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.
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|
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.|
|Getting a little happier now|
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!