Breathe, just breathe. Oh yes, you are well, you are running, you are smelling wildflowers and you are climbing up to the top of mountains where surely God himself must live. In all my running career, I’ve never been so bewildered by the beauty and difficulty of an ultramarathon. Yet I couldn’t stop smiling and I didn’t even suffer much at all. I clearly wasn’t running hard enough but made that choice early on. It was time to have a fun, fun day in the mountains.
I have realized that having a toddler or young child means you are at best a wildcard at most ultras. Sickness, sleep, stress, too many renditions of Itsy Bitsy Spider and things can go awry. So to show up in half decent shape, without puking or a fever, with a sorta decent night of sleep and not forgetting your running shoes is about as good as its gonna get. I might as well try to go win this thing, right? Okay maybe not, Anna Frost and Bethany Lewis are just plain fast and after we exchanged a few hugs I bid them well as I decided anything top ten in this field would be good.
The field sailed forward once Karl said “Go!” I picked a pace that wasn’t crazy, but wasn’t slow and decided to just stay consistant on the first climb to allow for the reserves in my legs to be there for the second half of the race. I hate being passed and love picking up the pace towards the end if the body will allow it. The other thing I know is that 50K is just too short for me in most cases. I have a hard time pacing myself to go faster, harder on the shorter stuff. Obviously someone needs to do more speedwork in training.
So up we went and by the ponytail count in front of me, I was running in about 6th or 7th place by the time I could see the switchbacks headed up the tram at mile 8ish. My garmin and ipod died at the same time right around that first aid station and so I was sans-electronics the rest of the day and had no idea where I was. I am blaming the ipod shuffle loss on at least two places (determined by less than 2 minutes, which obviously if I had listened to my sweet mix, would have easily made up for the motivation needed to pick off those spots). I gave a little a shout of praise, some might call a war cry, to the magnificant aid station set up at the top of the tram. I saw JB and fellow cameraman Blaine who were like kids in a candy store filming some of the best mountain runners on Earth. I might qualify as a great mountain runner in my neighborhood.
I took a big look at the descent in store and sped down the groomed fire road towards the singletrack and down and down and down we went. Some of it quite technical, very loose rocks, but wildflowers everywhere and a glistening creek in the background. I hit Mile 15.5 and the out and back where I could see I was about 18 minutes from the lead pack of ladies- Kerrie Bruxvoort just ahead of Bethany Lewis and Anna quite a bit ahead of them. Then 2 other ladies who I knew were locals, with immense course knowlegde and looking strong. I rolled into Roch Horton’s aid station where he showered me with smiles, ice cold sponges, popsicles, orange slices and lots of good energy. I ran into Denise Bourassa here where she and I chatted for a minute and decided this run was indeed good training for Waldo 100K. I left the aid chased by Denise who eventually passed me on the massive climb out. All we did was climb, hike, run for 30 seconds, hike some more. Over 2500 feet in a few miles and then we crested a false saddle where I saw a pipe running with water. It was a gift from the mountain gods and I filled my dry as a bone bottle a few times. I was revived but looked up to find that Karl was sending us up a hands-on-knees, stumbling over rocks vertical field, followed by a steep decent back into Larry’s Hole. It was getting hot and the climbing was no where near done.
I saw Bethany here who had dropped and she wished me well. I was only 2 minutes back on Denise and she and I both got passed here by a fresh looking girl that came out of nowhere. Freaking awesome I thought. Just when I thought the tough climb might be over, we saw the final push to Mt. Baldy- a truly vertical scree field where no trail existed- just flags to the peak where runners were doubled over spent from the effort to get up that mountain. I got to the top and had to dump dirt from my shoes, chatted with JB who told me I was still 2 minutes back from Denise and 20 minutes from the podium. I knew the podium was a done deal but set my sights on trying to catch the speedy girl in front of me. I set off first to descend 1500 feet then to climb up Peruvian Ridge back to the tram. Here we go again, another solid climb, and any sort of stumble could risk a nice little fall down the side of the mountain. Don’t fall and just get up to the tram. I did, and drained yet another Vespa- probably the 4th of the day and refilled my bottle anxious to chase Denise down. She and I were hauling and she was in my sights the entire downhill.
We ended up about 1:30 minutes apart at the end as our legs were moving about the same pace on that 5.5 mile decent. We probably covered that section in about 35 minutes or so. She ended up passing the 5th place girl in the last 10 seconds!! I came in just afterwards, good enough for 7th- 7:34. I was happy enough with the day and just enjoyed every minute out there.
Karl put on an exceptional, world class race. The volunteers were awesome and the course is just stunning.
Race kit: Lululemon shorts, sports bra and tank. Drymax socks- hot weather trail sock (no blisters of course), Montrail Bajada’s which handled everything this course threw at me, GU Brew, GU gels and 4 Vespa’s spaced every 1.5 hours.