Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bighorn 100

On Saturday, I finished the Bighorn 100 for my second year in a row, tallying my buckles to 7 for the 100 mile distance, and as usual I have some thoughts about those 33 hours and 36 minutes.

Any report you read from last year, 2017 and this 2018, will most certainly mention the mud, or that writer was at a different race. Frankly, if you want to read in depth about the mud, scroll down to my Bighorn post from last year, because minus some players in the great journey, the report could ALMOST be the same. In my humble opinion, it was worse this year, but that is a factor that could vary from runner to runner. But, i think everyone would agree the shear mileage of muddy trail by far surpassed 2017.

I'll be brutally blunt, I got into a bad head space almost immediately starting Bighorn. By mile 8 or 9 I found myself inside my head over thinking every very unlikely scenario of my daughters safe and soundness back home. Why? I don't know. I quite adequately argued with myself about motherly instinct and over-active imagination from the underbelly of dark world thoughts. Dramatic? Yes, of course I am.

When I got to mile 13, the Dry Fork Aid and only Crew station that I would see my people until mile 48, I was barely thinking about the race under my feet at all. Betsy, I'm worried about the girls. "They're fine, Nat"
(in a very "I get it", kinda voice)
She said she'd call Scott and tell the girls I love them, and get messages from them she'd deliver tomorrow...(ahh..mental relief).

She also reminded me, that was a good time to eat:)

My lovely pacer Dee, parted ways with Jen and Betsy here to ultimately make her way up to the turn around with Eve & the legend known as Sherpa Jim ;) -The lovely Carrie's husband and Crew extraordinaire. Betsy and Jen went back into town to get ready for their 52 mile race the following morning. We packed me up and out, and I set off on the dirt road, into the afternoon, into the tangles and slips, the ups and face plants, the angry wet elements thrown gauntlets and the soft views through them, that the next 30 hours would bring. 

I particularly get distracted by squirrels when reading a mile by mile breakdown, so I'll try my best to get to the juicy grinds and over described moments that really help me walk the line between a report and a true story. The weather was perfect! Ya know, until it wasn't. On my way to Sally's Footbridge, Mile 30, the sky suddenly went Haunted House gray and the temperatures dropped quickly, as we have all seen happen in our lives. "uh Oh" a female runner said behind me, and as if she was already aware, the sky opened up a hail storm on top of us.  
I will bring up the mud, because this is where it started and stayed for most of the race. We were at mile 24 (roughly).
The sky ablaze with current and devastating thunder claps
was not enough to break my spirit, yet. I felt very confidant in my steep downhill running to the Footbridge in what tomorrow would come concrete textured mud, today was wet puddles and in place rocks to run through and right over. 

Sally's, Mile 30  in 5:52pm
crewing myself I:
washed my feet,
changed my socks,
emptied and repacked vest
Ate mashed potatoes
Drank an Ultragen
Ate Chicken tenders 
put on pants and dry warm clothes
out at 6:17 pm.
Again I'll refer you to 2017's post on the mud going up to Jaws. The top was better than last year, I will note. And,  I even smiled when I saw the trees Cheryl and i held on to going what felt like upstream not uphill, last year. 
The dance inside my head for these 18 miles went something like this; Hit some aid stations, eat a lot, peeing alot, peeing too much? Probably need salt. What mile is this, what time is it? How long have I been out here? Yay, a flag, this course is so well marked. Ugh, this mud, ugh. ughhhh. Relax, settle down, lots of race left. Be patient. ughhhh mud. so wet. so cold. is that rain? no, that's snow. Actually, i think it's frozen rain. Second headlamp. Now..i think it's just rain. ooh, the road, almost there. pee again. Crap, i peed on myself , hmm that's better than Piss! I crapped on myself, I'm pretty clever with word play... oooh big tent. boom, Jaws. 

Jaws, Mile 48 in at 12:55
Crew'd by Dee and Sherpa Jim we:
ate chicken fingers and fries, they were warm!!!
drank lemonade
dried off feet
changed socks
Dry Clothes
New headlamps
Bladder filled
Unpack and pack again
heavy rain jacket
out at 1:14 am
What goes up...
Dee and I headed out in to the dark, to retrace the 18 miles I just tackled. When I signed up for Bighorn, I didn't secure a pacer or a crew. I was so high on 2017 and the 3 100's I did, I didn't think much past the thrill.
When Dee told me over mimosa's and a Betsy Birthday run (how we roll) that she would come to Bighorn, I about kissed her. It wasn't too bad going up alone, but my spirit was bowing ever so slightly from what was clearly going to be another mud run. The muddy, sticky and slippery terrain continued down, down, down,through all 3 aid stations 2 little bridges, and back in to Sally's. 

Sally's Mile 66 in at 7:05
Crew'd by Dee and myself I;
Washed feet
Changed socks,
Changed shoes
took off wet clothes
dry arm warmers and sleeveless shirt
ate 2 pancakes and 2 sausage
drank a lemonade
Broke the zipper on my drop bag, Shit.
wrapped up drop bag with Duct tape
unpacked and packed vest
"Dee Im heading out, catch me"
out at 7:30 am
Dee caught me after about 15 minutes, i think. The runners I knew out there, Carrie, Stacey, Eve..we were all within minutes of each other, as we climbed up aforementioned concrete textured mud. What I mean by that, is simple, part of this climb was like hiking up through a freshly poured driveway. I started to realize that "well, last year, it got better here..."
 was something I should probably stop saying. The texture changed back to slick and sticky until we ultimately reached the loooong dirt road to Dry Fork for the second time. 
It was hard not to get discouraged. By the time the ground beneath came back to running life, my feet and ankles were trashed from the footing battles of the countless past hours.  I never felt like I wasn't going to make the 3:00pm cut-off, but I had high hopes for this years Bighorn, which clearly coincided with my high hopes for this years Bighorn weather.
So much of the race was just not-fun running, and on the way to the aid station, I pumped and pepped myself up with gels and promise of the finish.  We worked hard to get right here, and we weren't done yet.
Dry Fork Mile 82 in at 2:01
Crew'd by Dee
Ate mashed potatoes 
Drank an ultragen.
Washed Feet Again!
Changed Socks Again!
Pack emptied and filled
Red Bull for the road
out at 2:14pm
Time to wrap this Shiz up...
...But not before a weepy painful scene
I crashed about 2 hours after leaving the aid station. Dee stopped at mile 82 when I went out for this last stretch. She didn't feel good about all the downhill, and I did...until I didn't.
huh, my feet hurt. Duh.
I winced at every step, i tripped on rocks and fell into trail brush, trying to do a speedy tip toe and limit impact on my pruned, wet, paper thinned skin feet bottoms and swollen ankle joints that really weren't into hinging at the moment, like at all. So, out of character, I let it get the better of me.
and I wept angrily in my pity party pain cave.
"There's my friend!" I hear from behind.
And, I bellowed,  "Betsy!"
I tol her she didnt have to wait for me, and she rolled her eyes:)
She told me about the messages the girls sent, that I could see as soon as we finished and got to the car.
We had about 8 miles to the finish. Every step and breath i took was strained.
I couldn't really talk, when I did, i just whined.
I wanted to walk. But, my walk was a crawl, so I nuzzled in right behind my friend, and just watched her feet, and tried to mimic every step to keep her pace, waiting to go numb in the lower extremities.
I was hallucinating a woman in the bushes taking our pictures, and the bridge I was longing for kept appearing, but never really there. I got lost for a moment watching the tall grass blow in the wind, and I mustered a seed of thankfulness that it wasn't too hot, and hadn't been the last 2 days. We were getting closer to the road. We crossed the street, into the park, and through the finish line together. 
Bighorn took it's toll not only on me, but many other runners.  It felt like trying to keep your balance in a washing machine for so long, that when it spit you out on dry land, so many of us were ship wrecked. Sometimes, after a race, i think to myself, see that wasn't as hard as i thought it was in the moment.  But, not this one.
Bighorn100 2018  33:36

Thursday, May 31, 2018

one day at a time

I don't always have it.
But when I do, it often makes me weep.
It often let's me sleep.

Dropping flashes of the underbelly nights,
I call upon an un~level hill 
I am sweaty and disappointed in the 
last poisoned cranberry soaked restless dark.

Habitual decompression of polar characters
and yet, the frost is favored as my skin is often so hot,
and my pulse, I feel it in my chest and head like that bongo
That one night, drumming out Sublime and Ben Harper songs?
You remember, don't you?
In that house, with those friends, bottles and instruments,
laughter and curse words?
and you, your eyes, so blue. I lost the rhythm when I saw them.

Caught in a web of earthly driven days and nights,
smelling fires and charcoal
feeling pumpkins and wine goblets that fit so perfectly in my hand.
That's the one, that'll be my cup. 
We have a bond, one I love and hate.
But those cool desert nights
That mountain glazed in purple & green, and stubborn July white tops.

It feels like magic!
Until it doesn't.
Until clarity.
Until admission and guilt step up like a
caged beast, and you cant help wondering
How have I not heard you? How have I not nourished you? You are me and I am you.

And those free falling and endless nights have long been gone.
And those fires are in the stove warming my home for my children
And, those pumpkins are carved by delicate hands
And, those bongos are in the basement collecting dust
But the music still plays in the air
and you, your eyes, so blue...help me see my truths.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Buffalo Run 50 mile- My very first and my most recent-

There's this place I see
clear as mud and the water in my eyes
comes without sadness. The
wind rips around my flesh and the sun is aggressive in it's kissing. The patience I strive for is greater than my pain, it's a mental confluent surge of ability and superiority  burning pangs  and irritation, all  dancing poorly and violently in the pits of my stomach and surface of my feet. 

It's never a gimme; except this finish was a total freakin' gimme in my mind. And I got that finish, but that's not what I wanted most.  I ran it faster than I ever have. But, it still wasn't a gimme. I drove out to the island too early. So I shut my eyes for 45 minutes in the car before checking in and getting the damn thing going already.  

First leg is the 25k loop with an extra added out and back for a total of a shy 20 miles. It has variation, there are some gradual climbs and gradual down hills. Nothing technical, compared to the Wasatch front. The Sunrise on Saturday was nothing short of kiss the ground and mountain air you breathe  spectacular! Running gleefully with the rising blue glow and looking out over the city lights, beyond the reflections in the great salt lake was immeasurable beauty. You'll see no pictures from me though. No time for love Dr. jones! ;) I set myself up, and more accountable even, told my friends my personal goal. I wanted to run this 50 miles in 10 hours. The 30+ miles that came next are flat, completely runnable, flat, flat, flat miles. I knew 10hours was a stretch, but one I thought I reach. My best time out there was my first. My first Ultra. My first dip in this dirty world. My first experience with all the good and the bad that comes with long distance running. Well, damn, I've done a lot since then. I have fallen in and out of love so many times with ultras since the first...

Did I overestimate my ability or underestimate the mental and physical order of this course? 

There are ALWAYS reasons and variables that will effect your day. My goal ALL of the time, is to treat those variables  equally, and not let them get in my way. So, I won't mention those variables that made the day more challenging. -Because- that is what makes endurance running so engaging. "Anything can happen in an Ultra" I have heard it 1000 times, and it always rings true. Anything can and does happen, even if that anything is a great and smooth day, post holing through snow, or trying to find a place to crap every half hour.

My goal was 10 hours. I finished in 11:12. 

2013- 11:33
2016- 12:40  
(Variables and anythings happened in those years, that's besides the point)

Humbly speaking, I didn't want to just finish. I wanted to run strong and hit my goal. I've come far from just wanting to finish. I've done that, I'm looking to improve. 
It's not so much that I didn't hit my goal. I was happy by the end that I PR'd none the less! I think what surprised me was how hard it was, and how hard I pushed, and I still missed 10 hours by a landslide. I was also unpleasantly surprised with how impatient and physically uncomfortable i felt.  I didn't really enjoy the last 20 miles, and that's a long time to just want something to be done with.

It's not my favorite course. In fact, I think I have been quoted saying I'd never run out there again! But, I had a good year last year with lots of race practice, I thought this was a gimme. And yesterday, i was reminded once again, that it's (races) are never a gimme.

Ahhh, but horah-hooray! Real running season has begun, I can't wait for long mountain mornings that turn into afternoons.

The 2018 plan:

Zion traverse
Scout Mountain 35k
Bighorn 100
Speedgoat 50k
El Vaquero Loco 50k
Wasatch 100
Gnarly Bear 50k

Monday, January 8, 2018

10 Years

in 23 days and roughly 2 hours, it will be 10 years that my mother died.
July 2000, 1 month before I moved to Utah
 Before Cancer

Reading that brings a warm layer of tears over my eyes, my brown eyes, like hers were.  Somewhere in between a bottle of wine and a late night pee before hitting the pillow, I was finally able to articulate a feeling into a thought.  Running long distances has never really seemed hard for me. Don't let me mislead any reader that it is easy, it most certainly is a challenge of endurance and patience, and a dance with your discomfort and pain thresh-hold. But running long distances, particularly the 100 mile distance, has never seemed too much to bare. I, in fact, welcome the day and a half with open arms, maybe more so than any other distance i have endured. Why?

I wrote a book...for lack of a better word. One could call it a 300 page journal entry.  But, I sat down at my computer 6 weeks after my mom died. At a messy desk, in a messy basement, full of memories and junk, and I poured everything I could out of me. I had this hope that if i got it out, it wouldn't hurt so much anymore. That if I put the grief into words that I could make sense of it, figure out where she was, and then ultimately realize she was nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

I didn't want to die 10 years ago, but I didn't know how to live. I didn't believe happiness was a feeling I would ever sustain again. I didn't believe that I deserved anything but chaos and regret. When I picture myself in 2008 I see a slumped shell of me; knuckles dragging on the ground and a low hung head.  I see chaos around and inside me.  And, I believed that was where I would stay. Not in total darkness, but in an overcast room that was always too cold. And so what does that have to do with running? Nothing, nothing at all. Here is a page from my "book".

Today is June 16, 2008. It is warm in Utah and our garden is growing. We have all walks of
life in the backyard raging from thyme to sunflowers, and lettuce to grape vines. I got back
from Baltimore 2 days ago. I was there on a visit to see my family, the family that’s left.
I felt immediate anxiety as the plane landed back in Salt Lake. I used to get so excited about
our garden, but life and growth is something I have been tangoing with since the beginning of
the year. Everything is symbolic and once a day at least, I am rushed with images of mom and
of simpler days, and I ache, god damn I ache. It all just stopped when she died.
Simultaneously with her passing, I became stuck in some twisted limbo between utter
loneliness and a light I can’t see. The birds are silent or maybe I’m deaf to them, and the snow
is messy and cold, while the sunshine is too happy for me. If I were a pie chart, a huge piece
would be missing, maybe all but one slice. If I were a dozen eggs, I’d be there, but cracked
and oozing, no good for anyone. I’m here, but I’m not right, just incomplete and broken.

Time does help. But, I won't ever forget those days. I'll never forget the best days and Ill never forget the worst.  And, I'm glad i wrote it all down. I seem to always re-visit my own words in January and May. The months and days where we celebrated and said goodbye still come, right on time. 
So somewhere between a bottle of wine and slumber, I realized the thing I like about 2 days of mountain climbing, running, fatigue, pain, and relenting miles, I like- that it ends. It doesn't last forever, you survive. Because both the beauty and  the pain of forever is the non-negotiable finality of the never ending.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

That's a wrap - The Bear 100

Clean desk, clean house, getting work started and done, meal planning, and even a touch of wandering around the house humbly staring at the mountains out my living room window.  My race year is over, and it was a sizeable one, for this 38 year old mother of 2. And now...nothing. Well, nothing in the sense of running, there's plenty of something's in my life that bring me joy, but I spent a large portion of 2017 running and gearing up for 3, 100 mile "runs" and road trip races with friends.  I wouldn't say I've got the blues, I'm just a little flat at the moment. Resting and recovering, crossing domestic and work chores off my list, and feeling a little pang of longing as I watch the colors burst in the cold mountain mornings that turn into truly spectacular sunny fall days. I know it's fleeting, our quick Utah fall.

So, It's almost 4:00pm, and I'm inspired to write some.  I just poured a Wasatch Evolution into my first swag of 2017, another Red Hot 55k pint glass.  I remember getting dressed that cold and rainy February morning and thinking, oh my! these shorts are tight! It's an early race, only 6 weeks after New Years! My first of the year. I got lost, I kinda panicked, I found my way back on course, I had the longest Red Hot run in the 4 I've done, my family didn't make it to the finish, they were 45 minutes late, I had no cell service, and I burst into tears of exhaustion when I saw my mini van chugging up the canyon. That was the start of my biggest year in Ultra-running. I'll only go back a little further, to charge my battery on the details.  I ran a 100 in 2016, Bryce 100, and it fell apart  later into day 2.  I finished, but it was a death march to last place, 2 hours after the 36 hour cut-off. I was demoralized, I was tired, and I was in pain. And as every bad race has reasons...in the end, I just felt defeated. Then later in 2016  about this time, I crewed/paced my friends in 100 mile endeavors of their own. And, I was inspired to bite off more than I could quite possibly chew, I could quite possibly even choke on those bites, but a smart phone, an impulse, a credit card attached to Ultra Sign up, and let's be honest, probably a cocktail or 2...there was my 2017 of running, boom, boom, boom.

A little late to get my Bear 100 experience outta my head, but here I go.  Jill and I were running the race, but we were not alone. Cheryl, Betsy, and Eve were all their to cover miles with one or both of us.  Sometimes you just know you're going to have a bad day. I knew on Friday from the get go, that I was going to have a good day. I can't recall a race I've ever felt so strong and confident in the "good day". The Bear starts with a big climb in the dark, it was slow but steady and in an hour, maybe 2 we popped along some beautiful single track. The views were stunning and the weather was awesome. My music was eerily on point song after song in shuffle mode, and I kid you not, I was smiling and bubbly for the 5 hours it took me to get to the first drop bag aid station. Leatham Hollow, mile 20. I just did everything I knew I was supposed to do. I ran the dirt road like Jill told me to, where everyone else was walking, like Jill said they would be.  Quickly after the road there was another climb.  Boom, more giddy smiles and wide eyed bewilderment as I passed open range cows sitting in fire engine red maples and water gently running next to the fairy tale trails that I'm sure held snow white and those goofy dwarfs somewhere in it's entangled arms of beauty.

The miles ticked off with ease and I came into Mile 45 earlier than I targeted. My friends! Betsy and Cheryl were there with warm Wendy's chicken nuggets, bellissimo! Jill had just left. Pack it up pack it in and out to the road across the street and 6 miles to Tony grove. Here it got dark, but I still got into mile 51 before my target time.  Cheryl was crewing Jill when I got there and Betsy took care of me. We were off and we came up on Jill who was not feeling great, about an hour or 2 later. The 3 of us, and the mad-Massachusetts-talker who  somehow  Betsy accidentally began pacing as well, mostly ran the 3 hours to Franklin. "Hey T-shirt, do you need a jacket?" This made me laugh and notice that everyone around me was bundled up and I had stripped down to said t-shirt and shorts.  That changed when we left Franklin, even on the climb, I was starting to get a little chilled.

The miles to the lodge were dark and pleasant.  Betsy and I chatted and giggled, or silently hiked for minutes at a time. I fell a little bit in the Logan river, and then met my lowest moment of The Bear.  A tendon above my heel had been screaming at me for hours.  Fatigue slowed me down, which made me get even colder, and then that thing that happens when you start to acknowledge all the tough stuff going on, happened. I began to get overwhelmed with the miles to go and even the few miles right in front of me. This felt like too much cold, too much pain, too much of everything. The back of my foot hurt incredibly bad on climbs. Relief came on down hill as I purposely slid my feet forward to avoid friction from the back of my shoe.  She reminded me that I should have some crappy moments in a 100 when I told her I was feeling low. I ate some and we trucked on to Beaver Lodge, where we hunkered down in Eve's VW bus.  Eve made me a grilled cheese and fresh pressed coffee...Sweet Jesus, I am so spoiled.  Betsy was done with me, and I've got to say how happy and lucky I am to have a friend run almost 60 miles of the last 2, 100 miles I've done, which happened to only be 3 weeks apart. Thank you my friend. i owe ya- But, I have a feeling I'll repay that favor in 2018.

Eve and I began again, but not before she gave me the literal new socks off of her feet. How I didn't have socks in my bag there, I don't know. She threw on an older pair she had and off we went. I didn't realize the time, but just like that, we had arrived to my second morning of the Bear.  We caught Jill at the top of the climb, mile 80 ish, and she and I were together the rest of the morning which turned into afternoon, and then the finish. Jill didn't feel well, and I have been in races feeling shitty for so long, and it sucks. The only silver lining is I was able to run with her in a 100.  So Jill, Eve, and I trucked down to mile 85 together. Cheryl and Karl were there. Cheryl who paced Jill from Franklin to the lodge had a 3 hour break where she was supposed to sleep (she DID NOT sleep) and planned to pick me up for the final 15.  She gotta a 2 for 1, and she led the way as Jill and I finished the Bear, in 32:33.

Right after Cheryl picked us up, the weather began to turn. The rain turned to icy snow, and the trails turned to mud. Oh Mud, had we not parted ways amicably at Bighorn?? Had we not had our fill of each other and all of our shoes? It was a slippery and rather painful, for me, stretch to the last mile and a half of road.  Jill asked me if I was still having fun, and I answered "no, I just wanted to be done". The pain in my foot was unbearable, but I needed to feel it a little longer.  But as all races have up's and down's, I laughed again as Cheryl and I lightly debated bacon. It's not food, she says. Why isn't it food, I say? It looks like food, it smells like food, you eat it! It's not food, it's not enough calories , she says..and this continued on down the slippery trail  for long enough to remember that no one is making me do this, and the smile returned even as I winced in pain.

I let out some mix of relief and tears when Cheryl said we had a mile and a half to go. I saw my girls as we rounded the corner. Me, Jill, Olivia and Sylvia ran it to the end, and we were done.

It was my fastest 100 of the year, and besides my first 100 at Antelope Island (FLAT!!!) it was my fastest mountain 100. Here's to the big runs in 2017, geez, I guess I am a little blue it's over, but I am very much looking forward to shorter runs in the dark cold mornings, skiing with my family, and swearing off early races like Moab and the Buffalo Run, or ya know, at least until that impulse, smart phone, and cocktail combo meets again. (which is kinda

Thanks for reading that was longer that I set out to write!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Welcome to Saturday Morning!"


I guess I am getting slightly seasoned as I went to bed at 9:00pm the night before Wasatch, and....I slept.

I woke up at 2:45am, even for an early bird like me that sounds stupid. But, I got up and started my day. Coffee and OJ. 2 hash browns and a handwritten note of thanks & Love to my family.  knock,knock,knock Nancy went at 3:45am! What a friend.

Nancy pants drove me to the start on her day off because well, she's awesome. It wasn't long until I hugged her goodbye and began the journey of one foot in front of the other.  I had an uneventful day thus far in the way of shit gone wrong. I ate 700 calories climbing Bair canyon (4,000feet in 4 miles) I tried to drown out the "lemme tell you all about me and all my races" stories in the conga line and enjoy the cool air, the glowing blue sky, the clear moon that had been out of focus for days given our beautiful west on fire.  I was a little impatient with the complete stops crossing a creek or 2, but I remembered the words of my tribe, be patient, eat, move with purpose. 

The heat is such a bitch to me.  I wish I could turn it into an advantage as it is a beast to so many, but I can't. I run so warm that even  a mere 75 degrees in a cloudless sky feels like an inferno to me. I packed an extra bottle strictly for my neck and head at Bountiful B. 10:09 am and I'm already wearing ice water.

In and and out of Sessions lift off , rolling like a stone in an upward swing of switchbacks under a canopy of green and brown.  We had moved from jeep roads to single track. What goes up, must go up again. We hit a short but steep climb, and meandered on single mountain side trails for a number of miles before finally popping out onto rich red road at Swallow Rocks. This next 5 miles got me good in 2015, and I wasn't feeling real well again. I ate a green otter pop, (even though I wanted red, the suffering life of an ultra, it's like offering a starburst and dishing out a yellow, I mean, what's the point?) But, I ate it and it was pretty good, after all.

I got into Big Mountain, mile 32ish where I saw the lovely Eve and Carrie.  I was feeling a little crappy. My stomach was not shot but it wasn't great. Eating would help, so I did that. Eve, if ya don't know is a plethora of knowledge on all biological things and experiences, and a lover and care taker of the earth, which can only explain how she knew a Mcdonald's hamburger and a mango Jamba Juice would be perfect.

Needing the calories to settle, Eve and I started hiking slowly out of the aid station.  The heat had gotten to me for hours, and we were heading into a notoriously hot stretch in the late afternoon. Ugh..I hate Alexander Ridge.  -Which, if I stopped saying that to myself, perhaps it wouldn't feel so terrible EVERY time we run it.  So, wait, I love Alexander! But we're not there yet, we are still making our way to Bald mountain.  Eve gave me an acid reducer that began to settle my stomach as we perched on top of Bald for a mere moment before trotting down the loose rock.  Suddenly something marvelous happened! The clouds began to gather so tight and close to each other, that they blocked out the sun and the wind cooled my face and tried to steal my hat. We saw rain in the distance and assumed we'd feel it soon.  This was a gift. We got up Alexander ridge, ran the rail trail, down into the trees before hitting Lambs aid, mile 45ish. The rain never came but the relief the distant storm brought for temperatures was welcomed. 

My crew! Nancy and Jen were at Lambs with food and helpful hands. Eve kept talking to me about layers, but I was perfect. "It could get cold..." nah, not for me, I'm basically a running microwave. Jen and I set out for Brighton, but before that, we set out for Upper Big water, Desolation, and Scott's Pass.  We walked the long road to the trail head eating French Fries (I love my friends and the fried foods they bare) up to Bare Ass Pass steadily moving and eating. The road to Upper Big Water, which is the end of Millcreek Canyon Rd, is what it is. It's a gradual 3 mile incline in the dark.  Temps were cooling but I was not chilled in the least.  Checked in, emptied and repacked, Jen's on it at aid stations, organized and thorough.  I decided to leave my hat and gloves. We set out for Desolation Lake as I downed 2 servings of instant mashed. Yawwwwn. Oh no. Yawwwwwn.  Yay a tree, I'm just going to put my head here for a minute.  I was eating fine, but the sleepy monster was coming in strong behind me. Yawwwwn.  After Desolation my eyes began to cross, It was not painful to run, but painful to be awake.  I asked Jen if I could close my eyes for 2 minutes..."ya got 2 minutes".  I could have fallen into a deep slumber with drool and all. I'm not sure if Jen got me up after 2 minutes or the raging cold burst that hit me did. But I'm up! And FYI, the 2 minute snooze cruise helped. It helped the way a cat nap does, just enough to push on.  But the cold... We were heading on to the ridge line and the cold wind had me shivering.  Since I don't get cold...Jen gave me her own hat and gloves. What a friend. I had wind pants and a lite jacket in my pack. 

We made it to Scott's and to Brighton, but not before I puked a little. Jen inspected said puke and was happy that I didn't lose ALL of the calories I just got in me:)

Brighton, mile 67ish, Hello Betsy!
Pee, clean contacts, sausage, hash brown, coke, headlamp #2 and we're outta there. It was 4:30am, and I was off my goal of getting to Brighton by 2 hours. But, there is something about day 2 of 100 miles that gets me excited. The probability to a finish perhaps? Because we already made it through the night, the stomach and sleepy monsters, puke, and the cold? Or the fact that you will be done later that day-with a finish or not...you will be home today. Or after going 70 miles, 30 more is doable?  I know this section. I can run it in my mind Brighton to Pole Line. It's 7 miles. I think I was moving well. Betsy brought Iced tea and Fried Chicken tenders (seriously, im pacer spoiled).
We breezed through Ant Knolls, and up "The Grunt" 3 big switchbacks up. We hit the pass at Sunrise "Welcome to Saturday morning!"said Betsy.

There was a lot of actual running from here on out. I missed my personal goal at Brighton, but we were nowhere near cut-offs.  I felt considerably great.  I'd go through little bouts of sluggish marches, but Betsy got me back on track and focused.  The immediate goal was to get to Pot Bottom by 11:00am. That would give me 6 hours, waaaay more time than I needed to go 15 runnable miles.  We ran into Pot Bottom at 11:08am...nice. From here on out we ran. Betsy would toss me back a chicken tender and a flask of orange gatorade periodically, so that was awesome. I love those miles where you forget that it hurts, you even forget you're in a race, and you're just running with your friend laughing about this one or that one.  Now some might say it's the need for calories, maybe the need for sleep, most likely both but at one point I had to stop and think "Am I running Wasatch or is Betsy?" Whew, it was me. In my defense we did this exact same stretch last year with roles reversed.

Coming into the last aid station and the finish was actually the first time in 2 days the physical pain got to me.  Surprisingly, my feet are in great shape today, but they just throbbed those last 6 miles. Everything did.  My glutes, my outer thighs, my IT bands, even my arms  hurt with every step.  Betsy reminded me that it's going to hurt until we finish so lets run.  When I thought a log was a cat she wanted me to eat. I ate some bacon, but that was it, we were almost to the road. There it was, the end. 34:40. An hour and 9 minutes faster than 2015. I was done and I was happy.

My family was there, the sweet faces of my girls! I couldn't even talk about them 15 hours ago, or I would have started to cry.  My friends! So many smiles and hugs.  Such a wonderful way to celebrate life and ability and the earth and running.  I know we're not saving lives out there, but we are certainly trying to live them.

Next up is the "finale" of my running year. The Bear 100.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bighorn 100

I might be too tired to finish this post, but I'll give it a shot.
Bighorn 100 

I've said this before but a start line starts way before your feet begin to move on race day.  So much anticipation and thought,
so much effort and support from many.
So much thinking and planning and checking the stupid weather. and then you get there-
and there is so.much.mud.

I'm not sure how I could have been surprised by the soul sucking mud. I believe  every person I talked to about Bighorn mentioned the notorious mud, in one conversation or another.  And, I already know I will not be able to describe it well enough. The only thing I can describe is my shock at the 38 miles of wet, slippery, deep mud.  It was remarkable and extraordinary in a God, this freaking sucks! kinda way. And, suck it did. For hours I curled my toes in my soaked shoes to help keep them on while trucking up 18 miles and down 18 miles.  

Friday was perfect. the weather was right in my wheelhouse, cool, drizzly, over cast.  I ran well and felt well. I started this race in good shape, for me. I haven't injured myself all year and I have been consistent and running better than I have in awhile. I was super excited to get Bighorn under way. Very minimal jitters and a lot of pre-race fun; a long drive, just a few beers, a street festival, souvenir shopping for the kiddos, and fish tacos with my second family. 10:00am start and I rolled into Footbridge aid mile 30 at 6:00pm. This is where I met Cheryl, and we began our really unbelievable 7 hour stretch up to Jaws. Just when I thought I couldn't take one more step of mud we got to Jaws a little after 1:00am.

Jill was there waiting with my bag, getting me food, ramen I think...maybe some bacon. It's hard for me to remember, as so much of our time together is all about eating and calories and salt and putting in what I can expend out and fuel one foot in front of the other.  We quite literally slid down the course for hours.  It was really frustrating at times trying to multi-task like eat while Not falling on my ass, or my side, or my face. I could not get my footing placed under me, my feet were wet and at at the mercy of mother earth's funny obstacle she was throwing down tonight. If you did not laugh at this ridiculousness we were trudging through, you would quit. That's where I was. Laugh and move or bitch and quit. 
Cheryl feels like my OG partner in dirt. She brought me into this community and introduced me to some of the strongest women I am honored to call friends. She has paced me many times but more accurately for hours..days even, if you add it all up. Our trudge up to Jaws was nothing short of insane, but we move as naturally and efficiently as if we were out on a training run, with the exception of the 110% goal being mine and she is taking the lead for me.  We talked and moved and ate. We ran when we could, but even the leaders struggled up this shit, I'm sure of it. We talked about how grateful we are and important it is to have such a group of women who genuinely lift each other up, support and encourage each other with no judgement- just because we blindly understand somethings you just can't explain. You've heard it before...therapy, release, adrenaline, personal success in an unconventional manner not judged by a piece of paper on your wall or zeros in your bank account. A measure that is so personal, that it's metaphoric denomination varies in each of us. For me, it's strength. It's like adding an ingredient of mental strength to the make up of Natalie. And, it's not just races or ultra distances, it's just the courage to try and overcome that comes with running. When i ran my first 100 in 2013 I was trying to explain this to my sister. I said something like, I feel like I am going to have to fight really hard for something in my life. I feel like I need to see if I can fight hard enough. Now...arm chair shrink here is going to say this might have some deep seeded roots tied to my mom dying so young, and watching her fight when the end was simply inevitable .  But, after  thousands of miles, that feeling like I need to fight hard has transpired into a confidence that I never had. It has transformed into a serious look at myself and after 37 plus years, finally liking me for all I am, not disliking me for who I am not. I digress..as I do.

So now I'm going to call out Jill.  After about 6 1/2 hours getting down from jaws and breaking into an overcast Saturday morning. We reached footbridge for the second time. The rain had stopped. She sat me down in a folding chair and  struggled to get my muddy wet shoes and socks off.  She washed my feet. Did you hear me? She washed my feet.   She remarked that they looked terrible, but I didn't want to look. I knew they felt pretty terrible. I did catch a glimpse at the bottoms. They looked like wet paper. She dried them and helped me get on dry socks and new shoes. These were not the shoes I planned on wearing for the remaining 34 miles, but anything was better than the encased swamps I had been in the last 22 hours. Jill you are so calm and smart. I don't know if I could have kept it together without you... which brings me to when I in fact could not keep it together with  you.  I set out for cow camp. A decent climb...Over 2,200 feet in 3 miles. This trail was dry yesterday. Today, not so much. The rain had stopped but the mud was thick heading up. The sun was out now, so fingers were crossed that the trails would dry up, but not here, not yet. 

Jill told me to go ahead at footbridge, she had to clean her own feet and would catch me. She's a killer climber, so I knew she'd catch me in no time. Here's where I began to worry about time. The cutoff to Dry Fork was 3:00. We had 13 miles and (I think) a little under 5 hours to get there. But I told Jill I wanted to get there at 2:00. I really wanted a cushion between cut-off's. I would have been more comfortable with a 1:00 cushion, but that shit was not happening. 3 miles an hour, that's all we have to do, Jill said. It was runnable. We could do this, but I'll be damn if I believed that, as I started to unravel coming up the long dirt road to the aid station.  I can't even guess how much I ate in this stretch and how many salts. I was peeing every 10-15 minutes.  Jill carried Gu Brew, an electrolyte water in a bottle for me. I was drinking a lot, but it was going right trough me. I said something to Jill;  that nothing I was putting in was giving me a second wind or an ounce of energy. Was I in a hole, depleated? Was I burning it too fast? Both? Jill would have me run for 30 seconds then walk. Then she'd have me run for 10 seconds then walk. I started to grab my head, yelling at myself, that this was just temporary. Figure it out, just run! I was yelling at myelf. I was saying everything hurts, but it won't last long, suck it up, just go faster! I couldn't entertain the thought of failing, the thought of telling my daughters I couldn't dig deep enough. But,  I didn't even know what the hell that meant at that moment. I choked up and asked Jill if we were going to make it to the finish. I was unraveling. I had no idea what time it was or even if I made it to Dry Creek by 3:00 if I could run another 18+ to the finish.  I asked Jill to just tell me what to do, what and when to eat and drink. I couldn't make decisions. I asked her to think for me.  When we got to the last little push up to the aid station. She said 10 minutes. She said 10 minutes to the top. Then you have 10 minutes in the aid station and you're out. 
Holy shit, we made it. And, it was only 2:10 (i believe)  I sat down. Jill wrapped me in a blanket, and dumped my drop bag. A rainbow of Gels and a red bull. I put on my hat. "You have to eat something, I don't care what it is". I ate bacon and a Perfect bar. I drank a red bull, Jill filled my water. "Go, Ill catch you". It was 2:20 and I was ready to take on the next stretch.  

Friends. A friends face is so amazing.  I hadn't seen Betsy or Jen since yesterday at mile 13 where my girl posse crewed me. They were running the 50 mile race. It started this morning at 5:00am, at the top of Jaws. I thought often how they were faring in the mud.  As I was heading out of Dry Fork, I ran right in to Betsy coming in. "Hi friend!" Betsy yelled. We hugged, and I said, "I've got to go right now, catch me!" 

Jill came up from behind a mile or 2 later with a... wait for it...Mcdonalds Cheesburger. She wanted to peel the cheese off, but I said, Jill would you rather me have calories now or diarrhea later:)  She walked behind awhile longer. My friend who had been taking care of me, literally thinking for me, was depleted herself. She needed to eat and get herself back.  She caught me on the last little climb, of course she did:)  We ran the rocky downhill for what seemed like forever. It hurt. The shoes I changed into were minimal. Everything hurt, but we were close..we were approaching single digit miles. Just when I thought we were smooth sailing with 6 miles to go...."Natalie, can you run any faster?" "umm..yeah?" "ok, do it, I'm worried you're not going to make it" Wait, what?? So, my internal compass and inability to do math after mile 20 bamboozled me once again. We still had 3 miles to the aid station. So, 9 or 10? more miles, not 6. So, I ran. I ran faster to that  aid station than I had all day. I was passing people that also started running. A kid came up behind me running. "Your pacer told me I needed to run or I wouldn't make it!" haha, Jill, always looking out for people :)  We got to the road. I knew the road was 6 miles to the finish. But, the aid station volunteer told me it was only 5. I wondered at that moment if it would be inappropriate to kiss this man. It's amazing how much 1 mile made a difference in my mood at that moment. It was about 4:00. I had 2 hours to go 5 miles on flat dirt road. Even if i walked the whole way, I knew I'd make the cut-off.  Jill met up with me at the last aid station, Homestretch . I had a pink freezie pop. We ran over the bridge, we ran down the sidewalk, turned left, a short jaunt down some grass, boom. Finished. 33:17

Unfortunately, many people missed cut-offs or dropped seemingly due to the weather and mud. Even for a notoriously muddy course, apparently this much mud and for that long was atypical.  I tend to do well in extreme situations. I am not speedy, I'm not an amazing climber, but I can endure and suffer.

Ohh, it felt so good to be done. I felt so freaking amazing and proud of myself. I felt so grateful to have such an amazing crew and support from my friends with me and family and friends afar. Scott has really become my ultra-running crew from home. No more griping about running for hours or gone for days, we've finally reached understanding and support. 

We headed back early Sunday morning, Father's Day. This past week has been peaceful. A calm high of Bighorn 100.  Next up is Speedgoat 50k and then the double 100 attempt in September Wasatch100 and the Bear 100.  I can only hope they go as well for me as my time at Bighorn in the northern mountains of Wyoming.

This was pretty lengthy, thanks for reading :)


No one can really know Everything about you, but

I cannot live with someone who can't live without me.
Nadine Gordimer