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.


  1. So awesome Van! And thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed report. As a runner, I appreciate living vicariously through you.

  2. Do you coach? Just wondering and love the blog