As I spotted Lauren Fleshman walking toward me at Seatac Airport in a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, I knew we were off to a good start. We laughed and hugged ("nice eyebrows"), scarfed down some Qdoba bowls, refilled the water bottles, and got on the plane to Sacramento to circle up with our woman, Devon Yanko.
THE NEXT 72 HOURS WILL BE THE STORY OF HER 100 MILE RACE. Not just any race, but her "sleeping dragon" - Western States Endurance 100, or #WS100. As I told one of our ultra runner staff members, Beth McAlpine, before I left: I've never crewed on an ultra. She looked at me with surprise, "wow, you're going straight to the Super Bowl."
It's true, this trip poses many firsts. I'm nervous - but thrilled for the newness. As someone fluent in track, field, cross country and roads, ultras beckon with novelty. There's the distance, the location (Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA), the cadence and culture (rest stops, food, gear), the people - many of who I follow on social, and this year's expected heat wave (105 anyone?).
But for Devon, the newness is less so. Her dragon has been waking for awhile. And she's danced with WS100 before, only to have been brought down by physical and environmental hurdles.
This weekend's race started years ago with her transition to an ultra badass. But most recently, with her decisive win at the Javelina 100, where, per her recap:
"I not only finished, I crushed it. First woman, second overall, new course record in 14:52 in the 9th fastest time ever in the 100 miler for a North American resident and 3rd fastest trail 100 mile time ever."
That was last Fall.
So when she scored herself a "golden ticket" earlier this year (where a top three finish gets you an auto-entry into WS100) no one was shocked. (On that day, I "watched" via Twitter, and as she moved from third to second and then first, I fist pumped and danced to the occasional bemusement of my family - who are accustomed to my race watching antics by now).
Almost everyone knows how much I believe in this woman. And as the CEO of a company that sponsors many different athletes, here's why: Devon is one of a kind. She's a force. She's a smart, articulate, open and honest human. She's 6' feet tall, decorated with NBA-quality tattoos, and vocal about her beliefs (I still remember her diving head first into Lake Colchuck at bird camp, yelling at us to get in or else). Honest and fierce; humble and vulnerable.
For a brand that looks for personality associations - this woman has a story - and I just want Oiselle to be the catalyst to help her tell it to the world. And I want to make amazing gear that helps her win big races on significant stages.
So today, Lauren and I are here to support. To shower Devon with affirmations. And to do anything we can to help her traverse and restore and stay cool in this epic event.
As a bonus, we're also here as part of a film crew. Thanks to our friends and partners at REI, we're filming Devon's race, and our presence there - as part of a brand story that will weave together the threads of trail, and ultras, and performance, and sisterhood.
Please hang out with us! You can follow and join using the hashtag #ultrawithdevon. We'll be using it to document the adventure, but we'd love for you to run with us too! Tag your pics or runs with the hashtag and we'll be reposting along the way. It's time to woman up! And you women always bring the good energy.
Start time: Saturday, 6/25, 5am PDT
Estimated finish: 9pm
Race start and finish location: Squaw Valley to Auburn
Map via www.arounddonnersummit.com - click to enlarge!
You Might Also Like:
Woman Up: Q&A With Devon Yanko Pre-Western States 100
Devon Yanko on Cultivating Badassery
Shop Devon's Favorite Trail Styles (free Mesh Cap in all orders through 6/25!)