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!

 

03/31/14

How To Be An Ultra Runner

I saw this video shared amongst my ultra friends today and had to share it with you here, as well! If you are an ultra runner (or have ever been ultra curious) check it out! I promise you’ll laugh and there is so much truth to it! Enjoy!!

 

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! 🙂

10/10/13

Snot Rocket Training 101

Wish I'd had this handy step-by-step informational message on my run today!

Wish I’d had this handy step-by-step informational message on my run today!

There are three skills I wish I had in life:

1. The ability to whistle loud and long like my Mom when she’d call my sister and I in for dinner. I cannot whistle at all, let alone in that impressive “Mom call” way!

2 .I cannot spit. I tried this week, while in the car, going down the road. It landed on my leg. GROSS!  Wayne says there’s a launching technique I apparently am unequipped with.

3. Blowing snot rockets. I’ve ran with a few fellas who do this all the time! I am slower than they are so at times I have been caught in the fire. UGH. Today, while running up Lucky Peak alone, still dealing with the after-effects of the worst cold I’ve ever had, it occurs to me I might feel better if I just dealt with the snot problem. But I didn’t have a tissue. I started thinking about all the disgusting snot rockets I’ve dodged from Derek and decide to give it a try — no one’s looking, right?

So, I plugged one side and leaned forward and gave a mighty powerful puff of wind out of my nostril and lo and behold, the offending goo comes shooting out. BUT..not entirely. Ahhhhhh,.. I shook my head from side to side to get it to fall to the ground. It just dances around. Ahhhhhh!!!!!! I finally had to resort to my tech shirt helping out. EWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!

Then I realize the other side needs dealt with too. Same. Exact. Story! Really??!!!!! How do people make this look so easy without a tissue?!!!

As I continued on my run, breathing well, but covered in boogers, I thanked the heavens that I wasn’t encountering anyone I knew the rest of the way home. Miss Grody Face finished up and had a pretty nice run, despite being ungifted in any of the three ways mentioned. The End.

Elevation Gain: 1,396 feet. Felt: Happy in the sunshine, joyous on the trails but stuffy and a bit slow.

09/16/13

Running with my BFF

Bertha and I

I’ve been reading a book titled MWF seeking BFF. It’s a true story about a gal who moves away from her close friends in New York and tries to find a gal pal to fill the void in her new Chicago life. It’s a story I relate to a bit. My best friend is someone I’ve known since we were in first grade. I can tell her anything, be myself with her, be “real” and no matter what’s bothering me, she can always make me laugh and feel like it’s going to be ok. My best friend, Bertha lives in Nampa. I moved more than an hour away two years ago when I moved to Southeast Boise. She used to stop by my house for lunch since I lived 5 min from her office. We ran together a lot! I miss her dearly!!! Somehow nearly a year has passed since we last ran together, so we had a lot of catching up to do. We DO e-mail and text and talk on the phone, but it’s so much better to catch up in person!!!!!

My Garmin shows we had a moving time about an hour and 40 minutes faster than our actual time! Those were all the times we stopped dead in our tracks to tell dramatic, gossipy stories to each other! Ohhhhh how I’d missed her and all the subjects that I only feel truly comfortable discussing with her. We laughed so much I was sure I’d end up wetting my pants (er.. shorts!) The moment she complained about her “mommy tummy” and pulled up her shirt just to prove to me how bad she thought her stomach was and I pulled up my shirt to show her my “mom-of-5” belly and nearly blinded her with my alabaster stomach was a highlight!! Bertha is Hispanic so she got quite a laugh from seeing my pasty “white girl” belly, which I think looked extra awesomely ghost-like next to my tan legs!!! 😀

We headed straight for Olive Garden after and continued the catch up fest while we dined on all-you-can eat pasta, salad and breadsticks!! Mmmmmmm!!!!! My heart is once again full!!!! I adore this girl!! 😀 Gosh, it felt so good to take down the walls of my heart, to be seen, to be enjoyed to laugh so hard I could hardly breath and to go away knowing that even after all this time – a true friendship is exactly the same. It is home.

Elevation Gain: 2,673 feet. Total miles: 18.81 miles.

P.S. The fly-infested porta john from heck is worth a mention. I visited the facility before the run and thought I’d walked into a horror movie when 8 bazillion flies were buzzing around the piles of well, you know… as I entered. I thought, “How am I going to pee without all those icky flies buzzing under my bum? I flapped my arms around yelling, “SHOO!” to get them to move, but only some of them did. That was the quickest doing of business I have ever done in my life and I was so afraid I’d accidentally capture one of those creepy pests in my shorts as I pulled them back up but thankfully I got out without any hitchhikers taking a ride. It is so much nicer to just water the bushes on a trail run! Next time I will be avoiding the porta john!!! AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

06/26/13

Silver City 100k – The First Shall Be Last

Silver City 100k - photo courtesy of Julie Tinney

Silver City 100k – photo courtesy of Julie Tinney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heading up Hayden Peak. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Heading up Hayden Peak. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennesee Mountain. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

Tennesee Mountain. Photo courtesy of Jeff Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

06/4/13

Did You Take the Time to Stop and Smile at the Lizards Today?

Polecat

Polecat

This morning I went running alone. I went to a place I’ve been many times before – a trail called Polecat that’s a 6 mile loop of undulating, perfectly manicured single-track trail through the sagebrush-covered Boise Foothills.  When I run by myself outdoors, on trails, all of my senses are reawakened, it seems. I’m more aware of the breeze (which was heavenly today in the 75 degree temperature.) I notice the sweet scent and colors of the wildflowers along the trail (today I saw clumps of tiny violet colored blossoms and lacy, white yarrow and vibrant, tiny yellow flowers dotting the landscape as I ran.)  I’m more aware of the steady, rhythmic sound my Pure Grits make as they thump thump along in the dirt, propelling me forward.

Show Daisies

Show Daisies

I also notice things I might not have if I’d gone with someone else.  I saw the cutest little lizard and his lizard buddy racing across the trail just as I rounded a corner at a blazing 11 min mile! They couldn’t have been more than 5 inches long each and I just busted out laughing when I saw them scurrying off into the brush to hide from the crazy runner lady invading their territory!  A hummingbird flew so close to me that I could have nearly reached out and touched it’s delicate, furiously flapping wings, it seemed.  A grasshopper stopped momentarily before me on the sandy trail and then bounced off into the sagebrush and I couldn’t help but wonder how totally awesome it must feel to be able to jump that HIGH! I decided grasshoppers remind me of my friend, Cory Reece since he can jump so very high, even after running 100 miles!

Being on my own, also meant I had time to let that private, inner world of my thoughts open up and I could think about some things going on in my own life that I can’t really share with anyone. It was a release to let some stresses out and to let the funny little creatures I saw and the natural beauty IN instead!

Some say running is cheaper than therapy. I couldn’t agree more! I hope that you’ll take the time to stop and notice the lizards (or whatever unique and interesting things might await) on your next run!  Go on now! Get out there and turn on your senses FULL BLAST and live a little!! 🙂

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

05/28/13

Hiking the Oregon Trail with the Five Cutest People I Know!

Who knew family fun on the Oregon Trail could bring out the JOY in all five of them?!

Who knew family fun on the Oregon Trail could bring out the JOY in all five of them?!

Our family enjoyed some much-needed playful time together outdoors on Memorial Day and I hope other families were able to do the same! We had a really lovely time taking in the views of Lucky Peak, Table Rock and the Boise Foothills and especially enjoyed running up and down the Basalt Trail, which is crazy technical and way FUN! My 12 year old son was a beast heading up and down that section, grinning from ear to ear.  Our youngest, age 6, needed a piggy pack ride back to the house after our 3 miles of family fun! I wonder how much longer Daddy will be her taxi?! 🙂

 

My baby girl and I - I think she's a chip off the old block!

My baby girl and I – I think she’s a chip off the old block!

Walk Like an Egyptian (or a bunch of Idahoans trying to pretend to be Egyptians!)

Walk Like an Egyptian (or a bunch of Idahoans trying to pretend to be Egyptians!)

I Leap for Family Fun!

I Leap for Family Fun!

04/5/13

Girls Head Start Mountain Run

Yesterday, after a pretty great morning run, Ryan mentioned he was going to run “hard and fast” on some of the most difficult trails we have in the Boise Foothills. Of course, that got the wheels turning in my head and I asked him later if he’d share the route with me for my Garmin so I could start early and do it too (without messing up “fast boy” training!)

My buddy, Rachel C. stopped by my house while I was looking over the map and said she’d enjoy coming along too, so we met up at 4:30 am to get a jump on Ryan A. and Derek (who I refer to as the “fast boys” because they are exceptionally FAST runners!)

After looking at Ryan’s Garmin info (where he’d done this route in the past in 1:29) we started a half an hour (it turned out to be 27 minutes exactly since they started two min early and we started one min late -not that I’m being a numbers geek) before the guys and decided to hike every step since we thought it would be fun if they caught us at the halfpoint and we all ran downhill together. The sky was pitch black, the city of Boise twinkled below like a thousand sparkling diamonds, the wind whistled and I was thankful for my thin Brooks jacket keeping me toasty. We reached the 4 mile spot and could see two headlamps about a mile down the trail heading steadily up towards us, so we waited for about 7 minutes (that’s ALL it took them to catch us with a half an hour start!!?!! WOW)

They were flying too and in great spirits! We said our hellos and we all started running fast downhill having a blast! If the fellas were tired from running hard on the steep uphills, they didn’t show it! They were FLYING!!!! And whooping and laughing and having a great time! Rachel and the boys took off super fast and I had to hold back on the super technical downhill right after we joined up. It’s like a death trap, a zillion various sized rocks, uneven terrain, by headlamp. Totally exciting! Loved every minute of it – but I had to take my time. I definitely lost my “early morning running” skills with the several week lay off from running much with the calf injury and am eager to get back to being a bit more fearless on this sort of thing!

Once we hit the smoother sections of downhill running I was in my element and started running much faster! That’s when I started whooping and hollaring – and it started to rain! I felt like a little kid I was having so much fun, my hair plastered to my face, arms and legs pumping hard through the mountains under the stars! My fastest mile was mile 7 at a 7:18 pace. I felt I could have ran it a bit faster, but I had to pee!

I stopped to take care of business and wait for Rachel (who’s headlamp was fading making it hard for her to go as fast as she wanted to.) Once I saw her light behind me, I took off again to the final stretch, lungs burning and breathing heavy as I gave it all I had to the finish!

That was the most incredible workout I’ve done in MONTHS! Totally loved it and can’t wait to do it again!!!! THIS kind of running will make me a beast!

Elevation gain: 1,659 feet. When I got back to the parking lot and realized Rachel and I had done the 8.64 mile route in about 1:45 I was pretty excited! Not bad for hiking the first 4 miles! Next time, I think we girls need to start 15 min early instead and run as much as we want. I am betting we could do it even faster!! What do you think, Rachel?! Are you in?!

03/3/13

1st Trail Run in 3 Weeks!

Getting there!!! I was hoping to run the Cobb and Homestead trails on Lucky Peak this morning, but it rained last night, so I knew the trail conditions would be no beuno! So, instead I did the most obvious next best thing and ran from my front door right out onto the sandy trails near my house which are always runnable no matter how wet it is (which is awesome and convenient!) They are also fairly flat, so I knew that would be a smart place to further test the recovering calf strain and tight IT band.

The sky was gray and full of clouds. Some would say it was gloomy. I would describe it as perfectly peaceful.. still…. calm and beautiful. I really enjoyed myself as I ran through the rain-soaked sagebrush and enjoyed the fragrance of wet earth. I saw Canadian geese (made me think of you,Canada Steve ) flying overhead in a v formation as I crossed a red bridge over an empty canal and smiled thinking how lucky I was to be outside enjoying the day. I ran to Barber Park and crossed the bridge and noticed three swans, their heads tucked into their feathers, taking a little siesta as the shallow water rushed by.

I had walked the first 3/4 of a mile to warm up the legs, then ran every step until I hit the steep hill in our neighborhood (that I can’t run up on my best day.) Then I ran again right until I hit 8 miles and was at my front door. I turned back onto the little greenbelt near my house and walked another 1/2 mile to stretch the legs out nicely for a cool down. I felt totally pain-free during the run but did feel some stiffness in the IT band once I started walking. By the end of the half mile walk it felt smoother.

I have an appointment on Tuesday to see my massage gal and I’ll have her work over the IT band, hamstrings and calves. I think that should help. And, I’ll keep stretching each day and spending quality time with my foam roller who I’ve started to refer to as “Arnold” (said in my best Schwarzenegger voice!)

Elevation Gain: 306 feet. Ave HR: 158. Max HR: 185. 43 degrees. 87% humidity.

P.S. 31 miles for the week is almost in the land of “normal” again. Getting there….