Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 20 The Aftermath

Tale 20 - The Aftermath
I cannot believe I made it to the finish line! I just want to sleep. And to never eat again.
The finish line was cooking up food. I remember sitting in a chair at the finish, staring at a plate of food. People telling me I needed to eat. I couldn't. My tongue was so raw and cracked from salt, and my stomach so unhappy from eating for 46 hours straight. Steve eventually relieved me of my duties and ate it for me.
I finished in 46h 35m, which is about 6 hours and 35 minutes slower than what I was hoping for - but I finished! So none of that really matters!

I snuggled up on a thermarest for the awards, sort of trying to sleep, but mostly too uncomfortable to do much of anything.

Post-race banana slug!
We headed back to Lightning Lakes campground where we were staying to have a nice warm shower and get some much needed rest.
The shower was actually awful. The temperature never really got warm, and the breeze from outside was enough to keep me frozen to the bone. My ability to regulate temperature was effectively non existent.
I finally made it back to the tent and passed out nearly immediately.
Two hours later I was woken up by a brick to my face. Or at least that's what it felt like.
In reality it was my husband just trying to make sure I was still alive, and forcing me to come eat.
I love food a lot. But I was in no mood to eat. My family had prepared a delicious looking feast, but it was just that.
I was given a plate of food which I stared and, perhaps nibbled on, for a couple of hours. Then it was back to bed.
I woke up around 5am absolutely ravenous, and lucky for me Chris was willing to cook me up some nice eggs (now that's true love!)
Surprisingly, or not, my legs didn't feel too bad.
Since my stomach was the limiting factor most of the race - I was actually prepared to do a lot more running!
It took about a week before I wanted to eat things again!

I have so many people to thank for making my 100 mile dreams come true...

First off - Chris - for the hours you spent training with me, for believing in me when I forgot to, for letting me run my own race and not actually dying on flat top. For not letting me quit, and for becoming an integral part of my crew :)
My pacers - you guys got me through everything.
Shira - for picking my sorry ass up off the ground, and throwing me under the bus at Cayuse - thanks for being kind of cruel. I needed it. It takes a real friend to watch you suffer like that and somehow still believe in you.
Heather - for jumping in last minute and dispensing avocado like a champ.
Liz - for agreeing to deal with me yet again, for cheering me on, for promising me naps I never got to take, and for getting me where I needed to be on time.
Steve - for being my own personal aid station, for hand picking m&m's out of trail mix, for protecting me from falling to my doom on the false peaks, and for getting me to the finish line alive!
My crew - Especially my mom. First of all - you let me run 120 miles in the wilderness and didn't freak out! You coordinated and organized everyone and drove them around. You were in all the right places at all the right times, and knowing you were there made everything easy (well.. easier)!
Heather, Oliver and Hero (the dog) - You weren't really designated as anything, but you jumped in easily and became part of my crew, and even my pacers! You had beds for me to nap... even though I didn't get to. You kept me fed, and you stood by in support as I lost my shit at Cayuse. I couldn't have done it without you!
Grandma & The Vranjkovic Family - for lending me Liz, and for being the camp support crew! Jason - for coming out to support at Cayuse (sorry for the show).
My Daddy - for not supporting this crazy running habit at all - but still coming to watch me finish :)
All the race volunteers - Thank you for making the race possible, and for cooking us delicious food, and hiking food and water all over the place.

It really is an incredible community of people.

I will leave you with my favourite, and all too applicable quote - "NEVER Again. Until next time ;)"

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 19 Dawn of a New Day

Tale 19 - Dawn of a New Day
I am only EIGHT "short" miles from the finish line.
I've got plenty of time to get there - I can actually finish this race!
There's only a couple of problems with that..
1) Daylight is coming, and if it's anything like the previous morning, I need to finish this race - fast!
2) What lies between me and the finish line is a few thousand false peaks. Yes, a few thousand. In 8 miles. No exaggerations here.
I don't know how to describe how I felt at this point. Exhausted I suppose. I ate one bite out of everything I had in my pack, but that's about all I could handle. Steve gave me some trail mix, which had some delicious m&m's.
Here's example #999 of how incredible pacers are: We have been running/hiking all night long, I obviously don't feel that great, and Steve is on the top of a mountain picking m&m's out of trail mix because it's the only thing I can choke down.
By the way, I ate about two more and couldn't stomach them anymore - so the rest ended up in my pack (sorry Steve). I wish I had a photo of the food I ended up with. Half eaten piece of pizza shoved haphazardly in the pack. A few nibbled shot blocks. Just gross..
Anyhow, I stuff in my music for one last round of motivation and stumble up and down the false peaks. I think stumble is pretty accurate at this point. Steve is wandering behind me taking stance so if I fall someone is there to catch me.
We make it over the false peaks to the final descent. I know this descent well, I've done it several times in training. I now know I have enough time to finish this race.

As I start the descent I have this unforgettable moment where it feels like all of the energy drained from my body in an instant. 
I am running on empty. I feel like I'm one step away from just passing out right on the trail. I'm worried I won't even be able to stay standing long enough to finish.
Now, you would think that knowing you're close to the finish line would spark some sort of motivation. But there was nothing. I remember Steve asking if I wanted to run, and all I could do was just zombie along the trail. As we finish the descent to the last couple miles around Lightening Lake I remember telling Steve - hold me up if we get over that finish line because I'm pretty sure I'm going to collapse.
I was maybe TWO MILES away from finishing my first ever 120 mile race, and I had no emotion, no motivation. Nothing.
We continue on around the lake - I can see the finish line. Still pretty sure I'm dying.
Then all of a sudden we hear cheering from across the lake - it's my mommy! They know it's us!
Suddenly I become a new person. I take off running like I need to be at the finish line right this instant! We rounded the final corner to my mom telling me people have put bets on my finishing time, and I guess that was enough to get me to sprint to the finish line with a speed nobody, including me, thought I had in me at that point.
Both Chris and Steve were there to hold me up as I crossed the finish line - but it turns out I didn't need holding up at all!
I could even have run a few more miles... I think I even said that after crossing the line!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 18 Pie in the Sky

Tale 18 - Pie in the Sky
Somewhere in the alpine meadows and whipping winds between Mowich and Sky Junction I had to stop on the side of the trail and change into tights. Yes yes, my big brother was right. Always listen to your big brother (Well, maybe not ALWAYS)!
On the way to Sky Junction we came across a group of people who hadn't seen flagging in a while, and think we're off track. Shit shit shit I do not have time to be going the wrong way! But there aren't a lot of wrong turns you can take in this section. Steve and I continue on, pretty confident we're going the right way. We finally come across some flagging and yell back to the others, who oddly enough I don't think we ever saw again - where did they go??

The sun is coming up as we head into Sky Junction. My stomach, which shouldn't be a surprise as this is basically the norm, feels awful. All I want is a tub full of gingerale and to get my ass over the finish line so that I never have to move again. And Sleep. Sleep would also be great.
Back to this aid station. I am over 40 hours into this race, I have been nauseous for the better part of these 40 hours. They have pie. WHO CAN EAT PIE?! Even the fast people, I don't think they're going through this aid station like hmm, I've survived mostly on coke but maybe I'll stop eight miles from the finish and have some damn pie. I think not.
Not only that, it's a minimum 6km hike in!
I know I shouldn't be so bitter about the pie. But. Really? Pie?  #endrant
Thankfully they also have gingerale - so I fill up my flask and move right along.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 17 Marching to Mowich

Tale 17 - Marching to Mowich
We finally, finally, after hours of wandering the bush in the dark getting angrier and angrier - made it to Skyline! Wahoooo!
The final 21 miles of the race is the last big climb up and over to the finish line. There are two remote aid stations left - Mowich and Sky Junction. By the time you get there - it's longer to hike out than it is to finish. If you start this portion of the race - you damn well better finish.

I get to my crew, and they load me up with food, and my final change of clothes and shoes. Not surprisingly, I don't have time to nap here either!
Steve, my brother, is ready to rock with a full on hunting pack loaded with pizza and snacks - and anything else you could need. He was basically a walking aid station. The remote aid stations didn't have the best track record at this point, so we're going all in!
I stay here as long as I can before the looming cutoff pushes me out.
I've got a bottle loaded with coke from the last aid station. About 5 minutes out I go to take a sip, and as I pop the top I get a big blast of coke in the face. OKAY OKAY I'm awake! And a little sticky.
It's a good 4+ hour climb up to Mowich. It starts to rain, but I'm still really warm from the day. It's a tough balance between staying dry and overheating.
We stop several times to layer and unlayer as the rain and wind comes and goes. We see lights up in the distance and have a bit of an indication of where we need to go. Neither Steve nor I really have a good idea of whether we're moving fast enough to make the 48 hour cutoff time.
When you reach the top of the climb, you drop down into the Mowich aid station. I was convinced we still had a lot more climbing to do, but Steve was sure we were at the top, despite having never done the climb. Turns out he was right!
We're almost at Mowich - we might actually have time to finish this race!

We get to Mowich - it's pouring rain and pretty windy and cold. I'm still in shorts. There's a few other ladies doing the 70 miler around who are in shorts as well. We stop and chow down on pizza for a little bit, until I start to get cold and nauseous and need to keep moving. Steve told me to be a smart person and put my leggings on, but I don't have time for that.
We continue onwards, just 5 miles to Sky Junction.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 16 Suffering to Skyline

Image result for chevy bel air white with red flamesTale 16 - Suffering to Skyline
So Liz and I take off into woods as the sun starts to set on day 2 of this wild adventure. All I really want is a nap, I was promised a nap at Shawatum, but I guess I got too distracted by pizza!
Not long into the trail I see this beautiful Chevy Bel Air just off the side of the trail. Kind of like the one in the image, but with flames on that back. Now I am no fool. I may be a little out of it, but I'm not THAT out of it. So I laugh, and I close my eyes, and shake my head. And it's still there! Hey that's cool. So I wander over for a closer look. What a beautiful... pile of logs. Oh god that is a pile of logs.
Moving right along... This part of the course seemed to take forever. It's one of the only sections I hadn't done recently in training, and I knew it was generally rolling with a few good ups and downs. I remember in the 70 miler running through these leafy bushes near the end and then popping out at the aid station. I put too much hope into those bushes. Everytime I thought we were at them (which was far too often) I would get so excited that we were almost there. Then the trail would keep going up and down and up and down and ARGGHHH where is this aid station, how long can 6 miles be?! I am grumpy, and hungry, and I don't want to eat, or walk, or run. I just want a nap.
There was also one steep downhill that I really don't remember ever doing. It still bothers me. I need to go run this section in the light!
I just need to get to skyline so I can finally have my nap. Then I'll have gone 99 miles, so really I've done my 100 miler and don't really need to go forward. Who needs that last mountain climb anyways? I've done it before!

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 15 Getting Serious to Shawatum

Tale 15 - Getting Serious to Shawatum
When we reach Sumallo I pick up my veteran pacer, Liz. She got me through the 70 miler, when my water bladder burst on my back overnight, and I was stopping to pee every 5 minutes potentially due to hyponatremia. She's also my cousin, and there's just something extra comforting about having family out there with you.
We've now hit the point where I think I can actually make the cutoff times. My crew, on the other hand, was not quite so confident. As everyone loads me up at the aid station, Chris is having whispered side conversations about timing, and how fast Liz needs to get me to the next aid station to give me enough time to finish. Most of which I'm entirely oblivious to.
The day is cooling off, there's clouds and even some light showers, but my body is just not ready to accept that it's cool outside.
Having Liz with me is like having a personal cheering squad on the trail. She would cheer me on even the smallest of runs and make me feel like just moving a little bit faster was the greatest accomplishment.
As we were coming into Shawatum I thought I saw a couple of people up ahead, but I had to confirm with Liz since I'd hallucinated more than a few people on the trail by this point!
This has to be another one of my favourite parts - she's like - I think those are horses! They were not.
Just people. Now I wonder which one of us had been out there too long? Hehehe.

We hit Shawatum in decent time, and the crew was there with a delicious pizza. Yum!
Liz, despite asking to pace me through a section in daylight, takes me on towards Skyline in the dark. To be fair, I was really planning to hit Skyline while it was still light out - but you really can't control these things.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 14 Slurpin to Sumallo

Tale 14 - Slurpin' to Sumallo
My stellar crew is at Cascade with a really nice napping set up waiting for me (thanks Oliver and Hero!). Ain't nobody got time for that!
My next two pacers have now joined the crew for the day, and have clearly been informed of my previous breakdown, and that I may not continue. They look so concerned for me as I roll in. Breakdown? What breakdown? I'm just fine!
The volunteers at this aid station cooked me up a wrap that I swear came from heaven. Loaded with eggs and bacon and avocado - it was the breakfast wrap of the century. Just what I needed to really start my day ( 1 pm)!
Heather and I roll on down the highway another two miles to Sumallo while I munch on my glorious breakfast. She's also carrying a nearly full can of gingerale, and running with it in one hand as we go. Pacers are actually the best.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 13 Crying at Cayuse

Tale 13 - Crying at Cayuse

Mom keeping track of me!
I was literally a blubbering mess when I got to cayuse. How do you tell your family "hey thanks for coming out to support me, I'm not quite as strong as I thought I was so we're just going to quit now". I still had two pacers left - one of which was my older brother - who is just getting into trail running and I knew would never let me live it down if he came all the way out to pace me and didn't get to run.
Now I'm a pretty shy person, and normally I'm not a big fan of crying in front of other people - but at this point I don't have much of a choice. There are at least six people there to support me, and I'm in too much pain to go on. My husband is there and alive, so that's a good start!
I sit down and tell them I'm in too much pain and I can't continue. And my tongue hurts so much I cant eat so how do I continue moving if I can't eat.

Then Chris starts doing his thing...
Do you think other shoes will help? No! My feet hurt. I don't want to keep going.
Here, try eating this avocado, does this hurt your tongue? No? Good. Eat more of it.
I remember looking up at Shira and trying to get her to tell my family how miserable I was, and how she just looked back with a shrug. What kind of pacer hangs you out to dry like that?! Turns out, the best ones! She had fully done her job and got me there safe, she wasn't about to let me quit.
My next tactic was to try and trade in my family. Does anyone else want these lunatics in their life? I'm dying over here and they won't let me quit!
There was also this amazing lady beside us waiting for her runner to come in who offered me all of this nice looking food she had. What a great community of people.

I am told that I ate and put on new shoes and just got up and headed back onto the trail, all of my own accord! Which I struggle to believe. But it was only 5 miles to the next aid station - guess I figured I would give it a shot.
Heather jumped in as an impromptu pacer armed with a bag of avocados. Timed feedings became a thing to make sure I ate enough. It was actually pretty fun! I was like a new person!

We made it the 5 miles to Cascade in pretty good time - and I was ready to take on the rest of the race!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 12 Downhill Breakdown

Tale 12 - Downhill Breakdown
I am 20 odd hours into this race. I've been awake, moving, and eating for far too long.
This is the moment where I finally realize how insane I am. Now, most people hear the words 'run' and '120 miles' in the same sentence - and they don't need to try it to know you gotta be crazy to do it.
Turns out I am not one of those people.
I am not having a good time anymore. My feet hurt like hell, and I'm too exhausted to run, but I want to run because walking just hurts my feet SO much more.
I'm sick of eating, my stomach hasn't really felt great the whole race. My tongue is cracked and raw from eating so much salt to keep water in me. Lesson learned - salt pills were invented for a reason. Use them. Otherwise the pain is so, so real.

I am done with this race. What kind of person would do this? The pain really isn't worth it. How did Chris do this? I'm not like Chris - he is way stronger than me - and kind of crazy! ...this is what poor Shira had to listen to as we shuffled our way towards Cayuse.
I held out as long as I could, I really didn't want to give up. But everything hurt so much.
Wait a second... is my husband even alive? Did he make it off of flat top? If he's in the hospital would my crew tell me, or think I was better off not knowing? I hope he's at Cayuse because I really need to know he's safe. But if he is there he won't let me give up.
These thoughts had me choking back tears for a solid hour, or at least what felt like an hour. I held out as long as I could, but about 24 hours into the race I lost it. I sat down on the side of trail in tears, in pain, and not wanting to continue.

Pacers are seriously superheros. Shira is the reason I got back up off that trail and kept going. She listened to me complain about my insanity, and encouraged me not to give up. When I had clearly given up she began to agree and switched to - let's just get to that next aid station.
This is about the point where I started to hallucinate. Nothing really fantastic, but I swear I'd see someone on the side of the trail leaning on their poles and we would go by and it would just be trees.
We must have walked most of the 11 miles down to Cayuse.
The hardest part was knowing that my family would be waiting for me, and I would have to tell them I wasn't going any further. That it just wasn't worth the pain.
Early in the race, somewhere near Cathedral Park. Photo courtesy of Alex Gibbs.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 11 Nothing at Nicomen

Tale 11 - Nothing at Nicomen
I've been through this aid station in the past, when running the 70 miler. It's definitely remote, with about a 9 mile hike in from Blackwall peak, or 11 miles almost all uphill from Cayuse flats. Either way, not an easy trek in with food for a ton of runners.
After the number of people I had seen drop, I figured the aid stations should start to have more food!
Nope. No they do not.
Nicomen had water, and broth. Then I drank the broth and after me it was just water. And by some reports apparently not even that.
The 70 mile runners hadn't even come through yet! Yikes!
Lucky for me, Shira and I were pretty well stocked from Heather and figured we had enough to get us the 11 miles out to Cayuse. By this time I've been eating all day, and all night, and although I have a great love of food, eating wasn't exactly first on the list of things I wanted to do at this point anyhow.
There was a lovely tarp here with a few people passed out on it. I took that as a cue to lay down and try to have a nap of my own. Now I don't know if you've tried to 'nap' after being on the go for nearly a full day. Don't. My legs hurt so good, I lasted maybe a few minutes before I decided it was best to move on.
I'd say things could only go up, but it's all downhill from here (in so, so many ways).

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 10 How Daylight Destroyed Me

Tale 10 - How Daylight Destroyed Me
I'm in the alpine meadows. The sun is rising. It is an absolutely beautiful day.
I was told before the race that the sun coming up is a magical moment that will give you the energy to keep going through the second day.
Jokes on me. I was in full vampire mode.
The further the sun came up the more exhausted I got. I needed a nap. Just a quick one at the next aid station, if we ever get there...
This part of the course is rolling, and seems to go on forever and ever. Even more so when you're exhausted and it's starting to get warm again and you continue to think the next aid station is just around the bend but you keep going around the bend to find more rolling hills and more rolling hills and vast amounts of glorious alpine meadows which you can no longer appreciate because you're exhausted and moving like a snail again and just need to get to the next..... damn.... aid.... station.
Fun fact - This is an amazing part of the course to be a pacer on and enjoy a glorious sunrise as you descend down to Nicomen lake. Getting there in the dark is over rated ;)

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 9 Head Count at Heather

Tale 9 - Head count at Heather
If I thought the gentlemen puking up Trapper were bad, I had no idea what this next climb had in store for me. My stomach was okay, but by no means perfect. It was still trying to weather the storm of the day. Now it's past midnight and surprise, I'm still going! Shira and I play leap frog for a while with a man and his pacer. The guy must have puked at least three times, but he didn't stop moving. He was a machine. I kept trying to go faster to get away, I wasn't sure I could keep it all in if I kept listening to that. I also had a strange combination of gingerale and Starbucks Frappuccino in my stomach from Bonnevier that I don't think was helping my cause.
I had been feeling weirdly out of breath on a lot of the uphills, and I couldn't quite figure out why. It wasn't until we were most of the way up Bonnevier that I ditched my poles and found the feeling went away. Still not sure what was the cause, but it only happened when I was poling - so I gave up on that for the rest of the race!
We make it up the hill and to Heather aid station - which comes sooner than we thought it would - that's a first! Hitting aid stations at night with all the glorious glow sticks and people cheering is definitely one of my favourite things on course.
We walk into the aid station and it's lined with space blankets. It's like a runners graveyard up there. Me? I can finally breathe and eat and I'm feeling quite fantastic.
I bounce into the aid station and I hear this "Jenna - is that you? I'd recognize that laugh anywhere."
It's Brad snuggled up in a space blanket. Guess his stomach wasn't having a good day either.
This encounter was less of a titanic moment and more of an, oh no I'm the only one left - I have to finish!
Heather aid station was awesome. It was well stocked, and the nice volunteers gave us a ziploc full of mars bars! Which I am truly thankful for, because we didn't know what the next aid station would have in store, and let me tell you it wasn't much!
We filled our water bladders, and they had to use a little strainer to filter out the moss which was kind of fun.
We bounced back out onto the trail - I was desperate to get as far as I could while the air was still cool!

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 8 Bare all at Bonnevier

Tale 8 - Bare all at Bonnevier
Finally I get to the Pasayten River crossing - only two miles from my crew, and my pacer, and a change of clothes! I get to the river and watch someone struggle across it in front of me, arms and legs flailing as they hold on to the rope for dear life. Get out of my way would you, I've got somewhere to be! By the sounds of things I'm also a little hangry. The key to this crossing is - you have to pick your foot up out of the water when you lift it. If you don't it gets sucked downstream and makes it a hell of a lot harder!
I made it across the stream to a lovely little aid station where they ask if I need anything. A bit desperate at this point I say, with way more excitement than I should have in me at this point, "Nope - I've got to get to my Mommy, she's at Bonnevier!", and proceed to run away like I haven't been nearly dying all day.
I am far too excited to get to Bonnevier. I'm sure these are the fastest couple of miles I ran all race.
I finally roll into Bonnevier to a mass of people and a lot of blinding lights. I wander around going "mommy! mommy!". I didn't even consider the fact that there were likely a lot of other moms out there. I eventually found her, and it was the best part of the day! She was there with my first pacer, Shira, and Heather and Oliver were there too! I told them I left Chris on top of the mountain, and they said they saw Brad come through not too long ago.

You'd think by this point I wouldn't care, but even though I really needed a new set of clothes, changing was really awkward. I was sore and sweaty and there were people with lights everywhere and even though my crew was holding towels around me I still felt like I was standing naked in the middle of a field.

Now I've done two of four major climbs, the weather is cool, I've got a pacer, and I feel like a whole new person. I got this. Up we go again! Time for the uphill upchuck - part 2!
Beautiful sunset on day 1! Photo courtesy of Chris. He may have been dying, but he still takes great photos!
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Friday, December 8, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 7 Cruising through Calcite

Tale 7 - Cruising through Calcite
The source of smoke, seen from Flat Top.
It's dark now and I'm not even at Calcite. There is nobody around. It's finally cool enough outside that I'm starting to feel much better. Why is there nobody around? What kind of animals are out here again? Do I even have enough time to finish this race? Is there anyone else left out here? AHH BEAR. Oh, wait nope person. There is someone else out here - I'm not alone! What. A. Day.

At this point I have my music in. Really anything to help motivate me and keep me moving forward. I wait as long as I can to pull out my flashlight, I'm not ready to admit it's night time - I planned to be much further along by now.
Down and down and down we run...
Aha - Calcite! And they have food!! I slurp back pop and perogies and anything else I can get my grubby little hands on. But it's late, and I feel like I'm going to start missing cutoffs, and that my 100 mile dreams are slipping away.
Some of the people around me have running buddies. I'm flying solo, and a little bit jealous of those who've banded together, but I don't have time to wait. I just need to make it to Mom, and everything will be okay!

Leaving Calcite the trails are still mostly downhill, and by now it is very dark. I'm putting all my effort into trying not to get lost. I don't have time to get lost!
EEEEK! What is that!? Oh. Just a toad. Toad on the road! I don't remember this taking so long in training! I'M COMING MOMMMY!!

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 6 Farewell on Flat Top

Tale 6 - Farewell on Flat Top
Oh Flat Top. This section of the course is actually one of my favourites. It's a beautiful run around trapper lake, then a bit more of a climb over flat top mountain which has views for days!
I wouldn't say I was feeling much better, but I was at least moving forward. About half way up flat top I see this flash of orange in the trees ahead of me. That looks a lot like Chris' pack. Oh no, am I hallucinating already?! It's way too soon for that! Is it him? Man I could sure use a morale booster. But.. if that's him then he's clearly having a tough day. Well, I don't want that.
I round the corner at the top of flat top to find my husband hanging out underneath a tree with a couple other guys.
If you need some inspiration for a movie - I have a scene for you:
The sun is setting on a beautiful mountain top just outside Cathedral Provincial Park. There are gorgeous views into the valley below.  There is little shade to be found, but for a few stands up ahead.
After a full day of running, the sun still relentlessly beating down upon the runners, a wife is torn between excitement and sorrow at finding her husband hiding in the shade behind one small stand of trees. He's got a ghostly look on his face as though he's been lost in the bushes for days without food.
Wife: How are you doing?!
... No response...met with zombie like nods and eye rolls as if to say 'how the hell do you think I'm doing - you've been out here all day - you tell me how YOU'RE doing)
Wife: I feel like shit!
...Now we've got the crowd going. Don't. We. All.
Husband: I feel pretty bad, I haven't been able to keep food down.
Wife: I love you, Jack.
Husband: Don't you do that. Don't you say your goodbyes, not yet. Do you understand me?
Wife: I'm so warm.
Husband: Listen, Rose, you're gonna get outta here, you're gonna go on and you're gonna make lots of babies and you're gonna watch 'em grow. You're gonna die an old.. an old lady warm in her bed, not here. Not this night. Not like this, do you understand me?
Rose: I can't feel my body.
Jack: Trail running, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me.. it brought me to you and I'm thankful for that, Rose. I'm thankful. You must.. you must.. you must do me this honor, you must promise me that you'll survive. That you won't give up, no matter what happens, no matter how.. hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.

Oh no wait... that has already been done.
I do imagine our encounter much the same, except we aren't Jack and Rose, and we're on the top of a mountain roasting instead of in the ocean freezing. 
I tried to take him with me, hoping a running companion would help him through this rough patch, but he was too ill to go forward - and told me to go on and run my own race.
There's nothing quite like the feeling of leaving your husband on the top of a mountain, never to be seen again... DUN DUN DUNNNNN. What a great movie!
Okay okay I did see him again... or did I?
Looking back along the course from the top of Flat Top Mountain.
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 5 Uphill Upchuck

Tale 5 - The Uphill Upchuck
I was finally refueled and ready to fly! For a whole of about 10 minutes as I started up climb 2/4. Then I realized something wasn't quite right. I've been hydrating lots, I had eaten recently, but I had very little energy and didn't feel all that great. I tried eating some more, but it didn't seem to help. I continued to hike at a snails pace for a little while until it dawned on me. My stomach wasn't emptying. It was too hot and I was going too fast to digest. I couldn't do anything but continue to snail up the hill. This was made only slightly better (and somewhat worse) by the fact I was passing people who were clearly feeling very similar, and some who were evidently feeling much worse (refer to tale title). The distance to the next aid station was only four miles, so I climbed on and decided to re-evaluate at the top.
Running into the wall of smoke on Ashnola River Road!
When I got to the top I grabbed a seat at trapper aid station with a few others who look like the first 22 miles of the race might just be their last.
I also felt like shit. I had 98 miles left in this race. Calcite aid station was a short(?) 10k away, with a fair amount of downhill. My mom, and my first pacer Shira, were waiting for me at Bonnevier, so I had to at least make it to them at the 40 mile mark.
I start to tremble. It's definitely not cold out. I'm getting nervous and I don't know what to do. I seriously consider dropping out. I hydrate as best I can on electrolyte - this aid station seems to be sorely lacking supplies as well. Not a great day to be a back of the packer (but probably a great day for backpacking!). I decide to continue, how bad could it be? I have to make it to Mommy!

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 4 Oliver at Ashnola

Tale 4 - Oliver at Ashnola
Family tree!

In case you are unfamiliar with our family tree - Oliver is the boyfriend of my sister-in-law, who just happened to be running the relay leg from Ashnola to Trapper.
I like to think I'm a pretty nice person, and I like to see other people succeed, but as I was slow roasting on the way down to Ashnola I was really hoping his team mate was behind me. Ashnola is only 18 miles into the race, but it's 18 miles after which you could really use a familiar face.
I arrive to find he is still there (wahoo!). He kindly packed a bag of food (stuffed with pizza and bacon and candy and PB&J rolls... yummm) while I soaked in the river. The food was much needed since the last aid station was lacking.
Oliver gave me a report on Chris (who in classic Chris fashion ran off with a bag full of bacon) and Brad - and it sounded like everyone was doing well so far!
I happily trundled off down the road with my bag'o'bacon, and shortly after saw Oliver zoom by.... Boy is he fast!

Having conquered the first big climb, and with a belly full of bacon (did I mention bacon?? It's great!), I was ready to take on climb number two.... Or so I thought.
The first climb from the start of the race!
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Monday, December 4, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 3 Cache out at Cathedral

Tale 3 - Cache out at Cathedral

The first aid station is only 7.5 miles from the start. Easy, right?
Except the start is alllll uphill. Uphill to the point where the altitude starts to make you a little bit dizzy, and somewhat sleepy.
Now I'm a traditional middle of the packer - and I'd say I was holding true to my nature, except since we had relay runners in the mix I'd say I was likely closer to the back by the time I hit the first aid station. Time to re-fuel... but wait.. there's isn't really much to refuel with. I escaped with the last bit of gingerale and was thankful I had a good stash of food to start as there was only a few PB&J rolls left.

It was a pretty roasty day, thankfully I had practice at soaking in streams from Sinister, though the streams were much fewer in this stretch. The heat seemed bearable up through Cathedral, but as I dropped down to Ashlnola it felt like I was in a pre-heating oven! It just kept getting hotter and hotter!

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 2 Wace Day Willies

Tale 2 - Wace Day Willies

I'll just leave this one here:

Willies - a strong feeling of nervous apprehension and discomfort.
Nervous apprehension - Check. Discomfort - Stay tuned!

By race day, I was pretty certain I could finish 100 miles.
I discovered that tapering is this great thing to do before a race where I run less thus can't sleep because I have ALL THE ENERGY IN THE WORLD! But then I also need to eat to fuel myself, and for some strange reason I'm not hungry (but... but.. I'm always hungry...). Not sure if it's because I'm running less, or because my stomach is now home to thousands of beautiful butterflies. I did however, by some miracle, make it to race day without starving!
Finally, the tiny butterflies that have been destroying my appetite for the last week have decided to migrate on. Something about spending 40+ hours out in the wilderness and needing to eat something before that may have scared them off.
We have discovered the best pre-race breakfast, which is likely going to sound insane, but actually provides lots of salt, calories, and sits amazingly well!
Drum roll please....................................
Indian food! Complete with Naan, butter chicken, palak paneer... yum yum!
I do recommend you go for mild spice to avoid the potential for untrustworthy farts later on (there's a video I was thinking of to put a name to this phenomenon - which had me googling 'ultrarunning poop fart' - wonder what kind of targeted adds I'll get now?). Also, try it in training before you race (the food, not the farts), or... don't.

Race ready with our animal packs!
We stayed in Penticton before the race, and Chris' Uncle Kevin was kind enough to drive us out to Keremeos to jump on the bus in the morning. Alright, so we've made it to Keremeos, it's maybe 8:30 am. Race starts at 10 am.
A few weeks back we ran into some lovely relay runners out on course way-finding on legs 1 and 2, and they happened to drive on by before the bus came, and offered us a ride to the start. There were already four of them, and a dog! I guess that's the great thing about Delica's - we still managed to fit all three of us (Chris, Brad, and I) cozy in the back seat! It was quite the entertaining ride. The person in the drivers seat kept turning around to talk.. and I mean fully turning around and taking her eyes off the road for quite lengthy periods of time. I was terrified. Until I realized it was a right hand drive, and she wasn't actually the driver (haha.. ha... phew!). I really truly love the people in the trail running community.

We make it to the race start, and have plenty of time to use the washroom and check in. It's a beautiful sunny day, perfect for the beach! Perhaps a touch hot for running, and more than a wee bit smokey (BC had some wildfire madness this summer that nearly cancelled the race - but eventually it was decided the show must go on). After waiting around for what seemed like an eternity (maybe an hour?), the race started! Albeit with this ridiculously useless out and back up and down a gravel road to 'space people out.' Then we shoot over the iconic start bridge and straight uphill. Ready or not, here I come!

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fat Dog 120 - 1 Tales from the Trail

In 2013, I paced Chris in the Fat Dog 120.
I had an easy job. Thirty miles. Almost all downhill.
Despite his obvious discomfort, particularly slow pace, and disgustingly large foot blisters, he somehow still managed to make this insane race look fun.
So in 2014 he does it again, takes a ridiculous 9 hours off his previous time. Less pain for him, more inspiration for me. At the same time, I take on the 70 miler. Still believing I'm a sane individual, I run for about 21 hours, cross the finish line, and decide I never need to run again.
Of course you know how long that lasts. About... hmmm... a week? It takes about that long to forget the pain and remember only the glory of crossing the finish line.
So, fast forward a few years and here I've decided I can't stop at 70 miles, I have to at least finish a 100 miler! Sinister 7 was my first attempt at 100 miles, but we all know how well that went... if you don't, I suggest you back up and give it a quick read here!

With the madness that was Sinister 7 under my belt (or lack thereof given I didn't get far enough to get a buckle), my 100 mile dreams lay in the hands of the Fat Dog 120. For your sake, I've split the adventure into a series of short stories... enjoy!

Tale 1 Troubling Training Tumbles
I love running. Most of the time. Well, maybe we should call it more of a love / hate relationship. The further you go the more you can see, and there are so many beautiful places to explore! When I'm out on the trails I feel so strong and carefree, and I can stop worrying and let my mind run free with me. But not every run is easy. In fact, some of them are really $*@)ing hard. I show up to the trail, run for 5 minutes, realize I'm exhausted/sore/sick/starving, get a really weird pain in my leg/foot/ankle/tail/flipper (maybe it's all in my head?) that I've never had before and never will again, burst into tears thinking I can't do it and shuffle back to the car feeling very defeated. But somehow it never stops me from doing it again and again, because when it's good... it's so inexplicably good! So here I am, extremely excited for Fat Dog, but also beginning to doubt my sanity just a little bit. I'm going to be running for HOW LONG!? I've barely ever pulled an all nighter let alone two... while constantly moving (and eating, oh god eating...but we'll get to that)!

I put everything I had (outside of *possible* over-commitment to my job) into training for this race.  You see, I'm not very good at saying no to things (But you didn't hear it from me!). So those days earmarked for long training runs instead became long days in the office with promises of future training runs (Don't worry, we've got LOTS of time to train). Except we've only got three weeks left and I need to go further and further and faster and further and climb more hills, climb ALL THE HILLS!

Training run up Wedgemount! Did I mention doing ALL the hills?
Let me start with a little story about the day my exemplary commitment to my job, and perhaps my lack of respect to the 100 mile gods became literally painfully obvious.
Friday night, after working a particularly long week (what's new?), we drove out to Manning Park to meet Chris' dad, Brad. Saturday morning we got up early and drove out to Bonnevier with plans to run about 30 miles point to point up through Heather Meadows and down to Cayuse Flats.
Here's the kicker - about 15 miles in I caught my toe on a rock (You might even say I.... kicked it..) and went flying face forward into the beautiful alpine meadows. My right knee struck a rock on the way down and left me rolling and reeling in the meadows. Nothing a little tylenol and ibuprofen can't fix! The pain isn't too bad, so I hobble on. I make it maybe another 6 miles before I catch that same damn foot on the side of the trail and proceed to dive forward, this time into a nice fallen tree with perfectly pointy branches sticking out all over. Convinced that I've been impaled by this beast, I yell for my prince...err Chris, to come rescue me. Now I'm bleeding in three places, and I can't hold back the tears as I proceed to hysterically launch into a speech about how I don't know what I'm doing and how I'm not built for this sport and why am I out here when I clearly don't belong and who put those &*#!ing rocks on the trail anyways?! I should have just stayed in bed. Thankfully, Chris has an uncanny ability to set me straight, and we make it back to the car mostly unharmed. Though I'll have you know I have three scars as a constant reminder not to overwork yourself and run! I even woke up the next day with a nice swollen knee that I couldn't bend. Naturally, I put all of my running clothes on and headed out on the trail (It's just a flesh wound!)... only to return five minutes later with those all too familiar glossy tears in my eyes.

Needless to say, I was feeling overworked and undertrained. But my knee healed up, and I managed to get in at least one more good training weekend (the first 40 miles of the course) before the race! And then it was August and time for the moment we've all been waiting for....The day I realized I might actually be a little bit crazy (Oh, you already knew that? ...Hmmm)!

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Elsay Lake hike

This past Sunday, Jenna and I did the hike to Elsay Lake, and although it was a longer study break than intended it was not unwelcome. Turns out that Elsay lake is the beautiful back side of Mt. Seymour that you'll want to see! That being said, this was a challenging route, so plan appropriately.

The stats:
Distance: 19.9km round trip
Climbing: 1160m ascent/1160m descent
Time: 6hours (that's how long it took us with some running, a lot of walking and no stops)

Starting from the Seymour parking lot, we headed toward the trail and the sign post for Dog Mountain. Instead of taking the sharp left to Dog, we headed up Mt. Seymour trail, still to the left, but you can tell it's going to go straight up the mountain. This part is a good incline and a bit rocky but everything is well packed in, so definitely runnable in portions. After about 2km uphill, just before the first pump of Seymour, we reached a bit of a plateau and a sign post indicating the direction to Elsay Lake and Elsay Mountain. The distance markers were rubbed off, but it was clear where to go. We were sure because of the warning signs saying "not the way to the parking lot" and the overhead cable signs indicating the extreme risk of avalanche. After questioning what we were doing and the meaning of life, we proceeded past the signs to the first descent. This section wound between the forested section on the right and the boulder field on the left, dropping about 250m.

First descent after the turn-off from Mt. Seymour trail.
From here the trail stayed left to cross the boulder field. This section was still downhill, but somewhat less steep, dropping another 50 meters or so.

Crossing the boulder field below the peaks of Mt. Seymour. Trail is visible on the far side of the valley.
Despite the hot summer we had, there was still some snow on the trail. I'm guessing this route is not accessible for a good portion of the year, and given the potential for avalanches in winter, perhaps not the smartest route to choose anyway.

Jenna carefully crossing the snowy patch.
On the far side of the valley as we got back into the trees and started going up again, there were a few markers indicating a small trail going up to the left (Approx: 49.398026, -122.929947). This trail went to Mt. Elsay and apparently can be connected for a loop to the peak of Mt. Elsay from Mt. Seymour. We took the trail to the right to continue to the lake.

After the short up, there was a short but steep downhill to a series of small ponds. This section required some skill to keep our feet dry as we hopped across the mossy/marshy area. The pond was tranquil with the still water reflecting the mossy rocks and surrounding trees. Although this isn't the campsite, it looks like there is an area you could pitch a tent if needed.

The mossy pond. Careful keeping your feet dry!
Continuing on, we followed the outflow of the ponds down a small valley, eventually reaching another steep descent, followed by an open boulder field. The valley provided a nice soft section to run on and the first part of the descent was switchbacks through the trees along the narrow trail, so not too bad. The boulders however were quite large and the trail markers were not super clear, making this section challenging. As we only had small running packs on we were able to scramble over and down the rocks, but I could see this being tough with a big backpack.

At the far end of the boulders, there were trail signs indicating the direction to the lake and back to the parking lot. Only 2.5km to the lake now, but we had to hurry as we were getting close to our turn around time.

This section up to the lake was a slight incline over beautiful spongy trail. Made for some fantastic running! Before getting to the lake we crossed several small streams and one larger one.

One of the bigger stream crossings shortly before Elsay Lake.
Arriving at the lake we were treated to views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the warm sun shimmering off the water. It really felt like summer still!

Left/south toward Mt. Elsay.
On the far side of the lake we could see a small A-frame. Didn't expect that! Maybe should have done more reading before the hike... Anyhow, just a few minutes around the lake to get to the cabin.

Looking across to the cabin.
The emergency shelter (as the sign indicated) looked nice from the outside and looked big enough to fit quite a number of people, but the inside could really use a little cleanup. The outhouse appeared to be clean, just need to remember to bring TP if we go back to stay overnight.
The emergency shelter up close. No fires :(

A little messy inside, but the loft was clean and roomy.

I was not able to identify this one, so let me know what it might be if you have an idea.
More neat and very large fungi along the trail.