Tuesday, June 22, 2010

San Diego 100- Race Report Part 2...the big day

Warning...this is VERY long.  I included many details because people asked what I thought about while running for so long without any music and I want to remember as much as possible forever. :)

Race morning
I stumbled out of bed and started getting ready.  Thankfully, I had packed my Ultimate Direction Wink pack days before with Gus (mostly non-caffeinated as I wanted to take as little caffeine as possible until night), ShotBloks, a small baggie with SaltStick capsules, chapstick, the pacing plan and topo maps, a baggie with advil/tylenol/Immodium, a baggie with toiled paper and wet ones.  I planned on filling the Camelback bladder with water and my Nathan handheld with Gatorade once we got to the start. 

So, I just had to focus on dressing and taping.  I downed a small cup of coffee and a bagel and then taped my left foot (low-dye method to prevent PF flareups) and had Alan use KT tape on my right ankle.  I then dressed and Body Glided tons...there can never be enough Body Glide on all parts of the lower body (lube everything is what I was told) and even on the upper body since the pack and shirt can chafe. 

What did I wear?  Skins compression shorts (men's XS), Skins compression calf stirups (with stirup part not being used), old running shorts, sports bra, wicking shirt that's slightly large (more sun protection), Moeben sleeves, Injinji socks, Brooks Cascadias and a neoprene brace on each ankle (nixed AirCast during drive to site thanks to wise advice from Alan).  The plan was to change shoes, socks, sports bra, top, shorts for overnight/daytime. 

We arrived at the Al Bahr site and had no problems parking.  I took the time to say hi to runners I know from RWOL, races, and the Socaltrailheadz and filled up hydration pack and bottle with water plus Nuun (no Gatorade at start).  Loaded up on Neutrogena's spray SPF100 sunscreen and said goodbye to Alan with tears in my eyes.  I had no idea how the day would turn out but I love him so much for being there for me and believing in me.  I kept thinking of how many injuries I endured during the past four months, how I was on crutches 6 weeks ago, and how I was starting a 100 miler with the determination to finish it. 

A few minutes we assembled outside at the start line.  Ryan and I gathered with someone he knew from Hawaii (Jan) and Tracey, someone I know from RWOL.  Our little group would stick together for the first part of the race, the most crucial.

                    Tracey, me, Ryan getting ready

                  Why am I doing this?!?!?!?!?!

Scott had said during the pre-race meeting that the race could not be won in the first 20 miles but that it could be lost during that time, so I knew how important it would be to start slowly and save our energy for later...not only would the course get tougher after mile 30, but that's when I would hit my unknown...I had never run more than 32 miles on trails and had zero clue if/how my body would handle it.  But for now, my focus was on getting to the first aid station and I know I can go 7ish miles easily!  Since my ankles are my weakness (literally), I was focused on carefully running...going slowly on rocky sections, picking up my feet instead of allowing them to drag when I get tired, and being aware of where my feet were landing.  Our team felt that if I avoided injury, I had a fighting chance of seeing that finish line.

The first 23.6 miles
The RD gave a very low-key start signal and I almost laughed at how slowly we took off...I'm not used to being at the back of the pack and it was weird to be running so slowly.  I knew that Ryan would make sure we paced it perfectly so I shuffled along.  Ryan, Jan, Tracey and I ran together and I focused on trying to get in rhythm and on holding back.  The first 7 miles we alternated walking with running and I had Ryan take the lead so that I wouldn't go too fast.  We loved climbing over downed trees and marveling in the beauty of the trail; it was lush and green, especially since this area had burned a few years prior.  Ryan snapped some pics as we trotted along.  I kept feeling a shooting pain from my left hip to knee and I got slightly concerned.  My right achilles was tight but felt better by the aid station.  The weather was perfect (cool, overcast) and I hoped it would stay that way.  We entered the first aid station a few minutes behind schedule but it was not a big deal as there were no cutoffs until later.  Alan topped off my handheld and I realized I should get some calories so I ate a piece of PopTart.  I had not been fueling and that I needed to get on top of nutrition fast.  Ryan had been reminding me to drink so I was okay with fluid consumption.

                   Minutes before the start

       Beautiful way to start...at 6000 ft

     The baby climbs

The next 6 miles were more the same and I enjoyed the ease of the trail but knew it would get harder.  I took a salt capsule about 90 minutes into the run and planned on taking one every 1-2 hours depending on temperature and how much I was sweating.  Ryan and I settled into a run 4 minutes, walk 2 minutes rhythm on the flats and it worked to keep us at a good pace, while saving energy.  Running 100 miles is all about energy conservation.  At the second aid station, I grabbed a few bites, got more sunscreen applied, topped off the handheld and said hi to Lorraine from the TrailHeadz; Alan and Jan's crew/pacer had joined forces so it made the stop easy as we were ahead of Jan at that point and they only had two of us to take care of.  I knew I would not see Alan at the next aid station so I snagged a quick kiss and had him take some pics before we ran off. 

  I "love" rocks, especially red ones

                  It's early:)

The next few miles were more of the same and we kept our average pace around 13-14 min/mile, slightly faster than what we planned but I felt like we were barely moving.  We continued walking anything remotely "up" and slowly running the flats and downhills.  The weird pain in my left leg continued and I developed a slight ache in my knee.  We enjoyed the beautiful scenery, including the foliage and streams...stunning and surprisingly green for a dry region.  The next aid station stop was more of taking in some calories to supplement the shotbloks I was consuming every 30 minutes.  I sucked down  my first Gu about 4 hours into the race and was feeling decently. I glanced at my watch when we hit 20 miles and noticed we did it in about 4 hours and 50 minutes, slightly ahead of schedule but not so much as to ruin our race.

       See why I love this?!

The aid station at 23.6 was a huge one since it would the last one where our crew would have access for about 21 miles.  I had told Alan how important it was that he be there; unfortunately, it was also the one where we had been warned that parking was difficult and our crews had been asked to get there as close to our ETAs as possible.  We arrived at the aid station a few minutes early and kept looking for Alan.  Ryan had planned on drinking his shake there and I was to get in about 200 calories with the Lite Muscle Milk.  Needless to say, I was irritated not to see the crew at such an important stop...and probably also irritable because I needed some sugar.  The aid station volunteers noticed my frustration and were beyond nice; they filled my hydration pack and bottle and kept offering me assistance as I griped to Ryan about wondering where Alan and Julie were.  People asked if we wanted to have a seat and wait but I knew that was the worst idea as I wanted to avoid the chair unless I was changing clothes. I grabbed a baby wipe, cleaned my face and applied sunscreen, ate some fruit and got some gels since I knew I needed those for the upcoming sections and I had only carried enough for the first 30 miles in my pack.

I took off for the porta potty to reapply BodyGlide and noticed what appeared to be my car parking down the road; Ryan ran to it and they pulled up as I exited the porta potty.  I, unfortunately, snapped at my boyfriend asking where they were and why they didn't get there early since I had mentioned we might be 15 minutes early.  Alan explained and, as he took care of Ryan and me, I realized how harsh I was being (and I think the sugary fruit kicked in and I felt better) and started apologizing...thankfully, before the race I had warned him that I might snap at him and he knew it was more my being nervous than really being mad.  I tried to drink the prepackaged Lite Muscle Milk to get in some calories and try out getting some protein; I could not finish it but did my best.  Alan dipped my bandana in ice water and I relished the refreshing feeling as I wrapped it around my neck...ah, the little things make such a difference.  Alan asked how I was feeling and I shot him the look of "don't ask" but he did and I had to whisper that my knee was hurting; I didn't want Ryan to know I was in pain so early.  Since we had spent longer there than desired, I finished up my needs and Ryan told me to go ahead and that he'd catch up.  I said good-bye and snagged another kiss and again apologized to Alan (and Julie), sad that I wouldn't see him for several hours and took off walking. 

Miles 23.6 to 51.3
Ryan quickly caught up to me, right after we passed the sign indicating we were entering Noble Canyon.  I had been warned by a course marker that Noble Canyon would be a brutal section.  I had taken in sufficient calories to feel a slight increase in my energy level but my stomach started hurting a little and I began questioning taking in more than 200 calories (and protein) at one stop.  The sugaryness of the Gatorade starting bugging me so I began drinking more water.  Sometime during the stretch I felt my legs getting tight and tired; I asked Ryan if he felt the same and he was feeling better than I was.  I tried not to let that get to me and just focused on power hiking the ups and running the downs without making stupid mistakes. I've never been so focused on making sure my feet land in "good" (non-rocky) spots and it demanded more concentration that typical.  The miles to the next aid station were pretty uneventful; Ryan listened to music off/on and at times I wished I had my ipod as the quietness alternated between pleasant and unpleasant.  I started to feel more fatigued as the sun popped out of the clouds and it got warmer but I knew we had lucked out with fantastic weather.  We enjoyed running by streams and the occassional, easy-to-naviate crossing.

    One of many stream crossings

     One of many GTTH moments

I was so happy to see the aid station around mile 31 and I devoured some watermelon and pb&j and pretzels, toweled off my face (loved the wet paper towel), dipped my bandana in ice water, and got ready for the 5 mile loop.  I saw a few familiar faces at the aid station, including Jeri who was rocking the course.  During the next section, we encountered a nice stream crossing and took advantage of dipping our hats in the cold water...we would do the same during several other stream crossings during the day section.  I started to struggle on the climb and Ryan recommended I suck on a Jolly Rancher to take my mind off it; it helped as I just watched the ground and power hiked.  We recommended we take it slowly since the next section had a big climb...the climb that I would later kept thinking was overnight.  We finished the loop and entered the same aid station as our last visit and I again sucked down watermelon, commenting how it was the best food imaginable.  I repeated the same routine of prepping for the next section, including getting a couple sips of soda. 

We were warned that a climb awaited us and, as soon as we left the aid station, we began what would be the hardest section.  I kept thinking what Billy, my pacer, had said...that if I could make it to mile 51, they would get me to the finish line.  So as we did an endless climb up a long, road I kept reminding myself to HTFU and just get to the top.  I focused on one foot in front of the other and somehow found myself ahead of Ryan who was wisely taking it very easy and I passed a few guys...one guy said I was making it look easy and I retorted that it was not easy!  I got to the end of the paved road and what I thought was the end of the climb...I stretched my hip flexors and chatted briefly with a guy who made it to the top and sat down.  I joined back up with Ryan and wondered where the downhill was...I asked Ryan if we could run and he said for us to keep walking and after a moment I knew why. I had not checked the pacing/race plan since the previous night and did not remember how long and tough the climb was for this stretch.

(You know it's tough when we didn't take any pics)  We soon began a seemingly endless, very technical climb.  I kept reminding myself of the need to be careful, to prevent stupid mistakes that could take me out with a sprained ankle or worse.  We passed several people on the climb and stuck with others who were also expressing their distaste in the section.  Even on the downhills we could barely run because of the rocks; I kept slamming my foot into rocks, even while trying to be careful about picking up my feet.  I knew I'd probably wind up with some mad blisters but it was better than falling.  I kept hoping not to die and even wondered how Alan would feel if I died by slipping on the rocks and falling off the mountain...even being extra careful did not make that possibility go away.  I continued perfecting almost falling..I'd trip on something and then catch my balance; that was something I did so many times during the race that if I had a dollar for each almost-bust-my-butt, I'd be off to an exotic country with plenty of cash.  By the time I knew we were close to the aid station, I could not wait to see our crew, including Billy and Lori. 

When I saw the AS, I took off running as fast as I could...Rob saw us coming and was there snapping pics of my pissed-off self.  I flew into the area cursing mad about that stretch; Ryan ambled in a few moments later in a much jollier mood....must be that laid-back Hawaiian spirit.:)  I gulped down a few sips of the Lite Muscle Milk, said hi to the crew, and griped about that section to no-end.  I grabbed a different Garmin, tied a jacket around my waist, stuck my backup headlamp in my pack, and hit the aid station table to get some more fuel.  Somehow the cheeseburger Billy offered sounded like the last thing I could imagine eating.  I got a laugh when the volunteer asked Ryan if he need anything and Ryan asked for a gun...lol!  I wanted to get back out there because that last section had taken longer than anticipated and I questioned how fast I could do the next section...the fear of the cutoff pushed me out of the aid station; Ryan ran back for a long-sleeve shirt and I started walking.

    Note the look on my face....

The next section was beautiful but had us on the edge of a cliff and I again hoped my legs were strong enough to stay on the trail and I focused on not tripping and dying.  I could not gaze at the gorgeous scenery much as I didn't want to make any stupid errors.  45 miles of technical trails is MUCH harder than a 65 miler on pavement and my legs were feeling like they did near the end of that run.  We caught up to a lady whose voice I recognized from PCT50 and we exchanged race stories; she was also concerned about the cutoffs so we pushed ahead.  Ryan was having some chafing issues and I felt badly moving ahead of him but I know how fast and superb of a trail runner he is and that he'd catch up to me.  That lady and I caught up to a guy (Art?) who was also doing his first 100; he had trained on all of the course and he gave me insight into the night sections...advice that I would share with the others and use to gauge when/how to push through those stretches.  I was following Art's run/walk plan and then Ryan came racing up; I think he knew how close to our ETA we were and he had huge burst of energy...he flew past me and I struggled to run fast enough on the downhill to keep him in sight.  We killed the last few miles of that section, which was good since it was almost nighttime.  I was so happy to see my crew and get ready for the night.  My stomach was starting to hurt and I decided to avoid the Muscle Milk and to limit my protein intake.

     Another stunning climb

       Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous way to see the sunset

       wow!  Can I go back?!

Lori and Billy took care of getting us food from the aid station, helping us change, and getting us pumped up for the night section.  Alan and Rob took care of getting us ready.  I yanked off the KT tape from my right ankle (guess it can last for days but not for 50 miles on trails) and was very pleased the tape was still good on my left foot (duct tape rocks).  Alan helped clean my dirty feet and even offered to pop the huge blister on my right big toe; I opted against it as I didn't want to risk infection and the blister was not affecting my running.  I was in a hurry to change so I quickly yanked off my top and sports bra much to the surprise of my crew...I threw on my next one, had Alan help body glide my back and pulled capris over my compression shorts; I hoped that I'd be able to wear that combination of clothes since I never tested my night clothing!  I slipped on clean Injinis after Alan applied a ton of Body Glide and put on what would become my favorite shoes, my Inov8 Roclites.  I kept on my Moeben sleeves because it seemed very cold.  I cracked up when I said I needed Body Glide and Billy, not knowing where I meant, offered to help...gotta love the helpfulness of my awesome pacer but thankful I could take care of that job myself.  Pacers and crew don't have to help runners with everything.  Our team almost pushed us out of the aid station and I appreciated their drill sargeant attitude as we didn't have time to waste.

      It's like NASCAR pit stop for runners


Miles 51 to 80
We raced out of there with time now on our minds (or at least on my mind).  Ryan and I had entered the aid station about 50 minutes ahead of the cutoff and we left there around 8:30pm.  We had decided on a "conga line" order- Billy, me, Ryan, Lori.  Since I had almost zero night running experience, Billy would help light the course for me and would point out things like rocks so that I could just run.  Lori would be our safeguard against mountain lions as we figured she would be most likely to survive an attack (j/k).  We we running faster than I expected and I smartly didn't try to keep at that pace; I told Billy what I needed...walk ups and slowly run downs.  He got us in a great rhythm and I got comfortable with night running over the next several miles; Art had said this night section was the easiest and that the following two would be harder.  So we cruised along, with Ryan and Lori providing comedic relief.  My knee was bugging me but I mentally resolved to wait until at least mile 60 to take ibuprofen.  Billy and I chatted and I enjoyed having his guiding me...I kept hitting rocks with my feet and he reminded me to lift my feet.  It was warmer than we expected and I ended up taking off my jacket and pushing down my sleeves.  We took a few pictures and I loved being with my friends on the trails on a gorgeous night.  It was a new moon so it was dark but the sky was dotted with stars, making for a perfect evening.  My fingers were swelling slightly so I started to monitor my salt intake and Billy did an excellent job of staying on top of me about nutrition, etc., as did Ryan and Lori.

              Clowning around in the dark and it's not even a full moon!

We ran into the next aid station at mile 58.9 and Alan was not there.  Billy called him and found out he was at the next aid station as he had taken a wrong turn; I was just relieved that he was okay since I was afraid of his being tired and driving during the night.  We got some fuel and I wanted to get out as soon as possible since I was still worried about the mile 87.5 cutoff and was hoping to put time in the bank.  The aid station had a selection of warm food but I chose pb&j, what had worked for me well during the race.  We got out of there after saying hi to Rachel Spatz, who was there to pace.

                Look at the spread....love aid stations at ultras

The next stretch (miles 59 to 64.2) was very rough for me.  My knee pain was getting worse and the forever, steep climb on rocky terrain made it very painful.  I started to get dizzy and Billy got even stricter about monitoring my caloric intake.  Somewhere in the early 60s, I finally broke down and took 200mg of ibuprofen.  Ryan and Lori were joking around and it helped to get my mind off the climb and the excruciating pain I felt with every step; I felt badly for not being able to talk much but knew they'd understand.  We caught up to Tracey and others who were also hating that climb.  At times I had to ask Billy to slow down and he did a fantastic job of making sure I was okay; the downhill into the next aid station was very hard on my knee but I managed to run off/on down it as the ibuprofen kicked in and made things bearable.  Ryan and Lori hung with us, even though I know they could have raced ahead...I felt like I was slowing Ryan down but I enjoyed the time our team was running together.

At the Paso Picacho aid station (mile 64.2), I was so happy to see Alan; I went to the car and he applied Salonpas patches to my knees and I said I had no idea how I could last 36 more miles with the pain I was having; he reassured me that I looked great and that we had plenty of time to make cutoffs and could slow down if necessary.  We had arrived about 20 minutes ahead of our pacing plan and that meant we were still okay for the upcoming cutoffs, though I questioned if I could manage to keep up pace with the knee pain.  Billy made me drink a little soup broth since my fingers had swelled.  I quickly drank it and then told Billy that I wanted to get out of the aid station quickly and that I knew Ryan and Lori could catch up; I was worried about having a bad stretch, slowing down, and missing cutoffs.

The next section was also tough but I felt relief in my knees thanks to the Salonpas and my legs felt stronger than they did during the previous section.  Ryan and Lori caught up and we enjoyed more time together, which was captured in one of the few videos Billy shot.  I was happy to be doing well running at night and decided to risk motion sickness by using my flashlight the whole time; it helped my running ability and Billy and I picked up speed.  At some point we were separated from Ryan and Lori and it bugged me but I knew that they are such strong runners that it was only temporary.  The miles ticked by quickly and I enjoyed not seeing how far climbs were, the sense of being in nature and just running...it was an incredible feeling.  I was climbing faster on this stretch and decided to go with how my body felt, taking advantage of less pain to gain some time.

I continued what had become a routine to maintain my sanity and ensure that I did everything I needed at an aid station; about a mile before an aid station, I would mentally and verbally run through what I needed during the stop.  I was on a mission not to lose any time in the aid stations as that would give me more time on the trail.  My flashlight died right as we were entering the aid station at mile 72.3; I ran in yelling for Alan, as I had taken to doing so that he would know it was us coming (all you could see of other runners was a light).  He quickly changed the battery while I downed a sip of soda, two bites of a Cliff bar and a mini-bagel; I kept thinking we had big climb during the next stretch so we got in and out of there quickly after Alan used duct tape to secure Salonpas to my knee.  We checked in with Ryan and Lori who came in minutes after us; they understood my desire to gain some time and I appreciated that.  I snagged another mini-bagel to chow on during the next section and off into the dark we went.

             " Can we take pics in the dark?" test photo

We walked/ran with two other guys for awhile and Billy and I later remarked how it's hard to talk to people in the dark since you couldn't see who they were...at least I got to figure out who they were later but was so out of it at the finish that I didn't get to chat.  We powerwalked for awhile and Billy consulted the elevation profile to determine when the climb would start; we got sick of waiting for the climb and began doing walk/run.  My knee pain didn't subside like it did before so every step became painful but the thought of being so close to the finish line propelled me forward (lol...never did I think I'd consider less than 30 miles short!).  The extra calories or adrenaline gave me a huge boost and, when we hit the long, gradual climb, I began powerwalking up it faster than I knew I could so late into a race; we passed so many people and Billy asked a couple of times if I really wanted to go so fast.  I wanted to take advantage of my energy and feeling strong and so we surged ahead.  I even went straight through a muddy area because I didn't take the time to slow down and find a way around it! 

As daylight approached and we got closer to mile 80, I felt so giddy. Billy said he hoped we'd be somewhere pretty for sunrise and I responded that it wouldn't matter where we were; we'd be on the trails rocking the final stretch of the race...not what he meant, but to me the world was amazingly beautiful.  As I saw the 80.3 aid station, I tried to run and managed to walk/run despite increasing knee pain.  I started fighting back tears because I knew I was entering the last phase of the race and I was so happy to see my crew, especially my boyfriend.

We entered the Sunrise (how appropriate!) station around 5:20, 70 minutes ahead of my projected time and 100 minutes before cutoff.  Alan went to work helping me take off my night gear, cleaning my feet, applying more Body Glide, putting on clean socks/clean shirt.  I opted not to brush my teeth as I wanted out of there and it took me forever to put on the socks/ankle braces and favorite shoes.  Rob helped us finish getting ready for the day section and the guys were ready for Lori and Ryan who entered within minutes of our leaving.

            Look like crap but stoked 4/5 done with race and no sprained ankle! Alan all business:)

Miles 80.4-FINISH!
The next stretch included a little downhill, which we ran, and then had a technical climb.  My knee had not responded to the second 200mg ibuprofen pill and I hated telling Billy that it looked like we'd be speedwalking the last 20 miles.  Every ounce of me wanted to run and I had the energy but my knee hurt with every step and attempting to run made the pain unbearable, plus I was worried that running could cause worse problems and I didn't want a DNF so late in the race. During the climb, we had the pleasure of running (powerwalking) with Monica Scholz, who was doing her 99th 100 miler!  The scenery was incredible and, despite my pain, I loved being out there...the best sunrise and morning ever!  When we hit the downhill, I again loathed having to walk but knew I could walk fast and that walking and finishing was better than quitting.  Quitting was not an option.

     Cheering for an incredible sunrise

            You can't help but smile looking at the scenery

It was growing warm and I was very happy to near the 87.5 mile aid station.  Billy ran ahead so that he could tell Alan and Rob what I'd need.  I hobbled in, rubbed some Icy Hot on my ice (didn't help), while Alan filled my handheld with Nuun/water.  It was a pleasure seeing Jimmy Freeman out there; he filled my hydration pack with tons of ice and gave me advice on how to protect my knee and speed walk.  He reminded me it was less than a half marathon to go and Rob and Alan encouraged me with how far ahead we were and how good we looked (yeah, right).  We had entered the station 90 minutes ahead of projected and 2 hours ahead of cutoff.  Jimmy told us about the remainder of the course, which helped prepare me for the last "bad" climb.

                   Billy running ahead

The next stretch had some uphill but nothing too brutal...on a normal day with no knee pain.  I wanted to make it until late in the race to take another ibuprofen but I couldn't handle the pain and I took one during the stretch; unfortunately, it didn't help.:(  I was now beyond the point where finishing the race was predominately mental.  I wanted that belt buckle; I wanted to succeed and I could deal with the pain to get there.  I longed for music and Billy must have read my mind because he put on some Journey and then played other tunes I loved (in between tweets, of course).  Thankfully, we have similar taste in music...something I discovered during the last 12 miles.

The aid station at mile 91.5 was the one hosted by Steve and Ann Harvey and I giggled seeing Steve running towards us not far from it; I figured he couldn't resist hitting the trails for some running!  I was sooooo happy to see my friend Deirdre who was volunteering at the station and to see Alan and Rob.  They commented that we were making good time and, looking back, we were 100 minutes faster than expected and had made the cutoff by over 2 hours.  We made it a quick stop, just getting an ice cold bandana and topping off fluids and snagging some quick fuel.  With less than 10 miles to go, I wanted the race done.  I knew I could finish but I had heard so many stories about people DNFing in the final miles that I continued to be careful.

The next miles were very painful and I was dying inside as I HATED not being able to run because of my knee. My legs and body had the energy so I moved as fast as I could.  Walking at that pace can be harder than running and I felt badly for Billy.  We had a climb, which, as Jimmy had warned, felt very tough.  I didn't look up and just kept my head down, putting one foot in front of the other.  I was getting sleepy at this point thanks to very little caffeine and no sleep; I accidentally took non-caffeinated Gu and had forgotten to drink any Red Bull.  I told Billy I was tired and he cracked me up when he told me to stop whining!  That's what I needed to hear at that point.  Ryan and Lori flew past us during this stretch and I was in awe of their running the uphills so late in the race; those two rock!  Hearing their shouts of encouragement gave me a mental boost.  The last aid station was nice break from climbing and powerwalking; the volunteer filled my hat with ice, drenched my bandana in cold water and off we went.

The next 3.9 miles were relatively flat and I knew that if I could walk fast, I'd finish under 29 hours.  Previously Billy had commented he wanted to get me in under 30 hours and I didn't tell him that we were an hour ahead of that.  We walked as fast as we could (about 16 min miles...fast so late in a race) and I mentally counted down the miles, while enjoying the scenery.  We were back where I had started the day before and I felt like that was very appropriate way to end this journey.  Billy ran ahead of me when we entered the camp area and I kept trying to run but it wasn't worth it.  When I could hear people yelling my name, I found that extra gear and pushed through the pain to sprint to the end.  I couldn't believe the clock...28:24!  I had been fighting back tears off/on for the last few hours and I continued doing that...I was so happy and so appreciative of everyone who made it happen.  My BF and friends are the best!  Finishing the race was incredible...finishing over 2.5 hours ahead of the time limit was the icing on the cake.

        The "sprint" to the finish

    I had to look twice to believe my eyes

          A congrats from Billy...fighting back tears and wanting a hug/kiss from Alan:)

Minutes after finishing...
Alan was taking video and it captured how delirious I was...I somehow thought I finished in 28:34.  I thanked the incredible race director and told him how awesome the volunteers were and how well marked the course was.  I was in a daze but managed to get my buckle and shirt and chill with Billy, Lori, Ryan, and Rob, while Alan got my stuff from the car.  I made my way to the foot care guy (another awesome volunteer) to get the huge, enormous, disgusting blister popped...it was the one that developed before mile 30 and just got worse over 70 miles.  The pain of his popping it, combined with a lack of blood sugar and exhaustion, caused me to black out and become very nauseous.  That nausea lasted until an hour later when we got back to the hotel and I ate a piece of pizza. Alan, of course, continued to take care of me by getting ice for my ice bath and getting us food and drinks. He crashed but I couldn't sleep thanks to the adrenaline rush and my aching knee. 

Ending thoughts...
  •  100 miles with 16,000 feet of climb on technical terrain is hard!!!  It was way more mental than physical for me; I lacked the training, especially night and technical training, but had the determination to finish.  But my team (Team Sanchez) was instrumental in keeping me focused on finishing and reminding me that I COULD do it and in helping me get there and 2 hours faster than I thought possible...that's just crazy!
  • Alan is beyond amazing.  I can't express how much he helped me out during the race; even just knowing I'd see him at the aid stations gave me such a boost.  He took care of me and all of us so well and deserves major props for that.  See why I love him so much?!  (I'd say more but then it'd get cheesy and make everyone want to barf)
  • Rob was so awesome in driving down and taking care of all the stuff that came up during the race; I loved having him as my crew and his being there helped me gain precious minutes and some sanity.
  • Billy did a perfect job of pacing me.  Having a pacer who knows when to push you and how to deal with you is crucial and he nailed all of that.  I talk at times and,  many times, don't feel like talking as I need to focus on running/making sure my feet land in the best spots; he didn't talk too much or too little...it was just right.  Without his reminders about nutrition, I would have crashed.
  • Without Ryan, I would have DNFed.  He made us set up a smart race plan, guided me through all my nerves for months leading up to it, and paced us perfectly to ensure that we did the first 50 miles exactly as planned.   He reassured me when I was struggling and made sure I made it.  I know he could have run the course so much faster without me, so I'm so happy that he did as we planned and stuck with me, helping me realize my goal.  
  • Lori's so sweet and I almost cried just from hearing her say how proud of me she was.  Seeing her experienced, calm, smiling self starting at mile 44 gave me a huge boost.  Her jokes during the race and her caring, bedside manner after the race got me through some of the roughest times...it was exactly what I needed to get back on track both times.
  • The course was the best marked course EVER
  • The volunteers were beyond incredible.
  • The race director is a class act.
  • My body does not like consuming too much protein during a race.  I was able to listen to my body, balance my water/electrolyte and food needs better than expected and that was key....my team did an excellent job of helping me figure that out along the way.
  • Special thanks to Jonathan Gunderson for advice and tips (some individual, some in his RRs).  And thanks to other ultra runners from whom I've learned so much!!!
  • The race was the best 28 hours and 24 minutes of my life...I got to spend time with my friends and boyfriend in a gorgeous area doing what I'm passionate about...pure joy!!!


  1. Awwww... that video made it all worthwhile-- TEARS for you, on the realsies! Especially when you thanked Alan. Class act all the way, Rachel... I'm so glad you had a killer race!

  2. whoa, Lori went for a feelski! Congratulations once again on your 100 miler! I will never follow you guys into the ultra realm. :)

  3. Fantastic report, congratulations to you and your crew. You all are truly inspiring.

  4. Wonderful! Your report made me feel like I was right there. Super proud of you and kudos to; Ryan, Billy, and Spandy. Alan is the bomb!! I'm sure this won't be your last 100 miler:)ocmom

  5. Congrats Rachel! What an intense journey.

  6. What. A. Weekend.

    Rachel - I hope it goes without saying that I'm just so incredibly proud of your amazing feat, especially considering the uncertainty leading up to the big event.

    You seriously rocked it and then some, and being able to share those almost 50 miles on the trails w/ ya during your first 100 was both an honor and a pleasure. Ok...mostly an honor as I don't know how 'pleasurable' running these insane distances are.

    I laughed during that video when I heard who I think was Shacky + Lori going "go back for her" and "I can't believe he left her". FOR THE RECORD, I merely ran ahead to get the crowd going as I wanted her finish line experience to be one she'd never forget. That, and I wanted her to have the finish all to herself. And yes - I cleared all this w/ Rachel beforehand.

    Anyway, congrats again Rach. Your determination, mental stamina, ability to block out pain, etc...all very inspiring. And I'd do it all over again in heartbeat if ya asked me to :)

    Rest up (til our next crazy adventure)!

  7. One word Rachel - WOW! I am actually kind of left speechless. What an accomplishment. I can completely understand the lure of the race. Way to get the mind to give the body the big finger and push through the pain.

    This goes down in the hall of AWESOMNESS!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  8. OK, that was awesome. For the first time ever, I actually want to run one of those. That was awesome. I want to run that with you, Billy, Lori and Ryan pacing me. What an awesome experience, awesome report, awesome video ... AWESOME! :)

  9. Wow, Rachel, congratulations!! What a great report! I love reading first time 100 miler RRs, they are always so inspiring!

    You did it!! There's absolutely nothing quite like attempting your first hundo and actually finishing it, too. We are part of a rare breed of ultrarunner and I hope you are SUPER proud of yourself! Everything kinda takes on new meaning after an experience like that, and I hope it's as positive for you as it was for me :)

    So, what's next?????

  10. What an amazing accomplishment! Truly not an "everyday" person sort of feat. It is amazing all the details you were able to remember. Really great notes to other people running this sort of distance. Truly admirable. Thanks for sharing such an amazing experience!

  11. Thanks for linking your report via the Ultralist, Rachel -- we otherwise would have missed out on reading it. It was richly detailed, suspenseful, inspiring and, most of all, a truly fun "you-are-there" experience. My first 100-mile finish was at San Diego, too, but it was during the 2009 (i.e., "easier") course! You achieved this great milestone on what is probably the most monstrously difficult San Diego course yet, so take a bow and CONGRATULATIONS!

  12. Congrats, Rachel! You must have such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment right now. I hope your knee is feeling better, I'd love to take a look at it for you if you, need anything let me know.
    It's wonderful to see your smiles, even as you were suffering, you were focused on the positive. You're a great example!

  13. My favorite part:
    "Do you need anything?"
    "A BEER!"

    I trained you well! Haha. Congrats, again, on an awesome job. I'm so proud of you. And for the record, I did not sucker you. I just enabled you. So, when is our next one? Badwater?

  14. Wish I had a better layout so I could comment on individual posts...
    Thanks for such positive comments...means a lot to me and you all brought tears to my eyes!

  15. Awesome! That is an amazing course and you tore it up.

    I have read your blog in the past and wish we would have had a chance to meet at SD.

    Congrats again!

  16. I'm a bit late but have been saving this to read in a whole.

    Needless to say congratulations, with all the ups and downs in your training it seemed like it was going to be touch and go. But with good friends good pacing and big heart anything is possible!

    Thanks for writing up such a detailed report there's a lot to be learned from other peoples experiences.

    Congrats again...see you out there!

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