The Smell of Auburn

Volunteering at the WSER

Interesting fact: the Tevis Cup is the uncle of modern ultra-running.

The original ultra is the Western States Endurance Run. It is the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race. Yes, there are 100 mile foot races.

And a boat load of crazy people want to do this race. Each has to qualify to enter, and there are so many entries that a lottery is held for the 400 starting spots.

first runner – max king – arrives

Finishers within 24 hours get a silver buckle very similar to the Tevis buckle (with a cougar on a rock instead of the pony express rider), and many other ultra runs award buckles for finishers, mimicking the WSER.

Imagine being fit enough (and having sound enough feet, knees and hips) to ask your body to run 100 miles. In 24 hours. A-mazing.

On June 28th, I volunteered at the WSER at Michigan Bluff with my good friends (and future Tevis crew) Jennifer Rader and Cris Jones.

It was a lot like Tevis, other than a complete lack of equines. Fatigued and hot athletes struggled up the trail and dropped onto the main street of town. A crowd of patient and tired crew cheered each arrival.

A group would peel off the crowd and hustle to help the athlete washing them down with cool water, feeding them, giving them as much fluid as they consent to taking. Medical personnel would give the athlete a quick check (primarily focused on their weight). Then the competitor would head down the road and out of town.

australian runner being crewed
each runner weighed in at MB

Michigan Bluff is a bit farther than half way, and I was stunned by how good some of these people looked having run better than 50 miles, and just coming out of the most brutally steep and hot pair of canyons I’ve ever met.

The first half dozen women to pass through the check looked like they’d just stepped out of a Peet’s coffee – coordinated outfits, cute hair, calmly and coolly trotting into the check.

It was a great experience which I will repeat if at all possible next year.

happy volunteers!

The race typically happens about a month or so prior to Tevis – so you know what that means. It’s coming!

And what I noticed, once again, when I was up there is what the smell of Auburn does to me. When I arrived early Saturday morning – I met up with Jen Rader and Cris Jones, we formed a contingent of endurance-riding-volunteers – and climbed out of my car I took a deep breath of Auburn. And a flock of butterflies burst to life in my stomach.

It’s incredible how your senses can trigger emotional reactions. Just the smell of those mountains in the summer – the trees and the dirt and the warmth – made me jittery and anxious. Like I was camped at Robie already.

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