Capitol Peak 50M – 4/29/17

“So don’t you sit upon the shoreline

And say you’re satisfied

Choose to chance the rapids

And dare to dance the tide”

–Garth Brooks, “The River”

Well, I did it. My first 50 mile race. I was never confident that I could run that far – not on the day I picked out which event it would be, not on the day I finally registered for it, and certainly not on race day. And yet, somehow, my legs and my lungs proved my brain wrong. Probably because my heart wanted it bad enough.

As we do, Jesse drove us up on Friday night to Capitol State Forest (near Olympia, WA) and we slept in the car. We arrived late to the camp site and backed in next to the river, trying to be careful not to shine our headlights at the others tents, while simultaneously trying not to run into a tree. We found a flat enough spot and rolled out the sleeping bag. I didn’t sleep a wink. I promise you, it wasn’t nerves. I was calm and legitimately tired, but I couldn’t warm myself up. I listened to the river rush by all night, clawing at Jesse’s warmth, wondering what the next day would bring.

The alarm went off at 5 AM, though I was already awake. It was dark and the car was foggy. I pulled out my baggie of questionable muffins (“these are easy enough to make and bring to the start line!”, I thought, and proceeded to fail miserably at making them). I ate two. Jesse awoke and I awkwardly pulled on my running clothes in the front seat. We drove the .02 miles to the start line and I immediately stood in the porta potty line. I’ve gotten better about that.

I set my drop bag down on the confusing staging area (“Where is aid station 3/5, from the map?” “Um, not sure.” **thinks to self, “Isn’t this your f**king race?**). It was too early for this. I set it down, knowing I wouldn’t need anything from it, as it only had my old trail shoes in case mine got soaked, a roll of Oreos, and an extra jacket because why not? Sigh.

Jesse joined me and we chatted to some other runners while I ate half a bagel. It was cold, but not miserable. The race director started his briefing and of the approximately 50 runners, he asked who the newbies were. Me + 2 others. I felt even more unprepared. I kissed my love for good luck and took off at a snail’s pace down the trail.

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There were some dogs, some old people, some young. The typical gamut. I ran with a young guy, Kyle, for maybe 20 minutes. He was training for the Bigfoot 200. Of course he was. I ran with another girl (Colleen) for a few miles; it was her first 50M as well. She wasn’t super keen to chat with me, but I appreciated running near someone. I stopped for a photo of the sunrise and she continued without me.

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Eventually we started up hill #1 (Capitol Peak) and a man joined me from behind (Glen); he had started late. He gave me some advice (“Jog the flats, even if it’s only 10 yards. In a 5k, it won’t matter, but over this distance, it could save 15 minutes or more! Like this, you should be running!”). I needed to run my own race, so I politely let him pass, but I logged his advice away. Power hiking up the hill, I caught another woman (Kim) and commented that I was jealous that she had sunglasses. We chatted about various summer events – she was training for her umpteenth 100 miler. Of course she was. She ran into her friend, who was in some sort of pain, and she stopped to chat. I carried on up the hill.

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Aid station #1 came quickly at 5.5 miles. I enjoyed a few Oreos, some watermelon, and some Coke. I thanked the volunteers and continued hiking up to the radio towers on hill #2 (Larch Mtn). The view of Rainier against the sunrise was breathtaking. This is why we do it.

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I enjoyed some glorious downhill by myself here, and then traversed on some incredible singletrack before joining a logging road and ascending Larch Mountain.

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Here Kim caught up to me and we power hiked together. At the top of Larch Mtn, we were instructed to take an army man, to prove our ascent. We paused to enjoy the view, then took off running on the way down. We both professed our love of downhill running and picked up the pace.

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Kim & I maintained a decent distance behind another group of women (ultra runner princess Jill, Christy, Colleen, and the girl in pink). We were chatting up and down the logging roads, matching our pace, and enjoying the run. We reached the same aid station again (#2, the half marathon mark), dumped our army men, and took off through the forest, joining the woman’s group. Every now and then we’d hear gun shots from people target shooting. It was a little unnerving and eventually Christy explained that was why the race shirts were fluoro yellow – an inside “joke” about gun safety in the forest. Makes sense!

We all stayed together, for the most part, leapfrogging as we all took our turn off trail for bladder relief, kindly passing as we found our place in the pack on the varying hills or descents, chatting about everything and nothing all at once. The miles flew by. I was so happy.

A tiny downhill into aid station #3 (mile 17-ish) was a nice intro to the hill to come. I had a few chips, an orange slice, and an Oreo for the road. I refilled my front pocket bottle with Coke and we were off again through the forest. I was just behind Christy and saw the photographer on the side of the trail, clicking away. With no one behind me, I asked if he was ready and gave him my best jump! Classic race shot, both mouth and hand filled with Oreo, and we thanked each other. I’ll cherish that photo and that memory. See it here.

I ended up power hiking with Christy and Jill, talking running, up and up the hill, while the water ran down. Jill stopped for a break and eventually it flattened out enough to pick up the pace. I was out in front, on flowy singletrack with lush, vibrant ferns all around. Pretty soon Colleen and Kim are behind as well. Jill eventually caught up and asked to pass (“I want to be going faster”) and I pulled to the side. No one else joined her, so I took the lead again. This would be my position for the rest of the run (and I heeded Glen’s advice about running the flats. Maybe it helped).

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This section was 13 miles out to the far aid station and back again (making a full marathon). It featured views, dense forest, logging roads, clear cut, and, finally, the lead runner. Obviously hours ahead of us, we were impressed. But he didn’t look to be in good shape. He was in the lead by a good margin, but did not appear to be having a very good run. We came upon the “unmanned water station”, and we kept on keepin’ on. I would stop to take photos, and my pack stopped behind me. I offered to give up the pacing position and was assured I was doing a fine job. Christy, Colleen, Kim, & I were in it together at this point.

We started passing groups of runners on their way back and finally one girl said “It’s almost 1:30, you better hurry!”. Oblivious to what she meant, we confusingly chatted about the vague notion of a cutoff. We reached aid station #4 (mile 30) at 1:32 PM. The volunteer said the cut off was 1:30. Whoops! He looked us all intently in the face and asked how we felt. I shrugged and replied “Good…hungry”. I ate 1/4 of a PB&J, an orange slice, a few chips, and, you guessed it, a few Oreos (Colleen took off with half a picnic in her arms). He let us go, but only if we “hustled back”. No problem.

We ran for maybe 15 minutes and saw pink shirt girl sprinting down the hill in front of us and then she was gone. “Didn’t we pass her ages ago going the other way?” We all agreed she was either horribly lost or out of her mind. We never caught her.

We came across a woman who was clearly in the event, walking (with poles) and we stopped to consult with her. We told her the last aid station was still a few miles away and that the cutoff had come and gone. About 15 minutes later, we ran into a volunteer, asking about her. “She went thataway!!” I all but said. I felt bad for her (and him).

Here was where Kim & I parted ways with Christy and Colleen. It was unspoken, we just suddenly realized that they were no longer with us. We didn’t want to linger and decided to continue on, but I felt conflicted about leaving them behind. I reminded myself to run my own race.

The rain started and I got cold. I put on my headband and we re-entered the forest. We came upon a young couple who we saw just before the last aid station and they were asking about the distance left. We urged them not to drop out, but it seemed inevitable. We carried on.

We reached aid station #5 (mile 43) and huddled under the tent. I pulled out my ultralight jacket to help preserve the heat, as well as my gloves. They were out of Coke, so I took a swig of Mountain Dew, something I’d never tried before during a run. Screw it. They also had tiny pulled pork sandwiches and since it actually sounded appealing, I had a few bites. It was going to take too long to eat, so I tossed the rest, grabbed a few chips, and we took off again.

Reckless Kelly’s “Eight More Miles” was playing in my head (“I can’t decide, if 8 more miles, is the top of the world, or the end of line…”). Kim & I talked about anything and everything. It was mostly downhill and we ran it in. I started to hallucinate a little through this section (“Is that a man with a cowboy hat on?”) and had to really focus. “Ready for lap #2?” she asked, insinuating it was a 100 miler. “There’s no way! I could not…” I replied. “That’s because you know it’s only 50,” she said. I know she’s right. Eventually your body will do what you ask it to. It’s just up to you to mentally make it.

At mile 45 my GPS watch beeped – low battery. Shrug. We passed over beautiful bridges, ran next to raging mini waterfalls, sloshed through the mud, and at one point, it looked identical to my beloved Forest Park. I was amazed.

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At mile 49, my GPS watch beeped again – ‘saving activity’. It died. I laughed. The cutoff for the entire event was 13 hours and we were toeing that line, but my watch just couldn’t hold on. Nearing the end, I said “Kim, did you see the beautiful mugs for the category winners? Maybe they’ll have an extra one I can have for being in last place”. She humored me and replied “Maybe!”

“Kim, I see the finish line! OMG!” We sprinted. Kind of. Jesse was waiting sweetly with a chair as I doubled over, elated, out of breath, and exhausted. I hugged Kim and we laughed at the ridiculousness of having just run 50 miles for fun. The race director said “We have a mug for you!” and I was thrilled. I didn’t earn it for last place, though, apparently, I won my age category! “The other person dropped, didn’t they?” I asked. “Hey. A win’s a win” she told me. I’ll take it. Funny, because I’m the most proud of that mug. I wanted it so badly.

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I ripped off my pack and sat down. A volunteer handed me a package of Oreos and a cup of soup. And a La Croix (I took it, but where’s the freaking Coke!?). After about 15 minutes, Christy came sprinting in. Colleen had to DNF, but Christy booked it to the finish line. I was so happy for her!

In all honesty, it was the best I ever felt during a run. I was never sad or on the verge of tears. I never once thought I wasn’t going to make it. My legs were fatigued, no doubt, but my heart was happy. I enjoyed every.single.second. That is no lie. Because let’s be honest. The race is a culmination of my entire running career – it just happened to be the last 50 miles of hundreds of hours on the trails. Countless training days. Endless podcasts and music streams. Good days and bad. A DNF was never an option: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

There. The gritty details of my 50 miler. Almost 6 weeks have passed and I have more on my docket, but that event is so, so special to me.

My incredibly large blister has healed:

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My little toe turned black (not just the nail, the entire toe) and is now back to normal, though the nail did come off.

I’m back to running, climbing, hiking, and all my normal activities. I was in an incredible amount of pain the following day and spent the day napping and watching videos of the late Ueli Steck.

In the 12 hours and 45 minutes that I was running, my incredibly supportive husband ate breakfast, took a nap, ran the 25k and rocked it, ate lunch, and volunteered at the finish line until I was back. I adore him.

“That’s amazing!” is the standard response to my 50 mile achievement, followed by “What’s next?”. Stay tuned!

Volcanic 50 – 9/3/16

“As a runner, you have to face the truth about yourself on a regular basis, and it makes you more honest. You can’t pretend to be faster than you are. You can’t pretend that you are better prepared than you are. You cannot pretend to be a runner, you actually have to run.” -John Bingham

In all honesty, I wasn’t properly prepared for this run. I had a crazy intense July and I slacked off in August. September 3rd was Volcanic 50 and I knew it would be a slow day. I’d power through and keep an eye on the cutoffs, but it was going to be hard.  With over 32 miles, around 7,500 ft of elevation gain, and almost a completely exposed course around Mt. St. Helens it was going to be the toughest run on my books.

My running buddy (I place the blame for my entry on her) wasn’t going to be able to run it this year after all and I’d accepted the added challenge of running this event alone. The run was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and I looked forward to the extra two days of rest before heading back to work.

The weekend before the race I began to prep. I was asking Jesse for advice about maps and gear and was constantly checking the weather. Prior race reports ran the gamut for weather: 90 degrees and sunshine to 60 degrees and fog. I was fervently wishing for the latter.

I argued with myself over running with poles or without. How much water would I need, really? Did I need a proper GPS device or would an app on my phone be okay? Through these internal debates, Jesse’s advice turned into his own planning. I don’t know if it was jealously or the thought of missing an epic run, but with 3 days to spare, he signed up as well. While I try to think of myself as a badass adventurer, I was relieved that he was going to be there, too.

Friday night came and we decided the start line wasn’t actually too far from Portland and we would just drive up in the morning. Another friend of ours from Cascade Lakes would be there as well and we looked forward to catching up with him.

After our mandatory gear check, another quick stop at the port-a-potty, we shivered at the start line before taking off. It was a gloriously misty day; the fog and dampness of the air made for an ideal running day. I was incredibly grateful for this.

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Jesse & I had no expectations of each other. We agreed to run the entire race together and I was glad the pressure of pushing it to keep up was off. The first few miles were a steady incline and we took off at a brisk hike. No need to over-exert. I wore my heart rate monitor, more for curiosity’s sake than a guide. My average bpm was 162 and I peaked at 189. Not bad!

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We were on beautiful single track which eventually was a nice, runnable, rolling terrain. We were park of a pack at this point and around mile 4 we heard screams. Bees.

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I knew they were coming. The race reports talked about them and I was hoping to avoid them with the cooler weather, but no such luck. The girl out in front was stung 4 times, the guy behind her 4 times, and me twice. One crawled under my GPS watch and stung. Another got me in the glute through my pants. I tore off my watch and pulled out the stinger from my wrist. The other one would have to stay until later. Luckily Jesse wasn’t stung, as he has a stronger reaction than I do, but it was still an annoyance for the rest of the run. Swelling and an eventual itch on both stings reminded me just how far we had to go.

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Aid station 1 (of 4) came around mile 6 and I loaded my front flask with Coke. I grabbed a few Oreos and we took off, feeling like a million bucks. Boulder fields and river crossings await!

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There were a few fun sections where we needed to climb down valleys with ropes and up the other side. We had to scramble over lava rocks and jump over streams and rivers. After 6 more miles, we reached aid station 2. This was a bit of a longer stop, as we studied the next course section ahead. We entered more forest, ran through pumice fields, and traversed steep sandy sections.

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After 8 miles of pretty lonely running, we came to aid station 3, which was a great relief. There was music, food, and a tiny waterfall. The volunteers at this aid station were so full of energy (and some were even dressed at astronauts…because why not?) and we took their compliments and well wishes to heart.

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Four more miles of pumice fields, a huge hill climb and an equally long, rocky descent brought us to aid station 4. The last one. We had made the cutoff by about 45 minutes. It was raining at this point and there was a guy in red shorts we had to catch. We didn’t linger very long. It was almost over. My legs (and my back) were ready to sit down. Just 8 more miles.

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These last miles were brutal. On the mind and on the body, it was a never ending cycle of descending the valley, climbing out the other side. Descending, climbing out. Repeatedly. For ages. Followed by boulder fields. And then there was a break of glorious single track and I prepared myself for the descent to the finish line. After just a few minutes of actual running, another boulder field presented itself. I groaned and power hiked up and over. Jesse was out ahead, stopped at a corner and he looked back at me. “How much more of this?” I pleaded. He flashed me his most evil smile and disappeared around the corner. That wasn’t a good sign.

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We passed the guy in red shorts and didn’t see another person until the finish. We reached the proper trail and jogged through the trees, enjoying the final minutes on soft forest footing. We saw a trail marker telling us we were 1/2 mile away. We were quiet. And then…cowbells. Cheering. The photographer and the finish line. Jesse and I crossed it together and we were both smiling like fools.

The race director came to congratulate us, handed us our swag, and pointed us to the food. I asked her where the chairs were. Our friend came to greet us (he left us on a big hike and finished well before us…I was proud of him!) and the race director brought a chair to me. I collapsed in it and began to shiver as the 3 of us rehashed the race, ate a little, and basked in the glory of the day.

After emptying my hydration pack back at home, I calculated my intake. A Clif Shot Blok (just one package), about 6 Oreos, 1/4 of a PB&J, a handful of MnMs, about 16 oz of Coke, and 3/4 L of water. In other words: not much for over 11 hours of activity. I always swear I’ll be better at that. I never am.

Here are the links to Paul Nelson’s beautiful professional photos:

In the weeks following, I’ve been asked so many questions about it, but the one I never have a good answer to is:

“Did you feel trained?”

Yes and no. I finished and now have 3 points toward the UTMB. But I wish I had been faster. I wish I could have run more of it. I wish I hadn’t been sore for 5 days after it. Coulda woulda shoulda. But I’m damn proud of it.

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Mt. Hood 50k – 7/10/16

As you know, I like to do races in far away places. It’s so much fun to explore new areas by doing an event but this time, I chose one close to home. Sadly, a “close” trail run still means 1.5 hours away, but at least it didn’t involve significant travel beforehand.

Per usual, the weeks leading up to the event were filled with training runs, rest days, cross-training, and lots of food. Jesse didn’t run this one so I was training alone. My long runs were sometimes wonderful and sometimes lonely but then I got lucky and found a fabulous new running buddy to make the miles go by faster. Her first 50k was the weekend after Mt. Hood so it was easy to coordinate training days. I am grateful for her company and willingness to adventure! I didn’t know how I was going to run so far without her at this point!

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Jesse drove me to the start line to see me off (he then spent the morning on his mountain bike nearby). I have become so fond of the Go Beyond Racing events and this was no exception. The course skirted Timothy Lake, went out on the Pacific Crest Trail for 7 miles, then turned around and circled the other side of the lake to the finish. With 6 aid stations and only about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, it was a relatively “easy” run. Even more so given that it was gray and drizzly…the ideal running weather. Sadly it meant no view of Mt. Hood, though.

I started strong (arguably too strong) and felt great. I had to stop to pee around mile 2.5 and lost my place in the pack, but easily fit back into my groove and kept going. The miles ticked off so quickly, the aid stations coming and going and I barely felt the need to stop. As always, the aid stations were excellent and the watermelon was an incredible treat! I grabbed some Oreos for the road and carried on.

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I know better than to power up the hills during an event. My heart rate is invariably high already and I’m still learning how my body reacts to “pushing it” in a race. So I hiked (as did everyone else around me, so it felt like a legitimate decision). My heart rate would recover and I’d run again, still feeling strong. I sprinted into the turnaround aid station at mile 13 and heard someone yell my name.

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I was certain Jesse wasn’t going to meet me there and I didn’t know of anyone else running it, so my confusion was justified. Soon my friend Shane emerged with a clipboard; he was volunteering at that far aid station! We hugged it out, recapped the first half of the race, and off I went. It’s always a nice burst of support and encouragement to see a familiar face.

The way back to the lake was a beautiful descent and I ran along with a guy who was doing the 50/50 (the 50 mile version on Saturday and the 50k on Sunday). I was in awe of him and he was rocking it. We chatted for a while and then I felt strong enough to pick up the pace, leaving him behind.

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I entered the “stiff leg” phase coming into the aid station at mile 17. I crouched down, stretching my hips out. Internally and emotionally I felt amazing. It was only some fatigue in my legs slowing me down at that point. When I left the aid station, I was alone for long periods of time and I felt happy. I enjoyed the trail, the moody grayness of the day, and the sound of my heart propelling myself forward (in every sense). Those are the moments I run for.

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I came into the mile 21 aid station and had some oranges and chatted with the volunteers for a few minutes, grateful for their high spirits. When I took off, I could feel something…off…in my left knee and I was pissed. After a few more minutes, with every centimeter of incline the pain screamed under the outer side of my knee cap and I was left walking the hills.

I kept leap-frogging with two guys who had given up on running completely. One guy was from Texas and it was his first 50k, but he was happy to leisurely finish. I didn’t find the peace and solidarity from these two one might hope for and I could only focus on how my leg was failing me. Eventually, after some stops to stretch, some lakeside cursing, and enough walking to screw up my goal time, I ran into the last aid station, leaving them behind, and sat down. I was pleasantly surprised that there were only 4.7 miles left and not 6.5 as I’d thought, and the sweet volunteer checked in on my health when I stood up quite uneasily. I shook it off and got to going.

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I don’t remember how I got through those last 5 miles. They took days, I’m sure of it. I ran and walked and hiked and ran, none for very long. I worked on returning to my positive state of mind with every pain-free step, reminding myself that I’d only run this distance once before. It was reasonable that my body was mad at me!

I started to recognize the trail again from having passed over it that morning, hearing the faint sound of cowbells and cheering. The course markings became closer together, the campsites more frequent. The trail ended with a slight downhill and I “sprinted” over the finish line: 6:35. There was Jesse, caked in mud, waiting in the mist. I ran into his arms and then doubled over out of breath, the tears of a proud runner filling my eyes.

The race director gave me a pint glass and a congratulations and then I bee-lined it to a camp chair. After a recap of the race and Jesse’s mountain bike adventure, we shared a burger and he took me home. Race days are the best.

(You can see the official race photos of me here and here.)

(P.S. My knee is fine. I don’t know what it was that day; if it’s a problem in the future I’ll deal with it. Until then, I am chalking it up to “Well something had to go wrong that day…it couldn’t have all been perfect!”)

Deception Pass 50k – December 12, 2015

Back in December, I did a thing. A big thing. I had worked on it all summer and all fall and I was scared and ready and uncertain and excited and terrified and confident and wanted to quit and skip it and dominate it all at once.

I ran my first 50k. Months of training…endless miles and countless hours of trail time lead to the last thirty-one on that rainy Saturday. I knew I had to be really brave. I had to tell myself that Jesse had been here a dozen times and I shouldn’t be so nervous…that I wasn’t the only “newbie” to the ultra scene that day…that I had to trust my training. But above all else, I had to enjoy it. That’s the point, right?

“The race always hurts. Expect it to hurt. You don’t train so that it doesn’t hurt. You train so you can tolerate it.” –Mark Rowland

And that’s the truth. I hurt, but I loved every second. It was beautiful, and awful, and awesome, and hard, and painful, and so rewarding all together. The love of distance running I managed to acquire culminated that day.

It was a crazy stormy weekend in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. a typical winter’s day). I also have a knack for choosing races that are far away – this one was northwest of Seattle on the Puget Sound at Deception Pass State Park and was put on by the popular Rainshadow Running. Months prior, I set my alarm for midnight to be able to secure a spot on opening day (it sells out ridiculously fast) and Jesse decided he would join me. We didn’t run it together; it was important that it was my own race, but I was sure glad he was there with me.

I was dressed in a ridiculous amount of layers compared to others at the starting line (short shorts and tank tops were featured.) I had two layers of merino, my heavy rain jacket, gloves, and a headband. I didn’t know what to expect and knew I could always drop stuff at an aid station.

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Our race briefing included a warning of 60 mph winds (“Don’t push anyone off the cliff edges and be careful on the bridge”). It touched on us runners being sheltered for most of it (“…but be aware of falling trees around you!”), and if things started getting really sketchy, we’d all be cut off (“…after the bridge we’ll send you back, making it a 13 mile day, instead of 31”). “Awesome”, I thought. Thirteen miles sounded way better than 31…but wait! I had trained for this! This had to happen! Please don’t cut me off!!

And then it began. The course was a series of a thousand lollipops, so I often got to see Jesse as I was headed out and he was on his way back, which was fun. I found a good pacer early on (she was training for a hundred miler…go figure) and some other lovely people to keep me company for a while. I soared past aid station #1, feeling strong. I tried to look brave for the photographer, hiding my windblown misery. I stopped briefly at aid station #2 for a cup of Coke and took off again. I wore my heart rate monitor and tried to use that as my guide for pace, knowing my sustainable heart rate for long runs is around 175-180 bpm. It was consistently in the 190s or above; I couldn’t get it down without walking, so I gave up on that pretty early. Race-day adrenaline? Under-trained for all the hills? Too late for that nonsense at that point…

After leaving the aid station, I was by myself for a while, crossing the bridge for the second time alone. I never saw Jesse again, but I caught up with a few other runners on the other side and we chatted the miles away (one guy, also from Portland, and a woman from BC). We then had a serious climb to do. It was not runnable, it was a slow hike. I was again alone and starting to get pretty mentally exhausted from the slow progress. A woman caught me at the top, we exchanged some comments about the vertical challenge, and then I left her behind, eager to embrace the downhill.

The course popped out of the woods and onto the road briefly, coming into aid station #3 (which was also #4 and #5). I stopped for more Coke and some oranges, and debated losing some layers. Throughout the run I was miserable on both sides of the spectrum, outrageously overheating and shockingly cold, often within minutes of each other. I ran in all my layers for the whole thing. This first stop was at mile 14-ish and I felt pretty spent already (this course boasts about 4,500 ft of climbing overall). The rain had picked back up and I was needing to dig deep at this point.

I walked over to a spectator and pet her dog for a minute, psyching myself up for the 7 mile loop ahead of me. I walked a lot of this loop. I was alone a lot. I wanted my headphones…I wanted Jesse…I wanted the finish line. It was a muddy, sloppy mess through thick forest; I had to navigate some downed trees and had to remember to eat something (I had some Gu chews during this loop, which was my only nutrition besides the Coke and a few orange slices from earlier. Note to self: eat!). I finally made it back to the aid station and I just kind of stood under the tent, arguing with myself about quitting. The woman who met me at the top of the hill earlier, Sybil, showed up and we began chatting again. “Do you want to run the rest together?” she asked. “YES PLEASE!!!” I could have hugged her. We ran the 2nd seven mile loop (actually ran it!) and having her as my running buddy saved my first ultra. I will be eternally grateful for her company (you can read her blog post about the event here).

We reached the aid station again after those 7 hard miles and realized we were last. They were already picking up the course behind us. My spirits dropped. “But you made the cutoff!” the volunteers told us! We were going to finish. We were last, but at least they didn’t pull us from the course like they had to so many others. Which meant only 4 more miles to the finish line.

Those 4 miles took years, it seemed. My whole body was screaming. My shoulders hurt from my pack, my hips were sore, my feet were spent. We ended up catching up to another guy and even paused for a photo op with the bridge in the background. We’d been running all day, what’s a few extra minutes to capture the moment, right?

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I whined to Sybil that I needed it to be over. We felt lost and so far away, as the miles ticked off and we couldn’t see the end in sight. We could hear cowbells and cheering, but couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Pretty soon we ran into the photographer again (both surprised and thankful he waited for us!). We ended up with a “sprint” finish (whatever that means after 30+ miles) and we found the end.

Finish time: 7:48. Second to last and proud as hell. The cutoff for the event was 8 hours. I had done it. I didn’t set any records, but I had just become an ultra runner. I burst into tears.

It was almost dark at this point and Jesse emerged from under a tent (near the pizza, of course). He was soaking wet; I was surprised he hadn’t changed into dry clothes. “I didn’t want to risk missing you”, he said and my tears of joy flowed harder. Then I turned to hug Sybil and to thank her for the support and company. I certainly hope to run with her again in the future; at an event or just for fun. She’s super inspirational!

We went into the hut for the after-party. There was a live band and infinite food: sandwiches, pizza, chips, cookies, fruit, beer, Coke, hot chocolate…whatever you wanted, they had it. It was an awesome spread, so many stoked runners and volunteers, and warmth. I was shivering…but I was elated.

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You can see the professional photos by Glenn Tachiyama of me here, here, and here. Jesse’s are here and here.

Jesse and I drove to our friend’s house in Seattle where we stayed for the night. I peeled away my socks and the beautiful white tile became speckled with mud. I laughed to myself and then showered for what felt like hours.

My legs didn’t function for days. I avoided stairs and tried to move as little as possible. I (surprisingly) didn’t have any blisters, though a few toenails turned black, as expected.

Everyone asks “So, when’s the next one, crazy lady?”. I now respond with: “July”.