‘Long trek back’
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story about Nevada City 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 two will appear in Saturday’s edition of The Union.
She put the magnet on her refrigerator after last year.
“Nothing breeds success like failure” had truly become her mantra.
Eva Lobsitz of Nevada City had simply failed. Her training times had been slow. She had toiled to train in the cool weather of the wet 2006 spring. The stage truly was set for The Failure.
Although it was unforeseen, in retrospect, it did not come as a surprise.
The Western States 100 is a grueling race. Beginning at Squaw Valley, it starts with a near vertical 2,500 foot climb in 3.7 miles. It is a power walk. Although the mind’s eye might lead you to believe it is all downhill from there, it is simply the beginning of a 100-mile, 30-hour, sleepless, fatiguing, overall hellish experience.
Even under the best of circumstances, it challenges the psyche and the body like nothing else. Eva Lobsitz hoped that it would culminate in a successful finish at Auburn as it had the past two years.
However, nature had other things in mind.
Blazing heats greeted race day in 2006.
At Squaw Valley, it was already warm. This was not a good sign. There had been no heat training in anticipation. It had been a cool spring/early summer. There was also a lot of snow over The Escapement. It slowed all the runners down. The elevation and heat were bad.
“At times, I felt it was the death march” Lobsitz remembers. “When I hit Duncan Canyon, it was just before the time cutoff. Within five minutes of leaving, the cutoff horn blew. It was disheartening. The day was still young. I was already tired.”
The temperatures, snowy terrain, and lack of appropriate training were indeed a deadly combination.
“I got tired of trying to keep up with the cutoffs,” she said. “I was staying 10 to 15 minutes ahead, but I was giving way mentally. My heart was not in it anymore. The heat had fried me”.
Fifty-five miles in, at Michigan Bluff, with a little more than 45 miles to go, it was over.
Shortly after it had begun, Eva Lobsitz had thrown in the towel. She could not continue. Her 2006 attempt was a failure, a combination of adversities that would prevent her from finishing her third Western States 100.
“I am glad she stopped,” Lauren, Lobsitz’s daughter, recalled. “It was way too hot. It looked like the heat had really taken its toll. When they finally brought her out, she looked really tired, totally fatigued.”
Almost from the moment she emerged at Foresthill, the first accessible stop since Michigan Bluff, she knew the months ahead would be difficult. There would be the second-guessing, the doubts of whether she should have conceded with slightly more than half the race completed.
“I felt OK with it, but I also knew I was going to suffer the consequences of my decision,” she said. “Seeing the people finish that were behind me made me second-guess myself. I gave it to the trail that day. I hoped the lesson was worth the disappointment. Life is not always successful. It was all lows … no good times … never an upswing. The trail got me.”
Over the next three days, Lobsitz would suffer from depression. Her friends would recall that she was not her normal self. A vivacious, fun-loving, ever-smiling woman, she was more reserved, solemn and quiet for awhile.
Some even worried about her. This was not the normal Eva.
The Western States 100 has a way of doing that to runners. It surely had changed the path of her life. The trail had claimed another victim, and the pain was surely one of life’s most unpleasant experiences. There were no do-overs or second chances. It was a matter of living with the decision and finding peace with the failure of 2006.
The weeks ahead would bring some soul-searching and self-examination. Would 2007 provide her with another chance?
Three hundred sixty five days is so short … yet so long.
June 23, 2007, 5 a.m. at Squaw Valley, California.
The humility continued to surround Lobsitz. Surely there was still a lot to sort out in quest of a successful potential 2007 run.
Coming Saturday: Part 2 – 2007: Family, God, and Duncan Canyon
Jim Adams lives in Nevada City and is a regular contributor to The Union.
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