I attempted to run 100 miles over the weekend. I quit at mile 47. After last year’s amazingly fun Cascade Crest, I knew this year would present a different challenge, but I wasn’t sure what.
I had goals set in this priority.
1) Do not suffer. This coincides with goal #4.
2) Have fun. This is not hard because this hometown favorite race is stacked with people I admire.
3) Finish. “You never know what’s going to happen in a hundred miler.”
4) Consume more calories than on any previous given day of my personal existence.
5) Do better than last year, but don’t worry if you don’t. It’s more important to finish.
6) Do the same as last year. (But don’t worry if you don’t. It’s more important to finish because 100 miles is a long way.)
7) Do worse than last year. (And don’t worry if you do. It’s most important to finish because 100 miles is a long effing way and impressive no matter how long it takes to complete.)
Goal #1) Do not suffer. This coincides with goal #4.
There was no real suffering in my attempt to complete 100 miles. I had a benign fall at mile 33. I started to get a strange clenching sensation in the back of my thigh by mile 34. It was different from anything I had felt before, but it did not cause me to suffer. I geared down thinking the cramp would work itself out. By mile 40 I had fallen 3 additional times because I kept tripping. I was starting to suspect the cramp was something worse.
Seven miles later, at mile 41, I approached Kathy and Ras Vaughn’s aid station. I had been looking forward to seeing them since I started the race, not only because they are Washington ultra-running legends who completed the Arizona trail together this year, and earlier in the week Ras completed a completely self-supported trek on the 500 mile section of the Washington PCT without any food restocks, but also because I knew they would help patch me up. They both massaged the area of concern and Ras applied his ‘old man cream,’ AKA Biofreeze,to the painful area.
I walked out of the aid station, but it would only take me about a quarter mile before I realized running would not be much of an option from here since the pain in the back of my thigh continued to get worse. But despite this, I did not suffer.
Goal #2) Have fun.
Fun was the name of the game here. After all, Alicia, my pacer from last year who was running this year in her first ever 100 miler had started a Facebook group to coordinate our crews and called it “Cascade Crest Team Fun.” Just knowing that I had 3 friends who were running this year because Tim and I had inspired them last year made this race fun and fulfilling. As I ran along on the trails, I thought of each of these folks–Alicia, Jon Karlen, and Megan Kogut,–and I couldn’t help but smile. I was willing them to be successful and sending them strong ‘do not suffer’ vibes.
I met fun people along the trail and had the privilege of starting my run with cool folks like Matt Hagen who most profoundly influenced my 100 mile attitude when I saw him roll into the 63 mile aid station in the middle of the night 2 years ago when everyone else looked like death-warmed-over. Matt told jokes and laughed and thanked volunteers profusely for giving him luke warm broth of some flavor. I wanted to emulate him, and I consciously did last year at that same aid station.
I ran with Jordan Maki-Richards who I had met a couple times before this race. We chatted away for the first few miles. This first time 100 mile finisher went on to finish as 2nd place female, and I am so excited for her!
Best friends Broeck Jones and Adam Gaston, who Tim paced to his first 100 miler finish at the 2012 Cascade Crest and who inspired us to take on the 100 mile challenge, showed up to pay me a surprise visit at mile 33. They had devised an elaborate lie (liars!) that they were flying to France on the day of the race so would not be able to come and support me on this day. So sneaky, those ones! I nearly shed happy tears seeing them there.
I also ran a significant portion of the course with my old time running buddy, Kevin Smythe, who fought for and completed his first 100 miler this year. He was with me when I had what I thought was THE benign fall, but what I now think was the fall that caused me to strain my hamstring and quit the race. We ran together and I tripped, falling right in front of him. He kindly asked, “Are you OK?” as I jumped up and said, “Yup, didn’t hurt at all, actually.”
My crew consisted of Kaitlin O’connell and Scott Caparelli who had never attended a trail race before. Kaitlin has recently started running trails to prepare for her trip across Spain on the el Camino de Santiago, a trail Tim and I ran last year as part of our training for Cascade Crest. Scott is an avid cyclist. We three work together in vaccine research. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered the value of a researcher as crew until now! Researchers are detail oriented and bossy, but these two do it in a funny way. Kaitlin with her finger wagging in my face, “Oh, nah-ah, you didn’t drink you’re orange juice.” Scott working diligently to make sure everything was packed comfortably and in the right spot in my bag. They made me laugh each time I came through the aid stations. Scott wore colored shirts (he never wears any color except blue or black) and Kaitlin wore costumes including a black and white striped onesie with a black and white polk-a-dotted hat.
Goal # 3) Finish.
I walked the 6 miles out of Kathy and Ras’ aid station to the 48 mile aid station and with each step, I realized that not a single additional running step would be taken and that walking was growing more and more difficult. I cried the ugly cry on the trail when I was by myself as the reality of not finishing set in. I made it to the aid station and without even saying hi to Julie and Seth who had now joined Team Fun, (that wasn’t very fun, was it?!) I announced my need for a team meeting. I explained what was happening and had decided that before completely quiting, I would sleep for a couple hours to see if this cramp would relent. With thick layers of dirt covering my legs, Seth was generous enough to invite me to cuddle up in the back of his truck in his sleeping bag (Seth was not in the truck or sleeping bag, FYI). Tim crawled in with me, spooning me. Then I couldn’t help it, I cried. I felt Tim’s arms squeeze tightly around my chest for a hug. I realized this was such a selfish thing to cry over. I reminded myself that people in the world have real problems compared to these. But I couldn’t help it.
I cried for many reasons:
1) I wanted to run through the night with Julie Cassatta, my teammate for the Olympic Coast Challenge. She had made the effort to come from Seattle to pace me from mile 48-68. She told me she had secrets to tell me, and I wanted to hear them! I also wanted to hear all about her trip to the World Championships in Orienteering the previous weekend and how her race there went.
2) I wanted to have a date night with my husband who was planning to pace me from mile 68-100. He had made me a special playlist to listen to and was going to dress up so we could emulate our iconic photo in the Washington Trails Calendar, Miss August. He was going to be a much uglier version of Alicia with a matted fire engine red wig, a jean shirt with a yellow shirt underneath, the identical tutu, pack, and gloves. I had intentionally worn the same exact outfit as I wore last year in preparation of that shot and we had contacted Takao, the photographer, to make sure he would be in position. Just the thought of that hobo-style photo poking fun at me makes me laugh. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to pull that off made me sad, partly because it was the secret I had been keeping from Alicia for weeks! Here’s my best rendition of what that moment looked like in my head.
3) Aggie, another of my pacers from last year, had come and was waiting to meet me at a later aid station. I really wanted to see her.
4) I really wanted Kaitlin, Scott, Tim, Julie, and Seth to run from mile 96 to the finish with me. I was also hoping I might see Sarah, another co-worker there who had threatened bringing a trumpet. That would have been a nice accompaniment to our trombone, clarinet (Thank you Wendy!), a fluorescent orange recorder, and a ukulele that we were planning to carry with us to the finish. It was just a funny side note that none of us knew how to play them. Who cares about that!
5) I wanted to see all my friends who were volunteering at aid stations on the rest of the course. I knew they would heap praise and adoration on me and who doesn’t love that?
6) I wanted to feel that amazing feeling of finishing this very difficult thing while having a crazy amount of silly fun. It’s a feeling that’s indescribable and that filled me with happiness for months after last year’s finish. I was looking forward to sharing that feeling with all my friends who were also finishing.
7) I wanted to do the ice bucket challenge at mile 96 in honor of colleague Hallie Phillips and her partner, Jeremy. Jeremy has ALS, and Hallie explained to me earlier in the week what a fun distraction the ice bucket challenge has been for them. This is one of those real world problems that reminded me that not finishing a 100 miler was actually not important at all. That, and I thought of my friend Kiki, who was my dynamic and energetic translator when I traveled to Indonesia 10 years ago for medical relief work after the catastrophic tsunami where more than 100,000 people lost their lives. Kiki fought a hard fight in a treatment-poor part of the world and the week before the race, she passed away from untreatable leukemia at the age of 29.
And, so, I cried, but those thoughts took about 1 minute to run through my head, and by the time I got to #7, I was screaming to myself, ‘Get yourself together!’
Goal #4) Consume more calories than on any previous given day of my personal existence.
I was doing really well and my calculations tell me that I had consumed around 3500 calories by the time I quit. I am very proud of this effort because eating that much is not easy.
Goal #5) Do better than last year, but don’t worry if you don’t. It’s more important to finish.
Goal # 6) Do the same as last year. (But don’t worry if you don’t. It’s more important to finish because 100 miles is a long way)
Thanks to excellent fueling (refer to Goal #4), I felt great in my body with the exception of this clenching in my leg. I was feeling positive that I would beat my time from last year and possibly go under 24 hours. But, 50 miles left to cover meant anything could have happened, and I was sad that I would not find out what the outcome was going to be and where I would meet my bodily limit this day.
Goal #7) Do worse than last year. (And don’t worry if you do. It’s most important to finish because 100 miles is a long effing way and impressive no matter how long it takes to complete.)
??? Did I do worse? DNFing isn’t really what I had in mind for this goal.
This is my 2nd DNF. My first, was at a 50 miler that I should not have attempted because I had a very bad respiratory illness.
I hated quitting, but I LOVED what I was able to do after quitting, like going to the mile 68 aid station and crewing Jon and Megan. Also seeing Van there and realizing (again) what guts it takes to make a decision to keep going until your body literally will not go any more. I also appreciated being able to meet Alicia and her crew at mile 96 to encourage her to run, not walk the final miles, then quickly driving her car to the end to see her finish with her energetic crew of unicorns.
I was able to stay all day at the finish line to extend my congratulations and also the giant Olympic torch to those willing to carry it across the finish line. Seeing Jon Karlen and Megan Kogut complete this distance and hearing them both immediately say, “That was fun!” was exceptionally rewarding. I was so proud of Kevin Smythe for having the goal to finish and doing it. Kimberly Kuhlmann got her redemption after the course broke her wrist last year. Matt Hagen was still smiling. Arthur Martineau set his PR on his 9th finish of this race! And Robert Lopez made a huge statement with his finish having just completed some pretty major cancer treatment. Liz Kellogg finished again and she is 65 years old! John Barrickman pulled it out after his many inspiring feats on the Wilderness Challenge this year. Matt Abel, my fellow DNFer the first time around, hung in there until the end. Jess Mullen gave me good advice during the race when she passed me as I ambled toward my quitting line and proved that she has the strongest legs in the universe by letting me sit on her lap after she finished.
And to the race organizers and volunteers of this BEST race. Thank you! I already can’t wait for next year. In particular, I’m extending special thanks to another of my idols, Wendy Wheeler-Jacobs who I had the privilege of hanging out with in Colorado this past summer. I was so looking forward to seeing you and just thinking of your smiling face and love for this race and trails in general makes me smile! And to Rich White (RD) who waited patiently at the finish line all day to congratulate each and every runner, you do a great job. Finally, Vivian Doorn, you get the best volunteer award. What job didn’t you do? I’m pretty sure that means automatic entry next year. I hope to see you there.
Get a hold of yourself! Let’s remember what’s important. Please consider donating to Hallie and Jeremy’s fund raising campaign for ALS research by clicking here.