Sunday, June 29, 2008

Western States 2008: Inaugural Fat Ass

[Note: for the ones who prefer images to text, you can jump to my Picasa album.]

The cancellation news hit the wire on Wednesday night. On Thursday, I went through my first therapy session: a blog post in the morning followed by a day of work at our company office in Incline Village and a nice family dinner with our hosts and friends, at Azzara's on Tahoe Boulevard.

I had expected an email from race management about the revised scheduled for the weekend runners' activities, but, like the cancellation announcement, I got nothing in my mailbox. After dinner though, I received an email from Chihping (Fu) talking about a potential run from Squaw as 5 AM on Friday morning. That he heard there would be other runners joining. This is just the news I was expecting to free my running urge up! I set the alarm to 3 AM, left Incline at 3:50 and got to the deserted parking of Squaw Valley at 4:30. Dark but... clear sky, the smoke was gone!!!
At 5, I found only one runner, Kirk. Kirk is one of the 36 Grand Slam candidates this year (4 100-milers during the summer), which starts with Western States, so on the wrong foot this year. Stan (Jensen) is actually looking at an alternative race to keep the Grand Slam alive in 2008.
Half way to Emigrant Pass, I ran into Chihping, who was running back from his first 3 AM loop (Chiphing has had a stress fracture, but nothing would make him stop, even a canceled race...). After exchanging a few camera shots, I continued the ascent with a couple of other photographic stops to capture the magnificent views of the sun rising above Squaw Valley. The temperature was still cool at dawn, in the low 40s F.
I ran solo all the way to Red Star Ridge, stopping along the way for more shots and to enjoy the views of this very clear morning. No snow on the trail, cool temperatures in the morning, that would have really be another perfect year, like the 2007 edition. A year to see some course records falling, most likely, except that Mother Nature decided otherwise. Good for Scott (15:36 course record), Tim (17:17 Masters course record) and Roger (20:34 M60-69 CR).
With my hydration backpack and two bottles, I had the equivalent of 5.5 20-oz bottles which was just enough to avoid drinking in the tempting springs (I got Giardiasis back in February, so I am now more cautious). And with no aid stations set-up, I missed the usual baked potatoes, chips, cookies and other good food we have on the course. Bottom line, with quite a few stops on the way, I was happy to make it back to Emigrant Pass just under 6 hours.

There, the solo run ended as I started seeing other runners. First Lee and Winnie Jebian shared the great news that we were automatic entrants for 2009. Nice for us, tough for others, but, according to most, the best and most fair decision. Lee also told me that I will find Sophia and Brian Robinson on the way down (Brian is know for his triple crown in 2001 and his recent win at Barkley this year, the 7th to finish this 100-miler in more than 20 years - And Sophia excelled on the ultra circuit a few years ago, but has encountered a series of bad injuries since, very unfortunately).
We then saw Simon (Mtuy) and Paul (Charteris) on their climb to the pass. And Sharon Broadwell from Norway with one of her pacers, on her way back to Squaw (see more in my next post about on Tahoe Rim Trail).
At the finish line (or official start line actually) I found Benoit Laval. Tim (Twietmeyer) was there too. As I walked-in for the check-in, Stan Jensen gave me my medical bracelet as a WS2008 souvenir, and I picked my goody bag. Then some shopping at the WS100 Store (thank you Don and, a participation in the medical study and it was time to attend the briefing. Quite disappointing with a much smaller crowd than usual (understandable) and the noticeable absence of most of the elites, especially on the men side (Nikki, Bev and Caren were there to represent the other gender quite well). The highlight of the briefing was the explanation of the bagpipes tradition by Tim: in 1981, for his first (0f 25) participation in the run, the protocol was to follow the bagpipes to the start line. No run this year but the bagpipes played again 2008:

I chatted more with Benoit, introducing Simon to him as Simon plan on running Le Grand Raid de La RĂ©union. Also met Scott (Dunlap), very relaxed with so much tapering (so much that the race was not even happening!). And Paul (Charteris, aka KiwiPaul) who was working on a plan for a group run on the Tahoe Rim Trail this Saturday (more on this in my next post).

31.5 miles, +/- 6,400 feet of cumulated elevation, all the souvenirs of last year coming back, perfect trail conditions, that was a great inaugural summer fat ass (for the non ultra insiders, see my January post on Les Balcons de Rouen for the explanation of this curious expression). Hopefully not a tradition though as this is the first time in 35 years that the run has been canceled. Needless to say, I went for this run because the sky was clear and the smoke gone that morning. In the afternoon, race management insisted at the briefing that no runner should try to go further as the firefighters were working hard on the wild fire threatening Last Chance in particular (the aid station which our club, the Stevens Creek Striders, have been manning for 27 years, and which I was co-captaining for the fifth year, with Robin Mills this year).
A good active second therapy session to handle this DNH. With more to come this weekend in Tahoe... A DNH is not going to prevent us to go farther, right?

PS: again, more images of the day in my Picasa album.

1 comment:

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Wow, cool sunrise shot. Looks like you had fun nonetheless, great for all you guys.