2014 Umstead 100 Mile Race

I’m an ultra-runner. I’ve never considered myself to be fast, and I’m certainly never in the elite crowd unless I accidentally get too close to the front of the starting line before a race begins. My best 100-mile finish previously has been at the 100 Miles of Boulder, running the Boulder Reservoir a crazy number of times before finishing in just a little under 27 hours. I’ve also finished Rocky Raccoon and the Javelina Jundred. I came really close to finishing Leadville, and will finally get that finish this August. My point is that I’m not a super-studette when it comes to running, and have never expected to be. My main abilities as an ultra-runner come from usually being able to just power on until the end, staying awake while running through the night, never puking during a race (although I’ll admit to trying once or twice), and never coming down with a black toenail. Otherwise, I’m pretty ordinary. Oh, except that I have arthritis in my knees that I treat with a twice-monthly shot of Humira. I ran and finished the Javelina Jundred with this condition untreated, and have only had it diagnosed and treated for about the past year. Nah, I’m not looking for sympathy. Instead, I’m mentioning this just in case any other runners out there have been diagnosed with arthritis, and think that their running days are over. Depending on the severity, they are NOT. Get on a medicine that works for you, work with a doctor who understands your need to run, and keep going for as long as you can. Many doctors these days are finding that running keeps the joints lubricated, and actually helps reduce the severity of the disease. I was unable to find many stories of runners online with this condition, so perhaps there’s a small chance someone similar will find this posting and gain some comfort. Also, for anyone shaking their heads and saying “Well, running 100 miles is what gave you this problem,” my rheumatologist told me that I did not do this to myself. I was born with a genetic predisposition to the condition. If I’d stayed fat and sedentary, I likely would have developed it anyway.

On to the subject of Umstead. I’m kind of a runner nerd who likes to read blogs and race reports of other ultra-runners. It’s one way of finding out about different races, and which ones I’d like to put on my radar. I read several really positive reports about Umstead, and heard that it was possibly one of the best-supported 100s out there. It was very popular because of the following reasons: it was at sea-level, it was on a trail that was very well-groomed (very few rocks and roots), the aid stations were apparently second-to-none, the cost was relatively low, and despite rolling hills many people said the course was fast. All of this made the race popular for people attempting their first 100, and for elites wanting to get a smoking-fast PR. I decided that I wanted to run this race. The only hitch was that it was limited to about 250 racers, and I’d heard that it filled up within minutes of registration opening.

The morning of registration for the 2014 race, I cut my usual Saturday long run short and raced home to be online. I was there when registration was supposed to start, but it was late in opening by about 10-15 minutes. I think that I, and several hundred other people, wore out the refresh button that day. I was very lucky to get in. As predicted, the race sold out VERY quickly, and the race’s Facebook page reflected the disappointed comments of many people who didn’t get in. I felt bad for the race staff having to deal with that. I don’t know what the solution should be, since they mentioned they don’t want to go to a lottery system.

Fast forward through several months of training. I kept trying to find trails in Colorado that I thought might mimic what I would be running on at Umstead. No roots or rocks, but rolling hills? Okay. I trained quite a bit on the Bluffs near Highlands Ranch, the gravel/dirt road through Waterton Canyon, and on the Big Dry Creek trail closer to home north of Denver. I did the usual Saturday/Sunday sandwich runs, and topped out at 90 miles for my longest training week. I was just sad that my friend Julie wasn’t training with me, as our original idea had been for both of us to enter and run the race. However, her new work schedule prohibited that. Julie, that awesome person that she was, did put me into contact with a friend of hers in the Raleigh area, named Sondra. She and I hit it off pretty well just communicating on Facebook, and I quickly found myself with an amazing person sponsoring me in her home, driving me around, and willing to pace me for a few miles at the race. My friend, Joseph, who I also only knew from Facebook, volunteered to drive several hours from Tennessee to pace me. Wow! It was almost as if I were MEANT to run this race!

My training went well, with a few hitches. There are always hitches, aren’t there? I did break from routine and ran a few technical trails. On one of these in November, I somehow injured my ankle and developed peroneal tendonitis. I was still dealing with this up to the race in April. I’d also fallen during an icy run in Boulder, bruising my tailbone. Oh, and there was the arthritis thing, but I pretty much knew how to deal with that by then. The tailbone issue healed up (although as I’m writing this now, I’ve fallen on it again and perhaps earned a new bruise), so my main concern was the tendonitis. My sports doctor and I treated it quite aggressively, with physical therapy, wrapping, and dry needling. I could get through a run of around 20 miles before the tendonitis made itself known, but the question was how painful would it get, and would I be able to run through it? Would I have agonizing pain during a 100 mile race? My doctor encouraged me to try, but even though he treated many ultra-runners, I could tell by his expression that he thought I was nuts.

Sure, I’m nuts. I run 100 mile races. Next?

Race weekend finally arrived. I flew in on Thursday without any issues, and was picked up by Sondra. We went to the store to pick up a few final things for the race, and then her family very kindly fed me dinner. Getting along with the humans in the family was great, but I also made fast friends with their dog and two cats. One of the kitties even slept with me that night. The next day, I spent off my feet. I luxuriated in having time to read a very good book, and I kept snacking to do a sort of slow carb-load for the race the next day. Sondra and I went out to packet pickup later that day, and we stayed for the ceremonial transition of the race from Blake Norwood to Rhonda Hampton. This was to be Blake’s last year of directing the race. He, and several other long-time volunteers, were having 2014 be their last year of serving major duties at the race. I didn’t know who most of these people were, but it felt important to be a part of this. I was also glad to be a part of Blake’s last official Umstead. We ate the race-provided spaghetti dinner (which was REALLY good), and then went back to Sondra’s home.

I Love Running Under Trees!

I Love Running Under Trees!

I slept pretty well that night, despite the usual waking every couple of hours to see how much time I had left before my alarm went off. When it did finally go off, I got up onto my feet and…ohhhhhhh, shit. I felt two sharp pains come from my peroneal tendon. That NEVER happened in the morning. I only felt such a thing late into a long run, or after running something really technical. What the hell, anyway? Luckily, no other pain followed, and I resolved to start the race and just see what happened. I remembered when I first developed my arthritis (although I didn’t know what it was at the time), and the issue was quite bad as the 2012 Leadville Silver Rush (50-mile) race came along. I nearly didn’t start the race, but I found my resolve and decided to run and see what would happen. I wound up finishing. Perhaps I could still finish this 100 mile race.

Race Headquarters

Race Headquarters

Since Sondra was volunteering at the timing table for a while, she was able to get an extremely choice parking spot. With all of my gear, it was certainly nice to not have to walk very far to the start. There was a large, heated lodge at the start/finish, where I was going to have my main drop bag. I was quickly advised against this, as there were many places to sit down, and the lodge would be comfortably warm in the evening. I needed to have my crewing spot NOT be in such a cozy place. The idea was to quickly get what I needed and get going again. Sondra helped me find a spot that I would run by as I finished and started each loop. This wound up being by Team Rachel (their runner was another person I’d friended on Facebook), and Tim from that team sort of adopted me and helped crew for me throughout the day. Between him, Sondra, and (later) Joseph, I was certainly well looked-after!

Sondra and her husband Alan

Sondra and her husband Alan

What could I expect from the course? It was 12.5 miles, and I’d have to repeat it 8 times. There was an out/back section called the Airport Spur that I at first called our punishment section, since it kind of seemed excruciating at first. However, you got to see other runners here, and this was one of the few places where I got to see my friend from Colorado, Samantha. She was running a faster pace that day, so it really was good to see her. The rest of the course consisted of rolling hills, most of which were quite runnable for a long time. There were only three hills after the second main aid station that I walked each time, and this was in the Sawtooth Section. One of these hills was very steep, and I actually got some charley-horse cramps the third time ascending it. From then on, I took shorter strides on that hill and was fine. For someone coming from Colorado, the hills really weren’t terribly remarkable. I actually enjoyed them, and learned that a ‘gently’ rolling course at low altitude was perfect for me.

We started in the dark, and I had a headlamp on for the first loop (although I only needed it for less than an hour). The temps were cool, but the running quickly warmed me up enough that I stuffed my light gloves into my bag, and rolled down my arm sleeves. I wound up running in the same shorts and short-sleeved tech shirt the entire race, not needed any of the long-sleeved shirts or jackets that I’d brought. The arm sleeves went back on for the last loop, but they were shrugged down most of the time even then.

Early Morning Start

Early Morning Start

My idea was to run the first lap with just under an 11:00 minute/mile pace. I wound up doing it in 11:13 pace, although that was a bit skewed. My crew and bag were before the start/finish line, so I took a few minutes to change stuff out before officially finishing the loop. We wound up changing this later on, to where I ran up to the scorers, recorded my time, and my crew met me at the aid station to get me taken care of. Still, I wasn’t too far off my time. I felt that I’d run this loop well, and even met some interesting people. There was Ray who was just a bundle of energy, talking to everyone, whooping and hollering as he ran. He was very proud of earning a 5k PR early in the race. I asked him if he was okay keeping that pace in a 100 mile event, and he seemed fine with it (oy, vey!). There was a girl out there running her first race. Ever. She’d chosen a 100 as her first race. I wish I’d caught her name, as I don’t know if she finished or not. Wow, that took either a lack of common sense, or a ton of courage, or maybe some of both.

I was feeling quite good as I started Lap 2. My foot wasn’t hurting, I was enjoying myself, and was just going along with the flow. It was as I began approaching Aid 2 (there were two main aid stations, along with a scattering of smaller and unmanned aid stations) that I began to feel some fatigue. I would say this was at about mile 19 or 20. I started to worry that perhaps I was running the first two loops of the race too fast (I wound up averaging 11:37 for those two loops). My pacing strategy was to finish overall with a PR and go under 26 hours. Was this going to be too much for me, and maybe I should slow down? I decided to keep the pace I was running, get some food in me at Aid 2, and hope that walking the usual 3 hills would give me the chance to recover a bit. That started working out fine until my tendon decided to wake up.

I hate you tendon. If I could beat you to death and replace you with something better, I would. I’d like to rip you out and throw you against the wall. Okay, how bad would this get? Would it just be the ache that it was at that moment, or would it get to be acute? I’d brought trekking poles just in case I wound up in serious pain. I meant to finish the race, and I would. I popped an Extra-Strength Tylenol and prayed for the best. I also took a page out of Marshall Ulrich’s book “Running on Empty” and disowned my foot. I told it that it was no longer a part of my body. It simply was – not – my – foot!

Finishing a Loop

Finishing a Loop

I finished the loop, complained slightly to Samantha as we crossed paths that my ankle hurt, and started loop 3. My reward for starting this loop, after having already run 25 miles, was to pick up my MP3 player. Yay, I got to have some music to take my mind off what my ankle might become (except that it was no longer my foot, so I really shouldn’t be worrying about it). This, along with the pain-killer, did remarkable things for me. I felt awesome! I found my happy place, kept smiling at the people around me, and enjoyed what I was doing. It did get a little warm for a time during this loop, but I reminded myself that I’d been in (and finished) much hotter races. We had some kind of cloud cover for most of the race, and there was an awesome breeze. Considering that this was in North Carolina, and they experienced rain most years holding this race, I felt quite blessed with what Mother Nature was giving us.

Running With a Smile

Running With a Smile

I started lap 4, still vaguely wondering how the ankle would continue to do. I’ll confess that I took some Ibuprofen here, as much as I knew how such a thing could mess a runner up during a race. Yes, I dodged a bullet by not getting sick from the NSAID. Some runners have wound up with renal failure by doing such a thing. It really helped my ankle out even more, though. I tried to shut my lecturing coaches out of my mind and continued to listen to my music. I think it was during this loop where I ran briefly next to a guy whose legs looks a little beat up. I asked him if he’d fallen.

“No, I got hit by a deer early on.”

Uhhhh…what? It turned out he got hit in the first few miles of the race during the out/back airport spur, when a deer jumped across the trail and hit this poor guy. He then proceeded to fall backward and step on the ankle of Rachel (she of Team Rachel). I think he wound up dropping at 50 miles, but Rachel did finish the entire 100. The good thing was that this race still awarded 50 mile finishers. Hal Koerner, a well-known and respected ultra-runner who was leading the race from the beginning, had to drop to the 50-mile finish due to stomach issues. I’ll admit that Hal has one of the most fantastic smiles ever seen on a human being (my husband tops him, though).

Hal Koerner

Hal Koerner

As I began to finish lap 4 and was about to hit the 50-mile mark, I realized that I was about to PR my 50-mile time. I don’t consider something a ‘true’ PR unless that’s the final distance of the race you’re running. Still, it was good to know that this was the fastest time I’d ever run 50 miles (10:05:54). I’d almost dipped below ten hours, which was amazing for me! This meant that I was doing something right. Funny, I went from that high to a small worry of knowing that I still had 50 miles to go. I knew that I was picking up Sondra as my first pacer, however, and let that flush all other anxiety out of my mind. After just over 10 hours of running mostly on my own, I’d finally get to run with a friend! I also saw Joseph for the first time here, as he’d arrived from Tennessee just in time to see me finish up lap 4. That got lots of smiles from me!

Steps Leading to Start/Finish

Steps Leading to Start/Finish

It really was good running with Sondra, although we both thought I’d be slowing down more by this point. Sondra had two races coming up the next weekend, and I’d told her early on that she was to do nothing to endanger her own races simply because she was trying to help me out. I took a couple more walking breaks the first half of loop 5, partially because I was starting to leave Sondra behind by running a lot of the hills, and partially because I thought easing back a little now would probably help me later in the ‘grind’ portion of the race (laps 7 & 8). Sondra was fantastic company, and we stayed together until Aid 2 about halfway through the loop. She had me run on ahead of her, since I was running the hills so strong. I still walked the usual three hills, but ran most of the rest of it. Sondra wound up not being too far behind me, however, as she was there taking pictures of me and Joseph as we ran out on the Airport Spur for loop 6. Sondra, thank you for getting me through loop 5!

Moseying Through Aid2

Moseying Through Aid2

I’d told both Sondra and Joseph that I appreciated a chatty pacer, and they both took that to heart. This was great, as I’ve found that conversation often helps me forget about the miles (even though every mile on this course had a mile marker sign – this wasn’t as brutal to the psyche as I thought it would be). Joseph and I chatted about lots of things, including his upcoming marriage, and his running of the Vol State 314-mile race the previous year. Hearing about that race helped me realize that any discomfort I was feeling in my own race was NOTHING. My foot was aching, but behaving. My other foot, which was starting to hurt where the shinbone met the ankle, was also tolerable. I had no other issues other than some recurring asthma. Well, I did tell Joseph to stop talking about squishing bugs (there were apparently a few slugs on the course), because my tummy warned me that it could go south in a hurry if I kept hearing about icky splatty bug things.

Running With Joseph

Running With Joseph

I ran so well during loops 6 and 7! I ran my fastest-ever 100k time (13:00:03), and it was during one of these loops where I almost lost Joseph because I just kept running without taking many walking breaks. Whenever I felt extra-amazing, I just went with it milked it for all it was worth. Taking the advice of some of my friends, I was running in the moment and trying not to think about what was still ahead of me. Thankfully, Joseph was strong and rebounded. He even decided to run the last loop with me, when I thought I’d be alone. I never expected him to run 37.5 miles with me, but he did. What an amazing, awesome person! He even got me to ease back on the pace a bit on the second half of lap 7, which was fantastic advice. I felt tired on lap 8, and likely would have felt even worse (perhaps to the point of nearly bonking), if I hadn’t followed his advice.

Near the end of lap 7, Joseph said something that I’d been privately thinking, but had refused to say out loud up until this point. It was insane. It was something that I had never even come close to considering in my other 100-mile races. Joseph said that I could probably finish sub-24 if I kept up the way I was going. I took a few moments to truly consider this, opening myself emotionally to this actually being something that could happen. I responded:

“Okay, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I’m going to do this!”

We were then decided to race for a sub-24. Oh, holy shit! Could I really do this? Yes! Finishing 100 miles in under 24 hours was high on my bucket list, but was so far up there that I never really thought it was within reach. I’d only ever run these races just to finish. I’d never run one for bad-ass status before! Only in my private dreams and imagination had I ever seen myself crossing the finish line of a 100 in less than a day. Hey, they were my dreams, and I could do what I wanted in them, right? I’d even taken it a silly step further one day while driving home in terrible traffic. I’d thought of myself magically finishing in under 23 hours. Lol, it was fun to daydream of such things.

I started lap 8, the last 12.5 miles, and I kept myself moving as much as possible. Joseph got me started running again a few times when the incline on hills was pretty easy (even at that point), and I felt pretty good. Sure, I was tired, but I never really hit the wall a single time during the entire race. I’d felt an energy shortage the second loop, and I was extra-tired now, but nothing like I’d felt in other 100s. The bottoms of my feet didn’t even start hurting until this loop, and I decided not to take extra time to switch out to my Hokas. My other ankle (which hadn’t hurt until this race) was starting to become a problem, but I knew I only had to put up with it for a few more miles. I pushed on. After Aid 2, Joseph told me I could probably walk it in from there and still finish in under 24. I just couldn’t believe the runner I’d become in this race! I was so happy. Tired and hurting, but happy.

We got through the sawtooth section on the second half and began running the last 3.5 miles. This was when Joseph dropped another bomb on me. One that had only been the craziest of fantasies up to this point:

“I think you could finish in under 23 hours. I really think you can do it!”

I thought he was crazy, I thought I was crazy. I was half-convinced I’d entered Bizarro-World where I had somehow become the ultra-running studette that I’d always dreamed of becoming. In no normal world would I ever conceive of such a finishing time being reality, yet here it was. I slammed on the gas pedal, and Joseph had to hold me back a little again. We were still on some hills, and I still needed to finish. I kept looking for the final turn-off that meant we were running the trail up to the start/finish. This was the only rocky section of the entire course, and sweet Joseph steered me on this as best as possible. The bottoms of my feet were finally hurting, and every rock was like a little dagger stabbing into me. I nearly cried when we saw the 12 mile sign appear, meaning that I only had half a mile left. I resolved to keep the tears for the end, since I’d been struggling a bit with exercise-enduced asthma for most of the race, and crying would really wreck my ability to breathe.

This was when we had a car come up the trail, blinding us with its headlights. This was the only section of the course where we shared the trail with cars, and it was really only a problem at night. This was the reason why we took a wrong turn with less than half a mile to go. We figured it out because the trail was suddenly much rockier, and there were no people around. Joseph got upset, trying to figure out where we went wrong. This was the only time I completely lost my cool, dropping f-bombs and shouting at the top of my lungs. No, I wasn’t shouting at Joseph (other than asking him where we were), just shouting vaguely at the race, wanting to know where the course markings were. Thankfully, there was a cabin nearby where someone who knew about the race came out and told us where we needed to go.

I broke back into a run, tearing away uphill at mile 99.5 (plus), with Joseph telling me to slow down because I would still be under 23 hours. Poor guy, I could tell he was really tired, but I would have NO MORE WALKING. I was running with whatever I had left in me (thank you, Runner’s Edge of the Rockies hilly speedwork), and Joseph stayed with me. We got back on track, and I plowed on up to the finish line. #170 had just finished in 22:51:10. Under 24 hours, under 23 hours, with a 4-hour 100 mile PR. I had just done something that I’d nearly thought impossible for myself.

Finishing Photo with Blake Norwood

Finishing Photo with Blake Norwood

I broke into hysterical tears and accepted my “100 Miles in One Day” buckle, and posed for a picture with the race director. I thanked him again for an amazing race (he and the new race director had been out on the course several times throughout the day, taking pictures and encouraging runners), and hobbled inside the warm cabin nearby with Joseph and Sondra. They watched over me as I finally relaxed (sitting down for the first time all race, except for a few port-a-potty spots), and my body started shutting down. I sat next to some cots, one of which was occupied by a fellow in a kilt who’d passed out after finishing, and another of which was occupied by a girl saying she wasn’t finished, and would get up to run some more (I don’t know if she did).

Finished, With Joseph and Sondra - Angels!

Finished, With Joseph and Sondra – Angels!

The Umstead 100 Mile Race was amazing. The volunteers were fantastic, I loved the course, and it will forever be remembered by myself as the race where I found out what I was truly capable of. I was amazed and humbled, and I hope to take this experience into the Leadville 100 in August. I want to thank Sondra for sponsoring me in her home, and crewing for me and pacing me at the race. I want to thank Joseph for driving multiple hours to pace me through the night, then driving multiple hours to get back home not long after the race (thankfully he made it safely). Thanks also to Tim from Team Rachel for helping crew me. Last, but not least, I want to thank both of my coaches, David Manthey and Ben Reeves. Their advice and encouragement was part of my success. If you live in the Denver Metro Area and would be interested in a running group, please do yourself a favor and look up Runner’s Edge of the Rockies.

Sub-24 Buckle

Sub-24 Buckle

Some extra awesome things from this race: They had a ladies-only port-a-potty at Aid 2, which remained one of the cleanest-looking potties I’d ever seen at an ultra. Lentil soup was my new best friend – I can only hope more races offer this. Vanilla EFS Liquid Shot is ultra-running crack! Finally…sometimes losing your split pace time chart is for the best. I lost mine after mile 50 and just ran by feel.

I recommend this race to all of my ultra-running friends, both those who have run 100s before, and those who are considering moving up to the distance. Just be warned to be on your computer, ready to sign up the second registration opens!

Just One Blister...

Just One Blister…

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Posted in Race Reports | 5 Comments

Javelina Jundred 2012

“Here are some who like to run. They run for fun in the hot, hot sun. Oh me! Oh my! Oh me! Oh my! What a lot of funny things go by. Some have two feet and some have four. Some have six feet and some have more. Where do they come from? I can’t say. But I bet they have come a long, long way.” Dr. Seuss

What is a javelina? I’ve never heard of the word before. Maybe…a female javelin-tosser? No. Um…a pig-like thing? Not really. They are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Javelina are common in much of central and southern Arizona, including the outskirts of the Phoenix area, most of Tucson, and occasionally as far north as Flagstaff. Javelina form herds of two to more than 20 animals and rely on each other to defend territory, protect against predators, regulate temperature and interact socially. They use washes and areas with dense vegetation as travel corridors. Javelina are most active at night, but they may be active during the day when it is cold.

So…I’m about to run in my next 100-mile race, which is named after THIS thing. It still looks like a hairy pig to me, maybe with a smidge of anteater thrown in.

Javelina – I’ll bet they can’t run 100 miles.

Why run this race at all? I’ve already proven myself at this distance. Sure, I earned a DNF at Leadville in 2011. However, I learned from the experience and finished the 2011 100 Miles of Boulder (placing 2nd overall female, something I still can’t quite explain), and the 2012 Rocky Raccoon 100. Did I really need another 100 mile finish? Need, no. Want, yes. Why? Because it’s now something that I can do, that many other people can’t (or won’t). I think that everyone needs something like this in his/her life. Something that makes you feel just slightly special, something that makes you feel proud of yourself. Oh, and I’m very much addicted to the damned things. Ultras from 50k to 100 miles. Gimme a race. Sure, I’ll do smaller races. They’re fun, and I don’t feel like death afterward. However, it’s that struggle with my abilities in the ultras that keeps me coming back for more.

10/26/12 – I arrived at race ‘Jeadquarters’ (everything with a capital J in this race is pronounced with an H) with friends Trevor and Jenn. Trevor was also running the race, while his girlfriend Jenn was part of his support crew, and would be be pacing him the last 9 miles. After surviving a drive through a snowstorm to get to the Denver airport (we actually saw an SUV flip over an embankment not far ahead of us), figuring out the rental car in Phoenix, and driving in a new town that was a completely new world to me, I was glad to be at the main staging area of the race. Much of the Jeadquarters was already up and ready, and I went to find my tent. Along with my race registration, I signed up for a large tent and cot to be ready for me. This turned out to be an excellent move, as it was a huge tent (I could stand up in it), and it was quite comfy for my stay Friday night. It also wound up being the crew staging area for me, Trevor, Elizabeth, and Coach David. The cot would be utilized by passed-out crew/pacers for most of the race, and by passed-out runners after the race.

Start/Finish – Race Jeadquarters

Tent City – Mine was one of the green-topped tents

Much of Friday was spent getting our stuff together, going to packet pick-up (LOVED the race shirt and bag), finding cheap food at the local Safeway (we opted out of the $15 pasta dinner), and then trying to go to bed early. Everyone except for me stayed at local hotels. My tent was just fine, especially when the Jeadquarters music turned off at around 9, and most of the talking (and loud children) quieted down by 10. I read the heck out of my Kindle, and then wrapped up in my sleeping bag for a fairly chilly night. I actually got decent sleep, and only had to do a bit of preparation in the morning before stepping out just a few yards from the starting line.

I easily found Trevor, Elizabeth, and Coach David (our awesome running coach from Denver’s Runner’s Edge of the Rockies). Jenn was also there, and I showed her where my tent was, so it could be used for the entirety of the race. The rest of the crew (Jessica and Samantha) that I would be sharing with Elizabeth would show up as soon as the buses could get them there (crew not staying at the campgrounds had to be shuttled in). We talked away a little nervous energy, and lined up at the start. We were all hoping to run for a while together, even though we all generally had different paces. The idea was to start out slow, conserving energy early on, and then running by feel. The average dropout rate for this race was about 50%, partially due to people pounding out a killer first loop and then not having enough to get through the heat of the day. Another reason for the dropout rate was that the race allowed runners to stop at the 100k mark. There was even a 100k buckle. That siren song would be strong for many! I actually looked around me and realized that one out of every two people I saw would not be finishing the 100 miles. This was a sobering thought. I wanted to be one of the people coming out on top!

We had a brief countdown, and then we were off! We were starting on the first of six 15.4 mile loops, finishing with a seventh 9-mile loop. It was dark, and it was still cool. I was in shorts, a white short-sleeved tech shirt, a hydration pack, bandana, arm sleeves, and a headlamp. I kept the headlamp on for perhaps 20 minutes (my friends didn’t wear theirs at all, but I’m more prone to tripping and falling so I used the extra light). I kept the arm sleeves on for maybe an hour. Once the sun came up, illuminating the gorgeous landscape, it warmed up fairly quickly. I had a borrowed pair of sunglasses that I kept on for all of the sunny hours (I normally never run in the things). It was good that I had them on, since after the race my eyes were red despite having the shades. God knows what might have happened without them!

I wish someone would have told me I’d be running in a desert

I’d run in a desert environment once before, in Fruita, Colorado. That wasn’t the best experience to draw upon, as I wound up dropping from the 50-mile distance to a 25-mile finish. This was even more desert-like than that area, and I was attempting 100 miles in it. The air was moisture-sucking dry, and the temps were supposed to reach at least 82 (they actually wound up hitting 87). I resolved to keep up my spirits, even as I pushed to keep up with my friends. The terrain was fine, and was certainly runnable at this stage of the race. We walked the hills quickly, and ran everything else. The problem was that the runners were still bunched up, and I kept getting separated from my friends. Also, we were running about 1 minute/mile faster than I’d planned. I eventually realized that I’d have to drop them if I wanted to keep my plan of running an ‘easy’ first loop. I had to run my own smart race, and not keep straining to keep up with my friends. With a bit of a heavy heart, I began dropping back.

After a few minutes, this actually didn’t feel bad. It wound up taking away the pressure I was feeling, trying to keep up with people. I just ran within myself and started to enjoy the things around me. It really was an alien environment, with mountains that looked like crumbled rock, cacti all around me, and I realized that it would be best to touch NOTHING. Even accidentally brushing past a low-hanging scrub bush branch gave me a scratch on my arm early on.

There was a total of 5 aid stations on the course (Javelina Jeadquarters at the turn-around counting as one). I (and most other runners) skipped the first aid station on the course (Coyote Camp), and then the next one (which wasn’t set up yet) was Tonto Station and would be water-only. Tonto was also where loop 7 would turn, taking runners on an easy downhill down to the finish line. This was the ‘magical path’ that I was certain didn’t really exist except in Fairy Land. After this, was Jackass Junction. This was my first stop on Loop 1, as this was also where runners were allowed to have a drop bag. I resolved to drink a coconut water each time I passed through here for the first 4 loops, hoping the added electrolytes would help out with the growing heat of the day.

After Jackass, the race course turned amazingly nice. The rocks from the ‘rocky section’ (that would grown in abhorrence for me each loop) died off, and most of this section was a gentle downhill. I really tried not to think about what it would be like having to run back up it, as this course was built on the idea of washing machine loops. Run a loop one way, then go and run it the other way for the next loop. Back and forth. This way, you got to see most of the runners on the course, and it was hard to get really bored. Especially since runners were encouraged to wear costumes since we were so close to Halloween. I didn’t wear a costume, since I figured running 100 miles was already difficult enough without worrying about some extra chafing somewhere. Some runners did dress up, and they were enjoyable to see.

Running downhill in what was still cool weather made this section feel like a dream. I even had a certain cheesy theme song playing in my head.

This lasted until I had to run UP this same section.

I got some fruit and ginger ale at the last aid station, Rattlesnake Ranch, and ran the last 3 miles into Jeadquarters. It was during the last bit of running when I saw Coach David, Elizabeth, and Trevor all running toward me (separated from each other by a little bit now), heading out on their second loop. Trevor was actually leaving Jeadquarters just as I was arriving, so I wasn’t too far behind. Really, it wasn’t a big deal. This was my race, and I wasn’t trying to keep up with them. Still, it was good to see them looking strong.

I arrived at Jeadquarters, running Loop 1 in 3:06. This was a little faster than my projected 3:15, which was probably why I didn’t see my crew anywhere at the turn-around. Panicking, I ran into my tent and tore through my bags, trying to get the stuff I would need for my next loop. I couldn’t find any of it! ARGH! Feeling the minutes slipping by while I wasn’t getting any miles done, I ran out of the tent and looked around some more. This time, I saw my crew, standing at the turnaround, looking for me. I ran over to them, and they got me over to a chair. I did not yell, I don’t think I did, anyway. Jessica and Samantha were friends, and were only trying to help me out. I came in early, which threw them off. I resolved not to turn into a running diva, and drank/ate/did whatever they told me to do. I ate my fruit cocktail, drank my Mix 1, replenished the bags of gels and Endurolytes in my hydration bag, and got my liquids refilled with Gatorade. It was time to get onto Loop 2! The crew angels (this is what they were) walked me out going the correct direction (I know I would have eventually screwed this up if it wasn’t for them).

Samantha leading me out for Loop 2, Jessica taking the picture

Loop 2 was getting warm, but it was still quite tolerable. I tried not to think about what it would be in the next (and hottest) loop. I walked/ran the first few miles to the aid station, where my body suddenly told me it was time for an emergency porta-potty break. I won’t describe what happened in there, but suffice it to say that eating fried chicken strips from a store deli the night before a 100 mile race wasn’t the best idea for happy bowels. I immediately felt fantastic after this stop, eating some potatoes and fruit at the aid station. Even though most of the next section was uphill, it was gentle enough that I ran most of it. I was really enjoying myself! I was mostly enjoying myself! The one thing that got to me in this section was the overwhelming ‘sameness’ of the geography. I almost felt like I was running in place, with nothing changing around me in the vast desert. I actually felt a little bit of panic at this. Thankfully, the weird hit of agoraphobia didn’t last too long.

I got past Jackass, and started into the rocks. I climbed the hills, and ran what looked manageable. Really, most of it was runnable, but I was being a little extra-cautious. There were rocks, and there were wooden ties placed at intervals to help prevent erosion on the trail. Any of these things could trip someone like me, who tended to fall at least once each race. I eventually got into a smoother section, and came across Rick. He and I ran most of the rest of the loop together, talking about our ultra experiences, and he shared tricks for keeping cool in hot weather. It was already getting that bad. Ice, ice, ice! Wet down the hat, wet down the bandana, put ice in each, hold ice in your hands. Keep the core temp down! Rick was awesome to run with, and we got separated as we ran into Jeadquarters. If I’m looking at the correct Rick from Wyoming in the results, he wound up finishing the 100 mile race in 28:42. Great job!

Running With Wyoming Rick (Photo by Coach David as he approached from the opposite direction)

Not long before reaching Jeadquarters (finishing Loop 2 in 3:43 – quite a bit slower than intended), I saw Coach David and Elizabeth run by me with encouraging words. They were still separated, but not by much. I was worried that I hadn’t seen Trevor. He was my buddy, having paced me in two ultras (Leadville and the 100 Miles of Boulder), and we’d run together much of Rocky Raccoon (finishing at the same time, down to the second). We’ve run more training miles together than I can count, although he’s admittedly passed me by in terms of speed. I wanted to see my buddy and know he was still running strong.

Coach Manthey, Running Strong!

He wasn’t running, he was sitting down. Oh, crap. Well, it really wasn’t too bad. He was having a hard time with the heat, and was just taking an extra few minutes sitting in the shade. Trevor cheered up noticeably when he saw me run in, and asked if we could start the next loop together. I didn’t waste a second before responding with a happy, “Yes!” I relished the idea of running any miles with a friend. I slurped down some more fruit cocktail, drank a Mix 1, had my liquids replenished, and drank a 5-Hour Energy. I was good to go!

All smiles, knowing I was about to run with my friend, Trevor. Oh, and it was scorching hot!

Trevor and I got our bodies misted down by the awesome aid station folks at Jeadquarters, and then we took off! Well, we shuffled off. Loop 3 was the hottest loop, and it was hard to get going again. Strangely enough, I had good mojo for quite a while (maybe it was that 5-Hour Energy), while Trevor was really dragging. I tried to keep us moving, running as much as possible, and Trevor followed my lead whenever possible. I dropped to a walk whenever I heard him slow down. More than once, he asked me to just go on since I was feeling so well. More than once, I said no. I was enjoying being with a friend more than I needed to get ahead by a few minutes. Finally, as we were slogging under that unholy death ray, that burning Eye of Ra, that James Bond torture device, Trevor asked me one more time to move on ahead. I finally agreed, since we were pretty close to the Jackass aid station. I said I needed to use the potty and access my drop bag anyway. Once I was done with all that, he would probably get to the aid station.

That’s exactly how it went down. I ate some food and drank my coconut water while Trevor replenished his coveted ice. We moved off again. Even though the next section was the gentle downhill that I loved so much on the first loop, this was when the switch got flipped. Trevor, after getting refreshed with ice, was doing a million times better. I was the one wilting under the sun this time, and my tummy was unhappy. Maybe doing the extra running to the aid station threw me off? Whatever it was, our roles were reversed. He was the cheerleader, and I was doing my best to not hold us up. I asked Trevor to move on ahead, and he refused. This made me smile. We made it to the next aid station, where some ginger ale and crystallized ginger eventually perked me up again. I got slightly concerned as I started shivering as soon as I got misted at the aid station, but resolved to not let it bother me. We moved on to Jeadquarters, getting passed by Elizabeth (still looking strong), and eventually getting passed by Coach David. Coach told us to keep icing up and to keep our core temperatures down. Luckily, we were in the late afternoon, and the temps were starting to go down a little. The hell march was ending, and we were hoping to find our second winds. Trevor and I made it to Jeadquarters (this loop took 4:21 – a sign of how hot it was), and did our usual replenish/restock. We decided to start Loop 4 together, feeling revitalized as the sun began going down. Fuck off, you burning piece of shit!

Trevor’s girlfriend, Jenn, walking us out for Loop 4.

We did a walk/run the long uphill section of Loop 4, although Trevor’s walk was actually so good that I often had to jog just to stay caught up with him. This was actually one of his ultra-running super powers. Another was his ability to rally after getting beat down by some kind of adversity in a race. Trevor was certainly rallying now! It was dark, we had our headlamps on, and Trevor was a moving machine. I kept up with him until Jackass, when I told him I needed to let him go. He looked concerned, but I promised that I was feeling fine. He was just moving a little faster than what was comfortable for me. Trevor made me swear that I would not quit, or even drop to the 100k distance, and then he moved on.

This was also where I saw another friend of mine, David Clark. He tottered into the aid station and looked like Death Warmed Over. David is normally a very strong and FAST runner, so I had to ask what was wrong. He had come into the race with a tweaked knee (ironically, this had occurred in his last race, which was also a race that I had run – the 50-mile 2012 Bear Chase Race in Lakewood, CO), and then had run the first couple of loops here at Javelina far too fast. He had nearly dropped at the 50k mark (after two loops), but pushed himself nearly beyond the limits of endurance so that he could get the 100k finish/buckle. David is strong beyond belief, and he got that 100k finish. I’m so proud just to know him and to be his friend!

I left the aid station and continued on with the loop. There really wasn’t anything else extraordinary that happened. It was still fairly warm (although a million times better than Loop 3), so I didn’t have to worry about being cold. I did overhear some interesting things at the aid stations, though. One female runner was followed on the course by a curious coyote. Four runners somehow got themselves caught up in a spiky cholla bush. Beware the cholla! When someone gets too close to this cactus, parts of the branch break off and embed themselves, sometimes requiring pliers to remove. Ouch! I touched NOTHING out there, even when I had to answer the call of Nature off the side of the trail.

Cholla Bush

I finished Loop 4 in 4:33. It was a shame I couldn’t have run it faster than the massively hot loop, but I was still doing great on time. I didn’t stand a chance in hell of getting the naive 26 hour finish that I’d envisioned, but I was still fine to finish in under 30 hours. That was really all that I cared about at this point. I did my usual routine, and got walked back out onto the course for Loop 5. What kept me going? The knowledge that I should be getting a pacer for Loop 6. Another friend of mine, Rachel, had introduced me to a friend of hers right before the race started, saying that he would be my pacer for Loop 6. I was overjoyed with this, because it meant that I just had to get through one more loop alone.

I ran Loop 5 listening to music, and got myself from aid station to aid station. The distances took abominably long to cover, as I was going so slow (even though I tried to run as much as possible). I ate whatever I could force into my stomach at the aid stations (usually Ramen soup and Mountain Dew), and kept moving. Continuous Forward Momentum. Run when I felt good. Walk when running was too hard. Rinse and repeat. Try to get some energy out of the current song playing. Only stop to pee – and try not to pee on my own feet. Well, there was also that one unanticipated stop where I took a header over one of the wooden trail ties, but I won’t go into that.

It felt like it took forever, but Loop 5 only took 4:43. ONLY! YES, IT DID TAKE FOREVER! I got to the aid station and Samantha was waiting for me to get some calories into me and get me going again. But…wait…where was my pacer? Samantha looked confused for a second, and then said that the guy who had been waiting had taken off with another runner.

NOOOOOO!!!

Okay, I knew it was a possibility, since I’d come in so far after my projected time for finishing this loop. However, I never really thought it would actually happen. He would wait…he would wait, right? Nope. He was gone. The loop I thought I would be running with someone (even a stranger), I would now be running with myself. And my music. And that was all. It was up to me, myself, and I. Samantha asked the announcer guy at the start/finish to ask if anyone was willing to pace me, hoping that since so many runners had dropped, someone would still be there and want to pace.

Nope.

I started to cry. Yes, there is sometimes crying in ultra-racing. “How am I supposed to do this loop? How am I supposed to do this on my own? This damned loop is almost all uphill in the direction I have to run it!”

“By doing what you have been doing,” Samantha answered. “By putting one foot in front of the other. You are STRONG, and you have to continue to be strong!” She got me up, and started walking me to the start of the loop. I did my best to compose myself and steel my resolve. Samantha walked/ran the first mile with me, and then had to go back because she needed to pace Elizabeth for her last 9 miles. Before leaving, Samantha promised to pace me my last 9 miles when I finished Loop 6. I knew that a promise from her was rock-solid, and that she’d be there for me hours later. I took some strength from this and started running again. My thought at this time, “This Loop, and this Race, are fucking MINE!” I could think nothing else. I believe I actually said this out loud. Thankfully, I had my music back in, and didn’t hear Samantha’s encounter with a snorting/shuffling THING in a bush just behind me. She thinks it may have been the elusive javelina. I’m glad it didn’t show itself!

I made myself move this loop, even when I had some breathing problems early on (stemming from the fit of crying I’d had). My inhaler had stopped being effective for exercise-induced asthma. Well, crap, Yet another obstacle to overcome. When I finally made it to the first aid station, I drank a bunch of caffeine (I’d heard that this can help with asthma). Maybe the caffeine helped, but my breathing eased up in the next hour. Thank God for that!

I spoke with God a lot during this race, especially during this Loop. I had asthma issues, both IT bands were aching, and it was taking so long to get through each mile that I could have sworn I’d entered some kind of time anomaly. I asked God to help me finish my race. I didn’t want to beat anyone, and I didn’t feel the need to get a specific time. I just wanted to officially finish 100 miles under 30 hours. This was to be my last 100 for a while, as I was planning on trying to become a mommy in the next year. I needed this finish, so I could move on to the next stage of my life with no regrets (not that I’ll leave 100s behind forever).

I walked, I ran, I peed. The Ramen soup was liquid going straight through me. Hydration was certainly never an issue. I said “Hi, and good job” to headlights passing me both ways in the night. I was thankful for each aid station that I passed. I watched the bright moon as it eventually set, and knew that I would be able to see the rocky section easier soon. I also knew that the sun would be rising, along with the temperature. I would have to deal with heat again eventually. After 4:57 and continuing to be on my own, I finally got back to Javelina Jeadquarters.

Samantha was ready to go, as promised. I could have kissed her! Jessica got me to switch to her hydration pack, as it was lighter. I didn’t argue. Elizabeth had already finished her race, getting in just under 24 hours (amazing lady). I was about to start my last 9 miles, but now I had a friend with me!

Elizabeth, finishing in just under 24 hours (with a bloody surgeon). This was just before dawn.

Doing my best to look fierce, as I’m about to head out for 9 more miles. Jessica is giving me a hand.

Samantha and I take off, and a burden is lifted off my soul. No, the race wasn’t magically easier. It was just suddenly not the suck-fest that it had become. I had a friend with me who kept me moving, even if much of the first half of it was at a walk. Samantha kept up an easy chatter as I grunted and panted behind her. I prefer a chatty pacer, so she was perfect. Talk about whatever you want, just keep talking! She even ran up ahead and behind me to get some photos.

Moving along in my ultra-shuffle

It literally took 5 million years, but we finally got up to the Fairy Land trail where I could turn off and go down the easy last few miles before the last turn to the finish. Samantha said that we could walk it in and still finish with plenty of time under 30 hours, or we could do some running and try to finish in under 28:15. A bit of my fighting spirit came back, and I decided to run.

Oh, holy crap, but going back to a run hurt! I felt like a geriatric patient, trying to run to Jello night at the Bingo hall. I ran a lot of this section, as it was so gentle and rock-free that it would have been a crime NOT to run. I kept going, wanting it all to be over. I swore that if I could just finish the race, I would never make myself run another 100. Not after a baby, not ever. This was the last one of these.

Samantha kept me going, and then we hit the final turn-off where there was a sign advertising just over a mile to go. I switched over to my New Skin singlet (wanting to finish in this shirt), and then we took off again. After about a quarter of a mile, I decided that I would run in the rest of it. I had enough to do it. I would not walk! Samantha pointed out the finish area, and it kept getting closer and closer. I was going to do it! I was going to finish this tough race! Samantha peeled off at the last moment, and I ran through the finish line. I’d done it! I’d finished the 1oo mile race in 28:09:12! Hallelujah!

Cruisin’ through the finish!

Samantha, Running Angel

I was all grins as I finally stopped and realized that I didn’t have to start running another loop. The race photographer took tons of pictures of me hugging Samantha, my amazing 9-mile pacer! I then wandered over to where the rest of the crew and my running friends were, and got an amazingly warm reception. Trevor woke up in time to see me finish (he’d finished in 26:47, taking more than an hour off his previous 100-mile PR). Coach David had finished right when I was starting my last 9 miles, with a time of 25:24 (also a PR for him). I sat down, peeled off my shoes and socks (receiving only one blister), and clutched my hard-earned 100-mile finisher’s buckle. I’d done it! 364 people started the 100 mile race, and 160 people finished, a rate of 44%. I’d defied the odds and earned my buckle!

Trevor woke up in time to see me finish. This is the cot from my tent – glad to see it getting some use.

Loving the chair after my finish!

What did I learn from this race?

1. Don’t eat a bunch of protein the night before a 100. It didn’t do me in, but it didn’t do me many favors, either.

2. I’d hydrated correctly, and took the right amount of Endurolytes.

3. Running in the heat sucks monkey-butt.

4. I can run without a pacer, but that takes so much of the fun out of my race. If it’s not fun, than what’s the point? When I finally run another one of these (and I will, despite what I was telling myself during the last part of this race), I will find a way to afford to bring at least one friend with me.

5. I’m strong, in mind and in body. I just have to remember this whenever times get tough.

I’d like to thank Jessica and Samantha for crewing me, and Samantha for pacing me those last 9 miles. Thanks go to Jenn for helping with the crewing, and for putting a smile on my face. Trevor is an amazing runner and friend, and I have to thank him for running 1.5 loops with me during the hottest part of the day. Thanks to Coach Manthey and to Elizabeth for giving me encouragement each time I saw them on the trail. Finally, thanks to my husband, Jim, for putting up with this crazy hobby of mine.

What’s next for me? Baby planning, but I’ll continue to run. I just won’t run ultras while pregnant. Otherwise, I’m signed up for a marathon in the Spring. When I have a baby, and can figure out how to be a Mommy and train for an ultra, I think that my comeback 100 will probably be Umstead. I just don’t know when that will be.  😉

I’m glad this didn’t wind up being me.

Posted in Race Reports | 3 Comments

2012 Bear Chase Race

It’s early July, and I’m suffering from my first-ever bout of IT band issues. I freak out and do all the stretching, rolling, icing, and resting that I can in order to even think about running the Leadville Silver Rush 50-miler. I show up on race day and finish. It’s not a pretty finish (I fall twice and have to get cleaned off by the awesome medical staff at the end), and it’s not a fast finish (barely under 13 hours). Still, I’m proud to get it done. Afterward, I get some physical therapy done, and join those dedicated to using their foam rollers.

Fast forward to September. I’ve regularly been suffering from stiff legs and knees since the Leadville incident, although I haven’t had the awful IT band pain. I’m still able to run (most of the time), and I dearly want to run the 2012 Bear Chase Race. Not only do I want to run it, but I want to get a PR. So far, all of my times from running any ultra distance for the first time stand as my PRs. This isn’t good, because it implies I’m not getting any better. I very badly want a PR. I’m going to need both legs working well (no stiffness), and I need decent weather. Both years prior, the Bear Chase Race has been hot as hell. I want temps just a little cooler this time around (below 80 degrees would be nice), and maybe even some cloud cover. I had signed up for the Rock & Roll Denver Marathon taking place the weekend before Bear Chase. I gave myself my first DNS (Did Not Start) so I could concentrate on the 50-mile race. Bear Chase is also on my wedding anniversary. This did not make a certain someone terribly happy.

9/30/12, race day. I get up at a crazy hour and drive myself over to Bandimere Speedway, where we are required to park. We can’t park at the race’s start/finish due to the summer’s dry conditions. It wouldn’t do to burn the park down due to an errant spark from a tail pipe. There are great white/blue flashy lights the last several yards into the parking lot, where I leave my car and board a bus. I’m dressed warmly, remembering how cold it was the past two years, waiting for the race to start. Strangely enough this year, the early hours are warmer, but the rest of the day is predicted to be low 70s with some clouds. No burning mid-80s this year, I hope.

This is the conversation of several runners on the bus and at the start, especially at the drop bag station (each race gets its own drop area to make things easier), and at the porta-potties. “It’s warm now, that can’t bode well for later.” “The hour-by-hour forecast for this area still shows cool weather. I’m not certain if we should believe it.”

I tell two fellows that it’s warmer in the wee hours because of all the cloud cover we’ve had overnight. I’m not a weather forecaster, but this seems to be correct. The guys believe me, and I try to believe myself. I take off my warmup clothes, and even strip off my arm sleeves. I’m in shorts, a tech tee, hat, and light gloves. Even the gloves will come off soon. I’m ready to start!

BAM! Okay, there’s no gunshot. Just a countdown, and we’re off under a great full moon. I think that it would be nice to have the national anthem play next time, but I guess it really doesn’t matter. I’m ready to go on my third Bear Chase Race 50-miler. Holy crap! I’m really running this thing for the third time? What’s wrong with me? Um…

As usual, it’s just barely light enough to see as we set off. Other race distances (50k, half marathon, and 10k) will start at staggered times behind us. I appreciate this, as it helps avoid some of the bottle necking. We still bunch up a little here and there, but I resolve to not let this bother me. I’m also having some trouble seeing, as it’s that gray area of dawn and we’re in the trees. I calm my mind (Be at peace, young Jedi), watch the ground so I don’t take a header, and chat a bit with the folks around me.

The beautiful moon playing sentinel over the start of our race in Bear Creek Lake Park

We do spread out fairly quickly, although I catch up with a line of folks that I’ll stay with until the second aid station. We’re all running about the same pace, and it’s nice to stay with the same people for a while. There’s Purple Shirt Lady, Pink Calf Sleeves Girl, Red Shirt Guy, Guy Thinking of Moving to Colorado, and the Guy Who Fell Really Early On. I can never remember anyone’s names, so this is my way of familiarizing myself with folks. Some of the speed demons from the other race distances overtake us early on, and one is amused at our steady conga line. We’re all good about moving to the side to let race leaders blast ahead.

At the first aid station, I decide to try out the sports drink being served by the race. Herbalife is the liquid of the day, changed from the Gatorade endurance product they’ve had before. One cup of Herbalife convinces me that I was correct in putting my own Gatorade powder in my drop bag. Not only does Herbalife taste nasty, but my tummy gives a couple of rumbles. I now know to avoid both Heed and Herbalife when running. Unfortunately, most races now serve this stuff. Well, some other people swear by it, but I’ll just stick to what I’m familiar with.

My run continues on to the next aid station. I’m moseying along in my little conga line, and right now I’m having one of those moments where I’m supremely happy to be alive and running in a gorgeous pace, working on covering a crazy distance. This moment of serene zen continues as I trek up and over Mt. Carbon.

Cresting Mt. Carbon with a smile on my face!

My mind flashes to the “Love It” size of ice cream that you can get from Cold Stone. I haven’t been to that place in over a year, but my brain is still equating my “loving it” moment of life with ice cream. Lol, good thing I’m a runner!

Lovin’ It!

There are three water crossings on this course, and the lucky 50-milers get to splash through water a total of 12 times. I really do enjoy these, although the crossings on the first loop always make me holler like a little girl. I have to grin at two ladies who have paused and stepped to the side before the first water crossing. They’re having some kind of discussion, probably trying to figure out how to cross without getting wet. Short of elevating to sainthood and walking on water, they’re going to have to get wet. As I get my own crossings done (just plonking through the water at a steady step), I see them not far behind me. Looks like they got over their worries!

I grab some banana at the next aid station and run the infamous Morrison Road section of the race. Infamous, because it feels like the infernal pits of hell out there if you’re running this section on a hot day. There is no cover providing shade. On the flip side, if it’s cool out, this really isn’t a bad little section. It’s all a matter of perspective. I climb a couple of hills (walking the steep ups, just as I did at Mt. Carbon), and enjoy the gradual downhill to the next aid station. My entire strategy, as in past years, is to run aid station to aid station (or interesting obstacle to interesting obstacle), and not think about the overall mileage. As everyone has told me, running 50 miles is crazy. If I think about running that far, without breaking up the race into manageable sections, I really will go bonkers. That’s the way ultras work.

I hit the final aid station and am still feeling great. I’m especially pleased, as it looks like I’m still on track for my PR pace. I run toward the last big hill on the course, and see a volunteer happily shaking a cowbell at me. I request more cowbell, and climb the hill. Running toward the end, I eventually see what will become one of my most coveted sights of the day – the “1 Mile to Finish” sign. I don’t get to finish at the finish for quite a while, but it’s REALLY good to know that my lap will be over with quite soon!

I get to the start/finish, and I’m one minute under PR time. I was hoping for a little better, but this is still fantastic news. Last year, I came in at nearly this time, and was starting to feel wrecked. I really had to slow my race down. (Okay, I’d also run 86.5 miles of the Leadville 100 not long before that, and was apparently not quite recovered yet.) This year, I feel pretty darned good! I ‘treat’ myself to a porta-potty stop, down a Mix 1 (liquid calories are so awesome in an ultra), and puff on my inhaler (which I’d forgotten to do before the start). Then, I’m off again!

“Second verse, same as the first!” Nah, I won’t sing about Henry VIII. I do get to slow down a little this lap. I’m not hanging on my average pace time as much as I was the first lap, knowing I need to start running a little more by feel. I’m also doing everything that I possibly can to keep my mindset incredibly positive. The last two years, my brain messed with me after I started the second loop, telling myself that I’d just finished 12.5 miles, and I had to do that THREE MORE TIMES. Ugh, awful. This year, I stay chirpy and keep telling myself how awesome I am. I’m strong, and I can do this! Obviously, I can. I’ve done it before. Shoot, I ran the Leadville Silver Rush on a funky leg, and finished with over an hour to spare. Oh, and isn’t this awesome weather we’re having this year?

Most of the second loop is unremarkable, except for the fact that I never have a brain meltdown. My inner cheerleader is doing her job quite well. I’d almost say that I’m having a perfectly good time on this loop, except that I start getting some muscle cramps in my legs as I climb the last hill (I have always hated this hill, btw) on the course. It’s starting to warm up a little, and I’m climbing a hill. That tends to be a recipe for me that leads to charley horses. But wait! I think I might have a solutions! I recently read that eating yellow mustard is supposed to stop muscle cramps. I even have three little mustard packets that I brought along just for this purpose. Yes, I actually eat yellow mustard packets as I’m running along the last three miles of this loop. What is this like? 1) It completely opens up all of my sinuses. 2) It’s hard to force myself to swallow the stuff. 3) It gets all over my hands. 4) I now want a hot dog.

Last big climb of the course.

I cross the start/finish line, and do the porta-potty thing again. I’m thinking that maybe I stuffed too much pasta into my tummy last night. Note to self – carbo-loading doesn’t mean carbo-forklift-truck-loading. I drink another Mix 1 (wondering how that will mix with the mustard in my tummy), down a 5-Hour Energy (more fuel for the tummy fire), and grab my MP3 player. My reward for finishing lap 2 is allowing myself music for the rest of the race! I’m even happier, because I have come in a couple of minutes below PR time. YEEESSSS!

Me, at the start/finish line

How does Lap 3 go? The music helps, and so does the 5-Hour energy. The sun, however, is at the warmest it will be all race, and I keep looking at the clouds over the foothills, wondering if they’ll ever move my way. Also, the lovely mustard isn’t helping the leg cramps. I’m still feeling them occasionally, but what’s most important is that the vinegar is now giving me a sour stomach.

I don’t often have stomach issues in ultras. I know I’ve sabotaged myself this time with eating mustard, especially when it’s something I’ve never even done in training before. I’m an idiot. By the time I get to the second aid station, some of the volunteers can tell I’m having an issue. One gentleman gets me to take some Tums, which I gratefully crunch down. These do help, and get me to the next aid station. I eat two more there, but now my tummy is onto this ruse. It refuses to calm down. Instead, things really kick up a notch. Yech! I tell one of my favorite volunteers, Julie, that I saw her husband earlier on this lap, and then I move on. After I pass my favorite “1 mile to go” sign, I stop and bend over, hoping to throw up. This will mean that my streak of never having puked in an ultra will end, but right now I welcome the broken record. I want the acid out of my tummy. A gentleman stops beside me and asks if he should bring anyone to help me. I politely refuse, thinking that people puking in an ultra really isn’t too uncommon. Well, nothing comes up. Rather than hover here, I move on and get to the start/finish.

Running the last couple of miles of the loop

Even with the attempt at bringing up the limited contents of my tummy (I’ve stopped eating gels for a while, not having any appetite whatsoever), I’m a few minutes below PR time still. Right on! I grab a Mix 1 and wander over to one of my favorite course volunteers. My friend, Trevor, and I have paced each other, and run with each other, in several ultras. This time, he ran the half marathon at Bear Chase with his awesome girlfriend, Jenn, and then decided to volunteer the rest of the race. Trevor says I’m looking good, but I tell him about my tummy issues. He, and one of my other favorite volunteers, Ben, get me to eat some food, and to drink some Ginger Ale. Then, Trevor gets me out of the aid station, and walks me several yards down the trail to help me start running again.

As I get my pace up, I pop 3 Endurolytes, as well as my emergency ginger pills. I’m hoping these, along with the aid station stop, will help me out. I belch loudly, causing the person in front of me to turn around and smile in amusement. I tell her how badly that was needed. Now, all this must help me out, right? Surely, it will…OUCH! Charely horse cramping from hell in my quads. I utter several f-bombs, causing concerned looks on the faces of some ladies standing nearby, obviously waiting for their runner to come by. I apologize and keep walking off the cramps. Dangit, the last thing I wanted to do here was walk. The last two years, I walked a lot during this part of the race, and I knew that this was where I could make up the best time. Luckily, the walking doesn’t last long, and I’m able to keep up a steady run again.

The cloud cover and brief spat of rain helps! I’m happy again, trying to keep the walking at an absolute minimum. I’m positive I’m making time on that PR! With each step that I run on this last loop, I tell myself that I don’t have to see that particular spot again. After this loop, I can sit down, and then go home. I can sleep in the next day and be a lazy slug, as I’ve taken Monday off from work. I just have to finish this loop. I get extra energy as I near each aid station, and they all cheer for me as they see me coming near. What awesome people volunteering at this race!

I start approaching Mt. Carbon and see a girl in front of me. Part of my brain thinks that she looks familiar, but the other part doesn’t care and just wants to get to Mt. Carbon and walk up. The girl turns around, and it’s my friend Jessica! Suddenly, all of my brain cares. At no other time could I possibly have caught up to Jessica in a race, as she is most definitely faster than me. However, she finished the Leadville 100 in late August, and Jessica tells me now that she is very much feeling under-recovered in this 50 mile race. She and I chat our way up Mt. Carbon, and I absolutely love this brief time with my friend. However, I very badly want my PR, and Jessica gamely tells me to move on. Feeling a little selfish, I run down Mt. Carbon to the next aid station. I’m very happy to get there, as I’ve been without liquids for the past two miles. Like an idiot, I’ve misjudged how long this last loop is taking me, and didn’t fill up when I should have.

The Morrison Road section. Of the three years I’ve run this race, this is the first time this section hasn’t been completely miserable this late in the race. In fact, it’s actually somewhat enjoyable. My stomach issues have mysteriously resolved themselves, and the cramping in my legs is kept at a minimum. The only issue is that I’m fairly tired, and I’d really like to stop running soon. I can feel the pull of the finish line, especially as I mosey into the last aid station. I’m cheered in, and Julie congratulates me on a great race. I don’t stay long, and keep myself moving.

Enjoying the Morrison Road section

What are my thoughts as I crest that last hill on the course? I get to the top, look out over the awesome view, and raise my arms like Rocky after he ran up the steps in Philadelphia. I smile, and start cruising down. I know that, unless something completely catastrophic happens, I will have this race AND A PR in the bag! I keep running, and I don’t even have to mentally bully myself to stay above a walk. In this awesome weather, with a recovered tummy, with a PR looming, I don’t have a problem with running.

I see my favorite sign, and I start crying. I say, “Oh, my God!”, knowing that I’m really doing this thing. I’m about to prove to myself that I can improve in the world of ultras. I make myself stop crying, as it’s only making it tough to breathe. This is when the Moody Blues song “Your Wildest Dreams” comes onto my MP3 player. I swear, it’s destiny! I run into the parking lot, and cross the finish line for the fourth and last time. I’m so full of emotion that I let out what I’m calling a mighty Ultra Yalp of extreme happiness. My final time: 10:23 – 20 minutes faster than my previous PR. I laid down the hammer, and never let up. What an awesome race!

Victory in a PR!

Things Learned:
1. Do not do something completely new on race day. You think I’d know this one by now.
2. Do not eat anything with excessive vinegar.
3. Always bring emergency ginger pills on an ultra race.
4. Keep the mind positive, and often the body will follow.
5. I had all of my favorite New Skin products ready for my inevitable scrapes from falling, or for chafing from running 50 miles. Miracle upon miracle, I didn’t fall or chafe at all. I also had no blisters that needed treating. Still, the liquid bandages and sprays are definitely life-savers when they’re needed. They’re coming with my on my 101.4 mile race at the end of October.

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2012 Leadville Silver Rush Run

I enjoyed this race so much in 2011, that I decided to sign up for it again in 2012. I was supposed to be trying to become a Mommy, but that wasn’t quite working out yet. I thought I might as well register and run the race, even if I still wasn’t giving the 100 a go this year. What could go wrong?

“You’re racing too much, Lisa. You’re risking an overuse injury, or burnout. I’ve seen it happen in so many people. I think you should cut out some races.” This was from my running coach, David Manthey. However, I felt I was doing just fine. This was until I started getting stiffness in my left knee, and occasional pain on the outside of the knee. Bah…it was fine. Like every other ‘issue’, it would work itself out. I went and spent a weekend in Leadville with a couple of friends, doing a double-crossing of Hope Pass one day, and then May Queen over most of Sugar Loaf the next day (I would be crewing/pacing one of these friends during his 100 mile attempt in August). I did feel some hip pain early on, but some acetaminophen knocked that back. I was fine.

Except that I wasn’t. A couple of days after the Leadville training weekend, I went for a hilly training run. A mile or so in, I felt some disturbing pain on the outside of my knee that traveled up to my hip, back to the knee, and even down the lower part of my leg. It continued on that way, even though I pushed through 10 miles. I wanted to cry because of the pain! I wanted to cry even more when I got home, wondering what running-ending injury I’d just sustained to my knee. The issue would come and go during subsequent runs, regardless of which type of running surface or shoe I was utilizing. Finally, a friend of mine told me I probably had ITBS. IT band issues. The infamous and very unwelcome “Cousin IT”.

I panicked. Not to the point of seeing a local doctor, mind you. That’s just the way I am. I usually don’t visit a doctor until I’m at death’s door, or whatever is going on has mostly resolved itself. I hate taking the time to go to the doctor, and also spending money on the copay. Usually, things take care of themselves.

Not this time. Good friends offered good advice, all of which I took. I had one week before my 50 mile race in Leadville, and I was desperate to find a way to run it. This was even though I could barely get through 6 easy miles on pavement a week before the race. I’d be damned if I’d get my first DNS (did not start) at Leadville. I bought The Stick. I bought the Foam Roller. I iced. My friend Jamie, a massage therapist in Texas (and my amazing pacer for the Rocky Raccoon 100 last February), called me and talked me through lots of ideas. See? I’d rather talk to a therapist in another state, than visit one locally. I’m that stubborn. He had me lean against a wall, using a tennis ball to painfully go across points along my leg and hip. I was forbidden to run for several days (although I did walk instead).

The result of all this? I arrived at Leadville one day before the race with one 3-mile run under my belt in the last week. The run was thankfully mostly pain-free, but my knee was swollen and incredibly stiff. The 100+ mile drive to Leadville certainly didn’t help, although carpooling with my friend Dean at least took my mind off things. This would be Dean’s first 50-mile race, and he was quite nervous. I was pretty sure he would be fine, but it was hard to tell that to a person facing his first adventure of that length. (He wound up finishing quite well, actually.)

On Saturday, I bummed around town with Elizabeth, Jessica, Trevor, and Jenn (Trevor’s awesome girlfriend). Trevor and Jenn had dinner at their campsite, while Dean and Samantha joined the rest of us at an Italian restaurant. We ate, we talked, we shared nerves. I’m sure I drove everyone crazy by being a huge downer about how my leg/knee was feeling. Even Hawaiian Shirt Ray noticed how down I was, as he came by and chatted with us. I couldn’t help it. How was I going to survive 50 hilly miles the next day?

I was staying with Nancy, who had an apartment in town. I got back to the apartment late, with texted instructions from my friend Jamie (in Texas) to keep the knee warm and as mobile as possible. I took a hot shower and went to bed. I was awake most of the night, tossing and turning with IT band pain on the outside of my knee. At the point of being convinced that I should show up to the race and drop, I got up and took a dose of acetaminophen. This eased up the pain and got me to sleep.

I woke up the next morning, took another hot shower, then heated up an ice/hot gel pack and wrapped it around my leg. I felt a little better, although things were still quite stiff. I decided to not drop from the race, but instead see how far I could get. I picked up Dean, where he was staying nearby, and we got to the start. We hung out with our friends, and waited for the race to begin.

Samantha, Trevor, Dean, Me, and front row are Elizabeth and Jessica. Dutch Henri Hill is behind us. The arch at the top signifies where our timing actually starts.

The race organizers had everyone start up Dutch Henri Hill, a tubing hill that was monumentally steep. In previous years, the first male and female to the top of the hill would be awarded with a silver dollar. This year, they would be awarded with a coin that would guarantee them entry into the sold-out 100 mile race in August. The caveat was that they had to finish the 50-mile race…and also pay the 100 mile race entry fee. Meh. I walked up the hill last year, and I would do so again this year. My first goal was to get to the top of the hill and still have the ability to go on. My biggest fear was that I would be in awful pain and have to drop before I even got to run a single step.

I’ve been more enthusiastic at the start of a race. The arm warmers came off 7.5 miles later at the first aid station.

The race started at 6 AM, after a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. I trudged up the hill, and I can see myself toward the rear in this video (Race Start up Dutch Henri Hill). I didn’t realize I was so far back, but my goal was simply to try and finish. My hopes from a couple of months ago to try for a course PR were well squashed by this point. I also lost sight of all of my friends and never saw them again until near the turn-around. It was going to be a bit lonely.

The elevation profile made the first ascent look much worse than it really was. After getting to the top of the tubing hill, I started to run slowly. There was a lot of stiffness, and several twinges of pain from the outside of the knee. It was if Cousin IT was warning me that it could very easily fuck me up at any time. It was letting me know who was boss. Luckily, the early part of the race had to be slow, as we hit a couple of bottle necks in the trail. Run for a few minutes then stop. Repeat a couple of times. I think that easing into things like this helped me immensely. The pain went away except for a few twinges now and then, some aching in the hip, and the stiffness was manageable. Yeah! Now, I just needed it to stay that way for the next 12-14 hours. Ummm…

Elevation Profile. Much of this looks worse than it really is. Some of it really is that tough.

We ran downhill a bit, then had a couple of miles of nice and mostly flat terrain. We finally headed into the trees, and it was a few more miles of mostly gentle uphill. I think I was faster on this last year, but I didn’t want to push it too much. Also, the stupid light jacket I had stashed on the back of my hydration pack fell off at least three times. I finally tied it on in knots, not wanting to waste more time fooling with my jacket. Losing time to an injury was one thing, but the jacket was something I didn’t want to put up with.

The first aid station, Black Cloud, came at about 7.5 miles into the race. It was supposed to be liquids-only on the way out, and fully stocked on the way back. It was in a slightly different place than last year, but that wasn’t a problem. What I, and several other runners, took issue with was that they were almost out of liquids by the time we got there. Thankfully, I had plenty in my Camelbak, but other runners were not so fortunate. I helped one man tip the remaining water cooler over his head, trying to get the last few drops into his mouth. This same thing happened last year. It was not cool that the race didn’t learn from past mistakes. On the bright side, I knew that I would be able to go on beyond this aid station, the leg was holding up so well. No dropping yet!

I knew that the terrain would get steeper for the next 3-ish miles before we topped out at the jeep road winding through the Iowa Ampitheater. Last year, it took my breath away. This year, it didn’t seem nearly as bad. I ran good parts of it, and walked other parts, and found myself feeling fairly happy. I was also silently apologizing to all my friends running the race for the first time, as I’d built up this section for them to be much steeper than it really was. We finally topped out, and I was happily through the first climb of the day.

Running down through the Iowa Amphitheater was really quite pleasant because we were doing just that. Running downhill most of the way for 3 miles until we hit the next aid station, Printer Boy. Being on a jeep road, I was able to finally look up on occasion and enjoy the awesome views surrounding me. Those views were really the main attraction of this race for me, and I was glad to take them in. I kept trying to not think about how annoying this would be coming back, as it would be mostly uphill at that point.

Printer Boy was a bustling area. Not only was it the first fully-stocked aid station that we had access to, but it was also the first area where friends and family could cheer people on. Some runners had people crewing them, which was cool. I topped off my liquids (using Gatorade powder that I brought with me), ate some banana and watermelon, drank some Sprite, and took off again. I was still feeling good, and there would be no dropping here! Yeah!!!

After Printer Boy, we got back into the woods. This was great, because the intense sun at those high elevations was starting to get hot. The woods offered some much-appreciated shade. I kept running along downhill, still enjoying my race, and still liking that my injury was keeping mostly silent. That was until my left toe caught a rock on a downhill, and I fell.

Hard.

Oh yes, and I should mention that most of my weight came down on my sore left knee.

Loud yell followed by me folding up into a fetal position on the trail, holding my leg, and 99% certain that I’d just destroyed my race.

“Shit!!!” Very eloquent, I know.

Several runners came over to me and made sure I was okay, because that was how awesome ultra runners tended to be in such races. I stood up, and the world didn’t end in a firey ball of pain. I took a step. Ouch! However, it wasn’t crippling pain. I declared that I would walk for a couple of minutes and see how things would go. Despite having mostly landed on the left knee, I’d somehow managed to scrape both knees, and both elbows. My hands had thankfully been protected by my padded cycling gloves.

When I started gently running again, Cousin IT flared up like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Lovely. Was it going to stay this way, and make the rest of my race excruciating, or would it die down? It wasn’t long before my downhill turned into the second long uphill climb of the day, and I think that helped me. It ‘forced’ me to walk in many places, and I’m pretty sure that’s what got the pain to die down again. Sigh…disaster averted for the moment.

The climb into Rock Garden really wasn’t so bad, although I was sure my friends were running more of it than I was. I did run some sections, still hoping to get a decent finish out of this race. Plus, I knew we were likely to hit some weather in the afternoon. I wanted to be off the highest sections of the course by then. I ran, I walked, I shuffeled. I choked down gels and Endurolytes every hour. I enjoyed the occasional view of old mines dotting the landscape. Some runners prefer to race in more pristine environments, which I can understand. However, being a lover of history, I liked seeing remnants of earlier settlers in the area. What hopes and dreams came to fruition here, or were crushed by the realities of the harsh environment? Those folks were much tougher than I.

Every aid station on this course was like Nirvana. This was because it took so long to get to each of them. I was quite happy to get to Rock Garden, feeling pretty good despite the fall, and despite the fact that I was passed by the elite front runners earlier this year than last. They’d already gotten to the turn-around point and were passing me! What amazing runners! Most of them were very gracious and returned the ‘good jobs’ and smiles offered by me and the other runners near me.

I filled up on fruit and Sprite at the Rock Garden aid station, and took off again. I knew that I should eat something more substantial, but I always have this problem in ultras. Besides, I had a good nutrition drink waiting for me in my drop bag at the turn-around.

After Rock Garden, we had some rolling hills that took us through more breathtaking scenery. I had a curious reaction here. Being in a valley with mountains looming around me freaked me out a little. I felt very small and insignificant in this area, and actually just wanted to get out more than anything. I usually love this kind of setting, but today it shook me a little. We started heading sharply uphill over Ball Mountain pass, and then had plenty of lovely downhill (some of it quite steep and rutted).

The trip to the turn-around point (Stumptown) was mostly enjoyable, although it was getting hotter under that sun. The highlight was getting to see all of my friends as they were making their way back. I wished I was with them, both for the companionship, and for the simple fact that I would be making better time. Ah, well. At least I was still in the race, and not crying from a DNF. Leadville defeated me last year in the 100 with only 13.5 miles left (I got cut due to time). I wouldn’t let it defeat me in the 50 this year, leg issues or no leg issues.

When we arrived at Stumptown, I saw the aid station and was happily ready to run in and get my drop bag. Not so fast, Hayen! A volunteer was there to say that runners had to continue up another trail and up another hill. What the??? She said that they wanted to make the distance of the race closer to 50 miles this year. I looked up and saw the arch signifying the location of the timing mat. As I ran by the volunteer, I cheerfully told her that she was an evil, evil person. She took it in good humor.

Okay, really, though. Someone could have warned us about this BEFORE the race. I don’t like surprises like this. Still, there was nothing to do but head up the hill, cross the timing mat, and then finally get into the actual aid station. I think that, overall, this added about .75 of a mile. Pretty silly, as we would still not get to a full 50 miles for the race.

My drop bag was located quickly (by this point, of course, there were fewer bags to have to search through), and I took a few minutes to drink most of my Mix 1, restock my gels and Endurolytes, put on my MP3 player, and puff on my inhaler. I probably took too long here, but it wasn’t like I was going for a PR at this point.

Just a little ways out of Stumptown, and on my way back, I took another brief stop. My running coach, David Manthey, was there handing out popsicles to anyone from his running group (Runner’s Edge of the Rockies), and to anyone running for Runner’s Roost. I was so happy to see him (and the popsicles), along with his golden retriever pups, and also my friend Christy. David told me that I knew what was coming, and to stay strong.

Coach David catching me with a smile. I was just happy I was about to get a purple Popsicle.

What was coming? Yeah, I knew all right. All the steep downhills that I’d gone down to get into Stumptown, I now had to climb. I had hopes that, like earlier sections, this wouldn’t be as bad as I remembered from last year. Well, crap-dangit! It was. The worst part was the very steep climb up and over Ball Mountain Pass. That climb wasn’t long, but it sure did feel very vertical. Appropriately, during the steepest part, “Help!” from The Beatles was playing on my MP3 player.

Some of the downhills on the way back to Rock Garden were very much appreciated. However, I think I need new gaiters (or new shoes), as I had to stop a couple of times to shake rocks out of my shoes. I hate wasting time with that stuff, but I’d rather address the issue early than wind up with super-nasty blisters. I had that “insignificant speck” feeling again in this section, and once again just wanted to get out of there and back into the woods.

I ran much of the way down from Rock Garden, walking briefly whenever I thought Cousin IT might be waking up to cause me issues. I never let myself walk long on the downhills, because these were my best places to make up time. I knew that there would be plenty of uphills coming up. Of course, there were, but they weren’t anything to cry about. I climbed back up into Printer Boy and ate more fruit. I was a bit sad not to see my coach there, as he said he’d try to be there to cheer us along. However, I knew I was running slow, and he wanted to be at the end to see everyone finish. No worries.

This next part, the long climb up the jeep road through the Iowa Ampitheater, was as annoying as I remembered. It was just steep enough to inspire me to walk most of it. I ran more last year, but I just couldn’t summon the willpower to do so this year. Plus, the sun was a death ray. I was feeling nauseous and tired, and just plodded along. At least I was still moving. The highlight here was that, barring anything unfortunate (bad fall, freakishly bad weather), I knew that I would finish. This knowledge certainly inspired me to keep moving. I-would-finish!

As I got closer to the end of this seemingly-interminable 3-mile slog, I chanced to look behind me.

Ugh!

Dark stuff was looming, and from the direction of the wind, I knew that it was speeding my way. I did NOT want to be caught on this high road in a mountain storm that would probably contain rain, hail, and (much worse) lightning. I stepped up my pace, and was determined to get off the road and as far down the fairly technical downhill as I could get before the storm hit. I didn’t mind running in rain, but didn’t want to risk the lightning. I prayed to God that I (and the runners around me) would be spared the worst of it.

The death ray sun, that burning Eye of Ra, went away. That was good. The wind picked up and got quite cool. That was good, too. I got off the jeep road and started making my way along the rocky downhill. I ran the easy stuff, and quick-stepped a couple of the more difficult sections. I thought I’d actually be able to get past the last aid station and into the woods before the storm hit. That was when I felt a couple of hesitant drops.

Hmm. (That was about all I had time to think.)

An instant later, the skies opened up with rain and hail. I stopped, threw my MP3 player into my pack, and started wrestling with my jacket. You know, the jacket that I so cleverly tied into knots onto my pack so it would stop falling off. I was pelted and soaked before I finally got my jacket on and could start moving again. Really, the jacket at that point was just there to keep me warm, and to keep the hail off. A couple of gentlemen with whom I’d been yo-yoing with since Rock Garden complimented me on my pre-planning skills (noting my jacket). Heh, I simply knew that it almost always rained/hailed at some point in this race each year. I only got a little rain last year, while faster runners further up (and higher up in elevation) had hail.

The hail didn’t last long, and the rain turned into something very light and gentle. Growing warm, I took off my jacket. I thought about tying it back onto my pack, but then just stuffed it inside. I didn’t want to waste any more time with it. The funny thing about it now being cooler and wet, I suddenly had a TON of energy. I had some of my best running in the last 9 miles of the race.

Last year, I had a low point when it seemed to take forever to get to the last aid station, Black Cloud. This year, it was no big deal. I felt great, and was overjoyed knowing that I was well on track to finish this race. I ate some fruit (again) at the aid station, and drank some diet cola. I would have preferred the full-sugar option, but they were out. I didn’t mind at the time, but I think that wound up hurting me a bit later on.

I still felt incredibly fantastic after the aid station. It was mostly downhill at this point, and the angry sun was still behind clouds. I decided that I wanted a finish somewhere in the 12-hour range, not wanting to venture into 13 hours. I finished in 12:06 last year, and couldn’t stand the idea of being so much slower this year. I was running so well for so long, until much of my happy energy started leaving me.

I didn’t want a gel. Yuck. I didn’t want to fish out my Honey Stinger waffles. Having regular soda instead of diet might have kept my energy going longer, but there was nothing I could do about that. The terrain started flattening out, and even going uphill in areas. I walked more, even though the finish was so close. I started having trouble picking up my feet on the trail. Can you see where this is leading?

Thud! Once again, I fell. Once again, a lot of the force was on my knee. Holy crap, that hurt! I also slammed my elbow hard against the ground, and was positive I would have broken something had I fallen on pavement. A runner behind me helped me up and told me that I needed to pick my feet up more. Really? 45 miles into an ultra race, and I should somehow try to pick up my feet more? I knew he was just trying to be friendly, and he did help me up after all (and offer me a bandaid). I walked a bit more after that, and after a couple more close calls. I think my body was telling me it was done. The IT band also flared up with that fall, but died down again after about a half mile. Sigh…there was that, at least.

I tried to run as much as possible the last couple of miles, but my mind kept telling me that it was done. It didn’t care anymore. A good part of me still wanted to finish under 13 hours, and the rest of me said that I could walk it in and still get a finish. I decided to continue the walk/run, knowing that anything I ran would just get me to the finish faster. I wanted two things. My finishers medal, and a chair. Yes, please. Give me a chair. Or anything else that I could sit on.

I was almost at the end and climbed up what I thought was the last significant hill. That was when I realized that there was another course change. They had us run past the top of Dutch Henry Hill (our starting hill), over another little hill, then down a hill that looked so steep (at that time) as to be almost vertical.

“You bastards,” I thought. I sighed and ran down the hill. That was when I saw the finish line. I picked up my pace and instantly choked up, crying as I ran over the red carpet and over the timing mat. I finished in 12:48 – 42 minutes slower than last year, but I FINISHED! This race, that I almost didn’t make it to, that I almost didn’t start, that I was nearly certain I would DNF if I did start. I learned that I truly was capable of more than I thought I was, that I could do more than I thought I could do (to loosely quote Ken Chlouber). I didn’t let Leadville defeat me. I didn’t let MYSELF defeat me.

Red carpet finish

I earned my medal and finisher’s bracelet, and so many of my friends waited to see me finish. That meant more to me than I could ever put into words. To have such friends as Elizabeth, Jessica, Dean, Trevor, Samantha, Jenn, Hawaiian Shirt Ray, and David (my awesome coach), all of whom encouraged me before the race, and many of whom saw me finish (Elizabeth and Dean both had tired children that made them leave a bit earlier, lol). I was also thankful to the medical staff at the finish, who cleaned my arms and legs (both of which were kind of nasty from my falls).

Samantha, Trevor, Me, and Jessica. All triumphant!

Left knee, one day later. Maybe I should have picked up my feet more…

Following the race, I was surprised at how loose my leg felt. There was hardly any stiffness at all. I guess running 48 miles (the race never did get us to 50, despite their surprise at the turn-around) would do that for you. It remained feeling pretty good for a couple of days afterward, then stiffened up like crazy again. From there, things gradually started easing up. Two days ago (a week and a half after the race – I wanted most of the bruising to go down), I finally went to see a sports doctor/massage therapist. There weren’t a lot of obvious issues that she could find, other than a tight/inflamed piriformis, and one leg was longer than the other. One chiropractic hip adjustment later, the length of the shorter leg was fixed. She also dug deep into the muscles, tendons, etc. I ran 9 miles the next day with zero hip pain, and just some tightness on the outside of the knee. I have one more appointment, and feel very optimistic.

What’s coming up next? I’m running the Georgetown to Idaho Springs half marathon in August (an old favorite), and the weekend after that I’m crewing/pacing my friend Trevor in his first LT100 finish. I don’t say “attempt” because I know that he will absolutely finish. He’s so much stronger now than than I was for my race last year, and I almost finished. After this, I’ve got the Bear Chase Race 50-miler on 9/30, and then the Javelina Jundred 100 in late October. After that, I very seriously need to dial it down and try to become a mommy for the first time. I’m not saying these will be my last ultras, but I think that halfs and regular marathons will be my biggest races in 2013 and (possibly) 2014.

What I learned from this race:

1. I really am stronger than I think I am.  2. Tie my jacket on correctly the FIRST time.

More blogs on this race that you might enjoy:

From 2010: http://michael-hodges.com/blog/?p=243

From 2012: http://centrifuge23.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/silver-rush-50-mile-on-a-stairway-or-4-to-heaven/

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The 2011 100 Miles of Boulder

Finish 100 miles in under 30 hours. Run the Boulder Reservoir 14 times, 7.14 miles each out/back ‘loop’.  It’s a mostly flat course. There’s very little shade.

“I’d rather stick a drill bit through my ear canal.” – My running coach, upon learning I’d signed up for this (and upon hearing that I’d recruited his wife as one of my pacers).

Before I get into the meat & guts of the race, let me first answer they ‘why’. Why run a flat, exposed, 100 mile race that makes you repeat the same terrain over and over? Well, this can really be answered with one word, “Leadville”. Better yet, “Leadville DNF.” I ran the 2011 Leadville 100 as my first century run, and made it through 86.5 miles before getting cut at the last aid station for being too slow. That’s pretty much it. I missed May Queen by 5-15 minutes (hard to remember exactly at this point), and desperately needed redemption. Was the Boulder 100 comparable to the Leadville 100? In distance? Well, of course (100 miles is 100 miles). In terrain? Hell, no (HA!). If Boulder was tougher in anything, perhaps it was the mental aspect of running the same course 14 times. I read where one person wrote that his Boulder finishing time was actually SLOWER than his Leadville finishing time because of that. Personally, I just needed to finish a 100 mile race this year, and I didn’t want to have to climb a mountain twice right smack in the middle of the race. I remember thinking in Leadville that I would have ‘easily’ finished the race if it hadn’t been for Hope Pass. Well, Boulder certainly didn’t have an equivalent of Hope Pass. Instead, it was fairly flat, it was local (no hotel stays for me or my pacers), and I could crew myself out of the back of my SUV. The only challenges would be the distance (100 miles is never easy, no matter what the course), running 100 miles only 2 months after Leadville (and about a month after a 50-mile race), the exposed terrain, and the multiple loops. Cake, right?

I arrived at the Boulder Reservoir on 10/15 with plenty of time before the 9 AM start. Why the late start? I didn’t know. I was a little concerned, as the weather forecast had it shaping up to be a hot, sunny day. That didn’t bode well for an exposed course, especially for someone who tended to cramp up in the legs during long runs in the heat. Trying not to worry, I found a great parking space right near the start/finish, backing into the spot so I could just pop open the trunk and get whatever I needed after finishing each loop. How awesome, to have all my stuff so easily at hand!

I picked up my packet, pinned on my bib, and stood around, waiting to start. My race would start at the same time as the 24 Hours of Boulder and the 12 Hours of Boulder folks. We’d be joined at 6 PM by any folks running the 6 hour ‘fun run’. There were also a few relay teams out there. All in all, a pretty decent turnout (but much smaller than Leadville). I found my friend, Becky, who was there for the 24-hour run. Even though I figured she was probably faster than me (I automatically assume everyone is faster than me), we decided to run the first loop together. We also met another lady named Tammy, who (like me) was running on the heels of a Leadville DNF.

At 9 AM, we were off! I tried not staring at the guy running in white Speedos, a construction vest, and a hardhat (there was also a costume contest that day, as we were only a couple of weeks away from Halloween). Becky, Tammy, and I chatted as we kept a slow pace down the paved road section, and then on the gravel trail. Well, really, Tammy did most of the chatting. No offense to a very nice person, but I wasn’t sure how she was breathing with all the talking she was doing. It did help keep my mind off the enormity of attempting a 100-mile finish, however. We easily ran the trail along the reservoir, crossed the Canal of Certain Death (a fenced bridge covering a waterway that would sweep anyone under long enough for drowning to occur), and found the aid station that marked the halfway point of the out/back route. I paused long enough to strip off my arm sleeves (it was already warming up), and pop them into a pocket of my Camelbak. I ate some sort of fruit, and attempted to catch up to Becky and Tammy. I walked up the only steep incline (it was a tiny divot compared to anything at Leadville, although it would still start hurting later in the race). I discovered, however, that they were keeping a pace that was a little fast for what I wanted in such a long race. I kept to what was comfortable for myself, and began my solo journey.

Running By the Start/Finish

The morning was actually quite pleasant. It was fairly cool for a little while, and we had a breeze that was just right. The best part was some cloud cover that kept up until close to noon. Keeping that intense Colorado sun off us for as long as possible was really part of the key to surviving through the day. What made the sun in Colorado different from many other places? The altitude. In Boulder, we were about a mile closer to the sun than the folks at sea level. Ouch. It really just made a hot day feel even hotter.

I was actually enjoying myself until the sun fell upon us in all its burning glory. The runners were cheerful, there were ‘regular’ folks just out enjoying the reservoir who seemed happy, and none of the several unleashed dogs seemed inclined to want to eat me (they were well-behaved doggies). Even then, I just did my best to deal with the increasing heat and not think about it too much. There was a section not long before the Canal of Certain Death where I could walk a couple of steps off the trail and dip my bandana in a pool of cold water. Tying that around my neck did help, although it was always dry again by the time I got back to the accessible water spot each loop.

The Infamous 'Canal of Certain Death'

The solo race runners were allowed to start having pacers at 7 PM, but one of my pacers said he’d stop by early to cheer for me. I was very grateful to see Trevor with his two gorgeous golden retriever pups. He would meet me at one part of the trail, then bound through shortcuts to meet me at another part of the trail. Trevor was also my designated race photographer, as the race itself wasn’t providing this benefit (which I thought was a little odd). Every picture in this report is courtesy of Trevor. I’m very grateful for the photos, and for the early support!

Taking a Moment at My Car Between Laps

Another friend showed up at the start/finish aid station. Ray was recovering from some necessary work he’d had done on his foot (and the unforeseen complications resulting from that work), but he was kind enough to still come out and cheer folks on. I got to see him twice as I finished the 7.14 mile loops. Ray even gave me a verbal uplift as he commented that I was keeping a pretty fast pace. Well, I didn’t have any mountain passes and high altitudes to contend with, did I? I remembered thinking as I passed Mile 40 that I was so grateful that I didn’t have Hope Pass looming in front of me. Actually, that was another ‘hidden’ challenge of this course.  You’d think it would be much easier to run a relatively flat course. Overall, it definitely was. However, I had to force myself to take walking breaks early on, when normally a steep incline would decide that for me. Those walking breaks came easier later on.  😉

Run, run, run. Walk when it got slightly  steeper. Wet the bandanna. Drink Gatorade from my Camelbak whenever my Garmin’s 10-minute alarm went off. Eat a gel and swallow two Endurolytes every hour. Chuckle at the Canal of Certain Death (I’d have to cross that sucker 28 times in those out/back loops). Enjoy the fruit, fizzy soda, and (later) soup at the aid stations. Try not to enjoy the pauses at my car for too long. Keep moving. Listen to the MP3 player for several miles as my reward for crossing 25 miles. Try not to stare at the sweaty guy running in those white Speedos. Try not to resent the guy speed-walking the 100 miles, passing my running pace early on. Wave at Becky and Tammy whenever they pass (running their own solo races as well). Smile at the raised eyebrows because I’m wearing my Leadville 100 training camp shirt (had to wear my incentive for finishing this race). And…switch out from my road shoes to trail shoes, because the road shoes were killing my feet with all the gravel. Thank God I brought the trail shoes! Wave good-bye to Trevor (he’d only be gone for a short time) and count down the miles until sunset and my first pacer.

Late in the Afternoon On the Far Side of the Reservoir

The sun can go f*** off! Yes, this is what I thought as the sun started to set. I would find out later that we tied a record high that day with (I think) 87 degrees. Holy shemoly! The heat had claimed some victims, and there were fewer runners out there with me. We’d gain a few back with the fun run about to start at 6 PM. I was just trying to keep it together until the sun effed off, and I had my very own pacer.

I got to the start/finish, where my pacer was, at about 6:30 PM. This was half an hour before Julie M. (my coach’s awesome wife) was officially allowed to start. However, I pleaded with whoever was in charge at the time, and Julie got to start early. Right on! Running with a friend with the sun almost gone, I felt somewhat revitalized. Julie was an experienced pacer, having paced her husband, David, at more than one 100 mile race. She kept up an easy chatter, and for a while I forgot about the difficulty of what I was doing.

Running With Julie M. at Sunset

Until the nausea began. I prided myself for never having puked in a race before, and for rarely having any sort of nausea issues. However, this started after about the first loop Julie paced me (she’d be with me for two). I’ve always had trouble eating food in ultras, and was especially having trouble now. I ate a little fruit and drank some soda at the mid-point aid station, and the carbonation helped somewhat. Julie did her best to keep me positive and motivated, and getting a call on her cell from the coach was fantastic. However, in addition to the nausea coming in waves, I was also starting to get side-stitch cramps. I’d managed to somehow avoid leg cramping all day, but now I was getting them in my side. This was affecting my breathing, and certainly affecting the amount of running I could do (versus walking). How lovely.

Julie finished her two loops with me, and it was tough to say good-bye. What a great friend, to run 14+ miles with me at night, trying to keep me moving and positive! She had a little boy that she had to get home to, though, so I gave her a hug and my profuse thanks. Trevor was back at the reservoir (he’d been back when Julie started, taking more pictures), and began his first pacing leg. His plan was to pace me for several loops, have my other friend (Julie K.) take over for a couple of loops so he could grab a nap, and then see me through to the finish.

Trevor had paced me before. He paced me at Leadville from Winfield, over Hope Pass, and all the way to Fish Hatchery. He really was an excellent pacer – I wouldn’t have made it as far as I had at Leadville were it not for him. He knew me well (we also did several training runs together, and both belonged to Runner’s Edge of the Rockies), and knew how to keep me moving. I warned him of my nausea and cramping, which was causing me to walk more than I wanted at that time. It really pissed me off. I still had plenty of power left in the legs, but my mid-section was rebelling. He kept me going as best as possible.

As we approached the start/finish, and the end of Trevor’s first loop with me, a thought suddenly crossed my mind. Maybe I wasn’t taking in enough nutrition. Eating isn’t usually the first thing I think of when I’m nauseous, but I was willing to give it a shot. I grabbed a cup of soup with potatoes, and ate most of that. I ate half a fruit cup from my car, and downed part of a Mix 1 (a drink similar to Ensure). A mile or so into the next loop, I was a changed girl. There was still a tiny bit of nausea, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle. I also didn’t have the side cramps any longer. That was key! I could run more, and and keep up a better pace. So many other runners out on the course walked through most of the night, but I managed a walk/run the entire time. My logic – the faster I went, the faster I would be done. After a certain point in races like these (ultras – 50k or longer), the adventure is gone and you just want it to be DONE.

Eventually in this race, I was down to consuming just liquidy-type things. I nearly vomited the second time I tried eating the potatoes in the soup, so I stuck to just the broth, some watermelon, my Gatorade, the occasional gel, and some Mix 1. It was a good thing there were port-a-potties at the start/finish. My hydration was certainly on! I think I smelled like chicken broth for a couple of days after the race. No lying! The smell of chicken soup still takes me back to that night.

Forcing Down Some Calories

It’s odd, but I’ve found that I don’t get sleepy running through the night. As long as I keep moving, I’m fine. The occasional 5-Hour Energy shot doesn’t hurt, either. However, it wasn’t like I was a zombie, stumbling along due to lack of sleep (I’ve heard of other ultra runners having serious issues with this). I just had to keep up the slow adrenaline drip into my blood stream and keep the legs moving. It was nice to be able to avoid at least one common ultra-running issue!

The night was perfect for running for all but one loop. The wind picked up briefly there, and it certainly was cold coming off the reservoir! As hot as I was during the day, I was the opposite as that wind hit me. I was thankful to be wearing long sleeves and gloves, but I actually didn’t change into long pants until much later in the night. I was just glad that the wind was a temporary thing, and didn’t keep up for more than a couple of hours. With very little cover out there, wind could have made things nasty.

What do you do to keep your mind occupied while running through the night? You talk to your pacers, sing snippets of songs (I think I amused another runner by bellowing the Stones’ “Satisfaction” at the top of my lungs ), debate politics and theology, and laugh as your pacer freaks out to the sound of something slipping loudly into the dark water nearby. I also heard some coyotes yipping and howling out in the unseen distance. You appreciate the person you’re with, and become tuned into your surroundings. You also become a master at spotting landmarks, making yourself keep running until THAT building, THAT glowstick, or THAT canal of certain death…

Trevor needed to get some sleep, so I traded him for Julie K. All three of my pacers were wonderful people who kept me going. Julie and I saw the sun come up, and it was fantastic. I was happy to get to ditch my light source, put my hat back on, and soon change back into shirt/shorts. Julie kept me moving, as much as I just wanted to linger longer and longer at my car. She was also kind enough to do most of the work of taking off one of my shoes, dumping out some rocks, and putting the shoe back on, all mid-trail. It truly takes a friend to touch a foot that was pretty nasty by that point!

The Second Morning, Running With Julie K.

As the young morning started to wear on, I saw Tammy finish her 100 mile distance, and Becky finish the 24-hour race with 86 miles. I was very happy for both of them, but it was tough seeing them done, while knowing I still had two laps to go. Ugh! Just over 14 miles left, and I wanted it do be done so badly. Julie pulled me through one more loop, and then handed me back over to Trevor.  Julie stayed near the finish, as I had asked her and Trevor both to run the last bit with me at the end.

Trevor told me later that he was surprised with how well I was running. My walking breaks were relatively short to my runs. I told him that I was feeling pretty good, all things considered. In my last couple of loops, every step that I took marked the farthest that I’d ever run. That does wonders for a person’s psyche! Also, in the last loop, I knew that I was passing by things that I wouldn’t have to run by again. Yeah for the victory lap!

We got to the far aid station, where there was a lady and her little daughter chatting with the aid station folks. The lady told me that she’d heard only 9 people were left to finish the 100 mile race. Everyone else had dropped out. This news hit me like a wall of bricks. What? How was it that so many people had dropped out, and I was still going? Sure, it had gotten hot the day before, and the night had been pretty long. I didn’t think that I had done anything special to have been able to endure the conditions (and the distance) better than anyone else. I started bawling – my first mental breakdown of the entire race. Everyone was very kind to me, and wished me well during my last 7 miles.

Trucking Through My Last Loop

Trevor and I kept going, and eventually dumped out onto the paved road that would take us by the finish. I saw my husband, Jim, cheering me on (I’d called him a little while back, letting him know when he could come by and see me finish). I saw Julie K., who started running with both of us on the last lollipop leg around the parking lot. The aid station folks at the finish made lots of noise for me as I ran by, just minutes from seeing them again and finishing the race! (How cruel to have to run by the finish line and still have some distance to go!) Julie looked down at her Garmin and commented that I was running a 11-minute-mile pace. I pointed toward the finish and said that I no longer had to hold anything back. I gave everything that I had left and crossed the white chalk mark by the aid station, finally finishing!

Lisa, Nearing the Finish With Trevor

About to Cross the Finish Line

I finished my first 100 mile race. Holy God Above, I ran 100 miles! And finished! No one pulled me from the race because I was too slow! I was sobbing again as the race director put my finisher’s medal around my neck. The sobs took on a tone of disbelief as he told me I’d finished 2nd place female for the 100 mile race. Trevor had suggested that it might be a possibility, but I refused to even believe such a thing. Until now.

Getting My Medal

I did what? Not only had I finished my first 100-miler, but I’d also placed in a race for the first time. Ever. I’d never even really come close before. I’ve always been a mid-to-back-of-the-pack runner. My goals for races would be either to get a PR (personal record), or just to finish. With this race, not only had I finished, but I’d shot to the moon! What an amazing race, run with the support of some very outstanding people.

Titled, "I Still Can't Believe This Finish" Or, More Simply, "WTF? WOW!"

35 peopled started the 100-mile race. Only 15 finished, a percentage of 43%. This was a little more than what the lady at the aid station mentioned, but not by much. I’m proud to be a part of this finisher’s group!

My final, heartfelt, thanks go out again to: Julie Manthey, Julie Kazmier, Trevor Williams, Jim Hayen (my fantastic husband), Ray Churgovich, and David Manthey (my coach, who called at night and gave me a great pep talk). I’d also like to thank the aid station folks who roasted during the day, and froze at night, all just to help out a bunch of crazy runners. Congrats to Tammy, who finished 1st place female in the 100 mile distance, and Becky Williams, who finished 2nd place female in the 24 Hours of Boulder.

Sharing a Happy Time at the End With My Husband

What’s next on the horizon? As I finally finish this race report, I’m looking forward to running the Rocky Raccoon 100-Mile Race in Huntsville, TX, in less than a week (first weekend of February, 2012). I’m traveling with Trevor and Becky, both of whom will be running their first 100-mile races. It should be great, having two friends with me, and several members of Trevor’s family crewing for us (they live not far away in Houston). My only concern is that I might not have a pacer this time. Ah, well. I’ll finish anyway!

Carpe Diem – Lisa Hayen

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2011 Bear Chase Race

Should I just say ‘rinse and repeat’ from last year? Nope – every race is a little different. What was the same? The location (Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood, CO), the level of incredible dedication from the race director/staff/volunteers, the distance (another 50-mile attempt for me), and the…heat. Well, okay, even the heat was a little different. It got hotter earlier this year, and I think the high of 86 topped last year’s tough conditions. Dangit.

I also knew more of the people this year. More folks from Runner’s Edge of the Rockies, Runner’s Roost, and the running field in general. I even knew a couple of the spectators there to watch other people. That feeling of community and family was simply amazing. I had my name shouted at me so often that a fellow runner I’d just met said he wished HIS name was Lisa. Lol, Paul, your name is just fine!  🙂

I got to the race about an hour early this year, as the parking was inside the actual park this time. I was fine with this, as I got a good spot. However, as I was going over my drop bag near the start, I watched the poor late arrivals having to snake their way up a long hill to another parking section. The last thing I wanted to do after finishing 50 miles was to climb that hill. I felt sorry for those guys.

My buddy Trevor arrived at around the same time as me. This was to be his first 50-mile finish, as he wasn’t allowed to think of anything else other than a finish. His first attempt was at Fruita during the Spring, when we both dropped down from 50 miles to 25 on an awesomely difficult course. He did have one ultra finish (the Greenland 50k a couple of months after Fruita), he’d finished the Pikes Peak Ascent the year before, and had paced me through much of the night at Leadville 5 weeks ago. He’d trained his butt off with Runner’s Edge, and this was HIS 50-miler to finish. I was very excited for him to get his bragging rights.

I was less excited for myself. I loved this race, it being my first 50-mile finish last year. However, last year I was also fresher. Sure, my finish then came 5 weeks after a Pikes Peak Marathon finish. This year, however, the Bear Chase would come 5 weeks after my 86.5 miles at Leadville (a distance I keep growing prouder of). I thought I was recovered – was I? Better question – was I a moron for attempting 50 miles so soon after such an awesome ultra effort at Leadville? I wanted to know what I could do, and I was half afraid of what the outcome would be. Some stupid part of my brain hoped for a PR, while the rest of me just wanted a finish. Finish…no more DNFs please. I couldn’t handle another one of those.

The 50-milers lined up at the start at 6:30 AM on 9/25/11 in the gradual sunrise. My Garmin registered a satellite at just the right time, and then we were off! I left the starting line with Trevor, as we’d decided to run together for a while on the first loop (we had 4 loops of 12.5 miles to run). We kept to a pace that ranged from 10-minute miles to 11:30-minute miles. I know, not terribly consistent. However, it was still cool (I wished it could have stayed that way all day), and we both felt fantastic. The trail was also not crowded. This year, each distance got its own start, meaning that we weren’t jockeying for space with the 50k folks. I loved having breathing room on the trail!

Trevor and I ran for a while with a fellow named Paul, and with a lady about my own age named Dierdre. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dierdre would actually become semi-famous during the race, as she had a large cheering section following her around the entire time. They were identified by their orange shirts emblazoned with her name. The awesome thing about them was that they were cheering everyone on, not just Dierdre. She and I would run with each other off and on for much of the race.

The course was well-marked with colored ribbons, course volunteers, and a couple of timing mats. My guess was that the mats were placed in a couple of places where it was easy to cut the course. I don’t know why anyone would cut a race course, as you’re just cheating yourself (unless you manage to come in first – then you’re cheating the rightful winner). Anyway, right as we crossed the second timing mat, the fellow taking down our race bib numbers said something to me that took a moment to register.

“You’re 10th woman.”

I’m what? I’m…in the top ten in a race? WHAT??? In case you haven’t read any of my other posts or race reports on my blog, I should let you know that I tend to hover in the middle or rear of the pack. Every time. No one’s ever accused me of being in the top ten before. Trevor and Paul thought that was really cool. When Deirdre asked what the guy had said, I told her and then added, “That means you’re number 11.” She laughed and said that maybe she should drop back a bit. I completely understood how she felt!

Lisa and Trevor with Paul - Still early and cool

I held on to #10 Woman (that makes me feel like I’m in People Magazine, or something) until the downhill off Mt. Carbon, the tallest peak on the course. Dierdre had dropped back a bit, and another woman blazed past. She said she was just enjoying the downhill, as if she really had to apologize for passing me. Pass away! I knew holding that #10 position wouldn’t last anyway.

It was the first loop, and coming off Mt. Carbon about halfway into the loop, it was already getting hot. Dang, last year I don’t remember really feeling the heat until this point in loop 2. This was going to be a tough one! Just a few days ago, it was overcast and in the 60s. I would have switched days in a heartbeat. I run so much better with even just a little overcast sky – but no clouds seemed to be forthcoming. Crap on a stick. I even stripped off my arm sleeves at the first aid station, having to scramble to catch up afterward to Trevor and Paul (that extra burst of energy may have been a mistake). At least the water crossings were as refreshing as I remembered. I had to laugh at Trevor. His only experience in race water crossings were the streams and river at night between Hope Pass and Twin Lakes as he was pacing me in my crazy race last August. That water was painfully, awfully, cold. This water was AWESOMELY REFRESHING!

Trevor, Paul, and Lisa. Our first water crossing of the day

The second aid station offered up our first food choices of the day. I resolved to be good and start eating early. I drank some Sprite and ate half a banana as I let my buddies run off ahead of me again. This time, I didn’t scramble to catch up. I ran my own pace over this section, walking up the spiky hills, and running the rest. I’d forgotten how pleasant this section could be, when the sun wasn’t beating me to death. In between the occasional hills that had to be walked, the grade was mostly a gradual downhill. I even caught up with Trevor and Paul after the last aid station, and ran with them to the start/finish.

Ahh, the start/finish. I had a love/hate relationship with the start/finish that I could take/leave. Good…bad…ugly. It was good that we were there, and my split time was very close to last year’s. The bad was that I knew my legs were far more drained than they should have been at that point. As Trevor and Paul took only a few seconds with the aid station here, I took a little longer and drank an Ensure from my drop bag, took a couple of Endurolytes, and ate a gel. I was trying to stay on top of the electrolytes and gels every hour to hopefully keep the inevitable leg cramps from starting up until later in the race. I then set off on my second loop. This was where it got ugly.

I had issues at the start of this loop last year, upset that I’d just finished one loop, and still had three more to go. This time, it was similar, but on a whole new freak-out level. My legs were far more tired than anticipated. I’d gone out too fast, burned up some reserves catching up to my buddies after that first aid station, and it was hotter this year. The Ensure I’d drunk wasn’t sitting well, and I nearly threw it up more than once (I’ve still never puked during a race, thank you). My brain was the true bastard of the situation. It was telling me all sorts of things: I had no right running a 50-mile race after Leadville. I was going to DNF (Did Not Finish) here just like I did at Leadville. All I had left in me were DNFs. I sucked. I was a failure. I should just give up running altogether.

If there was a dark pit of hell that day, it was in those miles during the second loop from the start/finish, most of the way to Mt. Carbon. At the Pelican Point aid station, I saw my Runner’s Edge pace group leader, Sheila, as she offered to fill up the bladder in my pack. I looked at her and let the following words dribble out of my mouth, “It’s going to take a miracle for me to finish.”

“Really?” Sheila asked, concerned. She took a moment, and then said, “I have a miracle.”

I looked at her and smiled, probably my first smile since starting that loop. Sometimes, all it takes is a few kind words to start a person back on the road to recovery. I also saw that Trevor was anxiously hanging around at the aid station, wanting to make sure I was okay. (Paul’s pace turned out to be a little too fast for him by that point, so he’d let him go on. Paul would wind up finishing just under 11 hours – fantastic!) Trevor waiting for me was really touching, but I made sure he knew that I wanted him to run his own race, and not worry about me. Well, of course he still worried about me. That’s what friends do. It’s funny, how the first time I met him years ago, he was still in full Goth mode and he scared the crap out of me.

Trevor did take off ahead of me again, and I kept him in sight for a while, all the way over Mt. Carbon the second time. I lost him on the downhill, but that was fine. Just seeing him again helped, and I was already feeling much better. It’s amazing how much our own minds try to fuck us over. My legs were feeling better, and I stopped listening to the doubts. I did take my pace down to something that was more sustainable. I stopped trying for a PR, and just wanted a finish. This was better than the DNF fears I’d just been having.

I was in a better state, moseying along toward the water crossings, when I tripped and fell. Okay, it’s not a trail race unless I fall at some point along the course. I was just glad I didn’t fall on some of the rockier sections that were just a few yards up ahead. On the downside, the fall triggered the cramps to start rearing up in my legs. A kind fellow runner helped me up, and I made it into the water crossings. I splashed cold water on my legs, hoping that would keep the cramping to a minimum. Dang, I never wanted this so early. At least this didn’t send me into another downward spiral.

Recovering in the water!

I ran most of the next sections, feeling the heat, but helping myself out by taking a page out of last year’s experience. I’d soaked my padded fingerless cycling gloves in the cold water crossings, and was able to keep patting my face down with them during this exposed section. Things were almost enjoyable again! It’s true what they say – it never always gets worse. If you can weather the storm, the tide will usually turn.

I even caught up with Trevor again, which surprised the hell out of me. He’d had a rough spell during the hot exposed section, and was trying to survive his own bonk. We ran in the finish of the second loop together, getting our picture taken by volunteer and friend Cathy Maslowski-Yerges. Cathy was just one of so many friendly and familiar faces out on the course. Every little happy moment like that pulled me even further from the angry place I never wanted to visit again.

Two loops completed! I had a couple of things that I hoped would help me through the dreaded third loop. #1 was a 5-Hour Energy drink. Heck yeah! #2 was my Garmin. Double heck-yeah! #3 was a porta-potty stop. Hmm, not as productive as expected. It was apparently too hot for me to retain much liquid. By the time I got all this completed, Trevor was already gone. I walked down the gravel road and overtook Trevor by the time the road turned off onto the single track trail. I smiled at him, turned on my music, and took off!

Finishing Loop 2 with Trevor

It was like I was flying. I could run, and I could do it without my mind dishing out shit. My music was shutting up the brain, and was giving me inspiration. Suddenly, the best song in the world came on, and I was coasting above the stratosphere on Cloud 9. Isn’t it funny how the right song in the right moment can be the best thing in the world? It was “Tub Thumping” by Chumbawumba. Forget the lines about the boozing, although those were fun (I could use a cider drink at the moment, actually). What really got me was this:

“I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down!”

That summed up, and would continue to sum up, most of my race. You could even take it as far back as Leadville. We all have bad races. What marks us as good runners is how we recover and learn from our mistakes. I was recovering in this race and would, by the grace of God, finish!

I don’t consider myself a very religious person, only going to church on Easter and Christmas to make my parents happy (and they really don’t feel like true holidays without church). However, I always get closer to God during ultras. I can’t help it if this sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I talk to God when things are good, thanking Him for the grace of that moment. I talk to God when things are bad, asking Him to help me with whatever is going wrong (stomach issues, muscle cramps, etc). Above all, I ask him to help me finish my race. This day, whenever I asked for help, my prayers were answered. I even asked him to lend Trevor a hand, as I couldn’t see him behind me anymore. I knew how devastated he’d feel if he didn’t finish. Hopefully, Trevor didn’t mind that little prayer on his behalf.  🙂

I enjoyed the third loop all the way to the Mt. Carbon climb. I was approaching the hill when I saw Andy and Kristin ahead of me. Andy had just completed the Leadman competition in Leadville 5 weeks ago (completing 5 races out there, including the 100 mile bike and run), and it had to be wearing on him. At no other time could I ever overtake him in a race – he was just simply an awesome athlete. Kristin was running the 50k, but had slowed her pace down to run with Andy and help him through his 50 mile effort. It sounded like he was more than ready to stop after his third loop. I couldn’t blame him – that many miles after Leadman was an incredible effort. They led me up Mt. Carbon, and I followed closely until my quads in both legs suddenly froze up with charley horse cramps. UNGH! Hateful things! I had to slow down to baby steps until I reached the downhill and started feeling like a normal human being. I overtook Andy and Kristin again, and Andy jokingly offered up the following advice for the rest of the downhill:

“Crush it, Lisa! CRUSH IT!”

I laughed as I passed them, and said that I would maybe just smoosh it a little. I got to the water crossings, and splashed a lot of cold water on the pissed-off leg muscles, hoping once again that would help. Well, it allowed me to get through the rest of the loop by doing a run/walk combination. Run until the cramps got bad (but not so bad as to freeze up my legs again), then walk for a minute or two in recovery. Rinse and repeat. It was kind of a suck-fest, but it was also survival. It got me to the start/finish again. I beat the 8.5 hour cut-off for starting the 4th loop. I was still in the race, thank God.

Cresting Mt. Carbon and able to run again!

Loop 4. Better than Loop 3. How? Because it was Loop 4 and there was no Loop 5. Every piece of dirt that I crossed was a piece of dirt that I wouldn’t have to tread upon again. That kind of thinking did enormous benefits for my peace of mind and body. Plus, a saintly aid station worker named Pam offered to walk the first few minutes down the gravel path with me. I was happy to have her there, helping to get me started on my last loop. I can’t possibly get across how phenomenal the aid station workers and other volunteers were! I thanked as many of them as possible on this last loop, especially my buddy Sheila at that first aid station at Pelican Point. She was there all day, and witnessed my crazy highs and lows.

I was still doing a run/walk on this early section, mostly because I knew that the shade here would help me recover. At first, I ran through the sunny stretches, and walked through the shade. Then, when that was helping, I started making myself run for half a mile or more at a time. My music also helped – it was simply impossible to allow myself to walk during certain songs (“Beloved” by VNV Nation, for instance, or the theme to “Chariots of Fire”). Funny, but the famous Dierdre’s cheering section also helped me out, cheering me on as if I was Dierdre herself. It was a good thing to be just a few minutes ahead of her, as I always got to see her friends/family. What awesome folks!

My brain would still try to warn me about what was coming up just ahead of me (this hill, or THAT hill, or the exposed sections). I really didn’t care. These were just obstacles to get over so I could finish and get the medal I’d been coveting all day long. Gone were the times of wishing I’d registered for the 50k like I’d originally planned. I was already beyond that distance, and knew that the 50 mile finish was mine. I just had a few more miles to wrap up. I did have a moment, however, when I was passing by the lake, and could see the start/finish on the other side. I still had something like 7 miles left to go. I pointed at the finish line off in the distance, growled very loudly, and kept on going.

Where was Trevor? By this point, I was sure he hadn’t made the 8.5 hour cutoff at the end of the third loop. I was upset for him, knowing how much this race had meant to him. I resolved not to look too happy at the end, thinking he was probably waiting there for me already with my husband.

Keep on running, keep on running. Why? Because walking actually hurt more than running. Seriously. I’m not sure why, but it was true. I still had to muck my way up a couple of hills like a geriatric patient, nearly killing myself at the top of one by tripping and barely saving myself from falling down the steep side. However, where I could run, I did my best to do so. This was until about a mile from the end when I saw a fellow limping very badly in front of me.

I caught up to the poor guy and started walking along next to him. I asked him his name, and what was going on. It turned out that Ray (I keep meeting guys in races named Ray) twisted his ankle in the first loop of the 50-mile race, and kept going. He did get it wrapped up at one of the aid stations, but he hadn’t been able to run for quite some time. He’d been walking since about mile 6.5. Oh, sweet Jesus! It was a little over 11 hours into a race with a 12 hour cut-off, and he was just trying to finish his third loop. He knew he wouldn’t finish the 50 miles, but he was going to make it as far as he’d be allowed to go. I asked him if it would help having someone walk it in with him, and he told me he didn’t want me to not finish.

“Ray, we have over 4o minutes to get through less than a mile. I promise I’ll be okay finishing.”

He happily accepted my company at that point. He was very cheerful for having gone a crazy distance in what had to be a considerable amount of pain (I shuddered at all the pills he’d taken to keep the pain down). I tried to point out the easiest line for him to walk on, and made him keep moving at whatever pace he could manage. I knew that as soon as he stopped, he was probably done for. We kept going for a few minutes until a buddy of his ran up and said he’d take it from there. Smiling, I said goodbye to Ray and promised to see him at the finish. I then ran the last half mile to the finish line in a terrifically good good. You meet some amazing people at ultra races, and sometimes witness just awesome feats of human endurance. I was glad to briefly meet Ray, and I did see him cross the finish line to end his three loops of the Bear Chase. What an effort!

As I approached the finish line, something that I almost convinced myself I wouldn’t get to do that day, so many people cheered me on! I saw my husband, Jim, and fell in love with him all over again. Just having him there at the end always makes my race! I did my best Supergirl impersonation and powered my way through the finish line. I got that coveted medal, along with the best hugs in the world from Jim. I also found out that Trevor had indeed made the third loop cutoff, and must have injected himself with crack, because apparently he was only a few minutes behind me. I found a fence post to sit on, and got to cheer Trevor in to his first 50-mile finish! What an incredible day! I also got to see the famous Dierdre finish, and her cheering section gave her the most amazing welcome as she completed her own epic journey. Way to go!

My final thanks to all the volunteers at this year’s Bear Chase Race, without whom I never would have finished this race. It was all the little things that kept me going. Cheers, smiling faces, dunk buckets filled with cold water, refills of my Camelbak bladder while I was trying to eat some watermelon, that walk with Pam down the gravel road on my fourth loop, etc, etc. I’ll have to volunteer at an ultra someday soon so I can return the favor. I needed this finish so badly, and was glad to be able to dig down deep and get it done!

16 women finished the 50-mile Bear Chase Race this year. Guess who finished in the #10 spot? It looks like Sheila did indeed have a miracle in her pocket for me. Rock on!

Posted in Race Reports | 10 Comments

2011 Leadville 100 Trail Race

Spoiler Alert: If you only want to read the race reports of LT100 run finishers, then keep moving on. This is the long tale of a DNF. However, I’ve found that you can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. If you have some time, and have nothing else to do, then please read on. I won’t apologize for how long this is – it’s really meant for me to work out the pluses and minuses of my race, and perhaps to help quiet a few lingering demons.

Lined Up at the Start

It’s ten minutes before the start of the biggest, most awesome race of my running life. The 2011 Leadville 100-mile running race. I’d been knocking around the idea of doing this race since not long after my first 50-mile finish at the 2010 Bear Chase Race. Can I really run a 100? Can I run one of the toughest 100s in the country? Should I really take the leap and have Leadville be my first? I stand in the sea of other runners, having moved away from the curb where Nancy Pennington, my friend John’s mom, is waiting. I’ve already said goodbye to my crew (amazing husband Jim, and great friends Dan and John), sending them off early to the first aid station 13.5 miles away (May Queen). My pacers, Trevor and Brian, are sleeping in. Now, I wait for the countdown. Turn on GPS, hope that it finds a signal in time. Try to breathe. Thank God last night’s loud thunderstorms have moved off. And wonder why I’m here.

Because I can do this. I-CAN-DO-THIS!

The national anthem plays while we wait in our headlamps under the stars. We’re wished good luck by the mayor, by Ken Chlouber, and by some other muckety-mucks. I still can’t quite believe I’m here, and I see no one from Runner’s Edge nearby (at least 7 others from my running group are in this race). Maybe that’s because I’ve positioned myself near the back. I’m not fast – I always start races near the back. Most of the other folks from Runner’s Edge are greased lightning compared to me. Still, I’m hoping that I’ll eventually run into Desi at some point during the race. We ran together at times during training camp and at the Silver Rush 50.

10 seconds! 5! The shotgun blasts nearby, and we’re off! I cross the timing mat under the start line, I hear a beep, and I’m officially running in one of the biggest, most bad-assed, ultra races in the country. In the world. Holy shit!

Prestart Hug from Jim

4 AM Start to May Queen

We run down the boulevard in the dark, and friends & family of the racers are lining the way, cheering us on. Residents of Leadville in their robes have also turned out, excited to get their annual viewing of the running of the crazies. This part is fantastic, because it’s on pavement (little need to watch the footing), the temperature is just right (low 40s), and (for the most part) we’re going downhill. This is the only extended part of the race where I’m actually checking my speed and trying to keep it down. I’ve heard the horror stories of people going out too fast. I even attempt to run up the early hill on the boulevard, but the cluster of runners around me slowing to a walk makes that impossible halfway up. No worries.

We run on for about 5 miles, and it’s pretty enjoyable. I know no one around me, but I listen to the chatter of the other runners, waiting until my second aid station stop before I pick up my music. I want to be able to hear what’s around me, especially when we drop onto the trail going around Turquoise Lake. There is a tough, steep hill at this point, and there’s no question about dropping into a walk. It is over with fairly quickly (just enough to jump-start the heart rate in a nasty way), and is an early taste of the chunkier climbing to come later on. Not long after this, we get onto the lake trail.

In just about every race report I’ve read about Leadville (and by this point I’ve read most of them), there are warnings about getting caught up in a slow conga line shuffling around Turquoise Lake. I believe many have called this the cluster fuck around the lake. The trail isn’t super-narrow, but it’s narrow enough when I’m running in the dark with a light strapped to my head, a light flashlight in my hand, and I need to be careful. Even though I’ve been training on trails constantly in preparation for Leadville, I’m still fairly timid on trails. Add in some rocks, some roots, the tendency to fall on even the most forgiving trails, and the lack of light, I’m hesitant to pass people. This turns into a problem. I’m slow, but amazingly enough there are people out here even slower than I. Trying to run behind people who insist on walking most of this early stage is excruciating. It gets comfortable to stay at a very slow pace, while all the while my mind is nagging me that I’m already getting behind on my splits. I’ll never make May Queen at  2 hours, 30 minutes, at this rate. I do draft behind some people when THEY pass, which makes it easier for me. I also manage to follow a guy off trail, which will be my only time wandering off the trail in this race. Luckily, we realize our error early and get back on the course.

The sun comes up, and it makes it easier to see. It also signals the reality that I’m losing time. I get frustrated and keep trying to pass people. It’s important to start off slow, but this is freaking insanity. We’re not going to your Mom’s bake sale, people! I want to say something, but I don’t want to come off like a bitch. Just keep going and try to get around the pokes.

Finally, the best surprise I’ve had in a long time comes when I see May Queen pop up ahead of me. I look down at my Garmin, and it’s reading nearly a mile early. I’d been convinced I was going to miss my split by a lot of time, and here I am coming in just a couple of minutes late. I’d been told by someone who’s run this race more than once that the distance of Leadville is a little shy of 100. Maybe this is where the shortage comes into play? Maybe my Garmin is just off? Who knows? I don’t care! I’m happy and relieved to be at the aid station. Dan greets me as I run across the timing mat and guides me over to my crew (they are the first crew to arrive at the aid station, and have awesome positioning). I kiss my husband, Jim, and start shucking my warmer clothes. As John’s transferring my race bib to a pair of shorts, I use the port-a-potty and then try to eat/drink a little. I take too much time and spend about 10 minutes here. BAD! I’m behind on my time. I’d been too worried about being cold running in the dark. I should have started off in shorts.

May Queen to Power Line

From May Queen, there’s a short paved section that I use to try and eat most of an Uncrustable, but wind up chucking a quarter of it. I just have a hard time chewing and swallowing food in a race! At least I did drink most of a Mix 1.

The course then spits you out onto some rocky single track that begins pleasantly enough. Once again, I get stuck behind people walking every bit of the trail, and it’s all too easy to just sit back and follow that pace. I finally get frustrated and start passing, running where it’s easy and not super-rocky. This lasts until the trail gets steep, and I have no choice but to walk. Steep, and my lungs are practically hanging out of my throat as I huff up the trail. I hated this part with a PASSION during training camp. However, I’m very thankful that I did attend training camp in June so that I would know that this was coming up.

I finally climb out onto Hagerman Road, where Ken Chlouber is waiting on an ATV, watching the race. In case you’re not in the know, Ken started the Leadville 100 race 29 years ago in an attempt to revitalize the local, tanking, economy. He sold the race to Lifetime Fitness after last year’s running, but he’s still a vital part of the race. I hop up onto the trail, say “Right on!” as I realize I’m off that crappy section, and he chuckles at me. Smiling, I start running up the rocky jeep road.

I’d been advised that I could probably walk this entire section and still finish the race in under 30 hours. Well, I have a 5-hour energy drink working its wonders in me, so I run some of the gentler sections of the road at an easy pace, looking up at times to see the incredible views around me. I run by one English fellow and say, “I can’t imagine where else I’d rather be at this moment.” I feel that good! He just sort of laughs and says he’d rather be in bed.

The Hagerman road turns steep as I start winding up switchbacks along Sugarloaf Mountain, and I’m doing a lot of walking again. This is fine, and is definitely expected. I briefly meet several people, including one girl from Leadville, who is making a second attempt at this race, having dropped by choice at Halfmoon outbound last year (the Halfmoon stop is at Halfpipe this year). She says that people think living in Leadville gives you a huge advantage with the race. In reality, it just makes it really difficult to train in the colder months. The snow can stay on the trails and make them impassable for a really LONG time. I wish her well, and hope she makes it. I never catch her name, so I can’t check on her after the race.

I meet another fellow who signed up to do the Grand Slam of ultra racing. The Slam consists of the Western States 100, the Vermont 100, Leadville, and  the Wasatch 100, all in the same year (really, all in the same few months). Unfortunately, his grand slam dream ended early on when he puked his way through 50 miles at Western States and had to drop. He finished Vermont, and was giving Leadville a go. We’d wind up passing each other a few times during this race, until I’d see him later on when he dropped due to missing a cutoff. He’s already having breathing trouble early on Sugarloaf, but I wish him well.

This section turns out to be enjoyable, but long. The highlight is when you can finally kick it into running gear again as you start the decent down Power Line. This begins innocently enough as a fun run downhill, until you turn a corner and look down at what appears to be the dirt ski ramp from hell. This is a blast to run down, as long as I watch my speed and don’t get tripped up by the ruts. I do my best to not think about how I’m going to haul my ass back UP this sucker in the middle of the night. I make it down Power Line, and run into the crew-only aid station. My crew is working like they’ve done this a thousand times before, and move like a well-oiled machine. I find out that they’re actually quite popular, as I was apparently one of the only runners to think to have her crew bring water out to an area where water is not supplied by the race. Didn’t anyone else read the handbook? Anyway, I don’t care if they give water to other folks, as long as I get what I need. I’m selfish that way.  🙂  I’m still behind schedule, but I’m beginning to make up the time I spent at May Queen.

Still smiling!

Power Line to Fish Hatchery/Outward Bound

Fish Hatchery is only a couple of miles after the Powerline stop, but this aid station is supported by the race, and has an official cutoff (Powerline does not). I turn onto pavement and feel blessed to not have to watch my footing for a little while. Unfortunately, the aid station during training camp was right off the road. Here, I have to turn down a side road and run a little further before getting to the aid station. This would come back to haunt me later. I run across the timing mat, easily ahead of the cutoff by about 45 minutes (I want to add to this cushion). I grab some fruit, down two cups of Sprite (my new favorite aid station drink), and get going again. There’s no reason to spend much time here, as my crew is skipping the chaos at this aid station.

Fish Hatchery to Treeline

I turn onto the road and lope along at an easy run. What surprises me here is that most of the other runners are actually walking this section. It’s mostly a gentle downhill, we’re on a road, and don’t have to watch footing. Do these guys just run when it’s rocky single track hell? I enjoy myself and run most of the way to Treeline. BTW – why am I the only one running on the left side of the road, against traffic? Why am I being anal and asking myself this question?

Crewing at Treeline - Lisa with Jim and John, and the coveted water jug

Treeline to Halfpipe, and Halfpipe to Twin Lakes

Treeline and Halfpipe sort of run together in my memory. Treeline is a crew-only aid stop that is very similar to Powerline. I happily greet my crew, get a kiss from my husband, fill up on gear, and once again hear that people are glad my crew brought water.  Halfpipe is an official race aid station, with an official cutoff. I am extraordinarily happy to hear that I’ve made the Halfpipe cutoff by nearly 50 minutes. I’m still making up time! I want to have at least an hour’s cushion on the cutoffs, so I’m all yippie-skippy that I’m getting closer. I pass by Jasmine as we enter the aid station, who I met at training camp. If I recall correctly, she barely finished by the skin of her feet last year, and is trying to finish with a better time this year. She gives me encouragement, saying that we’re good as long as we can get to Winfield in 13 hours. I agree, thinking that this is certainly doable for me. Hmm…to still be that optimistic person at this point of the race. I wish I could turn back time! Jasmine may have the same wish – I think she missed the Fish Hatchery inbound cutoff. A cutoff that I will barely make in the middle of the night…

On my way to Twin Lakes

My body is doing mostly well at this point, as I’m running toward the 40-mile aid station that is Twin Lakes. I’m a little tired, it’s kind of hot with the sun blaring down (but I’ll take that over driving rain), there’s some kind of tweaky spot in my right knee (not slowing me down), and I’m starting to get some early warnings of cramps in my legs, despite taking two electrolyte pills and a gel every hour. I’m forced to be my own pacer at this moment, even though my music is helping me a little. I make myself run for half a mile or more before slowing to a walk, or before a significant hill forces me to walk. Rinse and repeat. I ran more of this during training camp, but we also didn’t do that first half-marathon leg from the start to May Queen during training camp. I just keep myself going as fast as possible, until I fall into a stream.

Yes, clumsy Lisa falls ass-first into a stream. This actually isn’t terribly remarkable, if you’ve been around me during any number of training trail runs. I’m not the most agile of folks, especially after I’ve been moving for about 35-37 miles. Here I am, sitting in a stream, and my leg muscles suddenly lock up with cramps. I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up! Thankfully, I’m able to recognize this as a fairly humorous situation, especially since I’m not injured beyond a couple of scrapes. A couple of guys run up behind me and try to give me a hand up. My charley horses don’t allow this. Finally, one of the guys gets behind me and is able to haul me up. We all get going again, and see-saw with each other along the trail. The entire rest of the way into Twin Lakes, they’re asking me if I’m okay. Ultra-runners, gotta love ’em!

I finally get off the rolling hills, running along the very beautiful Colorado Trail, and get to fly down the gravel road leading into Twin Lakes. (Just as an FYI – you see Twin Lakes below you long before you actually arrive – cruel and unusual punishment!) I had terrible side-stitches on this road during training camp, and had to walk most of it. Here, I just stick my hand into my side whenever I feel a stitch coming along, and run the road! This makes me feel great, knowing I’m making up some time. As I get close to the steep little hill that dumps me into Twin Lakes, I see both of my pacers (Trevor and Brian) lining the road, taking pictures. I’m overjoyed to see them for the first time during the race, and they wave me on in.

Lisa Running into Twin Lakes

Jim and Dan, giving encouragement. John holding an umbrella over me for shade.

Twin Lakes into Hell…A.K.A. Hope Pass…A.K.A. Mother Fucking Beast of Hills

This is where my race started to fall apart. I’m not the only runner to screw the pooch here, but I somehow thought I would be mostly immune to the Wrath of Hope Pass. We were having fantastic weather, I was approaching the ‘easier’ side (easier according to just about everyone who’s been on the pass and was willing to talk to me about it), and I live north of Denver. I wasn’t some poor flatlander coming from sea level hoping to survive the first crossing of Hope Pass after having already run 40 miles. I gave myself 4 hours to get ‘er done and into Winfield, the 50-mile turn-around spot. I actually thought I might get there a little sooner. Silly Lisa, Trix are for kids! I took about 4.5 hours from Twin Lakes to Winfield. That tells you how Hope Pass treated me. It chewed me up, spat me out, and waited for me to try the second crossing. If a pass could laugh, there was a deep-throated chuckle out there for me. (Insert movie villain laugh here.)

It starts out with my first mistake. Here I am, leaving Twin Lakes with my trekking poles, a new 5-Hour Energy downed, a cup of soup in my tummy (treating the leg cramps with salty goodness), and feeling a little tired. I have to traverse a field with several water crossings before getting to the Hope Pass trail head. I walk at a decent pace – and that’s the problem. I’m walking. I even say out loud to the person in front of me, “I know I should be running this, but I don’t want to.” Oh, BAD LISA! I could have jogged a lot of it, at least up to and beyond the water crossings. I actually enjoy the water crossings, as they feel incredible on a hot, sunny day. (I’ll tell you later how they feel coming BACK.) I lose time here, forgetting one of the rules of ultra racing. Run until it hurts too much, then walk. Walk until it feels too easy, and then run again. I don’t start running again, thinking that I’ll do well going up this side of Hope Pass. After all, it’s the easier side, right?

So, this side is easier than what? The Bataan Death March? The Trail of Tears?

Okay, that’s a little over-dramatic. Just a smidge. It’s slighly less steep than the other side, but it’s LONGER. I think that makes things even out so that both sides suck equally. I get to the trail head and start going up. I’m actually encouraged here, because I think “This really isn’t so bad. I can handle this all the way to the top!” Foolish girl. That first quarter mile is the pass just luring you into its trap. Before long, the easy incline turns into a rocky wall that keeps going on forever. On a normal day, on fresh legs, I think that this trail might be beautiful. Some small part of my brain registers beauty. The other part of my brain is slowly being starved of oxygen as I struggle my way up. This is where I start giving myself my infamous ’10 seconds’ of standing rest, as I try to get my breathing and heart rate under control. The lady who thought she’d be awesome on this section is moving so slow that her Garmin isn’t registering a pace (oh, dear), and she is actually getting dizzy. Hmm, living at 5,280 feet doesn’t really acclimate you for a tough climb up to 12,600 feet. Training runs at high altitudes don’t seem to help out, either. Imagine that!

After a while, I keep hoping for a clearing where I’ll see the Hopeless Aid Station with its famous llamas. My entire focus is on seeing those dear, amazing llamas, that the aid station volunteers use to haul the supplies for the runners up the mountain. Seeing llamas will mean I am close to the top, and I will have another excuse to stop for a couple of minutes. Where are those damned llamas?!? It’s getting chilly – I have to be close to the top, right?

I do get to a clearing, but it’s not the one I’m looking for. I keep going, mucking along until I hear someone call out my name. I look over, and I’ve finally caught up to Desi. There she is, sitting on a large rock by the side of the trail, looking utterly miserable. She says that she’d been making great time (hitting Twin Lakes half an hour ahead of me), but the climb up Hope Pass really affected her ankle, causing IT band issues. She can barely move her leg and doesn’t know how she’s going to get off the mountain. I know the aid station has to be very close, and I offer to help her up there. She refuses, and asks me to go on. I tell her there will be medics up there who can help her, and Desi once again tells me to go on. I should have just thrown one of her arms over my shoulder and hauled her to the aid station with me, but I go on alone.  A huge part of me wishes I’d helped her out instead of selfishly moving on. When I do finally make the aid station (ah, those lovely llamas), I tell the medics about Desi and that they need to watch for her.

It’s only half a mile from the aid station to the top of the pass, where I can start going downhill again. That half mile seems to take an eternity! Faster runners who have already gone out to Winfield and back are passing me on their way to Twin Lakes. Actually, I’ve been seeing runners on their way back since I hit Hope Pass. I joke with a couple of them, offering to switch places.

I finally summit the pass (hardly believing it), and start shuffling my way back down. I really do make good efforts to run here, using my trekking poles to stabilize me on the loose, sandy trail. On my way down, I get to see all of my Runner’s Edge buddies, as well as friends mostly known just from Facebook and a couple of other races. It’s good to see most of them looking well, although a couple of them look pretty winded (they’re going UP, after all). I exchange greetings with Brandon Fuller and Ray Churgovich, both going for sub-25 hour buckles (Ray would get his after missing the big buckle by 7 minutes last year – Brandon unfortunately would get cut at May Queen for medical reasons). I see David Clark, but I don’t think he recognizes me as I say hi (very understandable) – he’s also gunning for a sub-25 (which he nabs like the awesome runner that he is). I take one spill as my feet slide out from under me, and a couple of gracious hikers/bystanders give me a hand back up.

My good mood that comes with going down the pass evaporates when I hit the gravel road to Winfield, realizing that I have a 2.5 mile semi-uphill section to go before I can turn around. I’m so far behind my split time that I get pissed off again. I’m sure I still have a sour-lemon look on my face when Julie Manthey (wife and crew chief of my coach) drives by and catches me on film. Probably not my best of moments. I do muster a smile when I see Andy Hartman run by on his way to finish his last leg of the hugely impressive Leadman competition (for Leadman you have to complete FIVE races in Leadville, and he had just finished the 100-mile bike race the week before). Andy, I bow to you and am not worthy! A little later along my slog on this road, I see the coach himself, David Manthey. I’m very surprised to see him this far back, but he looks upbeat and encourages me to keep moving. It turns out David was having puking problems on Hope and at Winfield, but he was able to turn it around and finish very strong. Way to go, Coach!

I’m almost at Winfield, and I see Kristin waving at me. She’s a good friend of Desi’s, and I give her the lowdown of what I saw near Hopeless Aid Station. Kristen is bummed about Desi, but gives me a huge hug and makes me keep moving. Wow, a hug when I’m about to fall apart. What an awesome person!

Kristin is all smiles for me as I huff it into Winfield! I wish I could have those long legs of hers!

When I get into Winfield, my crew goes into a flurry of activity. I get weighed at the aid station (I’ve only lost about 3 pounds, so at least I’m doing SOMETHING right), and then I try to eat a little food. My husband tells me that my first pacer, Trevor, is ready to go. Jim is being so amazing, trying to keep me motivated. This is when I bend over and indulge myself with a 30-second bawling session. I’ve missed my split time by a LOT, I feel like shit physically and mentally, and I have to climb that damned pass again. Okay, enough of this. I collect Trevor and get going.

Lisa & Trevor leaving Winfield. You can see part of the pass above us.

Winfield Over the Devil’s Backbone…A.K.A. Hope Pass. Again. And…I hate Ken Chlouber.

Something amazing happens when Trevor and I start running back down the road from Winfield toward the Hope Pass trail head. I have a friend with me now, who has resolved to take care of me and haul me over the pass. I’m happy again! Plus, my crew drives by and raises the dead with their whooping and hollering. Awesome! Maybe I can pull this together and finish after all. Finally, we see Desi heading down the gravel road from the trail head, looking supremely unhappy. I’m just overjoyed to see her off the mountain! Trevor tells me briefly about how it was taking so long to drive into Winfield (parking is a bitch there), that he and John had grabbed my stuff and run with it for about a mile into the aid station (Jim and Dan staying in the car, and Brian napping in the other car in Twin Lakes), just on the off-chance that I arrived early. If only!

Trevor and I briefly meet one man who is out in Leadville without any pacers. He’s a pleasant fellow, and guarantees us that we’ll get to the end much faster than him. We pass him, and meet another guy who is just ambling along, saying that his runner just got DQed at Winfield. Trevor is quick to put two and two together, and gets the lone runner together with the runnerless pacer. How awesome is that? We’ll wind up see-sawing with them a bit on the climb.

Hope Pass…again. I’ve actually done this side twice in training camp, winning $100 in a bet from a fellow runner back in June. (Thanks, Tim!) However, as my friend Ray Churgovich told me just a week ago, this climb takes on a whole new level of hurt after 50 miles. As usual, Ray is not talking out of his ass. I’m barely moving on this incline, taking what feels like shuffling 90-year-old steps up the trail.

“Oh, my God, Trevor! How can I do this?” My moments of happiness are immediately ended.

Trevor does his best to keep me moving, and even gets a little crazy. Well, this IS Trevor we’re talking about. He sets his chatter to auto-pilot, slowly leading me along, and loudly regaling me with tales about the Wicked Witch of Hope Pass, who is trying to do us in with turduckin stuffed with Scottish Haggis. What? Whatthefuck? I try to keep moving, while hearing laughter from the pacers dragging their own runners along behind us. I eventually have to ask Trevor to be quiet for a little bit, as I’m getting nauseous, and somehow the idea of a witch torturing us with a turkey/duck/chicken stuffed with entrails isn’t helping out my tummy. I even try to make myself barf so I’ll feel a little better, but it just won’t happen.

Slowly climbing Hope for the second time.

Inch worm, inch worm…slow, so slow. We pass by some runners stopped and standing, some stopped and sitting on rocks, and some stopped and sitting on rocks and verbally throwing in the towel. Thank God I never sit down. My 10-second breaks (of which there are probably too many) are always standing. We start losing sunlight after treeline, so I ask Trevor to help me on with my arm sleeves. I just sort of stand there dumbly as Trevor tries to tug the silly things on. They do help, however, and I’m a bit warmer. Oh, and who but a demented race director/organizer would make you summit 12,600 feet TWICE in the middle of a 100-mile race? Damn you, Ken Chlouber!

We finally summit! There’s enough sunlight for Trevor to get a picture of me, and then we start down to the aid station (passing by a photographer wrapping things up, giving us this stunned look as if he’d never seen runners at the back of the pack before). Those lucky aid station ducks have a roaring fire going, and a huge part of me wants to sit down and join them, maybe sing a little Kumbaya…NO! I get some soup, Trevor hands out the headlamps, and we get going again. We have to descend the entire way down Hope Pass in the dark. No joke, and no fun. Folks, whatever you do, try to get back over Hopeless Aid Station with enough sunlight to get you most of the way down. Sunlight will only help speed you along.

Summiting Hope! Note the fading sunlight...

Hopeless Aid Station to Twin Lakes and the Luck of the Irish

We run/power hike down Hope Pass, and I trip and stumble countless times but manage to stay upright. It doesn’t take me long to start telling Trevor that we’re going to miss the cut-off at Twin Lakes. Every time I bring it up, he counters my statement by saying that we’ll make the cut-off. We have to, because I’m finishing the race.

Oh, okay. I keep going, trying not to wipe out on the trail. We finally make it to the bottom and start heading out onto the field between Hope Pass and Twin Lakes.

“Trevor, you realize that there are several water crossings between here and the aid station. They’ll slow us down.” I’m trying to rationalize once again why the race is almost over for me.

We keep going at a fast walk, and then start picking off the water crossings, one by one. The first is an actual river crossing, which is fortunately only calf-deep. Unfortunately, the water temperature seems to have dropped to barely above freezing since my last crossing. Each water crossing is this cold. They numb the feet, which painfully awaken between crossings only to get doused again. I’m miserable, and even optimistic Trevor is cursing. I realize that these water temps are another reason to try and get the double Hope crossing done while there’s still some warming sunlight. Who needs a vampire to suck my soul when I have these water crossings in the LT100?

We finish with the water, and Trevor’s calling into our crew on the walkie-talkie (I’m so glad we brought these). He tells me that I have to dig down deep and start running. I don’t want to. I’m 98% certain we’re going to miss the cutoff, so what’s the point? The non-rational part of my brain somehow gets my legs moving, and I’m running. Uphill. Through a field toward some twinkling lights in the darkness. We pass by someone on the race staff who’s shouting for runners to get moving, as we have only 2 minutes left. I know we can’t make the timing mat in town in 2 minutes from where we’re at, but I still keep moving. Why? Because I’m that stupidly stubborn. That guy’s cries in the darkness for “RUNNERS, GET MOVING” still echo eerily in my head.

This is when the crew call in to Trevor and tell him the cutoff has been extended by 15 minutes. This finally gets through to me. Apparently, some part of me still wants to try and finish the race, because I increase my speed as much as possible. We hit town, and Trevor frantically points toward where I have to cross the timing mat. All around us, people are cheering us on, WANTING us to succeed. I cross the mat, and my chip beeps. I make the extended cutoff by 3 whole minutes. This is when I realize what I’ve done. I’ve just kept my race going, which is wonderful. I’ve kept my race going, which is awful. I’m tired, and I want to stop. I don’t want to stop. I’m kind of a mess.

I grab some soup and am met by Jim. I tell him I don’t have time to change out wet shoes/socks. Trevor and I have to GO. Jim puts an arm around me and brings me over to the crew, saying we’ll see what we really have time for. The crew make me and Trevor change out of our wet shoes and socks, despite our tight schedule. (It takes a true friend to wash and dry another person’s nasty feet! John, you are utterly amazing!) When Trevor and I take off again and start heading up the trail above town, we’re both thankful for dry feet. Score another plus for the crew! I swear, it’s like they’ve done this before.

Sunburned eyes, encrusted in crud, tired out of my mind, and getting my shoes/socks changed to go on.

Twin Lakes to Halfpipe…I’m Not Dead Yet!

It’s funny. I have 60 miles completed in this race, yet this uphill section from Twin Lakes seemed tougher with semi-fresh legs during Training Camp. Maybe it’s just ‘easy’ in relative comparison to Hope Pass. We walk it at what seems like a decent pace (Trevor’s been the keeper of the Garmin for a while now, so I really have no idea), and I feel like I’m getting a tiny bit of my mojo back. I know that this section turns pretty easy once we’re past the hills, and I should be able to make up some time. I do regret not running the downhills once the terrain turns rolling. Trevor asks me if I want to run any of them, but I counter with the then-sound logic that I’m still recovering from the Hope Pass ordeal, and this walking pace is making me happy. Once again, when the pace feels easy, I should realize I’m going too slow and I need to get my butt in gear! We should have pushed more here.

We do start running after we pass the sign for the Continental Divide, because this section is mostly downhill on easy trail. Trevor has us run from glow stick to glow stick, giving me occasional walking breaks. He pauses at one point (having me go on) to give some duct tape to a stopped runner having issues with her feet/ankles. Once again, Trevor to the rescue of a fellow runner!

So, where the heck is Half Pipe? We’re not really sure, and neither are the other runners around us. It seems to take forever to get there, but when we hear the estimate of just a couple of miles left, we do our best to run it in from there. We get into the aid station (our crew isn’t at this one), and someone tells us we’ve made it by 12 minutes. Wow! That’s freaking amazing, considering we barely made the extended Twin Lakes cutoff. I give myself a few minutes to visit the potties and to down a cup of soup along with a couple of cups of Sprite. I feel stoked, thinking we’ll mosey into Fish Hatchery (the next station with a cutoff) with plenty of time to spare. Maybe I’ve got a grip on this race again! First, however, we need to meet up with the crew at Treeline.

Halfpipe to Treeline

This section is fairly uneventful, and we’re even tempted to call into the crew and tell them to just pull up stakes and meet us at Fish Hatchery. Why waste precious minutes with another crew stop? That’s exactly when my handheld flashlight batteries die a hideous death. I still have my headlamp, but I found out at the start of the race that it’s not as bright as I’d like (I’ve run with it prior to this race, and thought it would be okay). Trevor and I run side-by-side (previously, he’s been my carrot on a stick ahead of me), pooling our light and asking the crew to prepare to switch out batteries. This is all we do during this crew stop, although Trevor tells me later that Dan mentioned to him here his concern about us making Fish Hatchery. Bah, we’ll easily make Fish Hatchery, right?

Treeline to Fish Hatchery – Run, Lisa, Run!

This section quickly spits us out onto the paved road, which I ran with such delight earlier that day. Or was it the day before? I have no idea what the time is. Anyway, pounding pavement after my feet have been used to softer trail most of the day turns out to not be a thrilling experience. It’s not super-painful, but enough to certainly cause discomfort. Add on that we seem to be going gradually uphill the entire way, and I get a little bummed again. Trevor keeps up the run/walk strategy, and I pretty much just do whatever he says. It isn’t long before we see the siren-blare of lights of the Fish Hatchery aid station, just up ahead.

Except that it’s not just up ahead. Those damned lights seem to stay at a fixed distance, no matter how much we run or walk. When we finally reach the turn-off to actually approach the aid station, it still seems like a freakish distance away. I pass by a road sign advertising 1 Mile. Does that mean 1 Mile to the aid station? No, that can’t be! Um…can it? Trevor calls into the crew, chats with them, and then says something that gives me bad deja vu from the race to Twin Lakes.

“Lisa, you have to dig down deep and find it within yourself to run the rest of the way in. We’re really tight on time.”

No, no, no! We made UP time, didn’t we? How did we lose it so quickly? I’m freaking out inside, but I break into a run and follow Trevor’s lead with stupid, dogged determination. I’m wheezing and breathing painfully, as we’re quite definitely running up a hill. We run by a race official, telling us we have to run it in if we’re going to make the cutoff. Thanks! I thought I was already running, but okay! Yeah, I’m a little cranky at this point.

Run, wheeze, wheeze, keep running. Don’t slow to a walk. Trevor’s pointing to where I have to go. There’s the stupid shed with the stupid timing mat. My crew is there, running the last few yards with me, telling me to cross the mat. Cross the MAT! I cross, and I make the cutoff by two minutes. Oh, my God…I’ve barely made it again. Shaking, breathing like I’ve smoked 5 packs of cigarettes, and walking like a zombie, I grab some soup and try to eat it. I stay in the shed, where it’s a bit warmer. I start thinking about what’s ahead. The Powerline climb and Sugarloaf. I want to cry, but what’s the point? I’m still in the race, and I’m going on. My promise to myself and everyone else was that I wouldn’t quit. I’m going on, but inside I’ve given up on actually finishing. I don’t believe it’s possible anymore.

Jim gives the best hugs ever!

This is the end of Trevor’s pacing, and he’s now switching the Garmin to Brian, giving him a quick tutorial on how to use it. As I’m eying my potato soup, trying to decide if its gross or not (I’ll be burping it for the next hour), I also see Brian switch out my handheld flashlight for his own, as his is lighter. I should have said something, and I don’t know why I didn’t. I don’t think I was quite in my right mind at this point.

This soup is yucky. Should I eat it anyway?

I’m still in shorts, a light long-sleeved shirt, and gloves, but I don’t change into anything warmer. As long as I’m moving, I’m staying warm. It’s these brief stops at the aid stations where I stiffen up and start getting chilled. I give Trevor a hug of thanks for getting me this far (he was AMAZING for a first-time pacer). I hook up with Brian, glad that he’s going to get to pace me after all, and we shuffle out of Fish Hatchery.

Pacer hand-off from Trevor to Brian

Fish Hatchery to May Queen…This shouldn’t be the end, but it is. (Please God, give me a do-over.)

We head out of Fish and continue down the dark road. Brian asks me if I can maintain a certain pace so we can make it to May Queen, and my instant response is, “No.”

Brian – “Really?”

Me – “Really.” Believe it or not, I say I can’t maintain a 20-minute/mile pace over Sugarloaf, because I’m afraid it’s going to be as bad as Hope Pass.

I guess at this point, Brian knows what he’s got to deal with. I don’t believe I can make the next cutoff, so I’m just going through the motions. This has got to be tough for him. The last person he paced at Leadville was a fast runner, and he never had to deal with this end of things. He immediately starts trying to do some damage control by saying we’ll do the best pace we can, and that we never know what May Queen might have to offer. After all, Twin Lakes gave us a grace period with the cutoff, right? May Queen might as well. I want to respond by saying that any change in the cutoff at May Queen would make it that much more impossible for me to race to the end on time, but I stay quiet. We run/walk up to the turn off for the Sugarloaf Mountain/Powerline trail head.

Leaving Fish Hatchery

It’s not like we can run this next section anyway. That crazy dirt ski ramp that I flew down earlier is now looming in front of me. However, I have Brian to act as my carrot-on-a-stick, and I have my trekking poles again. Other than a couple of brief sections that are really steep, this section isn’t as bad as I’d been fearing. I’ve heard horror stories of people puking or nearly passing out along this section, some even succumbing to hypothermia. Maybe I’m hitting it so late that most of these people are gone, but I see none of that trauma. I’m also not having these issues. I’m staying warm as long as I’m moving, I’m not nauseous, and I’m moving more or less okay. I’m also not sleepy, which I can’t believe. Maybe it’s the constant drip of adrenaline into the bloodstream, combined with the occasional 5-Hour Energy, I don’t know. I should be the walking dead by this point.

The tough part about this section is all of the false summits. Once we get up the steep Powerline section, the trail keeps winding up Sugarloaf for what seems to be an eternity. I think we count something like 15-18 ‘summits’. We keep thinking we’re finally at the top, only to have another hill. The few people around us are also cursing. At one point, we’re positive we’re about to start heading down, and I hand over the trekking poles to Brian. Only to find another semi-tough hill. Really? I think they ought to rename Sugarloaf to Purgatory.

We finally get to start going down, down, down! Brian is able to get me running again, but I’m having some trouble seeing the trail well with my headlamp and his flashlight. I regret not having my own flashlight. I don’t think the switchout made a huge difference in the end, but it’s something I’ll have to remember for the next race where I’ll need to use a light source. I do take a nasty, hard fall, hitting my right hip, shoulder, and head against the trail. This takes a lot of the fight out of me, as I’m a semi-hesitant trail runner to begin with.

I do my best to keep moving, but now I’m voicing my doom and gloom again of not finishing. Brian tries a bit of psychology here that unfortunately backfires. He agrees that were not going to make the May Queen cutoff, thinking that saying this will get my back up and spur my stubborn side to keep going. It does the opposite. I say that since we’re not making the cutoff, there’s no point in running any longer. I will just walk it in from here. I start walking. Downhill. (Bad, bad, bad…this is so bad!)

We walk for a while, for far too long. Brian later admits to me that he should have pushed me harder here. I admit later that I should have pushed MYSELF harder here. However, at this point I truly think my race is over. As we get onto the gravel Hagerman road, Brian is able to get me running again to the turnoff to the trail leading down to May Queen, but by now the damage has already been done.

If the trail down to May Queen had been far less rocky and a much faster trail, I might have made it. If the race folks manning the turn-off had been more upbeat about me making the cutoff, I might have made it (that’s more doubtful, though, as they were just being realistic). However, I utterly refuse to run this section. The sun is starting to rise, but it’s still dark, my dexterity for trail running is shot, and I’ve lost my confidence. I refuse to run, and instead walk this entire trail. Brian works hard to get me to run, saying we don’t know what the chance is of making the aid station on time. I need to work harder and go faster. I want to flip him the finger, but I need all my fingers for the trekking poles. I’m pissed off at myself for not doing better, for not somehow having a pad of time for making that aid station. I try not to take it out on Brian. He’s given up his weekend to help me in this race, after all. It’s my own fault for screwing up over Hope Pass, and for not running more runnable sections.

Brian calls into the crew, and we think we’re closer than we are. We can see down into the aid station for an excruciatingly long time. The crew says we have to HURRY! I respond huffily by saying I’m going as fast as I can. We get close to where the trail dumps out onto the road leading into May Queen, and Trevor meets us. I get pissed off at seeing him, wondering what the point is of all his agitation. He asks me if I can start running again.

“No.”

Pause, then, “Please?”

That one word somehow breaks through all of my self-pity, depression, and anger, and I actually start running again. I dump off the trail, run onto the road, and then run down the road into May Queen. Half of me wants it to be over, that I’ve missed the cutoff by far too much time. The other half wants the chance to continue and run it into the end. The first half wins. The aid station folks are packing up. I’ve missed the cutoff by 5 minutes.

5 little, tiny minutes. If I’d run in any number of places instead of walking, especially that downhill section on Hagerman. If I’d done better on Hope Pass. If I’d taken less time during the crew stops. If…if…if. These ifs don’t start popping up into my brain, hurting me, until our drive back to town. We pass by people running down the road, so close to finishing their 100 mile race. I feel like someone’s punched me in the gut, seeing these people who haven’t screwed up. I do get a glimmer of happiness, passing by my coach, knowing that he’s going to finish this year, after getting injured last year and having to drop at May Queen so close to the finish. He knows what it’s like to get cut there.

Denoument

We head back to the hotel, clean up, and try to get a little rest. I’m happy to get a shower, but have to sleep sitting up. I’m coughing fluid/mucus out of my lungs now, and it’s a lot worse when I lay down. My muscles are killing me (imagine that), and I have a bad charley horse cramping up my hand. Other than all this, and a hot spot in my right knee, I’m uninjured. This is good, I guess.

We go to the awards ceremony so I can see all my friends get their buckles. At this point, I’m bummed about not getting my own buckle, but I’m really proud of having gone 86.5 miles in Leadville. This is a new mileage record for me, having previously only completed 50 miles at a time. All the folks of Runner’s Edge running Leadville finish, except for me and Desi. Andy gets his Leadman award. Truly awesome!

I’m writing this race report two weeks after Leadville. I’m still proud of what I accomplished, as it was huge for me. However, when people ask, my having to tell them that I ‘almost’ finished Leadville hurts. A lot. The ‘almost’ hurts more now than it did that Sunday, maybe because all of the physical pain is gone now, and I’m left with the mental/spiritual hurt. I so badly wanted to prove to myself, and to others, that I was capable of this. I want to have that buckle, medal, and finisher’s shirt, as if somehow having all of these things will validate me as a runner.

The hurt will subside eventually, I’m sure. I want so badly to keep training and tackle this sucker again next year. However, Jim and I want to have a child, and we agreed that we’d try for one next year (I’m in my upper 30s, so time is running out). That takes all ultra running out of my schedule the second I get pregnant. Truly, it probaby takes ultra running out of my schedule before that, as it’s hard to train for and pay for a race, knowing I could get pregnant at any time. I want to have a baby AND be an ultra-runner. Is that too much to ask? Well, technically, yes.  🙂

Christy Burns, from our group, managed to be a new mommy and still finish Leadville this year. She said it was really tough, going into the race undertrained, injured (plantar fascitis), and under a burden of guilt for spending so much time away from her baby. It was tough on her and on her husband, plus she went to working part-time. My mortgage requires me and my husband to both work full-time, plus I don’t know how patient Jim would be with me training for Leadville while we have a newborn. He’s already admitted to being a running widow (that term makes me wince). I want to try for 2013, especially since I’ve had the gracious offer of someone paying my entry fee and sharing a crew (we’re somewhat similar in pace). I guess I’ll have to wait and see, eh?

Things to work on for the next attempt (a.k.a. Lessons Learned)

1. I can’t be so hesitant to pass when it’s required. I could have made it to May Queen outbound faster.

2. Spend less time at crew stops. I spent way too much time at May Queen outbound.

3. I need to include extra training that’s specific to Hope Pass. Train on the actual pass if snow melt and runoff allow it. Train on Barr Trail in Colorado Springs. Spend time on a stair-stepper.

4. Fork over a little extra cash and do speed training with my running group. You would think that speed training for an ultra race is an oxymoron. However, I need to get just a little faster.

5. Find a way to be less timid when trail running. I trained constantly on trails for this race, so I’m not sure what to do differently.

6. I have a little more insight into the pyche of Lisa, so I’ll be able to better-prepare my pacers for what to say (and what not to say). Apparently, I’d rather have someone lie to me and say we’ll make a cutoff, because then I’ll keep going and might actually make it happen. I also need people to push me when I declare I can’t run. Bullshit. If I’m still vertical, uninjured, and my legs aren’t locked up with cramps, I can run. Sure, it’s easy to say this now, when I’m in a comfy chair with a fluffy kitty lying next to me. However, I know it’s true. It’ll hurt, but it hurts far worse having a big, fat, DNF for the next year. Or two years. Or until I get that finish!

7. I need to call my parents sooner after a race like that. They were calling race officials and the emergency room, trying to figure out why I didn’t finish the race. Oops!

I’d like to thank my husband, Jim, for being such an amazing person ever since I decided to take up running. His end of things requires a ton of patience and understanding. He did ask me to see the doctor after Leadville, just to make sure I’m okay. The doc has given me the thumbs-up to keep going. Yay! I’d also like to thank my crew for being top-notch. Dan, John, Trevor, and Brian were always where they needed to be, always had my stuff ready, offered tons of encouragement, cleaned me up when I needed it, and took amazing photos to document the experience. My pacers Trevor and Brian were fantastic. It takes a special person to run at altitude, over mountain passes, mostly at night, just to see the person you’re with try to capture a dream. Finally, thanks to Nancy Pennington, who let me stay with her in her apartment in Leadville during training camp and the Silver Rush, who saw me off at the start of the 100, and who drove out to Twin Lakes just to see how I was doing during the race.

What’s next? I’ve got the 50-mile Bear Chase Race coming up at the end of September. After that, I’m considering the 100 Miles of Boulder in mid-October, just to finally say I can really get through 100 miles. However, that one is running the same 7.14 miles 14 times. I’m not sure my brain can handle that. Leadville is such an exciting course, while this one will probably be the opposite. Still, I’m giving it some thought. Trevor has promised to pace me part of the way.  🙂

Leadville 2013 – here’s hoping!

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