|Thanks Renee for the beautiful photo of the course|
Well, grab a bucket of popcorn, here it is - my Bryce 100 report, and it's a long one. But it was a long day and I want to remember details. But I also have a story to tell, it was really interesting the different stories that played out for me during the race.
The logistics side of the race -gear, nutrition, what I used is in a separate post below.
The logistics side of the race -gear, nutrition, what I used is in a separate post below.
My husband Jeremy and 8 year old son and our friend Canice drove down Friday afternoon, ate dinner at a nice hour then were fortunate to share Canice's hotel room that evening after the camping area we were going to use was full. Worked out great. I got my drop bags ready later than I wanted but rushed them over. It was dark at that point and funny to think that all that was left to do was go to bed. I slept from 10:30-3am and was up to eat. 3am really didn't seem like a wise hour to get up at, but I like my 3 hours to digest and didn't want to jinx anything. After I ate (in the large bathroom as to not wake the guys up) I sorted through the several outfits I brought till I found the right one - a Skirt Sports Marathon Chic skirt that feels like nothing and is a super cute print, a Smartwool bra, and a new Gore tank. Also had Injinji trail socks and Altra gaiters on. It was funny thinking 'what should I leave out to wear tonight...oh wait, I'll be running tonight...and tomorrow morning'. I wrote out a little bit of info on my pacing sheet I carried, mostly just what time I'd be to aid stations, significant climbs or descents and what I needed to grab from a particular bag. After I was all ready there was time for a 20 minute nap before we took off, that was nice. The start was no big deal, just a gathering of people and a ready go before I ever heard anything to suggest it. Jer was anxious to get there and worried we'd be late. I wasn't. I was calm and just ready to start the day.
|Love this guy|
|So glad to have these two on my team! They would go on to have a great day seeing Bryce and fishing and eating out and of course driving around dirt roads for hours to be able to get to the trail and take care of mom, on Father's Day weekend.|
The whole point of the day was to run easy so I wouldn't feel destroyed by the end miles. Be conservative, don't care about placing until at least 70 miles, stay on top of nutrition and just enjoy what is around me. I really wanted to not push until at least 72 miles. It was simply my job to keep my breathing quiet and maintain a nice easy trot. It was going to be a long day, time to be smart.
|Here is a good short 2 minute video of the course from friend Cory and this a little longer one but good because it names the aid stations like I will in this post. So if you want more detail, or to understand more what I'm talking about, check them out. The second is by good friend Craig Lloyd, both videos are from last year.|
10-18 From Thunder to Proctor I ran with Cherri. She is such a hard worker and full of smiles and positive energy. It was good to pick her brain and I especially benefited from her saying that I would be fine without a pacer, that I could do it without one. You see, very unfortunately, my pacer Mark texted me Friday morning before we left saying he couldn't come because he was sick. Talk about a panic, heart sinking moment. I appreciated her confidence in solo running, although I esteemed her as a much better 100 miler than myself. Rolled into Proctor just a little early and took off again quickly, alone. I wanted to keep my momentum moving as much as possible and was still keeping an easy effort. Somewhere in here we heard a gal come up behind us and politely ask to pass. What I saw was possibly the most fit woman and legs I had ever seen. This woman was 49 years old and passing us like it was nothing. Woah! I let her go and didn't worry about it, it was a long day. But when asked by other men, I reported she was probably a good hour ahead.
18-27 Proctor to Blubber is a LONG section! I had counted 3 big uphills on the elevation profile in the bathroom that morning to use as landmarks to keep my mind engaged, but I'm pretty sure there were 4 big uphills, always followed by downhills. I remember mentioning that to Gia, that we couldn't possibly just go up, we had to go right back down most of the way before heading back up again. I lost her shortly after that point when I was moving well power hiking up a steep climb. I moved too quickly through Proctor and didn't fill my bladder because I figured I had enough. Big mistake. Long section. I was ever so grateful to fill up at the 50k turnoff water table about 15 minutes after I ran out of water. I encountered a guy a while later at the top of our second to last climb before the aid station that seemed tired and out of water. He asked how far the aid station was and I pointed to the pink cliffs well above us and said that should be it. He said something about it being only .5 mile then. He was not very happy with me when he finally got up there as I was leaving. It was more like 1.5 miles and had lots of climbing. Sorry buddy, I pointed to the right place, never mentioned how far it was. I rolled into Blubber a good 25 minutes behind schedule.
|The first of my drop bags. Looking kind of serious. Moving in an our of aid stations quickly was good for me|
|But it's good to have friends to help you. They were so good|
|Mile 27 and life is good!|
35-40 Kanab at mile 35 is a quaint little aid station with some really neat views after it. Was still behind schedule going into Kanab after the long extra getting to Blubber, but I wasn't stressed at all by it. I had cycled between 1st and 4th place from the beginning of the race till now but believe I moved into 2nd around mile 20 where I would stay for about that much more. Was not at all stressed or concerned with my place at any time yet. I met a really nice guy who excelled at the "take it easy, don't push" attitude I was after too. So we ran together for a good 10 miles maybe. Great conversation. I love to hear people's stories, whether it's running related or not. This section of the course was interesting for me because at one point before we got to the next aid station, it was nothing like I remember. I had myself a little worried and a lot confused that we weren't on the right path, although we kept spotting markers. Just funny that a section I remember so distinctly looked nothing like I recall.
40-45 We came into mile 40 Straight Canyon aid station only a few minutes late and moving well and happy. I looked around for Jeremy and our boy and thought I saw them but turns out they weren't there. Decided here that although it was warm out and I was drinking a fair amount, and I was still comfortable in the UltraSpire Spry I was using, I'd take it off and switch to my favorite waist belt the Ultraspire Quantum. I also carried a 8oz soft flask so I could carry a total of 18oz which I was a little concerned wouldn't be enough, but with the aid stations now only 5 miles apart it was fine. Nice to feel my shoulders free for a little bit. Not completely essential though. Anyway, we left the aid station and went the 1/2 mile down the dirt road to get onto our next trail and he happened to run into his crew driving up. I let him stop and told him he'd catch up on the climb ahead (he was a really good power hiker, better than me). His stop must have been longer than I thought because he didn't end up catching up. I had just dropped onto the trail from the road and I saw our van flying up the road. I tried to wave to them to get their attention but no success. Oh well, wasn't emotional at all about it, got everything I needed done in the aid station (that's the beauty of drop bags, everything is there waiting, not with the crew. Crew is just there to make it go a little faster by getting that stuff out and can provide emotional support). I knew I'd see them in another 5 miles at the turn around. The next few miles were through a pretty meadow and then up a long switchbacky dirt road and then a final short steep climb to the top of the plateau and into some amazing views next to the Pink Cliff aid station. I was looking forward to the long road because it was a good chance to turn on my power hiking mode for a while and apparently I made some good progress because to my surprise, at the top of the shortest steepest climb was my lead woman. Hmmm, interesting development.
45-50 Even though it wasn't time to push, I was hoping I could hustle out of the Pink Cliffs aid station before she did. Nope, she followed. And that was totally ok because we had some good conversation for a few miles. I didn't want to run forever with her because the tension I felt (all from me, she was very very nice) was too much competition, I didn't want to deal with that, it would make me forget to race smart. She is from California and has been doing this for a long time. She's very talented. She mentioned not really being bothered by the altitude but being concerned that she'd gone out too fast and that she'd need to stop and walk and get her heart rate down. I wished her well and told her I'd see her soon I was sure. From there it's a long downhill to a rocky rolly single track in front of some pretty neat cliffs and then into the halfway turnaround point. I kept it under control but went maybe a titch faster than I should have, not much though. I was excited to see my boys, what can I say :) During the last couple miles before halfway I was wondering when I'd start seeing the lead men come back, and right after that thought, good friend Zac came around a corner and greeted me startled and with a hug telling me his legs were cramping. I was very proud of him for being first and it was nice to see him, but I let go quickly and said "she's right behind me, I've got to go!" :)
50.5 miles. 10:33. Halfway, the turnaround point. It was fun running into there in 1st, mostly because I knew Jeremy would be excited by it. I think most of the crowd thought I was finishing the 50 mile so it was funny to hear them go a little quiet when I left the finish area for the aid station there. I got into this aid station 2 minutes early. Excellent! I had been wearing the unreleased Altra Lone Peak 2.0 the first 50 miles but unfortunately it was just a tad too short and I knew how much downhill there was just in the next hour and that my feet would likely swell, so knew I would change out into the new Altra Paradigm, a very light, max cushion road shoe with great traction. I had it 1/2 size up too. It was perfect! We almost forgot to change my shoes and I'm so glad we remembered last minute. Had a funny way of remembering what needed to get done at that aid station since for me sometimes it's easy to rush out too quickly. I went from head to toe - visor off, sunglasses on, new sunscreen (I'd already put it on twice that day), ice in bra, waters filled, new gels in my belt, iPod on, new shoes. I was hoping to get out of the aid station before the now 2nd place lady behind me got in and I almost accomplished that. So we were probably 3-4 minutes apart at that point. Left happy and ready to go and not at all discouraged knowing I still had 50 miles to go.
|Photos courtesy of Alex Santiago|
|Grabbed my stuff and ran!|
55-60 I was feeling great and passed by the amazing view from Pink Cliffs and one of my favorite songs from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was on (I have a few soft, classical songs on there, most are typical iPod workout songs) and I totally cried. It was just spiritual and such a lovely moment and experience. I enjoyed the long switchbacky downhill dirt road after Pink Cliffs and ran it faster, but under control for sure. Let gravity carry me. The Paradigms felt so good! Saw my new friend Jester Ed and was greeted so warm and excitedly by so many strangers with cheers of being first woman. It was so sweet and I smiled for miles. Enjoyed the meadow again and ran quickly and strongly back into Straight Canyon.
65-73 From pacing miles 50-73 last year I recall we had to turn our headlamps on shortly after Kanab at 65. I remember it being totally dark at these switchbacks going up hill between Kanab and Blubber. I wanted to make it to those switchbacks before turning my headlamp on. The miles were still passing well, I had music on now mostly to keep my mind busy and off the active animal period of sunset, but also to give me things to holler out besides "hey bear". So I'd sing along loudly a word, a line, a verse, whatever. I'm sure I sounded crazy if you were to stumble upon me but it was what I needed. I was starting to feel lonely. My brain was starting to get bored. Not good. But then I got to those switchbacks I wanted and it was light enough still for no headlamp. Gave me a big smile to make that goal. I knew the next few landmarks before Blubber, they came, it was dark now, and I couldn't wait to see my friends.
73-82 The first thing I asked for upon seeing them was a hug. Matt W gave me a great one. The next thing I looked and prayed for was our friend Bob. You see Zac told me if he was feeling good he would leave Bob for me as a pacer. I had hoped and prayed he would be there - but he wasn't. I cursed Zac for split second (taking his own pacer? Geez. Kidding), then figured he was hurting and then started begging someone there to come with me. I was scared of such a long night alone with my bored mind. I wasn't sleepy yet, but that bored mind worried me. I knew they were busy and 2 minutes notice isn't a ton to give someone to run 28 miles, but I really hoped someone would come. They took good care of me filling my bladder, assembling my other headlamp, stuffing gels, they made my stop so easy. Once I realized no one would come with me I hurried out of there. It was such a poignant moment to me, heading down alone into the dark valley below, just beginning my night. It was only 10:00pm. I knew I'd be running till 6am. It was a very lonely, scary, dark, yet determined feeling. I knew I wanted to complete 100 miles, quitting wasn't an option at all, so I just had to keep on trucking. I picked up a good lightweight yet poky bear stick (poles would have been nice on this section) and I tried to stay positive. I played the "hey bear" game but with the alphabet. "Hey aardvark, hey bison, hey chinchilla...". I talked to myself, did math out loud about how many climbs, what time I'd get to where, anything to keep my mind engaged. I had a few spooky moments with thinking I heard something, but it was usually just me rustling the jacket around my waist. I made it through the first valley and down into the next, it was maybe an hour or two after I'd left the aid station and things weren't good. I was nervous, uncomfortable, my headlamp was blinking low battery. I wondered how long it would take for me to see any other headlamps or have someone catch up, I mean I wasn't moving quite as fast anymore. Around midnight I had stopped to switch headlamps and heard someone behind me. I was so relieved. I asked if I could please stick with him. He said yes and off we went. I was very grateful for someone to talk to, to not have to worry about altering animals because they'd hear two of us, grateful to have someone's feet to follow instead of having to look ahead to spot reflective flagging myself. He wasn't particularly talkative or sensitive (telling me everyone was suffering with what I was when I'd complain which i understand, but that doesn't make me feel any better or solve anything) and his pace was hard to keep up with at points, he was racing, not pacing me, but I was grateful to have someone. We probably spent 8 miles together.
82-90 The dark is hard because you can't see what's around you. The trail doesn't feel familiar like it does in the light. I thought I knew where we were several times and was wrong. It was taking so long to get into Proctor and I was frustrated. FINALLY it was there. I was due to be there at 1:15am and it was only 12:30. Well that's awesome that I was ahead of schedule still! BUT it meant there was that much more darkness and night to go. It was ONLY 12:30am, not even 1am. So mentally challenging for me. Jeremy was there however, that was a very nice surprise. I went right into his arms crying a little saying that this was not fun at all, that I didn't want to keep going through the night, that this was so hard. Not my body, it was fine, stomach, still intact, I wasn't even super sleepy yet, but I was so overwhelmed by the night. By the fact that it was dark and quiet and long and that I probably would get sleepy. I so didn't want to keep going but of course I did. I wasn't going to DNF and that, my pride, was what made it so difficult. I knew I wouldn't quit today even if I wanted to. Jer was sensitive, but firm. It's all he could do. He got a new brighter headlamp ready for me, handed me a cup of potatoes and ham and I left a little mad. The only way to end this was again, to keep on trucking and get to the finish.
The guy and I didn't run much together anymore. Another man had caught up to us, putting me now in 5th overall with the men, and I could tell he wanted to move faster and I wasn't as afraid or nervous anymore so I told him to go on. I was starting to get sleepy and my stomach was starting to argue with me, not wanting gel anymore, or anything really so with 18 miles to go I resolved to walk the rest of the race. I was going to finish the 100 miles, that was the first goal, and if it meant slowing down and walking the rest of the race I'd do it. In my mind as long as I kept moving I would stay awake and walking didn't bother my stomach. Sometimes I was able to walk fast, sometimes with anger at this whole thing. I was tired, stomach bothered, bored and not having a good time. And again the dark hours in front of me felt so long. I didn't get the point of what I was doing. I probably walked faster than I think I did during this section. The terrain here involves winding trail that fingers in and out, up and down little canyons if you will. There's no seeing much in front of you and that is SO hard when you're desperately looking for an aid station. I didn't need anything from the aid station, no water, no fuel, that was all on me, I just needed the landmark, needed to know I was that much closer. This was the last aid station before the finish. I needed to see this aid station. It was so hard to see the two guys headlamps in front of me still moving, to not see them stop, to not see an aid station. It's not like I was behind what time I was supposed to get there, but it was just taking forever. I just kept moving.
|The ever present, long, dark|
I was very tired walking into that aid station and knew as it was still not even 3am (still not even meaning it was not close to sunrise, when I thought I might find hope again and wake up). I knew a 20 minute nap could potentially really help me. But what I didn't know was how far back the other women were. Turns out they were about an hour back, but I had no way to know that and only assumed they were right on my tail. I was leading the race at mile 90, was under course record time and really wanted that course record, mainly because it had been so much work already that day, I didn't want to have to start it all over to try for a different course record. If it was still in my reach I had to keep trying for it. My pride ruled me. I regretted not sleeping at that aid station the second I walked away from it.
90-93 So very tired. I would sit down once in a while on a rock or log out of sleepy exhaustion, my legs were still fine. I'd put my head down or against a tree for a few seconds wanting to sleep but knowing that it wasn't smart there. There were animals around. I'd stand up and I was dizzy. Running was completely out of the question and now I was stumbling around. Couldn't walk straight, felt disconnected from control. The 7 miles to go felt like an utter eternity the way I was moving. We were on a section of trail that is very narrow and should I walk off either side of it I could slide down a long ways. Not like I'd walk off a cliff, but dangerous none the less. This wasn't good.
93-94 Sat down on the ground again and put my head on my knees. This was so hard. This was dangerous. I couldn't lay down and sleep there because there was no where flat and safe to lie down should I move around at all. I heard someone coming toward me and looked up when he was close. I asked if I could hold onto his arm. I didn't feel safe stumbling like I was and I needed help. He and his friend asked if they should go get help and I said no. A) as much as I wanted to quit, I wasn't going to quit at mile 93, B)I would be mortified at SAR coming for me, and C)I just needed help off this scary section so I could find a place to lay down. I was so grateful for their care and compassion. They slowed way down for me and really cared for me. He gave me a caffeine pill, all of 25mg. That put me up to probably 300mg in 3 hours between a pill, gels, soda and a 5hour energy. I even waited to start any caffeine until 55 miles at friend Amy B's advice. Caffeine just doesn't touch me.
94-96 This felt like a safer part of the trail and I told them I felt a little better after the pill, which was a lie, but it was a safer part of the trail and I wanted to let them go finish their race strong. They said they'd let my husband know and I agreed that was a good idea. So I carried on alone again still doing badly.
It was here that I got mad at myself for leading the race to mile ninety freaking five, and now I was going to get passed by many women and come in 20th or so. I couldn't believe they hadn't passed me yet and knew it was just a matter of time at my effort and their experience. It wasn't that I had to win, that I had to beat anyone. Not at all, it was just that I had done so well all day and was so close to a win and course record. I was so sad I was letting this happen even though I didn't really have much control over it. I also truly mourned the fact that I would never do another mountain 100. I couldn't. The way I handle sleep deprivation was traumatic and dangerous. I would never get to do Wasatch, I would stick to 100ks and under. 100k is a great distance, 100 milers aren't everything. That would have to be my plan. I truly mourned this being my only 100 experience.
I begged my watch to pass faster, pleaded with the sun to try to come out. I could finally see slight illumination behind the clouds now, not a sunrise, but something. I looked down at my watch to see where the 30 minute repeating nutrition timer I have going off was at. There was about 8 minutes left before it would go off again. I figured I had no choice now but to sleep as I had no idea how much longer I'd be out (I don't use GPS so don't know exact mileage). I was going to lay down on the dirt a few feet off the trail with my head close to my hand and sleep. I hoped nothing would bother me, hoped I wouldn't get too cold, hoped I'd wake up to my watch and not 4 hours later, and hoped the extra light in 8 minutes would make a difference and help reset my body clock. I laid down, felt my heart rate much too high for my effort level, worried some at that and the swelling in my left hand and was out like a light asleep. And just like that, woke up promptly to my watch 7 minutes later.
I figured I'd been passed now but had no idea. Looked at the winding trail ahead of me and behind me and didn't see anyone, but there were sections I couldn't see. I was still dizzy but figured if I couldn't see anyone ahead of me I had to try my best. I would run the downhills and walk as fast as I could on the ups and when I got to the end of the trail where there's 2 miles of dirt road to the finish Jeremy would be there in the car waiting. I would ask him how long ago she'd passed, climb in the car and lay down for 30 minutes, then walk the 2 miles into the finish and still complete the ultimate goal of running 100 miles.
Crested one of the many hills in front of me and saw the road. It ignited me a little. I hurried my best to it a little surprised he wasn't there. Ran down the road for a minute fairly fast but not too fast. Did almost the best I could. A car was racing up the road toward me and it was Jer and the race director. He got out and I asked how long ago she'd passed.
He said she hadn't. I was still in the lead.
How was that even possible?! I took off crying and wheezing. The wheezing was from an hour ago when my lungs tightened up, the crying was not out of joy. It was out of fear. I was absolutely sure she would pop out on the road and chase me down and this course record that was now so important to me because it took 24 hard hours to earn, would slip out from under me. I looked back a dozen times. Jeremy was running the 1.5 miles in with me trying to keep up with me. I imagine we were running 7 minute mile pace. My legs didn't hurt. My head was dizzy, lungs tight and mind still so tired, but I was giving it all I possibly could. He reminded me to look forward, not back, that he would watch. I probably asked him to look for her another dozen times. When we were within 1/4 mile of the finish, finally, I believed I would do it, I'd win. I had envisioned during my first 65 miles that whatever place I finished I'd cross the finish line with my hands in the air, the biggest smile on my face, maybe tears, and I would kiss the ground. At this moment all I could manage was to look like death with probably the ugliest face ever, to look miserable and touch the table and be done. I regret not showing more happiness, but that last mile was probably the hardest thing I've ever done athletically. It is what it is. Jeremy so proud of me sat me down on a log nearby. So good to sit and be done. I wish I'd been more excited but instead, in an empty parking lot at 6:15am I just shared with Jeremy and race director Matt Gunn how hard my night was. That there was nothing fun about the last 30 miles, nothing. That was the most fresh thing in my mind.
|It's really over. That was really hard|
|About 30 minutes post race|
|Zac, Zac's pacer Bob and I with the African pottery drum we each got for winning. |
Very proud of Zac for hanging on to dominantly win the mens race. An Altra sweep!