Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Western States Inspiration
I'm finally back! Well, a little bit at least.
I finally finished my doctorate classes on Saturday morning (still have 2 papers and must get started on the dissertation now, so not over-much celebrating) and headed up to Western States 100 to hang out with some crewing/spectating friends and be excited about being done with classes.
I headed up to Foresthill, the aid station at the 62 mile mark, and where runners could pick up their pacers. Because there was ample parking, it was a hugely popular place to spectate, cheer and otherwise soak in the atmosphere of this race.
This was the 36th running of Western States 100, and as one of the oldest and most popular ultras in the world, it generates quite a bit of hype. For the past few weeks on running blogs, Facebook and different running forums, it's been a big topic of conversation. (Quite honestly, it made me very happy I will never be the subject of speculation as to "Will she win or not" talk, because I would think it could generate quite a bit of pressure, and running 100 miles seems like enough pressure in and of itself.) I had never been, and I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but even being up there for Saturday afternoon/evening was extraordinary and I highly recommend it to anyone for several reasons.
First of all, running 100 miles? That's like, the coolest thing ever, I've decided. 100 miles is a long way--a very long way. 238 runners finished out of 399-- and while that seems like a large number dropping, that's still a LOT of people that ran 100 miles last weekend. (Plus, there were many people who dropped at distances like 62 or 85.2 miles, and those distances are nothing to sneeze at, either!) All these fabulous ultrarunners definitely inspired me to think about doing one of my own in the coming years (not any time soon, as you'll see with the latest knee(s) update).
Second, the volunteers required to support this event were inspiring even without the runners. Andy B came up the night before to Duncan Canyon and camped out in the dust to work the entire day on Saturday and then showed up at the finish line for a while. Miki came with three other PCTR regulars, worked an aid station during the day and then they came to work at the finish line all night (well, her shift started at some ridiculous hour, so I'm just calling it all night). I heard someone say that 1500 volunteers were needed to put on the race to ensure that runners were taken care of at each aid station they went through. That is some serious ultra love.
Watching people come in at the finish line was also amazing. The runners finish by running the last 300 meters or so of Placer High's track, with the announcer calling out their name, home town and some kind of tidbit about them, so by the time they cross the finish line, you're cheering for an actual person and not just some running machine. (For example, the first place woman, Anita Ortiz, is a mother of four children-- how's THAT for incredible!)
Overall, it was a great experience and I'm sure I will be back next year (probably not running it, however!). At the moment, I'm in knee rehab territory, which is actually going pretty decently, considering that my knee that has not been straight for the past 10 years is getting straighter (and hence the knee issues). Yoga, the elliptical and lots of exercises are doing their thing-- it's just not going to be a quick process. However, I've been running a little every day and I'm pretty confident that I'll get there soon. I'm hoping to run at Sequoia, but perhaps I will try for another interesting run in the next few weeks-- even if it's not super long!