My watch died before midnight, so I had no idea what time it was. The moon had disappeared somewhere behind the canopy of trees and I was now heading down what seemed like a long steep trail to the Weaver Creek Aid station. I was still being attacked intermittently by gnats. I felt like I was descending into the depths of the earth....or possibly hell. It felt surreal to be going down, down, down in the dark depths of the forest. This was some of the trail, only now it was pitch black....
My spirits and energy were still up, I just took note, as I would have to climb back out once I hit the aid station at mile 64. As I returned back up the trail I had the sense that dawn was coming. I popped 2 more caffeine gums and drank and ate, readying myself for the hardest part of the the race...a full 12-15 hours ahead of hiking and running. Yesterday, I only had to experience the sun and heat for 6-8 hours, in fresh legs. I was thinking, “Ok, soon we get to find out if I was patient enough, if my training was enough”.
Dawn broke and the birds sang and the biting gnat attacks subsided. I hit the paved/dirt road section early enough in the morning to avoid the heat. I was very grateful. After the road segment came Wilscot Gap aid at mile 81.
I was climbing slower as it was heating up, well after 10am, and my low back was starting to ache on the climbs. You can see it in my face in this picture. I used my poles to help myself on the climbs. It was good to see Dad again. He helped me with my pack and I refueled.
I picked up my other watch so I could have time, miles, and pace again. He again offered a chair, I again declined. I never sat down, only because I knew the pain of getting up would not be worth it. I had moved from 59th position to 27th through the night. I knew I was in good position among the women, but not sure if 3rd or 4th. My goal at this point was to not get caught by any women, and hopefully continue move up.
The last segment would be “The Dragon’s Spine”. Aptly named for it’s jagged, quite steep, up/down sawtooth terrain. It was also way more technical and narrow through this section. I knew it would be this way for the next 15-20 miles. Funny thing is, we did this once already on miles 1-20. I’ts amazing how perspective changes after 80 miles. I would have sworn it was a different trail. Mile 80-97 were just painful. My low back restricted my uphill speed to a seeming crawl. My quads
were really starting to feel tenderized going down. I just tried to stay focused, move as fast as my legs would allow. I accepted the pain and tried to relax with it, instead of tending up. I continued to push calories and water to keep my energy up. I controlled everything I could to make the most of what I had left and mitigate the discomfort. I thought about friends and family supporting me, about Kevin Rolf and his battle, about the #lovehopestrength we share.
I used my bandana and filled it with ice at every aid, wrapping it around my neck to try and cool myself. I managed to pass a few more guys, no girls. One or two guys reclaimed their spots on the climbs ahead.
Darkness came in the last 3 miles. I finally hit the paved road leading into the finish. I looked at my watch with 1 mile left to go. 32:49. Any neurotic runner will understand what I was thinking. “If I run hard, I can finish in under 33 hours”. Why it mattered at that point, after 106 miles whether I finished in 32:59 or 33:05, God only knows. But, I wanted to see 32, not 33 on the clock. Damnit, I started to run harder. A 10min mile on fresh legs is not a tall order. A 10 minute mile after 106 miles feels darn near impossible. So here comes this stinky, bug eaten, quad ripped, back aching, runner blazing (not really, but it felt blazing) a sub 10 minute mile to hit the finish line at 32:58. I immediately sat down next to the 3rd place female in a heap. 4th female and 24th overall. I couldn’t be happier with how I did, with how I ran my race.
Now a bit of rest and back to training…. I have a date with a 238 mile race in Moab, UT in October! Onward and upward.
I can't give enough kudos to Coach Eric. He knows how to dial in to what I personally need to become a better athlete year by year. His coaching is individual, always taking into account where I am at and where I want to be. He is very strategic, but intuitive. He sees the forest, but pays attention to the individual trees in my training, and adapts and adjusts my training based on how my body and mind respond, helping me jump from one level to the next. I feel like this race was a jump to a whole new level, a level I needed to hit before Moab. Thank you coach.