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June 22, 2018

My First Day at Western States: I’m a huge failure

Today has been full of mistakes. My first day on a press trip, and I’ve completely, totally, utterly dropped the ball.

I’m currently on-assignment covering the Western States Endurance Run. I cannot emphasize enough the poor job I’ve done.

Today was a day where the elite athletes were all meandering around the Village at Squaw Valley – totally accessible to media, and I failed to gather one goddamn interview. It would have been great to have sat down for a few minutes with Courtney Dauwalter (complete badass, overall winner of the 2017 Moab 240-MILER-WTF[!]), or Jim Walmsley (0-2 at Western States, but we all want him to finish this year). But I didn’t. I failed to gather one soundbite, one photo.

Instead, I went for a run along the Truckee River. It was beautiful, but I should have been contacting athletes for interviews.

Then, I ate a robust bowl of oatmeal on the back porch of the cabin I was staying at. The cabin is about a mile from the Village at Squaw Valley. I should have been heading over to the Village to find the athletes I had contacted a few hours earlier.

After my oatmeal, I sat around the cabin. Did some small talk. Nothing productive. It was during this time of nothingness where my appetite began to build. I should have sucked it up and gone to the Village to find some athletes, but, as I’m sure you can now tell, I didn’t. I drove 15 miles to Tahoe City (past Squaw Valley) to find a salad and an iced coffee. Cognitive dissonance. It’s beautiful.

Once 2:00 PM rolled around, I now thought it was the right time to go find some athletes. The sun was in full force, and obviously these athletes would be walking around the ski area, soaking up the sun the day before they race 100 miles through the California mountains and canyons.

I didn’t find a single athlete. I did find a delicious chocolate chip cookie, though.

Truth be told, my day wasn’t a total failure. I tagged along with my girlfriend to the Salomon crew house so she could see Lucy Bartholomew before she raced. While they went over her race plan, I waited in the den and watched as a French man and a Swedish man worked in tandem to prepare for tomorrow’s race.

The Swede, Johan Steene, will be lining up at 5:00 AM tomorrow morning to take on the burden of Western States. Hearing him talk about eating baby food at mile 65 was the closest thing I came to any sort of professional journalism today. As it turns out, nutrition – second only to having legs – is the most important part of completing Western States.

“I bought these today,” Johan said about the baby food. “It seems like it will be good.”

Apparently Johan hadn’t ever experimented with the baby food before planning to use it during one of the premier ultramarathons in the world. Seems fairly non-traditional for a Swede to do something without proper calculations, but Johan, my new favorite runner, seemed sure of himself.

And so, that’s all I have to report from the day before Western States: as long as you’re confident, you should be fine.

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