Motivation and minimizing stupid decisions. Simply put, these are the secrets to running 100 miles.
Want it. Without a relentless determination to get to the finish line come hell and high water it just ain’t gonna happen. It’s gonna hurt, a lot. You’re gonna suffer, a lot. It’s not a matter of if something will go wrong but when it will go wrong. Unless you really really really want to run 100 miles, your mind will do everything in its power to make you stop, convince you to give up and hand you any one of an infinite number of excuses to go with it. In the midst of the 34 miles stretch of trail that my first pacer, Malory, accompanied me we talked about what motivates us. Clearly it’s the sense of unparalleled and immense accomplishment. It’s also the allure of something as simple as a belt buckle or a finishers tshirt that has a big fat 100 on it. But often it’s also fear that motivates. Fear of not being able to do it, fear of suffering more. The thing to remember is that you can do it. As long as you want to do it (obviously with the exception of certain severe physiological injuries that can bring your race to a stop regardless of how badly you may want to keep going). Also, the suffering doesn’t get worse. It just continues :-)
Try to not to make too many stupid decisions. My friend and 100 mile hero, Greg, says: Take care of small problems before they turn into big problems. It’s too easy to ignore a little hot spot on your big toe until several miles later it turns into a debilitating blister. Stop. Take the time to fix it now. Take a couple of seconds to dunk yourself at every stream you cross on a hot day. Pay attention to course markings. Drink. Eat. Think. Learn. You’ll spare yourself an unnecessary world of extra pain.
Of course, those two things (continuing to move forward when everything hurts and sucks, and trying not to be a complete idiot) are easier said than done. Thankfully, during my time at Bighorn, I discovered two additional secrets to running 100 miles.
Stay calm & be present. Of all the things I did at Bighorn, this was the piece I executed the best. There are parts of my Western States 100M last year that I don’t quite remember. In between select vivid memories are a whole bunch of foggy gaps. That bothers me. My journey across the Bighorn Mountains is deeply ingrained in my memory – to an extreme. As Malory and I made our way back across the course at night I remembered the most minute details of the sections I’d run hours and hours ago — I remembered what I was thinking by that log on the side of the trail, I remembered that I flipped my hat backwards on this switchback, I remembered talking to a guy in a red shirt during that mudpit and how the next mudpit was slightly wider and just around the corner after the trail narrowed up ahead. I can tell you exactly where we were when Malory and I turned off our headlamps for a moment in order to star gaze. I remember how our miles together fluctuated between serious discussions, wild stories, silence, singing ridiculous songs, and stopping for a quick dance party when daybreak allowed us to turn off our headlamps. I noticed and appreciated all of my second pacer, Ginna’s secret stash of tricks to get me to run faster as I winced down the final 3,500ft descent of the day. Being super focused in the moment instead of letting my mind wander in anxiety and premonition enabled me to stay calm and under control during the challenges I faced.
Run with awesome people. There were 11 Rocky Mountain Runners running the race and at least 25 additional RMRs tagging along as crew and pacers. Knowing that they were out on the course pushing hard and overcoming was incredibly powerful. Running into the major aid stations amidst the rowdy cheers of the gang of green was incredibly energizing. In those moments any struggles that I was carrying disappeared. Also, knowing Ryan would take good care of me and set me up for success made my job, to run, easier. Stopping to chat with and hug each of my teammates on the out-and-back course lifted me off my feet. The energy, enthusiasm, pride and strength I got from being a part of the Rocky Mountain Runners made my race. And getting to celebrate each of their finishes at the city park in Dayton was the perfect finale to an incredible experience. I could not be more proud to run with this cast of characters and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for making my life bigger.
So with all of that said and done, I’ll spare you 100 mile-by-mile details and let the photos that Ryan captured tell the rest of the story. I wish he could have run the whole thing with me taking photos along the way so I could share what I saw. Everything everyone had said about how beautiful this course is was an understatement. It was breathtaking. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to experience the Bighorn wilderness and the race that more than lives up to its name: The Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic Trail Run.
Early worms get the shade. Hanging out at the race start:
Runners and their pacers. Thankfully everyone is still friends after enduring enormously long miles and hours together.
The 350+ starters at 11AM on Friday:
RMR crew poised and ready to welcome me into and get me through the Dry Fork in-bound aid station at mile 13:
Malory & Ginna helping me out at the Dry Fork aid station:
Back on my way. First and last time I’d see my crew in daylight until the next day.
Coming into Footbridge aid station (mile 30) where RMRs Rush, Mike and Josh took amazing care of me, got me in and out quickly and ready to tackle the 18 mile climb to the turnaround point:
Fast forward through the night and it’s a new day! Here are Malory and I coming up into Dry Fork out-bound (mile 82.5). The photo makes this section look flat. It was not.
Quick and energizing early morning refuel at the Dry Fork aid station before setting off with Ginna for the final 18 mile stretch.
After a ruthless 3,500′ descent in the early 90s, all that stood between me and the finish line were 5 grueling miles of flat dirt road.
Mile 98. Digging deep.
1st place female overall. 1st place in the women’s 30-39 age group. 19th overall (out of 194 finishers). 24:13:29. Kea kisses.
RMR headquarters at the finish:
Rocky Mountain Runners like to make party.
Some of the incredible RMR finishes of the day:
The morning after at the finishers’ breakfast and awards presentation in Sheridan, WY:
Impromptu public speaking is not one of the secrets to running 100 miles.
Women’s podium (left to right) with first-time 100 Miler Serena Eley in 3rd (26:16:21),100 Mile veteran Jamie Frink in 2nd (26:01:40), and me (yeay!) in 1st (24:13:29):
RMR age group awards: Guy & Emily dominated the 20-29 age group category!
This win & this rock belong to my pacers Ginna & Malory. I cannot wait to pay it forward in August when Malory runs her first 100 at Leadville.
Run 100 miles, get a free belt buckle.
Run 100 miles fast, get a rock.
And finally, a quick shout out to the brands and products that helped make my day:
- CarboPro – probably 90% of my calories during the run came from CarboPro & Hydra C5 –my stomach and energy were solid all day which is impressive considering the heat and altitude. The rest of my calories came from good ol’fashioned Coca Cola and probably a grand total of 2 gu’s, a few slices of watermelon, a few sips of green tea, a handful of salty Fritos, a few nibbles of a cookie and a cup of veggie soup at night. Also, the CarboPro MetaSalt kept my electrolytes in check during the hot temperatures.
- Simple Hydration – there’s nothing better than being able to run hands free over long distances. It keeps your body relaxed and allows you to run freely. Two bottles were plenty to get me from aid station to aid station even on the super hot day.
- NakedBelt – check out this small business based out of Malibu, CA. The belt is amazing! It holds everything you need: headlamp, light jacket, food and fits the SH bottles perfectly. No bounce, no squishing your gut, no creeping up to the middle of your waist like a pair of grandma jeans.
- Feetures! Socks – the elite merino+ ultralight is my go-to sock for summer mountain running, especially when it’s wet and muddy like the Bighorn course
- La Sportiva – I wore the Helios SR for miles 0-95.5 and loved them. Flexible, soft and grippy. I switched into a pair of Hoka Huaka for the final 4.5 miles on the flat road.
- ElevationTat – a handy elevation profile right on your forearm! It’s a no brainer. Support this small ultrarunner-owned business based out of Golden, CO.
And an extra special shout out to my awesome friend Julia who ever so thoughtfully & creatively surprised me with the most badass Bighorn trophy ever! Although I did get a cool Salomon travel mug and $150 for 1st overall, the race award rocks are only given to age group winners. So while I did get a 30-39 age group rock, this giant bighorn (fake) skull trophy for 1st overall does make me feel purdy darn amazing. Thanks Julia!