Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ladies Fastpack: Red Castle--> Kings Peak Loop

Ethereal.
towards lower red castle lake

No other word can describe this hastily thrown together trip of four women fast-packing 47+ miles through the Uintas. This adventure included altitude, a 13er, 4 passes, 2 looooooong marshes, countless lakes.... and happy, happy girls who loved the experience despite the expected physical hardships of carrying a 15lb+ pack running/hiking/slogging at altitude for more than 20 hours.

view of one of the middle red castle lakes

our first view of red castle, after many hours with the pack, we were happy to take them off for a minute

This was one of those adventures with so many moments, memories, and fun that I have yet to mull over the stories and savor the memories.

I love this girl

the happiest I've ever been on a run. technical trail, sunset glowing off the rocks, and the promise of an icy swim at the end.
Some parts, like a solo early morning run back to red castle to watch the sunrise, were moments that have taken root in my soul. In such, I think I left a piece of me out there. We all did.
red castle at sunrise.

beautiful women, inside and out.

running free

Sometimes opportunities come, perhaps with people you've never met (this was my first time meeting the lovely Sarah M) and the ensuring adventures form a life-long memory.
Sarah

This, this was one of those adventures.


watching the last wisps on sunset on the lake

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A 100 Miler's View on a Short Race: Jupiter Peak Race Report

For the last year, I've spent my time training and focusing on ultra-length mountain running adventures with a 10-30 hour time frame. Jupiter Peak was the first non-ultra trail race I've done. In all of it's 15-16 mile glory (some debate there), I was a wee bit nervous.

Since the race had a late start (8am!) I slept in and made it to packet pickup about 15minutes before gun time. Oops. As I picked up my bib I mentioned my jitters at pacing out a race so short. The kind lady helping me asked,
"Well where in the pack do you run in ultras? Front, middle, or back?"
"It's all relative til mile 60 or 70, right?" I chuckled... And received a blank stare back. My ultra humor wasn't funny here.

Waiting at the start with the utlra crowd, we watched the mountain cup elite runners warm-up. WARM-UP. ha! Something I haven't seen in ages! They were doing hill sprints.
"Lunges! OMG, look, they're actually doing lunges!" A friend pointed out.
Yep, you don't see that at an ultra.
Trail Scene Difference #1: People warm up and take it seriously.

Right off the line the front of the pack sprinted. Whoa. I looked down at my legs. Sprint, I thought, surely you can move faster! But my legs were gurgling at being forced to run uphill and wouldn't listen, so I watched 50 people fly by right in front of me.

Remember, no chasing anyone down until after mile 40. Wait a minute...

The first 4 miles or so were the hardest for me. It was just at that angle where it was barely runnable. An angle that in any 100 everyone would be power-hiking. But these SFD (short fast distance) runners were all running and I was just trying to fit in so I ran too.

the start: my facial expression says it all "URGH ARE WE REALLY RUNNING?!" lol. Photo Jo Agnew

Trail Scene Difference #2: The Language of Passing
In an 50mile+ ultra, when you pass or are being passed, usually get the other runners name, where they're from, when they came into town, did they see that poor sucker back there puking?, how the weather's been the last couple hours, and a funny joke if they have one. It's quite pleasant.

In the SFD, there is a language of heavy breathing and grunts. Heavy breathing beside your right ear means they're passing on the right. A grunt means "thanks" or "you *** you should've scooted over more," I'm not sure which. Debatable.

For an example, watch this video at 00:51. Gives a good example of this new-to-me language.

So when I'd latch onto the pace of a runner in front of me I had to be very careful to keep my breathing quiet or they'd scoot to the side of the trail for me to pass. So weird. "Just breathing dude! Thanks!"

Trail Scene Difference #3: Aid Stations
The aid stations had powerade in cups, with volunteers holding the cups out so you could grab it while running and toss in the trash down the trail. It was like a road 10k! And it was powerade. I thought that went out of style when the Laker's weren't cool anymore. Maybe that was just gatorade. But all the runners around me drank powerade at every aid station, so I concluded sports drinks are the coke of the SFD.

Trail Scene Difference #4: Opinions on Powerhiking
Around mile 6 I was cursing the amount I had just run, it was exhausting! Where was my walking break? The Too-Much-Running-Meter inside me was firing alarms like crazy.

And just after mile 6 the heavens opened to a beautiful loose grunt to the top of Jupiter Peak. My arms shot up~ "Woohoo! Walking break!" I shouted loudly.

I received a handful of weird looks.
the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah started playing. I swear. Photo courtesy someone I pilfered this from on the internet. Shows the start of the climb up Jupiter

In training I powerhike more frequently than I run uphill, so I loved every step of it. I slowed my heart rate, stretched the legs, and passed a handful of guys. There should be more of this powerhiking in races! Oh wait, there was... in ultras.

I was nearly crying with joy. Nearly. Photo courtesy someone else I pilfered this from.
Between peaks I was starting to think that these SFD runners weren't human because I hadn't seen a single runner off in the bushes. Maybe it's because I run with guys that pee every 1/10th mile but seriously, we were nearly 90mins into the race and not a single bathroom break yet? But finally I saw a guy run off the trail to a tree and immediately felt more at home.

Running down I gave up on the heavy breathing/ grunting language (must take longer than a single race to master) and kindly said "Thank you sir!" to people when they let me pass. Not sure why I said sir, but figured it was a good substitute to an audible breathing noise.

Around mile 10 I gave in and took a salt pill. I felt like I was cheating, salt pills are banned substances in races this short! But I couldn't resist and I had packed one... It was miraculous in the heat.

Somehwere running down I gave up a bit. It was hot and I was bored of the buffed out trail, my mind could wander too easily on such flat trails and I didn't feel like pushing. A few minutes after I mentally gave up I hit pavement and saw the finish line. Already? But, but.... I was going to feel better soon! I bet I'd pick it up again in about 8 more miles!

I tried to grind out a sprint to the finish. I was eager for my reward of a cold coke.
Coke, coke, coke, coke, coke, coke, coke..... photo courtesy Jo Agnew

Trail Scene Difference #5: No Coke

Ok, so I expected them to not have coke at the aid stations. But I had promised myself some nice cold coke at the finish. Surely they'd have some. So when they handed me a bottle of powerade (seriously? powerade?! again?) I asked for a coke. I received a confused blank stare. "You know, like soda? I'd even take a pepsi? Do you have any soda?" I was informed they only had powerade. I sighed and took a bottle. Trying to fit in with the SFD runners was hard work.

So I wandered around hoping to locate coke to buy, I mean seriously, we're trail runners right? There's gotta be coke around here somewhere... Right. But apparently coke is an utlra runner thing. So the lack of coke anywhere made me a bit eager to leave so I could find a gas station and get the beloved cold coke.
my only race complaint
I was thinking I could slip into the top 10 women with a time around 2:37, but I beat my time goal by 10 minutes and ran in at 2:27 for 6th. The 5 women in front of me all ran in from 2:02:58-2:08... all within a few minutes of eachother and more than 20 minutes ahead of me! This was the last race in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup and they were eager to solidify their standings. They are crazy fast!!

I know short racers list their AP's (or at least road runners do) but I am an ultrarunner and I am too lazy. Here's my strava activity: http://www.strava.com/activities/174505060
because I'm addicted to strava. 
I was able to meet a lot of the Mountain Cup racers and other members of the La Sportiva team. It was great to meet Maria Dalzot--she is on my list of people I cyber-stalk because she's an incredible athlete. I admitted I follow her and am fascinated and amazed with how fast she can run! She told me she reads my blog, which surprised me as well. :-) Small world! We chatted about what our training weeks look like. I am inspired to integrate actual running back into training (have nixed that after Buffalo 100M) and also try to integrate some speedwork to help me run a little faster. The science of what she does sounds complex... but maybe I'll start with mile repeats or hill sprints or something.

The race itself was organized and executed flawlessly and I was impressed with the quality of the event and volunteers. Overall I had a great experience at my first short-race-distance. I won't be changing sports any time soon! (I lack the self-discipline to train for stuff like that!) But I won't shy away from doing a similar race in the future.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

up again.

the alarm went off. I quickly muted it and put my ear to the window. rain. I opened my weather app on the phone, to make sure this wasn't part of a dream. yes, it was raining.

I went back to sleep, curling up to my husband. my original plans of Pfiefferhorn to White Baldy would have to wait. I wasn't going to do that solo in the dark and rain.

40 minutes passed. I woke with a jolt, whispered to my husband I'd be running near Alta. I threw on my prepacked clothes, grabbed my vest, and slipped out the door a few minutes later.

driving up LCC

up I drove. up again. the headlights reflected from the fog ahead of me, always whispering of things ahead that I could never catch. beyond the beaten paths little cottonwood has everything in mountains I love-- it is wild, treacherous, and free. the rain that dusted my car deepened as I drove up.

the trailhead
as I started up the Catherine's Pass trail the sunrise avoided me. the light seeped through the rain and fog; clouds danced between the mountains. my legs were  heavy, so heavy. too many long days, too many peaks...they were still in there. I am strong, but that strength gave me this weakness. mentally too I am weak, broken... a sharp pencil reduced to a stub, still trying to draw lines in mountains I haven't drawn yet. my legs are lead, but I won't stop drawing. not yet.


I took pictures. the flowers distracted me from my breathing. clouds shifted around, changing the mountains. on a ridge, unable to see on either side of me. am I on a ridge? is this a summit? or do I keep climbing? the clouds move again and the drizzle shifts. I am near pine trees. wait, are pine trees on this ridge?


why again? I've done this ridge several times already this summer. yet again I'm up here, wandering around, more lost than I've ever been, because I can't make out the trail I'm standing on and I can't tell if the ridge is to my right or left or underneath me. I'm not sure what is a summit and what just is. does it matter? and I take another photo and wander to my right and to my left, trying to see.


we are playing cards, the mountain and I. the rules are ever changing, and I can't keep up. so I take the pace down; I wander. enjoying the wet granite, the sopping clothes, the terrain. with no view I only have each step to look forward to.

why again? because this time is different. every time is different. this time is lonely in a joyful, meditative way. all the noise of races and alarms and events and group runs.... why again?

am I up again? or am I down? and it doesn't matter, I am sleepwalking through the clouds, dancing each step alone.

a short lived view; whispers of mountains

the effects of exploring a new-to-me side ridge in fog

Sunday, July 20, 2014

reset.

"What do you have coming up next?"
I had no answer. There are things I've wanted to do, things I've felt like I must do. But I couldn't plan them, not yet.
sunrise

Friday morning I woke to a 3:20am alarm. I quickly wiggled into my white thrift store sundress, excited to "gear test" it on an alpine ridge on a "run" in the 4-5 hour range. I had told the guys that I'd be 'dress'ed for the occasion.

I grabbed my pre-packed bags and was out the door before 3:40. Off to the Little Cottonwood Canyon park-n-ride. We were to do Hidden Peak, the AF Twins, Red Stack, and Red Baldy. Only minor 3-4th class scrambling but a lot of ridge work. I was excited to get onto the ridge.

Craig and Scott leaving Hidden towards AF Twins
The usual morning banter put me at ease. Then, between Hidden and the AF Twins, a sunrise. With smoke and particles in the air from nearby fires, the sun glared red and across a painted sky. I couldn't get enough of it. I resorted to stopping to stare, run/scramble a bit to catch back up, then stopping again.

Craig taking in the sunrise
Once on the summit ridge for the AF Twins Scott tried to take a jumping picture of me. 30+ pictures later... the best one was still the first. We laughed and hurried to get to the summit.

jump!

Along the ridge between Red Stack and Red Baldy I had time to sit and think. It was a beautiful morning. I was happy. I knew I still hadn't forgiven myself for Bighorn. I've felt that, had I respected myself more, I would've stopped. Any sane person would've stopped. I've promised myself I would never go there again, a promise based on a crippling fear. But I still hadn't forgiven myself. I knew that I hadn't finished as a form of self-abuse... but I still hadn't come to terms with pushing through that.

Craig after Red Stack

And on the way to Red Baldy, I forgave myself. I remembered why I run at all... This was what I loved. The summits, the scrambles, the ridges, the sunrises. The laughter of friends, the goofing off.


I owe it to myself to push my limits. I owe it to myself to try again. Perhaps I found a limit at Bighorn. But I owe to these mountains to train again, to push again, to try.

an accidental photo of me laughing at the guys

On an early weekday morning, being silly in a sundress at 11,000+, I had found my reset button.
moving on
Saturday I watched the Speedgoat finish. Due to extenuating circumstances, I was unable to watch Sage's incredible finish. I did make it in time to watch the top 10 women run in. Each of them I knew by name and knew just a bit of their beautiful stories.

photo(c) www.facebook.com/jordisaragossa
Was this what I wanted? Competitive races and media and medals? People smiling and clapping?

No, not really. There is a part of me that will always want the positive affimation that I'm doing ok, and that in someway I can help encourage or inspire others find the peace the mountains offer. To discover a "reset" button in their own lives and fitness journeys. But my joy comes from challenges that most races don't offer. The time I'd have to sacrifice to train to race at a more competitive level would pull away from my time spent on ridges and high mountains.
with my husband Ben scouting the Cottonwood Ridge Traverse for WURL

"Why don't you do speedgoat?" A final question was asked to me before I left. Again, I had no answer other than to say one year I would.

Then I turned my back on the race and looked up. Monte Cristo seemed tall and powerful as it gleamed in the sun. It took my breath away. I scanned the entire cottonwood ridge. I resolved to take 2 hours off my time from Ferguson Canyon to the ridge to Superior. I felt inspired, in awe.
on Monte Cristo last week

Perhaps there is a balancing act I have yet to discover and perfect. A balancing act that still allows me long ridges and occasional bush-whacks while still having me do speedwork and tempo runs on a weekly basis. A training regime that enhances my mountain running ability rather than relying solely on mountain running.

Scott approaching the saddle between Red Stack and Red Baldy
So, I've registered for races, shorter distances that I've never raced before. I've put dates on some of my other goals. The plans for summer and fall are beginining to take shape. New goals are set and I am finally ready to move on. I want to try the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase simply because I've never done a race that short... (oh, ok and it summits two peaks). I also signed up for the TNF EC 50.


I'd like to try to run a fast 50, something I haven't tried before. It's local and while I know the permitting drama has probably prevented the RD from posting the elevayion and race maps, he seems like a good guy and the races have a solid reputation. He also sent me a discount code for anyone else who wants to register: JEATON15 takes 15% off an entry.

So, here's to the reset.
finding inspiration in the little things. Mountain columbine above 10k

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

what a wonderful WURLD

this isn't the blog post I thought I'd be writing right now. I thought I'd be chattering with nerves and excitement over the Utah 13ers, the push to link all 21 peaks in Utah above 13,000ft in a single, unsupported push. But with a member of the trip injured, Craig Lloyd and I were left to either continue on without our injured team member or to post-pone the 13ers and make other plans for this weekend. To take into account the preference to travel in a group of 3 for a trip that long... And other plans it is.

So with that short statement that summarizes the trip delay of the last 8 months of planning...

Let's get the mood set.

what a wonderful wurld.... Yes Louis, it is.

First off, what is WURL?
The Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Link-up was coined by Jared Campbell in 2004. David Madera reportedly did the same/similar link-up in the early 90s, and likely others followed suit. Nik Berry did his Horseshoe Traverse in 2010. Given Jared Campbell's reputation in the wasatch, especially among the trail running crew, his line and name for the route stuck. Jason Dorais and Noah Howell completed the WURL last fall, and I've been biting at the bit to get out there and repeat the line. Even though it includes the much debated exit out of Bell's instead of Cherry, it is this line I'd like to copy.

The route involves roughly 30 miles and 20,000ft of elevation gain (40,000ft of elevation change). There might be a bit of that thing called running on Emma's ridge, but, who knows? ;) Much of the route will be technical trail up to 5th class scrambling.

Jared describes the route here after his 2nd attempt:
"Starting in the seldom-traveled Ferguson canyon, the route ascends quickly up to the ridgeline that makes up the northern side of Def Smith Canyon. Once on the ridge, you make your way up to BF Twin Peaks, which marks the 1st of some 20+ named peaks to completion. From BF Twin, the route heads due east towards Albion Basin taking on the summits of Sunrise, Dromendary, Monte Cristo, and Superior. This section is incredible for its extremely defined quartzite ridge with spectacular views in all directions. From Superior, the route descends down to Flagstaff peak, over to Davenport hill, the honeycomb peaks, Mt. Wolverine, Tuscarora and then crosses over Catherinexs Pass. From here you climb up to Point Supreme, over to Devils Castle, Sugarloaf, Mt. Baldy, Hidden Peak, and AF Twins. At this point, the route turns back westward and heads over Red Top, Red Baldy and White Baldy. This section is awesome given the wonderfully rugged terrain, but also the sharp transition from dark red quartzite to perfect white granite. From White Baldy, you head down the western ridge, and over to Pfeifferhorn (I stopped just before Pfeiff). From Pfeiff, you cruise over to S. Thunder, Upper Bells Canyon Peak, and then tag the summit of Lone Peak before heading down and out Bells Canyon."

Noah and Jason filmed a video of their WURL, and is a favorite vid of mine:


The WURL from Jason Dorais on Vimeo.

I haven't been shy about WURL being pretty high on my list of priorities for 2014. In a perfect scenario I'd continue running the line in pieces, getting familiar with each traverse between peaks so that linking them in unison in the dark and terribly tired would go, well, better than it could. But in a perfect scenario, my first WURL attempt would be in August...but I am now left with a wide open weekend of decent weather, trained and tapered legs, and a deep hunger for mountains. (Weekends are a rare commodity at the Eaton household, with my running, and a big-wall climber/scout master/rock climbing junkie husband and two kids... if you get a weekend, you use it!) So, here it is, a blind and sudden hash at WURL.
earning my WURL scout cookies. photo by fantastic photographer Jason Eichorst

Now, the runners that I'm familiar with (Jason, Noah, and Jared) didn't complete WURL on their first attempt, so I have no unrealistic expectations for myself. I know of plenty of hardy mountain folks who've attempted WURL had to leave the line unfinished for various reasons. That said, I am excited, thrilled, and of course a wee bit nervous. I plan on giving this my all, and it would take a lot for me to leave the line incomplete.
kids hike/run with the first part of WURL, the cottonwood traverse, in the background

I'll add the spot tracker link to this blog post once it's live. Feel free to follow along, the trip should start sometime in the painfully-early-most-people-aren't-even-in-bed-yet time this Sat July 12th (like 2am).
SPOT: http://mytinyurl.com/whereiscraig

Also important, here is a picture of eternal sainthood:


There's a great adventure waiting in the Wasatch.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bighorn 100 Race Report: Cowboys, Lightning, and Puke

There's a lot I could say about Bighorn, but there's also a lot I'm hoping to forget. I'd like to keep this report brief... so here goes! (update: isn't not super brief. sorry.)

The race started and it was much hotter than I had anticipated. I am terrible in the heat and resolved to take the initial 7 mile climb slowly, walk most of it, and sip away. The fields of wildflowers were stunning. I couldn't bring my homemade fuel or burritos to this race (10 hour drive, drop bags due a day before you get to them) but I had planned to sip Hammer Perptetuum from a flask and eat at the aid stations.

About 5 miles in, despite taking it slow and keeping my heart rate down, I was hot and queasy. I decided to take my only Zofran, hoping that it'd allow me to get calories in and that my stomach would be right by the time things cooled off.

Instead I couldn't eat at the aid stations. I repeated over and over Matt William's mantra "lose minutes to save hours" and spent 5-10minutes at Every. Single. Aid (approx every 4 miles) trying to get food in. Typically I'd end up putting a bit of watermelon in a zip-lock bag and leaving, unable to get anything (even soda) in me.

30 miles in I was concerned about my state. I hadn't been eating or drinking near enough, and knew the whole race would be in jeopardy if things didn't turn around soon. I forced in a couple potato chunks and peach slices during the next 15 miles. I talked out loud to myself, trying to convince my stomach to let in food.

Others felt it necessary to tell me Becky Wheeler's splits throughout the course. At first I politely asked for them to refrain, then I got frustrated and would yell "I don't care!" and as the day went on I just ignored it. She fluctuated between 2-10minutes in front of me, and I wasn't going to try to catch her. My main focus was trying to get some calories and water in. I was clinging to the hope of quesadillas at the Jaws (mile 48, also the turn around). The quesadillas at Tahoe Rim 100 were amazing... crispy with black beans and sweet potatoes inside.

I started to throw up about a half mile before Jaws, but managed to keep in about half the peach slices. I was still hopeful that 1/2 hour at Jaws would settle the stomach and I could move on. Ann came and took care of me, bringing me plate after plate of food. I asked around for Zofran, no luck. Someone gave me pepto, and I chewed the tablets but couldn't swallow them down. A nibble of bacon. Gag. The quesadilla was cold and madevwith processed cheese, I couldn't even attempt to bite it, it made me feel so queasy. Cold broth... ugh. I changed shoes and clothes and filled my flask with Red Bull. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to leave there without getting food in me, but I had been there over 25 minutes without any success. I knew Scott had another Zofran, and the sooner I left to find him the sooner I could take it.

The dry socks and shoes were wonderful, and I carefully skirted around the massive puddles and snow fields I had plowed through earlier. Ironic then that it began pouring rain and the trail turned into a muddy river, sucking the shoes off of my feet. Lightning (that stayed at least 5 miles away) lit the sky and I tried to run down. I found Scott and he gave me a Zofran. I walked for a while, hoping to settle the stomach before taking it.

About 20 minutes later I threw the pill up whole. I began to feel a little defeated.

Just before mile 56 I started throwing up. The potatoes and peaches from mile 33. The few bites of ramen I choked down at 44. Then came all the fluid.... I'd throw up and run and throw up and run... and then my stomach was empty.

It almost seemed ok empty. I went to the fire at mile 56. "First female!" They shouted. "Not for long," I'd reply. They gave me the last few ounces of coke from that aid station to put in my flask. I took a sip and left.

The next 6.5 miles were traumatizing.

Stumbling on a muddy cliff edge in the dark. Throwing up became more and more frequent. What was this black tar stuff I kept throwing up? (Later I found out black vomit was blood. Awesome.) Again and again it'd come up.... bile, black tar, bile, black tar. By the time I'd stopped to throw up about 15 times (yes, counting the numbers and time inbetween helped occupy my mind) Missy passed me. She let me know she'd get help. Runner after runner would stop, some just asking if I knew my name and where I was, others convincing me to try an X or Y or Z... and then leaving me after I promptly threw it back up and was unable to keep up an ok walking pace. I developed a habit of laying down next to (or occasionally in, my aim wasn't great) my vomit. I'd try to get up before runners would see me there, not wanting to cause alarm. I was afraid of fainting or blacking out, and falling off the cliff. I was also afraid that if I were to faint and not fall off a cliff I'd hit my head on the rocky terrain and it would turn into some SAR hospital type epic. So I laid down after each vomiting session and waited until I knew I could stand without fainting before continuing on.

Jeremy Suwinski came. I tried to get him to leave me, knowing that I was going 1-2mph and not wanting to ruin his race. But he mumbled something about me passing out and falling off a cliff and dying and him not wanting that on his conscience. It was a pleasant interruption from the "don't pass out, don't pass out, don't pass out" incantation I had begun reciting to myself. He tried to get me to eat or drink unsuccessfully. I'd thrown up so many good-willed salt pills, ginger, and coke from other runners I didn't even want to try any more. Eventually I gave in... and it lasted in my stomach about 4 steps.

Finally Larry arrived. He was from The Narrows aid station and Missy (who went on to win the race!) had stopped to let them know there was a girl up there who wouldn't make it down alone. Sigh.

Seriously, I was just a pathetic little princess at that point. Why am I sharing this embarassing story anyway?

Larry and I made slow progress. He'd radio in every so often "Take a seat sweetie, gotta make a call..." and then the aid station radios would all light up with how runner 167 was still moving but it would take another hour or two for me to get down the next mile. He insisted on staying between me and the cliff edge. Larry kindly broke the news to me we wouldn't make it down the major aid station (FootBridge, mile 66) where there were medical volunteers, cots, and a ride back. We'd have to stop at The Narrows (mile 63). If I could've laughed I would've. There was no way I could make it to the Footbridge in that kind of condition.

It's interesting what your mind clings to when all is a living hell. I didn't want him (or anyone) to touch or physically assist me, because I didn't want to get disqualified. I wanted to finish.

We got to the narrows and I just collapsed next to the Cowboy's fire. They tried to get me to sit on a rock seat, but I nearly fell backwards off it and decided the dirt looked great. The Cowboys (some older Wild West cowboys were there, we had heard about them before the race with their handlebar mustaches, horses, and whiskey) began to take care of me. They slid the saddle pads underneath me to make me warmer. "You'll smell like a pony sweetie but at least you'll be warm." One Cowboy pulled my vest off and another slid a pillow under my head. Then canvas tarp after canvas tarp was piled on top of me. I slipped in and out of sleep, listening to their stories of "life on the wagon" and their old cowboy days. Every few minutes one of them would check on me, tucking the tarps around me and stoking the fire high beside me. They debated about needing to carry me or horse-pack me down to the next aid. Silly cowboys, I was going to finish...

Three and a half hours later they had me try to hold in some warm broth. I was just finishing my first few sips when Scott rolled in. I was excited and promised if he gave me 15 minutes to hold in a bit of broth I could leave with him. The Cowboys glared at him.

I was eager to try to run but Scott convinced me to walk (which was smart in retrospect... a few ounces of broth wasn't enough to make up for 63 miles dehydrated.) A few miles later I managed to get in a piece of sausage at Footbridge.

The rest of the day was slow and terrible. Feet white with strange blisters curled in the wrinkles. Still too queasy to get a good amount of calories or water in (even though I had taken a couple Zofran). Heat. Jokes here and there. I broke down at one point. The cramps from dehydration were so bad, and it was so hot, and my body was so exhausted from what I was demanding of it... I had surpassed my limits of what I could take both physically and mentally. Scott and I had some good laughs to lighten the mood, and shared miles with many others as the day went on.

Through the heat of the 2nd day we trudged on. Another lightning storm moved in around mile 93, the strikes were 2 Mississippi's from us as we ran through a large open meadow. The sprinting to tree line put the last nail in the coffin for how wrecked I was. The flat road miles at the end were so difficult. I couldn't match Scott's walking pace, though I pumped my arms and focused as hard as I could.

Then, we finished.

The night before the race my kids asked if I would win. I told them I probably wouldn't, that this was a big race and there were some really fast women. Indy said to me, "Mom, it's not about winning, it's about doing your best. Just go and do your best, ok Mom?" I promised him I would.

I reflected on that often. Dropping wouldn't have been doing my best. Napping in the shade when it was hot wouldn't have been my best. I did my best.

Since finishing I have mixed feelings on finishing the race. I spent over 6 hours at aid stations. My last half was nearly double the time of my first half. As an "athlete," if you're having a bad day you drop. No one wants that black streak on their resume. No one wants to explain what it means to grind out a finish, what it feels like to have a flat 40 min mile to be giving 120%. If I had dropped, it would have gone nearly unnoticed, not on any results, never needing to be mentioned or remembered.

Why struggle on? I don't know. I wanted a Hardrock qualifier. I wanted to teach my kids that when things are hard that they can go on. In many ways, I wish I would have dropped. But I'm also grateful I could finish, that I learned what suffering really is. That I learned what it means to be on my feet nearly 10 hours longer than I ever had before. That I remembered what was most important to me.... not the glory or the pace or the buckle but my kids, the desire to push, and to finish what I started.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bighorn 100 Pre-Race Reflections (image heavy)

This morning I awoke before my 4:50am alarm. I drowsily stumbled around, threw on my favorite soft running clothes, tracked down a handheld and a pair of shoes and tossed them in the car.
scoping out the wildcat ridge

It is fitting that my last taper run is where it all started: on Wire.

I turned on my Wire playlist as I drove, realizing I was a few minutes behind. Yes, I have a playlist for Wire. While it's a silly little mountain, the repeats on it have changed me; I've gone from incapable to confident on vertical gain. Finding new boundaries, learning what it means to redline, to pace, to push. It was on Wire I tried redlining early, ran the first mile as fast as I could, and blew up leaving Craig bewildered with my idiocy. It was on Wire Matt and Scott would sing during a lunch run. It was on Wire I'd reflect on the local mountain running legends, the mountains they run repeatedly each week: training, training, training. It was on Wire I'd put my headphones in, over and over,  and commit to suffer for a time.

Today I did a casual run with other wranglers. A 40:30 summit time a year ago would have crushed me; today included several stops to point out and chat about different peaks, and never did I push or let my heart rate go up. Today in a breeze and enjoying companionship, I realized I am stronger than I had ever anticipated I could be.

I didn't train for Bighorn. If I wanted to be competitive there I'd have done more running and less bushwhacking and scrambling. To say I've been running is to take a very casual approach to the word "run." My longest days out (8+ hours) I've averaged as low as 1.5mph. Yep, THAT slow. But I've also hit over 75 summits in the last 12 weeks, averaging more than 6 summits a week. Ive been fortunate enough to do 7 major ridge traverses in that span of time as well.

Here are some highlights of April-June 2014 in no particular order:

Parley's Ridge (x2) with Matt, Cherri, and Jacob:
After staring at the ridge from the umpteenth summit of Wire, I finally decided to just go for it. The ridge is notorious for brush, and I wore jeans and a jacket to protect my body during the brushy sections. Matt and I were only 10 mins off the men's FKT, (or OKT... only known time! lol) which was surprising since we stopped to tweet, take photos, send photos to friends, and other forms of "trail running."
Cherri Marcinko on Parley's Ridge

the snow and brush aren't too bad.... Matt Williams on Parley's Ridge
Stansbury Island Ridge Traverse with Matthew Van Horn:
With undesirable weather in the Wasatch we headed to drier peaks. This was a 20+ mile adventure, complete with crickets of every color, scrambling, bushwhacking, and even 9 miles of actual running (back to the car).
taking advantage of an open stretch on the ridge

Matt Van Horn on the summit of Castle Peak
Wildcat Ridge with Matt Williams:
Sick of staring at the ridge and still waiting for the bigger mountains to open, Matt and I seized a random Wednesday to traverse wildcat ridge. While the post-holing slowed us down about 1-2 hours (and made a 300ft down-scramble a bit more dangerous), it was beautiful, cool, and a bit too early in the year for snakes. A longer (9-10 hour) day on an incredible ridge. Peak 9,795 is currently my favorite sub-10,000 ft peak in the Wasatch.
Matt coming down Mill B North Fork

Matt's highlight video:

Zion's Traverse with Jen, Marty, Cory, and Edgar:
Marty had a goal of running 50 miles and it was Cory's birthday. The traverse was full of adventures and fun. I don't think you can have a bad day running across Zion with friends.

Jen and Marty

the funniest jumping photo

love my friends

dehydration? no worries. Dr. Klingler is here to help.
S Ridge of Superior to Catherine's:
As part of the WURL Scout Cookies mission.... I am working on running all of WURL piece by piece til I'm ready to piece it together. Jason Eichorst was kind enough to run this with me and put up with my not-quite-recovered legs and shoot photos for the day. I'm concluding that WURL will be one of the best things I will ever do... and the most painful. That day we hit Superior,  Cardiff, Toledo, Flagstaff, Honeycomb, Patsy Marley, Wolverine, and Tuscanora.
s ridge of superior

I think this is runnable...

incredible shot.

Other Local Nonsense:
City creek ridges link-up, Mahogany, Millvue... and other nonsense to entertain us while waiting for big mountains. Most weeks were around 18,000ft elevation gain, with a 24k thrown in there for good measure. I think I broke 60 miles in a week.... once.
coming up Millvue

refreshing! :)

TED ridge

Scott found poop on a stick! That's pretty cool.

hanging out at Zion's 100.... it's kind of like running

Mill B North Fork w/Jason
Until now, every race I've run was for validation. To validate my time spent running, the effort and cost. To validate all of this as a purpose... to make it worthwhile. In a big way, to validate me, to give me some sense of purpose and worth.

Until now.

Now I don't need a vaildation. The life, energy, and passion I get from the mountains don't require anything else. I'd rather spend the day grinding out the Hemagog Quad here in the Wasatch than run Bighorn. It is up there where I belong, not at a race. I don't care about where I place, or what time I come in, or even in the personal accomplishment of running 100 miles... I'm too preoccupied with other (all to near) goals. Lately I feel like I have no place in races... I belong with my watch and time trials on summits.

"The mountains are calling, and I must go."

But I will race Bighorn with everything I have. The climbs and descents won't be hard on my body; the flatter portions will wreck me. Taking 4 days away from my family is no small sacrifice, and I will make full use of the experience... Knowing my mountains are waiting for me.

Typically for 50+ milers I develop a race and nutrition plan. For Bighorn, I'm taking a spin on Kelly Agnew's patented race plan.... I'm going to run, then run some more. I'll be without pacer or crews, and I plan on just drinking it all in, step by step. I'll eat all the unfamiliar food I want at the plentiful aid stations (since I end up vomiting when I eat familiar food anyways!) and when I lack motivation and feel old and washed up in this race I don't belong at, I'll reflect on all the days, mountains, ridges, and friends referenced above and dig deep within myself to run a bit more. I plan on taking photos for the first time during a race, listening to music, and pausing to sit and watch the sunrise and sunset if I feel so inclined.

In the end, it was all the runs I've done with friends, the memories, jokes, peaks, and ridges that I will remember.... not my third 100 mile finish. I hope to relive as much of this spring as I can during Bighorn.