Adam Kimble and Jeff Brown, Tahoe Mountain Realty’s Athlete-in-Residence and Broker respectively, are chronicling their journeys toward the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run in June. Western States, commonly referred to as the ‘Super Bowl of Ultrarunning,’ is the oldest 100-mile trail race in the world and runs 100 miles from Olympic Valley to Auburn, CA.
There’s a saying in the ultrarunning world that running a 100-mile race is like life in a day. You get to experience all of the highs and lows of life, but it’s crammed into 30 hours or less. One minute you feel like you’re floating, another minute you feel like quitting, and everything in between. It’s truly beautiful just how challenging and uncertain it can be. And I think that’s why I love it so much – running 100 miles is about so much more than just getting from the start line to the finish line.
It’s about discovering how you deal with adversity. How you handle the ups and downs that come at you throughout the day(s). When you’re feeling the 100-degree heat and your stomach can’t handle eating any food, what do you do? Do you feel sorry for yourself, or do you put on a smile and keep putting one foot in front of the other? When your legs are throbbing and you don’t want to run another step, do you give up or keep moving forward? There are so many micro-decisions to be made in a 100-mile race, and most of them involve overcoming an obstacle or solving a problem. One thing is certain, however: all of them will make you a better person when the race is over!
It’s about realizing you’re capable of more. I think many people tend to sell themselves short on what is possible in their lives. A lot of people might think running 100 miles is “impossible,” but if you believe in yourself and the team around you, then truly anything is possible. Embarking on a journey as transformational as running 100 miles through the Sierra Nevada is sure to present you with plenty of opportunities to doubt yourself. But if you keep saying “yes,” you will keep digging your well deeper and keep proving that you can do more than you (or anyone else) think you can.
And it’s about the power of teamwork. Ask Jeff, me or literally any other runner that was out there on June 25th and 26th if they could have done it by themselves. From the first finisher to the last finisher, the answer will be a resounding “no.” We’re all better with a team, and in the case of a 100-mile race like this one, we couldn’t do it without them. One of my friends who was spectating the race saw my crew at an aid station and said, “this looks like NASCAR!” The crew was a well-oiled machine, quickly and efficiently giving me everything I needed to keep running strong and have a successful day. I even had my team away from my team, as I would check in with Jeff’s crew chief JP to get updates on his status throughout the day. We knew we would run together in spirit all day, and that we did. Without all of them, I would have been lost, and even more importantly, the achievement of crossing the finish line in 17 hours and 28 minutes wouldn’t have felt nearly as special. But together, we achieved something great and were able to relish in that achievement as a team!
So yeah, I’d say that the Western States 100 sure felt like “life in a day” to me. An adventurous life, filled with so many ups and downs, surrounded by the people who mean the most to me. Couldn’t imagine a better way!
Throughout the buildup to Western States, Adam and I both acknowledged that whatever the day itself may bring, the journey that delivers us to the start line and beyond will be as gratifying as the race itself. For me, the gratitude I felt for the energy and good intentions of so many people was simply overwhelming.
Our good friend and ultrarunner Sean Flanagan called me the night before the race with some sage advice. “Whatever the day brings is your story. Don’t fight it, take it in, and embrace the journey.” These words played over and over in my mind and provided the necessary perspective to endure a day that did not go as planned.
I was blessed with a uniquely competent, engaged and encouraging team and together, along with Adam and Coach Peter Fain, we created a plan for the day. However, it was the words of another poet, Mike Tyson, that rang most true. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The start of the race through the top of The Escarpment, Palisade Tahoe’s Emigrant Peak, were among the most exhilarating moments of my life. Thousands of cheering fans lining the first half mile of the course in the pre-dawn hours gave way to an epic sunrise with Lake Tahoe in the background as I was surprised in a blanket of well wishes from lifelong friends, our running community and the TMR Team; a moment that I will never forget.
Low energy, high excursion, oppressive heat and perhaps the lingering effects of a bout with COVID just three weeks prior led to a mighty struggle through the high country in the early miles. Despite a few moments of resurgent energy, I found myself well off goal time and on a medic table at the halfway point with virtually no path to finish the race in the allotted 30 hours. However, too many people had provided support and encouragement to allow this to define the day. With some nourishment and inspiration with the medic team, I was able to carry forward to Mile 55 where I was met by my team for the first time. My wife Laura, my best running companion JP, and two lifelong best friends Kevin and Brian patched me up, lied and said I looked good and together with Kevin as my pacer we set out to concur the third quadrant into the night. The inspiration provided by this group was enough to claw back some time and grind our way through the night. While I was still aware of the clock problem, I was determined to maximize the experience. At Mile 78, approximately 4am and 23 hours into the race, Kevin gave way to Brian who shepherded me across the American River and through tight cutoffs at the aid stations found at Miles 85 and 90. With one more cutoff to go, we have 5 miles and about 2,500 vertical feet to span into the town of Cool before one last descent to the American River and climb to Auburn. At this point, reality finally caught up and we simply couldn’t make up the necessary time to meet the cutoff at this final aid station.
While our day ended 95 miles in, our perspective was one of triumph rather than failure. With the support of people who had nothing but my best interest at heart, we rallied from a near medical withdrawal to fight another 50+ miles and come within a few brief minutes of finishing the most storied trail race in the country.
While those 5 miles will haunt me for some time, I continue to be overwhelmed by the support of those in my immediate crew, those who came out to support and the dozens who were following along through the night and reached out with well wishes in the following days. It is a testament to the magic of Western States that so many people, most of whom have no connection to trail or ultrarunning, are now fully captivated by this magical event.
My deepest respect and congratulations go out to Adam Kimble, not only for his extraordinary performance in the race, but for defining kindness, grace and humility while doing so. It has been the honor of a lifetime to join him in this journey.