Hardrock 100 Ultra-Marathon

Two weeks ago I flew through Phoenix, AZ to Durango, CO on a Thursday afternoon. I’d never been to either airport before and I wasn’t even really sure where in the great state of Colorado I was landing. But when I stepped off the second plane, I was instantly surrounded by the gorgeous San Juan Mountains and I knew it was going to be an amazing weekend. My sister-in-law (Meggan), her father (Richard), and my two adorable nieces (Rachel and Ava) picked me up and drove us back to Silverton, CO. This would be our headquarters for the next four days.

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Maybe I should pause to explain why the five of us, my brother (Jason), our cousin (Glen), and family friends (Eric, Randy, and Lori) were all converging on this small town in the mountains of Colorado. My brother ran the The Bear 100 last year as his first attempt to complete 100 miles of running in a single event. He was successful and I was present to help Meggan “crew” for his race. As a result of that finish, he earned one ticket in a lottery for entry into the Hardrock 100 this year. In the ultra-running world, Hardrock is an elite event and one that many experienced runners shy away from due to the extreme course topography. You can read about the exact odds on Jason’s blog, but suffice it to say that his name should not have been pulled last December.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

But it was. Along with 151 other mildly insane runners who would toe the starting line with him in July 2015. And so, he started to train for the 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent that he would encounter along the course. Couple those drastic elevation changes with the fact that the LOWEST point on the course was at 7,680 ft above sea level while the peak was at 14,048 ft above sea level. Yes, you just read all of those statistics correctly. Yes, it helps that Brother’s family currently lives in Boulder, CO where he has fairly easy access to mountains. Yes, he ran A LOT in the months leading up to this race.

Cunningham Gulch aid station

Cunningham Gulch aid station

So where do I come into this whole equation? Well after crewing last year, I offered my organizational services again. Last year I was the second in command at aid stations, taking commands from Meggan and letting her do most of the communicating. This year, I was told that Meggan was going to primarily be wife/mom while I was going to be in charge of Jason. Oh goodness. I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous! I knew that Jason had much more experience and confidence going into this race than The Bear last year. I knew that I had more of a grasp on what was happening and what my role would be throughout the race. But I also knew that ultra-running, especially in the wild mountains of Colorado, is unpredictable and that I would be responsible for making sure Jason was safe and had everything he needed. Luckily, Jason spent the week leading up to the race in Silverton exploring the course and laying out his drop-bags for each of the aid stations his crew could access.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

Thursday night, I shared a quiet room with Jason while the rest of the family slept upstairs. We wanted to ensure that J got good sleep and would wake rested for his 40 hours (or so) of running. At 5:30am we walked the few blocks to the high school gymnasium where he checked in and we waited for the start. At 6am the runners were off and the crew headed back to the hotel to eat breakfast and gather our gear. Our first aid station was Cunningham Gulch, which was 8.2 miles into the race. We had fun playing with the girls while waiting to see J come down the mountain and cross the creek. He was here only a short time to refuel and then he was off heading back up the other side of the mountain. We wouldn’t see him again until mile 42.1 at Grouse Gulch, sometime around 7pm that night.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

While Brother was running up and over several mountains (no big deal), I went for a run of my own in town. My four-mile run felt short and difficult as I struggled to breathe at just over 7,000 ft above sea level. It rained off and on during the day and the adults all took turns entertaining the girls between meals and packing. In the early evening, I drove the girls and Richard up to Grouse Gulch to hook up with Eric, Meggan and Glen. They had gone up earlier to cheer on earlier runners and to make sure Eric was there and ready to go. He would be pacing J for miles 42-82, through the night and across the most technical terrain. They run together weekly in Boulder and Eric has completed Hardrock before, as well as a number of other 100-mile races.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

We had specific instructions to make sure Jason ate a lot at Grouse Gulch and were also in charge of replacing SPOT tracker batteries, filling water bottles, restocking his pack with gels, swamping out sunglasses and short-sleeves for rain jackets and long-pants, adding in warm hats and headlamps, etc. I felt a little overwhelmed at some of these aid stations because it was my job to keep J focused on changing his socks, eating his quesadilla, and telling me if he needed more or less layers. All while Glen was videotaping and getting hot foods, Meggan was saying hello and accessing the condition of Jason’s body, Eric was asking about the course, Rachel was trying to show J her good luck drawings, and Ava just wanted to hug her Daddy.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Writing it all out makes it sound more chaotic than it really was, but there was certainly a lot happening at these stops! Once Jason and Eric headed off into the night, we had about 1.5 hours worth of driving to get to Ouray where we had a second hotel room for the night. Glen, Meggan and I dropped off Richard and the girls to sleep while we waiting to see J through the Christmas-themed aid station. He left around 1:30am with Eric after a fairly long stop (20 minutes) to change clothes and eat some real food. We headed back to the hotel to rest for a few hours and awoke to find that J and E had had a great night. They were already over their next mountain and were working their way down to Telluride, our next aid station. The only slight issue with that was that they had five miles to run and we had an hour to drive. Whoops? So Glen and I quickly showered and jumped in our car to “race” the SPOT dots to Telluride while Richard and Meggan got the girls up and joined us when they could.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

This divide-and-conquer strategy paid off because Glen and I walked into the aid station to get set up a mere ten minutes before the boys arrived! At this point, they were 72.8 miles into the race but had made it through the night. Jason looked good, in spite of a slight complaint about his knees on the downhills. They had come through rain, snow, and a fairly chilly night but had not had any major mishaps, which was great news! Off they went while Glen and I drove to meet Meggan’s car for breakfast. The next section of driving was more off-road and exciting, and we had to park 0.25 miles from the aid station and walk in. The girls enjoyed the adventure and were fairly good with lunch at Chapman aid station. I took a turn entertaining Rachel here, so we explored the log bridge over the creek, used binoculars to scan the mountain-side for J, and played “sack-of-potato” countless times. It was fun to interact with my nieces throughout this race and they continue to amaze me with how quickly they grow up!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station... almost done!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station… almost done!

Chapman aid station was mile 82.2, and the last time we would see Jason before the finish that night. Eric finished his pacing duties and Randy picked up for the last sections of the trail. I continued to try to manage Jason’s needs but had to get a little creative here since we did not have all of his extra clothing and food options from the car. Fortunately, we did have Eric’s race bag so he lent Jason the rain pants he needed. Then the crew (and a tired Eric) hiked back out and drove just over two hours back around to Silverton. We opted not to take the 4WD-only option over the mountain pass, but instead retraced our steps through Telluride and Ouray. Back in town we unpacked, had dinner, and then went to the high school to wait Jason. He had been right in the middle of his timing goals up until Chapman, so we expected to see him between 8-10pm.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Their friend, Kari, who was also at The Bear 100 finished about an hour before Jason so we got to see her kiss the Hardrock. Then we spent the rest of the time playing with Rachel and Ava, who were quite tired at this point but excited to see their Daddy. We got the radio from Glen that Jason had crossed the river along the road and was heading in with only two miles to go! By this point it was dark again but J still had over an hour to accomplish his original goal of finishing in under 40 hours. We were all excited to see him finish, but cheered on several more runners while we waited. Finally, we made out the outline of three runners without headlamps (Eric, Jason, and Randy) and Rachel ran out to greet them. The whole family jogged the last hundred yards or so with Jason and then watched as he kissed the Hardrock at 9:22pm on Saturday night. This was 39 hours and 22 minutes after he started, which is almost exactly what he predicted! After resting for quite some time in the gym, we headed back to the hotel and put the girls to bed. Then J and I actually went back to the medical tent to confirm that his slight wheezing and coughs were “normal”. They assured us he would be fine after he got some sleep, so we did just that! Runner, pacers, and crew were all tired but happy and had no problem sleeping through the night. I even shared a room with the little girls and had no problem falling (or staying) asleep.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

Sunday morning we went to the race breakfast and award ceremony and heard some of the incredible stories from the race. Like the runner who choked on a piece of watermelon in the first half of the race, but was rescued by an aid station medic who performed the heimlich maneuver. Or the runner from Boulder who had a tough race, but managed to sprint to the finish at kiss the rock with literally one second to spare. His official time was 47:59:59! All of the finishers, 123 officially, earned their respective awards and everyone ate well in that gymnasium.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

Unfortunately, I had to hit the road back to Durango airport immediately after the award ceremony so I said my good-byes and hopped in the car with some other friends who were going my way. Shortly after checking in, my flight to Phoenix was canceled and after a lot of phone calls and waiting in line, I finally got rebooked to Denver much later Sunday night. Then I spent the night in whatever hotel US Airways put me up in, where I logged a nine mile run on the treadmill at 11pm before crashing into my king-sized bed. Monday morning I went back to the airport for my connection home, which left with no issues. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Jason’s race weekend and while I don’t think I was as helpful or prepared as I could’ve been, I do hope that I pulled my weight on the team. It was great to see Jason/Meggan and the rest of their family and friends, as well as explore a new part of Colorado!

Advertisements

100 Days of Difference – Day 14

If you missed my post two weeks ago explaining my summer project, check it out here before you continue reading this post.

Now that you’ve done that, you should know that today (June 7th) is National Cancer Survivors Day. So if you know anyone that has beaten any of the numerous varieties of cancer that currently plague our world, take a minute before continuing to reach out and let them know you’re glad they won! Life after a cancer diagnosis and even after a remission or “all-clear” declaration is never the same as it was pre-cancer. I feel so thankful for each of my family and friends that doesn’t have to fight anymore, at least not right now. And as silly as most “holidays” are these days, I support this one because it recognizes those among us that have been to hell and back.

But this special day also brings up the question of what can I/we do for those still in the trenches, fighting for survivor status? The answer for me was in this #100daysofdifference challenge. I can RAISE MONEY for an amazing organization, Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, that helps 18-40 year olds across the nation that have been diagnosed with cancer. No donation is too big or too small and my goal is to raise at least $1,000 this summer, which would be enough to fully pay for a scholarship for one deserving cancer warrior. These scholarships allow recipients the opportunity to not only pay for their treatments, but also to continue living throughout their often long and difficult cancer journey. Check out my donation page on Crowdrise or contact me about other ways to donate financially.

As someone who has worked with charities for a long time, I am fully aware that not everyone is comfortable or able to give money. That’s 100% fine with me! You can share my blog link or my Crowdrise page and help me spread the word. I appreciate any efforts, no matter how big or small.

I also created an Amazon wish list this week to give potential donors even more ways to help support young adults with cancer. So one of my #100daysofdifference goals is to put together 100 “cancer care kits” to take to the North County Oncology Medical Clinic. The idea behind this is that chemotherapy and radiation and blood transfusion are all long, scary processes that cancer patients have to endure. While I can’t change that, I can provide bags of goodies to help entertain or increase the comfort level of patients. The medical center plans to give our bags to new patients during their first day of treatment, just to welcome them to the cancer family and let them know that there are people who care, even during this difficult time.

The way the Amazon wish list works, is kind of like a wedding or baby registry. You click the link I just gave you, decide which items you are willing to purchase, check out, and then they will be shipped directly to my house. I will collect items all summer and hope to distribute the 100 finished bags the last week of August. For those of you that live in San Diego and see me on a regular basis, please feel free to pick up any of the listed items on your own and give them to me when we see each other. Also, if anyone wishes to donate other items I am happy to accept those as well, just send me a message!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting me in the huge summer project. I literally cannot do it without each and every one of you that reads this blog and please know that I appreciate every donation, every encouraging comment, and every spreading of the word. Below is a chart of my progress so far, I’m getting there!!

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 9.27.26 PM

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!

IMG_1661

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).

IMG_1658

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!

IMG_1663

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!

IMG_1662

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!

IMG_1693

IMG_1677

Living Life in Leucadia

It has been SO long since I last posted about settling into California, oops? I’m excited to get back to posts about crazy adventures on the “Best Coast”. Jury is still out there, but for right now I’m leaning West. Anyway, so I told you that I bought a new car (SUV) and it’s still amazing. I have not picked out a name yet, but I’m sure that will come. For now, I’m just excited that I’ve driven over 1,000 miles so the engine is broken in and I can use cruise control. Work at Halstrom is going well, my hours are continuing to build and for right now it looks like I’ll be teaching a lot of AP World History and Algebra II, both of which are fine by me! I’m getting to know the new staff members and students and everyone seems really nice so far, so that’s great!

IMG_1365

After a lot of searching that really began back in North Carolina, I finally found an apartment and have moved in. I wanted to be in the Encinitas area again, since living this close to the beach is amazing and I like to walk to restaurants and stores when I can. My top priorities were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and parking of some sort… and obviously proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Several places fell through or changed at the last-minute or I was the second applicant and it was starting to look like April 1st was my new move-in goal. But then I found a posting 23 minutes after it went live that looked great! I called the property manager, went over the next morning at 9am, applied on the spot, and signed the lease the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was the first place I’d seen with everything I wanted. And it was the cheapest place I’d looked at too! It’s a two-story “townhouse-style apartment” with the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and the living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. There’s a great under-the-stairs closet for all of my athletic and camping equipment and I have an assigned parking space. There are only ten units in the complex and we have an adorable courtyard with a make-shift fire pit, ping-pong table, and outdoor shower. I’m still getting to know my neighbors but they seem really chill without being obnoxious. Yay!

IMG_1189

Enough about the business side of life, now onto the fun side of things. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been back a month because (in true Karen fashion) I’ve hit the ground running! I’ve already taken a weekend trip to La Quinta in the desert with an incredible group of new and old friends (pictured above). Less than 24 hours after landing, kickball started back up for the season and I have a fantastic team this time around! We may not be at the top of the leader board, but I’d argue that we have the most fun. In addition to playing together on Sundays, a bunch of us have fallen into trivia on Tuesday nights. We won the first week, which got us hooked, and were third this week. Our prize for winning was a bar tab and we got an Easter basket of candy this week for third (even better!). Last night nine of us stayed out after midnight to see Furious 7 on opening night. For those of you on the fence, it’s 100% worth going to see. The Paul Walker tribute at the end was a bit drawn out for me, but the movie itself was just what you expect, lots of fast cars and hot girls with some street fighting mixed in.

IMG_1257

I’ve also spent a good bit of time reconnecting with my core group of girls out here. I hit up a Dan + Shay concert downtown one night (pictured below), I hiked Cowles Mountain in Mission Valley one day (picture at top of post), I went on a training run along the coast, and I celebrated the first birthday of a very special little girl another night. It’s so good to be back with my support network and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives the last four months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guys and I miss my East Coast people… but my girlfriends here are pretty incredible. We are starting our book club back up too, so I look forward to reading some new novels and having crazy discussions once a month going forward.

IMG_1286

I also like to check in on my fitness/nutrition in these type of posts too. I have been struggling with workouts these last few weeks because I dropped a DVD player on my toe, which prohibited me from wearing shoes for a while. I also cracked a big toe while jumping on a trampoline with my favorite fifth graders. And my left upper-calf/knee are giving me some struggles. But I’ve registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon on April 26th in addition to the Tinkerbell Half in LA on May 10th, so we shall see. I am just excited to get back into racing and finish these two events with my friends that are running with me. Time won’t be so much of a factor this time around, but I do plan to have both of my contacts in for LJ 😉 Oh! And I ran the Wellness 5k with Sean a few weekends ago. It was a smaller race, which was nice for a change. Sean ran his personal best 5k time and I won my age group, so we were both pleased with that! Immediately after the race, SK donated platelets and two days later I donated whole blood. It makes my heart happy to think about the lives we helped to save with those donations and I encourage all of you to sign up to donate blood this month, if you can!

IMG_1338

I’ve gotten some new Beachbody DVD’s to mix things up and they seem to be keeping me interested for now, but I’m craving getting back on the bike and in the pool. My road bike is being put back together on Monday and I need to figure out my plan for pool access so I can start triathlon training. Nutrition right now is taking a back burner just with the chaos of life. I’m re-adjusting to packing lunches and getting workouts/smoothies done before work, but it takes time and I’m trying to set realistic goals for myself. Finally, I have gotten actively involved in Girls on the Run again this season. My teaching schedule doesn’t allow me to coach, but I am a shoe fairy and am on the 5k planning committee. As a shoe fairy, I size girls on our scholarship teams for brand new shoes and then get to deliver them the following week. It’s like Christmas in April for these girls! If anyone in SD wants to help me cheer on our amazing girls at the 5k on May 17th, let me know! I’m in charge of coordinating the cheer stations, so any/all help that morning would be amazing… you get to dress up and be as crazy as you want… just saying.

Alright, that’s all for now but I promise not to wait another three weeks to post and happy Easter!!

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!!

bear 100 112

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

bear 100 113

Finished and happy 🙂

bear 100 117

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.

%d bloggers like this: