Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mileage Madness

Perhaps I spoke too soon on last weeks post, because this past weekend, I felt awesome! My runs were seriously amazing! So much so that I'm a little worried I over did it...but I'm feeling okay so far, so hopefully all will be well. I hear so much talk about over training and injuries, that I do get nervous as to where to draw the line. But other than some minor soreness, I'm feeling pretty great.

So what did I do, that put me into this crazy runners high you may be asking?

Well for starters, I ran 33 miles over Saturday and Sunday (definitely a record for me). An 18 mile road run on Saturday morning followed by a 15 mile mountain run on Sunday! Mentally, I just know I needed this. After last weeks bad run, I was just feeling really down about Imogene Pass Run - but now I'm feeling much more confident and excited!

The road run on Saturday wasn't anything too special except for hitting a new all time distance record (which always creates a little bit of a runners high for me). I had plans to do some mountain running on Sunday, so I decided I would try and work on mileage rather than incline on Saturday. The farthest mileage I've had up to this point is about 16.8 miles. With Imogene being 17.1, I wanted to surpass that distance, just to give myself that mentality that I've gone farther before. Of course 17.1 mountain miles are going to be a lot tougher than 18 road miles, but it still felt good to get them in. And honestly, I really haven't done too much road running this summer, so in a way it was kind of nice. I ended up just running around Montrose - starting at the Uncompahre River Way Trail, running up Sunset Mesa, back down, and then out of town towards Ridgway on the frontage road. For being August, the weather was absolutely perfect! Overcast and 60's for the first couple hours, and then it did start to warm up towards the end. I took this nice and slow, which I'm really glad about. Running slow allowed me to relax and just let my mind wander. It helped me remember what it is I love about running. I also spent a good 5-6 miles just catching up with the Lord. So often my prayers are quick, but this allowed me the time and concentration to just chat with God! It was really nice.

I ended up doing all 18 miles in 3:18:56, which is an average pace of 11:03. Pretty slow, but definitely enjoyable. And despite going slow, my legs still felt shot as soon as I finished. It's amazing how you can run for 18 miles, and then the second you stop to walk, your legs feel like they're just about to give out on you. I honestly felt like this run was the opposite of all those "your mind gives up before your body" quotes. Because I was going slow and keeping my heart rate down, mentally I felt great. I felt like I could've kept going forever. But physically, the last 2 miles were tough. My legs were definitely starting to feel it by the end.

Because of how dead my legs felt after the run, I tried something a little crazy. I've heard runners talk about it, but this is the first time I ever considered doing it. I took an ice bath! It sounds painful, and it is, but it actually wasn't AS bad as I was expecting, and I definitely think it helped. Ice baths are supposed to speed up recovery and since I wanted to run hard again on Sunday, I figured it would be a good idea! You fill the tub with cold water, get in and adjust to it, and then poor about 10 lbs of ice in. I made myself a hot cocoa to help keep me warm!

Sunday I actually woke up feeling pretty good, considering how I stiff I had felt the day before. I was still a bit sore, but nothing too bad, so I stretched a little and got ready to head to Ouray and meet up with some other runners who are also doing Imogene Pass Run. Our plan was to run the first 7.5 miles of the race - from the starting line in Ouray to Upper Camp Bird (about 3800 feet of elevation gain) - which is also the first cut off point on race day. 2.5 hours is the time allotted to make it those 7.5 miles. It sounds like a lot, but you definitely have to be able to run a good portion of it, or you won't make it. So it was really reassuring when I made it in slightly over 2 hours (2:03 to be exact). After last weekends run, I really was worried, but now I'm feeling more reassured to know I've done it, and with a good amount of time to spare! 

The weather forecast wasn't looking very good and when we made it to Upper Camp Bird it was misting pretty hard. So we quickly turned back around and started to make the 7.5 mile descent back to Ouray. While I think my downhill running has gotten slightly better, I'm still pretty slow in the technical parts, so it was good to get a little more training in. I'm really hoping to be able to run the downhill miles around 10 minutes each, so more practice was good. I was running about 12 minute miles on the technical spots, and 9 minutes on the smooth spots. The road to Telluride won't have quite as many smooth areas though, so that's something for me to remember on race day! I made it back to town with a total time of 3:31:03, or an average pace of 13:57/mile.

So overall I am definitely feeling better about Imogene. I am thinking my goal of 4 hours may be slightly unrealistic, so I'm going to shoot for under 4 1/2, but definitely try my best to make it as close to 4 as I can. I am still a bit nervous for race day, but excited too! It's the first trail race that I've really put a lot of thought and training into.

Next weekend, I do want to do some light training, but nothing too strenuous. My plan is to taper little bit prior to race day!

On another note - I signed up for another race the following weekend after Imogene Pass - the Grand Mesa Bear Chase on September 14th. It seems pretty casual, and with IPR the weekend before, I will probably just take it easy. It was affordable, for a good cause (a local Boy Scout Troup fundraiser), and in a fairly close location, so I thought it would be fun! Its a 4 mile, 8 mile, and Half Marathon. I signed up to do the Half Marathon, but I figure if I'm still recovering from IPR, I can always drop down to one of the shorter distances. I'm excited about it though! I'm hoping the fall colors will have started to appear by then!

I didn't take any pictures during my mountain run, but I did get a few from my road run. I started a little after 6am, and so the sun was still rising - giving me some gorgeous views to run to:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Running Slump / Wrights Lake

My last few weeks have been a little discouraging. The week after I hiked Mt. Elbert, I was just feeling "off". I couldn't get myself to get up early and go running, or any other type of working out, and then Saturday morning I had the worst training run for Imogene Pass Run yet. I'm only a few weeks out from race day, so it was a big blow to me!

My plan was to run Camp Bird Road (the first part of IPR), and then instead of going up to Imogene Pass, I would head into Yankee Boy Basin and up to Blue Lakes Pass, and then back down. Well, I don't know if my body just needed a break or what, but I was just not feeling this run, and was not doing well. I walked WAY more than I wanted to. I mean, I barely ran AT ALL! And then, I didn't even make it to the top of Blue Lakes Pass. I still made it about 6.4 miles, one-way, but that's still only 12.8 miles total. IPR is going to be 17.1! The worst part about it was that those 12.8 miles took me 4 hours. I was hoping to do IPR in 4 hours.

So needless to say, it was a bit disheartening. Sunday, I was planning on trying for another run - Sneffels Highline, with some fellow runners. Sneffels Highline is a trail accessible from the Telluride side of the mountains with gorgeous views of the Sneffels Range. I was really looking forward to this, but ended up with a headache Saturday afternoon that lasted thru Sunday morning, so I ended up skipping it. As much as I wanted to go, I'm now thinking it was probably better that I skipped it, as I'm wondering if my body just needs rest. This summer has been a bit on the crazy side. I love summer, but I just feel like I've been trying to cram as much as possible into the weekends (running Saturday, hiking Sunday - both almost all-day activities since they require driving into the Mountains), and then during the week, trying to get up early and run before work so I miss the afternoon heat, and it's just been non-stop!

Taking Sunday off didn't mean a completely lazy day unfortunately. I spent the day thoroughly cleaning the house (which needed to be done, so while it wasn't fun, it felt good to get it done), and then I did end up going for a short 3 mile run - which also didn't go well. In addition to just not having much energy, I've been getting a lot of side-stitching/cramping lately. On Saturday's run, when I would normally run all of the downhill sections, I ended up walking a lot as well due to this side-stitching problem. So just another discouraging issue I've been dealing with. I've been researching it, and have found focusing on my breathing to be helping a little.

This past week hasn't been too bad. I decided I would let my body rest a little more than usual, so I've only ran twice this week, but both times have seemed to go okay. Tuesday I ran 5 easy paced/slow miles, and then last night I ran 4.7 fast miles. I did start to feel the side stitches coming on in my faster run last night, but I started to concentrate on my breathing and managed to push through them without them getting bad.

So anyways, kind of a boring post, but it's just been a little frustrating to be having issues this close to Imogene Pass Run. I've been working my butt off all summer for it, and I want to be able to really go out there and do my best. I'm just hoping that adding a little more rest will help and not hinder my remaining 2 weeks of training!

A few pictures from Saturdays run:
(It was still a beautiful day, despite my running issues, and I ended up making it to the beautiful "Wrights Lake" - an alpine lake on the way to Blue Lakes Pass)

Can you see the little Marmot in the bottom center? He kept chirping at me!

I stopped and took a quick break near the Mt. Sneffels lower trail head to eat a granola bar and enjoy the views!

Wrights Lake

I continued on a little past Wrights Lake, trying to decide if I should go to Blue Lakes Pass or not, decided not to, but got this beautiful view.

Wrights Lake again

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mount Elbert

Ever since I started hiking 14ers, I knew Mount Elbert had to be on my bucket list. At 14,433 feet, it's the tallest peak in Colorado, and the second tallest in the contiguous United States (after Mount Whitney in California). Another plus for me, was that according to 14ers.com, it's considered to be "easy." Now take that with a grain of salt, because while, yes there's a definitive trail all the way to the top, it still requires 4,700 feet of elevation gain.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been wanting to go for a long weekend getaway in the mountains. One of the reasons being that I've been wanting to do another Fourteener. I hadn't done any yet this year and already being in the mountains makes logistics a bit easier (and allows for a little more sleeping in and lot less driving). Thus our plans to hike Mount Elbert were formed.

We would stay in Georgetown on Friday and Saturday night, run Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon, and then enjoy some rest time and a little gambling in Black Hawk before heading over to Leadville on Sunday afternoon to hike nearby Mount Elbert on Monday morning! I couldn't be more excited!

Mount Elbert - 14,433'
Hike: Mount Elbert
Location: Leadville, Colorado
Date: August 12, 2013
Round Trip Distance: 9 Miles
Starting Elevation: 10,040 feet
Maximum Elevation: 14,433 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 4,700 feet

We woke up around 3:00am, got packed up and ready, ate breakfast and were on the road a little after 4:00. The trailhead was only about 10 miles away, but it was mostly dirt road, meaning it took awhile to get there, so it was not until about 4:40 when we actually started hiking.

The first mile we were on part of the Colorado Trail (a 500 mile trail stretching form Denver to Durango), until we reached a junction in the trail that would lead us up to Mount Elbert. It was still pitch black at this point (about 5:15am):

After we left the Colorado Trail is when the climbing really started. We still had to gain over 4000 feet in 3.5 miles. As we continued on for the second mile, it slowly started to get lighter out and I could start to see a little bit of color creeping over the mountains through the trees. I was really hoping we would be above treeline in time to see the sunrise, so I tried to pick up my pace a little in a hopes that we would make it. And luckily, we did! I honestly don't know how we could have timed it better. There was a small section without any trees that we made it to just in time to see this:

It was incredible. There are few things in this world better than seeing a sunrise over the mountains. We decided to just stay put and watch it for awhile because we weren't completely above treeline yet. We still had another small section of trees to go through and I didn't want to miss it.

After enjoying the sunrise (and taking far too many pictures), we were on our way again. We had about 2.5 miles left to the top, and lots of climbing! One thing that the 14ers website warned me about was false summits. There were 2 false summits on your way to the top. The picture below shows the first false summit - you actually go around to the right side of the top shown in the picture, where you've still got another 1/2 mile or so before reaching the top.

These last 2 miles were pretty slow going simply because of the amount of elevation we were gaining. Not only was it more comfortable to go slow (so I wasn't breathing obnoxiously), but I also wanted to purposely go slow because I knew I was going about 1300 feet higher than I had been so far this year (Imogene Pass at 13,114' was my high point for this summer so far), and I didn't want to get altitude sickness. I haven't ever had it before and I didn't want to make this the first time.

After slow and steadily meandering our way up the mountain, we finally reached the second false summit. Luckily this one was really close to the top! I knew we were just about there!

100 meters or so and we reached the summit! And what a sight it was. And as an added bonus - there wasn't anyone else up there (we determined we were the second group to reach the top that day - a runner training for the Pikes Peak Ascent had passed us, reached the summit, and descended already)! This was the first 14er summit we've ever gotten to enjoy on our own (it's the one downside to 14ers - they're usually always packed with people). Because of this, we ended up spending quite a long time up there - about 45 minutes! I was getting 5 bars on my cell phone so Scott actually face-timed his parents in Alaska from the summit! After that we found a little bit of a sheltered area (it was windy and quite cold), and had a few snacks while enjoying the views. 

A few minutes before we were planning to head back down another couple reached the top. It actually worked out quite nicely because I was able to get them to take a quick picture of the two of us at the top (and I did the same for them):

Views from the Summit:

I've been trying to figure out if the below peaks are the Maroon Bells, but am not having any luck. They look kind of like them, and I expected to see them from the top, but these almost seemed too close to where we were. 

Video from the top:

The rest of the way down was fairly uneventful. The crowds started coming pretty shortly after we started our descent and then about 1 1/2 miles before we made it back down it started raining. I was glad we weren't at the summit for that!

After we made it back down, we headed back home with just one quick stop to get a few more pictures:

Mount Elbert (left) & Mount Massive, Colorado's second highest peak @ 14,421' (right)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

GTIS Half Marathon

It's been another busy few weeks! Two weekends ago (August 3-4) I squeezed in a quick 8.5 mile trail run on Saturday morning before heading over to the Front Range to visit my sister who was in town. My trail run was of Blue Lakes - one I had hiked last year, and loved, so I was happy to get to fit it in and get a little IPR training in! The weather was cloudy and ominous, so it made it a completely different experience than before. I love that I live so close to the San Juan Mountains that I can literally "squeeze" in something like this!

Lower Blue Lake
One of the Upper Blue Lakes

The other Upper Blue Lake

This past weekend (August 10) was Georgetown to Idaho Springs (GTIS) Half Marathon. It was about a 4 hour drive from home and I've been wanting to do a "Mountain Getaway Weekend", so I decided to take Monday off of work so that the hubby and I could spend a long weekend in Georgetown and surrounding areas. We ended up running on Saturday, gambling on Sunday, and hiking on Monday! It was a lot of fun!

We drove over after work on Friday and didn't get into Georgetown until almost 10:00pm, so that meant straight to bed so we didn't miss our 5:00am wake-up call! We woke up early, showered, ate some breakfast and then headed to the start line. Our hotel was fairly close to the starting line at Georgetown Lake, so we decided to walk rather than drive. We got there at about 6:45am (the race started at 8:00am), so we had enough time to pick up our bibs.

After waiting around for about an hour it was time to line up at the start. This is where I left Scott. I had specific goals in mind, whereas he just wanted to take it easy, so we parted ways and I attempted to squeeze myself into the crowd near the 1:55 pace group. I had two goals for this race - goal #1 was a sub-2 hour time, #2 was to try and run with the 1:55 pace group the whole time. Obviously goal #1 was the most important to me, but I wanted to push myself, which is why I added goal #2.

The gun went off right at 8:00am, and, as with most races, it was slow moving and congested for the first several minutes. It was relief when we started moving because it was cold! The sun had not made it's appearance over the mountains yet and my fingers and toes were numb.

The course takes you on a loop around Georgetown for about 2 miles before heading down to Idaho Springs. As soon as we got onto the frontage road towards Idaho Springs, the sun reached us, and I went from cold to hot in a matter of seconds! I was not expecting it to be so warm! The forecast had said low 60's and clouds, so it was a bit of a surprise for me. I was glad I decided to bring my own water bottle with me because I ended up drinking a lot more water than I'm used to.

The first half of the race sort of flew by. At the beginning when we were still congested I was behind the 1:55 pacers, but by the time we reached the frontage road I had caught up with them and stayed for a mile or so before deciding to move ahead of them for awhile. Pace wise, I was doing awesome. My mile splits were between 8:20 and 8:45 minute miles (fast for me)!

I kept this up until just around mile 8 when I got a cramp that caused me to slow down. I was still moving and managed to keep the next two miles under 9 minutes each, but I just couldn't quite recover. Add to the fact that I had been drinking far more water than I was used to, and my stomach just wasn't sure it could handle picking up the pace again. So my last 3.1 miles were a bit slower than I wanted, in the low 9 minute range. The good news was that I had my Garmin with me and knew that as long as I ran the last 3 miles in under 10 minutes each, I would hit my sub-2 hour goal.

After pushing through the last several miles, I finally reached Idaho Springs and knew I was close! Since I mentally knew I was almost there I did manage to get myself to pick up my pace for the last 1/10th of a mile (coming in at around a 7:11 pace according to my Garmin) and finished with a time of 1:56:35.

As with my last Half Marathon, crossing that finish line felt awesome! However, immediately afterwards, I found shade and sat down for a minute to see if I could get my stomach to settle a bit (it was still feeling a little queasy from drinking so much water). The shade helped a little, and after a few minutes of sitting I found my parents who had driven up from Denver to watch us finish (and get lunch afterwards). I got something to drink and then we wondered back over to the finish line to watch for Scott.

After Scott finished we went and picked up all of our race swag, got a little bit of food, and then my parents drove us back to Georgetown so we could shower before meeting them back in Idaho Springs for lunch at Beau Joes Pizza!

Overall I'm really happy that I got my sub-2 hour time, but I won't lie, those last 5 miles really pushed me. It definitely made me realize that I enjoy trail running more than road running. This is simply because trail running is less about speed and more about endurance, and because of that, for me anyway, more enjoyable. I've always said that the one thing I did differently when I started running last year, was that I slowed down. Slowing down made all the difference in terms of allowing me to truly enjoy running and stick with it. So while it is still fun to try and beat goals and make PR's on occasion, I definitely think I will be taking my first marathon in January nice-and-easy. I want to be able to not only enjoy the marathon, but enjoy my trip afterwards. I don't want to be sore for days on end (although I may still be, since I'll be pushing myself to go 26.2 miles!). And most importantly, I want to be able to keep running. I want running to become a lifestyle for me, and not a temporary thing, and the key to that is to make sure I'm enjoying it!

Distance: 13.1 Miles
Bib Number: 159
Gun Time: 1:57:14
Chip Time: 1:56:35
Average Pace: 8:54 min/mile
Overall Rank: 897/3025
Gender Rank: 399/1943
Division Rank (Females 25-29): 54/252
10K Split: 54:30 (a PR!)
Garmin Splits: 9:39, 8:34, 8:26, 8:30, 8:42, 8:26, 8:33, 8:53, 8:56, 8:59, 9:10, 9:16, 9:08

Beautiful Morning!
Freezing while waiting for the start!
My Mom snapped this as I was heading towards the finish line.

Scott and I after the race!
The professional pictures!
After lunch with my parents on Saturday, Scott and I headed over to Black Hawk for some gambling on Saturday night and Sunday morning before heading up to Leadville to get ready to hike Mount Elbert. Stay tuned for my next post about reaching the highest point in Colorado (and seeing a beautiful sunrise)!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grand Mesa Ultra Marathon

One of my biggest sources of inspiration to keep running, are books about running. The first inspirational running book I read, and probably the most famous, is "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. If you haven't read it, do. Even if you're not a runner. It's great book and just may inspire you to start. This book is what first introduced me to the crazy world of Ultra Marathon running! A few months later I read "Eat and Run", by Scott Jurek, a famous Ultra Marathon runner, and a subject in McDougall's book. His book got me even more interested in Ultra Marathon running.

An Ultra Marathon is defined as any distance over that of a marathon - 26.2 miles. Many ultras are typically 50K, 50 Miles, or 100 Miles (although they can be any other distance, as long as they're over 26.2 miles). The 100 mile races are typically what I'd read about, and they're definitely the most intense. Runners continue through the night without sleep to complete these! It's pretty amazing! 

Because of my sparked interest in Ultra running, I was really excited (and I won't lie, a bit nervous) when Brad, a runner I do speed work with on Wednesday mornings asked if I might be interested in pacing a runner on the Grand Mesa Ultra Marathon on July 27th & 28th. Brad was going to be pacing Gary, a runner I had met once before on my Imogene Pass training run a few weeks ago. Well it turned out that Gary had been doing some training with a girl named Rachel, who was in need of some pacers. And thus my weekend plans were made!

During longer Ultras (typically 100 miles or more), runners are allowed to have pacers with them. But pacers do a bit more than just helping with your pace. They're typically allowed after you hit the 50 mile mark and are there to help with motivation, making sure you stay on course (it can be hard to remember to look for trail markers when you've been running for 50+ miles already), and making sure you're eating and drinking enough.

When I told people what I was going to be doing, I got a lot of, "are you going to be able to keep up?" and "what kind of pace?". Well that's the other thing about Ultras, particularly ones run in the mountains on trails (which is a large majority of them - especially in Colorado). Except for the elite, most runners don't run the whole thing, or even close to it. A 15 minute per mile pace is really good in an Ultra - especially as you're getting farther along in the course.

The Grand Mesa Ultra Marathon is in its fourth year running and has three different distances - 60K (37 miles), 50 miles, and 100 miles. Rachel, who I was pacing, was doing the 100. This was her 9th, 100 Mile Ultra so she was no stranger to them. We wrote several emails back and forth and spoke on the phone so I could get a feel for what she wanted me to do. The original plan was for me pace her on the toughest climb - 5.5 miles and about 5000 feet of elevation gain on Saturday night (the race starts Saturday morning) and then again on Sunday morning for the last 15 or so miles to the finish. 

The mileage and elevation gain were going to be perfect for my Imogene training, so I was really looking forward to it. Rachel and her crew (that's the other thing about ultras - you typically have a crew to drive around to the different aid stations and bring you food, drinks, change of clothes, etc.) were renting a house in Cedaredge, about 30 minutes from the Grand Mesa Lodge, which was the start and finish area for the race. To make it easier, they invited me to stay with them at the house for the weekend. So I left work a little early on Friday afternoon and headed up to the top of the Mesa to make the 5:00 race briefing and dinner. I was a little late getting there, but still heard most of the important bits - like to make sure to look for the pink with black dot trail markers (as opposed to pink without dots)! 

After the briefing was over, I met Rachel and her crew for the first time. Heather was her main crew member, along with Dan, who would be pacing Rachel in between my two sections. Also along with them was Rebecca, who was there to run the 60K. We chatted briefly and had a bit of food (I wouldn't really call it dinner - it was pasta salad, corn on the cobb, and cookies). Then we headed back to the house, relaxed for a bit, and then discussed my pacing plans in a bit more detail.

After looking it over, we decided that I would actually pace Rachel a little bit longer on Saturday night - starting at an earlier point. I would be starting at Carson Lake, 9 miles earlier than originally planned, making my Saturday night stretch into 15.5 miles. Not a big deal as my opinion was the more miles the merrier since I was trying to make this into an Imogene training as much as I could. After getting all the details worked out, and Rachel's Aid Station bags packed, it time to get as much sleep as we could!

The next morning, I got up around 3:45 and we were out the door a little after 4:15 to make the 5:00am start. It was still pitch black at this point and we made it to the lodge with only a few minutes to spare. I lost the rest of the group and I didn't have a flashlight or headlamp so I just followed the mass of people heading to the starting line (which was down the road a little bit). I stood around for awhile until I found Rachel, said hi and good luck to her real quick, and then they were off! I'm glad I decided to go to the start - it was neat to see everyone with their headlamps off into the darkness.

After the racers were gone, I waited around for the sun to rise before heading back into Cedaredge for a shower and breakfast. Once I gathered all of my running gear for later that day, I headed to the Flowing Park Aid Station where I would hang out for awhile until Rachel passed through a second time (she had already passed through once), in which I would drive over to meet her at Carson Lake where I would start pacing. Other than the large amount of bugs, it was a beautiful afternoon spent relaxing by the lake. Heather and Dan had the place decked out complete with a grill, cots, and a tent from the Korean War! We had a late lunch of burgers and then waited around for Rachel. 

Beautiful sunrise on my way back down the Mesa!

Our "camp" on Saturday afternoon.

She came back through the aid station slightly behind her planned schedule at around 3:45pm. She was tired but seemed to be doing okay. I guess the section wasn't all that well marked so it took several people longer than expected. She ate some grilled cheese, drank some coke, and then headed on her way. I headed out right after her, drove to Carson Lake, and quickly got all of my gear ready to go.

Rachel made it to Carson Lake Aid Station a little before 5:00. She ate some Ramen Noodles, and we were on our way! This section went pretty well. Overall we weren't moving as fast as I had anticipated, walking most of it. But we were at an okay pace and made it the 9 miles down to Kannah Creek Aid Station in 3 hours. We just barely made the race cut-off time of 8:00pm (if you weren't to the aid station by 8pm, you were not allowed to continue). Rachel's stomach had started to bother her so she didn't want to eat anything at this aid station. I on the other hand devoured a bunch of chips and crackers, and then packed us some food to go.

We were off a few minutes after 8:00pm. By this point another racer named Paul had caught up with us and decided to stick with us for the time being (he did not have a pacer - and thought being with us through this tricky section in the dark might be helpful). We only had about an hour of daylight left so I did my best to get everyone moving quickly. Not too far in, Rachel's stomach still wasn't feeling right and she had to vomit. However, she was still moving pretty well and so the first mile went great, at about a 20 minute pace. Shortly after mile 1, the rain started picking up and it was getting dark, so we stopped briefly and I pulled on my rain jacket (which I am SO incredibly grateful I had - my mother-in-law had just bought it for me a few weeks prior when I was in Alaska, and it seriously saved me! I cannot imagine if I hadn't had it with me).

Mile 2 got slower and slower, but we were still moving, and we reached mile 2 in about 40 minutes. After mile 2 is when all hell broke loose (forgive my language). By this time it was now pitch black, the rain just kept pouring, and then, the worst of all, the trail just turned to pure mud. And not just any mud, but inches thick, really slippery, stick to your shoes, kind of mud. And we were trying to go UP through this. The next 3 miles were 2 steps forward, 1 step back, the entire way. IT WAS NOT FUN!

However, we kept moving through it. Unfortunately, this mud just really slowed us down, and Rachel was now going on an empty stomach for over 2 hours after completing 50+ miles already. So she was really having trouble (plus whenever I tried to get her to eat anything she would just throw it back up). Thankfully I had Paul there to help me motivate her. We would stop and rest every so often when she needed it, and then it was time to continue on. And on. And on...for hours and hours (literally).

I believe it was around 1:00am (remember we started this 5.5 mile section at 8pm), and we were still a long ways from the top. Rachel was not doing well AT ALL. She stopped and said she felt like she was about to pass out. This was the point where I asked Paul if he would go to the top by himself and send someone down to help me get her the rest of the way to the top. I was a little hesitant to have him leave, as this meant I was going to be the only coherent one on the mountain, in the middle of the night, (and still raining hard) with another person...but I knew it was the only option.

After Paul left, we continued on, but very slowly. We would go about 20 yards, stop and rest for a few minutes, and then go another 20 yards, stop and rest, etc. It wasn't ideal, but it was working. As much as it didn't feel like it, we were moving and we were making progress. I kept telling Rachel this...I think she started to get annoyed at my same "we're almost there" comments (after all I had been saying that for hours now). But we kept moving.

About an hour later is when I had my first (and thankfully only) panic attack. We had been alone for awhile now, and it just didn't feel like we were making any progress. Rachel asked if we were still on the trail. She said she didn't remember this portion of it (she had done this section in training a few weeks prior). So I told her she could sit tight and I would go ahead a little ways and see if I could find a trail marker. Well I went a ways, and did not see a trail marker, but I did hear rustling in the leaves...I freaked out just a little (okay, maybe a lot). I had been doing my best to keep it together for the last several hours, but hearing that rusting noise, and a lack of a trail marker, and I freaked out. I mean, here I was, the sole person responsible for getting another human being to the top of a mountain and it wouldn't stop raining, we were both getting colder by the minute, and I felt like we were never going to make it to the top...and where was someone to come help us out already?? It had been at least an hour since Paul had left us, and I swear we had to be less than a mile from the top.

Well panicking didn't help, so I eventually calmed myself down enough to tell Rachel we should keep moving up. Even if we weren't on the trail, we were on a trail, and we were going up, which was important! So we kept moving and thankfully a few yards past where I had been earlier, I saw a trail marker! And it was pink with black dots! I felt SO grateful. This gave me some new found hope, and I kept pressing Rachel to keep moving. We were getting there! Shortly after my panic attack, the trails also cleared up a little mud-wise, and we were able to move a little faster. So I kept moving her along.

Finally, after what felt like forever, we heard voices up ahead. Rachel called out and sure enough it was the Race Director and Dan, who had come to help us! The best part about it - they said we were only about 200 meters from the top! That was probably the greatest feeling in the world! By this point in time we were both FREEZING, as the rain was still beating down on us, and the temperature had obviously dropped pretty low (although I never checked what it actually was - I could see my breath at one point though). Dan took over the task of getting Rachel up, and I could just follow them the rest of the way up.

It felt longer than 200 meters, but we finally made it a little after 3:00am! I don't think sweatpants, a blanket, and a warm car have ever felt so good! I practically threw my shoes off (they were about 10lbs full of water weight), pulled my recently purchased (at the Grand Mesa Lodge earlier that day) sweatpants on over my completely drenched shorts, took off my rain jacket, and wrapped a warm blanket around me.

The race officials didn't know how bad Rachel would be when they got to us (we were closer to the top than they had expected), so they had already called an ambulance to be there for us. So we waited in the car for them to get there and then both Rachel and I got checked for hypothermia. After being in the car for a few minutes, I had been able to warm up and was feeling a lot better, so I was pretty sure I was okay, but got checked anyways. Rachel was okay too, other than just being severely dehydrated (she had not eaten anything since before 8pm, and had barely drank anything). But we were all, for the most part, alive and well, so they let us go, and we headed back down the Mesa to the house in Cedaredge.

I don't remember much of the drive, as a I kept dozing off, but it was raining heavily and there was a lot of fog! It was pretty scary, I'm glad I was sleeping for part of it! We made it back to the house around 4 or 4:30am, chatted briefly with Rebecca (who had done the 60K earlier), and then I headed to bed. It felt amazing. I slept until about 9:30, got up, and then we left around 10am to go get my car (it was still up at the Carson Lake aid station). And it was STILL raining out. I couldn't believe people had ran through the entire night in this! Obviously Rachel had to DNF (did not finish). Even if she had been in better health and had been able to continue, she hadn't make the cut-off time of 1:00am.

After I got my car, I stopped back by the lodge on my way down, just to see if there were still racers going. And sure enough there were! According to the race director there were about 4 still out there. I asked if Gary had finished, and he had! Came in 6th place in 29:13! That is an incredible time had we been in good weather, let alone with the constant rain and fog all night! And this was his first one - I was impressed.

There was an article in the local paper (actually just came out today - so maybe it's a good thing I waited to post this) about the race, and it said that one of the racers, Hans-Dieter Weisshaar, who holds the world record for the most 100 mile races (136), didn't finish. Now that is saying something! Of the 30 or so that entered the 100 mile run, only 10 finished (including the first ever female finisher)! It's a good reminder of what the Imogene Pass Run website says:

"'The Mountains Don't Care'. The reality is that despite whatever emotions we may have for the mountains and their environment, they are in fact unfeeling objects and they follow the natural rules of physics which are not always benevolent toward living creatures, great or small."

As much as I love mountain running, this is definitely something I always need to remember and something this experience taught me. Yes they can be beautiful, but they can also be dangerous and you need to be prepared for that!

So overall, I think I would sum up the weekend as an "adventure." I definitely learned a lot about Ultra's and I think being in a tough situation like I was, was actually a good thing (as much as I was not enjoying it around 2am). It definitely will make me more cautious before ever entering a 100 mile race (not saying I want to do one, but if I decide in the future that I do, I will be sure to be more prepared for inclement situations)!

Some more pictures:

The wildflowers were incredible!

The pink with black dot trail markers...it was such a relief whenever I saw these!

Still foggy on Sunday morning!
When I bought this bumper sticker on Saturday morning, I didn't realize I was going to have to earn it!

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...