100 Days of Difference – Day 1 (The Challenge)

I’ve been brainstorming ideas about fundraising for an AMAZING organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, since I finished the San Francisco Marathon last summer. As part of my training, I raised over $1,200 for Hope for Young Adults with Cancer. Instead of focusing on one race this year, I have decided to center my efforts around 100 Days of Difference by using the five love languages. I hope to complete one task (or set of tasks) for each of the categories of love between Memorial Day and Labor Day… which I know is 105 days, but it doesn’t sound as good 😉

So why focus on love when raising money for young adults fighting cancer? Because I witnessed the unconditional love my parents had for one another during the five years my father battled bone cancer. From his experiences, I know that love can be a powerful force for those facing a cancer diagnosis. As a family member I know the importance of love, from family, friends, and strangers alike, when dealing with the loss of a cancer patient. And as someone who teaches young adults, I see the effect love and compassion can have on even the most guarded individuals.

I tried to incorporate my passions into my goals and will post updates on my progress as summer continues. I would LOVE if you joined me in giving HOPE to young adults with cancer throughout the country. How can you do that? The best way would be to donate online on my fundraising page! However, I will also be collecting donations for my “survivor kits”, with more information to come ( but let me know if you want to help specifically with this part of the project!). If you can’t give financially, please consider sharing this post OR share the link directly to my fundraising page (https://www.crowdrise.com/100daysofdifference/fundraiser/karenoliver1) to help spread the word! Here are my five commitments for my summer 100 Days of Difference Challenge:

Words of Affirmation – Send 100 letters of encouragement

Acts of Service – Assemble 100 “survivor kits” for cancer patients

Physical (Touch) – Run 100 miles with Charity Miles app

Quality Time – Spend 100 hours traveling to see family/friends

Giving Gifts – Inspire 100 people to donate to Hope4YAWC

Please contact me directly if you have questions about my project or keep reading for more information about Hope4YAWC!

Who Is Hope For Young Adults With Cancer?
Hope For Young Adults With Cancer is a 501(c)(3) organization that is passionate about making the lives of young adults, ages 18 – 40, living with cancer a little bit easier. Our mission is to connect with our peers in the fight to provide direct financial support and a social network and outlet for those battling, surviving and living with cancer. Hope4YAWC is one of only a handful of non-profit organizations nationwide that focuses on providing direct financial support to young adults with cancer 18 – 40.

Over 72,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Survival rates for young adults have not risen since 1975.
This is due to unique factors such as lack of insurance, minimal participation in clinical trials and delayed diagnoses.

How Does Hope For Young Adults With Cancer Help?
Hope4YAWC raises funds through fundraisers and events organized by the charity and through partnerships with other organizations and businesses in the community, as well as through direct donations from businesses and individuals. We in turn provide direct financial support to young adults who currently are battling cancer as well as those who have been in remission for up to 5 years after their treatment. We provide this support to those who need it after a thorough examination and selection process through our “Giving Hope Fund” application.

Hope For Young Adults With Cancer’s “Giving Hope Fund”
The “Giving Hope Fund” allows young adults currently battling cancer, as well as those who have been in remission for up to 5 years after their treatment, the opportunity to help pay for necessities they encounter in everyday life as well as the opportunity to a “want” item that they have had their eye on, but couldn’t necessarily afford. This includes but is not limited to obligations, such as rent and mortgage payments, cell phone and credit card bills, clothing, work and educated related materials, department store and grocery gift cards, as well as laptops and electronic devices. We would of course be remiss if we didn’t include the opportunity to make payments on all forms of medical bills, healthcare premiums, doctor visits and prescription co-pays. The “Giving Hope Fund” is posted on our website and through our social media accounts twice a year, normally once in the spring and once in the fall.

Hope4YAWC Social Meetups & Fitness Programs
Social isolation is the number one concern in young adults with cancer. With this in mind, we organize quarterly meetups emphasizing a fun, stress-free environment where young adults with cancer can connect with other fighters and survivors their own age without feeling judged or embarrassed. We also offer yoga on weekends that is open to anyone, but mainly focus on building up physical strength and stress-relief for those young adults with cancer who are fatigued by the ramifications of their cancer treatment.

To learn more about Hope For Young Adults With Cancer, visit:



La Jolla Half Marathon 2015

I will be the first to admit that I was not at all prepared for this race. I decided to run about a month ago since I had been training for my Tinkerbell Half Marathon anyway. This race is the second of the triple crown series of half marathons in San Diego, which I completed in 2013. Carlsbad in the January race, then La Jolla in April, and America’s Finest City in August. So I’ve run the course before and I knew what to expect… lots and lots of hills! The run starts in the Del Mar racetrack and follows the coast up and over the hills of Torrey Pines before ending in La Jolla Cove. It’s brutal. But it’s also beautiful!


Sunday morning, Sean and I drove down to La Jolla to stash our car by the finish before hopping on the shuttle with Kelly. My goal here was to NOT rip my contact while getting off the bus (click the La Jolla link above to read that story). I was successful and we spent the hour or so before the start stretching, staying warm, and discussing our race strategies. Even though Sean and I had done many of our training runs together, we concluded that to avoid injury it would probably be best if we ran our own races and started in our own corrals. I was wave three and he was wave four. Kelly decided to jump up to wave four with Sean to get started earlier. Our friends Vanessa and Dahlia found us in the parking lot and were both in wave three with me (pre-race photo below).


Starting off, my plan was to run comfortably and stay at whatever pace felt fairly easy. This ended up being about 9:30 pace, which was right at what I expected. I didn’t want to push too hard for the first five miles because of the big hill into Torrey Pines around mile six. It was perfect weather for the race and the sun came out just as we started, which made it a little warmer but also quite pleasant. The wind coming off the ocean wasn’t too strong, so I felt good turning up the hill (see first photo). Historically, I run hills well and I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be any different. I drove my arms and passed a TON of people of this section of the course. The photo below is a screenshot of an official photo so excuse the watermarks, but look past me at the rest of the runners and you’ll see what I mean. I got up without much problem and my legs were still feeling strong(ish).

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.30.07 PM

The next three miles are my least favorite because they are rolling hills through the top of Torrey Pines. It’s when I knew my legs would start to tire from lack of training and when I couldn’t see the finish line yet. I was expecting Sean to pass me at some point during this stretch so that gave me something to think about. He did end up passing me just before mile ten and our huge downhill. That gave me a bit of a boost because he said his shin and legs were feeling good as he passed me (he’s on the right in the photo below). I won’t lie, it was a bit humbling for me to be passed but I knew he was the more prepared runner between us. I was also really excited because I knew time-wise he was on pace to run a PR and possibly even break two hours!


After the big downhill, the top of my right foot started to tighten up and my left knee was a bit wonky. Both of these were things I expected with the lack of hill and distance training I’d put in. I was enjoying the race though and got to take in the scenery around me while I ran. Nothing was too painful to continue so I kept on cruising. The part of the course that winds through La Jolla Village was kind of annoying due to construction and the sun was starting to feel hotter. But I knew there was just one more section of hills before the downhill turn to the finish line. I did a quick assessment and confirmed that I couldn’t go any faster, so I just enjoyed the run as much as I could. I tried to encourage the runners around me who were starting to really struggle and who were less familiar with the course. Ultimately, I made it to the finish line without too much difficulty!


My official time was 2:07:03, which was about seven minutes slower than when I ran this course in 2013. But I felt VERY happy with those results given my preparation. Sean finished in an impressive 2:00:25, but was a bit frustrated at being so close to that two-hour barrier. He shaved about five minutes off his time from Carlsbad, which is a much easier course, so I was proud of him! Kelly, Vanessa, and Dahlia all finished within fifteen minutes of us, so we were able to meet up at the finish line. It was really fun seeing people I knew all day, either on the course or at the start and finish lines. I love the little group of runners I’ve come to know here and I think most of us are planning to run AFC in August as well. My goal for that race is to properly train and make a push to break the two-hour barrier again, if not PR. I’m quite confident that Sean will and you know I can’t be left behind!



February Fasts Update

I just looked at the calendar and realized that we’re already over halfway through February! This month has been crazy busy so far. I’ve been spending a lot of time helping get the Edge Church ready for launch THIS SUNDAY! Oh, and I went to Big Sky, Montana for skiing with two of my best friends. I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about and then making the decision to move back to California. And I’m now frozen into my apartment by 2-3 inches of snow/sleet. Because this is North Carolina and they aren’t super used to the white stuff. But all this stuff isn’t what my post is really about tonight, it’s about my five fasts in February!

Let me first remind you what I chose to eliminate from my diet for this month: fizzy drinks, french fries, “fourth meal”, frozen treats, and fast food.

Fizzy drinks has been way easier than I thought! I did cave and have soda while in our box at the UVA vs. NCSU men’s basketball game. Mainly because I was tired and it was there and I was feeling spoiled. That night I didn’t sleep well AT ALL. I was totally wired. Note to self, caffeine makes my mind crazy. It’s all really dry in my apartment and I feel like I’m constantly thirsty, so not drinking soda has helped slightly with that. I will most likely continue to omit soda from my diet except for rare occasions.

French fries is not a problem when I eat at home, which I’ve been doing a lot of. French fries are a huge temptation when I’m eating out, especially because I really like ordering sandwiches which often come with fries. In Big Sky, I swapped my side of french fries for brussel sprouts and was disappointed in them. So I stole a few fries from the boys. But it was much better than having my whole plate full! I would love to say french fries will be gone forever, but I know that’s not the case. I will try to get a healthy side and just split fries with people in the future… because a half of serving is better than a full serving, right?

“Fourth meal” hasn’t been too bad… mainly because I’ve been delaying my meals and not having my Shakeology shake until about 10am after my Beachbody Piyo workout, so then lunch isn’t until 2pm or so, which means I wait until 7pm to eat dinner. There isn’t a ton of time after that to eat more. And I’ve already eaten most of the snacks in my house 😉 I’m trying to just drink a container of water instead to help fill my stomach. I’ve occasionally had a square of dark chocolate as a dessert to my dinner. But again, that’s way better than the foraging through the pantry I used to do! I plan to continue limiting late-night snacking because I know I sleep better when I haven’t just eaten!

Frozen treats again has been easy since I haven’t eaten out too much. The dark chocolate squares have quenched my sweet tooth and I just haven’t been craving cold milkshakes or ice cream since it’s been in the teens and 20s here recently. Brrr! There are also not delicious frozen yogurt shops on every corner like in California. I predict the frozen treats will be creeping back into my diet soon 😉 I know I do better when I don’t keep it in the house though, so I’ll continue to resist buying them for the house!

Finally, fast food. Again, I’ve been home alone most of the month and in an environment where I’m not being invited out to a ton of meals. But I have been running tons of errands throughout the days, which is when I’m always most tempted by fast food. I think I had fast food once on the way to Montana in the Chicago airport, which was to be expected. Again, I hope to continue this without too much problem while still in North Carolina!

So basically, I’m happy with how I’ve done so far and I feel good about finishing out the rest of the month. I am still trying to figure out how all of these will or won’t continue once I’m back in California. I will say that all of these diet adjustments, plus adding in healthier alternatives, and doing Beachbody six days a week with half marathon training… I feel great! I have also lost six pounds this calendar year and, more importantly, 2.5 inches from my body! Most of that was from my arms and waist, which have definitely become more toned from workouts and managing my food. I hope the next 11 days will help solidify my routines and remove the few cravings I still have.

On the spiritual front, I have been working through my weekly devotionals which had given me a greater focus on my life. I’ve worked through a lot of frustrations and mental blocks that have been building and I’ve dealt with some issues I’d been suppressing. I’ve felt really fulfilled working the launch the Edge Church and because I feel so great about my nutrition and fitness, I can use my time being positive and supportive of others! Overall, this has been a great month and I’m excited to see how the rest of it plays out 🙂

Five February Fasts

As y’all know, I have really focused a lot recently on leading a healthier and happier life, both physically and mentally. A huge piece of that is nutrition. I mentioned in a post last month that I’ve started a Beachbody workout program and I’m rolling into another season of half marathon training as well. In order to fuel myself, I need to really buckle down on healthy eating. It’s easy for me to add fitness but it’s harder for me to alter my eating. Especially living alone, there is no one in the house holding me accountable… although there’s also no one in the house buying Oreos either 😉 But the temptations, especially of restaurants and fast food are right here and it’s on me to stop myself. I really, really want to work on this though. And I want to work on cooking healthy, delicious meals that make me WANT to just eat in, even with friends!

So I had already decided going into this year that in February I would really kick into high gear. I’d in theory be settling into life here on the East Coast and be ready to buckle down. So far I’ve just been doing a lot of research into clean eating and portion control and nutrition in general. But before I can really focus on adding tons of healthy stuff, I want to eliminate certain things for this month. I know realistically that I can’t (and don’t want to) eliminate some of these for the rest of my life, but I do want to force myself into healthier options by refraining from unhealthier ones. So for the month of February (which is the shortest month of the year, how convenient!) I will be fasting from the following five items:

– Fizzy drinks (aka soda)

– French fries (including sweet potato fries, sadly)

– “Fourth meal” (which really just means late night snacking after dinner)

– Frozen treats (aka milkshakes, ice cream, chocolate chunks, etc.)

– Fast food (which I’m defining as anything from a window or place that has a drive-thru)

Those of you that know me, know that I don’t frequent most of these things. And I’m certainly not eating out every day or drinking gallons of soda a week… but do I need them at all right now? I don’t think so, at least not for the short period of 28 days. These are some of my comfort foods and I default to them. I want to retrain my body to be satisfied with healthier snacks and “treats”. As a side note, I don’t love what soda does to my mind at night. Because my body isn’t used to caffeine, it keeps me up and gives me really weird dreams sometimes. I’m hoping that by removing these things, I can focus on the better choices I should be eating instead!

Another, smaller goal is to continue shaping my body and fueling it to help me perform to the best of my ability. I have a few athletic goals for this year and I’ve been really working on strength and flexibility as well as endurance. A less central thought is also that one of my best friends gets married six months from today (YAY!!) which gives me a great long-term goal for building tone and transforming to a healthier version of me! Again, my focus is not so much on physical appearance or the scale, but more on feeling healthy and being confident that what I’m putting in my body is actually good for it.

An additional piece of this fasting in February decision was added a few days ago when the couple leading our church posted about fasting and praying leading up to the big launch day. I’ve done a few “30-hour famine” weekends back in grade school, but I haven’t really applied nutrition to my spiritual life before. I’m excited to see what God can do this month while I eliminate some of these foods. And I look forward to praying and thinking about the health and strength of the church while focusing on the health and strength of myself! One of my biggest snacking times is in the evening while I’m winding down and boredom or fidgeting sneaks in. I’m going to try to take that time to stay on track with my devotionals and prayers, instead of heading to the kitchen for a snack. This spiritual part feels like something that’s been missing from my previous attempts at healthy eating and a fully transformed healthy lifestyle.

At this point it’s probably needless to say, but I’m REALLY looking forward to the next 28 days and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted throughout the month. And please, please, please help hold me accountable! Texts, emails, Facebook posts, cards, comments, anything… I can do it, but I can do it easier with each of you supporting me 🙂 And if any of you are on similar journeys, I’d love to hear about them as well so I can support you too!

Turn, Turn, Turn…

Today’s post is going to be a little different. I have been going through my computer files and organizing them (who is surprised?). Anyway, I came across this document and thought I’d share it with you all, in case it helps anyone to read it. So a few years back, my parents’ church put together a daily devotional with pages contributed by various members. They asked Dad to write one and what he wrote is below. My dad was a bit of a rebel growing up, especially as a preacher’s kid. And he wrote this a few years into his battle with bone cancer. I find it to be a nice reminder of the necessity of balance in life… and that every stage or phase we might be in, won’t last forever. Enjoy!


As a teenager of the late ‘60s, one of my favorite songs was Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds.  After learning the words of this song were taken from the Bible, I thought maybe this is one song my parents wouldn’t mind me listening to.  Through the electric guitar and drums the words resound with a timeless message of balance.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

As I’ve aged this is still one of my favorite songs and the scripture it uses – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

Life goes through turns, some hard, others easy; but living each turn brings another, usually better.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

Our world is filled with choices and sometimes we only choose the easy things.  This breaks the balance of the universe as it is through tough times one is made stronger with the following turn a softer one.

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

If one gets too far unbalanced with all the demands of life the enjoyment of simple living disappears.  It’s when we spread our time between all turns of life – family, work, friends, religion, ourselves – do we truly receive the peace of life balance.

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

It is the inner peace of God’s blessing that we must rely on to understand the turns and balances of life. When I struggle through tough times, I remember there were better times and again better times to come.  I carry my beliefs in God’s words:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”


Kelsey and Eli’s Wedding Weekend

This past weekend my cousin, Kelsey, married her fiancé Elias. These two are from Richmond, VA but reconnected and currently live in Boulder, CO. Because they are so close to my brother’s family, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them throughout their relationship and could not have been happier to make the trek to the East Coast to celebrate with them! Everyone has been interested to see how they would blend their traditional, southern upbringings with their more free-spirited adult lives. I’m pleased to say that, in my humble opinion at least, that they NAILED it!


Let me back up a quick second though. So Thursday I flew to Denver and met up with my brother’s family on my layover. We then flew to Dulles and spent the night at my mom’s new house in Ashburn, VA. From there, we all drove together to my maternal grandparents in Williamsburg. It was a special treat to see my nieces playing with their great-grandparents! Then we were off to the hotel in Glen Allen. After quick rests, changes, and organization my niece went off with her parents to the rehearsal since she was a flower girl. Mom and I worked out and napped before catching a ride with my uncle to the rehearsal/family dinner. I won’t talk much about that so I can get to the good stuff, but suffice it to say that there was tons of food, tons of relatives, and tons of fun. Saturday morning we hit the pool with the little ones, went to a park, grabbed enough Chick-fil-a to feed a small army, and then migrated to Tuckahoe Plantation for the ceremony!!


Before I get into the details of the wedding, let me first say that I am only going to highlight a fraction of the small details in place on Kelsey and Eli’s special day. They both worked hard to make this day exactly what they wanted it to be and I’m so proud of them for staying true to that. I’m going to mention or show in this post the things that really jumped out to me as unique or special in a way I hadn’t seen before.


First was the seating and “stage” for the ceremony. Under the arch of trees, there were rows of benches for the guests who were instructed to “sit wherever and mingle”. Approve. But then at the front, there was a row of wooden chairs for the couple’s parents and grandparents. This added comfort and more of a decision from the seats to the bridal party. Handmade felt ball garlands were strung across the back as well. Additionally, the bridal party ended up sitting in a semi-circle on the pillows shown in the picture above. This was so they could see and be more settled as well. It also left just the bride, groom, and minister at the focal point of attention. I don’t have pictures of the actual ceremony because the couple requested that the guests not take them, but instead be present in the moment. Love!


We got an adorable program, which I was secretly hoping was an interactive game, for the ceremony. It started with a blessing or warming of the rings. This was a tradition I had heard of but never seen in practice. Dan, the minister and our cousin, started by telling how our late grandfather held and blessed the wedding rings two weeks ago before he passed. Then he explained that as the ceremony proceeded, the rings would pass through the entire audience and back to the best man. We were to send positive vibes or prayers towards the couple while we held the rings for a moment. What a great way to include everyone!



Sprinkled throughout the grounds were vintage furniture pieces in a variety of shapes and colors. They held the programs, gifts, activities, and drinks but also gave the wedding a more rustic, classy feel. On one such table, there were directions (painted on wood, of course) for guests to complete “thankful cards”. We were instructed to write or draw things or sayings or people we are thankful for. These will be re-purposed as thank you cards for the bride and groom. Who thinks of this stuff?! Oh, my yoga instructing, art therapy studying cousin… Right 😉



No afternoon outdoor wedding would be complete without a set or two of cornhole boards. Luckily for Kelsey our other cousin, Michael, is a craftsman and was more than willing to make two sets of cornhole boards, which were decorated by a collaborative effort of several of our more artistically inclined family members. I may have to commission a new set from him well! We obviously played a few games during cocktail hour and after dinner. We were also instructed to paint a square or section of a large canvas in the tent as well. The happy couple plan to hang this artwork up in their house as a reminder of all of their family and friends who joined them this weekend. It evolved throughout the night and you can see earlier editions in my Facebook album, but the final(ish) product is above.


Dinner was set up at a number of stations scattered around the grounds. And seating was an eclectic assortment of high-top bar tables, traditional tables and chairs, and couches with carpet. You can see an example in the corner of the picture above. There were also banners, flowers, and other colorful touches hanging from the ceiling and sprinkled on the tables. There were some more traditional aspects included in the reception, such as toasts and first dances and cake cutting. But, as you can see below, there were still unique touches with a variety of other desserts available as well. And we threw rainbow sprinkles at Kelsey and Eli as they sprinted for the car, since rainbow was (and probably still is) her favorite color. The bridesmaids and groomsmen each had a different color of the same bowtie and dress too!


I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. Bottom line: the rest of my cousins and I decided that we will never be able to top this wedding. Oh, Saturday night after the event we all continued the party at my aunt’s house. Then Sunday morning we wrapped up with a farewell brunch. I even managed to sneak in a quick visit to my college friends, Alex and Megan, to catch up and meet their adorably small 55-day-old son, Luke. Then my aunt drove myself, one of the bridesmaids, and two of our second cousins to the airport for our flight to Dallas. We got away with no problems and somehow all made our close connections at DFW. I got home exhausted but happy late Sunday night. This weekend was a beautiful reminder of how important it is to be you, always, and to love openly those who are important to you. So thank you, Kelsey and Eli, for allowing me to be a tiny piece of your happiness this weekend… I love you both!!

Crewing an Ultramarathon at The Bear 100

What? Okay, let me start by breaking down the title of this blog for those of you who, like me a month ago, have little clue what it means. An ultramarathon is any race whose distance is longer than 26.2 miles. To crew one is to be the support team for an athlete competing in the event. The Bear 100 is a specific event that goes from Logan, UT to Fish Haven, ID. So this post will be all about my experiences this past weekend as I supported my brother, an ultramarathoner, in his first attempt at completing a 100-mile course. Prior to this race, the longest he’d finished was a 100K race (62 miles) but he’d been training for months and was ready to give it a go. So how did I get involved? Well, Brother asked if I would come to Utah and be on his crew team with my sister-in-law, Meggan. I was hesitant since I didn’t really know what to expect, but he sent me a few articles to read and ultimately I was up for the adventure and in! I’ll be writing this blog from my perspective throughout the race and weekend, but I’ll be sure to link to Jason and Meggan’s blog posts as well (Jason’s is up here!).

So this past weekend my mom flew to Boulder, CO to watch my nieces while I flew through Vegas to Salt Lake City and then bused up to Logan, UT to meet J and M. We met up on Thursday afternoon and first went to the pre-race meeting where course details and safety procedures were explained. There were 310 registered runners plus their respective crew (anywhere from one to a dozen people) and pacers at the meeting in the park. Wait, what are pacers? They are the other runners who aren’t entered in the race but who are allowed to run with the competitors for any portion of the last 63 miles of the race (in this case). Typically, the pacers are experienced ultramarathoners with knowledge of the course who accompany the athletes through the night and darkness to ensure safety. Brother’s official pacer was Eric, a friend and fellow ultramarathoner from Boulder who has finished The Bear 100 previously (read Eric’s account of the adventure here!). We also knew three other racers and their pacers, which was an added bonus!

bear 100 013

Dropbags organized by aid station

After the meeting, we turned in Jason’s drop bags before heading back to the hotel room. These bags would be taken to specific aid stations throughout the course where J would have access to them. They contained a variety of gels, extra clothes, medical supplies, and hand warmers that Jason had carefully organized in the weeks leading up to the race. Back at the hotel Jason and Meggan rested while I got in a quick workout (80 laps in a 10 meter pool) and showered. Then I grabbed dinner for us and we called it an early(ish) night.

Runners at the start line, Friday at 6am

Runners at the start line, Friday at 6am

Friday morning we were up before five and off to the start. It was non-assuming (re: on a random neighborhood street) and still dark. We later learned that 277 athletes actually started the race and at 6:00am they were off! We wouldn’t set eyes on the runners again until mile marker 19.6, which Jason predicted would be about 4.5 hours later. So Meggan and I went back to the hotel, packed the car, ate breakfast, grabbed a few groceries for ourselves for the next 30 hours, and headed to the aid station. At nine points along the course, crews would be able to see their runners. Jason had written out an estimated arrival time for each station based on a finishing time of 28 hours. His ultimate goal was to be in under 30 hours and the course cut-off was 36 hours. J wanted to average around 15 minute miles and knew that he would walk/hike most uphills and jog/run the downhills. His big goal for the first half, until mile 52 where Eric would join him, was to stay slow to conserve his energy and muscles.

Typical aid station set-up with necessary and emergency supplies.

Typical aid station set-up with necessary and emergency supplies.

Meggan and I got to the first checkpoint about 9:30am in plenty of time to work out our plan. We established that at each stop, we would pick up Jason’s dropbag, lay out the contents, and set out other “emergency” supplies from the car. When he came in, it was our job to assess his health (mental and physical), nutrition, equipment and clothing. Then, much like pit crews in NASCAR, we were supposed to make the necessary exchanges in a timely manner so J could head out as quickly as possible. Meggan and I had decided that I would manage water, nutrition, and basic equipment while she took the lead on health and clothing. This meant that at each aid station I swapped his water bottles out for full ones, collected trash from his pack, added gels as needed, got whatever food he felt like and either fed it to him or stuffed it in his pack for later, and replaced batteries in lights. While I took care of these tasks, Jason could focus on Meggan and her questions about his body, his clothing, and any other concerns that might have come up. This process was repeated at each of the nine aid stations we were able to get to and once Eric joined the race, he was able to relay information to us as well.

J coming into our first aid station

J coming into our first aid station

The biggest question mark throughout the race was when exactly Jason would arrive. We had his outline but a lot can happen in a few hours out on the course. We were relieved when he cruised into our first meeting point a mere 10 minutes after his estimation. After a quick stop, he was off again and we didn’t see him again until mile 30. This was another quick pitstop and was where we met up with Eric. It was HOT and sunny but Jason appeared relaxed and happy, still just off his goal pace. At the third aid station for crews, and mile 36.9, I was slated to run with Jason for a leg. He had decided that it would be nice to have both Meggan and I complete a leg with him before Eric started. Not only would it break up the monotony but it would cut about 15 miles off of Eric’s load.

Crew station #2 at mile 30

Crew station #2 at mile 30

When J came into Right Hand Fork (each aid station had a name), we did our usual pit stop routine and then I headed out with him. Our section was 8.2 miles total, with the first 4.5 gaining 1,000 feet of elevation and the last 3.7 being downhill. We set off at a strong hike and chatted easily as we went. To be honest, I’d been a bit nervous since I haven’t run that long since my marathon in July. And I live at sea level, while we started at 5,600 feet. But I was fine other than some heavy breathing at first. It was still quite warm (we started about 3:25pm) but we got ice water at the top of the climb and some shade on the way down. Most of my section was on gravel ATV tracks and not very technical, which was intentional as I do a lot more road running. I had a great time and we passed quite a few runners before coming into the next aid station at 45.1 miles. Here, Meggan took over pacing J and they hiked a huge, long uphill together while Eric and I got the cars situated.

Running with Brother for a section of the race!

Running with Brother for a section of the race!

By the time they got to the Tony Grove aid station (mile 51.8) it was dark. Meggan and I were happy to be done with our sections and were able to settle into the crew rhythm. For the rest of the race after J and Eric left a station, we would break down our setup, load the car, follow the directions along back-country roads to the next spot, set up, wait, and repeat. Depending on the time and distance between stations, we would cheer on our other friends, try to nap in the car, or just hang out. It helped that with the exception of one or two sections in the early part of the night, Jason was staying consistent with his times. This meant that we could calculate his projected arrival time and be ready without freezing outside in the dark for too long. Oh, I should also mention that sometime between 11:30pm and 4:45am it started to rain. In fact it downpoured where we were trying to sleep in the car. I felt so bad for J and we prepared for a cold, wet, and tired runner to come into Beaver Lodge at mile 75.8. Luckily for him, J had been at a non-crew aid station during much of the rain so he was okay!

Crew discussion between M and E at mile 75.

Crew discussion between M and E at mile 75.

However, during the next 10 mile stretch in the early morning hours Brother and Eric were caught in a second thunderstorm. At Beaver Creek (mile 85.25) we weren’t sure when the boys would get in because Jason’s shin and foot had been bothering him at the previous stop. Couple that with the rain and we knew it could be a while. Since it was raining, Meggan and I stayed in the car and it was my job to watch the hill above for the guys. In my head, I’d last seen them wearing blue and red jackets so that’s what I was looking for. It was the early part of the window we expected them and all of a sudden an orange-jacketed man slammed into the driver’s window. We both screamed bloody murder. Then laughed as we realized it was Eric! J was in a black trash bag to keep dry and Eric had changed into a more waterproof layer as well. So the orange/black duo I’d written off coming down the hill a few minutes before had been them! It was 7:51 am when the guys left this aid station. They were feeling okay and J was motivated to finish the last 15 miles in under four hours and ten minutes to beat his 30-hour goal.

Waiting for the boys in the morning at Beaver Creek.

Waiting for the boys in the morning at Beaver Creek.

This is the point of the race when Meggan and I felt more at ease but also more stress. On the positive side, they had survived the night with any major injury, malfunctions or falls. I was confident that worst-case J could hobble the last 15 miles in 10 hours and finish (YAY!) It was also raining lighter and was getting brighter by the minute. On the not-so-positive side, they were now racing the clock. The course was muddy and mucky and J had been on his feet for 26 hours and counting. We knew that the next (and final) aid station would give us a good idea of whether or not his time goal was going to happen, so we packed up, bounced down our own mud-covered roads, and got set up. We knew that J would need to leave this point no later than 10am to have a chance to break 30 hours. We also knew that he’d want to be in and out extremely quickly.

Mud collecting on our tires as the race wore on.

Mud collecting on our tires as the race wore on.

At 9:36am, they rounded the corner and were MOVING. Our instructions this time were to take everything out of J’s pack that wasn’t essential. I pulled leftover food, gels, jackets, trash bags, etc. out of the bag and they headed off without even sitting. Again, our spirits rose and Meggan and I congratulated each other on completing our crew duties. Then we hopped in the car for our last drive, this time across the border into Idaho and to the finish.

Kari and Chris grabbing food from the last aid station.

Kari and Chris grabbing food from the last aid station.

Here, we stood in the rain and watched other runners come in. The finish was a 100 meter (or so) straight-away with a banner hanging outside the timing tent. We saw one friend, who left the last aid station with J, finish about 11:15am. This was a good sign as he was moving strongly and gave J 45 minutes to get in. Then we cheered on a second friend about 11:30am who told us that Brother wasn’t too far behind her. Finally, about five minutes later, Jason and Eric rounded the corner and we all started cheering. At 11:36, J crossed the finish line, completing his first 100-mile ultramarathon. Meggan, Eric, and I all jogged across the line with him and were all smiles. His official finish time was 29:36:34!!

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Coming into the finish with Meggan and Eric… Go Jason!!

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Finished and happy 🙂

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Eric (pacer), Jason (racer), Kari (r), Kendrick (r), Chris (p), Erin (p), not pictured: Mark (r), Callie (p)

Everyone was tired, especially Jason, so we enjoyed the moment and then shuttled back to the condo for showers, naps, and well-deserved vegging. The rest of the day was spent playing games, eating pizza, and just recovering. Our fourth friend finished a few hours later so the condo had a 100% finish-rate. J ended up 70th out of the 167 runners who completed the course under the 36-hour cutoff, including one who crossed the line at 5:57:26. Yikes! Understandably, we all crashed early Saturday night but not before we dried out and reorganized our gear to prepare for the return to reality. Sunday morning we were up early and Meggan/I switched off driving duty for the 8-hour drive back to Denver. They dropped me at the airport just in time to find out my flight had been delayed. Sweet. I finally walked in the door about 11:30pm Cali time and face-planted. Happy to have been a part of such a phenomenal achievement in Brother’s life but absolutely exhausted and thankful for my bed. Until next time…

Finisher! Check out the elevation map of the course.

Finisher! Check out the elevation map of the course.

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