Monday, April 13, 2015

Zion 100k Race Report

Two weeks after traveling to Portland, Oregon to take part in the Gorge Waterfalls 100k (which turned out to be a 50k, because of missing the 50k cut-off time by 4 minutes), I found myself traveling south to Virgin, Utah, just west of Zion National Park.

Let's back up a bit.  Gorge Waterfalls 100k:  beautiful course, ridiculous cut-offs.  Boasted to be "the hardest 100k", which it really wasn't:   I wouldn't consider 5,000 ft of vertical gain in 31 miles all that hard.  But the 8 hour cutoff time at 50k was set up to be quite elite (most other 100k events have a 50k cutoff time of at least 10 hours), eliminating B-team athletes such as myself.  I could have busted out that last 5 miles before the turn-around and made it, but why?  To face 3 more cutoffs and chase the clock all day?  No thanks.  James Varner does a huge disservice to runners with a strict cutoff such as this.  He probably argues that we could have taken the early start time of 3am to guarantee making it to the turn-around in time.  Which would mean getting up at 1:30 in the morning to make the 3am start.  Again:  no thanks.  Don't get me wrong:  the course was beautiful, the volunteers and aid stations were excellent, and the terrain was enjoyable.  It just would have been more enjoyable if the race director actually cared that people who can (physically) finish his race (if given a bit more time) were given the chance to finish.  I'm not asking to be given a day and a half to finish a race, but running under 20 hours for any 100k is still a respectable finish time, as far as I'm concerned.  But it appeared that he didn't want to stick around for a couple more hours.  His loss (I will never do one of his races again).  #sorrynotsorry

Happy at mile 30 ~
33 miles to go!
As it turned out, running an 8h 4min 50k two weeks before the Zion 100k was perfect training and warm up for the event that I really wanted to go to.  Many HUMRs would be there (Happy Utah Mountain Runners, the running club from Ogden, Utah of which I am a part) and I would see lots of familiar faces from Utah and Colorado and meet some new faces from Canada and Hong Kong (via Ireland).  Matt Gunn is one of the best race directors in the country, as far as I'm concerned and he has a great crew to support him (Turd'l, Cherri, and that course-marking guy, what's his name? along with countless others).  The trails were impecably marked, the aid stations were stocked with good food and happy, helpful volunteers.  The weather?  Southern Utah delight:  75 degrees and sunny.  The venue in the Virgin, Utah city park is casual and fabulous.  Last year I ran the 50k event and had decided to step things up a notch to 100k this year.  It seemed like a good idea when I signed up in October.

Indeed, it was amazing.  My friend Ann got me to the 6am start on Friday.  I was able to wear my puffy coat right up until the start (it was a chilly 45 degrees), and found myself tagging along behind fellow HUMR, Joel Hatch.  I was grateful that he had slowed down a bit to accommodate me (he was running the 100 mile event, and I was running the 100k).  We ran a relaxed pace through the desert leading up to the first climb at the Flying Monkey Mesa, and waited in the conga-line to get up the steep, roped section.  The rope had broken under the weight of so many runners, so we had to scramble around the side.  Another runner behind me was getting a little antsy as things were taking a while and we had to wait our turn.  I assured her that even though the 3-4 minute wait felt like an eternity, it would hardly make any difference in the grand scheme of things.
The morning view from
Flying Monkey Mesa

Flying Monkey Mesa was beautiful, rolling double track dirt.  We did a loop and then descended the technical section back down the way we had come:  the rope was fixed, and I descended with another girl (two of us on the rope) and I think I kind of scared the crap out of her with my confidence.  I passed her and her friend and cruised down the technical rocks with the steep drop-off to the right.  It felt good to run so well on the technical sections of the course.  Many of the people who were not as strong on the technical parts caught up with me on the dirt road sections, but again, I was Ok with it:  it would be a long day (and half of the night) before we would be done.

Hanging in there, on the
road to Guacamole Mesa
I came through Dalton Wash, aid station at mile 15, and joked that my crew was probably asleep at the hotel (which she was) but it was ok:  I would see her when I came through again at mile 30 (she was resting up as she would crew me all day and then race the 50k the next day, with a 6am start time).  I ate and walked up the warm dirt road and found myself typically between groups of runners, enjoying the time alone and listening to music.  I remembered this part from the 50k course the previous year, and enjoyed the steep climbs before topping out on Guacamole Mesa.  Let me tell you:  running on slickrock in the mid-morning heat without a breeze to speak of is a challenging affair.  Thankfully on this part of the course, the lead runners were coming back against us (there is a 2.5 mile out-and-back section with a small lollipop loop at the end) and it was nice to see some friendly faces and give and take some encouragement.  I saw my friend Pete, who appeared to be in about 10th place (one year after ACL surgery).  I was so happy to see he was smiling and doing well.  His optimisim is infectious, and I got a boost from his positive attitude.

Running down the road again, I was so glad to have Guacamole Mesa behind me.  It was really tough up there, with the heat, the lack of wind, and the undulating terrain.  I also felt that I had crossed a mental hurdle off of my list with getting two of the three mesas finished, and only had one left:  Gooseberry.  I came through Dalton Wash at mile 30 and just over 7 hours and was happy also to see Ann, who helped me with my gear and to get my feet clean and in clean socks.  Felt so good to be in clean socks!  She walked with me for a little bit, and I drank a 5 hour energy and got a little boost.  The next 4 miles leading up to the Goosebump climb (It had to be at least 1,500ft in a mile) I found myself the only runner in the vacinity running 10 min-mile pace along the dirt roads.  I received some encouraging words from runners whom I passed along the way.
Slickrock potholes on
Guacamole Mesa

I got to the Goosebump climb and put my head down and got to work.  I think I passed at least a half-dozen people on that climb, some of them in awe of how I was powering up the hill so well.  I think this is one of my strengths:  steep climbing well into the race.  I told them it helped that I was fom Salt Lake City and lived at elevation, and that they shouldn't get down on themselves about it.  I also had lots of practice on Bacon & Eggs Hill near my house, which I try to hit at least once a week in the springtime.

View from Guacamole Mesa
I got up to Goosebump aid station, mile 35, and expected to see Ann, but she wasn't there.  I got a couple of food items from my drop bag, refilled some fluids in my pack, and got some snacks from the food tent.  As it turned out, Ann got there about 2 minutes after I had left.  It's a long drive around for the crew to get to the aid station, so she had just missed me.  It turned out ok:  I just wanted to get this next section done:  ticking away miles along the North Rim trail on Gooseberry, the weather was getting really kind of hot (it was 2pm).  There were some mountain bikers on the trail who, for the most part looked frustrated yet happy to move aside for several hundred runners.  One fella asked if I was Ok, if I needed anything, any water.  I thought to myself, "I've been out here taking care of myself for nearly 10 hours without you, and as much as I appreciate the sentiment, I really don't want any help from anyone."  Yeah, I was starting to get grumpy.  I made it to the Gooseberry Point aid station and there was a mass of runners there (10-12) and I couldn't tell which way I was supposed to go.  I yelled, "Which way?"  And someone pointed me out to the point.  I then remembered vaguely that we needed to go to the point and punch our number with a hole punch.
Matt Gunn:  race director
exraordinaire

I saw Joel again on the trail out to the point, and he told me to watch out for a swarm of bees in a tree by the trail.  As soon as I saw the hole punch, I punched my number and turned around, barely even taking time to look at the view.  I walked past the swarm of bees for the second time, realizing that I hadn't even seen it the first time past, in my haste to get to the hole punch.

I got back to the aid station and took some ice in my pack (oh, it tasted good... ) ate some chips, and got outta there.  I looked up to see Joel again, who was standing at the top of a little hill looking around.  "Did you forget something?"  He was actually looking for the course marker which was placed directly at his feet.  "You're on the right track, " I assured him.  He answered, "I'm getting a little grumpy."  And I responded, "Yeah, me too."  It was 4pm and we had 8 miles left to go to Goosebump aid station, mile 47.5.  We were hot and tired.  I tried to follow Joel for a bit, but he seemed to be fueled by his grumpiness, and I was happy for him that he was able to take off quickly across the slickrock.  I sat down on the South Rim trail and ate a Tylenol and a Zofran and tried to gather some composure.  I was starting to get really tired (I know, right?  40 miles into it, and I was "starting" to get tired).  I looked at the view for a couple of minutes, took a couple of pictures, and drew some energy from my beautiful surroundings.
Gooseberry Point

The next 7.5 miles were kind of a blurr of frustration for me.  I talked myself out of crying several times.  I encouraged people who passed me as I walked the undulating slickrock.  I took respite in the shady sections.  I started to beat myself up a bit, reprimanding myself for not running, and walking too much.  I got mad at my visor on my head and took it off.  I got tired of holding my visor in my hand and put it back on my head.  I got tired of it being too hot on my head and put it back in my hand.  I got frustrated that I didn't have the energy to just take my pack off and put my visor in my pack.  I got mad that my pack was heavy and decided if I drank more water, my pack would be lighter, so I drank.  It was rough, really rough in that section:  mentally and physically.

Blooming Barrel Cacti
I passed the old windmill which I remembered from the last time I was at Gooseberry, probably 8 years ago (when I was injured with an ACL tear, waiting for surgery).  I knew I was getting close to the aid station again.  I heard voices and saw cars.  Thank goodness, I had made it.  I was counting the miles... I would be happy when I had less than 20 to go, and it seemed that time would never come.  Suddenly, here I was, with 15 miles to go, and friends waiting for me in the aid station.  Ann was there with my drop bag and I melted down.  She asked me what I needed and I replied, "I just need a minute."  I went through my bag and sorted through some snacks which I wanted to take with me on the next section.  She got me some snacks from the aid station (oh, salty Ruffles potato chips, you are delightful... ).  I washed my feet and popped a couple of blisters.  I put on fresh socks and laced up my shoes again.  I cried.  My feet hurt.  So. Bad.  Ann asked me what else I needed.  I threw the visor and pushed it away from my.  "I need to not have that damn visor anymore!"  I was ready to go.  I got some hugs from Ann and Ann Watts.  They told me I was awesome, which I wanted to believe but couldn't quite, and started shuffling out of the aid station.

Down, down, down the steep Goosebump trail.  It seemed impossible.  "It's only a mile," I told myself.  And about halfway down, I saw another woman, really struggling.  She was side-stepping down the trail because it hurt so bad.  I slipped a couple of times and think I must have scared her that I would run into her.  I thought to myself, "That poor girl.  At least I don't feel as bad as she does."

Zion Desert Sunset
Over the next 15 miles, that girl, Angela, who is originally from Ireland and lives in Hong Kong, and I became lifelong friends.  It's like someone was looking out for us and decided that we needed to finish this race together.  We walked along at 3 1/2 mile per hour pace, deciding to take care of each other.  We did that through telling stories, complaining about the uphills (which probably weren't even that bad in all reality), commenting on how much we hurt,  and how long it was taking to do 7.5 miles to the next aid station.  It seemed it would never come.  Finally, some lights in the distance, pointed out by another runner, signaled that we were getting close.  Angela wanted to quit:  she had been battling a stomach virus all day.  I told her she would not quit.  We would finish together.  We were mighty.  She used the facilities at the aid station and I thought she would take a long time.  I got some food and sat down for a minute or two, and we found ourselves leaving the aid station together again, combining the strength of our headlamp beams and our wills and we got through the next 5 miles until we reached the highway.
Ann finishing the 50k

Angela's friend Becky came along in a car and asked if Angela was Ok.  I spoke for us both:  "We are fine."  And I meant it.  We would finish this race, despite being behind our projected and wished-for times.  We would finish and we would do it strong.

We counted the blocks to the turn off to the town park in Virgin.  It was only a quarter mile more.  I couldn't believe it.  Only a quarter mile!  She said, "Go," and I picked up my pace to a shuffle-jog.  I saw Ann, waiting for me near the finish.  I crossed the line and turned around to find Angela, 30 seconds behind me.  We hugged and congratulated each other.  We had done it.

Our finish time was 17 hours and 34 minutes, finishing at 11:30pm at night.  Ann and I got back to the hotel, and I showered, Ann went to bed, and we got a bit of rest.  I woke up starving hungry at 3:30 in the morning.  Ann got up at 4:30 to get ready for her race.  I drove her to the start, saw her off and wished her well, then drove to the first turn off to wish all of the runners a good day on the trails.  I went back to the hotel and slept for 2 1/2 more hours, then packed up the car.

Joel finishing the 100 mile
I hung out in the park with HUMRs and watched my friends finish.  I ate good food, drank a beer, and shared stories with strangers who are now my friends.  I watched Ann come into the finish with a smile on her face after having a spectacular day.  I watched my friend Becca come across the line for her second 100-mile finish and watched her husband hug and kiss her, in awe of his amazing wife.  I was in awe of the love that they were able to share in that moment.  I watched Joel shuffle across that line with one of the gutsiest ultra-performances I will probably ever witness.  Lindsay came across 5 seconds later and the HUMRs erupted in jubilant glee.

It's hard not to get sentimental about such things.  All these people coming together to help each other through adversity.  All these people who really "get it", whatever "it" may be.  All these people who can put aside pain and grief and come together to reach a common goal, facing their demons and putting those demons to death.  The good wolf versus the bad wolf and the good wolf survives.

It was a great weekend, and one that helps to resore my faith in humanity and realize the resilience of the human race.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lenten Treats ~ almond date cookies (sugar and gluten free)

Each Lenten season (from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, 40 days) I give up sweets and I end up craving some sort of little treat, mostly in the afternoons when I am sipping my coffee.  I think this has to do with my German roots, as most people who live in or visit Germany know that 3:30 marks "Kaffee und Kuchen" time, where many people take a little pause in their afternoon to enjoy a cup of coffee and a little treat (usually a slice of cake).

Today, I came up with a little something that is also gluten free (if you use gluten free oats).  You could make it a little sweeter by adding 1/2 cup each of brown and white sugar, but really I think these healthy little tender morsels are fine without the sugar and I can stick to my plan of giving up sweets until Easter.

You will need:

2 TBSP butter, melted (substitute margarine to make it vegan)
1 over-ripe banana, mashed
1 cup almond butter
1 egg (you could substitute ground flax seed if you want to make this vegan)
1 cup Mejoul whole dates
3 TBSP honey
1 cup almond flour
1 cup quick oats (or whatever you have)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Oven Temp:  350 degrees

Soak the dates in a cup of hot water for about 30 minutes.  Drain the water off, remove the pits.  Process the dates with the over-ripe banana in a food processor until you get a paste.  In a mixing bowl:  melt the butter.  Combine date-banana paste with butter.  Beat in one egg.  Add honey.  Mix in the almond butter.  Add the vanilla.

Combine the salt and baking soda with the almond flour.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients (above).  Add in the oats.

Drop by tablespoon-full onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Wet your fingers a bit and press down the dough of each cookie.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen 3 inch cookies.


Friday, December 19, 2014

I do believe I'm burnt (out) ~

After the St George Marathon (which was the first weekend in October), I lost a lot of motivation to run.  I'd had a long summer of running, starting back in April at the Zion 50k.  I did a lot of events this season, more than I typically race in a year:  Zion 50k, Yellowstone 1/2 marathon, Bighorn 100mile, El Vaquero 50k, Wasatch 100 (dnf), and St George.  I also volunteered, swept, or paced at Pocatello/Scout Mountain 100k, Speedboat 50k, and the Bear 100.  I get tired just thinking about all those weekends that I spent traveling and running.  Poor dogs were in the kennel a lot of weekends this year.  But I had so much fun at all of those events, and I felt good for a long time.

After 6 months of training, racing, and traveling, I became really worn out.  Mentally and physically, I was tired and my body needed a break.  But when you are tired and worn out, sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you are just that, so I went for a 20 mile birthday run in the mountains near Pocatello for my birthday, the weekend after St George Marathon.  It hurt ~ a lot.  My legs were not fully recovered from my first road marathon and my head was not completely into running, so I hiked a lot of it.  It was cold and snowy, but beautiful.  And I'm glad I did it.  I also went to New York City and the Adirondack Mountains for the first time to try and reset:  I've decided that to keep a positive outlook on life, I probably need to do some sort of travel or adventure every 3 months, or my attitude really suffers.  Of course I did not rest in New York:  I either hiked with my friends in the mountains or walked around Manhattan everyday for 4 days.


When I got back to work after the New York trip, I didn't want to be there.  I think I finally realized that my current job was leading nowhere:  still no benefits after 4 1/2 years; promises of more hours and a possible staff position that never materialized.  Always being introduced as "but she's only part-time" which I feel has always minimized my roll and my abilities.  My mind and body were tired from racing for 6 months and I didn't have the energy anymore to deal with the constant feeling that I was worth more at my job, but was not being recognized for my abilities.  I decided to take some time off from running and look for another job (unfortunately, I still had to go to work, but my hours had been cut from 25 to 16 per week, so I decided I could deal with it for the time being).

I found a great job close to home (5 minute drive, or easy walking or Trax train commute) and interviewed for it.  I told my boss that I'd interviewed, and he might be contacted as a reference.  He said, "Ok" and seemed unaffected.  No words of praise or luck, which further deadened my feeling of commitment towards him and reassured me that I was doing the right thing looking for another employer.  He made no effort in the following weeks to offer more hours or promise to look into benefits.  In fact, he seemed to grow more distant.

I didn't get the job and stewed about it for several weeks.  Thankfully, I was going to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with the cousins and knew that being around family would boost my mood.  I had a line on another job and set up an interview for when I returned from Colorado.  I stayed pessimistically hopeful (I am a pessimist, after all).

To add to the mix of emotions, in the days before Thanksgiving, I got a phone call from my doctor's office that my mammogram was abnormal and I needed to go in for follow up testing.  My mood suffered even more, but I tried to remain hopeful, remembering that many mammos are abnormal, only to have follow up testing that is benign.

I went to Colorado and talked about work as little as possible, but did talk a little about it and my current search for a new job, and found my family to be just as super-positive and supportive as I needed them to be.  I started feeling better around them, and even went out for a couple of trail runs in the trails around my cousin's house in Erie, CO.  It was great to be out in the sunshine, looking at the beautiful Front Range, and feeling better about myself.  Sometimes I have to remind myself, "I am a good person.  Good things will happen to me.  I need to keep my chin up through the rough spots and look at all the beauty and good people around me."

I got back from Colorado and received an email that the job (the second one) that I had applied to had found someone to fill the position and my interview for the following Friday was therefore canceled.  Great.  Strike two.  But on the upside, my repeat mammogram testing was benign.

My knee was a little cranky after running more miles in those two days than I had run in the past two weeks.  But when I got home, I got on the foam roller and worked out the kinks; walked the dogs diligently every day, and kept up with the running.  I logged my first 30-mile week since the marathon in October and went to work on Monday feeling better than I had in weeks.  On one of those afternoons, I was running laps in the Park, thinking of how good life can be if you let it.  I had an inclination that I needed to answer my phone, but had left it in the car (I drove the car to the Park and had the dogs with me, but didn't want them to run the full 8 miles on the pavement, so I did alternating laps with and without them, leaving them to chill out in the car while I was on my solo laps).

When I got back to the car after my run, I had a voice message.  It was from the clinic manager at a clinic I had filled in for when one of the providers was ill in February of this year. He asked me if I would be available to help out, because one of the NPs was leaving the practice.  I called him back immediately and got his voice mail.  I left a message.  I also emailed him.  This was surely a sign.  A good sign that I had an opportunity move on.

It was Monday afternoon and I hadn't heard back from him.  It got to be Tuesday afternoon, and I called him and left a message (again).  He called me back as I was leaving work.  Would I be available to come in for an informal interview?  Talk with the current NP (who was staying) and the medical director?  Certainly.  I went in later that week, and talked with them (nervously) and they all seemed receptive.  I got out to my car after the interview and looked in the mirror.  I had a coffee-dot on my nose.  I went through that dang interview with coffee on my nose and no one said anything!  I felt like an idiot.  They probably thought I was an idiot and they were going to change their minds about hiring me.  I would have to stay at my current job and resign myself to being miserable.

Then in the following days, I talked with the clinic manager again a couple of times via email and phone.  What was my schedule like?  How does this schedule look?  Can you work with this?  I thought to myself, "Seriously?  I have this?  I am so lucky.  I am so fortunate.  I am so grateful."

I began running more.  I've logged 30 mile weeks the past two weeks and am well on my way to logging 30 miles this week.  I feel better, and I think 30 miles might be the minimum I need to run to feel healthy both mentally and physically.  Of course, not worrying about the job situation and looking forward to a new job with more hours, better pay, and paid benefits helps me to feel better, too.  I have been sleeping a lot better the past couple of weeks probably because of both of these factors.  I also feel better about the work that I'm doing:  more invested, and like I'm really helping people.

I'm so grateful to be feeling better, both mentally and physically.  I have five races planned for 2015 that I'm looking forward to.  I have a new job that will start in a couple of weeks.  I'm happy that I kept my chin up through all of this,and that I have supportive family and friends around me.  It's important to believe in yourself, but it does help to know that others believe in you as well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A New Found Respect ~ St George Marathon Report

I run long distances ~ 50k, 50 mile, 100 mile events.  So when I got talked into doing signed up for the St George Marathon last winter, it seemed like a good idea.  Not a long race, I could run it and enjoy myself and the scenery and the companionship of 7,000 other runners.

The weeks leading up to the race were those directly after the Wasatch 100, where I ran 67 miles and had to quit because of stomach problems.  My legs felt good after Wasatch:  hardly even an ache. I was tired from being up for 30 hours and on the trail, but other than that my legs were in really good shape.  I didn't do any specific training for St George.

I should have prepared myself better for the crowds.  I'm used to running events with 200-300 people maximum.  Wow, going to the expo (which was difficult to find information for on the mobile website) was initially hard to find, and then overwhelming with the amount of [slow-moving] people. I just wanted to get in and out and it seemed that there were several hundred people preventing me from accomplishing that goal.  After what seemed like an eternity (10 minutes) I got my race packet and got out of the expo, after saying a quick hello to Golden Harper at the Altra booth.

I was nearly to my car when I looked in my race packet and realized there was no shirt in it.  Great.  I had to go back because the woman who checked me in hadn't told me to go to the end of the check-in area and pick up a shirt.  Talk about a madhouse, and I had to go in again.  I was nearly in tears, my anxiety of crowds rising.  My chest was tight and I tried as best as I could to talk myself out of having a panic attack.

I got my shirt, went out a side door, and walked across the parking lot to my car.  I tried calling my friend Ann, who was on her way down but got delayed by having to take her daughter to the Moran Eye Center for possible detached retina after an incident with a soccer ball (talk about stress!) and her phone went to voice mail.  I really needed to "phone a friend" to get myself settled down.  I called Andrea.  Five minutes on the phone with Andrea (she was in St George for the marathon as well) and she got me settled down.  Whew.  I went back to the hotel to have some snacks and rest.

Ann made it to St George late, and she, Jamie (Ann's husband) and I hatched a plan to meet up in the morning to get to the start line.  We met a little before 5am at my hotel and drove to the buses.  Ann got checked in (she missed the expo the night before) in the rec center where there was no line (note to self for next year... skip the expo and check in at the rec center on race day to avoid panic attacks).

After a long wait in a line to board the buses, we rode for about a half hour north of town.  I sat next to a really nice woman from California who had run several marathons (a dozen or so) and we laughed about how far we were driving, just to run back into town.

Ann, Jamie, and I had our warm clothing on, and we stood next to the bon-fires at the start to keep warm.  I really wasn't nervous at all, now that race day was here.  My stomach felt fine, I felt well-rested, and I was just a little apprehensive about where we would line up amongst all the people in that crowd.  I really wanted to run 3:45 (for a Boston Qualifier or BQ) but realized that without any speed work in the last month, that probably wouldn't be likely.  4 hours would be great.  Any thing under 4:30 would definitely be acceptable for my first road marathon.

It was pretty funny in the minutes leading up to the start:  Ann and I found several of our ultra-running friends.  Somehow like manages to find like, even in the midst of 7,000 people:  Celeste, Brian & Kari, Ken (a Wasatch 100 finisher).  We knew Turd'l was there somewhere too.  And Andrea.  We sung the national anthem and then we were off!

The first 3 or 4 miles was steep downhill.  I felt really great.  I looked at my watch and saw 7:45 pace, 8:25 pace... I was doing great.  Man, if the whole thing had been like that, I definitely would have gotten my BQ.  At about mile 5, my feet started to hurt a bit, and I wiggled my toes several times to relieve the pressure from the road.  This surface was going to beat my feet up, I was certain about that.  I stopped at most of the aid stations (about every 2 miles) to walk and get a drink for about 50 yards, but other than that I ran the whole thing.  It was intense.  Running under 10 minute miles, consistently for several hours was not something my body was used to doing.  I was used to running, hiking, fast walking... lots of different paces when you are out on the trail.  I did try to remember to look up and around at the scenery every once in a while and what I did see was beautiful.

At about mile 8, my left hip started to tighten up.  My hip flexors were not happy with the fast pace.  I saw my pace slipping... 8:45, 9:15, 9:25... but I was ok with it.  The Veyo hill, which is about 3 miles long (uphill) loomed in front of me.  Oh, yeah, that was going to hurt.  People were walking up it.  Spectators from the small town were lined up cheering for us on the side of the road.  I was determined to run the whole thing, and despite my slow uphill pace of 10-11 min-mi, I did run that whole damn hill.  I got to the top, hoping for a nice downhill for a rest, but realized that the course really just kind of "drifted" downhill, without much noticeable reprieve from the effort I had just put in.

My hip was really starting to bug me.  I realized at the aid stations, they not only had drinks, fruit, and gels, but they also had people with rubber gloves on willing to lube runners up with vaseline and Ben Gay.  Seriously?  Every two miles?  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I went up to one guy and asked for some muscle rub (in my hand) to rub on my hip flexors.  And guess what?  It helped!  Hey, these marathoners might know something!

That was at about mile 13, and I looked at my watch at the split and I was at 2 hours.  I could do this. Halfway there, and right on pace for 4 hours.  I realized my BQ was probably gone, but stayed hopeful.  I stayed mentally strong and told myself I would not walk.  I pressed on, averaging about a 9:35 min-mile pace each time I looked down at my watch.

At about mile 17 I heard clomping feet behind me.  A group of runners that sounded like a herd of buffalo.  Then I saw it:  the 4 hour pace balloons.  And there it went... swiftly past me... and was gone.  I would not finish under 4 hours.  Just around that time, Jim McGregor (another ultra-runner) passed me and said I was doing great.  All I thought was, he's a good 25 or so years older than me and passed me like I was standing still!  He's the one doing great! (He ended up beating me by 7 seconds!)

A little while later, a smaller group, with a perky 50-something woman holding another bunch of balloons.  4:15.  And there she went.  But I kept her in my sights for several more miles.

We crested another hill and with a sweeping right-hand turn, I knew we were on our way to the home-stretch and the finish line in town.  The red-rock canyon was beautiful.  It was starting to get warm, but not too warm as to diminish my pace.  At the stop-light at the north end of town I heard a voice and saw a friendly face:  my friend Carrie said, "Hey Missy!!!  Do you need ice?"  But I was 3 miles from the finish.  "No, I'm fine.  Almost done!  Thanks, though."  I know I did not look happy.  I wasn't really happy... my feet were hurting, my hip was hurting, and my legs wanted to stop.  But I pushed on.

Another woman said, "Misters are just around the corner!"  Huh?  Misters?  What was she talking about? AAaahhh... cool water misters, set up on the side of the road spraying cold water on us as we passed.  Soooo good and refreshing.  Two and a half miles to go... two miles... I started saying it out loud.  We were snaking our way through town and the streets were lined with cheering spectators.  What a sight.  I almost cried!  A girl yelled out my name (our names were printed on our race numbers we wore), "Yeah, Missy!  You've got this!"

And a couple:  a really tall guy and a woman about my age, I kept passing them as they walked and then they would pass me again.  Less than a mile to go.  I would not let them beat me!  I don't know why I chose them, but they helped to get me to that finish.  Fast!  A quarter mile to go... the crowds were getting thick now, and cheering.  I saw the finish arch down the street.  I was almost there!  I kicked it in:  7:25 min-mile pace.  My hip wanted to lock up.  My feet were killing me.  My leg almost collapsed under me.  4:19!  I did it, I did it!  I beat Oprah!

Haha, I walked through another set of water misters.  Someone put a medal around my neck.  I didn't stop for the finish line close-up photo.  I was done.  I wanted to lie down in the cool grass.  I wanted... I don't know what I wanted.  I wanted to take it all in.  I had done my first road marathon, after thousands of miles in the mountains and hundreds of miles of trail ultra events, and this was one of the proudest moments I had ever experienced while running.

I found a patch of grass and someone handed me an ice cream cone to nosh on.  It was heaven.

After getting my drop bag and not finding Jamie and Ann, I decided to head back to where we had parked the car.  They were not there, but just as I was laying down in the grass to wait for them, they came along.   I had just taken my shoes off to look at the damage.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Huge blood blisters on the balls of both of my feet.

We got back to the hotel, and I took a shower and rested on the bed.  I ate snacks and watched TV and waited for dinner.  Dinner at the Cracker Barrel with Ann's family (her dad and brother had run the marathon as well) was so fun.  What a lucky girl I am to get invited to this event with such a sweet family.

I drove back to SLC the next morning and picked up the dogs from the kennel in Bountiful.  My legs were indescribably sore the next two days at work.  Probably more sore than after a 50k or 50 mile, and maybe even just as sore as after 100 miles.  It was actually kind of funny, and I laughed about it.  I'm not sure if and when my next road marathon will be.  I guess there is nothing like your first.  I'm going to savor this finish for a very long time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kryptonite ~ Wasatch 100 Report

My friends think of me as some sort of Supergirl because of all the miles that I run.  Funny I don't feel that way.  I came into this year's Wasatch 100 feeling pretty darn good, though.  After dealing with some niggly pains in my legs and feet, I had visited my massage therapist 3 times within an 8-day span and felt (for the most part) better.  You never know how you are going to feel on race day after 10 days of rest and massage.  I was hoping that I would feel good.

The pre-race nausea (from nerves) that usually gets me down, was pretty mild this year.  I was excited about the race, but not overly excited.  I was anticipating being done with that first climb up to Thurston Peak, and it went well.  I ate well, I got into a nice steady pace, and didn't let the pace of others influence me.  I just stayed relaxed and got into a groove.  Before I knew it, I was passing Francis Peak weather station and cruising down the road to my friends at mile 19:  Francis Shed aid station.

Debbie snagged me as soon as I got there, and got me some fruit, filled my water.  Joel got my drop bag for me (I remember the first time I ran this race, back in 2002 and my drop bag was "lost" ~ nowhere to be found.  I had no food for the next 20 miles, other that that given to me by kind strangers and supplied by aid stations).  I got in and out of there in about 5 minutes, feeling really good and with a smile on my face.  My friends are great.

Along the way, I came upon this guy sitting in a lazy-boy recliner on the side of the dirt road on the ridge.  What the heck?  Who was this guy?  I thought he was crazy.  Then he held up a sign that said in large, black letters:  "Missy B".  Are you kidding me?  He knows who I am?  I got closer and realized it was a local runner, Matt Van Horn, who was sitting out injured and unable to race.  Wow.  MVH and I have had some differences of opinion along the way, but with this he went up about 10 notches in my book.  I told him he totally made my day and gave him a hug.  I meant it too.

Along the beautiful Wasatch Ridge I continued, taking in views of both the North Salt Lake Valley on the right and the Morgan Valley on the left.  Gorgeous.  Perfect running weather with blue skies, big puffy clouds, and about 70 degree temperatures.

I cruised through Arthur's Fork with a really nice group of guys, Terry Foust (a local) one of them.  Up to Bountiful B aid station which never seems like too much of a climb to me, although it seems like a difficult climb for many.  I ate some snacks at the 25-mile aid station and continued up the road to the Session Mountains.  Running along with a woman named Joy, we were about a third of a mile out of the aid station.  She looked down and realized she had forgotten a water bottle at the aid.  We had a short discussion and she decided to go back to get it.  I felt bad for her.

Along the dirt road on the ridge for a couple of miles and then in the distance I found my gaze settle upon a bright blue tent:  Sessions Aid Station, approx. 30 miles.  They had popsicles!  So delicious.  I refilled my water, was given a grape popsicle by my friend Larry Adams (another runner) and sat down to dump the rocks out of my shoes.  Then off I went, on my favorite section of the course!  The trail winds through large fir trees and one sneaks glimpses of a most spectacular peak:  Grandview Mountain.  This section of the course for about 3 miles, is my absolute favorite as I told everyone who was around me.

Before I knew it, I was coming down from Grandview switchbacks, into the Brink.  Tim Seminoff was having a great race and was right along there with me.  I had been chasing him for about 4 miles, just out of reach, and now as we pulled into Swallow Rocks aid station, we were side by side.  He left the aid station before me, but I soon caught him again and passed him.  I took a swig from my water bottle and though, "UGH!  What was that?!?"  It tasted like a swimming pool.  I decided to use it as water to dump over my head and neck instead, because of the funny taste.  But then, as we got closer to Big Mountain Aid Station, I ran out of water from my hydration pack (that was from Sessions Aid Station) and decided to drink all of the water that tasted funny.  I also had to pee, but decided if I went into Big Mountain with a full bladder and lots of water in my stomach, I would weigh in a little heavy and not risk having to delay continuing with the race.

Tim passed me again as we were coming down the switchbacks into mile 39 and weighed in just ahead of me.  Candy was there to greet him, and she gave me a smile and a hug too.  I love seeing Candy at races.  She always makes me so happy.

I was also happy to see my crew:  Ann, Jamie, and Rowan, who gave me hugs and held my hands through the aid station to find a spot to sit down.  Rowan (7 years old) plopped down in the chair that should have been mine and refused to move.  I almost sat right on top of him.  I ate most of a bacon cheeseburger that they had brought me.  My friend Liz helped wash my feet and legs.  I got into new socks and my feet and legs felt really good.  My stomach, however, just didn't feel quite right.  I got out of Big Mountain fairly quickly (I think my quickest exchange there, ever at 15 minutes) and I put my head down for the long climb to Alexander Springs at mile 46.

Along the way, I just didn't feel quite right.  It's hard to put my finger on just how I felt at this point.  My legs were not tired, and my feet felt great.  But along the way to Alexander, I really just felt like I wanted to lie down and go to sleep.  It was only 5pm (12 hours into the race) and I couldn't understand why I felt so weird.  I kept going.  No sense in lying down on Bald Mountain with the horney toads, although the view of Little Dell Reservoir sure was beautiful in the distance.

I stumbled through the rocks of the section that I like to call "Baby-doll head hill" (but there are like 3 of those hills) and got to Alexander Springs Aid Station.  My friend Matt from Colorado was there.  He was just leaving the aid station, but decided to stay with me for a few minutes.  We talked about how awful we felt and how awful that section was.  We were both glad it was behind us.  I ate a ham sandwich, hoping it would make me feel better.  I drank two cups of coke.  I did perk up a bit, and after 5 or 10 minutes, decided to push on.

The trail follows the gas-pipeline at this point.  Through tall, itchy grass and is kind-of that "bitch grade" that if you are tired or a bit unmotivated, it's hard to get your run on.  I walked it.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I called Ann on my phone.

"What's the matter?"

"I just don't feel good.  I got so tired on that section.  It was so hard and I just wanted to lie down and go to sleep.  I should have drunk that coke you tried to give me at Big Mountain.  I drank two cups at Alexander and I'm eating a ham sandwich.  I don't think I'll be at Lambs (mile 52) until 9:30pm."

"It's ok.  Just do what you can do.  You are doing great!  I'll see you in a little while."

"Ok.  Thanks.  See you."

I got to Lambs Aid Station right on target at 9pm.  We changed my clothes to my night time gear, cleaned up my feet, popped some small blisters, packed up my food, and got me out the door.  Quickest exchange at Lambs ever in about 20 minutes.  I said hi to Matt as I was leaving the tent.  I couldn't tell at that point that he was having a really rough time and would end up dropping there.

We walked up the road and I drank coffee and really started to perk up a bit, now with my best friend.  She told me stories up the road and I told her stories about how great my day had been going so far, until the low point at Alexander.  But I was past that now.  It was all good.

I stopped at the Forest Service bathroom to try and go poop, as my stomach still didn't feel right.  I couldn't go.  Some other girls were chatting with Ann right outside the door and, let's face it, it's hard to poop under pressure.  I decided not to waste any more time and get going.

I rallied up the Lambs Canyon trail until about a quarter mile from the top.  I couldn't believe how fast I was going.  I was passing people and feeling great.  Then, just before the top, I decided to eat a gel and really get some energy for the push to the top.  And it hit me:  ugh, it was like a knife through my stomach.  Cramping, searing pain.  I slowed down to try and relax and breathe through it.  It hurt. We got to the top and I took a Zofran (nausea medication) to try and settle my stomach down.  We didn't spend more than a couple minutes on top of the pass before we started back down again.

A woman was up there marking the trail, and as I put my puffy coat on, she asked, "Are you cold?"  [No shit, lady, it's 10 pm, I've been awake and moving for 15 hours, we're at 9,500ft elevation, and yeah, I'm fucking cold.] "Have you done this before?  How was the weather for you during the day?" The questions were unrelenting.  I didn't answer.  I didn't feel good.  SHUT UP and leave me alone.  Ann gave me a Jolly Rancher to suck on.  It helped a little.  Finally, nearing the end of the Lambs Canyon trail where it comes out at Elbow Fork, I dropped one or two F-bombs, and the lady decided she had hassled me enough and passed us.  Thank God, she was gone.

I stopped again at the Forest Service bathroom at Elbow Fork, but nothing happened.  So frustrated.  But it was like a fairy snowstorm in there with all of the bits of toilet paper that the mice had nibbled on.  I was starting to get tired if I though that was beautiful...

Ann and I walked up the road at about 2 miles per hour.  Every half mile I would stop, put my hands on my knees, and try not to gag.  I stumbled and walked with my eyes closed.  I almost fell asleep several times walking up that road.  I sat down.  I drank a 5 hour energy.  I forced some food down my throat.  About 15 minutes later, it was like the devil was in my stomach and I threw up.  I had to get it out.  Then I woke up.  I was still moving slowly, but at least I was awake.  It felt like someone was stabbing me in the gut.  Why?  Why did my legs feel so good and my stomach so, so bad?  I almost started to cry.

We got to Millcreek around midnight, I think, and I just wanted to lie down.  I found a cot and laid down next to another guy (a pacer) who was also having stomach issues, along with his runner.  Some people were talking really loudly over our heads and I told them to shut up.  I couldn't sleep, but it felt ok to lie down.  An aid station worker came over and asked Ann 20 questions about how I was doing.  She said, "She's Ok."  Dude, seriously, I've been here 2 minutes can I just sleep for a few?  But then my hips started to cramp up.  For the love of all things holy, I couldn't catch a break...

Ann gave me some broth.  I drank some green tea (I think) and a ginger chew, and Ann said, "It's time to go."  I agreed.  Wallowing in self pity in the aid station isn't going to help the situation.  I grabbed my sticks and we started up the trail.  The stomach pain got worse. The burning was worse.  I took a sip of water:  worse.  I walked up that trail to Dog Lake for almost 3 miles.  How long had it been?  5 hours now, and my stomach was getting worse.  I thought of the backcountry section from Dog Lake to Desolation to Scott's Pass.  No way.  No way did I want to exert enough energy to completely shut my stomach down and then risk injury to the rest of my body because of dehydration.  No way.  We sat down on the second to last switch back before Dog Lake.

"What do you think?"

"I don't know.  It just hurts so bad.  I can't even put water in my stomach.  It burns.  I'm so pissed.  My legs feel great.  My feet feel great.  I don't know."

"Let's just sit here for a few and think things out... "

"Ok." (crying)

We sat there and talked out the possibility of my stomach feeling better (50:50).  I was moving about 2 mph.  At that rate, I would get to Brighton, mile 75, at 8am (12 miles away).  8am was the latest I estimated that I could leave Brighton and still make an official time of 36 hours for the race.  It seemed impossible.  What are the chances that I would feel worse?  Pretty good chances for that.  Was it worth it?  It's just running.  It's supposed to be fun.

We turned back down the trail.  We saw Mike P, and he gave me a hug and some consolation.  It was good to see him facing his demons and succeeding.  I was happy for him.  We saw Catra.  Her stomach was hurting too, since about the same time mine was (at mile 59, Lambs Canyon/Elbow Fork) and she would end up dropping out of the race at mile 75.

We were able to get a cell signal on the way down to text Jamie to have him come and pick us up in Millcreek Canyon.  I felt like a failure.  It's just running, but how can "just running" mean so much?  How can going 67 miles feel like a failure?

Sometimes there are just things that are unpredictable.  I thought to myself the entire day leading up to that point about how good I felt.  How happy I was.  How good my legs and feet felt.  I was eating,  drinking, and running with friends.  It was beautiful.  I had also thought to myself, "Anything can change in the blink of an eye.  Enjoy it now.  There will be some lows.  Be ready for them."  I was ready.  But this one, I just couldn't get past.

Someone said to me after the race that maybe I just didn't want it enough.  I don't think so.  I wanted it, but something out there didn't want it for me.  Something wanted me to learn from this.  What I learned:  it's never a given.  This race is hard.  100s are hard.  And they are unpredictable.  You can do everything in your power to make everything go right and sometimes, there's something going on that you just can't control.

What else did I learn?  My friends are the best.  They stand by me even when I believe that I am failing and tell me that I have succeeded.  I want to believe them, and maybe that will come with time.

I've had a great summer.  Even though my batting average at Wasatch is .200, I have to look back at the other events that I did this summer and be proud of myself and pleased with the results:  Running a stellar early-season Zion 50k and finishing in my goal time.  Sweeping the course at Pocatello 100k, running with Fred and a kid who would finish his first ultra with less that 10 minutes to spare before the cut-off.  Running with my sister in law at her first half-marathon and watching the smile on her face (grimace).  Actually, I think the smile came afterwards when dozens of people admired our medals, which we wore around our necks the entire day as we toured Yellowstone National Park.  Completing Bighorn 100 and taking nearly an hour off of my time from last year.  Running a strong El Vaquero 50k in Afton, Wyoming for the 10th anniversary of the race and hanging out with friends.  Watching my friend's husband finish near dead-last with a smile on his face and a will to come back and redeem himself next year.

How could I be negative about all of that?  I can't, really, although it still hurts to know that Wasatch 100 was my kryptonite once again this year.  Maybe someday, I'll finish the race again.  For now, I will look forward to Bighorn 100 next year, and some other events that I have planned as well...

Now, where's my super-hero cape?  All my supporters are really giving me something to live up to.  Hopefully through all of this I can continue to inspire.  Happy Trails.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Niggles and a Siren Song

It's getting to be that time of year when the Niggles hit.  You know them:  those little aches and pains that show up a couple of weeks before a big event; after a long summer of running.  You try to talk yourself out of them, and sometimes you can.  Sometimes, though, they linger.  Sometimes, even, they get worse.

After El Vaquero Loco 50k on August 9th, I rested for 3 days.  Three days of virtually no running, just a few slow, 1-2 mile dog walks.  A long summer of running and a good, strong event called for a few days of rest.  Then, I hit the trails hard.  I did a 10-miler, followed by an 8-miler, followed by a tough 16-miler, followed by an even tougher 19-mile run.  Consecutive days with no rest on tight legs.  No foam roller, no massage-work, nothing.

The Niggle hit at about mile 13 of the 16-mile day.  I iced it down and took some Ibuprofen that night.  I stayed motivated for the 19-mile day the next morning (early) when my alarm went off at 5:30.  I made it most of the way through the 19-mile run, but started having problems about 15-miles in.  I had to walk most of the last 4 miles.  It was frustrating, especially because I know the rest of me is really strong.  I'm powering up the hills and chatting along the way, something I rarely do.  But I hit the downhill and the Niggle gets stronger and stronger until it forced me to walk.

So I pulled out my Ace and booked an appointment with my massage therapist.  I swear, he has magical powers.  I had iced and used balms, and done some massage work myself at home, also nearly brought myself to tears on the foam roller.  Then my therapist got his hands on me.  WOWEEE as my grandparents used to say.  No pain, no gain?  You betcha.

I did a short interval run the next morning.  The Niggle was still there, but he was a waif of his former self.  I did a 5-mile hike-run today with the dogs.  Niggle?  Be gone.  I barely felt it.  I'm hoping for some good miles on Sunday (in two days) after another tester-run of 5-6 miles tomorrow afternoon.

And what about the Siren Song, you might ask?  Do you remember the tale from the Voyage of Ulysses (Odysseus)?  The Siren sisters with their sweet song, lure Ulysses to their island and he has to shake himself away; force himself away from them to continue on with his journey.  I think it was one of the most difficult things he must have had to overcome.  Worse than Medussa.  Worse than the Cyclops.  Worse than escaping the clutches of Scylla and Charybdis.  What could this force be, you ask?  My IKEA bed.  Oh, it is so snuggly soft and comfy.  I sink into it every night and force myself away from it every morning.  I have never slept so well.  And with all this running, I require more and more sleep: 8 hours seems to be not enough these days, and 9 hours seems better.  10 hours is heaven.  (I know, I know... you people who have kids are able to function on 5-6 hours per night.  I really don't understand how you do it.  I would totally be a grumpy zombie.)

One more thing (speaking of grumpy zombies):  I won't be giving up caffeine before the race, either.  I'm down to 2-3 cups per day (if you count a cup as 10-12 ounces).  And that's where my caffeine intake is going to stay.  Motivating to get out of bed in the morning is hard enough without the promise of half-caff to greet you.  *Snore*

Two weeks to go until the big dance ~  100 miles in the Wasatch Range.

And remember:  if you are feeling the Niggles or hearing the Siren Song, it always helps to gain some motivation by going out for a run with two sweet dogs or a really good friend.  Pull some energy from them, and feel them pull you along the trail.  It's ok ~ they don't mind.  Because you will then gain energy and give it right on back to them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

El Vaquero Loco 50k #BRE

It was my third time going up to Afton, Wyoming to the El Vaquero 50k event.  And I didn't regret it, not one bit.

Many of the Happy Utah Mountain Runners (HUMRs) showed up to the event this year.  We had a base camp set up on Thursday before the race (thanks to Lane Farka) at the Cottonwood campground... many other potential campers I'm sure were thinking, "Sheesh... how much space do these people need?"  Well, with easily 30 people in our group... a fair amount.

I got up to Cottonwood camp, the start/finish for the race, about 1pm on Friday.  I hung out with Lane and ate some lunch, set up my tent, then ventured over to the neighbor who turned out to be Joe from Pocatello, whom I helped with some blister issues at the 100k back in June at the 40 mile aid station, and Jodi from Salt Lake.  It was a great, relaxing afternoon.

I typically get pretty worked up before events:  anxiety, low appetite, I get really quiet because on the inside my thoughts are racing and my heart is pounding.  It was great to be around such a nice, positive, energetic group of people prior to the race.  And I ate well at the pot-luck dinner that we had at camp.

It rained all night.  I had a few drips through my tent, but ended up sleeping fairly well.  Got down to the start line at 5:55 am to check in (start time 6am) and Ty Draney, the race director, said, "I didn't want to have to cuss you! [for showing up late... ]" Sorry Ty!  I said some morning hellos and looked down at my wrist to start my GPS watch and dang!  I had left it in the tent.  Seems I would be running this race "by feel".

As it turned out, I didn't feel great for the first 12 or so miles of the course.  You see, I'm not a morning person.  I think it must have taken me nearly the full 4 hours to get to the half-way (turn around) point to actually wake up.  I did run with my friend Ann for a lot of the first part of the course, until she ditched me a couple miles out from the aid station at the turn around.  Lane was captain at that aid station at mile 15 and told me, in a nutshell, that I looked like hell.  Thanks, buddy. Ann was there, too, and gave me some words of encouragement.  I knew in my heart that I would have a good second half of the race, but it didn't hurt to hear confirmation from her, as well.  (She ended up dropping out because of a nagging injury sustained in a race two weeks prior.)

Lane fed me and got me to drink some fluids.  I took about 10 minutes to sit at the picnic table at the aid station and then decided it was time to start moseying up the road.  I continued to eat a little bit as I moseyed next to the rushing Swift Creek river.

About a mile up the road, I got back on the single track trail and hit my stride.  Seems all I needed was a bit of calories and a kick in the butt.  I must have passed 20 people on the 8 mile climb out of Swift Creek.  Dee, from Syracuse, Utah, heard me striding towards her to overtake her, and was amazed by my speed.  Seems I really am a second-half runner at this race (I feel like I've alway raced well in the second half of this event:  in the previous two times as well).

I got to the horse packers' aid station and grabbed a few chips and some "magic elixir" (Mtn Dew, mixed with water and nuun electrolyte tablet) and passed Corey, one of the HUMRs.  I made it up to Corral Creek lakes and passed Jim, another HUMR.  I got to the high school cross country kids at the next aid station and took some more magic elixir.  Somewhere in that stretch, I passed Forrest, who said, "I thought you were already ahead of me!"  Nope... just pacing myself...  I passed Kember and her husband, and she took some photos of me (thanks Kember!).  I got to the top of the climb above Corral Creek and knew that I only had three and a half miles to go:  all downhill.

I spied 3 blue shirts ahead of me:  three of the HUMR boys:  BJ, Aric, and Ryan.  What?!?  I had actually caught them?  I was having a good second half.  I blew past them and despite my diabolical laugh, I tried to be supportive and give them some words of encouragement, "Only 3 miles to go!  Pound out the downhill, let's go!"

I must have run that last 3 miles in about 30 minutes.  I was smelling the barn (and the cheeseburgers) and it smelled good.  I got to the last creek crossing and let out a sigh of relief!  Through the campground, tossed my pack on the ground, sprinted the last quarter mile to the end:  cheers from the crowd.... Aaaahhhh!!!!  Finished.  Hugs all around.  Smiles.  A great race.

As I hung out with my friend Ann at the finish line, we told stories, laughed and cheered other finishers across the line.  We ate cheeseburgers.  We drank beers and huckleberry sodas.

Time ticked on and on:  9 hours, 10 hours, 11 hours... and Ann's husband still was out on the course.  It was his first 50k.  Where was he?  Was he ok?  We decided to move up the road, start packing up camp, and wait for him to emerge from the woods.  Thank goodness when he finally came, he had a smile on his face.  "That was a hard race!"  Yes, yes it was.  And beautiful, too.  We went for margaritas and Mexican food in town after the race.  If you haven't been to Agave in Afton, Wyoming, I highly recommend it.  The margarita pictured is the medium size.  Yes, there is one even larger than that on the menu.  They do not do things small in Wyoming.

Thanks, Afton.  In the words of the HUMRs:  Best Race Ever #BRE.

Photos by:  myself, Ann Hilton, Kember Pollington, and Kolby Tyler