Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Western States Journey

When we arrived to the start line, I kept looking at my bracelet. I kept telling myself: 'I belong here. I can do this.' I was crazy ass scared. Can I do this? Can I really do this? I kept thinking about the San Diego 100 mile race and how hard it was and how it took me 31:29. Now I am here at Western States and I need to take 1 hour and 29 minutes of my time.  REALLY?!

I got out of my head and looked around. Mike was standing in front of me and he said, it's OK you can do this. I chose to believe him.

Julianne was with me the day I found out I got into Western States. I asked her before the lottery if they picked me. Will you pace me? I have a huge admiration for women who are strong and I don't mean just physically. While inside, Robert was gone saying good luck to Ricky too. We went outside and with 4 minutes to go I saw Becca. I felt like I really wanted to see her and give her a hug because she was there with me for all our training runs. She knew this was my dream and we chatted about it for months now. You start training with strangers and before you know it these people are your best friends. You would give anything for them and that's how I feel about my training friends.

The race started and I was in the back. The very back. Here is the deal with me. I know what I can do. I knew I had to get up that hill as soon as possible and that would be at a slow pace.  There where 8 people in the back with me. I was slow but I was moving I could hear Becca telling me slow deep breaths and try not to hunch over. Breathing was the hardest part but I just kept hearing her in my head. Before I knew it I was at the top . I stopped when I finally got up and told the photographer Wow it is so pretty up here. He said don't worry you have all day to look at the views keep going. So off I went.
I promised myself I would not take more than 20 pictures. My speed has no time for pictures. I arrived at Red Star Ridge at 9:24am. It took me 4:24 to go 16 miles. My mind was blank this point . I knew this would be a long day and I just needed to go as fast as I could. At this point breathing was the hardest thing. I could not catch my breath.

Hello altitude.

The weather was awesome so far. I remember helping my friend Charlene crew her husband (Jeff Hooker) last year and the weather was so much hotter. I was so grateful it was not going to be that hot today. That made me feel lucky.  Honestly I really did feel lucky and grateful all day just because some how I got a number pinned on me that said: Western States : 126 : Gloria King.

With my husband and pacer crewing me at my awesome fast pace its safe to say there really was no time for pictures. This is me coming out of Robinson Flat. It took me 8 hours 15 minutes to run 29 miles. There was nothing easy about this course. Seeing my crew was comforting. This would be the only time during this race I would get to sit and that was for about 2 minutes. 

I moved along knowing that at Robinson Flat I would see my crew: Julianne, Mike and Isabella. I arrived at Robinson Flat at 1:15pm,  8 hours after starting. At this point I knew I was chasing the cut offs. I had told Mike I really don't want to chase cut offs all day. I don't want to be that runner but when I was there doing it I felt like: F--k it, I am chasing the cut offs that means I am still in the game! Yes, I am barely making it but I am making it so don't F--k around G. Just go!!

I find that being out there for so long this thing happens you end up shedding all the emotional crap. You are down to knowing the people you love. The people that love you back.

The next aid station was Dusty Corners and it was really dusty. I have to tell you about these volunteers. When I would run into an aid station they would ask: how are you? what do you need? All with concern in their eyes. They would surround me and ask me questions I did not think about. They filled me up with ice and gave me food and told me what I needed to do. The man at dusty corners, I think his name was Hans, told me we are at 38 and I needed to hurry and get to 43.  It's hot so take lots of water and ice and eat some watermelon. Then he said don't slow down. You don't have time for that but you look like you can do it. I thought to myself I can keep doing this 16:30 pace (my watch was still working at this point)

Next destinations were: Last chance, Devils Thumb, El Dorado Creek and then I get to see my crew at Michigan Bluff.

This was really difficult my thinking was this. G give everything you have aid station to aid station. Just keep moving and don't stop. If you get pulled you can look at your friends straight in the face and say I just did not have it.

This was my thinking as a very sweet 70 year old woman and I climbed up to Michigan Bluff. The flies where biting and I was dripping sweat. Then, to my left, is Ann Trason making sure her runner was doing OK.  I just kept walking and before I new it I saw Mike to my left and Julianne up ahead yelling go to the aid station get what you need and meet me down the road. I turn to my left and see Scott Mills I suddenly felt like everything was OK. He asked me what was wrong and I said I am tired. he gave me a small cup of coke (this is the first time I have had coke in a race) then he told me I had 5 minutes to get out of the aid station. 5 minutes?? Really!!

OK I ran out of there like my ass was on fire with my pacer. Maybe it was a slow run but it felt fast. So now I have Julianne with me. My mind felt recharged and I felt a  lucky that I got to have her for 45 miles. I had asked to run in front of me before the race because I wanted to consistently try and catch her. I didn't want her to run next to me . I love to talk and I needed to run. We had a really good time. I threw up about 20 times. I felt crappy but I just kept going. When we got to Forest Hill School, Mike brought me a red bull and I drank the whole thing I was happy to see him even if it was for 2 minutes. Then I also saw my friend Mark and that was so nice too. I was happy and ready to keep going with my pacer.

So, some perspective. It's now mile 62 and 11:26 pm. I was at the Forest Hill aid station for 1 minute. I had been running for 18:29.
I was cutting it close. Very close.

Julianne and I kept moving and she would tell me that was a good mile G. When I would say I was tired she would say can you believe we are running Western States. We are running Western States. I knew what she meant and I would think put on your big girl panties G and follow that girl. Our conversation was about getting to Rucky Chucky and how exciting that would be. To get in the water at 4am. I was worried I would be cold. Oh, and I forgot to tell you I actually carried my pack backwards for about 15 miles. I have an Ultimate Direction pack. Its great but my back was killing me so I put it on backwards and it gave my back a break so I just kept it that way until we arrived at Rucky Chucky. Then I took off my pack. Mike had my smoothie and I had a coke. (Coke during ultras are a great idea) I took of my watch and everything else . I picked up one water bottle and my small waist pack and I traded head lamps with Mike. Mine was fading. I felt light leaving the aid station and excited to go in the water but not as excited as Juliane. She was so excited. The water was freezing but across we went. The next part would be painful. My Hokas were freezing and running with cold shoes made my feet hurt so much. I complained to Julianne about my feet but what could we do. We continued to run/walk up hill for a while. So now we need to go from 78 to 93. I had a coke at every aid station and Julianne would get me to eat bananas and potatoes with salt. I thought about how much my mom loves baby Ruth's and then went on to think about my mom and sister. Carmen was with me at this race there is no doubt in my mind. I felt her with me. I felt her so close to me I could see her.

When we finally arrived at Hwy 49 at 8:56am, I heard Mike yelling. He told me you have to keep it under 17 minute miles to make it. I didn't know but I only had a time buffer of 6 minutes. I was cutting it close and there was not much left in my tank. I really felt like I was running on empty. Julianne and I ran through these beautiful meadows and I could feel myself coming to end. I prayed please let my finish and then I decided that my mind was in charge and over and over I told my legs to keep going.

When I got to Robie Point (mile 98.9), I felt it was over. I lost control of my breathing and I felt like I had nothing else to give. Julianne looked at me and told me she could see in my eyes that I had the strength to finish. If she believed I could do it then I would try a little bit more.  This is the part where I get crazy and started to look and lean to my left. In my state of zombieness, I see Fern. This guy is a crazy fast, fun, and out-going runner. We just met but he always makes me laugh. Anyway, out of nowhere, I see him and he starts yelling at me to move. I guess I only had a couple of minutes and I needed to do more than drag my feet. I can hear my daughter somewhere and more Fern. I tried so hard to listen to what he told me. Swing your arms back and forth Gloria. See when you have good form you move so much faster. He poured water on my head many times. Then I saw Becca telling me to breathe. My mind was trying so hard to listen but my body just had nothing left.

From somewhere inside, I copied the way Becca told me to breath and tried walking like Fern told me. I really felt drunk like I had no control but I was willing myself to finish. I knew I had a little bit of time left so I tried to jog as I swung my arms like a crazy person. My tounge is hanging out I have lost all composure but I was moving toward that finish line with the help of my friends. I saw Mike holding Jack right before I went into the high school  track and I just kept willing myself to move. My legs felt like jello and I could see Julianne to my right and Becca to my left. I remember thinking: 'ok I am on the right track, that's good.' I finally made it over the finish line and it was not graceful. Even that last step took every bit of will power I had left in me. I had nothing left. Nothing. The Western States course took it all and I was ok with that. 

So I crossed the finish line in 29:56 (only giving up 2 minutes from Hwy 49). It took every bit of everything I had and that's perfect because thats what I came to give. I am still in  disbelief that I some how  earned a buckle with my name on it. The best part was seeing my kid's faces and my husband's face, I made them proud. I feel proud of myself for showing up and really giving my all.

The moral of the story is this: if you have a huge dream and, believe me this was huge for me, do the work and keep at it. Even if you're not the fastest or the smartest or the anything. If you work hard for something, really hard, your chances of achieving your dream become possible. But you have to want it and you have to work hard for it. It's that simple. 
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