Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 {My First 100!!!}

100 miles. On foot. Consecutively.

To most people, myself included, it seems crazy. Incomprehensible... and yet, when I first heard about 100 mile races, I was so mystified by the thought... "what if?"

What if... I could do that? Ordinary, non athletic, average me... I knew I had to try it someday. Which brought me to last summer, and 100 mile attempt #1 at Lean Horse. And the ever so disappointing failure. I tried to make up for that shortcoming by running a 100K just a month later, which was a great race for me...but I knew I still had to attempt the 100 mile distance again. It was one dream I could not and would not give up on.

So fast forward to this's been kind of a weird year for me. I haven't been able to commit to a lot of races and because of that I hadn't done a whole lot of ultra running until mid summer when I got back into it with the Grand Mesa 55K in late July. I did a few more weeks of long trail runs, and then decided, what the heck? I'm going to try another before the end of the trail running season is over. The Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Miler was actually the #2 choice for me, behind Lean Horse, when selecting a 100 miler back in 2016, so I decided to give it a go this year! It was still slightly earlier than I would have liked (I felt like I could have used another month or so to train), but I was going to give it a shot. Because I had made a big deal out of last years attempt, and then DNF'd the race, I decided to keep this one under the radar. I didn't want the added pressure of everyone knowing about it. So I just told a few people as I got ready for the race...

The week of the race rolled around and I was a nervous wreck. I had hoped by keeping it under the radar that I would be fine, but I think the fact that I did DNF last year had me extra worried. There is A LOT that goes into 100's - you have the figure out all of the travel arrangements, plan out drop bags, organize a crew and line up pacers. Not to mention the cost associated with all of those things. I just kept thinking, what if I fail AGAIN? I tried to keep that thought out of my mind as best as I could as I got ready, once again, for the unthinkable...

Scott and I made the 7 hour drive to Flagstaff the day before the race, arriving mid afternoon. We stopped by a grocery store, packet pick-up, and then the condo we rented before heading to dinner, and then attempting to get to sleep early. I struggled falling asleep, but finally did before waking up at 3:30am. After tossing and turning for another hour or so, I finally got up at about 4:45. My pacer, Sue. and her boyfriend Ethan had arrived late that night, so I met them that morning as I got ready (I lined up my pacer through a fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador who recently moved to Colorado from Phoenix - I cannot thank her enough for hooking us up!). We left about 5:45 and made it to the start around 6:15am. Since it was a small race, 45 minutes was way more than enough time to get ready for the 7am start, but it's still nice to be there and not have to worry about rushing. I dropped off my drop bag, circled through the bathroom line, and then waited in the car for a bit before the pre-race briefing. It was SUPER cold outside...a nice prelude into how cold it would end up being during the night section many hours later...

Driving through Monument Valley on the way to Flagstaff.

At the pre-race briefing, the race director thanked all the sponsors and brought up the night time forecast for the event, saying that the #1 reason people drop at this race is because of how cold the nights get, and to "not be a statistic" (this really stuck in my head when I was freezing at 1:00AM). After the briefing, we lined up, and, right at 7:00am, we were off!


The first 20 miles of this race were run in the San Francisco Peaks (the mountains of Flagstaff) and were, by-far, my favorite miles (and not just because I was on fresh legs - but because the views were the best!). The race starts out with the biggest climb of the course in the first 5 miles, as you head from 7500' at the start, to about 8800'. Now, compared to a lot of races in Colorado, the climb actually felt really mild, and had I not been doing a 100 I probably could have ran a lot of this... However, I was going for 100 miles and knew I really needed to conserve energy and pace myself - so most of these first 5 miles were just spent walking and chatting with other runners on the course, including the guy that actually handmade the finishers buckles. After the 5 mile climb, we had some nice downhill into the first aid station, Hart Prairie Preserve, at Mile 9.5. I had a banana, filled up my pack and then headed out for another mile, to the first Crew access spot at Mile 10.5 where Scott was waiting for me. I grabbed a few things from him and then headed out.

Race picture taken by a volunteer.

A short out-and-back to the Hart Prairie Aid Station.

The next 10 miles consisted of about three more miles of uphill followed by the most beautiful and wonderful 7ish miles of downhill - through pine trees and absolutely gorgeous aspen trees (although, no fall color yet). Now, normally I would've had a blast crushing this downhill because it was nice and gentle and not overly technical. But, as I kept telling myself, I was out here to finish ONE HUNDRED miles... so I kept it overly slow, making sure to mix in a lot of walking and keep fueling along the way.

Photo by Kristin Wilson Photography.

I rolled into the Mile 21 aid station nice and happy. I had some PB&J and coke, grabbed a lot of food to go, and set out for the next section - 13 miles (there was a water only station in 10, but it would be 13 before we got to a full aid station). Now, based on the elevation profile alone, I had expected this section to be similar to the one before... that is, nice gentle downhill... Unfortunately, it was not. The first couple miles were fine, but after that we got onto some two track that was the rockiest ever. Seriously, SO ROCKY. For ever. It majorly beat up my feet. Nevertheless, I kept at it - ending up with some fairly long stretches with no one else around for awhile, and while the course was marked, I definitely could have done with some more confidence course markings. The wind also kept getting worse and worse as the day progressed, and we were running directly into it. After 10 miles of rocks, running straight into the wind, I finally made it to the "water only" aid station at Mile 31... to find out that the water was out. Thankfully, I actually didn't need any (I was getting low, but since it wasn't that far to the next one I knew I'd be okay), and I continued on for the final 3 miles until the Mile 34 Aid Station, which was also the finish line for the 55K.

Scott got this one of me as I was leaving the Mile 21 aid station.

The rocks that DESTROYED my feet.

As I ran (more like, "slogged") into this aid station and saw all of the happy 55K runners who were finished (which I did my best to ignore), I grabbed some coke, salted potatoes and PB&J at this aid station before taking a seat to change into fresh socks...and therein discovered my first major issue of the race: two huge blisters, one on each big toe...only 34 miles into 100. Yikes. I tried to not let this derail me, but I was bummed...these were the same shoes I'd worn for multiple long runs all summer and I had never had an issue?! My only thought was that it was just how rocky it was. Nevertheless, I did my best to tape them up, put on new socks, and set out again.

Thankfully, I only had 4 1/2 miles to the next aid station - the shortest of any of the stretches, and I think this was good because it really helped my mental state. This stretch was also a VERY nice dirt road so I was able to run pain-free for a bit, as well as make up a little bit of time. In no time at all I was at the 38.5 mile aid station, Tub Ranch.

This aid station marked the last time I would see Scott until mile 67.5. The only other crew accessible aid station between 38.5 and 67.5 was at 54.5 - but it was only accessible with high clearance, 4WD, which we do not have. I knew this ahead of time and packed a drop bag - but that still didn't make this any easier. I was going to have to cover nearly 30 miles, mostly in the dark, without seeing anyone. Tough mentally, yes, but I also felt like if I could do this stretch solo, I could finish this race. Because it was my last aid station with Scott, I did end up staying here for awhile making sure I had everything I needed until I would see him again, which I had estimated to be around 1:00 in the morning. I grabbed a long sleeve shirt, hat, gloves, and lights and set off into the setting sun.

These middle stretches of the course were pretty much all forest dirt roads, and this next stretch was also thankfully not very technical. However, it was still incredibly windy... After a couple miles of no one else around, and a lot of wind, I decided to get out my music to help keep me motivated into the night. Herein also started a lot of singing and talking to myself - something I do a lot of in long ultras when I'm out there solo for hours on end.

As I came up to the mile 44.5 aid station in another 6 miles, I heard a bunch of gun shots going off - right as the sun was officially setting... my tired brain couldn't help but connect it to the Hunger Games, and I joked to myself that this was the "end of the day" cannon signaling how many people had dropped from the race... Apparently the aid station volunteer hadn't seen or read the Hunger Games because he didn't understand, but I found it very amusing... Apparently it is some sort of tradition to shoot of a gun at this aid station... Anyways, I was in and out of this one fairly quickly as I had some soup and snacks, grabbed my lights and got them situated before heading off into what would become the longest and coldest night ever...

Less than a mile after heading out, it was officially dark and I turned on my lights. I had 10 miles until the Boundary Aid Station - Mile 54.5, where I had all of my major night clothes waiting for me. I had hoped the temperatures wouldn't drop too fast and I would be okay not to change into pants until then. This first major night section actually wasn't bad at all for me - the road wasn't very technical and there weren't too many trees, so I could see other runners headlamps in the distance which helped reassure my confidence that I was on the right course and making progress. However, it was definitely getting colder and colder as I continued on, and with still a few miles to go, I was definitely ready for my tights! I picked up my pace as best as I could and finally made it into the Boundary Aid Station, 54.5, around 9:15pm. I quickly changed into pants and changed my shoes (I was still having some pain in my feet and hoped maybe a different pair of shoes would help). After having some ramen noodles, turning on my phone to update Scott, Sue, and Ethan on my status, I headed out, once again, into the night. 13 more miles to go until I got to see them and Sue would get to pace me for the rest of the race (and I would have someone to talk to!!!).


I left this aid station in high spirits that were quickly drowned out as we got onto rocky, not well defined singletrack. My toes were doing okay, but anytime I kicked a large rock it would send a huge burst of pain up my leg, and this single track was rocky enough that I felt like I was kicking rocks All. The. Time. Nevertheless, I kept at it. One foot in front of the other and repeat... A couple of different people passed me on this section too which was demoralizing - overall I felt good and I felt like I was moving pretty well for being 55+ miles into the race, but when people would fly by me, it made me feel depressed...nevertheless, I kept telling myself, just run your own race. You can do this. Insert motivational quote here (I actually said to myself, "insert motivational quote here" several times).

At mile 60, we had a small out-and-back to the Moqui Aid Station. They had candles leading to the aid station which was kind of fun and made me feel like I was at some sort of secret society initiation. No crew was allowed here, so I just ran in, had a tiny bit of soup, and then headed back out. 7.5 miles until a pacer... Seriously, I think this "count down" to getting a pacer was the only thing that kept me going. It was continuing to get colder and colder. We crossed a road and got onto the "Coconino Rim" section of the trail - a section that looked like it would have been really neat to see based on the map...too bad I couldn't actually see anything because it was pitch black. Nevertheless, one foot in front of the other and repeat... this part was a mix of singletrack and two track. With several miles still go, I came across a giant sign that said "Russel Tank", the name of the next aid station. Thankfully, I had talked to another runner earlier that day that warned me about this sign - he said, you'll see that sign but you still have a LONG way to I was mentally prepared for that. About a mile after that sign you could actually hear people at the aid station cheering whenever someone got there...that was even tougher than the sign because it seemed like you were so close, and yet it wouldn't ever come. During this stretch I actually passed about 3 runners which felt kind of nice. Finally, after what felt like forever, I MADE IT!!! Seriously, reaching this aid station was one of the best feelings of the entire race. I had just gone 29 miles, mostly in the dark, by myself, and was 67.5 miles into the race - a new record for furthest I had ever done before! Overall I felt okay physically, but mentally the coldness was getting to me. I still had 5+ hours before the sun rose and it was SO, so cold, and still dropping.

It was just a little dark...

That being said - I now had a PACER!!!! I got hooked up with Sue through a Skirt Sports Ambassador, Michelle, and I was SO happy to have her. Until you've ran 67.5 miles over 18 hours, 7 of them in complete darkness, mostly all alone, you have no idea how exciting it is to get someone to join you and talk to! It is the best feeling. Sue, Ethan and Scott welcomed me into the Aid Station, and got me some soup and a few other things and we stood by the fire staying warm and re-fueling. This was by-far the longest time I spent at any aid station - about 40 minutes (I still can't believe it was that long, but apparently it was). As hard as it was the leave this aid station, we finally set out into the longest stretch - 67.5 to Mile 80, all in the pitch black dead of night, as the temperatures dropped lower and lower, getting at least as low as 25.

I had been trying to decide if I should wear my big puffy Patagonia coat, and thankfully I did - I ended up majorly needing that. As we first set out, the addition of the puffy coat made all the difference, I was actually staying warm for once (only for another couple hours, until the temperatures got even colder in the few hours before sunrise). These 13 miles were interesting - I had really thought with the addition of Sue, they would go by quicker than the solo miles - and while having her there to talk with did help, the time did NOT go by any faster...I guess being 70+ miles into 100 does that to you... This section was also a very "rolling" section, something I hadn't really expected based on the course profile. It was a lot of ups and downs as we wound around the Coconino Rim (but again, you couldn't see anything). About 8 miles or so into this stretch we saw a road up ahead with runners and a car on it. I knew that to get to the next aid station at Mile 80, Hull Cabin, you got onto this road for an out-and-back. Seeing those people got me excited, and yet I also knew we weren't supposed to be at that aid station for 4-5 more miles... and sure enough, we then curved back around forever and ever and didn't see that road for many, many more miles! It was a little demoralizing because it had seemed so close, and yet it was so far.

Coconino Rim Section - why it looks like it would be really neat in the day light - you're right on the rim!

Finally, around 11 miles into this section, we hit the road! We had 2 miles down, down, and more down to Hull Cabin. The road was smooth, so I really got some nice speed in until a REALLY steep downhill that sent a bad pain up my IT band forcing me to walk for a bit. Finally the extra steep section flattened a little and I picked it up again (well, as much as you "pick it up" 80 miles in), as we finally ran into the Mile 80 aid station. As we were running in, Sue said to me, "are you going to cry?". I didn't really understand why she was asking me that...I hadn't said or done anything that made me think I was going to cry, so I shrugged it off, and greeted some aid station volunteers and Scott, as they directed us into Hull Cabin.

Now, I don't know if it was the realization I was 80 miles in, the realization that the sun would be coming up soon, or the incredible, overwhelming, amazing warmth that surrounded me as I walked into that cabin, but sure enough, I started crying as soon as I walked in... it was the weirdest thing. How did she know?!? Apparently random crying this late in a 100 miler is very common. I got some noodle soup and coffee and it felt so, so good to warm up for a bit. The temperatures had gotten so cold, that had I not seen a little inkling of light starting to come up on the horizon, I don't know if I could have left that cabin again... Thankfully, it did and that meant, the sun WAS going to come back up after all. I had survived the night!!!

After eating half of a PB&J and grabbing the other half to go, along with some other miscellaneous food, we set out, once again into the cold, but thankfully I had the added hope of knowing the sun was on it's way over the horizon! We had two miles back up, up, up the road that had taken us down to Hull Cabin, and then 6 back on trails to the Mile 88 aid station. As we had been running down the road I had thought about how horrible it would be to go back up, but surprisingly it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. As we crested the hill, I finally saw it: the sun! I snapped of a picture of it to document it, my last photo of the race (for some reason I wasn't in much of a photo taking mood the rest of the race).

Leaving Hull Cabin (picture from one of the volunteers)

The Sun!!!

We got back onto singletrack and made our way 6 more miles. This section was kind of blur, other than knowing that I felt surprisingly well for being over 80 miles into the race, and running more than I thought I would be at this point in time. Finally we arrived at Watson Tank, Mile 88. As I rolled in, there was a lady at the aid station that told me how strong I looked, which surprised me - I did not feel strong, AT ALL. I had originally planned to be shedding layers at this point, but it was still SUPER cold out, so I only ended up shedding my light jacket, but still kept on two long sleeves and my puffy coat. I knew this would mean carrying A LOT as the day went on, but I just couldn't bring myself to shed anymore layers after how cold I had been all night. Mile 88 was the last crew accessible aid station, so I said good bye to Scott, and that I would "SEE HIM AT THE FINISH LINE" (what?!?!?!? It still didn't seem real yet! And I still had fear that something would happen to prevent me from getting there, even though I knew I had enough time even if I were to walk the entire last 12 miles) before we headed out, once again.

Still freezing!

We just had 9 1/2 miles to get to the 97.5 aid station, and then 2.5 to the finish. Okay - I can do this I thought. I was feeling good. We set off and I was actually running quite a bit. Run, walk, run, walk and repeat. Then, around Mile 93 or so, we made a turn that seemed right. 1/4 mile or so after that turn we came to a junction. The junction had an orange marker that looked like it meant we needed to go to the right again. So we turned and headed to the right. We had some nice uphill for another 1/4 of a mile or so. Then we come across another runner who was headed back toward us saying he "didn't think this was the right way". Hmmm, we headed back to the junction and sure enough there were THREE orange markers at this intersection, that mostly pointed us up this way. So we turned back around and headed back up the way he had just come from... but, it still just didn't seem right. Finally, I remembered I had the course downloaded on my Trail Run Project App, so I pulled it up. Sure enough, it did NOT show us as being on the course. What?!?!? We turned back around AGAIN, went back to the intersection...there were course markings showing to go that way - it just didn't make sense. I was NOT in the mood for this - I wanted to be progressing in the RIGHT direction but we couldn't figure out which way that was. After trying to figure this out for awhile, Sue decided to head back down the trail some more and see if we had made a wrong turn earlier. Sure enough we had - when we turned right the first time, we were supposed to turn left - the markers were past a tree and we hadn't seen them. It still didn't explain the flagging we had seen down the wrong way, but, we could for sure tell this was the right way now....

However, this wrong turn and extra mile(ish) completely derailed me. I want from being in a good mood, running a lot, to just being down in the dumps. I know it seems silly, but it just did me in. We made it though the entire night section and then get lost NINETY THREE miles into 100. Are you kidding me?!? The only thing I was thankful for was that the other guy had turned back when he did, because I don't know how much longer we would have kept going that way had he not... That being said, I was still depressed. 93 to 97.5 were spent moping. I was being a serious debbie downer, I'm sure Sue just LOVED me. We passed some other guys and spent some time chatting with them (well, I think I was just complaining) and just walking for awhile. I was not in the mood to run.

FINALLY, finally, finally, we got to the 97.5 aid station. Sue told me to take some more electrolytes and to eat I did... and then we headed off again. I think being only 2.5 miles from the finish, as well as eating something did help me, and I was able to pick up my pace and do some running again. We had another mile of singletrack before we went under the highway and got onto the bike path. I had read that the last bit was on the bike path, so getting here felt amazing. I told Sue I would do my best to run all of the paved bike path, and I was able to, aside from a steep uphill section. After that steep uphill, I knew we were almost there. We crossed a small parking area with a restroom, and then...there it was... THE FINISH. I ran as fast as I could, and FINALLY after twenty nine hours, fifteen minutes, and fifteen seconds I finished. ONE HUNDRED FREAKING MILES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Race: Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100
Date: September 23-24, 2017
Distance: 100 Miles (the GPX file on Trail Run Project shows 99.6...with my wrong turn, I definitely did at least 100!)
Weather: 60's during the day (and windy!), down to 25ish at night (SO cold)
Elevation Gain: 7000 feet
Elevation Low/High: 6,124' / 8,876'
Bib Number: 40
Official Time: 29:15:15
Average Pace: 17:33
Approximate Cumulative Time Spent at Aid Stations: 2 1/2 Hours (you can see how this can make a big difference on your finishing time. Since it was my first, I am okay with this, but something to think about if I do another).
Finishers/Starters: 34 Finishes of 51 Starters
Overall Place: 26 of 34
Gender Place: 6 of 7 (13 starters)
Age Group Place: They did not have any age group awards, however, I find it interesting the lack of younger women in longer ultra's. I was the only woman under the age of 35 to finish, and only 1 of 2 to start. There was one other female finisher who was 39, and all other women participants were over 40.


Elevation Profile

Because this was SUCH a big, crazy race for me with SO much going on, I'm going to recap a lot of various things... many for my own recollection in case I ever decide to do another, so feel free to skip through some of this:

Shot Blocks / Honey Stinger Chews - these and tailwind were my most used and consistent fuel
Tailwind - I thankfully didn't ever get too sick of tailwind, I had it in my pack the whole time, I did keep it fairly diluted though. It really helped that tailwind was a sponsor, so they had it pre-made, and I just had to refill my pack with it, as opposed to mixing it myself.
Electrolyte Tablets - I took A LOT of these and I really think they helped.
Kit Kats / Snickers - these were great, the snickers got too hard in the cold weather, but I could still eat the kit kats
Chips (Potato Chips, Doritos, Fritos) - this was the best way to get salty foods when not at aid stations, I had a bunch of chips pre-packed in zip locks to take with me on the go.
Coke / Sprite - I brought mini bottles and brought them in my pack to go as well. Worked well, although I did have to let them explode a little if I had been running with it prior to it being opened.
PB & J - I had about 1/2 of a PB&J at most aid stations.
Ramen Noodles - all the night aid stations - I was SO thankful I had my own because they were out of theirs when I came into Mile 67.5, but were able to make my pack for me.
Banana - I mostly just had these in the early miles on Saturday
Salted Potatoes - there were amazing at aid stations starting at Mile 34
Clif Bars - I packed a ton of these, thinking I would eat a lot, but they were too dense, I only had one total
Coffee - I had coffee at Mile 80 and it was AMAZING

-Fueling: Overall I think I fueled pretty well. I know I for sure did for all of the Saturday day time miles. As the night progressed it got harder and harder to eat because it was just SO cold out (resulting in some items being hard - shot blocks and candy - and not wanting to take my gloves off). Sue was good about reminding me to eat and drink though.
-My Puffy Patagonia Coat - I couldn't have done this without a heavy coat. I figured I would be moving and would be fine with a lighter wind/rain jacket, but no, I DEFINITELY needed this.
-My Saloman Hydration Pack - I love this pack. It will be a sad, sad day when it's done. I crammed SO much stuff into this thing and it always felt comfortable.
-My Skirt Sports Triple Picket Tight combined with Skirt Sports Toasty Skirt - these were my life saver over night. The tight pockets were perfect for putting shot blocks in to somewhat warm them up so they weren't like eating bricks. The toasty skirt really did make a difference vs. just having the tights on for keeping my butt and thighs warm.
-My new Ultraspire Lumen 600 Waist Light - this was a last minute purchase the week before the race, and I loved having it combined with a headlamp. My only regret was not changing the battery for it at 67.5 because it went out around 75 and I was too tired and cold to change it (I still had my headlamp, but having both was really nice).
-My iPhone on Airplane Mode: I had my phone on Airplane Mode for all of the race, except from Mile 54.5 thru 67.5 so I could keep Scott updated, took tons of pictures, and listened to music for about 7 hours... and I still had about 50% battery life when I got done. Airplane mode really makes a huge difference if you want your phone to last a long time.

-My Brooks Cascadia's - I did almost ALL my long runs this summer in my Casacadia's so I thought they would be fine, I even had a new pair of Cascadia's I was going to change into later on.... but nope. I changed into my Saucony Peregrine's at 54.5 and wore those the rest of the race. The tops of those were more open and felt better on my squished up, blistered toes.
-My Garmin's - I had three garmins I was planning to switch off from (210, 220, and another 220)...they kept dying, so I eventually gave up on wearing them once I met up with Sue. No I don't have splits, but there are some things you just give up caring about, especially after having to keep listening to Garmins beep at you every 5 minutes because the battery is dying. The only reason I really liked having them was to give me a good idea on how long I had to go until the next aid station.

-The first 20 miles: were AMAZING. I loved the first 20 miles. I could have ran that for 100 miles. So, so pretty. Challenging but not overly challenging. This is the best part of the race, by far. We topped out around 8800', which was not an issue for me at all since all my long training runs were in the mountains. I'm not saying the rest of the race was bad or anything (in fact, I really liked the different combination of single track, two track, and dirt roads - it's provided a nice variety), but these first 20 were the prettiest.
-Wonderful Volunteers including Search and Rescue: all of the volunteers were so, SO amazing, kind, helpful and wonderful. Search and Rescue was out on the course and drove by a few times, it was really nice to know they were looking out for us.
-Point-to-Point: this was my first time ever doing a point-to-point ultra, and I loved it. Logistically it was a challenge to plan for, but mentally when you're out there - it's REALLY nice knowing you don't have to repeat parts of the course.
-Hull Cabin Aid Station: Oh my goodness....getting to go INSIDE into this warm aid station after being out in the cold all night was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I cannot express how wonderful this was.
-Aid Station Amenities: Overall the aid stations were pretty well stalked and I was happy with them. That being said, I was glad I brought some of my own stuff that I KNEW I would want, and, I'm glad I had my own ramen since they ran out at the 67.5 aid station. All of the night time aid stations also had a fire going or a heater which was nice.
-The Finishers Buckle: I loved that these were copper, and how cool that one of the racers actually made them! I did not get his name, but I chatted with him for several early miles before he took off.

-Aid Station Distances - A lot of the aid stations were at least 10 miles apart, with a few stretches being as far apart as 13 miles. This was hard at times, especially in the middle of the night when it was freezing cold and you're not moving that fast. That being said, I totally understand that this is a remote race and finding places to have aid stations is probably challenging.
-Mile 54.5 Aid Station being 4WD - the fact that the aid station where you could start having a pacer was only accessible via high clearance, 4WD was a huge bummer. That being said, I am really proud of myself that I was able to power through solo until 67.5.
-Course Markings - they weren't horrible, but I definitely could have used more confidence markers. The only spot that it was horrible, was where I got of course at Mile 93...and several of us did, so it wasn't just me (and it really was just those second flags that threw us off - not sure if they were left over from another event or what!).
-Timing of the Cononino Rim Section - I wish I could have done this section in the day time, it shows on the map that you are running along a rim, and it just seems like it would have been pretty. But again, I have no idea.
-More Restrooms - not all of the aid stations had bathrooms, which I was bummed about. It's really hard to squat down in the woods when you've been running for 90 miles (I really just wanted one at the 88 aid station. There were none between 80 and the finish).

-Small Race: I can't really rank this as a like or dislike because I honestly like aspects of both small and big races. On one hand, small races are great because they feel more casual and the aid station volunteers and race director really seem like they're happy you're there and are pulling for you.  That being said, larger races also have some perks - not feeling SO alone in the middle of the night, and more perks like finishers swag (I know it's silly, but I could really go for an awesome hoodie or jacket with the race logo on it). So just a general thought / note that this is definitely a small race - especially once you get past the 55K finish. Not a bad thing, just something to make note of and realize. There were 51 starters in the 100 mile and 34 finishers.
-You don't actually see the Grand Canyon: based on my research, I didn't think I would, but just wanted to make note of this. That being said, you finish in Tusayan which is literally a mile from the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park - so after I recovered a tiny bit, we drove into the park where I got to see the canyon and get a picture with my buckle!
-Rocks: just be aware this is a VERY rocky course.


Where to even begin? I have SO many thoughts now that I've (finally) finished a 100 miler! For starters, that was BY FAR the hardest thing I have EVER done, by A LOT. I have never, ever, ever had so many different things hurting at once - my toes were the worst, my knee was hurting on a lot of the downhills, my neck and shoulders got SO sore from hunching over, I was freezing for over half of this race, and in general I was just flipping tired from being out for miles and miles and hours and hours. That all being said, I was surprised by a few things: for starters, the human body is you can persevere and keep going. I was surprised I never got overly tired during the night (tired from running, yes, but not "wanting to fall asleep" tired). I did not hallucinate like I have heard some people do (kind of glad about that one). I was surprised at how much I could still run late in the race. And, I stand by everyone who says "being under-trained is better than over-trained". I really did not train that much for this race, and yet I feel like I did very well - I think my experiences from last year really played into this. I also think my Four Pass Loop trek from a month prior was REALLY beneficial - that 13 hours of just being out on the trails and getting my body used to time on feet again, even though the mileage wasn't that much. My longest runs were only two 55K's, the second one being Crested Butte which was a pretty hard one, was really good training. I had worried that it only being two weeks prior might be a problem, but I tapered hard between the two and it payed off. I'm the kind of person who does get burned out easily, so I think not over training worked out well in my favor. As I've heard many times, running 100 miles is 90 percent mental and the other 10 percent is in your head... that cannot ring more true. Yes, you need experience on your feet to do something like this, but if you don't have the mental strength to keep going when things don't go your way, you won't be able to do this. Seeing my feet already completely beat up at Mile 34 almost derailed me...I had to really suck things up and tell myself not to look at them until I finished - I knew if I did I would want to quit.

I now look back on last years attempt at Lean Horse, and I really think my first and most major error of the race was going out too fast. Even if that wasn't what caused my stomach issues, I know I would have suffered later on for going out as fast as I did. I ran the first 50K at Lean Horse in 6 1/2 hours. I ran the first 50K at this one in 8 1/2 hours. I took downhills REALLY easy which was hard to do, but I knew it led to being able to run more in the later miles. I am still bummed about Lean Horse and would still love to go back someday for redemption, but I have much more closure now that I have finished another 100 miler and appreciate the distance more for what it is. You MUST pace yourself, no matter how incredibly hard it is to do so, and no matter how "easy" it feels to run fast.

So there you have novel for my first 100 miler. What an AMAZING experience that I will NEVER, EVER forget. I cannot thank my husband enough for believing in me and supporting me on this endeavor, especially for a second time. He's not one that "gets" paying money to run and yet he encouraged me to sign up for another one because he knew it was my dream to run 100 miles. Also thank you to Sue who came out to pace, and to Ethan for coming with her and being out there as well, to support someone you guys had never met in freezing temperatures through the night, was just so, so amazing. Thank you Michelle for making the connection for me (and Skirt Sports for the awesome community that connected me and Michelle)! And last, thank you to my family for supporting and believing me as well! I emailed them just a few days before the race telling them what I was going to do and they all said I could do it! 100 miles is such a daunting feet and truly one of those "I think I can...but also, "can I?" It is SO much different than ANY other distance, even 50 miles. Pushing through for 12+ hours is very different than pushing through for 24 to 30 hours!

So will I do another?!? That is still definitely a "to be determined" at this point. From about Mile 50 on, one of the main driving forces that kept me going was telling myself that "if I finished, I never had to do one of these EVER again".  And yet, here I am, remembering that feeling of accomplishment as I crossed the finish line... so, well, who knows! Maybe someday...

1 comment:

  1. Kate! Amazing and I may have teared up as you described crossing the finish line and then throughout your last paragraph. LOL. I'm so proud of you! That was a crazy, amazing feat -- I'm so glad you decided to go for it! The kids and I were routing for you all day, watching the tracker (although they weren't very good at updating) -- I knew when I saw you were still going when I woke up on Sunday that you got through the worst of it! I couldn't even fathom running by myself in the dark! Love you!


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...