A race report… I don’t write race reports, I read race reports, it’s just that none of my races are that interesting. I don’t go to a scary dark place mid-race, don’t question my life choices, don’t kiss imaginary frogs. I just run, try to have some fun and get done.
Don’t get me wrong, lots of stuff hurts and I can get grumpy but then it turns around and I finish and drink beer with my friends. Well this last weekend I did the Canyons 100K Endurance Run, my first 100K ever (I’m a late bloomer) and thought, “this is the one, this is the race where my inner demons come out and nibble on my ears. This is the race that I hit my highest highs and lowest lows and it all sounds good on paper.”
Then, that didn’t happen. I did have lots of highs, lots and lots of highs but never any overwhelming lows. I just had fun. What I realized during this race was this: regardless of how your race goes, it takes your racing community (friends and family) to get you past your obstacles and to the finish line.
Obstacles… There were obstacles to this race and each of them required the help of my running community. About this time last year I could only run about three miles due to ITB and alignment issues. I would start crying about half way during those three miles runs because I was so frustrated…okay that was a dark time but it wasn’t during the race so doesn’t count for this report anyway. Fortunately, I was introduced to Hillary MacLean, founder of Sierra Symmetry Pilates and Painless Running and I started taking pilates at her studio with several other ultrarunners. The healing and strengthening process was not quick, but I did not get as messed up as I did overnight and surprisingly was in for the long haul, which is not really my personality, more goal-oriented than process oriented. I have no doubt that if I hadn’t started the pilates program with Hillary I would still be running three frustrating miles not 50K’s, 50 milers and 100k’s (well 1 anyway).
Another obstacle of my Canyon’s race was my training. My coach (Peter Fain of Run on Dirt Coaching) pointed out something to me a couple months ago which was an “ah ha” moment…I’m good at the weekend long adventures… “hell ya you want to go run from Boreal to Squaw, I’m in. An 8 hour Dicks Peak Scramble, sure let’s do it,” but I’m not so good with what Peter calls the “mid-week bread and butter runs.” As a result of me blowing off those runs, we were both a bit concerned that I may not have adequate training for this race. Peter was worried I would hurt myself and be out for the rest of the season and I was worried I was just going to die out on the trail. We decided that I should do what I could out there and he gave me lots of great race day advice. I trusted in the coaching that he gave me and it paid off big time.
The last obstacle we overcame and the one where I was really, really amazed at how when you lean on your friends results happen. The day before the day before the race (Thursday if you want to be precise,) my good friend and my dogs’ second mom, Betsy Nye was walking my dogs off of Carpenter Valley Road and two of them bolted on her when they heard a pack of coyotes baying or whatever sound a coyote makes. Betsy called me immediately and I wasn’t too concerned figuring they were just on a wander. Several hours later I was starting to doubt that, as they were nowhere to be seen or heard.
Betsy called her husband Paul, Kathy D’onofrio and her friend Kathleen. After several more hours of looking and still no luck we decided to bring down my van, which the dogs are familiar with and keep checking back. I went out a few more times that night to see if they had come back to the van and they had not and my heart started to sink. I was worried about my dogs, mad at my dogs, and selfishly heart-broken at the prospect of not being able to run the race if they did not come back. At around 2:45am I got a text from Betsy that she was going back out to look for them.
After I dropped off my (human) kid the next morning at school, I went back to the van and met Betsy and we looked for at least 9 more miles 5 more hours. During that time Kathy D went back out and Helen Pelster also came out and searched for several hours and Sharon Fong hiked around Tahoe Donner and drove up and down Alder Creek Road. Also when we were out looking I got a text from Jenelle Potvin asking for details on the dogs and where they were lost. In about 10 minutes Jenelle and Mone’ Haen put together a flyer and posted on multiple Facebook Pages. Honestly, it would have taken me two hours to pull flyer and post together. Within two hours of those posts I had my dogs back.
Also today I discovered while going through my emails that Jenelle had emailed out the flyer to several people that might be able to help in the search. Whew…. dogs found, an hour to pack, take dogs to boarding and pick up Betsy who I was also racing with. Thank you friends my dogs owe you lots of kisses!!!!!!!!! [editors note: we prefer tequila and wine.]
Racing…. I won’t bore you with all the minutia of my race, you already know I had a great time, but I will tell you about is how wonderful it was to be surrounded by my running community (beware huge name dropping coming up.) Once Betsy and I got on the road to Foresthill all the stress of the last 24 hours came off us and we laughed our way down the hill. The first people we saw as we pulled into the school camping were Race Director Supreme Sean Flanagan and our good friend Sharon Fong. Once we got parked we were milling around and getting food and we ran into my Peavine Buddy Juan Oliva, Jeff and Jackie Reifers (ask them about their Canyons adventure) and of course our RD’s Abbey and Chaz. We didn’t hang out too late as we had to pull our drop bags together and get some sleep, so we retired to the van.
Race Day… next morning I got up and headed to get my bib and again saw Sean and one of the best smiles ever, Kelly Barber. We got our gear and minds pulled together and Betsy made us some pretty great pre race coffee and we had frozen yogurt (more about that later) and headed to the school to wait for the start. I called the other part of our quartet, Diane Fredric who is the other half of Team Push/Pull (she named us that after our last race together) and we found each other and now we were four: Betsy, Diane, Sharon and me. We only had a few minutes to get out to the race start but did run into Doctors JoAnne Ellero and Andy Pasternak, the Medical Ultra Duo.
We’ve run together quite a bit in the last two months at various races and training runs and I’ve really enjoyed chatting with them on the trails and we got to do this again this race as we stayed pretty close together and got to see each other several times. Oh and Mary Ann Flemmer, she was so nice and came up to say hi. I ran the first half of my first ultra with her and will always remember how welcoming she was to me. Ok the gun goes off or maybe someone just yelled but we are running, running slowly as we started in the back but we are running. We get to a bit before the Volcano Creek Crossing three miles in and we stop… it was the predicted log jam crossing the creek. While stopped we chat with Nattu and Karen and many people (some I know and some I don’t) ask about my dogs…the power of social media! We get across the creek and start climbing and run into the Blond Glitter Team Kristin Henry and Tessa Waldron.
A bit later we were at Michigan Bluff and still staying pretty close together, saying hi to people and getting ready for our descent. Well I like running downhill and would say that if I had any moment of disappointment it was here, another conga line, not much running more like fast walking, oh well saving the quads right? Once at the bottom we fueled up at the aid station and started the climb to the pump. The Pump AS was manned by the Silver State Striders and they now how to aid station. I don’t think I was delirious but they had a hippo-corn there administering first aid, seriously.
On to the Thumb! This part was hard and fun at the same time. This was the first place where you are going down and the front of the pack is going up….oh did I mention that the very front of the pack in both races had already passed us? Well they did and they were so nice saying hi to most of us. On the way down to Swinging Bridge it was pretty amazing being called by name by the people going up… Do they know me? Are they reading my name on my bib? If I could look up and see their faces, I would know but I will fall to my death if I do! I got swinging bridge and got my bracelet (which BTW I have not taken off) from the amazing and amazingly fun Ann Transon and was back to climbing.
Oh during this time Betsy is in front of me and Diane is slightly behind me. As I head up I pass Sharon and GN Niere (Castle Peak Finisher, Rio Del Lago Finisher, kinda my idol) coming down. Okay we crest the climb and back to the Pump, Diane has passed me (she’s an amazing climber) and we are heading back to the absolutely best cheese quesadilla and grilled cheese I have ever had at the Strider’s Tents. I had too many of those afore mentioned cheese products and we were out but not before saying hi to journalist and ultra running legend John Trent and his cute new puppy.
Back down to Eldorado Creek, where I rolled my ankle, no biggie just thought I would mention. I would like to say the climb back to Michigan Bluff was amazing and unicorn and rainbows but you know I would be lying it was hard and it will always be hard. At this point Diane had fallen behind a bit as her hip had been bothering her from the start. It was cold at Michigan Bluff and Betsy and I decided to continue on and we would regroup at Foresthill. The section from Michigan Bluff was very smooth and we ran into my Ultrachango buddy Ernesto Fuentes. The last time I saw Ernesto was at MUC and he had just caught the flu and was so sick and still finished. Coming into Foresthill we grabbed our bag and were changing our socks when Diane came in barely able to walk. Diane’s hip had totally seized up on her and was incredibly painful and yet she was still able to finish the hardest 50K I have ever done.
The second half… Diane told us she had to drop which was pretty apparent since she could not stand up straight, gave us a hug and sent us on our way. Once we got off the pavement heading towards the States Trail we ran into Marissa Ellero of my favorite people over. This woman, we should bottle her energy and she always has a hug for me…I love her. Betsy and I moved quickly to and through Cal 1 AS and were on our way to Cal 2.
As we started getting close to Cal 2 I was getting excited, my people!!! We got to Cal 2 and I immediately saw Bill Hunter one of our Castle Peak Aid Station Extrodinares. Steve Martelli AS Captain was there asking what we needed, Spike came up to say hi and I know check out our medical (and mental) state. I grabbed a couple of Georganna Quarles special PB&J’s and JP (Prince Electric, super DPMR volunteer) filled our bottles and gave us a look like “get the hell out of here, you need to get moving” tough love. Cal 2 to Rucky Chucky was nice; lots of mellow running though Betsy is not a fan of the flats, just ask her sometime. Ran into Scott Rokis on the way down who was doing race photography and looking for wild flowers.
We were in and out of Rucky Chucky pretty quickly, bit of food, changed socks and we were out. On the way out we ran into Sharon who was in very good spirits but decided to drop because she wasn’t going to make cut-offs. We started up and at the time I didn’t realize it but Betsy was picking people off. We passed a lot of people in the 16 miles from the turn around at the river but I didn’t understand that I was just following Betsy. We had a nice section up to Cal 2, very runnable and it was just starting to get dark when we pulled in the DPMR Aid Station, the best AS ever. I immediately saw Helen Pelster, I could go on and on about her but she’s a legend, she’s my friend and she’s all our Trail Mama, look her up, really if you don’t know of her, which I bet you do, look her up.
Ahh Cal 2, it was so great, beer, friends, Jenelle Potvin who would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it, could it get better? Why yes it could because Steve Martelli had stashed a beer for us. We drank that beer as Jenelle and Steve walked us out of the aid station…I believe Helen was dealing with some puking guy. 8 miles to go…it was getting real. We still had pretty good light and were moving well (in my mind anyway) and nothing hurt too badly.
About midway to Cal 1 we were losing light and decided to use one headlamp until we got to Cal 1 and that would have been great if I could stay up with Betsy on the downhill’s. When we were on the downhill’s Betsy would pull ahead and I couldn’t see as much and it seems that would hurt my feet, maybe it changed the way I ran. Poor Betsy had to hear me sighing an moaning and being a baby during this time when I just needed to suck it up. Finally Cal 1 and Betsy had a dance party into the AS and they loved her!!! I had a dance party too but it was more in my head. Okay it really real now, we were going finish!!!!
The last 3 miles were slower, we were running very steady and had decided earlier that we were going to run it in at the finish and so were saving our energy. During those last three miles we were passed for the first time since we left Rucky Chucky and we were happy that those guys were having a great race. Pavement!!! We were on it and we were heading to the home stretch. We turned onto the main road and were running slow but steady past the businesses on that road to that finish line. I was getting excited so started to surge but Betsy held me steady…okay she was concentrating and shushed me…yes she shushed me, don’t worry I will use that later.
Ahhh the finish line, a lovely lady ran up to us, got our bib numbers, called them in and we got announced coming in and I heard cheering which was a bit surreal but cool too. Sean again, the first person I saw at the finish line was Sean Flanningan which was the best, we crossed the finish line high fiving and hugging Sean. I wish I could be could be completely concise about the finish line but it was a blur. Lot of hugs, Kaycee Green, the sweetest adventurer ever, Annie Rutledge who is one of my heroes, Sharon was there to greet us and Diane waited for us!!!!!!!!
We were cold so went to change and discover I had frozen the beer in the van fridge (guess the yogurt from the morning should have been a clue, don’t think I will ever live that one down.) We went back to the finish line after we were changed and warm and we got to see Ernesto come in after going six miles off course and still finish within cutoff…I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger smile. We also watched Stephanie Evans Jacobs finish a few minutes before cut-off which was epic, so much excitement, the crowd went crazy!!
So that was my first 100K, the one person I mentioned a lot but not in great detail was my very, very good friend Betsy Nye. Betsy is ultra running royalty and she has selflessly gotten me through two hard races she knew I was excited about. I couldn’t have done this race without her and forever grateful and I hope she knows that.
So now I write race reports. I wouldn’t be writing a report if I didn’t have the most amazing and supportive running community to call my own. I’m not sure if I will ever meet those mid race running demons, maybe I just need to run something harder….hah! Look out running community that race report will be a novel!!!