I decided the weekend before the race that I wanted to run the Rut 50K and Vertical K. On Thursday after work, I drove 12hrs to Big Sky Montana. I ended up driving through the night and found myself laying prone in a hotel room that Salomon had provided until the Vertical K race at 3pm Friday. I rolled out of bed, body pretty achey and sore from the drive, put on my Sense Pros, and showed up to the start line. Gun went off, and I went out hard. I climbed Lone Peak which is over 1 Kilometer of elevation gain in just 5 Kilometers of distance. I climbed, exploded mile 2, and dug in all fours the last mile to the finish, placing 6th female.
After I finished, I felt pretty disappointed with myself. I reflected a bit, researched the VK results from last year, and realized that my time, 58:37, would have beaten the entire female field last year by over 3 min. (Last year’s winner was 1:02:13).
I didn’t do the research at the time, but regardless, the field was deep. The girls who came in 1-5 were all international. I am glad I had that race experience. Going into next season, I will have to work harder on my uphill skill, and train more with intervals. Over the summer, I think I focused less on uphill speed efforts and more on long, ultra endurance efforts. It’s hard to balance it all!
That evening I had a great dinner with the Salomon team. I connected more with the national team and met the international team… they are FAST! It’s interesting to talk about training and goals. The international team literally views running as their life. That is what they do. I admire their stamina, discipline and goals to succeed in the sport and make their country proud. I want to emulate their goals and their focus and determination. What an inspiration!! That evening got a little party crazy, but it was well worth it. 😉 The Rut has a reparation for its party on Sunday…more of that to come later!
Satuday, I slept during the day and walked around cheering the 25k, ate another delicious Salomon family meal, and went to bed early in preparation for the 50k the next day. I shared a room with Allan Spangler from Alaska and his wife Nina.
Sunday morning arrived in what seemed the blink of an eye.
I was feeling nervous mostly because my right ankle had been giving me problems over the past few months so I had been treading lightly through technical terrain and downhills over the summer. I come from a “speed” track background, and haven’t done much aggressive trail training. Prior to this year, I would run up mountains like Squaw and then walk or take gondola down because I wasn’t into the downhills much. I’ve come a long way since then, but regardless, I knew the Rut was technical, so I was just hoping my ankle wouldn’t give out.
It was dark when we began. I loved running in the dark with my headlamp and watching the sunrise. I was running well, and felt strong. I was chatting with the female leaders: Emelie Forsburg and Ashley for about 15 miles.
There was a point in the course where we hit a short talus downhill, around mile 18, and I realized at that point that I would have to work extra hard on the uphills to keep Emelie in sight. She bounded/floated over the technical downhills so gracefully and strong. I however, was doing everything in my power to not twist my ankles. They became weaker with every downhill. I was hoping and praying that the talus would go away on that last downhill after we summited lone peak at mile 20.
Well, my wish was not granted. I was in 3rd place coming up on 2nd at the top of Lone Peak. I was with Hillary Allen, of North Face, and catching Martina Valmassoi, of Salomon. Once we got to the top, I saw the ridge, and I knew my race was over. I proceeded to try and move through the talus, but every step was a wincing pain through my inner ankle running up my inner calf. I was defeated. It wasn’t long after that the female field I worked so hard to catch passed me with ease, remarking as they passed, “Are you ok”? I just responded, ” Yes, and good job.” I decided at the moment to continue to march down the mountain ( a 1,500 feet, mile of talus field), committed to finish.
It took me 17 min to complete one mile, and my competitors 6. But I kept pushing and had hope that maybe there was another climb I could dig in the lask 10k and gain some time and perhaps catch someone. I didn’t. I got to the last aid station, and was told the field gained 20 min. I decided to take it easier on the last downhill going into the finish. Ankle burning, head space defeated, but I kept telling myself how lucky I was to be in that race. So many people were here to finish, and that was a great accomplishment in itself. If I could run/walk, I would get to the finish. I gritted my teeth, tucked my ego away, and tackled the course to the finish line. To my surprise, I finished and never felt so accomplished. It’s amazing what a race finish line will do.
I look back now at that 50k result. I am a numbers person, and so I looked up last year’s results. I would have finished top 3, right with Anna Frost. I learned a lot about myself in the process of finishing. And next time I race the Rut, I will PR and I will learn how to navigate talus fields.
My ankle is still weak, and I am working hard to get it stronger. I am learning that as a runner, you can never give up on your weaknesses, and never neglect your strengths. It takes a lot of dedication to be the best. Never give up.
That night, I was feeling defeated. Angry that I didn’t tape my ankle on top of Lone Peak, although that probably would have taken too much time. I moved passed my nightmarish thoughts and enjoyed the after-party with the Salomon family. I watch mechanical bull riding and enjoyed the atmosphere. Cheers to a great weekend, and lessons learned.