Thursday, June 28, 2007
Time: 21:15:22, place 28th overall, 6th woman
This past weekend I once again ventured to California for The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. This was the 3rd time I’d signed up for the run. In 2005 I had an amazing year of running and won the event in 18:39:02. Last year I had to withdraw my entry due to a lingering hamstring injury. This year, in 2007, though still dealing with limitations from this chronic injury, I chose, with much apprehension to go ahead and run.
Days before I was scheduled to depart NC I had second thoughts about my ability to participate and finish this event. My hamstring had been very irritated and I couldn’t imagine using it for 20+ hours straight. I was scared that I would start the run and have to drop, or that I would be in so much pain that I would limp in at the 30 hour limit…and I am too much of a wimp to want to be out on the trail that long! After some discussions with my physical therapist and Eric Grossman, I put off my departure from Sunday to the Wednesday before the event, this gave me a few extra days to get massage and evaluate my body. As it turned out the extra days gave me the information needed to head to CA. Though I was still in a “set back”, I felt 20% better than the week before so I figured by Saturday, I might just feel 20% better than when departing!
During the long journey out, I read parts of the book The Secret, loaned to me by a friend who thought it would be helpful to boost my confidence and encourage positive thinking.
I arrived in Alpine Meadows, just a few miles from Squaw Valley and joined Paul Curran of Portland, Hiroki Ishikawa of Japan and Eric Grossman from VA in the Montrail House. We were a tiny crew and would be joined by several others the next day. It was good to be back in CA. I missed the clear night sky, smell of Douglas Fir, and anticipated the dry warmth of the Sierra sun.
Thursday was spent running; hanging out and being interviewed for an NBC TV program called Jeep World of Adventure Sports which will feature WS 100 2007 and will be aired 3pm EST on July 28th. The show is for a general audience who doesn’t know much, if anything about ultraruning. A camera crew came to the Montrail house and interviewed Bev Abbs, Andy Jones-Wilkens, Eric Grossman, and myself. One of the questions they asked caused me to start to cry. When asked, “What is your greatest fear when thinking ahead to Saturday-the sun, the climbs…”? I promptly responded, “My greatest fear is to (gulp)…dnf.” My confidence was very, very low and I knew I had to focus on having a good attitude or fear would take over.
Friday I ran/walked the first couple of miles of the course, did medical check in. Anne Lundblad and I were interviewed together by Shannon Farar-Griefer for a promo film on WS100. Anne seemed tough as always and psyched and ready to go for Saturday. I learned that both camera crews would be following runners during the event and we could expect to see them again. Friday afternoon I also got reacquainted with Eric Ellison who I met at American River 50 miler in April who would crew and pace me the last 20 miles. Paul Curran would pace from Foresthill to the River Crossing.
Many people whom I’d met in ’05 wondered if I was nervous to be racing Nikki and Kami. To a few I confided that my injury was still giving me limitations and I wasn’t in the same league as them. I planned on a 20-22 hour pace. There was a part of me disappointed not to be back strong and race ready. There was a MUCH bigger part of me just thrilled to be back and readying to run at all! I was determined to have a good day. I figured if I could get a top 10 position I will surely be stronger by next year and can come back. I know WS will be there! Whether Saturday would be successful for me would be measured by attitude and mood, rather than time and place.
Saturday came and we finally started running. I came out very slow-my running limitations include having to walk (not power hike) up hills that I used to run. Fortunately I can run flats, downhill and mild up hills. I moved slow and steady with many passing me. I concentrated on the sunrise around me and saying to myself 2 phrases I would repeat 100+ times to myself during the hours, “ You are having a great day.” “You are getting stronger”.
The sun rose. We climbed the escarpment. People cheered. We winded around and down the mountains. Fun! Beautiful! Flowers-marshes, dirt-dust-snakes, familiar faces. Some people commented on me not being “up there”. I tried to think very little about pace and place. Scott Mills cheered me into Lyon Ridge aid station-10.7 miles with elapsed time of 1:58. The camera crews were at Red Star Ridge (16miles, 3:03) and I noticed one of the men was very good at running uphill and backwards with a huge camera. I was grateful just to be carrying my tiny pack and 2 water bottles. I was having a great day!
A mile or so later came the most significant experience of WS 2007 for me. I caught up with a figured walking up a hill with an ipod on. I did a double take and was suddenly sad. My friend Perry must be going through a tough time because he was trained and primed to run an 18-hour race. This was Perry’s 1st 100 miler without his wife. She passed away from cancer 2 months ago and he was missing her. I wanted to walk with him for a bit, but he pushed me on and told me to run my own race.
I continued forward and erupted into sobs as I ran. I sobbed because I was sad for Perry. Because I missed my Dad who died almost 2 years ago from cancer. I thought about the unknowns in life. I thought about George. I knew that whatever unfolded for me as personal successes or disappointments this day-I had someone to go home who loved me and I loved back. I was instantly reminded of the true value of my relationship with George. Although we both consider our relationship to be healthy, it must be nurtured and fed in order to grow. I thought about my plans to run Hardrock 100 and being gone for 20 more days right after this trip. I instantly knew that I needed to stay in NC for the majority of the summer. My drive to run HR this summer disappeared. I thought about wanting to actively value what George and I have together. I thought no more about it. It wasn’t a decision made on a thought level, but one on a gut and intuitive level. (Later as I ran along I hoped my withdrawal from HR would open up a place for Scott Br who so desperately wants to run this year…)
Duncan Canyon was fun-a welcome change from the long dirt roads I experienced last time running this event. In Duncan Canyon I briefly caught up with Meghan Arbogast and we chatted for a few minutes until the trail went up and she ran and I crept.
“I am having a great day and getting stronger”.
Tons of cheering volunteers and crewmembers greeted us a Robinson Flat, mile 29, elapsed time 5:43.Camera crews were there. One guy ran with me out of the aid station and pulled his “running backwards up hill with his camera” trick. At the time I was being filmed tearing into a Clif Bar with my teeth and stuffing chocolate in my face when trying to keep moving forward. All I could think was that at an ultra is one of the few places an adult could act like a 4 year old and it was acceptable. I wiped my nose with the back of my dusty hand. Oh this will be “flattering” coverage!
The climb to Devils Thumb (47.8)was tough. I crept. I was inspired by Caren Spore doing her 1st 100 as she scampered by. She looked great and I predict her to be competing for a win next year. I kept creeping and Meghan passed again. I got bummed because I was moving sooo slow. I just didn’t have the hamstring/glute strength or balance to move faster. Even creeping people finally top out at 9:10 and everything got better after the longest and steepest hill on the course!
Eight miles later I saw Eric Grossman at Michigan Bluff. His stomach was giving him a hard time. I hoped it would get better fast for him. I was in and out of the AS in less than a minute.(11:00) Again I was passed by Meghan-she was still clean and her shirt still white. She sponges herself off at aid stations and likes to stay clean. She is good at it! This explained how we were so close together when clearly she was running way more strongly than I!
I hit a low point about 3 miles before Foresthill. Hot spots on my foot, shaky. Frustrated at my slow movement. Poor me. I needed an attitude shift. I planned a foot care stop at Foresthill and to eat some soup. I would also exchange my pack for another handheld bottle to hopefully relieve the stomach cramps that were starting. At Bath Road to my delight Paul and Eric walked down to accompany to Foresthill. (One of 2 spots on the course crew can join you running). They helped me with my attitude and once fueled and foot fixed Paul and I tore out (at least that is what it felt like!) and headed towards the River. “I am having a good day and getting stronger”. At 12:21, I was on pace for 20 hours.
The next section rocked! What fun. Though I certainly didn’t fly on it-the downward roll kept things moving for us (although my creepy uphills were getting even slower). We talked. We sang Sound of Music and Eye of the Tiger. Paul vaulted over a fence. I ate more soup. Sweet stuff sounded gross. We reached the Rucky Chucky crossing (mile 78) just as they turned the lights on. It was still light-just starting to get dark. The cold water felt great and the volunteers in their long waders were another dose of positive attitude. Eric met us on the other side and after changing my shoes, the 3 of us walked up the hill together to Green Gate where we turned our lights on. After waving bye to Paul, Eric and I ran out of Green Gate. With 20 miles left to go I was still psyched. The change of shoes and walk up the hill put me behind on my 20 hour pace. That was fine. I was going to do my best despite how long this would take. We ran and talked and ran. I was slowing some. I had to make a few sudden pit stops-with and without porta potties….but I still felt pretty good…(and I was having a great day!) I knew at this point I was in 8th place and wanted to maintain my position in order to finish in the top 10. At some point before Auburn Lake Trails I caught up to Anne. She and Mark were stretching on a tree. I wished her well and continued on. We passed Kami just before No Hands Bridge. She was with her pacer and she was moving slow. I knew she was having a rough day in order to still be out on the trail. I knew she must be one tough cookie to keep on going with whatever bad was happening to her.
Forward motion. No Hands Bridge marks 3.4 miles from the end. We slogged up the hill to Robie Point. I kept looking behind me. This was the 1st time all day I cared about position. I did not want to be passed by ANYONE and kept telling myself I was “having a great day and getting stronger” (though in retrospect at this point I was just getting more stubborn!).
Up and over Robie Point. Through the neighborhoods. I kept asking Eric to look behind us and we smacked the pavement towards the track. No sign of anyone. Good!
Enter the stadium. Bright lights. Not too many people around-sleeping. I ran with joy and appreciation and celebration those last 300 meters. I celebrated my crew, my pacers, George, my attitude, my body’s abilities (instead of it’s limitations), and I celebrated a fabulous, emotional day on the trail. I was finished! (for this year anyway) Yippee!!!
I am home now writing this. This was as powerful in a much different way than winning in 2005. I feel so human and humbled and grateful for George and my life. I cried more during the post race interviews. I had endless patience in the airport the next day as flights were overbooked, luggage locked up and it took me 24 hours longer to get home.
WS 100 was a much-needed break from my crazy, fast life. I am reminded that I create my own realities. The book The Secret came at a good time. Attitude and expectations shape our worlds. Today I am more like the person I want to be than I was this time last week.
My plans for the next month include some ultra “fun runs” with friends and riding my bike in order to prepare for the Blue Ridge Brutal on 8/18. George and I will have some time to play together. Starting tomorrow I am also going to start a new exercise and muscle retraining program I got 2 weeks ago at UVA that will help my hamstring fully heal and help me run with correct posture.
My finish position at WS also put me in 3rd place with the Montrail Ultra Cup and I stopped in Winston-Salem and excitedly spent part of my $500 gift certificate to Fleet Feet Sports on a pair of my 1st road shoes in 3 years! (I think a good move for injury prevention)
I am happy to be home and am doing my best to focus on today-rather than planning my next event. Now it is time to go work in the garden!