Race Report – Gold Discovery Run, Fairbanks AK

During a recent work trip to Fairbanks, on a whim (2 days pre-race), I decided to sign up for a the Gold Discovery Run, a 16.3 mile race where Felix Pedro discovered the first major gold deposits in the area in the early 1900s. The point to point run commemorates his discovery and the major boom in Fairbanks that followed. I felt somewhat prepared, as I had completed a 25K trail run a few weeks back, but the elevation put a few butterflies in my stomach. But not many opportunities come by to do a race in Alaska so I figured why not?

Course Map. (Courtesy of http://www.runningclubnorth.org/gold-discovery)

Course Map. (Courtesy of http://www.runningclubnorth.org/gold-discovery)

As we boarded the school buses to take us to the start, my seatmate Steve and I began to chat. Apparently us Midwesterners are drawn to each other. He was also on a work trip, traveling from western Minnesota. We discussed the hills and the terrain and the challenges of training for a race like this (or I suppose in my case not training) in a relatively flat area. A race organizer interrupted our chat with the question “how many of you are new to this race?” When 10+ runners raised their hands he got a troubled look on his face and began to stumble through descriptions of the trickier parts of the course and areas where you could get easily lost. He ended by suggesting any new runners not lose sight of the racers in front of them. Very reassuring.

We started the race on the edge of the massive Fort Knox gold mine, one of the largest open pit mines in Alaska. While satellite imagery shows it as a daunting footprint on the landscape, it was masked to us by a thick carpet of fog and I only caught glimpses of the mine as the rocky trail wrapped around it. The trail gently descends for the first mile before starting the first climb to the Gilmore Dome. My legs were already feeling fatigued, and I was feeling the effects of the elevation, the field work I had been doing all week and my healthy daily dose of Alaskan IPA, but I pushed on.

Fake it till you make it!

Fake it till you make it!

Winding through the fog (Photo courtesy Lynette)

Winding through the fog (Photo by Steve)

I had a few things in my favor, the excitement of running a race in Alaska, mild temperatures and low humidity, and the post race beer and BBQ at the Silver Gulch Brewery (Alaska’s northern most brewery). I chatted with fellow runners as the course continued up and down the terrain. My new friend Travis snapped a few photos of me along the course and helped motivate me to keep moving.

Around mile 6 the trail turns to dirt road, and my energy level was low. I consumed my one and only Gu and broke out the Ipod, a vice I often save for the last mile of a race and have not had to turn to for the past few races. It gave me the boost I needed but I also knew I had many more miles ahead of me.

Along the course. (Photo Courtesy Lynette Potvin)

Along the course. (Photo by Steve)

After a couple of gentle miles the pavement begins shortly after mile 8. The bulk of the climbing is done at this point and its time for the major descents to begin, albeit a few short climbs which I was now forced to walk due to my tired legs. The course has around 1600 feet of climbing and over twice that in drop, much more elevation change than this flatlander from Michigan is used to.

 

(Photo: Lynette Potvin)

(Photo: Lynette Potvin)

Hitting the pavement was a relief, because it was the half-way point, but almost instantly my quads began to burn. This was not going to be fun. I tried to ignore the mounting burning in my legs and concentrate on the cabins set in the rugged terrain with awe inspiring views. I fantasized about living in a remote cabin in the interior of Alaska, with moose sightings and views of Denali a daily occurrence, but the reality of building a house on permafrost, trucking in your water and enduring frigid winters also came to mind. This helped somewhat, but still my legs burned, I was running low on water (apparently the aid station at mile 11 does not exist) and was regretting the decision to pack only one Gu. Oops.

The course was beautiful and coming up on Mile 13 I began to catch glimpses of the valley below. Breathtaking, but also painful as I scoped out how much descent remained. At mile 14, after a steep drop, I arrived at the last aid station and drank Powerade to reenergize. The last 2.3 miles are along major roads, so I distracted myself by thinking of driving through Alaska as a long haul trucker. I had the right hat for it after all. I struggled more than I ever have in a race over those last miles. I usually save a little for the end, but my legs were not having it. I felt as though I was giving it my all, but really only mustering 11 minutes miles at best.

As I crossed the finish line right at my goal time of 3 hours I struggled to stay upright. Limited water and not enough Gu left me completely exhausted and nauseous. I made it half way to my checked bag, where I had stashed a Clif bar, before having to sit down and put my head between my knees. My bag was so close, yet it was on the other side of the tent where the BBQ was in full force and I feared I’d pass out in the middle of the group causing an embarrassing scene. After about five minutes, bound and determined I rose, grabbed a Coke half way to my bag which I immediately opened and chugged and staggered to the Clif bar. What sweet relief it was.

After getting some energy, I made my way to the grill line where I waited for a hamburger. Waited much too long, and was hit by dizzy spells every 30 seconds or so where I was forced to bend over and steady my mounting nausea. Finally I filled my plate and attempted to drink a cold IPA as awards were handed out. My 10:47 min mile pace paled in comparison to the winning male (5:37) and female (6:50) pace, but these runners were out of my league.

IMG_4222

All in all, it was a great, mostly organized race with mile markers along the course and clear markings, despite the early warnings we received. And you can’t beat a great party at a brewery to top off a tough race. Oh, and for my Midwesterner friend Steve, who I assumed would be hobbling in around the same time as me? He finished first in his age group, coming in under 2 hours. So much for my flatlander excuse!

This might work better than one gu...

This might work better than one gu next time…

 

TRT 55k Report – Kathy Hess

What a great day. The weather was optimal with overcast skies and about 50 degrees. My boyfriend, Allan Slocum, in good planning sense, was able to get a parking spot right up front three minutes before the start. I am not recommending that strategy, but I had to stop at Starbucks on the way down to go to the restroom for the third time that morning and it delayed us. I had already changed my socks out twice (I couldn’t decide which felt right) and was wearing sleeves and a jacket. As soon as we arrived I opted to leave the sleeves behind which wasn’t my brightest idea. I like to travel light but not stupid, and leaving the sleeves was stupid. It was chilly once we got on the ridge, and I would have liked having them. I like to think I am not as bad as I used to be, but looking back, I am still indecisive the morning of a race and nervously filled with anxiety and fear for how the day will go.

Huddled outside of Hobart Mills taking numbers

At the start of the 55k/ 50m (Photo: Kathy Hess)

The national anthem was played and I obediently removed my visor and placed my hand over my heart and was grateful I was there. I decided I shouldn’t shout “play ball” at the finish of the tune and instead put my visor back on and adjusted my glasses. Off we went. Ultra events are very different from road races and I feel more like a cattle drive headed to pasture. The dust was kicking up and a few groans and cheers could be heard.

I walked most of the way to Marlette. The single track path made it impossible to pass and so I just stayed with the flow and enjoyed the day. I was with Sherry Tweedt and enjoying the conversation- she was running the 50 miler.

I recently purchased a pair of Solomon Sense Pro shoes from Wrenn at Tahoe Sports Hub in Truckee. I had been running solely in Brooks for the last several years. The sole is a little firm but has a little more room in the toe box and an excellent tread for the downhills. Wrenn helped me get fitted, and I have been super happy with them (once I found the right socks).

After reaching Marlette, we climbed up to the ridge and it was pretty breezy and a little chilly. Okay, the sleeves would have been nice. The first stop was Hobart Aid Station, and the diehard volunteers were bundled up and marking us off on an ipad. I breezed through.

the amazing volunteers above Hobart Aid Station (Photo: Kathy Hess)

the amazing volunteers above Hobart Aid Station (Photo: Kathy Hess)

When I reached Tunnel Creek, I was introduced to my new favorite sandwich- Nutella and banana on white bread. Wow! Who knew?

I headed out of Tunnel Creek and saw Jenelle Potvin headed up the hill, She still had time to take a picture of me coming down the hill. I was talking to some visitors from North Carolina who had never been to Tahoe. They told me that in North Carolina it was about 95 degrees and 100% humidity, and it was another reminder of how fortunate I am to live here.

Headed down to Red House full speed- skirt thanks to RYP. photo by Jenelle

Headed down to Red House full speed! Skirt by RYP Wear. (Photo: Jenelle Potvin)

I love the downhill to Red House and I was sharing the history of the area with the other runners. The Marlette Lake water system that is now the network of trails we are running on was built in the 1870’s to supply water by siphon to Virginia City. It was an unprecedented engineering feat that has left us with a beautiful network of trails. I was chatting with another guy from Colorado Springs who brought his family out and they were headed to San Francisco next. I have learned from experience that it is always better to run your event early in your vacation so you can relax with the family the rest of the time.

I was told years ago from my longtime friend Lon Monroe that I wanted to be fresh at Tunnel Creek when I came back up the hill, and that was heavy on my mind. I had another Nutella and banana sandwich when I returned, watching the 50 milers head to Diamond Peak and knowing I was headed back to Spooner, which was okay by me. Off I went. I felt great and was surprised how well my bike training was allowing me to have pretty good endurance.  A slow pace helps too.

The guys at Hobart Aid Station deserve a big “atta boy”. The sign says Topless Bartenders- ha ha ha. They served up Ensure smoothies from a homemade bar that were quite good and hit the spot.

bartenders at Hobart

Bartenders at Hobart (Photo: Kathy Hess)

Up over Snow Valley Peak, and the signs at the approach are always amusing. As I approached, they called me by name. A young Boy Scout in full uniform offered to fill my pack. How cool is that? They must have binoculars and are looking at a start list or something, but it sure made me feel special.

Snow Valley Peak signage (Photo: Kathy Hess)

Snow Valley Peak signage (Photo: Kathy Hess)

After that, it is a downhill run and just beautiful. I was passed by the first 100 miler. He was so smooth and graceful. It was amazing. To think he had already run 17 miles farther than I had, and he was going to go around the loop again.

I had to pick up my pace a little as he quickly ran away from me. I was approaching the last few miles when I ran up to Randy Jones whom I never would have recognized except he had Truckee on the back of his shirt with an athletic number. I have known him and his wife Maria from my days of skiing at Alpine Meadows, and it is always a surprise to see people out and enjoying these events.

There it was- the single track around Spooner with white tents in the distance. That makes me smile knowing I am close and elated with the idea of finishing.

Race director George Ruiz was there to greet as I came thru the finish line.  I complimented him and his crew for a well run event and an all around fun time.

A taco truck was all set up, and I sat down with Randy Jones and Hans Schmid reflecting back on the day and talking about future race plans. I was over forty minutes slower than the last time I ran this in 2010, but fortunately I am in a new age group.

Headed out- the start with George Ruiz in command. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Hess)

The Finish with RD George Ruiz. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Hess)

I thought to myself I am definitely going to do this again. I woke up the next day relieved that I could walk, wasn’t that sore, didn’t have any blisters so I probably wasn’t going to lose any toenails and I even started considering the Castle Peak 100k at the end of August.

Who knows?

TRT 100M Race Report – Marilyn Oberhardt

Marilyn1

View of Marlette Lake from North Canyon single track during training on July 12th (photo credit Marilyn Oberhardt)

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 was an absolutely amazing adventure. I had the good fortune of being able to spend 2 weeks ahead of the race at my brother’s house in Truckee in order to acclimate to the altitude and to spend some time on the course. That time on the course and all of the insights from my friend Frankie Stone were instrumental in successfully tackling this race. I headed into the race the most relaxed that I had ever been ahead of a hundred miler.

Race morning arrived and we had perfect weather, cool and a nice bit of cloud cover. Felt really good at the start and had a wonderful time running and hiking. After Hobart and a bit of climb, we were treated to some of the best views of the course – it was an absolutely glorious way to start the journey. From Hobart to Tunnel Creek, I was in the flow and right on time into Tunnel Creek, where I was able to see my crew which was a real treat before descending into the hell of the Red House loop.

My hope was to complete the Red House loop before the cloud cover was lost. I was actually glad to not have previewed the Red House loop since it is the only part of the course that did not have breathtaking scenery. As I was coming out of the loop and just about to start the climb back to Tunnel Creek, I saw my friend Julian Martinez on his descent, as he was running the 50 mile race. That gave me a huge boost for the climb! Back at Tunnel Creek, saw the crew and headed out on the way to Bull Wheel quickly.

From Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel was quite beautiful and a fun section. Reached Bull Wheel right where I wanted to be and we headed out. At that point, could feel both the heat and altitude so backed off a bit on pace, knowing that the Diamond Peak climb was coming. Enjoyed the Tyrolean downhill and reached Diamond Peak Ski Lodge feeling happy. Whole crew was there, and I took a nice lunch break with them to recharge before the climb.

The climb up Diamond Peak was difficult in the full sun and with 30 miles under the belt already. I got in and out of Tunnel Creek as quickly as possible. My climb back to Hobart was harder and longer than expected, but I thought that I could gain some time back on the section from Snow Peak to the 50 mile turnaround so I didn’t sweat it.

Even though it is a long climb to the highest point on the course, the trail to Snow Peak was one of my favorite sections. Snow Valley is simply gorgeous, with acres of wildflowers in full bloom. The Boy Scouts run the Snow Peak Aid Station and they had put out inspirational and funny signs all along the trail on the way to the Aid Station. As you approach the Aid Station, a Boy Scout runs to greet you by name and get you whatever you need. They were just superb up there!

View of Lake Tahoe from Snow Valley during training on July 12th (Photo by Marilyn Oberhardt)

View of Lake Tahoe from Snow Valley during training on July 12th (Photo by Marilyn Oberhardt)

I felt great leaving Snow Valley Peak! I ran the mostly downhill section solidly and was really happy to reach Spooner Lake and check in with the crew. TRT has lots of nice amenities which really make a difference. One of them was having little tents in which you pop in and change clothes which I loved at the 50 mile turnaround to get ready to run in the night. Had some food, changed socks and shoes, and got some love from the crew.

I left Spooner as the last light of Saturday was fading. Was by myself heading into North Canyon, but very much at peace and not worried. I was adhering to the Donner Party Mountain Runner motto #beunafraid. I was very confident in my plan to run without a pacer, in particular because TRT had safety sweeps on mountain bikes patrolling the course through the night. I saw them numerous times and always thanked them for being out there. I was by myself for a little while and then found my friend Irving sitting on a rock. From there, we shared the trail until Hobart, which was really great. The night-time weather could not have been better!

I found that I was a bit behind my planned pace, but was not worried. I knew that the Red House loop would be long and not fun so just went at it. Once I reached the one-way section, I was alone again but no fear. Soon I was climbing and a runner and his pacer joined me. At Red House Aid Station, the Aid Station Captain mistook the other runner’s pacer for my pacer. I told him, no I don’t have a pacer. He (wearing a multicolored afro wig) gives me a funny look, kind of sizing me up, and then just says, “Right on”. They had peeled hard-boiled eggs there, which were awesome, and they also made me a great cup of peppermint tea.

I was passed by about 3 folks on the nasty climb but just kept plugging along, knowing that I would not have to do that beast again. I came into Tunnel Creek very glad to be done. A woman dressed to run approached and asked if I would like a pacer. I was so surprised that I almost said no! My whole mindset was to do it alone so I couldn’t quite process the offer. I warned her that I was quite slow but that didn’t scare her off. Fortunately, I said yes! Roberta McGraw had appeared in the night as my trail angel and she was just fabulous. The runner whom she was supposed to pace had dropped, so she was looking for someone else to help and I was the fortunate one. I was pretty quiet and silent, focused on the task of getting to the finish, so I was not super company for her. Nonetheless, Roberta took me, a complete stranger, from Tunnel Creek at mile 67 all of the way home, from the middle of the night and into Sunday afternoon– ultra folks are just the best!

Roberta got me through the night and into Diamond Peak where my crew was waiting for me. Was so great to see them all! Another really cool TRT amenity was that a local dentist had donated toothbrushes with already applied toothpaste for runners to use at Diamond Peak. My teeth were so furry at that point (having forgotten to brush at mile 50 the night before) that it only helped a little bit but was better than nothing.

The Diamond Peak climb for me was again abysmally slow, but Roberta offered lots of encouragement. I could not power straight through, and took numerous breaks. Roberta’s confidence in me never wavered and that was awesome as I had some doubts, particularly as my feet were starting to bother me. I had no blisters, just an increasing overall pain in both feet.

Noe Castanon gave me great encouragement at Tunnel Creek and told me he would see me at the finish line. Sunday was warmer and offered no cloud cover and that, combined with my foot pain, definitely was slowing things down. Thankfully, Roberta’s presence kept me on the move and she continuously reassured me that I had plenty of time. I soaked in the beautiful views as best I could while keeping my eyes on the trail so as to not trip. I reached Hobart with plenty of time and was really happy about that, able to head for Snow Valley Peak with peace of mind.

I did not climb as well to Snow Valley Peak on Sunday as I had on Saturday, as it was much hotter. It was still absolutely beautiful up there, though, and I had the knowledge that I would definitely finish the TRT. We reached the Boy Scouts, and they made me a fresh, yummy grilled cheese to power me for the last 7 miles to the finish. On leaving Snow Valley Peak, I was definitely having more foot pain, which slowed my descent to Spooner Lake.

It takes what seems like forever to make your way around Spooner Lake to the finish line, so I just kept plugging away, hoping to get there under 34 hours. I was SO happy to get to the finish! My crew were all there for me which was super.

Marilyn Oberhardt at the TRT 100 Finish Line 33:52:41 (photo credit Matt Oberhardt)

Marilyn Oberhardt at the TRT 100 Finish Line 33:52:41 (photo credit Matt Oberhardt)

At the finish, George Ruiz (the RD) greeted me and I thanked him for a wonderful event. He congratulated me and said that he looked forward to giving me my buckle shortly. Hanging out at the finish area was great. I was really glad to have stayed for the buckle ceremony. That was quite awesome! All in all, a really great race, with superb race management and volunteers, spectacular scenery and huge challenge.

George Ruiz presenting Marilyn with her TRT 100 buckle (photo by Matt Oberhardt)

George Ruiz presenting Marilyn with her TRT 100 buckle (photo by Matt Oberhardt)

TRT 50M Race Report – Eric Soto

Eric and Scotty Mills at the start

Eric and Scotty Mills at the start (photo by Britte Ginty)

On July 18th, 2015, I had the distinct pleasure of running my first ultra race – the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile.  Running an ultra had been on my mind since graduating college in 2012. I played lacrosse my entire life and now had all this free time (outside of work) on my hands. I had always loathed the 2 mile running test in college, but thought this could be different. Shortly after finding the trails, I never looked back.

As I woke up on July 18th, I had an overall peaceful feeling about the day and enjoyed a nice large breakfast of pancakes. My friend Holly had volunteered to drive me to the start line so my crew could get a head start up Tunnel Creek. The night before she mentioned that ultra running legend, Scotty Mills, would be along for the ride. I was now sharing a car ride and conversation with someone who has run over 200 ultras in the span of a quarter century (according to IRunFar)! As we made the short journey from Incline Village, I was put more at ease by the friendly, laid back nature of the conversation. It was brought up that this would be my first ultra, so Scotty imparted some wisdom on me. Scotty’s words of advice, running wisdom, and calm yet confident presence stayed with me throughout the run.

The start line was mellow and I drifted to the back of the pack as I was warned not to start too fast. Before I knew it, we were all running and I was looking forward to spending the day in the mountains. I settled into a rhythm and kept my perceived effort low during the first few miles. I was in and out of Hobart aid quickly with a refill of water and tailwind. I set a reminder on my watch for every 20 minutes to take in some sort of nutrition, which I found helpful as the day went along. I opened it up a bit on the downhill towards Tunnel Creek as the excitement of seeing my crew for the first time was overwhelming. I received water, tailwind and some gel and I was off down the Red House Loop. I took the downhill easy being careful with my quads and a pain in my hip that I hoped would go away. I had taken a fall on Mt. Rose 2 weeks earlier and was hopeful it would not bother me on race day.

Eric swapping out bottles at Tunnel Creek

Eric swapping out bottles at Tunnel Creek (photo by Britte Ginty)

The Red House Loop went quick and I was happy to see my crew again. We exchanged bottles and I received water, tailwind and more gel. At this point, I felt focused and started making up some time. I caught up to some friends and the conversation helped melt away the miles. We hardly noticed that we were already at the halfway point and everyone still had a big smile on their face. My hip pain had finally subdued and I started feeling good with where I was at physically and mentally. At the top of the Tyrolean Downhill, I stopped for a quick bathroom break and noticed slight yellow in my urine. It was not good timing as I had already gone through my two Salomon bottles and DPMR handheld. I knew I would have some hydration to make up when I got to Diamond Peak. On the way down, I had a couple good cries, which I think was all the emotion of the event. It was a combination of realizing all the hard work I had put in and the reality of a multi-year dream unfolding that day. I took the downhill more conservatively than I would have liked, but arrived at mile 30 feeling good overall despite being slightly dehydrated.

Eric coming into mile 30, happy to see his crew!

Eric coming into mile 30, happy to see his crew! (photo by Britte Ginty)

To my surprise, Scotty Mills was there cheering me on with my crew. I told them what happened and they immediately handed me a 32oz Nalgene, salt and watermelon. They dipped my arm sleeves in ice-cold water and packed my buff with ice. It was great to see family there as it gave me a little boost to push the final 20 to the barn. I took care to drink enough before setting off up Crystal Ridge. Scotty did not let me stand around for long and walked me over to the check out and yelled his final words of advice – “walk with a purpose!” I took that to heart for about the first 200 yards and then my body was telling me slow down and cool off. I was not able to do much training in temperatures above 75 and I am rather warm blooded so the day felt hot to me. I took care to rest 10 seconds at every shaded spot and took in water to a point of not feeling overly full. I knew I had a good hike ahead and could handle some extra nutrition and water. It was a slog up the 2nd half of Crystal Ridge, but my mind was in a state that I have never experienced in a sporting event. I was extremely focused and had this burning desire where I knew nothing would stop me from finishing.

I crested the top and got a second wind and started my way back to Tunnel Creek, where my crew would meet me again! They hiked 15 miles on the day and were a bright spot on the course for me. About a mile out, my stomach went from great to extremely sour in what seemed like a matter of seconds. This was a feeling that would be with me for the rest of the day. I had a goal of going sub 12 hours, but my stomach had other plans. I spent about 10 minutes at Tunnel Creek this time around – by far the longest aid station of the day. I was drinking ginger ale, eating gin gins, attempting to eat anything solid, but nothing worked. On my way out, I was hoping for a turnaround as my legs were feeling great and I knew the last 15 miles really well. I made it to the top of Marlette Peak and I thought it could be a turning point. I pushed it down to Hobart aid and managed a few fruit slices, got my refills and headed up towards Snow Valley Peak. The pain came back about a quarter mile out from Hobart and I took it easy hoping I could figure it out and be able to push the last downhill from Snow Valley Peak.

I had thoughts that maybe a good vomit would solve my issues, but I was hesitant as I had dehydration issues earlier and was now on the mend. I was happy to get to the Snow Valley aid station, but my appetite was non-existent. I got my refills and decided to tough it out. The next 7 miles were filled with second guessing my nutrition choices on the day, why I thought ultra running was a good idea, swallowing my pride as I watched others pass and a lot of encouragement from fellow runners. At this point, my 20 minute nutrition reminder on my watch seemed like it was taunting me. I was happy to make the right turn towards Spooner Lake. At this point my goal of finishing sub 12 hours was gone, but I still felt accomplished. Crossing the finish line and seeing family and friends was a great feeling. I immediately made a dash for the Tums and my crew had a Kombucha waiting for me. This combo was a godsend and I almost immediately forgot the pain I was in 15 minutes prior.

The whole event was an amazing experience and I was able to learn some lessons the hard way.  A runner can read and listen to all the ultra running advice they want, but personally, there is something to be said about just going out and figuring it out on your own. There may be suffering, but it will make you better and you will be sure to remember the mistakes down the road.

With one ultra under my belt, I feel as though there will be many more to come. I earned a vast amount of knowledge out there and I am excited to put it to use during my next race!

Eric taking his first seat of the day after finishing

Eric taking his first seat of the day after finishing (photo by Britte Ginty)

 

 

Hardrock 100 2015

 HR profile
Hardrock is deep. It opens up to those present, and it opens those present up. As I stood, hunched over on pitch three of Virginius pass up to Kroger’s, it opened me up.
I knew my fitness wasn’t exactly where I’d hoped it would be going into the race. I had been struggling off and on with a chronic Achilles issue that had made my training inconsistent, but I sort of came in hoping for the pain. I don’t know exactly why, perhaps sometimes we just need some suffering to help balance the scales. I definitely was not happy for the reality of this pain many times in the race. Now, lying on the side of the trail between Governor and Kroger’s, was one of those times. I was aching and wanted to puke–I kind of felt like I had just rolled out of a seedy bar in Ouray after picking a fight with a biker, hung over and beat up. And I hadn’t even made it to the tequila on top of the pass yet. Minutes earlier Brian, my pacer, commented on the clear night skies and kaleidoscope stars, but as I looked up, the stars seemed to be getting closer. Then a big wet star splattered across my face. Apparently “clear night skies” means howling, wet snow as we found ourselves in the middle of a mid-summer squall. I could now hear Roch Horton’s voice above me and I could sense the understanding, the empathy. It tore deep into me and I felt a sense of purpose pull me up to those welcome arms.

But how did we get here?

IMG_2771

Virginius Pass, finishers’ print, photo by Blake Wood

We arrived in Silverton a few days prior and my miniature crew immediately set out to explore the mountains and ice cream options. I have four kids, ranging in age from four to nine, and frankly I’m not sure which they like better – mountains or ice cream – but when you can have a fudge swirl cone at 10,000 feet you don’t really have to choose. Janel (my wife) also jumped at the chance to get out and run in the San Juans as she drove the entire way from Truckee to Silverton while I slept off the prior evening’s night shift at the hospital.

I ran into many old friends, as Hardrock tends to bring my favorite people together, and enjoyed unhurried conversations. We found Paul and Betsy and enjoyed the clear energy they gave off. Paul had injured (broken?) his hand running a few days earlier but was fully itching to get out of the barn and into the mountains. (I mean, the course isn’t technical or anything so I was sure he wouldn’t fall on his hand or need it as he scrambled up one of the thirteen passes over 12,000 feet…) That guy is a true wolf. I also met several other DPMR members who were there in various roles—Helen and Javier were pacing Betsy, and Kelly was pacing Paul.

My kids were psyched to run the “Hardblock” run organized by Helen. They raced around the block with dozens of other shorties, kissed the Hardrock and got medals donated by various DPMR members. We now have four new medals so please feel free to come and get them back. That night we had a big group dinner and then off to pretend like I was sleeping.

Hardrock-002

John, finishing the “Hardblock” kid’s run with his future Hardrocker. (Photo: Gretchen Brugman)

Race morning was overcast but calm, and the start was filled with that overwhelming, somewhat paradoxical, sense of peace and excitement that comes from hundreds of souls prepared to find the will of the mountains and the vastness of the spirit together. It also smelled like body lube.

The countdown was on and the race was off. As the first climb up to Little Giant eased up, we were treated to clear skies and the mountains framing a fog covered Silverton. I went out a little quickly, and I knew that while this was a pace I should be able to run, it was likely not the right pace for me today. But I really didn’t care as I was enjoying the high alpine wind and breathing deeply.

My feet were soaked at the first creek crossing and wouldn’t start to dry out until over 50 miles later. Through Cunningham aid at 10 miles and up to Green Mountain is one of the most dramatic views on the course of the Grenadiers, but you have to turn around to see it. I met another DPMR here taking pictures, Gretchen, easily recognizable in her Tahoe Rim Trail jacket.

 

Hardrock-001

Making the climb out of Cunningham. (Photo: Gretchen Brugman)

 

And things were somewhat uneventful from here down into Maggie’s and Pole Creek and then up and over Cataract down into Sherman at mile 28. Body functions were a go—I was eating, drinking and peeing. At this point I spent some time with a truly stand up guy, Jared Campbell. We first met close to a decade ago at Wasatch, and this was to be his 10th Hardrock finish. We are about the same age and this was my second Hardrock finish, so I think his first was at age nine.

 

11709981_10153401441327114_1885590367002640001_o

Pole Creek (Photo: iRunFar.com/Travis Trampe)

We had a few slight rainstorms moving around the high alpine lakes and then up and over Handies Peak, the 14,000-foot mountain that makes for one of the iconic climbs of the course. I was happy to see that an entire family of marmots had taken up residence at the place on Handies where I had spent an hour puking the last time I ran Hardrock, in 2010. They must enjoy half-digested espresso Hammer Gel.

There was a remarkable amount of snow on the course this year, and where there was not snow there was often mud. I spent some time post-holing in American Basin and found myself laughing that the skiing here in July was better than it was all winter in Truckee. Down into Grouse Gulch aid around mile 42 and I could see my family all lined up below. High fives all around, a few smelly hugs, and I turned to head back up and out. Dale Garland, the race director was there and made some jokes about my bloody nose and the high “entertainment value” of my kids. I’m pretty sure Janel asked him if he wanted to babysit so that she could pace…

IMG_3081

John inhales a burrito at Grouse Gulch while his crew cheers him on. (Photo: Gretchen Brugman)

From there it was up and over Engineer and down the long descent into Ouray at mile 56. For some reason this descent is rough. It’s long, it’s very runnable, but it just seems to hurt. I pulled back a little here as I could feel my stomach starting to turn, but felt pretty, sort of, somewhat, I guess, okay as I came into Ouray a little before dark, although I really wasn’t able to eat. Happy to see the family again and pick up my pacer Brian, I plopped down in a chair and geared up for the long night. A volunteer (an amazing volunteer) saw me changing my socks and offered to wash my feet. What? I initially declined but then she pulled out a tub of hot water and proceeded to rub the mud off my shriveled and sweaty feet. I’m pretty sure I tried to kiss her but apparently my gel/sweat/Fritos-encrusted beard was less appealing than my feet.

And so now we are where this story began, out of Ouray and back to the struggle up to Governor and Kroger’s. I don’t have much more to say about it. This was where I found the bareness, the essence of the run. I had never forgotten about a race while racing until this point. Here I found the experience. My perception of the race as “my race” skidded and fell; my understanding of the race as “our race” stood and climbed that last pitch. Past midnight, wet snow howling, the Hardrock tribe became my tribe. I had finished the race before, but I had never had this.

I hadn’t eaten anything in several hours, and I finally sat at the top of the pass at around 68 miles sipping broth and wondering just what the hell a pierogi was. I think that Brian and Roch were about to do the “stuntmant” version of tequila shots—snort the salt, squeeze the lime in your eye, then shoot the tequila. With a long look in the eyes and a hand on my shoulder Roch sent me down the hill to Telluride and Brian kept a close eye on my wobbly body making sure I didn’t fall into the void. At Telluride I knew that my 28-hour time goal was not the race the mountains had chosen to give me today. I understood that in order to embrace the pain, I had to move beyond the suffering. So I took a little nap. Brian woke me up a while later and while I had moved away from a hopeful top ten finish, it seemed that the mountains would let me pass this day.

IMG_2774

Oscar’s Pass, photo by Brian Costilow

The rest of the race was somewhat of that dream. Climbing the snow in Oscar’s pass at 13,000 feet I saw a high alpine sunrise. We were chased over the steepest part of the race, a scree and snow filled scramble up Grant-Swamp pass, by an intense lighting storm, watching the bolts hit the peaks less than a mile away as we crawled exposed over the top. Brian and I howled in the wind that was blowing 40-50mph up there, feeling a little more animal than human. One more climb and then all of a sudden we were at Mineral Creek, two miles from the finish. The sun came out and we just started running fast, passing some trees like they were standing still. We came into the streets of Silverton, and I turned to see the rock. The kids were jumping up and down and ran down the chute with me. I can’t quite describe the visceral sense, the cool solid feel of the Hardrock as I leaned into it and kissed it. This time it grabbed a deep hold of me somewhere inside and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to let go.

IMG_2773

Kissing the Hardrock (Photo: Janel Ferrin)

I ended up finishing in a little over 33 hours and Paul and Betsy also finished their own epic adventures in fine form, which by my calculations makes a 100% finisher rate for DPMR. They are full Hardrock legends with finish number eight for Paul and number fourteen for Betsy

Full results here http://hardrock100.com/index.php

I really do want to thank so many people for this race. First, Janel and my kids for giving me the chance to do what I needed to do, the endless thankless duties and for just being themselves. Also Brian Costilow, my pacer, who spent many hours in silence over 44 miles somehow giving me just what I needed. All of the tremendous volunteers at Hardrock, the aid stations, the communications, the medical folks, especially Roch Horton for his true sense of understanding. Dale and all the organizers for keeping the race what it is and not compromising the spirit of the run with all of the pressure from the growth of ultrarunning. To Rock Creek who for many years has been giving me the support and tools I need to pursue these adventures, as well as First Endurance and Smith Optics. Finally, thank you to all the Hardrockers, my tribe, and the San Juan Mountains.

Photo by Brian Costilow

Photo by Brian Costilow

DPMRs earn 6 podium spots at the 2015 TRT Endurance Runs!

Jenelle Potvin en route to a 2nd place finish (photo by Angela Costamagna)

Jenelle Potvin en route to a 2nd place finish in the TRT 100
(photo: Angela Costamagna)

The Donner Party Mountain Runners certainly had a presence this past weekend at the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs. Twenty-five of our very own Unafraid runners made the starting line on Saturday morning, split amongst the three different race distances of 55 kilometers, 50 miles, and 100 miles. That is an impressive critical mass of like-minded mountain runners all participating in the same event. Even more impressive is that one third of the available 18 podium spots were claimed by DPMR members! That is an incredible statistic!

Kathy Hess heading down into the Red House Loop. photo by Jenelle

Kathy Hess heading down into the Red House Loop. photo by Jenelle

12 club members took on the challenge of running the 100 mile race, and were lined up at 5:00 AM at the Spooner Lake start/finish line. This is a double loop course which is psychologically tough for the runners since every landmark they pass in the first 50 miles, they will have to pass again a second time. But it also offers some comfort in familiarity.

Race Director George Ruiz is a great friend to DPMR, and everyone looks forward to seeing his smiling face out on the course, day and night, encouraging the runners, and capturing it all on his camera! The volunteers at the aid stations are best in class, and include many fellow DPMR’s like Andy Pasternak, the lead Doctor at the very busy Tunnel Creek Aid Station.

Ernesto Duran of Panama City was the overall winner in 20 hours, 49 minutes. Local Annie Rutledge was the women’s winner in her first 100 miler – and she ran the 2nd fastest women’s time on the modern course – 22 hours, 27 minutes. Incredible.

DPMR members made both the men’s and women’s podiums with Chaz Sheya (click for race report) placing 3rd overall in 21 hours 30 minutes (a one-hour PR for Chaz!) and Jenelle Potvin  (click for race report) taking 2nd woman and 18th overall in 25 hours 10 minutes (a two-minute PR for Jenelle). Great work out there Chaz and Jenelle! Ismael Macias pulled out a great finish as the 37th male in 27:35, followed by Tom Wroblewski in 28:01 and 43rd male, and Patrick Delaney as 47th male in 28:32. Karen Framnes placed 14th female in 30:21 (a two hour PR – in her 4th TRT 100 finish!), Dan Baxley was 85th male in 31:51, and Marilyn Oberhardt (click for race report) was 28th female in 33:52. This year’s race had an unusually high drop rate – 85 of 239 starters were unable to finish, including four of our very own DPMR’s. They gave it their all and we are proud of each of them- Paul BerquamJeff Brown, Kathy D’onofrio and Scott Salisberry.

Chaz, with Sharon and Sean behind!

Chaz, with Sharon and Peter B behind! Photo by Sean

The 50 mile race included 9 DPMR’s and was led by one of our newest members Caren Wick (Spore), who grabbed a podium spot finishing second female and fifth overall in a time of 9:15. Smoking fast! Geoff Quine  (click for race report), in his 50 mile debut, ran a strong race to finish in 9:33 and 6th male. Andy Starostka finished 23rd male in 11:06, followed by JP Prince in 11:30 and 29th male. Eric Soto  (click for race report) ran to 58th male in 13:10, Sharon Fong  (click for race report) finished 13th female in 13:16, and Julie Nye finished the 50-mile course in 13:48 taking 17th female. Nancy Heard completed the course in 15:33 and 28th female. The 50-mile race also had an unusually high drop rate this year, and we are proud of Cheryl Lloyd (click for race report), who gave it her all, but didn’t make it to the finish line.

Caren Wick, crushing the 50 mile! Photo by Jenelle

Caren Wick, crushing the 50 mile! Photo by Jenelle

The “shortest” race of the event is the 55k, which travels the same course as the 50 and 100 mile races, but turns around after the infamous Red House Loop. As in the 100 mile race, DPMR’s earned spots on both the men’s and women’s podiums.

Emily Peterson for the win (photo courtesy of Emily Peterson)

Emily Peterson for the win
(photo courtesy of Emily Peterson)

Emily Peterson  (click for race report) was Unafraid while running with a bloody elbow to claim the win in the women’s race, and was 5th overall in a time of 5 hours 40 minutes. For the men, Don Montgomery  (click for race report) traded the lead throughout the race and finished in 4 hours 53minutes and 18 seconds, a mere 28 seconds shy of the win. Great work! Also snagging a podium spot in the women’s race was Gretchen Brugman, finishing in 5:56 as 3rd female, and 9th overall (and 35 minutes faster than last year)! Kathy Hess (click for race report) ran a strong race to finish in 8:12 and 24th female.

25 members racing, 20 finishers, and 6 on a podium. That. Is. Awesome. Way to be tough out there and show the community that hard work and dedication pays off.

Jeff Brown on the Snow Valley Peak Climb. Photo by Jenelle

Jeff Brown on the Snow Valley Peak Climb. Photo by Jenelle

TRT 50M Race Report – Geoff Quine

Geoff at the finish

Geoff at the finish (photo courtesy of Geoff Quine)

The Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Miler was my first crack at a fifty-miler, and while I had done some all-day wilderness runs in the last year, I was a little gripped about stretching it out to fifty miles in a race setting. I had gotten a solid block of training in after The Canyons 50K, was feeling strong going into my taper, and had discussed my race plan in detail with my coach. I felt ready to rock on race day, but wasn’t it Confucius who said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” ?

My coach, Stephanie, had stressed two main things: take it “easy” the first twenty miles, and focus on nailing my fueling and hydration to set myself up for success on the second half of the race. I’ve been wearing a heart rate monitor the last two seasons and this makes it a lot easier for me to fine tune my effort. I’m a conservative starter by nature, and knew I  just needed to respect this or I would get into trouble. For fueling and hydration, I set my watch to fifteen minute intervals. Salt on the 15 and 45, a gel at the top and bottom of the hour, and 10 oz of water every half hour.

I got to the starting line and saw Gretchen and J.P. The weather was overcast, cool, and rain looked like a reasonable possibility at some point that day. We exchanged high fives and soon enough we were off. I tried to note where I was place-wise early on, and I guessed I was in 25th combined place among both the 55K and 50 milers. J.P., Gretchen and I soon ended up in a loose pack and we ran together for the first five or so miles. The pace was comfortable at this point, but we were also still passing people occasionally. I went through Hobart AS quickly and on to Tunnel Creek AS, only grabbing new gels and water. It was pretty humid on the Red House Loop (for the Sierra, at least) and one of my calves started to feel a little grabby. Doh! Kinda early for that. I throttled back just a touch and took an extra salt and it resolved itself. I knew I needed to feel fresh the second time through Tunnel Creek, and I felt like I was starting to settle into a groove. Another quick refill for water and gels, and I was out.

I moved across the TRT and eventually arrived at The Bull Wheel AS, where I quickly resupplied and also saw Jenelle who sounded great and looked like she was moving well. Across to the Tyrolean Downhill and down to the Diamond Peak AS. I had never been to Diamond Peak during the race and was kind of surprised by what a zoo it was. My wife, Sarah, and Pete B. had my drop bag and got me in and out super quickly. You guys rock! I was feeling really good at this point and somewhat surprised that I had already run thirty miles. Pete told me the DP Climb would be the hardest part of my day so I packed some ice in my Buffs and began the grunt up the hill. It was time to start pushing. I generally like this climb but it’s a different animal on tired legs. I put in a honest effort up this climb and French stepped quite a bit of it in an effort to save my calves. The carnage on this climb was quite a spectacle. Lots of puking and people mumbling to themselves in what shade they could find.

I made it back to The Bull Wheel, did a quick resupply and kept moving back towards Tunnel Creek. When I left Tunnel Creek, I noticed a pack of three guys a minute or so behind me. Two had white wristbands and one guy who was wearing a camo shirt didn’t. From what I had observed that day, white wrist band meant 100 miler. No wrist band meant 55K or 50 Miler. This guy looked to be moving too quickly to be a 55K racer. Our glances met and I knew it was on like Donkey Kong. No one likes being hunted but in hindsight I’m glad Cameron was back there trying to chase me down. I had been moving at an honest pace, but having him back there made me push a little harder. I widened the gap between us a little on the rolling terrain from Tunnel to Hobart but knew I needed to punch it the last ten miles or so. The steep climb up to Snow Valley Peak suits me well, and the fact that it was covered with acres and acres of purple lupine put a huge smile on my face.

I rolled into Snow Valley AS, got a caffeine gel down my throat, refilled water and did my best to absolutely haul ass to the finish line. I knew Cameron was back there somewhere but I also wanted to be done. I was feeling really good. Almost too good. This race was unfolding smooth as silk for me and I felt like it was only a matter of time before Mike Tyson popped out of the brush, landed a devastating jab/upper cut combo which would knock all the teeth out of my head and KO me for the day. So I took off for the finish line like my hair was on fire.

I was looking for fifty milers on the descent but also looking over my shoulder for Cameron. I forgot how runnable this section of the course is, and it was nice to fly and not have to worry about too much techy terrain. In the lead up to the race, I had somewhat secretly set goals for myself of 9h 30m and top ten overall. I knew I was on track for close to 9h 30m but didn’t have any idea what place I was in all day. I crossed the line in 9h 33m which was good enough for eighth overall. My split from Snow Valley AS to the Finish Line was either the fastest or second fastest in the fifty mile field. (Winner, Bob Shebest, doesn’t have a split listed for this section.)

Grateful is the first word that comes to mind a few days after this race. Sure, I put in my work, had a good plan, executed on it, etc. etc. etc. But I think it was just one of those days, too. One of those days when everything just falls into place. The best way I can think of to describe the experience is that running on those trails in that race on that day was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Call it “in the zone”, or a “flow state”, whatever you want, but it was pretty special and an experience I won’t ever forget.

Geoff on Rose Knob Peak last fall (photo by Geoff Quine)

Geoff on Rose Knob Peak last fall (photo by Geoff Quine)

TRT 55k Race Report – Emily Peterson

Emily at the finish (photo courtesy of Emily Peterson)

Emily at the finish
(photo courtesy of Emily Peterson)

The early race mornings don’t present any strange race rituals for me, but they do make me wonder if I should succumb to a caffeine habit. After the 3:45 am wake up on Saturday, I took consolation in knowing that at least we’d get to witness a beautiful mountain sunrise, and we’d have an early start to the day in the event that the trails became a scorcher. To my delight, most of the morning would be spent under the generous shade of clouds, and the weather proved welcomingly mild.

There was the usual energy brimming in the air at the start of the 50-mile/55k race, as runners bumped into fellow friends and wished each other well. Then right on the clock, we were off at 6:00 am. The crowd evened out on North Canyon Road, and by the time we hit the single track of Marlette Lake Trail, most runners were falling into pockets of pace groups.

The lead female runner for the 50-mile passed me, and asked me which race I was running. She looked fit and fast! It’s always so uplifting to see ultrachix crushing it on the trail, and looking right in their element as they do so. I felt inspired, but was happy to watch the front pack break off around mile 4. I’d come out for the June training run, which provided enough course knowledge to remind me that I’d need to save some gas in the tank for Snow Valley Peak.

I settled into my own groove en route to Hobart and reminded myself of the two mini-tasks I’d given myself for the day: to take in a first gel at 45 minutes (followed by every 30 minutes thereafter) and to do my best to finish the equivalent of a full Salomon flask between the major aid stations. I’d filled half of one with water and the other one with Nuun, and this schedule committed me to staying on top of calories and hydration for the day.

I breezed through the Hobart Aid Station, topped off my flasks to the halfway mark, and continued on my way. The scenic lookout at Marlette Peak, looking over the two lakes, is both a distraction and a treat. It makes you want to stay and linger for a while, till you remember you’ve got a race to run! On the descent after Harlan Peak, I was in the midst of passing a 100-mile runner when my left foot caught a rock and I went flying. I jumped up and assured the runner, “Don’t worry, I’m just fine!”

As I brushed off the dirt and continued on the trail, I noticed that my right elbow was pretty scraped up, with blood streaming down. It definitely looked much worse than it felt, and a theme for the day became passing through the aid stations and seeing volunteers widen their eyes and ask, “Can we take you to the medical tent?” I promised them that it wasn’t an issue and I’d get it cleaned up at the finish. Still, it looked like part of a Halloween costume gone awry.

When I hit the Tunnel Creek aid station for the first time, I’d originally planned to take a small bite of solid food to provide some energy anticipating the climb out of Red House. But this was my first race with a simultaneous 100-mile option, and the vast spread at the well-stocked aid station left me with decision paralysis. I looked at all the brimming food bowls, and in a split decision decided to cut loose empty-handed for the descent down to Red House.

This point in the course was a great convergence of the three races, and there was a friendly vibe in the air as those zooming down the hill nodded their heads and gave high fives to the 100-mile runners trudging up. It was along here that I ran into Chaz Sheya, who looked fresh as a daisy, hammering back up to the Tunnel Creek aid station. He would cruise on to a super impressive 3rd place finish in the 100-mile race – woohoo, Chaz!

Before I knew it, I was passing the Red House aid station, and it was now my turn to begin the infamous climb back to Tunnel Creek. It feels like there’s so much hype about this uphill, but the time passed quickly as I transitioned between spurts of running and power hiking on the steeper sections. As I crested the sandy uphill, I could hear the music streaming from the Tunnel Creek aid station, and got into gear to fill up my flasks and replenish my gel supply.

Ironically, the ensuing uphill to return south felt more mentally challenging for me: the entire trail is runnable but the switchbacks feel reasonably longer on the return than on the speedy descent during the first round. I dug in, and was surprised when two male runners in the 55k surfaced around the Marlette campground. I passed them and clicked off the relaxed miles back to the Hobart Aid Station.

I braced myself for the climb up to Snow Valley Peak and felt ready to conquer the last climb of the day. As I made my way up the ascent, I was intrigued about the setup at the approaching Boy Scout aid station. Someone had mentioned that the volunteers greet you by first name, which seemed like such personal service. I laughed when an eager Boy Scout came running to me in advance of the tent, “Hi, Caroline – what can we prepare for you?” Wrong name, but I admired their earnestness!

The end of the race, as those familiar with the course are well aware, feels deceivingly long. Though it’s all downhill and easy to switch into cruise control mode, it does prompt you to keep your eyes peeled for Spooner Lake and the finish line tents. With about 4.5 miles remaining, I passed one of the 55k male runners who looked at me and laughed, “Hey, you did the same thing to me in Canyons (50k)!”

Finally, the downhill was over and I made the final right turn to the finish line area. I crossed the line at 5:40, as first female and fifth overall. I was grateful for a post-race massage from the ever-cheerful students at the Bodhi Tree school, and later enjoyed a satisfying lunch at Tunnel Creek Café with my boyfriend Fernando (whom I have to thank for teaching me how to stay well-fueled in the mountains!). A fulfilling morning on the trails, inspiring fellow runners, super attentive volunteers, and a delicious lunch to cap it off: can’t beat this soul food.

Part of the joys of running ultras is celebrating everyone else’s successes at the end of a big effort. It was awesome to see the trademark yellow “Unafraid” shirts peppered on the course and to feel the energy of several DPMR runners in the various TRT distances. Big ups to everyone who raced this weekend whether on the shores of Tahoe, the mountain ridges of Colorado, or beyond. It was fun to see the race results roll in and see many DPMR runners standing on podiums throughout the country

TRT 55k Race Report – Don Montgomery

My race in the 55K was a great battle. We exchanged leads at least ten times.

Paddy (who won the race) was faster on the downhills and I was faster on the flats and climbs. I had a lead of a little over a minute coming out of the Snow [Valley] aid station and played it way too conservative at the start of the descent.

He caught and passed me on the descent. I was regaining on him on the flat around Spooner Lake and just ran out of real estate. 28 second gap at the finish, 4:52:50 & 4:53:18. Paddy ran a great race and got a well deserved win (great guy and competitor), and we had a blast racing against one another. And I now know what I need to work on for the future… Downhills!

I’m still learning and thankfully getting faster at 45. My time this year was 15 minutes [faster than] my winning time in last years TRT 55K race. There is still a lot I am learning about fueling and strategy. This is only my 5th race back after taking 20+ years off from racing, and [only] my second ultra. Hopefully I can continue to improve as I get more confident with racing again, and start racing more often… and be a little more unafraid!

Don and Paddy at the Finish. Photo by George Ruiz

Don and Paddy at the Finish. Photo by George Ruiz

TRT 50M Race Report – Sharon Fong

veiws forever! Photo by Sean

views forever! Photo by Sean

The TRT 50 mile turned out to be a perfect first 50 miler. I had registered for and planned to do the American River as my first one, but had to not run for a while during that time to allow swelling and inflammation from a fall to finally drain the fluid from my knee.  The time off worked and I decided to change from the 55k that I had registered for to the 50 mile.  The distance and elevation were intimidating since I had never done more than the 55k, it was consoling that I had at least done it 6 times before and did the other part including up the Diamond Peak ski run 3 times so I  knew the course well.  I had been doing a lot of mileage, for me anyway, but still just worried about finishing it.

Before this year I had been averaging about 40-45 miles a week, this year up to 50-70.  I did as many of the DPMR organized runs as I could and the Wednesday speed workouts, but at 3 weeks to go I was still worried and wanted to make the most of the taper time.  Helen P recommended Peter as a coach and seeing his coaching site up, I asked him to coach me.  I had done my first 55k 10 years ago and decided it was time to get some help instead of just trying to train on my own.   Not much time, but I learned drills and strides and did a lot of uphill work,  which I had heard about, but never knew how to do properly or work into my routine and I learned what was right about my form and what I needed to work on.

I saw that I could have a pacer, asked a couple of people, then Lesley who wouldn’t be around asked member Sean Flanagan just a few days before and he agreed. He hadn’t been on the trails before, so was glad to see them during an event and wants to run the race next year.

It was great to have cloud cover the first few hours with a breeze. The usual congestion going up the trail the first few miles wasn’t too bad, I think I got ahead of some of it, there were sections I could actually run and there were so few people around when I got to Marlette Lake. It was great to see Cheryl Lloyd going out of Hobart,  who I had taken Chi running from a few years ago and got to run a few miles with her.  I took it easy going down into the Red House loop instead of trying to go any faster and get pounded. It was great to see other members, Jenelle looking strong coming out of the loop, then Jeff Brown and JP Prince. A few people saw my shirt and said Unafraid that I either didn’t recognize or they went by too fast to notice. It was a great morale booster just to see familiar faces.  It started to get warmer out of the loop, but was cool compared to some previous years that took me much longer to finish.

By the half way point, I texted Sean where I was and that I was feeling great. There weren’t many people around now, and I was really looking forward to having company the rest of the way. At Diamond Peak aid station, Sean was there waiting, he had been there a while and enjoyed getting to see the other DPMRs coming through.  They had a bucket of water and someone with a hose,  it was warm enough now that getting wet felt great, so we got enough water on us to make it up the steep ski run to the top.

on the LONG climb up DP. Photo by Sean

on the LONG climb up DP. Photo by Sean

checking out the lake. DP climb.  Photo by Sean

checking out the lake. DP climb. Photo by Sean

Until then I had been averaging just under 4 miles an hour and knew the last 20 miles would be slower starting with this section. I had been drinking enough and stopped at the aid station potties just to be sure. I didn’t usually eat much for the 55ks, but worried that with the longer distance, I needed to eat earlier and more often.  I stopped to change shoes at the last Tunnel creek stop, where I had my only drop bag, to my older, more cushioned shoes which felt great. If I had known the drop bags wouldn’t be back until the next day though, I would have stayed in the same shoes, that was the only thing I used in the bag.  The uphill towards the next aid station went well, I kept motoring up, didn’t really walk at all and it was a morale boost when Sean said he lost track of how many people I passed, I wasn’t paying attention but just kept going. We were almost to Hobart when we saw Chaz Sheya with Pete Broomhall pacing. He wasn’t far behind the first 100 miler we saw.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The long climb up to the Snow Valley aid station went well and Sean took a lot of photos. Going out of it, I passed a woman I had first met on the Canyons 50k run last year .We missed a turnoff together after Michigan Bluff , doing 3 bonus miles. She inspired me with a comment on her webpage that you don’t have to be fast to do an ultra, just fast enough to finish. She did ten 100’s in the year before and 4 last year, and this was her 3rd TRT 100. I had thought I would have to get faster before I even thought of doing a 50 mile, but seeing her doing all these and go my pace finally was what helped convinced me to sign up for it.

It was great to have a pacer, Sean was good company, he talked when I felt like talking and asked him questions, reminded me to drink, and I knew I would have company even if I was out there after dark. He calculated at 4 miles still to go that I could make it in before 13 hours if we went at a 14 min per mile pace, but it was farther than he thought. There wasn’t a portapotty at Snow Valley, and with the downhill pounding, by the last 3 miles, everything I had eaten all day was settling uncomfortably and I needed to make a stop behind a rock.  I felt better, but knew it would be over 13 hours, though well under the 15 hours I thought it would take and it was still not dark. I was so happy just to finish and felt tired, but still good at the end.  I finished in 13 hours 16 minutes, and was surprised to see that I was 1st place in my age division, of 8, and 13th woman overall.

Happy at the finish! Photo by Sean

Happy at the finish! Photo by Sean

It has been great to be part of the DPMR club the last year, I am thankful for all the group runs, the motivation, encouragement and inspiration from the people I have met. Trail running just keeps getting to be even more fun.