Edited to add: I feel like I should give those not familiar with ultrarunning a littke idea of how it works. No I am not running 5k pace for 62 miles. I settled into a nice steady 10ish minute mile that I could trot along at for most of the race. Sometimes it was faster if I was feeling good or on a a downhill, sometimes it's a powerhike when things get steep. Trick is just to keep moving and enjoy the time and sights.
3am start was new to me. Got to bed late and only got about 2 hours of sleep. I got there about 2:30am, dropped my 3 drop bags off with supplies I'd need later in the race. The race was supposed to start at 4:00 sharp so I walked up the hill at 3:55 and off they went about 100 yards in front of me. Oh well. Plenty of time to catch up :)
Running the first 2 miles north on the left fork of Hobblecreek Canyon on the road up to the dirt road we'd spend the next 14 miles on was calm and dark and quiet under a stary sky but I talked with a few people I knew including Altra coworker Brian Beckstead who kept drilling into me that I must take the first half easy, easier than I think as to not blow up. I kept that in my mind and it was actually comforting to know it was ok to take it easy those first hours. Before getting onto the road we ran by a field where I saw lots of glowing eyes. Turned out to be a big herd of elk, pretty cool.
So up we went for several miles, met a new friend Dan I would be running most of the day with turned out. We eventually crested the canyon and could see the valley below us. I thought I knew where we were but my bearings were off. No big deal, I was only going off of time and aid station time goals I got from the great Davy Crockett from his 2006 Katchina. SO helpful to know about what to look for for my 16:something goal.
Got to aid station 1, 1:50, 9 minutes behind Davy but no big deal, a very early part of the day. Still dark by the time we got there and it was neat to see a tiny white light off in the distance to run toward. I left alone as Dan had made a stop earlier but he soon caught up. As we headed off toward Rock Canyon it finally started getting light and the trail a little easier to run since previous to that it had been super rocky dirt road, always jumping around to find a new somewhat smoother line. This was the longest rockiest dirt road I had ever run....so far. Was so beautiful when the sun came up running through a forest of pines. Into aid station 2 I was 20 minutes back at 2:55. Into aid station 3, 3:32, I was 27 minutes off Davy's running time, but 13 minutes ahead of his goal time. Finally time to start heading up Rock Canyon toward Lightning Ridge. After 15 miles of rocky dirt road it was so nice to be off the real rocky stuff and onto real trail (singletrack dirt, yes I'm a purist). I kept Brian's words in my head but know I'm a good climber and wanted to keep closer to Davy's times so I probably moved a little faster than I needed to. Felt good to pass people though, even if many passed me back on the downhill later on. This trail is beautiful, heading up into a meadow and looking up at the beautiful mountains and sun rising above them. Was so enjoying the quiet and peace that is a high mountain trail when it was rudely interrupted by 2 dirt bikes. I couldn't believe they were really coming up this trail. This was the most beautiful part of the whole course. Couldn't they have ridden down on the dirt road we spent so long on? It is so high and narrow and beautiful and quiet up by Lightning Ridge and yes legally they could be there, but the noise was such an interruption to nature, not to mention all the abuse they did to the trail, loosening up all the soil, ripping up plants in some places. I gave them some grumpy looks when I had to pull over twice to let them by. We had some choice words for each other a few miles later as they sat in the middle of the trail just past a turn I had to make, something about how I needed to share the trail and my shoes did as much abuse to the trail as their gasoline powered dirt bikes.......right. SO happy to be rid of them but I had to consciously tell myself to not think about them or my anger toward them, I even prayed for a clear mind from them. It wasn't going to help me at all and I don't need to be prideful or ornery either. So that is the last I will mention of them.
I got the top of the ridge at 4:45, 25 minutes behind Davy, but about 10 minutes faster than he did. Had he been next to me his probably would have toasted that 10 minutes heading down into the Big Springs aid station. It was steep and loose in places, I have been working on my downhill but this was still pretty challenging for me and I had a couple people I had passed on the up, pass me here. Bummer. I tried to let gravity take me and not put the brakes on at all, I can feel it in my knees when I do. Finally getting in to Aid 4, 5:35 at Big Springs I was 10 minutes behind Davy's goal time. Ugh. This was my first drop bag and I moved through it as quick as I could, but it still felt like it took a while to get out of that aid station. I stuffed like 8 gels in, left my headlamp, put my arm warmers in my pack, refilled the pack with water, sunscreened up a lot since it was warming up a lot and I didn't want to fry my stomach and back again if my shirt came off like I did in my 50. Finally got out of there and it really did warm up. I had a bit of a rough section from here until Windy Pass. Just felt like it took forever, climbed forever, my legs acted tired. I swore I kept hearing women behind me too and I didn't want to get passed. I think they were actually a couple of hikers in front of me. I didn't see 1 other runner in the 2 hours it took me to get between aid stations. I got the music out for this section. I was 15 minutes off Davy's goal time at Aid 5, 7:40 and 40 minutes behind his actual running time. Double ugh. My goal wasn't super firm in that this was my first 100k so I wouldn't be super angry if I didn't get it, but I also didn't want this to take all day. That aid station was great, the Addict 2 Athlete crew were great! I grabbed my first flask of coke and a half a PB&J sandwich. I saw Dan there but he left before I did. The ridge line running for the next mile or two after this aid station was neat and a nice break to get to run again.
The next section did seem long at times but not as bad as the last until the very end when I'd caught up with Dan again and thought we were were almost there when we really weren't. I copied the race director's very detailed course description onto my phone so I had an idea of what was coming or where I was. Turns out 1 sentence doesn't always mean you're not an hour away from the next sentence :) I was very much looking forward to getting to Little Valley because I was running low on water in my pack and other supplies, getting hungry for food, thought of it as my over the halfway point since it was 38 of the 62 I'd run that day, but mostly it was because my family would be there. After finally getting to that switchback we'd been looking for for a while and realizing it was indeed the right one that was close to the aid station, passed by a trickling spring I tried to drink out of. I could finally see the tops of some cars off in the distance and I was finally there. 30 minutes behind goal time into Aid 6, 9:57 at Little Valley. Jer and the kids were up the road ready and waiting for me. Was SO happy to see them! I handed my pack off to Jer to repack with my 2nd drop bag and I ran with only my flask of water on the 1.3 mile out and back we had to do there. When I got back I sat down (*gasp!*) and enjoyed my family for a second before heading out. They gave me a coke, wet washcloth to wipe down with, we put new sunscreen on, a wet shirt, new insoles in my shoes as my feet were getting tired. 30 minutes later, whoops, I left. After I got stung by a bee. Ouch. I was leaving at least 45 minutes behind goal pace and I had Jer let my friend and pacer Zac know so he could leave later.
Wow, it was nice knowing we had less than a marathon left, but the next almost 20 miles were so long and boring and arduous. Gone were the beautiful vistas and smooth trail. It was back to big rock bumpy dirt road sometimes with such deep ruts you were jumping all over the place, there was no easy running. I caught up to Dan after a several mile climb which I was grateful for because I hadn't seen anyone in those miles or any flagging and was a little concerned I wasn't going the right way. The sky was looking grumbly and I thought we'd get rained on but it held off. According to Davy's goal, the next section was a long one, 3 hours before another aid station. Turns out we either made good time or this is where Davy's day got hard. I knew in advance that he walked the last 18 or so miles at 4 miles/hour so if I could close to back on pace and my body too cooperated I could still get that goal time. Well, Dan and I rolled into Aid 7, Bathtub, 1 minute under goal pace at 12:06! I couldn't believe we were back on pace, yes! We were a little slower after this aid station, I wanted to see the bathtub that turned out to be a dirty broken cow trough bath tub and Dan had to run back for his bag, but off we went. We walked so much of the next section. He was starting to have asthma troubles and at this point about 45 miles in, the area around my bunions hurt so badly. It hurt worse when we walked ironically, but he was having trouble breathing and I honestly just didn't have the go energy really and was starting to get a little grumpy. I stayed on top of my nutrition, but this was probably one of my 3 bigger lulls in the day. It was a lot of climbing too. We just took it as we could. This was another section where we were waiting for the "small rise" before the aid station we knew was coming according to the description I had. We must have gone over a million "small rises" thinking that was it. The road was rough and we were both suffering some and you'd think I would just look at my watch and know that we were not close to the aid station based on our time, but it can still get to you. We rolled into Dry Fork Aid 8 finally at 13:50, 14 minutes ahead of schedule. That was great yes, although I was concerned Zac may not even get to my in time now that I'm not 45 minutes late. I changed from my Lone Peaks to Torins knowing we had 6 miles of road coming eventually and hoping the extra cushion would help my feet. It helped a little. For a few miles. We left that aid station with the warning there was a mother and baby bear down the trail a bit. We looked at each other and agreed we'd be running together :)
Never did see any bears, but we sure hollered out loud as to alert them to our presence if they were around. You don't want to get in between a mama and her baby. So after we left that Dry Fork aid station I was concerned Zac could still come, but not even reach me till close to the finish and it's a 90 minute drive for him. I wished I hadn't told Jer I was so behind schedule, I mean I was 45 minutes back, I guess I could have done the math and realized I could probably make it up, but I didn't really think I could. I was supposed to meet Zac at Dry Fork but we left without him. About 3 miles down the trail from the aid station I spotted the shirtless wonder (Zac hardly ever wears a shirt). I had made a good friend in Dan who I felt interestingly bonded with since we'd been through 50+ miles together, but it was so nice to run into Zac and get a nice big hug. He was full of enthusiasm and helped us carry on down the trail that would eventually let out at the road at mile 56. It felt like it took a while but I was running strong once I got to Zac and it felt great! Yes my feet hurt but my legs felt great, no hip tightness or fatigue or lead legs. We got into the last aid station, 9 at 14:48, 17 minutes ahead of goal pace. I was excited to see 14 something, that meant I could go under 16! I needed to eat and Zac tried to push me to, but I wasn't in the mood anymore, was actually nauseous which was either from the First Endurance Liquid Shot gel I switched to after Little Valley, some Honey Stinger chews I was playing around with, or just being that far into the day. Nothing sounded good and I really didn't feel like anything, I think it felt so close I just didn't want to follow the plan anymore, I was almost done. In hindsight I should have taken another gel. That 6 miles on the road felt like an eternity. You'd think that would go by so fast after being out for 15 hours, but I kept looking at my watch every couple minutes, ugh. My feet still hurt badly at my bunions, legs were ok, but my mind was just ready to be done. I feel bad. I was grumpy and ornery with Zac and I regret that. He was just trying to help and I kept complaining. I kept thinking I needed to run off into the bushes which I did twice and of course nothing happened. Frustrating. We ran out of water with a couple miles to go so faithful Zac ran off the road to the river and filled his bottle. I think that was the first time I've drank from a stream unfiltered but we figured we were close enough to the finish I wouldn't feel any effects till after :) After moaning and complaining for an hour, we finally got the the finish. My family was there waiting (I was concerned they might not be since I was ahead of schedule now) and ran with me with Zac on the side through the finish line. I did it! 15:47! 5th place woman. I sat right down on the finish line. Not out of exhaustion, mostly out of humor but my feet were really happy to rest too. My theory is the road was so rocky for so much of the race, that my feet were just fatigued and beat up. I generally run pretty smooth trail with big rocks like that only mixed in sometimes. Hopefully I can get a grip on that to prepare myself for a 100 next year.
I finished and was happy but not as excited as I had hoped. Was it not epic enough for me? It was the farthest I'd ever run and I did it! It's one of the hardest courses in the country and my feet hurt so badly, but I wasn't trashed, wasted, did I need to feel like that to feel like I really did something amazing? I don't know but I don't like finishing like that. I really think all my complaining that last hour hurt my immediate post race high. A few weeks later I am happy with the race. I would have liked to walk less and complain less, and I spent a bit too long at some aid stations and taking pictures, but those are actually good things. I can correct those next year and have an even better race. I'll know my surroundings and I imagine it will go quicker or at least more predictable. I'm very grateful for Davy and his excellent blogging. His report helped me immensely. I'm grateful for Zac for driving down and running that last 8 with me. It was hard but his hug and positivity and company was necessary and helpful. And I am so very grateful for my husband Jeremy and my kids. They were perfect that day. Not whiny or complaining about how long it was all taking or anything. They are my team and I couldn't do this without them.
100k, 17,000 feet of elevation gain, most of that in the first 30 miles. 62 miles, not a whole lot of flat, not a whole lot of smooth dirt, but I finished strong in 15:47 when all I wanted was 16:00-16:59. No real nutrition issues to speak of which is a huge accomplishment, and not a lot of muscle fatigue. Perfect cooler weather most of the day and beautiful scenery. Done!