13 Jul Surround Yourself With Good People & The Power of a Pancake!
If you read my last blog, you know I was a bit unprepared for Western States. Despite my lack of preparation, I found myself in good spirits, excited to take part in this historic and storied race. I had a blast on Friday catching up with friends and making new ones.
Race morning, I picked up my bib and actually felt happy tears welling up with excitement and thankfulness to be running. I wished lots of friends good luck and lined up at the start. I was hoping to share a few miles with Pam Smith, since she said she was coming off of an injury. But I couldn’t keep up with her as we hiked up the climb. I am not a good climber and live at 500’, so 9000’ of elevation and climbing 2500’ in 2.5 miles is not my strong suit. I reminded myself to run by feel and enjoy the day. I tried not to get too out of breath on the climb. Oh well, I was near lots of people, but by myself. I eavesdropped on conversations to pass the time. I was excited to reach the top and see Maggie Guterl, my 2015 24-Hour teammate and good friend. I gave her a hug and posed for a selfie.
Ah…one big climb done. Now, I get to run! BOOM! A half mile later, I tripped and landed on my hands and knees. A guy in front of me turned and asked if I was ok. I popped up and looked at my hands. My knees were bleeding, but that never bothers me much. I was thankful my hands were intact. I responded that I was good and it wouldn’t be a trail race if I didn’t fall…at least I got it out of the way early! Ha Ha!
I love love love the section from the top of the escarpment to Duncan Canyon. The high country is beautiful with amazing views and wild flowers! It made me wish I had brought a camera. I focused on eating and drinking to stay on track. I stopped to refill my Nathan pack at Lyon Ridge. The volunteers are amazing! There are so many people helping with this race and they come forward to meet you and offer help! Aid stations are well-stocked with everything you need.
When I was about 2 miles from Duncan, I realized I was out of water. I met my crew/pacers, Cindy Lynch and Christy Baker from RunningSkirts.com and they got me in and out like a pit crew. I picked up my hat and bandana with ice in them, dumped some ice in my bra, and soaked my long sleeve shirt and headed out, a little frazzled, but still in a good mood.
I forgot about the climb from Duncan to Robinson. It’s a decent climb that no one really speaks of, but it is a climb nonetheless. I soaked in a pool of water just long enough to get really wet. Once I got to Robinson Flat, I saw my husband. I told him I knew I was behind where I was in 2013. He reminded me to enjoy the day and stay within myself. I still had a long way to go. I had a rough time from Robinson to Miller’s Defeat and hiked quite a bit in that section which was really runnable. I was a little stressed that I wasn’t taking advantage of the running portion and knew I need to figure out why. I did an inventory of why I didn’t feel right and decided I was low on electrolytes. I guess I wasn’t taking enough Fizz. I got some S-Caps at Miller’s Defeat, iced down, and started feeling better again. I congratulated myself for correcting my hydration/electrolytes before it got out of hand.
I fell again somewhere in the 30‘s, but was lucky to fall in a soft leafy area. So, I still felt good body-wise, and was singing happily to my ipod now. Cindy and Christy met me at Dusty Corners and sent me off with a Oatmeal/Peanut Butter/M&M Cookie that Christy makes! I also grabbed some pickle juice (no S-Caps), re-iced, re-soaked from the aid station dousing stations, exchanged gear and was back on my way.
What goes down, must come up or vice versa. I love all the downs, but knew what was coming. I got in the river before the climb to cool off. Devil’s Thumb is the worst climb on the course in my opinion. I climb slow, but I am even worse the steeper the climb gets. Devil’s Thumb isn’t super long, but it is steep for me. I hiked as best as I could, getting passed by about 5 guys. At the top, I was excited to meet Dave Mackey for the first time. He was working at the aid station. I refilled my pack and was on my way. Back down to El Dorado Creek. I got wet with sponges at the aide station, re-iced everything and headed back up. The climb up to Michigan Bluff is easier for me because it’s not as steep. Only one guy passed me on this climb. About half way up the climb, I was privileged to see a deer just standing on the trail. I stopped briefly and watched him until the next runner caught up to me and scared him.
Eventually, I made it to Michigan Bluff and didn’t see my husband. I saw Bob Hearn, gave him a hug, and asked if he saw my husband. He ran up and down the street, but didn’t see him. I ran back to the aid station, refilled my pack and grabbed some gels since I wasn’t getting to just exchange one Nathan vest for the one my husband was supposed to have for me. I got halfway up the road and my husband appeared. I was mad. Where had he been? Whatever. He asked me if I wanted to change packs. I said no, just trade gels with me. Then, I was on my way. I excitedly headed down the road knowing I would soon have company with Christy or Cindy at Bath Road. At this point, I knew I was about 30 minutes behind my 2013 time, but knew if I kept doing what I was doing, I would be into Foresthill under 14:00 hours, leaving me 10 hours to get my sub-24 at the finish.
Yeah! Cindy and Christy!! Woot! Woot! I felt okay at this point and asked what place I was in. They said 20-something. They gave me the update on what girls and guys were in what place and how everyone was doing. It was exciting to hear Courtney and Jim were leading. 20-something took off any pressure. Focus on the sub-24. We hiked up Bath and started running into Foresthill. I got doused with water at the aid station and ran a bit up the road to a spot where my crew had set up. They had the noodles I had requested from the Chinese place. I ate a bunch of them, exchanged packs and was on my way.
In 2013, I hammered the easy downs and ended up vomitting a bunch. I knew I needed to take it slower. I ran easy, but my belly started to feel off. I thought, oh no, not again. We ran easy, but my belly pain was awful. There was a rattlesnake on the trail that a pacer warned us about. We went around it. At this point, I hadn’t put any food or fluids in since we left Foresthill. I needed to hike to see if I could get my belly back. All of that section from Foresthill to Peachstone is a bit of a blur. I just knew that my sub-24 hour was slipping away. About 1/2 mile from Peachstone, I sat down on the trail. The next thing I knew, I was laying down on the trail and Cindy was helping me back up. She had her arm around me and someone from the aid station came to meet us. I don’t really know the exact course of events. We walked to the aid station and I sat in a chair. Next thing I knew, I was lying in a cot and a doctor asked me if I remember passing out. I did not remember it. They took my blood, said I was super dehydrated and let me nap. I wanted to quit. They told me it wasn’t a good place to drop because it was hard to get out and would have to wait until 3am when everyone left and they broke down the aid station. When I woke up, they said I looked better and had color back in my face. I was there at least 30 minutes. I was told the next aid station was 2.5 miles away. I was hoping I could drop there.
We hiked to the next station. OMG. It took FOREVER. I didn’t want to do this! I didn’t want to hike it in for 25 miles. I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt! My belly still sucked. I still wasn’t taking in much. I had maybe 3 oz. of Coke at Peachstone. Everyone was out of Ginger Ale, which is the only thing that even sounded good. Same song…not a good aid station to drop at due to it’s location…on to the river. Still no more food. Still no more liquids. I felt terrible for Cindy. I was definitely not good company. I know pacers are there to help, but I was needy and no fun. I was taking forever to get anywhere, probably whining and bitching the whole way, and just wanted to drop. I knew my husband was supposed to be on the near side of the river. I just counted down the miles til the river where I could drop.
I laid on a dirty cot with a nasty dirty blanket. I didn’t care. I wanted to drop. My husband and Cindy were not giving in. I said the “F”-word as many times as I could fit into a sentence because my husband doesn’t like it. I said I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to walk it in. I slept on the cot. I was there for almost 2 hours according to the splits. I don’t remember being there that long. I woke up and asked for someone to cut my band off. He came over and talked to me. I told him, my stomach was tattered and felt like shit. I knew I would puke if I put anything into it. He asked me if I was ABSOLUTELY SURE that I wanted to cut off my band. There was no going back. I thought if I could puke I would feel better. He was going to get someone to talk to me and give me 30 more minutes to decide. He left. While he was gone, I stuck my finger down my throat and made myself puke. It took me 2-3 tries to get myself to gag. But, success. I puked. Hardly anything came up. It was maybe an ounce of liquid, which was probably bile, but I felt better. The guy he sent over came to talk to me. Cindy told me later it was Ann Trason’s ex-husband. He told me had had run WS100 4 times and quit twice. He regretted the 2-times he quit. At some point around the same time, my husband was chiming in that I had taken someone else’s spot in the race. I told him I’d retire from running if he let me quit. He asked me if I wanted to retire on a DNF? Damnit, NO! He always knows what to say. He also made me feel guilty telling me the Skirt Girls took time out of their lives to come help me, had people taking care of their kids, etc and I wasn’t even going to give Christy the option to run with me (she was waiting at Green Gate). Shit. F. F. F. I felt better after making myself puke, and was thinking better after napping. I drank ice water (still no Ginger Ale) and ate plain bread. It was staying down. Let’s do this thing.
Cindy and I donned the life vests and crossed the river. It was freezing. I was freezing. I had gotten cold from not moving for so long. I was going to put on a long sleeve after the river, but we were hiking up to Green Gate and I was warming back up. I got to Green Gate after almost 9 hours since Foresthill. Mile 62 to 80 in 9-freaking hours! Well, I was moving again. We resupplied and got on our way. I was just continuing to nibble on bread and water. It was like 20-minute pace to get to Auburn Lake Trails aid station. I saw Bob Hearn pacing a friend. He was surprised to see me and thought I had finished in 22-hours. I wished. At this point, I just wanted to get it done. I was feeling a little better after keeping a bit of bread down, and actually had to pee now 🙂 A volunteer asked me if I wanted pancakes and for the first time in 10 hours, something sounded GOOD! I took 2 pancakes with syrup and nibbled on them while we started to run. The more I ate, the better I felt. We started passing people.
At some point, I fell again and the residual syrup on my hands picked up some leaves, like I had tarred and feathered myself. I didn’t care. I was moving like a human being again 🙂 I realized I left my ipod at Rucky Chucky when I thought I was dropping. It was ok though. Christy and I just chatted and ran. She lied to me about how fast I was running, trying to encourage me, and we started counting people we were passing to pass the time. Not that it mattered at this point, but whatever works to keep you going.
We got to Quarry Road and I asked Hal if I could take a picture with him. Sweet…no rush at this point. We continued to run, hike, and walk some. I just wanted to be done. Less than 10 miles to go. We saw my husband at Pointed Rocks and I got some more pancakes. I switched into a singlet because it was getting hot again. We talked about all kinds of things and I was actually starting to enjoy the day a bit again.
We got to No Hands Bridge and headed up to Robie. I was so thankful that my husband and Cindy didn’t give into me AT ALL. I need tough love and they gave it to me. The day hadn’t turned out like I had hoped, but I was getting it done. We got to the top of the trail to where the road starts and Cindy and Fernando (a friend of Christy and Cindy) met me. It was nice to see them. We started hiking up to Robie. Once we got close, you hear all these people cheering at Robie. I got excited and crossed over from the middle of the road and started running. I stuck my hand out and hand-slapped about a dozen people at Robie as I ran by.
I continued to run to the track, passing a few more people on my way to the track. At the finish line, I was overcome with emotion. I honestly didn’t think I would finish at the the River. I had tears welling up in my eyes from the joy/relief/happiness of getting it done.
I was mentally fried before this race and it was a push to get it done. This season and this race have taught me more in my Ultrarunning journey. First, I am going to take 1 month off every year and plan downtime. Physically, my body has endured year after year, but mentally, I have not.
Secondly, “Surround yourself with good people. They make it easier to keep your head up even when you’re going through bad times.” -Thema Davis The key to finishing a race if you falter, is having a good crew and pacers. Thankfully, I had a phenomenal crew and pacers. My husband, Mike Falbo is supportive in all the right ways. Cindy Lynch, and Christy Baker are the only reason I finished Western States 100.
Lastly, for me, I will force food and liquids down even if my stomach is jacked in the future. If it comes back up, it’s just a reset. Blisters and physical pain have never bothered me, but if my stomach feels like it has a hot poker in me, it’s my arch nemesis. I need to deal with this more effectively in the future.
Thanks to all my sponsors who have stuck by me through this rough patch. I am taking time off and know I will be able to come back stronger later in the year.
Altra Running: I wore the Lone Peaks which were the perfect shoe for 100 miles on the trail! Love, Love, Love the foot shaped toe box! My blister-free feet were happy at the end of the day.
Nathan Sports: I used the VaporHowe vest. It is amazing! It is the first vest that I can wear for 28+ hours and it was still comfortable the whole time. You don’t even think about it while wearing it unless you need to refill it or get something out of it.
Running Skirts: I wore my Ultra Swift Wave Skirt. It was perfect as usual! It is super comfy and my go to skirt for hot races! The pockets are invaluable to carry things!
Drymax Socks: I wore my favorite socks: Ian Sharmin’s maximum protection trail socks. I was blister-free despite getting my feet constantly wet. I never had to change them!
Hammer Nutrition: Hammer gels are my go-to fuel. I used Fizz and Recoverite.
Squirrel’s Nut Butter: No chafing…I cannot say enough about SNB! Meghan Arbogast gave me a sample of this at the 100k in Spain in 2016 and I have never looked back. In the past, I was always looking for a bra that didn’t chafe. It wasn’t the bra. It was that I didn’t have an anti-chafing product that worked. I recommend this to everyone.
Epsom-It: A great post-race or post-run lotion to decrease soreness, inflammation, and pain. I passed out sample packets to friends at the pre-race meeting!