Dec 4, 2022:
I woke up wondering what if…
For the last five years, the first Saturday in December could only mean one thing, WSER lotto day! Finally, finally, thousands upon thousands of ultra runners just like me get a chance to put their names in a hat to get a chance to run THEE most iconic mile ultra race in the world called the Western States Endurance Run.
Since 2017, I’ve been running a WSER qualifying ultra marathon race. See, you have to run a qualifying ultra-marathon to get a chance to put your name in a hat. If you don’t get your name pulled, you repeat the steps. Each year you don’t get your name called your tickets double. Due to Covid, 2020 was a canceled year, and 2021 was a roll-over year; even though I qualified for that year, they didn’t count!
So on Dec 4, 2022 was my year!
I was sitting in the Lucky Lab tavern with other ultra-marathoners listening to the names being called live from Auburn, Ca. I didn’t think I had much chance because I only had four tickets in the lottery. I was rooting for my two friends, Anne Crispino-Taylor and Katie Christianson, who had way more tickets than I did. About a half-hour into the lottery, the Lucky Lab goes crazy!!! They called Katie’s name!!!! I was so happy for her! Still reeling from Katie’s good news, the Lab erupted in a scream again, MIKEY!!! I didn’t hear my name called, but everyone else in the bar did, and they said, you got in, Mikey!!! You got in!!!!
My drive home from the Lucky Lab was magical! With tears falling down my face, I felt a sense of pride, fear, and determination I have never felt before! When I got home, I started to put my plan of attack into action! My first text was to Melissa Glogosh, my girlfriend, to let her know the happy news and to ask her for her forgiveness now; for the next six months, I will live, eat and sleep States!!! My second text was to my long-time training partner and friend, Carly Acosta. (We both agreed that if either one of us ever got into States, we would be there for each other) When I texted her, she started crying and said, yes, she’s in! My third text was the only one I could think of that I knew could get me to the starting line in shape! One of the best RDs in the Business, the owner of San Joaquin Running, and an incredible endurance coach Nathaniel T Moore. I texted Nate and asked if he would be willing to coach me; not only did he say hell, yes, but he’d come out and pace me too!!!
With both my pacers in place, I now needed a crew! So I reached out to my long-time Fresno friends (running friends ALWAYS make the best friends) Victor Ramirez, Lisa Figone Crouch, and Sal Rodriguez. They all said yes before I could get the words out of my mouth!
Crews are set!
Game off/Game on:
I had a list of races I was already signed up for and paid for before I got into States. Black Canyon 100K, Gorge Waterfalls 50K, Tillamook Burn 50K, and Smith Rock 50K. So discussing this with my coach, we decided to keep these races and use them for training runs. The only thing I added was to sweep Smith Rock the next day and then added the Western States Training Camp weekend.
Which I strongly, strongly suggest anyone who’s running States to do!!! So Nate set out a weekly training plan that encompasses these races and builds my endurance! Only… one small problem occurred, during Black Canyon in Feb, I developed a sharp pain in my right shin. A pain that was all too familiar to me… a possible stress fracture! I took some time off after BC100K, but it still hurt! I knew the diagnosis even before I saw the doctor; No running for 4-6weeks!
Uhgggg! Noooo! The MRI confirmed no stress fracture but a stress fraction (a step below a fracture). Soooo frustrating! From Mid Feb to Mid March, no running! Lots of Elliptical, stationary biking, step climbers, and Alt G machine. My body finally felt strong enough in late March to start training again. With just a few weeks to the Gorge Waterfalls 50k, I knew I needed to ramp up production while still trying to recover! Nate did a great job of that! Following a plan and trusting the process made me able to get to each of those starting lines healthy!
It was time for the WSER training weekend with a month out from race day! A 70-mile preview run over the Memorial Day weekend! Thirty miles on Saturday, 18 miles on Sunday, and 22 miles on Monday. The first was the hardest! The dreaded Canyons!
The Devil’s Thumb hike was challenging, but I survived and was much better for it! Now I knew what to expect, which wasn’t as hard as my mind thought! As a result, I came away from the training camp with much more confidence!
I got this!
For the next 30 days, I would encompass heat training, hill training, and more power hiking!
My life was all WS all day, every day! From watching every YouTube video to listening to every podcast, I could find! In addition, I checked out friends’ Strava to see splits, asked many questions of friends that ran the race, and made spreadsheets!
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”-Mike Tyson.
Day 1: Wednesday
With my crew dialed in and our bags packed! Missy and I said goodbye to Sherman and headed south, searching for California Gold! We had a ten-hour drive to get to Auburn, Ca. So we decided to take turns with the driving duties! I took the first shift. We stopped for snacks and coffee near Salem and then again for dinner by the Oregon border, where Missy took the wheel. She put on a Serial Killer Podcast, and we learn all about how to kill and get away with it! We stopped again for gas in Redding, where I took the wheel, but only got as far as Sacramento, where we found a place to sleep.
Day 2: Thursday
I woke up happy I didn’t kill us as I was so sleepy last night! We quickly got moving as we had a big day ahead of us! The first stop was breakfast burritos just outside of Auburn! I drove to Auburn and showed Missy the Placer HS track as they were still setting up for the weekend. Next, we drove to Robie Point down to the end of the WS trail. We saw a runner come running up the road and asked about Ann Trason and the race. (You see, Ann Trason is my ultra hero!!) and wanted to see her walking her dogs out on Robie, but no luck. The runner wished me luck and told me you’re going to have the most wonderful time of my life! Cherish it!
After all the feels of the finish line, Missy and I drove to the Aid Station (a cool running store in Auburn) to pick up some WS gear. A shirt for me and a singlet for Missy. She loved it! I then showed Missy where our hotel was in Auburn and went grocery shopping for the crew and me. Mostly snacks and diet cokes. No donuts! We then made our way to Olympic Valley. It was a gorgeous drive up 80 toward Tahoe! Simply Gorgeous!
When we got to the Village, where we checked into our hotel, there was a problem; they only had one room for us! For six people, that was not good!!! I told them there must be a mistake! I RSVPd for two rooms back in December. They apologized and said we’re overbooked; let us look into it. Please go to your room, get settled in, and check back with us quickly. When we returned to the front desk, they found my other RSVP!!!
Whoa!!! That was a close one. I was already starting to get stressed! The family went out for pizza, had a wonderful time in the Village, and then returned to the hotel for some hot tub and heated pool fun. I slept so well that night.
Day 3: Friday
I woke up feeling amazing! I went out for a little shake-out jog. I saw so many of the elites doing the same three-mile course as me. I got behind Arlen Glicks’ crew and overheard their conversation. That guy is so cool! He is a very nice guy; I would totally be friends with him if he were an ordinary everyday trail runner like me!When I got back to the hotel, I got a text from Nate. He had just pulled up to the Village! Nate’s here!!! I ran out to meet him in the parking lot. We walked and talked through the Village as he was going for a run up the Escarpment and more! It was so much fun catching up with Nate! It made me feel even more confident!
Missy was signed up to run the Base Camp Run for the family and crew! It’s a three-mile climb of the Escarpment to the base camp! It was an arduous climb, and Missy was having second doubts. I told her to expect to be last; tell yourself you will be last, and she won’t be disappointed! And you’ll be pretty happy when you find out you are not last and kicked butt! Which she did and even won a Hoka prize! Later that day, I went to the race briefing, and all the great past and present runners of WS told stories and gave us all such confidence that we could all do hard things!!! And they made us all promise we would see them in Auburn, exactly 100.02 miles from here! Later that night, I served BBQ for the crew and family. We told stories, laughed at memories, and made new memories that night! I have never been so ready for anything in ALL my life!!!! Let’s do this!!!
Day 4: Race Day!
3:30 am wake-up call! I slept like a baby!!! The altitude must agree with me, as the last two nights of sleep were amazing!!! I got dressed and felt a bit nervous. I couldn’t put on one of my gaiters and was getting even more nervous. Missy finally said you need to get moving! So I did one final gear, outfit, and mental check and was out the door! You could feel the excitement in the air!!! Tons of media! Tons of people! Tons of nervous energy!!! I dreamt of this day for years! And with just minutes left, I was scared, happy, and so deeply thankful for my friends and family who would experience this race with me!
The High Country;
The shotgun goes off!!! And I slowly make my way to the right side of the crowd, where Missy will be, and I wanted to give her one more kiss before leaving for the day. The Escarpment climb is challenging, it’s long, and it’s a steady ascent! Much like I practiced on Mount Defiance! 3.5-miles with 3500′ of ascent.
A couple of really steep portions but short-lived! After a little over an hour, I made it to the top, looked back, and thanked God for giving me such a view! the High Country is primarily single track with many small hills. So you get a lot of vert from all them small hill climbs. You don’t notice them as they are small, but when I reached the 50k mark, I had over 7000′ elevation! 2022 wasn’t a snow year, so there was very little snow. It was more wet and sloppy for the first ten miles or so. Those miles flew by! I got some great advice from my coach, run within your means! So I made that my mantra! And always did a self-check! Am I struggling, or am I over laboring?
Am I within my means to run a 100miles? Since I’ve never run 100 miles, I wasn’t sure how much to push. So I stayed comfortable. A little too comfortable! I got behind on my splits and found myself getting closer and closer to cuts-off. I have never, ever had to worry about cut-offs! It wasn’t something I was accustomed to in a race. It’s not that I’m fast; I’m a solid mid-packer. And for all my 100Ks, I’ve always been well above cuts-offs. But the first chance I got to see Sal, Lisa, and Victor, I told them I needed three things! Hugs, food, and what was my time! I got the hugs, and it was amazing to be able to hug my friends and thank them for this day! But Sal said you’re about 30 minutes from the 30-hour cut-off, so you need to get moving. Well crap!
Ok, so now I have to worry about cuts-offs? OMG!!! That would weigh on my mind for the next 20 miles!
My day was going pretty well! My legs felt great, my quads were on point, and I didn’t even notice the heat! Robinson Flat is where I saw Missy for the first time and told her I was running behind schedule but still felt great! She gave me some hot dogs, which I’ll later regret, sent me off with a full belly, and iced me up! As most people talked about the heat, I never really got hot. I was so iced up that the heat never affected me. Of course, it could have been all the sauna training, too; I will never know… But I was grateful! Then I reached Dusty Corners. I told Lisa, you need to get a hold of Nate and have him meet me at Michigan Bluff as I’m running very late, and I could have a pacer start pacing me after 8 pm!
From Robinson Flat to Michigan Bluff is what is known as the Canyons. The most challenging and hottest part of the WS course! It has been said that runners have race-changing days made in the Canyons! It typically gets to over 100* in the Canyons! I’m not sure how hot it got, as It didn’t bother me one bit! Some say it got well over 100! After the small climb out of Robinson, there’s this incredible 13mile stretch of downhill easy running! I was super happy for this portion as I could make up a lot of time!
Since my quads were doing great, I ran like my usual self. At that point, I went from 320ish place to under 260th place. I was passing many, many runners. The 2000′ drop down into Eldorado felt awesome!!! I passed so many runners who I could tell their quads weren’t doing too good from the look of it. My legs felt fresh! I’m so glad I held back until now! The climb out of Devil’s Thumb was a breeze! I don’t know what I was scared of! I passed more runners on the uphill! Then there was the climb to Michigan Bluff, and I hoped that Lisa got the message to Nate! Sure enough, when I crested the Bluff, I saw Nate with his red Salomon Running vest, ready to go!
I forgot to mention!!! Later back at Robinson Flat, when Missy gave me those hot dogs that tasted so amazing, they didn’t sit too well in my stomach! I must have pooped like six times before I reached Michigan Bluff!
I told Nate we need to make up some time! And that we did!!!
I let Nate take the wheel, and I just rode along shotgun! He led me to Forest Hill in good shape and still feeling good! Finally, with a 100k under my belt, it was time to venture where I had never ventured before! 100k plus!!!
We walked Cal street until we got to the single track. Nate turns to me and asks… Are you ready to do this? Let’s go! The following 16 miles were a blur! I felt like I was on a fast-moving train. I couldn’t get off nor wanted to get off! Finally, at around 10 pm, Nate turns to me and says, ‘Hey, Mikey, Ally, and Brandon want to drive up from Fresno and see you cross the finish line.’ Nate starts talking more on the phone with Ally and says something I’ll never forget! Yeah, come on up!
There’s no quit in him!
After that, we pass tons of runners! By the time we reached the river, I was far away from cut-offs! Nate had me moving at such a great pace! e moved up like 50 spots! That’s what good coaches do! Inspire you!
Rucky Chucky, Green Gate, Hal Koerner, Scott Jurek:
Carly’s turn! Carly got a rude awakening when she jumped in at the river crossing to pace me. Poor girl just woke up and now had to jump in chest-high at a very cold river! Then climb with wet shoes up a two-mile hill in the dark! Bless her heart! She did it all the while encouraging me to keep on moving! Carly was so great! just like Nate, she didn’t hesitate to take the reigns and lead the way! We hiked the ups! Ran the downs! And snack the flats! She kept me moving at a good pace all through the night! With the sun starting to come up we pulled into the ALT AS where I see Hal Koerner filling someone’s water bottle! Carly turns to me and says, you know who that is? We both get star-struck! Then Carly says Mikey look over to your left!
That’s Scott Jurek walking over! We chatted for a few minutes, then Scott says, don’t you have a race to complete? With the sun coming up, it gave me more confidence and more determination! Buckle Baby! There was much hiking at the end of Carly’s shift! She stared in the freezing cold river, hiking up to Green Gate and finishing with a long three-mile climb to Pointed Rocks, mile 94!
Pointed Rocks to Robie:
From Hwy 49 to Pointed Rocks is this long one-mile climb that seemed to take nine hours! With my quads almost completely spent, I knew seeing Victor in a mile will lift my spirits to the end! Sure enough, seeing Sal, Lisa and Victor were what I needed! More hugs and more love in my heart from these amazing people who spent all weekend waiting for me! And then only getting to see me for three minutes in between sandwich bites. oh what love my heart felt right then and there! How I wanted them all to come with me to the finish line!!! Victor quickly snapped me out of that and says to me. we gotta buckle to get, let’s start moving! leaving Pointed Rocks was a true blessing! I never felt so much joy in my heart, as I knew Victor will get me to the finish no matter what! It was a quick two miles down to No Hands Bridge. We passed the weekend trail runners, who congratulated me on a job well done! I tried running across No Hands but my legs weren’t having it! Carly used up whatever quads I had left in me, poor Victor got the aftermath! So we hiked! hiked and talked. I will forever be grateful for that hike and chat with my long-time friend Victor!
Robie to the Track:
That hike up from no hands to Robie is just Cruel! But the faces at the top make it all worthwhile! Nate was the first face I saw, then Carly, Brandon McLemore, and Brian. It was so perfect! I had tears running down my face for the entire mile! Everyone who lives on Robie comes out and cheers! You feel like a rock star! With everyone screaming your name and saying things like you did it! You made it! Congratulations! You could see why my eyes couldn’t stop tearing! I passed this guy’s house, who last month was passing out beer in front of his house at the training camp weekend. I told him then that I will be back next month and I keep my promises! I asked him, you remember me from last month, how I promised you I’ll be back, we’ll here I am! He remembered!!! and gave me a huge hug! At the white bridge, I saw Missy and Chelsea Lee waiting for me. Poor Missy got a bit sunburned, waiting for me all weekend at Aid Stations. I felt so bad, she could hardly move her legs, they were so red!
We all then walk to the gate entrance, just then Nate slaps me on the back and says you did it!!! I lost it! When I stepped foot on the track I dropped down to my knees and thanked God and kiss the track! I got back up and started running with my crew toward the finish line! That was a short little run as my legs said, ah maybe you walk it in.
When they announced my name, I again started running. I lived this moment in my head over and over again for years! I could only equate the feeling of running across that finish line with maybe what it feels like to a woman giving birth. To a young bird taking flight for the first time. To a dog’s love in their hearts for you. My heart couldn’t be any more filled with gratefulness and love for everyone around me! Doing hard things isn’t for everyone, but it is for me! I will look back one day when I could no longer be able to run, and I will have a smile on my face that no one will ever be able to take away!
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