|Brendan Davies and I at the shrine to endurance sports at downtown Auburn.|
Following Tarawera in March I started to develop a few niggles in my leg. I couldn't run it out and it just kept getting worse. My mileage slowly dropped and still my leg didn't get better. As a result I had to withdraw from the inaugural Buffalo Stampede ultra in April. I continued to drop my mileage to almost nothing and I started to notice a decrease in discomfort while resting (watching TV). After a few weeks I started doing some short runs of less than 10km's, but I could still feel that something was not right. I did a 50km run two weeks out from The North Face 100 Australia and at the conclusion of that run I knew I wouldn't be running that event either.
In order to get some training in I joined a gym and started road cycling a little. At least I was doing some cardio while not aggravating my troublesome leg. I tried to stay positive through these critical months, where I should have be averaging 140km of running per week, by remembering that the build up to my last Western States experience was equally as poor. Four weeks out from Western States I finally decided to get an MRI which confirmed a calcaneal stress fracture (stress fracture of the heel), although the discomfort was more up the leg than at the heel itself. At this point I felt even worse for knowing.
|Western States Endurance Run Monument at Squaw Valley, with Brendan Davies.|
Two weeks out from race day I flew over to San Francisco with Brian and mum (Joan Rowland), although this journey was not without its own problems in that our direct flight was cancelled and we instead had a three leg flight starting the following day. Arriving over a day late in San Francisco we met up with Brendan and Nadine Davies and started our journey to Auburn. Brendan is another Aussie who also gained entry into Western States through the Ultra Trail World Tour. Our plan was to spend one week in Auburn doing recce runs on the lower parts of the course to acclimatise to the heat (40C/100F) before relocating to Tahoe City to acclimatise to the altitude (+2000m/+6000ft), both of which I felt contributed to my troubles last time.
|Brian setting the pace for our recce run at Deadwood Cemetery.|
|One of the peaks we climbed at Squaw Valley.|
|I didn't show any pre race nerves.|
|The three token Aussies: David Eadie, Brendan Davies and me (L-R).|
Lyons Ridge was the next aid station at mile 10.5 (16.9km). I gabbed some food, topped up my soft flasks and was on my way. Our congo line had disappeared and I found myself running alone. I was feeling good and was enjoying the views of the valleys beyond. At this stage I certainly felt that I was running within my abilities.
|Early on. Ultra Sports live TV_Nate Dunn.|
|Robinson Flat. Nick Cifuentes_FB|
|The climb up to Devil's Thumb. The burnt trees are from last year's fire.|
As I emerged at Bath Road I was joined by Adam Chase, from Salomon USA, my pacer for the next 40 odd kilometers, my motivation and my distraction. Together we climbed to the top of the hill where we were joined by Brian, then together we ran into the Forrest Hill checkpoint. Although I was feeling exhausted by this point, having run 62 miles (99.8km), I was feeling pretty good. I had passed the hottest part of the day without too much trouble. My leg wasn't hurting as it had in the months prior. I was 9th female. All was looking reasonably good.
|The climb up to Bath Road was very runnable during our recce runs.|
Between Forrest Hill and Rucky Chucky crossing at mile 78 (125.5km) it all fell apart. Both my knees started to hurt. On the inclines my energy levels started to drop and I was reduced to a slow walk. I sat down a while at Peachstone aid station, mile 70.7 (113.8km) and forced down some broth, at which time Meghan Arboghast passed me looking all too strong. I had just lost another spot. Even with Adam's enthusiasm, of which he has a bottomless pit to draw from, I was struggling.
My crew met me at Rucky Chucky Near. Brian could tell something was wrong and scavenged a seat for me to use. I let him know how I was feeling and his reply was "do you want to pull out", an option which he has never given me before. As he explained later, it wasn't going to be an option, just a lead in to a motivational talk. I didn't really need it though. As much as I wanted to stay in that chair, give up, walk away, rest, chuck up, eaten by a bear, none of these were really an option. Another run at Western States was something I had wanted to do every year since 2011. I was also using the state that I was in as a form of transcendence. I knew deep down that there was nothing actually stopping me from getting to the finish line. It may be a slow and uncomfortable process, but I would get there. I would remember this moment in time to help me get though equally uncomfortable race situations in the future, and hopefully be better for the experience.
|Rucky Chucky river crossing. I'm following Adam Chase across.|
At Brown's Bar aid station, at mile 89.9 (144.7km), the medics taped up my knees in the hope that it would ease the pain. It didn't however and I was over taken by another female and therefore bumped out of the coveted female top 10.
|We spent a lot of time posing for photos during our recce runs. This one at Highway 49.|
I was met at Robie Point by Brian who joined Adam and I for the run to the finish. This leg is entirely on road and is marked by red 'WS100' footprints painted on the pavement, leading tired and exhausted runners to the finish. It marked a significant moment as Brian and I helped to paint some of them the week prior. I didn't quite realise how slow my running was until I started running on the flat and Brian was still able to keep up while walking. As I approached a downhill I thought I'd show him, but he was still able to keep pace, so I resigned myself to a power walk. At least Adam humored me by pretending to run beside me.
|One of the WS100 footprints I helped to paint.|
|I finally got there.|
|We even took selfies. This one above Squaw Valley with Lake Tahoe beyond. He was so chuffed to hang out with me.|