2013 Western States 100 Veterans Panel
Just in time for the 2014 race, here’s the 2013 Western States 100 Veterans Panel featuring Ann Trason, Ellie Greenwood, Tim Twietmeyer, and Gordy Ainsleigh with moderation* by Andy Jones-Wilkins. Absorb this hour of knowledge.
2013 Western States 100 Veterans Panel Transcript
Andy Jones-Wilkins: The idea for this panel that Craig [Thornley] and I had a few years back was thinking on the Thursday evening before Western States as folks were coming into town and getting their nerves going and getting ready for the race, that having a little event gathering together some experienced Western States veterans to talk about what it’s like to run this race would be a cool idea particularly for those people who might be here at Western States for the first time. So this is where we see who’s here at Western States for the first time? Welcome! Welcome everybody!
Over the next 45 minutes or so, we will hopefully impart some wisdom or some ideas or some advice or at least some silliness for all of you to take away later this evening and tomorrow. We’ll have a little bit of time for questions at the end, but I also want to remind everybody that at approximately 6:30 p.m., Diane Van Deren—Diane, are you here?—Diane Van Deren is going to be putting on—there’s Diane back there—say hello, Diane—starting at 6:30 p.m., we encourage as many of you who can stick around for that. She is an inspirational and an extremely thoughtful speaker. It should be quite a nice evening.
I have to say, with all due respect to the panelists who have joined us over the last two years—Gary Wang, Craig Thornley, Rory Bosio, John Trent—this year we have the panel to end all panels. This is the all-star team for sure. I, indeed, am humbled to be up here on the stage with these folks. Without any further delay, what I’d like each panelist to start with—we’ll go from this side over past the mic—who they are, how many times they finished the race, of those finishes how many times they won the race, and then I… they’re all winners up here. Everybody is a winner up here—at least here. I’ve asked them to come up with one thing, one thing, that they wished they knew about this race before they ran it for the first time. We’ll start with you, Gordy [Ainsleigh].
Gordy Ainsleigh: It works. I’m Gordy Ainsleigh, and I’ve won the race once against severe competition—two horses. What I would do over again, really different if I could do over again that first race in 1974, is I would not race the horses for the first 15 miles. Now, you won’t have horses out there, but we all go up hills at different paces. You’re going to find that you’re going to want to speed up as people are going by you. Maybe on a downhill you’re going to want to speed up. I wish I would have run my own pace that first 15 miles. If I had it to do over again, I would never let any of my muscles go into oxygen debt, I would never let my muscles burn all the way out of Squaw Valley, all the way to Lyon Ridge, all the way to Red Star Ridge. Then, of course, from there it’s downhill.
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you, Gordy. Gordy, how many finishes? You’ve won once, but how many times have you finished?
Ainsleigh: I’ve finished 23 and I’ve not finished four, and all of the not finishes… well, three out of the four not finishes have been since I’ve turned 60. We talk about how you turn 60, well, that was easy, and then within a few months it was like a wall fell on us. So watch out for that birthday.
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you, Gordy.
Tim Twietmeyer: My name is Tim Twietmeyer, and I’ve finished the race 25 times. I’ve won the race five times. If there was one thing that I’ve learned around this race that I didn’t know when I started, it’s how crucial to take advantage and let the aid-station people help you and your crew. They’re like plugging yourself into the wall especially at the end of the race, and there are really great experienced ultrarunners and people there to help you. So, that’s what you kind of rely on at the end when you start running out of steam is letting someone else kind of kick you in the butt and get you on down there. But the aid stations and the people out there helping you are phenomenal, so take advantage of it.
Ellie Greenwood: I’m Ellie Greenwood. I’ve run this race twice—my only two 100 milers ever. Somehow I’ve won it twice. I can basically say I probably intended to do it once, so all of you that have said, “I’m going to do one 100 miler ever,” I can tell you from the start that you can’t do Western States just once. I’m sure you’ll be putting your name back in the lottery again because it’s the best place to be at the end of June every year. I meant to say what I’d do differently, sorry. I don’t know. That’s a hard one. I would say similar to Gordy. Run your own race. The first year I came in maybe a bit confident, I don’t know if that’s quite the right word, but I’d hoped to race from the start. 100k into 160k, I’m in sixth place and 13 minutes back vomiting because I was trying to race from the get go. So enjoy those miles. Last year I had to get a little more confidence to do my own thing and not think about other people. Overall you’ll have a more enjoyable race that way and ultimately likely a more successful as well.
Ann Trason: My name is Ann Trason. I didn’t finish the first two times I did the race. Then I finished 14 times after that. I think what I learned—it took me two times, those first two times—was to respect the heat and to take it a little easier. It’s okay to take it a little easier with the conditions instead of having a pre-race plan of what you want or think you can do. Let the conditions sort of dictate the day. Once I got that figured out, it got a little easier. Thank you.
Jones-Wilkins: How many did you win?
Jones-Wilkins: I’m going to go off script here before we go into the questions. Thank you for those introductions. For those of us like myself who came of age in ultrarunning in the 1990s, the name ‘Ann Trason’ conjures up images of grit and toughness and fortitude that I think are truly remarkable. I think everybody here knows that Ann’s been away from the race for a few years, and I want to say on behalf of everybody here, everybody in the Western States organization, and especially all the runners, Ann, it is so great to have you back here in Squaw Valley.
I know there’s probably one predominant thought on everybody’s minds going into Saturday. Some years it hasn’t been as prevalent as others but it’s on our minds and that’s the heat. All four of these runners in different ways have had to put up with their version of hot Western States. But I thought we’d start with the heat question with Gordy. Gordy’s been dealing with the heat here the longest and had some incredible experiences as far back as the mid-’70s with the heat. Gordy, what I’d like you to talk a little bit about is how you deal with the heat here at Western States. What are some tricks or even mind games you might be able to play? Perhaps most importantly, what should runners be careful of both in dealing with the heat and potentially addressing issues around heat?
Ainsleigh: Well, my first run in 1974 was the hottest run I’ve ever done. The temperature was 107. That was the second hottest. Andy Gonzales three years later got 108. The way we dealt with it was, we didn’t wear a hat, we didn’t carry water, Andy didn’t even wear a shirt. That’s how we dealt with it. There are better ways of going about this. My suggestion is… I did one thing right. I wore a white shirt. If you were planning to wear something other than a white shirt tomorrow, I urge you to change your dress. Wear white. Wear a white cap—that’s good, too. I don’t own one for some reason. You may not either. The cap’s not quite so much of a big deal because you can put ice under it and you won’t feel the fact that the sun is absorbing into it. There are some strategies in dealing with heat. You can say, on one hand, make good time while it’s cool. That’s valid. On the other hand, you want to enter the hot part of the day well-hydrated. The two are obviously opposite to each other. You want to find the balance as best for yourself. What I would say is don’t ever be in a hurry. People ask me how to run this race and I say, “Go as fast as you can while feeling like you’re loafing a little.” That would be my advice to you as far as the heat. Get something white and make sure you have enough fluid. Also, I’d say if you’re running out of fluid and there’s a creek, just remember you won’t get Giardia until next week at least. It’s just vomiting and diarrhea. It’s not that bad. There’s a good drug for it. After you’ve had it once you’ve got a little more immunity. It’s a good thing.
Jones-Wilkins: Alright, this is good. Tim, in your 25 finishes, you were legendary in your ability to take care of yourself. I have one memory of your 25th finish in 2006 interestingly enough with the high temperature in Auburn at 105 or 100 or thereabouts. I sat next to you when we were in the medical check and my CPK was in the mid-five figures and I think yours was in the low-four figures and probably had been that way for 25 years. What are a few tidbits of information that you can pass on from your 25 years of experience for that self-care out there? What’s the secret for taking care of yourself on the Western States course?
Twietmeyer: I guess to say in particularly on those super-hot days—95 degrees, 93 degrees, 2006 was pretty awful—I usually took an extra white shirt like Gordy has said. I had a shirt that I could get off really easy, just tear off, dunk in a creek, dunk in a river, dunk wherever I could, dunk and put it right back on. I had a singlet or a sleeveless. Then I had an overshirt that I could quickly pull off and dunk in a creek and put right back on. No matter how cool it was when you dunk it, five minutes later it’s probably dry and you’re sweating again. But if the temperatures over 100 degrees, that’s the only way you’re going to be able to cool off. The other one in particular, and maybe Ann has some tips on this because her and I were running almost stride for stride in 1995 when it was 107 degrees out, I got to the point where I was only running maybe 10 minutes at a time and then I’d stop and walk. I never wanted to get to the point where I was really sweating profusely during the day because it would be really hard to catch up or stay hydrated enough. I’d run in the shady stuff and run when it was cooler, but then when it got really hot, I’d just run and walk and run and walk to the point where I was never really leaning over with sweat dripping off my nose. I was doing some calculations between the hot years and what the guys ran last year and the women ran last year and there’s a good three-hour swing between the leaders on a hot year and the leaders last year. It’s not a 10-minute adjustment or 20-minute adjustment. It’s hours of adjustment when you have this kind of heat, so take care of yourself.
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you, Tim. So I joked a little bit, of course, with Ellie this morning having her here on the veterans panel with her two races and her two wins and her course record and all that. But I thought, Ellie is a veteran of fighting through and persevering. As I’ve observed you as an ultrarunner both at Western States and at ultras around the country, you seem to be blessed with a particular skill of kind of getting through the rough spots. I’ve seen you in some rough places even with that glowing smile, it’s not always so glowing. How do you get through those rough spots? We’re all going to have them. We’re all going to have them on Saturday. Some tips on getting through those rough spots that you seem to do so well?
Greenwood: Hopefully everyone that’s racing on Saturday has done a reasonable amount of training. All that training, I’d say I absolutely adore running, but there are points during that training where you think, “I’d rather be doing something else. This is getting tough. Why am I doing this?” Saturday is what you’ve been working towards. So if you’re in a really low point, either simply say, and you might not agree with this, if you drop out half way all that training is kind of gone to waste. Yes, you’ve enjoyed it in your training and you’ve achieved something even if you get part way, but ultimately you were doing that training to reach the finish line. If you’re going through a tough spot, even if you’re in the back of the pack and you’re half way through, 15 more hours and then you can stop. So, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’m sure you won’t believe me because everyone has said to me, “Oh, you’ve not went through rough spots.” I had the first year I ran Western States some very rough spots. I say, then, put all your goals out the window. I’d gone into that race hoping that I could be up in contention with winning. I said, “I don’t care if I ride 29:59 and get a bronze belt buckle. I’m getting a belt buckle.” This came from, maybe, I don’t know, two or three hours before thinking, Hey, can I win this thing? I then totally relaxed, because if you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, that’s when it can all backfire. So truly believe that you can work through any rough spots. You’ve worked through rough spots already. You’ve just got to work through a little bit more. Think of that finish line, but also think of—again I did this on the first year I ran it—I would leave one aid station and I’d say, “Where’s the next aid station.” This seemed like really, really ridiculous if you’re up there saying, “Well it’s six miles away—what a way to run 100 miles.” But if you can make it six miles, and then you can make it the next five miles. So really do break it down and just try and relax. Look up. Enjoy the scenery. If there are runners around you, use the energy of them and you can work through your rough spots.
Jones-Wilkins: Alright, thanks, Ellie. Ann, over the years observing your racing here and elsewhere, you had this ability, no doubt, to get into this place, this zone, this single-minded pain cave, if you will, and fight through. On hot days, in particular, and I don’t think you were immune to this, occasionally the tummy goes a little sour. You were somewhat legendary for figuring out a way through those stomach issues. I guarantee you a handful of folks in this room are going to have some tummy problems on Saturday. How did you do it?
Trason: I learned that it’s not the end. But one of the two times I didn’t finish was due to I freaked out. It was a hot day and I was throwing up, and I’d never seen… I didn’t think I could throw up that much volume. It was bad. I just panicked. I got to Highway 49, “I’ve been throwing up for all this… I’m going to die… blah blah blah…” They’re like, “I.V. You’re out of there.” It’s not the end of the world. Yeah, it’s a little uncomfortable. It’s challenging. But unfortunately sometimes it happens. It’s not something that will stay with you. I learned over the years how not to have… I mean, my stomach would always be a little queasy. I have a little sensitive stomach. Little tricks—chewing on ice, slowing down, I like to put a bandana around my head or around my neck, ice bucket. Just kind of learn tricks. But not panicking and thinking it’s the end of the world. Sometimes it’s really disgusting. Throwing up feels like the greatest thing in the world. Then you feel better and you keep going. Try to enjoy it. I mean even though after everything—you listen to us and I think back, “Why did I do it 14 times if it’s this awful experience?” It’s like the greatest love of my life was Western States. So have fun out there. No matter what happens, it’s a great experience for people.
Jones-Wilkins: Alright, thank you, Ann. If you’ve done it enough times, it’s just like any other bodily function. Trust me on that one. I’m going to open it up. I’m going to throw some questions out there. Just grab the microphone if you want to take it. Just a quick show of hands—who in the crowd here is a pacer or a crew this weekend? Alright, excellent. Thank you. Thank you so much. We’re counting on you. Before we get to the question, take care of yourselves on Saturday, pacers and crews. You might be picking up your runner at Foresthill or as far and as late as Green Gate. It’s a long, hot day. You don’t want to go into your section dehydrated and having pacers throwing up. You can eat the aid station’s stuff. We don’t want you throwing up.
Panelists, advice for pacers, crews, runners. It’s an interesting relationship, that pacer-crew-runner thing. What wisdom would you share with the pacers and crews out here for working with their runners as they make it through the day on Saturday?
Greenwood: I have an awesome crew. Four of them are here even though I’m not running on Saturday. They’re unemployed, and they’re not for hire. Ask your runners beforehand, particularly with the heat and the fact that people are going to be slowed down, I always said to my pacers and crew is, “I want to get to the finish line regardless of time or position.” Your runner part way through may be saying, “That’s it. I’ve had enough. There’s absolutely no way. Sorry, I don’t want to.” If you know when they were in a lucid state that the most important thing ever is I get to the finish line, it’s important that you know that. Also, don’t take it personally what your runner might be saying at you, not saying at you. Gauge your runner. There are times that they might want to talk or they might want you to talk. If they say, “Shut up,” then be quiet, crew. Pacers, as well, one of the great things I find is they take away some of the mental aspect. They’ll be saying to me, I like to know and some runners might not—this is what you need to find out—when an aid station is coming up. My pacers are briefing me before I get to an aid station, like, “Okay, what are you going to be taking from the aid station? Are you going to have something to eat here? We’ve got this.” Some runners might know the course inside and out. Some runners might not know it and might not want to know. Whereas, I like to know if there’s a big climb coming up or maybe you’ve got flatter sections so you can prepare them a little bit in advance. I think finding out in advance, whether it’s this evening or tomorrow, does your runner like information, and that kind of stuff. Don’t take it personally what they’re like out on the course. You’re helping them all the same.
Twietmeyer: I’d say, some advice for the pacers is that your job out there is to think for your runner, especially the 30-hour guys are going to be out there a day and a half. You get really loopy out there as a runner. Your job as a pacer is to make sure they keep moving to the finish line. Ask them what they need at an aid station. Ask them what they need to take out of the next aid station because they’ll forget. It just happens to you. You just get so tired that you’ll think to say something and by the time you’re going to say it, you’ll forget what you were going to tell your pacer. As a runner, you’re just thinking, I need to get to the finish line. Pacers out there, you need to work with your runner on that so you don’t leave an aid station without what you need. As a pacer, it’s kind of hard because you’ve got to know your runner a little bit. There are times where the runner is going to want to sit down on the trail and cry like a big lump. You might want to sit down with them and put your arm around them and say, “Okay, everything is going to be okay.” Or you might just go, “Hey, shut up and let’s get running.” There’s got to be a sense there between, I need to help this person out, or a little tough love and give them a kick in the ass. Knowing your runner is important out there, but take care of them out there because they’re going to have a hard time out there doing more than just moving forward.
Jones-Wilkins: Anybody else on crews and pacers?
Ainsleigh: I thank the people before me for giving me such good tips. I was thinking about a time when I should have been able to finish and I didn’t. I came into No Hands Bridge with 1 hour and 10 minutes to go and it took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to get to the finish. That was because I had asked for a beer at Highway 49 and they refused me. That was a shock to me. I got angry. So I downed this big thing of Coke and took off in a huff instead of doing the reasonable thing which would have been take in more than the amount of calories that would have been in that beer. Of course, when I got down to No Hands Bridge I was so deeply into hypoglycemia that I wasn’t even hungry. I wasn’t very conscious. I couldn’t think. So I think probably the moral of the story is when your runner asks for something and you don’t have it, make sure they get at least that number of calories in them even if you have to grab them by the shirt and shake them. “You have to eat that number of calories.” I think probably maybe if I’d grabbed some watermelon… you know?
The other thing is, when someone asks for a beer or something, let’s say, and you don’t have it… By the way I don’t recommend you drink beer before Highway 49. Get within seven miles of the finish; I started at 10 miles from the finish and that was a mistake. I still would have made it if I would have taken in enough calories. I had a lot of time… So the point being, if your runner asks for something and you don’t have it, if you’re a crew person, see if you can beg, borrow, steal, or buy it from somewhere or somebody so they can have what they want the next time you see them. If I had presence of mind or my wife had presence of mind, she could have gone up to Cool and bought some beer and met me at No Hands Bridge. But she didn’t think and I didn’t think. So I was down there. If I had gotten down to No Hands Bridge and asked for two cans of Coke or Pepsi or whatever, I would have made it to the finish, but I couldn’t think. See, when you’re running and you’re hot, this is a scientific fact, this is why swimmers don’t get lean is because they don’t overheat. When you overheat during exercise, it suppresses appetite. You won’t feel hungry. Remember that. You won’t feel hungry. You even won’t feel thirsty when you’re dehydrated. The first sign of dehydration is when you get symmetrical soreness—lactic acid build-up symmetrically, not in your left calf but in both calves. That is the first sign of dehydration. That means you’re dehydrated. If your body starts tightening up, that doesn’t mean you didn’t train enough, it’s that you’re dehydrated. Those are the signs. You have to watch for it.
Jones-Wilkins: I don’t think Craig Thornley has gotten the order of beer in yet for Highway 49 Aid Station. It’s not on there.
Ainsleigh: Yes, I know. Yeah, I found out that it would violate their insurance if the staff gave me beer. I understand that now. I was very angry at the time.
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you very much. Ann, any other thoughts on crews and pacers?
Trason: I’d like to thank all the crews for coming here. I went down to San Diego with a first-time person and his wife and I think crewing—you’re not going to like this, runners—is harder than running. Really, be nice to your crew, please. They deserve a lot to come out here. Everything you’re going through they’re doing it in spades. Just be nice to them. Pacers, I’m a little nervous, but I like just to set my watch every 30 minutes because I also need reminding because I get a little nervous. So for them and for me, I know to ask them certain questions every 30 minutes if they’re eating and drinking. It’s a little trick, and I know it’s a drag to hear it beep every 30 minutes, but you can also ask your runner if that’s okay because sometimes they’re like, “Really, only 30 minutes has gone…?” It’s a little trick. You have to see what works. Then they start yelling at you, “No, really, it’s been only 25.” Thanks to all the support people and all the volunteer people who are out here.
Jones-Wilkins: Quick note before we move onto questions from the audience—one other note on pacers and crews. Pacers, spend some time in the next day and a half studying the course, studying the maps, the mileage between the aid stations you’re going to be running. Get to know the course. Make sure you know that it’s the yellow Montrail ribbons and so on and so forth, so you can, as Tim said, think for your runners. Likewise, crews, study the driving directions in the program. Really study them so you know where you’re going. Fill up on gas, and all of those little things. Lastly, about crews and pacers, long-distance endurance trail running is by and large a solitary act. Yeah, when we roll out of Squaw Valley there will be a few hundred people. We’ll get together in pairs and triples and fives and occasionally you might latch onto one or two other runners and run through a canyon together, but by and large you’re on your own. It can be a wonderfully shared experience to enjoy the Western States experience with a crew and with a pacer. Many of you have paid thousands of dollars to be out here this weekend. The crews, if you add up the amount of time you’re going to have meaningful contact with your runner on Saturday, it will not be very much time by the clock, but it could be some of the most meaningful minutes that that runner has of that entire race whether it gets them that Coke at just the right time or gets them off the chair or that idea that, Maybe change socks right now—whatever it is. That two minutes at Michigan Bluff could really change the experience for that person. Mind you, crews, you’re going to drive a couple hundred miles. You’re going to sit out in heinous heat. You’re not going to have food of your own to eat and your runner is going to come through and you’re going to be like a NASCAR pit crew and your runner’s going to be gone. You’re going to be like the mom after her daughter’s wedding. So, work that out now, because it can really be an enriching… I mean, my relationship with my family is a strong relationship nonetheless, but it’s all the more strong because of their crewing me at 28 100-mile races. I can guarantee it can be really, really meaningful and the kind of thing you talk about five, 10, 20 years from now.
At this point, I’m conscious of the hour, it’s about 5:45. I want to open it up. We’ve got a big crowd here. I’d like to open it up to questions from the crowd. A small caution—this is a veterans panel for advice about the race. It’s not a press conference. All of these four athletes are extremely well-known, famous ultrarunners. They could answer press questions. This isn’t about press questions. If you have some thoughts or questions or some things you’d like to know about related to the race, they’ve combined at least 60 finishes at Western States if I did my math correctly, please ask away. I’ll try to pick you out if you could just stand up and ask your question. That would be great. Gordy has one thing he’d like to say first. You need a beer?
Ainsleigh: When we run we have a conflict between wanting to get on down the trail, especially on a day like this coming up, or on any day, getting sufficient nourishment whether it would be fluid or food. One of the things I do that I don’t see many people doing, and I just started this this last year, I carry a half-gallon Ziploc bag. Sometimes I bum it at the aid station because I forget to put it in my shorts—I’ve got this little pocket there. Then I just stuff it full of food and then I walk, eating the watermelon and boiled potatoes with salt. I’m sure you know that if you stand there at that aid station for three minutes and somebody else takes off walking, it takes quite awhile to catch him and it takes a lot of effort. In the meantime, he’s basically resting. So, I would advise all of you who are crewing, carry a half-gallon Ziploc bag in case your runner wants it. All of you runners, put one of those in your little pocket on your shorts.
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you. Half-gallon Ziploc bag. Beer. First question?
Alex: How much water do you need between two checkpoints, the longest one, with it being so hot? Are you okay with 1.5 liters or might you need more (from Hong Kong)?
Ainsleigh: I weigh 200 pounds and I usually carry a 24-ounce bottle that has water and a 24-ounce bottle that has a mix, usually concentrated beyond what they give me at the aid station. Sometimes I’ll carry an additional bottle, like I’m talking about Red Star Ridge. I’ll sometimes head down from Red Star Ridge with three bottles.
Greenwood: I don’t have much experience in the heat. I’ve not been to Hong Kong. But here it tends to be a dry heat, so that might be different from Hong Kong. I would, yes, if you carry water and you get to an aid station and you’ve still got water left, Oh, I’ve wasted carrying that weight. But it’s much better to do that than run out of water and start getting dehydrated and dig yourself into a hole. Personally, I use a hydration pack and I have two liters in that. Certainly, this is meant to be a very hot year, so I would have one handheld with water. You might be planning you can go in a creek and tip that over your head, but if it’s still full… well, I guess if you want to get Giardia, but if it’s still full with tap water or bottled water, if you weren’t planning to tip that over your head but you weren’t thirsty, well, now you’ve got extra water. I think it’s better to carry too much in the fear that you’re going to get slowed down by that. You’ll get slowed down more if you run out of water and get dehydrated.
Alex: So it’s three bottles?
Greenwood: I’d have about 2.5 liters. Equally, when you’re leaving each aid station, you’ll see a sign that gives you the distance to the next aid station. So if you’re looking at those and you’re thinking, Hey, this looks like a longer portion, you can err on the side of caution. If it looks like a short one, then you might take slightly less.
Alex: Second question—I’m still looking for a pacer. Anybody?
Jones-Wilkins: Pacer—anybody who wants to pace? Right here. Come see Alex at the end. Question right here. Marcus.
Marcus: I’m Marcus from Australia. Do you change shoes and socks and if so, why? What would prompt you?
Trason: I know people who do, but the first year when I did, I got to the other side of the river and my feet swelled so much that it took 10 minutes to get my new shoes on. It’s just something to consider if you are going to do that, really undo the laces because your feet—especially in a hot year—can really swell. If it’s looking too bad, you don’t. Your feet will dry. People freak out about it, but it’s going to be so hot after the river… same with socks. You have different abrasion sites. I know a lot of people swear by it, but after that first experience, I didn’t really ever want to see my feet again until the finish.
Jones-Wilkins: Any other shoe comments?
Twietmeyer: I was just going to say, I think the only wet crossing is going to be at the river. Duncan Canyon is not going to be a wet stream crossing if you’re nimble. There are rocks you can get across on. There shouldn’t be a point at which your shoes are getting drenched just from running in the snow if it’s a snow year. So the most opportune time if people really want to change shoes is the river crossing, but if you’re feeling good, just keep going. Don’t change.
Greenwood: One thing I’ll just add like we were talking before for pacers, now your runner after tonight says, “Okay, I don’t need any spare shoes.” Still bring spare socks and shoes.
Ainsleigh: Hey, I’ve got a comment.
Jones-Wilkins: Is it a shoe comment?
Ainsleigh: Yes. Always change a losing game. Never change a winning game. If your shoes are working, and they’re working good enough that you can go on, even if they hurt a little bit… but if it’s not bad, go on.
Twietmeyer: One more quick note on that. If your feet do turn into mush, there will be podiatrists at some of the aid stations. So if it is going to be impossible to continue without getting your feet worked on, get to an aid station that has a doctor there. They will take care of you.
Audience: I think I read once or saw on a film that, Ann Trason, for drop bags to keep things when it’s really hot, to keep them cold, that you use dry ice. I was wondering how you do that. How do you keep things cold on such a hot day (in drop bags)?
Trason: Okay, so I’ve been away awhile. Back in the day, I think you were able to use those little Playmates. I’ve heard that you can’t do those anymore. I don’t know if that’s true, but all my drops were Playmates—little ice box things. So I’d have two bottles in each of those. So I’d just come and pick them up and either I’d freeze the bottles before if it was a hot year—that wasn’t a really great idea—or I’d put a lot of ice in there, so I’d have ice and it was really quick. So that’s how I kept things cold, but I don’t know if that’s allowed… it’s not allowed anymore. So I’m the wrong person to ask.
Jones-Wilkins: Any other questions?
Audience: I’m from the U.K., and I’ve never seen a brown bear. How many can I expect to see on Saturday?
Twietmeyer: It just so happens that I got an email from friend of mine that saw a brown bear at Highway 49 and No Hands Bridge just today, so there’s a decent chance.
Ainsleigh: The thing is, don’t worry about a bear. The only bear you have to worry about is the one who has cubs. So if the bear isn’t running away from you and is looking a little aggressive, start looking around the trees for cubs because that’s probably what’s happening. You can retreat from a bear and it won’t follow you. They basically want to be left alone. Usually they run away from you. I’ve had bears sit there and look at me because they want to get back to tearing the stuff apart and getting to the worms, but what you really have to worry about if you’re out there alone in the wilderness, you might want to worry about a mountain lion. There is a rule with mountain lions: don’t ever run. You cannot run away from a mountain lion. You cannot. Don’t ever run. The only people who get killed are those who run. You have to stare them down. This is a good thing to do. I’ve done it. Stare the mountain lion down. Eventually it will leave.
Audience: Okay, my first fear was getting lost, but now I have bigger fears. This is my first run and I’m worried about getting lost. I’m wondering if any of you guys in the early times of running Western States whether you got lost.
Greenwood: No. It’s a very straightforward answer. Unless you’re the lead guys and it’s a snow year and then you’re really looking out, it’s a very basic trail and the turns are very, very well marked. I don’t say it, but there’s really about zero chance that you’re going to be concerned, Did I go the wrong way?
Ainsleigh: I know a lot of people that get lost. They used to have a saying for the horse riders, “Don’t worry. Nobody has ever been lost more than three days.” I know a lot of people who get lost. It’s mostly during snow years, but not just in snow years. People get kind of carried away. Mike Morton got lost for 15 minutes and then set the record. I think Kilian [Jornet] got lost. We have quite a record of front runners getting lost. I got lost once when I was at the back of a pack running along talking to somebody and the guy who was in front went the wrong way and we all followed him. So when you’re in the back of the pack and following somebody, make sure they’re taking the right turn. Don’t just follow them.
Jones-Wilkins: Certainly, keep an eye out for those yellow ribbons. It is well marked. All the intersections are well marked. There are confidence ribbons. If you’ve gone five minutes without seeing one, you may be off the trail. Just a couple more questions and then some parting words. You had a question, sir?
Audience: Can you over-hydrate? How do you know if you’re over-hydrating or under-hydrating?
Jones-Wilkins: Can you over-hydrate?
Twietmeyer: Oh, yeah. That’s probably one of the most dangerous situations in the race. There will be scales at many of the aid stations that you can weigh in. That will be the first thing that happens when you enter the aid stations. You’ll get your weight. Usually there’s a doctor at the scale or someone watching you weigh in. Then based on what you weighed in tomorrow morning and what you weigh at the aid station, they’ll consult with how you’re taking care of yourself. It’s much more dangerous to be overweight than a little underweight. If you find yourself five or six pounds overweight, it’s time to stop drinking and get back to equilibrium. There’s a lot of research involved there. You’ve probably read it all, but yeah, it is possible. The main thing is just to keep taking your salt and get some other things than just water. If you find yourself gaining weight, stop drinking.
Jones-Wilkins: Pay attention to those scales when you weigh in.
Ainsleigh: If you’re overweight you’re not running hard enough. [laughs]
Jones-Wilkins: One more question.
Audience: I’m not sure about the rules whether a pacer can be in front of a runner, but I’m wondering what’s more effective for a runner to have their pacer them or in front of them. Which one makes you a faster runner?
Jones-Wilkins: Pacer position and what do you think?
Trason: That’s kind of interesting because I always wanted my pacer behind me, but now that I’ve been pacing more or talking to people about it, they kind of… well, the guy in San Diego wanted me behind him, but the two people I’m pacing on Saturday, they want me in front of them. I think it’s really up to how the runner feels more comfortable with.
Jones-Wilkins: I think I’d want you in front of me.
Trason: The other thing is you can change. I listened to my guy until about three miles from the finish, and then I really wanted him to break 26 hours, so I just went ahead and treated him like a dog. “Come on! You can do it! You can really do it!” So it just depends on your runner. You have plenty of time out there to try different positions. [laughs]
Ainsleigh: People have different talents of pacing to get the most out of their bodies. I remember one time I was pacing Catra Corbett at Rio del Lago the last 16 miles. I wish I had volunteered to control her forward progress a little earlier. I didn’t start until we were about eight miles from the finish. I wish I would have started… because I noticed she was running inefficiently. She’d jog a hill and get to the flat and walk. Well, you don’t want to do that. You want to walk the hill and run the flat. About eight miles from the finish I said, “Would you mind if I control the pace?” I’d tell her, “Run now. Walk now,” and we speeded up quite a bit. If we’d had four more minutes at Negro Bar, she could have made 24 hours and that would be a big deal. I didn’t start soon enough. The question is who’s the best? That’s the person who should be controlling the pace whether it’s the pacer or the runner. It really doesn’t matter whether they’re behind or in front. It’s just the person who’s the best has to control the pace. If it’s the runner, they don’t have to say anything, and if it’s the pacer they have to say, “You’ve got to run now. You’ve got to walk now.”
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you. Thank you so much. Before we close, I would thank you for those questions. I would like the panelists to take a moment and just impart for everybody—we’ll start with Gordy and finish with Ann—one takeaway, one single pearl of wisdom for this assembled group going into Saturday.
Ainsleigh: I think I’ve exhausted my pearls of wisdom for the moment. I’m going to pass this to Tim, and if I think of anything at the end I’ll add it.
Twietmeyer: Mostly for the first timers out there, when I did mine for the first time in 1981, I thought the world was coming to the end at Devil’s Thumb. For you guys that are out there for the first time, that’s where you’re going to think that the math just doesn’t add up. You’re half way and you think you’ve used 80% of your energy. Just ignore the math. It doesn’t pan out ever in the last 50 miles. Just keep going. This is where I go back to the original comment. This is where the aid station people make a difference. I remember I sat down at Devil’s Thumb and I was kind of a lump of mush. They gave me those cold towels and a popsicle and told me I was looking good. I knew they were lying. But you know, they just give you that energy. “You know, you just have to go over the Michigan Bluff. It’s not that far.” This was before they had an aid station at the bridge, so it was a long haul. You just go aid station to aid station. Devil’s Thumb is going to be a hard pull. That’s where it’s going to be the hottest part and you’re going to think, Man, this isn’t going to pan out. But just keep moving and you’ll be fine.
Greenwood: I think what Ann’s already mentioned, don’t panic when things go wrong. At a number of races I sometimes hear, they say, “Oh, my race went totally wrong because I left an aid station and I left two gels behind.” And I say, “It didn’t go wrong because you left two gels behind, it went wrong because you panicked that you left those two gels behind.” Yes, you planned to have them. Some of you might have really, really well-laid-out plans. You might have splits where you want to be or where you might change shoes or pick up this. I know one very laid back Calgary runner, and when she came to pick up her pacer at Foresthill, she wasn’t there. She went, “Oh well, I’ll carry on running.” She knew her pacer was going up to the next point when she could. Indeed, when they got to the next point, oh, there she was. “Sorry, I drove the wrong way.” She had the real calm of mind to go, Do you know what? She’s not here and there’s nothing I can do about it. So roll with the things that go wrong. Don’t panic. Don’t stress over them. Think what can I do for the solution? Where’s the next aid station? It might not be the gel flavor I like, but it will keep me going until I get to my crew. Then you’ll be back on track.
Trason: Yeah, I think because of the heat… I always liked the hot years because it challenges you the most. It made you really think. The more you’re thinking the faster the race goes. I would say, just keep trying to look at it not as an athletic event but also as a chess game or whatever. I like to play games. I kind of always looked at the hot years as a play on what I could keep together mentally. Just keep problem solving because… there might be people that won’t have problems on Saturday. Great. I always had problems and on the hot years there were more problems. I just tried to keep thinking. I can kind of work through almost anything.
Jones-Wilkins: Thank you. Thank you so much. Gordy’s got one.
Ainsleigh: I’m kind of repeating what’s been said, especially what Ellie said. There’s the saying that the night is darkest before dawn. There’s a lesson in life in in running for all of us. Most of the people who quit, they quit just before it gets better. I’ve seen that so many times. If you feel like you’re finished, my advice is pull out that half-gallon Ziploc bag, make sure it’s a Ziploc, and fill it up with watermelon and potatoes with a lot of salt and walk to the next aid station because they always used to say here in the old days, back in the day, There’s always another day, but let’s face it, there isn’t always another day. This is your day.
Jones-Wilkins: Thanks, Gordy. All of you are here. You’ve arrived in Squaw Valley in the best shape of your life. As my old friend Andy Black used to say, you’ll arrive in Auburn in the worst shape of your life. But you’ve worked hard. You’ve trained, sacrificed family, jobs, perhaps both. You’ve trashed your feet. You’ve sat in saunas. You’ve gone running in 90-degree weather with sweatshirts on. For those of you who know me, you probably know I’m crazy in love with this race. I said to a person earlier today, I’m like a teenage girl who has a crush on the varsity quarterback when it comes to Western States. I’m going to smile all the way to the finish line if I can on Saturday and probably into Sunday. I think going into Saturday, I’d like to just leave you with this. Of all the great attributes and characteristics that drive us as endurance runners—discipline, focus, aggressiveness, paying attention to the details, having the engineer’s mind for the details but the artist’s mind for the big picture—for me, particularly as a 100-mile runner who doesn’t do very well in anything shorter than 100 miles, the most important characteristic that ultrarunning has given me, and I can ensure you as you’ve heard in these comments, and will come in handy on Saturday and into Sunday, is patience. Patience. I don’t want to get on a soapbox here, but you know this world we live in these days, very impatient world. It wants the cool new thing. What are we doing tomorrow? What text just came in? What am I missing on my Facebook feed while I’m here listening to these people talk? But when we go out there Saturday and have 18 to 30 hours to get across from Squaw Valley to Auburn, patience is going to really matter when we panic if our pacer doesn’t show up or there’s not enough ice at Cal 3, or they’re taking boats instead of walking across the river, God forbid. If you have that patience, and we’ve learned patience, right? Maybe we’ve been injured and we’ve had to be patient to get over those injuries. We’ve had bad races where we had to recover from and build up again and be patient in our training and believe in our patience and just sticking with it and just showing up day after day would be enough. If you can go into Saturday, and as Gordy said, take your time up that hill. Be sure to turn around and look back at the lake before you dive into Granite Chief Wilderness. Talk to the aid station people. Spend some time with your crews. Patiently experience this. For many of you—let’s face it, this has become a race that has taken on a life of its own—for many in this room, this is your one time here. Savor it. Enjoy it. Most of all, patiently find your way from Squaw Valley to Auburn. On behalf of everyone with the Western States race and particularly Gordy, Tim, Ellie, and Ann, thank you so much. Have a great race on Saturday.