Up the mountain, down the mountain, repeat

Canyons 100K

How did I end up here?

About this time last year Kaycee won an entry into Canyons 100k for her service as an aid station volunteer for the 2016 race. What does she do? Turns around and recruits all her friends to run it too! Why not!? At the time I didn’t know that I was in States so I figured why not? Since Canyons is conveniently timed to be a good, hard 100K distance leading up to States and it’s a States qualifier I could kill 2 birds with one stone. I could either use it for a training run if I got into States, and I could use it at an early qualifier for 2018 if I didn’t. So what the heck, let’s go for it.

As time would tell I did get into States, so training run it is!

Leading up to race day, I don’t feel much in the way of race jitters or nervousness. Ultimately I need time on feet and I need to keep my pace per mile right around 17 min/mile or less. This will be a good indicator of how States will go for me. I just need to stay on course, stay ahead of cut offs, and keep moving forward.

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Photo credit: Jill Andersen

The day before starts off epic as always, meeting with friends for lunch at Hiroba to sushi up before heading over the hill.

Photo credits: Tiffany Brown Anderson & Kaycee Green

Setting up camp behind the school and settling in for some pre-race rituals of packing and un-packing, snacking and chatting. These people are a part of me.

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It’s not out of a plastic cup in a hotel room, but an aluminum cup in a campground is a perfect substitution for the occasion! I hit the hay around 9:30 and am out cold by 10, big day tomorrow.

The alarm goes off at 4:45 and we all start our morning shuffles and routines.

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I offer a prayer and a bargain with my feet. Climbing tape has been my go-to for helping with my plantar fasciitis and today is no different.

18194150_10154776164416026_2728902592555985286_nPhoto Credit: Tiffany Brown Anderson

The day starts off well, I get out a bit in front to avoid the huge line at the Volcano Creek crossing and hike with purpose up to Michigan Bluff making good time and chatting with a couple ladies from East Bay. Time flies by quickly and the next thing I know I’m jamming down to El Dorado. Quickly pass through the aid station and back up the hill headed towards the Pump where all my favorite people are volunteering their day!

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Seriously, how can you not love these people!!

First time through is a quick in and out, I’m feeling really good and want to take advantage of the high to make it down and back out of Devil’s Thumb. The going is slow, but steady and I carefully make it down to the turn around and start hiking back out. Right about now I start to worry about my girl Kaycee. I haven’t seen her on the turn around so I know she’s not in front of me. Tiffany and I start to keep our eyes out for her as we hook up on a train heading back up hill. As we spy a neon yellow hat and shorts I know that’s my girl. We shout out to her, but no response…must be in a bad place. We round the corner, go in for a hug and a little bit of trail stoke.

18194232_10154776197076026_6434907885556938273_nUnfortunately we can’t linger long, she’s gotta get to the bottom, and we’ve gotta get to the top. 

Back to the pump where I start to think about some ice and get some in the Buff, the hat, the bra, and load up on some ice and Tailwind in my pack, snacks, and a little bit of gear drop…won’t be needing the sleeves any longer it’s shaping up to be a warm day.

Some hugs, and some dancing on the way out, and we’re on our way back down to El Dorado. Trying not to push myself to blow the quads this early and I take my time walking a couple minutes every 10 minutes. I don’t linger long at El Dorado, I grab some Coke and keep moving looking forward to the uphill.

I neglect to re-ice my buff and hat….

At the top of the hill as I start to roll into Michigan Bluff and I do not feel well. Lightheaded, hot, and my stomach is not happy. I find a chair to plop in and try to figure out what went wrong….likely my neglect to ice at the bottom of El Dorado has landed me here.

I stand up, feel sick, and quickly loose the contents of my stomach into a trash can. 😦

No solids in there at all, not good. I need to eat something but I still don’t feel well. I grab a baby wipe to clean my face off and down some Sprite to try to gain back some of those calories that I just lost. Tiffany and I start walking out of the aid station and down the road back to Foresthill.

One foot in front of the other.

If I can just get to Volcano Creek, I soak in the cold water and can bring my body temp back down and maybe, just maybe I can start to eat again. So I make moves to get down to the creek and spend a full minute hip deep in the creek.

That snow melt water is absolutely glorious!

With renewed vigor I hike with purpose back up to Foreshill where I know that if I can make the cut off I need to run with purpose down to the river. I roll into a tunnel of some of my favorite people!

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I see Jason Riddle there and he has miraculous news…..he brought me a cheese burger.

Oh. My. God. Real Food. Yes Please!

Sit down in a chair for a second and have the volunteers fill up my pack with Tailwind even though I’m not sure I have it in me to get out of the chair. I grab the burger and start working on it, I swear it is the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

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Clearly pure joy at the prospect of real food!

With ample time to spare before the horn blows I tear myself out of the chair and start down the trail…bacon cheese burger in hand. Amy walks a bit with me down to California St. With her company and some real food getting into my stomach I start to feel much, much better.

I “run with enthusiasm” all the way down to Cal 1 where I think they were a bit surprised to see someone still on the course heading down to the river, I grab some watermelon, a gel and am on my way.

I need to make up some time.

Along the way to Cal 2 I see all the amazing women that I am honored to call my friends heading back up the hill on their way home. First it’s Jenny and I get a hug and a word of encouragement…well, more like “get the hell out of here and get to that river”. I pass Annie and I get a teary hug and a “get the hell moving, you’ve got this”. I pass Jackie and get a hug and this time it’s me that says “I gotta get the hell to that river”.

In and out of Cal 2 where DPMR takes great care of me, filling my pack, stuffing my pockets with GU and sending me on my way. I’m starting to get hungry again but the pretzels and jelly beans are not appetizing at all. I leave on a hope and a prayer that I can make it to the river before 7. I start to gain some ground, passing maybe a dozen or so runners that are also heading towards the river. Starting to feel a bit more confident about my chances I kick it into gear and blast down the switch backs to 20 minute hill.

I forgot about that one, shit.

Still making good time up and over, I start to see more of my Strider family as I hit the single track along the river. Andy, Stephen, Derek, EJ, Lauren…collecting hugs from each and tearing myself away each time saying “I’ve gotta make this cut off”.

I come up on Jeff who is walking now, and I say, “it’s not over till it’s over, let’s go!” and he follows for a minute but I soon loose him too.

I will not give up unless they say I can’t go on any more.

Then like a dream I see Brandon heading up the trail to meet me. He says, “I’m here to run you in, you can make it. We’re gonna own it, walk in, grab your drop bag and simply prepare to leave as if you’re totally good.” I feel totally good, so at least I don’t have to fake that.

We make it into the aid station 4 minutes past the cut off and I come face to face with the aid station captain. I am feeling strong and hopeful and she asks if I can make it back. I say, “yes absolutely.” She pauses to size me up and says, “OK.”

Yes!

Jimmy has grabbed my drop bag and I fish out my headlamp, a long sleeve, and the rest of my emergency snacks that I packed and leave the aid station with my head held high. I sure do wish I could’ve changed my socks and shoes, but I think that if the AS Captain had seen my feet she may have changed her mind.

Jason and I start trotting up the road and I’m glad for the company. He’s sweeping, but I figured I’m the last one anyway so at least I’ll have company. But alas, I start passing some of the other runners that just made it out of the aid station so unfortunately I loose my pacer/sweep.

I’ll have to run the first 60 miles of States solo anyway so I can do it now.

I make it back to Cal 2 and hike in strong with Brandon’s words in my ear, “own it and they’ll let you through” I grab some water and some snacks and see the trail carnage of some of the others that left Rucky Chucky just ahead of me in chairs…clearly not going on. I have the same thought, but they ask if I’m OK to keep going. I say, “yes, absolutely. I’m much happier going uphill”. They laugh and say, “well that’s good because it’s all uphill from here”.

I deflate just a little bit.

I know that it’s all up hill and I AM happier going up hill, but I’m tired and I really don’t want to go on. Looking at Sara she asks what’s up and I admit that I’m struggling with wanting to go on. She looks at me and says, “what would Kaycee say?”

Damn it.

I respond, “fine, I’m leaving!” I grab my pack and head off into the night to a round of cheers from the crew. I make OK time back to Cal 1 and am still moving strong. I know that there is a steep downhill to a flat right before Cal 1 and with Brandon’s words in my ear I want to make a good impression on the captain there to convince her to let me go on. I trot into Cal 1 and they ask if I’m the sweep. Once again I think I’ve surprised them that there are runners still on course. They ask if I need anything and I respond, “just a high five and the OK to go on”. They say, “yup, get out of here”…so I go.

Around the corner and out of sight I find a stump to sit on for just a second. I take a minute to text the girls that I’ve made it out of Cal 1 and I’m on my way home. Change up the music selection, put my long sleeve on and head uphill.

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Literally the ONLY picture I took all day was of this millipede, it was huge! I was going to put my finger down as a size reference, but in my ultra-haze I thought it might bite me.

As I continue hiking up the last of the switchback I hear a familiar jingle-jangle and although I don’t want to get my hopes up I have a feeling that it is Michael with our pup Lilly. I don’t let my hopes get up and start thinking that there better not be a dog-on-the-loose out here in the Canyons. As I round the corner I look up to two glowing eyes and a flashlight….and a familiar voice that says, “Michelle?”.

Oh My Goodness, it IS my husband and that familiar jingle-jangle IS our dog!

I tuck in for the biggest hug of the day and let just a couple sobs escape. I am so happy that he is here right now!

We hike and chat all the way back to Foresthill and it makes the last mile and a half or so go by so much quicker than it would have otherwise. Round that corner on Main St and find Sherri and Robert there to walk me in and a couple blocks later I see my pack of amazing women coming down to greet me! Grab both their hands and cross that finish line after 19 hours and change!

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Not the most flattering picture, I was just so happy to see my girls and to be done with this day. 

All in all it was a good day to be on the trail. Had lots of time on feet, learned some lessons about heat that I should’ve remembered from last year, and even earned a DFL prize.

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Thank you to all my amazing Strider Family for their undying love and support through this training cycle either during everyday bread and butter training runs and through these series of spring races that have “just been a training runs with aid stations”. You guys are part of me.

Thank you to Chaz, Pete, and Chris for putting on a great event and for keeping that finish line open for me till the very end.

And most of all, thank you to my husband who puts up with this crazy lifestyle.

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