This post has taken longer to write than others. I feel as though I have told the story 100 times already. I feel this race also sort of flew under the radar, in a storytelling sort of way. But, alas here I go.
I started my trip by going the opposite way and into another country. I went to Banff, Canada. I car camped, I tent camped, I ate good food, I ran up a mountain. Not just any mountain, a mountain that was seemingly untouched, a mountain that seemed to go on forever in a way you’d crane your neck looking so far up. I saw a Canadian glacier up close, and watched as a pair of loons as they taunted a dog. The views along with the air was something you can’t explain. I will absolutely be going back there. I have no doubt that this trip before a goal race was the right decision.
Long before I set out to travel to Canada and Vermont I made a decision. A decision to run this race alone. Since I started racing I had a partner, a partner who spent his life in the competitive world of athletics and knew the importance of a good crew, especially in long endurance events. I went in blind, trusting, and taking it for granted. I relied heavily on him to be there for me in a way I couldn’t for myself. Until one race day a few years ago at the Door County Fall 50. That had been my first ultra, and I had run it 5 years in a row, I love it. The last year I ran it, I signed up the night before and had clients who were running it for the first time. My crew chief couldn’t make it. Needless to say I was alone. I held first place for the first 50K +, PR’d by 45 minutes and had a great race; alone. Something clicked in me in the same way something clicked as I started running and the urge to go further and faster had. I wanted to see how much hurt I could withstand, how much and far I could go without breaking. If you have read some of my other posts or listened to interviews, this is a reoccurring theme for me. I am searching for my breaking point, the place you go that you have to risk your metaphorical life to claw out of.
So, I knew after Wasatch last year and the dissolve of my marriage, I knew I needed to do it this way. Solo. And I did it. Did I find what I was looking for? No. Did I have this epiphany about lifes meaning? No. What I did find though was pride and a sense of freedom. I consider myself a strong person, and most people would agree. But for some reason I have always had this hesitation to do things alone, not for the want or the belief that I could. I think for the reason that I can. I like people, I can fit into any crowd, I make friends easily. The more I think about it, I realize that I really like being alone also. Growing up so early and fast, and having to rely on myself for most of my life, I got really good at it, so the hesitation to translate that into my running I feel is foolish. They say having a good crew can make or break a race. Running solo, there is no one to blame but yourself. So I felt I had to do this.
Again, as I write this I feel so neutral about the whole thing. No crazy ups, no crazy downs. All in all it was a great race, I felt awesome for most of it. I went in with zero expectations, I didn’t prep the way I usually do, I didn’t have sharpied splits on my arm like usual. I knew two stats: the time it took to get to the first bag drop about 20 miles in, and my finish time from last year. I had multiple goals: A. sub 20, B. sub 22, C. beat last years time of 23:41, D. sub 24, and E. finish and get my Western States ticket. None of these however came with a plan.
The place I was staying at was almost a 2 hour drive away. So after the race meeting and dinner Friday night, I get back and go to sleep about 8pm. I sleep til 1130ish, get dressed grab my race day and after race stuff and start the drive back to the start. I arrive about 1:30am and get about 1.5 more hours of sleep/rest before I check back in and get ready to start. I finally meet @vegasultraruner from instagram and line up at the start.
I knew the first big chunk would go by fast, I remember it being fast last year so I knew to expect it. I ran for a bit with a guy and we are chatting about races we’ve run etc. Come to find out we had just seen each other on social media because of this race. I think James has the luckiest time with Western, he was the last person off the waitlist in the 37th spot last year!! Running with James felt effortless, we had a great pace going, even being sub 20. Keep in mind this is in the first 20 miles of a 100 mile race. If you have run one or if you haven’t there is so much race left and so much can happen. You take advantage of the times you feel good, and grind through the ones you don’t.
At some point we got separated, probably at one of the aid stations, he had a stellar crew of his wife and 2 daughters. I was on my own. After hitting the first major station 5 minutes ahead of last year, I grabbed food, AltRed tabs, and tylenol out of my bag and left. The next few sort of blended together, I remember changing socks and shoes at the next major aid about mile 30. Stephen(@vegasultrarunner) and I piggy backed a bit for awhile and ran together for a few miles in those early hours, I couldn’t tell you when though.
I remember thinking to myself that there was alot more trail to the race than I remember. I was also so thankful that it was a dry year, there were places that my shoe literally got sucked off last year, that now was dry and completely runable. If you have read my other posts or ran with me and heard me talk about how much I hate meadow sections during the day, you know how much I loathe them. Well thank you Vermont for adding one into your 100 miler! This year however, I was faster than last, and the humidity was actually pretty manageable, and the sun still low. Psst: I didn’t hate it!
Somewhere after the meadow or right before I met up with Brian and then Tim. The three of us hit it off well, sharing stories of what we’ve run before and whats coming up. Brian is in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which has been my goal for 3 years given I get into Western States. Tim has run this race 7 or 8 times and this was going to be his longest run since last year when he ran it.
The next part of this race recap is going to go by quickly, it all runs together and is pretty boring I would say. For the next approximately 70 miles the 3 of us ran together. All of us were solo runners. We would go into an aid station do our own thing and meet up after the fact. We took turns in the lead and pulled when we felt strong. I remember leading and flying through the trail sections and smiling, I felt so good and so comfortable. They were probably sick of me saying “this is like what we have at home!” We ate popsicles and Tim ate enough Roctane gels for everyone! Coming out of Camp 10 Bear the second time about mile 70(where you picked up your pacer if you had one), we all did a clothes change out. I changed my singlet and sports bra, socks and shoes. I was wet and dirty from ice that I was using to cool myself in the heat of the day. I didn’t want to go into the night with wet clothes.
There is a point where you almost don’t believe the pace you are seeing or if it’s possible or accurate. But we came out into this one stretch of the road and I remember last year being on it with Jana and I had her turn off her headlamp and take in the sky full of stars. It was so beautiful. This year we still had a few hours of daylight left, and that was a little turning point in my head. My competitiveness was now awake.
Even though we ran together for majority of the race, we were alone with our thoughts and in our own head. We would go miles without talking especially later on. We laughed, and settled into the pain cave. Those last 10 miles were the worst for me, we had fallen off our sub 20 pace, but maybe sub 21 was close. The tricky part with this race, is there is no respite. It is 100 miles of hill repeats. So if you aren’t power hiking up, you are trying to make up time on the way down, and that starts to take its toll. Just the act of starting and stopping was painful.
Polly’s is the last major aid station before the finish, you have about 5 miles left. They lure you in with belgian waffles and warm Vermont maple syrup. I made the mistake of sitting, eating a waffle with so much syrup, I even had one person at the aid station pour syrup in my mouth. When I got up though, I was cold. Shivering, teeth chattering cold. It wasn’t that cold out, 60 maybe, but the effort of running all day and at this point it was about midnight. It took me about a mile to warm up. We all knew we just had to make it the next 2.5 miles to the water only spot. Then 2.5 to the finish.
This last section sticks out most in my mind because I had a low spot, I was feeling overwhelmed. I was hurting, I was tired, but I was also happy. I was doing it, I was going to PR. But, as we all know you CANNOT celebrate early in an ultra. So many things may still happen. So with about a mile to go, Tim tells us to go. I lead, and I shut it all down. Every pain receptor that I have firing is distinguished. I go. This single track of smooth dirt seemed to just barely touch my feet. The glowing milk jugs leading the way to the finish, a left turn and a slight uphill and under the banner I came. 21:09:22. Almost a 2.5 hour PR. Brian and Tim shortly thereafter.
I am proud of myself. I am happy I met those guys, all of them on the trail.
I feel the real challenge was my sleep and travel. I will say that I am fortunate enough to be able to fall asleep anywhere. My lovely cousin and her boyfriend live in upstate NY, and came to Vermont for a little get away and it was a chance to see each other. Immediately following the race at 1am, I changed and got in the car to drive the 1.5 hours back to Stowe. We will not get into details on how that drive went, I am sure you can picture how awesome it was. I had to shower and had enough time to catch about 4.5 hours of sleep so I could pack and get on the road to be BACK at the race finish for the awards meeting at 11am. This is where my cousin came in clutch, her boyfriend then drove my car to the start so I could grab another hour of sleep!
Commence food and awards. This is where I find out that I came in 11th overall female, the competitive side of me was pissed. I came in 8th in the open female category which is under 40. No clue where I placed in the solo category. I then pep talked myself, 11th is higher than 17th last year, its almost 3 hours faster, and you had zero expectations. So stop being a baby, there is nothing you can do about it right now, and be happy with how the race went.
*I changed shoes 4 times, socks 5 times.
* I went in with little expectations
* I ate yogurt in the car 30 min before the race start
* I used my tattoo of the elevation for the race to figure out what we had left to climb in the race
* I ate so much more sugar than I normally eat, making me super bloated that I looked pregnant
* Following awards I had to drive another hour to the airport, where I slept for 2 hours waiting to board.
Thank you to Timex for having me on the team and taking a chance on this crazy thing as ultra running. SaltStick for keeping me in check along with hydration. Thank you to Alt Red for keeping me steady. I had so many betalins! Zealios for keeping me protected from the sun. The Gear Well for making a stellar resealable pouch that allowed me to bring my own food in my drop bags. Oiselle for providing my race shorts and bra everytime and continuing to support me! UltraAspire for my reusable cup, whether it held flat coke, boiled potatoes, watermelon, or lunch meat. It worked great the entire time!
Lastly Thank you to all who wished me good luck, sent kind words, and projected good vibes before, during, and after the race. Even though I was solo, I had you all with me!