October 15, 2010 was the big day. The Pony Express Trail 50 Mile and 100 Mile races. I had been training for this all year and had a score to settle after my DNF in 2009 at the Buffalo Run 50 Mile race. I really wanted to finish a 50 mile race before I turn 50 in November.
Thursday afternoon my sister came by and we loaded up her van with all my accumulated race supplies and headed out to the Pony Express Trail. We camped for the night near the pet cemetery and visited with Davy Crockett and some of the other runners and crew. This is probably my first race where the Race Director hand delivered the goody bag.
We painted some motivational messages on the van and my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren sent some messages from Georgia that Marcia would rotate out. Marcia also added some messages of her own during the race.
Lookout Pass on Thursday evening. This was right above where we camped and where the race would start the next morning.
Spent some time going over race plans and directions with Marcia and then we set up the van so we could sleep in the back for the night. The sky that far from civilization was gorgeous. We laid one of the sleeping bags in a clearing and stared up at the sky. I had no idea there were that many stars out there. We even saw some shooting stars.
A little before 5 we walked over to the trail and cheered on the early start 100 mile racers. Some of them were already walking – only in a ultramarathon will you see that. Introduced ourselves to Jim Kern and then went back and finished getting ready. As I put on my designated racing shoes, I realized the laces were too tight and had to adjust them. This should have given me a clue. I noticed a week or so before that the insoles had worn out, so had placed my heat fitted insoles in the shoes. I’ve run with these insoles before with no problem.
We drove the half mile up to the starting line and Davy gave a little speech and someone joked about singing the national anthem and at 6 a.m. the 50 mile early start was off. The first half mile is a steep downhill, so held myself back. Jim and I ended up visiting and running together for the first 16.6 miles, so it was nice to have a companion. We ran with headlamps and flashlights for the first 6 or so miles until it was light enough we could run in the dark. I think we were all enjoying the cool of the morning because we knew it would heat up soon. One of the support crews flew a UFO to entertain us (a remote plan with LED lights) and that was fun. (If you expand the picture, you will see me to the right of center with some blue flashing lights and lots of reflective gear on).
Marcia was going about 4 miles ahead at this point and mainly pulled over so we could strip off layers of clothes and get sunscreen sprayed on us. It was nice that Jim and I were maintaining the same pace. I wanted to hold off using my iPod as long as I could, so enjoyed getting to know Jim and hear about his running history. At one point we could see these red and green signs flashing in the distance and I wondered if Marcia was waving the signs, but it turns out she was just over a rise and the wind was catching the posters and fluttering them to let us know where she was.
About mile 10 we hear this yell behind us and it was Davy Crockett bounding along looking strong. He started an hour after us and had already caught up. Within a matter of minutes, he had zoomed by and disappeared in the dust. That was pretty humbling. It does help that he set the course record for the 100 mile race that day.
At mile 14, Craig/Jun also passed us and gave me a hug. He looked fit and strong. He had run this race the previous year as his first 50 mile race and was now going for the 100 mile race. What I wouldn’t give to be as fast as these guys! (But then again, I’m not sure I have the motivation to give that much).
After a long uphill we pulled into Simpson Springs and reported in our numbers. I grabbed new water bottles and Jim stopped to fill his bottles and that is the last I saw of him. I was glad my brother-in-law had taken me out on the trail a few weeks earlier so I could see the sights like the Simpson Springs cabin and such because I didn’t really want to sight see during the race.
Shortly after Simpson Springs, the course takes another turn back to the west and you enter one of the toughest sections of the course. Not necessarily physically, but mentally, because the road goes on forever and you know you have to reach the mountains and they never seem to get any closer. When I stopped to get supplies at mile 19, I mentioned that I hadn’t seen anything of Jim for quite a while and was a bit concerned. There was nothing I could do, but I knew that Davy had a rule that if we got up to 5 miles apart, Jim would have to drop out.
About mile 21, Marcia passed me and Jim was now a passenger. He had to DNF at mile 19 when he stepped on a rock and felt a pop in his foot. I felt bad for him because I know how devastating my DNF was and because he was using my crew for his crew, he was stuck with us all day. But it was nice having an additional crew member. I got really spoiled. Marcia said that his ultrarunning perspective would help them determine when they needed to stop sooner and what items I might need.
I was maintaining a 8 minute running/2 minute walking routine for most of the initial portion of the race – except for walking the uphill into Simpson Springs. At this point I was on the long straitaway where you could see the road ahead of you for miles. It was already seriously hot and I was doing the best I could to take in fluids and foods and keep cool. I was enjoying the new posters my sister put out and it would make me smile each time she drove by with a new message on.
I think I passed the halfway point at 5:49 and marathon distance around 6:15. It was about the 25 mile mark when I started to seriously suffer. I could feel my legs still somewhat heavy from St. George 13 days earlier and the heat was zapping my insides. Took some Immodium to settle down the intestines, but the stomach was now bothering me. Nothing serious, but I couldn’t tolerate the thought of eating many foods. Some things would appeal to me for a short period of time, but often I would start to eat something and then spit it out because it started to gag me.
Starting around mile 25, I just focused on getting to the 50K mark and then trying to regroup. I was seriously down and concerned about my ability to finish for a while during this period, but would shake myself off and turn on some music or books on my iPod to help me take one step at a time.
I called a 10 minute sit down break at the 50K point. I set a new trail PR for that distance during the race at 7 hours 26 minutes. Sitting down felt so good. I really wanted to just have the entire cooler of water dumped on me. This heat made St. George Marathon look like a picnic. Marcia and Jim were helping me to clean up and wash my feet, change shoes, etc. I could feel some serious hot spots on my big toes and wondered if they were from the harder edges of my insoles. It turns out they were. A couple of decent blisters on each one, plus another blister on the bottom of my right heel that had Marcia concerned. We taped my feet up and then Marcia massaged my left foot. I had felt ‘cramping’ for 10+ miles in that foot and it turns out it was my neuroma flaring up – again I think that had to do with the insole because it had not happened before. The new shoes and socks felt wonderful and I was glad I traded them in.
Rest breaks were now down to every 3 miles or so. I wanted to make sure I got my walking poles for the hills up Dugway Pass. I thought those would help me power walk up the hill better. As I headed up Dugway, I had my head down and was just focusing on step at a time when I suddenly heard a rattle. I looked up and there was a rattlesnake about 2 feet in front of me. He was smaller then me, but I decided to cross the road and give him the right of way.
Marcia and Jim had stopped right before the Pass narrows and I was able to get some more fluids in me. I had been drinking lemon-lime Gatorade Endurance formula, but that wasn’t cutting it anymore. I couldn’t stand the thought of drinking another sip of that. I had thrown a few bottles of G2 in the cooler and suggested we try that. Since I was able to guzzle an entire bottle down before heading up the pass, that was a good choice. (Few calories, but water and electrolytes were needed).
On the way up the pass I thought it was interesting that I struggled more on the less steep portions and felt pretty good on the steep sections. I’m really glad I had the poles along. My legs were so tired and the addition of the upper body to the mix was very helpful.
One more sit down break at the top of the pass and then I headed down the downhill. By this point in the race I had given up on solid foods. I pretty well couldn’t even handle Ensure any more and had spit out all the beef jerky, peanut butter sandwiches and pretzels. I was able to occasionally force down a Gu, but even struggled with that. Water was about it.
The downhill hurt my stomach muscles incredibly. I almost started to cry from the pain, but decided to soldier up and get down the hill as fast as I could and just endure. Up until then, I didn’t know how tired my abs and lungs were. Had to battle a bit of nausea, but since I didn’t have much in my system, what little I had drank stayed down. I was able to run nonstop for a while and the different muscles used on the uphill and downhill enjoyed getting used (although enjoyed is not what my entire body was doing right then).
At mile 41 I received another boost as my Jeep pulled up alongside me with my son, Kevin, in it. He had come out to cheer me on in my great adventure. We talked for a minute or so, then I sent him on ahead and asked him to walk back and push me along at the next break. I was still running more than walking, but not for more than 2-3 minutes at a time. It really touched me that he had taken the time out to come on this long trip and support me.
With three people in my crew, I was really rocking the spoiling. I decided to try the walking poles again from 43-45 and actually got a second wind that allowed me to run almost that entire section. I think I was smelling the barn door at that time. I sure wish it had lasted longer, but it was a great feeling while it laster.
Miles 45-47 were another struggle, so I tried the poles again and they seemed to help me run more. I would use them to help me count 200 pole plants running, then 100 pole plants walking. It was between miles 46 & 47 that I started feeling some pain and discomfort in my left knee and hips. Not bad for the entire day. I had expected them a lot earlier, so was really pleased that they had held off that long. Plus, I knew that I would finish no matter what at this point in time.
It was a beautiful site to see Blackrock. Unfortunately, you have to go past Blackrock for .6 mile and then come back. I was soooooo tired at this point in time, and ready to be done. I touched the turnaround sign and headed back. It was a long way back. I bawled most of the way and had a big stupid grin on my face. I had requested my crew to come out and join me and we ran the final steps in together. Marcia put my finishers medal on me at my request and then we all hugged each other. What a day. Final time was 13:07. I was next to last, but couldn’t care less. I have now accomplished another one of my dreams.
It is impossible to describe all of my feelings about this race. My first marathon was incredible, but my first 50 mile finish is beyond incredible. I pushed my body past its limits and I learned a lot physically, mentally and spritually.
A couple of thanks need to be made:
Marcia – I really couldn’t have done this without you. Not only did you sacrifice your time, vehicle, and energy to helping me through this race, but your support over the years has meant more than I can possibly express.
Jennifer, Jeremy, Elise and Brad – Thank you for your support, the care package, and the signs. They made me feel so loved and helped me through some dark spots during the race. (I really like being a grandma – by the way!). Jenn – wish you could have been there, but I know you were in spirit.
Kevin – So glad you were there for me. To have you come out as sick as you were and cheer me on is causing me to tear up even as I write this.
I have an awesome family!