Sunday, August 20, 2017


You've heard of The Bucket List. Well, I think there is a Buckle List. Races that you want to do and complete so that you can get that coveted buckle. Sounds materialistic to have a buckle. Tell that to the people who do finish and have their prized buckle in hand. Usually it means they have surmounted a lot to get to the finish. That's the Bigfoot buckle. You have to overcome so much, whether you're first or last. Oh, and it's so pretty!

Here are my quick stats for this year's race. Third time's a charm!

Third Bigfoot 200 mile in a row since inaugural year
3rd podium finish, first ever overall female win (2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2016)
PR by over 6 1/2 hours
New female course record in 72:22, 9th overall finisher
One fall, no blisters
No crew, no pacer
Many friends, old and new

This will be a long blog. More for myself to remind me of the challenges of this run for the next time, but also for anyone who wants a detailed description of the course. There will be more text than pictures. Hunker down and read on if you want!

The training:
I didn't tell anyone, but this was going to be my "A" race of the year. Everything I did was a lead up to this race, including all the 100s in WA: Orcas 100, Badger 100, Lumberjack 100, Pigtails 150, and Issy Alps 100 (not a race-just an FKT). I ran 11 shorter races for "speedwork", did a ton of sauna training, and started a strength workout. I trimmed my weight down 7-8 pounds. My most key training 5 weeks before the 200 was Issy 100 where I carried a heavy pack for over 33 hours with a ton of elevation change. That run told me that I was in pretty good shape. I had set a new female FKT by about 3 hours. My last race was a hot Bigfoot 100K three weeks before the 200. It went well. If interested, here is my 30 minute video of it:

Then it was taper time. Time to start noticing new aches and pains. Time to feel like a sloth.

The day before:
After a very busy work week where I could just feel the blood and energy draining out of my legs, I headed down to Randle on Thursday. My drive there was very scenic and relaxing (except for the work texts I was getting as my cell service was fading). If you ever have a chance, take 410 to 123 to 12 to Randle if you're heading down to Portland. It takes more time, but well worth it. If Hwy 25 is open, drive through there to Cougar before hitting I-5. Or just continue on Hwy 12 after Randle to hook up with I-5. You get glimpses of incredible views of Mt. Rainier on the scenic route on a clear day, but mostly it's just a nice scenic drive. Stop at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater on 410 for a Huckleberry shake or my favorite a Mocha Frappe.

Lucky 93
Photo by Howie Stern

I like to make it to the detailed course briefing, which is not mandatory. Even though I know the course fairly well, it's always nice to get a refresher and updated trail conditions. I really wanted to know where water was available. Got my medical check and bib, then it was off to lunch at Mt. Adam's Cafe with some of my favorite people: Matt and Betsy Rogers, Susan and Reed Glesne, and Vivian Doorn. Matt and Vivian were running this year. Betsy would be the finish line chef (she's a chef in real life, so we knew it was going to be some good eatin'.) Susan and Reed were crewing and pacing Vivian. Reed had finished it last year. He had DNF'd after 170 miles the first year and returned to finish it in what was arguably tougher conditions in the heat last year. As we talked about the race, Vivian kept getting more and more nervous. She had had a Bigfoot party to talk to previous racers, crew, and pacers who had participated in Bigfoot or Tahoe for a questions and answers session. Then she got a fracture in her pelvis and this wiped out training for most of the first half of the year. She did a lot of "cramming" in the weeks leading up to Bigfoot to get her fitness as good as possible. 

We returned by 3 pm for the mandatory briefing. By now, it was very hot and I was not drinking enough. I was having some muscle cramps already! I left my drop bags in their designated pile to cook under the sun. I had a bag for all the locations that were allowed since I had no crew. Then I headed to Packwood (16 miles away) to check into Mountain View Lodge. This is my go to place for the race. It's clean and has air conditioning. The hotel managers are really nice. The guy there is Vietnamese and couldn't wrap his head around running 200 miles, and paying to do it! I laid out all my clothes for the morning, ate dinner (Caesar salad and sushi rolls), and hydrated. My legs finally stopped twitching. I showered one last time for the next 4 days. Sleep wasn't perfect, but I know I did sleep. The air conditioning was wonderful.

Race morning:
I woke up before my 4 am alarm. I had a bowl of cereal with almond milk and blueberries for breakfast.  Drove to the high school-saw 2 elks on the road. It was just starting to get light and I boarded the 2nd bus with Angela Palmer Wilder, Amy Iverson, and Dan Saul. 

Me and Angela
Photo by Angela Palmer Wilder

We nervously chatted on the bus. I asked the bus driver if we were going to stop for a bathroom break about half way. She seemed annoyed that I asked but was kind enough to finally pull over. I had a sandwich for my second breakfast on the ride. We arrived at the start and the first thing I did was pee. I was hydrated again. Got my SPOT and had a muffin I had made from almond flour as my 3rd breakfast. You burn a lot of calories before the start of the race and I didn't want to be behind before we got going.I forced myself to not look around at all the girls racing. I told myself to run my own race. After a group picture, we were off!

 Class of 2017
Photo courtesy of Destination Trail

Start to Blue Lake 12.2 miles:
The main feature of this leg of the race is the lava field. It's unique and definitely makes you feel like you are in another world. Yes there is climbing in this section, but it's so early that you hardly notice, unless you go out too fast. So don't go out too fast, duh. I took my time on the lava rocks, but I still got off track and found myself above the other runners and had to climb down towards them to get back on trail. This is where I also saw Howie. 

Me early on
Photo courtesy of Howie Stern

I had written down my splits from my first year 79 hour finish and Gia Madole's course record 73:28 finish. I wanted to be somewhere in between. My target for Blue Lake was between 2:24 (Gia's time) and 3 hours (my time). I came in about 2:50. I started out with my lightweight UD pack, trying to keep the pounding on my legs to a minimum. I had a lightweight shell, emergency blanket, extra socks, and a lightweight headlamp in addition to my food. I carried 60 ounces of water in bottles for that first leg, but didn't need it all. I did not have poles. I didn't train with poles and have found in my previous races and training runs that I become lazy with them, leaning over too much and making my back hurt. At the aid station, I picked up a waist pack that carried another 20 ounce bottle, so I had the capability of carrying 80 ounces through the next stretch but I only filled to 60 ounces, planning on getting water before the Toutle crossing. I carried an OKO bottle for filtering. I picked up my visor (this next section is very exposed after you cross the Toutle River), had some food, and was off. Apparently, there were quite a few girls who had done the short out and back already before I even arrived, including eventual #2 and #3. They both came in around Gia's split. The temperatures were still very pleasant but it can be very hot already on those hot years.

Blue Lake to Windy Ridge 18.1 miles:
This section has so many iconic parts of this race. You start out through some sandy washes before climbing and then descending in the forest down to the Toutle River.

Some typical forested trails
Photo by Shaun Daylor

I remember running with Dylan Morgan and Claire Heslop here. There is good water about 5 miles from Blue Lake and then no more until the Oasis 10 miles further, unless you want muddy, churned up water. You descend on ropes down to the river, cross with the help of a rope across Toutle (I didn't try to keep my feet dry), and then ascend on another rope. It's safest to let the person ahead of you get past the rope section before grabbing it yourself. At this time, I ran with Rick Arikado, George Blancas, and Dustin Gilbert. After ascending on the rope, it's relatively flat for a little before you start climbing towards the really sandy switchbacks. It's exposed here and can be really unbearable on a hot day, but still was manageable then. I let a bunch of people pass me here, not wanting to tax myself on the shifting sand. The next section is exposed but fun as you go in and out of these small canyons. Again, it is very taxing and you want to be conservative here. It's easy to go "weeeeee!" and find yourself slowing down later significantly. I spotted a grove of trees and thought it was the Oasis, but I was premature. We crossed a few muddy streams before arriving at the rejuvenating Oasis water. So cold, crisp, and fresh. I didn't filter here and haven't had any problems. I drank a bunch here, poured a bunch on myself, and filled only 40 ounces because the aid station was not that far away. 

Katie and Catra at the start-strong women!
Photo by Katie Graff

Around this time, I was running with Katie Graff, last year's female champ and super sweet gal. She has thank you notes for the aid station volunteers. Some she carries, others she has in her drop bag. We eventually descended down from the Oasis to the dirt parking area of Windy Pass and started a gradual climb towards the paved parking 2 miles away. My legs were starting to get tight and I hiked this part but there were some runnable sections. Just as I was starting my hike up this road, I saw Susan Kramer, eventual #2 gal. She looked strong and fresh. I just watched her in awe as I slowly made my way to the aid station. Jean (eventual #3) had already gone through the out and back.

Susan Kramer (she's 52!)
Photo courtesy of Howie Stern

Once you get closer to the aid, it's goes downhill. So you arrive looking good, but you don't feel so good. Your legs are already twitching and your feet are getting some rubbing from a couple creek crossing that I was unable to avoid getting wet. I decided to change my socks. Good call. I had some pickles and chips and headed out. It's 9 miles to the next aid but getting much warmer now, so I filled 3 bottles. I like to douse myself with water and carry extra for that. I had spotted Selina Danko on my way in and Katie left before I did from this aid. So maybe I was in 5th? My previous time was 8:35 and Gia's was 6:45, but the course differed from the first year and this way was much faster. I arrived here in 7:20. However, I didn't rely on the fact that I was running much faster because of the course change.

Windy Ridge to Johnston Ridge 9.6 miles:
After a short climb out, you will run down for a while, going the reverse of what you just came in on for 2 miles. Then you get back to the Plains of Abraham. Again, this section is runnable but can be taxing. Remember I said if you feel "Weeee!", that's not a good thing. If you are feeling good and moving along, you're running too fast. That's what I did coming down the road and going across the Plains of Abraham. You are still very exposed here. Eventually, I slowed to a walk even on the flat sections. The climb up to the turn toward Johnston Ridge took me forever, and I lost site of the 2 runners ahead of me-Katie and Meepmeep Mount. Oh well, slow down, drink or take salt, whatever your body needs. This time it was salt, or at least that's what I think helped. Ultimately, I think it's the slowing down that helps, not what I put in my mouth. 

That's me in the red shorts in the early miles
Photo Shaun Daylor

Somehow, I got my legs back and was running the last 1-2 miles to the aid station. It's beautiful running here. The footing is good and the hills not too steep or long. I ran into a photographer here and Howie. I arrived at the aid feeling better and was able to get in and out pretty quickly. My old time was 10:43, Gia's 8:26. I arrived here at 9:33. Right on target.

Johnston Ridge to Coldwater Lake 6.6 miles:
I left to the cheers of the volunteers and thanked them profusely before jogging across the parking lock. I knew this section was a long exposed downhill, so I kept myself in check. Running down can be as taxing as hiking up, even more so for me since I'm careful on the downhill. I work as an Ortho PA and help fix a lot of broken ankles and other injuries. Recovery is long and I don't want to go through that. I was really enjoying the scenery here. I didn't see another runner until I got to the next aid. After descending for about 4 miles, you will reach a flat area and the momentum you had running down will change. All of the sudden my legs felt heavy like I was running through a quagmire. So take it easy here if you are feeling tired. Walk some if needed. If you have spring in your legs, good on ya. As you near the first parking area (not the aid station), there will be a few hills to go up before then that makes this section seem like it is taking you longer than you thought. Once you hit the road, it's a slight up across the bridge, right turn towards Coldwater parking, then left, then you are at the aid. That paved part after you leave the trail is about half a mile. My previous time was 12:27, Gia's 9:58. I arrived here at 10:53. Normally I arrive here in the dark, but it was still light, so this was nice. Time of day was 7:53 pm. I grabbed my headlamp and flashlight, dropped my hat, and grabbed extra clothes. I did not need to change my socks again yet.

Coldwater Lake to Norway Pass 18.7 miles:
I knew I was in for a long haul through this section. Fortunately, I was able to run along the lake mostly with light. I had a pulled pork sandwich the first part on the sidewalk and then started to run the rolling trail. My legs felt good taking it easy. Katie and her pacer Jeremy were ahead of me. I caught them before the end of the lake, but did not pass because I was going to get more water at the last stream crossing. I also wanted to keep my distance because of the dust. At night, you start to realize how much dust you are inhaling. I could always tell when I was catching someone because of dust lingering in the air. I could see lights ahead, but I didn't try to catch up. The section after the lake is up and overgrown. It can be steep at times and will eat up a lot of minutes. On the hike up, I was passed by Dustin. I had stopped to change my socks. I discovered a hole in my gaiter and it was letting dirt in. I re-taped my toes. The trail goes on and on and on and eventually it will open up with expansive views, but I didn't get to see any of this. I always do this part in the dark but during the 120 miler, I got to see it during the day and it was spectacular.

This is what I missed at night in the Mt. Margaret area
Thanks Dan Saul for the photo

I could see the runners lights ahead. Many times you look up and say to yourself, we're going up there? I just have to remember that the out and back up Mt. Margaret is not near until you make a sharp left hand turn down and do some more climbing before getting to the trail that takes you to the out and back. For me, once I get to the Mt. Margaret out and back, I am done with the hard part. Finally that came. Another runner was coming down as I got there. I had the out and back to myself, which is nice. It's a short out and back. Don't think you're done with the climbing after that. There are a few more hills but they aren't that bad. We did have to cross some snow, but again, not a big deal. Finally, we headed down in general but again a few short hills and what seems like endless down to the aid station. I had passed Katie on the way down because I saw her pacer. She was probably going to the bathroom. I arrived at the aid and Selina was there. She said the girl ahead had just left about 10 minutes ago. I took my time though. I wanted to eat, drop my waist pack with the bottle, and focus on what else I needed. Once I was satisfied, I left. My previous time was 18:57 and Gia was 15:12. I arrived here at 16:54.

Norway Pass to Elk Pass 11.1 miles:
I had some soup at the aid station and took some quesadillas with me that I ate on the climb up. When I was done, I started to pick up the pace again. I do much better at night when it is cooler. I had left Katie at the aid station and didn't see her or Selina again. I caught up to Dustin and Susan who was being paced by David Bliss. There were a lot of blow downs in this area and every time I passed them, I lost the trail and got behind them again. I decided they were better at staying on trail than I was, so I let them lead until the trail opened up again. There is climbing on this stretch mixed in with running sections, but the blow downs interrupt your rhythm. After a while, you descend to a road and cross it. The next 7 miles or so is a mix of down and up, but more up. Just know that this section takes forever. I don't know why I thought this trail was mostly down to the aid so I wasn't prepared for all the up. Perhaps because when I paced once and ran once the Bigfoot 120, I thought it was mostly a climb to Norway. Anyway, it takes a long time. Dustin and I went back and forth until I passed him before we got to the aid and I never saw him again. I didn't Susan again for a while, but I knew she was back there. I passed a couple other runners before the aid as well. Before, I got here at 22:42 and Gia 18:45. This time, I got here 20:08. I had soup and grilled cheese I think. That's what I asked for at all the aid stations. Or cheese quesadillas. It was my go to. I wasn't digging the hamburgers this year like I did in the the last 2 years. I digged the cold coke. I was eating gels, trail mix, and Stroopwaffles in between. I was brushing my teeth every 20-30 miles. Here I changed my clothes. I had some chafing that the aid station gal helped spray some Tri Slide on. I left there feeling much better. I left before Susan arrived. I was able to drop my headlamp since it was getting light. I still had my flashlight. 

Elk Pass to Rd 9327 15 miles:
This next section is overall great but 15 miles is a long way. There are a lot of steep climbs, but also runnable sections, and downhills. There are beautiful meadows. Just be patient and you'll get through this without doing too much damage. 

Here are what many of the trails look like now for much of this section
Photo by Shaun Daylor

I was jogging along at a comfortable pace about a mile into this section when I saw a runner ahead of me. It was Shaun Daylor. He had just encountered a cougar and had backed away. It was in the early morning hours. He saw it leave the trail, so we decided to go forward making a lot of noise, walking, not running. I kept looking behind me for a while to make sure it was not following us. Shaun was moving faster than I was and eventually, I told him to go ahead. I didn't want to try to keep up. I was able to take my time. We had some amazing views up here, we were above the clouds. 

Above the clouds
Photo courtesy of Dan Saul

You'll see some amazing rock formations if you go through here during the day. Once you top out and start descending on the other side, you will still have some hills to climb. You'll eventually get to a tree with a sign that says 5 miles to the road/aid. It's closer to 6 miles. You run some nice single track mixed with dusty bike trails. Again, try to hold back here. Run but don't feel like this is where you can open up your stride. At least for me, if I do that, I end up paying for it. After all, you're not even half way yet. I was miserable coming into Rd 9327 last year. Completely sapped. I was better this year but still worked. It was because I ran into another runner and since he was running behind me, it forced my pace too much. I ran into Ray Sanchez, who was coming towards me and clearly going the wrong direction. He didn't believe me when I told him he was going the wrong way and didn't believe Shaun when he told him the same thing when they met. He only believed me when I took out my phone and showed him on my Gaia app. Just about then, two guys ran past us. Ray was upset that he was losing place among the men. He had just run AC 100 the weekend before when it was really hot. Anyway, I ran a little harder coming into the aid station now that I was not alone anymore. Previously, with my 79 hour time, I arrived here 27:44, Gia 23:36. This year, I arrived 24:46. I had some food here but I should have drank more. I have to promise myself to spend more time here next year and get myself ready for the next section.

Rd 9327 to Spencer Butte 11.2 miles:
I absolutely die every year in this next section. I think the pressed running into Rd 9327 really got to me because I was noticing some small cramps when I was at the aid. I started out with a slow jog but right away I was slowed to a walk. Ideally, you should be able to jog the flat here and hop down the steep and technical bike trails for 3 miles. I found I was really dehydrated, but it took me a long time to figure that out. You will arrive at an intersection and take a right. This is the bottom of a very steep and long climb. I got here still cramping and wondering how the hell I was going to climb this thing. I'll tell you how. Very slow with frequent stops. I was passed by Shaun again. By the way, here he is:

Shaun at pre-race
Photo by Shaun Daylor

I didn't realize he was still back at the aid station when I left getting his feet worked on. Ray had taken off ahead of me. Another guy passed me in this section on the climb as well but no girls. Amazingly, I caught up on water or something and was able to hike up strong again. After what seemed like forever, I started the descent. Eventually, you will cross a road and then have another 1.5 mile climb before you start to head down to Spencer Butte 1.7 mile away. Things started to fall apart for me again on the down. What I found when I look back on the race is that every time I had a down, I had more cramping in the next section. That tells me that I need to do more strength training in my legs like squats and lunges. Came here 32:13 in 2015 and Gia 27:48. This year 29:19. I filled up on water here but didn't stay long. I wanted to get to Lewis as soon as possible and with as much light as possible. Again, I should have stayed here longer to recover.

Got here about 28:45
Photo by Dan Saul

Spencer Butte to Lewis River 9.6 miles:
Again, that 1.7 mile down to Spencer Butte put my legs back into tight and cramping mode. I had to walk about half of the 2 mile road before the turn off back onto the trail. The road is mostly flat with a couple of short gradual hills. Once on the trail, it descends steeply on overgrown, faint trail. Careful you don't get your toe caught. It lasts for about 2 miles before you get on the buttery trail with plenty of views of the river. Once I got to the river, I went there to get more water and to cool myself down. I did a lot of walking, recovering from that steep down before I was able to run again. Lots of people were on the trail. By the time I got there, the markers were fine. They had been vandalized earlier. The Upper and Lower Falls were absolutely gorgeous. 

Lewis River Falls
Photo by Dan Saul

I didn't see anyone else while I was on the trail in this section, which is surprising given how slow I was moving. But as I entered the aid station, I saw Jean, the lady in first, heading out of the aid station. She was with her husband and the aid station workers said she had rested 1 hour and 45 minutes in her husband's RV. Originally I was going to sleep here because I usually arrive here in the dark. But this time, I decided to keep moving. I changed my clothes once again and my shoes and socks. I had changed socks a few times already but not my shoes. It was much better having new shoes and gaiters. I had soup and grilled cheese. I grabbed a new headlamp. I also changed my pack to my bigger blue UD pack. Attached to it were my poles, but I didn't use them except for stream crossings. I did not use them for the climbs or descents. Also, this pack already had my rain gear in it, arm warmers, gloves, and buff. I had arrived at Lewis River at 5:49 pm. In 2015, I came in 35:40, Gia 31:36. On this day, I came in at 32:49. As I was leaving, Susan Kramer came in with her pacer, a tall gal. Before, it was David Bliss. Looks like they were switching back and forth. 

Lewis River to Council Bluff 18.9 miles:
This is another very long section. Again, I usually start this section in the dark. And the trails here just beat you down. But starting with light really helped me get through the first sections. It actually is beautiful during the day rather than deep, dark, and scary at night. The first 2 miles flew by. There are several water crossings. If you try, you were able to keep your feet dry. I caught up with Shaun and his pacer Mark Gauthier before it got dark. They let me tag along and I was able to keep up for the most part. I was able to still run the flats and down while Shaun was able to hike uphill stronger. It was soon time to get out our headlamps. There are a lot of very steep climbs and descents in Quartz creek and a ton more when you cross the river and go on the Council Bluff side. At night, you can shine your light up to see how steep the trail really is with the reflective tape on the markers or simply seeing the next person high above you. Mark was pulling us up the hills, but oh it was hard to see how far up he was! At one point, we rounded a corner to the other side and it got instantly cold. We stopped to put our jackets on. We went from cold to hot when the climbing became super steep again. On the Council Bluff side, expect very dusty bike trails. I could really see the clouds of dust in my light now but had to stay with the guys to stay safe. Just put your head down and keep going. No point in wondering when it's going to end. Just know that a big ascent is followed by a steep descent, which means you'll be going up again. This happens over and over again. Eventually, it started to rain. It was on and off. It would get cold when we went down, then we'd warm up with the ascents. 

Finally, you will hit a wide dirt road. That means you are about less than a mile from the aid station. Once you turn onto a gravel road, it is less than a half mile. This aid station gets really cold, so have warm clothing in your drop bag here. It was still dark as when we got here. And raining. But the aid station workers were happy and excited to see us. Shaun was supposed to pick up another pacer here but they did not make it by the time we arrived. So Mark continued with him. I put on my rain pants and all the clothes I had. When we arrived, Ray Sanchez was sitting in a chair looking cold. He had a jacket on but still needed a garbage bag to stay warm. The aid station worker said he had offered to buy someone's pants. Ray left ahead of us. We got food and water and decided we needed to get moving too to stay warm. At this point, I do not have splits from UltraLive to each aid station until the finish. I know I left Lewis River at 6:45 and it took about 7:30 to get to Council Bluff. So I'm guessing we go there in at 2:15 am. This would put me at 41:15. Previously it was 45:37. Gia's time was 42:19. Could I already be ahead of record pace?

Council Bluff to Chain of Lakes 9.8 miles:
We headed back to the road and took a trail to the right, a little bushwacking before we started a long climb. This section seemed longer than last year, but I did it in the light last year. I just followed Shaun and Mark, having a harder time keeping up with them. We caught Ray. The climb was about 3 miles. Finally, we came to a road that was rutted and not an easy descent. It lasted about a mile. It was drizzling on and off. This next section is a blur to me. I think I was really tired. I think it was different from the year before, so that made it even more confusing for me, and in the dark. After the rutted road, we came upon a bunch of cars parked and got back into the woods. There was more climbing here and I got hot, so I stopped to take off some clothes and lost the boys. I got a little frantic because I didn't see another marker right away and went backwards and forward concerned I missed a turn. I did find the next marker but the boys had gotten quite a bit ahead. It wasn't until we hit a road and I started running that I found them again. We stayed on road for what seemed like 2 miles before we hit the trail again. This went on for over a mile until the turn into the aid station. This was totally different than what I remembered, so it took longer for my mind. Shaun went directly to the sleep tent. I wanted to try to sleep but couldn't because it was too cold. I didn't have extra clothes here because I was planning on sleeping at Lewis River. I changed my socks and laid by the heat lamp, had 2 cups of amazing potato soup and a grilled cheese. Ray left again before I did. No sleep for me yet. No female came in while I was there. It was drizzling when I left. We had arrived here at about 6 am I think. Previous time was 48:49 here, Gia 45:50. My 6 am arrival would have put me at 45 hours. Although I rested here, I did not sleep. I left at 7:30 am, glad to have daylight again.

Chain of Lakes to Klickitat 17.3 miles:
There is a lot of good running is this section for 12 miles before you do your last water crossing. Yes, there are some climbs, but they are tame compared to what you did in Quartz Creek and Council Bluff. You'll start flat, then descend on some rocky trails for about 1.5 miles and reach your first water crossing at 1.7 miles from the aid. Don't bother trying to keep your feet dry on the first small crossing because you'll be crossing the fastest moving water in this race in a few paces. Last year, we were able to keep our feet dry crossing a log but that got washed out (you'll get your feet wet at the next crossings anyway). This year, they strung a rope across the river. By that time, Shaun had awakened from his nap and had caught up with me. He crossed first, but the rope had a decent give to it and he lost his balance but did not fall into the water. Seeing how much he struggled, I asked him if he would hold the rope tight for me while I crossed. I stowed my poles because I needed both hands to hold onto the rope. I entered the water and slowly moved across. I tried to plant my foot down to advance but it was much deeper than it appeared. The fast current prevented me from planting my foot and swept it away. I tweaked my knee trying to find the bottom and ended up going down as the rope went a little slack, but not as slack if Shaun had not held it. I dipped down further, almost submerging. The only thing that stayed dry were my shoulders, neck and head. One of my poles almost got swept away but my only goal was to keep my hands attached to that rope. After what seemed like an eternity and with me almost entirely soaked to the skin, I emerged on the other side. Shaun said that was pretty crazy. I of course agreed. I had to take my shoes off and wash out the sand that entered my shoes as I slipped on the river bottom. Here is a video of Matt Campbell crossing it courtesy of Ross Comer. It was higher when we went through it in the morning.

The next section is a gradual climb for about a mile. I had to stop one more time to empty out my shoes further, getting cold with each stop because it was still raining and I was not drying off. Plus, the brush was wet and hanging over the trail. There are two more river crossings but much easier with poles and only going shin deep. It would be a while before the last crossing at the Cispus. On the way there, Jeff Davis caught up to me. He's from Tennessee and this was his first 200. He seemed fresh and we ran together until the Cispus. I was running faster than I wanted at that time, so I made him go ahead as we approached the river. A lot of the run towards Cispus is down hill and mostly fair footing. Just a few short climbs. The Cispus is wide but shallow. It was nice to have daylight to cross. I could see the bottom for my feet. I was pretty beat now and couldn't run the flat that led to the base of Klickitat. So I walked and walked and walked. I moved some of the markers so that they would be better seen at night and some had fallen on the ground. I would like to say that I hiked up Klickitat powerfully and efficiently, but that is very far from the truth. I was having trouble staying awake. So I laid down on the trail. I was hoping to fall asleep for at least 10 minutes but after 5 minutes of nothing, I got up since it was raining again. Just about now, I started to cramp again. Nothing I did seemed to help. I don't know how, but I eventually made it to the top and the insanely steep out and back. Usually Howie is there, but I don't blame him for not being there because there was no view on this day. This was the only time, other than the water crossings, that I used my poles for the entire race. I needed them to help me down the steep trail and give my muscles a rest. I was passed by one guy here, no girls. I was so happy to make it to the turn down to the aid station. It's a mile of steep descent but my muscles were recovering by this time and I was able to do some downhill running. When I arrived, the guy who had passed me was still there. The way he was moving, I thought he'd be long gone. He decided to lay down for a little. Ray and Jeff left about 5 minutes after I arrived. I needed to focus on what I needed to take with me for the next very long section. In the past, it has taken me over 10 1/2 hours to finish the next section. I was determined to finish in less than 8 hours. So I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of thai noodle soup (very good) and changed my shoes. I did not change clothes as I had planned. I didn't feel totally gross from my last clothing change yet. Got a new headlamp (I had headlamps in different drop bags so that I didn't have to carry one with me the entire way. I kept my flashlight for light in case it got dark before I got to my headlamp.) I changed shoes and socks. After about 15 minutes, I was ready to leave. I left Klickitat at 3:35 pm. In past years, I arrived at 56:30, Gia 52:14. This year, 54:15. So I lost time on Gia's split through this section.

Klickitat to Twins Sisters 19.4 miles:
The first year I did this was in the dark and it was really hard to follow the trail with all the overgrown brush. Last year, I arrived late enough that I started in the dark but soon enough it turned light. It was much easier to do this part with light. So I was determined to get through this as quickly as possible before it got dark. It starts with a climb but the first 2 miles have some running sections. This was a nice surprise for me since all I could remember was steep hiking. After about 4 miles, as you start climbing Mission Mountain, there are plenty of straight up steep trails that go on and on. When I made the turn and headed back in the other direction, markers were scarce and I was worried I missed a turn. I went back a ways and found the last marker. I didn't miss anything. It had been tampered with. I know that Candice would not leave it unmarked for this long. From then on, I took out my Gaia to make sure I was going in the right direction instead of back tracking. I finally saw a marker, then another, and another. No more tampered trail. The view on Mission was nice but overcast. When I did it in the dark, I thought I was going to fall off the mountain. It was much nicer to see it during the day. After you top out on Mission, you start descending through overgrown brush. You can't run it. But you can move fast through it. This will open up and you will run through some grassy meadows, with a few short climbs. Then you are running through the woods again, broken up by some down logs. After Mission, if you have legs, you will be able to move through this section fast, rollers with a few steep and short ups. This was where Ben Light passed me and never looked back. He finished sub 70 hours. There was another section with tampered markers and I ran into Josh Ruckman and Riley, who came out to re-mark the vandalized sections. I was moving along well until it got dark. Just know the section before the climb up Twin Sisters is overgrown and slow. Don't be discouraged. Then comes the climb, which is steep and over a mile. I was clicking my poles here thinking a cougar was somewhere near. I talked out loud. When I got to the intersection to the road or the lookout, I took the wrong trail for 1/4 mile. I sensed I was going in the wrong direction so I went back to the intersection and saw the marker for the correct trail in the distance. Before, I thought it was a lighted bug flying around, but it was the marker flapping in the wind. I knew now that I was really getting tired. It's about 3/4 mile from that intersection to the start of the out and back to Twin Sisters aid. When I came upon this, I went towards the aid but stopped and made myself go back and look at the sign again to make sure I was going in the right direction. I was. Jean was not so fortunate. She had arrived here hours before me but took the wrong trail towards Owen's Creek. She later told everybody at the awards ceremony that she spent 5 hours in a time warp where she was trying to get back to her home and her lounge chair and the only way she could do that was to throw her poles away. She kept throwing them into the bushes, then find them and not be back to her lounge. She did this repeatedly until finally, she chucked them over a cliff and they were gone. I learned that she was off trail once I got to the aid. 

Jean Beaumont cruising along
Photo by Howie Stern

In the meantime, I was descending towards Twin Sisters. Normally I do this with light, so at night, it was much harder. My lack of sleep was now finally catching up with me. I could no longer focus on the trail. This happened to me last year but I had a pacer and was able to follow their reflective shoes. I didn't even have the where with all to take a caffeine pill. I started to hallucinate that the trail was my cell phone contacts page. I was seeing the faces of my contacts followed by their address, phone number, etc, and as long as I scrolled up and down my contacts, I was able to stay on the trail and not veer off the edge. This lasted for about 2 miles. Finally, I got to the aid station. Just remember this section can be overgrown and there is a hill before you make the final descent into the aid. I had encountered some runners heading out as I was coming in, so that woke me up temporarily. I saw Shaun and his pacer Mark and some others who I can't remember. Jeff and Ray were still at the aid when I arrived. Jeff went to sleep. I'm not sure if Ray slept. He was eager to keep going. I learned that I was first woman because Jean was still out there off course. I knew I needed sleep, even though I wanted to make time on the next woman. I asked Garrett to wake me in 45 minutes and that I wanted a grilled cheese and soup before I left. I didn't have ear plugs so I laid there and listened to all the talk at the aid station and the HAM radio operator. I think I passed out for 10-15 minutes then I woke up and laid there some more. When Garrett came to wake me up, I was already awake. Jeff had slept 2 hours and was ready to go so I asked him if we could go out together. I just wanted to make sure I could see the trail okay and not hallucinate it. Ray had left about 30 minutes ahead of us. He wanted to go with Jeff but didn't want to wait for him any longer. My watch had accidentally turned off, so I had to start a new time. I just knew it was about 29 miles to the finish. Just as I was headed out, Susan Kramer arrived with her pacer, the tall gal again. David Bliss, who was at the aid station the entire time I was there, was waiting to pace her the next leg. I did not sense an urgency at that time for some reason. I didn't worry about her until I got to Owen's creek. This is the truth. Jeff and I were planning on stopping to help Jean if we ran into her and I still did some walking in areas that I could run. I arrived here at Twin Sisters about 11 pm or 62 hours. Before it was 69:36 and Gia was 62:24. I was again ahead of Gia's record time but not by much.

Twin Sisters to Owen's Creek 16 miles:
I followed Jeff out of the aid station. We were moving well. I just tried to keep up. We switched leading back and forth. If you have the legs, you can run some of this uphill out of Twin Sister's aid. That's what I did the first year, but it was light then. We got to the turn towards Owen's. About a mile from the turn off, we ran into Jean. She was much more coherent than we expected. She had her rain gear on. The only thing she was missing was her poles. I was carrying mine and was not using them, so I let her have mine. It took the extra weight off me anyway. She did look very tired but relieved to be heading in the right direction. A couple of medical volunteers were heading her way I think. We made sure she had everything she needed and kept moving. A lot of this section is pretty runnable except for the overgrown area. You will hit some downed logs before the out and back on Pompey. There is some climbing, but nothing dramatic until you reach the out and back up Pompey Peak. This is very steep, especially near the top. It has amazing views, but not for me and Jeff this time. We had passed Ray before we got to the out and back. He didn't know where to go, so we said up. He passed us on the way down and asked again which way to go. I told him to go right. It was concerning that he didn't even know that this was an out and back. After Pompey, you go down for a while. Expect a lot of trail debris and downed trees. Hard to run at night, easier during the day. Poles actually could get in the way of using your hands to get over the logs. Obviously, the logs interrupt your rhythm. 

We passed Ray on the way down. He stopped to do a clothing change. We asked him if he was alright. He didn't need anything. This was the last time we saw him until Tuesday. Apparently in about a mile at the bottom of the downed logs and where we start climbing again, he went down a faint trail and deeper into a ravine. He said he took his GPS out to look at it but somehow lost it. He started to see gang signs on the trees and the pine cones on the ground were all burning cell phones. He felt he was being chased by the FBI. Candice and another volunteer were able to locate him and assist him out of the ravine before a full blown search and rescue mission was launched. She knows the trails here like the back of her hand. He wasn't hurt so was able to walk out on his own. It was clear by the way he talked that he was not safe to continue and he was pulled from the race. That was a good call. I met his wife and young daughter and it's good that he got reunited with them.  

Anyway, back to the trail. When you finish with the logs, you'll start ascending up to the creek bed. Some climbing for a while-about 1/2 a mile? Once you get to the creek bed, it's 5 miles of flat but not always easy running. Be careful of rocks and branches hidden underneath the grass. I was getting sleepy again here and kept tripping on stuff. I took a caffeine pill. It did perk me up before the aid station. There was a tequila stand about a mile from the aid. Neither Jeff nor I imbibed but I heard some people did, although it didn't sound like it turned out too well. When you cross over some sandy areas with rocks and then a wet area, you know that you are close to the aid. There is a small hill to the aid, but by then, you should see them. I was debating whether to change my shoes and socks. I had a pair of road shoes and fresh socks in my drop bag but my feet were not hurting at all, so I decided to skip it. Plus, I asked who I thought was an aid station worker but turned out to be the husband of my competition-Susan, and asked where the next girl was. He said she left 45 minutes after I left Twin Sisters. Jeff was still working on his feet when I left. I had some food but then decided to just start moving. I told Jeff that I was going to start walking and he could catch me. He was moving better than I was anyway. We arrived at Owen's creek I think after 5 am (68 hours) and I left around 5:30. In the past, arrived 76 hours and Gia 70 hours. 

Owen's Creek to Finish 13 miles:
In the past, I have completed this section in 3 hours. Not so this year. I walked the first mile waiting for Jeff. I decided to start running and around the corner he came. He was moving fast, so I let him go and told him to break 3 days. Saw this on the way down. It was Ben Light's rig, nobody was hurt thankfully and they were able to pull it out.

Photo by Shaun Daylor

I stopped a couple times to remove layers as I warmed up. I was feeling pretty good for that first 3.5 miles downhill on gravel to the pavement. I continued to run but started noticing that my muscles were becoming tight so I started to drink more water. After all, my mouth was very dry from the constant breathing through the mouth. Next thing you know, I have to stop and pee. It was a lot and clear. You would think because of that I would stop drinking and just wet my mouth, but I was so thirsty. And they always say, drink to thirst. So I overhydrated and really started to cramp. I was slowed to a walk-run. I finally stopped drinking after having to stop and pee 2 more time clear and copious. My hands were really puffy. I didn't have any salt tabs on me. I left them in my other pack. My Skratch chews had salt on them, so I started to suck on them. With 3 miles to go, I had such a hitch in my gait because of the cramping that it took me more time to walk like this than normal walking. I was getting really hot and took off my shirt. Howie was out on the road taking pictures and got a bunch of me suffering and walking. 

Overheating and cramping
Photo by Howie Stern

But I couldn't break into a run. As soon as I did that, I could feel a cramp coming. Nothing ever became a full blown cramp thankfully. I had passed Shaun Daylor walking with his wife. He seemed in good spirits despite slowing way down. I was still running when I passed him. Soon enough it would be my turn to walk. I finally made the turn on the road with the bridge and after what seemed like an eternity, I crossed the bridge. 

Getting closer! Less than 2 miles
Photo by Howie Stern

A lot of people were eating at Mt Adam's Cafe (would have loved to join them!). They cheered me on from inside and some people even came out. That was nice of them. I crossed HWY 12 and knew it was less than 1.5 miles. I tried to jog briefly but was only able to do that a couple short times. I decided I had to just walk the rest of the way. I kept looking back and would not see Susan for a long ways but I kept looking back every 2 minutes anyway. Every time I did this, I would send my muscles into a tizzy and I kept telling myself to stop that. It's not like she was going to be sprinting and show up right behind me. Finally, Slagle road, then Kehoe, then the turn into the high school parking lot. I entered the track and there were a lot of people cheering me on but I was only able to walk! Damn it! I sprinted this track last year. So totally the opposite this year. It was the longest lap of my life. You could say I was enjoying my victory lap, but it was torture. I was pulling my hair out. As I rounded the last corner, it really hit me that I was going to win this thing, something I attempted for 3 years in a row. And I was going to break the course record by over an hour! All my Bigfoot dreams were coming true! With about 50 yards to go, I stopped just to see what kind of reaction I would get out of the people standing at the finish line. They thought I was silly. I finally threw my hands up and enjoyed the moment. 

Pulling my hair out
Photo by Howie Stern

It's really happening
Photo by Howie Stern

Photo by Howie Stern

Then exhaustion. Candice holding me up.
Photo by Howie Stern

My finish time was 72:22:09. It was 9:22 am Monday morning. I was offered a chair but I couldn't sit down. I just kept walking. I asked for broth. They had pickle juice. I took that and drank it fast. Immediately, my puffiness went down and my muscles relaxed. I accepted a strawberry smoothie from Betsy. Eventually, I was able to sit down and give myself a wet wipes sponge bath, put on some flip flops. Shaun came in 22 minutes after me, Susan 31 minutes. She had made some time on me since Twin Sisters. Being followed motivated me to keep moving. Jeff got under 3 days by running 71:43. I came in 9th overall.

I did finally sleep. I slept for about an hour and then got up to eat and watch other runners come in. I had a "kitchen sink" pizza from Betsy. It was the best thing I'd ever eaten. I was eating chips like crazy. I was clearly low on salt. I picked out my buckle. Jean came in 3rd female 3 1/2 hours later. She was very happy and thanked me for my poles. I'm glad she didn't throw them over a cliff!

The post race is the reason I keep coming back each year. Talking to the volunteers, other runners, re-living the suffering, and seeing other runners finish. It's what Bigfoot is all about for me. I didn't want to sleep but was forced to take another nap and missed a few people finishing. I took three short naps after I finished until the last finisher came through Tuesday afternoon. That final finisher was Vivian Doorn. I was crying as she crossed the finish line after going under a tunnel of people. Much more emotional than my own finish. I was so proud of her. Reports from Jerry said she wanted to quit a few times but no one would let her. Matt had gone out to pace her a little on the road and to tell her what pace she needed to run/walk to finish before 6 pm. She started jogging. She finished with 21 minutes to spare. What a gutsy run!

The finisher's chute
Photo by Howie Stern

I couldn't be prouder
Photo by NW Multisport

We all hung out until it was dinner time. Betsy and Matt, along with all the other volunteers were working hard to get the buffet set up by 7. I still had not showered but I couldn't smell myself, so I think I was okay. I laid in the shade with my legs elevated up against the building. I organized my drop bags so that it wouldn't be such a chore when I got home. There was a nail in one of my tires, but Craig Longobardi showed me with soap and water that it was not leaking and should be safe to drive home to have it looked at in a tire shop later. Katie Graff let me take a shower at her motel room then I had gone out to a late breakfast with Dylan Morgan and Claire Heslop at the Mt. Adam's Cafe. I wolfed down a lot of food and continued to eat all day but still became hungry throughout the day. I lounged around with finishers, starters, crew, and pacers. I loved hearing the stories. Then it was time for the awards ceremony.

Candice first started out with age group winners. There were some impressive performances. Then it was the women's awards. Jean and I got up on the podium. Susan had to leave. The top man Jay was the only one on the podium. He finished in 55:49! The other 2 had to leave. Then there were small prizes for best hallucination, best feet, biggest PR, who traveled the furthest, and so on. It was fun! And then, it was over. Now I have to wait another year to come back.

Me and 3rd place Jean Beaumont
Photo by NW Multisport

1st place award & my buckle this year. Those are seeds rather than flowers. It looked like stars to me.
Photo by NW Multisport

I drove to Packwood and checked into my hotel. I finally got some service there and got text messages and FB posts. I looked at a few but went to bed after a shower. I did not catch up on sleep or calories for a week. I did have to work one day after I got home. Next year I need to remember to just take the rest of the week off. No running or anything rigorous since I finished. With my 10th Cascade 100 just 12 days after, it's all about rest and recovery.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the tireless days and nights Destination Trail worked to make this run happen. I know they were low on volunteers and many had to pull double, triple duty. You are all my heroes! 

Until next year my friends.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Issy Alps 100 #5 in the record books!

They said it couldn't be done. They said it wouldn't be done.

Who wound want to grind out five Issy Alps 100 mile runs? Just for fun? No fame? No buckle? Just a few confused looks from hikers at the end of almost 1 1/2 days of running.

But she could. And she would. She's known around these parts. Some have even called her a Pacific Northwest fixture in the ultrarunning scene. So who is this runner? What makes her tick? Why does she like to do 100 mile training runs?

Some call her Pigtails. Her real name is Van. Pronounced like "Von or Vaughn." She'll correct you once but if you call her Van, like the vehicle, she'll ignore your mistake the next time.

She likes to run alone if it's safe enough. Otherwise, she will enlist friends to join her. She actually runs better alone. She knows how to push herself, doesn't need anyone to pull her along. She knows when to eat and drink, although sometimes, even though she's a veteran, she makes rookie mistakes.

She had an almost perfect run on the first day of July for her 5th attempt. Things just seemed to fall into place and she ran comfortably for most of the run. Her time was 2 hrs and 45 minutes faster than the first time she ran it. But wait a minute. She's also 5 years older than that first time. What gives?

Well, if you had been talking to her lately, you would know that she changed some things this year. First, she wanted to get her weight down a little more. Two years ago, she wanted to lose some weight for her first Bigfoot 200. Initially, there was a mandatory gear list and she was worried about her body weight and the weight of the pack really taking their toll on her joints and muscles. So she started to count calories, practically starving herself while she continued training. But it worked. She went from 114 pounds to around 108. She did well at that inaugural 200. And she was able to keep the weight off long enough that her body got used to the new weight and didn't gain it back even though she stopped counting calories. This year, around February, after Orcas Island 100, she was talking to her good friend Yvonne Naughton about weight and fueling for endurance runs and Yvonne was on that high fat, low carb diet. It all sounded good to her, so she started that diet less than 2 weeks before Badger. It hadn't taken yet, so she struggled with her nutrition early in the race, decided she needed to just do what she was used to, and still had a stellar race. But she stuck with the high fat diet for 2 months, even checking her blood ketones to make sure she was in ketosis. She lost the weight and started to get more definition in her muscles again. She loved the way she looked but didn't feel quite right. She was having these occasional chest pains, or maybe it was just indigestion from the high fat. She has a family history of high cholesterol, so she got a fasting lipid panel and the total cholesterol and LDL went up quite a bit. Although her goo cholesterol (HDL) went up and signifies cardiac protective effect, she was still worried. After 2 months, she stopped the high fat but continued the low carb, eating lots of vegetables, some fruit, and of course pork and beef raised on her farm. She still does not eat a lot of breads, pasta, or rice, or if she does, she cheats on small amounts. And she cut way back on sugar. She stopped having the chest pains.

So that's it? She lost weight and that's why she ran better and got the female supported FKT for the Issy 100? By the way, her time 5 years ago was just under 38 hours. Then she ran it 3 years ago with Jess Mullen and Deb McInally in 36 hours, the reigning FKT before she broke it this year with a 33:14:57. But to get back to why she seemed stronger this year. Well, she joined LA Fitness so that she could use the sauna for heat training but found all sorts of other things to do there. She started spinning, doing regular strength workouts, boot camp classes, and body works classes. Her husband was getting up twice a week at 4 am to go to the climbing gym, so she was up anyway and decided to go to the gym in the morning before work. Then she decided to visit the gym again after work. She would sit in the sauna for 30 minutes usually once a day after a workout. She'd even sat for up to an hour on 2 or 3 occasions but found that she couldn't do that very often. She would get dizziness and nausea. Twice a day workouts would mean something like upper body strength in the morning and then a run in the afternoon. Or spin class in the morning and boot camp in the afternoon. She loved getting leaner, fitter, and stronger and it became an obsession for her. But she wasn't starving herself anymore or eating the high fat, which just made her feel gross sometimes. The only great thing about the high fat diet was that she never really felt hungry and had no cravings.

It's been a busy year as usual for her and her running. She decided last year that she would run all the Washington state 100 races again in addition to the shorter ultras and marathons that make up her 25-30 races a year. She was sad that the Bigfoot 120 in October was cancelled and replaced with Moab 200, so she is signed up for Moab. She has already completed Orcas Island, Badger, Lumberjack, and Pigtails 150 without crew or pacer this year. She figured she should throw the Issy in the mix somewhere, and July was the best month for it before Bigfoot 200. She did have pacers for the Issy, but since it wasn't a race, she still will complete the remainder of her WA races without crew or pacers to continue that trend. Safety is always on her mind and she has never run the entire Issy course alone. She'll run parts of it alone where she knows lots of people are on the trail. So after Issy it will be Bigfoot 200, CCC, and then Plain to complete her WA slam of some sort.

This year, it was all about having fun and enjoying that trails in this route that George Orozco put together. He created the route from Mailbox to Tiger. Then Jennifer Hughes got us from Tiger to High Point. Then this girl got us the last 36 miles on Tiger, Squak, and Cougar. She decided a couple weeks before the run to bring her GoPro along and record herself performing dance moves at trail heads and summits. You can watch the video at the end. It clearly is an amateur film, and it probably is too long for most people's attention span. Some will want to fast forward to just the dance moves. Or they can just plan on hunkering down for 24 minutes or so to watch Van make a fool of herself. At least she's having fun. Spoiler alert-she filmed the two Squak dances and the finish at home because in her state of fatigue, she forgot to ask her pacer Dave to films those. Some footage is quite dizzying because she had the camera on her head and was moving it all over the place. Next time, she will have a chest harness.

She had three great guys pacing her. Brad Hefta-Gaub got up super early to meet her at High Point where she left her car as an aid station. Then they drove to Mailbox and started a little before 5 am. She only wore a waist pack for the climb up and run down. It went quickly and the weather was perfect. Glad she didn't run the weekend before when it was in the 90s and Yitka Winn cut her second attempt at unsupported short because of at least 2 cougar sightings, maybe 3, even before she made it to the halfway point. She was blazing along as well.

Van encountered 2 running friends coming down Mailbox-Jennie Eyring and Jennifer MacCormack. Jennie had made her some amazing banana bread/muffin. Whatever it was, Van could have eaten it all day. Back at the Mailbox trailhead, she put her 12 pound pack on for her journey from there to High Point. She remembered Mark Cliggett saying how his legs felt fine going up Mailbox with his pack for his unsupported run but seemed to fail him on the descent. That's exactly how she felt on the descents with this heavy pack. And because she had lost all that weight (she went from 108 to 102/103), even with the pack cinched down all the way and having weight in the pack, it still was too loose and swayed back and forth every time she started running. It was fine with hiking and walking, but not running. She carried a lot of water, but probably could have gotten by with less by getting water from the course. It was a pain in the butt to use her Steri Pen and she carried more water to avoid having to stop.

The trails between Mailbox and Teneriffe were in better shape than she had experienced before. It was dry, so good footing and less overgrown. At every checkpoint, she was ahead of her first year, even with stopping to shake her booty.

Brad left her at the Teneriffe trailhead to get back to his family. He ran back to his car at Mailbox. She thanked him a lot for running with her. He enjoyed the dance moves. Now she was on her own until Rattlesnake Lake. She had been feeling good until the really steep climb up Teneriffe. She wondered if she did too much the weekend before. Usually it's a good idea to rest before a hundred. But the Friday before, she fulfilled her trail work requirement for Cascade. She was hoping it was going to be an easy day. But it was a small group up at Mt. Rainier. She found herself stabilizing on a crumbly slope that had washed out coming out of the riverbed, and she had to dig a new trail into the slope. Her legs were shaky at the end of the day. Then on Saturday, she ran the Taylor Mountain 50K. She didn't remember it having as much elevation gain as it did with 5500 feet. She felt strong going up but her legs failed her going down and running the straightaways. It was in the 90s by the end of the race. And to top it all off, her battery was dead when she got back to her. She spent the rest of the day following her friends at Western States and hitting the refresh button constantly on the iRunfar feed. Then on Sunday, she went for a 25 mile road bike ride. She really struggled to get to the summit of Teneriffe and started to blame it on the previous weekend. But then she remembered that this is where she always bonks. So, she told herself to be patient, and by the time she descended towards the Talus connector, she had recovered. She was now an hour ahead of her 2012 schedule.

The climb up to Mt Si was not too crowded. By that time of the day, most people had already finished their hike. She found the hikers enjoyed filming her dance moves. She forced herself not to bomb down the Old Si trail, using her poles as much as possible. Even so, her quads were becoming trashed and she worried that it was too early to have trashed quads. Once again, she told herself to just relax and have fun. Still, she got to the Little Si trailhead in 11 hrs 45 minutes, compared to over 13 hours in 2012. So much for taking it easy. But really, she felt pretty good still. She had stashed some food at Little Si Trailhead and grabbed that.

She met Richard Kresser at Rattlesnake Lake at about 13 hours. He was about to take a nap when she came upon him at the last part of the Snoqualmie Valley trail. He had PIZZA! She devoured 2 pieces, filled her water bottles, and didn't even need to retrieve the food she stashed at the Lake. She did pick it up later on July 4th. They were merrily running towards the trail head when they were stopped by a man wearing official looking clothes and were told that the trail was closed for a search and rescue operation that was ongoing. No one was allowed to start up the trail. They didn't argue. They turned around and started walking the other direction, but you could see how disappointed she was. REALLY? After running 13 hours including the hardest part of the route and it ends here? She could wait 1 or maybe 2 hours before the trail was opened again, but the whole point of her starting so early and trying to make good time was to get as much of the run done in daylight as possible. Her heart sank, she started to have a minor panic attack (within herself). But Richard came to the rescue. He started texting friends who knew the trails there and was able to get a hold of Dave Latourette. Dave told him that there was an old Rattlesnake trail (just like there is an old Mailbox trail and Old Si trail). After running for a bit, they found the trail. Richard was following a map on his phone as well. Dave had warned them that it was very steep. The first part of the trail was tame and they were tricked into thinking it wasn't so bad. But the next thing you know, they were clawing up the trail and dripping sweat, trying to keep their feet from slipping out and grabbing at small plants and branches. It went straight up and harder than anything she had experienced so far on the run. Way harder than Mailbox and Teneriffe. Finally, they got to the ledge and back onto the main trail. All in all, the elevation gain was the same and the trails leading up to the old route made the distance equal to the 1.9 mile hike up to the ledge. Usually it is dark at this time during her previous Issy 100s.

That small detour took it out of her legs and she was having a little bit of stomach upset after eating the pizza and giving all her energy to her legs and not to digesting food. The next 2 miles to East Peak seemed to go on forever, but once they got there, she was able to start running again and they had a nice cruise to where the course leaves Rattlesnake and heads over to Tiger. She was thankful to go through this section during the day. It made finding the trail easier. They even went through the bike trails with light, although light is blocked out well in that area. Still, they did make a couple of short but wrong turns in this section, the norm for both despite running this route several times. They were able to make it to Raging River before it got dark enough to require headlamps. They stopped to put headlamps on for the river crossing. She left her shoes and socks on. She had a spare pair of socks in her pack to change into after Deep Creek. Richard offered to carry her across on his shoulder. She didn't expect such an offer and immediately said, "Thanks, but no thanks, we'll both surely end up in the river." He told her that he carried his climbing buddy across a river that was higher than this and he weighed much more than she did. She believed him. Richard is incredibly strong. But she needed to do this run on her own 2 feet.

The next challenge was Deep Creek, and you need to get down to the riverbed, which means basically going over an edge with a 10 foot drop. Fortunately, there is a small rope, more like thick twine, that one can hold onto to balance over the edge. But her feet were too short to reach that nice step for her foot and she swayed back and forth before Richard was able to stabilize her enough that she didn't land on her back. She treated more water here and they made the steep climb out of the creek crossing to a forest service road. Then there is some nice running on the Northwest Timber Trail, a popular mountain bike trail. She felt good enough to jog the rolling terrain but could tell that her wet socks were creating hot spots. She found a perfect rock to sit on next to the last bridge before hitting the FS road again and changed her socks. The running in the last 2 miles helped squish out the excess water in her shoes and now was the perfect time to change her socks. She immediately noticed a difference.

The road up to East Tiger has some decent spots where you could run and she did just that. It made that 3.5 miles go by faster than expected. They made good time down to High Point, jogged quietly through the homeless camp and found Dave Molenaar in his truck. She thanked Richard for getting her through the night. She really didn't think she could have done it without him. She surely would have sat on the ground and cried at Rattlesnake instead of finding an alternate route. She would have gotten lost in the bike trails between Rattlesnake and Tiger. And she would have run scared the whole time thinking she was being stalked by a cougar.

She arrived at High Point at 3 am or 22 hours. In the past, it had always taken more than 24 hours. Dave gave Richard some home brewed beer while she took the time to change all her clothing and switch packs. Her socks were damp again and it was nice to get dry socks and dry shoes on. She changed to a lighter pack that fit better. She stuffed food into her mouth, and after about 30 minutes, she was ready to start moving again. By that time, Richard's girlfriend Maudie arrived to drive him back to his car at Rattlesnake (thanks Maudie for your help too!).

Again, she was happy to have someone with her since she expected to arrive here during daylight and run the last 36 miles alone. Up until a week before her run, she didn't have someone to pace her the last part. But Dave stepped up. He was all business. He felt it was his duty to push her, but not too hard, and get her to the finish. She asked him to run ahead of her and she worked hard to keep him in sight. It was just right. Sometimes, she felt she just couldn't keep up and get discouraged or upset, but then he'd appear again and she just refocused. She had to stop at the pit toilets at the upper parking lot and fortunately, they didn't smell as bad as they usually do. Finally, she was able to "go." She had tried 3 times while running with Richard and failed each time. Her legs were too tired to squat and bear down at the same time, even hanging onto a tree. What she needed to do was to sit and do her business, and finally it happened.

On the climb up to Tiger 3 (T3), she started to get a little sleepy. This is the usual time it happens. It is dark, still an hour from getting light and hiking up a trail, the slower pace lulling her into sleepiness. She had to stop again for more business. That woke her up and she never got sleepy again. T3, T2, then T1 and she had to do 4 dance moves to catch up the ones missed in the dark.

Then it was some nice running for a while, although she caught her toe on a root and landed directly on her right knee onto some rocks. No broken skin or bleeding but it caused her to limp for about a mile. It would get stiff on and off for the next few miles but then she was okay again. The bruise is still there, 2 weeks after the run. She still can't kneel on it. She worried about getting pre-patellar bursitis, but that didn't happen.

Everything from High Point to the finish was quite enjoyable in that the miles were moving much faster than expected. She ran trails that she had to walk before. Her quads were not shot. Remarkably, she did that last 36 miles under 11 hours. It did get quite warm during the last 9 miles. She was thirsty but had water. She started to pour water on her head. Coming off Wilderness Cliffs trails to Long View on Cougar, she ran into Jamie Clark, who was leading a group run for Cascade Endurance. She had just told the group about this run and lo and behold, here she is! Jamie holds the female FKT supported Issy 50K. It was quite a boost to see them. Back on the pavement after Squak, she found her feet felt better running than walking, so she jogged as much as she could those last 4 miles.

It was quite a relief to get to the gate at High Point. Finally, she was able to stop running. She sat down on a rock, posted on FB and Dave took their selfie. But they had to get up and start walking to their vehicles down on the other end. What's another quarter mile? She changed while he had a beer and he followed behind her until she took her Maple Valley exit off Highway 18. She stopped first to get a mocha shake at McDonalds then picked up some Thai food before arriving home. Her pitbull Yoda went berserk when he saw her. Her husband was impressed how well she moved along. Dinner, shower, a fitful night of sleep, and then 9 hours of work the next day including a 3 hour surgical case where she stood for the entirety with a couple of sleepy bobble head nods. This was followed by a couple days off then one of the busiest call weekends she's had in a long time. Such is life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Issy Alps 100 Mile Unsupported

The discoloration from my hand warmers burn on my right boob from Bigfoot 120 miler less than two weeks ago still had not faded, and yet here I was standing in a drizzle at 4 am with John Barrickman waiting for my husband to take an official picture of the start of our Team Unsupported Issy Alps 100 Mile attempt.

And who is this guy I'm standing next to? John and I knew of each other but we had never run together. Sure we saw each other at races. We seemed to run about the same pace. But if you asked me what he did for a living or about his family, I didn't know him at all. But that's the great thing about runners and particularly ultramarathoners. You know that they are passionate about running long distances and are willing to suffer. This common thread makes you feel like you already know them pretty well.

This was my fourth finish out of 6 tries. This was my first unsupported attempt. After my DNF at a reverse route in the summer due to cougar encounter in the middle of the night (I had completed it in reverse last year), I felt a void. I knew that John liked to do unsupported outings and messaged him if he wanted to do an unsupported attempt together. Lucky for me, he had planned on this on the exact weekends I proposed. When the weather report for October 22 was reasonable, we decided to go for it instead of waiting one more week. It would have been better for my body to get more recovery from Bigfoot, but it had already rained a lot for the month of October and I didn't want to take a chance that the following weekend was going to be nice.

My boob burn was not the only thing that had not completely healed. My lungs and asthma got a beating and I got a blister under my great toe at Bigfoot. After I drained it, I removed the nail but was left with a tender raw nail bed. It had mostly dried out before this run but I still covered it with a toe cap in case. The toe cap stayed on the entire run but some dirt did get in it from the creek crossings.

Come to think of it, my second toenail was gone too, but it didn't hurt.

I had never packed for 100 miles unsupported. Here is what I had:

Salomon 12 L pack
Two 10 ml flasks with gels (no gel pack garbage)
Two small hamburgers cut into quarters
One blueberry muffin cut up
Two chocolate chip cookies
3 Payday bars cut into thirds
Two granola bars
Gatorade single serve packs
Two 5-hr energy drinks
10 salt tabs
Ibuprofen (didn't use)
Blister kit
One headlamp with extra batteries
One hand held light with extra batteries
Cell phone with battery charger
Garmin GPS watch with battery charger
Black diamond Z-poles
Two water bottles
2 buffs
One extra long sleeve thin poly shirt
One thicker Smartwool long sleeve
Thin quick drying poly capris that I could pull over my shoes (no rain pants because too heavy)
OR Helium II jacket
Emergency bivy
One extra pair of gloves
One extra pair of socks
Compression sleeves
Steri Pen
Waist pack for my phone and quick access to food

I started with capris, short sleeve, arm warmers, fleece headband, Salomon Mission shoes, and Patagonia wind shell.

What I would change? More packaged food. I would still keep the gels in my flasks but pack more Honey Stinger waffles, Power Bar wafers, and energy bars in general. I was worried about all the trash, but as long as there is an easy way to stash your trash, it's not that hard to manage. The nuts were really heavy and I didn't find they gave me immediate energy that I needed or even sustained energy. I would probably cook up some bacon the day before and just carry a ziplock of that. I would have started with shorts because I heated up too much during the day and brought different pants to put on at night.

Saturday morning, my husband and I woke up at 2:30 am, met John at High Point at 3:30, left his truck there, drove to Mailbox trailhead. We started at 4 am in a drizzle, although we could see the moon. Even with all my trimming down of gear and food, my pack still weighed 15 pounds. John's pack was 13 pounds. He has done more solo runs, so was better at packing. Here is a breakdown of each section. Everything is approximate mileage.

Mailbox up and down on the old trail 6 miles from the gate. 3 hrs 10 min. Rain had stopped early on the climb. Pack was heavy! Got to go on a just finished new section from where the old trail meets the new trail, basically half mile from the top. I can't believe how much work was performed to create a new rock path. Even in the dark, you could tell this was a significant project. The last 1/4 mile still the same, although they did create a few new rock steps in the tougher sections. It was still dark when we got to the summit so we took some pics and got out of there.

Base of mailbox to Teneriffe trailhead, total mileage 15. The Granite creek trail is this slightly uphill, technical trail with a lot of small creek crossings. John started to jog when we started up and I told him immediately that I wasn't going to do that this early in the run. I knew it would drain my energy quick with a heavy pack. It's three miles and they went by pretty fast. You turn off on what used to be an unmaintained, overgrown trail that is now a wide and winding trail, set to open fall 2017. At least that's what the sign said on the other end off the newly paved Middle Fork road. There was no sign at where we entered it. This was a fun and easy run down, about 1.5 miles. We crossed the road and the Snoqualmie River to another trail on the other side and if you didn't know it was there, you'd have a hard time locating it. It looks like they don't want people to hike there because they made it harder to get down into it and they removed a log in the first water crossing. I should have taken a picture of John crossing it. It was only 10 feet across but the fast flowing river stirred up the sand in this drainage creek. John took his shoes and socks off to cross, I left mine on. It came mid shin for me. Two more water crossing, one with a log across still. Got to the CCC road trail where I knew we would have to cross another creek but the water is clear. I took my shoes and socks off to rinse them of the sand I accumulated in the last water crossings and my feet were good to go even with them wet. Refilled water bottles here. Ran down he dirt road for 4 miles and arrived at Teneriffe trailhead 6 hours into the run or 10 am. Parking lot was already full.

Teneriffe trailhead to Little Si trailhead, total miles 33. I was feeling sluggish by the time we got there.We started up to Kamakaze Falls (which was roaring with all the recent rain) together but I told John that he could keep going and that I would meet him at the summit. I took my time, knowing if I pushed here, I would be paying for it for the rest of the run. Either he was waiting for me or the climb was slowing him down but I caught up to John about half mile to the top. We sat and ate briefly. The sun was out and we had 360 degree views, including Rainier. A quick pic and we descended after less than 10 minutes on the summit.

Descended the previous road now double track trail to the connector trail and Talus loop trail to Mt. Si. It spits you out on the Mt. Si trail 2 miles from the top. Lots of people still coming down and going up. Felt pretty good. Ran into Brad Hefta-Gaub about a mile from the top. Again quick summit pic and down we went.

There was a young Asian guy who looked like he was in his 20s who we passed on the way up almost to the summit sitting and resting. We ran into him again on our way down closer to the summit but this time an older couple that was heading down was with him.  They said something like, "If there were some trailrunners, maybe they could give him some salt tablets for his cramps," just as I was walking by. I stopped and gave him 2 S-caps, and told him to take them now. I gave him 2 more and told him if he still was cramping on the way down, he could take them. I also asked if he had any food. He didn't and I gave him some nuts in a ziplock and wished him luck. At least he had a puffy jacket to keep him warm while he was sitting. He had a bottle of water. We headed down the old Mt. Si/Little Si trail, very steep and technical at times. Glad I had my poles. Hit the Little Si trail. Everyone was coming down as we headed up. Some climbers still were up on the big wall.

Arrived at Little Si trailhead at 14 hours or 6 pm. I had told my husband Ken 15.5 hours, so we were stoked that we were making good time.

Little Si trailhead to Highway 18 on Tiger, 56 miles total. The next 6 miles is flat with slight up near Rattlesnake Lake. It got dark as we were heading up this trail. Passed the location where I encountered the cougar the last time I was there. Coast was clear. Got some more water from the Snoqualmie River after we crossed under I-90. John started to feel tired here but we were able to walk/run. Once we got to the lake, he took a little 5 minute nap before we headed up the trail. Lots of option for water after all the rain we had gotten in the last few weeks. I used my Steri Pen for everything I drank. John just filled and drank. I led him up so that he could concentrate on the reflectors on my shoes and stay awake. Still he was struggling. There was one area of blow downs before East Peak. Once we got there, I had him lead to see if that would wake him up. He seemed to do fine. The 2 mile section between East and West peak had a ton of blow downs. Michael Havrda warned me about this but it was a lot worse than I expected. We must have gone over, under, and through 30 trees down. Very taxing. At one point, I almost fell in a hole left from the tree root of a fallen tree. With all the logging they have done up there, there is no buffer anymore and with any major windstorm, more trees are going to go down. So sad. This used to be one of my favorite trails and unless it gets cleaned up well, I'm less likely to return. The wind was blowing constantly about 10-15 miles with a few gusts up to 30 but at least it was not raining. John is pictured at East Peak and me at West Peak,

We hit the Power lines and made our way down to the service road  towards Tiger. This is when it started to rain. John was getting sleepy again and I asked him if he wanted to rest when we got into the trees. He didn't want to stop and get me cold so we didn't. We went through some bike trails back on to the service road that led down to the Raging River. It was high and flowing fast, so we decided to hike up to Highway 18. We found a pretty nice path that others clearly had gone up. When we popped up on the freeway, we saw a police car in the distance that had pulled over a car. We ran as fast as we could across the bridge over the river and back onto the trail on the Tiger side. With the cop car behind us, the other cars passing us probably thought we were running from the police! Fugitives! We were not looking forward to the next part because for sure we knew we were going to get our feet wet crossing Deep Creek. Once again John took his shoes and socks off and I left them on. I got wet just above my knees. John had thankfully cleared the dense overgrown trail that heads up after crossing the creek 2 weeks ago. I was at Bigfoot, but if he didn't get to it, I was going to do it before this run. That was miserable for both of us the last time we went through there on separate occasions. When we hit the service road, it really started raining and we sat under a pine tree where it was dry to put on extra clothes. I put on my compression socks, Smartwool shirt, and poncho. I already had my rain jacket on, short sleeve, arm warmers, gloves, and buff. John put on long pants and a poncho. Warmer now, we hit the trail for 3 dirt bike miles before hitting another service road at Highway 18. I told Ken we would arrive there at 24 hours. We got there at 22 hrs 45 minutes.

Hwy 18 to High Point, 67 miles total. We had 3.5 miles to get to East Tiger but about one mile up, John said he really needed to stop and rest for a bit. We sat under a tree and he closed his eyes. I tried to do the same but immediately started shivering, so I got up and walked around in circles while I let him rest for 10 minutes. It didn't really help he said, and since we were moving slow, I started to get sleepy too. I had a 5-hr energy drink and seemed to perk up in 15 minutes. Finally made it to East Tiger. I only took his picture since it was raining and cold. John is sporting the fashionable poncho look.

I let him lead the next part which is a nice run on bike trails on the Preston railroad grade before you hit the East Tiger trail, which is still in pretty bad condition. It's never a nice run in this part, even when it is dry. Then Bootleg, Lingering loop, and to High Point. This part was really hard at night with the wet trail, rocky, rooty, steep down trail covered entirely with wet leaves. I slipped once and landed with my right knee bent. It hurt but I was okay, but that's a good way of tearing a meniscus! As we were approaching High Point, John was weaving like a drunk and I was concerned that he was going to fall and do a face plant. We walked past the tent city just about when it was getting light. We arrived there at 27 hours, ahead of my predicted time of 30 hours. Sweet!

High point to Front Street Issaquah, 80 miles total. We hiked up to the upper parking lot and planted ourselves under one of the information boards with a roof over it where the seat was dry. Sat down and did some major clothing change and pack re-arrangement. We spent about 20 minutes removing our heavier clothing, changing socks, stashing trash, and putting food in more accessible pockets. It was wondrous to air out my feet and get new socks! We hiked well up T3. The crowds were not there yet. In fact, there was no one at the summit when we got there. Some had already come down.

Then T2 and T1. Man that hike up to T1 is short but a beast!

The next part was very nice. They cleaned up the logging area and it was not so much of a scramble. Fun downhill. Got to the TMT, more good trails and Deiter Spring water! I had run out, so this was a welcomed stop. And, I didn't need to treat it. So much down hill after the TMT! This may sound nice, but it trashed our legs. My knees were killing me with the extra weight of the pack, still pretty heavy although I had eaten most of the food. Got to Front Street before noon, which was around 32 hours, 3 hours ahead of my predicted 35 hours. Saw Jessica Kelly and she took a picture of us. Thanks Jessica!

Front Street, over Squak, and around Cougar, total 93 miles.The pavement was very painful on our tender feet and the rest of the body. The hike up Sycamore lane is steep and that is followed by 1.5 miles of switchbacks on Squak. I had to stop and change clothes again. I was overheating tremendously. I was thankful for the nice weather but was woefully overdressed. I took off my compression calf sleeves and black capri tights and put on my lighter weight and more loose fitting capri pants. That was better but still hot. That took me about 7 minutes and I met John at the next intersection. The next part was pretty uneventful, except I thought I had more water than I really had and did not fill up. When we crossed the SR 900 to Cougar, I started doing math in my head and started to smell the barn if you will. I picked up the pace. Big rookie mistake! I did fine as long as we were running down or flat, but as soon as I hit the Quarry trail, my muscles protested. I slowed to a crawl, stopping several times. I had been running hot all day and my dehydration was catching up to me. Plus, I was running out of water. I should have taken a detour to the falls, but I didn't. I apologized to John for holding him up. We finally made it back to SR 900 after spending much longer on Cougar than I planned. Still arrived at this point ahead of schedule. I planned for 8 pm or 40 hours. We got there 5:20 pm, or 37 hr 20 min. We took our final picture on Wilderness Peak.

SR 900 to finish, total 103 miles. After a short, painful crawl up Squak, we got to a water source about a half mile in and I was so happy to drink again. I had a really sore right shin that I thought was a cramping muscle but turns out it was my anterior tibialis tendon, the one in front of your ankle. Usually that gets sore from tying your shoes too tight but in my case from lifting my toes constantly to avoid tripping on the steep downhills. It did not get better with hydration, only with flatter surfaces. I was able to do some running once we hit flat or downhill. Not fast, but not constantly walking. We took out our headlamps for the third time. I had to tell myself just a few more hours. Once we reached Front Street again, I knew it was less than 4 miles. We did some running along the high school trail that was new and longer, then hiked up to the power line trails of Tiger, which had been re-done and was also longer. Once we got on the Brink Trail, I was on a mission. Looking at our time, I felt we could get under 41 hours if we got going. Brink Trail is pretty technical, so I settled into a fast hike. John was behind me and I looked like a crazy and frantic person. And he was just doing his normal walk. We looked for the cougar that stymied Yitka Winn, putting an end to her stellar solo unsupported attempt. It pained me just to think about it. John said that no cougar or freaky man was going to stop us now. Finally, we hit the last trail-the Swamp trail There is a very long wooden bridge that I'm sure in the summer is really fun to run on  but it was as slick as an ice rink and I shuffled along, barely lifting my feet. You can mess up your knee here if you fell. Once again, John said if he got hurt, he would still crawl to the finish. We got to dirt and solid footing and ran most of the last mile to the finish gate. After 40 hours 41 minutes and 13 seconds, we finally could stop running. We started in the dark and finished in the dark at 8:41 pm. And the crowd went crazy! Actually, it was dark and no one was there except my husband who was waiting in his truck. I called him when we started our last section on Tiger. Originally, I had told him that we would finish around 11 or 12 pm, so he was happy to come sooner. John and I gave each other a congratulatory hug. I didn't even change or take off my shoes. I had Ken bring me my robe and I just put that on for the ride home. John I think changed and drove home to North Seattle without any rest. Crazy man. 

John said that if either of us had no problems (his trouble staying awake and me cramping for a few miles), we could have had a shot at sub 40. But we were thrilled to have finished it at all. We had two dry days and one rainy night. We worked well together. A lot of time we ran in silence, which was good for us both. We did not mule for each other or share anything. We just had each other's presence. It was a memorable run. Thanks John!

Blurry finish picture!