Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Dream Race- More than just running

In a few short weeks I will be arriving in Squaw Valley, the home of the legendary Western States 100 mile trail race. This is an iconic race that has grown in lore over the years. Names like Gordy Ainsleigh, Tim Twietmeyer, Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Hal Koerner, and now Geoff Roes come to mind when I think about Westerm States. It's the oldest 100 mile race in the country and now draws an incredible international field of talent in both the men's and women's races.

For me Western States is more than just a race. It's a brief look at how far I've come in the last seven years as a young adult, a person, and lastly as a runner. In 2003 I began jogging at a local track and found myself gasping for air as I completed four loops to finish a mile. I remember how in 2003 I went from slowly jogging one mile to two miles, and then three miles without walking. I recall being able to jog small hills in my neighborhood that I always had to stop and walk up.

2004 was the breakthrough year when I completed my first race ever. I had yet to run a 5k, 10k, or even a marathon. I had yet to run further than six miles. But, on November 20th, 2004 I found myself crossing the finish line of a 50 mile ultramarathon. In the dark,wet,cold, my body endured the worst beating it had ever endured....but, it endured. I ran that race for my grandmother who was fighting a losing battle with cancer. When I awoke at 7am that morning I was the same old me, but at 5:39pm an ultrarunner was born! I may have crossed a finish line, but my adventure into the world of running had just begun.

Over the years I have succeeded and failed many times. I failed in my attempts at completing the historic Leadvill Trail 100 and Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. I've suffered hypothermia, cuts, punctures, gashes, and collisions with trees and rocks. I've been lost on the trails more than anyone else I know, and I've been in a car accident literally hours after finishing a race. I've given up when I shouldn't have, and I've kept going when I wanted to quit. While still in my 20's I've notched 60 ultramarathon finishes. In those races I've won several, finished nearly dead last, met many fascinating people, and experienced beautiful new worlds through the joy of running. Over the past seven years, other than my faith in God, running has been a constant in a world of incredible inconsistancy. It has been with me through the trials and triumphs, life and death, joys and sorrows. The footsteps of the run mimmick the proverbial race of life which we must all participate. It has been like an old friend, just as the trails and mountains have been ears to my thoughts.

I am not a runner, nor am I a gifted athlete. I do not have a V02 max over 60. I am not Ryan Hall, or Haile Gebrselassie. Heck, I am not a sub 6 minute mile runner. I have to bust my butt everyday just to be the slightly better than average athlete I am. But, I am a human being who never thought settling for average was good enough. I am stubborn as a mule and have just enough ego to convince myself I am faster than the slow poke I actually am.

When I get that Western States Cougar buckle, it'll be a nice little reminder of how far I've come as a person, not just as a runner. When I round the track at Placer High School, I will remember that finishing mile 100, began 8 years ago finishing mile number one.

(photo: by Rob Saraneiro of the VHTRC)


Larry Linux said...

Awesome post Mike! Very inspirational for me having just started back to training about a year ago. I am slowly building my mileage base right now with our local trail half-marry being my goal race this year; I can't even imagine 100 - yet!

I sent yo an email a while back at with a custom banner design for your blog. Did you get it?


Mike Bailey said...


Thanks for the comment. I don't think I received the e-mail, or it may have gone to my spam. Re-send it, and I'll be sure to look out for it. Good luck on the half marathon. Which race is it?


Larry Linux said...

I just resent it. I hope you like it. More details in the message.

The big race for me this year is the Camp Croft Trail Half-Marathon right here in Spartanburg County.

Maybe some day I will have to travel to Squaw Valley in late June.

Good Luck at Western States!

jenn said...

best blog post EVER! the journey is what MAKES it doesn't it?!
SO proud of you mike! I'll be following you and cheering you on! :o) take care!

ultrarunnergirl said...

Nice blog post, you really captured the energy that surrounds WS. Good luck out there and enjoy the journey!