Thursday, September 26, 2019

Week in Review (September 17 - September 23)

Tuesday (41,272 steps) - And finally, the end of Tahoe 200.
After the race ended, we stuck around at the finish line until the 100 hour cutoff passed. I was hoping to get back to the BnB to shower, but Ben convinced me to "power through" and we stopped in Tahoe City for food and drinks. I have no recollection if I ate anything, but I definitely had a beer. Once we got back to the BnB I got in the shower and the great unpack/clean/repack began.
This is an awful lot of stuff that needs to be organized and packed
At some point I remember sitting with Heather and having a conversation, the next thing I remember is waking up on the couch. At some point I went to bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night with a night terror and yet another bloody nose.
Wednesday (6,223 steps) - Up early so that I could chat with Heather a bit before she headed back to Reno for her earlier flight. We managed to get out right around 11, when check out was. First stop was Fifty Fifty brewing in Truckee, then we stopped at a Imbib in Reno.

Before we knew it, it was time to get to the airport. Everything went fine, which was good since Ben and I had not remembered to check in 24 hours in advance. Landed on time in Denver, and then we headed to Station 26 for a special "keep the glass" event. Had some food and headed home. LONG DAY.
Thursday (6,637 steps) - Sadly, I had to go to work. I was pretty out of it all day, and I managed to get out a few minutes early. Best part of the day was Nicole gifting me a giant Spring Fling cake from The Market!!
Ben decided to stay in Denver for the night even though he had to work in the morning. We ordered in pho, then went to Megan's house to pick up Pika, dropped A off at Abby's (yes, again), and then went to Target to get a new Fitbit charger (apparently the only thing I lost other than 4 tubes of chapstick). Another late-ish night.
Friday (10,819 steps) - Thankfully, didn't feel quite as tired. I (stupidly) ordered a new phone (just the XR, not the 11) and decided I would pick that up after work. I hadn't been to the mall in years, and I did not enjoy the 20 minutes I was there. Rest of the night was spent trying to set up new phone.
Saturday (6,937 steps) - Blissfully slept 10ish hours. Did a LOT of cleaning and unpacking.
I think I could survive if every Saturday morning started like this!
Rachelle came over and I took the girls to see It, Chapter 2. There were a handful of scenes that made me cringe since I was with teenagers, but overall, a good movie.
Sunday (7,789 steps) - Slept in again. Amazing! More cleaning and laundry. We met Ben at Barrels & Bottles for drinks and lunch. Eliot joined us for a while, before we headed home around 4. Later we went to Kokopelli for dinner. Yum!
Monday (13,667 steps) - Met Ben & A at New Terrain after work. We walked with Pika to the rock (and jogged down).
The only wildlife we saw was this poor mouse

  • 93,344 steps
  • 15 miles run? Whatever I had left of Tahoe 200
  • No gym classes

Week in Review (September 10 - September 17)

Tuesday (16,109 steps) - Worked all day. Took my last pre-race class at the gym (skipped total body strength in favor of core). With Ben at home, I skipped Milk Market and headed home for last minute packing.
omg so much stuff
Wednesday (13,814 steps) - Nicole offered to take me and Ben out to lunch. We hit up Tupelo Honey near Union Station. Delicious!
While I had to go back to work, Ben drove to Runners Roost in Denver to pick up my new watch that I'd ordered. I managed to sneak out of work a bit early so I could do some last minute packing and get A over to Abby's house, where she would be spending the week. We hit some rain/hail on the drive to the airport and got stuck in some nasty traffic. Hit up Dry Dock for a few beers before heading to the airport.
We made it with plenty of time and got seats next to each other. Tried to rest, but that obviously never works. Arrived in Reno on time, and then only had to wait a few minutes for bags and the shuttle to the Atlantis resort. I kinda wish we had more time here, it was fun having a "night" where we didn't have anything to do. Checked in to the room and then opted to wander around the casino for about an hour. I haven't gambled in years, and the hour it took to lose about $30 didn't encourage me to start again any time soon.
Thursday (9,685 steps) - Slept amazing!!! Seriously the most comfortable hotel bed EVER. Sadly, we had to pay out of pocket for breakfast, but man, was it the greatest breakfast ever!

I'm a grown up so I can have cake for breakfast!
We went to a buffet and got to sample a little bit of everything. Amazingly, neither of us ate too much. Hurried back to the room to grab our stuff and head back on the shuttle to the airport.
All of the luggage in the world
We met Lisa by Thrifty, and picked up the Jeep that I rented. I drove into Tahoe, and what a beautiful drive! We arrived with enough time to check in with medical, take pre-race pictures and attend the mandatory meeting.

Wait. I'm going to be running in those mountains across the lake? Wut.
We stopped to get food and drinks at a cute restaurant/cafe.
We headed to the AirBnB that I had rented. It was super cute! (I guess the only pic I actually took was my view from the patio...)
I spent a bit of time redoing my drop bags - since we decided I would drop them off in the morning (since apparently, bears and other wildlife have been known to mess with bags??) Picked up a bunch of beer & groceries and then had pizza for dinner. Once I felt like I was as organized as I was ever going to be, I headed to bed sometime around 8-8:30.
Friday (91,830 steps) - Sadly, I did not wake up super refreshed. I'd had a difficult time falling asleep. Ugh. Took a shower, braided my hair, got dressed and then got the rest of my gear ready. Had a bagel & cream cheese and coffee before heading out. We got about a half mile away before we realized that none of us had actually grabbed my drop bags. Oh lord. For the rest of the story, keep reading my recap here.
Saturday (120,854 steps) - More Tahoe 200
Sunday (94,758 steps) - Even more Tahoe 200
Monday (91,046 steps) - Tahoe 200, the race that may never end

  • 438,096 steps
  • Probably about 185 miles run
  • 1 gym class

Monday, September 23, 2019

Tahoe 200 (Race Recap)

Homewood, CA
Friday, September 13 - Tuesday, September 17
Ultra Marathon - #26
Weather - Little bit of everything

Like all good stories, my Tahoe 200 journey began long before I toed the line in Homewood.

Many years ago, I completed my first 100 mile race. Like so many others, the ultra bug had bit in a way I didn't fully understand. I began running to lose/maintain weight. I began racing because someone else convinced me it would be fun. My first half marathon was completed because someone else was training for an Ironman and needed a 13.1 mile training run. The slippery slope of finding the "next big thing" was always looming. Sure, I can run a marathon. But what about a 50K? Or 50 miles? Or further?

So what possesses someone to make the leap beyond 100 miles? Well, for me, I remember very clearly seeing the announcement for Tahoe 200 years ago. A giant loop around a beautiful part of the country that I'd never been to. I remember sharing the post on Facebook and was discouraged from friends and family into taking the plunge. Every once in a while, I'd think about Tahoe - or even other extreme events. My mid-life crisis apparently hit last year - I signed up to run the Transylvania 50K in Romania for my 40th birthday, ran The Rut in Montana last Labor Day weekend, and completed three more 100 mile runs.

Shortly before registration opened last year, I remember seeing the memory of when I first shared the announcement of the event five years prior. I'd already been doing crazy/epic shit all year long - why keep putting it off? Obviously I couldn't stop thinking about it.

November 7, 2018, 11:00 am - I clicked register.

In typical "Rebecca fashion," - I decided it was easiest if I just didn't think about what I had just done. Practically at the last minute (one month out) - I signed up to run Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in Texas. I had already completed two 100s in the previous few months, and figured it would be a good training run. I also signed up for an early summer 100 miler and a mid summer 100K.

And of course, none of that shit panned out.

Rocky ended up taking way more out of me than I expected for a "flat and easy" 100 miler. I didn't run much for the rest of February. All of a sudden, it was March. We had a very wet winter, and I hadn't been out on the trails as much as I was used to. Spring break suddenly arrived, and my daughter and I spent nearly two weeks sightseeing around Germany and Poland. So before I knew it, months had already gone by, and I had done basically NO race-specific training.

I had planned on running Sinister 7 in June in Canada, but that fell through for various reasons. Desperate to find replacement race, I settled on Black Hills in South Dakota. Moving my 100 led to a drop in distance from the marathon to the Heavy Half in Leadville. A DNF in Sturgis led to a few weeks of serious doubts. If I can't even finish 100, how will I complete double that??

Very last minute 100K in Missouri gave me back some confidence, but I still showed up in Homewood feeling scared and inadequate. The day before the race, we head to the expo and mandatory runner's meeting. Everyone there seemingly has more of a "right" to be there. My eyes linger over the race shirts people are donning and the air of confidence everyone ELSE seems to have.
Photo cred: Scott Rokis

Race day - September 13

We arrived in Homewood with more than hour to spare, which gave me plenty of time to drop off my bags and cycle through the bathroom line a hundred times.
All-star crew! Lisa, Zach & Ben (Heather would arrive Saturday)
Before I knew it, I could hear Candice making announcements - although I couldn't understand what was being said, I guessed that meant it was time to get going. Ohmygod.

Start/Homewood to Barker Pass (0-7 miles)

There was no time to ease into this - the course started right up the mountain. I knew what pace I needed to maintain overall to make cutoffs, and I really tried to not let the early miles discourage me.
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Scott Rokis
There was a bit of a technology issue when I realized my new watch wasn't set up to auto-lap miles. I had it fixed within the first three miles and consciously tried to ignore looking at it too often. The pace I was with was actually really great for a climb, I was maintaining 20-22 minute mile pace and was still able to hold a conversation with the folks around me. Like most ultras, the conversations were introducing ourselves (although I can still not remember many names) and talking about the races we ran to prepare for this madness. Finally some downhill, and I arrived at the first aid station a little over two hours in. A volunteer assisted me with adding water to my pack, I filled my front bottle and grabbed some food. I took some watermelon on the go, but somewhat regretted putting the rind in my food bag - it made everything I had soggy and gross. Lesson learned for next time.

Photo cred: Howie Stern
Barker Pass to Loon Lake (7-24 miles)
I managed to trip very early on (maybe within fifteen minutes of leaving the aid station) and fell hard on my left shoulder - thought I maybe dislocated it, although the medic looked at it when I arrived at Loon Lake. Range of motion very limited, and he said it was swollen. Definitely not a race-ending moment, but super annoyed with myself. As if the fall and injury to my shoulder wasn't enough, we then entered the incredibly dusty and technical section entitled "The Rubicon." Apparently, this section of trail is a Mecca for Jeeps, and we were sharing the trails with dozens of vehicles, which made everything that much dustier.

I rolled my historically "bad" ankle a few times, and was wondering how it was going to be possible to finish a 200 mile race when I clearly couldn't even get through a dozen miles without hurting myself. Temperatures were heating up and I was concentrating on keeping moving. I'm glad I had Gaia on my phone as there were a lot of flags/markings missing, especially as we approached the campgrounds.

At some point we approached the "only" water crossing, which was thankfully much tamer than I expected. We arrived at a water source/lake and I attempted to use my Lifestraw - which was a failure. Glad I didn't really rely on that! A guy named Travis let me use his pump to fill my bottle AND gave me some Advil for my shoulder. Last few miles into Loon were filled with some beautiful views and I was able to get more running in. I was really excited to see my crew. They were set up at a bench before even arriving to the aid station. Immediately they tended to my feet and then Ben took me to see the medic and pick up food at the aid station. I ate a plate of pasta (glad that's what I chose because it was the only aid station that had that!) I spent a bit more time there than I intended, but it was great to see everyone and I headed out in good spirits.

Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Loon Lake to Tell's Creek (24-30.5 miles)

I really have very little recollection of this section. There was some nice single track and some climbing, and I remember feeling it didn't take long to get to the aid station.

Tell's Creek to Wright's Lake (30.5-44 miles)

Picked up my Kogalla - I'm glad I got there in enough time that I didn't have to pull out my backup Petzl headlamp. I ate some food and got a cheeseburger with guac to go. That ended up being a solid choice, and a burger actually holds up pretty well for a few hours. That kept my nutrition up for the next segment. Of course this was one of the sections where I spent the most time alone on the course, and basically all I could think about was how much a bear might enjoy eating the remaining part of my burger, and maybe me too.
There was some climbing in this section and other than that, I can't remember much. I was treated to a beautiful sunset through the trees - and then coming up was the giant Harvest Moon. I remember chasing a gal out of the aid station and thinking - "wow, her headlamp is really bright!" Duh. It's just a super bright moon.

We were also treated to a nighttime segment of MORE JEEPS. It's dark out?! Ugh.

Wright's Lake to Sierra at Tahoe (44-62.9 miles)

Another section of trail where I don't remember much. It was pleasant overnight and I don't remember being cold. I had picked up more food to go from the aid station (although at this point in time I can't remember what I grabbed). There was a really nice section of paved downhill where I really felt like I was able to bank some time. I was chatting with a few ladies and that helped the time pass. One gal (I think her name was Karen?) was having issues with her headlamp, so she was sticking close to share the brightness of my Kogalla. When we got back onto the trails, I really struggled. Mentally (and maybe physically) this was the hardest segment for me. I was so tired and all I wanted to do was rest, but I also knew that at the next aid station I would have the chance to lie down in a sleep station. It was also a LOT of climbing. Both of the women I had been with quickly dropped me on the climbs. I don't think I questioned my ability to finish this race more than in this one particular segment. I felt VERY defeated. I also had more hallucinations in this section than any race I've ever done. (My favorite was the entourage of Pillsbury dough boys that were beckoning me to an aid station that didn't exist).
Tiny mouse!
I couldn't believe how much I was struggling and I hadn't even been out for 24 hours yet?? There was NO way I was going to drop out of this race without even getting a chance to use my pacers. It was a few hours before sunrise when I came into the aid station. Tired, I told my crew I needed at least a half hour to close my eyes or I wouldn't be able to continue. Thankfully, they had no issues with letting me rest and indicated that I was doing fantastic and had plenty of time to rest. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to actually sleep, but closing my eyes and having my feet up gave me enough rest to continue on. Crew fixed up my feet, loaded up my pack, and I headed out on the next section with Zach - my first pacer.
Sierra at Tahoe to Housewife Hill (62.9-70.5 miles)

Zach really lucked out and I think he probably got the prettiest segment on the course. The trails were beautiful and not technical. The trees were mossy and with the sun up I definitely felt better.

Housewife Hill to Armstrong Pass (70.5-88.1 miles)

Arguably the section that was the most intimidating for me, with over 4,000' of climbing. I had selected Lisa to pace me this section because she is a strong climber. We headed out of the aid station knowing it would be a long segment. It was definitely warm out, and the climbs were just as steep as I had imagined, although I think I handled them pretty well.
There were a few areas where there was some access to water, and we figured that we were high enough up that it didn't need to be filtered, and even if it was going to make me sick, it probably wouldn't happen before the race was over... Lisa was also very helpful dunking my buff into the cooler mountain water, which helped to cool me down. She had me running short segments where it was downhill. Overall, I think this went pretty well.
Armstrong Pass to Heavenly (88.1-103.1 miles)

Lisa handed me off to Zach - shortly before the sun was setting. While it was still minor, I was having some chafing on my inner thighs, and I was worried about being on the pass without warmer gear.
I wasn't sure it was the best idea, but I lubed up and put on my REI rainwall rain pants and warmer layers and headed out.

Another beautiful Tahoe sunset
This section was maybe the "sketchiest" of all the sections with very steep drop-offs and fairly narrow trails. I'm actually fairly happy to have done this section at night, so I didn't see how far down drops were.
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
We saw a handful of tarantulas run across the trail and I told Zach NOT to tell Ben they were out there. We arrived at the summit and I put on an additional layer of clothing. About five miles out from the aid station I had to call Ben and ask for suggestions of what to do to stay awake. I was swerving and very tired and I wasn't sure Zach knew what to do with me! Ben suggested I listen to music, and I briefly put in my earbuds. At one point, I blew a snot rocket and it gave me a really bad bloody nose - to the point I soaked through the buff Zach let me borrow. Luckily, Zach still had his wits about him and pulled out some gauze for me to shove up my nose since the blood was not clotting. Turns out, when you're tired, a severe bloody nose will keep you moving. Came into the Heavenly aid station after midnight. Ben seemed surprised that I demanded another nap.

I forced down some food and used the bathroom before lying down on an air mattress inside the lodge. FINALLY I was able to get some sleep. Grateful for the advice to have a face mask and earplugs. (Later, multiple people would describe Heavenly as similar to a Red Cross disaster camp). I was able to get more than an hour of sleep in a nice, toasty indoor setting. It helped IMMENSELY.
If you have to be awoken after just an hour or so of sleep, it might as well be by someone as cute as Ben <3
Heavenly to Spooner Summit (103.1-123.5 miles)

We headed out around 3:15 am, and thankfully, the climb back out of Heavenly was not as bad as I imagined it would be. I was glad to be wearing my puffy coat as it was MUCH cooler than it had been earlier. Once the sun came it I got a little warmer, but I was glad I switched over to tights.

I don't remember much of this section either, although during the daylight we finally got some views of the lake. It was SUPER windy here, and it definitely seemed like some weather might be coming in.

Spooner Summit to Tunnel Creek (123.5-140.5 miles)
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Lisa was going to be with me for a few segments, as there was no crew/pacer access at Tunnel Creek. It was a LONG and exposed climb out of Spooner. We had some amazing views, but it was really windy and I didn't super love this section.

Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Photo cred: Hilary Ann
Thankfully, once we got to the summit and began to descend down the back it was less windy. Very little running in this section. First, because I didn't want to and knew I had enough time that I didn't need to, and second, because my ankle was bothering me. Lisa was texting with Ben and he told her the medic would be looking for me when we got to Tunnel Creek to look at my ankle. Started to struggle a bit here, and probably the only time that I was emotional to the point of silent tears. I was repeating a mantra to myself over and over "FOCUS. EYE ON THE PRIZE" and had my headphones in for a bit. Thankfully, once the climbing subsided, we had a LONG descent down a jeep road to get into the aid station, and were blessed with a beautiful sunset over the lake.
The medic looked at my ankle and taped me up. I opted to lie down in the cot to rest, although it was chilly and I was not sleeping, so decided to not waste time.

Tunnel Creek to Brockway Summit (140.5-155.5 miles)

Lisa and I headed out and knew that we had a few miles of bike path in town before we would be arriving at the power line segment that we were told was "steep, but short." We were accompanied by a guy who was running the Triple Crown for those miles, as he wanted to stick with people until he found the trail. We arrived at what was supposed to be the base of the big climb and we were re-routed by construction workers. At this point, I've been on my feet for days and I'm having a hard time understanding why we can't just follow the damn trail markers?! Pulled out the Gaia and had to find a new way up, as the detour suggested by the construction workers was going to add too many miles. We ended up climbing through what may have been someone's yard and thankfully ended up with a few other people for the last segment before getting to the trail. All I can say about this section is WTAF. So basically, imagine standing at the bottom of an unused, overgrown ski slope and trying to navigate up. A guy suggested that I take off my puffy coat as we still had substantial climbing to do. Although I would argue this was not SHORT, I'm glad we were warned that there was a false summit.

The two pics below are obviously not mine since they are in daylight - but I wanted to post so people could get an idea of what we were up against during the climb.
Photo cred: Matt Whalen
Photo cred: Phil Clark
After a nearly hour long mile, we finally made it to the "top," only to find out there was still some more climbing. OF COURSE THERE WAS.
View from the "top-ish"
The next section was really when my brain actually broke for the first time. We had another section of jeep road climbs that never seemed to end. I couldn't seem to figure out when/where we would arrive at the aid station and I was super frustrated here. I remember sitting on the side of the trail - being mad and stubborn, but also somewhat realizing that this temper tantrum could possibly affect my race. At some point, a guy came running by waving his arms like a lunatic - "we're supposed to be running this section FAST" and went flailing by. As he passed he said it was 1.4 miles to aid. Ok. That's like a half hour, maybe. Ugh. Ok. After hours of seeing nobody, I got passed by a few people. All of a sudden, I see the road, and Zach & Ben. Only, that wasn't the fucking aid station?? We had to cross the road and get back on the trail, and the cursing continued. I was SO MAD by the time we finally got to the aid station. Told my crew I didn't want to do anything but sleep, so I was escorted immediately to the sleep station. Unfortunately, it was fucking cold and I didn't really sleep (maybe I did, but it didn't seem like it). I realized I was awake but couldn't really yell because there were other people in the tent and I didn't even have my phone. Ben came in with some ramen and helped me up. ("I'm a beetle!") We still had to get everything ready because I'd been too stubborn to do it previously. Last 50 miles coming up, with "plenty" of time to get it done.

Brockway Summit to Tahoe City (155.5-175.5 miles)

Ben and I headed out in our winter gear. It definitely seemed like the weather was coming in. I really don't remember anything heading out of the aid station and before I knew it, I was really tired. I kept begging Ben to let me take a break to sit on a rock.

And every time I was hit with response that I had just napped and I needed to keep going. We stopped in a meadow-y section so I could seat some of the magical pizza my crew had put in my bag.
The pizza log rest stop!

It was still sunny out, but it was definitely cooler than it had been the last few days. As we progressed along the trail, the sky kept getting darker. Ben commented that if we were in Colorado he would definitely say that the clouds were bringing rain. I kept complaining about being tired, and finally Ben gave up and let me lie down on the side of the trail for a nap. Best nap ever.
When I awoke, the rain was just starting. Began intermittently, and before I knew it, was coming down a lot harder. Then, the rain transformed to snow. Immediately, I was grateful - would much rather run in the snow than the rain. But then it just kept coming down, harder & faster. Snow during a 200 miler at 170 miles in makes for a good story, right?
I was getting colder, and I knew Ben had to be freezing as he was wearing shorts and just a rain jacket. Snow was covering the trail and it was getting more difficult to see where the markings were going. All part of the adventure, right?
Later, Ben would tell me that he was "not happy with the situation" and that translated to, "shit was rough and we could have ended up in serious trouble." We managed to escape the flash blizzard and ended up low enough on the mountain that the weather leveled out and there was no longer a risk of hypothermia. The last few miles into the aid station were pretty rough, but we were blessed to have some beautiful view off the lake.

Came into the aid station pretty spent. Zach met us and asked us what we needed. I was just happy to be arriving in daylight and knowing that I would have dry clothes to change into. Had plans of just having food, getting new clothes and changing shoes. However, when I was in the Jeep, the rain started. According to the radar, we would have about a half hour of rain, and I made the executive decision to stay in the car and nap and attempt to wait out the storm. After about 45 minutes, the rain stopped, and Ben and I headed out for another long, 20 mile section in the dark.

Tahoe City to Stephen Jones (175.5-195 miles)

We started out very easy. Pavement and flattish trails. Then the trail changed to some steeper and more technical climbs. I was feeling ok at this point and I was in pretty good spirits heading out for my last big push. The climbs were a little steep, but nothing that was overwhelming. We ended up in a meadow-y area that was simply gorgeous - beautiful sunset with a peak in the background.
Ben asked if that was where we were going. My response. ?? But I knew we had more climbing to go, so I assumed, yes. As we continued, there was more snow the ground, but the air temperature was fine. It was not raining or snowing, so my core temperature was ok. The climbing seemed to go on forever. Switchback after switchback, and then we finally arrived at what the summit was, only to realize that we still had miles (and hours) until we would get to to the final aid station.
Still so much snow!!
We dumped off the trail onto road and I realized I had somehow lost one of my mittens. Ben went back to get it while I navigated the road to get to the bike path. We would remain on that for a few miles, enduring the cold air off the lake. Ben would not let me rest or nap, reminding me that the aid station would be approaching soon. OR WOULD IT. The cough I had developed around the halfway point was getting out of control. Every few minutes I would be hunched over my poles coughing nearly to the point of vomiting.

We navigated through the town, up some residential streets. No aid station. Minutes go by. No aid station. A guy and his pacer that I had been running with earlier passed. No aid station. Dumped on the the trail AGAIN, and still no aid station. I am starting to get mad. WHERE IS THE AID STATION. I see no lights, I hear no road. I'm telling Ben it's an imaginary aid station and probably not even there. He insists that our crew is there and we just need to keep moving. My watch has me a mile over, then two. STILL NO MOTHER FUCKING AID STATION. Ben cautions me to not yell at the aid station volunteers when I get there. You mean IF we get there? I'm still not convinced there is anything at all. Finally, we see the lights in the distance. I tell Ben that I cannot deal with anyone right now and all I want to do is sit in the warming tent. We arrive at the aid station, and I see the crew and ask to be taken to the warming tent. I have a chair and a blanket and try to sleep. Maybe I doze off for a few minutes, but it is SO COLD.
Zach keeps poking his head in and asking if I need anything. Ben finally perks up, but we are by no means ready to go. It's FUCKING COLD. We are eating ramen and drinking coffee, but we are not really any warmer than when we arrived. I certainly don't want to be sitting here until the sun comes up, and I am COLD. Finally, we decide to just suck it up and get the fuck out of there.

Stephen Jones to Finish (195.5-205.5 hahahaha)

I used the bathroom and met Ben outside. Ok, here we go. Time for the final push into the finish line. We definitely have the time to finish, assuming nothing goes wrong. But at this point, I can't assume anything. We have a long road out of the aid station and it definitely takes a while to warm back up. Finally, we get off the jeep road and back onto the steeper climbs. Ben keeps asking if we are at the top and I can't remember, only that we need to get to Barker Pass before we head down.
Are we going up that too? Uh...
We stopped briefly on a rock to watch a partial sunrise and eat breakfast burritos before heading out for good. Probably one of my favorite memories of the course.

We can see people coming up behind us, and honestly I don't care. (Unless it would have been a female and then I would have kicked things into a higher gear). Climbing is relentless. We see where the aid station had been earlier and I tell Ben that yeah, maybe this was the summit. (hahahahahahaha).
Photo cred: Mynkey Cheeks
Up we keep going (how can we keep climbing unless we find another peak?). Headed toward Ellis Peak and we see Hilary, one of the race photographers - of course she would be here when I'm ready to die from climbing.
Photo cred: Scott Rokis
Finally I get to what may be the top. I recognize that we are at the ski slope area. But are we actually descending? I check the navigation on my watch and I'm discouraged to see there are still MILES TO GO. How how how??? WHY? Fuck. Finally, I decide that I'm ditching all my extra gear. I'll run/jog where I can. I'm so close to the damn finish and I want to get there as soon as fucking possible.

When we are close enough to see the chair lifts, I know we are close. Like I'll be holding a beer in my hand in twenty minutes close. 97 hours have passed and the finish line is just around the corner. I'm very happy to have Ben with me at this point - and even happier that the last 200+ miles haven't jeopardized our relationship.

I can see the lake below me and begin to hear the faint sounds of a finish line. About a half mile out and we can see Heather and Lisa waiting for us at a switchback. At this point, I'm running. Who cares that I've barely ran the last 100 miles. There is no way I'm walking into this finish line. I can hear Lisa behind me, choked up that I'm running and heading into a finish. My legs and feet feel surprisingly fresh. We turn a corner coming out of the trees and I can see it. The finish line. I grab Ben's hand and we run together into the finish. Exactly as I hoped we would.
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Photo cred: Howie Stern
Howie was at the finish taking pictures, and quickly escorted me get my "after" pic taken before I stripped off my pack and selected my buckle. 
Photo cred: Howie Stern
I'll still say that choosing my own buckle might've been the hardest part of the entire race.

My amazing crew did not fail me at the end and had a chair waiting and all the beer I could've hoped for. And just like that, the day (and the journey) was done - the moment was over.
Photo cred: Howie Stern
It's hard to imagine that one could forget an experience that lasts for more than four days, but it happens. As I sit here, many days later, writing this, there are so many "moments" that I can only partially remember. All I can say for sure is that this "once in a lifetime" experience was life-changing. I will not say this is something I'll never do again, but I will say that I'll never forget the feeling of accomplishment of crossing the finish line.


Official time - 97:14:49
Overall place - 124/149 (225 folks started, so 76 DNF's)
Gender place - 18/28 (yep, obviously a male-dominated field)
Fun fact - fastest pace was the last 1/3 of a mile into the finish
Fastest mile, 7 - 13:43 pace - downhill into the first aid station at Barker Pass
Slowest mile, 144 - 59:30 (power line)

Gear I found essential:
  • Orange Mud adventure pack
  • Kogalla RA - the Batpak 3 was easily enough to get me through a night, and I used the smallest size to charge my watch & phone (I also carried a backup Petzl headlamp & batteries, but never needed it)
  • Leki Micro Vario carbon poles
  • Hoka One One Speedgoat 2's - I rotated through three pairs. Feet were happy for about the first 125, then I finally started to get blisters on my heels.
  • Zensah & Stance crew socks - changed at almost every aid station when crew was there
  • Dirty Girl gaiters - course was very dusty/sandy
  • Smartwool seamless bra - never changed mine and ZERO chafing over 97+ hours
  • Oiselle gloves and mittens
  • Patagonia Houdini for when it was cooler, R1 TechFace as a layering piece and the micro puff with hood for the really cold sections
  • Salomon Lightning pro waterproof jacket
  • Columbia Silver Ridge lite plaid shirts with Omni-Shade UPF 40 sun protection & roll-up sleeves
  • INKnBURN skirts & tights
  • REI rainwall rain pants
  • Saucony fleece-lined pants
  • Bula fleece-lined hat
  • BUFFS - these were instrumental for covering my mouth when it was dusty, wiping my nose & eventually, for clotting blood from my numerous bloody noses. 
  • Native sunglasses
  • Garmin Fenix 6S
  • Jaybird Tarah Pro wireless headphones
  • Honey Stinger chews (and also dried fruit)
  • Nuun tablets
  • BASE performance salt
  • Gum
  • Chapstick
  • Squirrel Nut Butter
  • WIPES - these were used a ton, especially by my crew for cleaning off my feet before re-lubing & changing socks
  • Cough drops - thanks, crew, for these! I developed a really nasty cough from all the dust.
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Face mask & earplugs for the sleep stations

Week in Review (April 2 - April 8)

Tuesday  (17,510) - Peloton before work in the office. Did my short cross training and left at lunch since Joyce is on vacation. Finally sto...