100. 100 miles. 100 miles running.
I delayed this race report because I didn't quite know how to go about it. Just a juicy narrative would be great, people want to hear all the stories, I'm sure. All the people I saw vomiting, the millions of spiders and scorpions on the trails at night and the size of my blisters. I'm going to go into details, don't worry. But, I'm going to start with answering the most common questions I've gotten about the experience followed by a brief narrative.
1. Do you run without stopping?
There are aid stations along the route, every 4-9 miles. This is where you can grab things like pretzels, pb&j, candy, gels or fruit. In this race, I stopped at every aid station and only sat down three times, only once in a chair. The first time was on a stump at Penny Pines Aid Station, mile 23, to check a blister, another time in a chair at Stonewall Creek Aid Station mile to change from my shorts to my pants, (apparently it was a show according to one of my pacers!). Then again to change back into my shorts. I also had the luxury of using a flush toilet at two Aid Station in the race! Gotta take advantage of them when they're available!
As well, some of the sections of the race are big climbs, 8 miles to do 2400 vertical feet is runable perhaps on fresh legs but not at mile 35! Therefore, in those sections it is wise to walk. Also, near the end, I adopted the 'ultra shuffle' as some like to call it. (just move your arms and it looks like you're running!)
2. Do you eat?
Yes, I eat. This race, I consumed nearly 5,000 calories. I try to consume some form of calories every half hour. This can be in the form of a pretzel that I hid in my pocket of my pack for later, or an entire burrito. I also use handheld bottles with liquid forms of calories. Running into an Aid Station is equivalent to going through a drive-through. The excitement of what you're going to find on the table, combined with deciding what to consume, considering what you know you need to consume, what looks good at the time and who is there to greet you and refill your bottles and pack is fantastic! That feeling you get when you're in an office and it's almost lunchtime and you can't think about anything else, I had to endure that through 15 Aid Stations. Only one of them had pickles and there were no sticky balls :(
3. What about going to the bathroom?
This is actually less complicated than the eating question. The entire race was on trails in the Laguna mountains, Anza-Borrego State Park, and the Cuyamaca State Park, most of which are part of the Cleveland National Forest. Here is the course if you're interested. Therefore, it is real easy to squat and pee. Or, in the male runners case, pee while running/walking. I can't tell you how many trails I saw of this on the dry dirt. TP is not required, unless you are a picky runner, which means you're going to need to carry it with you, both before and after you go. Unless you are disrespectful of Mother Nature and
decide to leave it there. In that case, you don't deserve to be running on trails, in my opinion.
#2 is more personal. If you can remember which aid stations have bathrooms, you can rely on the bathrooms. However, if you have ever been a runner, you know that sometimes you cannot wait til you get to a bathroom. In that case, you are part of the forest. Do bears sh!t in the woods??? Just cover it up and move on.
A view from the PCT, where more than a quarter of the race is ran on. I took this on one of our training runs.
4. How do you train for something like that?
The running part of the training is rather easy. There are plenty of training plans out there one can follow. In order to qualify firstly, you need to have ran at least a 50-miler or more in the past 24 months and need to provide proof. Therefore, you should have mileage under your belt already and be able to log 40-60 miles a week no problem. The build up should be gradual and the idea is to be out running all day. If you can follow that up with another long run the day after, that is great. The more time on your feet, the better. As well, the taper is a VERY important piece of preparation. The month prior, from May 6th to June 9th, I only ran 4 times, each being no more than 5-6 miles. I also had a fever in that time frame, spent some time with my mom in the hospital and attended my sister's wedding! I didn't know if I was rested enough but I knew it was a good taper and I had no injuries going into it.
Then there is the mental part of it. As they say, "Any crazy person can run a marathon, it takes a real crazy person to run an ultra". Something like that. You need to know your body and be prepared to push it beyond normal limits. Without going into too many details, I have been working on my stamina all my life. From running around at my family place in Braidwood, IL, making trails through our woods, standing at frontarm for hours on end in the middle of the night at Sokol courses and working or dancing all night and making it to class at 8am in college, I almost feel like I had been training for this race since I was 5! In addition, I am not a picky runner. I'm that person who has to change the typical doctor's question of 1-10 for pain into 1-10 regarding my fear of the injury preventing me from doing my daily activities or turning into something worse. If I were honest, they doctor would tell me to go away.
This race was a little different, however, in that, I needed to use mental fortitude early on. We were warned about the heat beforehand by RD Scotty Mills and I knew I had 100 miles to run that day. So, I started slow. I let people pass me. By the time I got into Pine Creek 1 at 31.3, I saw carnage. This meant that near the end, I was 15-30 mins ahead of the cutoff at each aid station, a little too close, but I finished. Only 82 out of 208 that started finished!
The other important thing to note is my shoes. I had fallen in love with the Merrell Pace Glove minimalist shoe and just recently got a pair of the Pace Glove 2, the upgrade, from Jon, the local Merrell rep. I wasn't so sure of them since they seemed extra big, even though they were the same size as my others. However, after just 7 miles in them, I went out there in them to complete the race. My feet weren't any more beat up than any other runners feet, honestly. And, since my form has improved in the past 2 years I've been running minimalist, my knees and hips didn't bother me hardly at all!
5. What did you do after you finished?
People are curious about this!!! I ran into the finish line at 31:22:15 with David and Diane, hugged the race director and his assistant. He gave me a FRS protein drink which I took one sip of, took 77 million pictures, and then went to sit down next to Iso, a teammate from Badwater Salton Sea who also completed the race. I was then handed a plate of food, a beer and received tons of hugs.
My boyfriend took off my shoes and tried to touch them but they hurt too much. After about 10 minutes, I felt nauseous and Diane brought over a box for just in case. We then went back to the campground where I laid in a friend's air conditioned RV. I tried to sleep but my legs were way too jittery. So, I just curled up in a ball underneath a blanket and caught up on the facebook action on my phone. When suggested that I take a shower, I said that I didn't think I could stand that long, I was told, "You just ran 100 miles, I know you can stand long enough to take a shower!" I munched on food but still hadn't had a big meal. Didn't feel like it yet. I eventually took the shower after 4 hours and went outside to join the gang. We talked and I had a few beers and two friends went out to get pizza to bring back. It was delicious. I was then able to pass out in the tent.
What followed in the next two weeks is more interesting. We celebrated and celebrated! Champagne and Jameson on Monday with Diane and Dave, live lobster and crab on Tuesday with Lynne, dinner with the Hassetts and some heavy stout on Friday, Buckle party on Sunday, beers and boating this Wednesday with another finisher, Julie and Carlos, a pacer of mine who jumped in, and then a spa day with Regina, another pacer, this Friday where they scrubbed years of grime off my body. The first week, I ate like a horse and slept like a dog, this past week, my diet has gotten a little under control... and I ran 12 miles this week! My neighbor, a chiropractor came over the first night home as well with his electric therapy massage to electrocute my feet to try to bring down the inflammation. He then brought over his ultrasound machine for Diane and I. He tested me for stress fractures and luckily, I don't have any!
My left foot had three blisters, one big one on my baby toe, which appears that it damaged my toenail and it will be coming off shortly, another small one on my middle toe, which deflated shortly and I've since peeled off the skin and one ugly one between my big toe and my second toe. Which took me 2 days to clean thoroughly because it was so tender. I'm still peeling off skin from the pads of my forefoot though. That might take some time.
The narrative portion:
Check-in the night before was great! Seeing friends, introducing Diane, my friend who had flown in from Chicago to crew me, to everyone and getting my goodie bag. No matter how much prep work you do, you still have to put together your drop bag for certain aid stations, your water pack and your bag for your crew. So, at our campground, there was myself, Julius, and John who had the trunks to our cars open messing around in there getting our things together. I wasn't entirely concerned about sleeping in a tent the night before and not getting good sleep, since I know that the night before a big race, I don't normally sleep good anyway! Which is why I had a good nap on Thursday and consumed no caffeine the week prior.
The first few hours of the race were fun, chatting with folks, making new friends, letting people pass me. Once we started heading into Noble Canyon and the guy I was running with, Johan, fell and wanted to walk a bit, I went ahead to see the carnage. It was getting hot and I was taking salt caps every hour at this point. As mentioned earlier, I slowed down and continued to eat and drink. I saw friends who are solid runners suffering. I walked all of the Pine Creek loop, which was where the temperatures apparently reached anywhere from 101-107.
Climbing up to Pioneer Mail, at mile 44.1, 2400 ft. climb, in 8 miles, I could finally use my crew, which consisted of Dave, Diane, Trasie, Regina, Errin, Rachel and anyone else that wanted to help! They threw a jacket on me and sent me on my way to Sunrise 1. This is apparently where I started passing people at aid stations, since I wasn't spending time sitting. Coming into Sunrise, now in the dark, this was the first and only time I had seen any of the front-runners, Jeff Browning, I thought, he's got 20 miles to go and I have 50!!! Carlos jumped in and paced me from Sunrise 1 to Stonewall Mine, where he told me how frustrated he was at the Mt. Disappointment 50K back in August where it was 105. He couldn't believe I was still smiling! Then, at Stonewall Mine, mile 58.9, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, which was delicious, even after Carlos told me they'd have burritos! Errin and I took off from there, this was going to be the climb up and down Stonewall Peak and I knew it's rocky terrain so it went well.
Coming into Paso Picacho, I used a flushing toilet and we took off again to Sweetwater. This is where we ran into the spiders! Luckily, Errin was in front breaking down the webs that they're somehow able to build just within the time frame from when the last runner went by. But the ground was absolutely covered in them, every square inch must have had at least 10-15 spiders on it, for at least a few miles! It was creepy. We concluded that all the eggs must have just hatched at the same time and they never had a chance to spread out. We were also running right next to a stream as well. I didn't tell him at the time but I had nodded my head a few times while trying to keep up, literally dozing on the trail. Enter caffeinated Gu to revive me.
Coming into Sweetwater, Rachel, Errin's mom took over while Steve hustled me out of there. I couldn't wait for the sun to come up at this point. It was already 5:17 when we left for Sunrise 2 and it was a bit of a climb getting there. Rachel is so sweet and she made me a good luck charm to carry on my pack. It's now sitting on display with my buckle! She got me in there and we actually made up time. I ate a pancake and some eggs but refused the grilled cheese sandwich that was so delicious earlier on. I guess I only wanted breakfast food! Trasie changed me back into my shorts and we were off.
Regina and Serina took over from here and literally dragged me into Pioneer 2. Almost as soon as the sun came up, I wanted it to go away! Practically the entire next section was on the PCT and it was exposed the whole 7 miles. I felt so bad for Regina since she hardly knew me when she signed up to pace me and at this point, I was miserable. I was a zombie. But, she was practically militant in getting me there and it was just what I needed! As soon as we came in, I saw a friend of mine who had missed a cutoff the day before, bright-eyed and bushy tailed as if she had done nothing yesterday. I broke down when I saw her. Diane was trying to administer sunscreen to my face while tears were coming down. Kristine told me my nose was bleeding and I told her I knew because every time I tried to pick my dry itchy nose, my finger came out bloody! (She told me to stop picking my nose! LOL)
Regina and I carried on into Penny Pines 2 at 91.5. At this point, I had mastered the ultra shuffle and just wanted to be done. Everyone was there, Diane, Jeff, Trasie, Julius, Terry, Dave, who was at every Aid Station and a lot of other people. Sorry if I missed you, they kicked me out so fast!
I left with "The Pope" at this point, who is a mean roadrunner but told me he's not familiar with trails nor ultras. In his own words, "I got the test done and I don't have that mutant gene." He got me into Rat Hole and Diane and Trasie carried me out, without a second for me to comprehend what had just happened. The heat of the day was upon us and I only had 4 miles to go. 4 miles is relatively nothing. I had Diane in front pulling me and Trasie behind me pushing. I was no longer cheerful and Trasie tried my normal tricks, including the "Sound of Music's" favorite thing song and I did not feel like singing at all. I was spent. Once we got into the campground and started weaving around a bit, I got excited! Dave offered me a beer when we passed our campsite and I refused. The 3 of us came in together and it was extremely emotional! It seemed like everyone was crying or at least had a big smile on their face! Then the previously mentioned onset of pictures.
Here we are, the entire crew minus the Hassetts, with the RD Scotty Mills and assistant Angela Shartel.
Thank you again to everyone who signed up to help me, David, Diane, Trasie, Errin and Rachel Hassett and Regina. Thanks to Carlos, Carroll and Serina for jumping in to help me and everyone else that I saw out there on the course and gave me support. I'm sure I would have either gotten lost or fallen over without you all! The support teams and volunteers are working just as hard if not harder than the runners sometimes and stay up all night as well! Thanks guys!!!! Keep me in mind when you need crew or pacers.
One last question people have asked, "What's next?"
I have some great invites in September already for some races and a Mt. Whitney summit. I also have a lot of ideas as far as my next 100 or big event. It's going to depend upon what comes my way. I'm currently not signed up for ANY race, first time in years! I don't want to force anything to happen but when things align, I'll jump on it and make it happen.