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Bryce 100: Race Report

"I think this is supposed to be the post where I mourn a sprained ankle and my first DNF at my first 100 (my 3rd ever ultra.) But I have nothing to mourn- I had a perfect day, filled with love, trails, friends, and family. I had one of those rare experiences where much of the day I was overflowing with joy and love and life. What is there to mourn? I didn't cross a finish line made of flour or win the trophy for first female? No trophy or belt buckle could give me more satisfaction than that beautiful, perfect first 70 miles and the satisfaction that the next 20 I tried my hardest to push through an inflaming injury. What a wonderful day, can't wait to get out there again. Thanks to everyone who supported and inspired me, and a special thanks to my crew and pacers who helped orchestrate what is now one of my most beautiful memories." -My post-race FB post

Last weekend I tried my first 100 mile race. I went into the race eager, a newbie to ultrarunning, with eyes on big numbers for future adventures, but still cautious on wanting to pursue some of my ideas because I'd never attempted a 100 miler. I wanted to see what would happen. Was I outlandish for my time goals? What if I hated running that far? What if I loved it?

I did love it. The entire day was filled with fun, joy, love, and hope. Inspiration and joy and life seemed endless. My husband Ben took the time to create a video that illustrates the day and just how lovely it was to me. I appreciate the concerns and well-wishes about the DNF, but they almost feel wrong. There's no sadness here! I am only just grateful I was given such a perfect day to experience.

If you feel like reading more, because you're bored, here's a bit more of a race report:

I did love it. Every minute. I came in to the aid station at mile 26 so excited to see my family, I teared up a little once I could see the aid station. I had flowers in my hair and was full of laughter and smiles. I had some lonely stretches up to mile 45, but was surprised that I was hiking the steeps easily and even passed about 10 guys on uphills--which if you've ever run with me, you know how weak of a climber I am! So it was always a pleasant surprise to be moving alright. At 45 on top of the hill/peak/5 mile climb there was a surprise aid station! I left there light-hearted and laughing. They all seemed to think it was funny at how happily surprised I was to see them there.

At mile 50 my Dad adjusted my ankle, which had been feeling wrong. I was hopeful it would just work itself out. The rest of me felt great! I thought to myself, "so this is what's it's like to feel good at mile 50!" I had stayed on track for a 21 hour finish, reaching the 50 in 10 hours 30 min. Perfect- I could take up to 13 hours on the way back and still have plenty of time.

I didn't hang around for pictures or to chat really anywhere, I was focused on always moving forward. around mile 57 I saw Jim. Or, I heard him. "Yes!" He was fist-pumping in the air. "Yes, I knew you could do this! I knew you would do it!" He was happy to see me in the lead and I teared up a bit a 2nd time. I stopped to give him a hug. He had given me so much advice and encouragement, always expecting greatness from me. What a boost to see him! How happy to know that I had made him happy!

I kept it up and prepped myself for the big climbs ahead. I said to Leslie around mile 60 or so, "I don't think you're supposed to feel this good on your first 100. Everything's not supposed to go this right. Is it wrong that I'm having such a good day?" ...Little did I know that in another 10 miles things would just begin to wrong.

An early ankle tweak left me a little unstable but mostly pain-free until about mile 70 when the sprain and compensating pain began to really let loose. The pain made me nauseous, which was manageable once I realized how effective peppermint oil is on the tongue! My sweet pacer Leslie encouraged me, tried to help me stretch things out, and got me through the first miserable miles of 70-74. She mothered me and gave me endless sympathy, but kept me moving.

At the aid station at 74 I had my Dad look at my ankle (he had checked on it at 27 and adjusted it at 50). There really wasn't much we could do about it. With a full belly I headed out with my other pacer Jacob, yelling out in pain on the downhills but still able to at least jog down them. We then climbed to mile 80 and I was hopeful that the rest would benefit the ankle. (It hurt most on downhill, so I was hoping the ups would give it a break). (I won't lie, I was getting cranky, my pain was about an 8 on a 1-10 scale. I sat down on the trail once and was furious that I couldn't hike on it. We taped it with KT tape which only helped mentally).

At 80 we had the ankle taped up for support and headed out. Once we hit the downhill, the beautiful gentle downhill road, the pain skyrocketed and I started crying. Crying from pain only, not disappointment. I was confused. Should I carry on? We were lucky to be moving at a 1mph pace. Should I just try to push through? Jacob convinced me to just keep moving. I finally got angry at the pain and forced myself to deal with it, but then I could only run a few steps before it would sear again and send me the floor, sprawled out, rubbing it and crying out in pain. This was all about mile 83. The only time I had felt this much pain was when I had run on a broken foot.

Somehow I managed to hobble to mile 87. I whimpered and listened to music. The course again went downhill, this time on slightly more technical downhill, and I realized I couldn't weight the ankle on this downhill at all with how unstable both me and the ground was. I tried hiking both sideways and backwards. I forced Jacob to leave me and come back with my husband. I limped down, each step only a couple inches ahead of the next. By this time my lead was lost and all the middle-pack runners were catching up. It had been over 5 hours since we left mile 80.

I was astonished by the sheer kindness of the runners. Every person I saw stopped and asked how they could help. Most offered to send their crews back for me. A few took turns carrying me. One fellow, sadly I don't remember his name, came back after I told him to continue on. "I have no purpose at this point. Carrying you down this mountain would give me purpose, and that would make me happy. So, am I giving you a piggy back or carrying you like a baby?" I tried to convince him he just ran 90 miles and to finish his race, but he insisted he wouldn't leave me. Somehow he'd manage to squat down and pick me up, struggle a tenth of a mile carrying me, gently place me back down, and then we'd both sprawl out on the trail until he felt well enough to do it again. He must have carried me more than a half mile. The company and help was a major highlight, and it reminded me just how much goodness and love there is in other people. He told me all about his girlfriend and his hometown, and I tried to chat a little too, it helped lightened the mood since at this point we both knew a DNF was inevitable.

Eventually Ben and Jacob got back to me, Ben tossed me on his back and ran down like a boss. I checked into the 89 mile aid station, told them I was dropping to the 100k, and let Ben tuck me into a sleeping bag there. (He had been sleeping waiting for me, what a sweetie!) He left to take Jacob back and I drifted off to sleep. I awoke to hear Craig and Matt's happy voices and popped up- they sounded so cheerful I wanted to congratulate them and encourage them. They were with Scott and Josh- what a team! They were bummed to see me down but I was so happy to see them carry on. Again later Pete woke me up, trying to convince me he could find me crutches or something with wheels so I could get to the finish. I enjoyed the sweetness, but the 5 hours of pain moving at a 1.5mph pace was still near and I knew I wouldn't be able to get up and weight the ankle.

We went to the finish and watched the others finish. What a beautiful day! I think the hardest thing to give up was the trophy for first female, I had been looking forward to that for nearly 50 miles! I had the secret plan of giving the trophy to my Dad as a thank-you for all his help, because I knew how proud he would be to see me win it. But instead I came away with a sub 13 100k time (I don't remember what time it was, it'll be posted sometime soon), (I don't get an official ranking but it would've placed me 2nd or 3rd overall). I am happy with a fantastic day. Guess what, I loved it! I can't wait to run distances greater than 50 miles again.

Post-race- my ankle and feet are insanely puffy. I can't weight the ankle without a brace but with one I can get around ok. My lovely Doc thinks a week with the brace and up to a week walking/hiking without it and some aggressive PT and I'll be able to hit the trails again. The rest of me never did get sore. Quads, hamstrings, calves-- I feel better than I did after my first 50k except for that ankle. I'm guessing it's because my body had nearly 20 miles of very slow hiking to stretch out and cool down.

Thank you everyone with the support, inspiration, and encouragement. I'm off to plotting my next adventure...

Comments

  1. What a great story of preparedness, attitude, and compassion...it about made me cry, too. It's only too bad that your ankle had other ideas. I know you miss your husband on these all-nighters, so how wonderful that he was able to be there for you along with friends and strangers. Congratulations on all you've accomplished!

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  2. One word to sum up your performance out there- Awesome! It was so fun to see you out there leading and moving strong. Sorry about the DNF, but I love your attitude. You are going to do great things. Heal up and let's go hit some peaks and adventures this summer.

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