Western States 100, 2012 Race Report

Race: Western States 100 mile Endurance Run

Distance: 100 miles (160km)

Date: 23rd June 2012

Start Time: 05:00am

Finish Time: 00:55:47am

Total Time: 19hrs 55min 47sec

Weather conditions: In all of my research leading up to the race, through race reports, DVD's, blog sites, and discussion with veteran runners, the predominant aspect that comes to the fore is the awesome crisp mountain air of the back country at the start, and the heat experienced in the canyons later on during the day.

Coming from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, Australia, a little bit of fresh mountain air might take some getting used to, but hot canyons is what I had been dreaming of. Living in the tropics and being acclimatized to extreme heat, doesn't necessarily mean that we go any faster when it gets hot, it just meansWS_Cold that we suffer a little bit less for a little bit longer.

The week leading up to the race in Squaw Valley was actually rather nice. Just enough to become familiar with what early mornings at 6,000ft felt like. However, as the week progressed, the weather forecast became an issue. Uncharacteristically cool conditions were forecast for the entire day. As race day drew closer, so did the clouds.

Race morning was around 36 deg F (2 deg C). Bearing in mind we still had to climb 2,500ft and that it never gets warmer the higher you get, I knew I was going to suffer. I was clad in a lycra skull cap, beanine/buff, arm warmers, 2 lycra compression tops and a wind breaker.......and I was still cold, freezing to be exact.

Race/Event Objectives: Because I have entered the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, my objectives for the WS were not to race it in the true sense of racing. Recovering properly from 100milers takes a long time, and even longer the more you race with intensity. Given that I have to cover 4 x 100 mile races in 11 weeks, I figured I had better adopt a sustainable approach to the process.

My aim for all hundred mile events, is firstly to finish, then if that is running relatively smoothly, to try and break 20 hours if humanly possible. So my only objective for Western States was to break 20 hours without totally smashing myself.

Fortunately I managed the former, however the "smashing myself" part wasn't as easy.

Race/Event Details: Over the past few months all I've heard about is the heat through the canyons on the Western States trail. The weekend before the race Auburn had temps of 48 degrees Celsius. Most of the Americans having trained through Winter were shaking in their trail shoes, but of course I was perfectly acclimatized to the heat. Bring it on! Except...the day before the race (lovely and warm all week), an unseasonable wind blew in a freak storm. At the race briefing on Friday the race director talked about the cooler conditions meaning a fast race, and there was a forecast of 8 degrees C at the start (but no rain), and that pleased most of the field.

I dressed very warm for the race start but didn't take any rain proof clothes with, as there was no forecast of rain on the course (last time it rained at WS100 was in 1991). At the top of the first climb, less than 8kms in, it started to hail, then sleet, then rain. Visibility was less than 5m on the track and there were reportedly 55 mile an hour winds measured at the Gondola. When I first saw my crew at Robinson Flats (5 1/2 hours in) I was blue with cold, my fingers, hands and wrists were swollen from the altitude and conditions, and I couldn't open gel packets, squeeze my Endura bottle or take salt tablets out the packet. I had to wait for aid stations and get volunteers to assist – which meant that I was limited to aid stations to eat. About midday, 7 hours into the course, the weather was drier and warmed up to early 20s. At this point I really started to improve and come back strong.

I was nauseous towards the end of the day, which is not unusual, but I do think that a lot of fuel reserves early on to keep warm, and the tension I felt in my body from the cold may have affected my digestion. Then trying to make up for lost time I probably overate. All that being said by the time I got my first pacer Roy (at 100kms) I was fueling reasonably well and in really good spirits. It made for a solid second half.

I had an outstanding crew for this race and Western States is really not an easy race to crew for. There are very few crew approved aid stations and those they do have are mostly accessible by long shuttle bus rides followed by a hike where you have to carry everything yourself. It was also difficult to plan/time aid station arrivals with long queues to buses and limited cell phone coverage for updates. In hindsight I should've made better use of the drop bag option. Nevertheless the 6 crew members starting at 3am Saturday and finishing at 1:30am Sunday morning, managed to stay upbeat and on top of things, splitting the aid stations between them.

The Silver Buckle medal (denoting a sub 24 hour time) was a really special award and I was pleased and proud to receive it at the ceremony on Sunday.

Shoes: Saucony ProGrid Mirage

Socks: None

Fluids taken during the race: Endura Optimizer, Endura Gels, water and coke

Energy / Calories consumed Prior to the race: Approximately 800 calories in the form of 3 x tins of Heinz rice pudding, Orange Juice, banana and peanut butter.

Energy / Calories consumed During the race: I aimed for 1 serve of Optimizer and one gel per hour totaling 400 calories per hour. I took extra calories in the form of coke, chicken broth and water melon where I could at various aid stations. WS_hot

Sodium / Electrolytes consumed During the race: 2 to 3 Salt Stick tablets per hour

Things that worked for this event: 90% liquid nutrition, carrying two bottles in Salomon XT Advanced Skin 5 S-LAB pack.

Things that didn't work well for this event: No thermal gear. I used lycra compression gear but it just wasn't warm enough.

Post-Race Recovery: I have walked everyday since the race and have had a massage on the third day post race. Day 4 I will start to run up to an easy 60 mins, building again to 90min early the following week. My focus has been on sleeping and nutrition. 

Lessons Learned: Start out slowly and build into the race. 100 miles is a long way, and it is better to be running hard at the end than at the start.



#9 Ross Oakley 2012-07-28 21:20
Well done Mike, would be great to be there to cheer you on, but am sure lots from Cairns are doing that at a distance. Go the endura Optimiser!!!!!
#8 dep 2012-07-13 13:03
Good race report, would you change any thing you did in the lead up? Or is that a question for after the Grand Slam? Anyway, great time and best of luck for the next 100miler...please keep doing race reports for them all!
#7 Dan Salem 2012-07-01 21:26
Hey Mike, great race and race report. Sounded like freaky conditions for this time of year.Well done for enduring the cold and altitude.Also well done for a great time 19:55 well wicked.Hats off to your pit crew/pacers.
Will be following you for the rest.

Dan from Townsville
#6 Rod Whittle 2012-06-29 12:52
Great stuff Mike. Speaking to my sistre who did WS last year and she says that's a real test in all facets. Awesome mate. Recover well and look forward to your next 160km!
#5 Andrew Firman 2012-06-28 19:32
Well done mate. I am glad you wrote up a race report, it was a great read! Recover well mate, 1 down, 3 to go :)
#4 Gail Thomas 2012-06-28 19:09
Mike, how did it compare to Kokoda. Sounds like a whole different race what with the cold and all, but what about the terrain? What position did you come overall?
#3 James C 2012-06-28 18:40
Great work mate. I look forward to following your progress in the "Slam"!
#2 Rob Tideman 2012-06-28 16:13
Mike, those conditions should make you really proud of the result you acheived. You obviously had to really stick it out for those first few hours and well done for doing so.It sounds horrible.I really hope for better conditions for you in the next one but it might be an idea to pack that rain jacket...just in case! Great story mate and a massive effort.
#1 CDSmythe 2012-06-28 15:21
Thats great mate, well done!
Really interested in seeing the nutrition aspects of preparing and competing in a race like this.

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