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The dark morning hours began with Tyler in the midst of the pack, pressing back the adrenaline of the start. The first twenty-five miles, in the early morning through high country, are the least familiar. While not as brutal as the baking canyons, the heat is something Tyler prepares for. The trail is choppy, littered with rolly rocks, and his heart rate was higher than expected. He wondered if he was on pace, and second-guessed the race altogether.  The existential crisis of the high ground ended at Robinson Flats, where the trail drops down into a long slope toward the canyons. Tyler didn’t crack the top ten until halfway through, when he emerged at the El Dorado aid station alongside his Nike teammate, Drew Holmen, in eighth.

I first saw Tyler ten miles later, at Foresthill, a gold-mining town set high on a ridge in the Sierra foothills. If the start and finish are the two largest party atmospheres along the Western States route, Foresthill is the third, the most appropriate midpoint, with a thoroughfare lined with camper vans, shade tents, and dad-hatted observers eager to watch the race drift by. The temperature when we arrived, even at 3,200’, was 99 degrees. Rachel and Tyler’s crew were stationed in the scant shade of the massive pines lining the main thoroughfare. Tyler arrived a short while later, cruising and looking solid with Holmen in seventh.

My daughter and I, who’d arrived twenty minutes previous after crossing northern California all day, hovered on the periphery as Tyler munched watermelon chunks, crewmates doused him in ice water, and photographers collected snapshots. Just before taking off again, he caught our eyes and flashed a grin. We felt heartened. Then he took off again down the thoroughfare and toward the trail.

Image via Andy Cochran

Between the next two aid stations––the Dardanelles and Peachstone––Tyler made his move, breaking away from Drew Holmen and moving ahead of Ludovic Pommeret to the sixth spot. By Green Gate, he was in fifth, and at Quarry Road, with a little less than 10 miles to run, Tyler broke into fourth place.

We waited to see him again at the next aid station, Pointed Rocks, a shaded grove of oak trees just north of Cool, California. This was where, a year before, we watched Tyler emerge from over the hill, catching Hayden Hawks to earn second. 

The sun was dropping through the oak boughs, casting gold fractals over the meadow, and there were signs a similar moment was shaping up. Adam Peterman held a solid lead, but Hayden Hawks was in second and flagging, and the gap between Tyler and Arlen Glick––which was seven minutes at Green Gate––had narrowed to three.

Hawks appeared first, at 7:50. He looked weary at his pitstop, but not beat, and wasn’t stopped for long. We waited, hoping Tyler would crest the hill, but it was Glick, the cheery Mennonite, who emerged first. Glick gathered up with his crew while I kept an Instagram Live feed focused on the trail.

Then Tyler arrived, a minute behind. He paused, knowing he’d need every drop of adrenaline over the final leg. Glick, who was still resting ducked out to the path first. Tyler left soon after, the gap between them around 30 seconds. 

Image via Vasily Samoylov

The chase was on. We hiked back to our cars from Painted Rocks, giddy from the rising thrill of the race. Winning was out, but Tyler’s hopes for a podium were probable, and there was still a shot at repeating second place. 5.9 miles remained.

The finish line at Placer High was hyped at sunset as Adam Peterman cruised across the finish line. The lanky Montanan’s debut was the eleventh fastest time in Western States history, and at 26, he’s set for a promising career.

Hayden Hawks, the feisty Utahan who dominates shorter ultras across the American Southwest, arrived a little over a half hour later. In 2020, Hawks had tracked near Walmsley for most of the race before crumbling in the last 10 miles. This year, his stride was uneven when he reached Auburn, and he’d lost pace considerably in the race’s latter miles, but his cushion was insurmountable. Hawks gritted to a strong finish. 

The last place on the podium was still up for grabs.

In 2021, Tyler’s run from Pointed Rocks to Auburn was basically a victory lap. The last pass was made, Walmsley had finished, and the path from Robie Point was a breezy descent. All he had to do was hold a solid pace and float to victory. 

This year, Tyler’s last miles of Western States were the opposite. He was a greyhound on the heels of his quarry, his focus narrowed to a pinpoint. But Arlen Glick, the hare he chased, was also dialed. Between Pointed Rocks and Robie Point, Tyler felt fantastic, a dream of a descent. Somehow, though, Glick gained ground. Maybe a minute or so. So down from Robie Point, Tyler pushed with all he had.

The final push to 15:57:10

To reach truest flow requires peak challenge, and the closeout of those final ten miles drew everything Tyler had. He pushed his legs and body to hasten pace, to close out, to burn every last atom of energy, hoping with each turn to catch sight of Arlen Glick.

This never happened, though. Tyler reached the Placer High track at twilight. The year before, he’d slapped the surface in triumph, but this year the broadcast’s focus was at the other end, where Glick leapt across the finish line. At the crowd’s roar, Tyler knew the chase was finished and he slowed, finally, a little over 100 miles in. He and Rachel half-jogged and half-walked to the end. The clock read 15:57:10 when he crossed, beating his time the year before by fourteen minutes.

Tyler felt the finish, and put his arms in the air. Arlen greeted him, and the two runners hugged, and the crowd cheered for both of them. Then Ty laid down on his back over a capital E on the track. He stayed there awhile, minutes which are always frightening because there can be costs to pushing a body so hard for so long. In any case, I’m grateful Rachel was nearby to check on him. Tyler was weary at his core, the sort of weary you can only get from racing 100.2 miles, with 10 out of 10 effort. 

Image via Andy Cochran

In Tyler’s post-race interview, Corrine Malcolm asked, “As you laid on the track, you said ‘I think that was even better than second place.’ And I’m wondering if you can tell us what that means to you?”

Of course, he wanted to win, Tyler explained through the fog of exhaustion.

“But what I wanted most was to give the best out of myself, and that’s what this race does.”

He aimed to give everything he had, and did so.

A year and a day previous, Tyler’s finish would’ve flabbergasted us. The chase would’ve been a career high. But there was no way around the frustration I felt at the difference in recognition, at missing the podium by less than a track-length. How arbitrary and distinct could two finishes be? 

This is how the race goes, though. Sometimes the glory rains down with ease and other times we chase and chase and never quite reach the dream. Or you run perfect, spend a year getting even better, and the satisfaction isn’t the same.

In his interview after finishing, Hayden Hawks said it well:

“If you give everything you have and somebody beats you, that’s outta your control.”

Tyler Green is seasoned, though. He’s run all his life against the sports’ elite, back to high school when Portland’s top high school distance runner was Galen Rupp. He’s learned, again and again, he could give his all and still be beat, and that over 100.2 miles through the Sierra Mountains, there’s too much beyond anyone’s control. There are Walmsleys and Petermans and sometimes Hayden Hawks can puke and rally. This was what Ty learned from Kendrick Lamar at Peachstone the year before.

To win has never been a given, and yet Tyler keeps going, keeps honing his craft. In doing so, he’s become one of the finest ultrarunners in the world, and we honor him for that, but also for being a great sportsman, for honorably guiding so many others into a love for the art of running.

This was the Tyler I saw at Golden Hour the next day, even as his legs were creaky and sore. The last runners were streaming in, chasing that deadline all through the night. Tyler cheered for each of them, shouting personal encouragement to folks he knows. He was at peace, in his element, a runner satisfied from work well done, a body healing. Western States is over, and the journey of fatherhood, another worthy chase, is off ahead, There’s Mont Blanc to plan for. There are more races to run.


Don't forget to check out Part I(Se abre en una ventana nueva)!