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”. 


  1. Amy, I ended up reading through your recent 100 mile race reports, captivated regardless of whether you finished or not. I have yet to try 100 myself and your description only confirms the depths which I suspect I have to dig within to both get to the starting line and finish. Great job writing these up! Thanks.

  2. Thanks Jeff. You will undoubtedly do very well when you decide you are ready.