Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Western States - The Days Leading Up

I honestly find myself sitting here as a different person, yet I cannot find the words to convey my experience.  I will attempt to recap the past week in a methodical fashion that will perhaps provide some insight to you and myself to what has really happened.  I must though remember that this journey did begin much longer than a week ago.

Wednesday June 22nd
Everything was in order for George and I to fly out to Sacramento for Western States 100 on Saturday.  All and all the travel goes smoothly despite my fear of flying and my hesitation to leave my "home base".  We land in Sacramento and immediately head to the baggage carousel to meet my mother and I quickly noticed that I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.  You see on the flight out we were forced to check everything and as the bags popped onto the belt, my fear became a realization that our bags were not going to appear at this point and time.  Customer service was pleasant, but couldn’t confirm or deny that our bags even made it onto the first flight out of Burlington.  As we “patiently” killed time at REI and Whole Foods I mill over what I will do if my bag doesn’t arrive.  At one point my mother says, “ok, maybe you should be alone.” and I know that I am on the edge of losing it.  After about 30-45 minutes of holding on airline information line we discover are bags have been scanned and are in transit to Sacramento.  A huge calm comes over me. 

After acquiring our baggage we head to Squaw Village and check in. As expected we are surround by snow and it is a blue bird day.  

I had planned on doing a short run once arriving at the village, but due to the baggage incident we were hours behind.  Instead I opt for some dinner and an early bedtime. 

Thursday June 23rd
Finally a chance to meet up with my coach Bryon Powell and do an easy shake out run with him since I haven’t seen him for years.  We do an easy 4 mile run and chat the entire time.  It is such a great feeling to be in his company since he has been guiding me for the past two years for my goal races. 

Once finished running I find Geo and we grab water and head up Squaw for some playtime in the mountains.  As we walked up the road I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is a solid climb, am I really ready for this?”  I can actually feel my heart beating in my chest which is a rare occurrence so the effects of altitude weigh on my mind.  

I took my time and hiked it as Geo showed off some of his speedy running skills.  Once we hit snow I did some sort stints of running so to check out the traction (let me tell you though that snow conditions are very different at 11:00 AM than they are at 5:00 AM).  We both did our fair share of playing in the snow and both were amazed at the snow pack.  

George was finding "treasures" all over the place, everything from lip balm to a light up ring.  About half way up the mountain he even found a shovel blade that he carried further up and then stashed so we could attempt to ride down the mountain on it later on.  

After reaching the flag raising ceremony at the top of the tram we snapped some photos and then headed back down.  After about a mile we found the shovel that Geo had stashed and attempted to have some "safe fun".  When that plan went south we switched over to a run, but I am sure others got a laugh as we played in the snow on a rusty shovel blade (the simple things that amuse the two of us).  

Friday June 24th
Early in the morning I take the opportunity to run with Nate Sanel and his crew/pacer Jeff.  We run up the road for about 10-15 minutes or so and then turn back.  My systems are feeling a little better, but I am still not feeling like I do on the East Coast.  Once back at the bottom we decide to hop into line for our medical check in.  I find myself behind Nate and in front of Salomon teammate Anita Ortiz whom I had never met in person before.  We do our introductions and get to know each other.  It then becomes my turn for medical so they take my weight, blood pressure and pulse.  My pulse was 58 and is typically around 37 at home.  The lady informs me that this is very normal for elevation and not to worry.  I even find a little time for humor as Nate steps on the scale and I push on the back end as he watches the numbers climb.  It was worth a good giggle.  All runners leave the check in with a bright yellow bracelet that has your name, age, and medical information although it reminds me of my drinking days. 

After killing a bit of time and watching Bravo’s “Flipping Out” I head to meet with Adam and Gui from Salomon for coffee.  As we order and then sit, many others such as Krissy Moehl, who I admire on so many levels, join us.  Sipping my decaf Americano I realize that I have 15 minutes before my incomplete drop bags need to be handed in.  Meredith, my pacer and nutritionist and I head to my room to sort out my two drop bags and then deliver them right at 1:00 and then head back to my room for a crew briefing.  After everyone is on the same page about how things ideally will go on race day it is time for more television before the pre race meeting. 

The meeting is out on the village green and has little shade.  I find myself roasting in the sun and very distracted by all the runners, crews, pacers and photographers.  I actually hear little to none of the information but do find myself in front of the crowd as they call up the Montrail slot winners and top ten returns from last year.  As I stand in front of the crowd with a stream of extremely talented female runners I know that the field goes much deeper than this. 

At the conclusion of the meeting I find myself within feet of Kilian Jornet.  Not knowing exactly what to say I ask Bryon Powell to introduce me.  He does and then we begin chatting as people start snapping photos.  It feels so surreal to be speaking to Kilian, he is such an inspiration to me because of his respect for the mountains and the elements.  I am not sure if he doesn't understand the concept of boundaries or just chooses to push them, but either way he is an amazing athlete and human being. I also had the opportunity to meet Bob from DryMax who is so committed to make the best product he possibly can right here in the United States.  
Even though meeting athletes, sponsors and others is a blessing, my focus then moves to dinner, organizing and bed.  I lay everything out for the morning, eat dinner and then go to bed.  It is very early on the West Coast, but I intentionally stayed on East Coast time so 3:30 AM wouldn’t seem so early. 

Saturday June 25th (Game Day) – Pre Race
I wake up about ten minutes before my alarm goes off and feel rather calm.  I get dressed; start my breakfast and then Geo gets up.  After I eat we head down to pick up my number and timing chip and then go back to the room.  Once I am dressed we head outside to meet our East Coast friends Chris and Angela who are in the area for a wedding.  We all joke about how we have to travel across the country in order to see each other.  
Seeing familiar faces helps keep me calm and not over anxious.  I seem to be focusing on chatting with familiar faces that I haven't seen in a while rather than dwelling on what lay ahead in the next 100 miles.  The clock at the start line ticks down and it is time to start to focus on the task at hand. I make my way towards the front of the pack and feel content about 3-4 rows back from the male contenders.  I grab the hose on my pack and go to take a sip, but nothing comes out.  I suck again and for my efforts get a few drips.  I panic and have Geo give it a go and he has the same result.  At this point there isn't much I can do expect hope that it is a clog that resolves itself because the countdown has begun and I will not swap packs until I see my crew at mile 55!


  1. Huge congratulations Aliza. We enjoyed following along and seeing you running so well. Look forward to reading the rest of the nitty gritty from the race.

  2. Holy cow.. that picture with the drop bags... is each "pile" for one runner?? Having never run 100 miles I am not aware of how much stuff one needs. Did your pack come unclogged? I can see why you'd start to panic if you couldn't get a new one till mile 55!!!

  3. Hey there,

    They did put a size limit on each runners drop bag for each aid station, which was about the size of a shoe box. I only used two drop bags and they were the size of a sandwich baggie.

    I am writing some more of my race report now...hopefully it will be up later!

    Hope you are well,


  4. The suspense...can't wait for part 2.

  5. Maureen LapierreJune 28, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    Amazing, Aliza, congratulations, and can't wait to read more. MBL

  6. Cannot believe you left us hanging wondering what happened with your pack?! Luckily we know the outcome was a success...post the rest soon!