Heart Benefits of Running

Heart Benefits of Running. I get a lot of requests to link pages but only do so when I feel the page offers value to readers. David Patterson asked that I have a look at his page on heart health and running. I like what I see and I am happy to refer you to Heart Health Benefits of Running at http://www.pacificmedicalacls.com/acls-online-library-heart-health-running.html. Although this page focuses primarily on heart health it also offers some good information on running in general.

This link will be added to the Resources page to keep it easy to find.

Fan mail suggests “My Top Fitness”

I don’t often pay give much attention to link requests from other sites because they are often self-serving and offer little value to people who might be visiting my site. But My Top Fitness caught my eye.

My Top Fitness mytopfitness.com has something for everyone looking to get fit or stay that way. Readers of this page should enjoy their category on trail running which combines the urge to be in nature with the inexplicable drive to run (in my husband’s words). I’d recommend it to anyone but especially to those new to trail running. Trail Running – Tips for Beginners and Outdoor Enthusiasts.

Fan mail suggests “A Guide for Outdoor & Indoor Runners”

Jessica Hiller contacted me about a page on www.themadrunner.com  :-) She says her oldest daughter Alana (14) is interested in running and wants to learn as much as she can about outdoor and indoor running before she plunging into the sport.

While researching what's "out there" on running, she stumbled upon the site and were particularly stricken by the Resources (links) page http://www.themadrunner.com/links.php. 

Alana found the link page very helpful and was "able to learn a lot!" She came across another article that I had not mentioned. "It's packed with information and easy to read, http://www.aaastateofplay.com/a-guide-for-outdoor-and-indoor-runners/. She wondered if I'd be interested in it and maybe want to add it to the Resources page.

Well, yes! Thank you Alana and Jessica for sharing this and I will put it up right away!

Race Report Hagg Lake 50K

I’ve been dawdling over writing this race report because, frankly, I’m quite ambivalent with how things went. I did finish though I’m fairly disappointed to report I was about 45 minutes slower this year compared to last. My primary excuse is a difference in trail surface. I know it’s played up to be a muddy race and last year we had some mud. But with all the heavy rain we’ve had in just the last few weeks, including the half inch that fell on race day it’s fair to say it was really, really muddy this year. One friend said it’s the worst he’d seen it in 10 years.
I can’t even begin to describe it. It was one astonishing trail section after another of increasingly unrunnable trail permeated by slippery clay mud, standing water, rivulets and sometimes creeks! It was difficult to get any fast rhythm going since I expended so much energy just trying to stay on my feet. It was frustrating. I fell 1.75 times (once both hands and one knee touched down with one foot still on the ground so it counts as only 0.75). A guy running behind me during the other full body launch said it looked spectacular…I landed face first in a heap off the side of the trail…luckily not much in the mud. I tweaked my neck and shoulder a little but otherwise I’m unscathed.
I hear there were many more DNFs this year –mainly due to hypothermia but the stats and results haven’t been posted yet; so it’s hard to tell for sure. I reluctantly expended about 15 minutes at the halfway point changing into dry clothes and a better rain jacket. I doubt I’d have finished at all otherwise, since I was getting pretty chilled. After that I was fine…but the trail wasn’t. Good thing I have some balance skills because often it was more like skating than running…except that the skates could move in all directions, sideways as well as forwards and backwards. I actually had a fun time despite it all. I guess it’s one race experience I’m glad to have just survived.
I’m looking forward to a more runnable surface for that 60K in April. I hear they sometimes have a little snow but otherwise it’s a very pleasant course.

Pacific Rim One Day

This is the second year in a row I’ve done this 24 hour race. It’s a whole different beast from a trail ultra and one I have a lot of respect for. It’s hard in ways that are just not like any other ultra. There are different logistics to having your “stuff” available on a one mile route and it seems like that would make things easier. And not having really any elevation changes seems like it would be easier. But in many ways, doing 5-10 mile between aid stations with variety in trail in a traditional trail ultra is a lot easier than the one mile loops.

I’ve been off on my training since last fall. I took November and December essentially off and then took another two week break at the end of February when I developed some plantar fasciitis that started the week before Hagg Lake 50K. I had to drop out of Hagg Lake at the first aid station because it was pretty painful. Luckily the two weeks off seemed to take care of it and I was back to training again but the overall lack of mileage in the last four months was bound to be a problem.

I drove over early in the morning and got a good place for the Ultramobile. There weren’t as many people there this year as last year, probably because of the weather, I’d say. I happily ran into my oldest ultra running buddies, Jerry and Glen. We stuck together from the beginning and caught up on our lives over the last 6 months or so. It was a great pleasure getting to run with them again. Sadly, they didn’t have plans to stay through the night but I appreciated the time we did get to run together.


Rodney even drove over in the mid afternoon to say high and bring donuts. That was a nice treat and I got to walk a lap with him. He had a lame excuse to go back home and not sit out with me in the rain and dark all night. I guess love does have limits.

A lot of people came and went like last year and only a handful of us did the whole 24 hours. Since the weather was going to be so bad this year I thought it might be possible to actually place pretty well if every one else opted out of continuing because of the weather. Last year I did 84 miles on a lot more training so I doubted I’d do that well this year, but it was still my goal. 50-60 miles would be good otherwise. If not that much then at least the equivalent of my two long runs was a nice fall back. I hoped my PF wouldn’t be an issue.

It was a far cry from the 84 miles I did last year since I was in better shape then but I’m happy with my result of 75 miles. The weather was pretty awful off and on with rain showers but luckily no big wind. By 7 am on Sunday the rain started up again harder and eventually transitioned to snow. Who ordered that up?

I took regular breaks this year so I could keep going more efficiently but will admit that my entire time spent hunkered down in the ultramobile probably exceeded last year’s total. Thus, the deficit of mileage. I took a one hour break to put my feet up after 32 miles, again at 50 miles. Then slept and rested 90 minutes after 60 miles and then a longer sleep/rest break (2 hours) after 71 miles. I had enough time at the end to get back out in the snow and finish another 4 miles before the clock ran down at 9 am but I probably had enough time to do five. But by that time I had seriously lost my willingness to suffer. I had some significant nausea around mile 56 and that’s what encouraged me to take the mile 60 and 71 breaks. I think I just wasn’t eating enough and pushing my effort made it worse. Who feels like eating at that hour of the night/early morning?

I will congratulate myself that I was able to get out of the warm UM at all after each break, especially the ones that finished around 2 am and 6:45 am. Rousing myself out into the cold when it was raining again and I was really warm and cozy wasn’t easy. Body temperature management while running was an issue – I tended to get too warm running but too cold walking. In the end I didn’t walk much at all this year compared to last year since I felt fairly good after each rest break. But I dressed for it just in case so for the running my attire was too much. There are a few small hills on the route that I walked up frequently last time but this time I never felt I needed to.

I was able to get home without problems even though I had to navigate back part of the trip in snow, not a feat I’ve ever tried in the UM. And my feet seem to have held up fine and I don’t notice any problems with PF even though general foot aching is what go me to stop regularly to rest. This is a usual occurrence for me, unfortunately. Putting them up and relaxing more often did wonders. I just wish the effects lasted longer than 5-6 miles. And I wish I had time and place to do that on my 100 milers…but then I’d probably really have problems deciding to keep going and suffer longer.

Marathon Maniacism

Taking the Insanity to the Next Level

Well, the next notch on my belt has been completed.  I have joined the ranks of the officially crazy runners and am now a Marathon Maniac!


The easiest way to qualify for admission to this insane asylum is to run 3 marathons in 3 months.  After my finish in Portland, Maine, I knew just what I had to do.  And I had an accomplice:  Marathon maniac #169, my online friend, Shell.

I never had much interest in the Seattle marathon due to its odd timing (the weekend after Thanksgiving) but new challenges call fohouse_thanksgiving_miscz059r sacrifice … from Rodney, my ever patient and supportive spouse.

So, after a big Thanksgiving feast with family, we hoof it up to Seattle to spend a quick two nights with a friend.  I meet my running buddy on a dark and stormy morning at a nearby Starbucks (of course) and off we go.

By the time the race starts, it’s still chilly, but the rain has stopped and we even see “sunny breaks” now and then during the race.  The plan is to run recovery pace for the first half, then kick it up by a min/mile for the second half.  This is a very gratifying strategy since for the entire final 13 miles we spend our time easily passing other runners left and right.  We make it look so easy!  And it was.  We had lots to talk about and the route was picturesque – it seemed like a simple 10 mile warm up.  Maniacs everywhere were waving at my maniac friend as we ran and all I could do was dream of the time I could join their ranks and be thought of as “normal” again.  We finish happy and with ease.  Two marathons in 2 months is a piece of cake!  I can’t wait to make it three in three.

So, 2 down, just one more to go.  I can almost feel the Marathon Maniacs singlet against my skin.  The Christmas Marathon south of Olympia is a veritable maniac gathering ground.  Yellow and Black singlets everywhere greet me.  The cold weather (20 degrees at the start) does not seem as inviting.  However, with my goal in mind, and the easy Seattle experience behind me, off I go into the chill and frost!

Luckily, I have Dick and Heidi, two very dear friends on my side.

Photo of Kate with Heidi & Dick
Kate with Heidi & Dick

They meet and greet me along the way.  They flash signs encouragement- literally (“Go, Kate, GO!”  “ALMOST a Maniac!”)

Photo of Heidi holding a motivational sign reading "Go Kate Go!"
Heidi holding a motivational sign reading “Go Kate Go!”
Photo of Dick holding "Go Kate. ALMOST a manaic!" sign.
Dick encouraging me on with “Go Kate. ALMOST a manaic!” sign.

And … they hang onto my jacket when I’m too hot.

Photo of handing of execess baggage at the Christmas Marathon
Handing off my jacket and other excess baggage

They bring me warm gloves when I’m too cold.

Photo of Kate getting gloves from Heidi & Dick's car
It’s pretty darn chilly and I unpack gloves from the back of Heidi & Dick’s car

They even …

document my progress on video. Narrated by my niece Kimber.

This race seems somewhat harder at the beginning.  In the middle I’m downright tired.  After 20 miles I’m really, really tired.  But, the negative splits pacing strategy at least gives me something to think about while I’m trying to make my way back to the finish line.

Photo of Kate running on highway
Starting to falter about mile 20 with 30 still to go.
christmas marathon about midway
Around mile 25, I start calculating my “split” times to keep from getting discouraged.

I run down and pass a few people here and there.  I contemplate stopping and walking.  But, then I realize that the only way to get to the end is to…get to the end. If I walk it just takes longer and probably won’t really feel that much better.  My cavalier attitude that “3 in 3” is no big accomplishment begins melting away along with my strength. But I keep plodding on.

Finally …

the end is in sight and, as usual, a final burst of energy drags me over the finish line, complete with my own cheering section and banners “U R a Maniac!” The ALMOST is crossed out. I now am officially crazy enough that all the other crazies welcome me into their runners’ asylum.  I happily enter.

Photo of me and Heidi embracing at the Christmas Marathon Finish Line
Me and Heidi embracing at the Christmas Marathon Finish Line
Photo of me and Heidi just past the Christmas Marathon finish line
Me and Heidi just beyond the finish line. Heidi looks just as pleased and proud as I do.

Well now.

What’s better than a streak of accomplishments three months long?  Well, keeping that streak going, of course!

On my way to another 50 mile race in April, what’s more “natural” than monthly “training runs” which just happen to be races?

So, now I have three 50K races scheduled one each for the months of January, February and March 2006. Long training runs supported by aid stations so I don’t have to go it alone nor carry all my own equipment? Yes!

I’m there!

January’s event is even better.  The tail 50K ultra starts at 3PM.  You guessed it, running on trail, in the winter mud and cold and  in the dark!!  True running bliss.  And Manic #169, Shell will be there to do it with me.  The details will follow here as they unfold.

Until then I bask in the warm glow of my newly validated maniacism.

finish line

End of the Season

Well, it’s been a long time since I finished up any race reports for the remainder of the year so now it’s only appropriate to do an end of the year summary. Since McDonald Forest 50K I ran the Western State training camp over the Memorial Day weekend where I suffered a fall that required a short period of recuperation.

The first day at the training camp went fine. There was too much snow int he high country to run the usual Robinson Flat to Forest Hill route, so they drove us to a point beyond the river crossing and we ran down to the river, up Cal Street to Forest Hill and then out to Michigan Bluff and then back to Forest Hill. Since I have done these routes several times before and all I needed was some training runs for my races later in the year, I didn’t care about the changes. It was actually a lot more interesting to run Cal Street backwards. It started to rain a bit towards the end – I was a bit peeved since I wanted to run in California to get away from the rain the the Pacific Northwest. Go figure.

As usual Karen picked me up at the airport and we did the weekend together. She, however, tanked on the first day and finished at the first pass through Forest Hill after having barfed her way up Cal Street. I found out about it after I got done. She was in fine spirits by then and raring to go the next day.

Day two was the fun run from Forest Hill down to the River and we ran this together. It was a great day. The weather was nice and the trail was in good shape. After we got to the river we even saw some rafters fishing and then shooting the rapids farther downstream. We took our time and shot some video and yelled back and forth to them. By the time they were lined up for the rapids, a number of other runners stopped on the overlooking bluff to watch with and we all cheered them on.

We got back onto the trail and weren’t but a quarter mile from the river crossing when I tripped and crashed into a rock strewn horse shit-filled mud puddle. I broke my fall by planting my right knee right onto a sharp rock. I would venture to say that this is the most pain I have ever been in running. Well, falling. I had a circle of people surrounding me in no time but I couldn’t speak to tell them I was probably OK, except for the leg amputation that would likely be following later in the day. Damn, that hurt.

Eventually I was given a hand up and I limped over the the concrete spillway to rinse off my horse-shit muddy body and inspect my wounds. Deep gashes in my right knee proved that my spectacular fall and moaning were not in vain. I rinsed and washed off my clothes so I could stand to smell myself before we made the rest of the climb up to the waiting buses. Luckily I was still able to move pretty well despite the swelling I was getting and the blood that was dripping down my leg was good for show.


After we got to the top, RD Greg (who’s previous career was as a PA for an ortho clinic) gave me some supplies to scrub out the wound and inspect for whether stitches were in order. In the end we decided that I probably would be OK letting it just heal on its own. He gave me an ice pack and we shot the breeze talking shop about various medical issues while we waited for the bus.

After an evening of dressing changes and ice applications I awoke the next morning to decide if I could run the last 20 mile section on the training runs. Well, I was pretty swollen but my joint seemed unaffected so I decided to ready myself and assume I could do it. The first few miles were mostly downhill and the constant jarring and pulling sensation of the swollen front of my knee was painfully nauseating. By the time I realized I was stupid to even be trying this I was committed because there was no way to get back to Auburn except by trail. I figured I’d have to bail at the first aid station. Karen left me in the dust and I hobbled at the back of the pack.

Eventually the trail flattened out and the flats or climbs didn’t feel too bad. After about 5 miles of a warm up I felt I would be able to finish and so I did. My knee looked pretty bad but at least it was holding my up fine, but for the crushed soft tissues I was moving OK. I eventually passed Karen and made my way fairly quickly to the finish. Where…they had already removed the port-potties. I really had to go and there was no where to do my business in the residential environment. Crap. So I found Karen’s car and drove myself to a near by fast food restaurant where I grossed out all the patrons who saw me walking in with my hamburger knee. I’m sure a number of them decided they really weren’t so hungry after all. I got back to the high school track and Karen was waiting for me wondering where the heck I ran off to…with her car.

The aftermath of all this required me to take a few weeks off running to allow myself to heal up. Then a long planned trip to Europe interfered with my running schedule. Karen, Rodney and I went together and at the beginning we had big plans to get up early every day and run. We did so twice in Amsterdam. Then we ran in another Dutch city, Tillburg. Then I ran in Brugge, Belgium. I got out again for a 10K in Germany through the rolling hills and woods near a friend’s house and then did 10K in Dresden. So, for three weeks, that was it: six 10K runs.

Once I got back into my routine in late July I had precious little time to gear up for Waldo in August. I hate that race. I always say I’ll never do it again every time I finish and then sign up again the next year. But there’s something I love about hating that race. It’s a big deal for me. It seems like 62 miles shouldn’t be such a big deal these days but at that race it really is. Finishing is always sweet and I keep hoping it will seem easier the next time. It never does. And this year I was particularly worried about doing it on so little hard core training.

I did my usual late July weekend at the race location to help out on trail work and again do precious little running.


I took the early start as usual and decided I’d just have to run smart and be conservative in order to finish. How fast I finished wouldn’t be an issue. I just wanted to cross the finish line and not feel like barfing the rest of the evening as I have after several other Waldo finishes. I ended up falling behind my splits fairly early on but I was taking more time at the aid stations to make sure I was managing my nutrition and bodily functions well enough. I used a few minutes each time to rest adequately before moving on. The weather was helpful – it didn’t get too hot nor too cold. I never felt really great but I never felt really bad, either. The wheels stayed firmly in proper driving position and I came across the finish line in one piece. I was 45 minutes slower than my PR of last year but I still arrived in time to get my hat. I felt well enough to hang around for a long time afterwards to eat and visit before crawling off to bed in the Ultramobile.

After Waldo I kept up the training consistently and entered my final running event of the year, Autumn Leaves 50 Mile, just south of Portland. I got to camp out in the ultramobile the night before the race and rode my bike the few miles from the camp ground to the race start at the other end of the park. It was surprisingly not that hard to ride back afterwards, especially since the return trip was in the daylight instead of the dark. The race consisted a 6.25 mile loops, mostly an out and back with the last mile looping away and off on trail back to the start.

I ran pretty hard all day and since all but about 10 miles total (the last mile of each loop) was on paved bike route rather than dirt trail my feet got pretty sore. But, pavement being much faster than dirt, I suspect it’s not surprising that my time was a PR for me at 9:06. I came in 5th out of 22 women and 30th out of 73 overall. I only fell once (in the dirt in the dark on the first time through the trail section) but it only slowed me down a few seconds. With about a mile to go I passed a woman who had stayed just ahead of me all day. She was at the last aid station complaining that she was feeling bad so I took the opportunity to put the hammer down and leave her in the dust. I beat her by over 2 minutes. Ha. It rained all day before the race and started again the evening after but was mercilessly dry for the entire run. Since there wasn’t more than a 3 mile distance between aid stations I never carried anything with me. How wonderful that was! No pack, no hand held bottle. Joy.

Since then I’ve decided to take a month off of training. I am still running some but not following any particular plan. Most of my mileage is with Rodney while he’s walking the dog. Psychologically it’s a good break for me and I look forward to feeling like getting back into training in December. I’m in the Western States lottery and after December 10th I’ll be able to plan my races for next year. So far I’m likely to do Hagg Lake 50K again and the Pacific Rim 24 hour run. Other than that, I have yet to decide. There are so many opportunities and I look forward to another amazing year. Longevity in the sport is the mirror goal to finishing ultra distance races and I feel like I’m managing that aspect of my training well.

McDonald Forest 50K

Well, I had a spectacular result to this year’s 50K. I don’t know where I found it but I dialed into a gear beyond what I’m used to doing and I was hauling ass the whole time and felt really great doing it. I finished 45 minutes faster than last time at this race, and 30 minutes faster then the first time I ran it. I passed almost all the people who usually finish way ahead of me. It was thrilling.

The weather was overcast and cool and I picked just exactly the right clothing for the conditions – not too warm, not too cold. I didn’t get a single blister and all my toenails survived. I ate regularly and took salt and drank enough but not too much. I kept pushing the pace but never felt like I couldn’t sustain it. I made myself run a lot faster than I usually dare to and it didn’t back fire. I climbed all the hills strongly and pounded the downs. I spent less than a minute at each aid station. I can’t tell you how many people I passed in the last third of the run – just one after an other. All in all it was a very efficient and successful run. Probably my best executed effort of all time.

There were even 2 women who tried to get past me in the last mile – I hung on behind the first one after she went around me and didn’t let her get too far ahead as I heard the second one approach from behind. I’ll be damned if I was going to run so hard all day only to get passed in the last mile by two women! (Funny, if I was a guy I don’t think I would have cared as much). And we three flew down the hill like crazy, almost out of control. If I had fallen I would have ended up just a smear on the trail. Then there was an evil short, but steep, hill. I powered up behind her, trying not to fade as we crested the top. When we did, she had to stop, hold onto a tree and gasp, so I passed her and sprinted on the last quarter mile to the finish. All the time I was thinking they were right on my butt and just about to pass me again so I didn’t let up and ran so hard my lungs were burning and I thought I would puke. What a ride! They finished just 8 and 9 seconds behind me.

The stats:

78th out of 201 overall finishers
7th in my age/gender group (out of 24)
17th female overall (out of 65)


Pine to Palm – a birthday bash

With three previous 100 mile achievements to my name, I was eager to sign up for another one this year – to make it two in one calendar year for the first time. What a wonderful surprise to see, many months ago, that a new 100 miler was being contested in OREGON. I knew that the Hundred in the Hood from last year was a one-off race and now I didn’t have to look far to find something else in September. And the fact that this race started on my birthday (#48) was another bonus. This bodes well.

Inaugural events…there’s always a chance problems will be encountered at new races in their first year. But, bolstered by the reputation of the RD, I signed on almost as soon as I found out about it. Over the intervening months I saw more and more like-minded runners join up until there were over 160 names on the list by race day.

I sat back and waited for the race details, promised to us by mid August. Eventually maps were posted to the race web site. But frustratingly, no further specifics about the course, aid stations, crew instructions, etc. were forthcoming until 9 days before race day. Finally the driving instructions were posted and we were ready to make detailed plans for the run.

I figured the race would be challenging but doable. Yet, the mid course cut off (the only cut off ) at mile 65 was a cause for concern. The fact that the race had a total of 20,000 feet of climbing and 20,000 feet of decent sounded OK. Western States has 18,000 feet of climbing and almost 23,000 feet of decent. My first 100 miler, Headlands Hundred, had 17,000/17,000. I suspected that I’d have as good a chance as any, since my training included Western States and then Where’s Waldo in the month preceding P2P. I felt confident I’d be ready. But, then I’d get to talking with my running comrades and we’d start to wonder about that 19 hour cut off…

Being a slower runner I always have to sweat the cut offs in most races. I memorize them and work to stay ahead of them most of the time. Here my mantra became: just get to Dutchman Peak by 1 am.

This time Karen, my sister and professional crew boss, brought along another running friends of her’s, Heather. We would be a threesome team to get the job done. In the week leading up to the race I saw the weather forecast go from predicting a 20% chance of rain on race day up to a 90% chance of rain. Oh well. This is Oregon after all and I planned appropriately. It was amazing how much more stuff I needed to bring along, though. It’s a far cry from planning for the heat at Western States.

So we eventually found our way to Grants Pass, the nearest city to the race start, and we drove the 20 minute route to the race check-in and briefing. I found the 5:30 pm race briefing time somewhat inconvenient since I didn’t want to take my chances on the pasta dinner being served there. We’d needed to either eat really early, before the briefing, or pretty late, after it. We chose before. We arrived in Williams and met up with my running buddy, and fellow almost-birthday celebrator, Russ. He was was taking his third stab at conquering the 100 mile distance and had paced me at my first. We sat together and waited for the briefing and check-in to take place. And waited. And waited. Finally, an hour after promised, the check in process started but crawled very slowly.

Another hour after it was suppose to begin, the briefing itself commenced, just as I was getting to the front of the check-in line. Rather than miss what was being said, I stopped and attended to the briefing. I think some people behind me in line thought I was rude and they went around me to continue their check in, ignoring the RD’s presentation about the race.

Apparently Ian Torrance has become the co-RD and he started to give us a briefing of the route and important points for crucial turns. He kept referring to sections of the trail, by name. We hadn’t been provided these references in the online information. I had no point of reference to understand what he was talking about. Regardless, I started taking notes about what not to miss but I was confused about most of it and he went through them so fast that eventually I wasn’t able to keep up. He kept reassuring us (after warning to be sure not to miss this or that turn) that it would all be very well marked.

Once the briefing ended I finished my check in and got some really nice swag including a nice canvas bag, flip-flop sandals and a great fleece pull over.

Finally back at the hotel we made our final preparations before hitting the hay. I got my feet taped up and smeared with hydropel, in anticipation of a likely very soggy day. I expected to be wet but not too cold until later in the evening if the rain kept up.

In the morning we made our way back to the start but the porta-potty line was way too long to take care of any last minute business (2 port-a-potties for 130+ entrants). Luckily it’s not a big deal for me at this point. We leave the start with the usual whoops and head up the road just as a sprinkle of rain starts.

The first 6 miles are on paved road of increasing incline. For the last three I do my 20 steps running alternating with 20 steps walking. We hit the first water-only aid station and I drop off my head lamp – a nice touch of organization so I don’t have to carry it with me for 31 miles – I had another one in my appropriate drop bag for later. I knew that we’d be going essentially 17 miles before the first real aid station so I managed to bring along an appropriate amount of nibbles to keep me fueled for the first three hours or so it would take me. I know I have to pay close attention to my fueling and intended to consume about 300 calories an hour. If I get behind I lose my appetite and then it’s only a matter of time before I crash.

Immediately we’re on single track and we wind our way around the hills with a generally increasing steepness and switchbacks going up and up and up. The rain starts now but it’s still warm and it’s not falling heavy. The trail is very debris-strewn with branches and bark and rocks and I’m thankful over and over again that we don’t have to try and navigate this going downhill.

Less than 11 miles later we hit the first peak, shrouded in fog and a harder drizzle. Then we start our decent down to the aid station at mile 17. The footing is still fairly debris strewn but thankfully not yet too slick with wet and mud but it’s getting there in places. Eventually a volunteer is manning a trail detour through the brush to help us avoid a yellow-jacket nest that had already lead to stings for a number of people. The advantages of being in the back of the pack! Shortly we’re at the first regular aid station, and as I was to find throughout the race, it was very well run and full of pleasant and helpful people.

I’ve made it a new rule to myself never to sit down at aid stations. I collect my resupplies and head off to the next 7 mile section that is on undulating dirt road. Generally the route in downhill and I try to cut the tangents to save distance. It’s raining off and on and this keeps the dust down. I suspect that on a dryer, more typical race day it would be pretty dusty, exposed and hot section. There’s not much traffic now, maybe a half-dozen cars pass me by. I run 20 minutes and walk 2 minutes most of the time as I would on a mostly flat non-technical run. This helps preserve my legs from the monotonous pounding of that sort of terrain.

I make it uneventfully to the next aid station and efficiently back onto the dirt road. This continues to weave up down and around until we get close to the Applegate River aid station where it takes a dive back onto a weird little trail bordered the whole way by a chain link fence on the left. It’s steep up and steep down like a roller coaster. Then we spill out into a campground area with signs directing us in a circuitous route to an area labeled as “California.” After a few hundred yards we’re notified we’re back in Oregon again. I think this is a nice touch, since we’re so close to the state border – why not say your race covers terrain in two states?

Back onto paved road and to the next aid station where my crew is accessible for the first time. Karen and Heather see me and there’s a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday as I run in! Russ is just heading back out and we start the Happy Birthday song for him as well.

YouTube recording of the event.

I get weighed and head off to the car to get together my things for the next section. It’s great to have the team there to get me in and out quickly. It’s been raining off and on all morning but I’m still doing well with my light shell since it’s also not very cold. I also grab my Garmin for the first time in a race. I figure it will help me to keep on track with distances if I get discouraged or, god forbid, lost.

Off I go onto the next section of trail, this time mostly surrounded by red-hued poison oak. I had a surprise gift of poison oak form Western States and so I was careful to avoid contact this time around. The trail was lovely and it snaked upwards and over hills of increasing steepness. I pass a few people for the first time. Someone here was verbally averse to switchbacks towards the top. I found this amusing and fodder for good stories of adventure later on. Besides, I was already almost to the next aid station, just 5 miles from the last. Or was it…Now I know my Garmin can be off a bit and I use it for rough estimates, but at 6.5 miles I finally get into the next aid station, Stein Butte.

They are huddled under the tent and making a valiant effort at putting together some warm food – I eat some almost ready soup and appreciate it. I mention that it seems like more than 5 miles since the last aid station and they confirm “yeah, we’ve been hearing that a lot.” I asked them how everyone seemed to be doing. The soup maker told me people seemed to be coming in discouraged but are leaving in good spirits. No doubt. These guys were very upbeat!

I left them behind and went back out onto the next section of trail, – actually a very old logging road. After a quarter mile down the trail a large tree was blocking the road and I see that this is where the volunteers had to park and then WALK in all their gear for the aid station. Wow. Now that’s dedication and effort!

This road was pleasant and I was particularly interested to see every 200 yards or so there was a big pile of bear poop. I noted this along the whole way! We really are out in the wilderness now, despite that we’re on a man made “road.” I know there’s 6 miles to the next AS and I tick them off as the rain continues to pour down pretty heavy.

Soon we’re on a very steep downhill section that, in the rain, has turned into a trail runners version of the Luge. I slip-slide my way down and just before the next AS there’s my crew waiting for me with hot soup. I make a complete wardrobe change into my capri tights and a new dry set of shirts and a better rain jacket with a hood. Karen reapplies hydropel to my feet and I get dry socks and new shoes. It takes me about 10 minutes here but the effort is well worth it! I feel much better – dry, warm, filled up and ready to get moving. I’m at mile 42 and it’s about an hour before dark so I’m still right on track to make the cut off at Dutchman.

I suspect I’m in the very back of the pack and they confirm that I probably am the last runner out there. Already at mile 36?! I know I’m not fast and I know it’s not unlikely I’ll crawl in at the very end tomorrow, but to be so far in the back already? Wow. I’m reassured that I’ve completed about the same amount of mileage in about the same amount of time as at Western States. I certainly wasn’t that far back in the pack then. This race must be eating runners up and spitting them out at quite a rate.

As I head off on the road for a loop around the lake I feel strong and happy anyway. I hear that Russ is right in front of me, maybe 10 minutes, and I feel like I might be able to catch him before too long! After rounding the lake, (longer than the 2 miles advertised) I accept that the mileages listed on the race info are probably not recently measured and merely “approximate.” So far there’s an equal mix of sections longer and shorter than advertised.

Karen and Heather wait in the car as I leave the lake and are back onto the dirt road to make sure I’m OK. I mention that my right pinky toe is a little sore since the shoe change. “Is it OK?” my sister asks? I consider it…”Yeah, it’s OK.” Pause. She replies “Are you just saying that so you don’t have to deal with it or is it really not a problem?” You can’t lie to your sister, the professional crew chief. I admit it – it’s a problem. So I stop and take off the extra sock and replace my shoe. Now I’m fine. She was right, take care of it now so it’s not a bigger problem later. Words to run by.

I start back up and they drive off, waving. It’s a nice dirt road again and I wander down, down, down. It’s only “3 miles” until the next aid station and I expect to see Russ any minute up ahead. I feel really great. But, as expected, the mileage is off and after about 4 miles I still don’t see an aid station. Funny, I don’t remember any confidence flagging either. Uh, oh. Did I miss something or did someone remove the flags? The mileages aren’t trustworthy in my mind…then a car comes towards me and they pull over so I can asks them if there’s an aid station up ahead along the road? Nope. ” We’re headed to the Squaw Lake aid station – did you miss a turn?” Well, obviously I did. DRAT!!!

Now I can see that my time cushion is shrinking. Can I still make it to Dutchman peak by 1 AM? They offer me a ride back to where ever it is I needed to turn off. I consider this but expect it could get me disqualified so I stoically decline and head back, now uphill, the way I came. Inside I’m stating to crumble. How could I be so stupid? This might be my fatal mistake – just when I was starting to get a second wind and feel really great and optimistic. Now I’ve gained extra mileage (not as big a deal to me) and lost precious time (a really big deal). And I only brought along enough food to last me for 3 miles.

I find the missing turn, off the road on the opposite side of where I was running. It’s marked over there but I never even saw it from the other side. Crap. This is another problem with so much road running. I head up this now more rugged road and as it’s starting to get dark I finally make it to the next aid station. Instead of 3 miles, I’ve gone 7. They help me get some nutrition in but I’m already behind. Once this happens I tend to start on a downhill spiral of anorexia. Nothing sounds good, I’m not hungry and I stop eating or have to force myself to eat. The less I eat the weaker and slower I get. But there’s nothing I can do about it because I’m way behind and need to get moving if I’m to get to the cut off before 1 AM. I didn’t bring extra batteries for my flashlight (I didn’t expect to need it before the next aid station) so I use my dimmer head lamp.

As I move along the trail it gets very over grown. I need to use the hand-held to stay on my feet. The trail is so over grown I can’t see my footing. Then WHAP! I get slapped in the face by an overhanging branch I didn’t see coming because I’m concentrating on my feet. I teeter and almost fall. To the right is a sharp drop off. I try to lean left and catch myself on the uphill side of the incline. And so it goes, over and over, concentrate on feet, branches slap me in the face and I catch myself from falling down the slope. I’m losing heart and won’t be catching up to Russ any time soon but I have no choice except to keep pressing on. At least I’m still running!

Finally I see the lights of the next aid station and Handley Gap! Hooray! I get to the table and right away the guy there says to me – “you’re not going to make it to the cut off.” A guy next to him on a walky-talky says to someone on the other end “you got room for one more?” I realize they expect me to give up and take a ride out. What? Now? There’s not an intermediate cut off here. My crew is at Dutchman Peak, I argue. How are they going to figure out where I am if you take me out here? (There’s no cell service out here.) Even if I don’t get there in time to beat the cut off I’d like to get there and be pulled at that point. I don’t want to give up. “Unless you’re telling me I’m not allowed to keep going, then I’m going to move on.” Reluctantly he agreed that I could go on.

I look over and see my friend Kelly hanging around. I figure he’s working the aid station but it turns out he’s the sweeper and this is where his job starts – to follow the last runner out. I guess that’s me. He points me in the right direction to go the mile (or so) up to the top of Hanley peak where I have to retrieve a flag and bring it back down. I don’t want to waste any more time so I trudge off. After the first intersection there’s a pile of gravel to the left. And one to the right. There are no course markings (or glow sticks) indicating which way to go. As I stand there perplexed another runner appears, coming back down towards me and points me in the right direction around the gravel pile on my right and I make it the rest of the way to the top, retrieve my flag and get back down to…what used to be the aid station. Crap. I didn’t fuel up before I left to the peak and now there’s nothing left out for me to eat. If I wasn’t already hosed, this cinches it. They do dig up some batteries for me so my flashlight will be useful again.

Off I head with the really lucky happenstance to have Kelly there as an impromptu pacer! If I had bad luck so far, this definitely was a stroke of good luck. I have a great time catching up on what we’ve each been up to since our trail work days on the Waldo course in July. He also imparts some hopeful news to me. While I was up on the last peak, the RD drove through to check on things. Kelly, now my advocate, told him how I had taken a wrong turn and run some bonus miles but was “still running well.” The RD suggested that he might give me an extra hour on the cut off to compensate for my error! By this time I had resigned myself to getting pulled from the race at Dutchman Peak but now there was new hope I could go on.

Buoyed by this news I tried my best to put on a show of strength run/hiking up the dirt road on which we found ourselves. The flashlight wasn’t often necessary since the route was wide and non technical. However it was incessantly steep and ever climbing. Occasionally it would dip a bit and be runnable but then go back to uphill. Kelly was pulling down flagging as he went, having no trouble catching up to me between detours. I began to feel the effects of multiple missed opportunities to fuel myself. I didn’t realize it at the time, either, but the altitude really compromised my progress as well despite the smooth road surface. My strong hike turned more and more into a slow trudge. I had not consumed anywhere near my 300 calories an hour for several hours.

Poor Kelly, having to walk so slowly in that weather. Ah…the weather. I don’t really mention much about it here because I didn’t ever consider it much of a factor for me. By this time the wind had picked up, as did the rain. I was warm and cozy in my rain gear and didn’t consider the conditions a problem. The lack of food and the altitude were my relevant issues.

Finally we hit the next aid station and lo and behold, there’s Karen! Apparently she and Heather drove there by accident thinking it was Dutchman Peak and waited for me for a while. They finally figured out they where one aid station shy of where they needed to be but by then the RD had arrived for a check-in and he informed them I was on my way. He gave Karen permission to start pacing me from there. Heather had driven on ahead to wait for us at Dutchman Peak.

Cool – now I had two pacers, Kelly the sweep and Karen my official pacer. This was great company and I’d like to say that it bolstered my resolve to work hard to make it up the next 5 miles of inclined dirt road to get up to the cut off now by 2 AM. I really wish I could say that. Unfortunately I had completely lost my stomach. Karen offered all manner of available foodstuffs and nothing sounded good. Knowing that my mantra was “300 calories per hour” I choked down some shot blocks, hoping that it would prime me to want more soon. No luck.

A car headed towards us and who did I see leaning out the window to greet me but Russ. WTF? What are you doing in there?! He told me he was done and searching for his crew so they could get the hell out of there. I was sad to see him done before the finish line on attempt number three at the 100 mile distance. Obviously, this course was a lot more to handle than either of us had hoped.

The road got steeper and the air hot thinner and my resolve crumbled. Even at my previous pace, I was unlikely to get to Dutchman Peak in time. At this pace I was clearly out of the running. But, trudge we did, on and on until finally, slowly with my “climbing Mt. Everest” style of step, pause, gasp step, pause, gasp rhythm we emerged at the base are of Dutchman Peak. The AS is “just” up the next steep hill and a few switchbacks more.

My dilemma isn’t the only drama playing itself out at this point, however. We bump right into Heather as we intend to head up the last pitch. “I think I’m going to throw up!” she informs us. Me too, I think. Karen’s (new) Subaru is parked there but I walk right past it to finish my race at the AS with the little bit of dignity I have left. I make my way to the AS to get my wrist band cut off for an official drop and end to this fiasco, well past the 2 AM enhanced cut off time. Heather informs us that the car isn’t parked on the side of the muddy road: it’s stuck there and we need to find someone to help us tow it out. I can’t process this (I can’t really care about it yet) so I continue on. Karen follows behind me shortly with a hope of organizing the needed help from he aid station folk.

We get to the top, I thrust my wrist into someone’s face and they cut off my band. That’s it. Mile 65 (ish) and I’m done. I would have been willing to regroup and head out again if I was allowed. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that with a little nutrition and time, even overwhelming fatigue can be overcome. But instead I turn around and head back down to the car. It’s raining very heavily and now the wind is howling. The aid station is just barely in one piece and the volunteers are already breaking it down to get the hell out of there. Karen stops to ask for help. Now that I’m not moving I’m getting really cold. Fast.

No Dice.

No one at the AS seems able to help us with the car problem – they have their own problems to deal with – but we find a really nice couple who are parked up by the AS and they agree to let me get into their car while Karen continues to search for help. Eventually she gives up looking for help at the AS and these kind folks drive us down the short but steep road to where our car is stuck.

The real drama of the day is about to unfold. Over the next few hours we experience the best and the worst of being caught in bad weather, in the middle of nowhere with the rear passenger tire hanging over the edge of a muddy, crumbling dirt road. If the car slips any farther it will tumble off the road edge and down the bank onto it’s hood, then probably it’ll keep rolling a while. Remember, this is a new car? Karen is holding it together pretty well considering the potential outcome.

How this develops would be funny if we weren’t exhausted, wet, cold and in the dark. Some other nice people driving by stop to help us try and drive or push the car forward. No go. With our attempts to move it, it gets worse and the back tire is left more precarious. Now someone needs to sit in the driver’s seat to keep the car from tipping over. We empty the car of all it’s contents, to reduce the weight that is trying to pull it over the edge of the increasingly muddy road.

We continue to search for someone with a rope so we can pull us out. There is NO ROPE any where. There are various AS people around and a tent with ham operators near by and various comers and goers trying to get around our disabled car at this intersection of many dirt roads but no one has a rope. Everyone recommends we leave the car and bring back a tow truck in the morning. Without help soon and someone continually sitting in the drivers seat, we know the car will be completely over the edge and in need of a funeral by morning.

The folks who have given me refuge in their car wait patiently and try to help push and search for rope. Another truck with a nice fellow and his dad offer to pull us out once the rope is found. When all avenues of rope procurement are unsuccessful, the man and his dad offer to drive back into town, get a rope and return (a several hour round trip). Remember, it’s nigh on 3 AM by this time. The refuge folks offer to take me with them to their hotel where I can have the spare bed and they will reunite me with my crew in the morning. It still blows my mind that total strangers are so generous to people in need. Especially since we’re muddying up the back of their car.

Finally we are saved by the most unlikely of people – a hunter. Unknown to him, runners and crews have invaded the logging roads and as he heads down our road (it’s ours now because we’re stuck on it and no one can pass) he gets caught in our web. He can’t back out up the hill so he can’t get home unless he helps us figure out how to find a frigging rope!

Frankly, I don’t know how, maybe it fell from the sky, maybe someone tossed it out a window as they drove by but somehow a little thin almost-rope was found. It got doubled, tripled up and threaded through the tow ports on both vehicles and mister bow hunter pulled the Subaru free!!!! HURRAY!!!! We throw everything back into the car wet and in total disarray. We dig out enough space to sit and buckle ourselves in. We’re home FREEEEEEEE!!!!!

OR are we? Sure, we’re drivable now. But how the hell do we get out of here? The return route is a long trek back so we (a caravan of the saviors and us) forge ahead, reading the crew instructions that should lead us to a quicker escape route. Off we go, onto ever more rugged dirt roads, through (past?) obscure and unmarked turns. Our all-wheel drive is absolutely necessary and the ride is harrowing even so. After about 30 minutes of this we hit an open area of criss-crossing dirt roads. We have the driving instructions. We have a map. We have ourselves located on a GPS. We still can’t figure out what the hell to do to get out of there. Did I mention it’s after 3 AM now and we’re EXHAUSTED? And it’s still storming? Luckily we’re warm.

We all get out of our vehicles and reconeutre. The saviors decide to press on and hope they are on the right track. Somewhere ahead we’ve heard there’s a bridge out and we’re not sure which road it’s on. We’d rather not get that far, only to have to turn back again. So, we decide to return the way we came and take the know route, the long way home. The others take their chances and press on. We wish them luck. We all do make it back to civilization eventually.

It’s nearly daylight as we get back onto pavement and travel back towards the lights of the nearest town. Karen is nodding off behind the wheel so we pull over into some parking lot and take a need nap, sitting up in our seats. It’s been a harrowing experience and a seriously disappointing DNF for me. We did meet up with our saviors again the next day at the awards ceremony and we relived our shared struggle. I can’t thank them enough to have sacrificed their own comfort and safety to help us out.

This epitomizes the type of people you’re bound to meet at ultra events. Even though my race ended unsuccessfully, and I’d rather not have had “the car incident” (as it’s come to be known), it was an experience that reminded me again why I so love these ultra events. We help each other out. Strangers who find you in need will come to your aid most of the time.

To sum up this race, there were some organizational issues I think could have gone better and hopefully will in the upcoming iterations of this event. I believe that the mileages listed are a very rough guide. I was lulled into thinking that with a 32 hour final cut off that this race was a good option for back of the pack runners like me. Whether it’s due to mileage discrepancies or the other factors I encountered, I remain dismayed that I was unable to make the mid-point cut off. I’ve always been concerned about meeting cut offs but this is the first time I’ve not been successful. It still haunts me.

On the other hand, without all the hardships, the kindness of strangers and friends would not have been revealed.