“The best way I can describe it is it’s like if you miss Christmas for a year,” [John] Trent [Western States 100 spokesman] said. “It seems like there is a lot of pent-up demand and energy for the race.”
—Auburn Journal (Auburn, California) 17 June 2009
On Wednesday morning, we get up early, load ourselves onto an airplane, and fly out to California so that Rick can have another shot at running the Western States Endurance Run. Well, another shot at starting the race, that is.
2008 still seems like a bad dream. Months of preparation, arranging travel, worrying about flying with a one-year-old... We finally set down in Sacramento, inhaled our first lungfuls of smoky, campfire air, hustled through the procedure of renting a car, driving through Sacramento traffic, stocking up at a local Walmart, driving some more to get to our hotel... We never really had time to relax and get excited about the race. No sooner had we driven into Squaw Valley than we learned the race was going to be canceled due to poor air quality.
Rick says he hasn't skipped a day since without thinking about it. We never got to celebrate the Christmas for ultrarunning in 2008. But now it's Christmastime again.
Dare I say we've had our fill of bad luck? Right now, approximately 400 runners are preparing to make the trek back to Squaw Valley (80% of the 2008 field is returning in 2009). I hope all of those runners find their bad luck is behind them.
And this time around, our little camp of Kearney ultrarunners has even more cause to celebrate and anticipate the start just five days from now. Gabe Bevan, who came along last year to pace Rick, is returning to the Western States Trail in his own right this year: he beat incredibly long odds and was one of the few people to draw in as new entrants to WS100 this year. Gabe is bringing along another accomplished Kearney ultrarunner, John King, as a pacer—and Rick will have Tony "What, Do You Think I Was in the F-ing Navy??" Clark from Wichita, Kansas to push him those last 40 miles from Foresthill to Auburn. And, of course, our contingent will be rounded out by Tiffanie Bevan, Stacey King, Angel Clark, and 2-year-old Adrian Mayo—some of the best and most experienced crew people and cheerleaders (and taskmasters) any runner could ask for.
Last year it seemed like the race was never going to happen, and sure enough—it didn't. But in 2008 I had the chance to see the trail, to have my shoes covered in its dust, to walk on the track at LeFebvre Stadium. I believe that Western States is real. And in the past year, I have seen my runner grow and mature in his strength and confidence. I believe in Rick.
Christmas morning is just five days away.