Disappointing but not dissapointed. (The Road to Western States 6/6)

So June 24th, 2017 Western States.

I had trained for this race as I’ve never trained before. I ran in ice, snow, sleet, rain, wind, dust, mud, sun, and heat. I modified my diet and even quit drinking alcohol leading up to race day. I ran with friends, I ran by myself, I traveled to go run, I ran in my backyard. Ultimately the tally for my training miles going into this weekend totaled 950 miles in 5 and a half months.

This will be my final post for the series, the culmination of one lucky lottery draw and 6 months of training.

The weekend started out amazing. I spent all day Wednesday packing, unpacking, and repacking my drop bags. 

Making a list….

Checking it twice…

And into the drop bags they go!

Thursday morning Kaycee, Jeff, and myself drive up to Squaw early. I wanted to “do all the things” and the events started Thursday. So we bum around the village, get some lunch, go to the seminars and clinics. Then head back to the condo to make some dinner and hit the hay early. 

Crew’s passed out!

The next morning we sleep in (as much as people who normally get up at 5am can…so essentially up at 6) but bum around the condo all morning, generally trying to stay off my feet. I’m going to need them tomorrow. 

Around 10 or 11 we head up to the village to get registered, drop off the drop bags, and go to the runner briefing.

#167, here we go!

Best crew and pacers in the whole wide world, I love you guys!

And….apparently….Tiffany caught some swagger on film as we head over to drop off the drop bags! 

Soooo many drop bags!!

We head back to the condo and Jill makes some amazing lasagna for dinner as Michael makes his way up the hill to join us!

In the morning we head on up to the start line. It’s warm out already, don’t even need a jacket for waiting around. 

Seriously the greatest people on Earth! #ilovemypeople

There’s that start line nervous face! (Photo credit Vicky)

Gun (literally a shotgun) goes off and up we go! Up the Escarpment and over the hill! I catch some more Strider love at the top when I see Jackie and Tiffany and catch a quick selfie on my way through! 

(Photo credit Tiffany Brown Anderson)

Down and around we go. Now into the snow banks and drifts, I gotta admit I was having a lot of fun jumping, sliding, glissading down the snow banks. People were starting to get chewed up already, some were loosing footing and sliding down the mountain on the snow and having to climb/crawl back up. Some were punching through the snow tunnels and wrecking themselves, some just clearly were not having fun. 

Then came the bog mud. The snow tapered off and we hit what can only be described as a swamp. 30 feet across amd miles long of chocolate pudding mud mixed with patches of snow. You didn’t know if it was going to be a squish step or a shoe sucker step, ankle deep or shin deep. You just had to keep moving through it as best you can.

I hit Lyons Ridge and grab some hugs from Chaz, Abbey, and the gang. They had to haul by (foot or wagon) all their supplies so no ice but Chaz makes me a snow bandana and I’m on my way.

The section to Red Star was equally frustrating through snow drifts, more mud patches and some trail. It took some time, too much time for my estimated pace, but I made it through to Red Star. Still no ice and it is getting hot out already. I grab some snow and stuff it in every available place…hat, Buff, bra, pockets… Off to Duncan Canyon where I’m hoping Michael and Jeff will be there.

This section was probably the most frustrating. Early out of Red Star there were snow banks along the trail so you’d be running along, then have to scramble up and over a snow drift, only to have to slide down on your butt on the other side back to the trail. After several sliding events I’m covered in mud, it’s getting hot, and the trail has run out of snow banks to stuff in my pockets.

I get to Duncan Canyon with 20 min till cut off and I’m hot and angry…already…its only mile 25. The guys take excellent care of me. Cool me down, get some ice on me and in my pack, and get me some fluids. I head out to Robinson Flat..shit, I am chasing cut offs already and that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to be doing.

I soak in the creek at the bottom for like 30 seconds…I don’t have any more to spare and head up the hill. Making it into Robinson Flat with like 10 minutes to get in and out and I get the NASCAR treatment! Annie Rutledge is rubbing sunscreen on me, Jack is feeding me, Jill is filling my pack with ice and water, and I am out of there in 5 minutes!

Ice in bra, mango in hand, smile on face!

70 minutes to get 4 miles…I have to run. Run I did. I made it to Miller’s Defeat and got 10 more minutes of buffer. In and out and I run some more…so much running….I thought this was an ultra not a marathon!

I make it to Dusty Corners and gain another 15 minutes at least I’m gaining ground. I get the NASCAR treatment again from the guys as well as Taylor and Chad Swanson! Love you guys, seriously all of my people are amazing! Off I go to Last Chance. The trail is beautiful, and I run. I run like my race depends on it…..because it does.

I make it to Last Chance and still have my 30 minute buffer, in and out and headed down to Swinging Bridge. Now the debate rages in my head. “Do I soak in the river or not?” If I soak, it’ll take time that I don’t really have. If I don’t soak, I might not make it anyway because I’ll over heat on the way up. 

To soak or not to soak.

I bargain with myself. On the training run after soaking we made it up Devils Thumb in under 40 minutes, put 40 miles on my legs and I’ll call it 45. If I don’t soak (like at Canyons 100k) it’ll take me at least 55 minutes. I decide that if I can make it down there before 6pm, I’ll soak. The rational being that 10 minutes to get down in the river and soak to make 40 minutes up the hill or no soak and make 50 minutes up the hill is the same difference. In any rate I will start up the hill at 6pm whether I soak or not. 

Luckily I make it to the bottom at 5:40 and I soak for 5 minutes. I start up the hill at 5:50.

Devils Thumb.

I make it with 15 minutes before cut off…I’ve lost some of my buffer but I feel OK. Grab my head lamp, douse myself in bug spray and head down El Dorado Canyon. Even though I know the Canyons are hard I feel like I’m back on home turf. 

Down I go.

As Lon Monroe says, “if you don’t swim in the Canyons you’re not making it to Auburn” I need all the juju I can get so at the bottom of El Dorado I soak again. 

3 minutes. 

Up and out of the Canyon and to Michigan Bluff where the crews have combined and everyone is there waiting. 


Grab some snacks, grab some water, and pick up Jeff. After the big climb out of El-Do I need to sit down for my food to get past my sticky tongue so I find a chair. 30 seconds is all I need. 

Jeff and I take off down the dirt road and into Volcano Canyon. We make pretty good time and I soak for a couple minutes at the bottom here to. 

All the juju.

Hike back up, we run some of Bath Rd, hit Foresthill Rd and run down to the aid station. Somewhere about half way Brandon (aka the food fairy) comes up with a burger, bacon and a hamburger patty. I take bites of all 3 as we work our way to FH aid station where all of my Strider Family is there! I unfortunately don’t have time to stop and gather hugs but the love and support is palpable. Signs and tutus EVERYWHERE!!! Thank you everyone for coming out and wearing tutus. Definitely the highlight of my race!

We still have the 30 minute buffer and good thing too because I need some foot care.

I plop in a chair on the other side of the aid station and Derek and Sherri get to work on my feet and I change my bra and shirt and try to get some more food down.

My people are FUCKING amazing!

I pick up John and we head down to the river. I work hard at running as much as I can but I’m starting to loose steam and my quads are finally starting to complain. I tell them to stuff it and we make OK time for a long time. John keeps up a pretty one sided conversation about the history and the people who’ve left their  mark on him and the WS trail. I’m thankful for the stories, but at this time of night I dont have much to add to the conversation.

At Cal 2 we see some friends, I sit in a chair for 90 seconds and we’ve gotta go, but we still have that 15 minute barrier between cutoff time. 

After Cal 2 my back starts to complain louder than my quads. I take to more Alieve and hope that everything shuts up, I still have 25 miles to go. I try really hard nor to complain out loud.

John mentions the new moon and how bright the stars are and we take a moment to turn our headlamps off and look at the stars. With a new moon the stars are shining bright.
We set a goal to make it to the river by 4:45. Just before the aid station John tells me how proud he is of my effort so far and grabs my hand. Sometimes all you need is someone to hold your hand for a while to calm the whirlwind in your mind. After some more running and power hiking we make it at 4:30. Still got that 30 minute buffer.

Gordy is there giving chiropractic adjustments, maybe this will help my back? After talking to John about it we decide that it might be worth the 10 minutes to have him do it. 

It does help….a little bit.

My back pain is down from an 8/9 to a 4/5, this is manageable.

We get in a raft and head to the other side where Kaycee is waiting. Grab some snacks out of my drop bag and head up to Green Gate. A quick in and out and we head out to ALT.

I have to admit that at this point I am tired. I’m still trying to run/shuffle, but my gas tank is low. Kaycee gives me gel to suck down, ginger chews to suck on, it’s all going into an abyss and I’m nearly sleep walking on tree trunks. We try to shuffle, but my shuffling is equal to Kaycee’s walking. I am trying so hard to keep up, but loosing steam by the mile.

The cut off is 7am at ALT (mile 85).

We keep shuffling and at this point I realize that it is a real possibility that we are going to time out here. We keep hiking, but I tell Kaycee that I love her and that I don’t think we’re going to make it and it will be OK. 

We keep hiking, but I’ve got no run left in me.

7:18 we roll into ALT.

I lay down in the dirt and finally let the tears flow. 

We timed out.

The aid station captain comes over and kneels down next to me and says something to the effect of, “honey, it’s ok, you didn’t quit and that’s what matters” and she cuts my yellow bracelet off and cuts my D-Tag. 

It’s officially over. 

I put my sunglasses on and continue to lay in the dirt until a volunteer comes to drive us out. 

I fall asleep in his truck sitting up.

He drops us off at the track… I don’t even know what I want at this point.

Lacey and Juan come up with hugs and a chair. Then more people show up with more hugs and more love. I say I’m sorry, but no one is accepting it. Just so much love, I am so lucky.

There is nothing in this universe that can compare to my Strider Family, I love you guys so very much. I want to thank first off my husband who has put up with the training nonsense all year. My crew and pacers who declared “NO SLEEP TILL AUBURN.” My (running and non-running) friends who have always been there for me whether it be listening to me ramble on about running or coming out to run in the terrible weather. Thank you to those who came out to the finish line, I know it wasn’t the finish line we all hoped for but having you guys there definitely kept me from falling apart. Thank you to the Trent family for making our running community what it is today. Lastly, thank you to the Striders…best running family on the planet!

Thank you for following along on my journey, although it did not end at buckle town I have no regrets. I trained to the best of my ability. I grew physically, mentally, and emotionally in the last 6 months. I ran the race according to my plan and left nothing in the tank as the end. 

Every single ounce was left on the trail.

I hope that this journey has inspired others to follow their dreams and by sharing this “failure” that I can inspire those who’ve missed their dreams in the past to pick back up and get back on the trail…because I tell you what….I WILL be back and I WILL enter that track from Finley St and I WILL have redemption.

~The end~

10 Comments Add yours

  1. saraholm15 says:

    You are such a positive inspiration of love, gratitude and grit. Thank you for sharing your journey and race report. I believe we are all better humans and runners because of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jenellep says:

    Beautifully written account of your journey, Michelle (and awesome pics to go along with it!). I wish you the best in your recovery and look forward to seeing what you do next!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think what they told you at the aid station is what you should take to heart , you didn’t quit . You did your best in difficult conditions and that’s something to be proud of . I have no doubt you will get that buckle .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jennalundemo says:

    Michelle, you are an amazing runner and human being. The conditions were extra tough this year with the snow and the hot temperatures, which are melting the snow and causing mud bogs. Man, I cannot even imagine. You are one tough cookie, and you will get another chance; I believe it. So proud of you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. April says:

    Fantastic Michelle. I think there’s an onion near me. Definitely an onion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tutu Runner says:

      I hear that allergies are high right now too! 😉 Thanks for reading!


  6. Sean Grove says:

    Way to battle out there! It was an honor to share the trails with you and everyone else pushing the limits this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jean Dixon says:

    Loved reading every word. Thank you and well done. What an awe-inspiring journey! John Trent told me I would love you the day I first met you at Starter Striders last year and, of course, I did! You are such a bright light to each and everyone who runs a little — or a lot. Big hugs and see you soon, Jean

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Monica Bittler says:

    Michelle, what an adventure! Your highs and lows throughout were so heartfelt and had me on the edge of my seat. You are a true athlete.


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