First off, what is the Millwood 100 Mile? Millwood is (and yet another) Jared Campbell line in the Wasatch. (More and more my life is becoming a WWJD event… except more of WWJDS—What Would Jared Do Slower.) Millwood highlights the entirety of the Wasatch—along it’s 100 mile route it takes you through several 10,000-11,000+ summits, ridges, lower/over-populated flat trails, beaver ponds, exposed foothills, places where trails no longer exists or bushwacks where the never were trails, scrambles, rarely visited forks and passes, etc. The bad, good, and incredible aspects of the wasatch are all highlighted in Millwood. The vertical gain is somewhere between 40-45,000 ft of ascent… with the same amount of descent. Prior to my Millwood finish there were 3 Millwood finishes to date: Jared Campbell (the line creator,) Erik Storheim (first finish,) and Matthew Van Horn (one of my BFFs…) The day I started Erik Storheim, Pete Stoughton, and Ryan Tockstein all also started an attempt for a Millwood 100 M finish. Route is here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?msa=0&mid=1Fpb1CvfGLF0FzdYv_uIlnmLuPik
[caption id="attachment_915" align="alignnone" width="1280"] 2 miles in! 104 to go...lol![/caption]
I cannot help but try to find something altruistic about running. I am not sure why. I don’t have a lot of time—I am a single mother of two busy boys, I work two jobs, I gear test, I write, and still try to have some semblence of a social and normal life in addition to trying to train a decent amount. The ball gets dropped. Perhaps the altruistic notion is to justify the time spent running, but if justification is what is desired, running being a must rather than a want for me to just BE should be enough. That altruistic notion is, perhaps, just a part of who I am…seeking meaning in, well, everything.
Millwood 100 is no different. With the introduction of “Millweek,” a weeklong tour of parts of Millwood, I felt that the altruistic notion of Millwood 100 had been achieved. It united new people, friendships blossomed, knowledge of the Wasatch grew, people were inspired. I was drawn to Millwood because it taught me the lower Wasatch, the forks and trails I had previously never set foot on. Both of these things had been achieved prior to my Millwood attempt.
[caption id="attachment_916" align="alignnone" width="1280"] millweek fun up Neff's[/caption]
So, as the taper for Millwood began I struggled with motivation. Why bother? If all the good things that came from Millwood had already played out, why do it at all? This question was intensified by knowing Millwood is too difficult for me.
[caption id="attachment_917" align="alignnone" width="2810"] harry potter magic with Kenzie during Millweek[/caption]
My little motto of “such and such is tough but I am tougher” had worn thin after Millweek. I had tasted Millwood. I knew what was coming. I knew it was too much for me, and my confidence and commitment waned.
With that, a dear friend said to me, “it’s not pointless…because those mountains are a part of you, and there are parts of you on them.” That was all I needed, I guess. To remember that I do this because it is me, it is who I am, it is what I love, it is how I love.
So, at 9:00am on a Friday morning I am at the trailhead of Neff’s with Chelsea, painting my nails in a hurry and tucking her heavy little Buddha statue into my vest for luck while waiting for my spot tracker to pick up satellites. At 9:20, after one last hug and photo, I am off.
The route ascends Neff’s and comes down into Millcreek. I am flooded with Millweek memories, the bestowing of trail names, the donuts or “alien holes” at the trailhead below, the laughter. I love the Wasatch, not just for the mountains but for all the people who are a part of these mountains, too.
[caption id="attachment_919" align="alignnone" width="3264"] more millweek fun[/caption]
I have to poke around on pipeline to find a stashed water jug, which was (in)conveniently hidden behind a rock at a wedding luncheon…Oh hey guys! A quick refill and I was headed off onto the “Grandeur Fun Run,” which isn’t very fun. A new phenomenon started… I was dripping sweat. First from my elbows, then my hat, then from my vest, too. Then from my shorts… I’d never sweat like this before! Not even in the sauna for heat training! What was going on? Then my calves started twitching, dancing, like there were ghosts tap dancing inside of them. I tried to stretch, lay down with my feet above my head, calm my body down. Still my calves danced while my body created sweaty mud puddles below me.
This wasn’t in my race plan…
Soon I was laying down on Bambi hill, not even a dozen miles into Millwood, overheated, legs twitching uncontrollably, feeling faint and hot and unsure on what I wanted to do. A text message comes in from my friend Adriana, “Hey. You’re near my house. Want some ice or popsicles or anything?” The text was enough to make me decide to at least get to the base of West Grandeur, there would be ice and popsicles…I was sweating at a rate that made the water impossible to replace and I was so very thirsty…
[caption id="attachment_920" align="alignnone" width="1280"] selfie with the popsicle savior[/caption]
Seeing Adrianna and Matty gave me a huge lift. AV fed me pedialyte popsicles and Matty dumped two ice cold water bottles on my head. A hug and selfie with AV and I decided I better keep at it. At this point I figured I had nothing to lose—I don’t usually take many (or any) salt pills, but I couldn’t make forward progress with my legs reacting as they were. I took 4 salt pills to see what would happen, put on some Lady Jams music, and trudged up West Grandeur.
Even though she was off on her own adventure, I thought of the many “West Gangster” summits with Kalina I had done that year… at least 25 together. The temper tantrums, the white outs, the tears from laughter and pain we’d shared. It made me smile as I continued on… and my leg spasms went to twitches instead of dehabilitating cramps.
[caption id="attachment_921" align="alignnone" width="1072"] mt sneffels with Kalina post Millwood[/caption]
Back on Pipeline the spasms resumed so I took 4 more salt pills. Either I’d finish or I’d OD on salt pills, or who knows? Maybe both. I took the time to drink more water, refilled, and laid in the creek for a while, trying to cool my body.
On my way up Burch Hollow I found out that Paul Sharwell had schwacked on the ridge across from Mt Aire and was waiting for me up there. I asked for water (I wasn’t retaining any of the water I drank and was still sweating uncontrollably,) and I took several more salt pills. Paul assured me he had ice and food at the base, and being able to chat and visit was a huge lift. I didn’t expect him there! Yet without his food, ice, and water at the Elbow Fork trailhead I don’t think I would have made it up Terraces…
[caption id="attachment_922" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Chelsea and Jeremiah and Matty during millweek[/caption]
Then headed up to Porter Fork who should be there but Chelsea and Jeremiah, with my headlamp! I was behind splits and was worried the sun would set before I saw Jen who had my headlamp for the night. I took (even more…) salt pills and nuun tablets and Gatorade and continued on. I had developed a system where I’d flood my body with electrolytes, my leg spasms would subside to allow me to move forward for 45 minutes, then they’d return, and I’d repeat the process.
As the night cooled, eventually the spasms faded and I was able to run for the first time since Neff’s. I stopped all electrolyte consumption with the idea that perhaps my body was going to regulate itself now. Gratitude overwhelmed me. Jared Campbell sent me a text, congratulating me on summiting Gobblers, and I sent him a photo of the sunset. Ryan, Erik, and Pete had started running, and while Pete had dropped Ryan and Erik were still running on. There was a lot of hope.
[caption id="attachment_923" align="alignnone" width="3264"] the millwood sunset from Gobblers[/caption]
Jen and I saw a bobcat on our way to dog lake and enjoyed talking with her. We stopped in Millcreek and I re-braided my hair, changed socks, and ate. I felt, well, normal. Jen has been my trail mom for as long as I’ve been an ultrarunner, I look up to her as the solid being who doesn’t take any crap from me and keeps me on track—with running yes, but also with life. I’m so glad to have had her in my life these last few years. We ran well, and I tried to make up time. Jeremiah met us at the end of Bear Trap fork where he would be stepping in to pace me for a dozen miles and Jen would be heading home.
Jeremiah was a new friend, we met during Millweek. We shared a similar obscure sense of humor and I thought he’d be great fun to do the Days/Silver loop with. We chatted and laughed and mostly I stayed awake during my “witching hour” (3-4am where I want to fall apart, always.) I talked about my really rough year last year, and he let me know about an awful year in his life…soothing it is, to know that rough years fade into the overgrowth of life.
I knew that if I could get to Chelsea at Willow Lake in one piece that I would finish. Chelsea has become the yin to my yang…and all the other cheesey things one says about a best friend when they’ve never really had one before. I looked forward to the day ahead with her, even knowing physically I’d be miserable, the places would be, for her, the most aesthetic of the course. She would be strong when I was most weak.
[caption id="attachment_926" align="alignnone" width="1280"] celebrating our best friendiversary in powell pre millwood[/caption]
Near Wolverine my stomach went south and I struggled to keep calories in. I refused to eat for a few hours, thinking that not puking was better than eating and puking more and more. We had planned to meet various friends near Cecret Lake, and when those plans didn’t go through, we were in a situation without food and low on water with no promising situations for a resupply soon.
I sat at the Cecret Lake trailhead and said simply “I cannot summit Baldy unless I can eat something.” We watched a family hike down the trail. Lightbulb….! “Chelsea, look at all these parents! Parents with backpacks! Backpacks with snacks for their kids!” She told me she cared for me enough to beg for food for me…and thus began one of the most embarrassing trail experiences I’ve yet had—food begging on Cecret Lake trail!
The hikers we passed were so kind in offering all that they had (I really wanted chips, crackers, or fruit snacks… nothing else sounded palatable) and we were fortunate to find food I could eat to get up the mountain.
We looked around on Mt Baldy (after Chelsea asked a group of hikers to share their sandwiches with me, ha!) and she says to me, “Look at what you did! You did this!” to which I simply laughed. I did not do that, surely everyone could see that…!
[caption id="attachment_928" align="alignnone" width="2448"] PC Chelsea Hathaway[/caption]
On hidden peak, there was Paul again! With chicken soup, a slurpee (oh, I’d wanting that all day!!) and ice cold water. He had saved the day again, with the supplies Chelsea and I had been needing for many hours. I devoured the soup and thanked him profusely. He even thought to pack sunscreen, wipes, all of the useful things…
After running down from Hidden and up towards Cardiff, who should pull up but Paul again, now with all the supplies in his car and the offer to refill our ice water. We knew Bryce Astill had hidden a stash, but since we weren’t sure where it was, we were grateful to refill with Paul before heading up Cardiff. Three times Paul had saved Millwood.
Kessler was draining and Chelsea and I visited memory lane. I don’t know what mental state I was in, only that music was helpful and my mood had improved drastically once I was able to hold in calories. We lost time coming down Kessler because I was stubborn and would just take off… but we made it down and across the beaver ponds and out the cottonwood bush-trees.
[caption id="attachment_929" align="alignnone" width="2048"] a full fledged aid station![/caption]
There Ben Light and Cherri were waiting with supplies, along with Kenzie and, to my surprise, Bryce Astill. Since Bryce was returning to running from his near death bed it was a happy surprise that he was there to run some miles. Kenzie is another dear friend whom, over the last couple years, has been a beacon of sassy strength to me. I knew she’d be patient and push me.
The run up Mineral went well, until it didn’t. I was surprised by feeling great, until sleepiness hit and a Redbull didn’t settle well. Soon we were trying to figure out how to connect into Mill B South, sliding around on scree fields, and hanging out with our new friend the mountain lion who came over to say hey and see if Kenzie or I wanted to be dinner. Kenzie had a boulder and was screaming at me and the cat (both?) but it was my second night, mentally I had checked out a little, and I was just excited to hang out with the kitty for a bit. We had lost a lot of time up there, and I was getting frustrated with the time and my stomach. I threw up a few times coming down from Blanche, but at this point I knew I wasn’t going to quit regardless of what happened so I tried to keep a positive attitude and the mood light.
Down at the S-Curves there were many people waiting for myself and Ryan, as Erik had dropped long ago. It was so uplifting to see these friends! Kenzie insisted I eat (my licking a piece of frosting and drinking broth apparently wasn’t good enough for her) so a little sass and some snacks we were off… and then I crossed the street and threw most of it back up. It was going to be a great last 12 miles!
[caption id="attachment_930" align="alignnone" width="1200"] what a sour stomach looks like[/caption]
As we headed up Mill B North I was tired. I had started to hallucinate near Lake Blanche (I saw the most gorgeous glittery butterfly…) and as we trudged up Mill B every rock we passed had a face, and every face was looking at me. 20 or so faces later I didn’t like it at all, 50 faces and I felt crazy and afraid of the faces and they wouldn’t go away! Kenzie reassured me that this was perfectly normal…and I wanted to know where “normal” fit into Millwood! But when the ground seemed to sway underneath me I knew napping for a couple minutes would let me move better, and I was hoping it’d reset my stomach, too. 14 minutes later I popped up (I can’t sleep if I’m cold) and we continued on. I noticed on the tracking site Ryan had left the canyon…I worried a little, but there wasn’t anything for me to do but continue on. I felt alone and burdened in the sense that 4 people had started this, and by continuing on alone it was like I had to shoulder their hope, too.
My stomach wasn’t okay. I’d throw up, get up, wipe my mouth, and try to laugh a little while I looked at Kenzie and the I would say, “well, I guess I should run again, huh?” There wasn’t much I could beside try to make this as positive of an experience as I could. I felt bad that Kenzie was to be out there so long, that her injuries may limit her from doing something similar. How could I think about complaining about a sour stomach? I could continue on, with her gently there. As Stephen would say, I was one of the lucky ones…
I continued to see things, vans where there shouldn’t be, moose, places of rest. I avoided talking or looking at my hallucinations, my focus needed to be on puking less and running more. I held back tears over and over again as we got closer and closer to the finish. Millwood was too hard for me. Millwood was too hard for me. My life was too hard for me. It was all too hard for me. I understood this. What I didn’t understand, was why so many people would help…because where all these things were to hard for me alone, they were doable with others.
“Look at this! You did this…” No Chelsea. You did. Jen. Matty, Ben, Cherri, Kenzie, Bryce, Paul, random Cecret Lake families, Jared…YOU guys did this. Not me. I was just the vehicle, the body, the idea…
When we came down Thaynes… There was Chelsea. Kenzie and I ran in. I sobbed and the two joined in. Jared had driven to cell service to check on my spot tracker (I guess it had frozen) and came and gave me a hug soon after, too.
I don’t know what it is about Millwood that makes it so meaningful. It is the Wasatch in every way. It has the little exposed mountains, the higher summits, the overpopulated low trails, the forgotten trails that don’t exist. It has scrub oak and creek beds, it has scrambles and route finding, it has beaver ponds and ski resorts. It is the place that I have come to love and find a family and home in.
A HUGE thank you to all who helped make Millwood happen, or who came out to Millweek, or who supported others in their Millwood attempts. I couldn't have done it without you. It was too hard for me alone. I am so grateful to have gotten to draw the wasatch with my feet...My body wasn’t into it, but my heart sure was. One of the lucky ones, indeed. I get to join three others in completing one of the most challenging lines in the Wasatch with a time of 45:33.
La sportiva Helios, La Sportiva Bushidos, Ultimate Direction Peter Bawkwin Adventure Vest, Black Diamond Z-Poles, Petzl Tikka RXP, Petzl Myo
30 salt pills, 8 Nuun tabs, 2 Gnarly Nutrition chocolate protein shakes, eggs, avocados, pink frosting in various forms, VFuel Cool Citrus gels, chicken soup, slurpees, and all sorts of random snackies.