Friday, November 4, 2016

Back At It: Swallowing my pride and some bananas

                                                     Cave Creek Thrasher 30K

      Back at it...sort of.  I loved every minute of this race, being completely alone on the trail at night under a full moon, not even seeing any other lights I could chase down.  The course was my favorite kind, rocky, climbing up and flying down.  None of those dull flat stretches.  I was reminded of why I love racing, and I have never been so grateful just to be out there.  But I am way too long winded to leave it at that.  Sorry, if you ever talk to me, you have probably already heard this story, but I know you love redundancy.

Cave Creek Thriller 50K 2015
      I'm not sure why I signed up for the Cave Creek race, of all races to come back at.  Maybe I have some masochistic side that wants me to make a direct and painful comparison to the Cave Creek Thriller 50K, the last race I ran, exactly one year before.  Thrasher was only a 30K, but a big deal after the past year.  Thriller last year was one of my best races, I missed the course record by about 2 minutes.  All year I have struggled with thinking about where I was, and where I am now.  It's probably the hardest mental training obstacle I have ever encountered.

      I'm not going to detail why I haven't raced in a year, my last post is all about that if you really want to know.  I'm sort of better, that's all that really matters

      The race.  I had to give most people a disclaimer when I signed up for this, to protect myself and lower everyone's expectations of me. Pride can be a very ugly thing, and at some point you have to let go of it. I got used to being competitive in races, and I wanted everyone to know I wasn't trained for this, not ready, not fast. To protect my pride.

         Arriving at Cave Creek Regional Park, I was welcomed by my Aravaipa family, always making me feel at home and supported.  I was psyched that Rich and Erin McKnight were there, which reminded me of my first experience at this race 3 years ago.  It was an IPA 10k that Jeremy Pager and I had come up with.  Three IPA's and run the 10K.  I remember Jeremy falling in the first mile, and that was the only race I have ever stayed ahead of him the whole time, since he was afraid if he was alone he would keep falling down.  This was also the only race I have ever finished ahead of Rich...he was running with Erin who had placed in the 50K earlier that day.  So anyway, good memories of Thrasher to recount with the McKnights.

      Start of the race.  Tried to get Jubilee to play some T Swift to pump me up, but ran out of time.  I'll blame that for my slow start.  Mentally I knew I was slow, and knew if I pushed it I'd just end up hurting myself.  So we took off, I kept an eye only on my heart rate monitor, which is much less depressing than looking at my pace.  Everybody took off ahead of me, and I had to tell myself this was okay, run my race.  Not the time to get competitive, again trying to put aside my pride.  I felt awesome cruising along, and immediately was at home again.

The all powerful Rich McKnight
      Around mile 3 of the first 7 mile loop, my lower calf started to bother me.  I thought maybe it was a tendon thing that might work itself out, but of course it got worse.  I had never had this problem before.  One thing I had been struggling with was bad cramping in my calves, which started when I switched to the ketogenic diet. I had started this to get over a plateau I was feeling in my training, and  to lose a few pounds that had crept on after a year of no running and a summer of bar tending.  One side effect of this diet can be deficiencies in magnesium and potassium, thus the muscle cramps. Cramps that would wake me up in the middle of the night, pain so bad I was rolling on the floor. I will note that  I did not have to carry water during this race and consumed almost no calories, and felt great (which I attribute to the Keto).   If you're interested in knowing about this diet, which I have since stopped but can have a lot of benefits for endurance runners, check this site out   Ultimately, my calves, stomach issues, and my passion for beer and ice cream pulled me off the keto wagon.

       Anyhow, I was still enjoying the trail despite my leg,  At several points, reflecting on the many struggles the previous year had brought,  I felt overcome with emotion and gratitude for those moments out there.

      I had forgotten about how fun the descents were on this course, and the climbing was pretty mellow.  I tried not to get discouraged that there weren't even any lights I could see ahead of me to chase down, something that has motivated me a lot in the past. Let the competition go.

      Finishing my first lap I was in a lot of pain and unsure if I could do 2 more laps, but definitely was going for one more.  Seeing Jubilee and Chris Worden there at the finish was also a great motivator, I'm so lucky to have all these wonderful people that running has brought into my life.  At the aid were Thomas O'Reilly, Patty of course, and my friend Carly, a new trail runner and my savior that night.  I tried rolling out my calf and used the magnesium spray I've been using since the cramps started, but I think what helped with that next lap was the ibuprfen that Carly gave me.  And her overall love and concern for my well being.

        Heading out on that second lap, before the drugs set in, I was near tears, less because of the pain and more at the idea that I would have my first ever DNF, and on top of that this was my first race back.  Again, my pride creeping in, worried about what I would tell my friends, the sense of defeat I would feel.  Fortunately the pain dissipated just enough, and I could focus on the good stuff and forge ahead.  Once I realized I'd finish the race, I could enjoy myself again.  No reason to really race this, I told myself, be happy with where you are.

         Again got pumped up by all the love coming through the start finish, Maybe what got me through that last lap was my biggest treat of the night.  The ketogenic diet limits carbohydrate intake severely, and I hadn't really eaten fruit in almost 2 months.  My very favorite fruit are bananas, which are a big no no and loaded with carbs.  I let myself eat half of a banana, and I have never tasted anything so amazing.  Morale booster times ten, thanks Thomas O'Reilly.  Then I tried to roll the calves, took another ibuprofen, and set out.  The first pain in my lower calf was manageable, but now my entire calf muscle was seizing up.  Just had to work through it for 7 miles, and even if it took me a little while to recover, at that point I needed to finish.  Its amazing to think about this 30K, which I would have considered such a short distance, not even worth racing, and now just finishing this was an accomplishment for me.  I had to tell that little voice reminding me how slow I was and how insignificant this race was to fuck off.

        One of my favorite points of this lap was coming through the remote aid station.  Each lap, I had been helped by a little girl there, and I explained to her that a great way to help runners is to splash ice water in their face, by surprise.  She didn't seem to think that was very nice, and I explained that she had to pick the right runners.  I demonstrated for her on myself during my 2nd lap, but the 3rd lap was her big debut.  She was very hesitant, but I got her to douse my face in ice water, perfect form.  That girl's gonna make it big time.  Plus you can't get mad if its a cute 7 year old girl that's dumping ice cold water on you.

          I finished a 30K (well it was at least a little longer than that) in 4:19:42.  8th overall, 6th female. Out of only 12 runners who finished.  I tried not to look at the results, but going back to that pride thing.  I finished the race. With a cartwheel. Nobody really cares where I placed or what my time was. That's all me.  So I can let it bring me down, or I can be thankful I got to be out there.  Nothing is taking Chiva down, so I swallow my pride.

      Thanks again to those folks out there, Chris Worden, Jubilee Page, Rich and Erin McKnight, Carly Kappus, Thomas O'Reilly, Patty Coury, and everybody else I missed (this report is being written a few weeks after the race, my memory is going!)  Also congrats on strong finishes from Laura Ewersmann and Rich McKnight out there!  Love my Aravaipa family, I would be nothing without my crazy runner friends!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

When you can't run


        If you are reading this, you are mostly likely a runner.  And if you are a runner, you have been injured.  You have probably read the studies saying we are the most injured athletes; the consensus of most studies seems to be there are about 75% of us with running related injuries each year. Obviously running cannot compete with cheer leading as the most dangerous sport in the world (safer to jump off mountains than human pyramids), but many seem to think the injury rates in long distance runners make the sport dangerous and thus unhealthy.

      Put running related injuries aside, and we are among the healthiest people in the world.  Have you ever been at a race and overheard a runner talking about their last bypass surgery?  Ultra runners have very low risk of developing some of the common diseases of our modern world, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Healthy...until a race

      Before we get into all the advantages of being injured, a little background.  I have run all my life, but have been running longer than marathon distances for about 3 years, making me pretty green in the world of ultra running.  I think a lot of us new to the sport are intrigued by the never ending challenges it presents, and after conquering one distance we can't help but try for the next soon after.  I went from 50k to 100 miles in less than 2 years.  I have had injuries, but nothing that took me down for too long.  This past summer I ran some big races, and expected to continue this fall, making some big goals for myself.

      Most injuries I have had have been related to overuse and lack of recovery time,  I was having a tough recovery this August and my hamstrings just weren't happy with my training plan.  Then I compounded things by missing my step down off a ten man human pyramid (pyramids trump those boring lined up running group photos by about a million).

Lesson learned...ten man pyramid should be completed
 before beer mile, not after

      When I finally came back in September, I felt like I could take it easy, listen to my body and slowly work back to where I wanted to be.  I planned for a 50k in October and 50 miler in December.  Going into the 50k, Cave Creek Thriller, I felt under trained and very uncertain of what my body was capable of.  I surprised myself and just missed the female course record.  I cartwheeled across the finish line, and felt strong and ready to keep going.
Cave Creek Thriller 50k

     In the next couple weeks some events in my life transpired that made me need running even more, and my anger propelled me to push myself too hard.  I ran faster than I should have.  I competed with 8 of my friends at the Ragnar Trail Relay and surprised myself at how fast I could run short distances, as I have always been the slow and steady long distance runner.  The week after Ragnar I was doing hill repeats when a little pain in my hip began to flare up.  I pushed through it a little, and as it got worse I realized I needed to call it a day and walked back to the parking lot.  Walking hurt.  Little aches and pains always come up in running, so when something hurts I try to be smart and listen to my body, but usually with a little time it will work itself out,  Over the next couple weeks I backed off a little, and the hip kept bothering me.  It wasn't this piercing, excruciating pain, more a dull ache that got worse as the miles built up.

     I was at a point where I desperately needed running (and still am).  I have always relied on exercise to balance me out.  All my life I have struggled with a mood disorder, and when things are particularly bad, running provides an immediate remedy.  If I'm really down, I know a good run can get me outside of myself, give me some motivation to continue forward.  If I have an excess of energy and feel like I am going a mile a minute, a run lets me get it all out without things escalating.  We can all agree it sucks when you can't run.  But when things are particularly rough and the only way you know how to deal with it is to run....and you can't, what do you do?

      I wish the end of this story was my eventual healing.  But really my point here isn't a pity party.
Everyone has been here in one way or another.  You can let it take you down, or you can figure something else out.  So maybe if someone is reading this one day and feeling like I do, they can learn something that might help.

So here are 11 dilemmas I have encountered, and what I do to fight them.

When you can't run and.....

1. ...your schedule just opened up.

       You realize how much your life revolves around running when all of a sudden you can't do it, and you have no idea how to fill up all that free time.  A good friend suggested I try and think of the things I feel like I never have time for.  I came up with painting, yoga, reading, writing, going to movies and performances, dancing, pie making, meditating, watching reruns of Glee, and meeting up with friends to do something other than running.   No, none of these have the same effect as running, but they are something to focus on in the meantime.

2. ...everyone is talking about that race they signed up for, ran, are planning on running, or are posting about.

This is a tough one.  For the past couple years signing up for, training for, and finishing races has been a major focus in my life.  I get that excitement and anticipation when I click that registration button on ultrasignup, I have a focus for my training, and I set goals.  There have already been 3 races I've had to pull out of since my injury.  I have always volunteered at races when I'm not running them.  Now all I can do is volunteer.  I know I will be miserable if I only focus on the fact that I am not running and everyone else is, so I try to focus on really doing everything I can to help the runners competing.  It feels good to still be a part of the process, and having experience racing helps me know what runners need!

Volunteering perk: you can still sneak on the podium

3. ...every event you are invited to involves running.

I have been trying to avoid facebook.  I really don't, but I know it makes things worse when I see all the posts about group runs.  I used to have 3 or 4 different runs to choose from on the weekends, and now... I am scheduling other group events.  My friends run, but I have found I can get them to do other activities too!  Dancing, art walks, dinner... I'm still working on this list.  And I haven't utilized it yet, but I know if I run out of things to do, or everybody is busy, I can go on meetup and find something new.

4. are depressed and thinking about how you cant run makes you more depressed and then you realize you don't even know when you're going to be able to run again and you try to run in hopes that maybe its a little better and its not.

I have gone for several runs when, after lots of rest that I thought would help, pain creeps in a few hundred meters or a few miles in.  I cry.  It's pathetic, When I start to feel really bad for myself, I think of all the things I CAN do.  There are people out there that can't walk.  I try to be grateful for everything I have: aside from injury I am healthy.  I can run a couple miles.  I have amazing family and friends.  I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and a reasonable income. Life is not over because I cannot run.

5. cant eat.

This may be a problem specific to women (and not all women). Sometimes due to anxiety and stress I have no appetite.  But I also know that I am not burning the calories that I did when I was running 40-60 miles per week, and like almost every lady I know, I do not want to put on weight.  If anyone has a way to remedy this problem, please let me know.  It is psychological, and unfortunately many of us girls have this issue.

6. ...other activities hurt too.

Every other time I have been injured, I've been able to do yoga, hike and bike to help me stay active.  Right now I can hike for about 30 minutes before I start to feel it.  Some yoga poses are okay, but usually my hip will be sore after a real yoga class.  I can bike for about 20 minutes before pain.  The only option I see if one that I have always been very opposed to: swimming.  But I'm going to try.  There is always something else to try.

7. ...everyone you know and don't know asks you why you can't run.

I love my fellow runners.  But at a certain point, explaining my injury becomes redundant.  My only solution to this: summarize or walk away.  "It's my hip, going to physical therapy, no improvement."  Advantage: Runners know people.  One out of 3 people have a recommendation of some sort, and while it can be overwhelming when you are writing down the 10th name of a recommended doctor, it is wonderful to have so much help.

8. see someone running.

Runner's envy is so real.  When I am hiking and someone runs by me, I feel two things: outright jealousy that I can't do what they're doing, and embarrassment that I am now a "hiker" (not that there's anything wrong with that!)  What a dilemma.  Sometimes I will actually jog a bit to comfort myself.  I smile and try to live vicariously through these people, but really I want to beat them.  This problem will not go away, so if I don't distract myself by running a little, I try to focus on my surroundings rather than the runners.  We are all out here together, enjoying being in nature and feeling our feet against the trail.

9. go to that group run and...walk.

Thanksgiving group run "hike."
 I think we had more fun than the runners!
Sometimes I have had to walk alone.  But at least I am there, enjoying others company even if its only at the trail head and afterwards for a beer.  Fortunately the loner walk is not always the only option.  It turns out THERE ARE OTHER INJURED PEOPLE!  Sometimes they are just recovering, but when you consider the statistics, chances are a lot of people might need to take it easy.  Then there's always the option of meeting everybody at the bar!

10. just can't cope.

Stress, anxiety, depression, desperation- we all know running can help us through these things.  I struggle so much with finding an alternative, and I know really it doesn't exist.  So some things I try when I get really down and start spiraling into a panic:

Phone a friend- a good friend will always be there, and it always helps to talk about it.  When you start to think "they're too busy," "they don't want to hear about it," "I should be able to handle this on my own," just think about what you would do for your friends if they were going through the same thing.  And hopefully, you would answer the phone.

If you can, pick up some hand weights and start punching.  This sounds ridiculous, and don't do it with weights that are too heavy, but I'll do this is front of a mirror and feel like a bad ass and it helps a little.  Really any way I can get my body moving and hopefully release a few endorphin helps.

Pick a therapy activity.  I draw aimlessly.  Coloring works well.  Go for a walk if you can. Generally drugs and alcohol are not a healthy way to go, but go easy on yourself if you need an IPA to relax.

Sometimes when you can only run a mile...a beer mile is the best option.

11. don't know when it'll get better, and the "what if it doesn't" question presents itself

This is horrible to think about.  My whole world revolves around running, and if I can't run I have to find a new world.  My dad actually said to me on a hike today, "Well, you got a couple good years of running in," as if it is all over.  I forgive him for this comment, but really?  Still, not everyone runs, so there must be something else out there.

In conclusion: I hope this might help someone else who is in the same situation. I'll end this post by saying it is my friends and family that carry me through my challenges, thank you.

At least I can still cartwheel!

Monday, July 27, 2015

El Ultramaratón de los Cañones

       I have to begin this post by saying how grateful I am that Rene "Ramon Chingon" Peinado invited me to come down to this race.  Ultramaraton de Los Cañones is a race that takes place in Guachochi, in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.  The race began 19 years ago and traverses the Sinforosa Canyon, one canyon in a group of several astounding canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental.  I first visited Chihuahua, Mexico in February for the Caballo Blanco Marathon which takes place in the Batopilas and Urique canyons, however the official race was cancelled. For an account of this trip, my friend Michael Versteeg's blog tells the story 

        I was excited to register for another race in Mexico. Like Caballo Blanco, many Tarahumara, or Raramuri, runners would be  coming out for the race.

        I had no idea what I was getting into. Fortunately Rene helped me with the registration process, which involved a lot more than clicking a few buttons on Ultrasignup.

        I will also say that I have never been so unprepared for a race in my life.  I looked at the elevation profile a couple weeks before the race.   I glanced at it, didn't take the time to convert kilometers to feet, and didn't realize that the canyon we were descending into has an elevation similar to that of the Grand Canyon.  I also didn't realize that the starting elevation in Guachochi is almost 8,000 feet.  I could not find a course map, and did not know where the aid stations were nor what they would supply.  After being so overly prepared at San Diego 100, I realized this would be an entirely different experience, without Team La Chiva, pacers, and well stocked aid stations.  In other words, I was screwed.

      I had just returned from a 10 day trip to Maine to visit my family the night before heading down to Chihuahua with Rene and his son Myles.  I was tired, and my legs had not rested for several days (keeping up with Gordon Smith is no joke!) Before heading to Guachochi for the race, I was thrilled to stop in Creel to visit with Rene's uncle Luis Octavio, and aunt Gloria.  They had welcomed us into their home when we stopped there on the way to Urique in February, so after a couple days of traveling between Maine and Mexico, I felt relieved and comforted to relax in their company.  We stayed in Creel for two nights and were able to enjoy a beautiful mountain biking and boat adventure outside of the town.

       In a sudden panic about the race, I spent one morning in Creel researching it and reading some race blogs.  Still I found no course map other than the elevation profile.  Terror was sinking in.  I speak Spanish, but I considered that I am still limited in my vocabulary, and going into a race I knew nothing about, it might be hard to communicate questions and concerns.  I didn't know if I was ready for the elevation.  Rene tried to assuage my fears with little success.

     When we arrived in Guachochi, we met up with a friend we had met in Urique,  Alfonso "Poncho" Morales, who had come all the way from Acapulco, Guerrero for the race.   That he made the trip was especially significant, given that his wife was about to give birth any day to their second child, a baby girl.  Rene's friend Jaime was letting us stay on his ranch in Guachochi, where Rene had also stayed last year.  Jaime seemed apologetic that the ranch had no electricity and had not been cleaned up for us, but we were grateful to have a roof over our heads. I was impressed by the accomodations- we were surrounded by beautiful fields where we watched cattle graze, there were plenty of great spots for campfires and enjoying the scenery, and there were actually beds in the house!  We were able to clean up any rat droppings we found around, and it seemed they weren't really very fresh.  Definitely 5 star in comparison to the usual camp out, often without a tent.

      I was also comforted to know that, like in Urique, there was evidence of goats.  Dead ones.  They seem to follow me around.  While exploring the ranch, we found several goat skins hanging up.  Perfect.
The goat head that stalked me in Urique
Our "shower" at the ranch

     I had noticed since we had entered Mexico that it rained every afternoon.  Pretty hard.  I am never really concerned about heat during a race, but when it comes to the cold, I know I'm in trouble.  While mornings were beautiful, once the rain started at the ranch I piled on sweatshirt and jacket, winter hat and blankets.  Fuck.  And I only use that word when in dire circumstances.

     The Friday before the race, while Rene and Poncho were in town getting supplies for breakfast, Myles and I went out for a short 3 mile run around the property.  It felt great to get out, and I was impressed by Myles' endurance.  The sun was out, the fields were a sparkling green, and my steps felt light and easy.  As we sprinted back towards the ranch, I felt some of my pre-race stress melt away.

     Before packet pickup we stopped to see some friends from Sinaloa.  Tania, who Rene had paced in Urique, had come to the race with her parents and husband.  These friends would turn out to be extremely helpful during the race!  At packet pickup we turned in several documents proving our registration payment and physical health.  We found our friend Arnulfo with wife Susanna and children Matias and Carmen, and tried to discuss plans to head out to the ranch for a trout dinner while runners constantly interrupted by asking Arnulfo to take pictures with them. I forgot that he is such a celebrity!  Myles was ready to step in and tell them to "back off!"  

     We had bought trout and invited the Sinaloans and Arnulfo and his family back to the ranch for dinner.  I had the privilege of presenting Arnulfo with the money raised on a "Go Fund Me" account to help with the costs of his daughter, Hilda, going to school.  I was honored with the opportunity to give him this gift, for which he was s grateful. I also presented him with the customary gift of a pepino.  If you don't know this story, please speak with me privately.

Poncho tends to the trout on the grill.  

     While we were enjoying our dinner on the ranch, some other friends we met in Urique were making their way to Guachochi.  We were SO EXCITED to see Dean Cuanan and Dang Huevos.  Miguel and I first met them while staying at Mario Munez's ranch in San Isidro outside of Urique.  We were headed out for a much needed run when we ran into them, setting up camp with their mountain bikes which were weighed down with some pretty hefty baggage.  They explained that they had started biking in Alaska, and planned to make it all the way to Argentina.  They seemed so positive and happy to be there, without a hint of exhaustion which you would expect after miles and miles on their bikes.  Dean and Dang were taking a little break from their bikes and heading to Guachochi on bus to meet us for the race.  We didn't exactly know when they would arrive, but were eagerly waiting.

After finally being reunited with Dean and Dang!

      We got to bed early, and my usual pre-race anxiety didn't accompany me in my preparations.  Probably because I had zero expectations for this race.  I did make a list though, because otherwise I don't think I'd make it out the door.

     At the starting I realized I was perhaps the only person with a full pack. So high maintenance, one of my biggest fears in life.  I had my raincoat, plenty of Gu's and S-caps, tape for blisters, and food that would provide enough calories to get me to mile 30, where Tania and her family would be waiting with a drop bag.  I lost Rene and Poncho before the start, and realized this would be a race that I would run alone.  Unlike most of the races I have run, where I know at least a handful of the runners, I knew I would be running among strangers who didn't speak my language.
Poncho, Rene and I at the starting line

Sunrise over the cornfields

      I focused only on enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Sierra, and we were off.  I was at the back of the pack, and noticed many runners were going out pretty fast. I tried to hold back, knowing there was no point in keeping faster than a 10 minute pace so early on.  The first ten miles were relatively flat, on dirt roads that cut through corn fields.  Before I knew it, we were descending into the canyon.  I was nervous about the descent, as Rene had told me it was steep and slippery, but almost immediately I felt totally in my element, enjoying the diverse terrain while I glided over mud, rocks and pines needles, grabbing onto trees for balance and using my hands instead of the hiking poles I noticed most runners had.  The dilemma here was that long lines of runners formed, and getting by them proved to be a challenge on the rough terrain.  I managed, waiting patiently at times, to slide by, and eventually the lines spread out a bit.  Whenever I looked up, I was astounded by the beauty of the canyon surrounding us.  Already I realized this may just be the most beautiful race I had ever run.
View as we descended into the canyon

Some selfie videos taken in the canyon

      As I slid further into the canyon, the incline leveled out and we were traversing back and forth over the Rio Verde.    I knew the bottom of the canyon would be slow, with river crossing, lots of rocks and mud, and dense foliage to climb through.   It was really fun jumping from rock to rock in order to cross over the river.   The humudity made me feel like I was in the rainforest, dripping with sweat.  I also realized that many of the runners who had gone out so fast were slowing down, and already I was getting tired of the "con permiso" I was saying every few minutes to try to pass a group.  Note to self: starting at the back of the pack has its advantages and disadvantages.  Advantage: you are tricked into thinking you are going at lightening speed because you are passing so many runners and not getting passed yourself.  Disadvantage: you have to deal with passing so many runners.  I was actually surprised that at this point, runners seemed annoyed at being passed, and a few would try and speed up when I came upon them, looking behind them and trying to get ahead so I wouldn't pass.

     I also had the pleasure of bumping into a new friend, the notorious Benito, who I had never met, nor had any of my friends. But of course facebook brought us together.  Benito had formed a connection with my boyfriend Miguel (again, they had never actually met), and we had sent a few messages back and forth about the race.  Miguel gave me a gift bag that I was to deliver directly to Benito.  So we had attempted since arriving in Guachochi to find the mysterious Benito, not knowing what we were looking for.  The best we could do was exchange bib numbers.  Benito probably could have figured out who I was without the bib number, seeing as I was the only gringa from the states running.  I happened upon him in the canyon.  We took a selfie (obviously, I needed proof that I had met him) and I told him I'd try to find him after the race with his goodie bag.

Finally found Benito

     Going back to the fact that I was the only gringa from the U.S in the race.  Over time I have grown to feel I am latina.  I've lived in Costa Rica and Peru, speak decent Spanish, and usually sport a pretty good tan.  I can make fresh tortillas, beans and salsa.  During this race, I realized that somehow everyone I spoke to knew I was not Mexican.  Oh well, maybe it was just my accent and Dirtbag runners trucker hat (I didn't see any Mexican women in similar headwear.)

     Next I came into a beautiful clearing and found myself surrounded by cows.  Well, bulls actually.  Katharine Ayer, if you are reading this, I thought of you immediately.  As I made my way carefully around them I tried to convey that I wasn't a big meat eater.  They seemed at peace, and I escaped unscathed.

Stand-off with bull

     Shortly after running into Benito I saw Rene in the canyon. Its always awesome and motivating to see a familiar face.  He looked good but said he was struggling some, feeling pretty heavy on the uphills.  He also had run the Western States 100 two weeks prior.  Think this might have made your legs feel a little heavy Rene?  I was impressed that he was still running the 100k, with so little recovery time.  He had also run the canyon last year, so he did knew what he was in for.

The cascada that served as a welcome stopping
point for a photo

     The aid stations seemed to be pretty close together as we started the ascent out of the canyon.  It was hot and exposed.  And very early on I ran out of water.  For someone who gets super paranoid about running out of water, this seems to happen at least once every race, where I somehow think I have plenty and don't fill up when I should.  Not having any idea where the next aid station was, I was picturing myself dehydrating and disoriented, stumbling over the side of the steep trail to my death at the bottom of the canyon. As we struggled up the trail, other runners became noticeably friendlier, and I felt the usual team camaraderie I'm used to during longer races.  Perhaps one would actually lend me a hiking pole before I plummeted into the canyon.

The struggle is real: selfie video climbing out of the canyon..

     I finally arrived at an aid station so I could stop imagining my imminent death. The following video can give you a little idea of my state of mind climbing out of the canyon.  Soon I could see I was getting much closer to the bridge that signaled the ALMOST end of the uphill, and where many spectators were gathered in support.  I felt good considering I had just climbed about 5,000 feet out of the canyon.

     The last steps before arriving at the aid station at the bridge are running over the hanging bridge.  I kept an eye on my feet, I didn't trust myself not to trip over the shaky boards. This bridge was shaky, and I wondered if this thing was really going to hold all of the however many runners crossing it. At least I had passed a lot of people, so at this point the bridge hadn't been crossed my too many people.  I was absolutely euphoric once I crossed that bridge, because Dean and Dang had finally made it, and were right there waiting for me!  I already knew they were the best crew ever, because they had helped us out in Urique when we took off running with almost no supplies.  I didn't want to delay too long, so we exchanged big hugs and I took off up the last hill, where Tania, her mom and boyfriend were waiting with my drop bag.  These friends who I had just met the day before treated me like I was family, taking off my pack, collecting trash, making sure I had all the nutrition I needed, and most importantly Tania had a ice cold beer for me to take a couple sips of.  Sweet reprieve.

Heading up the last hill...I thought.  Photo credit
 Tania Leal.

Awesome crew from Sinaloa!

     As I continued up the hill,  feeling pretty drained, I saw Isidro, a Tarahumara friend who I had met in Urique.  Miguel and I had attempted to pace in Caballo Blanco, and he had also stayed at the "ultra hostel" when he came up to the the Crown King Scramble in March.  He was running in the opposite direction, which confused me greatly because I didn't know that the course brought you back out to the bridge after first returning to the start/finish.  He looked strong, and I saw him heading back for the finish line once I got to the top of the hill.  I also saw his wife, Juanita, who I had met in Urique.  I stopped for a few moments to talk to her, which was a pretty short conversation as, like many tarahumara women, she is quite shy.  I started moving again, and realized she was running with me, just a little behind.  I figured she'd just tag along for a little bit, but after a couple miles it seemed she wasn't stopping!  We talked about the runners, and she updated me on who was in the lead.  At that point I think Isidro was in 4th place. Having Juanita with me kept me out of my head, and I was a little distracted from the reality that once I got myself to the start/finish, I would still have to come out and run 20 more miles.  To top it off, it started raining.  I love this woman.

     Some more motivation: Arnulfo Quimare was coming through running with his son Mattias.  He looked great, wearing his irun shirt- I think he is an ambassador now.  I told Juanita we would try to keep up with them for a bit, and I managed to keep them in sight for 10 minutes or so.  So I qualify that as running with the champ.  

Chasing Arnulfo through the mud

Arnulfo Quimare, irun ambassador, finishing
 the climb out of the canyon
Arnulfo continues to endorse irun in his daily life 
     A few miles from the start/finish where I would turn around, I caught up with another female 100k runner, who was from Durango I believe.  She noticed Juanita running with me and asked "How much are you paying her?"  I was shocked for a moment, then responded that I wasn't paying Juanita, she was simply a friend I knew from Urique who was heading to the start/finish to meet up with her husband.  She explained to me, in a tone that seemed a little aggressive, that some runners will pay Tarahumara to run with them and carry their things.  I didn't like the way she spoke to me, like she didn't believe that a Tarahumara was simply running with me, with no other incentive.  I smiled, sped up, and decided she would not be catching me. I later had a conversation with a friend who told me that many Mexicans believe that the Tarahumara will not do anything unless you pay them to.  This enraged me, 

     I checked in with Juanita now and again, and she seemed strong even though she said she was a little tired.  I don't know how far she had already walked or run that day, but she kept up in a stoic and humble way.  Juanita ran with me into town and broke off just before I crossed through the start/finish.  I was feeling a little discouraged about the fact that I had 20 more miles to run.  I had to check in and make sure I wasn't close to the cutoff time- all 100k runners had to get into the start/finish after their first lap by 12 hours or they would not be able to go back out to finish the course.  I wasn't at 11 yet, so I felt a little better.

Can you tell how psyched I am to have Juanita pacing me?

      I figured I'd rest a bit, grab a bite to eat, see if any of my friends were around.  But a tall guy who I had passed a mile or so before coming in got me moving, saying I was in 4th or 5th place female and could catch the next girl.  I was excited that someone had been keeping track, and headed back out quickly with him.  Within a few hundred meters of heading out I found out he was born in New York, and we switched to English. My energy was renewed- I was happy to converse in Spanish, but at this point in the race I was pumped to not have to use my brain too much and speak in my native language.  So this guy's name is Patricio (Patrick) and he moved to Mexico City from Manhattan about 20 years ago, and now has a wife and kids here.  I'm not sure why he took an interest in my catching the next girl up (who he thought had dropped putting me in 4th place, but who had actually kept going so I was in 5th).
Movin'!  I was so fast they couldn't get a photo from the  front.
     The fun thing about heading back out was I got to see a lot of other runners coming in, and knowing that we were running the 100k (there weren't really a lot of us that made it back out) they were super supportive.  The word "animo!" is used often to cheer people on.  It translates roughly to "courage," but really just means great job keep it up.  I felt good, and some real food came along in the form of a bean burrito, my go to race food.  The aid station (at about 50 miles) before the last descent came pretty quickly, but as I flew down the last hill I was a little worried about the climb back up.  We were back at the bridge, and would turn around, go back up the hill and run the last 10 miles into the finish.   I grabbed a banana at the bridge, and Patrick rushed me off back up the hill.  His words: "Just do what I say and we can catch her."  I honestly didn't think I would catch up with this girl who was then in 4th place, as we had seen her about 15 minutes before, heading back.  I also was perfectly happy with 5th place.  But he seemed hell bent on me catching her.  I thought OK, it never hurts to have a little extra push.  He also knew everyone on the trail, and hooked me up with a few sips of cold beer after the climb.

     Heading back, I felt strong and somehow like I had enough in me to push at the end.   I stuck with Patrick and slowly sped up my pace.  I figured he had the same plan in mind, but pretty soon I dropped him.  I felt a little bad, since he was trying to help me, but it was my race.  
There were fewer and fewer runners around as I moved along, and I enjoyed the solitude, drifting along on the muddy dirt road, surrounded by corn fields on either side.  There were still some Tarahumara along the sides of the trail, supporting the runners with both words and their solemn silence.  I came upon three people walking in the trail, two dressed in plain clothes and one Tarahumara woman in traditional dress.  As I approached I started to recognize Juanita- but what was she doing out here?  As I ran by, I asked her if she had energy left to run with me, and she shyly responded that she did not.  I still am not sure why she was there, 4 or 5 miles away from the start/finish, when her husband Isidro had finished hours ago.  I had a lump in my throat at the thought that she might have been there to support me.  I may never know.

      I kept picking up the pace, though at this point when I felt like I was sprinting I was probably only doing a 10 minute mile.  It started sprinkling again, and the sun was getting lower in the sky.  I knew I could make it without taking out my headlamp.  Though spectators were scarce in the last few miles, I was getting emotional anytime I heard words of encouragement.  Only once before in a race, my 100 in San Diego, have a gotten choked up and close to tears in the last few miles.  As I thought about this journey I had taken, and I felt so grateful for the opportunity to run this race, among all of these strangers who knew nothing of me but had taken me in as one of their own.
     The rain came down harder, and the final push felt amazing and horrible at the same time.  I never fail to be amazed at how, no matter how much pain you are in or how exhausted, there's something left in those last few miles to propel you faster and harder.  As I ran into town, the rain pouring down, there were still a few people out to offer encouragement.  Around every corner I turned, I expected to see that big inflatable line reading "meta," but the streets kept teasing me.  Finally I caught sight of it, and gave it all I had.  A few hundred meters from the finish, Rene and his son Myles called out to me, and came out to run me in.  Myles and I sprinted it out, and finally I was done.  I am happy to say I was going too fast and hard to cartwheel across the finish line, but I did manage one a minute or so afterwards.
Approaching the finish line with miles

    This race was an incredible experience, and I would recommend it to anyone able to make the trip.  Being surrounded by amazing and inspiring runners, breathtaking views, and such a supportive community made this race unforgettable.  Also, for those of you who were concerned, Poncho's wife did not have their baby until he arrived back in Acapulco, a beautiful baby girl named Alexa.  All is well.  And finally, thanks again Rene!

Before and after.  Photo credit Poncho Morales and Benito Sainz Marquez

The bracelets I accumulated to prove my finish!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SD100: Running, Cartwheels, and a Tiny Purple Pocket Penis

      I have never written a race report.  But I just ran 100 miles and would like to take some time to reflect, so here it goes. DISCLAIMER: THIS IS LONG AND I UNDERSTAND IF YOU SKIM THROUGH IT, ONLY LOOKING AT THE PHOTOS. 

     The first thing I must say is I could not have done this race without Team La Chiva, my amazing, incredible best ever crew: Ben Nichols (el capitan), Nichol Tran (la madre), Jon Schaller (el asesino), Wendy Jameson (la reina) and the love of my life Miguel Moreno (el chivo).

     A little over a year ago, a friend and I got the idea that we should run 100 miles. We ran our first Aravaipa night race together, our first 50k together, even crossed the finish line holding hands at our first Crown King 50k attempt.  I probably would never have gotten this crazy idea to run 100 miles if it weren't for Nadine.  We'll come back to this amazing chica later on. We chose SD 100- pretty sure Jamil Coury recommended this one.  Good first hundred, he said. Easy Jamil, right?

     Race week.  I don't think I really realized what I was getting into until I met up with Bret Sarquist for a beer at Mother Bunch Brewing. Bret had been advising me throughout my training.  Thank god beer was involved in this conversation.  Great suggestions all around, but his words that kept echoing in my head during the race were "When it get it gets bad, smile."  I felt like an idiot doing it, as Bret said I would, but it really worked.

     Crew meeting Tuesday Night.  I started with 3, then this grew to 5.  I am amazed that these people wanted to give their time and energy to help me to run 100 miles.  The least I could do was make a pie, and of course Coki provided fresh tortillas. We went over the course, logistics, food, and I tried not to freak out (a failed).  Team La Chiva was already impressing me with their dedication.

Team La Chiva hard at work
Miguel showed off his laminating skills with my course flip book

     The Thursday night before the race I packed up and went to Miguel's to try and have a stress free evening. I hung out with Ricky and Lailani, Miguel's kids, and also had the privilege of sharing a meal with Arnulfo Quimare.  He has become a frequent guest at Miguel's home and it is amazing to sit down with him and realize he is just like you and I, aside from his superhuman running and Tarahumara get-up.

Arnulfo, Mario, Lailani, Miguel and I having a last minute race meeting
      Friday morning we were on the road.  Tim Hackett drove while Jeremy, Nichol and I consumed as many donuts as possible.  It was National Donut Day, so this was mandatory.  Somehow the conversation turned to college mascots, and Jeremy's favorite, the Evergreen College Geoduck Gooey Duck).  I have never heard of this completely phallic creature.  Jeremy's team name because team geoduck, obviously.  For those of you who have yet to see this, here is a visual.
Road trip! Jeremy, me, Kiara, Nichol and Tim
The Geoduck
     The Geoduck Fight song wold be Jeremy's race mantra:

Words and music by Malcolm Stilson, 1971

Go, Geoducks go,
Through the mud and the sand,
let’s go.
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,
let it all hang out.

Go, Geoducks go,
Stretch your necks when the tide
is low
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,

let it all hang out

          When we arrived to Julian Race Headquarters overlooking Lake Cuyamaca, we picked up our packets and ran into some Arizona friends, including Erin and Rich McKnight.  Beautiful location for the race start, and for a pyramid.
     Next, pie in Julian, and out to the house that team Arizona rented, thanks to the help of Tim and Ben.  Race briefing, followed by beer with Jamil and Sabrina at the local brewery, Nickel Brewing. Great stout. Jamil ran the race last year, and thanks to him we all knew not to miss that out and back to the aid station at Todd's cabin.  Jamil unfortunately missed this last year, added on some miles, and amazingly still managed to catch up and pull second place. While enjoying our beers, I decided it was a good time to pull something out of my purse that I like to take out from time to time.  A tiny purple penis pencil topper I must have acquired at a bachelorette party long ago.  It recently resurfaced, unfortunately, when I was painting with Miguel's 8-year-old daughter and found it among my watercolors.  Whoops.  Anyway this wonderful item ended up at the bottom of Jeremy's glass, and a new race plan surfaced.  I believe it was Jamil's idea- I should carry this with me during the race and perhaps ask aid station volunteers to hold it for me while I attended to my other needs. We will revisit this later.

      Afterwards back at the house, most of us were relaxing and enjoying another brew.  I, on the other hand, was running around like a maniac, preparing coffee for the morning, briefing Nichol on every cold weather outfit I would have available for the following evening, and making every kind of checklist I could. Panic arose when I was unable to contact two of my crew members, Ben and Miguel.  But everything worked out and I knocked out as soon as the Benadryl kicked in.

      Race morning.  Began my routine- salsa music, coffee, braid hair, eat oatmeal with banana, fill pack.  I ran around while Jeremy calmly consumed his pre-race donut. I reminded him he would most likely end up miserable and crying during the race due to his lack of appropriate cold weather clothing and poor race day nutrition.  As we drove to the start, I wondered if Miguel made it.  More panic.  I should probably start taking Xanax before races. 

      Made it to the starting line, where Miguel was helping out the volunteers.  Sorry for doubting you.  This was it.  FINALLY WE WERE RUNNING.  As soon as my feet start moving in a race, all of the anxiety always disappears.  Now all I needed to do was run, so simple.  Listening to the calming sound of soles hitting soil and rock, I relaxed into an easy pace.  I knew I had to hold back for the first 50.  My plan was to stick with Tim Hackett, my 2nd dad and one of the most consistent runners I know.  Our splits were supposed to be about the same.  He took off.  Oh well, my race.  I moved along slowly, enjoying running amongst trees and wild flowers rather than the cacti I was used to.  I met up with Neil Barnsdale early on, who I had run with a few weeks prior at Born to Run, and chatted about what was to come.
Running with Neil
      To my horror, after a long and rocky downhill section around mile 7 or 8, I could already feel a blister forming on my toe. I tried to calm myself out of going into a complete frenzy. I never get blisters!  And we had barely gone 10 miles.  I stopped and tried taping.  I tried not to dwell on this tiny issue.  But seriously, who gets a blister less than 10 miles into100 miler?  My spirits lifted some when I left one aid station and did my first cartwheel.  I always wonder if expending the energy to do these costs me minutes in my race, but I do believe its worth it.

      When I got to Sunrise 1, mile 23.3, I met my crew.  Team La Chiva donned their team hats, complete with flying goat pinned to the sides.  Nichol was ready with sunscreen and snacks. Miguel and Ben promptly removed my shoes, cleaned my feet, taped, and I was off.  I may have reprimanded my crew just a LITTLE for not having the checklist I had made them out.  I also told them they had full permission to slap me in the face if I was being a bitch. I should mention that Jamil Coury had his camera out recording all of the drama ensuing.  I went off on my merry way feeling great, almost entirely due to seeing my awesome amazing best crew ever ever. The next stretch wound around the side of the mountain, with astounding views in every direction. Before reaching the next aid station, I ran into Jamil and Sabrina staked out with their cameras. Another cartwheel, and as I was running off the tiny purple pocket penis made its first debut as I explained to the camera man my plans for the little guy.

La Chiva
team la chiva taking care of me

team la chiva sporting their hats
      My crew was at the next aid station, Pioneer Mail 1, as well. My favorite moment here must have been when Ben hand fed me a chocolate frosted donut, which ended up dribbling down my face.  Like a true crew member, he cleaned my face up as if I was a toddler, and again I was out in about 5 minutes, still feeling great.  Everyone I consulted about running 100s had told me I would have highs and lows, and at this point I was grateful I had felt awesome during pretty much all of my first 30 miles.  I knew everybody was way ahead of me, but I also knew I was running my own race, and being smart.   Maybe I took it too easy, but I did make it to mile 50 feeling pretty outstanding. 
Coming into an aid station
        In the next section between Pioneer Mail and Red Tail Roost there was a significant climb.  I made a quick stop at Penny Pines where the aid station volunteers warned of the climb which would be very hot and exposed.  I refilled only my perpetuem bottle, as I knew my pack had just been filled 4 miles ago.   It was hot, but I was ready for it after some training runs mid day in the Phoeix desert heat.  In this section I kept up my positive attitude with my own musical talent: mostly Disney songs, show tunes, and James Taylor.
           I met some great folks as well.  An older woman named Amy who was a seasoned veteran at these things.  Edgar, who had been a doctor in Guerrero, Mexico, but moved to San Diego where he became a nurse.  He shared that his son, who would be pacing him later on, had just won the San Diego Rock'n Roll marathon.  To my dismay, as I was finishing up my conversation with Edgar I realized my bladder was empty.  I was perplexed.  My other bottle was still about half full, but I had 3 or so miles to go, it was hot, and I assumed the climb would only be getting worse.  As I kept moving rather quickly due to my panic, I realized the trail was flattening out and I only had about 2 miles to go.  I would survive.  At this point I came upon Alan, who was at a low point in his race.  This was also his first 100.  I was feeling great so we chatted about our race history and I kept him moving.  He also had the honor of becoming the first recipient of the tiny purple pocket penis.  He carried it for me to the next aid station, where I excitedly shared with my crew that I had finally released this treasure.

Alan and I with tiny purple
pocket penis
         I was getting close to mile 50, which I had hoped to reach before 12 hours. I had been running for almost exactly 12 hours when I hit 50 miles. The sun was beginning to descend, as was the trail, and going down I started to feel my toes jamming into the front of my Newtons.  These were supposed to be my go to shoes, but my feet were sliding around.  I tightened my laces, which helped a little. The light shining through the trees here was stunning and I tried to focus on the beauty around me. My morale started to wane, really for the first time.  I got into the next aid station and for the first time had a hard time smiling, I felt my voice start to crack. I changed into my Solomons, which I hadn't really trained in much, but were my last resort. It was time for a clothing change, since the sun was starting to go down.  I realized I would not be seeing my crew again until mile 72, and despite the fact that I would be picking up my first pacer, Ben, at the next aid station, I felt a little despondent.

        I took off again and about a minute out I went to take a swig of my perpetuem and realized someone had filled it with tailwind thinking it was water and then added my perpetuem powder.  Please never try this concoction. This was really not a big deal, but in my state it almost brought tears to my eyes.  Fortunately I quickly linked up with another runner, Christina I believe, and with conversation my mood improved.  Turned out she was from Flagstaff and remembered me as the runner who was one place ahead of her at this year's Crown King 50k.  We talked about a lot of the people we both knew, the fact that we were both doing our first 100, and then picked up a few more ladies.  I felt great again, and for the 2nd time my friend the tiny purple pocket penis escaped from my s-cap pocket and was introduced to my new friend.  One runner kissed it for luck.

        At the next aid station I picked up Ben and felt better.  I gave him shit once I realized he was responsible for the tailwind/perpetuem debacle, but its hard to get mad at this guy.  We took off on a long descent as the sun went down.  I was nervous for the night, which I assumed would bring an insufferable cold.  I was prepared with several layers- jackets, hats, socks, leggings- that my crew had ready.  Ben and I had a little therapy session and focused on picking other runners off- one thing I'm embarrassed to say really motivates me.  The rocky downhills were taking their toll on me, and I worried about my knees and quads slowing me down.  Bret's words came into my head "Smile," and I forced myself into a grin that did help me stay positive.

          We had a big climb coming at mile 64.1, so I took out my tunes for motivation.  Poor Ben had to listen to me singing while gasping for air.  We had a solid hiking pace for a while, and were flip flopping with Erin and Rich McKnight for most of the stretch.  Around this time I also passed the tiny purple pocket penis to Ben, a gift thanking him for pacing me.

           Ben got me moving faster again when we decided we needed to catch the McKnights before the next aid station.  I love these guys, but catching them became my goal and I was able to coax my legs into keeping up with Ben's pace. We were really moving again.  We caught them just before the aid station, and suddenly it seemed very important that we leave the aid station before them.  Miguel and Nichol were there to feed and encourage me. Miguel would take over the pacing from here.  It was pretty warm, so I decided to take off a layer, and  Miguel was heading out in shorts and a t-shirt.  At this point I was having a really hard time holding food down as well, I thank my pacers for force feeding me.

         Miguel and I got out of the aid station before the McKnights, and I was ready for Miguel to push me for the last 20 miles.  A couple minutes into this stretch, which would be from mile 79.4 to 88, Miguel stopped and waited for me for a moment.  As I approached him, he took one of his full water bottles and splashed freezing cold water in my face.  I guess this tactic worked, because it got me pissed off and moving at a decent pace.  Dick.  This would be interesting.  I knew he was my pacer now, not my boyfriend. But then we held hands and ran for a while.  Hmmm. He kept me moving for a couple miles, then we slowed down and he said he was giving me a break.  I did not appreciate this.  I was in a nice groove, I wanted to keep moving, and I wanted to tag the McKnights again.  We continued walking.  I asked him what his strategy was.  He said he had consulted James Bonnet on this and I should trust him.  Wasn't the last 20 miles the time to start really racing?  I knew I was far from meeting my 24 or 26 hour goal at this point, but I still wanted to push.

          Then it got cold.  Really fucking cold.  I was cursing Miguel and Nichol for letting me take my layers off.  In my head, it was not my fault.  Looking back, I see it was just as much my responsibility as it was theirs.  Mostly I took all of my misery out on Miguel.  I told him I would probably die of hypothermia.  At one point he let me warm my hands on his belly.  Other than this I got very little sympathy.  Little did I know he was freezing his ass off.  He didn't complain, he tried to convince me it was all in my head.  I said no, its fucking freezing out and my body is cold.  I don't know how long this all went on, it must have been at least 4 or 5 miles, but it was definitely my low point in the race.  Miguel kept me moving, and for that I am grateful.

           When we got to the next aid station, Chambers, I was a mess.  Nichol was there with a blanket, and as she enveloped me in it and her arms, I fell apart.  First and only tears until the finish.  We found a heater, I had some pancakes, and things got better. 12 more miles, that was it.  This was the time to really move.  As we had come into the aid station, I was surprised to see Rich and Erin leaving.  We weren't that far behind.

            There would be two more climbs before the finish.  At this point I was dreading the downhills more than the climbs.  Miguel and I took off at a good pace, though I'm pretty sure I was still pissed at him.  We slowed down.  I had trouble staying motivated.  Miguel went ahead, trying to pull me as much as he could.  I wasn't keeping up.  We caught up to the McKnights, and I lost all desire to pass them.  We hiked with them, talking about how we were ready for this to be over.  We joked.  I was having fun again, and this was what I needed.  I could tell Miguel was frustrated.  He was trying to do his job, I wasn't moving. 

            As we went into the final aid station, I got another water bottle in the face from Miguel.  The volunteers at the aid station seemed both shocked and entertained.  We were in and out fast, but as we were leaving I made sure to get Miguel back, which I believe the aid station volunteers enjoyed even more.
             The last  7.1 miles were both challenging and entertaining.  Miguel tried again to keep me moving, and I still was lacking my drive.  We hung with the McKnights, and Miguel must have given up on his pacing tactics and resorted to something else.  He pulled down his pants.  I was actually not surprised to see his bare ass running it front of me, as this is something he does on a pretty regular basis, but when I said "Go show Rich," and he sprinted ahead to pass by the McKnights, there may have  been some real damage done.  Next, after commenting how beautiful the grass and flowers in the field we were running along were, he jumped into them.  Flat on his back.  It was at this point that Erin realized what I deal with daily.  Last, as he was running ahead of my I heard a rustle in the bushes and Miguel had disappeared.  I had an idea what had happened, but when he popped out of the bushes Erin just about died.  Literally.  We pondered how unfortunate it would have been if she had actually had a heart attack due to Miguel's shenanigans and we had to carry her to the finish line. That guy.
Erin and I post race

             Last 2 miles.  At the top of the hill, we were with Rick and Erin.  Nature called so they went ahead, then Miguel and I continued a few minutes behind.  I was sure I wouldn't be able to run down the rocky trail.  We got moving, and Miguel started pushing.  He was behind me, his words trailing me, "This is it, this is everything you worked for.  This is what you love."  His words kept me moving, and the pain went away.  Soon I was flying (or felt like I was flying) down the trail, dodging rocks (Miguel :"The rocks are your friends, trust your eyes and your feet.")  Everything was hitting me, I had to keep it together, just to the finish line.  I felt so strong, I couldn't believe it was almost over.  As the finish line became visible, I realized it was over.  It always amazes me how you can dig deep inside when you think you have nothing left.  You see the end and every ounce of energy you have left propels you faster than you can imagine your body can handle after all you have put it through.
The finish: 27:50:48
              At the finish line I was greeted with a hug from race director Scotty Mills.  It's heart warming that he gives every single finisher a hug.  I'm sure its very smelly too.  I lost it, but I think my tears were hidden as I hugged and congratulated Erin (seconds ahead of me).  My crew and friends were all there.  I didn't think it'd be possible, but I managed a strong cartwheel.  I had made a point of not asking how everyone else was doing while I was running.  I didn't want to worry, I didn't want to compare myself to anyone else.  But I was delighted to hear that Jeremy killed it with a time of 22:57:55. Tim came WICKED close to his goal at 26:15:53.  And remember that gal that helped me come up with this crazy idea of running 100 miles: 1st place female for her first 100 miler.  Incredible. 

Embrace from Miguel at the finish line
        And that was it.  Done. Honestly, not as bad as I thought it would be. Had a couple sips of beer and almost passed out.  I have never been so tired and emotionally drained. I have to finish again by giving thanks to my crew... I just hope I can convince them to come along for the next one.

         Big congratulations to all of those who ran, whether finishers or not.  We did this together, and everybody kicked ass.
Post race carnage- Tim Hackett, Tyler and Chris Clemens, me