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

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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Under construction

T minus 17 days until Miwok 100K race day and I still am not running.

I strive to get 8 hours of sleep every night. In my imagination, tiny little green kidney bean-shaped cartoon beings with head lamps, black stick-like arms and legs and white Mickey Mouse-style gloved hands go to work while I sleep. (I have no idea why they’re green.) There are hundreds of them repairing my muscles and tendons while I drift off into dreamland. They’re like tiny construction workers, jackhammering the knots and scar tissue and then braiding my muscle fibers like ropes to make them strong again. The longer I sleep, the more time they have to complete their work.

I have a weird imagination.

Every PT appointment, every Anodyne treatment and every yoga session feel like bricks in a wall that I’m building. Fifteen minutes of icing my tendons or one night of wearing a compression sleeve on my leg provides some mortar to make everything stick.

My wall needs to get to a certain width and height by the time Miwok rolls around. If it reaches the correct dimensions, I’ll be completely healed. But those dimensions on the blueprint are too blurry to read, like someone accidentally spilled a few drips of coffee on the paper and then wiped it off with the heel of their palm, smearing the numbers. What does it say??

Every missed opportunity for a yoga class is a missing brick. Every night that I spend watching a Kendra on Top marathon instead of stretching and strengthening on my own (can you tell what I did last night?) — there goes another brick. I’m stacking this wall up but there are some holes in it.

Will it hold?

Every time I step the wrong way or try to take two stairs at a time to test my leg — and it hurts — that’s a chisel chipping away at one of my bricks, weakening it. I’m running out of time, but I can’t rush my wall’s construction. I can only hope that I make the deadline.

I ran for three minutes at PT yesterday. I didn’t start hurting until I stopped. I guess the trick is to start running at Stinson Beach and never, ever stop until I get back to it and cross the finish line. I don’t care how much I hurt after that. I just need my wall — my leg — to hold up for 62 miles.

Is that so much to ask?

Race Report: San Joaquin River Trail Half Marathon (late post)

I fully intended to write a race report for the SJRT 1/2 three weeks ago, but I was extremely sick, and then I was bitter, and then I got busy.

I woke up that morning feeling like I had slept for five minutes, although I’d gotten nearly 8 hours. My body just felt completely drained.

Staying awake during the 50-minute drive up to the San Joaquin River Gorge campground area was difficult. Luckily I didn’t completely conk out and crash. I arrived early, and after a quick stop in the porta-potty I went back to my car, reclined the driver seat and took a nap.

After 25 minutes or so I got out of my car again and started walking around, trying to wake up. I felt hot, but intentionally left my thermometer at home because I didn’t want to know if I had a fever. As long as I didn’t know the number (like 102), I was fine, right?

A few runners and volunteers commented on how tired I looked. “Wake up, Farin! Are you OK?” they called after me. Wow… I must look like shit.

I thanked Nate (race director) for stopping the rain long enough for us to enjoy the race. It was a beautiful morning, with the wildflowers blooming purple, yellow, gold and white all over the lush, green hills.

I made my way to the front of the pack for the start of the race. I wasn’t feeling well, but I might as well use every opportunity I can to get a good position.

With a siren (ha!) we’re off.

As the large pack of about 200 runners barrels down the road, a herd of cattle suddenly takes off as well, crossing the road just ahead of us. Am I in the wrong race? I didn’t recall signing up for The Running of the Bulls!

There are several men out in front, and I’m trailing — though even with the two other female leaders. Runner Moe is winning this one, for sure. Carmen… wow! I’ve never seen her so fast! Hopefully I can hang on to third. I clock a 6:35 first mile. Yikes.

Just after Mile 1, we finally get onto some dirt. The damp switchbacks are peaceful. I’m trailing a man, but not close enough to feel like I’m chasing him .. and I’m far enough ahead of the next man to not feel like I’m being chased. Slow and steady, we ascend.

After zig-zagging past the green gate, we start my least favorite part of the San Joaquin River Trail. I call them the hurdles, although that’s not really what they are. It’s a series of black rubber flaps whose purpose is probably to provide some traction on the steep hill. I have no idea… all I know is they’re annoying. I have to lift my feet higher so I don’t trip. I’m already climbing, and they’re asking more of my short little legs.

After the hurdles, the trail continues to roll up and down and side to side through the gorgeous landscape of the SJRT. Finally we descend to the road where the first aid station, about Mile 4, sits. We can hear it before we see it. Volunteers are cheering and offering water and electrolytes. I want nothing — but to stop.

I force myself to run past the station as quickly as possible so I don’t lose my nerve and truly drop out. By know I KNOW I have a fever. I’m also getting chills and body aches. This is the flu. I have the freakin’ flu. 

I think back to all the times people asked me, “Should I run if I’m sick?” And I’ve always responded, “If it’s in your head, like nasal congestion, etc., then sure. Run. If it’s in your chest, it’s not such a good idea. And if you have a fever, DON’T.”  And here I am, running with a fever. Stupid.

The mile down to the gorge bridge is uneventful. The bridge crossing is uneventful. The ascent up the Pa’san Loop sucks. I’m slowing down. My body is shutting down. I hate this feeling. I hate this race. I hate this day. I want to stop.

Thankfully I reach aid station #2 and hear a familiar “Hey, darlin’!” from my favorite hiker, Sara Fry. (Check out the awesome work she’s doing at Sierra Mapping Project. She refills my handheld water bottle and I tell her I feel like shit.

As I leave the station, my teammate Michele reaches it. Within a minute, she passes me. “I feel like shit. I think I have the flu,” I tell her.

“I do, too,” she says.

“Fever, chills, body aches?” I ask.

“Yeah, it feels awful,” she says. “Just keep it up; let’s push through it together.”

That sounds good for 20 seconds as I try to keep pace with her. Then a huge chill runs through my body and I’m like Nope.  “Go get ’em Michele.”

The Pa’san Loop climbs and climbs and climbs to seemingly no end. It feels so much longer today. A few more ladies pass me; they seem shocked.

I watch as I mentally slip from the podium and have to start guessing which age group they’re in. Maybe I can still place in my age group? Or maybe I should just take it easy; one step in front of the other, no matter how slow, all the way to the finish. 

I decide to give it my best effort. I’m already running with a fever — a big no-no. How much sicker can I get? Does it really matter if I run 10:30 per mile or 13:30 per mile? Either way I have a fever. Either way I have chills. Either way I’m going to have to complete this 14-mile course.

I pull myself together and chase after the girl who just passed me. We’ve reached the top of the Pa’san Loop and it’s downhill from here. Time for me to kill it.

I fly down the hill and pass two ladies on the way to the next aid station. Then we have the “dog leg” part of the race — a not-so-quick out-and-back. I like out-and-backs because I get to count how many people are ahead of me, and since we’re looking at each other face-to-face, I can see how much they’re hurting. The same goes for the people who are behind me. I get to see how much of a lead I have. Plus I can encourage my friends.

I hop over the largest water crossing of the race. The little stream is probably less than six feet across and requires me to step on a rock in the middle of it to get across. I see my teammate, Brandon, approaching. Dang, he’s already done the whole out-and-back? 

We shout words of encouragement to each other and a few seconds later I hear a loud crash and “Agh, FUCK!”

“Are you OK??”

“Yeah! ….. FUCK!” yells Brandon.

I’ll have to be careful crossing that thing again on the way back. I hope he didn’t break anything. 

All I can think about is the chills, fever and new feelings of nausea as I run to the turnaround point that seems to take FOREVER. Finally I see Kim holding a highlighter. She marks my bib and I take off.

I repeat “Good job” and “nice work” countless times as I pass people coming the opposite way. I hug Audrey, who tells me I look really bad. Thanks.

Fill up my water bottle at the aid station and make my way down the loop to the bridge. I enjoy the final bit of descent of the race before crossing the flat bridge and then heading up, up, up that last mile of the course to the campground parking lot.

I don’t care what place I’m in. The woman ahead of me is about 30 seconds away. I have no desire to catch her. I don’t care if she’s in my age group. I just want to stop running and take a nap. My body is drained. I need some ibuprofen, chicken soup and orange juice.

Reaching the first parking lot, I check my watch. 13.95 miles. Why can’t you just make the course 13.1 mile all of the other half marathons, Nate? Why? Oh yeah, this is SJRT. Where everything is harder than you expect it to be. 

I get back onto a short section of trail to head to the finish line in the other parking lot. 14 miles, my watch buzzes.

I’m not sprinting to the finish. I don’t even look at my time. I cross and find a table to lean on. Someone brings me water and Gatorade. I sit down and wait for everyone else to come in. It would be rude to leave, but I’m sure I didn’t place and I just want to shower and sleep this flu off.

The rest of the time at the race is a blur. Audrey brings me a vegetarian burrito from Benaddiction. I go up and get my award. Turns out I DID place: 2nd in my age group.

Then I head home. Fell asleep at the wheel for a couple seconds at least five times. Not good.

That was just a horrible, horrible day.

***

I felt better the next day, about 11 a.m. or so. 24-hour (30-hour?) bug, I guess. 😦

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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Well that was a first

I ran the Hensley Lake Off Road Races 10K this morning and, for the first time in all of my running career, my shoe came off.

It was stolen, actually, by thick, black-brown mud.

After taking 6 weeks off to heal an injury and only running off-and-on for the past five weeks, I was surprised to find myself in first place for the first half of the race. At Mile 1 the little blond bomber 11-year-old Koda, blew past me and all I could say was, “Take it, Koda!” I knew my younger teammate was going to beat me in a race eventually. Today was that day.

I was holding my own, sprinting the downhills and getting a little discouraged by my shortness of breath on the uphills (does 6 weeks off really destroy your cardio like that?).

As I was booking it downhill I saw a huge patch of dark brown, almost black mud with some standing water in my way. There was no way to go around it, and I came upon it way too fast anyway. I went right through it — or at least tried to. I tried stutter stepping so I wouldn’t sink, but the mud was just too squishy.

As I took my third step in the unavoidable shiggy, my right shoe sunk deep into the mud. When I lifted it up to take another step, my shoe stayed and my foot kept going. My injinji sock-covered foot stepped right into the sludge, ankle deep. It felt disgusting to have cold, wet mud in between my toes. In that split second I thought, please don’t let my sock come off in the mud too!! 

Thankfully, it didn’t. But when I pulled my foot up it was covered in mud.

As I took two steps back to recover my shoe, a 16-year-old girl passed me. (I found out later that she runs cross country for my alma mater! woot woot!)

There goes first, I thought. Then I had no choice but to slide my muddy foot into my Altra Lone Peaks and keep going.

It threw me off of my game a little, but I laughed about my misfortune and realized how awesome it felt to be out at a race injury-free. Muddy foot and all.

As I continued on the run — at this point I was around the halfway point — I could feel the mud squishing between my toes, and my foot kept sliding around inside the shoe because my sock was so slick with mud. I felt unstable so I had to take the technical parts of the course a little slower than normal. I didn’t want to roll or twist my ankle.

Still, I tried my best and ended up getting passed by four more women. I was happy with my 5th place overall female finish and 1st place award in my age group. I came in just two minutes slower than last year’s time, so overall I think I had a great run!

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Top 3 females this year! Last year I won, and next year I’m coming back with a vengeance 😉

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The badass awards created by Elevation Culture. 

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Race director Nate! 

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Ay Audrey, you would take a photo of #datass!! hahaha

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I’m proud to lose to this kid!! Koda is amazing!