Short synopsis of the 2 months since my previous post:
Selah is walking. I have been training for my 100 mile race. Mike, Selah, and I headed out on our 6th annual summer roadtrip June 8th and have been to Yosemite, Lassen, Redwoods, Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, Seattle (Mike ran the Rock 'n Roll 1/2 marathon), Tahoe, and now Iowa. We have kept ourselves busy running, climbing, biking, visiting friends and family, and generally having a great time. We truly appreciate the fact that we have the opportunity to spend so much quality time with the people we love.
My training for Tahoe has really been years in the making, but most notably I did a 50 miler in May and a road marathon two weeks before the race. A quick note on the marathon...I was trying to use it as a training run, but just can't help but get competitive once that starting line gun goes off. It was a fast and flat marathon and I ended up doing the first half in 1:35, a little fast for me. There was an out and back from miles 5 to 18, so I could see that I was in 3rd place. Instead of being smart and just keeping steady, I decided to start surging to maintain my place. I paid for it later and had a slower second half for a finishing time of 3:24:17 (7:47 pace) and 8th woman of 190. A 6 minute PR, not too shabby.
Between the marathon and Tahoe, I ran only twice and did a few days of hiking. I think the rest was just what I needed, both physically and mentally. I tried not to think about the race and was able to sleep well and eat normally. When I think about racing too much, I tend to have a hard time eating and sleeping, so that was good for me.
Wes and Stef arrived a few days early, so we backpacked into the Incredible Hulk to climb and hang out.
My parents, brother and sister-in-law, and us all arrived in Tahoe on Monday, 6 days before the race. We rented a big condo and had wonderful family time full of laughter, conversation, hiking, lake time, climbing, and lots of food and beer.
For those of you that are interested, here is what I had in my drop bag. Note that we went through this aid station a total of 6 times on the course and that my crew was at 3 other points on the course.
- spray on sunscreen (it's easier to spray over very dirty skin)
- baby wipes (SO NICE! I washed my face a few times, as well as other tender areas and I would highly recommend having these available)
- headlamp and batteries
- 4 peanut butter and banana wraps and a few pieces of homemade pizza (I ate only half of one wrap and 1 piece of pizza, they made me sick to my stomach)
- electrolyte caps
- caffeine pills (didn't use them)
- blister kit with bandaids, moleskin, skin glue, tape, topical lidocaine
- two long underwear tops
- 5 king size Snicker bars (ate most of them)
- spare water bottle
- shoes borrowed from El 1/2 size larger than mine
- spare shorts, sports bra, and top (didn't use them)
- extra socks (changed into new shoes and socks at mile 50)
- super lightweight windbreaker
Mike drove me to Spooner Lake State Park, the start/finish and 50 mile turnaround. Runners were milling about everywhere and everyone was getting excited. The race volunteers all wore bathrobes, slippers, and curlers in their hair, perfect for lightening the mood. We milled down to the start area and I found another woman that had raised her hand the day before. Off we went into the dark for the start of 100 miles! So anticlimactic, really, as we all started off by walking.
It was 6 miles and a 1500 foot climb to the first aid station above the beautiful Marlette Lake and I took it really easy, running any downhill, walking even the slightest uphill and running some of the flat. I talked to all kinds of people that I would see throughout the long day. From Hobart aid station, we got onto single track and weaved around the west side of Marlette and Harlan Peaks, then had a nice drop into Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 11. A quick weight check and some food in, and off we went on the notorious Red House Loop, a 6.5 mile lollipop type loop that ends back at Tunnel Creek. I was feeling great, so I booked it on the steep downhill to the Red House and power hiked back out, passing many people. To this Colorado girl, a 1200 foot climb in 1.5 miles wasn't as strenuous as they had warned. The only thing slowing me down was that I seemed to have to pee every couple miles.
From Tunnel Creek, the course took us north again towards Diamond Peak ski area. It was flat and rolling for about 8 miles, then 5 miles of downhill to the 30 mile aid station. I felt amazing and ran those 13 miles in just over 2 hours, fast enough for my family to show up 30 minutes after I had left the AS (they were watching live updates online). I think it was a mistake to go so fast, and I paid for it later. I must admit, I was pretty sad and disappointed when I showed up and had no cheering section waiting for me, but I decided I had to get over it and move on. I couldn't let my emotions get me down. Fortunately, Olga caught up to me at the aid station and we were able to climb the steep ski area out of there together, power hiking past guys like they were standing still. We both have some buns of steel to get us up those steep climbs! She was so wonderful to talk to! What an inspiration, with many many many ultras under her belt, a constant smile, and a charming Russian accent. At the top of the ski area, I took a little break in the shade and she took off ahead. She almost went off course at an unmarked turn, but this rookie had pored over the map for enough hours to memorize the course. Thankfully, I turned her around. (A few other runners weren't so lucky: the second place female came roaring past me at mile 40, stating she had gotten lost for 6 miles at that turn, and ended up DNFing in frustration).
From the top of Diamond Peak, the course heads back south to Tunnel Creek, back around Harlan and Marlette Peaks to Hobart Aid station, and then splits slightly east to the top of Snow Valley Peak, mile 42 and the high point of the course (9200'). I was feeling really strong at the top of the peak, had no blisters, had no GI issues, not even a sore muscle. As I left the AS tent, I looked right and heard "Boo!" and found my dad standing there! He had hiked up to meet me and run to the turnaround with me. What a morale boost!! I was so excited and just started talking his ear off, telling him how great I was feeling and how happy I was. In fact, I was feeling so great that he couldn't keep up with me and we were only together for about 1/2 mile. It's funny how an ultra is such an extreme emotional roller coaster, because by the time I got to the bottom of the descent to Spooner Lake, I had nearly talked myself into quitting at 50 miles. I wanted to sit on a rock and wait for my dad and was secretly wishing for some pain somewhere so I could have an excuse to stop.
Well, no such luck. I still had no pain at mile 50 and my brother was practically doing cartwheels in excitement to go back out for another loop with me. I couldn't stop or he would be too sad...so I went out again after 30 minutes of eating, changing shoes, and having Mike wash and doctor up a few hot spots on my feet. Wes and I left the turnaround at 6:00pm, 13 hours after starting the race, 50 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing down, 50 and 12,000 feet to go.
The climb back to Hobart was fairly uneventful, except that Wes was jumping around, hooting, yelling, and generally having more fun than I had ever seen. We left Hobart just before sunset and headed into the open above Lake Tahoe into one of the most fantastic views I have ever witnessed ever ever ever. Alpine glow on Marlette Peak, Lake Tahoe, Marlette Lake, a field of Arrow-leafed Balsam Root, Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Cinquefoil, Pentstemmon....OMG!! I had just run about 57 miles and was back on top of the world. Wes and I headed toward Tunnel Creek (by the way, we saw the first 100 miler heading back to the finish here, he was nearly 30 miles ahead of us!) and we were RUNNING!! We averaged about 9:00 pace through the rocks in the dark and arrived at Tunnel Creek to find Olga, who had unfortunately decided to DNF. We left Tunnel Creek towards the Red House with rocket fuel in our veins (remember that roller coaster analogy?).
The Red House Loop has gained the reputation as "a taste of Hell". I didn't think it was bad at all the first time around, but it seemed interminable the second time! By the time Wes and I arrived at the bottom of the loop, I had a couple of very sore blisters and started feeling really tired. I basically could not get the energy to run and just walked all the way back to Tunnel Creek. I sat at Tunnel for a while, weighed in (I was peeing literally every 20 minutes or so but had not lost any weight), and left the AS walking at 11:45pm. We ended up walking the next 13 miles, the longest 13 miles EVER. I had been warned not to get into a death march, ie run even though it hurts and avoid the urge to keep walking forever. I should have heeded that advice and at least tried to run, but I could not muster any strength. The 13 mile stretch between Tunnel Creek and the bottom of Diamond Peak ski area was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Wes turned music on for us and just stayed behind me, constantly telling me I was doing great and trying to encourage me. I remembered a couple of significant turns and kept waiting for them to arrive, but we just seemed to never get there. What had taken me 2 hours on the previous lap took 4:20 the second time. I essentially gave up, quit eating and drinking, and decided to quit as soon as we got to Diamond Peak. I could only imagine crawling into the bed in back of the van and having Mike drive me back to the condo while I slept. I only wanted to sleep, it completely consumed my thoughts. Several times, I sat down on rocks and begged Wes to run down and get Mike to come carry me to the van. I was done. Completely depleted. Over it. Thought it absolutely impossible to go out for another 20 miles. Pissed off. This is the stupidest thing I have ever done. I will never ever do this again and I don't care what anyone thinks. And on and on, you get the picture.
Well, the turns did eventually arrive and I actually did eventually make it to the ski area and immediately crawled into the van to go to sleep as planned. Mike, on the other hand, had been warned by me for months that I would try to do this and his job was to not let me do it. "This is different, you don't understand! I really am done! Quit being such an asshole and let me go to sleep!". Well, darn, he wouldn't listen and made me get out of the van "for a med check, I think you should get weighed to make sure everything is ok". He was totally working me. He wrapped me up in a blanket and helped me walk to the officials, whom I told I was quitting. Mike: "No, no, no, let's just go rest in the lodge for a bit". Me: "No, I'm quitting, you're such an asshole, why won't you let me sleep?! We went into the lodge, he made me eat some chicken soup and I fell asleep sitting up in the chair.
When Mike went to the bathroom, I sneaked back to the van and crawled into bed, ignoring Wes' pleas to have me try again. I dozed on and off between Mike and Wes trying to get me to eat and drink, and eventually the sun came back up. Then Mike pulled out the big guns, he called Sari, my uber tough Primal Quest winning friend. She knows what blisters feel like. She knows what exhausted feels like. She also knows what persevering through it feels like and what success at the end feels like. She told me to put on a new pair of shoes and "just try walking, just a little bit, just try" and I barely got out the words "I'll think about it" between sobs. Then Mike started gyrating his hips to "Freaky Girl" in front of me, claiming I was really going to miss out if I missed his special playlist.
I tried not to laugh, cuz gosh darnit, I was determined to stay mad. But I laughed. And then I put on a different pair of shoes. And then I walked across the parking lot. And then I tried, just a little bit. Wes was still on fire and amped beyond belief, so he decided to stay with me and Mike instead of having Mike take his place.
We hiked and laughed and started having fun and got to Snow Valley Peak aid station, mile 93 and all downhill to the finish. It was then that I realized I was actually going to finish this race. We ran almost the entire way to the end, passing another several runners in the process, and ended up with just over 6 hours for the 20 miles, the same pace I had done it on the first loop.
I crossed the finish line in 32:19, 11th out of 13 finishing females and 47th of 60 finishers overall. 57 of 117 had DNF'd. I persevered. Then I drank a well-deserved beer.
There is absolutely no way I would have succeeded without my mom helping me get prepped, my parents and Stef watching Selah, Wes indomitable spirit for 50 miles, Mike's excitement. This was a family affair.
Will I do it again? Yesterday I said absolutely not. Today I say probably not. Tomorrow, who knows. I truly think that marathons and 50s are more my thing, but i guess we'll just have to see.
What I learned:
- Sitting still for a few minutes at every aid station to eat, drink, and recover was a good idea. When I blazed through, I paid for it later. When I took the time to rest, I felt energized.
- Eat and drink constantly. I drank about 8 gallons of water through the course. I ate a few king-size snickers, several chicken and avocado burritos, a piece of pizza, a few cheese sticks, lots of chips, a couple of ham sandwiches, a grilled cheese sandwich, a breakfast burrito, loads of watermelon and canteloupe, a few small smoothies, a peach, a few cups of soup, M&M's, jelly beans, half of a gel (made me gag) and lots more that I can't remember right now.
- Sugary electrolyte drink almost always makes me nauseous. I tried in the beginning and it had the same affect, so I took electrolyte caps every hour with water.
- Sometimes it takes 3 hours and lots of encouragement to get moving again, but once you just get moving, you feel better than you think you will. Make sure you have your crew prepared to talk you into things you don't want to do.