Race Report: Shadow of the Giants

Of course I would follow up a race in which I played it smart and everything went right, aka Quicksilver 100K, with a race where I did everything wrong and was, well, estupit.

This is Farin being cocky: I did a 100K and got third overall female, I did a half marathon the next weekend and got second overall female, so if I sign up for this 50K last minute I might get first overall female… right?

I debated registering for Shadow of the Giants, but when I went to check the registration there were only 3 spots left. I impulsively took one of those remaining spots. I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids during the race, but those details could be figured out later.

Thankfully, fellow Wascally “The Princess” offered to go up the Green Meadows with her 5-year-old daughter and turn the race into a play date. (Thank you, again!!!)

Training was minimal, but I figured I hadn’t lost that much fitness, with the previous two races and my regular 6-ish-mile runs with my group.

This is where things got estupit. I asked to borrow a new Nathan vest from another fellow Wascally so that I could try it out. I loved the pocket design and it was so light and soft, I thought it would be the end to my hydration pack chafing dilemma.

Then I decided to eat something I had only had on one other occasion (and not right before a race), the night before the race: tempeh. Ginger-curry tempeh salad with green apple, grapes, cashews and sweet potatoes from Green Chef, to be exact. My stomach has been fine with my plant-based diet, so I figured tofu’s cousin would be fine, too.

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The morning of the race I had to wake my kids up at 4:50 a.m. to get on the road by 5 to make the 75-minute drive. It was early, and the race started at 7 a.m., so I figured coffee was a good idea. Never mind that I NEVER drink coffee before a race.

I also brought along an energy gel I’ve never tried before.

Estupiter and estupiter…

Parking is limited, but I arrived early-ish to get a good spot. But the person directing traffic pointed up a hill instead of down the hill, where I had parked last year. I was confused but assumed that all of the parking had been taken and I was SOL… the kids and I would have to make the trek down. I parked my little bitty Ford Focus in a treacherous area where my tires were slipping and I had zero clearance underneath my car. (Yeah, something is probably damaged under there.) My son complained as we made the long walk down to the start/finish area, lugging our picnic blanket, chairs, snacks and toys. I was irritated to find SO MUCH PARKING along the road. We got settled in and, sure enough, I was asked to move my car because it was “blocking the road.” How could it be blocking the road when, clearly, three vehicles had gone around it and parked in front of me? Ah well. Thanks to help from Team Instinct teammate Mark, my little car and I made our way down the hill to a much better parking spot.

(I include this in my Race Report so that next year I remember to go straight down the hill.)

By this time I was flustered, didn’t have any of my stuff ready, still had my pants and jacket on, and hadn’t visited the toilets. And I had 6 minutes left until the start.

I dashed to the restroom, where I realized that my stomach was NOT OKAY. I don’t know if it was the coffee, the previous night’s tempeh, or both, but I knew I was in for a rough race.

I stripped down to my shorts and singlet, grabbed my borrowed hydration vest and headed toward the front pack of the starting line. Then I dashed back to my kids’ picnic spot to grab my phone and headphones, 1 minute before race start. I had planned to listen to downloaded podcasts throughout the race, expecting to be lonely.

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Quick pre-race selfie with Mark!

With a countdown start, a mob of us made our way down the road from Green Meadows outdoor school/camp and then up the fire road where my car had been precariously parked before I moved it. On the way up the road, a box of caffeine-laced chocolate balls popped out of my vest. I had to turn around and run like a salmon against the current to retrieve it. This vest was losing points with me, already.

Climbing the first two miles wasn’t terrible, but no matter how much I tightened the vest, it wasn’t sitting correctly on me. This is what I get for trying something new on race day!

The next two miles involved lots of downhill to the first aid station (an out-and-back).

In a move that could never, ever in a million years be replicated, I ran behind Mark Dorman on a downhill and his shoe kicked up a tiny pebble directly into the back of my throat. Miraculously the rock didn’t hit my teeth, my eye or any other part that could’ve hurt or caused a lot of damage. Nope, instead it went straight into my mouth (I was breathing really hard) and my gag reflex stopped me from swallowing it. I coughed and the piece of gravel came rolling down my tongue into my hand. I had to sprint to catch up to Mark to let him know that he had inadvertently almost killed me. Ha!

The vest was TERRIBLE on the descent. It bounced so much that it tore up the skin on my collarbone within minutes. I couldn’t ditch it soon enough. I left it with a 38-weeks-pregnant woman who was manning (womanning?) the aid station and assured me that she would be at the finish area “sometime.” (Thank you!!! My borrowed pack, including my new Samsung Galaxy S8 and $140 headphones made it to the finish line and back into my hands. Ultrarunners/volunteers are the BEST!)

I carried a gel, a packet of maple almond butter and the box of caffeine chocolate balls in one hand and my Ultimate Direction body bottle in the other hand. Dammit, why hadn’t I just carried a handheld in the first place? Estupit.

At that point I was in third place and it took me several miles to catch up to second-place Katie Burns. In the meantime I dropped that stupid box of chocolate once and had to go back and pick it up. Why, oh why, didn’t I move those chocolates into a baggie instead of that dumb box??

I ate the chocolate and the gel within minutes of each other, just so that I wouldn’t have to hold them anymore past the next aid station.

Runners were becoming more spread out, which was a good thing, because all of the downhill was jostling my digestive system. I’m not ashamed to admit I was farting — loudly — as I ran. I had to look around to see if anyone had heard. If they did, I couldn’t see any indication on their face. Maybe they were just embarrassed for me.

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I caught up to first-place Nicole McManus around Mile 10-ish, I believe, shortly before the water crossing. Last year I remember the water coming up to my knees, soaking my calf compression sleeves and allowing them to keep me cool for a few miles. This year, as Nicole and I came crashing through the water together, I was in up to my hips and I think she slipped and fell in a little farther. Hooray for a wet year!

I lost Nicole around Mile 14. I slowed down to fart, honestly. And then my right hamstring got extremely tight. With a shorter stride, I just couldn’t catch up with her again.

The second half of the race was spent trying to go as fast as I possibly could without injuring my hamstring. I ran very carefully and was disappointed to see my pace getting slower and slower as my watch dinged each mile.

My only consolation was that the course is BEAUTIFUL. I pictured my kids enjoying their time with their friends and exploring in the woods. I couldn’t wait to get back to the finish area!

Yup, definitely having fun!

My goofballs!

I knew the podium probably wouldn’t happen, so I had to come up with a new goal. Obviously today wasn’t my day, being all Farty McGee and with my tendonitis flaring up. I decided to just try to cut as much time off of last year’s finish time (5:12) as I could. To be more ambitious, I’d go for sub-5-hours.

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Coming up to the touristy part…

Last year I loved the little touristy Shadow of the Giants hike, which is about a mile or so. There’s an aid station just outside of it that you hit twice. This year, I wished the tourists had stayed home. There were too many around to let one rip, and it really hurts to hold in farts. That mile felt SO LOOOOONG.

I don’t particularly enjoy the two-or-three-mile stretch that comes after it, either. We pass by the Calvin Crest Christian Retreat camp area on a stretch of fire road. It’s hot and boring and flat. I had ditched my phone and headphones with the vest, so I had to entertain myself with songs (or at least, one to two lines of songs) that kept repeating in my head. I was so ready for this race to be OVER!

During that stretch, the podium slipped away from me as Michele Van Ornum passed by. She tried to rally for me to push with her, but I didn’t have it in me. She warned me that the next girl was right behind her, so I tried to stay on pace and put distance between us. Elizabeth Ochoa finally caught me at the last aid station, three miles from the finish. So we meet again, fifth place! I came in 5th female last year, so I guess we’ll make it a tradition.

The last 3 miles seemed to take forever. Although they were downhill, I was favoring my right leg due to my tight hamstring and couldn’t fly the way I usually do on descents. It was exciting to hear the crowd and a bell ringing as I got within earshot of the finish area.

Sprinting through the last stretch of single-track through some trees — hopping over a few that had fallen across the trail — I crossed the concrete bridge and rounded onto the asphalt near the volleyball court. My son saw me and waved his little bottle of Gatorade. “Mom! I got this Gatorade!”

Then my daughter came out of nowhere and said, “I’m running in with you, Mom!” and she sprinted to the finish line by my side. Thanks to Juanito capturing that moment on camera, I’ll remember the race with joy.

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I didn’t break 5 hours (missed it by 30 seconds), but I did PR on the course. And I had stopped farting, thank goodness.

A volunteer gave me an ice cold towel to cool down with, Coach Brad popped an open grapefruit Sculpin into my hand, and I ate two bowls worth of vegan soup from the cafeteria. My kiddos told me all about their adventures while we waited for Big Baz’s post-race “magic” raffle, and then they took off again to go play with their friends while I enjoyed my beer, the awards ceremony and the company of all of the other awesome ultrarunners.

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I had done everything wrong, race-wise, but being in such a supportive running community made the day turn out right.

Results: Here.

Strava: Here.

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Added to my collection of wood from Elevation Culture!

 

Behind-the-scenes: The kiddos apparently had their own fun. (Photo credit: my 7-year-old daughter)

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How I rocked the Quicksilver 100K

Now is not the time to be humble. I kicked that race’s ass.

Quicksilver 100K was the smartest ultramarathon I ever ran. Yes, everything went well for me on race day, and I thank the ultra gods for that. But the way I prepared physically and mentally for this race was completely different from my traditional M.O.

I went into Quicksilver having qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon at the Modesto Marathon two months prior with a time (and 5-second PR) of 3:29:31. A week later, I ran 75 miles during the 24-hour Barn Burner. Then, due to the hubby being out-of-state “launching freedom,” I took two (much needed) weeks off of running.

Other things changed for me during this time period, as well. I went from being a 99% vegetarian (I ate 5 or 6 meat-containing meals during the entire 11 months) to a 100% vegan as of April 1.

I also started a regimen of 30 burpees a day throughout the month of April, and continued with 20-a-day in May. I felt stronger, I dropped four pounds from my 5-foot-2-inch frame, and my arms gained some definition.

After my short hiatus from running, I began to train for Quicksilver, beginning with a 16-mile training run on the actual course — at least, the first several miles and last few miles of it. It was a huge wakeup call. The hills were brutal, and that wasn’t even the hardest climbing section of the course.

It gave me a sense of what portions of my home trail I needed to train on. I prescribed myself a hefty dose of Pincushion repeats, a Pa’san Loop and weekly Casino Hill repeats. But, like any average patient, I didn’t follow the orders to a T. Yes, I did the loop; yes, I did my Casino Hill repeats every Wednesday. But I never got around to climbing Pincushion, which, I think, most closely mimics Quicksilver’s dreaded Dog Meat climb.

My PT once again became my best friend as I went in for my pre-race tuneup. I had a trouble spot in the arch of my left foot and tightness of the right hamstring near the ischial tube (or something like that. I don’t really speak anatomy). Tightness in my left psoas also returned, a problem I developed while training for my first BQ in 2014.

Just a few weekly visits later and I felt as ready as I’d ever be. Things were still a little tight from all of the training I was doing, but I wasn’t injured injured.

As the other two Fresno runners prepared in the week before the race by looking at the aid station charts, elevation profiles and maps, I did my best to not research anything.  I didn’t want to see the climbs, I didn’t want to estimate neither my finish time nor the times I’d get to each aid station. I didn’t know how many aid stations there were or how far apart they were.

I had just one plan: run.

The realization that I should have drop bags waiting for me forced me to look at the aid station chart to see how many bags I should pack. I threw a buff, a pair of socks, a Gu and a single-serving pack of Tailwind in each one. I put an extra pair (of brand new! lol) trail shoes in one of the drop bags that I would see twice during the race. Maybe I’ll need ’em, hopefully I won’t. I labeled each bag with the aid station’s name and then hid the aid station chart, never to look at it again. (Until now, as I’m using it for reference to write this race report.)

Just run. 

The best change I made for this race was to book a quiet, cozy AirBNB all for myself. I love having my family at races to support me, but it was SO NICE relaxing on my own the day before the race.

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I picked up my race packet, shopped at Whole Foods for pre-race breakfast, bought some new batteries for my headlamp at CVS and dined at MOD Pizza, devouring an entire 11-inch pie stacked with every veggie and topped with Daiya vegan cheese.

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Back in my minimalist-style, tidy AirBNB with a private entrance, I had no kids to take care of, no one sharing the bed, no movements, no sounds… I slept a peaceful 6 1/2 hours, waking up at 2:50 a.m. to get dressed and head out to the Hacienda entrance of Almaden County Park for the 4:30 a.m. start.

My digestive system cooperated, allowing me to start the race with empty bowels and a tummy full of banana and a few bites of espresso-laced vegan dark chocolate.

I met up with Fresno friends Juan and Bobby, and we soon found Brandy, a former-Fresno friend who flew in from her now-home state of Florida. We were all in good spirits and prepared to have a great race.

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The rocky, uphill start was illuminated by an almost full moon and about 200 headlamps. Starting off in the back of the pack, the four of us power walked for the first half-mile. Both seemingly a little impatient, Juan and I ran a few stretches, passing a half-dozen people at a time. We continued with these intervals until the course leveled out a bit. I started to run and didn’t see anyone I knew until a couple of miles later when Bobby shouted some words of encouragement during an out-and-back.

I wouldn’t see either Juan or Bobby again until I was about a marathon into the race — just after leaving Kennedy Road aid station at 25.8 miles. I never saw Brandy. (I found her after the race near the medical tent. She was injured around Mile 27 and couldn’t bear weight on her right leg, forcing her to drop.)

The first part of the race was a blur. I didn’t know where I was, placement-wise. I had no idea which climbs were coming up because I had refused to look at the elevation profile. I remember running into the first aid station, Hicks, and spotting my drop bag right away. Shalene, Bobby’s wife, said “Hey, Farin! You’re here already! You’re the first one.” I smiled, because, honestly, it’s kind of cool to be ahead of the guys.

She asked if I needed help finding anything and I glanced into my drop bag, realizing it was so early on in the race (6.1 miles) that I didn’t need anything. I grabbed three red grapes from the aid/station table and took off.

I grabbed a section of boiled russet potato from the next aid station (Wood Road), dipped it in salt and sped off again.

Just before I reached Lexington Aid Station, I heard the distinct voice of my Mama Gazelle, Audrey Crow, yelling “Yeeeaaaah, Farin!!!” I hadn’t wanted a crew. Remember, my entire methodology for this race was Just Run. But it was pretty nice to have a whole cheering section of Fresno folks who drove 2 1/2 hours just to watch you run for a few minutes every dozen or so miles.

I found my drop bag and Mikey sprayed my legs with sunscreen and helped apply some KT tape to my collar bone where my hydration pack had started to chafe my skin. Meanwhile, I asked Audrey to grab some grapes for me from the table. As I put my pack back on and prepared to head out, Audrey shoved an entire bunch of grapes in my hand. It was literally the size of my head, with at least two dozen ginormous red grapes dangling from it. “Dang, girl!” I said, an astonished look on my face. She met mine with an equally astonished expression. “You said to get you some grapes!”

I ran out of the station laughing, somehow picturing myself as Baloo, the bear from Jungle Book, as he balances a fruit salad on his claw while singing “Bare Necessities.”

To be honest, I ate about 10 grapes before I felt full (I’m telling you, these were HUGE grapes!) and had to toss the rest into the forest. Is it littering if it’s compost?

That’s when the toughest climb of the course came — Dog Meat. Four miles up and then four miles down. I had mentally prepared myself for this climb, picturing it as going up Pincushion x4. I guess the elevation gain wasn’t really as bad as that, but there was no way I was running up this thing. I slowly and steadily power hiked, hands on my knees, going up, up, up until I reached the top and saw a photographer. She snapped a few shots and then smiled at me, seeming a little annoyed. “You’re going to have to look up at me so I can see your face.”

I laughed and looked up, smiling for the camera. Looking up also forced me to see how much farther I needed to go. Thankfully it was only another quarter-mile or so to the peak. Then it was all down from there.

I LOVE going downhill. My stubby legs are built for it. They may suck at climbing, but my thunder thighs absorb all the shock while tearing down steep declines. I enjoyed every moment of the descent into Kennedy aid station, where I found my cheering crowd once again.

As we left, I chatted with JJ, a woman who I somewhat leapfrogged with on Dog Meat.

“From what I can see, we’re fourth and fifth,” I told her. “Were there more women ahead of those first two? They were far ahead.”

“No,”  she said. “You’re right. We’re in fourth and fifth right now.”

“That’s insane,” I said. “I’m normally not up here in big races like this.”

It was a little after this, I believe, that I ran into Tim from Sunnyvale, whom I had met during my one training run on the course a few weeks prior. He recognized me and we chatted a bit about how our training had gone after that run. Neither of us, it turns out, had returned for the second and third training runs organized by Quicksilver Running Club. I asked if he had any pacers or crew; he didn’t. I said I didn’t have a pacer, and I didn’t intend to have a crew, but my faithful teammates had driven up from Fresno that morning and it was nice to see some familiar faces.

“They drove up from Fresno?!” he asked, impressed. “I couldn’t get anyone to drive 20 minutes from Sunnyvale to be out here.”

That’s just the Wascally/San Joaquin Running Tribe way… we support each other!

By this time I was tackling the “Dead Kennedy Rollers” — an up-and-down ride on steep, dusty, rocky trail. I had put on my Trekz Titanium headphones by then — they conduct sound through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open — and was listening to an audiobook.

“The Stranger In The Woods” is a true story about a man who disappeared into the wilderness one day and didn’t rejoin society until 27 years later, when he was caught stealing food from a camp and arrested. The author, a journalist, did a fantastic job researching hermits and an even better job of storytelling. It was a great listen for a long run.

I reached Hicks Road aid station for the second time and was slightly bummed that my cheering crowd was missing. Either they were lunching somewhere or they didn’t expect me to get there that fast. (I found out later that it was the latter.)

Grabbing a stick of Tailwind from my drop bag, I asked a woman at the aid station if she knew how many girls were ahead of me. I needed to know if it was true — if I was really that close to the podium.

“Three,” she said, in an English accent. “But that third girl looked weak.” She winked at me. “You look strong.”

A huge smile spread across my face. “Thanks for that!” I said. I took off, this time on the hunt for a girl wearing a skirt and toting trekking poles.

My book had ended, and during a flat stretch I started going through the contents of my pack that I could reach without pulling it off. I wasn’t really hungry, nor thirsty … I was kind of just, well, bored. I found a sample packet of sunscreen and thought, now’s a good time to put this on.

As I rubbed the cream over my face, ears and neck, I wasn’t looking at the trail. I also decided that I was wasting time by walking, since it was flat anyway, so I started to run while still applying sunscreen. Ten seconds later I was sprawled out on my right side on the ground. My right big toe had caught a rock, sending my supermanning it into the dust. The sunscreen on my hands mixed with dirt, and I had a light brown, powdery coating of trail all over my right leg, right arm and shoulder.

Idiot! I laughed at myself.

“Are you OK?” yelled a runner several yards behind me.

“Hahaha yeah, I’m just stupid.”

“You’re more badass now!” he replied.

I sat up in the criss-cross applesauce position, planted my feet on the ground and stood without using my hands for support, spinning to face forward on the trail. If my fall looked dumb, at least my rise could look kind of cool.

A couple of miles later I reached Hacienda, where the race started, without ever seeing the third-place girl.

But I did see Audrey, who jumped out of Shalene’s car to cheer for me as I ran through. They had just pulled into the parking lot. “You’re running too fast!” Audrey said. “We thought we were going to miss you again. We missed Bobby, too, at Hicks.”

“Look! I fell!” I told her, excitedly.

“You’re not the only one,” she said.

“I know, but this was my first time, like, REALLY falling! I’m kind of excited about it!” I said. The aid station volunteers laughed (and I think I saw some eye rolls). Yeah, I’m a dork…

I quickly grabbed a couple of sweet potatoes, dipped them in salt, shoved them in my mouth and took off, shouting back to Audrey that I was in fourth place I needed to find third. “Uh, hello?!” she yelled back, holding up her iPhone. “I know! I already told everyone on Facebook that you’re in fourth!”

Within a half mile I spotted her. Hi, third place. Do I keep her in my sights and then pass her quickly later? Yeah. I’ll just hang back here.

Then boom, she turned her head and looked over her shoulder directly at me.

So much for the sneak attack.

I caught up to her and we leapfrogged a bit on the rollers. She was a better climber, probably due to the trekking poles, but I passed her again on the downhills. After about a half-mile of this, I saw my opportunity. It was all downhill from there into the next aid station, Mockingbird, which would also be the finish line when we returned to it 19 miles later.

I let loose on those downhills, sometimes skidding recklessly. Instead of slowing down, I just giggled and made little noises like, “Ah!” “Whoa!” and “Oy!” I was having the time of my life — and I was in third!

At Mockingbird I realized I was hungry, and as the volunteers added water to my hydration pack, I grabbed a big scoop of sweet potatoes into a cup. I set the cup down to put my pack back on, but then I turned and saw that the five people I had passed during that 2-mile downhill stretch were now making their way into the aid station. I took off, leaving my meager lunch there.

I realized it as I ran up the hill, just as I looked into the eyes of the now-fourth-place woman. She looked tired. Now was my chance to put some distance between us; I didn’t want to risk going back down to the aid station to grab my cup of potatoes.

The race was pretty uneventful after that. I continued to fuel with Tailwind and Gu, which I brought, and watermelon, potatoes, sweet potatoes, grapes and oranges, which I picked up at the aid stations. The first three I dipped in salt.

I popped five salt capsules throughout the race and stayed hydrated with plenty of water and Tailwind. This combination kept the cramps away, and I admit I was a little proud that I was eating healthy doses of fruits and veggies while racing. Vegan diet for the win!

I fell into step behind Paul, a runner from Sacramento. We talked about our previous ultra adventures and races we aspired to do. For a second I thought consciously about how relaxed I was. I was genuinely having fun and felt no pressure or nerves. Was this a 100K or a 10-mile training run?

Audrey ran about a mile and a half with me out of McAbee aid station and we chatted about how the race was going for me, Bobby and Juan. “I’m in LOVE with this course,” I told her.

I really was! Although I hadn’t run it before, it felt so familiar. When I was alone out there, I talked to the course sometimes. I literally said, “Oh, hi, Wellbarn!” during several stretches that reminded me of my usual stomping grounds. At another point I said, “Oh hey, SJRT!” That stretch was exactly like the second and third miles of the San Joaquin River Trail Half Marathon.

I looked forward to telling everyone back in Fresno how perfectly compatible SJRT and Quicksilver are. Even the volunteers at the aid stations made it feel like home. You had the sense that everyone knew each other and I didn’t have a single bad experience or come across a single nasty attitude the entire day. This was all smiles and rainbows and butterflies! Endorphins, much?

At Enriquita aid station, I found Stuart, the leader of the Quicksilver training runs who had graciously stayed back with me when I found myself alone behind the fast training group but ahead of the slow training group. “Hey, Farin! I haven’t seen your buddy, Juan,” he told me.

“He’s having some issues today,” I told him. “He’s behind me.”

I left my pack at this aid station to be refilled as I made a .6-mile descent, marked my bib with a Sharpie and returned on the .6-mile ascent. I felt so FREE without that extra weight. I wish I could’ve run the rest of the race that way, but alas, I had five miles (and probably an entire hour) left to go.

“I LOVE this race,” I told Stuart before taking off toward the finish. “It feels like home!”

It just wouldn’t be me running an ultra if I didn’t call my coach at some point. When I found a stretch of hike-inducing climbs and three bars worth of reception, I called Brad.

“I just wanted to tell you that I’m freakin’ killin’ it,” I told him, still focused on power hiking as fast as I could.

I could hear his smile before he even spoke.

“No way!”

“I’m going to get the podium.”

“Yeah?” He sounded like he hadn’t heard or comprehended what I’d said.

“I’m in third!!”

“What?! No way!” Now he understood. 

“And I’m not giving up that podium! There’s no way I’m going to let a woman pass me at this point. I have five miles left.”

He laughed, told me to keep kicking ass, and we hung up.

Alright, let’s finish this.

At the final aid station I popped another sweet potato and a slice of watermelon into my mouth.

Three miles left! 

I checked my watch. 12 hours and 3 minutes? No. Freaking. Way.

Not only was I going to PR in the 100K distance, I was going to smash my first-ever 100K goal: breaking 13 hours. I’m pretty sure I smiled all the way to the finish line.

I thought I might make it in by the 12:30 mark, but the final mile wasn’t all downhill like I had anticipated. I crossed the line in 12:31:45, crushing my PR by 41 minutes.

Audrey, just pulling into the parking lot like she had at Hacienda, was able to see me finish from the car. The race director congratulated me and handed me a belt bucket. Sweet!

I pigged out on a vegan burger, fruit salad and hard cider served at the super impressive post-race barbecue. Their spread was amazing. The club must’ve had a dessert potluck, because there was literally every type of cookie, cheesecake, cake, cupcake and any other type of sweet you could think of. Plus snow cones! And a dozen varieties of beer! And they didn’t even mark your bib! ALL YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK!! WHAT!?!?

But I digress…

I splurged on the post-race massage, posed for a photo with the first- and second-place women, who finished about an hour and a half hour ahead of me, respectively. My sweet mining pan award will be mailed to me, and I also snagged an age group medal.

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Almost two hours later, Bobby finished, securing his Western States qualifier for the year. More than two hours after that, Juan finished, crossing the line in the dark with his supporters running in behind him.

We came, we saw, we finished.

 

Results:  HERE

Cryotherapy — I tried it for you. Don’t do it. You’re welcome.

 

*** If you know me personally, you can figure out where I went. Please don’t repost this or tag the business, etc. The owner was really, really nice and I don’t want to hurt his business by any means. This is just my honest experience with cryotherapy for your reading pleasure. ***

You know how it’s easy to get talked into trying something when all of your friends seem to be doing it, too? Active Release Technique, chiropractic, myofascial manipulations, acupuncture… the list goes on.

Yesterday I tried the latest sports treatment to hit our hometown: cryotherapy.

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Here’s the idea: step into a chamber and get blasted with liquid nitrogen, making your skin so cold your body thinks it’s literally dying. Your body goes into survival mode, delivering blood to your core to protect vital organs.

Once you step out of the chamber, oxygen-rich blood will flow back through the body to your extremities, flushing out toxins and boosting circulation.

People who’ve endured this torture swear that it decreases muscle soreness, speeds recovery and relaxes them.

Sounds great! Let’s give it a go.

Let me tell you, there is NOTHING relaxing about stepping into a octagonal chamber, removing your robe so you’re wearing nothing but socks, rubber-soled shoes and gloves, and waiting for the technician to chill the air inside your chamber to -190 to -260 degrees.

It’s painless, they said. It’s not even as bad as an ice bath, they said.

Don’t believe them!

You spend a maximum of 180 seconds in the chamber — that’s three minutes, for those who are rusty on mental math — and every 30 seconds you’re asked to rotate a quarter turn to ensure that every part of your naked body receives equal freeze torture. It’s like being a rotisserie chicken on a spit, except instead of being licked by flames, you’re being kissed by dense clouds of nitrogen-chilled air.

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I’m an ultramarathoner, so I’d like to think that I have a high tolerance for pain and discomfort. Three minutes? I can handle anything for three minutes.

Not.

First of all, before I stepped into the freezing machine, the technician told me a nice little story about how a young woman died in one.

FANTASTIC SELLING POINT, right?

He was trying to make a point about how his machine is different, aka better, than the one she was using. It’s created so that you can’t freeze yourself, you must have a technician present to work the machine while you’re inside.

But, as I willingly stepped inside of the thing, I couldn’t help but picture the poor, frozen-solid woman. What the fuck am I doing?? I’m walking the plank to my certain death. Naked.

“After investigating, it looked like the woman dropped her cell phone while inside of the machine, bent over to pick it up, inhaled liquid nitrogen and passed out … then she froze to death,” the technician had told me.

Note to self: don’t inhale the fumes, or you’ll be passed out, naked, with a dude and his dog. (Yes, his rescue dog came to work with him every day and was currently snuggled up with a pillow on a nearby couch.)

I was dying to get out of that chamber almost as soon as I stepped in — maybe because I was LITERALLY DYING. The extreme cold is supposed to signal to your central nervous system that you’re freezing to death — but I don’t think it stopped there. My brain also thought I was freezing to death. I was gasping, shivering, and using all of my willpower to stop myself from screaming, “Let me out! Let me OUT!!”

Meanwhile, the technician asked me questions about my running habits. At first, I breathlessly whispered one-word answers. When I tried to string more than two words together my breath would fail and I was left gasping for air. After it was apparent that I couldn’t give any answers — because my brain ceased to THINK, instead spending its last moments telling my heart to keep pumping — the technician laid off the interrogation.

Finally, the 180 seconds had passed, I was still (barely) alive and the technician shut off the blast of nitrogen and handed me my robe. I fumbled with it, trying to see what I was doing. I couldn’t feel my body and my hands struggled to find the sleeves in the robe. My arms were half jerking, half shivering and I was in a panic to cover myself in cloth as quickly as possible.

I was almost so desperate to get out of the torture chamber that I considered pushing the door open while still stark naked. Running depleted my boobs a long time ago; not much to see here, anyway.

When I finally managed to get the robe on, inside out, I think, the technician told me to push on the door and step out. It was all I could do to keep from RUNNING out.

I began to “get the tingles,” as the tech called it, as the blood rushed back to my arms, legs and skin. I was led back to the changing room to put my clothes on, and although I was wearing a soft long-sleeve shirt and cozy leggings that day, the usually comfortable fabric felt irritating on my skin. I didn’t want anything to touch me for a couple of minutes.

I got dressed anyway, and as my body returned to normal I felt warm. My body returned to normal body temperature — 98.6 degrees — but compared to the -160 I had just endured, that felt feverish.

As I got dressed, I began to notice little squiggly spots in my vision. FUCK, a migraine.

Of course this would trigger a migraine. Blood rushing around in my body in an abnormal way always triggers a migraine for me. When I run Yasso 800s too fast and recover too slowly, I get a migraine every time.

“How do you feel?” the technician asked, with a huge smile on his face. “Many people feel a sense of euphoria right after treatment. It’s because of a huge endorphin rush.”

“Actually, I feel a migraine coming on. I’m getting an aura,” I responded.

His smile faded.

“Oh… that has been reported…” he said, telling me about another woman who experiences migraines who received a few treatments and didn’t get a migraine EVERY time, just once.

That’s NOT going to convince me to come back and try it again.

He went on to tell me about his clients’ success stories, from a 50-plus-year-old bronc rider who uses cryotherapy to recover from rodeos and a high school football player who was referred to him by a physical therapist who saw nothing in an MRI except massive inflammation after the player took a hard hit during a game.

Well, that’s great for them. Meanwhile, I’m over here having my day ruined by a migraine.

The technician also told me women love to get cryotherapy because it boosts the metabolism.

“You’ll burn 800 additional calories the rest of the day because of it,” he told me. “Except don’t quote me on that number. Just say you’ll burn extra calories, we know that from research.”

Oh, okay.

“I love this job,” the technician continued. “Everyone who comes in here walks out with a smile on their face because they feel so good.”

Well guess what, buddy? I’M NOT SMILING! I DON’T FEEL GOOD!

I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, and as my migraine aura got worse I tried to assess my body. I was sore from a 9-mile hill-repeat run that morning, and I tried to focus on my hamstrings, quads and calves to see if they felt any immediate relief.

They didn’t.

Today, 20 hours after treatment, they still don’t feel any different.

A knot that I’ve had in my back near my right shoulder blade is still there. My shins and hips are still achy. I expect I feel exactly as I would if I hadn’t stepped into that freezing torture chamber for three fucking minutes and then several hours in a prescription migraine drug-induced stupor.

Moral of the story: Even if you see Facebook posts of your runner friends smiling inside a foggy black chamber with the words “So cold but SOOOO GOOOOD!” — DON’T BELIEVE THEM! DON’T FUCKING BELIEVE A WORD OUT OF THEIR FREEZING, LYING LITTLE MOUTHS! They probably posted that before their brains started functioning normally again.

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Give me a thumbs up! he said. This is a fake smile. My eyes are saying, “I’m dying.”

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Another fake smile as I step out. Get me the fuck outta here.

Take it from me: leave cryotherapy alone and go get a good, old-fashioned sports massage instead. There’s no need to ALMOST DIE to feel better. 

If you enjoy cryotherapy, you’re weird. There’s no denying it. Cryo me a river.

 

#PaintingMyNikesRed

As the owner of a small business, I know the hard work and late nights that go into creating a product that you hope people will choose over those produced by large corporations. Small business owners have to be creative and innovative to offer a product that is different from the rest.

I have a friend who is a brilliant entrepreneur and the most creative person I know. She is the proud owner of Endure Jewelry Co. and designs each piece of jewelry and every item of clothing by herself.

One of her most popular designs is the Run Smiley series. If you’re a runner, you’ve probably noticed the blissful smiley face — whose eyes are the letters “r” and “n” and whose nose is a “u” — across a tank top, t-shirt or long sleeve performance top or hoodie. They’re everywhere, and for good reason. The design is beyond cute and comes in a variety of colors and variations for holidays.

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The Run Smiley design is practically synonymous with Endure. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see that a big corporation has seemingly stolen this design — yet made it less attractive — and is now mass producing it.

Yes, I’m talking about you, Nike.

Nike has not paid Sunny, the owner of Endure and of this design, to use any version of the Run Smiley.  It’s just pathetic for one of the largest athletic companies out there to steal from a small, minority-owned, woman-owned business.

Through her fantastic designs for both jewelry and apparel, this single mom has supported herself and her son. Now Nike wants take her brilliant ideas and make millions?

Here’s Sunny’s perspective, in her own words:

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‪#‎BLOODSWEATandTEARS‬ I’m going to be brutally honest. This Sunny girl hasn’t been feeling very sunny the last few days. I feel sick to my stomach, discouraged, and heartbroken. This red paint represents just that. One of the largest athletic companies in the world, @Nike, has recently sold a shirt that is strikingly similar to our best selling design. Yet they deny copying it and also claim they aren’t similar (see comparison). As a single mother, my company Endure has been me and my son’s main source of income that has supported us over the last year and a half. Nike is known for being aggressive when it comes to lawsuits and I’ve been advised not to sue them since fighting a giant like Nike would be an uphill battle for such a small business. In support of our small business, as well as all the other small businesses out there, I encourage you to stand with me as I ‪#‎PaintMyNikesRed‬ to represent the blood sweat and tears that have been shed. I’ve worked almost seven years to bring this dream of mine to life. You can even paint just the ‪#‎NikeSwoosh‬ on your accessories and apparel to show your support. We want to make them resemble blood! You don’t have to paint your whole shoe, you can use whatever red paint you choose. Anyone who participates is entitled to 50% off the original version of this design, just email me for your coupon code.
#‎
supportsmallbusinesses‬
. ‪#‎NIKEsucksBLOOD‬
‪#‎nobodymakesmebleedmyownblood‬ ‪#‎nikebloodshed‬

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Please share this post. Maybe we can all get Nike to stand down and remove this design from their line — or pay royalties to Endure for using it.
‪#‎NikeSteals‬ ‪#‎ProtectArtistRights‬ ‪#‎WeWillEndure‬

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Race Report: Miwok 100K

I showed up at the Miwok 100K starting line yesterday (May 7) with the intent to finish the race before the 15:30 cutoff time and earn my Western States 100 qualifier.

I’ve learned in the past that if I set my mind to something, I have to express it “out loud” (social media works) to hold myself accountable. It’s much more motivating when I feel like it’s not only my eyes on me, but everyone else’s eyes on me, too — whether they’re expecting or doubting my triumph.

Qualifying for Boston happened that way. Finishing my first 50-miler happened that way. Running 100+ miles in 24 hours happened that way. I had to do what I said I was going to do.

I enjoy running for the sake of running; the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of pace, just brings me joy! Another thing I enjoy is setting goals and accomplishing them.

I knew from the start that Miwok wasn’t going to be all fun. I knew there were going to be parts that I wouldn’t enjoy. But it was those moments during the race in which I had absolutely no joy — zilch — that I thought solely about accomplishing the goal and having a second Western States lottery ticket proverbially in my hand. And the anticipation of that joy got me through.

This race report begins long before the race. To recap, I ran 104 miles on Easter weekend during the 24-hour Barn Burner. The following weekend (April 2) I ran the California Classic half marathon and strained my popliteus/hamstring … pretty much everything behind my right knee, above and below it. My PT told me it would take 6-ish weeks to heal. I only had 5 weeks before Miwok. So I rehabbed and rested so hard for those 5 weeks and toed the starting line with just 6(-ish) running miles on my legs. My longest “training run” had been 2 miles.

With that already against me, my attitude was hardened against anything else that would inevitably try to get in the way of my 100K finish. Come on, what’ve you got to throw at me?

I ate a horrible Jimmy Johns sandwich on the road trip up to the Bay Area (vegetarian, because I’m on a meatless May challenge) that really jacked up my stomach. Oh is that all you’ve got? Well I’ve got Pepto Bismol in my purse. Boom.

I slept okay the night before the race, getting maybe 4 1/2 hours total. “Mama Gazelle” Audrey and her husband Kenny and I stayed in an AirBNB in San Anselmo. It was a nice room with three beds, a bathroom and a “private entrance” through the garage. Audrey takes a long time to get ready for anything (don’t get mad, “Diva,” you know it’s true!) so she set her alarm for 2:50 a.m. I’m a light sleeper so I woke up at that time, too, although my alarm was set for 3:10. We got dressed and packed up the car and prepared to head out at 3:30 a.m.  — then the garage door broke.

Seriously? It’s not our house. It’s 3:30 in the morning, so we don’t want to wake our host up. But we need to get the car out of the garage to leave for the race! Thank goodness Kenny was able to manually push the garage door up while I backed out the car. OK, anything else you want to throw at us?

We still arrived at the parking lot near the starting line at 4:15 a.m. I used the portable toilet twice. I was NOT going to be on the toilet when the race started, like last year. Audrey and I grabbed our drop bags and hydration packs and headed to the check in area. We checked in, dropped our bags and decided to wait in the toilet line to try to go once more before the race started. The line had at least 60 people in it and there were 8 toilets.

I wasn’t on the toilet when the race started. I had just finished and as I was holding the portapotty’s door open for the next person, the race started and the crowd began to move. Really? 

I waited for Audrey so we could start the race together, just like last year. We ran the first 100 yards of the race to the mouth of the stairs, where we started our first 20-minute mile in a crowd, just like last year. The trail is narrow so it can’t accommodate more than two people side-by-side. Much of the time the line is single-file.

The second mile was even slower, with more stairs and more single-file running. At the top of Cardiac hill, while it was still dark and foggy, a lone bagpipe player serenaded us with upbeat Celtic tunes. Bagpipes, however, only remind me of funerals. Here we go, the Miwokers heading to our funerals…

Then we got to my favorite part of the course: the descent from Cardiac to Muir Beach. I LOVE downhills. I thought my popliteus/hamstring was going to cause me some trouble going downhill, but thankfully the Zenzah hamstring compression sleeve I ordered from Amazon seemed to hold everything together and apply pressure in just the right spot. I flew downhill, passing up dozens of runners. I have to make up time where I can, because I know what’s coming. 

On the way to Muir Beach (the aid station is at the end of a boardwalk), we get to see runners who have already made it to the station and are heading back out onto another trail. I LOVE out-and-backs. It’s really cool to get to see other people face-to-face, rather than just following runners from behind. I got to the aid station (Mile 8), got my Ultimate Direction Body Bottle refilled with Tailwind and grabbed a few small pieces of watermelon. Then I was off. I probably spent 90 seconds there, at the most.

As I ran, I kept looking for Audrey, wondering how far behind me she was and how her legs were holding up. We finally saw each other and instantly smiled the biggest smiles. “That’s my girl!” I yelled, and we high-fived as we passed each other. I estimated she was about 8 to 10 minutes behind me.

The next five miles were uneventful. I got t0 the Tennessee Valley aid station (Mile 13) and was happy to see Kenny. This is the first aid station where crew is allowed.

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I asked for Aquaphor and he grabbed the tub of it as I rolled up my gaiter and pulled off my shoe. A blister had started on the sole of my right foot. I slathered Aquaphor on it, and then rubbed some more on my collarbone where my hydration pack was rubbing. I grabbed more watermelon and got my Tailwind refilled, then took off.

The next aid station, Bridge View, was 5.6 miles away. I never run with music, or anything really, but I grabbed my headphones and plugged them into my iPhone (it belongs to my work. I’m an Android girl, personally. Sshhh). I started to listen to the long lineup of podcasts I’d downloaded prior to the race, just in case I hadn’t met someone at my pace that I could talk to for miles. I finished up a “Stuff You Missed In History Class” episode about women in the US Postal Service, and then moved on to one of 6 episodes of UltraRunner Podcast. What else would I listen to while (ultra)running?

Somewhere around here it started raining. Lightly at first, and then steadily.

I had downloaded several Western States-related episodes as motivation. I listened to an interview with Nikki Kimball, the first female Western States winner (2004), another with Ann Trason (if you’re a runner, you shouldn’t need an explanation on who she is) and then one with Jade Belzberg, girlfriend of Nickademus Hollon (Barkeley finisher), who reflected on her first 100-miler.

I should mention that I listen to all podcasts at 1.5x speed. So an hour-long episode will take me 40 minutes to listen to.

Grabbed some watermelon and a Tailwind refill at Bridge View and then headed back to Tennessee Valley, still listening to URP. It was really cool to listen to these amazing and humble women talk about ultrarunning, while I was ultrarunning. I’ll probably do this in future races.

Anyway, got back into Tennessee Valley pretty soaked from the rain. I decided to change my shoes then, as I knew the blister was getting worse. Traded in my Altra Lone Peak 1.5s for my Altra Superiors — the Old Faithfuls. Stripped off my gloves because they were soaked and making my hands wrinkly. Refill of Tailwind and a couple watermelon bites and off I went. I had run a full marathon, and the cutoff time for this station was 11 a.m. (6 hours). I came in around 10:30, and I was hopeful that Audrey hadn’t fallen too far behind me. She had to finish this! It was her redemption run!

Muir Beach was just 4.3 miles away. More URP got me through it, although I was getting really cold from the constant drizzle and high winds. I met Pierre, who asked if I had a hamstring injury (because of my compression sleeve). I explained how I’d injured it, and he said, “Wow! Compared to that I don’t even have an excuse. I was hiking when I felt something go wrong.” As we started on a downhill he said he’d drop back a bit because the downhills hurt his hamstring. Luckily, my legs were holding up despite the lack of training.

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At the Cardiac aid station (Mile 35.5) I was completely out of water in my hydration pack and relying only on the Tailwind in my bottle. A woman refilled my bladder as I grabbed a tortilla smeared with hummus from the table. A couple more pieces of watermelon and I was good to go.

As I walked away from the aid station I realized my pack was way too full — the volunteer had filled it to capacity — and there was air in the bladder. When I got out of sight I took the bladder out of the pack, flipped it upside down and sucked the air out through the hose, then squeezed the hose to release about half a liter. Not her fault; I should’ve specified not to fill it all the way.

The tortilla and hummus was damn good, but I could feel “ultra mouth” coming on. Whenever I do ultras my mouth becomes really dehydrated and the roof of my mouth aches when I try to eat. On a pain scale from 1-10 it was about a 3 at that point.

After Cardiac, on the way to Bolinas Ridge, there is a single-track trail with thigh-high grass on either side. It is the skinniest single-track in the entire race, and one misstep can send you down the side of the hill, at least 70 feet. Fog enveloped the entire area. You couldn’t see too far down the hill, nor could you see very far in front of you. The dirt became muddy, but not too slippery. It was just in that sweet spot where it was soft but not yet treacherous.

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I pulled my phone out to take a photo of the abandoned car. It seemed rustier this year.

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Then I entered the “jungle part” (Audrey and I really need to learn the names of these trails. It just looks like a jungle, OK?) of the course. The redwoods provide a canopy, but it didn’t shelter us from the rain. Actually, there was a break in the canopy where I realized it wasn’t raining anymore, at all, but under the canopy water dripped steadily as if it was still raining. I guess the water collects on the leaves of the trees and continues to drip, leaving runners soaked and the terrain mushy and flooded.

At this point I was listening to a “Stuff You Should Know” podcast episode about Megalodon — a prehistoric shark that was as large as a Greyhound bus. Its teeth were 15 cm long, compared to 5 cm for a present-day Great White Shark. Josh (or was it Chuck?) compared a Megalodon eating a human to a human eating a single Cheez-it. Unsatisfying.

I instantly craved Cheez-its.

Lo and behold, I got to Bolinas aid station and there was a bowl of Cheez-its waiting for me! I grabbed a handful, refilled my Tailwind and asked when the cutoff for this aid station was. “You have to make it to Randall and back to here by 7:02 p.m.,” the volunteer told me. “You’ll make it.”

It wasn’t me I was worried about. I didn’t know how far back Audrey was, and it was at this aid station where she dropped last year. She had to make it!

I was getting really tired as I left the aid station and headed for Randall. I was also freezing cold. I really thought I was going to get hypothermia. The rain continued to come, mostly because I was under the redwood canopy that seemed to drop water in a steady stream. Who knows if it was really raining above it all…

The terrain was ridiculous. The dirt floor had turned into thick, black mud. Where there wasn’t mud, there were puddles of chocolate milk-colored water. Some of the puddles stretched the entire 10-12 foot width of the trail. I tried to run on the driest spots, but sometimes there was no avoiding the puddles at all. It  was either run right through them and get your entire shoe wet (the puddles were ankle-deep) or run into the poison oak lining the trail. My feet were soaked, my clothes and hat were soaked, my fingers didn’t work anymore because they were frozen, and my skin was white and wrinkled.

I had to focus on getting to Randall, where I knew I could change into dry clothes. I was miserable, but I never thought of quitting. Western States was all I could think of. I’m finishing this damn race, come hell or high water (it was ankle-deep, so far, what else have you got?)

Around this time I saw Bobby coming the opposite way. He was about 6 miles ahead of me, I estimated. Last year he DNF’d Miwok, so it was good to see him doing well this year. He kept asking me “What’s wrong?” But nothing was really wrong, other than I was just really cold. We parted ways and I walked off, shivering.

I was getting really tired and started swerving on the trail, barely moving forward. I grabbed a pack of assorted flavor Jelly Belly Sport Beans with caffeine and poured the entire pack into my mouth.

After about 15 minutes, the caffeine kicked in and I raced over those rolling hills, passing several people.

“I need to get me some of those beans you had!” one runner yelled as I passed him. “Apparently they work!”

“Yup!” I yelled back. I was running and totally enjoying it, despite the cold.

After a very long 6.7 miles I came into Randall and saw Kenny with my bag ready for me. I asked for my sweater — the only warm clothes I had brought on the entire trip, as I wasn’t expecting this much rain — and a plastic poncho. He ran to my car to get my sweater while I stripped off my SJRT hat, Gazelle Gear buff and SJRTeam singlet and pulled on a Badwater buff as a tube top. I realized I had packed my extra singlet in the wrong drop bag.

I had an extra pair of socks and calf compression sleeves, but I figured what was the point? I was heading back the same way I came to get back to Bolinas aid station and I knew there were unavoidable puddles. Changing everything would just take more time and it would get wet again within a few minutes.

Kenny returned with my sweater and helped me put the poncho over it. My hydration pack went over that. I asked if Audrey had made the first two cutoffs (11 a.m. at Tennessee Valley and 1:45 at Cardiac). Kenny said she had called him and said she had made that last cutoff. Woohoo!

I asked for a pack of caffeinated Jelly Belly Sport Beans, having a feeling I’d need some more before the finish, then I walked to the tables to get a refill on Tailwind.

Heading out of Randall, everyone walks. The hill is so steep, only the most ultra of ultrarunners could run it at this point (Mile 49.2). I’m not that ultra.

I checked my watch; it was 4:38. The cutoff time at Randall was 5:20 p.m. Audrey didn’t have that much time to get there.

A cheerful volunteer offered to keep me company for a bit. I rolled up my headphones and put them away, and she asked me my name and I asked hers. Alison said she was so inspired by all of us runners, and then as quickly as she joined me, she left me, tagging along with another runner who was going the opposite way. Weird…

As I ascended the hill and then got to the rolling hills under the canopy, I kept hoping that I’d see Audrey coming toward me.

When it was 5:15 and I hadn’t yet seen her, I knew it was too late. She wasn’t going to make the Randall cutoff. She must’ve been pulled at Bolinas — exactly where she left the race last year. Damn! I kept hoping it wasn’t true but deep down I knew it was. I wondered how hard she was going to take it this year. Last year it was really tough, because it was her first DNF. I was hurting for my Mama Gazelle! 😦

Between Randall and Bolinas is where I hallucinated last year. (I saw a bear, a baby elephant, a giant butterfly, a snake and platypus, among other animals.) This time, I was listening to podcasts when “Stuff You Should Know” about LSD came on. How fitting. I learned all about the origins of LSD, how to make it and what effect it has on humans, rats and elephants.

I expected Audrey to be sitting at Bolinas when I got there, but she wasn’t. (Kenny had picked her up from the aid station by this time.) That 6.7 miles had taken me a very long time. It was just after 6 p.m. I had 2 1/2 hours to make it to the finish, just a 10K away. I can do that, right?

That last 6.2 miles was the longest ever in life! We backtracked through the foggy, grassy, skinny single-track, which seemed to stretch on for miles. I ate the other pack of Jelly Bellys but it didn’t have quite the same second-wind effect that the first had. Still, I was able to run most of that stretch. I thought I was going about a 10-minute per mile pace but it turned out to be a 13-minute per mile pace. Apparently that’s what happens when you haven’t properly trained for a race.

The last 3 miles were the worst. My Altras did not have enough padding, and the balls of my feet were in excruciating pain each time they hit the ground, and even more so when they landed on tiny rocks, which were everywhere. I asked every person I passed, “How much farther to the finish?” My GPS watch hadn’t been correct for a while, so I didn’t know if I had 4 miles left or 2. No one else seemed to know either. “Just a couple,” was one response. “About 3,” was another. “You’ll make the cutoff, just don’t stop,” was another.

I wanted to know for sure! It was getting down to the wire and I needed to know if 20-minute miles were going to cut it, or if I had to push for 15-minute miles. I couldn’t imagine going any faster than that. We were on a highly technical portion of the trail that involved a lot of tall trail stairs. We were going downhill and my quads were shot. I had to go down each stair sideways, very slowly. Every time my foot touched the ground I said, “fuck.” My feet hurt so bad. I don’t think I’ve ever cussed as much in one day as I did in those last two miles of Miwok.

The minutes on my watch seemed to tick by faster and faster. I thought I would make it in to the finish by 8 p.m. (15 hours), but at 7:54 p.m. I realized I wasn’t. That cutoff was getting closer and closer but I couldn’t move any faster. And I had no idea how far way the finish was.

A lot of runners were passing me by now. Their quads and feet were holding up, but I was the gimpy one trying to tag along at the back of the train. “How much farther?” I asked one runner. I was in tears and you could tell in my voice. “Just half a mile, come on! You can do this!”

I did the best I could coming down the stairs, and ran as fast as I could on the muddy stretches in between. But when a full mile had past and I wasn’t at the finish line, I was really discouraged.

Sobbing, I continued to descend the stairs, cursing every single time my foot hit the ground. My left foot hurt worse. I started walking during a particularly slippery section, and I was audibly sobbing. Then I heard, “You’ve got this! Don’t cry! You’re almost there. What’s your name?”

“Farin,” I sobbed. I tried blinking away the tears but I couldn’t see a thing.

“Farin! I remember you! I’m Alison. You’re going to make it, just don’t stop.”

I continued to cry, feeling like such a baby. Then I slipped, coming down onto my ass and my left hand. My right hand grabbed the nearest bush, which was certainly poison oak. It felt oily. The fall made me cry even harder, and I had almost an out-0f-body experience, picturing myself as my daughter. I’ve seen her cry hysterically before, unable to calm down. I was exactly like that. It was pathetic.

“No, no, no! Get up! Get up, Farin! You’re finishing this. Go! GO, GO, GO!” Alison yelled. She grabbed my left hand (the non-poisoned one), pulled me to my feet and pushed me forward on the trail. I ran away from her, still crying, but determined to make it.

The finish line was about a quarter mile away and I cried the whole way there. I wiped my tears away as I passed by spectators surrounding the finish chute. Shit, I wiped my face with my poison hand.

I crossed the finish line, heard someone yell out my bib number, and then buried my face in my hands and sobbed. I hated that race. I hated the course. I especially hated the last two miles. I hated all the pain and the rain and the fact that Audrey hadn’t finished. I was so relieved to be done with it all, and to have made it in before the cutoff.

“It’s OK!! Don’t cry! You did it! You made it!” I could hear race director Tia Bodington tell me as she placed a medal around my neck. Another volunteer hugged me and tried to comfort me.

I was the emotional wreck everyone was staring at and I was really embarrassed. But I couldn’t stop crying. The injury I was nursing, the rain and the horrible mud, the aggressive cutoff times, the fuckin garage door that wouldn’t open this morning… all of it just overwhelmed me all at once. “Fuck you, Miwok!” were the only words that came to mind. I was so over all of it and just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep. Sleep is the only thing that helps when my daughter gets hysterical like that.

Audrey, wrapped in a mylar blanket, came to hug me and take me to get my finish line drop bag. I stripped off every thing except my shorts and bra and scrubbed myself with Tecnu, rinsing off with a hose. I walked back into the Stinson Beach Community Center in shorts, a bra and flip-flops. People were staring at me, and I couldn’t tell if it was because they’d all seen me crying minutes earlier, or if it was because I was wearing next to nothing while they were all bundled up. I felt hot and sick.

I got my swag bag and a plate of food — potatoes, mac & cheese and arugula/couscous salad. I tried to eat while Kenny walked down to get the car. The salad was amazing, but after a few bites my “ultra mouth” started hurting and I felt really sick. I tried to throw up before getting into the car, but couldn’t do more than heave.

We stopped 3 times during the 45-minute car ride back to the San Anselmo spot so that I could puke.

When we got in the house (Kenny was able to fix the garage door as we tried to open it with the remote!) I put my new Miwok 100K 2016 shirt on and laid on my bed. I knocked out within a few seconds. I woke up several minutes later and took a selfie with my shirt and medal, posting it on Instagram with the words, “Never doing this again.”

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I mean it! Miwok is not my cup of tea.

I fell asleep in the bathtub, soaking my legs and back in scalding hot water. My bra had chafed my back and it stung, but it wasn’t anything compared to the pain I’d felt during the race.

I curled up in bed that night embarrassed at what had transpired at the end of the race, yet joyful that I had earned a second Western States lottery ticket and proud that I had done what I said I was going to do.

I know people had doubted me, but what counted was that I never doubted myself. If I’d had to sprint until my legs came off at the finish to scrape by one second under the cutoff, I’d have done it. Thankfully I’d come in at 15:23 and some change — less than 7 minutes to spare. (And almost 2 hours slower than last year.)

***

Now I’m back to resting, and trying to eat. Ultra mouth is still preventing me from eating anything other than frozen yogurt and soup. It’s about an 8 on the pain scale if I try to eat anything else.

My legs have never been so sore after a race. I got down on the floor to play with my kiddos when I got home, and I literally could not get back up. My quads and hamstrings are so fatigued, they won’t work at all. I had to crawl over to my son’s bed and use my arm strength to lift myself up. It got so bad that my daughter was yelling, “Daddy! Come help Mom, she’s stuck!”

I can’t use my legs to lower myself onto a chair (or toilet). I have to use my arms. I can’t walk normally. I can barely drive; it’s painful to switch my foot from the gas to the brake and back again.

My shoulders are sore from my pack. My skin hurts where it chafed. My feet are sore and swollen.

In short, EVERYTHING HURTS.

But I finished!

 

 

Gazelle vs. Goliath

My attitude continues to flip-flop.

One second a surge of confidence runs through my veins and it’s, “Come at me, Miwok! You don’t scare me with your big, bad hills or your hallucinations. I’m ready for you! You betta be scurred of ME!”

The next minute I’m like, “Aw Miwok, you’re so beautiful. Let’s just have a fun time on Saturday. You can show me all of your beautiful redwoods and that mysterious abandoned car. And I’ll just caress your trail with my humble feet.”

Then I resort to bargaining. “I know you’re tough, but you know I’m tough, too. Let’s just be cool on Saturday, yeah? Give me some nice weather, someone to talk to, and get me to the finish line. Then I promise I won’t ever insult you and your keychain-havin’ ass again. Ya dig?”

It’s roughly 30 hours to the starting time but all I know is 1) my attitude WILL be in check and 2) I’m crossing that finish line on Saturday.

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