Kaytlyn Gerbin of Team 7hills and Team Vfuel ran in the Western States 100 last Saturday. It was her second 100mile race and first Western States. She finished 4th after being out of the Top 10 most of the day. We caught up with her afterwards for a 7questions interview; here’s what she had to say:
1) From an outsiders perspective following along on social media, it seemed like you ran the perfect race! Was there anything you’d do differently?
Thank you! Overall I’m really happy with how the day went, and I’m proud of running a smooth and smart race. Two regrets that resulted in excessive blisters: not wearing gaiters and not changing socks earlier. The first third of the course was pretty gnarly (see next question), and I ended up with a ton of mud/grit/pebbles in my shoes. I debated changing socks at Duncan Canyon (mile 24), but held off until Robinson (mile 30) before swapping. My crew and I didn’t have a towel or rag with us (now we know!), which would have helped to clean my feet off better when I did eventually switch socks.
2) What was your favorite section of the Western States Trail? Least favorite?
Having never set foot on the course before, the whole day was an adventure on new trails, which I thought was fun. I honestly really enjoyed the whole course – I was really happy to be there and everything was new. I expected the high country to be my favorite, but the conditions this year made it pretty gnarly and slow. There was still A LOT of snow up high (the ski resort still had a few runs open), and when we weren’t side-slipping on steep snow or punching through snow bridges, there was either off-trail bushwhacking to follow pink flags (most of the trail was under snow), or wading through shin-deep boggy mud meadows. This is why I wish I had worn gaiters!
If I had to pick, I’d say my least favorite was the descents in the canyons – I didn’t mind the climbs (they were brutal, but I’m decent with climbing) – but the descents were quad-imploding steep, and it was way too early in the day to have fun with that!
3) What was your cooling strategy?
You know that 90’s song by Vanilla Ice?
Ice everywhere – in a bandana I wore around my neck, in my hat, down my sports bra, and in my hydration bladder. I also took every opportunity I could to stay wet. There were lots of creek crossings this year due to the snow melt, so I sat down in every creek I crossed and poured water over my head or dipped my hat (I figured if my feet were wet anyways from crossing, I might as well just plop down). I also took every chance of free ice water sponge-baths from aid station volunteers. I made sure to start doing this early on in the race to stay ahead of the heat, even if I didn’t feel too hot.
4) How did it feel passing former champions Kaci and Stephanie? That had to be quite a boost?! Did you know exactly when you cracked the top 10? On twitter the re-positioning of runners seemed so chaotic after Forrest Hill.
In general, it was a blast to run alongside women who I’ve looked up to in the sport, and any time I passed someone I knew I was in a bit of disbelief. When my husband Ely was pacing me and we came up behind one of my lady running legends, he’d say “dude, you’re about to pass ___!!!!”.
I first saw Stephanie on my way out of the Devil’s Thumb aid station, where she told me she had spent an hour cooling off and almost dropped. I told her there was a lot of race left and that she could still turn things around! About a half mile later she sprinted past me, but I passed her again around mile 70. I actually saw Kaci at an aid station around mile 72ish and she was in rough shape and considering dropping – we chatted briefly and I told her I hope she could keep pushing on. They both did, which made me really happy. It takes a lot to turn around rough moments/days, and I have immense respect for everyone who pushed through.
I didn’t know when I cracked top 10, because I honestly had no idea where I was in the pack until late in the race. However on one stretch (it must have been somewhere between miles 62 and 75ish), Ely and I passed YiOu Wang, Stephanie Howe, Kaci Lickteig, and Europe’s Ildiko Wermescher AND Andrea Huser, and I knew I must be getting up there. When I got to Green Gate (mile 80) to switch pacers (to Ladia Albertson-Junkans), I learned I was in 7th. What??!!!! We continued to pass a few more runners (mostly on the punchy climbs in the final 10 miles) until I came into No Hands Bridge and eventually the finish in 4th!
5) How many vfuel gels did you have? Some of all the flavors?
I took one gel (almost) every 30 minutes, so you do the math! I stuck with mostly VFuel Vanilla or Fudge Brownie gels, although my favorite is actually Peach Cobbler (it tastes like peach rings). I supplemented the gels with lots of watermelon (I ate it at almost every aid station!), VFuel drink mix (Cool Lime), and an assortment of chews and Honey Stinger Waffles, and a popsicle. My stomach stayed happy all day and I didn’t have any real GI issues.
6) What shoes did you wear? How many times did you change socks?
I wore the Brooks PureGrit 6 for the first 80 miles, then switched to the Altra Timp for the final 20 miles. I changed socks twice – once at mile 30 and again with the shoe change.
7) Will you be in Squaw in 2018?!
Yes! I’m excited to go back and improve now that I know the course and have a bit more 100 mile experience
Bonus ?s (We are too excited to keep it to just 7!)
-which trail in western WA gave you the best training for the canyons on the Western States course?
I know it’s not western WA, but the Rainshadow Running Yakima Skyline 25k course was a great way to get used to moving up and down steep climbs while also baking in a hot canyon.
– did you take any of Jeff Browning’s Western advice from when he visited the shop last November?
Out of desperation (my go-to sauna was closed and it was my last day to heat-train!), I attempted one “Browning-style heat run” where I wore as many clothes as I could handle and went out for a run. But I much prefer relaxing in a sauna
Congrats on a great race, KG!! And for keeping us all informed via the @team7hills Instagram account!!
Kaytlyn will be at our Wednesday 7/5 group run at 7:30pm. We’ll go out for drinks afterwards to celebrate!! All our welcomed to come!!