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... "
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.