It's about 60 and sunny this Sunday afternoon and I am laying on the couch. I just went for a fantastic 6 mile hike and 6 miles these days warrants a little couch time. For the past hour or so, I've been going through our website that Mike manages, mikeandjoy.net, reminiscing about our myriad adventures and wondering what life holds for us in the future. I came across the post below and thought I would share it. I feel like lately I have been mourning the loss of my athleticism, which is a large part of my identity (and sanity). Although temporary and absolutely worthwhile, this change in my daily lifestyle has been hard on me emotionally. Poor Mike has had to deal with me without my normal endorphins (honestly, I do not think that has been super easy). The post below is a detailed account of the Squaw Peak 50 mile trail race that Mike and I ran last summer about a month before I got pregnant. It was very difficult, and although I swore I would never do another 50 after it, I am, of course, already planning my next one (summer 2010). It felt good to read about facing such a challenge and suffering through to the end.
Squaw Peak 50 Mile Trail Race in Provo, Utah
Joy’s account of the Squaw Peak 50
When I convinced Mike to sign up for the Squaw Peak 50 miler last December, I guess you could say I had not adequately researched the race…or I may have never brought up the idea. Now, about 18 hours after finishing, I keep finding myself thinking back to that winter day—was it really my idea? I’m riding in the van on the way to Yosemite, with 800mg of Ibuprofen in my system and an ice bag rotating between my right IT band, right ankle, and both shin muscles. After 14,000+ feet of gain and loss, needless to say, I am hurting. I truly think yesterday was the most physically demanding day I have ever experienced.
The day began early…very early considering my anxiety kept me awake the entire night despite my 2 glasses of red wine. As the alarm sounded at 4 A.M., the first “plink…plink…plink” sounded on the van’s metal roof above us. The forecast called for mostly sunny and 65, so we did not worry. As we casually greased our feet, filled our water bottles, and downed some espresso, the sprinkling turned into full on raining. Luckily, we both decided to carry light rain jackets despite our confidence that the weather would clear soon. Many runners (220 started) simply cut armholes in plastic trash bags, thinking they would toss them at the first aid station.
5 A.M. came quickly, and we were off. The first two miles warmed our cold muscles, a slightly downhill bike path before turning onto the trail for the first major climb. The trail rapidly became so slippery that with each step up, we slid 1/2 step back. Both runners and rain fell constantly. As we wound up the mountainside, rain turned to sleet and then to snow—big, downy flakes that stuck to the ground and covered the trail. By the 3rd aid station atop a windy, blizzarding pass at 12 miles, 20 runners had already dropped out. But, most remained strong and kept moving to stay warm, descending the pass as fast as possible to get out of the elements. By that time, the rain lightened to a sprinkle and the running became more pleasant, winding through misty forests and foggy peaks.
Miles passed to the bottom of the pass, during which time I met up and ran with three other runners—2 men and a woman, all experienced ultrarunners. Through the rolling terrain on the way to the next big climb, one of the runners kept our pace up by counting steps for us. “Okay, 100 steps” Chad would say, and we would all run 100 steps before walking again. We did this over and over and over, and the steady pace allowed us to stay ahead of the competition behind and overtake runners ahead. At the halfway point in the race, the 4 of us were around 30th place, with Susan and I the 4th and 5th women. I wanted to pick up speed and run more, but they all warned me to conserve energy as there was still a lot of race ahead. Besides a bit of nagging pain in my right knee and a little fatigue, I was feeling very good, confident that I would place well in the race. All 4 of us stuck together, maintaining our places, to the infamous aid station #8.
Though situated at 33.5 miles, AS#8 is known as the emotional halfway point of the race, and deservedly so. For 6.5 miles past it, the terrain is very difficult, with a steady uphill grade that culminates in a 1500-foot climb over one mile to a peak, complete with 2 false summits, 39 miles into the race. Mike recalled to me later, “My heart sank when I rounded the corner and looked up at the mountain ahead. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the string of runners heading up the snowy ridge to the summit.” It is only about 7 miles from AS#8 to #9, but the distance takes between 2 and 3 hours. Susan and I stuck through this section together, and though I did not say this out loud, I promised myself I would never, ever, ever run another ultra again. The climb was incredibly steep, snow-covered, slippery, and miserable. Towards the top, I pulled slightly ahead. About 20 vertical feet shy of the final uphill segment, my nagging right knee completely seized. The pain was incredibly intense, leaving me alone and sobbing with 10 miles of downhill ahead of me. Susan caught up, handed me 3 Ibuprofen, and kept going. I could see AS#9 just downhill from where I was, and my goal was just to make it there. I truly did not think I would make it past the aid station, which was 5 difficult miles away from the nearest road.
Just when I was giving up hope, Chad ran up behind me and asked what was going on. He happens to be an anesthesiologist and was carrying Ultram (a high octane anti-inflammatory) and Lidocaine patches (you stick them on and they make whatever they touch go numb). As Chad dug through his bag of goodies, who but Mike ran up to us! All this time, I figured Mike was way ahead of me, but he was actually behind me. I was so happy to see him! Mike helped me to the aid station, I taped the patches on and waited for them to take effect. It took about 40 minutes of very mentally draining time. I watched many women pass me by, and every time I stood up to “test” my knee, I would nearly collapse in pain. Mike waited with me there the entire time. Finally, my knee felt good enough that I thought I could at least hobble down to the road to avoid being carried out. With Mike by my side, we slowly descended the mud and snow-covered trail. The farther we went, the more effect the Lidocaine had, and I started to think I could finish the race. By the time we arrived at the last aid station (#10), with only 3 1/2 miles of paved downhill, I knew I could finish, and was actually able to run to the end. Thankfully, Mike continued with me to the end and we crossed the finish line together in 13:33. Although I was very disappointed at having been slowed by nearly 2 hours, I was elated at having finished what I thought was impossible.
Still smiling after 13-1/2 hours!