I have sat on this race report long enough. Mulled through my mistakes and celebrated my little victories. When you race, anything can happen. And after running ultras for a while now, I still learn so much after every run. You have to be able to start an ultra knowing a hundred factors can come into play, including wrong turns, and in the end and at the finish line you must ask yourself, “Did I give everything I could?” If the answer is “Yes,” well then you can go to sleep with a peaceful mind and heart. The night after Pine to Palm, I slept great.
Ashland holds a sweet little nest of amazing runners and good friends. Hal and Carly have been a special part of our lives and family for quite some time now. Running P2P was a great excuse to get to see some familiar faces. In fact, many of the Ashland crew I would call up to ask advice, travel with, go for a run with and even, in a pinch, watch Eva. Except Jenn. Yes, I would definitely never, ever trust Jenn Shelton to watch my child. She’d probably read her passages out of some crappy Jennifer Weiner novel and let her drink expired milk. Likewise, I knew racing with Jenn would also prove that you should never trust a word that comes out of that woman’s mouth, especially during a race. She lies. A lot.
Not to go off on a tangent, so stay with me here, but a recent article on Irunfar.com, made me think a lot about runners who are mothers vs. non-mothers and the lifestyles of each. Having run ultras now for about 9 years, I can say that I have been on both sides of life. There is quite a dramatic difference. A quote from Jerry McQuire, said , “It’s an up at dawn, pride-swallowing seige, that I will never fully tell you about.” But I will tell you this, it takes a lot of people who you beg, pay, and borrow from to do what we, mothers who run ultras, do. I have my mother, father, husband, in-laws, nanny, etc. who might all be needed to let me go run a race, train, work, train some more. I could not be out there doing what I do, without a lot of support and for that, I just want to thank those aforementioned heros in my life. So to show up at that start line to run 100 miles, one must really have to want to be there with all their heart and with an equal amount of peace knowing your child will be fine and happy for the time you are out there on the trails.
Anyway, back to the race. I woke up with a sore throat and am pretty convinced that I am now fully pyschosomatic for 100 milers. Why and how does this sickness just show up. Its garbage. I won’t let it bother me today. I was ready to run. Up and away we went on a first climb of just over 4000ft in the first 7 or 8 miles. And then came running up, making some racket about how her handler (Mr. Skaggs) didn’t wake her in time, my buddy, Jenn Shelton. I wanted to feel sorry for her 2 minute late start, but since I was up most of the night dealing with my child and sore throat, I saved her any such declarations and instead told her to hurry her ass up as I was waiting to run with her. I knew she would take it out hard, as is her self proclaimed blow it up style. So after we caught up on life and I wanted to take the first hill slow, I let her sling shot ahead, most certain I would see her later down the trail.
I did, however, tuck in behind or just ahead of, Pine to Palm veteran and friend, Shahid Ali. He is like running with an audible topo map. He knew all the ins and outs of the course and told me to take it slow up the hill. We were both shooting for 22 hours and so I was happy with the pace. We crested the hill and began the downhill to mile 15 where Hal told me to hurry it up.
The next 14 miles were mostly rolling dirt roads where time could certainly be made up, but I just plugged into a comfy pace and tried to stay consistant. Flat stuff isn’t really my strength, and had I studied the course a bit more, I would have learned that while the hills and climbs were beefy, the flat and runnable sections of the course were the ones that would kill me in the end.
A raw and pure source of energy for me during a run is to feel the love and encouragement of my crew, my friends and family. So not only did I get to look forward to seeing my dad and husband, but I could have friends like Scott and Jenny Jurek at aid stations to give me a hug, fill my bottle and keep the smiles rolling. They were out to help and encourage the runners along the course and their presence was so amazing.
Rolling into the 30 mile aid station I was able to see my crew and get everything I needed to keep going. Including updates on whether my daughter was still constipated or not. Good news, she was not. Okay, awesome. Now that I had that piece of info, I was ready to go attack the next big climb in 92 degree heat. The rising temps were felt, but really didn’t bother me much. I had decided the weight of a hydration pack was worth having the access to lots of fluids and so the climb up to Stein Butte in the exposed sun didn’t really phase me much. Getting to the top and the aid station I discovered Jenn was only around the next turn. I took my time and soon enough caught up to Jenn, who was not feeling so great in the heat. With only one hand runner, it was obvious she was hurting a little. Shahid, Jenn and I ran together for a bit and just kept it mellow and light. Jenn puked a few times, but didn’t seem to mind much. I was feeling good and decided to just go ahead, certain that it would only mean a lead of a few minutes at very most. I got down to the40 mile aid where I found my dad and hubby ready to give me some ice and hugs and more GU. At that point, it was going to be me against myself. There was some word that perhaps Jenn had dropped back at the lake. She had tried to convince me that indeed she would likely drop. Again, this woman can lie from time to time. I actually hoped she stayed in, to make it a race most certainly. The heat was not relenting and the trails were not forgiving. Lots and lots of climbing to do to continue. I ran hard but conciously held back. I was returning to the out and back aid about mile 52 where Skaggs was manning the aid station as I ran into Jenn right there and could figure I had gained about a 30 minute lead at that point. The next 8-10 miles were going to be uphill but certainly runnable. Shahid and I talked about taking them slow as you could wind up paying the piper handily for reckless abandon . At times I was okay with going slow and staying with Shahid, but I also felt like I wasn’t pushing enough to maintain my lead. It didn’t totally jive with me, but I trusted I should hold back.
Here’s where I will skip ahead to mile 65. I found myself going through a mental checklist of things to accompish at the aid station. I didn’t want to waste a minute. Here’s where I realized the race had began. Jenn was confirmed to be only 5 minutes back. JB began to pace me there and we wasted no time getting back out there . It was a rolly, undulating next 9 miles on the PCT. JB has hiked the PCT. I have the best pacer ever I was convinced. At that point, there was no sign of Jenn- we were hammering. But about 1 mile out from what we thought should be an aid station, there were a few road/trail crossings that we paused at for a few seconds, unsure where the aid might be. We finally came to a very obvious crossing where we couldn’t see any visible marking on the other side and thought it a pretty good chance the aid was just below down the road a bit. We made a right hand turn and just kept looking for a sign that we were close. About 5 minutes down the road, nothing. We stopped looked around. I felt frantic not sure we were in the right spot. We decided to come back up the hill and go up some more. Nothing. We went back down and found the trail and kept going. Nothing. But the obvious thing was to keep going on the trail. About 1/2 mile ahead, low and behold the aid station lights came into view. Awesome. Certainly some wasted time, but I was sure we hadn’t lost more than 10 minutes max. I thought I had made time on Jenn on the PCT. Wrong. She had gone through the aid about 5 minutes ahead of me. In fact, the aid station volunteers called Hal to tell him I was lost. He was on his way up to look for us. Shit.
Nope I explained. We found our way, but indeed I was lost. Lost in my own mind I guess you could say. Frustrated I let it happen but determined to catch up. We rolled along looking for signs of other runners ahead. A doubletrack road that was flatish was next on the menu to lead us to the final singletrack trails and big climb to Wagner peak. As we ran along, it was quiet and cold. JB and I were doing okay and I was trying to get back into it mentally. Closing in again on an aid station, we were using our lights to double check flags and chalk marks. We saw left handed chalked arrows and green flagging leading us down a dirt road and made the turn. We headed downhill for about 6ish minutes until we saw no more flags and just felt like it was wrong. We stopped and talked about how it was chalked with an arrow and green flag. JB said, that prior none of the flagging was green and he thought our direction was off. What? I hadn’t paid close enough attention. Back up the hill we went and then left to get back to the road to see if we went straight for some time what would happen. At this point, I was pretty down. How could that turn be flagged and chalked? Well, turns out a mountain bike race occured that day unbenounced to Hal and of course, we found that flag and trusted it. No fault, it just happens. My race somehow got away from me there. And to that, I am grateful. Not happy that I lost my way or my edge, but glad I could follow my mind to such a dark place and come back to learn some lessons. I have work to do in those last miles of a 100. The miles that make or break you. I now know how to handle this situation and will grow from it, no doubt.
Fast forward to the finish. I ran my race and scampered into the finish pretty wasted. My dad was there to hug me and take me to the hotel where my baby girl lie in bed no clue her mommy just put in a hard day. Her big blue eyes and tight hug made up for all my shortcomings that day. It was a great race and I loved being part of it. To date it has been the most challenging 100 mile race I have ever run. The difficulty of this course is rediculous. I would say there are only a few courses more difficult than this one- but my goodness, don’t understimate Pine to Palm.
Race kit: Hoka one one Bondi speeds, Hoka one one Stinson Evo’s. Drymax short crew trail sock. Moeben skirt and sleeves and lululemon bra and tank. GU roctane, vanilla and peanut butter gels and GU brew all day. Succeed caps one per hour every hour. Vespa junior every 4 hours and sometimes before. I drank an Odwalla superfood at mile 40 and it was a huge boost. I also ate bananas and soup. Otherwise no solids.