With a full stomach, I left the turnaround aid station walking, but couldn't help but run when the cheering spectators urged me on. I ran about 100 yards and then began walking again to help settle my stomach. I ended up power-walking almost the entire 2+ slightly downhill miles back to the left turn at the base of the climb and realized I had covered the distance in 30 minutes, 10 minutes quicker than the way out. I had made the trip over Hope Pass in just a bit over 3 hours and my "hope" was to make it back over in the same amount of time. Or less. It was warm. Bright sun. Not much wind. Just before the climb, I made a pit stop in the trees which gave Jen just enough time to catch up to me (the crew vehicles were travelling along the road we were running on) and give me the one item I had forgotten when I left the turnaround: My pink floral ruffled skirt.
(The story behind the skirt: Ever since I've known Jen, she's worn skirts. Skirts skirts skirts. All the time skirts. As you may recall, she paced the last 18 miles with me at Big Horn in a knee-length pink skirt. She loves skirts. And many of the female runners out there wear skirts made for running. And they're very cute. And Jen wanted one. So she got one and has been running in it and she loves it.
Well on a few of my longer runs this summer with my running pals, the conversation has moved to this whole running skirt epidemic going on and it was mentioned that some of the guys in Oregon have been running in skirts. Maybe there have been guys doing this in other areas too, but in this case, Oregon guys were singled out, presumably by a first-hand witness. Well I'm from Oregon and I know how things are out there and I wouldn't doubt for a second that there are guys out there running in skirts. Hey, if the girls can have that much fun doing it, why can't we?
I mentioned I'd do it if given a chance. The guys I was running with said they'd do it.
So the day before the race, while we were out running around picking up some last minute items, we stopped by the local thrift store so Mike could get a "throwaway" fleece sweater. Something he could ditch at an aid station while he was out pacing and not feel bad about losing it. Well, wouldn't you know it, I found myself walking right by the women's skirt rack at one point and this darling little ruffled beauty caught my eye. It was perfect. Lightweight, just above knee length, and nice and billowy. Perfect for running. For $3, I bought it and stuck it in my Winfield drop bag before the race. Something to look forward to after 50 miles.)
Could I stand to run the last 50 in a pink floral ruffled skirt? I wasn't sure, but I picked it up from Jen anyway just as I was leaving the road to begin the climb up Hope Pass. Why not have a little fun on this sucker?
The climb was super steep. And hot! And all the runners behind me were on their way down from the summit on their way out to the turnaround and their wasn't much room on this narrow, steep, rocky trail. I caught up to a couple guys with the skirt in my hand and passed them. The skirt was great to wipe sweat off my face. I could see a long string of runners up above me as the trail opened up towards the top and could tell I was catching up to them. Just before I caught them at the top, I discreetly slipped into the skirt. They were about to get skirted.
"Sup, guys?", I huffed as I stepped around the first skirting victim. No response, just heavy breathing. I caught and passed another. No response. Maybe at 12,600 ft the humor is lost. Well I was determined to have as good a time as possible and passed a few more guys and began my loooooooong descent back towards Twin Lakes. It was still a beautiful afternoon up there. Bright and sunny and warm. I came into the Hope Pass aid station, spat at a llama, filled up my bottles, and continued on my descent, skirt flowing around my shuffling legs. It was an unusual sight for me. And everyone else, I'm sure.
I felt good on the way down. Had a good pace going. Spent almost the entire way without seeing anyone. Finally, near the bottom, I saw movement down the trail in front of me. There's my carrot. I caught and passed another runner and his pacer. When I got to the bottom, I could see three more runners ahead. Grrrrrrrrr... More carrots. We all crossed the river together and came into the Twin Lakes Aid Station together. It took me 3 hours from Winfield. Perfect. The skirt made some impressions. Good, bad, or otherwise, but I didn't care. How often do you see a guy come running by in a skirt, anyway?
I checked in, filled up my bottles, found Jen and Mike, and saw that Buddy also appeared to be having some fun with costuming.
I took in another Gatorade, a V-8, another slice-o-pizza-pie, and restocked my gel supply. I also grabbed my Headlamp, a Black Diamond Spot. It was 6:00 when I left. My earliest projected time: 4:30. Still good. 60.5 miles down. 39.5 miles to go. And I had 10 hours to reach the finish to get a sub-24. That's 4 mph. That's 15 minute miles. Easy, right? Hmmmmmm... I just had to keep myself from exploding and keep the wheels from falling off. Keep drinking. Keep eating. Keep walking those hills and running the downhills and flats. Game on.
Twin Lakes to Fish Hatchery: 60.5 - 76.5 miles
Leaving Twin Lakes, I began the 1,000+ ft climb. Nice and steady. It was getting late in the day and the woods were quiet and shadowed. I got to the top and knew I needed to get moving. I began to jog. Hmmmmm... Not bad. I still feel decent! Hah! I jogged along, walked a bit, jogged along, walked a bit. And lo and behold... another runner and pacer. I said "Hey", skirted them, and moved on up the trail. Wheeee, this was fun. I had done the 9 mile section between Halfmoon and Twin Lakes in 2 hours on the way out. I had hoped to do the same on the way back. I felt like I was doing it. And the trail kept going and going and going. I skirted another runner and pacer and finally descended back to the road where Halfmoon was. It was already almost 8:00 and I still had a mile and a half to the aid station. And then my energy level plumetted and I was reduced to powerwalking. I should've been running, but I just couldn't do it. Oh no, this wasn't looking good. I began to feel lousy. Lethargic. Tired. No energy. Heavy legs. It was 8:30 and now dark enough for the headlamp so I put on my Spot and soon I walked into Halfmoon with the runner and pacer I had passed earlier. The runner was looking tired.
A volunteer filled up my bottles with water. I had noticed over the past hour or two that every drink I would take would cause me to pee, as though my body wasn't absorbing the fluid. This is the very thing that happened to me at Big Horn and I was getting concerned. I had eliminated caffine from my diet so far into this race, but was I still getting too much sodium? Was my salt intake still too much from all the bottles of Perpetuem and Electrolyte drink? Now that it was later in the day, I wasn't sweating as much as I had been earlier, but I still thought I had a good balance. But maybe not. Maybe water was the way to go from here on. I had some gels with me, but I felt like I should get some real food in me. I had ZERO appettite, but I grabbed a couple banana slices and a handful of potato chunks. Wow, that tasted surprisingly good. I left the aid station walking. The other two guys left just behind me. A few minutes later, I tried running. Not bad. I walked a bit, then jogged some more. Pretty good. Walked a bit, jogged a bit more, this time a little faster. Wow, where did this come from?! I feel good again! Was it the bananas and potatos and water? That's the only thing I could think of. I picked up the pace and breezed into the Treeline aid station where Jen was waiting. Nice. I've gotta get me some more potato fuel. I saw Jen told her I wanted water, bananas and potatos at the Fish Hatchery in 4 miles and I'd see her in 45 minutes. I must have been running 8 minute miles. But soon after leaving Treeline, the potatos burned off and I was quickly reduced to walking again. Noooooooo!!!!! This was the most miserable stretch on the way out and I realized it would be a miserable stretch on the way back. I walked almost the entire 4 miles. Had an ever-so-slight dry-heave along the way, and just wished I could get there sooner. I needed that potato fuel.
Finally, I walked my sorry, skirted self into the aid station and met Jen. I was not feeling good at all. It was 9:55. I'd lost alot of my time cushion.
I checked in a dropped the skirt off my waist. Enough nonsense. Time to get serious. Jen brought me into the covered building where the food was and handed me a cup of potato soup. Yuk. I just wanted plain potatos, but if this is all I could get, then I better take it. I slowly sipped it and sat down on a bench with my head in my hands. This was my lowest point. I grabbed another shirt, transfered my Spot from my head to my waist and grabbed my big Headlamp to wear on my head. Jen filled my two bottles with water. I needed to get going again, but was having a hard time getting up. I just felt like I'd been run over. Jen mentioned she had found me a pacer to help get me to May Queen and then Mike E would pick up with me there and bring me in to the finish. Nice! Alright, let's go.
Kristin and I introduced ourselves and walked off into the night. It was 10:10. I had 23.5 miles to cover in 5 hours, 50 minutes. Still needed 15 minute miles. I wasn't saving myself any time, but at least I wasn't getting any slower either. This was gonna be close.
Fish Hatchery to Mayqueen: 76.5 - 86.5 miles
After eating that potato soup, my stomach was full again making it difficult to run even though we were on a paved road. Kristin and I continued our brief introduction, me stating that I may not be running much, I may start to get sleepy, and I might puke. But I really thanked her for volunteering to be out there with me. I needed it. We began our hike up Sugarloaf Pass and caught and passed another runner and pacer. I still felt sluggish, but at least I was still moving faster than others ahead of me!
Within 10 minutes from the base of the climb, I felt the potatos finally kick in and I was back. Back to a full-on powerhike. The fire was burning again and I was rejuvenated. Wow, what a feeling. I've never gone through this sort of thing before but I love it! I turned up the pace and caught two more runners with their pacers. At the top, at 12:00, I spotted three more groups ahead already on their way down. Yeah! This is what it's about! Keeping the pace slow in the beginning and keeping it up at the end! Kristin was a solid runner and we cruised the gentle slope down on the dirt road. I didn't feel like I should have been moving that fast at that point, but hey, I wasn't going to hold back much at this point and if I had it in me I certainly was going to take advantage of it!
We picked our way down the rocky, blocky, chunky section of trail and finally popped out on the road a half mile out of Mayqueen. I rolled into Mayqueen at 1:00. Three hours to go. 13.5 miles. I gave Kristin a HUGE thank you and I hope she realized how much she had helped me out. It was huge having her out there. Thank you Kristin! Mike was in the aid station tent ready to go. He handed me my bottles, a cup of potatos, and we were off. He was supposed to have been pacing another runner, but his runner had dropped out and he was able to be here for me which i was extremely happy about. We scooted out of the tent and were on our way over this final stretch.
Mayqueen to Finish: 86.5 - 100 miles
Almost immediately, we caught and passed another lone runner and began our way around the lakeside trail on the north shorline of Turquiose Lake. We made it the 6.5 miles to Tabor Boat Ramp in 1:15 and met Jen there for the last time out on the course. I picked up some ginger snap cookies and we moved on. "See you in a hour and a half, Jen!"
Mike was pulling me along. I would run for 30 seconds, walk for a minute. Run for a minute, walk for 30 seconds and every time I'd start shuffling, I'd get a cheer. "Yeah, now that's what I'm talking about!" I wanted those cheers. Then we saw a light through the trees ahead. It was another runner. We caught and passed him with about 5 miles to go. Then another half mile later when the road opened up again, we saw two more groups of lights ahead. I went after them passing them on the run and leaving them behind. We turned off of the road onto a service road along the railroad tracks that led to the base of the final climb up into the city. We reached the bottom of the climb at 3:00 with 3 miles to go. Easy. I've got this! I turned it up another notch and powerhiked the steep bottom section and began running. Look! More lights! Two more groups ahead. More carrots dangling in front of my nose. I passed them both on the uphill stretch while on the run. Where is this energy coming from?!
We turned onto Sixth Street at 3:35 and began the final .8 mile stretch to the finish. The finish was surreal. The finish gave me emotions I've rarely felt in my entire life, if ever.
And then, it was done.
We slept on the floor in the lobby of the county courthouse for a few hours after the race. We were all exhausted. Then we got up and went to find the public showers. I was still in my race clothes and was feeling extremely dirty.
This is what it's all about! (Well, maybe not all, but it sure does help!)