Thursday, July 11, 2013

2013 Western States 100 Mile - Lining Up For the Unknown

Less than one year before the start of the 2013 Western States 100 Mile, I had never done an ultra, was playing with the idea, but distinctly told some friends that even if I did do an ultra, it would be a long time before I’d be signing up for a 100 miler.  And how wrong I was!

When I lined up at JFK 50 Mile this past November, I was so focused on racing my first ultra successfully that I didn’t even realize the top 2 finishers earned an entry into Western States.  Needless to say, I would never have overlooked something so pertinent in a road marathon, but this was unfamiliar territory, so immediately after the race when people asked if I’d take my Montrail spot at Western, I was a little speechless. 

While I was still trying to let the reality of JFK settle in, I had to make a decision about committing to WS.  Next thing I knew, I was setting up an account with ultrasignup and clicking on the button to register. 

For many, every step they take is to prepare for the big dance.  At that time, I had (and still do) big road marathon goals, so I really had to shift gears in March after a stint of marathon-specific work and start hitting the trails hard.  Ian Torrence did a great job of preparing me and at no time during the race did I feel that my fitness or training was lacking to get me to the finish line.  I will be the first to admit that the training was challenging for me.  I wasn’t used to running on fatigued legs and getting dropped on runs.  Welcome to a crash course in ultra training!  I had several internal battles with myself, but ultimately on race day I was prepared both mentally and physically for what would come my way.

Race day!  I knew I was prepared, but I’m still a rookie.  Did I have nutrition dialed in?  Drop bags?  How is this going to feel?  Will I be able to handle the heat?  Oh, how about running in the dark?  So many much time.

Goal 1: Get to the finish line
Goal 2: Top 10

Super Bee is listening intently to the
mandatory pre-race meeting (or maybe to the kids with sticks!).
Photo by Cheryl Harrison.

The calm before the storm.  The start line of WS.
Photo by Erin Strout.

Overall, I’m happy with my race.  I went out very conservative and never saw the top women as soon as we crested the first climb, but I wanted to play it safe instead of blowing up halfway through.  My goal was to focus on running my own race and to take care of myself early on.  This seemed to pay off, as I handled the heat well (2nd hottest year on record), a surprise to me, and I feel a lot of this was because I was smart early on and didn't run out of my comfort zone. 

Moving along.
Photo by Gary Wang.

One of the tricks of Western is all the downhill running to be had.  This happens to be my weakest aspect, whether it be on a road course or a trail, so I was most nervous about this.  Leaving Robinson Flat my quads were already in trouble.  I welcomed climbs and flats with open arms all the way to the finish. 

Crews had great views at Robinson Flat.
Photo by Cheryl Harrison.

My support crew of Ian Torrence and my Mom really got me through.  My Mom, Cheryl Harrison, was key to making the whole operation work.  Once Ian met me at Forest Hill, she continued on to meet us and to take care of the pups (I’m pretty sure they know the course better than I do!)  Ian was essential to getting me to the finish line, especially in the later miles when running downhill was almost a joke. 

Ian Torrence meeting me at Forest Hill, ready to pace me to the finish.  

Crossing the river.
Photo by Luis Escobar.

Still eating solid food at Highway 49.
Photo by irunfar.

I met my goals for the race, and I’m sure I will be finding myself clicking on that register button once again and lining up for the 2014 WS100 Mile.

Ian and I are both still smiling.  A good sign!
Photo by Larry Gassan.

A big thank you to my Mom, Ian Torrence, adidas, injinji, and Brent Hallowell of Nathan Sports for all of their support.

Next up, Transrockies Run with Ian…another new experience for me!

Bee had a long day, too.  She's too tired to eat oatmeal!
Photo by Cheryl Harrison.


glenn said...

Grats on a smart race!

Gordy Ainsleigh said...

Drift out here a couple times in the spring, and run Michigan Bluff to Last Chance the first time, and then Foresthill to Last Chance the second time. That should take care of your downhill struggles, Emily.
Gordy Ainsleigh

Amber Green said...

Congrats Emily...You make it sound so easy! Way to go on your race strategy playing out well...what an accomplishment! WAHOO!!!

Luke said...

Awesome run! Was following a few of my friends that finished just behind you on the women's side and was good to see a newbie crushing the course! Great work! And have fun out here in CO for Trans, have always wanted to run that one!

B Butler said...

Emily! Congratulations! I have known your mom since middle school, can you ask her to get in touch with me? I know she is so proud of you! Betcei

John Burton said...

Congrats on your great performance at Western States Emily! You looked great as you and Ian flew by us on the climb up to Robie Point. Best of luck to you guys at Trans Rockies!!!