Monday, March 13, 2017

Western States 2017 Bib #347

One year ago, I knew very little about the Western States Endurance Run.  My trail running experience started in the summer of 2015, and I ended up volunteering at the Forest Hill aid station in 2016.  And now in 2017, I get to experience the most famous and prestigious 100-mile race in a much more intimate way;  I get to chronicle the five-year journey of Clint Welch, Bib #347, Western State runner for 2017.

In a roundabout trajectory of meeting the right people at the right time, and saying the right thing to the right person at the right time, I find myself sharing in Clint's Western States journey and sharing it via this blog. And so the big story starts:  a big person with a big heart, who has a big dream, will take us on a big journey.  Clint Welch - son, husband, father, runner, beer drinker, vegan - and Western States runner.

Trail Runners are a unique breed of people.  Most are healthy family members who run to stay fit and run so they can indulge; indulge in hours and hours of training alone on trails out in nature; indulge in the expense of running shoes, hydration gear, and race fees; and indulge in craft beer.  Clint has shared all of these indulgences with Tyler Clemens and Paulo Medina, who are the owner/founders of Dirtbag Runners and SingleTrack Running.  The Dirtbag Runners is group of runners founded in 2014 by Crista Scott and Tyler Clemens.  "Run Free Get Dirty" perfectly describes the essence of Clint's passion for running.  Tyler Clemens will be one of Clint's pacers for Western States.  SingleTrack Running, owned and directed by Paulo Medina, is an organization that provides chip timing services, community events, and trail races.  Paulo and Clint have been running together, and Clint has been helping Paulo direct races for the past three years.

I met with Clint, his wife Becca, and their beautiful daughter Halle to begin the process of capturing in words Clint's realization of a five-year dream to run Western States.  We are planning for a weekly blog that will share Clint's history, his training, his nutrition, his races, and ultimately, his experience on the Western States trail.  It will include interviews with many who are sharing in this journey, so that all perspectives will be shared for a well-rounded picture of the Dirtbag Ambassador.

Let's start the moment this dream became a reality:  December 3, 2016, at about 11:30 am, Placer High School, Auburn, CA. The Western States admin had just selected the lucky 250 runners at the 2016 Lottery. 4,248 runners had entered the lottery with a total of 11,021 lottery tickets.   Clint was present, along with Becca, Paulo and Samantha Medina, Bill Clements, Ryan Smith and some other Folsom Trail Runners.  With 8 lottery tickets, Clint had an 18.1% chance of being selected at the lottery according to  This was the 4th consecutive year that he attended the lottery live, and sadly the 4th consecutive year that his name was not called. For the first time, he was pissed, and if you know Clint, you know that this reaction is out of character for him.  He had already started slipping into a running slump and was losing the motivation to train.  He pulled out his phone to distract himself and to work through the feeling of rejection that thousands of other non-selected entrants were experiencing at that same moment around the world.

For the first time, the 2017 race would include a wait list in order to start as close to the maximum number of 369 runners as possible.  So the barrel containing the remaining 10,871 lottery tickets was turned and race officials prepared to begin selecting 50 tickets for the Wait List.  The ticket was drawn and the name Clint Welch was called out as the first person on the wait list. He heard his name off in the distance, but nothing really registered until Becca screeched in a voice that was reserved for intense, life-changing moments. He was up and running down the aisle, still not fully aware of what was happening.  Melissa Johnson, a friend of Clint's who had already been selected, was sitting in the front row and gave him a huge bear hug just before he arrived to the stage.  Emotional, and still in a blur, Clint reached down and gave another huge hug to the woman who drew his name.

After receiving his goody bag, Clint moved to the back of the stage behind a curtain to wait for any more locals to be selected for the wait list.  Melissa Johnson, Paulo Medina, Paul Grimes, Tina Frizner, and Jodie Wood are friends who had already been selected. Terry Hall was the 20th name selected for the Wait List. Clint was still very much in a daze. Like myself, hundreds of Western States enthusiasts were watching the lottery live online. Clint's phone and all his social media accounts blew up instantly.  With a slight tremble in his hands and with tears welling up in his eyes, it started to hit home - Clint won the Western States Lottery.

When the lottery was over, Clint was standing outside, still somewhat in a whirlwind of emotion. "ClintLikesBeer! ClintLikesBeer!" He felt an insistent tapping on his shoulder. When he turned around, there stood Eric Byrnes, former major league baseball player who ran Western States in 2016. Eric's journey is documented in Sierra Studio Films'  Diamond To the Rough. Eric Byrnes congratulated Clint and gave him a heart-felt hug.  "And that's what's so cool about our community!  He came to 'nobody me'.  And this hammered home the importance of what just happened."

After five years, all the training, qualifying, and sacrificing finally paid off.  And just three days later, Clint was moved from the wait list to an actual runner for the 2017 race to start in Squaw Valley on June 24, 2017 - just 103 days from the posting of this blog.  All the crazy thoughts swirled and reeked havoc on his emotions, but it all became real when the race fees were processed and the money was withdrawn from his account.  At that time it was 'game on.'  All hints of burn out vanished and motivation to train moved into overdrive.

Clint is no novice to the 100-mile trail running scene having completed three 100-Mile races in the last few years: Rio Del Lago in Nov 2013, San Diego 100 in June 2014, and the Javelina Jundred in Oct 2015.  The training routines have varied for each race, but for Western States, Clint has modified what worked in the past and added a few days of strength, cardio, and core workouts to the mileage on the trails.  Every week, this blog will include his actual training.  It will include the good workouts, the bad workouts, and the ugly workouts so that a realistic view of the journey is portrayed.  The current training plan includes three weeks of increasing mileage and one week of lower mileage.  The week just prior to the interview happened to be a lower mileage week:

Training 03/04 - 03/12/17
Sat - 25 miles
Sun - 10 miles at Claimstake
Mon - Cap Tappers 2 mile shakeout run
Tue - The Ranch gym workout
Wed - 10 miles on bike trail
Thur - The Ranch gym workout
Fri - Rest and Recovery
Sat - Treadmill speed work - 5 K "tasting my heart"
Sun - 12 1/2 miles

This blog is for all those who "run just to run," who are not super competitive and enjoy the freedom and adventure of running on the trails and out in the elements.  "If I could run naked, I would.  I don't like to run with 'stuff.' I even get irritated when I have to carry a water bottle," shared Clint as he enjoyed a few Breaking Buds from Knee Deep.  "Some day I'd like to run 100 miles outside of an organized race."  Clint is about as down-to-earth as they come.  It is very clear that family comes first in his life, and that without the support of Becca, Kaleb, and Halle, he would not be on this big journey.

And Clint is a firm believer that he is living proof that almost anyone can train and run 100 miles. This blog is for everyone who wants to, but don't think they can.  And for everyone who supports the Trail Running Community.



  1. LOVE this! Go Clint! Thanks for convincing him to share his story!

  2. I look forward to following along this dream come true. Go Clint!

  3. Good luck Clint, this is your rockstar moment

  4. Go! Clint! Your mom shared this with me...I love reading about how the process works for you!

  5. Dude, reading this brought goosebumps and an f'n tear to my eye.
    Thanks for sharing this. You truly motivated me to train hard and make it in one day.
    Run strong, run fun and always run happy.
    Maybe someday... someday soon, we will toe the line together at WS.
    If someone gives you crap about your 13.1 tattoo while in my presence, thems be get'n an earfull.
    Tom T.