I had signed up earlier this year to run the 72 hour race at the Silverton 1000 Multi-Day Run. This is one of the many race entries I had to cancel because of continuing issues with my foot. However, as the summer went on and I started running, the hunger and yearning to be back on the trails or even volunteering at races grew. It gnawed and me and was almost a physical ache to be back among the ultra running community.
A few weeks out from the Silverton races, I decided to volunteer at the races and try to see what kind of mileage I could do in the 24 hour race.
Shortly after noon on August 29, I loaded up the race vehicle and headed towards Colorado. I knew that I was not in race shape, but wanted to do what I could. I enjoyed the beautiful drive through Utah (except for work calling me repeatedly). All sorts of running dreams went through my head as I drove past Price, Green River, and Grand Junction. As I drove past Ouray, Colorado and started over the Red Mountain/Million Dollar Highway pass, I finally understood why the GPS said it would take an hour to drive 23 or so miles. Let’s just say I did a lot of praying and refusing to look anywhere but at the road for fear of plunging over the edge.
I was glad to arrive in the tiny town of Silverton and drive over to the race area. I had fun saying hello to my friends and race directors, Mark and Sharill Hellenthall as well as participants that I knew such as Shawna and Colby Wendtlandt and Ed and Martha Ettinghausen.
Since my race did not start until Sunday morning, I alternated my time over the next day and half volunteering where I could at the race (washing dishes in cold water was not fun), touring Silverton and making new friends.
I have mentioned Colby Wentlandt in the past. He is a 13 year old prodigy that has already accomplished the completion of several 100+ mile races. Unfortunately, when I went into the tent on Saturday morning, poor Colby was huddled in a chair looking miserable instead of running laps.
Colby had awoke shortly after midnight hurling up his stomach contents. We were worried that he had altitude sickness because he could not keep anything down and was really pale. His mother was really worried about him and questioning whether she end her race to take him home or keep running. I “took over Colby” and made it my job to keep him comfortable, entertained, and try to get some nourishment in him. It turned out that he has a nasty virus, but this made for an emotional race for him on top of a DNF the previous race he was in with a kidney stone. Colby continued cheering on other runners as they passed through the tent each lap. He was miserable and sad, but kept up a good face and even did a few laps each day as he could tolerate it (OK – he ended up with 100K – impressive).
Sunday morning I got up and dressed with some dread and excitement. I had had problems with altitude before (or so I thought) and had not done any training and this race was at over 9100 feet with 250 feet of vertical each mile loop. I did not know how much my foot would tolerate. My A plan was 50K, my B plan was 26 miles, my C plan was to go until my foot started seriously hurting. As my race started, I quickly remembered that I suck at uphills and we had a steep uphill each loop to the top of a ski lift. After that there was a gentle rolling downhill that I could run and then a section of flat around a lake and back to the start that I walked. I did several laps feeling really good and making new friends and enjoying the day.
The most interesting thing I found during this race was that on uphills I could actually use my entire left foot and put my heel down. It has been over 14 years since I did not have to “tip toe” with my left foot up steep inclines. This made me really happy and I actually think it helped my race as it stretched out the PF on the uphills.
Ed Ettinghausen AKA The Jester had really been struggling with altitude. We were all working together in our Jester Train to do what we could to help Ed in his quest for the world record of 100 mile finishes in the year. He was finally dealing with altitude on this last day, but tired after 160+ miles that week so we would follow him around helping each other out mentally to keep moving and conquer the uphills. The race changed directions every 6 hours. I still have not figured out if I hate the steep and short uphill direction more or the long and gentle uphill direction more. I found out that many of the stories I had heard of crazy and legendary ultramarathoners were actually The Jester in his pre-Jester days. We also made plans that I would help Ed out on another race in Utah in October if he could make arrangements.
After 22 miles and 9 hours, my foot was starting to hurt and I decided that it was better to call it quits before I got injured and be able to run another day. So good to make new friends, renew other friendships and – most of all – be back in the ultrarunning/trail running community.