Trail & Ultra Running.
My son is currently working on a documentary about mental health and running. Here is a link to the trailer.
It’s the day after a big mountain adventure. All your friends are asking, “How was it?” and wanting to know all the nitty gritty details; the terrain, the views, possible wildlife encounters, near death experiences…you know, all that juicy mountain trail running gossip! We are a rare breed. But when you find people of your own kind, you relate. We want to know all about the experience because hearing about it and seeing the pictures is the next best thing to actually doing it ourselves. I totally get it. When we are in the mountains, we are living our life as fully as we know how. When we aren’t in the mountains, there’s no place we would rather be.
You can’t just spend over 36 hours doing a single activity and answer the question, “how was it” in a single word. It’s just not possible.
So, here it is for all who have been asking:
The route: Hayden-Hurricane 100k FKT course created by Isaiah Hemmen, who currently holds the men’s Unsupported FKT time of 17:51:21 which is just astonishing to me now that I have completed the same track. It is located in the Olympic National Park. It starts and ends at Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. The route takes you over Grand Pass, Cameron Pass, Lost Pass, Hayden Pass, along the Elwa River, up to Dodger Point, then making your way back to Hurricane Ridge. It was described as being a 64 mile route but Mary and I both ended up with over 70 miles upon completion.
Here is the link to
Isaiah Hemmen's FKT Route:
We both arrived at the Visitor Center on Friday evening and car camped. Our plan was to begin at 4:30 a.m., which we did. However, we took off in the wrong direction on the road so ended up with over 2 bonus miles. We did a “re” start at around 5:45. The first 8 miles are fairly easy (as long as you start off in the right direction, ha). They are on road from the Visitor Center down Obstruction Point Road to the Obstruction Point Trail Head. From here, we went over a couple of passes: Grand Pass, Cameron Pass, Lost Pass, Hayden Pass. These miles are fully exposed and I later found out that both days we were on trail, the temperatures were “red flag” level, so quite intense. “Intense.” This is actually the word Mary and I feel described our overall experience the best. These climbs were somewhat technical and a bit slow going. We were expecting to move through them a bit faster but mostly, we wanted to enjoy our experience. We wanted to finish the miles but be able to stop and enjoy a waterfall or soak our feet in cool water or relax while eating a meal together. So, that is how we went about our journey; just like that; as a “journey,” not a race.
I have to say that my favorite parts of the loop were through these four passes. There was an unbelievably beautiful meadow as we approached the climb up to Cameron Pass: lush green and full of wildflowers, waterfalls, and rocks. We soaked in several panoramic mountain views, passed a few crystal clear lakes, and even a couple of snow patches. After coming down from Hayden Pass, we arrived at a familiar spot. It was part of the “Press Traverse Route” that we had ran in the fall of 2018. It was a nostalgic moment for both of us being back in that place; just like visiting an old friend. What was even better is that we got to run through my absolute favorite section on the Press Traverse Trail; the Press Valley which reminds me of The Shire from the Hobbit stories. The entire ground is covered in soft and vibrant green moss. The trail is smooth and ever so slightly rolling. This was the most “runnable” section of the loop and we both thoroughly enjoyed our time there and were grateful for a few faster miles.
Up to this point, things were going fairly smoothly. The climbs had been a bit slower than expected. The sun exposure and altitude had definitely tired us out a bit. But, here is where things started to change; a true test of grit and character. Our little section of the Press Traverse ended with having to ford the Elwa River. I’m guessing it was around 10 p.m. It was quite dark and due to this being a late snowfall/melt year, the river was at a high level. The water was cold, the current was strong, and the bottom was full of slimy smooth river rocks. We walked up and down that section for probably an hour, trying to decide the “safest” place to cross until we just went with where we had first begun. Go figure! My guess is that it was about 30’ wide at this location. I had to concentrate quite intensely; making sure my trekking poles were grounded solid, taking one step at a time and being sure I wasn’t stepping on a slippery rock. It took all my strength to not get pushed into the current. The river was almost waist high in sections. It was quite frightening; not just because I was terrified of crossing but once I did get to the other side safely, I had to then watch Mary cross which may have been even more nerve racking.
Eventually we both made it across safely. We were a bit cold and wet but we were wide awake and the fun was just getting started. The next section is the part I had been the most nervous about when reading up on this route. It consisted of an extremely primitive trail; the “trail” being only marked by pink reflectors on trees. However, these markings were very sporadic and over the years, of the few trees that had markings, some had fallen down. ALOT of trees had fallen down on this trail! Just finding the trail took us about 30 minutes and, in this time, we ended up bushwhacking through some kind of muddy, mucky quicksand-like substance I have never encountered in the Pacific Northwest. Then, to get out of there, we had to cut through a patch of nettles and thorny bushes. I’m sure the GPS data is quite entertaining to look at from the “crossing the river” to the “finding the trail” section.
We were quite frustrated at times but eventually, we found the trail. However, finding the trail in itself was not the victory. The true success was “staying” on the trail which proved to be nearly impossible. Isaiah’s trip report had mentioned that you definitely didn’t want to try this at night with the navigation demands. We had not intended on being there so late and had to deal with it as best as we could. We both later agreed that having our headlamps on for the river section was an advantage as it allowed us to see the bottom quite clearly and approximate the depth and footing. We also felt as though being in this primitive trail in the dark, our headlamps made the trail focus more clearly. There were many “wrong” ways to go…gaming trails or spots that looked like trails but led to nothing so we would have to backtrack and much of the trail was overgrown. We also began to have some hallucinations; ironically, some of them were the same ones. It was very slow going but, eventually, we came out of the forested area into a valley.
The valley was full of marmot holes and underbrush and quite wet. This is where Isaiah’s GPS data started to venture away from the actual trail and take a different route. If we could have followed the actual trail, we would have had to go slightly out of the way then do some backtracking so we decided to follow his course. We had just started to do this when I looked to the woods to the right of me and saw two giant orange eyes staring intently back at me then they bobbed from side to side. I couldn’t see a body image as it was too dark but I am quite certain this was a cougar. I was terrified. I told Mary but she had misheard me and thought I said “bear” so got her bear spray out and ready. I raised my trekking poles and banged them together to make noise and backed away, trying to put as much distance between us as possible. We started moving at a quicker pace. I kept looking for the eyes and they stayed put, not moving towards us. This was not the ideal way to get up to Dodger Point, as we were basically going straight up the mountain through ground covered with holes, mush, and underbrush. After about ¼ mile or so, we came to a section of rocks or more like boulders. Basically, it would be equivalent to a 10 story building made of nothing but rocks. To the left was now a cliff and to the right were woods that contained a cougar. We felt as though our only option was to climb straight up these rocks. They were loose and glass-like with sharp edges. It was about 1 am; 1 am and we were climbing straight up a huge pile of boulders on the side of a mountain, possibly being stalked by a cougar. Yes, “intense”…to say the least.
After what seemed like a never ending period of time with my heart racing and adrenaline flowing at epic levels, we came to the ridge line. We found the trail heading straight up to Dodger Point. We were so close! It was right there! But then we looked up and saw four bright pair of eyes looking right at us and slightly moving. No freaking way! We were convinced the Karma Gods were playing some crappy tricks on us. We backed up and looked for alternate routes. We were trying to figure out what kind of animals these were to be huddled so close together…mountain goats, deer, coyote? But the more I looked, the more I noticed those “eyes” were staying the exact same distance from one another. Mary tuned in also and we finally came to realize, they weren’t eyes at all. They were reflectors on the side of a tent and the tent was moving in the wind. This was a bit too much exhilaration for one night but definitely gave us a much needed laugh.
Once we finally got up to Dodger Point, we were exhausted in every way. We pulled out our emergency blankets and tried to get a couple of hours of sleep but the wind was chilling and the bugs were biting so it was mostly a chance to just let our bodies relax. I had borrowed a Garmin In-Reach and we had the tracking on so friends and family could see how we were doing. This actually became a source of stress for me as I started to worry about other people worrying about us. I decided I’m not a fan of having tracking on when doing a mountain adventure. The sunrise at the mountain that morning was one of those images you can’t truly capture on a camera; just glorious!
We started off early and encountered very few people. The first several miles were a descent and quite scenic but within no time, we came to some switchbacks. The good part is they were going downhill but they all looked exactly the same and had to be the longest switchbacks I’ve ever done. I could not stay awake. It was like driving on a windy road in the middle of the night. I think we stopped at least twice to lie down on the side of the trail and rest. After this, we got to a more traditional trail for a bit and then surprisingly back on the Press Traverse route. Water had been so abundant throughout that we both neglected to fill up when we should have. We came to the end of the trail and had to turn on a trail back up to our starting point. It was about 8 miles long and had been the original road up to Hurricane Ridge I believe. It consisted of more switchbacks but now we were exposed to the sun and running out of water. It was extremely grinding. I was drinking one sip of water every ½ mile to try to conserve but definitely felt extremely dehydrated and light headed. I remember thinking, “if someone offered me a glass of water right now for $100, I would buy it.” Then Mary split the remainder of her water with me! Definitely the sign of a true friend! When we only had about 2 miles left, we came to a water source and we took full advantage. It was like an oasis in the middle of the desert; complete primitive joy! This made the last two miles on the trail a bit more bearable.
We came off the trail onto a road and trudged through that final mile. That final mile; this is the point when I say: “I’ll never do this again. I need to stick with shorter distances where it’s fun the whole time.” But these are lies and I know it as I’m speaking or thinking it. Being truly alive does not mean you are always having fun or you are always happy and smiling. It’s experiencing all the ups and downs; all the feelings and it’s having companions along the way to share this journey. Of course, I’ll do it again. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Besides, what kind of story would it be if someone asked, “How was it?” and all I said as “Oh. It was good.” Pretty boring if you ask me!
It’s been said that you experience a “life in a day” while conquering the 100 mile distance. I imagine that this is due to the fact that you undergo many extreme highs and lows during your time on the trails. There are moments when every single part of you wants nothing more than to curl up into a tiny ball, close your eyes, and fall asleep…anywhere…in a patch of moss, on a rock, an embankment. It does not matter. Then, there are periods of absolute transcendence that you are not able to put into words or ever clearly explain to anyone. These moments are solely for yourself. Ultimately, these indescribable times are the reasons many of us take on this distance in the first place.
I had my own life in a day in August 2019 at the Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile Endurance Event. It was my fifth time attempting this distance. The course began in Easton, Washington and traveled primarily through the Wenatchee and Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker National Forests; with about 30 miles of this being on the Pacific Crest Trail. The race included some very steep climbs, rocky/technical trails, ropes that went straight down the side of a mountain, and a 2 ½ mile abandoned railroad tunnel in the middle of the night. It also had some absolutely magnificent scenery and some of the best aid stations/volunteers I have ever encountered. Many of these people have been coming back year after year and their experience in dealing with ultra runners was quite apparent.
My journey for this event actually began the evening before as I stubbed one of my toes pretty severely. I was unable to move it the next morning without pain and worried about how this was going to affect my race. In addition to my toe mishap, my monthly cycle decided to come a few days early. Oh joy! Of course, I’ve had this happen before but it is never a fun thing to have to deal with during a race, especially one of this magnitude. I tried to stay positive though. The period of time before the start was rather nice. Several of my friends were at the race; a couple of them running as well, and many familiar faces. The volunteers served up a nice breakfast too.
Once the race began and I got moving, it was instantly apparent that my toe was going to be an issue. Every single step hurt. The climbing was actually the least painful and fortunately for me, we began this race with two large ascents. The flats were “ok” but the downhill sections (which are usually my stronger bits) were somewhat excruciating, occasionally sending cringing jolts straight up through my body. I tried turning my foot to one side, then the other, and then attempted to run on the heel. Nothing really worked. I kept thinking, “Really? My biggest race of the year and all of this happens.” Pretty much everyone was passing me and I started worrying I that I would be able to make the cutoffs. Then all of a sudden, I got a bit senile or something; I burst out in laughter, realizing that all of this was completely out of my control. I accepted that whatever was going to happen would happen and decided to enjoy this opportunity I had been given. “I’m running the freaking Cascade Crest 100!” after all.
Just before mile 20, something slightly miraculous occurred; my toe basically went numb. I could no longer feel any pain! I was able to run somewhat normally. Oh, what a relief that was! From thereon out, I felt so grateful. My goal was just to keep moving forward at a steady pace until I made it to mile 54. This is where my first pacer, Tommy, would be waiting. Unfortunately, I ended up experiencing my sleepy period a bit earlier than I had expected. I started taking caffeine gels and even stopped on the side of the trail to rest my eyes a bit for a few moments. The sleep deprivation element of these races is the hardest part for me. It was a nice surprise to come across my friend Kerstin volunteering at an aid station during this time. It’s amazing how just seeing a familiar face in a weak moment can help lift you up.
It was at about this point in the race when I began catching up to a few people I had seen earlier and many of them were really struggling. We would latch on together for a few miles to keep each other going. I think that quite a few people I encountered though ended up missing cutoffs or dropping from race; it was just that place I was at the entire second half. Chasing cutoffs myself was adding a bit of stress and worry. Every time I made it to an aid station with some time to spare, I was very relieved. I was even more reassured when I met up with Tommy at Hyak. It was after 2 am and the cutoff was 3 am.
Tommy is a great pacer to run with in the night. He made a playlist specifically for this event and had an external speaker. Hopefully, it wasn’t bothering anyone else but it lifted my spirits tremendously. He brought Hi-Chews and would take them out of the wrapper for me before handing them off. He told stories. He picked wild berries for us to enjoy. He kept a positive attitude. Towards the end of the 15 miles I ran with him, the sun came up and we were both struck by the beauty around us. My body was feeling fine overall but I started experiencing light-headedness and had to stop occasionally to catch my bearings. I was really looking forward to seeing my friends at Lake Kachess (I had volunteered at this aid station both 2 years prior), picking up my next pacer Tim, and getting some much-earned bacon.
We got to Lake Kachess only about 30 minutes before the cut-off. These time constraints were getting tighter and tighter and I was worried that eventually I wouldn’t be able to make one of them. I was still feeling light-headed so I fueled up quite a bit. (avocado, bacon!!) I also switched out my socks and shoes for the third time. Much of the trail was covered in a light sand (aka: moon dust) and this is my least favorite type of terrain. I made the mistake of only bringing short socks and opting out of wearing gators. Eventually, the sand filled up my shoes and rubbed my feet pretty raw, also causing some blisters. The good news is my toe still wasn’t bothering me. The volunteers at this aid station were 100% there for me and all about getting me back on the trails as soon as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as taken care of as I did at that particular spot. Thank you Jeff, Greg, Paul, Tim, and Tommy!
Tim and I left Lake Kachess just before 8 am. The next hard cut off was at 12:30 at No Name Ridge. We only had to go about 12 miles and we had 4 ½ hours to do it. At first, it sounded quite doable until I realized what was up ahead. The “Trail from Hell.” Normally, I would consider this a fun one. But at mile 70+, it was quite slow. There were lots of steep ups/downs, water crossings, roots and rocks, and a very narrow path; breathtaking views of the lake though. Tim was very encouraging and kept me moving at a steady pace. We passed quite a few people going through here.
Once we got tot the Mineral Creek Aid Station at mile 75, it was after 10:00 am. The next cut-off was 6.6 miles away with over 3000 feet of climbing. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make this one. Climbing is not really my strength. But something happened. I thought about everything that I’d been through this year; the races, the traveling, things that have happened within my family, things that have happened within my friends’ lives, personal shit, life changes that have occurred and those to come, all the work it took to be to this point I was at, and all the people that were there for me during this weekend. Somehow, all this accumulated together and made me a stronger version of myself for those 6.6 miles. I passed more people on that climb than I may ever have before or at least it felt like it. We got to the next aid station with over 30 minutes to spare. Life was good. REAL good! (more bacon!)
After reaching this aid station, there were only a couple more cut offs to go. I’d like to say it got easy from that point on but unfortunately my light-headedness came back full fledge accompanied by some bouts of nausea here and there. I dealt with this for the rest of the race. I got a bit down and more negative than my normal self from this point on but I could not have asked for a better pacer! Tim would turn anything I said around and make me feel just a bit better. He stayed on top of my nutritional needs; continuously asking how I was feeling and evaluating the situation. When I would ask questions about the upcoming sections of the course, he would only focus on what I could take in before telling me about the next thing…usually some insane climb up ahead. That last 50k of the race was definitely a challenge and I honestly do not think I could have made it through without him. Lots of views along the way as well! Tim was also very good at getting in and out of aid stations PRONTO! Again…I really don’t think I could have finished this race on my own. Not. At. All.
We finally made it to the “easy” last 10 downhill miles that in my head I had imagined being all runnable. The only problem is that they actually weren’t. My feet were pretty much like raw hamburger meat by then and every step felt as though I was stepping on 1000 tiny nails. I did my best and he did his best to keep encouraging me and keep us moving forward at a pace that would get us to the finish. We arrived at mile 96 with about an hour to run in the 3.8 miles to the finish line. My friend Paul was waiting there with my dog Summit. SUMMIT!! At this point, I knew we would finish. It was an extreme feeling of relief.
Summit was a bit tough to handle at first as she was just starting her run and full of energy. Eventually, she settled down. We were still running on the moon dust and I wanted nothing but to be off of this. Careful what you wish for though! Those last several miles are basically just the most logical way that you can be directed back to the fire station in Easton where the race began. Some of it was alongside a landing strip, then you were running on an overpass, and continuing on the shoulder of a road. This part was not fun at all and I was just ready to be done. I jogged, walked, jogged, walked. Tim and I joked that we could basically choose a cool finish time and I could just run in at whatever number I wanted. I said, “Oh 33:33 would be cool.” He said, “well you better start running 8 minute miles then” I said, “hmmm, maybe 33:43 since it’s the 43 ultra this year.” We both agreed that sounded good. But then I started walking again. Eventually a bunch of people started catching up to me, anxious to get to the finish line. I really didn’t care. I knew I would finish and place just wasn’t that important. Tim said, “ I don’t think you’re going to get that time you wanted.” I said, “Oh. Yeah, I don’t really care about the time anymore.” A few more people passed. I saw the red building. It was close but still seemed so far. We were running by train tracks now. My feet were on fire! Finally! We ran through the finish line; Summit by my side. All I said to the race director was “That was so hard!” as he handed me the buckle and a sweatshirt and I collapsed into a chair as quickly as I could. I was brought a bucket of water to soak my feet, a hamburger to eat. It felt so good to be done! I was the final finisher of the Cascade Crest 2019 100 Miler...also known as "DFL." Hey, I'll take it!
After returning home and taking a much MUCH needed shower and popping a bunch of blisters, I crashed hard. I slept for over 12 hours straight. If we had robbers breaking-in in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t have known it. The next morning, Tim sent me pictures that he had taken during the race. The very first one was of the finish times. I zoomed in. No way! My finish time was 33:53:33. I couldn’t have planned it any better if I’d have tried. Five 100 milers completed thus far; each a challenge; each unique in it’s own way. I’m not sure how many more I will be able to do but there is absolutely nothing that compares to it.
Occasionally, the question, "Why do you run?" is put forth. (note: primarily, I am asked this by non-runners) But, it’s not something that can be answered in a simple manner. Since running is such an integral part of my life, I decided that I should provide a bit of thought into my response. Basically, I came up with my reasons in a list format (in no particular order whatsoever):
~It’s when I feel most alive!
~Movement nourishes the mind, body, and soul. It allows my thoughts to freely move within me, provides answers, creative ideas, reflection. My brain just works better after a run! I've never (ok...maybe 1 or 2 times...but RARELY!) finished a run feeling worse than when I started.
~It is a detox that helps fight off personal demons; keeps me feeling “happy” and helps curb depressed thoughts and feelings; allows me to forget about my problems for awhile. It is very therapeutic. Some days, I “NEED” to run just to release the build-up of life stressors.
~Running provides solitude, peace, and serenity when needed; an escape from reality. I can become lost within myself; have alone time. It can be a form of meditation. Sometimes I reach a state of “zen;" an opportunity for personal reflection and reminisce.
~Connection to the earth and learning life lessons through nature; humility, gratitude, problem solving, and appreciation. Exploring places I wouldn’t have known otherwise. (Trails! Mountains! Global destinations!) "Trails"...well, that could be a whole write up in itself...or two...or three...
~My "BFF" Running Friend, Mary. She is the person who has seen me through my most challenging moments, stayed by my side, listened to me repeat my life's crappy stories, loved me through it all...over and over...said "yes" to crazy adventures and ideas, pushed me into finish lines, accepted me as I am again and again. This (SHE!) may actually be my most favorite reason. She is a ROCK!
~Also...strong friendships and comradery in general...you just meet so many interesting people sometimes. It's kind of crazy, but very cool!
~Racing…staying motivated to reach a goal. Every race is a learning opportunity. Every run is a learning opportunity. Sense of personal accomplishment…followed by... “ok, what’s next?” Also...there's nothing quite like a finish line, especially at an ultra marathon...and even more so, if you share that finish line with someone.
~Long distances can push you into the very edge of your capabilities; they test your limits. Striving to go further and achieve more; be the best version of yourself that you can be. After hard efforts, I love the way my body feels. You stay in touch with your whole self. I am amazed at how the body (and soul!) can repair itself and grow stronger after an injury or a hard effort. Humans are quite remarkable!
~An excuse to buy shoes and gear...
~Also. Beer and food (mostly bacon! … oh, and wine too)
a sip of Fireball or two.
~Being present in the moment; not worrying about yesterday or what’s to come; only what is happening right now. "Carpe Diem!"
~Constantly “looking for my missing piece” (referencing Shel Silverstein’s Masterpiece of course!) I’m not always sure what that is or what I’m in search of. I may not find everything I’m seeking. As cliché as it may sound, the journey is the true reward. Always.
...and then there are times when running isn't about ourselves. We run for those who are not able to run or for a cause that is beyond us. This is running in it's most EPIC form!
So...now I guess, it's my turn
to pose the question to you...
Why do YOU run?
"PR" Personal Record. If you're any kind of runner, you've heard this term. Today, I obtained one of these sought after achievements during a local half marathon race. However, during the race, as what often happens when one runs, I got to thinking. There's nothing really "personal" about it.
It's great to push yourself; to try to outdo a previous performance. But the fact of the matter is, for me at least, personal acheivements don't happen on their own. A huge part of it is the community in which you surround yourself; the company you keep. Ever since I became a runner, my friend group has multiplied. There are so many amazing people in this sport and the majority of them want nothing but the best for you. They are positive, accepting, and support one another day in and day out. Honestly, I never belonged to any groups like this until I became a runner.
My local running group, The Evergreen Turtle Rockets, is this support network to me. They are the most hodge podge group of people I have ever met but they are my family. I have made many deep connections in just a few years and all for our extreme love of running and adventuring in the mountains. If I need anything, I know someone will be there. They may (occasionally) give you a hard time but ultimately push you to be the best version of yourself you can be.
Then, something else occured to me today. It's not just the support network of friends and fellow runners that lead you do your best performance. It's the ones who don't; those who don't ever have your back or come to support you. The Nay Sayers. The ones not only in your present life but in your past, who told you "no" or tried to change you into something you weren't. They squish your dreams and cause undo emotional stress. We all have them. But, these people can be just as influential as the one supporting you. You just have to allow it to fuel your fire.
Running can be such a powerful thing and all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.
So, yeah. I got a PR today.
I race a lot. I have my reasons. It’s something that I enjoy otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. This does not mean that every second of every race is all hunky dory. The events that I repeatedly put myself in continuously challenge me to extreme levels. I don’t always feel the need to write about each experience but sometimes I feel compelled to do so. The Autumn Leaves 50 Miler is one such event.
First, a little background. At the start of 2017, I had my entire race calendar laid out. I made sure that I had some weekends free for family and generally I don’t like to race two weeks in a row because I feel guilty leaving my kids at home. I had two “A” races; the Boston Marathon and Pine to Palm 100. Everything else was either for fun, adventure, or a training run for one of those. Then…the Pine to Palm 100 was cancelled due to wildfires. I panicked a bit because I wanted to earn my Western States Lottery tickets for 2018. So, I registered for the Chimera 100 which was in November but within a day of this, I realized the race didn’t meet the cutoff and it would be a qualifier for 2019 instead. Shortly thereafter, all the Pine to Palm runners received an email from the Headlands 100 race director telling us that for this year only, the race would be sanctioned as a 2018 Western States Qualifier. Also, all the P2P runners would receive a 30% entry discount. How perfect! It was even going to be held the same day Pine to Palm would have been. Perfect, except that now I had TWO 100 mile races in a 2 month period…having only completed one prior to this, in which I missed the cutoff for an “official” finish by over an hour.
So, this is what you call “taking a risk.” I didn’t even know if I would be able to finish Headlands in the allotted time or if I would walk away without injury. After Mountain Lakes 100 in 2016, I dealt with a foot tendon issue for months before it healed completely. Fortunately, the race went well. Ok, “well” in a one hundred mile race is a very relative term. But I finished Headlands in under 30 hours, got my qualifier for 2018 Western States, met a couple of really cool people, and gained a bit more confidence in the longer race distance.
After this, I had the opportunity to meet some friends at the Grand Canyon to run the Rim to Rim to Rim distance. This had been planned for months, prior to knowing that I would be running another 100 miler the next month. Most 100 mile training plans call for a 50 miler or 100k distance about a month before. Even though I was doing the long distance at the Grand Canyon, I knew we would be stopping frequently and that it wouldn’t be quite the same as a race. That’s when I decided to add on Silver Falls 50 Miler. The timing wasn’t completely perfect. It fell 3 weeks before Chimera 100 and only a week before Silver Falls 50k, which had been planned out for months. It was so last minute. I registered without really looking at the course. My friend Mary later mentioned to me that it was loops and a mostly paved trail so I decided I should actually see what I’ll be racing. She was right. A 6.25 mile loop that we would run 8 times; 80% paved bike path, 20% single track non-technical trail. My first thought was “ewww, yuck.” But I decided I would make it work. I really didn’t have any other options unless I wanted to go run a solo 50 miler on the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle like I did the year before. No thanks! I researched a bit more and figured that at least loops would help break the race up into bits. This actually ended up really helping me out.
Friday evening, the night before the race, I left the house around 4:15 and pulled into French Prairie Rest Area around 8:30…brushed my teeth and went right to sleep on my air mattress in the back of the Xterra. This has become a new money saving routine for me, which I actually quite enjoy, although sleeping in the mountains is my preference. Saturday morning, I only had a 15 minute drive to the race start at Champoeg State Park in St. Paul, Oregon. I met my super speedy friend Robert there. He was the only runner I knew. It was very dark and secluded. I picked up my bib and they gave me a nice quality beanie leftover from a previous race. I was #30, which seemed pretty cool since my birthday is on the 3oth. Both seemed like quite good omens.
Overall, it was a fairly low key event. There was a 50k and 50 mile option, both which had less than 100 registered runners in each. I was a bit worried because most of my training had been for mountain ultras so I wasn’t even sure how to run this. The race had offered a 6 am start as well because the park closes at 7 pm; that allowed slower runners to have ample time to finish. That first loop was quite lovely. It was dawn; a brisk morning but just the perfect temperature. I had on a few extra layers that first loop but felt quite comfortable. I’m highly sensitive to smells and this race was named very appropriately. The scent of autumn leaves was abundant. The colors surrounding the forest reminded me of the opening scene from the Lion King cartoon. They didn’t even seem real; so vivid and bright. I’ve been in situations like that before in the early morning hours and there is nothing quite like waking up with nature. The way the sights, sounds, and smells reach your senses cannot be matched. I didn’t listen to music on this lap at all…or on the next two, which I think allowed me to be more in touch with my surroundings. On the third loop, another runner came up from behind and set pace with me. It was his first 50k. We ran that loop together, which was quite nice.
Because the loop had a turn around point, you got to see a lot of the same faces for the duration of the event which made the comradery level quite high. Since moving back to Washington, I’ve been running a lot of mountain ultras. Even though this was ultra distance, it had a different tone to it. There were some pretty fast people, especially leading the 50k and the men’s 50 miler (Robert!). I really don’t consider myself to be of that same caliber at all. I noticed that this race brought in a different type of crowd; a group of people that really inspired me. There was a 75 year old man who basically speed walked the entire 50k with one arm in a sling. A heavy set middle aged man with his knees wrapped up, also power walking, that looked as though he was in immense pain with every step he took but would somehow manage a smile every time I passed by him. Quite a few older runners who had awkward gaits so you could tell this was more of a struggle for them than your Average Joe. Lots of people either power walking with a friend or doing run/walk intervals and turning the entire day into a friendly social hour.
When I reached the halfway point of my race, it occurred to me that I that I hadn’t prepared specifically for this terrain…I mosly run hills or trails and hadn’t done anything over 15 miles on the road in months. As the pain from the pavement began taking it’s toll, these people I had seen throughout the race; their faces, their fortitude...that's what got me through those last 4 loops. Whatever I was feeling was surpassed by my thougths of them. When all I wanted to do was stop and walk, they kept me going. So often, I think of people who are unable to run for various reasons and feel gratitude that I am able to do this thing I love. But right here were real life people…people who were doing what they love despite whatever obstacles were in their way. It was so empowering.
So, this turn around previously mentioned. That is how I knew where I stood in the race at all times. I wasn’t sure if there were any fast women who may have started early but based on the 7 am start, I was 4th place female for the first half. The number 1 lady was only a mile ahead and the other 2 were scattered between us. I’ve participated in enough ultras to know that the true race doesn’t begin until the second half and that’s exactly what happened in this case. But I wasn’t truly prepared for how things fell into place. I came in at the end of my 5th loop and saw the second place girl just sitting at the aid station. Just sitting there. So, I moved on. During the middle of the 6th loop, I passed up the next girl in front of me at the other aid station. When I turned around to start my 7th loop, she was just coming in and gave me a big high five. I later found out that she had dropped from the race at that point. This now put me into second place.
My head began playing tricks on me. I was thinking second place was pretty freaking awesome. I’d be perfectly fine with second place. The number one girl looked strong the whole time. I didn’t think she would falter and I knew I was still at least ten minutes or more behind her. My body was achy and sore and all I could do is keep moving forward, trying not to walk, knocking one slow mile off at a time. I was in the mode of just anticipating the next aid station, resting for a few seconds, then making it to the next aid station. I was about a mile from finishing lap 7, roughly mile 43. I came around a corner and there she was. The number 1 girl. Walking. No freaking way! I came upon her very slowly. She had looked so amazing during the race. This was the last thing I had expected to see. Part of me wanted to stop and walk with her but I knew if I gave into walking, it would be hard for me to start up again. So I just gave her a smile that I hope she took the right way and slowly trudged by her.
I kept thinking that any second she would find her second wind and come powering by me. I made it to the turn around and spent just a few seconds getting a drink and fuel. My friend Robert who had already finished (first overall male) yelled “Yay Tabatha! Sub-9 50 miler!” as though I was already finished, like it had already happened. I thought “oh great, more pressure.” I came out to loop #8 expecting to pass the number 1 girl in the first section that has two way traffic but there was no sign of her. I knew I now had at least a ½ mile lead. Then something changed within me. I went from being worried about her passing me to discovering an extreme sense of self confidence. I was the number one girl. Me. Of a 50 mile race! Elation, pride, pure happiness…it all came over me at once.
Race "bling." I do feel that buckles should be sacred for the 100 mile distance, however, I'm still keeping it.
I picked up my pace. I tried to stay extra positive on this loop, give extra praise to the people I passed and to the volunteers. I was receiving the same in turn. So many of the runners there knew it was my last loop somehow and encouraged me to finish strong. It was more fuel to the fire. My feet, ankles, legs…were like running on constant pins and needles; it was heart and soul that carried me through to the finish line. I went through the final aid station and hit the singletrack trail (my favorite part!) and slowly started picking up the pace. I looked at my watch. I was getting pretty close to the 9 hour mark. I thought back to my first Ironman when I came in at 14 hours and 29 seconds. I thought, “Oh hell no! That’s not happening!” so I gave it everything I got.
My official finish time was 8:58:45. When I think about my pace during the run, I don’t think each mile was fast at all. But when the thought crosses my mind that I ran 50 miles in under 9 hours, I’m a bit in awe. I may never be able to do that again. I’m still astonished that I finished a race as the first place female. It kind of all feels like a dream. But then I go from a seated to a standing position and my hip flexors, knees, and ankles quickly remind me. Nope. Real. Definitely real.
It’s difficult to put into words what I experienced this past Saturday. I knew it was going to be breathtaking…spectacular…amazing…and “all that jazz.” But, I was not truly prepared. Never have my surroundings touched me quite like this. Several days later, I’m still trying to absorb the totality of it all. I was captiviated…mesmorized…enthralled by this place: The Enchantments.
Webster defines the word enchant as, “to influence by or as if by charms and incantation,” “to attract and move deeply,” “to rouse to ecstatic admiration.” This is no understatement. Whoever thought of the name was pure genius. The scenery was surreal. The earth that encompassed me was completely dehabilitating. Just as I thought one viewpoint was the most magnificent sight ever beheld, I would turn my head and the past moment was surpassed. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. At times, it downright took my breath away. I was utterly powerless. Maybe it’s the prettiest place on our planet or perhaps just a realization of how much more is out there, yet to be explored. Several times on the trail, I could feel tears swelling up from being so overwhelmed by it all. Since then, this has even happened just by recollection. Experiences like these change you. They humble you. Life is a journey, as we often hear. But it’s true. We need each and every moment to help shape us into the best version of ourselves. We all have demons to face, battles to overcome, daily obstacles to deal with. This past weekend, being in that environment, I have never felt closer to God, to everything. We are so small compared to the majesty of nature. It was incredibly powerful. I am so grateful for this reminder that I have been given.
(Warning: This is going to be a LONG one plus I go off on lots of tangents so hopefully you can follow along without too many insane re-reads!)
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Totally kidding! Ok, maybe not. For some reason, us “Ultra Runners” (yes, I can definitely call myself that now) really seem to be on a quest for the next best thing. Over the course of 100+ miles, I realized that there are places you cannot reach within yourself unless you experience a degree of suffering. I’m not saying that I don’t find happiness when I have a “perfect” race or from other events in my life, but this was something so much more.
So, WHY? Why run 100 miles? …to continually challenge myself, to check out the amazing scenery that the mountains repeatedly have to offer, to always look for the next best thing,, to post my cool finisher’s belt buckle pic on FB and Instagram, or simply just because I love to run? Well, yes, that’s part of it. But really, to get through something like this, you have to have a deeper, more meaningful reason than that. You have to have something that is going to pull you through your darkest moments, your lowest lows, and most likely, some serious pain. It’s quite simple. Because I can. (ok, so it may not seem that deep and meaningful, but it actually encompasses a lot). There are others who can’t run due to injury, illness, death, lack of interest or motivation. One day, I may be one of those people. But right now, I’m not…and I can run. So, I do. Another part of the “why” is remembering all the amazing places that running has taken me. There’s a lot of things you have to say to yourself to get though 100 miles. Remembering these simple things really helped pull me through many challenges in this journey, as well as through several others in recent years.
I met a man before the race. Man: “Is this your first 100?” Me: “Yes.” Him:. “Well, here’s what’s going to happen. Somewhere, after you’ve ran through the day and made it through most of the night, it will hit you that you’re actually going to finish this thing. And it will hit you hard. And it’s the best feeling. The best feeling in the world.”
I specifically picked this race for a few reasons. First off, it was the same weekend as the UTMF series which some of my good running friends (ok, not good but unbelievably awesome running friends!! <--since I’m sure they’ll be reading this. Insert winky smiley face here) were running so I thought it would be cool to “virtually” train and run our big races “together.” Secondly, it looked like one of the easier choices since it only had 10,800 feet of elevation gain as compared to the Cascade Crest 100 and Pine to Palm 100, both of which have over 20,000 feet. Well, it was naïve to think that there is such a thing as an “easy” 100 miler, and in actuality, the elevation was NOT what the website claimed.
Ok…so let’s get to the race. As far as logistics and everything else goes, it was pretty typical of the other ultras I’ve done recently. I drove down to the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon (note to self: buy a freaking book of road maps! Google Maps on the iPhone only works with cell reception). I arrived too late for the pre-race dinner but had brought some food from home so it was all good. (actually, very good…sweet potatoes and an avocado with salt. Yum!). There was an event parking lot where racers could sleep (which I did along with about 20 other race participants. I have my Xterra all set up for simple camping and it’s quite comfortable; double thick twin air mattress, windows cracked with fresh mountain air; can’t beat that!). There’s nothing quite like awakening on a mountain, and to my surprise, I woke up to the most breathtaking view! (see pic at the top of this race report). There was good, hot coffee at the starting line and everyone hung out in this area from about 6 am on (race start was 8 am). This is pretty typical of ultra races. The “ultra community” is very unique from the world of road running. Ultra runners love to socialize and just “be,” to live in the moment. In general, they are very talkative, friendly, and down to earth people. Nature and being on trails is at the top of their priority list. Yeah, I can relate to this crowd.
The race began. Again, not like a road race. Maybe three people dash out but the other 157 of us just kind of meander across that opening threshold. All went well in the beginning. By “beginning,” I mean the first 45 miles (‘ish). Then, it sort of went downhill from there, well kind of. It’s all about perspective I suppose. I feel that, for the most part, I started off at a nice, easy pace. My first 50k was 2 hours slower than a 50k race I had done 2 months prior so thought this was a good indication I was taking it easy, since the elevation pretty much matched that of the previous event. However, in retrospect, I’m not sure if that going even slower would’ve helped what happened in the second half or if I would have been better off pushing a bit more in the beginning so I would have had the extra time when I was unable to push. I guess that’s something I’ll have to figure out with more experience. Going into the race I felt very well trained and prepared. All was good in the world.
During the first 45 miles, I didn’t listen to any music. (which actually isn’t too uncommon these days, especially when running trails) I tried to take in everything around me. To no disappointment, there were spectactular views all around me. I really enjoyed running by all the small lakes and seeing the autumn colors starting to emerge; I think more so because it’s been a few years since I’ve experienced this due to living in Okinawa (um, not that I’m complaining about living in Okinawa, mind you). But there was definitely lots of eye candy. The kind that I truly enjoy! I met and ran with a few different runners, but really spent most of the first half on my own. My goal was to make it to mile 45 before the sun went down, which I was able to accomplish.
Now here’s where I made a couple of mistakes. First off, I was NOT expecting the temperatures to drop as low as they did. I was not prepared for this AT ALL. I had paced a friend in the mountains a month prior and ran in a t-shirt and running skirt and had been perfectly fine. But this night was COLD! Maybe they mentioned this on the website and I just overlooked it. I’m not sure but I take total responsibility for not being prepared. We had been given a thick fleece zip-up jacket with our race swag so I thought this would be enough. It wasn’t. I put on a fresh tech t-shirt after the sun went down so my base layer would be dry plus arm sleeves. Over that, I had a long sleeve, thin tech pullover. Over that, I put on the fleece jacket. I had on gloves, a hat with a fleece head wrap, and my WOOT Buff around my neck. I was still freezing! My teeth were chattering for basically 12 hours and I felt coldness all the way to my bones. It seemed to get colder with every hour that passed and I could tell my body was very rigid, making it hard for me to run with any proper kind of form. I don’t have any memory of being this cold for this amount of time EVER (although I’m sure in the grand scheme of things, people have been much colder than that). On top of this, my flashlight batteries wore out within 2 hours. I brought back-up batteries, but those weren’t working either. Of course, I didn’t have an extra headlamp with me either so this caused me to slow down even further. Luckily, at the next aid station, a very nice volunteer let me use his freshly charged batteries. They failed within 30 minutes (apparently my flashlight was the real issue). Then, a generous runner gave me his spare headlamp to use. He was a true lifesaver, although shortly after, more “issues” began to emerge.
THE PAIN COMMENCED. I started having some discomfort on the sides of my knees and in both of my hips. I was expecting this to happen at some point. I mean, you can’t get through 100 miles without some degree of suffering, right?!? So, I had anticipated this to happen. But within 5 miles, the discomfort turned to pain, which turned to a sharper pain. Then, a few miles after this, I got a new pain. On my right foot. At first this didn’t worry me much until it turned out to be worse than the original pains, even overriding them. I’m not really sure if the other pain started to subside or a maybe I just got used to it or maybe the pain in my right foot just became more apparent, that I just started focusing on it more. All I know is that by mile 60 or so, I was unable to bend my right foot. If I did, I would have a severe, sharp shooting pain that moved from that spot though out my entire foot. (sorry for using the word “pain” so often in this paragraph but I looked it up in the Thesaurus and no other word seemed to do the job as well).
From that point on, I had to run a bit differently. Well, I’m not sure if you could even call it running. Hobble, limp, shuffle (thesaurus came in much more handy this time around). I tried changing up my gait, putting more weight on my left foot, striking my right foot at a different angle. Basically, it just got worse and worse, even when I kept it at a complete right angle and tried not to bend it. Of course, I’m hoping it’s nothing serious since I ran anyways. (I am icing and elevating as I write this) From this point on, I experienced some of the most intense pain I can ever remember having (yep, there’s that word again). But, as most ultra runners know, that is part of the whole experience.
But wait. It gets better. Even more sufferage (not to be confused with suffrage; I’m not even sure if it’s a real word but I’ve heard it used on several ultra runner podcasts). My hands swelled up once again. This is about the fourth time I’ve experienced this in the past several months. I’m not sure if it’s due to high elevation, if I am not balancing my electrolytes correctly, or just from pushing to the limits. But when it happens, I have to pee…A LOT….and there is absolutely no holding it. I have to go and I have to go now. So, stopping every 30 minutes or so in the last 5 hours of the run, well, it just added minutes to the clock that I could not get back. You have to scope out a spot, make sure no other runners are around, and try to get the job done as quickly as possible. It’s quite frustrating! I guess all I can really do is try to use these situations as a learning tool. Although I’m really struggling with the hand swelling/frequent urinating thing <--sorry, if that’s too many details. (this is another trait of trail runners. We talk about just about anything and everything. No holds barred. I’m sure Gunnar will thank me for the cool wrestling reference one day.)
Where were we? Oh, mile 60. Yeah, so my running continued to get slower. The pain got worse. It kind of just went on and on like this for, well, like 40.95 more miles or so. Somewhere in here, I need to mention the hallucinations. I had heard about this happening but I seriously had no idea how intense they would be. If you had stuck me in a room with 40 drug addicts pumped out to the max on LSD, I’m sure I would have been the winner. It didn’t begin happening until the sun went down but it didn’t end until I finally went to sleep after the race. They were intense! (hell, I may run another one just for this experience. Once again, totally kidding. Well, maybe. Maybe not.) Trees, rocks, and bushes can turn into just about anything before your eyes…dancing spiders, shiny oyster shell trees, giant strips of bacon. I cannot make this stuff up. Apparently, I have a vivid imagination. Thank God I didn’t start that “The Black Tapes” podcast yet cause it would’ve really freaked me out. Anyways, I tried to just concentrate on looking at only the trail at that point and not the surrounding environment. But then, the trail would turn into a bridge over a stream (when it really didn’t) or start to move or something weird like that. So, I just figured I had to accept this strange new sensation and did my best to stay sane.
Throughout it all, I kept waiting for that moment the man at the beginning of the race had described. But as the race progressed and my situation worsened and worsened (and worsened…you get the point), the prospect of finishing within the 30 hours slowly diminished. I tried to keep hope. I came across a lot of runners who were in the same situation. Some bonding went on most definitely. We would pull each other though for one, two, or maybe five miles before one of us would be able to push on a bit further ahead. I’m anxious to look at race results to see how they all did! For most of the race, I remained hopeful. I knew the pace I needed to keep to get there. I finally got to the fourteenth aid station. (out of 16). 11.3 miles to the finish. Several of us arrived at the same time. I think we still had about 3 ½ hours to go. It sounded completely doable. But at this point, the elevation started rising again. With everything going on with my body, I was lucky if I could break a 20 minute pace. I guess it’s worth mentioning that when I stopped at this aid station, I saw the table move back and forth. More than once. I mentioned it to one of the volunteers who then replied, “No, it’s not moving.” Apparently, another hallucination. Go figure.
When I came upon the next aid station, it was pretty cool. This was the aid station with the giant chicken. Well, it was really a man but he was dressed in a giant chicken suit. About 100 feet before I come to where they are, someone yells, “runner coming in. What do you need?” (I feel pretty freaking important about right now.) I call out, “A spoonful of peanut butter, half a banana. But I don’t want to stop.” The lady yells to someone else, “Get her a spoonful of peanut butter, a half of banana, and throw in some mashed potatoes. ON THE FLY.” What the?!? Did that just happen? Yeah, it did. And then, as I pass and grab all the food, a giant chicken gives me a high five and says (I kid you not) “You totally killed this aid station! Brock. Brock.” and flapped his wings. Yeah. I love the Ultra World.
Once I hit the 10, 800 elevation mark, at first I was pretty stoked because I thought the course would get easier from hereon out and I’d be able to pick up the pace at least slightly. But then I remembered seeing the elevation profile on the race website and that there was climbing at the end, all the way to the finish. Yeah, 10,800 . That may not be quite so accurate. I’m really not sure if it would have made a difference though because by now, my downhill running (which I normally love!) was about the same speed as my uphill running and much, MUCH more painful. “Running,” at this point, is a term I use very loosely. But, alas, I kept the hope. I continued to push through the pain. I had listened to music when it was dark (except when I came across other runners who wanted to chat) but now it had just turned to noise. Mostly what I did from hereon out was to try to think about different people I’ve been blessed with throughout my life and of good memories. Fortunately for me, I have a very good memory. A lot of these were of when my kids were little or of my brother Todd but some were more recent. Most were positive thoughts but occasionally even the thought of Madi’s death stare (Thanks Aunt Diana!) would pop into my head and give me a chuckle. It’s amazing how much we carry with us at any given time, sometimes not even aware of this.
I finally (is there a way to super, DUPER stress that word “finally” here) hit the last aid station! A volunteer said to me, “only 3.6 miles left. You’ve got 50 minutes. You can do this!” I looked at her and almost cried (again!) and replied, very half heartedly I’m sure, “No. No, I can’t.” Then a few seconds after that, I said, “Well, not in 50 minutes that is. But I will finish.” Then I turned and moved on. That’s when I had the moment the man had told me about. I realized that this whole thing is not about a time or a belt buckle or a cool FB ego status. This is my journey. Every moment, every single step that I encountered in this whole nearly 30 hours of being on my feet, it belongs to me and only me. There IS joy in the suffering! Absolutely!
So, the ultimate question. Would I do it again? Without hesitation! There was one moment in this adventure that made the experience so worth it. The sunrise. Yes, that’s it. “Just” an ordinary sunrise, one of 365 others that will take place this year. But, yet, it wasn’t. It was one of those extreme orange/red hued ones. But the thing is, I had been longing for that sunrise so badly. I was tired and freezing and in pain and so sick of being in the darkness with my crazy night visions. When this moment occurred, I had just gone though the absolute best aid station on the course. A man made me a bacon & guacamole quesadilla, I’d been given a hot cup of coffee and some yummy soup broth. But I was in a low spot. A lady there told me, “only 5.5 miles to the next aid station” and I said, “but how much longer to the finish?” She told me, “NEVER think about that. Just concentrate on getting to the next aid station.” I actually thought that was some great advice and much needed at the time. Right after I left (this was one of two stations that I did linger at a bit longer than I should have, but if I hadn’t, I may not have been able to continue so who knows if that would’ve made a difference in the grand scheme of things) then within a mile of this, there it was, THAT sunrise and then "it” happened….I just burst into tears. But, I don’t even know how to explain these tears. Saying, “tears of happiness” would be so underrated because the emotions, the depth of what I was feeling at that exact moment…I’ve never had anything hit me like that, not life, not death, NOTHING. I just can’t even put it into words. That one specific moment made it all worth it for me; the entire 100 (POINT 95) miles.
Pretty much from this point on, it basically became a bit of a cry fest. Someone looked at me a certain way. I cried. The sun hit a tree at the right angle. I cried. I was full of all kind of emotion and ready to explode at any given moment. Much, much worse than the 9th month of pregnancy! I don’t know if the 3.6 mile distance that those final aid station workers told me was accurate but it felt like an eternity from that moment on. I’m pretty sure it took me about 2 hours. Mainly what happened was I lost hope. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time so I stopped trying. I started realizing that my body really (I mean REALLY!) hurt. I walked very, very slow. I ran out of water within the first mile. Fortunately for me, I ran into a super nice guy who was hiking and must have noticed my state of complete distress and offered me some of his. Very cool! Somewhere around mile 97 or so, my watch died. I didn’t even care. When I was getting close to the finish line, I heard someone yelling behind me “Fu*&$#% 3 miles, this is more like 6 miles!” and all kinds of angry, profane things. I started to worry about my safety but as he drew closer, I realized I wasn’t the last one on the course. This was another runner and this was how he was finishing his race. He was so angry. It just made me realize…”geez, I guess I’m not as bad off as I thought. I could be him.”
When I got to the finish, I was in a sad state. I never crossed the line. I did pay note of my time. 31:30. Oh joy. But, my mood instantly changed as I was approached by a male paramedic (I’m sure this guy has been pictured on one of those calendars that I’ve seen floating around…no kidding!) and suddenly life wasn't so bad. He looked at my ankle and got me some ice, carried my drop bags back to my truck for me, and genuinely helped me out…”Is there anything else you need? Are you hungry?” A bit of a guardian angel in some very nice REI tech pants, I might add. Then, basically I got in my truck, washed off my body and feet with wet wipes, and I went to sleep…for about 16 hours. I woke up to a less amazing sunset than the day before. Yes, it was less amazing but something had happened. I felt an extreme sense of peace. An absolute harmonious, all is well with the world, utter content feeling. So, I headed back home. I guess I should add...I drive a stick and it was a 5 hour drive. Yep.
When I arrived home, Jesse presented me with a basket of dark chocolate, wine, apples, and a home grown tomato right off the vine, which I ate whole; then and there.) I’m not sure of too many 14-year-olds who can acquire a bottle of wine. But that's my Jesse.
As I nearly finish writing this race recap, Gunnar comes and sits down next to me on the couch to read before bed. He looks up at me and says, “…so…did you finish your race.” Me: “Yes, I did. But, I didn’t get that cool belt buckle cause I didn’t do it in under 30 hours.” Gunnar: “What?!? You mean you did it all for nothing?” (someday, maybe…I’ll let him read this)
Ultra runner in Washington state with dreams of setting a Guiness World Record in 2019.