Grumpy decided last December when our boss finished, that he too could do a marathon and so, I handed him a training plan and he did all the work.
This would be my 9th CIM to date and I was super excited to head to the Expo this year because I never claimed my 5 year anniversary Loyal Runner gift!
It was fun watching Grumpy wander the Expo. You could see his nervous energy as he zipped about. I have to say, he picked THE best CIM year to run as the swag this year was top notch! Well done SRA and CIM!
Seriously, that little waist pouch is the best thing ever. Super comfortable. Any other CIMers who don’t want theirs, let me know because this is one waist pack that doesn’t bounce (they all bounce). I even wore it IN the race without testing it out first. Huge fan.
Okay, back to the race.
Sunday morning came fast. Saturday evening, my family and I went to our town Christmas Tree Lighting. Probably spent a little too much time on my feet but it was worth it.
Sunday bright and early, my dear friend TiggerT picked me up and we were off. Love this tradition of riding with TiggerT. She always makes me laugh.
I met Grumpy at the Chevron station where I told him to go and we take the shuttle buses to the start. He seemed ready. He was dressed pretty warmly but it was chilly at the start.
I went with shorts, a tank top, a long sleeve and then my space-blanket from last year’s CIM to keep me warm at the start. Always keep your space blankets for another use.
Grumpy said his ideal goal would be to finish in 5 hours. He wanted to start with the 4:30 pace group. I thought that was fine but I knew that we’d probably have to stop along the way and would lose the group eventually.
It took us 3 minutes from the gun to cross the timing mat. There were about 8,000 full marathon runners this year they said and another 7,000 participating in the relay. Incredible!
Another super cool bonus this year, was the National Anthem! This year they had Vince DiFiore from CAKE play the trumpet which was pretty kick ass. I love CAKE and they are locals and to have him play the national anthem, then have the gun go off and the start music be The Distance, was pretty freaking cool.
We ran with the 4:30 group until about miles 9 or 10 when we both decided that we had to stop and use the porta potties. That was the only downfall of the race. The porta potty lines were incredibly long throughout the race. There is one spot where I know they typically are not, but we couldn’t quite wait that long so we stopped. Like I suspected, we lost the 4:30 group and never really caught up to them.
Grumpy was doing great but he definitely slowed on the up hills. The down hills hurt his ankles. He’s battled a few aches and pains throughout his training, but he was moving and that was all that matter.
The miles really seemed to fly by in the beginning. I couldn’t believe it when we got to 6 and saw Not Chris, then it was the half way mark before we knew it. I saw lots of friends along the course which is always fun.
By the time we got to Watt Avenue (mile 19), I started texting our work crew that was waiting between miles 20 and 21. I also texted Vans to let him know that we were on our way. Mile 20, at Loehmans’ Plaza is always a huge huge aid-station and place of insanity.
I used the incentive that his friends were waiting for him with signs and good cheer to keep him moving.
They cheered SO loud for him and had the funniest signs. Such a boost to have your own little cheering section just for you.
Surprisingly he didn’t stop, he wanted to keep moving. His IT band and achilles were really starting to flare up every couple of miles bringing us to a walk run type movement.
He kept apologizing but I told him to stop. He was doing awesome, he was moving and he was going to finish!
Mile 22 we came upon some race photographers. Such a fun photo spot too. I told him we HAD to run for the photos … so we ran. When we got near them, I jumped in the air (like in those old Toyota commercials) and the photographer yelled, “Great shot! How do you have all that energy?” About 5 runners turned and gave me the death stare! LOL Grumpy laughed, “They all hate you now.” .
I then texted our boss who lives in East Sac almost right on the course. I told him we were a few miles out. When we passed, he was out there cheering him on! Another boost for Grumpy!
Finally we were on L Street and making our way on the last two miles of the course. Still walking and running, he was gritting it out. Every so often we’d dance and sing to the music. Grumpy even encouraged a few runners along the way himself, “Come on! You got this!” We ran through a group of High School Cheerleaders and I yelled, “Come on! Cheer for Grumpy!” and they sure did! A whole little cheer just for him. 🙂
Vans and my girls were at mile 20 and then again on L street cheering us on! Love my little cheerleaders!
If you can zoom in on the above photo, it is quite hilarious the difference between our facial expressions. I really pushed him that last half mile or so to run and not stop. He was hurting but there is SO much support that last section, so many people cheering that you just can’t stop, you don’t want to.
Finally we made the turn towards the finish. I reminded him that we have to finish separately. One shoot for women and one for men. I told him to run!!
And run he did and then, he became a marathoner! Just like that. 🙂
So proud of him for gritting through all the pain and finishing. We finished in 5 hours and 25 minutes so not his goal time, but I do believe he said that’ll give him something to shoot for NEXT YEAR!
Also a huge thank you and congrats to this guy, for always being out on the course cheering me on and waiting for me with two tired and hungry girls at the finish line from year to year.
I do believe his favorite part of CIM is the beer garden. 🙂 Well earned dear, well earned.
Next year will be CIM number 10 for me!
Thank you SRA and CIM for putting on another stellar marathon event. Everything ran smoothly from my running perspective. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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! 🙂
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!
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. 🙂
Until next time Oregon!
Some of my favorite road trip photos from our four days of fun!
That was the thought going through my head as my alarm sounded at O’dark-thirty. I very rarely ever wake up thinking that as I am genuinely always excited to run whether it is on trails OR roads.
“Suck it up sister. You can do this,” my brain saidas I rolled out of bed and went about my pre-race morning routine.
The Buffalo Stampede 10 Miler is a race that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been running this road race since I lived in the neighborhood through which the course passes.
Once we moved away, my family made it a point to continue being part of this race. Typically I would run the race, the kids would do the fun run and we’d go visit Grandma and Grandpa who lived near by.
This year, and possibly part of the reason for my hesitation, was that the family wouldn’t be joining me. Squeaker had a soccer game later that morning. So no one on course to cheer me on – just me, myself and a bunch of super fast runners. My goal was to run it as close to last year’s time and then hop in the car and race home to coach and ref my daughter’s soccer game.
The one thing I do LOVE about road races, is the minimal prep work it takes to prepare in the morning. No packs or gear. Just shoes, hat/visor and something to eat when I am done.
I arrived early and sat in my car listening to as much pump up music as I possibly could before having to get out of the car and stretch/warm up.
I gathered by the starting area and started talking to a nice girl who was in her late 20’s and had never done this race before. She asked me about the course as she said the online map was a tad confusing. I’ve never looked it up honestly because I just know my old hood so well. 🙂
Talking with her brought me out of my funk. I think deep down, I was scared to run because I really wanted to do better than last year and I know how much I had pushed myself last year, I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to go any faster.
I situated myself kind of near the front. This race attracts a lot of the fast roadies in the area. It is put on by the Buffalo Chips Running Club, to which I am actually a member of this year but sadly, haven’t run with since last December.
I stood there pondering how I felt and what I was shooting for race wise.
The next thing I knew, the gun went off … it took me a bit to find a spot that wasn’t over crowded. All I kept thinking as I was running, was that “Man! I feel SO slow … my legs just are not pumping. Oh well, it’s going to be that kind of day I guess. ”
Then this happened …
Mile 1 – 7:31/mi: UM, WHAT THE? You were told to start off between 8:02 and 8:07! This does NOT feel like a 7:30 pace!
Mile 2 – 7:40/mi: Okay, okay. This actually feels maintainable … but come on Pam, do you REALLY think you can maintain this for another 8 miles? You’ve NEVER run this fast for a long time before …
Mile 3 – 7:43/mi: Shut up self! Look at that! You’re sticking to this pace. You don’t feel tired or out of breath. Keep breathing. Just focus on your form.
Mile 4 – 7:44/mi: Water! Oh, I should probably have a little, whatever it takes to not.lose.this.pace! Slurp … no stopping. Got the running and drinking thing down!
Mile 5 – 7:43/mi: Oh, this is where the course is a little different. We’re going down where we used to come back … okay, this is kind of cool. Wait, does this count as a PR? 🙂 It’s the same course, just a reversed direction for this part … shut it dork, just run. Form. Feet. Form. Feet. Breathe.
Mile 6 – 7:36/mi: Oooh look at you, back near the 7:30s … still feeling good. This is not my favorite section but at least now I can see some of the other runners coming back … oh look! There is that girl I chatted with at the start! “You go girl!! You got this!!!” She gave me a thumbs up!
Mile 7 – 7:41/mi: Okay Pam, here’s the deal. I waited this long to make this decision final BUT … you have 3 miles left, I do NOT want to see ANY 8’s on your watch. None .. you can do this, 3 more miles and you have yourself a new PR … just keep it steady! Don’t blow up!
Mile 8 – 7:34/mi: Don’t push too hard, but good job passing that dude back there. You were getting sucked into his pace and gait, I could feel it. His breathing was labored, yours is okay. Oh and that sip of water felt amazing, you had terrible dry mouth. Feet. Form. Feet. Form. Breathe!
Mile 9 – 7:40/mi: One.more.mile!!!! Come on!!!! Okay, you’re going to pass this girl whose has been in front of you all day … “Come on! You’ve been strong all race, come on, follow me! You got this!” She grunted and I think tried to kick it into her next gear. Go Pam, just run! There’s the right turn, you’re on the home stretch! There’s George, he’s cheering for you .. uh oh .. he’s also cheering for the girl behind you! No sneak attacks, push it, sprint!
Mile 10: 7:17/mi: I see the clock!! Oh my gosh, you could have a 5 minute PR … RUUUUUUNNNN PAM!!!!!!
Official Finish Time: 1:15:58 / 7:36 pace!
Post Race: Oh my word .. don’t hurl, whatever you do don’t HURL! hahaha!
I was okay, just a little nauseated at first but that went away. I was beyond excited. I grabbed some water and talked with some Buffalo Chip members that I haven’t seen in YEARS. Man, I love this community. Such good people!
But, I had to race back to the car. My cool down was jogging the few blocks it took to get to my car. I texted everyone who wanted to know the results while I tried to stretch as much as I could.
I am super excited by my race and my results. The mind is a funny thing and can really send you in one direction or another if you’re not careful.
I feel fortunate that I tend to have a positive mind that, for the most part, is always motivating me and if not me, allows me to motivate others who are running as well. I think that’s super important to having a good race. Happy that I shook off that morning cloud I woke up with.
I ended up placing 4th in my age group! Third place came in 2 minutes faster … so not super close and I don’t think I really even had two faster minutes in me but dang, I am proud of that 4th place! This race is no joke!
Also, because I am apparently 40 now .. I was added to the MASTERS category of runners as well. 🙂 This took me by surprise, not gonna lie. However, I was 13th(!!) in the Masters category – the first 12 were insanely fast and well over the age of 40 … I am honored to be in that category. What a bunch of speedsters!
If I had listened to all the signs the Universe was throwing at me, this race should never have happened.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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.
I really enjoy STR events because they are fun, low-key, well marked races and they typically really challenge you (which I like) and they often are on trails that you wouldn’t normally find yourself on, which I also really like.
The Ruck a Chuck 50k is entirely on the Western States trail, which is pretty awesome in and of itself.
First let me start off by saying, I was bad blogger this race. I took only one photo the entire day! So all photos in this recap are from STR and Chasqui Runner (THANK YOU!) and from Not Chris.
The day started with my Garmin dying. I’ve been having charging issues and needless to say, it was going to be a Timex kind of day for me. Which is fine, it was just kind of a bummer to not have my mileage, pace or elevation at the end of this race.
Not Chris however did have his Garmin and he was running his very first 50k! He’s been running well and if we’re honest, he really didn’t officially even “train” for this race, he just kept his mileage up. He’s a stud.
The parking at Driver’s Flat is limited so Pigeon and I carpooled to the start and were able to score a spot and chill.
The weather was warmer and dry and having remembered last year how humid it was out there, I started this year in a tank top. So glad that I did.
Love seeing so many familiar faces at these races. Lots of good people. I even met a few people that I “know” from social media only and that was super cool.
Paulo gathered us at the starting arch, gave us some final instructions and then passed the megaphone off to a friend to count us down.
We were off and running the 3 miles down the road to the river. Last year I remember really blowing this section up, yelling at myself and then stopping to use the restroom at the bottom as a way to calm myself down.
This year we flew down (Not Chris said we ran a sub 8) but it didn’t feel like we were flying super fast. I did tell Not Chris that we’d have to stop at the restroom at the bottom. I didn’t share with him yet that I’ve been battling an unsettled tummy for the last two days. I hated to stop but it was unavoidable.
Our plan was to stick together all day. His main goal was to finish feeling really good and to fuel better than he did at FOURmidable. My goal was to not race. I was supposed to “jog” nice and easy – Not Chris’s job was to make sure I did that.
After our bathroom stop we continued on. I noticed that for some reason, it was hard for me to breathe. The trees and flowers have really been blooming lately and man, have my allergies felt it. It felt like I only had one working lung instead of two.
Not Chris was LOVING the views and the raging river on our right. He was mesmerized by it all. I love when people get to see new trails for the first time.
We settled into a run and then hit the single track section and so the climbing began.
The course is very runnable. The trails were much clearer (the over grown grass section was gone) but in some sections, it seems the rocks have multiplied.
I tried to just focused on running and hiking. My lungs took a while to come to life but they did eventually. My stomach however, was always just one step away from being a problem.
Not Chris and I bypassed the first aid-station (mile 2.7) and the next one wasn’t for another 7.5 miles. We chatted along the way, having a good time and enjoying the day.
Everything was so green and pretty! The flowers were in bloom and the ticks were out. That was the one thing that I was super nervous about but hey, that’s mother nature for ya!
When we made it to the Cal 2 aid-station (mile 10.2) we couldn’t help but laugh. They were the happiest bunch of volunteers! The aid-station was fully stocked with everything you could need (including beer and shots) and they were cracking jokes. I almost didn’t want to leave … Not Chris I think was overwhelmed as he took some time at this aid-station. 🙂
On our way to Cal 1 we ran into a fellow co-worker of ours, Brad Rogers. The three of us chatted for a bit about work and running. Then I ran into Shavi! Shavi and I have never really met but we have many mutual friends so I said “hi” and introduced myself.
The down into Cal 1 (mile 14.6) is pretty steep but I knew that once we reached the bottom, aid would be close. Last year the race was shortened due to a rain storm and the aid-station was our turn-around. THIS year, we had to run past the aid-station a mile, grab a wrist band and return to the aid-station.
Not Chris and I barely stopped at the aid-station. As we were reaching the turn-around spot, we ran into lots of friends on their return. It was such an energy boost with lots of whooping and hollering.
Not Chris let out a bit “WHOO HOO” when we reached the bucket holding our wrist bands. We grabbed ours and headed back, eager to get to the Cal 1 aid-station (mile 16.6).
Once through we started our climb out. The section leading back is a gorgeous single track that’s super runnable and boy did we run! Last year this was the section where I ran into my Tommy Lee Jones friend Roger. Funny enough, I ran into Roger within the first 3 miles or so during this race and he laughed remembering last year’s brutal run and how he helped me push to score a nice finish. This time I said, “Don’t even think about it Roger!” 🙂
At one point, I think I was hallucinating as I told Not Chris that I saw the Cal 2 aid-station through the trees. Not sure what the heck I saw but it sure wasn’t the aid-station! 🙂
When we finally did come up on Cal 2 (mile 21) I was looking forward to the sections ahead. The descent out of Cal 2 is super fun. A switch back down that can really give you a boost of energy. Before we left the aid-station though, we laughed with the volunteers again. They were a riot, they told us to give them a good “YELP” review. 🙂
Not Chris took the lead and down we flew. I was no where near the speed I was last year as my ankle (that I tweaked the weekend prior) was starting to bark at me, a lot. Still, I think we ran down pretty well, excited to be on our way home.
Not Chris was thrilled because he ran his farthest distance ever on this down hill. Followed by his first ever marathon distance when we hit 26.2.
At one point on our way back we passed a guy on the trail and he said, “Trailmomma?!” and I turned and said, “Yea!” He said, “Hi!” So whoever that was (I missed the name on your bib), you totally made my day! 🙂 It also made Not Chris laugh … “Did that guy just call you Trailmomma?” 🙂 I hope you had a great race too!
When we hit the fire road that runs along the river, I was feeling a little bit better tummy-wise (though still bloated – started the race that way but what are you gonna do?) but I was also having some swelling issues. My fingers had started swelling as I was starting to retain water. I stopped consuming anything salty and luckily, there wasn’t much farther to run. The temps were humid and it even sprinkled on us a bit but it was still warm. Warmer than I think I anticipated and ultimately was a bit behind in my hydration.
We reached the final aid-station at Gate 101 (mile 28.5) and prepared ourselves for the climb out. It’s a nice long climb up a dirt fire road. We started out hiking, neither one of us eager to run. Then, as we both tend to get, we got bored and would pick “trees” to run to. “Okay, run to that second big tree! Now, run to that tree on the left!” Do what you have to do to move.
We turned a corner and I noticed a speed sign that was just littered with bullet holes. We both were looking it, talking about it when I turned my head right and saw the arches! “Hey!!! Look! HA! Let’s go!”
The finish line totally took us by surprise! We both started running and smiling.
I saw all of Not Chris’s family off to the side and they were cheering for him. Even his dog looked like he was cheering!
Woo hoo! We crossed the finish line smiling. We both had reached our goals, but I was beyond proud of him. He has the potential to run much harder than he did and I know he will some day, but it was so nice to watch him reach his goal and to see his family there at the finish witness it too.
Another awesome 50k in the books. Thanks Single Track Running for a great event, a challenging course and a well executed race.
Thanks Not Chris for keeping me company all day. You looked strong, ran well, kept me moving and my mind off my stomach. Man, the bloating and the swelling was not fun but that is what these training runs are all about right? They make us stronger. They help us figure out what we need to work on. I’ve been super lucky the last few years to have some stellar uncomplicated runs and races. I can’t always rely on the fact that everything will be perfect, but I can rely on myself and my ability to problem solve as I go.
As it turns out, Not Chris ended up second in his age group and I ended up third in mine! Woot woot! I’ll take that. 🙂
And a shout out to my hubby Vans, as he also raced this weekend on Sunday and he also came in third at a gnarly (muddy) mountain bike race in Cool.
Overall, a great weekend. I raced Saturday morning, Vans raced Sunday morning and our girls had their swim team clinic on Sunday afternoon. Perfection.
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the fourth race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.