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!
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
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|
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|
|Matt Gunn: race director|
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.
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|
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|
|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|
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.