THE SPIRIT: FOUND AT WALDO

THE SPIRIT: FOUND AT WALDO

Amy (left) and I on the Mt. Fuji summit.

As I wrote in my previous article Finding Waldo? I was not sure if I would find Waldo or not. A lot of things were up in the air, from the condition of my body, to my weak ankle, to the brand new fire burning in the center of the Waldo 100k race course.

As it turned out, I did find Waldo in the sense of finishing, but more than that, I found MY Waldo, when defined as uniqueness and passion and heart – or Spirit.

Halfway through our 7-hour drive the day before the race, we got confirmation that the race would indeed happen on an altered route that kept most of the course intact, only adding three miles and some amount of elevation gain. This seemed like a best-case scenario, and all runners are tremendously thankful to Craig Thornley and his crew for working what I’m sure was around the clock in the two days prior to the race to pull it off in an outwardly seamless fashion.

Amy and I at the Finish of Waldo 100k.

Credit: Michael Lebowitz, LongRun Picture Company.

The scene at the Willamette Pass Ski Area Friday evening felt relaxed and organized, not chaotic like you might expect at races with lesser organizational aptitude when faced with a new forest fire on their course two days before race start. Not many people were around when we picked up our packets, which included Moeben running skirts and leg sleeves and Injinji socks!

Amy and I and our hubbies hooked up with Randy Thorn and Joelle Vaught for a delicious all you can eat pre-race buffet pasta dinner inside the Willamette Ski Pass Lodge, and then it was time for the pre-race briefing.

I unearthed The Notebook from the car and we found a spot to sit on the steps. Joelle gave me a hard time, joking that I was the ONLY one at this race with such a notebook. I like to be prepared!

Craig explained the modified course, and we applauded the people who had spent time marking the course. Alan Abbs went over the sponsors, and Meghan Arboghast explained the awards and prizes, of which Waldo has several. Top runners would get prizes like cash and apparel and free Western States entries; and all finishers under 19 hours would receive a special finisher’s hat. But Waldo is unique for its “other” awards: the Wet Waldo outdoor gear prize for the top finisher to swim in six of the lakes, a cash prize to the first person to Find Waldo (summit Mount Fuji and sight Waldo Lake for the first time), and the Show Us Your Waldo free race entry award to the person who demonstrates the most, um, Waldo, which as far as I could tell meant making some sort of creative presentation or contribution to the race at each aid station, a subjective prize to be judged by aid station personnel. We were privileged to witness a good three to four times Melissa Berman showing her Waldo by donning a trampy wig/sunglasses/fishnet combo and performing at least a two minute routine of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Waldo,” as it were. I do believe she took home the Show Us Your Waldo prize at the end of the day, and she sure deserved it.

Melissa Berman seriously performed this Bad Waldo routine at every single aid station (and still beat me by 7 minutes):

I didn’t think much of the whole Show Us Your Waldo thing at the time, as the reigning Most Waldoy runner gave his presentation about the history of the award and encouraged everyone to Show Your Waldo. He ran the race the next day in huaraches. You can be darn sure I WAS going to wear shoes and WAS NOT going to spend my energy performing Lady Gaga moves at every aid station, but I believe I Showed My Waldo mostly to myself by taking the starting line, and I know for sure that I Found Waldo on those cushy pine-needled trails.

Amy (left) and I on the Mt. Fuji summit.

I set out to write a rock-by-root blabiddy-blah narrative race report. What I have realized, however, is that a traditional sort of race report just doesn’t do justice to the experience. As we trudged the final miles of Waldo, Amy and I were both feeling a little down. We had each decided that we would withdraw from the 100 miler (IMTUF 100, October 6) neither of us wanted to be signed up for and pace the other. Ha! Midnight was approaching. We were at 60+ miles. That’s a tough spot.

Anyone who has done an ultra knows that those tough miles are not the correct setting for making decisions or establishing goals. What we take away from those tough moments, and how they purpose us going forward, after the race, is where they prove their value.

I had just started to, rather reluctantly, ramp back up my miles in mid-July in a milquetoast effort at ‘training’ for Waldo. Just a week or two and not many miles in, I hurt my ankle while NOT running, and my training was reduced to four days a week of rowing and pushups and stuff. I did not run at all between July 28, and race day, August 18. It made me think about what was important. Whether or not I really wanted to run, like, at ALL. Spraining my ankle FOCUSED me. I realized that I really did want to run, to recover.

I made my theme for the race PATIENCE. There were times when I was pushing, not wanting to be kissing the cutoffs. Mostly, however, I had to remind myself of my condition, the point from which I had come in the last month, and the remaining weakness in my left side which left me vulnerable to new or re-injury. And to travel at that conservative pace was not always easy. It took patience…and self-awareness to know when I was at risk of pushing too hard. Legs buckling going downhill? Too hard. Slow down. Agonizing slowness. It’s okay. It’s a safe pace for where you are at. I don’t like where I’m at! Well, at least you are HERE. And not home on the COUCH. Alright, good job. Pick a solid line. Keep moving. You’ll get there. Patience.

My injury focused my attention on how badly I did want to complete Waldo and IMTUF – races I had already signed up for. I did not have that fire at Big Horn, last June. There, I had become complacent, having finished a couple other mountain 100s, and feeling that finishing was obvious. I knew my dad and sister were waiting for me 20 miles up the trail, but my demise came anyway. My inexplicable mental anguish overwhelmed any rational thought process regarding sentimentality or outward influences. I did not have the Spirit in my heart.

That Spirit I had lost before Big Horn is what this report is really about. At Waldo, I found my Spirit. More importantly than starting, certainly more importantly than finishing, the Waldoy-ness (yes, it’s a thing) I came away with after that race made my ankle injury probably the most valuable thing that has happened to my running, ever.

The Sprain, and the Finish…and The Interview – a Divine trifecta. A week after Waldo I interviewed the race director of the IMTUF 100, Jeremy Humphrey, who had just won Cascade Crest. He talked about the Spirit and about performing your best to honor the sacrifices of people who support your endeavors. His words resonated deeply with me, and I could feel my Spirit returning.

Charlton Lake

Credit: Gary Elam, LongRun Picture Company.

Waldo was special for so many moments: Seeing photographer Gary Elam on the course at mile 30, appreciating his delighted recognition and his smile. Being counseled and inspired so thoughtfully and gently by Meghan Arbogast at Twin Peaks. Spending the entire day with my training partner Amy, even though she easily could have finished much faster on her own. She was undertrained too, but she’s just an animal like that. Chatting with Craig Thornley at 12:15 am and watching him smile like it was Sunday afternoon on the beach. Learning that being slow doesn’t mean being weak. Honing my patience for 21 hours. Loving my husband and parents for their support. Reacquainting with my appreciation for the ABILITY to participate.

After finishing Waldo and then interviewing Jeremy , I realized I truly wanted to train for, start…and finish, IMTUF. And so, in the last six weeks, more than ever before, I have made the MOST of my training time and the opportunities afforded to me.

For various reasons, IMTUF will be only the second of my 100 mile races that my dad will be present at. He was at my BigHorn DNF back in June (2012), but pacing was not an option there because he was tapering for an Ironman the week after. So, I’m pretty stoked he will be at this one, on the course, at the aid stations. And at the finish. I really want him to see me finish this one.

My dad will not be one of my three pacers, which may seem odd, but I think really, this is okay. Special moments are bound to happen, but they cannot be planned. Having him run with me for a significant section seems…orchestrated. Too much pressure. He is pacing my friend Sam, which seems just right.

In one week, we toe the line. There is a really strong group of 32 people signed up for IMTUF, meaning even if I have a really good race, I’ll still be back there, hours behind the frontrunners, running my race at my pace. But you can bet I’ll be doing it with the Spirit Found at Waldo.

Now go Find your Spirit.

FINDING WALDO?

FINDING WALDO?

Zensah Ankle Compression Sleeve

While a bunch of people are tackling Leadville and Pikes Peak this weekend on August 18th, I’ll be over in beautiful south-central Oregon at one of the country’s most top-notch 100k races, the Waldo 100k, which starts and finishes at the Wilamette Pass Ski Area about 70 miles east of Eugene, Oregon. At least I think I will.

I’ve never run a 100k before, unless you count my unfortunate demise at mile 66 of the Big Horn 100 in June, and I felt lucky to even have gotten signed up during the less-than-six-hour window that the race was open for registration before filling back in the spring.

Following Big Horn on June 16th, my calendar cleared somewhat after I finished directing my third and final race of the year on June 23rd, and I was getting in some good running and strength work. On July 31st, with two weeks of prime training time to peak, an unfortunate incident happened at the CrossFit gym in which I sprained my ankle, a Grade III sprain according to my chiropractor, with possible tearing, although I refused the MRI to confirm this, opting instead for a simple xray to confirm the absence of a break.

Crossfit 208: Rope Climb

Me, just prior to The Ankle incident.

With ‘only a sprain,’ my sights were intently focused on rehabbing efficiently, in the style that most of us run ultras: with relentless forward progress. This meant minor improvements each day, with no setbacks. I went from crawling to the bathroom the first day to walking with only a slight limp the third day and was back in the gym two days after the incident, doing non-weight bearing activities like rowing and biking and strict shoulder presses.

Initially, I did not really consider whether I would still run Waldo or not. It didn’t really matter. There was nothing I could change, and I don’t ever regret taking some risks in the gym or anywhere else.

The Ankle: 72 Hours Post-Injury

However, as my militant regimen of elevation, ice, compression, rest, and massage (starting 12 days after the injury when the heat finally went out of the swelling) aided relentless improvement and I was able to walk pain-free with full range of motion less than two weeks post-injury, I began to consider the possibility of at least toeing the start line at Waldo, with the goal to get to the mile 32 Charlton aid station, even if I arrived after the cutoff.

I have been practicing my power hiking with the Master, Ulli Kamm, after all.

Let me take this moment to give a shout out to Zensah (in which I have no financial interest or relationship of any kind) and their sweet ankle compression sleeve. Whatever anyone says about compression being unnecessary or counterproductive, I feel that this targeted compression on my ankle aided my recovery greatly (my *feeling* only, not supported by anything other than what seems like rapid healing). The sleeve is not the equivalent as wearing a bulky brace (thank goodness), but it provides just enough support to make the ankle feel all cuddly while still allowing that full range of motion that is the goal in rehabbing sprains.

Zensah Ankle Compression Sleeve

Zensah Ankle Compression Sleeve

So, as my mindset about Waldo has morphed through my recovery over the last two weeks and two days, I find myself in a place today feeling that I can almost certainly make at least the first cutoff, and my pace will almost certainly not be unlike most other long races of mine in which I am at the back of the pack and consider the cutoffs anyway. Most important to me is avoiding reinjury. To this end I will employ my trekking poles, which I had pre-injury been hoping to leave at home in hopes of running Waldo more aggressively and with more abandon than I am generally accustomed; and I plan to walk all of the dark sections, mandatory in my ‘start slow and stay steady’ strategy. There will be a lot of darkness in which to start slow, as I am taking the mind-numbing 3:00 am early start.

All that being said, The Ankle is for sure not functioning at 100%, especially on uneven ground, but I have been PROMISED that the Waldo trails are cushy compared to the rocky stuff we have here in southwest Idaho. {wink}

Compounding my personal Waldo question is the breaking news of last night (Wednesday, August 15th) that a fire had broken out in the immediate vicinity of the race course, or in the words of Race Director Craig Thornley,  ‘near Bobby Lake…in the middle of the course.’ Inciweb.org describes the fire as ‘east of Waldo Lake and just west of Bobby Lake.’ In other words, this fire is literally smack dab on top of the race course. No updates have been posted on the Incident Information System website for the Buckhead Complex fires more recently than 13 hours ago, and no information has come from the Race Director as of this morning at 9:30 am Pacific time. I’m sure they are scrambling to put together an alternate course, but I’m also sure that if safety of runners or access to significant portions of the course were at stake, the possibility of race cancellation exists. It happens. Let me reiterate that nothing of the sort has been announced by race management. These are only my thoughts in trying to process the possible outcomes. As for all fire situations, let’s pray that all firefighters are safe and when possible thank them for their heroic work.

The question remains – will this be the year that I find Waldo? Only two days time will tell.

Team Pearl iZUMi – The Beginning

When local Pearl iZUMi rep Heather Culig first facebooked me – I guess that’s how this stuff happens – about being a part of Team iZUMi Mountain States for 2012, my first question was,

Um, Heather, have you ever actually looked at my race record? Slow, average, ultra-shufflers don’t get sponsorships.

Then she set me straight.

Although PI does indeed maintain an elite ultrarunning team (Team Pearl iZUMi-Smith – they have their own website and everything), which boasts athletes such as Ashley Nordell and Darcy Africa, this is a different kind of team. I like to call it a ‘community’ team, made up of athletes of a variety of  speeds and abilities.

Alright. I represent the “slow” demographic; the negligible ability. That makes sense.

Heather went on to say, The main thing I am looking for is people persons who just love running!

Well, I do love running. As for being a people person…I try.

According to the Team PI facebook page (Team Pearl Izumi – Mountain States), Team Pearl Izumi is a selective group of competitive runners and triathletes of all ages and abilities who are passionate about training and racing. Team PI strives to build a community of active lifestyle enthusiasts and inspire them to reach their goals.

A stipulation for being on the team is to train and race in the Pearl iZUMi shoes and apparel. No, we don’t get our race entries paid. But we get sweet shoes to try out…and I’ve been liking them a lot.

The first two pairs I’m trying out are both lightweight trainers – the Peak II and the Streak II.

So far, I’ve worn the Peaks on a  50k trail run last Saturday, and today I wore the Streaks on my road run around Lake Lowell.

Streak II

At 7.5 ounces each (for the women’s size 9.5 – the sizing of the Streaks and Peaks is a half size larger than you would normally wear), the Streaks are a very lightweight road trainer, with marginal to no cushioning. I had worn them for 9 miles previously, and based on that experience, I was apprehensive to wear them for a 26 mile run. They are a little sparse in the cushioning department for someone like me who is going to shuffle 12-15 min/miles for nearly six hours. So, I slipped thin gel insoles under the stock insoles, and that felt really good. The fit was still fine. I still don’t get why shoe companies – MOST shoe companies – can’t get the offset lacing thing down. No one wants shoes that lace right over the high part of the foot!

Anyway, after 5:45 and 26 miles, I felt like I had run 26 miles. I’ll be honest – my feet hurt. And so did my hips and back and shoulders and eyeballs. On the plus side, my right arch/ankle, which in recent history has given me problems, did not hurt more than any other time; and it actually felt less strained that in some of my other shoes. So, I would say that the Streaks for a long-long road run were a success, although a shoe with a little more cushion would be slightly more ideal. The next shoes I’m ordering will be the syncroFuel Trail II, a less minimal ‘trail performance light stability’ shoe. I really can’t wait to try it out and am hoping that will be my ‘go all the way’ shoe for the Salt Flats 100 coming up at the end of April.

See you on the trails!

Antelope Island 100 Mile Buffalo Run

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100M

March 25 & 26, 2011

Davina: On Tuesday March 22nd, Emily mentioned that she would like to go watch our friend Sam run and pace him to get that coveted 100 mile buckle. Not sure how it happened, but I mentioned I would love to catch a ride down and before we knew it, we were leaving Nampa around 2:00 pm Friday the 25th. From the phone conversations we’d had with Sam on the trail since the race had started at noon, we figured would find him somewhere between miles 40 and 44…oh wait, did I mention he had no clue we were coming?

Sam: First of all, I had no business even registering for this race. I couldn’t even run for 8 weeks after the Javelina Jundred five months ago. I didn’t make the cutoff to continue on and run the last 9 miles of the race due to knee pain. I didn’t tell anyone that I registered for Antelope knowing that I wouldn’t have enough time to train properly. It took everyone about 2 weeks to figure out that I was in by checking the entrants list. My thoughts were this would force me to rehab properly and be as ready as possible come race time. No time for any type of setbacks. Also in my head was the pressure to erase the JJ DNF. DNF doesn’t sit well with me. I am not a quitter and I finish what I start. So with my training miles somewhere near half, I added bootcamp 2 to 3 times a week having to modify exercises that stressed the knees. Antelope Island, ready or not here I come!

Sam: The weather forecast was snow and rain for the weekend. Looking out the hotel window on race morning, I had to smile. It was raining pretty good, and that turned to a fairly heavy snow for a while and then back and forth between rain and snow. The reason I was smiling is because it doesn’t rain on me when I am running, and this would be a good test. While driving to the start (early because I am always early) the snow lightened up to a drizzle mixed with a few flakes. I placed my drop bags in the canopy in the proper piles. I had plenty of dry clothes including shoes in each of the 4 drop bags just in case. I also had a Starbucks Doubleshot, an Ensure, and plenty of S! Caps in each a bag. The Doubleshots were to be a pick me up for the 2nd loop. I stole this idea from Emily. She actually quits caffeine before her races so that the Doubleshots have more effect. I am not giving up my coffee! {and neither is Emily any more!}


Sam: It was getting close to race time, and the volunteers were still setting up. I helped put together a canopy. We were told beforehand that they would still be setting up until the start and they were. With a couple minutes to start, Jim Skaggs the RD drew a line in the dirt with his foot and announced this is the starting line. The equipment wasn’t there yet. I thought this was a pretty cool, low tech way to start a race. And we were off, overprepared for the rain and snow that wasn’t to be. Why? Because it never rains on me when I am running.

Sam: About a half mile in, I looked up at the snow covered mountain and could see some dark specks that must be buffalo. I remember thinking I hope we are going up there and we did and they were. The snow was beginning to melt and the trail was getting muddy in places. Somewhere around mile 8 on the second set of switchbacks, the melting snow was creating a stream of water on the trails and very muddy in places. About this time, I started developing knee issues. Oh no, not again, was my thought. At Elephant’s Head aid station (mile 13.5), I changed into my road shoes for two reasons: 1. My shoes and socks were soaked and 2. I hoped this would help the knees. Jen Stover helped with my drop bag and was there to assist. She and a friend were manning this aid station. Seeing Jen was one of my race highlights. I wish I had a picture. She had a Viking helmet on and war paint – oh wait, that was her mascara running.

Sam: Leaving Elephant’s Head aid station, I dropped quickly to lower elevation and warmer dry trails, trying to forget about aching knees and trying to stay slow and save energy while taking pics. Between mile 18 and 19 I broke out the iPod looking for some distraction from the knee pain. I have a mix of Christian and 50s music on my iPod. At this point, I was just logging miles and listening to music wishing that Emily and Davina would show up to pace me. I had a gut feeling that they were going to show even though my head said they weren’t.

Emily: It doesn’t really matter how it all came about, but Davina and found ourselves traveling to Antelope Island, Utah on Friday afternoon, the 25th of March, 2011 on a mission to assist our friend Sam in finishing his first 100 mile race. Davina and I had talked to him in the early evening when he was about mile 32, just getting ready to leave the Ranch AS. I remember talking to Sam on the phone earlier in the day while we were on I-84 in northern Utah:

Promise me you won’t even THINK about stopping until you get to mile 50, okay Sam?

Oh, I’m not quitting. I feel pretty good right now.

Emily: I was hopeful. The big concern was Sam’s knees, which had caused a DNF at JJ back in October 2010. But things sounded like they were rolling along much more smoothly for a much longer time than they had at JJ, when things had started unraveling very early in the race, about 10 miles in.

Sam: Logging miles, I met and ran with Jan who used to live in Boise but now lives in Salt Lake. We would run together and take turns passing each other and run together more. Somewhere during this time I talked to Emily on the phone. Yes, I carried my cell phone. Emily is a very good friend and running partner. I told her that I felt that she would show up to pace me and she got quiet. After I hung up, I remember thinking that I hope I didn’t make her feel bad for not being able to come. This is where I first thought they weren’t able to make it.

Sam: The snow capped mountains were amazing glowing bright pink around mile 30 or so as the sun was starting to set.

Sam: Just after dark I got a call from Emily after I stopped to use the bushes and Jan went on. {Emily: actually, it was Sam who called me, and I really didn’t want to answer because I just had this feeling that one of the next few runners would be him, and I was right. I held the phone away from my ear and could still hear a voice from the headlamp ahead in the dark talking, confirming it was him.} Emily asked if there was someone running in front of me with a red light. My thought was how did she know that Jan was in front of me? That’s when she said it was her.

Sam: I don’t have the words to describe how I felt after running about 30 miles with achy knees and having two amazing friends make a surprise five hour drive to pace me. Everything was going to be okay. This was a big boost for me. I was going to get my first hundred mile finish. The rest was Emily and Davina. These next miles were a blur. The lightening in the distance lit up the clouds in such a cool way as Emily and I ran from Lower Frary back to the Mountain View aid station where Davina was waiting.

Davina: Emily ran out four miles from the Mountain View aid station to meet Sam, and then they returned back to Mtn. View (mile 44) where I was ready to take over pacing for the next six miles into the race headquarters (mile 50), where Emily would take over for the next 19 or so miles. Sam looked great when I first saw him. He had high spirits and joked around about the buffalo. I know seeing Emily out on the course gave him the lift he needed to get through the night.

Davina: Emily and I decided to divide up the pacing into sections and alternately torture Sam with our presences. Haha – he really took it like a good sport. In all actuality we weren’t that mean – we kept the yelling to a minimum. {Snicker, snicker}

Davina: About mile 45 there is a section where we thought we were going to have to cut cross country due to unclear markings or lack of markings. We wandered around for a while trying to get back on course and to the next aide station. The RD had non-reflective orange and black course markings flagged really low to the ground, along with trampled and rained-on lime arrows. I can see the buffalo now – Let’s trample every last piece of tape! and they did. We slowly came to recognize a glow close to the ground as not some wild animal ready to eat us, but a lantern to guide our way. The guys at the Lakeside AS were very helpful and nice as they sent us on our way.

Sam: I remember deer eyes at night running with Davina.

Davina: About mile 48, we came around a rocky section to several beady eyes staring at us. My first instinct was to hide behind a rock because I had heard that the buffalo might charge if threatened, and who wouldn’t be threatened by a bunch of crazy runners out in the middle of the night? Instead, it was a whole herd of deer, the closest one being about 20 feet from us. They were beautiful. Sam kept a steady pace, hiking an average of nice 15 minute miles. Sam told me of all the buffalo he had seen during the day and how beautiful the land was. I was so anxious for morning to come so I could get to see some of the country he kept describing. In the meantime, we wandered by the light of a half moon and our headlamps, one step at a time.

Emily: When Sam and Davina came into the start/finish tent at mile 50, I was ready to go. I’d gotten Sam some Ramen to drink and we helped him recharge his Nike Sportband. After 10-15 minutes of recharging and reorganizing, we were set to go on the 19-mile loop that would take us to dawn. It was 12:35 am when we headed back out into the night.

Sam: Later in the race, I remember all the pressure melting away when the girls took away my tech gadgets and all I had to do was obey and run.

Emily: As we headed out into the night, RD Jim Skaggs commented to us “it’s just through the gate again.” This would be the second time Sam had done the course, and I was sure he would know what Jim meant by that. We rolled through the gate, confident that Sam knew where he was going “just through the gate.” But we all know darkness brings a different world.

Davina: Meanwhile, I decided I should try to get at least a couple hours of sleep so that I could be the best help as I could to Sam come those early morning hours. But, it didn’t work. From 12:30 to 4:30 am, I might have squeezed in a total of 1.5 hours of sleep, but I really can’t be certain that I got that much. My mind was on Sam and Emily. I kept praying for them, praying for Sam’s strength to hold up and for his knees to not bother him. I thought of all the runners out there and what strength and profound determination they showed. I had the pleasure of hanging out in the tent with Jon Kinzer, who pulled from the race due to a rolled ankle and Achilles issues, along with 100 mile winner Dan Vega  (15:31) and second place 100 miler Karl Meltzer (16:06).

Emily: I could see lights of runners ahead up on switchbacks on the hill to our left, and I knew that’s where we needed to be heading. The road we were on had headed straight through the gate outside the aid station. We toodled on, but the further we traveled, I started to question.

Sam, is this the way you went the first time?

I think so. I’m not sure.

We need to be up there. Maybe the road will turn in a few minutes?

Emily: The road we were heading on was leading out to the right parallel to the base of the hills. Something didn’t seem right. Finally, 1.2 miles out, I said We need to turn around. We are not cutting left up the hill like we should. I was fresh so I turned around and took off running with Sam following behind at a walk. When I frantically raced into the aid tent, I snagged the first person I saw who looked like he might be a reliable source of information.

You take a hard left along the fence directly after passing through the gate.

OH. Crap. I walked back over to the gate and looked for markings that I missed the first time through. There were maybe some faint flour marks on the ground, and on closer inspection, I saw a solid white line crossing the road we had just taken. I guess that meant we shouldn’t go that way. Oh brother. I waited a few minutes for Sam to arrive and then we were on to mile 50 for the second time.

The time was 1:25 am. 50 precious minutes vanished into the night.

Emily: Sam and I pushed up the large switchback to the top of the ridge. I could tell Sam was in a little funk. He asked if he could lead so he could try to get some of his fire back, and I let him go. I needed to take a pit stop and change the batteries in my badly fading headlamp anyway. {Note for night runners: always carry a small backup flashlight so you can see in the dark to change the batteries in your headlamp if you are alone.} So, by the time I was going again, Sam had gotten quite a ways ahead on a downhill section. The top of the ridge afforded a breathtaking view of SLC across the great expanse of the lake, and I drank in the view, appreciating that I could exist in this moment in this place on this night. Dry lightning flashed in the distant sky, but stars lit the sky directly overhead.

Emily: By the time I caught back up to Sam, we were climbing our way to the Elephant Rock AS. This whole section was comprised of a loop and an out and back, so we were seeing people coming back our way, one of whom was a strong looking Dennis and then Jon Kinzer who was calling it a day, limping back to the main hub with a tendonitis issue and twisted ankle. I felt bad for him, but on a positive note, Sam had recovered his better spirits by this time, had acknowledged that he was in a funk over the bonus miles, and had moved on, literally and figuratively.

Emily: Reaching Elephant Head, we opted to do the 3 mile out and back section before the loop. The out and back was a sweet little singletrack at a slight descent out to a point that I am told was spectacular during the day; however, in the dark, I could not even tell we were on an island. It’s just you, the rocks and dirt in front of you, the stars above, and the circle of light guiding your way. Reaching the turnaround, I picked a cute sticker out of the bucket for Sam to stick to his race # proving he had been there, and we headed back to Elephant Head. I had a quick telephone conversation with John through here – we had cell service at selected points around the island. I tried to keep him and Tina updated throughout the race so everyone could pray and be informed about Sam’s progress.

Emily: Now on the 6-7 mile loop from Elephant Head, we had a beautiful experience under a stunning half moon. I tried to get some pictures but they didn’t come out so well. Eventually, we caught up to some headlamps on a section of switchbacks. We had not seen many people for a while and it was a welcome sight to not only see headlights, but more so to see that we were catching up to them. Nothing is more moralizing in the wee hours of a 100 miler than to catch up to and overtake someone. All racers experience highs and lows out there, especially through the night, and realizing you are faster and stronger than someone else brings a strong dose of good spirits. We overtook the lady and her pacer, wished them well, and went on our way. Sam’s victory arms indicated that he was happy about this small achievement. I could tell the lady was in one of those slumps and felt bad for her. But those things come and go…and Sam’s turn for the slump was coming a little later down the road.

Emily: I kept checking my trusty old Timex to monitor our progress and try to keep it steady. Secretly, I was nervous about the time, not sure how our lost 50 minutes would affect our overall mission. Originally, I had aimed to get us off the 19 mile loop about 5:30 am (5 hours), but I had revised that plan to 6:00 am after the bonus miles. After prodding Sam through some rather difficult miles, around and down to the aid station, taking walk breaks when needed, but trying to keep up a good pace, we rolled into the start/finish about 6:30 am, and Davina was waiting and ready to take up a good portion of the daytime running on the lovely flat lakeside singletrack, vast the Salt Lake and snow capped mountains ever-present for miles 50-94.

Davina: When Sam and Emily returned, we made sure to get Sam in and out of the AS quickly. Emily would crew along as much as she could and hopefully get some shut eye, which she never did – too much activity. Sam was in good spirits, his left ankle a bit sore but his knees overall good. We made sure to keep a close eye on them, though.

Emily: Morning was freshly dawning when Sam and Davina headed over the hill toward their long lakeside run. From a crew’s perspective, I think the night portion went well, and Davina and I did a pretty good job getting Sam in and out of the major checkpoint pretty efficiently, with the exception of having to charge his various electronic pacing devices.

Davina: Sam and I made our way back over to the Mtn. View AS (mile 70) and completed a short 2 mile out and back before heading on the long out and back to the Ranch. I noticed that Sam started thinking weird things were funny, like the two girls headed straight for the lake instead of turning on the trail to do the out and back. Sam good naturedly told them they were on the wrong trail and that they might get a bit wet if they kept going. Haha.

 

Emily: I hung out with the race winner and Jon Kinzer for a while before heading over in the car to check on Sam and Davina. Ben Blessing called about 7:00 am while I was in the process of overlooking the misty lake in the early morning light, flocks of birds landing and ascending, buffalo grazing on grassy knolls above the water, lake awash in blue and pink and white. I gave Ben a good report, saying that Sam was feeling pretty good so far, was maybe getting tired, but was still moving well and was not experiencing debilitating knee pain. I can’t remember exactly when Sam first mentioned to me that his left ankle hurt, but I think I dismissed it as one of those pains he would just have to deal with.

Davina: We made our way into Lower Frary (mile 77) where Emily met us, helped Sam refill his water, and got him something to eat. It was at this AS where Sam said he needed to use the restroom and came out shortly handing me an extra pair of running shorts that he had been wearing. Let me tell ya, I’m not sure what I thought when he handed them to me, but I got a great laugh out of it! I do remember him saying, That should help me run better. He’d been wearing two pairs of shorts the whole time? What??

Davina: After Lower Frary AS, I got to encounter my first up-close buffalo about 30 yards off trail. Sam wanted me to get closer and get a picture, but I made sure to keep moving as I snapped the shutter button.

Sam: This was too funny – Davina was shaking so much out of fear of a buffalo attack that she couldn’t push the shutter button on my camera. She kept saying come on keep moving. She was sure we would be attacked. The buffalo were probably laughing harder than me.

Davina: I noticed that Sam kept doing a little more walking and a lot less running. He was also starting to really favor his left ankle and even stepping slightly off the trail would cause him extreme discomfort.  About mile 80, after Lower Frary outbound, Emily met up with us and wrapped Sam’s ankle with a good ol’ Ace bandage, which helped immensely. On the trail again, I decided it was time to not keep my prayers quiet and spent the next two minutes praying right alongside Sam that God would work a healing in his body and that he would move on to conquer this 100 mile race. So many people sent texts to Sam – he had me check his phone as it kept buzzing – such amazing support from such awesome friends. Into the morning, I decided to institute a walk/run pattern hoping that it would give him a little more of a push and take focus off the ankle. Overall, I think it worked. One minute of walk and then one minute of run, allowing for two minutes of walk while he ate something – I know, I know – but I had to keep him moving.

Sam: My ankle started hurting badly and the knee pain went away. I remember as the fastest 50 milers were approaching, I was trying to let them pass and the pain was too much for me to step off the trail. I started apologizing to them. I welcomed the ankle pain as a distraction from the knees.

Emily: Davina called me shortly after Lower Frary, saying that Sam’s ankle was getting really bad and wondering if I had anything in the car that might help. I whizzed over to the next point on the trail where they would access the road, plopped Sam down in a chair, and wrapped Sam’s ankle up in an Ace bandage.

Sam: Emily taped my ankle, and I wanted to convince Davina that it was better now, even though it wasn’t. It would eventually go numb and feel a lot better. Sometime during the ankle thing, the knee pain disappeared.

Davina: Every once in a while Sam would look off in the distance and make a remark about the beauty of the snow capped mountains across the Salt Lake. It wasn’t until he asked about the sprinklers on the hillside that I began to wonder if this was what I had heard talk about – hallucinations and how the mind could play funny tricks on you. I laughingly told Sam they were not sprinklers but that if we would like to check them out I would wait on the trail for him. He decided not to. Heh heh. At one point while pointing up the hill to some bonsai-looking trees, Sam told me those were some of the biggest buffalo he had ever seen.

Davina: I decided to play along and said, Oh no Sam, those are giraffes. Yeah, that’s what I said. See those two giraffes?

Davina: I didn’t encounter my first real struggle with these imaginary images Sam was having until he thought he saw the Ranch AS, which was really the side of the mountain with rocks lunging out on the edge. If I had just run 80-something miles I could see how it would look like an aid station. Sam was so intent on getting there he kept asking me why I just wouldn’t let him go to the aid station. I tried several times to tell him that was NO AID STATION, but he told me that he was going anyway. He was just about to head cross country when we met up with Paul and Steve, and Sam asked them about the aid station hoping for a more favorable answer. Thankfully they told him the AS was up the road about two miles and that was just a hill. Thank you guys!!!  I will admit that had me in stitches. He was just so adamant, and I just got to yell at him that it wasn’t; and then he looked so sad that I had to say, Oops, time to RUN.

Sam: I got upset with Davina because I thought she was looking at the wrong spot and this was why she couldn’t see the invisible aid station.

Davina: Emily met up with us at the Ranch AS (mile 83), helped us get Sam refueled and hydrated, and then out we went, back to Lower Frary. I would switch things up on him and do 1 min walk/1 min run, 2 min walk/1min run, 2 min walk/2 min run, and then start over. Emily had brought along some turkey wraps and that proved to be great fuel for him. They were solid without being heavy on the stomach. I also had one of those Gatorade Primes that I had thought to buy to bring along because I knew Sam liked them. Between the turkey wraps and the Prime, Sam’s energy seemed rejuvenated, and he got back on track.

Emily: It was quite late in the morning before I even started feeling drowsy from being up all night, but there was enough action at the aid stations and driving along to the various points to meet Davina and Sam that I never felt like I needed to stop and sleep. Anyway, I didn’t want to be asleep when they came through, especially because they were moving faster than I expected them to be.

Emily: While waiting back at Lower Frary AS, I had the good fortune to encounter Robbie Woog heading outbound, and I helped him to get moving out of the aid station on his way to his first 50 mile finish! It was there that I also encountered a spry Dennis heading inbound, simply killing the course in his tutu with his pacer, speedster Glen Merrill.

Davina: During that day, we came across some of our 100 mile friends: Lynette McDougal, running strong and positive as always, finished in 25:51. Dennis Ahern killed the run in 22:24 with a second place in his age division and 13th overall. Steven Boyenger and Paul Lindauer finished together in 25:54.

Davina: We met back up with Emily at Lower Frary and she took back over running with Sam. They had about 11 miles to make it to the finish line and about 6 hours to do it. Sam was strong and determined. After four years of knowing Sam, I learned something new about him – he CAN run without his Nike+ and his Garmin.

Emily: The 4-5 miles (~89-94) from Lower Frary to Mountain View AS were fairly uneventful, just passing the time, consistently walk/running 1 minute/1 minute with some variations for the terrain. Sam tried to stay fueled, eating the last turkey wrap and a cheese stick I had in my pack, along with some peanut M&Ms at the aid station. At Mile 94, there was a short climb (less than a quarter mile), and the rest of the race was flat to rolling terrain on the section Davina had run with Sam the night before.

Sam: I remember seeing double several times with Emily in the last 6 mile section of the race. Two people were running toward us, but to me there were four of them. As I ran behind Emily, I thought no wonder she runs so smooth – she has four legs.

Emily: The piece of trail with 2-3 miles to go was one of my favorites. Massive rock formations hugged the trail, sometimes becoming parts of the trail; and Sam – a rock lover at heart – still had the presence of mind to point out to me what the formations looked like to him. Look, there’s Elvis! I just looked around us, letting Sam get ahead of me for a minute and tried not to get emotional about this huge achievement that was about to be won. I think I grinned from ear to ear for a good three miles into the finish.

Sam: I laid on a rock with about 4 miles to go, and it was funny for me. I thought for sure Emily would be yelling at me.

Emily: I was too kind-hearted to yell at Sam, when he clearly had a smidge of humor left. It was pretty funny to come around that corner to find Sam hamming it up on a huge flat rock, like he was sleeping. As if I would let that fly for long!

Sam: Just before Emily took over pacing the last time, I told Davina several times that the three of us should cross the finish at the same time together. I was upset when she was across the finish line with the camera.

Emily: Sam was moving along well all the way to the finish, alternately walking and running, and we only got passed by a couple of 50 milers as we passed a couple other 100 milers ourselves.  The white tent of the finish line finally appeared in the distance like an oasis. There it is, Sam!! As is often the case, objects in ultras are often further away than they appear, but I tried with moderate success to get Sam to run the last mile in. When we reached the finish area, I practically had to drag Sam down the “aisle” toward the finish line. He just wanted to stop there and wait for Davina to get over to us.

Sam, you have to finish the race!

But I want Davina to cross with us.

Well, she is over there taking pictures.

But I want Davina to cross with us.

Come on, Sam!

Emily: Almost reluctantly, Sam crossed the finish line, grabbing my hand and holding it up as we crossed. The clock read 27:34, two and a half hours ahead of the finish cutoff. What an awesome victory! Davina and I were relentless, but we only pushed Sam to the point that he was capable. This was his finish, his victory, 100 miles he covered with his own two feet. I was incredibly proud of him.

Sam: It was great of Dennis and Jon being at the finish with high fives. Seeing Emily’s excitement for me at the finish was very touching. All I could think was wow!

Davina: I learned many lessons in the pacer role of this 100 mile race:

  • 1. You can do anything for one minute – just ask Sam.
  • 2. Ramen noodles are good, but not for the whole race.
  • 3. Emily should always be there with her turkey wraps.
  • 4. Praying is great.
  • 5. Praying out loud at mile 82 is okay and other racers thank you for it.
  • 6. Just laugh when you see giraffes in Utah.
  • 7. Friends are the best.
  • 8. Watching your friend hold that buckle in their hand does make you cry.

Davina: Hey, Sam, remember when we started running at the Rec and wrote down our goals? Half marathon – that’s just small stuff, my friend. You are now in the 100 mile club! Congrats!

Sam Collier:  27:34:13.4   16:33/M   5th in 50-59 Age Group

Davina: Emily and I left for home about 5:30 pm Saturday evening.  I count myself blessed to have such awesome friends, ones who will speak the truth, ones who will hold you accountable, ones who will dream with you, ones who will believe in you, and ones who will go that extra mile with you.

January 29, 2011 – Wilson Creek Frozen 50k Trail Runs

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Funnest Time Award - 10 Mile Finishers

The first (possibly annual) running of the informal trail gathering dubbed the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k (and 20M and 10M) can be considered a great success. No one got permanently lost, for most of the morning the really bad mud stayed at bay, only one person reported blood (with pride and a great description of the fall, of course), and many milestones were achieved.

R-L, Top Three 50k Finishers

You never know what you are going to get in the Owyhees this time of year. It could have been epic mud or blizzard conditions. It could have been 0 degrees with a -20 windchill. Turns out, we were blessed with a best possible case scenario for course conditions overall. For the first half of the day, a blanket of chilly fog kept the ground mostly firm, so the infamous Wilson Creek clay mud only attacked the small group of 50k runners who were braving the 10 mile loop in the afternoon. Chill wind was nowhere to be found. And above the fog, 50k and 20M runners got to enjoy the most spectacular views in the brilliant sun from Wilson Peak (elev. 5363’).

Runners Descending from Wilson Peak with Soldier Cap in the Background

Even at a small, informal gathering like this, inspirational stories abound. One girl finished her first-ever 50k and was so excited about it. One guy ran his 4th 50k in as many weeks to celebrate his birthday two days later. The 50k winner took his first-ever win, amazing everyone with his speed, even after accumulating several bonus miles on an unflagged section; and then he hung around until late in the afternoon waiting for everyone else to finish. Truly cool guy. Two ladies ran the longest distance they had ever run, tacking 5 miles onto 10 mile run on their own. One lady ran her first trail run ever, on a challenging course no less. She can’t wait to go back. Many others accomplished something great for themselves that day. I am so honored that I was able to share this beautiful country with an awesome group of trail runners.

Donna, Laney, and the Course Sweeps!

This run would not have happened without three people: Davina Jackson, Sam Collier, and my husband John. The three of them spent the day before the race marking trails, and Davina and Sam swept the course, clearing course markings and making sure no one was left out there at the end of the day. Special thanks goes to Davina’s parents for manning the aid station for the morning and taking pictures until John got done running. Thanks to everyone who brought goodies to share at the trailhead, also. Thanks last but not least to Mike and Leone at Shu’s Idaho Running Company for sponsoring this run with great schwag bags and race numbers.

Maybe we’ll see you all next year???

Race Directors Em and Davina

For complete run details and results, visit www.emilyberriochoa.com/Frozen50k/

Sam after a slight mud incident.

BEAR 100: My Unofficial Finish

I did not quit

PRE-RACE

Thursday, September 23, 2010: John and I dropped the kids off at my parents’ house in Nampa and then picked up Sam. After loading all his gear, making a stop at Subway for an early lunch, and swinging by the church for an improptu prayer lined up by Tina for safety and strength, we were out of town right on time.

Drop bags at Leland’s Trout Farm, organized and labeled by aid station destination.

We had no problem finding Race Director Leland Barker’s Mountain Valley Trout Farm in Smithfield, UT, where we dropped off my six drop bags in a monumental lineup of bags piled in organized chaos. Because the race had grown so much this year, the pre-race meeting had to be moved from the Trout Farm up the road to a municipal park. We drove over to the park in Sugar, UT and met up with all the other crazies from the Boise area (eight of us). I was excited to see Allie and Margaret from Montana there also.

Deep breath.

I summoned the guts to go talk to Andrew Barney, who I had first met along the trail at the BigHorn Trail Run back in June. I was in the 50 mile race and passed him in the last 10 miles of his 100 miler. He was kind enough to give me some advice and show me his race notebook. I had thought my preparations were over the top, but after seeing the data he compiled and his awesome spreadsheet, I didn’t feel so bad at all. Next time, I will be more over the top. More planning with my crew; less trying to be like Dennis. 🙂 Just be myself!

Bruce Copeland showing off the course markings. Pink and reflective for straightaways, and double-flagged pink and yellow at turns.

The pre-race meeting was a fun affair, where we really got a feel for the race director’s heart. Laid back is definitely the right word to describe Leland Barker and company. A question about cell coverage out on the course was met with a roar of laughter followed by…no answer. Someone asked about whether runners would be weighed pre-race. Well, the scales didn’t come in, so NO. We are all ultrarunners here. You know how to take care of yourselves. Your crew can decide if you are fit enough to continue. Love it. Leland informed us he had forgotten to order the belt buckles in time, so we would have to wait to receive those. Haha. It was getting better and better. After listening to descriptions of course markings, aid station fare, a few rules of the race, and a word from the Ham radio director {rousing applause}, we took Leland’s advice on a restaurant and headed back to Smithfield for dinner at Callaway’s.

The food was delicious, but the service very slow (two large ultrarunning parties completely overwhelmed their service staff), so it was a little later than we would have liked by the time we got back to Logan and checked into the hotel. A few last Facebook comments, and then I was lights-out by 9:30 pm, doing my best to relax and actually sleep. It was a great night’s sleep until about 1:30 am, when someone directly above us started walking around on a very CREAKY floor. I think I dozed a bit more until the alarm went off at 4:45 am. Aggravating, but not the end of the world. Unfortunately, I had not rested/slept as much as I would have liked the week leading up to the race. None of that mattered now. It was what it was. This was race day, whether I was rested or not.

Pre-race pasta dinner

START

Friday, September 24, 2010: I made last minute agonizations about whether or not my Nathan pack contained the appropriate equipment and gathered my gear, which took minimal time, as I had neatly laid it all out the night before. No need to dress, as I always sleep in my race garb the night before a race, gaiters and all. I made a last-minute decision to don a bandanna instead of my other usual headgear, the orange BSU hat. It turned out to be a fine decision.

5:00 am. Need I say more?

As we were getting ready to head out the door, I realized I had not planned what I was going to eat for breakfast. We had some stuff in the car, but nothing sounded good. As it was sort of going to be a long day (ha!), and I probably would be burning a few calories (ha!), I acquiesced when John offered to run back inside and grab me a bagel from the hotel. Pre-race breakfast: 3/4 plain white bagel, a cup of apple juice with a handful of corn chips at the race start, and a vitamin B drink I chugged down when I first awoke.

Sam’s shirt is all wrong. It should say, “I am Emily’s hero.” Cute, Dennis.

The race start was a high-energy affair, where we all informed the race director that we were, indeed, present, and then proceeded to take plenty of group pictures with our eight Treasure Valley runners represented. 170 starters, bobbing excitedly in the dark, headlamps lit, not knowing what the next day and a half would bring…

L-R: Jeff, Paul, Dennis, Sam, Emily, Wildman, Trail Thrasher, Jon. Front: Lynette.

And with little fanfare, we were off, jogging slowly up and out of the subdivision, soon reaching a trailhead and the trail we would climb for the next couple hours from 4860’ elevation to an early high point of 8800’.

Where’s Waldo? Right before the “GO”

FIRST OF TWO DAYBREAKS: FULL MOON AND FRESH LEGS

Start (4860 ft. elev.) to Logan Peak AS (10.5) (8800 ft. elev.)
10.5 miles in between (3 hours, 18 minutes)
No Crew Station; No cutoff
ETA 9:10 am; Actual arrival 9:18 am, 9:21 out
4700’ ascent, 700’ descent to mile 10.5

Ben Blessing had informed me he was going to run with me for the first 20 miles so he wouldn’t go out too fast, and I was happy to have the company. Actually, we had a lot of awesome company and conversation as conga lines of people ebbed and flowed up and up and up through 4,000 feet of elevation gain. The climb started immediately off the starting line. It was dark, but I never did even turn on my headlamp. I tried to once, but Ben told me to turn it off. Off it went. Yes, SSgt Blessing. Of course, Ben was right. The full moon was brilliant, and enough people around me had on headlamps that I never needed mine.

Rock cairns.

This first piece of trail was defined by amazing rock cairns. People had taken a lot of time and thought building some of these displays. This was a day full of promise – we climbed higher and higher, and as the sun also rose higher, the incredible foliage for which The Bear is known was revealed.

Daybreak: nuthin’ but climbing.

Along the trail, I met Chad Fisher from Boise who told me he was into CrossFit. We talked about that for a little while, because the boot camp workouts I have done since January had included some cross-fit components. We regaled the benefits. Chad posted a picture on Facebook after the race, and I wished I had remembered to copy his idea afterwards for the benefit of Tanya, my boot camp instructor. Chad had written in Sharpie on cardboard: WOD (workout of day): 1 mile x 100 times. 33 hours, 36 minutes. Great job, Chad!

That beautiful rolling section between miles 7-9 somewhere. The views were spectacular.

With the exception of some rockin’ runnable trail between miles 7 to 9 or so, it was all climb up to the first aid station at mile 10.5. Ben was so cool to hang with me, waiting up ahead and just taking it easy, giving advice and just generally being encouraging. Several times I told him he didn’t have to wait for me, but like the more seasoned runner he is, he just knowingly stated that it was much better to start out very slow. It made me wonder if I was going out too fast – if this was a very slow pace for Ben, then it was probably NOT a very slow pace for me. Regardless, I was feeling VERY good up to this point, virtually pain-free and feeling relaxed. I did not feel like I was pushing the pace at all.

View back down to Logan.

Turns out, Ben’s slow start would not cost him too much time in the long run. He ended up having a tough race, but regardless of covering the first 20 miles very slowly and taking an hour and a half nap at mile 75, he still finished in 31:26.

AS 1: Logan Peak.

WHAT HAPPENS ON THE TRAIL STAYS ON THE TRAIL

Logan Peak (10.5)(8800’) to Leatham Hollow (19.7)(5141’)
9.14 miles in between (1 hour, 54 minutes)
Crew Accessible, No cutoff
ETA 11:15 am; Actual arrival 11:15 am, 11:30 out
3700’ descent from 10.5 to 19.7

We were just getting warmed up, having a blast on one of the most fun sections of the course. We had gotten up high and the views were spectacular – fall colors in full bloom everywhere. I believe it was through here that a lady I dubbed “The Pink Lady” passed me and Ben, and I remember Ben enthusiastically commenting (Yeah, nice outfit!!!) on her all-pink costume – thick headband, tank, and running skirt. The Pink Lady would become significant to me later on in the race.

During this long, fun, rocky downhill section, I rolled the outside of my left ankle and luckily was able to hop out of it without completely committing. Close call. Luckily, the pain went away and did not affect me the rest of the race. I started getting hungry and ate a lemon Luna bar and a GU out of pure necessity before getting to Leatham. Keep the calories coming in, Emily.

 

Ben.

What happens on the trail stays on the trail: Ben is a lot of fun, and if you know him, I’m sure you can only imagine his antics. I will protect his privacy on most of these things, but someday you may want to get his advice on how to collect large, soft green leaves. Maybe he was taking them home to press and dry. I don’t know.

Allie had left Logan Peak (10.5) just as I arrived and it took most of the way to Leatham (20) before Ben and I caught up. Soon we joined up with Jon Kinzer, and eventually we all rolled into Leatham together, Ben hooting and hollering as usual (a custom that lasted the first half of the race but seemed to fade with night, as John noted), where we met up with John and Sam for the first time. I was feeling really good at this point, no pain in my legs. Happy to be there, enjoying the most beautiful day imaginable. We descended a lot, but we were just rolling along at an easy pace, Ben continuously reminding me to not go too hard. However, once at the aid station, Ben was through in a flash, off like a bat out of hell. That was the last time I saw him until Bear Lake.

Me, Ben, and Jon roaring into Leatham Hollow.

COWBOYS AND AN OUTHOUSE
Leatham Hollow (19.7) to Richards Hollow (22.5)
2.84 miles in between (32 minutes)
No Crew Station; No cutoff
ETA 12:00 pm; actual arrival 12:02, out at 12:03
300 feet of climb from 19.7 to 22.5

I had sort of been dreading this piece of the race, as it was just three miles straight up a dirt road to the next aid station. However, my preconceived notions could not have been more mistaken. It turned out to be a very beautiful dirt road section characterized by close-in trees and a cattle roundup in progress. It was idyllic. Kinzer and a new friend Erika were near me on this section. We smiled and waved at the cowboys, and they all asked if we wanted rides. We laughed when they said they would much rather die traveling their way than ours. Soon, we passed a ranger station with {gasp} an open outhouse, so I didn’t have to use the bushes. Perfect timing!

Jon and the Cowboys.
Jon and Erika.

That was the first time in the race I had needed to use the bathroom, which was concerning me. Usually I have to pee a time or two right off the bat. However, I was trying to drink most of the water in my pack in between stations, and my electrolyte/H2O balance was good, with an S-cap or two an hour, something I maintained well for the duration. I never felt dehydrated. The second half of the race was a different story. While I only had to pee a couple times total in the first half of the race, all of a sudden in the second half, I started having to hit the bushes at least once or twice an hour.

Outhouse!

TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH JON
Richards Hollow (22.5) to Cowley Canyon (30)
7.5 miles in between (2 hours, 16 minutes)
Crew Accessible; No cutoff
ETA 2:30 pm; Actual arrival 2:19 pm, out at 2:23 pm
2100’ ascent, 700’ descent from mile 22.5 to 30

At Richards Hollow (23), I grabbed a pre-made PB&J sandwich in a baggie, stuffed some trail mix in another baggie, and kept right on going. This was not a crew aid station, and we had just had a stop three miles earlier. My water would be good until mile 30.

At this juncture, the course headed off the dirt road and turned onto a trail that would take us 7.3 miles up through a canyon to another dirt road leading into Cowley (30). We meandered through meadows and were treated to beautiful rock formations in cliffs on either side and serene ponds backed by beaver dams. Jon Kinzer and I were near each other in this section –if we were both walking, he would leave me in the dust. I had to run to keep up. He has an amazing walk.

Jon.

It is important to note that this was also Jon’s first 100 mile race. He has completed three Ironman triathlons, and he is a Marine, so I knew he was tough. But when he went on to complete this race in 34:56 on 0-20 miles per week of training, it really showed how tough he is mentally. Crazy.

Beaver dam.

After coming out onto the road, I was passed by the amazing Peros – Deb had been calling me “Bandanna girl” whenever we would meet up. We exchanged some comments about the stunning weather, and we all stopped to take pictures of sheep and their shepherd. I commented on their great pace. Steve said they were racing according to his heart rate monitor, keeping the rate low to moderate, and that they were right where they wanted to be. The Peros are like ultra superheroes, and I felt honored to share a bit of trail with them. They went on to finish in 32:06.

Steve and Deb Pero.

Jon Kinzer had gone on ahead by then, and it would be much later before I would see him again. I was still running well at this point, easily tooling through the couple miles of easy dirt road descending into Cowley (30). I could tell from above that John and Sam were not at the aid station yet – no white Xterra parked there. I was a little disappointed, but thought I would take advantage of this and make it a quick stop.

I loved all the aspens.

As I stood wondering what looked good at the food table, Steve Pero advised me that a banana was about 120 calories and would be a good choice. Who was I to argue? I ate the banana, and it tasted good. I grabbed some other fruit and goodies, filled my pack with water, and checked out. 161 out! (Checking in and out of each aid station with the radio operators was mandatory.) As I walked out with Allie, she asked how I was doing. I off-handedly said I had a few hot spots on my feet.

The shepherd and his sheep.

This really caught her attention. You better take care of that now. Blisters can ruin your race.

Who was I to question the experienced, Hardrock-finisher Allie? I turned around to get my drop bag and fix my blisters exactly when John roared up honking in the Xterra. Great timing! Margaret ran out to Allie to make sure there was nothing that she needed, and that was the last time I ran near Allie for the remainder of the race. She went on to finish in a fantastic 34:38, a time she was very pleased with.

Fixing my feet at Cowley.

John retrieved my drop bag that contained clean socks while I washed my feet. Margaret, John, and Allie helped me patch my two spots of biggest concern – left 4th toe and right big toe. After putting on clean socks and the same Mizuno Ascent trail shoes, and I was ready to go.

Foot.

John, Sam, and Margaret had taken Allie’s vehicle up to the race finish at Bear Lake so they wouldn’t have to go get it after the race, and that’s why they were a little late getting to that aid station. Sam notes that he enjoyed hanging out with John and cruising around trying to find aid stations on the way back from Bear Lake. That was a blast. On this excursion, John had picked up a couple of plain McDonald’s hamburgers for me because I had thought a hamburger might sound good sometime along the way. What a sweetheart. I took one of the hamburgers and headed out into the warm afternoon.

Heading out of Cowley.

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY’S OVER…NO WAIT, IT HASN’T EVEN BEGUN
Cowley Canyon (30) to Right Hand Fork (37)
7 miles in between (2 hours, 2 minutes)
Crew Accessible; No cutoff
ETA 4:30 pm; actual arrival 4:25 pm, out at 4:32 pm
800’ ascent, 2100’ descent from mile 30 to 37

After leaving Cowley (30), my legs were starting to feel less fresh for the first time in the race, the day was warming up, and there was another long climb on a boring gravel road ahead. I was starting to feel a big fatigued, not bad, but I just wasn’t enjoying this road section. I actually had to take my first bush stop, so I got out my iPod at the same time. I do not run with music generally, except for on the treadmill, but I had stuck my iPod in my pack, thinking I just might want it at some point in the race.

After the pit stop, I turned on the music. Boy, was that a good move! Turn out the lights, the party’s over… the vibrant melody of Willie Nelson resonating through my earbuds was just what I needed at that moment. My spirits lifted, pace quickened, and I knocked out that gravel road section, soon turning off onto a delightful single track downhill ride through aspen tunnels and close foliage that took me into Right Hand Fork (37). Those miles rolled away with the tunes rocking, reminding me of all those treadmill runs where my garage door was the Bear finish line. I don’t remember my blisters bothering me too much through this section after the Cowley tape job.

Loved this trail heading down into Right Hand Fork.

The course took a short out and back going in and out of Right Hand Fork (37), and as I headed in, I passed Margaret and Allie as well as Jon as they were heading out. I was not far behind them at that point. Arriving at Right Hand Fork, I noticed that Sam was all suited up to run. This was the first point that pacers were allowed to join the race, and he was antsy to run, seeing all the pacers heading out with their runners.

Arriving at Right Hand Fork.

Do you mind if I start running with you now? All the other pacers are going out. (I could almost hear the please, please?)

 

{Sigh} Sure, Sam.

I was not planning on picking him up until the next aid station. Not wanting to ruin Sam’s day or cast negativity on the race, I agreed. Sam told me later that he was also concerned about my early-forming blisters and was worried they would start affecting my race. He thought jumping in early would help. He felt that he needed to be there. And he needed to run. Mostly, he wanted to run.

Resting briefly at Right Hand Fork.

After sitting for a minute, it was time to go. As Sam and I left the aid station, I chugged down an Ensure, always good energy.

RUNNING WITH SAM
Right Hand Fork (37) to Temple Fork (45)
8.2 miles in between (2 hours, 24 minutes)
Crew Accessible; No cutoff
ETA 7:30 pm; actual arrival 6:56 pm, out at 7:28 pm
1200’ ascent, 900’ descent from 37 to 45

This section was not particularly memorable. Sam and I came out of the trees and crossed a spectacular golden meadow, dotted with huge boulders. Then the trail emerged onto another gravel road, which took us up and over another mountain. Sam and I talked for a while at first, and then I asked if he would mind if I put the iPod back in. I was really enjoying it through the last section and thought it would help me find a good pace again.

Sam.

We finally turned off the road onto a nice single track that took us down into and through another meadow, following the river for a couple miles into some campgrounds, finally coming out onto another gravel road and down to mile 45 by the highway. As we descended, I noticed the shadows getting long and the sun getting lower over the hills. Good call planning Temple Fork (45) for my switchover to night clothing. Sam said I had a pretty good pace going through this section. I think I was listening to Gene Harris, Live. 🙂

Arriving at Temple Fork.

I was hurting a bit as we rolled into Temple Fork (45) about 7:00 pm, and I knew I needed to check my blisters again. However, I was not hurting as much as the guy we passed not far from the aid station. He was stiffly moseying down the road, hands in pockets, looking as if he might be doing some serious soul searching. He almost sounded delirious as he told us he had pain like he was feverish and had a knife in his back.

You know?

Ummmm…not really. We wished him the best, but he said he was done when he got to the aid station.

Coming into Temple Fork, Mile 45 about 7:00 pm, 13 hours in to the race.

After a pit stop in the outhouse (a real treat on this course to have a few outhouse opportunities), I was herded to a chair, and John brought me a cup of soup. A volunteer asked if I needed anything, so I handed him my pack to refill with water. This was my first encounter with Dr. Marc Collman, a dentist from Ogden, who had finished his 10th Wasatch Front 100 two weeks prior (he let me rub his 10-Wasatch ring for good luck).

Yikes! Dr. Marc working on my blisters.

Dr. Marc brought back my pack, and I tried to drink a couple cups of soup and eat the other stuff John brought me. I quickly put on my long pants, long sleeved shirt, and hat, got my gloves ready to go, and tucked an extra long sleeved shirt and rain jacket into my pack. I finally took off the shoes I had been wearing for the first 45 miles.

My bandaids and blister patch from Cowley (30) were all dirty and peeling off, so Dr. Marc got out his kit and went to work, patching the two worst blisters with lidocaine patches and tape. I was very grateful for him – he was meticulous and painstaking. I had a sense of well-being with him working on me, although his meticulous ways translated to a very long stop at this station. The blister patch on my fourth toe had peeled off everywhere except for on the blister itself, where it was WELL-adhered. It was not pleasant having Dr. Mark remove that patch.

Outfitted with clean socks, new shoes, and warm clothes, and with a belly full of two cups of soup and some potatoes and cheese, I felt like a million bucks. Well, maybe a quarter-million. We took off into the twilight, straight up a big climb over to Tony Grove.

GLOWING EYES IN THE BUSHES
Temple Fork (45) to Tony Grove (52)
6.7 miles in between (2 hours, 52 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 7:00 am cutoff Mile 52
ETA 10:30 pm; actual arrival 10:19 pm, out unknown, probably 10:35 pm
2700’ ascent, 500’ descent from 45 to 52

I set out of Temple Fork (45) with a cup of cheesy potatoes in hand, and as we immediately had a huge climb off the highway, and as I had just chugged at least two cups of vegetable soup and eaten who knows what else at the aid station, I started to feel queasy. This was the one and only time in the whole race that I even had an inkling of stomach problems. I cautiously bent over by the side of the trail a couple times, handed off the potatoes for Sam to finish, took it easy for a few minutes, and before long I was feeling fine again.

Cow eyes in the bushes.

Sam, on the other hand, was having a rough time with his clothing issues. He was overheating with his tights on, as we were in the middle of – what else? – a tough climb – AND he lost his gloves on the trail while we were fixing something in my pack.

So stop and take off your tights, Sam. You’ll catch up!

No that’s okay.

Well, then, stop griping! {Grumpy}

Along this piece of trail, we encountered lots and lots of cows. They kindly made cow patty trails along the trail ahead of us. One cow followed behind us for quite a way, with Sam shooshing and yelling at it to take a hike. Ha! All we could see was dozens of pairs of glowing eyes pointed at us from the brush.

A mile or two out of Temple Fork, we turned on headlamps, even though there was a beautiful full moon. There was enough tree cover and rockiness on the trail that headlamps were necessary. Just for Jenny [Stinson], we turned off our headlamps and looked up at the stars in the middle of a dark meadow. The moon was so bright, we actually couldn’t see all the stars, but it was an awesome feeling to exist in that moment, surrounded by silence and moonlight.

The most memorable thing about this section was the cows. Other than that, it was defined as the first section working through a knee problem. Back at Temple Fork, in its “used” state, I had torqued my right knee when sitting with my foot up getting my blisters worked on. As soon as I arose from the chair and started walking, I knew something was wrong. Nothing to do but keep going, and it was fine on the uphill sections. Downhills, however, were another story, and after we completed the epic climb toward Tony Grove (52), the somewhat short descent down to the lake was agonizingly slow and frustrating. I simply could not run at a speed I would have otherwise been able to. This became a defining theme of my race.

Finally, we wove through some camp sites and around a small lake (which I saw in pictures was absolutely stunning) to Tony Grove (52). I had sent Sam on ahead to get himself taken care of and let John know I was coming.

Me and Sam at Tony Grove.

John had a chair set up for me with bean soup and lukewarm chocolate waiting, so I sat down for a few minutes to get rejuvenated while eating. I didn’t want to sit too long, so I was after Sam that we needed to get going. We had spent too long at this aid station, and I was starting to get cold. I heard that the night temperatures were in the 20s, although cold was never an issue for me like I heard it was for some people. We trained all winter last year in temperatures anywhere from 0 to 30 degrees, and I feel like I had my cold-weather running gear dialed in. I only felt the cold when we stopped too long at aid stations. Time to get moving.

Drinking soup and hot chocolate at Tony Grove.

When John and Margaret left Tony Grove, John did not realize that she had crawled in the back of the Xterra. The car was completely full of stuff. She had taken a break from her pacing duties and crawled right in on top of everything and went to sleep. John started driving, and Margaret said Where are we going? out of the blue, scaring John half to death. Haha.

 

TWILIGHT ZONE
Tony Grove (52) to Franklin Basin (61)
9.6 miles in between (3 hours, 37 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 9:00 am cutoff Mile 61
ETA 2:00 am; actual arrival 2:12 am, out unknown, probably 2:22 am
800’ ascent, 2100’ descent from 52 to 61

According to John, I just coasted through the first 52 miles, which may be true, but this is where it started getting a little dicey.

Leaving Tony Grove (52), we were advised that we faced a rolling four-mile uphill section, followed by a four-mile downhill piece into Franklin Basin (61). I think it was during this part that we heard an elk bugle, and then a while later, a cow elk zoomed out of the brush right across the trail in front of Sam. The night was so cool after that! says Sam. I was a ways behind Sam, but I did see the elk, and the glow from Sam’s headlamp shining off the elk had made me think it was a car crossing a road up ahead. Weird.

Me at Franklin Basin.

Getting close to the aid station, we started to encounter campsites. None of these campsites was the aid station (a recurring theme), but I did encounter Dr. Marc – who I had found out was The Pink Lady’s brother – out about a half mile out from the station with a flashlight. He stopped me to make sure I was still feeling okay. My feet were fine. Any new problems were numb, my feet were still dry, and I did not want to disturb the mojo by LOOKING at them or taking my shoes off. Nope – these were 55 mile socks and shoes.

Arriving at Franklin Basin (61), I was looking for my Starbucks Doubleshot that I had asked John to bring for me from Tony Grove (52).

He didn’t have it.

What???

Turns out, John had to park the car a ways away from the station and hadn’t brought anything up with him. This was a bit demoralizing. Not wanting to be a jerk, I tried to let it go, grabbing some dark chocolate espresso beans and two caffeinated latte Powergels from my drop bag instead. I think they helped a bit, but, disappointingly, nothing seemed to clear the cobwebs as distinctly as I was hoping, especially given my heroic success at ridding my body of caffeine dependency over the two months prior to the race.

Jon Kinzer was so very cold at Franklin (61), so John had made a spot for him by the big roaring fire so he could get warm, take a nap, and then get up and go with me and Sam when we arrived. Jon slept for an hour and a half waiting for us. How the heck he got so far ahead, I can’t comprehend. Maybe someday I’ll learn to move that fast.

Jon Kinzer, the coal miner, freezing at Franklin Basin.

We didn’t spend too long at Franklin (61), just enough to chug a cup or two of soup, and then the three of us were off into the darkness. We were very slightly behind pace at this point, but not too much – not enough to worry about – but in my inexperience, I was starting to worry. This was the start of my downhill slide.

DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
Franklin Basin (61) to Logan River (69)
7.1 miles in between (3 hours, 2 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 11:00 am cutoff Mile 69
ETA 5:00 am; actual arrival 5:24 am, 5:58 am out
1800’ ascent, 1500’ descent from 61 to 69

Accompanied by Jon Kinzer and another girl and armed with caffeine, Sam and I headed back into the cold, clear night. Just out of the aid station, we turned off the road onto a trail that crossed the river again.

Jon has an amazingly fast walk. Once we started climbing again, I simply could not keep up, and I really started struggling with pace. Jon and the other girl seemingly flew into the night with powerful uphill strides, yet I was slowly and drowsily trudging uphill.

Someone said this wasn’t a very big hill!?!

Whatever!?!

In reality, these weren’t the longest or steepest climbs of the race, but somehow this particular climb seemed interminable. I remember crossing a downed tree and straddling on top to lay my head down. I don’t think I was there too long, but I’m not sure. Not more than a minute probably. Afraid of falling asleep on the trail and missing the rest of the race, a voice deep in my brain said keep moving, keep moving. I’d actually had bad dreams before the race about that very thing happening.

Physically, I was feeling decent, aside from my knee. No major pain, just muscle fatigue. But mentally, I sank lower and lower.

At one point, as we scooted under a log, I think I asked how far we had gone on our way to the next aid station. Sam said a ridiculously low number and giggled.

That’s not funny, Sam! {Grumpy}

He laughed again, a very giddy laugh. There’s nothing we can do about it.

I knew that, but in my muddled state, it made me mad. I never asked how far again.

Memories of these night sections are foggy, and even a day after the race, I could only remember discombobulated snippets of reality. I was in a twilight zone. Those dark miles from 52 to 75 were surreal visions of grey and black and the white light of my headlamp. Outer space.

Sam says the night went so fast. He was praying all night. It just flew by.

I did try to keep moving at a decent pace after we crested the summit of that climb out of Logan River (61). I adapted a walking jog-waddle for the flat and downhill sections because the torque in my right knee prohibited any fast downhill running, and I even managed to pass someone doing this. Ha! A small victory, but it was pretty short-lived.

Sam occasionally talked to me about stuff, but I had a hard time processing it. I could hear the words, but my brain allowed absolutely no emotional response to them. My brain was dead to anything other than self-survival.

Just keep moving.

I remember slurring my words and grunting responses.

Fatigue lent itself to anger. I was angry at Sam’s shirt, angry at myself, defeated, sleep deprived.

I am no one’s hero!

Somewhere on another planet back around mile 13, ultraqueen Wendy Holdaway had told me I would find the bottom of my soul within 100 miles. This is where I found it. If I had even remembered that Wendy Holdaway existed at that moment in time, maybe it would have lent some perspective, and I might have talked myself out of it. But I was on a path of self-destruction, immune to any rational thought.

Logan River (69) should have been such a happy aid station. A wonderful crew comes every year to operate it. Christmas lights festooned the entire campground, including a path leading in.

Not too long before the aid station, Sam had made a comment I’m sure was meant as a joke, but it nearly made me suicidal.

We should be eating at Denny’s by now.

Instead of feeling festive, I was inconsolable. We reached the aid station, where I ran straight into John’s arms and broke down sobbing.

I’m so slow! I’m behind my time! I’m not going to make it! I’m letting everyone down! I wailed. {Good grief. Get a grip, lady.}

 

You’re right on time. I don’t understand. John said. What do you need?

I just need food! I’m hungry!

 

The weird thing is that at this time, I was only 15 minutes behind my planned pace with plenty of time to make up any deficit. However, I could feel it slipping away from me. It wasn’t so much that I was 15 minutes behind right now. It was that I was 15 minutes behind and SLIPPING FAST. It was too much for my feeble mind to comprehend continuing on at a consistent pace. My downhill running was stymied. My uphill hike was pathetic. My moral state was deplorable. I knew I at least needed to keep the pace we had been going, but I irrationally felt that was impossible. Thus, despair set in for the next 20 miles. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, mush brained, and frustrated that my knee had prohibited me from making really good time into that aid station on a beautiful rolling descent.

After my meltdown, sitting in a warm trailer, being counseled by John and Dr. Marc and eating potato stew.

Regardless of my mental state, one of the best parts of the race was getting to see John at almost every aid station. He was always positive. After the race, Sam commented to me that he realized just how important friends and familiar faces were. Just seeing someone you know out there is so much of a morale booster.

Logan River (69) was a tough point for a lot of people. I was not the only one struggling. John remembers he saw some major carnage. A speedy-looking guy from Brazil we remembered seeing at the start was shaking so hard John thought he could be having a seizure. Completely unprepared and underdressed for the cold, he was shaking so hard he had to drop out. There was also a guy who was puking dramatically and loudly, unable to hold down even small sips of water. You aren’t going to get far in one of these things if you can’t even drink water.

 

GLORIOUS DAYBREAK
Logan River (69) to Beaver Mtn. Lodge (75)
7.2 miles in between (2 hours, 53 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 12:30 pm cutoff Mile 75
ETA 8:30 am; actual arrival 8:51 am, out at 9:04
1300’ ascent, 1500’ descent from 69 to 75

Jon Kinzer once again materialized at Logan River and decided to head out with us, and we hung with him for about two minutes before he disappeared into the dark on the other side of a large river crossing shortly out of the aid station.

Sam and I, on the other hand, took the crossing very slowly, as it was of utmost importance to me to not get my feet wet – I had powdered them with Sam’s AMAZING Monkey Butt foot powder at Mile 45, and they still felt good and dry. My blisters were all tolerable, and I wanted to keep the same shoes for the duration of the race ‘cause they are my most favorite pair!

We crept 3/4 of the way across the river on fat logs, frigid water roiling a few inches under our feet…and then the logs ended. Uh oh.

Until this point I had been wondering why I kept hearing reports of people falling into the water. At mile 70, when you combine slick, wobbly rocks with tired, wobbly legs, it’s not hard to imagine a full immersion. Sam was a HUGE help at this point because I was not feeling so sure on my feet. We synchronized an intricate, and probably comical, two-step across the remainder of the river on big, slippery rocks. We probably could have won an Ultra Dancing with the Back of the Packers contest with that performance. Still dry, yay!

Sam really, really enjoyed running through amazing tunnels of aspens, even though it was still dark. (He had been awake the whole day before and had been running with me all night – why was he still having a great time when I was so low?)

As I recall, dawn crept across the sky somewhere in the 7 o’clock hour. I remember almost nothing of the hour before that, but I do remember my world transitioning from black to grey to gold. Like a beautiful gift, the sun appeared over the meadow on the horizon just as we neared the summit of that section’s climb from the basin behind us. Hunters with rifles on horses waited off to the side of the meadow while we passed.

After this, it was pretty much rolling flats and downhill as we descended into Beaver Mountain Lodge, a ski yurt operating as an aid station for this day. It seemed like forever that we could see the ski runs carved on an adjacent hillside. The aid station took a very long time in coming.

It was miraculous – we emerged from the draw into a beautiful meadow just as the sun rose over the horizon.

I found running almost impossible – Sam will have to remind me if I was able to run at all. I think I was trying to adapt my knee to some sort of downhill lope. But I was still demoralized and frustrated, even with the stunning beauty of a new day surrounding me. Maybe the dawn did bring a little life to my soul, but not as much as I had hoped for.

Daybreak.

John had arrived at Beaver Mountain Lodge quite a while ahead of us and found Ben sacked out amidst piles of gear taking a lengthy nap. Finally, Ben got up and started muttering about how tired he was; Ben’s contribution to a conversation about the finish line festivities involved Oompa Loompas and edible grass like on Willy Wonka – and the girls from Hugh Hefner’s house…Yeah.

And just like that, Ben was gone…into the dawn.

Even when Sam and I arrived, Beaver Mountain Lodge consisted of bodies of people who had quit and were waiting for rides, with bags and gurneys lined up all around. The gurnies were there for ski season, but the scene reminded John of a war zone.

John exchanged my knit hat for sunglasses, and Sam emerged with BenGay from his drop bag, which he rubbed on my knee in hopes that it would loosen it up and help me get my run back. It felt a little warm on my knee, but I can’t say it worked any magic. On the plus side, the thick dirt crust on my legs combined with the white analgesic paste created a lovely pattern on my legs that remained to the bitter end.  🙂

ONE STATE DOWN, ONE TO GO
Beaver Mtn. Lodge (75) to Gibson Basin (81)
5.4 miles in between (2 hours, 8 minutes)
No Crews; 2:00 pm cutoff Mile 81
ETA 10:30 am; actual arrival 11:12 am, out 11:14 am
1300’ ascent from 75 to 81

Before the race, I had put a clean shirt in my drop bag at Beaver Mountain, my dad’s Crater Lake Marathon shirt from the early 80’s. I thought it might give me some inspiration for the last quarter of the run. For a moment, I considered not worrying about changing, but at the last moment I decided to just do it.

So, back in daytime running garb and carrying a cup of hot coffee in one hand and a cup of hot (yay!) chicken noodle soup broth in the other, Sam and I left Beaver Mountain in blazing daylight, the day warming quickly. The coffee and broth helped rejuvenate me a little bit, but my pace was still so slow. After navigating a tricky section of the race course that involved several turns, we made it across the highway to the jeep road that would lead us up to the Gibson Basin aid station (81).

Even John got confused leaving Beaver Mountain. First he passed us out by the road heading up one way, and then we ran into him again heading up the road we were taking to the next aid station. I knew this was not a crew accessible station, so this worried me, but I tried not to think about it. Sure enough, pretty soon John was heading back down the treacherous Jeep road toward us. Whoops! After a quick kiss for John, Sam and I continued up the road, and John headed down to figure out how to really get to the next aid station. Like us, John had not slept at all to speak of since 4:45 am the previous morning, so I can’t imagine he was firing on all cylinders either. Haha.

It was 5.4 miles straight up to Gibson Basin. We passed from Utah into Idaho and stopped to take pictures of the sign. Arriving at Gibson, I quickly refilled my pack, grabbed a couple bites of melon, and checked out, leaving Sam to catch up.

THE DAY GETS WARM…JUST KEEP MOVING
Gibson Basin (81) to Beaver Creek CG (85)
4 miles in between (1 hour, 35 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 3:00 pm cutoff at Mile 85
ETA 11:45 am; Actual arrival 12:49 am, out at 12:50
300’ ascent, 800’ descent from 81 to 85

The road out of Gibson Basin led about a half-mile straight across a meadow, and we could see people way out there turning to head up the hill to the right. I remember trying to run across this flat piece of road. I don’t know if you could call it running. It seemed too tiring, so I resorted to walking just like everyone else.

The long road leading out of Gibson Basin.

This brings up another recurring theme – EVERYONE walks faster than I do. A couple powerwalked past me like I was standing still, talking and laughing – well, he looked pretty focused, but she was SMILING. I could not comprehend it. Plus, I was irritated because she made me hot just looking at her in her fleece pullover. I had removed my long sleeved shirt a couple miles back, and the temperature out on that exposed section was very warm, probably pushing the 80s. I wished I had some of what they had, but I didn’t know how to find it. Maybe I didn’t want it bad enough. Part of me had given up, yet I refused to quit.

Arriving at Beaver Creek CG (85), and after navigating a series of very stressful creek crossings on Mile 85 legs – thank goodness John was there to assist me (it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if I wasn’t trying so hard to keep my feet dry) – John told me that I needed to find 30 minutes somewhere. I couldn’t fathom this. Push hard, he said. This was the first time pushing hard had occurred to me. This may seem crazy obvious, but for hours I had been trudging through the depths of despair. How do you push hard for another six hours when you have already pushed for thirty? That is maybe the ultimate 100 mile question.

Allie and Margaret coming into Beaver Creek CG.

But John got me thinking. Push hard? That’s, like, something you do in a marathon or a 5k or something. I’ve done 85 miles. It was beyond my comprehension. The doubt in myself was too overwhelming. If I would have re-evaluated my pace schedule earlier in the morning, maybe I could have convinced myself that I could still make the cutoff and get back on track. However, the enormity of my “behind-ness” had grown huge in my head like a bite of bad food in my mouth. I was very hard to convince that my slowness could be un-done. My doubt was overpowering, and ultimately what “ruined” my finishing pace.

I was exhausted. The day had grown hot. Fifteen miles, and the ascending and descending within them was overwhelming. John kept saying, Push hard. You only need to find a half hour somewhere. That’s it. You can do it.

John was right of course. I believe I could have done it, had I mustered my fire a couple of hours sooner. I may have been depleted of fuel at that point. Nothing sounded good, and I had had a hard time eating enough. While John was filling my pack with water, I made myself a half of PB&J sandwich, groaning and half-laying across the folding table, propping myself up with my elbows. Two teenage boys and their father, who were manning the aid station, glanced at me with little interest, mostly ignoring me. Nothing was offered, nothing looked good. But I made that sandwich and checked out, with John hugging me and reminding me once more that I could push hard.

 

DIRTBIKES, DUST, AND DOUBT
Beaver Creek CG (85) to Ranger Dip (92)
7 miles in between (3 hours, 8 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 4:30 pm cutoff at Mile 92
ETA 2:30 pm; actual arrival 3:58 pm, out at 4:03 pm
1200’ ascent, 600’ descent from 85 to 92

Aside from the last two, this section was probably the most pivotal piece of the race in terms of my finishing time. The next seven miles from Beaver Creek (85) to Ranger Dip (92) were interminable.

I was a lugubrious heap of flesh shuffling through hot dust.

I had my iPod back in through this section, but my brain had ceased its ability to be motivated by it or even comprehend the songs. I think Eminem’s Lose Yourself (I know, don’t judge) came on during this section: You only get one shot, do not miss your chance…,This opportunity comes once in a lifetime… The lyrics were appropriate, and I remember trying to find motivation there, but it just was not coming. I could not muster a faster pace.

I tried to envision myself sitting down back at Beaver Creek and saying I’m done. I couldn’t envision that. At the same time, I couldn’t envision myself covering the next seven miles of hot dusty, mountainous terrain. But it didn’t matter. I knew I wouldn’t let everyone down by quitting. I knew I would not be happy with a DNF hanging over my head for the next year. Plus, it was only one more aid station, and then onto the finish! What was so hard about that?

Defeat, despair, desolation…they had a grip on me for 20 very frustrating miles.

Sam tried to encourage me. You are an amazing person and an amazing runner and you inspire a lot of people, and not making one cutoff does not change that. My negative state got the better of me, and despite firm resolve prior to the race to STAY POSITIVE, EMILY, my pessimism had established a pretty firm grip.

I am NOT amazing, I am NOT a hero, I am NOT a good runner, and I am NOT going to make the cutoff!

John’s encouragement at Beaver Creek was invaluable. He lit a spark in me that did not manifest itself immediately, but it was slowly building. I was so caught up in the fact that I was an hour and a half behind my schedule, and my doubt caused me to lose focus of my goal through those most difficult miles.

Despite all that, I still did believe that I would make it past the Ranger Dip cutoff in time and that I would still finish the race without being pulled off the course. See? Shows that what you believe will most likely come true. If I had believed all day that I would finish by the 6 pm, I’m sure I would have done it.

But the spark was there, deep down. Sam and I trudged through the seven miles that seemed like 70 from Beaver Creek to Ranger Dip, the longest miles of our lives. I was trying to block it out. I knew it would seem like forever. That was to be expected. I was on autopilot, blocking out the heat, the dust, the discomfort, the exhaustion. Zone out. Just keep moving. I was not smelling the barn yet.

To add insult to injury, this section of the race was characterized by hot dust, blazing sun, and ATVs! There must have been 20-30 ATV riders who passed us on this road, as well as two idiotic carfuls of young men in a Jeep and a truck who had gotten stuck and then passed us later, giving us approximately zero inches of clearance. We were not too inclined to move off the road either. We would have been easy pickings.

Sometime in the later stages of this torturous climb, The Pink Lady and her pacer blew by us (at a walk) like we were standing still. Her pacer was “the meanest guy I could find,” Dr. Marc, The Pink Lady’s brother, told me later at the finish line.

The Pink Lady looked like death, like she could not possibly have anything left. Her face was smeared with sweat and sunscreen. Her eyes were half closed. She had a tottering hike-cadence that I should have been able to match. Her clothing was stained with dirt. But she was doing it. She was pushing and being pushed. She wanted that buckle worse than I did. This was her 8th Bear, and it would be her first official finish. She wanted that buckle BADLY, and her pacer was going to make sure she got it. She had a drive where mine was missing. Her pacer was handing her Ensure to sip every couple minutes and whistling at her like a dog to make sure she was staying up to pace.

They offered me an Ensure on their way by, but I couldn’t even muster a coherent response. I should have taken it. But it was so confusing. WHY ARE PEOPLE ASKING ME QUESTIONS!?!

 

I should have gone with her. The Pink Lady, Celeste Collman, finished in 35:55, with five minutes to spare.

After a very long, 1200’ascent over about 4.5 miles, we finally summited out into breathtaking views of rolling hills and meadows with glimpses of Bear Lake off to our left from nearly 9000 feet elevation. Having no idea how far we had come or how long we had to go to the next aid station, the crest of the hill with those views of the lake made us think we were getting close. Three and a half miles was not close. It was endless. We could see the road rolling far out ahead of us.

Bear Lake from high above.

I could see The Pink Lady and her pacer just hammering it down below us. I wished we had gone with them. If I would have had an inkling of hope, I could have gone with her. My hope had gone on vacation and was waiting for me at Ranger Dip (92). I didn’t believe…not yet.

A mile or two away from Ranger Dip, hot and delirious in the afternoon sun, Sam started hallucinating aid stations. At one point, he even started clapping and cheering for me saying the aid station is right there! I looked but saw nothing but big rocks, trees, and dirt. I’m pretty sure those are rocks, not cars, Sam, I said gravely. These things become matters of serious debate at Mile 90.

After many rolling hills and many false aid station sightings, we arrived at Ranger Dip at 3:58 pm, 32 minutes before the final cutoff for that aid station. People who arrive at that point at 4:30, the cutoff, do not make it to the finish by 6 pm. But I had two hours to do eight miles. Sounds do-able, right? Well…

Somewhere late in those miles before Ranger Dip, I began praying about my knee. It had hindered me from running fast at all on the downhill sections where I should have been able to make up time. I knew if there was any chance AT ALL to finish without getting pulled off the course, I would need to be able to run the last section to the finish on the steepest descent of the race.

Lord, if I even have a chance, if I am intended to push and make an attempt at finishing this race by six, please give my run back. I will take it as a sign.

SMELLING THE BARN AND A MIRACLE FOR MY KNEE
Ranger Dip (92) to Fish Haven (100)
8 miles in between (2 hours, 46 minutes)
Crew Accessible; 6:00 pm cutoff at Mile 100
ETA 5:30 pm; actual arrival 6:49 pm
700’ ascent, 3300’ descent from 92 to 100

At Ranger Dip, the air was festive, even though Sam and I were the only runners there. This is the home stretch! I was still lamenting the unlikelihood that I would finish in time. One of the guys at the aid station told me that he had seen people come through after 4 pm, even after me, and still finish before six. This was exactly what I needed to hear. I had to try. A bit of clarity was seeping into my foggy brain, and I thought again of all the people at home waiting to see the next set of numbers appear on the spreadsheet, thinking of me and praying for me. I absolutely felt those prayers and believe they were the ropes that kept me from plummeting.

I tried to get down low and capture how steep this last climb really was.

After inhaling some ramen noodles (the best food in the race, according to Sam, and I am tempted to agree), and refilling our water, we were out of there, with one final climb and one huge descent between us and the finish line.

The last climb. It was really steep.

This was not a long climb, but it was definitely steep, gaining 700 feet in less than a mile. I put my hands on my knees and vowed to not stop. I plowed up that hill, only looking back once to take some final pictures, and then I stowed the camera for good. It was time to get down to business. We left the aid station at 4:03 pm, and I remember looking at my watch at the summit at 4:13 pm – I’m not sure if my watch and the race clock were exactly synced, but regardless, we climbed that hill in less than 15 minutes. Rock on.

C’mon, Sam. You can do it!

And then we started down. Steep down, rolling down, gradual down, catch-me-in-a-net-steep down. And I was RUNNING. The twist in my knee had vanished. Maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the power of the mind knowing I was on the last stretch. But I prefer to believe that I was experiencing something miraculous as a result of the prayers going up for me. Thank you!

Sam said one of the best moments of the race was watching me pull out my funk which took forever. The cutoff time was in doubt, says Sam, but I never doubted you would snap out of it. He was amazed at the power of prayer and at the energy I displayed after leaving Ranger Dip. That’s when I was back in the game and anything was possible. Very impressive.

Ok, this was the deal. If my knee held up, I was going to give this thing all I had. I ran tentatively at first, building until I was running as fast as I could, making really good time, probably doing a 9-10 minute per mile pace through some of those miles. I tried to outrun Sam. (He will only admit to being a little bit worn down on the way up that last hill.)

Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive came on during on this piece, and my excitement was mounting. I again thought of those treadmill runs where I visualized The Bear finish getting closer with each step. On every run for the last two months, I ran the last miles of the Bear, but now it was real. This was the moment of truth. I could push hard and try to salvage some of my pride, or I could give up and let it all go.

I had two hours.

Back at Ranger Dip, the aid station captain had identified himself as the race sweep and told me that since I had passed through his aid station before the cutoff, he would allow me to finish the race, even if I was not going to get there by 6 pm. But I had to try.

Coming out of the trees, getting closer to Bear Lake and the Finish.

Finally, we came out of the trees, but we could see that we were still a great distance from the lake, still pretty high up. Next was a section of deep dust and rocks going straight down an ATV trail that would eventually take us out to the road into town. This was so very difficult. My faculties were not entirely intact, and it was treacherous trying to navigate this super-slick dirt over rocks without crashing. There were a couple times when I did actually take this approach. After slipping on rocks, I would just give in to the fall and slide down as far as possible on my backside. It was a pretty good strategy.

A couple miles from the finish, a runner (Green Shirt Guy) came bombing past us with a terrified look in his eye. Apparently, he had passed through Ranger Dip right at the 4:30 cutoff, and he was racing the sweep to make it to the finish. He asked if he was going to make it.

How far is it? he asked.

We told him we weren’t sure, but we were pretty sure that we weren’t going to make it.

I remember looking at my watch then and it said 17:53 – only 7 minutes to cover what we were sure was over two miles. By this time, we knew we wouldn’t make the cutoff, but it was okay. Shortly after terrified Green Shirt Guy sprinted past, the race sweep came roaring up.

Is that guy going to make it? we asked. We wanted to make sure we were not throwing away our chances by not sprinting it in from here. No way, he said.

Okay.

At that point, we pretty much decided to get there when we got there. In hindsight, I do regret this decision, but it seemed okay at the time. It was enough to finish. If we had kept on running and pushing, I feel certain we would have finished by 6:20 pm. But this was not where I was losing my official finish. That happened 20 miles ago. This was where I was simply finishing, and I was happy.

We looked over to the left and saw Green Shirt Guy hiking…what? Another hill?… Turns out, we were not emerging onto the town road quite yet. We had to take a left and go over one more little hill with a water tank on top, and then we could descend down over the river and onto a gravel road through a rural subdivision that seemed to go on forever. We were walking at this point.

Sam realized he had cell coverage and took the opportunity to call Davina and Tina to give them an update. I talked to them both, and it was surreal to get to tell them I was finishing as I was actually doing it. Maybe those special phone calls were worth not running hard to the finish. I don’t know.

Along this stretch of road, we encountered Kerry Flaker (her husband Jeff had finished a few hours earlier, his first 100 also), coming out to scout our position. It was so wonderful to see her smiling face. And then about a quarter mile from the main highway and the finish, we saw Margaret Heaphy up ahead, and we broke into a run. Yay! I had been choking back tears for the last mile, knowing that this was it. On some level, I had succeeded. Seeing Margaret, the tears vanished, and I got excited. We reached the highway and Margaret broke off to cut across the finish area. We passed a smiling Allie standing out on the highway, and then we turned onto the driveway, about 100 yards from the finish line.

THE FINISH

All the fatigue melted away, the pain vanished, the defeat became victory, the tears became smiles. Euphoria took over as I ripped my pack off, hurled it on the lawn, and sprinted to the finish with a smile plastered on my face. Dennis, Paul, Lynette, Ben, Jon – they were all there waiting for me and cheering as I finished. They waited for me! That meant a lot.

Me and Sam coming down the driveway to the finish.

I didn’t quit, I said to John as he hugged me under the finish banner. I didn’t quit. I know – it’s obvious I didn’t quit, and it seems simplistic to say those words now. But it seemed profound to me at that time, and it was a mantra I had been repeating for the last eight miles. So many times I felt like I could have quit when I didn’t know how to keep going. But…I didn’t quit through the lowest of lows. I didn’t quit even knowing I wasn’t going to get my buckle. I didn’t quit.

 

So happy to finish.

After a fun picture-taking session complete with Dennis showing off his clap-pushups, a really nice race volunteer brought me a plate of food and bowl of shrimp. Dennis set me up with a chair and a blanket – I was getting cold even before I finished. I felt pampered and rewarded, even though I was not getting any special recognition from the race.

All of us finished!!! L-R: Dennis, Sam, Me, Ben, Paul, Jon, Jeff, Lynette, Margaret, Allie. Tony had already left.

As we drove out of the parking lot heading up the road to our hotel in Montpelier, I exclaimed that there was a moose RIGHT THERE! John and Sam laughed at me and pointed out that what I was seeing was really a life-size, wrought iron, 2-D black moose-shaped yard decoration. I swear it was full-bodied and that it was moving. A little way up the road, John said he kept thinking the reflectors on poles by the road were runners with headlamps. I guess that’s what 40 hours without sleep will do to you.

Sam is my hero of the day.

SPECIAL THANKS

To Sam, my friend and running buddy, who did the best he could do for me by traveling a great distance with every intention of helping me. Ultimately, it was me who needed to help myself, but that does not diminish my appreciation for Sam. He helped so much with navigation when my brain was getting mushy by always being ahead and bird-dogging the course flagging, and we never got lost like a lot of people did. Sam was invaluable when it came to creek and river crossings. He supplied me with S-caps and other tasty snacks. He rubbed BenGay on my dirt-caked knees at Mile 75 to help get me moving better.  He put up with my ridiculous bouts of grumpiness. Thank you.

To John, an ultra newbie just like me. Together we are going to get this thing down. You were the best thing that could have happened to my race. Thank you for being there at every point you could. Thank you for being unfailingly upbeat. Thank you for pushing me. I would not have wanted to do it without you.

The next day.

TWO DAYS POST RACE

I feel great except for my toes. My feet and ankles are still swelling quite a bit (swelling lasted two days post-race), and I am tired. The crazy swelling of my hands (and Sam’s too) that we had most of Saturday during the race went away almost immediately after the race. I will take a nap this afternoon. I essentially have no soreness to speak of. My right knee is still a bit sore to the touch, but with a little rest to heal it up (I will have to rest anyway because of my blistered toes), it will be back to normal in no time.

 

I finally got to take my shoes off at the hotel. My entire fourth toe was encapsulated in blister. My shoes stunk sooo badly, and my socks were like dirt clod patties. 

ONE WEEK POST RACE

  • Blisters mostly healed.
  • No soreness, even in the few days after the race.
  • Extreme tiredness remains.
  • Legs feel heavy after sitting.
  • Woke up in cold sweats Monday and Tuesday nights after the race.
  • Went to boot camp Wednesday and it about killed me – not the workout itself; that was fine – but later in the day, I could hardly function. Did not go Friday.
  • Thursday evening, 5 days post-race, I was able to run 3.6 miles at a decent pace, but that was my limit. I was running with Ben, and we were having a good time talking, but finally I had to drop off. Knee hurt later that night after sitting. Need to take it easy.
  • My nose took a week to get through the worst of the chapping.
  • Two weeks post-race: Went on an 8-mile trail run in the Owyhees, and although the overall pace was really easy, I still managed to roll my left ankle again, shooting a searing pain from my ankle bone down. Ok, that’s it. I’m taking an entire week off from running and boot camp. Self-imposed resting exile.
  • Three weeks post-race: I am still tired, but I finally feel like I am on the road to normalcy. I have been exceptionally tired the past three weeks, even now, but granted I have not been to bed too many nights before midnight. It is hard to get up earlier than 9:00 am. After a week of no running at all, I ran 4 miles in my new NB101’s with great success. The ankle is still weak, but I wrapped it and forged through a couple close calls of nearly twisting it to come out of the run with more confidence and a great appreciation for the joy of running.
  • Four weeks post-race: I think I am back to “normal” now. I ran 25 miles this week following my rest week and feel really good. Loving my NB 101’s.

POST RACE THOUGHTS

Reading back over this report, I realize it may seem to you a report of a slow decline to failure. Maybe my inability to obtain a buckle could be deemed by some as failure. I fell short of the race’s arbitrary, albeit rather generous, time limit. But I covered 100 miles. I do not feel negative about the outcome.

You may think I make a lot of excuses for what went wrong. It may seem that a lot went wrong, period. It may seem like many things could have been changed. This is hardly the case.  I do not feel the race was a negative experience, nor do I think I could have done anything differently. It is easy to re-run the race after the fact.

In reality, a lot went right, and I truly feel like I did the best I could under the circumstances during the race. I do not have to live the next year wondering if I can go the distance. There are no excuses. Like anyone who wants to improve, I am evaluating this race, and I will do many things differently at future races. I will go back to Bear next year and get my buckle. I found the bottom of my soul, and I am not sure I like what I found. As much as I wanted to be positive and have fun the whole race, I found  1) that was probably an impossible goal, and 2) that I am a person with doubting, pessimistic tendencies. These traits will not be changed on race day. This will be part of my training. Positive, positive, positive. Eat, sleep, breathe my next 100 miler. Just as in the Christian walk – body, mind, and attitude: always training.

I am the sort of person who tends to do things in steps. I look back at where I was three years and nine months ago, just starting to run again six months after giving birth to Margie – out of shape and starting from scratch. Two years ago, I ran my first marathon. A year and four months ago, I ran my first 50k. Three months ago, I ran my first 50 miler. This was my first 100, but definitely not my last. I went the distance. I have a foundation to build on. I will be back next year, and mark my words, I will earn my Bear buckle.

Simply getting through my first 100 was the best learning experience of all. You just cannot know how you will react to those late miles until you have been there. Now that I know what some of my struggles seem to be, I can anticipate them and be stronger, tougher, and push harder next time. I knew before the race that I would have highs and lows. I knew I would find the bottom of my soul. I had been reminded of that early in the race by a veteran. But I did not have the perspective within myself to remember that later on the second day. Now I know how I respond to sleep deprivation. I know how I respond to extended periods of doubt and despair. I have a better idea of what I need from a pacer and crew. I know 100 times more than I knew before this race; yet I still have 100 times more to know.

My journey continues. I hope you will come with me.

A BREAKDOWN OF THE RACE, LIST-STYLE

Successes and Good Things

  • The HOT coffee and HOT chicken broth at Mile 75 shortly after sunup rocked.
  • Brooks Ghost 2 shoes for 55 miles!
  • 40-50 miles per week was adequate training to finish the Bear in 35 hours.
  • Shirt change at Mile 75 was good. Could have used a toothbrush and face wash.
  • Feet were tolerable, in spite of the 15+ blisters. I couldn’t wait to get the shoes off my feet, but I did not have extreme foot pain.
  • Legs never hurt like crazy, just tired, without much run left in them.
  • Caffeine at miles 61 and 69 was a good thing. I think the Doubleshot was the most useful.

Need to Improve

  • Make sure to eat a little more. I remember being hungry coming into quite a few aid stations. I would hopefully avoid more lows by staying more fortified with fuel. Drink more Ensure, especially later in the race when it’s hard to take in too much food. Probably needed more calories. After a while it was not appealing to think about eating, but that’s exactly what I needed.
  • Plan aid station procedures more carefully with crew and pacer beforehand. Make an aid station list to quickly carry out, and then get out of there. Overall, if I have a crew/pacer, some pre-race planning would be in order. I can’t fathom why I didn’t do this, but it would have made a big difference.
  • Should have tied bandanna around my knee. Duh! That’s what I had extra bandanas for!
  • Should have run the race in at the end instead of walking for two miles after we realized we were going to be over the cutoff.
  • Should have paced with The Pink Lady, who finished in 35:55.
  • Needed to stay positive and not let despair and defeat rule my race for such a long time. Every runner has lows, but mine lasted for too long. Realize that achieving goals is possible as long as I am still moving.

 

Food
Many people ask me what I eat to stay fueled on a 36-hour jaunt. Here you go: The following is everything I can remember eating, a pretty complete list, omitting only random little stuff I probably grabbed from aid station tables.

  • a raspberry crème Powergel
  • multiple oatmeal raisin walnut cookies
  • several handfuls of melon
  • 3/4 of a banana (that Steve Pero advised I eat at Mile 30)
  • Cliff mango gel (yuck!)
  • lots of S-caps and plain water – success!
  • 1 plain McDonald’s hamburger (thanks, Honey!)
  • 2 handfuls dark chocolate espresso beans
  • @4 caffeine latte Powergels
  • cup of coffee
  • cup of hot chicken noodle soup broth
  • slice of cheese pepperoni pizza
  • two halves of PB & J sandwich
  • 1 Starbucks Doubleshot can
  • @4 cups vegetable soup
  • 1 bottle ensure
  • couple bites of potatoes with cheese
  • 3 margarita-flavored, extra sodium Shot Blocks
  • 1 espresso Hammer Gel (blech)
  • 1 mint chocolate GU
  • small bowl of ramen noodles
  • bowl of bean soup
  • cup of hot (lukewarm) chocolate
  • potato stew with 2 rolls (awesome!)
  • chips
  • trail mix
  • lemon Luna bar
  • Nature Valley granola bar

AN ALTERNATE FORM: RACE REPORT REBUTTAL
by Dennis Ahern

In Mountains I run.
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, ON!
Fall colors my mind.

BOISE TRAIL RUNNERS (AND ALLIE) BEAR 100 RESULTS

Dennis Ahern 28:34
Paul Lindauer 29:27
Tony Huff 29:27 (1st 100)
Lynette McDougal 31:21
Ben Blessing 31:53
Jeff Flaker 33:11 (1st 100)
Allie Wood 34:38
Jon Kinzer 34:56 (1st 100)
Emily Berriochoa 36:49 (1st 100)

2009 Big Horn 50k

JUNE 20, 2009: First Ultra

Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible. –Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

My first ultramarathon was everything I thought it WOULD be, but better, and none of the horrible things I thought it COULD be. I have struggled much over the last months with how to write this story – the race was so good, and seemingly so uneventful. What is there to tell? But really, there is much more to this race than the third of a day I actually spent running. This race report really starts back in September of 2006, three months after I gave birth to Little M.

I was taking a requisite non-fiction writing class at BSU. Writing about my feelings or my bad childhood like everyone else either bored me or didn’t apply to me. I was fat and out of shape and I didn’t like it. A coming to Jesus meeting was forthcoming. Now that I was done having kids, what was I going to do with the rest of my life? This six-year phase of childbirth and nursing was about to come to an end, and then what?
I used my writing projects to help me sort out these questions, turning to what I knew and had sometimes loved, writing these words to start out one of my essays:

I’m a runner. At least that’s how I perceive myself in athletic terms. Since my sophomore year in high school, I have nurtured a love-hate relationship with running. When I’m running, I hate it. When I’m not, I love it. Lately, I have become obsessed with this conundrum. I truly aspire to be a runner, not just someone who thinks about it a lot.

Having two babies in the last five years has been a detour to my running success. I’m a slug, yet I still have the desire to be a serious runner, and I am slowly getting back into it. But to some extent, running is my fantasy – I do a lot of running in my dreams. Still, I had to begin somewhere. In order not to shock my system with too much exercise right off the bat, I started with the mild step of reading about running. In doing so, I discovered ultramarathoning.

And that’s how it started. With Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man and Pam Reed’s The Extra Mile. The reality was the elephant in the room, though. You wanna’ be a runner, lady? THEN YOU HAVE TO RUN! And so my ultra journey began.

Map of Big Horn Wild and Scenic Trail Run 50k (~31-32 miles):

The race start, complete with flag and the National Anthem:

See you in 30 miles!

The race started right out with a crazy climb that lasted about a mile to the ridgeline. As you can see, I started right in the back, just ahead of the people who started out walking. Most of us were soon hiking.
Somewhere around mile five or six before dropping down into the Kearns Cow Camp aid station in the valley. Thanks to Laurel of New Hampshire for taking this picture of me and for pacing with me those first six or seven miles.

On top of the world.

Loved this gnarly trail section at mile 7 or so dropping down into the first aid station.

Mile 9, Kearns Cow Camp AS: Looking back at the aid station, famous for its bacon on the grill, as I was leaving with a handful of potato chips and best wishes on the six mile climb back out of the canyon up to the start of the race.

At the tail-end of the six-mile climb back up into the start area after the first 14-mile loop.

Mile 14, Head of Dry Fork: As I came into the main aid station after completing the first 14-mile loop three and a half hours later, I asked my dad and John for the extra socks out of my drop bag. They both looked at each other. Do you have her bag? No, didn’t you get it? Turns out, they had been back up to the van, but they had both forgotten to grab my drop bag – they HAD gotten themselves snacks and changes of shoes and socks, however. Hahaha. Good thing I wasn’t really desperate for anything in there. I had some bandaids in my Camelbak which I put on my big toes in what turned out to be a futile attempt to prevent blisters under my callouses, refilled my Camelbak with water, took a potty break, grabbed some snacks, and I was back on my way, into the wild unknown of the next ~18 miles.

Along the run, I talked to a number of people who said this was their first ultra. I also talked to a few people who were more experienced – as I left the Dry Creek AS, I took a break from running up the hill out of the station to walk with a couple of “seasoned” ultra-men. After learning where I was from, they suggested that I come up to their neck of the woods to run Le Grizz 50, near Kalispell, MT. About the easiest 50 you’ll ever find, they promised. Hmmmm, seriously considering it. 🙂 Turns out, my dad DID do this one, running a very impressive 10:22 in 0 degree temperatures on October 11, 2009. It’s on my list for next year…

Here is the road leading UP out of the 14 mile Dry Creek aid station:

I think this was about 18-20 miles or so, just before the big descent into the Tongue River river bottom. A nice man offered to take this picture of me. You could not have asked for a nicer day. The skies were clear and the temperatures were moderate (a little hot at the end down in the canyon). One of the most spectacular days imaginable in a race where one of the hallmarks are the scenic vistas.

Not too long after that picture was taken, coming down from Upper Sheep Creek (Mile 19) to Lower Sheep Creek (Mile 24), I gave up all hope of completing under my pre-race goal eight hours. I gave that time up as completely unrealistic and unattainable. My pace slowed to a stutter. I was doing 20-25 minute miles going DOWN! On a descent of at least 15% grade, it was all I could do to keep my legs moving one in front of the other. There weren’t too many people around me through this section. Well, I should say that I did see a number of other people, but my encounters were brief as they careened past me like I was standing still. I was actually catching up to one other person, an older man who was in about the same boat as I was. At the point where he was about 20 feet below me, his legs failed him and he took a nasty, dust-boiling fall. I got to him as fast as I could, which took about an eternity considering how my legs were failing me also, and he had managed to stand up by the time I reached him. Luckily he was fine, and I kept going ahead of him, slightly comforted by the fact that I wasn’t the worst off of all people on this blasted mountain.
Mile 24, Lower Sheep Creek AS: I was never so happy to come in contact with other human beings as I was at the moment in time when I spotted pieces of color through the trees and heard cowbells and cheering voices as I neared the Lower Sheep Creek aid station. When I actually ran into the station and realized the cheering was for me, I nearly had a breakdown. I was so relieved that I had made it down those miles of descent, I was on the verge of tears. But I willed myself to pull it together. People who run aid stations at ultras are literally like angels. They are selfless, happy to see you, incredibly helpful, supportive, encouraging, and they tell you that you can keep going even when you doubt the veracity of their words. I handed my Camelbak to a guy right when I walked in and went to peruse the food they had laid out on a tarp. I decided that I could live without food at the moment – nothing really sounded good – and I had a GU packet that I decided to down instead. The lovely people there advised me to soak my bandanna in the river crossing just beyond the aid station, because I was at nearly the lowest point in the course now, and it would be hot heading into the canyon just above the river. There weren’t any spots to actually access the river except for that point right there at the aid station. Even though I had been using my bandanna as a hankie for most of the race, I heeded their advice, knowing they knew a lot more than I did. I washed out the bandanna in the river and tied it around my neck. Ahhhh, heaven!
This was the view coming down into the river bottom.

Leaving the Lower Sheep Creek aid station, I realized that I felt completely rejuvenated. After the terrible lows I had felt the previous five miles, I now felt 100 percent better. I had cold water on the bandana around my neck, I had been cheered into the aid station like I was the only runner on the course, I had been informed that there were only about 7.5 miles left in the race – what! in my addled brain, I thought there were, like, at least twice that! – and that horrible downhill section was over. I could do this!
Mile 26, Tongue River AS: I wandered into the food tent looking bewildered. The girl behind the table asked me what sounded good. I don’t even know, I replied. Watermelon, she said. Watermelon with salt. That’s what they are eating right now. Apparently I looked like a “they” because she salted up two slices of juicy watermelon and handed me one for each hand, sending me on my way. I was dubious, but figured she knew more than I at that point, so I headed out, slurping down the salty melon.

Rolling out of the Tongue River aid station at 6:55 (or so) on the race clock, with approximately five miles to go, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I DID have a chance to come in under eight hours. For me to do it, though, I definitely could NOT just walk it in. I’d have to give those five miles everything I had. At this point averaging a 12 min/mile pace felt like a 7 min/mile pace on fresh legs. I told myself I had to run five miles in an hour. That’s it – just one more hour. I truly didn’t know if I would make it, but I had tentative hope. At least it was plausible.

The salty watermelon wasn’t half bad. Eating something juicy and cold was pure heaven at that point. I knew I had a tough five miles left to go, and I still needed a lot of fuel, fluids, and salt to keep me going. Up until this point, the course had traveled mainly on forest service roads, ATV roads, and single track trail. Now we were getting close to Dayton, and this was where we met up with civilization. The last five miles was essentially a hot, dusty, straight shot to the finish, and we had to contend with cars to boot.

The next three miles were all about patience. And putting one foot in front of the other. And getting passed by guys who started two hours earlier than I did and literally sprinted past me on their way to finishing 50 MILES, not kilometers.

Mile 29, Homestretch AS: This aid station was like an oasis in the desert. The kind people asked if I wanted an Otter Pop, and I practically said “DUH!” It tasted really good at first, when it was all frozen, but as it thawed, it started getting really sugary and warm and didn’t taste good whatsoever. But it really hit the spot for a few minutes. From my obsessive pre-race map studying, I wanted to think that the Homestretch aid station was only about two or three miles from the finish, but I would not believe it until I heard it. For the second time that day, I was surprised and relieved to learn that I had fewer miles to go than I had anticipated. They said there were only 1.8 miles to the finish! Aaaaagh. I could “smell the barn,” as the ultrarunners say.

However, the road just kept going and going. It was seemingly interminable, just folding out in front of me like a never-ending dusty treadmill. I willed myself to keep running at a good clip, allowing for walk breaks through shady spots, and whenever I’d run enough that I felt a walk was warranted. The last five miles of the race basically looked like this:

Shortly past that last aid station, I caught up with a guy who was walking, looking like he was in no hurry to finish. His running was done. As I passed I said, Come on! Let’s go… He was like, You want me to run? I said YES, we’re too close to the finish to slow down now! Come on!

I was grasping at straws. I felt that if I motivated this guy, I would not be so focused on my own pain. He reluctantly started running. We talked a bit – I found out he was from Alberta, CA, and that this was his first 50k too. I pushed the pace, glad that I was not doing this all by myself anymore. Finally, he said he was done. He needed to walk. With about a half-mile to go, I left him behind and kicked it in, running solo to the finish, blowing past this walker who had toasted me on that killer downhill section between miles 21-26.

As I rounded the corner into the park entrance, I was greeted by John taking my picture. He snapped a few of me, and then turned to run to the finish. “RUN” I hollered at the top of my lungs. I could have beat him too, if I could have taken the same shortcut he did. 🙂 John said he knew I was feeling good because I had enough energy to yell at him and joke even as I was still finishing.

He was right. I had an awesome race. My execution of my first trail ultra left nothing to be desired. I had set the perfect goal – challenging enough so that I would have to push to achieve it, but not one that was so challenging I would never have a chance at it, leaving myself without any goal and mentally defeated when the unrealistic time came and went.

You don’t know what your body is capable of until you test it, said Nikki Kimball on her rocky 5th-place finish at the Western States 100 this year. (It was the first 100-miler she entered that she did not win.) And after 7 hours, 55 minutes, and 24 seconds of hiking and running, covering some of the most beautiful country on this planet, I knew what I was capable of on that day.

I remember finishing through a giant cloud of greasy smoke from the hamburger BBQ right by the finishing chute, which you can’t really see in these pictures, but it was there, and it made me want to hurl. But nothing could dampen the sense of satisfaction I felt at that time. To this day, I have no regrets about this race. There’s only one first, and what an unforgettable first it was.

As you can see from this picture, I was finding it hard to stand.
But I forced myself to not collapse on the ground and lay there comatose for the rest of the day as I felt inclined. Instead, I made my way over to the riverbank a few feet from the finish to soak my toasted feet.
That was like heaven on earth right there, and it revived me a little bit.

At one point a while after the race, I was talking to a couple of people, and I’m sure they were nice people and very interesting, but I had to excuse myself because the world was getting dark and warm and narrow, and I couldn’t stand up straight for fear of passing out right then and there. Doubled over, I staggered over to one picnic spot and laid down flat in the cool grass while the spinning stopped and the blood flow returned to my head. It was probably 45 minutes to an hour after the race before I could eat anything, and then only in small increments. But I knew I needed to keep the fuel and liquid coming in. I forced myself to get through some of the pasta salad and hamburger from the post-race picnic.

I had no regrets about the race in general, but I do actually have one little regret – that I was so self-consumed after the race with all my nausea and lightheadedness, I did not remember to go over and watch for and cheer for Laurel from New Hampshire as she finished. I noticed later that she finished in around 9:18, a great time, considering she had only run one marathon, back in 2005, and this was her first 50k also, at age 52. Good job Laurel. I’m sorry I didn’t come and run you in like I had wanted to!

To quote a line from a writer in Ultrarunner magazine: Fast and short is for the birds. I’m hooked on ultras or at least wild and scenic trails.Amen, sista’. For me, once you go trails, you never go back. My first ultra was everything I could have asked for or expected, but 100 times better. The people were nicer, the views grander, my mentality stronger, my time faster, the downhills more painful… Here’s a list of stuff I perceived as remarkable from the race:

  • I never once fell, even though I did witness other people fall.
  • I ran strong to the finish.
  • The stunning views from the top of the world.
  • Running 30+ miles through some of the most beautiful of God’s creation.
  • The blisters under the calluses on my toes.
  • Amazingly friendly, helpful, encouraging, decisive, and efficient aid station volunteers.
  • The ultrarunning community. Ultrarunning is a sport where the slow-packers can mingle with and absorb vibe and wisdom from the fast dudes, super-experienced runners, and even the elites.
  • I got passed by some speedy 50-milers in the last five miles (the 50-milers had started two hours and 18 miles ahead of the 50k-ers), and probably before that, but those last five miles is where it became painfully evident.

From being involved in the ultra community through the Ultra List email group for almost three years, I have heard from many runners that ultrarunning is unique and special because of the people. So it was not surprising to find out at Big Horn that this was so true.

One of the highlights of the entire race was meeting the Heaphys, a beautiful couple from NW Montana who were down to use the Big Horn 50k and 50M as a training run for the Hardrock 100, possibly the toughest 100 miler out there – run July 11 -12, 2009. The Heaphys are ultrarunners extraordinaire, having finished the Hardrock 100 ~10 times each, and of course a zillion other impressive ultras. Margaret was running the 50k race on a bum knee as an easy training run to test out how her knee would hold up for Hardrock, and I led her for about half the race, but once we got to the five mile descent from the top of the mountains down into the river bottom, she schooled me on the downhill running. Man. I have a lot to learn. Margaret finished a couple of minutes ahead of me, so I think I was running a little stronger on the flat section at the end, but it was on the downhill where she just blew me out of the water. Here I am at the end of the run with Margaret, a true class act.

From an email by Mark Heaphy to my dad post-Hardrock: Well, Margaret and I both finished Hardrock again. It was Margaret’s 9th and my 11th. Margaret’s goal has always been ten…so if she does it next year we may not do the run anymore….we’ll see. Margaret had probably the most suspenseful run of the entire field. She finished with about two minutes to spare. We ran the first twenty or so miles together and then we split up. She was very sick and vomiting. She barely made the cut-offs but toughed it out (it has always been like this for her). In order to finish under the 48 hour cut-off she had to run the last leg in the dark in a time that most of the top finishers do…and she did. Everyone was amazed. She did great and was so excited to just finish.

My essay in September of 2006 ended this way:
The ultramarathon culture is fascinating. My research has given me graphic insight into the elements necessary to train for and run ultramarathons. Here I sit, in front of the television, thinking that I want to be, that I should be out running. So why, when I can hardly muster the gusto to shuffle three miles, do I dream about running 30-plus miles? The short answer: I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: I have to start somewhere.

I start slowly. I escape the house without my kids and run three miles, winning a small victory when I can do it without walking. And it’s a treat to run alone. The extra exertion required to push a jogging stroller is amazing. Recently, I ran a 5k (3.1 mile) “race” in Boise with my son and daughter. From this experience, I determined that pushing 60 pounds of stroller and kid three miles is a really good workout, and I have a long way to go before I will be able to run 10 miles, let alone an ultramarathon.


For me, though, running an ultramarathon isn’t the goal. My mind conjures much less grandiose requirements for my body and my time. Run today, just today. Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t even think about the next mile. Put one foot in front of the other and simply run.
So, in January of 2007, six-months postpartum, I started running. I completed a marathon in October 2008 on my 30th birthday and the Big Horn 50k two and a half years later in June of 2009. However, my ultra-journey doesn’t end here. It’s only just beginning. I knew even as I struggled to the finish that I would enter another of these, and then another. Which one would it be? I was planning even before I finished. The conclusion of that race was merely a door opening to a huge new world of personal challenge and adventure. It wasn’t really a finish line. It was a portal. It was just the beginning.

FOOTNOTE

What’s next: I want to challenge any of you reading this to join me May 29, 2010 in Pocatello, Idaho for the Pocatello 50. I plan to make this my first 50-miler. The race also offers 2- or 3-person relay events that cover the same 50-mile course, with legs from 16-19 miles each. Signup starts January 1, 2010.

PROLOGUE

The Pocatello 50 was indeed the first 50 miler at which I toed the line. But it wasn’t my first finish. Read a report of the race in which I have some comments by iRunfar.com here.
Margaret Heaphy finished her 10th Hardrock a year later in 2010 (and it was Mark Heaphy’s 11th)! Wow.

The Beginning: A Run Log

WEEK 8: FEB 19 – FEB 25, 8.1 miles

2/25/07, Sun: NO RUN.

2/24/07, Sat: .5 miles, paper route.

2/23/07, Fri: 3.3 miles, 35:26. Little slower than yesterday, but I still felt great.

2/22/07, Thur: 3.3 miles, 33:55. Today, even as I ran through the fog, I felt as if I emerged from a very dark place into brilliant light. The last two nights, I went to bed at 10; I actually feel human today. Maybe I’ll eventually become a morning person. Two portly blue heeler dogs (I’ll call them that for lack of knowledge of what they actually are) ran out at me from the “reservation” trailer house. I spoke to them as if I loved wildly barking dogs who pretended to want to eat “runner” for lunch. Luckily, they stopped chasing me at the edge of their property.
2/21/07, Wed: NO RUN. I’m feeling a little better, adjusting to the early mornings, and getting well, but I’m still so tired and very sluggish. Luckily, I didn’t get really sick; just a brief stint. John joined me for the paper route this morning, and he delivered. What a sweetheart he is.
2/20/07, Tue: .5 miles, paper route. Today I am sick, have fever, feeling horrible.
2/19/07, Mon: .5 miles, paper route. Since starting the paper route last Tuesday, I have been feeling like I have entered a very dark underwater world where the light is very far away; the world is chaotic, disorganized, cluttered, and completely overwhelming.

WEEK 7: FEB 12 – FEB 18, 7.5 miles

2/18/07, Sun: .5 miles, paper route. Margie was sick and puking today. As run-down as I have been feeling, I feel destined to get sick too.

2/17/07, Sat: 3 miles, 40 minutes. Ran on the treadmill.

2/16/07, Fri: .5 miles, paper route.

2/15/07, Thur: .5 miles, paper route. Today was my third day of the paper route. I drove and delivered today, and I thought it was a pretty good workout, getting the papers to people’s doors and all. Afterward, my glutes were surprisingly sore. I’m going to give myself .5 miles for each morning that I really work hard and run to get the papers delivered.

2/14/07, Wed: 3 miles, 40 minutes. I ran on the treadmill today. It was surprisingly boring (I had expected it to be boring, but that was BORING), but I am thankful that I will have a place to run when John is working 13 hour days and such. Since this was the first time that I used the treadmill, I was very distracted; I kept stopping to adjust the temperature, get water, get chapstick, open the curtains, etc. I did enjoy listening to music while I ran. The treadmill has a speaker jack into which you can plug in your iPod. Very cool.

2/13/07, Tue: If I would have known what a crazy day today was going to be, I definitely would have run yesterday. My paper route started this morning (4am) and the day didn’t stop until I crashed into bed at 11pm.

2/12/07, Mon: NO RUN. Took another day off to let my hips recover

WEEK 6: FEB 5 – FEB 11, 13.9 miles

2/11/07, Sun: NO RUN.
2/10/07, Sat: 5.6 miles, 1:02:00. Today, I tried out a run/walk technique, which allowed me to feel better for the duration of the run, but the walking actually made my hip joints hurt. The pain would subside as soon as I started running. Hmmm.
2/9/07, Fri: 2.5 miles, 26:48. I wanted to run farther, but I had to get home so John could go to work. Today, Margie and I slept ‘til 10am, and when I got up, I was definitely leaded – literally, not in a caffeinated way. So running today was all about “getting the lead out.” As usual, I donned gloves, long and short sleeved shirts, and hat, along with fleece pants. Talk about overkill. It was sunny in the 40s, and I was roasting. I had to shed the long-sleeved shirt, hat, and gloves; I had not taken a rubber band for my hair, so my hair was swinging about like a wild animal skin attached to the back of my head. Annoying. About ½ mile into the run when I took off my hat, I made it my mission to find a rubber band for my hair. I decided that the most likely place to find a rubber band, and to avoid slowly running while scouring the ground, was on a newspaper in someone’s driveway. I ran quite a while before locating a sodden newspaper in the wet gutter by the street. Every other newspaper that I spotted was either in a driveway with cars parked in it, or was at a house that had people looking out the windows, or someone was driving by at the time I was passing the paper. What can I say…I’m a chicken and will do pretty much anything to avoid confrontation. So I waited until I found a “safe” newspaper in the gutter from which to yank the rubber band for my wild beast hair. At the end of the run, I felt less leaded, and I was able to get through the rest of the day with some modicum of aplomb.
2/8/07, Thur: 2.5 miles, 25:09. Just went out for a quick run this morning. I really tried to let loose, but my body had other ideas – I felt a little sluggish. Today was the first day in a long time that the weather wasn’t sunny and cold. It rained last night, so everything was wet, although it wasn’t actually raining while I was running. I relished the smell of damp earth and wetness in the air
2/7/07, Wed: NO RUN.
2/6/07, Tue: 3.3 miles, 33 minutes. I really need to get a new running watch. The time approximations are driving me crazy. I worked hard today to overcome the “Emily Shuffle” and I think I succeeded. Just pump the arms a little harder, lift the knees a little higher, I kept telling myself. Two weeks ago, I ran this same run in 38 minutes, so this was a definite improvement in speed. I decided that if I’m going to PR at Robie this year, I had better kick up my pace a notch. It’s no longer good enough to just plod along at the Emily shuffle for two miles and call it a good workout. My toe hurt a little bit today, and I’m not quite sure why. I do know that I have been having nerve pain emanating from the base of my toe where the numbing shot was, and it seems to affect the tip of my toe as well. I see the doctor for followup on the 13th, so I’ll mention it to him then. Also, something else that I need to work on, in addition to my speed, is my DIET. For the last week, I have been eating pizza, chips, cookies, and ice cream. Yuck. If I would just tune up my diet, I think my body would tone up dramatically. I have already lost a few pounds, but I would like to tighten up a little and lose a few inches off the “saddlebags.”

2/5/07, Mon: NO RUN.

WEEK 5: JAN 29 – FEB 4, 12.1 miles

2/4/07, Sun: 2.5 miles, 27 minutes. Although my cardio conditioning suffered slightly for not having run in three days, I felt great otherwise. For the first time in a very long time, I had NO toe pain. So I’m glad I had the procedure done, even though it was totally gross. I actually could have run the last two days, but I had so much going on in my life that there was no time to run. I’m just glad I got three runs in this week. That’s one of my running rules – three is the bare minimum times that I can run per week, and I try very hard to run four or five times.

2/3/07, Sat: NO RUN.
2/2/07, Fri: NO RUN. My toe was a little sore still today, but it really doesn’t hurt much at all. Most of my pain is imaginary – I’m just so grossed out by the sight of it and the knowledge that nail bed is exposed. In addition, I’ve been protecting and favoring this toe for over six months. Old habits die hard.

2/1/07, Thur: NO RUN. Today, I had my toe operated on to remove the ingrown toenail. It was just as bad as I thought it would be. The numbing shot was horrific, nearly making me pass out. I really wanted to watch the procedure, sort of like a final goodbye to the infection that had become routine to my life. But I started becoming hot and woozy at the numbing shots; everyone in the room emphatically urged me to not watch the actual procedure. I tried to look, but something internal compelled me to keep my eyes closed. Oh well. The doctor bandaged my toe so that it looked like a goofy giant light bulb. I am tentatively planning on Saturday to run again.

1/31/07, Wed: 4 miles, 38 minutes. I didn’t have a chance to run during the day today, so after putting the kids to bed, I drove down to the Y to run around the indoor track. Tomorrow I have my ingrown toenail procedure, so I wanted to make sure that I got a run in today because I don’t know how long I am going to be out of commission. Each mile consists of 12 laps around that dinky little track. Talk about monotonous; but at least it wasn’t as boring as running on a treadmill. In addition to the monotony, I kept tripping over the cant on the corners of the track. John would call it a floor ninja, but whatever is was, I kept tripping over it. We have determined that clumsiness runs in the family; dad’s excuse his size 14 feet. My feet aren’t boats; I don’t have a good excuse. I also found it very difficult to keep track of the laps. Forty-eight laps is a lot of counting for someone who has an approximately ten second short-term memory.

1/30/07, Tue: NO RUN. I actually could have run today, but today, studying for tomorrow’s math test absolutely had to come first. I had one window of opportunity to do something for myself, and studying had to be done. I have realized that running sometimes has become an excuse to not do homework.
1/29/07, Mon: 5.5 miles, 60 minutes. With great trepidation and nausea, I called a podiatrist to schedule an appointment to get my ingrown toenail fixed. It just keeps lingering; I mean, I’ve had the thing for over six months. Sounds deranged, but I’ve almost grown fond of it. Anyway, the toe was particularly puffy and painful today, even after recent concentrated efforts at soaking and cleaning it, so I am going to throw in the towel. Sigh. In other news, today was the longest run I have completed so far this year, and I am happy to have run the entire distance comfortably.

WEEK 4: JAN 22 – JAN 28, 13.9 miles

1/28/07, Sun: NO RUN.

1/27/07, Sat: 4.1 miles, 45 minutes. I have wanted to take my camera running for a while now, and today seemed like a good day to do it. Marge has shared with everyone fascinating and beautiful photos from Korea, so I thought I’d return the favor by sharing, um, BROWN pictures from the Caldwell, Idaho countryside from a runner’s perspective. Every time I run, I see lots of this:

a lot of this:

even more of this:

and a zillion of these:
.
It’s a friendly place. Yep. Actually, I thought this horse looked rather friendly as he peered over the rail at me.

Running through town brings another whole fascinating set of visions.


An interesting looking house,
the obligatory small-town water tower,

and friendly graffiti, of course.

John says these pictures make it seem as if I’m running on a Native American reservation. Here are some other fascinating sights I encountered out on the road:

A morose cow (I’d be morose too, if I had to live there).

Classic country mailbox art.


Fast-declining farmland.

1/26/07, Fri: 3.3 miles, 38 minutes. I was amused today by the smiling ram who peered at me through the window of a cinder block shed. When I went back Saturday to take pictures, I was disappointed that the ram had been moved.

1/25/07, Thur: NO RUN. I allowed myself a lazy day today. The pear-shaped runner:
1/24/07, Wed: 2.5 miles, 27 minutes.
1/23/07, Tue: NO RUN.
1/22/07, Mon: 4 miles, 41 minutes. What a gorgeous day! At 38 degrees, the air felt so warm that I had to shed my gloves and scarf and roll up my sleeves. The windiness of previous days has subsided – there was a very slight, almost spring-like breeze today. Spectacular running weather. Having learned a couple days ago that the Doberman’s name is Sadie, I called the dog by name today, thinking that she would be impressed enough at me knowing her name to stop barking. She wasn’t.

Baby Margie has been sick for the last couple days, so she has been sleeping less than usual. This means, of course, that I have also been sleeping less than usual. Margie, since about the age of six weeks old, has completely spoiled me by sleeping 10 to 12 hours a night. There’s no way that I get that much sleep, but if I can get seven hours, I feel pretty good. However, last night’s four and a half hours of sleep left me with a truckload of gravel in my eyes and a crabby attitude. Running helped immensely, and I was able to come back to the house and be moderately productive.

WEEK 3: JAN 15 – JAN 21, 9 miles

1/21/07, Sun: NO RUN. John worked a day shift today. By the time he got home, of course, it was dark, and I won’t run my usual routes in the dark. (With Margie not sleeping well last night, I didn’t have it in me to get up early and run before he left.) I begged John to let me just run around our block a bunch of times, but he put his foot down on that too. “You know what kind of people live in this subdivision!”

1/20/07, Sat: 2.5 miles, @25 minutes. After running in temperatures in the 20s and below recently, today’s early evening run at 35 degrees felt downright balmy; I was definitely overdressed in my fleece scarf and thermal shirt. Although I felt tired, as usual, I tried to push my pace, and although most “real” runners would scoff at 10 minute miles, I am quite happy with them. So I can’t complain about a sluggish pace – my contention today was with my nemesis, the pesky ingrown toenail.

(I apologize for the picture – it’s mainly for Big Marge’s benefit.) My left big toenail became ingrown about a month after Baby Margie was born, so as Margie turns seven months old, my festering infection turns about six months old. Charming. And I beg anyone out there who wants to warn me about the dangers of infection or to implore me to go to the doctor to NOT.

1/19/07, Fri: 3.5 miles, 37 minutes. I started this run today with absolutely NO desire to run. But since running comes above “sitting on the couch like a lazy slug” on my life’s priority list, I had to run (in addition to the fact that I hadn’t run for the previous two days – that’s another rule: to never go more than two days in a row without running).

So I donned my shoes, hat, gloves, scarf, sunglasses, cell phone, and pedometer – I would have strapped on my watch too if that six degree day hadn’t killed it – and headed out into the beautifully sunny, frigid morning at my patented “Emily Shuffle” pace, which I estimate to be about 11 minutes per mile. Today, I ran my normal route in reverse. This change was invigorating, and made me feel like I was running a completely different route. I need to do that more often. I am getting so bored with my usual route.
This run would have been slightly faster had I not taken a phone call as I was finishing the run – I hate talking on the phone, so sometimes it’s just easier to take care of a phone call right then, rather than bothering with calling the person back. The poor woman probably was wondering why my breathing was labored and my speech was slurred (my lips were partially frozen). It was about 22 degrees this morning, which didn’t feel too bad, except for the stinking wind. I started this run with the intention of running 2.5 miles, just to say I ran, but by the time I got to the point where I had to turn and head home, my body was in a trance-like gait, and I pretty much unintentionally “shuffled” through another mile or so. So even though I totally didn’t want to run, I was, of course, glad that I had done so.

1/18/07, Thur: NO RUN. John’s schedule didn’t allow me to run today unfortunately, and “life” got in the way of running. I had lunch with some friends from church, an event that comes above running on the priority list.

1/17/07, Wed: NO RUN. We slept in late this morning (until 10) and then I had to go feed the llamas. This was my last morning to do that. By the time I got back, John was leaving for work, and I didn’t have a chance to run. However, I did wear Margie around in the backpack for an hour and a half while cleaning today. It wasn’t a cardio workout, but it’s definitely a leg-strength builder! I would challenge anyone to squat repeatedly to pickup toys off the floor and to walk up and down the stairs with 20 pounds of baby on their back.

1/16/07, Tue: 3 miles, 34 min. I set out to do 2.5 miles, but once I got into the run, my body just got in a nice rhythm and I kept going around to the three-mile loop. When I set out to run today, the temperature, with the wind-chill factored in, was six degrees. SIX. It was cold. By the end of the run, ice had built up on the inside of my ninja-scarf. It was so cold that my watch is dead now. It was working fine until I went to stop the time at the end of the run. I saw “34” and then the display just went caterwampus. Bummer.

Drawbacks to running in the cold: my legs were as stiff as boards, so I was moving along at a brisk shuffle, even though I felt great. Also running into a headwind half the way definitely was a barrier to a speedy time as well as a barrier to any semblance of warmth. Even the half with the tailwind didn’t help my overall pace (rigor-mortis-like leg muscles).
Even though the drawbacks may be more obvious than the benefits, I did notice some benefits to running in the cold: even through the pink and green leopard scarf, I could faintly detect the smell of rotting apples at the “idyllic” house; the cold air has a distinct numbing effect that pretty effectively eliminates those nagging little aches and pains that would normally be there; and people I ran by, mostly utility and construction workers (no body else was stupid enough to be out in this weather without being paid for it) seemed to be extra-friendly, giving little nods, as if to commiserate.
Cold aside, I had a different, and altogether more annoying, issue to contend with: WRINKLED SOCKS. In my haste to rush out the door for a run in that small moment of opportunity, I left on a pair of tube-like cotton sport socks instead of putting on running socks. That was a mistake. I think Big M will appreciate my abhorrence of the wrinkled socks. That, paired with the consistent untied nature of my right shoe, made my right foot a very unhappy camper. Altogether, it was a great run – the sky was cloudless and sunny, my body felt good, and I am able to run.

1/15/07, Mon: NO RUN. Today, my morning before John went to work consisted of picking up dad’s truck and driving to Meridian to pick up dad’s moose rack at Yellow Transportation. That was a fun little adventure, but the rack was fully crated, so I didn’t get to see it. I’ll have to wait for dad to get back from Atlanta.

WEEK 2: JAN 8 – JAN 14, 12.2 miles

1/14/07, Sun: 2.5 miles, @26 min. Went out Sunday afternoon, having just eaten a couple pieces of pizza; eating and running are two things that, as a mother, student, and wife, must be undertaken when the opportunities present themselves. That means sometimes I run immediately after eating, if that’s when the opportunity to run presents itself (unless that “eat” happens to have been a five-plate Thanksgiving dinner).

Because the temperatures have been unpleasantly chilly lately (highs in the 20s), I have taken to running with a fleece scarf wrapped around my neck, which I pull up over my mouth and nose, so I’m not directly sucking in the bitterly cold air. (God must have known that I would be running in frigid temperatures someday because He gifted me with an appropriately shaped nose for such scarf draping.) At the end of my run, as I headed into my subdivision, I passed a little kid walking on the sidewalk with his grandma. He, in a typically untactful little-kid manner, loudly remarked – several times, which I deemed excessive, considering the obvious cold temperature – that I looked like a ninja.

A ninja. Look, a ninja. There’s a ninja!

I would have been a little huffy about this, except that I can totally see what the kid was talking about after I had John snap this picture of me after the run.

1/13/07, Sat: 3.2 miles, 33:23. It was 13 degrees and windy this morning when I went to feed the llamas around 10:00. Sheesh.

1/12/07, Fri: NO RUN. Life pre-empted running today. We had errands to do in the morning, I babysat Katie’s girls in the afternoon, and I had a church function in the evening. On days that John works swing shifts, I have to run in the morning before he goes to work. If I don’t get a run in early enough, or if I have something scheduled in the morning, I am doomed to have a “NO RUN” day. Running, however, doesn’t come at the very top of my priority list. I determined that in my running ground rules. Running comes before things like “homework” or “clean the house” or “sit on the couch like a lazy slug.”

It, however, falls below things like “feed the kids” or “take care of husband” and any play date, lunch date, or church activity. I decided that for my running to be consistent, and for me to not constantly battle my guilty conscience about not running every single day, I had to set guidelines about where running would fall within my spectrum of priorities. Some days are just not conducive to running. And that’s ok. But what’s not ok is when I have a prime opportunity to run and I don’t jump at the chance. When the couch wins out, that’s bad.

1/11/07, Thur: NO RUN. I definitely have Dieter’s cold; not happy about this. In addition to this inconvenience, Baby Margie was up the half the night last night vomiting the oatmeal I gave her for dinner. It was the first time I had given her oatmeal, and it will be the last for a very long time. We’ll just stick to sweet potatoes and applesauce for now.

1/10/07, Wed: 2.5 miles, 26:05. I still didn’t feel like running, but I had to run today anyway, knowing that the next two days didn’t look good for the running schedule. I started running feeling like I weighed about 500 pounds. By the end of the run, I had “lost” about 300 pounds, a definite improvement. Running often has that effect of improving mood and physical well-being. I often wish I could run with an iPod, but I decided I would rather have an obnoxious version of “O Happy Day” cycling through my brain than be surprised by a charging dog or an attacker rustling in the bushes or the erratic teenage driver (of whom there seem to be an inordinate number) approaching behind me at a high speed.

1/9/07, Tue: NO RUN. By the end of today, I was feeling like I was coming down with Dieter’s stupid cold that he has had for several days. Because I was totally sore from my last two workouts (the four miler and the hill work), I decided to take a day off to rest. I DON’T WANT TO GET SICK. Doing everything I can to stay well.

1/8/07, Mon: 4 miles, 39:43. Today, I ran by the graffiti (WSL for West Side Locas, yes Locas) spray painted on the fence and the scary ‘hood kids in a yard, one of whom repeatedly hollered “Justin” until finally yelling “Fire Away!” (upon hearing this, I bravely forged by them without making eye contact). That’s bad to be frightened of the 10-year-old kids in the neighborhood through which I am forced to run. I also ran by the parolee chalets; the “idyllic” house, defined by the tangy smell of rotting apples; and the “less-than-idyllic” shack, which, according to my imagination, could easily house a serial killer, looking abandoned except for the perpetual smoke rising from the chimney and the junkyard dog who often greets me. The junkyard dog wasn’t out today, but the Great Dane and the German Shepherd to his east greeted me in typical friendly (Ha!) fashion.

I had a little pain in my right kneecap, and I am sure this is a result of suddenly starting a running regime with no precursor. Also, drinking coffee before the run seemed to work well…no stomach cramps, which usually plague me if I am running with anything in my stomach. My body and lungs seemed to finally be in synch today. One did not tire before the other. They both felt strong the entire way (not to say that I wasn’t tired at the end); and I was able to surge strongly the final 2/10 mile.

Although I felt lithe today, the shadow stretched in front of me reminded me that I am have a “classic pear shape.” But the pear-shaped runner was running nonetheless, right? As John Bingham of Runner’s World says, “Waddle on, friends.”

Today was a great run except for my chapped lips.

I get so angry when I forget to put on chapstick before running. Un-chapsticked lips are almost as bad as wet socks on the “things that totally aggravate my senses” list. The chapped lips are a telltale sign that I NEED TO DRINK MORE WATER.

WEEK 1: JAN 1 – JAN 7, 12.8 miles

1/7/07, Sun: Hill repeats @2 miles. Ran in the morning before church. Warmed up by running about .25 mile to the hill behind my house, then ran six repeats up and down the hill. Surged uphill at a strong pace then jogged down easy. Each repeat took about two minutes. Minimal breaks between repeats. Felt pretty good. Ran about .5 mile back home.
1/6/07, Sat: NO RUN. After running four days in a row following a very long period of no running, I felt ready for a day off.

1/5/07, Fri: 3.8 miles, 40:02. Felt a little fatigued today. Think I need a day off.

1/4/07, Thur: 2.5 miles, 25:51. Still feeling a little fatigued, but not too tired; finished strong. My first mile split was 11:00, so I picked up the pace nicely on the second 1.5 miles.

1/3/07, Wed: 2.5 miles, 28 min. Felt a little fatigued from yesterday, but I’m happy to be running consecutive days. It’s a start

1/2/07, Tue: 2 miles, 22 min. Just to be clear, I have not made running my New Year’s resolution. My desire to run has been building up all through the fall, and it’s simply time to start. More about that later… Simply, I know that for me to achieve ultimate satisfaction in races later in the year (maybe even a marathon) I have to run consistently, build mileage, and run NOW.

The Beginning: Starting Over

The following is an excerpt from a paper on ultrarunning that I wrote for an English class in the Fall 2007. I merely extracted paragraphs from throughout the paper, so if it doesn’t seem very coherent, that’s why. I include it in this blog because it gives some background on the mentality with which I now approach running, and it shows come where I came from. After I had my two kids and was done childbearing, I pretty much had to start over. I was a new runner. As I look back on this post three years later, I am amazed at my progress, amazed at some comments that almost seem prophetic.

I’m a runner. At least that’s how I perceive myself in athletic terms. Since my sophomore year in high school, I have nurtured a love-hate relationship with running. When I’m running, I hate it. When I’m not, I love it. Lately, I have become obsessed with this conundrum. I truly aspire to be a runner, not just someone who thinks about it a lot.

Having two babies in the last five years has been a roadblock to my running success.

I’m a slug, yet I still have the desire to be a serious runner, and I am slowly getting back into it. But to some extent, running is my fantasy – I do a lot of running in my dreams. Still, I had to begin somewhere. In order to not shock my system with too much exercise right off the bat, I started with the mild step of reading about running. In doing so, I discovered ultramarathoning.

In his autobiography, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, Dean Karnazes relates the story of how he ran a 199-mile relay race from Calistoga, California to Santa Cruz, California as a team of one. “…A bout of despair set in. Suddenly, nothing seemed to be going right… The sun was now sinking below the distant horizon, and I was running into a gathering gloom. I was alone… The pain wasn’t just confined to my legs any longer but had spread throughout my entire body. I plodded along in grief, barely able to lift my head. Twenty-eight hours of running can do that to you” (234-5). I’ve read numerous statements from ultrarunners that would completely deter most people from contemplating participation in this extreme sport.

I, however, wasn’t deterred. I was compelled. I realized there is a whole sub-category of runners out there who are influenced by the power of the ultra. I wondered why anyone would willingly engage in such a painful activity. Why would someone run such long distances? What’s involved? Would I be capable of doing this? I didn’t know the answers to these questions, but I had to find out. Thus began my journey of personal discovery.

I can testify that runners’ strength comes from the mind rather than the body. Most of the time, I’m pretty weak-minded. Sitting on my couch, rear end comfortably ensconced in the broken-in cushion, I find myself completely engrossed in Blake Wood’s fascinating account of his experience at the 2000 Barkley Marathons. Wow, this is some good reading. Here’s a guy who came 12 miles from completing a 100-mile race, only to be stymied by a river flooded by torrential rain. Instead of feeling defeated, Blake Wood feels victorious. I’m extremely inspired by his story.

If the mind controls the body and compels it to action, why does my mind fail to lace up my running shoes and propel me out the door so I can pursue the same victorious feeling? Am I mentally tough enough to run an ultra? How does one’s mind adapt and talk itself out of defeat? What is the thought process behind it.

I turn my attention to The Extra Mile, Pam Reed’s account of her running and life. This woman is the race director of the Tucson Marathon, an internationally successful professional ultrarunner, a two-time overall winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon, a mother of three, and a wife. Pam might tell me that my perception of running needs to change. Pam states that for her, running is a necessity. After all, she runs up to three times a day, 100 miles a week. But somehow, it just doesn’t seem simple to move running up my priority ladder. I get tired simply reading the prologue.

The allure of the ultra has captured Dwight Schuh because, in his own words, he might be “absolutely crazy.” Speaking of crazy… my life is nuts, but not because I am obsessed with training. Being a mother comes with special challenges, more than a childless person would think. Go for a run or read to my son? This is my current dilemma. The juggling of husband, kids, church, school, and social obligations leaves me little time to do anything for myself. Running is a luxury, in my mind.

I am torn between love of things I used to do freely, such as running, and the necessity to complete the tasks that make life go on. Maybe some mothers find it easy to dart out the door, smiling baby in tow, for a productive one-on-one with the blacktop. I do not. Making each of the baby’s waking (and often fussy) moments productive is much more difficult than it sounds.

The ultramarathon culture is fascinating. My research has given me graphic insight into the elements necessary to train for and run ultramarathons. Here I sit, in front of the television, thinking that I want to be, that I should be out running. So why, when I can hardly muster the gusto to shuffle three miles, do I dream about running 30-plus miles? The short answer: I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: I have to start somewhere.

I start slowly. I escape the house without my kids and run three miles, winning a small victory when I can do it without walking. And it’s a treat to run alone. The extra exertion required to push a jogging stroller is amazing. Recently, I ran a 5k (3.1 mile) “race” in Boise with my son and daughter.

From this experience, I determined that pushing 60 pounds of stroller and kid three miles is a really good workout, and I have a long way to go before I will be able to run 10 miles, let alone an ultramarathon.

For me, though, running an ultramarathon isn’t the goal. My mind conjures much less grandiose requirements for my body and my time. Run today, just today. Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t even think about the next mile. Put one foot in front of the other and simply run.