Monday, September 14, 2015

Lost: My Mojo. If Found, Please Return

So I came home from Bigfoot 200, and I struggled for days to just get past the anxiety and adrenaline of feeling responsible for the care of another person for 102 hours. The first night I woke up in the dark in the hotel room and wasn't sure where I was, what day it was, where on the course Jeremy still was. I didn't realize the race was even over. I was very confused. And for a few days, I would toss and turn. Steve would hear me say things like "Just 13 more miles to go!" in my sleep. Bizarre.

Jeremy's hard-earned buckle and DFL award

Plus I had spent 15 hours sleeping over that 5 days, 102 hours, of crewing and pacing, and paced 45 miles with 11,000 ft elevation gain and 13,000 ft of elevation loss. Which had also added up to more time on feet than I had since Rocky Raccoon a year and a half ago. And more mountain climbing per mile than I had ever tackled on my own.
185 miles in. Me timing the 10 minute trail nap he was allowed
here in the middle of the woods, while the cut on my leg actively bleeds.

But Jeremy's race was an amazing experience, and I was super happy to play a part in helping him finish 200 miles across mountains.
Mt. Adams in the background!

So with that, along with a few personal stressors that were going on, when I got home August 13, my body seemed to decide to stop cooperating on me.

  • My metabolism cratered, and my trainer confirmed that my weight had indeed shot up NINE pounds and it was not water weight. 
  • I was so fatigued that for a week after getting home, I would suddenly and randomly fall asleep. One day, I inadvertently ended up with THREE naps. I hadn't even meant to fall asleep each time. I would sit down and seconds later .... zzzzzz.....  
  • Running seemed impossible. I started walking daily with just a few tenths of walking. But my energy level could barely support the walking.
  • I had sustained a big cut on my shin from climbing a downed tree during the race. And it just wouldn't heal. 3 weeks afterwards, it still looked like it was just several days old.
Yep, 34 days old. Still looks only slightly better than
when I first got it. It wasn't THAT bad of a cut when I got it!
  • Sorry for the TMI, but it's important for the whole picture.... I had my period during the entire Bigfoot experience and my next menstrual cycle was much shorter than I've ever had.
My body was saying enough. So I cut way down on the craft beer that I *LOVE* and upped my daily walking and told myself to be patient.

The weekend before last I was finally running a little more and walking a little less, and out on trails too (thanks to Sarah and Suann for joining me). A few pounds have come off as my metabolism slowly going again. And then I got the back-to-school summer cold from my daughter. Ugh. So last week was an amazing 6 miles. :-/

But this week I'll get back to it. My work is ramping up considerably so I won't be able to ramp up fast or to much at this time anyway. 

However, this is all just a blip on the radar. I'll be back soon enough and adding races to the calendar. And it was a good experience to go through to remember that our bodies put up with a LOT on a regular basis and if you add stress and some crazy physical antics, it will tell you to check yourself!

Monday, July 20, 2015

All. The. Fears. - First Fastpacking Trip this Weekend

I have my first "fastpacking" trip this weekend, which now that I've tried out the pack and knowing the route is an average of 300' of gain and 300' of loss PER MILE, may be more a "slowpacking" trip. I'll be doing the 27 mile Four Pass Loop of the Maroon Bells area outside Aspen in Colorado.

My anxiety has been growing and growing. I feel completely unprepared (which isn't true) and low on confidence. I'm a high-anxiety worrier anyway, so here's all the awful things, and me having to deal with each fear.


  • I didn't pack the right gear. I've never been backpacking and don't feel like I know what I'm doing. Deal with it: I have researched a lot, asked a friend for her gear list from a recent trip, relied on another friend for recommendations like knife and good military style compass, and I'm keeping it simple yet comfortable where I could since it's only one overnight (no camp stove or fire. Just bars, GUs, jerky, and trail mix!).
  • I have no business backcountry camping many miles from a trailhead all by myself. I've camped TWICE ever. Deal with it: I'm really happy with the tent I selected, I've practiced setting it up, and one of my skills in ultras is my ability to be okay being completely alone for hours on end!
  • I like to plan, but backcountry camping means finding a campsite on the fly and what if I can't find one. There are lots of rules about where you can camp, and it's high tourist season of lots of people camping everywhere. Deal with it: This is one of those gloriously irrational fears of every serious planner. Uh, there's thousands of acres of space. I know not to be within 100 ft of trail or water. I know not to be in marked restoration areas. There have to be unoccupied flat areas with wind break that will be suitable, and I will find it when I need to!
  • This pack is heavy. How will I haul this up and down for 27 miles? Deal with it: I picked a great pack. My test run showed me I could run a little with it, and it sits well on me. I fitted it correctly and packed well (tent up and down along my spine, bear canister at the top with the food, sleeping bag attached at the bottom underneath the pack). The ultimate deal-with-it: I just will suck it up even if it's heavy because I'm an ultrarunner and that's what we do.
  • I've never been above 10,800 feet altitude while running. This has 4 mountain passes in the 12,000 to 12,500 feet elevation range! I won't be able to breathe. I'll have to go like a mile an hour. Let me say again - I won't be able to breathe, my lungs will explode, I'll be woozy and fall off a mountain, my head will explode from the headache. Deal with it: I'm not going to die if I just take my time. If there's anything I've finally learned from races at altitude, it's that. I used my altitude tent to acclimate decently to about 9,000 feet. It has shown me at races that it takes the "edge" off higher altitude. And while I am still susceptible to altitude problems, a low-dose aspirin beforehand helps the headache, and I'm okay if I go slow. 
  • I'll get lost. Deal with it: I have turn by turn directions from the forest service, I have a basic map. And now a friend of mine sat me down and taught me how to use my compass to actually figure out where I am on a map and then how to use it to sight out where to go next. I also met someone from Denver at the Beaverhead Endurance Runs race a week ago who had done the loop and said the signage was fine.
That covers most of the freakouts that have landed in my brain recently. And as you can see, I'll be okay. I just have to keep telling myself that if a problem comes up, I'll just DEAL WITH IT!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our Running Lives are Composed of More Than Race Finishes

So ever since my race last weekend, I've been struggling with feeling really run down. I did two midweek runs, one on trails, but this weekend, the bed and relaxing baths have been my friend. My left hip was still tender yesterday, then I napped Saturday afternoon, and then I overslept big time for my run this morning, getting a solid 8 hours of sleep.

I can't understand why I'm so tired and worn out when I've only run 3 ultras this year, and only 1 in the last two months. It's funny the measuring stick used to decide if we've accomplished something. We so often judge it by race finishes and not the various experiences and the efforts surrounding races and experiences!

So a friend told me to sit down and write all the things I've done this year so I can understand why I feel like I do. He sees all the pieces and wanted me to appreciate them as well. Newsflash - this year alone I've traveled 7 times for running and ran in 2 states for the first time (Utah and Idaho)!! So here's my list...

  • January - after directing New Years Double, double ear infection and strep infection with a bad cold knocked me out most of that month. Blergh!
  • February - Paced 22 miles from 8 pm to 2:30 am at Run LOViT 100 Miler in Arkansas after crewing the whole day
  • March - Traveled to Oakland, California to run the Canyon Meadow 50K. 3800 feet of elevation gain/loss

  • April - Traveled to and ran the Hells Hills 50K, just two weeks after the previous 50K. 
Then, I directed the Fairview Half Marathon. My first time camping was also later that month!

  • May - Flew to Denver, drove 9 hours each way with a bunch of fellow ultrarunner crazies, camped 2 nights in Bryce Canyon National Park where it was snowing and 28 degrees. Ran 22 miles through Bryce Canyon. Altitiude to deal with the whole weekend as we were between 7500 and 9500 feet the whole time. Elevation gain of about 4500', loss of about 5500'.

  • June - June 1st I started sleeping in the altitude tent some but wouldn't use it fulltime until a couple weeks later. Mid-June, I traveled to Denver for a family vacation weekend. Drove an extra 1 1/2 hours each way to run the South Park Trail Half Marathon. 16 miles, all between 9900 feet altitude and 10800 feet altitude. The course was 8 miles going up 1750', then turnaround and come back down the same way. 
2 weeks later, I went to Western States Endurance Run and had all the activities surrounding that race, especially because I'm a sponsor (The Active Joe).
After my runner had to drop 30 miles in, I ended up doing a big driving trip and running trails in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco. 6 miles with 1400 feet of elevation gain and loss!

  • July - Jeremy and I flew to Salt Lake City then drove 5.5 hours to Salmon, Idaho. The next day, I ran the Beaverhead Endurance Runs 55K. At 8000-10,000 feet altitude the whole time, and 5900' of elevation gain and 8900' of elevation loss, I spent 15 hours, 52 minutes on what ended up being mostly very technical terrain, including scree fields.

I've been preparing for my first ever fastpacking trip to Colorado. Not a run, not backpacking. It will be a 20 lb pack that includes my camping gear and over two days I'll be doing 27 miles in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area outside Aspen on the Four Pass Loop trails. It's 4 mountain passes up above 12,000 feet altitude (I've never been above 10,800 ft), and it will total 8000' of elevation gain and loss. I'll be camping in the backcountry for the first time, and I'll be camping alone. I feel like I have a lot of anxiety about all the new things of this trip. And there's been a lot of work to get prepared, including buying an ultralight tent, buying a Spottracker so my husband knows I'm safe out there, getting a new pack geared towards fastpacking, and just wrapping my head around all the challenges of the trip.

As of today, I've been sleeping in an altitude tent for the past 7 weeks to take the edge off in high altitude races/running. I sleep at 9000 feet elevation, which results in my oxygen saturation in my blood to sit around 90-94% (depending on other variables). And to some amount your body is constantly having to adapt again after being at sea level during the day. The drawback of what can be referred to by some as "legal blood doping" of growing more red blood cells is that it's really hard work on the body. It's exhausting.

After the Colorado fastpacking trip, the altitude tent will be put away for the year. That tent has been invaluable. This has been my 3rd year using it. But I am definitely looking forward to restful nights of sleep!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Beaverhead 55K - Volunteers Worth Their Weights in Gold

I want to write a race report when I get a moment, but I wanted to take the time out for a story from Saturday from the Beaverhead Endurance Runs 55K race in Salmon, Idaho.

The 10 miles leading up to the Janke Lake Aid Station at mile 23.5 were pretty miserable. A sometimes trail, talus crossings, overgrown sections of sage bushes and pasture grass with lots of rocks. Lots of big climbs.
Talus crossing

Then a long while of cold steady run with strong cold winds (as soon as the rain started, I put on my rain shell jacket, my gloves, and pulled my buff over my ears under my running hat).
"I love cold rain!" Keep smiling and fake it 'til you make it!!

I tried to keep my mood up, remembering how remarkable the place was that I was running. I spent miles 10 to 23 using a mantra I created during that section: "Suffering is a little easier when you're somewhere this beautiful."
Headed up the pile of rocks

So when I came into the Janke Lake aid station about 9 hours into the race, I was feeling pretty worn down. I was not sure if I could do the next section (long scree field, climbing to the highest point on the course which was above 10,000 feet, and a drop down of 3000 feet in two miles) which was scaring me. The volunteer met me 20 feet out from the aid station in a field at the top of a big climb and asked how I was doing.
The aid station was at the top of this long, yet very nontechnical (thankfully for half a second) hill
I had been assessing my needs for this aid station for a while and had a plan. I said, "I'm cold. I'm tired. I'm a little sleepy because I think the altitude is starting to get to me. I'm scared that I'm about to spend 4 hours doing what's supposed to be the hardest part of the course. I need to sit and take the time here to eat and drink and get my head right." 

They sat me down in a camp chair. I said, "I just need to get really psyched up about what I'm about to do next." 

They didn't judge. They didn't fret that I was considering dropping, because I really wasn't. Two guys immediately put my legs into a sleeping bag and had me put on one of their jackets.

They made me up a bowl of potato chips, pretzels, and M&Ms, and got me some Pepsi. And then we went through all the things I knew but needed to hear again.

I've made this cutoff? "Yeah by 2 hours!"
And it's the LAST cutoff? "Yes, now just take your time and finish."
And what time is it? "4:30. You can get the scree field done before nightfall!"
"See that mountain over there? You're just climbing that. That's the scree field." Of course I can't see the scree, and hey, that mountain doesn't look so bad.
Brilliantly done, volunteer!

Then, we saw two lightning strikes in the distance. Bring on the next freakout. I was worried about getting hypothermia out there. But I was also worried about lightning strikes while being on the scree field. You're completely exposed, and they had covered this in the trail briefing. First, a volunteer assured me the path of those storms and clouds have been passing to the north of the mountain I was headed to. Then, a female volunteer walked me through how to handle lightning again: "Get down on the slope side of the scree some. Get off the top. Squat down low with just your feet touching the ground. Cross your arms and put your elbows on your knees so the current runs through the most direct path."

Nothing like a lightning strike briefing to make you feel better. LOL
Dark clouds ahead

As I sat and ate and chatted, I finally said, "See? I'm starting to feel better." I was smiling and laughing again, and my attitude was much improved.

Towards the end of the 12 minutes or so I spent there, the older gentleman asked me if when I was ready to go, could he take me this 10 feet out of the way to look off the cliff so he could show me Montana. Way to help get someone psyched back up!

We got the sleeping bag off me, the volunteer's jacket off me, and strapped back on my pack with their help because my gloved hands were tired and having trouble with the straps. Then, the volunteer walked me over to the cliff and pointed out Janke Lake and we looked out on the whole state of Montana. It was really really cool. He said, "How about we take your picture?"
Yep. I look COLD. That gusting cold wind would tear right through you.
Another volunteer was concerned that I was saying I was still cold. This was really worrying me. He ran off and returned with two hand warmers he had just started. We wanted to warm up my core so we put one in my compression shorts on my tummy and one in my sports bra below my armpit. Thankfully, the sun would start to come out shortly after that, and it would warm up again.
Getting a little happier now
I thanked them so much and headed out. I owe them a lot. I ended up spending 4 hours and 40 minutes on the next extremely scary 4.5 miles avoiding falling off cliffs or seriously injuring myself, thanks to my complete lack of grace and balance.

More on my race when I have time, but I had to share this. If you ever volunteer in an ultra, please realize that these little gestures help runners immensely!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Whole Western States Experience

I love Western States 100. Its history is a big deal in the ultrarunning community. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting trail stewardship, maintaining the Western States trail year round, and facilitating medical research into ultrarunning's effects on the body. All those reasons are why I became a sponsor of the event 2 years ago through my company, The Active Joe. In 2 weeks, I'll be returning there with Robert Lopez, The Active Joe's sponsored athlete for this year.

While some are done with the hype of Western States or the lavish aid stations and crewing, it's just what this race is. And every time I go, I have several small experiences that show me the quality of our running community, and of what this race provides.

This was actually a draft blog post from after last year's race that just contained some notes. I've rediscovered it this week and flushed it out because I realized it had so much great stuff to share.

One overriding thing you will see in this retelling is how much the community takes care of each other. Yes, it's a competition. But no one will ever try to push anyone else down to pull themselves up higher. Well, they really shouldn't, and those who do are few and far between. I really hope the ultrarunning community never loses that!

Memories and Experiences of 2014 Western States Endurance Run

Mile 30 - Robinson Flat
  • Being the only one with cell service up on the mountain so I ended up the go-to person for live tracking for a bunch of strangers as word got around to the crews that my phone had some bars.
  • Helping a friend in the race at mile 30 when I gave her a cheer and she yelled "Can you do me a huge favor?" The cool thing at Western States is that no one will ever answer this with a no. I was excited to see and cheer my friend Melanie, but it was really cool to see that she was equally happy and excited to see a friendly face. As for the favor, I posted to her wall and tagged her boyfriend to let folks know she was feeling well so far after a back injury had led to no running for the 3 weeks leading up to the race.
  • Advising non-runners on how to crew their runner at the first major crew access aid station. Robinson Flat is a fun one because it's the first time that non-running spouses and parents are there to help their family. Many are not entirely certain what they've gotten themselves into. As runners came in, other crews made up of runners would pitch in, ask the important questions we know to ask, give pointed encouragement only a runner could, and advice fellow ultrarunners would know to give in that situation. We all wanted those first time crews and non-running families to succeed, and we would all try to help advise them on the track to pursue!
  • Having other crews step in to help each other. My friend Chris was pacing and crewing his friends Walt and Jay, but he helped out when Jenn and Jeremy each came through this aid station.

Mile 55 - Michigan Bluff
  • Seeing people flock to bug spray someone offered up. I was bit 2 times seconds after getting out of the car at mile 55 at Michigan Bluff. So I doused myself in bug spray, and Laura and I headed on the half-mile uphill hike to the aid station. We were joined by some other crews. Near the top, someone was spraying on bug spray. One of the people who had headed up with us asked if they could borrow it. Then like 4 others were like "Oh my goodness, yes, could I spray myself too?" This isn't rude to ask. Everyone looks out for everyone else out there!
  • After Jenn came through the aid station and left, all while another guy was still sitting in the aid station, I looked at him and said, "Why are you still here? You need to go!" And not feeling like a jerk because the reaction was, "Yeah, I know. One more second. I'm going, I'm going!" You really wish everyone could finish the race. It's not a competition for most of us out there.
  • They had stopped running the shuttle when we arrived at this aid station so we were able to park close. When I was leaving and Laura had started pacing here, I offered the one open seat in the car to a mom with two teens. She couldn't believe it. I drove her the mile down to her car and she headed back up to pick up her kids. We take care of each other. Even perfect strangers.
Mile 62 - Foresthill
  • Getting to spend the most time with a runner friend I'd had face to face in the couple years I've known him as we watched runners come into Foresthill at mile 62. I ended up at that aid station at the same time as my friend Kai, and we were able to talk about all sorts of things, details of our running, stories of our lives, for that 30+ minutes. It was really great to get to know him so much better than I had before.
  • Waiting after my runner Jenn came through because I had seen my good friend Jeremy's splits into mile 55 on the tracking website and knew his pace was slowing and being worried. I walked a half mile back to walk him in and see how he was. Ultimately he missed cutoff, but I am really glad I was there for my friend in the middle of nowhere at midnight when he had to DNF and knew I could be there for him without sacrificing my ability to crew and pace Jenn effectively.
  • Not vomiting as Jenn lanced a massive blood blister under her big toe nail while I used my headlamp to give her light and tried to look away all at the same time my face and light were pointed right at it. Ick. Engrained behind my eyeballs when I close my eyes.
Mile 80 - Green Gate
  • Having to parallel park in the dark at 1 am with a rental car that is a bigger vehicle (small SUV) on the side of a dirt road when I have very little experience parallel parking and yelling out my window begging the folks in the car behind me to help guide me into the spot so I didn't hit anything. And of course they helped.
  • Hiking 1.5 miles, with a 715 foot descent, on rocky dusty dirt road into the aid station, with a bunch of other crew and pacers, because that's just what you do to take care of your runner. And you don't think twice about it.
Mile 99 - Robie Point
  • Having an Air Force guy who had chatted our crew up a few times throughout the experience see us and run with us for a half mile, letting us know he had seen Laura at the finish line. His excitement for Jenn energized us both as we had hit the pavement and it was so hot and sunny.
  • Seeing runner friend Jesus at the aid station and him running with us, letting us know there were 4 turns into the finish to make and snapping some great pictures of us.
And of course, seeing the start, crewing the whole thing, supporting Laura as she paced Jenn 20 miles, then pacing Jenn myself for 20 miles, and then her finishing the race and collecting her buckle? So awesome. My pacing report for the last 20 miles is here if it's helpful to anyone. :-)

Happy Running! 17 days to another year of Western States!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Scared But Still Moving

It's okay to be scared. It's what you do with that feeling that matters most.

Sunday I'll be running the inaugural South Park Trail Marathon by Human Potential Running Series in Fairplay, Colorado. It's also the first long distance race my family will be around for. They'll stay at the resort an hour and a half away and hopefully the 4 year old and 7 year old will be entertained at the pool and in the restaurants because I'll be gone all day.

The family wanted to get out of town for a long weekend. I wanted a trail race since everything here in Dallas has been wet or fully underwater some of the last 3 months. Affordable airfare hunt led us to Denver, and my friend John Lacroix is producing South Park Trail Marathon the same weekend! Perfect!
Photo taken by John Lacroix

What Scares Me About This Race

But I'm blogging today just to say that I'm scared of this race. I've never run above 10,000 feet (this race starts just under 10,000 ft and goes UP). And I didn't really get to use my altitude tent for this event as I chose the race with just two weeks notice.

Then there's the climbs and conditions, all at above 10,000 feet...

From the Race Director in our latest informational email:
"You WILL get wet! You will get muddy. You will be going through rotting snowdrifts. You will be marching through short areas of flowing frigid water. Right now we have you maxing out at 12,030’ elevation on the course. You will experience 3,400’ of gain and 3,400’ of loss over the course."

Here's the profile:

Yes, so that's over 3,000 ft of gain in 13 straight miles. I try to find something to compare it to and the closest I have is Deadwood Mickelson Marathon which was about 1300' gain in 13 miles but was only at about 5,000 ft elevation. Which I remember led to feeling like I had baby deer legs for the next few miles of serious downhill.

I probably wouldn't be as worried about the climbing if I hadn't had some soft tissue damage to rehab a week ago in my knee, and then managed to completely throw out my sacrum in my low back a few days ago giving me awful muscle spasms (sports chiro fixed that up but the back muscles are still a little angry). So I basically feel like I'm falling apart. Note that the chiropractor has cleared me for this race. My body is angry but not broken.

Thankfully, Race Director John is being kind on his incremental and final cutoffs...
"We are more interested in your ability to push yourselves, have an adventure, and finish, than we are your ability to make a cut-off. Therefore, some of our cutoffs do indeed come with some leeway. At the end of the day, please listen to ALL Race Staff if they tell you it’s time to call it a day. We’re here to help you succeed, not end your day!"

So the snowdrifts, the flowing frigid water, the climbing, and the altitude SCARE me. But here's the thing: I still signed up. I'm still going.

While I may not have a lot of confidence right now, and shouldn't given all the things I just listed along with my inconsistent training, I always have confidence that I know how to keep moving. I can always put one more foot in front of the other. I am confident that I'm a pretty good racer from the viewpoint that I'm strategic, a good planner, and can work through issues as they come up. I am confident I can hang out alone comfortably for 8 hours - counting that in my skill set because some ultrarunners can't. Look at their race history and how they latch on to others during a race.

Race Plan

So my plan is to hike however slowly I have to for the first full 13 miles. If my heart is pounding in my head, I should slow down even more. Don't worry about timing or pace (which I know will look terribly slow and make me want to panic that I should go faster). That elevation profile is not built for running the first 13 miles. But it will be the downfall of some mid to back of the packers who try. Because it takes a lot of work keeping pride in check for runners to HIKE for essentially 4 hours.
Photo taken by John Lacroix

But my goal is to feel good about running back to lower altitude and use my traditionally strong quads to run the last 13. I want to save my energy for the last 13 miles.

Besides only running up to 10,000 feet, I've only ever driven up to 12,000 feet BRIEFLY and that was on my last trip to Colorado with this race's race director. Since I don't handle altitude terribly well, let's go push my limits and see how it goes! It will be beautiful and a fantastic experience even if it's a painful one too!

You gotta ask yourself: What's the worst that can happen?!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grabbing Me By The Balls: Trans-Bryce Run Trip This Weekend

Two months ago I was wanting to get my running ramped way up again. I would look at race calendars, but nothing was "grabbing me by the balls", so to speak. Actually, that's exactly how I speak. That's the phrase I use when looking for a goal. The "you must do this!" feeling where your heart says that you aren't sure what will become of you if you don't go. Where it's scary but you are more scared you would shrivel up and die if you didn't go (which of course is an exaggeration but this describes the longing).
"The mountains are calling and I must go." -- John Muir
And in the past, I've been highly driven by the call of those experiences. I trust that. It motivates. Day to day training holds little appeal for me. But to go move efficiently through a beautiful location that is not car accessible? Wow. There is power in that!

I've had that feeling before. Gorge Waterfalls 50K in March 2012. Bighorn 50K in June 2013. Volcanic 50K in September 2013. Rocky Raccoon 100 (attempted; 80 miles completed) in February 2014 (for the challenge, not the scenery). Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in July 2014 (3 miles of it in a pitch black railroad tunnel which is a huge leap for this claustrophobe). But nothing since then.

I had been reviewing race calendars for the spring/summer, but nothing specific was getting my attention. And then out on a Colorado ultrarunners group I follow on Facebook, I saw a post one early March day by Sherpa John, whose Tommyknocker Ultra 50K I had run in Colorado back in September. He owns Human Potential Race Series, which puts on several ultra races in Colorado.

The link on the post was for a running trip - not a race. A group of ultrarunners leaving Denver on Friday, May 8. It would be a carpool trip of 9 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park. The group would camp Friday night. Saturday morning we would split into groups starting at different intervals based on what we wanted to run, drive to the start points, and run point-to-point back to the campground. Those doing all the miles would do 48 miles with 15000 ft of elevation gain and 16000 feet of elevation - the full Trans-Bryce route. Lots of altitude, climbs, and rougher trail. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are hunting an FKT (Fastest Known Time) on that route. This isn't a race - a few water drops along the way, everyone should buy a map, and it's each person's responsibility to stay on the trail. Then, camp Saturday night and drive back to Denver on Sunday.

Note that the Bryce 100 race is one full month later (therefore much hotter) and not actually in the National Park. It's NEARBY the National Park. There's no race opportunity IN the National Park. We're not a camping family so when would an opportunity like this come along?

My jaw dropped as I read all the info. This sounded so awesome..... and scary at the same time. Scary only because of getting outside what's comfortable. Not scary like "fearing for my life and safety" scary. I had found my "grab me" moment for an upcoming run goal to demand my full attention.

  • It involved.... 40 ultrarunning strangers (I had met 3 of them before but briefly). My shyness wasn't sure about being thrust into such a large group who know each other already.  
  • It involved.... camping. Which I had never done as of when I signed up in March. But which I had been saying for a year I needed to work on because I felt a pull to try fastpacking, and being able to camp would be sorta kinda ESSENTIAL for that. 
  • It involved... self-sufficient running, basic orienteering, wayfinding, water filtering and purification, and basically "take care of yourself." This was the part I was actually the most comfortable with and yet still very uncomfortable because I'd rarely used those skills all together.

I didn't hmm and haw for long. I walked my husband through the plan. He was on board. I walked my best friend through the plan. His response was... "You mean CAMPING camping?"  "You know this isn't Motel 6 camping?" Thanks for the vote of confidence. ;-)

I chatted with my friend Steve from the Front Range Ultrarunners Group who was also going. It was $50 to cover all the camping fees/ logistics / park fees. Then split the gas costs of carpooling. I said I would check on airfare from Dallas because this was seeming like a cheap trip so far for this kind of adventure. When it popped up as $145 roundtrip for direct from Dallas on American Airlines, I yelled "SOLD!" And signed up immediately. I did know I would do a subset and not the full 48 miles. It looks likely it's 24 or 32 miles for me this Saturday.

I did the training I could with the other priorities in my life that are above running, including a race to produce in April and working around an injury I gave to myself that I had to rehab quickly after it happened from lifting and hauling things to and from a Uhaul. I pulled out my altitude tent since I don't handle high altitude well (this is roughly 8000-9000 feet), but it was for a reduced time and not as long in the tent per day as I usually tried to spend. So I expect the benefit to be limited. I visited REI and had them help me acquire a sleeping bag and pad. I went camping with my friend Aubrey a week ago to try out my gear and try out camping (pssssh.... I actually enjoyed it!!). I've bought my map, I already had a compass and emergency whistle, and I've packed my Steripen (to purify water from creeks on the route). Now to just go there and enjoy the beautiful weekend in a new place and meeting new people who love the same sport I do. How awesome does that sound?!

BUT I still have a huge fear of the unknown. This upcoming weekend in Bryce feels like a gigantic unknown. Today I said to Steve, "I'll stay here. It's a safe place where it's safe here." Ha. I'm so excited I could pop, yet I'm also nervous and worried in how uncomfortable the unknown and unfamiliar is.

So here I go, on a new adventure on Thursday! Wish me beautiful views, and I will try to bring back beautiful pictures on the run!

Happy running, folks!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pacing the 2015 LOViT 100 Miler

In this previous post, I talked about crewing the first 82 miles of the LOViT 100 Miler at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas for my friend Jeremy. As I said there, I wasn’t planning to pace him at this race for fear of rolling an ankle or being left behind (as he is much faster than me on technical terrain, even with 80 miles on his legs!). But through tough race conditions, we agreed I would pace the last 18 miles.

Probably blurry because we're shivering - it was COLD.
Not mine. But happy I could help someone take home one of these!

The Waiting Game

Our friend Lalita had given me a ride from the finish line to the Crystal Springs aid station at mile 82. Several amped-up pacers and a few crews waited eagerly for their runners. We had been told in the tough conditions they would give the runners an extra hour on the original 6:45 pm cutoff for that aid station. Then, word got around that they would let you go out regardless as long as you had a pacer or crew to watch over you. But how late coming into mile 82 would they let him push it?

Right before 8:00 they started saying that the aid stations ahead of us might be shut down before we got there, but they would let us go out anyway BUT when our runner arrived into mile 82, we couldn’t let them sit. We were supposed to get their needs met very quickly and get them out of the aid station. Or we risked that they would get pulled by race management anyway. And for good reason, because if you are having a seriously hard time moving, they don’t want you finishing a bunch of hours after the cutoff or getting stranded and needing to be rescued. It’s their discretion to pull anyone who looks like they aren’t going to keep a good pace going.

So each time a person acting as spotter would yell that they saw a headlamp, all the pacers would come rushing out of the pavilion to wait and watch. Johnny Eagles and his pacer came in and I asked her if she had seen Jeremy. A very basic description is all that is needed: “he looks like a mountain man.” “Oh yes, we passed him about 10 minutes back. You should see him soon.” LOL.

I had debated layers but with so long in the cold, I went with FIVE upper body layers and tights. I had on a short sleeve shirt, then long sleeve shirt, then my waterproof shell to lock in that core warmth, then my puffy jacket, then my Big Cedar 100 waterproof rain jacket as another layer against wind. Yeah, it was a cold weekend.

When Jeremy arrived, I had all my gear packed for Lalita to take to the finish, I had myself all prepped and packed and my headlamp and flashlight ready, I had his headlamp and flashlight out, and I had new shoes that I knew he wanted to change into. He came into this air of complete chaos and fear as everyone was rushing and hurrying their runners out. I told him “You can’t sit long because we have to go now or you won’t get to go back out.” Like a NASCAR pit stop, another guy and I frantically changed his shoes and socks. Our friend Dat (running the 100K) came in then, and I was so hurried I didn’t even acknowledge him.

Miles 82 to 87: Wet Feet and Meeting the Charlton Switchbacks
We hiked into the dark. He stopped and said he needed to fix something. He messed, I asked him to let me take his flashlight, he refused, I asked, “What are you trying to do?” He said, “I’m not sure.” Ah, ultrabrain. I said, “Let’s go then.” From my point of view, that was really as kooky as he got. No other truly absentminded moments. But I laugh every time I think about it.

At about a mile into this section, there was a small creek crossing. Jeremy stood on the edge and cursed and looked for a way to get through with dry feet. After wet feet all day, he had enjoyed dry socks for half a second. I said, “There’s really no way around it. Let’s just go.” Straight into the ankle deep water. Brrrrrr.

On this out-and-back course, when he had started the race, it was all small creek crossings he could rock hop across for this section. And at this time, with all the rain that had come, my feet were soaked for the next 18 miles. There were so many small crossings with no way to avoid getting wet. I remember that Jeremy tried on to avoid plunging in, and he succeeded, but it was balancing across a log a bit, and I waded right into the water alongside him in case he slipped. At another, a big rock he went to step on immediately rolled, and we were thankful he hadn’t put his weight on that leg yet, or he would have been hurt.

2 miles into this section was “Pipe Springs”. Seriously, just a pipe coming out of a low wall in the middle of freaking nowhere. This began a 2.5 mile out and back singletrack section to the mile 87 Charlton aid station. We would run the downhills and walk the ups. And on this course, there wasn’t anything but down or up. Anything you even thought was somewhat flat was still just a prolonged gradual up or down you soon realized. He always kept a pretty solid consistent pace going.

The downhills all made me a little nervous. Wet, slick leaves hiding roots and loose rocks under them. And traveling in the dark, I realized my trail experience is growing because I really just had to trust that however my foot fell, that my ankle would react and spring back as needed, and I lifted my knees a bit more than usual because catching a toe on a rock was a great way to go sprawling forward on your face.

Jeremy was concerned about me doing the switchbacks into Charlton. A bunch of descending switchbacks that were narrow, with a cliff drop on one side, and littered with loose rocks and big roots and plenty of leaves here and there to hide those too! And once you made it down to the aid station, you had to climb it all back up since this was an out-and-back section from the main path. Jeremy had considered doing the drop down alone and having me wait at the top. But then we were worried they would see him without a pacer and not let him continue. 

So I tackled the switchbacks, squealing here and there on the way down. Nothing like a descent like that where you feel like you are leaning forward toward the fall with each step – I hate it. Jeremy had done this whole thing that morning at mile 42, and he told me that going back up would feel shorter and easier. It was a climb, but he was definitely right. Elizabeth, who Jeremy had leapfrogged with all day, had passed us a mile before the aid station. When they didn’t pass us going up the switchbacks when we were going down, I started to really worry that they had held her at mile 87 and wouldn’t let her and her pacer continue.

Down at the Charlton aid station, we immediately asked if we could continue, and they said YES. But we were told the other aid stations were packing up, so we needed to fill our hydration packs full and they would fill a gallon Ziploc with food to put in our packs for the remaining middle-of-the-night 13 miles. I was offered food but said no a bunch. The advantage of doing long runs without any fuel was that 13 miles, even 13 slow miles, without food didn’t bother me. And I had a couple small snacks in my pack. But then Lalita offered up some sort of Caffeine-Kahlua (“but cooked off”)-Chocolate Brownie bites coated in powdered sugar. Then she retracted them because I shouldn’t have caffeine with my essential tremor disease. I was like “Screw that! Give me those!” and then proceeded to eat 5 of them. Brushing off the powdered sugar from my gloves, I looked like the happiest girl at the cocaine party!
Walking out of the aid station, he said, “You promised me a photo.” Yep, I was withholding a selfie of his wife and child that I had said I would show after mile 87. So we huddled around my phone to look at that before we hiked back up the switchbacks. I told him at the next aid station at mile 92, I would have a video of the baby that his wife Sara had sent me. That late in a race, a little bit of happy like that can go a long way!

Miles 87 to 92: Scary Truck and the Longest Forest Service Road in Existence

We started back to Pipe Springs, and it was fun to have a couple places of “oh yeah, this section”. The things that preserve a place in your mind are interesting – this one spot stands out for some tiny undulating dunes of forest soil with these wispy baby pine saplings in the whole area, all just 4-5 inches tall. In between this normal pine forest environment. It seemed a little alien to me. On the way back, on recognizing them, I said that they looked like they would grow into truffula trees from Dr. Seuss’ Lorax.

Occasionally I would let out a big sigh. It’s a tactic I use to keep my upper body relaxed. It was especially needed during pacing though because I was wearing one of Jeremy’s old hydration packs and it sat right on my trapezius muscles at the base of my neck, making my shoulders tense up! I had fit the pack to me well, but the straps just hit right there. It made me long for my Ultraspire Surge pack that I love because the straps sit wider, towards the shoulders. Jeremy leads when paced, and he would ask over his shoulder, “Are you okay?” He does well with focusing on that the other person is going to be okay so it wasn’t a surprise, but it was funny to be checked on by the person who has been up and moving for 28 hours.

After reaching Pipe Springs, we turn left (“when you get to back to Pipe Springs on the return, TURN LEFT!!” echoed in my head from the aid station volunteers’ warnings) onto a forest service dirt road. And we were on this road forever. Scratch that, it just felt like forever. I could finally see the stars in the gap in the sky created by the road and pointed out Orion ahead of us. Jeremy told me to not push him to run right now because his feet hurt, and I hadn’t planned to do that anyway. He was still moving, and consistently so, so I had hunkered down that it would just be a long night.

Out of nowhere, a big truck came around a curve. Not just a pickup, but not a big rig. But it was a BIG truck. A trucker’s truck. While the guy might have been wondering what we were doing hiking out there, I was really confused about why the truck would be out here and especially at this time of night! I assumed it couldn’t be for anything good! As we hiked along, the truck slowed to a stop and then turned off its headlights. Uhhhhh. It’s 11 pm in the dark in the middle of nowhere in the woods. As we approached, I may have uttered some comments about leaving Jeremy to be violated if this was a bad man in the truck. I was ahead of Jeremy and I hear from the blackness of the cab, “Ya all good?” And I said confidently, “Yeah, we’re good!” And his lights went back on and he drove off. Phew. I was not in the mood to be the victim in a horror story, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was truly that creepy.

During this time, Elizabeth’s pacer Grayson ran up ahead of her and caught up to us, with the music of his little speaker system blaring. Elizabeth had strained her ankle early in the race and it was really starting to bother her such that she had trouble putting weight on it. Grayson wasn’t sure what to do if they hit a spot where she couldn’t continue. I had him get out his phone, and I first gave him the race director’s phone number, then I gave him my phone number, and then I said to make sure she starts using a branch as a walking stick so she keeps moving. He came back a few times after that to check on mileages of where we were and how far apart the remaining aid stations were.

After FOREVER on that forest service road, including a stop where we changed out Jeremy’s flashlight batteries, we came to the FS47A aid station. And there were still people there! They were told they could leave, and they stayed. And they had a big bonfire and food, and what made Jeremy really happy – thin mint cookies! He said he needed a minute at the fire, and I acted stern but I edged over to the fire too. I was wearing tights and learned a lesson. After a few hours of being in close to freezing temps, a minute in front of a hot fire left my legs burning like I had ants in my pants. Like all the blood had rushed to the capillaries on my skin’s surface at once and it did not feel good. Note to self: no bonfire stops when wearing temps in freezing temps.
It was extra cold here and it was interesting seeing how most of this course was a direct east to west traverse. We could cross several microclimates over those hours out there. Kinda cold to suddenly some warm air to freezing cold again where I could clearly see my breath to some light fog to one spot where Jeremy said it had to be below freezing and when I asked how he knew, he pointed to the leaves on the side of the road that were all shimmery and coated in frost. My reaction to that: “That is so much better than shiny spider eyes.” That is the shimmering jewel-like flickers you see when at Rocky Raccoon 100 in the middle of the night!

Staying in a Good Mood

People ask what a pacer and their runner do all those hours – silence? Talking? One-sided talking? The whole time we were out there Jeremy was actually in a good mood. That’s a hard thing to do that far into a race and when your hip flexor is killing you and your feet are totally macerated and blistered that every rock, and every step, hurts. I shared stories of the day of what I’d done, then turned to stories of what mutual friends of ours were up to this weekend. I talked about who had inquired about how his race was going and who sent cheers his way. We told awful jokes. He told me about things that had happened during the race so far. Since he was a little grumpy and quieted when paced at Ozark Trail, I was expecting the same this time but was pleasantly surprised at the better mood!
We would get in a rhythm of moving and I would get silent for a bit, and then he would say, “You’re quiet. Are you okay?” “Oh, yeah, I was just singing a song in my head.” Then I’d hum a few bars then sing a few lines. I tend to sing songs over and over and over in my head and then another will pop into my head and I’ll move to that one. This time, it was “Inside Out” by Eve 6, “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore, and “Shut Up and Dance with Me” by Landon Austin. Surprisingly, no songs from Frozen this time.

Miles 92 to 96: Up and Down a Mountain, GPS Check, and Rocky Road

We had to climb 3.5 miles to Hickory Nut Mountain and the next aid station. It never seemed like that big of an ascent. There were several short moments of steep hills, but it didn’t seem as bad as the elevation profile had looked to me. Near the top, back on a forest service road, we hit a junction. The signs just didn’t feel crystal clear. One had an arrow to the aid station but it was the head of the arrow without a tail, and it felt like points of the arrowhead went to both ways of the junction. But we were also both really tired. We chose our path, and I got to have my anxiety rise as I worried about having Jeremy take any more steps than absolutely necessary. I pulled out my phone, pulled up the course map, compared it to our GPS location, and then ultimately ran up ahead on this long uphill road until I saw the lights of the aid station and could yell back to Jeremy that we were going the right way.

Matthew at this aid station had peppy music playing and a laser projector lighting up the sky to the music. To get back to the trail, we had to sit and jump off this stone wall. That put us onto a few miles of downhill muddy rocky road. It was not the fun kind of downhill with the spacing of the rocks and the occasional slick mud that made us glissade. And because we argue a lot, at 1 am it was completely reasonable to bicker about the pronounciation of the word “glissade.”

We passed some leafy shoots that were like tall tendrily vines with even spaced white triangular leaves. In the glow of headlamps, I remarked that they looked like butterflies. It was surreal.

As we picked our way through that awful mud road, I commented that if you had told me 5 years ago that I would be in the middle of the woods in Arkansas in the middle of the night all alone (collectively) hiking in freezing temps, I would have laughed my head off.

We came out to the last half mile of pavement which had some pretty steep uphills as a last way to stick it to the poor 100 mile runner. And then Jeremy used the last of his legs to run the final tenth of a mile into the finish line. Dustin and Rachel, the Race Directors, were waiting for us, along with Lalita and our friend Nicholas.

He Finished!

Jeremy sat down in a chair with his new 100 mile buckle. I was offered food but wasn’t really hungry at all. He munched on a cinnamon roll, while we all chatted about the day. It’s funny how it felt like the most normal thing in the world – to be sitting in freezing temps in a pavilion on the lake at 3 in the morning, talking about running.

I went and pulled the car up and started all the heaters full blast, and Lalita helped me load the gear. After finishing the race at 2:51 am, and for me, having been up almost 24 hours, I was surprised how awake I still was. I got him back to the hotel, we both got a chance to shower, and then I had my first ever 4:30 am beer before bed.

I’m really happy Jeremy asked me to come on the trip because face time with friends is always the best. And while I wish his hip flexor hadn’t given him trouble, in the end, I was glad that I ended up pacing because it really was a fun / miserable 18 miles on the trail. ;-)

Hats off to Race Directors Dustin and Rachel Speer. They were very well-organized, did an excellent job of communication leading up to the race, and took individual care of each of their 36 race starters across the two distances. Especially in better weather, I definitely recommend people check out the LOViT 100K and 100 Miler.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crewing the 2015 LOViT 100 Miler

My friend Jeremy Day was signed up to run the LOViT 100 Miler, named for the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail outside Mt Ida, Arkansas, on February 20, 2015. So I came along to drive him home after the race and to crew him during the race, helping out however I could so he could finish and collect another 100 mile belt buckle.

I’m going to post in this blog entry about crewing the race, and I’ll follow up in a couple days with a blog post about pacing the race (updated: pacing report here). My hope is that (1) this helps those who crew, pace, or run LOViT 100 Miler in the future, and (2) more people learn that crewing is one tough job! I hear so many jumping and frothing at the mouth to crew and pace strangers without realizing the time and energy involved.

The Set-up and Getting to the Race

This race was unusual with its 6 pm start on Friday. That would mean about 19 hours of the 30 hours to cutoff would be in the dark. Unfortunately, it was also going to be cold and wet.

Jeremy and I had discussed that I would not pace him at this race. Besides the logistics of getting a ride to an aid station, neither of us were crazy about the possibility I could roll an ankle on the slick technical terrain. But Friday morning, after he had been up with his 7 week old son off and on during the night, Jeremy was worried about getting sleepy during the race and warned me he might end up wanting pacing. Luckily, I had brought running clothes (thinking I would get out for a run nearby between crewing moments) and then he brought one of his extra hydration packs that I could use just in case.

I arrived Thursday to spend some extra time with the Day family and love on baby Oscar.
He is such a cutie!
On Friday afternoon, we traveled the 3 hours to the host hotel just a mile from the start/finish line, and Jeremy was able to get a short nap on the drive and again when we arrived, before the 6 pm start. There were 13 starters in the 100 mile. I said hi to my friends Lalita, Dat, and Chris. The 100K (which Dat and Chris were running) would start at 6:00 the next morning and have 23 starters. It was a small event with a personal feel  - depending on your pace, this can be lonely, but the individual attention by volunteers and the race director is pretty special.

Race Start, a Surprise Visit, and a Restless Night (for me!)

When race directors Dustin and Rachel sent the runners off to start the race, it was 34 degrees and raining. It was forecast to rain all night until midway into the next day. Jeremy doesn’t require a lot of crewing help usually so, with the unusual timing of this race start, I had told him I wouldn’t see him again until mile 47 because I planned to get a full night’s sleep until 5:30 am.

I went to dinner at the resort restaurant and, while looking over the crew document, I realized the aid station for mile 9 was only a few minutes’ drive away. I thought that with an entire night ahead of rain and darkness, it would be a nice surprise to see a friendly face when he wasn’t expecting it, and it could be a chance to fix anything (like deciding he wanted different layers once he was out there running) or get something from his supplies that he had forgotten. So I bundled up and grabbed Jeremy’s supply bag and drove out there. I was walking up to the aid station just as he arrived! He was good with what he had but seemed happy with the surprise visit, and I headed back to the hotel.

The rain was pouring down when I returned to the cottage and I felt bad that I wasn’t helping through the night hours. It’s hard to accept responsibility for helping someone for just part of the race, especially the later parts, where things not taken care of early in a race can start to go downhill fast. Not that he isn’t perfectly capable, but a crew member can just be that extra little objective voice to keep things on target, especially speed, hydration, nutrition, and temperature regulation. So I set an alarm for 1:30 am, thinking that if his pace was slowing, I would run out to the aid station (the same one I had been to for mile 9). I then proceeded to wake up every hour. L I would check the online live tracking (which was phenomenal and timely). At 1:30 am, he was still running on the pretty fast side of the time range we had discussed, so I hemmed and hawed but assumed I would miss him by the time I drove out there (turns out I was right). I went back to sleep and tossed and turned more. At 4 am, after more bad dreams and waking up every hour the whole night, I got up for good.

Miles 42 and 47 - In Good Spirits

Now I had time to go to Charlton aid station at mile 42 when he wasn’t expecting to see me until mile 47. Driving to the aid station, I went through rain and also experienced the worst fog I’ve driven in in years. And I made a bonehead move of passing the mile 42 aid station, driving all the way out to mile 47 because I was sleepy and groggy, and then having to hurry back in the fog to the mile 42 aid station.

My friend Lalita (who was crewing friend Elizabeth who is a similar pace as Jeremy) was there when I arrived. It seemed like she managed to be at all the aid stations all the time! Magic? While waiting, Lalita squealed as a field mouse ran through the pavilion, and I was told I had missed the big campground rat who had gotten curious about the aid station before I arrived!

Jeremy was in great spirits at mile 42 and seemed surprised to see me already. He definitely didn’t look like he had spent 12 hours in the rain! 

I headed off to the Crystal Springs aid station at mile 47. The aid stations were never more than 7.5 miles apart, and most of them were 4-5 miles apart. Driving from one to the next was never more than a 22 minute drive! Usually crew were allowed at every other one, but this was the one place that you could access two in a row. Jeremy was still doing well but asked at that point that I might want to plan to pace from mile 87 because he was feeling a little sleepy already. He gave me a bunch of wet clothes to dry out with his car’s heater after he changed into dry stuff. I also took his headlamp and flashlight from him.
In the middle of the glamorous task of
changing headlamp and flashlight batteries
I traveled back to the hotel to grab a shirt Jeremy had forgotten to pack in his bag of supplies, and I grabbed him a coffee at the country store to try to perk him up a bit now that the store had opened for the morning. Then on to the Brady Mountain Aid Station at mile 58. This was the longest stretch between seeing him, with 11 miles.

Miles 58 and 65 - The End of the Rain, Time for Something Drastic

When Jeremy arrived at the aid station, he got to see the creek crossing just 20 feet from the aid station. There was some cursing as he waded across the shin deep cold water. 
He is only smiling because I demanded that he do so.
It was now noon and, after 18 hours of rain, the rain probability had dropped to almost 0%. With the help of two of the guy volunteers, Jeremy changed all his top layers. Wet clammy skin plus dry performance fabric equals a sticky time trying to get new clothes on!

I said I would meet him again in 7 miles. At Mile 65 was the Avery Recreation Area aid station, with a pretty view of the river with the dam and spillway. Jeremy was right on the cutoff pace tied to the 30 hour final cutoff when he arrived. The volunteers weren’t bothered because he was still moving. He seemed relieved. But we were both worried going forward. He decided to do something he called “drastic” – he went from the 110 oz LARGE pack he had been carrying (to train with it for Bigfoot 200 coming up in August) and had me grab his 20 oz handheld. Lighter now, he hoped to make up a little time.
I showed Jeremy a picture of his 7 week old baby that I asked his wife to send me, and he headed off again. I would see him again back at the Brady Mountain Aid Station at mile 71.

I went to a convenience store and grabbed Butterfinger Bites. A favorite candy of his, in addition to the pictures from his wife of the baby, it was in my arsenal of psychological tools I was ready to employ to keep him moving if needed!

Mile 71 – Just Keep Moving! No DNFs Allowed!

I waited at the Brady Mountain aid station eagerly with Lalita and Josh (both of whom knew Jeremy). Lalita was crewing Elizabeth who came into the aid station very focused and close to cutoff pace. But in what makes this trail community awesome, in the middle of downing some food and while she's working through her own race issues, Elizabeth looked up and saw me, and probably my concerned look, and said “He wants to drop. Don’t let him.” Uh, ok. Now I was really nervous.

He came in, just a little behind cutoff pace. And yes, he was talking about DNFing. He had fallen early in the race and hurt his hip flexor. And with another 60 miles on his legs, he was in a lot of pain and having trouble with each step. He couldn't imagine being able to continue with how painful it was feeling.

I love this moment when I think back, not because he was hurt of course, but because Josh, Lalita, and I rallied and triaged and troubleshooted (troubleshot?) and that's what the ultrarunning family does! A lot of pep talks and tough love on the emotional side. I showed him another picture I had been sent of his infant son. I had brought him more coffee and had him drink that. On the physical side, we found a foam roller for his hip flexor, then Lalita and I each offered up a hip flexor stretch (hers hit the target area!), Lalita poked around at his hip flexor trying to massage it out, she found a tennis ball and rolled it with that, and then he was moving a little bit better…. And we kicked him out of the aid station. 

But not before I told him I would pace him at mile 82 instead of 87. “Are you sure you can do that?” he said, referencing that we had agreed 18 miles of that much hilly terrain would be difficult for me at my current training. In the middle of his pain, he seemed genuinely concerned about me. “Yeah,” I said. “I can keep up forever at the pace you are now going.” He he he.

He crossed the shin deep stream he had cursed on his way out to this aid station. He was prepared with dry socks from his drop bag at the previous aid station at mile 68 to change into after crossing the stream. He sat down on a rock to change socks, and Josh said he was taking too long. He said, “Hold my gloves.” He proceeded to jump across this 5 foot wide creek crossing! After helping Jeremy, where I gave him crap about “it can hurt a little more by running or you can do 22 minutes per mile walking and it hurt a little less. So I expect a run.” And he hobbled down the trail away from us.

Prepping To Pace at Mile 82

Lalita was so nice to help me out with the logistics of pacing (which are SO much easier on a looped course than an out-and-back like this one or a point-to-point). I parked my car at the finish line and she gave me a ride back to the mile 82 Crystal Springs aid station. And she further took care of me by stopping at the country store to make sure I ate a burger before my long night of unexpected pacing ahead AND bought that burger for me when I lamented that I had left my wallet locked in the car at the finish line!

Then I just worried for hours. Each headlamp that appeared in the distance was a moment to hold my breath and hope he was still moving forward. 11 miles of waiting. Then it was the cutoff for that aid station. Then it was after the cutoff. 

And I’ll separate my pacing into a separate post to come next! (Updated: Pacing Report HERE)