09/30/15

Time to Man Up – The Bear 100

Bear Lake wahoo

I’ll never forget my first ultra. It was a frigid day in January of 2010 in the Boise Foothills where I live. Snow was up to my knees on some sections of the trails. There were miles of ice.  I was there with my buddy Bertha, who I’d known since I was 6. We got lost a few times. We saw some spectacular scenery – snow-capped mountains, sagebrush covered in frost, the world a winter wonderland, so quiet and still and soothing all around us. The climbs were so brutal, I remember Bertha yelling out into the frosty air, “My ass is on fire! This hurts! What were we thinking? I am never doing this again!” Around lunchtime reached a summit and ate boiled potatoes rolled in salt as we sat on a mountain top gazing down in wonder at the world below covered in snow and had our first taste of ultra running heaven – and hell that day. We’d discovered a new type of running unlike any of our treks on the Boise greenbelt or along country roads like we’d grown used to.

Bertha and I fat ass

 

It was all her fault that we were in the race at all. It wasn’t even an official race. It was a fat ass. That’s a term that can raise an eyebrow and seem impolite – but, as it turns out in the ultra running world, it’s just a funny name for an unofficial ultra marathon.  “No aid stations, no trail markings, no awards and no whining!” the flyer had said when we read it and decided to go.  That is, before Bertha decided to do it.

I told her it was a crazy idea. I’d completed my very first marathon in October of 2009 and that had taken months of careful training to build up to such a distance.  When Bertha asked me if I’d join her for the fat ass I immediately told her, “NO way! Ain’t happenin’! Nu uh!”  Then I couldn’t stop thinking about her big, sad, dark Bambi eyes and the next day I called her up and as soon as I heard her voice, I said, “FINE. I’ll do it, but I think it’s a terrible idea.” Good friends. That’s what we’re here for.  To shoot down your dreams and then grudgingly come along to support them anyways, right?

That day changed me. Changed both of us. I got diarrhea. I couldn’t fathom doing my business out in the wild with only barren,  foot-tall sagebrush to shield the world from my rear end. My road running experience had not prepared me for this! So I quit. At mile 23.77. It had taken me 7 hours. My husband picked me up and drove me home, where I thought about how I’d given up. I knew it wasn’t an official race, but I’ve always been the type of person to finish what I start and it didn’t sit well with me to have been a quitter.

Bertha went on to finish the race that day. I was so proud of her and her drive and determination.  I sat around feeling mad at myself for not completing what I’d started and wanted to make it right. So, I found another ultra. An official one happening in April called Weiser River 50k and I went on to finally finish what I started (albeit not before going through another round of ultra diarrhea which allowed me the thrill of coming in last place!) At least I was given a lollipop as a consolation prize for being last. The woman handing it to me said, “Because you’re one tough sucker!” That got a big smile out of me. And, from that day forward, I was hooked! I’d been bitten by the ultra marathon bug!

Weiser River 50k

Once I’d completed that first 50k, I started hearing about bigger races. Of unfathomable distances. 50 milers, 100ks and the granddaddy of them all – 100 milers! What?! Why oh why would anyone want to run the equivalent of four marathons back to back? In the mountains?! I had a hard time wrapping my brain around it.  And yet, it intrigued me. Just a little.

There was one gal in our running gang who was the most determined of us all.  Emily.  She’d grown up with a father who not only ran marathons, hunted with a bow and arrow and did Ironmans. He was also an ultra runner! Emily wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps and was setting her sights on doing a 100 miler.  She’d chosen The Bear in Logan, Utah in September of 2010. We watched her train. Saw her resolve grow strong. Followed her online as she battled the course and it’s 20,500+ of elevation gain – and saw her finish half an hour after the final cut off. It was both inspirational and emotionally devastating.  She’d done it! She’d ran a hundred miles. But she didn’t get the buckle or the praise or the feeling of accomplishment we all wanted her to receive.  She’d been just a little bit behind the clock.   I had never experienced anything so brutal and the idea of facing a huge challenge like that and then failing right at the end brought out my worst fears and insecurities when I even allowed myself to imagine doing a race like that.  I vowed then and there I’d never do one. I just didn’t think I could handle the disappointment if I failed.

Emily the unstoppable aid break

But, Emily didn’t quit. In June of 2011, several of the Boise Trail Runners group headed down to Wyoming for the Big Horn 100. I was signed up for the 50.  It was my first. I was pulled at the Dry Fork aid station about 20 minutes behind a cut off. I’d failed. I just wasn’t fast enough. But after I had gotten a ride back to the start/finish, I had borrowed a pair of Emily’s extra shoes from our cabin and headed back out on the course looking for her.  The final cut off was inching up and every nerve in my body was on alert, hoping she’d make it this time!

I’ll never forget the feeling of elation when I came around a corner on the long, winding dirt road and saw her there — exhausted but smiling, with her younger sister on a bike by her side and several 50 milers who’d adopted her and decided to stay with her to the end! I was so happy, I jumped up and down and clapped and cheered! I had the honor and privilege that day to run with Emily and her gang to the end. To stand there at the finish line with her parents, grandparents and friends cheering as she came running into the finish line in victory! Tears just streamed down my face as I saw her confidence restored! It was life-changing to be there at that very moment and I have since said I am so grateful that it was my own race that went south that day and not hers.  She deserved that buckle and she finally got it!

Emily at Big Horn finish

Emily went on to do the Bear later that summer and earned her buckle! She’s since completed 9 more hundred milers for a total of 11 buckles, which still blows my mind!  We are a similar pace in other races and she is often facing the cut offs in the mountainous races like Bear, Big Horn and IMTUF, so I continued to hesitantly watch her arise victorious after tough battles with many of these courses – and stood back in awe – and fear since I wasn’t sure I had that most essential of ingredients that 100 milers need to have — the firm resolve to never give up no matter the odds or the circumstances.  Emily was my hero but I wasn’t sure I had what she had.  So I shook like a chihuahua on the fourth of July every time someone would ask me, “So, are you ever going to do a hundred miler?”

Antelope Island 100 first time

Finally, in March of 2012, I did it. I did the Antelope Island Buffalo Run. I came in last. Again. But, overjoyed and elated that I’d done it! I’d earned my first buckle! My friends would ask, “So, are you going to do Big Horn, Bear or IMTUF?” I’d break out into a cold sweat and grow wide-eyed and feel my heart pounding like a teenage girl trapped in an elevator with Harry Styles and squeak out, “I’m not ready yet!”

Years went by. I did Antelope Island two more times. Buckling once and DNFing once when I got too cold and couldn’t regulate my body temperatures at mile 75. I did Javelina Jundred on my birthday in 2014 and got not only a pretty cool buckle but also the entire finish line crowd singing happy birthday to me. It was glorious! And I wasn’t coming in last anymore. I beat the cut offs in the second and third 100 milers by over an hour and a half. I ran the Pickled Feet 100 in March one week after pacing a friend at Antelope for 50 miles and finally it occurred to me — I was stalling. Four buckles. Several ultra finishes. Even a marathon fast enough to qualify for Boston on my resume. It was time to pull up my big-girl panties, steel my resolve and face my fears with the Bear! So, I signed up. In January of 2015.

Emileon's Fat Ass 2015. I'm int he pink hat and Derek is in the blue coat. The day he offered to pace at the Bear! :)

Emileon’s Fat Ass 2015. I’m in the pink hat and Derek is in the blue coat. The day he offered to pace at the Bear! 🙂

I was running the fat ass a couple weeks later, when my pal, Derek came pounding up beside me at the race.  Derek’s a good friend. He paced me at my second hundred miler and kept me smiling by doing heel clicks and Jim Carey impersonations.  He also has 6 buckles, so he’s much more experienced than I am. I paced him at IMTUF a couple years back and got the pleasure of seeing what it felt like to run with the ‘fast boys’ and cross a finish line in time for a late breakfast (and a fourth place spot!)

Derek at IMTUF the year I got to pace him, doing one of his famous heel clicks!

Derek at IMTUF the year I got to pace him, doing one of his famous heel clicks!

Derek’s a strong runner, so when I told him I’d finally jumped off the diving board and into the lake of FEAR by signing up for Bear, it made my day when his immediate response was, “So, you want me to pace you?” I’m not sure if the squeeze-the-life-right-out-of-you hug I gave him made him immediately regret the decision or not, but I knew from that moment on, that I was in good hands!

That is, until four weeks before the race, when he texted me to tell me he’d broken his ribs in a water skiing accident! Poor Derek! And suddenly, I was in a panic! I watched, with shallow breaths, Derek’s progress at Wasatch two weeks before my race. He’d insisted on toeing the line, even with broken ribs. He’s kind of a bad-ass that way. Or mental. Or both! But, I was willing his ribs to knit and to give him a good race.  But, it was not to be. He had to drop at about mile 37 when every breath hurt and he was nearly in tears. I felt terrible for him. I knew it broke his heart to receive his first DNF.

My buddy, Ryan had mentioned that if Derek wasn’t healed up in time, he’d pace me at the Bear.  Ryan’s ran more miles with me than anyone and has finished Bear twice, so I knew I’d be in wonderful hands with him too.  Then he had a bad day at Wasatch. And DNF’d too.  And wanted to do the Bear to earn his ticket into the Hard Rock lottery for the year.  Suddenly, I was concerned that I was two weeks from the most difficult race of my life and didn’t have a pacer.

The only DNF I have had in a hundred was when I tried to go without a pacer or crew overnight at Buffalo Run.  My fears really started to overtake me and I struggled with panicky thoughts.  Right in the middle of this, my own race directing life was going through chaos too. My husband and I directed our biggest event yet- The Idaho Wine Run with 2,000 racers, then two weeks later, just days before our Freakin Fast Marathon, we found out the asphalt on the road construction project on Bogus Basin Rd. wasn’t going to be laid in time for my 4,000 foot drop, certified marathon! Six miles of my course was rugged and unpaved! I had 400 racers coming from all over to do my race – and I had the horrible job of telling them all we would have to delay the event.  It was crushing, stressful and emotional.

After a whirlwind of new permits, traffic control and police conversations we finally were able to get a new date — 6 weeks out — but the whole thing and the angry e-mails and frustrated customers left me in tears and frazzled many a nights as we did the best we could to make it right.  And, I still couldn’t find a replacement pacer. I’d asked several friends and couldn’t find anyone available that close to the race. I was really scared I was going to show up to the race and not be able to accomplish the goal if I had to do it on my own.

I was happy to have my wonderful husband, Wayne on board as crew chief and my sweet friend, Jenny there to help Wayne crew and to join me for a short leg or two and I tried to focus on that.  Derek also really amazed me when he told me that he thought he’d be able to handle pacing the race after all.  He said he was feeling much better and was feeling confident it would all turn out. After a couple conversations with him, I felt relieved and hopeful again (and still in awe that he even wanted to come after going through such a painful injury!) Derek is also really funny, so when he started saying silly things like he was going to read Where’s Waldo to me in the night while we ran, I relaxed and started to get excited about my journey!

Boise Trail Runners out to represent! Me, Ryan and Jayk.

Boise Trail Runners out to represent! Me, Ryan and Jayk.

Wayne, Jenny and I showed up at the pre-race meeting/packet pick up in Logan on Thursday evening around 5 pm. I was so happy to see so many familiar faces! Ryan and Jayk were both there from Boise.  My buddy, Mike Place from Utah was there to give me a big hug, which made my day since I hadn’t seen him in over a year. I got to meet two friends from Daily Mile, Brie and her boyfriend, Kevin, which was also really fun.  I also had heard that Jenn Shelton (who I’d first read about in Born to Run and who I’d watched in Unbreakable pacing Anton) would be there! I am in awe of her running ability and really admire her, so when my pals spotted her and encouraged me to go over and take a picture with her, I panicked! I was excited to see her, but honestly, really shy to say hello! My husband dragged me over, with Ryan tagging along, snickering at me freaking out and being all star-struck.  Jenny pushed me over to Jenn and I just stood there wide-eyed and awkwardly muttered, “I’m a big fan!” DOH! Who says that to an ultra runner?! Oh. My. Word. I wanted to turn around and run away, but instead my husband said, “Let’s get a picture!” Ryan chimed in, “I’m going to photobomb! (which I think takes away from the whole point of photobombing), but which actually made me finally laugh a little since he’s always doing that to my pictures.  So, it happened.  I got to meet Jenn. She was really cool. Ryan photobombed us.  The photo is a nice memento now. 🙂

Meeting Jenn Shelton (with the Ryan photobombing tongue of course!)

Meeting Jenn Shelton (with the Ryan photobombing tongue of course!)

During the pre-race meeting, my eyes grew wide when the race director, Leland Barker mentioned spots along the course that people tend to get lost.  I have gotten lost on a few ultras, so it was one of my biggest fears.  Ryan stood behind me and said, “I just want you to cover your ears and sing “La la la la la” and not listen to any of this. It will only freak you out.  You’ll be fine.”  So, I listened to him and tried not to let my imagination get the best of me (though I did start imagining a helicopter circling the forest looking for the lost runner who’d taken a wrong turn and only had a granola bar, a buff and a pack of wet wipes to fight off starvation, hypothermia and wild animals with.)

After the meeting, Ryan gave me the address of a little restaurant about twenty minutes away that served pasta since that’s my go-to pre-race meal.  Ryan’s family, Wayne, Jenny and I all headed out there and had one of the most delicious pre-race meals I’ve ever eaten! The atmosphere was so mellow, the lighting was soft, the food was outstanding and the bread sticks were the biggest, yummiest I’d ever tasted! Perfection! Chatting with Ryan, Wayne, Michelle and Jenny also relaxed me and helped me to unwind.

When we got back to the hotel, I laid everything out for the following day. I went over my pace chart and the maps with my crew and then took a bath and tried to get some rest.  I felt calm. I felt hopeful. But I couldn’t shut off my brain. This is a common problem for me before any race. I rarely sleep more than an hour or two when I’m nervous. And, that’s what happened. I slept for about an hour before the alarm went off at 3:15 am.  My period had shown up the night before the race, so I made sure to pack extra supplies for my drop bag and for my crew to have along the way (and prayed the delays wouldn’t cost me a finish.)  I dressed, got my hydration pack filled and ready with snacks for the first 20 miles before I’d see my crew and I ate a bowl of microwave oatmeal and a banana and sipped a cup of bitter, hotel-room coffee.  I felt good. I had butterflies, but I had hope, too.

We left the hotel around 4:40 am.  We were only about 10 minutes from the start and I wanted to arrive an hour early so I could use the bathroom and get hugs from my other friends who were racing before they took off at their own pace.  Everything went smoothly. We got to the park and were one of the first cars there. I used the bathroom several times, got checked in and chatted with the other runners and kept hugging Wayne to stay warm in the early morning chill. I finally spotted Brie, Kevin and Quintin and wished them well, but couldn’t find Mike or Ryan. It was just so crowded and dark and I’m such a shorty, so it was hard to find them.

With my husband, Wayne before the Bear start

With my husband, Wayne before the Bear start

Finally, they were counting down and I had my finger hovered over my Suunto start button. 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – GO! I hit the button and we were off!! People were cheering and I had a smile as wide as Texas thinking that here I was, after all these years – finally doing the Bear! It was a very similar feeling to the day I finally ran the Boston Marathon after trying to qualify for many years — almost like I was in a dream come true!  I felt honored and excited and a teeny bit scared.  I pulled way back and tried to be at the tail end of the conga line of runners as we approached the first huge climb that comes after the initial flat start on the asphalt.  Nearly everyone around me was walking the uphill asphalt section through suburbia towards the trails and the looming, steep mountains that awaited. I leaped off into the bushes to do my business and afterwords found myself so far back I couldn’t see anyone near me. I prefered it that way. Less pressure on the climbs (which are my nemesis.)  I relaxed and enjoyed the cool, fall, early-morning temperatures and eagerly waited for the dawn so I could start seeing the fall beauty all around me with more than my headlamp light.

And bit-by-bit the day did dawn and I was taken aback by the beauty all around me! The aspen, the pines, the red, gold and brown leaves, the majestic vistas from up high, the sprawling valleys below! It was absolutely everything I’d heard about and more! I commented to someone, “It’s like running in a watercolor painting!” It was that gorgeous!

The conga line up the first long climb. Photo credit to Jon Aardal

The conga line up the first long climb. Photo credit to Jon Aardal

Once we’d reached the flatter sections up high, I found my legs again and started to fly! I passed several people and just enjoyed the feeling of lightness and happiness that faster running brings me! I was in heaven! My strategy is always to slowly hike the uphills to keep my heart rate in check (and to make me hate life less), then run the flats and downs exactly the way I feel them out (which is usually fast when I’ve been taking care of myself and still have some legs to give.) It seems to work for me and keeps me mentally in a good place. It also helps me with my nutrition since I eat and drink on the uphills and don’t really on the downs since I’m running faster. It seems to balance things out for me.

I did feel a little frustrated by having to stop so often to deal with my period.  I had to deal with it about 15 times during the race. Each time, I’d have to hike off trail to find somewhere private or hit a porta potty at the aid stations and I’d lose 5 minutes or more, but it was something that I just had to deal with.  The same thing had happened to me at Big Horn and Mt Hood, so I just tried to do what I needed to quickly and then jump back into the race (often having to work to regain my position with the other runners who would pass me as I was in the woods.)

Overall I felt really good. I was happy with my pace and I was close to my pace chart for more than twenty miles.  I remember running along well and finally seeing Brie and Kevin up ahead and I pushed it a bit to catch up so we could chat! I remember some sweet, technical, fun downhill miles with the two of them as we headed into Leatham Hollow AS talking, running fast and enjoying the day! We were having a ball!

Just before the aid station, My pal, Jenny, in her cute, long, dark, braids and pink trucker hat had ran out onto the trail to greet us and that just lit a fire under me and I started running really fast to get to the aid station! I remember her yelling, “If you expect me to pace you later, you need to slow down!” That made me laugh and was a nice confidence boost that I still had some legs at mile 29.98 (but a long, long ways to go!)  Wayne and Jenny took great care of me there and I was grateful to feel like a car at Nascar getting tended to so well and having all my needs met simultaneously!

I had decided to try a few new things for this race that I hadn’t done in other hundreds. I often struggle with keeping my calories up and get nausea at some point for hours in every hundred, so I was trying to bring foods that I normally eat when I’m not racing and see how they went. I figure I didn’t have anything to lose since I have had things go south nutritionally in all my other 100s at some point.   Jenny was bubbly and focused and handed me an ice cold chocolate milk, which totally hit the spot! (Yay! One food that was a success!) I also had asked her to get an avocado ready for me and she had. I enjoyed the creamy texture and knew I was getting in a lot of protein, fat and calories quickly by eating it. I asked for a cold root beer next and chugged as much of it as I could. Finally, Jenny and Wayne sent me out of there with a stick of celery and peanut butter and a half peanut butter sandwich in my pack. They also had my bandanna ready to wrap around my neck for the upcoming exposed, hot sections.  We knew the high was predicted to be around 96, so it would be important to keep my body temperature down during the worst of it if I was to survive to the end without wilting and dying along the way. Manage the small things so they don’t become big things was my mantra and it seemed to be working.

The walk out of Leatham Hollow was anticlimactic. Suddenly I was noticing the heat. And realized I’d spent way too much time in the aid station – about 20 minutes. I knew I’d have to be faster in the aid stations since there are 13 and every minute would likely count by the finish. I walked along the dusty, dirt road, feeling the sun beating down on me as I munched my peanut butter celery.  Jenny and Wayne had done a wonderful job of filling my hydration pack with ice so that it would melt as I went and my one 22 oz bottle with 3/4 Gatorade and more ice so that I had a nice balance of electrolytes and water until the next aid station.

I chose to go back and forth between Tailwind and Gatorade throughout the race (with a variety of flavors)  for my electrolyte drink and that seemed to keep things interesting and more enjoyable for my taste buds along the way. They were refreshing and kept me hydrated and satisfied the entire race since my crew worked hard to replace my ice and liquids all 9 times they saw me along the course! I really appreciated the boost that a chilly drink could give me even in the worst of the  heat and climbing!

I just walked the three miles from Leatham Hollow to Richards Hollow.  I just kept thinking, “Eat, drink, keep the core temperature happy.” It worked.  The temperature kept creeping up, but I was feeling just fine. I had caught up to a nice couple just a bit before Richards Hollow and we entered the aid station at the same time. I checked in and checked right out and headed up the climb.  Ryan had also given me a tip to watch out for the stream that ran alongside the steep climbs from Richards Hollow to Cowley. It was very good advice.

The climbing was brutal and much of it was exposed. I kept stepping off the path and walking over to the bubbling, cool stream and dipping my hat and my bandanna into the water. Ryan had suggested even sitting in the water to cool down if I needed to, which sounded wonderful, but wouldn’t have felt very practical since I was having to wear a pad for my period and that would have caused other problems, so I just splashed my face, neck, arms and legs and kept moving along.  I had maybe 6 people pass me on the climb.  When my heart rate would start to get too rapid, I’d find a nice rock or a log and just sit down in one of the rare shady spots and just take some breaths before proceeding up the mountain at a snail’s pace (aka – my usual climbing pace.)  I remember Quintin passing me here and giving me some encouraging words.

The cows.  I’d heard there were a lot of cattle on the Bear course, but I was actually surprised at how many I saw! And sheep, too!  I remember at one point, my new friend Chihping catching up to me as I stood off the trail waiting for two cowboys to drive a herd of cattle through the path. I found it fascinating and fun and didn’t mind at all as we watched them go by.  Chihping had his Go-Pro going capturing the whole thing! We may have lost 5 min in there, but I didn’t mind.  It was a chance to catch my breath and be in the moment and I enjoyed chatting with my new friend. We ran well on the flatter sections through there to the next aid station.

I found myself chatting with a new friend about a mile before I hit Cowley. The man had on an outfit that reminded me of a rainbow and I struck up a conversation with him as we ran the downhill, faster section. As we rounded a corner, getting closer to our next destination, I spotted a man on the side of the road who looked an awful lot like my friend Seth! That’s when the man burst into a big grin and said, “I knew that was your voice chatting away up the canyon and that I’d find you!” I couldn’t believe it! My friend had made the trip just to come see me on the course and I was overwhelmed with happiness to have his company for a bit! He was wearing flip flips and telling me about the marathon he was planning on running the next morning.  We enjoyed a fun chat running down the last mile into Cowley where we saw my crew again (who were pretty surprised and excited to see Seth, too!)  I had a chance to get tended to in the aid station and get a nice hug from him before I headed off, which was awesome and a real boost to my soul.

I was so happy to see Seth!

I was so happy to see Seth!

I remember grabbing my friend, Bertha’s poles (that I’d never even practiced with) for the climb out of Cowley. I saw another runner leaving who was using a pair and figured I’d just watch her and try to copy her movements and see if they helped me with the climbs.   That runner and her companion ended up really  making the section from Cowley to Right Hand a lot of fun! I found out the girl’s name was Tina and that she had a hip injury which made the uphills really painful.  Her friend was Jack and he was such a lot of fun to chat with too! I’d heard him earlier in the race at an aid station say he’d done the race 5 times before, so I was really excited to talk with him about the course that was upcoming. Tina was really accomplished too and had done Western States and shared wonderful stories about being a nurse. I really enjoyed their company and they helped that section just go by so fast!

Trying out Bertha's poles!

Trying out Bertha’s poles!

Once we hit the downhill, I pulled off to pee and had some quite time to myself after I jumped back on the trail. It wasn’t long after that I bumped into Chihping sitting on a rock looking exhausted. We were about 35 miles into the race and it had been a long day.  Chihping had also done the super challenging IMTUF 100 the week before! I asked how he was doing and he told me he was fatigued.  I sat down next to him and offered him a caffeinated gel and a hug. Almost as soon as I did, he grabbed my arm and said, “No! I don’t want to hold you back. GO! Go!” and so I took off running. I was happy and surprised to hear his feet pounding right behind mine and we kept up a pretty brisk pace all the way to the aid station, where he told me ‘thank you’ for motivating him through that patch! That was fun!

Feelin groovy!

Feelin groovy!

 

Jenny getting ready to pace

Jenny getting ready to pace

At Right Hand Fork, I picked up Jenny for the last leg before nightfall.  That section from Right Hand to Temple Fork is probably the prettiest 9 miles of the whole course in my opinion! There were green, mossy rocks, gorgeous clear ponds and waterfalls and trees covered in their fall finery! Jenny kept saying, “I expect to see fairies here” and I couldn’t agree more!  We had such a fun time chatting and running through that section! I found it easy to keep a good pace and enjoyed the company.

 

Just as it started to get darker, Quintin and his buddy Jeff passed us and started running a nice, brisk pace. Instantly my ears perked up and my feet started to follow! I loved the pace, was happy to have the legs for it at nearly 45 miles into the course and I was smiling and enjoying the chatter between the friends. Suddenly, I heard what I thought was a duck splashing into a pond. I didn’t spot or turn. I just kept running. A few minutes later I looked back and didn’t see Jenny! She had taken a bad fall and like a tough trooper didn’t say a word! I felt terrible for not noticing! She said she was skinned up and had a headache but was ok.   Once we hit the dirt road and darkness was closing in, we started to run fast! We passed the fellas and after another mile or so, I started to worry we’d gotten off course. I had’t seen a flag in awhile (probably because we weren’t wearing headlamps yet.) At every corner, I’d expect the aid station but wouldn’t see one.  Finally, we stopped and grabbed our headlamps from our packs and could see again, which was nice!  Just a moment later a car drove by and Jenny flagged them down and asked if the aid station was near. They said it was only 1/2 a mile away! We started running fast, eager to get there!

I was feeling great and eager to switch into night gear and grab Derek and go.  I saw my buddy, Jeremy was also there to say hi which was awesome, so I gave him a huge hug!  My crew took care of me and I spent about 15 minutes getting situated for night running and adding on my arm sleeves and a light jacket. I also changed out my light shoes for the Pure Grit 3 which are a little more rugged, just as a precaution since my feet actually felt pretty good. I changed socks too.  Then my crew encouraged me to eat something so I sat down and ate a cup of chicken noodle soup (which would soon turn out to be my first nutritional mistake of the day.)

I was so happy to see Derek! He was all smiles and full of energy and I looked forward to chatting with him on the climb up to Tony Grove.  We took off together and settled into a strong uphill hike and walked the flats and took it easy on the rocky downhills.  My stomach started to go sour from the exertion on the climbs and I started to struggle mentally on the climbs as well since I was suddenly pushing on them instead of taking it quite as easy as I had on my own.  When I would start to run on the flats, Derek reminded me that it was good to save something for the later miles and told me he’d walked those sections in the two times he’d done the race and recommended I do the same. Mentally that was harder to do since I like running the flatter stuff, but I knew he was more experienced so I tried to stick with it.  It started to get colder, but I’d find myself taking off my jacket in the canyons and putting it back on on the mountains.  I felt like I had menopause since I kept feeling too cold then too warm, which was kind of funny.  The stars and the moon were out and they were spectacular! It was a truly beautiful night! But my stomach had gone from bad to worse and I couldn’t take in any more calories or liquids and I started to slow way down and feel mentally in a bad place.  I started to worry about the reality of making the cut offs if I was going this slow only halfway through. Derek mentioned that some of my uphill miles were 27 minutes. I knew that wasn’t going to cut it and I started to really doubt myself for the first time in the race.  By the time we came into Tony Grove after I’d been running for 17 hour sand 4 minutes, I was ready to quit.  I felt nauseated, miserable and slow and really didn’t think I had what it would take to get to the finish in time.  My husband told me to have a seat in the Yukon while he went to get me some broth or coffee at the aid station.  As soon as he got back into the car with me, I started to sob.  I told him how awful I was feeling, how fatigue was starting to get to me and how I didn’t know how I was going to make it if the nausea kept me from eating.

Thankfully, my husband has had a good deal of experience crewing me for these things and has watched other runners go through the same low patches.  He very wisely told me that he wanted me to take a little nap. I couldn’t believe it! I loved that idea but didn’t think I had the extra time to do so.  He said, “You either nap right now and save this race or you head out there feeling miserable and have a lower chance of finishing it!”  So he turned on the heater, set up my sleeping bag and feather pillow from home in the back and let me sip the coffee he’d brought me. It burned my tongue but it felt so good to smell and taste coffee again! I laid down and just closed my eyes and fell asleep.  Thirty minutes later, my husband was shaking my shoulder and telling me it was time to wake up.  Derek and Jenny were in the car, waiting to see my reaction. I sat straight up, told them my stomach felt perfect and that I was starving! That made Derek let out a whoop of excitement since a hungry runner can take in calories and get moving again! I asked for a grilled cheese sandwich and gobbled up the two triangles they brought me.  Then I looked at everyone and told them I was ready to go back to work and get this done — but that I needed to do the next leg on my own to clear my head again.   They understood and helped me get ready to head back out.  I’d spent an hour and 14 minutes in the aid station, but it was probably the best use of my time for the whole race.

I’d gotten chilly standing outside the car at the aid station after my nap so I bundled up with arm sleeves, a jacket, my beanie and some gloves and my wind pants and headed out. It was after midnight when I left. I was 52 miles into the race and still had a long way’s to go and I had less than 18 hours to get there. As I did the math, I started to worry. In all my other hundreds I usually fade quite a lot in the second half.  My closest splits are about 5 hours apart. I realized I’d need a miracle to actually pull off a finish and it started to weigh on me again.  Could I do it? Did I have what it takes to make this finish? I wasn’t sure.

It was lonely on that stretch for several miles. I was the only runner as far as the eye could see. I appreciated that for the first couple miles and enjoyed the beautiful stars and the black as velvet night sky.  I could see my breath it was so cold. But I was comfortable and enjoying the night chill and I was moving pretty well, though I was walking a lot more than I should have been.  There were a couple of stream/small river crossings through this section and I kept thinking how I was by myself so I should move carefully since I didn’t know how long another runner would be back behind me if I did anything stupid like fall hard or get mauled by a bear.  Finally, after a couple of hours, I saw two headlamps ahead of me and my pace picked up! I was so happy to see signs of life again and I was craving conversation!

They say in ultra marathons, sometimes you encounter trail angels along the way when you need them most. That is precisely what happened to me as I reached the man and woman walking on the path. The man had some bad blisters so he was using poles and moving at a brisk walk pace, while the woman spoke kindly and encouragingly to him from behind.  I could feel my shoulders just soften and become relaxed as I came closer to them and could hear their happy chatter.  The sweet woman greeted me and said, “Oh my! Are you out here all by yourself without a pacer?” I told her that I had a pacer but that he was with my crew and that I’d have him join me again after this section.  The two of them just started talking to me and asking me questions about my life and about my running and my family. Before I knew it, I was telling them my entire life story and they were so positive and encouraging and sweet to me with every comment they made.  I felt like I’d approached them as a wilted flower and that with every word they spoke I started to rise up a little taller and more full of life again.  Word by word, they brought me back to life again in that last stretch and I couldn’t be more grateful! I was honestly ready to tell my crew I was done when I was out there alone and suddenly here I was ready to right for my finish as hard as I could right to the end! I was reborn!

When I popped out at the Franklin Trail head at 61 miles, I was full of life! I was running and smiling and the second Derek saw me he came over and gave me a huge hug and a smile! They told me to come in by the fire and to sit down and have something to eat! Derek started telling me about how he’d been sneaking several pieces of the tasty chocolate chip pumpkin bread while he was waiting and how when he’d gone back for his 4th or 5th piece, a burly man at the aid station said to him, “I hope you get diarrhea!” hahahaha!!  Then, that same man had just handed him an entire loaf of the tasty bread! That story had me laughing so hard!

I drank some chocolate milk and my wonderful crew brought me some grilled cheese (which totally hit the spot!) A man sitting in the tent, who seemed very wise told me that if I even walked the rest of the way of the race, I’d make the final cut off! I dared not take that to heart, but it really did made me feel so much hope to hear that! I left the Franklin Aid station at 4 am with Derek, knowing I had 14 hours left and 38 1/2 miles to go which is roughly a 21:49 pace. But, I knew I still had lots of climbing to contend with and a few more hours of fatigue and darkness waiting before me, so I didn’t start to count my belt buckle just yet. So much could still go wrong! But, I was in a better position than I’d expected to be when my crew had seen me last and Derek could tell that I was ready to give it my all!

Derek and I started chatting a lot through this section, which was fun. We’ve been friends for many years and I don’t think we’ve ever had an unkind word between us and thankfully, this pacing gig didn’t change that. 🙂 He kept me entertained, had me stop and turn off my headlamp so I could really enjoy the stars and moon and we talked about everything from marriage to midgets and it was a nice time.  Then I started to get sleepy. Really sleepy. So sleepy  that I found myself running without my eyes being opened. It was rocky. It wasn’t safe to continue like that. I finally said to Derek, “I only wish I could lay down for a few minutes and just rest.” I didn’t expect that he’d grant me that request, but it felt good to just say it out loud.  Then, we rounded a curve in the trail and lo and behold, there were two runners laying on the ground napping on the side of the trail.  Derek asked if they were ok and one said, “Yeah. Just taking a little rest.”  I groaned as I walked by, feeling jealous of their luxurious nap!  We got an other 1/2 a mile and I spotted a rock about two feet long and made a beeline for it! I sat down and said to Derek, “Just 10 seconds please. I just want to sit for 10 seconds.”  He said, “I’ll give you 5 minutes!’ I couldn’t believe my ears!! Hooray!! My pacer was the kindest man on earth and was granting me a gift!!!!  I took off my pack and flopped back on the rock. My upper body fit just fine but my butt hung off the end. I didn’t care one iota! It was heaven! Pop, pop, pop. I felt my spine relax and go back into place after all those hours on my feet! Ahhhhhhhhhhh.  Heaven. I stared up at the heavens.  They were absolutely glorious! I asked Derek if he remembered looking up at the stars and sitting on a rock together when I paced him at IMTUF.  He said he did.  I smiled and closed my eyes.  I could only hear my own breathing and the wind in the trees above.  Heaven.

I opened my eyes and felt like a new woman! I told Derek, “That was amazing! Thanks for the nap!” and started to put my pack back on!  Derek started laughing.  He said, “That was like a 14 second nap!!” I said, “It felt like an hour!” And off we took! I never felt like sleeping again the rest of the race! I felt rejuvenated and ready to run!

The second sunrise of the Bear - life-giving! Photo by Derek Call

The second sunrise of the Bear – life-giving! Photo by Derek Call

Shortly after my magical nap, the sky started to lighten.  It almost brought tears to my eyes. Surviving the night in a hundred miler is something that only other belt buckle owners understand.  It’s brutal. You face your worst demons. Your weaknesses are exposed in the dark, you become raw and bare and vulnerable and start to listen to the siren call of your warm car or a toasty fire or the comfort of giving up and getting to just lay down and go to sleep for good. And then morning comes. And you see your second sunrise of the race and realize there is hope and warmth and happiness again. You’ve survived. You fought yourself and you won the battle in the dark. I got tears in my eyes when I realized I’d done it! I quit at Antelope Island when it was still dark. That is, I’d decided to quit. Made the mental decision to give up.  A friend had later dragged me out for another 5 miles before it was official — but mentally it was all over at mile 70 when I faced the darkness and let it gobble up my very soul and leave me despondent with no hope.  I’d worried about how I’d handle the overnight at the Bear. I feared I’d lose the battle again of the mind. But, I’d made it!  Derek paused to take a photo as the morning sky became splendid before us and offered me her life-affirming hope. I’m so glad he did. That picture is precious to me now.

We started to run and run well! I felt great! It started warming up and we were eager to ditch our overnight clothes. I had a drop bag at Logan River at mile 68 and we couldn’t wait to get there to cast off our things! I thought it was funny that in the end, I wouldn’t need a single thing from the drop back but would be using it to dump stuff off into since crew isn’t allowed at that aid station! Derek kept saying to me “You’re doing so awesome! I’m so proud of you!” Every positive word he spoke just gave wings to my heart and my feet!  I’d run even harder as my confidence grew with every mile finished! I felt like a little balloon filling up with more and more helium with every nice thing he said. I was floating high as a kite when we finally found the aid station at 7:41 am.

We quickly stripped off our clothes and it felt amazing to be back down to shorts again. I kept my light Brooks jacket though since we were in the canyon and it was a little bit chilly still. It felt nice to ditch my headlamp, gloves and arm sleeves and pants. I headed to the porta potty while Derek made a beeline for the pumpkin chocolate chip bread (of course -and no – it didn’t give him diarrhea, thank heavens!) We sat down by the fire and I ate some grilled cheese and we bantered back and forth entertaining the people in the aid station who seemed genuinely surprised at how perky we both were.  That only made us perkier and sillier.  At 8:01 we headed out, happy as clams. 68.6 miles down. About a 50k left to go. And 10 hours to do it in! I needed a 19:06 pace to get there! It was time to go to work!

Logan River water crossing

Logan River water crossing

But, first I had to cross the twenty foot river out of the aid station! On slippery logs and rocks! The water was rushing below and Derek stood on the other side with a camera to capture a great YouTube moment if I fell in! I kept my arms out and held my breath and amazingly made it across with only one shoe getting a bit wet! Woo hoo!

Derek suggested we put in our earphones for the next section. I thought that was a wonderful idea! He got in front of me and started running and I just jammed out to my Pink, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and danced my way up and down the mountains chasing him! I was feeling pretty wonderful! I’d taken care of myself enough in the previous 70 miles to have a lot of energy and drive in the final 30! Things were going according to plan!

Uphill, uphill. So much uphill in the Bear!

Uphill, uphill. So much uphill in the Bear!

Every once in awhile Derek would turn around and come back to me and he’d grab my IPod and plug in his and then grin like a schoolboy and run away.  The first time, he had it set to a funny stand up comedian. It was a great distraction and I found myself cackling away in the fresh mountain air as I enjoyed a stand-up comedy routine in my mind!  Somehow I ended up bumping the IPod halfway through the routine and all of a sudden Queen was singing Bicycle Race and rocking out in my earbuds! That brought the hugest smile to my face!  My friend Dennis is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s one of the coolest ultra runners I know and he was one of the original heroes who took me under his wing and believed in me when I stared all this ultra running nonsense.  He’s currently riding his bicycle across the US and one of his update clips on Facebook just a couple days before the race was of his shadow on the highway as he sang Bicycle Race loud and proud!! I just burst out laughing thinking of that video and thinking about Dennis and all the miles we’ve ran together over the years and in that moment it was like getting a nice big boost of energy thinking of him out there riding his bicycle somewhere in Wisconsin or wherever he was at that moment.  It also meant I started playing some pretty sweet air guitar and drums!

It was almost impossible for Derek to get his IPod back for awhile there after that! I was enjoying his 80’s hair bands! Derek was also entertaining me here by jumping in front of me and doing wild dance moves to my girly pop music which totally had me laughing hard! I don’t know if he was doing the funky chicken or the hokey pokey but it sure was funny!

We came into Beaver Lodge at mile 75.82 at 10 am on the nose. I spent exactly zero seconds in the aid station and Derek took my pack and bottle and I just kept on running. I felt like a million bucks! We’d done a 16:40 pace since the last aid station. I had about 24 miles to go, was feeling on fire and had 8 hours to do it in!  I just needed a 20 min pace to get to the finish in time! Could I do it? I really started to think I could!

We ran the road a bit and then ended up on a wide dirt road climbing up, up, up. It was starting to get hot again. My feet were getting a bit sore.  Derek could tell I needed some motivation so he took away my IPod again and as soon as the first notes of the song came on, I started to grin.  Eye of the Tiger! PERFECT!!!  That song especially made me laugh since I had been in a little dance troupe when I was in 6th grade that did a dance routine to that song! I started busting out my dance moves as we climbed up, up, up and I tried to let it keep me from wanting to die!

At Gibson Basin, I ran right through again, checking in and checking out with Derek getting all my needs met while I kept running.  My pacer really did go above and beyond and for that I am truly grateful! I heard the people at the aid station say, “What in the world got into her?! She ran right through here fast!”  Derek said, “She wants that buckle BAD!” And he was right! I looked back and saw I’d gotten a ways away from Derek and he was jogging with a cup of grapes in one hand and an open cup of soda in the other! I slowed down to walk so he could catch up before he spilled it all! hahahahaha!  It was funny!  I enjoyed the fruit and the 7 Up and then we got back to work again! I’d hit Gibson Basin at 11:46 am.  6 hours and 14 min left in the race and 18:82 miles to go! I’d need a 19:52 pace to make it and I still had some bad climbs waiting for me!  I believe it was in this stretch we took a tiny break to take a picture at the sign that marks the state line between Utah and Idaho which is a huge highlight of this race! My pacer rocked to have made sure I got that photo (which I love looking at now!)

Utah, Idaho state line around mile 80. Thanks for taking this, Derek!

Utah, Idaho state line around mile 80. Thanks for taking this, Derek!

We ran as well as I could until we saw our crew again at Beaver Creek Campground at mile 85.25. It was 12:50 pm. I stayed for 2 min to use the porta potty and get some ice in my hand bottle. I dropped my pack here knowing the extra weight would slow me down. We also tossed our IPods to the crew and went on without them ready to give it our all to the finish!  I felt good! I had 14.75 miles to go and 5 hours and 10 min to get there. I’d need a 21:01 pace to get there. Derek was gushing, giving me lots of praise for doing so well on the last stretch and told me to keep it up! I promised him to keep the hammer down right until the end!  Hammer down seems a funny phrase normally when you think of that slow of a pace, but it was steep and rocky and rutted and warm out.  It really did make sense at the time and fit the description of what I needed to go to get a finish!

I was so excited to have only one more aid station left on the course! That was a huge milestone! We reached Ranger Dip (aid station #13) at 3:25 pm and I ran right past it and my crew. They were cheering and telling me I could do it! Derek was amazing at being such a cheerleader getting me to keep up the pace and I kept feeling pretty good and giving it all I had! I had reached mile 92.2. I had 7.5 to go and 2 hour sand 35 min.  That meant I needed a 20:40 pace to get there – and most of it was downhill which is my specialty! I was feeling great!

But there was one more huge climb to go.  It reached the highest point on the course and it comes right after the last aid station. It’s just about the cruelest joke you could play on someone — but I knew it was coming since Derek had warned me and Ryan had talked about it during our training.  And it was every bit as steep and crazy as I’d heard it would be! Almost laughably so! Suddenly, after being alone for most of the race since Derek had joined me, we saw several back-of-the-packers and their pacers trying to make it up this horrible climb so late in the race.   One guy had a cool, unruly ultra beard and the most glazed expression as his pacer tried to push him from the back to get him moving uphill.  It was almost comical!  Then I looked at Derek and he looked at me and he said, “Want me to do that?”  I didn’t argue.   All of a sudden I felt like I could fly almost! Well, at an 11% incline, at like a 30 min pace that is.  But I was moving and we started passing people.   Derek got out of breath and we both just started marching the rest of the way up.  I was almost giggling from the way the whole thing must have looked and then – we hit the summit! Wahooo!!!!!! VICTORY!

A man with a 4 wheeler came driving by to check on us and asked if we needed water.  I said no but enjoyed petting this tiny little York Terrier in his front basket!  That moment also felt surreal. Like I was just out for a normal little stroll and petting some neighbor’s little dog! It was a nice moment!

Derek and I with Bear Lake in the background! I think we can make it!

Derek and I with Bear Lake in the background! I think we can make it!

Derek ran up ahead and started smiling and pointing! I had told him that I’d never seen Bear Lake before and had heard that it was the bluest lake anywhere.  I’d never seen any water so blue in my life and when I crested the climb and finally got to see that massive, gorgeous, sky-blue water it brought happy tears to my eyes!!  Derek told me I had exactly 4 seconds to get some pictures! He let me pose in front of the water and then I begged him to please take one of he and I together since he was such a huge part of my journey and I wanted a picture there to remember it! That photo shows us both happy and smiling and I think we both really started to believe we were going to make it in time! But, as he said as we started running again, “The fat lady hasn’t sang YET!” He was right! We still had some distance and some crazy, steep, rocky terrain to get through before we’d see that finish line!

The craziest thing happened once we hit the next stretch! We started seeing lots and lots of racers and their pacers. And we started passing many of them.  I could’t believe it!

The first pair we met up with was a lady pacing a man.  At first I thought the lady was in the race, too.  Derek had asked me how hard this race had been and I told him that it was harder than giving birth without pain medication to my five children (and that it was taking me longer to run this 100 than it had to give birth five times -which is actually TRUE!)  Derek yelled out, “This little lady just said this race is harder than giving birth five times!” The lady smiled and said, “I gave birth five times without pain meds too!” I said, “No way! I think we just became best friends!” She laughed and it felt nice to chat with her so late in a race and feel good.   Then I remembered something. I told her that my friend, Dave had teased me that if I completed the Bear I’d win the first place prize for Mom from Idaho of five kids.  Dave has five kids and joked that he’d won that “prize” in the dad’s division the year before.  I had to ask the woman, “Are you from Idaho?” Luckily she wasn’t or we’d have had to really race to the finish for it! Amazingly, the man she was pacing piped up and said, “I am though!” What were the chances?!

Derek and I felt good and we took off.  The downhill was nothing like I’d expected.  It was so much steeper than I’d imagined. The kind of steep you have to lean back or you’ll fall on your face and go tumbling down the mountain. And it wasn’t smooth. It was crazy rocky! Some of the rocks were as big as bowling balls! It was the kind of section that you had to fight gravity and not ride it out like I normally like to do on the downhills. To bad, too, because I had the legs for some fast downhill action ready to unleash on that stretch.  But, I just did the best I could scooting my steps as fast as they could go down the hill following Derek. He told me my goal was to run every single step. And I DID!

Derek and I down to the final couple of miles!

Derek and I down to the final couple of miles!

When we finally got to the bottom, I told him I needed to hit a bush and deal with my period one last time or I might end up crossing the finish line looking like a cougar had mauled me from behind! That would be awkward. So he let me do what I needed to do and then we were off!  We caught up to Quintin just before the asphalt road and I was so happy to see him! Derek warned me that the worst section was the flat asphalt road since it feels like the finish line and park are never going to come. I think he may have been right. I found myself starting to walk.  Derek was really dehydrated since he’d been doing so much work for me and hardly got to take care of himself so he asked a passing motorist if they had some water and they filled up his bottle, which was really nice!

Then about half a mile from the finish line, I saw my husband and Jenny coming towards us! That just made my day! I felt so much elation, so much gratitude to see them both and so much excitement that I was almost there! I started to run to get closer to them sooner.  As soon as we were together I threw myself into the arms of my husband and got tears in my eyes! He told me he was proud of me. As we walked together, hand-in-hand, a woman I had passed passed me back.  My eyes grew wide and I thought of dropping my husband’s hand and taking off after her.  But, then I thought better of it and decided to just enjoy the ending.  Luckily for me, the woman stopped and looked back, waiting for someone else so I regained my spot anyway.

Then Derek and Jenny ran on ahead.  My husband told me how proud of me he was. Jenny would later tell me that Derek was up ahead tears streaming down his face, so relieved and happy to see me making it to the finish. It’s a really difficult job pacing a back-of-the packer and emotionally it can take everything out of you.  Bless his heart for giving so much of himself, for throwing arms around me for hugs when I felt discouraged and for being one of the most encouraging, selfless, happy, wonderful people I have ever met – and for getting me to the finish line!

We finally hit a cross walk and waited for a couple cars and then crossed over to the park! I couldn’t believe it!!!!! I started crying as soon as I saw the finish line and the people cheering and heard the cowbells ringing! My  husband tried to run ahead to film my finish and I just started running towards the finish line, then found myself picking up the pace and getting faster and faster, tears streaming down my face as I said, “I did it! I can’t believe I did it” over and over with a smile as big as Texas across my face!!!!!!! The crowd went wild and it was so much fun!

I did it! 35:35:55.  I really did it!!!!!! It was the hardest race of my life and I lived to tell the tale and it had a happy ending!

Now I believe in miracles! Do you?! 😀

My beautiful, hard-earned buckle!

My beautiful, hard-earned buckle!

 

04/14/14

One Week Until Boston

It’s been a really busy last few weeks since Antelope Island Buffalo Run. My husband, Wayne and my son Wayne Jr (13) participated in the Pickled Feet 48 hour race the following week, with me as their crew and pacer, which was fun. They reached 62 miles (a 100k) side-by-side, which was incredible! I was very proud of both of them.

Also in March, my youngest two daughters had birthdays. Anneliese turned 9 and two weeks later Savannah turned 7! Savannah’s birthday happened the day after the Buffalo Run, so we were still in Utah. We took the whole family to the Dinosaur Park in Odgen and had a wonderful time.

Yesterday, Wayne and I directed the Lake Lowell Marathon for the fourth time. It’s hard to believe just three years ago, our little race company, Final Kick Events, was just beginning. We now have 10 races on the calendar for 2014 and more than half of them are in their second year and beyond! Lake Lowell went very well this year, with about 450 racers, which is a new record high for that event! As soon as we were done, we headed over to my sister’s place to get ready to surprise my dad on his 60th birthday at the great party my Mom and sister put together! It was a lot of fun!

Today, I woke up and realized that one week from today I’ll be running the Boston Marathon! I can’t believe it’s finally here. I’m not sure how my legs will react in 7 days to the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, but I do know one thing – it will be the most amazing marathon of my life no matter what! I am truly blessed to be going this year and will be thinking of my supportive husband, five inspiring kids and all of the encouraging running partners, friends and family who have believed in me in the quest for this dream! I am honored, happy and so very excited to live my dream!

Please feel free to track my progress on race day, if you’d like to follow along! I’m bib # 20525 and you can follow me here on April 21st: http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/entrants.aspx

BOSTON HERE I COME!!!!

BOSTON HERE I COME!!!!

03/26/14

Ultramarathon Dance Party – Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 Video

Antelope Island start 2014

You’ll see several of my pals and I in Cory’s world-famous party for a 100 miles video!! 😀 If you ever have the chance to spot Cory out on the trail or in an ultra, make sure to say  hello, give him a hug or join him for some sweet dance moves! You won’t regret it! You’ll likely have the time of your life hanging out with the happiest guy I know! 🙂

My friend Cory Reece www.fastcory.com decided to video the runners at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler as we raced, ran and danced our buns off last weekend.  The result is pretty fun to watch!  I’m the one in the red tutu. I only wish I’d kept on dancing and stayed in the mental happy place since I ended up dropping from the race at mile 75.  I should have continued to boogie to the finish line like Cory did! 🙂

03/13/14

The B.A.A. Has Assigned Boston Bibs and Corral/Wave Info!

Boston 2014

This has been a pretty busy week. My husband and I are directing the Shamrock Shuffle St. Patrick’s Day run at Ste. Chapelle Winery this Saturday, so we’ve been busy running around getting things ready for our 600+ runners! While I was out today, my friend, Ryan texted me to let me know that the Boston Athletic Association had announced on their Facebook page that the waves/corral assignments and bib numbers had been determined!  How exciting!

I found out my bib # is 20525. I’m in wave 3 and corral 3.  Normally there are 3 waves of runners, divided into several corrals (9 corrals each this year).  There are approximately 9,000 in each wave.  They are arranged from fastest (wave 1) to slowest (usually wave 3, though this year with the increased number of runners there are 4 waves.) The corrals within those waves are also divided by the times the runners qualified in. It’s a very organized system to allow so many racers to actually begin the race in a timely way.

Corrals

 

The first group begins at 10 am and then the other corrals get released about every 3 minutes until everyone is running. My corral (wave 3, corral 3) will be starting sometime after 11 am. I’d imagine close to 11:09 or so. The fastest runners literally will be half done by the time I cross the start line! Isn’t that a funny thought?! Even crazier is that they were expecting about 36,000 total runners (including charity racers) in the field, so once I begin, there may be nearly another 16,000 more to follow! I wonder how long the whole thing takes? It blows my mind as a race director who’s never put on an event with over 1,300 races to even think imagine orchestrating it all!  Huge kudos to Dave McGillivray who’s been directing this event fairly seamlessly since 1988!

I can’t believe it’s only a little over 5 weeks until I’m running my first Boston Marathon! Unbelievably AWESOME!!!!

If you’d like to look up your bib number/corral or a friend’s here’s the link to the search tool. Boston Athletic Association

Image:

12/23/13

Hot Chocolate Run Discount Code

Don't miss the fun!

Don’t miss the fun!

Want to run the hottest race around in the dead of winter?! Look no further than my very own Hot Chocolate Run in Eagle, Idaho! We offer two waves of 5k, a 10k and a children’s 1/2 mile race all followed by piping hot cups of hot cocoa served in your very own custom Hot Chocolate Mugs!!!

Custom Hot Chocolate Mugs!! Nice schwag!

Custom Hot Chocolate Mugs! Nice schwag!

Over 400 runners joined us last year in our inaugural year of this Final Kick Event and we’re excited to see this becoming a new southern Idaho family tradition for many years to come! So, when the Christmas season has wound down and you’re looking for something fun to do for the whole family, come on out and burn off some of those holiday pounds at the Hot Chocolate Run!

As readers of my blog, I’m offering a very special $10 discount if you use code “Christie” at checkout! Happy Holidays!

http://hcrun.com/

The Hot Chocolate Run

The Hot Chocolate Run

09/17/13

Not Enough Spots at the Boston Marathon

This morning’s update from Runner’s World about the Boston Marathon registration for 2014 was not unexpected.  7,500 already sent in registrations yesterday and only 5,000 spots are left. Registration will stay open for those who qualified for Boston until Friday at 5:00 pm E.T. At that point, they will arrange them based on how much of a margin each runner beat their BQ time.  My “BQ” time was 3:45:00 for my age and gender (a 40 year old female.) I ran a 3:40:44, so I have a margin of 4:16 over my time – a “cushion.”   My chances seem pretty good at this point, but nothing is certain.   Those in the under 2 minute window will likely be biting their nails in anticipation this week as they await the final verdict on Sunday when the acceptance e-mails will go out to the racers who get in.  It’s going to be a long week for many – myself included!

09/16/13

I Registered for Boston

I could hardly sleep last night knowing the final wave for the Boston Marathon registration would open up for those who qualified for Boston with 0 – 4:59 better than their BQ time today, Monday, September 16th, 2013.  I was nervously sitting at my computer hitting refresh over and over until the screen finally showed the registration form at something like 8:04 am mountain time.  I got a bit teary-eyed when I hit enter on the final page and got my confirmation number back. I hope I get in! It is all in the hands of the B.A.A. gods now!

The sign ups this week are not first-come, first-serve.  They will accept entrants until Friday at 5 pm E.T. and then sort out the entries based on those who beat their BQ times by the most, with first entries going to the 4:59 better than BQ times on down to those who squeaked in right in under the wire.

The announcement this morning said there are approximately 5,000 spots left, so I know my chances are better than some with a time 4:16 better than my BQ, but I’m still not going to be able to exhale until Sunday morning when they send out the acceptance e-mails to those who will get a spot!

It doesn’t look good for those who qualified by less than 1:30, honestly. The demand has been so great for the race this year that I’m sure those racers will be on pins and needles until the final count is made.  A year ago, everyone who BQ’d and registered got into Boston 2013.  The terrorist attack awoke something deep in many racers and it’s believed that the spike in entries this year is due to that response.  For me, it is merely a coincidence that my BQ finally came during the aftermath of the terrible events of the last race.

My heart goes out to all who gave everything they could in the past racing season and qualified for Boston and are now sitting alongside me waiting and wondering if we’ll get to toe the line in Hopkinton next April! Hang in there and I hope to see you there!!!!!

09/10/13

4,000 Sign Up for Boston on First Day of Registration

Boston Marathon logo

“4,000 Sign Up for Boston Marathon on First Day of Registration.”  That is the title from an article from Runner’s World News Wire this morning only 24 hours after registration for the 2014 Boston began!  The only people allowed to sign up so far with the new tiered system are those racers who beat their Boston Qualifying times by 20 minutes or better.  The article says this number far out-paces the registration for last year.  After the terrible attack at last year’s Boston, many more runners than usual are wanting to be part of the 2014 Boston Marathon. I believe it’s patriotism, courage and the need to band together as runners that is drawing larger-than-ever crowds of runners to sign up for this year’s event.

As for me, earning a spot at Boston has been a huge dream of mine since I first started running more than 5 years ago. Chasing down a Boston time did not come easy for me. My first marathon was a time of 4:57 (a far cry from the 3:45:59 time I’d have needed to qualify in 2009 when I ran as a 36 year old female.) I eagerly looking forward to turning 40 since runners are given an additional 5 minute “leeway” as they get older. I was excited to see that goal time become 3:50:59.  Unfortunately, the 2011 Boston marathon sold out in 8 hrs and 3 min, leaving many of the faster runners out of the race. That’s when they decided to do the wave signup system to make sure those who run the fastest get first shot at signing up.  They also changed the qualifying standards to make it more difficult to get a “BQ” – a Boston Qualifying time by 5 min and 59 seconds for every bracket.

So, last year instead of needing a 3:50:59 to BQ, I needed to run a 3:45:00.  I ran a 3:48 and a 3:47 in attempts to qualify, missing my new mark by just a bit in May of 2012 at the Famous Potato Marathon in Boise, Idaho and the Redding Marathon in Redding, California in Jan of 2013. Finally, in May I ran a 3:40:44 – finally earning my longed-for Boston qualifying time this spring! It was a very emotional day and I cried as I crossed the finish line.  My parents were there taking a video and my Mom said to me, “Where are you going now?” And through tears I cried out, “BOSTON!!”  It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.

So now, after 7 marathons, I have finally earned my first BQ  which gave me a cushion of 4 minutes and 16 seconds over my Boston qualifying time for a woman who will be in the 40-44 age group on Patriot’s Day in April of 2014 (I’ll be 41). I hope it’s enough!  With the new sign up system, the faster runners get first shot at the spots at Boston.  There were 22,000 time-qualifying spots available when registration opened up Monday morning. Assuming all 4,000 of those who registered did run a certified course and did beat their BQ time by 20 minutes or more (these things are verified for each runner before they are officially registered), there are now 18,0000 spots left.

On Wednesday, September 11th, registration will open up for those racers who beat the qualifying standards by 10 min 00 seconds or faster.  If space remains in the race after that round, on Friday, September 13th, registration will open up for runners who beat their BQ time by 5 minutes, 00 seconds or faster.   Is space remains after that round then registration will finally open for all runners who met their Boston qualifying times on Monday, September 16th. That will be my round – IF the race hasn’t filled up!!! Crossing my fingers and nervously watching the data trickle in in the hopes that I do get a chance to register and head to Boston next April! The waiting game begins…..

09/5/13

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

 

08/12/13

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