Thursday, July 3, 2014

Proud of Shavi - Western States 100-miles nicely done.

Since the day that I had known that Shavi would be doing Western States this year, I was looking forward to it (NOT). It is a hard course plus such kind of races require lot of training. We both knew that with a newborn at home (which means sleepless nights) and crazy work, training would not be easy at all. Yet Shavi was determined to do it.

I have a lot of respect for such long distance runners. Not only because they run that far but because they undergo a lot of training which requires lot of perseverance, hardships and determination. As they say - it is all in the brain. To train the brain along with physical training is no way even close to easy. Shavi used to go out for a run when the temperature would be in 100s (Fahrenheit), wearing 3 layers of clothes and a jacket, gloves, cap. People on the trails might have been thinking that he has some issues probably, but we knew how hard it was to train for heat! He would go sit in saunas for couple of hours. Do hot yoga. And of course run almost all day on weekends. Ugh. He just went on one night training run, to figure out what all he needs for running during night. Extra, extra headlights and batteries, mosquito repellents, a light jacket etc.

I cannot tell what he really underwent while running the race but from the viewpoint of crew, I can tell what I was undergoing while he was running:-) The race started in Squaw Valley on June 28, 2014 at 5am. We were all there in Squaw Valley since Thursday evening. I drove back home late Friday, leaving Shavi there at the hotel.

Shavi had to be at the start line before 4am to check-in. The breakfast they gave was very minimal - cupcakes and coffee. The race started at 5am. The first 4 miles had an ascent with an elevation gain of more than 2550 ft. All uphill and then landing on your fours to cross a section to reach Escarpment. It was cold that morning, in early 30s. So, Shavi had to dress accordingly and then keep removing layers as it kept becoming warmer. He had drop bags at some aid stations and a crew who were there at few aid stations to help him.

Most of the aid stations are not easily accessible and are a pain to get to. Shavi's crew went to Duncan Canyon, Dusty Corners, Robinson Flat, Michigan Flat from where he picked the pacer, Foresthill and then Green Gate (from where he picked his second pacer).

I was monitoring Shavi online through ultralive but they take a little bit time to update the status. He was going pretty much at his planned pace in the beginning but then something slowed him down after Escarpment.

From the crew at Robinson Flat (mile 23), I got to know that his lower back was hurting a lot and knee was bothering him as well. I was a little concerned and wanted to go see him at the next aid station which was Dusty Corners but it would have been hard with the baby. The road to Dusty corners is 30-miles very winding and narrow road. Shavi had earlier convinced me against it, plus it was a 2 hour drive from Sacramento with no cell phone signal.

I just kept waiting to hear from the crew. It was almost 2.30pm when Shavi's second pacer texted me saying that Shavi was showing as "Dropped" on the WS website. I was almost in tears when I saw that. He was so well-determined to this plus with so much training he had put in and so much guilt that he had for ignoring the baby due to training, this should not have happened. Not sure what to do now, since I couldnt contact the crew at next aid station (Dusty Corners) where he was to reach at 3pm. There was no cell phone coverage out there. Scrambling here and there, I got another text from his second pacer saying that he is back on course. Seems like the "Dropped" status was in error. There were tears of happiness in my eyes!!!! I was so happy. I started packing stuff for being there at Michigan Bluff/Foresthill with Shavi's first pacer.
We reached Michigan Bluff (around mile 55) around 7pm even though Shavi was to be there at 8.30pm per what he told someone whom he saw on the trails. The message was communicated to me. The shuttle service to get to Michigan Bluff closes at 7.30pm. I was concerned if they would let us drive to MB. The parking is very limits in MB. You just park on the roads. They let us drive, telling us to come back after dropping the pacer. Fortunately, we found a parking spot up there. It was a little bit of uphill to drag the stroller from the parking to the aid station. The route to MB is quite simple - take a right on Michigan bluff road from Foresthill and keep going the narrow road for 3-4 miles.

Shavi was there at exactly 8.30pm. I saw him and was relieved. His crew had been massaging his lower back and he had kept going, taking it easy on his pace. I was relieved that the heat was gone now and he would have a pacer from now onwards.
Next place I went was Foresthill (around mile 62). I was amazed at so many people out there, helping the runners. I am at a lose of words for our running community. With a cranky baby (since it was almost 10pm), I did not know how to handle everything but there were so many people out there whom we know, who were waiting to help Shavi. Things became so much easier for me. Cannot thank these people enough.

I went home with the baby after seeing Shavi at Foresthill. He took what he needed, did not change shoes which I thought he would. He kept going in pain - back pain, knee issues, blisters and what not. I reached home around midnight.
I was monitoring him online plus I kept hearing from the pacer who had his cell phone with him. Shavi had to stop quite a bit because he started getting blisters and lot of chaffing. He had to pop the blisters every now and then. And even with all those hardships, I saw online that Shavi had started picking his pace even more. From his 30-hour finish, he was moving to 29-hour finish which sounded incredible with all those pains. At Green Gate (around mile 78), where he reached around 5am ish, he got dropped his first pacer and picked the second one. To get to green gate is a steep 3-mile hike from parking. Not an easy aid station for the crew. Shavi kept picking up his pace. I kept getting texts from his pacer and all others who were out there cheering, telling me about Shavi's progress. What a sleepless night that was! Looking at so many other experienced runners who had dropped did not make anything easy either.
With the baby, I reached the finish line at Auburn High School around 8.45am. It is always like festivities going on out there. From mile 99 (Robie point - the last aid station), I got lot of texts when Shavi reached there. It is almost a 15-min uphill hike from there to the finish. A group of our runner friends and his crew ran him in to the Auburn High School track where the race ends. We (the baby and I) ran with him through the track to the finish line. What a glorious moment it was. I sure felt proud of him!!

His hard training had paid off. He was there at the finish line with his little baby, smiling and feeling proud of his blisters, swollen feet, broken toe-nails, so much chaffing and all the aches. Not bad for running 100 miles. What say!!!:-)
He finished in 28 hours and 43 mins. The race has a cut off time of 30 hours. Thanks for making us so proud of you, husband!

6K Uphill challenge run - Squaw Valley - June 27, 2014

After every half mile, I wanted to turn back. This is the initial course of the Western States 100-mile Endurance run: 2550 ft climb in those initial ~4 miles. Brutal is the only word.
This run is organized every year by Montrail, a day before the Western States race. It starts at 10am and is limited to first 200 people on a first-cum basis. Not that if you are not registered, you cannot run up there, but you do not get the swag like the water bottle etc. Well, it is more of a hike for most people, since it is all uphill. Beautiful views and totally worth it.
Coming down is not easy either. I love downhills but this one isn’t easy since the slope is quite a lot. They have free trams for the race participants from the top which take you down but I preferred to run back. Going up took me 1 hour 7 mins while coming down was 25 mins.
Once I did this, I was glad I did it and I was worried about Shavi doing the Western States 100 miler the next day. It got me a very tiny little taste of what Shavi was going to endure next day.