Buckle or Bust at the Western States 100

Christian Griffith at the start of the 2010 Western States Endurance Run
photo: sleepy but excited at the start of the 2010 Western States 100 – I sorta looked like a male stripper ready for a little YMCA dance with my tight sleeve-less, running shorts and top’d off with a red bandanna and hat backwards. Team Genova nicknamed me “gunshow.” {sigh}

Bust.

My Western States ended abruptly at the Rucky Chucky aid station, 79 miles, and 22 hours into the race.

Officially, the medical staff pulled me, refusing to allow me to cross the river towards Green Gate; but deep down, I feared my race was over before we even got to the Rucky Chucky medical check-in.

I was severely dehydrated, down 16 pounds from the start of the race, peeing (more like, dripping) blood, and wheezing from a bout of exercise-induced asthma.

All racers wear a medical bracelet with their weight, blood pressure and heart rate stats so that medical check points have a benchmark for which to gauge a runner’s hydration throughout the event and help them to make smart adjustments as the day and night go on.

Weight gain can mean a runner is drinking too much and needs to adjust down by emptying the bladder, while significant weight loss usually means the runner is not drinking enough.

Clearly, I wasn’t drinking enough.

And while all this might sound horribly traumatic, the entire Western States experience turned out to be far more than I ever expected it would be, and I found myself less disappointed and more focused than ever before.

Like Nicaragua, I had a true experience.

I met people who have had a profound impact on my life in the past, and new friends who would help shape my future as an ultrarunner.

I knew coming in I was out of my league, but I wasn’t going to pass up possibly the once-in-lifetime chance to run with some of the greatest runners in the world – no way!

After you read my story, tell me YOU wouldn’t do the same thing.

Western States #218 - Christian Griffith

Meet G-Mac

I arrived in Sacramento, California on Wednesday three days before the race, with an excitement that was impossible to contain. Somebody said I was like a kid at Christmas and I found that to be an excellent analogy.

It’s WESTERN STATES, man! The grand-daddy of them all, and I, Christian Griffith, was in. It was the kind of excitement that is so intense, it’s almost surreal – like you’re watching it through someone else’s eyes or on TV.

My pacer, George McAlister, whom I had never met before, not only offered to pace me from mile 62 in the race, but also pick me up from the airport, let me stay at his house, drive me 2 hours to Squaw Valley the next day, and then after the race, stay at his house yet again as I recovered for my trip home. After it was all said and done, he ended up doing far more than even all that and I am forever grateful beyond words.

George (or G-Mac as his son-in-law calls him) is a man’s man. A 61-year old Vietnam veteran, experienced mountaineer, camper, runner and survivalist ( incidentally. he ran the challenging American River 50-miler from Sacramento to Auburn this year in an impressive 9:27 at age 61 – solid.)

He’s a father of two beautiful, professional daughters with a 40-year marriage to a uber-wonderful woman. While he could easily be retired, he chooses to work, and not behind a desk, but with his hands. He drives a humble truck, crops the hair down low, and carries himself with a unique vibe of “tough-as-nails” combined with a genuine kindness and politeness that is impossible to ignore and commands respect all on its own. Many times I found myself thinking, “I hope someday I’m just like him.”

I learned a lot about how to be a good man from George McAlister.

SacTown chillin’

George snatched me up from the airport, later telling me his first thoughts were, “does this guy think this is a 100-mile race or a weight-lifting contest?” (this theme will run through much of my Western States experience as you’ll see if you don’t get bored reading.)

We shook hands, hopped in the truck, and I knew immediately I’d like George when we both opted for windows instead of air conditioning, while we both shared stories of our “crazy wives” always wanting to crank down the air. Instant bonding right there.

George took me to Auburn , CA where we hiked small tid-bits of the Western States trail and talked trail running. He drove me all over to Foresthill, Robie Point, and stopped at various places along the highway to point out river junctions along the American River and teach me about the area and the history of the Sierra foothills.

In Auburn, near Robie Point and Placer High School, we saw deer and wild turkey roaming the hillside neighborhoods without fear or concern. Unlike in the east, the turkeys are not a bit skittish. They roam around like they are supposed to be there. Like squirrels. Same with the deer. It’s a really cool visual representation of man and animal living together in a seemingly harmonious existence and as an animal lover it had a profound impact on me.

Squaw Valley and the Olympic Village

Thursday, George and his buddy Dennis (another cool west coast outdoor enthusiast) drove me up to Squaw Valley where I  had a reservation at the Squaw Valley Lodge. Once again, I got an education from the knowledgeable local duo as we drove deeper and deeper, higher and higher, into the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.

Old railroads, tons of snow, ragged, jagged mountain peaks – it was very cool. I was staring out the window like a kid rolling into Disney World.

“Cool!”

“Wow!”

“What’s that?”

“Whoa… Why are those people rappelling down the rocks?” (it was CalTran conducting rescue training exercises)

The boys got me to the lodge, we shook hands, and promised to meet again at mile 62 where George would jump in to pace me for the rest of the race.

Hangin’ with Team Genova

So, ok – now what?

Here I am at the lodge, but I don’t really know what to do with myself. I wanted to walk around and meet people and see who was here, but doing so alone seemed a little creepy.

Just then, I get a text from Jeff Genova:

“We’re leaving for dinner, wanna come?”

Cool!

And I spent the rest of the day Thursday, and most of the Friday, hanging out with Jeff and his crew Tom and Ryan. It was almost freaky how much I had in common with Ryan – both of us have a 15 year old in the house, both boys, both play guitars …and both play METAL. We both share a love for the creative side of life, and both work in marketing/advertising.

We spent a lot of time yapping and probably boring the other two to tears with our discussions of our teenage guitar players and our mutual love of fonts and design.

As a group, we rambled around Squaw Valley, hitting race check-in together on Friday, hooking up with “The Sherp” and taking photos with other ultrarunners – generally just running around avoiding all the pre-race jitters.

Big chair at Squaw

Goofing off at Squaw Valley Olympic Village
photo: Goofing off in the Squaw Valley Olympic Village

Krissy Moehl

Getting in some groupie time with Krissy Moehl
photo: since I can never run as fast as elites, this is the closest I’ll get to Krissy Moehl

Kilian Jornet Burgada

Getting a shot with Kilian Jornet Burgada, 3rd place finisher
photo: Getting a shot with Kilian Jornet Burgada who ended up finishing third place at the Western States in a sick, sick 16:04

After gathering all kinds of cool stuff at race check-in, skarfing some quality food in Tahoe City, and sitting through the mandatory pre-race meeting, it was all starting to hit me like a ton of bricks – nerves began setting in – and I started thinking about finding a pillow.

As usual before a big exciting race, I got zero sleep at all. (and seemingly, whoever was in the room above me didn’t either…)

At the start of the 2010 Western States 100

At the start of the 2010 Western States Endurance Run

There we stood.

Ready. …as we’d ever be, for the 2010 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

Excited.

I was literally jumping up and down.

Then, a 10-second countdown, and before I could take it all in, we started the race up the long 4-mile climb up the gut of Squaw Valley. Me, Jeff, Sherpa John, and DC Lundell – grinding out the crawl to the top.

Squaw Valley to Escarpment

Climbing, baby!

Good, ol’ fashioned climbing. I actually started running up the climb until I received a warning from DC Lundell to forget about that. He was right, but as the grade got steeper and steeper, I would have had to start power-hiking anyway.

As we approached the top, I broke out my camera and started shooting video of the snow-covered trail on top of the mountain.

(unfortunately, I cannot share these photos and videos as I somehow lost my camera at Rucky Chucky with my waist pack. I’m hoping someone has it …anyone?)

For about 1/2 mile we trudged through mild snow, then gnarly steep snow, before finally cresting the climb.

It felt to good to have this section completed.

I was ready to run.

Down to Poppy Trailhead

The first part of this section was, without a doubt, my absolute favorite part of the course.

There was a ton a snow, and snow-melt mud, to run through for miles and miles and I really excelled here. While many people struggled with slipping and sliding all over the place, I tore through the snow, calling on my skateboarding/surfing background and charging through the gnarly single-track with wild abandon.

It was fun. A “hoot” as they say here in the South.

But, as soon as we hit the gate that would send us on the official “snow route”, I started getting passed by all those same people that I passed above in the snow.

{damn}

I seem to have a blast and go crazy on the technical stuff, but when it opens up and people with real speed can take advantage, I always get dropped like I’m standing still.

I still was able to complete the first 20 miles (well, ok, 19) in 4 hours, so everything seemed to be moving along nicely.

Duncan Canyon

I’m not sure what it’s called (maybe the “poppy trail?”), but after the Poppy Trailhead aid station, we hit some beautiful, soft single-track that rolled slightly along a beautiful lake. This might be “French Meadows”, but I don’t know for sure.

It looked like something on TV. Giant, thick pine trees all along mountain sides as far as the eye could see, with a big beautiful turquoise lake, and all draped in bright sunshine and big blue skies.

I felt so alive!

…until we became exposed.

I caught up to Jeff Genova (who hammered the earlier snow even harder than me) and found myself in a pack of runners being led by Zombierunner online running store owner, DC Lundell.

(And yes, if you’re wondering, I do buy from them – not everything – but they provide super-fast shipping, great customer service, and TONS of running knowledge; he and Gillian are true class acts in the sport. Give ‘em a try!)

The climb to the Duncan Canyon aid station was my first taste of canyon heat.

Trees? gone.

Dusty, rocky single-track that winded back-n-forth, slowly climbing to a ridge that would eventually carry us to the Duncan Canyon aid station which was slammed with people and crews …and some excited dude on a microphone, who announced, “here comes a guy that can bench press more than me,” as I made my way to the check-in table.

This got a laugh out of the crowd, but I was hot and tired, so all I could do was grin slightly, and carry my big ass to the food.

And as I stuffed my face with watermelon and peaches, I hear the mic dude, “Christian, how about dropping for a set of push-ups for the ladies?”

Ok, dude, I know – I get it.

Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat

Woo Hoo! Back on the original Western States course now. Snow route, no more.

The descent was mild, rocky single-track that crossed a few small creeks, and kept us covered up with thick tree cover; but the ascent, into Robinson Flat was almost in complete 100% contrast. There were periods of coverage on the climb, but for the most part it was exposed and hot. There were lots of burnt-up trees here that appeared to be lopped-off about 35 feet high.

I’d love to know more about this section of burned trees as it was very weird.

(I’d show you a picture, but alas… camera is MIA)

Once we got a bit higher into the climb to Robinson Flat, the trail got very steep, snowy and treacherous. Much of the trail was suffering from snow-melt and we did a lot of climbing up a trail-turned-mildly-rushing creek.

I caught some folks here on the climb, but also got passed by John Holt, who was powering up the climb, but out of water.

Now, I have to take a second to SHOUT-OUT to the uber-nice little redhead aid station volunteer that stuck by me from the minute I entered the station, until I left. She filled my bottles, escorted me through the food line, secured my drop bag, helped me with clean shoes and socks AND EVEN HELPED CLEAN MY DIRTY-ASS FEET before I put on clean shoes.

She fetched me more food while I struggled with my shoes, and even found me some real food – turkey sandwiches!

Thank you – whoever you were – you were a dream and blessing for someone who just ran 30 miles.

Almost 1/3 of the race completed, and I felt great!

Robinson Flat to Last Chance

Once again, like a broken record, I loved the early part of this section, too!

Exposed, winding single-track that was dusty, dirty, rocky and rugged and reminded me of what I expected a western trail to be like. There were about three of us, spaced well apart, for this entire descent, so I really got to enjoy some alone time descending this section.

The views of the Sierras were immense and I found myself saying “damn!”, and “wow!”, every 25 seconds.

I felt so lucky to be there – to be experiencing this epic adventure, and so early in my running “career.”

…but at the bottom we hit some really, really fine dust.

The trail became a sort of double-track jeep road and I’ve decided I don’t like jeep roads, gravel roads, or anything like ‘em — well, at least not nearly as much as I enjoy rugged single-track.

The dust was harsh and it was the beginning to one of the medical problems that would eventually equate to my being pulled late in the race. As someone who experiences exercise-induced asthma, dusty conditions or excessive cold can really cause me problems and make me wheeze.

I started wheezing.

I caught up to Alan Geraldi (who also hammered the early snow sections) and he was starting to have some foot problems. No doubt, you will read about this in his report, so I’ll let it go for now, but it was nice to see him – too bad I couldn’t chill with him though, but instead had to duck into the woods to do as the bears do.

Did you know that there are no leaves in the Sierra’s?

Seriously. I’m running along, about to explode, and cannot find a single, normal tree leaf.

All pine.

Try wiping with pine branches someday. It’s an experience.

I rolled into the Last Chance aid station feeling less-than-fantastic. It didn’t help that I heard the old dudes in lounge chairs discussing how I looked more like a rugby player than a runner.

I felt a lot of fatigue instantly, and I was beginning to develop this odd problem where I’d feel like I had to pee, but when I’d hang him out, it would just dribble.

This would get worse later on… and by the time I arrived at the next aid station, I was starting to see blood in the dribbles.

{sigh}

But, I charged into Last Chance as best I could and immediately got called over to step on the medical scales.

“204,” said the medical lady. “let me see your bracelet for your starting weight”

“214!” she gasped. “You’ve lost 10 pounds”

…and with that, they all started whispering to each other and stuff.

“We might need to keep you here.”

“please don’t,” I begged.

And with that a really nice medical volunteer walked with me, got me some soup, and told me to drink more, take more salt and see where I’m at once I get to Devil’s Thumb.

The Canyons – The dirty, nasty evil canyons

Wow.

The descent to the bridge before Devil’s Thumb hammered my quads, but I ran the whole way, determined to suck it up and then take my time on the climb.

Like I had a choice…

Climbing Devil’s Thumb was a brutal experience for me – all 36 steep switch-backs of it.

Clearly, I was not alone.

Throughout the series of switch-backs, it looked like a war zone, with people sitting on various rocks along the climb puking, resting and/or nursing some kind of problem. I saw a woman throw up violently, then get up, and push her way up the climb and out of sight.

I guess it helped.

I saw a couple of dudes, head in hands, just trying to catch a breath.

In fact, every now and then, I’d disassociate from the climb, lean a little too much back, and almost fall ass over tea kettles down the mountain.

I really had a rough time on this climb.

But I eventually got to the top, 12:20 into the race, and was happy to see that I was on about 25-hour pace.

Alan arrived and we shared some laughs with the volunteers, skarfed some Popsicles and started to the very long and dusty descent to El Dorado Creek where we would again cross a bridge and make a mean-ass climb …this time, to Michigan Bluff.

Running with a savior

A long time ago (well 3.5 years ago), when I first decided I wanted to become an ultrarunner, I reached out to Catra Corbett for some much needed personal advice and she proved to be the most helpful and influential person to me at that time. I told her that WHEN I got to the point in my weight loss and running where I was running 100-milers, and I saw her at a race, I would thank her personally for all of her kindness and consideration.

I finally got that chance at race check-in.

Then, descending this long dusty series of switch-backs and looking behind me, who is it…?

Yup, Catra.

What a treat this was for me. In my eyes, Catra is as legendary to ultrarunning as they come. I *think* she’s completed 72 one hundred mile races, and countless of other 50Ks and 50-milers. Like me, she obviously seems to like attention; but she is also a tremendous ambassador for the sport of the ultrarunning, as well as, strength-training, CrossFit and any kind of solid health and nutrition.

I’ve followed her for years (just like you, admit it) – and it was an absolute honor to spend trail time with such a character in our big, worldwide family of crazy runners.

…however, I eventually lost track of her on the climb to Michigan Bluff, and once again it was me and Alan Geraldi – huffin’ and puffin’ up Michigan Bluff.

Fixing my Feet

That’s right, at the top of Michigan Bluff I was treated by none other than Dr. Jon Vonhof, author of Fixing Your Feet, as he ripped off the shoes, and treated me to a real foot education and some preventative taping.

It was the first we’ve met in person and we chatted a bit about Internet Marketing, foot care and general business. It was cool.

I was damn stoked to be spending quality time with legend after legend – it was just the coolest thing ever.

It chewed up a lot of time, 23 minutes, but it was worth it to meet John and feel secure with a job done right.

Found Alan again, waved to some friends in all the crowd madness, and headed down the road sweatin’ the time and stuffin’ my face.

Yet another impact person

Rolling out of Michigan Bluff, standing on the side of the dirt road {trying} to pee, I hear “Is that Christian Griffith?”

“yup,” I said as I quickly packaged things back up since I saw it was a female coming.

“It’s me, Linda.”

“Cool!”, “Killer!” …and I ran up and gave her a hug.

You see, back in what, 2008, I toyed with the idea of running a hundred-miler. I knew I wasn’t ready, and I knew it was far out of my league, but I wanted to anyway, and Linda Dewees sent me the most profound email, personally, encouraging me to “just do it.” – Most specifically, I remember her telling me, “if a 50-something housewife like me can do it, you can do it.”

It was specifically at her encouragement that I man’d up and signed up for my first 100-miler – now, with over 35 ultras under my belt, here she was, strolling right along next to me.

So crazy…

Are you catching the vibe yet?

Are you understanding why this race meant so much to me? Can you see how much of an impact this personal interaction has on me?

I love it, man…

The people? The legends? Putting faces to names and emails, and making new friends.

This is ultrarunning. This is one reason why the sport is so addictive and why I love it!

Through Volcano Canyon, to Foresthill

I was excited to see my pacer, George. Remember George from waaaay earlier in the story?

I knew a pacer would help a bunch as I started a pretty rapid decline with dehydration, fatigue and the pesky bloody stage-fright pee problem.

Alan told me to run on ahead as his foot was really getting crazy and I was feelin’ some downhill, so I took off.

I had a pretty good section through Volcano Canyon. For one, I really liked that section, and two, I rolled into yet another friend, Kate whom I only knew from the “the ultralist” and through various email correspondences.

Each time I made contact with someone that I wanted to meet, it made me happy and lifted my spirits long enough to get a burst out of it.

Where were all y’all from miles 70-79?

I ripped through the Volcano Canyon, climbed out to the Auburn Running Company aid station at the bottom of Bath Road, and was actually feeling ok – not great – but, good enough.

It’s George!

At the top of Bath road I heard someone announce my number over the walkie-talkies. I think they do this so the microphone announcer-dudes at Foresthill can let the crowd know who’s coming and runners’ pacers can get prepared for their approaching runner.

As I ran into Foresthill, George saw me, called out and started running with me into the aid station.

People were giving me lots of attention and it felt really good. I felt like a superstar …like what it must feel like all the time for the elite runners.

It felt so good, I forgot my good headlamp and ended up being stuck with my little bitty small one from Michigan Bluff; and even worse, I had a clean, long-sleeved shirt for the cooler nights and a fresh pair of shoes and socks in the drop bag …and I forgot all that, too.

I’m such a sucker for the attention, that I get caught up in it, waving and thanking everyone, and I forget to think.

Can I blame my parents?

Anyway, we didn’t stay at Foresthill long, only 4 minutes, before we blazed out to California Street to hit the Western States trailhead once again.

I had 13 hours and 13 minutes to go 38 miles.

…piece of cake, right?

Like a couple of gazelles

George and I started off great!

We started passing people left and right and we were moving really well.

At one point George said, “reel ‘em on in, Christian, reel ‘em on in”

Some bitter irony.

Because once we got to Dardanelles (Cal 1) aid station, I tanked in the most horrible way ever…

This was to begin my complete collapse.

Dropping deeper and deeper into Hell

You know things are starting to go badly when not only are you being passed by those you just passed a few miles back, but now people are passing you who you haven’t seen all day long.

My bloody pee problem was becoming very problematic and I didn’t know what to do.

For one, I respected George so much and looked up to him and didn’t want to disappoint him, so I tried to keep it low and downplay it a bit, but I knew it was going to become a serious factor soon.

Running made it worse.

Walking was ok, but with all the bouncing, especially when running downhill, I would constantly feel like I had to pee like crazy, but nothing would produce but drops of blood.

DAMN IT!

I finally could no longer hide it from George as I had to stop constantly, like every couple o’ hundred yards, and try to pee; and of course, constantly rubbing my shorts to the side to get “the man” out was starting to chaff me.

Downward spiral on 78 speed.

I went from running like I was somewhat fresh, to walking entire stretches. I could walk pretty fast, but even a fast walk was slower than a slow run, and I knew it was only a matter of time before my problems began to cut into my walk. Once you can’t even walk, as I learned in the Keys 100, you’re pretty much outta’ mobility options.

The walking dead

This went on for miles.

I felt like complete shit.

Not only physically and for myself, but for George. This man opened his home to me, picked me up from the airport, fed me and showed me around town. Not only that, he offered to let me recover for a couple o’ days at the house until my flight.

Plus, a good friend recommended me as a tough runner and convinced George to run with me, but instead of a tough runner, he was getting an asthmatic, blood-peeing, dehydrated fool of a runner who was staggering around in the poison oak with a weak little dribbling johnson in his hand.

Let me reiterate, I felt like complete shit!

He was out here in the middle of the night FOR ME, to help me get my Western States buckle, and here I was just walking in pain and unable to keep up. Each time he stopped to wait for me, I felt worse.

Like a loser.

When your physically sick and mentally trashed, everything bad is magnified 1000%.

Now I was emotionally coming unglued as I do not handle failure well at all.

The End

About two miles from the Rucky Chucky aid station, I knew I had to come clean with George. He knew I had the pee problem …how could he not with me stopping every 3 minutes to “try to go”; but I don’t think he knew the severity of how I felt with all the various problems compounding upon themselves.

My breathing was now a full-on “wheeze” – both inhale and exhale.

I couldn’t pee, which most likely was what was preventing me from drinking enough, and when I did dribble it was bloody and neon.

Little did I know I was about to get the biggest shock of all at the aid station…

…but, I did come clean.

I told George that I was worried. That I have exercise-induced asthma, but that it doesn’t always bother me, and no, I didn’t have an inhaler. I explained that there was no way I could run because the shaking made me feel like I had to pee a river …only to produce droplets.

I told him I was scared to tell the medical peeps about the pee because they would almost for sure pull me.

He suggested we get to Rucky Chucky, see the medical team, and evaluate from there. …which we did.

But when I got there I just could not get my head together. The medical team had to balance me on the scale and I simply could not make my body do what I wanted it to do.

Then came that shock – 198 pounds – I was down 16 pounds from the start of the race.

More medical team whispering ensued, lotsa questions tossed at me, George looking concerned, more runners coming into the aid station and leaving the aid station…

I started to get cold sitting there but feared the blanket knowing it would almost surely be my nail in the coffin.

I had some grilled cheese and soup, stood up, and tried to make my way to river crossing but it wasn’t happening so well.

A doctor came up behind me with a stethoscope, put it against my back, and that was it.

After hearing the wheezing again, he said, “you’re not going anywhere.”

And my race was done.

(but I already knew it – just needed someone else to say it)

A snip that cuts my heart in half

I laid on a cot under a furniture moving blanket, being petted and attended to by the nicest of nice volunteer-lady, a woman who really did make me feel better as she talked about how much she liked my writing and wittiness on the ultralist, and reminding me how far I had come. I sure wish I knew her name because I want to thank her again.

Some people are just genuinely good people. I wish I was that “good.”

But like the grim reaper, the medical station captain came over, knelt beside me and said that he had to cut-off my medical bracelet to make the drop official.

*snip – and it was over.

That snip went through me like a bolt of lightening and I’ll never forget it.

I’ll have to cross my fingers for next year, and this time, train like my life depends on it.

No excuses.

So now what?

I was so crushed after my Keys 100 race, I’m sure people are bracing for hateful Christian to appear, but that’s just not the case.

YES, I wanted a buckle, but Western States for me ended up not being only about the buckle. It became about the experience.

I may not have my buckle – yet – but I developed and nurtured new friendships and relationships that will only blossom over my time in this sport. I thrive on the sociology of ultrarunning and I took that up a notch at Western States.

I love ultrarunning.

I love training.

I love suffering for personal satisfaction and reward.

I’m a fighter and I’ll be back.

Becoming consistent at 100-milers is proving to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced in my life of self-imposed challenges and I’m not about to give up now.

Another shout-out…

Thank you Raj for your wisdom and strength and counseling as I lay on the cot a defeated, dejected loser – your words have stuck with me profoundly and have provided me with a much greater sense of not only what I want to be, but what it takes to get there. I realize you most likely never intended for me to make such a fuss over what you said, or even the fact that you said it, but I want you to know that you have a gift for uplifting people and I thank you.

I’ll be back.

I’m not finished.

I will recover and I will use this experience, just like my Keys 100 experience, to grow and become a better ultrarunner.

I’m only 3 years in to ultrarunning and I’ve got a long way to go.

Watch out!

——————————————————————————————–

The following are just some of the contacts I made, faces I met, and people who have had an impact on my Western States experience: Shaking hands with Anton Krupicka, chatting with MoeBen Shannon, photo with Krissy, catching up with Devon, friending with Jill, cutting up with “The Sherp”, chilling and bonding with Team Genova, getting lengthy trail time with Catra, wishing Hal good luck, meeting Gordy, Cow-man, building a true friendship with Alan, learning from George, the little redheaded aid station angel, meeting Linda, and Tropical John, and Hao, and Rajeev, the Brocks, Kate, and the nice aid station lady who filled me with compliments, and the med dude that walked with me outta’ Last Chance, and the girl that invited me to suffer with her through the dark night, and chatty tiara girl, and “Dave?” in Vibrams, and the Euro dude who after 3 “huh’s” I still didn’t understand his name …and seeing Charlie Crissman again and all his band of Pacific NW Cascade Crest alumni runners. DC Lundell, the king of straight-forward succinct advice. Super-fit Claire, despite being Type-1, and although I never got to speak much to him, Andy Kumeda. Oh, and the local Georgia girls that cheered for me at every station even though they were there for another Georgia runner. And yea, that other Georgia runner was Susan – Way to finish Susan.

I sure hope I didn’t forget anyone, but as you can see my heart is filled, man – I had a truly great experience.

Next time, it’ll be with a buckle.

Christian Griffith
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Comments

I read “Born to Run” (like everyone else…) and want to run this one day. Very inspiring. I have only run 28 miles at one time before, and I have not even run a marathon. My first Ultra run is the “Earth Day 50k” in 4 weeks and I am scared sh**less about that! I can’t imagine running 79 miles at all. I get the ITB-version of runners knee around 22-25 miles anyway, so I just can’t run that far. Some day maybe. Only took up running again after 20+ years about a year ago — so maybe I can get over the knee thing if I keep at it? If I do, I want to run Western States. Another great report.

Steven

Thanks for the play-by-play. Truly inspiring the way you toughed it out. I’m making my way to ultras. Curious how you advanced through 1/2, full marathons, 50k, 50M – was it gradual or did you make big leaps on your way to 100M? Any guidance is appreciated.

Christian,
You are an inspiration to this 40 year old body of mine. I am getting ready for my first 100miler and your report sure inspire me. I cant wait to get into WS100 2012. did not make it to 2011. Good luck to you!! I will keep checking your reports.

Hey!

Your site is inspiring.

I’ve made it through 2 timed 50′s and a few 50′s while hiking. My longest so far is a 70 in 24 hours (on trail, not “official”, but with no aid stations and my own orienteering, so I count it…) Anyway. This is the year I’m breaking into 100′s.

Anything you wish someone had told you before your first 100? Any tips on not letting the night close in and slow me so much? Do you know of anyone with a “published train for your first 100″ plan?

(I’m signed up for Rocky Racoon, entered in the lottery for WS and entered in Leadville.)

Maybe see you out there! (And Thanks! This site is good reading for me.)

–Bill

If you get signed up for another 100 you might want to consider(although you might not like going without some fun for a few months)giving up exercises that bulk you up during the months of training that lead up to the event. You can always go back to those exercises after the run.
Runs such as Old Dominion or Mohician Mania might be friendlier or easier to pay for/get into than big $$ ones like W.$.

glad i found your blog.
amazing recaps!!

and cant wait to meet you at Rio Del Lago!! I will be there helping my great friends Molly/Jimmy of Desert Sky Adventures!

rockon’

HI Christian,
I am the Studio Manager at Auburn Community Television. We were out there on the trail that day filming everyone for a documentary we are putting together on the race. I just read your article and it’s fascinating and so inspiring and tragic too! I would love to contact you and further discuss your experience and add it to the richness of our video. After all the race, like you said, is all about the experience. Please email me at [hidden]. Thanks! And good luck on all future “experiences.”

You showed up and pounded out 79 miles. There ain’t nothing to be ashamed of and plenty to be proud of.

Great report and love the details. I know what you mean – Feeling great one minute and rock bottom the next. That’s ultra running for you! I have a couple of DNF myself, but I realized this only males me a better and stronger runner. Hopefully I will get my name pulled out of the bucket for next years race – See you there.

Great story. I am an endurance rider, via horse back. I am going to be crewing for some of my friends on the Tevis Cup, Western States 100 horse race. I’ve started the Tevis 3 times and had the ‘Tevis gremlins’ thwart my adventure each time. I got sick twice (didnt know I was pre-diabetic) from dehydration. Did the same peeing every 15 minutes thing. Wound up peeing brown. (blood) Only I wasnt running (much) mostly riding. Another time my horse fell with me & I had to pull him because he was slightly off. Its tricky when you have a partner you are caring for & monitoring as well as yourself. Anyhow, good blog & hope to be at the ultra run next year as a helper at one of the aid stations.(paying it ahead) Also, going for my buckle again next year too. Good luck Christian.

I loved your report! ~ I was teary eyed when they cut your bracelet! Keep pushing & tearing up the trail!

I loved the report! ~ I got teary eyed when they cut your bracelet! ~ Keep pushing & tearing up the trail!!

As always, a great race report.

Thanks, that was a great read Christian… I’d love to see the photos if you get your camera back. Well done on getting as far as you did… I’m sure you learned a lot out there and will get that buckle next time. Cheers!

Christian, you may never get into the Hardrock lottery again for a long time. Even if you aren’t recovered, I would encourage you to go walk the thing until the clock catches up with you. That is an amazingly gorgeous part of the country.

I still feel like you did a great job Christian. Loved reading your report. Cant wait to follow you and to run Western States with you someday myself! – Peter

Christian,

Very nice race report. You do just fine painting your own pictures. It IS all about the experience. You put into words some of the things I feel about ultrarunning. I do love to run but it is the people and the beautiful places that keep me coming to events and feeling like I can never get enough.

Don’t lose that “little kid at Christmas attitude”. It is priceless! Take care and hope to see you at a race soon. Join us in Castle Rock roundabout July 20th :)

Juli

Christian,
Thanks for sharing your experience at Western States. Great report. Considering how tough it all was you have a great memory! This will probably make you so much stronger as an ultra runner. Pushing your limits is what it’s all about.

Christian
Sorry I was the captain at rucky chucky (aka grim reaper) that had to cut you out of the race . I wanted to let you know that we did find a fanny pack that had a small camera in the bag. Try to email Greg the race director and he might be able to direct you to the person that has it if thats your camera. I gave it to a guy that looked just like robin williams but shorter (I forgot his name). Whitney who was the rn at the aid station was looking through the camera and noticed some people that were in the shots and that is the name that we put on the side of the fanny pack so if you took pics of someone it might be under that number bib as well. When I dropped it off that morning at the field he (robin williams looking guy) said he would put it with the lost and found.

Email Greg and hopefully he can get that back to you if its yours his email is xxxxxx@ws100.com

Sorry Christian the last thing I wanted to do is cut you and four others out of the race that night and into the morning (I was in denial really by not even bringing scissors)

If you have trouble after that hit me up and if they do find it I can grab it and send it to you my email is xxxxxx@aol.com

Good luck christian and hope to see you coming through mile 78 with a big smile on your face next year

Christian,
A few weeks ago I stumbled across your blog and have been reading it ever since. Very inspiring like everyone says. So much so that, along with Anton and Geoff, I followed your results via the ws100.com all the way thru the race. Well maybe not all the way. At 11pm I went to bed thinking, wow, this guy is still out there running, and he’s been out there since before I woke up today! Anyways, I woke up and immediately went to check your results. When I saw the DNF I figured something really bad must have happened because you have forced yourself through finish lines before. It’s great to read your report, and enjoy all the details. It gives a glimpse into a 100 miler, for a non-ultra runner that is motivating. Anyway, hopefully someday I’ll get to meet you out there…

Christian, Like so many others, I really enjoyed your report. Wish I’d gotten to run into you up there, and looking forward very much to the next time we get to run up there! Your experience, and all you learned, are a perfect illustration of the insane richness of this sport. Hugs!

Christian,
Surftrip,Smurftrip, Youtrip, Itrip, wealltrip.
Great Report. I learned a lot reading your race report. I didn’t learn half of what you learned living it. Try not to beat yourself up the trails and roots and rocks will rock your world enough.
Rock On.

Best race report I’ve read in a long time. I continue to learn from your experiences and value that immensely. I hope to one day have the guts to attempt the WS100. You are truly inspirational!

Great report Christian. Thanks for sharing. You will get to Auburn next time.

I’m from the ultra list Christian. Training for my first 100. I loved this post and I loved your insights.

I hate a/c…battle the husband who would keep it at 68 if I wasn’t around…

I have exercise induced asthma as well.

I can’t pee during a race, 50 milers. I anticipate this will be an issue during my 100.

Been following Catra ever since I saw her at Rocky. Amazing and inspirational doesn’t begin to describe her.

Looking forward to your next adventure!

Good run, C., and GREAT report! remember, DNF also stands for “Did Nothing Fatal.” You’ll live to buckle another day, and meantime a lot of people got to share your incredible experience. GOOD JOB!!

Another experience from which to learn. And also very inspiring. Cheers!

Enjoyed the read Christian. Sorry about the DNF and no buckle.
WS is one of those races w/ major elements that are “musts” and “shalls” to get right or the DNF’s are sure to happen. Maybe you can put them all together next time out.
(I told you Geroge was the man huh?)

Great report Christian…did ya do the push-ups for the ladies at the aid station??

Christian,

Firstly let me congratulate you for gutting it out to Rucky Chucky. You are a fighter and a lover of Life and I love reading your race reports.

No journey is ever a “failure”. If you can learn something from it, that becomes the “success” you can apply to your next one. I bet you learned a lot about yourself in WS! :-)

Neale Donald Walsch said these beautiful words “The voice of caution knows nothing of real joy. What joy is there in doing what you know you could do? Try something you could fail at… that might just be living”.

Following you on the Ultra list for the past few years has shown me that you are always trying something you could fail at! That takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah and you have loads of it. WS was just a stop in the long journey called ultra running (and Life) and I have the utmost confidence that you will soar even higher.

Until we meet again.

Rajeev

Still think you ought to give HR a shot. You just had a nice long training run, will have a forced taper, just the thing for a successful San Juan romp. It is a hoot, total opposite of the hoopla of WS, more like a family reunion. Your report is full of great advice, should be required reading. Glad someone had the head to pull you before serious damage took place. (Ask any of the rhabdo folks.) Hope to see you in Silverton.

Gunshow, your one of the Team. We will keep you around for entertainment and inspiration. I think you need to come run the Traveller this fall with us and have a big time in Arkansas!

i admire your unyielding desire to snatch every little drop out of life…awesome dude and i for one look forward to your report after completing the trek next year.

Wow Christian, that was a great blog! You are a great writer and we truly couldn’t tear ourselves from the blog….as you can see from the time we are entering this comment! It’s waaaay past our bedtime!

We just returned after 3 days of traveling back to Key West. You are an inspiration to us and Scott has been thinking a lot about those of you that had to stop or were otherwise pulled for various reasons. He didn’t know what to say but wanted to say something. He knows it was very hard … but could tell, after reading your posts, that nothing needed to be said and your mind is in the right place. You are looking forward with nothing but positive mojo!

Just like you look forward to meeting so many people out there, we looked forward to meeting you – hence us coming up to you with a freakish eagerness to shake your hand! We know we’ll see you at the Keys and who knows where else. Keep up the good work.

By the way, one of Scott’s pacers, Nick Andrews, used to live in GA and he wanted me to tell you GO GUTS!

As always, super-duper awesome. You keep me pumped…even as I continue to be a non-running runner.

(it sounds like I’m in AA or something…)

Once this femur is healed, I’m gonna read this report again (fingers crossed, just a few more weeks…) and explore my new surroundings in Virginia. Rumor has it, there’s some pretty fine running’ out here.

Possibly a new favorite quote posted by Scott Sanders in his comments – “Remember: Losers don’t line up at the start of 100′s.” Love it!

Christian,
I’m really enjoying your race report. Reading and sensing your awe of the terrain through which you were running gave me a new perspective on the area and trails which I’ve run for more than 20 years and which I take for granted. That lake you liked prior to Duncan was French Meadows. The trail you were running down after Robinson Flat was on Cavanaugh Ridge which has always been my favorite part of the course. As you saw, the views are immense and beautiful. Yes, this is conifer country although down lower there are some oaks and madrones with leaves. The climb up to Robinson, even without snow, is the beginning of heat for mid-pack runners. They don’t call that spot on the dirt road about 6 miles after Robinson Flat Dusty Corners without good reason. The descent into Deadwood Canyon and the bridge can be a quadbuster. I was surprised by your description of all the people and their problems on the climb up to Devil’s Thumb. You should have taken time to drink and fill your bottles from that stream just about 50 yards after you crossed the bridge and started up to the climb to the Thumb. That climb was just a 1 hour hike to me. Did you see the actual Devil’s Thumb?

I always liked the descent from Deadwood Cemetery down to El Dorado Creek. In fact, the last really good run I had flying downhill with abandon was on that descent before my knees mad that a thing of the past. Ah, fond memories of the past. The climb up to Michigan Bluff is longer than the climb to the Thumb; and it is quite steep for the first third and, again, for a short stretch before the top; but there is one stretch of runnable, slightly down trail about two thirds of the way up the climb.

I understand your guilt feelings about George, but I’m sure that he respected you for giving it all you had. That is the most a pacer or anyone else can ask of you.

As I thought you would, you didn’t pound your head against a wall because of the DNF, you thought of all the things that have made this one of the most memorable experiences of your life, one you shall probably never forget. I’m very happy for you. I really enjoy the enthusiasm with which you absorb so much of what life has to offer; and thanks again for making me think of those trails and that terrain with a different light. See you in December.

….your…..your inspiration……

You can have all the attention you like, my man…….you deserve every sweaty, dusty, gritty, dry-mouth, cotton-tongue, salty-eyed bit of it. You earned this. Big Time. Thanks for all you inspiration.

@Charlie – ask around, I wear it every single day.

P.S. I forgot to add… You’ve already got the best buckle in ultrarunning :)

Rock on my friend. As we say at CCC, there’s no fame in finishing (well, unless you run 15 something at Western States) and no shame in coming up short. You add a ton of inspiration, good vibes and humor to this sport. That’s worth a lot more than a belt buckle. It was great to see you.

Charlie

Your reports are the best , felt like I was on the course suffering with you. You will be back and taking the gunshow on the road.

rock-star status report…

Did your trail angel have short punky dyed-gray hair? That was Michelle Jackson Tauzer. I marked the course with glowsticks from Foresthill to Ruck-A-Chuck and she and her husband Morgan were working at that the river station. She and Morgan helped save my ass at the Auburn Trails 34m on 6/5 after suffering from severe dehydration.

You are totally in your “league.” You are also a very entertaining writer. (I like the windows, btw, cosmic husband goes for the a/c – just sayin.’)I bet Catra thought you were hot too. I have the asthma problem also, actually wound up at the ER after 80 miles of Mother Road..

Good luck at Hardrock. I hear its wild and tough. Like you dude. You’re in the arena.

I loved reading this! Thank you for sharing!

@brett: i most likely will not do Hardrock. Not enough time, and still waitlisted

As always, Christian, a pleasure to read, and a superb story. Congrats on your time in the mountains.

Once again a great story. Failure is simply a needed step to success. The easier one gets there the less it means. I got my best lesson in life watching a baby try to walk. Fall down, cry, and get up and try again and again.
Keep on keeping on.
Ken

Well I finally found someone worse at hydration and electrolyte intake than me.

Minus 16 pounds. MINUS 16 POUNDS. MY—- okay you get the point. They saved you some really bad damage. God bless the volunteers.

I see Hardrock over on the right. I live at sea level in SC and just finished the San Juan Solstice. Its 12,000 feet of climbing, 12,000 feet of descending and 50 miles. We were over 12,000 feet for several miles and over 10,000 feet for probably 40+ miles. So one half the distance and one third the elevation differential. You have GOTTA eat eat eat and drink drink drink to hang around that one long. Some of those climbs are at 30%+ at 13,000 feet and will take you an hour to go a mile. Go back over everything you ate/drank/etc at WS and decipher whatever you can to try and improve it at Hardrock. I’m jealous you are doing that one…what a beauty. Its in my bucket list but my sorry carcass isn’t ready for it yet.

Hi Christian,

Reading your race reports always makes we want to go out and run – really far. (thank you for writing them)

Looking forward to seeing you at future races. Thanks for sharing time with me at Keys 100. (the people are the difference!) We have already have reservations for Keys 2011, and I’m seriously heat training, and speed training.

I crew for Collin Anderson at Badwater next week. Should be fun!

Remember: Losers don’t line up at the start of 100′s.

Maybe we can share a beer or two when I get back in Atlanta!

This was a great read, Christian. I’m happy for you that you were able to experience this legendary ultra firsthand and meet some of your inspirations, just as those of us who are inspired by you have enjoyed meeting you. Even in the races where things ultimately fall apart, we all have those perfect moments when we feel like we’re doing what we were born to do. It looks like you had several perfect moments like that during Western States 2010.

Great report – I love the details that you’ve provided. Sorry you didn’t get to the finish, but it sounded like one hell of a journey.

– Greg

awesome race report.

good work, christian. it was a tough race but so amazing you kept your optimism. next year…!

Man, I teared up reading your report. No question you’ll get that buckle next time you’re in. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and especially for getting across what is just so damn cool about ultra-running. I look forward to running with you some day!

Tough break Christian! Been there, done that. ’99 Old Dominion 100 I lost 12 lbs in 12 hours (and I’m only 150lbs!) ended up a shivering, pale mess at mile 75 (huddled under a wool blanket in 90 degree heat!). I was toast!

I’ll be totally honest. It will be very tough for you to complete these mountain races with the size you are, not to be rude, just stating the obvious. It take so much more effort, energy, hydration to haul a 205 lb man along a course like that. I’m not saying it can’t be done, my friend Larry Duke got through States weighing in right about your weight and he wasn’t buff like you if you know what I mean! Just something to consider, if you want to be a runner you need to be better built as a runner, lighter is better. Simple. Please don’t take this the wrong way.

Don’t fret over your DNF overly much, yeah it sucks to have to stop but you’ll get over it and will have plenty more opportunities. So what about Hardrock? You’re not seriously considering starting that are you? If you’ve already planned a trip out there, why not volunteer to crew/pace somebody; I promise you you’ll get your fill of adventure in without having the bare the stigma of another DNF.

Good Luck!

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