Friday, September 26, 2014

Pine to Palm 100

Pine to Palm 100

It’s hard to believe almost a year has gone by since my last race report for the Javelina Jundred.  I had planned on writing reports after each big race I did this year, but let’s just say working full time, being in school, and training for a 100 miler didn’t leave me too much free time.  I do have to lead up to the actual Pine to Palm race report by saying a few things about the months leading up to it:

In early June, I got injured.  It was a deep pain in my left quad, and it hurt with every step I took while running, and sometimes even when walking.  It just wouldn’t go away.  I managed to do the North Fork 50 miler in late June but was unable to run for weeks after that.  I was so bummed out……I had started off the year so well and slowly built my mileage and a little speed too, and now in the months where I was supposed to be doing my big build for Pine to Palm I wasn’t even able to run.  I was fortunate to see our awesome local sports massage therapist Laura Bresson who helped me tremendously in getting the injury to a much more manageable level where I could sometimes run.  Basically, over the summer, I’d be able to have a big week or two, then I’d have to take a week or so almost completely off to let the leg simmer down, then I’d have another week or two of big miles, then a week or two off, and so on.  NOT the way I wanted to go into this 100.  I wanted to be consistently hitting 80-mile weeks in the month or two leading up to it, but what I ended up doing was only getting in two 70-mile weeks- Yikes!  My average weekly mileage was probably in the high 50’s –low 60’s, and that was only for a few months. 

Most of the summer, I was convinced I would not make it to the starting line of Pine to Palm.  Let’s get real- the idea of running 100 miles is just plain scary, I don’t care if it’s downhill with a tailwind to your back the whole way!  The idea of doing 100 miles through the mountains with over 20,000 feet of elevation gain and just about as much loss had me absolutely petrified ever since I signed up for the damn thing, and early on in my Pine to Palm training I combated that fear with lots of quality training and as much climbing as I could do.  I was under this gross misconception that if I did tons of climbing, it would somehow get easier- ha!  Running in the mountains isn’t my strength.  Every time I go to a mountain trail race, I feel pretty insecure, like all the other people there can cruise up the climbs while I huff and puff and struggle.  I do a little better on the downhill sections, but I still do not feel like I’m a good mountain runner.  I feel comfy and at home on flatter, hot courses. 
Map of the point-to-point course

That being said, I signed up for a 100 in the mountains to challenge myself and to help overcome that fear.  That’s what this whole ultrarunning thing is about anyway, right?  “Wow, I can’t believe I just ran a marathon, maybe I can run 50 miles?”  “I can’t believe I just did 50 miles, maybe I can do a 100?”  “Holy crap!  I ran 100 miles…….maybe I can do another one that’s even harder?” “Maybe someday I can do Hardrock, maybe Badwater?”  I keep pushing the distance further and trying to up the level of challenge- that’s what I LOVE about this sport!!  I’ve been able to do things I never would have dreamed possible ten years ago! 
The elevation profile, as displayed on the back of the race shirt

So a month out from Pine to Palm, when my injury was still there nagging and I was beyond freaked out about not having trained enough, I went ahead and finally booked the plane tickets and reserved the hotel.  I remember having thoughts ranging from “I think it’s going to be okay.  You’ve done 100 miles before, just take it easy, you can even walk lots of it if you need to.  All you have to do is survive” to “what the hell are you thinking- you can’t do 100 miles on the training you’ve been doing!  You’re going to fly all the way to Oregon, bring your family, and spend lots of money just to DNF?!  Don’t do it”! 

Race morning, I awoke at 4:15 am- wait?!  4:15- that’s when I wanted to LEAVE!  What happened?  I set both my phone alarm and the alarm clock in the hotel, and somehow managed a double fail!  I woke Adam up, telling him we had overslept and that my parents were probably already standing out in the hallway ready to go.  I told them I needed 5 minutes and got dressed.  I figured I could take care of the time-consuming processes of putting on my shoes (and lubing my feet) and braiding my hair in the car.  Ok- not the end of the world- I could have overslept more and been in serious trouble but as it was I was just cutting it close, not late.

 I was a little nervous to be in a situation where I was having to do stuff in the car on the way because the previous day, when my crew and I were trying to drive to all the points they’d meet me on the course, I got very carsick (I think from being on curvy roads and trying to read driving instructions I had printed out as we drove)and felt pretty crappy Friday afternoon and into Friday evening.  I couldn’t shake it.  Again, not an ideal situation to be in right before trying to run 100 FREAKING MILES. 

Waking up at 3:30 would have given me time to eat and drink that oh so important cup of coffee that gets things moving on race morning (marathoners and ultrarunners know what I’m taking about here).  I’d just have to hope things got moving on their own and that I’d have time to find a bathroom near the race start.  I ate a cliff bar and drank coconut water on the ride to the start, and took care of my feet, hair, and putting my hat and headlamp on, and putting some food in my hydration pack.  Whew!  Oh- and we almost hit a deer on the way.  It was maybe 2 feet away when my dad had to slam on the brakes.

Unbelievably, we made it to the race start with about 20 minutes to spare, which I was grateful for but I also knew I’d be in a crunch to get my race bib # (which we had to do race morning), and try to find a bathroom.  The race started on a fairly skinny paved road with no big parking lot, so there were cars lined up on the sides of the road and tons of runners walking around.  I tried to walk quickly up the hill to the start, while my crew found a place to park and made their way to the start too.  When I finally got my number pinned on my shorts, it was less than 10 minutes to the start……….and I needed the bathroom……….and there wasn’t one close enough to use in time.  Gulp.  No big deal, right?  I’m an ultrarunner, surely I’ve pooped in the woods at some point?  Nope.  Never.  I’ve fought cramps that reduced me to a bent-over walk, quit long runs early- you name it, I’ve made every effort to never have to do that on a run.  Sure, I’ve peed but that’s SO different- There’s no toilet paper requirement!!!  Nothing gets left behind for anyone to see!  What do you do- dig a hole and bury it?  Leave it there?  Is it considered biodegradable?  I just didn’t know, but I didn’t have time to think about it.  Fortunately, it was still dark.  I went into the bushes near the race start and took care of business.  I did feel better afterward.  I walked back over to the start area and BOOM- the race started!  Wow, I had cut it close- not even time for a group picture with my crew before the race.  Oh well.  At least I made it.  Despite all odds, here I was at the start of the 2014 Pine to Palm 100.  Here goes nothing.  

I remember the first climb feeling pretty damn good compared to what I was expecting.  When I had studied the elevation profile leading up to the race, I had come to the realization that the first climb alone was about like going up the Sandias, albeit at a lower altitude.  My plan was pretty simple: walk the ups, run the flat and downhill stuff if possible.  I was able to hike at a pretty decent pace, and I think the lower altitude was making a difference.  The weird thing is, I still felt like my head was in a fog after being sick the day before, I just could not shake it.  I felt like I was at 80%, which isn’t horrible.  It’s just that I’d like to be 100% at the start of a 100 miler, knowing as the day and night wears on, I’ll gradually feel worse.  The first 8-10 miles of the race was the only point where I had weird, negative feelings about DNF’ing.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pull out of my funk, and the constant climbing and descending would chew me up and spit me out.  Maybe I wasn’t ready for the “big leagues” yet?  It was not good to be thinking this way so early in such a long race.  I usually have a good ability to crank through some pretty shitty times when I run with a decent attitude.  That’s one of my better skills.  I am not the best or most talented of runners, but I can withstand a lot of suffering for a very long time.  Yet here I was, a whopping few miles into a 100, already breaking down in my head. 

I decided that my attitude needed to change if I was going to be able to do this.  I tried to think of some good mantras to keep myself in check.  I’m not usually a mantra person, but I felt like I needed some kind of help getting in a good place mentally.  One quote I’ve heard before is “When the mind breaks, the body will follow”.  This was what I decided to tell myself to keep my mind in a good place so my body could do what I was trying to get it to do.  I totally believe in this, by the way.  Last year, at Javelina my mind broke……and yep, the body followed.  Maybe today if I could keep my head in a good place, my legs would continue to carry me forward.  I wanted to keep myself from thinking of the big picture: instead of “I’m running 100 miles today” or “I’ve run 40, but I still have 60 to go”, I’d think “I’m just here in this moment, putting one foot in front of the other- am I still able to keep doing that for a while longer?  Yes.  Ok then, I’ll keep going”.  Another mantra that worked it’s way into my head is “Run when you can, walk when you must, crawl if you have to, but never, EVER give up”.  That’s my usual way of thinking- I am the type who would be willing to scrape my way to a finish line if I had to just because finishing something I start is important to me.  Knock on wood; I’ve still never had a DNF.  I’ve DNS’d plenty, but if I do show up, I’m giving everything I have, even if it isn’t pretty.

Once we reached the top of the climb around mile 10-11 and started going back downhill, I started to finally feel better.  I felt my tight hamstrings loosen up, I lost the foggy, dizzy head I’d had all morning and I felt NORMAL!  Yay!!!  One thing that was strange about this race was that due to the forest fires nearby, there was lots of smoke in the air and everything looked orange.  It sure was pretty, I felt like I was in a sepia-toned movie the whole time.  It also made it feel like it was perpetually 4 or 5 pm, making it feel late even in the morning, which was strange.  I tried to take it easy running down this long downhill section, knowing it would not benefit me to blast downhill and trash my legs early on.  I even took walk breaks, which felt silly. 

I was so happy to finally see my crew at Seattle Bar (about mile 28).  At that moment I had a moment of realization, like “ok, I’m doing an ultramarathon today.  This is really happening now, and I can do this”.  Adam took my bottles and refilled them, while my parents had my other goodies in the drop bag spread out for me to easily pick what I needed.  I at some watermelon they had bought the day before from a local fruit stand and cut up, and it tasted delicious.  I felt like I had a great nutrition plan for this race: tailwind in the bottles all day, pocket fuel naturals nut butter blends and java energy shots (for caffeine), and fruit.  That’s pretty much it.  I didn’t want to have any gut bombs and as I learned last year at Javelina, it only takes one poor food choice (in that case, pumpkin pie) to derail you completely and then you have to spend hours trying to get back to where you feel like you can keep anything down without puking it up.  No good.  I wasn’t going to let that happen this time, and I had stuck to tailwind and pocket fuel during my training runs without any GI issues, so I stuck to it for this race.  I’m not sure how long I spent at that aid station- maybe 5 minutes?  I try to get what I need and not spend excessive time at aid stations when I can.   

Getting ice from a volunteer

With my parents at Seattle Bar

I’d heard bad things about the climb up to Stein Butte: mainly that it’s steep, exposed, and hot.  It wasn’t so bad at the beginning; I was hiking next to a nice lady from Ashland.  We talked for a while but eventually got separated.  I was very surprised to encounter a rattlesnake on the trail during this climb.  As I came across him, he rattled and slithered off the trail so I felt lucky; he didn’t want any trouble, and neither did I.  I couldn’t help thinking of Jenn Thompson, a badass ultrarunner I know who is currently recovering from a rattlesnake bite that has put her out of running for about a month now- yikes!  After that, I made an effort to pay more attention to my surroundings- it is a race with lots of human traffic on the trails, but we were still in the mountains.  

This section did get pretty steep at points, there were some climbs that made me wonder what the f*&@# I was going to feel like at mile 80 if they had thrown this stuff in around mile 30.  There were times I was fighting to keep moving upward.  I wanted to “slow down” so it wouldn’t be so awful, but the only slower speed than I was going was a complete stop, so I inched forward and upward, trying my best to keep my breathing under control. 

Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must, but never, EVER give up.

It never got super hot- I think because the sun was covered in a haze from the smoke, but I was going through my water faster than I wanted to.  The views from some of these exposed sections were impressive, even in the smoke.  I wonder what it would have looked like on a clear day.  I’d see mountains, mountains, and more mountains- beautiful ripples of slightly different shades of blue-who knows how many miles they went on?!  It literally looked like there was a sea of mountains surrounding me- it was so beautiful!  On the downhill section coming into Squaw Lakes, I talked to another local runner for awhile- he was also a triathlete who bounced back and forth from running and triathlon.  Those steep downhill miles hurt, but it was nice to chat with someone for awhile- it made the time pass a bit quicker.   
My mom getting ready to give me my headlamp

Adam helping me refill my pack at Squaw Lake
When I reached my crew at Squaw Lakes (mile 42), I felt a little rough.  I can remember telling them that the climb and even the descent after it were tough and I was feeling it.  Once again, they were super positive and encouraging.  They got me all refilled and I did my loop around Squaw Lake, which was gorgeous!!  There was a kayaker padding in the clear, blue water and I thought about how good it would feel to dive in.  I passed by my crew and aid station again (mile 44 or 45), got my headlamp and went on my way.  Fortunately there was a bit of gentle downhill, which always helps me turn my attitude around and recover from a tough stretch of uphill. 
Heading out of Squaw Lake

From that aid station to Hanley gap at mile 50-52, it was feeling late in the day and I didn’t see too many people.  It was a long, mostly uphill grind- nothing like the stuff around mile 30, but a long, gradual climb.  As it got late in the afternoon, I took off my iPod shuffle for good.  I don’t feel comfortable listening to music in the mountains in the dark.  The most memorable part of this stretch was around mile 48: the sun was really low, everything looked golden all around me.  I had been waking through tall trees in the shade and at this point I came to an opening with lots of tall grass.  This was another spot with some incredible views of mountains all around.  I was wishing I had brought my phone with me so I could get some pictures of this: it was indescribably beautiful.  Unfortunately, that section didn’t last long and I was back in the trees and the sky continued to darken.

As the sun was close to setting, I reached Hanley Gap- mile 50.  Halfway.  I started to think about that and stopped myself right away.  At Javelina (my first and only 100 so far), I let reaching the 50-mile mark trip me up- everything beyond that was uncharted territory and I was only HALFWAY there!  And the half I had left was going to be IN THE DARK!  I decided not to think about that this time.  50 is just a number, just like 30 or 14- no big deal if I don’t let it become one.

When the mind breaks, the body will follow.

I didn’t see my crew at this aid station, they continued on from Squaw Lakes to Dutchman Peak (mile 65) where I would pick up my dad as a pacer.  The aid station here at Hanley Gap had a very lively, party-like atmosphere, which was giving weary runners a much-needed boost.  At mile 50, we had to do an out-and-back up to the summit at Squaw Peak and collect a flag at the top, then bring it back down to the aid station and continue onward.  I chatted with a guy on the way up this hill who was really struggling with nausea at this point, and I gave him some ginger which I had been eating for the past few hours, not because I was nauseous, but to keep it that way……and I really, really like ginger.  This guy must have received some help from some other runners in the miles before the aid station, because a few of them coming back down the hill with their flags in hand were checking up on him and asking if he was feeling better.  The support from the other runners during this race was superb- I met quite a few friendly folks and saw lots of kindness and encouragement among other runners- that’s one of the things I tend to notice more in ultramarathons than any other running or triathlon events I’ve experienced- there’s this attitude like we are all in this mess together and we are going to help each other get through rough patches if we can.  We are not competing against each other- we are rooting for one another- hoping everyone makes it to the finish line. God knows we have all had to work hard and make sacrifices just to be there in the first place.
At Squaw Peak, flag in hand.  Halfway there!

When I got to the top of Squaw Peak, I was treated to the best view yet- the sun was about to set, there were deep orange and pink hues in the sky and the silhouettes of the never-ending mountains below were deep shades of blue.  That view was epic!  I couldn’t resist stopping for a minute or two to take it all in.  I talked a bit with the photographer who was taking pictures at the top, grabbed my flag, and headed back down.  When I got back to the aid station, I stopped and changed everything but my shorts, grabbed arm warmers, gloves, and a new hat.   I also got a portable charger from my drop bag so I could charge my garmin and not have it die during the middle of the night.  Normally I would rather not waste time changing clothes during a run- I don’t care how dingy they get, but I didn’t want to get cold at the higher elevations at night because I was still wearing wet, sweaty clothes.    

The climb up to Dutchman Peak was another long grind.  By this time, it was completely dark.  During this stretch, I felt the first hint of nausea.  Oh-oh!  Not again, not like at JJ100- I decided to take a super proactive approach and get it in check before it got me.  I ate several gin gins, took in a bit more tailwind as I felt like I may low sodium-wise, stopped eating solid foods- though the Pocket Fuel was calling- took a few tums, and pulled an alcohol swab from my pocket, opened it, and held it to my nose as I walked.  The week before the race, my friend Aimee (who was doing Run Rabbit Run that same weekend as her first 100) told me her coach had said the alcohol swab to the nose trick could help with nausea.  Why not attack it from every angle and hope something works, right?  So I walked, trying to keep a good outlook and know that if I did puke, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  People puke all the time in ultras and just keep on going- heck, I was even seeing a few splatters of vomit on the road as I walked along.  It’s going to be ok.

When the mind breaks, the body will follow.

The stretches of an ultra at night are weird.  Time passes more slowly.  There are no more epic views, people are more spread out along the course and appear as little dots of light you occasionally see somewhere up ahead or behind. All you can see is what is illuminated by your headlamp, which, in this case, were just occasional puddles of vomit on the road and tiny, black scorpions every once in a while.  That’s pretty much it.  The good news was that the nausea was now under control, but I was getting sleepy, very sleeeeepy.  I had a Pocket Fuel java shot in my pack but I was nervous to take it and mess up my stomach again, but I couldn’t even keep my eyes open, so I used it.  Luckily, it did not mess up my stomach one tiny bit and I felt a second wind coming on. 

I went through the aid station at mile 60 feeling okay, and continued onward.  During this section I was near a guy who was struggling again.  I asked him if he was the guy I had talked to earlier, but he wasn’t.  Maybe it was the place I was in mentally at this point, but for some reason the stuff he was complaining about was getting me down, and I felt like if I stayed near him I’d crumble myself.  I told him to go ahead because I wanted to slow down, but he told me talking to someone was helping him get through this rough spot.  Ugh.  I felt guilty, so I stayed near him for awhile, and eventually he felt so good he took off running…….whew. 

Coming up to the aid station at Dutchman Peak (mile 65) was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.  I was feeling fatigued from the long climb, but when I got close I could hear loud, upbeat music being blasted from a huge speaker.  This music was so loud I remember thinking that I really must have been in the middle of nowhere if they could get away with music that loud in the middle of the night.  When I reached the top, I immediately saw my Dad, which was a huge relief.  There’s something about that moment when you get your first pacer, you feel like you finally have reinforcements in a battle you’ve been fighting alone all day.  I told him I wanted to at least look at my feet and make sure they were in good shape, so we went over to a circle of camping chairs set up around a heat lamp- it reminded me of a campfire- and I took off my Hokas and socks to reveal NO blisters!  Woo hoo!  I did feel like there could be one under one of my toenails, so I poked under the nail with a pin, but nothing came out.  False alarm.  I had put a new pair of injinji socks and lube in my drop bag, so I cleaned my feet, re-lubed them, and put my socks and shoes back on.  While I was doing this, a volunteer brought me some warm vegetable broth, which I drank as I worked on my shoe change. 

Sitting across from me on one of the other chairs and also working on her feet was a girl I had seen on the course throughout the day, first around mile 20 when I noticed she had her leg taped up with silver duct tape.  We had talked for a while then, and she asked me if I had any ibuprofen, which I gave her.  Later, going up the climb to Stein Butte, she cruised past me pretty fast looking 100% better, then I saw her again at the aid station at mile 60 looking like she wasn’t feeling as well again, and now she was sitting across from me, leg re-taped, and appearing to have some blisters or other foot problems going on.  I didn’t see her again after that, but it’s funny how many times you can see another runner during a 100 and how everyone has their own ups and downs.  I was impressed to see her battling that injury though- still persevering 65 miles into the race. 

When I finished messing with my shoes, my dad and I took off.  He told me he had to hike a few miles up that hill to the top of Dutchman, as cars weren’t allowed up at the top.  I felt bad- he was expecting to do 9 miles with me and he had to add a few uphill miles to that before we even started.  We ran back down to the car where Adam and my mom were, talked with them for a few minutes, and continued on.  Now I remember thinking that once I got to this point on the course, there was a lot of downhill.  As my dad and I ran (and walked), we both agreed that it felt like there was quite a bit of uphill.  In my pocket I had been carrying a little mini version of the elevation profile I had laminated, and I kept taking it out and making sure I wasn’t crazy.  It did look like we were in for 9 miles of gradual downhill with some tiny climbs, but that’s not how it felt.  Oh well.  To add to that, when there were downhill or flat sections, the trail seemed to be pretty narrow and rocky, with lots of big drop-offs.  We looked off the side of the trail and agreed on how bad it would be to fall down there; you’d just roll and roll……….really far down.  We both decided to take it slow.  I’d rather take a little extra time than try to run faster and end up falling or rolling an ankle.  My dad did take 2 spills- one was a roll onto his back and the other was a face plant!  He got right back up both times and kept going.  The trails were dry and dusty so after those falls he looked like a chimneysweeper!  There was another guy who was running alone who joined us for a lot of this section.  He didn’t say much, but it was nice to be running/walking in a group of three.  My dad and I were both paranoid about getting off course, so we were very diligent about looking for the ribbons and reflectors along the trails.  I felt proud that I was still able to think about looking for course markers- I wasn’t so fuzzy in the head yet that I was zoning out. 

As we reached mile 74 we worried that we were off course- we had seen some cars, which we thought meant we were coming up on the aid station, but then we ran for another mile or two and did not see it.  I knew we had been seeing course markers, so we couldn’t be off, but I still did not completely trust that we weren’t.  Running at night is so disorienting, sometimes I can’t even tell if I’m going uphill or down, which direction I’m moving, and a simple thing like staying on a well-marked trail with other people on it gets utterly confusing.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity on a possible wrong trail, we saw the welcoming lights of the Long John Saddle aid station!  This was a landmark- this was the last time I’d see my crew.  From here, Adam and I would run 25-26 miles to the finish.  We took a few pictures- one of me and my dust-covered dad (my Mom and I got a good laugh from that one) and one of Adam and I before setting off.  And because no 100-miler would be complete without at least one nutritional blunder, I ate some chunks of boiled potato, which I dipped in waaaaaaay too much salt.  It left a severely bitter aftertaste in my mouth that just wouldn’t go away.  My stomach started to turn and the nausea came back.
My dad and I after he finished pacing me at mile 75 (ish).  Covered in dust!

Adam and started off, and I tried to shake the nausea.  I figured since the idea of salt was now making me cringe and the aftertaste in my mouth was so intense, I should work on drinking plain water for a while, which I did.  Adam kept asking me if I wanted to run, but I was telling him I had to walk.  We walked the uphills, and tried to run the flat and downhill sections.  In the hydration pack I had given Adam to use, I had stashed a toothbrush and toothpaste, so I brushed my teeth as we walked.  This is one idea I got after Javelina Jundred, because there I learned that breathing through your mouth for 22+ hours and eating race food leaves one nasty mouth!! 

As we went along, I knew we had one big, nasty climb left up to Wagner Butte.  When Adam and I started off from Long John Saddle, my mom told me she was hearing from other runners and crews that this climb was pretty nasty.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I felt like I had done all the climbing I wanted to do and longed for some runnable downhill stuff.  As Adam and I went along, I tried not to think about it too much.  When we got to the aid station at mile 80, I had to go to the bathroom again- yikes!  Never in my trail running life, and now twice within 24 hours! 

The 5-mile climb from this aid station up to Wagner Butte was the lowest point I had in this race.  It was still dark, I was tired, even more tired of going uphill, and I still had 20ish miles to go.  On and on we went, upward slowly.  I tried to keep my mind in a good place.

Can you still put one foot in front of the other and repeat?  Yes.  Ok.  Keep doing that. 

If I was going through a rough patch on this climb, then the scramble over large boulders to get to the summit of Wagner Butte to grab my flag was absolute rock bottom.  As Adam and I neared the summit, people who were coming down were jokingly telling us we needed a rope to get to the top.  I thought “surely they’re kidding- maybe its just a rocky trail, and because we are all so tired people are exaggerating”.  However, when we reached the large boulders, I understood why they made those comments.  Adam waited for me at the start of the boulders and I scrambled to the top.  Actually, I crawled…………..and uttered a long string of profanities, as my legs shook and I used my hands to try to pull myself up.  I thought about how dangerous and completely stupid it was to put that at mile 85 of a 100.  Why?  The only reason I could think of was for a cruel joke.  When I finally clawed my way to the top, I saw the damn flags and went over to get one.  There were a few guys sitting on the top admiring the view of the smoky sunrise.  I should have stopped to take it in too, but instead I told them I didn’t care how pretty it was, grabbed my flag, and started back down.  My legs buckling as I tried to climb down those stupid rocks.  Going down was even sketchier than going up.  Once again, I was saying a few nasty words under my breath.  When I got down and saw Adam, and I started crying.  He reassured me everything was ok, gave me a hug, started running, and told me to follow him, so I did.

Run when you can, walk when you must, crawl if you have to, but never, EVER give up!
The beautiful smoky sunrise I missed on account of my piss poor attitude while summiting Wagner Peak (Adam took this picture)

Now we really were starting to go downhill.  At first, it was hard to run after walking so much, but my legs slowly started to wake up, and we were running.  The sun was coming up and we didn’t need headlamps anymore.  It felt like a new day.

As we ran, everything hurt.  My quads felt spastic, and the downhill was so steep I could feel my toes jamming into the front of my shoes.  We saw a girl ahead of us on the trail, and Adam said, “let’s pass her” to which I replied, “No, lets not.  Let’s wait and maybe pass her later on, closer to the finish line”.  He didn’t listen, and we kept running fast downhill, eventually overtaking her.  To be clear, the term “fast” has a special meaning late in a 100-miler.  You can be doing 10-12 minute miles and feel like you’re FLYING, and compared to lots of other folks, you are.  So we were “flying” down this hill, starting to pass a few other people, and I was feeling reenergized. 

Adam kept encouraging me, and he told me I had moved up a few places, from 8th female to 6th.  I told him there was no way I was in 6th- how could I be in 6th with a projected finish time of 29-30 hours?!  It didn’t make sense.  He asked me why I thought I was going to finish in 30 hours as we were on track for 27 and change.   I told him he was crazy and then thought a little about it.  Slowly I came to realize I had been doing fuzzy math the WHOLE time and based my finishing time off an 8am start, but in fact we had started at 6!!!  I was 2 hours ahead of where I thought I was!  I got super excited after that and tried to run even “faster”. 

When we came into the aid station at mile 90, I told Adam I wanted to be in and out pretty quickly.  I dumped my headlamp, arm warmers, and gloves, refilled my water, and took off.  This part was fun because Adam had regained reception on his cell phone, so he started updating friends and family on our progress.  He was getting messages back from people who were following and reading them to me.  It really got me pumped up! 
Nearing the finish and feeling reenergized!

It was weird turning off the dirt road and onto pavement for the final stretch.  I was running past houses and seeing random people out for their morning runs, and others walking along with cups of coffee.  It was like any normal Sunday morning, except that I had been running for just over 27 hours on an epic journey through the Siskiyou Mountains to get there.  The finish line at Lithia Park was one of the sweetest sights I’ve ever seen- a feeling only someone who has run 100 miles truly understands.  I saw my family there at the finish, cheering for me and couldn’t help but smile and put my hands in the air as I crossed through the finish line in 27 hours, 10 minutes, and 9 seconds. 
Finally there!!!!!!!!!!!

The medical guy walked up to me to ask me a few questions and make sure I was safe to turn loose, and however fuzzy I felt, I guess my answers were good enough.  I asked him if I could step on the scale just to see where I ended up, because the only time I got weighed was at mile 28 when I was down 2 lbs.  My total weight loss over the whole race was only 3.5 lbs!  At JJ100, I didn’t weigh myself at any point, but I looked like a skeleton by the end and knew I had blown my hydration and nutrition completely. This time, I was able to take that failure and make it a success.  I really feel like I nailed my nutrition this time, and I credit a lot of that success to the Tailwind and Pocket Fuel Naturals I relied on as steady sources of fuel during the entire race.  The tailwind helped me stay hydrated, clear-headed, and cramp-free, and the Pocket Fuel gave me delicious, vegan sources of protein and healthy fats.  They tasted delicious until the very end too; they didn’t repulse me even at mile 90.  I was also thrilled to have ZERO blisters after I took off my shoes!  Not even a tiny one!  I took care of my feet, and I’m still a believer in the Hoka Stinson Trail shoe- that’s two 100-milers they’ve gotten me through now.
An impressive dirt tan

The Pine to Palm 100 was an excellent race and Hal Koerner and his team did a phenomenal job putting it together and making sure we all had a great time.  The course was, as advertised, very well marked and extremely beautiful.  The aid stations were well stocked with super friendly volunteers from start to finish.  The race schwag was pretty awesome too: I got a shiny new buckle and beautiful necklace that I’ve been wearing with pride, a North Face basecamp bag, and another bumper sticker to add to my car!  I would love to come back someday to give this race another go and maybe even better my time.  Plus, Ashland is one of the coolest places I’ve been- tons of small breweries, local wineries, good food, and friendly people.  Can’t say enough good things about it.  
The buckle and necklace!  

Most importantly, I COULD NOT HAVE done this without my crew and pacers: Mike Warren (dad), Pat Warren (Mom), and Adam Churchill (hubby).  Seriously, without them I would have failed miserably.  This is another thing someone who has run a 100 miler understands: the invaluable role of a good crew to success.  As stressful as it got at times, I think they had fun too and we definitely made memories and have stories to tell! 
my phenomenal crew and I after WE DID IT!!!!!

I’m not sure what my next adventure will be or when it will be……………..but there will be another one!