Athletic Mentors Coaching Gets Team OAM NOW Runner on the Podium and the Path to the Western States Endurance Run

September 20th, 2015 by Erin Young


What would you do to get into the famous Western States Endurance Run? The world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race that only lets 369 hearty soles purchase a bib to run up 18,000  and descend 23,000 feet of Sierra Nevada mountains? For some of us long distance trail runners, we are happy to run 100 miles just to prove that we can handle such an event. To even be able to enter into the lottery of the WSER, you have to complete an approved 100 mile race within the event’s time limit. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of doing the WSER. It scared me enough to not enter for several years. But the more it scared me, the more I was intrigued by it.

After having my first baby 7 months ago, I thought it was ridiculous to think I could even attempt to run a qualifying event so that I could get my ticket into the lottery. As I continued to struggle through runs and worry about the extra weight I now carried, I still thought… maybe I can. I kept at it and was feeling pretty good about my running and soon I was thinking, I can finish, but it won’t be pretty.


The coaches of Athletic Mentors, Cheryl Sherwood , Cricket Howard and Mark Olson, together helped me get my head on straight. With just a few conversations, I not only knew I could do it, but I believed I could do it, and do it well.  I had to believe that I could do it and WANT to do it. I had to keep believing that I AM going to do it. Using my daily run data, Mark walked me through a plan each week. As we got closer to the event, we spoke each day. I’ve never felt so relaxed in those last few days before an event. I had complete trust in my training and the coaches of Athletic Mentors.


Cheryl joins me at mile 85 for the final loop. If it weren’t for her company, I may have taken a trail nap.


The Woodstock Hallucination 100 was going to be my ticket in. The event was 6 loops through the very runnable Pinckney Recreation Area. I had a dream team of supporters… seriously. My mom, Tammy and Joe, stayed up all night to greet me each loop. Joe was in charge since he knew exactly how to keep me and my head in the race. When my mom started to worry about how cold I was and prepared a chair next to the heater, Joe knew enough to pack that little treat up and shut that idea down. After two loops, pacers were allowed. Liz kept me positive with light hearted girl talk. Joe got me through the coldest, wettest and darkest hours of that night. Scott, my future Trans Rockies Run partner,  and I chatted into daylight (I think he is going to be an awesome partner next summer!). Cheryl, Team Manager of Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors ran with me my final loop. Each one of my pacers contributed to a fun and successful 100 miles. And yes, I said fun. I never once thought that I wouldn’t make it during the run. It was an absolute high to see my crew on every loop and I was so excited to see them. There were times I felt lousy, but I knew I’d feel good soon. Mark had given me simple, but very wise advice, “You’ll feel great and want take off, stay patient. You’ll feel bad at times, but you’ll get over it.” This was the first time I’ve ever followed coaching advice explicitly through a training plan, and I followed his advice to the end of the event.


Earned my ticket! Now I just need to be lucky on December 5th!



I wish I could write about a more eventful 100 miles. But truthfully, it wasn’t eventful at all. The race went perfectly. My body and mind cooperated. No stomach troubles, no blisters, just a little sleepy at times. This was a perfect race. I never thought I could get under 24 hours in my first try at 100 miles. I did because I was patient. Just that steady pace Mark told me to stick with got me in at 21:08. It was an extra special finish to be 2nd Overall Female, and 9th in the overall race. That made me feel fantastic! So, my advice if you ever want to do well in an event that you worry you can’t do… keep those positive people close and let them help you, BELIEVE that you can do it, and get Mark Olson as a coach!

I cannot end this piece until I give a sincere, heartfelt THANK YOU to each member of my crew and all the positive friends I have in my life. This isn’t an Earth shattering event, but it certainly makes you realize how lucky you are. Every single crew member contributed in a huge way to this perfect race and sacrificed their sleep. Mark, Cricket and Cheryl for making me believe I could do this and taking time everyday to check in with me during the last few weeks of training. I felt like a professional athlete with a professional coaching team! My husband, Jason, who always made sure I had time to train and decent sleep while parenting our wild eyed Owen. I think we are a pretty awesome team at this parenting gig. And finally, my coworkers and students for being excited for me and thinking of me while you ate your dinner, breakfast and lunch that day. I hope you are inspired and do something you dream about in your future!


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