Western States 2006 -- Scott Mills Comments

[The following is based on an e-mail that Scotty sent to his crew, friends, and others. Be sure to read the Western States management response to this report. --Editor]

It was a brutal day at Western States. Toughest conditions I have ever seen. The temps made it a day of survival and those who didn't adjust early paid very dearly. Temps reached 110 in the mountain canyons. Some of the aid stations in the high country looked liked MASH units and nearly half the field DNF'd. Friends who worked some aid stations relayed that runners were throwing up everywhere due to the heat index and the inability to keep food down. I was lucky and caught up with Bryon Powell (a good and talented ultra running friend from Virginia whom I had trained with over the last several years) at about 30 miles into the trail. We decided at that point to work together in a conservative approach to stay ahead as possible on hydration and nourishment. We stopped at every river and stream and went for swims to cool off......it took a major effort just to drag ourselves out of the cool water back onto the dusty hot trail. When I was feeling bad, Bryon pulled me along and vice a versa.

John Demorest, who is a four time WS finisher and the best pacer anyone could hope for, met me at mile 62 and paced me as day waned into night. The temps remained high even though the sun went down. I felt as good as could be expected until mile 93 and then started to list to the right...very dizzy too. Have never had that happen before but I was still able to run so Bryon slowed a bit and helped and encouraged me to the finish line. Another good friend from San Diego (Tracy Moore) also paced me in the last seven miles and worked me hard as the wheels started to come off. Bryon clearly could have finished ahead of me but stayed back out of friendship and concern for my safety. We entered the stadium together and crossed the line with a smile.

It goes without saying that none of us could finish these events without the support and encouragement of crews. What a day...hope to never deal with those conditions again. To keep things in perspective ... Bryon ran 19:30 last year and finished in 21st place ... this year we ran 22:11 and again finished in 21st ... 2:41 slower than his time of last year!

On another note ... the first person across the finish line on Saturday was disqualified in a very sad but appropriate ruling. He (Brian Morrison from Seattle) ran himself into the ground the last 25 miles to take the lead after being in about 5th place most of the day. He gained an amazing 40 minutes over the eventual winner in a section of about 16 miles ... inconceivable to me. As Brian entered the stadium with less than 300 yards to the finish line, he collapsed on the track from total exhaustion. The stadium was filled with cheering spectators who went silent at what was happening before their eyes. Brian's pacer and crew instinctively helped him back up to his feet and urged him on. He collapsed five more times as he tried to make it to the finish line ... each time he fell his crew helped him back up to his feet. He was clearly incapable of finishing on his own accord. At the point he finally made it across the line ... he again collapsed into unconsciousness and was rushed to the hospital. He does not remember anything that happened to him from the time he first faltered. By his own admission, he accepted that he could not have finished without help from his pacer and that is against the rules. Fortunately, he is doing well and was released today [June 27] from the hospital. The interesting spin to this is story is that Brian's pacer is the former seven time winner of WS, Scott Jurek.

In spite of a great deal of hype and self promotion, to me, Western States still represents a great challenge and an unparalled event due to its long history, the beauty of the course, and the friends, athletes, and volunteers that keep coming back each and every year. This year was even more special as nine VHTRC members bested the toughest conditions that nature could throw at us. It doesn't get any better than spending the weekend in the high Sierra with great friends and family that share such a special bond.

Scott