We did it, a 100-mile run…well technically it was a lot of hiking, and it was more like 105 miles or maybe 108, because why not throw in a few bonus miles? It still seems fairly surreal, and I think “Did that actually happen?” How does one sum up an experience like that? I guess I’ll just start at the beginning and try not to ramble on too much.
Josh and I headed up to Steamboat on Wednesday to give my brain plenty of time to recover from the drive before race day. We hung out at the condo, and I tried to convince myself that I had organized and planned everything as much as possible already, and I just needed to relax and calm my brain. Then there was a minor incident where I lost the key to the condo, and we got locked out after hours and had to call the rental office, but they were closed, and so we called the emergency maintenance line to have somebody get us a new key, but we don’t need to go into that. It was not part of my “relaxation” plan. On Thursday, I headed to packet pick-up at 3pm to try to get there before the crowds. I succeeded in doing this, however, they weren’t ready to start, so I had to just sit and wait. More people started to show up, and as the tent filled with people chatting, laughing, socializing, and generally making me feel like my head was going to explode, I had to leave and find a quiet place to sit. I came back at 3:30, and by then the line was super long and I stood there, with my earplugs in, seriously considering not doing the race because I didn’t want to wait to pick up my packet with all the people and noise. Fortunately, Josh offered to go to the pre-race meeting for me, so my brain didn’t have to suffer through that as well.
The race started at 8am on Friday, and I had a great group of friends there to send me off, as well as a former coworker that was running the race. The beginning of a race has been difficult for me this past year. People are bunched up and chatting, and it can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t last too long. Within 10 miles I was alone, and feeling much better. The fall colors were in full swing along the Fish Creek falls trail, and I should’ve stopped to take a picture. Marco was waiting for me at the lower waterfall to run the 4 miles of paved road through town to the first crew stop. It was such a huge boost to roll into Olympian Hall and see everyone there. My friends are awesome and quickly got me set up and on my way. I was on my own for 20 miles around Emerald Mountain, and then Hannah joined me back up the paved section to Fish Creek falls. The first 50 miles were pretty uneventful. I kept up with my nutrition and hydration plans, my legs felt strong, and I wasn’t having any TBI symptoms.
Overnight, Tiffanie was with me for 19 miles. That was 19 very cold miles. We stopped a couple of times and turned off our headlamps, just to enjoy the light of the full moon across the meadows and take everything in. I wish I could have captured those moments to share with you all. It was gorgeous, and incredibly peaceful…and cold. Did I mention it was cold? I was wearing capris, running pants, an insulated running skirt, long sleeve shirt, pullover, down jacket with a hood, and a shell, and a hat, and gloves, and shells over my gloves, and I was still cold. Thankfully, the aid stations had hot chocolate, mashed potatoes, broth, chicken and rice soup, potato cheese soup, and so much more. It was amazing. Instant mashed potatoes have never tasted so good. After a never ending downhill to Dry Lake, Tiffanie finished her section, and Chelsea joined me for a nice hike to Spring Creek and back. My legs were getting tired, and after being so cold I was stiff and having a hard time running. The sun started to come up and I was super excited to be warm again, or at least warmer. I kept thinking about how excited I was to see Josh back at Dry Lake, and then he made me pop a giant blister and I was no longer so excited about seeing him.
For months I had been nervous about the night section. I had been working on my night running, but I had no idea how my brain would handle being out that long by headlamp. The short answer is – I was totally fine. Not just fine, but normal. In fact my brain felt totally normal for the entire race. What didn’t feel normal was my ankle. At about mile 80 my right ankle started getting a little sore. I had Josh massage the calf and shin, and work on range of motion of the foot. We continued at a slow pace, doing some running, and then I would walk a bit, and then run again. The ankle kept getting worse. We stopped at the Long Lake aid station to eat and refill food and water. When we started to go, I could hardly walk on the ankle, and still had 12 miles to go. This was definitely sub-optimal. I limped out of the aid station, holding on to Josh’s arm for support, and the ankle started to loosen up a tiny bit. We mostly walked the rest of the way up Mount Werner. The uphill sections became incredibly painful for my ankle, and I thought the pain was going to make me pass out or puke. I had to stop quite frequently and put my head down to try to keep either from happening. My training partner Ellen was running the 50 miler, and caught up with us at this point. After convincing her there was nothing she could do to help, she continued off for a strong finish. Way to go Ellen! At the Mt. Werner aid station, we had my ankle wrapped up for extra support and started limping down towards the finish. It became very clear that if I continued hobbling along I was not going to make the 36 hour cutoff, we needed to run the last 6 miles. With thoughts of everything we have been through this last year, all the people waiting at the finish, cheering from a far, and the ~100 miles I had already finished, I wasn’t about to miss the cutoff. So we ran.
Hannah, Kristi, and my brother Andy hiked up to the top of the gondola and were waiting for us. That gave me the boost I needed to keep going. At the bottom of the road, with 1.5 miles to go, Greg, Lauren, Marco, and Brian were waiting for us and joined the entourage. By that point I knew we had enough time to make the cutoff, and I was able to walk/hobble/limp the final singletrack section. Once we got back out to the service road and I could see the finish, I started crying. This has been the most difficult year of my life. To reach that finish with my husband, and a huge group of friends behind me, was incredibly emotional. I couldn’t believe we had actually done it.
The craziest part is that after moving for 36 hours my brain felt fine. Not just fine, but NORMAL. I had no TBI symptoms at all, AND I felt completely normal after the race and for the next 48 hours. I was able to spend hours on the computer on Sunday answering emails and messages, and it didn’t bother me at all, when usually after 30 minutes of screen time my brain is fried. Since then my symptoms have started coming back, so 100 miles didn’t completely fix my brain, but it clearly helped, even if only temporarily.
At the start of this post I said “we did it”, and I said that because this was a team achievement. There are so many people who have been there to help us get through this last year of recovery and to train for this race. We raised over $5,000 for the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, and the support from all of you pushed me to the finish. Thank you, everyone, for believing in me and getting me from TBI to 100. You can check out more pictures in the gallery at the bottom of the page.
As a follow-up, I received good news today about my ankle. Within a few days of the race the pain was only mild, but I still couldn’t really move the foot, which was concerning. The MRI shows that I strained a tendon across the front of the ankle (extensor digitorum longus for those that are interested), but there are no major tears. I’m relieved that the inability to move the foot seems to be just from inflammation and not from a tendon rupture. So with continued rest and physical therapy I should be back out on the trails soon! This blog doesn’t end here. Stay tuned for more, and enjoy rest of the photos below.
Click on the images below to see them in full glory or pain.