Runner tests endurance with 100-mile race
Overcoming pain is not what most of us have in mind when we exercise. But for Allison Kreutzen, the Truckee resident who finished fourth among the women and 32nd overall in the Western States Endurance Run, working through pain was perhaps the greatest obstacle in the 100 mile run from Squaw Valley to Auburn.
The Western States Endurance Run began at 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 24 at Squaw Valley USA’s Base Village. From there, 385 runners climbed to Emigrant Pass and began the long continuous run along Western States Trail. The runners ascended an impressive 18,000 vertical feet and descended 23,000 feet before reaching the final turn at Auburn High School.
Almost half of the runners dropped out the race before finishing.
Running on singletrack trail, overcoming small boulders, stumps and logs at high altitude, and wading through streams without significant rest takes a heavy physical toll.
Pain was rampant among competitors, and for Kreutzen, who finished in 22 hours and 47 minutes, it was particularly resounding in her left knee.
“I have illial-tibial band tendinitis,” said Kreutzen. “At mile 33 knee pain kicked in. From mile 40-55 I almost dropped, imagining that I might be doing permanent damage. Eventually I stopped and iced my knee.”
Kreutzen, who works for Tahoe Forest Hospital in the extended care department, said that she had been having knee problems periodically during the last three months. Several weeks prior to the race she received a shot of cortisone to help minimize swelling.
“I hadn’t run a few weeks prior the race because of my knee,” said Kreutzen. “I started training in March and continued through April, but had to stop about two weeks into May.”
Although there were dozens of small checkpoints with food and water, the seven main aid and weigh stations were operated by trained medical professionals.
Betty Veal, one of the 12 Endurance Run board members said that when she volunteered as a nurse for the first Endurance Run 27 years ago, she didn’t think anyone could really do it.
“It started as a big joke,” said Veal. “I was flabbergasted when people started running in it.”
Veal, who volunteers every year, said that only three participants were taken to the hospital in Auburn. She did not know if they were held overnight.
Medical professionals say that the best way to determine if participants are having medical difficulties is by tracking weight. Dehydration and renal or kidney problems were among the major concerns, and have a tendency to cause weight fluctuations.
“It was the most pain I’ve ever felt in my whole life,” said Kreutzen who managed to smile and joke with her accompanying pacers despite agonizing physical reminders.
Mike Davis, Holly Samson, and Billy McCullough ran with Kreutzen.
“I wasn’t the pacer, I was the chaser,” said Davis reflecting on the speed of Kreutzen, who prefers her pacers behind her rather than in front.
“I first saw Allison having knee problems at Michigan Bluff, but by the time she arrived at the Forest Hill aid station she was revived and ready to go,” said Davis. “I don’t think she stopped much longer than to refill her water bottle.”
Kreutzen said that despite the overwhelming pain involved in such races, feelings of camaraderie were strong, and it was common for runners to check on one another.
Scott Jurek from Seattle, Wash. placed first in the competition with a time of 17 hours and 15 minutes.
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