Category Archives: ultrarunning

Oyster run – birthday miles

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2:00pm Saturday afternoon, September 9, 2017, Lucas and I sat at the Bread and Butter Bakery in San Anselmo, looking at gaia maps on his phone and figuring out our running route for my birthday run- matching miles for years, to celebrate my upcoming bday on 9/12.

The goal was 39 miles. We’d both heard about Devon Yanko’s (an elite ultrarunner) bakery, and Lucas’s idea was to have brunch here then run to the beach and back.

We ordered a Tam Fog drink (lapsang souchang tea, steamed milk, golden syrup, and lemon twist), a beer (St. Bonita Rustic Lager), a fried egg sandwich (with 2 yr. cheddar, bacon, avocado, and roasted tomato basil aioli), and creamy polenta (salsa verde, poached eggs, sheep feta, and cilantro). The food was INCREDIBLE, and the sandwich was so big I got to take half of it to go, for what we thought might be a “midnight snack” later in the run.

 

 

We parked a couple blocks from the bakery to avoid the 2-hour parking issue, and headed up towards Oak Avenue.
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As we passed a seminary, hauntingly beautiful piano music drifted out the open windows. The sign on the lawn said “no dogs on grass” but the bark coming from inside as we ran by the door indicated dogs WERE allowed in the church.

After climbing Oak Avenue, the residential street turned into a fire road, which then led to the series of trails and fire roads in the Bald Hill Open Space Preserve that we meandered through to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

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Bald Hill Open Space Preserve

The trails and fire roads were well-marked and this combined with Lucas’s route-finding on Gaia left little room for error. It was the hottest part of the day, and the heat radiated off the dry earth.

We met a couple at an impeccably clean porta-pottie 5 miles in, near the Rocky Ridge Fire rd and chatted for a bit. Lucas asked how we should get to Bolinas, and the guy responded “start about 6 hours earlier”. He laughed and gave us some suggested trails to hit along the way.

From mile 6 on, I thought about significant events that occurred during each matching mile-year of my life, sharing stories with Lucas, and asked for his memories from each year as well.

After winding around the beautiful lakes/reservoirs, the trail started climbing into beautiful redwoods along the Cataract Trail. We found a gorgeous little waterfall and pool to stop and cool off in.

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After climbing out of the redwoods, we came to a road (Ridgecrest Blvd) that we followed for a couple of miles, taking little trail detours here and there.

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Coastal trail near Ridgecrest Blvd
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first glimpse of the ocean, looking down towards Stinson Beach and Bolinas, our destination for dinner
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me heading down the Coastal trail, high on a ridge above the ocean
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Lucas on the Coastal Trail
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Coastal Trail

I pulled something in my piriformis area (recurring issue lately) around mile 14, which made mile 15 the hardest of the run, which corresponded darkly with year 15 of my life. I silently pushed through, keeping the despair to myself. I seriously doubted that I would be able to continue on for another 24 miles with this.

We hit mile 16 and Lucas commented that I’d missed some years – I told him what was going on and how glad I was to be over that horrible year and mile. My leg loosened up and miles 16-23 brought us closer to the beach and I happily recalled some of the best years of my life.

We reached the bike path leading to Bolinas, a beautiful little seaside community, as the sun began to set.

 

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Bolinas

 

We ran through the funky and artsy little town, noting our dinner options, and decided that oysters would be amazing after we went down to the water and back.

On the way to the water, we again heard gorgeous piano music, this time coming from a sweet house built on stilts over the bay.

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fisherman with a dog that wasn’t his
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Bolinas, looking towards Stinson Beach
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Lucas at the beach
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fog moving in brought a nice reprieve from the heat

 

We made our way back to the little town center, and chose Eleven Wine Bar Bistro as our dinner spot.

We were 23.5 miles in and it was just after 8pm. 3743′ of elevation gain so far.

to the beach

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Eleven Wine Bar Bistro
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so hungry

We ordered a half dozen oysters, a couple beers, and a pepperoni pizza. There were no leftovers; it was phenomenal. The best oysters ever; we both agreed.

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bathroom at Eleven
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looking slightly haggard as we packed up for the return trip

Lucas studied Gaia and found us a return route that would cut some miles off – the goal was 39 miles but we’d be going over a bit.

On the way out of town, we found a 24-hour self-serve farmer’s market with the freshest, most beautiful produce. We purchased a melon for dessert.

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love this

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We followed a paved road, dodging cars, until we reached the Martin Griffin Preserve, where we went around the fence and crept passed the employee houses with our headlamps off. A deer (we think) bounded across the trail in front of us and scared the crap out of me.

After a bit of stumbling around, we found the Bourne trail that would take us back up towards the ridge between the ocean and Mt. Tam watershed. The further we got from the ocean, the temps rose, and it became quite hot again.

We took our time, as Lucas’s stomach seemed to be rebelling against the oysters/pizza/beer we had for dinner. We stopped for a short nap on a picnic table once we got down again from the ridge.

I had the 2nd half of my delicious egg sandwich from 10 hours earlier, around midnight in the middle of the woods. Lucas had stopped for a break, and as I stood eating my sandwich, a chorus of coyotes howled loudly in the darkness. I love being out at night.

We made it back to the streets of San Anselmo around 2am.

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glad to see I’m reflective at night

The return trip brought our total to just under 41 miles with 6500′ of climbing. We were out for 12 hours, which included many breaks and about an hour for dinner.

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from Bolinas back to San Anselmo. 17.3 miles

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It was my favorite birthday run to date.

 

A week in the life… TRT100 training

I’m falling in love all over again, every run, as favorite trails dry out and wildflowers come alive. After the winter that wouldn’t end, I just can’t get enough of this place in the summer (never mind that it snowed this morning).

Snowplants on the Perimeter Trail

I’m now 32 days out from my 4th Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race,  and last week, I was fortunate enough to get in over 18 hours of running, almost all of it on trails.

Northstar Trails facing Martis Camp

To make this possible, each night for the first 3-4 hours of sleep, I wore Recovery Pump Boots (aka “the pants”), which drastically reduce the amount of rest time needed between runs. I also spent some time in the hot tub, used a foam roller, and ate a LOT of food.

Three Bridges Trail

I loved every mile of those 18 hours. Some went easier than others (that’s an understatement), but I’m not afraid to slow to a walk (or stop and take pictures) when either conditions require it or my body deems it necessary.

the only time my feet look small: next to Sugar Pine pinecones

My week started off spectacularly on Monday by seeing a beautiful bear on the Sawtooth Trail, on a hike after work.

Bear.

Two of my favorite runs were on Tuesday and Wednesday after work –  the only way I’d hit my week’s mileage goal was to run long a couple times after working 8 hours each day.

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Three Bridges Trail (bridges are in tact, trail is not, there are tons of downed trees still)

I headed out the front door with my Camelbak, some homemade beef jerky (thanks to my brother), and a headlamp and ventured out onto the neighborhood trails – The Sawtooth, the 06, Martis Camp Trails, and Northstar trails.

Views from Northstar looking towards Truckee

Each of these nights I put in over 4 hours of running, made near-perfect decisions at every trail intersection, creating near-perfect loops, and was pleased to have not been eaten by a mountain lion or a bear, as I finished after dark each night (and there are so many night-time mountain lion and bear attacks on runners in our area – not exactly – but I don’t want to be the first). I did see one bear cub around 8pm the first night, and heard something like an elephant hollering at me from a rocky outcrop (Mountain Lion perhaps?) after dark the first night.

Magnificent trees at Northstar

My 6 day total after that 2nd long run was well over 100 miles, but for the current week (Monday-Sunday), I was only at 44 miles. I still had a lot of work to do.

more Snowplants on the Martis Camp Trails

Thursday and Friday I plugged away, running when I could, careful not to overdue it here as I’d need to put in a big day on Saturday.

Sawtooth Trail

Saturday morning, I was up an hour before my alarm went off and out the door before 6am, to get in 15 miles of the neighborhood trails, before spending most of the morning with my kids.

Perimeter Trail

Saturday afternoon, Avian and Stephen had a birthday party at Donner Lake, so I dropped them off and headed out for 15 more miles, this time on the beautiful Donner Lake Rim Trail.

Patches of snow left on Donner Lake Rim Trail – Johnson Canyon
Donner Lake Rim Trail – near the Drifter Hut

Sunday morning, between two shorter runs (when I could squeeze them in) I managed to round out the weekly total with 91.6 miles and 12,297′ of climbing.

view from the Creekside Trail on Sunday morning. It looks deceptively warm here
Group run at Donner Lake. Photo by my son, Stephen Borden

And now it’s Monday, and I’m starting all over again. I really love this time of year.

with miles to go before I sleep

Silver State 50 Mile Race Report

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training run on the course last week. Photo: Naomi Plasterer

This past weekend I ran my third consecutive Silver State 50 in Reno, Nevada. This race is a favorite of mine – due to the gorgeous scenery (a mix of high-desert, alpine, wildflowers, and views for miles), incredible volunteers, and an amazing Race Director (John Trent).

We kicked off race weekend with a bear sighting on a run with Linn (her first bear encounter, which appeared while I was telling her my crazy bear v. car story), followed by dinner and drinks with Linn and Lucas at Moody’s Bistro and Beats. I stayed up a little too late, drank a little too much, and hardly slept as a result. But the band was really good and I kept telling myself it was going to help me with the race somehow. I think it did.

Last year at Silver State, in his first ultramarathon, Lucas finished DFL (Dead F#$%-ing Last), in 14 hours, 16 minutes. He loved the experience and went on to race in 12 more ultras over the year (six 50ks, two 50 milers, and two 100ks (including one in Italy)), a 100 miler, AND a 360-mile solo circumnavigation of the Bay Area 3 weeks ago (in 8 days and 2 hours). Running a 50 miler so soon after would be a challenge, but he likes those.

Linn would be running the 50k at Silver State, in preparation for the TRT50 miler in July. Lucas and I did our best to encourage her to upgrade to the TRT100… hope that was effective…

Race morning, I woke up a little hungover and a little grumpy, but Lucas cheerfully got us out the door and down to Reno in the Westy.

The race began at 6:00am, and surrounded by happy, familiar faces, we headed out from Rancho San Rafael Park and began the 12-mile gradual climb up to Peavine Mountain.

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Heading up towards the N in the morning glow

Lucas and I both pushed the pace harder than last year, and as we headed up the service road near the summit I pulled ahead. I spent the rest of the race wondering when I’d see him again, hoping he was having fun (he always has fun, so I figured that wasn’t an issue).

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snow near Peavine Aid Station, which is around 8,000′ elevation

After summiting Peavine, the course provides miles of downhill running into beautiful Dog Valley, which is more Alpine than the somewhat barren hills around Peavine. The trails were pretty chewed up from the insane winter we had, with massive ruts and crevasses that you did NOT want to fall into.

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Heading down from Peavine I. Photo: Jesse Ellis
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Running towards Dog Valley. Photo: Jesse Ellis

One of my favorite stops was coming up, the Dog Valley Aid Station at Mile 23. The first year I ran this race, the theme was “Bachelorette Party” and they had male dancers to entertain the runners. This year, the theme was “Blazing Saddles”… and they really outdid themselves.

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Runners Jen and Eric with the enthusiastic volunteers at Dog Valley Aid Station
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One of many reasons to run a 50 miler in the high desert

Pacers could join runners from River Bend Aid Station (mile 32) to the finish, and one of my best friends/heroes, Kathy D’onofrio, agreed to meet me there. Throughout the race, I focused on staying hydrated (it was hot and fairly dry and exposed), taking salt pills and gels each hour; with the goal of reaching Kathy in prime condition for her to get me to the finish. All of this played out well and by the time I met Kathy I was on pace to beat last-year’s time of 9:27. The River Bend Aid Station was a happy meeting spot, thanks to the volunteers from DPMR and the Canyons (Sharon, Abby, Chaz, Chris, Dan, and everyone).

The climb back up to Peavine was rutted out, technical, muddy in places, and in some spots, the trail was gone altogether and we had to climb up an animal trail. As I realized it would be near impossible to make my time goal due to the course changes/conditions, Kathy made it equally impossible for me to get down about it. Her encouragement was unending and contagious, she kept my spirits high, calling out things like “oh, you love this kind of stuff!” when we’d hit a terrible muddy section or “yay, now it’s sandy, like the beach!”

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Going up! Photo: Jesse Ellis

When we reached Peavine the second time, I sat down to empty the rocks and sand out of my shoes that had been building up for 39 miles.  Thanks to George, JP, Joel, Lesley, and the other awesome volunteers, we made a quick turnaround and headed out to my favorite part of the race- 11 miles of mostly downhill, mostly single-track, glorious, fast running to the finish.

All was going well until mile 45, just after the Ridgeview Aid Station, when I took off particularly fast down the single-track, because another runner had caught us. I raced down the trail and clipped a root with my toe, which sent me flying into the dirt and rocks, hitting both knees, legs, arm first and then bouncing over and landing me on my back. I could taste the dirt in my mouth, could feel the whiplash, and my knees and arm and shoulder all burned. F@#$. I was covered in dirt and speckled with blood. I seriously questioned my ability to continue.

Kathy, ever cheerful, gleefully exclaimed, “That’s great, you rolled, you’re ok, it’s ok!” and to the runner behind us: “She’s ok, just step right over her!”. The runner attempted to help me up, but I needed a moment to lay there and assess the situation. Kathy helped me up “Up you go! Shake it off!” and I slowly jogged down the trail, audibly crying and gasping. Telling myself “I really blew it this time!”

But, no. I did NOT want that runner to remember seeing me go down, and then later, sympathetically watch me limp through the finish line. I decided I wanted him to remember the crash, and then remember me fly past him and not be able to catch me. A sudden rush of adrenaline, and I was off. (I realize this line of thinking is slightly evil and narcissistic, but hey, it got me to stop crying and RUN)

I crossed the line in 9:39:47 (I worked HARD to break that 9:40 mark in the last mile!), as 3rd female behind Amy Sproston in 9:08 and Angela Shartel in 9:26. It was my 3rd 50 mile finish in 3 months, 3rd year running this race, and 3rd time placing in the top 3 at Silver State (it’s a small race; this doesn’t happen too often for me 🙂)

Linn, Helen (3F in the 50k!), and other friends who ran the 50k met us at the finish, and we cheered the other runners in – sadly, my favorite nemesis, Paul, took a wrong turn after racing the first 40 miles or so near each other- I had really hoped for a rematch after he crushed me at Lake Sonoma last month.

Lucas finished in 10:43 – about 3.5 hours faster than last year – a truly remarkable race, considering his 360 only 3 weeks before, and that he stopped and sat down at most aid stations (and earned a sheriff’s badge for sitting on the saddle and taking a shot in Dog Valley).

It was a good day.

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Kathy and I at the finish

MUC 50 Mile Race Report

It started innocently enough…

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How could I say no to a free entry? I got Coach Meghan’s blessing (a 50 mile training run in prep for Lake Sonoma 50 next month was not really on the schedule), and tried not to worry about the race, as it was just a “fun training run” with Lucas.

Six days before the race (Marin Ultra Challenge 50 mile), I ran just over 20 miles on snow-covered, icy roads, and wondered how my training (or lack thereof) was going to translate to the unforgiving climbs of the Marin headlands. I’d been getting a decent base of 50-60 miles for the past few weeks, but mostly on pavement covered in snow and ice, with little elevation gain.

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scenes from a typical training run lately

I drove to Emeryville Friday night after work, and stayed with Lucas on his boat. After 3-4 hours of sleep, we left the marina at 4:30am and drove to Rodeo Beach for the 6am start.

 

The race began with a climb, and we quickly rose above the fog and witnessed a spectacular sunrise.

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Our initial time goal was to finish in 12 hours, but as the miles clicked by, I started to think we would finish in closer to 10 hours, if we could keep pace.

Many friends were on course, as the 50m and the 50k started at the same time, and since I was wearing my hideous gold old-school DPMR shirt, several people recognized me (or the club) and it was fun to talk with friends, old and new, along the way.

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our friend Stacie leading a group of runners up the single-track
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The city, the fog, the sun, the bridge

By mile 7, we had already climbed over 2,100 feet. I clearly remember this was the total climbing I had done in my “long” run Sunday of 20.5 miles. That was a daunting thought.

During a glorious downhill section before Tennessee Valley (mile 10-ish) my knee started hurting. Then it started throbbing. Within a few minutes the pain was almost unbearable- I told Lucas I might have to drop at the aid station. We looked for KT tape but no one had any. Too soon to take drugs? yes.

Only option was to trudge along and see if I could work it out. I found that the pain went away on flat sections or whenever we were climbing. Fortunately, there was a lot (10,500′) of climbing in this race.  I also discovered I could run downhill on steps without pain, so I tried to mimic the motion of running down steps.

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We heard talk (during the run) of a big climb out of Stinson Beach around mile 23. I was glad to hear others discussing it because I felt prepared when it came. We marched up the 2-mile climb, and enjoyed the views.

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Coming down from the climb into a very mellow, very runnable downhill section, the knee begged for relief. I took a celebrex and hoped for the best.

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that’s me in the gold shirt and pink shorts. (Lucas took this picture – so maybe he could have ran the race a lot faster considering he had no problem sprinting to catch me after this prime photo op)

The celebrex kicked in within 20 minutes and I was happy for the next few hours (but feeling guilty for cheating, and wondering what the cost would be for masking the pain instead of fixing the problem).

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steps on the Dipsea trail. Photo by Lucas

Lucas and I hit the halfway mark around 5 hours 10 min. The prospects of going sub-10 (our new unspoken goal) were looking slim considering we would still have to do a significant amount of climbing and pull off a negative split (and the course detour this year added about 3/4 of a mile to the race). I tried not to think about time and instead focus on catching and (eventually) passing runners for entertainment.

It became a game of chasing red shirts, as nearly every guy in front of us was wearing one. When we finally saw a woman in front of us, around mile 40, I got so excited that I didn’t look where I was going and crashed hard on the trail. Lots of dirt and some bruising but nothing serious. Lesson learned. (we still passed her)

No more time for photos during our race – “It’s a race all the way to the finish, Jenelle” as my wise pacer Audrey once said). I should mention here the course support – aid stations, volunteers at road crossings, intersections – was top notch – incredible volunteers and perfect trail markings (and we tend to get lost often).

The last woman we had a chance to catch was at mile 47 – she saw us moving in on her and turned it into a 3 mile all-out sprint (as much as you can sprint 47 miles in that is). We actually ran up the last climb (not sure how) and as I caught her on the pavement, running down at a 6:50 pace, I smiled and said “Great Race!” and she laughed and said “I fold”. It was at this point I looked at my watch and saw we could break 10 hours. Lucas and I pushed hard to the finish line and crossed together in 9 hours, 56 minutes; as 22nd and 23rd overall (and 7th female for me). A kiss and a beer and our perfect running date was complete.

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photo from the drive out – sitting in traffic for EVER – but great views from the car

Meanwhile, our friends Julia and Naomi had an adventurous time watching my dog, Beverly, who they brought for a 20 mile run while we were racing. We all met at Marin Brewing Company for dinner afterwards and shared war stories. I’ll spare the gory details but they didn’t have an easy day of it.

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Naomi, me, and Julia at Marin Brewing Company

The next day, on a last-minute whim (should we walk into town, drive to the dog park, or ?) Lucas and I set out in his little zodiac to Treasure Island, across the bay. I used to be terrified at the thought of the little boat on the open water, but weather was on our side and we had a fantastic time exploring the island and found a great recovery spot – Wood’s Island Club, which had a cheesy but awesome fake beach with a brewery and empanadas. Treasure Island could be greatly improved with less fences and restrictions to access but we still managed to find our way around some cool spots.

Now, it’s back to the grind until Lake Sonoma 50 next month, and trying to figure out how to fix this knee problem. Any and all suggestions appreciated.

Lucky 66.6 (or 67.8) on the PCT

The following is a photo essay from last weekend’s adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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We set out at 4:15am from the Pacific Crest Trailhead near Boreal in Truckee, CA. The goal was to complete [what we thought would be] 60 miles of trail down to Hwy 50 in South Lake Tahoe. Our estimated time was 16-17 hours, with a worst-case scenario of 18 hours. Stacie Riddle, Kathy D’Onofrio and I happily chatted in the dark for two hours, before Kathy turned around at Mt. Lincoln. She had just finished the Tahoe 200 (2nd female!) less than two weeks earlier, and only joined us for the first part. Stacie and I continued on to witness a beautiful sunrise on the ridgeline between Mt. Lincoln and Anderson Peak.
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Stacie, who ran her first 100 mile race one week before, the Kodiak 100 (which was “easy”). I wasn’t sure if she’d be ready for this kind of mileage, until I peeked at her Strava account and saw she already put in over 70 miles Monday-Thursday. Um, yeah, she was ready.
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Stacie running towards Anderson Peak, with views of the ridge we would be on in about 20 miles in the distance. Best not to think too far ahead though.
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Me, on the other side of Tinker’s Knob. No pics from the ridge because the winds were so insane.  Happy to be out of the cold in this pic.
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Dropping into Granite Chief Wilderness in Squaw
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Stacie climbing under the Granite Chief chairlift, with Lake Tahoe reflecting the morning sun
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Stacie running South on the PCT on the backside of Alpine Meadows
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The ridgeline between Alpine Meadows and before Barker was spectacular. Every bend in the trail offered another sweeping, breathtaking view.
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More views of the ridgeline with Lake Tahoe in the background. This is still on the PCT, a few miles before it merges with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
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I was surprised at how beautiful the section between Alpine Meadows and Barker Pass is – it was one of my favorite parts. Which was good, because this is where we realized that it wasn’t only 30 miles from I-80 to Barker Pass, it was going to be more like 33.5. Foolishly, I initially thought this must mean we were more than halfway – and it was only 26.5 miles to Hwy 50. Um, No.
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Fall colors on the climb up to Barker Pass.
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Barker Pass views
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Fall colors in Tahoe on the PCT/TRT
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At Barker Pass, about mile 33.5, we spent about 30 minutes hanging out with Helen Pelster, who ran the IMTUF 107 mile race the weekend prior (3rd female and 3rd fastest female time on the course). She brought my cooler with coke, water, and some food I had prepared before the run. Stacie and I were very happy to hear we had “beat” the boys, who started from the opposite end of our run, Hwy 50 in South Lake Tahoe. Sure, they started 2 hours before us, but we still thought they might beat us to the halfway point.
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Stacie and I leaving Barker Pass, over 9.5 hours into our run, ready for the 2nd half of our journey. Photo by Helen Pelster
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We found the boys! Peter Fain and Paul Sweeney, who proclaimed it was a lot slower going from Hwy 50 to Barker than it was going South – it took them a full hour longer than a previous Barker-to-50 run on the trail. We took this as a good sign – we had it the easy way! Unfortunately, they also let us know that it was another 33.5 or so miles to Hwy 50 – yikes!  Just as we were heading down the trail, the boys said “oh yeah, about your car… it’s not parked at Echo Lake. Go up the PCT another mile, and after you cross this crazy raging river, head left, and you’ll see the car” – we were too happy and high on endorphins at this point to really understand what they were saying. Raging river? what? must be joking. Shortly after we left them, we saw Jesse Wifely, who would join Peter at Barker to continue on to I-80. The rest of the run, they were on my mind – where were they? How long would it take them? Were they home in bed before we finished?
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The section from Barker Pass until the Meeks Bay turnoff was my least favorite. Too many trees and not enough grandiose views, in my opinion. It dragged on forever. And Stacie kept promising that any minute we would be out on the granite and back on the ridges – she lied. Here’s a boring lake that I stopped at to filter water.
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We finally passed the turnoff to Meeks Bay, and started seeing rocks instead of just trees. The terrain became significantly more beautiful.
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Stacie had remembered a lake near the trail – we were just about out of water, but passed by a couple streams anticipating the lake. We then found ourselves high above the lake we thought we needed, so we had to add an out and back, down and up, to our route.
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We saw several people camping here – preparing dinner, drinking wine, hanging out in warm puffy jackets. I was kind of dying inside, knowing that we still had 25 ish miles to go, and the going was starting to get tough.

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Filling our bottles with the Sawyer Mini filter. There was plenty of water to make it with about 2L carrying capacity and filtering more along the way.
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The miles became harder as we headed further into Desolation Wilderness

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The lakes in Desolation are over the top incredible.
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Stacie heading into the sunset
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Sunset over Emerald Bay
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I felt pretty grateful to see both the sunrise and the sunset from the PCT in one day. I wasn’t feeling especially grateful that we still had 20 miles to go.
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After about the 20th time I asked; Yes, we were finally heading up towards Dick’s Pass
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Dick’s Lake. Just before we reached the high point of Dick’s Pass, it became dark enough to get out our headlamps and put the warmer layers back on. It felt kind of crazy to start out the day running in 30 degree weather, then have it warm up to 80 degrees, and then drop back down to the 30s at night. Such is fall in Tahoe.
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Stacie coming down from Dick’s Pass into the darkness. As the miles barely crept by, it became exceedingly difficult not to get discouraged and negative. My watch stopped when we hit 17 hours and 56.9 miles. At the least, we had 10 miles to go, which could take 5 more hours at this pace.  An hour passed and I asked Stacie how far we’d gone now and she said 58.5 miles. Typically I never sit down during long runs, but now, I started sitting each time we stopped. Why not? We were barely moving. We might just fall asleep and die out here. I thought about how I only had 250 calories left for 4-5 hours. I reassured myself that I had plenty of reserves to survive, to settle the panic.
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As much as I was ready to be done (for the last 6 hours I was ready to be done), I still appreciated the beauty of the trail at night, and was entertained by the little illusions and tricks my eyes were playing on me. At one point, I had sat down to filter water and told Stacie to go ahead. As I jogged to catch up to her, I suddenly stopped, terrified at the cliff I was about to jut out on. I yelled “Stacie!! Stacie!!” There was no f-ing way I was going out on the edge of a cliff at this hour, feeling this crappy. I stopped. I’m going the other way. Just as I started back on the trail in the opposite direction I shined my light over the cliff (against my better judgement) and realized it was just a pond. There was no cliff. It was the blackness of a little lake that looked like a dropoff. I nervously laughed and caught up to Stacie. I can’t believe I had almost turned around and ran the wrong direction. I wanted to cry when I saw her.
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I had no idea how freaking L-O-N-G the trail was between Echo Lake and Lake Aloha. “5 miles” does not do it justice. The sign should instead say,  “2 hours of HELL”. One of our favorite parts was seeing the sign that said we were “Now Leaving Desolation Wilderness” Thank F-ing God. Along the way, we had been so excited to get to freaking Echo Lake. Now that we were here, we wondered out loud why in the hell did the boys park my car another mile up the trail, and not in one of these perfectly good, comfortable and happy parking lots near Echo Lake? We begrudgingly started UP the trail from the parking lot towards Hwy 50.
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After what seemed like forever, around 1:00AM, we finally heard the sounds of the river the boys had mentioned. It sounded like Niagara Falls. We got to the bank of the river and our conversation contained a lot of “What the fuck were they thinking?? There is no way we are going to get across this thing! WTF!?” I finally decided we should get some big sticks to self-arrest in case we were swept down. I told my plan to Stacie and she said “no way am I getting in that water, I’m crossing the log”. I looked up the river at the log perched about 5-6 feet above the raging river. I felt like I was in Bridge to Terabithia. I volunteered to go first – because the only thing worse than falling yourself is watching your friend fall. I had to be brave (totally against my nature here). I crossed with faked confidence. Then I had to watch Stacie cross – completely gripped. When she made it we hugged and yelped. We then wandered through the forest, a little neighborhood, and right around 1:15am when I was about to dial Peter and ask “where the f is my car” we saw it. It was the happiest moment of my life. (that I remember anyway).
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We made it!! 21 f-ing hours!! Stacie’s watch and phone combo came up with 66.6 miles. Mine added up to 67.8. I’ll call it 68.
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My feet felt like I’d just run 100 miles. In many ways, this effort was much harder than any 100 mile race I had run. During races, you go from aid station to aid station, with at most, 6-8 miles in between. There are other runners and camaraderie on the trail. Out here, it was just Stacie and I, and a smattering of hikers cozy in their tents, not offering us a beer or anything. On the 90 minute drive back to Truckee, while eating BBQ chips and drinking full-fat chocolate milk,  we discussed our adventure. We both agreed this was the “most epic thing” we had ever done. During the run, 20 hours earlier, we had laughed about someone using that term – now we had a legit use for it. We had done it. 68 (or whatever) miles in one day. And we decided we were glad the boys made us cross that fucking raging river at the finish. It just added to the adventure.
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The first section, Hwy 80 to just under Dick’s Pass. Hours 1-17, 56.9 miles
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Hours 17-21. Darkness. Despair. and ultimately… Joy. 10.9 miles

We later (Sunday night) found out the boys had all stopped at Barker Pass. Even though they were capable of running the entire thing at least 7 HOURS faster than us, on this particular day, considering we were the only ones who “finished”, we beat the boys. 😉

I’d like to thank Peter for putting this crazy idea into my head a few days ago, when I mentioned I wanted to do a 40 mile run somewhere (he said what’s 20 more?!), Stacie for being an amazingly fun and positive companion on the trail, Kathy for sharing the first 6 miles with us, Helen for being the best friend ever to give up most of her Saturday to cater to us at 7,700′, Julia for kicking ass at The Bear and then texting with me for company on my way down to Echo Lake (and celebrating with me on Sunday), and Lucas for the support throughout the endeavor from across the Atlantic. XO

 

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 2016

Thrilled to have my sister Lynette (aka Net or Netty) fly out from Michigan to crew for me at the 2016 Tahoe Rim Trail 100, I excitedly drove my “new” 1983 VW Westfalia down to the airport in Reno Wednesday to pick her up. This would be the ultimate crew-mobile!

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I learned to drive a stick shift the week before the race

Within 20 minutes of getting Net from the airport though…

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poor sad Westfalia

Lynette, Avian, Beverly and I got to take our first ride in a tow truck. The driver gave me his card, you know, “just in case it happens again”.

After getting the VW “home” (to a shop in Reno filled with other broken-down Westfalias), we squeezed into a tiny Porsche for the ride back to Truckee. It was so small that Lynette had to cock her head sideways to fit. We were grateful for the ride though (thanks, Jon!)

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this car doesn’t really have a backseat

I had high hopes of spending quality time and relaxing with Lynette in the days before the race, but life happens, and so Friday afternoon after a hectic week at work, we found ourselves racing down to Carson City, barely making it in time for runner check-in.

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hydrating at runner check-in

Friday night, 10pm, I finally put an email together to Lynette, Pete and Lucas (my pacers) with my race plan. It was ambitious, but I’d had many solid weeks of training and had run a mountain 50-miler PR (personal record) at the Silver State 50 in May (2F in 9:27). This would be my 4th time on the Tahoe Rim Trail course,

TRT100 2012; 3F in 25:12
TRT50 2014; 3F in 9:41
TRT100 2015; 2F in 25:10 

and the first time I haven’t had to use a treadmill  as part of my regular training routine (twins now old enough that I could sneak out for some early morning runs). It was time to shoot for a 24 hour finish.

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The past year in miles per week – Since April, I had 8 weeks in the 80-95 mile range

At 3:30 am Saturday morning, Lucas, Lynette and I left for the starting line at Spooner Lake, Nevada, which is also the 50 mile aid station and finish line, in this double loop course. The course consists of mostly single-track, breathtakingly beautiful trails along the East side of Lake Tahoe. Spooner Lake is about 7,000′ in elevation, and the majority of the course is over 8,000′, with a high point on Snow Valley Peak of over 9,000′. Each lap contains around 10,000′ of elevation gain.

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TRT100 course map. Courtesy TRT100 website

 

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Lucas and I at the start. Photo by Net
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RD George Ruiz prepares to send us off into the darkness

After the National Anthem and an exciting countdown, over 250 runners began the gradual climb towards Hobart. Around mile 7 I found myself running next to Caroline Barichievich, a talented South Lake Tahoe runner. We chatted with the other runners and the miles clicked by. A Reno runner asked if I was “Jenelle from the Donner Party”… I liked the sound of that.

I found myself cruising into Tunnel Creek, mile 11, happy to see Lynette and Lucas, who had made the 1800′, 3.5 mile climb up. I saw them again after a fun and easy-effort Red House Loop, and they said that only Roxanne (a super fast woman with the 3rd fastest time on course!) was ahead of me. I didn’t really believe them…

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Lucas filling my hydration pack at Tunnel Creek

As the temperature rose, I hit the Bull Wheel aid station, and they told me I was in 3rd. I decided that 3rd is better than 2nd this early on. It was going to be a long day and night.

There were many other users on the trail – hikers and mountain bikers, who happily told me I was one of the top women. Lots of “Girl Power!”, clapping and cheering. A group of mountain bikers told me “You’re burly”. I think that was meant to be a compliment. 🙂

Despite all the positive energy, I started to drag, felt waves of nausea, and it took forever to get to the Tyrolean Downhill (a 4 mile descent of 2,000′ down to the Diamond Peak Aid Station). This hadn’t happened to me since the Bishop 100k – which had ended badly, and I began to lose confidence. To make matters worse, I heard footsteps behind me, and they sounded too delicate to be one of the 50 mile men catching up (50 milers/55k racers start 1 hour behind us). On a switchback, I allowed myself a peak, and sure enough, it was Caroline. We ran and talked for a mile or so before she bounded down the trail towards the 30 mile aid station. I thought  I was now in 4th, and although 3rd had been better than 2nd at Bull Wheel, I decided that 4th was not better than 3rd at this point.

Lucas led me into the aid station and told me I was actually in 3rd, but I didn’t want to hear about that until later  -it was becoming stressful since I felt so crappy.

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Photo by Net of Lucas and I at Diamond Peak

Lucas and Lynette walked me up the Diamond Peak climb, a brutal, exposed, steep climb up a ski resort with about 20 false summits and 15,000′ of gain (not exactly, but that’s what it felt like). It was now really hot, I felt weak and nauseous, and to top it off, I found it necessary to start the Imodium regime. I felt defeated and dumb, for going out too hard, and blowing up at mile 31.

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Hot, weak, and nauseous
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Net and I heading up the ski resort

After a few of the long switchbacks I tearfully told Lynette and Lucas I should continue the rest of the way alone, or I would start crying and want to go back with them. In my prior TRT races and training runs, I was so proud of my fast DP climbs – I always felt strong and passed people, cheerfully even. Judging by how I felt at this point, I thought my dreams of a PR were over. At the top, I breathed a big sigh of relief, smiled and snapped a photo, to help remember that moment.

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fake it till you make it

Over the next 10 miles, I focused on making myself feel better, which meant slowing down, increasing my calories and fluids, and reminding myself how privileged I was to be out on this beautiful trail with people waiting on me and cheering for me. Around mile 40, I hit the Hobart aid station and caught up to Caroline. We ran together for the next 11 miles, over Snow Valley Peak, and down the long descent to the halfway mark. She had also been experiencing nausea and stomach issues, plus some major blister problems. We had a lovely time, cheering at the various landmarks – water drop aid station, our first views of Spooner Lake, and I was grateful for the company.

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running into the 50 mile aid station. Photo by Net

Lucas ran me into the fantastic 50 mile aid station to meet Lynette and Pete. The volunteers gave every runner a standing ovation, which made me choke up a little. My friend Mike served me a quesadilla, Lynette took care of my hydration pack and supplies, and my friend Spike convinced me to let his medical team tape up the hot spots on my feet.  I hesitated; I’d never sat down in a previous 100 miler much less taken my shoes off, but he assured me it would be worth it. I was so glad! The hot spots were non-issues for the rest of the race.

My coach, Meghan, was at the aid station waiting on her runner, so we chatted while my feet were tended to. She was so sweet she offered to trade shoes with me – in case mine were causing the hot spot problems.

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advice from a pro – Coach Meghan! Pic by Spike Wimmer

I felt good again, and ready to charge with Pete, who would pace me for the next 30 miles. We set off; I was back in 2nd place for the women, 32nd overall, and about 30 min faster than prior years. Things were looking up.

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Pete and I headed to Hobart. Pic by Net

We made our way up towards Marlette, and both commented that the conditions were quite pleasant – as far as the heat. Pete ran behind me and inhaled pounds of dust over the next 7 hours (but he didn’t mention that at the time).

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Marlette Lake
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cruising at mile 60. Photo by Pacer Pete

At Tunnel Creek, I was thrilled to see Lynette again – I couldn’t believe how much she had hiked/run to help me out. Throughout the race, she would put over 25 miles on her own feet crewing for me.  I also got the royal treatment at the aid station from incredible volunteers like my friends Gretchen, Marisa, Jackie, and Kym.

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my wonderful sister Lynette

I told Pete that I had never made it out of the 2nd Red House Loop before sunset. This became a new goal.

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Pete and I heading down to Red House – Photo by Andy Pasternak

On the descent, we came across Roxanne, the first female, on her climb up. We congratulated her, and she seemed eager to hear what place I was in. Pete quietly told me she looked to be about 1 hour ahead of us, which meant I’d made up nearly 20 minutes on her since the 50 mile mark. I took her asking what place I was in as a sign that she cared, and maybe she was getting tired, and maybe….well, it all made me run a little faster.

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Photo by Net

On the way out, we celebrated my first time of not needing the headlamp on the 2nd Red House Loop. We headed towards Bull Wheel, now in the dark, and looking out for runners to hunt. The trails are so interesting at night with the fairy-tale look of the foliage, spiders, field mice, and beetles by the light of the headlamp. We could see the nearly-full moon illuminating Lake Tahoe along the way.

Despite the fun, on the way down to Diamond Peak I started to feel nauseous again. When we reached the dark, quiet, 80-mile aid station, Lynette and Lucas excitedly updated me that Roxanne had just left about 40 minutes before I arrived, and I had now moved up to 14th position overall.

Around 11:45pm, Lucas and I headed up what would be my most challenging Diamond Peak climb ever. It was stop and go the entire way, and I had great difficulty talking or smiling. Lucas was very encouraging, patient, and made me feel like I was doing really well (even though I was basically taking 10 steps and stopping). We were passed by one runner – the only 100 miler to pass me since the last Diamond Peak climb at mile 30 [it would take 15 miles to pass him back]. Eventually I turned around and walked backwards up the climb, which somehow allowed me to keep moving without stopping.

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moonlight glow over Lake Tahoe. Photo by Lucas

Once again, as I finished that climb, I felt better. We saw many friends, like Jill, Tina, Kathy, and Candice, in a two-way section of trail. At Tunnel Creek Aid Station, we learned that Roxanne had increased her lead slightly, but was only 6 runners ahead of us. Time to count headlamps. I realized we had less than 3.5 hours to make it to the finish (16 miles with a climb over the highest part of the course- Snow Valley Peak) to break 24 hours – that was unlikely.

We reached Snow Valley Peak in 12th position, one of my favorite spots on the course, with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the moon reflecting over the sparkling water. I allowed my first peak at my watch since Tunnel Creek, and was disappointed to see it was just after 4am – there was no way I could run the last 7-8 miles in under an hour. I quietly accepted this and decided to still give it my best effort on the long, mostly downhill set of switchbacks that led to the finish line.

The final miles became fun again when we spotted a headlamp in the distance- the first runner we’d seen since mile 90. The chase was on. It took a few switchbacks, but we passed him and I was now 11th overall (Sorry, Paul :)). Lucas thought he saw another set of headlamps, and it became a race again. I could feel Lucas getting a little too close, and just when I thought he might accidentally knock me down, he tripped and did a perfect somersault, landing upright and continuing to run.

As we approached the beautiful lake, just before sunrise, we heard cheering in the distance.

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Spooner Lake. Photo by Lynette

It’s difficult to put into words the intense high I felt while racing around that lake, with glimpses of the finish-line lights, and Lucas cheering me on and supporting me like he had throughout the past 4 months of training. I’d visualized this moment repeatedly and it was all playing out better than I could have hoped. We charged to the finish line to a very exciting small reception of friends, in particular my sister, all the way out here from Michigan, to wrap up the most amazing race of my life.

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TRT100 2016 finish. 24:29:36

As it turned out, Roxanne had a phenomenal race and finished about 50 minutes before me, so the lights we saw turned out to be a new friend, Louis, who made sure I didn’t pass him in the final miles.  The 2016 race had 155 finishers and 75 runners who didn’t quite make it. I had several friends in each category, and realize how fortunate I was to have a good day. You just never know what can happen out there.

I’m eternally appreciative of the love and support I received before, during, and after the race from Lucas, Lynette, Pete, Meghan, my parents, my brother and his family, Betsy, Angela, Audrey, Helen, Gretchen, Diana, Holly, Spike, Chaz, Moné, Kathy, Jessie, Anna Mae, Avian and Stephen, and all my family, friends and fellow Donner Party Mountain Runners. I had so many quotes from each of you going through my mind throughout the race. I’m super grateful to my friend George Ruiz, Race Director, for putting on such a high-quality event, year after year. I’m also thankful for the hundreds of volunteers that gave up their weekend (or more) to provide us runners with the best experience possible.

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Lucas and I walking to the car from the finish.
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Later that afternoon, at the awards ceremony, with my badass friend Jill, who finished her 11th hundred miler in 5th place.
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Lucas, me, and Lynette at the awards ceremony

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 – 2015

(warning – some graphic content in here)

Ready to Go!
Ready to Go!

I began my 3rd attempt at 100 miles, 2nd time on this course, at 5am Saturday morning, surrounded by friends and fellow Donner Party Mountain Runners. The Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs are practically in my backyard, on the most beautiful trails imaginable, they are filled with familiar faces (we had 25 DPMR’s running the events!), and the volunteers, and especially the race director, George, are all incredible. The course covers about 101.6 miles, all on the east side of Lake Tahoe.

I went into the race with lofty dreams of finishing in the 24 hour range – in 2012, my first 100, I ran this course in 25:12, so I figured I should have improved at least 30 minutes or so in the past 3 years…?

nearing Marlette Lake
nearing Marlette Lake

Last summer I ran the 50 mile event, in a time of 9:41, with a faster 2nd half, so I felt pretty confident that I could run the first half in 12 hours and keep an even pace for the second half. My plan was even splits throughout, 7 hours to Diamond Peak, then 5 hours to the 50 mile, then 7 hours back to Diamond Peak, and 5 hours to the finish. No problem.

I enjoyed a few miles with DPMR’s Tom Wroblewski and then the amazing Scott Salisberry, who was running the event despite being only 4 weeks post-surgery from a bad smokejumping crash. Talk about inspiring!

I reached Diamond Peak Lodge about 30 minutes before my projected time, and met up with JP Prince and Jeff Brown. We started the climb together, then gradually spread out, settling into our own paces. Everything was sunshine, happiness, and butterflies until I finished the first Diamond Peak Climb (1700′ climb over 1.8 miles), around mile 32.

looking down from the Diamond Peak climb.
looking down from the Diamond Peak climb.

As I made my way towards the Tunnel Creek Aid Station, I started to feel depleted and weak. I began to compare my present state with how I felt during my last two 50-milers- and the outlook wasn’t good. I felt worse at 35 miles, than I did in either event, when I was running 2 minutes per mile faster. The negative self-talk began. And it was really, really ugly – I’m not proud of it, but I feel it’s important to acknowledge it, and know that no matter how low you can get – you can always turn it around. Some of the brilliant thoughts included “this is stupid”, “ultras are stupid”, “I’m a loser”, “it doesn’t matter how hard I train if I’m fat I’ll never get faster”, “I wish something bad would happen to me so I could quit”, “I’m not cut out for this”, “I know I promised my pacers I wouldn’t complain but I LIED” and so on and so forth.

It was embarrassing, to hear these thoughts, as I knew they had no place at miles 35, 37, etc, in a 100 mile race. My new goal was to turn around my attitude, and make it to mile 50 (and my first pacer) with a smile and a positive outlook. My pacers, Angela and Audrey, would both be amazing, and take care of everything, as long as I could handle the mental side of things (and the running part).

heading back around Marlene. When things get tough, take more pictures. Enjoy the surroundings.
heading back around Marlette. When things get tough, take more pictures. Enjoy the surroundings.

Time to address the problems that were getting me down – I was hurting – ok, start taking advil. weak- time to switch up the nutrition. depleted- time for my first caffeine. From now on, I would drink Coke at nearly every aid station. When you don’t have soda in “real life” it is highly effective during a race!

following Jeff Brown up the Snow Valley climb
following Jeff Brown up the Snow Valley climb

These changes and a major conscious effort to be positive worked, and by the time I reached the mile 43 aid station – the adorable boy scouts – I had tears of happiness – and I was now, seriously thinking: I Love 100 mile races!!!

Sure, I felt like an emotional train wreck, with the extreme low followed by tears of joy, but I was PMS-ing (how unfair for women by the way, to have to deal with that during a 100!), and it was mile 43 on my feet…

I met Angela at the 50 mile mark, about 10 minutes ahead of schedule (11:50 first lap), and we took off very quickly after hitting the aid station. From here forward, I would not need to worry about when and what to drink, eat, etc – Angela was in charge. All I had to do was keep moving.

on a mission. Picture by Angela
on a mission. Picture by Angela

Angela filled me in on who had passed through, and how they looked. She estimated that I was in the top 10 women…  exciting!

The next 30 miles were pure bliss- we caught up on life, while catching up with the other runners, one at a time… and I was absolutely amazed, that my body was hanging on, running strong I dare say, and not totally falling apart, as I had feared would happen during my low point.

afternoon sun over Tahoe
afternoon sun over Tahoe

I tried to ignore my watch except to look once in awhile to see if we might still make the Diamond Peak (mile 80) aid station by my goal of midnight.

one of my favorite sections of trail in the whole world! just this 50 feet or so...
one of my favorite sections of trail in the whole world! just this 50 feet or so…  picture by Angela

As we moved up into 7th, then 6th, place, despite slightly slowing down, my time goal started to seem less relevant. We were having FUN. And that was the important thing. Our headlamps went on about mile 65, and now we were running in the dark. I forgot how fun that can be!

My legs felt great, with the help of frequent applications of Arnica cream, my stomach was good as far as the top half goes, but I was starting to deal with the effects of all-day diarrhea. It was definitely a pain in the ass (ha ha ha), to have to stop to go to the bathroom every hour or so (for, oh, maybe 20 hours of the race?), but I was very grateful to have a pacer with a strong stomach (mother of 4 – she has seen worse), and I cheered myself up by thinking of the alternative- I’d much rather be dealing with this than with vomiting, which is a stark reality for many ultrarunners. She texted ahead to the crew meeting us at mile 80 to come prepared with some diaper rash ointment.

On the long stretch down to the Diamond Peak Lodge, we were able to pass 3 woman – which, by our estimate, should have brought me into 3rd place – I tried not to get too excited, as we really wouldn’t know until we hit the aid station.

After running 75 miles, all day and into the night, things start to look really interesting from the light of the headlamp. There were 3d flowers zooming up at me from the sides of the trail, sweet little beetles and spiders darting around, and really interesting shapes forming just beyond the side- who knew there were elephants on the Tyrollean Downhill?

We cruised into the Diamond Peak Lodge, mile 80, around 12:30am, and were greeted by a party of dear friends, and my amazing crew, JP Prince (who had ran the 50 mile race himself earlier in the day! no sleep for him). JP quickly checked me in, informed me I was in 3rd place, and the 2nd place woman had just left after sitting down for a bit!), and I needed to get myself together and get out! Audrey (my second superstar pacer of the day) and JP had me refueled and heading out the door with my poles very quickly. I don’t know how long I was there, but I would dare say it was no more than 10 minutes, and possibly my longest stop of the run?

Me, Audrey and Angela at Mile 80. Photo by Brittany
Me, Audrey and Angela at Mile 80. Photo by Brittany

We hit the Diamond Peak Climb, and discussed a strategy – take our time here, as there was still a good bit of climbing to do, and try to catch her on the downhill section instead. The last thing i wanted was to get passed on a downhill after chasing her up the climb! On the way up, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Gretchen’s reference to the “Cliffs of Insanity” here – it was so true – especially with watching the lights moving up the hill in front of us, and the ones creeping up below – it was hard not to go crazy worrying about being caught.

Despite our strategic “slowing down”, with the help of my poles, my time the 2nd time up the DP climb at mile 80 was 1 minute faster than the first time at mile 30 – that was unexpected.

About two miles after completing the climb, we caught the 2nd woman. Audrey and I exchanged a quiet “yay”, but I could feel she was working hard to keep me focused. “It’s a race all the way to the finish, Jenelle”.

It became a bit of a slog (still moving strong, but difficult to run anything but the downhills- and there isn’t much of that) heading towards the Hobart Aid Station (mile 90).  We left the station walking, when I asked Audrey what time it was “3:57”. I was deflated – I had really thought that I would be able to finish under 25 hours (which would mean before 6:00am). Audrey did some calculations, and we decided that it was possible to at least better my time from 2012 (25:12) if I could push the last 10-11 miles- and heck, even if we didn’t make it, it would feel good to finish this thing giving it everything. you’ve. got.

The running began again, and charging up Snow Valley Peak climb, we passed 3 runners who had left the last aid station ahead of us. Audrey’s regular, quiet reassurance and encouragement was just what I needed – she didn’t make me feel like I was slow (when I slowed down) and at the same time, made me want to go faster to get the quiet and reassuring “nice” or “well done”.

With about 4 miles to go, I asked Audrey to call my kids, who were boarding a plane in Milwaukee, for their first solo flight, to meet their dad in Boston. I had really wanted to finish before they left (6:10am my time), but it wasn’t looking good, so I at least wanted to wish them well. My amazing pacer was able to dial the number, call them, and hold the phone on speaker for me, all while we were running, trying to beat the clock, so we could chat. The kids were super excited about the race, and hearing their voices made me want to go faster and make them proud.

With about 3 miles to go, I saw the last aid station – woo hoo!! There was a blue and white tent with a few people milling around. I pointed it out to Audrey – success – and – poof – it was gone. Just an illusion.

With 2 miles to go, we were running as fast as I could – and then the aid station really was there, as well as a runner that I had leap-frogged with the entire race. I finally passed him for good – yay.

With 1.5 miles to go, Audrey told me I was going to have to run as hard as I ever have in my life, but she knew I could do it. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it would be worth it. I told her “ok, but I have to go to the bathroom”. She said,

“Jenelle, pee your pants, poop your pants like Helen, I don’t care, we are getting you to the finish on time”.

I really didn’t want to, but apparently I took her up on her challenge, because with about 1/2 mile to go, “shit happened” and both backs of my legs were now completely covered in brown goo (or poo, rather). She continued to push me, running with the most uncomfortable feeling imaginable- I considered going to the car first to change – “you can still do this Jenelle, keep at it, you are strong. You are still your beautiful and glamorous self – no one will know – they will think you ran through a mud puddle” (there was no mud on the trail). I knew how silly it was to think I was anywhere near “glamorous” at the moment, but Audrey had a way with her words, and I smiled through the mess, and powered through.

We rounded Spooner Lake and she got me to the finish line (with a big crowd cheering and apparently not noticing my “situation”), in 25 hours, 10 minutes. 2nd female, (18th overall) and a two minute PR. 🙂

uh, you don't want to know what just happened to me
uh, you don’t want to know what just happened to me

JP was there to see me finish, help me hobble to a bathroom with a ton of wet wipes and sanitizer, and then get me the heck out of there.

After a long shower, a nap, a whole lot of whining (everything hurt!!), JP took me back (against my will) to the buckle ceremony.

Spooner Lake - finish line area
Spooner Lake – finish line area
collecting my buckle
collecting my buckle. picture by JP Prince

It was so worth it – I love hearing every person’s name and time called off, and seeing them hobble up to collect their buckle. Every single one of them must have had a life-changing adventure out there- whether it was their first or 20th – How lucky we all are to have these experiences!

the tents under a stormy sky
the buckle ceremony tents under a stormy sky

I will definitely be back.

me and my shiny new buckle. picture by JP
me and my shiny new buckle. picture by JP

I can’t thank Audrey and Angela enough – you ladies were un-f-ing-believable pacers. I can’t believe the crap you put up with  – literally. I’m so fortunate to have you as friends.

I am also forever grateful to JP for the support before, during, and after the race.

And my kids, for supporting me throughout and cheering me on! Love you two!

Last but not least, thank you to my coach, Meghan, for the guidance and support throughout training.

Big Loop around Donner Lake – 35 miles

In my preparations for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 on July 18, I was supposed to run 35 miles on Sunday, wrapping up an 80 mile week- my biggest week in the training cycle. Gretchen agreed to join me, and we planned to run on the TRT course. However, the day before I came down with a bad case of pink eye – so we had to change plans, as we couldn’t ride in the same car together, or risk making any contact.

We decided to do a loop from Gretchen’s house instead – we could meet outside, and run together, hopefully without me contaminating her. We had each previously done a similar version of this run, Gretchen wrote a great post about it in 2011. I was grateful for 1) her wanting to run 35 miles with me 2) being totally flexible with changing the plans and 3) not being afraid of being around someone contagious. All characteristics of a true friend.

Screenshot 2015-06-29 09.22.43
map of our route

We headed North out of the Armstrong Tract towards Tahoe Donner, to catch that trail system up to the Donner Lake Rim Trail. We paused at the overlook to 1) enjoy the view 2) check our friends’ status who were still on the course at Western States 100.

As we descended into Negro Canyon, we were treated to a hillside covered in pretty manzanita. The only time I have ever found manzanita to be “pretty”. It even smelled good.

Gretchen heading down into Negro Canyon
Gretchen heading down into Negro Canyon

We followed the trail about 1/2 way down the canyon, until the right turn to head up towards Summit Lake. We were surrounded by a mixture of lush ferns, wildflowers, the buzz of happy bees, birdsongs, and butterflies as we made our way up to Summit Lake.

super tall flowers on the DLRT just before the PCT
super tall lilies on the DLRT just before the PCT

We made our way to the Pacific Crest Trail, with a stop at the rest area off of I-80, at mile 13, to refill water (and clean my eye and scrub with soap). Continuing South on the PCT towards Hwy 40 (“Area 60”, as a friend calls this (in between 40 and 80), we came across many thru hikers and day hikers alike. We had both forgotten how busy this trail gets in the summer.

We stopped at Hwy 40 (mile 18) to top off our water, as this next stretch on the PCT to Coldstream Canyon would be about 15 miles before hitting water again. We made our way up the PCT towards Anderson Peak, and were blown away by the wildflowers. We seemed to have hit this at the perfect time. In the week leading up to this day, I felt like I “had” to run on the TRT course for this long run, but I completely changed my mind when I was reminded of how incredible the trails were, literally, right out our door (or out Gretchen’s door- I live about 5 miles away).

We paused a couple times along this high ridge to look back at how far we had come. That is one of the best parts about this loop- you can see, from many vantage points, where you have been or where you are headed. And it looks really, really far away.

At Tinker Knob, we stopped to talk to a thru hiker, and had fun watching his reaction to describing the food he could find in Truckee. Gretchen thru-hiked the entire PCT years ago, and said she forgot how excited you get at the prospect of “real food”. I said I feel that way every time I run…

We reached the left turn down to Truckee at mile 25. The trail down through Coldstream Canyon is steep in places, with some loose rocks that doesn’t allow for the smoothest running. We made our way down, with hopes that we would find water at the Lost Trail Lodge. We started feeling raindrops on the descent, and even though I should be getting heat training in, I was grateful for the drop in temperatures and the gentle rain.

Gretchen dropping down towards Coldstream Canyon
Gretchen dropping down towards Coldstream Canyon
from the Coldstream Trail, looking West towards Anderson Ridge, where we had just been.
from the Coldstream Trail, looking West towards Anderson Ridge, where we had just been.

We reached the beautiful Lost Trail Lodge and to our relief, the water was on, and nice and cold. The last miles through Coldstream were fairly flat and runnable, and we cruised along pretty easily, ready for the run to be over. The road seemed never-ending, but when it did, we were dumped out into civilization again and the cars, freeway, and pavement were a bit shocking after spending most of the day in the tranquility of the trail.

The final 1.5 miles up to Gretchen’s house was a climb, runnable, with the rain coming down more consistently now. It was the absolute perfect way to conclude our day.

running up Richard's Blvd in the rain, with views of Donner Lake and the ridges we had conquered.
running up Richard’s Blvd in the rain, with views of Donner Lake and the ridges we had conquered.

When we reached the car, I realized that both eyes now had pink eye- joy. Gretchen and I typically hug at the end of a run but today was an air-high-five. “make sure you scrub your hands just in case”.

Elevation profile from our run
Elevation profile from our run

Lone Pine, Mt. Whitney, Onion Valley – Girls Weekend

A group of 13 amazing women, 12 from Truckee and 1 from Hong Kong, gathered at the Lone Pine Campground on Friday, June 12, to celebrate our lovely friend Angela’s 40th year of life.

The beautiful Birthday Girl
Angela – mother of 4 kids ages 1-9, adventurer, runner, lover of all things outdoors. Endless energy and enthusiasm for life. Not many people could round up 13 friends to tackle something like Mt. Whitney- but Angela pulled it off. We are all so grateful for her friendship and love!

We trickled in throughout the evening, setting up camp, and preparing our gear, for the upcoming adventure on Mt. Whitney.

The hike on the Mt. Whitney Trail is about 22 mi out-and-back, with an elevation gain of over 6,100 feet, from a starting elevation of 8,360′ at the Whitney Portal, up to a high point of 14,505′ (the highest point in the lower 48). As the other girls packed their crampons, I let them know I would turn back if there was any snow/ice that required such traction devices, due to my extreme fear of falling. A few of them didn’t believe me, but I was serious.

At 2am, our alarms started going off, and we woke up (those of us who were able to sleep for the 3 hours, that is), to a quick breakfast and coffee before driving up to the Mt. Whitney Trailhead, about 15 minutes up the Whitney Portal Road.

the birthday girl, about to climb Mt. Whitney, with zero sleep
the birthday girl, about to climb Mt. Whitney, with zero sleep

We set off on the trail at 3:28am, our only real plans discussed were to sign out in a log book at the end of the trail when we finished, so that everyone was accounted for.

A couple different groups naturally formed, and we head out into the darkness. I ended up with Betsy, Angela, Janel, Claire, Audrey, and Gretchen. The first light of day brought a spectacular glow to the surreal landscape.

Gretchen
Gretchen
me (photo by Gretchen)
me (photo by Gretchen)
Betsy, Claire, and Audrey
Betsy, Claire, and Audrey
Gretchen
Gretchen

We gathered at the Trail Camp, 6 miles in, at 12,000′ elevation, and Gretchen, Claire, Audrey, Betsy and Janel took off easily up the switchbacks. Angela and I followed slightly slower, both of us feeling the effects of the altitude. We realized we had hardly drank any of our Tailwind, even though we had been out there for 3 hours… time to drink up, and eat some snacks.

Just as we were both feeling better, and I was starting to think that maybe I could actually reach the summit, we reached a section called The Cables, which was about 12,500′, a narrow, snow and ice covered set of steps (50 feet long), with a cable railing on the right, to help shield hikers from a steep drop-off.

I immediately knew this would be the point I turned back, and I wished her well (and hoped the others would wait for her! -they did). We snapped a few pics, and she bounded up the trail, and I started my run down, totally ok with my decision. There would be other, dryer times of year to attempt this for myself.

Me, ready to shed the layers and enjoy the run down.
Me, ready to shed the layers and enjoy the run down.
Angela heading up The Cables
Angela heading up The Cables

When I reached the Trail Camp again, I came across the rest of our party- looking fresh and excited for their adventure. Including Kelly, in her Vibram Five Fingers – I’m not joking.

Kelly's 5 fingers with traction devices
Kelly’s 5 fingers with traction devices (photo by Kelly Cramer)
The rest of the crew
The rest of the crew: Kelly, Brittany, Shauna, Janet, Laura and Brandy

I told them how scary I thought The Cable section was, and a couple of them implied that they might turn back as well. I told them I was going to run down to the car and then come back up to meet the first ones down. At that moment, I felt confident that I could do this. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0837. I had an awesome time cruising down, with the exception of each time someone asked me, “you already summitted?!” and I had to admit that no, I had chickened out. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0840. The way up, although it was dark, seemed to go by so much quicker, probably because I was so anxious about coming to a point that I would be afraid to continue. This time down, as the day got warmer and the trail seemed to grow longer, I started to doubt that I would have it in me to come back up again once I reached the car. I just drank more Tailwind and had some snacks to restore my energy- salmon jerky and a granola bar.

saw this little guy on the way down
saw this little guy on the way down
John Muir Wilderness
John Muir Wilderness

I reached the bottom of the trail around 9:30am- total time out so far over 5 1/2 hours.

Elevation profile of my 2nd lap, 11.7 miles and 3,438' gain
Elevation profile Lap 1- 15 miles, 4,291′ gain

I dropped off some layers (it was already up to about 85 degrees), refilled my bladder with some nice cold water, and headed back up. I was pleased to find that it felt like I was just beginning the day – I jogged most of the way up, only walking where it was more efficient than running.

I saw many people that I had passed on the way down, and each time, they looked up in surprise, and expressed their shock that I was going up again. This made me run faster. 🙂

the trail was so beautiful
the trail was so beautiful
a father-daughter pair took this pic for me
me, on a super cute bridge
This valley though...
This valley though…

Photo Jun 13, 7 56 02 AM I met up with my friends again about 5.5 miles up. They had all made it to the summit, and were super stoked. We had a wonderful time running down, stopping often for photos, or to check out the scenery they had missed, coming up in the dark.

We also stopped to refill our water, using our incredible little Mini Sawyer devices I picked up at Alpenglow Sports on the way out of town. Easiest, lightest, and cheapest water filter I’ve seen yet!

Claire coming down from Trail Camp
Claire coming down from Trail Camp
Angela and Claire.
Angela and Claire.
Janel, Gretchen, Angela, Betsy, and Audrey
Janel, Gretchen, Angela, Betsy, and Audrey

We reached the trailhead 3 hours, 55 minutes after I went back up again, around 1pm. We had been out there around 11 hours. The girls were all super stoked to have summitted Mt. Whitney (several of them for their first time), and I was stoked to have gotten a long, quality training run in- nearly 27 miles, with over 7,700 feet of climbing.

The finish..
The finish..
Elevation profile Lap 1- 15 miles, 4,291' gain
Elevation profile of my 2nd lap, 11.7 miles and 3,438′ gain
Janel, Gretchen, Betsy, Brittany, Angela, Jenelle, Claire, and Audrey at the trailhead
Janel, Gretchen, Betsy, Brittany, Angela, Jenelle, Claire, and Audrey at the trailhead

We headed back to the campground, cooled off in the creek (it was over 90 degrees at our site), and hung out waiting for the 2nd group.

at the campsite, wearing a down jacket  (even though it was about 90 degrees) to warm up from the ice bath in the creek
at the campsite, wearing a down jacket (even though it was about 90 degrees) to warm up from the ice bath in the creek

Audrey and I compared our stylish new tan lines- hers from capris, and mine from calf sleeves:

best tan lines ever
best tan lines ever

We watched the afternoon storms come in, and began to worry about our girlfriends still on the Mountain… but alas, these were some very badass, tough women, and all 5 of the 2nd group reached the summit, and made it back down to their car safely despite the thunder, hail, and rain that pummeled them.

That night we had a birthday party for Angela – tostadas for dinner, lots of alcohol, special cakes from a bakery in Bishop, and an early bedtime (thank goodness).

The next morning, we awoke early, shared a big breakfast and a lot of coffee, and packed up the camp.

my beautiful campsite
my beautiful campsite

We drove to Onion Valley (elevation 9,200′) to run up/down Kearsarge Pass (elevation 11,700). It was beyond gorgeous – we were blown away. The trail was very runnable, the only thing that slowed us down was the high altitude, but that didn’t even bother us too much this 2nd day out.

This run ended up being 9.5 miles round-trip, with about 2,500′ of climbing. At the finish, we cooled off in a creek and enjoyed the scenery.

Cooling off by the creek in Onion Valley. (Photo by Cabana Boy)
Cooling off by the creek in Onion Valley. (Photo by Cabana Boy)

We stopped in Bishop for shopping on the way home (Eastside Sports– incredible and Sage to Summit, and then at the Mobile Mart in Lee Vining for a final dinner together.

It was the best girls weekend imaginable.

Gretchen dropped me off around 9pm and it was back to reality- including dealing with the mess left behind by the bear on Friday morning… that’s another story altogether.

bear party in my car Friday morning before I left
bear party in my car Friday morning before I left

Robinson Flat to Michigan Bluff

Bright and early Saturday morning, Gretchen and I drove to Auburn, to meet Chaz and our friend Bill, who had generously agreed to drive us out to Robinson Flat, so we could do a one-way run on the Western States trail. We had left a car in Foresthill, which was about 34 miles down the trail, using the route we took (with a little add-on).

Bill
Bill
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0466.
Chaz, Gretchen, and I ready for an adventure in the Canyons

Bill left us at the trailhead, and we began our journey, first stop was the Duncan Peak Fire Lookout on Little Bald Mountain.

Less than 1 mile after coming down from the lookout, Chaz very loudly rolled his ankle, crashing down to the trail in pain. Our options were limited- if we turned back to go to Robinson Flat, we would have no ride out. If we continued on, the soonest place he could possibly get a ride was another 15 or so miles. Most people would have taken this turn of events badly- we were less than 3 miles in to a 30+ mile run. Chaz however, sucked it up and powered through, accepting it with a smile. Even when we made fun of him for taking a small short cut. 🙂

He was able to cut some sections a little short, and  we took our time, stopping frequently to enjoy the scenery and take a crap load of pictures of each other. It was the perfect day- 29 miles for Gretchen and I, about 26 for Chaz. Our new friends Jerome and Cindy gave us a ride from Michigan Bluff to Foresthill, and there was a small party with pizza in the parking lot- best way to end our run. We hit Joe Caribe for dinner before Gretchen and I headed back to Truckee.