Ouray 100 Mile Endurance Run ***LONG POST WARNING***
I signed up for Ouray back in February when I struck out of the lottery races I entered. Immediately after registering, I sent Charles Johnston, the Race Director or RD, a note that said, “I just signed up for your God-forsaken race. See you in July.” I meant every word of it. I love Charles to death, but that’s not why I signed up for this race. I normally pick a mountain race in the summer and take the family on a 3 week road trip so while that’s something to look forward to, this race was something completely outside of what I’d ever attempted.
Bighorn 100 2017 was probably my hardest 100 mile finish at just over 18,000′ of elevation gain, and TransLantau 100K 2015 was my hardest 100K finish with over 19,000′ of gain. Ouray 100 has nearly 42,000′ of gain. NOT A TYPO. With an average elevation approximately 10,200′ above sea level. Coming from about 1,000′ elevation in Fort Worth, this would not be easy for me. I do terrible at elevation and this would be more than double the climbing of any race I’ve ever attempted. But I had gotten kind of complacent on my Texas 100 mile races and knew I could slack on training and still slog through the finish. This was a race I didn’t know I could finish. That’s why I signed up.
So I told Joe Prusaitis my plans and asked him to crew for me. Joe is my running coach and NEVER balks at any of my crazy ideas. Instead he helps keep me on a reasonable schedule (this is subjective, of course) and this was no different. I had more 2 & 3am alarms set to go meet Kari Crowe(training for Leadville this weekend–GO GET ‘EM, Kari!), Richard Keeler, Sara Pereda Lynch, and/or Ian Connally for necessary miles. The miles weren’t always pretty, but they were consistent.
We left a week before the race started to slowly make our way up to Colorado. Our first stop was in Caprock Canyon State Park in Quitaque, TX. I was there in April for the Wild Canyon 100K and won the race along w/ setting a new course record–one of my most consistent races to date even with all of the rain, hail, lightning, and mud. Little did I know I’d have a much different ending to the story in Ouray. The park was still beautiful, but the weather was much different at 108 degrees (and much hotter in the canyon).
Next stop was Sugarite Canyon State Park outside of Raton, NM. This is one of our favorite little gems nestled against the NM/CO border. If you haven’t been I strongly recommend a trip up there! We pulled into Ridgway State Park just north of Ouray on Tuesday before the race to be our base camp for the next week. We love this park but were disappointed the lake was so low due to minimal snow over the winter.
Joe rolled into Ouray on Wednesday so we met for lunch and checked him into his hotel (about a half mile from the start/finish of the race in Fellin Park and directly across the street from the Old Horsethief Trailhead that would be the last section of the race). We also drove around checking some of the course/aid stations out so we’d know where the hell I was going on the “shattered windshield” course as he described the course map. This took a lot of anxiety away since I didn’t know the course/area like I do the many of the Texas races.
Thursday we met back up w/ Joe at packet pick-up/race briefing and then met Tammie, Bryan, & their daughter Bailey for dinner at Ouray Brewing. They’re some TX friends that have just relocated to CO (jealous!) and it was great catching up w/ them.
Joe recommends I crash at the hotel w/ him so Breinn & the boys can sleep in, so we drive up to Ridgway, grab my drop bags and race gear, and drop me back off in town. Joe goes over the course map/sections w/ me one last time before I grab a shower and then head to bed. I manage to get some sleep, but rarely can my brain turn off the night before a big race. I know I’m in for a long weekend. Just how long we’ll have to wait and see. We grab breakfast at the hotel and meet a fellow Texan, Jen Kirkpatrick, who is in town to tackle the 50 miler and her first mountain race. She jokes I’m going to be late for the race eating breakfast just an hour before the race, but this isn’t a half marathon or something that I need to be light for, so I load up on waffles and grab a pack of pop-tarts for my pack before grabbing everything from the hotel and heading for Fellin Park.
The nerves stay at bay right until the start, then there’s no time for nerves, only time for moving. I start in the back of the pack to force myself to start slow–something I told myself to do from the start. I wasn’t here to win, I was here to finish. This is still really hard for me to do sometimes as competitive as I am, but I don’t live or do well at altitude so this race was about being smart and getting the finish. The finish was extremely important on this race because I decided to help raise funds for a dear friend, Sunny Brous Erasmus, who was diagnosed with ALS and has been through so much in such a short period of time. I’ll be sure to include a link to her blog at the end.
The first segment was probably the easiest climb of the race since it was nearly all gravel road up to Camp Bird Aid Station, save for the tiny segment on the Perimeter Trail, through the tunnel near Box Canyon, over a bridge, then on the gravel road. Lots of leap-frogging with other racers early on but I still wasn’t pushing it. I was power-hiking up, running any flats or descents (almost non-existent on this segment that was 5.5 miles and 2,379′ of gain compared to 303′ of descent). No real breathtaking views to speak of on this segment, but those would soon come. I grabbed some PBJ (peanut butter & jelly) bites from the aid station, topped off water bottles, and headed further up the mountain.
This was 3 miles and 2,080′ up to the Silver Basin at around 11,600′ elevation. We started the climb still on the gravel road before turning onto jeep/4×4 only road. This was the first out-and-back of the course and it was nice seeing everyone on the course in front and behind you. We wound our way through the trees and to a small pond where the first hole punch was waiting for us to punch our bib (a very small circle punch) to prove we went the full distance before turning around. Just before the turnaround point I got my first glimpse of Howie Stern , the race photographer, and his beautiful pups, Joey & Miki Bear. The dogs were lounging in the grass and soaking up the sun like they could spend the rest of their lives on that mountain. The way down went much faster thanks to gravity, but I still didn’t push myself so I could save calories/energy for the altitude & climbing that was still waiting on me. I make it back to Camp Bird still feeling good, top off water, grab more PBJ bites, and head toward the Richmond aid station.
This is the shortest segment on the course at only 2.1 miles and 1,332′ of gain, but necessary for what we’re about to hit on the way out as well as on our way back. Leaving the Camp Bird aid station we wind through old Camp Bird and it’s old homes that are scheduled to be resurrected by the company that’s reopening the mine. We then turn onto more jeep road that winds through the forest and over small creek crossings until we hit Richmond aid. It’s pretty bare but I find a couple of PBJ bites and fill up water before heading up to Chicago Tunnel and then Imogene Pass/Fort Peabody. The water from this aid station tastes something awful, but I don’t have any other options other than to drink. This is a nearly 8 mile, double climb segment and my first encounter with rain, hail, & lightning came about halfway up to the Chicago Tunnel. I grabbed some shelter under a section of large pine (slim pickings being so close to the tree line) and put on my rain jacket and grabbed a bite while the hail pelted my legs/feet and other runners passed by. One gal turned around before the turnaround point due to lightning hitting so close to us, but she gathered herself later and proceeded on the course. It was mostly jeep road up to Chicago Tunnel until the very end when we veered off onto slick muddy single track switchbacks up to punch our bibs (a regular sized circle hole this time) and heading back down. We don’t go all the way back to Richmond just yet, though.
I can see what lays ahead the whole time I’m heading down from Chicago Tunnel and practically the whole time I’m heading up. Jeep road all the way up to Imogene Pass and then a scramble up some scree to Fort Peabody at 13,340′ elevation. Shit. The race leaders have already made the trek up and back down as I’m heading up. But I’m not worried about them since I’ve been sandbagging knowing how much I suck at altitude. I’m focused on the 2 miles and 2,000′ of climbing ahead. The nasty weather passes through and the sun starts beating down. Off comes the rain jacket and out come the trekking poles. It feels like it takes forever to get to the top, switchback after switchback taking me higher and higher above the tree line. The views are incredible and I’m quickly reminded why the hell I do things like this. Jeeps and dirt bikes pass by and get to see some of what I see, but they don’t get to stop on a rock to see the leaves of the aspens shaking in the wind as they’re speeding up or down the mountain. I’m in my element the further from civilization I get and a sense of peace envelopes me just as my lungs start to burn and cramps start hitting my quads. I don’t cramp this early in a race, ever, and almost never in my quads. But I don’t race at this elevation either so I try to get back to my peaceful zone and keep pushing. The scramble up to Fort Peabody is magical. 360 degree views of pure beauty. I remember getting up there, punching my bib (a small rectangle shape), and thinking it hard to believe anyone can stand up there and look all around at what I’m looking at and doubt there’s a Creator. The trees giving way to the tree line and meadows just above them. The meadows being showered in one valley, and the sun beaming down on another. And nearly all of them giving way to the rock and scree fields as you go up to the different peaks. I can only imagine what Chief Ouray and his Utes felt when they looked at the same things I was looking and know why they considered this place sacred.
The trip down to Richmond was much quicker than expected but I still stayed smart and didn’t blow the doors off heading down (sorry, Joe, I know you love bombing the descents). I pass a 14 year old kid attempting the 100 miler, give him some encouragement, and tell him I’ll see him later. He was smart and steady every time I had seen him before and after, but unfortunately he didn’t finish. The aid station is completely bare save for 2 gummy bears and an orange. I grab 1 gummy, 1/4 of an orange, fill up the water bottles, then grab the pop tart I took from the hotel breakfast and pat myself on the back for bringing it. As I’m heading out the water again makes me cringe. We were later told they’d run out of water and used tablets to try to purify the creek water. Not sure if this is true, but it tasted bad. Richmond Pass isn’t a terrible climb, 1,763′ over about 2.5 miles, but the rain and hail return and make it interesting and the first of my shoes/socks issues starts. The insoles of my shoes start moving back on the climbs and bunch up in the front of my shoe on the descents. The descent is 3,024′ down over about 3.5 miles, and the water from the Richmond aid as well as bouncing down the mountain take its toll. I’m hurled over emptying the entire contents of my stomach on the side of the mountain about 2 miles from the Ironton aid station. This is the first time I get really concerned and realize I’m likely in this race for the entire 52 hours. Literal and figurative gut-check at around 11,000′. Several runners passed encouraging me, and after the stomach was empty I gathered myself and resorted to power-hiking to keep the stomach settled. I’m nearly to the aid station when I hear, “SNAKE!” I do a double-take and see it’s my buddy Dos Crow who’s driven down from Steamboat and will later pace me for several miles.
Seeing familiar faces out there always picks me up. We head into the aid station and Joe & Dos meet each other while tending to me. I’m not used to having a crew since most of the time I tend to myself and carry most of what I need, but Joe lays into me and and basically says, “Stop moving and let us take care of you–that’s why we’re here!” A few choice words were sprinkled in but my mom will most likely read this so you’ll get the watered-down version. I ditch the Go-Pro and my phone, then proceed to argue again with Joe, this time about changing my shirt. The sun is still out and I’m drenched, but it’s a shirt that Dos created from his company Karamojo Trading Company and I know since I’m now power-hiking it’s going to wick away the moisture pretty quick. Dos didn’t ask me to wear the shirt, but I wanted to prove his shirts are as durable and wearable as they come. Prior to this race I’d finished a 50 miler, 2 100Ks, and a 100 miler in this shirt and I was going to get another finish in it if I could! When your friend takes a leap and starts a company and happens to make an awesome shirt in the process, you’re going to support him in any way you can.
Anyways, I change out my socks (big mistake I later learn), toss the insoles of my shoes, re-lube my feet & sensitive areas, and head out for the first loop of Corkscrew Gulch which is 2,782′ up and then down over 8 miles. Like most of the segments, it’s essentially half up then half down. Joe & Dos grabbed some pickle juice for me on the way out of the aid station to try to help settle the stomach and I start power-hiking up. Jeep roads wind up and around the mountain, and the switchbacks get steep near the top. As I finally make it to the top of this segment, the sight of a husky slowly picking his path among the rocks, while looking completely in his element, perks me right up. I figure Howie is nearby. I put my hand out to Joey as he meanders by, he sniffs, and keeps walking as I’m sure I smell worse than a carcass. Miki Bear isn’t far behind and he stops and lets me pat his head and scratch his ears a bit before I continue. Howie says “it’s nice to have a little bit of joy during your misery” or something to that effect and I continue on to make my way down. Or so I thought. I know the aid station and the trail are on the other side of the mountain, but from my vantage point we have to go back back up before descending back down into Ironton. That’s a constant in this course–so many false peaks and false hopes that had me saying “*&#@ you, Charles!” throughout the weekend. And the climbs are so intense that when you see the false peaks on the elevation profile they look laughable–but when you’re staring them down they’re anything but. Especially coming from Fort Worth. I found myself begging for Sansom Park’s little climbs that ended in minutes instead of hours.
Off the jeep road, onto singletrack for the descent for most of the way down. I guess that I’ll be able to roll into Ironton aid w/out a light. I had one but didn’t need it just yet as I like being out there alone in the dark walking the trails. The moon was big and bright anyway–so much so that several times I caught a glimpse of it over my shoulder and thought it was the headlamp of another runner coming up from behind me. I could also spot Mars as bright as I’ll ever see it just below the moon. Again I find myself drifting to thoughts of the Utes in this area, what they thought seeing what I’m seeing, wandering the areas I’m now treading. I snap out of it when I hit gravel road and realize I need to watch out for all the deep puddles from the rains we’ve been getting. Dos & Joe are waiting with a chair by Joe’s truck and they load me up on ice cold Sprite (that Joe brought), quesadillas from the aid station, & pickle juice while I tend to my feet. I check in to the aid station so they know I made it the first loop, then head back out for the second loop, this time counter-clockwise but again 2,782′ up and the same down. This climb seems a bit easier in this direction and I finish in about the same time as the first loop. The moon is even more incredible now that it’s later in the evening. I know I’m going to head down a bit before I have to head back up for another false peak, but mentally it’s easier this time knowing what’s coming. That won’t always be the case. Joe is chatting with others in the aid station when I roll in as he’s sent Dos into town to grab some much needed sleep as he’ll soon be joining me on the trails.
Now it’s back up and over Richmond Pass to the terrible water awaiting me at Richmond. I load up all 3 of my water bottles and take some extra Sprite in case I can skip filling them up there. Doubtful but I’d rather carry a bit more and skip the puking if I can. The climb is slow and steady and I remember when I was coming down this that it was going to suck heading back up, but in the dark it wasn’t as bad. I could still see headlamps every so often much higher than I was and knew I would have to climb up to them, but with such narrow and muddy trails I had to focus my attention on putting my feet in front of me, not staring up the mountain. Besides, the sun will be up soon and I’ll get renewed energy from it. I roll into the aid station with another runner that had passed me about 20 miles prior and we got a pleasant surprise–the aid station volunteer had broth, ramen noodles, and more food than we expected there. I sat waiting for the ramen to cook in my cup, but it was taking too long so I drank the broth from the cup, threw my cup in the fire, and headed back out for the easiest stretch of the race–4 miles downhill to the Weehawken aid station skipping the out-and-backs to Fort Peabody, Chicago Tunnel, and Silver Basin.
4 miles downhill sounds amazing when you’re past the halfway point, but my stomach still wasn’t right so I went to my comfort zone and just power-hiked into Weekhawken. It was slower than I wanted to move, but I was nervous about going into too much of a caloric deficit or getting dehydrated from puking so I went with it and still made decent time given that we were back on the gravel road for this section.
I grab a chair at Weehawken and see a lot of people that were way ahead of me in chairs as well. Nearly all were taking extended breaks or had dropped. That wasn’t an option for me. I don’t like to linger at aid stations if I can help it. Even tending to my feet as often as I have at this race sucks, but it’ll save me time in the long run if I’m not slowed to a limping crawl due to blisters–which I’m very prone to without frequent care. Weehawken is essentially switchbacks all the way up to the Alpine Mine Overlook. 2,361′ over 2.5 miles up, then punch our bibs with a heart-shaped hole punch and head back down. I wonder what the next punch will be before realizing I need to focus on where I’m putting my feet! A fellow Fort Worthian, Rene, had taken a nasty spill coming down the scree from Richmond Pass and I saw his bloodied face heading into Weehawken as I was heading up. I didn’t want the same thing happening to me because I was wondering about a hole punch.
I roll back into Weehawken and tend to my necessities when yet another Fort Worthian, Andrew Readinger, comes barreling in from where I just came from. He looks great and I tell him as much. He DNFd here at mile 65 a couple of years ago and said he’s been sandbagging so far to keep from doing the same thing this year. He has a buddy meeting him here to pace, but he’s nowhere to be seen so he sits and waits. I take off but know I’ll be seeing him soon enough based on how well he’s moving.
It’s a short trip down the gravel road for just under a mile before we veer off onto jeep road, then switchback after switchback to get to Hayden Pass. 3,611′ of climbing over about 4 miles. I’m about 2 miles out when I realize I forgot to top off my water bottles before leaving Weehawken. This is how DNFs happen. I must’ve looked defeated because a runner that was doing really well, Matt, asked how I was doing as he was heading down the mountain much further in the race than I was. I told him about my brain fart, and he pulls out a full bottle of water and fills my empty bottle up since he’s not far from his next aid station. Game changer–my spirits are lifted again. I’ve been in the same position at Black Hills in 2016 and Bighorn in 2017 where I filled others’ bottles that had run out, this was karma for those good deeds I hope. Andrew, or Red as his friends call him, and his buddy pass me about 1.5-2 miles before the top of the pass and I hang w/ them for a bit. The rain, hail, and lightning start again and this time the hail blankets the trails and much of the barren landscape near the top of Hayden Pass. We’re completely exposed up here so no choice but to keep moving. Red and his pacer make quicker work of the mountain on their way down than I do, but again I’m not worried about keeping pace with them, I’m worried about keeping my mind in this thing. It sucks and things are starting to hurt, I’m tired, but I’ve trained too long and hard to quit as many times as the thought crosses my mind. And now my socks have started to move on me.
I roll into Crystal Lake aid station and the rain is still coming down pretty good. Dos and Joe fetch more cold Sprites for me (I’m craving sugar and even though the rain is chilling, the cold drink helps me in the daytime). Grab some more food, Dos tops off my water bottles, and heads with me up the mountain back up and over Hayden Pass. Hail starts again and I look back at Dos and say “cool *&#*ing mountain, huh?” He laughs and keeps moving forward. Dos knows the mountains and while he’s not an ultrarunner, I’m not exactly running right now and didn’t expect to be, so I know he can hang with me for hours on these climbs at this pace. The climb sucks like they all do since it’s 2,628′ up over 2.5 miles, and on the way up the first of the 50 mile racers pass us coming down the mountain. I keep having to stop to pull my socks back up. These are lower profile socks than the ones I started with and my guess is that with the rain they’re not cooperating. Countless times I had to stop and take my gaiters off, then my shoe, pull the sock up, pull the shoe back on, put the gaiter back, etc. It was ridiculous. I’ve run in so many wet and muddy races and I’ve never had sock/shoe issues like I had in this race. More 50 mile racers appear. They’ll be on most of the rest of the course with us but they’re moving much better than most of us considering they’ve only been on their legs for about 4 or 5 hours at this point. Avery Collins, who won here back in 2015 even after taking a wrong turn and doing 10 extra miles or so, is doing the 50 miler. He chats with us briefly at the top, gives his fellow Steamboat citizen a fist bump, then continues on. He DNFd unfortunately but only 50% of the 50 milers would ultimately finish.
Heading down the mountain is still slower than I want to go, but Dos is being gracious and not nagging me about pace. I never told him how to pace me, or about cutoffs or anything. Honestly I was hoping that wouldn’t be an issue–boy was I wrong. We roll down the gravel road, onto Perimeter Trail, over the Box Canyon bridge, through the tunnel, down more dirt roads, and back into Fellin Park (start/finish area). Joe recommends Dos hang back and rest before joining me later in the race. I’m now 75 miles in and still well ahead of cutoffs, but that won’t last. My family is a welcome surprise to great me, hug me, and cheer me on as I head back out for the Twin Peaks/Silvershield section. As soon as I leave the rain start pouring and I get the chills. I’m mentally beat and I sit under a pine trying in vain to stay dry. I know it’s pointless but I can’t move. I’m feeling really sorry for myself wondering what the hell I’m doing but I can’t bring myself to get back on the trail. I honestly don’t know how long I sat there since my watch had already died. All I know is that this section was the beginning of the end for me mentally. I finally started out again, but I was moving without any purpose. The rain continued to pour and and lighting was there with it. This was 3,450′ over 3 miles. In the dark. In an electrical storm. On snot-slick trails. I was over it. As I neared the turn-off to head up to Twin Peaks, several other runners started to give their warnings about what was ahead. It got worse. Take a step up and slide two back. Trekking poles saved a lot of heartache out there, but they still couldn’t lift me up that damn mountain. I stopped and rested so many times on this segment that I lost count. When I finally neared the top, I realized I had to scramble up a boulder surrounded by lightning to punch my bib. I’m sure it sounded cool and looked like a neat spot on a calm, sunny day. But in this weather it was downright stupid. Punched my bib with the same kind of tiny circle punch that we first used at Silver Basin and I found myself annoyed that Charles would use the same one more than once. That’s how out of it I was. I was mad about a damn hole punch. Now things got interesting. Slipped and fell multiple times on the way down into Silvershield, and Dos was near the trailhead calling my name at each headlight he saw. When I answered he said Joe was worried about me and said I had 6 minutes to cutoff. I busted my ass down the trail and came scrambling in. Joe said I still had an hour or an hour and a half but that I was moving backwards. Another runner was pulled from the course while we were there due to splitting his knee open on that section. I was lucky to escape with just some light scratches and muddied clothing.
I didn’t linger long there and Dos and I headed back up and over. While it was still muddy and nasty, we were at least skipping the Twin Peaks fiasco. This was 1,968′ up over about 2 miles, then back down into Fellin Park in the dark. The sock issue kept up the entire way up the mountain. I had tried a new pair of insoles but had to ditch those as well since they kept bunching on the descents. It’s dark and quiet when we roll into Fellin Park. Joe hands me a quesadilla that he made since the volunteers had left a few hours earlier and asks what I need. I tell him I need the blue socks he took from me at Ironton aid station. He laughs and I say I’m serious. I try to explain my sock situation but I doubt I’m that coherent. Dos looks in my drop bag and pulls out some compression socks but I quickly shoot that down (blisters would eat my lunch in those right now). Joe comes back w/ a pair of socks from another drop bag but I tell him, “Joe, look in the bed of your truck. You made fun of the stench and said you couldn’t put those inside your truck.” He hauls out of there back to the parking lot and comes back with my soaking wet, putrid, sweaty socks from earlier in the race. I re-lube my feet and slide them on hoping they hold up like I think they will.
Joe informs me the next section sucks. Switchbacks up to a ledge, then down a bit, then more switchbacks up the Chief Ouray Mine. 3,399′ over 3.5 miles and then back down. Dos is ready and heads out with me out of Fellin Park, across the street, up the steep steps that lead to the trailhead, and off we go. This stretch is another ugly stretch for me. I’m nodding off while I’m walking so again I stop and put my head on my lap multiple times. I know I doze off several times, and realize I’m in trouble when we aren’t even to the mine yet and I see that the sun in going to come up soon. I hear several runners/pacers mention as they pass that there may be some leniency with cutoffs due to the weather and I’m a bit relieved until I realize that just means I’m on my feet even longer. I can’t think straight right now so I try to keep moving but it’s agonizingly slow for me so I know Dos is probably bored out of his mind. We finally reach the turnaround point and punch the bib with another rectangular hole punch that’s waiting outside of shack that you could film a horror movie from. At least it feels that way just before dawn.
We head back down again super slow and I’m still so tired I’m stopping all the way down to put my head in my lap. It takes forever but we reach the trailhead where Joe is waiting for us. I ask him about cutoffs and he says “you missed it over an hour ago.” I ask if he’s letting anyone go out and he shakes his head and says, “I don’t think so.” I head into the aid station defeated and a guy stares at me and asks, “why didn’t you run through the cones?” He seems serious and I tell him that I haven’t finished the race yet. I turn my back on him to find Charles and ask if I can head back out. Charles gives me the thumbs up jogs with me and gives me the bad news. Nearly 3 miles of switchbacks up to a ridge line, then another 2.5 miles up the ridge line to Bridge of Heaven turnaround. 4,844′ up over 5.3 miles, then back down. He tells me run to the trailhead if you can, run any flats, because the trail is rough and you probably won’t be able to run down some of it. I don’t have time to fix my feet, but my socks have at least stopped moving on me. Dos informs me he has to get back on the road to Steamboat so he can’t join me for the last segment other than to get me started on the trailhead. I can tell it’s eating him up to not be finishing this with me, but he’s helped me more than he realizes. They load me up with Sprite, a bag of Cheez-Its, a sandwich, and full water bottles.
I’m finishing this thing. I doubt I’ll make the cutoff and I know mentally that’s going to suck, but I started this thing to finish it and that’s ultimately what I’m going to do. I glance down at my bracelet I wear in support of Sunny Brous Erasmus. I tell myself out loud to be #sunnystrong like the bracelet says. This is temporary pain, Sunny’s everyday life is an ultra marathon. She has so many ups and downs due to this disease. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and start moving. The trekking poles start digging in and I start moving. I stop a few times to catch a breather but nothing like I had been doing. The sun is up and I’m on a mission. It feels like I’m moving better but I wonder if it’s just my mind playing tricks on me. I had Dos recharge my watch for me and I’m now wondering if that was a mistake because the distance doesn’t feel like it’s changing as much as I’m moving. It felt like being on a treadmill thinking you’d gone a mile and looking down to see .2 miles had gone by. But I kept pushing. My legs weren’t sore and I could still move well. The hotspots in my feet were starting to become an issue but I knew the end wasn’t far away. Before hitting the ridgeline Red and his pacer were on their way back. I congratulated them on the finish awaiting them and they did they same. I said I doubted I would make the cutoff, but they said they were about 41 minutes from the top and they thought I could make it. That gave me a huge mental boost and I kept pushing. I finally hit the ridgeline and met up with hikers that were coming up from the other side. They asked about the race which prompted even more questions, and proceeded to ask questions nearly all the way up the ridgeline. I would stop and take quick breaks, sometimes to catch my breath from the climb, sometimes to catch my breath from answering their questions. Finally the turnaround was in sight. I punched my bib with the heart hole punch, fitting because I loved seeing the last high point on this course. Downed some cheeze-its and water started running down. I was surprised how good my legs felt. My feet were starting to feel like hamburger meat, but my legs could still move well. Several times my stomach felt like emptying and twice it did. But I didn’t stop for long. I’d rinse out, take another drink, then keep heading down. I passed a lot of hikers and a couple of gals on horseback heading up, and finally caught one of the 50 milers heading down. I thought I was about a mile out and would have about 10 minutes or so to spare–I was feeling good! I wanted to see how good I was feeling so I ran through all the scree sections that Charles mentioned would be tough to run this late in the race. All of the agility workouts Joe recommended came back to me and I kept pushing. But the trailhead was nowhere to be seen. My stomach started to sink, this time from wondering how bad my math was right now. Time was ticking off the clock and the trailhead was still far away. I could see the road and the general area of the trailhead, but I could also see multiple switchbacks that meant I had a ways to go. But still I ran. What if my watch was slow by a couple of minutes? I’m toast. I come barreling through the trailhead exit and a gal mentions I have 6 minutes to cutoff. Crap! It’s a half mile to Park and I have to run to the other side of it. This isn’t looking good. I round the corner onto the road and the sun brings me to a walk. I’m not joking. I’ve just run over 5 miles down the mountain, I’m less than a half mile away from finishing this thing, and I’m walking. I pour my water bottles over my head, down the front and back of my shirt, in my mouth, and take back off. I’m not giving up like that! Seeing the entrance to the hot springs perks me up until I look back to cross the road and my heart sinks. A line of cars with no gap to pass and none are slowing down even though I’m trying to wave at them to let me through. The last car passes and I dart across the road when I hear a guy yell, “you’ve got 3 minutes, you can do it!” I keep running an wonder if I have a full three minutes or if his watch was just about to change to 11:58 and I really only had 2 minutes and 1 second to go. The parking lot is waaaaaay bigger after nearly 52 hours and 102 miles. It kept going and going and I had to dodge all the people fighting to find a place to park for the hot springs. Finally I can see the park and people sitting at the benches I have to pass. I make my way through and people see me and start yelling and cheering. Run through the cones! I start heading to a cone and hear multiple people scream “NO!” The medical director is now running alongside me and pointing away from the cone that was marking a broken sprinkler head and toward the two cones marking the finish line. He tries to get me to speed up but I’m on empty. I can see Breinn jumping up and down crying, along with Baron and Bronco cheering me on alongside dozens of strangers. I cross the finish line to a chorus of cheers, and someone shows me the time I crossed at 11:59:59, 1 damn second before the official cutoff at noon and part of the 38% that finished the race. There’s no way I should have finished that race in time after missing that cutoff so late. Every single person mentioned in this report had a hand in this finish. This was my 10th 100 mile finish and by far the hardest, but also the most rewarding.
If you’ve made it this far, please take a moment and check out Sunny‘s blog to get a glimpse of the impact ALS has on people’s lives. If you’re able, please consider a donation at the bottom of the page in the paypal link. ALS is devastating yet she continues to be one of the most upbeat people I know. Thanks for reading and stay #sunnystrong!
Richter Runs for SunnyStrong
Jake is running the Ouray 100 for ALS Awareness and SunnyStrong!