Archive for the ‘colorado’ Category

“When I walk beside her
I am the better man
When I look to leave her
I always stagger back again

Once I built an ivory tower
So I could worship from above
When I climb down to be set free
She took me in again

There’s a big

A big hard sun
Beating on the big people
In a big hard world” – Eddie Vedder ‘Hard Sun’

I have not made any secret over the last year that running is, for me, something much more than just running.  It’s a spiritual experience, but in my obsessive quest to get a buckle at Leadville, I think I started to lose sight of that when I would step to the line at races.

All of the money that would spend to get there, all of the people on the course competing, the reliance on manufactured aid, and strict courses and cut offs would get into my head. I would get caught up in the need to compete with the runners around me, and lose my ability to stay connected to what I was seeking when I started running ultras.  Then I walked up to the starting line at the mouth of Canyon de Chelly and everything changed.

I ran through the Canyon with its towering walls surrounding me, teeming with life, and joy, listening to the shouts of other runners echoing throughout, pushing myself to go further not because I wanted to get a time, or a buckle, or a shiny new medal, but because I was on the trail to experience the journey.  I remembered that this feeling is what I am running towards when I go out for a run.  I remembered that my destination is not supposed to be a finish line, but the realization that I am part of something bigger, and that I am the only person who places limits on where the journey takes me and how far. It reminded me of the mantra from Jeremy Wolf put out into the universe in a yoga class I have quoted so often, “My mind is empty, and my body is as vast and as expansive as the sky”.  I know this mantra is true, but how do I really make it real?

Since the race I have thought a lot about what all of this means.  I do love races, the environment, the cheering volunteers at Aid Stations, having logistics taken care of, and the comradery of running on a course with my fellow Runners Roost Teammates, having my friends and beautiful girlfriend out cheering… all of that is something I will never get tired of.  That being said, I have struggled to figure out how I keep this feeling of freedom I experienced in Canyon de Chelly alive.

Yesterday, while I was driving to work, listening to the “Into the Wild” Soundtrack by Eddie Vedder, the answer struck me and it was simple.  I do this by doing something that pushes me into that place where you only have yourself to rely on while facing a monumental task.  I could do this by running 100 miles, unsupported in the Colorado Rockies.  To do this, I would need to leave behind my attachment to the frills of a race, the comfort of aid stations, the surety that course markings and pacers provide.

I had the thought that maybe, just maybe, some of those external rewards and trappings of races have diverted our attention away from what many ultra-runners are trying to find in their experiences.  The buckle at the end, the shirts, the bibs, the status of finishing a given race takes our attention off of the journey.  And even if we try our best to maintain our focus on the journey, inevitably our attachment to the external rewards will take over at some point and contaminate the experience.  If that’s true, or even possible, then to really understand I would have to do away with all of those things, and head out onto the trail without them, or the hope of those frills as a way to keep me going.

So, I now have the goal of finishing a 100 mile unsupported run through the Colorado Rockies.  After putting up a post stating this goal on Facebook, one of my friends and Runner’s Roost Teammates Ben Reeves chimed in saying he has wanted to do this for some time and even has a route.  It would run trail from Denver to Breckenridge.  It would be epic.  And it will be a goal of mine to make this happen before the end of 2014.  There may some others who join me for this journey, but the purpose will remain the same; to maintain purity in running through the wilds of Colorado.  I am not walking away from races, but this is definitly a primary goal for me now.  More to come!

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“But if you close your eyes,does it almost feel like nothing changed at all, and if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before how am I gonna be an optimist about this?”  – Pompeii by Bastille

As I sat at the Sheep’s Gulch Trailhead at 650pm, in the quiet gravel parking lot next to my friends car, sitting for the first time in 49 miles, I couldn’t help but think back on how I got there.  It had not seemed like such a long day, and I felt good, but my race was over too soon again.  Why?

I had arrived in Leadville on Wednesday night, slept in my car on Fremont Pass, and spent Thursday wandering Leadville.  I even had an opportunity to go up to Independence Pass and hike/jog 3 miles at 12,000ft and felt really good.

On Friday, I went to the pre-race meeting, which had been moved to the Middle School from the 6th Street Gym.  Given the increase in field

A pano from my hie/run on independence pass the Thursday before the race

A pano from my hie/run on independence pass the Thursday before the race

this was probably a smart decision.  It was also eye opening in regards to how many people would be out on the course.  1200 people were registered, a record number, and it was a hot topic around town.  Jason, Lindsey and Jenn had arrived during the meeting and couldn’t get through to the floor space I had saved for them so I met up with them right after, and we went over crew stuff, then we went for a field trip to the aid stations and crew areas they had not been to before, and I was in bed by 7pm.  I felt like I had set myself up pretty well despite the rocky 3 weeks leading to the race with my asthma acting up to the point I had to go on a prednisone treatment and a minor sprain a week before.

I fell asleep quickly, but the alarm at 2am seemed to come so quickly.  I woke up; crawled out of the tent I had put up in the back yard of the Runner’s Roost/New Balance House, and wandered inside to get ready.  I was wide awake but it was nice when Corky, who was also camped out back, came in so I had someone else to chat with.  The house slowly woke up things seemed to be filled with positive energy.  Ed said he would give us a ride to the start line, so we piled into the Roost Mobile and cruised into downtown.  The energy was fantastic, there were lots of people I knew, and as almost 1000 runners packed into the starting shoot it felt more and more real.  But it also felt different than all the other hundreds I have run, so many people, so much light, so much music, so much production, it didn’t feel like the home grown ultras I was used to, but all this stuff comes with always having other people to talk to on the trails I guess.  I was excited to get going, and was chilly standing around in my singlet so when I saw the silhouette of Ken Choubler on the other side of the start line with his shotgun pointed up I was excited to get going.  The boom of the gun sent us running and I warmed right up!

Me and Kirt before the race - photo by David Manthey

Me and Kirt before the race – photo by David Manthey

This race starts so much faster than most hundreds, or mountain ultras in general.  It starts dominantly downhill, with a few ups in the first 4 miles before climbing a steep rocky hill to Turquoise Lake. I kept a good pace on this section and felt good as I kept up on calories by eating EFS Liquid Shot.  We made it onto the Turquoise Lake Trail, and my fears of the conga line quickly disappeared.  It seemed by going out a little bit faster I was able to avoid the slower part of it.  That didn’t stop me from buying some real estate 3 miles around the lake.  Thankfully the runners behind me were not trailing me too close and I was far enough from the runner in front that no one else got taken out, and someone even helped me up.  The only good part of taking a fall on a technical trail early in a race like this is the jolt it gives you, reminding you of where you are!

I came into Mayqueen dead on what I was hoping for as a best-case scenario, 2:30 into the race.   My crew gave me my gear for the next section, and I didn’t waste time getting back on the trail.  Heading out of Mayqueen was where I could see the crowds of runners.  We were everywhere, and as we funneled onto the Colorado Trail, I could see where the conga line would be.  I was able to do some passing, but it was limited, and I was able to catch up to my friend Samantha and then Erik, whom I have run with at Rocky Raccoon for two years now as we popped out onto Hagerman Road.

We talked as we made our way up the road with sunrise behind us.  I put myself on a one minute on, one minute off cycle to moderate pace.  It worked well, and I pulled out my poles as I started up the Jeep Road to the top of the Powerline Right of Way.  They were not worth it in this section.  I topped out feeling good for having just made that climb, and started down.  The poles were very much in my way so I ended up having to stop for a minute to put them away, but the run down went well.  Samantha and I ran together for a bit again, reminiscing on the time we ran this section on a training run in the rain a year before and had a rainbow come out as we worked our way over the top of the last hump before dropping down to the road.  It was a fun part of the race running with my friend and getting to chat as we ran.

My stomach was acting up as I came down the last bit, but was better when I came up the trail onto the paved road that leads to Outward Bound.  I was surprised to see my crew there, but happy.  My legs were tired so having that extra bit with smiling faces couldn’t hurt.  I told them I would need them at Outward Bound too, because they had the wet wipes and body glide so I could hit the porta potty there and I didn’t want to risk lingering when that occurred.  They agreed, cheered me on and I headed out.  I had promised myself that the paved section of the course would not eat me alive again.  I also knew that keeping myself centered in the moment was the best way to keep myself moving, so I put myself back on a firm one minute on/off cycle for anything uphill and running all of the downs, so I made great time to Outward Bound.  I have found that when I put everything in manageable pieces I do far better mentally, and that would also ensure that I would run over half of the road, since I was also running the entirety of all of the downs.

When I came into Outward Bound Aid Station there were so many people everywhere it was hard to tell which way was which.  My stomach

a photo David Manthey took of me coming through Mayqueen

a photo David Manthey took of me coming through Mayqueen

had gotten better, so I opted to keep going knowing it wouldn’t wait past Treeline.  Erik and I had been playing hopscotch this whole time, and this was  no exception.  The road between Powerline and Treeline had eaten me alive the year before, and I ended up walking way too much of it, so I kept myself on a strong 1 min on/off cycle here as well, and set my Garmin Fenix to buzz and beep every minute, which again put everything into manageable bits, and it was keeping me cruising.  I started calling the minute run my ‘one minute grind’ in a joking way.  I also focused on centering myself.  Part of the minute off/on routine was intended to keep me in the moment, centered in the present and focused on always pushing hard forward.

I made up time in this section without being stupid, was staying positive, and before I knew it was at Treeline, but now my GI track was talking to me loudly.  When I came in I thought I saw Jenns red hair at the far end of the crew area so I called her name and waved at her then headed to the porta potties.  My stomach was angry and I lost about 6 minutes here.  I had hoped my crew had seen me but when they didn’t come down, I had to get my pack from outside the porta potty grab my emergency body glide to make sure things stayed lubed up and when I was done I was ready to roll again.  I headed to the end of the area and the crew wasn’t there!  I felt panic surge through me.  I had only packed enough food for the section between Outward Bound and Treeline, and that was long gone.  Half Pipe Aid Station was 2 miles away, and this would put me behind calories but I knew if I pushed on, it might be my best bet.  I had a drop bag there, and I knew I had another EFS Liquid Shot there that would hopefully get me through to Twin Lakes.  I pulled out my phone as I kept moving, I couldn’t stay any longer, I had already lingered 10 mins total and they said they were on their way but were stuck in traffic and I was still ahead of my split.  I wasn’t going backwards on the course, so we talked briefly on the phone, and I pushed onwards.  I kept my cycle going all the way to Half Pipe, and was happy to see it when I came in.

A volunteer outside of the Aid Station asked if I needed my drop bag, I said yes, she took my number, and I went to take care of what I could while they grabbed my bag, something that has always happened when volunteers ask those questions.  I made use of the medical section to get Vaseline.  I looked over to where the drop bags that had been requested were being set, and mine wasn’t there, so I went to ask, and no one had gotten it.  As the volunteers went to get it, I made my way to the aid station tent, which had less than I was used to for food, so I got some soda, a handful of chips, and went back to the drop bag area.  My bag was still not there, but there was a flurry of activity by the building the volunteer had run to, and a minute or two later someone appeared with my bag in their hand.

Excited to finally get it, but getting panicked with the time I was losing, I reached in, grabbed the handheld, the EFS, mixed up the EFS with water as quickly as possible and took off.   So far I had lost 20 minutes to aid stations in the last 4 miles, which was too much.  I put myself back on track with my run walk cycle, and made time.  I was passing people, running moderate ups I remembered walking the year before, and was optimistic until I ran out of the EFS.

With 5 miles to go to Twin Lakes, I was out of salt, electrolytes and food.  So I stayed positive instead.  I pushed myself onwards but since I had a deficit coming into Half Pipe, the calories provided by the Liquid Shot did not go far.  I felt myself bonking as I headed up the Colorado Trail, climbing steadily, still passing people, but not at the rate I had been.   When I topped out I was getting nauseous, I almost threw up drinking water a couple of times, but pushed myself onwards.  By the Mt. Elbert Water Drop I was starving, my stomach was growling (at least I was hungry!), and the volunteers had a giant bag of tortilla chips on the table.  I asked, and got a curt reply that they were for volunteers only and that it was only 3 miles to Twin Lakes.

I have to be honest, this was like a kick in the gut.  I had volunteered at Aid Stations before, including course marshaled and one thing I had learned a long time before was never put anything in eyeshot of runners at an Ultra that you are not willing to share.  I know that is a water only stop, and they are doing their best as volunteers, and this is not intended as a knock to them.  Right at that moment though, seeing that food made my body scream for calories even louder, which was not their fault or issue, it just was what it was.  My muscles were now stiffening, and hurting quite a bit.  My legs were tired enough from pushing through despite the lack of calories that running downhill on the steep trail became difficult at best.  I walked much more of that trail than I wanted to, and lost tons of time.  When I came into Twin Lakes at 125pm, a mere 35 minutes before the cut off, I was in a bad head space.

Jenn was waiting at the bottom of the hill and I immediately broke down as we walked to the crew area.  As we passed the Runners Roost tent it was a boost to have them ask if I needed anything as well.  I sat down, changed shoes, lubed up with Tri-Slide and ate as much as I could.  I have to say that my crew had made a little bit of everything I could possibly want to make sure I ate, which was awesome. They really were fantastic!

I headed out, but with my legs still feeling blown, and the calories not hitting my blood stream yet, I walked more of the flats than I should have.  When I hit the bottom of the pass, I still felt horrible.  I looked at my watch, and began to question my ability to make the time I needed to in order to get up to Hopeless before the cut.  I paused a couple of times on the trail, and even took a couple of steps backwards at one point.  I really felt like I was in an impossible situation.  What do I do?  Keep going just to be cut?  I knew I would have to come down on foot regardless.  The whole time I was moving forward, but it seemed grudgingly.

While still low on the pass I decided I was going to push on as hard as I could, like the year before, no matter what, things got better.  I started making time, and after the last switchbacks that put the trail above the headwall, I started cruising.  I realized that I was doing ok, I could easily make the cut with 15 minutes or so to spare at my pace, and I would make up time on the South side descent and bounce back from this.

The positive thoughts, and calories that were now catching up in my system were doing wonders and I felt great.  I saw the last little switchback before the long straight away to the aid station about ¾ of a mile away and got excited, this was going to happen!  I was making this happen!  I saw a runner standing on the switchback as I approached, and wondered what was going on, and then I saw her.

There was a runner, looking bad sitting on the side of the trail.  I asked the other runner if they needed help, hoping the answer would be no, but I was wrong.  He explained she had been there a long time, 30-40 minutes, couldn’t walk on her own, and wouldn’t go anywhere.  There was only one choice I could see in front of me.  No buckle would be worth leaving this runner here, with another person who couldn’t get her moving on his own.  My brain screamed for me to just go, to get the cutoff, I could just let the aid station know, but who knew what was wrong, and if I left, and something happened to her, I couldn’t live with it, so I sat next to her, and asked what was wrong.  She explained (and I am not going into details about her issues because that is for her to share with people if she wants, not me), and we eventually convinced her to let us help her stand.

Once she was up, the other runner (who I would later find out was a pacer for another runner that had volunteered to take supplies to

A photo I took of runners coming up Hope Pass as I headed down

A photo I took of runners coming up Hope Pass as I headed down

Hopeless since his runner had dropped) took her pack, and I had her put her arm over my shoulder and proceeded to give her walking assist most of the way to Hopeless.  As we slowly worked our way up the trail, the runner made a comment to me that she knew I was sacrificing making the cuts right at that moment.  I smiled, and told both her and the other person helping that I didn’t care, but I felt my stomach tighten a bit.  Somewhere in me I needed this finish, badly.  But the reality was, it was gone, and I reminded myself that making sure she was safe was way more important than any buckle.  I was doing my best to detach from the need to finish, and did a pretty good job.  I needed this to feel like it was ok, like it would be ok, and I did a good job of it.  As we neared the aid station another volunteer came running down he trail, and took over for me.  Shortly thereafter I asked if I could head up ahead of them.  Part of me wanted to come into the aid station strong, even though I knew I was at the cut.

I came into Hopeless about 3 minutes after the cut.  The volunteer took my medical wristband, and my race was done.  I shrugged, and walked up to the aid station.  Two of my friends, Karen and Sean (both amazing runners) came flying into the aid station on the return as I wandered into the aid station.  It was strange, because I felt somewhat detached as I explained, a little numb.  They headed out, and I found another of my friends at the aid station chilling out.  I old her very matter-of-factly what happened, looked off towards the runners coming down hope and suddenly felt the emotions well up.  Right then I told myself I would not have a repeat of the year before.  This was all under my control at this point, I needed to get down, and I needed to be strong.  I knew my teammates would be coming through and there was no way I was going to mess up their races by being anything other than positive.  My emotions were something I could control at this point so I did.

It was strange, I pretty much completely detached from the race, it suddenly felt like I wasn’t even a runner, like the previous 45.5 miles were nothing but dust in the wind.  A volunteer came trotting down the trail from the summit of the pass, and when he saw my green hair told me some of my friends were up on the pass, and that they had been cheering for runners up there.  I headed up after checking with the Aid Station Staff first and getting the ok to go over the pass to Windfield.  The captain told me they had no way to communicate with Winfield anyway, so my crew would probably be over there waiting, and my friends, I knew would have a car down below as well.

I met my friends who had been cheering all day long on the pass, enjoyed a moment looking out across the Sawatch Range from the top of Hope Pass.  I turned and looked across the horizon to the North, and pointed out to Jason, Jesse, Lindsey and Jessica where I started at 4am, far across the valley, the town of Leadville tiny in comparison to the vast mountain landscape below.  It struck me for a minute, I may be done with this race, and I wished I could finish, but I had come a really long way.  It felt good, but there was still a bit of an empty feeling in my stomach.

I was able to be really positive for the first half of the descent cheering on runners because I was able to focus on helping another runner.  As it sank in a bit more, ran ahead of my friends and finished the descent running except to step off the trail periodically.

I had planned to get a ride to Winfield with my friends anyway, but when I came up to the turn on the trail to Winfield I found out that the race was starting to push runners down to Sheep’s Gulch so I continued down.  I got there well ahead of anyone else, and when I got to the bottom took an opportunity to have moment of real silence alone until my friends caught up.

It had been a full day, with lots to think through, and honestly, even after my friends met me and I got back to the campsite I hadn’t totally worked through everything.

Now, a full week later, I think I am settled in my shoes regarding this race.  It never feels good to DNF, but at the end of the day I know a couple of very important things.  First, everything that happened was within my control on some level.  Last year, I felt like the race had been stolen from me, this year I don’t.  Second, I was able to have some good come out of a bad situation because even though it was the final blow to my race, my race ended with a good deed.  I want to be clear about a couple of things though.

First, I was well behind my splits when I came up on the hurt runner.  I put myself in a position when I could be cut in the first place.  I know that, and at the end of the day, my DNF was principally because of that.  Secondly, I see helping the runner as something that simply had to happen and she was not the reason I DNF’d.  Had I been far enough ahead of the cuts, I could have helped and still made the cuts.  I do not want anyone thinking I failed to finish because I helped the runner, I failed to finish because I failed to stay on the splits I should have kept.   If she was there 30-40 minutes, I could have helped her 40 minutes earlier and still made the cuts.

Finally, and most importantly, I have come to realize that these races, ultra’s are amazing ways to test ourselves in supported conditions.  However, at the end of the day, its another day on the trails.  Sometimes we have good days, and sometimes we have bad.  The weeks leading up to this race were not good weeks for me, and my body was not where it needed to be for this outing.  I spent 3 weeks prior to this race hoping that my lungs would recover from some serious issues, and protecting my ankle from a sprain I stupidly acquired the week before.   I did not come into this race with my body healed completely from those things, that was an issue.  My body was still coughing when I started, and I am sure that did not help.

All of that being said I went out ran hard and pushed myself.  I learned more about myself, and how to stay centered.  I grew mentally, physically and spiritually, and in that I know I walked away a better person than when I started.   Everyone who knows me, knows this is why I run these races, not for the buckle, not for bragging rights, but for the journey the growth I experience along the way.  In that sense, I was more successful than I could have ever hoped.  I kept my principles, and my ideals regarding how I would like to always treat myself and others when put in a position where I could have easily left her and kept running, chasing a goal.  I acted in the way I always hoped I would, and that’s important to me.  So, I am ending this race report with a quote in response to end of the quote I started with; “How am I gonna be an optimist about this”.

“And with dust in throat I crave only knowledge will I save to the game you stay a slave; roamer, wanderer, nomad, vagabond call me what you will.

But I’ll take my time anywhere, free to speak my mind anywhere and I’ll redefine anywhere, anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home”

– Where Ever I May Roam by Metallica

“My mind is empty, and my body is as vast, and as expansive as the sky”

That was a mantra that was given to me during a yoga class on the first week back to training.  I guess I should rephrase that; my first week rebuilding.  I had taken a full month off from hard running, keeping my miles to 4 or less during the week and 8 or less on the weekends.  I was ready to fall in love with running again, I was excited to get back to one of my biggest passions, running.

When the yoga instructor, Jeremy Wolf, guided us through our intention that night, he told

Taken on a beautiful April Trail run going up the Dakota Ridge Trail

Taken on a beautiful April Trail run going up the Dakota Ridge Trail

us that we would be focusing on finding form by being formless.  Rather than focusing our minds on holding the asana (or the pose), we were to focus on our breath, and on the mantra I lead this post with.  Why?  Well, what I distilled from it was that if you focus on the task, on the idea that you will be holding Triangle Pose, or Warrior 3, or Horse ect for a minute or more when you are already tired, then your mind will become overwhelmed by that idea and your form, and your ability to hold the pose will suffer.  If instead you focus on your breath, and the fact that your body is capable of anything, as long as your mind doesn’t get in the way, then you can hold the pose, correctly, for much longer periods of time, thus truly gaining the benefits that the pose has.

I walked out of that class feeling lifted up, and truly excited about the miles I had in front of me.  In fact, my run home was one of the best runs I had done in a long time.  If I could incorporate this idea into my running as often as possible, how would that help?  What would that do for me?  As I push my miles ever upward, as I move towards the larger goal this summer of finishing the Leadville 100, how much more powerful will the experience be if I can successfully shut off my mind.  What if rather than focusing on how many more miles I have left, or what time will I finish in, I focus on letting my mind empty of these distractions?  What if I do this and I am able to discover (I mean really discover) that my body, and what it is capable of, is truly as vast and as expansive as the sky?

Running across the snow covered hills of South Valley Park the afternoon after a snow storm

Running across the snow covered hills of South Valley Park the afternoon after a snow storm

As I have worked to rebuild my miles in the month since that class it has been my mantra.  When I have focused on that idea, I have been able to push forward.  When it slips from my sight, so does my progress.  This year, it will be all about destroying the mental barriers that slow me down, that bring me down.

So, as I prepare myself for my first trail race of this season, and as I pull on my Runners Roost singlet, and approach the start line at Deer Creek Canyon Park in two weeks, I will plant that mantra firmly in my head.  It will be my guide, and will open my body up to its possibilities, as opposed to the limits my brain puts in place and no matter what the outcome I will have an amazing race; which is, after all, the point.

“Regrets collect, like old friends                                                                                          
here to relive our darkest moments                                                                                     
I can see no way, I can see no way                                                                                           
all of the ghouls come out to play…”                                                                                        
– Florence and The Machine

On August 18th, 2012, I dnf’d at the Leadville 100, after running 63 miles.  I wrote a report, I did my best to process it, and move on.  I think I did a reasonable job, but some of that had to do with the fact that I decided to run the annual Run Rabbit Run 50 miler in Steamboat Springs.  I felt like I needed to feel grounded, like all the training I did in the lead up to Leadville was worth something, I needed to feel successful.  I needed something, and I was sure that this race would give it to me.   

I put myself on the wait list, and I told myself that this would be a good idea.  Sure, it was very close to Leadville, but I convinced myself that getting cut 100k in meant that I really should be fine to recover and be ready to run this race in a little less than a month. 

I took a week to ‘recover’, and then turned the running back up to 50+ mile weeks for a couple of weeks, than restarted taper.  I made myself a pace sheet.  I would go for a 10:30 finish on the course, which was ambitious, but if I was going to do this, I was going for a PR.  I knew it was ambitious on a course that I knew to be a difficult one from every report I had ever read, but I have never been one to shy away from a challenge.  Besides, every race since Rocky Raccoon in February had been sacrificed on the alter of Leadville, in terms of how hard I was willing to push.  I wanted to go out and really run it hard and see what I could do. 

I didn’t really bother to consult with anyone that would have enough information to tell me anything other than what I would want to hear. 

Jenn agreed to go up to Steamboat with me, and Elizabeth, my friend I was running the race with had a place up there we were all going to crash at.  Everything seemed pretty perfect.  With the exception of the frantic drive to Steamboat after work on Friday (which is the ONLY complaint I have about the structure of this race, they need Saturday morning packet pick-up.  Its almost impossible to get from any of the metro areas in Colorado on Friday, without taking the whole or most of the day off).  Happily, they let Elizabeth pick up my packet for me, so by the time I got to the little mountain town a couple of minutes past 7pm, things were pretty ok. 

I got everything together, was ready to run, and went to sleep with every intent of proving Leadville wrong.  I was strong.  I could do anything I put my mind to.  I could finish a hard mountain ultra, and I could do it strong, and I could do it after having had run 100k at their race.  Or at least that’s where my head was.  Was this healthy, probably not.  Does it change that it was where my mind was.  No. 

The Race

Elizabeth and I were at the base of the resort, where the race would start with

The last climb to the top of Mt. Werner in the morning

plenty of time to take care of all those last minute adjustments.  The runners congregated with all the same nervous energy of any and all races in the bar near the gondola, giving us a chance to maintain some warmth, and a reprieve from the early morning chill of the Colorado rocky mountains in mid September.   Finally a race volunteer announced that it was time for people to move to the start line, and the group moved anxiously out to the point of the walking path that the race had designated as the start line. 

I looked up into the darkness in the direction I knew we would be headed, the race director spoke loudly, letting us know it was about time, and started the count down; 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and we were off. 

The course starts upwards immediately, but we knew if I was going to make my 10:30 time goal I was going to have to push harder than I ever had, so we ran the first mile of the course, despite conventional wisdom stating that you walk steep hills.  I made sure my heart rate stayed low enough, but we pushed harder than I had in any races up that point this year… I was exactly where I wanted to be in my head. 

We continued to push hard up the 3600ft climb to the top of Mt.Werner.  Despite pushing so hard, I felt confident.  I had read the descriptions, and I know the next section had 1200 ft of loss.  I had beat my split to the top of the mountain by 15 minutes, and had killed the worst climb of the day. 

Elizabeth was still tired, but she was staying with me.  The course up to this point

We ran through the trees to Long Lake, which was not far from where I pulled out my camera and took this photo as I ran

had been a climb up a wide dirt road that the ski resort uses to access the lifts in the summer, and in the winter.  It was time for us to move to single track, and I could not have been happier.  I was surprised, I expected the course to be more down over the 6.8 miles to LongLake, instead it was a broad mix.  There was lots of trail that was almost flat, a lot of up, and realized quickly that the 10 min/mile pace I had slated for this section was not going to happen, but that does not mean I didn’t try.  We ran the vast majority of it, including most of the uphill sections, still storing the 10:30 plan in my head.  If I just kept pushing, I could regain the time. 

We made it into the Long Lake Aid station, where I was hoping I could resolve the stomach issues that had cropped up during my last push in a porta-potty, but no luck.  They did, however, have mashed potatoes, which made me very happy.  Elizabeth and I made out way out.  I hit the woods, telling her I would catch up; after all, I would need to make up the time I would lose in the woods.  I pushed hard to catch up, running a lot of hills, after 2 miles I caught her, but I was feeling it.  I was having a lot of fun with this course.  The amazing single track was much like DeerCreekCanyon in terms of runability, but deceptive with how much actual uphill there was in the rolling terrain.  By 17 miles in, I was really starting to feel fatigue set in.  

An open area between Long Lake and Base Camp

I was also not eating enough, but was at least hydrating correctly this go around.  I told myself, all I had to do was make it to the top of Rabbit Ears, and it would be smooth sailing back.  Jenn would be at Dumont with some encouragement, a beautiful face, and some of my bonus liquid nutrition.  But there were still miles to go, this race was a long way from over, and I kept pushing.  Elizabeth was rebounding, and we were running all the downs, all the flats, and all the subtle ups, saving power hiking for only the obvious ups, but we were slowing down.  Unlike every other mountain race I had run this year, the ups and downs were rarely longer than a quarter mile in length, so you could never settle in, and all the early uphill running was beginning to take its toll.  When I had looked at the course profile on my computer, I was wondering where all the gain and loss was.  Now that I was running the course, I figured out where it was; it was all over the place.  

We arrived at Base Camp aid station a couple minutes before we were supposed to be at Dumont per my split chart. We kept pushing, but we were in the sun more than the shade now, it was warming up to what would be a Saturday of record highs in the mountains, and the long hard push was catching up.  We made it into Dumont well behind my split.  To boot, my time at the aid station was not well spent at all.   I was in a bad place mentally and didn’t use the aid station the way I needed to.  I pretty much refused to eat anything that would begin to catch me up to where I should have been nutritionally.  I was not even all that nice to the folks at the aid station.  I just wanted the last big climb to be over, I wanted to see a smiling face, I wanted a lot of things I was not going to get and it was weighing down on me. 

After eating a handful of grapes, a cup of soda, and a handful of Frito’s that Elizabeth convinced me to take, we headed out for the climb up Rabbit Ears. 

The climb up to the feature was nothing like I had expected.  For some reason I

Elizabeth running ahead of me on the last mile into Dumont outbound.

had convinced myself it would be single track through trees up to the top, but instead it was a long 4-wheel drive road that was almost completely exposed to the sun.  This was no doubt my least favourite part of the course, and the upper portion of the trail was so steep and loose that I was difficult to run on the return.  When we got to the top, the volunteers wrote down our bib numbers before we turned around and headed back.

I had hoped that the run down would go much better than it did, but I really struggled.  My legs felt like the were filled with Lead, the sun was really starting to get to me, and I couldn’t get outside of my own head.  Elizabeth got out ahead of me, and at this point I was good with that.  I just wanted to be done at this point, but knew I had a long road still.  At least I knew what the course looked like on the way out, so I knew what I should expect, but that meant I knew it wasn’t a cruiser on the way back either.  Something I had banked on when I did my split chart.  Aside from that, I didn’t want Elizabeth held up waiting for me. 

I came into Dumont for the second time hurting, feeling like all of my energy had been sapped out of me, and way behind schedule.  I knew I had gone out way too fast and I had underestimated the course in a huge way, and had over-estimated how recovered I was from Leadville.  My negativity was starting to poison my mind, and I wasn’t seeing that yet.

Jenn met me at Dumont on the way back in and I could not have been happier to see her.  She gave me my muscle milk, made sure I ate food, drank liquids and gave me one hell of a pep talk, which I really needed.  I spent way too much time there, almost 15 minutes, but I needed that time to get my head in the game.  I was tired, and I was worried.  I knew the course on the way back was not exactly a piece of cake, and I knew this would be a hard 22 miles back to Steamboat.  She told me not to limp it in, to run, and that she knew I had it in me.  I could tell that how worn down I was had been painted all over me in the 5 mile trip up and down Rabbit Ears. 

As I headed out, I felt somewhat rejuvenated, but somewhere on that trip up and down the ears, my brain had left the game.  Another runner that I started referring to as “green”, made a comment about being glad she had her flashlight for the return trip, and my head suddenly went somewhere even darker.  I had not expected that I would be out in the dark on the way back at all.  As a result, I had taken the option of dropping my headlamp halfway up Mt.Werner early in the race, and there was no way I could take that back now. 

I convinced myself that I could not get caught out in the dark, I had to make it back before then, but with how I felt, I was having my doubts.  This did, however, prompt me to start running.  I was hell bent on pushing myself as hard as possible to get in before dark, because if I made it to Mt.Werner, or LongLake with the risk of running in the dark, I would have to drop.  There was no way I could run all that single track safely in the night with no moon, so it was finish in the light, or not at all.  The cut-off for the race was 15 hours, but mine just effectively moved up.  I had to be in by 7:30. 

The initial effect of this realization was a drive to get moving faster.  I had to beat the sunset.  The trip back to the Basecamp aid station was mostly uphill and I did my best to push hard, creating distance between myself and the runners behind me, and attempting to maintain it.  Playing little games like this helps me when I am running these races, so I was determined to put my head there. 

Despite that, the lingering fear that I would be caught out in the wilderness at night with minimal clothes and no headlamp really started to get into my head.  I started to really notice my body aches, and cramps that had started to spread across my upper body.  I felt like my race was falling apart, and that it had spiralled out of my control.  Negativity was starting to set in, and it was becoming toxic.  The internal battle that I had experienced at Dirty 30 was cropping back up, and I was struggling to win.  Before I left the Basecamp Aid Station, I mentioned that I was without a headlamp, and I was worried about getting caught in the dark.  The staff sympathetically let me know they didn’t have one laying around, so I took a baggy with chips ahoy cookies and left after lingering there for way too long. 

I managed to run most of the first 2 miles out of Basecamp, but my GPS died, so I had no way of tracking my forward progress aside from my recollection of the course going the other way, and the cramps started overwhelming my thinking.  I dropped to a consistent walk about 2 miles from the Long Lake Aid Station, and felt utterly defeated.  I was ready to throw in the towel.  I didn’t see how it was possible for me to get in before dark with the cramping issue, and I wasn’t ready to risk injury to finish the race. 

I forced myself to run the last half mile into Long Lake, but went into that aid station with every intention of dropping out.  I asked the cheery volunteers if I could sit down in a chair, and they said yes, as they offered to refill my Camelback.  I decided I would give it a minute before I told someone I was out.  I wandered about, creating excuses in my head, I even pulled out my iphone and thought about calling someone to help convince me that it was ok to drop.  When I pulled out my phone, I saw e-mails, which I decided to read, and there were messages from my friends telling me they were rooting for me, and cheering me on.  Then I thought of Jenn, and her words to me “don’t limp this in, you have it in you to run it and finish strong”…

I put my phone back in my pack, thinking, “maybe I can do this, but I have to beat the dark and its getting late”.  I looked around, and said to one of the volunteers that I was worried because I didn’t have a headlamp.  He looked at me, and removed my last excuse… “I think we have one around here that you can use”.  He went digging for it, and my heart raced a bit.  When he brought it back, I knew if I was going to make it I would have to leave now. 

It was late, and I still wanted to be to Mt. Werner Aid Station before dark.  I pulled my pack on, hesitating as one of the volunteers started pushing me out, I was still thinking about dropping, I still had hesitations.  Then a song came on the stereo… the words caught my attention immediately “regrets collect, like old friends, here to relive our darkest moments…” it was the Florence and the Machine song I had used quotes from after my Leadville dnf.  It struck me, this was my moment to pull myself out of the haze.  Things might hurt, but what the hell did I expect?  This is a 50+ mile race through the Rocky Mountains, this wasn’t supposed to be easy.  This is supposed to be hard.  I knew that, but I needed the reminder. 

I flashed in my mind that this race couldn’t be about my DNF at Leadville, or proving anyone wrong.  This race had to be about leaving that behind, and letting those regrets fall away.  With renewed resolve, I started moving again.  I pulled out my ipod, and came up on a 100 mile runner, still out many hours later, struggling on.  I thought to myself “who am I to whine?” I was only 37 miles into this thing, he was 87, probably more and he was still moving. 

I talked to him for a bit, and offered to help him keep moving faster, I would pace him in, but after a very short time he sent me on, telling me he couldn’t keep up, and that he didn’t want to hold me back.  I realized that I still needed to run my own race, and picked up the pace.  My entire mindset had changed.  This section was going to have 1200ft of elevation gain, so I would have to focus on what didn’t hurt, I knew what worked, and listening to the parts of my body that hurt has never worked for me.  I started inventorying the things that felt good, I was still hydrated, which means I was drinking enough, my legs were sore, but I was still running without my legs screaming, so my form was still pretty good, my feet didn’t hurt at all (a huge win for me), so I had made the right shoe choice (how it takes so many races to realize not changing out of the shoes that work, in this case my Mizuno Ascends, I don’t quite know), and there was no chafing anywhere ect.  I focused purely on the positive.  When my chest cramps would resurface, I simply shut off my willingness to listen to that part of my brain. 

Before I knew it, I was passing people again.  I made a point of being positive with each person I passed, which helped fuel my ability to stay positive.  With each hill I made it up, and each mental landmark I passed, I had more reason to be happy, and to push harder.  My PR was long gone, but I knew I could still finish running hard, and I wasn’t passing on that. 

I could not have been happier to make it to the Mt. Werner Aid Station.  This was

I took this as I ran down Mt. Werner, the sunset was amazing, this does not do it justice

the last high point, from here it was all down hill.  A lot of downhill, but I knew I could pound this out.  There was no reason to save my quads, so after I loaded up on soda, got a camelback refill I took off.  I had kept my music on, knowing it would help drown out any pain, and I had no intent of letting anything slow me down.  Besides, if I pushed, I might make it down before dark completely set in.  I fell into a groove, and even though the chest cramps were still present, they were drowned out by the joy of running, and pushing myself to run.

I rounded a corner and the setting sun cast its red glow across the red and yellow aspens covering the mountainside, and made me feel like the universe was giving me a smile, that I just needed to keep moving.  I still managed to pull out my iphone and capture a couple of shots as I ran down the hill. 

Another runner I had been playing leapfrog with for a long time came up on me, and passed me as we both plowed ahead, so I decided I would keep him in my sights.  We ran together, but apart, as the darkness set in slowly.  But enough light remained to see without a headlamp, that was my goal now, down without having to use that headlamp.  I kept feeling stronger and stronger the closer I got, and a half mile from the finish, I was catching the other runner.  I really didn’t want to pass him, he had been running just as fast as me, so as I caught up I told him not to let me pass him.  He told me he didn’t care, that he was cramping, and to go ahead.  Instead, I challenged him to push harder, after all, how much further did we have, a quarter mile now?  So, we agreed, to cross the finish together, I refused to pass him, and instead we pushed each other so when we crossed that finish, we were coming in hot.  Night had overtaken us fully in that last half mile, but the lights from the ski resort lighted the way. 

Elizabeth had finished a long way ahead of me, so both she and Jenn were waiting

Looking out into the valley Steamboat Spings lays in as, I took this as I ran down Mt. Werner headed in

at the finish.  The best part of the whole day was sitting by the fire next to the finish line, eating pizza, and drinking beer out of the giant glass that the finishers received while cheering the other runners on as they came across the finish. 

I think I have lost the ability to run one of these races without the belief that I will always learn something about myself, about my ability to dig into myself when it seems like all is lost, as well as the positive impact we can have on each other as human beings. 

The volunteers at Long Lake created a situation where I had no excuses not to finish, Jenn gave me the support and the encouragement I needed to stay strong, and not ‘limp it in’, and my friends near and far unknowingly gave me a huge boost when I needed it the most.  I started this race report with the same quote I used in my race report for the Leadville 100, because that was where my head was coming into this race.  Ending, I think I have to use a totally different quote, the lessons this race taught me are maybe too many to count.  But in short, it reminded me that it’s the little things that count, they add up, one at a time in the negative and in the positive.  When everything is balanced, the larger pile tends to affect us the most.  In this case, 20 nasty dark, venomous little things seemed to build up to become an insurmountable wall.  But in the end, all the bright little spots made that wall less daunting.  All the positive words sent by my friends, the gentle smile, and firm words of encouragement from Jenn, the amazing support provided by every volunteer on the course; all of these things put me in a place where I could get across that finish line.  Thank you all!  

 “I feel so extraordinary
Something’s got a hold on me
I get this feeling I’m in motion
A sudden sense of liberty
I don’t care ’cause I’m not there
And I don’t care if I’m here tomorrow”

– New Order

This race has been the badboy I have been looking forward to, and training for all summer, actually more like for the past 10 months.  All of my races since Rocky Raccoon, have been sacrifices on the alter of the Leadville 100, each one planned specifically getting me to the goal of crossing the finishing line at the Race Across the Sky in Leadville, Colorado.  The second 100 official modern 100 mile race in the United States, this race has been around for 30 years, and crosses the mountainous area surrounding the highest incorporated city in Colorado.  It passes a 11,000ft pass twice, and a 12,600ft pass twice.  In short, this race is not a joke, and I did my best to train with the respect this race deserves.

Since my finish at Silver Rush 50, I had been on a modified training plan, fewer miles, but high quality ones.  I got in another crossing of Sugarloaf Pass, and Hope Pass (for a total of 3 crossings, and 2 double crossings), while moving out of, and getting my house sold.  I had spent the afternoon of the 15th closing on my house, the last vestige of the marriage that officially ended in June.

For me, this race was my doorway into my new life.  I felt like I needed something more from this race than just a waltz across the finish line (which I was not at risk for regardless).  I needed the experience of running this race, of pushing myself beyond what may seem sane, and into the surreal, meditative land that comes when you push your body past your own belief, and fall into a type of bliss that I had only found in ultra running.  But, as I found in February, at RR100, this is heightened to a whole new level in 100 mile races.  I was looking forward to this.  Its addicting, and I needed it.

As I parked my car on the Summit of Fremont Pass to get some extra sleep at altitude on Wednesday August 15th, just 2.5 days from go time, I felt confident.  My crew would be coming up on Friday, and I would spend the next couple of days volunteering at packet pick up handing out free posters on Thursday, organizing my gear in the bins my friend Lisa had loaned me, and acclimate a bit more.

My running buddy Elizabeth, and her friend/crew chief, Tammy, showed up on Thursday, as did Jessica with her fiancé.  It was neat getting to spend some time ‘relaxing’ with friends who had a sense of the challenge we were facing.  Haze sat over the mountains, and the smoke that had plagued the mountains this year from fires all over the country came up in conversation.  I dismissed it as just haze.  I couldn’t let myself think about fire haze, those particulates, I knew would wreak havoc on my asthma, the one thing I only had so much control over.  I made a mental note that my inhalers would need to be my constant companions on this run, and dismissed it, while gazing into the haze that obscured the mountains not 5-10 miles from Leadville almost completely.

Friday morning came, and I woke up on Fremont Pass feeling happy and rested.  I went down into town, cruised through the expo, running into my Runners Roost friends, Marissa was pacing, and a couple Roost Team Runners were there ready to run.  I was happy to know that I would have familiar faces out there with me.

I met up with the other runners at the place Elizabeth rented off 6th and Pine, and we wandered over to the pre-race meeting.  Lisa, one of my crew, and the runner who I had paced the year before met us there, and we listened to the instructions, the warnings, and the course changes (there would be extra miles added due to a trail change coming into Winfield).  We all chanted with the long time race staff, and new, “I commit, I wont quit”.  This is how the meeting ends every year.  Each runner is asked to commit to not give up.  I left ready to run.

I spent the night in a spare room at the place Elizabeth rented, and woke with Jenn next to me, she had arrived late Friday night and found me asleep already.  In the darkness of 230am, everyone crawled out of bed, and prepared themselves.  I pulled my Mizuno kicks on my feet, tied them tight, and at 3:40am, wandered out the front door to find out place in the starting chute.

The Race  – Start to Powerine

“This is a gift,
it comes with a price,
Who is the lamb?  Who is the knife?
Midas is King, and he holds me so tight,
And turns me to gold in the sunlight
This is a gift”
– Florence and the Machine

The plan was for Elizabeth, Samantha, and myself to stay together as long as possible, helping to keep each other on track.  This strategy had worked amazingly well at Rocky Raccoon 100, and while this was a totally different race, I hoped it would help us all get

Left to Right: Jessica, me, Elizabeth and Samantha

through the early portions of the race.   The gun went off and so were we.

We did a great job staying together as we ran the first 6 miles, dropping off to use the restroom in the woods, catching up to each other, and maintaining an almost perfect pace.  When we arrived at Matchless Boat Ramp, right after hitting the Turquoise Lake Trail, the ladies dropped off to hit the restroom.  We had agreed we wouldn’t stop and wait for each other in these circumstances, so I kept running.    I also felt lucky, because there was no conga line I was stuck behind.  Everyone I was near was running where we needed to run and hiking where we needed to hike.

I thought the ladies would catch up to me quickly like they had before, but that wasn’t to be.  I cruised along the trail, making it into Mayqueen only 5-6 minutes behind my planned split.  In my mind, this was perfect.  Better to be a little bit slow, than a little bit fast at this stage of the game.  I was happy to see my crew all set up, everything went perfectly and I was out in no time.  Only 2 minutes lost there.  The crew said they heard Elizabeth’s number called as I was ready to leave, but I wasn’t wasting time waiting, we had agreed, we were running our own races, together as much as possible, but I had no idea how far back they actually were, and I couldn’t risk losing time hanging out, so I headed.

The trail was exactly as I remembered from Training runs, and was able to get easily around the slower runner without any issue on the flats and downs.  I found more folk to talk to and run with, and before I knew it was running down Powerline.  I felt pretty good at this point, but made an effort to reel it in, no reason to

Almost to MayQueen!

blow the quads at this point in the race.  I was close to perfectly on my splits, a couple off so I wasn’t all that worried.  Just before the last real down hill, we came up on a gentleman with a cooler, handing out coke and water, telling runners just not to die on his property.  I told him he was an angel on the mountain as I cruised by, snagging a coke along the way… no reason to say no to free calories!

I got to the bottom of Powerline feeling strong.  I swapped out my gear and headed to hatchery.

Powerline to Twin Lakes

I left Powerline ready to tackle the long section of road.  I came into hatchery with porta-potty business to tend to, but was not feeling the best overall.  As I left, Samanthas husband let me know that she had just come through.  I thought this meant that she had come in and left in the minutes I was taking care of business, so I booked out, hoping to catch a running partner.  I planned on running most, if not all of the road headed into Treeline, but quickly started to understand why that section of the race is dreaded.  It is completely exposed to the sun, and I started to heat up.  With the sun directly on me, I started to struggle with getting calories in.  I settled into a solid run walk pattern, but knew I was losing time.   Samantha, it turned out, had been behind me, and caught up to me at a run.  She was moving strong, and at that point I wasn’t able to keep up. I had built in a two hour buffer and really didn’t understand how much of that I was going to lose in this section.  After Treeline, the course is mostly uphill, and I couldn’t get my body into a good pattern.  I was hungry, but struggled getting calories in.  I felt myself cramping, and just forced myself to keep going.  I got passed by a few people, but everyone seemed to be struggling here.  The trail was more uphill than I had remembered in training, and the heat was taking a toll.

Halfpipe came out of no where, and I did my best not to lose any time, but again, the going felt harder.  I knew something was wrong,

but nothing that would normally fix it, was fixing it.  Drinking more out of my camelback?  Nope.  Eating?  Nope.  I was confused, but

Running down into Twin Lakes

there was nothing to do but keep moving, and I did.  When I made the Mt. Elbert fluid only aid station, I knew it was all down into Twin Lakes, and I did my best to run all of it, but the cramping in my sides slowed my run.  When I dropped into Twin Lakes, I was hurting, and ready to figure out how to make things better.

My crew had things ready when I came in, I chowed on potatoes, but continued to feel fatigued.  I felt like waiting wasn’t the answer, so it was time to move on.  I made my way through the aid station, where I saw Coach David from Runners Edge.  He came over and asked how I was doing.  I told him, and he instructed me to drink more, to focus on water.  I then saw Ben, who gave the same instructions.  Water, focus on hydration…

It was time to face the beast.

Hope Pass to Hopeless Aid Station…

“Regrets collect like old friends,
here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play,
And every demon wants his pound of flesh,
But I like to keep some things to myself,
I like to keep my issues drawn,
It’s always darkest before the dawn”
– Florence and the Machine

I left to cross the field to the base of Hope Pass, and as I neared the water crossing a thought hit me… the GU Brew!  It has way more salt than I am used to, and I switched to it more recently.  I had worried about this, so my crew had dropped to one tab per camelback periodically, but that may have still been too much.  Oversalting would add up to what was happening, but now my options were limited.  I had a pack full of the GU Brew, but there was no way around drinking it to Hopeless.  I pulled out my poles, and started up.  No stopping.  Constant pace.  I knew how to do this, but I felt myself draining, as I became more and more off balance.  I was also feeling my lungs tighten.  I needed to get to Hopeless, I needed fresh water, I needed electrolytes without so much salt.

I talked to others, giving them encouragement too, it helped me to feel like I was helping someone else get up this thing, but I was fading

Crossing the River, outbound. I was happy to stick my head in the water as I crossed, it felt really great!

fast.

Jessica and Elizabeth passed me as I felt I was slowing to a crawl, I wasn’t about to alarm them, so I just let them go ahead, knowing how close to Hopeless I was.  We needed to run our own races, and I was not about to make them feel like they needed to stop or slow for me.  I couldn’t live with that, so I focused on moving, one foot, then the other moving up the hill.  Through the last of the trees…  as I came into the station, I was worn down, and in need of real water, like Coach David had said back in Twin Lakes.  I asked the volunteers to dump what was in my pack and refill it with water, but my lungs were still tightening, and I was out of it.

I felt myself wavering a bit when I stood, I knew this feeling well.  Dehydration was setting in, and I needed to stomp it down.  Fixing that would help fix everything else, but what else could I do?  I wracked my brain, what was my body telling me?  It was telling me food, it was telling me water, and my lungs were telling me air, with what felt like endless cramps low in my chest.  Time to take care of business.

A volunteer asked me what I needed and I asked for my inhaler out of my pack, hoping to not even take it off.  They pulled it out, looking concerned, and as soon as they saw me use it, asked me to sit down, which I did.  I was upset with myself.  I had made huge mistakes with switching my hydration nutrition 2 weeks before the race, and now my lungs were revolting.  This should fix it, but I had a moment, feeling stupid, feeling like I put my race at risk not thinking through things.  I knew what worked for me, and I should have stuck with it.  I broke the rules, and I was paying for it, but I knew I would recover.  I felt better than I had at Greenland 50k a year and a half before, when I had bounced back like a ping pong ball from hell, so I could bounce back from this if I did what I knew I needed.

As I was processing this in my head, the volunteer got an EMT to come over to look at me, and they moved me to a chair, rather than the log I was sitting on.  They took one look at me and offered me electrolytes.  Yes, that’s step 1, thank you!  I told them about the salt, and they agreed, I was oversalted, so they gave me water as well, and cheese sticks for food.  I was ready to sit for 5 minutes, to let things settle, but I had every intent of leaving.  I could not stay here.  I needed time for some of the electrolytes to settle in, but movement was an absolute necessity, I couldn’t stay here.  As I sat, I became cold, I could feel the electrolytes helping, but not enough yet, I drank more.  I pulled on my jacket, and they gave me a sleeping bag for my legs as I shivered.  I wasn’t fighting their help, I knew every bit would get me closer to leaving.  I was still upset, and panicked, but I knew I had it in me to finish; this race was not over for me yet.  I wasn’t about to give in.  Not to this, not to my asthma, not to by mistakes, everything passes in these races, I knew that in my heart, and needed this too to pass.

After 15 minutes, I felt like I was as ready to go as I was going to be, so I pulled off the sleeping bag to go.  A volunteer came over, and told me they were thinking I needed to go back to Twin Lakes, to which I disagreed, so they asked if I would talk to one of the Doctors.  Minutes ticked.  I heard the GPS beeping, indicating the minutes slipping away.  I felt ready to go, I knew I was ready to go, I was pacing.  The Doctor told me to sit back down, and told me he needed me to eat more and sit in the sleeping bag more, that he thought I needed to go down but would talk if I gave it more time.  I had a mini break down.  The aid station volunteer asked me what was wrong, and I told her I wasn’t quitting.  The doctor had said I was going back down, but I wasn’t having it.  I wasn’t quitting.  I had come too far, run too hard for my asthma to be the reason they sent me down.  The aid station volunteer sent a text to my crew in Winfield, letting them know medical was holding me, but I knew they wouldn’t get it until after they left.  In my head, all I could think was “I am not quitting, I am not a quitter, and you can’t make me, I’ll show you I can finish this”.  But I felt helpless too.  This was an area I couldn’t be the Punk Rock Rabbit, I had to do as I was told.  If I disobeyed, I would be DQ’d for sure, and possibly banned from future events.  I had to play inside the flexible, and ever changing rules medicine had, but how could I help the people now in charge of making the rules for me understand?

The doctor came over, and I told him, I wasn’t quitting, what did I have to do?  “Walk around the aid station, maybe do some running.  Drink more water”, and they may let me go, so I did, but the minutes ticked by.  I wasn’t going down.  They kept holding me.  I felt like I was in hell, the aid station name could not have held more significance for me in that moment.  I felt so trapped.  I felt so desperate.  A volunteer told me I still looked out of it, but I knew I wasn’t, I was thinking clearly, I was over come with panic.  I had to go.  An the minutes ticked by.  Beep, Beep, Beep…

I went back, a few more minutes, a few more minutes, 15 more minutes they told me…. I jogged around, I walked, I needed to go if I was going to finish.  I needed to go!   But before I could leave I needed the Doctor’s blessing, and it wasn’t forthcoming.  I went back, knowing it was getting too late to make the Winfield cutoff, one last time to ask to go.  I knew, if the doctor delayed me again, my chances would be completely gone, if he said yes, I might have a fighting chance.

I went over, I explained again, I had been jogging, I had drank, I had run, I felt fine, I needed to go.  He looked at me, and told me I could go ahead and go!  Not wanting anyone to have a chance to change their minds, I went to my pack, picked my things up and went.  It was well into the 4pm hour, I didn’t know if I could make it to Winfield, but I wasn’t about to quit.  There was no room, for anything, nothing but movement.  I felt like I had escaped the spiders web, and it was time to run now.

Hopeless to Winfield (aka fighting to stay alive)

“Shake it out, shake it out,
and its hard to dance with the devil on your back,
so shake him off
and I’m done with my graceless heart,
so tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart,
cause I like to keep my issues drawn
Its always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out”
– Florence and the Machine

I was intent on keeping good form going up the remainder of the pass, and moved up the hill without too much trouble.  I passed others, and I maintained a strong pace.  As I crossed the timing mat up top, I collapsed my poles, convinced that I could run faster without them, and started down the hill.  I struggled with managing the loose rocks for the first quarter mile, and was worried about my ability to make it down with the speed I needed, without rolling an ankle, if I didn’t use my poles, so I pulled them back out.  It had been over a year since I had used the poles for downhill running, but quickly got back into the groove.  Using them to stabilize my steps, I picked up speed rapidly.

I came up on another runner using poles, but moving so slowly, and asked her if she knew how to use them.  She was the first I had seen

trying as hard as me to make it down.  I wanted to help her.  I had tried to encourage others to run as I went by, but she was the first that didn’t look defeated.  She looked like a fighter.  She said no, so I showed her as I ran, and before I knew it I had a companion coming down Hope Pass.  I asked her what her name was, and she said Jane.  We talked about how fast we would have to move at Winfield in order to make it through, but I was convinced we would both make it, if what the race organizers had said about the new trail were true.  Near the bottom of the pass, I rolled my ankle, and she saw it, but just as I had done for her, encouraging her to use her poles to keep a faster pace, she encouraged me to keep it moving.  I knew she was right; there was no room for pain here.  Only running.

When we made the turn onto the new trail, the course marshal’s told us we had another 4-5 miles to go… What the F***?!?!?  4-5 more miles?  I felt my heart sink,  the task was now far more daunting.  It was 530pm, we had a long way to go on an unknown trail that is now well over a mile farther than I thought it would be.  I shouted back to Jane that we would still make it we just needed to run!  No negativity, only running, there was no room for anything else.

It was at this moment, the race morphed into something entirely different for me.  This was no longer about finishing; this was about

Trevor and Jenn running into Winfield

proving that I wasn’t the type to quit.  I wasn’t the type to give up to circumstance, or other people’s fears for or about me ad my health issues.  Yeah, I have asthma, so what?  Sure I had heart surgery when I was 26.  So what?  That was a part of me, and one that had stolen so much from me as a kid.  These are things, things that have no place here.  They had no room here.  There was no space in me for those poisonous thoughts, only me and this trail, and running like I was free, and like my life depended on it.  I knew I had something more in me, and now was the time to find that, and make this happen.  If I were going to miss the cut off at Winfield, it wouldn’t be because I ever gave less than my all.  I would make the aid station staff see that I pushed myself to the bitter end.  I wasn’t about to go out without a fight.

With this determination I called back to my friend, who I realized I had dropped, and forced myself along this new section of trail I had never seen before.  With my GPS dead, I had no way of knowing how far I had come, or even what time it was.

Driven by the need to make the cutoff at Winfield, I ran on, power hiking a few uphill sections, but I was not giving up.  Anything that wasn’t a steep up, I ran.  I tried to get others to run with me, I didn’t want to be alone in making this fight, I wanted us to all fight tooth and nail to get in.  So what if we fought and still ended up missing the cut, at least we went down fighting.

I felt like an hour had been stolen from me, that I was set up to not make it, but the Doctors had let me go, giving me even the slightest chance, and I wasn’t going down without a wicked fight.  Tooth, nail, bone and blood.  Nothing was stopping me from putting it all out there.  If I was going to get cut, I may be the only person to know it, but I would no I hadn’t quit, that I had fought every second to stay in the race, and finish.

I saw Coach David, and the Roost Team, I saw Samantha, Jessica and Elizabeth.  I shouted back I had been held by medical as I ran by so they wouldn’t worry.  They were all in the game, I was making time, but this would be close.  Coach yelled to me not to quit, so keep going.  I saw Winfield far below me, the trail kept going up, this was a sick joke!  But I wasn’t quitting, I ran on. With no warning, I saw the trailhead sign, but was told a half-mile left!  A half-mile and little time to do it, the cut off was on us, but I could hear the screaming at Winfield below.  I ran.  I ran hard.  There was no time to rest, the time to rest would come when I finished this, but it wasn’t now.  I saw several people standing on the road, yelling at us to run!  All I could think was “I’m running as hard as I can!” so they ran with the 3 of us coming down the road, turning, shouting “run!”

I was 100% tunnel vision now, but I saw Jenn pop out of nowhere, screaming at me to run, telling me I was awesome, but to run, and I ran.  I heard, my name getting yelled below me, my crew was down, the road, shouting me to come down the road.   I made the turn, and saw the timing mats, and was directed over them, to the scale.  I stopped to wait for one, but was directed by race staff to another, which I stood on, and held my breath… I couldn’t get cut now, not because of weight… the numbers popped up, 193lbs!  I had gained 4 pounds, which confirmed I had oversalted, but that was fine now.  I just needed to get out an run.  I stepped back over the mat, and was ready to get Becky and go.  I saw my blue inhaler, and told the crew to put it in Becky’s pack, I would se it and run, but I had a second, so I used it while my pack was prepped.  I told the crew, no more GU Brew, water only.  They pulled my pack on me, handed me my muscle milk, which I drank half of, and walked with my potatoes, eating them and walking quickly up the road, as Heather strapped my new GPS on my wrist.  There was no time to waste, I thanked them, and was off, following my pacer, Becky, up the road.  I let her know I needed to power hike this up to recover, and filled her in on the last leg of the race, but that my new goal was to catch Elizabeth and Jessica.

Winfield to Twin Lakes

“Run fast for your mother,
run fast for your father,
run for your children, for your sisters and your brothers
leave all your love and your longing behind
you cant carry it with you if you want to survive”
– Florence and the Machine

I was still in this thing, I had fought to make it this far, and the fight wasn’t over, not by a long shot, but it was time to push more.  This well of determination felt endless, and now I had a friend to help me keep drawing from it.

I knew I was a long shot, but I needed something to push me.  We agreed that I could not stop for any breaks on Hope Pass, and we

Headed back up to the Hope Pass Trail, on the new trail section with my pacer behind

didn’t.  We made out way up the mountain, Becky singing to me, telling me stories of her recent trip to South America, and cracking jokes when possible.   My crew had made me hummus on a tortilla, which Becky used to lure me up that mountain. Becky would let me know when we passed a previous minute per mile average, and kept going onwards, and upwards.  We passed runner, after runner.

Our headlamps were pulled out shy of the summit, but I didn’t care, now, I wasn’t going out without a fight.  We would make those cut offs, I would see those Dr’s again, and show them how strong I was, that they were right to let me go, and then go to Twin Lakes, and make that cut off too.

Becky and I came up with a game plan as we crossed over the summit of Hope Pass, trying to recruit other runners to commit to running all the way down the mountain to make the cut off, but few would even respond to that.  We would divide and conquer Hopeless Aid Station, she would refill my camelback while I got food, and we would go.  No time to waste.  And we didn’t, but I did go to the EMT, and Doctors to show them I was alive and kicking, they were amazed how well I was going, and I even gave them hugs for letting me leave, then booked, there was just no time to waste on anything, but I learned long ago, grace goes a long way to keeping myself moving and happy.  They had just done their job, they did what they thought was right, and I owed them my thanks for that.

A half mile out of Hopeless, I realized my headlamp was on the low setting, so I switched it to high, and ran found myself able to pick up the pace again.  As I heard Becky falling behind as she tried to raise the crew to let them know what I would need, I told her if I dropped her, to catch up on the flats, and then let it all out.  I ran that pass like it was daylight, I ran that pass like I was on fresh legs and like it was a training run.

I realized I had dropped Becky but shouted back and she could still hear me so I asked her to get my jacket and I took it off and dropped it on the ground for her to grab, and ran.  Without the heat, I felt even faster, and before I knew it was at the bottom, I let out a yell of defiance at the pass as I ran on.

I felt good, no I felt great.  I felt the best I had all day, I was in my element, this was my world.  Sometimes, on training runs on Bergen Peak, or in Deer Creek Canyon, I would fall into a trance, almost, as I ran.  It would become me and the trail.  It’s like everything in that moment exists in slow motion, every step is intentional, but my focus would hone in so tightly that that step was the only thing in the universe that mattered at that moment, then the next, and the next.  This is where I was.  I have come to run for this feeling, its so freeing, and I was there.  60 miles in, and as I ran down the pass, I felt like my soul was raised up to the universe, bared out, briefly pure in this movement.

I felt graceful, like I was in a dance with the mountain, and I had found my home again.  I felt this in SR50, RR100, and CP25.  This was where I needed to be.  This was how things needed to be for me right at this moment.   I had come into the race seeking this feeling, and even in the moment, I didn’t feel like I had achieved, it, because I was so absorbed by the purity of movement.

I broke free of the pass, and let whoop and a shout into the sky, “I made it down!”  I could see Twin Lakes in the distance, but the time to rest was still a long way away.  I still had to prove that I could make this cut off, and then each after that.  It was time to keep running.

Becky caught me shortly after the river crossing.  We could hear the people in Twin Lakes yelling.  Becky was on the radio and heard they were still letting runners through, so we ran, Becky had no mercy, and I didn’t want it, running was the only thing there was to do so I ran.

We crossed into the parking lot, the guy in grey was there from Winfield and he yelled at me to go, saying he remembered me from Winfield and I could do it again, but I had to run, so I did.  Jenn and Heather caught me crossing the parking lot, and as I ran up the road, handed my poles to someone, and cranked it out, I had to run!  I had to make it.  I heard my crew telling me things, telling me I had to look good, I had to look strong to get through, but all I knew was I had to run.  No niceties, I didn’t have room for that.  If they were going to let me through, the determination in my soul would shine through.  As we came up to the Aid station, a staff directed us to the timing mat, and then the lady with the scissors stepped out in front of my path.  I knew her.  She was the cut lady.  I had begged her to let Lisa through at MayQueen a year before.  I knew her word was final.   It was her job to be stoic.  It was her job to enforce these rules.

She said no more runners were coming through, that it was done… my legs gave out, and I fell on the ground.  I started crying; I don’t think I have cried that hard in a long time.  All I could think was how hard I ran for so long, how I tried, how I hadn’t lost time because I quit, but because of my asthma, and how I had fought, but it wasn’t good enough… Honestly, in that moment, I was crushed.  My crew reminded me that being held for over an hour at Hopeless wasn’t my fault, but at that second, it was little consolation.  My race was over, and I was nowhere near ready for it to be over.  I was utterly overwhelmed by emotion, and really didn’t give a crap who saw it.

After… well, actually I have no idea, I pulled it together, stood up, and my crew offered me assistance, which I refused.  I had run all the way in, I was not about to do anything other than walk with my head held high.  I was not happy with how things turned out, but I knew I never quit.  I knew that I ran stronger in that last 15 miles than I had run in any ultra, or any race, ever.  There had been no quit in my brain, only running.  I had done what I actually set out to do, and I walked away feeling undefeated.

My crew stayed with me, offering me food, and telling me how proud of me they were, and I absolutely believe them.  They are my friends, my supporters, they may not be related to me by blood, but they are part of my family.

I may not have gotten that buckle, but I ran without ever letting myself give in, and it would have been so easy to, so many times after I got to Hopeless the first time.  Does this make not finishing any easier?  Not really.  I have something to prove now.  So many people helped me get to Leadville, so many people helped me get to mile 63 in Twin Lakes.   There are too many people to let down.  So I will be going back next year.  I will be getting that buckle, not just for me, but for all the people who sacrificed along with me.  So they can know their sacrifices, their time, and their faith in me were worth it.

“I commit, I won’t quit”.  I meant it when I chanted it with the rest of the runners in the pre-race meeting.  I still haven’t given up, I still haven’t quit..  Even though the race in 2012 ended with me walking away without crossing that finish line, I never quit, and won’t until I cross that finish line, with my head held high.

“and I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t
so here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road,
and I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope…
shake it out shake it out,
and its hard to dance with the Devil on your back,
so shake him off”
– Florence and the Machine

The day after this amazing race experience, I am honestly struggling to process it a bit.  It was an incredible experience, and I think that may be part of the problem.  I was able to really find my center on this run, experience substantially more happiness than difficulties, and finish strongly despite an awful lot of ups and downs in my life outside of running.  I kind of feel like processing this experience is like chasing the will o’ the wisp through the woods; some things may be better left to ones own internal machinations as opposed to trying to regurgitate and risk spoiling the joy in the process.

Regardless, there are not a ton of Race Reports for the Silver Rush 50 that detail the course, so I am going to try to write this in a way that expresses the joy I experienced as well as course details for anyone headed out next year…

The Lead Up

 I am happy to say that over the last month and a half, I have met, and started dating an amazing woman who supports my running in every imaginable way.  I mention this because having her support impacted me and my ability to train enormously.  This allowed me to get up to Leadville and run at elevation nearly every weekend in June after Dirty 30.  During the week I focused my training on difficult single track trails in the Front Range and Evergreen, making a weekly Tuesday after work pilgrimage to BergenPeak, and running with Runners Edge for Trail Runs every chance I had.  Going in I felt strong, despite not knowing the course and set my sites on achieving a PR for the 50 mile distance. 

 My previous PR was set on a much flatter course in Denver, and stood at 11:31:56.  I wanted to

a photo I took of Jenn doing Yoga on Indpendence Pass the day before th race, it was cool just chilling out acclimating

come in at 11 hours flat if possible. I knew it might be a tall order, as I was going out to run this as a training race, so no killing myself to make this happen.  I would have to complete this task with energy to spare.  I built a split chart, shared it with my friends from Runner’s Edge of the Rockies that I would be out on the course with and began the process of mental preparation.  I was able to pick up everything I needed pre-race from my favorite running store, Runner’s Roost, on Thursday, so I had all the honey stinger waffles and chews I needed.  I felt like I was good to go!   

 Jenn (my wonderful girlfriend) and I drove up Friday night after preparing and packing what I refer to as my bucket of pasta, and made the 2 hour drive to Leadville.  We located a spot to set up camp at the informal camping area next to Clear Creek Reservoir just south of Granite, Colorado, had a beer (I was carb loading after all!), then hit the sack as early as possible. 

 I can’t sleep much past sunrise when I am camping, so we were up by 7am on Saturday morning.  I made us some coffee, and decided I would spend the morning showing Jenn some of he beauty this part of the world has to offer.  We drove up to independencePass, where she did some Yoga at 12k feet and I soaked up the acclimation before heading back down to Leadville for packet pickup.  On the drive in we could see dark clouds over the area the course was in and saw lightening pop periodically.  I made a mental note of the time.  The race day forecast was identical, so having that info in my back pocket was important to me.  I wanted to be back to Rock Garden from Stumptown before those clouds gathered during the race and having an idea of when the storms may build was invaluable to me.    

I picked up my packet and timing chip, and waited to meet up with my friends.  Lisa showed up first and mentioned that she didn’t remember the finish looking the way it did now the previous year, but assumed that was the result of being tired the last time she was out there.  The Mountain Bike version of the race was underway, and while we stood by my car, we heard the announcer bring in the 1st place cyclist who set a course record.  As the announcer was regaling the accomplishment he mentioned an important tidbit; the course was a mile-ish longer than previous years.  A well known fact about this race is that it is shy of 50 miles.  Previous estimates placed it at around 47 miles, however given the difficulty of the terrain, no one has ever complained much.  LifeTime Fitness purchased the race series on 2011, and it seemed they were doing their best to get that number closer to 50.  The issue was, no one knew where those changes were made off hand.  And did I hear that right?  A mile?  Really?  Hmmmmmm, that might effect my spilts…

 The rest of the day was spent hanging out with Jenn and my other friends who would be out running the race before hitting the sack around 7pm.   I was a bit worried, as the other folks in the campground were stoking fires, and I hoped that it wouldn’t prove to be an issue with my asthma.  Luckily, the haze wasn’t too bad, and we fell asleep with no problem. 

Race Day

 I woke up at 330am, and after a wet, chilly night I didn’t spend much time twiddling my thumbs. 

Left to right: Samantha, Me, Dean, Lisa, Front: Elizabeth and Jessica. All with Dutch Henri Hill in the background. Photo by Jenn

Jenn and I got dressed and were on the road to Leadville in no time.  We arrived at the start/finish area at 450am with plenty of time to drop off bags, take care of business at the porta potty and meet up with the group.  We got some group photos, and lined up, ready to go.  The race started promptly at 6:01am. 

Start to Black Cloud

 The course starts at the bottom of a steep hill, and runners have to reach the top to cross the timing mat that starts your race. Not wanting to waste energy just to get to the start, I hiked the hill along with 90% of the rest of the field.  I was able to gain a good position as I hit the runable trail on the other side, and seemed to be with people of a similar pace. 

 The course follows a double track trail for the first half mile, where there seemed to be a real problem with bottle necks, even on downhills.  Elizabeth caught me pretty quickly, and we bypassed a slow train moving down a steep hill on the right side, before hitting the first of many wide dirt roads. 

 I knew Elizabeth was a faster uphill runner than I, so I opted to not try and stay with her.  As

Jessica hiking up one of the Hills a little more that 3/4 of the way to Black Cloud Aid Station. This was where the hills started to show up.

soon as Elizabeth passed out of view, Jessica and Samantha caught up.  We enjoyed the moderately graded course, as it left Leadville and worked its way to Iowa Gulch.  The mantra I repeated every time I started pushing harder than I knew I should for this race was “remember this is a training race”.  My goal was to behave the way I knew I would need to during the Leadville 100 to maintain the entire race, and this section made it hard to judge what my pace needed to be, and did I ever feel good!  This was not a bad problem to have.

 Overall, the biggest difficulty of the section leading to Black Cloud Aid Station is not the steepness, but the lack of difficult steepness for much of it.  In comparison to the trails I had been running this was substantially more moderate.  While there were some hills that are obvious “power hike me” hills, most is completely runnable, and a on a normal training run I wouldn’t think twice about running.  The result was me asking myself more than I should have “should I be running right now?”.  98% of these trails are on dirt roads, and I was reminded of ColligatePeaks.

 We arrived at Black Cloud Aid Station feeling solid, but excited to make our first psychological check point.  This aid station is listed as a “Fluid Only” Aid Station outbound, so I expected to be able to down some water and go.  What was not advertised was that this was also a cup free aid station.  I checked my camelback, it was fine to get me to Printer Boy, so we headed out.  Apparently, shortly after I passed through the Aid Station ran out of water… Apparently this is the second year this has happened…

Black Cloud to Printer Boy

 From this point you can see the course up above on a road that parallels the track you are

Looking ahead just above Treeline, the road you end up on is on the side of the mountain to the left, its hard to see in this photo but its there.

running on.  Jessica Samantha and I maintained a strong pace, while the route continued to go up at a moderate angle.  Nothing terrible, but enough to wake you up and say “hey dummy, you are only 7, 8, 9 miles in, don’t push it”.  Jessica and I decided to stick with the pace we were maintaining at this point and not pass anyone, it was too early and there was plenty of running ahead.  The views of Iowa Gulch, with DyerPeak over head with the sun low on the morning horizon was breath taking, literally.  The lack of trees, and the sweeping views of the gulch reminded us we were nearing 12,000ft, and the oxygen is not a thick here.  Despite the lack of O2, we maintained a talking pace, and chatted as we discussed the fact that these moments are why we do this.  Absorbing the beauty, we pushed onwards and upwards.

 The switchback that signals the fist of 2 points above 12k is visible for a couple of miles, but the trail rather abruptly curves left and tops out at about 12,000ft onto a well graded dirt road.  As we crossed onto the road, Dean caught up and let out a whoop of triumph, we had just topped out at 12k for the first time of the day, and respect had to be paid!  With that, we all

What you get to look at headed up into Iowa Gulch

started running down the road towards the next mental check point. I took stock of this, and the fact that I would be going up this later, but enjoyed the 3 mile run back down to treeline. 

 At a little over 13 miles in, the dirt road becomes paved road, and follows this up to the Printer Boy Aid Station.  I felt incredibly good coming into the aid station, which was stocked with everything imaginable, and was filled with clanking cowbells, and cheering crowds.  My watch read 2:55, 1 minute off my predicted split.  Bonus!  This is always invigorating, and leads a person to linger too long, which was a mistake we did not make but still ended up there for almost 4 minutes because I

Jessica took this as we headed up into Iowa Gulch outbound

struggled to get my Camelback bladder to close properly.  We headed out, crossing the timing mat 3 hours into the race.  We were doing awesome!

Printer Boy to Rock Garden

 Jessica, Samantha, Dean and I all left Printer Boy Aid Station, food in hand, running down the forested single track trail.

Rock Garden in the distance.

  Again, I was taking stock of all this down hill, it would be a piper that would have to be repaid later, however I wasn’t going to let that ruin my fun now.  We talked about the joys of running, coming close to nailing our splits, and spending time running with your friends through the ColoradoMountains.  I think we all knew that this moment would not last forward and that the time we would start to break apart would be coming soon, so we enjoyed it while it was there.  After a good bit of down, we crossed a paved road and started up again.  From here the trail moved up consistently along wide roads and ATV trails.

 Some of the trails once you start heading back up are less than scenic, and I was starting to miss Iowa Gulch.  After the downhill double track right after leaving Printer Boy, the trail dumps out onto a dirt road, which then dumps onto an ATV track.  These hills were much steeper than before, and there was no question about whether to run or power hike.  This was the land of the power hiker.  I found myself tempted to dive down the road of negativity, but as Dean caught up to me he immediately took to chatting about the happier things in life, like the fact we were not so far away from seeing the people we care about at Stumptown. 

 About 17 miles in, we turned briefly on, then off a road, and found ourselves hiking up to treeline quickly.  As the sun shone over head, and wide open vistas came back into view, the song “Stairway to Heaven” popped into my head.  I misquoted it to another runner badly, but didn’t care.  Seeing the wide open Colorado sky seemed to call to my soul.  Before I knew it we rounded a corner and we were at Rock Garden.  The aid station volunteers were amazing, and had water in jugs waiting for runners to arrive.  One of them helped me deal with getting my G2 packets into my water bladder and refilled it for me.  I hit the Coke pretty hard, drinking 4 cups of pure sugary goodness, snagged some PB&J and was on my way. 

Rock Garden to Stumptown and Back to Rock Garden

 We headed out of Rock Garden as a group, but this wouldn’t last.  Samantha, Dean and I got out ahead on the uphill right

Samantha starting the first downhill after Rock Garden

out of the Aid Station, and as we turned right, heading back downhill into the trees I started to feel my body.  The upper teens are normally my hardest miles, and the sudden, steep and rocky downhill made me feel a little more stiff then I wanted.  I had gotten a little bit behind on my salt, but overall was doing well, just running this downhill less gracefully than I would have liked. 

 Samantha caught me quickly on the downhill, and passed me, but Dean and I caught her as the slope flattened out a bit and the next major climb came into view.  The leaders were now coming the other direction, looking like the badasses they are.  I focused on moving strongly upward as we made our way to the top of the 2nd Highpoint.  This part of the trail was definitely steep, and reminded me of some of the steepest sections of the BergenPeak trail, except without trees.  When we got to the top we felt like the worst of the outbound trip was over, even though Samantha let us know we would have one more decent climb coming into Stumptown, which we could see from halfway down the pass.  There were hardly any clouds in the sky, but the ones we could see were obviously clouds to be reckoned with if they grew up too fast. 

 Dean and I were out front, with Samantha just behind as we worked our way into Stumptown.  We saw Coach David about a half mile before the turn, and he sent us with promises of popsicles upon our return.  Dean and I were spurned on by the thought that more friendly faces would be waiting, but we were still ahead of our splits. 

 About a Quarter mile from Stumptown we saw Elizabeth coming the other direction looking incredibly strong, we pushed in.  I looked hard for Jenn, but as we worked our way up and around hill after hill, I couldn’t see her.  Dean and I were starting to wonder where the hell the aid station was, as the course seriously routed us up and down what started to feel like every available little hill before a volunteer let us know we had a short downhill jaunt into the aid station.  We found out later that this is one of the areas distance was added in.   

 When I got there, nothing looked good to eat.  I drank a couple of cokes, and dug through my drop bag to get more G2

This popsicle was like mana from heaven!

packets, but nothing looked good at all.  A volunteer helped me with my water and even opened my G2 packets for me, which I cannot state how grateful I was for, but I was slipping a bit.  I wanted to see Jenn so badly, it had kept me moving, but we had gotten there too early and she wasn’t there.  I pulled a muscle milk out, and tried to drink it, but it was nasty. At Rocky Raccoon I had used Chocolate, and the Late flavor was just too bitter and acidic for my stomach. Nothing seemed to be working in that moment.  Samantha convinced me to just get moving, that maybe Jenn had gotten there while we were at the Aid Station, so I headed out.

 As we left, a truck started backing out, and it was John Hill.  I was so excited to see another friendly face, and he was encouraging, which got me going a bit, but I really wanted nothing more than to see Jenn, but went ahead and resigned myself to the fact that I had come in too early, and missed her.  I still had a race to run. 

 Samantha and I picked it up and as I asked Samantha if she saw a trash can for my muscle milk.  I was not about to carry it the 6ish miles back to Rock Garden. I started scanning ahead for a trashcan or someone who looked like they would be friendly enough to toss it for me and saw red hair.  Wait, that’s Jenn’s red hair!  I couldn’t have been happier.  I gave her a huge hug.  This was worth so much to my morale!  I was halfway through, and I got to see this wonderful woman who I knew wanted to see me succeed.  Elizabeth’s husband and kids looked so sad that they missed her, but I let them know she was running really strong, and was tearing up the course.  I only spent a minute there, but when I left I felt so much better. 

 By the time I saw Coach David again, I was stoked and ready to tackle the 3 big hills to get back to Rock Garden.  I took advantage of a popsicle, which turned out to be the best popsicle in the history of mankind.  I saw Samantha out ahead, and was happy that I had almost caught back up.  To boot, I saw Lisa coming down the hill.  She came into this race after fighting an ITB issue that almost kept her from starting.  I was so happy to see her looking so strong!  Samantha and I powered up the first major hill out of Stumptown, which was a long dirt road.  I had expected it to feel much worse on the way up than it did.  I started down the hill, and the balls of my feet started screaming.  There was no way I was letting this drag me down, so when I reached the bottom of the hill and the stream crossing I totally ignored the small bridge in favor of a direct stream crossing.  The cold water felt so good on my feet that I was actually excited for the up, and the second crossing of what I was now calling ‘Hope Pass Jr”. 

 Clouds were building in, providing periodic shade from the sun, but were not threatening yet.  I knew making it back to Rock Garden wouldn’t be a problem at all, but felt like I was going to be getting wet at some point. 

 It felt good to pass people as I worked my way up, but started to struggle with breathing.  I felt my lungs tightening up, and half way to the top had used my albuterol inhaler.  It helped clear out my lungs a bit, but the side effect of speeding up my heart rate, nearing the top of the pass, was not what I was looking for.  Again, I put my head down and reminded myself that this is heaven we are in, and the solution to all of my problems here live in my head.   I celebrated where I was at and how I am here because I love being here and kept moving.

 I was happy to be on the far side, but was also ready to get the final hill between Stumptown and Rock Garden.  I had gotten ahead of Samantha on the way up the pass, but she caught me again on the down, I was feeling clumsy on the downs and wasn’t moving as fast as I could.  I was just… off.  I pushed myself to stay with Samantha on the up to Rock Garden and we rolled in with Dean right on our heels. 

Again, these aid station volunteers rocked.  I forced myself to eat some watermelon and had 6 cups of soda.  They put tons of ice in my camelback bladder and I felt 90% ready to go, but something was holding me back. 

Rock Garden to Painter Boy (Inbound)

 I pulled my ipod out as I left Rock Garden, feeling like it was time for a pick me up.  I was dragging still and a half mile

Jenn took this photo of me coming back into Printer Boy Aid Station inbound

out and I figured it out… my GI track was angry.  I remembered seeing a porta potty out there in the trees, and low and behold, there is was.  I prayed it wouldn’t be locked, and it wasn’t.  I pulled off without saying a word to Samantha and Dean, I didn’t want them to be thrown off or worry about me at all.  I was worried I would have to have this moment in the woods, and I dodged it!  I lost 5-6 minutes to the G.I. issue, but I discovered what had me feeling so upside down.  I headed out, feeling more alive then I had in a while, I turned my ipod on as I started running again and the song “Hi Friend” by Deadmou5 popped on.  I was feeling good running again, feeling alive and much less clumsy.  I knew I had a lot of downhill ahead, and I had time to make up now.  All I needed to get me going was a friend to go with the song, low an behold I saw Jessica out ahead.  I picked it up to catch her and happily pulled the headphones off to run with a friend. 

 We made our way down the hill, and before I knew it we were ready to start back up the last hill to Painter Boy.  I saw

Oza, (someone I had volunteered with at Greenland 50k and had seen with her husband at every race I had run this year) out ahead and decided I would try and keep up with her.  Normally, I am a talker while I climb with people, but she encouraged me to focus on the climb, and keep each other motivated by trying to push each other without wasting energy talking.

 There was truth to this, I put one headphone is and focused on moving.  Before I knew it, the trail started to flatten and I could hear the cowbells.  We rounded a corner, and there was Jenn again!  She cheered me on, and Elizabeth’s kids had come up with a cheer that was really cute. 

Jenn took this photo of me slamming soda instead of solid food at Painter Boy inbound. It was just easier.

 Seeing Jenn there was great!  I decided not to refill my camelback here, but hit more coke.  I was finding that liquid calories really were going down the best, and were keeping me as fueled as possible.  Jenn walked with me over to Coach David and… more popcicles!  Yup, at this point 80% of my calories were Popcicles and Cola.  I left the Aid Station ignoring my splits entirely.  I knew I was doing ok, and could still make 11 hours if I pushed hard. 

Painter Boy to Black Cloud (inbound)

 Leaving the Aid Station I was feeling good, but the bottom of my feet were really starting to hurt.  I was regretting not switching to the Wave Ascends like I had planned on at Stumptown.  I think those would have accommodated the swelling in my feet a bit better than what I ended up wearing.  I knew I was hydrated, so I took a couple Tylenol to cut off the edge, and kept the tunes pumping.  Before I knew it I was out ahead of Dean and Samantha and started focusing on reeling in other runners ahead of me, rather than how my feet felt. 

 I had one last climb over 3 miles to 12,000ft, and knew it was 90% down from there so I would set my sights on a runner out ahead, and push myself to catch and pass them, then another and another.  Each time was a bit of a boost, and took my mind off the long uphill climb.  Even though this is not a steep climb, the length, and the altitude definitely have an impact.  The clouds were sparse now, and the sun was making this exposed uphill section toastier than I had hoped, but it was worth it to not have to worry about lightening. 

 Dean caught back up to me a half mile before toping out, and making the turn onto the 3 mile track down to Black Cloud.  As we turned, you could see storms sitting on the SawatchPeaks to the West, and I knew that it would not be long before those storms hit us and was very glad that I would be safely below treeline when they did. 

 Heading down this trail was much more painful than it should have been.  The balls of my feet were really starting to hurt, and it was slowing me down on this rocky trail.  I had the strength to go faster, but my feet felt like someone was pounding them.  I was not about to walk any of this I didn’t have to, and started focusing on my music, my footing, and nothing else.  I knew I had slowed down, as a couple of people passed me, but I was hell bent on coming in as close to 11 hours as possible, and this still felt completely doable if I could just ignore the issues with my feet for another 10 miles.  I knew I can do anything for 10 miles.  I kept moving on an intensely painful IT Band issue for almost 25 miles at Rocky Raccoon, this was nothing to that.

 I took to singing out loud to my music when I didn’t think anyone was too close by, and before I knew it was at Black Cloud Aid Station.  More Popsicles from the wonderful Coach David, a refill on my Camelback, a bunch of Cola and I was out.

Black Cloud to the Finish (gimme some excitement!)

 Leaving the Black Cloud Aid Station, the skies were starting to mimic the Aid Station name.  The storms were on us.  There was no way we were dodging them, it was just a matter of time but I really didn’t care.  I was worried about time, but the softer dirt of the trail on this section was making my feet hurt less to run on.  I was starting to have some GI issues again, and was passed a couple times as I let cramps pass, but I wasn’t stopping for anything now except to pee once.  Relentless Forward Motion. 

 Once the storms hit us, people started to stop to put jackets on, but I was having none of that.  I figured that with only 5 miles left all a jacket would actually serve to do was trap heat and humidity on my body, and knew I would quickly sweat it out.  If this was the 100, I would have done something to cover up, but not here.  I was looking to this to bring my core temp down a bit, and hell, it felt good to experience running through the rain like I did at Dirty 30. 

 I was power hiking the few uphills, and periodically had to drop to a walk to let the pain in my feet pass but overall, I was moving.  I passed several people, and eventually had one last group in my sights.  With 3 miles left, I was determined to finish ahead of them.  There is nothing to win or lose at this point in the race for me, but it provided me with the motivation I needed to keep going strong, so I did my best to catch the group of guys, all of which looked like they were in my age group, bonus!  I could move up a tiny bit in my division rank!  I passed them running around 2.5 from the finish, I looked at my watch, 10:45, there was little chance of me making the 11 hour mark, but I could still beat these guys in, I knew that.  As I passed them I determined I wouldn’t show that my feet were hurting at all, no weakness, this was going to be a fun game for me.  .

 Shortly after I passed them, the group picked up pace and passed me then promptly dropped to a walk… hmmm… I passed them again, and they repeated passing me again in the same manner as before.  This was a game now, and I was all in for some chess with 2 miles left in a 50 mile race. 

 I decided to stay behind them for now, keep up a strong walking hiking pace, and when they slowed down, picked it up enough to get them to push harder to stay out ahead.  They kept looking back at me, so I got the sense they were watching me, and my strategy was working.  With the exception of my feet, I actually felt really good.  My GI issues were completely manageable for the remainder, and this was entertaining me to no end. 

 As we pushed up the last long hill, I came up close, could have passed, but decided to bide my time, and to demonstrate weakness.  We were on top of 11 hours and about a mile left, so 11 hours was gone, but I could still win this game.  I played up my feet hurting, and hung back a bit waiting to see the clearing that would signal the top of the hill we had climbed at the start.  I knew from the day before that I would have about a quarter mile from there to wrap around the top of the hill, go down and cross the finish.  I cut back the distance between us, and as soon as I saw the timing mat that marked the top of Dutch Henri Hill, I turned on my run.  I wanted to put distance between me and them and knew if I started running at an out and out sprint to pass them, then maintained an up tempo run down to the finish it would be hard for them to catch me.  As I passed them one of them actually complimented my turning up the pace, and I could hear them behind me, so I knew that they had picked it up as well. 

 When I hit the top of the hill I unzipped it, and pushed it in like I was doing speed work with

me crossing the finish… I actually paid for a realy copy of this without the crap lettering but the digital copy for $10 hasnt come yet…

Runner Edge, playing Coach David’s metronome in my head.  After 50 miles, this may not have looked quite like it would in Speed Work, but I was definitely moving.  I kept it up across the finish line and was ecstatic!  As I crossed the line I saw Jenn, Dean and Elizabeth all waiting.  Its so awesome to have friends out there when you are finishing a difficult race, but finishing as strong as I did made it even better.

 We all hung out and waited for the entire crew to finish, a couple had to leave a bit early but were there in spirit as every one of my friends finished the race.    

 I missed my time goal by 8 minutes, about the time I lost to GI issues after Rock Garden, but I think trimming about 22 minutes off my previous Personal Record for the 50 miles on a course like this is pretty good.  As far as the guys I passed at the end, I have no idea if they were actually trying to stay ahead of me or not, but I have to say their presence made that last couple of mile an awful lot of fun.  One of the biggest things for me is finishing these races strong, and they helped motivate me to do that.  In fact, this may be the strongest I have finished an Ultra up to this point.  So I have to throw a thank you out there to them.    

 I was very interested in getting my shoes off, and as soon as they were, the pain went away, so I am pretty certain it was swelling that impacted my feet, and the pain I was having.  I should have switched to my Mizuno’s at the turn around, but just didn’t have the motivation.  This is something having a crew for will help with at LT100. 

Also, I have to put a huge thank you out there to the Race Staff and Volunteers.  Even though Black Cloud outbound was lacking a bit, every volunteer was incredible, the timing was super cool (they actually pulled off live updates that friends and family could watch at half marathon intervals) and the professional race staff was kind, and endlessly helpful in helping my locate the drop bag I forgot to grab as I left. They helped make this race an incredible experience. 

Now for Leadville 100 on August 18th… let the count down begin…

I should be up front, I had not even considered running this race until my friend Elizabeth mentioned it to me.  I had heard about how rough of a race it was, and had heard mixed reviews.  Elizabeth was excited, and I figured its just a 50k, albeit a very difficult one, and would be a great training run for the Leadville 100.

As I did more research, I learned that this isn’t just a tough 50k, but a VERY tough 50k.  This would normally get me excited, but it didn’t.  In the lead up, I never really got excited about the race, just nervous.  Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to go do a beautiful run in the mountains, but I couldn’t get myself excited.  So much so, I really didn’t take my taper all that seriously.  I ran an 11 mile Bergen Peak loop on Monday, and even my more shorter runs in the days leading up were run very hard.  I prepped like crap, even knowing full well this would be a brutal race, which was just stupid on my part.

As though that wasn’t enough, on all but the Bergen Peak run, I had huge issues with my asthma after 2 of the runs I had done since the Sunday before the race.  I had needed my rescue inhaler after my runs on the 27th, and 30th, and I was fighting a cough for most of the week, so I had enormous levels of trepidation that I wasn’t sharing with anyone other than my own head, knowing full well that people would just worry about me.   With all of this, I couldn’t get my heart in it like I had in every other ultra I have run.  Honestly, the thing I looked forward to most was seeing my friends and having a day in the mountains.

On my way home the night before the race, I decided I would get myself excited by doing my hair in a Mohawk in the morning, and I knew I would see lots of friends, which was cool, but even when we got to the race, my head and heart still wasn’t in it.  And when I mean it wasn’t in it, I mean when I started I was consciously thinking this, but my heart wasn’t even set of finishing.  For anyone who has run an ultra, you know how dangerous of a mindset this is to start a race with.

The Race

“Kinda like a cloud I was up way up in the sky,

and I was feeling some feelings you wouldn’t believe,

sometimes I don’t believe in myself so I decided I was never coming down,

just then a tiny little dot caught my eye

it was just about too small to see

but I watched it way too long,

It was pulling my down

I was up above it,

I was down in it”  – Nine Inch Nails

(left to right) Elizabeth, Samantha and I at the start line

Elizabeth, Samantha and I started out feeling pretty good, but when the 300 runners hit the single track trail, the pace slowed to a crawl.  I am not sure when we got separated from Samantha, but it was pretty early in.  Once we were moving a bit faster, I joked a lot with Elizabeth, and even joked about the quote I used above, and how much it is like running ultra’s.   I was still in a really good space at this point. Much of the trail initially was either too rocky to run, or was fine to run, albeit uphill, but we would get trapped behind other runners walking.   We managed it, and around mile 3, the first big hill came up and became what I referred to as “the great divider”.  This first steep hill helped thin out the field.  We ran into the first aid station at 5 miles and felt good after a long downhill approaching it.  I grabbed very little food and headed out.  The trail almost immediately went back uphill, and I suddenly felt like I had no energy.  I had taken an electrolyte capsule at the aid station, but had already sweated a bucket load, and had eaten very little.  One thing I know about myself, which I was ignoring, is I need to take a good number of calories in on these runs, I have a pretty high metabolism when exercising, and I was not keeping up.

At the top of the first big hill out of Aid 1, we went through a camp ground, and the smoke from the fires almost immediately hit my lungs, and I felt it, but didn’t want to use my rescue inhaler if I could avoid it, besides, I wasn’t wheezing, but felt my lungs tightening up.   The light smoke would continue for the next several miles, and I continued to not eat.  Finally, at about mile 8, I took a fall going uphill because my energy was so low I wasn’t lifting my feet high enough to clear even dead wood.  This was where I had a moment of clarity, I needed to get calories in, and quick.

I started slowly, but methodically, getting a gel in and a honey stinger wafer, but those take time, and really just got me up a little.  I had dropped back, and happily let Elizabeth lose me, so she could run her own race without worrying about me,  so I was able to try and get back on track.  Right as we hit an aspen grove with some downhill, and I started running, I heard a runner coming up fast behind me, and as I moved over Desi was suddenly there, saying hi in her own way, which really brought my spirits up.  Another friendly face on the course, even if just for a second, was very welcome!   I ran well for a bit, but blew through my calories I was putting in fast, and I was way behind the curve.

I was able to get some really good running in, and I made it to Aid Station 2, where I went straight to calories.  I did my best to get food in, even got a small slice of PB&J down, and a couple pieces of watermelon, and headed out.  Elizabeths family was there, and had missed her, so I said hi and headed out.  The next climb was a killer, with the first scrambling near the top, but it gave my body a chance to process some calories, and by the time I started climbing the rock to the top of that hill, was ready to do some strong technical running down through the valley, and ran strong.  I even started working to get in front of my calories, and decided I needed some music, and the dose of “Substance D” I got rolling as an audio elixir, really seemed to help for a bit.  We were a long way from the smoke, and my lungs were opening back up, so for the first time in 10 miles, I felt really good running, but my poor attitude was about to catch up to me.

Black Bear Trail (difficult to run!)

We started up Black Bear trail, which was almost completely indistinguishable from the rest of the steep mountainside with the exception of the trail markers.  As if that were not making the upward progress difficult enough, we came up on scrambling, hands on rock climbing, to move along the trail, which slowed us down even more.  Still several miles from the Aid Station, I hoped this wouldn’t last long, and while we were able to get past the scrambling after about a quarter of a mile, the trail after that was so technical that no one was able to run it at that point in the race, and we were going steeply downhill.  For the first time in the race my poor attitude started to come to the surface.  I actually started thinking about dropping at aid station # 3, after all, the focus of this race was training, right?  And what the point if I cant even run?   When I was running, I even thought of all the different reasons I could drop.  Maybe if I saw a snake I could say it was too dangerous for a training run, or something along those lines.  My attitude was BAD and I really didn’t want to be out there anymore.   When I came into Aid Station # 3 I just wanted to be done.  I struggled with getting my camelback to close, and lost 10 minutes messing with that, because my focus was lost, and I was in a bad mood.  I had spilled a bunch of water on my ipod shuffle so I shut that off and put it away, so no music.  To boot, I only took a single piece of watermelon, and ate nothing else.  I forced myself to leave the aid station, after taking my sleeves and jacket out of my pack and placing them into my drop bag.  It was getting really hot, and I wanted any weight I had on my body off.  I would pay for this decision later.

The trail out of the third aid station was uphill for quite a while.  About 2 miles out of that Aid Station, I saw the clouds had built up, and there were a large number of thunderheads over us and they were producing thunder.  I thought to myself, maybe if the storms came in, the Race Director would end the race early, and I would just be done with this.  Then a runner I had done a lot of talking with caught back up to me.  We started running downhill, when we got a chance, and I had wicked side stitches, so she ran ahead.  I heard thunder ahead, and said to another runner, “that’s a bad omen, maybe the race will end early”.

The second I said it, I heard it for what it was.  I was failing terribly at the first rule of Ultra running, never get negative.  I had been for

difficult trail conditions to run on, very technical on the Black Bear Trail

that past 15 miles, but now I caught it.  I took my pack off, ate more gels, and a gel, and a wafer.  I decided this negativity was done.  No more.  That was my problem; I figured it out!  This run wasn’t just training for Leadville in regards to my physical abilities, but my mental as well.  I could not have this type of attitude and ever be successful at Leadville.  It was time to grow up, and run this race.

I started running, and since I was alone, I actually started singing out loud “I am up above it”, announcing to myself that I was going to turn this thing around.  As I passed mile 20, I told myself, you will finish, no matter what!  No matter what these clouds do, no matter how much they throw at me, if someone doesn’t tell me to stop, I will finish, and I will run hard to beat anyone from being able to make the decision to close the course before I get there.

I caught some runners, and they would be my partners in decrying the clouds, announcing that we had gone too far to be turned back now!  We all agreed, we would finish this thing, no matter what.  That was everything I needed.  My entire race turned around.  I made sure my time at Aid Station 4 was time spent re-fueling, and getting ready for the climb up windy peak, even taking some fig newtons with me in the plastic bag the wonderful AS staff were offering runners as “to go bags”.  I cruised to the beginning of the Windy Peak Loop, moving strong, and as I turned the corner I heard my name, it was Ben Reeves!  He told me how strong I looked, I told him I had some bad miles, but that was over, and headed out.  I had made it past the last junction, and while there was still thunder, I knew I would make Windy Peak now!  I got focused, and passed at least 8 other runners, I was all efficiency now, even running some uphill.  When I saw the lightening start coming down in the area around me, I decided it was the universe reminding me this was a race, and I needed to keep moving. The rain started halfway up, but I wasn’t stopping.

Runners at the top of one of the tougher sections

There was one more junction to head up to the top of Windy Peak, and I knew I had to go up that to get my bib marked so I could finish.  I saw a pair of bright pink socks running a parallel trail above me, and called out to Elizabeth.  She saw me as I passed the Course Marshall, and told me it was bad up top, it was lightening up there and they were turning people back!  I looked at the Course Marshall who said he hadn’t heard he was supposed to stop sending people up yet, reached for his radio to ask, and I looked at him, said I was going.  He didn’t protest, so I went before he could get on the radio.  Lots of people were coming down, all saying they were turning people back, but I was hell bent.  The storm really was bad, what I was doing probably was stupid, but I didn’t care, I was going to finish.  I knew I had this now, I had overcome my nutrition issues, my attitude issues, and I was getting this.

I made the turn to go up the last little bit, and was met by 2 course marshalls who stopped me.  They informed me that it was very dangerous up top, and they couldn’t let me go.  I was 2 tenths of a mile from the top, I wanted to finish this, but was not willing to get DQ’d for disobeying the course marshalls.  I told them it was tearing me up, and that I wanted to do it, to which they responded that 60 people had been turned back at the same spot at that point, and that we were all still getting our bibs marked, and we would have an official finish.  Knowing this was best, I reluctantly, turned back after thanking them for volunteering for us, and headed down.

The trip down was… interesting.  Lots of thunder, lots of reasons to keep running.  I saw Ben

even going back down was rough to navigate on the Black Bear trail

one more time, and he hollered after me to finish strong!  I picked my pace up, and with the wind coming through the valley, and the storm building up again, was encouraged to run as hard as I could and was greeted by my friend Becky volunteering at the finish.  My time, it was awful.  I came in at 7 hours 57 minutes, roughly (as of this moment I don’t have an official finish time), but I don’t care.  I finished.  I never let myself throw in the towel, and I was close, really close a couple of times.    Best part, the Mohawk survived the entire race, even through the storms.  Samantha finished strong as well, a bit behind me.  Desi finished ahead of all 3 of us because she’s a badass that way.

Now that I have had a couple of hours to really think about what I learned from this race, I think I have determined that the #1 priority is to make sure that before I step up to the start queue of any race, especially and Ultra, make sure I know why I am there, and why a finish is important, and infinitely possible.  In this race, I didn’t take care of my nutrition, because I didn’t have the belief that finishing was important.  Once I was able to adjust my attitude, not only was I able to keep myself positive, but nutrition became my priority again.  Second, is to respect the tapper.  And last, is that it really is the little things.  Each time I saw a buddy, or a friend, I was cheered up, and was able to overcome that negativity when that’s where I still was, and once I was in a good mental space again, it propelled me forward.  Knowing I had friends out there with me did help me keep moving on, even at my lowest points in this race.  Because I was able to figure all of these things this race was a success.  The fact I finished,

Chris took this photo of me at the finish, it was still raining but was worth getting a shot!

means this race was a success.  Thanks to everyone that was out there with me, both friends, and runners I spent time on the trail with, as well as all the wonderful volunteers!  You guys made this an amazing day!