Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jbob's Western States 100 mile Endurance Run - June 28, 2014

"Everybody hurts...sometimes." ~ R.E.M.

Photo used by

I got this. There's so much to say about this race. For one thing, it's one of the most revered 100 mile races in the world, and I was fortunate enough to be selected via lottery to run it. A week before the race, I was starting to get anxious, but I wasn't nervous. My training was as good as it could have been, and I was confident that I could attain my goal of 19 long as nothing went horribly wrong during the race (i.e. sprained ankle, epic chafing, cougar attacks (animal and/or human), stomach issues, explosive diarrhea, etc). Leading up to the race, I was sleeping like a baby knowing that I was as prepared as I wanted to be.

Wearing cheetah shorts IS my heat training.

My family! Both my parents and two sisters traveled from the Bay Area and Portland to crew me. They decorated the car, had custom t-shirts and hats made, and brought the nice camera to take pictures with. I'm blessed to have such a loving family to come and support me, and I Love them dearly for it.

Portland Sister, Dad, California Sister, and Mum!

The "kid" from Corvallis, Andrew Miller. He's a stud, and he's won most of the races that he's ran this year including the Waldo 100k. Though he's only 18, he was 3rd place at the Pine to Palm 100 miler last year. With his speed, 100 mile experience, and positive attitude, I was stoked to have him pace me for the last 40 miles of Western States.

Andrew, on his way to winning the Orcas Island 50k.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
  • Shoes: Saucony Peregrine 4
  • Water Source: double fisting 26oz bottles
  • Hat: Trail Butter Trucker Hat
  • Headlamp: Petzl Myo RXP (this headlamp spent 20 seconds drowning in the Rucky Chucky River, and still worked afterwards)
  • Shirt: Animal Athletics Patagonia Capilene 1
  • Socks: Drymax socks (the Peterson Ridge Rumble finisher's prize)
  • Bandana: White with a sewn pocket for ice to be inserted
  • Arm Sleeves: Mountain Hardware
  • Nipple Tape: Sexy Rock Tape
  • Lube: None


The course starts in Squaw Valley, CA (near Lake Tahoe) and ends in Auburn, CA (near Sacramento). After going through the high country, much of the the trail goes in and out of the American River Canyons.

Western States Race Profile.
Read from RIGHT to LEFT.

The start at Squaw Valley was cold at 4:45 am, but it was tolerable in shorts and a t-shirt. As I joined the rest of the nervous runners at the start, I greeted as many friends that I could. It was easy to tell which of my friends were too nervous to sleep the night before. As the clock counted down, Gordy gave some last words of encouragement, challenging female elites like Pam Smith to beat every runner but one (as Ann Trason did in 1994). Then the gun went off.

Photo by Brooks Leman.

Hundreds of journeys (not the band) led to this moment. Photo by Brooks Leman.
There were so many friends and family lined up to cheer on the runners as we all started running up the mountain, it was impossible to tell which yelling faces belonged to my family. Onward and upward! Soon enough, the running turned to hiking, and I mimicked almost every step of Monkey Boy and AJW, two smart runners who know this course inside and out (this was AJW's 10th Western States). When they ran, I ran. When they hiked, I hiked. It definitely helped restrain my tapered legs from chasing runners who I wanted to beat...Run smart, be efficient, and have's 100 f***ing miles, not 20. After committing to the idea of allowing runners to outrun me for the first 50 miles, I settled in and focused on controlling my breathing and heart rate.

The runners stampede up the mountain,
as my Sister and Mum watch.
Photo by Brooks Leman
The legs felt heavy, but I attributed that to the altitude (9,000'). The first 3 miles were fairly gradual on an uphill cat track, followed by some single track through a field of wildflowers as the sun was rising. It was über pretty, and I was filled with gratefulness.
Photo by Luis Escobar.
The high country trail was very single track, crossing little runoff streams and rolling mostly downward. The AJW and Monkey Boy party train was at least 10 runners strong, without much chatter. The  people who were talking the most were Stephanie Howe and Nikki Kimball, and they were chatting up a storm! The group started spreading out after the Lions Ridge aid station (mile 10), and that's when Stephanie made her move. As she bounded down the trail in front of me, I politely yelled at her to keep the dust down. She laughed, I think. That was the last I saw of her, and Stephanie would eventually finish first place woman.

The high country was filled with big leafed plants that were definitely not poison oak. Knowing that the inevitable would happen soon, I grabbed a handful of leaves and shoved them in my shorts for future use as toilet paper. Seriously, those leaves were the Charmin of the forest! The Red Star Ridge aid station volunteers laughed at my ingenuity after they saw the ration of leaves poking out of my shorts. The leaves were put to good use around mile 22.

Running with the likes of Pam Smith (she won Western States last year), I felt like I was finally in a rhythm. I did my best to keep Pam in sight, knowing that she was a smart runner and probably trying to win the race. As we climbed out of Duncan Canyon towards Robinson Flat, I saw the first carnage of the day. James Bonnett, aka fast motherfucker, was walking slowly with a hamstring issue. I wished him well as I pressed on to Robinson Flat.

ROBINSON FLAT - MILE 29.7 - 43rd Place Overall

It felt amazing to see my family and Andrew at the aid station, and it gave me a huge emotional boost. My legs felt like they just ran 30 miles (go figure), and my family helped me replenish my pockets with GU, replaced my ice bandana, and handed me my precious Coconut Water. I left the aid station full of food, water, and life.

Robinson Flat. Photo by Brooks Leman.
Shortly after Robinson flat, the trail begins a loooong gradual 15 mile downhill to the swinging bridge. Yay, lots of downhill running! Wait a minute, why do I feel like throwing up? Feeling a disturbance in my gut, I stopped for a brief second to take a deep breath. Using my superior problem solving skills, I realized that I had broken one of the golden rules of 100-mile races:

"Don't do anything different on race day that you aren't used to doing!"

Having consumed an S-cap (salt pill) at the previous two consecutive aid stations, my stomach was like "WTF?". S-caps contain a ton of sodium, and I wasn't sweating nearly enough salt to warrant taking the supplement. Also, I never use S-caps during training or in races, probably because I don't sweat that much (thank you, Pacific Northwest weather). So of course, popping salt pills made me feel bloated in the gut and nauseous, therefore causing me great discomfort. Of course I eventually recovered, but I went through at least 1 hour of discomfort, as seen in this photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

Feeling Terrible. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama before Dusty Corners.
After Dusty Corners, the trail leveled off for a while before dropping down towards Swinging Bridge. On the way down (at about mile 40), I noticed a sharp pain in both knees isolated directly beneath the knee cap. Perhaps my form was a a bit off, or maybe my glutes weren't absorbing the downhill impact like they should, but my knees were hurting on all steep downhill grades. Crap! Downhills are my favorite! Why is this happening? Is it getting aggravated or staying the same? Will this cause me to drop out of the race? Lots of thoughts were going through my head. I tried braking less on the downhills, but the pain was mostly inevitable. The good thing was, the uphills and flats didn't hurt. So after soaking in the river crossing below Swinging Bridge, I knew I had 2 more excruciating canyon downhills and 3 more climbs before arriving at Foresthill (mile 62) where the trail becomes more gradual. Come on knees, get to Foresthill!

After passing an uncharacteristically slow Emily Harrison, I feared that her day was over. I resolved then to get to the finish line, even if my knees forced me to walk. Come on body, don't blow up.

Just beyond the Swinging Bridge creek crossing (mile 44), is a climb called Devil's Thumb that leads out of the canyon. There's something like 37 switchbacks before reaching the top, and so I started counting the switchbacks one by one...then I lost count...then I just kind of fell into a groove. The climb up Devil's Thumb wasn't terribly steep (by Columbia River Gorge standards), and I was able to catch several people on the climb. After arriving at the top, I was weighed, sweet talked by Ma Boggess, encouraged by Denise (saying I was in 41st place), sponged by volunteers, hugged by Trail Butter Jeff, and got my bandana iced by good friend Joe Uhan. After getting stoked on their positive energy, I was feeling more optimistic about my race. Just 2 more canyon descents...

Mortally wounded in vain.
Running downhill strong, but not terribly fast because of my knees, the temperature was getting noticeably hotter as I dove deeper into the canyon. Poison oak was becoming a constant border for the trail, and I was being careful not to OOF!...ouch...system check...bottles still in hand, legs fine...what did I land on, rebar? Shit, stupid stick. Not knowing what I tripped on, I face planted into a poison oak bush near the edge of the trail, nearly impaling my shoulder on a stick that was sticking out of the ground. With my arms, shoulder, bottles (and consequently my mouth) draped in poison oak, I was going to find out soon how allergic I was. Lucky me, I'm apparently not allergic. Smiley face.


At the bottom of the canyon was the El Dorado Creek aid station. It wasn't so hot that I needed to jump into the creek, but I decided to anyways. It took some scrambling to get down to the water's edge, and I was happy to be feeling so limber at the 50 mile mark of the race. After getting pleasantly soaked from a refreshing submersion, I left the aid station wet, refreshed, and ready to hike hard to get to Michigan Bluff (3 miles away). AJW had passed me at the aid station, but I was able to hike past him and a few others on the uphill. My climbing legs still felt great, and hiking was easy. Just before Michigan Bluff, I began feeling the energy of the aid station and started running towards the noise.

AID STATION #10 - MICHIGAN BLUFF - MILE 53-ish - 40th Place Overall

Coconut water, new GUs, knee straps for my knees, a sunscreen rub down from my family and Todd Janssen, a first and last sip of Perpetuem, lots of water melon, and off I go.

Flamingos. Were. Everywhere.
Photo by Brooks Leman.
My first and last sip of Perpetuem. Bleh. Photo by Brooks Leman.
My face leaving the Aid Station was that of an internal systems check for my knees, gauging the usefulness of the knee straps. There was only one more steep downhill left before reaching Foresthill, so hopefully this would be the last of the excruciating descents. I ran as much as I could, but the steepness definitely slowed me down in places. Frustration ensued, because I LOVE running technical downhill...but I was almost walking downhill at this point.

More carnage. The Pixie Ninja (Kaci Lickteig) stepped aside to let me, AJW, and one other pass by. She was struggling with hip flexor issues, I think.

At the bottom of the descent was a stream just big enough to soak in. I'm starting to really enjoy these streams! Finally beginning the ascent, I unambitiously hiked behind AJW until we reached Bath Road, where my pacer Andrew was waiting for me. This moment was my turning point, and I enthusiastically ran most of the uphill portion of the road without feeling any fatigue. Perhaps my slowness in the canyons was a blessing in disguise, for my legs still felt fresh as I was was approaching mile 62.

AID STATION #13-ish - FORESTHILL - MILE 62 - 38th Place Overall

Photo by Brooks Leman.
Foresthill was packed with crews and pacers awaiting their runners, and the energy was incredibly uplifting. My family was perfectly addressing my needs, and the aid station volunteers were very professional. 

Family: "Hey Jason, do you need a sponge bath?"
Me: "Depends on who's doing it...*sees two cute volunteers holding sponges*...YES!"

After getting my neck rubbed down, I collected by replenished bottles from my family and began tearing down Foresthill Road towards Cal Street with Andrew.

Stride for stride, picking up the pace for the final 38 miles. Photo by Brooks Leman.
As we ran, I gave Andrew the rundown of my first 62 miles and how my legs were feeling. He took the lead and we scampered down the trail at a solid pace. AJW suddenly flew by us with his pacer, Bryon Powell. There's a man who knows when to kick it in gear. Before long, AJW was out of sight, out of mind. But slowly, Andrew and I began passing other runners one by one. We flew by Nick Clark (paced by Jacob Rydman) who looked absolutely blown up. We gave him some encouragement as we passed by.

Pretty soon, we caught up to Adam Hewey (and pacer), who I'd been leapfrogging with all day. We were running the same pace, and I wasn't too keen on passing him just yet. Knowing that he walked after every aid station in order to help digest his food, we decided to make our move at Cal 3 aid station.  By calculating ahead of time what I needed (watermelon and some electrolyte beverage), we were able to make a quick aid station transition and ran past Adam on the downhill thereafter. We also passed AJW as he was yakking on the side of the trail, which is only fair, since earlier he passed me while I was taking a shit in front of him.

Heads down, we pushed hard to put space between me and Adam, and we consequently caught a couple more runners as we made our way to the Rucky Chucky River Crossing. In 2013, I was hanging out at this aid station where I witnessed Jeremy Humphrey getting pulled from the race by the medical staff because he had a head rush and blacked out for a second. I was feeling fine, but I made sure that I was hydrated and fueled enough so that my body would at least appear functional when I arrived at the aid station.

AID STATION #17 - RUCKY CHUCKY RIVER CROSSING (near) - MILE 78 - 32nd Place Overall

"Hold me closer, Joe! Seriously, I need to get a rock out of my shoe, hold on to me for a sec."
My family, pacer, and Joe Uhan at the Rucky Chucky (near) Aid Station.
Photo by Brooks Leman
Moments before my headlamp fell in the water.
Photo by Facchino Photography.
Andrew, holding my headlamp. Photo by Facchino Photography.
HIGH FIVE! Photo by Facchino Photography.
After crossing the river, Andrew and I hiked for a little ways while our balls recovered from the cold river crossing. Then we began run/hiking up the gradual climb to Green Gate, focusing on putting more space between me and Adam. Little did we know we were untouchable.

Reaching the Green Gate aid station (ironically, the gate wasn't green), the trail leveled off, and I jumped in front of Andrew. The sun was fast approaching sunset, and the temperatures were dropping lower and lower. Maybe it was the refreshing river crossing, or the dusk air, but my legs felt phenomenal. My legs had very little fatigue, and there were no signs of imminent cramping. We were flying, and we were both surprised by how fast we were moving.

One by one, we were catching runners. As soon as our headlamps came on, it became easier to hunt the runners ahead of us. At times, we turned our headlamps off so we could sneak up on runners before blowing by them at a demoralizing pace. I never thought I could have so much fun 80 miles into a 100 mile race. Unfortunately, one of the runners we passed was our friend Pam Smith and her pacer Dennis. She was having quad issues, and her pursuit of a repeat championship was now yesterday's dream. As with everyone we passed, we gave them words of encouragement.

AID STATION #22 - HIGHWAY 49 CROSSING - MILE 93.5 - 28th Place Overall

Blazing through the Highway 49 Aid Station.
Photo by Brooks Leman.
After a quick transition, we ran out the aid station like blood thirsty cheetahs. We could smell the barn, and we were going to catch as many people as possible between Highway 49 and the finish line. My stomach was full of Coconut Water, potatoes, salt, and watermelon. As we climbed out of the aid station, I tried burping...unsuccessfully. On my third attempt, I threw up everything in my stomach. When I was done, we hiked, then we ran. I soon ingested a GU to see if my stomach was still upset, but thankfully the GU stayed down. Everything still felt good, so we continued to push. Hmm...perhaps the coconut water and salt didn't agree with one another. Doesn't matter now. Carry on, my wayward son!

Hammering down to "No Hands Bridge", we passed Jorge Maravilla, Mauclair Nathalie, and Yoshikazu Hara. As we crossed the bridge, I made Andrew look behind us to see if anybody posed a threat. To my delight, he wasn't worried. We ran everything until the final steep climb to Robie Point. With a mile left, we received word that the next runner was 2 minutes ahead. We turned off our headlamps (stealth mode) and climbed the road in the dark, surprising several of the neighbors as they sat and cheered for us. The last thing I said to Andrew as we neared the finish line at Placer High School track: "Thanks man. Let my family know that I may throw up." I then ran hard around the track and sprinted through the finishers shoot. The entire race, I never knew what time of day it was, or any of my splits until I saw the clock at the finish line. It was a nice surprise.

RESULTS: 18:36:51 - 24th overall out of 296 finishers - 22nd male
PACE: ~11:08 min/mile

Photo by Brooks Leman.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Hugging Andrew. Thanks Seven Hills Running Shop for featuring this photo on your wall.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama. 
Hugging Siiri. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
My crew. Teresa, Mum, Andrew, Brooks, me, and Christine.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Elated. Proud. Grateful. Stiff. Hungry. Nauseous. Happy. That race was an crazy awesome experience, and I felt unbelievably incredible the last 40 miles of the race. I finished almost wishing I had 5 more miles to catch more runners, I was having that much fun. Luckily, my knees didn't slow me down for the last 40 miles. I'm not sure why they were hurting so bad in the canyons, but perhaps it was due to some slight overtraining.


The Silver Buckle with the Western States Cougar.


Craig Thornley & Co, and Volunteers. Never have I run a race with more energy, hype, and prestige. This truly is the Boston Marathon of ultramarathons, and I had a blast running this race. Thank you Craig Thornley (RD), Western States Board members, Aid Station Captains, Volunteers, and those who did trail work and helped remedy the damage done by last summer's fire. The organization of this race was exceptional and professional. Thank you for the experience of a lifetime.

My Family. Thank you for traveling to support me in my 100-mile endeavor. It was a blast having you all around, and you were a huge help to me throughout the race. I couldn't have asked for a better crew. I Love you all unconditionally.

Andrew. Andrew, you were the perfect pacer. You were always positive, encouraging, and fun to run with. Thanks for the journey, you got me running faster than I thought possible at the end of a 100-miler.

My Friends. Thank you to those of you who followed my progress throughout the race. I felt your energy every time you hit the refresh button. 

Seven Hills Running Shop of Seattle. I bought my Saucony Peregrines at your store! And thanks for making sure my pacer had a shirt to wear.

Trail Butter. Thanks for the pre-race fuel that kept me running all day long.

Animal Athletics & Ultra U.  Thank you for the encouragement and support throughout the past year. You guys are awesome!

Float Shoppe. Floating has become essential in helping me recover and relieve the stresses of training for a 100-mile race. I can't say enough about the benefits I've been feeling by continually floating between races and long runs.

Dr. Brad Farra, Sports Chiropractor. Thank you for helping me stay strong and injury-free throughout my training. My life would suck without you.

24-Hour Fitness. All those awkward Sauna conversations paid off and helped prepare me for running hot weather. Also, now I know that lathering my body in Honey while in a sauna will make my skin look sexy and amazing. I learned that from a dude.


This race has opened up a whole new can of confidence for me at the 100-mile distance. As I continue to improve through the years, I hope one day I'll be able to compete with the elites when they're having a good day. I'm getting closer...

Though this race now has a special place in my heart, I will not be applying for the 2015 lottery. Instead I'll be chasing other things on my "To Do" list.

Much Love,