I’m putting one foot in front of the other, scrambling up Michigan Bluff. My hands are on my knees and sweat is coming off my nose almost in a steady stream. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and we’ve been battling the heat all day long. Some have fallen victim, others are somehow still moving. I’m about 54 miles in and I know there is an aid station at the top of the climb. I haven’t seen my crew for a long time. They missed me at my last check point so this time, I need everything. New socks, water and ice in my hydration pack and my water bottle, Carbo-pro, Nuun electrolyte tabs, calories, encouragement. I’m struggling but I knew I would be by this point. Devil’s Thumb and Michigan Bluff are the two big climbs of the race and they both start way down in the hot, hot canyons.
Keep moving forward.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Thank you God.
Just a few of the mantras that I’d been mentally repeating to myself to keep me moving up this seemingly endless climb. And then I hear cheers. Finally. I’m getting close to the Michigan Bluff aid station. I’m confident my crew will be there and everything is about to get better. First I have to weigh in. I’m two pounds down. The doctor asks when the last time was I peed.
About an hour ago / I lie.
You feel okay?
I feel great, that was just a massive climb to get up here.
But I don’t feel okay. I’m trying not to slur my words. I’m trying not to sway back and forth as I talk w/ him. I feel drunk. My stomach is in knots.
Okay, keep drinking lots of fluids, make sure you’re eating too / the doc says.
I tell the crew I need everything and they know what that means. They hustle around and do all the work for me. God bless them. It’s over a hundred degrees and I suddenly feel like I’m about to simultaneously puke and pass out.
Sit down Adam, you need to sit down / someone yells at me as I fall into a chair. I’m going in and out of consciousness and a doctor is asking me questions I suddenly can’t answer. I know I’ve got 45 miles to go. How will I ever make it?
At 4:30 am of that morning, it wasn’t quite that warm out yet. My best friends in the whole world surround me w/ positive energy and easy laughs. They take pictures and tell me good luck. I tell them I love them. I tell them / Whatever it takes! And there is a shotgun blast and we all take off up the big climb out of Squaw Valley. I’m already are in love w/ this mountain. I ran it two days ago by myself but now I am running it w/ world champion runners and mountain climbers. People I’ve only seen in magazines and on the internet. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the top and when I do, I turn around to view Lake Tahoe, off in the distance. It’s beautiful. The sun is just beginning to crest. There is a layer of clouds lingering on the mountain town I started at, way down below.
96 miles to go / someone yells and snaps me back to reality. Here we go. Western States 100. Only the most iconic race in all of ultrarunning. The oldest and most prestigious ultra race of all. Somehow I am here. Somehow I am fully trained and fully rested. Somehow I have a crew of friends that flew out here, ready to do whatever I need them to do to get me to the finish line. How did I get here? Through all the good and bad things that have happened over the last year, how am I running a hundred mile race? Through all the bad roommates, bad women, financial problems, cops, false charges brought up against me…through all the sleepless nights and moving in the middle of the night and all the hours of work, countless hours of driving through the mountains…through all the stress that comes w/ moving to a new place and not knowing anyone…through somehow managing to run 75 mile weeks w/ 40 on the bike…through the stress of not having a real job lined up and having to take whatever I can get just to get me on my feet…through countless hours at the gym, just to get away from my living situation…through police reports of complete lies against me from people I thought I knew and trusted that turned on me just so that they don’t look bad to their peers for their poor decisions…through all night training runs that ended up being more of a spiritual experience than a workout…through roommates from Craigslist that beat my dog for eating the pizza they left on the counter…through schizophrenic roommates that go away to hospitals, only to escape and come home so that I have to call the cops to come and take him back to the nuthouse…somehow…somehow I’m here running a hundo in hundo degree temperatures. I laugh out loud. Life is funny that way, sometimes. I’m thankful for everything. I’m thankful I’m here. Here is all that matters.
I run w/ Andy Jones Wilkins and his posse for about 15 miles. He’s moving a little faster than I’m comfortable w/ but I enjoy his loud voice as he talks details of the course and the race in years previous. He is a walking encyclopedia of Western States information. He compares this year to 09 and 06 in terms of heat. I’m moving good. Running everything and power hiking up every other hill or so. Aid stations come and go. I rush through them, stopping only to refuel and ask how far to the next aid. You can’t think of the 80-some miles ahead of you. You have to break it down to / Alright, 5.5 miles to the next aid. I can do that. I run 5.5 half asleep on an empty stomach all the time. 5.5 is easy.
Someone asked me after the race, at what mile does it start to hurt? That’s easy. Mile 10.
10?! Well then how do you do it? / they asked. I could tell, that wasn’t the answer they were expecting.
I’m not superhuman. I haven’t trained myself for it to not hurt until mile 80. That’s impossible. I’m just like any runner. Things start to hurt at about mile 10. Mile 15 the legs are sore and ready to be done w/ the day’s workout. But you keep pushing. After a marathon, full blown leg pain is in effect. You just can’t really acknowledge it b/c you have three marathons to go. By mile 35, you realize it’s going to be a long, long day. By mile 45 your body begins to accept what’s happening to it but then by mile 50 you are destroyed and trying not to think about the fact that you are only halfway there. And by mile 60, everything hurts. Stomach, shoulders, hair…everything. That’s when you turn inward and find strength you didn’t know you are capable of. You go through pain you didn’t know existed. Pain you didn’t know you could manage. That’s when it almost becomes out of body. You are looking at yourself, suffering through heat and stomach problems and many levels of ups and downs and even you are surprised.
I can’t believe I’m still running / becomes an accidental mantra that I hadn’t planned. It just keeps popping in my head. At mile 60. I can’t believe I’m still running. Holy crap, I can’t believe I’m still running.
I somehow turn it all around by the Foresthill check point. Mile 62. 100 kilometers. That is where I can pick up my first pacer. I was back to running and my stomach issues had cleared up after taking a Tums and walking a mile or two. Saint Marty was supercharged and grinning when I found him. I’m always happy to see Marty but this time, I’d never been happier. I doubt that I showed it. I doubt I even smiled. But thank God, Marty was there to run w/ me. Most of the runners on the field hadn’t been talking much throughout the day, myself included. Everyone was saving what little energy they had to keep moving and fight the heat. I needed someone to talk to. Or to talk to me. I needed someone to start doing the thinking for me. To tell me when to eat and take salt. I couldn’t think anymore. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other. Marty ran 20 hard miles w/ me. My crew knows me and how my body works after 60 miles. They’ve been here for me for every hundred miler I’ve run. And Marty is the patron saint of ultrarunning. He took me all the way past the river crossing and up to Green Gate. We had some great conversations and we had some great moments of silence. At Green Gate, I switched pacers and Jessica took the reigns. She had some work to do. Really, I did but I was putting it on her to get us to the finish in under 24 hours. If I put all the responsibility on her, then I knew it would just come back to me. I would let her lead me throughout the night. My headlamp would be pointed directly at her feet and I’d watch nothing but her Saucony Peregrines and the trail for hours and hours. We had to move. We had to move fast.
I don’t want no junk 30 hour buckle / I told her / I want the silver buckle / Just saying that made tears well up in my eyes.
We’re going to make it / she said / we just have to keep running.
Aid station volunteers told us we were cutting it close to the 24 hour mark. They told us we had to work harder than we ever had b/f. They even kicked us out of aid stations just to keep us moving quickly.
Now go get us that silver buckle! / one aid volunteer yelled at me.
I will / was all I had to say for those tears to well up in my eyes again.
Jessica put up w/ a lot from me. Was I a drama queen? It felt like it. I couldn’t talk. I could only grumble.
Are you doing okay? / she’d ask.
Ugh / is all she’d get for a reply.
How do you feel?
Like shit / I’d reply and she’d laugh. But it wasn’t funny to me. My feet were complete hamburger. Every step hurt. Every rock I stepped on was torture. When we hit 90 miles, the remaining 10 miles seemed impossible. I was so close but 10 miles?! I’m done, man. There’s NOTHING left in the tank. How am I ever going to make it 10 miles?
I can’t believe I’m still running / snuck into my head again. I was. Well, more like a shuffle but I was at least jogging. How?
At No Hands Bridge, I was so disoriented I didn’t even realize my crew was there until they were hugging me and telling me I had made up 20 minutes of time and I was going to make it under 24 as long as I kept moving. Tawnya was dressed and ready to run me into the finish. I switched pacers for the last time and suddenly we are running 7:30’s.
Why are we running so fast Boos? / I asked.
We have to get you to the finish / was all she said. She wasn’t slowing down. She was firm. We had a big climb up and out of the woods and finally reached pavement. I knew what that mean. 1 mile to go. I’d run 99 miles. Through all the craziness of the last year, the most important thing was coming into fruition. Spectators cheered and said / Way to go! / and / You look strong! / and in 23 hours and 48 minutes I crossed the finish line. 12 minutes to spare. I couldn’t have done it w/out them. I wouldn’t have wanted to either.
The emotions of the weekend didn’t really hit me until after we’d eaten and drank, celebrated, slept and flown our own separate ways. It didn’t hit me until I was back in Boulder and picking up my dog from where she’d been boarded. As soon as I saw Roxy, I broke down like I was at a funeral. Only I was at Pet Smart. Uncontrollable bawling.
I guess you’re happy to see your dog / the worker said, looking strangely at me.
Never been happier / I said through tears of joy. I don’t cry much. This was hilarious to me, I couldn’t stop / Never been happier…