Crewing the 2013 Western States 100
When three Pamakids (Colin Alley, John Gieng, and Janeth Badaracco Siva) were selected in the lottery to run the 2013 Western States, I knew that June 29 and 30, 2013 were going to become important days in Pamakid Running Lore. Tony Rossmann helped me confirm that having three Pamakids in Western States was most likely a club-first. Doing something for the first-time in a club that’s over forty years old and steeped in tradition is no easy feat. I wanted the club to celebrate the event, which is why I encouraged the Board of Directors to approve some funds to offset the cost for a pre-Western States club picnic.
I also knew that I would likely head up to Squaw Valley and Auburn, not necessarily to crew for anyone but to cheer on our runners. I had previously attended the 1995 Western States race as a podiatry student, so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into – a lot of driving on windy roads, a lot of waiting around either in the heat or in the dark, and not a lot of sleep.
Cool! Let’s do this!
Malinda and I stayed overnight at our friend Whitney’s place in Truckee.
Saturday, 3:20am – The alarm goes off and our day begins….sort of.
3:32am – I make my French Press coffee. Technically, NOW the day begins!
4:10am – I am really glad that we drove to Squaw Valley the day before to have dinner with the gang. As a result, we know where to go to get to the start area for Western States. It might not have been so easy in the dark without the knowledge we gained the day before. There’s a lot of energy in the air.
4:45am – A Go Green cheer before the start of Western States. I believe this was the first pre-Western States 100 Go Green cheer in club history!
5:00am – The race begins.
5:09am – Malinda and I help some race officials take down the starting line arch. This prompts a strange dream that I have later.
6:00-8:00am – A short nap back at Whitney’s. I dream that we are back at Squaw Valley after the start of the race. I ask what happens if someone is late starting the race because they take down the starting arch so quickly after the race begins. Someone responds that, “NO ONE is going to be late for the start of Western States,” to which I respond, “What do you mean? Malinda’s right here and she’s supposed to be racing!” The race official says that Malinda can start now, and as long as she catches the safety crew that is sweeping the course by Robinson Flat she can stay in the race. Malinda takes off sprinting and I yell to her, “Pace yourself! You only have to catch the safety crew by mile 29.” Oh boy! Malinda running a 100 miler??!! The race just started and I’m already so sleep deprived that I am having strange dreams!
8:36am – We leave from Truckee and begin our drive westward.
9:37am – We pull off I-80 at Colfax because we know there’s a Starbucks where we can use our devices with the free wireless. I feel somewhat old school because we don’t have a smartphone to help get directions and race updates. Of course I am on my iPad setting up “my favorites” so I can easily get updates on Colin, John, and Janeth whenever I get a wi-fi signal.
10:10am – We buy sandwiches at Subway. Who knows when we will be able to buy food again. Then we’re back in the car and driving towards Dusty Corners.
10:25am – Our first text message update arrives on my flip phone (yeah, old school!) as we’re driving down Foresthill Drive. Colin reached Duncan Canyon at 9:14. Hmmm….the message was over an hour delayed….not exactly live updating. We realize we will need to take that into consideration when navigating our way around the course.
10:49am – We turn right onto Mosquito Ridge road. My printout warns us to “proceed with caution.” The next 23.5 miles are going to be windy and steep. Then we’ll turn on to Road N-44 for five miles, the first two of which will be paved. Why did we decide to go to Dusty Corners again? Oh yeah, because the aid station captain there is Doug White, who is a friend of Jenny Smith from the New Orleans chapter of Pamakids.
10:49am–11:36am – The text updates stop coming because we have no cell phone signal. I’m driving very cautiously and am thankful there are no cars ahead or behind me so I can meander along. Malinda wonders aloud if we are going to get to Dusty Corners before Colin. “We will as long as Colin arrives in the window of time I listed on the meet sheet,” I say, referencing a conversation we had over dinner on Friday, “If he’s early, that’s what he gets. If he’s late, I already told him I won’t cheer for him.” Malinda likely rolled her eyes but I had my eyes on the road like a good driver and therefore didn’t see it.
11:56am – After a potty break on the side of Road N-44 we drive onward. The speeding cars driving the other way piss me off. Just because your runner is on 15 hour pace, doesn’t mean you own the road! We had thought that Dusty Corners was so isolated that there would be hardly anyone there. Nope! We park along the side of the road and end up hiking in about a half mile. We see Jesse, Jenny, and Lavy, experienced ultra runners, who help us figure out where to set-up.
12:29pm – We hike up the trail a short way thinking we have some time before Colin arrives. But all of a sudden, there he is. Malinda is able to take a picture and then we rush back to the aid station so we can talk to Colin. He started conservatively because of the heat (it’s forecast to be over 100 degrees) but ran a good downhill section coming into Dusty Corners. John G’s “hot year” pace chart suggests that Colin is on sub-22 hour pace.
1:20pm – We’re back up the trail waiting for John. I have my iPad out ready to take some video. As runners come by, they see me with the iPad and yell their bib number to me because they think I am a race official recording bib numbers. Sheepishly I tell them all thank you. I start thinking about hiding the iPad behind my back so as to not cause confusion.
1:42pm – Suddenly we see John coming. He’s the first runner (that I know of) to be racing in the new Pamakids singlet. At the aid station John tells us that he’s really hot and he needs to lower his core temperature. The aid station volunteers give John ice and pour water over his head. A couple minutes later, John’s off.
2:20pm – The challenge with spectating is that you really only have an estimate of what time a runner will arrive. There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” time.
2:40pm – Malinda and I hike up the trail again to wait for Janeth. She’s easy to spot with all her pink. She sounds very positive about how things are going. She rolled her ankle a few miles back but she plans to tape it here and then she’ll be able to push harder on it.
3:23pm – We load up, walk to our car, and leave Dusty Corners. The drive out is less stressful because I know what to expect. We know that we have cell phone reception again when my phone starts beeping like crazy. The thirteen text messages I missed while we were out of range arrive all at once. There’s one voicemail and one text from Jerry but I figure he’s just saying hi so I don’t worry about responding to him right away.
4:27pm – We arrive in Foresthill. There are A LOT of cars and people here. I luck out and someone pulls away and I get their parking space very close to the aid station (and more importantly, the gelato stand). I finally get back to Jerry and it turns out he’s had a rough day. Colin’s car battery died and Jerry’s been dealing with that most of the day. He’s gotten everything taken care of but he’s a little stressed and his most important job, pacing Colin the last 38 miles, is about to begin shortly.
5:30pm – Malinda and I start walking towards Bath Road, where we will meet Colin and run him in to Foresthill. I end up going back to the car three times to make sure I am not over the white line as the Sheriff warns us that they will tow illegally parked vehicles. The Pamakids already have had one car issue, let’s not have a second. As we walk down Bath Road we say hi to all the runners we pass – the ultra running community is very friendly and the runners seem so appreciative that it motivates me to offer even more encouragement everytime I see a runner. Bath Road is a pretty steep hill and every runner we passed has been walking up the hill. Then we see Colin and he’s running! We start running with him up Bath Road. My job was to call Jerry and Erin to let them know when Colin was about 15 minutes away but I have no cell service. When I finally get service we’re more like five minutes away so I hurriedly make my calls.
6:00pm – Colin and Jerry leave Foresthill. I go to buy Malinda the gelato I promised her when we first arrived at this aid station. Our plan had been to go to the hotel to sleep after Foresthill and skip the middle of the night cheering. But Malinda’s having fun, my coughing hasn’t been bad, and who knows if we’ll ever do this again. We decide to connect with Tan and Ray and see if we can tag along with them. I think this is the moment I realized we were crew, not spectators.
6:55pm – It’s time to head back to Bath Road to see John. Fatigue is setting in and we happily accept a ride from John Spriggs part of the way.
7:37pm – Ray and John S are tougher than us and they run from Foresthill to Bath Road and all four of us wait for John. When he arrives, he’s clearly pretty tired and he’s not saying too much. We accompany him to Foresthill.
8:14pm – Ray will now pace John for the next 16 miles. We make a plan with Tan – we’ll go get dinner, then leave our car at the hotel and get in the car with Tan. John S joins us for dinner while his carmate, Kelly, remains in Foresthill to cheer on Janeth.
8:38pm – We’re just a mile or two from the hotel but traffic comes to a standstill. We can see that there’s a helicopter landing on the bridge in front of us. Malinda checks it out. It doesn’t seem like a medical emergency and we hear rumors that this is “sheriff activity.” Thankfully it doesn’t last long and we are on the move again.
9:55pm – Malinda and I are now in the car with Tan. He knows where to go, which is a relief because since we didn’t plan to go to this aid station, I hadn’t studied the map. Tan thinks it will take about 40 minutes to get there. But from there we’ll have to hoof it to the river. Based on how John looked when he left Foresthill, I am thinking he won’t arrive at the river until well after midnight but Tan says we should try to get there by 11:45 just in case.
10:37pm – We arrive at the closest parking area to the far side of the river. It’s going to be a 1.25 mile downhill hike to Green Gate and then another 1.75 mile downhill hike to Rucky Chucky Far Side (a.k.a. the river crossing). The parking situation is a mess. Cars are parked on both sides of the road. There are no parking spaces near the trailhead and nowhere to turn around. We need to get the cars behind us to back up and then Tan is going to have to back his car up. I sigh to myself because I feel like Tan needs to get going by 10:45 and if we can’t get parked by then, he’ll have to just go and I’ll have to take over parking the car. The parking gods are with us again, however, and someone pulls out.
10:45pm – We’re parked and we start hiking down to the river. It’s slow going because the trail is dark and not smooth at all. I’m glad we’re walking and not running, but I also don’t know if I would be any faster running.
11:19pm – I get a text message that John arrived at Peachstone aid station at 10:29pm. I tell Tan that we don’t need to rush anymore. John won’t be crossing the river until at least 12:15 and more likely some time between 12:30 and 1:00am.
11:44pm – We arrive at Rucky Chucky and check out the river crossing. Malinda lies down on a large boulder and takes a nap. I’m starting to get tired now, too. I think about the fact that we have to hike three miles uphill back to the car and start feeling even more tired.
Sunday, 12:37am – Suddenly we see Ray and John more than halfway across the river. We cheer them on and all five of us walk up a short hill to enter the aid station area. John is still feeling very hot so he really enjoyed getting wet up to his waist as they crossed the river. We begin the hike up to Green Gate. John is much more talkative than he was at Foresthill. I think he is now pretty confident he’s going to make it to the finish. As we hike, the pace picks up. Tan and Ray are trying to keep John moving at a decent clip. I am the one falling off the back end, but I have the car keys so I am not concerned.
1:19am – We arrive at Green Gate. From here, Tan will take over pacing. John and Tan head out along the race course and Ray, Malinda, and I start walking (more uphill) towards the car. More than once, Malinda thinks she sees something that indicates we are there, only to realize it’s just the headlamp of someone coming down the trail. It’s like seeing a mirage in the desert, only it’s dark out.
1:55am – We’re about as happy to arrive at the car as John will probably be to arrive at Placer High School in a few hours. There’s a chance we could see Colin at the finish but the text message updates are so delayed we really don’t know. We decide we are better off heading to the hotel for a nap before John comes in.
2:17am – The pick-up truck in front of us on Highway 193 is driving very erratically. We think it’s a drunk driver. Ray gives the truck a lot of space and I call 9-1-1 to report the possible drunk driver.
2:41am – We need gas so we stop at Beacon to fill up. I get a text that Colin is at Robie Point. 1.3 miles left.
3:03am – Tower needs food so we go through the drive-thru at Jack in the Box. Malinda asks him to order her some fries. I get a text that Colin is in – 21 hours, 57 minutes!
3:20am – We’re in our room at the Comfort Inn. I post to Facebook that Colin is in, just in case there is someone up at 3:20 in the morning and relying on my Facebook status to track Colin’s progress.
3:50-5:50am – A couple hours of much needed sleep. Ray wakes me up before my alarm goes off and suggests that I check the iPad for an update on when John will finish.
6:02am – I still think John is projecting to finish after 7:00am. We have time. Ray and I continue our debate about how to get to Robie Point with a minimum amount of running on our part. We’re so tired that we are considering shuttling cars, rather than running one mile.
6:13am – Tan sends me a text. He and John just crossed No Hands Bridge. We don’t have time. I wake Malinda and tell her we need to go now or we’re going to miss John.
6:33am – There are a zillion cars at Placer High School. We end up parking on a side street, which works out well for us. I have plotted a shortcut route to Robie Point that goes by this side street – we saved another block of running; Ray looks happy. We take off running towards Robie Point. Since we’re taking a shortcut, there is a chance that we may miss John completely and not even know it. I lead the way up a pretty steep hill. Ray lags behind trying to yell directions to us that he’s reading from his iPhone. I keep reminding Malinda and Ray that we only have to run to John; and that John will probably be walking so we will be able to just walk with him.
6:42am – I get a text that John is at Robie Point. We’re a couple blocks away. Then we see him! Tan is playing the Rocky theme from his phone. John is running, not walking. We’re all so excited that Malinda and Ray don’t give me dirty looks. Not only is John running, he’s running pretty fast. We crest the hill. It’s less than a mile on the streets to the high school. The pace picks up some more. We’re probably running at least an eight minute mile pace. Malinda’s shoe gets un-tied but she doesn’t want to miss this. She hands me the camera and sprints ahead to tie her shoe. We pass her. I worry that she’s going to miss running John in but she sprints back to catch up to us as we enter the high school track. Ray and Malinda are breathing harder than Tan. People are clapping. Kelly runs to the corner of the field, jumping up and down, and taking pictures. The announcer calls John’s name and he sprints down the final straightway to the finish line.
6:54am – John crosses the finish line.
7:32am – We’re sitting on the grass in the shade. Everyone is tired (OK, John deserves to be the most tired but it’s not for sure that he is). We decide that we’ll go back to the hotel so people can shower and then come back to see Janeth finish.
7:50am – I post a picture of John’s finisher medal on Facebook. I think Janeth will finish between 9:30 and 10:00. There’s not really time for a nap.
8:25am – I’m craving coffee. We decide to head to Starbuck’s to get something to eat and then head to the high school.
9:15am – Malinda and I are sitting in the shade watching runners finish. Ray is hitting the complimentary breakfast line the same way that he and Jerry hit the frozen yogurt samples back at Squaw. I never drink soda but I’m so tired, hot, and thirsty that I start craving a Coke.
9:50am – We see a big mass of pink on the track. It’s Janeth and her pacers, crew, and family. We start cheering and taking pictures.
9:51am – Janeth with her husband and sons cross the finish line.
Three Pamakids started the 2013 Western States 100 nearly 29 hours ago, and three Pamakids are now in. All three have earned their buckle. Tony Rossmann e-mails that he believes this is a club record!