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On Eating and Running in Circles: Javelina Jundred K Race Report

I did it! My goal this year was to finish the two races I’d DNF’d: my, “Year of Redemption”. In April I finished Zane Grey and this past Saturday I finished the Javelina Jundred K. So now I’m going to tell you all about my race. Yay!

My friend Becky agreed to crew and pace me, so we rode together to the race. As we were making our way towards Jeadquarters there were port-a-potties lacking lines! Score! I got the prerace movement out

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Photo Credit: Pete Chavez

of the way and then we continued to find our friends in the Jeadquarters crowd. We found the pop-ups and were greeted by Aimee who was there to crew Tomio who was running the 100 mile (he was already out on the course), and Pete and his friend Frankie. Soon enough it was time to make my way to the start.

I’ve heard a million race starts, and I know this course like the back of my hand thanks to living here for years and running here all summer (loop one 22 miles, all other loops washing machine 19.5 miles), so I didn’t really notice what was said. I lined up with the 226 other runners just telling myself “don’t go too fast”. My plan for the day was to maintain 12 minute miles for the first two loops, then just finish the third. I was a little concerned about the heat of the day, so I was wearing a long sleeved button-up white shirt. The purpose of this was to keep the sun off of me as much as I could (I was going to be tired enough without the extra drain of the sun), but also keep me warm while I was chilly in the morning, and cool during the heat. I’d actually never tried it before, so it was a shot in the dark. Aside from pace and heat concerns, I really just wanted to get going. The taper had been driving me insane and I was in dire need of a long run. I couldn’t wait!

Standing there, looking at all the other runners, the sunrise over the mountains, the Start/Finish line, I felt a sense of completeness. I remembered the day three years ago when I set out on this same race and how that day went. Poorly. Exceedingly poorly. I remembered the runner I was then, the friends who were there. I thought about what a different place I was in now and how strange that was. I’ve learned so much. I was ready to do this.

Jubilee counted us down and we were doing the race-start shuffle. Spectathletes were cheering as we rounded through Jeadquarters and headed out into the desert. The first two miles are on Shallmo Wash trail: note, this is not IN a wash (thankfully) but next to one. It’s a nice trail. As with any race start, we were all fairly bunched, but quickly began to string out. I worked really hard to keep my pace down, but I felt like I was crawling when I was in the 11’s, so I went with that. I kept my breathing slow, steady, easy. As runners passed me I forced myself to let them. I did pass a few runners at the beginning, but not many. Mostly I just focused on my groove. I had too far to go to blow it all in the first few miles.

Once we hit Pemberton the trail widened considerably and we were all able to run much more comfortably. I hadn’t really paid attention to how far the aid stations were (which is usually the first thing I do for any race), but I was pretty sure there was one a couple miles in. This was Coyote aid, manned by the Hashers. I was running with a full pack, as I’d decided to pretty much just carry whatever I’d want with me, mostly only stopping at the stations if I needed water. After running self-supported all summer, I somehow found it difficult to wrap my head around not carrying things with me. Coyote aid was just four miles in and I was completely fine. I was pleasantly surprised however to see a port-a-pottie… what?!?!? I toilet at a remote aid station??? I was elated. I was already in need of one and this was so much easier than the usual desert dart. After this quick pit stop on the outskirts of the aid station, I ran through, vowing to stop later for a quick Hasher pick me up (if you’re unfamiliar with the Hashers, they are a drinking club with a running problem, so this means alcohol).

I ran. Held my pace. Settled in around 11:30 and just trotted along. I felt someone drafting off of me, which irritates me. I don’t know why. I picked it up a bit and they held on.

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Photo Credit: Jon Christley

We got into Jackass Junction aid and my friend Jon was there to take a picture! This made me smile because during my first 50 mile race (the McDowell Mountain Frenzy), also at this park, he was at this same location, although at that race this aid station is called Granite Tank. Anyway, he took my picture then too. I confirmed with him that there was one more aid station on the course before Main, so I ran through. Because of this, I lost my draft. Finally.

The next 5-ish miles are all easy rolling downhill. I made myself keep the pace over 11 minute miles. It was HARD. This section is meant for flying. But I did it, and rolled into Rattesnake aid just as I needed more water. Perfect. Quick fill and I was out.

Next was Escondido, and this was the only time I would have to run it as the remaining loops were not on this trail. Starting on the north end, I like the first few miles of this trail as it just glides downhill and is pretty. Then you hit the southern end and blech. It’s exposed and as soon as the sun rises, it gets it full force, so it’s always hot. So I just pushed on through, continuing with the easy, light breathing. I chatted with a woman briefly about my Luna’s. She was very interested in them and what it was like running in them. I love my Luna’s. They are all I run in. My feet stay cool and can breathe and don’t feel suffocated and confined. They’re great.

Soon, Escondido was done. I looped into Jeadquarters and stopped at the pop-up for my lunch. I downed

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Photo Credit: Colleen Zato

most of a can of cold ravioli (SO DELICIOUS), and a baggie of blackberries (OMG), and a baggie of pears (all the nomz). My amazing friends took care of refilling my pack. I felt like I was being super high maintenance, “I need this and this, no, not that.” As I mentioned, I’m so used to being self-supported, it was strange to have help. I didn’t know what to do. But I so appreciated each of their faces. They were so amazing and so kind. I put on the socks I’d brought in case my feet started to need a little something, which they did, and I was set. Time to go.

On a side note, my friend Kathi made me try Hammer’s Recoverite. It’s a drink. It has shit in it that’s supposed to be all good for you. I don’t know. What I do know is that drinking it before, during, and after my long runs has made a HUGE difference. It might just be the forced hydration, but whatever, it works. I drank a full thing before (like 750mLs + two scoops of powder). Then on this stop I drank another 750mLs of it. I felt great.

I started out on loop two which headed out Cinch to Scenic trail (I would come back into Jeadquarters on Shallmo Wash). Cinch and Scenic are very gently uphill. Easy grade. I felt good, so I continued with my same easy breathing. I like greeting the other runners as we pass by each other. I usually say, “Good job” to everyone. Some say it back, or something similar. One guy was a dick and said I was showing off because I was running uphill. That pissed me off and I had many conversations with him in my head over the next bunch of miles. Maybe I should say thank you. The irritation gave me lots of creative imaginations to picture and I was entertained. 

Moving on, this loop was similar, just reverse of the first. The sun was now blazing in all its glory, but I felt very comfortable. The white shirt did its job superbly. In addition, I’d left the sleeves loose and unbuttoned, so the breeze blew up and cooled my arms. As the trail became a little steeper, I would walk for a few steps here and there before continuing running. Again, easy-easy. One guy I remember passed me and I saw him ahead of him for a while. He suddenly disappeared and I wasn’t sure if he’d stopped to poop or just taken off. I saw him later and he said something to me about me getting ahead of him, so he must’ve been off-trail.

Now it was warm. When I came into Jackass this time, my friend Andrew was there volunteering and refilled my water. The slider on the bladder was ridiculously stiff, so we struggled with that for a bit. I put some Squirrels Nut Butter on it in an attempt to lube it up. I don’t know that it helped, but it did make my fingers slimy. Eventually we got it and I was out.

Now I started to slowly pick people off. It was hot out for most people. I was in my element. I maintained my easy breathing and just ran. I still felt good. I got into Coyote where another friend (I think it was Jason???? Starting to get fuzzy….) refilled my water again. People were looking really overheated. I decided to try a cider from Angry Orchard that the Hashers had out. Yummy.

The last few miles back into Jeadquarters I vowed to run, but I was starting to feel pretty tired. Plus, a spot in my right quad was kind of aching. I finally just had to walk. I walked for maybe half a mile (note, I

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Photo Credit: Marie Feutrier

was now somewhere around 40 miles, so all distances I mention from here on out should be viewed through that lens) and then ran again. My friends Vincent and Marie were waiting as I ran into Jeadquarters to take pictures! They’d also snapped a bunch of other runners as well. (Marie is a professional photographer, you can connect with her on Facebook.)

This time when I came in, my husband and kids were there! I was super happy to see them. I wasn’t sure what time they would be by. When you’re the runner, you’re out and going and the time quickly slides by: not so if you’re a spectathlete. As the spectathlete you have a few minutes of frenzied excitement when your runner comes in as you get them all situated, but then they’re out for a bunch of hours and you’re waiting again. Not that this time is boring! If you plan it right, you have yourself a party and it’s great! It’s also really fun and inspiring to watch all the different runners with all their different stories and journeys that brought them to this moment, doing this thing. Anyway, my point was that it was encouraging that my family was there. Andy was asking me some question that I simply could not understand while I ate some Spaghettio’s (unfortunately these did not taste anywhere near as amazing as the ravioli’s had). He asked me repeatedly. I think he even reworded it. Still nothing. Ultra-brain had set in. I ate more blackberries, more pears, sweet potatoes, a potato, another Recoverite. Becky replenished my baby food fruit squeezy’s that I like to eat while I run. For some reason when I’m shopping for these I always think banana sounds so yummy, but then when I’m running it become revolting. So ixnay on anything with banana (it turns out something with peaches in it though was superb: just the right amount of sour). At some point I realized how much fruit I was eating. I love fruit. I live on it, good stuff, but this was a lot, even for me. This made me think about how much I was going to poop the next day, and this amused me.

As I got ready to set out on my last loop, Andy gave me a hug that really lifted my heart and stuck with me the entire rest of the race. In his voice I heard pride in me; that he believed in me. If you ask him he’d probably look confused at this sentiment and tell you he’d just farted and was relieved, but I’m going with he was proud of me.

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Photo Credit: Marie Feutrier

Becky and I set out together. From previous races, I knew that I have a tendency to get a little wacky after about 45 miles. I just get emotional, start crying, can’t hold myself together. I just needed her to be with me. She was so amazing. I’ve known Becky for years and we’ve run many adventures together. So many memories! We went all deep right away discussing life and work. She really helped me with something I’d been struggling with. Before I knew it we were in and out of Coyote (although before leaving Coyote, I got to say hi to my friend Mitzi. Her smile always lights up a race!).

I walked large chunks of the next section. I had lost a lot of my agility and this part has some rocks I was not maneuvering as I would have liked. It was a good rest. When I hit the back side, I picked it up again until I began to feel really incredibly NOT hungry. I know from past experience this is a precursor to badness and that I’m actually SUPER hungry. I needed to start putting food in me or I was going to get sick. I ate a Perpetuem tablet. These are strange little beasts, also by Hammer like the Recoverite. They are a chalky white hockey puck that you chew. When you chew them, they become sort of chewy as opposed to chalky. Super weird. They also apparently have good shit in them. I don’t know. What I do know is that this is what finally stayed down at Zane, and these little suckers take care of runner hunger like nobody’s business. Eating one of these was enough to get me solid again and I ran into Jackass where they were grilling burgers. BURGERS. I tried a vegan one because they didn’t have any meat ones and almost gagged. I like vegan burgers, but not right now. I think my friend Tim found and ripped me off a corner of a real burger and I took one bite and knew that was the stuff right there. It was so greasy and delicious. The grease really is what made it perfect.

I’d had the urge to cop a desert squat for a few miles, but I’d held off knowing there would be toilets at Jackass. Part of me was a little dismayed with myself (how soft are you? what is this, a marathon???) but mostly I was really happy and thankful for this nasty (I mean seriously, you’ve heard horror stories of how runners “feel” during a race, right? Now imagine all of that is compiled into one location.) place to park it for a few and not have to try to balance and avoid falling over off of tired quads and calves.

As Becky finished up at the aid station, I sat in the dirt for a little while. It felt good to sit there. The cross-legged position was a welcome shift in direction for my tired hips and butt. My friends Carly and Amy were there volunteering! They were both super busy, but Carly gave me a, “I survived Jackass Junction” bracelet (Jackass is an all-night part-ay, underline and drag out the “ay”) and Amy gave me huge hug and told me she was proud of me.

Becky and I set out again, now on the easiest stretch, downhill. But I was getting very tired. I ran until I was too tired and needed to walk for a minute, and then I ran again until I couldn’t anymore. Downhill felt great until I was tired of that and then I wanted uphill. Then uphill felt great until I was tired of that and wanted flat. At one point I saw a race marker with a reflector that was on a tree. I thought it was someone’s headlamp, so I said, “Good job.” I then realized what it was and that my head had started to go and laughed. That’s funny right there.

We did this running/walking down into Rattlesnake. I think I’d stopped telling people good job. I was tired and talking was too much. Thankfully Becky was still telling people good job. We got to Rattlesnake. I think I downed a coke. The volunteers were so nice and were saying, “No, wait, what do you need? What can we get you?” I don’t know exactly what I said, just that I knew I was close and needed to get to the finish line. I needed to MOVE.

The last four miles are kind of a dark blur. I just moved as fast as I could make myself go. Walk run walk run walk run. Turn onto Scenic. So close. Turn onto Cinch. Almost there. Music from the finish line. Pick it up. Glow in the sky from the finish line. Pick it up. Into the light of the finish line. Run with all you’ve got. Just a quarter mile left. Blow past Jeadquarters aid. Faster. Down the straight. Go faster. Round the bend. All the pop-ups. Faster. My people cheering me. NOW GO!!! On the toes, arms and legs a pumping blur, full open stretched out run. Shoot across the finish line. Done. Bend over for a few minutes. Don’t fall over. Upright. Where are the buckles? I need my buckle. 

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So that’s my JJK experience, although of course it doesn’t end there. Afterwards I hung out at the pop-up. I changed out of my wet clothes because I was starting to freeze. My friend Cam was there and leant me his puffy coat and got me a sparkling water. Adam, Chris, and Jonathan were there to tell me congratulations. I’m sure there are other friends I saw out there who helped me and talked to me helped me and my ultra-brain has forgotten. I’m sorry! I really appreciated every single person I saw! You made my race! 

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We made it! Photo Credit: … Uh… Aimee? I can’t remember! But on Becky’s phone!

I am especially thankful for my husband and family. My daughter came flying in to tell me she was having so much fun running around. My son told me he’d had a blast by staying at the DJ tent rather than greeting me (priorities people, come on- mom finishes races all the time. I don’t always get to DJ). Andy was there getting me everything I asked for, even going all the way over to the Freak Brother’s Pizza to find out about that for me. Aimee made sure I was comfortable and situated. Becky and I relayed our experience as we waited for Tomio to come in. I wanted to see him off on his final loop of his 100 miles. The one time I’d seen him on the course he’d looked really strong, and Aimee was able to track his location, he wasn’t far.

He came in solidly, sat down and everyone took care of him. Well, I didn’t. I was done moving. I applauded from across the pop-up. I was most impressed when, after he’d been all doctored and fed, he just stood right up out of the chair. Dude was 80 miles into the race, running like a beast, and stood up out of low-hanging camp chair like nothing. No hesitation, no testing tight muscles, just up and at ‘em! Nice!! After we cheered him off, it was time for me to go. I was cold and filthy. I wanted bed, food, a shower. All the things. Andy stayed right by my side all the way to the Jeep. I was wobbly and spent.

We got home and a shower won out first. I was really, really tired and really, really hungry. Tired won out, however I knew this meant I would wake up at some point absolutely ravenous… and I did. Two am? Three am? I walked out to the kitchen, then walked right back into the bedroom and told Andy he needed to get me food, it was unwise for me to be standing. I was too spent and too hungry and didn’t need to be getting woozy.

First I asked for a glass of milk. Then all the spaghetti. Then a glass of chocolate milk. I was still hungry, but felt like this would hold me over until morning. Morning came and Andy mentioned Filiberto’s breakfast burrito. I think a bit of my inner beast showed its face, like a light growl, just a bit of fang. He was out the door and back with Filiberto’s in no time.

It has now been nearly a week and I feel so incredibly good. Like ridiculously good. My hip didn’t act up once during the race and now feels mostly normal. My stiffness and soreness has been super minimal. I’ve definitely felt way worse. Apparently actually putting in a full training effort while knowing and listening to your body’s signs, plus a strong taper, is a good idea. Who knew? I am forcing myself to not run at all this week. It’s hard. I’m going crazy. After months of 40-70 miles/ week I crave it. I miss it. I need it. It’s life, it’s breathing. But it’s okay. Rest now to run much later.

Now the inevitable question, what’s next? I don’t know. This was my Year of Redemption. Finish the races I’d never finished. Prove to myself I can do this thing. It’s been a journey. I’ve learned a lot.

She looked at it and said, “It is good.”

Next? Well, as much as I don’t want to, I need to focus on school for the next few months, so no big races. My deep drive lately has been to get back into the wild. I love people, but I’ve been around people too much lately. Time to disappear. Time for quiet.

Time for adventures.

 

 

 

 

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Zane Grey 50 and the Ultra Family that Could

The morning dawned… no, no that’s not right. It would’ve been way nicer if the morning had dawned. No, instead, my alarm went off at 4:05 am. This is not dawn. This is dumb. Anyway…

In anticipation of a stupid wake-up time, I slept in my race clothes, hair already braided. I rolled out of bed, totally grouchy, threw on my hat, watch, and some sunscreen, grabbed my breakfast, and met my friends Jesse, Kathi, and her husband Chris, in the lobby of the hotel at 4:25. We had a lively ride to Pine Trailhead. Poop was probably discussed. I’m not positive on that, but I was involved in the conversation, so it’s likely. Poop: it brings people together.

We arrived at the race start about 15 minutes before the race would begin. I realized I’d forgotten my flashlight. As in, I hadn’t even thought to pack one to bring to Payson with me. Lovely. Well, I run in the black regularly, I could make that work, but I figured I’d ask at the registration table if they happened to have any extra lights. The look on Joe’s face was priceless. I’m sure you can picture the look: “You are at the start of one of the hardest ultra’s in the country…. And you didn’t think to bring a flashlight. We will find your body on the trail.” It was a great moment. My friend Laurie was there crewing her husband, and she thankfully had a light she let me borrow- problem solved!

Race start time- ish. We all corralled. Joe said some stuff about markings and things. Then we started running.

Let me back up just a skosh. Last year I started Zane Grey 50 mile with an injury. This injury flared horribly within the first mile. The rest of my race, until my DNF 7 miles from the finish (over cutoff), was a practice in walking as fast as I could. This has haunted me. I needed to finish this race. This year I did my best not be injured, forgoing all races, and even doing almost no running the last three weeks before the race. My plan for the day was to maintain a comfortable, gentle, (read slow) pace for the first 50k (it’s a freaking long 50k) and then pick it up if possible. Remember child, Highline eats her babies. Don’t go too fast. I’ve run here a lot. I know this. The pace I was wanting would allow me to stay comfortably ahead of cutoffs at the aid stations. All I wanted was to finish Zane. My first mile went really well this year. Then my hands got fat.

No, really, like FAT. I thought they were just cold at first, but no, they looked like Fat Bastard’s hands in Austin Powers, only with fewer dimples and no wrinkles. Weird. I don’t usually have any issues with swelling fingers, at least not very much, and certainly not within the first few miles of a run. Whatever, I could still run just fine.

Kathi and I hung together, chatting and really enjoying our time. We rolled into Geronimo aid, mile 8-ish, just a few minutes ahead of our goal time. We were doing great. We watered the bushes and moved on out.

The next miles into Washington Park aid rolled by. We were both really looking forward to that aid station because our husbands and families would be there. Turns out they only beat us there by about 5 minutes! We were making good time- not too fast, just steady and comfortable. We both felt good. We ate some food, watered the bushes again, and were off again.

I knew from my training runs that the course out of WA Park was much longer than before, but much more runnable, due to trail work and clean switchbacks. Kathi and I trucked along, sometimes I pulled her, sometimes she pulled me. Sometimes we lost each other for a bit. I think it was somewhere in here that I tripped, and when I caught myself my calf cramped. Weird. So I walked that off. Then as I started to run up a hill, my hamstrings cramped. Even weirder. The calf cramp made sense, sort of, but I’ve never had my hamstrings cramp before, and I don’t cramp in general. So I walked for a bit- cramped up hamstrings could completely finish me off. When I got into Hell’s Gate aid station, Kathi was just a little behind me and gave me some Endurolytes. My hands were still all super fat, and that coupled with the start of cramps, I thought maybe I needed something. Still weird, though, because I never use any kind of salt- I just rely on my food for all nutrition.

I moved out of Hell’s Gate and felt pretty good. Just rolled. No more cramping. I ate my food, I drank my water, and then, then I started to not feel so great. I couldn’t name it exactly, just something was up. I kind of felt nauseous. I wasn’t hot, I’d been drinking normally. I’d peed a few times. Not great colored pee, but I was peeing, and I don’t normally pee more than once on a run of that length (you totally wanted to know that, right?). Kathi caught me and pulled me, and shoved me towards Fish Hatchery. We rounded a bend and there was my husband, Andy, standing just at the bend of the trail looking for me. I just lost it and started crying. I had a very emotional spot. I knew something was going on with me, but for the life of me, I had no idea what. He gave me a huge bear hug that I really needed.  

Kathi and I then ran into Fish Hatchery aid station. Everyone was cheering so loudly, I was crying all over the place. There were so many friends there! I got a really great hug from Todd. I probably hugged some other people too. I was in a blur. We had a significant time buffer by this point, so I sat down in the road and tried to figure out what I needed. My ginormous hands were struggling to get things out of my pack pockets, so I readjusted those. I ate what I could, but food wasn’t sounding great. I drank some water, and some sugar and all. My pacer Amy was there and was so helpful, and Andy brought me delicious coke. Kathi got going with her pacer- she had been struggling with an injury for over a year, and needed to keep moving to keep it at bay. The medic came over to check on me- I must have already been looking like a hot mess at that point. I certainly felt like one. I don’t usually have medics check on me.

I finished up and Amy and I walked out of Fish Hatchery. Zane is difficult for many reasons, one of which, in my opinion, is that while the first 30+ miles are difficult, the last 20 miles are brutal. I knew I would be walking a lot. So that’s what Amy and I did. And it was okay. I had enough of a buffer, I knew all I needed to do in order to finish was to leave See Canyon aid station by 7:15 pm. As long as I did that, I was golden to finish. We hiked up the big hill out of Fish, ran the downs. But something was wrong. I just didn’t feel right. I turned to the side of the trail and forcibly launched all my food and water I’d taken in at Fish Hatchery into the grass (That means I puked. A lot.) Now, RARELY puke. Two pregnancies and no puking. Sick with the flu? Maybe I’ll puke, maybe. Sick with food poisoning? Naw, no need to puke. Needless to say, I’d never puked during a run before. Never really even felt particularly nauseous. Add it to the weirdness of the day.

After puking I felt much better. I was concerned about my hydration, so I started taking little sips of water periodically just so my body would have something. We moved pretty well until we hit some uphill (this is Zane, it’s a lot of uphill) and then I threw up again. I would drink a little bit of water, we’d hit a hill, I’d puke. I lost track of how many times this happened. Amy was there the whole time. She moved my hair out of the way (I’d puked on it the first time, and then she handed me a wet wipe and helped me clean up my pukey self), she rubbed my back. She didn’t even gag, at least not that I noticed. I thought, “Well, maybe I just need to go up the hill REALLY slowly, and then I won’t puke.” Or, “Maybe if I sit down on the uphills periodically, I won’t puke.” It didn’t matter. I puked and puked and puked every time. I puked until there was nothing left to puke, and then I puked some more. I always felt better after puking, but then we’d climb and I’d puke again. My body and head felt solid, completely fine, but my stomach just wouldn’t quit. Finally, after yet another puke, I just gave up on drinking. There was no point. Funny thing, that, I stopped puking and I was finally able to haul ass. It was a hiking ass-hauling, but it was strong and felt great. I even peed again, and there was a significant amount and it was good color… What?!?!?! This whole day makes none sense.

  We got into See Canyon aid station about 20 minutes before cutoff. I learned that Kathi had come in and decided to finish!!! I was so glad! As I mentioned, she’d been struggling with injuries for a long time and really was unsure about even making it to Fish Hatchery, let alone finishing. She was out and gonna do it!!!! Strong woman right there. Me meanwhile… I sat down and drank the ginger ale Andy brought me. I nibbled an M & M, a potato chip, I sucked the sugar off a gummy thing. Kathi’s husband was there and gave me a Perpetuem tablet. I managed two bites of that. I was seriously thinking I was going to have to drop here. Again. 7 miles left and another DNF. I’d even joked to Amy on the way into See, “I’ll make further in Zane this year, but not make it any further.” (Last year it was 46 miles at See Canyon, this year it was like 48). I knew the trail out of See Canyon, it sucks even on a good day. On a day where every uphill makes you puke? Inconceivable. I was cold and shaking under a down puffy coat and fleece blanket. My lips were purple. I looked like a salty zombie. It seemed unwise to continue. I’d essentially had nothing to eat or drink since Fish, apparently preferring to leave it all on the trail. But I had a thought. I still had time to leave the aid station, and as long as you leave See Canyon by cutoff, you can take as long as you need to finish. What if I just walked out, and Andy stayed at See Canyon for a little while. I would know pretty quickly if I was going to continue with the puking. If the puking continued, Amy could run back and tell Andy and I would come back to See. If the puking stopped? I could finish. I broached the idea and my crew agreed. I got up and walked out.

The first tenth of a mile I felt horrible. It was slow. I was zipped up in the down coat and the fleece was around my shoulders and I was shaking, teeth chattering. But as we got moving a little, I started to warm up. We hit the first uphill and I didn’t need to puke. I took off the fleece, eventually, unzipped the coat, and booked it up the hill. Still just hiking, but it was a very fast hike. I decided not to drink anything. I was afraid of pissing off my stomach again. I’d had an entire cup of ginger ale at See, and I’d peed just before that, plus it was cold now, I should be good enough.

 It got dark, and there was the flashlight making me think of Laurie. I shined my light on the trail and Amy’s feet ahead of me and I just followed her feet. We chatted. I was so incredibly thankful for everything she’d done for me that day. I knew that I would not have made it that far without her. This entire day was a group effort, all to get me across the finish line. From Laurie giving me a light at the start, to Kathi and I pushing and pulling each other for the first part of the race, to the NUMEROUS friends I’d seen along the journey, leapfrogging with them, laughing, (some finishing, some not), to good ultra friends at the aid stations, to Andy being there and encouraging me and helping me, to Amy helping me puke and pulling me along the hardest part of the trail: I’d needed and was so thankful for every single person there that day. So, she and I hoofed it. At the top of the See climb, the landscape opens up. Looking west, towards where I’d started out the day, I could see a promontory of the Rim. There was a low lying cloud stringing out just below its peak in silhouette, otherwise the sky was clear and the moon was gorgeous. It was beautiful and peaceful. I was grateful I’d made it to this familiar spot on this very hard day.

The next handful of miles to the finish are a blur. I was so very tired. Amy set a strong pace and I just kept up. The dark closed in around me, but Amy was there. Eventually there was a sign saying we had 1 mile left. I was so exhausted, I wasn’t even excited about this, I just wanted to be done. Then Amy said we only had a quarter of a mile left. I just agreed. I had no idea about anything by then. Suddenly Amy stepped aside and said, “You’re there! There’s the finish! Go get it!” So I did.

I crossed that line, my watch reading 55.8 miles (50 miles my ass) and then just sat down in the grass. I didn’t want to move anymore. Andy was there and gave me a space blanket. Somehow I was covered in my fleece blanket again. I was shaking and cold, and tired, but I’d made it. I’d gone 20 miles with essentially no food or fluids except for a cup of ginger ale, but I’d made it. Somehow I was up off the ground and in a chair. My friend Miguel came and congratulated me. He’d paced his girlfriend the last 20 miles and declared Zane, “Efn hard.” I think I agree. Kathi’s husband was there and gave me a gift from Kathi (she’d finished, OF COURSE, but she’d needed to go). Andy put my finisher’s medal, picture, and jacket in my lap. (Just to let you know how fuzzy my head was, after Andy read this blog post, he informed me that Kathi’s husband was not there. Do not trust the ultra brain.)

The medic came to check on me again. He asked me where I was. This confused me. Where the fuck do you think I am? I just finished Zane. I’m at 260 Trailhead. Is this a trick question? He laughed. He asked me how I was feeling: cold, tired, sad, happy. How much detail do you need? He seemed pretty happy with my responses, but asked if I wanted them to take my vitals just to be sure. That seemed like a good idea, and I told him so. He agreed. I showed him my Fat Bastard hands, and told him when that had started. My blood pressure was 113/82, I think my pulse was 88 and blood O2 was 97 (apparently I still had the faculties to remember numbers). He was satisfied with these, and with the fact that I was interacting with and joking with him. He warned me not to blast the heat, or get in too hot of a shower, or I might pass out. Otherwise, I was good to go.

So, that was my Zane. My hands are returning to normal, slowly, my left one more than my right. But they at least have some contours again, so that’s positive.

I’d never heard of, let alone contemplated ultras before hearing about Zane. Once I learned they were a thing, I really wanted to run one, so I did. Then I ran another, and another. Zane was always my bucket list race since it was the first I’d heard of. DNF’ing it last year was so hard, but I learned so much from that experience, and I knew I had to come back and try again. As I think about how I feel, I’m excited. I remember my first ultra, a 50k, and how horrible my body felt afterwards. I feel better than that. I’m stronger, both physically and mentally, than I was then. But being stronger would not have mattered a bit in my goal of finishing this race were it not for every single person I’ve mentioned in this post, and the numerous others I know my blurred ultra-head missed. Thank you, my ultra family.

Featured Image stolen from my husband. Check out his work here: https://afifield59.wixsite.com/dedtekdesigns

 

A Ramble

“So how does a 50K work?” I was asked this question the other day and it completely confused me; I didn’t understand what was being asked. “Well, I mean, you don’t run it all at once right?” Oooohhhhh. Me: “Well, yes. You do.” I think there was confusion on their face.

It’s mind-boggling to me that there are people who haven’t heard of ultra-marathons; it is what I breathe. All I seem to be able to talk about is either geeky immunology or microbiology (or some other “ology” entirely), or running ultras and the best trails. Everybody I know is the same… well, at least regarding the latter part. I’m always wanting to hit that next trail, it’s constantly on my brain.

Perhaps this is the beauty of the trail running community here in Phoenix. We actually are a community. There are so many people who love the same dirt baths that I love, who aren’t afraid to push their bodies and indulge their curiosity to see how far that trail goes. Every day I see posts on Facebook asking if anyone is free for a run at this trail or that trail, or at a completely new trail. Any time, day or night (more nights as the temperatures begin to climb) people are usually able to find someone who is willing to hop on the trail with them. There are people here who want to be a part of what I love to do, as much as I want to be a part of what they love to do.

There is something incredibly freeing about running long. I know my body now better than I ever have. I know how to fuel it and hydrate it so I can keep going strong. Running long has given me confidence in my physical abilities, and given me reason to believe I am capable of many other things as well. I am seriously incredible. No really, you are too! Look at how our muscles all work together to propel us up a trail. It’s amazing: the brain is firing, the heart is pumping, feet are carefully placed, muscles strain, and sweat flows, all in perfect harmony that feels like agony that is beautiful. Incredible.

As I pursue my dreams and try to encourage others to pursue theirs, I often hear, “Oh no. I’m much too old for that now.” Wha…?????? How is this a thing? I desperately hope that I never, ever find myself in a place where the only reason I won’t pursue a dream is because I believe I’m too old. Too old to climb a mountain? No. Just… no. There is a difference between age and physical capability. If I am unable to climb a mountain because some part of me doesn’t work anymore, or is otherwise not well enough to do so, well then at least I climbed as many mountains as I could while I was able. But to forgo climbing a mountain only because of my age? This is absolutely not acceptable. The same with any other dream- to skip it only because of a strongly held belief that I am too “old”? Again, no. Something I have learned is that our beliefs shape everything about us. They shape our outlook on life, how we view others, how we view ourselves. All of this is simply a belief. When we change our beliefs (No, I’m not too old) our whole world changes.

So this ramble of a blog begins with consternation at the idea of running a 50K, moseys along into my amazing, local trail running community, and culminates at pursuing dreams. How does all of this tie together? Running long is not everyone’s dream, in fact, it’s not most people’s dream (weird, I know). And yet, we all have dreams. Some we have left behind for whatever reason, some we set on a back burner as life rushes by. Running long is how I grow in strength and confidence. It is my foundation for pursuing life. I fully believe I am meant, we all are meant, to pursue life. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s really not, but give me my long run, and I can promise you, I will live this life to its fullest. You should join me.