I grew up in Owyhee County and one of my favorite places to sneak off to for a long, trail run is the Wilson Creek trail head in the Owyhee Mountains, not far from Melba, Idaho. It’s about a 75 minute drive from my home in Boise, so I save this one for special occasions or training for the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k that will be happening next year on January 19th, 2013!
On Saturday, a group of about 20 ultra runners met up before dawn to run the 20 mile loop that is part of the race. This was the first time I’d done the entire 20 since last January when I raced it during my 50k. I was eager to revisit the course!
I decided to bring along my camera for this one. I used to take a ton of photos on my runs and share them here on my blog. I felt it was time to take a super easy day, stop and enjoy the scenery and take some great photos along the way and I was really hoping I’d have a chance to get some shots of the elusive wild horses that roam out in these hills.
I arrived while the sky was still dark and dawn was just beginning to break. This proved to be my favorite photo op of the day as I snapped a series of photos of the quickly-changing early morning sky as it morphed before my eyes into a beautiful sunrise!
It was an amazing day! I had the opportunity to chat with three new friends and even had the chance to point out the herd of wild horses was up on a hillside to two of them who had never seen them before! In total, I spotted more than 30 wild horses during my 5 and a half hour run! It was wonderful!
It was a lovely 20 (actually 20.75) miles on the trails. I am looking forward to doing it again at least one more time before race day!
I woke up this morning without a plan but said to my husband, “I want to run from the house to Lucky Peak and back!” I’ve ran up to the peak and down again several times – but never from my front door (which is about 3 miles to the trail start, so I knew it would add roughly 6 miles to the total, which sounded great since the trip up and down the mountain is always a hair over 13.) I figured it would be a nice, long, slow distance run giving me strength on the steep hill climbs, a chance to run fast on the technical downhill sections and the cushion of dirt instead of asphalt getting me ready for my marathon in three weeks. It sounded like a plan!
I packed my Nathan vest with ice and about 50 oz of water (which might have been enough if I was heading out on an early morning run, but I wasn’t thinking as carefully as I should have and didn’t bring my handhelds as back up.) I also had plenty of S caps, some peanut butter crackers and a mint chocolate GU. And, off I went!
It was exciting heading out. I like to run with my pal, Randy sometimes and I had been curious exactly how far it was via trails and the greenbelt from my house to his. It turns out it’s almost 3 miles on the nose! So, the next time he invites me I need to leave the house half an hour early and run to his before the “run” starts. 😀 Then, run those 3 miles back after! BONUS MILES!!
It was 10 am before I started today, so I was also thinking it would be a great chance to get in some heat training (again – a doh moment – I should have been packing MORE water/electrolyte drink, etc!!!) It was hot. It was hazy from all the smoke in the sky. So hazy in fact, that you couldn’t see as far into the distance or up the mountain as usual, which made it kind of mysterious looking, but the air wasn’t as fresh as usual which wasn’t a good thing. Since it was fairly warm already when I started (about 80 degrees), I stayed conservative — steadily hiking the uphills and even warming up the first mile from my front door with an easy walk pace. I knew I had a long way to go and figured pacing would be the key to a successful and fun run instead of a miserable drudge.
So many locusts hopped out of the golden grasses and onto the dusty trail in front of my feet as I climbed up, up, up Lucky Peak. Five different small lizards – no bigger than three inches from head to tail each zipped across the trail on the climb as well. I considered these things wonderful distractions to my heavy breathing! I could feel myself sweating and it was so humid (which is unusual for Idaho) that it would evaporate off my skin within seconds! I kept drinking but felt the weight of the pack every little bit and realized that I was drinking more than I’d planned to, so I tried to be conservative with the water, which didn’t really help things much since my body was really needing it.
Around mile 8 into my run, I looked up and spotted local rock star Wayne Rancourt coming down the hill, wearing his pack and grinning! He stopped and said hi to me and he asked me if this was my “first time” up the hill today. Haha! Wayne is known for doing hill repeats on this crazy, horribly long hill (Lucky Peak) that has over 3,000 of climb in 6 miles up. It works well for him! He came in 2nd place last week at Wild Idaho 50 miler! I told him that I was just doing “one” hill repeat. Man, that made me feel like a weenie next to him!!!! He said he’s see me again when he was heading back up.
By the time I reached the summit and enjoyed what I could see through the smoke of the view of Boise, I knew water was an issue. Randy had told me about a path down the front of the hill that I’d never tried that was a shortcut. I decided this was a good day for that, so I sought it out, found it and really enjoyed the little deer trail down the front that shaved about a mile off of my descent! It also made me feel like a cheater pants since I never go that way – haha!
I ran about a mile, then sipped on my Nathan tube for a drink and ended up getting a big gulf of air instead and started choking and coughing! I was thinking “Great! I need a drink of water to help with the choking but apparently I’m all out and I still have 8 miles to GO!!” ARGH!!
I realized I was in trouble a bit. I was already having headaches and feeling thirsty and figured without water in the heat of the day (which had a high of 100 today) I would not do my body any good by pushing through this, so I grabbed my cell phone out of my pack and texted my husband.
Then, I took off running again. I was running fairly fast downhill through this section when I spotted a bit of blue up ahead – it was Wayne on his way up and when he saw me he started clapping, which only made me run faster and start to grin! (It’s always more fun to have an audience!) He wished me good luck on my “flight” down the mountain, and I wished him well on his climb up. No sooner had we passed one another, when all of a sudden I stepped poorly on my right foot and instantly realized I’d rolled it — not horribly — but still – it was hurting and it was sore! UGH! That’s what I get for showing off! I pulled off of the trail again and dug out my cell phone, almost in tears and looked to see if Wayne had written me back. He hadn’t. I called him. He didn’t pick up. I felt a little freaked out thinking I would have to make it back to the house possibly without any more water and now with the ankle hurting my pace would slow down so I’d be out for HOURS more in the heat! Normally, I would stop and ask for water at my buddy, Randy‘s house, but I knew he was on vacation, so that wouldn’t be a possibility. I tried calling Wayne two more times without success and then just settled in a slow, steady downhill pace trying to get closer to the bottom of the hill (and closer to home!)
Finally, my phone rang! It was Wayne!!! I told him I was out of water and had rolled my ankle and needed him to come meet me on Warm Springs in about 20 minutes with some water. He said he would. I was so relieved!!! Once I knew he was on the way, I picked up the pace, knowing I would only have a couple more miles to run without water before I could stop and DRINK!
When I was about 3/4 of a mile from Warm Springs, I was back in Randy‘s neighborhood, running on a path that has a little bubbling brook right next to the trail. I hobbled right over to it, fell down on my knees and started scooping the cold, delightful water all over my face, arms and legs. It was so refreshing in that heat! I also ran through every sprinkler I saw near the path! My shoes were making a squish, squish sound, my shorts and tank were wet and my face was dripping wet from the washing when Wayne found me on the path. He was holding a water bottle filled with ice water, which I would gladly have paid a king’s ransom for at that point! I barely had time to thank him before I started gulping the cool, refreshing water down my dry, parched through! Ahhhhhhhhh – better!!!!!
I was bummed when I hopped into the car to realize my potential 20 miler had turned into a dehydrated 15 miler – but it is, what it is! At least it was just a training run!
Elevation Gain: 3,300 Felt: Pretty good until I ran out of water, then not so much!
With a DNF this summer at both Pocatello 50 and Big Horn 50 in the books — both because of running too slow and getting pulled from the courses at 48 miles and then 34 miles respectively — I was in a bad place mentally and needed a good race to kind of clear the slate and give me a positive mindset again as I gear up for the Pocatello Marathon next month, where I hope to qualify for Boston.
One month prior to my 3:48 Famous Potato Marathon in May, I had raced the Weiser River 50k in 5:05 (a PR for that course and that distance for me), so I knew that it had served me well to run this distance a few weeks before a marathon and figured this might help me prepare well again. I decided signing up for Wild Idaho 50k would be just the ticket! I did the 50 miler last year and knew the course and thought it would be a good challenge, with plenty of climbing (it’s advertised as 10,000 of elevation gain) (and some sweet downhill running which would also be good preparation for the Pocatello Marathon which has about 1,500 of elevation loss on the course) and would also be a lot of fun since so many of my friends would be either racing that day as well or at the aid stations volunteering. So, I signed up!
My husband and five children and I arrived at the Boiling Springs Campground the day before the race. I think my kids were more excited than I was to be there, which was fun to see! There were several other children of the other racers for them to play with and great access to the shallow river that runs right behind the campground, which turned out to be the main highlight of the weekend for them since the temperatures were in the 90s.
We set up our tents just as the pre-race meeting was taking place. I wandered over and heard the basic “Drink lots of water and try not to die on the course” speech. There was an excitement in the air following the meeting as the racers mingled and said their “hellos” to one another and made their way over to the pre-race spaghetti dinner (which was something new this year!) We had really scored on our tent site since we were literally right across from the camp spot serving the meal! Woo hoo! And, boy did that spaghetti, bread, salad and watermelon hit the spot! It was delicious and served with a smile! And, the best part was they’d prepared enough to allow family members to eat as well, so the whole family enjoyed a tasty meal before settling down around a campfire and socializing with all the runners and their families.
I don’t sleep well before races, so it was no surprise that I’d hardly slept a wink when my alarm went off at 5:15 am. I quickly got dressed in the tent by headlamp and shivered in my running skirt and tank top in the chilly morning, mountain air. I was excited and eager to get started! I ate a few bites of a bagel and drank some Starbuck’s Mocha Frappuccino to get my caffeine boost and then hit the porta potty. Just before 6 am, Ben Blessing (the race director and my awesome cousin), announced that we should all line up and he played a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem on his Tuba.
And, then we were off! Right away, I fell into pace with my good friend Rachael. She and I often end up near one another in a race and it was nice to have a familiar face to begin the journey with. Ben had changed the course a bit this year, so instead of starting on the dirt road, we hopped onto this sweet, forested, uphill trail with some fun technical aspects. I enjoyed leaping logs and pushing through trees while yelling behind me, “TREE! ROOT!” to those behind me. It was a really pleasant, fun stretch to get the legs warmed up for the rest of the race and when we popped out onto the road about a mile later I gave race director Ben a two thumbs up when he asked what I thought of the course change!
I had a couple goals. 1. Run a smart race by taking care of my fueling and nutrition needs right from the start and NOT pushing too hard and 2. Have FUN! I really had no other big goals and could have cared less about my pace. This made the whole event a whole lot more fun for me! I just tuned into my body and let the legs fly when they felt like it (mostly on the downhills) and eased back on the climbs keeping a fairly steady effort level from start to finish. I also made it a big point to socialize, which is always a lot of fun for a stay-at-home Mom of five kids like me! 😀 I think I may have talked to people practically the entire race. It helped me stay at an easier effort level and distracted me from all of the hard climbing. And, thankfully, I had a few people say to me, “Keep doing that! You’re chatting is really helping me out and your positive energy is contagious!” That made me smile!
From the Boiling Springs start, it’s uphill 4.4 miles on a wide, fairly smooth dirt road to the Silver Creek Saddle Aid Station. I checked in, grabbed some Coke, downed it in a couple of gulps and then headed to the Silver Creek Lookout about 2 1/2 miles uphill. I was still running with Rachael and our friend Sam had fallen into pace with us as well, so we relaxed and talked and enjoyed the morning. I kept stopping to take photos of the beautiful mountain views, though the sky this year was much hazier than it was a year ago due to a nearby fire.
Somewhere on this uphill climb I bumped into my friend, Ryan, who was doing the 50 miler and was ahead of me, but passing by me on the out and back. I pulled out my camera to take a photo of us and he pulled out his and told me it was time to do the “No Whining Dance”, which is a tradition in his family before hikes. The idea is to complain like crazy during the “no whining dance” and then you won’t complain the rest of the journey. Ryan and I looked like a couple of goofballs, hopping in circles, chanting, “My feet hurt! This sucks! I don’t want to do this!” and the grins on our faces clearly say that we weren’t really as miserable as we sounded at all, but it was a lot of fun and put me in a great mood.
I got back to focusing on the climbing and my pal Sam reached the summit first. I have a picture of he, our friend Emily and I at this spot from a year ago, so I knew I was on a similar pace since I was right on Sam’s heels still. I handed my camera to the volunteer taking down numbers at the top and asked him to take my picture (which is a must-do for this race! The view is GORGEOUS up there!!!) Just as he finished, I heard Rachael yell out, “Wait! I want in the picture too” as she summitted. I grinned and said “Of course!!” and the kind volunteer took a picture of us smiling together on top of the world.
Then, it was time to fly!!! This section coming down from the lookout is my favorite downhill running on the whole course! I was comfortably running in the 7-8 min range, relaxed, arms flailing out to my sides for balance and having the time of my life! Rachael was hot on my heels. I realized about halfway down the hill that I really, really, really needed to use a bathroom! I kept muttering to myself, “Don’t poop your pants! Don’t poop your pants!” and luckily, when I got back to the Silver Creek Saddle Aid Station there was a porta potty waiting for me (without a line, which must have been Divine Intervention!) I heard Rachael pass me outside the door and she jokingly yelled towards the loo “GO Christie, GO!” hahaha!!!!!!! And, of course with encouragement like that, I did!
After my bathroom break, I headed up the dirt road towards another favorite part of this race course – a sweet ATV trail that winds through the trees and is very runnable! This little one mile section out (for the 50kers) is a total pleasure cruise! The path roller coasters a bit at the start and then you can just settle into an easy, relaxed, fast stride without taxing the system. It’s just completely beautiful! I passed a few of the fast 50 milers on their way back up and said hi to them, then turned around at the road where the sign said “Turn Around 50kers”, then headed back up the trail. I pulled out a granola bar here and started munching that as I went. At one point, I saw a woman heading off on another road to the right and I hollered out, “You know the race course is this way, right?” and she said, “Oh yes, thank you. I just need to use the bathroom!” I headed downhill, through that section and suddenly heard these crazy, loud, crashing sounds coming from the trees and bushes on the mountain to my right. Startled, I stopped and stared up towards the sound and was trying to figure out what I was hearing when this enormous, 6 point buck came leaping onto the trail just a few feet in front of me before bounding off into the trees and brush on the other side! I was so stunned! It was such a beautiful, magical moment – and it also occurred to me that had I been running a couple seconds per mile faster pace, I would have suffered a hit and run by Bambi!!! Yikes!
I arrived at the Silver Creek Saddle Aid Station for the third and last time, downed another cup of Coke, grabbed some cheese-its and then headed down the long, forest service road back towards Boiling Springs. I remember this section from last year distinctly because that’s when I first started having problems with my IT band with all the downhill running, so this time, I let myself run for a mile, then eased up the pace and took a walk break for a bit, then did it again over and over, allowing myself to enjoy the downs but without taxing the knees quite as bad as last year. It seemed to work! My IT band and knees felt great as I pulled into Boiling Springs (which is a hair over 17 miles) at 3:45 into the race. My friend Michelle was there and she asked if she could help. I asked if she’d fill my Nathan with 30 oz of water and I filled the Nathan hand bottle I carry with another 22 oz of water, downed some soda, ate some salty chips, sprayed bug spray on my body (horseflies had been biting me like crazy on the Wet Foot trail the year before so I came prepared this time), dropped off my jacket, grabbed my sunglasses, hugged my husband and was running out of there at 3:50 into the race heading towards the dreaded Wet Foot trail. My husband commented that I looked strong and I told him I felt awesome! My buddy, Mark and his dog Cali joined me here for a little stretch until I was safely off the road and onto the single track trail again. That was a nice sendoff!
At this point on the course the year before my IT band had seized up and was very painful, it was hot and I was starting to suffer from nausea. This year was a very different experience! I kept the effort steady but never let myself redline or push too hard, I ate steadily, drank often and took my S Caps every hour. I felt WONDERFUL! In fact, I was really surprised that my pace was so good through this section since I had remembered being slug-slow during this stretch before. Last year I had to stop and sit on logs along the steep climbs or sit in the dirt on the side of the path. I never felt the need to stop at all this time! I felt just fine! Doing the 50k instead of the 50 miler also meant I was climbing this section earlier in the day which helped! There was still plenty of shade out instead of direct sun exposure which was a treat!
I did stop for just a moment when I passed the section of the trail that has a plethora of huckleberry bushes! I had never eaten a huckleberry or seen a huckleberry bush until my 50 mile race last year, so stopping to enjoy a little treat along the way brought a smile this time. I maintained my steady push until I reached the Wet Foot Aid Station at about 22 miles. Last year there was no aid station in this section and it was a hard grunt. I had gone nearly 4 hours from Boiling Springs to Skunk Creek before any aid and that was too long. I happily let them refill my water bottle, gobbled down some sweet, juicy watermelon and made small talk to the aid station workers (a few of whom are distant relatives of mine!) 😀 It was just as I was ready to leave that my buddy, Tony Huff came up the climb and into the aid station, too. I was really happy to see him! He was doing the 50 miler and had even won this race three years ago, so I knew he would be awesome to have in front of me for the next section of climbing (which is pretty brutal!) And, Tony didn’t disappoint! He kept saying, “You’re lagging behind! Come on! Keep up!” I laughed as I tried my best to keep up with Tony. I was able to keep him in sight for about 3/4 of a mile and it was nice to have that push. Once he was out of sight, I started hoping Ryan would catch up soon, too, so he could also help pace me up the steepest section of all (two miles of roughly 1,000 of climb each) before Skunk Creek. I was really surprised when I finally sumitted the worst of it and he hadn’t caught me yet.
Just after the summit, there’s a nice flat section, some trees and a glorious view- and to capture it all, my friend and world-class photographer Michael LeBowitz snapping off shots of the runners as they crested! It was nice to see Michael and he took some pictures of me. Then, I pumped the legs a bit more since I knew I was almost to the Skunk Creek Aid Station at mile 25! They had the cowbells going, several of my friends were volunteering and I could feel the love from the moment of my arrival! My buddy, Jim Updegrove asked if I wanted him to squirt me with a water bottle and I happily said, “YES PLEASE!” He squirted my face and I used a paper towel to wipe the sweat and salt off and I felt like a new woman! Then he walked around me squirting me from all sides and it was exactly what I needed! He then offered me a pancake, which I happily took, along with an orange slice and some soda, while my friend Shanda filled my water bottle. I was well taken care of, so I waved goodbye, thanked them all, then headed back down the path towards the Wet Foot trail again. It was here that I finally saw Ryan again! I teased him that he needed to run faster next time to catch me, then I took off.
Now, here’s where the fun part comes in! Hiking up Wet Foot is a grunt for sure! It’s steep, the dirt is fine and powdery and difficult to get a good firm grip in, you’re thirsty, tired, you feel like it’s never going to end and then — wallah – you get to the top, get treated like royalty at the aid station and then you get to run DOWN that stretch which is a whole different story!!!! I made it a point to encourage every single runner I passed on that section, as they were heading up and I was heading down. I stopped and gave several hugs even! I was in great spirits! My buddy, Mark had told me to treat this downhill section like a skier would — easy, loose, letting my feet slide side to side a bit instead of fighting the powdery, loose dirt. And, that’s what I did! I used my arms for balance, got fearless and started really making some good time on the descent! There are plenty of technical aspects of this trail – roots, rocks, trees, loose dirt, etc and I just played with it. I felt like a little kid and I was having ball!
I reached the Wet Foot aid station at 27.7 miles and again took advantage of their wonderful hospitality, getting my bottle filled, eating a little snack and then quickly getting back to business on the trail! Once I left that aid station, I couldn’t stop smiling! I was feeling great, running strong and knew that the finish line was getting closer! I could hardly believe my good luck! I’d had no injuries, no stomach problems, no negative thoughts. I was having a fantastic race!
Once my Garmin reached 31 miles (with a total time of 8:07) I knew it was almost over! I just relaxed, let loose and cranked it all the way to the finish line at 33.67 miles. My time was 8:34 and I could not believe it! That is a PR for a mountain 50k for me! My family was there to see me, my husband snapped a finish line photo, Ben handed me my cool finisher’s prize – a small baseball bat with the race info engraved on the side and I headed straight for the water to soak in the ice cold deliciousness while I sipped a cold Mountain Dew! It was a perfect day!
I’ll definitely be back to Wild Idaho again next year!!!!
My husband, Wayne and I are race directors and this past weekend he invited me to test drive one of our newest race courses out – a race like no other I’d ever attempted before because much of it takes place on enormous sand dunes at Bruneau State Park in Bruneau, Idaho! Wayne had me run the 5k course. I raced a 5k a couple of months ago in 22:41. This took much closer to an hour and a half!!!!! It was that hard! Though, I do admit to being overtaken by the beauty of it all and stopping for a few photos along the way too!
The Brunea Beast as we’ve dubbed it, will take place on August 18th with a 5k, 10k and a 20k option for those who really, really want to get their full money’s worth while racing on the sand dunes! It should be a crazy, fun time for all! Looking forward to it!
“Why do you run trails?” “Is it worth it to run in the mountains versus running on the roads?” “What’s it like to run for hours?” “Is it fun to run with others?” These are some of the questions I frequently hear from others and my answers are usually along the lines of “I really just need to take you along and let you experience for yourself how the whole world looks different from a mountain top, how much pride you can feel in yourself when you’ve pushed so hard to climb steep sections at elevation to reach that lovely summit, how spotting a bunny or a herd of deer or a snake or a chipmunk or a hawk can remind you that this world is full of more life than you ever imagined and had forgotten about while sitting at home in front of your computer or on your couch, how awe and reverence can overwhelm you as you watch the sun rise or set (or both!) while you’ve been running, how coming around a bend and seeing a meadow of wildflowers can make your soul sing, how the smell of pine forests or sagebrush and rain and earth can make you breathe more deeply than you have in a long time, how splashing through a creek or a river can make you feel like a five year old again, how stopping to sit on a log and share a sandwich with a friend can make you feel like you’ve never been happier in your life before.”
Well, now I can also “show” those who ask by sharing these little YouTube videos! I am thrilled that a local runner has taken the time to make videos of a few trail runs on some of my favorite trails to run in the Boise Foothills and at Bogus Basin and I wanted to share them with you since it’s as close as I can come to taking all of you running with me in beautiful Boise, Idaho (and it doesn’t hurt that they used two of my favorite songs in the world as background music!) Just a word of warning, though… you will likely feel inspired to lace up your own shoes and head out to find some trails to run! Happy running!!!!
I feel truly blessed to live in the Boise, Idaho area. We have so many lovely trails and scenic places to run, bike or hike that I never grow tired of heading out to enjoy the mountains and their pristine allure. Yesterday, a group from the Pulse Running and Fitness Shop came together to do a run on the trails at Bogus Basin, a popular ski resort in the Treasure Valley. I was so glad that I went. I took along my camera and just enjoyed the day, savoring the expansive blue sky soaring above the mountain tops, the pines, the wildflowers in shades of bright orange, deep purple, sunshine yellow and white and the unique atmosphere of a ski lodge. I loved running under the chairlifts and imagined myself wooshing downhill on skis in a few months (that is if I ever learn to SKI!) It was fun! I hope you enjoy the day in photos that follows!
It is incredibly rare for me to set out to do a certain distance and to end things before I’ve reached that goal. One example is this past Saturday when I showed up to a group run expecting to run 8 – 12 miles. We ended up doing 16 – and I pushed it on the downhills for several of those miles. Today was different. I set out to do an easy 6 and cut things short after 3 and a half.
I’ve been struggling with some hip problems, some IT band stuff and piriformis syndrome all on my left side. I’ve seen the chiropractor about it several times in the past few weeks. My running hasn’t been affected, thankfully, but on today’s run (which turned into a slow, sloggish walk), I was concerned that things weren’t going that well.
My calves were achy and I just felt sort of tired, despite the fact that I was going several minutes per mile slower than normal. My heart rate was fine, but I am convinced that I still need more rest and recovery before my tough, mountain 50 mile race this upcoming Saturday. I’m not totally sure that my body is fully recovered from my fast marathon from the 19th yet. I pulled way back on mileage last week, but I kept the intensity and climbing up. Maybe what I need the most right now is to do a little swimming (the pools opened up in my neighborhood this week!), biking, yoga and stretching until the race.
I do have a very real concern about the time cut offs for this upcoming race. Several people have warned me that it will be the toughest 50 miler I’ve ever done and I’m at a very real risk of being pulled at the 32 mile cut off 9 1/2 hours into the race (which sounds like a lot of time, but given the extreme climbing and technical terrain may make it a real test of my abilities at this point!) I have friends who I consider faster than me who were pulled at that cut off last year, so I really should rest up as much as possible and attack those mountains this weekend with everything I’ve got!! A finish medal at this particular race will certainly be a confidence boost if I can pull it off!!! 🙂
Had a wonderful Mother’s Day celebration with my family yesterday. My husband always works major holidays, so we try to work around them. Today, the kids let me sleep in, then I got up and made the little ones breakfast and we ate together, which is always fun – and is the usual way I start all my days. I did my cleaning and got the kids going on theirs, then headed off on a nice mountain run by myself. Being alone is something I don’t do very much of. I’m the mom of five. I’m married and I have so many wonderful friends. I have a very blessed and rich life and much to be thankful for.
Once in a while, though, I really just crave time to myself. Time where I can run my own pace, without any pressure to speed up or slow down, time to sort through feelings that are hard to process when others are around. Sometimes it’s nice to just commune with nature. Gaze at the flowers, the trees, the hills, listen to the wind, hear the sound of my own feet hitting the dirt – even listen to the steady rhythm of my own heart beat.
Today, I did just that. It was hot out – 83 degrees and I went at the warmest time intentionally – from about 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm when it was sunny and I’d have to fight the heat a bit. I have three races coming up in the next few weeks. A marathon on Saturday, Pocatello 50 two weeks after that and Big Horn 50 two weeks after that. Each one is likely to be pretty hot, so this type of training is really essential to help my body adapt to the temperatures and stay steady and strong despite them.
My friend, Donna knew I was considering buying some trekking poles for the two technical, steep 50 milers I have coming up, so she offered to loan me hers for the weekend! That was so nice! I took them with me today since this particular climb is really steep, has some fairly technical sections and would give me a chance to test them out on a shorter run before buying some of my own. I have to say I was impressed with how easy they were to adjust to my height, with how lightweight they were (hers are the Leki brand and they telescope to the size you need), they also were not hard to get in a rhythm with and I liked the ergonomic handles since I found them comfortable and they did not chafe at all. I had decided to hike the entire first half (to the summit) and then run the whole way down – keeping the poles in hand the entire time. Since I just did this same run last Sunday, I also thought it would be interesting to see if I was faster/slower with the poles. This Sunday was about 30 degrees hotter than last Sunday, so I knew that would be a factor that may skew things a bit, but it was still fun to do it and see how it compared overall.
I bumped into a pal on the way up who was coming down. I said, “Hello!” and he said “Hi,” then passed me and I heard him say, “Christie???? Is that YOU?” It turned out to be my pal, Tom! I don’t think he recognized me with my trekking poles, hiking uphill and I didn’t recognize him walking on a downhill (he’s one the of the fastest downhill runners I know.) We both got a good laugh out of that, and stopped to chat about hiking poles. Turns out, he, too, tried a pair on this same path awhile back. He shared some ideas about them, we said our goodbyes and I was off, trudging up the hill again.
I have to admit, I enjoyed the uphill section this week and I don’t think it was the poles that made me feel that way. They were fine and everything, but the main thing that made me enjoy myself more was not having any pressure to run uphill. I just let myself power hike. That’s always what works best for me and when I try to make myself run even some of it, I end up miserable. My right hamstring is still hurting from last Sunday’s hike/run since I was trying my best to push the pace to catch up to my faster friend. I was having a hard time and could not catch up no matter how I tried. So, today, I just relaxed, enjoyed the lovely spring flowers cropping up everywhere on the hillsides and just kept myself steady and determined.
It went well! Despite the heat, I felt strong. I took my S caps and ate as needed and never got tired or needed to slow down my effort level. Once I reached the summit, I snapped a few pictures and stopped to sit on a rock and enjoy the amazing views of the entire valley. I admit, I felt so good, so happy, so open to the beauty and so free to be me, that I cried a little bit. I cleansed some feelings, wiped my tears and then headed down the mountain, feeling refreshed and a little more at peace in my soul.
I almost landed on another bull snake, who was stretching his four feet body across the trail, but thankfully, he turned back and got out of my way before I landed on him! Eeek!
I had the poles fully extended, so ended up running with them held like two long sticks floating vertically above the ground as I flew down the hillside. I had fun, but was thinking, “I think I’ll do it without the poles next time.” My best mile was mile 13 with a pace of 8:37. I ran by feel entirely today. I tuned into my body and finished strong. It felt really good to be in control. I think more training on Lucky Peak will help me with my next two hard fifty milers! I’ll keep doing it!
Elevation Gain: 3,247 feet. Average HR: 157 Max HR: 190
P.S. Interestingly – My overall time was very similar today to last week’s. I don’t think the poles helped me much, but they were really fun to try out! I missed having my hand bottles, which I could not use while holding the poles.
I’ve had a few days to put up my feet and reflect on what went right and what went wrong at The Buffalo Run over the weekend. I am still floating on cloud 9 that I finished my first 100 mile race – and on the first attempt, too! I know that’s a huge accomplishment and I’m insanely proud of myself! But, I also like to really stop and consider the lessons that each race inevitably teaches me. I learned a lot out there in those 30 hours and 11 minutes and I’d like to share it here with all of you, in the hopes that other first-timers can possibly glean something useful out of my own experiences.
What I Did Right
1. I Trained Well
In the past two years that I’ve been trail running, I have gradually built up my stamina, my endurance, my weekly mileage and my elevation gains. I listened to my body, pushed it harder at times and also balanced that with rest. I ran 3 (50) milers in the last 8 months and about 10 (50k) distances in preparation for this goal of a 100 mile race and a ton of other shorter distances getting my body ready for this challenge. I do not believe the 100 mile distance is a wise choice for someone who is a total beginner. Build up to it. My training was consistent. I was committed. I used the training plan from Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell based on 50 miles a week. That was a great guide!
2. I Dialed in my Fueling/Hydration Needs in Training
My first (fat ass) 50k attempt in January of 2010 was a disaster! I was totally inexperienced to trail running and how to fuel for it. I ate too many unfamiliar foods, had GI problems and dropped out at 23 miles to rush off to a bathroom! I thought I’d learned my lessons, but proved in April of 2010 at my first “official” ultra at Weiser River 50k that I was still learning when diarrhea hit me at miles 10 – 20. I spent more time in the bushes than on the trail and came in dead last – but finished!
I kept tinkering with things and slowly but surely found what worked for me. These days I carry two handheld bottles in my training and usually they only hold water. My earlier races, I had relied on Gatorade and for me, that was just too much for a long race for my gut to handle. I do take in some Gatorade or Powerade at aid stations or from a crew, down cups of soda and broth and even fill one of the bottles with Mocha Frappuccino for a caffeine boost and those seem to go down well and keep me going. Other foods that work well for me are Mint Chocolate GU, orange slices, bananas, granola bars (without chocolate!), grapes, half of a peanut butter sandwich, Lunchable crackers and cheese, animal crackers (they had chocolate ones at the Buffalo Run and they really hit the spot!), and the occasional handful of peanut m and ms or peppermints. I also take S caps throughout – approximately 1 per hour or two. Raman noodles were also served and those also were easy to digest and fueled me well.
A friend of mine suggested eating every half an hour to me when I was training for my first 50 miler. I found that to work really well, so that is how I continue to time my eating. I don’t necessarily take in a ton of food either. Sometimes it’s just two bites of a peanut butter sandwich or one GU. I’d say somewhere between 50 – 100 calories per hour while on the move, though that is for my own body (at about 123 lbs) and someone larger would need more calories than that. At aid stations, I try to consume another 100- 150 calories on the spot – downing a paper cup of soda, a cup of broth, an orange slice and a handful of trail mix for instance. I can get those down in about 3 min and be back on the move, with little to carry.
3. Aid Station Efficiency
I was pulled from the Big Horn 50 mile race in June of last year on a time cut off at mile 32. I’d barely missed it. I kicked myself over the next few weeks thinking about how long I’d taken at each aid station socializing, changing shoes, etc. I’ve made it a huge goal of mine to be quick at aid stations now during ultras. I flash my number, get checked in, take what I need quickly and then get out of there. I rarely will sit in a chair during a race. At the Buffalo Run, I sat down at two aid stations. First at the halfway point at mile 50 when I got my night gear and ate more food than usual and second at mile 94 when my blistered feet needed a break. There were 20 aid station stops throughout the race. If I’d dilly dallied even a little bit at each one, I’d have missed the cut off and not completed my first race. On average, I’d say, I spent less than 3 minutes at each aid station – sometimes less than 1 if I didn’t need anything. I’d just check in and right back out and keep moving forward. That is essential if you are a back-of-the-packer like me!
I’ve had the experience of going out too fast in these uber long distance races and regretting it later on. No matter how well you pace in a hundred, you will slow down and get tired by the second half. It’s inevitable. Many of my more experienced 100 miler friends had told me to use the first 50 mile loop as a warm up. To hold way back and rein in my pace. To walk long before I thought I needed to and to intentionally do that from the start. This course is flatter than many 100 milers (about 7,000 of elevation gain throughout) so I needed to be mindful of forcing walk breaks from the start and I did! I had so much energy the first loop, I commented to the aid station workers at mile 34 that I felt as though I’d just started, since I was so fresh! I was leaping for the race photographers, chatting, feeling great – no soreness, no exhaustion, no problems at all for about 45 miles.
Later on, when the bottoms of both of my feet were covered in huge, painful blisters, pace again became a focus. Though the pace in the second half was much slower, I made sure to keep pumping my arms and to force my back to straighten up, knowing those little tweaks would propel me forward just a bit faster – and every little bit helps get you to the finish line sooner!
5. Keeping A Strong Mind
This one alone, I believe is more important than all the other things combined! Without the intense focus on the overall goal, it would be too easy to quit. Ultras DO hurt! You WILL get tired! You will have a thousand logical reasons enter your mind about why you should just pack it in and end the pain!!! But, those who cross the finish line have learned to silence the inner whiner!! They’ve learned to be problem solvers on the spot. Overcome each new obstacle, one at a time and eventually you’ll finish! You must stay positive! You must believe to the core of your gut that YOU have what it takes! If you don’t believe that, you’re not ready. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel cranky out there. It’s normal. But, the overriding mindset has to be “I belong here!” “I can do this!” “No excuses!”
6. Having Support
My good running buddy, Ryan gave me a note before I left for my race. In it, he said the single best advice he could give me was to cherish the time with those who care about me – my family and my friends – since the buckle would lose luster over time, but that the memories of experiencing my race with my five kids and husband crewing for me and my friends out on the course would be the real treasures I’d always have! I really thought about his advice and took it to heart. Each time my family crewed, I made sure to hug the kids, kiss my husband and look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for being here!” I crossed the finish line, hand-in-hand with my beautiful children and my husband. It is a memory I’ll always be thankful for!
Now, that my race is over and I do have the buckle in hand, I can see that he was right. I did a good job of making sure my family felt appreciated and I applied that same mindset to everyone on the course I encountered – especially those hard-working aid station workers who selflessly meet all our needs. I smiled at the other runners as we passed, I high-fived people and I tried not to grouch too much at my faithful pacer, Conner, though I would think that he, of all people, might say I can still use a little work on that one – especially after 80 miles!
7. Remember to have FUN!
While I was running on Antelope Island, I saw buffalo, antelope, a porcupine, horses and several birds and mice! The views from the Island were breath-taking! The Salt Lake was a soothing distraction and reflected the snow-capped mountains in the daytime and the stars and the city lights during the night. The rugged rock outcroppings, the vast meadows of wheat-colored grasses that were taller than I was, the dodging of buffalo chips and the sight of the other runners, their families, the smiling faces, the cheering friends along the course were all things that deserved to be enjoyed and not overlooked! Mentally, I tried to pretend I was just on a training run as much as possible. I’d relax my shoulders, occasionally let my legs stretch out and run fast just for a bit to feel the wind in my face and to really enjoy the moment! I had FUN out there – even when it wasn’t that fun in the last 40 miles or so. The picture at the top was taken at around 20 miles in after running for about 4 hours. I was definitely still in my happy place!! Try to think positive thoughts, savor the fact that you’re on the journey to achieve a life-long dream – and enjoy it as it’s happening as much as possible!
8. Apply Body Glide and Wear Clothing that Doesn’t Irritate You
Amazingly, I had very little chafing in this race. I had one small spot on my lower back from the tag on my underwear rubbing me raw. Normally, I don’t wear that extra layer, so I’ll leave it at home next time and avoid that problem. I was pretty thrilled after 30 hours to have no chafing, though! A nice, little victory to say the least!
What Went Wrong
1. Don’t let small problems become big problems!
I made one big mistake in this race! When my feet started to blister up at around mile 45, I ignored it. I thought being tough was part of the game and that if I ignored the problem my feet would eventually go numb and I’d be fine. Instead, the hot spots I had from that point grew until the balls of both feet, my heels and eventually my toes were all covered in painful, swollen, horribly painful blisters! The toenails on almost every toe lifted straight up as blisters formed under them, too! My feet were a mess! It made it hard to even walk a step – let alone more than 50 miles. I did finish and I made the cut off in that ragged condition, but I now realize that I didn’t have to! I could have listened to my husband and the aid station workers at the half point when they wanted me to take off my shoes and socks and attend to the blisters. I had other socks and shoes right there and could have lanced the blisters, gotten bandaged and went on. Instead, it took more than 30 miles for the big blisters to burst painfully on their own and the others stayed swollen until the race was over and they were attended to.
It was a newbie mistake! I’d only had one blister in the entire two years I’ve been trail running! I’d never lanced one before! I didn’t realize how painful they would get or how they’;d make me cry and mentally get me down. The next time I have an issue like this, I will take care of it right away!
I also ended up with a bad sunburn. I’d applied sunscreen before noon on Friday when the race started. Saturday was hotter than the day before with less cloud cover. My face, my neck, my arms and legs are still painful and a good reminder that I should have taken a couple of minutes from the race to reapply the sunscreen. My husband and my pacer both mentioned it to me. I ignored them and pushed forward, too focused on the time cut off to really think about how that would have been a wise thing to spend some minutes doing.
2. Change Clothing if You Need To
I should have changed clothes on day two when I got too hot. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt since the first day had been really windy. I had a tank top in the bag my husband had. It would have taken just as minute to change the shirt and move the bib, but I chose not to do it. I would have likely felt cooler and been able to move forward a little faster if I’d changed.
I should have changed shoes! There was a timing chip zip locked onto my shoe. I was obsessed about NOT having to deal with cutting that off and getting it back onto another shoe. Somehow I thought it would take several minutes, so I didn’t change shoes even when they got so painful and tight that a friend of mine finally insisted I sit down so he could cut off the tops of my shoes to let my blistered feet have a little more room.
3. Have Charged Garmins for the Entire Race
This is a “me” thing and won’t apply to everyone, but it made me crazy when my 1st Garmin died at mile 47 and my second Garmin died at mile 88, when I was freaking out about the time cut off and also wanting to know “How much further” I had to go as I went. It was miserable not knowing those things. I’d packed a regular watch in my bag and should have had that on for the time. I plan on buying a Forerunner 310xt for the 20 hour battery life for the second half of these hundreds. I really needed to know I was on track in those last miles and feel I’d have been more calm with that information (I’m kind of a data junky and numbers calm me and motivate me!) It was super stressful especially in the last few miles when I’d ask a runner who passed by “How much further” and they’d say, “2 miles”, then 10 minutes later have another runner pass by and when I’d ask they said, “3 miles!” That doesn’t sound like much to feel frustrated about – but by that point, every extra mile I thought I had to go sounded like an eternity and it mentally got me down that I didn’t know the “real” answer.
And, that’s it!!! Overall, I am thrilled to bits about how the race went! I hydrated, fueled, paced and kept mentally strong throughout! I kept my eyes on the prize, but not so much that I ignored those who were there to support me. I enjoyed myself and had a lot of fun!
I’ll buy some better dry-wicking socks and wear bigger shoes before the next one. I’ll take the time to change shoes, socks, clothing if I need to and will apply sunscreen and lip balm (those are burned too) as needed. I’ll also make sure that I have electronics along that can handle the distance. I could have really used some music those last 50 miles when my IPod was dead and having the feedback of my Garmin later on would have been a nice touch, too!
I can’t wait to get out there and do it again – and hopefully even better than the first time!
I spent the last five months specifically training for one goal — to run my first 100 miles! In late June of last year, I ran 50 miles for the first time – and it wasn’t even a race! I ran that distance just to prove to myself that I could go that far since I was pulled on a time-cut off at the Big Horn 50 one week before at mile 32. After finishing that uber long distance for the first time, my husband took a video of my buddy, Ryan and I and asked us this question: “You just ran 50 miles, how do you feel?” I responded: “Crappy!” Ryan (who had just finished his 3rd time of doing 50) “Like a million bucks!” My husband then asked, “Are you ever going to do it again?” I looked away and said, “No!” Ryan said, “Next week!!” and stuck his tongue out!!!!
Well, I lied! I did run 50 again in August at the Wild Idaho race! And, then I did it AGAIN for no good reason in December on a training run – just to prove I could do it without a pacer or crew – and I accomplished it and felt confident – and did it faster than I’d done the previous two. I’d set my sights on running a 100 miles and was determined to train as hard as I could to accomplish the goal!
On Friday, March 23rd, I sang “Happy birthday” to my baby girl, Savannah -the youngest of my five kids, hugged my family and then I headed to the starting line with about 50 other crazy ultra runners out to conquer the 100 miles at the Buffalo Run on Antelope Island – right smack dab in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. The location was spectacular! It was so beautiful!
I got to the back of the pack and started chatting with some of the other ladies nearby. I told them it was my first 100 and that my only goal was to finish and that if I came in at 6:29:59 pm the next day (after running for 30 hours and 29 min and 59 seconds) and made the cut off, I’d be happy! I had no idea how close to that I’d come in the end!!
After race director Jim Skaggs dragged his foot in the dirt for a start line, he yelled, “GO!” and we were off! Tears came to my eyes as I thought about how much I had admired every single one of my ultra marathon friends who’d ran a hundred. I had always called them my heroes -and here I was — trying to become one too! I blew kisses at my five kids and husband as I ran by and settled into an easy, gentle pace. I had a long road ahead and the best advice everyone had given me was to not go too fast in the first 50 miles. I found a great spot behind a man dressed in a court jester outfit! It made me happy to look at his silly costume and it put me in a great mental place to start this mighty journey. Within half a mile, the trail starts climbing upwards and most of the pack slowed to a walk. I did too. I tried to do what those just ahead of me who seemed more experienced did, so I stayed in control and easy but consistent. I relaxed and looked around at the island! The weather was windy (20-30 mph winds), sunny and beautiful out! The temperature was around 50. It was a perfect day to run a 100 miles!
I’d tapered well and my legs felt awesome for the first 45 miles! Every time I’d come across one of the race photographers, I’d leap or throw my hands out wide and grin and smile or stick my tongue out! I was having a ball!!! I had no pain, no exhaustion, no problems for the first ten hours or so. I ate often, took my S caps every hour, kept my pace reeled way in, and listened to my Ipod and felt relaxed and focused. I chit-chatted with the other runners and the wonderful aid station workers, who really went above and beyond at every stop to meet my needs, helping me fill my two hand bottles, offering me broth or orange slices or candy. I made it a point to get in and out of aid stations quickly and I did a great job of that.
My running buddy, Ryan had written me a note before I left. It started with a quote that had really spoken to me, so I’d written that part down and brought it along for the journey, thinking it would be inspirational when the going got tough. It said: “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” – Christian D Larson. Every time I took a gel or an S cap, I’d see that note and read it to myself and it kept me positive and made me smile. Up until mile 45, though, I really had to admit that I’d encountered no “obstacle” but I knew that there was still a long ways to go and I’d certainly find some down the road to contend with. And, I was right!
My Garmin battery died somewhere around mile 46 or so. It was around 11 pm. My feet were starting to hurt with every step as I could feel blisters forming on the balls of both of my feet. The island was beautiful at night. I could see the city lights reflecting on the water. The sky was full of stars and so clear. I was starting to get fatigued and knew there would be no sleep for me that night — instead I’d run right through it and on into the next morning until about dinner time before I’d be able to stop again. The section of trail I was on is very technical and rocky with some climbing. I had to slow way down since my feet were feeling sensitive and I didn’t want to do something stupid with so many miles left to go, so I took my time going gingerly around the rocks. Normally, stuff like that is really fun to kind of run fast through, sort of tip toeing and high-kneeing your way, zig-zag style through like a kid out playing! My feet didn’t want to play that game, though, so I let them take it slow.
I made my way through and then passed a campground where most of the people were sound asleep around midnight. I was running well through this part, since it was a wide road and a bit easier on the feet. I saw a guy, about twenty years old, sitting in front of his tent, watching me. He yelled out, “You’re sexy and you know it! Do you WORK OUT????” and I laughed and kept running, thinking how bizarre it was for a woman to be out alone running in the night like this on an island!
I finally came into the start/finish area at mile 50 and was so excited to see my husband there and my pacer, Conner ready to go. They asked what I needed and I told them I needed to eat and to go to the bathroom. I mentioned my sore feet and the aid station workers asked if I wanted them to look at them or if I wanted to change shoes or socks. I said no. I was thinking about my friend, Dennis. He has told me that he prefers not to change shoes or socks in ultras since they’ll just get dirty again quickly anyways. I thought I was being smart by not taking time to at least check on those feet, but I was wrong. Since I haven’t had much experience with blisters or super long distance races, I really didn’t understand the consequences of not attending to a problem early on before it became a bigger problem. So, I didn’t even look at my feet, I got my warmer clothes on, ate some food and took off with my pacer into the night to run the entire loop that I’d just completed again. I’m not sure what time I left, but I think it was around 1 am. I’d taken about half an hour in that aid station, which was also too long and I was in a hurry to get back into my groove and head towards the mountain I’d need to climb for the second time.
Conner and I found a comfortable pace and he did a good job of making sure I stayed hydrated and fed as we made progress down the trail. We saw eyes in the night and realized a buffalo was just off the trail and I reminded him not to make eye contact or freak it out with our headlamps. We just kept moving forward and tried not to make a lot of noise to upset it. Conner looked for the smoother sections of the trail, which were a bit hard to come by. It was rugged and rocky, and my feet were really hurting with the uneven terrain, since the blisters were swelling and had not popped. At this point, when I’d read the quote, it meant something. I’d found my “obstacle” and I kept saying, “You can overcome this! You can do this!” I was wearing calf compression sleeves that my friend, Les had given to me. I was holding Ryan’s hand bottle and had his note in it. I was also wearing Michelle’s Garmin on my wrist. All of those things reminded me that I was not out there on this journey alone. That I had many friends who cared about me and who were with me in spirit cheering me on! I imagined my five kids saying, “GO Mom! You can do it!”, my husband, Wayne looking me in the eye and saying, “Everything’s going to be ok! You can do this!”, I thought of my parents back home wishing me well, all of my trail running friends, my Daily Mile friends, my Facebook pals – just all of them and I felt comforted, even as the night grew long, the fatigue set in and my feet started to hurt so much with every step that I wanted to cry. And, cry I did at times. The pain on the bottoms of both feet was excruciating — like knives being jabbed over and over along the balls and heels – and by that point – the toes and toenails too, as they started lifting, one by one up from their beds as blisters formed underneath them. Every time I’d bump a rock or step on uneven surface, I’d wince. I’d tell myself, “Pretend you’re on a training run. Pretend you feel fine. That you’re fresh!” and it would help. I’d force myself to put my foot down fully and let the foot roll through as normal since I knew altering my gait would probably cause other issues. I played mental games with myself over and over out there those last 50 miles. It helped. Then, the pain would be unbearable and some tears would fall, but I’d whisper, “There’s something inside you that is GREATER than ANY obstacle” and I’d keep moving forward, step by painful step.
As the sun was coming up, as I was finally coming off the 20 mile loop, I sent my pacer ahead to tell my family I was coming into the start/finish area again. This was Saturday morning and about 700 other racers were now on the course too — the 50 milers, the 50kers and the 25kers. It was surreal to see their headlamps bobbing along when we’d been alone for so long out there, quite spaced out from the other 100 milers. It was so painful when some of them went by if I tried to move off the trail to make room for the fast ones. They were coming at me fresh and full of energy. I was hurting, tired and I still had another 30 miles to go, but many of them saw my bib and realized I was a 100 mile runner and they said things like, “Way to go!” “Looking strong” “Awesome” and smiled at me. That really lifted my mood and pushed me onward.
As I came into the 70 mile checkpoint, just hobbling on my raw feet, I saw my family. I wanted to hold them so bad. I was so tired. I started to cry. My husband held me and said, “It’s going to be ok! You can do this!” Just then, my Daily Mile friend, Jeremy, who I’d never even met in person, walked up to me and said, “Are you Christie?” I nodded and only just then remembered that he was going to join me for a few miles. I had looked so forward to that and somehow in my pain had forgotten I had a friend waiting for me! I apologized for the tears, gave him a hug and then we took off down the trail. It was wonderful to have a new face to see and someone with fresh energy to talk to. It was a happy distraction and very quickly I went from being sad to being hopeful again. But, I was really scared about the time cut offs at this point! I’d lost a lot of time on the 20 mile loop. The day before, taking it easy, I’d done that section in 4 hours. Through the night on blistered feet it had taken 7!!!!!! I was slowing way down and it took so much strength to just keep moving forward. My husband had said something about needing to stay at a 16 min pace to make the cut off and the more I thought about — ok – OBSESSED about that — the more frightened I became that I wouldn’t make the cut off. Tears came again the more I thought about it, since the pain was overwhelming by this point in my blistered feet. My hips were sore, my shoulders felt saggy and I felt the weight of the world on them. I no longer grinned at the racers who went past. I stared at the ground, tears sometimes just falling into the dirt as I shuffled along at the best walk pace I could muster in that state.
Jeremy and Conner tried to cheer me up. It worked at times. Other times, I just zoned out in the pain zone and just stared at the trail in front of me and kept shuffling. The sun was up. It was getting really hot and I was still wearing my long sleeved shirt and tights but I was too scared of the time cut off to take even a few minutes to remove them. At every aid station, I would check in and grab a couple things to eat, then head back out. They’d say, “Want to sit down? Would you like more to eat?” and I’d say “I can’t fail at this!!! I have to keep moving!!!” and head off again. I was so afraid I wouldn’t make the cut off. My pace was more like an 18 – 20 min pace as I moved. Finally, my husband could see that I was in a bad state mentally and he said to me at one of the aid stations, “You’re ok! I thought it would motivate you to tell you that you needed to go that fast. You really can go closer to a 20 min pace and make the cut off!” My eyes grew wide and I said, “Are you serious?!!! THAT I can do!! Why didn’t you tell me that hours ago?! I’m on pace for that and I have HOPE again!” That also relieved me just enough that I took an extra minute and removed the tights. I had on shorts and the long sleeved tech shirt and it was scorching hot!!! They asked if I wanted sunscreen. I said “NO! I have to finish!” and kept going. The sunburn on my face and neck, arms and legs later would remind me I should have taken that extra minute too.
Along the way, I’d be able to see my family from time to time. I’d hear my five kids yelling out the window of the Suburban, “GO MOM!!” and it would take my suffering away for a minute and remind me of what mattered most in my life!!! I’d wave and smile at them until they were out of sight and think, “Keep moving until that finish line and then you’ll get to hug them all again!”
I got crankier and tireder and slower, but I kept going. I remember at mile 94 finally agreeing to sit down for a minute at Jeremy’s aid station. He’d been so nice to run out and ask if I needed anything even before I got there. That was great service! The views of the Salt Lake were incredible right there and I just took in the view for a few minutes while I sipped broth and ate an orange slice and some soda. I just wanted it to be over. I heard the man there radio in that I was through and still in good spirits. That made me smile. I was still kidding around a bit with them, even though I was so tired and so sore. I no longer had working Garmin, so I could not judge distance and I was moving so slow that every mile felt like an eternity. It was really late, so there were very few other runners still on the course. Jeremy made me feel good, though when he said I was over an hour ahead of the cut off for his aid station. That made me smile and renewed my focus, so I got up and headed out, determined to go, go, go until I got that buckle and finished this thing!
There’s an uphill, rugged section right after this that hurt so very much on my blistered feet. Conner kept telling me I was doing great! He was trying hard to keep me positive. I’d grit my teeth and start swinging my arms faster and it would move my pace up and he’d say, “Wow!! Look at you GO!” and I’d almost want to laugh thinking how slow I really must be going compared to normal – but I knew every bit of energy forward would help the suffering end sooner!
When we got to the rocky, technical section that I’d ran in the dark the night before so gingerly something overcame me — some animal inside of me was unleashed!!!!! I set my jaw and swung my elbows hard and shocked myself when I started RUNNING hard and fast and lifting my knees and hopping over those crazy, irregular rocks! I was insane! I was glaring at the course, thinking, “You got me last night! I can NOT be broken that easy!!! Don’t you KNOW I’m a badass???!!!!!!” It sounds nuts, but I was able to keep that up and ran at least a mile and a half like that – at what I will only have to guess was about a 10 min pace. My pacer was gasping, “What the heck?? Where did THAT come from?” behind me!!!!! I saw the looks on the faces of a few bikers who pulled off the path and saw me coming like a maniac when Conner said, “She’s a hundred miler! I think she’s ready to be DONE!” One of the guys bowed at me. That made me feel awesome and more determined!!
Then it was over. The big moment. The push. I had no Garmin, so I had no idea how much further I had to run. Someone who passed by said, “Oh, just two more miles.” Ten minutes later another runner passed and said, “Oh, just three more miles.” My shoulders slumped. I was so tired. I hurt so much. I flopped onto a rock. Conner did the same and we let a few 50k and 50 mile runners pass us as they picked up their speed in the final climb to the finish. I just didn’t have it in me anymore. My little burst was gone. I remember staring at the dirt and thinking, “Dang, I’m tired. I’d really like to just lay down right there and take a good nap! I don’t want to play this game anymore. It’s too hard!” But, I didn’t do that. I took a breath, focused on my kids being at the finish line waiting for me and I got back up — slowly, painfully and hobbled forward.
Inch by inch I got closer. I could see the finish line tent. It seemed so very, very far away. It’s funny how a couple of miles normally seems so easy — so short! At that point, it sounded nearly impossible to cover that far of a distance on my feet. One runner who passed by joked that he’d offer me a piggyback but that he was too tired. I answered back, “I didn’t go THIS far just to get disqualified for a piggyback this close, but thanks!” hehe.
About a mile from the finish, I saw my friend Tiffany!!!! She’d come from Idaho and was there to cheer me on!!!! Man, that was an amazing feeling, seeing someone I care about right then! I needed it bad!!! She told me I was her hero and that I inspired her. I hugged her and we fell into step running – yes RUNNING, as my brain realized it was almost over for real! Her company made that last stretch a joy – a painful one still – but so much better than when I was alone. My pacer had headed on ahead to let my family know I was coming in.
As I got within a quarter of a mile of the finish line, my family came towards me with open arms, the kids cheering and saying, “You DID it, MOM!!! We’re so proud of you!!” and happy tears came to my eyes as I reached for their embraces!!! I grabbed the hands of my 5 and 7 year old daughters and the whole family held hands as we headed towards the finish together — as a team! Conner and Tiffany took pictures and we stopped and smiled, a few runners passing us by as they finished up their journeys too.
When I saw the finish line, my instincts kicked in. Savannah and Anneliese and I picked up the pace, those who had stayed to see the final runners cheered and I got the biggest smile on my face as I crossed the finish line! I DID IT!! I ran a hundred miles!!!!!!!!!!
I had ached for that belt buckle – that symbol that proves I’d done this for months and now it was my chance to hold it! I limped over to the man handing out the finisher prizes and he handed me a ceramic soup bowl. I stared at it and at him and said, “I’m a hundred miler! I earned a buckle!” He looked at my bib, took back the 50k, 50 miler prize and then reached into the box to grab MY prize — the BUCKLE – and handed it over to me!!!! I pumped it up into the air and yelped out, “YEAH BABY I DID IT!!!!!! and my husband started taking pictures!
I finished in 30:11 — about 18 minutes and some change before the cut off! I was the 34th (and last) person to finish the hundred that day. There were a lot of casualties out there. It was a tough course. The weather had been hot. I’d seen one friend vomiting on the side who had to quit. I heard about another woman who had a fracture. I was the 4th female to cross the line. I think 4 more had started. I was first – and ONLY in my age group! Wow, I did it!!! I dreamed a big dream and it came true!!
My feet are a mess! I couldn’t even walk into the house when we drove the 4 1/2 hours home after the race. My sweet husband had to carry me in. I’m sunburned, I’m sore and I’m insanely HAPPY and proud of myself! Will I do another? Oh yeah, baby!!! I can do this!!!!! But, first I need a nice long NAP!!