The Pocatello 50 mile race was truly one of the most challenging, difficult and beautiful races I’ve ever ran. It was tougher than me yesterday. With temperatures topping around 86 and the extreme climbs, I battled nausea for most of the day which kept me at a really slow hike/walk after the first 17 miles. I made it (according to my Garmins) – about 48+ miles into the race and was pulled there, so the final 5 miles are still a mystery.
The race was divided into 3 legs. The toughest part of the course was leg 1!!! Climbing straight UP the side of this huge mountain (cross country!) Mile 12 had 1377 of climb!! THAT was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done! It wiped me out for the rest of the race I’d say. Mile 23 had 1,022 of climb as well and was also fairly hard in leg 2 which was steep enough, I was clawing at the dirt with my hands and grabbing bushes on each side to keep from sliding backwards down the hill. The rest of that section was honestly gorgeous, wooden footbridges, lots of lush trees and a stream running alongside. I should have ran well through here as it was the nicest section of trail, but I was so beat up and nauseous from the first leg, I just couldn’t get it done. Leg 3 was supposed to be the hardest, but I found it the easiest section and since I was the last 50 miler to make the cut off at 33 miles, I had the company of 3 “sweeper” guys who stayed with me until the end. They were great guys and made that part of the journey much better since it was nice to have some good conversation for the duration. Mile 45 had 1,041 feet of gain, but was on a road that gradually switchbacked up (which I handle so much better than straight UP!) So pretty! Climbed Scout Mountain (reaching nearly 9,000 in elevation) for a spectacular view. Got to watch the sunset with the 3 guys “sweeping” the race and got a laugh out of some goofy guy who’d driven his big pickup way up there and high-centered it in a big snowbank! Oops! SO impressed with those who can run so well in races like this!!! I’m in awe of my pals who are strong and fast enough no matter what the conditions and terrain!!!! I seem to struggle when there is heat or difficult climbs.
According to my Garmin stats the elevation gain I got was 10,913. Maybe there was still some good climbing those last 5 miles I missed out on?
I also found out after talking to my friends at the finish line later that the last section of the course had an angry mountain lion who had stared down a runner, which would have been waiting for ME had they allowed me to continue. I’m glad I didn’t have to experience that!!
I’m proud of myself. I didn’t give up. I didn’t quit. I’m SUPER thrilled I made the first two cut offs (the first one by over an hour, the second one by 6 minutes.) There were not supposed to be any cut offs after that time, and I had to wait at an aid station at around mile 38 for more than fifteen minutes while they radioed the race directors to see if I’d be allowed to go on from that point (with 15 miles to go.) They said, “If you choose to keep going, and have the night equipment to keep you safe (headlamp and a coat – I had both thanks to two nice volunteers who shared with me since mine were located at the next aid station) there are no cut offs. If you want to go on, you can.”
It broke my heart nine miles later, when I’d plugged on towards my goal slow but steadily, with the three male sweeper fellas keeping a good eye on me when the race director showed up on the trail at mile 48 (after I’d been racing for about 17 hours) and told me, “We need to have a talk. How are you doing?” I said, “Awesome!” and gave him a thumbs up.” He said, “I’m sorry to tell you this but, you’re done.” I thought I was hearing him wrong. It made no sense since I was almost done with just 5 miles to go and had zero doubts in my ability to finish. Nausea was my only problem and I was at an aid station where I could refuel and finish strong since eating always helps with that for me.
I said, “But, I can finish and you told me there are no cut offs!” He said, “Not this time. It’s over.” That was a really tough part emotionally. I’d finally let myself believe I was really going to accomplish this and then I was not allowed to do so. I really wish they’d said that earlier or given me a specific time just so I was aware. The race directors had their reasons (he’d already taken down the finish line and sent the timing guys home, though from looking at past race results from their race, does seem like it was a move done earlier this year than in the past and not something that was ever mentioned when they said I could finish just a few hours earlier.)
In fact, in the pre-race meeting the night before someone had asked, “Is there really no time cut off after the 3:30 pm one?” He said, “Nope! I expect to be up until midnight waiting on the last runner.” If that were the case, then I should have been allowed to run another hour and try to make that deadline, but I was firmly told, “No.” Their decision is what it is, but it was disheartening, kind of like having the rug pulled out from under you. My three sweeper guys had just been collectively telling me they couldn’t wait to see me finish and they were certain I would so they were as surprised as I was when this happened.
I had already been imagining the finish line moment when my five kids,. husband and friends saw me crossing the line, even after a tough day. I was really looking forward to it but instead, out of the blue, my race ended. I climbed into the car and it was such a surreal feeling to go from one instant where you are about to hit the final leg of your long journey, where you realize that you really are going to make it after a grueling battle with the trails on that day and then suddenly I was in the family car, riding towards the finish line where I would not get a finisher medal and had to explain to all my friends who had so patiently waited there for me to finish that I did not quit – I was pulled in a race without even a warning.
My friends immediately surrounded me with hugs and words of encouragement as I cried and I felt so embraced by their kindness and love for me when I told them what had happened. That part of the night was truly a precious gift and meant more to me than the medal would have. They seemed most relieved to know that I was safe and sound. Just seeing my five beautiful children, my husband and my friends Dennis, Kirstin, Lynette, Michelle, Ryan, Sam and Paul boosted my spirits immensely and it was very clear what really matters to me most in life. A race is just a run, really. At the end of the day, having people you love who care about you weather you came in first, last or DNF’d means way more than anything else. I am very grateful for the wonderful support I have!
Definitely needing to process this. Need to decide if I’m going to Big Horn 50 in two weeks or not now. I’ve paid, but not sure I could handle another bad outcome on the off chance it goes that way so soon after this one.