Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

June 24, 2000
Squaw Valley, California
By Mike Campbell

Mike at Western StatesIn six months I'll be turning 51 and in dedication to my dad, who incidentally passed away at the age of 51, I wanted to do this race for him. At the point of near dropping out due to severe cramping, all I had to do was glance down at my tank top, which read "In Memory of my Dad".

Learning of Western States first hand was the best experience. From having run two previous 100 miles races and consuming a continuous carbo loading diet, I was well prepared for this feat. During the last month of training, my weekly mileage increased from 125 to155 miles, and I even got in 80 miles the week of the race. The more training I put in, the better I actually felt. This is almost exactly how I trained for the last two Old Dominion 100 Mile races, and how I got my PR down to around 19 hours and 30 minutes.

Themar and Jason (my crewmembers) and I flew into Reno on Thursday and arrived to the Truckee Inn around midnight. The temperature was a little chilly around 50 degrees, but we awoke to a pleasant 70 degrees temperature with no humidity on Friday morning.

Checking in was pretty smooth, with everyone so curious, polite and pleasant. I weighed in at 135lbs, 2 lbs down from last year, then they recorded my blood pressure and heart rate. I proceeded through the check line, got T-shirts, a backpack (North Face), and goodies, bought some souvenirs and something to eat at the local deli before our mandatory pre-race meeting at 1:30pm.

Race Director Greg Soderlund, some Officials, and the Park Authority gave appreciation to well deserved staff and aid station volunteers. They introduced the top 10 male and female running tomorrow. I got the opportunity to meet and chat with Ann Trason (World Record holder of almost every distance beyond a marathon) who is actually quite shy, and she signed the back of my tank top for my dad.

Returning to the Inn, we had a nice pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant in Truckee, popped a couple of Tylenol PM, and by 9pm I was out, very peacefully until the alarm went off at 3:30am. We had a 9-10 mile drive to Squaw Valley, got my bib number, and I was on the line to start.

The temperature was in the mid 50's, and I was advised not to over dress, so I wore half tights with running shorts, a tank-top, and a long sleeve PowerBar shirt with my hat and gloves. The Shotgun went off at exactly 5am and we were on our way for this millennium race. We started at 6200 feet above sea level and the first 4.7 miles climbed to 8700 feet. Thought it might be a little cooler up there but I was still over dressed. Before the sun came out I had to take off my long sleeve shirt and tie it around my waist because it was soaked in sweat. I didn't drink a lot, which was my first mistake, but my PowerBar 20oz bottle was always close to being finished or completely empty at each and every aid station.

As we climbed to Emigrant Pass, I was down on all fours a couple of times crawling up the slope, there was snow, more like an ice glacier that we crossed in only a couple of places, but nothing to awful, word was it hasn't snowed in a couple of months. The passes and trails were very dusty and dry, due to lack of rain. I came up on Red Star Ridge 16.5 miles into the course in about 3 hours.

I don't recall exactly where we crossed the first creek, but I hesitated, analyzed then crossed and picked a dark rock, then couple more and I'd be on my way. Wrong, once my right foot set on the rock, it immediately slipped off and I was in knee deep water. For future endeavors avoid dark rocks. It was downhill into Duncan Canyon at the 24.2 miles mark around the 5000', then I had to climb up to Robinson Flat at 6730', I felt a twinge in my calves which took another 3 hours for the last 15 miles, then weighed in for the first time at 138lbs. My support crew was present so I dropped my hat, gloves, long sleeve T-shirt and one tank-top, whew!, since it was already 80 degrees, took quite a load off, and last of all I changed into my other pair of Montrail GTX's. Grabbed a banana, fig bars, snickers, hand full of M&M's and full bottle of Gatorade.

Switch-backs are the name of the game at Western States Trails. We had a good stretch from Robinson Flat to Duncan Canyon #1 drop of about 1900'. Couple hundred feet climb over to Last Chance aid station at 43.3 miles, then down to Deadwood Canyon at 2800'. On my radio scanning in on a station from Auburn and it was 93 degrees there, but in these canyons it seemed like the temperature was closer to 96 degrees the way I was sweating.

Next came the climb up to Devil's Thumb of 1565' in only 1.7 miles and you're at 4365'. I had to sit down three times, my legs were cramping, my head dizzy and my bottle empty. Lord I didn't think the aid station would ever come, and finally there it was. Weighted in at 133lbs and plopped down on a chair, totally wiped out, and let the medics take over. They made me to drink several glasses of Cytomax which helps cramping, and they rubbed out my cramps and put IcyHot into them, wrapped both of my legs in elastic bandages and tape. I got a banana, peanut butter & jelly finger sandwich, couple of fig bars, and was starting to get comfortable. Think a little to relaxed the longer I sat there the longer I didn't want to get up, so they pressed me on. I started to get up and both legs cramped again, more rubbing and they convinced me not to point my toes and just let them pick me up. Mission accomplished and off we go, only at 47.8 miles, just think almost half way there and it must be around 3:30pm.

Mike at Western StatesAs I was lumbering along, remembering what Stan Jensen told me, be sure to check the color of your pee, then I realized that I hadn't gone all day. Hey it's past 50 miles here so I'm thinking my kidneys might not be working, but I was sweating bullets, so I forced myself to pee about half a cup, maybe just trying to get the pump started.

Going down to El Dorado Creek 1700' drop of 2665', then had to deal with another 1830' climb in about 3 miles, running where I could mostly on my heels, to avoid more lockup of my calves. Arrived at Michigan Bluff at 5:03pm 55.7 miles and 12 hours into the race day. My crew was there and after wobbling on the scale only down to 133 lbs, looking kind of pale Themar said, scale attendant's asking if how I was feeling and if I was peeing, "Fine" and "Like a Russian Race Horse" was the automatic response.

Now we got to drop 300' to Foresthill aid station, feeling a lot stronger, 6:34pm and scaled in at 135 lbs some of my color back. Carrying two bottles now, one with Cytomax and the other with Gatorade. Couple of fig bars, half a banana, chocolate cookie, handful of M&M's and off I'm headed down to the aid station Fords Bar. You passed under the Coors flashing light and accommodations and food selection very well, bottles filled and off. It got dark way earlier than I thought, by 9pm it was pretty black in the woods. Naturally I didn't have either of my lights, so trailed a German lady (Helga) for about 1 mile to Ruck-A-Chuck River Crossing.

You would think that the cool river would feel pretty good at mile 78, but numbing is more like it, with slippery rocks. It was a perfect Jeep commercial, with the two monsters sitting across the river with a line (rope) taunted from each, looked like they were on huge rocks more like boulders. The point being you had to go hand over hand to get to the other side since the river is running quite rapidly, at least 125 volunteers were working this area. Since Themar and Jason were on this side of the river, I got my belt over my head, dry shoes in a plastic bag, the same ones I got wet earlier in the day, but dried out by now. Put the bottle in my plastic bag with shoes, flashlight and put on my headlight. First 15 feet slippery rocks but ok, I didn't fall, next 15 to the deepest part water at that point was around waist deep. Next the helper said it's deep here so take it easy, with one hand on the rope and the other holding my bag way over my head proceeded very cautiously. Well I found the deepest spot, and went down to approximately my neck. Ok, ok, the only thing that wasn't ok was that my right leg cramped, and I had to hold up and try to get it to release, finally seemed like a minute, it eased up and I got across. About four helpers got a hold of me and let me to the chairs. Removed my shoes and socks, while another rubbing out my cramps, popped a blood blister, and went to put my toe into the dry shoes and my arch cramped up, more rubbing and finally got my stuff on. Went to get up and wham-o double calve cramp, more rubbing and ok now. They literally picked my up and put me on my feet, put my Cytomax bottle down on the chair, put my belt on adjusted my headlight and off I go only 22 miles left and its 10:30 PM. About a mile up the hill I realized my Cytomax was still on the chair at Rucky Chucky, my belt had a bottle full of Gatorade.

Next aid station was only about 1 mile but straight up the hill, and walking was the only option, dry and dusty trail, and 4X4 trucks running up and down the road made it almost impossible to see. In and out of the aid station Green Gate, and proceeding very cautiously mostly on my heels trying to avoid more cramping and finally got to Highway 49 Crossing and its 3:32am. Temperature still in the 80's, Themar accompanied me as we waddled on across No Hands Bridge. Just a way's after the bridge there was a grassy area to our right maybe couple of hundred feet, Themar heard something in the grass and flashed his halogen light over that way and spotted two green eyes and identified a cougar. I told Themar to tell him that we didn't have enough body fat left and to pass on us, so we picked up the pace a little then.

Passing the last creek seemed to be no great feat, but I chose the drier rocks to get across. Edgings over near a bush, and just about the time to push off, I fell backwards into that darn bush. Themar pulled me out felt at that point I was on a Velcro wall. Spent the next half-mile pulling out the thorns, and a few scrapes. Getting into Placer High School was a long struggle and about 5am I told Themar that I was getting tired. With only mile left and 9 minutes on the clock to finish before 6am, we start to run and came around the track field to the finish line at 24 hours 55 minutes and 55 seconds. The most people I have ever seen at a 100 mile finish line, probably at least 50 to 75, with a DJ identifying the runner once you reached the track field, for your final lap. I got my finishers long sleeve T-shirt and medal, a cup of soup, a bottle of water and a massage, lying down on the table for about half an hour.

Made our way back to the van, and found the hotel, around 7:30 check in, after a shower and call for wake-up at 11:30 so we could make the dinner and awards banquet. Oh yea, I peed, it was straight Cytomax, hmmmmm. Woke up in about an hour and couldn't get back to sleep, guess when you get too tired to sleep. Got back to Placer High School cafeteria and had a decent meal, although I really didn't feel much like eating. Awards banquet was great, all the praise and honors to not only the runners, but volunteers alike.

An athlete who finishes Western States in 24 hours burns in excess of 16,000 calories and sweats over 4 gallons of fluid. And a 150lb person can drink over 50lb (50 pints) of water/liquid. In addition in sweating the body may lose up to 3 grams of sodium an hour resulting in imbalances of the key electrolytes, sodium and potassium, that regulate cell function. These imbalances, if extreme, can cause muscle cramping, nausea, fatigue, and confusion.

My first: Ultra traveling in a plane over different time zones, temp's near 96 degrees, losing five pounds in about 10 miles. Walking most of the final 22 miles and the closest I've came to dropping out. Running about 1 miles without a flashlight, and getting weighed nine (9) times (I think) during the day (you would think that you were in a hospital getting your hourly vitals checked), so all in all a very interesting day.

My synopsis; going out to strong and not drinking plenty (you almost have to drink to the verge of a side stitch) you can get rid of a stitch faster than cramps. Hydrate to the max., it's two day's after the race and I'm at home, got on the scale and it barely reads 129lbs now.

Eat until you almost throw up, of a banana, couple fig bars, a baked potato now and then, and a hand full of M&M's won't make it for each aid station, just because you don't care to eat much, remember the long range commitment. My goal was to break the 50 year old record, think its around 22 hours, which was very attainable for me. I was running around 10th place over Emigrant Pass and in the top 20 around the 40-mile mark. Running smarter at the start of the race will definitely pay off, so you can still run in the later part. Even if I don't really want to run right now, you see I am planning for my return.

So there's more to it, than the saying "Eat like a horse, drink like a fish and run like a turtle".

I want to thank my crew member (Themar and Jason) who were my inspiration and motivation, who not only got me through the toughest ultra I've run, but also assisted in the support of fellow runners and crew who personally thanked all of us for them helping out. I know it was a tiresome day and a long way to travel with me, but truly you were the best crew out there, and we ended up putting over 600 miles on the van to show for it.

"Kudos" go to Stan Jensen and crew deserve, for having the WS web pages running concurrent with the day's event, for the first time. My hometown fans and family were very impressed and appreciative. Not only could they chart my progress but placed wagers on the next checkpoint time, clear across the country.

My extended gratitude for my wonderful training partners, my lovely wife, Aleka and best friend Pat, for all the many, many miles, plus the morale support of my daughters (Andrea & Jamie). Not only for putting up with all of this which seems like nonsense to many, but is a way of life for others. Last but not least my Ultra-Running Club, the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) for the many who know exactly how I feel. This was truly worth the wait and I hope to return for vengeance in the coming years --- Thanks, Mike

Results: Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
Date: June 24th, 2000

Michael J. Campbell
Time: 24 hours 55 minutes 55 seconds
Place: 71st out of 440 signed up
Age Group: 10th