I Knew This Day Would Come: Spectating at the Western States 100

AJW comes to grips with having to skip running the Western States 100 due to a knee injury.

By on June 1, 2012 | 17 comments

AJWs Taproom“Hey mom, how are you doing?” I said, trying to sound upbeat.

“Good,” she said, “How’d the weekend in Auburn go?”

“Not so well, mom, I think I am going to bail on the summer and just get healthy.”


“I am proud of you, Andy,” she said in that knowing motherly voice, “You’ll be all that much stronger and smarter next year!

And, just like that, my summer racing plans were canceled.

I suppose I knew this day was coming for a while as I was struggling with my return to running after meniscus surgery in March and a couple setbacks along the way but it really didn’t hit me until I told my mom I was dropping out. Something about that made it definitive, and also, it made it OK.

As much as I want to run Western States and Hardrock this summer I know I shouldn’t. And now that I’ve told my mom, I know I can’t.

But, what next?

Well, for me, in the short-term, I am looking forward to spending race weekend at Western States as a spectator. From what I’ve been told, I have a space in the backseat of Twiet’s truck alongside Craig Thornley. Provided those guys have ear plugs, we should be good to go. After that, I am not sure.

Turns out I may need a second surgery to repair my damaged knee. The recovery was going well to a point, but it never quite progressed to a point where I knew I was “better.” I, of course, hope that I can live to fight another day, but these things are fleeting and I need to take what I can get. Whatever happens, I know that running, in general, and Western States, in particular, has found a way into my heart and for that I am forever grateful.

Just a few experiences from this past weekend I spent in Auburn to illuminate the point:

Hanging out with Jorge Maravilla in the Raley’s Parking lot in Auburn talking about the race, his expectations, his questions of me, and the notion of being a part of something bigger than yourself. In this day and age of self-promotion and short-term impact branding, it was impressive and fun to sit in a parking lot, and not just any parking lot, either, but a parking lot in which I have spent hours talking about running and Western States, to share a few thoughts with a relatively new runner to the game and just to exchange the love of The Trail.

Running leisurely down from Michigan Bluff to El Dorado Creek and back not as training but as fuel for the soul. Enjoying those relaxed miles with Craig, Scott, Lewis, Meghan, Dave and others made the heartache I was feeling much easier to stomach. And, emerging out of the Canyon to hang out with 10-time finishers Bill Davis and Ray Scannell really served to connect the past to the future for me.

“Working” the Cal 2 Aid Station with Western States legends Craig Thornley, John Medinger, and Tim Twietmeyer on Sunday morning really made the sting of the reality of my not racing next month wash away. Here I was, surrounded by three extraordinary men, all of whom have given of themselves to this race for decades, and it was all good. And, along the way, we had a really, really good time. I mean, when’s the last time you had your water bottle filled by the future RD, the past Board President and Editor-in-Chief of Ultrarunner Magazine, and, oh yeah, a 25-time finisher and five-time winner of the race? Good stuff, indeed.

All this leads me to the clear understanding that all is well with the world. Sure, I am bummed that, for the first time since 2004, I will not be on the starting line at Squaw, but, heck, it had to happen sometime and I have no choice but to be OK with that.

Honestly, I truly hope this is not the end of the line for me. I hope to one day, once again, get a chance to toe the line at Squaw. I love the race and I love to run. But, I also know I need to get healthy and in this case, this year, it is not meant to be. So, like the shameless optimist that I am, I will dream to fight another day. And, in the meantime, I hope the rest of you out there, all of you, find a way to fulfill your dreams. Heck, I have had the opportunity to circle that track eight times, EIGHT TIMES! That’s amazing, that’s lucky, that’s the kind of thing that defines a life. Here’s a guy with house, cars, wife, kids, jobs, etc… who gets to run this thing. I’ve been chased down for 10th and I’ve gutted out a 4th. I ran through the sauna for 6th and had no idea what I was doing when I ended up 8th. One year, heck, I ended up 2nd just by running faster and faster as the day went along.

Just this past weekend I met people who have waited five years for their one chance at this thing and they are finally here. They are finally poised on the edge of a Western States start. I, for one, want every one of them to finish and I am looking eagerly forward to cheering each and every one of them around the track when they arrive in Auburn on that illustrious, extraordinary, life-defining fourth weekend in June. Until then…

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Auburn Alehouse Gold Country PilsnerThere is no doubt that this week’s Beer of the Week comes from the Auburn Alehouse in Auburn, CA. Their Gold Country Pilsner Lager is a light-tasting, fast-drinking brew in the German tradition that is really crisp and surprisingly strong. Great on one of Auburn’s hot June evening’s, like the one that’s coming on the 23rd. :-)

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • What action signifies that you truly won’t run a key race?
  • How do you deal with that decision?
Andy Jones-Wilkins
Andy Jones-Wilkins finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.