HB Logo

Western States DNF

June 29, 2019

A DNF is usually hard to accept because it means you did not finish.  Some people say it also stands for doing nothing fatal.  Well this is only my second DNF out of 29 attempts at 100 or more miles and I feel pretty good about experiencing 90 miles on an extremely tough and challenging course.   I think I could have finished if the time limit was a bit longer.  I had ten miles to go at just under 28 hours and at the pace I was going would likely have finished at 31:30.  My coach DNF at 94 miles and my friend Kim DNF at the finish which means she finished but they say it doesn’t count because she got there after 30 hours.  So this is a tough race because of the elevation, hills, both up and down but also the time limit.

A lot of people encouraged me to enjoy my day and the course and so I did.  I was most concerned about making it through the first 30 miles as they are above 7000 feet (8700 ft at the top) and there is a lot of up and down.  Going up to the escarpment was super tough as you climb 2500 ft from 6200 to 8700 in 3.5 miles and for someone who lives at sea level it significantly challenged me.  At one point I think I was one of the last three runners trudging up that hill.  Matt was up there taking pictures and encouraging me.  Thanks Matt.  It was beautiful when you got to the top.  The view was stunning.  No time to enjoy it as I had to get moving.  For about a half mile you are on lovely single track going down and it felt good to run. Then the ups and downs and snow hit.  I slipped quite a few times and fell 4-5 times as the snow was not easy to run on and there were some steep sections.  I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted because I had to concentrate on breathing.  However I did pass a bunch of people, like 25-30.  That is usually how it works for me I get passed on the up and then I pass them back on the down.  At about 13 miles my quads started cramping.  Shin and calf or even foot cramps hurt, but quad cramping brings out the f bombs in me because it is so debilitating and painful.  This was way to early for this.  I trained for this race and still got cramps due to  difficulty, damn.  I had to ease back on my pace both up and down hill and managed to keep them at bay.

Finally I come in to Robinson flat, the first major aid station and I see Matt and Joe, my pacers and at this point my crew.  We hadn’t planned for them to be there but I was glad to see them.  I got in and out of the aid station at 8:27 or 27 minutes after the 30 hour cut off.  I felt determined that I could make up the time I had lost on the next several sections. Joe told me not to panic which is exactly what I needed to hear.  I am a decent downhill runner and there was some 14 miles of downhill coming up.

So as the elevation decreased, we were now under 7000 feet I began to feel better and used the downhill to my advantage.  At each aid station I would look at the 30 hour cut off and calculate how much I had gained back.  Starting 27 minutes down, I got to 20, 15, 12, 7, then 5 and by the time I got to Michigan Bluff I was back on time for the 30 hour cut off.  I had gained 27 minutes in 22 miles.  I had a few slow miles going up Devils Thumb as I did not want to bring on the quad cramps, but overall my second section of the race went well.

At Michigan bluff I saw Matt and Joe and they were very encouraging as they saw how my pace was going and how I was getting back time.  Joe was my first pacer and because it was dark he started with me at Michigan bluff.  Joe went on to pace me through the river crossing and up to green gate, mile 55 - 80.   He was very good at giving me orders about eating, breathing, and running.  I knew I had to gain time in order to have a cushion as the last three miles has a significant up hill in it.  I was still running the downs and hiking the ups and doing well as we were now under the cut off and had a bit of a cushion.  Then I had the worst two hours with gagging and dry heaving after eating anything solid.  I knew I needed the calories but I should have stuck with liquid calories because solid food was not good.  When this happened I would lose the cushion I had only to gain it back again and then lose it. 

The river crossing was fun?  Joe was excited to get in a boat.  I was enjoying his excitement as I was a bit tired.  The people helping you into the boats really took on a lot as I was a bit wobbly with legs that were thrashed and I was tired so they helped a lot.  Our boatman told us a joke but I couldn’t tell you what it was as I was enjoying sitting.

We got out of the boat and Joe was determined to get me up to the green gate and leave me with Matt under the 30 hour cut off time, which he did as I think I was ahead by 8 minutes. At this point I knew my legs were trashed as I have never hurt so bad while still trying to run.  I even thought how nice it would be just to get in the car with the guys and stop.  However I am stubborn and wanted to give it a go maybe it was possible to get these legs working again.  I had a few moments over the next 10 miles where I thought maybe I could get there but no matter what I tried I just couldn’t get the legs working fast enough.  Matt was very encouraging even when I was making a lot of whiny sounds.  Poor Matt, he only got to go ten miles but he also got to go the whiniest ten miles with me, thanks Matt for putting up with my pathetic self.  I really don’t ever remember being in this much pain on course. At mile 85 they had pancakes and bacon and those went down kind of smoothly and I gave it a valiant try but the legs were done.  We walked on to 90 but I knew I needed to stop, it just hurt too much and I was spent.  

When you miss the cut off for an aid station they cut off your wrist band so you cannot continue.  It is quite ceremonial so Matt took a picture.  At aid station 90, Quarry road, Hal Koerner DNF on his first attempt at Western States, he went on to win it twice, so he told me anything was possible, Ha.  Matt got a picture of him and me together, thanks Matt.

So Western States brags about having 1500 volunteers and that you will be well cared for on the race, which is quite true.  At every aid station they would help you with everything.  Except  when you DNF at Quarry road which your crew cannot access. They told us walk a mile to some cars and they would give us a ride to the parking lot where a gate prevented people from picking us up.  I just stopped at 90 miles cause I have left everything I had on the course and now I have to walk out?  I was a tad bit frustrated.  We walked a mile or so and then a pick up took us another mile or so to the cars.  There was no one there to take us the other mile to two miles to the gate.  No shade, no ride, I was in sorry shape.  Matt tried to get a ride from the parks people, nope.  Finally Hal Koerner was driving out and had room for me, so I got a ride the last half mile.  Yikes, they should have one or two of those 1500 volunteers at Quarry road to safely drive out stranded runners.  Luckily I’m a tough old broad and could handle it as the heat and hike could have done me in.

Joe drove us back to the finish and told us it was going be close as to whether Kim was going make it.  I sat and listened to the announcer talk about the last two finishers before the 30 hour cut off, no Kim.  We later find out that she made the cut off at No Hands Bridge and the sweepers wouldn’t let her stop.  So she trudged up those miles to finish on the track.  Kim and I did the training runs and during those they do not let you run the track as you have to save it for race day.  Kim got to run the track.  So proud to know her, she is one tough gal.

Will I come back someday to run the track? nah.  I had a great experience on a truly tough course and I gave it my all in training and on the day of the event.  Thank you Karen for training me as I have never been stronger. I had the best pacers, thanks Joe and Matt.  Matt made me a buckle, so cute, made me cry.  Now it is their turn to run this as they both have lots of tickets in the lottery for next year.  I still want to do these wild events but I’m going to stick with the flat loopy stuff as I’m not a great or fast hiker. I like to run. I’m already signed for a 48 hour around a track, so I’ll get my track time.  Thank you all for your support of me doing this eccentric stuff.  Ultra running isn’t for everyone, but it is what I like to do.  I like to run.

Return to Race Reports

Go to HudsonBeeks Home Page