Chasing Deer Through the Fog with Friends

Some of my Boise Trail Runner pals and I enjoying another run in the hills

Some of my Boise Trail Runner pals and I enjoying another run in the hills

There are a few things I love about winter trail running in Boise:  (1) If I hit the hills in southeast Boise, I’m almost guaranteed to see deer (or at times over 100 of them in a herd, which still takes my breath away no matter how often it happens!) (2) Seeing everything covered in a magical blanket of white is really quite beautiful. (3) Seeing my friends finish up the run with their frosty hair, beardcicles and eyelashes glistening with white is downright hilarious!

Jack Frost has left nothing untouched

Jack Frost has left nothing untouched

This weekend, I had back-to-back runs with friends in the foothills and it was amazing. On Saturday, a group and I ran from Barclay Bay

near Lucky Peak Dam and enjoyed 12 frosty trail miles. We spotted several mule deer and a few bucks, much to our delight.

Miles and miles of hoarfrost. Beautiful. Peaceful.

Miles and miles of hoarfrost. Beautiful. Peaceful.

On Sunday, I ran from Camel’s Back Park with a group of friends and enjoyed meeting a few new pals who’ve joined the gang recently

and knocking out some early morning miles in the fog and ice.  It’s been a lovely weekend and I wanted to share a few photos with you.

Barclay Bay

Barclay Bay

How is your winter training coming along? Are you running solo more or using positive peer pressure with pals to get out the door when you’re tempted to snuggle up by the fire with a blanket and a cup of cocoa? Our spring racing will be a reflection of how we’re spending our time now.  Those who train hard will usually be rewarded with better times and a more pleasant racing experience! 🙂  Hang in there! Keep it up! Happy winter running!



Make Your Own Screw Shoes For Under $5

Wayne Screwing My Shoes

Wayne The Handyman Hard at Work to Make His Running Wife Happy

Marathon Mama’s Step by Step Guide for Making Your Own Pair of Screw Shoes:

Step 1: Select a pair of running shoes you’d like to pimp out with grabbing power for those icy runs!

I prefer to use a pair that I’ve worn for some time but that still have enough cushion and wear to last a couple hundred more miles or so.   When making your decision, it’s good to consider what size of sheet metal screws you will be using, since a very thin sole would not work well with say a 3/8th inch hexagonal screw since it would likely push through the outer sole and into the insole (where your foot will be.)

I had hoped to use my Brooks Pure Grit 1s but the 3/8 inch screws we had purchased were too long to make it a safe option.

I had hoped to use my Brooks Pure Grit 1s but the 3/8 inch screws we had purchased were too long to make it a safe option.

I opted for my Brooks Cascadia 6 shoes for this winter’s version of screw shoes.  The soles are thicker, which made them a better match for the size of sheet metal screws we had on hand.

Step 2: Gather Your Tools

*You will need to buy a package of hexagonal sheet metal screws, which can be purchased at any hardware store for under $5 for a pack of 100.

*Power Drill (optional) – Wayne has done it both with drilling holes into the shoes and without first drilling. If you don’t have access to a drill or don’t want to use one, no worries.

*Hex Screw Driver (not optional) – This was the tool that did the bulk of the work to get the screws into the bottoms of the shoes.

Sheet Metal Screws

Sheet Metal Screws


Hex Screw Driver

Hex Screw Driver

Step 3: Screw Your Shoes

Place one of the shoes between your knees securely with the sole facing you and use the hex screw driver with one of the sheet metal screws and begin turning it while you apply steady pressure into the shoe. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but I was able to handle it myself after that.  I would recommend no fewer than 10 screws per shoe and no more than 16. It’s really up to you and your preferences and it’s not hard to remove a few if you find the tread too uncomfortable once you finish up and test them out.  I like to make sure to put a few along the top, a few in the middle and some at the heel for grip no matter where your foot tends to strike.  Here’s an important point: Place the screws into the lugs (raised surfaces) along the bottom of the shoe, since there’s more sole there to drill into.

Apply steady pressure as you twist the hex screwdriver.

Apply steady pressure as you twist the hex screwdriver.

Keep working until the screw is entirely embedded in the sole of your running shoe.

Keep working until the screw is entirely embedded in the sole of your running shoe.



Step 4: Test Them Out

Always be cautious when running on packed snow and ice, but I do promise that you’ll soon realize that you are much safer with a pair of these babies than you were without as you take to the roads and trails with your studded shoes.  Now get back to that winter training!


Whoopsie Daisy! Running in Winter Conditions

Whoospy Daisy! This was me on a trail run Tuesday when my feet ended up in the air and my back was on the icy ground beneath.

Whoospy Daisy! This was me on a trail run Tuesday when my feet ended up in the air and my back was on the icy ground and I was thinking, “Why didn’t I wear my screw shoes?”

When I peeked out my window this morning the world was blanketed in sparkling white! A winter wonderland!!  About 4 inches of fresh powder had dropped onto Boise before I left my cozy bed this morning! Like a small child, I couldn’t wait to get dressed and get outside to play in it too – only these days, I have less snowball fights and spend more time running or trying to look like I’m running in the white stuff!

Most devoted runners who live in areas where low temperatures, snow and ice are part of the winter training experience learn to find creative ways (or extreme courage or extreme insanity – you take your pick) to deal with such challenges.  I’m currently training through my sixth winter as a runner and looking back at my log books has shown that I usually get some of my best mileage (though I must disclose – not always my fastest miles) in during these tricky, frozen months!

Here are some tips to keep you training hard through the winter months until that blessed day arrives when you hear birds singing, see flowers blooming and you can finally bust out the shorts to show off those sexy runner legs you’ve kept fit by keeping up your winter training miles while your less-hardy competitors were sipping cocoa by the fire and getting soft (don’t let that be YOU!):

1. Assess the situation.  If you live in an area where it’s -30 then you’ll have to be smart and factor in that frostbite can happen in just one minute with exposed skin in those frigid temperatures. If there’s heavy fog (making visibility low), and the roads are covered in black ice, it might not be a good idea to go running on the roads since the risk of a car sliding into you are higher. If you’re 20 miler is on the schedule and you look out the window and notice that golf-ball sized hail is coming down hard, it’s probably a good idea to postpone the run until conditions are more favorable.  If, however, conditions are chilly, but you have the proper clothing and equipment (such as a headlamp and reflective gear for training while it’s dark outside – which is more common during the winter months when the days are shorter) then there’s no reason you can’t keep right on logging your miles and getting in your endorphin fix for the day! Woo hoo!

2. Get the right gear! When the temps dip below 40, I like to wear a long sleeved, snug-fitting base layer like the Under Armour ColdGear shirt.

Under Armour ColdGear Shirt

Under Armour ColdGear Shirt

For 40 degrees, this might be all I need on top, but if it’s between 35-40, I like to add a thin jacket over the top like this Brooks Nightlife Jacket.

Brooks Nightlife Jacket

Brooks Nightlife Jacket

Here’s a photo of my pacer, Derek and I both wearing the Brooks Nightlife jackets at the finish line of the Antelope Island Buffalo 100 mile run in March where temperatures dipped very low and the winds were high this past year.  The Brooks jacket did well until it dropped below 25 degrees, then I needed to put on a warmer jacket for the middle of the night, below-freezing temps.

Notice I am wearing my Bondiband beanie, my sunglasses (Ironman), my Brooks Jacket, my Danskin Now tights and my Brooks shoes.

Notice I am wearing my Bondiband beanie, my sunglasses (Ironman), my Brooks Jacket, my Danskin Now tights and my Brooks shoes.

This type of jacket is great for keeping the biting chill out when it’s windy out and the best part is it’s so light-weight and thin that you hardly notice it’s there and it’s easy to stow in your hydration pack’s pocket if you change your mind while you’re out and don’t need it. It’s my go-to jacket for bringing  “just in case.”  It also has great reflective features keeping you safer when out in dark conditions and it has a small, zippered pocket (on the back for the ladies’ model and a the breast for the men.) It even has a hood that can be adjusted to pull snug around your face if the weather really gets bad, which feels great to keep the ears and lower part of the face warmer! I’ve used mine in many mid-long distance training runs and at many ultras and have lots of good things to say about it.

When the temps are in the 10 – 35 degree range, I prefer to wear a warmer jacket over my ColdGear top. Something like this usually makes me feel comfortable and cozy without feeling too hot. The jackets in my closet that fit this category are thicker than the Brooks Nightlife Jacket.

Peal Izumi Women's Infinity Softshell Running Jacket

Peal Izumi Women’s Infinity Softshell Running Jacket

I don’t personally own one of the Pearl Izumi jackets, but I have seen a number of friends use them in all sorts of bad weather conditions with positive feedback.  My own closet consists of similar jackets from Wal Mart’s Danskin Now line (that cost me about $20 each) and an Asics thermal jacket that I was given as a prize for winning a local 2 mile race last year. I look for a thermal inner lining, a high neckline that zips up and zippered pockets as well as reflective accents making the runner more visible in low light conditions.

To keep my ears and head toasty, I like to wear a knit cap or a beanie.  I have several inexpensive Wal Mart $2 knit hats that work just fine for most weather conditions and with such an affordable price, you can buy them in several colors to keep your winter wardrobe more fun! My favorite winter hat is one I earned from finishing the local Foothills Frenzy 50k.  It’s from the company Bondiband and here’s a photo of me with two of my pals at a local 60k we did a few months ago and it kept my ears toasty as always and looked stylish!

Bondiband Beanie

Bondiband Beanie

That pretty much covers the upper half of  my body for running in temps between 10 – 40. If the wind is crazy or there’s hail or blowing snow, I might also wear my sunglasses to protect my eyes or add a scarf around my lower face for more protection, though that’s something I rarely need to do in southern Idaho typical winter weather.

For the lower body, I’m comfortable wearing shorts or a running skirt like a TStarRunning skirt until temps dip below 30. Below that temperature, I prefer to wear tights. I own a few pairs of Danskin Now tights from Wal Mart that I purchased years ago for about $10 each. Unfortunately, they no longer sell the types that I wear (the form-fitting, tight-legged ones with reflective touches.) A similar pair of tights for winter running would be the REI Women’s Fleet Running Tights as pictured below.

REI Running Tights

REI Running Tights

Some of the other accessories you will need to stay warm and comfortable for your winter running are gloves, running socks, good shoes (sometimes used with traction devices like Yaktrax, Kahoola spikes or fitted at home with sheet metal screws (my own personal way of dealing with the ice at a low price! – Keep at eye on my blog later this week and I’ll share how to make your own at home for under $5) and a headlamp and clip on light for running in the dark. Below are some examples of the products I’ve used or that are comparable to ones I use for these winter conditions that I think you’ll like.


Nike Women's Elite Storm Fit Tech Run Glove - my favorite feature is the fleece fabric on the thumb and  inner fingers to help wipe the nose when on an icy, winter run. It sounds completely disgusting  but it's truly one of the most useful product improvements I've seen!

Nike Women’s Elite Storm Fit Tech Run Glove – my favorite feature is the fleece fabric on the thumb and inner fingers to help wipe the nose when on an icy, winter run. It sounds completely disgusting but it’s truly one of the most useful product improvements I’ve seen!

I also own a few other pairs of running gloves such as Nathan and Brooks that each have features I find useful. The Nathan gloves have a band of blinking lights on the outsides of the hands for winter running and the Brooks gloves have special features added to the thumb and pointer fingers making them useful for answering a cell phone during a run without removing your glove, which is a practical feature for a mother of 5 who sometimes needs to take a call from the kiddos when I’m running.  When the temperatures are below 20, these gloves are not quite warm enough on their own for my super chilly hands. In those times I either pop in a couple of hand warmers to keep my fingers from feeling painful or I choose to wear my much thicker Thermolite gloves (the types I’d normally use when having a snowball fight with the kids or on a winter walk where I’m not generating as much body heat!)  Though I do sweat more in gloves with such a thick thermal lining – it’s worth it to feel my fingers at times. On a really long run, I might start by wearing the thick gloves and then put them in my Nathan Hydration pack zippered pocket once it warms up and then wear the lighter gloves.   I also have had success wearing the $1 Wal Mart knit gloves for temperatures between 30- 40 as a less-costly option when the temps aren’t too crazy cold.


You can wear any running shoes for winter running, but you’ll likely prefer to have more tread if conditions are snowy or icy. I prefer Brooks PureGrit 2 Trail Shoes at my preferred shoe year round on the trail, but during the winter, I use them on the roads as well. Watch for the new Pure Grit 3 trail shoe to come to a running store near you in the summer of 2014.

Brooks PureGrit 2 - I have owned 7 pairs of Grits. These shoes have gotten me through 6 mile morning trail training runs and 100 milers. They are my "go to" trail or bad weather shoes. I love them!

Brooks PureGrit 2 – I have owned 7 pairs of Grits. These shoes have gotten me through 6 mile morning trail training runs and 100 milers. They are my “go to” trail or bad weather shoes. I love them! You can see the rugged lugs on the bottom of the shoe. This feature is what makes them a preferable shoe when running in snow or on rough terrain. They are also fairly light-weight, so they won’t slow you down!


If you’re like me and you fear the ice (with good reason), you’ll want to do something more aggressive.  Just this past week I neglected to put on traction devices before an early morning run and when I hit a stretch of ice at a high speed, I very quickly found my feet flying out from under me, heard myself yelping and then I was lying flat on my back in some pain since I landed hard on my tailbone. It all happened so fast!  Another friend of mine just slipped on ice yesterday and broke her wrist.  It happens.  Please slow down and make careful choices about where to run and how fast you’ll go when conditions are sketchy.  Last year I slipped on black ice on a trail run and pulled my soleus muscle in my calf and couldn’t run for 6 weeks. That totally sucked and it was preventable. Again – I wasn’t wearing traction devices of any kind and had assumed I would be ok. I fell.  Sometimes you’ll find (as I did in those two runs where I got hurt) that it’s hard to tell if you’ll need anything for traction or not. I ran successfully for over 31 miles on Saturday over many icy patches, the week before I did the same and the day before that I ran a reasonably fast 10k on solid ice – all without any issues.  It only takes one misstep to cause an injury, though.  My new motto is: Better safe than sorry!

Though some of my friends have had success with Yaktrax or Kahtoolah Microspikes which strap onto shoes and range in price from around $30 – $70, I’ve had good success in the past with having my husband use his hand drill and putting several sheet metal screws in the bottoms of my shoes. It sounds crazy, but it works really well.  I’ll do a blog entry later this week on the “how to” and show pictures describing the process for those who’d rather make their own traction devices for under $5!

Here’s a photo of an older pair of my shoes the last time my husband turned them into “screw shoes.”

My own pair of Screw Shoes! You can do it too!

My own pair of Screw Shoes! You can do it too!


My favorite head lamps have always been from the company Black Diamond. I own the Storm and the Spot. They cost between $29 – $59, the Spot being the less expensive option. I like them both, but prefer the lighter weight of the Spot and like that it only takes 3 AAA batteries instead of 4 like the Storm, though I still use both regularly for my early morning runs and long distance ultra marathons.  I’ve had many people comment that I have the brightest light in the gang when they see me coming.  I also find that using the Lithium batteries gives a huge boost to the power of the light and I like to splurge on those for races.

Black Diamond Spot

Black Diamond Spot


Energizer Lithium Batteries - these will help you have a brighter light that lasts longer in your headlamp.
Energizer Lithium Batteries – these will help you have a brighter light that lasts longer in your headlamp.

 I hope these tips will help you to keep on training outdoors as much as possible during the cold weather months! I am not a sponsored runner and none of the brands I’ve shared here have paid me anything or given me any product in exchange for me to suggest their products to you on my blog. I simply wished to share my own experiences and what has worked for me in the hopes that you, too, can enjoy training like a beast even in the worst of weather!

My friends and I running in the snow, feeling jolly because of the warm winter gear!
My friends and I running in December in the snow, feeling jolly because of our warm winter gear! My guy friends here are finishing up a 26.2 mile winter run and the clothing you see is what they wore the entire time. I joined in for the final 10k after crewing for them. I was warm and comfortable despite the 20 degree temperatures.

Happy training!

Christie “Marathon Mama”  🙂




Unveiling My Updated Blog!

I welcome you with open arms!!! :)

I welcome you with open arms!!! 🙂

You may have noticed my blog has gone through some changes the past month. My tech support department (aka – Wayne) decided to move the content here to a new server since we were paying two companies (one for our race companies and one for my blog and a chess site we used to run.)  In the process of changing everything over, the header photo and my background disappeared.  That header photo – the one with me running down the beach of the Oregon Coast with  my five children chasing me is really special to me and once the old copy disappeared and it coincided with our first family trip back to the coast in 3 years, I figured it was perfect timing for a new photo shoot with my professional photographer (aka – Wayne) to capture an updated image of the kids and I running at the beach! And, that’s just what we did last month while in Lincoln City, Orgeon!

I hope you enjoy the updated header and thought I’d share some of my favorite images from that photo shoot! Enjoy!

Original Header Photo Taken in 2010 by Wayne

Original Header Photo Taken in 2010 by Wayne


The New Header - my favorite photo of the day!

The New Header – my favorite photo of the day!


Racing the kids

Racing the kids


Racing on the Beach. Jr and I tied 3 times! He'll be beating me in a sprint by his next birthday I bet!

Racing on the Beach. Jr and I tied 3 times! He’ll be beating me in a sprint by his next birthday I bet!


What fun would a romantic trip to be beach be without a little making out?!

What fun would a romantic trip to be beach be without a little making out?!


My two youngest daughters and I - Anneliese and Savannah.

My two youngest daughters and I – Anneliese and Savannah.

















IMTUF 100 – Pacing a Fast Boy

IMTUF Race Start

                                          IMTUF Race Start

The IMTUF 100 is a spectacular, well-organized ultra through some of the most scenic trails in all of Idaho.  My cousin, Ben Blessing and his friend Jeremy Humphrey (a couple of solid ultra runners themselves, Ben, having completed the 135 miles of Badwater in 2011 and Jeremy winning Cascade Crest 100 in 2011!) put on this epic event in the Salmon River Mountains just outside the beautiful resort town of McCall, Idaho.

Ben Blessing and Jeremy Humphrey, the race directors of IMTUF

Ben Blessing and Jeremy Humphrey, the race directors of IMTUF

Having paced my friend Rachael last year for 62 miles on the IMTUF course, I was eager to come back and experience the beauty and difficulty of this mountain ultra once more. So when my running buddy Derek happened to mention that he still had not found a pacer it didn’t take long for me to start jumping up and down, waving my hand in the air and saying, “OOooooohhh  Ohhhhhh Mr Kotter Mr Kotter, Pick MEEEEEEE!!”  (Ok, maybe it didn’t go QUITE like that, but it is how I like to remember it.)

Being the “slow girl” who loves to train with the “fast boys” it has always been my secret wish to actually get to pace one of THEM and see what it’s like from their perspective in races for a change. Many a times on a training run when I’m dying and wheezing trying to catch up to them as they casually chit chat about the day and glide effortlessly like gazelles up yet another steep mountainside, I’ve wondered what it would be like to see one of them really TIRED for a change, while “I” had the energy!”  So this was a gig I really wanted to land!!

I always say when you’re too poor to cough up the entry fee, what better way to get a ticket to the party than to volunteer, crew or pace?!! You still get to get in on all the FUN that way, hang out with some cool people and have great memories to look back at when it’s over and log some serious miles on the legs! Win/win!  So, after a few weeks of Derek probably not being able to find anyone better, I totally scored the job.  I thought “Woo hoo! I get to hang with the COOL KIDS!!!! It was quite a moment of pride for my back-of-the pack kind!” I thought of making billboards to advertise my good fortune, but figured I should just focus, rest up and do my best not to screw this thing up for myself or all other slow people who want to pace fast people out there in the future!

Since the course was done in reverse this time (to avoid some of the most gut-busting climbs being in the tail end of the race) and a few weeks earlier (to avoid the crazy 5 degree temperatures that made for some epic frozen mustache and beard photos at last year’s event) I was eager to see the part of the course I had not had the opportunity to test out last year in my pacing duties!  Since Derek is a much faster runner than I am, I also only agreed to pace for the final 50k  which seemed like a pretty smart plan so that I could stay strong and help him push through the night and the final stretch.

Here's one of the provessional photos of Derek by Tempus Photo Design of Derek doing his epic heel click early in the race! This is my favorite!

Here’s one of the professional photos by Tempus Photo Design of Derek doing his epic heel click early in the race! This is my favorite! Does this guy know how to have FUN or what?!!

I met up with Derek’s beautiful wife, Becky on Friday afternoon and got to enjoy spending some fun time with her and their two cute sons, Sedrick (8) and Cody (6) on the long, windy roads up to McCall from Eagle.  Ultra runner families are some of the most supportive in the world and are capable of juggling a great deal to be a source of encouragement and support to the runner in their lives with the addiction to this crazy sport (that takes up so much of our free time and our family’s free time!) Becky was no different! She shared that she’d already volunteered at one of her children’s schools that day for “popcorn day”, then played piano at a funeral and gotten in a workout before packing up herself and the kids for the 3 hour drive to McCall to crew and support Derek! When Sedrick started to moan from the backseat about an hour and a half into the trip that his tummy was hurting, she stayed calm and cool, even when the carsickness overtook him (and covered much of the back seat on the drive up!)  She patiently and calmly cleaned him and the seat right up, hugged him and we were on our way again to the race. I have always liked Becky, but my admiration of her rose to a whole new level after this trip!

The beautiful Becky and Derek at mile 44

                 Derek and his lovely wife, Becky at mile 44

I had heard Derek speak fondly of his first 100 miler – the Bear – just 11 months ago, where he was feeling awful in the first half until he got to see his wife, kids and parents at about the midpoint of that race.  The best part of the story is how Derek’s Dad,  “Pops” had whipped up the world’s best dutch oven chicken pot pie and how Derek downed that meal and it brought him back to life so that he ran the second half of the race feeling like his legs were fresh and fast all the way to the finish!  The IMTUF 100 would be Derek’s 4th 100 miler in less than a year – and once again, his loving family (and the famous chicken pot pie) would be there and I was excited to see how things would play out for him.

We arrived a bit after 5:30 pm at the Lake Fork Trail Head (mile 44 into the race) to crew. Derek wasn’t expecting to see any of us until mile 55, but since we had to pass this aid station on our way to Snowslide anyways, it seemed like a great chance to surprise him! We met up with Derek’s dad and his step mom here (all ready with the delicious pot pie and an extra pot with cobbler as well!) We arrived early enough we were able to cheer on some of the front runners (and several of my fellow Boise Trail Runner pals) which was fun! This was also my first sighting of Ann Trason and she came in looking strong.  I sat back and respectfully watched from a distance one of the legends of ultra running proving she still had it at age 54 (the following day I would learn was her birthday and she’d turn 55 while out in the mountains doing what she devoted so much of her life and talents to!)

Derek came running down the dirt road towards the aid station and his 8 year old son ran out to him with a boisterous, “DADDDYYYYY!!!!!!!!!” and the joy on each of their faces made me extra happy that we’d showed up at this aid station to surprise him.  There’s something magical and wonderful about seeing those you love that can rejuvenate your spirit during a tough ultra.  Derek looked worn. We sat him down and went to work, filling up his water bottles and pack, getting some Gatorade into him and getting him a helping of his Pop’s famous chicken pot pie.

Word quickly got around the camp that this special meal was being served and runners and pacers came around with hopeful faces like beggars, hoping for some too – and Derek’s dad happily and generously obliged – feeding many.  Sounds of “Mmm – this is amazing!” “It’s delicious!!” could be heard round the camp. Most surprising was when our vegetarian runner friend Christine asked for some as well! (Since she would go on to be the first place woman at the race, we all had to wonder if there wasn’t some super top secret ingredient for all who dined on this special meal!) Pop’s cooking apparently works magic for all who indulge!

Derek receiving nourishment of body and spirit from his "Pops"

Derek receiving nourishment of body and spirit from his “Pops”

As we were updated by Derek on the events earlier in the race, we found he and a few others had gotten off course after the first aid station. A  pickup truck had been parked right where a crucial trail marker sign was and they’d ran 4-5 extra miles before getting back on course.  Derek said, “I was last place by the 2nd aid station and have had to work my way back up from the bottom!”  He also shared that he’d ran out of water and had a rough 3 mile patch where he struggled until he could get to the next aid station and get more to drink.  We made sure to hydrate him well, feed him and let him rest up before sending him off back onto the trail to run another 60 miles! And it was time well spent! He was starting to come back to life as he left the aid station and joined up with Christine and her pacer (and our good buddy) Ryan, which seemed to really boost his mood, too.

Helping Derek

                                              Helping Derek

Derek coming back to life after the famous chicken pot pie!

     Derek coming back to life after the famous chicken pot pie!

We then jumped in the pickup and headed up to the Snowslide Trail Head (mile 55.4 of the race closer to mile 60 for Derek who was on the scenic tour!) At that aid station we were greeted by Becky’s brother, Jody, who would be Derek’s first pacer in the race, joining him for about 15 miles in the dark. The best part? Jody had never ran more than 12 miles and had never ran on trails. I could tell from the first meeting that Jody had a positive energy about him; a laid-back nice guy who was looking forward to getting a first-hand experience into Derek’s ultra marathoning world and I knew it would mean a lot to Derek to have him along for the journey.

We had some time to kill as we waited, which was fun. We got to see our friend Jayk Reynolds totally killing it as he came in on FIRE – holding a steady 3rd place in this difficult, technical 100 miler – even though this was only his first 100! Impressive! I leaned down as Jayk sat in a chair and asked him how he was doing and he still looked like he’d only been out for an easy 3 mile morning jog – there was still a sparkle and a freshness in his eyes, which told me everything I needed to know. I knew then that Jayk wouldn’t have a problem staying strong until the end! I was very inspired by his deep belief in his abilities, his inner drive and his talents.

Waiting at mile 55 to crew

                                       Waiting at mile 55 to crew

When at about 9:57 pm  I spotted a headlamp coming fast from the other side of the creek towards the aid station, I held my breath and watched, trying to see who it could be. When the figure stopped and did a heel click I yelled out, “It’s DEREK!”  That’s Derek’s signature move and I was so jazzed to see my runner revived and running strong again! The pot pie had worked it’s magic! He splashed through the water and came tearing up the small hillside to the aid station.  The mood was energetic and contagious! I helped Derek get his things sorted out, filled his water bottles and got him some food, while Jody got ready to jump in for pacing. Derek didn’t stay long. He left with Ryan, Christine and Jody and we knew they’d have another good stretch until I jumped in at mile 70 at Upper Payette Lake in a few short hours.

I said goodbye to Derek’s family and then took Jody’s car to the next aid station, driving slowly along the washboard dirt road in the mountains, hoping I wouldn’t get lost since we were far from civilization (it felt like) and my cell phone had no service.  Thankfully, the directions from the IMTUF race manual were flawless (thank you, Jeremy!) and I got there in plenty of time to get something to eat and then lay down in the car for a short rest before my pacing duties kicked in.  I noticed how spectacular the stars were (the vast number of them alone just astounds me when I’m so far from any distracting city lights or homes) out there as I laid in the car, eager to start running through the night.

At about 2:15 am, my pal Dennis was knocking on my car window telling me they were here!! I was so excited! They’d made really good time from the last station and were doing well! Once I got a look at Derek and saw he was looking well-fed, energetic and determined I knew it was going to be a fun night! I got him his water, some Gatorade, switched a couple of items from his drop back and then we were off — running with Christine and her pacer (and another of our friends) Jon.  We settled in together for a mile or so, running through a small trail, hopping a guard rail and then running along the main road for a short bit until we were on a dirt road heading towards the single track trail again. We stayed together through this section and the energy was great from the two 100 milers! They’d taken great care of themselves and ran smart races and were benefiting from that – over 70 miles into the difficult course!

I looked down at my Garmin, that I’d hit “start” on the second I had reached Derek at the aid station and noted we had an average pace of 19:41 for the couple of miles we’d been together and decided it might be time to push Derek a little. I pulled ahead as we reached one of the biggest climbs of the course heading up the Victor Creek trail. It was very rocky, the grade was steep and there were lots of obstacles to try and trip you up (as well as a few water crossings and swamps to traipse through!)  It was awesome! I put the gas on just a little to see how Derek would respond. He followed. I kept moving, nice and steady, looking back over my shoulder to see if the pace was comfortable.  When he’d fall back a bit, I’d stop and wait. He was moving well. We kept going. This was the last time we saw Christine or Jon and soon we were ascending the mountain with only the glow of the stars twinkling above and the light from our headlamps to guide us. It was peaceful, still and I was thoroughly enjoying myself (and hoped Derek wasn’t feeling too tired from all the miles on his legs to be having some fun too!)

The cowbells and cheering from the Victor Creek aid station were a highlight of this stretch as we approached them after a long, hard climb! Derek was in a groove, so I sent him right through and I stopped to fill up my pack with plenty of water for the journey. Things were going well and we’d found our rhythm as pacer/runner and it felt good.  We stopped for only a short bit when we reached a rock on the side of the trail that looked exactly like a comfortable bench right on top of the mountain, under all those glorious stars sometime after 3 am. Derek emptied some rocks from his shoes while I took in the view and then we were off again, feeling good.  Most of the running I’ve done with Derek in the last couple of years has happened during the early morning “headlamp” hours so in many ways we settled into “just a regular morning training run” mode – except poor Derek had already traveled more than 80 miles by this point (counting his bonus miles!)  I felt like we moved really well through the next stretch, having to climb over several fallen trees and keep upright on the crazy steep ascent with lots of loose rocks and dirt. We stayed steady but smart, not risking a fall this late in the race when he was doing so well.  He was in 7th place when I jumped in with him and we didn’t want to lose ground.

After another mile, we rounded a corner, running well and spotted another racer sitting on a log on the side of the trail.  I sat down next to him and asked him his name. He said he was Matt Hagen from Washington. We asked how he was doing and he said he was a bit worn down since he’d just marked and paced at Cascade Crest the previous week. I knew his reputation as a really solid runner and we asked if he’d like to jump in with us and run the next stretch.  He said he wasn’t sure he was up for it, but I was happy to look back over my shoulder and see two headlamps following me a few minutes later.  The guys were doing good! We kept moving well as the dawn of the new day started to settle all around us – the trees suddenly in silhouette against the ever-lightening gray sky. It was glorious!

Derek was in 6th place, Matt had dropped back after a mile or two and we were on our way to Willow Basket Junction – 83.1 miles into the course. Derek and I came in running strong with big smiles and Derek did his famous heel click! The dedicated volunteers – Vicky and Doug Trees, two locals and the others were out in the middle of what must have felt like nowhere with a nice fire and snacks offering aid to the tired runners! It was a delight to see their smiles and feel their energy! We reached them about 6:33 am. We’d made it about 13 miles through some of the most difficult terrain of the course in about 4 hours. We were doing well! We had some snacks, then Doug pointed us in the right direction and we were off again.

We found the next section very pleasant! It reminded me so much of running Big Horn with the single track trail high above the rushing water in sections with gorgeous forests on all sides. It was truly beautiful! In this section, we ditched our jackets into the packs and got settled in for some warmer weather running. It had gotten quite chilly just before the sun had risen, so it was a nice change as the sun settled into the sky and we started to warm up nicely.

I remember trying to tell Derek some jokes to pass the time during this (hilarious jokes like, Me: “Why did the chicken cross the playground?”  Derek: “Why?”  Me: “To get to the other SLIDE!” hahaha)  and the poor guy was so tired by this point he’d said, “No jokes now, Christie. I just can’t.”  That made me grin.  Derek had paced me for 50 miles at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March (and told me quite a few corny jokes and done some pretty impressive Vera De Milo Jim Carrey impersonations to get me through) and I remember getting to a point where I could no longer carry on or listen to any conversation either. Derek was reaching this point. We kept moving, never walking for more than a 1/4 of a mile before we’d be running again.  I was deeply impressed in this section with Derek’s determination and his ability to find strength in those legs after being on the trail for so long! It was inspiring!  I remember telling him, “You ran the first 70 miles with your legs. You run the rest of this thing with your HEART! You can do it!”

The scenery was spectacular!

Derek pushing hard in the final stretch

                    Derek pushing hard in the final stretch


Derek hadn't entirely lost his sense of humor even in the final miles.

Derek hadn’t entirely lost his sense of humor even in the final miles. 🙂

We ran well in the early morning light, enjoying the new day and it occurred to me how surreal it would feel for me to see a 100 mile finisher crossing the finish line before DINNER (since I’m a back of the packer!)  It was a light, fun thought and I thoroughly enjoyed thinking like that – but reminded myself that we still had several miles to go before that great moment and I (and Derek) still had work to do.

We picked up the pace as we came into Willow Basket Junction for the second time at mile 92.4 for the course (Derek was nearing the 100 mile mark on his legs.)  We showed up at 9:05 am. The aid station workers quickly said, “You’re only 4 minutes behind two other runners who were together!”  Derek and I looked at each other and just tore out of there. I saw an excitement in his eyes, a new reason to dig deep and push and it was a lot of fun to start running really strong again after so many miles.   Within just a few minutes we saw Matthew Tock, a man with an impressive beard (who was doing his first 100) and Wayne Rancourt (a very experienced, strong local runner and good friend who had stayed with Matt the entire race.)  It was such a highlight to get to say hi to these guys and see how they were doing.  They were walking as we approached and we asked if they’d like to join in with us and run together.  Matt said his legs were just too spent at this point (these guys had also done the bonus 5 mile section with Derek) and so we wished them well and headed on our way.  Derek was now in 4th place.

The fast boy running strong!

                            The fast boy running strong!

He was leading on the uphills, pushing himself hard and saying to himself, things like, “Keep going! Dig deep!”  It was truly interesting to me to see what a “fast boy” looks like towards the end of a 100 miler, how he behaves, the thoughts in his head (based solely on what he would mutter to himself while pushing when you could see that his body wanted him to rest instead!)  All of it was fascinating.  Some of the biggest differences I noted: He never once complained! NEVER! He stayed positive or kept quiet if he wasn’t feeling well, never giving voice or strength to the negativity than can overpower the mind in one of these ultras. He was steady.  Our pace was similar at mile 70, 80, 90 and into the finish.  He allowed himself to regularly take short walk/hike breaks up steep mountains or during the flatter sections to better ration his energy – but never allowed himself to take a “walk break” for more than 1/4 of a mile at a time!! Even if the run pace was slower, it was faster forward motion than if we’d taken longer walk stretches and that added up over the time we were together to get him across those miles at a faster pace! It was awesome! He ate regularly, drank regularly and used short term goals to get to the next aid station, up the next big climb, etc.   It was a lot of fun seeing him use these mental games to challenge himself and keep himself motivated and moving forward.

Several of those things are the same weather you are at the front of the pack or the back of the pack – race smart, stay hydrated and fueled, have a positive mental attitude – but a few of them were different and those are the things I am gratefully taking away from this experience and will be applying to my own racing – mainly things like – [Don’t let walk breaks last longer than a short while – get back into the groove of running as soon and as often as possible and  – Stay in the “no whining zone” throughout the race!! PUSH HARDER!! Don’t be so conservative or you’ll never know what you’re truly made of!]  I also noted that Derek’s training coming into this race was exceptional! Better than ever! That too, is a huge consideration when planning out your goals for an ultra — train harder than ever and expect to race better than ever! It certainly worked well for Derek!

Are we done yet?!

                                          Are we done yet?!

Derek started to fade a bit as we neared the final stretch. By about mile 100 on the course, we were doing 3 min of running and 1 min of walking intervals and it seemed to help.  My Garmin showed about an 10:30 – 11:30 pace as we ran, which seemed about right for this late in the race.  I cheered Derek on and told him how well he was doing and reminded him that his family would be waiting to see him do his famous “heel click” at the finish.  He was hollow, tired, worn down and running on fumes in the final miles just continuing to move one foot in front of the other while no longer speaking.  I know that look. I looked just like that when deep fatigue set in for me at my last 100 and Derek was pacing me. I stayed quiet and just ran in front of him, pulling him along and feeling thankful for the connection of ultra runners and enjoying the chance to be there for a friend who has really been there for me in my own racing.  The final moments were winding down and I got a little bit emotional realizing how well Derek was doing right until the finish.

We came off the mountain finally and saw lots of flagging – some of it to the right, some of it right in front of us in the trees and some of it going left. We stood there for a few minutes unsure of which way to go — go through the trees? Was there a trail that way? Head left where the paper plate and ribbons were tied on a sign on the left?  Go right where there were several ribbons along the roadway?  We were standing on a main road. I saw an SUV coming our way and I started to flag them down.  They stopped and I explained our predicament. “We’re in a 100 mile race. We’re looking for Burgdorf Hot Springs. Do you know what direction we need to go?”  They said to head to the right. That we were about 2 miles away! We thanked them and excitedly started running that way.  We saw a pink ribbon on the sign that said, “Burgdorf 2 miles up ahead”, so we turned and headed down the home stretch.

This was the section that stood out to me above all others because Derek was thoroughly spent, exhausted and drained – but instead of shuffling it in, he started to SPRINT like he was in a 5k! I glanced down at my Garmin and saw we were doing about a 7:20 pace and I panted out to Derek, “Can you hold this the rest of the way?” (fearing honestly that he would say, “Yes”, since I wasn’t sure “I” could hold that pace for 2 miles!) He gasped out, “We’ll see!!!!”  Then 2/10 of a mile later, he thankfully slowed down to a walk again, both of us breathing heavily.  I patted him on the back and said, “Someone smells the barn, eh?!” I know that feeling and it was fun to see him craving that finish line above every other possible feeling in his aching body.  He wanted to be done.  We walked until his breathing returned and then he did it again — sprinting like he was on fire, then walking, then sprinting, then walking.  We were almost there and he was determined to drain every last ounce of his strength onto this course by giving it absolutely everything his body had to give!

Finally, he said, “It’s around the next bend. Run ahead.  Tell my family I’m coming!!” I said, “I’m so proud of you, man! You DID IT!!! Don’t forget to HEEL CLICK!” and then I took off – heading into the final stretch, grinning from ear to ear.  I could see people at the finish line peering down the lane at me with questioning faces (the first place female had not crossed yet) and I started yelling, “DEREK’S COMING!!!!!”

As soon as I got past the line, I pulled out my camera and got into a position to capture the moment.  Derek’s two sons ran down the lane towards their daddy, yelling excitedly, “Daddy! Daddy!!!”  That’s all it took, Derek started to run faster and faster heading towards his children, towards his beautiful wife and towards that beckoning finish line and the small crowd gathered around the finish and cheering him forward!

IMTUF 100 Mile Finish Line Heel Click!

                      IMTUF 100 Mile Finish Line Heel Click!

He picked up the pace to full tilt and then hit the finish line with one of the finest heel clicks I’ve ever witnessed! Everyone was cheering, high-fiving, slapping him on the back and congratulating him. His beautiful wife held out her arms and he fell into her embrace and they held one another, then he reached down to his wide-eyed sons, full of deep admiration for their super hero daddy and he held them too.  It was an emotional and beautiful finish.

A tender moment with father and sons. <3

                      A tender moment with father and sons. <3

Derek finished the race in 29:24:43 in 4th place.  It was an amazing day! Well done, my friend. Well done!

Derek and I

Derek and I



Wild Idaho 50k 2013

Ultra Running makes me jump for JOY!

Ultra Running makes me jump for JOY!

This was the 3rd year I lined up at the starting line of the Wild Idaho Endurance Race.  In 2011, this was my first official 50 mile finish and in 2012 I opted to do the 50k since I was training for a marathon that I wanted to do well at the following month (seeing as how this course has over 8,500 feet of vertical in the 50k that was probably not the best training decision ever and my race time the following month would reflect that), but this year I was eager to run the 50k again as I’ve achieved the main goals already for the year (Boston (BQ) and a Belt Buckle (Antelope Island Buffalo Run) and many other races already this season.

This was the perfect place to soak away any pre-race stiffness in my IT band! It was bubbling hot and heavenly!

This was the perfect place to soak away any pre-race tightness in my IT band! It was bubbling hot and heavenly!

Wayne and I decided to come alone this year and leave the five kids with my parents. That turned out to be a really nice decision. We were able to unwind, relax as we settled into camp and then we headed out to the Boiling Springs natural hot springs after the pre-race meeting and dinner with several friends for some soothing time in the warm water, which I was sure would be beneficial to my IT band, which had been causing me problems in the last two races.  I think it helped too! I felt calm and my muscles felt great after a nice, long soak.

I set up all of my gear the night before on the separate bed in the tent trailer (another perk I had since the kids were at home and not sleeping in it!) I set my alarm and then settled into bed with Wayne and got some shut eye. Usually I don’t sleep very well the night before a race, but I fell asleep pretty easily (maybe I should always take a hot bath the night before races to mimic the effects of the hot springs in the future!)  I woke to the sound of the race director, Ben Blessing (a former Marine and current National Guardsman) playing Taps, which I thought was awesome – even though it was 5 am and I’m sure some of the deer and squirrels might not have appreciated the early wake up call in an area that is usually so nice and quiet at that time of day!

Getting psyched up before the race!

Getting psyched up before the race!

I was happy that Wayne decided to get up with me and see me off at the start. He’d considered sleeping in and enjoying a little more shut-eye before going fishing with his buddy, but it was nicer to have him there with me in the early morning chill to keep me warm and to take a few pre-race photos which are always excellent souvenirs for later!

Wild Idaho Race Start

Wild Idaho Race Start

I walked as far back as possible to avoid going out too fast since I’d had IT band troubles in the last two ultras I did in July and wanted to stay conservative in the first half to keep any more troubles at bay.  Ben counted down and we were off!  I settled into an easy pace and noticed my sweet friend, Mariah Crump was near me and so we settled into a comfortable pace and started catching up.  Mariah has been such an upbeat, fun addition to the Boise Trail Runners gang.  I first met her last year while pacing IMTUF 100 miler.  She was at the last aid station (a huge robin egg blue bus out in the middle of nowhere, which had me questioning my sanity at first since I thought it was a mirage!)  She was perky and fun and helpful at her aid station and she was dying to do her first ultra, which is always fun to see in another runner!  She set her sights on working hard and doing all the races in the Ultra Series so she could do well at the IMTUF race herself in 2013!! And, she’s knocked out race after race since that time – always smiling, always staying positive and it was fun to listen to her talking about the journey she’d had to get this far, with much success this year!

The morning was just dawning as we ran down the dirt road and then jumped onto a fun bush-whacking bit of early morning fun through the pine trees and bushes, hopping over logs, dodging rocks.  There was plenty of chatter at the back of the pack and we did our best to warn those behind us when a tree branch would come smacking our way or a big rock would be suddenly underfoot, threatening to trip us up “BRANCH!!” “ROCK!”  It was fun!

My legs felt great and my spirit was light as I ran the familiar dirt road up towards the Silver Creek Lookout saddle aid station at mile 4.4.  Once I hit that, I knew there would be more uphill to the Silver Creek Lookout tower and I was looking forward to the gorgeous vista that awaited me at the top.  I saw my pal, Mark at the aid station along with his two golden retrievers, Cali and Norman and said hi as I checked in and out and headed up the climb.  The dogs have ran with me before and must have thought it was time for a little leg stretch as I headed by because within a couple minutes they were both running right beside me! I heard Mark say “No, Cali! No Norman! Come here!” I paused and thought they did too and were heading back but before long I heard panting and there they were again – right in front of me – leading me up the hill.  I giggled, thinking how it looked like I’d just adopted two really strong climbers to pace me up the climb!  We had a fun time, too running up the hill and saying hello to my faster friends who were coming back down from the summit on the out and back.  I had a pretty good laugh when I looked up and saw my friend, Derek running fast downhill with a new black pup by his side too! I yelled out, “Hey! You got a dog!!!” And he said, “You got TWO!” and we both started laughing.

By the time I reached the lookout, I’d heard my friend Tony was at the top taking the race photographs, so I had already planned out how I wanted to do a leaping shot.  Tony was quick with the camera and captured me in midair on the first try, which was pretty cool! The guide at the top saw the two dogs and offered them some water, which I thought was really nice. I’d been sharing water from my pack with them, but this was in a nice dish on the ground, which was a lot nicer for the pooches!

Silver Creek Lookout

Silver Creek Lookout

After their drinks, the three of us headed down! I was feeling frisky and ready to test out the legs on the downhill (one of my all-time favorite sections of any race course I’ve ever done since it’s a nice grade and the dirt road is smooth and not technical at all!) You can really let loose and FLY on those couple of miles coming down and I didn’t hold back! I just relaxed and let my body do what it loves to do more than anything when I run – head downhill, gobbling up ground with every quick turnover, lightening fast!  Mark had hiked up the climb and headed back up to the top to hang out with the dogs until most of the runner traffic was through and I headed back down to the Silver Creek Saddle aid station at the bottom, smiling, feeling free and (as my friend Ray would say.. “Living the dream!!” )

I flew down that section, logging my fastest miles of the race – Mile 8 was a 6:34 pace (a PR mile for me actually, which was fun to see and it didn’t feel hard at ALL), and mile 9 was 6:51. I was grinning from ear-to-ear, passing several people and having a ball! That has been my experience on that section three years in a row.  But, quickly I reminded myself of how things went badly for my IT band in 2011 after I had too much fun hammering this downhill, so I eased up after checking into the Silver Creek A.S. again and then headed to the left towards one of my very favorite sections of this course – some sweet, roller coastery mini hills along the ATV trail, through lush greenery and forest.  At this same section last year a deer had come bounding out from the forest above the trail and nearly collided with me as I came running along. I stared up into the trees wondering if a repeat was in order, but all was silent and still.  I breathed deeply of the fresh morning mountain air and smiled as I ran.  I thought of all the friends I’d passed along this section (another out and back) as we high-fived or hugged or said hello along this path and it made me feel really at home and happy to be there again – reminiscing with some wonderful old memories.

I ran for about a mile and a half to the 50k turnaround and then headed back up. I turned on my IPod and started rocking out to some Queen and Pink and started playing air guitar for every pal I passed, trying to make them smile! I was having fun, feeling sassy and the miles were just ticking off easy as pie!  When I arrived back at the Silver Creek Saddle A.S. for the third and final time, I waved at my pals manning the station and then headed back down the dirt road I’d climbed earlier that day back towards Boiling Springs.  I was all alone by this point and just in my element. I used the downhill to practice good, tall running form and a tucked in pelvis (being mindful of some of the poor posture that may have contributed to IT band issues I’ve had in the past.) I felt wonderful, glanced down and saw I was comfortably still hitting a 6:30 – 7:30 pace and stopped to pop a Werther’s coffee candy into my mouth and do a little stretching. I was feeling perfect, but figured I shouldn’t push too crazy hard since the worst of the race (and the bulk of the climbing) were coming up in the second half!  As I stood there on the side of the road stretching, I suddenly heard someone coming up fast behind me.  My instincts kicked in and without so much as glancing back I bolted back to my previous pace, knowing someone was hunting me down!

After about a minute my pursuer caught up to me. He was a red-beared man with a friendly smile and flowing red hair and he said “Great pace, girl!” I smiled and said, “Thanks!” That’s when I realized who he was! He was Johan Steene, a really fast runner from Sweden! He was running the 50 miler (which involves two trips up to the Lookout and another little out and back at the bottom of the ATV trail so he was several miles ahead of me in distance) and after glancing at my watch I realized he was on pace for a course record!!!!!! I gave him due respect and told him I wished him well! That mile or so was definitely one of the highlights of the entire race for me, though (since he did in fact, go on to win the race and smash the course record!) He came to me later, after the race and told me he’d enjoyed our chance to run together for that small section, which I thought was really nice! 🙂

After letting Johan go and settling back down to a pace that seemed smarter for me, I ran until I was back at the start/finish at Boiling Springs – a little over 18 miles into the race according to my Garmin. I saw Johan leaving the aid station just as I came in.  I was excited to see my husband waiting there, ready to offer me assistance! I handed him my Nathan and asked for 40 oz of cold water and ice and I headed to the porta potty for a quick stop.  After I grabbed a quick bite at the aid station – choosing some watermelon and considering the avocado which looked delicious, then heading back out for the second part of the course – which I knew from past experience was a grueling, steep climb up to the Skunk Creek aid station via the Wet Foot Trail.

I was really happy about a mile into this section to hear footsteps behind me and see my friend April catch up! I just love April and it was nice to have a close friend nearby for some good conversation! We would happily end up spending nearly all of the the last half together, which was awesome! This was April’s first time doing this race so it was nice to let her know what was coming up next and to help each other pass the time up the steep climbs in the heat of the day on the very dusty, steep and somewhat technical trail.  About a mile up the trail, I saw my buddy, Jose running towards us and he was limping.  I stopped to find out what had happened and learned he’d fallen hard and hurt his knee pretty badly and was heading back to the start/finish to drop from the race since he was concerned the injury would get worse if he kept running on it.  We hugged him and wished him well, then headed up, up, up the Wet Foot Trail.

I have so many good (and bad) memories along this section! My IT band seized up on me in my 50 miler in 2011. I was limp/hiking up and down this pass at a much slower pace that day, swatting the swarms of horseflies that kept biting at me.  This time the IT band was feeling great and there were no horseflies in sight! I pointed out the huckleberry bushes all along one section of the path to April and told her I’d eaten my very first huckleberries right there two years ago in the middle of the night when my friend had given me a few. Fun times!

We took some tasty watermelon at the Wet Food A.S. then headed up towards Skunk Creek for a couple more miles. We survived the climb (which I have to admit by the third year in a row wasn’t so bad at all), we headed into the Skunk Creek aid station at mile 25. April and I were on pace for a sub 8 hour race, which was my goal and we were in good spirits! We sat down at the A.S., enjoying the company of some friends of ours who were taking great care of the runners, when all a sudden, I heard someone whooping and running fast into the A.S. It was my buddy, Derek!!!!  He was cruising quickly right at us and just before he reached us he leaped into the air for an epic heel-click (something Derek is known for – he’s definitely a runner with a little flourish!)  Just as he came down, I saw his face contort and he cried out and grabbed his leg. I rushed to him and tried to keep him from falling and helped him limp over to a chair.   It turned out his calves were cramping up pretty bad with the combination of the extreme climbing and the heat.  The aid workers quickly went to work massaging his calves and getting him hydrated and offering him S caps! They were attentive and on-the-ball and I wished Derek well and April and I headed back down towards the finish!

Running down, the heat started to creep up in intensity and April and I found ourselves taking more walk breaks than anticipated and I realized that we would probably not hit our sub 8 hour goal after all – but that we would be very close and I would likely get a PR.  As the finish line drew closer, I started to smell the barn and just took off running strong and feeling awesome. I stopped when I heard a friend say my name and realized it was my buddy, Nicole who’d gotten lost just 1/2 a mile from the finish. I yelled over my shoulder, “Follow me! I know the way!” and Nicole and April chased me into the finish.  I came barrelling in with a big grin and did my own epic heel click finish! I beat my finish time from last year by 22 1/2 minutes with a finish time of 8:12, which was totally awesome!

Coming into the finish line at Wild Idaho 50k

Coming into the finish line at Wild Idaho 50k

My Spectacular Heel Click Finish at Wild Idaho 50k! What FUN!

My Spectacular Heel Click Finish at Wild Idaho 50k! What FUN!

After the race, I headed straight for the ice cold River and sat down in it and soaked away any aches and pains while several other runners soaked with me and we all shared our tales of the trail together. It was a fantastic ending to a pretty perfect day! I said to my  husband, “Why don’t I do more 50ks? This is so great to be finished and still have plenty of energy and daylight left!” I may have to think about that!

Receiving my finisher bat and a hug from Race Director Ben Blessing

Receiving my finisher bat and a hug from Race Director Ben Blessing





McCall Trailrunning Classic 40

Louie Lake - one of many breathtaking lakes the McCall Classic 40 mile course offers for your aesthetic pleasure!

Louie Lake – one of many breathtaking lakes along the MTC 40 mile course.

Had an amazing day at the McCall Trailrunning Classic 40 miler over the weekend.  I thoroughly enjoyed running on some of the most technical, difficult trails I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing through some of the most eye-popping scenery Idaho has to offer!

What would a good race report be without a proper mountain leaping photo?

What would a good race report be without a proper mountain leaping photo?

This was one of the first photos I stopped to take during the race. The morning was still and quiet and this gorgeous mist hung over the water. It was heaven-on-earth!

This was one of the first photos I stopped to take during the race. The morning was still and quiet and this gorgeous mist hung over the water. It was heaven-on-earth!

There was a plethora of gorgeous scenery (I took about 130 photos to prove it), a zillion fallen trees to climb over (some so big I had to climb on top as though I were riding a horse just to make my way over) huge mountains to climb, valleys of wildflowers to take in and that perfect silence of all things beyond the trail were all highlights of this course.   There were several ice-cold water crossings to crash through to cool the body off and refresh the soul –  my favorite was through a swift current, up to my thighs with a rope to help assist the runners safely across, which was HEAVEN on my inflamed IT band! I stayed there for several minutes. All in all, the journey was a rugged, beautiful journey through paradise (or hell – depending on how hard you were running and what demons awaited you for the day.)

There were a spectacular display of wildflowers along the course, which made every twist and turn in the trail a wonderful surprise to the eyes!

There were a spectacular display of wildflowers along the course, which made every twist and turn in the trail a wonderful surprise to the eyes!

Trail art - cains showed up here and there along the trail offering some of nature's finest works of art by those who've traveled these paths before.

Trail art – cains showed up here and there along the trail offering some of nature’s finest works of art by those who’ve traveled these paths before.

Purple, yellow, orange and white wildflowers dotted the course and took my breath away with their beauty!

Purple, yellow, orange and white wildflowers dotted the course and took my breath away with their beauty!

Post-card worthy beauty on the top of Boulder Mountain

Post-card worthy beauty on the top of Boulder Mountain

I felt really good for the first 20 miles and was running fairly conservative but strong with similar runners which was enjoyable. I settled in early to two chatty girls and relaxed and let them do the talking, while I enjoyed the faster-paced single track trail of the early miles and the conga line of racers heading along the course through the shady, pine-scented forest.  I took the time to stop and really take in the scenery, to take some photos and to say hello to each and every friend on the course (I’m not kidding when I say I knew the majority of the 40 mile racers and the volunteers, so it was a truly relaxing, social time in the mountains catching up with friends.)  I was holding back, intending to save some turnover for the final miles of the race. I was feeling wonderful, fueling really well and playing it smart. I didn’t fall once though the footing was pretty tricky in many spots and I saw plenty of bloodied knees and heard of a broken finger, so the risk was there if you didn’t play it smart! I had a rough expectation of around 12 hours for the course and was on track for that for a very long time.

Then coming up Boulder Mountain the IT band just locked up (reminded me of Wild Idaho 50 miler a few years back where I limp-ran the final 29 miles.) It was painful and I tried stiff-legging it and running with one normal acting leg and one locked up, but it was difficult to get a reasonable pace going like that with all the boulders and rocks and downhill to deal with. I stopped at a tree and stretched and did some hip-loosening exercises that I’ve used in the past to help. And, they did help – for a few minutes each time, but as the hours passed it became apparent this race would just be a day of getting through and not be a day to push myself hard in pace.  I took an ibuprofen hoping it would reduce the inflammation just enough to let me run again and for a short while I did get the glorious feeling of motion going again, but it didn’t last very long. I even resorted to trying to do Graston therapy on myself (the one thing that always helps me when I struggle with this injury) but let’s just say it didn’t go too well with a smooth rock rubbing up and down my IT band out on the mountain and I gave up my self-doctoring idea pretty quickly!

Luckily, I’d packed several tropical flavored Life Savers and some Caramel Coffee Werther’s candies in my pack and sucking on those and putting on the IPod helped pass some of the tougher stretches when my leg just wasn’t cooperating. I just lost myself in the scenery and made the best of it.

My favorite (knee deep) water crossing! So nice we got to do it TWICE!!

My favorite (knee deep) water crossing! So nice we got to do it TWICE!!

Having struggled with IT band syndrome in the past I knew that I could keep going but that it would be a slog. The IT band had started to act up on me at Silver City 100k three weeks ago, so it did not come as a total surprise.  I’ve spent some time reading a book about an athlete’s mental training the past week and this was a point in the race where I really tapped into those exercises (deep breathing, focusing on a positive outcome no matter what and controlling my emotions) to help me accept what was and to choose “joy” instead of disappointment at the events of the day.

It wasn’t too difficult. I really was having so much fun, I was out in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I’d ever experienced and I had many friends greet me, hug me and high-five me along the way! How could I not be happy? I’ve definitely had my days of disappointment in races in the past and some of those I took to heart. I understand the sting of a dnf and how that can mess with your sense of self-esteem and chip away at your confidence.  But, I’ve had my share of successes, as well.

I’ve ran two 100 mile races and have the belt buckles to prove it! I’ve battled injuries and getting lost in other races and have managed to still find myself at the finish line eventually, crying tears of joy and exhaustion at overcoming the difficulties that I’d encountered to arrive there. I even qualified for Boston two months ago – the dream more precious to me than any other running dream I’ve dared to dream in the past! So, I guess you could say I have finally gained some perspective at this point. Sometimes races don’t go as planned and that’s ok! Because sometimes they are out-of-this-world, over-the-moon WONDERFUL – and it all balances out in the end if you continue to dust yourself off and try, try again in the future, learning from your mistakes and gaining knowledge from what you’ve done right.

The only failures in this world are those who give up and never face their giant again. Because I believe most giants CAN be conquered.  And, isn’t that really the point of these difficult ultra marathons?  To push ourselves beyond our comfort level. To pit man and woman against mountains and weather and long, grueling miles on the body? We, who choose this sport are not here to be coddled or given the “easy road”, we’re here to test our limits, to find out what we’re made of and to ultimately conquer the course – slay the dragon at the finish line!  It doesn’t come easy or with any guarantees of success on the first, second or third try! But, it’s always worth it in the end to keep coming back to the fight until it is won!

I call running trails that are this technical a game of "Think Fast!!" A totally, exciting experience!

I call running trails that are this technical a game of “Think Fast!!” A totally, exciting experience!

I met Jen during the race. She was celebrating turning 40 this week by running the 40 miler! What a fun idea!

I met Jen during the race. She was celebrating turning 40 this week by running the 40 miler! What a fun idea!

The out and back section was my favorite of all since I was able to cheer on the front runners and see each of my friends in the race (and take a few photos with them which was fun!)

The out and back section was my favorite of all since I was able to cheer on the front runners and see each of my friends in the race (and take a few photos with them which was fun!)

I slogged along the next 17 miles or so, excitedly jumping up and down and cheering when I saw the front runners pass me (I was especially thrilled to see Joelle!!) and stopping for hugs and pictures from each friend who came my way as we all made our way through forest and up and over the mountains together. I had a smile on my face, though my right knee was inflamed, sore and tight the further I went.

I finally checked into the Boulder/Louie Lake aid station where my friend (and aid station captain, Emily,) refilled my Nathan with fresh water, offered me watermelon (which I downed hungrily) and a mashed up Popsicle in a cup (which tasted like the sweet nectar of the gods in the heat of the day) and my wonderful mentor and friend, Ande offered me two small peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take along with me for the final 8 miles of the journey (she assured me they were soft and would hit the spot and she was right!) I headed out. My Garmin showed a bit over 37 miles at this point and Emily told me it was closer to 8 miles until the finish (the actual distance of this course is 45 miles)  I’d been on my own for hours, was feeling tired, though well-fueled and was eager to head towards the finish line, though I knew I still had a few more hours to go before I’d arrive.  I left the aid station about an hour before the cut off there and knew I would make it as long as I stayed steady and kept moving.

I headed down the dirt road, then took a left at the sign that directed me, then walked on, eating my sandwich. About a mile away, I hit an intersection where I didn’t see any pink ribbons (which had been my guide all day.)  My Garmin said I was about 38 miles into the course and I didn’t have the heart to turn back and go ask Emily which way I was supposed to go (which I later would regret.) I stood there puzzling over which way to go.

Straight ahead was the Louie Lake Trail head, a parking lot was on my right and to my left was a road.  I didn’t know which way to go.  A woman standing in the parking lot saw me and asked, “Are you lost?” I told her I was in a race and was looking for pink flagging to direct me which way to head towards the finish line.  She said, “I just came from the Louie Lake trail and I saw pink ribbons way up high there.” So, I decided that must be the correct way and I started heading uphill onto the trail.   My instincts were uneasy, though since there was no flagging, but I kept going thinking, “The woman saw some up ahead. I’ll feel better when I reach that.”

Unfortunately, I climbed on and did not see any flagging. I went for another mile or so and found myself along the dam of the lake, where I realized I’d been earlier that day going the other direction. I started to really doubt my choice to continue. I saw a fisherman and asked him if he’d seen other runners heading this way. He said that he had and so I continued on (unknowingly going further and further off course.)  Finally, after not seeing any flagging for another half a mile I turned back.  It just didn’t feel right and I knew getting lost was the last thing I wanted to do as darkness would be approaching within the next couple hours and I didn’t want to get caught in the mountains without a cell phone or head lamp alone.

Just a few minutes after turning back I started to get worried. I was afraid by the time I got back to Emily’s aid station everyone would have gone home and I was worried I’d be stuck, lost and confused waiting for someone to find me.  I tried to remain calm, but found my fears overtaking me and I started to tear up.  Just then, I looked up and saw 3 men coming towards me! I was so relieved! One of them was my friend, David and I recognized his t-shirt as one of the volunteers from Emily’s aid station! He was with a runner who wasn’t feeling very well and that man’s friend, who had also jumped in to offer encouragement for the final stretch.  They thought they were going the right way.  We chatted about not seeing ribbons and they decided we should head on another path nearby. They told me my friends Sparkle and Jenny had also followed them up this path, so all of a sudden it seemed this might really be the right way after all! All I knew was that I was so relieved to not be all alone out in the mountains in unfamiliar territory again! I had people with me and I felt instantly happier and safer!

After another half an hour of not seeing any ribbons (or seeing Jenny and Sparkle) we all agreed we were lost.  I noticed one of them had a cell phone and I asked if he had any coverage on it. He said he did and I asked if I could call my husband.  I dialed his number and it rang but went to voice mail. I left a message and we continued to try and figure our way out of where we were. I’d gotten really turned around when the boys took me on the second path so I no longer knew the way back to Emily’s aid station, even and when I tried to get my Garmin to “go back to start” – it just froze and would not function properly, so it wasn’t much help.

After another half an hour of making no progress on finding the course, I asked to use the cell phone again, hoping to get Wayne to answer.  Again, it went to voice mail. I dialed my own cell phone, then, knowing my 13 year old daughter had that one and I was hoping she could tell him and the race director that we were lost. But, that cell went straight to voice mail, too.  Finally, the man mentioned that he had the race director’s number!!! He dialed it and Jeremy picked up (YAY!!!)  They spoke for about twenty minutes with a bad connection, while the man tried to give our gps coordinates to him that he was finding by using an app on his phone at the same time.  Jeremy tried to figure out where we were and how to guide us back to the proper path with that information.  That was the most wonderful feeling when we realized that others knew we were lost, approximately where we were and we had some guidance again! We walked for another half an hour or so (the other runner was having stomach problems, was dehydrated (I shared my water with him) and he was having plenty of pain in his shins, so we slowly progressed towards the final aid station and were never so grateful to see the two ATV guys there manning it waiting for us!! I could have hugged them both!

I sat down on a log, looked at my Garmin and saw I’d made it 42.3 miles. It was 8:10 and the race cut off was 8:30 pm – and we still had over 5  miles to go to the finish line. It was an obvious decision to ask for a ride back at that point.  There was just no way with the IT band seized up that I could have made it to the finish before the cut off (I mean 5 miles in 20 minutes would mean I’d probably be setting some kind of world record anyways!) and I knew it and accepted that.  I was honestly just so grateful and thankful to know I was safe again and would see my husband and children soon.

How could I not smile when I was rescued in a Pinzgauer?!

How could I not smile when I was rescued in a Pinzgauer?!

The cool part was when the golf course owner (the venue for this race), showed up in some sweet looking Swiss Army jeep thing that reminded me of a narrow Hum Vee and gave us a ride back on the ATV trails in that thing (what a wild time!!!) Going up and down the crazy course in that thing, ducking to not get knocked over by the pine trees’ branches smacking in the open windows! Driving through the water crossings! It was AWESOME! They even gave me a Coke and some trail mix which was much appreciated since I’d been running for over 14 hours, then had to wait for the ride for another 30 min or so and I was a bit hungry. 🙂 There was plenty of laughter on that ride back to the start/finish line and my heart was happy. The day had not turned out like I’d expected it, but it had been an adventure nonetheless!

I was overjoyed when we pulled into the golf course parking lot! My husband was really happy to see me and he held me tight! I was smiling and genuinely thankful to Jeremy, the race director, for answering his phone, guiding us back and sending help to us out there! I was very grateful to the man who’d driven out there and given us a ride back and I was exceptionally happy to be allowed to just rest again. I couldn’t wait to get back to the camp site and hug my sweet kids!!! They were very happy to see me! My 6 year old had even colored this really great poster that said, “GO MOM! I <3 Mom!” for the finish line with pretty pink (my favorite color) flowers and hearts on it. I felt bad I’d gotten off course and she’d not been able to cheer me in with that — but it meant the whole world that she’d made it and I hugged and kissed her and told her how much I loved it!

I’m happy. I’m fine. I need to deal with the injured leg. I’m hoping to see my chiropractor later this week for Graston therapy and hopefully I’ll be running again by next week.

P.S. The things that went supremely WELL in this race:

1. My attitude. I have been reading about mental preparation for athletes lately and have really focused on staying positive no matter what. That paid off for this day and I looked the race director in the eye after it was over and told him wholeheartedly that I took full responsibility for myself and getting lost and had a GREAT TIME on his course and thanked him for doing an excellent job! That felt good to accept my fate with no regrets.

2. Zero blisters or feet problems again! Love Pure Grits!!! Even with my feet plunging right into about 20 or more water crossings I was just fine and dandy! And the feet felt fine at the finish, still.

3. Zero chafing. Yay for Body Glide and knowing how to apply it liberally!

4. Fueling!! THIS was my biggest success!!!! I decided from the start to try to stick to a mostly liquid, simple-to-digest diet for this race and see how it went. I brought along 2 Vi Fuel packs flavored like peach cobbler and they were awesome! Then I turned to what the race offered – Hammer gels and probably took about 8 of them during the race. I have never taken more than 3 GUs or anything like that for any distance before and didn’t know if it would cause stomach distress. I was FINE!! I also had 2 Mrs May’s natural granola bars (about 220 cals each), a few bites of watermelon, a bite of a banana and at the last aid station two small squares of peanut butter and jelly (which was wonderful since I got lost for hours shortly after.) I never bonked. I felt awesome! I took s caps and endurolytes throughout. Seriously would have ran so great on that fueling if the IT band wasn’t an issue. That was a great feeling!

Tempus Photo Design got this shot of me during the race and I really love it! It captures the joy I was experiencing in the beauty of those gorgeous mountains!

Tempus Photo Design got this shot of me during the race and I really love it! It captures the joy I was experiencing in the beauty of those gorgeous mountains!

Elevation gain: 9,626 feet or so. LOTS of climbing – especially when you add on a few extra mountains just for the heck of it!


The McCall Trailrunning Classic is a must-do ultra marathon in the Salmon River Mountains! With plenty of single-track trail and some of the most technical and challenging running I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a relative paradise of wildflowers, lakes and shady Ponderosa Pines, it will take your breath away! Of all the other race courses I have ran in the past, this most reminded me of Big Horn in scenery and difficulty.

The race directors, Jeremy and Brandi Humphrey (ultra runners themselves) put on a well-organized event and pour their heart and soul into it.  Well stocked aid stations, world-class race volunteers ready to meet your every need at the many aid stations along the course and a delicious baked potato bar at the finish make this a race not to be missed!


Silver City 100k – The First Shall Be Last

Silver City 100k - photo courtesy of Julie Tinney

Silver City 100k – photo courtesy of Julie Tinney

As I laid in my camper bed, relaxing to the hum of the heater keeping me toasty, I wondered what the day ahead would bring for me as I tried to catch a few winks of sleep that just would not come. I didn’t feel afraid of the challenge, though I did worry about the weather and hoped I had chosen my morning race gear appropriately since the weather in the mountains can change with very little notice.  Only two days before the race, there had been a blizzard, then the night before it had rained on and off for hours. The weather reports were suggesting sunny and dry and possibly a little too warm for my 100k journey and I just wanted to be prepared!

I must have finally dozed off for about an hour before my alarm went off. I quietly applied copious amounts of Body Glide and put on my shorts, tank top and Brooks Nightlife LSD super thin wind and waterproof jacket, my gloves, my ever-faithful Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes and my headlamp and headed outside. I was stunned by how bright it was at 4 am! The truly blessed runners who chose the early start of the race were being graced with the presence of a spectacular and very special occurrence – a Super Moon! It was magnificent in the sky and I can honestly say, I’ve never seen it look so massive or so breathtaking before! I turned off my headlamp and was able to walk by the light of the moon to the porta potty.

I grabbed my number and timing chip and chatted in the early morning dewy pre-dawn chill with the race directors (who are good friends of mine) and the other early bird volunteers and waited for the big start!  Though 40 were registered for the event, only 35 or so actually showed up to do the race (some had dropped down in distance due to injury and others just didn’t show.) Of those, about 10 of us had chosen the 4 am early start, which eliminated the chance at any placing in the race, but gave a nice, big cushion of time to keep ahead of race cut offs on this very challenging course! I knew I was right on the line of those who could go either way. The regular start was to begin at 5:37 am and since I have had 3 dnfs to my name from cut offs in tough mountain ultras in the past (Big Horn 50 twice and Pocatello 50 once) I just didn’t want to take any chances.

Sean and I leading the early start about a mile into the race. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

Sean and I leading the early start about a mile into the race. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

I was really happy that so many of my friends had chosen the early start too! There was lots of well-wishing and hugging before the final countdown where we took off! Very quickly my friend Sean took the lead and he and I stayed close together until the first aid station – Slacker’s, where our good friend, Dennis (who is about the most experienced ultra runner among us) was ready to give top-notch service for what would be a very long shift (since his aid station would be our 2nd stop and our 10th and final one as well!)  Sean and I had taken about 45 minutes to run the first 3.4 with about 800 feet of gain already under our belts to warm our legs up nicely for the grueling 14,000 or so that remained.

I left the aid station first and settled into an easy, comfortable pace, running well on the early terrain, dodging the multitude of rocks and finding my rhythm. I relaxed and ran easily feeling so fresh and alive! The dawn was breaking, the scenery was postcard beautiful and there were many wildflowers, grasses wet with dew, the sweet scent of freshly rained on earth in my nose, the wide open expanses below me covered in fog as I happily ran on, all by myself for the next 9 miles.  Through this gorgeous stretch, I could run fast. I stirred up a deer from it’s bed and watched it bound up a hillside as I called out, “Good morning to you!”  A gray jack rabbit hopped across my path a little while later.  I encountered many cows near the trail and began to alert them to my presence by mooing at them as I approached! I did this the entire loop, grinning and feeling delight in the early morning light. Many of the wonderful ATV volunteers were positioned along this part of the course to keep an eye on us and help us go the right way and each one cheered and offered encouraging words as I passed, which was awesome! It was also fun hearing things like, “Your’e the first runner!”  I was only the first early runner, but it was pretty cool being in the lead (or sharing it with Sean when we were together) for this section! I was in a very happy place as the sun started to rise!

The gorgeous scenery on the Slackers 9 mile loop. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

The gorgeous scenery on the Slackers 9 mile loop. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

I completed the 9 miles in about 2 hours, checked in and out of the Slackers Aid station again and headed on my way. Sean had just caught up to me again and we enjoyed chatting and running in the early morning light. This is where we also finally saw the regular starters on the course.  I had glanced at my Garmin at 1:27 into my race and saw that I had about 7 miles down when the regular field was released. It was an exciting mental game to think of being the little turtle put ahead of the rabbits who would chase me down! I thought it would be fun to have a front row seat to all the action at the front of the pack and get to say hi to each of my fast friends as they passed me. I was happily looking forward to this part of the race and felt I had run well and was eager to see how long I could hold the lead for before I got caught by the pack!

Slacker's Aid Station and the Aid Station Captain Extraordinaire Dennis Ahern! - Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Slacker’s Aid Station and the Aid Station Captain Extraordinaire Dennis Ahern! – Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Sean and I stayed together, enjoying the chilly early morning, our feet getting wet from the dew on the grasses that lined the trail heavily at this part.  The scenery was out of this world beautiful and we oohed and ahhed at every bend in the trail at the brilliant vistas before us!  As we entered Silver City, Sean decided to take a bathroom break at one of the only vault toilets along the course and I ran on, eager to hear some cheering from the dwellers of Silver City (though I was aware that it was mostly a ghost town and was not expecting a big crowd.)  Unfortunately, I saw exactly zero people as I ran through town – right down the middle of the street. I was fascinated by the old stone buildings with huge metal doors and reminded myself that the race director had said under no circumstances should we peek into the windows of these cool buildings since apparently, the citizens don’t appreciate being ogled!  So, I ran, eager to hit the 3rd aid station – the Silver City one, but I didn’t see one.  I was more than 18 miles into the race and still waiting for the front runners to catch me and I was all alone and wondering how much longer this part would last. I think my overall pace at this point was something like a 13:30, which was pretty solid for this course. My goal pace was about a 17:00 so I was doing well. At this point we’d done about 3,215 feet of climb and already experienced some pretty knarly, technical, rock-strewn sections and a bit of shoe-sucking mud in the 9 mile Slackers Loop, though the worst was yet to come.

After I’d ran through town, I finally spotted some flagging indicating the 100k distance (the race also offers 30k and 50k options for those looking for less punishment!) I saw three flags in a row (which usually  means turn here), then looked down the road at the turn and saw confidence markings down the road.  But, I hadn’t hit the aid station yet and so I was confused. I stood there puzzling over it for a few minutes.  I looked straight ahead into town and did not see any other flagging, so after a few moments, I decided that turning right and heading up the hill was the right thing to do (cue the doomsday music!)

The old mining town of Silver City. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

The old mining town of Silver City. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

This is a really fun section since there are abandoned buildings, barns that have crashed to the ground, old schoolhouse type wooden structures – just all sorts of really, really cool things to look at! AND, a plethora of water crossings so wide and deep you HAVE to get your feet wet (which quite frankly I adore in a race where it’s warm!)  Sean caught up to me about half a mile in and we both felt relieved that we’d each made the same decision to follow the flagging.  Soon, the road became very steep and the grade made it hard to keep running, so we power hiked.  We hiked on and soon our Garmins said we’d hit mile 20 – and there was still no sign of the aid station.  We’d followed flagging along this entire stretch so felt like we were doing what we were supposed to,  but things just weren’t making sense.  We both agreed there was no way the front runners had not caught up with us yet by this point!  We had climbed 800 bonus feet in those two slow, hot miles and suddenly we were at a fork in the road — and the flagging ended.  We stared at each other and agreed to work as a team – him going one way and me going the other in search of the  way to go.  I went right, Sean went left. After about 2/10 of a mile with no visible flagging in a spot I could see way down the road another 2/10, I ran back to tell him that my direction must be wrong. He reported the same and we stood there as an uneasy feeling settled in and we realized we must be off course!

We had wasted over 45 minutes climbing and looking for the right way and knew it would only get worse, so we turned around and started running back down the hill, back through the multiple water crossings, back through the path of decrepid, cool, old buildings and all the way back down to the main road into town where we saw a Sherrif on an ATV talking to a woman with his back to us. We had to wait a minute to get his attention and then I asked if he knew the way we were supposed to go.  He said “Straight!”  Ugh!!!  🙁   We had done 4 bonus miles and totally wasted more than an hour of our early start cushion! Bummer!

Our moods both saddened.  We were now over 22 miles into the race and in search of the 18 mile aid station and it looked like most of the fast runners had already flown by (including most of my closest running partners who I had really hoped to see in this section.)  I was disappointed. It was my own fault for not verifying the turn or checking my map (which I did consult after the two miles uphill), but I could not get that time (or the energy my legs had expended) back.  So we started running through town together. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw a red jacket and a turquoise Pearl Izumi tank top peeking out on the runner just behind us!  Several of my friends are part of the Pearl Izumi team and I was trying to figure out which one this was. I kept running figuring they’d catch up in a couple of minutes and when they did I realized it was my neighbor, Tony Huff! It was nice to see him and he, Sean and I started running together in search of the elusive aid station.  We got a little confused in here and weren’t sure if we should cross Jordon Creek or go straight. Tony and Sean went one way and I went the other and when I saw flagging on the road another quarter of a mile away I yelled back at them until they joined me again — back on course!

Crossing the water to the Silver City Aid Station behind Sean. Photo courtesy of Antonio Salazar

Crossing Jordon Creek to the Silver City Aid Station behind Sean. Photo courtesy of Antonio Salazar

Finally, we reached the Jordon Creek aid station headed up by Tony Salazar and his exceptionally happy, hero-costumed family members and friends! I went plowing through the 6 inches or so of water to the other side, grinning and enjoying the delightful rush of cold mountain water on tired feet! They had music playing, the mood was light and they had a gourmet feast of delicious treats to offer us! I took some of the tasty watermelon and two of the most delicious pancakes I have ever eaten — the salty butter just dripping off of them as I scooped them up and started munching them as I left their aid station with Sean and Tony headed up to Hayden Peak Saddle another 5 miles away (and most of it uphill!)  It was a fun moment and I said thank you to each volunteer (as I try to do along the course in every race I do!)  I glanced at my watch and realized that I was now over 5 hours into my race which was a bit disappointing since I  would have been there closer to 3 hours 45 min into it had I not gone off course. Bummer.

Silvery City Aid Station - the most festive on the course (sorry honey!) Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Silvery City Aid Station – the most festive on the course (sorry honey!) Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Sean and I relaxed into a strong hiking pace and enjoyed some nice conversation as we aimed for the highest peak in the Owyhee Mountains – Hayden Peak at 8.403 feet. But, first  we’d need to reach the Hayden Saddle aid station about 5 miles away (at an elevation of 5,270 feet!)  Since Sean is a friend of mine from Boise and we’ve done a few long training runs together, this section felt very comfortable.  The scenery was extraordinary!! So much lushness! So many trees! Fields of wild flowers, long sections of tall sage brush. And, the sage brush especially caught my eye because it occurred to me how nicely it would shield the human eyes of other runners, so I excused myself and headed for a nice hidden one to take care of business before I headed for the rest of the climb to Hayden Peak.

Heading up Hayden Peak. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Heading up Hayden Peak. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

It was at this point 3 runners passed me by.  Someone in a yellow shirt, a young gal in a white hat and a runner in a pink skirt.  I was peeking out from the bushes, trying to be discreet, so I didn’t even realize the third one was my friend, Lynette!  Several minutes later, I cleaned up and came out from my hiding spot and got back into power hike mode. The 50k runners were also climbing and descending Hayden, so I was starting to see some of the people I know!

Dondi Black kindly took this photo as I climbed up Hayden Peak.  Thank you, Dondi!

Dondi Black kindly took this photo as I climbed up Hayden Peak. Thank you, Dondi!

This section was covered in red shale and was difficult to navigate.  It was a long stretch of ankle rollers that made footing a challenge – especially when trying to speed up! I finally rolled into the Hayden Saddle aid station at 6:48 into the race (mile 23 for most 100kers and mile 27 for those on the scenic, self-guided tour!)  We were greeted by cheers and energy and smiles from more of my friends from Boise, which was awesome! I swear every aid station went above and beyond in service and smiles and for that I am truly grateful!  We were told to head to the summit grab a toy solider from a bag (to prove we’d been there) and bring it back – a 7 mile journey that would have us climb another 1,200 very rocky, very steep miles! It was slow going for sure!  This also was the one section of the race where I actually got to see several friends all at once! I saw Ryan, Marci, Michelle, Andrea, Dondi (who took my favorite pictures of the day – thanks Dondi), Derek, Frank and many others and it was a joy to see how their days were going and catch them up on mine. The most common question, “What happened to you?We thought you’d be way ahead of here by now.”

Socializing on the climb (my Garmin tells me I spent over 3 hours of non-moving time. I think I talk too much!) ha! Photo courtesy of Dondi Black.

Socializing with my childhood friend, Marci as Ryan zooms on down on his way to a serious PR.  Photo courtesy of Dondi Black.

My Garmin tells me I spent nearly 3 hours of “non moving” time in the first 18 hours and 16 seconds of this race (when my Garmin battery died at mile 61 and some change.) I can guarantee you I spent at least 45 minutes or more of that in this section talking people’s ears off as we’d pass on the trails!! I gave one runner friend some ibuprofen for her IT band problems, got a few hugs and pictures and then met up with a runner who wasn’t feeling well.  Once we started talking I realized she and I had done a couple of races together already this year (and she was 1st place in both!!) She was a rock star! 🙂 But, this was her first 100k and being a tough little gal, she was pushing through the difficulties to make it happen despite struggling with a lot of nausea.  After chatting a bit, I told her that sometimes throwing up might be the only way to relieve the nausea and she gave it a try. To my happy delight, a few minutes later she was running by my side and said she felt much better! It was nice to see her handle that stretch and feel good for a bit!

We headed to the summit, where it was getting a bit chilly and we were the only two up there. I’d seen other pals from last year take photos here and I really regretted not having a camera to take a few shots of my own (next year!)  My new pal, Serrah and I grabbed our Army guys (mine was dong the Army crawl with a gun) and we headed downhill.  I was eager to go faster than our uphill pace, but unfortunately with the loose, shale rocks covering the trail, it was almost as slow going down as it was up in many spots! My knees both started to really hurt here (which isn’t something I have had happen before.) I think the loose rocks made the IT bands work harder than usual. Serrah was struggling with nausea, so I talked her into trying to throw up to ease the feeling and she headed off into the bushes to give it a try.  A few minutes later, she was back by my side smiling and feeling much better.  We stayed together until we were back at the Hayden Saddle aid station again, where her dad and sister helped her get some ginger ale and she sat down for a minute to rest. I was now 9 hours and 17 minutes into my race and had ran over 34 miles counting my bonus 4. I had been carrying a laminated projected aid station chart with me and gave it a glance to see how far off I was of my hoped-for arrival time.  I had written 12:30 on the chart and I was 47 minutes behind due to my earlier mistake. I had already climbed over 8,500 feet in the race as well and I knew I was about half way done with another 6,000+ of gain awaiting me on the rest of the course and 33.5 more miles to go.  I hoped I would be able to pick up my pace a bit now that Hayden Peak was bagged and return to my predicted time goal if possible.

I ate some strawberries, a piece of white bread and sipped some Mountain Dew, then asked for a baggie of M and Ms from my friend Nellie who was heading up the aid station (thanks, Nellie!) and then I headed on my way.  Though I had been wearing my jacket on the trip up and down Hayden Peak, I was warming up in the afternoon sunshine at the lower elevation and I decided to take that off and stow it in my Nathan for the next stretch back to Silver City aid station – another 8 miles away.

Serrah quickly joined up with me again and we started to run really well together. We got to know each other a little bit better and it was a nice stretch.  The ATV roads through here were especially nice and we found a faster pace than we’d managed on the more rocky sections, running through the wide mountain vistas of green gorgeousness that surrounded us.  I realized about an hour later that I should fuel again, so I let Serrah go and  slowed down to take out my snacks and nibble a bit and drink up.  Not long after this, I came to a fork in the road without any ribbons or markings. I wasn’t sure which way to go, so I made a mental note of the exact mileage on my Garmin and then started heading down the path straight ahead hoping to find another trail marker within a tenth of a mile or so.  I didn’t find one after 2/10ths so I headed back to the junction and found Serrah there, equally confused having gone down the other path, also without finding a marker.  Finally, we decided to go with the one I’d tried and go further to see if it was correct or not.  We found another runner not far away after running for a bit and he assured us this was the correct path. He said a couple other runners near him had also been confused, but it was nice to be back in a groove and making progress again.

We had some nice conversation with our new trail mate – who it turned out had ran some of my Final Kick event races, which was pretty cool! We started discussing climbing vs. descending and which was our strength.  He said he was a better climber. I told him I was a better downhiller and just about this time, we hit a stretch with some nice, gentle downhill and I took off, feeling really strong and enjoying the feeling of a second wind!

I ran alone for a mile or so and then my steam faded away again.  The man caught up to me first and I encouraged him as he passed by looking strong and then Serrah caught me next and I wished her well as she went on ahead.  I had pulled out my little prediction sheet and saw I was getting further behind and I started to really get discouraged. My stomach was starting to feel nauseated, my knees were hurting when I’d try to pick up the pace and my mood slid downhill as fast as my legs normally like to carry me.  What had occurred to me just before this was that I was about to hit the stretch of the course where I’d have to REDO the section I had already done earlier when I’d taken a wrong turn.  Including the 800+ of climb.  That kind of bummed me out.

I reached the Silver City aid station at 3:34 pm – exactly 11 hours and 34 minutes into the race and I had traveled more than 43 miles by this point (instead of the 38 I should have been at.) I had hoped to arrive at this aid station at 2:46 pm, so I was now 48 minutes behind schedule (which I suppose also means I was fairly consistent in the last 8 + miles.) Antonio Salazar and his wonderful family and their other aid station workers were smiling and willing to jump in and help in any way we needed which was wonderful and a bright spot in the race for me.  I especially enjoyed the hug from his sweet mama, dressed in her Super Man t shirt and red tutu!  They topped off my water pack and I took another pancake and some watermelon. I did pull Tony aside and ask if they could radio ahead to the RD and see if there was any way I could skip the next section (since I’d already done it.) I don’t know what I was thinking – that maybe one of the ATV guys could bring me back up the hill to the spot 2 miles up I had turned around and leave me there to continue, but it was a silly thing to ask and I know that.  The radio user was busy reporting some runner data so the request never went forward and I just headed out onto repeat the section I’d done. I didn’t want to risk a dnf no matter what so I was honestly expecting to hear I’d have to redo it no matter what, but figured it didn’t hurt to ask.

There is a vault toilet about a quarter mile down the road in Silver City and I took the opportunity to stop and use it.  As I entered I spotted a brand new, unopened snack pack of Lays chips balancing precariously on the back of the potty. The aid station had ran out of salty chips by the time I reached them and it was like a ray of sunlight shone on the Tasty Treasure Treat! I believe I heard angels burst into choruses of Hallelujahs as I reached for the Gift Chips and inspected the bag to make sure it had not been opened. It had not, so I ripped it open and stuffed a few into my mouth (after wiping my hands with one of the baby wipes I carry in my pack!) It was a small ray of joy in my day and I needed it.

It felt nice to sit on an actual toilet seat after peeing in the bushes for hours! So nice, in fact, that when nothing exciting happened on the potty after a few minutes I found myself not wanting to get up. It was comfy there in the vault toilet and I hadn’t sat down all day. It was a monumental effort to get my butt off that seat and back into the groove of being in a race again! I opened the door and headed back to the road and started running again.  Serrah caught up to me somewhere in here and she wasn’t feeling too hot again, struggling with nausea and exhaustion a bit.

We fed off each other’s misery as we climbed up towards Long Gulch, which is only 3.5 miles from the Silver City aid station but has 1311 feet of climb and feels like a slow, long haul.  About a mile up the hill, I saw an ATV rider. I had pulled out my map concerned about the junction I’d encountered earlier in the day on this stretch when Sean and I could not find any flagging 2 miles up.  The rider asked if he could help me and I explained my concern about getting up the hill again and not being able to tell which way to go. I asked if he knew which direction was right or if he’d spotted an aid station at the top.  I showed him my map and let him look at it and he told me that he had seen the aid station but could not remember which direction to take, but that it was a long, long ways up to the top.  🙁 I thanked him for his help (and realized somewhere in here that he was the husband of one of my childhood friends) and then Serrah caught up to me and we continued on.

There are many water crossings through this section and in the warmth of the afternoon sun, they were a welcome relief.  Serrah pulled off to puke again and I kept heading slowly up the road, trying to stay out of the path of the stream of ATV riders and pick up trucks coming and going up and down the hill. I finally reached the spot Sean and I had gotten to and noticed someone had placed a ribbon to the right.  I was so happy about that! So, I headed right at the junction and encountered several men and a woman and an angry, barking dog right at the next big water crossing.  The dog barked and barked at me as I got closer and I kept my eye on him as I got around the people and crossed the water.   I was glad to be on the other side and on my way.

It was several minutes later that I heard the dog again and knew Serrah was safely behind me. I’d been worrying about her and didn’t want her to get too far behind while she was feeling bad. This eased my mind and I kept moving forward at a slow, trudging pace, just following the plethora of footprints in the dirt that had traveled up before me.  Serrah and another man caught up to me about a mile before the aid station and we heard hoots and cheering as we approached the Long Gulch aid station, where they aid, “C’mon! Let’s see some RUNNING!”  That lit my fire and Serrah and I started sprinting towards them at a breakneck speed (likely a 10 min mile at this point, which honestly felt like a 5 min mile!)

I was so relieved to finally be at the top.  I realized that I knew a few of the volunteers and we said hello.   They offered me bacon and I accepted (because WHO refuses bacon?!) but when I tried to take a bite, my stomach went very sour and I had to set it down.  I was now about 46 miles into the race and at the point I often start to struggle with getting food into my system.  I had been eating steady most of the day and my gut just felt full and sloshy and gross. I didn’t want to eat and yet I knew I should. It was 5:04 pm and I’d been running for more than 13 hours and I was starting to really feel it. It occurred to me that the winners were likely already done and I still had over 22 miles left to go. Ugh! I checked my cheat sheet to see how far off I was and saw that I had hoped to arrive here at 3:45 pm, so I was now an hour and 19 minutes behind my goal.  Dang! And, I knew Tennessee Hill (the steepest climb of the race) was still awaiting me.

After a few minutes of light snacking, a nice man packed up some Cheese It crackers and sent me on my way.  Sadly, those crackers would ride in my pack the next 8 hours and I would not eat one of them as my stomach would go from bad to worse.  Serrah, our new friend Steve and I left the aid station running fairly well together, but quickly my stomach made me feel awful running, so I slowed to a walk and let them take off.  We were one our way to Jordan Creek aid station (the final cut off place in the race with a cut off time of 7:30 pm) and I knew Tennessee Hill was right after that. I spent the next 4 mile walking alone. I tried to keep the pace at about a 14-16 min pace and would just add bursts of running for as long as my sore knees and sour stomach could take it.  I finally decided to take a moment of this solitude and head for a bush break again, hoping I could ease some of the stomach problems with some emptying.  I spent several minutes taking care of business and then got back on the trail, but found I wasn’t moving much better. I was starting to really fatigue and it was getting late.

Jordan Creek  Aid Station for the second time. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Jordan Creek Aid Station for the second time. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

When I could hear the sound of rushing water, I perked up.  I knew that Jordan Creek must be getting closer and that gave me hope!  I made it through a water crossing and then hit a dirt road and followed the markings and just kept running. I was suddenly running a little better and was eager to get to the aid station.  I finally pulled into the aid station at 6:26 pm about an hour before the cut off.  My friend Tina Upton was there and she offered me a banana Popsicle, which I happily accepted.  I refused water, since I hadn’t drank any since the last aid station and didn’t need any.  My race director friends were there too and they looked concerned.  They wanted to know how I’d gotten the 4 miles off course earlier in the day and I spent several minutes explaining what had happened.  As I spoke I started to get more down about it. In retrospect, I should have just asked if we could talk about it later, since this was taking time and reminding me of my mistake.  I showed my friend Davina my Garmin and said, “I’m now over 52 miles into the race and I was supposed to arrive at my husband’s aid station at mile 51, so that’s kind of depressing.”  That’s when she also told me that the next runner behind me on the course was over 4 hours back and would be pulled.  I had just become the last place runner.

With that bad news I headed through Jordan Creek water crossing and straight up the worst climb of the day — Tennessee Hill.  I had hoped to arrive at Jordan Creek AS at 4:58 pm. I was more than an hour and a half behind and I’d spent about 20 minutes at the aid station, so I was getting further and further behind my goal.

Tennesee Mountain. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Tennesee Mountain. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

The climb up Tennessee is no joke! I’d take several steps up, moving steady but slowly and then have to stop and catch my breath.  I had to keep my shoes at an angle as I trudged uphill, leaning forward on my knees as the grade increased and I got further up.  Tennessee hill ascends something like 1,200 in less than a mile, so it’s a real kick in the gut at such a late point in the race. I’d heard people who had done the race the year before giving some pretty colorful names to this section and I started to understand why!

The worst part was when I thought I’d reached the summit (and had traveled more than a mile from the aid station and could see just a small white dot where the white canopy was marking the spot back), I headed forward and realized that the climb had just BEGAN!  There before my bewildered eyeballs was the steepest section of all! Oy vey! I groaned and struggled on, noticing that the light was fading around me and the sun was setting.  When I finally reached the summit, I wanted to mark the occasion.  I couldn’t think of a better way than peeing right on the top to mark that I’d been there and conquered it! Take THAT, Tennessee Hill!!   I walked a bit more to the other side, where it started to descend and just took a moment to enjoy the view. It really was spectacular.  I could see deer bounding in the distance and the purple and white wildflowers were a beautiful sight in the fading light of the sunset.  I decided to just sit down right on the path for a moment and take in the scenery from way up high.

Once I got moving again, it was slow going. I think I’d just lost my drive and was just putting one foot in front of the other. Thankfully, this next section is much easier and I started jogging again, though most of it was power walking.  I knew that the next aid station I would reach would be the one I’d looked most forward to all day — Delamar  – the aid station my five kids, husband and I had headed up last year!  My husband and some friends would be there waiting for me this time and I was so eager to get there! I knew he had coconut Popsicle and I tried to use my desire for one as motivation to get there!

About a mile from the aid station, I was surprised to hear a runner coming up from behind me. It was my buddy, Paul! He told me he was the race sweeper and was here to hang with me! Woo hoo! It was so very nice to have some company after so many hours alone!  My pace picked up considerably for a little bit, but soon, I had to let him know my fatigue and lack of nutrition were catching up with me and I’d need to power walk instead.  Paul is a very happy-go-lucky type of person and I appreciated his taking the lead in conversation since I was pretty brain-dead by this point.

Coming into Delamar looking like I'd had just about enough. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

Coming into Delamar looking like I’d had just about enough. Photo courtesy of Wayne Ebenroth

We finally pulled into the Delamar aid station at 8:30 pm (about 2 hours behind my goal time.)  My husband took photos as we came down the hill and I had the look of “You would NOT believe the bad day I’ve had” face in them.  Normally, I’m a goofball and ham it up for the camera so I was not in a good mental place at this point.  I was tired. I was nauseous and I was eager to be done. I had been running for 16 and a half hours buy this point and I still had about a half marathon in distance before me (and over 2,000 more of climbing to boot!)  I quickly perked up with the fun mood of the aid station, though.  Everyone was smiling and offering me help.  I accepted a cold mocha Frappuccino and drank half of it while I filled them in on the events of the day.  I think I sat in that chair chatting for about 20 minutes and honestly hated to leave I was having so much fun.  But, there was work to be done and I headed out.  I made one very crucial mistake here. I had only one drop back for the entire race and it was here.  I was still wearing my thin Brooks windbreaker, a tank top and my shorts and gloves and had my headlamp, but could have used some wind pants and a warmer shirt or jacket (all of which were in the bag that I never even asked for!) Doh! This would be a huge mistake and I’d pay for it!

Paul and I had heard that another runner was only 15 minutes ahead of us and we decided to see if we could catch them.  Unfortunately, my stomach and sore knees said, “Um NO!”  when I tried to convince them to run.  So, we took short run breaks and power walked on. We had to turn on our headlamps not far down the road and after several miles we finally did catch up with our friend, Day (who was doing his first 100k and doing a great job!) That gave me some renewed strength and I ran on ahead letting Day get some conversation time in with Paul and I ran along, riding another short wave of energy under the full moon, through the forest in silence.

My Garmin had died, so I had no idea how far I’d gone but it seemed I’d been running alone for at least half an hour when I got to a marking on a fence that made me wonder if I was supposed to go through the wide crack in the fence or run along the fence line.  I was freezing, shivering in the night chill and I didn’t want to stand still and wait for Paul and Day to catch up.  Luckily, I saw a blip of light to my left and headed in that direction, with renewed hope.   My teeth were chattering, I could hardly feel my fingers and I was struggling in the temperatures that felt about 32 degrees or so.  When the person with the headlamp reached me I recognized the orange Brooks jacket right away! It was my friend, Mark! I said, “Mark! I’m so happy to see you! I’m so cold, just so cold and tired.”  He was a gentleman and offered me his jacket, which I was thankful for.  It’s the same jacket I was wearing, so it helped a bit but did not really warm me up much.  I continued to stumble forward, feeling very bonky and very, very tired.  I knew my wonderful friend and mentor, Dennis Ahern would be at the next aid station (Slackers – the one we’d also hit at aid #1 and aid #2) and I could not wait to see him!! Mark told me that Dennis had a heater and that made me long for getting there even more.   I’m not sure how far we walked, but it like an eternity and I remember asking, “Are we ever going to get there?”  Poor Mark assured me that we would and that it wasn’t far.

Finally, I saw the glow of the propane heaters and I started stumbling towards the aid station in the night, muttering, “Dennis. Dennis. Dennis!!!”  I staggered into his camp and opened my arms and said, “Ohhhhh, Dennnnissss… I looovveee you sooo much. I was trying so hard to get to youuuuu.”  I know I must have seemed like a total drunk in my horribly exhausted, bonky state, but Dennis has ran more ultras than anyone I know and he embraced me, kissed me on the forehead and said, “I’m happy to see you too, kid!”  Then, he had me sit down by the heater and he offered me a blanket and someone offered me a cup of broth with noodles.  I just wanted to sleep. It was now 19 hours and 52 minutes into my race and it had taken me almost 3 1/2 hours to go the 9 miles from Delamar. I was raw and emotional and totally drained.  My basic human needs were all that mattered:  Sleep, food, warmth.   But, sleep would have to wait.  I still had 3.5 miles to the finish line to go.

Dennis kindly let me borrow his Big Horn 100 miler blanket (which had special meaning to me since Dennis and I had traveled there together two years in a row.) I wrapped it as best  as I could around my frozen body and I stumbled forward into the dark, cold forest on a mission to the finish line.  I had traveled over 64 miles (the amount most 100kers would do that day), but I was not finished yet.  My drunk stumble got wobblier and wobblier as I deliriously tried to follow Mark and Paul as they happily chatted and SANG in the dark.  Paul would belt out, “Call Me Maybe” and wait to see if I’d identify the tune through a raspy, low energy whisper.  I did. And identified,  “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night by the Black Eyed Peas and “Lucky” before I could no longer even muster the strength to respond at all.   Mark joined in and my brain tried to figure out what exactly crazy dream state this was where two men kept happily singing while I stumbled, wrapped like a human burrito in the dark behind them.   Each time we’d approach a hill, Paul would say, :”Christie! Isn’t this WONDERFUL?! A hill will help warm you up!!” and I’d groan……   Then slowly trudge up.

After what seemed like a million, bajillion years, we finally reached the dirt road. I was very familiar with the road because I’d gone back on it last year several times to run in my friends Michelle, then Tony, then Ryan and Derek (just before they did the sweetest double heel click finish line photo ever known to man!) I did not feel like a heel click, but it did make me emotional thinking of my friends and I missed them all and was eager to get done with the race and be with everyone again.  I knew the road was about 3/4 of a mile (and this of course was the same road we’d started the race on a million hours ago) and when we got close enough to hear the buzz of the generators, I started to stumble faster, tugging my blanket closer to keep out the freezing cold as I started to run again.  And, then we rounded the corner and the people who were amazingly still up at 1:15 am clapped and cheered for me.  Day had caught up and passed me in the final section, so they were welcoming in the last runner — who had been among the first to jump on the course at 4 am the day before.  The first shall be last was my story.  And as I approached the finish line, tears just came spilling down my tired, frozen cheeks. All I wanted to do was stop. To lay down. To be done! And, then I was.

My husband wrapped his strong arms around me and told me he was so proud of me and I just sobbed.  Davina’s cute little son, Tanner handed me my amazing double horseshoe finisher prize (the absolute COOLEST finisher award I have ever owned!)

It had taken me 21 hours and 15 minutes to run the 100k about 3 hours later than I’d hoped to do.  I had traveled over 68.5 miles. I was exhausted. I had done it! I asked my husband to help me get to the camper so I could get warm.  As soon as I stumbled into the blazing heat, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that he’d gotten it toasty for me.  And, there I was again, just as before, in the warm camper, but this time caked in mud and sweat and tears.  I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes and forgot about the pain and the miles and slept the sleep of the righteous (as Dennis always says to us after a race we’ve finished!)


The morning after the race, holding my totally cool Silver City 100k finisher horseshoe award! Photo courtesy of Alan Sandquist

The morning after the race, holding my totally cool Silver City 100k finisher horseshoe award! Photo courtesy of Alan Sandquist




About a Week and a Half Until Silver City 100k

Volunteering (while wearing my super cool pink flamingo hat) at Silver City 100k last year! It should be FUN!

Volunteering (while wearing my super cool pink flamingo hat) at Silver City 100k last year! It should be FUN!

My next ultra is sneaking up on me! I’m doing the Silver City 100k (with 13,000+ of elevation gain) through some pretty rocky, sweet trails in Silver City, Idaho and I’m pretty pumped! Last year my entire family volunteered to do an aid station at the race and I had a blast! The course is technical and some of the climbs are sure to have me begging for Mommy, but I figure with the creek crossings and the panoramic views and familiar faces along the course it will be a time to remember for sure!

Lucky Peak at the summit - what a view!!!! Worth the 3,000+ of climbing in 5.5 miles to get there!

Lucky Peak at the summit – what a view!!!! Worth the 3,000+ of climbing in 5.5 miles to get there!

I’ve spent the last three weeks hitting up my local trails again (that I’d been grounding myself from as I got into BQ shape) and that’s been a lot of fun! I’ve done Lucky Peak, Dry Creek, Corrals, Hard Guy, Watchman, Shane’s, Stack Rock and some of the Bogus trails and it’s been a delight to get back into my groove!  My climbing skills still need some serious work, but I’m feeling like my old self on the downhills and flats and the gorgeous wildflowers have been making my journeys a total delight!

Enjoying some altitude training up at Bogus Basin on the trails.

Enjoying some altitude training up at Bogus Basin on the trails.

I hope to get in a couple more solid runs this week before I ease up and taper more seriously for the race!

Life on the home-front has been pretty good, too. My five children have been begging me to take them to the local pools a few times a week, they’ve had sleepovers and we’ve gone on hikes and out for ice cream and to the movies! It’s been a nice time to relax from our usual homeschooling responsibilities and enjoy the summer together!

MMmmm - Taking the kids out for ice cream on a hot summer day is always a treat!

MMmmm – Taking the kids out for ice cream on a hot summer day is always a treat!



How to Wear a Buff

So, I’ve been noticing the trend in Buffwear on the heads of many famous (and not so famous) runners for some time.  I was intrigued. I was curious. Could I too look famously cool in a Buff?  I had yet to plunk down the $14.99 to try one out, but I had the wonderful good luck today of receiving my own personal Buff as part of my prize package for setting the Fastest Known Time for a woman on a little local trail run for the local running store, The Pulse Running and Fitness Shop! I was so excited that I rushed right home and tested out all the awesome ways I could use my new piece of accessorywear (sure it’s a word – in MY made up dictionary, the Christiepedia!)

So, listen up! I’m here to demonstrate (with pictures of course)  all the fashion advice you’ll ever need for really making the most of your brand new Buff!

Ahoy there, me hearty! Been invited to pillage and plunder this weekend with your piratey friends but have nothing to wear?! You'll be a swashbuckling, scallywag in no time (or at least LOOK like one!) Arghhh!!!

Ahoy there, me hearty! Been invited to pillage and plunder this weekend with your piratey friends but have nothing to wear?! You’ll be a swashbuckling, scallywag in no time (or at least LOOK like one!) Arghhh!!!

Struggling to find that perfect thing to wear at your next bank robbery?! Well, fret no more! Your Buff will have you looking like a pro in no time!

Struggling to find that perfect thing to wear at your next bank robbery?! Well, fret no more! Your Buff will have you looking like a pro in no time!

I'm sorry to tell you, Goody, I won't be needing you or your ponytail holders anymore. I've found someone new. Someone who's more flexible and meets all my hair-styling needs! It's not you. It's me. No, that's not true. It was you!

I’m sorry to tell you, Goody, I won’t be needing you or your ponytail holders anymore. I’ve found someone new. Someone who’s more flexible and meets all my hair-styling needs! It’s not you. It’s me. No, that’s not true. It was you!

Who needs a fancy, schmancy sleep mask when you have one of these babies?!! Hammock naps just got a whole lot more relaxing thanks to your  new Buff!

Who needs a fancy, schmancy sleep mask when you have one of these babies?!! Hammock naps just got a whole lot more relaxing thanks to your new Buff!

What's that? You find yourself at a birthday party ready to pummel that pinata when you realize - no one thought to bring a blindfold! Never fear! You'll save the day when you bust out your  Buff as blindfold fashion headband! P.S. Save me some candy!

What’s that? You find yourself at a birthday party ready to pummel that pinata when you realize – no one thought to bring a blindfold! Never fear! You’ll save the day when you bust out your Buff as blindfold fashion headband! P.S. Save me some candy!

I call this look the Buff hippy! You'll be out wandering through the trails picking wildflowers before you can say, "Peace."

I call this look the Buff hippy! You’ll be out wandering through the trails picking wildflowers before you can say, “Peace.”