June 26 – 27, 2004
By German Collazos
It is almost 5:00 a.m. and the crowd gathered at Squaw Valley is nervously excited. The early morning air is very brisk as runners pick up their race numbers and make last minute preparations for the big event. Last minute photos are taken and soon the clock counts down to the start of the Western States 100 Mile Run.
It is still dark as the runners begin the 4.5 mile ascent up the mountain to the Escarpment checkpoint. Learning from my experience last year, I started closer to the front so that I would not get trapped behind slower runners on the narrow trail leading up the mountain. It was comforting to know my friends from Houston would also be out on the trials: Larry Teeter, Mariela Botella, Joe Constantino, Linda Hurd, and Carlos Ibarra.
After reaching the top of the mountain, I paused to turn around and take in the scenery. The view of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains was spectacular from this vantage point. The air was cool, the morning sun still low in the sky, and I felt ready for the challenge ahead of me.
At this point I heard someone calling my name, and was very happy to see my friend Joe Prusaitis from Austin, who was there to pace someone. I ran very smoothly and was going with my energy. The pace was comfortable and I noticed that the soil was very dry and there was a lot of dust in the air, but the run went very well for the first sixty-two miles. My pace was actually one-half hour ahead of a twenty-four hour finish. Then the race got tough – very tough. First, I developed some serious blisters on my feet. After a fifteen-minute delay at Foresthill School (mile 62) waiting to get medical assistance for my feet, I started on my way.
The trail was extremely dusty which wreaked havoc on my asthma. By nightfall my asthma was so severe that I could barely breath. I resigned myself to doing some walking during the night, as I could not get enough air into my lungs. I was very glad to reach the Rucky Chucky River Crossing at mile 72, as my pacer David Holloway was waiting for me there. After wading through the frigid, waist-deep water of the American River, I got some additional foot care from a volunteer who accidentally cut my vein with scissors and really hurt me. I changed my wet shoes and took off with David to keep me company to the finish.
I thanked David for being there and explained my asthma problem, so he understood not to push me too hard to run at this point. It was great to have company along the trails as night, as we talked a lot. After a couple of hours I asked David what our pace was (he was wearing my GPS) and he told me it was twenty minutes per mile. After estimating my finish time at 10:00 a.m., I told myself I could do better than that. When the sun started to rise at 5:00 a.m., I forced myself to run hard down a mountain, which helped to clear my lungs and enabled me to run to the finish. My finish time was 27:07, several hours ahead of the 30-hour cutoff. I was exhausted, but felt great because of my accomplishment and the accomplishments of my friends and fellow runners.
The feeling of crossing the finish line in Auburn is something that will remain with me for a lifetime. I didn’t break my PR for Western States, but hey, I’m a Western States 100 miles man!
I want to thank David for being there to pace me and to all of the volunteers at the aid stations for their dedication, hard work and enthusiasm. I especially would like to thank my wife and family for their support and for tolerating the long hours of training.
When David asked me on the day I completed the race if I would enter the lottery to run the race again next year, I said I would have to think about it. When David asked me again the next day after visiting several wineries in the Napa Valley, I enthusiastically replied, “Yes, I will!”