The Longest Day
Blazing Heat and competition at California's 2009 Western States 100
Photo by Luis Escobar
I'm not sure where this story begins. Does it begin the first week of January, when I returned to running after a three-month injury layoff, feeling like the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run was a death sentence hanging over my head—a race that I had no hope of getting back in good shape for?
Does it begin after a disappointing eighth-place run at April's American River 50-miler, when, for the next two weeks, I felt like I was struggling through oatmeal on every run? I was mopey, depressed and convinced that I was no longer an elite ultrarunner (if ever, truly, I was). I even told a friend that I would be happy if WS 100 was canceled again this year, as it was in 2008 (due to forest fires) so I wouldn't have to go through the motions.
Does it begin just after that low point, when I hit an eight-week training groove that took me all the way to taper time, during which I knocked out 850 miles running and 850 miles on the bike, topping out with a week where I ran 146 miles and rode 90?
Does it begin at Squaw Valley, California, when the gun went off at 5 a.m. on June 27 and 400 athletes went hooting and hollering up the hill in the pre-dawn twilight (only for the whole lead pack to promptly take a wrong turn, led by two former race champions)?