South Shore man gives blood, body in Western States 100
Chicken broth and crackers.
That’s all Alan Barichievich, 35, from South Lake Tahoe, could hold down after 45 miles.
He was working his way up Devil’s Thumb, the hardest climb during the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile race from Squaw Valley USA, to Auburn, Calif., last Saturday when he hit “rock bottom” and lost his lunch.
“After throwing up I felt a lot better,” he said. “There was no way I was dropping out, so I just kept going.”
Besides, Barichievich figured, it was as hot as it was going to be all day. The sun had already passed its zenith, warming the canyon walls and heating the nearby air well into the 90s.
The next 55 miles would surely be cooler.
Barichievich was one of 444 runners who qualified and was selected by lottery to run in the Western States Endurance Run, one of the more prestigious ultra-races in the United States.
Moreover, he was one of the lucky ones who finished.
About half of those who begin the race don’t finish. They drop out because of injury, dehydration, exhaustion or worse.
Rarely, however, do runners stop because they don’t want to go on.
Almost no one would spend the hours, months and years of training to become an ultrarunner only to start one of the most difficult races in the United States and then suddenly lose motivation.
In that aspect, ultrarunners are testament to desire, to the pure egotism of setting a horrendous goal and battling through mental barriers and physical pain to say “I did it.”
For Barichievich, that motivation also extended through the web of his family.
“I knew I had all my crew in Forest Hill, my folks were going to be there,” he said, reflecting on his motivation to keep running after going 45 miles. “I knew I was going to get there. I didn’t know how pretty it would be … but I figured things would get a little bit better.”
And they did.
At mile 62, runners are allowed pacers, and that’s when the physical therapist from Barton Memorial Hospital gained the support of his running help.
“My wife was one of my pacers, and my brother, and my good kayaking buddies were my crew. I needed the help to do it — that’s for sure. To break 24 (hours) you need all the help you can get,” he said.
Barichievich’s brother ran the first stretch from mile 62-78, a healthy warmup on a normal day for Barichievich at 16 miles.
Barichievich’s wife, Caroline, ran as the pacer during the final 22 miles, nearly completing a marathon just as a helper.
From there, Barichievich said he picked up some time that he had lost earlier in the day.
He finished 78th overall, 23 minutes short of 24 hours.
Barichievich crossed the line 2 hours and 18 minutes behind Scott Jurek, 28, the overall finisher, who made the 100-mile trek in 21:19.
A sponsored ultrarunner, Jurek finished first in the Western States for the fourth consecutive year.
Finishing the Western States 100 is not the kind of Kodak ribbon-breaking moment you see in commercials.
And for Barichievich, it wasn’t even a much of a celebration.
Shortly after crossing the finish line, Barichievich had to give blood for the third time as a volunteer in a medical assay by the Western States medical staff in conjunction with Appalachian State University.
He gave blood the day before the race, at mile 55, and just when his oxygen-deprived body needed all the hemoglobin it could get — right after crossing the finish line.
Barichievich said he spent the next hour curled up in a sleeping bag on the grass waiting for his energy level to return. “Then I perked up a bit,” he said.
As for his precious blood, Barichievich won’t receive any money or special prize.
“They’re going to send me the results,” he joked.
But he already knows what they’ll find.
Chicken broth and crackers.