79 HOURS 00 MINUTES 35 SECONDS
3 1/2 hours time off feet
30-40 minutes of sleep
1 pair of contacts
4 clothing changes
2 pairs of shoes
4 sock changes
1 major fall
6 water crossings
3 crew members
3.5 pounds lost
One very happy runner
One very happy runner
To say that the Bigfoot 200 mile run was epic would be an understatement. Logistically, it was a nightmare for crew and pacers to get to the remote checkpoints with few amenities nearby and no cell service. I don't think I even know what was all involved. My helpers took care of all the details while I focused on moving forward.
Before the race:
After completing two 100 mile runs this year (a supported non-race the Reverse Issy 100 and San Diego 100), I started putting my focus towards Bigfoot. I forced myself not to race the 2 months in between San Diego and Bigfoot. This was hard because I was losing many weeks without a race that could go towards my lifetime goal of 1000 marathon or longer distance. But Bigfoot was more important this year, and I wanted to have a race without a lot of problems. The only way I thought I could do that was to train smart with quality workouts, given my busy work schedule. I did several hard runs with a heavy pack with steep climbs and long quad punishing descents. I also did a lot of heat training on the really hot days that we had with extra clothing. I would never turn on my air conditioning in the car. I lost about 10 pounds to limit the weight I would carry on my body over 200 miles and decrease the pounding on my joints. I used my preventative inhaler for asthma after I had such a bad attack at San Diego only 35 miles into the race. I even gave up running White River, which would have been my 11th time and would tie Marlis DeJongh's all time record. I swept the first half instead. I stretched almost every night to loosen my hamstrings and pelvic girdle. After sweeping White River 2 weeks before the race, I only did an easy 4.5 mile run. Then, I just had to hope I had done everything that I could do for a good race.
My crew and pacers:
Tracy Brown crewed me the entire race, only stopping when she took on pacing duties for the last 13 miles. Kim Kressin, an anesthesiologist that I work with, crewed from Saturday until the finish. My husband joined Sunday until the finish. As far as pacers (note, I used mileage that matches Ultralive):
Heidi Perry joined from mile 44.2-74 (29.8 miles)
Francesca Carmichael 74-109.8 (35.8 miles)
Ron Frederick 109.8- 128.7 (18.9 miles)
Joe Schrum 128.7-155.9 (27.2 miles)
Kathleen Leonard 155.9-173.3 (17.4 miles)
No pacer 173.3-187.7 (14.4 miles)
Tracy 187.7-200.8 (13.1 miles)
I had a stellar crew. Everyone was instrumental in getting me to the finish line safe and as quickly as possible. I can't thank them enough.
Tracy picked me up at my house Thursday and we drove to the finish in Randle, WA to the White Pass High School for check in and briefing, which only added to all the runner's stress as the descriptions kept getting harder. We had a nice lunch at the Mt Adam's Café, which we would be passing on our last mile of the race, so it was a good landmark! After the briefing, we drove just under 2 hours to our home for the night at Battleground, WA. I highly recommend staying there the night before since it is a big enough city that there are plenty of restaurants to choose from and the Best Western is clean and spacious. And, it is only about an hour drive to the start in the morning. Plenty of time given the 9 am start. Plus, it's a really pretty drive. This is all if you don't want to take the 2 1/2 hour bus ride in the morning from Randle to the start. I think I did sleep some. Not the most restful, but it just had to do. I had given my crew and pacers estimated split times for each leg, and as you will see, I was pretty darn close! The ones that were still at home could track my progress with my SPOT, rented for $30, and Ultralive, which would lag behind on updates because of the remoteness and times were called in on a spotty satellite phone. For my report, I am using the original mileage that was given to us with the race totaling 200.8 miles rather than 203.8 to match what was on Ultralive.
Race start at Marble Mountain to Blue Lake 12.2 mile leg
Predicted arrival time: 3:30 Actual: 3:00
This first leg was very pretty. We started out in tree covered trails, wide, and with generally good footing. We climbed about 3 miles. We exited the trees and entered more exposed trail and eventually had to cross about a 1 mile boulder field. Thanks Ross for this picture!
About 2.5 miles in approaching the boulder field
Boulder field with markers on posts. Pick your way through.
Photo courtesy of Sam Landry
We had some rolling terrain before descending to the Blue Lake aid station. There was a short out and back to the aid station, so I got to see some of the other runners. The leaders were already long gone. I don't remember having much trouble, but it was still early. I met Tracy here and she sent me on my way. Five minutes spent here. I would not see her again until mile 44.
Arriving at Blue Lake
Photo courtesy of Bigfoot Endurance 200
Blue Lake to Windy Ridge 17.6 mile leg. Total 29.8 mile
Predicted arrival time: 9:00 Actual: 8:35
I got off course immediately after the aid station so very briefly following other runners. Some people had gone further. There was a nice tree covered climb out of the aid station. We continued to hike on exposed trails and the views opened up as seen in the picture below. Then we steeply descended into a canyon with fixed ropes, that I really needed at that point as my legs were becoming wobbly. Just before the descent, I was stung either by a biting fly or a bee by my right ear. I wacked my ear real hard and got some ringing for a few minutes. The sting only bothered me for about 15 minutes. After descending the fixed ropes, there was a short 10 foot crossing of the Toutle River. Dave Eaton was kind enough to let me use one of his poles to get across. Then we ascended on another fixed rope. The route continued to climb on an exposed mountain side but the views were becoming more expansive and that was really neat. Very dusty, dry, and sandy trails. We went through several ecosystems on this part of the run from tree covered forest to dry mountainside to the desolation and blast zones. I enjoyed running this section with Ryan Trettivik (a girl), and Howard Cohen.
Photos by Van Phan
The climb up to Windy Pass took it's toll on my legs and I told myself that I needed to back off. The day was hot and the trails were exposed. So I stopped trying to keep up with the runners who caught me. Fortunately, I had a thin long sleeve Patagonia shirt that did well in covering my arms but breathed well. With my hat and sunglasses, I didn't feel too overheated as long as I kept the pace reasonable, but I did still douse myself with water from my bottle frequently. The final run on the ridge to the aid station was super cool! Ross Comer was there to take a picture. This was a no crew or drop bag at this aid station. The volunteers hiked in the supplies and were super supportive.
Photo courtesy of Ross Comer
Jonathan Symmes was there at the aid station. He was hot. We would go back and forth for most of the rest of the race. I did this section in 5 1/2 hours, my predicted. I was still ahead of schedule overall by 30 minutes from my first leg.
Windy Pass to Johnston Observatory 7.8 mile leg. Total 37.6 mile
Predicted arrival time: 11:00 Actual: 10:43
After leaving Windy Ridge, Jonathon ran with me until I felt like I was pushing it too much and asked him to go ahead. I backed off and my legs started to feel better. I was forced to slow down anyway from some bushy sections. However, footing was still pretty good here. The trail descends for about 2 miles before starting the gradual climb to Johnston Ridge Observatory. It was really neat to see it from afar. There was a short out and back to the aid station. Myc, who was crewing his mom Deby Kumasaka, was there and helped me get my drop bag, since I told my crew not to come to this aid station. I had a wonderful tasting hot dog there and craved this for the next few aid stations but they didn't have it. Five minutes in and out. I was still tuned into my I-Pod Shuffle.
Approaching Johnston aid station
Photo Van Phan
Johnston Observatory to Coldwater Lake 6.6 mile leg. Total 44.2 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 12:40. Actual 12:27.
There was still some light left when I left Johnston. As I was leaving the short out and back from the aid station, I saw several runners, including Bull Dozier, who ran Tahoe 200 last year, my Pigtails 200 this year, and recently the Colorado 200 three weeks ago. He was running with Tina Ure. They looked strong and happy. The first 1/2 mile runs along the paths of the observatory before getting back on trail. Then it's a nice downhill for several miles. I ran a lot of this, feeling pretty good but then started to feel worn out as I approached Coldwater. One runner passed me. There is some climbing before Coldwater and I lost him as darkness set in. I pulled out my headlamp and was soon to the walkway into Coldwater. I have to say that the first 44 miles to this aid station were my favorite of the entire race, maybe because I had done it in the light and the views were awesome or because I was still fresh and mentally sound. There was pizza at this aid station. I was hoping for another hot dog but this was their real food here. Tracy packed me 2 pizzas in a ziplock and I grabbed some other food such as nuts and Honey Stinger waffles. Heidi Perry was there ready to start pacing me. John was there as well. They were all so supportive and enthusiastic. I was having a lull in energy, likely from low calories. Even though the sun had gone down, I was still really hot. I did not need anything to keep me warm while stopped. I had brought my robe for the stops but never really needed it. The warmth of the day stayed with me all through the nights. It took until about 3 am each morning for my body temperature to reach normal.
Tracy and Heidi getting me ready for the next leg
Photo courtesy of John Pearch
Coldwater to Norway Pass 18.7 mile leg. Total 62.9 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 18:55. Actual: 18:57.
Heidi and I left Coldwater after a 13 minute layover, my longest stop yet, but they were just going to get longer. I had changed into a larger pack, the Ultraspire Zygos, my new favorite pack. It fits very well and has accessible pockets. I can use my bladder in it and have a water bottle handy up front. I still was not using poles. My goal was not to use poles (at least until halfway) because I found that they hindered me more than helped. They are a nuisance to have for eating and my legs still felt strong enough for the climbs and descents. Perhaps I have not figured out how to use them efficiently, but I still did not need them. The trail initially runs along the lake, probably much nicer during the day but it was a bit of a slog for me because it was narrow, not as smooth as I had hoped, rolling, and just dark. Heidi tried to lift my spirits with jokes but it wasn't helping yet. I remained grumpy. The trail along the lake lasts for 4 1/2 miles, then after that was a long climb up to Mt. Margaret over 8 miles and at least 3500 feet. That doesn't seem too bad when I think that Mt Si is 4 miles and 4000 feet. But this climb actually had some downs that made you feel that your progress upwards was being negated and that the actual climbing was going to be steeper. I finally needed a different distraction for the climb up Mt. Margaret, so I turned on my I-Pod Nano attached to a small speaker that was already in my pack and put on some stand-up comedy. We listened to Amy Schumer, a very funny but pretty vulgar comedian. I didn't mind it, she made me laugh. Somehow, I was able to catch and pass a bunch of people on the climb up Mt. Margaret and the run down. I was moving better at that point, others moving along but slower. I caught up to Ryan, the girl that seemed to be my pace early on. Heidi and I pushed up the out and back of Mt. Margaret as others were coming down, including Howard, my friend from Southern CA. Heidi took a quick picture to show I had climbed it.
Photo by Heidi on my phone
I felt energized running down from Mt. Margaret after having passed about 6 runners, some with pacers. I don't recall the trails being too technical or steep in this leg, but it may have been that I was feeling good and was not bothered by it. When I started from Coldwater, I was in 37th place. When I arrived at Norway, I was in 21st place. Some runners must have still been at Coldwater when I left, because I surely did not pass 16 people. There was no crew for me at Norway. I had a drop bag. My time here was again a little shorter because of no crew. I left after about 7 minutes.
Norway Pass to Elk Pass 11.1 mile leg. Total 74 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 22:40. Actual: 22:42.
I don't remember the trails here being steep or technical, but what stood out were the downed logs on the trail that greeted us frequently. This made it hard to get a rhythm. At least it was daylight now. We alternated listening to more stand up comedy including Kathleen Madigan and Jim Gaffigan with Heidi stories. Heidi told stories in great detail and I just listened along, thankful that I didn't have to participate. That girl has done some crazy stuff! I don't remember passing anyone in this part, but my memory is bad. All I know is that when I arrived at Elk Pass, I had moved up 6 more spots, from 21st to 15th.Probably as a result of some early drops. Tracy was there waiting as well as John, who was there to take Heidi home after finishing her pacing duties with me. Another long stop of 24 minutes. I was starting to have a hard time concentrating on what I needed at the crew stops, which added to my times. My originally organized bags were becoming a complete mess. Also, going from night to day, I changed into a different long sleeve to get rid of some of the stink and staleness of the shirt I was wearing. Unfortunately, the new long sleeve did not breathe as well as my first shirt and I was hot in it all day. It did keep me from getting sunburned on my arms. I didn't want a short sleeve just yet-not until the 3rd day. This is where Francesca Carmichael joined me for her pacing duties. She was going to do the next 3 legs with me. I changed into the Ultimate Direction Wink pack, wanting something lighter during the day. I knew right away that I would change back to the Zygos at the next stop, not liking how it felt. It was stuffed to the gills, and this made it feel very tight on my torso. I grabbed my hat and sunglasses and prepared myself for another hot day.
Francesca ready to join me
Photo courtesy John Pearch
Elk Pass to Road 9327 15 mile leg. Total 89.0 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 27:55. Actual: 27:44.
The trails start out very nice here. I remember thinking that Francesca was lucky to be running with me now because the trails were so awesome. They were tree covered without logs to climb over.
What I do remember on this day was that I was not eating as well as I should have and my energy, along with my positive attitude, started to suffer. I was just not liking what was being offered at the aid stations at the time. I think I had it in my mind that I wanted a hot dog, and instead of eating the other food choices, I just declined. It was also at this point that I found nuts were working really well for me. A few nuts every 30 minutes gave me a sensation of fullness and energy. I essentially stopped eating gels, which was nice. The only problem was that I was running out of nuts myself and had to scrounge what I could from my crew and pacers. The low calories on top of exposed hot sections in the open meadows, which were really pretty by the way-I just couldn't appreciate them, took their toll on me. Plus the trails were more rutted from use by bikers, rocky, and sandy. I just remember feeling like it was taking forever to get to road 9327. My stop here was 22 minutes, crew accessible. I switched back to my Zygos pack. My place was unchanged. Somehow, I had made some time in that last leg on my predicted splits, which were put together by me having never run on the course. My pacers asked me how I came up with the numbers. I had looked at the splits for Tahoe 200 of three runners I knew. One was faster than me, one was about my pace, and one was slower, and so I just took the averages of their times through 50K, 50 miles, 100K and 100 miles. After 100 miles, I just increased the pace per mile progressively, giving myself at least 30 minute miles towards the end. I was looking forward to the shorter legs coming up. The 15-19 mile legs were just brutal.
Road 9327 to Spencer Butte 11.2 mile leg. Total 100.2 miles
Predicted arrival time: 31:55. Actual 32:13
This part of the run started out okay. It seemed to me that I got passed by 3 guys but my place had improved by one spot to 14 at Spencer. Probably several runners arrived at Road 9327 but did not leave until after me. I was feeling okay, but with 3 guys passing me, I felt that my game was falling off. I kept moving though. After a doable section of descent, the trail climbed, and very steeply. It seems to me that this is where I started to feel that the rest of the race was one steep climb and descent after another. I started to think that whoever built the trails in this area and the rest of the race had never heard of switchbacks. The trails just went straight up or down. For those of you who have done the Cap Peak runs and remember the "Grunt," the climbs in Bigfoot are harder and longer. We were passed by Kerry Ward, who was being paced by Alicia Woodside. It was great seeing them, so nice and encouraging. I just could not keep up with them. The climb up Spencer Butte was endless. Every time I thought we were nearing the top, the trail turned and climbed more. Finally, we reached the top and it was a steep descent to the aid station. Clearly, I lost some time in this section. We arrived at the aid station with Kerry and Alicia still refueling. I got my drop bag and asked what they had for food. I got a hot bowl of rice and beans soup that I asked them to add some lunch meat for more fat and protein. Then I had them make me a burrito to go. This aid station stop was 22 minutes, again longer than I wanted but it was so nice to just stop and rest. Finally, we got up 5 minutes after Kerry and Alicia had left. My feet were starting to hurt here. I took off my shoes and dumped out any loose stuff and that helped.
Spencer Butte to Lewis River 9.6 mile leg. Total 109.8 miles.
Predicted arrival time 34:55. Actual 35:40.
This part of the run starts with a 2 mile paved road, mostly flat. Exhausted from the last section, I could only manage a walk-run. We would pick a race marker, run to it and walk a little. We ran into Jerry Missing Link Gamez on this road and he took a picture of us. We could see Kerry and Alicia ahead and saw them take the turn down the trail. The next 2 miles was a steep descent with some overgrown trail ankle high. It was slow going. Finally, we reach the Lewis River trail, which is a well groomed trail along the Lewis River. The terrain was rolling. I ran about 80% of it, slowly. The falls were beautiful. We encountered hikers here and I asked where the parking lot was. They said close. I made the mistake of thinking that we were nearing the aid station even though my GPS said we still had a ways to go. Finally, we get to a campsite with a sign that said 2 miles to go. But, when I got to what was 1.5 miles on my Garmin from that last sign, I ran into a girl headed out on the trail who said 1 more mile to go. I thought, whatever. But then I saw another sign that said 1 mile. Damn it! It was actually 3 miles from that campsite. To make it even worse, the trail climbs very steeply a couple times here. Really? The only thing that helped was that the trail was pretty smooth. There were some rocky spots that forced me to walk, but I ran as much of it as I could, wearing myself out, like I usually do just before approaching an aid station, eating and drinking less, figuring I would be able to stop soon. I had left Francesca because I needed to use the bathroom pronto. She was only about 5 minutes back. It was just getting dark at this point. I did not need my headlamp until I got out of the bathroom. This was also a sleep station-so a major stop. I met up with Ron Frederick and Joe Schrum, who were going to pace me the next 3 legs. Tracy had set up her tent and laid out my sleeping pad and bag. Kim helped get supplies for my clothing change. I had a hot dog, got my pack ready for the next leg, and changed clothes for the next leg before trying to get some sleep, my first time. Many of the other runners had gotten some sleep already. I was going to switch to my trusty Salomon pack, my second favorite pack now because one of the side pocket zipper was busted, so I made sure not to store anything important there, like my phone. It was nice to change clothes I planned to lay down for an hour once I actually got into my sleeping bag. All the while I was wondering who was passing me. Basically, I squirmed around, not being able find a comfortable position. It hurt to lay on my left side, pain over the lateral hip. My plantar fascia would tighten up. I changed socks and shoes but kept them on while I slept in case my feet swelled and I wouldn't be able to put them back on. My knees would hurt in front, tightening up if I had them in one position too long, whether stretched out or bent. I also spent about 30 minutes coughing up dust balls from my chest, that allowed me to breathe better. I used my steroid inhaler too to keep the inflammation down. My best guess is that I slept about 10 minutes. I set my phone alarm and it woke me up at about 10:30. I gathered my things, turned on my headlamp, filled water bottles, and hit the pink flamingo piñata on my way out to the cheers of the aid station volunteers. I made a good gash in it's neck. I allotted myself 3 hours of sleep at this station and stayed for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Ron and I left at 11 pm, so surreal to leave in the middle of the night.
Lewis River to Council Bluff 18.9 mile leg. Total 128.7 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 45:40. Actual: 45:37.
Another really long section. Now Ron was with me. It was nice to have a change in pacers throughout the run. It really cut things up for me into more manageable pieces. Ron had run a half marathon with 10,000 feet of elevation change earlier in the day. He took it easy knowing that he was going to pace me at night. I felt amazing after my short nap and time off my feet. Nothing hurt at all. I felt like I could run forever at this point. It was nice while it lasted, this feeling. This section was absolutely insane. There were several creek crossing that I got wet in. I knew somewhere in the race there were mandatory creek crossings but I found out it was in a later section, not this one, but I still got my feet wet. In the dark, I didn't want to search for those dry crossings. I guess during the day, this part of the run is deep and dark anyway, so probably didn't matter if I couldn't see anything. All I know that it was chock full of steep ascents followed by a steep descent and this went on endlessly for about 8 miles. The trails were dusty and crumbled. I went back and forth with another runner here many times. Ron talked about his family, friends, goals, etc and that kept me awake for half of the leg. But then he ran out of things to say and I got really sleepy. So did he, probably from the slow pace. I tried a 5 hour energy given to me by Joe, but it didn't work. I didn't lay down. I sat briefly but got right up again. I tried to have Ron lead but that didn't help. Finally what worked best was for me to talk to him. This kept me awake until it became light. Then I was able to run along better. We hit a short section of gravel road before arriving at the Council Bluff aid. I passed Tracy, Kim, and Joe parked along the road and they said I would be coming back to the cars since there was an out and back. I went to the aid station and requested some food and headed back to the cars but then saw a sign that made the turn on the trail. I realized that where they were parked was not on the out and back and became frustrated that I had to go out there and walk back to the turn off, adding on at least 0.5 miles. If I had known that was the case, I would have loaded at the car before going to the aid station. I asked Ron to bring me my food (Mac and Cheese) and headed to the car. I got rid of my headlamp and grabbed more nuts. At this point, Ron was handing over the reigns to Joe because he knew that Joe would be able to keep me awake. I gained time on this section, probably because I had slept less. My place was the same.
Council Bluff to Chain of Lake 9.8 mile leg. Total 138.6 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 49:40. Actual: 48:49.
Ron knew that Joe would keep me awake because Joe is a talker. Usually, I don't like this at all, but it was great. He was very entertaining and said that he would shut up anytime if I wanted. I don't know if I had caught up on my calories or it was light, or because the trails here were easier, but my mental outlook improved. There was a short climb over Council Bluff where Joe took a picture of me with incredible clouds behind covering the valley.
Photo by Joe Schrum
Next thing I knew, we were descending a forest service road for about 1.5 miles. I was overzealous at this point, maybe showing off a little. I ran down the road bouncing all over the place, happy to have good footing and letting my legs stride out. We descended to Council Lake and ascended again over Babyshoe Ridge. This took us to a gravel road that was wide and mostly flat. I'd used up my juices running down that hill, or maybe I was finding out that I could only run the downs and not the flats now. So we ran/walk this part, running into some guys in a truck doing who knows what. I was just glad that Joe was there. We saw several cars driving on this road headed to the Chain of Lakes aid station. We ran into Mike Kuhlmann, Danny's dad. He had left Danny to drive his other kid Kim back home after she had paced Danny. He was heading to Council Bluff, the opposite direction we were headed.. I told him to wish Danny good luck and as I turned around to say goodbye, suddenly I realized that there was an amazing view of Mt. Adams behind us. I didn't take a picture though, too lazy to pull out my phone. Joe and I continued on the road a little more before it got back on trail. I was thinking we had a couple miles to go until the Chain of Lakes aid station but then we saw a sign stating we had one mile! I was so happy! This was where I was going to see Ken and Gwen. My happiness was tempered by my fatigued and twitching muscles, telling me that I needed to be careful or else I was going to cramp soon. And that usually happens if I stop moving suddenly, like when getting to an aid station. Ken was there with Yoda, my 11 month old pit bull puppy, who is actually a solid 64 pound ball of muscle. He still has a lot of energy and my husband spent a lot of the next 36 hours holding him back. I gave Yoda a quick pet and set to trying to eat some food. I had bacon-so good. And something else, but cannot remember what. Joe was going to stay with me rather than Ron taking over. Gwen showed up finally, just before I was going to leave and seeing her enthusiasm really helped. She said was I was doing phenomenal, although I didn't feel like it at that time. I had spent 20 minutes here, another too long of a stop. It was getting really hot again. Somehow, I managed to get to 10th overall, the highest I would get during the race. I had long since been 2nd woman, with 1st too far ahead to catch and 3rd far enough behind that I would totally have to blow up to lose 2nd.
Chain of Lakes to Klickitat 17.3 mile leg. Total 155.9 miles
Predicted arrival time: 58:10 Actual: I think around 56:30. Ultralive does not have that split and my phone battery ran out.
I left Chain of Lakes with twitchy and tight leg muscles. I knew I had to be conservative and let it pass. My hands were all puffy, which for me either means too much water or too much salt. I tried to do everything from holding back on water to taking more salt, but nothing helped. I just had to bide my time and let it pass. I realized later that it was probably because of the heat of the day, and being the second day, my body was not able to cool down or control it's own temperature. At least I could still move at a brisk walk. Joe was great during this section. He would let me know what my mile splits were and as long as I stayed under 30 minute miles, I was good, because that is what I allotted myself in my worksheet. I was ticking off miles in 27, 25, 23, and even one under 20 minutes. I still could not run, but I was keeping up with the guys who I had been running with for the last 30 miles. In this section, there were three mandatory creek crossings, meaning you were going to get your feet wet no matter what. They were also very cold crossings and it was a painful thaw each time. I couldn't feel my feet for 5 minutes after the crossings. Joe let me hang onto his arm to make sure I didn't slip and fall. He would let me know what was next on the trail, if we had some downhill or if there would be a climb. I have to say that he was one of the best pacers I have ever had. He gave me such a calming feeling and I never grew nasty on him. We were both surprised that we got along so well. We had a good time! I felt we made good time. The first water crossing was about 1.5 miles on this leg, over a log with a cable to balance. No wet feet. The terrain was rolling over the next 5-6 miles with 3 more crossings, all wet feet but passable. Finally, we descended two miles down to the Cispus river and had our final wet foot crossing. Then it was fairly flat to the base of a steep climb up Elk Peak on the Klickitat No. 7 trail. This flat part before the climb was challenging in that the confidence markers were few and hard to see during the day, not the bright reflectors at night. And a couple of them were completely out of sight, so we moved it to some branches where they would be seen better by subsequent runners. Don't get me wrong, the trail was clear but sometimes you just want to have that reassurance. We finally crossed a road and started to climb, climb, climb. My legs were feeling better and I went up this mountain strong. There was one young guy who came running by with his pacer, both full of energy. See ya! There were so many false summits. We were expecting anytime to start descending, but it kept going and going. Then we reached a sign that said out and back up Elk Peak. I had totally forgotten about this and was completely spent by the time I got there. I climbed oh so slowly, starting to cramp more now, and had to be careful on the descent as well because the trail was very steep with loose dirt. I had to get to the side of the trail on some of the bushes to keep myself from slipping. A photographer got a picture of me coming down from the climb. I didn't take a picture with my I-Phone, too spent to pull it out. Finally, we made the steep descent to the aid station, again so taxing on the tired legs. With about 1.5 miles to go, I saw a girl up ahead and said something to Joe but he thought I was hallucinating again. When we got to the spot where I saw her, Tracy was hiding on the side of the trail, trying to get out of our way. She was just out for a nice hike. She headed back to the aid station ahead of us. This aid station was one of the best. I had the most amazing bacon, avocado, grilled onion burgers ever. I wolfed it down faster than even Bigfoot could have. There were annoying bees that were not stinging, just interested in the food and stinky runners. I had to finish my burger in Ken's car for peace and quiet from them. As soon as I was done with that, I changed my clothes, shoes, and socks. Unfortunately, the creek crossings caused some hotspots on both my feet that would affect me the rest of run. No blisters yet, so I didn't treat anything, but those blisters were coming. After a sponge bath with wet wipes and new clothes, brushing my hair and re-braiding it, I felt like a new woman. I brushed my teeth, which I had been doing every 20 miles. This was not a sleep station but Ken had a sleeping pad and my sleeping bag all set up in the back of our Pathfinder. I went in there to get flat and off my feet for about 1 1/2 hours, again not getting much sleep because I could not get comfortable. Probably another 10 minutes of sleep, now totaling 20 minutes. I had planned on sleeping at the next aid station but decided I needed the rest now. I emerged colder this time than when I took my first nap and had to put on long pants and a shell. Here is what I looked like on my way to get back on trail. I also gave Ken a hardy kiss goodbye.
Just waking up at Klickitat
Photo courtesy Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run
Love you honey!
Photo courtesy of Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run
I also saw Bull Dozier on my way out. He and Phil Nimmo, who both ran the Colorado 200 three weeks prior, stopped at 100 miles because of bad blisters. Bull (Kent) Dozier was great. I guess he stayed at Klickitat for many hours helping other runners through the night.
Klickitat to Twin Sister's 17.4 mile leg. Total 173.3 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 67:00. Actual: 69:36
I thanked Ron and Joe before they left and now was going to be paced by Kathleen Leonard through the next 2 legs. It was starting to get dark as we left Klickitat, around 8:30 pm. There was a butt load of climbing in this section, and it came in the form of repeated chinscraper steep climbs as I recall. What made this section even more challenging were the sparse course markings. I think they marked it during the day when it is easier to see the trail, but at night, it just blends in with the rest of the terrain, with a lot of deadfall. AND, the was so much bushwhacking through thick brush that cut up my legs constantly. I wished I had some compression calf sleeves on. Kathleen was wearing pants but I was too hot to wear pants. Most of the night we were searching for the trail, so the pace was very slow going. And we didn't see anyone else on the trail Maybe for a split second another runner but they continued ahead once they saw we were catching them. I think the trails would have been pretty during the day because it seemed like we were running through meadows at some point, but no views for us, which made getting a sense of direction very hard. But we were on trail, my GPS told me so. And we did see an occasional trail marker/reflective tape that reassured us. We got to this one trail marker, and then the trail just disappeared into this very thick and overgrown section. There was some kind of a shelf that we had to climb over but I was worried it was going to drop off on the other side like a cliff, so we stopped and waited for the next group to come by. I laid down wrapped in my garbage bag and gave Kathleen my space blanket. We waited an hour. I got maybe another 10 minutes of sleep. Two runners and a pacer showed up and climbed through the overgrown section that we so timidly avoided. The trail was just on the other side. I felt so stupid for wasting an hour but maybe it helped me in the long run because I was falling asleep while running prior to our stop. Who knows. The others took off. We let them go when we had to shed some clothing from our stop. I was dragging my feet more now and caught my toe several times. One of those times I went flying and landed on my chest, knocking the air out of me. I also sustained some bruises on my thighs and hips. But nothing was broken. I got up and started walking then running again. I guess that woke me up. We came upon those three again in about 10 minutes. This time they were sitting on the side of the trail trying to get some sleep. The caffeine pills weren't helping. We wished them luck and continued on. Again, markers were few and we were thrilled to come upon them when they were there, confirming we were on trail because my phone and thus GPS had died. We encountered a steep climb, again overgrown, of at least one mile or more. Then it was a nice run through the meadows as it was starting to get light. This section was nice except for the fact that I had a million cuts on my lower legs from the brush that stuck out into the trails and each time I got stabbed again, I'd wince in pain. It seemed like the same scratch was getting cut over and over again. I would have to slow my pace and turn my body to get scratched somewhere different. Finally, we arrived at the sign that said out and back to Twin Sisters. This was a nice trail, still overgrown, mostly descending. Just a few logs to climb over. I probably would have appreciated it more on fresh legs. It went on forever it seemed and at the very end as you are nearing the aid station, there is one very steep climb before it descends to the aid station. This section took longer than expected and Kathleen was on a schedule, so we decided that she would just stop at Twin Sister's and I would continue on alone. My crew was starting to wonder when I was going to show up when we arrived. Here, I was given a pulled pork burrito, very tasty and I took some to go too. I grabbed some other food and charged my phone up enough to get a reading on the route if I needed to but I expected with daylight, things were going to be much easier to follow. I was supposed to take a 5 hour break here but since I slept at the last aid station, I just continued on. Tracy offered to join me on this leg but I really just wanted to be alone for a while. I still wanted her to pace me the last 13 miles. After spending too much time here again of 40 minutes, I left with compression calf sleeves and pepper spray in case. Got rid of my headlamp.
Twin Sisters to Owen's Creek 16 mile leg. Total 187.7
Predicted arrival time: 81:00. Actual: 76:00
So I was on my own for the next 14+ miles. I felt pretty good on the climb back out from Twin Sister's. I saw many runners on my way out and we all cheered each other on. I did not see another girl, all boys. By Twin Sister's, I had dropped to 12th place. I was happy with where I was. I did not pass anyone on this section. It was a nice morning. The trail was actually quite nice for the first 5 miles, rolling, ridge views. I did some running, but mostly power hiking. Then came the downed logs, one after the other! Sometimes a single log but many times a bunch clustered all together and you had to figure out the best way to get over them. Sometimes the markers gave you a sense of sequence. All I know is that it took a lot of energy. It descended like this for a long time over downed logs with what seemed to me loose footing but I'm sure a pretty nice trail if your legs are fresh. Part of this leg included an out and back up Pompey Peak, and that just about did me in. I had to pause a couple times climbing up to catch my breath but made it.
Pompey Peak-all downhill from here
Photo by me
I basically stumbled in to the final aid station. We went through what everyone calls the Green Tunnel, a flat section with trees on both sides. It was so monotonous that I was sleepwalking a lot of it, tripping frequently on hidden rocks and branches. I tried to run a short section, like until the next marker but was making very slow progress. However, I allotted myself 9 hours for this section and completed it in under 6 hours, continuing to bring my total time down below my predicted. I ran into Greg Manciagli, owner of Run Pretty Far. He was running with dog Nellie. He had parked at Owen's Creek and was running towards Twin Sister's to pace Howard Cohen back to Owen's. He was expecting Howard to arrive at Twin Sister's at 3 pm. He told me I had at least an hour to the aid station. It took me over an hour. Some people saw a skunk in the Green Tunnel. No thanks! I got to the aid station and saw Sarah Emoto, who dropped at Elk Pass at 74 miles because her ankle was popping constantly and felt it safer not to continue. She and the other aid station workers got me food. I was craving watermelon, which I usually consume in large quantities at races but this was the first time I ate them at this race. My feet were feeling trashed with several blisters rubbing but I didn't want to take off my shoes. Better to just leave them alone. The nice thing usually about blisters is that once you get going, they get settled in and the sharp stabbing pain becomes a dull ache. Tracy was also there at the aid station and walked with me to the cars about 1/2 mile down the road. I was planning on changing into a pretty dress but decided against that because it was so hot and the dress would have made me hotter. I changed back into my Scott Juret Pack, and packed bacon, peanuts, and Honey Stinger waffles. I was set to go. The only thing I forgot was to move my SPOT to the new pack so those that were following me would have wondered why I stopped moving.
Owen's Creek to White Pass High School Finish in Randle, WA 13.1 mile leg. Total: 200.8 miles.
Predicted arrival time: 85:00. Actual 79:00:35
I told Tracy that I wanted to run 10 minutes and walk 2. At first that was doable with the mostly downhill in the first 3 miles, but my blisters were limiting my pace. I had one on each heel on the outside, one on my 3rd toe on the left foot, and one on each foot at the front of the ankle. When we reached the paved road, the 10 minutes became harder. I think I stuck to that schedule for about 5 miles but then the road dictated when I was going to run because there were regular small hills that I walked, even if I was not done with my 10 minutes. I was in no rush because no one was close behind. It was getting unbearably hot, but there was some shade and a few times the wind picked up. Besides the blisters, my other problem was staying awake. I was weaving around a lot. Fortunately, this road was less traveled. We finally turned onto Hwy 131, but there was more traffic with a small shoulder and only half the cars slowed down or gave us a wide berth. It was so awesome to see the bridge right before we crossed Hwy 12 and to see the Mt. Adams Café. I knew at that point that we had a little over a mile to the finish. We continued the walk/run, much shorter lengths of run than before. When we passed Kehoe and saw the high school, I started shuffling again, made the turn into the high school, across the parking, and onto the track. Candice had promised that we would not need to run around the track but lo and behold, we had to run around more than 3/4 of it. My legs were twitching as I tried to make good time around the track. It was a very nice track I have to say. Finally, I rounded the corner and picked up the pace, crossing the finish line banner that Betsy Rogers had made. Jerry Missing Link Gamez made us back up and run in together again. I immediately asked for a cold coke, and a specialized pizza was made for me, which I wolfed down in a few minutes. I got to pick out my buckle and sit down. I enjoyed talking to the guys who finished before me. Ken was taking care of Yoda. He had to take him back to the car because he went nuts when he saw another dog. He was parked in the shade. This section I allotted 4 hours and did it in 3. My Ultralive splits states my pace for this section was 20:31 minute miles but it really was 13:50 minute miles. Because I did not have a time recorded at Owen's creek, it took my average pace from the last time it recorded at Twin Sister's. Here I am picking out my finisher's buckle.
Picking out my buckle like a kid at a candy store
Photo courtesy of Candice Burt
It's just nice to sit!
Photo courtesy of Candice Burt
After I finished eating, I took a shower in a camp shower, pretty nice. Not cold. Just really felt good to get the stink and slime off me. I changed into fresh clothes and took Tracy, Kim, and Ken to the Mt Adams Café for a late lunch, early dinner. It was fabulous to have accomplished this run after training so hard all year. I am still glowing.
I want to thank again my wonderful crew and pacers. Totally could not have done it without them! And I have to say the whole race crew and volunteers were as knowledgeable and helpful as they come.
We arrived home about 8:30 pm Monday night. I had some rice and creamed spinach (yum) before going to bed. I slept okay but not like a log. Things hurt. The next day (Tuesday) I woke up at 7 am and spent the rest of the day cleaning out my drop bags, supplies I had given crew, cleaning my bladders and water bottles, doing several loads of laundry, vacuuming my husband's car, and emptying the coolers. It was a full day, and my feet were pretty painful by the end of the day. I also intently followed along Ultralive to see the last of the runners come in. It was exciting to me to see more names added to that list of finishers.
Wednesday, I went to the awards ceremony and got to exchange stories with others. The post run breakfast was yummy. We got our finisher's print and I got my 2nd female award. I was a happy person leaving there. I had to stop on the way home to take a nap, having trouble staying awake on the 2 hour drive home.
Danny at the awards ceremony
Photo by me
It took me two days of constantly eating to feel satiated and three days to catch up on sleep. I took my husband rock climbing on Thursday and my legs although fatigued, did not hurt on the hike up with a pack. Hopefully, I will be ready for Cascade in another 2 1/2 weeks!
My buckle and 2nd place award
Photo by me
Photo courtesy of Samantha de la Vega
Advice for future Bigfoot 200 mile runners:
- Train with a moderately heavy pack on steep trails. Although Candice lifted the mandatory gear check, you still will be carrying a decent amount of weight for most of the run given the long distances between aid.
- If you don't have a lot of dietary restrictions, just pack things like gels, packaged food, etc in your drop bags and rely on the aid stations to offer you the real food. I packed a ton of sandwiches, leftover pizza, and other things that needed to be kept cold with my crew and did no eat ANY of it! I threw it all away (actually, I fed it to my chickens).
- I would have dry socks in your pack on that section after Chain of Lakes on the way to Klickitat where there are 4 mandatory water crossings and put them on after crossing Cispus.
- I didn't use a lot of caffeine, but if I did, I would avoid it for the first 30 hours and then start using it.
- If you like recharging your phone or watch, bring plenty of battery packs that are fully charged. I was getting frustrated that my crew was not charging my batteries appropriately but found out later that they take a long time to charge in a regular socket. So charging them in their car was not as efficient.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses in the exposed sections.
- Change packs if you can. At least have 2. I felt 4 was a good number.
- If you are going to use poles, learn how to use them properly before the race. I trained with them before the race and found that I did better without them than with them. That's just me. I did carry them with me in the 2nd 100 in case of injury or fatigue.
- Well, that's all I can think of for now. Happy trails!