A new journey Lobsitz tests her will in endurance run
Special to The Union
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story about Nevada City’s Eva Lobsitz and her journey back to the Western States 100 Endurance Run in Auburn last weekend. Lobsitz was disappointed in 2006 when she withdrew from the run prior to completing her third Western States 100. Part one appeared in Friday’s edition of The Union.
By Jim Adams
Special to The Union
Lauren Lobsitz smiled as she pondered the race itself.
“I can’t help but think they are all a little crazy,” she said, her voice trailing off as she added “but they are also heroic.”
Such is the profound respect held for those who contemplate and challenge what is known as the Western States 100.
Each year this running event attracts people from around the world. It is a premiere event. It is rugged. It is tough.
The Western States 100 is slightly more than 100 miles of tough terrain complete with mountain peaks, valleys, water crossings, and a trek deep into the heart of the night.
For most, the challenge is to finish.
They have 30 hours to traverse the course. The starting time is 5 a.m. at Squaw Valley. The goal is to jog into Auburn to the finish line prior to 11 a.m. the next day.
Eva Lobsitz is one of those people who cherish the challenge. She trains for it. Her focus during the months prior to the event is intense. She runs parts of the course. She participates in other events. She readies herself for this often brutal attack on her body and psyche.
2006 was not a kind year.
It tested the mettle of the participant. More than half the runners dropped out. The heat was consuming. Not even the summits offered relief. Eva Lobsitz was one of the victims. She joined a large group of unsuccessful hopefuls. It was simply not to be.
Almost immediately following the 2006 race, she made the decision to again participate in 2007. Running, indeed, is something she loves and the Western States 100 is the premiere event. Strangely enough, the decision was made at the finish line of the 2006 event as she waited for other runners to finish.
“I was focused, and decided at the finish line of last year’s race to be determined this year,” Eva Lobsitz said. “It is a big adventure. You have to keep your eye on the prize.
“I felt stronger this year, and more confident than I did last year.”
It did not hurt that she had plastered a sign on her refrigerator that read, “Nothing breeds success like failure.”
It was the constant reminder of the goal ahead. It allowed her to be focused on the 2007 finish line.
Eva comes from a strong family. She has a highly supportive husband, Bill, and two daughters. Lauren glows as she speaks of her mom. There is no doubt she is proud of Eva’s running exploits. Her smile is an indication of her love and respect. It is a good bond, surely one that will carry Eva for 30 hours through the depths of darkness and hopefully into the light of Auburn’s daunting finish line.
Likewise, Eva Lobsitz has a deep love of God. Part of the reason that she emerged positively from 2006’s challenge was her faith. She could give 2006 back to the Lord.
The cool, rainy spring; the abundance of snow; and the consuming heat were all part of His plan. Nothing happens by coincidence in her world. Even failure was by design. In this case, it allowed her to grow and appreciate the value of her mini-walk through hell. It is her faith that got her through the moments of 2006, and it would be her faith that would prepare her for the challenge of 2007.
She spoke of her night before the race at their RV in Squaw Valley. It was a comfortable, deep sleep that prepared her for the rigors of June 23, 2007.
“The Lord gave me confidence and peace.”
She knew that even this event – with cooler weather, a light snow pack, and even a pacer at mile 62 – had the prospects of being more tolerable.
She felt more prepared for mile 24. This was Duncan’s Canyon, a treacherous area of the course in which you expended an unusual amount of energy. It was also here that Lobsitz fell ill.
It was a case of nausea. She was forced to slow down in order to avoid vomiting. She could not afford to lose her fluids let alone expend the unnecessary energy the illness would cause. It would remain for more than five hours – in the middle of the day – for almost 20 miles until she reached Last Chance.
She reminded herself, “It is a part of the task.”
A leap of faith caused Eva to munch on a grilled cheese sandwich while drinking some soup at Last Chance. A risky choice, she hoped it would turn the tide. It did. She left the nausea at Last Chance. Throughout the day it would be a combination of gels, electrolyte drinks, cookies, raisins, and trail mix that would sustain her.
Her only other mishap, other than the pending fatigue, was a fall between Last Chance and Foresthill. She could barely see the scratches and scrapes through the dust that now covered her legs. Along the way, she experienced mountain peaks and valley floors. There was precious little flat land. That is what made this course so unique … and exhausting. She knew the trail well. The trek to Devil’s Thumb that usually takes 45 minutes took an hour this time.
Ahead was Mile 62, Foresthill.
Into the night
Eva arrived very late in the day. It was nearly sunset. Twenty family members and friends were there to greet her. She looked tired, but was very coherent. Most would note that she was a bit preoccupied to get back on the course and venture into the night.
She sat. She changed shoes and socks. She sustained herself.
As quickly as she arrived, she was back on the course. This time she would pick up her pacer, Therese Iknoian.
“This is kind of a fun part,” Lobsitz said. “I was positive and excited. I had company for the first time.”
With headlamp now in place and Therese by her side, she headed off, not to emerge from the forest again until after sunrise.
Therese pushed her through the darkness of night. When Eva would walk, Therese would gently say, “Come on. Let’s jog here for while.”
Jog she did. Even as she approached her 24-hour point in the race, the speed of her miles did not noticeably fall off. More encouraging was the fact that she was well ahead of the 30 hour pace. The prospects for a finish looked good.
Sunrise, she says, is an invigorating time.
“You perk up a little bit,” she said. “You take the head lamp off and see the trail better. It is gorgeous to be out in the middle of nowhere and hear the very first birds chirping. I like it when it gets light. However, you are tired. You want to go to bed.”
Bed, in this case, would be another 11 hours away.
The final phase was upon her. However, it was not without its challenges.
“It is a long four hours to the finish line,” she said. “You go from aid station to aid station. I felt very fatigued at that point. It is a given. You check in with your body. How do I really feel? Unless there is blood squirting or bones sticking out, I will keep going.”
Keep going she did. At 9:50 a.m. she approached the Auburn finish line. Family and friends awaited her entrance.
Until one crosses the finish line, there is still doubt. There is the lingering thought of a last minute accident or collapse.
“I knew she was going to make it,” said Lauren Lobsitz. “I saw her at the start of the track. We ran the last quarter mile with her. She looked exhausted.”
A sense of accomplishment
As quickly as it started, it was suddenly over. She had finished in less than 29 hours. It was a good feeling. The mission had been completed. There was much hugging and congratulating. She even felt famous for a day. There was the great sense of accomplishment. She is proud as she displays her medals. They are a symbol of sacrifice, dedication, and focus of her most challenging 29 hours of the year.
“It is a condensed version of life,” Eva Lobsitz said. “Life is long. You have highs and lows, good times and bad times. And when you get to the finish line you feel like you are at the gates of Heaven … with your friends and loved ones greeting you.”
Even two days later she still showed the signs of an arduous race. There were scratches across her legs. Her feet were swollen. She was still tired. She did not move as quickly, but she was vibrant, alert, content, and fulfilled.
What a difference a year makes.
The 2007 adventure, for now, was complete.
Jim Adams lives in Nevada City and is a regular contributor to The Union.
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