Adventures, Bears and Lost Oh My!
After spending 6 very fast paced days in Colorado I was back on a plane to return home. I was only home for 10 days to get some last minute things tied up at work and to repack for a much longer visit. Before I knew it Brian, Casey (our OCD rescue dog aka my running partner at home) and I were in the VW heading back out. We left on a Friday after work and were at Paul and Judy’s front door by Saturday evening.
Getting there is half the fun!
Things were very low key for us and I continued my training and altitude acclimation. I hadn’t even really thought about my upcoming 100 mile run! Before I knew it we were on our way and headed to Steamboat Springs! The day before we left I packed all of my drop bags with the gear I would need at the designated check points. I was sent an email the day before telling me that my race number could be found online. Cool that means I can have all of my drop bags labeled and ready!
The drive to Steamboat Springs was beautiful! We took the route thru Fort Collins. The guys made stop along the way at a VW store; they seemed to be enjoying it while Judy and I sat back at the vans eating the fresh pumpkin Whoopie pies! We continued our journey and drove thru the large burn area that occurred earlier in this summer. WOW!
When we arrived in Steamboat Springs our first order of business was to get some lunch. It really sunk in when Paul raised his glass at lunch and said whatever it takes you will finish this! My stomach sank and I felt like I wanted to run away. After lunch we needed to find the place where we pick up my race number and drop the gear off. There were no signs telling us where to go! After making a phone call to a friend we finally found where we needed to be.
Upon picking up the race number I was told my race number had been changed! Really? Then don’t send an email out with the numbers posted! Things were starting to add up in the wrong direction. I had my picture taken for search and rescue (With as accident prone as I am, this was probably a good idea!). I then proceeded towards the race director since there was no indication as to where we need to take the drop bags. As I asked I had to take a step back. Wow, he’s already drinking heavily! Another bad sign when the RD is wasted before we even start. Already I was not impressed with this event. But, I did get a sweet pair of socks! We hung around for the pre-race meeting since it was a first and we had no indication on what to expect we thought it would be a good idea! It was a total waste of time! I think about 5 minutes was spent on course markings and then it really didn’t help.
We ordered a pizza for dinner and headed to the State Park for a night of quiet sleep. The really nice thing about this race was we didn’t start until 8 a.m. so we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.
And we’re off!
We arrived at the start and hung out in a warm building. Minutes before we began the RD made an announcement that they had an issue with some of the drop bags. The bears had gotten into some of them and the aid station food. What the heck? Really? And I turned to Judy and said well it would be my luck that I’m included in this. Judy and Paul gave me a good luck hug and Brian gave me a hug with a kiss. Off I went, the adventure has begun! We started off with a 2 mile power hike UP a double black diamond ski hill! It was so long you couldn’t see the top! This is actually a good thing for me and keeps me in check. It was work and I just chugged up the hill. Once we made what looked like the top we had a bit of flat but then we were back to climbing UP again!! I made it to the top as the morning sun was peeking over the mountain! It was beautiful and the air was crisp. Once I hit the top we went along a service road. It wasn’t long before we came to a fork in the road. I stood there for a minute looking and wondering which way do I go? Everyone else went right and yes I followed. BUT, I saw a yellow confirmation ribbon as soon as we turned. Okay we are on the right path!! Yay! After running for a couple of miles I wasn’t seeing ribbons. I asked someone are we going the right way? His reply, I think so. We came out to a ski lift area and I was with 30-40 of my best friends I didn’t even know. A lot of people turned left to go up the mountain. But after a few minutes everyone stopped and we started talking. We are lost! We have no idea where we are! Someone in our group had a cell phone and another guy had a cobbled map. The guy with the cell ended up calling the race director directly telling him we have no idea where we are! After over an hour of talking, wandering and just staying as a group together we finally made it to the aid station! The wrong way but we made it there and added a few miles to our little journey. You don’t even want to know the words I was saying out loud. Many of them were four letters! Once back on track I settled in and started getting into a groove.
The journey to the Long Lake AS
Approaching Long Lake aid station went fairly smoothly. Until that is about a mile from the checkpoint. I caught up with 4 other runners at a turn. They were standing there trying to figure out which way to go. Straight or do we turn left?? I looked at the sign and it said long lake go straight. My best guess was you go straight since our aid station said long lake. They went with me! Luckily I was right!!! So as we moved along to the aid station we began talking. It was so nice to have people to chat with! We were introducing ourselves to each other and where we were from. When I told them who I was the other girl in our group went nuts! She said Oh my god! Seriously! I thought you were miles ahead of me! Holly and I have the same coach, Paul. We were supposed to meet up last year but, we didn’t get to. We chatted like to young teenage girls, exchanging stories and training. It was wonderful and the miles passed quickly! We got in and out of Long Lake together and decided to stay together.
Long Lake to the High School
Holly and I left together out of the aid station. The 2 other guys hung with us as well. We talked about our jobs, family, traveling and getting lost that morning. You really cherish conversation with others when you are on the trail for 6 -8 hours at a time without seeing crew or family. This section by far was the prettiest section of the race! Fish Creek Falls was spectacular! Luckily a guy in our group told us to turn around and take a look behind us! Thank goodness we did! We saw the most incredible waterfall in the background! We also had areas that we were on rock with a rock wall on one side and a sheer exposed dropoff right next to us! Very cool! And all I could think of was Judy not liking this area! Holly and I decided we would come into the High School together side by side. My crew was tracking me online and noticed that Holly and I were checking in at the same time. Paul hoped we had connected and were running together. Yes! We are! It was all downhill to the school so we were running a lot. We had cars telling us how great we looked! I laughed a lot and Holly was a great running partner! As we came into the high school It was more like a pit stop at Nascar! They got me in and out so quick!
High School to Olympian and on my way to Cow Creek
Leaving the High School to head to Olympian was not marked well! Luckily Paul scoped this out before we got there and knew where to go. We could have a pacer for the 1 mile section thru town. Paul ran Holly and I to the next check point. Quickly I went thru Olympian checking in and out but, I had to take a deep breath, another big ski hill climb! It was 82* in town, a bit warm for me. Holly and I started the climb together but, I ended up out climbing her and we were separated. So I was by myself and basically alone. I knew my crew would be at the next checkpoint. This section had a lot of climbing up, up, up! When I got to where the major climbing ended I had to go right to start a loop. My crew would be waiting halfway around that loop for me. Just before starting the loop, Clark (another friend) was leading the race! We stopped for a second to talk. Clark gave me positive words, we fist bumped and pressed on! Getting to Cow Creek was a wonderful sight and so was my crew.
Cow Creek back to the Olympian
As I came in my crew had me sit for a minute. I fixed my shoes since they were too tight and hurting the tops of my feet. My heel was also starting to hurt but I wasn’t complaining about that. I got some food and drinks but then the EMT happened to see me. I didn’t know there was an EMT at this checkpoint. He asked me some questions and I tried answering as best as I could. He made me sit out for 20 minutes eating and drinking since I had stopped sweating. I was not happy, but Judy assured me that this could save my race. As soon as I thought I was good I headed back out since it was getting close to dark. Paul and I estimated I would be at the Olympian Center around 10 p.m. I also promised them that I would come in with an empty backpack, eat all the food they sent me with AND take salt every half hour! This is a huge challenge for me. There are some things I didn’t realize I would encounter while out on this section. Suddenly, I saw something up ahead round and black! Oh Crap! A bear and I’m by myself! A lot goes thru your head when you’re tired. I kept an eye on this animal but, as I got closer the bear turned out to be a big black COW! Whew! I didn’t like this section of woods and thoughts of cats, bears and whatever was out there! I am constantly looking down on the trail and someone took the time to make the cow pies into smiley faces! Funny! Further down the trail, I turned a corner and came face to face with another big cow! My reaction, Hello! I walked around it and really picked up the pace! Just before getting off that trail and back to the dirt road someone in the dark yells to me what is your number? My number, what and where are you? He turns his light on and I say umm…. 279. The road section is a long downhill. I start running and letting gravity do its thing, just cruising along weeeeee! As I cruise along I am passing people, this feels good! As I run along on the road something or some animal is crossing in front of me. It’s smaller but what the heck is it??? As I go by I get a good look at it. Oh wow! It’s a huge porcupine! That’s cool! I continue on running and pass another runner. This runner asks me if I saw the two bears cross the road in front of him. Ummm…. I tell him dude those weren’t bears. He says they weren’t? No, they were porcupines. Oh! Is the reaction I get. I motored on and had a mission on my mind. As I get close to the steep ski hill descent I have to stand there and decide which way to go. I figure it out and as I get closer loud music is playing and I hear the announcer calling off drink specials. The ball fields are all lit up and I can see there is a game going on. Starting the descent I have to pick my footing carefully or I will end up taking a nice tumble to the bottom. The loud music is taking my mind off of what I have to do and I’m actually enjoying myself! I’m kinda dancing and getting myself down the hill. I want to yell to Paul since I know he’s waiting down there “I’m coming!” But, I know he can’t hear me. And I don’t have my cool green light with me. So, they don’t know I’m almost there. When I get into the lit area they have a look of shock on their faces while I’m smiling and glad to be checking in. Paul says “Way to go, nice job and we weren’t expecting you for another half hour!” Yeah, I was a little scared by myself! This checkpoint you have to run thru a building. I check in and Brian has a yummo McDonalds cheeseburger waiting for me! I take it as he takes my backpack from me. I have 1 mile to the next checkpoint and Brian tells me he will have my gear ready for me at the High school. Okay great! Paul is with me and we check out, getting back on the course. I’m chatty, I haven’t had company in a long time. I also ask what is going on with the ball field and he tells me it’s a kickball championship. That’s weird I haven’t played kickball since I was in elementary school! I eat my cheeseburger while we walk quickly along. Luckily again Paul is with me, I have no clue where to go and the course is not marked too clearly thru here. Brian drove ahead of us to let Judy know I was on my way and to get my gear ready for me. As I came into the High school things are crazy! The football game is just getting over and there are people everywhere! I check in and out with Judy in tow. Ahhh…. Finally a buddy for the rest of this journey!
High school to Long Lake
This is where things start to get fuzzy. As we left the high school we had to be careful to not get hit by a car. All I remember is following Judy thru the crowds of people. I was looking forward to getting out of the madness! The night time running was much more difficult since you really couldn’t see the markers. Judy and I did miss a turn and ended up having to back track a little. We were headed back to Fish Creek Falls and I kept saying I wish you could see this! It’s so beautiful! Once we got to the trail all you could hear in the darkness was waterfalls! Whenever we made a turn I remember Judy saying does this look familiar to you? I don’t know its dark out. But, I kept saying I think so. I really don’t know how we didn’t get off course! Judy also asked if I wanted to run and I kept saying no. It was all uphill and my stomach was not happy. Judy was awesome and we talked about a lot of things to pass the time. When we got to the rock trail with the rock wall on one side and the sheer exposer on the other side I noticed Judy hugging the wall. Once we were thru that section Judy asked me “Do I want to know what was over the edge?” I laughed and said no, you don’t want to know. Things really started going south for me and this is when you know your friend truly cares for you! Judy was reminding me to eat and drink a lot. She had suggested for me to take a latte flavored GU. I got it out and ate it BUT, my stomach really rebelled! I started throwing up. Thank goodness there was a tree right there! I hugged that tree for a good ten minutes. After my stomach had settled down I instantly got cold since we were up on a mountain and it was cold with a stiff breeze. Luckily before I left the high school Brian tied a pair of warm track pants around my waist. It was decided I needed to put them on. Now, this was fun. I had no coordination and remember sitting on a rock trying to get my pants on. I was facing the trail and my back was to a huge drop off. Luckily I didn’t fall backwards! Judy saw me struggling with the pants and took charge dressing me. I felt so helpless! I also kept saying we have a stream crossing up ahead. It’s not big and you shouldn’t get wet. Sorry Judy, I think I mentioned that stream crossing 100 times. Eventually we did cross it. But, all the while if it wasn’t waterfalls we heard it was babbling streams. It was so dark you could see the stars well. At one point I looked up and saw a bright light thinking it was the aid station wayyyyy up there! It wasn’t, it was just a star or planet. But, things were really messing with me. When we reached the aid station I told Judy look to your right and you’ll see the beautiful lake. Oh wait, it’s dark but, I said it’s really beautiful! She took my word for it. We came into the checkpoint and Judy took care of everything. I was so cold here I ended up grabbing a warm hat out of the homeless pile of stuff! Judy made a funny comment about how I looked but, I was warm! I still have that hat for a souvenir! We checked out and headed for the infamous bear invaded check point. I will say the workers at Long Lake were awesome and took good care of their runners! Off to the next check point!
During the middle of the night and we were basically on a forest service road and thing s got really interesting after we left Long Lake. I thought it was all downhill but, it wasn’t. I thought about my warm cozy bed a lot! I was so sleepy and at one point Judy gave me a Vivarin to help wake me up. The stars are so incredible!!! You feel as if you can just touch them! There was a couple of time we shut our headlamps off just to admire the stars! I felt as if it took forever to get to the next check point and I really don’t remember much except walking, walking and walking in the dark. To our surprise we never had any large animal encounters! I was disappointed. At every checkpoint Judy was awesome she took care of everything. While I sat down I put my head in my hands and remember Judy calling my name. I’m awake just really tired. This check point was interesting to say the least! The workers were kind of clueless. They brought my drop bag to us but they said there was a slight problem with your bag. Oh really? The bears got into the bags here and of course mine was included! My gear was soaking wet! There was no way I could wear the stuff I had in there. I ate more ramen noodles while here. The broth tasted good and it stayed down. A guy passing us said 17 hours for 50 some miles??? I’ve never been that slow, this is the shits! Funny!
I had some hallucinations going on but I swear what I saw, I saw!!! And I can still see it in my head today! I saw lights off to the side thinking it was the upcoming aid station and then the lights would go out. I kept thinking right around this corner is the next check point but it wasn’t. Then, I swear I saw a guy up ahead in the road leaned against something and he had a flashlight. He would turn it on and then off. I told Judy about this but she kept saying nothing is there! He’s right there don’t you see him with his flashlight? Why is her there? I never came up on him. But I guess the best one was near dawn when I saw the Garden of the Gods! Judy said what??? Don’t you see the Garden of the Gods? It looks just like it. It wasn’t there it was some aspen trees!!!
The night seemed to go on forever along with the forest road. I wish I could say I was feeling awesome but I wasn’t and I had a fear of not making the next cutoff. This is when I had it in my head I wasn’t going to make and why continue suffering? I dropped at the next aid station, do I regret it today? Yes, but I don’t see how I would have made it regardless. I’m so thankful to have Brian support me doing these things. If it wasn’t for Brian, Paul and Judy I don’t know if I would have made it as far as I did they were the best crew I could have and did a great job! I would not recommend this race to anyone!! The course was supposed to be 101.9 miles but ended up being over 110 miles not including the miles we ran while lost!!! I know of a lot of disappointed people that ran this race. Even the experienced people that are good at running 100 milers struggled and were frustrated. This by far was the toughest run I have ever done but, the altitude did not bother me.
I have to look at the positives of this event. I met some great people, made some new friends and repaired another friendship. I saw some beautiful sections of Steamboat Springs that will be in my memory forever! I even laughed a lot and had many smiles along the way! Paul and Judy are so caring and did all they could for me. Anything can happen at a 100 mile run and sometimes things are just out of your control.