Run Across WI

Part I: The Why.
One of the most asked questions over the past few days has been: “How did you choose to run across WI?” There isn’t a concrete answer for that, it really was as simple as, no one had done that before in the way I wanted and during the time of year I was going to. So, why not?
I have realized that many of the the things that I say yes to have that connotation of “Why not.” I mean, really think about the reason you do the extraordinary things you do, yes we want to achieve our goal. But what is the reason that you started thinking about it in the first place? Or the things that you have thought about but haven’t done yet. Life is short and opportunities get less and less, so Why Not choose to say yes?!

While growing up, both sides of my family had things we didn’t talk about and people who were no longer with us for one reason or another. Something as a child you don’t understand. As I grew older those secrets came to light and it was quite clear the struggles that plagued our family were not unique to us. But as I was in the midst of forming my own adult life with a small child, I thought I had escaped this fate that seemed to loom over each of us. I took so much pride that I was able to keep my shit together and always keep moving forward.

Until the spring. It was a year since my mom passed, 6 months since my friend died. My dog got hit by a car, I found a lump. The relationship with my daughter was strained, my training was lacking. I was alone. Now, the feeling of being overwhelmed was an understatement, having many things to deal with on my plate is not new to me. This time everything was different. This thing that I didn’t know I was waiting for with anxious curiosity finally came around the corner and snuck up on me. I was deep in the abyss before I even knew what hit me. As I climbed out of the deep end after trying to swim for a few months, did I realize what was weighing me down. Fuck man, pretty sure that is what depression is.

2018 was a big year for me in terms of personal growth. Acknowledging, accepting, setting boundaries, and moving forward.
When fall approached I was beginning to entertain the idea of running across WI. This would be about 75 more miles than I have run at one time. On the roads. In February, in one of the worst winters we have had in some time. But none of that mattered, it was about the cause and people that I could help by doing this. My grandmothers charity Riverway Communities of Hope, was already doing grand things but I knew we could do better.

Part II: The Run

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At the start in Kenosha with the light of the moon

Thursday: Packing for 175 miles in the winter on the road seemed to take up much less space than a 100 miler across the country in the summer. Cody, my dear friend and training partner was my crew chief. How I actually got him to say yes to this is a mystery. We left Madison about 7:40pm heading to Kenosha and our starting area. A couple stops for water and some last minute first aid “just in case” items and we were there.

10pm and it’s go time. The original start was midnight, but we decided that we would be up anyway and why prolong the inevitable, so we moved it up a couple hours. This course was pretty straight forward and flat to start. Basically once I started heading west, I just kept going. Cody drove ahead to each turn as I made my way through Kenosha ensuring I wouldn’t get lost. The plan was to go about an hour ahead or about 6 miles and I would meet him to eat and drink so that way I wouldn’t have to carry anything. Also for the first 35 miles I would be solo through the night, so this way it would break up any monotony.

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Salt is important even in cold
and when you cant feel your hands

Friday 2:20am: This is the first time I sit down and take more than a minute or two break. I was over 25 miles in and I was really cold. Unbeknownst to me, it had gotten down to 8F when I was dressed for 20F. I was having a hard time keeping my hands warm, even with my tried and true gloves. Neither Cody or I knew it was going to be that cold, but the wind was at my back so that was a plus.

I change my shoes, apply the lube Kanberra to my toes which has menthol in it making it very soothing. Eat some more food, take in some salt and stash a bit of food in my jacket. Also, my first pacer is a bit early so the plan was to meet him in the next 6 miles. All in all this stop took me about 10 minutes. My headlamp had died twice from the cold, so we swapped out for Cody’s rechargable one.

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Jackson, First pacer

Insert Jackson my first pacer, whew I was glad to see him. I was enjoying the solo miles, but I knew the sun would be coming up in a few hours and he had just ran Black Canyon 60K and I was excited to hear about his race and just listen for a bit. At some point in the first hour and half together Cody comes up behind us informing us that we had missed a turn to head west. With a little navigation we were able to head west at the next intersection. Which meant down the road I would need to head north to hit the road I was supposed to be on to head west from there. Thankfully this was the only wrong turn throughout the entire thing. In the end, it added an extra 8 miles. Jackson stayed with me for about 3 hours and left just as the sun was coming up. I would be alone for the next 7 miles until I hit Walworth to pick up Kate.

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Fridays sunrise

Friday 7amish and over 50 miles in. I take some tylenol, eat a bunch and pick up Kate. I was starting to feel my pace and the lack of walking. For the first 25 miles it was flat and therefore I didn’t walk. With Jackson there was a little bit of rolling hills, but still not much to “make” me want to powerhike. So once I grabbed Kate I told her that we should do some run/walk intervals from light pole to light pole. If you have never been to this part of the state, let me paint a picture for you. A flat country road as far as you can see and pasture or fields flanking you on both sides with a view all the way to the horizon. This is it’s own right is beautiful and can offer a certain type of solace. This was not one of those times, it was a little daunting and boring. The run/walk intervals were fairing decently enough, but the walking was hurting more than the running. The bottoms of my feet were starting to get the “tender foot” that I was dreading. We opted then to run the rest.

 

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Picking up Kate in Walworth

After the next 7 mile stretch with Kate, it was time for me to change shoes again and tackle the next few hours until I got into Clinton to pick up Adam.

That next stretch was probably the best I felt the entire run. The sun was out, the temps were mid 30’s and I had a smile on my face. I felt like I was flying. It was about mile 70. I knew that when I got to Clinton I had a welcome wagon. A husband and wife who were the parents of a person who reached out on instagram, were there to offer aid. Ultra running is truly remarkable in that way where it brings strangers together. After fueling with homemade breakfast sandwiches and fruit, changing my base layers and tending to chafing on my armpits, I was ready.

 

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One of the many times stuffing my face

Friday 10am: As Adam and I work our way into Beloit the hills are starting to make their way into the route. Adam and I are no strangers to running long distances, even together. We met in November during the Worlds Longest Turkey Trot, where we ran from Milwaukee, WI to Chicago, IL totaling just over 100 miles.
One stop along the way where I took a little time to change shoes, take some ibuprofen, eat and lube up.

 

Once we got to Beloit about noon at over 88 miles in I picked up another pacer, Todd. It was 18 miles to the next big aid station where I would be picking up my night pacers. At the beginning of Todd and I’s journey together we found ourselves on hwy 81 which was fairly busy and basically downhill. When I changed shoes last I had put on my Hokas which helped to curb the tender foot issue, but was causing some knee pain. That factored in with all the downhill was quite frustrating. I knew by the time that Todd was done I would hit my 100 mile mark and I was going to crush my previous time. Todd ran the next 10 miles with me getting me to the 100 mile mark and providing some light-hearted conversation keeping my mind off of my knees.

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Thanks Todd

I came into 100 miles at 17:25:20 besting my previous time by 3 hours and 44 minutes. That next mile was excruciating though. This was some cruel joke that my body wanted to play on me. Literally mile 101 and my knees said no more. For the next 8 miles I walked rolling hills, shuffling trying to run. I called my daughter and told her I passed 100 miles and she asked if I was done. When I said I had 75 more miles, she asked if I could do it since I had never run that far before. With the way my knees were feeling, I wasn’t so sure.

During that walk, I updated twitter, hit up social media, and checked in with a few important people. I also ate Papa Johns pizza and chugged some coffee. Ok, I even snapchatted a bit. 😉

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First real break 100+ miles in

I knew when I got to the next stop that I needed to change shoes again, back to the original ones and take a small break. A couple miles to the meeting point my next pacer showed up, Tara. I have never met her and she is from Indiana, she is a friend of my client/friend Mary and wanted to be a apart of this journey. We walked it in to the meeting spot where I laid in the back of Cody’s car with the Normatec boots on and asked for a 6 min nap, I couldn’t fall asleep so I asked for another 6 min. No luck. So, same story. Eat, Change shoes, lube, drink, take pain relievers. Off I left with Jessa and Dan about 5pm.

 

Dan stuck with us for about 2 miles and then headed back to the car. Jessa and I were slotted to spend the next 25 miles together. This is where things all mash together, it got dark quick and we entered the land of small and short rolling hills. My knees were getting worse and the wind was picking up. We did however run with our headlamps off when the moon was out and talked about how small and insignificant we felt amongst all those stars. A dog came up behind us and decided it was going to run with us, very friendly and happy. We witnessed this dog not 50 yards ahead of us get fully sprayed by a skunk. If you have never smelled fresh skunk, it will make you puke. This dog stayed with us for the next 8 miles, all the while us trying not to touch it. The police finally came and picked him up, only after we almost witnessed him getting hit by car right in front of us.

My knees were getting to the point where I had to walk the downhills backwards, walk the flat, but I could decently power up the uphill, but that then put the strain on my feet=tender foot. Closing in on 11:30pm, Jessa had to bail and changing of the crew guard was coming up. I was in need of a rest. I took a 45 min sleep in the back of the car, resting my knees. When I woke, my brother was there, I had to go to the bathroom, and my new pacer and crew had arrived.65169-20190222_1743262b252812529

 

I was so overwhelmed by my pace and how long the next 50 miles was going to take, but I made a rule. I didn’t want to know what time of day it was or how long it took to go from point to point. We also decided that Kelly and James would go ahead 4 miles, that seemed more manageable with the way my knees were feeling. Running with Angela was just what I needed. She has seen me in this state before. She was my pacer for the Leadville 100(my first 100 miler), running the last 50 miles with me. I feel I fueled well and was actually able to run the flats and didn’t need to run backwards down the downhill. Until it started to sleet and hail. The road conditions were getting worse. James would ride his fatbike up to us asking what I needed, so that way by the time we got to the car, Kelly would have it ready for me. What a system!

Angela and I made it 12 miles together before the weather became too much. I was ready to stick it out, I knew I would feel even better once it got light. We were under a severe winter weather advisory with ice building .25 inch each hour with no temp increase or relief in sight. For the safety of the crew vehicle, my pacer, and myself we made a collective decision to pull the plug at 4:21am Saturday.

As much as I wanted to get all the way there, having someone get hurt in that endeavor would have been awful. I am at peace with my decision. I ran further than I ever have, I set a new 100 mile PR, I met some amazing people, we raised money, we brought light to a hard often overlooked issue.

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Home. Safe and sound. Thanks Kelly and James!

Thank you so much to my sponsors and people making this possible: Suunto for believing in me and having me be a part of your team, 608threads for providing the last minute cold weather gear, SaltStick for keeping me in check even in the coldest of temps, The Gearwell for always coming in clutch with my late in the race food container options, Dermatone for keeping my face protected from sun, wind, and cold, PickyBars: I ate so much Picky oats on this run, Rumpl for keeping me warm and cozy in a crazy situation, Smartwool for providing wool sock and baselayers that kept me dry and comfortable. Berkeley Running Company for providing me with new shoes the day before. Dr. Schupp who kept me in tip top shape before and after!

To all who sent kind words of encouragement along the way!
To everyone who donated to the cause.
To the people who showed up physically: Allison, Cody, Jackson, Kate, Adam, Bob & Ginny, Jessa, Dan, Tara, Jenn, Jay, Kelly, James, Angela, Stan and Abbie.

I will be attempting this again, and hope to make this an annual event, so mark your calendars!

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Vermont 2018 race recap

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.

pre race ice cream is a must

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.

@vegasultrarunner and I at the start

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.

Race director Amy awarding me with the buckle

Fun Facts:
*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!

 

Let us get real

We all talk about being “real,” we encourage each other to show our true selves, show the grit, the pain, the heartache. That’s a bunch of bullshit. We say it like we are going to open up our shell and share together all kumbaya style. But, in reality we want to see it from others, so we can feel better about ourselves, make our shit that we hold close to the lapel seem not so shitty.

Within the past year or so, I’ve shown some real stuff. If you are close to me, you have seen some of it first hand. I feel as a woman, as a runner, as a coach, as a friend, as a human. I owe that to myself and to anyone who may be watching; looking for some sort of common denominator, to feel less alone. I am not a bullshitter, I am not a sugar coater, I am a straighter shooter and you see is what you get. I have walls that can’t be repelled. I have a lifetime of compartmentalizing practice, and my name is a synonym for the word strong.

In that same time period I experienced some pretty fucking amazing firsts. I set goals for myself to travel solo, say yes, buy ridiculously expensive plane tickets on a whim. Surrounding myself with some of the best people I know, being uplifted by pure kindness and empathy.

I also ran one of the hardest races of my life, while losing life. I had lost my mom and hadn’t dealt with it properly. My marriage had been over for sometime and we both knew it, and neither wanted to be the one to admit it. And that course was real hard. Shortly thereafter I lost my dear friend, who has been gone now for over 6 months and I can’t think about him without crying.
With the recent attention on people in the limelight with suicide, a friend recently posted something that really hit me in the feels. It simply said:
“Check on your strong friend.”

 

For about 6 weeks prior I felt as though I had been hit by almost everything I think I could have taken. All at once. Right in the face. No warning. I was having a hard time dealing. I was then mad at myself for not sucking it up and moving on. This isn’t me to wallow, or to cry, or to sleep all day and not run. Who the fuck was I? It wasn’t me. I have been through way worse and come out the other end unscathed.

I had a friend recently tell me that she knew I needed help, but didn’t know how or what to do, so she avoided. I do not blame her in the slightest, I was a fucking wreck. I would have backed off too. We talked about this in some depth. I thanked her for her honesty and courage. I explained to her that I thought I was strobe-lighting to everyone asking for help and I felt abandoned, not just by her, but by everyone. At one point I drove to her house unannounced for a simple hug and lost it. I was lacking physical touch in the sense of comfort, someone to hold me and tell me it would all be ok.

See, people don’t know what to do when the person they count on, the strong one, loses their shit. It is foreign and uncomfortable to everyone. It’s easier to do nothing. 

So my strobe-lighting that I thought was so obvious, was overlooked because I’m strong, and I’ll be fine. Which I truly understand as that is my motto. “I’m fine, it’s fine.” For the first time in my life, I didn’t know if I was going to be fine and I felt as though I had no one to turn to.

At some point in the year, I wrote down some words, some words that I remember almost threw themselves on the page:

” “I’m good.” It’s for the best, I’m fine, really. That seems to be about 85% of the time. Why am I crying on an airplane headed to a weekend of fun and laughter? How can I be so confident one moment and doubt everything the next? I’m lonely, I have been for much longer than it may seem. It is possible to be in a relationship, have a partner, and feel utterly alone. This is the hardest part of it all.  Almost the ultimate betrayal. Being lonely while still having a person to touch, even without the passion and the intimacy you crave. Physical touch in itself is an addiction. 
Stay busy they say, it will cover it up. Fuck that! If I stay busy I’m avoiding, I’m running away. I have to feel, I have to feel everything. I’m a little hollow right now, I feel gutted. That love and adornment I crave: I am scared is gone forever. I doubt my ability to be taken at face value and taken for what I offer and accepted with open arms. no judgement. Just acceptance and understanding. I will NEVER be lonely in someones company again.”

I had mourned my marriage emotionally previous to that writing and it wasn’t entirely about that anyway. This writing reminded me in that dark time not too long ago, why I suffered more than I had before.
My primary love language is physical touch, with a close, almost tied second of words of affirmation. Have no idea what I am talking about? Take this quick quiz. The Five Love Languages. No, I have no affiliation to it whatsoever, but I am a cheerleader for it. I think it is beneficial in romantic, platonic, work, and friendships. Learning what you crave from others and how they receive it, I believe is crucial in any successful partnership.
So I guess the whole point of this is: Life is messy, it’s hard, it sucks, people are cruel. Life is also amazing, it’s beautiful, it’s full of joy, people are extraordinary! Don’t be afraid to show the spilled milk, the shirt you’ve been wearing inside-out all day, the kid you took to school in their underwear, your tear-stained face, the fall before you get up.
IT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US!! Seriously.
Check on your strong friend, and check again, and again until they fess up. Remember, we are the strong ones, we can take it. We need it, almost more.
I get asked why I run ultras. This. All of this and how I got to this point. What made me strong and the path I took. That’s why.
P.S. Don’t worry, I’m good. For real. Just a little speed bump in this thing we call life. I just needed to learn why it was on a steep incline.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wasatch 100 recap

You must know by now that I completed this hard and unforgiving race. Before the race started I was baffled about the challenging course, knowing there was no qualifier to enter and why someone would choose this course as their first 100 miler. I met quite a few of those people out there.

The week leading up to the race I found myself scrambling for pacers. I had one nailed down, but I knew I could have at least 2 more and I knew by looking at the course I would need them. I posted on social media, my pacer posted also. A couple leads came in, but timing didn’t work out. Finally, I got one and made plans to meet ahead of time to go over my expectations and what I would need from her.

I went into the Wasatch 100 confident. I felt recovered from Vermont, about 7 weeks prior. We flew to Utah within the 48 hour altitude window, and I got to sleep in a real bed. Wednesday night upon arriving in Salt Lake, we met up with Valorie my pacer for the last 33ish miles. She came recommended by a friend of a friend, and boy was I glad. She has volunteered and paced this course before so having her in my arsenal was awesome. Roger and her made plans for him to pick her up, I tried not to listen because my job was to run.

We then drive to Park City to stay with my dear friend Liz and her family. How crazy that less than a year ago, I hadn’t even met her yet. Thank you Kara Goucher Podium Retreat for creating some pretty great friendships! She grocery shopped for us, fed us, and we even got our dog fix! Leaving Roubaix at home was hard. He is my race companion, but the strict rule and a $1,100 ticket for having a dog on course was enough of a deterrent to leave him home. The two labs at the house made it more bearable!

Thursday morning I met with my other pacer who also thank you to the power of social media, I found. Her Instagram account is pretty famous, and she is just as great in person. She was planned to pace me from Lambs Canyon to Brighton where I would then meet Valorie. Locked, loaded and plans made for the meet up with Roger. We go back to the house and pack my drop bags. There are 8 drop bag locations, and only 3 areas where my crew could reach me. Needless to say I would be relying on the drop bags heavily. Talked to my coach and took a hard hour and a half nap before we needed to leave for the meeting. The race meeting was at 4pm, and lasted about 9 minutes. Dry, Hot, and Smoky was what stuck with me the most. What a great race day description. We met up with the only other person from WI racing, Guy. Wished each other good luck and hope to see each other at the finish.

Liz was amazing and made salmon and homemade sweet potato fries for dinner, then I went off to bed about 7:30pm. We had a 2:15am wake up call for a 5am start. I slept hard for about 2 hours, and was in and out for the rest of the night. I am usually a hard sleeper, but I think I was afraid to miss the alarm. Breakfast consisted of 8 pieces of bacon and a yogurt for the road that I would eat right before the start.

a little yogurt 15 minutes before the start

I slept the 45 minute drive to the start, bathroomed once, and ate my yogurt. It was go time. I had been afraid of this course since Vermont. I knew that within the first 5 miles that we would be climbing for 4.5 miles with 4,300ft of elevation. Remember I live in Wisconsin, I don’t see that kind of climbing, ever.

 

The word go, and I am in the middle of the pack, knowing that this upcoming climb would be slow going for me and with the race being almost entirely single track, I didn’t want to hold anyone up. I don’t remember a ton about the course in that first section. I was about 65 degrees at the start, there were a few creek crossings, some nice cold air pockets. Then we started climbing, I was pushing it. I felt anaerobic, I was dizzy. I found myself moving off the trail to let people pass and then hurl in the bushes. I did this way too many times to count.

ready to go

I could tell from the get-go that I had no legs. That was the biggest blow, I knew i was strong climber, where are my legs!?!? I have never thrown up in race like this. It wasn’t my stomach, it was my head. I think it was the altitude, because I could still eat, and i was trying hard to get calories because I knew it would only get worse if I couldn’t fuel. I could climb for about 10-15ft before I was out of breath and needing to stop.

It was 12 miles to the first aid, which was only a water stop. I was questioning everything. It was 4 more miles to the next real aid station: Bountiful B. I knew I was behind schedule. I sat, ate multiple Otter pops(this was my aha moment of otter pops). I have heard many stories about them, not knowing what they were. They are freezies folks! Here in the Midwest they are called freeze pops. i had at least 2, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes. I was there for 15 minutes wanting to quit. I decided I would get to the aid station.

After a pee break in the woods I started chatting with another runner, who just so happened to be named Guy(a different one). He was a race vet, doing this for his 9th finish. This is a runner I needed to stick with, I was whining about how I wanted to quit, i wanted to drop. He told me he wasn’t going to let me, lets just get to the aid station. When we got there, I called Roger. I explained that I fell hard, I was throwing up, and defeated. He was happy to hear from me as I was over hour and a half behind my 28 hour goal. Just get to Big Mountain he said. It will be better when I can see you and help you. He assured me that I didn’t want to quit.

Guy and I left together, with him knowing the course, he gave me play by play of each section between aid. He would stop and point into the horizon and say “see that little line on that ridge, that’s where we are going.” Oddly enough, breaking it up into sections like that helped. We climbed the inclines at a Steady Eddy pace, we ran the flats and downhills. We talked about our kids, our jobs, our lives. I cried. I explained how frustrated i was with myself, that I was letting my mind get to me. I pride myself in being strong and today I was not. He was my trail angel. I know I never would have made it without him. He stated again, he wouldn’t let me quit and lets just get to the next aid station.

Swallow Rocks was next, I don’t really remember it. I do remember that when we would traverse the ridgelines the wind was glorious. It was hot and no clouds. I was constantly spitting water on my arms and onto my neck buff. The cold air mixed with the wind cooled me off tremendously. I didn’t want an actual ice bandanna, I learned my lesson from Vermont. The ice melts and then you chafe. The wind blew most of the smoke away, but it was still very dry and very dusty.

The notorious “moondust” tan and of course ramen

The Big Mt. aid station was about 32 miles in and the first spot you could have a pacer. I wasn’t getting one until Lambs at 45ish miles. I asked Guy if I could leach on his pacer with him. i got there at about 3:20pm, according to my targeted pace I should have been there by 1pm. It had been over 10 hours since the start. I knew I was behind on calories. I downed about 3 applesauces, one ice cream sandwich, countless amounts of watermelon and cantaloupe, ramen, and gingersnaps. Changed my socks and shoes, lubed my feet with Brave Soldier and baby powder. This next section to Lambs was flatter and that I should change into my race flats. Tara was on her way. She was coming there, and not waiting until Lambs. I left with Guy and his pacer, not knowing how far we would go until Tara caught us. 2 miles, that was it.

I said goodbye to Guy an told him I’d see him at the finish. I still didn’t believe it though. We were off, she pushed me. They were right that this section was flatter and faster. We passed people, never got passed. I think there was some laughing and few smiles. The things you talk about while trying to occupy your mind from the pain and hurt. Tara is from the area and people would recognize her or vice versa, that was fun to see. Alexander Ridge aid was a bit of a blur, except I think that is one where they were all wearing tutus?  A few times out of nowhere,”I’ve got gas in the tank and money in the bank” would be shouted with arms up by Tara. My response was something like, I am glad you do!

We arrive at Lambs, clearly behind schedule. I knew I wasn’t going to make that time up. so to finish was the goal, well still not even at that point. I was convinced I would drop at Brighton. I met the aid station fairy, who was a friend of Taras and volunteered with Valorie. Missy, my sweet Missy. She fed me she made me laugh, she told me a lovely story about a trip to Wisconsin she made as a child that involved a Lincoln town car with air conditioning and orange crush. She was a breath of fresh air. Roger changed my shoes again, back to the altras. I ate more ramen. Then we took on the 2 mile climb on the road. I slowed here, once we got onto the single track trail up, I seemed to hit every rock with my sore foot.

Upper Big Water, I grabbed a jacket. It was cold there, you are in a bowl of cold air. But, don’t fear there is an awesome steep climb right out of there that will warm you up. I remember telling someone as I was sitting down that I was planning to drop at Brighton, Tara heard this. Nope. They say just wait til it gets light again. Don’t make rash decisions in the dark. I know.

The only thing I remember about Desolation Lake was the moose. We were maybe a mile from the aid when Tara stops in her tracks and points out a huge moose. It sees us and starts walking towards us. We hide in the trees and stop the people behind us. We form a conga line and ran past quick. Not today moose, not today.

The next aid I remember is Scotts peak. This is the last aid before Brighton. It was a steep climb up to 9882 ft. I was so windy and cold up there. They had lights and were cheery. They had peaches and fig newtons! We knew it was all downhill to Brighton. We made an insta story, we laughed at how we kept trying too cover our lights to be seen in the video, but then couldn’t see while running. We get to the road almost to the lodge and i hear some rustling in the grass next to us, sure as shit there is another Moose, bigger than the last, just chomping away.

We get into Brighton, where you go inside the lodge. Roger is ready. Valorie is ready. I’m not ready. I know there is the last big climb almost immediately out of there. I was so done climbing. I sit, take my pack off, and to my left my aid station angel appears with an egg and cheese sandwich. What? Where did you come from? I ate it of course, sans bread. I had multiple hash browns, applesauce, ramen. Coffee with creamer or milk. I don’t really know. Roger again with the socks. Oddly enough I was in and out in under 20 minutes. At 3:24am we left with about 30 miles to go.

Coming out of Brighton, I had to tell Valorie that the uphills were slow, like really slow for me. It was like climbing out of a boulder field! You were climbing using your hands over big rocks. I started to feel weird. I told her that I was having a hard time focusing. I have seen this in other runners, I have not however experienced this before. I was sleep running. It’s a thing. I would got a few paces and not know how I got there. It was very stressful because it was very rocky and if you fell, you’d be done. At the top of this climb was also the highest point on the course at about 10,500 ft. Maybe that had something to do with it, because by the time we got to Pole line I was feeling better. 

Pole line I had a blister forming on my big right toe, so they lanced it. I drank coffee, took a bunch of cheese quesadillas to go. Valorie took off her cold weather gear and left it in my drop bag. It was starting to get light. The guy who lanced my blister told us it was 10 miles to the next bigger aid station. We thought that was Stanton, where the next drop bags were. First it was a climb then traverse to a water stop in 5 miles. We left at about 6:45am. This section was very sandy and we had to stop a few times to empty our shoes of tiny rocks. i remember repeating in my mind that we were just past the 75 mile mark, that i couldn’t quit now. By the time we got to the drop bags it would be 85 and the last 15 miles were all downhill.

The water stop was strange. I had a powdered tomato soup and some cheese quesadillas. We met a man who had been sitting there since 2 am, it was now 8am. He was going to drop. They said when he came in, he was top 15. Valorie needed a bathroom, in the mountains, you get a toilet seat on a bucket. Somewhere around here we got to see the sun rise and hit the top of the mountains. I got to glimpse Timp, the highest point in Utah. It was beautiful. It made this suffering worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We knew it was little over 6 miles to the next aid station. We ran into a woman that Valorie recognized. She was in rough shape, throwing up and VERY swollen. She hadn’t taken any salt the whole race, I offered her mine and some Stinger waffles, and applesauce. I knew i had more food in my bag at the next aid.

After passing them and dealing with what seemed like a forever section, I was breaking. My feet were hurting so bad. The issue that has plagued me in every 100, “tender foot,” was back. With all the super steep, rocky downhill I was putting extra pressure to brake on my heels. I thought by changing shoes to Altra with more padding, I could eliminate the issue. I was so wrong. I was getting desperate, I even voiced it out loud to Valorie and started to choke some tears down. i was losing the glimmer of hope that I had just seemed to gain. Then, I see it. The tents of the aid station. I start letting the tears of relief appear. We get in and Valorie tells me that this isn’t the drop bag station. My hope of changing socks and getting some respite for my feet was gone. I lose it, straight bawling now. I also have more blisters on my right heel, which a very nice man lances while I chase Advil with chocolate milk.

Another aid station man, asks if I want to know what is coming. Yes, just tell me. It’s a straight uphill climb for 2 miles then a nice downhill into Stanton. I start crying harder at the thought of climbing again. 15 miles to go. We took off my socks and Valorie rubbed my dirty feet, I got sunscreen sprayed all over, and tiger balm rubbed on my calves. Pot Hollow was kind, but ruthless. They took care of you but told you to suck it up and get going. Less than 5 miles to Stanton.

For a drop bag station, Stanton seemed small. I told Valorie that we should get in and out. To my dismay, I had stupid wool, colder weather socks in my fucking bag. So once again, no socks. I took them off, Valorie rubbed them again. I grabbed food and changed my shirt. We got word that Roger would be at the 91 mile mark waiting for us. Valorie and Tara talked about dropping any unnecessary weight with Roger there. jacket, light, etc. I was out of salt. My hands were so swollen. It was downhill and I couldn’t run. My body was good other than the bottoms of my feet. 8 miles.

Climb the wall, descend into a gully of steep sections filled with sand and rocks. Coming into Decker Aid(the last), Guy appears. Surprised, but happy to see i was still in it, he passes us. We spend 1 minute here. For the next few miles we are maneuvering around cow pies while descending on a trail that didn’t seem to exist. We almost had to bushwhack the trees. But they were beautiful, a shade of red that didn’t seem real.

The last 4 miles seemed to take forever, mostly because I couldn’t run, I tried. I was altering my gait so much that I knew that if I continued, I would cause some serious damage. We walked, watching people pass us and time click by. When you come out of the trail and onto the road you take a left onto a County HWY. You can hear the finish, you can see the finish. We are still walking. A guy comes up behind us. It’s the guy from the water stop who was going to DNF, they convinced him not to. We round the last corner and I run the last 10-15ft, visibly in pain. I did it. Fuck 33:51:41. 5 hours after I wanted to finish.

I can’t believe it. I have never wanted to quit a race. I have never doubted my ability to that extent. I knew though that if I quit because it was hard, I would never forgive myself. The weight of a DNF, lasts forever. I enter these races to find my breaking point, digging for the thing that will cut me down. Wasatch, you came close. I kept saying toward the end that I needed to finish it so I never had to come back. Now I don’t HAVE to, but do I WANT to?

To Liz, Chris, Reese, and Ella. Thank you for opening your home to us. Providing a safe and comfortable place to rest and call home. Thank you for your support and encouragement the entire time. Thank you for making me feel like a rockstar even though I felt less than.

Tara: Whew, girl. I was running a race a in February when the names got chosen for Wasatch. I had won the 50K and was greeted with an instagram message from her saying I got picked! I then immediately asked if she wanted to pace. In June she finds out she has a broken femur and her pacing duties may be finished before they even start. August, we got the go ahead. Thank you for meeting me earlier than anticipated and running an extra 14 miles to the 22 you had already planned to run. thank you for pushing me past a place I didn’t think I could go. Thank you for knowing I could do this when I was doubtful. The image of your Injin reflective socks and the reflective pieces on your pack looking like a cat are forever burned into my memory.

Valorie: It takes a pretty brave person to say yes to pacing a complete stranger. Pacing a section of the course that you have not paced yet. Thank you for letting me lose it without letting me give up hope. Thank you for making me see the beauty in the darkness. Thank you for rubbing my dirty feet multiple times. Thank you for getting me across the line that I couldn’t envision alone.

Guy, not the other Guy: What can I say. I truly believe if I hadn’t met you on the trail, I would be nursing much deeper wounds. You took me under your wing. You set aside how shitty you were feeling to lift me up. i think you threw up more than I did. I cried more, so maybe we are even. I can’t express the gratitude i have for your help. 17 miles doesn’t seem like alot of miles, but those hours I will never forget. Thank you.

Coach Tommy: Thanks for the pre-race chat. It helped me get centered and focused beforehand. I know most of it went out the window early on, but it helped. Reminding me about altitude and breathing and to take to slow and smart. Knowing you were watching and following even though you were flying to another country.

To all the people following along and commenting on social media: Thank you. At a particularly low point Tara pulled her phone out and read aloud the comments. yes, I cried. Happy tears, tears of fear. I didn’t want to let anyone down. it really meant alot to know that people back home were watching.