The time to toe the line is quickly approaching and Clint's big day is almost here. The whole focus of this blog is now right around the corner. It's hard to believe that the next blog I write will be post-race and full of photos and stories about his trek from Squaw Valley to Placer High School. I met with Clint one more time to review details about his race preparation and plans. He was surprisingly calm and collected, but I could feel the excitement and positive energy in his entire house. Becca, Kaleb and Halle were all there and the energy in the house was positive, serious, and focused. Clint would apologize about being "all over the place," but that must have been how he felt internally because it certainly was not what he projected outwardly. In all past interviews, Clint was always more pensive; often his foot would be bouncing at a fast tempo, and he would be quick to get up, check his phone, or change the direction of the conversation. Yesterday, however, he was in a completely different space. He seemed focused, calm, and intentional. I suspect 'race mode' is kicking in, and I certainly felt it.
The first questions I asked were about his pacers and crew. We have talked about it before, and now is the time for more specific details. I know that Becca is his experienced and trusted crew captain, but I wanted to understand the logistics of who all would be at which aid stations. The layout of the aid stations and the accessibility of roads getting to each one makes it nearly impossible for one crew car to get to each station. Becca, Theresa Lewis, Kaleb, and Clint's mother will be the 'A' crew team who will meet Clint at Robinson Flat (mile 30.3) and Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7). His 'B' crew team will be fellow Dirtbag Runners Tim and Erin Thomas. They will meet Clint at the more remote aid stations of Duncan Canyon (mile 24.4) and Dusty Corners (mile 38). All crew members will converge at Foresthill, a central aid station at mile 62. There Clint will pick up Tyler, who will pace for nearly 18 miles to Green Gate Aid Station (mile 79.8) as they transition from running in the daytime to running in darkness. This is where the race will take a whole new direction and offer new challenges. At Green Gate, Peter will take the pacing bib and continue to Robie Point at mile 98.9. At this point, Clint will be met by the village who have supported him on this chase for the buckle. Joining the family, pacers and crew will be Bill Yeates, Clint's dear friend and trusted workout partner from The Ranch.
Becca and Halle will meet Clint at the Placer High School track so that Halle can join her father as he crosses the finish line. Becca, Kaleb, Nancy and the crew will all be on the other side of the finish line to share in the celebration of this monumental accomplishment.
For calories, electrolytes, and nutrition, his crew will provide Tailwind at the aid stations, salted watermelon flavored Guu shot blocks, Pro Bar Fuel bars and Vegan Jerky. During the early part of the race, Clint will primarily eat the Quinoa Porridge that settles well in his stomach and provides adequate energy. But when he craves something warm, Becca and his crew will provide a burrito, Miso Ramen, and Mac and cheese throughout the late afternoon and evening.
When I asked Clint about his racing strategy and specifically about the initial 4-mile race up the Escarpment, he said he planned to take it easy and try to control the adrenaline rush by hiking the 2,550 foot climb to Watson Monument. He wants to run this race intelligently given the state of his arthritis-riddled knees. He recently received Cortisone shots, but knows that he will need to be strategic and patient. And of course, I had to ask if he had a goal finish time. He shook his head and said that his goal was to finish. This has been a life-long dream and focus for over five years. I reached out to many of his family, friends and supporters, and here are their words about and to Clint:
Nancy Ouding, Clint's mother: I wish him to be carried on eagles' wings, delighting and delighted in the scenery, the glory of running in this esteemed race, proud of his accomplishments, as all of us are proud of him and cheering him on. I get teary with pride of this son of mine. "Go get'em Clint!!!"
Becca, Clint's wife:"Even before you run, I want you to know how proud I am of you. You've worked so hard to get to this place and your perseverance has paid off! I know you feel guilty for all the long hours of training, but I just want you to know how much it means to me to see you accomplish your goals, and every hour away will be worth the smile on your face when you cross that finish line."
Kaleb Welch, Clint's son: "Good Luck, Old Man!"
Halle Welch, Clint's daughter: "Good luck Daddy. I can't wait to cross the finish line with you!"
Chad Welch, Clint's twin brother: Clint is very driven and very motivated. When he does anything, he goes all the way - there is no inbetween with that guy. And to Clint: "I'm fortunate to have a twin as awesome as you are. Good luck. Go get'em. You are an inspiration to all of us."
Shawna Stewart, Clint's sister: I'm so proud of Clint. He has worked so hard and it's cool to see him realize his dream. I want him to have fun and fingers are crossed. Ultimately, all I want is for him to be okay. It's been just incredible to witness his lifestyle transformation. And to Clint: "Have fun! Enjoy the adventure and all that it is. You deserve this!"
Bill Yeates, Clint's twice-weekly workout buddy: He seems ready for this very hot Western States run. I look forward to seeing him at the finish and will be grateful that he will finish this journey. His love for the challenge and stubbornness will likely overcome his balky knees. He also has the mental toughness to overcome the heat, but it is going to be brutal in the canyons.
Paolo Medina, fellow 2017 Western States runner: I think he's gotta run with his heart and mind, not his legs. If he does that, he won't have any issues.
Theresa Lewis, Crew A team: "Stop being a pussy, Clint!"
Tim Thomas, Crew B team: "You're an inspiration and a natural light, now get the fuck out there and let your light shine! See you in Auburn brother."
Luis Escobar, 8-time Western States finisher, and photographer featured in Christopher McDougall's Born To Run: Clint is a 'big character' who is full of life and occupies the whole room when he walks in. He has embraced the ultra-running community and is a leader in the Born To Run community. He is outgoing, looks for challenges, and is self-motivated. He also loves socializing and the outdoors. And to Clint: "Hey Clint. Run gently. Run simply. Run free."
There are several other friends who will also be toeing the line in Squaw at 5:00 am on Saturday morning. Clint and I both want to wish all of you a very safe run that is filled with adventure, beauty, challenge, and joy. To Lance Gilbert, Paulo Medina, Paul Grimes, Tina Fritzner, Terry Hall, Melissa Johnson, Jodie Wood, and Gary Klein - got get that buckle!
#seeyouinSquaw in 3 days