IMTUF 100 – It Only Takes 100 Miles to Feel Awesome

Somewhere around 30 hours into the race this past weekend I began my mantra of “I’m never doing another 100 miler”. Now, 5 days later as I continue to feel amazing, I definitely start questioning that decision. The entire 100 miles (or 105, but who is counting) isn’t misery, and if I have to suffer through the last 20 or so, is it worth it to feel this good? It definitely makes me wonder…

Last weekend, two years after sustaining a traumatic brain injury, and exactly one year after Run Rabbit Run 100, Josh and I headed to Burgdorf, Idaho, for the IMTUF 100 miler.  We flew to Boise and stayed overnight with friends, who were kind enough to load us up with comforters and pillows, and all sorts of things to help us out. Thank you Dean and Elyssia! Friday morning we picked up Eric from the airport, who would be pacing me the last 30-ish miles, and we headed north to the race venue. Burgdorf Hot Springs was the start and finish for the race, and this place was awesome. With no plumbing, electricity, or cell reception, it is no 5-star resort, but the rustic cabins are adorable, and I wouldn’t mind going back just to relax.

Burgdorf Hot Springs
The pre-race meeting.

After the flight, the three-hour drive, and stops at the grocery store for supplies, by the time we arrived I was fairly symptomatic. Add in some time spent finalizing the gear and food in my drop bags, and I progressed to being completely wrecked.  Not many people ever witness this state, because I’m usually hiding at home. My ability to make decisions came to a grinding stop, and Josh had to help me with everything. As I struggled to find words, and speech was reduced to one word at a time, I’m sure Eric was wondering what the hell he had gotten himself into.  Josh made me stop everything and suggested I go soak in the pool for a bit. This turned out to be an excellent recommendation. With a pool noodle under my arms I could simply float in the warm water. It was glorious. I could’ve stayed in there for hours, and as folks around me questioned the logic of heading out to run in the morning when they could soak all day, I had to agree.

Josh organizing dinner in the cabin.

As the temperatures dropped overnight, I was happy to have a wood burning stove in the cabin, and a husband willing to get up a couple of times to add more wood. It was a chilly 6am start in the dark, and a long time before the temperatures climbed above freezing. The sun came up as we neared the top of the first climb, and with the frost, the red fall colors, and the clouds low in the valley, you could almost forget how cold it was.

Sunrise and frost at the top of the first climb. Photo courtesy of Joel Christian Ballezza

A lot of folks went out way too fast. As it was, I reached the first crew point at Upper Payette (mile 14.7) well ahead of my planned 32-34 hour pace, and I was near the back of the pack. From there it was up, up, and away to cross the Crestline. This section of trail felt very remote. Once past the North Crestline aid station (hashbrown and cheese quesadillas, mmmmmmm), I didn’t see anyone for hours. The scenery was beautiful, and this was probably my favorite section of the race.  I finally started catching up with folks near the South Crestline aid station, and several of us would end up leapfrogging for most of the race.

Gorgeous fall colors along the Crestline trail – IMTUF 100

Mile 44 was the Lake Fork Aid station, where they were making dutch oven pizzas from scratch. It is also where I picked up Josh to pace me overnight, but did I mention the pizza? It was nice to be out with Josh at a point in the race where I was still feeling good. We stopped and turned off our lights a couple of times, and held each other as we stared up at the stars. Although I had reached the Lake Fork aid under a 32 hour pace, things fell apart a bit on the next section. The climb up Snowslide wasn’t terrible, but the descent was awful. It was steep, rocky, loose, and dark. I was not moving fast, and we lost quite of bit of time. We rolled into Snowslide aid station at 12:18am, which was on pace for 34 hours…and then it started getting cold.

Josh cleaning my feet at the Lake Fork aid station.

Needing a pick-me-up, and not wanting anything cold, I went for coffee. I hate coffee, and it tasted terrible, but I had it again at Duck Lake and then opted for a mocha at Upper Payette. I don’t eat well when I’m cold, and this led to getting behind on my calories, which I paid for later. I had some mashed potatoes and broth, and had been eating quite a few quesadillas (although sadly none of the other aid stations were putting hashbrowns in them), but I wasn’t keeping up. Where was more pizza when I needed it?

Back to the feet again. Checking out some ugly blisters before heading out with Eric.

Eric, all decked out in tutu and angel wings, took over pacing at mile 70, at around 5:30am. A good pacer is willing to sacrifice comfort for entertainment. The climb up Diamond Ridge went on FOREVER. I was freezing in the cold wind, the sun was taking it’s time coming up, and there were roughly a million and one false summits. We finally reached the Diamond Ridge aid station just before the top, where supplies are packed in by goats and a mule. There are some amazing volunteers at this race, that is for sure!

The Diamond Ridge Aid Station
The goats at the Diamond Ridge aid station, where I was freezing despite all the layers I have on. I also have a mouthful of peanut butter and my mother told me she had no idea it was me in this picture.

As we headed down from Diamond and started to thaw out, Eric pulled off his running pants to reveal fishnet tights. We both enjoyed feeling the warmth of the sun as we worked our way down to Willow Basket aid, slowly peeling off one layer at a time.

Ahhhhh warmth! Sunshine = smiling.

From Willow Basket, it is a loop down to Chinook aid station, then along the river and back to Willow Basket. The race director also throws in a tortuous 1/4 mile out and back to Loon Lake. We made good time to Chinook, and then I hit the wall. I began feeling dizzy and found a chair before I ended up in the dirt.

The BEST pancake ever. I should’ve had two.

After some Coke and the best pancake ever, we slowly made our way along the Secesh river. On a normal day, this is a super runnable trail. I could run sections, but there was a lot of walking at this point.

Running along the Secesh River – IMTUF 100

Once back to Willow Basket the second time, the dizziness was worse. I drank one bottle of water, and refilled it, then filled my second bottle with Sprite. They didn’t have much food left at this point, so I grabbed some M&Ms and we headed towards the finish. As we headed out, one of the volunteers called “It’s only 10 miles, you’ve got this”. TEN MILES?????????? I thought it was 8 miles. That was tough to swallow. What became very clear was that I wasn’t going to get to the finish quickly. Every time I started to run I felt dizzy, so walking it was. Eric said I was walking fast enough that we didn’t need to run. So I just put my head down and continued to power hike. Everything was going “well” until about a mile from the finish. I needed to pee. I rationalized that after the finish line I would have to walk all the way to bathrooms, but if I went now, I could just go. So I did…and then I couldn’t stand back up. I was too dizzy. I’m pretty sure I started laughing, because how ridiculous would it be if I made it all this way and got stuck a mile from the finish because I stopped to pee. With my head between my knees, I took a step, and then another, and worked my way upright. I did reach the finish, in 35:03, reminding myself the hard way that going faster than planned pace at the beginning of a race is never a good idea, and that I need to learn to eat better in the cold.

At the IMTUF 100 finish. I think Eric was making fun of my inability to stand up.

After some food, hot chocolate, and a soak in the hot springs, the post-finish violent shivering did eventually ease up. We headed down to McCall that evening to stay in a warm hotel room with a shower. There was the bit about Josh having to carry me to the pool and to the car, but we can gloss over that. On Monday, Eric headed home, and we stayed one more night with our Boise friends. I had been concerned about traveling home alone, as Josh headed to Vegas for a work trip, but with my post-100 mile happy brain, I didn’t need to worry. On the flight I was relaxed enough to take a nap, and then enjoyed watching the pockets of golden Aspen as we crossed the mountains.

It has now been 5 days. After my last 100 miler, my cognitive function was NORMAL for about 4 days, so we will see how long it lasts this time. In the last few days I’ve been able to read, I’ve even watched a couple of episodes of Outlander! For those that don’t know what that is, just skip this paragraph. Back when I couldn’t do anything, I listed to audiobooks. Jamie and Claire were good company for months as I listed to the entire series and all the side novellas and short stories. I knew there was a show, but I couldn’t watch any of it, so I didn’t know what I was missing. I’m in big trouble when my “100 mile happy brain” wears off and I can’t watch anymore. He is amazing. Did I say “he”, I mean it, the show, it’s amazing. Whew, is it me, or is it getting warm in here?

Anyway, the point is that after 100 miles my world opens up. It is a glimpse of my life before the crash, and I have so much energy. Yes, even after putting my body through 100 miles, I feel like a rockstar. The heaviness and fog is cleared, and I feel like I could go run another 100 miles tomorrow. I don’t know how long it will last this time, so I’m trying to make the most of it while I can. As for me saying, “this is my last 100”, well when the high after 100 miles is this good, how could I not want more?

At Lick Creek Summit – IMTUF 100



3 thoughts on “IMTUF 100 – It Only Takes 100 Miles to Feel Awesome

  1. Kristen, I just read the article about you in Trail Runner. I am just starting down the path of recovery from a brain injury and your journey is so inspiring.

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