The day started not too hot, not too cold but my nerves were on OVERLOAD. I had self-doubt of the splits that I sent to my crew. Was I over-estimating my training? Was I being overly confident of how the day would go? I stood next to people with course records and friends of mine that I know are just going to kill it. I was feeling very much the novice. At 6am. we were off and I kept my pace conservative because I knew it was going to be a long day. At my first pass through Tunnel Creek A/S, I was met by my crew, including boyfriend Judd, and their homemade signs of encouragement in true marathon form. I was up until now, just a marathoner. My nerves and stomach still had not calmed down yet and was wondering if this feeling was going to go on all day. After picking up full water bottles, I headed out of TC on pace.
The morning started to get warm on the Red House Loop and my focus steered away from nerves and was more on just how hot would it get out there. The climb back to the aid station was really hot and exposed but I ran into fellow DPMR, JP. Asking each other how we were doing, there was talk of regret, guns and bullets, and other synonymous tortures we felt like we were going through. That all changed when JP reminded me what was up ahead… “I see your #1 fan is out here this morning…”. It made me laugh and I knew my crew was just a short ways ahead. That got me running again up the second pass through Tunnel Creek. I was now feeling so much better and was happy to get some ice in the water bottles and in a kerchief around my neck. Off I went, on pace, for the stretch of 13 miles before I would see my crew again. It was mostly downhill on the last 7 miles and downhill is not my forte. It was hot, my hamstring started to get tight and all kinds of people were starting to pass me, including Gordy Ainsleigh.
I arrived at mile 30, about 20 or so minutes behind schedule feeling hot and defeated. My crew was ready with sponges and ice plus an awesome guy with a hose was right there before we headed back out. I was so thankful for that aid station. I cooled down and was a new women! There I picked up my pacer, and quoted “#1 fan”, and we headed up the heinous Diamond Peak. It is considered the toughest part of the race and it was getting to be the hottest part of the day but we killed it. I had trained on that hill quite a bit and knew exactly what I had to do to get it done. Leaving myself an hour to get up to the top, I was able to gain some lost time by summiting in less time than I predicted. We passed a few people up that climb, even taking a few seconds to look back at the view of the lake. At the top, we ran into husband and wife DPMR couple, Laura and Kynan, who were running their first 100miler. The aid station there had no ice and was totally exposed to the sun and heat of day. I felt so bad for those volunteers, they likely didn’t sign up for such a brutal job but they helped us out with smiles and encouragement anyway.
So, it was now Judd and I running the last 20 miles back through to the Tunnel Creek aid station for the third time. I was hitting distances I had never ran before but felt surprisingly good. I made my last stop at Tunnel Creek quick to keep the momentum going. I was surprised at how much running I was still managing to do. I thought I would have been walking the rest of the way but we were doing alright. Then came the last climb of the race up Snow Valley Peak. I underestimated the amount of climbing involved in this section. The weather and my mood started to cloud over. The thunder was rattling our teeth and we were headed up an exposed peak…hello lightening!
We could see the storm coming towards us with a curtain of what I thought was rain. As we climbed up towards the summit, my breathing became labored and my legs were starting to feel the accumulated mileage. Here, I was reminded that even though I spend a good amount of time in Truckee, I am a flatlander.
The amazing wildflowers on that peak gave me something else to focus on and we eventually peaked the last climb and were running downhill off the mountain before the lightening. I was off my time by about 30 mins and knew that a sub-12hour finish may not happen at this point. My pacer reminded me that the lightening was going to chase us down and we better get a move on. The thunder started getting super loud and I saw it as my dad’s way of telling me “Andiamo! Andiamo!”, translates to “come on, let’s go” in Italian. He was a long distance runner and passed away few years back before I became a runner.
The storm moved directly on top of us just as we headed back into the trees. The course was all downhill from here but that was of no comfort to me. Downhill, again, is not my thing. Then the rain started to come down harder and my most awesome pacer asked if I thought we should put on jackets. I was not functioning at 100% and left it up to him. And he made a good call! Though the storm was rejuvenating at first, we were later getting pelted with hail. I saw the hail bouncing off the ground but I did not feel it too much because of I was dressed properly. I was thankful to have had a crew who made sure we thought of all the possibilities. I was also feeling grateful that I was blessed with the ability to run such distances no matter how fast or slow.
Then, my mind went back to the task at hand and the last aid station was all I cared about. Spooner Lake A/S was only 1.7mi from the finish and I just wanted to be passed it. Around every bend, I was anticipating to see the tent, not that I needed it, I just wanted to be past it and on my way to the finish. It seemed like many grumpy miles before we finally hit it. A little boy from the aid station called out to us, “Do you need any of our stuff?” He was so cute that I wanted to stop and grab something but Judd had said a short time before that we had about 22 mins to get under 12 hours. I was not able to run all the way in at this point. As Judd tried to encourage me to keep running, I kept walking, then I would start running again and change to walking. I was almost home and the pain was at it’s peak. I knew if I didn’t push, I’d have to settle for a time over 12hrs and then I’d have to run another 50 miler to reach my goal. Not having looked at my watch since we put on jackets, I really didn’t know the exact mileage or time at this point.
After whining and whimpering and fumbling through single track with puddles of various depths, we made it to the last turn. Judd told me that he knew how much it hurt but I had to give it hell to get my time. I could hear my friends in the distance cheering and yelling and I did all I could to finish in 11:58:22. I was so happy to have made it through unscathed and to have felt the love from my crew who braved the hail storms waiting for me to finish.