Sunday, June 28, 2009

Western States Weekend

There are few bigger races on an ultra-runner's calendar than the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Although I've never run it myself, I do live conveniently close to the race course, and thus have found myself volunteering and spectating on several occasions. This year, given the very competitive field in both the men's and women's races, I was particularly interested to see how the race would play out.

On Friday, I made my way to Squaw to help check-in pacers. I was fortunate to be working with Sophie Lewis-Robinson at "Pacer Central." Sophie is not only friendly and nice, but also much more experienced than I in the ways of Western States. She seemed to have the answers to most people's questions, and it wasn't long before her answers became my answers. (Thanks Sophie!) It was a beautiful and fun day where we greeted many friends with excitement, met new people, congratulated World 100K champions, and just generally gawked at the abundance of fast runners wandering about.

Saturday, I made my way to Michigan Bluff in time to see the front runners come through, and parked myself there for the remainder of the day.

It was hot--about 89 F when I arrived at 1:30. I knew it was still heating up, and I assume it hit close to 100 by the time we reached the heat of the day. There were people everywhere, mostly crews waiting anxiously for their runner, but also countless volunteers working the aid stations, communications, statistics, and medical tents. I was searching out some shade when I spotted Joe Palubeski, and pulled up a patch of grass behind him and his crew.

To be honest, I was really pulling for Bev to win this one, so I was anxious to hear how she was doing. I got the low-down from Joe, and I thought things sounded promising for her so far.

I socialized with many amazing runners, some of whom (like Meghan!) I met for the first time (in real life, anyway).
Here are some photos from the day, with a bit of narration on my activities and observations.

Jasper, looking strong in 3rd place.

Leigh Schmitt

Bryon Powell tweets away. Between Bryon and Matt Hart, Twitter was better at times than the official wewbcast, which had a lot of problems through the morning.

The aid station volunteers wait patiently for more runners to arrive.

Tsuyoshi Kaburagi

Gary Robbins

Erik Skaden

Anita Ortiz looked totally solid coming through. She only spent two minutes in the aid station.

Chikara Omine

AJW, surrounded by a gaggle of young, eager helpers

Mark Lantz

Bev Anderson-Abs

Bev walks out with her crew.

Tracy Moore

Krissy Moehl, headed out with her crew

Graham Cooper

Jed Tukman

Simon Mtuy

Nikki, headed to her crew station. She had the most efficient crew I'd ever seen. She was having trouble with her feet, and she had one crew member on each foot--pulling off socks, shoes, retaping, new socks and shoes--Boom! Amazing to watch.

Kevin Swisher

Meghan Arbogast

Caren Spore

Olga cheks in on Sean Meissner

Brian Morrison and Kim Gimenez

Beth Vitalis

Peter, Troy and Carol check runners into Michigan Bluff. I went over to chat with Peter, and soon realized this was the place to be. The numbers were radioed in, and we could look up who was coming just before they arrived. It was a blast to cheer for everyone by name!

Connie Gardner

Donald Buraglio weighs in

Scott Dunlap tells Peter tales of puking and passing out.

Lori Lebel

Kathy D'Onofrio-Wood

The crowd at Michigan Bluff waits for the runners to arrive.

If I had known everything on this plaque, I would have done much better on Craig Thornley's quiz.

Overall, it was an exciting day. When runners come in to Michigan Bluff, they are hot, tired and exhausted from the canyons. Most people looked pretty beaten down, and it was a pleasure every time that I could bring a smile to someone's face by cheering them on.

I stopped briefly at Foresthill on my way home, and was gratified to see some of the same faces, still toughing it out.

Congratulations runners. You are all quite an inspiration.


  1. Sigh! What a great weekend. I think it would be fun AND inspirational to soak in the vibe, so I am most envious. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow Gretchen! I bet you were one of the best aid-station cheerers out there~ especially since you seem to know half of the runners already. :)

  3. Great seeing you out there Gretchen! Really nice photos too. Some of my favorite people in action.

    That was a lot of fun but also eye opening. In 06, in similar temps, I was the runner. This weekend I was crew and pacer and boy what an experience. I was shocked by how wrecked many people looked. My heart went out to a lot of them. A couple of friends dropped at Foresthill where I was and damn what do you say? It was a tough day.

    You had a great time out there. All these finishers owe you volunteers!

  4. thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures! Looks like it was a fun (and inspirational!) day out there.

  5. Hey Gretchen!

    Just read your comment on Leslie's blog about 'adventures in the future'...I know it's soon...but check your calendar for July 26th to the week up, and get up here! We can explain in detail your interested...

    You won't regret it...


  6. Gretchen, you were my guardian angel out there! I don't know how long it might have taken me to rally out of that chair if you weren't helping me out so much. I'll always be grateful to you for that, so thank you very much.

    I stole your photo of me for my race report which I finally posted. It's a loooong one.

  7. So for those of us who are ignorant, what mile is that?

    That's so cool that you got to watch and take part in such a... big deal event so close up! Thanks for the pictures!

  8. Rick- they also owe you for being out there! Dang, I didn't realize you finished in '06. Definitely a tough year. You're a bad ass!

    So Kieth, yes you have piqued my interest. Seriously unlikely that I can get the week off, but...what's going on?

    Donald, congrats of succeeding during a seriously tough day. So happy to provide what little help I was able. Did I mention you're a rock star?

    Claire, Mile 55.7. Clearly you weren't looking at the picture at the top of the post. ;)