Race Report: 24-hour Barn Burner

I started the day with a goal: Join the 100-mile club.

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Even without training for the race, I honestly thought reaching 100 miles in 24 hours wouldn’t be so hard. If I go 5 miles per hour (slow, for me) I’ll get to 100 in 20 hours and have a nice four hour nap at the end of the race. Easy peasy.

Leave it to a San Joaquin Running race to be much harder than you expected.

I start off with a group and don’t pay much attention to the course at all because I’m telling Audrey a story. One lap down, my story is done, and we set off on another lap keeping pace with about five or six people. I still don’t pay much attention to the course. We’re telling stories and jokes, mostly commenting on The Barkley Marathons documentary we’d all seen on Netflix within the past few weeks.

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Lap 3 came around and people are getting little quieter. The novelty has worn off. This is going to be a long day.

The course is a 1-mile loop starting inside a gorgeous red barn. First there’s a small downhill on pavers, then a grassy stretch, then a gravelly road crossing, then a sandy stretch, and then a whole lot of dirt with a few small sticks and rocks to maneuver around. Right before the timing equipment that marks each lap in front of the barn, there is a stretch of gravel. Thankfully, after the first few laps, someone lays down strips of carpet to make the trek across the gravel a little easier.

I thought this was going to be a fast, easy loop because it’s almost pancake flat, however, the terrain proved to be tougher on the body than I’d anticipated. Even the tiny stretches of sand and gravel added up to be a huge pain in the ass (actually, in the feet, ankles, knees and hips).

I bust out my first 12 miles in about a 9:10 average pace. My 6-year-old daughter joins me for the 13th lap, which I clock at an 11:27.

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I keep about a 9:30 average until Mile 20, when I suddenly realize I’m dehydrated and overheating. Shit, I’m only two-tenths of the way to my goal!

I stop a little longer at the aid station (inside the barn) to guzzle water and Tailwind. On Lap 23 I decide to walk the entire lap, drinking down a HUGE styrofoam cup full of ice cold water. It takes me 14 minutes, 22 seconds. Slowest mile so far.

I shove some ice down my bra and into my mouth as I start the next lap and feel almost renewed. I tick off the miles, all the way up to 30, at just under an 11-minute-per-mile pace. I’m still way ahead of my 5-mile-per-hour goal and think I’ll hit 100 miles in the planned 20 hours.

Then the terrain starts to get to me. Everything is aching. My ankles ache, my right knee is in pain, my left hip injury from two years ago has returned and I have a new pain in my pubic bone.

I am NOT hurting myself at this race when I have Miwok 100K — my Western States qualifier for this year — coming up!

As I walk a lap with Audrey we both complain about how much pain we’re in. Her knee is hurting and she’s having flashbacks to Miwok of last year.

“I’ll drop down to the 12-hour if you do,” I tell her. She says, “Ok.”

When I see Nate (race director) in the barn I ask him “If I do 50 miles in the 12-hour do I get the 50-mile finisher award? Do you have enough of them?” He questions why. “Drop me down to the 12-hour.”

He laughs.

“Wait, are you being serious?” Nate asks.

“Yes! Things are hurting that have never hurt before and I’m done.”

I can’t remember exactly what he said but I walk out of the barn fully intending to run 15 more miles to get to 50, then cut out. My morale is better, knowing that I’ll be done before 9 p.m., and not 9 a.m. the next day.

Conversations with other runners keep my mind off of the pain. I don’t want to disclose anyone’s personal information, so I’ll just say that it’s extremely comforting knowing that my problems are not unique and that other people have found solutions. Running is the easiest setting for therapy. All secrets can be revealed when you’re sweating alongside someone else — not sitting on a couch face to face.

Anyway, I walk and run until I get to mile 47. Three miles left! I take off and bust them out in sub-10s. 50 miles done in 9 hours, 57 minutes! That’s a 50-mile record for me.

I have two hours left in the 12-hour race. But at this pace I’m on track to do 100 in 20 hours like I’d wanted. What the hell, I’ll give it a shot.

“Are you still going?” Nate asked back in the barn.

“Don’t let me quit,” I tell him.

“Oh, I wasn’t going to!” he says.

Totally true. When Audrey is in the barn at the end of the 12-hour race, she tells Nate she’s done. He literally pushes her out of the barn and tells her to keep going.

24 hours is 24 hours. Thank God we surround ourselves with people who make us keep our word!

I’m holding steady at a 6 mph pace through 57, then through Mile 65 I barely manage to keep a 5 mph pace. (I pass the 100K mark at sub 13-hours, another record for me. But at this point I don’t give a shit.) It’s getting darker and colder outside and I’m getting slower and more tired.

I had planned for a break at 1 a.m., but my watch gives me a low battery warning — much like my body — so I stop around 11 p.m. to take a short nap and use a portable charger to give my watch some juice.

The nap is miserable. I’m outside on a plastic mattress with a small blanket covering most, but not all, of my body and the wind hitting my sweat is giving me chills. I doze off and wake up a few times until Kenny’s alarm goes off and he wakes me up at 11:35. I put my shoes back on and keep moving.

Carmen paces me for several miles and it’s awesome to have conversation again. When she leaves, Bryan steps in to pace me for two laps. (I think. I now realize that between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., everything is a blur. I’m not quite sure who paced me at what time.)

Then I listen to my favorite podcasts: Stuff You Missed In History Class, Stuff You Should Know, and Ultrarunner Podcast. I NEVER listen to music or anything else while running, but desperate times called for desperate measures. And this is a desperate time. I need to 1) stay awake and 2) keep my mind off of the pain in my legs.

My husband shows up and walks a lap with me.

Finally, I can no longer stay awake and curl up for another quick nap. I’m smart this time around and drag a blanket to the sofa in front of a blazing fire in the barn. Toasty! I ask Carly to wake me up in 20 minutes, at 1:40.

It’s SO HARD to get off of the warm couch but I know at this rate I’m not going to hit 100 miles in 20 hours. Probably not even in 21 hours. Get moving! The podcast goes back on until Christina shows up around 3 a.m. to pace me for a bit. I posted on Facebook this morning that I would appreciate anyone who would come run with me during the 24 hours, bonus friend points for anyone who shows up at 3 a.m.

I’m amazed that Christina — someone I hardly know, since she’s fairly new to the Wascallys — agreed to come out in the middle of the night! The running community is so freakin’ awesome! We share stories of how we started running and how we’ve progressed.

Around 3:30 a.m. I hear “Heeeeyyyy!!! Faarrinnnn!!!! Aaahhh!!! Oh my gawd!!!!” and there are three drunk ass people coming toward me, headlamps ablaze. Pookie, O’Riley and Coach have been dropped off to pace us oh-so-fortunate Wascallys. After hugs and laughs, I tell them “Go sit your drunk asses down in the Barn!” and continue on my lap.

Coach decides to come with me on the next one. I tell him about the race so far (he probably doesn’t remember any of this now) and he listens, leaning on me the whole time and saying, “No shit?? No shit!” Then he pukes at LEAST an entire bottle of wine into the bushes. Just to be sure, he sticks a finger down his throat and throws up some more. Then it’s, “Let’s go!” and we’re off. We run the last half mile of the one-mile loop, with him zigging and zagging the whole way.

At the end of the lap, I’m relieved to find Roberto in the barn with four large coffees. As I start my next lap he jumps in alongside me and off we go… oh wait, Coach is following. Eh, he’ll make it. It’s impossible to get lost.

Roberto keeps me at a good pace through the wee hours of the morning until I just get so tired and so cold I can’t do much but walk. Still, one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow, is going to get me closer to my goal.

Around 5 a.m. it starts to get interesting. It’s still dark outside. The moonlight and the stars aren’t doing much to illuminate our path. I have a headlamp that I’ve changed the batteries on twice to ensure the brightest output. I don’t want to trip over anything and have it ruin my chances at 100.

Knowing that I’m going to walk the entire next lap, I grab a blanket to hold around myself in the bitter cold. That’s when things get interesting.

We cross the little gravel road and near a wooden gate. I notice a ski pole on the ground and make a big effort to step over it. Who left a pole here? Shit, am I hallucinating?

We walk a little further and Roberto is telling me stories, either to keep me awake or just to break the silence. I’m dozing off and zig-zagging on the trail, just like Coach was a few miles earlier. Then I step over a big milk jug blocking my path. Who the hell had milk out here?

“I just saw a milk jug,” I tell Roberto. “There’s no milk jug, huh?”

“You’re hallucinating,” he tells me, laughing. “Oh shoot!”

We keep walking, and suddenly I’m stepping on six-inch long and five-inch tall Monopoly houses and hotels. I can’t lift my feet high enough to step over them, and they’re all lined up in a row so I can’t go around them. I’m crushing them.

“I’m a giant. I’m stepping on all these little houses,” I tell Roberto.

“Oh, yeah, all those houses,” he says, laughing. “You need to drink some coffee when we get to the barn.”

I drink half the cup off coffee and then we take off running again. The only way I’m going to stay awake and keep from hallucinating (hopefully) is to pick up the pace.

Roberto runs with me for a total of three hours until the sun comes up. Definitely a lifesaver! Who knows what would’ve happened if I’d been by myself.

Running in the daylight is a bit easier. More and more people show up and/or wake up from camping in their tents. A crowd forms in and around the barn and everyone cheers at each lap. My mom and sister even show up. My sis walks a lap with me and I amuse her with my hallucination story.

I’m three miles away from 100 and someone tells me that I could be the second person to hit 100… I just have to beat the guy ahead of me. It’s on!

I take off and I’m glad to hear someone running to catch up to me. It’s Nate. He’ll definitely keep me on pace!

I run the next 3 laps without stopping and hit 100 miles sometime around 7:45 a.m. It took waaay longer than 20 hours, but at least I did it within 24!

I have no idea why, but I keep going. There’s still so much time left in the race, I decide to walk until 24 hours is up. I recall fellow competitor, Aaron, telling me days before, “It’s not a 100-mile race and then stop, it’s a 24-hour race! You’d better run the whole 24 hours.”

I’m at 101 and I’m told that the current leader (and fellow San Joaquin Running teammate) Eddie has called it quits at 102. If I go two more miles, I’ll win the race.

“I’m not going back out there, Farin, so be my guest and do two more. You can take it. I’m thinking of getting into my truck and leaving right now anyway,” he tells me.

Well okay then.

I walk another lap and hit 102. One more and I’ll win. I start walking and suddenly hear quick footsteps behind me, then see the black calf sleeves pulling head of me.

Oh hell no!! That liar!! 

Yup, it’s Eddie, who’s decided he’s not losing this race.

Ok, it’s on!

I take off after him and quickly catch up.

Nate yells, “Uh-oh! The race is on!!!”

Everyone’s cheering. After endless hours of people going around and around and around this damn loop, there’s finally some real excitement going on here!

Eddie’s stride is quick and hurried. Mine’s pretty laid back. We’re staying within a meter of each other, leapfrogging just slightly around turns. We come into the barn and I put on the brakes. “Can’t we just call it a tie??”

Apparently not. Eddie hustles along for another lap.

Screw this. Have fun, Eddie. 

I sit down and enjoy a calf massage, a juicy cheeseburger and more coffee as Eddie makes a couple more loops — ensuring that I won’t sneak in enough laps to claim the title. It’s all good. I’ve joined the 100-mile club, I’m first female and second overall, and that’s just fine with me. Where’s my belt buckle?

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***

What do you do after a 24-hour run? Well, I took a hot epsom salt bath and fell asleep in the tub. When the water got cold I woke up and went to sleep in my bed. (Approx. 1.5 hours of sleep, total.) Then I enjoyed Easter with the family and took another nap from 5 to 7 p.m.

I went to bed, like normal, at 10:30 p.m. and woke up at 7 a.m. feeling completely rested and back to normal. I’m even moving around all right. I went to yoga at 9:30 a.m. and got a great stretch in. 103 miles actually didn’t do too much damage!  **The results say I did 104. My watch totals come out to about 105. I thought I did 103 laps… Not sure what happened. I guess I’ll stick with the official results: 104! 😉 **

Barn Burner results

***

So thankful to all who helped me! Not just the pacers, but everyone who cheered and gave me food and drinks. Also a huge thank-you to Nate and his awesome wife Jillian for putting on this great event and sacrificing sleep to keep us all fed and hydrated.

It’s very fitting that this race was held on Easter weekend. After two huge lows — the Mile 35 “I’m dropping down” breakdown and the 5 a.m. hallucination party — I came back strong in the end thinking, “I have risen!!!” (And, no, I’m not Kanye… I don’t actually think I’m Jesus.)  It’s amazing how much can change over the course of an ultramarathon. So much different from a road marathon!

The Wascally women came out on top, with Audrey coming in 2nd place with 88 miles and Begered finishing 87 miles. I run with badass ladies!!

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12 thoughts on “Race Report: 24-hour Barn Burner

  1. Roberto de loera

    You are a superhero gazelle,stronger then anything,that’s just to tell you that if you put your mine to it you can do anything !!

    Like

  2. What an awesome read! Wish I could’ve made it out there to see all of you! “Courage to Start, Strength to Endure, Resolve to Finish!” You’re one tough mother runner. 😉 ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome piece! I am proud of you and hope I will use this as inspiration for my goals for running. Rest up!

    Like

  4. You’re so fricken awesome my Sweets! I’m still trying to figure out what kind of coach does that shit!
    Oh my god I was busting up out loud in my office as I read about my role in your great endeavor!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Andrea Quintero

    Omg..what a true badasses you ladies ( and guys) are!! Someday soon I hope to attempt something so grueling! lol. Love your honesty and it’s so true how we all have the same doubts and aches, but in the end it really is mind over miles! Wtg, you are incredible!! We’ll be back at this race next year!! =D

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrea Quintero

    P.S…great read!! Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] up for the California Classic 1/2 on a whim. After having run 104 miles last weekend in the 24-hour Barn Burner, I knew I needed rest. But the thing is, I actually felt pretty good. Following the Barn Burner I […]

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