There will be pain, guaranteed. And sleep deprivation, most assuredly. And nausea, probably.
Competing in the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, which leads from Squaw Valley to Auburn along the vertically challenging Sierra and across blazing hot canyons, certainly will not be easy this weekend for a back-of-the-pack runner such as Randy Van Dusen.
But the 37-year-old Sacramento police officer vows to keep running, walking, crawling – whatever it takes – to finish under the 30-hour time limit. Part of what will keep him going all day and through the night on Saturday and into Sunday morning is the thought that his K-9 colleague and man's best friend Bodie will be waiting for him at the Placer High School track to cover the final 0.1 miles.
"He's going to be with me on the last lap, whether I have to carry him or he'll hobble along with that peg leg he's got now," Van Dusen said.
Bodie himself has endured his own physical challenges of late. The police dog was critically injured after being shot during a foot chase with a suspect in a Land Park neighborhood in mid-May. After suspect Lucas Jerome Webb of Chico shot Bodie in the jaw and right front leg, Van Dusen fired and killed Webb.
Van Dusen has been told by superiors not to talk about the shooting incident. He's now back at work, though Bodie, who still hobbles in a soft cast encasing his left foreleg, is only making community relations appearances until his wounds heal. But Van Dusen will say that his 4-year-old German shepherd has shown amazing resilience after losing so much blood after the shooting that he nearly died.
Life for Van Dusen hasn't been easy, either, post-shooting. In talking about nursing Bodie back to health, Van Dusen sounds like a father of a newborn.
"Bodie's given me some sleep deprivation training for Western States over the last month," Van Dusen said. "That's been good, staying up with him. He's now sleeping the night, but it's just hard for me to sleep the night, worrying and making sure he's breathing – just staring at him. He's on a crazy feeding schedule, up at 1 in the morning giving him his dinner. He's lost 10 pounds, and we're trying to get him stronger."
Van Dusen credits trail running – and Western States training, in particular – for serving as a stress reliever this spring.
"There's nothing better than going out after work and running for about a couple of hours, especially trail running," he said. "You're away from everything. You aren't near cars, the city noise. The scenery is beautiful. It clears your mind."
If it weren't for his job as a police officer, Van Dusen probably never would have taken up distance running nine years ago.
"I sat guiding traffic at the CIM (California International Marathon) back in 2003 and watched people go by," he said. "I thought, 'Hey, I could do this.' So, in 2004, I ran it. And I've run it every year since. But, mentally, I'm always looking for the next challenge."
That would be ultrarunning. Van Dusen has completed the area's two most popular sub-100-milers, the Way Too Cool 50K and the American River 50 Mile multiple times. Last summer, he made the jump to 100-milers, finishing Rio del Lago (which loops Folsom Lake, Auburn and Cool several times).
That finish qualified him for the Western States 100 entry lottery. Before the lottery, though, Van Dusen received a spot in the race belonging to one of the aid-station sponsors, SacFit, because of another chance on-duty incident, this one occurring at the 2011 Parkway Half Marathon.
"I snuck out to the (American River) trail to watch my wife (Lori) run the half," Van Dusen said. "I got flagged down by a runner saying, 'Hey, somebody passed out.' I ran a quarter-mile up the trail. There was a man down. It ended up, he had a blood clot break out of his leg and lodge in his heart. His heart stopped. I gave the man CPR for six minutes. No pulse, no breathing. But then he came back and lived."
The race director was so appreciative that he gave Van Dusen his organization's coveted Western States entry.
"Along with Bodie, that's another reason I want to finish this race," Van Dusen said. "I look at Western States as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's going to be memorable."