With each one of these races we do it seems to get easier and easier to get ready for. By the time we got to Steamboat Thursday afternoon my drop bags were packed, my crew notes dialed in, dinner had been pre-made and I was basically all set to go.
The race start was 8:00 am for us tortoises which meant I would be able to get some real sleep. Ever since James was born sleeping before a race hasn't been a problem. I'm usually so tired all the time that not even stress can get in the way. So I was in bed by 9:00 asleep by 9:01. The late start might have been one of my favorite parts. At Leadville I usually hit a low point around mile 30 because I miss my lil grommie so much. I know it sounds silly, but morning cuddles are the best way to start any day. This time I got my morning snuggles before the race started so I was set and didn't hit that low point at mile 30...well at least not because I missed James.
Before I headed to the start I stepped out onto the porch and it was frickin' cold! Way colder than I had anticipated and way too cold to start in just a t-shirt. I ransacked the clothes I had and found one long sleeve tech shirt and a pair of cotton knit gloves. Everything else was already in drop bags so these would have to do. I didn't realize then how important these two articles of clothing would prove to be later on.
The race started with a "go" and we were off, running for maybe two minutes before we were quickly halted by Mt Werner and so the hike began. I was surprised how good I felt and how little effort breathing was taking. I guess the advantage of having run Leadville the past two years was that starting nearly 3,000 ft lower meant I was not going to be winded straight off the bat. My goal for the climb was to stay steady and hike hard without digging too deep of a hole. Mt Werner would be a 3,500 ft or so climb. Sandra and I hiked this one together. When we got to the top of the gondola I heard one volunteer say first and second woman. I nearly screamed in panic to Sandra since she hadn't heard the guy. We looked at each other in horror, both gasping, "did we already go out too fast?". Well we felt good and there was nothing we could do about it now, head down and keep going. We quickly found ourselves following the guy in front who led us off trail. We only got 100 ft or so off the trail before we realized the mistake and turned around. Now we were hands on knees straight up the mountain. We crested Mt Werner at 9:29, exactly where I wanted to be, and another volunteer reassured us saying we were 3rd and 4th woman. This really wasn't much comfort as I did not want to be this far in the front this early. Sandra told me I would lose her on the downhills through the rolling section to Long Lake so I set off to run my race and keep steady. She was really only a handful of minutes behind me. I settled into a pace with Cole and a couple other guys and we easily cruised to Long Lake. I remember thinking that section was going to hurt on the way back! It didn't disappoint!
At Long Lake I was now around 30 minutes ahead of schedule, but I felt really good. I dropped my gloves and long sleeve in my drop bag, grabbed more calories and was off. This aid station by the way completely ROCKED!!! Hands down these volunteers were the BEST and totally made my race. I'd see them two more times and every time they were amazing! I knew Cole was pushing my pace a bit too fast so I backed off and let him go as we headed down Fish Creek Falls.
|James having fun waiting for me at Olympian|
I was in and out of Olympian in less than 2 minutes. I saw Allisa and she grabbed my bottles to fill, Dan sprayed me with sunscreen, my Dad handed me vasoline and my Mom set down James to charge me, arms outstretched and coming in for the world's best hug whether I was ready or not! I had planned on this being a big stop for aid, but I didn't even enter the aid station. So far my AS had been 2 min or less. I was prepared for a climb out of Olympian and kept telling myself, it's just like Falcon, it's just like Falcon. I kept a really steady climb and am pretty happy with how hard I was able to climb that "little" hill. As we neared the water stop the guy just behind me skipped to catch up gasping "Did you see that snake???" Ah no...apparently I stepped right next to some monster snake. I have no idea what kind it was since I never saw it, but I guess that means I was just in the zone right? I filled my bottles at the water station and pushed on continuing my steady pace. Just as I knew I should be nearing the top I heard this noise, a buzzing of sorts. I glanced over my shoulder to see this elk covered in flies and missing a large portion of his neck. I have no idea what killed the elk, but I instantly was on alert, was it a hunter that might accidentally shoot me? a mountain lion? I really didn't want to stick around to find out so I headed down toward Cow Creek.
The downhill was more gradual than I would have liked so I wasn't able to make up as much time as I had hoped, but I knew I was still making good time. I finally heard the aid station and charged in filling my bottles and grabbing my handheld. The next section would be one of the longest to water so I wanted to have a bit more fluid. I could feel my electrolytes were low so I had my handheld filled with AS electrolyte mix, I think they said it was Tailwind. I hadn't trained with this, but figured how bad could it be. Turns out it was not what my stomach was feeling. I needed it, but my stomach definitely started turning. This was also my least favorite part of the course. We left the AS and headed down yet another dirt road. I didn't see any cars so that wasn't a big deal, but it wasn't very scenic. As a Wisco girl I've seen my share of cows. I even began to wonder if I was really going the right way. After a mile or so I caught up with two guys and we stuck together for the whole "climb". I had been anticipating another Falcon climb but it never came. It was just that annoying grade that you feel like you should really be able to run, but it's just enough that you can't. I also thought it would get steeper so I kept forcing myself to hold back here. I was also hoping maybe I could get a bit more back on pace. I was nearly 2 hr ahead of schedule and beginning to worry about how that would affect the rest of my race. Finally after winding up some nice singletrack and thinking I would never hit the main road we popped out on the double track that would lead back down to the water stop. One of the guys charged ahead and the other dropped back so I was running alone again. A couple minutes later I saw the unmistakable look of Nikki Kimball charging the climb. Just behind her were Darcy Piceau and Kerri Bruxvoort. These fast girls just pushed me even more and I charged downhill.
I came into Olympian nearly 2 hr ahead of schedule, but thankfully my crew had expected this and was there to greet me. Since I had planned on being here later I had left my headlamp and night clothes in this drop bag. That meant I had to load up all my gear and carry it with me. I had slowed down on calories since my stomach was heading south and I knew I needed to catch up. I chugged half a clear Ensure Protein, which didn't go down too bad, loaded up on calories and fluids and Dan ran me back out to the road. I had four miles of uphill road staring at me before I would pick up Katie. I tried to keep the pace easy to let my stomach settle and the miles ticked by pretty quickly. But by the time I hit Fish Creek Falls AS my stomach was a mess. Katie was all smiles and ready to help get me up this climb though. I remembered the climb from the morning and was nervous about the technical parts also thankful I was ahead of schedule and would be making this climb in the daylight or something close to daylight. We took off laughing and smiling as I made Dan promise me he would get some sleep before I saw him again in 25 miles.
I was thankful this climb was not the annoying grade and I could settle into my hiking pace. As we made our way up my stomach started to settle, but I could now feel my calories were really low. I was getting a bit lightheaded and out of it. I decided my stomach was settled enough to try a regular gel. I took a couple small sips and when Katie reached for my wrapper I realized I was taking it really slow, probably an excuse to slow my pace. So I took a big gulp...bad idea...immediately I started gagging and up came the gel along with nearly all the precious fluids in my stomach. As promised Katie held my hair back and as the group of guys behind us passed me they all patted my back in a show of solidarity. With nothing left to do other than continue to head up and slowly build back my fluid and calorie level we kept going. With each step I felt better. We passed by the falls again just as the sun was setting behind us. That's a site I'll remember for a long time to come.
Just before we reached Long Lake I had to put on my headlamp. We came into Long Lake and Katie sat me next to the fire, but made me promise not to get too close while she grabbed my drop bag. I instantly started shaking uncontrollably. I hadn't realized I was that cold, but now I couldn't control it. She brought me a coke and I think more ended up running down my legs than in my stomach so she quickly took it away from me and ran off to get a cup of broth. I had my capris tights I'd been carrying since Olympian and the old pair of long tights I had thrown in the drop bag at the last minute. I didn't hesitate throwing both pairs on before pulling my shorts over top. I also thankfully had the extra shirt and gloves I'd worn earlier this morning and quickly pulled both of those on as well. I had one long sleeve shirt and thin gloves, but that was clearly not going to be enough. Even now I can't believe how lucky I was that I had the spare clothes from that morning. As I was getting ready to leave Sandra came into the AS. She didn't seem at all phased by the cold, which worried me a bit that I should be warmer. Eric seemed to have her under control so Katie led me out of the AS and towards Summit Lake.
The section to Summit Lake was basically a rolling jeep road. I tried to run as much of it as I could while Katie and I chatted away enjoying the night. At one point Katie stopped and turned to me "I know you need to keep going, but you need to look at the stars right now." It totally reminded me of something Rob would have done. I looked up to see a cloudless sky full of stars. It was amazing...and reminded me again this is why we do these crazy races. And then we saw a lone headlight coming from behind, it was moving fast. For a moment I was confused how someone was passing us this easily and then I saw that unmistakable beard, Rob Krar. The hares had finally gotten us. Katie and I began to joke that we could always tell it was a hare and not another tortoise when it was one headlight moving smooth and fast and the runner still had on shorts. When Cindy passed us I was surprised I had really expected it to be Sandra coming up from behind. Summit Lake brought more broth as I tried to refuel. Things were finally starting to click again. I had somehow caught up on calories, my stomach was settling down and my legs were still running.
Katie and I pushed the downhill as hard as I could. I felt like I was moving fairly well at least I was running and keeping a steady pace. I knew I was losing time though and had really thought I could be running a faster pace. I'm not one to dwell on this though so I just kept going. Dry Lake was a strange AS. Maybe it was my altered state but it just looked like carnage everywhere. I refused to sit down, just drank some broth as fast as possible, determined to get out of there. I did see Laurie and after a quick hug reassured her that Sandra was not far behind. It was a quick 4.5 miles to Spring Creek and as much as Katie and I did not want to count the 15 bridges they were oh so nicely numbered. No way getting around that! My stomach was starting to act up a bit again, but nothing too bad. I had been hoping to get down more of the clear Ensure at Spring Creek, but that was obviously not going to happen. The medic grilled me to make sure I was okay to go on. I got the distinct feeling that he did not think I looked that great, but really how good are you supposed to look over 70 miles into a race at nearly 1:30 am? I actually thought, aside from my stomach that was curdling as we spoke, that I was doing pretty damn well. I had warmed up considerably and my legs, okay well aside from my hamburger meat quads, were doing quite well. I still believe I could not have been the only one in kinda sorta rough shape at Spring Creek. Dan and Katie were switching pacing duties here so I quickly hugged Kate and thanked her profusely before Dan and I had to make the last big climb of the race.
We passed Sandra not too far out of the AS and she was still looking really good. I felt pretty good on the climb. Slower than I would have liked, but again at least I was steady. Dry Lake was still the carnage site I remembered and again I tried to get in and out with broth as fast as I could. They had ran out of cups for broth though so sipping out of a bowl was not easily done. Then we were on our way to Summit Lake. This seemed to take forever! It's a long section and I was really moving pretty slow. I didn't feel like I could take a single running break so it was a slow trudge up the mountain. Dan and I reached Summit Lake just as the sun was rising and I felt like crying! I had made it...not to the end, but this was the last climb. Only some 20ish miles left. I sank into a chair drinking broth as Dan grabbed my drop bag. We dropped our headlamps and I suggested we just take a really quick nap. I did at least have my wits about me enough to not sit by the fire. I sat around the outside and watched the other runners zoned out and just staring. I knew I looked just like that, but that I had to keep moving. I double checked the mileage with one of the volunteers and it was nearly twice as long as I thought. Wait what?!?! Oh shit, I clearly had not remembered that we didn't take the jeep road back. We took the long winding Wyoming Trail back to Long Lake. Oh but my legs didn't want trail, they wanted easy jeep road. As I was walking out Sandra walked in looking phenomenal! One look at me and she asked if I was okay. I must have looked really bad. She looked like she was just about to get going and I was sure she would catch up in no time.
Dan and I took off down the trail and little by little my spirits lifted. It was gorgeous. Everything was frozen and a blanket of clouds covered everything below us. We wound around up and down and although I was still moving slowly I was running more and more of the flats and downs. I had clearly not had enough Coke during the night and every time we started walking I started falling asleep and running into Dan. I think this propelled me to keep running more than anything. Once the sun was really up I started to perk up a bit. And before long we started seeing 50 milers. The first couple seemed like they had no idea what I was doing running the other direction, but more and more started cheering. This totally got me running more. We eventually made it back to Long Lake. And again these volunteers ROCKED!!! One woman immediately came up to me to help with whatever I needed. Dan grabbed my drop bag while she was filling water bottles. It was getting warm and I started debating if I should lose a pair of pants. She said I'd definitely overheat in what I was wearing so I started shedding layers. Then she literally pulled my top pair of pants off me. I couldn't negotiate my fingers to do it, but she didn't care. I don't remember her name, but she said she normally volunteered but this year was supposed to pace. Her runner dropped before he got her so she just started helping out at an AS. She was like a little angel for me. She finally got my pants off and switched my bib and then sent us on our way.
I clearly remembered the section from Long Lake to Mt Werner from the morning before and it did not disappoint. It was miserable. Sure it was rolling singletrack, but mostly rolling upward. My legs hurt, my feet hurt and I just wanted to be done. After what seemed like a little bit of running, a lot of hiking and an equal amount of whining I made it to the Mt Werner AS and nearly cried. Not only did I know it was a short 6.5 miles downhill to the finish line I knew there was no girl out there who could catch me at this point. Barring some sort of catastrophe I was going to finish in third place. It was not an easy downhill though. In retrospect I could have ran this section much better, my legs were sore, nothing else. But all I wanted to do was walk it in. I whined a lot, but I still managed some long running breaks as well. The village grew closer and I quickly realized we were one switchback from the finish line. I shuffled across the bridge to where James was waiting for me with a massive grin stretched across his face! If there is one reason to finish a race its to see that smile! Someone yelled out that I was the third woman and I couldn't help but get a bit excited. I know it's just the tortoises, but I was still pretty damn excited about it. A hug of the bunny and it was over. I had finished.
My goals for the race were to finish under 27 hr, to run a hard race (even if it meant blowing up) and secretly to finish in the top 3. My time ended up being 28:28 but I did run a really hard race. I left almost everything out there and pushed myself harder than I did at Leadville last year. Overall I feel like I ran a really good race. It wasn't perfect and I wished I had pushed it harder at the end, but it was still a good race. I also ended up getting 106 for mileage. I've been hearing it was more like 106/107. It also feels good to have another finish under my belt.
Week September 8 - 14
Miles Running: 114.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 30.5
Week September 8 - 14
Miles Running: 114.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 30.5