A Golden Glowing, Moab 240

“But it’s all still there in my heart and soul. The walk, the hills, the sky, the solitary pain and pleasure—they will grow larger, sweeter, lovelier in the days to come, like a treasure found and then, voluntarily, surrendered. Returned to the mountains with my blessing. It leaves a golden glowing on the mind.”  Edward Abbey

Much of the course was run on ATV roads- sandy, rocky, rolling, and exposed.

First, I felt hard wet drops hit my face, then the sharper pricks of sand driven by wind gusts. My body, floating and painless in a vast expanse of soft darkness, suddenly fell to earth. I opened my eyes reluctantly and immedietly shielded them with the brim of my hat against the glaring sun, still angry and harsh even during a rainstorm. The desert blackbrush around me rattled in the wind, hollow sounding and otherworldly – like all of the sounds in this vast expansive place. How long was I out? I checked my watch. Maybe 5 minutes- maybe 10. Not long. The last thing I remembered was sitting down to rest on the sand- and now I had sand in my pants, damn it. Warning bells rang in my head, trying to penetrate my foggy thoughts. I grunted and dug my fingers into red dirt while my body tripoded, legs and back then straightening into a standing position. I felt like one of the cows that grazed out here – awkward and dumb, but usually pretty harmless. My clumsy movements dislodged the drinking tip of my water bladder. I watched stupidly as it slid off the tubing, tumbling through the air in slow motion animation, as precious clean water poured out onto the dirt. Oh s*@#! No! I grabbed the dirt crusted tip and forced it back onto the tubing to stop the water carnage, but not before I had lost half of my supply. 1L of water left, give or take. 10 miles to go before I could refill. There was a blister forming on my right little toe. I should take care of that, I thought… but sitting down again to remove my shoe and sock just seemed like too much work. I was tired of working and Alan was waiting for me up ahead. I jerked one leg out in front of me and then the other- using my poles as crutchy-canes to help stabilize on this currently impossibly easy and flat stretch of ATV road. A blue van careened around a bend up ahead, bumping through potholes and sending a huge cloud of dust into the air that I would soon breathe into my lungs. The driver and passenger- an older couple probably escaping out of the tourism crunch that is the town of Moab to “ooo” and “aaah” over some mesa or landmark out here – both looked at me with shock and concern. Or maybe I just imagined those facial expressions in my own self pity, because the van sped past and I choked through my buff in their dust. I was once again alone. 158 miles. I’d walked/run further on more technical trails in the past. This shouldn’t be so hard, but my body was melting along with the rain in the hot sun. This inferno red desert takes all of you without apology or remorse. Rain clouds cleared, then condensed over the La Sal Mountains in the distance, marking my path forward and upward better than the few and far between pink and orange race ribbons blending beautifully into the background of red rocks and red sand and red mesas, and attached to an occassional scrubby bush or lone thirsty juniper tree.

An odd sight in the middle of nowhere.

“Once again there was the desert, and that only.” Stephen King

Alan found me 3 miles out. My limp had become pronounced, yet I still stubbornly persisted without stopping to give my blisters any attention. They don’t deserve it, I thought. I was a cat stalking her prey – the aid station was mine and it was just ahead. Nothing would stop me. I am…not a cat. I am an inchworm, but I’ll get there eventually. Another van idled up ahead on the left side of the road. The driver smiled and motioned us over with an over-sized arm gesture and an excited question ” hey are you guys crazy enough to be doing this thing?”. I shrugged him off and kept walking. Alan, however, stopped to engage in friendly conversation. I hobbled on for forever on my own until finally arriving into the midst of the shiny reflective trucks, suv’s, and vans at Rd 46 Aid. Not long after, Alan ran in. He literally danced with excitement, “you won’t guess- you won’t ever guess -what I got YOU! What do I have in my hands?”. “I don’t know – your precious?”, I snarked without turning my aching head to look. “No silly, SUSHI! That guy back there is a professional chef and had some extra sushi from a catering gig in the back of his truck.” His delight overpowered my foul mood and I started laughing. Ice cold sushi in the desert!

The road to Rd 46 aid with the La Sals marking the course forward.

On Solitude

It’s an odd thing to experience – traveling by foot in the desert through multiple hot days and dark nights by yourself. There were the occasional runners that I spent hours with, enjoying their company and conversations, but we thinned and spread out over the course after the first day and night. We would play a form of “tag you’re it”, as we leap-frogged past each other and shared time at aid stations. However I found myself mostly alone on dusty ATV roads and rocky trails. My thoughts would cycle, skip, and repeat like a broken record. Songs and rhymes would pop into my head to match the beat of my footsteps, usually un-welcome as they would stick and then I could think of nothing else but the lyrics to some old pop song or some tune that I absolutely hated- but yet there it was dancing obscenely in my head… “my friends say I should act my age, what’s my age again?” Then I would talk to the cows grazing through sparse brushy grasslands blocked off by barbwire fencing and gates that would not stop a single determined calf – let alone a herd. They stared with their big brown eyes suspiciously as they chewed, but tolerated my high pitched you’re-so-cute-I-could-kiss-you voice as I told them just that – that they were by far the most adorable forms of wildlife I’d seen in 100 miles. I was comparing them to the occassional mouse, spider, and scorpion – but still. There were vivid flashbacks at night. Memories would surface from my past, playing out almost like an outdoor drive-in movie, vivid scenes flashing in front of me. Did I really do that? Was I really that person? Who am I now? The space for thought, introspection, contemplation, and even (or especially) hallucination was as large as the mesas above me, and the sky sprinkled with stars above it all.

Past where the earth curves into the horizon, past mountain ranges and a wild blue ocean, a solitary monk walks on a solitary mountain under this same sky. He is tired and sore and sleep deprived like me. However he’s been tracing the same footpath for years, not days. Tendai Buddhist monks in Japan teach that enlightenment can be achieved in this life only through selfless service and devotion. Kaihogyo (circling the mountain) is seen as the ultimate expression of this desire for enlightmenment, and is obtained through meditative walking, following a progressively longer plan (up to 84 km a day) that lasts for seven years. The route is on Mt. Hiei, which can freeze in the winter and bake in the summer. The trail is technical, yet monks wear straw sandels on their feet. They are not allowed any help. If they accept this quest and then fail, they must either die trying or kill themselves – those are the only two options. The trail is marked with graves. They learn to live in the moment as they walk, meditate, and pray alone, to flow with the natural world, and to allow pure joy to overcome physical suffering. They do certainly transcend. There is so much to be learned from the simple act of moving forward on this earth – of one footstep, then another. Feeling my blistered feet commune with the sand, watching the never ending road ahead of me shimmer as if it’s alive, and fighting off the all consuming urge to take another sip of precious water…wait for it. Self control and mental resolve -“patience, young grasshopper”, there is still so much to learn from this. Let the earth move through you. This is hard, but do you feel alive? As the sun moved across the sky and landmarks in the distance never seemed to travel closer, I thought of that monk. I wished him joy.

A Prickly Pear cactus in mid-day sun.

“Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” Alice asked.
“We called him Tortoise because he taught us,” said the Mock Turtle angrily: “really you are very dull!”  Lewis Carroll

Let’s Rewind

A tortoise. I almost stepped on him in a sun soaked daze as I rushed to find the bathroom inside a house on the edge of nowhere overlooking a canyon: Basecamp Aid at mile 31. He was now creeping dangerously close to my ankles, his jaw working in… anger (?) as his entire body filled up the tiled kitchen floor and blocked access to the hallway. I gingerly stepped around him. Nice turtle. Good boy.

I walked off into the heat of the day, took about 20 steps, and then realized I had not filled up my pack with water. I turned around and re-entered the chaos of the water and drink station, located outside the house under a tent. Kelly (I think this was his name?), aid station captain and tortoise keeper, called to the tortoise, who was now exiting the house from the front door. “Hey Kobae (Ko-Bay) there are DOGS out here! Go say ‘hi’.” The tortoise sped up, creeping steadily closer and closer to two dogs who were becoming incredibly agitated at this reptile who thought he was one of them. A cacophony of nervous barking errupted as dog owners wrestled with tails & wiggling dog bodies & dog slobber and leashes in the dust while Kobae just kept inching towards them like a soldier going into battle. I walked out of that aid station laughing hysterically.

Kobae the tortoise in a brisk…run for the dogs

“Lately I’ve been heading for a breakdown, every time I leave my house well it feels just like a shake down…” Violin, Amos Lee

I shivered uncontrollably while lying in the back of our rented, now dusty and worse for wear Dodge Caravan. I could not warm up even with the sun baking the inside of the vehicle – a warning sign that I had a fever and a touch of heat sickness. Mile 102, Bridger Jack Aid, day #2. Alan had found me on the trail a few miles out – or rather, he picked up the pieces of me as I shattered and scattered in the breeze. This was not the plan. I had worked so hard for a goal of a top 3 female finish. I had sacrificed precious hours to train with consistency while trudging through the stresses of a full time night shift job that required me to be 100% present as an RN on a busy step down hospital unit – then coming home to transform myself into a teacher, tutor, and mother to our three kids. In the age of COVID, I had a lot to be thankful for and a lot to appreciate. However it had been a tough year. The last 70 miles after leaving Base Camp Aid were filled with vast expanses, magnificent views, and precious conversations. I shared a few early morning hours with David from Wisconsin between Indian Creek Aid and The Island Aid. A funny thing happens to most of us after the first day jitters vanish with fatigue and the miles wear us down to the core of existence itself – we start to get real. That “realness” lends itself to some fantastically funny conversations and the sharing of ideas and values with each other without judgement. We watch out for and respect each other. The sight of a familiar bib number or walking gait of another runner in the distance is always welcome, even if they are competition. My body eventually stopped shaking. The ever-present nausea subsided long enough to consume a full 500ml container of ice cold Pedialyte, iced coffee, Pringles chips (original flavor – the best ever), and a quesadilla. I re-taped my feet after wiping off a layer of dust. Sand granules in Moab seemed to mimic thousands of microscopic razor blades. They were tearing my feet up. Alan pushed me back out onto the road. “Go get it, you look GREAT”, he said.

Jacob’s Ladder, Day #1

You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light.”  Edward Abbey

Shay Mountain was alive. It was a hungry monster, and it growled and rolled under my feet. The trees grabbed at my pack like claws and the rocks sprouted like warts around my legs. It was planning on eating me for breakfast unless I picked up my pace over the endlessly steep twisted hills. Up until I thought I MUST be at the top, but then no… down again. I almost stepped on the body of a man lying in the middle of the narrow trail. I had to check twice to make sure he was alive. He was just staring up at the wide expanse of stars, and murmured a faint “hello nice to be here, huh?”, as I stepped around him. I moved on, but I could have sworn he gently shared with me his sense of wonder and awe, because the climb suddenly seemed easier and mysteriously beautiful. I had walked a bit with Cesare before he caught a second wind as my energy levels crashed with sudden increased nausea. He wasn’t all that far ahead even now. We had been within 5-10 miles of each other for almost the entire race, and it was comforting knowing that a friend was close by. Friends…a vivid memory from college flashed before my eyes – out of place here among the pinyon pines, but the mind plays it’s own games. Back to the group of friends I loved so much, back to our weekend adventures dancing in hole-in-the-wall night clubs in Chattanooga TN. We would dress up to drive the boys crazy and to show off a little- tight pants and cute little tops. We had this pact- stay together, watch out for each other, and just have some fun. We would never let a friend leave with a man she just met. Men…I never liked the men dancing in those clubs. They were drunk and boring with their obvious intent and greedy desire. They wanted my legs, my ass, my hips but never me because they could have cared less about my dreams, my own desires, and my degree. They smelled horrible when they tried to rub up against me- a mixture of soured beer and strong cologne. I always, however, liked the DJs. They were the puppet-masters, the controllers of the multi-colored dance floor and the spinning dancers. They had tattoos and intellegence, and a sort of aloofness that my 21 year old brain understood as edgy and rebellious. Had someone told me back then that my future life partner was, at that moment, spinning records in some San Francisco club with a brooding expression and tattoos under a tight shirt – I would never have believed it. The soft strobe lights and pulsing rhythm faded into the sound of a croaking frog and dry grass that rattled in the breeze. I pushed through a tighly packed stand of trees and found myself on a paved road. Time to run it in…

“You don’t know what it’s like out there!” I folded into the back of our van, and then sweet nothingness. Alan shook me awake 30 minutes later, his voice soft with the night: “hey beautiful”. I uncurled, and we worked together to re-tape my throbbing feet. I presented at the aid station to check in, and was greeted by a medic on a mission. She was smart and savvy and was staring me down with a familiar glint in her eye the way I assess my own patients in the hospital. Well, I know that game. No way was I going to let her keep me here any longer. I tried my best to look fresh and healthy-as-a-horse as I aswered her checklist of questions. “Yes, I’m peeing, of course I slept – feel great – drinking a ton, oh yes definitely eating, feet are perfect, nope no hallucinations…”; cue eye roll. I somehow passed her test with only a few little white lies. I stuffed my stomach with hot melted cheese quesadillas covered in gourmet Costco-style guacamole, rich hot chocolate, and bitter coffee. I folded my stinky body into Alan’s arms one more time and set off down the road. Now, not even 5 minutes after leaving him, I am standing over a wet patch of pavement where I have just puked up all of my precious calories. A truck pulls up and idles next to me. It’s full of concerned crew-people/volunteers and I tell them “no I’m absolutely fine, it’s just been a long day” – because what else do you say at midnight going into day #3? And funny thing – I did feel better. Fantastic, in fact. The miles to Dry Valley flowed effortlessly.

Light always follows the dark.

“The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.”  Madeleine L’Engle

Fast-forward to Rd. 46 Aid

The skin had all but separated from my little right toe. I had just jerked it back and away from Alan, who was holding a small bottle of now half empty, full strength iodine that he had just poured into the the blister he had sliced open. “WHAT was that?? Ouch ouch ouch did you REALLY need to do that?” He continued with the wound care unfazed by my obvious disdain and discomfort by wrapping the toe in a piece of custom cut KT Tape with absolute precision. Blood and serous fluid still oozed out from under the tape but Alan looked smugly satisfied, like he had just finished painting the damn Mona Lisa – “Love, that is NOT getting infected”.

Indian Creek Aid, a thousand miles back

I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”  John Muir

“Because it’s there.”  George Mallory

The weirdest thing, I thought. So…interesting. The sun had set, gradually sliding down along the edge of the mountain and out of view leaving brilliant scattered colors. The climb into the La Sals was relentless and rocky, but gradual. The air turned icey as temps slowly dipped into the high 20sF, and it breathed life into my sun-melted body. Darkness finally settled thick, only giving way to a Milky Way galaxy above and the sweeping broad strokes of our lights on the trail. Alan had joined me. I asked for him to pace me earlier than planned because I did not trust myself to climb to 10,000 feet in sub 30 degree temps on my own. In the dark. Alan pointed out the glimmer of multiple sets of eyes from a high altitude field, too front facing to be either deer or cows and too high off the ground to be small mammals. We wondered about the lives of the predators who claim the territory we were passing through as guests. We turned back to view the valley and our progress and were shocked to see a long line of lights from the headlamps of runners who now followed us, arching gradually upwards. We were viewing the mid-pack crowd, and it was way too close for comfort. Time to pick up the pace.

Scott Rokis and Howie Stern captured the essence of this race beautifully with their photography.

I heard distinctly the sound of drums. Then clearly, like it was playing in my ear, the song “I Want You Back” from the Jackson 5. Then it was “Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes. Old School Motown, songs that I rarely listen to and didn’t think I knew all of the lyrics… but strangely I did, and my legs matched the rhythm that was now floating all around me. I knew I was experiencing an auditory hallucination, but I was surprised at how real it seemed. It could not have been clearer. Alan was talking in front of me, something about the sliver of the moon on the horizon, and the wild animal predators, and a thick chocolate milkshake topped with whipped cream that he would personally serve me after we crossed the finish line (in our cabin after a shower and naked even), but I couldn’t make sense of the words that were now pouring from his mouth and blending with little music notes in the air. I danced even as my poor right little toe punched yet another rock. What an amazing concert! “abc, easy as 1,2,3″…

On Hallucinations

A 2018 study published in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Psychiatry” analyzed 21 studies involving sleep deprivation of 24 hours to as long as 11 days. It concluded that severe symptoms start to appear in as little as 24 hours without sleep. Symptoms typically worsen until a sudden deterioration within five days, when study participants would fall into complete psychosis. Complex visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations and disordered thinking were common after 48 hours, and delusions (fixed false beliefs) were reported after 72 hours without sleep. Symptoms in many cases were almost identical to acute delirium and/or schizophrenia, often coupled with severe paranoia. Even the most psychologically grounded mind will find a different reality.

The first year I finished Tahoe 200 in 2018, I heard a few stories afterwards about runners who became delusional while traveling over the Rubicon on their way into the finish on the 4th night. I heard a story about one runner who threw his phone over the edge of a cliff and had to be physically restrained by his pacer while trying to dive off the cliff after it (this was what I heard… it might not be completely factual, fyi). That year I did experience vivid hallucinations of runners grouped on the side of the trail who vanished with a second glance, and of tall buildings that transformed back into their natural form of rocks and boulders. My most realistic hallucination took the form of a shirtless bearded man standing on a rock ahead of me and to my right. He looked directly at me and grinned. His belly shook as he raised the can of beer in his hand to his mouth. He was… so real. The Sierra Nevada Mountains can be harsh and inhospitable even in their beauty, but the desert plays tricks. I started hallucinating after the second night in Moab with increasing frequency. By the time Alan and I reached the cover of aspen trees, I knew with certainty that I was slowly losing my mind. Like the patients I care for at work who claim all sorts of false realities that they are absolutely certain of, I felt myself slipping into the dark corners of my own mind. My ability to communicate with Alan had deteriorated into jagged bits and pieces of thoughts and ideas that would occasionally spill out of my mouth. I doubt I made any sense at all. I was just trying to not lose it completely. I didn’t want Alan to have to hold me back from jumping. He had enough to do already.

Whatever it takesthe trail to 10,000 ft.

“You won’t find reasonable men on the tops of tall mountains.” Hunter S. Thompson

The little tiny trace of a trail (is that what you call it Candice?) perched precariously on the mountainside looked like it would slide off with the first snowfall. Large Aspen trunks rested on the sides of the path like fallen soldiers, and occasionally blocked the trail completely. Our pace slowed to a crawl for miles and miles. Looking back in reflection, this section of the La Sal Mountains in the dark was brutal.

Morning revealed stunning views of the red rocks below.

We stopped to rest and eat, and my mind flashed with a memory. Time travel erased the years. Family camping trips were a common occurrence growing up. We would take off on weekends in the pumpkin colored Volkswagen camper with its triangular pop up sleeping top to explore the great unknowns. One favorite spot was Stone Mountain. Not Stone Mountain Georgia- but Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina. After what always seemed like an eternity on the road wedged between my booger-picking, farting brothers, we would pile out of the van into the wild wonders of the campground. We chased water bugs in the stream, cold and clear from recent rainfall. We played Cowboys and Indians- I always wanted to be the Indian- and whittled sticks by the campfire. I loved how the blade of my knife responded to my commands, how it felt to make contact, slide in, and chip away at a piece of wood. My family would hike 3-4 miles up to the top of the mountain. Every once in awhile we would wait until after sunset before starting out, using clunky flashlights to light the trail. The top of the mountain was pocketed and ulcerated smooth rock that curved down gently- much like I imagined a petrified surface of the moon might look. There, we would lie down, chins to the sky and flashlights turned off, to look at the universe. My parents would point out constellations – Orion’s Belt, the Big Dipper- and as much as I tried, I could never ever grasp the entirety of the stars in the vastness of the night. They were as much a mystery to me then as they are now. Now- at the age of 40 perched at 10,000 feet in the La Sals staring up at the night sky through towering stalks of white bark trees, they glittered and welcomed me as old friends. I shivered and Alan put his arms around me in a tight hug. I was alive. Every cell, every element, every molecule in my body was alive.

Dawn finally broke, and the light revealed gold. Heart shaped gold leaves carpeted the earth and reached up to hug the sky. I took more pictures than I should have as Alan urged me onward. I followed him obediently, but I wanted to lie down in the middle of one of the many fairy aspen groves. I wanted to stay there forever, to grow roots so that I could commune with the whispering trees. I wanted to never have to re-enter society again. These thoughts were silly, of course. But if you, reader, had been there with me I think you might have thought them too.

Pictures are beautiful, but they failed to capture the scale of grandeur.

197 Miles

We were still two whole miles away from Geyser Pass Aid. I had, for the first time in the race, just started sobbing uncontrollably. I trudged behind Alan snorting and gurgling with large tears streaming down my dirty cheeks. I blew a large blood clot out of my right nostril and stopped crying to watch in fascination as it landed with a splat onto a rock. I needed to sleep. I curled up in a little ball on a blanket of leaves and low bushes and pleaded with Alan… “just give me 15 minutes”. However, I couldn’t sleep. My body would not soothe itself and every cell seemed to scream at me to get up and just get on with it. I sat up. Alan popped his head around a bush and smiled at me with a grin that seemed just a little too Cheshire Cat-like large considering it all. “Hey – YOU ARE STILL IN 7th PLACE!” He grabbed my shoulders and shook them. “Do you hear me?” I started crying all over again. This emotional wreck was still 7th place female, and I needed a goal. Ok, Tiger. Let’s get it done.

Looking back on the La Sals from down below.

Just a Little Over 50k

We left the spirit trees with their gold in the La Sal Mountains, and found ourselves on a gently sloping wide dirt road. We laughed when we realized we were both wearing our Tommy Rivs t-shirts. Like… well that wasn’t planned, all matchy-matchy. I started to run and was surprised that I could hold a solid 9-10 minute pace for a couple of miles. Dirt eventually transitioned to pavement and the afternoon sun heated the blacktop into a furnace. We had re-entered the great expanses of the Utah desert. I stopped on a boulder to re-tape a few hot spots on my feet and Cesare almost ran right past us before stopping to talk. He looked good. “Hey you two! I overslept at Geyser Pass but I’m making it up now.” Big smile. It was so good to see him. Alan and I joked later with faked irritation about how he ALWAYS pulls this stuff – you can stay ahead of him for 100 miles and yet he’ll figure out a way to pass you before the finish line. However in reality I was just fiercely proud that our little Coastside Running Club could represent well in these long races, and insanely happy for Cesare (that super-human freak).

Now THAT is a good looking pacer!

I started rationing water about 5 miles from aid. This had been a repeating pattern throughout the race. Outside of a 9 mile jog in Death Valley about a year prior, I had never run in the desert. However I found out pretty quickly that in a hot dry climate, dehydration is a very real issue. Throughout the race, I struggled with thirst. At times, thirst became my only and all consuming motivator in getting to the next aid station as quickly as possible. Three liters of capacity in my pack seemed like a lot when I was planning for the race, but with up to 22 miles between aid stations, it became absolutely necessary.

Running it in to Porcupine Rim Aid.

We found Porcupine Rim Aid as the sun slipped behind the ridge in front of us. We were both counting down- 17 miles and then a nice hot shower. Alan and I traded lights. He took my bright Kogalla light and the lead while I slipped his little headlamp around my waist, wishing now that I had not left our extra lights and battery packs back at Geyser Pass 8 hours before in a hurried rush to leave while stupidly thinking “it’s only a little over 50k!”. My feet hurt. Alan urged me to run, but my eyesight had blurred to the point that I could not see well in the dark. The dinky headlamp threw out the faintest little ray of light, the slick rock was relentlessly challenging, and I was slightly confused. Alan and I compromised with a fast walk.

Fading daylight, Photography by Scott Rokis and Howie Stern

“Hey, be careful up there!” he yelled from down below us, a young guy with a headlamp and a bike walking along a set of railroad tracks. Alan replied with “yea we got it” as I followed him around another weird rock formation that popped us down and out onto yet another ledge. I looked over the edge. The railroad tracks had disappeared. The guy with the headlamp had no bike. He was just another one of us miserable runners trying to find his way down the rim at 0100 AM. Race ribbons were few and far between. We had been watching our phone batteries slowly count down to their death as we navigated the rim with GPS and a prayer. I was dizzy. I wanted to lie down, but Alan pushed me forward with a warning that our phone batteries would die, and then our lights… so I ran ahead for a minute in complete terror. Alan suddenly let out a high pitched scream as he jumped back away from a large unremarkable rock, landing dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. “I saw a spider, that was an insanely large spider”… great. Now we were both hallucinating.

Photo Credit: the one and only Howie Stern

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”   Eleanor Roosevelt

The funny thing about this sport – just when you think you have nothing left to give, you find that you can give more. It’s interesting how it happens, how one minute you are completely spent, but yet you continue to pick up your feet and suddenly you find the strength and courage to run again. After what felt like a lifetime, we emerged off the last ledge and found ourselves crossing through a tiny little tunnel made of corrugated metal and onto a paved surface. It was bizarre. I simply could not make sense of anything I was seeing or experiencing. I told Alan I needed a nap (which is not what a sane person would do with three miles left to go) and flattened my body on the ground, positioning myself in the exact middle of the path. I must have been talking loudly, because I heard a very irritated moan coming from the bushes to my left. I assumed with all of the paranoia of four days of sleep deprivation that this was a dangerous criminal who was now very upset with me. He probably had a knife. For sure he did. I jumped up and started running at what seemed like a breakneck pace. Alan later patiently explained to me (with an eye roll) that actually, the moan was likely from a disgruntled mountain biker who had camped out at the base of Porcupine Rim hoping to get a head start up the famous mountain biking mecca at dawn, and that his sleep was probably being interrupted by lots of hallucinating runners.

So I ran it in. Or… ran then walked then ran again. Cacti turned into little mutants, grabbing for me with their needle-like claws along the elevated bike path above the Colorado River. Trees swayed in the frigid breeze, then at second glance, transformed into 40ft tall shadow forms in isolation gowns, masks, and face shields. Well, at least they have proper PPE, I thought practically.

“You are enough, always. Goals are good, but it only matters that we chase them. They are never the finish line.” Maxx Antush (running coach)

There were my parents still patiently waiting up for us to finish, there was the finish line. I ran into the chute and tripped over the elevated timing mat, just barely catching myself from flying super-man style into the dirt in front of the buckle table. Now THAT would have been epic. All I could manage to say was “wow, so hard”.

Alan – you are so much of my everything. Without you, I could not have completed this race in 92 hours. Honestly, at times out there, I would have been lost without you. I’d be lost without you in so many ways. What can I say, love? Together, we can do anything.

Mom & Dad – not many parents are as selfless as the two of you, or as commited to their kids and grandkids. I am so blessed to have you both in my life. I don’t know how you did it with limited internet access, but the kids did not miss an assignment or a zoom class while still touring the area around Moab. Grandparent magic is like nothing else.

Family and Friends following online – you guys, I can’t even. Thank you. Knowing you were following my progress around the loop was often just enough to keep me moving. Bryan, turning my phone on and seeing your text ping through after the rainstorm on that horrible straight road into nothing… you may never know how much that meant to me.

Coastside Running Club – that first free admission into Tahoe 200 pushed me over the edge. Thanks a lot… haha! But seriously. I owe this little club so much. You have all befriended and supported Alan and I from the beginning.

Coworkers and Stanford C3 night crew – I am aware that you were all very sick of me talking about this race. So, thanks for so politely listening and even occassionally asking a question about the insanity of the endeaver. And Lolita, thank you for so generously picking up my last shift at work so I could sleep for one extra night before leaving for Utah. It made all the difference.

Maxx – I’ve learned a few things from you this year. The secret to success might be, at least in part, consistancy. However my real breakthrough was in facing down insecurities and learning to believe in myself. Thanks for the positive coaching. One day after COVID let’s meet in person. Alan and I can cook a delicious dinner.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Brilliant, I felt like in the journey with you…..

    Like

  2. Julie Brain says:

    Sunday morning read……just want you to know that I finally get it…..I understand the “why”. Your words will forever stick with me and may even inspire me to search for more in this journey known as life. Congratulations are your amazing accomplishment! I followed the race after Bridger Jack. Amazingly well written.

    Like

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