Posted by: pointlenana | July 6, 2015

Lessons Learned and Results – Western States Part 10 (and The End)

After the race, Bruce LaBelle reminded me of Ann Trason’s advice about post-race reflection.  Here are my lessons:

What Worked

1) I started the race with the right attitude.  I may not have gone quite slow enough but I stayed focused on being in control, vs. chasing estimates towards a 24 hour finish.

2) My footwear choices – 0 blisters over 100 miles.  I’m told that things change race-to-race and that I could have major problems in my very next race, but my current combo has worked well in races over the past year.

3) When my time goal was beyond reach, I shifted to my other goals and made the best of the situation.  I really did enjoy the run, even if a few hours were pretty hard.  This includes taking care of myself, e.g. dips in the creeks, even if it cost me time in the moment.

What Didn’t Work

1) My approach to heat and cooling was inadequate.  Partly this is due to humidity – it might have worked a little better if it was the typical dry heat – but that didn’t seem to stop Pam Reed.  This includes starting even slower if I know it will be hot.

2) I conflated my heat and fueling issues, so that instead of just struggling with heat I also bonked.

3) In my late race fatigue, I missed clues of the oncoming bonk and didn’t think to eat more when I felt tired.  Eating more is almost always better, and I’ve remembered that in short races.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

1) Basically do what I saw Pam Reed doing – tube sock with ice, arm sleeves with ice, only ice in a bottle, go slower and more steadily.  It is actually very tough to train for heat here in Seattle though.  The best answer would be to live somewhere hot for a few weeks shortly before the race, to acclimate and figure out which cooling methods really work.  That’s quite a commitment though.

2) Take a more systematic approach to fueling, so that when the heat and fatigue set in I keep eating and eating enough.  Maybe use a slightly larger pack and carry more drink mix.

3) Stay somewhere else.  We stayed in Olympic Village.  It was very convenient and nice, but the road noise was constant from 6am well past my bedtime.  Friday a big helicopter ferried ski lift equipment up and down the hill, from 7am to 6pm, so every 5 to 30 minutes I heard it almost-landing right outside our room, including at least 3 time during the 20 minutes I was trying to nap.  I didn’t have a great night of sleep from Monday through Friday night.


I’ve never run in significant heat before.  I thought I was ready, but heat seems to be like parenting – you don’t really know what it’s like until you’ve experienced it.  The fueling problems are very related to the heat – I’ve never felt really bad in an ultra before (and I don’t think I got as bad as some others) and have not had to learn how to keep fueling in spite of feeling bad.  I didn’t do great, but I did ok and managed to finish when others didn’t.


The finish rate this year was 68% vs. 79, 72, 83, 83, and 78% in the past 5 years.  The attrition happened throughout the pack – at the front, in the middle and back – and regardless of experience – first timers and experienced people alike.  People said it felt hotter than the temperature, so I’m guessing it was some non-trivial humidity.  Except for Rob Krar and Seth Swanson, most people seemed to run slower this year than they had previously.  E.g. Ian Sharman (2015: 16:44, 2014: 15:47), Stephanie Howe (2015: 19:33, 2014: 18:01).

I was 134 out of 254 finishers and 371 starters.  In the 50-59 age group (men and women) I was 11th out of 42 finishers and 68 starters.  Scoping it to old men (Meghan Arbogast and Pam Reed were the two women who beat me – I can live with that), I was 9 out of 33 finishers and 52 starters. My time – 26:54:42 – is almost 3 hours faster than my previous best 100M race, but it’s really hard to compare courses and conditions.

A few shoutouts to other people who finished:

Matt Urbanski – a friend from Team Seven Hills.  Wow!  27rd overall, 20:08:10.  Matt told me that he never looked at or knew his time until he was on the track and about to finish.  He ran by heart rate, until he was having trouble breathing (me too) and took his hr strap off to see if it would help.  He ran by feel.  Great race!

John Hill – a RWOL acquaintance.  Just under 24 hours.  He said the turning point was when he was sitting looking at his vomit, and Matt Keyes came by and said “walk with me for a bit”.

Tamara Day – my friend from the training runs.  25:28:33.  109th overall.  23rd out of 79 women who started the race.  Great job by Tamara (and her pacer John) running a really smart race and finishing strong.

Michael Wardian – He races every weekend, so it doesn’t matter what his time was.  He finished near the front, and was at the track after the awards ceremony doing a fast mile.  Plus, he’s incredibly friendly and enthusiastic about everything.

Michael Wardian cooling down after 100 miles, at 5min/mile.

Michael Wardian cooling down after 100 miles, at 5min/mile.

What’s Next

Not really sure, other than recovering as intensely as I’ve trained.  Healing up some things.  A couple races where I might run fast or run with others for fun, depending upon how the next month goes.  A couple races where I’m pacing friends.  A blank slate after that, which is weird after at least 18 months where I’ve had an A race somewhere ahead on the calendar.  Time for more lottery luck I guess.

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