Friday, January 8, 2016


Wow, I have wanted to used that hashtag for a long time.  Western States 100, the oldest 100 mile race in the country, and probably the most prestigious.  Kind of like the superbowl of US ultrarunning (although plenty of international folks come over too).  Brings out some of the best competition, but really, just has such a rich history and electric vibe to it, that anyone would be grateful to run it.  And I most certainly am.

I found out about this race years ago, early in my ultra running experience, and was taken by it after watching Unbreakable.  I wanted that experience.  It's a hard one to come by though simply because of supply and demand.  A whole lot of people want to run it, thousands, and there are only about 300 spots.  I put in for the lottery for years, no luck.  Most people have to put in a lot longer though.

I spent 2014 and 2015 chasing it the hard way, the Montrail Ultra Cup.  5 or so 50m-100k races where the top 2 men and top 2 women are given slots (which can roll down to 5th if needed).  I ran Lake Sonoma 50 in California in 2014 not really expecting to get in, but I was sure going to give it my best effort.  I placed 8th and I believe the slot went down to 3rd or 4th.  I raced Bandera 100k in
January of 2015 after a long year prior, and a cold windy winter preparing for a warm weather race by doing what heat training I could in SLC.  Turned out colder there than at home race day, and I just felt flat all day. As a mountain girl I also underestimated the Texas hills. I really thought that would be my day though.  I placed 6th.  That was a hard blow to have put so much mental and physical energy, and money, into something I really believed I could do, and not have it happen.  I was bothered enough I had to try again with the great fitness I knew I had built.
So the next month I went from cold and icy rocks and insanely sticky and heavy mud, to way more heat than my winter body was ready for at the Black Canyon 100k.  Again I went in determined.  I went alone, this was no family trip, not even a couple's trip.  I was there to earn a spot.  I ran in 3-5th place for the first 16 miles, with a wonderful pack of women, and it was surreal to be there and feel totally capable.  Then the really heat of the day started, and it took a toll on me like I've never felt
before.  I don't know that it was anything I did wrong, although I've learned from it how to deal with the heat better which served me well at Wasatch, but I was beaten down to walking much of the next 9 hours nauseous and dizzy and never wanting to DNF more in my life for such a long period of time.  I thank the Lord for friend and fellow mom and runner Carol who I spent much of the day with, trying to get each other to continue.  Pacer and new friend Cari had to listen to my whining and endless talking to keep me moving since now the only reason I was finishing was hope of the Last Chance Lottery.  If you finished any MUC race in 2014 you were entered into a drawing for 1 Western States spot.  I had to finish so that I could say I tried everything to get that spot.  I did finish, but didn't get that spot or the one at Bandera.  That last Black Canyon spot rolled down to 4th or 5th I believe and looking at the time run, I was really upset at myself again.  I really do feel like I could have run that time if the heat hadn't consumed me.  But I didn't.  Note - the women ahead of me in all these races are amazing and certainly belonged there, I would never take anything from them.

I learned a little something from those MUC experiences of trying to get in.  It burned me out a little.  A) these races take place in the winter or spring and in warmer weather states and I live in a snow state.  Despite my best efforts, I just don't know that I can acclimate well enough to place that high, and
B) the time and money it took to train for and travel to those races is more than I should take from my family right now.  I don't mean to sound like those faster than I have it easy or don't train their butts off, in fact, they probably and most certainly train harder and more than I do.  But many don't have 4 young kids and are going to school right now.  I just simply don't have the time and resources ($) to train to the level it really takes to earn one of those spots.  Nor should I personally put my family below my athletic goals to this extent.  I committed to not enter the Ultra Cup races this year, but I would of course throw my name in the lottery since I had plenty of the qualifying races
Fast forward a few months and Altra became the Western States 100 official shoe sponsor.  Wow!  I can't tell you how cool that moment was.  My husband Jeremy and Golden and Brian were 3 20-something year old guys that had a dream to solve a problem and started a shoe company that incredibly spread across the whole world, in the 6 short years since conception.  With that came a couple race entries.  I wasn't sure initially how I felt about that and how I'd feel if I was offered one. I didn't want to feel like it was less of an entry and effort than any other method of entry.  I didn't just want it 'given' to me (we're a weird breed eh?).  I wanted to feel like I earned it.  And somehow, even the lottery felt more like earning it to me.  But I put my name in that hat hoping to be selected.  And then the slots were offered to two other wonderful Endurance Team athletes of ours and I was pretty bummed.  A lot actually especially after not getting into the WS or Hardrock lottery.  I've been pretty unsure and lost as to what this year would hold despite so many other great races out there. 
About a month later after a funny turn of events, I got a phone call wondering if I still wanted to run Western States.  It surprised me and caught me off guard since I certainly wasn't planning  on that race was planning on not training up to and racing a 100 until the fall, but um, YES, of course I want to race Western States!!
And I'm not going be anything but excited now..  I know there are so many people, so many of my friends who want to do this race and have worked hard to keep their qualifiers and enter the lottery or go to theses qualifying races.  I have done those things too though, so I'm going to take this opportunity given to me as an Altra Endurance Team athlete to experience one of the most amazing races out there!

                                                            #seeyouinsquaw     Wow


Sarah Jarvis said...

Absolutely thrilled for you, Leslie!!! You totally deserve it!

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