WOW, what an epic adventure!
I’m not sure how to even put this experience into words.
It was beautiful and brutal. It was everything I could have imagined and some I couldn’t have believed.
How it all started…
About a year ago. I had a dream I was napping while in the middle of a 200-miler, startled awake, and scrambled for my pack, feeling that need to get back on the trail, then finally realizing I’m NOT in a race, it’s just a dream…
But that moment sparked a dream I couldn’t shake. 200 milers were on my brain.
(truly never say never lol).
It happened to be right around the time Bigfoot 2022 was going on, and mesmerized by the gorgeous scenery, I threw my name in the lottery. (Yes there IS a lottery 😉).
3 weeks later I opened my email and was greeted with “Welcome to the Bigfoot Class of 2023”.
Whoa. Shit just got real. 😳
This picture was the wallpaper on my phone, a constant reminder of the goal. (see how beautiful it is)!
📸 : Anastasia Wilde
And that’s when I started to do alllll the research. I dove into anything thing I could find on Bigfoot and 200’s in general.
There was so much to learn.
It was exciting and terrifying all at once.
This was rumored to be the “hardest” of the 200s, but also the most beautiful. As difficult to run as it is to crew.
📸 : Jason Peters
From the race website:
“The Bigfoot races explore the incredible Cascade Mountains. Runners will experience such varied terrain as the otherworldly Volcanic Mount St. Helens, lava fields, long mountaintop ridge lines with stunning forest, mountain and lake views, deep old growth forests as green and thick as a rainforest, misty mountain tops, and cross streams on their way to completing this massive, life-changing event.“
Countless hours went into prep for this race. No detail left to chance. I was so excited (with a mix of nerves and anxiousness).
Fast forward to Pre Race Check-In…
It was at the Finish Line, which was surreal to think about.
Pre-Race Mug Shot 📸 : Jason Peters
I got my bib number & had my pre-race mug shot taken and had my mandatory gear check, course check, and medical pre-check. Jaime and I joked that I was physically ok, but mentally, questionable since I had signed up for a 200 mile race!
I ran into Dave from MN, and we met up with Adam & his friend/pacer Jeff (who small world was from the Chicago area as well) who I had messaged back and forth with pre-race. Jeff was going to get a ride to the Coldwater Lake aid station (the 1st pacer AS) with the crew.
"Moon Dancer" the crew home base for the race
I got my pack all ready, triple checking I had all the mandatory gear, it was a tetris puzzle trying to fit everything into place.
The night before the race, I was nervous, and couldn’t help but get a little emotional with the crew. Overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for them all. I let them know that nothing was going to stop us from getting to the Finish, it would have to be something life threatening where medics had to pull me for me to stop. I was ALL IN, for myself, for them. Ready to leave it ALL out there
Before Gwen and I went to bed, I admitted to her that I was scared, she held my hand and said she was scared too, she didn’t want anything to happen to me. (insert more tears).
Julie, Jaime, and Gwen & I, had about an hour and a half drive in Moon Dancer (our decked out crew van) to the Start. It was nice to have a little time to just chill with them, listen to music, and chat & laugh. It kept me really calm.
(Becca and Andrew were off to the Windy Ridge aid station (the 1st crew accessible AS).
We pulled into Marble Mountain Snow Park and I got my SPOT satellite tracker attached to my pack. I double checked it was secure, knowing this is my lifeline to the outside world. The race is EXTREMELY remote. From here on out I wouldn’t have cell service until the Finish.
We ran into Nicole & her husband from WI; we had been messaging back and forth for probably a year, it was nice to finally meet in person. There weren’t many of us from the Midwest, so we had to stick together.
Pre-race pics and hugs and before you know it I was saying the 'oath', “If I get hurt, lost, or die, it’s my own damn fault.”
I had to hold back tears saying goodbyes and line up. I knew I put in the work, now I just need to go out, be patient, be smart, and stick to my plan. And soak it all in. I had waited a year for this moment.
Start (0) to Blue Lake (12.2)
12.2 Miles | 3280 ft ascent | 2743 ft descent
It was surreal to finally start…and also had to keep reminding myself to be patient. One section at a time. One mile at a time. Step by step. I had to literally be where my feet were, no trying to fast forward and think about anything to come, just be present in the moment.
Deep into the forest we climbed.
We were all nervously chatty.
About 90 mins in I pulled off to eat and thankfully ran into Dave from MN passing by and quickly tagged along.
The group I was in all happened to be 1st time 200 milers, time passed talking about how we all decided on Bigfoot to do as our first. The runner behind me then said, have you heard all the “nicknames” for the 3 races?
(**Bigfoot is put on by Destination Trails, infamous for the Triple Crown of 200s)
Tahoe is “The Vacation”, Moab is “The Commute”, and Bigfoot is “The War”….we all didn’t know it yet, but how true “The War” would play out to be.
We were now in the boulder field. Slowly navigating the large savage rocks, one misstep and you’d slice open your leg or destroy an ankle.
📸 : James Myron Roh
Weaving through more gorgeous trails, it was hard to not continuously stop and take it all in.
Before we knew it we were hitting the Blue Lake aid station and it felt incredible. I was so happy to have made it to the 1st milestone AND under my time estimate.
I had a plan at each AS: foot care (clean, check my big toe tape, check for any hot spots, re-lube, fresh socks), freshen up my face and body, and eat!!! plus a full hydration reload. (yes this all took time, but time now hopefully meant happy body and feet later).
Blue Lake (12.1) to Windy Ridge (29)
16.8 Miles | 3504 ft ascent | 2405 ft descent
Starting this next section I was alone. A little scary to know I’d be navigating the course on my own, keeping eyes peeled for the “dragons” (the clothespins they had w reflective ribbons marking the course). But with a smile on my face I powered on. I was FREAKING doing this. Lots of climbing in this section. But my mantra was move efficiently, move with purpose.
I continued around Mount St Helen’s, it was rocky and dusty, with some small creek crossings. There was even a rope climb in this section. While waiting for my turn, the runner in front of me was mid-climb and a huge rock came loose and quickly we all yelled and moved out of the way. Whew close one. Climbing the rope though was honestly fun.
📸 : Jason Peters
The heat was starting to build and it was extremely exposed. Thankful to have my sun shirt on, I pulled up the hood to shade myself from the intense sun. I was starting to have to be cautious with water. I decided to throw an LMNT packet in my one flasks as well to keep up on hydration and electrolytes.
📸 : Sarah Attar
Finally you could hear water rushing in the distance, I had been waiting for the infamous Oasis… fresh water you could just drink without needing to filter. It was the most delicious water I had ever tasted.
I could tell the next AS was getting close. It was an out and back on a fire road and I started to see other runners coming my way. One being Nicole! We fist bumped and shared “good jobs/keep it ups”.
I got into the Windy Ridge aid station and found Becca & Andrew!!! It was so great to see familiar faces! Did my full AS routine, inhaled some food (plus took some to-gos) and grabbed my lighting as I would be running into my 1st night in the next section.
Windy Ridge (29) to Coldwater Lake (45.2)
16.2 Miles | 1979 ft ascent | 3586 ft descent
I loved these trails. Lots of ups and downs in this section, but also nice runnable stretches. And a small taste of some of the overgrown sections we’d encounter later.
As I made my way into the 1st night. I heard from another runner that his crew was unable to make it to Coldwater. My heart sank. Omg. What if there was some road closure that stopped my crew too from being able to make it to the aid station. Mind you this was a big AS for me… it was my 1st planned sleep PLUS where I was picking up Jaime as my 1st pacer.
I tried to stay calm. I’m sure at Windy Ridge they would have known. And warned people. It can’t be true. Don’t waste energy worrying.
I pressed on. Catching my 1st sunset, a small milestone, but it was spectacular.
I hadn’t checked my watch, but heard my mile notification, and I looked down. Mile 41…ok, still 4 Miles (or so I thought) to hopefully seeing my crew. I decided to put on some music to help keep my spirits up and hopefully make the miles go by a littler faster.
Making my way, I was off trail, and onto a road, it was pitch black besides my lighting, so I was grateful to spot a few runners ahead of me so I knew where to go. I made it up to the group and asked if they knew if the AS was close, and they said, ‘yes just about 1600m up or so’. I immediately started running, I felt like I was sprinting, I was so excited to see Gwen, Jaime, and Julie, it felt like days since I had seen them since they saw me off at the Start.
Coldwater Lake (45.2) to Norway Pass (63.9)
18.7 Miles | 5105 ft ascent | 3909 ft descent
I got to the Coldwater Lake aid station and saw Christmas lights on Moon Dancer. It was so incredible to see the crew after being out there for 12+ hours. This was my 1st sleep station. AND where I was picking up Jaime for the 1st time!!
Julie and Gwen grabbed my pack, got me soup, helped me get changed, and settled for my 1st night of sleep. They would reload my pack with all the things while I slept. I told them I was feeling good, mind & body all felt strong.
I had been worried about sleep, especially the 1st night, and was very relieved to get a good rest, the van was insanely comfortable and with my blackout eye mask and ocean sounds in my air pods I was out like a light.
90 minutes of rest later, I had more soup, some coffee and it was GO TIME!
Lights glowing, I couldn’t wait to get on the trails with Jaime and share the adventure. We had so much to catch up on, the miles were flying by. It felt like another Friday trail run, except we were on some gorgeous once in a lifetime epic trails :) We talked about everything.
It was fun hearing Jaime tell me all about their day, how much fun Gwen had at the lake, and just what a true part of the crew she was! I trust my crew 150% but I still worry about them, especially in this race, knowing how challenging the driving and terrain was. The 1st day and a half of crewing this course is extremely intense.
📸 : Sarah Attar
After a few hours we were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise. And after the LONG climb up to Mount Margaret (the highest point on the course) we had breathtaking 360• views. This was one of the moments I had dreamt about and visualized, it was supposed to be the best views on the course, and it didn’t disappoint. It was so special to share this moment with Jaime. I even got her to snap a picture with her pacer bib which read “200 Mile Runner in Training”. I thought it was hilarious.
This section was described as “beautiful but strenuous”. And while this section was one of the hardest, with technical steep climbs, narrow ridge lines, and knife like rocks, it was one of my favorites!! WE DID IT, and in true “cookin pushin” spirit, got into the next AS once again under my time estimate. (little did we know THESE ridge lines would be NOTHING to what was coming later in the race).
Norway Pass (63.9) to Elk Pass (75)
11.1 Miles | 2037 ft ascent | 1558 ft descent
As Jaime and I approached the Norway Pass aid station, she reminded me to remain patient and present, and take it section by section. We had made it to Day 2 but there was still a lot of race left.
Here we got to see Becca & Andrew again, and it was a great surprise to see Kelsea here too!
After a full AS refuel, restock, a tasty breakfast burrito, and some to-go salted watermelon, I was back on way, solo for this section, which was mostly forested.
I don’t know if this section “felt” harder because I was on my own or due to the downed trees - which were huge and difficult to get over. I had chaffed the hell out of my inner thighs trying to launch myself over them. Just when I would get in a rhythm there was another downed tree to navigate. BUT it was gorgeous. I kept reminding myself of that.
Elk Pass (75) to Road 9327 (90)
15 Miles | 2543 ft ascent | 3144 ft descent
I made my way to the Elk Pass aid station, and a much needed crew stop and full reload. It was great to see Jaime, Becca, and Kelsea again. Truly there is nothing like seeing YOUR people during these races. Even if it was just a short amount of time together at the aid stations, the high I would feel seeing my people would carry me for miles.
Andrew was jumping in with me during this section. We had a mix of green ridge lines, passed through wildflower filled prairies, and had an out and back to Elk Peak. Music playing, we chatted with a fellow runner who was with us.
Probably the most frustrating thing during this section was the awfully rutted trails and killer biting flies. You literally could barely stop to take a picture without being eaten alive. We were wearing bug wipes to try and keep them away.
The Road 9327 aid station was approaching and I couldn’t wait to see the rest of the crew who had just gotten in that day.
Bill was there with Rebecca, Ryan, and Andrea. Big group photo, hugs all around and while I wanted to chat, we had to stay focused. More food, and onto my next sleep. We planned for 2 hours here, knowing the next section was a big one, and extra rest would help.
Road 9327 (90) to Spencer Butte (101.2)
11.2 Miles | 2817 ft ascent | 2860 ft descent
I woke up groggy, chilly, and needing some caffeine. I wish I had slept more soundly but couldn’t dwell on it. Gwen helped me over to the “bathroom” which was no joke a Home Depot bucket with a makeshift toilet seat on it, in a tent.
Ryan and I were about to set out on a 36 mile section without seeing crew, including the largest climb section of the race.
Julie & Becca were crew captaining heroes, knowing we had a huge section ahead, they made sure everything was set. I re-taped my big toes and they had a medic all lined up to tape my heels (I was serious about the foot care, I had done my research, my feet have gotten bad blisters in the past, I wasn’t going to let a foot issue end me).
And they had a station all set up for me with soup, coffee, and a quick toothbrush & hit of deodorant (which is literally is one of the best resets) and I felt awake again. We laughed that my toe socks were getting harder and harder to put on, my R pinky toe being exceptionally “challenging”. And it was my 1st shoe change, which felt glorious.
Ryan and I chatted that this next stretch I would hit the 100+ mile mark, and eventually my longest distance ever, wild to think about.
Goodbyes to the crew and we set out with a group of 3 guys, my spirits were high and we enjoyed just chatting with the other group of runners. This section was good, it had some rolling hills, some and false summits. I remember just being excited to be IN this big section, it was here, ok let’s do it.
We made it to the Spencer Butte aid station, I found my drop bag and went to work. I had it down to a science now, refresh my face, survey my feet, make sure my big toe tape was intact, and no hot spots were forming, clean them thoroughly, re-lube, and fresh pair of toe socks. Ryan reloaded my hydration, and I grabbed my baggy of nutrition.
I knew I wanted to have them re-tape my heels. I could feel a little blister forming on the outside of my R foot. I waited my turn for a medic and downed a burger (maybe 2), and a ton of pickles, which was delicious. The wait for the medic at this point was long. She was working with another runner who’s feet were in bad shape. But at this point we had already been waiting, might as well get it addressed.
By now time seemed irrelevant. It was wild, it was either daytime, or nighttime nothing else really mattered.
Spencer Butte (101.2) to Lewis River (108.8)
7.6 Miles | 1282 ft ascent | 2852 ft descent
Finally we were back on our way, a nice road section, and you could see the sun was starting to rise, hello Day 3.
We crossed over fun bridges, and passed gorgeous waterfalls. This section wasn’t easy, but it felt like a nice “break” as well. We got out of the dense trails, and ended up on another road leading us down into the next AS.
I don’t know what it was about the Lewis Aid Station but I loved it. The vibe was chill, it had tons of chairs, porto-potties (standards get pretty low when you are out on trails lol), and THE BEST breakfast burrito I’ve ever had (so I had 2)!
It was crazy, I ended up running into Adam & Jeff, plus Jake & his friend from WI, love these small world run ins, and chatted with a fellow runner Luke!
Ryan and I set off, I was in great sprits, then looked down and saw my watch say “congrats on your run”…
100 some miles, almost 48 hours in, I forgot to charge my watch. Shitttttt, fffffff….
While it wasn’t a huge deal, I was sorta frustrated/sad I didn’t think to charge my watch, it would have been fun to see the whole 200 mile race as one collective piece, but I had to let it go, I got it charging and off we went.
Knowing ahead this was one of the toughest sections of the course, but not truly knowing yet just how grueling it would become.
Lewis River (108.8) to Quartz Ridge (126)
17.2 Miles | 7347 ft ascent | 4522 ft descent
To say this section had a ton of climbing would be an understatement.
And it was false summit after false summit.
But I like climbing, and climbing is my strong suit, so I kept my head down and thought of that scene in Ghostbuster’s where they are climbing the stairwell, and Venkman (Bill Murray’s character )says: ”Where are we?.. ‘Somewhere in the teens’… ok when we hit 20 I’m gonna throw up.” Some of these climbs felt like they were straight up.
At one point I got slap happy laughing, it was just all so insane, was this all really happening? We threw on some music and just kept grinding.
Midway through this section my R ankle started to tighten up, I kept trying to stretch it while we moved, but the discomfort kept building. I finally decided it was worth it to pull over and we used some KT tape to reinforce it.
Positive spirts were dampening. And now it got serious. It was so hot. We had been grinding for hours, never seeming to get to the top of the climb. We had already been rationing water and were probably on the verge of dehydration and we weren’t going to pass any other water sources. Every time we thought we must be close to the AS, we would have like 2 more hours to go.
I just knew one thing. The only way to get there and get water was to keep pushing. So I dug deep and kept climbing. Some of the climbs literally and figuratively took my breath away.
Finally seeing other runners climb out of the AS I knew we were close!
Ahhh I could hear the crew! Yes! We survived! The Quartz Ridge aid station and all the crew was a welcomed sight for sore eyes. All the cold beverages and ice everywhere, a full outfit change, and I was a new person.
I asked the crew if I was still ahead of my time estimate, fearing that this last section took back any time I had, but I was still ahead of my estimate!! That was a renewed hope. And while it didn’t really matter, it was a nice “carrot” to try and get in to each next section ahead of schedule, a nice reminder that I was moving with purpose, staying true to my goal of not leaving anything behind.
Quartz Ridge (126) to Chain of Lakes (142.2)
16.2 Miles | 3846 ft ascent | 4015 ft descent
After a much needed reset after that brutal section, the crew saw Jaime & I off, shouting, ‘get her running’, and Jaime replying with a smile ‘oh ya it’s go time!’
It was great to be back with her, chatting and laughing per our usual trail running shenanigans. I caught her up on all the craziness I just went through and she caught me up on all things crew life outside of the trails. It was just what I needed to get my mind in a better spot.
We had been moving for a little while, and she looked back at me, telling me I was leaning badly to my R side. I sorta “thought” I was leaning, but didn’t know it had gotten bad. I tried to use my L side more, but the lean prevailed. I must have been using my dominate side so much in the last sections climbing, that it was just used to taking the brunt of the workload. At some point, Jaime was like, I need to take your R pole, you have to start using that L side more, or it’s going to be really bad later in the race.
Thankfully we hit a few road stretches in this section which helped me try and even out my gait. Jaime asked if I thought I could run, and I said yes. It felt so good to run, I’d have a little burst of energy, and then feel tired. I don’t think I realized just how much the previous section had taken out of me, I was running on adrenaline and fumes. As the sun set, I was starting to fade. Jaime kept reminding me, one step at a time, one section at a time.
By now it was pitch black out, and whether in the dense trail, or on camp roads, it just felt eerie. We thought we were seeing bats flying low above us and also frogs seemed to come out of nowhere (which was funny because back when we raced Hennepin, frogs on the trail was also a thing).
We were using my lights for guidance, and turned her light to blinking shining behind us so any cars coming or going would see us. At some point Jaime was like I need to find a stick, something for protection, you have your poles. And that was when stick “Harry” came into the picture.
I told her I felt like I was still thinking & seeing clearly, I was just so tired. She kept telling me I was able and capable, we just have to keep pushing, and get to the AS where I could rest. She just kept talking to me and reassuring me, which helped me stay positive and focused.
Jaime and I made it to the Chain of Lakes aid station and Julie, Becca, Rebecca, and Bill were waiting for us with open arms and helping hands. I inhaled a hot dog and chips (which I laughed about because Gwen had offered me a hot dog a few AS’s before and I was like ugh no, but now it hit the spot!).
It felt great to be able to rest here, I even changed into pajamas, and got my legs elevated; this ended up being my longest reset of the race, I think I slept for 2.5 hours.
Chain of Lakes had fun character Bigfoot caricatures...Julie went to grab mine, and they just happened to hand her mine, mine had high heels on, but hey it was neat.
Chain of Lakes (142.2) to Klickitat (159.5)
17.3 Miles | 3927 ft ascent | 3900 ft descent
The crew got me up and going, fed, and reloaded all the things. Becca and I set out. I won’t lie this section was terrifying to me. THREE (which ended up being 4 of course) mandatory water crossings (and I am not good in water unless I have a floaty). We hit the 1st creek, it was a great “beginner level” crossing. Ok we did it! Yay that was refreshing actually!
With sloshy feet onto the next! We chatted, Becca telling me all about her dating adventures which kept us entertained for quite a while during this section! And the benefit of all the water crossings is we had plenty of crisp water to filter.
The 3rd crossing was scary, to me it seemed like Class V rapids. I stood there for a second, paralyzed, scanning back and forth, and thinking there must be a rope to help us cross, right? No…no rope.
The water was rumored to be shin deep and was over our knees. And the water was not only moving fast, but also murky so you couldn’t really see below to check your footing. But Becca held on to me to keep me stable and we bravely made our way across! I was grateful to cross this during the daylight! Safely on the other side, I rung out my socks and shoe liner, and tried to get all the debris out of my shoes. (thankful to the other runner who warned us there was ONE more crossing, so not to change socks yet).
We hit the final crossing and I did a full sock change, all to preserve the feet since all the water crossings were complete.
Once I got over my fear in this section. It was actually one of my favorites! It was lush with greenery, and had just enough climbing and descending. We had one more big climb out and back up to Elk Peak and were treated to more panoramic views.
On my way down the steep descent, I slipped on my L foot and down I went. Not knowing I sprained my ankle, I was just glad I didn’t slide off the mountain. Before we knew it, we were descending into the next AS. Just in time, because you could definitely feel the heat of the day.
The Klickitat aid station is known for having fun themes, and this year it was Barbie! Gwen & Rebecca were there to greet Becca and I, and I asked omg where you so excited to see the theme? Everything was pink, and they even had a life-size Barbie box to take pictures in front of. It was great.
I got iced down, double fisted cold ginger ale and mountain dew. Julie reloaded my pack, Bill & Becca got my feet reset, Rebecca grabbed my tape & other supplies, while Jaime massaged my shoulders. My crew is the absolute f’g best :)
Crazy thing is I still felt good. Sure I was sore, but I expected that, my shoulders were probably the tightest from carrying my heavy pack now for days. And the SPOT tracker felt like was leaving a permanent imprint in my shoulder. But I felt incredibly lucky, no blisters, no chafing, and even despite the heat, I was able to keep on my fueling.
Nicole also happened to be at this aid station, and we exchanged more “good jobs/keep it ups, see you out there’s”!
I wanted to do a full foot care reset, I did a big toe re-tape and had the medic tape my ankles and heels. She noticed whoa, your feet are getting really swollen, and cut off my calf compression sleeves, which could be described as opening a package of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, POP and they flung open. In this case dust was the cinnamon lol. Fresh socks and shoes and I was ready to go.
Klickitat (159.5) to Twin Sisters (178.9)
19.4 Miles | 4919 ft ascent | 4987 ft descent
Entering another tough section, and to be honest the back half of this course was proving to be as tough as I had heard, it was definitely the hardest half of the race. Extremely remote, technical, and demanded the very best of you at all times.
Ryan and I talked about my ”why’s” and the prep leading up to race day. I told him I poured my heart, sole, my everything into prepping for this race. I didn’t want to have any “what-ifs”, I wanted to be as prepared as I could, knowing there was still a lot of unknowns impossible to prep for. I respected the crew so damn much. It was overwhelming to think of the generosity and kindness and how much I appreciated my crew. These special people giving up not just a weekend, but DAYS, early mornings, sleepless nights, sketchy drives, random meals, to help you on your journey toward a goal. I was prepared to give it EVERYTHING for THEM.
The deeper we got into this section, the harder it became. It was constant ups and downs. We were on knife edge ridges. Once again running out of water. And had sections through dense and around downed trees. And so many bugs.
It seemed like we were barely hanging on for hours.
This section chewed me up and spit me out. I was emotionally drained. Several times holding back tears. Ryan didn’t know it but at one point I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and just cried.
Progress was slow, it felt like we were standing still. It seemed the AS would never get here. I needed a mental break.
I had just thought to myself in the prior section. While this is hard, I really haven’t hit a low yet… I spoke too soon.
This was it.
And it wasn’t that it was hard, or I couldn’t do it, or didn’t want to go on, I was just so exhausted from hours and hours of being on edge, constantly worrying about my footing, and having to have complete focus.
We started seeing other runners, and knew we were finally in the out and back down to the AS.
Of course it was treacherous down into the AS, which I knew me and Jaime would then have to navigate at night on our way back out. But we made it. Twin Sisters, the second to last aid station.
I let the crew know I was emotionally cashed. I had originally debated refueling and powering through knowing the Finish was in sight and I’d be with Jaime the rest of the way. But I knew (and they could tell) I needed the break.
The crew being magic again got me all set up. Between Julie, Becca, Rebecca, and Bill & Gwen they got me eating, changed into my final outfit, and we had one more medic check on my feet, double checked my tape, added a little tape to my 2nd toe.
Gwen led me over to a Christmas light decorated “forest toilet”.
Then they got me set up on a cot in a tent at the aid station. This location was super remote, with challenging parking, so my best option was to sleep in the aid station.
Jaime and I both got in some rest. And after a short quick 90ish minutes, Bill gently woke me up, telling me it was time to get ready. I have never felt so stiff. I hobbled over to a chair, got on my shoes, saw Jaime, and told her I think you should take one of my extra poles with you. The out and back into this aid station was treacherous.
Goodbyes and hugs to the crew, and Jaime and I were off into the night.
This next section was described as a “decent section, last out and back to Pompey Peak, some parts overgrown.” Thinking to myself…ok one decent section and then we had a half marathon on road.
29 miles between us and the Finish.
So close, but…
Twin Sisters (178.9) to Owen’s Creek (194.9)
16 Miles | 2592 ft ascent | 4760 ft descent
I struggle how to even put words to this section. You just can’t picture just how ruggedly remote and brutally insane it was.
I let Jaime know how I had struggled in the last section emotionally, and couldn’t believe we had more treacherous terrain to cover. She did a great job reassuring me I was strong, I was able and capable, I could do this.
We were either trying to retain footing on an angled ridge line full of loose gravel or bushwhacking thru the densest forest while climbing over, under, and around huge downed ancient trees. Sometimes extra fun to navigate AROUND a tree while on a ridge line. We talked about how NO ONE goes on these trails, we must have been the few people to ever even step foot on them.
Jaime and I carefully inched along. She was ahead of me warning me of loose rocks, and safe places to find good footing.
The crazy thing is the section was supposed to be “decent”.
To put it in perspective…it took us around 4 hrs to go 7 Miles.
If we lost focus for ONE SECOND, it would have been bad. There was nothing to stop us from the sheer drop off next to the narrow trail. I won’t lie these ridges scared me. I was 180 miles+ in, my L ankle was not feeling stable, and I just didn’t trust my footing. Jaime could tell I was scared, and at a few points grabbed my pole to help me across some of the more treacherous sections. I have big feet and these ridges were maybe 4 inches wide. It was hard to even talk during this section because we had to be laser focused on what we were doing.
I forgot we had one more out and back up to Pompey Peak. We made our way through the pitch black, up the steep ascent, to what probably was a beautiful view. But for us it, we were just surrounded by darkness. So fitting for this section.
We had survived the sketchy ridge lines, and just when we thought it can’t get more insane, it did.
We had to navigate and bushwhack through dense forest, under, over, and around huge downed trees. We mentioned we actually felt lucky to have to do this section at night, because our headlamps helped us find the course marking dragons with their reflective ribbons. During the day they would have easily been lost in the dense green landscape. Our bodies were taking a beating from tall brush and branches and trees to travel through. Deep scrapes covered our legs. Once again we doubted this was even a trail. Having to just laugh at points to not go crazy! If I had to guess we had to navigate 20ish or more large trees.
There was one tree I remembered was so big we had to crawl under it. I whipped my poles under it, and was like this is f’g insane as we both laughed, and I hugged the tree and slowly inched my way under it.
We were endlessly trudging thru deep dense trails. Our bodies were taking a beating from the bushes and branches and huge trees we had to navigate.
If I even tried to explain how DENSE this section was, it would still be impossible to picture.
Finally, you could see the sun starting to come up on the horizon, and we seemed to FINALLY be making our way out of the dense green surrounding us.
Jaime kept pushing us along, ‘come on, stay with me’, and I would reply, ‘don’t worry, I’m here’. This section was hard mentally and physically and Jaime kept spirits high and talked me through.
We had made our way onto what now looked like an overgrown “road”, and said our goodbyes to “Harry” the stick.
Once again my watch battery died, ugh, I did a quick recharge, just to make sure I had enough power to capture the last section on road into the Finish.
Somehow we STILL ended up getting into the last aid station ahead of schedule.
Owen’s Creek (194.9) to Finish (207.9)
13 Miles | 385 ft ascent | 1639 ft descent
JAIME & I MADE IT to Owen’s Creek, the last aid station. It was comforting to hear from other runners and crew at the aid station just how awful that last section was. EVERYONE agreed it was insanity. I asked the crew to VERIFY that the last section was actually ROAD…we didn’t trust any section descriptions now.
It was an energy boost to see the crew one last time. Last reset, ditched my poles, gaiters, and put on my last fresh pair of shoes. Jaime & I had some delicious pancakes. Last chats & laughs and LFG’s from the crew and we were off.
Finally Road!!! It was incredible. It felt SOO good to run! As we left, the crew yelled…’Bring her home Jaime!!’
Jaime and I were full on “cookin pushin”.
We left with a fellow runner and pacer. And while we respected their effort. We had our own goal. And pushed.
I was energized but also completely exhausted.
We were in THE FINAL SECTION. Pinch me. It felt like a dream.
Fighting back tears. We pushed on.
Every time another runner was in our sights we used it as energy to push harder.
We passed the final runner and had the road to ourselves. I couldn’t hold in my emotion, and started to cry.
I had been envisioning this moment for a YEAR.
‘Keep giving it everything you have’,…Jaime kept reassuring me and moving us forward.
It felt like we were sprinting! (At one point she did get us under 8 min pace!!!) 💪🏻
I was so excited to get to the Finish, but was also sad that it was all coming to an End.
Jaime & I made the final turn into the High School, the crew cheering us in, and I lost it 😭.
Gwen put her Crocs in “sport mode” and joined us as we ran the 3/4 “victory” lap around the track.
Happy tears streaming down my face.
Hugs with Jaime and me and Gwen crossed that Finish Line.
📸 : Jason Peters
📸 : Jason Peters
96 hours and 29 minutes and 55 seconds
46,000 ft climbed, 47,000 ft descended
13 aid stations
6.5 hours of sleep
4 pairs of shoes
4 water crossings
2 rope climbs
100s of trees to navigate
A year in the making.
An epic adventure of a lifetime.
It was better than I could have ever dreamed.
What made it special was SHARING this experience with my FAVORITE PEOPLE.
I literally tear up thinking about how much I appreciate them, ultra’s are a team effort.
I couldn’t have (nor would have wanted to) done it without them.
📸 : Jason Peters
From words of encouragement, sharing the trails, laughter at aid stations, lubing my feet (yikes ya MY feet), reloading my nasty hydration pack, grabbing food, mountain dew, coffee, helping me sleep, glorious resets of toothbrushes and deodorant sprays, sweaty hugs, and everything in between. I am so grateful.
There aren't enough THANK YOUs and I LOVE YOUs and I APPRECIATE YOUs for my crew. 😍
You only get to do life once. And those 4+ days I was living my best WITH THE BEST.
Already dreaming of the next adventure (once my feet aren’t so swollen ;)
Post-Race Portrait 📸 : Jason Peters
Handmade One of a Kind Buckles by Kali Mellus (it was so hard to choose, they were all beautiful!