It was my first ever trail-relay and I was running a section of Folsom Lake that I have never run before.
The run was tough. My section was 25 miles, a lot of pavement and quite a few climbs.
Unfortunately, our team did not finish. Stonegate started her leg at 3 pm in the afternoon, when it was already quite hot outside. She mis-judged her fueling routine with the later start time and ended up not being able to finish her leg. She was pretty ill and I know for her, it was a very tough decision to make. As her relay team, we didn’t care one bit, we just wanted her healthy.
After that, I took a “me-day” from work and ventured to Santa Rosa!
It was really interesting to see how someone else demonstrates certain cooking techniques to others.
After the cooking demo, I visited the Savory Spice Shop and was in total spice heaven!
I bought some fresh herbs and spices to try at home.
My time spent in Santa Rosa was brief but lovely. I had never really been there before (that I can recall anyway) and I can’t wait to go back.
THEN, I had a friend who I met at Plant-Stock in 2015, text that she was headed my way and was wondering if she could crash and visit for a few days with us. I was beyond excited to see her!
Tara is a bundle of absolute positive energy. She is a joy to be around and my girls had a blast with her. Hopefully they didn’t scare her from having children in the future! 🙂 My kids were pretty wired when she was here and in rare form. Squeaker was on fire and quite hilarious.
Unfortunately, Tara picked the worst weekend to be here because we had our first ever major storm. A weekend full of rain and wind which doesn’t make for great hosting and sightseeing.
While she does run trails, Tara didn’t have storm weather appropriate running shoes with her so she wasn’t able to join Stonegate, Pigeon, Miss P, Pearls and I on our Sunday morning run in Auburn.
We were the only ones on the trail and we had one helluva time!
It was MUDDY and slippery but oh.so.much.fun!!!! We ran, we laughed and we all were in total complete heaven.
How often do you find a group of women like us who live to get muddy and soaking wet at the butt-crack of dawn on a Sunday? 🙂
So, as you can see, I haven’t been hiding under a rock. I’ve been out enjoying nature and all that October has brought with it thus far.
Like I said earlier, I hope to be able to share some of the projects that I have been working on lately with you or at least the status updates of those.
I am hosting another plant-based cooking demo later in the month for a small group of people who are interested in learning how to cook plant-based. I am excited to open my kitchen to them and to answer any questions they may have about the way that I cook.
Hopefully, down the road, maybe I can do more of these or even better, be invited to other people’s homes to show them how to use what they have to cook and eat plant-based.
Until then, I am enjoying some family time and some adventures.
“But where do you get your protein?” Usually a loaded question but one I did not hear for two straight days this past weekend. Why? Because I was in plant-based heaven.
Last year I attended Plant-Stock (you can read that experience here). I had traveled the 3,000 miles from California all by myself to attend this two day conference held on the farm and home of the Esselstyn family. This year, I had a friend.
Sit back and settle in as this may be one of my more “lengthy” posts filled to the brim with photos from a weekend that completely blew me away. It is worth the read though so grab a cup of tea and relax.
Stonegate and I took a red-eye out of California which headed direct to Boston. Our layover in Boston wasn’t terrible. We recovered from our overnight flight and talked about how excited we were for the weekend ahead. Stonegate also made fun of my “folder making” habit … When I travel or do anything that requires planning, I make folders. What can I say? I am a very organized person.
Forty-five minutes and one tiny plane later, we landed in Newark Airport. Stonegate hopped on a train and headed to NYC to visit with some family. I met my dad and headed to my hometown in NJ for a quick visit.
Sad to leave my family, I then drove the 3 hours (usually 2.5 but there was an accident) to upstate New York where I checked into our hotel and scored a gluten and oil free vegan pizza from Baba Louie’s Pizza in Hudson, New York. It is the best vegan pizza I have had ever.
Later that evening, I picked Stonegate up at the train station and brought her back to the hotel. We ate pizza and seriously laughed the night away (I think we were deliriously tired from traveling). We were beyond excited for our weekend to begin.
Saturday morning bright and early we drove to the Esselstyn Family Farm in Claverack, NY. This place is breath-taking. 500 acres of the most amazing fields you have ever seen. It is one of two farms in the entire state that is owned by the same family dating back many centuries.
We checked in and took our seats and were treated to a plant-strong breakfast. Speakers were just wandering around. Attendees were trickling in. I saw people who in “my world,” are celebrities just mingling with everyone.
The format was such that someone would talk and then we’d have a break. This was nice as it helped get us out of our seats and kept us moving.
On one of the breaks, I saw Dr. Garth Davis. He had been surrounded by people since he had arrived but suddenly, he wasn’t. I walked over and introduced myself. We chatted a bit about his book, his blog, his posts on Facebook (follow him if you don’t already) and just how “enthusiastic” he is about a plant-based diet. Stonegate took some photos of us.
He was incredibly genuine and easy to talk to. I admire his drive in promoting plants over meat and I am blown away by his intelligence and ability to prove his point. He was a new addition to the Plant-Stock line up this year and one I truly hope they continue to have. His talk the next day was a hit.
During one of the breaks, I met a super nice guy who was also there taking photos for the event. He was about as local as you could get living just 5 minutes from the farm. We talked quite a bit and he told me that one of his jobs that day was to head to the train station to pick up Rich Roll. WHAT?! He was super chill about it but at the same time, feeling incredibly lucky because he’s a huge fan and I am sure was beyond excited to have the chance to have that 20 minute drive with Rich Roll.
Later, when Rich Roll arrived, we had been on a break. I saw my opening and I took it. I walked up to Rich and introduced myself. He had been talking to Howard Jacobson, Ph.D. (who I had met and talked with earlier) and Josh LaJaunie (another exciting athlete that I follow and had chatted with earlier). I explained to Rich that Vans was a huge fan. So much so that he even read his book (and Vans doesn’t read books often). I explained that his birthday was in a day and he was home with two kids while I was here, meeting him. He laughed. I told him he could potentially save my marriage if he’d do a birthday message video to Vans. He kindly obliged.
Stonegate wasn’t around to see this and was floored when I found her and showed her the video. She got a photo with Rich too.
What a great guy and yes, Vans was totally blown away. Marriage saved! 🙂
We also heard from Adam Sud whose talk brought me to tears quite a few times. Such an inspirational guy and I am so happy he is out spreading his message.
Next we heard from James Wilks who is a retired professional mixed martial artist and winner of The Ultimate Fighter but who is currently a film producer. The work he is doing is super exciting and I cannot wait for it to be released to the public. He was also another incredibly nice person.
James actually ended up sitting with us at dinner and we chatted about his family and his plant-based kids and how he handles certain situations. It truly was a once in a lifetime mind blowing experience.
Dinner was fabulous. The setting was beautiful. The food was outstanding.
It was a five course meal for 420 people and the plates were delivered still hot and right on time. That rarely happens.
After dinner, we heard from Rich Roll, our final speaker of the day. His talk was great. It was filled with humor and inspiration. Rich has a tremendous way with words and it was a great way to end what had been an amazing day.
Stonegate and I left feeling excited, energized and motivated but also pretty darn tired. Our three hour time change was still looming over our heads a bit. We were eager to get to sleep because Sunday was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity that will forever be etched in our minds.
At least fifty people were interested. There was also a group walking with Jane Esselstyn so you didn’t have to run the full 3 miles. Stonegate and I were bursting with excitement for this. Also joining the run was Dr. Garth Davis, Howard Jacobson, Rip Esselstyn (with his 2 year daughter Hope on his shoulders) and Josh LaJaunie! How freaking cool!? My friend Tara, who works for Forks Over Knives and Engine 2 was also able to run and Michael, my photographer friend also made it! I was smiling from ear to ear the entire time.
The run was not as easy as many would think. When you are not used to humidity as thick as it is on the east coast, it feels like your lungs are running in water. Your breath and your chest feel it first. Pushing any uncomfortable feelings aside, I just ran like I was a child again.
Scott Jurek worked his way back through the group so that he could chat with everyone. He reached us just as we were going up a steep hill. He is a super nice guy who remembered where a lot of people were from which blows my mind. He truly was listening to everyone.
The run ended with the whole group going up this big hill with a picturesque view. Josh LaJaunie was standing at the top and I could hear him cheering as everyone was climbing. I decided I had to run the whole thing and I did and he cheered and gave me a high-five as I reached the top. Nice!
Scott stayed and took photos with EVERYONE. Stonegate and I took photos with him solo and as part of a group.
Talk about an amazing way to begin the day. Seriously, I know my kids would disagree, but this was better than Christmas!
After breakfast we heard from Dr. Esselstyn again. His second talk I think is more mind blowing for the non-scientific folk. Stonegate I know was blown away by some of slides showing the reversal of heart disease.
Sunday was the day we heard from Dr. Garth Davis. His talk was fantastic. Full of energy, humor and some pretty great slides.
We heard from Dr. Richard Oppenlander as well. I have not read his books yet but I plan to. His presentation was focused on our environment and how it will not survive if we continue on the path we are headed. Living in California I see this first hand with our drought. Most of our water is feeding cattle and could, in fact be used in a better more economical and sustainable way that could save our planet and rid the world of hunger.
Dr. Doug Lisle spoke again on Sunday and I absolutely hands down LOVE this talk that he does. He did the same talk last year and I loved it then too. His talk, How to Get Along, Without Going Along is an absolute must at a conference like this. He understands that we will walk away feeling like we have found the “Holy Grail of health” and like the kind people we are, we will want to share it with EVERYONE.WE.MEET. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t want to hear it. Dr. Lisle provides everyone with the tools and the knowledge to handle certain situations when you leave Plant-Stock.
Stonegate and I had met a lovely Canadian couple at dinner the night before and the wife was discussing this very situation. Her coworkers don’t understand and she doesn’t know how to handle it. I told her to wait and hear Dr. Lisle’s talk. Afterwards, I found her and she was bubbling. She loved it and thought that it hit the nail on the head and felt ready to head home with some additional knowledge.
We also saw a cooking demo (aka comedy show) with Ann and Jane Esselstyn.
These two ladies have my heart. Their energy and laughter are infectious. I would love to be at their house on Thanksgiving morning helping them prepare meals. It must be a hoot.
They also had a plant-strong family discussion with all of Dr. Esselstyn’s kids (Rip, Ted, Zeb and Jane) and their spouses. Between them all, there are a lot of grandkids, who are also all entirely plant-based. This discussion was new and I found it very interesting. Although, I would LOVE for them to meet my picky Peanut someday as I think she could give them a run for their money. 😉
Right before this, Rip’s 9 year old son Cole showed off his plant-strong muscles by climbing the pole of the tent we were sitting under. Insane. I glanced at Rip to see if he was as nervous as I was during this. That kid climbed to the top!
The final talk of the entire day was Scott Jurek. He took the stage with his wife Jenny and 3 month old daughter Raven. They were lovely. His presentation was on his 46 day 2,189 mile journey through the Appalachian Trail. It was engaging to watch. He also saved time at the end for questions from the audience.
And sadly, the weekend had come to a close. We knew it was bound to happen but I just didn’t want it to end. The weather had cooperated for most of it, the speakers were great and I met so many lovely people this year. Stonegate and I said our goodbyes to Michael the photographer and exchanged contact information. I went in search of my friend Tara but unfortunately, she had already left.
The rain had started to fall as we were ending the day. It was almost fitting. Semi pushing us out the door seeking cover ready to move on. We were leaving the comfortable nest of Plant-Stock.
I am not going to lie, the car ride back to New Jersey scared me out of my mind. Torrential, can’t see the road in front of you down pours almost the entire way. I live in California now, we’ve been in a drought for four years. I haven’t driven in rain like that in a VERY long time. Holy cow.
Overall, the weekend was a blast. Despite it being my second year in a row, I did learn quite a few new things I hadn’t before and I met so many more amazing people this time around. From speakers to attendees, the people I met and conversed with over the course of the weekend really touched me. So many stories, so much emotion, Plant-Stock is a place where anyone is welcome and there is no judgment.
I truly hope to attend next year. The cost of travel isn’t easy for my family but they do see how charged and motivated I am when I return. Next year, I would love to bring Vans and I know Stonegate would love to bring her spouse. Let’s just hope they can handle a little east coast run!
SHOUT OUT: Hey upstate New York readers and friends, if you are EVER looking for a photographer for an event, family photos, you name it, please check out Molinski Photography (click here). Their work is stellar and some of the nicest people you will meet. Thank you Michael for all the amazing photos.
DISCLAIMER, I was in no way compensated for writing this post or for attending Plant-Stock. All opinions are my own. I 100% believe in the message they are sending. If you are interested in attending Plant-Stock 2017, please check out this link.
“Some people think the plant-based, whole foods diet is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.” – Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr.
That has to be one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Esselstyn, (and he has quite a few).
I met so many wonderful people who shared their journey with me. From being on death’s door and miserable to living a vibrant energetic life all the while, thanking Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, and the Engine 2 and Forks Over Knives crew. It was inspiring.
The speakers last year were phenomenal. I don’t know how, but they’ve seemed to add even more amazing plant-based speakers to the list this year!
Here are a few that I am CRAZY excited to hear talk, meet and learn from next week:
Yup, the one and only Scott Jurek! Not only do we get to hear him talk, we get to go on a RUN with him! Kind of excited to pick his ultra-running plant-based brain!
That’s right! Mr. Rich Roll will be there too. I’ve followed Rich for years listening to his podcast, reading his blog (even his OLD blog) and of course his book and watching his YouTube channel.
This one I am SUPER excited to meet. Dr. Garth Davis, if you follow him on Facebook, has one of the best Facebook pages around . His book, Proteinaholic was a fantastic read – FULL of information. I highly recommend it.
With that said, there are a few repeat speakers that I am really happy are coming back …
Dr. Doug Lisle spoke last year at Plant-Stock and his talk called, How to Get Along without Going Along was one of my absolute favorites of the weekend. He is the co-author of The Pleasure Trap (an amazing book if you haven’t read it) and I really look forward to hearing him again this year.
And of course, Plant-Stock would not be Plant-Stock without a cooking demo by two fabulously funny and engaging women!
Ann and Jane are the authors behind one of my favorite and frequently used plant-based cookbooks, The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. This dynamic duo are so fun to watch. After watching them last year, I wish I could just follow them around for the day. 🙂 They are so hard working and super personable. You can see how they just touch everyone they meet.
I can’t list all the people who are speaking (this blog would be way too long) but trust me when I say, I am ready for this weekend to blow my mind.
If you have any interest in attending any of the Engine2/Forks Over Knives events then I have good news for you! They’ve issued me a special code that will give you a discount to a few of their upcoming events (Plant-Stock is not included).
If you live near the Cleveland Ohio, Dallas Texas or Pasadena California area then you are in luck!
Visit this link here and use the discount code: TRAILVIP50 to received $50 of the registration fee for one of their weekend long events.
If you want an in-depth full on life-saving immersion into the Plant-Based lifestyle, then their Sedona, Arizona trip may be more suitable. Visit this link here and use the discount code: TRAILVIP150 to receive $150 off the registration fee.
I cannot stress enough how important diet is in one’s life. What you put in your mouth on a daily basis does affect the way you feel whether you want to realize it or not. If you have headaches, constipation, gas, heart palpitations, eczema – WHATEVER – stop and think about what you are consuming. If you lack energy, it most likely has to do with what you are eating.
If you can’t afford the trips I’ve listed above, I COMPLETELY understand. Start small. Maybe buy Dr. Greger or Dr. Davis’s book or check out their websites. Tiny changes still COUNT.
You don’t have to make drastic changes overnight. Start small and build from there. Do what you can on a daily basis and see what happens.
“About 53 miles into the race is the aid-station called Tina’s Den. It is home to four female mountain lions who like to hang out there. Two days ago, one of the cougars scared away a few mountain bikers. Don’t worry though, just don’t be last.”
That’s essentially all I heard during the pre-race briefing from the Quicksilver Race Director on Saturday. Not exactly comforting news before I am about to begin my first ever 100k race.
While I haven’t written much about it on here, it was evident beginning back in January that I have been training for something …. something big. I wanted to run a 100k and not just any 100k, I wanted to run the Quicksilver 100k.
Last year everyone I knew did that race, including Pigeon because it was a Western States 100 mile qualifying race. I wanted to run it because I wanted to conquer that distance and I loved all the race photos from everyone last year. The chance to qualify was just icing on top for me.
Earlier this year, I raced two very challenging 50ks (one in February and the other in March) and that set the tone for my training. Going into Quicksilver with its 13,000 feet of elevation, I felt ready to climb but I was uneasy about the distance.
So sit back, grab a beer or cup of tea and read on if you care to see how my race unfolds (warning: it is LONG) or if you want to see a million photos, feel free to skim. 🙂
With its 4:30 am start time and the half-ish hour drive to the start, Quicksilver definitely taught me a few things about being flexible with my morning routine. I woke up at 2:15 am, ate and finalized my drop bags. I have never used drop bags before. This was totally new to me. You can tell it was new to me too because I used Star Wars lunch boxes that I got free from Target as two of my four drop bags! I also used two Dylan Flinchum RockOn Foundation bags as my other two because if anyone can boost my spirits, it’s that little boy and his family back in New Jersey.
I even taped a photo of my girls in one of them to give me a boost late in the race.
After that little “pep-talk” by the Race Director, we were off and running in the dark. I had my lights with me and everyone around me had headlamps so visibility wasn’t an issue. Pigeon and I ran into Miss P who was also running her first 100k.
The race starts with a pretty good climb and everyone is reduced to a solid hike in the dark. Miss P and I chatted a bit on the way up which was nice. Eventually though, everyone spread out. Pigeon and I just ran. Our plan had been to run the race together. She knew the splits she wanted or needed in order to get a Western States qualification. I was content to run with her because I was unsure as to how the day would unfold having never approached this distance OR this type of elevation before and of course running with a friend for that long is always nice.
Soon the sun was rising and the views started to appear around us. It was pretty amazing and the temperature was nice and cool. I started in shorts and a tank top never needing anything more.
One thing to note about this race is that there are a lot of “lollypop” loops in it. Picture a lollypop at the end of stick. To get the mileage we needed, we’d run up a trail, do a loop and then run back down the same trail passing runners. I noticed early on that we’d pass a lot of the runners coming down from the loop but none when it was our turn to descend. It was clear that we were the back of the pack. This unnerved me a bit as it is something I am not used to but I also knew there were many more miles to the day and that anything could change at a moment’s notice.
A few times Pigeon and I found ourselves behind some runners that I wanted to pass but I wasn’t sure how she was feeling so we devised a “code” for those situations. We’d ask each other, “How is your foot?” And if we said, “good” we’d pass and if we said, “not good” we needed another moment. This situation actually only came into play once during the race. Pigeon asked me “How is your foot?” and I said, “What are you talking about? My foot is fine!” Hahaha I had completely forgotten about our little plan.
Hicks #1 Aid-Station (mile 7) was first. I had a drop bag here but didn’t need it. I did take advantage of the restrooms. We both did. The volunteers were so nice and cheerful. They were very eager to help. Pigeon grabbed some more apple sauces from her drop bag.
We left Hicks and headed towards Bald Mountain. I remember feeling pretty good. Nothing was bothering me and the trails were rocky but not too technical.
Soon we approached Bald Mountain Aid-Station (mile 12.2). It was another lollypop type loop. You run past the aid-station to this beautiful cliff area, grabbed a purple rubber band to prove that you did the full loop and then back to the aid-station. We didn’t stop long here other than to use the restroom again.
After Bald Mountain we ran a short down hill followed by a pretty nice climb to get to Kennedy 1 Aid-Station (mile 18.9). Again, no drop bags for us but I noticed the aid-station was pretty bare bones. Not much to offer runners. I was fine with what I had been consuming thus far which was mostly fruit leather, some jelly beans (on the climbs) and my homemade Engine 2 Peanut Butter Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. We did refill our packs here though and discovered that the water at the aid-stations tasted like rubberized chlorine! UGH! It was barely drinkable and we had to run 5.4 miles to the next aid-station with that water.
After Kennedy however, we ran DOWN and by down, I mean far down. Still, I was feeling okay. I was worried about my left knee going into this race as it tends to not like a lot of steep down hills but so far, it was behaving just fine.
When we reached Lexington Aid-Station (mile 24.2) I was feeling good. Pigeon’s wife Missouri and son were at this aid-station as was Miss P’s pacer, Christine. It’s always nice to see people you know and have them give you a good pep talk. We also had drop bags here.
We both dumped our packs and refilled them with our own water. I dug into my drop bag for the first time and swapped out a few things, grabbed some more cookies and dumped the apple sauces as they weren’t working for me.
We left Lexington and headed for the longest biggest climb of the day, Dog Meat Hill. I have seen the photos of this climb, but none of them do it justice. This is one brutally long fully exposed climb. We were lucky in that it was overcast most of the time but it was definitely warm out there.
However, I was just in awe of the views and the trail itself. I did my thing and power hiked up every hill taking photos whenever I could. I’d wait for Pigeon at the top and then we’d repeat it again and again.
I had overheard a guy talking about how this is the hardest climb in the race and that nothing in the second half of the race compares. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear right then. It gave me a little boost that once we were done with this beast, things would be easier.
When we finally finished Dog Meat, we arrived at Kennedy 2 Aid-Station (mile 31.1). I mentioned to Pigeon that we had completed a 50k! She didn’t seem amused. She’d been battling some tummy issues along the way which is never very fun in a race.
When we reached the aid-station, they had nothing. Pigeon wanted a Coke or a turkey avocado sandwich desperately and they had none. I think this hit her pretty hard and knocked her spirits down quite a bit. Her mood had been quiet thus far but I could sense her go a little deeper into a dark spot.
I just tried my best to keep hiking and chatting when I could, hoping I wasn’t bothering her too much. Eventually, I told her that we had to just let it go. We couldn’t rely on the aid-stations at this point, they’ve proven to be pretty useless in the quantity of fuel provided and we’d have to make do. I knew we were heading back to Hicks 2 Aid-Station and I knew we had drop bags there. I tried to get her to focus on that.
Her stomach just wouldn’t let up though. Once we reached Hicks 2 Aid-Station (mile 36.4) we both used the restroom and then attacked our drop bags. I grabbed a few more things here including some Advil. My right knee (not my left knee as I mentioned earlier) had started to really bark on the long descent from Kennedy to Hicks. So much so that at one point, it literally gave way and Pigeon almost had to catch me from cratering to the ground. At Hicks 2, I took 2 Advil. I didn’t want to but I had no choice at this point.
From Hicks we ran towards Hacienda Aid-Station (mile 39.3) which was a little hard to stomach because Hacienda is where my car was parked!!! Yes, I had to run past my own car to get to the aid-station! That’s just cruel right?
The nice part about this section of the course though is that the distances between aid-stations were cut in half essentially which means, the next one after Hacienda was Mockingbird, just 3.1 miles away. Although Mockingbird was also the finish area so you have to run past the finish arch to go another 20 miles … again cruel.
Pigeon needed the restroom at Hacienda. I talked to the volunteers and took some pebbles out of my shoe. When we were finally back on the trail running, I reminded her that we were on our way to her wife and son. We had to do some climbing to get there, but I assured her it would be worth it.
She was in her dark spot I think again. She snapped at me once about starting to run, which is fine, I get it, when you hurt you hurt. I wasn’t offended. I mentioned something about the time and trying to qualify and she shot back that she was already well aware. Up until that point, I hadn’t really been focusing too much on the time. It was on our way to Hacienda I think that I started calculating the math in my head with the pace that we’d been going and realized, our chances of qualifying for Western States was slipping away. I battled in my head with what to do.
The dilemma in my head was broken by the sights and sounds of Mockingbird Aid-Station (mile 42.9). I needed this boost. As I ran in, I told Missouri that Pigeon was hurting a bit, her tummy was just not happy. I had a drop bag here so I swapped out some things and I grabbed some cream for my knee. I applied some but I wanted to run with it just in case. The Advil had kicked in by now and the knee was feeling much better. As we left Mockingbird, I turned my phone on (it was on airplane mode most of the race) and I texted Stonegate and Vans that we had 20 miles left in the race and that any chances of qualifying were starting to slip away.
While I had been texting, a bunch of texts from earlier in the day came in, one of them was from my Peanut. My girls had a mock swim meet that day and my Peanut had sent me this:
That gave me such a boost. It got my thoughts running again. My little girl didn’t give up today. I shouldn’t either.
From Mockingbird to Bull Run 1 it’s up hill. We did not have to climb the huge rock pile that the Quicksilver race is known for but instead, they rerouted us an extra quarter mile. What’s an extra quarter of a mile in a 62 mile race?
I powered up the climbs but instead of waiting at the top for Pigeon like I had been, I wanted to keep moving. So on the downs, I’d slow down a bit hoping she’d catch up and she usually did.
We reached Bull Run 1 Aid-Station (mile 46.1) and we ran a weird little lollypop thing again. Pigeon and I ran that together. I think she was starting to get her mojo back because she said, “Hey, do you want to try for it? We have 15 miles to go and about 3.5 hours, we can push it. Want to go for broke?” I was just thrilled she had her spirit back! “Sure! Of course!” I said. Pigeon was coming back! She then said, “Okay, we’ll take turns pulling each other. I’ll go first!” She took off running down hill and I was hot on her heels behind her.
About five minutes later, she turned and said, “Ok, your turn!” and she let me pass. I never looked back. It was if a fire had been ignited within me, one that had been burning all along but I was too afraid let to come out.
Since Mockingbird I had been thinking, a lot. I thought about the time, about the race and about this course. Sure this race was a Western States Qualifier and while not my only reason for running, I had ran so much today that I wanted it. I wanted it bad. Pigeon is running Tahoe Rim 100 in July. I hated thinking this but I knew she had a second qualifying chance down the road. This, this race was my ONLY chance. So, I ran. I ran hard.
I passed runner after runner. I passed runners sitting on the ground. I passed pacers urging their runners to just take another step. I ran uphill. I ran down hill. I entered the scariest freakiest single track trail I have ever seen in my life. It led to Tina’s Den (remember Tina the mountain lion from the beginning of this post?) … I can see why Tina and her friends like to hang out there! I was too afraid to stop to be honest that I just high-tailed it as fast as I could.
You finally get dumped onto a road. A volunteer said, “It’s a mile down that road and then turn left and the aid-station is about a half mile from there.” What he failed to tell me is that it was like a half-mile UP hill but whatever. As I had made the left turn, I saw this woman jumping up and down on a rock.
I thought she was waving to the guy in front of me who didn’t look too enthused to see her. In my head I was like, “Man what a jerk!” Little did I know it was Stonegate!!! She had raced the 2.5 hours from home to catch me at mile 53!!!!! She was a sight for sore eyes!
She hiked with me to the aid-station. We got there and they were dry. Nothing left. I had a drop bag but my stomach did not want much. Stonegate refilled my pack with ice cold water without me even taking it off. THAT is what I wanted. I told her that I had left Pigeon and that if she sees her to tell her how sorry I was and that I really wanted to push. I felt bad for leaving her.
Stonegate encouraged me and reminded me that Pigeon will understand and that she would WANT me to go. So, I went. Less than 9 miles to the finish and I was racing the clock with a lot of uphill between us.
After Tina’s Den (luckily I saw NO mountain lions) it’s a good uphill climb to get to Enriquita Aid-Station (mile 55.8). I ran quite a bit of this uphill. I channeled my training runs up Stagecoach and just pushed. Every so often, I’d hike and then I’d run again.
At Enriquita Aid-Station I didn’t even stop and instead made a sharp right hand turn and went down this gully of a trail with terrible footing. Never mind there are runners hiking their way up too so it was a bit of a mess. When you reached the bottom, you had to read a sign (Read?! You want me to read and comprehend right now?). The sign said that in order to prove that you made it to the bottom of the hill, you had to hole punch your bib and show the volunteers at the top.
Um, the hole punch was attached to a cord that was ridiculously short! So after 56 miles, you have to try and stand on one leg while lifting your other leg, and hole punch your bib. Lordy!
I did it and then I ran my bum back up that hill. Just before reaching the top, I saw Pigeon making her way down. I hooted and hollered for her and she hooted and hollered for me and told me to just GO!
After reaching the top of Enriquita again, I ran towards Bull Run 2 Aid-station (mile 58.8), the final aid-station before the finish. It just happened to be completely up hill. I had to hike. There were moments where I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I couldn’t eat anything. I wasn’t sure if it was from how hard I was pushing myself or from nerves of being on the edge of not making the cut off.
When I got to Bull-Run 2, I was sprinting, or at least I felt like I was sprinting.
The volunteers went wild when I came through! “Just 3.5 miles to go! You got this! Run just like that and don’t stop and you will qualify!” Wait, can they not SEE the big hill down the road that I have to go up in a minute? They want me to run like this, up that?! I had to laugh, it was funny.
I kept having these mini dialogs in my head pleading that there would be no more “rollers” and then I saw a sign that said, “Just a few more rollers and you’re at the finish!” I just want to note, you don’t SEE these “rollers” on the map or elevation chart but holy cow, were they ever there!
I pushed and pushed. I passed runner after runner. I was cutting every corner I ran around even if it meant cutting in front of another runner. Soon, it was all downhill. I pleaded with my knee not to flare up (it hadn’t make a squeak since Mockingbird). Other runners cheered me on. Hikers on their way up cheered me on and told me I was close. The sky to my left was insanely gorgeous with the sun setting and I wanted to stop and take a photo SO bad but I didn’t dare!
Finally I saw the finish. I heard Stonegate first, “You got this girl! Just up this hill!” Which made me laugh out loud! Another freaking hill! I heard Missouri and Christine (Miss P’s pacer) cheering. I was so overcome with joy and happiness. I had made it! I qualified! I made it with about 20 minutes to spare (my time was 15:38). I was done.
Five months of training was over in one day. It was totally worth it. My friends congratulated me and then asked where Pigeon was. I told them I left her on the way to Tina’s Den. I said she’s behind me but I am not sure how far.
Pigeon came in a short time later. She too qualified for Western States with just minutes to spare! She gutted it out and ran her butt off to get to that finish line. I am proud of how deep she dug to do it.
As it turns out, she wasn’t upset at me for leaving and was happy that I qualified. That’s how friends work, especially trail friends. We support each other.
Overall, I feel pretty good. I have some soreness and I stiffen when I sit too long but my heart is full. I feel like I set out to conquer something, something I’ve thought about for a while, and I did it. I worked hard for it, very hard.
Not sure what is next. I have a few training runs planned as I am pacing Pigeon at Tahoe Rim Trail in July so I have to be ready for that.
I definitely plan to rest though and let my body recover. I owe it that. It did everything I asked of it this season and I am grateful. So I will enjoy some down time with my two amazing little swimmers.
This was only supposed to be a training run and then Tommy Lee Jones started egging me on, lighting that internal fire that is always simmering inside and the rest was history including an uphill battle to the finish.
On Saturday it dumped rain all day; a lot of rain. So much so that Paulo, the Race Director emailed all participants AND sent out a Facebook blast detailing that the race course had changed due to the condition of the road/trails. Uh-oh. Now instead of starting at the bottom near the river, we were to start at the top in the upper parking lot area of Driver’s Flat. They also had to adjust the back end of the course to account for the three mile difference at the start. Ultimately, the course ended up being shortened by a mile or so which is better than the alternative which was lengthening it by three miles. (Good call Paulo!) 🙂
When I arrived at the starting area, I was a dork and basically was the first person there. Stonegate (like the great trail friend she is) had offered to drive me but she couldn’t wait all day and I did not want Vans and the girls hanging out in the mud and rain forcing me to run and finish faster. This was a training run after all remember?
So upon arrival I got out and asked Paulo if he needed any help. Why not put me to use right? He had me start handing out bibs to the runners as they arrived. This turned out to be great because I finally was able to put names to faces! I finally met Clint, a fellow plant-powered runner and Facebook face (Hi CLINT!!) and a few other runners.
Soon it was almost go-time and of course the skies opened up and dumped rain for few minutes. I second guessed my out-fit choice and changed my top at the last minute (tip: always go with your first instinct). We gathered at the start where Paulo did a quick pre-race briefing reminding us that we were to follow pink ribbons. He also told us where the NEW turn around spot and aid-station was located.
They counted us down and we were off! Everyone started running the long three mile downhill and were all commenting on how brutal this will be on the return, at the end of the race.
BUZZ!!! (my watch) Mile 1 – 8:30 Uh oh, that’s a bit fast, slow it down, don’t blow out your quads on the first mile.
BUZZ!!! Mile 2 – 8:30 Grrr, I thought I slowed it down!? Okay, look there’s a bathroom! Go use that restroom over there and that will help slow you down and push you farther back in the pack.
When I emerged from the bathroom I just continued running along the river. I stopped a few times to take some photos (the only photos I took all day – stick with me and you’ll see why).
Two girls were in front of me were talking. Eventually they moved over and let me pass. Then we hit some up hills and I heard them chatting away, so I let them pass. I just needed quiet as I was trying to get a sense of how my body was feeling. I just couldn’t find my groove.
Roughly at mile 10 we entered the second aid-station at Cal-2.
The volunteer yells out my bib number AND yells out that I am fourth female and that number three is still in the aid-station. “Oh don’t tell me that!? It’s too early to tell me that!”
Sit tight girl. This is a training run. Do not go and chase it. Let.it.go!
I let three other women pass me out of that aid-station. I refused to go chase it. I was letting it go. However, while I was in this conga line of three women and one older gentleman leading the way, I couldn’t get my stride right. There was plenty of climbing and I was hiking a lot but I would either end up on their tail or I would slow down to the point of walking. It just didn’t feel right. The next aid-station was the turn-around and I just wanted to get there.
Soon we started seeing the lead runners on the return. First female went by and DANG she looked strong! She was flying. Second and Third females came by a little bit later and gosh darn it, it if wasn’t the two nice chatty women I let pass me earlier … the voices started again …
That could have been you. You were up there. Now you are 7th! Shut up! Training run remember!?
It was a SUPER steep down to the aid-station (mile 14 ish) at Cal 1. I ran in and realized there was nothing that I wanted. The volunteer asked me my bib number first since I was at the table and the other three women were filling their bottles. I told her my number and left.
That was tricky girl. Are you trying to get ahead or are you starting to race? Just getting ahead. That’s all. I am sure they will catch me.
Soon I came upon Roger. Ahh, Roger. Many trail runners know Roger. He is a great guy and a great runner. I met Roger a few years ago at Diane’s Thursday night race series. Roger and I used to push each other out on the course. Roger, if you don’t know him, sounds (and kinda looks) like Tommy Lee Jones. I kid you not, his voice is amazing and if you didn’t know it, you would think Tommy Lee Jones is running with you. It makes me smile every time I hear him.
ROGER: Hey Pam, you want by me?
ME: Nope, I just want to get some distance between me and those ladies back there.
Roger just chuckled. I should have known then with that innocent sounding chuckle, what was about to unfold.
Roger and I ran steady and strong for a very long stretch. It was probably my longest stretch of running the entire day. I FINALLY started to feel my groove, after 15+ miles.
All of a sudden, Roger stops and moves to the side.
ME: What are you doing? Dude, you are pulling me!
ROGER: Look, there’s number three. Go get her. You got this!
ME: (sigh) DAMN YOU ROGER! Damn you!
Roger chuckled his devilish chuckle again. 🙂
Off I go in front of Roger running steady. We knew the aid-station was coming up very soon. I just really wanted to get to there. The third place girl, (her name was Stephanie), let me pass. Roger checked in with her. I knew she was tired because when I was running behind her earlier in the day, she had said she had run 17 miles the day before marking the very course were running right now. My heart ached for her, she is clearly a VERY strong runner.
We all enter the aid-station, I reach for a cup and I feel someone pushing me sideways …
ROGER: Go! Get out of here. Go!
ME: What the?!! Okay okay …
I took off like I stole something. The next two to three miles were a steady but technical downhill. I had not been opening up my down hills this entire race, but now, I did.
BUZZ! Mile 20 – 9:25 Legs feel good. Tummy is a bit off, but I feel good.
BUZZ! Mile 21 – 9:21 Please god, let me have gained enough distance to keep this lead. Who am I kidding, if I could just bomb that, so can everyone else. Run, just run!
The next stretch was the longest between aid-stations again, something like 7.5 miles I think and that last aid-station would be the final aid before the dreaded three mile climb to the finish.
I just ran and ran. I had even moved ahead of Roger by quite a bit and then he’d catch me and pump me up some more. He even went so far as to tell me that he thinks I could catch female #2. HA! Funny man that Roger.
Finally I reached the section I affectionately called Tick Trail – it was so over grown with long grass and weeds that you couldn’t even see the trail and I imagined with every step, all these ticks jumping onto my legs. THAT made me run faster let me tell you!
Finally, I was dumped back onto the fire road that I knew led to the final aid-station. However, it took FOREVER it seemed until I got there.
VOLUNTEERS: Hey! Looking strong, what do you need?
ME: Can you please just douse my bandana in cold water? How far to the finish?
VOLUNTEERS: About 2.7 to 3 miles, unfortunately all up hill.
I silently groaned a little bit but there was nowhere to go but up to get this done. Off I ran and then I hiked. I tried power hiking. Pigeon was in my head. She had texted me earlier that morning to “power hike that last hill like a bear is chasing you!” Well, as it turns out, there WAS a bear about to chase me!
ROGER: Hey, there is a chick behind me.
ME: What!? No! You aren’t just saying that to get me to run up this hill are you?!
ROGER: Nope, she surprised me by coming up quick behind me at that last aid-station.
ME: Son of a B!*%$! I didn’t set out for this Roger!
ROGER: Well, don’t kill yourself but you got this!
Off I ran, my legs barely moving, shaking with every single step that I took. Last weekend I climbed 3 miles with Stonegate, motivating her up that hill. I used the same tactics on myself …
Okay girl, run to that rock. You can run to that rock and then walk. Just get ahead every chance you can.
I rounded a corner and something caught my eye ….
Holy crap! You caught the number two girl! Hmmm, she doesn’t look THAT far ahead … Nope, forget it. Focus on the girl behind you. You’re barely hanging in.
I am not kidding when I say this hill took FOR-FREAKING-EVER to climb. I passed one guy.
GUY: Hi! (being all friendly and nice despite huffing and puffing) One helluva way to finish huh?
ME: Can you look behind me please. Is there a girl there?
GUY: Nope. I see nobody.
ME: Good. Thanks.
Off I ran. Or I thought I was running. As I reached the top of that switchback I turned and saw her, the girl that was in front of me when I ran in that conga line of girls earlier in the day. She looked strong even then. She looked like she should have been running in front of those girls. She also looked like she wasn’t struggling one bit on that hill we were on.
Move it! Come on! Run, run a stretch now to get ahead! Come on legs! Stop shaking and run!
Female #2 turned and looked at me and then started to run too. The chase, it seemed was on, everyone was trying to get up that hill as fast as possible. I wanted to yell out to the number two girl and say, “It’s okay! I don’t care about #2! I just want to keep #3!” But come on, if I had gotten close enough …. 🙂
I kept straining to hear music. That’s a cue to all the finish lines right? But it occurred to me that there might not BE music at the finish.
Oh no, don’t rely on the music! But how will I know where the finish is? I can’t see it! All I see are these damn hills in front of me!
I had to laugh. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t super smiley but I wasn’t angry and laughing is the best way for me to release tension. What else am I going to do on a monster climb like this?
Then, I see two men standing there. They don’t look like hikers; they look like guys who hang out at finish lines (yes, that’s how my head works in moment’s like these). I reach them, I see female #2 ahead of me and I ask them …
ME: How far?
THEM: Not far, 100 yards.
ME: 100 yards?! (In my head it was as if they had told me it was 100 more miles)
THEM: Up that hill!
ME: (internally) Come on! PUSH!!!!
Finally, I see the finish arch. I see Paulo running around with his camera. I see female #2 pushing as hard as she can, she’s about 10 yards in front of me. I am running as hard as I possibly can. Everyone is cheering!
Oh no, are they cheering because they think I am going to catch her OR are they cheering because the girl behind me has finally caught me and is going to do a sneak attack to the finish line?!!
Talk about paranoia! Haha
RUNNNNN PAM RUNNNNNN!!!!
Finally, I cross the finish line and RD Paulo comes over. I think he doesn’t know whether to high-five me or give me a hug and all I want to do is lay down. I bend over and he kind of escorts me gingerly to some chairs, female number two was in the same state, bent over, legs shaking.
Holy crap, you did it. You made it. You climbed that beast. What the hell man!? I thought this was a training run!? 😉
One minute later, female #4 crosses the finish line. Wow, what a day.
Roger was next and I had enough strength in my legs to get up, cheer as loud as I could and give that crazy man a hug and say thank you. Again, thank you Roger for your support, encouragement and for giving me the pep talks I needed. I could not have done it without you.
So, the final verdict was Third Place Female overall (I was less than 20 seconds behind second) and first in my age group. The course was shortened so I could not go by time but I think I might have had a decent 50k time overall – so long as it wasn’t a four mile hill climb to the finish instead of three. The race (according to my Garmin) also had 7,548 ft of elevation to it. Wow.
Unfortunately, I didn’t stay too long at the finish as I had to jet home. I didn’t want to miss taking my favorite seven year old to her swim clinic lesson. Originally I didn’t think I would be able to make it but I guess with a finish like that, I had some extra time. 😉
So what worked and what didn’t? (Sorry, hang with me, the end of this monstrosity is near).
First, I tried my home-made plant-based fuel that I blogged about. I knew going into it, that it was too salty. When I tried it during the race, it just was not going to happen. It also had the texture of muffin batter something I was NOT going for in the creation process. Back to the drawing board on that.
Overall, I was not handling anything but fruity sweet flavors which is not my normal. I brought a gluten free almond butter and honey sandwich with me but the gluten free bread is SO dense that I almost choked eating it. I managed one square and left the rest for the drive home.
I need to work on the calorie consumption as I don’t think, looking back, I consumed a whole ton on this run. I had my usual go-to items like fruit leather, applesauce and jelly-beans (for that quick rush). I may go back to making muffins. They pack a good 300 calories per muffin but they require time to eat but since I am not racing my next race, I should have some time. 😉
Overall, I am happy. It wasn’t what I set out to do but I am happy that I was able to pull it together in the end and really push myself especially when at times, I didn’t think I had anything left to push. I feel good. The muscles are not too sore (yet). I still feel a little dehydrated and I need a few more hours of catch-up sleep. That’s the only downfall of having an ultra on a Sunday, as Monday it was back to work/school for the whole family.
Tis the life of a trail running mama I guess! Thanks for reading, I know this was incredibly long, but the good ones usually are.
I want to also thank all the volunteers who were part of this race. From marking the course in a rain storm the day before to being out there on the course the day of the race. Also my fellow trail runners were all super friendly and supportive cheering everyone on their way back to the finish. Love this community! SingleTrack Running put on another great race. Thank you!
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the second race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.