Western States 100

Maggie Beach Point Robie

Maggie Beach Point Robie, 98.9 miles run, 1.1 to go.

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Perspective makes a difference. Some people never recovered from the snow and ice. Others, like Maggie, cite it as a favorite part of the race, although it seems Maggie fell as often as anyone, and came away from some nasty ice bruises. She found a comedy in the spills, and a camaraderie, as the runner in front or behind would pull up whoever had fallen, knowing he (or she) would be next on his ass.

A good report on the race from the perspective of a middle-of-the-pack runner, is on Chris Owens’ blog. Owens talks about two things that were factors for friends of mine also running WS100. The first is that while running on snow and ice was fun at first – “Even the first fall on my ass was met with laughter.” the fun/novelty wore off quickly “I started following a trail of what was obviously blood…The falling really took a toll, mentally and physically on me, especially the falls on the icy parts that hurt much more than on softer snow.”. He also reports that the difficulties he had caused him to run tentatively, and that rather than sparing himself further injury, the tentative running might have contributed to additional spills. In any event, running tentatively (and tensely) through the snow cost him time he was never able to recover, and like everyone but Maggie that I knew running WS100, that lost time eventually cost him a completion, being pulled for not making a cut-off time.

There was very little drama in the men’s field. Nearly everyone expected Geoff Roes to win it handily, although a few expected Killian Jornet to make a strong showing. Anton Krupicka was out with injury. What happened was that Roes quit early and Killian ran away with it. Roes (who was at the finish line cheering on the runners) gives a gracious account of it on his own blog, with a follow-up post here.

The women’s race featured a much deeper field and proved much more exciting. Canadian Ellie Greenwood apparently had a miserable beginning of the race and then pulled off a stunning win, making her move at the 96 mile mark (!) and getting a little assistance from a bear at mile 98. Ellie gives her race report on her blog. Behind her, dueling it to the finish, seconds separating them, were second place Kami Semick and third place Nikki Kimball. Everyone has a blog in these modern times, and Kami Semick does a good job of describing the bear incident on hers. What established who finished second and who finished third is basically Kami Semick’s road racing. She is a sub 3 hour marathoner with a good kick, and that’s what allowed her to hold of Kimball’s surge. The expression on Nikki Kimball’s face in those last 100 meters to the finish said it all. It was a smile of sorts that substituted for a shrug of the shoulders. It said to us that she just couldn’t go any faster no matter how hard she tried. After 100 miles, they finished 4 seconds apart. The bear incident is worth reading about.

Kista and I arrived in Auburn midafternoon. We checked into the Motel 6, took a swim in the pool, and then headed out for dinner and then to the track. Immediately after arriving we spotted/were spotted by Larry Gassan, whose ongoing photo series of 100 mile finishers is brilliant work. We chatted with him and with Ultralist owner Dave Combs for a while, and then checked on our runners’ positions.

Maggie was running strong – well under 24 hour pace. Sheri seemed to have stopped. We later learned that the snow and ice did her in and she didn’t make one of the cutoffs. We set up our chairs and chilled out.

Quite a few hours passed. We learned that the snow did Sheri in, she’d missed a cut-off and was out of the race. Maggie was hours late getting in to one of the aid stations, and we later learned she’d gone off course, run extra miles, and had lost a couple of hours. She was looking like a 26 – 28 hour finish. (She ended up making back much of what she’d lost).

We goofed around for a bit, watched the front men and women come in, and eventually fell asleep on the grass.

Sometime around dawn my phone started ringing. Maggie was approaching Robie and the 98.5 mile mark. We were going to head out, meet her, and run the last mile and a half with her.

The expression on her face – in her eyes, mostly – deserves mention. There was enormous happiness, bordering on glee. There was also a lot of pain, and she looked a bit haunted. I don’t thing I’ve ever seen a face register as many emotions all at once. Every feeling you can think of that is appropriate to being with a mile of the finish of a 100 mile race was equally manifest. It was something.

Maggie was weighed and interviewed and her pulse was checked, and she posed for pictures. We were unable to reach Sheri – apparently ATT does not extend its vast reach to Auburn, (or to much of LA. ATT is actually kind of worthless). We headed off to our respective motels to shower, and then met for breakfast, after which Kista and I drove home.

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