>Safety First!

>Because yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Jen being hit by a car and a couple months after a car got hit by Ryan, I am inspired to write a post on safety.

Also because yesterday this article ran. This morning I woke up and was relieved to read this one.

So anyway, here is Alyssa’s Safety Nuggets:
-Look both ways before you cross a street.
-Continue to look both ways as you cross the street if it’s a large intersection.
-Never trust drivers who wave you across the road.
-If you do get hit, propel yourself into a cartwheel. You will escape with only a bad head wound and a fractured foot.
-If you hit a car on your bike, you’re pretty much screwed. Wear a helmet.
-In fact, wearing a helmet while running is also pretty safe.
-Just wear an everyday helmet.
-If you are going running in a remote area, bring a friend.
-Plan ahead. Bring enough food and water so that you could survive another few hours than you think you’ll be gone.
-If you do run out of food or water, do not separate from your friend! This is retarded. Search for it together.
-You should only separate from your friend if they can’t go any further because they are sick or hurt. If that’s the case, put them in the shade and have them stay put while you go get help.
-Always tell a friend where you’re going when you go running alone
-Always tell a friend when you are going on a date with a weirdo.
-Don’t take candy from strangers.
-Don’t go to workout with a large man who claims he wants to put you in a fitness calendar.
-If it feels like a trap, it is a trap.
-Don’t do anything you wouldn’t tell your mother about.
-If you are ever in trouble, just wave your arms and say “this is only a dream” then run far far away.

>It’s like that.

>Just wanted to point out some super awes results I almost overlooked from the weekend. At the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile in DC Ben Nephew/Leigh Schmidt/Michael Wardian went 1, 2, 3. All of 7 seconds separated Ben and Leigh, who have been battling all spring and summer in their own MA trail series races (Ben won that little humpty dumpty 11 mile race I did up yonder) and then our own local ultra fav M. Dubs was just under 4 minutes behind. Must have been a heck of a race!

>Who’s that chick that’s rockin’ kicks?

>After Louisville, I made the conscious decision to relax for a bit. Part of this decision was because of a few activities I had on the horizon: Dani’s wedding, kicking off flag football season, and a couple weeks of long hours at work. I wanted to recover well from the IM, and make sure I had the energy and the mental desire to put in one last hard training block this fall for upcoming Clearwater and JFK.

Those weeks of rest are over, however, and it’s time to get back to the grind. Part of getting back to it has been thinking about next year. I have only a couple races left now in 2009, and neither of which was a focus race for me for the year; those are behind me now, so it only makes sense to start planning the next. Plus, I have to start registering for them now, or I won’t make it in them. I have a couple core goals for next year; one of which is to really get after it in the IM distance. I signed up for IM Wisconsin 2010, and I’m pretty pumped about it. I really think that if I set my sights on that race (and don’t randomly decide to do Western States 8 weeks beforehand….) I can really make some moves. Looking at it now, my goal would be: 1:14/5:55/3:40. Yes, you read right, I have managed to convince myself that I can go sub-11.

My other big focus of the year will be on 3-Days of Syllamo in March. The distances of this race can vary depending on weather and trail conditions, but essentially it’s a 50K on Friday, 50 Mile on Saturday, and 20K on Sunday. You add your times together and the lowest combined time wins. Some pretty legit women have been known to show up for this weekend, so it will be a good test for me. The past 2 years Ashley Nordell has not only won it for the women, but she swept first place for females in all the races. If I can’t win it, my goal would at least be to prevent a sweep like that!

Knowing that I need to be in peak shape for a March race is a little daunting – I am not ready for hard training in the winter. But, whatevs, I’m awes and I will do it. My plan for the rest of the year is to do 2 three week training cycles leading up to a mini taper for clearwater that will extend into JFK (sounds so easy….). Then I will take the usual week off during Thanksgiving before getting back into it in December. I will hopefully be pacing a friend out at Hellgate 100K, and there are a couple new 50K’s I have my eye on. More than anything else I just want to be refreshed and ready to go come Jan.1st.

While I’m on the topic of race planning, I am also eyeing up what will be my big race for 2011. I know many of you don’t really understand the need to plan so far in advance, but this one will require it: Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. This is a race I’ve heard murmurs of before, but never really had any desire to do it. Until now. What changed my mind? Krissy Moehl.

One thing is for sure – this race is hard. It’s a 103-mile circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc massif, stretching across France, Italy and Switzerland, with over 31,000 feet of elevation gain. The difficulty of this is pretty much why I’ve never really sat down and thought about entering. But after reading all the reports and articles about Krissy’s win there this year, it’s changed my mind. She finished the race in 24:56:01 – first female, first American, and 11th overall in a race that started with over 2,200 people. Not only that but she beat American favorite Scott Jurek….gotta love when the girls win 🙂

Looking just at this picture of Krissy coming into the finish line got me inspired to run this race (photo credited to Justin Bastien):

And then to read her race report just continues that feeling.

So there I was, all sorts of pumped up, trying to decipher the French website and find out how to enter so I can plan ahead for next year, and I hit roadblock #1 – qualifying. Shoot. They have an interesting system. Basically, they have a list of races, and then give them points on a scale of 1 to 4 based on difficulty. 4 being the hardest, 0 means you are a sissy and should find a harder race. Most of these races are in Europe, with about 50 or so being in the US, mostly the west coast. You need 4 points, accumulated from 2 races at most, to be “qualified.” And then I saw it – Western States 100 Mile…..4 points! woop woop! Also they give you a couple years as a grace period so I can use my ’09 run for it. The race holds registration in 2 waves – first you pay a smaller fee to put your name in with your qualifying information. Then they look at the numbers and do a drawing if there are more prospective runners than there are spots. So of course this may be a lot harder than I think to get into, but hopefully not. I couldn’t read the French on the website so I’m not sure if they have any stats as to how many applicants they have for the race each year.

I realize that’s a long way off, but at least it gives me something to look forward to! And the work to do well there really will require another year and a half of training, so here I go 🙂

>Ironman Louisville

>Ever since I saw the footage of this moment in 1997, I wanted to do an Ironman. Even being twelve years old, I knew that there was something special about an Ironman. These althetes aren’t doing it for the money, or the prestige; triathlons (especially then) were still relatively unknown to many. I knew that there had to be something more to this event. When I started running ultras, I finally was given a glimpse at what was so special about endurance events. Still, I knew that I wanted to do an Ironman to really understand it, and experience it for myself.

Friday: Arrive in Louisville at around 11am with my dad. After a brief scare where my bike was about 30 seconds away from going to Vegas, we made our way to the Hotel. We were staying at the Steelbach Hilton, right downtown, adjacent to 4th Street Live! Little did we know, this would also serve as the finish line for the IM. I went to check in, and we did some walking around to see the city. Everyone we saw was in town for the race. It took awhile to do the race check in, then we went on a little jog, and before I knew it it was time for dinner. Went to the Red Star in the 4th street live area. While we were sitting up there, I looked up at the Improv club’s lineup for the weekend and saw that Arj Barker (plays Dave in Flight of the Concords…the friend they meet when they move to NY) was headlining. So my dad and I decided to get tickets to the early show there, and that would leave us about an hour or so to watch the free Sister Hazel concert right outside! This decision turned out to be a good one. The show was super funny. Also not too inapprop (which would have been kinda awk with my dad there) and then we made it outside to see Sister Hazel in time to see them play All For You and Your Mistake! woop woop. After that it was time to call it a night and get some rest.

Saturday: Woke up earlyish so I could get to the practice swim for 8:30. Since the swim is in the Ohio River, it was only going to be open until 10am, and I wanted to get about 1000 meters or so in. The swim went well, but I did notice the current of the river…I swam upstream about 15 minutes and it only took me 10 to cover the same distance on the return trip. After that, we went back to the hotel and I put my bike together and took it for a quick spin to make sure it felt right. Then it was off to the Old Spaghetti Factory for some good old carb loading. After that we did some more walking, and went back to the expo. I didn’t have time to really shop around on Friday, so I did a little more of that. At one point we ran into the comedians from the night before outside the hotel! We chatted with them for awhile about the race, and they were some pretty cool dudes. I will prob facebook friend them. The rest of the day is a blur – got my transition bags and bike to the transition area, took a little nap, had a solid Papa Johns dinner (that’s the only thing I could trust my stomach with…my nerves were way out of wack and my stomach was feeling it) and went to bed.

Sunday: THE BIG DAY! Woke up at 4:15. Did the usual routine of braiding my hair, and forcing 2 packs of oatmeal down. Walked over to the T2 area to check my bike. This is where the problems began: I found my back tire flat. Ughhhh not good news. But, at least I found it early, right? The bike tech guys were awesome and got it changed quickly, and I headed over to the swim start, about .75 miles up the road. Went through the body marking, and before I knew it it was 6:40 and I was in line on the docks for the start. This is a time trial start, so they were sending us off of 2 docks. Everyone asks if you dive or jump – and I definitely jumped because there were mad people in the water below me. I would have def landed on someone slash dove right on top of dudes if I dove. So I jumped in around 7:01, and there I was. Even though I was really close to the front, it still felt like a million people were around me. I tried to find a rhythm, but between all the people, and trying to swim up the current, it didn’t feel very smooth. Just as we were nearing the far bouy for the turnaround, I was confused as I saw some peoples shins and knees right at my face when I went to breathe – wtf? It turns out we were swimming right over a sand bar and people were walking. So I joined the party, but it was over too soon – back to swimming. Lots of swimming. I knew I wasn’t going very fast, but at this point there wasn’t much I could do. I got in around 1:24, which was about 10 minutes off where I hoped to be. However, with the current and no wetsuits, it wasn’t surprising.

T1 went smoothly, I was basically just grabbing my helmet and my race number and heading out on my bike. This was the first time in a race I was getting on the bike with my pedals clipped in, and I managed to pull it off, but about 50 yards out of the chute something didn’t feel right. With the crowds of people still all around me, I pulled off to the side with a sinking feeling. I reached back and felt my back tire…sure enough, completly flat. Ahhh. Panic mode set in. I yelled into the crowds if anyone had a pump. At this point, I didn’t think it was the tube, so my only hope was going to be if I could get it to hold enough air to carry me through the bike. A long shot, I know, but I wasn’t exactly going to throw in the towel right there. Luckily, someone had a pump and I got the air back up to 120 and was on my way. The peope who gave me the pump didn’t exactly look confident for me, but I assured them that I would just have to bike faster to get done before it flatted. I think I must have actually believed this because my first bike split was pretty quick (note: can’t go by the computer split as I lost some minutes due to the stopage).

I settled into a rhythm as much as I could as I headed out into the first loop. I was extremely nervous though about the tire. I figured I had 2 cartridges with me, so if I could make each pump last me 45 miles, there’s a good shot I’ll get in. This bike course has a pretty dece mix of flat and hills, and after about 35 miles I noticed that I was dragging up the hills. I pulled off at a minivan with some dudes next to it, and asked if they had a pump – miracle, they did! I got off and pumped up the tire again…it had falled back down to a pressure of about 80 so I was still super nervous. However, after that it was like a brand new bike and I was back in business. I still had a quite a ways to go though. Throughout everything, I made sure to eat and drink as much as possible. It was a chilly day at points with the wind and being wet still from the swim, but I knew I was working hard nonetheless and needed to maintain my nutrition. I mastered the art of refilling my water bottles on the bike (more difficult than I thought without the aero bottle!).

After about 75 miles I felt the bike dragging again, so once again I pulled off and found a pump. Again, the pressure had dropped, but this time only to 90ish. I felt like Mike Zero with the tire that just wouldn’t stay full, but whatevs, I finally thought I was actually going to make it through this bike. Hopped back onto the bike and just kept chugging along. At about mile 80, I started to feel this horrible pain in my right knee. It’s something I’ve only felt one other time on the bike, so it worried me, but there wasn’t really much I could do.

Then, as I come down the road, I see these 3 random dudes. One of them is wearing short shorts and is swinging his shirt above his head. “IS THAT HER?!” I hear. Holy crap. It is none other than Ryan, Brennan, and Brennan’s friend!!! I don’t usually like surprises, but this one was awesome. It came at a time when I was about ready to start coasting, and it pumped me back up to stay in the race. I was shocked, flattered, and just so happy to have them out there. Five hours before when I got on the bike I wasn’t sure I was going to finish; now, I knew that I would make it with them right along with me. I could finally taste the end.

Unfortunately, I still had another 22 miles to bike and then 26 to run. I finished the bike in 6:13, which made me pretty happy. That was what I was hoping to ride if I had no problems, so I think if everything had gone well I could have taken some minutes off that. I proceeded to have the worst dismount ever off the bike, changed into my running shoes, and hit the bathroom before I started to tackle the marathon. My legs felt great, all things considered. It was nothing like the problems I faced at Providence with the run, so that was a relief. I ran into Ryan, Brennan & Co again as I headed out, and with a high-five I was off.

It’s evident that I felt good for the first half of the marathon looking at my splits. I was running 8’s for awhile before I fell to about 8:30’s. Around mile 9 I had a stomach problem and had a quick bathroom emergency. I only lost 3 minutes though and was able to keep moving pretty quick. Around mile 13 I got passed by some really hot girl. Ryan and Bren were right there, and I tried to stay with her because I figured at least then while they watch me plod along they could watch her as well. I managed to stay with her for all of…..200 meters before I decided that was not a good idea. It didn’t matter though, because Ryan and Brennan were still the best fan club I could have asked for. Singing, dancing, yelling slightly innappropriate but hilarious things — they pulled out all the stops and people LOVED it. I got a few men who double checked that I was friends with them as they were scared I was being stalked, but when I assured them they were harmless I had countless people tell me how lucky I was to have such great support, and they couldn’t have been more right.

At mile 14 I hit the turnaround….this was some sort of cruel punishment as you actually go right by the finish line. This is when it really started to hurt. I knew I was on pace to go under 12 hours, but I also knew I could easy let that slip away if I lost focus. It was time to just do what I do and get the job done. When I hit 24 I was just so excited. There were about 5 of us who had been mostly together through the run and were at this point together, and were encouraging each other to push through and just get there. When I rounded the final turn and saw the Ironman arch up ahead, I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to just take it all in, the crowd, the cheers, the athletes out there with me, everything. Being at the finish of an Ironman is truly a remarkable experience. I crossed the line in 11:51:43 with a huge smile on my face and a feeling that is just impossible to describe. The words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!” rang in my ears. A volunteer was with me right away, making sure I was okay and getting me water and coke. A couple minutes later I found my dad and made my way to a curb to sit down. I felt “okay” but was a little bit woozy, and I knew I needed food. Luckily, the guys came to my resuce with some chips, and a little bit later I was on my feet getting to the hotel for a much needed hot shower.

Later that night we all had dinner at an Irish Pub right at 4th Street Live. The cheers of the crowd never died down – I have honestly never seen such a high level of energy be maintained for so long. Looking at the faces of the people coming in, and exchanging congratulations with those finishers standing next to you is the best feeling ever. The race certainly took its toll on me. I would have liked to stay out and cheer on people until the end, but I was just too tired. I went to bed, and woke up this morning feeling surprisingly good. My dad and I killed some time with breakfast and packing up before heading over to the awards ceremony banquet midday. I think this is where it finally hit me that I was an Ironman finisher. Watching the video of the race was the first time I felt emotional about the race, as I relived my race with the other 2400 finishers.

All in all, I ended up 7th in my age group. I was 5 minutes away from a top 5 finish. Of course, there are plenty of “what-if’s” that go along with this race, as I am sure every competitor has. But I know that in each moment of the race, I put my cards on the table and did my best. In the end, that’s all I can ask for and I am happy to have had the opportunity to be out there, and the support from my friends and family to help me along the way.

>Mt. Washington

>

A few weeks ago I headed up to New England for a sweet hiking trip up Mt. Washington. This is a hike I have wanted to do for quite some time, and even with looking for a reservation back in June, this was the first available night at the hut at the top of the mountain.

I started writing this post awhile ago and apparently never finished. And now I cannot remember all of the important details so the short version is:
I hiked Mt. Washington
I went up Huntington’s Ravine. It was mad hard and I thought I was going to die at some parts. Lots of danger. It is a good job that I remembered to bring my new water backpack with me as staying hydrated was essential. Hiking up a mountain is thirsty work. I will definitely be taking my backpack with me on future hikes.
As you can guess, I didn’t die, the summit was awesome. Lake in the Clouds was also awesome. Nothing like sleeping in bunk beds with 100s of other people.
It was an awesome trip, would definitely recommend the adventure to anyone! Let me know if you are going on any hiking trips anytime soon.

>”That tastes like Kelly Clarkson…”

>quote courtesy of Mike Zero after drinking my awes pink gatorade on our awes super long ride today!

Also spotted on this ride: a sign for my new fav city…and where I’ll prob move soon…
IJAMSVILLE! If only it was Myjamsville…..sigh….

>Prov Seventy Point Three

>

Last weekend I raced the Ironman Rhode Islandm 70.3 in Providence, RI. As soon as I got to the Providence area on Sunday, I remembered why this race was such a pain last year: lots of driving. Up to Prov for a race packet, down to Roger Wheeler State Beach to drop off the bike, up to Warwick for dinner/hotel. Finally its back to Roger Wheeler in the morning. Sunday morning was cold and windy. Windy is never a good thing at a swim start for me. Especially when it’s so windy they postponed the start about 30 minutes to fix the bouys, and they added a bike-run race option for those who were too nervous to swim. The nerves were there, but I lined up for the beach-start, and sprinted into the water with the rest of the 18-29 year old women. I made it over the first few breakers and saw people dolphin diving and starting to swim, so I followed suit. However, I soon found myself getting slammed by some waves and getting nowhere. For the first time, I actually found myself somewhat freaking out. The only thing left to do was to put my head down and get myself out past the breakers. I managed to get pretty far wide of the course by the time I was settled, but I quickly worked with the rhythm of the waves to get into a groove. The return trip was much easier, letting the swells push me forward. Odds are the swim was a bit short, but either way I swam a 34:xx which was long enough for me. Finally out of the water and onto land.

I love the first few miles of this bike course. Fast and down by the water, I felt great. What hundred miles? I was thinking. Haha, oh how soon things change. The overcast and cool weather was quickly giving way to a hot day. The middle of the bike course is hilly, and the end this year was challenging in that we had to battle numerous railroad tracks, traffic, and a few good hills. However, it wasn’t the hills or the railroad tracks that was getting to me. It was the fact that in the last 10 miles of the ride, I felt like mini steamrollers were attached to each of my quads and rolling over them. There was no way around it: my legs were shot. I kept putting the questions to the back of my head: did I have anything left for the run?

Both of my transitions actually went really well this race, and I hit the run looking strong. That lasted maybe a half mile to “the hill.” If you’ve ever been in Providence you know the hill that I’m talking about. That hill seemed to suck all of the life out of me, and from then on it was aid station to aid station, mind over matter, forcing myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Had I had fresh legs and run the same (or close) as Eagleman, I would have been on my way to a 3: 25 and a 10 minute PR for the course. Instead, I was struggling to get those 13 miles in under 2 hours for any sort of PR. The sun was in full force, and the temps were at 87 degrees. It was hot and I was not happy. Needless to say, the end was in sight and I managed a 35 or so second improvement from last year. Both my swim and bike were faster, while my run fell about 4 minutes slower.

If this were an ordinary year, and I was using this race as my last tune-up before IM Louisville, I’d be pretty worried. However, I am well aware that this is not an ordinary year for me. My training is at a new level, and I did run 100 miles 2 weeks prior to this race. An improvement of any sort – even a matter of seconds – shows me that I truly am at a new level of fitness, and I am ready to take on Louisville in 6 weeks. This past week was all about the rest. I will not forgot how bad my legs hurt after that race; without rest they would not make it through another hard 4 week training phase. So, I took a lot of time off, got some more time in the pool, and fine tuned my training plan for the weeks to come. My training leading up to the race is coming straight from beIRONfit by Don Fink, so hopefully that will go well.

>Western States

>

First and foremost, I’d like to say that spending 28 hours doing anything is not enjoyable. Not sleeping, not eating ice cream, not watching reality TV. 28 hours is a long time, and I found that out the hard way. However, everything I encountered on my 28 hour run is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

Brad and I arrived in Squaw Valley on Wednesday. I immedietly fell in love with the area. Everything was so clean, the mountains were gorgeous, and everywhere you went you were provided with miles of roads and trails to run and bike. I did short runs on Wed/Thurs/Fri and didn’t really “feel” the altitude. Sure, I noticed it, but I certainly didn’t feel impaired by it or anything. Arjun and Jen joined us late Thursday night and before I knew it, it was Friday and the race preparations were on. We stood in line for about 45 minutes to check in. They gave out some pretty sweet stuff – T-shirts, a fleece and a backpack. I had to weigh in, get my blood pressure checked, and most importantly, scope out the competition. I can honestly say I have never before stood among such fit people.

With that behind me, it was now a matter of getting through the worst part of the trip: the waiting. We couldn’t do anything super sweet since I was supposed to be resting, so we settled on going out to Lake Tahoe and a lunch with Frannie and Gill and their crew. We had a good time, Frannie and Gill answered all our last minute questions and then we headed back to the hotel to put together the final race plan. This included mapping out crew directions, making the final call as to what aid stations they would be at, and organizing my nutrition stuff and giving them a plan for what to have ready for me at each stop. Then, we made dinner, and as soon as I felt a little drowsy, I was off to bed.

3:30 in the morning came pretty quickly. I ate breakfast, went and picked up my chip and number, and then returned to the room for the final preparations. It was pretty chilly when we finally went out to the start around 4:45, but I was so nervous I barely noticed. The countdown came and went, and before I knew it I was hiking up the 4-mile trail to Escarpment. In these first 4 miles, you climb over 2500 feet, and it took me 1:03. I hiked the entire thing, but looking back I was still moving faster than I probably should have. Either way, I still gave myself a much more conservative start than most. In fact, the leaders were so eager to get moving, they took a wrong turn about 100 meters into the race and had to backtrack. It was pretty cool to be ahead of Scott Jurek and Hal Koerner for all of 30 seconds!

As I pulled myself up and over (yes, pulled myself…it was that steep) I had seven miles of downhill running with some of the best views I have ever seen in my life. It was awesome. I tried to balance my excitement with the voice in my head telling me to be conservative, so I stayed with a group and just let myself run, but didn’t push it too hard. By mile 16, I noticed that it was actually hot. That’s not a good sign at 8:30 in the morning. Neither is having to fill up your hat with ice to stay cool. I kept to my nutrition plan and just had to hope that my 2 bottles would be enough to get me to Robinson Flat. Unfortuantely, it wasn’t. I left Duncan Canyon and had 6 miles to get to my crew at Robinson Flat. I ran the first 3-4 miles, and stopped at the bottom to douse myself in cool creek water before starting the 2.5ish mile climb up to the aid station. Within the first 30 minutes of the climb, I was out of water. Hungry, hot, tired and dehydrated is probably the worst way to arrive at the first stop your crew can see you. I had to hop on the scale first, and the doctor took one look at me and said “you look….dry.” Yeah, thanks. I tried to just step around him but he held me there and looked me in the eyes and said “no, really, are you okay?” Yes, I replied, just thirsty. My crew is here, I’ll be fine. He let me go and I took a handful of foods, a couple of cups and went down to where the crews were stationed. Ready with mountain dew and smiles, they were great, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t going well. I was 20 minutes behind the 24hr projected time, but that didn’t worry me. What worried me that I felt like shit. There was no way around it.

I said some choice words about how I felt to Brad, and in an effort to give me a boost he said “well, at least you don’t have to worry about Jenn Shelton anymore…we are pretty sure she died.” Granted this was a bit of an exaggeration, but sure enough I found out later that my biggest age-group competition did drop at mile 30. I can’t say I blame her. I tried to wash down a PB&J with some mountain dew, and promptly threw it back up. Crap. I looked up and just kept seeing more women come through, so I made the rash decision to just get up and go. About 200 yards after that, I stopped and puked again. Great. After another mile-long climb, we had a 3 mile descent to the next stop. This so called descent was a double edged sword though. Steep switchbacks were a quad-killer, plus it was in the wide-open sunlight. Any tree cover that may have been there once was no longer due to the forest fires last year. Again, it was hot. And dry. And dusty. I made it to the next aid station and made a beeline for a chair under the tent. Again, I tried eating, but nothing except watermelon was going down. I am not sure how long I was there, but a doctor came over after a bit and told me that his one peice of advice is just to keep moving. He said if you stay in one place too long, it’s only going to get harder (reminds me of my dad’s famous words of wisdom for my races: “well alyssa, it’s only going to get worse from here.”)

I nodded, but I’m sure my face just spelled out my doubts. Then came pivotal moment #1. An old man, probably 70 or even 80 years old, walked over to me and bent over so he was looking right at me. How do you feel? He said. I shrugged and said, well, I’ve certainly felt better. How old are you? 24. He got this very serious look in his eyes, shook his finger right in my face and said “I want you to promise me one thing today. Tell me that you promise you will not give up on yourself today. Just don’t give up, and you’ll finish.” I’m not sure why, but that man struck a chord with me. He helped me clear my mind. It wasn’t about making it in under 24 hours. It wasn’t about winning my age group. It was about getting to run around that track and finish the race. I had had dreams of that track since last December, and dammit, I was going to be there this weekend. I didn’t want to wait for it anymore.

Somewhat inspired, I got up and jogged on. I wish I could say that from that moment on, it all got better. But, true as my dad’s words, it actually got worse. I made it about a half mile before I felt overwhelmed with heat, dizziness, and nausea. Dry heaving, I sat down on a rock. I didn’t know what to do, and after a few minutes two women who were safety volunteers on the course came up. They asked if I was okay and for the first time that day I said no, I wasn’t. One of them ran back to the aid station to get me some crackers, while the other talked me through the race thus far – what had I eaten, drinking, am I cramping, etc. I kept telling them I’d be fine, just move on, but they refused to leave me. In fact, they promised me that they’d get me up and running and up to Foresthill (mile 62) where their shift was over and my pacer would be. They wouldn’t let me quit. In those 20-30 minutes, I was passed. A lot. I saw Justine Morrison (my other age group competitor) go by. I saw others who were just happily running along. And there were others who didn’t look so happy, but at least they were moving which was more than I could have said. Finally I was ready to get up. I managed a slow run to the next aid station, where I got some potatos and chicken broth in me. Just keep moving.

The next part of the race felt like a bad record stuck on repeat. Down quad-burning switchbacks for a couple miles, then back up identical ones on the other side. Soon I was facing the infamous climb up Devil’s thumb. That one mile climb took me one hour. I don’t know if it was my nutrition, the heat, the altitude, or all of the above, but I have never been so tired climbing up a mountain. Finally, I made it up to Devil’s Thumb, and for the first time I honestly thought I might really make it to the end. But as I looked down at my watch and saw that I was within 7 minutes of the 30 hour cutoff, I realized there was still a lot of work to be done. I checked in with my new besties the safety runners and let them know I was going to take off, I’d see them up there. They caught me after 2 miles and said I was making great time. It was more of the same as we went on, only now I was paying attention to taking breaks on the downhills to eat, drink and recover. I was feeling likea new person, I didn’t want to ruin that again. At last I was at mile 52 of the race, and had one more 3 mile climb up to Michigan Bluff where I’d see my crew again. At the bottom I came across Justine, laying down on the ground with her hands over her head. “It’s just not my day” she said shaking her head when I tried to encourage her. I understood, and I went back to my own seat, where I promptly threw up so hard my ab muscles seized and cramped and I was stuck in the throwing up position for a couple minutes before the muscles released. Awesome. The WS powers that be were not going to let me feel better even for a minute. Up we went, and finally I came striding into Michigan Bluff, and I could see the looks of shock written all over Arjun, Jen and Brad’s faces. “you look so much better” was all they kept saying. I know, I know I said. But I had to keep moving.

At this point it was 8pm. I had gained some time on the cutoff, but I was able to pick up my pacer here because I was so close. So Brad got ready to go, and we took off. The next few parts are a blur. It got dark, and we kept running. Up and down, up and down. There was never an opportunity to stretch the legs out on a flat section and really run. It was always up or down. Not to mention it was up or down on the side of a mountain. One wrong move could easily send you tumbling down into the darkness.

Coming through Foresthill at mile 62, I had gained 45 minutes on the cutoff. A quick change of the shirt and shoes, and I was able to give my feet a small bit of relief. It was still dark though, and I was still running. And I still had a long way to go. I got into a routine at the aid stations: sitting, eating 2 cups of broth, 1 Gu, a cup of soda and some chips. Sometimes it came back up, sometimes it didn’t. I stuck with it until the river crossing. Crossing Rucky Chucky is another one of those pivotal sections. It’s one of the great moments you have heard and read so much about, and finally it’s your turn. The cool water presented some relief, and my mind was somewhat at ease because I had always heard that after the river crossing, it’s “easy.” Let’s just say, whoever thinks that, is dead wrong. Not counting the 1.25 mile climb out of the river, I still had a long rocky and mountainous way to go. In many respects I was glad it was dark so I couldn’t really see what was coming. Although the next 20 miles probably took me 5.5 hours, it went by fast. The sun rose again, and before I knew it I was finally at mile 98.6 where Arjun and Jen were ready to head to the finish with me. Of course, it was “a mean 1.3 miles” remaining, as Arjun pointed out.

My lap around the track was pretty unreal. I crossed the finish line in 28:09:30, weighed in (gain of 2 pounds!) and finally sat down, this time for good. For the first time in a long time, I had finished a race where I didn’t care about my place. I had no idea where I finished, and it simply didn’t matter. Western States taught me that I never want to be the runner who drops at 30 miles because it’s hard. I never want to be the runner who drops because it’s simply not my day, and I won’t win this one. For the first time in a long time, I was at a race where I’d be lucky to do well, but I was luckier to have even gotten there in the first place. Coming back from a rough start and gaining almost 2 hours on the cutoff time taught me more than winning, and hopefully I can keep this perspective for all my races in the future.

The next day at the incredibly hot a miserable award ceremony, I received my bronze belt buckle. It no longer mattered to me that it wasn’t silver. By staying out there when things got bad, I proved to myself certain things, and I showed that I respected not only the race, but the sport. Sometimes you have to be humbled to really feel like you won. In a strange turn of events, I also found out at the awards ceremony that I did in fact win my age group. It was a sweet icing on the cake to follow in the footsteps of so many women runners who have won the age group before me, but it no longer carried the weight it did before. Every bit of that awards belongs to my crew, the women who ran with me, and the man who told me not to give up on myself, just as much as it may belong to me.

“We had done this thing we had set out to do, and instead of becoming larger because of the experience, we became smaller, more humble more aware of how little we know: about the world in general, about ourselves specifically.”

– Richard Benyo in “The Death Valley 300.”

>Snacks and Activities

>It has come to my attention that a lot can be accomplished in 24 hours. I hope to run 100 miles in that time frame. However, many other activities can also be completed. My dear friend Brennan took the time to compile a list of activities that he thought may be suitable for the time period in which I’m running, and I’d like to share that list with you:
* Puzzles
* Lazer tag
* 14 mile run
* Capture the flag at Patapsco
* Purchase a dog at BARCS
* Watch Field of Dreams on the scoreboard at the ballpark
* Sleep on the roof
* Donate a dog to BARCS

I think this is a great idea, and I’d like to issue a challenge. Who can compile the sweetest list of activites that they completed in the time period of 8am EST on Saturday – 8am EST on Sunday?

Howevs, I hope at some point in that day, you go to http://webcast.ws100.com/ to track my progress or sign up for e-mail alerts!!!