Western States 100 Training weekend –
2004 Rucky Chucky 50k Race
March 20-21
This weekend was spent in the Auburn, Foresthill area of California, running the 50k Rucky Chucky run from Foresthill to Ruck-a-Chucky and back. The following day, on another part of the Western States trail, Michigan Bluff area. The goal was to spend as much time on, and see as much of the Western State 100 trail as possible. This is my only preview for what is to come on June 26 when I attempt the 2004 Western States 100. At the start

Firstly I'll say, I had a horrible 'race' from a race standpoint. But I had a great, or at least very educational, training weekend. By no means did I hold back, in fact I decided to do the opposite, to be aggressive, and see how I would hold up. I went out super fast, and shortly after the halfway point, I crashed and burned. BUT, by doing that, I learned valuable lessons that will be great help when the race really counts. In a 30 mile race, a stupid mistake means a SLOW finish, in a 100 mile race, it’ll mean NO finish.

50 miles total for the weekend, about 14 hours on my feet, on the most brutal terrain I've ever been in. Had I not made this trip, I would have had absolutely no chance of completing WS100, NONE. Even as it stands, I would say I have about a 40% chance of completing this race, even if I do everything right. As a result of this weekend, there are MANY things I am planning to do differently come WS100.

It was a beautiful weekend, near record breaking heat for this area of the country though. Everyone was complaining about it, and even being from Florida, it was one of the hottest runs I’ve done at this point in the year. The mountains had wild flowers and flowering trees, snow capped peaks in the distance, the rushing American River in the canyon, it couldn’t have been more inspirational. A perfect weekend to be outdoors, and no better way to experience it than running the trails.

Link to photos from weekend

Rucky Chucky Race...

This is a 15.5 out and back course, on the WS100 trail, it is by and large, steep downhill going out, steep uphill coming back. There is plenty of up and down throughout the course though, over 10,000 feet of total elevation gain and descent for the complete race. Mostly singletrack trail, much of it within inches of a long, long slide or tumble down the side of a mountain with a misstep or fall. This is quite different from any training those of us from Florida are familiar with. Some friends, Chris and Deborah from Clermont were also running this race, their first ultramarathon. They picked a tough one, and did great. Deborah suffered two falls, one down a steep incline that left her 20 feet below the trail, holding onto a tree to stop a continued slide farther down the mountain. Chris suffered from cramps on the way back, but stopped for a few minutes, worked out the kinks, sucked it up, and was back on the trail within minutes. Both passed me on the way back to Foresthill as I suffered from my early attack on the first half of the course, and the combination of heat and dehydration.

My excuses...

From a 'race preparation' standpoint, I did absolutely nothing right. I was exhausted from a very stressful/busy week the week before. The Friday I arrived in California, I spend all day, till 9:00pm that evening, fighting with Nextel over a cell-phone that I'd had 6 days, that quit working on the way to the airport that morning, and then in the AT&T store switching my phone back to them after Nextel wouldn't help me. This was a stressful disaster because it was my only contact with work, and I was expecting work related calls Friday and Monday. I drank practically nothing most all day, didn't eat well, and was on my feet all afternoon and evening. Not the way to spend the day before a long race.

After the finish

Dehydration... I peed ONE time between race start, (and barely then) and 5:00 pm that evening. And yes, I drank and drank and drank. Though I was going so slow between the last two stations, I ran out of water between them. I KNOW that's not right. For me, if I don't have to stop several times to pee during a long race like this, I'm not hydrated enough and my performance is drastically effected. That held true again on this day.

My weight... Early last week, I realized my weight was a SOLID 15 lbs above my best weight for running, higher than it's been in 3-4 years. I should be at 161-164. That's as light as I've been able to get, and it's the only time I really run my best. I was 178 going out there. In the hills, and especially the heat, I really suffer with those extra pounds and from my Ironman experience, I know I can't go for long distances at that weight. That's something I wasn't worrying about before, but I have the motivation to correct that oversight now.

Aggressive start... I ran WAY too fast going out. I found out how much damage those downhills can do. I let my legs really go on the downhills, I really felt like my quads are very strong, and I could handle it. I wanted to err on the side of aggressiveness here, as the big caution for WS is running too hard on the downhills and I wanted to prove to myself that I would be able to make great time on the long downhills without paying a price later. I didn't think that I could run downhill too hard to do any damage to MY SuperQuads. RIGHT DAVE... I was put in my place on that silly thought. Welcome back to reality Florida Flatlander Boy. This was probably 70% downhill going out, and I ran most of the uphills going out too, which I should have walked. This was running 30 minutes plus at a time downhill, and much of it VERY steep. Almost out of control type steep, some of it very rocky, loose type stuff.

Those three things meant I did 2:37 out, almost 5 hours back. The last climb, 3.5 miles, took 1:16. I honest to God felt like I must look like those guys climbing Everest. Where you see the guy taking these tiny, labored steps, and stopping every little while to rest. That is what I was doing, I probably stopped 15 times (or more) on that climb to squat down, and just try to get my heartrate down.

I also went off course at one point of the race, with another runner following me. This could have been an absolute disaster. I missed a turn on a downhill section, and kept going down a steep incline, whereas the proper course turned back uphill. This was on the return trip, and I was very fatigued. We were about 100 yards past the turn, going downhill fast when we heard another runner shout at us. We turned, climbed back up that steep section and continued on course. It was a minor incident, but had that runner not seen us and stopped us, it would have been a long, long day. It's no telling how far I would have gone before realizing I was off course, or would have become completely lost.

I got my butt kicked, but I really did what I went to do, and that is learn, learn, learn for WS.

Next day I did 19 miles, from Michigan Bluff to Devils Thumb, then down what I think is the steepest part of the trail about 20 minutes, then came back. Of course, my legs were so sore I could barely walk, and I was very slow and conservative going out. I stopped and took a lot of photos and had a great day.

I wanted to go 26 miles, but really wasn't sure how long it would take me to get back at that point, and I was alone and had got a late start, so I turned back there. Turned out to be the right thing to do. Coming back, from Devils Thumb to Michigan Bluff, about 2 hours, was within 5 minutes of being on 24 hour WS100 pace. That was encouraging, but I don't think I can do that for 100 miles.

I'm a little bewildered at this point as to what the best way to train for those hills will be, but I'll figure out something. My legs hurt worse than they ever have(muscle pain only though, no joint pain). Calves are dying, quads feel like I've cycled 200 miles, hamstrings hurt, hip flexors are sore. I love it! Oddly enough, my Traps(shoulder at the neck area?) feels like I've been lifting weights. I can't believe how sore they are, don't know why.

Things that I'm going to change from my previous plans? Time goals are out the window. My goal is to finish the Western States 100 within the 30 hour cutoff. I'll use my Camelbak hydration system, to allow me to carry more water more comfortably than using a bottle belt. I'll have a pacer run with me from the 62 mile point, Foresthill, to help me with the night. I can't imagine trying to running alone, on those trails at night after having already been over 60 miles. I'll use different shoes than I thought I would want. Seems minor, but it's a big deal on a race like this.

I was a great weekend, I had a blast running, I pushed myself to the limit, but not past it. I am sore and tired, but not beat up and exhausted. I’ll come back from the weekend stronger than I was, and I’m already MUCH wiser. It was cool to be out there in the ‘Old West’ seeing sights, artifacts and news items from the mid-1800’s. Next training test, Croom 50 mile run, in Florida, followed a month later with the MiWok 100k in Sausalito, CA.

That will by my longest run ever, 62 miles of trails with 9500 feet of climb/descent.
Then, June 26, Western States 100, the granddaddy of all ultra trail runs.

Link to photos from weekend

photo NOT taken by me, but by another photographer on race day