Saturday, May 13, 2023

Cocodona 250 (Race Recap)

Black Canyon City, AZ
Monday, May 1
Weather - Warm, but also cold

I'll begin this race report by saying this is the first race I've ever DNF'd and opted to give it another go. 

Preface

After last year's miserable failure I said there was absolutely NO WAY I would go back to Arizona and run this race again. I'm apparently "addicted" to the 200 mile distance, however, and there was no way I was going to be able to let this go.

Race Day

Unfortunately, thanks to people running around, screaming and slamming on doors and walls at midnight meant that I had trouble getting back to sleep and when my alarm went off at 2:45 am I was in NO way rested. I was mostly ready to go, just had to force myself to eat breakfast (frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl) and some Pom juice and coffee. 

Start to Cottonwood Creek (Miles 0 to 8)

Typical morning for me. We arrived maybe 45 minutes before the start, as planned. Got my Spot tracker and the last minute cycling through the bathroom a million times. I planned on starting with my headlamp, although honestly, by the time we started at 5:00 am, I think I could have gotten away without using it. The forecast hadn't changed much over the last week, so the plan was for the temperatures to be in the 90's. Due to all the rain/flooding in March, the course had to be modified a bit, so our first aid station would be at mile 8, instead of mile 11.

Per the norm, I started in the very back. I spent the first mile or two with a gal who DNF'd last year, and I asked for her number later so I could check to see results later. Sadly, she was a DNF this year as well :(

The course bottlenecked a bit in the beginning as we were on single track, but I didn't have any desire to run fast (or a lot), so it was fine. At one point I glanced back and there were maybe a dozen or so people behind me. 
One of the early water crossings I'd been mildly worried about was the Agua Fria (pictured above), that we hit about 2 miles in. A month ago we weren't even sure if we'd be able to cross because the water was too high. This was no big deal at all. I don't even think it was as deep as my calves. I barreled through and passed probably 10 people who were trying to find a dry way across, or people putting on shoes after crossing. 

Once the sun came out it warmed up pretty quick. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. I would spend a lot of these early miles joining in the conversations of other runners who were trying to come up with their race strategies.
We had to fill up at least 4 liters of water at the aid station. I only had the bare minimum requirements in my pack in terms of gear, but I had planned on PLENTY of water. A few weeks ago I picked up this Platypus flexible bladder because it would be lightweight to carry while empty. I also had my regular bladder, 2 front soft flasks of 600ml, my Katadyn BeFree bottle - that I opted to not fill, and subsequently lost :(((( -- and one more 250 ml flask that I planned on mostly using to mix my caffeine powder later in the race. Either way, I spent 10 minutes grabbing food (3 roll ups to go) and filling up bottles. This was my second fastest aid station stop, of the ones I tracked. 

Cottonwood Creek to Lane Mountain (Miles 8-33.3)

I stopped to use the "bathroom" (a bucket in a zip up canopy/tent thing) and began the grueling climb over the next 25 miles to Lane Mountain. We were supposed to have a water drop at mile 11ish, where we could take up to one additional liter of water. The lower part of the climb was gorgeous with lots of cacti and a surprising amount of green for the desert. 


The water drop was a MUCH bigger deal than I imagined!! Lots of fun signs leading up to it and Metallica blaring from a speaker. We weren't very far into this yet, but it was so wonderful to have it!



I topped off my one soft flask and then... A ROCKET POP. Oh my, this was the greatest thing EVER.
I spent a few miles with Matt and Ana. Funny quick story about Matt - I mentioned him in my Moab 240 recap - he had lost his glasses on course and he remembered me, so we had a fun conversation about that. 


Somewhere maybe 20 miles in, there was a runner in distress huddling under a small amount of shade. He hadn't been able to keep any food or water down and was talking with other runners about attempting to communicate with headquarters about being evacuated out. Sometimes I "forget" all those hidden dangers on the course. I took a moment to be grateful that my race was going well and made a note of his bib number to let the aid station know when I arrived. 
I spent a mile or so with a gal named Beth on the last bit of climbing before the water drop at mile 25.5. What a welcome sight to see!! I was surprised to see a volunteer there, monitoring the water we were taking. I planned to fill up my Katadyn bottle and that's when I realized it was nowhere to be found. So sad!!! 
Topped off both of my soft flasks and sat in the shade, but only for a minute, before heading out. "Only" 8 more miles until Lane Mountain! This section was steep and hot and relentless, but I was still feeling pretty good. When I had been talking to Matt earlier, the thought was maybe making it to Crown King around 8 or 9, but I was on pace to get there much sooner than that.



I was pacing with another runner (cannot remember name OR bib) who had done this race in 2021 and he told me as soon as we did the switchbacks it was pretty close to the aid station. He was right!
Photo: Scott Rokis
I think I grabbed a few quick calories and topped off bottles, but with Crown King being so close I did not stay long at all. 

Lane Mountain to Crown King (Miles 33.3 to 37.3)

I basically remember nothing from this section. It was a dirt road and the wind had picked up, so it was dusty. I actually knew where I was on course (finally) since I had remember this junction from Crown King.

Ben had said he was going to try to come to this aid station (even though I initially told him I wouldn't need anything) and I was happy to see him at the entrance to town. 

Photo: Anastasia Wilde
I was feeling a hot spot on the bottom of my left foot, so I sent Ben off to get leuko tape while I grabbed some food. I had a Spring Energy smoothie (and drank all of it even though it was BANANA) and had some veggie burger. I spent more time than I wanted to here, part of that being because there was a line for the bathroom (would've been nice to have some port-o-potties here), and also because I had just been without real food/sustenance for a LONG time. I had Ben get a beer (and I had just a bit of it) before I got my foot cleaned up and headed out - before dark!!! 

Crown King to Arrastra Creek (Miles 37.3 to 53.6)

I headed out following Linda - that I would eventually catch up to. We spent a lot of miles together here and there.
I don't remember a ton about this section, but I think a lot of it was pretty runnable?
I also got off course in this section. I missed a turn and ended up on a fire road. Since the markings weren't super frequent, I didn't realize it right away. When headlamps in front of me turned around I pulled out Gaia and realized I was off course. Also, apparently if I had had my phone on, race command was texting people to let them know they were off course. (I saw it later). 

I of course was mad at myself for being off course, but it was early in the race, I was still alert and it hadn't cost me that much time/distance. I did more running to get back on course. Have no idea what else happened here. I caught back up to Linda and we did the last miles together into Arrastra Creek. We were both lamenting about the lack of a sleep station and being really tired.

The exciting food here was spring rolls again. I had misread the profile cheat sheet in my pack and thought it was downhill into Kamp Kipa, so I was a bit demoralized when the volunteer showed me the REAL profile, and it was uphill. Blahhhh.

It was also a lot colder than I expected (especially after how hot it had been earlier). There was a campfire going and I sat for a few minutes and then decided I just needed to get out of there so I could keep moving until the sleep station at Kamp Kipa.

Arrastra Creek to Kamp Kipa (Miles 53.6 to 63)

I left Linda sleeping in a chair at the aid station and headed out alone. I don't remember much of anything. I think the first mile or two out was pretty tame, but there was definitely a big, narrow climb that I wasn't mentally prepared for. I remember a gal passing me at some point and I told her I was going to try to keep up following her because I was really tired.

I WAS SO HAPPY TO GET TO THIS AID STATION!! I think I went in long enough to grab something to eat and then immediately asked about sleeping arrangements. There was a bunkhouse across the way. As tired as I was, I planned for an 80 minute nap, which is LONG for me, especially early in the race. It was also, sadly, unproductive. I was super glad to have had my inflatable camp pillow, and the race had provided blankets, and I was relatively near the space heater, but I was SO COLD I could not sleep. I basically just laid still and shivered until my alarm went off.

It was, however, nice to have my shoes off for a bit. I tried to be quiet while I gathered all my things and headed back to the aid station. I grabbed food and was filling up fluids, when I noticed Paul sitting at one of the tables. We talked for a minute and decided to head out together.

Kamp Kipa to Friendly Pines (Miles 63 to 71.2)

Paul and I headed out and the sun was blissfully out and things were warming up. I was REALLY happy to have a shorter section here. There was a short climb to get out of the aid station, but really, this was a nice section. I vaguely remember some nice single track? I know at one point Paul said he was going to stop and take off a layer. I stubbornly thought the aid station was "right there," so I didn't take any of mine off and it was DEFINITELY hot when I finally got there.

This was another crew accessible aid station and Ben was there. I used the bathroom and ate, otherwise, don't remember much about this aid station. I barely had a drop bag here since Whiskey Row was so close. I do remember telling Ben that I needed my Rabbit flannel at Whiskey Row since I didn't have any other layers to put on for the climb up Mingus Mountain, and I was terrified it would be as cold as the previous night. Ben said he would see me at Whiskey Row.

Friendly Pines to Whiskey Row (Miles 71.2 to 78.7)

I have no idea what happened here. Was on a trail for a bit, then ended up getting put on a residential street in Prescott. There was a guy with his son and a folding table of bottled water with music playing. Otherwise, I was FINALLY seeing things I recognized from last year. So basically, the first 75 miles of this course were brand new!

I found the markings much better this year and had no issues finding me why to the aid station. It was pretty fun to be a few blocks out and see Sheri walking towards me! She owns the Back Alley Wine Bar literally next to the Whiskey Row aid station and had been tracking me. She walked me in and sat for a few minutes until she had to go back to work. Thank you Sheri, it was wonderful seeing a friend on course!!

Ben couldn't stay long because he had to get to Flagstaff to catch HIS shuttle to Jerome. I think he looked at my feet again (?) and he got me some food and I swapped out my drop bag. I walked him out and then went back to take a nap. Unlike last year, I got sleep! (Thankfully, this would be a pattern going forward). The noticeable changes I made were being sure to wear my eye mask and put in my ear plugs. I also was conscious about lying on my back instead of "trying to get comfortable." I woke up, felt refreshed, grabbed some ice in my bandana and headed out.

Whiskey Row to Iron King (Miles 78.7 to 92)

It takes a bit to get out of town if you are there in the middle of the day. Got stuck at a few lights, and had some runners ahead of me that I was hoping to stay with, but I missed one of the lights and lost track of them for a bit. Thought this was a cute display!
I used this time to briefly check my messages and realized that my tracker wasn't updating, so I posted a quick selfie and Gaia status for proof of life and location on the course. 

These miles leaving town went on FOREVER. Literally forever. I recognized the school and all the neighborhoods, but I just didn't remember it being that long. I hadn't read too much about course changes, but Ben said we would be on a different side of the Dells this year, and I made sure to send this picture to him because I remembered being so hot last year and stopping under this bridge for a minute of shade.
I had caught up to a girl and her pacer and we were heading towards the Dells, but on the other side of where we had been before. We went through a disc golf course and then along a path. This sign made me laugh.


Ah, I remember you!! Like last year, I was REALLY happy to be doing this during the day. Essentially, there are white dots on the rocks that are the trail markings and you have to travel from dot to dot. There weren't a ton of course markings, so again, grateful for daylight. This part was SO DIFFERENT than last year. It was much greener, and there was even a creek and a big waterfall (that I unfortunately did not get a picture of).


And then suddenly, we are out of the rock climbing. Happy to see the port-o-potty I remembered from last year was still there, since I had to use it. Haha.
Also, got the first bloody nose of the race, although in retrospect, this was a "baby bleed."
This section was just as desolate as I remember, although not nearly as hot as last year. I was definitely moving faster here and tried to run some.
The "low" of this section was getting passed by an octogenarian out for a leisurely afternoon stroll that sped by me as I got to the town area. 
I have no idea what happened here, other than Paul was at the aid station when I arrived and I asked if he wanted to wait a few minutes for me to replenish everything and head out together. I marveled at the fact that I seemed to be hitting all these aid stations at roughly the same time of day as last year.

Iron King to Fain Ranch (Miles 92 to 97.3)

Paul and I headed out just before sunset. This was the shortest section between aid other than Lane Mountain to Crown King. It was also the beginning of my least favorite section - the fields of Fain Ranch. We were a few miles out when we got to the field and that's about when we had to pull out Gaia to navigate because we completely lost all the markings. We had a gal come running up behind us screaming about how runnable this was and that they needed to fix the flags. 


The Fain Rain aid station had been updated and taken over by Satisfy and was supposed to be "the most epic aid station on the PLANET." I was excited to see what this was all about. Initially I didn't want to be here that long, but I had some hot spots on the bottom of my right foot and did some taping. Plus, the food really WAS delicious, so I sat on a chair and relaxed a bit longer than intended. Paul had long since headed out, so I was going to be going out on my own. Having done this section before, I figured it wouldn't be that bad.

Fain Ranch to Mingus Mountain (Miles 97.3 to 109.7)

OK, so back to the field. This is the section where the course is essentially just running along the fence line. I was with a group of a few other people - at least close enough that I could see headlamps.
I wasn't worried about this section, but I had remembered that there was (what seemed to me) a confusing section before hitting the dirt road to Mingus. It was much easier to navigate this year, for whatever reason, and before I knew it, we were on the dirt road. I had been dreaming about napping in the same place I did last year, at the base of the trail, for a while. I pulled out my space blanket and laid down in the same place, but sadly, it was windy and uncomfortable and I didn't sleep.

Bah. I kept on the climb, and there was another section maybe a mile up with a nice, perfect rock for sitting and I sat and closed my eyes and actually dozed off for a minute or two. It wasn't especially cold, but I knew I needed to get up the mountain and to the sleep station. 

The climb was fine, I barely have any recollection of doing it. I was SO HAPPY to see the aid station. Thanks to being there last year, I remembered the layout. Came in and asked what the sleeping situation looked like this year and immediately headed to take a nap, armed with my Rumpl blanket. I got a room that already had a few people in there. I *think* I planned on 2 hours to sleep here, and whatever I planned, I did. I slept wonderfully. I got up and headed back to the aid station where I had lasagna and I think pancakes? I ate a quite a bit and headed out on what I remembered last year being a horribly long and exposed section.

Mingus Mountain to Jerome (Miles 109.7 to 126.5)

I left my phone on during this section since I knew that Ben would be heading to the start of his race. I had hoped for me arriving in Jerome would align closely with when his race was starting, but I realized I was going to be hours later than that.





There were some runnable sections for me and I took advantage of that before things got steep and rocky like I remembered from last year. A few people ran past me on the switchbacks, including Paul, and I decided I could move a bit faster in this section rather than straight hiking, I tried to do an easy jog where it seemed safe. It was INSANE to see snow/ice in this section! It was easily a billion degrees here last year. I got warm and started dropping layers at some point here.

There were some sections parallel to the road that I remembered, and I'm sure we napped there last year. Thanks to the sleep I'd gotten at Mingus, I was fine in this section. I took a picture of this sign, then managed to catch my sock on the barbed wire gate we had to go through. Sadness!
Even the "horrible" rocky double track wasn't quite as bad as I remembered, thankfully, and I actually did some running in here. 
All was going well until I got a massive bloody nose a few miles out from the road to Jerome. I called Ben to ask if he had the quick clot, because I was blowing through all my "nose tampons" like there was no tomorrow. I was trying to collect them all in one of my protein bar wrappers and everything was covered in blood and getting sticky. It was not a time I was happy with. FINALLY I could see the road, but I wasn't really able to run much here between the nose bleed and just not feeling great.
REALLY happy to hit this WAY before the halfway point time-wise.

Even though I'd run this before, it seemed MUCH longer to get to the aid station than I remembered. For some reason I hadn't remembered we had to go through town FIRST to get there. Finally, I'm there.

I hadn't wanted to spend a ton of time here, but I needed the tape on my feet looked at again, and I was starving. It was also insanely windy, and crap was blowing all over, which made it harder to get things done efficiently. I don't remember what the food was, but I think it was burritos? Chicken tacos? Unsure. Also, finally got my nose bleed under control, but what that meant was being a walrus for a bit. I learned my lesson from Moab.

Jerome to Dead Horse Ranch (Miles 126.5 to 135.2)

Off we go, for hopefully a successful back half of my race. We did some miles and then arrived at what the runners have affectionally named the "Garbage glass power line." It was NOT as bad as I remembered, but I still did yell some obscenities. Eff this trail!!!



Not really sure when we started the detour from last year, but we had a lot of road and then we ended up in a town. We also were walking by what looked like a Farmer's Market, and I thought we saw a brewery. So we stopped. Ben said this only took 4 minutes from start to finish. We shared a beer and the couple next to us was actually familiar with the race and asked a bunch of questions. Was pretty neat!


Then we were on the Jail Trail (I should have taken a picture of the sign, but I didn't). I stupidly blew another snot rocket and this was WAY worse than before. I got blood all over the front of my shirt and it was running like a faucet. I had blood everywhere. Got a quick clot done on the trail, in the sand, and then had to head into the aid station.

Last year there were tacos and margaritas. This year, just tacos, but that was fine. Headed to use the bathroom and wash my hands, and the other nostril started bleeding. Fuuuuk.
Trying to be efficient here was marred by the bleeding and inability to eat quickly with stuff shoved up my nose. To Ben's credit, he was really watching the time so we didn't end up in trouble like last year. We got a few tampons from the medical tent for my nose. Sigh.

Dead Horse Ranch to Deer Pass (Miles 135.2 to 148.4)

We had definitely gotten out on the trail earlier in the day last year. That didn't make any difference for our memories, neither of us could remember ANYTHING in this section. It was like we had never been here at all.
I think we were both waiting to end up at the section that we thought was so confusing and like we were going in circles, and... we never did. It did kinda seem like we were going in circles, because we would make a turn, and then all of a sudden, there was town. But it was not the same level of confusion for sure.

The excitement here was having a girl run by us wearing... crocs. (I found out later, not only did she run 30-40  MILES in them, but she finished. Way to go!!)

Deer Pass to Sedona (Miles 148.4 to 162.6)

Deer Pass was the last official aid station we hit before dropping last year, so this was a pivotal moment for us. This was not a technical sleep station, but they had two cots, and I claimed one for a 35ish minute nap. I don't know that I slept well, but I felt better not heading out completely sleep deprived. Had coffee and food of some kind but who knows. We started this section knowing we needed to watch carefully for markings as we had gotten off course last year. No problems this year! 
Nothing in this section seemed as bad as it had last year. We felt like the big climb into Sedona before the water drop was really bad last year and this year it was fine. Helped that I had sleep though, because I definitely remember trail naps here.

We got to the water drop and laid down for a nap. PS, if the guy who rudely kept talking to us while we were trying to nap reads this - DUDE. YOU don't talk to people who are lying on the ground in the dark. Grrrr. Anyway, I was really excited to have the "monkey off my back" and get to see new parts of the course again!

We were on trails for a bit, then we had to get on the road in town for a bit. This section also went on literally forever. Also, Sedona is pretty hilly. Sadly, the brewery was not going to be open at this hour, either. Anyway, we trudged on to the aid station. 

Every flag that had not been present on the course was in the 1/4 mile before the aid station. Seriously, like 100 flags.

We had to go up a hill to whatever the building was. All the food was outside, but there was an indoor sleeping area. We headed in to sleep - I can't remember how long, 45 minutes or an hour maybe? We knew we were starting to lose some of the buffer I had built up early, but I know how slow I move when I'm sleep deprived, so we we went for it. 

We had food, bacon I know for sure, but can't remember what else. Then I fixed feet and cleaned up a bit, although my change of clothes wasn't until the next aid station. Headed out feeling good and still optimistic. 

Sedona to Schnebly Hill (Miles 162.6 to 179.6)

A long section that was going to be broken up by the Oak Creek water crossing and a water station before the aid station. For some reason I had in my head the water crossing was 5 miles out, and then 7 miles after that was a water drop. It helped break up this section, which seemed to go on forever.

There were a decent amount of people out recreationally in this area, which was a lot of slick rock. Nate passed us at some point and made sure to ask how we were doing on time. He said he was planning on moving quickly now in anticipation of moving slower later. We should've been doing the same thing.
There were some indoor bathrooms by this bridge that Ben used, and I managed to run into Beth's crew, who indicated she was behind us somewhere. I figured we had to be close to the water, and yet it was still a while before we got there.

We were on the road (and running) when I saw this cute sign:
I haven't done a deep water crossing since I almost drowned at Fat Dog, so I was a tad apprehensive about this crossing. I opted to go first, and thankfully, it was fine. 
Photo: Anastasia Wilde

Anastasia was there taking pictures, maybe I'll have a fun one when pictures are ready! And then, suddenly, we started the climb up Casner Canyon. I didn't think it was that bad. We lucked out with it being overcast and not too hot. Views for daaaaaays:






I think most of this climb all we did was wonder where on earth we were possibly going and how was there going to be a water drop anywhere near here.

Turns out, we eventually got to the top, and then there was a dirt road. Not just any dirt road. A dirt road that went on forever. And ever. And ever. We did some run/walk here and there was a group of about a half dozen people in front of us that we kept in sight.
I was really happy when we got to Schnebly and I got my drop bag and my last outfit change of the race. I had initially hoped to change in the medical tent by the medic actually said "you're not going to drop trow here are you???" Sigh. So I had to try and change head to tow standing in the dirt outside. Anyway.

We didn't want to take long here because we wanted to cover miles in daylight, so as soon as we got our food we headed out. I also made the risky decision to drop my bladder. I was getting so tired of carrying it and I figured I could make due with my 2 front flasks and smaller bottle. That was really a good idea. Seriously.

Schnebly Hill to Munds Park (Miles 179.6 to 191.2)

No idea what this section was. At all. We headed out on a fire road. That's about all I remember. 

The one notable thing for us was Munds Park is a "town" and the course followed a road with a sidewalk. HOWEVER, there were weird layers of loose gravel/asphalt covering most of them, so we had to run in the street. Literally can remember nothing about this.

Arrived FINALLY at the aid station at seemingly forever in town. It looked like everything was outside, and Ben was irritated about that. I looked for my drop bag and CRAP IT ISN'T THERE. Like we are basically the last people, only a few bags left, and mine isn't one of them. I see there is a big box of discarded ones, so I figured I would check to see if mine had gotten tossed in there by mistake. IT HAD, but not the new one I had designated for this aid station. It was the one I had discarded at Schnebly. Crap. The volunteers (one of whom is a friend of mine on Instagram) said they would reach out to race command to see if it was somewhere else while we slept. We ordered BLTs and took a nap for about an hour inside on a cot. Weirdest thing about this aid station was the bathrooms - lights didn't work and you had to wear a headlamp, but it was nice to be able to wash hands.

When we awoke there was no news on my bag, so we semi-angrily grabbed our food and headed out. This was gonna be a long night.

Munds Park to Kelly Canyon (Miles 191.2 to 206.1)

I was a bit upset since I had packed a really nice hooded Smartwool layer in my pack specifically for this section. Nothing I could do about it though, so on we trudged. I remember basically nothing about this part either. We took some roads out of town and then I have no idea. I believe this was the section where there was a large meadow where we had some trouble navigating and had to pull out Gaia again. There were also downed trees in here - reminiscent of Bigfoot (not nearly as bad).

The biggest issue in this section was how freaking cold it was. I had definitely planned for it to be a cold night and I really could have used that extra layer. I was tired, and we napped at one point. I was moving really slow through here and at one point Ben talked to race command to let them know that we were on course but we were having a hard time and to standby if we needed to get pulled off the course. This was the one and only section of the race where I really thought I might not be able to finish. We had some tough conversations here about racing smart and not doing anything that could have negative consequences. 

We FINALLY rolled into Kelly Canyon. We immediately let everyone know that we were not in great shape and talked to the medics about cutoffs and needing to get warm, etc. We decided that we would not make any decisions about anything until after we had warmed up and taken a nap. As we were sitting in the medical tent, Elizabeth came in with her pacer. I asked her if she was going to go back out and she said "of course!" When I asked if we had time she was pretty clear on the soft cutoff at this aid station (8:00 am) and Fort Tuthill's not being until 3:30 pm. We also talked with Nate here, and he assured us we had time, but to watch the Fort Tuthill cutoff and to leave well before then.

Ben and I shared a cot since Elizabeth was napping in the other one, and with the heater nearby, we warmed up. We definitely felt better and with the generous cutoffs coming up, we decided to load up on calories and head out, now that the sun was up.

Kelly Canyon to Fort Tuthill (Miles 206.1 to 214.5)

We were the very last people to leave Kelly Canyon, about 5 minutes over the soft cutoff. I don't remember this section, but we knew that we really needed to be aware of the time and our buffer was basically gone. We did some running here (I think), but honestly, I have no idea what this section was either. Our conversation was pretty focused on when we had driven to Fort Tuthill with Amy last year looking for our drop bag after we dropped. Even though this was a relatively short section, it took a bit.

Arrived at Fort Tuthill and it basically was a ghost town. There were only a handful of runners there. We still had to nap, so we decided to wait on food and get sleep first. I have NO idea what shifted this race, but I was actually able to sleep AGAIN. I can't remember now, but I think we had planned on a little over an hour, with a goal of being out (maybe?) around 1:00 pm. I really appreciated the cots and the fact that since we were in the back, there was NO one else there making noise.

Fort Tuthill to Walnut Canyon (Miles 214.5 to 230.4)

With that said, we still had to eat and get everything ready before heading out. I took this selfie as a "proof of life" again. We were the very last people left in the aid station. The food was pasta and maybe meatballs? I think? I don't remember, but we definitely ate a lot here.
Fort Tuthill was the one aid station that we visited after dropping in 2022, so it was fun to be leaving on foot and not in a car. I have very little recollection of this segment, other than we leapfrogged with Elizabeth and her pacer a bit in this section. And apparently we were on the same trail nap schedule, because inevitably, that's when we would run into each other.

The brief time I had been on social media, I knew to be looking for this sign, and oh boy, was I happy to see it! "Just" a marathon to go!!!!
Initially, I had wanted to skip trail naps and have some more quality sleep at Walnut, but had realized that was actually not a sleep station, so when we arrived, the goal was to get as much food as possible, and head out.

This was the best aid station. THEY FOUND MY MISSING DROP BAG!!!!!! I was so excited to have it!!!! There was so much delicious food and the volunteers were the best and it was fun that they were in the spirit of "Cinco de Mayo" - which we originally thought we would have to put off celebrating for a day. They actually had a few Dos Equis beers, so that was as fun treat to have at this point in the race. Maybe spent a bit too long there, but we needed it.

Walnut Canyon to Mt. Elden (Miles 230.4 to 243.5)

We headed out in GREAT spirits after leaving Walnut Canyon (aka, the best aid station of the entire race I think). We had replenished all our calories and in our minds, all that was left was "one climb." I was very glad that we had asked what the segment was actually like. We were told that it was rollers for 10.5 miles and then the climb up Mt. Elden. Wooo, I like that!
For the first time in many miles, we were NOT the last people out of the aid station, so we settled into our final night on the trails. I honestly cannot remember those 10 miles of rollers. This may have been the section that we crossed a road and there was a bridge that went over the longest train I've ever seen. (If it wasn't here, it was the section before this, everything runs together). There was a water drop somewhere, and I topped off one of my flasks.

At some point I got tired again (what a surprise!) and I told Ben that I wasn't sure how much further we had before we started the climb, but that we should find somewhere to nap before we got to the technical hill where there might not be anywhere to sleep. It was unfortunately also really windy, so it took us a bit to find a good spot. We moved a few feet off the trail and debated on a 20 minute nap (which is longer than usual). When the alarm went off I felt dead, so I offered to snooze for another 10 minutes. When THAT alarm went off we decided we had better get going, so we are packing up all our gear and suddenly we realize that there are two people just standing on the trail - no headlamps, nothing. It was a bit scary as we didn't think there were any people behind us. Turns out, it was the course sweeps. Immediately panic sets in and I look at my watch and we are still FINE on time, which I confirm with the sweeps.

Ben is immediately on the hunt to find whoever is in front of us so we can drop the sweeps. We picked up the pace. Also, we seemed really close to civilization at this point - we could hear a lot of highway traffic. We can see Elizabeth's headlamp, and to be honest, I don't even remember passing her, but we did. We kept the pace up, and I was mildly irritated because I had to pee but I didn't want to stop to do that and get passed again. We kept it up for a bit with Ben mildly annoying me because he kept turning around (to make sure I was still there?), so I was quiet. Finally I stopped to pee next to a tree and the worst thing happened - as I was pulling my pants back up I dropped my mittens in the pee!! UGH!!! I had discarded all my other gloves at an earlier aid station, so I had nothing else for my hands as long as I was using poles. Luckily, my Smartwool top has thumbholes, so better than nothing. ANYWAY. Finally, we are at the base of Elden.
I looked at my watch and it was 12:58 am, and I thought I had remembered hearing that the climb up Elden could take up to 3-4 hours. I immediately shifted gears and dropped the hammer. I took the lead from Ben and spent the next few miles powering up the hill as best I could. It was marked pretty well, but honestly, even if it wouldn't have been, it was pretty easy to tell where we needed to go. We were moving well enough that I was wondering if I even needed all the extra layers because I was getting pretty warm. Ben kept asking how far to the top, and I actually looked at my watch to figure out the hill segments but I was having trouble figuring them out, so I just kept saying almost there, haha. I was also wondering how much snow and ice could REALLY be on the trail. A decent amount, and since we were in the back, it was packed down and slick. Especially once we got closer to the top and it was really windy and the temperature had dropped quite a bit.
Flagstaff looked really pretty, but it was definitely tough to get a good picture, and of course this one does not do it any justice.
FINALLY, I could see the tower at the top. It was WINDY AF and sooooooooooo incredibly cold. As soon as Ben got to the top he screamed "WE HAVE TO GO. NOW." Seriously, this may have been the coldest I have been in my life. 
Thanks to the trail conditions, the course was now going down the road instead, and we weren't sure how far the aid station was. All I knew was that I needed to get warm ASAP. The first half mile or so down was SO windy that even a downhill into the wind felt like we were barely moving. We thought we could see a headlamp in a distance but couldn't quite figure out where we were going. As a joke (going back to Bigfoot), Ben blew is whistle and seemingly out of nowhere one of the medics popped out and told us the aid station was right around the corner - which it was!!

The aid station was exactly what we needed. We knew we were almost done but we sat for a few minutes near their SIX heat lamps, ate some ribs (?!?) and then quickly filled our bottles to head out.

Mt. Elden to Flagstaff/Finish (Miles 243.5 to 251.5)

We did not stay long at the aid station because obviously we just wanted to be done! Shaun was still there when we left and we knew at least Elizabeth was still behind us (although we wouldn't know until later that Jenny was also still on course). The greatest sign/marking on the entire course:
Headed down the road and was moving really slow because sadly I was still tired from no sleep all night (other than our trail nap after leaving Walnut). A volunteer from the aid station was coming down at the same time and was chatting with us and also randomly gave us a handful of jolly ranchers. Such a fun and unexpected gift of sugar! I was still incredibly cold, but told Ben I needed a nap. We decided on one more 15 minute trail nap in a ditch on the side of the road. Definitely was tired as that time flew by and I woke up rejuvenated and ready to finish this thing. It was still dark(ish) but the sun was coming up. We were on the road for a few miles and then we headed off to a weird trail/wash/creek bed(?) section. Didn't love this part and it was a bit confusing to follow at times. A few miles out (maybe 4), Ben had the wonderful idea to pull up the livestream. We weren't watching it, but it was fun to listen to it! Suddenly we see that we were approaching Buffalo Park. SO CLOSE!! We can see/hear the drone and I imagine there is footage of us actually running some of this. Before we know it, we are in town. We are met by Shad with his livestream footage. The mile and half or so flew by and we actually ran/jogged quite a bit of this. I really thought I might cry when I got to the finish line of this one, but I didn't - final arrow turn to the finish (picture was taken the next day).
Photo: Howie Stern
Snagged some stills from the livestream:


Photo: Howie Stern
Howie immediately grabbed me for my finish line picture. We got our buckles (Ben even got the DFL award for the 125) and managed to secure a few beers from Steve, the race director.
I had told Ben that we needed to stay at the finish line until everyone finished. It was just Jenny and Elizabeth, and they were done probably within 30 minutes of us - so the whole race was concluded over 2.5 hours UNDER the 125 hour cutoff. (Fun fact: With my official time of 121:53:00, I was 7 minutes under last year's cufoff of 122 hours on the "easy" course that we DNF'd, so that makes me feel really good).

Official time - 121:53:00
Garmin time - 121:52:34
Garmin distance - 264.69
Elevation gain - 37,634'
Run time - 6:34:51 (this was surprising to me, I thought I ran a lot more)
Walk time - 82:19:11
Idle time - 32:58:39 (seems like a LOT)
Fastest mile - 14:04, mile 5
Slowest mile - 2:53:01 (Mingus Mountain aid station)

Thoughts:
  • Obviously, I am so so so so glad to have finished this race. Last thing I wanted was a second DNF at this race. 
  • This is an incredibly diverse and beautiful course. It is also incredibly challenging with weather (extreme hot and extreme cold), and the terrain is rocky in most areas and unforgiving.
  • The best aid stations EVER. I have done a lot of races, and the food and volunteers at this race are literally the best. So much variety of menu items, and everyone is so helpful and friendly. 
  • Would I do this again? No. I mean it. I actually really DID enjoy myself 90% of the time in this race. I had a fantastic first half. The back half was all about redemption, and we worked through issues and everything worked out. Maybe I'll go back and pace or crew or something on some of those later sections I don't remember at all.
Gear:
  • Pack - Ultraspire Zygos 5.0. Front flasks are the newer HydraPak Speed Ultraflasks. I got the 600ml just to have a bit  more fluids. I did NOT like the flip top. It's a wonderful idea in theory, but they are a pain to close and if the seal isn't "just right" they leak. Don't really recommend those.
  • Leki Ultratrail FX One poles. I really like how lightweight these are and I'm able to fold them done easily and put in the front pocket of my pack with ease. I know the pack I use has bungees in the back for poles but I usually had a jacket there during this race. Only thing I still don't love about these are the gloves. They almost start to chafe me after using for multiple days.
  • Sea to Summit inflatable pillow (seriously bought after last year's experience at Coco. Used at every indoor aid station - amazing), face/eye mask and ear plugs
  • Hats - Ciele bucket hat and my trusty Bula fleece-lined beanie.
  • Shoes - Topo Ultraventure 2's. Used three different pairs, approximately 80 miles for each pair. Only two small blisters on the outside of my heels, but that's because of how loose I wear my shoes and not a surprise. Did not affect feet at all. Used the Topo gaiters again.
  • Socks - Zensah crew and a pair of smartwools. Changed socks more than in the past, probably also helped keep my feet happy. 
  • Zensah high neck sports bra. Once again, wore the same one the whole race, no chafing. 
  • Tops - Rabbit - sun shirt, high country and low tide. Two days also wore an EZ tee. YMX (discontinued) long sleeve for sun protection. Patagonia Airshed x 2, Patagonia R1 - still the best layering piece out there.
  • Jackets - Salomon rain jacket (was my emergency jacket that I only used the first night), Patagonia Nano Puff and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2.
  • Bottoms - INKnBURN skirt for first outfit, CVG 5" shorts, Janji 7" pace shorts and of course my trusty REI rainwall pants - even with the holes they are still awesome.
  • Hands - Smartwool mitten liners (most of the race) and gloves early on
  • Random gear - LMNT (raspberry only), Base salt (hardly used), Spring Energy gels when available, a ton of real food, Ignite BHB + caffeine (could have used a few more doses of these), Trader Joe's instant coffee.
  • Kogalla RA - plenty of battery left after each night. Used two small batteries for phone/watch charging.
  • Petzl headlamp/batteries for extra light.
  • Buffs - great for my bloody noses and nose wiping in general.
  • Emergency blanket. Used a ton this race for trail naps.
  • Jaybird Vista headphones. Used only a few segments.
  • Garmin Fenix 6S
  • Goodr sunglasses
  • Chamos buttr, Blistex.
  • Gauze dental rolls - used my whole supply this race! Had to move on to tampons at one point
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Gum - used a lot more than in the past. I think I used a full pack over the week.
  • Cough drops.
  • Face wipes - used two a day.
  • Sunscreen - Tanri at all the aid stations and the Sunbum stick for my face. Zero burn this year because of the sun protection clothing.
**May add more as I remember.


1 comment:

  1. I loved reading your report. Congratulations on your finish!

    ReplyDelete

I adore comments and I read every single one. Thanks for reading :)

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