearly shining above.  My eyesight is not that fantastic at the best of times as some will know and under headlights and looking at single trail with a few descents and rocks in the way, makes it tricky going.  I had a coupe of near misses where I held composure and didn’t fall, but I did kick my big right toe on rocks about 3 or 4 times and the toe was quite painful.

At the aid stations from here on in including Ford’s Bar, I had a very quick sit down and Gary and I both tried to massage the quads and calves to ease the tightness so that no cramps would come back for the duration of the race.  It was painful having it done, but I think the practice worked so that is something I will try and utilise for future races.

At this point Gary mentioned to me I was 30 mins ahead of 24-hour finishing pace.  Wow I made up good time I thought, and I was not to question someone who had more alertness than me. 

The section to Rucky Chucky had some stinging little climbs which came as a surprise to me as I thought we were heading nothing but down to the river.  I could hear the river and rapids to the left all the time but could not see them given the darkness.  When we ran an out and back on the other side of the river on the Wednesday we saw a road heading down to Rucky Chucky that we thought we would get to run on during the race but it didn’t appear that way as our route was either taking us flat or slightly up, at least it felt that way.  We eventually got to the aid station at Rucky Chucky.  Raki was there like a great crew would be and I had some soup on offer from the aid station but they said it was hot, so they cooled it down with water – probably watered the soup throughout but it was nice to have some nutrients in the stomach at least.

Arrived at Rucky Chucky at 11:06pm, 4 minutes ahead of 24-hour pace.

Rucky Chucky to Greengate at Mile 79.8
We had to descend some stairs to get down to the river’s edge – stairs, no way….I hate stairs in races.  I got in the life raft (we were crossing the river in boats this year) as the water level was too high as they could not dam off the river given the snow that was melting and overflowing the dam.  I sat in the raft and thought Gary was next to me as we began being rowed by the race organisers across the river.  But turns out Gary had not hopped into the same boat as me and was still on the shore, but luckily another boat was empty, and they rowed him over at the same time and in fact somehow beat me over by a few seconds.  We took off our life vests (mandatory for the river crossing) and began the power hike up the hill to Greengate.

Now Gary and I had done this section in practice just days earlier, so we knew what involved the 8% gradient climb.  Hiking, and hiking with purpose.  We did just that.  We began seeing a runner ahead who was actually running the hill and his pacer was pushing him hard.  I felt sorry for the guy as here we were hiking hard but gaining ground each step it seemed.  In the end, we caught up to him just before the aid station, but the difference was, I had not spent any fuel whereas the runner was running on empty.  I tracked down his result and turns out he finished a good couple of hours after me, so I guess we had the right formula there.

Arrived at Greengate at 11:42pm, 3 minutes ahead of 24-hour pace.

Greengate to Auburn Lake Trails at Mile 85.2
Gary had done a small section of this trail on Wednesday and said it was like other sections, single track but runnable, so we basically tried to run as much as possible.  I think we were moving ok here, again my sight causes me to slow down a little especially on descents at night on slightly uneven terrain.  I kept massaging my quads with my thumbs as I put my hands on my legs when walking hard up some inclines.  It kept the cramps at bay luckily.  I sat down again at the chair in the aid station for a deeper massage had some more cheese quesadillas and even some tater tots (potato gems) with sauce, oh they were going down well with ginger ale.  I then had my first caffeine hit via some Coke.  I had intentionally waited all this time for that injection of coke as I wanted the body full of energy for the last sections and not experience the highs then lows earlier on as the caffeine went away.

Arrived at Auburn Lake Trails at 1:05am, exactly on 24-hour pace.

Auburn Lake Trails to Quarry Road at Mile 90.7
A similar section to the previous but with a slight downward elevation into the Quarry Road aid station, but again single track.  I recall going pass a bench named Betty’s Bench or something similar.  It was a memorial bench built for where a female runner was out on the trails training by herself years ago and was sadly attacked and killed by a mountain lion.  I didn’t mention it at the time to Gary, maybe he would have told me to run faster if I had. 

The aid station was down ahead, the descent burning my tight quad muscles and I could feel them giving way at any time.  There was a loud band playing at 2:30am here.  I didn’t like this aid station probably because of the noise, my quads were in agony and I guess I was getting a bit grumpy.  I probably needed more food and Gary told me we lost a fair bit of time by potentially overstaying at aid stations to get the legs right.  I had a lot more Coke here and cheese toasties and away we went. 

Arrived at Quarry Road at 2:30am, apparently now 5 minutes behind on 24-hour pace.

Quarry Road to Pointed Rocks at Mile 94.3
We were trying to calculate the pace per km needed here to be safe for sub 24 hours.  We budgeted on 9-minute kms as by Gary’s calcs we were still slightly ahead of time but only just (even though retrospectively we appeared to be behind now).  Every time his watch chimed, I asked what the last km was, 8:24 or 8:10 would be the answer sometimes and then I was happy we could bank that time as it was less than the allotted 9 minutes.  We got of the slightly inclined dirt road and entered single track half technical climbing.  Wow, I thought, here come some 11 or 12-minute kms as I was not budgeting for this incline!  

Well the kms were ticking over and yes there were some 11 or 12’s.  We were now really pressed for time, but I was going as fast as I could up those climbs. 
I picked away at some fruit from the zip lock bags as I did not want to stop anymore at aid stations for food as we did not have time to waste.  I would try and scull a ginger ale or coke and that would be it now.  We arrived at Pointed Rocks with 6 miles to go (10km) and Raki was there to greet us saying you guys better start hustling under 9 min per km pace until the finish.

Arrived at Pointed Rocks at 3:32am, now only 2 minutes behind on 24-hour pace.

Pointed Rocks to No Hands Bridge at Mile 96.8
A short 2.5 miles to No Hands but we get the shuffle going along.  You feel like you are running faster than what the stats show after looking back at it.  We arrived at No Hands again ticking off some kms slightly banking more time.  I did not want to stop here.  Gary was having something here I can’t recall but I said to him come on let’s go.  I began walking out of the aid station and the station captain said just walk slowly until your pacer is ready.  Gary caught up immediately as we began crossing the famous bridge that was decked out in multi colored lights for the night and we then began to work hard.

There was no timing recording apparently there for me based on the website.  We were still moving on the notion of beating sub 9min per km.  We were achieving this banking seconds each time.

No Hands Bridge to Robie Point at Mile 98.9
Who put that climb in there post the Bridge and those stairs ?? Didn’t expect that but hey when you are at a bridge crossing then surely you are near a river so you need to climb back up.  I did not think of that so some more climbing but pushing my energy levels to the maximum here.  No food since mile 90 so I was almost running on empty other than coke and ginger ale.  The fact that many at home in Australia were probably tracking me and urging me on got me going too to be honest.  We eventually saw the lights of Robie Point aid station, and I knew now we had 1.1 miles to go.  Well actually I was told it was 1.3 miles as the race is 100.2 miles…of course it is !  So now we worked out we had 1.3 miles or 2.1km in 22 minutes but the next mile was uphill and steep in areas as we had done the social run on Tuesday night (luckily!).

The trail had now finished and it was all paved road so that gave me footing confidence and I ran that hill. Slowly, but no walking now!  We passed houses decked out in lights that had been supporting the faster runners but there were one or two houses still with people out the front giving us applause.  I reached the white bridge and knew we had to turn left to get to the Placer County High School Athletics track.  I could see the WSER foot markings on the road like below.

It was now downhill a little to the school and I could hear Tropical John on the PA with the track lights on.  I was nearing the home stretch and now knew I had this 24 hour covered.  Gary and I entered the track gate, did a u-turn around some traffic cones and then made our way clockwise around the track (as the track was closed in the other direction this year due to maintenance) for the final 250 metres.  I could make out John was telling the crowd a little about me and my journey here and I gave Gary a big verbal thanks as we headed into the final 100m.  Some Aussies gave me a cheer from the grandstand even though it was nearing 5am and daylight again and I crossed the line with arms in the air with pure joy of breaking that 24 hour mark with 5 minutes and 45 seconds to spare. 

Making up that ground after being behind all that time early was such a great thrill for me and I was very proud.  I gave Gary a big man hug for his strong pacing and encouragement and drive to get me though.  Hey, he may not be a mathematician, but he got me on the pace I needed to be at and we did it mate. Thanks coach !  I am sure I have wet his appetite to enter this beast.
I then thanked Raki for his amazing all night effort driving from point to point and crewing so well.  Great work buddy and glad we got to send some time in your hood of ‘Frisco for a couple of days after.

What an event. I can see clearly now why Richie, Geoff and Russ raved about it.  Within a few hours I wanted to come back again.  You don’t often say that after a 100 miler.  Thank you WSER for putting on a sensational trail running masterpiece where you make everyone feel special and welcome.  Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout my training and of course the race.  Two weeks off running now (race report took a while!) and about to hit a short 5-6 week block before the 102km CCC in the Italy/Swiss/French Alps.  Looking forward to the post wine and cheese with Sarah and an extended European vacation!

Figure 1: Gary at SFO with the 'rig'
Figure 2 : Paulo at the Aid Station with WESR trophies
Figure 3 : table tennis injuries - what a di**!
Figure 4 : At the Tues night Aid Station Run
Figure 5 : Scouting trail down to Rucky Chucky
Figure 6 : Myself, Gordy and Gary
Figure 7 : Ski chalet and surrounds at Squaw
Figure 8 :  The middle peak looks small but its far away.  We had that to climb in the first 6km to the highest peak of ~2,800m.

Figure 9 : Start line with 40 hrs to go, Raki, myself and Gary
Figure 10 : Estimated Times for 24 hour and 30 hour cut off pace with Aid Station markers.

Maps and features of the course are below.

Figure 11 : Framed map in the Aid Station, Auburn CA.
Figure 12: Elevation, Right to Left. ~6,000M ascent, a lot more descent, think quad bashing.
Figure 13 : Got to love a point to point 100-miler
Figure 14 : Jim, Bronko, Brittany and some imposter runner in a GNW shirt taking it all in at the start line
Figure 15 : The first 6km climbing up, a break in the snow before there was plenty more!

Figure 16 : think this was pre 24 miles, how good is the trail!

Figure 17 : Mile 30 and Robinsons Flat, still snow around and first time meeting the crew on course.
Figure 18 : Coming into Michigan Bluff after big climb, great support and crowds yelling and crew met me here
Figure 19 : Gary and I at Foresthill, pacing duties start

Figure 20 : The stretch of crowds at the Foresthill school then we enter onto the trails

Figure 21 : The well lit aid stations appearing out of the middle of nowhere it seemed.  Ford’s Bar at Mile 73 for memory.
Figure 22 : Rucky Chucky Aid station before river crossing, first bit of watered soup
Figure 23 : The road markings on that final mile - harder to see under torchlight!
 Figure 24 : You beauty, sub 24 and Silver buckle!
Figure 25 : The tale of the tape and race against the 24-hour clock

Figure 26 : The Prized Sub 24 Hour Silver Buckle

Figure 27 : Yours truly, showing off the bling at a very warm presentation, the next (actually same) day.

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