Saturday, July 16, 2011

Western States 2011, Part Three

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me through the first two parts.  I didn’t expect to divide the report up this much nor did I expect to be as wordy as I’ve been.  The goal is to get you into the race as much as possible, hence the length.  I think you will find this to be the most interesting part of the series as it is, in true trilogy form, the darkest and most trying for our heroes (namely Coleen and me).  There’s some of George Carlin’s favorite words in this one, so if you’re allergic to that kind of thing, well, deal with it.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing.

You can find part one here and part two here.

Back to the race…

Leaving Foresthill you cover approx ½ mile of road, along which crews park their cars and setup shop while waiting for their runners.  Passing each group of people elicits cheers of “good job” and “you’re amazing” – none of which got old at any point.  Brian was with me and was clearly excited to be out there.  It was fun to watch him – he was like a star-struck kid at a baseball game; taking in the surroundings, the runners, the course and the task.  It was great.

We walked the entire paved part of the course.  My food needed to settle and my legs were recovering from the sit-down I had just done.  It’s amazing how 5 minutes of sitting can give your muscles enough time to clock out for the evening.  It takes a bit to break the work strike they enter after such a short rest.

The course from Foresthill to the Rucky Chucky river crossing is net downhill and all quite runnable.  The problem with downhill, for me, was that it hurt more than anything.  I had popped an ibuprofen at Foresthill which hadn’t kicked in yet, so we took the beginning of the trail pretty easy.  My strategy was therefore to kind of move sideways down hills in an attempt to transfer the pain to other parts of my body.

Early on we tried to figure out what my pace should be for the last 38 miles.  I made a big mistake here by over-motivating myself, this would eventually put me into a pretty bad funk later in the race.  See, I considered the whole 38 miles as a single race.  I shouldn’t have done this.  I really should have divided it in half: miles 60-80 and miles 80-100.  I know I go downhill pretty significantly around mile 80 and I should have planned for this.

What we were so excited about was that it seemed nearly in the bag that I would hit 26:30.  I had to move at a sub 4 mi/hr pace for the remainder of the race to do this, a reasonable assumption.  If I hit the 26:30 I would win my bet with Graham – he’d have to shave his beard.  This got me excited and motivated to move quickly. 

We covered the 3.7 miles to Dardanelles in fairly good time.  There is one significant uphill in this section and I bitched about it a lot but got through it at a very good pace.  I remember the three aid stations between Foresthill and Rucky Chucky quite well and was looking forward to all of them.  Brian was great about keeping me eating and drinking.  He’d ask every so often if I ate, offer me something good, like gu chomps, and remind me to drink. 

After eating a bit at Dardanelles we got going.  I felt good and told Brian to err on the side of running more than walking.  We ran in some fairly long segments which even included some gradual uphills.  Headlamps started appearing in front of us and soon enough we’d pass the person, an amazing feeling that late in the race.  I was really getting a good high from the distance we were covering and the pace that we were doing it at.

Peachstone was our next aid station, 5 miles exactly from Dardanelles.  There was one or two significant climbs but nothing that even compared to Devil’s Thumb or Michigan Bluff.  We kept moving, running the majority of the course.

Someday I’d love to hit this section in the daylight, as I can only imagine that it is breathtaking.  The American River is flowing in the valley below you and you’re running along a precariously perched trail along the side of the mountains.  I found myself turning my light uphill or downhill constantly to get a feel for where we were on the mountain.  I’d always lose my balance a bit in doing this, and constantly imagined myself cartwheeling over the side or something equally dramatic.  It was worth it.

We came into Peachstone after passing more folks.  I believe this was uneventful as we simply quickly ate and left.  I noticed that people were beginning to spend more time in the aid stations now that it was later at night.  The number of folks sitting down wrapped in a blanked had increased quite dramatically with each passing station.  Most of these folks were just taking a temporary break from the action, and would return to the course in due time.

Moving on I began to recall the next section quite vividily from the previous year with Greg.  Leaving Peachstone you encounter a series of significant downhill switchbacks taking you closer to the river.  I remember this because last year as we were descending we heard some of the most classic puking I’ve ever heard, it was great!  It really brought me back to Greg’s race.

I also remembered the part of the course I absolutely hated from pacing – the absolutely pointless dirt roads between Peachstone and Ford’s Bar.  This was a long-ass Jeep road that I saw no point to.  You basically got to Ford’s Bar, but before walking in turned right and climbed for ½ a mile on some super-steep road then descended right back to where you started.  Pointless, absolutely pointless. 

We hit the road and I was still in good shape physically and mentally.  I wasn’t tired yet, but I could tell I was getting there.  We started working on it, just focusing on keeping moving and taking small steps that would preserve my leg strength (whatever I had left at that point).  It definitely went quicker than I remember last year, not sure why.  We hit the summit in short order and started the seemingly-longer descent into Ford’s Bar. 

This was another top-notch aid station (hell, they all are at Western).  It was mile 73, so I had just north of a marathon left to complete.  That’s one of those real mental motivators for me in an ultra – when I pass a marathon and when I only have a marathon left.  I’ve run enough marathons that I have a good feel for the distance and know I can cover it under almost any circumstances.

I ate as much as I could here, including soup, a staple during an ultra at night.  I was excited to get moving as I knew the next aid was Rucky Chucky, the river crossing.  This would be a great mental pick-me-up and a nice visit with the crew on the far side of the river.

It’s a solid 5 miles from Ford’s Bar to the river and we covered it easily.  No major uphills or downhills to over-dramatize here, just smart running and walking.  I figure at this point I was able to run for about 5 minutes, then had to walk for a bit, take in water, then do it all over again.  Brian was great about keeping me eating and drinking. 

The time flew.  We hit the road leading to the near side before I knew it and we quickly found ourselves coming into the aid station.  The near side was another medical check.  210, right on – I knew I was hydrating and eating properly.

My goal here was to eat on the near side then take the boat over and fly right through the far side and up to Green Gate.  Greg spent a lot of time on the far side last year (including a stint in a reclining lawn chair), which I think is easy for people to do (and I saw it again this year).  So, Brian and I ate and got packs re-filled on the near side and headed for the boat.

There must have been 20 volunteers leading us down the rocks to the boat.  It was fabulous.  It was like crowd-surfing.  Everyone was so helpful and nice.  Anyone willing to touch me after 20 or so hours of running is either a saint or someone in a hazmat suit.

We got to the shore and waited a couple of minutes for the boat to come back across the river.  I was a little disturbed to find there was no rope across the river this year.  Last year there was, and we used it to partially save ourselves from floating away when the volunteers on the far side lost their grip on our boat.  It was really quite a sight.

If you want to imagine the boat it’s simply a whitewater rafting raft.  There’s a poor soul whose only job it is to row you across the river.  I remember thinking, man, if I were doing this I’d make some joke about the river Styx while wearing a grim reaper outfit.  I’m pretty sure the runners would get a hoot out of that.

It was very serene; just the oars and the water rushing by.  Hard to believe we were at a race.

The boat docked uneventfully this year.  I expected to see Greg or Erin on the other side as I did last year, but they weren’t there.  We hiked quickly up the shore and to the aid station.  I think I grabbed a grilled cheese or something and stuck to my promise to keep moving.  I turned around to start up the hill when I saw Erin.  I think her and Greg had literally just gotten to the aid station as we came up.  She had put some stuff down and I told her I’d walk slowly up the hill and for her to catch up.

Brian hung back with Erin and Greg took off with me.  I felt like a real jerk that whole hike up.  I kept trying to get Greg to let me stop and wait for Erin and Brian.  He wouldn’t have it. 

It’s 1.7 miles from Rucky Chucky Far to Green Gate.  Every inch is uphill.  I moved well and still felt like I had more running in me (I was soon to be proven wrong on this point).  I also probably turned around 20 times looking for Erin and Brian.  Greg had to slap me a little bit to keep me moving, telling me that they’d catch up at some point.

Greg and I chatted about the race.  I asked him what the course was like the last 20 miles, implying and secretly hoping that there were no more climbs or descents.  I just wanted a nice rose-petal lined trail (I would have also taken pine needle-lined, I wasn’t picky) the rest of the way to Auburn.

In retrospect, this is where I lost it mentally.  I didn’t admit it to myself, or realize it, but I was 100% done with the ascents and descents.  I was just so sick of them.  My attitude went from Positive Polly to Negative Nelly somewhere on that road.  Sorry Greg.

We got to Green Gate, which is a fabulous aid station, in good time – maybe 25-30 minutes.  I covered the distance from Foresthill to Rucky Chucky in about 5 hours, getting to Green Gate in 5.5 was better than I expected.  I still had that 26:30 finish in my mind, along with Graham’s beard (creepy, I know).

Right when we got to the aid station we saw Brian and Erin coming up behind us.  They made it!  I was so relieved.  I don’t know who would have won in the argument that Greg and I would have had about waiting for them.  I’m guessing Greg, because I was kind of a pushover at that point, but I’m glad we didn’t have to wait.

We took a couple of minutes to get everything together.  I grabbed the body glide and stuck it in the front of my pack. 

Question: how do you know someone’s having problems with chafing? 
Answer: when they replace their gels in the front of their pack with body glide.

Yeah, it hurt.  What was weird was that it didn’t hurt until we stopped at Green Gate.  I don’t recall any burning going up the hill, or anywhere else before the river.  Suddenly my armpits burned, my back burned where my pack was sitting, my crotch burned, other parts that aren’t appropriate for certain audiences burned.  EVERYTHING FUCKING BURNED!

I don’t even remember saying bye to Erin and Brian, I just started walking.  I couldn’t wait to apply copious amounts of body glide to every surface of my body.

Greg and I made it about ¼ of a mile before I told him I had to stop and take care of the chafing.  I moved off to the side of the trail, waited for some runners to pass, and I proceeded to apply body glide to everything that hurt.  It was a new stick and I wasn’t sure I had enough.

Within minutes I felt like a new person.  I could move without the sensation of having 220-grit sandpaper in every crevice of my arms and crotch.  But how well could I move?  Not very, is the answer.

5.4 miles stood between me and Auburn Lake Trails.  An aid station I hardly remember now.  I was 80 miles in and I was ready to be done…20 to go.  I knew I had to take it a mile at a time.  Actually, I turned it into a quarter of a mile at a time.  I immediately told myself it was just 20 loops around the track to the next aid station.  Easy, I can do that.

There was crew access at Auburn Lake Trails but we weren’t planning on meeting Erin and Brian there.  I just wanted to get there and get going.

If I had been in any sort of decent shape this would have been a very runnable section.  The hills were gentle, rolling and not-so-rocky.  I was essentially at 100% walk now, so people were passing me constantly.  It really started to take a toll on me.  I was getting pissed at them. 

Speaking of getting pissed, I also started pissing, a lot.  I bet I had to stop 2-4 times during that 5-mile stretch just to relieve myself.  They weren’t little pees either, I was starting new creeks.

I have to jump to the section from Auburn Lake Trails to Brown’s Bar now, since I can’t tell you anything about the aid station there.  We must have gone through it.  Oh!  Wait, I remember now.  It was a couple of tents setup in kind of a large gravel area.  It was really strange.  I remember I was in the mood for NOTHING there.  I’m sure Greg made me eat and I think I got weighed and we got going as quick as we could.

I was looking forward to Brown’s Bar, even with my shitty mood.  First off, it was a real, honest-to-goodness bar in the middle of f-ing nowhere.  Apparently they had keg beer on tap last year and Greg was eager to get there and have one.  I suspect it was because a few beers would make my bitching and moaning much easier for him to handle.  I doubt he’ll ever admit to that.

I recall the 4.7 miles to Brown’s Bar being much like the section to Auburn Lake, gentle, rolling hills.  I couldn’t enjoy any of it.  I was too busy hating myself.

It was dark, and I tend not to do well during a race from 2-6am.  Daylight seems far away and I start to wonder why the hell I do this to myself.  I start to wonder what the point really is.  It’s dumb, I know, but that’s what I always think.

Greg did a great job of trying to keep me distracted, asking me questions, telling me stories and chatting the whole time.  I kept telling him, jokingly, of course, that it was payback for Leadville.  It really wasn’t.  He was way more fun at Leadville than I was being (and was about to become) at Western.

The sun started to come up before we got to Brown’s Bar.  The course was still dark but the mountains above us were starting to show their outlines against the sky.  I’d look up every once in a while, enjoy the beauty of it, start to walk off course, curse, and then stick my head back down and focus on walking in a relatively straight line.

Once I did this and when I put my head back down I saw a bunch of dowels lining the trail, all about a foot high.  You know those half inch or so wide dowels that you can buy in really long segments?  Yeah, there were hundreds of them, lining the trail in front of me.  As I’d walk by them they’d bow, kind of like they were doing a reverse wave for me or something.  I’d look to the side behind me and they’d straighten back up.  It was so fucking weird.  Now, I’ve hallucinated before but this one really took the cake.  They were so real.   It was more real than the tiki torch party I saw at Rocky with James.

I kind of shook it off after awhile of feeling like royalty.  Things were normal for a bit until I started getting some colored streaks running across in front of me.  Greg was in front of me and they would fly in from the side, kinda circle him, then fly off.  They were like heatmaps that keep changing as they move.

Ok, I admit, I was enjoying it.

As it got a little lighter (I’m still walking and I still feel like shit, don’t forget that) the woods started to light up and the green of the woods became apparent.  As I’d turn my head I’d see waves moving across whatever I was looking at, kind of like if you had a picture under some water and you dropped a pebble in the water.  The wave would radiate out and distort the image a bit.  It was awesome.

Now I wanted more.  I wondered what else my brain could come up with.

Unfortunately, that was it.  As it got brighter my brain clocked back in.  This was good and bad.  Good in the sense that I had my wits about me again.  Bad in the sense that my rational self woke up and said “woah, why are we still doing this?”  It just got me more focused on hating myself.

Sometime between my tripping sessions and Brown’s Bar Greg pointed out that the bar was really a transvestite bar.  What?  Apparently there were transvestites working the aid station last year (which may explain Greg’s slow time!).  I didn’t buy it.  Who’d put a transvestite bar out in the middle of nowh--  Oh, right.

We came into Brown’s Bar in the morning light.  You can hear it from about half a mile away, which is really annoying when all you want to do is finish.  It’s a giant tease.

I was really out of it, I went straight for the food and started eating.  I also got some potato soup and chicken noodle soup and I sat my ass down in a chair.

Bad idea.

Greg headed for the bar – I do remember him leaving me and thinking “at least he’ll find someone to buy him a drink” without ever thinking about why I thought that.  I just kinda zonked out.  I probably looked catatonic.  I don’t even know how long I sat there.  I tried to down the soup but it wasn’t appetizing.  I forced myself to.  I had to.  I moved as little as possible.

Greg found me much as he left me.  In a chair, looking like a sorry pile of something-or-other.  “Let’s go.”  Dammit.  I made him help me get up.  He pulled me up, I wavered a bit, tried to take a step, and decided I really couldn’t.  I couldn’t walk anymore.  WTF?

It took me about a minute of standing there to get going again.  Get going is relative here, there was no pep in my step.  Garfield would have been annoyed with my pace.

I lumbered along and asked Greg what mile the aid station was, because I had no clue anymore.  “89.9” he told me.  We walked for a little bit, with the aid station still in sight, and I said “so, we’ve done 90 now?”  “Yeah”, he said.  As he said that I looked to my right and there was a mannequin, dressed in women’s clothing, with a beard and other “manly features”.  It was looking at me.  This didn’t seem strange to me.

So, when you’re running Western States and you pass the transvestite, you’ve gone 90 miles.  Duh.

Leaving Brown’s Bar you know you’re home-free…essentially.  You’ve got Highway 49 ahead of you, then No Hands Bridge and then the finish.  Easy.

Oh, don’t forget to study the course map and look at the climbs.  If you don’t, you might do something stupid like expect the last 10 miles to be flat.  Not that I’d ever do something that amateur…never.

Recall that I hate downhills.  The next mile was all downhill.  FML.  Thankfully I don’t really remember it.  I walked, Greg kept me moving, etc.

I do remember the uphill.  Oh God.

It’s about 3.5 miles to Highway 49 from the mannequin.  One of those miles was downhill and a little more than half was kinda flat.  Want to guess what the rest were?  Yeah, uphill.  But wait!  Before we get to that I want to mention the diaper.  Greg was about 50 or so feet in front of me for a lot of this section, probably to avoid the smell, and as I’m walking along I see an adult-sized diaper sitting in the middle of the trail.  I swear that’s what it was.  I was so out of it I didn’t holler up to him to ask him to look at it, I just assumed he saw it, stepped over it, and kept going.  I was totally dumbfounded.  Why was there a diaper here?  Is there an elderly person on the trail?  Did someone melt away into the trail leaving only their clothes?  Do the fast folks wear diapers to minimize the bathroom breaks?  The possibilities were endless.

So, back to my misery.  Let’s call the remaining section to Highway 49 a 2 mile uphill.  Because of my own ignorance I didn’t realize this.

Here comes my meltdown.

We started climbing.  It was getting hot and I was still tired (did I mention I was tired yet?).  Things burned, etc.  Greg was right in front of me and I kept asking him if we were close to the top yet.  He said that yeah, we’re almost there.  I’d think ok, look up to the next turn and expect the top of the climb to be there.  Now, I didn’t expect the aid station yet, I just wanted the climb to end.

So, we climbed a bit and I didn’t see the top.  So I asked again.  “Greg, almost there?”  “Yeup”, he’d respond, “you’re close”.  I’d think to myself that we were almost there a few minutes ago.

Kept climbing.

A group of folks caught up to us and started to pass us.  As they’re passing I ask Greg again, in the whiniest I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now voice I could muster: “we almost to the top?”  “Yeup”, he said.

My first clue should have been the look the other runners gave me.

Still climbing.

It all started to come to a head.  People were passing me.  I was walking.  I’d been walking the last 10 miles and I still had another 10 or so to go.  It was hot.  I wasn’t going to finish under 26:30.  My quads were killing me.  My armpits burned from the chafing.  My back burned from where my pack was.  My crotch was, well, I’ll let you guess.  I had blisters, my feet hurt.  My joints hurt – they never hurt.  They hurt now.

I just wanted to stop climbing.

More rocks, big steps, it was still hot.

“Greg, are we almost to the top?”  “Yeah, I can see it” was his response.

Whew, I figured it was just around the next turn.  Then that turn came, no top.  Ok, maybe the next one.

No top.  Still climbing.

“Greg, where the fuck is the top!?”  “We’re getting there.”

I started yelling in my head: we’re getting there?  WE’RE GETTING THERE?  We’ve been GETTING THERE since the beginning of the Obama administration.  There’s no way this hill is this long.  The course is flat after Green Gate.  THIS STUPID CLMB FEELS LIKE MOSQUITO RIDGE!  It’s hot.  I’m not happy.  This is so STUPID!  Why am I doing this?  Why is my pacer doing this to me?

I was so angry.  I started to cry.

If I would have had any energy I would have tackled Greg.  But I didn’t.  I had nothing left.  Those tears were the last thing I had.  I couldn’t laugh anymore.  Could barely think.  I was so angry because it was the only emotion that worked at that point.

God, I was pissed.

Still climbing.

We got to Highway 49 eventually, but I don’t really recall.  There was a nice person standing near the aid station that told me good job.  I’m surprised I didn’t tell them to “fuck off”.  I may have and I just don’t remember.

I knew Erin and Brian would be at Highway 49 and I expected Deb, Debbie and Raven there as well.  I looked forward to seeing everyone.  I really wanted to see Erin, that whole climb up I looked forward to that.  I figured she could fix me, I don’t know how, but I just figured she could.

I ate something.  As I was walking up to the table I muttered something like “this fucking sucks” under my breath, but loud enough to be heard.  I turned to my right and there was a camera in my face.  My despair, recorded for all of history.

I went and saw Erin and Brian.  I think I hugged Debbie, I don’t remember.  I tried to not stay long.  If I did I would have broken down crying.  I couldn’t really talk.  I found out Coleen was close by, I considered waiting but thought I’d hold her up if I did.  Plus, Greg would kill me if I even floated that idea.

Then we left.  I think I just started walking out without Greg.  I was still really pissed at him.  I knew he was there to help me and what he was doing was in my best interests, but that didn’t fully register at the time.

Here’s a guy who’s been up all night, walking, just to help me get to the end of my race.  What more could you ask from a friend?  I knew this and I was still pissed.

I also knew it would pass.  Race emotions are fickle things.  They’re transient.  I’m not mad at Greg at all.  I’m sure you all love him since you probably got a good chuckle out of my meltdown.  He did the right thing; he pushed me when I needed to be pushed. 

Don’t worry, I still had some bitching left in me.

From Highway 49 to No Hands Bridge is 3.3 miles.  It’s a brief uphill followed by a long downhill.  I didn’t care anymore.  I couldn’t be sad or hurt or mad, I just didn’t have anything in me.  I just walked.  That was really all I could do.

We crested the top and began the descent.  Descending did hurt more than climbing, be sure of that.  I just moved.  No good stories.  No heroic effort or witty conversation to be had.  It was just one foot in front of the other.  Nothing going on inside me, nothing left.

No Hands Bridge, the lowest point of the course, came up quickly.  I thought getting there would perk me up.  It did for a bit.  We ate a bit at the aid station, but at that point, you just want to go.  You’re 3.4 miles from the finish.  A 5k.  You can smell it.

Problem is, to get there, it’s uphill.

I really want you, as a reader, to take this last uphill as I did.  No emotion, no challenge, no nothing.

We walked across the bridge, the rushing river below.  I’m sure it was beautiful; I didn’t appreciate it at all.  I just moved.

As soon as we were on the other side of the American River it got hot.  We were on an exposed dirt trail, no shade, nothing.  The trail ran up the East side of the mountain and it was early in the morning with the sun beating right on us.  I didn’t have my hat or my sunglasses.  Whatever.  I didn’t care.  I just moved.

It was flat, then it was uphill, then it was downhill, then up, more up, and more up.  It was hot.

Robie Point is an informal-ish aid station at mile 98.9.  The story is that the neighborhood holds an all-night party there the weekend of the race.  They cook, drink, and cheer the runners on as they come through.

But I wasn’t there yet.  I was still climbing up.

At some point the former RD, Tim Twedmeyer, came bounding down the trail in front of us.  He told us good job and that we were close.  Easy for a guy who’s finished the race 25 times under 24 hours and won it 5 times.  He could kiss my ass at that point.  (Sorry Tim!)

But we were close.

After a few more minutes I did perk up.  We hit concrete and I knew we were really close.  I perked up even more.

Soon after, some kid comes running down the hill and asks me if I want water?

Ahh, Robie Point.

Of course I did.  He handed me a cup and took my bottle.  He then sprinted up the hill to get my bottle filled while I walked.

We passed the aid station and saw the party up ahead.  There were chairs around and crew aplenty.  I spotted Raven and Debbie first, Erin and Brian shortly after that.  Some folks took my picture but I don’t think I ever really stopped walking.  Folks cheered me on from all sides.  It was amazing.

I still had more bitching left in me.

The four of us proceeded on.  This was what it took to get one person from point A to point B, 100 miles in between.  Erin, Brian and Greg encouraged me, told me what a great job I was doing, etc.  I was still grumpy.

Random folks along the way, sitting on their porch, enjoying the day would tell me good job.  I couldn’t muster much more than a “thanks” because I knew if I talked I’d start crying again.

Hell, I did cry randomly that whole last mile.  I couldn’t believe it was over.  It was surreal.  I never thought it’d end.  I never thought I’d experience the finish.  It seemed so far away the whole time and I was so close.

More hills tho.  I asked them if this was the last one.  “Two more uphills” was the reply.  “So one downhill”, I asked.  “Nope”, they said.  “Don’t fucking lie to me” was my pleasant response.

They weren’t lying.

I turned some corners and saw the high school.  Geoff Roes was standing near the entrance, he stepped out and shook my hand and told me good job.   I couldn’t look him in the eye.  I was too busy trying not to lose it.  I hope I told him thanks.  He’d dropped at Michigan Bluff.  What an amazing sport this is.

I’m choked up just thinking about the finish.

We hit the track and I was still walking.  There were tons of people sitting in the grass lining the track.  The announcer called out my name; I couldn’t hear what he said over the cheering.

I was still hot, I was amazed I was there.  I’m not sure I wanted it to end.

Ok, my eyes are watery now, thanks.

The four of us were still walking together.  I never would have made it there without them or with the help I got from Deb, Debbie and Raven.  Coleen got me there also, sticking with me the first 55 miles.

Greg made some smart-ass comment about me coming in at 28:40.  He’d predicted 28:30 long, long ago.  I made some smart-ass comment back and we got a good laugh out of it.  I had some wit back.  Things were improving.

I ran the last 100 yards.  You have to, right?

My parents were in the bleachers to my right.  I didn’t look for them; I was trying not to trip.  I saw Brad to my left.  I still didn’t want to trip.

Then time slowed way down.  The last 20 meters still feel like a whole minute.  I guess I hallucinated again.  The cheering was amplified and it seemed like flashbulbs were going off, just like in a movie.  I felt a breeze and it was cool, I had good form and no pain.  I felt strong.  There were no flashbulbs.  That was all in my head.  None of it was true, my form was shit, I saw the video.  There was no breeze.  Eggs were cooking on the track.

I was done.

Someone shook my hand and put a medal around my neck.  Lots of good jobs and such.

I was moved over to a scale and then a chair for BP - 150/something.  High, but I’d just run for 28 hours and 40 minutes.

Erin or Brian or Greg found me and took my pack.  I sat for a bit more before getting up.  I needed help, but I could move.

I went to the medical tent to give blood and pee for whatever research they were doing this year.  They’d do a BMP and measure CK.  I watched the phlebotomist stick me, Erin was there and she said seeing the needle go in almost made her pass out.  I got my pee cup and took care of that.

I put the cup on the table and saw a nice collection of cups lined up.  The first one looked like it had red wine in it.  The second was a little lighter.  The third was a little lighter than the previous.  Hmm.  “Whose is that?” I asked.  The lady pointed at some guy lying on a cot.  Glad I wasn’t him.

Everyone was gathered on the track near a little wall.  I hugged my mom and dad – I was happy to see them.  I hugged Greg, Brian, Deb, Raven, Debbie, everyone.  I probably hugged random people.  I hugged Erin too.  I don’t know why she puts up with this crap, the running.  It was her finish as much as it was mine. 

I wanted my shoes off.  That unfortunate job fell to Erin – the one you love the most gets the worst jobs, right?  Just watch the video.

Some guys with a camera came over and asked if they could talk to me.  Apparently I looked like an interesting story.  According to Erin and Brian, I was.

They asked me questions about the race, which I answered.  Then they asked me if I’d ever do it again.  I don’t remember my answer.  I’m told it could be summed up as “Not no, but hell no”.  I think I cried some more.  Such a baby.  They took a lot of pictures of my feet, which weren’t that bad.

Shortly after that I heard Coleen’s name called out.  She finished so close to me I’m surprised she didn’t catch me.

I didn’t feel like moving but I did want to see her.  I lumbered over to the finish and found her.  Didn’t really say anything, just hugged her and cried again.  We both cried, thank you very much, so don’t judge me.

After that I was ready for a shower.  I was not pleasant.  We headed to my parents hotel room so I could shower.  I talked the guy into letting us keep the room 30 minutes longer by threatening to hug him, or something like that.  Actually, he was aware of the race and thought it was awesome I finished.

The shower was painful, let’s leave it at that.

I got out of the shower and laid on the bed and proceeded to hack up a lung or two and then wine and moan about how much my whole body hurt.  Erin watched with some pity, but not much as she gently reminded me I did it to myself.  I know, I liked the pain, but it was still pain.

We had to hurry to make it back for the awards ceremony.  Mostly because we needed a spot under the tent for my parents.  We managed to find one, because Coleen and them saved it for us.

I didn’t really care about the awards ceremony.  I translated some stuff for my parents but mostly sat there and wanted to leave.  I also started to fall asleep, hardcore.  Like my head would fall over and that’d wake me up.  It was hot.  Ugh.

Brian fell asleep for a bit there, as did Brad and Coleen.  I don’t recall Erin falling asleep there. 

After what seemed like forever they started giving out the buckles.  They went in reverse finishing order.  29 hour folks first, 28 hour folks second.  Glad I fell in the 28 hour category – it got us out quicker.

We went to the car.  Brian drove.  We had to run by a Target then head to our hotel in Sacramento.  I don’t remember the drive although I apparently gave directions – correct directions at that!

I vaguely remember checking in and sending Erin, Brian and my parents to lunch.   I went upstairs and passed out.  Next thing I know they’re both coming into the room and I’m asking them why they hadn’t left for lunch yet.  They had, I’d been asleep for a couple of hours.  To me it felt like seconds.

We had dinner that night at a burger joint I can’t remember right now (Erin is going to kill me for that – it was super good).  I was probably asleep by 9.  Because I’m a genius we had a 5:50 flight to catch.  That meant waking up at 3:30.  Whatever, I had just finished Western, I could do anything.

My recovery has been good.  I tried to run the Wednesday after the race, at my weekly run.  It was more of an occasional trot.  I only covered 2.5 miles, the rest of the group did the 4.5 mile loop.  I was fine with that.

I waited until the weekend to try to run again.  An easy 5-miler in the neighborhood.  The first 2 or so went fine, then after that my legs got real brick-y quickly.

I was wearing my Western States shirt and walking back.  Some lady jogged by me and gave me a dirty look for walking.  I was like “look at the shirt lady!”  Well, I may have replaced “lady” with another word in my head.

I know you’ll ask.  Would I do it again?

For the first day or so after the race absolutely no way.  Today?  Well, you know, it wasn’t that bad.