Thursday, June 20, 2013

DRTE 100: Adventures in the Santa Barbara Mountains (June 14-15, 2013)

DRTE 100
June 14-15, 2013


Around May, my friend Cathleen had signed up for the the Santa Barbara DRTE 100 Mile Race. She urged me to join her on this crazy adventure.  I had been thinking about doing my first 100 mile (running) race this year and been eyeing various 100 mile events.  Cathleen really tempted me to do the race telling me how a bunch of the FTR (Folsom Trail Runners) gals were going down to crew and pace her.  It was going to be a fun adventure with the girls. She would be willing to share her crew with me.  Cathleen even said there aren't a lot of girls doing the race and I could possible win first female on the race.  She really put on the peer pressure for me to do the race.  And, it was tempting and I really thought about it. . .crazy things do tempt me. . .

However, I had my own plans for my first hundred.  I was planning to do one in the fall.  After NorCal Ultras took over Rio Del Lago 100 (RDL) and moved the race to November, that became my target 100 miler.  I kind of wanted to have my first 100 be on local turf with my friends and loved ones out there for my race.   I especially wanted my boyfriend Craig to be there for me during the race and when I finished.  I also liked that November would entail cooler weather.  I was also set to pace a friend at Western States (just two weeks after DRTE 100) and really looking forward to that experience.  I did not want to over-do it and compromise my ability to pace my runner at Western States.

Oh, but when a crazy idea gets into my head, it generally does not take too long for me to succumb to the crazy idea.  But, I let myself really think about it for awhile.  And, after Gold Rush 100k, I decided that I wanted my first hundred to be RDL.  I wanted that race to be my race, on my own terms.  I felt like DRTE was just not coming together to be my race.  I felt that Santa Barbara was Cathleen's race and I would just be tagging along.  I didn't want to take away from her first 100 mile experience, either her crew support or her glory.  But, I wanted to still be part of her 100 mile adventure.  I wanted to be part of the fun.  I wanted to be part of Team Cathleen.

So, I told Cathleen these things.  I told her how I knew she was a little nervous about running alone, in the dark on unfamiliar trails, for the first half.  I told her I would sign up for the race and run through the first night with her.  I told her I would run at least until the pacers pick up so she'd never really be alone.  But I would not be doing all 100.  It will just be a long training run for me.

I then registered for the race, intending to not finish.  A few of my friends knew this was the plan.  But, all who knew of the plan doubted whether I would actually DNF or not. . .

DRTE 100


DRTE 100 starts at 6pm on Friday, June 14, 2013.  However, the schedule says the medical check-in is in the morning and and there is a mandatory pre-race meeting at noon.

Nicole, Cathleen and I had flown down to Southern California on Thursday.  The rest of the girls would arrive later on Friday afternoon/evening.  Nicole, having work meetings to attend to, drops Cathleen and me at the race start around 10 a.m.

As we are driving to the start, Cathleen eyes the Santa Barbara mountains with nervousness and worry.  Nicole attempts to ease her comfort by exclaiming "Look how beautiful it is!", "I am SO jealous that you will get to run out such a beautiful place," "Look at the flowers, SOOO amazing," etc. . . .

Arriving into Rancho Osos, we find our friend Ralph (who is doing the race).  After Nicole leaves, Cathleen, Ralph and I walk over to the race start area.  Things are not really ready when we arrive.  The organizer is scurrying around, still getting things together.  There eventually is a pre-race meeting around noon and a medical check-in afterwards.  However, the race check-in is not until the shortly before the race starts.  So, we do a lot of sitting and waiting around.  Also, out here, there is hardly any cell phone service and barely any internet (except if we hike up to the Adult Lodge, a ways from the start area).  We sit around waiting and trying not to expend too much energy as there is going to be a long night (and day) ahead.  Cathleen and I do make a few friends while hanging out and waiting.  We even meet a couple guys from Folsom (Richard and Tyler).  Nice meeting local runners when you're doing out of town runs.  

Eventually, 6 p.m. nears and we start getting our things together.

Nicole returns in time to see us off.  The rest of Cathleen's crew have not made it down to Santa Barbara yet.  A couple of the other girls are not able to make the start as they are stuck in traffic.  The others will be down here even later.

Around 6 pm, we gather at the start line.  This is a small race. Only about 31 runners at the start line.

The Race
Start to Arroyo Burro Aid Stations (Mile 6ish)

3-2-1-GO! The race starts. . .

Cathleen and I start running along.  Cathleen frantically looks for Nicole, who has gone up a little to catch us on the road as we come out.  Cathleen sees Nicole and goes running to her to give her one last hug before we start.  Nicole tells me to take care of Cathleen.

We pass Ralph.  His plan is to take it easy the first half, intending to primarily walk.  We run about 1/4 mile or so before we hit the trail.  We run along a pretty single track trail through a forest of trees.  Cathleen is in the front of me.  I see two girls ahead of us (a girl running in a sports bra and no shirt and another Asian girl with long hair).  I feel a slight urge to chase them but keep myself in check.  I am supposed to be staying with Cathleen.  I hear a guy behind me, making a commentary on everything:  comments about the trail ("we are hitting the trail now"), the terrain ("we have a hill now"), the weather ("it is still warm out"), how his plan is to do this and that, etc. . .. He starts to annoy me a little with his running commentary.

Cathleen's shoe lace gets untied so we move to the side.  Thankfully the annoying guy behind me continues running and disappears ahead.  Cathleen ties her shoes and we continue running along.

Not too long later, Richard comes running behind us.  We offer to let him pass but he says he likes the pace we are running at and stays with us.  We chit chat a bit.  We learn that Richard is from Folsom and how this is his first 100 mile race too.  We talk about AR50 (which we all did).  Richard mentions that he did the Gold Rush 100k.  I tell him how I did that race too and how brutal the heat was.  Richard says he was the last place finisher of that race.  I say "Hey, I was the second to last place finisher at Gold Rush 100k!"  He says he had seen my name on the results list.  What a small world!

As we are befriending Richard, another runner, Jacob come up behind Richard and joins our little group.  We learn a little bit about Jacob, who's Swiss and has run many 100 Milers and has done the Santa Barbara 100 before but it was a different course than today.

The four of us have fun running and chit chatting together.  I always love how easy it is to befriend another runner in a trail race.  The trails are also pretty.  Though, I am dripping with sweat.  The evening is warm and I look forward to sunset.

The single track starts steadily going up, and up, and up.  It eventually hits a fire road.  There are orange flags and ribbons on both sides of this "T" trail intersection.  We look to the right and the left and see no ribbons directing us as to which way we should be going.  Should we go right or left?  At the race meeting, the race director talked extensively as to how well the course is marked with flags and ribbons.  "Every 1/8 of a mile should have a flag or ribbon. . .on the wider roads, every 1/2 mile" . . .This is what he had told us. But, here we stand, not sure which direction to go.  Right or left?

Jacob goes running to the left to see if there are ribbons.  He runs about 1/4 mile down and comes back and says he sees no ribbons.  So, we all run to the right.   Knowing that Ralph is behind me and not wanting him to get confused either, I pull out a flag and as I run up the hill to the right, I plant one down so Ralph and others behind us will know which way to go.

We run not too far up the hill when the trail ends and hits a paved road.  Now, we are really confused.  Jacob talks to a couple we spot and asks if they have seen any racers.  They haven't seen any runners.  We pull out the map and try to figure out where to go.  Richard notes the elevation chart shows that we should be going down so I guess we should go to the left and down the hill.

As we run back, I grab the flag I put down and move it to the left of the other flags.  I meet another runner, Hector, who had followed my flag.  I apologize to Hector.  Hector and I then move some flags in the direction we run so other runners know where to go.  

We start running down the fire road.  It goes down and down.  We run for awhile and see no flags.  What happened to the course is well-marked?!  And, as we go down and down, each of us has the worry that we are going the wrong way and will have go back up this big hill.  A mile passes without a flag or ribbon in sight.  We stop every so often.  Are we going the right way?  We also see no one else around.  What happened to all the other runners?   I am grateful that it isn't just me and Cathleen but that there are three other guys with us.

We run another mile and see no markers and stop.  We get concerned as to whether we are going the right way or not.  And, where are the other races?  We peer down the switch back trails and look down the mountain for anyone else.  Finally, Cathleen sees a runner all the way down below.  This gives us some assurance we are going the right direction so we start running again.

Now, this is a nice long descent down the fire trail.  The view is amazing of the Santa Barbara Mountains.  I tell Cathleen, "this is what Nicole was raving to you about! Look how amazing it is!" Now, we start to enjoy the run and take in the views.  I chat up with Hector to learn that he's done a few 100s and recently did the Zion 100, Bryce 100 and attempted the San Diego 100.  Back to back 100s, that's crazy!

We continue running down the mountain.  Down, down, down.  Still see no flags or ribbons.  We pass a truck driving its way up and see it is the race director.  We tell him how there are no markings for us.  He said he will fix that.

And shortly later, we arrive at the first aid station.  This aid station has some delicious potatoes, homemade cookies, and other yummy treats.  At least the aid stations are nice.

Arroyo Burro Aid Station to the Angostura Aid Station (Mile 12)

We leave the aid station and are directed on some single track trails.  Some of the weeds are a little overgrown here.  The trail has some uneven spots so we have to pay careful attention to our footing.  Jacob has taken off ahead of us.  It is mainly just me, Cathleen and Richard running together as the sun begins to set.  We leap frog Hector here and there as he stops periodically.

Watching the sunset is amazing but the trails are a bit rough to say the least.  I get a lot of things in my shoes and I have to stop a couple times to shake things out or pull out prickly things.  The overgrown weeds are scratching up my legs a bit. There are random little holes/dips in the trail too.  Cathleen runs along and yelps nearly rolling her ankle. A moment later, I yelp for the same reason.  Then,we start seeing the poison oak.  I remember the race director said there is a little poison oak out there but just avoid it.  The poison oak is overgrown into the trail that some sections, it is just impossible to avoid it.  Our arms and legs brush up against a lot of poison oak.  Some poison oaks hangs over the trail so we have to duck down at a couple places.

Cathleen comments as to how hard it is to run on these trails.  We can only run a few steps before stopping as the trail gets uneven or bushes/plants/poison oak gets in our way.  Richard comments on how spoiled we are in the Folsom and Auburn area.  Our trails are maintained so well up where we live.  I completely agree.

As it gets darker and darker, it gets trickier to run some sections.  It is hard to see exactly where the trail goes so we go a bit slower trying to follow the trail along.  Richard gets ahead of us at some point.  We hear him yell out "Ow!"  He warns us there are these prickly looking plants on the side of the trail and they can hurt.  We try to step around some without getting poked.  Richard also warns us from some steep drops on the side of the trail, sections that have been washed out.  There are narrow sections with long drops to the right of us.  We find it tough to really run on this section as there are various obstacles and hazards, especially in the dark. So, we mostly hike.

Then, the trail starts getting steeper and steeper as we have another big climb.  We move along up the mountain, going pretty slow.  I ask Cathleen here and there as to how she's doing.  She's in good spirits.  I tell her only a little farther before the next aid station.  I tell her the girl's should be there.  Cathleen looks forward to this and looking forward to drinking a red bull.

And eventually, we reach the aid station.  Boy are we going slow.  It's only 12 miles in and it has taken us almost four hours to get here.  This is going to be a LONG race. . . .

As I walk into the aid station, I look around for the girls.  We see Tyler, who's crewing Richard, but I don't see any of the girls.  Cathleen and I use the porta potty then rub our legs with poison oak cream.  I chit chat with a guy who's wrapped in a blanket, sitting on a cot.  He says he has stomach issues and is quitting.  Poor guy.  I keep looking to see if any of the girls show up.  Where are they?  I told them we should be here around 10 p.m.  I am not sure whether to wait or not.  Cathleen says let's go.  I tell the aid station people and Tyler that if some loud girls show up here, tell them that we have already passed through.

Angostura Aid Station to Red Gate (Mile 18ish)

Cathleen, Richard, and I leave the aid station and start running down a nice wide fire road.  Cathleen says she hopes the girls are okay.  I do too.  And, I hope we see them at the next aid station.  Richard hangs with us again.  Cathleen tells him he doesn't have to hang back with us.  He says he likes having company than being alone in the dark.  I am grateful to have the extra company.  So, the three of us mostly run together.  Richard tells us how two people have already dropped out of the race.

From here to the aid station is mostly all downhill.  I am not the best of downhill runners.  But, Cathleen is a great downhill runner.  She and Richard go flying down the hill.  I try to stay up but I am having a hard time focusing my eyes.  Staring at the spotlight of my headlamp on the dusty trail is making me feel a little disoriented.  Cathleen and Richard slowly get farther and farther away from me.  I stop to pull out another flashlight, hoping the extra light will give me better depth perception in the darkness.  I still struggle as I run downhill in the dark.

I run along, mostly alone.  I can still see Richard and Cathleen a little ways ahead.  We eventually hit a small hill and I catch back up on the uphill.  As we go along, we find Jacob and Hector again.  And, the five of us run mostly together until we hit the aid station.

This aid station has some great volunteers.  One guy makes a turkey sandwich for Hector.  Another guy gives me (and some of the others) some warm chicken soup.  I eat an orange and drink some soda.  Cathleen eats a little.  I question her as to whether she's been eating enough but she looks to be just fine.

Red Gate to Forbush Camp 

A group of approximately 6 of us leave this aid station together.  I think because it is so dark and desolate out here, and the trail markings iffy, the runners are desiring to stay together rather than run alone in the late hours of the night.

The pack of us leave the aid station and start hitting some trails again.  Cathleen and I are the rear of the pack.  I am so grateful for the pack.  I am grateful that us girls are not all alone on the dark trails right now.  I am grateful to have befriended Richard, Hector, and Jacob, such friendly guys.  Another guy named Craig is part of our the group now.  He's from Washington and has done some 100s before.

Our small train of runners runs along in the dark.  At some point, we stop at a narrow section of trail.  The trail ahead has disappeared.  It is a sandy ledge is not flat but angled.  I cannot see a safe the path to cross.  All I see is the angle of the mountain wall with sand all over it and a drop to the side.  I hear the sand sliding off the edge into unknown darkness.  I put my foot on the sandy ledge and my foot slides a little down towards the edge before I pull my foot back.  How am I to get across??  The drop off is too dark to see how far one would fall.  There is also no tree roots or anything to grab onto for balance.

Hector tells me to put my hands into the mountain wall and to move sideways (like a crab).  I put my hands down and I am on my hands and feet.  I start to slide and Hector tells me to move quickly sideways.  So, I start moving, crawling sideways on this mountain side, like a crab.  As I make it across and near Hector, he extends his arm for me to grab onto.  Cathleen says she is not so sure about this.  But, Hector helps guide her across too.  She crawls on her hands and feet, sideways.  Thank goodness for Hector's guidance!

We continue along and another sandy drop off appears again.  Hector and Richard had stopped to make sure we crossed okay.  They wait patiently as Cathleen and I nervously crawl across.  I am generally not afraid of heights but crawling on these ledges, with my hands and feet into the sandy side of the mountain, sliding downward and trying to scramble sideways and not fall off the edge made my heart race and all the hairs on my arm stand straight up.

We run along.  I ask Cathleen how she's doing and she says she's fine.  I am thinking about how much of this race do I want to run.  I am pretty sure I do not want to go back through these trails.  They are pretty awful.  I am also feeling some slight pain in my left knee.  All the downhills earlier was not good on it.  We are also getting to the wee hours of the morning.  I have not pulled an all nighter in a long time and I can feel the late hour.  But, we keep going.

Richard slowly drifts away from us.  Disappearing into the darkness ahead.  Hector is behind us but he had stopped here and there so I do not see him but I know he's behind us.  It is starting to get a bit creepy out here.  I hear noises.  I jump thinking I saw something large move behind the trees.  Cathleen says it's just the wind.  A little later Cathleen jumps thinking she saw something.

The trail here is not marked so well either and the trail itself is hard to follow.  We have to stop every so often and shine our light around to find the trail markers.  Some of the flags have fallen over and hard to spot behind tall grass or some ribbons are hung high on tree branches that are tricky to spot.  We feel a little assured each time we see one, knowing that we are going the right away.

And eventually, we arrive at the Forbush Aid Station.  I do not see the girl's here.  But, this aid station looks to be out in the middle of nowhere.

Here, there is just a couple guys manning the aid station.  They have set up camp nearby so when we leave, they can go sleep and then get back up when we return.  That's quite some commitment to work an aid station.  They are kind and give me some ibuprofen for my knee.  I change my socks and eat some ramen.  I am tired.  I want to sit for awhile but Cathleen is ready to move on.

As we are leaving, Hector gets to the aid station.  He says he's going to take a nap here and I watch him flop into a lawn chair.  I tell him thanks for hanging with us earlier and hope to see him later.

Forbush to Romero Aid Station (mile 30-ish)

Cathleen and I pay careful attention to the trail markers as there looks to be some tricky turns here.  I am still a bit nervous out here, in the wilderness.  I am glad Cathleen is here.  I don't know how anyone could do this alone.  We stay together and we talk about how lucky we were to have befriended such nice guys, who kept us company for as long as they did.

While all the challenges of this race, I start to ponder how far do I want to go in this race.  I know I was going to pull out but at what distance.  I am tired and my knee is getting progressively worse as we go along. I could quit at mile 44 as the pacers will be there then.  But, if I do the extra loop to the turn around, it'll be 70 miles.  Do I really want to go 70 miles?  Maybe.  My knee is bothering me and I really do not want to make it so bad that I can't pace my friend at Western States.  But, I feel awful.  Tired and a little crappy.

I ask Cathleen how she's doing and she says she's okay.  She looks to be going along strong as can be.  I am really proud of her.  She's really going to do this 100 miler.  I am glad to be here to be part of it for her.  I do not tell her anything about my knee pain or when I plan to quit.

We run along one stretch and dead end at a picnic area.  We look around and see no trail markers.  So, we backtrack to the last trail marker.  We stop and scan all around and finally barely see a half fallen flag through a field area.  Cathleen and I are not pleased with the trail markings.

We move along and a big climb begins.  I power hike my way up.  I try not to get too far ahead of Cathleen.  This is a beast of a climb.  We move along. At one point, we see no ribbons for about a mile.  We worry as to whether we have gotten lost or not and eventually spot hanging one on a tree.

We hike up and up and up this hill.  We continue up the mountain as it gets steeper.  While Cathleen likes the downhills, I like the uphills.  I make my way up.  Cathleen slowly following.  At one point, she stops.  I ask her if she's okay.  She takes a breather and says "Just one foot in front of the other, right?"  "Yes," I reply.  I am glad she is mentally strong right now and pushing herself forward.  I know we are nearing the aid station and I sure hope the girls are at this next aid station.  I think Cathleen and I both need a little energy boost from our friends.

Finally, we reach the top.  We come off the trail onto a gravel road.  We run along, hoping to see the aid station soon.  A car drives by.  It is Tyler. He tells us that the aid station is real close and that KC is at the aid station.  Thank goodness!  The girls will be there.

We run along the road and come upon the aid station.  I see Nicole's rented SUV and there are posters on the side for Cathleen.  I slap the side of the car saying "the girls are here!"  And, the driver's door opens and out comes Nicole and Janelle.  KC comes running down to greet Cathleen.  She is full of energy and cheering loudly.  Cathleen tells her to calm down.  KC, Janelle, and Nicole swarm Cathleen asking her about this and that and guide her to the aid station.  I tell Nicole before she dashes off  to Cathleen that she's pretty tired as we just did a really big climb but she's doing well mentally and I think she needs to eat more and she likes eating potato chips.  Nicole scurries off to Cathleen.

I walk up to the aid station, feeling a bit neglected.  But, this is Cathleen's race, not mine.  And, I am fine taking care of myself.  I walk to the aid station and get myself weighed in.  I grab some food and drinks before I sit down in a chair next to Cathleen.  The girls are tending to her feet and wiping her down. They are grabbing her food and drinks.  I do not see my drop bag anywhere in sight.  Eventually, I think the girls remember I am there too.  KC gives me some baby wipes to wipe myself down.  It is nice to wipe some of the layers of sweat down.  I tell them a little bit about how tough the course is and poor the markings are.  I tell them how we had to crawl like crabs across these sandy ledges.

I notice it is nearly 5 a.m.  Craig would be getting up for work now.  I overhear one of the girl's say they will drive to cell phone service area and texted Cathleen's family updates on her.  I give my phone to Janelle and ask that she please text Craig as to where I am and that I am okay.

Romero to P-Bar Flat

We head out of Romero.  We run down into another canyon, another long descent.  8 miles to the bottom they tell us.  I see the sky starting to light up a little.  

People say that in long endurance events, when the sun rises, you get renewed energy.  There is something so true about that.  As the sun rises, I feel my energy levels lift.  I think Cathleen is feeling the same as she is running down into the canyon pretty strongly.  I am grateful to have made it through the night.  I did my job.  I got Cathleen through the first night.  What a rough night.  It's daylight now and things should be better.

I see a runner running up.  As he passes, he says "See that" and points down to the trails going down and weaving down even further into the canyon. "Have fun with that," he says.  I am a little stunned by his sarcastic tone.  And, I look at the trails ahead.  That is a LONG way down and I do not know how well my knee is going to hold up going down all of that.  But, I run along behind Cathleen, trying to keep up with her.

The Asian girl with long hair we saw earlier in the race passes us as she heads up the canyon.  She is power hiking strongly and with determination.  This woman was second female earlier.  Cathleen and I wonder what happened to the other girl.

A mile or so later, we see the other girl.  Someone must have given her a flannel long sleeved shirt as she had that over her sports bra.  She was walking slowly and trembling.  She did not look that good and seemed to be struggling quite a bit as she slowly walked her way up.

As we run down more, I still think about whether I want to quit when I get back to Romero or wait until I go to Divide Peak and back.   My left knee is getting more aggravated with the long descent.  Stopping back at Romero would be nice.  But, I could keep going to mile 70.  I could help Cathleen up to Divide Peak.  I am good with climbing.  It would be nice to see the entire course.  And, maybe I keep going after that. . . I could do it.  But, would that be a wise thing to do?  A conversation I had with Charito prior to the race plays in my head.  Charito had said to me "I don't know if you'll be able to pull yourself out once you are in the middle of it."  I remember the conversation.  I remember I am supposed to be preserving myself to pace another friend at Western States.  I think Craig would get pretty upset if he is not here for my first 100 and I told him I wasn't going to do the 100.  I want him there at my first 100 too.   I also start thinking that if I keep going, it's more for selfish reasons than for Cathleen.  And, I remember that a pacer's duties is to be selfless, to do what is best for the runner.  And, I have done what I was supposed to do.  I got Cathleen through the night.  I think the pacers can help her the rest of the way if I pull out.  I am stubborn though and a part of me wants to keep going farther.  To go to Divide Peak.  To possibly finish.  But, I know what the smart thing to do should be. . . .

As we go down into the canyon, it gets colder.  Cathleen and I talk about how hungry we are and how we look forward to some warm soup at the next aid station.  Cold and hungry, we move along. We start to see some familiar faces. . . Craig (the Washington guy), Jacob, and eventually Richard going in the other direction.  We must be getting close.

We pass a campground and see an outhouse so wander over there to use it.  It smells horrible but this was better than some of the other spots we thought about going to.  We then run/hike along a few small roller hills  and eventually make it to the end and arrive at the P-Bar Flat Aid station.

The guys at the aid station are wonderful to me and Cathleen.  One guy makes us warm hash browns to eat.  So good.  We sit and eat and drink a little.  We see another guy laying on a cot nearby.  The aid station workers tell us the guy had lost his contacts or something and cannot see so he had to stay down here through the night and wait for a ride back.  Poor guy.  Another race casualty.

P-Bar Flat back to Romero

Cathleen and I head back to Romero.  There's a little bit of downhill and my knee is just done running downhills.  I let Cathleen run ahead while I walk.  I figure I will catch up to her when we hit the uphills.  I look forward to going uphill.  Much less painful.

Cathleen and I trek along together back towards Romero.  We talk about whether we will see our friend Ralph.  We see two runners run towards us.  Is that Ralph?  We look and it isn't.  We see one other runner going down.  And, that is all we see.  We note the time and the cutoff for the bottom is around 9 a.m. and it is approaching that.  I hope that the friends we did not see. . . Ralph, Hector, Ashly. . .are okay.

Cathleen begins to worry that she is getting too close to the cutoffs.  I tell her that she's doing great on time.  I look to the pace chart I have been carrying.  I assure her that we are well ahead of the cutoff time.  We keep trudging along.  Up and up and up.

As we hike back up, the day starts to warm up.  This is pretty exposed.  Though, the views are beautiful.  We also see some neat flowers and plants.  At one point, we thought some plants on the side of the mountain looked like bat houses.  We may have been a bit tired when we tried to figure out what we were looking at.

As we near the top, we can see the fog on the other side of the mountain.  It was warm on our side though.  It was getting warmer and warmer.  I think I am ready to pull out at the next aid station.  I am just counting down the miles to the next aid station.  Up and up and up we go.

And finally, we make it back to the Romero aid station. . .

This time, we have Misha, Colleen and Dani at the aid station.  I am told Nicole, KC, and Janelle went back to the house to rest.

I flop down into a chair, exhausted.  I pull my feet out of my shoes and just sit there, still thinking about going on but also thinking about stopping.  Cathleen is at a chair next to me.  Misha, Dani, and Colleen tend to the two of us and chit chat with us.  They are a nice source of fresh energy.  They help wipe us down with baby wipes and get some food for us.  The spectators and volunteers at the aid station talk about what an amazing crew we have.  And, indeed we do.

Cathleen wants to change her clothes so she gets up to go change.  While Cathleen is away, I talk to Dani.  I tell her how bad my knee has been hurting, how tired I am, and how tough the first night has been.   I tell Dani how I have been thinking about going on to Divide Peak and I think I can get there but not sure about getting back and that's 70 miles.  I am also thinking I should maybe stop now.  Dani tells me she thinks I should stop.  So, I agree.  nearly 48 miles.  16+ hours.  I think I've done my job.  I am ready to pass on the baton.

Colleen has the pacer bib on and looks ready to start pacing.  I think her fresh energy will be good for Cathleen.  I feel like my depleted energy may start to bring Cathleen down.  I talk to Colleen about how things have been going with Cathleen and how Cathleen is worried about her time but she's well ahead of the cutoffs.   I give her the pacer chart I had been carrying and lend her my Garmin.

Cathleen is ready to go again and she looks at me and I tell her I am stopping here.  I think she knew I was stopping but acts surprised.  She gives me a hug and I tell her how proud I am of her.

And, off Cathleen goes. . .

Crewing the Rest of the Race

After Cathleen leaves, I leave with Misha and Dani to return back to the house so I can shower.  I hear some of the amusing stories about the night's adventures from the crew side of things.

We eventually get back to the house where I am able to shower and nap for a short bit.  I cannot sleep very much as I am thinking about Cathleen, amazed that she's out there doing it.  On one hell of a course!

For Cathleen, she goes from Romero out to Divide Peak and back.  It is approximately 26ish miles.  There is no crew access on that section so it is just her and Colleen out there.  For the rest of us, we rest up and refuel a bit.  The girls discuss the plans for who will pace Cathleen through the second night.

Then, we return to Romero.  As I get out of the car, one of the racers that I had seen the night prior sees me.  He sees that I have changed and no longer racing.  He says "NOOOO!!!"   I tell him my job was to keep my friend company through the night and to not feel bad for me.  He asks if my friend is still in the race and I said yes.  He smiles and says "Great!"  I wish him luck as he continues on his way.  I think what kind, caring people I have met throughout this race.

As we wait at Romero for Cathleen, the ham radio operators say they think Cathleen is nearly getting cut off.  My heart drops.  What?!  She was well ahead of the cut off time.  What happened?  I start to stress and Will, a guy crewing Richard, comes up to me with the pace chart.  He shows me that she actually has plenty of time.  So, she is not near the cut off.  About 5-10 minutes later, I hear on the ham radio that Cathleen has made it to the aid station just before Romero.  I feel instant relief.  And, she is indeed well ahead of the cut off time.

While waiting, I see the runner Craig come through the aid station.  He hangs around for a bit.  Then, I see Richard come in.  He and Tyler talk about how hot it was out there.  They both look reddish.  Richard looks beat.  His crew tends to him.  I help find a soda for Richard.  Craig talks to Richard about sticking together through the second night.

They eventually leave the aid station.  Richard says Cathleen should catch up.  And, not too long later, Cathleen comes into the aid station with a big smile.  She is moving better than the guys were and is full of energy.  I am so pleased to see this.  All the girls and myself tend to Cathleen.  Cathleen is in good spirits.  Some girls help tape up her blisters, get her food to eat, red bull to drink (Cathleen's race preference), and of course, we all pose for a few pictures before we send her back off into the with Nicole and Dani.

The rest of us girls get back into our vehicles and head to the next crew spot.  Agostino aid station (around mile 87).   We get there and nap a little.  I can't sleep.  I mainly sit and chat with Misha as we wait.  Around the time we expect Cathleen, we head down to the aid station with blankets as it is cold and windy there.  Then, we wait for awhile as we go into the middle of the night again.

While waiting, Craig and Richard come into the aid station.  They look worse than before.  They say the being up for 48+ hours is starting to really get to them.  They tell me how they had napped on the trail for 10 minutes.  Craig has no crew or pacers with him so I try to help him. I ask him what he needs.  He says he wants to sit and put his head on a table.  So, I scramble to find a chair and Tyler helps clear off a part of the aid station table.  Then, Craig sits down and puts his head on the table.  I ask him how long he wants to nap before I wake him.  He says 10 minutes.  He is trembling so I find some blankets to wrap around him.  Tyler helps take Richard to a spot to take a nap.  They look rather beat up but they are doing it and their perseverance inspires me.

After 10 minutes, I gently nudge Craig and tell him 10 minutes is up but Richard is still napping.  He stirs a little.  I get him some warm soup to drink.

I peer down the canyon looking for Cathleen.  I finally see some lights down below.  So, I head down the trail.  I yell down and eventually hear Nicole yell back.  It had been a tough 18 miles for Cathleen, Nicole and Dani to get to the Agostino aid station.  Cathleen had started to really fall apart on this section but they got her here and she's still going.

As we get Cathleen into the aid station, I see that the guys are about to head out.  I wish them luck on this last stretch.  We sit Cathleen down and suggest she take a nap like the guys did.  She agrees and lays down on a cot and we put a sleeping bag over her.  I talk to Nicole and Dani about how it went through the second night.  It was really tough.  Both Dani and Nicole look a little shell-shocked.

And just about 10 minutes later, Cathleen tosses up the sleeping bag and sits back up and says "I'm ready now."  I am stunned that she did not have to be woken up and she just popped up on her own like that.

As soon as Cathleen says she's ready, all the girls jump and tend to Cathleen.  Her feet are bandaged up some more.  There are blisters all over her feet.  We try to get her to drink some Ensure.  I talk a little with Cathleen telling her she can do this.  Just keep moving.  Don't have to go fast.  Just have to go forward.

I describe the course to Misha so she knows what to expect as she is going to pace Cathleen to the finish.  I tell her to be careful through some tricky sections of the trail.  I also tell her that there is one section where there will be a big climb but there are some beautiful views.  I am hoping the sun rising again will help give her a little extra energy.

Misha and Cathleen then head down the trail.  13 miles to the finish.  Later on, Misha does make Cathleen stop to watch the sunrise and see the beautiful views I had talked about.

The girls and I head back to the house and get a little bit of rest before we head back to the finish line.  When we arrive at the finish line, we see that Craig and Richard have already finished.  We also find Ralph, who had been hanging out and hearing about us girls on the ham radios.  He apparently quit at the mile 12 aid station, after getting lost for awhile.  I also see some of the other friends I had befriended during the race including Jacob (who finished) and Hector.

Then, Cathleen comes running towards the finish line.  And, she finishes in approximately 40 hours!  One hell of a first 100 mile race!   2nd FEMALE too!!


Post-Race Thoughts

So, that was my first official DNF.  I don't feel so bad about it as that was the plan.  After the race, I had many friends tell me that they doubt I could do it, stop and DNF.  I find it funny that my friends don't ever doubt my ability to finish something I set out to do but nearly all my friends doubted my ability to quit when I said I would.  I doubted my ability to also.  I am glad I did the smart thing.  It wasn't easy as I like to be stupid and stubborn sometimes.  But, it was a good test of self control and I did what I was supposed to do.

But, as I said before the race, it was Cathleen's race, not my race.  I am grateful that I got to be there and help her in the race.  Though, I am sure she would have been just fine without me during the first part.

The race was also a great learning experience for me.  I am really glad I got to be part of it and experience the running part as well as the crewing part.  Gave me a lot of insight and a good taste as to a 100 mile race.  I gained a lot of knowledge as to what I need for my actual first 100 mile race.  And, I intend to be as prepared as can be when my first hundred comes. . .

The course was a tough one.  Tough climbs and descents.  Not the best maintained trails, which makes me appreciate how well maintained my local trails are.  And though I had some issues with how the race was organized and marked, I did meet some of the most amazing, kindest, inspiring people during the race.  The volunteers were amazing in taking care of everyone.  Many of them had camped out at their aid stations for two days.  And, meeting Jacob, Richard, Hector, Craig, and the other runners was priceless.  I made some good friends out there and grateful for it.  And, very grateful for their company through that first night.  They also really got me looking forward to my first 100 miler!

And, it was fun being out there with the girls, though we had some crazy moments.  I learned how valuable a good crew can be.  I am glad I got to experience the running part and the crewing part of a 100 mile race.  And, what a pleasure it was to be part of someone's amazing accomplishment.  Cathleen's first 100 miler was an amazing feat.  A very very tough 100 mile races and she did it.  Half the people who started did not finish but Cathleen did.  I am so very proud of her grateful she let me be part of her team.

Lastly, as I think back about this weekend's adventure, I think about how the experience was witnessing some of the best in people...determination, perseverance, strength, patience, amazing kindness and care (from fellow runners, crew, volunteers, strangers, etc...), good samaritans ready to help a stranger just to help, friends helping fellow friends and taking sacrifices of themselves to help a fellow friend...but, what I saw the most of this weekend was a lot of LOVE...

I think there's a special bond that occurs through running...but it's even moreso in ultra-running...and i found it even more intensified in an 100 mile event...not just between runners but with the crew as well...a lot of stories and challenges this weekend but more than anything else, i think there was a lot of love...especially within the Cathleen crew, which i was honored to have been part of...and this is a quote i think applies to our weekend...

"When I first started lacing up my shoes, was that for me, running would be so much about love. Running with another person is an intimate activity. Run with someone long enough at a time and you will be stripped bare. Modesty falls away with the miles. The body -- its functions, its excretions, its wants -- cannot be ignored. The heavy breathing, the sweating, the soft talk that comes after exertion, the hours spent together --running with another person is an intimate activity. It's hard to keep the heart uninvolved" --Rachel Toor

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