Category Archives: TRAIL RUNNING

OREGON COAST 50k RACE REPORT

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Spontaneous (spon-ta-ne-ous) adjective: performed or occurring as as a result of sudden inner impulse or inclination and without premeditation.
Spontaneity was our theme, our goal, our mantra this past weekend. We only had two items on our road-trip agenda:
1) Stop, stay and explore Eugene, Oregon; and then
2) Head to the coast and run the Oregon Coast 50k.
We’ve had this trip in the books for a while.  When Stonegate presented me with the idea of running the Oregon Coast 50k, I was all-in because I love a good race destination road-trip ESPECIALLY when that destination is in Oregon.
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com

When I signed up for the race, I decided that I truly wanted to run it. Maybe the correct phrase is “race it” but in a middle of the pack kind of way. 🙂

I started training in July. I told Stonegate and Burning Girl (who was supposed to join us but had last minute family obligations), that my intention was to push it hard(er) on this race than I have for our other road trip races. I don’t normally run “hard” in the fall, instead I use this time as more of a recovery period from a gnarly spring race schedule. Yet, something compelled me to want to run harder.

The Oregon Coast 50k boasted an elevation gain of about 4500 feet. I tried not to let that get in my head. That is probably the lowest elevation I have raced on trails in a long time, but I know better than to underestimate any race, especially a coastal race.

I had an A Goal (place top 3 in my age group), a B Goal (place top 5 in my age group) and a C Goal (finish standing and smiling). The day before, Stonegate and I played “tourists” a bit over zealously and man, did we both feel a tad bit tired! Oops.

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The race had a 9:00 am start time which is something completely foreign to me! Most ultras start in the dark and super early. Stonegate and I really didn’t even need to set an alarm for this one. What did require some juggling, was our pre-race fueling but we managed okay by making huge smoothies and taking selfies on our hotel patio.

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They have you head to the finish line and then they bus you to the starting line up the road. The race starts on the beach! The bus ride was quick and painless. Some runners had to stand but no one seemed to mind because the weather was gorgeous. I guess in years past it has been rainy and pretty gloomy … it was sunny and quite warm for us.

Starting line - Jason (in red) is the Race Director
Starting line – Jason (in red) is the Race Director

Stonegate and I were pretty excited. The energy around was happy and everyone was so nice and talkative. Jason, the Race Director let us all get situated on the beach before we took off running.

Stonegate and I minutes before the start
Stonegate and I minutes before the start.

Boy did everyone RUN! The whole race started off crazy fast! I was hoping it was just the excitement and that everyone would eventually settle down. I mean, 6 miles all along the sand … that can be brutal on your body if you’re not careful. Stonegate stuck with me. My first mile rang out on my watch. …

Stonegate: I feel like we’re going really fast.

Me: Well we’re doing about an 8:30 pace according to my watch.

Stonegate: Okay then, you go ahead, I am going to slow down dude. I don’t want to start out too fast. 

Me: Okay! I am sure you’ll catch up to me soon!

I felt okay and not like I was pushing to keep the pace so I tried to just settle in and run. A few groups passed me so I assumed that I had slowed a little bit.

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Now don’t get me wrong, the ocean was GORGEOUS. You had the beautiful Pacific to your right and an adorable coastal town to your left but six miles, on sand … is a really REALLY long time. It was for me at least. I found my mind wandering, “What will I eat later today?” and “What do I have to do on Wednesday again?” I tried to zone in my thoughts and focus on my form like my coach instructed me to but every so often I would drift.

At the end of six sandy miles you literally hit a rock wall. You then have to climb up some steps (that felt like boulders at the time), and then you run along the most beautiful path!

We walked the path the next day ... super cute!
We walked the path the next day … super cute!

I sort of felt like a weight had lifted off me when I left the sand. I am not a sand loving runner. 🙂

You then run through the coastal town of Yachats (pronounced Ya-Hots).  The first aid-station is here, Mile 7 except that I never actually SAW the aid-station. When I crested the grassy area, I saw a ton of elite-looking guys changing their shoes but I never saw a table and I didn’t really want to waste time looking for one. I decided to fuel with what I had on me. In hind-sight, I probably should have fueled a tad earlier in the race given the later start time.

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The course was extremely well marked. We were assured at the start that if there was a major turn that there would be clear markings and signage and there WAS! I only had a few moments when I was alone on the trail, that I had those “Oh crap! I haven’t seen a ribbon lately!” thoughts but to be fair, there were no turns or any other trails around…you just had to follow what was natural and in front of you.

 There were more stairs much to my dismay but not a ton. Not like at Stinson Beach or in the Bay Area. I just kept moving. Then we hit our first climb and it felt like a ton of bricks had landed on my chest! “What the heck?!
I decided to fuel thinking that maybe I was in need of calories. However I could barely chew because my chest felt so tight. I pulled out my inhaler and actually took a puff. I can’t remember when I have had an allergy attack like that. I say allergy because I never had it again and Stonegate had the same thing around the same spot on the trail! Something was blooming that my allergies didn’t like.
Around this time, about 20 people passed me on the uphill deflating my inner fire a bit. How on Earth did they have the strength and power to climb like that?!
I decided to power hike as best I could. I knew I was on the first of the three climbs and that the second one was way bigger.
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com

When I got to the top and started on my way down, I was eagerly looking forward to bombing a downhill! The trail however was super technical with lots of tree roots and rocks. Still, I did my best trying to open it up on the down.

I was flying down a hill, somewhere at about the 12 mile marker when I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my left quad! “What the heck!” I yelled. I had thought that I was hit with a be-be gun! I didn’t stop running but the pain was intense! I looked down and there was a stinger sticking out of my quad! “A bee?!”

I was seriously just dumbfounded.  I kept running afraid to stop and have it blow up and swell. I haven’t been stung by anything since I was like 8 years old so … I had no idea if I was allergic or not.

It burned, it itched, it stung. I didn’t stop. Finally, I came to Mile 14 and the Cape Perpetua aid-station. I grabbed a hand full of grapes and I asked the guy there if they had bees around here and he goes, “Oh yea! We have an angry bunch that just stung a ton of people!” Great. Well at least it wasn’t a be-be gun. 🙂

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I continued on a bit, knowing that the big second uphill was coming. I was starting to feel a little bit better around mile 17 or so. The views were just outstanding and really were lifting my spirits.

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Just keep moving Pam, you can do this. You trained for this.” That’s what I kept telling myself at least. Then I ran with a guy for a little while who was talking about the 100 milers he had done and how he was excited to have his Western States Qualifier. He lived in Ashland and I told him that was our race destination spot last year!

THEN! I was stopped dead in my tracks on the trail. There was a bunch of runners and some guys just yelling. Turns out, there was a Yellow Jacket’s nest in the middle of the trail with tons of angry yellow-jackets.

One dude said, “I am going to go for it!” and he ran straight through! I felt like I was watching him in slow motion … BAM stung in his calf … BAM stung in his quad.

I turned to the girl next to me and we were like,  “Um nope! No way. No how!” We followed the other group that had to bushwhack their way FAR around the buzzing yellow jacket’s nest.

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By the time I reached Cooks aid-station (mile 19.5) I was already coming back to life. I was excited that this was essentially the “turn-around” spot which mentally always helps propel me in races.

I ran into that aid-station ready to be in and in out but then I looked at the table and saw mini dill pickles! Oh my. I’ve never eaten pickles in a race before though I hear a lot of runners like them. I had a quick mental battle of “should I or shouldn’t I?” in my head and decided to grab one and walk out. It was THE BEST PICKLE ON EARTH! 🙂 Seriously, that little dill pickle recharged me and I floated out of that aid-station light as feather!

One more aid-station to go and the biggest down hill section of the race was next! I honestly felt like I was flying down the next section. It was one of the few NON technical downhills in the course. I am going to assume that the intense thick tree cover interfered with my pace on my Garmin. 🙂 I know it did with the mileage because the race came up short in distance according to my Garmin but we were under some pretty thick tree cover for a lot of the race.

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I just kept running. I’d pass a few people here and there. Sometimes they’d pass me back. In my head, I had settled on my C Goal but a part of me wasn’t giving up completely.

I came across one guy who was laying on the ground. I asked if he was okay and he said he had swelling in his knee. I asked if he wanted any Advil and he hopped right up and said, “Sure! We can keep walking so that way I won’t slow you down.

I handed off some Advil and wished him luck and continued on my way.  Finally, I came to the last aid-station! Woo hoo! I was getting excited knowing that I was getting closer and closer to the finish!

I chatted with the aid-station volunteer. I asked him if anyone dropped here earlier because of bee stings and he said he had a lot of drops, but not sure if because of bee stings – Stonegate is allergic and I had been worrying about her all race.

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I continued on my way running all the ups and the downs. When I encountered any stairs, I walked. 🙂 FINALLY I was dumped back onto the pavement! Yes!!! I could smell the finish but I knew that I had to run a lot of pavement first.

I looked up and saw a woman that had passed me earlier in the race. She had looked SO strong too. She powered up all those hills like they were nothing. A small part of me was excited to have caught up to her.

I ran along side her and she seemed excited to have someone to run with. I told her to go ahead and she said she was out of water and that she couldn’t go any faster. I asked her if she wanted my handheld water bottle, “Are you sure!? You don’t mind?” she said. “Of course not! Go ahead, I have plenty.

The two of us ran through the town together. Then we made the turn onto the grass. The woman said, “Come on, we have about 400 yards. We can do this! I don’t care about time.” In my head I was thinking: First of all, how does she know it is 400 yards and second of all, my C Goal had turned into “finish this BUT finish under 6 hours” since I was way off what I had hoped I would finish in … so for ME, I did care about time, MY time. It wasn’t about beating anyone but myself. It always is.

We were running across the grass. Everyone was cheering. I saw the finish and that it was a little up hill and something just turned on inside me and I went for it. I sprinted as hard as I could. I saw the clock and I pushed it!

Whew!!! I did it. I was done, thank goodness, I was done! That is one helluva race. It is unassuming in many ways, but don’t be fooled, it’s a doozy of a race and I was thrilled to be done!

The woman came up to me and thanked me and said, “When I saw you turn it on, I said, I don’t have what she has!” 🙂 Then the Advil guy finished shortly after and he thanked me for the Advil.

I found my drop bag and waited for Stonegate to finish. She texted me so I knew that she hadn’t dropped because of an allergic reaction but she had been stung.

Stonegate Finishing!
Stonegate Finishing!

I changed out of my smelly shirt and ran back out on the course to find her. I ran through the town with her until she reached the finish! What a day!

Final stats:

I finished in 5 hours and 53 minutes.

I was Second in my Age Group!! 🙂

And 17th female out of the 91 that started the race.

I will take it! I conquered my A Goal after all despite feeling like I had run a terrible race. It just goes to show you, never give up, never quit. Give all that you have left to give!

Stonegate and I didn’t hang around the finish for long. We were hungry! 🙂

Post Race Tradition - Champagne!
Post Race Tradition – Champagne!

We headed back to our hotel, showered, stretched, had some champagne (a tradition), hummus, carrots, crackers, chips and salsa. Food never tasted so good!

Later that night, being that we are both Plant-Based and know the importance of post race fuel being key to recovery, ran out to the store and bought kale! We made a rice, bean, kale and salsa dish in our instant-pot that night which was perfect!

Plant-Based Athletes recovering with plant-strong food!
Plant-Based Athletes recovering with plant-strong food!

Overall, I am happy with the race outcome. It was a gorgeous race, super well marked and well run. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone even though I had some dark(er) moments out there. I was able to pull through and not wallow for long … there is always a silver lining, there is always something you can do or try to pull you out of your funk. No one can do it but you.

In the end, it was the best road-trip ever. I am in love with Oregon and I finally got to visit and run on the coast. It was everything I expected it to be and more.

I truly am blessed to have a friend like Stonegate who seeks and cherishes adventure like I do and a husband who is willing to let me go and explore and feed my soul on trips like these. I missed my family immensely while I was gone, they would have loved the Oregon Coast. I guess we need to head back all together. 🙂

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Until next time Oregon!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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Some of my favorite road trip photos from our four days of fun!

We discovered a selfie-stick in Stonegate's car and it opened a whole new level of fun for us.
We discovered a selfie-stick in Stonegate’s car and it opened a whole new level of fun for us. Thank you to her 10 year old for leaving it in there!
Wandering the University of Oregon campus ...
Wandering the University of Oregon campus …
Discovering the Sea Lion Caves on 101!! One of the best random finds of the trip!
Discovering the Sea Lion Caves on 101!! One of the best random finds of the trip!
No shortage of laughter while driving long hours.
No shortage of laughter while driving long hours.
Our home away from home most of the time - our ocean side patio.
Our home away from home most of the time – our ocean side patio.

 

 

 

 

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BUFFALO STAMPEDE 10 MILER RACE REPORT

Why, why did I sign up for this race?”

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 said as 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.

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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.

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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! 

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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.

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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.

The Stats

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!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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2016 Stampede Race Report

2015 Stampede Race Report

2011 Stampede Race Report (3 months after Squeaker’s birth!)

2010 Stampede Race Report (this one has adorable Peanut video!)

All years prior … I wasn’t blogging. 🙂

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TAHOE RIM TRAIL 100 (CREW/PACE)

You have two choices: Run now or be ready to sprint later, your call.” 

The last time I wrote about the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile endurance race was back in 2015 when Pigeon was attempting her third TRT100.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe
Beautiful Lake Tahoe

You can read about that event here (excuse the weirdness of that post, my blog has since been updated and there are all kinds of migration errors in it).

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.

Photo from: http://trter.com/
Photo from: http://trter.com/

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.

Enter Miss P! Photo by: Not Chris
Enter Miss P!
Photo by: Not Chris

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.

"See ya in a few!" Photo by: Not Chris
“See ya in a few!”
Photo by: Not Chris

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!

Pigeon coming into Tunnel Creek Photo by: Not Chris
Pigeon coming into Tunnel Creek
Photo by: Not Chris

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.

Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak Photo by: Not Chris

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!

Leaving the aid-station in the heat of the day. Photo by: Not Chris
Leaving the aid-station in the heat of the day.
Photo by: Not Chris

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.

Spooner Lake Photo by: Me
Spooner Lake
Photo by: Me

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.

Leaving Spooner, mile 50 Photo by: Me
Leaving Spooner, mile 50
Photo by: Me

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.

Leaving Diamond Peak (mile 80) Photo by: Not Chris
Leaving Diamond Peak (mile 80)
Photo by: Not Chris

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.

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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
Up and up and up

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.

More up!
More up!

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.

Finally at the top!
Finally at the top!

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. 🙂

11

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.

12

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.

8

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.

Finish in site!
Finish in sight!

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 DID IT!!
SHE DID IT!!

She finished in 34:30:23! 20 minutes to spare!!! So dang proud of that girl!

Got her buckle!!!!
Got her buckle!!!!

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.

2017 Crew
2017 Crew

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. 😉

19990224_10213692628056456_6886201697923999110_nAnd 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.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

 

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WESTERN STATES TRAINING RUN 2017

So another month has come and gone. Time is surely flying and school is almost out for the summer. One thing that remains constant however, is my LOVE for the Western State Trail!

Photo from www.ws100.com
Photo from www.wser.org

No, I am not running Western States 100 this year but like I have in 2010 (recap here), 2014 (recap here), 2015 (recap here) AND 2016 (recap here) I DID run one of the training days on Memorial Day Weekend this year! One of my FAVORITE days of the year!

Not Chris, Myself, Pigeon, Miss P!
Not Chris, Myself, Pigeon, Miss P!

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!

A glorious day for a run!
A glorious day for a run!

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.

Lots of snow.
Lots of snow.

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.

Just LOOK at how excited I am. HA!
Just LOOK at how excited I am. HA!

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.

Trailmomma and Pigeon annual WS Training Run Selfie
Trailmomma and Pigeon annual WS Training Run Selfie

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.

Michigan Bluff
Michigan Bluff

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.

Woo hoo!! Water!!!
Woo hoo!! Water!!!

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 crossing!
Not Chris crossing! (say that five times fast LOL)

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!

Pigeon!
Pigeon!

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.

A Giant Bobber for our fishing friend Grumpy!
A Giant Bobber for our fishing friend Grumpy!

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.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

 

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CANYONS 100K RACE REPORT

If I had listened to all the signs the Universe was throwing at me, this race should never have happened.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

Last year when I ran the Quicksilver 100k, I promised myself that I would run another 100k and push myself just a little bit harder. I finished Quicksilver with a lot left in my tank. I wanted another shot at a 100k, not just as a Western States Qualifier (though that was a bonus), but to prove to myself that I could run and run a little bit stronger.

However, I quickly realized that once training for Canyons started, I was struggling. A small bit of running-burnout combined with the disappearance of my morning running crew (injuries and life happened – not their fault) and the onset of one of the wettest coldest winters we’ve had in a while, I was left trying to motivate myself to run at 4:30 am on weekdays in the pouring rain all alone.

So for the first time ever, I reached out and found myself a coach. I have never had a running coach before. Not one that gave me one on one attention and wrote a plan designed specifically for me and my busy family life.

I admit, it was definitely a hard adjustment for me at first. As much as I really liked not having to “plan” my runs each day … I had to trust that HIS plan was better than MINE. I’ve had a fairly successful trail running career thus far, and giving up (what seemed like) total control, was hard for me. I had to have faith that what he designed, would work. Trust me, there were times I questioned it and emailed him asking him “why” or “when” I can do certain things. He was awesome. Always responding instantly and calming my nerves, I just kept doing what he told me to do.

So when I rolled my ankle pretty severely on the last long run, two weeks out from race day, I panicked. Pigeon and I had been pounding out the miles in the canyons every single weekend for what seemed like forever. One weekend it was super hot. The very next weekend it snowed! And it hailed. And it snowed some more!

SNOW in April!
SNOW in April!

2

We never quite reached the mileage we intended each weekend because of either the weather or because the trails were in terrible condition due to all the mud slides and trees that were down.

Massive trees all over the course
Massive trees all over the course
Dangerous mudslides
Dangerous mudslides

On top of all of that, I had some major work stuff happening AND Peanut and Squeaker started their swim season. OH! And The Peanut also turned 9 and Jersey Dad came out for a visit. My life was a train running at full speed and I really didn’t see any signs of it slowing down.

So when I rolled my ankle, I quickly emailed my miracle worker and friend at Elite Spinal and Sports Care. Dr. Lau is used to my emails by now and we have known each other well before kids came into our lives. He got me in and fixed me up good as new.

Then, the Sunday before race day, my back went out. Like really out. Spasms and stuff. I could barely walk at the Peanut’s birthday shindig let alone think about running.

Again, I reached out to Dr. Lau and told him what was going on. I assured him that I had done NOTHING to warrant the pain. So on a random evening, I told the girls they were not going to swim practice and I dragged them and Jersey Dad to my emergency appointment in hopes that 4 days before I was to toe the line, Dr. Lau could do something to help me.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

When the Friday before the race arrived, I was feeling about 80% of normal. Definitely not 100%. Luckily I was able to work from home that day and I had planned to drive up to Auburn for packet pick up. Instead, the morning started out with two massive screws in my car tire. Awesome.

Despite all the obstacles and signs, I was still hell bent on starting the race. Internally, I accepted that my day might not unfold as I wanted. That the training I have put forth all season, might be for nothing if my body didn’t cooperate.

drop bag

I packed my drop bags, set out my gear and went to bed early on Friday evening unsure of what the next day would bring.

The race started at 5:30 am at the old Foresthill Elementary School. I woke up at 2:00 am without an alarm. I was anxious. My friend Stonegate had offered to take me to the start of the race which was super nice considering she had to be at my house at 3:15 am.

However, when 3:15 arrived .. then 3:20 and then 3:25 and Stonegate wasn’t there and wasn’t answering my texts, I started to panic a little. I love Stonegate she is an amazing friend and one of the things we have in common, is that we’re always on time … or early, especially for races. I had no other choice but to jump into action and shuffle some cars and my gear around so that I could drive myself to the start. As it turns out, Stonegate didn’t hear her alarm. She felt terrible and still feels terrible, despite that I keep telling her it is okay and that it really makes for great blog material. 🙂

That little adrenaline rush of panic quickly turned into ease as I realized driving myself and listening to some pump up music, was just what I needed after all. I got to the start in plenty of time, parked near Pigeon and waited.

When 5:30 neared, Pigeon and I gathered at the starting line. I had quickly filled her in on all the drama I had faced that week and the status of my back. I told her that I was hoping to stick with her the first half and see how things go.

For this race, the 50k and 100k runners start at the same time. I have to say, that’s my only complaint with this race. The race is amazing, the volunteers are awesome but the crowds and conga-lines on these narrow trails, really turned me off.

I started with a mini-headlamp as the sun had not fully come up yet. Pigeon and I settled into a nice pace. The race starts out on the pavement and then you turn right and make the descent down towards Volcano Creek. It wasn’t that cold either. The day was expected to heat up quite fast. I started in a tank top and arm sleeves which I took off pretty quick.

As soon as we hit the dirt, the conga-lines started. We’d been warned that the Volcano Creek crossing was strong and that they had set up two ropes to help us cross as well as provided course marshals to assist us.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the crossing wasn’t as “raging” as I had expected. It came up to my knees but that was the start of us runners having wet feet … something that would last almost the entire day.

us

The first aid-station was Michigan Bluff (Mile 6.2). We knew that we’d see Miss P and Pearls volunteering there as well. I tried to stop and use the porta-potty here but the line was too long and Pigeon gave me that look like “Dude, we can’t wait.” So we passed on any fuel and headed down toward El Dorado Creek.

This down section is pretty fun. You can really pick up the pace here and make up time because it is almost 3 miles of total downhill. However, we were stuck running behind a line of runners so you are sort of left at whatever pace the lead runner is setting.

When we got to the bottom, I had to dip off the trail and take care of mother nature. Pigeon just continued on.

The El Dorado Creek aid-station (Mile 9.0) was hopping. I didn’t grab anything here but I did pull some things out of my pack to eat on the long brutal climb out.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

I wanted to catch up to Pigeon so I ran up for a bit passing runners. Finally I saw her and I settled into a nice hike. I noticed that I was feeling okay. My breathing was better and my back felt good.  I love climbing and have had some really good moments on this exact climb during training.

When we reached the top Pigeon and I reconnected. We both felt fine. We started running.

The next aid-station was The Pump (Mile 13.5) and they had huge blow up unicorns and all kinds of fun stuff here. The volunteers were awesome and were quick to help you refill whatever you needed.

I refilled my water bottle and soon Pigeon and I were headed towards Devil’s Thumb. I have to say, the volunteers that came out and cleaned up the trails the weekend prior did an amazing job. The trails were not nearly as torn up as they had been during training. A lot of the downed trees had been cleared.

When I reached the top of Devil’s Thumb I was excited. I settled in with a group of guys who were just bombing the downhill. My friend Roger was in this group and he always makes things fun. The pace felt great to me so I stuck with it. It was frustrating here because you had lots of runners climbing out so you were constantly moving to the side or stopping to let them pass. The trail isn’t that wide mind you, so often times you’re standing in a poison oak bush letting someone by.

On the switchbacks I couldn’t see Pigeon but I knew she had to be close. Finally we reached the bottom of the Thumb and had to grab a bracelet as proof that we went all way down. Then, we turned right around and started climbing back out. Devil’s Thumb has 36 switch backs. It’s a brutal climb and it was definitely starting to get warm.

I saw Pigeon on the turn around, she was not far behind me at all. I just put one foot in front of the other and power climbed my way out.

When I reached the top, I was eager to get to the aid-station at The Pump again (Mile 18.5). I was hot and I wanted something salty. I figured I’d see Pigeon when she made it there herself.  However, I never did see her again again until much later in the race.

I grabbed what I needed at The Pump and started walking out. Then I started running. Despite the climbing I had done, I felt pretty good and I was looking forward to the descent down to El Dorado Creek. I’d been killing this section in training lately and I was eager to take off the brakes and just let gravity take me down.

At the bottom of El Dorado Creek (Mile 23.0) I didn’t stay long. I grabbed something to drink and then power hiked as I ate. Once again, I found myself in a line of guys all climbing about the same pace.

When I reached Michigan Bluff Aid-Station (Mile 25.8) I said “hi” to Miss P and Pearls again. I refilled on some stuff and started out. It was definitely getting hot out and I couldn’t wait to revisit that creek crossing again to cool off.

The next aid-station is back at Foresthill, where we started (Mile 32.0). I ran into Diane Hanes from the Folsom Lake Trail Running Series here. Diane asked, “Where is your crew?” I just said, “I don’t have one! But I have a drop bag!” She found my drop bag and helped me refill my pack. I noticed that I had arrived at that aid-station slightly before my predicted arrival time which made me feel good.

I barely spent more than 5 minutes there and was back out running. The second half of the race was a section I had not done since I had run Ruck-A-Chuck back in March.

This section of the course was for 100k runners only so the amount of traffic on these trails was minimal. In fact, I often found myself alone much of this section.

At one point, I came to a pretty heavy flowing stream crossing. I stepped in and relished in the cold water for a minute. Taking my bandanna, I dunked it in the water. THEN! I had an amazing idea, WHY NOT DUNK MY HAT!? So bent down to dunk my hat in the icy cold water when all of a sudden, my foot slipped! And as if it was in slow motion I saw my whole body go UP and then come down. I was flat on my back in the middle of this heavy flow of water. The only thing sticking out of the water was my head! I died laughing and there was NO ONE around to witness it. I knew Pigeon would have died laughing at me. 🙂

I got up and kept running.

Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 35.5) – such a sweet and friendly aid-station. Again, I didn’t stay long. The one thought that kept entering my mind during this whole run was that I would have to come back on these same trails later to get to the finish. That was a mental hurdle of sorts.

Cal 2 Aid-Station (Mile 40.5) I knew was the last aid-station before the turn around and the longest between stretches (7 miles to the next aid). I also knew that it had a decent down hill portion to it combined with a nice gnarly climb and some sandy trails.

By the time I was about 3 miles from the turn around spot and the Rucky Chucky Aid-Station (Mile 47.8) I had run out of water in my pack. I still had this yucky tasting warm water in my water bottle if things got desperate.

When the single track dumps you out onto the fire road, I thought the aid-station would never come. Every runner I passed seemed to tell me it was “one mile out still.” I was anxious to get there because Stonegate promised to be there with some ice (I was so thirsty!).

True to her word, she was there with ice and a plethora of fresh cold beverages for me to choose from. She made me laugh and that is what I needed I think. Just a little boost of energy. Someone to tell me that I was doing a ‘good job’ and to keep going.

I was probably there maybe 5 minutes? Back out on the fire road I went, ready to finish this thing. On my way out, I ran into Pigeon. She looked okay and said she was ‘fine’ but she didn’t have her usual spark. I knew she didn’t want to bring me down by telling me she wasn’t feeling well. As it turns out, she dropped from stomach issues when she got to Rucky Chucky (which was an aid-station full of carnage).

I decided the only way to finish this was to keep moving. Run any flats that I could, all the downs and keep moving firmly on the up hills.

When I reached the long climb to Cal 2 (Mile 55.1) I was overcome with a sense of strength. I hiked that climb like it was nothing. I stopped at the aid-station quickly for a drink and then headed back out. I wasted no time. I knew in my head that I only had 8.5 miles at this point until I was done with this beast.

The section between Cal 2 and Cal 1 is something of a miracle for me. I am not sure what happened or what occurred exactly, but I was overcome with a surge of energy. I started running. Not just shuffling, but actually running. I was doing some 8:30/9:00 minute miles here. What the heck?!

I passed some guys and as one guy moved to the side he said, “Holy crap! You are running really strong right now! Wow!” I just told him that I was “ready to be done” and he said, “So am I but I can’t get my legs to do what yours are doing! You go!

That just fueled my fire. I kept going. It was getting darker by the minute but I waited until the very last glimpse of light before I put my headlamp on. I’ve never truly run “at night” … I have run in the dark with friends, but never “in a race” so to speak.

Eyes straight forward. Any rustling to the side of me I ignored and attributed as a squirrel. 🙂

I wanted, I needed to get to the Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 60.1). The bonus of running at night, is that you can see the aid-station lights through the trees so you can have a sense of hope that they are near.

When I got there, I simply dumped out all of the trash in my pack and left. 3.5 miles to finish. I could do this! I knew I had cell coverage here so on my hike out, I texted Vans who had been chilling with Squeaker at the finish line since earlier that evening.

Squeaker waiting!
Squeaker waiting for me!

I told him that I was about 3.5 miles from the finish but that it was an uphill climb to get there. I texted Stonegate who immediately texted me back with some pump up kick a$$ motivation.

Then, I put my phone away and got to work climbing. No stopping. No slow moving. Hike girl! Just hike!

I passed a few runners on my way out. When I reached the pavement, I knew I was done. I knew that I had enough in my tank to get to me to that finish line. I started to run and I encouraged the guy who I had been chatting with to join me. He said, “No thanks. I am going to hike this one in.” Fair enough, it had been a long day. I said my goodbye and I ran!

The road through town was dark, very dark. I saw the finish up ahead. I actually had to ask for directions because I wasn’t sure where the arch was exactly. I heard Vans say, “That’s her! That’s her!

I crossed that finish line and threw up a fist-pump! I effing did it! And I finished well under the time I had expected to finish. I was just over 16 hours which was pretty sweet in my book, especially after the recent weeks that I have had.

Done and smiling!
Done and smiling!

What a day and what a race. When I finished, I felt good. I mean I was tired, but I was able to walk and change and heck, I had to even drive myself home! 🙂

My Squeaker girl. Always at the ultra finish lines.
My Squeaker girl. Always at the ultra finish lines.

I am normally a person who listens to all the signs the Universe sends out. I truly believe things happen in life for a reason.  Despite all the obstacles I faced leading up to this race, I think I was tested for a reason. They weren’t signs to deter me from starting, they were signs to see if I was tough enough to endure what is considered one helluva difficult race. 63.6 miles and over 15,000 feet of elevation on hot terrain.

I couldn’t have done so without the support of my coach, my friends, my running partners and my family. I think Vans may have been a little afraid of what the day might turn into based on how I had been feeling, but he remained my biggest supporter, my strongest friend and without him, I am not sure I would have finished.

A quick side note, that he’ll kill me for sharing, but Vans stuck TONS of little personalized notes of encouragement and jokes throughout my pack. Whenever I went into a pocket, I’d find a new note. They were stuck in my drop bags, my pack and even in some of my food pouches! 🙂 That alone, gave me more energy than I think he realizes.

My rock with me post race - at midnight.
My rock with me post race – at midnight.

I truly am a lucky girl. I am looking forward to some R&R now. My calendar isn’t empty by any stretch but what I do have on there, is for pure enjoyment only. I’ve missed running trails for fun. I’ve missed running and exploring and soaking up nature without an agenda, a goal, a specified mileage.

I want to run free of obligations. I want to run and laugh with friends and support those who are gearing up for bigger and better things. For me, I am content to just be.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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