I had been looking forward to running the Foothills 50k Frenzy since last year when my friend and fellow race director, Jenny put on this event in our very own Boise Foothills! I was filled with anticipation and excitement when I headed out into the light rain towards the race (which conveniently is less than 20 minutes from my front door – a real treat since I often have to travel for doing my ultras!)
I had been asked to sing the National Anthem at the start and I think I was more nervous about that than racing! I said hello to several friends and grabbed my bib and goody bag at the start, then headed towards the long, long line for the porta-potties. Usually I need to use the facilities at least a couple of times as I deal with my nervous bladder, but unfortunately, while still in line the first time, I realized the line was moving so slow that I would not be able to even get one shot at it! So, like any good ultra runner, I headed off to find a private spot and peed there, beneath some wooden bleachers in the dark, chilly morning.
Then it was time to get the party started, so I headed over to the start line, grabbed the microphone and waited for everyone to line up. The crowd grew quiet and I saw many familiar faces smiling back at me, which calmed me down and then I begin to sing. Last year when I sang the Anthem, I was so nervous, my voice was shaking. This time, I felt more sure of myself and relaxed and actually enjoyed the moment. When I was done, I rushed over to the racers and found myself a good little spot, turned on my headlamp and got ready to race! Several people patted me on the back and said, “Good job!” That made me feel good. Then it was time! They counted down and we were off!!!!
I made it a point to not go out too fast. I pulled back on the pace right away and let the crowd surge ahead and thought to myself, “It will be more fun to chase people down at the end than have them pass ME there!” And, I settled into a relaxed, steady pace and started to look around and enjoy the early-morning views, the sounds of the footfalls on the trails, the steady stream of lights ahead of me zig-zagging up the hillside, the city lights twinkling below and the nervous, early morning chatter of many racers. It was a wonderful time. I kept thinking about how many times I’d ran these same trails in training and how often I’d been running at exactly this time with a few, hardcore friends who don’t mind getting up before the sun for our runs. This time, I had plenty of company and it was funny to hear many of them say things like, “I’ve never seen the city lights from here before! I usually run later in the day!” It felt like all of these runners were out trying out my usual running time and they were enjoying it!
A couple of miles in, my stomach started to act up. I had been in a rush to leave the house and had not had time to use the bathroom there and here my stomach was reminding me that it still needed to take care of business! Unfortunately, in the Boise Foothills, it’s mostly sagebrush and medium grasses — not a great place to find a good hiding spot to use nature’s bathroom! At about mile 5, I knew I couldn’t hold off any longer and walked down over the side of one of the hills as far as I could to get out of sight of the racers and then, I shut off my headlamp and did what I needed to do. About 15-20 people passed me here, way up on the trail.
I fell back in line and settled back into a comfortable pace and watched the day gradually turn from dark into light. It was one of the prettiest sunrises I’ve seen all year — all pinks and oranges, grays and whites. It took my breath away! Not long after, I could tell I needed another private bush moment, but there was nowhere to hide as it was getting lighter out. I knew there was a spot around mile 10 that I’d used in training and I just focused on getting to that wonderful place with lots of trees to hide behind!
It turned out, I wasn’t the only one holding out for a great spot to get indecent! There were four other women hiding amongst the trees and bushes doing the same thing. I lost a few more minutes here, but it was time well spent! As I was coming out from the bushes, a couple of men said, “Great! Is that a good spot to use the bathroom?” And I had to break it to them that there were still several other women already back there. They sulked and said, “NO FAIR! Where’s the men’s room around here?” That made me laugh!
I was really enjoying the day after that stop! I felt warmed up, relaxed, in a good groove! I glanced at my watch and felt pretty pleased to see that despite the two pit stops, I was right on pace with where I’d hoped to be at this point in the race. I didn’t really concern myself at all with my watch or the paces, though. I ran by feel and was intent on staying steady and strong for the entire race, so I could finish strong.
My husband Wayne was running an aid station at mile 11.5 and I focused on getting up the steepest climb of the day to get there. I was glad I’d done this section three times before so I knew what to expect as it’s kind of a long, steep haul to the top of the ridge road! I passed a few people here, which surprised me since I was just power hiking and not running at all. It was a real confidence boost to see how much stronger I’ve become at powering up difficult climbs in the last year! I picked up the pace and started to run once I heard my husband’s loud music booming out over the mountains. It made me smile and gave me a little swagger as I raced up to see him and several helpers on the top!
Wayne handed me the Frappuccino I’d asked him to buy for me and I thanked him and headed out to the turnaround point a mile past his aid station (which is also mostly uphill!) Not long after the aid station, I realized I needed to take a quick pee, so I headed off down a little ATV trail for some privacy. As soon as I had my shorts down, I looked up and saw another runner gal who’d been following me and said, “Oh! I’m sorry! This is the wrong way. I just needed to pee!” She was embarrassed, laughed and headed back onto the correct road!
Back on the road, I was having the time of my life! I love out and back sections of races since you get to see the smiling faces of the other runners who are ahead of you. I exchanged a few hugs and high fives through here and really started to take in the view from up high. We were running through the forest, the fresh scent of rain still strong and pure in our nostrils. There was a heavenly mist just hanging over the mountains and all around us. It felt kind of magical, honestly — just lovely and I could not stop smiling!
I reached the 12.5 mile turnaround and heard my Uncle Mike yell out, “I know that girl!” That made me grin and I said hello, then turned around and started to really fly downhill back towards Wayne’s aid station, this time getting to say hi to my fellow racers and pals who were behind me. It was a ton of fun!! I spread out my arms like a bird and just ran, and let out a “WEEEEEEE” as I went!
Wayne gave me a kiss at his aid station, I grabbed some bonus TP and then I headed back out. I had made it a point from the start to get in and out of aid stations as quickly as possible. I don’t think I spent more than 60 seconds at any aid station all morning and I was pleased about that. The section from the Ridge Road to the next aid station is mostly downhill. I relaxed, fell into a comfortable downhill pace and soon found myself running stride-for-stride next to my pal, Matt! We had a great time catching up. We hadn’t seen one another since Wilson Creek Frozen 50k in January, where we also ended up running stride-for-stride midway through the race. We ran for several miles together and he said to me, “I can’t believe how fast we’re going! It doesn’t even hurt!” I told him chatting and running downhill were two of my favorite things and the best way to gobble up some trail miles pretty fast! At the 18 mile aid station, Matt stopped to get some grub and I just wooshed right on by and up to the next trail.
In miles 18-22, there is a lot of climbing again. I settled into my power hike mode and made sure to eat the peanut butter sandwich in my Nathan pocket. I glanced at my watch and knew I was having a great day and that I was right on target for what I’d hoped to achieve. I caught up to my friend, Randy in here and we enjoyed running together, him leading on the ups and me leading on the downs for several miles. It’s always nice to run with a friend! I got a bit ahead right before the aid station at mile 22, where I saw the first porta potty of the day and knew I needed to use it. The only problem was there was a line! Since I was having an unexpected visit from Mother Nature, I knew I had no choice but to wait and use the bathroom and deal with my female issues, so I did. Finally, the restroom opened up and I dashed in there, took care of what I needed to and then headed back onto the trail to complete the final 10 miles of the race!
I was really feeling on fire by this point! I’d conserved my energy, eaten and drank well and not dilly dallied at the aid stations and I was totally on target to have a strong finish! I was ready to really race the final stretch! I saw race photographer, Michael Lebowitz in this section, laying on the ground in the golden grasses snapping pictures as the runners went by. I leaped when I saw him and he said, “Do it again!” I did and I grinned and thanked him for being there as I passed. I was right behind Randy. Michael (who knows us both), hollered out to Randy, “How are you feeling?” Randy said,”Not great!” Michael said to me, “How about you?” I turned to face him as I ran backwards and said, “Like a MILLION BUCKS!” And he said to Randy, “You’re about to get chicked!!” We laughed and ran on.
Not long after the steady climb finally gave way to some awesome downhill! I took off like a rocket and felt so grateful I’d saved something in my legs for this section! I weaved and bobbed and passed several people, saying, “Good job!” as I passed each one. After several good, solid miles, I spotted a yellow shirt up ahead! It was my neighbor and good friend, Frank! I couldn’t believe I’d caught him! I sneaked up behind him as quietly as I could and then said, “BOO!” to him. He looked so tired and really happy to see me. I hugged him and told him that he was doing an awesome job on his first ultra! He said, “I’m so tired. Everything hurts.” I said, “We’re almost done, Frank! We can do this! Just hang in there for 3 more miles!” I pulled in front of him and said, “Follow me, Frank! Just chase me down!” and we ran like that for awhile, nice and relaxed. We were on cruise control, footstep by footstep approaching the finish line! Frank got a second wind here and I let him past and yelled out, “Go, Frank, GO!!! You’re doing great!” then watched that yellow shirt sail off into the distance ahead of me. I was happy for him and happy for me. We were both having a wonderful race!
As I wound along the final stretches of the trail on the path covered in the golden leaves of fall, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. Grateful that I was healthy, that I was running, that my friends were all over this course, excited that I had people waiting at the finish line ahead to welcome me and cheer me in. My heart was full of joy as I finally reached the stairway to heaven! This final section has about 55 wooden steps up a steep hillside. I saw my friend Billie at the top, clapping and cheering for me! I made my way up the steps, grinned at her and said, “I’ve got a race to finish!” and then headed off with their cheers loud in my ears, pushing me onward!
I summited the final climb and could see Frank’s yellow shirt down below and heard the crowd cheering him into the final home stretch! That totally motivated me and I started to pump the arms and legs with all I had left. I ran strong and felt the cowbells and cheering pulling me forward. I threw up my hands and pumped my fists in the air as I came across the finish line, a huge smile on my face — in 6:26 — a time I was really, really pleased with!! They handed me my hand-made finishers coffee mug (a prize I will truly treasure by a local ultra runner and artist) and I got a hug and kiss from my husband.
It was a wonderful race! I can’t wait to do it again next year!