Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bighorn 100 miler


JUNE 15-16, 2012

In the months leading up to this race I had been preparing mentally and physically for a pacing job for my good running friend Emily.  She was running the Salt Flats 100 and my pacing job would include 55+ miles of basically flat running.  Once that race was complete (end of April 2012) I became a climbing machine.  Every single run that I did with the exception of my Thurs night running group included some sort of climbing.  I started with a Tues night group with Ulli Kamm who is a master ultrawalker.  He has walked a zillion 100 milers and yes, WALKED them.  He has made his art of walking at a fast enough pace that he can beat the cutoffs.  At the 24 hour run in March, I “walked” with him during one of the 2.5 mile loops.  He was walking a 11:30-12 min/mi while I ran this pace.  I was amazed at his walking pace.  He started a Tues night fast hike in the foothills.  This became my weekly speed work and I feel this had a significant impact on my ability to power through some of the uphill sections at a good clip as I channeled my Ulli-walk.  Nonetheless, I focused 100% of my efforts during training to climbing.  My next race was supposed to be 100K in Silver City, ID 6/23/2012 with over 15K’ gain.  My friend Emily started tempting me about doing Bighorn, but I’d have to give up my Silver City 100K as BH was the weekend prior, 6/14-15/2012.  I felt ready.  In fact, I had felt ready even before the April Salt Flats 100.  Emily and I had even discussed me just signing up for that 100.  I decided against it but BH was totally my style.  Rugged, mountainous, steep and tough as nails.  Yep, that’s my race.  So I signed up on 5/10/2012.  I was already climbing like a wild maniac and now I just needed a little more focus in the long run dept and I was ready.  Mentally I wanted to go run the race the next day but my physical training was not complete and it was crucial to my ultimate success. 

5/12 – 15 miles at Wilson Creek, did the 20M loop backward basically but cut off the easier beginning. – 3343’ of gain

5/19 – 21 miles in the foothills with Emily and Sam – 4300’ of gain

5/26 – 43 miles WC Marathons, over 10K’ of elevation gain – 13hrs

6/2 – 14 miles at Stack Rock, 2876’ of gain

The taper couldn’t have begun at a better time.  4 Sat in a row of getting up at 3AM was starting to wear on me and more importantly Craig who was left to fend for Sat morning mayhem with four kids by himself. 

We left on Wed after work to drive to Dillon MT.  It was a great plan as we only had to drive 6 hours and then would get a good night sleep before driving the remaining way to Sheridan on Thurs.  Drop bags and race packet pick up lasted until 6pm on thurs.  Sam and I decided to join the pre-race meal at a FREE all you can eat buffet of pizza, pasta, salad, and chicken.  It was perfectly delicious and wonderful company.  If I learned nothing else this weekend it was how much of a great man Sam is.  He was solidly placed in the “honey pie” category of my mind.  Emily and Margie had dinner with their grandparents in Sheridan but we were all back to the cabin in the Dayton park by 8:30.  There was some last minute packing and repacking of my Nathan.  I was sleeping in the back of M&D’s highlander which actually made for a roomy, warm place of solitude and comfort.  I lay on my sleeping bag staring up at the stars thinking about how less than 24 hrs would go by and I’d be running my little heart out under the stars.  I wondered if I’d be scared.  I wondered if I’d be tired.  I wondered just how I would feel come night time.  Something amazing had happened….the same thing that occurred at my first ultra (50K at WIFKER in 8/2011).  The mountains possessed the peace.  The peace that passes all understanding.  I really SHOULD be nervous as heck but I was calm in my core.  I thought maybe I was just being na├»ve just as I had suspected in 8/2011 at WIFKER but what I found was that I just had nothing to be anxious about. 

The race started at 11AM.  I liked this actually because then we could hang out and relax before the race started.  I woke up multiple times in the night but was easily able to fall back to sleep.  I felt mostly rested when I got up at 6:45AM.  Breakfast was pumpkin bread (thanks to Day Doughman), oatmeal , banana and coffee (thank you Sam).   The pre race meeting was at 9 in the park next to the campground.  I was grateful that I got all my stuff ready before hand.  The meeting lasted over an hour and there was barely enough time to get back to the cabin to put my shoes on, have a few pictures and we were off to the start line. 

L to R: top row: Dennis Ahern, Lynette McDougal, Mike Place bottom row: myself, Sam Collier, Emily Berriochoa

The start felt kind of rushed since we barely made it to the start line.  I still did not feel rattled in my core like my norm before most races.  I just felt excited like I was starting out on a journey of a lifetime….that is exactly what I was doing.  THREE…..TWO……ONE……GO!  Emily and I brought up the rear while Sam was jumping around us like a wild hyena taking pictures.  Right away we met a guy named Jerry.  Emily had run with him last year.  He showed us this rose plant that you could actually eat the blossom of the flower.  We even tried it!  It was kind of good and sweet amazingly enough.

L to R: myself, Jerry and Emily

A little over a mile on the road and we were headed up the trail.  It was a bit rugged at the start and I was thinking to myself “I wonder how this will feel tomorrow on my way down”.  Sam finally passed as did Jerry after a mile or so on the trail.  After about 3-4 miles Emily finally passed me as I was making what felt like an insanely slow pace.  I was falling into the slump that I was feeling maybe would happen as it had been the norm for the beginning of all my recent long training runs.  I slumped lower and lower as I watched Sam and Emily get further and further away as the climbing felt utterly relentless and painful.  It was painful not in my feet or legs but my breathing.  This was a bit of foreshadowing of the prevailing issue that would hold me back in this race. 

I had hoped to make it to the Upper Sheep Creek AS by 1:30pm with needing only 2:15 to get there from the TH.  This 7 mile section has almost 4500’ of gain.  When I had made the pacing chart I had vacillated between 2:45, 2:30 and finally decided on the 2:15 to try and push myself to get up there quicker.  This just wouldn’t be the case. It was close to 2pm when I arrived at Upper Sheep.  I quickly grabbed food and was out.  This next section was a matter of getting my running feet suited up and ready to go.  Just as the Dry Creek AS appeared I was finally starting to feel comfortable and like I could really do this thing.  *Dennis always says it takes 20ish miles to warm up and apparently that applied to me too*

Dry Creek AS Mile 13.4 3:15PM

I was in and out within 10 min. Drank an Ensure and grabbed some baggies of food from the table.  I was definitely staying on top of my food and hydration.  I felt awesome and at this point caught up with Emily at the AS.  We left out of there together.  This was a nice decent out of Dry Creek and a totally runnable section.  I was running mostly and just power walked at times.  After a few miles Emily and I did get separated but we had made a decision weeks before this race ever started.  We were not running together, we each were running our own race and if that put us together, great.  If not, carry on and FINISH. 

Cow Camp AS Mile19.5 4:45PM

I was happy with my split time as I had kept a good pace and with the cloud cover and optional sprinkles at times, the weather was perfectly conducive to running.  I saw Emily come into this AS as I was leaving.  This was the last time I saw her for more than 10 hours.

The next seven miles seemed to drag on into eternity.  I had been getting used to the close AS and this one for some reason was getting on my nerves.  I leap-frogged with Jerry quite a bit in here as well as a girl named Chelsea.  Both of these runners DNF’ed.  There were meadows to run through and I was very, very focused on the trail.  When I did look up, it was gorgeous.  There was one section of what appeared to be like a dead tree forest.  It was kind of darkish, no trees had any green on them that I could see.  Maybe their needles and leaves were so high up, I never checked.  Nonetheless, I was going to count the meadows through here but forgot and just knew there were more than 5 from previous race reports.  It was kind of cool to run through a meadow and then into the thick tree cover and then out to the meadow again. 

Bear Camp AS Mile 26.5 6:30PM

Once again I had a very quick in and out AS stop.  Getting water as needed and grabbing food and heading out.  I was happy that I would try to make it to Footbridge in an hour and have a drop bag to see again.  I was mentally planning for night clothes and what I would take with me.  I was just not cold in any way but knew that the possibility of being cold was very real.  I again stayed on target for my pace. 

Footbridge AS Mile 30 7:30PM in, 7:45 OUT

I sat down for the first time.  There were no people around me in the area where they had the chairs and crew stuff.  I pulled my pants over my shoes which is what took the longest.  I put my arm sleeves on, tied a long sleeve shirt and a light jacket both around my waist.  I downed another Ensure.  I took my hat, neck bandana and sunglasses off.  Put on my WIFMER hat, neck gaitor and headlamp around my neck.  I stopped quickly at the food table and also filled my Nathan.  As I was filling my Nathan I was kneeling down and thinking how I’d run so far already and nothing in my body was aching or even feeling tired at all, not even my knees as I knelt down.  Just amazing and crazy all at the same time. 

I took off right behind a guy that I would also leap frog with for a while.  I channeled my Ulli walk for this section.  I was taking note of the terrain in this area.  It was rocky and technical terrain.  Slippery if you aren’t careful.  The trail was narrow in some sections and the river was dropping down on the left hand side as we climbed.  It was at this point that I decided I was on a mission to get as far as possible before I started seeing fellow runners on their way back down. 

I made it to Narrows AS w/in an hour (8:45) still in the light and I was happy to check off yet another AS that I passed in the light.  I met a fellow runner Kyle there.  He was sitting and not looking too well.  I grabbed a hand full of cheese-itz here and headed out.  Kyle said as I left, I think I’ll try to go with her and see if I can get up 500’ feet and see how I do.  He fell in right behind me.  He said that he had been very dizzy and having problems with feeling nauseated.  We went through the normal check list of items to try and discover the cause of which every system seemed to check out normal except that he was dizzy.  Kyle felt that he was probably altitude sick.  I was channeling my Ulli walk in this section and keeping a quick clip of 16-17 min/mi up the 18 mile trek up to Porcupine.  We chatted for a bit and I wanted to start pulling away.  Kyle was from MN but he had lived in ID for a few years on the east end of the state.  He said he climbed Mt. Borah a few times and never had any problems with the altitude…even more perplexing why he was having problems now.  Nonetheless, some guys caught up with us and that gave me the perfect opportunity to pull away.  The first runner coming down (Mike Foote 18:36:42) passed by me at 9:36pm.  Shortly after I put my headlamp on and felt happy that I no longer had to SEARCH for a place to go to the bathroom.  That is the one annoying thing that I can never find a happy way to take care of when all the tons of people are around. 

I reached Spring Marsh (mile 40 11:45PM) and put my long sleeve under armor shirt on while I filled up my Nathan.  I carried out some soup and pressed forward.  I was on a mission.  I wanted to get as far as possible before I ran into Dennis.  I knew he’d be the first one in the Boise group to meet me on the way back down.  I wanted to show him how good I was doing and that I could really do this….I’m a real trail runner.  The trek from Narrows to Spring Marsh seemed like a really long time and I looked for Jeremy Humphrey…unbeknownst to me, he’d dropped at 30 miles….yet another eaten by the trail.  I arrived at Elk Camp (43.5 miles 1AM) getting very excited that I had yet to meet Dennis.  I also was feeling good that Emily hadn’t caught up with me since I was certain this was the section she would catch up with me.  She always passes me on the climbs and I usually pass her on the downs.  Elk Camp was all lit up with a fire and a huge spread of food, soup and people!  I met a guy there that was on his way back down.  I asked him what the terrain was like from here to the turnaround.  I had begun to encounter some very mushy and boggy ground.  I just wanted to know what to expect from here.  He said that it got much worse about a ½ mile out.  There would be a large section of bog, then snow drifts, then a creek cross and then more bog, snow and creek, repeat.  He said he didn’t want to scare me but just wanted to be honest.  I appreciated very much his honesty in those moments.  I was having some minor issues with the altitude.  I didn’t like how hard it made me breathe and if I pushed too hard my muscles would burn, reminding me that they were being deprived of some O2. 

A very short way out of Elk Camp, literally just as the light of the fire had disappeared and the sound of the people was gone, I could hear low, deep growling.  I stopped, hoping it was just something on my pack.  I heard it again and decided the only thing for me to do here was to run.  Surprisingly enough I didn’t get hysterical.  However, a few minutes later I heard a VERY loud bugling sound.  I don’t know if it was an elk or a moose but whatever it was, it was LOUD.  All of these noises and I was ready to get the heck up outta Dodge.  I took off running for about 5 seconds until I hit the massive bog that required just stepping and finding the place where you will sink the least.  As a side note, I still had not put on my jacket. I was in my arm sleeves w/ WIFKER shirt and an under armor long sleeve shirt over the top.  This was work through here and I was not getting cold!  I pressed forward.  Less than a mile out of Elk Camp I ran into Dennis.  I recognized his voice as he said “good job runner”.  “Dennis?” I said, “It’s Amy!”  He stopped dead in his tracks.  “Oh my gosh, you are up here this high already?!  You are kicking ass.” He gave me a huge two armed hug and sent me on my way.  Talk about a HUGE boost to my psyche.  I was really happy that Dennis was proud of me.  I ran into Lynette about a mile later and then finally Sam when I was about ½ mile from Devil’s Cyn Road.  Every person that I ran into immediately wanted to know about Emily.  I hadn’t seen her since I left Cow Camp but I was certain she was very close behind. 

I finished the slow slog in the mud over Devil’s Cyn road and down into Porcupine.  That last mile from the road to the AS seemed like an eternity. Once at the Porcupine AS (mile 48, 2:30AM) I was very unprepared for what I was about to witness.  It looked like a morgue or a hospital and not the happy AS I was expecting.  Trail carnage lay everywhere.  People huddled around a small stove in the corner with a glazed over look in their eyes.  There were other people stooped over in chairs hanging their heads.  It was far too early to have the 50 mile runners up here (50 mile race started at 5AM) so I knew these were 100 milers that were dropping, more fodder for the trail.  Once again, I was aghast at what I saw.  A medical person came over and quickly got my pulse (146) and O2 sats (91% which she said everyone was running low at that 9000’ altitude but knowing with my medical knowledge that this is still WNL) and asked how I felt.  I honestly couldn’t believe how good I felt.  I told her I was feeling fine but was wishing to get out of the place where all the runners were dropping.  She just giggled.  A wonderful AS worker brought me my drop bag.  I downed an Ensure quickly.  I had a second headlamp in my bag but one of the workers told me that the sun would be up at 4:30 so I decided my light weight (actually Craig’s) Petzel would be just fine since I had just less than 2 hours before daylight.  I went to the food table.  I grabbed a cup of chicken something soup with chunks of chicken in it along with a baggie of fruit.  I checked out of Porcupine and I was homeward bound. 

Porcupine arrival turnaround - 2:43AM (1st half – 15 hrs, 43 min) cutoff 5AM

I began immediately hoping to see Emily.  I had been absolutely positive that I would see her at one of the AS on the way up thinking she would catch me on the 18 mile climb.  I was excited to see her and tell her how great I was doing.  Looking back in this moment that I’m writing this, I’m feeling very selfish.  Selfish for not caring more about another runner who has taught me so unselfishly about her love of the 100 mile distance and how I could accomplish it.  She let me use her lessons that she learned at Bear 100 in 2010 when she missed the cutoffs but still accomplished an unofficial finish.  She taught me about a flexible mind when things didn’t always go my way, about how to push through when I felt like all hope was lost, how to run smart and follow a plan (flexibly) to attain a goal.  With just under a mile out from the AS, right after I crossed Devil’s Cyn Rd, there she was.  FINALLY!  She was in a hurry to get to Porcupine and didn’t stop even for a millisecond.  That was the right choice since this is a race with cutoffs after all, but I couldn’t help but listen to the sinking feeling in my gut.  I couldn’t decide what it was and tried to tell myself it was just maybe like Salt Flats when she was tired in the night.  She said that didn’t happen last year at BH for her but maybe it was this year.  I didn’t know and I worked very hard in that section to stop worrying.  I needed to focus on my race.  I never could shake that feeling in my gut until I saw her later in the race (or so I thought I saw her).  The slog down to Elk Camp took a million years.  I fell literally twice in this section.  That has NEVER happened before.  I’ve only ever fallen once (12/2011) and it was so slight that my knee barely touched the ground.  This time, I was in a snow drift and I slipped as I was trying too hard to run.  I feel on my ass and it did freak me a bit but not too awful.  A short time later I literally slipped again and fell so hard on my ass that I thought “if my tongue was between my teeth I think I would have bit it off”.  That fall rattled me and I made the decision that I would not be trying to run anymore until after it got light out again.  I passed through Elk Camp again barely even stopping. 

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that running lifts my spirit and when I spend too much time power walking or hiking, I get run down in my spirit.  Spending well over 1.5 hrs power walking felt like an eternity.  The other thing that I realized was brining me down was I wasn’t looking forward to seeing anyone anymore.  I wouldn’t be passing anyone anymore.  I didn’t have a goal of where to get before I saw anyone.  All the walking and the shear absence of a short term goal was causing me to spiral out of control into a negative mind set.  I did realize this was happening but almost felt helpless or like I didn’t care anymore.  I passed through Spring Marsh quickly and it was light out.  I knew the length between Spring Marsh and Narrows was quite a ways and I would need to keep my mind occupied.  I remembered what Emily said about an iPod maybe being helpful when needing to take your mind somewhere else.  I put my iPod in and it was a pleasant surprise.  Unfortunately my pace stayed at about a 20 min/mi which is just deplorable in my mind.  I could tell I was going tremendously slow.  Nothing hurt really and I knew I should be running. The sun was up and it was time to get my groove on.  This is where I could really start running.  I let my mind think about the upcoming wall, the haul, think about what time it was and how much further I had to go and how many more hours I would be “out there”.  It was all so overwhelming.  I went through Narrows and something clicked there.  I made the decision that I could get to Footbridge by 9:15 and I was going to make it happen.  I ran a lot in this section.  Of course with more running, my spirit began to lift.  I was getting passed by the fast 50 milers who were the speedsters.  I couldn’t believe they were running as fast as they were.  I knew Christie and Rachel were doing the 50 miler and I wondered how much longer before they caught up with me too.  I began to catch up to and pass some of my fellow 100 milers and that felt nice.  I strolled into Footbridge right at 9:14.  I downed an Ensure, took off my night clothes (forgot my sunglasses and THOUGHT my sunscreen was at Dry Fork which it was not).  I was trying to get down some potatoes and a biscuit.  The biscuit was hopeless and I wished I had gravy but milk products don’t set well with me during a run so I passed on gravy.  I changed my shoes and socks.  I was so surprised to find that I had barely two tiny blisters that didn’t hurt at all on the insides of my heels.  I’ve had blisters there before and the skin there is quite thick.  Anyway, I changed into a clean pair of smart wool socks and my Brooks Cascadias.  I heard an AS worker asking another guy if he was ready for “the wall”.  I was so dreading this and trying to stay positive with all my might. 

Footbridge arrival in: 9:14AM – out 9:30 (cutoff 11AM)

The trail out of Footbridge starts an immediate climb.  Climbing and climbing and more climbing.  I was trying to hurry because this time I was a million percent positive that Emily would catch me here and if she didn’t, it would be Christie or Rachel.  I tried to push through this section but climbing was a mental block that I couldn’t break through.  I was literally allowing myself to be going a 30 min/mi pace through here.  Absolutely unacceptable!  According to my garmin I had four miles in a row that were between 23-30 min/mi pace.  I kept stopping and breathing and allowing myself to feel tired or giving voice to the “this is hard” part of my brain.  Just not ok.  I had dreaded this part and now was acting as though I hadn’t trained for this!  DAMN IT!!! I turned around at one point and Emily was right on my tail, she couldn’t have been more than 100 yards down the wall from me.  It spurred me to just put my head down and GO already.  Geez that was frustrating.  I finally made it to Bear camp and started to run….finally RUN!  There were many 50 milers now going my pace.  I turned around as I got into Bear camp expecting Emily to be right behind me.  She wasn’t there so I pushed through.  I was looking forward to her company at this point in the race and kind of hoping that we'd have the last part of this race to enjoy together.  They had awesome sunscreen toilettes and I used that on my arms and face.  I headed out toward Cow Camp. 

I remember it feeling like a long haul between Bear Camp and Cow Camp but I don’t remember that it would be climbing.  There weren’t any WALLS but there were short climbs that seemed to just take the life out of me.  It was so frustrating.  I would pass several people on the flat and down sections because I was running but then I’d get passed like I was standing still on the up hills.  It was really getting old.  I was surrounded by 50 milers and I felt like I was the last 100 miler in the entire race.  I averaged 17-18 min/mi through this section.  I finally reached Cow Camp and stopped to fill up my Nathan.  I had taken out quite of bit of food that I didn’t think I needed at Footbridge.  I did have the chomps that I needed.  I’d gone through all my shot blocks.  These (and Ensure) were really what I was using for electrolyte replacement.  I set my chomps on the table while one of the AS workers filled my Nathan and I filled a baggie with fruit and also stuffed my face full of whatever sounded good.  I had one gel and my chomps to get me to Dry fork where I had more food.  I left out of there forgetting all my food AND chomps on the table.  All I had was a gel!  I didn’t realize until I was too far out to even consider turning back around. 

I waited as long as I could but I wanted to run into Dry Fork (except the haul) and so I ate my gel early on.  I started running and was averaging again 17-18 min/mi until I got to the haul and began to slow tremendously.  My garmin says when I had a mile with 400+’ of gain I slowed to a 29 min/mi.  That is so absolutely unacceptable.  It tells me that this is completely a mental breakdown.  Nonetheless, I convinced myself that I was calorie depleted (which I was to some degree) and was hating ever step.  I could see the Dry Fork AS from far away, just like Emily had said.  I wondered just how many miles away I was.  It seemed like a million.  I would go down into a small gully and come up on the next rolling hill and the AS seemed just as far off as it had before.  I knew Margie would be there and I had heard her mention to Emily that they had binoculars and all kinds of things ready to be spectating from a long way off. I imagined that they were watching me and then looking back at Emily since I’d seen her multiple times.   I also imagined that Christie and Rachel were close behind and Margie was watching them too.  I tried to look strong and not show how tired I was.  But I was staring at what appeared to be the biggest baddest ugliest climb in the world, right into dry fork.  WTF is going on?  I did NOT remember running down this section yesterday when I had left out of dry fork?!  I timed a lady in hot pink going up the hill since she’d been at a steady pace in front of me for some time.  I figured she was going about my pace.  She was up the hill in 3 minutes.  That was a huge surprise to me.  I decided right there that I was being the biggest baby in the world and could do anything for 3 minutes.  I had hoped to get up to Dry Fork by 3:15 and started the uphill climb at 3:12.  It took me 5 minutes.  Margie was at the top and I nearly had a complete hysterical breakdown.  I was so happy to see her, I was exhausted, I needed food and I wanted to know where Emily was.  I’m not sure what order all of that came out but I distinctly remember her pause in her voice about Emily.  She said that Emily didn’t make the cutoff at Footbridge.  I could not believe what my ears were hearing.  This isn’t true!  I’ve seen her right behind me so many times.  She really is RIGHT THERE…I’m sure of it! I tried to explain to Margie, but she would not listen to me at all, this was all business and we could talk about this all at the finish line.  She gave me my Ensure and I downed two of them.  I had two gels from my drop bag and Margie let me borrow her sunglasses since I’d left mine at Footbridge.  I put a hat on as well.  I grabbed a baggie of food, dumped my trash and walked out. 

Dry Fork arrival in 3:17PM – out 3:36 (cutoff 4pm)

At this point, either the gushing of liquid into my belly or the emotion of what I just learned, I couldn’t run. I was massively nauseated.  I walked fairly slow since it was all I was capable of in that moment.  Margie walked out with me for a little under a mile when we meet Dwight (Em and Marg’s dad) and he went out with me for about 2 more miles.  It was nice to have company but I don’t think I made any good company for Dwight.  I was just on autopilot.  My belly had calmed down.  I knew I had to get to Upper Sheep by 5:30 and I wanted to get there by 4:45. 

At this point I was hotty-mungus and every section between AS seemed like a lifetime.  I really felt like I ran just to the very brink of falling over and then walked until I couldn’t stand it.  Nothing was hurting really.  When I ran, I imagined that I was shaking out my muscles kind of like after a set in weight training when you shake it out.  I didn’t have anything that was excruciating at this point.  My feet weren’t so happy and I could tell that I had blisters on the bottoms of my feet just like I did at the end of the 24 hr endurance run.  I just ran as much as possible.  I arrived at Upper Sheep at 4:50 (5 min later than I wanted). 

Upper Sheep in 4:50pm (cutoff 5:30pm)

I was happy that I recognized some of this area and I was about to mentally bomb through the ugly uphill section that felt like it kicked my ass into next week.  I did bomb down the hills and passed again multiple 50 milers and a few more 100 milers.  Some of these people never made the cutoffs.  They were walking and needed to be running.  I ran for so long that I had convinced myself they removed the Lower Sheep AS.  I kept cresting over rolling hills and seeing little triangles popped up over the hill from a distance and thought it was the AS, I’d come around the corner to find that it was just a very large boulder.  It was as though it was placed there just to tease me!  I finally arrived at a partially torn down AS at Lower Sheep at 6:15.  I grabbed some watermelon.  I must have mentioned being so hot and the AS worker asked if I wanted a pitcher of river water over me.  I said “YES!”  He poured two pitchers full of river water over my neck and head.  I kept saying how amazing it felt and how awesome it was. 

I was ready to get done now.  I forged ahead knowing that I was going to be reaching the TH next and that cutoff was 7:30.  I wanted to reach that by 7.  I ran almost the entire way except where the trail is too rocky and you literally have to climb over some fairly large rocks in the trail.  I passed a guy who was running in on the trail.  He told me the TH was only about 10 min away.  He was running like a man with fresh legs and I thought to myself….hmmmm 10 min at whose pace???  Regardless, I ran and I ran and I ran….felt like a million miles.  I was the end of a long group of runners that had passed me while I got water poured over my neck.  I was just sweating like nobody’s business.  FINALLY the TH emerged.  I had hoped that Margie or Shanda or Dwight or ANY FREAKING BODY that I knew would be there…..but there was no one.  I think because I was so close to the finish I no longer cared. 

TR TH 7:08PM (cutoff 7:30pm)

I stared at the honking longy long road in front of me, grabbed a handful of grapes and took off.  So annoying because I had no other food in my Nathan.  I tried like a maniac to catch up to a couple that was in front of me thinking that it would be nice to share this insanely long road with someone.  It seemed like the more I tried to catch up with those two people, the further back I got.  I did feel like I would never get close to them but was running nonetheless.  I was sweaty and getting more and more annoyed at this grueling road that never ended.  Up through the trees a neon color caught my eyes.  Around the corner and through the trees I saw this neon green shirt that looked vaguely familiar….could it be…..was this a fellow Pickled Feet person…..it was….IT WAS…..SHANDA!!!!!  She came to run with me.  She was ready with her Nathan on and ran out to help me get in.  I was so massively relieved.  In fact when she caught up to me I remember saying to her “don’t talk to me or ask me any questions.  I’ll start crying if you do”.  She right away started running on the other side of the road and I told her to get over by me just don’t talk to me.  I had to get emotionally where I could handle her presence without having a meltdown.  She came over by me.  I felt an amazing charge of energy as we were walking at this point.  I had gotten fairly close to the couple in front of me (within about 20’) and in that moment of exhilaration, I said “lets do this” and took off.  I had zero pain at that point and ran probably the fastest pace I would run from there to the finish.  I don’t know how long I ran but I passed the couple and there was another lady that I was working on staying in front of too.  My grapes had been long gone with re: to energy and I was running on fumes….basically nothing.  So I walked.  Then I got angry.  I started telling Shanda that she should never try this and I was ready to quit right now.  It seemed that all my emotion was going to come out in one vial swoop of negativity.  I’d held it in for a very long time.  Shanda told me that Christie and Rachel neither one made the cutoff at Dry Fork.  She knew about Emily already.  I felt like I shouldn’t be the one to get to finish.  I felt like I didn’t deserve a 100 mile finish.  I had been massively and extremely hard and excruciating to carry on at times but at the same time it almost hadn’t been hard enough.  I thought about Emily carrying through 95 miles with knee pain.  I thought about Christie’s desire to get to the 50 miles at Bighorn and redeem herself this year.  Why am I getting to finish 100 miles?  I had signed up for Bighorn on nearly a whim.  Yes, I was already geared up to train for a very difficult 100K (Silver City 100K with over 15K’ gain) and with about 6 weeks before the race, decided to sign up for BH.  I just didn’t feel worthy of finishing a 100 miles.  I told Shanda that if this road didn’t end right now I was quitting.  None of what I was really feeling what coming out.  It all came out like the stupid blisters on the balls of my feet that honestly hurt but not even as bad as they did at the 24 hr endurance run.  I was upset because I was hungry and I was tired of running and just tired in general from being awake for so long.  So I decided to do what I had done for 97 miles and that was focus on the happy and good things that I had.  I thought about how I was happy that I didn’t have any true pain.  I thought about how I was glad I was going to be a 100 mile finisher in spite of my friends not meeting cutoffs.  I thought about my children and what MASSIVE happiness it brought me use their names as a mantra.  Dante, Faith, Halle, Dawson, Dante, Faith, Halle, Dawson, Dante, Faith, Halle, Dawson, Dante, Faith, Halle, Dawson, Dante, Faith, Halle, Dawson, Dante, Faith, Halle, Dawson……nothing on the trail made me smile like their names.  I solidified in these 33 hours that no matter what happens in life, I love my children more than anything else in my life.  It took a long time for me to be ok with accepting maybe I love them more right now than I love myself or love Craig.  I tried adding his name to the mantra but it didn’t have the same spirit lifting effect.  I love Craig like a wild mad dog but there is something about my offspring.  These children came from my body.  I carried them in my body and protected them from all harms as much as it was possible for me.  I bore them with pain and love.  I held them in their most vulnerable place of infancy and fed them, nurtured them, cleaned them and most of all I have LOVED them with all my heart.  God made me with a heart for children and specifically my own children.  I will never stop loving them.  In this last year as Dante has brought some significant challenges to our home, my love for him has never been so solid.  I have screamed in his face how much I wish I could hate him because of how he has hurt me to the core but that no matter what, no matter how much he hurts me, no matter what he does or says or is….I love him.  It is with that kind of spirit that I will love my children forever.  They are embedded on my heart and in my soul, in a place so deep, no language exists there that can be verbalized.  I learned that I would cut off my leg for one of my children, I would stand in harm’s way for them, I would suffer any amount of torture for them and would give up my life so they could have their own.  That is unconditional love it is what I love my four babes with. 

I had been dreaming of popsicles around the Upper Sheep Creek AS and wondered if it was at all possible that any of the AS would have such a luxury and then quickly let that go knowing that there is no way any of them could provide this.  When there was approx 2 miles left to the finish, a homeowner who lived on the road had a cooler out by the driveway FULL of popsicles.  His children ran over and gave me a purple otter pop.  I was so happy I could have cried.  I ate that popsicle like I’d never have another in my life.  It was beyond delicious.  It was the perfect blend of sugar and water.  Once the pavement started I knew that I would run soon and not stop until the end.  And that was the beginning of the end.  I started running and I ran to the end of the road, across the bridge, across the street as people were honking and yelling support out their window.  I ran down the road to the entrance of the park where it was filled with spectators, runners and their families.  “It’s a 100 miler!!!”  I was running so hard I was feeling like I could start retching any moment.  I had an intense urge to walk to prevent myself from the retching that seems to dominate the end of all races for me.  I pushed harder and ran harder.  This was my moment and I crossed the finish line….changed forever.  Now I know.  I know what a journey to 100 miles feels like, at least through the Bighorn mountain range.  I know how it feels to finish 100 miles.

Finish 8:28pm (cutoff 9pm)

In the final moments of the race I decided I was not going to do IMTUF and I was also not going to do another 100 miler EVER.  50 miles felt like an easy walk in the park.  100 miles felt like death.  As I finish writing this report 10 days later, I cannot stop thinking once again about the 100 miler I’m already signed up for and can’t wait for it to get here.  

Things I want to work on:

**Speed work.  I am now feeling like speed work will be key for me. 

**Mental ability to climb late in the game.  I do not feel like this is a fitness issue rather a mental issue.  I need to spend time visualizing myself powering up the climbs late in the game and then DO IT!

**My tired time is early morning from about 6-9AM.  That is when I need coffee!

Things that went well:

**The best thing ever was nighttime.  I didn’t have to look to see who was around me to pee.  I felt like I went into stealth mode.

**I was able to take my allergy meds during this race.  I learned at Salt Flats that it is definitely to my detriment to not take them.  This went well.  I had no post race allergy issues.

**I did a lot more running than I had thought I would.  I want to do more but I feel like I ran a great deal more than I expected.  Dang good thing or I don’t think I would have finished. 

**I’m really happy with myself for finishing.  I have unsettled feelings about what happened with Emily and me feeling like I should have stayed with her but she would not have wanted that. 

Things I wasn’t prepared for:

***the amount of carnage on the trail.  Literally within the first few miles a guy was turning back saying he was dropping because of an Achilles issue.  We were less than a mile up the trail off of TR road when the trail ate it’s first victim….in the words of “Tales from Out there” (about the Barkley Marathons).  People who were just tired and didn’t want to carry on and they would quit.  There is something in my brain that kept saying “does not compute” about all these people being eaten by the trail all around me.  I thought the trail was my friend.  I actually still think it is.  Maybe it’s like a dance with the trail….

***As I’ve read over this RR I recognize that I talk it seems as much about Emily as I did myself.  I have trained with Emily, I paced her to her own PR in a 100 miler just two months prior to this race, she has shared generously with me about her lessons learned and knowledge of 100’s and how to achieve the distance.  Even though she was only with me for short periods on the trail, I felt like she was “with me” in some sense for the majority of the second half to the end.  I think that’s what happens when you train long runs with someone and you are used to their presence.  It’s not like we talk through all our training runs but her presence is something I’m used to.  Somehow it’s calming to me and so I imagined her there even when she wasn’t.

***I feel bonded to Sam and Emily through this race.  Sam read a “creed” for Christian runners or something like that before the race began.  He teared up and had to regroup several times throughout.  What stuck with me from that was “I will not quit, I will not stop, I am a warrior for Jesus Christ”. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Road to Bighorn 100M

I'm positive my body is falling apart, my muscles are turning to spasming pieces of tissue and my mind is encompassed by paranoid panic!  I had the first weekend of no 3AM alarm in 5 weeks.  I had 10 hours of sleep this last friday and then couldn't make a decision, was emotional and then insomnia hit, just like it has tonight.  I suppose that's fine because I've been saving all these race reports and other writing "stuff" that I've been wanting to get posted.  It's all so old but at least it's up now. 

The Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run....count down 5 days....


At last count there were 41 female runners of about 190 runners.  I really have no idea what I'm getting myself into.  I'm excited, I'm ready and I want to run REALLY BAD!  :)  I can't wait to see what 100 miles feels like and what FINISHING 100 miles feels like!  BAM!!!

Antelope Island 100K - 11/05/2011



As we drove onto the island, it was like it all hit me at once.  So overwhelming.  I wanted to just start screaming, “oh my gosh, oh my goodness, what in the world is wrong with me?  I don’t know why I think little ol me is strong enough to run around this island TWICE!!!!”  The feelings and emotions were so overwhelming that I was trying to keep myself contained with Emily and Davina in the car but I really just wanted to yell.  Even if I would have been alone I probably wouldn’t have yelled but since E&D were there, it was a good reason not to.  I just sat in the vast massiveness of the island and what I was staring at.  It was awe striking to say the very least!

We were spending the night in a large family size tent.  We set it up in the dark and with 40 mph winds.  It was gnarly and nasty.  Insane wind and seriously it seemed impossible that the tent would actually stay up.  The thought occurred to someone to sleep in the car but I have a terrible time getting any good sleep in car, unless of course it’s moving and then I sleep like a baby.  As it was, I felt like I hardly got any sleep in the tent so the decision to set up the tent and get organized felt like the right thing to do.  By the time the tent was up, clothes were changed and the Nathans packed and ready for the next day, lights out happened about 9:30.  I lay in my sleeping bag trying to keep my mind off of what I was going to be doing the next day.  I knew as soon as I got to sleep I’d be fine but finding sleep was proving to be difficult.  I finally got to sleep close to 11.  It was gale force winds and snow outside.  I woke up at 2AM to silence.  Apparently the wind had stopped.  I woke up again at 4:38AM and never went back to sleep.  I went to the bathroom, Emily went over and got her and I coffee because she’s a honey like that.  I was trying desperately to eat a banana. 

When it was time, we all three went over to the tent, I filled my Nathan with water and got it on.  We listened to the pre-race summary.  We walked over to the side of the tent and the RD took his foot and dragged it across and said “this is the start line”.  He counted down from about 5 and we were off.  I realized as he was drawing the start/finish line that I had forgotten to hook on my gators so I was quickly trying to take care of that with my ice cube fingers.  Not the most productive thing to be doing as the RD is counting down from 5 but its what I was doing. 

It was snowing out, the wind was blowing and I knew I just needed to hang in there and get through the very beginning which I assumed would be climbing (and it was) and then wait until the sun came up and everything would be fine.  I reached the first two AS in the dark…it was nice to reach the first one.  Someone in front of me said “YES! FINALLY” and I knew something good was around the bend.  AS #1 Elephant Head.  Course changes because of the beach being underwater added some additional elevation gain, albeit very minimal.  Also the second AS was only 2 miles after the first one.  It was called Death Valley but it was not only NOT in a valley but also was in the middle of an assent.  The 3rd AS was then about 7ish miles out.  I was thinking after the first two AS that I felt so amazing. I couldn’t imagine that things could get any better…(other than actually finishing) and that’s when things actually took a turn.  My norm is to go #2 in the morning the day of a race.  Each time I’ve camped prior to a race, I’m not able to go when I need to prior to the race start.  So frustrating! So from about mile 8 until mile 13 when I FINALLY made myself take a pit stop, I was in utter misery mode with running until my poop almost came out and then walking until I knew it was not going to come out w/o my permission.  When I realized there was not going to be a “private pit stop” I stopped at the closest thing I could find.  It was a rock climb that took literally added 12 min to my mile.  It was so distressing and frustrating.  Once I got back on the trail, I was so frustrated at how far behind I’d gotten.  The person I suspected was Colleen Ford (known only from ultrasignup.com) had passed me and I was super stressed about this.  I know from her prior events that Colleen is a steady back of the pack’er but very solid in her finishes.  So I knew that if I planned to finish under the cut off times, I’d need to catch her.  I didn’t realize but I was within less than a mile from that 3rd AS (North Sentry).  They had warm broth w/ or w/o noodles there.  I had some orange slices which were delicious and some broth w/ noodles.  I drank the warm broth and it felt happy in my belly since I was very behind in my fueling since I was so focused on my bowels for several miles.  Had the run be nearly over, it wouldn’t have mattered but knowing I needed to make it for a longy long more time, I decided to try and eat the noodles.  I could only think of how they looked and then tasted like I was eating brains. After two attempts (the second making me gag) I tossed out the noodles and stuck the little cup in my pack to toss at the next AS.  There was a really nice decent for a few miles after the Sentry AS down to a ranch.  Once I reached the ranch there is a fairly short dirt road section and then back onto some single track for a good long way.  That should have been a welcomed change from the dirt road but it was so muddy and slippery muddy at that.  It got me just annoyed that I was either trying to run on the sides of the trail like I was straddling something or run along the side where others had gone before me.  It got fairly tiring and I did not want to expel extra energy trying to dodge the mud so I decided I should just run in it.  That worked fine until I started slipping and realized I couldn’t see the trail all that well with the very tall grass that was up to my waist and even armpits in some spots…it was thick and kind of hung over to make the trail nearly invisible.  I put my arms out in front of me some to make like a V to conquer and divide the grass.  Not only was I annoyed with the grass but I was also getting bored.  This would have been a perfect section for music.  I also had in the back of my mind that I may be running in the dark in this section on the 2nd loop.  For some odd reason the thoughts of a second loop haunted me for a long time on the first loop.  In many ways, the dread of needing a second loop kept going over and over in my mind but the positive side of that is I knew exactly what to expect the second time.  In this section I got passed by a few fast 50K’ers.  All in all, I got passed by 2 women and 5 men that were in the 50K.  In this section I was so focused on the grass, my irritability and the fact that I was trying to drink every 5 min which I allowed myself a 30 sec walk break and then run for 4:30 and for some odd reason that meant I was starting at my garmin far more than I wanted to be.  There had been lots of times that I lost track of what mile I was on and I like it that way.  I like to have my garmin for specific reasons (to keep a pace, to keep my motivation level up, know how far a specific place is, etc.) but staring at the clock is definitely NOT one of those.  Anyway, I was running along when all of the sudden something caught my eye to the right.  I looked up and I wasn’t more than about 15 feet from a humungous buffalo staring right at me!  It really did look like it was going to charge me.  They had told us that buffalo can be aggressive and to approach them slowly and walk around them if necessary and here I was, off in la-la land running right at it.  Geez…I’m a disaster.  Luckily there was another guy (50K’er) that was right behind me and I turned around to say “Oh my gosh, that buffalo just scared the crap out of me”.  He kept on running right by me like I just talked to the grass and the buffalo didn’t try to spear him so I figured I was safe…and I was.  I really did spend a lot of time in this section thinking about quitting after the first loop.  I’m not sure if that was because I was feeling down about the pit stop that I had or if I was already starting to have problems with my caloric intake or what.  The bottom line was the first loop just mentally was a challenge for me.  The second loop was much better and I had a lot more strength that time around. 

I finally spotted the Nine mile AS and THOUGHT it had a porta potty.  This was definitely not a deal breaker but eventually found that they didn’t have a bathroom which was a bummer.  The good part was that the next AS was only 3.5 miles away. I did need to go potty but not so urgently I couldn’t wait.  Kind of like when we were on road trips as little girls (my sister Amber and myself) and we’d tell my dad we had to go potty.  As my mom (Kathy) said, he’d say he was going to stop but would drive right on past the rest area.  Mom said she couldn’t believe that my sister and I could hold it for so long.  Now my sister and I joke about how we have bladders of steel.  I remember this AS being very friendly with the guy running out to the trail to meet me and cheer me in, asking me long before I even got there what I needed and how he could help me.  I decided to take my coat off at this station since it looked like the snow was going to be done for the day.  It was windy but not so bad and depending on what side of the island you were on, and what mountain was where, the wind was calm or strong.  Nonetheless, he helped me get my coat off and he rolled it up and put it in my pack…looked like a mess and I never did get it back out…so that’s what it looked like in my finish pics, a big mess.  Honestly it didn’t really matter but I just don’t like things usually hanging off of my pack like that.  I like them organized.  It was at this AS that I also realized my pink bandana was gone.  It had been lost at some point between the last AS (the ramen noodle one) and this one.  There were lots of dried and dead sunflowers and the dead blossoms were a lot like Velcro…the rough side of Velcro and grabbed onto my pack several times.  I was convinced that on my second loop, I’d find my beloved pink bandana hooked onto a dead sunflower near the trail…that never did come to fruition though.  Bummer deal.  It seems as though I’ve lost a LOT on the trails in the last few weeks!!!  Three weeks ago I lost my wedding band, two weeks ago I lost an arm sleeve at the foothills frenzy and now a bandana.  Is this normal?  I think NOT!  Once out of the AS I was happy to know it was only 3.5 to the next AS.  I ran into lots of people b/w these AS.  Boy scouts, old guys hiking, just random people.  This part of the trail crossed over the main road a couple of times and there must have been some pull outs where people could pull over and then walk on the trail.  Honestly, no hiking.  I began to wonder why I wanted to do this race since once again, there was NO change in the terrain.  The good news however was the ground had gone from the disgusting mud to a more sandy texture and so the water from the earlier snow had just melted away and did not leave the trail in such muddy conditions.  I was really happy to see the next AS however and I could see the porta potty from a ways off.  I was happy to use it once I got there.  I didn’t need water so I just grabbed a few handfuls of food and was off.  I remember there being two guys there and one of them said to me “see you in 6-7 hours” and my reply was “yeah, that would be amazing” and in my mind I thought to myself that he must be crazy to think I’d be back in 6-7 hours.  This loop was taking me more than 7 hours…there was no way I’d get the next loop done quicker.  I also thought about the amazing sacrifice it was to run an AS and not only just man the AS but be the last AS in line which meant you may be there until the bitter end (or close to it) and also would be the scene of some people getting pulled from the race as to not meeting cut off times.    Just felt very appreciative of the AS workers in that moment.  About 4-5 miles after this AS, the trail turns across the road again and then the trail heads up the side of the hill.  At this point, my garmin was saying about 28 miles and it felt like I was climbing Mt Everest!  I got a little nauseated in this section of maybe a qtr mile uphill hike and that should have been a sign to me that I needed to get some serious cals into my body.  There was the post race buffalo chili cooking and it smelled like barf.  There were PBJ sandwiches I took a few of those which was beginning to sound like vomit.  I felt really good since Jan (the lady I’d lost after my million hour pit stop at mile 12-13) was sitting there changing her shoes and socks.  I checked out as everything was pretty chaotic as some were done racing the 50K etc, and set out for the second loop.  There was something refreshing and rewarding knowing that this was my final lap and I had already stepped on every portion of this trail and I knew there was no part of it that would be insurmountable.  I felt a bit elated and this lasted for a great portion of the second loop.  I spotted about 3 buffalo up ahead of me all mingling around the trail.  I turned around hoping there was some person who knew what to do behind me.  Luckily there was Jan behind me a ways but close enough for me to stop and wait since it was either A: get some advice  from a local trail runner about these massive beasts or B: charge ahead or something and try to not freak out.  I ended up doing both.  I waited for Jan and she had the same concerns I did.  She had wanted to stop after the first 50K.  She said she just felt like she had no energy.  Her husband had made her sit down and eat, she changed shows and the RD, Jim Skaggs told her that she could either call it quits and he’d give her a 50K time or she could carry on and try to make it to the next AS.  She told me that if he would have said if she quit he’d give her a DNF she was going to quit right there but knowing that she could carry on risk free (still have the 50K time if she quit during the second loop) she felt free to try and carry on.  That baffles my mind in many ways.  It seems that I would be spurred the opposite.  Anyway, Jan said when we saw the buffalo that this must be a sign and she needed to turn around.  In my desperation to have a buddy of some kind on the trail, I said firmly and loudly, “no way!  This is not a sign…we just need to figure out how to get around these buffalo, get you to the next AS and then see how you feel.  I’m finishing this and I know you can do the same!”  We went off the trail and went way around the buffalo.  We talked the entire 3ish miles up the first assent.  It was a nice climb with a super pace of 16-17 min/mi…a nice steady walk pace uphill.  Felt perfect!  We got to the top and as we had on the first lap, I’d get ahead during the downhill portions since she was very fearful of falling and probably because I haven’t fallen downhill yet, I have little fear that way.  She was faster than me on the uphills which isn’t hard to accomplish.  We made it to the first AS together and she was already perking up and I was feeling better and better knowing I’d gotten to the first AS of the second loop, found another person to at least be in the vicinity of while running and as a bonus, at that first AS (first of the second lap) we met up with another guy who was running the 100K.  He was a super nice guy who was friendly, asked me where I was from but quickly proved to be a much faster and stronger racer.  His name was Jeremy Ebel.  I didn’t see him very much until the very end of the race but this was where I met him for the first time.  The three of us took off from the AS after maybe a 2-3 min stop and it was obvious that Jan was going to be slower since we were descending and Jeremy was going way out in front.  I was in the middle.  This section was serene and beautiful.  You can see some pretty scenery in this section and it didn’t look like you were going to be running flat for the next 9 million miles so that’s always an encouragement to me.  This was one of the very few sections where I actually felt warm.  It was WONDERFUL!!!  We got down close to the beach-ish portion that was full of gravel and then sand.  What was weird about the gravel was you would just sink down into it as though the small rocks were on some odd surface that made them sink lower and lower with every step.  I tried running on the edge of the path since sometimes that helps but it seemed to really only make it worse, certainly not better.  It was nearly impossible to run though this part, at least not without doing some sort of massive cardiac and leg workout which is not what I needed at mile 40.  After getting through that section, there was a large rock formation that jetted out and once around this section, you could see the trail going up the side of the small mountain.  I could see the tree that I recalled being about half way up.  I turned at this point and saw 3 men behind me.  I was baffled since I knew Jeremy was back there but who were these other men?  Well, whoever they were, I didn’t want them to pass me up too quickly.  They all eventually did but hey, I gave it a shot.  I started my assent up the last climb of the day.  It went well…easily so.  I know I was going at a slower pace than the last time but this was the exact area where I had to take the million hour pit stop last time so I was looking forward to just carrying on through that.  Before I got to the tree (half way point) I heard from behind me, what sounded like a large group of very loud, partying teenagers.  I turned and saw nothing.  I carried on and soon the sound returned only louder and carried on.  I turned again to see exactly where the sound was coming from and over near the rock formation that jetted out (I was now eye level with the top so mostly looking down now) I saw a pack of coyotes all wrestling around one another.  They were most likely playing and just jostling with one another but the sound was just kind of creepy.  I saw the three men below too.  One was emerging from the beach-ish section and the two others were behind him but not by far.  I knew I needed to get a move on and my 30 second stop had proved long enough of a recovery to jet up the rest of the mountain.  I tried something different since I’m not really sure what my best form of hill/hike/power walk is yet.  I tried taking quicker, smaller steps up the hill but that felt more tiring than just the slower, lengthier speed but seemed to be relatively the same pace overall.  As I crested the summit I saw Jan leave the AS.  I looked at my watch and the minute hand said 36.  I wanted to see just how many minutes I was behind her.  When I entered the AS I told them I would take some broth but no noodles and they offered me a potato which I refused.  Looking back I think this probably would have been a key decision for me to eat the potato but I turned it down.  I took the broth, a handful of m&m’s, cheez-its and a PB&J.  I looked at my watch and the minute hand said 39 so I was only 3ish min behind Jan which made me feel good since it seemed like she was light years ahead of me. 

I left there walking since I was sipping the broth and not wanting to spill it but wanting to be moving forward.  Last time I did this I had noodles in this broth and was able to kind of run a little w/o spilling it.  This time, any running made this spill.  So I was doing a fast walk while I waited for the broth to cool some but taking sips at the same time.  I wanted it to warm my belly since I had gotten cold again being on the top of the mountain.  I finished my broth finally and threw the handful of M&M’s and crackers in the my mouth all at the same time so I could get going.  Once I got that huge mouthful swallowed, I was back into my running steps.  At this point, it was a nice flatish section that weaved in and out of some rocks. The trail was kind of rocky but not too awful, more just pretty and a nice change of scenery.  I don’t know if I was only a mile but it just didn’t seem too long that this part of the trail lasted before it turned into a very wide kind of a road almost that headed down into the ranch.  It was a weavy kind of a down and some parts of it seemed like it would weave on forever.  I had a good time through here and one of the men behind me passed me through here.  He seemed like a grumpy old man and I tried to talk to him but he acted like he was running a 5K and to not bug him.  Geez…I wondered if my running community is the only place where trail runners are so warm and welcoming.  Oh well…move on old man!  :)  I saw him catch up to Jan and pass her eventually.

Shortly after this I was doing a good job of drinking water every 5 min still but my water bladder was acting very weird.  I would try to take a drink and it would seem like all I got was air.  And it was like I was holding my breath while trying to suck up water into the tube.  It was exhausting and all I was getting was air.  So I ended up sucking in but still breathing out of my nose and just trying to be careful should any water come out because I needed to keep moving but I needed to get a dang drink.  Eventually a burst of water came through my tube and caught me off guard.  I started coughing to get the water out of my breathing airway and down the correct “pipe”.  I coughed very hard and my entire core, the front, back and sides went into total spasms!!!  It was excrutiating yet I was still trying to not drown in the gulp of water.  This was the one and only actual pain that I felt along the way.   As I got down to the ranch there was a lengthy straightaway that had massively huge puddles. The porta potties were tempting and I really did need to use the bathroom but they were much further off the trail than I remembered from the first lap and I didn’t feel like taking the time to go over to them, nor did I feel like expending the energy to make it over to them.  They were probably 100’ off the trail.  So, after the ranch, you cross over a gate and turn onto a single track trail.  At that point, I snuck in with the thick annoying grass and had a quick pit stop.  I was scared to squat down since I wasn’t sure I’d make it back up.  It was nice to have a change of position in my legs but it was not an issue getting down or up.  Thankfully!  The other notable thing about getting down to the ranch was that it was only about 5:20 and I had estimated on my first that that this is where I would be at 6:45 when I needed to put my headlamp on.  I was far ahead of schedule and that was comforting.  I didn’t think I could let up but just happy I didn’t have to worry about my headlamp yet. 

It was in this next section that I knew I would need to spend some time mentally processing what was about to come.  I’d been dreading the night fall and as the sun had been setting on the west side of the mountain, I’d try to hurry down to the ranch just to catch one more little inch of running IN the sunlight.  It was so warm and comforting but I never made it.  By the time I turned right onto the trail after the ranch road, while it was still plenty day light, the direct sunlight was gone.  With that it seemed that I was constantly pushing down some anxiety about the night coming on.  I have been honest with myself from day one about running in the dark.  It’s completely fine with me if it’s before the sun comes up and I know that the sun is on it’s way.  When the sun is in the process of leaving, it feels much more empty and lonely.  It begins to get cold and I was starting to get worried.  So I worked hard during this section to keep my mental state in a good place, to keep my pace at a sub 14 min/mi and eventually a sub 15 min/mi.  When I would creep up toward the 15 min/mi pace I’d spend some time running to get it down to the 14 min/mi range and then let myself walk again, all the while making sure I was trying to drink from my now very annoying Nathan.  I ran along this way for about another 50 min when I knew I was getting somewhat close to the next AS.  I felt good about that and was mentally deciding what tasks I was going to take care of while there, i.e. someone get my headlamp out of my pack, I needed to fill my Nathan and get a large handful of food, regardless of how disgusting the thoughts were of food.  I also was getting very solid in the fact that Emily said she would try to meet me at the mile 55 AS to run with me the rest of the way.  I was trying to stay very flexy about that in my mind as to not have an utter shutdown should she not be there.  I was trying to deny the fact that I wished with all my being that I would see her and Davina at mile 55.  The thought flashed through my mind that what if they figured out where I was and met me at one of the points where this trail crosses over the road?!  Or what if they were at this next AS (mile 51)?  As soon as I thought those things, I refused to let them stay since I knew that was never in the plan and I would only be setting myself up for failure to hope on those things.  So, I pictured myself running through (in the dark) the last AS alone and going up that b-word of a climb at the end by myself.  I pictured myself getting through the longy long hours I would have in the dark and being successful through all of that.  I was in the midst of finding my successful night running self when I looked up ahead to see the little bridge (the only one like it) where I remembered there was some running water underneath.  The first lap I stopped just for about 10 seconds to listen to the rushing water since I love that sound.  This time was a race against the amount of daylight that was left so I decided I would not stop and listen to the beautiful sound. No more did I make that decision as I approached the bridge than I looked up to see a non-runner person standing there.  This person was in a white hat, blue short sleeved shirt with a white long sleeved shirt underneath with black pants on.  I looked at them since I’d seen quite a few non-running people on the first lap but none on this lap.  The more I looked the more this person looked familiar and all of the sudden, like the sky split into a million pieces of the most beautiful sunshine, the person standing in front of me was DAVINA!!!!  She was clapping and yelling and telling me how strong I looked and what an amazing job I was doing and just about every other positive statement you can think of.  I was so happy to see her I completely started crying…not hysterical crying but definitely choked up to the point that I couldn’t speak.  I tried to tell her thank you and nothing came out.  I tried to tell her how much I appreciated but again nothing came out.  She was talking to me during this time anyway and was running behind me.  I was so happy that when she found me, I was running and not walking.  I wanted her to see that I was doing this strong and I am not a wimp.  Not that she thinks I’m a wimp but in my mind, most people are wimps until proven otherwise.   Anyway, she started telling me that I had about a mile to the next AS and we needed to be there by 7pm.  I told her I didn’t think that was right since the cut off was given for the following AS and the cut off was 8pm.  She said that was correct but she just didn’t want me to dilly dally. J  No worries, no dilly dally-ing here!!!  I ran that entire mile back to the AS.  I was scared to ask if she was just here for encouragement or if Emily was actually going to start running with me at mile 51 rather than mile 55.  I was scared because I felt like the 3.5 miles between AS would probably be a nightmare by myself but again, I’d already prepared for it so I should have been mentally strong but seeing Davina somehow seemed to put a crack in my steel frame.  Nonetheless, I asked Davina if they were just going to say hi and then meet me at the next AS or if Emily was going to run with me now.  She said that it was totally up to me but Emily was all suited up and ready to run when I was ready for her.  I nearly lost all my mental power in one full sweep!  I was so happy and elated and relieved and exhausted and loved and supported.  It was amazing.  At this point we got to the AS and Davina was yelling as we were coming so they would know we were almost there.  She started yelling and saying, “She’s running! We’re here!  She’s still running!”  I felt proud of myself in that moment.  I felt proud that Davina found me in a running state and that I ran that last mile and showed her that I had lots of run left.   I saw Emily and she had the biggest smile on her face.  I knew in my soul that she was excited for me, excited to run and happy to pace me to the finish.  I got my Nathan filled with water and grabbed a disgusting handful of food and we were off.  Emily got out my headlamp while we were running and I eventually put that back on.  I know I got really annoying during this part.  I felt like I had so much to say since I’d not talked to hardly anyone for the last 12+ hrs.  Emily said my pace had been really good and had finished the first 51 miles in 12ish hours, maybe 12.5 hrs?  Can’t remember for sure.  I thanked her incessantly for coming to the earlier AS.  I told her how I was dreading running in the dark alone and she said she couldn’t stand the thoughts of me doing that knowing that she was fully capable of running with me now.  I never let it sink in that she cared about me finishing at that point.  Probably I would have fallen apart.  There is something about pacing/supporting/crewing (I’ve never crewed or had a crew but I assume it would fit into this category) that is like going through a traumatic event or a childbirth experience together…it binds you together for a moment in time.  This is how I feel about Emily and Davina, as though we’ve been bound together for just this moment…bound together for the purpose of success and achievement.  The level of gratitude that I felt toward Emily and Davina is beyond what I’ve felt in a very long time.  We ran along and that section of 3.5 seemed to go by very quickly.  I don’t remember exactly what we talked about but I remember telling her that nothing was broken, nothing was hurting really bad and I thought I was probably fine.  We reached the last AS relatively quickly in my mind and things started to happen quickly after this.  I did use the bathroom (the only porta potty on the course) at this AS and something about taking all the weight off of my feet seemed to make my arches believe that they were done.  I had news for them. 

Once we left the last AS (7:20pm…cutoff was 8:00PM) my right arch started to feel very unpleasant with most running and I was also now experiencing nausea with every run.  When I was walking Emily was commenting on how fast my walk pace was and that if I was going to walk that fast she wasn’t going to tell me to run but that I needed to still run as much as possible so as to not lose my ability to “have some left in the incinerator”.  The two men that I’d kept off of my heels were now getting somewhat closer and I told Emily that I really wanted to beat them.  Well after we left the last AS (6.5 miles to the finish) we found out that the two men that were behind us showed up and the AS worker pulled out a cooler FULL of hard liquor.  The two guys took some shots and apparently the one guy (Michael) ended up passing us and finishing 9 min before us.  At the end of the race he talked about how he drank a 5 hr energy and took some shots and was running like a mad dog to the end. He said he felt great.  Anyway, it was obvious when he went by that I was not going be able to keep up with him.  At this point Emily asked me about Ben’s WIHMER race and what my thoughts were about it then.  I had actually already been thinking about it earlier in the day.  I thought about how this was similar to asking a woman who was in the middle of labor about her next child.  However it really didn’t feel like that.  I said that I knew I had lots of hard work in training ahead of me if I wanted to truly be successful.  I told her my plan was to lose at least 10#, probably 15#.  Then I need to spend a very good portion of the winter in strength training.  I want to keep my miles around 20 miles a week and then hit it hard in the spring once bball and dance are about done.  We counted down some cool trail mile markers from 4 down to 1 and at the 1 marker.  Around the 3ish mile marker Jeremy caught back up with us and while I was a bit defeated I knew that my pace had slowed significantly since I was only running about 10% of each mile, at least that’s how much of it was running in my memory.  I think I had about a 16-17 min/mi pace through here which is really defeating (in hind sight) but that’s ok.  I was struggling with nausea and dull pain in my arches when I would run.  Walking caused no problems which is why I was highly motivated to walk at a very fast pace.  When Jeremy caught up with us Emily said, he could go by but he said he was happy to just hang back.  We asked if he was sure since he clearly was much stronger than me at this point, but he was totally happy to just stick with us and little did I know that he would remain with us to the end.  He started talking and telling us about his training and his work.  Said he ran Leadville 100 last year and his longest race prior to that was a TEN MILER! Yes, 10 miles!  He trained specifically for 8 months for Leadville and killed it under the cut offs!  WOW…that’s amazing.  I can’t remember all the details of this area except that Jeremy’s presence some how seemed to once again, lift the mood and even the uphill climb at the end was completely tolerable.  We continued walking down the road.  I had decided that as soon as I saw the tent lights I would get whatever run I had left in me and give it up.  As soon as I saw the lights I took off in a mad ultra shuffle that would make a 100 year old lady look fast.  I heard Emily say as she faded off to run to the door of the tent.  I couldn’t figure out what that was which is so funny to me.  As we approached the finish, Jeremy said to me “You go, I’ll be last.”  I nearly burst out crying AGAIN!!!  As soon as I was done I did the umpire deal for a person being out and said in my loudest most happy voice “BAM!”  Davina hugged me and that felt like I might just fall on her.  I was so happy I finished.  I was so happy I think I still haven’t let the magnitude of what I did last weekend sink in.  It’s 5 full days later and I’m finally finishing this race report.  Somehow I hoped I’d have some better stories but as I tell stories to others, they seem to lose their potency in my heart so I’m going to stop telling and just let this report be my story.  That way, my pearls remain mine and are not tossed to swine. 

Finishing times of racers I mentioned:

·         Jan – 14:45:59

·         Michael  - 15:03:14

·         Jeremy – 15:11:40

·         Amy – 15:11:47

Food I ate while racing:

·         Honey from a bottle to total maybe about .25-.3 cups

·         At least 6-7 PB&J sandwiches

·         ¾ of a peanut butter and honey sand

·         A couple handfuls of Cheez-it crackers

·         A handful or maybe two of M&M’s

·         2 cups of ckn broth

·         3 chomps – didn’t even eat a whole package

·         A few orange slices

Bottom line: NOT ENOUGH!!!

Things that were good:

·         I had relatively no aches and pains until the very end

·         Having Emily to run with at the end

·         I feel very inspired by my own self to run a 100M’er.  Is that allowed?  To inspire myself?  J

·         My text from Dad when he said he would be with me the whole way. I didn’t get to read that until the race was over but I cried about it and have continued to cherish that text message for the last 5 days

·         I FINISHED!!!

Things to work on:

·         Fueling and caloric intake

·         Xtraining and strength training

·         Lose 15# (goal wt of 120)

Before the start of the race I felt like such an imposter.  I can’t get over that and seriously maybe I shouldn’t yet.  It’s only been 3 months almost to the day since I ran my first ultra trail marathon and I was just barely… and only in certain road running situations, barely starting to feel like a real runner but in the ultra world, its like starting over again.  I am just a newbie, I don’t even know how to fuel properly.  I don’t look like I have fit legs and especially if you look at my core, you’d see how UNfit I really am.  I don’t have long legs or good climbing skills.  I feel like I have good trail wear as far as clothes, shoes, etc. but that I don’t deserve to wear it.  It just doesn’t make sense but its how I feel!  I hope with 2012 I can spend so much time on the trail that all of this will go away!!!