The advantage of running a race close to home is that you can wake up and do your normal routine in the comforts of your own home. I woke up to my alarm at 3:30 and began to prepare for a journey that I am just now starting to wrap my head around. I ate my usual peanut butter toast and oatmeal, made some hot tea, gathered all of my race gear (or so I thought) and drove off into the darkness towards Spooner Summit. I pulled into the lot, excited because I had such a good parking spot and walked over to the bathrooms. As I was walking up, I looked at the other runners and suddenly realized “I don’t have my bib”. I laughed to myself and surprisingly, didn’t stress or let it phase me.
I gathered my bags from the car and made my way to the starting line area to find a new bib. I knew my friend Norah was going to be there and we talked for a moment as she was checking in the other runners and she suggested I go talk to the girls in the finishers lounge. I walked up, let them know I forgot my bib and low and behold… I wasn’t the only one! Another man had forgotten his and they ended up making us new ones… no sweat! I pinned it on and was ready to go.
I waited around in the cold with a strange feeling of calm and patience. I was confident that I would finish this race. I knew that I would go to a dark place and I would have to dig deep and keep faith in myself. I would need to be resilient when things didn’t go as planned and my crew was ready for my adventure. Everything seemed to be in place for a great race day. Because why wouldn’t you run 100 miles when your longest training run was 30 miles (split into two 15 milers)?!
I soon saw my friend Evan walk up and I was so happy to see a familiar face who was going to be venturing out on this insane journey with me! We talked as the clock ticked away and then as George began to get on the speaker, he decided to move up to the front. He had big goals and was ready for redemption.
3….2….1…. here we go!
As we began up the dirt road, I was running at a very comfortable pace and reminded myself to be conservative. As I was cruising along, I looked over and saw Jenelle Potvin and we were running the same pace for the first mile and half. We had only met once as were both camping for States, and we soon struck up a conversation that would take us all the way to Marlette Lake. We shared stories of life, laughter, our morning routine, and how our night before race day had gone. It made that climb to Marlette feel effortless and quick … I was hopeful that we could share more miles together! As we made our way around Marlette, we both decided to take a quick bathroom break. Woohoo… I had to go to the bathroom already! This is a good sign, right? Jackie (my pacer) is going to be so proud of me when I see her, I thought.
When I arrived at Hobart, I didn’t see Jenelle anywhere and little did I know that we wouldn’t see each other again until that dreaded moment at mile 35. The plan was to move through each aide station until Tunnel Creek for the second time (out of 6) where I would see my crew chief extraordinaire, EJ! As I climbed out of the Red House Loop, I was so excited to tell EJ that I was feeling great and things were going well! He changed my socks, filled up my bottles and just like that I was on my way to Diamond Peak. Along the way I made friends with two guys from Utah and I remember one guy say “Your crew changed your socks? Is that what a crew does for runners? I want a crew!” The miles went by and before I knew it, I was at the bottom of Tyrolean and I could see the houses.
BOOM! All of a sudden I was down on the ground in a bush! What the heck just happened?! I quickly got up, did a body scan and realized I was good to go. Must have clipped a rock? Oh well… just keep moving.
As I approached Diamond Peak lodge, EJ spotted me before I saw him and his crew station was on point! He had a chair set up with ice, Tailwind and food. We set a plan prior to race day that he would have 5 choices of food and I would have to pick one when I saw him. I knew that eating would be one of my biggest challenges (I’m terrible at fueling) and I agreed that I would stick to the fueling plan no matter what. I choose a Honey Stinger Waffle, he filled my ice bandana, refilled my flasks with Tailwind and and I was soon on my way up the hill. EJ walked up with me and I told him “I know you might be mad that I’m in 1st place, but I’m running really comfortably and I feel really good!” A quick pep talk, a high five and I was on my own. I enjoy Diamond Peak because I feel it’s a good place to regroup. Everyone is power hiking up (unless you’re Rory) and I was jamming to my Ipod which I had waited 30 miles to put on! I approached the top, quickly glanced back at the lake and ran down through Bull Wheel. This was the beginning of what would be a very dark, unhappy place.
My stomach turned instantly. I started to feel sick and was quickly looking around for somewhere to pull off. It was a strange sick that I have never felt during a run. It wasn’t lack of fueling or trying something new, it is hard to describe but it wasn’t good. I found a spot, regrouped and jumped back on the trail with hopes that it would go away. And then… “Oh no, now my foot is starting to hurt along with my stomach… WTF?!” Roxanne came up behind me and gave me some tums for my stomach, but my foot pain was increasing rapidly. I had been having a great deal of trouble with my foot for the past year and a half which made training difficult. I knew it would affect me during the race, it was just a matter of when. Well… here it is.
Soon the pain was so bad that I was hobbling along and running when I could, walking when I couldn’t. I remember that EJ told me Kaycee would take care of me at Tunnel Creek and so I powered through to see her. I got there and stood at the table in front of her with tears in my eyes. I told her I was done. I wasn’t going to continue, my foot hurt too bad. She walked me over to the med tent to the lawn chairs and the questions started coming along with the tears. I was in a bad place. I was trying so hard to quit. I convinced myself that 35 miles was a good run and I was done. I don’t think I answered many questions and soon they were taping my foot and I heard “well you might have a stress fracture”. Umm…. Excuse me? A stress facture? That’s just what I needed to hear. That confirmed that I should quit! How do I get back to Spooner?
Little did I know, Kaycee was not going to let that happen. I told her I couldn’t run 60+ miles like this and she told me “It’s not 60 miles, it’s 5 to the next aide station. You’re going to walk there. Walk with a purpose.” That sounded a little better but what the heck was my purpose?? This is only mile 35… I’m not supposed to be going to a dark place yet!
Through teary eyes, I watched hundreds of runners (or so it felt like that) pass through including Jenelle. She came over and gave me a hug with some encouraging words. It meant a lot to me and I would repeatedly be asking about her for the rest of the race. Before I knew it, I was up and out of the chair and on the phone with EJ. He asked me how I was feeling and all I could do was cry. He told me to come talk to him at Spooner and I agreed to that… why the heck did I just agree to that? I started to leave the aide station and Jill walked with me (thank god) and I had told myself that I would leave this aide station and drop at the next one. I knew Kevin would be there and he would tell me to drop (or so I thought).
We walked out of Tunnel Creek and Jill was so kind. She tried to talk me off the ledge and offer some words of wisdom (thank you Jill) and in the midst of her talking to me, I turned to the side and started barfing. There go the strawberries I ate! I have no desire to eat strawberries for a long time. I would soon walk all the way to Hobart which felt like 45 miles. Within those 5 miles, I cried, repeated to myself “walk with a purpose” and developed a plan to drop at Hobart. I planned out how everyone in my crew could go home and get a good night sleep. They wouldn’t have to be out here taking care of me all night and 40 miles was good enough.
Finally I saw Hobart and I think the angels started singing! This was it… I was done!
When I told everyone at Hobart of my plan to quit, their response was “you can’t quit on yourself”. That was not what I wanted to hear. I lingered at that aide station for a while and refused to leave. But no one would let me! I decided to leave and walk to Spooner because at least my car was there so I wouldn’t have to worry about a ride. I left there and kept repeating to myself “walk with a purpose”. I thought a lot during those next few miles to Snow Valley about why I was doing this and further developed a plan to quit. As I left Snow Valley, I slowly started to come out of the dark place. My mood changed and I decided to run down to Spooner despite the pain in my foot that I was still experiencing. As I ran through the aspens along the edge of Spooner Lake, I prepared to tell everyone I was done.
But for some reason, I never told my crew that I wanted to drop. I saw Zak (my boyfriend) and he jogged into the aide station with me and told me how great I looked – yeah right! As soon as I saw EJ, the only thing I said was “I need to get my sh#% figured out”. He led me to the chair and it was like a Nascar race. Someone was changing my socks, my shoes, I was handed some noodles and soup, people were rubbing my shoulders and before I knew it… I out of the chair with my pacer Jackie and we were on our way out of Spooner! We made up some serious time on the way up to Marlette and Jackie helped me get my fueling back on track. I thought I was doing a great job of drinking my Tailwind, but I was dehydrated. The miles flew by and I was excited to get back to Hobart to tell everyone that I didn’t drop! As we passed runners, they were saying “Oh you’re still running? You didn’t drop? I can’t believe you’re still going!”
We left Hobart and the stomach troubles were still haunting me. About every mile and a half, I would have to stop for a bathroom break. Bless Jackie’s heart for waiting every single time! We cruised along and ran when we could, hiked when I couldn’t. Her stories made time fly by and I actually enjoyed the Red House loop! When we left the Alice in Wonderland themed aide station, I told Jackie “Look at the lights from the aide station!” and she responded with “That’s Carson City”. Hmm… delirium was setting in already??
As the sun set, we made our way to Bull Wheel and eventually back to Diamond Peak. I was sad to leave Jackie and I am so grateful for her support and patience. She helped turn my race around and got me back to fueling properly! At Diamond Peak, I was stoked to use an indoor bathroom until they told me it was upstairs. No thank you, I’ll go outside like I’ve been doing for the past 7 hours.
My crew was there with supplies for the last part of my journey. I was a little out of it at this point and still didn’t want to eat anything. I was not able to keep anything in me since mile 35 and my stomach was so upset that I didn’t even want to try. I settled on drinking broth and soon Luis (my pacer) and I were starting our climb to the top of Diamond Peak. Luis passed the time with talks of enchiladas, the beauty of nature and reminders of how lucky we were to be on this journey. With many bathroom breaks along the way, we made our way through Tunnel Creek, Hobart and Snow Valley. When we reached the top of Snow Valley it was a bittersweet moment. The sunrise was incredible, however, I knew it had been 24 hours and I wanted to be finished in less than that. I couldn’t’ believe I had made it this far and to make myself feel better, I told Luis that finishing is winning for me. I walked more in that last 20 miles than I have ever walked on a run. The grass was a beautiful glittery green color and it slowly waved in the wind (it wasn’t windy). I was excited to see and hear someone cheering for me, yet Luis reminded me that no one else was out there. I asked him a few times if he thought I was in last place, but I had informed my crew that no one was to tell me my place no matter what. I would ask a few more times and he would say over and over again “I do not know”.
As we approached Spooner Summit, I saw a person running towards us (there really was a person this time) and it was my friend Ginny! My eyes welled up with tears… she came all the way out here to run with me?! I had so much to tell her about my 24+ hours out on the trails. I then came across Zak as we were about a mile from the finish. He joined in and shuffled along with me.
“I feel like Forest Gump right now!”
We crossed the wooden bridge and it was all becoming real. I was actually going to finish. An overwhelming rush of emotions came over me as I got closer and closer. The cheers from so many that probably don’t even know me and the familiar faces that were so proud of me for finishing what I started… it’s hard to keep it together as I write this.
In 27:05:18, I had finished my first 100 miler. And to top it off… I was the 2nd female! I was informed at the finish and I didn’t believe it. It was the first time I had sat down since mile 50 and this time, I had tears of joy. They say a 100 mile race can strip you down to your rawest form and you live an entire life in a day. These words couldn’t be truer. I learned a great deal about myself during those 27 hours and some things I will never be able to explain. It’s almost as if you don’t have to say anything to a fellow ultra-runner about your experience… they just understand. To those that have done a 100 mile race, you get it. I am forever grateful to the people involved in my 100 mile journey.
A few things I’ll take away from this adventure:
-people will still like you even if you don’t win or run sub 24
-100 miles is more about problem solving than actual fitness… who can endure more pain and how do they manage it
-dark times will happen, but they are always followed by moments of joy!
-Tailwind is like liquid gold… I can survive on Tailwind and broth for 100 miles
-I am not done with 100 mile races J