That was the thought going through my head as my alarm sounded at O’dark-thirty. I very rarely ever wake up thinking that as I am genuinely always excited to run whether it is on trails OR roads.
“Suck it up sister. You can do this,” my brain saidas I rolled out of bed and went about my pre-race morning routine.
The Buffalo Stampede 10 Miler is a race that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been running this road race since I lived in the neighborhood through which the course passes.
Once we moved away, my family made it a point to continue being part of this race. Typically I would run the race, the kids would do the fun run and we’d go visit Grandma and Grandpa who lived near by.
This year, and possibly part of the reason for my hesitation, was that the family wouldn’t be joining me. Squeaker had a soccer game later that morning. So no one on course to cheer me on – just me, myself and a bunch of super fast runners. My goal was to run it as close to last year’s time and then hop in the car and race home to coach and ref my daughter’s soccer game.
The one thing I do LOVE about road races, is the minimal prep work it takes to prepare in the morning. No packs or gear. Just shoes, hat/visor and something to eat when I am done.
I arrived early and sat in my car listening to as much pump up music as I possibly could before having to get out of the car and stretch/warm up.
I gathered by the starting area and started talking to a nice girl who was in her late 20’s and had never done this race before. She asked me about the course as she said the online map was a tad confusing. I’ve never looked it up honestly because I just know my old hood so well. 🙂
Talking with her brought me out of my funk. I think deep down, I was scared to run because I really wanted to do better than last year and I know how much I had pushed myself last year, I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to go any faster.
I situated myself kind of near the front. This race attracts a lot of the fast roadies in the area. It is put on by the Buffalo Chips Running Club, to which I am actually a member of this year but sadly, haven’t run with since last December.
I stood there pondering how I felt and what I was shooting for race wise.
The next thing I knew, the gun went off … it took me a bit to find a spot that wasn’t over crowded. All I kept thinking as I was running, was that “Man! I feel SO slow … my legs just are not pumping. Oh well, it’s going to be that kind of day I guess. ”
Then this happened …
Mile 1 – 7:31/mi: UM, WHAT THE? You were told to start off between 8:02 and 8:07! This does NOT feel like a 7:30 pace!
Mile 2 – 7:40/mi: Okay, okay. This actually feels maintainable … but come on Pam, do you REALLY think you can maintain this for another 8 miles? You’ve NEVER run this fast for a long time before …
Mile 3 – 7:43/mi: Shut up self! Look at that! You’re sticking to this pace. You don’t feel tired or out of breath. Keep breathing. Just focus on your form.
Mile 4 – 7:44/mi: Water! Oh, I should probably have a little, whatever it takes to not.lose.this.pace! Slurp … no stopping. Got the running and drinking thing down!
Mile 5 – 7:43/mi: Oh, this is where the course is a little different. We’re going down where we used to come back … okay, this is kind of cool. Wait, does this count as a PR? 🙂 It’s the same course, just a reversed direction for this part … shut it dork, just run. Form. Feet. Form. Feet. Breathe.
Mile 6 – 7:36/mi: Oooh look at you, back near the 7:30s … still feeling good. This is not my favorite section but at least now I can see some of the other runners coming back … oh look! There is that girl I chatted with at the start! “You go girl!! You got this!!!” She gave me a thumbs up!
Mile 7 – 7:41/mi: Okay Pam, here’s the deal. I waited this long to make this decision final BUT … you have 3 miles left, I do NOT want to see ANY 8’s on your watch. None .. you can do this, 3 more miles and you have yourself a new PR … just keep it steady! Don’t blow up!
Mile 8 – 7:34/mi: Don’t push too hard, but good job passing that dude back there. You were getting sucked into his pace and gait, I could feel it. His breathing was labored, yours is okay. Oh and that sip of water felt amazing, you had terrible dry mouth. Feet. Form. Feet. Form. Breathe!
Mile 9 – 7:40/mi: One.more.mile!!!! Come on!!!! Okay, you’re going to pass this girl whose has been in front of you all day … “Come on! You’ve been strong all race, come on, follow me! You got this!” She grunted and I think tried to kick it into her next gear. Go Pam, just run! There’s the right turn, you’re on the home stretch! There’s George, he’s cheering for you .. uh oh .. he’s also cheering for the girl behind you! No sneak attacks, push it, sprint!
Mile 10: 7:17/mi: I see the clock!! Oh my gosh, you could have a 5 minute PR … RUUUUUUNNNN PAM!!!!!!
Official Finish Time: 1:15:58 / 7:36 pace!
Post Race: Oh my word .. don’t hurl, whatever you do don’t HURL! hahaha!
I was okay, just a little nauseated at first but that went away. I was beyond excited. I grabbed some water and talked with some Buffalo Chip members that I haven’t seen in YEARS. Man, I love this community. Such good people!
But, I had to race back to the car. My cool down was jogging the few blocks it took to get to my car. I texted everyone who wanted to know the results while I tried to stretch as much as I could.
I am super excited by my race and my results. The mind is a funny thing and can really send you in one direction or another if you’re not careful.
I feel fortunate that I tend to have a positive mind that, for the most part, is always motivating me and if not me, allows me to motivate others who are running as well. I think that’s super important to having a good race. Happy that I shook off that morning cloud I woke up with.
I ended up placing 4th in my age group! Third place came in 2 minutes faster … so not super close and I don’t think I really even had two faster minutes in me but dang, I am proud of that 4th place! This race is no joke!
Also, because I am apparently 40 now .. I was added to the MASTERS category of runners as well. 🙂 This took me by surprise, not gonna lie. However, I was 13th(!!) in the Masters category – the first 12 were insanely fast and well over the age of 40 … I am honored to be in that category. What a bunch of speedsters!
“Genes are not our fate. Lifestyle matters most.” –Dr. Saray Stancic
The above is a quote that I heard while attending Plant-Stock this year. Yes, I went to Plant-Stock again. It was my third time actually and I would go again in a healthy endothelial strong heart beat.
This year, I brought Vans. Actually, I brought my whole family, kids and all but the kids ended up staying with the grandparents back in New Jersey, giving Vans and I our first solo weekend without kids in a very very long time!
The crew at Engine 2 changed things up this year for Plant Stock! Instead of two fun filled amazing days, we really had 2 and a quarter days because they added an Banana Nice Cream Social on Friday evening.
This was great because it gave everyone an opportunity to find the farm, see the parking, understand the layout of the property AND meet all their “online friends!” You know those people that you follow or communicate with on Instagram or Facebook but don’t really “know” very well. 🙂 Friday was perfect for this.
We ate banana ice-cream and were officially welcomed to the farm. We also saw a preview of the movie Big Change by Jason Cohen.
Saturday morning came bright and early. I wanted to do the morning group run. We had to be at the farm by 7:00 am. Vans, who is injured and in a boot, was a trooper. He sat in the car while I ran.I had the pleasure of running with a friend’s little girl for a good mile or so. She had a smile on her face the entire time.
It had rained the night before so the grass was super wet but I don’t think anyone really minded because the views were just gorgeous.You had the option of running a 2.7 mile loop or doing a walk which I think was a little over mile. They also offered lake side yoga which looked amazing!
Just like last year, the final portion of the run was climbing up to Tank Hill. Tank Hill is where last year, Josh LaJaunie was waiting at the top cheering everyone on as they made the steep climb up. This year, Josh is working on healing an injury so when I reached the top, there were just a few of us checking out the views.
It was such a spectacular morning. The humidity wasn’t that bad and the sun was rising into a clear blue sky.
Soon others started climbing the hill. I felt like it was such an momentous occasion that I needed to cheer them on until Tim Kaufman could get there and take over the reigns that Rip Esselstyn had assigned him. 🙂
This truly is a fantastic way to start your day. I met some wonderful people. I talked with Josh’s mom briefly on our hike down the hill. She’s an amazing lady.
After the run you have time to clean up (bring an extra change of clothes, a towel and some baby wipes is my word of advice). Then you grab a breakfast of kale, oats and fruit and settle in under the 12,000 square foot tent ready to have your mind blown.
First up was Rip Esselstyn, followed by his dad Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who said, “Food, and food alone, can absolutely reverse heart disease.”
Dr. Stancic is a physician who while in the midst of her 20 year conventional medical profession, learned that she had multiple sclerosis. She was blown away. She went from fast moving Doctor to needing a cane to help her walk. She was prescribed horrible medicines that left her in pain and sleepless nightly. She quickly went from Doctor to Patient. She wanted to change the cards that she thought were dealt to her. She did. Her story is captivating and inspiring. She continues to do amazing work at her clinic, Stancic Health and Wellness in Ramsey, New Jersey and is working on a documentary called Code Blue.
Following Dr. Stancic was Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine founder, Dr. Neal Barnard!
He discussed The Cheese Trap, his new book and why cheese is so addicting. He is a charismatic speaker whose humor is welcomed. Many people often say that they could give up eating meat, but not cheese. Dr. Barnard explained not only why this is but also, how cheese is essentially killing our nation.
Milan Ross was a new-to-me speaker. His talk, The Change: Transforming Yourself and Your Body into the Person You Want to Be was hilariously funny and incredibly inspiring.
Dr. Melanie Joy was also new to me. She discussed: Understanding the Psychology of Eating Animals for Effective Plant-Based Outreach and Communication. I also picked up her book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows. It’s a very graphic and eye opening account of our agricultural industry.
Also talking again this year was Adam Sud with his, From Pills to Plants story.
Tim Kaufman aka FatManRants spoke as well. I briefly met Tim last year at Plant-Stock but this was the first time I have heard his full story. He weighed over 400 lbs! But what struck me most, was his honesty. His wife had to tie his shoes. She mowed the lawn. He had all but given up, but thankfully he didn’t. His story will bring you to tears and will make you laugh. His beautiful wife and their inspiring and loving relationship will melt your heart.
There were SO many amazing speakers this year that I cannot possibly dive into all of them.
Dinner was on the property like last year. A beautiful and elegant display set up right on the farm.
Vans and I were fortunate enough to sit with Engine 2 Crew/Seven Day Rescue Coach (and all around amazing woman) Ami Mackey (no relation to Whole Foods John 🙂 ), my friend Mike from Molinski Photography (best photographer in Hudson NY) and some friends from home believe it or not that had traveled the 3,000 miles to see Plant Stock for themselves first hand!
Dinner was lovely. We sat talking well into dusk before finally leaving the farm. This place has such a hold on you, that you truly never want to leave and you secretly hope that the Esselstyn family might not notice yet another person added to their clan. 🙂
Sunday also started with a run/walk and yoga but Vans and I decided to take advantage of having NO kids and to sleep in just a little.
Much like Saturday, Sunday was oatmeal and kale and fruit for breakfast before the line up of speakers started. What I haven’t mentioned is that scattered throughout the day are breaks where you can take walks or shop at the on site vendors.
Vans had heard so much about Tank Hill and its views, that he just had to see it for himself, boot and all.
Sunday’s line up of speakers was just as inspiring as the day before. Dr. Irminne Van Dyken was someone who I had never heard of before but had me instantly glued to my seat listening.
I wasn’t the only one. Everyone sat completely still soaking up all that Dr. Van Dyken was explaining. No one got up, no one seemed to move. Which is kind of funny because her talk was about the gut biome, which is a serious and important topic but Dr. Van Dyken made it humorous! When you talk about the gut, you have to talk about bowel movements, which is often an embarrassing subject, but she made it okay and validated a lot of information for me. I really enjoyed her talk.
Jane Esselstyn was next with her: Plant-Based Benefits: Above and Below the Belt talk. This is who I want to be when I grow up. Jane Esselstyn is one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet but she can explain things like it’s no one’s business. Her talk inspired me. Motivated me. She used props that were fantastic and can help you explain to people why eating plant based is better for the body.
Her talk brought tears of laughter to my eyes and to the eyes of all those surrounding me. Jane is also the mastermind behind some of the amazing recipes at both Engine 2 and for her own cookbook The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook along with her mom, Ann Esselstyn.
Josh LaJaunie spoke on Sunday. He is another person that I had met last year, albeit briefly but whose story has touched and changed the lives of many. This year, he was doing it from the stage at Plant-Stock. Josh has lost over 200 lbs and has not only transformed his own life, but that of his family, his community and the many he has touched through social media. His story made us laugh and it made us cry. Josh is the real deal. I saw him talking to every single person that came up to him. His warm smile is welcoming and I think puts people at ease and makes him easy to talk to.
Ann Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn did their hilariously funny, From the Farm Table: A Lifetime of Plant Strong Living talk.
Other highlights from Sunday were: Ken Lander, Did you have a Heart Transplant; Eric Adams, Turning Pain into Purpose (and the Brooklyn Borough President); Alexis Fox (who I met at dinner and cracked me up – HAMSTER!! – inside joke, sorry) with Susan Benigas, Food + Medicine = A Bright and Bold Future and UFC Fighter, James Wilks.
And just like that, Plant-Stock was over. 🙁 They gave us food to go so that we didn’t leave hungry. Most sat and enjoyed their meals on the property. Vans and I had a long traffic filled drive back to New Jersey to get back to the kiddos.
Next year, there are BIG changes for Plant-Stock. It won’t be on the Esselstyn Family Farm! Instead, the geniuses at Engine 2 have planned, CAMP PLANT STOCK in August of 2018 AND another event called a PERFORMANCE RETREAT scheduled for June in North Carolina!
Both look absolutely amazing but the Performance Retreat is something that definitely has my eye. As a plant-based ultra runner, the number one question that I get is, “What do you eat to run so far and stay healthy?” I would love love love to attend, but I will have to figure out the financial situation to make it happen.
Plant-Stock 2017 was another successful event. The largest Plant-Stock yet for the farm. A lot of the Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue group were in attendance. We were able to grab a quick photo. This is just a small handful of people whose lives have been changed tremendously by a whole foods plant based diet AND the folks at Engine 2 – for FREE! If you haven’t gone to the Engine 2 website, and haven’t signed up for the Seven Day FREE Rescue, do it now. All you have to do is try it for Seven Days! You can do anything for seven days, but can you change your life and your health? Try it and let me know. 😉
So that’s my recap from Plant-Stock. Hopefully next year I’ll have another. I am in no way associated with the Engine 2 group or the Esselstyns (goals right?). If you can attend at least one of the Engine 2 retreats, I highly recommend it. You won’t regret it, I promise.
♥ I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite photos from the weekend. ♥
Needless to say she didn’t make it in 2015 and she didn’t make it again in 2016 when she attempted the race for a fourth time.
Fast forward to the present day; I wasn’t overly surprised to see her name on the entrants list for 2017. I know she has quite the vendetta with this race and a desire to conquer it because she knows (and I know) that she can finish it.
But some things had to change in order for that to happen.
This post isn’t about her run per se, I will let Pigeon tell that story as it is hers and hers alone to tell. You can follow her here: Pigeon’s Blog. This post is more about crewing and what we saw from our side, which if you’ve ever run an ultra, you know there are two sides/adventures for both runner and crew.
In years past, I’ve missed my kid’s last swim meet of the season, taken off of work and headed up to Tahoe to help Pigeon get ready. This year, I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. Vans suffered an injury and is out of swim meet rotation. I also had told Pigeon early on that I wasn’t going to give up vacation time and my kid’s last swim meet again. She understood. I sound like a terrible friend but crewing is a huge commitment and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe that she could finish, I just had to put my family first this time.
That was the start of some of the “changes” that occurred. Pigeon’s wife also left town and would not be crewing. That meant, Pigeon had to find a whole new crew.
If you’ve followed my posts this year, you know that I’ve been running with some new trail friends. Not Chris is one of those friends. He’s been running with Pigeon and I for quite some time now and even though he is fairly new to ultra running, he’s proven himself to be a superb runner, friend and planner.
Miss P is not a “new friend” but she is a consummate bada$$ on the trail! I’ve never heard an ill word about her in the 7 years I have known her and she is one helluva runner.
That rounded out our crew. Myself, Miss P and Not Chris all ready to finish this. Miss P and Not Chris had to take on the Friday and Saturday duties while I attended my kids (very hot) swim meet.
Not Chris was unfamiliar with TRT100 before meeting Pigeon. As soon as he was asked to be part of the crew, he studied the rule book, website, cut-offs and maps. He was on top of everything.
He was also excited to be a back up pacer and to also finally go up Tunnel Creek!
Even though there is little you can do at the Tunnel Creek aid-station (miles 12 , 18.5, 35, 62, 68.5, 85), it’s enough to have the moral and verbal support. I know Pigeon truly appreciated him being there for her.
When Pigeon came into Diamond Peak (mile 30) early Saturday, she was ahead of schedule. I was getting the play-by-play texts from Not Chris all day. She looked good he said, feet looked good, she was not much below the 30 hour runner cut-off! What!? That’s awesome!
I finished my swim meet which was a good 40 minutes away from my house. I raced home, cleaned up my kids, myself, made sure Vans was okay (remember he’s out of commission and essentially has the use of only one leg right now), did some house items he requested I do before I leave, shoved food in my face and then jumped in my car and drove to South Lake Tahoe.
I made it to Spooner Lake by 5:30 pm. Pigeon was expected (if she was still on schedule based on her day so far) to be in anywhere between 6:45 pm and 7:45 pm.
Not Chris and Miss P were at Spooner by 5:45 pm. We set up our crew aid-station in a completely different spot than years prior (again, to change things up).
Miss P was ready to pace Pigeon through the night to Diamond Peak (30 miles). Originally I had hoped to pace her all 50, but with my swim meet obligations, I had to back down to only the last 20 miles. In the end though, that turned out to be a great and perfect plan.
There was quite a bit of carnage at Spooner and the mosquitoes were in full force. Not Chris and I waited on the trail for her just down from the aid-station.
Around 7:15 pm or so we saw her! She was still ahead of schedule! I had not seen her yet today, so I ran to her gave her a half-assed walking hug and then pummeled her with questions: What have you eaten? How do you feel? What do you need? What’s working? What’s not working? How are your feet? You get the drift.
She seemed quiet but verbal. She mentioned she had tummy troubles so I said to stop what she had been eating, we’ll try something new.
When she came in through the aid-station we got her settled. She changed her socks and looked at her feet. So far so good it seemed. We refilled her pack and replaced all the food she had. I don’t honestly recall what she ate while she was there … bad crew person!
Soon she was up, with headlamps and ready to run with Miss P. Off they went and that was that. She barely stayed more than 10 minutes in the aid-station.
Not Chris and I packed up everything and made our way back to the condo. We discussed what our plan should be for the morning. She’s doing so well and moving so much faster than expected that Not Chris and I were nervous about getting to Diamond (mile 80) in time to crew and exchange pacers.
Around 10:30 pm Miss P texted me their status .. all seemed well she was almost to Hobart Aid-Station (mile 57).
I woke up at 2:00 am ready to roll. I just couldn’t sleep . By 3:30 am Not Chris and I were at Diamond. We set up inside the doorway of the lodge (you are not allowed to set up outside before the sun rises) and waited. We waited some more and waited some more. We were fully entertained by the hum of all that was happening around us. A lot of runners (and pacers) looked quite haggard after the long night’s run.
Another text came from Miss P at 3:30 am. A few “issues” had occurred out there, she slowed down her pace considerably but was moving. They were just at Tunnel Creek (mile 68.5).
6:09 am another text “Hope to get in by 7:15.” Time wise the night (and blisters) took their toll on her and she was inching closer to the 35 hour runner mark. 7:03 am she came rolling into Diamond!
She was an hour and 53 minutes (roughly) below the 35 hour cut-off for that aid-station. I was okay with that, I thought that gave us a decent cushion. I was wrong.
We had her in and out of Diamond quickly. She only managed some veggie broth and a few pieces of potato. She didn’t eat very much which concerned me as we were about to start climbing to the top of Diamond Peak.
As we climbed we chatted. She seemed quiet but fine. She said she was tired (duh) and that her legs hurt (double duh). Then, she dry heaved. “What the?!”
Me: “How long as this been going on?”
Pigeon: “Oh since before Spooner.”
Me: “Say what?”
I went into correction mode trying to figure out what we could do to alleviate this problem. I gave her ginger. Nope, that came flying out. I gave her salt. Nope, that came back up as well. I gave her three (yes 3!) jelly beans … those stayed down. Okay, we got something to work with. Jelly beans and coke are what is going to get us up this hill.
Then, she stopped and bent over.
Me: “Stand up. You can take a break but you can’t get air into your lungs if you are hunched over.”
Pigeon: (Death glare) “I am TRYING to relieve the pressure off my legs!”
Me: “Okay, okay but try and stay up as much as possible you’ll feel better with more air in your lungs.”
Up and up and up and up we went. She kept stopping. Finally I tried the, “let’s get to that flag up there in the shade” method. It worked but not good enough. It took us 30 minutes to go one mile. The climb is steep but we were moving slow. It took us another 30 minutes to go another mile. Uh-oh. This had me nervous, our little cushion was quickly disappearing.
We made it to Tunnel Creek (mile 85) at 9:51 am, about an hour under the 35 hour finish cut-off. Okay, this is okay.
Pigeon was a celebrity at Tunnel Creek. The volunteers erupted in cheers and hugs when she entered. She must have had 3 or 4 people helping her so I left to use the restroom and take care of myself. She had her own pit-crew like at a Nascar race!
Volunteer: “What does she want? We have quesadilla, bacon, sausage …”
Me: “No dairy no meat!”
Volunteer: “No dairy no meat??!!”
(Everyone staring at me like I am a crazy person).
Me: “Pigeon, they have Oreos, can you stomach that?”
Pigeon: “Can I have those?”
ALL eyes turn to me … volunteers, other runners all listening … waiting to see if I will let my runner have Oreos! LOL
Me: “Yes, they are vegan.”
EVERYONE: “OOOOOHHH!! She’s VEGAN!” 🙂
Back on the trail moving and eating. I was happy that everyone was able to get her to eat at Tunnel (despite them looking at me like I was a food-nazi).
We rounded a corner and BOOM! All that she ate, made a reappearance. Uh-oh, well on a brighter note, she should be feeling better but now we’re close to the cut-off AND behind in calories.
Knowing my intense dislike for anything puke related, she started profusely apologizing to me! “Dude, it’s ok!” As I rubbed her back and stared off into the distance focusing intently on a tree. 🙂
I started texting Miss P. She texted back some tips and tricks to try. Pigeon was overheating so I grabbed the extra bottle I had on me and started hosing her down from behind as we moved.
The heat and the sun was relentless. You can tell in the photo above, there is no shade, no place to hide. It was starting to break her. No matter what I said, she wouldn’t move any faster and was stopping quite often.
Finally I turned to her and said, “Okay, no more sitting. You can stop but you can’t sit.”
I thought she comprehended what I said, but then we approached a rock and rare shady area and she made a motion like she was about to sit …
Me: “No sitting!”
Pigeon: “I WASN’T GOING TO SIT!”
Oh boy. I got to keep her moving. I didn’t see any of the Pigeon I normally she in her at all. No sense of humor, no light.
She asked me to go in front of her and I think that made all the difference in the world but also, made her pay the price too.
With me running in front, I started a game. “Let’s run this flat stretch right here! Come on, just a little to that shady area.” She followed.
Pigeon: “I can’t do this. I can’t, I am done.”
Me: “No. No you’re not. Besides we have to move forward, we can’t go back right? One foot in front of the other, that’s all we have to do.”
Thank goodness for cell service too. I texted her wife who sent videos of their son chanting, “Go go go!” Her cousin sent me a video rooting for her. It was all I could do. I was digging and reaching to keep her moving.
Me: “Remember how at Quicksilver and at AR50 you came back from the dead and ran like a mad woman to get me? Come on, do that now! Follow me!”
Then I saw a runner, “Okay, let’s go get that runner! I know how you like to pick people off in races, now is your chance, come on!”
She did. One by one we were picking off runners. She must have picked off 5 runners! We were running all the downs, letting gravity pull us while hiking the ups. She was moving. She had some really great stretches of running.
Me: “Come on! You got this. We’re in good shape!”
Pigeon: “No, we’re not! (stopping) You know we’re not. I have a watch.”
Me: “Ignore your watch. Let me worry about time. Your job is to keep moving. We have to keep moving. Hands OFF your hips and swing your arms. Come on! Let’s go!”
I’d text Miss P that I was struggling. Miss P told me to tell her, “If it isn’t happening today … IT ISN’T HAPPENING!”
That made her move a little more. We had a couple stretches of 14 minute miles on some of those downs. I could tell, she was chasing me, trying to keep up. The hot sections though would just murder her and her spirit.
Pigeon: “I have nothing left. I am completely depleted.”
Me: “I know. You have to dig deep. Deeper than you ever thought that you could. We can’t stop. You have two choices: You can run now or you can sprint later. Your call. I will be damned if we miss this by minutes. We are that close.”
We ran. Finally I could see Spooner Lake. I have never been so happy to see a leach infested lake in my life!
Me: “Look! Look it’s the lake!!! Come on girl! Come one, I can SEE the finish! You got this, but we can’t stop!”
I was looking at my watch. I could see the lake but I couldn’t really tell how far it was. I know it was less than 2 miles but we had 50 minutes left to run to get in under 35 hours. 2 miles any other day would be a walk in the park, but not today, not the way she looked.
She was moving and then, she was down … like down down. Sick again. I quickly looked to my right and saw that Spooner Lake was just a few yards away.
I jumped a burm and ran down to the water and dunked my bandanna. I ran back up the beach to the trail and tried to cool her down. By running in front of her, I was able to get her moving but then I wasn’t able to spray her down with water for all those super hot miles.
The heat, was destroying her.
Me: “Come on. We can do this. If we have to walk in, we can, we have time (I was hoping).”
Pigeon: “I can’t, I don’t think I can. This isn’t right. Something isn’t right.”
Me: “I know. I know. You will be okay. There are medics at the finish. Let’s just get you there. I promise you that you will be okay.”
She started walking. We saw the turn that leads towards the finish line. I was cheering for with tears in my eyes!
We made the next turn onto the single track that lines the lake and brings her right to the finish. Everyone was cheering for her.
Me: “Do you think you can run? You want to run into that finish?”
She shook her head, “Nope” is basically what she said.
Me: “That’s okay, we can hike it in.”
BAM! In true Pigeon style she started running!
Me: “YAY GIRL!!!! GOOOOOOO! You did it!!! You finished!!”
She finished in 34:30:23! 20 minutes to spare!!! So dang proud of that girl!
She ran through hell and back to get that buckle, numerous times. She dug deeper than anyone I have ever seen and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
I hated that I had to be the “bad guy” out there but I wasn’t about to let this slip away on my watch but I was unbelievably happy and grateful that I was the one to be with her those last grueling 20 miles, puke and all.
Seriously a phenomenal group to work with. We all had moments of worry I think throughout that race but I think we all agreed internally, that there was only one choice, and that was to get her to that finish line no matter what. Truly a pleasure working with Miss P and Not Chris. Two gems in my book.
To Pigeon, my dear friend, I am so proud of you. Despite the insanity that is toeing this race five times in a row, I commend you for your grit, determination and unwavering drive to finish what you started five long years ago. Every year I told you I had no doubts that you would finish, but I think, something about 2017, it just had to be THIS year. 😉
And to all of you that actually read that monstrosity of a Pacer’s recap, I reward you with my favorite photo of the weekend. Somewhere between aid-station/crewing duties, Not Chris and I caught this sunset … no filter, no editing. Tahoe is that beautiful. It can be harsh and unforgiving (especially when running 100 miles), but it is heaven on Earth.
Pigeon and had the pleasure of having Miss P and Not Chris join us (at least for the start) of our WS Training Run adventure. Pigeon and I always go into this run looking to create some laughter and enjoy the day on some of our favorite trails.
This year, Not Chris wanted to join us as he is quickly getting the ultra bug after his run at Ruck a Chuck back in March. He was totally smitten with all things Western States before having even stepped foot into the Canyons … this was his first time running in the Western States Canyons and they did not disappoint!
With our non-drought very wet winter, the start of the training run had to be altered quite a bit to deal with the still heavy snow residing at Robinson Flat.
We were lucky enough to get a ride from Not Chris’s lovely wife so as to avoid taking the bus from Foresthill (with 300 other amazing runners). This made our start a tad bit easier as we had to really navigate over some heavy snow covered areas.
We basically had to run an extra 4 miles because the car couldn’t even make it to the Robinson Flat camp ground starting area. We just accepted it and did our best not to fall down. I think in total, we probably ran about 7 or 8 miles on snow before actually getting to the Western States Trail (we had to run a side route because the snow was so bad).
Once we were on dirt though, we started to get into a groove. I felt a little bad for Not Chris because of our detour at the start, he missed all the amazing views including Pucker Point. I guess he’ll just have to join us again next year! 😉
As usual, I had a little tummy trouble at the start. I am not sure what it is about this training run but I struggle for the first few miles every single year! Ah well. Luckily I am used to it by now and I know that it eventually sorts itself out and truth be told, it isn’t enough for me to lose any excitement about this day.
There were these giant pine cones at the start of the trail (see above photo) and my kids are obsessed with collecting them. I snapped this pic to send to them. I got scolded for not carrying this thing the entire day. 🙂
The four us just ran and chatted most of the time. Easing into the day, trying to find our groove. Pigeon and I shared past stories from our previous runs with Miss P and Not Chris.
Soon we hit the descent down towards Swinging Bridge. Miss P and Not Chris enjoyed this section and took off. I was content to just go easy and enjoy my day.
We regrouped at Swinging Bridge and introduced Not Chris to the infamous Devil’s Thumb!
As we started our climb, a lot of the elite runners from the bus had caught us and were beginning to pass us on our way up the Thumb which is always pretty cool.
Not Chris took off. I was a little worried about him going up and out too fast. I had warned him that there are 36 switch backs to Devil’s Thumb. I love this climb, I always have. It was also beginning to get warm which can really make this climb harder the higher up you get. I eventually lost sight of Not Chris.
When I made it to the top of Devil’s I didn’t see Not Chris. I had assumed that he had followed Miss P to the aid-station which wasn’t too far off and that he must have been in need of fuel after that climb. I was bummed he wasn’t at the top though because I wanted to make sure that he actually SAW the thumb rock, the reason this climb is named what it is. I am a nerd like that. 🙂 Sadly, he missed the rock but he was in need of fuel so I get it. Again, I guess we’ll have to take him back out there some day. 🙂
I took a seat at the top of Devil’s and waited for Pigeon to arrive. As I sat there, Magda Boulet reached the top, smiled at me and asked if I was “ok” and if I needed anything. Super sweet! I assured her that I was fine and that I was just waiting for a friend. I LOVE how sweet all ultra runners are, no matter their level or status. Magda is one runner who I adore and follow. I hope she kicks butt at States this year!
Pigeon and I found Not Chris at the Pump aid-station with cheeks full of food like a squirrel! 🙂 He had a smile on his face and I think was having one helluva day so far.
We left the aid-station and made our way down to the bottom of El Dorado Canyon, another fun downhill section. I love this section of trail and Pigeon knows it. During our Canyons 100k training runs, I would blow this section up and today was no exception. I took off and caught up to Not Chris and Miss P.
At the bottom, we dunked our bandannas and hats in the cold river to tried to cool off before the climb up to Michigan Bluff.
Not Chris and I climbed up to Michigan Bluff together. We were in a pack with some guys just making conversation. Not Chris moved from in front of me to behind me. About two minutes later I hear, “I need a pep talk.” 🙂
He had hit his wall as so many others have on this very climb. Three miles up is tough in the heat. Luckily we had just reached a clearing that gave us the most spectacular view.
I made him stop, “Look at that. Not many people in this world will see this view. Just soak it in. We’re in no rush.”
We made it to Michigan Bluff and made a beeline for the aid-station.
I knew Pigeon would understand where we were when she crested the hill off the trail. Not Chris needed some fuel. I needed a refill and we were both eager to stand in some shade after that climb.
After the aid-station, we regrouped and then made our way down the road. We were all in good spirits knowing that we had about 6 miles left on the day. I knew the next section was pretty sunny and less exciting since it’s just a dirt road essentially. The real fun would not begin until we started the descent down Volcano and hit the creek crossing.
This is the same creek crossing from my Canyons 100k run four weeks earlier. It was way less crowded and the water way less strong. The two ropes were still there though.
Not Chris and I were busy dunking ourselves into the cool creek when Pigeon made her way down. Nothing like a refreshing stream to cool you off before you climb out of another canyon!
I forgot just how much trail there was from the crossing until we hit Bath Road. I think Not Chris was expecting to get out of the stream and hit the road for our final climb. Oops. 🙂
I could sense he was tired but his adrenaline and excitement was prevailing. We waited for Pigeon at the gate and we all hiked up Bath Road together.
We ran together down Foresthill Road until we reached the school and had our wristband’s officially cut. We were done! Not Chris had not only run his very first Western States Training Run, he had also just ran 33 miles for the first time for FUN in a non-race situation! 🙂 He had only run one 50k prior to this day (Ruck-A-Chuck – which is a race on the other portion of the WS Trail). He’s official now, he’s one of us. Running 33 miles for the pure the fun of it? Yup, he’s smitten.
No matter what I do or what I run prior to this weekend each year, whether it was Quicksilver 100k last year, or Canyons 100k this year – I somehow find the energy and enthusiasm to still enjoy this day.
There is just something so innately special and magical about this trail, about this race. I am looking forward to June 24th and watching many friends have their adventures, their dreams, their goals unfold in 24 to 30 hours at The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.
The Tuesday after I finished Canyons, I hopped on a plane and flew to D.C. for my training. The plane ride left me with time to sit and recap the race in my head with the intentions of blogging while I was there. It happened, eventually (read my race report here).
Most of my time in D.C. however was spent soaking up SO MUCH information and meeting 25 of the loveliest attendees ever. Over 90 people had applied and 26 were selected. We had someone from Ireland and someone from China! It was amazing and to sit in a room with that many like-mined, empowered and energized people was unbelievable. Everyone was eager to learn and our instructors were hands-down some of the most intelligent and kindhearted people on Earth.
Every morning, I would leave my hotel and walk the .4 of a mile to PCRM and the Barnard Medical Center. The weather was gorgeous and the walk was easy. Each morning they provided us with a plant-based breakfast! It was delicious.
PCRM is the only nonprofit organization in the country that provides nutrition and cooking classes that focus on disease prevention and survival. It is 100% evidence based. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. Neal Barnard and has been growing and educating ever since.
Dr. Barnard spoke on our very first day. He truly has a heart of gold and a passion for animal rights and health.
In addition to his talk, we had some lectures on administrative stuff, a full-on cooking demonstration and a panel discussion where we were free to ask four PCRM dietitians anything we wanted! The last class of the first day however, was one of my most favorite!
The last class was called, Teaching for Understanding: What to say and how to say it so that your students truly learn. It was phenomenal! By full admission, I am a terrible public speaker so I am always looking for ways to improve. This class gave us plenty to think about and techniques to implement when we are conducting classes. I loved it.
The second day started even earlier than the first and once again, a full breakfast was provided.
The second day of the training consisted of an introduction into the many different classes we will be allowed to teach.
There is a curriculum for Cancer (Food for Life: Cancer Project – Acquire knowledge about the link between diet and cancer) and one for Diabetes (Food for Life: Diabetes Initiative – Learn more about the benefits of a plant-based nutrition approach for diabetes and prevention) in addition to so many more!
You get the idea … the possibilities and topics to teach are plentiful and best of all life saving.
We also had to perform our very own cooking demonstration in front of the group and our instructors. Afterwards, we were critiqued and given ways to improve or enhance our class.
Not going to lie, that was a little nerve wracking but I think it was imperative to give us a sense of what we will be doing when we return home.
The group at PCRM thought of everything. They answered our questions and they helped us navigate the endless opportunities we might be able to find using our new found skills and tools.
PCRM gets nothing in return mind you. Their only hope is that we, as Food for Life instructors go forth and teach! The more people we can reach across the world, the better.
With over one million people being diagnosed with cancer and 25 million people being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in the United States each year – The Food for Life program is an innovative approach to a medical challenge.
So what is my plan? What is my agenda now that I am a Food for Life Instructor? Well for starters, I still have to study all the books, curriculum and information we received while at the training. I do have some ideas rolling around in my head though. I think to start, I’ll do a pilot program with a small group just so that I can get my “feet wet” and my materials ready.
Regardless, the fire has been lit and I am eager to get teaching! There is so much power behind food. There is no denying that it directly correlates to our health and well being. I think everyone knows and understands this but I also think, they could use a friend … a helping hand … a TEACHER to help them traverse what may seem like a difficult road ahead. I hope to be that person.