Report filed by Sniper
The flight from Richmond to Dallas went went until we landed and I got a phone call as soon as I turned on my phone. It was the Reno police, spcifically the drug unit calling me. I could barely understand since I was still on the plane but the package that I had sent federal express to my hotel with my dropbags in it has raised some suspicions. I explained to him that the contents were the following: juice boxes of yoohoo since northern California doesnt have any there, cups of applesauce and baggies of white and brown powder which everyone on the east coast knows is my tea and sugar mix. All of the bags were labeled with the aid station names and my bib number and also a note inside explaining what everything was for. After telling the officer all of this he agreed that I was in fact telling the truth, could anyone in their right mind make this up? haha. He told me that the package was already on its way to be delivered, and I work for the company too.
So, after that situation was averted I met up with Mark Rodriquez, who paced me at MMT, at the Dallas airport and took him some VHTRC shirts. Even when I am on my time I am still making deliveries, haha. We hung out for a bit until it was time to get on the flight to Reno, NV. The flight went well until we got there and it was a rough landing, lots and lots of wind. Got the rental car, called Mike Bailey and headed to Squaw Valley. My pacer would arrive later tonight. I got to the start line of the race and met up with Mike and Ed and we walked around a bit. I did get to meet some of the other people who are trying to run the Grand Slam this year. The GS consists of Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch. I am trying to run the Last Great Race which includes those 4 plus Old Dominion and Angeles Crest. I recently ran Old Dominion along with Dan Brendan who is going for the LGR again this year. He’s got fire in his belly this year since he just turned 60, this guy is tough. We have run about 16 races together, putting in at least a few miles together during each. After the meet and greet, I checked into the hotel and went back to Reno to get John may pacer. We arrived back at the hotel and met up with Mike who was staying with us and settled in for Friday’s check in.
We got there about 9:30am and there were a lot of people already there. Check in is more like marathon packet pickup than most ultras. You get in line, get your schwag, weigh in, get your blood pressure taken and get your medical wristband. It was pretty cool all in all, I met new people and saw old friends and had a good time. Western States is a point to point race and I enlisted the help of Mike Ryan, brother Dennis, and Dad Lou to help get the cars to the finish line. I don’t think Mike ever grasped the idea of how his car was gonna get to the finish line but I told him to trust me and he did. Mike seemed in a daze on Thursday and Friday, not sure why but we all have our own way of getting into the mindset we need to run a race. We had lunch with the Ryan boys and James from the UK, James is also trying to run the GS this year. We met at Old Dominion in 2008, this year he has had a stress fracture and not sure how WS would go. We listened to the pre race briefing and saw all of the frontrunners, they didn’t call my name but I know they didn’t want to cause a big disruption, haha. We all separated for the evening and would see each other in the morning. John, Mike, and I just bummed around town for the afternoon.
We left the room and got to the start a bit later than I would have liked but it was ok, just a simple 10 minute drive. We checked in and got our bib numbers and before you know it, it was time to start. I left the car issue up to John to find Ryan;s dad and brother and work it out. Mike almost lost his pack and jacket because he separated from us and left it inside the building, John got it for him.
We started out and Ryan and I did not start out together as we planned since it was so many runners. No worries. I started up the climb and eased into a powerwalk, it is afterall a ski slope. The first aid station at the Escarpment was about a half mile sooner due to snow. I filled my other handbottle and then hit the snow. We had a beautiful sunrise and the temps were perfect, the snow wasn’t too bad but I knew it would get deeper. Ed C and I went up together and then headed down the other side and then we got into the snow. I took my time somewhat and did not have that much issue with it until a couple of miles into it when I jumped down about 3 feet and I didn’t stick the landing. My feet went through the snow and my right knee hit a rock or stump or something. OUCH!!!
I got up and limped down the trail and took a look at my knee and it was bleeding and cut up. I started running again and made it to the aid station, fueled up, and headed on down the trail. I got to the Poppy aid station and met up with Ed again and we left together and ran around French Lake Reservoir. The trees are HUGE and the pine cones are HUGE also. Further down the trail getting to Mosquito Ridge it was like going up the Bald Mountain jeep road. It was hot which wasn’t bad but there was no breeze at all. James and I ran the loop together and then I left him and headed to the dreaded Devils Thumb climb around mile 47. I went up the climb with a couple of guys who had run the race many times before. It was one of the few times that I was with someone and we were talking. The best way to describe the climb is to give you the numbers. Elevation gain 1500 feet, distance 1.6 miles, switchbacks 36. There were places where you would see someone who is ahead of you and you look straight up to see them. Upon reaching the top I promptly gave Devils Thumb a good look at my middle finger, haha.
The next couple of sections went by pretty good and I got to Forest Hill mile 62 a couple of minutes slower than last year but considering the course change I say the same time. I changed shoes picked up my pacer John and kind of knew at this point that breaking 24 hours was not going to happen so I decided to have some fun. Leaving the aid station I acted as if I were on tour and yelled “Hi, I ‘m David Snipes from the east coast. I’m big time over there and I’ll be in town all weekend.” Everyone was laughing and it gave me some much needed energy. The next game to be played was to see how long I could go before turning on my headlamp. John turned his on behind me around 9pm. I was a few feet ahead of him and could still see and his light didn’t bother my nightvision. Finally at 9:26pm I decided to turn mine on only because we were in a hollow and under tree cover.
I got to the Rucky Chucky river crossing and weighed in, by this time I had weighed in about 7 times during the race and I think the first scale at mile 31 was off because it said I was down 4 pounds from my starting weight of 169. Mile 43 I was up 6 pounds to 171 and from there all the way to mile 93 aid station the weight stayed the same, no problems there. On the climb up to Green Gate at mile 80 I told John that considering what we had left it would be too much of a push to try and break 24 hours for sure and I was ok with just finishing and feeling good. He too was ok with that. Leaving Green Gate the next section is a worn down section of trail that runs long and at night it kind of sucks, it seemed to take forever to get to the next aid station. I was also starting to fall asleep on the trail, caffeine wasn’t really working anymore either.
Dawn came as we were on our way to highway 49 aid station at mile 93 and I started to wake up and finally was able to take off the headlamp. After awhile you just get tired of looking through LED lights. We left there after I was interviewed by this guy doing a documentary of Western States, of course I had been telling everyone the same thing as I did at mile 62, which got tired crews and aid station workers laughing. When we got to mile 96 at No Hands Bridge there was a volunteer eating a breakfast burrito. We asked for one and he said “you don’t want one of these this late in the race” I said I had run 96 miles and could eat anything. Two of them were quickly made and OMG that was so freaking good. Eggs, bacon, potatoes, and cheese all together. AWESOMENESS wrapped up in one tortilla just for me.
John and I set out for Robie Point, the last aid station, and then I was in need of a bathroom. No worries, I told John that after the finish while he was getting stuff to cleanup with, I would be in the medical tent for the weigh-in and blood pressure check and stuff I would meet him at the showers. My stomach had other plans. At the last aid station there was a port-a-john, I stopped there and then asked John how many runners had passed me. He said 2 along with their pacers, no problem. I ran the last mile and caught up to each one and gave them a hard time about passing a runner when they were taking a bathroom break, haha we laughed and then we hit the track. I sprinted as fast as I could and I got the to the finished line in 26:35:22, a bit slower than last year but it’s all good.
James finished in 28:28:00 and Mike Ryan in 29:05, Mike Bailey in 25:29, and Ed C in 27:08. These are close to correct without looking at the results.
Western States is a good race and it is very well organized, but if you are like me and like to be sociable while you are running it will be hard to find it here as everyone is in the mindset of not talking much. I think the weigh-ins are a bit much, between pre race and post race I weighed in a total of 12 times. The aid stations are great and the fans are awesome but you have to remember to run this race like you run any other and not get caught up in the hoopla of it all.
Below is a link to my pics that were taken during the race. The guy in the white shirt with black stripes is John my pacer. The pics of us with life jackets on are of us crossing the Rucky Chucky river. The pics of me with the lake in the background I think are the best and that is French Meadow Reservoir that we are going around. The last pics are of me running around the track finishing up.