Two Women! Two Challenges! One Goal!

YS6-21The Day we met “in the woods”!

Two Women – The bond between Cherie and Trena began when they literally met “in the woods!”, while running a trail marathon in 2014. Since then, the two have shared many miles, stories, and goals during their weekly runs. Cherie has played the role of motivator in her support of Trena, as well as many others looking to benefit from all-types of running. Cherie’s kindness and support for others consistently goes above and beyond.

Two-Challenges – When the two met, Cherie was on a journey to run a marathon in all 50 states, but now faces the most significant challenge of her life; having been diagnosed with a form of Kidney Cancer. She is now on the other side of surgery and faces six months of chemotherapy. Everyone knows someone who’s been through this difficult process. While Cherie and those around her face her next mountain head-on, Trena will be training for one of the world’s most challenging foot races. She is one of 2,500 runners chosen to run in the 105-mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), a race that crosses portions of the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps over 46 consecutive hours. This race is an experience of a life-time and Trena is hard at work preparing for the August 31st race date. She has dedicated all of her training miles and her UTMB race to Cherie, and her battle with cancer.

One Goal – As destiny would have it, shortly after Cherie finishes her journey through six months of Chemo, Trena hopes to be crossing the finish line of UTMB for her.  I kindly ask that you consider dedicating your miles, positive thoughts, and prayers to Cherie and her family during this difficult time. Be sure to check back for updates on their progress as these two women, with two challenges, reach one goalsuccess!

UPDATE

Strength

On July 18th, 2018 Cherie finished her last Chemo Treatment and “rang the bell”!  It was a long and sometimes difficult journey for her, but she says the support of her family and friends are what saw her through it all.  STRENGTH doesn’t come from what you can do, strength comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t!

47145517

On September 2nd, 2018 Trena completed the UTMB race in Chamonix, France after 45 hrs and 52 minutes.  It’s considered the toughest trail race in the world!  It was during a very low point in the race, when Trena came into an aid station around mile 58 that a video cued up from the MARC running group.  Trena saw Cherie in the video and knew she couldn’t quit.  Just as Cherie had not quit, no matter how hard things were, quitting just was not an option.  Both had learned that STRENGTH doesn’t come from what you can do, strength comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t!

cherie3

Two Woman!  Two Challenges!  One Goal!  Success!

 

Taper Madness

I picked my “A” race at the beginning of the year, I trained for it during the past 6 months, and now it’s Taper Time.  Runners who train for a long distance race understand what tapering is all about, but for many it’s the hardest part of their training.  It’s the dreaded taper – those last few weeks leading up to the big race.  After months of high mileage running, long workouts, hill repeats, speed work and tough schedules, it all comes to a screeching halt.

We are anxious about our upcoming race, and all of the sudden it feels like we are letting things slip through our fingers.  You often hear complaints during the taper about gaining weight or being afraid of losing the fitness they have worked so hard to achieve.  Mastering the final few weeks before the race is trickier than it seems.

Tapering before a race has many benefits for our body as well as our mind.  It allows our muscles a chance to repair, as well as increase its glycogen.  Another benefit is reducing the risk of overtraining.  After months of hard work, we want to show up on race day with legs that are fresh and rested, not tired and heavy.

A balanced taper should consider important elements like duration, weekly mileage, and key workouts.  The duration of your taper can vary but the end goal is to arrive at the race well-rested and feeling strong.  Some runners may taper for two or three weeks while others may find that a 10-day taper works better for them.  The taper is important not just for our body to recover but for our minds to rest.  We need time to focus on our race and make sure we have everything in order; our nutrition, gear, shoes, crew, and pacers.  Look over your travel details, the course description, aid stations, drop bag points, and packing your gear.  Taking care of these details during the taper will allow your mind to rest and relax in the last few days before the race.

CUTTING BACK

Most all tapers will have a reduction in weekly mileage.  How much we reduce our mileage may depend on how hard our training has been and how we feel going into the taper period.  If you have a coach, they will plan the taper according to your overall training schedule.  Otherwise, it’s common to reduce your mileage by around 20% a week starting about two to three weeks out from the race.  You should experiment with what works best for you.  While we reduce our mileage we may still include some key workouts such as hill repeats, intervals, or other specific runs.  We want to maintain our fitness but keep our legs feeling loose as well as getting some rest.

So how can we make the dreaded taper time be more exciting for the runner?  The fact that our long-awaited race is quickly approaching brings its own level of excitement.  But this may also be a good time to experience a little extra pampering.  Getting a massage or a pedicure can be a treat and also work out some of the knots.  This might also be a good time to catch up with friends or family members you haven’t seen during your busy training season.  Just relaxing or enjoying a good distraction like a movie or book can take your mind off the taper.  Life is often hard to balance, and this could be the time to put a little more balance back into it.

The race will be here in no time and the taper will quickly be a thing of the past, but it could be the very thing that kicks off your race with your body feeling ready and strong.

Published September 2017

img_5607

Join The Family

Taking your running to the next level is tough, but you’ll never feel alone along the way

All sports seem to have a certain camaraderie that goes with them.  Often teammates share a love for their sport or seem to be part of a brotherhood.  In ultra running, the community that runners share seems to go much deeper, way beyond sharing a love for the sport.  There’s an immediate connection with others and you just know “these are my people.”  There seems to be a draw for many runners when they decide to cross over to the ultra distances and experience the community that awaits them.

So what is it about this ultra running community? I’ve found in my experience some unique things that make up the bond in this group of runners.

Understanding

If you are a distance runner, marathon or longer, you’ve probably been asked by friends and family why you do it.  Many ultra runners are even considered “crazy” by most who just can’t understand their desire or drive.  Within the community of ultra runners, there’s no need to explain why we put ourselves through such long distance runs, pain and suffering.  We don’t have to put into words our drive or motivation, we just quietly run alongside one another on the same journey.  There’s no questions to answer as to why.  Our fellow ultra runners are our safe family of acceptance and give us a sense of belonging.

Encouragement

Short distance races are all about the win, that first place trophy, while longer endurance races are about the finish.  The reward to the ultra runner is the accomplishment of completing the race. In the ultra distance races even the faster runners encourage, give high-fives and cheer on all the other runners.  When ultra runners pass on the trail they look at each other and say “good job” and offer words of encouragement no matter what pace they are moving.

It’s a supportive community where at times the slowest or last place runner has the largest crowd cheering them on as they cross the finish line.  It’s this unusual level of encouragement that greets all levels of ultra runners and truly makes you feel part of the ultra community.

Support

In ultra distances of 50 miles, 100K or 100 miles the runners get help from others.  Crew and pacers are used by runners to support them during these race.  Sometimes supportive family members help, but mostly its other ultra runners step in and help one another.  For some runners it’s a large group that helps get them to the finish line.  They often sacrifice days of their time to help one another accomplish their goals and races.  While on the course if a runner is hurt or needs even the smallest item, from a Band-Aid to food, a fellow ultra runner will stop and offer help or personal items from their own pack to aid another runner.  It’s a community that helps each other cross the finish line.

The ultra running community is a group that encourages, supports and takes care of its own.  Run a race or two and you might find yourself saying, “these are my people.”

 

Published November 2016

img_5607

 

Where It All Started

I guess we all have a story, never did I think mine was all that interesting. Many times people will ask me, “When did you start running?”, “why did you start running?” or “what’s your story?” These are the same questions I would ask others, my curiosity into their story, their beginning.  The responses I often heard, “I’ve run most of my life,” “I ran in high school or college.” At first those responses immediately intimidated me, and kept me from sharing my story.  The feeling that I don’t belong in the category of “runner,” because I have no back ground or history of being a runner. But we all “have a story” and just like moving to the starting line of a race I put those fears behind me, this is my story to share.

My story starts as a full time mom of 3 kids and basically a couch potato.  Oh I played basketball in junior high and high school, grew up snow and water skiing, rode bikes and was always active outside.  But being a mom and working full time when my two oldest were young, I wasn’t very active.  As the girls got of age, my oldest daughter went off to college and number two was going to follow soon.  Our third child was born in 2001 and at that point I had become a full time stay at home Mom.

Fast forward to 2012, at the age of 48 I was basically overweight and out of shape, then a friend invited me to start hiking with her.  It was also a bonus that I could get my 3 dogs out of the house.  Not to mention that for the first time since living in Georgia, this was an opportunity to begin to explore parks and recreation areas that I’d never been to before.

To expand my hiking opportunities my friend encouraged me to join the Atlanta Outdoor Club (AOC), a club focused on hiking and other outdoor activities.  I was welcomed and inspired by so many outdoor enthusiasts in the AOC.  Soon I was joining faster fitness hikes and I began to really enjoy the challenge of trying to keep up with the fast pace hikers and was even starting to jog to keep up.  These weekly hikes became a 5 1/2 mile jog for me.  Next my friend asked me if I wanted to run the Peachtree Road Race.  I had never done anything like that, but living in Atlanta for over 20 years, I knew it was biggest 10K event around with 60,000 participants.  I immediately said I would, figuring running a 10K (6.2 miles) couldn’t be that much tougher than my 5 1/2  mile fast hikes.  I could at least finish it, plus I’m always willing to try most anything at least once. So in 2012 running the Peachtree Road Race was my first race ever.

Peachtree2

My daughter Katie and I right after my first Peachtree Road Race

Before long I signed up for other 5 and 10K races as well as running often with another friend who I met in the AOC who was a more experienced runner.  As a beginner and having no fitness back ground I started signing up for weekly trail runs with the AOC to build a base.  These runners did more than just run with me, they waited on me, they supported me, encouraged me,  and taught me that I could do whatever wanted to do.  I was slow at first so after one of my first runs with the group I began to bring my dog Summer, an Italian Greyhound, for company.  She’s still my best running buddy and joins me on all my training runs up to 30 miles and runs a few races with me too.

SheMoves ATL5

 

On the AOC fitness hikes I met Stacey who became and still is a good friend. Stacey was a runner and really wanted me to do a half marathon with her. That seemed like a long ways from the 5 or 6 miles I had gotten used to running but as I said, “I’m willing to try anything at least once.”  However, others had cautioned me to train and not just jump into it like I had done with the Peachtree Road Race.  So we agreed on the Georgia Publix Half Marathon in March of 2013, and I began to train for the longer distance.

While training for the half marathon, Stacey asked me about running a marathon.  At this point I wasn’t sure I could do a half marathon and I’d never even thought of running a marathon.  A marathon wasn’t even on my radar.  By now Stacey and I were close enough friends that I knew her background.  You see Stacey was a breast cancer survivor of 10 years.  She was a young, single mom when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy, chemo and several additional surgeries.  She had turned to running during her recovery.  Running a marathon was a bucket list item for Stacey and I knew immediately if she could go through all that, I could run 26.2 miles for her.   We signed up for the October 2013 Chicago Marathon and spent the summer and fall training.  We had the best time running together and a great first marathon experience.  She will always be my initial inspiration for running a marathon and continues inspires me as a friend and cancer survivor!

Chicago37.jpg

Stacey & I before the Chicago Marathon

Would I run another marathon?  The first marathon I ran for Stacey but I felt like I wanted to run another for me. A tough question with a passionate response…”YES”.  Two weeks later I upgraded an Atlanta Track Club 10 mile race to the Atlanta Marathon.

After two more road marathons in early 2014 I finally did my first trail marathon.  The trails are where I began to run and enjoyed most of my training runs.  The feeling of running through the woods, the challenge of climbing the mountains and the technical nature of the trails really developed my passion for trail running.  The community I found during that first trail marathon hooked me.  The trails are where I truly enjoy and love to run.

Now that trail running had become my happy place, a month later I did my first 50K, an Ultra Marathon (any distance longer than 26.2 miles is considered an Ultra Marathon). Again I thought it would be one of my “try something once and done” type things.  But now the trails had become my love and the distance was an enjoyable challenge.

Soon with some encouragement from another running friend I began a quest to run a 100 mile race.  Not only was this something way out of my wheel house, I had never even heard of it before.  But the challenge was something that excited me.  How could a middle-aged mother of 3 who didn’t even start running until the age of 48 begin to consider such a thing?  So this is my journey.

I am an ordinary woman, wife and mother. My faith and family are of most importance to me on this journey that I am embracing. A journey that takes me through the good, the bad and the difficult, the ups and the downs along the way, and what keeps me going.

A trail running mom on the path to run 100 miler! I truly believe that EVERY STEP IS A BLESSING! Posting and sharing little bits of trail wisdom as I go!

 

 

 

 

Antelope Canyon 50 Miler Race Report, February 21, 2016

My friends, Carrie, Lisa and I had picked this race months before and decided this would be a great adventure!  Actually Carrie and I chatted about some of the races that Ultra Adventures does during my 100 mile Blind Pig race.  After she spent nearly 50 miles there pacing me, I told her to take a look at some of their races, Antelope Canyon, Brice Canyon, Zion, Monument Valley, etc.  She could pick whichever one interested her and we’d go do it.  So Antelope Canyon was her pick, and Lisa and I had to admit it looked like an awesome event.

We made our plans to fly into Las Vegas on the Thursday before our Saturday race.  You could fly into either Salt Lake City, Phoenix or Las Vegas, all were within a reasonable driving distance of the race in Paige, AZ.  In the end Las Vegas was the least expensive at the time we bought our tickets.  So early Thursday we flew out to Las Vegas and spent the day traveling from there to Paige.  Driving through Nevada, Lisa wondered why on earth we fought the Indians for that land! But we headed north and into St. Georgia, Utah and then into Zion Canyon.  We got to spend several hours exploring Zion before heading out to Paige.

IMG_4727

We also visited Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas

We relaxed on Friday and did a little sightseeing, not actually too much to see there.  But we did hike out to see the famous Horse Shoe Bend and take in the view and sights.  We knew we’d run by there the next day in the race but thought that it might be nice to get a good look when we weren’t trying to run.  We didn’t want to spend the entire race taking pictures even though we were determined to enjoy it fully.

We did our packet pick up on that Friday afternoon.  They offered the racers a unique experience to volunteer and help put mud some Navajo huts.  Afterwards they served us some awesome Navajo tacos.  You have to take in the whole experience here.

IMG_0366

Another high light for us we getting to meet Vanessa Rodriguez, aka Vanessa Runs

The race started early on Saturday morning.  We had dropped off our drop bags the night before, but wanted to get there early because there was an early morning Navajo Indian Prayer time before the race start.  Soon the race was off.  It was an early dark start.  We started closer to the front which is not where I usually like to start most races.  I don’t think we realized we were that far up.  But it got us off and running and it started with a fairly large rock climb which was nice not to be behind hundreds of runners.  Once over that rock and down the other side it was a sandy desert run for many miles.  While it was still dark, you couldn’t see but we followed a long power line section as we worked our way out towards the first Aid Station.  It was getting light out and we dropped into the first slot canyon of the course.  It was a nice downhill canyon that was beautiful.  Before we knew it we arrived at the first aid station.

IMG_0383

One thing that was very different about this race from the beginning was that the RD and the entire race was very Green.  All trash was recycled and composted, and each aid station had a composing “out house”.  Well it was more of a tent but it was nice to have.

So at our first stop we grabbed some fruit and kept going.  Now we were on a long 3 mile or more sandy wash road.  Basically a very wide sandy road that was only driven on by large 4-wheel drive trucks.  The sand was deep and relentless, tiring you out very quickly.  Lisa seemed to do better in this section and left Carrie and I fairly quickly.  This section led us to Upper Antelope Canyon which was the most beautiful canyon of the race, although as we hit it, the sun had not fully come up and it was a little dark inside when we ran through.  Once through the canyon it was back down the 3 mile sandy road wash back to the aid station as we traced our way back up the way we came down the power lines. From the Antelope Canyon Aid station it was 6 miles to Slick Rock AS and a turn towards the Horseshoe AS.

IMG_0376Carrie had a camera clipped on her pack that takes photos every 30 seconds.  You can see in this picture the deep sand

This whole section was long deep sandy stretches through the desert.  Once we got past Horseshoe AS we headed out to run a long section above Horseshoe bend and some of the most beautiful sections with unbelievable views.  Carrie and I held a steady pace and just kept moving in the deep sand as best we could. It got hot during the day light hours with no shade on the course but in short sleeves and with the dry heat it wasn’t that bad.  We got to Water Holes AS and immediately dropped into Waterholes Slot Canyon. It was really more like a steep climb down into it.  Carrie and I enjoyed this section and ran here with our new friend Janeth, taking a few photos through the canyon.  Soon out of the canyon it was back to sandy road sections and 5 miles back to Horseshoe AS, retracing again our way back to Slick Rock AS.  Now it was a short distance back and then climb up the to Paige Rim AS which was only a few hundred feet from the finish line. But first it was a 10 mile loop run around the city of Paige with beautiful view of Lake Powell.  At least the deep sand was behind us, but for Carrie the sand had done it’s damage on legs and wearing her out.  After completing this 10 mile section, it’s a drop back down to the finish line and a just Navajo Indian made finishers award.

IMG_0384

Carrie and I in Waterholes Slot Canyon

Lisa had finished an hour or so before us and sat around a bon fire with many others waiting for us to come in.  It was such a perfect day in so many ways, but I think we were just all ready to get a shower and some sleep.

IMG_4888

We each picked out a slightly different Navajo made finishers award

 Now after a little time to reflect on our Antelope Canyon 50 Miler let me share some of what I learned:

  1. Ultra Adventures does the Grand Circle Series of races, I would highly recommend adding one of their events to your racing bucket list! They have lots to choose from and put on a great race. I personally hope to do one again soon.
  2. Antelope Canyon 50 miler was probably 30 miles of deep sand. It’s a beautiful race and you want to enjoy it but I’m not sure I’d recommend it as a first 50 miler. I’m not saying you can’t do it but I do think the 50K option at this race covers the most beautiful parts of the 50 mile race.  The cut off is 15 hours, which seems very generous but don’t be caught off guard by the sand.
  3. Visit all the sites you can while you are there.  We went to Zion on the way out and again on the way back.  Also got a permit into the South Butte section of the wave.  It was all a great adventure and worth seeing as much as you can.  I might also add that I would recommend going on the tour out to Antelope Canyon.  I know you do get to run through Upper Antelope Canyon but I think having time to see them and take pictures might be worth the trip. One regret about our trip.
  4. I wore a pair of Altra Lone Peak Neo Shells and Carrie wore a pair of Salomon’s that are also waterproof.  We both wore a pair of gaiters over the top and neither one of us stopped even once to empty sand from our shoes.  I know it might be a trade off,
  5. sand for warmer feet, but my feet were never hot.  When the race was over I was surprised when I removed my shoes and there was not a single grain of sand and I mean seriously nothing.  You will be emptying your shoes countless times on this course otherwise.
  6. It was an awesome girls trip for Team Unicorn!  We were able to share expenses of hotels and the rental car, and because it was off season in February, it was a very affordable trip.
  7. Follow your dreams and Embrace the Journey!

Pinhoti 100 Race Report, November 7, 2015

If you’ve ever read any of my race reports you know that I’m a planner. I think out the details, write lists and plan each step.  The other thing you might notice is I always love to have good company on my runs.  I’m not a front of the pack runner that races, I enjoy running and the company along the way.  I admit I am competitive at times but it’s about enjoying the journey and my friends mostly.

Carrie, Lisa and I had been running together pretty consistently for months.  We all ran a similar pace, are at a similar place in life with kids basically grown, and really like to run and enjoy ourselves.  We began calling ourselves Team Rainbows and Unicorns, which started when we were in a race running together.  Someone made a negative comment and soon Lisa explained that we could not say anything negative because she was running in her the world of “Rainbows and Unicorns!”  We were not to upset that world Lisa was running in.  So you know if you can beat them, join them!  We all run in that world and we don’t allow any negative into our running world circle, although all are welcome to join us there.

I’m not sure when exactly we all decided to run Pinoti.  I had volunteered at the race in 2014, and knew for certain I wanted to run it the next year.  Somewhere along the way, I talked Carrie and Lisa into joining my adventure.  Lisa was on board first, she was easy, Carrie on the other hand wasn’t sure doing a 100 miler was every on her list to do, but had more recently admitted she had some thoughts of it.  By May of 2015 we convinced Carrie to come run Choccolocco 50K, another race in Alabama that is put on by the same race director as Pinhoti.  The plan was to show Carrie the beautiful Pinohoti trails, (which Lisa and I had run on some when we did Cheaha 50K a few months before), and convince her into joining us on our 100 mile quest. Well Carrie pulled the trigger on Pinhoti a few weeks before our Choccolocco race and the Pinhoti trails on the Choccolocco 50K only excited the three of us for the awesome journey ahead.

So here we were months later, lots of miles of training and lots of 50K and 50 milers run. We got our lists made, bags packed, crew and pacers set up and felt pretty much ready for the race.  Lisa’s husband, Bill and daughter, Melissa were going to crew for us, and Molly Freeman was jumping in later in the race to pace for us. The three of us met together and planned our drop bags, where we would stay the night before the race, how we would get to the race start and all the details leading up to the race.  A couple minor changes had happened leading into the race, the biggest of which was rain.  Now we were all a way too used to running in wet muddy conditions at this point but it had caused a changed in the course.  Pinhoti is 100 mile race, point to point.  It starts in Heflin, AL and ends 100 miles later in Sylacauga with several points along the way for your crew to access you.  Because of the rain we were told that a couple of the normal aid stations would now be water drop points only as they could not get an aid station set up in there.  The race start was also changed.  We would now be starting at Aid Station #3 on the course, running back to the second AS then back to AS #3.  Sounded easy enough but this didn’t play out to well for the start for us.  Planning for 100 miles of wet also offers its share of challenges as you try and prepare for your feet being wet for that long of time.  But we had drop bags back and planned to change clothes, and shoes at mile 40 which was Mt. Cheaha (Bald Rock).  We had planned as best we could, now it was go time.

Carrie and I stayed at one hotel, got up early race morning and drove to where Lisa was staying.  We left our car their and rode with Lisa and our crew to the start.

P4

Just before the start, it was raining lightly

It was an very exciting start with so many runners we knew gathered, and adding so many who were crewing, the crowd was huge and I think it was one of the most exciting starts I had experienced to that point.  Soon we were off.  Usually early in a race I lead and set a pace.  I probably tend to go out a little too fast but I usually try and get us ahead of the slower runners so we don’t fight to get around folks.  It was roughly 5 miles from where we started to work our way back a single track section to aid station #3 but just before getting on the single track we went up a very short distance of fire road.  With literally hundreds of runners running we quickly found we had started too far back and got in a log jam of people waiting to get onto the single track.  That all made for a slow start.  Once we got onto the trail it was several more miles of congo line running but we made the best of it and chatted with the folks around us as we settled into our run.  Once we got near the aid station it because I steady stream of front runners passing us on their way back from the first aid station and back to the AS where we started.  Being a single track trail, we had to constantly stop and get off the trail and hundreds of runners in front of us were passing.  Well that wasn’t the start we wanted but we did get to say hello to our friends running in front of us and got quickly out of that first AS and off to the next.  We attempted to make up a little time after the slow down off passing runners, we came into the next AS and were about 45 mins ahead of the cutoff.  We tried to again get quickly in and out here and off.  Just as we got what we needed a train came and trapped us on the wrong side of the tracks for probably 5-10 minutes as it passed.  Finally out of there, we felt like we were finally off and running but further back than we wanted to be.

P6

The rain continued to come down during the day, it was warm out so soon we all took off our jackets off.  Another 5 miles or so and into AS #3.  This was probably one of our favorite AS stops as lots of people were there and all cheering for us.  Our spirits were definitely lifted although we remained the same 45 minutes ahead of cut off.  A little too tight for our liking but at least we were ahead.  We finally made our way to Lake Morgan AS and our first drop bags.  We all made our mental notes coming into Lake Morgan what we needed from our bags so we could get in and out as quickly as possible.  Getting into the AS required some rock climbing just before the lake, because of the rain Lisa took a bad fall here trying to get up the rock section.  We got her up that and all got what we need from the AS and headed out.  The next section was a section we had all been on most of from an early training run there.  It’s a relatively easy section that is very pretty.  What is normally a very dry part of the course, turned out to been mostly water and muddy section.  We continued moving as quickly as we could but the water and mud made it a little slow at times.  We had gotten our headlamps from our drop bags at Lake Morgan because we knew that it would most likely be dark before we reach our next stop at Mt. Cheaha.  We got the next water stop just below our climb up to Mt. Cheaha, one of the biggest climbs on the course and refilled our packs.  Not long after that it was dark and we needed our headlamps.  The further up the climb we went, the foggier it got.  It seemed like a slow climb but knowing our crew would be at the top and a chance to change into dry clothes and shoes was what we were focused on.

Finally into the Mt. Cheaha AS and our crew got us our bags and we were all busing changing clothes.  There is “real” bathrooms here and we took advantage of complete change of clothes and assessing our feet damage from the wet day.  We spent extra time patching up feet and getting changed before we were off again.  By now it was very dark and the fog had rolled in and was pretty thick and we were not far ahead of cutoffs.  We were hardly able to see in front of us and had no idea where we were going and where the flags were.  Our crew came down the road in the car and was finally able to give us some direction.  We knew just ahead we would be heading down “Blue Hell”.  The most dreaded part of the course by most people’s standards.  The main thing we had heard was you want to get down Blue Hell before dark.  Well it was long past dark (partly this year due to the time changing the previous weekend so dark came earlier in the race), raining and foggy.  We could hardly see what we were doing and it was very wet and slippery.  We worked our way down as carefully as possible but before getting down Lisa and Carrie both managed to take a fall here.  Lisa’s being the worst but still able to move although with much more caution.  Once down the rocks of Blue Hell we struggled with a handful of other runners to find the course and direction.  The rain and mud had literally washed the course flagging away.  We finally got on course and were able to continue on working our way to the next AS, making up some time we lost on Blue Hell because a large portion was fire roads once we got off the hill. Although we were still running just ahead of the cutoff times at this point.  The next section of the course seems a bit of a blur of water crossings and rocks.  Some water crossing were much deeper and swifter than normal because of the large amount of rainfall and Carrie had hurt her leg crossing one where the water was rushing pretty fast.  We moved steady but each time we would come around a corner and hear the water rush, we knew a crossing would be ahead and we feared how big it would be.  Carrie was extra cautious of the water crossings and Lisa was still nursing her hurt leg.  We made it to the next stop at mile 50, rushing in and out of there was we were informed we were now only minutes ahead of cutoffs.  Next stop we would see our crew, so off we went.  Coming into to the 55 mile AS we were told we were after the cutoffs to keep going.  We were not being pulled and we had hoped to make up some time on the next section.  We had very little time to chat, we grabbed food and were off.

The next section was a very long fire road section that would have a water drop in about 5 miles.  Lisa and I finally began to move hoping to make up some time.  This was the perfect place to do it so we continued to push.  Carrie struggled more here but we kept pushing.  Then the rain started again.  We had thought we had seen the last of the rain and none of us were aware it was going to start up again, we hardly had time to talk to crew or the AS working the last several stops to get a weather update. This time the rain was very cold. When we finally got to the water drop we found one runner there huddled under a space blanket waiting for a ride out.  We pressed on, soon dropping back onto the trails. By now we had our jackets back on but were all beginning to get very cold.  Carrie’s stomach started giving her trouble when we were on the fire road section and now with the rain it was a struggle.  We all knew in our heads that we didn’t have time to go slow, but the cold rain was taking a toll and our spirits were quickly sinking.  I know in my own head I was quickly calculating that a DNF was almost inevitable.  We had run all day long just ahead of cutoffs.  Not really where anyone enjoys a run and I had found it very stressful most of the day as we seem to struggle to bank any time ahead of the cutoffs even though we were running good and all felt strong.  Possibly the combination of so many things contributed to this ending.  We anticipated getting to our crew at mile 65 and some warmer clothes but when we arrived it was again just a water stop.  Carrie was now shivering hard and as we were contemplating contacting our crew and what to do.  Carrie knew with her stomach she was done but we didn’t have a plan for what to do.  The longer we stood their deciding on our next move, the colder we all became.  Five miles to warmer clothing was a long ways off.  Would Lisa and I push on, could we push on?  Several other runners were around us at this point all having the same dilemma.  The discussions were quickly stopped when behind us came the sweeper and told us we were all done.

It was a tough ending for us all.  All of our legs felt good and we felt like we had run well all day.  It’s after a DNF that you begin to think about all the things you could have changed, or done differently to change the outcome.  While it stings to take a DNF I can fully own it and wear it proudly.  We learn with every race we run and I’m sure everyone who gets a DNF has a list of things they’d do differently next time.  Do not make a DNF a Did Not Learn!  We’ll move on and Pinhoti will always be there to run again!