The race was a 20 mile loop run 5 times in the trails of Arizona's Estrella Mountains, and it was a damn doosey. I have had the itch to do a 100mile race for a while now and everything finally lined up for this one, the kids were spending a fun weekend with their dad, school was under control, I had the weekend off from work, my pacers were confirmed, the ankle sprain was durable, and my training....well, lets just say better under-trained than over-trained.
Leading up to the race my best running partner from long ago, Dominique Wilmore, had decided to fly out from Washington to do the 52 mile race--her first event over 50K. Needless to say we were a giddy pair. Dominique and I had been talking of doing a race together for at least 7 years now, finally this was happening and it was new mileage territory for both of us.
So the 20 mile loop, yeah, um I had run it 4 weeks prior to the race so I thought I knew what I was in for, the first 4ish miles were comfortable rolling hills, some fast flats, really clean single track, the next 6ish miles a nice chunk of rocked up road, some pretty rolling single track, and 3ish miles of wash. The rest of the loop was rolling hills that sharply dove in and out of washes and a few hills. Sounds pleasant right? Having done this loop I was expecting the sand to be a bear and I planned on hiking the hills the first few loops to conserve energy. I had my goals but having never done this distance before and being fabulously under-trained (seriously, all weeks leading up to this were only 40-60 miles at best with no back-to-back distance days) I set out with a strong will and a theme of energy conservation to finish. You can't stop but you can always slow down.
Dominique and I, 4am as ready as possible
My only fear for this race was how cold the night may be. I do not manage cold temperatures well and have a pretty advanced situation of Reynaud's syndrome which is just no fun and can get seriously painful. Usually it manifests with numb white fingers (no cap refill) for periods under an hour when I'm cold or my hands are exposed to cold, like holding an icy drink. Cold for me is below 80 and in the shade, but when temps go below 50 I'm in frostbite tissue death amputation territory, again, no fun. To prepare for temps I found some great snowboarding gloves on ebay with a pocket for hand warmers-sweet! Even sweeter the Pearl Izumi rep, Brad Barber caught wind of my concern and sent me a head-to toe package of Pearl Izumi's best cold gear, this was beyond generous, thank you so much to Brad and the folks at Pearl Izumi, the gear works better than any other I have tried. These products use ultra light flexible windproof and heat trapping materials that magically transfer moisture and stay so warm, I am practically ready for the Yukon Arctic Ultra.
Pearl Izumi from top clockwise: Ultra Thermal Top, Ultra Windblocking Jacket, Ultra Windblocking Tight, Thermal Base Short Sleeve
Brrrrrrrrr, EEEEEeeeeeee, lets go already!
This walking I'm doing right here, that is a sign of what's to come
Loop 1 3:38, I hiked the hills, ran a little to much in the sand, and coasted through the downs and flats. Feeling fresh I kept my pace conservative and took little time at the aid stations. Drinking Nuun electrolytes in my hand held and taking an occasional salt/electrolyte with food I thought I was preparing well...Dun dun dun...
Loop 2 6:18, Considerably slower. Like I said, I thought I was preparing but a mean combo of probably overloading on salt/electrolyte, and unexpected heat of day kicked me hard in the gut at mile 26 in the sand wash (aka sandbitch). I knew some of my favorite running people were staffing the aid station at mile 31 and I could not get to them fast enough. With a churning stomach my body felt like it was going toxic, every muscle felt tight, stringy and tingly, and the thought of food was really nauseating. I continued to force little sips of water down until I made it to the Pederson aid station. The aid station was staffed by Marc Thomson, Deron Ruse, Bryan Rooth, and Devin James Barry, these guys are incredible! I took my butt strait to a chair in the shade to cool off and just chill out my system. I knew I shouldn't leave until my stomach settled and my body was absorbing water and calories again. After about 10 minutes these guys unfortunately got to witness me hurl--sorry boys. BUT wow that felt better! I stayed at the station and ate/drank a bit to refuel and headed back out. So I thought I felt better, silly me. At the next aid station the whole scenario was reenacted. I was so bummed, every sip of water and bit of food was once again lost to the desert. At this point I knew I would have to drop if I couldn't get my body back on track. As I hiked back to the end of the 2nd loop, Emmet met me 1/2 mile from the start/finish of the loops and let me have a good cry about it. I still wasn't convinced to drop. I was in this race to finish and that was the only goal, I decided to take my time to see if I could recuperate. I remembered reading Jamil Coury's race report from Hardrock with his amazing comeback after stomach issues--so there was hope, if he can come back and run a competitive race maybe I had a shot at coming back and finishing. Rachel Dockendorf was there and originally was going to run miles 60-80 with me so if I went back out she could run miles 40-60 with me as it was nearing sunset. Patty Coury, Maria Walton, and all the wonderful volunteers at the Race Headquarters aid station stocked me up with pizza which was AMAZING! I laid down for about 30 minutes after eating and felt so much better, food and water were in, the heat was gone with the sunset--GAME ON, Rachel and I headed out.
Recovered! Setting out with Rachel for loop 3, thumbs up for my Max and Mads
Loop 3 7:08, New plan, hike fast after eating to digest, drink lots of water, eat real food, and no more electrolyte type stuff. It got dark pretty fast and this loop was about recovering, granted the first chunk of that loop was spent lying down before heading out at HQ so I have no idea how long this loop actually took. Rachel was perfect company, lots of fast hiking and 'running' and tons of great conversation! It was a pleasure getting to know Rachel better and I look forward to many more miles together.
Loop 4 6:58, Running buddy Rhet Stinson was right on schedule for what originally going to be miles 80-100 but since I was so dang far behind schedule he took me miles 60-80. Rhet is always a crack up so it was really fun to enjoy my sleep-deprived delirium with him. I was so sloppy with being tired that I estimated if every sideways step I took for balance in the dark had been put forward instead, I probably would have been at least 30 minutes faster. Luckily the night didn't get to cold. As we were closing in I began to dread the 5th loop. Quietly obsessing in the front of my mind about going through the wash again. I knew Emmet wasn't going to let me go out alone and was probably lacing up his shoes to do the final 20 with me. Emmet is the most solid crew a person can have, he has supported me through every 50 miler and I can't say enough about him. As Rhet and I were coming down the last hill there was Emmet, practically ready to go. I knew this had to be a super quick transition otherwise I'd risk getting too comfortable at HQ. I needed to get on a shirt for day (Peal Izumi In-R-Cool, it actually uses your sweat to magically cool you off and protects pale skin folk like me with spf) and a superwarm jacket for the coldest hours of sunrise. Switch out headlamp for sunglasses, and off again before I could talk myself out of it.
Loop 5 6:27, Thought I'd be happier about finally being on the last loop but I just wanted it to be over, my tactic for getting over this block; to curse at everything. In a silly happy respectful way of course. "Eff you hill, last time I get to run up you today" "Later sandbitch, done with you" etc... After I reached mile 91 which was also the end of the sandbitch the new crew at Pederson aid station recharged me, Dave James Tsakanikas was there and reminded me to shove ice anywhere I could fit it, so refreshing! The light of day was invigorating and I powered through this one, ran as much as I could and got it done.As I came through the finish Dominique and Michelle Patuto were there and it was just amazing. I was completely wasted and so freaking happy it was over. Of course I'm excited to plan for another 100 miler but his time I'm thinking no loops and quite a bit more training.
This was a great lesson of patience and humility, a fast time would be a neat perk but simply doing the best with what you have is all you can do. And that's it, I was humbled by the rumble.
Emmet and I at mile 96.7, Coldwater aid station staffed all shifts by the awesomely fantastic Surprise Running Club--I wish I remembered the names of all the wonderful people here, THANK YOU SO MUCH Surprise Running Club!
Every. Ounce. Of Energy. DONE.
***a most special shout out to my family, parents Jeff and Corinne and Uncle Steve and Aunt Sukie, so very grateful to have you all in my life***