As I mentioned yesterday in my short & sweet from Saturday, the race became a pass or fail character building team exercise, instead of a running race.
I was always treating the race as more of a long training run for San Fran than a competitive race, but I never expected the night to turn out as it did, or be as difficult as it was.
This is now the longest an ultra has taken me, and therefore will probably take me forever to write a recap but with basically no pictures to share, that should speed us up.
So, here we go :
Saturday at lunch time I met Candice and Hilary at U Grill at Metrotown and had a delicious lunch before heading to the border. Neither Hilary or Candice have Nexus so we were hoping to hit the line-up after the usual morning rush. Thankfully it wasn’t busy when we got there, and we were across the line in 20 minutes, even with picking the slowest line (always the case, isn’t it??!)
After a quick shopping trip to TJ Maxx, and REI, we decided what we really needed was a couch and a warm place to chill out for an hour. Hotel Kim to the rescue! Kim met us for smoothies at Emerald Smoothie and gave us a key to her house. Thank you Kim!!
While we were there we harassed Chauncey a bit…
It was $3 at TJ Maxx! I couldn’t NOT buy it!
And debated on costumes for running…
Even better, the Pavel Bure retirement ceremony was on TV early, and we lucked out getting to see the whole thing before we had to leave for the race start. It was definitely weird getting ready for a race in the afternoon, and I was constantly questioning my food choices, but in hindsight, I think I made the right choices during the day.
The description of the race was a mystery course between 27 & 33 miles on the less known Bellingham trails, through the night, in costumes, with great stocked aid stations, finishers medals, and that it would be VERY well marked.
I know that they tried to deliver all of what was promised, but basically everything except for the great aid stations, and tons of fantastic volunteers, everything else fell short.
Before the race, it wasn’t clear where the start even was, just that it was at Larrabee State Park, which has multiple parking locations. Both myself and a few other runners emailed asking for clarification but our emails were never answered. Thankfully, after driving to the wrong start area, we found out where to go from Dave and headed over there.
Sucks having to use our Canadian phones in the US just because the race director didn’t specify the start line, but it could’ve been much worse, so I’m thankful we found the start location relatively easily.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, and was trying to ignore it, but it was raining quite heavily, all day long. It really wasn’t letting up, and in reality, it was turning in to a nightmare of an evening.
As we arrived and checked in, we received a map and a bib #. The map was in a ziploc bag, but you couldn’t see enough of the map to navigate without taking it out and un-folding it.
There was lots of discussion on what to wear, and how cold it would get during the night. We all decided that more layers were better than less, and to put lots of extras in our drop bags. I decided to wear my new Salomon super waterproof jacket, knowing that it’s not a breathable jacket and I might roast. Amazingly, it was 100% the right choice, and it held up the entire night, and while there was points where I warmed up, I was never over heating. I didn’t even need to open my vents under the armpits.
After introductions amongst our group, and a short race briefing, in which we were told again about how well marked the course was, except for when the race director was getting cold and stopped putting out “confidence markers”. I’ve got to say this really rubbed us the wrong way. If it was a fun run that we weren’t paying for, of course, understandable. But, we had all paid a $50 entry fee to this race, and we expected the course to be marked as it was advertised, and that our chances of getting cold and lost were more important as paying runners than the race director who didn’t dress warm enough, or leave enough time to do all the marking adequately.
Our group was 8 strong at the start – Shea, Melissa, Candice, Hilary, David, Jessica, Renee, and myself. The 8 of us decided to do a number and animal sound off to make sure that we never were missing anyone. It probably wasn’t needed, but it sure was entertaining.
Here’s the group – Melissa, Renee, Jessica, David, Me, Shea, Hilary, & Candice :
I also knew Kyle and Dayna and Dayna’s dog Lucy, as well as super fast super star runner Alicia (winner of the Baker Lake 100K a few weekends ago). And I recognized another runner Tho that I had run with at the Bellingham Trail Marathon last year. So, basically I knew 11 of the 19 other starters.
There was a quick countdown and off we went! We needed our headlamps immediately and I was super lucky to have been lent an awesome headlamp from my friend Erik! He lent me his Petzl MYO RXP and it was amazing. It lasted all 9.5 hours we were out there, and didn’t give me a headache at all. I’ve found the cheaper headlamps, while they work for a short run, they aren’t quite bright enough, especially in the rain/fog, and that they always make my head hurt, even after just 30-60 mins.
As we ran down a nice wide path in the beginning, the chatter level was high, and everyone was in pretty good spirits despite the fact that we knew we were heading into the woods, in the downpour. We passed by a marker on our right, and while it was kind of blown over, it was pointing straight down the main path, so we carried on our way. Jessica kind of questioned this at the time, thinking we were supposed to turn there, but she figured we wouldn’t all run the wrong way, and someone else must be local and know where they’re going.
Well, when we just kept going straight and straight and straight, and not turning up into the woods, we knew we were going the wrong way. Sigh.
At this point, we had collected 2 new randoms – Doug and Theresa, both from the Seattle area, as well as Dayna, Kyle, and Lucy the dog. Once we recognized where we were on the map, we had 2 choices – run back to the turn off (definitely adding distance), or go up a fire service road to intersect the race route, run backwards on the race route until we found the lead runners, and then turn around behind them. The latter seemed like the consensus, and we picked up another runner who was just ahead of us and feeling lost as well. Jean-Michel, JM for short, another Seattle area runner, was a very friendly frenchman who’s accent would trip me up for hours to come.
So, by now our group was at 13 and a dog, and everyone had their # and their animal noise. The best of the bunch was #10, Doug, who’s noise was “what does the fox say?” which was obviously entertaining and hilarious as we ran and ding-ding’d along. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the most ridiculous, but totally awesome video.
As we headed backwards along the race route, and didn’t see any other runners, we did another re-group, and decided that instead of turning around and running the same route backwards, we would continue the way we were going, and enter the first aid station from the wrong direction. We figured this would cut about 2km off the course, but really, no one cared. In fact, up to this point in the race, there was still debate about whether or not we should just go back to the start and call it a night. Our resident never whining beast, Melissa, was overheard asking for shortcuts! Yes, it was that miserable of a weather night thus far.
Shortly after this decision, we came along a few other runners, all on their own! We gave them the option to join our wolfpack, gave them a number, and off we went. We collected Karsten, Tho, and Pablo at this point. So, we now had 16 of the 20 starters in our group.
It was extremely humorous to us that all of us had gotten lost, and that we’d take different routes, but ended up in a giant pack. As a group, we had group pee breaks, re-groups, sound-offs, and group snack breaks (chocolate expresso beans, anyone??)
Besides, when do you ever go for a run in the dark, in the middle of the woods, with really no real sense of where you are, with 15 other people? It was seriously bad ass and an experience I’ll never forget.
Sums it up nicely…
I made a point of chatting with all of our new groupies, and made some lovely connections. Turns out both Doug and Karsten ran Baker lake in October, and Doug had run it the previous year as well. Karsten and I finished within 15 minutes of each other too! Karsten also ran Lake Padden both last year and this year, and Bellingham Trail Marathon last year. Crazy small world of races!
None of the guys had run in Vancouver, but all of them wanted to, especially after hearing about our crazy technical trails, and our Glow in the Dark run recently! I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with and getting to know all of our new friends. Everyone was so nice, so friendly, and you could really feel the group join together as a team, working together to make it to the aid station. It was special.
As we came into the first aid station, the volunteers were quite confused by us entering from the wrong direction. I showed them where things had gone wrong on the map, and got directions for the next section. The only problem with having such a large group at an aid station is that everyone likes to take their own desired rest break, and given that it was night time, it got cold very very fast standing around.
Off we went into the woods, and for the meantime, we decided to stick together and see how the next section of the trail would go. Leaving the aid station we immediately got lost again. Frick.
I’m thinking “If this is going to happen all night, I’m not sure of how long we can continue out here.”
Once again the little arrow sign had fallen over and was not pointing in the right direction. The flagging tape was supposed to be reflective, and maybe it was with car headlights, but with our headlamps, it wasn’t, and there was very little of it in the trees to begin with. We’re spoiled with how 5Peaks and how Gary Robbins marks courses, but still, this was on the far opposite of the spectrum. I’d hate to know how many times JPP would get lost on this course…
After ending up doing a circle and ending up back at the original sign post, we searched harder in the other directions and found some flagging tape a little ways away. We headed down this trail, and found the famous Chinscraper. And they weren’t kidding about bumsliding down it! It was slippery and nasty, and quite the adventure to get down.
But, it was probably one of our most favorite moments of pausing there to make sure that everyone in our group made it down safely. Looking back up the hill at my “teammates” making their way down, was such a cool sight in the dark.
Another favorite moment was at another regroup spot, we decided to all turn off our lights and be quiet for a moment. It was beautiful, it was freaky, it was pure nature.
Things were routine for the next little while. We didn’t get lost. We re-grouped at every intersection. We were 16 and a dog strong, and for the most part, we only had to wait a couple minutes at every re-group to get the group back together. It was so rewarding to see everyone looking out for each other, making friendships, and making sure that everyone was ok out there. We really were a team.
I was up with JM, Pablo, Karsten and Hilary at the front for the most part, and the guys were ahead of us, and would call out rock or log, or puddle, just as a heads up to what was coming. It was great.
At one point JM went one way, and Karsten and I went the other, and we hear from JM, “It is water!”, so we head the other way, and we find a small bridge across the ‘swamp’. While we’re waiting for the others, we can see them across the swamp, well we can see their headlamps, and we realize they are heading straight into the swamp instead of turning towards the bridge.
I start yelling “Don’t go in the water!! There’s a bridge across!!” and all we hear back is F-bombs, and “What bridge??”. Omg, I almost pee’d myself laughing at the situation. Thankfully only 1 of the crew went into the swamp, but it was Candice, and she went fully into the swamp. Hahahah sorry Candice.
We found the last turn off to an out and back to the second aid station, and Jessica had mentioned it was a nasty downhill into the aid station, that we’d have to climb back out of after.
Well, she wasn’t kidding. It was NASTY.
We spread out as a group at this point, and decided to meet again at the aid station at the bottom.
It was a steep downhill. You couldn’t really stretch out the legs and fly, as it was pretty steep, slippery, and not to mention, pitch black! Running downhill in the dark is hard fricken work!!
In the first bit of the downhill, I took a nasty fall, landing on my left side, on my hip and forearm/elbow. It hurt. It hurt bad.
One thing about me that is normally a good thing, is that I rarely, if ever, bruise. I knew that this fall would on the average person create some really pretty colored bruises. But, on me, I was unlikely to show anything, even though I really hit the ground hard.
As of this morning, my arm has gotten a bit of color, but my leg/hip/bum shows nothing. Even though I couldn’t put any pressure on my left side Sunday or Monday, which made sleeping quite difficult.
Hilary and I slowed down after this tumble, but going slow was hard too, the knees just ached from braking and slowing down. Unfortunately, since this was an out and back, we just knew this climb was going to hurt us on the way out. We wondered if anyone was going to drop at this aid station, and discussed splitting into smaller groups to keep moving a bit more smoothly.
Finally we saw a couple of balloons with glowsticks in them, and the aid station appeared below us!!! Finally!!
There was a big giant fire, and a table filled with goodies, and a ton of wonderful volunteers, including my friend Chad! We met Chad last year at Baker Lake and Lake Padden, and he was volunteering on Saturday night. He helped me fill up water, provided aid station hugs, and even took a few pictures of us!
From my instagram :
It was such a bright spot in the night to see his friendly face. Unfortunately, we lost 3 of our crew at this spot. Doug, Theresa, and Tho all decided they needed to drop out.
The guys – JM, Karsten, and Pablo all decided they needed to get moving, and we split from them. It was sad to have our group split up, but we knew it was the best for everyone.
I changed my socks, as I knew dry socks always feel amazing during wet races, and I decided that I didn’t need to change anything else. My old Speedcross’ with my old orthotics felt good, and my choice of clothing was working out as well – I went with a short sleeve Salomon shirt, a long sleeve Nike shirt, my Goretex Salomon Jacket, Salomon 3/4 titghts, and Drymax socks.
Have you ever heard of Drymax socks?? My Salomon West Van teammate, Linda Barton (Robbins, now?), the wonderful wife of Gary Robbins, recommended I give them a try, as I was always getting blisters after long races. And these blisters were pretty nasty, in-between toes, or beneath my toes for the most part, and they were really quite painful and just nasty. I tried many different kinds of socks with no luck. I’ve always had “sensitive” feet, so I thought I was just doomed. Turns out, I wasn’t doomed at all, I just hadn’t tried the right kind yet. After 9.5 hours of running in the wet, my feet didn’t have 1 single blister on them. Not one single blister!!
You can bet I’m ordering a whole new closet of Drymax socks, and telling everyone about them! I’m so impressed.
Anyways, I made one critical error at this aid station. They had delicious looking donuts, and I decided that having a couple pieces of donut wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially since they had a Maple Bacon donut that Kyle and I shared. In hindsight, I should’ve taken this donut with me for later, but I never should’ve eaten it at 10:30 at night, halfway through running an ultra. Bad decisions, folks, bad decisions.
Dave had a real camera on him and we got a couple pics :
We also found out at this aid station that Alicia and her 2 friends had dropped out after apparently getting lost, and coming through the first aid station after running about 20K. Oops. There was also 1 guy with them, that didn’t drop and was still out there.
Somewhere out there…
My other favorite moment at this aid station was that there was a chair with a blanket on it near the campfire, and Lucy the dog, jumped right into the chair, and took a little break. She was doing so well, and this was just so cute, definitely something Nikita would do! (Ok guys…you keep running, I’m just going to hang out at the fire with these nice people, and I’ll meet you back at the finish, ok?)
Candice, Shea, and Melissa headed up the hill, and just a few minutes after them, Me, Hilary and Dave headed up. Just behind us was Dayna and Kyle, and Jessica and Renee. Everyone had a buddy system just in case we didn’t end up meeting up again as a group.
I’ll tell you, this hill was almost the death of me. It was never ending, steep, it hurt, it was terrible. Dave and Hilary and I passed the time chatting about different races, and how we got into running, and blah blah blah. Every now and then we could see the lights of M, C, & S above, and that was half comforting, and half deflating as we knew we had to keep climbing.
Just keep climbing, just keep climbing.
As we climbed, the one lone guy we didn’t know, cruised past us on the downhill looking smooth and strong. Thankfully, the pain on my left side was easing the more time went by and while the hill was killing me slowly, having a couple of friends by my side was great.
We trudged along feeling the pain together, step by step, making our way up to the top of the hill. Waiting at the top for us was M, C, & S. They were a welcome sight, and we were glad to have the 6 of us back together.
We motored on, on the new part of the trail that we hadn’t run before, and for a little while things were going good.
And then, they weren’t.
My stomach started hurting, and I started feeling sick and like I had to puke.
I’ve never puked during an ultra before, or any race for that matter. But, I’ve heard that sometimes puking is like a re-set button during an ultra. So, I had to keep stopping, putting my hands on my knees, and trying to take deep breaths. I couldn’t make myself puke, I’ve never been able in my regular life, and I guess not in my running life either.
It was during one of these stopped breaks where the random runner came rolling past us, again looking smooth, strong, and fast.
The next thing that went wrong, or weird, was that I started having to pee what seemed like every 5 minutes. It was probably every 20 minutes, but it really seemed like all.the.freaking.time. Melissa, the wonderful nurse, even asked if I had a bladder infection!
It was a weird section of the race for me for sure. I felt pretty terrible, and I knew my friends felt terrible for me, as it’s never easy to see someone suffering during a race. I tried to keep moving when I could, and tried to just let my body figure out what it needed to feel better. Shea gave me some peppermints to chew, and everyone was great about letting me stop to pee too much, and dry heave a bit.
As we kept moving forward, Jessica and Renee caught up to us, and we became a group of 8 again. We all cheered when we hit midnight, as we knew that running after midnight meant that we had covered both days of the #beaststreak for Saturday and Sunday. I think running the day after an ultra would have been hell, so that was nice to not have to worry about Sunday’s 3K.
We seemed to run/hike forever and not make any progress in where we were, or at least thought we were. We finally hit the Chuckanut Ridge, and I was pretty confident on the way to go, as I had run this ridge a few times, although it was always in the opposite direction…
I took the lead at this point, and we rolled along pretty good, alternating between running and walking where we couldn’t run. The thing about the ridge, is that one side of it is a pretty steep straight down cliff, and it was pretty sketchy in the dark.
Shot from Dave’s camera :
It wasn’t just dark, but it was also super foggy up on the Ridge, and cold. It was around 2am at this point, and we were up quite high, so it wasn’t surprising how cold it was.
We hit an intersection that we should’ve hit earlier when we came into the aid station the wrong way. There was 2 marked directions, and neither had a clear indication of which way we should go. The map had coloured lines on it, and we had seen some coloured tape at some points in the race, but there was none in this area.
We debated the 2 directions, and made an educated guess. We thought we knew which way was the right way, but who could be certain…
After re-grouping, we set off, hoping that the aid station was super close, as it looked on the map.
I had run this section, and I was sure it was just maybe 1 km more to the aid station, and after a little while, we saw lights to our right and in front of us. I subconsciously sped up, wanting to reach the aid station and knowing (incorrectly) that it was just around a few more bends.
But, turns out, it wasn’t just around a few corners, and before I knew it, I had pulled ahead of the group, and was all alone.
I took a moment for a pee break, and waited for everyone, but they didn’t come out of the dark, and I was so cold waiting that I had to keep moving. There had been no intersections, and maybe every 5 minutes I’d see a marker, so I knew I was still on the right trail.
So, I just kept pushing and moving forwards, and sometimes the lights of the aid station would seem closer, and other times they’d totally disappear, so I started to wonder if I was seeing things. A mirage on the horizon?? Since it’s so dark, you can only really focus on the next few feet in front of you, and I couldn’t really chance looking up and over to where I’d last seen the lights, as I was worried I’d lose my footing and fall. The fog was making visibility even worse than before, I could barely see a few feet in front of me.
I started to get really scared that I was out there alone, and I’m hearing things, seeing things, who knows what’s happening in my mind. It’s late, it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s foggy, it’s plain scary.
And it was never ending. What I thought was just a few minutes, a km down the trail, just a couple twists and turns, was not. It was downright terrifying being out there alone. I had never meant to put such distance in-between myself and my group, but I accidentally had. For me, I never felt like there was any intersections, so I felt like I should just keep moving to the aid station, and we’d re-group there, as we had been doing all night.
Then, an animal ran across the trail in front of me, spooking me even worse!
From in front of me, all of a sudden I saw a headlamp facing me. Another runner?! The aid station?!
It was the aid station!!! With a big fire on one side, the aid station in the middle, and a propane heater on the other side. Along with a delicious spread of goodies, there was maybe 20 volunteers there! No joke.
They let me know that I was only the second person to come through here, and that Karsten was the other, except he came from the wrong direction, and 2 runners (JM & Pablo) had finished, but had never come through this aid station. The random runner who was all by his lonesome had never come through here either, and they figured he was super lost. But, at least he was a local.
I figured my group would be in within a few minutes after me, but after filling up on blonde oreo cookies (dreaming of Heather’s blonde oreo cupcakes), and re-filling my water, there was no sign of them.
I went over to the heater to warm myself up, and chatted with some lovely volunteers as I waited. They were worried about me getting too cold, and kept encouraging me to continue running.
I didn’t feel right doing that, and I was starting to get really worried about my friends. I made a deal with the volunteers that I would wait until 8:40 running time, which was about 20 minutes total since getting to the aid station, and if they weren’t there by now, I would continue on my own. I didn’t want to run alone, but I was freezing cold, and if I moved away from the heater at all, my entire body started to shiver and shake.
Thankfully a few minutes later, just before the end of my deadline agreement, the crew came in, and Kyle, Dayna, and Lucy the dog had caught up to us. Making the original 10 back together!
But, as excited and relieved as I was to see them, the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual, for everyone. I thought about leaving this out of the post, but it wouldn’t be the truth of the race and the experience if I didn’t share it.
One of the crew came into the aid station and immediately attacked me for going ahead and leaving them alone. She felt as though I had been selfish and gone faster on purpose, dropping them, and that I should have come back, met up with them, and not left them on the Ridge alone. Turns out they had gotten lost, found some intersecting trails that I hadn’t, and they had done a bit of backtracking to make sure they were on the right trail. One of the crew had also rolled an ankle, and everyone was really stressed out both by being on the ledge, in the dark and fog, and not knowing where exactly I was.
Obviously, as I explained, I had thought they were just behind me, and hadn’t realized the gap had grown so large. And when I did stop and wait, the cold was just too much to handle. While she thought it was unsafe for me to have gone ahead on my own, and that I caused them unnecessary stress, to be completely honest, I had not consciously made any decision at all. I had never actually thought about leaving them or not, I had just kept making forward progress and been focused on one goal – make it to the aid station.
We had been running for 8.5 hours, and it was 2:30 or 3:30 in the morning depending on the time change, and we were all tired both physically, and emotionally, and while an ultra is normally an emotionally draining experience, this was heightened due to the late night running, and the amount of concentration needed for running in the dark, not to mention the added stress of getting lost multiple times.
So, anyways, there was a tiny bit of a cat fight at aid station 3, and while this happened, I had come away from the heater and was now shaking and shivering, along with feeling like shit about having run ahead of the group by accident, and being attacked for a decision I did not feel I had even made.
I thought it was the wrong time and place and way to handle the situation, with 10 runners and 20 volunteers around the area and made to feel awkward. Besides the fact that EVERYONE is tired, grumpy, and irritable, we’ve run over 40K at this point, in the dark. We all needed to cut each other some slack instead of letting emotions take over.
That’s all I’ll say about that. I contemplated leaving it out, but that wouldn’t be true to myself and to this blog. This blog is an open, honest, and tell all of my experiences. I can’t just delete a conflict that I don’t like and pretend it didn’t happen. And don’t worry, it was all just miscommunication and heightened emotions, and we’ve both long since apologized and are fine with the situation.
Anyways, myself, Hilary, Shea, Melissa, and Candice set off down the road, with Dave, Jessica, and Renee not far behind us. Dayna and Kyle needed a few more moments at the aid station before heading off on the last part of the adventure.
Melissa had some dry gloves in her pack, and Shea had some hand warmers, and with both of those, and some steady downhill running, my shivering started to ease. I was still cold, but I started to feel my feet again, and wasn’t still shaking uncontrollably.
All of us were having a tough time. Melissa and Shea were still their awesomely talkative and outgoing selves, and while Candice had been fighting her lowest point on the Ridge, she was getting back into the rhythm with the downhill. sidenote: I have to say that I’m so proud of Candice. She ran her first ultra at Baker Lake, and it was a 7hr adventure for her, and here she was 9hrs into a night time run, and she’ll tell you she was swearing lots and breaking down, but I’ll tell you that she was a champ. I’ve been saying since I met her how strong she is inside, and this was just another chance for her to see it for herself.
Hilary’s headlamp went out, and instead of changing the batteries, she decided to run by my side and use my light. This was a good and bad thing for me. Good and bad because I had to match stride with her, no matter how I felt. I won’t lie and say this downhill was easy. It hurt.
But, it was supposed to hurt, it was the last 8km of an ultra, if it doesn’t hurt, you probably didn’t do it right….
We ran strong for a while, chatting along, making bets on how much further we had to go. I had run this downhill before in the Chuckanut 30K before, and knew where that race ended, but it had a different end point than this race, so I wasn’t sure of how much longer was left.
We ran past a nice waterfall, and just a few minutes later, we saw a headlamp flashing up ahead, and realized and gleefully exclaimed that it was the finish line ahead!! We sprinted through a small path, and through the finish line of cones finishing in 9 and a half hours!
The results for this race are silly and make no sense since NO ONE ran the correct course, so I’ll just say we were the first females, and the 5 of us tied for 5th place in 9:24:30, even though only 1 of the 4 in front of us checked in at the aid station, and it was from the wrong direction. So, I’d rather just go with, we made it to every single aid station, and we ran 50K during the night, and we made it back to the finish. Like I said earlier, pass or fail, team exercise out there.
They handed us the first place female’s prize, a Scooby Do toy, and I suggested we give it to Renee. None of us were trying to come first, and it was her FIRST ultram so we thought she deserved it. Running a night time ultra as your first ever takes some big ass balls. And makes you super bad ass. Renee was actually a total trail newbie. She had never run over a half marathon, and had never run on trails at night before Saturday. Jessica had convinced her to give this a try, and that if she wasn’t feeling up to it, that they’d both drop. She did amazing. I didn’t hear her whine, not even once, she was a true trooper and impressed me so much.
Just a few minutes later Renee, Jessica and David came through the finishing line, and a few minutes after them, Kyle, Dayna, and Lucy the dog came through! All 10 of us from our original crew all finished strong, and finished together within 15 minutes of each other.
We enjoyed some bacon and eggs at the finish line, along with some chocolate milk we had picked up earlier, and then it was time to head for home.
The rain had slowed down, and even stopped by the time we finished, and I was still quite awake, so I decided it was better to get home as fast as I possibly could, instead of trying to sleep for a couple of hours at Kim’s.
The border guard was speechless when we told him what we were returning from, and after driving Hilary home, I was home by 4:30, 5:30 real time (before daylight savings).
I didn’t sleep much. I slept from about 6am to 8:30am, before I wasn’t able to sleep anymore, and then had two different afternoon naps, each about an hour to ninety mins long. So, by 5ish, I had slept about 5.5 hours. I went to sleep somewhat early on Sunday night, and surprisingly wasn’t feeling too bad Monday morning.
Since we had run through the night, our ultra counted as Saturday and Sunday’s runs for the #beaststreak. On Monday afternoon, I took Nikita out for a run around the neighborhood, and things didn’t feel as bad as I expected, so we did just over 8kms together.
So, it’s been a couple days now, I’ve had time to digest and reflect. What are my thoughts, what did I learn, what impressions am I left with?
- Organizing and implementing a race or an event is never easy. But communication is key and this race was not well communicated. Expecting participants to join a Facebook group that is not listed on the Ultra Signup page as a place to get updates or information is not okay. Also, not responding to emails with questions is not okay. Your participants safety must come first, and the lack of marking, the comments about being too cold to mark any extra, were definitely not acceptable. The amount of volunteers could have been better utilized at some of the key intersections, especially the first turn that everyone missed since it was less than a km from the start.
- Value wise, the only thing that was up to standards for the cost was the amount of selection and the set-up of the aid stations. The IDEA of this race is fantastic, and I think if the execution had been there, I would be recommending it, but I can’t recommend a race with so many issues. If they got some more experience with organizing races and took the event more seriously in the future, I’d consider coming back with another big group to again run it as a team.
- Experience wise, this was the absolute most fun I’ve ever had in an ultra, or in any race distance. This had nothing to do with the actual race, but everything to do with the people I ran with.
- Difficulty/Terrain/Route selection – this race route was harder than I expected, the long climb in and then out at the mid way point was very difficult on the body, and the technicality along with the safety concerns on the Ridge, in the night, was I believe that safe at the 40K mark of a 50K. This would be a difficult route during the day time I believe, although with less wrong turns, that would help bring the overall duration down.
- Fat Dog 100 has these amazing reflector markers, and all night runs should use something similar. I learned myself with the Glow in the Dark run that marking in the dark is not an easy task, and you really have to have the right equipment, and go overkill just to make sure your runners are safe.
- Night time running is not easy. While trail running in general is harder to zone out during than road running, as you’re always thinking about where to step next, and always in the moment, this is amplified at night. The stress on not only your brain, but also your neck and shoulders to stay focused is intense.
- The headlamp I borrowed worked amazingly and I’m ordering the exact same for myself this week. Thank you Erik!!
- The trail running community is still the amazing community I’ve fallen in love with. You cannot tell me that you could put 16 road runners on the road in a night time road marathon, and have the same stick together, work as a team mentality. This experience is what it is because of the people involved, and I for one, can honestly say that you’re all strong, amazing people, and I hope to run with every single one of you in the future.
- I still have yet to puke during an ultra, but I sure came close on Saturday/Sunday. No more donuts during races. Bad, bad choices.
- Friends make everything better. When times get tough, they’re there to support you, when you fall down, they’re there to pick you back up. Literally. Thanks Hilary!!
One last thought was something that Hilary and I discussed driving home. How we found the key to doing epic crazy shit, and still enjoying it, even when we’re suffering and hurting.
We figured it out. The key is to convince your friends that crazy isn’t crazy at all, that these things are a good idea to do together. When you’re laughing, smiling, and chatting with a friend, the fact that you’re lost in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, isn’t quite as important, or as scary.
Next up, San Fran 50 Miler December 7th with Shea and Melissa. I sure hope I’m ready.