Friday, August 27, 2021

WY Range 100 -- DNF

This is an extremely difficult race report to write.  I was so looking forward to racing again and completing the WY Range 100, so to not finish is disappointing.  But I know that I chose a challenging race that lived up to that description.  Besides, I don’t do easy things, so failure (or should I be more positive and so not meeting my goals) is bound to happen.  I did everything I could to finish, it just wasn’t in the cards for this race.

First, a bit about WY Range 100.  I found out about this first-year race in early 2020 through Caleb, who is the High Lonesome RD, as well as the Buffalo Run RD, Jim Skaggs.  They were both signed up for it, and it sounded amazing.  103 miles, with approximately 30k of climbing through the Bridger-Tetons, just south of Jackson Hole, WY, sounded just like my type of race.   After Hellbender was cancelled, I signed up hoping that by August, the events of 2020 would be past.  Boy, was I wrong.  The race was on in early July, however, 2 weeks later, they canceled due to lack of key volunteers given the continued restrictions due to the pandemic.  This was a remote race and having aid station volunteers who were experienced, is a critical factor. So, I decided to defer my entry to this year.  

About the course itself: it is designed to be a point to point, starting at a trailhead west of Big Piney WY and finishes in Hoback, WY.  The race runs along the WY Range National Trail, which unfortunately, isn’t traveled heavily.  There were going to be areas where we’d be traveling flag to flag to find our way.  In addition, it started at noon on the 20th, with only 2 cut-offs, 24 hours at the 53-mile point and 48 hours to the finish.  I figured it was going to take me between 36-40 hours, but realistically closer to the 40 hours.  

The original elevation profile:

Fast forward a year…I had a couple of setbacks due to injuries in the fall and spring, but nothing that kept me out too long, just some niggles that I wanted to let heal.  I put in some good training blocks over the summer, to include an overnight 50k sweep section at High Lonesome three weeks prior.   The only stumble was that on the last big run, two weeks prior, I took a nasty fall and broke a finger.  This was going to make the golf part of our vacation more challenging, as well as holding poles for climbing.

The RDs were very proactive in communications with us about the course.  About 3 weeks prior, there was a fire that was close to the course, but they were working with the Forest Service.  The fire grew bigger and some of the trails were closed, but the RDs, had a few different back-up courses ready to execute.  Two weeks prior, the fire was contained and the FS authorized the original course.  That was good news, since the reroute required about 17 miles of dirt road.

Mark and I had planned this to be our first vacation away from ‘home’ for a long time.  Since buying the NC house, we’ve done most of our vacations there.  While we had hoped that the 2019 High Lonesome trip would be a vacation, work commitments squeezed us to just going there and returning as soon as the race was over.  This time, we’d spend a lot of time prior in Yellowstone, the Tetons and Pinedale, WY.  We had a great time despite it being more a working vacation for me (and later him).  The cabin I found in Pinedale was a gem, with all sorts of wildlife, to include moose, otter and eagles.

About a week out, I started looking at the weather to see what to pack in my dropbags.  Smoke in the air from the fires in the west were going to be the biggest challenging in my opinion.  However, the forecast started to show some storms on Sat night in addition to a cold front coming through on Wednesday.  On Thursday evening, the RD sent out a note saying they were switching the low altitude course due to forecast on Friday morning of fog and rain, with below freezing temps at the higher portions of the course that were to the south.  The low-altitude course was and out/back from the finish line in Hoback, which now made the course a ~98 mile out-back.  It was still going to pack a wallop of climbing.  That decision, while making my drop bags a bit easier, really set up the chain of events.  Although, even if the full course had been used, I may have been stuck on the most exposed peak during the storm that came up Sat afternoon…

New course profile: 

Although there was a long list of mandatory gear, to include bear spray, long sleeve shirts were not on the list.  For some reason, I only packed one completely forgetting that there was a chance that I’d be out two nights in a row.  Luckily, there was a really cool out-door store in Pinedale, so I was able to get a second to stash in a second dropbag.  Due to the cooler temps, I actually started out wearing long sleeves, instead of just my armsleeves as I thought I would.  

The race started out well, just very wet and mucky, especially since the trails are used by horses.  The river crossings were flowing fast and high, but nothing too terrible or treacherous.  I got into a comfortable rhythm and kept moving well.  About 3 hours in, I got a message from Mark stating that I wasn’t tracking on the race’s webpage, so since I was using my personal in-Reach, I put it into tracking mode, so he could at least track me on my personal page.  That seemed to work (we were originally told to just turn them on and didn’t need to track).  Somewhere in this area, I missed a turn somewhere in this area and ended up on a wrong trail, it wouldn’t be the first time on this journey.  

There were some spectacular views to be seen, so I tried to occasionally stop to take them in early in the race.  Later, I was just too frustrated and behind on time to pull the camera out.  Looking east was really clear of smoke, while to the west, it could be seen coming back.  The trails themselves were in various shape.  Some were well used, others not so much.  Unfortunately, I found that the downs were hard to run in some cases due to loose rocks and dirt and the grade.  My poor big toe is black from hitting the front of my shoes on the downs.

Getting into Hunting Camp, I was only about 30 mins behind my most optimistic pace.  I was climbing well and taking it easy on the descents, but moving.  Kelsey was the aid station captain and it was great to see her.  Shortly after leaving, I came upon two ladies trying to figure out if we had to cross a stream, since it wasn't obvious to us.  I pulled out my map and, yep, feet wet again…As we were now getting into darkness, I asked if they minded if I tagged along with them, so we became the 3 L’s…Lisa, Lara, and Lori.  We’d stick together for the next 12 hours or so.  We had a few other guys join us, for a bit as we navigated the treachery near Deadman’s peak.

It was in this section on the way to Deadman that things really got crazy.  Since the trail was marked for one-way traffic, some of the markings were not in the right spot for runners coming the other direction.  Nor were there confidence markings at turns that would have helped us.  Coming from the ‘original’ direction, a runner might not have even noticed a side trail that forked into the main trail, but from our direction, it wasn’t always clear which direction to go.  While I had three different maps that showed gpx data, it was slow going trying to figure out the correct direction.  I always seemed to be paralleling the course, either to the right or left, but I couldn’t get the fidelity to say definitely until we started moving what way to go.

Then we arrived at the meadow…I swear this cost me three hours, but realistically, probably only two hours were lost, since it took me almost 6 hours to go the 10 miles between the aid stations, when it should have taken 4ish.  I'm not sure this would have made a difference in the end result.  We knew there wasn’t a cut trail in this section, but we were told to follow the course markings.  The problem was that we couldn’t find them.  We’d get to one, but the next wasn’t always in visual sight, even with, by now 6-8 of us shining lights across the field.  It was also slow going due to the slick conditions and sagebrush.  At one point, trying to go to a flag, I whacked my head hard into a tree branch that I didn’t see.  Luckily my headlamp took the brunt of the impact, but it left me dazed for a few seconds. Just as we were almost out, someone came the opposite direction to put more flags down.  Go figure...  Looking at my gps track, I think we kept seeing flags out of order in the night and going to them

The climb to Deadman Peak was brutal and a bit scary in the dark.  Luckily, we had a beautiful full moon.  We grabbed our trinket, warmed up a bit in the dilapidated hut and made the slow descent back down to the main trail.  We knew we’d have to return to this peak on the return trip, but hopefully it would be in the daylight.  Again, this area wasn’t clearly marked, but we could make a general direction where we needed to go under the moonlight.  (The full moon was spectacular, even if it was a bit red due to the smoke in the air)

Getting to Deadman’s aid station, we refueled and was told it was a relatively flat section…not.  It started out as a gradual uphill FS road, but then transitioned to a steep odd trail that zigged and zagged.  At one point we couldn’t figure out if we were criss-crossing our own trail.  We made it to Blind Bull in just under 17 hours.  While we were there, the leader came cruising in, taking little aid.   

Leaving this aid station, it was still dark, but the sun was coming up.  Again, we got lost, and added even more bonus miles since the marking was in an odd spot hat you couldn’t easily find.  While it’s easy to say if you don’t see a marker after ¼ mile, it’s harder in real life to figure out if you’ve seen one, especially when you are on a well-used trail and the map shows you just to one side of the real trail, which was on the other side of a ridge!  I was mentally frustrated at this time, but still moving well and pulled ahead of Lara and Lisa.  Somewhere along here I slipped on some mud and went down on my broken finger.  Not too hard, but it made me yelp.  I came across Caleb, who was returning.  While he seemed like he was doing fine, it turns out he pulled a hamstring somewhere in this section and ended up dropping at Blind Bull #2.

I cruised into McDougal just under 22 hours into the run.  I was fine, and wanted to make it a quick turn knowing that I now had only 26 hours to finish.  However, since I now had a sense for the course and the markings were in the correct position, I thought it would be doable.  Tight but doable.  I needed to keep moving and not waste too much time at aid stations.  I ate, got some coffee, and gathered my things for the return trip.

I will say that the aid station workers all the way throughout were wonderful.  Here one of the ladies was actually cleaning our feet for us.  At Blind Bull, the couple in charge were celebrating their anniversary.  Others had to hike in and spent a miserable Sat evening in the cold rain.

As I was getting ready to leave, Lara and Lisa came in.  Lisa’s husband, John, had been there for a bit already and looked like he was going to head out.  (he had been behind us, but missed the Deadman Peak turn, so would have to do it twice on the return trip).  They were eating and discussing stopping at that point.  I headed out to start the return trip.  I set off at a fast hike since my tummy didn’t like the coffee and quesadilla that I had consumed.  I fell to plan B on eating, which was a ProBar chew every 10-15 mins to keep calories in me.  About 20 mins later, I started getting really sleepy.  So, I found a nice log, set a 10 min alarm, and closed my eyes.  Not sure I every actually slept, but I did feel better.  Somewhere toward the end of this section, Lara (although I didn’t realize it) came cruising by me, telling me the others decided to call it.  She was feeling good after getting some food and wanted to continue on.  At Blind Bull #2, we’d join up again and head out together.  

Leaving BB, I was feeling good again and even running.  Till we crossed a ridge and saw the storm over Deadman’s Peak, with lightning starting all around us.  We knew there was a forested section but were not sure how far we were from it.  However, at that time, we needed to get low and out of the exposed section immediately.  Into the sagebrush we dove.  I then used the inReach to text Mark and try to figure out what was going on.  He informed me that the current cell was moving fast, but there were more behind it.  When that cell passed, Lara and I decided to return to Blind Bull to figure out our next move, as the cold rain wasn’t pleasant.  Unfortunately, this meant cutting into the precious padding on the cut-off.  We trooped back to the aid station, and I continued to communicate with Mark.  He informed me that there was a weather advisory till 10 pm, with winds up to 50 and possible hail.  That did it for me.  I didn’t want to be on exposed ridgelines during that and at night.  Meanwhile the next wave of storms started.  Mark later told me that the radar picture showed purples…

With that, we called it a day.  The aid station folks were so helpful, pulling out puffy jackets and getting us warm.  There were only a few other runners coming back from the turn-around, so we waited for a bit, then got into a truck for the almost 2 hour drive back to the start line.  The RD was glad to see us and that we had made the right decision, he was pulling people from the later aid stations and stopping the race in places.  I was just glad that I wasn’t on Deadman’s peak or any of the ridges at that time.  

So, I took my first DNF (Did Not Finish).  However, I know that it was a Did Nothing Fatal.  In some ways, maybe the fact that it took so much longer than I anticipated, was a blessing in disguise.  Had I been three hours faster, I may have been on Deadman’s Peak when the storm came up.  I’m still a bit emotionally raw right now, even a week later.  However, I read this great article from Brad Stulberg on how caring about something means risking being vulnerable (The Cost of Caring).  I put it all out there.  Even when I was at my lowest, I didn’t want to quit and was moving with the goal of finishing.  Had the weather not moved in, I may have finished, it would have been close to the 48-hour cut-off.  In the end, I made the right decision. I’d eventually like to go back and try this course again, but I think it will be a few years, as I have other races that I want to do first.

Now to figure out what’s next… 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Goodbye 2020...thanks for the reset

 I've neglected this blog this past year.  Well, much like everyone else, 2020 didn't do me any favors for running.  I had 2 races on the calendar and both were cancelled.  Hellbender was going to be my spring race, which then became my late fall race until it ultimately cancelled.  Wyoming Range was on, until it wasn't.  We thought seriously about going to WY for a training run on the original race date, but golf courses were not accepting non-member play, so that put a damper on the trip for Mark.  I considered going back to Stillhouse 100k, which has been reincarnated, but my achilles started acting up.  Plus, school and work were pretty stressful.  In the end, it was better accepting that 2020 was going to be a reset year.  As I look back, I am happy with that.

I can't say that it was a bust.  I set an unsupported FTK on Shawnee Forest Backpacking Loop that lasted for a short time.  I was so happy when Beth, then Jennifer, crushed it. Those two ladies are bad-ass, so it didn't surprise me when each of them reached out to let me know.  

I killed my Strava account as I had no use for it.  I found I really didn't care about what others thought about my running.  Half of the time this fall, I ran without a watch.  I'd run known routes and glance at the clock as I left the house to determine the duration.  It was refreshing to not worry about it too much.  To be back where I was so many years ago.  To run for myself and well-being.  

I'll admit, I had FOMO many times this past few months.  Watching my friends race, while I sat on the sidelines.  But I also knew that it wasn't right for me.  Not mentally or physically.  

I started training again last week.  It is time to focus again.  I'm just under 9 months from WY Range.  I may or may not race before then.  I haven't raced since High Lonesome in Jul 19.  

I don't know what the year will bring, but it has brought a renewed spirit to me for my running.  And that is a good thing.  I don't need racing for a reason to run.  

So here's to a new year...

Sunday, June 21, 2020

FKT - Shawnee State Forest Backpack Trail

I had been planning on a long run this weekend, since it fit into my training schedule for WY Range 100.  I originally considered Mohican 50 miler, but with the current situation, it was cancelled.  Then, unfortunately, one of my A races that had originally been scheduled for April, but moved to November was cancelled, I found myself in a hole.  I now had only one race left on my calendar, and its status is still in the air.  So instead of sitting back and doing nothing, I planned an adventure run out at Shawnee State Forest, near Portsmouth OH.  I had run the loop a few times, but never solo.  I then realized that there were no female FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the trail.  So I decided to go for it.  I needed something to push myself, other than my weekly speed workouts.  Another local runner had just set the FKT for the men on Shawnee, so I reached out to him on water locations, as I’ve never needed water when I’ve run the loop in the past, since it was either a race, or we stashed water at Camp OYO (approx. mile 16).  I didn't want to deal with the logistics of stashing food or water, so unsupported it became.

The forecast was calling to be in the low 80's with a chance of thunderstorms, actual weather was mid-high 80's, with very few clouds.  Humidity was high and the sun relentless despite the canopy of trees.  Morning started out foggy, but by 9:30 the sun broke through and the heat was on.  Literally…

I started about 20 minutes later than I wanted due to a detour on my drive that ultimately got me lost for a bit (I was in the forest, but nowhere near the trail, otherwise, I would have started at the first trailhead I found…).  My pack was heavy, since this was unsupported, I carried 2 liters of water, plus 2 500ml flasks with Fluid electrolyte drink.  I had bacon/egg rice balls as well as Fuel 100 bites, ProBar chews and Picky Bars.  Since I was solo and there is no cell connection out on this trail, I also had an emergency kit, space blanket, water filter and headlamp.  I wanted to be prepared if I had to spend the night out there.  I rounded out the pack with my poles, which I didn’t know if I would want or not.  I ended up pulling them out around mile 13 and used them throughout.

As I headed into the north loop, it looked like someone had mowed the grasses recently, so I was happy to see that I wouldn't be spending the entire day in high grasses for fear of ticks.  When I got to approximately mile 2.7, the trail was closed and had a re-route up the forest road (on map, this is the first forest road crossing).  Looking at previous run on this trail, it looks like the forest road was about the same distance, but obviously not as much fun as the single track.  I found the first water spigot easily, but only splashed my face with the water.  By now, I was dripping with sweat.  At the second campground, I refilled my handheld as well as my bladder, since I knew I was not going to refill at camp 3 (Camp OYO).  I was eating regularly and feeling good.  

Crossing OH-125 and starting the south loop was more of the same.  The first bit of this section seems to be a different biosphere that the north loop, with more humidity and ferns, as well as creek crossings.  I took advantage of the creeks to put cool water over my head as often as I could.  I hit mile 19 around 4.5 hours and was moving well and feeling good.  This section had not been mowed, so the grasses were higher in places which kept my concern for ticks a bit higher.  Luckily, I never found any.  There was also some trail damage as well as more downed trees to scramble over.

I had heard that the water spigot at camp 4 was hard to find, so I had programmed my watch with an approximate location as a waypoint.  Unfortunately, I was never able to find it.  I wasted time looking for it and in hindsight, should have just filtered water from the creek immediately.  However, since I thought I had enough to make it to camp 5 (about 4 miles later), I pressed.  About 2 miles later I ran out of electrolytes in my handheld and needed to stop to filter water to replenish.   Which was a good thing, since by time I got to camp 5, my 2-liter bladder was almost empty.   In my desire to keep moving, I made another critical mistake and stuffed the bladder back into my pack, which meant all the gear slid to the bottom and irritated my back.  I had to stop a shortly after to fix that.  By now I could tell I was slowing down and was frustrated that I had started losing time.  I started getting down on myself for the critical mistakes that were costing me time.  However, as I repacked my gear, I found the baggie of cheez-its that I had stashed in the pack.  They were a blessing.

Around mile 30, the heat really hit me and I started to get nauseous and unable to eat more than a few bites.  I kept running, but my pace was slowed.  I fell at one point, opening up a wound on my hand from a fall the week prior.  Since it was bleeding pretty badly, I stopped and pulled out the first aid kit and put a bandage on it.  

I kept waiting for the smooth single track that I love as it brings you down to the lake and was relieved when I finally hit it.  While I didn't make my goal of sub-10 hours, I did what I could in the heat.  I will try this again for a faster time once the weather cools down.

My original goal was to be sub-10 hours for the 38 miles, but given the heat, I'm extremely happy with 10:11.  I'm going to have to try again when it gets cooler to see if I can better this.  Until then, I'm happy that I had the chance to get this done.  I'm sore, but in a good way.  It feels like I ran a 100 miler, but that also tells me I pushed it to my limits.  This is so cool to see:

Fastest Known Time

Training Peaks Link

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Hellbender 100 -- I never posted this...oops

30 Jul:  As I was writing my High Lonesome report, I realized that I never posted this.

I have been remiss these last few months on posting race recaps.  Since Western States in Jun 18, I ran the Air Force Marathon, Feral Hog 50k and Shawnee 50 mile.  I had some good races and some not so good.

AF was not my best performance, but the heat was terrible.  They actually cancelled the race shortly after I finished.  I joke that I executed a perfect 30k, except that the race was 42k.  It was a learning experience...I much prefer trails now and will stick with them for the near future.  Maybe one day I will try to qualify for Boston, but it's not in my immediate future right now.

Feral Hog was so muddy that I still get nightmares from it.  I earned a second flask with a time about the same as 2 years ago on a longer course.

Shawnee was a first year race at Shawnee State Park in SE Ohio, put on by Michael Owen.  I've been wanting to run there for a long time and a chance to do the entire loop plus some was enough to get me to sign up.  Snow started just as we did and I had a great day.  It was a good way to finish the season.  Finished was what I was.  I was a bit burnt out, after racing 3 months in a row (yes, I know, some people do more each month, but I can't).  I took most of November and all of December off from formal training.  I kept up with speed work, but that was it.

So in early January I started training for High Lonesome 100.  By mid-February, I was bored with training and losing motivation.  I had not found a spring 'tune-up' race to keep me motivated.  I knew about Hellbender from Nettie who ran it the previous year and kept talking it up.  As much as I didn't like the idea of a second 100 mile race, I wanted a race that I was invested in.  Hellbender offered a similar elevation profile, but at lower altitude.  I sent a note to Coach Corrine asking her to talk me off the ledge, but got a 'I'll support you'.  Not what I was expecting, but I had her blessing.  We re-arranged my training calendar and I signed up.  I had 6 weeks to get into full training, oh-with school and a new job since I had started working again.  Needless to say, I was busy.  I'd say at least it wasn't golf season, but I use golf as time on feet, so it was a bit of a disadvantage to my training.

Mark and I ended up driving down to Old Fort, since the weather was iffy on Sunday and we needed to be home on Monday.  One thing we've learned over the 15 years of owning N28GM, if you need to be somewhere on time, drive or fly commercial.  General aviation is the best way to travel if you have time.  We stopped for a short 3 mile shake-out run near Rocky Top TN, arriving at check-in just in time for the pre-race briefing.

We had been watching the weather closely for a few days.  I was joking that 'Nettie weather' was coming (for those that don't know, Nettie seems to get the worst weather when running, but she pushes through), as it was predicting lots of wind and rain on Friday.  When we woke up, it was dry and the radar didn't show much activity.  Maybe we had lucked out!  Nope...shortly after the start, the rain came and lasted for a few hours.  Luckily the wind wasn't there.  I moved steadily along, running with different groups of people.  I was on the pace I wanted to be and felt great. 

I came into the next aid station to the question of "where's the wine?" from the RD, Aaron Saft.  I had to laugh.  (Backstory: Mark and I brought a bottle of wine with us to the pasta dinner the night before.  It definitely makes us stand out, but I was not going without.  It was odd enough that I wasn't having sushi prior to a big race, so I had to have some normalcy. )  It was nice to see the Aaron.  I almost forgot my poles there, but one of the guys recalled that I had them when I came in and caught me before I left.  As I came out I saw Lee Conner and Michelle McClellan, the two people I assumed were in front of me. I was confused and concerned as I know I am not faster than those two.   They and another gal came screaming by me at mile 29 on a downhill that there was no way I was going fast on.  oh-well, I was out to have fun and run some great trails.

I was eating regularly especially at aid stations, as there was avocado and bacon and all the good stuff.  I was feeling good and kept moving along.  The climb to Mt Mitchell was pretty crazy with the roots and rocks.  The descent was nuts.  I think I had a panic/anxiety attack.  I couldn't move more than a few steps without my breathing rate increasing and my heart rate sky-rocketing, despite the fact I was barely moving.  It wasn't pretty, but I finally made it to mile 48, the Colbert Creek aid station.  Brad was making quesadillas and asked how I was doing.  I didn't even realize who it was at first (I had met Brad at GDR a few years earlier).  All I wanted was the quesadilla...a sock change and bandage on my ankle (I had been catching my ankle with my heel all day long and it was painful) and I was on my way, with another quesadilla in my hand.

Within a few miles after leaving this aid station, the sleep monster hit.  I wanted to curl up and sleep.  I sat down for a few minutes, but my mind was afraid that I'd not wake up.  This happened a few times throughout the night.  It was a first for me.  In hindsight, I should have gone into one of the aid station and had them wake me in 10-15 min.  It wouldn't have hurt me and may have actually helped. The worst was leaving mile 72, my body decided to rebel completely.    I didn't want to go on, but I remembered my friend who had completed a 100 mile race a few weeks ago.  It took her 6 tries to complete the distance.  I thought of other friends who can no longer run due to illness or other things.  Quitting because I was tired and sore and frustrated was not an option.  There was no injury, nothing permanent.  I had to keep going.  I came into the mile 78 aid station in tears, even though I knew I could finish.  I was frustrated with myself.

Despite changing my socks regularly, I ended up with some blisters under my toes.  They really hurt, especially on the downhill.  It impacted me on the last few miles, but once we got to the less rocky sections, I was able to move a bit faster.

As I came down the last descent, the cold rain started.  Grrr...couldn't it wait a bit longer?  No, it rained harder and I slipped my way to the finish.  I could hear a train in the distance and knew I was getting close as we had to cross a track prior to the finish.  We came to the train track and I was so glad there was no train.  What I had forgotten was that crossing the track was not right at the finish.  I forgot there was still more downhill to go.  Mark was there waiting for me!  Aaron handed me my buckle and congratulated me.

What did I learn?  This was the toughest race I have done.   I have to figure out the night sections better, to stay awake.  I also need to get more comfortable on technical trails.

High Lonesome 100 -- High Altitude Fun and Pain

Wow is about all I can say about this weekend.  I'm still in awe of the whole thing.  I really wanted to run this race last year, but ended up deferring due to WSER.  My time volunteering at HL last year really solidified my desire to run it.  And boy, did the course deliver.   I won’t go into all the details of the race, but it’s 99.8 miles, at an average of 10,600’ elevation with a total gain of 22,500’ running along the Continental Divide and Colorado Trails. 

Mark and I started the journey out on Tuesday and arrived in Colorado Springs on Wednesday morning.  We played a round of golf at the Academy that afternoon.  A short shakeout run on Thursday morning before heading to Salida for the packet pickup and pre-race meeting.  But first, we had to make a quick stop to pick up Jason Koop's rice balls, that he and Liz had graciously made for me.  I didn't know it at the time, but Liz would be an angel throughout the race.  She was pacing and crewing another friend, but was there for me at crucial points throughout the race.

I loved getting to packet pickup and seeing Caleb and Kelsey, as well as the rest of the directors.  I had spent a lot of time with them last year, so it was like coming back to see old friends.  We then headed to the cabin that I had found for Mark.  It was on a llama ranch, so at least mark would have some company... and dinner options (llama steaks anyone?).
After that, back to the pre-race meeting.  I again saw Liz as well as Kelly from Real Athletes Diets in Boulder. I chatted with her husband, Morgan, from Ultimate Direction a bit, as I didn’t know exactly how to put my poles on the (relatively) new Halo Vest that I had and I had concerns about fitting all the mandatory gear.  He assured me that it should all fit.  I was amazed at how much gear fit into the pack and it still felt light.

The next morning, we arrived at the start line for gear check with plenty of time.  The race has 2 mandatory gear checks, one at the start line and one at Hancock for the night gear.  Chatted again with Kelly and it was time to get going.  The gun went off at 0600 and 125 of us made our way out of the field.  Temps were cool, but they were going to rise a bit and there was a chance a thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The race starts with a mile down a hill to Princeton Hot Springs, and a gravel road that would take us to the Colorado Trail.  I kept the pace really easy.  Chatted with a few people, to include one gal who was running this as her first hundred miler.  A couple of guys were telling bad jokes…’what’s brown and sticky?  A stick.’  I would see him again on the out/back section a few hours later and he told the joke to me as he ran by.  I had to laugh… 

I rolled into the first aid station, Raspberry 1, right on my anticipated time.  Topped off my handheld and took off for the longest climb of the race.  Five miles up Mt. Antero, to just over 13k. The first part was in the treeline, but slowly we continued to climb.  It was here that I started having some breathing issues.  It was different than what I experienced at Bear.  While I was healthy going into the race, my sinuses had been acting up a bit.  Combine this with the extra runny nose that I get when running, the post-nasal drip was crazy (sorry, too much information).  I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs to cough up the gunk, which would then cause me to gag.  It was almost as if I was throwing up.  This would continue the entire race and was probably really disconcerting to fellow runners (sorry).  I was paying close attention for signs HAPE, but everything was clear, so I kept going. 

The climb to Mt Antero brought us near the first of many snowfields we would encounter throughout the day and night. 

Getting to the saddle and looking around was spectacular.  My quad decided to cramp up just below the summit.  Luckily, a good swig of electrolytes relieved that.

From there it was down a steep and rocky jeep road.  A jeep coming up stopped and asked I had called for an Uber.  I wish…although, I’m not sure I would want to be in a vehicle on that road.  Rolling into the Antero Aid Station, I refilled my pack with water and electrolytes in the handheld to continue down the road and up to St Elmo Ghost Town and the next aid station.  We had been warned that this is where we would start getting our feet wet and sure enough, we did.  The normally low creek was almost to my knees.  My feet didn’t stay dry for the next 20+ hours.  About a week prior this creek had a flash flood and took out the road, thankfully the USFS and county got it fixed.

I got to St Elmo with a big welcome from people who had been there last year when I volunteered at this aid station.  I had a drop bag here and replenished my food.  I was eating well, having both the rice balls and ProBar chews, as well as chips and other food the aid stations.  I left for the out/back section to Cottonwood with a couple of perogies in hand.  This is one of the sections that I was sweep on the year prior, so I was familiar with it, although I forgot how brutal the climb up was.  Add to it, the distant rumbling of thunder and I was a bit concerned.  The first few miles are in the trees, but then you get above the tree line to crest the pass and drop to Cottonwood.  Luckily by time I got to the treeline, the thunder seemed to dissipate.  The clouds were still there and it was spitting rain, so I pressed forward.  It was here that the leaders started coming through on their way back.  I could tell I was toward the end of the pack, but well ahead of cut-offs, so I wasn’t worried.

Again, I got to Cottonwood on pace and feeling great.  Yes, I was tired, but I was also over 50k and 8.5 hours in, with quite a bit more to go.  Liz was there and helped get me refilled, put my jacket on (as it was starting to rain harder and I was getting cold) and got me on my way.  I ate some avocado and took off with more perogies.  Back over to St Elmo.  By the time I got to the top of the pass, the sun was out again…

Once again at St Elmo, I refilled, knowing that I had about 12 miles to the next full aid station, with one small water only stop between.  I ate some more and grabbed gloves and arm sleeves and my small headlamp, just in case I didn’t make it to Hancock before dark (I didn’t).  Arriving at the Tin Cup water stop, all of the folks were dressed in unicorn onesies (no I wasn’t hallucinating yet), so I had a good laugh.  A quick top off in my handheld and onto the Continental Divide Trail I would go to the ghost town of Hancock.  This was spectacular, with the sun setting over the mountains. 

It was here that we would encounter the worst of the snowfield crossings.  I am so glad that I was able to cross this before dark.  At the prerace meeting, they mentioned that the snow was too soft for spikes, so although I had them packed in a dropbag, I decided not to use them.  I’m not sure they would have helped, but taking it slow and steady, I got across the two steep sections. 

There would be plenty more snow crossings at dark, but most of them were on level terrain (except the climb up one, but since a lot of others had gone through, all I needed to do was follow the ‘stairs’). 

Sure enough, it got dark shortly afterwards and I pulled out my headlamp and settled in for a long night of running.

For once, I had a pacer meeting me at Hancock, approximately the halfway point.  Last year, I had met Dave Doran while at St Elmo’s aid station and he swept the course to Cottonwood and back with me.  He offered to pace me and I was grateful for that offer.  That was probably one of the smartest moves I made. Dave kept me moving and was very helpful with navigating the ridge lines at night. At Hancock, Dave and his girlfriend Renee, had my dropbag and were waiting as I came in.  They got me some broth and helped replenish my supplies. We went to gear check with the mandatory night gear and set out.  I gave Dave a rundown of my day so far and that I needed him to remind me to slow down on the climbs to keep my heartrate and breathing under control.  That would keep me moving forward rather than having to stop and catch my breath every few feet.  The course marking out of Hancock was a bit frustrating so I pulled the map up on my watch to follow.  I found out later that there were several portions of the course that had been vandalized…grrrr. 

We climbed steadily over the pass (although we couldn’t see anything but the light in front of us due to cloud cover and darkness).  The trails at times were running creeks and the between the snowfields and boulder fields, made for slow going, but we were still moving on time.  It started getting cold and my arm sleeves weren’t cutting it, so I pulled out my jacket again.  The last boulder field was crazy, but led to a road and a volunteer pointing us up a road for a short out/back section to the Lost Wonder Hut. 

Arriving at the Hut, I was told that they had a fire going inside, or I could sit outside at the patio.  I didn’t dare risk going inside, so sat down and Dave brought me some food and filled my water for the next 10 mile section.  The medical staff came out to give me the once over.  I was feeling great and in wonderful spirits.  At the last moment, I had decided to pack a dropbag for this location. I had placed another heavier wool shirt, a beanie, capris as well as heavier gloves here.  The ladies said that the wind was picking up on the ridge and that I should put the tights on.  I decided not to, change into tights but did put the beanie on and the heavier gloves.  I stuffed the tights into my pack, just in case. 

Note:  for the first time, I put notecards in my dropbags for two reasons.  One for motivation to remind myself that I could do this, the second to remind me of what I needed to do at each aid station.  I was really trying to keep my aid station stops minimized and focused.  At Lost Wonder, the ladies loved the idea.  Especially my comment that asked me if I was cold and if so grab the appropriate gear.  I was happy with this approach and I think the longest I stopped was 14 min at Fooses, when I was trying my hardest to get food in down as well as dropping all the night gear that we had been carrying.

The next nine-mile section to Purgatory was the most exposed section and for some reason the flagging was sparse.  It was rocky and wet with lots of climbing to start with.  We hiked out with another runner, James, who was pacerless and had asked if he could tag along with us over the ridgeline.  I was eating a quesadilla and moving onward.  Shortly after getting to the singletrack, all of that ended.  My stomach decided it had had enough and the nausea set in.  I had been occasionally taking antacid and gingerale to stave off any hint of nausea, but nothing worked the rest of the race.  I would eat a ProBar chew occasionally, but very little else.  Everything I ate upset my tummy.  It was frustrating to say the least. Especially since I had been diligent for once on practicing with nutrition.  However, looking back at the elevation profile, I had been above 10k most all day long, so it was most likely some issues with altitude.

As predicted, the winds on the ridge were cold, so I broke out my light merino shirt and put it on, as well as my jacket and second set of gloves.  I never did need the tights.  By now, the sky had cleared up and the stars and a sliver of moon shone. At one point, I stopped and had us all turn off our headlamps to just stare at the dark night.  It was spectacular! 

Purgatory finally came into view and I was elated. I ate some broth and noodles.  I gave someone my spare set of batteries, since I had just put fresh ones in my headlamp, plus had a spare waiting in 4 miles if needed.  In exchange, someone gave me a peppermint to help soothe my throat which was raw from all the coughing.  We had lost James on the last mile of the trek in, but he arrived just as we were heading out. 

Up and over the ski resort of Monarch, back to some single track down to Monarch Pass.  We arrived just before sunrise, so had to keep our night gear for a few more miles, but I was able to drop the tights and extra glove as the remaining portion of the race was a lower altitude and below the treeline.  Liz was waiting to pick up Meghan, who was about half hour behind me.  She gave me a big moral boost.

I was again on familiar territory, as I had also been the sweep from Monarch to Foose’s last year. And it was light out!  However, once again, my memory of the trail was less than correct.  I recalled the steeper sections at the top, but once we got to the bottom, the rolling and long road seemed to go on forever.  Finally, we got to Foose’s.  As mentioned before, I took a bit extra time here to drop gear and get some watermelon as well as broth, anything that could get a few calories in me.  Leaving Foose’s, the sun was up and starting to heat the day up.  The first part to Blank’s Cabin was a bit of a slog for me, but somewhere towards the end, I got a second wind and started running and moving.  I got to Blank’s feeling great again.  That feeling didn’t last long.  Walking out with food in hand, my tummy once again turned.  Damn… at this point, I no longer had a pacer, as Dave needed to stop at Blank’s, so I was on my own.   It was up to me to get out of my head and keep moving.  I will admit quitting at Raspberry 2 crossed my mind several times, but each time, I’d remind myself that I was well ahead of cut-offs and needed to keep moving.  There was no excuse not to finish.

The Colorado trail from Blank’s to Raspberry went on forever.  At one point a hiker came up the opposite direction and told me I had about 2 miles.  That was really demoralizing, since I thought I had less than a mile.  Finally, I arrived and Liz was there.  I cried and hugged her.  She immediately took control and got me to eat some watermelon and broth as well as a banana.  I walked out feeling good again…for a few minutes.  The sun was now in full mode and this last section was exposed for the most part.  I sucked it up and pushed forward.  I was hoping to run the last downhill section, but it was loose rock and sand, so I didn’t trust myself to go to fast.  I was able to run some of the gravel road.  Then for the last climb up to the finish line.  As I started up this road, a squall popped up.  The wind was whipping and there was a bit of rain.  I crested the hill and got to the field where I started to run again (why does it seem like all our troubles go away as the finish line is in sight?).  As I came down the finish chute, Mark was waiting for me.  As was Caleb and Kelsey and Kelly.  It was spectacular.  The wind was blowing fiercely as the squall threatened.  I had earned my buckle.  My official time was 34 hours and 2 minutes.   I had predicted my time would be between 32-34 hours, so I’m pretty happy.

After a quick shower, we returned for the awards ceremony.  High Lonesome presents every starter with a bottle of Law’s Whiskey.  The catch is that you get it after the race is done.  Last year, a storm arrived at awards time.  This year, the squall that hit while I was finishing was long gone and the sun was shining.  Such fun!

One final thanks to Coach Corrine Malcolm for getting me to the start line healthy and with the confidence needed to tackle this challenge.  I live at 1000 feet with very few hills, let alone a mountain at 12k with 5 miles of climbing.  Was I nervous, yes.  But, I also knew I had a good solid training base.  I had been to C-Springs twice in the past 2 months and had put some intense heat training in the weeks prior. Running when it was 95 feeling like 105 was tough, but I knew it would at least replicate the effort that the altitude would require.

I don't know what my next race will be, as I need to to get a thesis proposal done this fall.  Right now, I'm seriously considering putting my name in the lottery for High Lonesome next year.  And if not, I'm going back to volunteer.  I love this group of people and race.

#ctsathlete #highlonesome100