Saturday, June 22, 2013

Desert R.A.T.S. 148 mile Race Report

DESERT R.A.T.S. 148 MILE STAGE RACE 17-22 Jun 2013

Photo by Glen Delman Photography

PRE-RACE -15 Jun 13 - 16 Jun 13

I flew into Moab, UT after a 12 hour day of flying, and being out late the night before at a concert. I was unbelievably tired, but fueled by excitement and anticipation of the week to come. The night stretched on however because I met a couple racers at the Denver airport and we decided to go out for margaritas and Mexican food! In retrospect, probably not the wisest decision, but hey it was fun and I was able to meet one of my soon-to-be tentmates :)

I had an awesome suite next to the pool at the Gonzo Inn in the heart of Moab. A much cooler location than the Archway Inn, which was the previous host hotel. All the restaurants, shops, and bars were within walking distance.

Much to my disappointment, I woke up super early on Sunday morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I think my nerves were getting the best of me. I decided I'd make the most of my day since I wouldn't have an extra day to hang out in Moab after the race. I met up with some other racers in the lobby and went out for some breakfast. It was great catching up with the Egli's and getting to know a few other racers. Afterwards, I went shopping with Teddi to find a ring for myself. I love having a ring on during a acts as a great hydration monitor!

After napping by the pool, trying to stay on top of my hydration, and being a lazy bum, the racer meeting was at the Gonzo Inn. It was cool reuniting with RATS veterans, and meeting all the nervous rookies. I was so happy to be back in Moab for this race. We finished the meeting, went back to our rooms, and began packing and repacking all our gear. I can't remember how late we were up, but I was definitely tired out by bed time.

RACE MORNING - 17 Jun 2013

The nerves are really starting to set in. Although I think my mind is trying very hard to be in denial. I get up a half hour earlier than my alarm, but am thankful for that because it takes me forever to get ready in the morning. Taping my feet, packing my bag again, filling up my bladder, organizing my calories for the day, and getting my gear back to the lobby for pick up.

I meet up with Carol and we head over to The Peace Tree for brunch. I get a peanut butter, blueberry, apple, granola wrap on wheat along with a carrot juice smoothie. I'm stuffed and know these calories will sit in my stomach for the 3 hours until the race. But then I start getting nervous and can't eat anymore. I always want to barf on race morning.

As luck would have it, my tentmate is a Physical Therapist and knows how to tape injuries. She blesses me with her skills and tapes my IT Band with KT tape pre-race to help prevent it from flaring up and/or slipping out of place. I swear to God her taping skills contributed greatly to my healthy knees during the race.
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
It's about 11:30 am and we're being bussed to Loma, CO where the Kokopelli Trailhead is. I'm still feeling a bit fatigued, am noticing that my mouth is dry and I'm dehydrated before the race even starts so I try to drink water from my pack, conserving it because for some reason I didn't think there'd be water at the race start. This is not a good way to start a race at 1:30 pm in the afternoon with temps reaching 100 F. So I'm already concerned.

STAGE 1 - 20 miles - 17 Jun 2013

Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Race begins and I feel pretty good. Moving along, but quickly feel the impact of the heat, fatigue from days prior, and dehydration on my body. I'm moving much slower than I anticipated. All the sections I ran previously, I find myself power walking. I just can't get my body to move any faster. Even my calories are not appealing to me. I'm getting frustrated because of my pace and inability to move more quickly, and the heat is taking a huge mental toll on me. I know it's at or above 100 F, and with the heat coming off the ground and reflecting off the rocks, it feels much hotter. I'm refusing to believe that the race is starting off this bad for me. And so the stages of grief begin.

I make it to aid station 1 feeling like a 9 on a scale of 6-20 (a research study the medical director is conducting has us rating our overall feelings of exertion on this scale). I move on having forgotten to eat anything at the aid station, but with a full 3 liters of water on my back. Things get progressively worse for me after this. I run into Anand 
around mile 9 or so and we shuffle


Both struggling with the heat as we both were coming from NY. I try to listen to music, but it's really not cheering me up or motivating me.
I keep turning it off. 

I finally force myself to try and pee, and barely anything comes out. I know I'm in trouble because I should've peed at least once or twice more by now. We get to a hill and now Anand and I are just trying to make our way up it 2 minutes at a time with a 30 second rest. I can hardly breathe because of the altitude and heat. 

I can feel my lungs straining to fill 
up with air with every step. I'm now feeling pissed off and angry at the situation. I'm not doing as well as I did last time.

My buddy, Anand
Anand and I make it to aid station 2. I'm feeling a second wind coming, but it'll be very short lived. I head out of the aid station with Ashley who will later win the remaining 4 stages and the race. We have great conversation, try running but we both keep cramping. After a mile or so Ashley takes off feeling her second wind, and I stay behind because my ribs are now hurting uncontrollably. Every stride makes them hurt. 

Stage 1 - Near aid station 2
Photo by Glen Delman Photograph
The only thing that makes it less painful is to walk. But now I'm slowed again and the heat is continuing to kick my ass. I'm beginning to wonder how I will make the last 10k to the finish. I'm totally overheated, can't breathe without pain, and just want to crawl under a bush and go to sleep.

I keep trying to seek refuge under a bush in the ditches that line the trail to get out of the sun and cool off.  It seems like a good idea, but a bit pointless at the same time because the finish won't get any closer for me if I keep doing this. Eventually I come across another racer doing
the same thing. We become ditch buddies rather quickly except he doesn't even have the energy to make it to the shade under a bush. He just hangs out in the direct sun passing out on the side of the trail. He's from Toronto Canada so he's struggling with the heat as well. I offer to wait for him, but he insists I go on. I muster up the energy to get up and keep trudging along. It's after 6 pm and it's not getting any cooler.
Jim and I making fun of our earlier pitifulness

But, finally I make it to the finish. A pretty uneventful finish as everyone is collapsed in chairs or in their tents trying to recover from a rough first day. I'm just so happy to make it to camp and get out of my clothes and into comfy camp clothes.

Dinner can't come soon enough. I talk to Paul briefly and just bitch about how awful and sick I felt all day. Heat exhaustion, dehydration, fatigue, and rib pain plagued me all day. I notice that I have chaffing in my inner thighs, which I've never had before. I also discover that I have two heel blisters even though I pre-taped. They're small so I hope they don't get bigger, but the fact that they got there
with tape leaves me a bit pessimistic. The pinkie toe nails are also beginning to lift off the nail beds. I duct tape the inside of my shoes suspecting the orthotics are causing friction. I'm hoping for a better stage 2.
Stage 2 Camp
Photo by Glen Delman Photography

STAGE 2 - 39 miles - 18 Jun 2013

I feel somewhat recovered from the prior day. I pee twice before race start so I'm totally stoked that I'm caught up on my fluids. My ribs are still hurting and it hurts to breathe. I was cramping the night before, but really thought I'd feel better by the AM. I now realize this is not an electrolyte/hydration imbalance. Something else is causing my cramping and pain.

Me, Michael, Kurt, and Jim
Photo by Glen Delman Photography

The race starts at 7 am sharp and I running a comfortable pace. Ribs are firing up, but I ignore it the best I can. My overall spirit is much higher than the day before. I have about an hour before the sun gets really hot again.

I catch up with Kurt and Michael, but after a couple miles the pain in my lungs is too much for me and I can't keep up with them. I spend a couple hours by myself on the trail running all the downhills and feeling pretty good. I'm managing to find a rhythm that keeps the lung/rib pain in check. I catch up to Carol who isn't feeling well and we make our way up the big climb on stage 2.

I still feel pretty good and I'm optimistic about the day ahead. I get to the top of the climb and within minutes realize that my moon cycle has started. WTF!!! As luck would have it, Carol has feminine goods on her and I'm saved from possible humiliation.

Carol and I climbing up to the second water drop

While Carol rests in the back of the photographer's car. Katie and I leave the water drop together and eventually catch up with Gary. We're in pretty good spirits. Talking and laughing about poop and pee. A popular topic amongst trail ultra runners. It's amazing how talking about urine and excrement can cheer you up. It's a long hot section, but keeping each other company keeps us going and smiling. 

Climbing during Stage 2
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Now I'm really noticing that my pinkie toes are getting squished in the toebox. Hmmm perhaps that's why my toe nails are lifting off the nail beds. I decide that I'll need an intervention at the next aid station. We get to aid station 1 and I have my hummus corn tortilla sandwich. Doesn't really do anything for me, but I know I need food to get me to the next aid station about 12 miles away.

I borrow an MDs military knife that looks like something Arnold Schwarzenneger would use in the movie Predator. I slice the shoe laces at the bottom eyelets, and tie a knot in them two eyelets up in order to open up the toe box and save me time from having to take my shoes and gaiters off. It works!

What the hell happens to me after this, I don't know. Everything. It's HOT pavement for 4 miles, I'm loopy, ribs are hurting while trying to breathe, I'm tired, and I'm having a hard time keeping up with Gary's long legs. We do some pacing for a while to get down the hill, then tire out and slow down to conserve energy. I have another interesting moment on the side of the road as Gary pushes ahead. I have to poop so I find a shady spot under a large boulder on the side of the road. I can't squat because I don't want to ruin the tape on my knees and I'm afraid I'll have a hard time getting up. So I stick my butt out while standing and do my business. Then of course, out of no where comes a truck as I'm dropping shit holding onto a baby wipe. Not surprisingly, I find the situation quite hilarious and not embarrassing at all. I just don't care.

I get to the water drop and press on to the long sandy, hot uphill. I'm nauseous, want to throw up, feeling exhausted from the heat and so sick and tired of the sun. Gary's long legs move faster than mine and I'm just trying to keep up with him. I really don't want to be alone during this section because I know it's a long hot section. But I need to vomit, my ribs hurt, and I'm so f**king hot. I can't eat anything, and I'm so thirsty. After a couple miles, Gary leaves me behind and I just go from shrub to tree to shrub for shade. I'm angry and depressed that I'm by myself and no one is around to encourage me or give me that extra mental push I need to keep going. My morale is deteriorating rapidly.

The wind is blowing fiercely in my face and the thought of having to go another 9-10 miles after aid station 2 is really starting to make me feel extremely depressed. I feel defeat creeping up on me. I want to vomit and cry. But before I have a chance to do either, my nose starts gushing blood. I react quickly by bending over so it doesn't get all over me, but now I'm trying to reach for a tissue with my pack on. I barely get a hold of some tissue before I see how much blood has spewed all over the ground. I stuff my nose with tissue, but it's soaking through so fast that I'm running out of tissue to plug my up my nose with. Now, I'm really not feeling well and I don't think I'll be able to make it to the finish that day within the cut-off time. It feels like an epic fail, and I feel like I've let myself down. I'm wondering if I'm just not as mentally tough as I used to be.

Photo by Glen Delman Photography
I finally make it to the 2nd aid station with my hands covered in blood, and nose still bleeding. I notice I have heat rash on my thighs. I want to cry. I'm sitting in the chair with no intention of getting up again. Dr. Dave tries to help me with my nose bleed, and Dr. Joslin suggests they use Afrin for my nose, but then drives off with the Afrin in his car so the doctors don't have anything to help my bleeding. Not even ice. Dr. Dave does his best to make something for my nose, but all it really does it make me look like a Proboscis Monkey! I have no idea how silly I look since I haven't seen a mirror in days.

I sit there knowing my body likely can't make the last 10 miles before the cut-off, and I'm not interested in trashing my body for an incomplete. I've lost a lot of blood, I haven't eaten, my ribs are hurting, I can't breathe, and my morale is piss poor. I've totally bonked.

I know I'm capable of finishing the day, but sometimes you have to go to a dark mental/emotional place to keep pushing to the finish. Today, I don't feel like visiting that dark place.

I reluctantly decide it's best I pull out at aid station 2, and save my body for the remaining 100 miles.

I'm driven to Fish Ford where our Stage 3 camp is set up. I'm a bit embarrassed to be showing up by car, and I think some racers are surprised to see me arrive by four wheel too. However, I'm super excited that I get to get into a bikini, cool off in the river, wash my hair, wash my clothes, hang out with friends, and eat a Milt's veggie burger. They have avocado and that just totally makes my day all better.

STAGE 3 - 9 miles - 19 Jun 2013

Carol, Elise, me, and Jenn before Stage 3 start
I love that we get an extra hour this morning for the 8 am start. I can tell I'm still recovering from the first two days of the race, but the thought of playing in the Colorado River as much as I want in the afternoon uplifts my spirit and makes me anxious to get today's stage over with. My ribs don't hurt when I'm walking around camp so I'm optimistic I'll be able to kick out the 9 miles quickly.

Katie, me in the yellow, Anand in front
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Race starts and that thought is just as quickly shot as my ribs and abs give me jolts of sharp pain. Crap, I have to slow down...again. At the very least, I'm relieved that the day is going to be short and over with in a couple hours. I catch up with Kurt and we power walk our way through. It's already so hot and we're both feeling like shit. I'm still feeling nauseous, but my anti-nausea meds are in my gear bag so I'll just have to deal with it. Kurt and I spend our time together bitching and ranting about how awful we've been feeling. How we're just not feelin' it. It's a great way to pass the time. We decide to run some technical downhill sections. I feel like crap, but I just can't resist the technical downhill terrain. I love nothing more than cruising down rocky downhills. It's the most exhilarating feeling for me and I just can't get enough of it!

Anand joins us and now the three of us are just kicking out one mile at a time. Kurt is gushing about his hot and lovely wife (you're totally hot Shelley), we're sharing stories, I insist that Bigfoot exists, and Kurt tells me how the flowers are expressing their feelings. One is crying. We even see momma flower, daddy flower, and baby flower. Yes, the desert heat is making us stupid. I can't believe how much my feet are hurting, but at the same time I know why they're hurting. Whatever, just get this day done with. We see the finish line, and still we just don't feel like moving any faster. What's the point? We casually stroll into the finish as if we're rock stars.

Enjoying the Colorado River after we finished Stage 3
Photo by Glen Delman Photography

The rest of the day is spent soaking sore muscles in the cold river, washing my hair, rinsing out my dirty running clothes, telling jokes, laughing with friends, resting on my sleeping pad under some trees, getting a rib and abdominal massage (thank you Sherry!), resting in a hammock by the river, and dealing with more nose bleeds. It's a great afternoon and I'm feeling recharged. My ribs ache less, and I feel more rested. Tomorrow is a new day. Bed time by 9 pm. With the help of melatonin, I'm out like a light.

STAGE 4 - 52 miles - 20/21 Jun 2013

Carol and Candy goofing off at the start of Stage 4
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Today's stage is starting earlier due to the racers needing to be transported to the start line. Breakfast is at 5:30 am and race starts at 7 am. I'm nervous, but I know what to expect for the course, and I know it's going to be a long day. I just have to keep moving. I get the race start, and most of us are in a good mood. Candy and I are goofing off and showing off our flexibility skills, talking about water bottles and boobies, and not really thinking about the 52 mile day.

I did a better one after this! Oh well.
Photo by Glen Delman Photography

The race starts and Carol, Katie, and I are moving along together. I feel great, my ribs aren't hurting as bad, I can breathe better, and my feet feel rested. After a few miles we somehow misread a trail sign and missed our turn. Carol is the one who notices that there are no foot prints ahead of us, and we find ourselves backtracking until we can find where we went off the trail. It's a minor set back, but one we gladly will take in the morning and early on in the race versus making the same mistake later in the day where there's a substantial amount of climbing.

My favorite view of the La Sal Mountains

We make it to aid station 1 at mile 10 in pretty excellent time. I feel amazing, I'm ready to tackle the first mountain climb, and the heat isn't upsetting my stomach and mind as much. Also, my ribs are starting to feel much better.
View of camp from Stage 3 on our way to aid station 1

Running to Aid Station 1
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Katie on the other hand is now injured with IT Band Tendonitis. She can no longer run. The three of us start climbing, it's getting hotter as hell, we're all feeling the heat, and trying to cool off by dumping water on our heads, arms, and chest.

And then I break up the monotony by getting another gushing nose bleed. This time I'm equipped with OB Tampons! BUT, I can't find them! Meanwhile, I'm bleeding all over myself, all over my bag, and Katie is laughing hysterically at me, taking pictures, which then sends me into laughing hysteria. The whole situation is absolutely comical because I'm trying to find a tampon to plug up my nose, but I'm so distracted with the laughing that I'm no longer functioning.
Finally, Katie grabs my bloody zippy holding my camera and digs into my bag and finds a tampon. Now I can't get the plastic off the tampon and I continue bleeding all over myself. After several minutes I manage to get the tampon in my nose, and now I'm assessing the bloody damage. There is blood every where. My arms, my shirt, my legs, my shoes, my gaiters, my water bottle, my bag, my face, my teeth...every where. Can I wash off? No, because I need my extra water for cooling me off until the next water drop about 10k away.

The heat is continuing to get worse and every hour or so one of us needs some shade to escape the sun. At one point we find a nice shady spot under some large bushes. A few of us find a rock to sit on, but I decide to sit on some pine needles instead so I can stay in the shade. I go to scratch my butt when I feel all this stickiness.
I've sat on a pile of pine sap! I now have sap, dirt, and pine needles stuck on my hands and butt. I feel quite pathetic and now I'm more filthy than ever. I give in to the fact that I'm going to be a dirt ball for the next 24 hours. But I forget about it every time I look behind me during the climb to see the view of the desert floor below us. We're several thousand feet up now and the sight of the mesas, buttes, and desert below is absolutely spectacular.

We make it to the water drop and I feel pretty good because I know we've made it through the first long climbing haul. Just need to get to the "Rose Garden" and then I'll only be about 10k from the 2nd aid station (mile 27ish). I've lost track of time and mileage, but at some point both Carol and Katie aren't feeling well, and decide they're going to drop at the next aid station. I decide to go ahead and try to catch up with someone else. I start running the downhills to try and make up for some lost time. I missed running all the downhill sections earlier so now I get to have my thrill! I catch up with Anand and we continue to kick out the miles one by one. I'm motivated to get to the next water drop, which feels like an eternity away.

After about an hour we come across the Rose Garden. It's a gnarly steep descent into a canyon requiring absolute concentration and skill to navigate down. Lots of slippy rocks and sand, and endless opportunities to twist an ankle or go tumbling downhill. We traverse our way down and now I'm running out of water and the water drop is no where in sight. We're getting frustrated.

I'm officially aware of a throbbing pain in my ankles, especially the right one. I'm eager to have some Tylenol when I get to the 2nd aid station.

Agitated and tired
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Finally, we find the water drop and the water is actually cold! It's the first time I've had ice water during the race all week. It's quite a relief and tastes amazing! Onwards we go, tired, and ready to sit down to rest. We get to the aid station pooped out. It has taken 9 hours to go 27 miles. I'm not making the time I'd hope to make, but I tell myself it's okay.

I ask the medical team for Tylenol for the pain in my ankles and right foot. I'm told they don't have any. I'm feeling myself become agitated. I exchange words with one of the MDs only to feel more frustrated that there's no plan for pain management in place for the racers. Shortly thereafter, an MD with a look of how-do-I-tell-her-this-without-making-her-cry, tells me there's no Afrin to help stop my nose bleed, at the same time another MD is asking me how long my nose has been bleeding. At this point, I don't have the ability to answer one MDs question and take in the bad news the other MD just gave me. I can't take any more. I take a deep breath, still squeezing my nose to stop it bleeding after removing the tampon, my eyes are welting up in tears, and I'm trying my best not to have a total meltdown. I'm officially livid. I go off on the medical team, frustrated that there are six MDs at the race, no pain medication available, nothing to help nose bleeds, and I'm being asked to help the medical director with his research study. Stop asking me for my borg number!!!

I've decided that I'm no longer willing to participate in the study. I'm mad because at the pre-race meeting the medical director voiced that they wanted to see us succeed. I no longer believed that was true.

Fortunately, Anand mentions he has a few Tylenol in his pocket that he can give me. He's my saving grace because I need pain meds ASAP.  Poor Carol and Katie come into the aid station (where I thankfully get my trekking poles back from Katie) and think I'm mad at them for dropping (no girls, I was just having a meltdown).

Cooling off in a puddle
Still having a grumbling fit, and baffled that there's no Tylenol, Anand and I leave to tackle the next climbing section up the La Sal Mountains. I know it's going to be a long ass climb. I feel myself mentally crumbling a bit. I'm glad I have Anand with me because I feel myself choking up inside and wanting to cry. It's so f**king hot, I'm hurting and having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other, but I know I need to keep going.

No longer wanting to cry over my frustrations, but wanting to cry because now I'm thinking of my dad. He recently became paralyzed in late April, so now I'm thinking of the challenges he's been facing losing his ability to hike like he used to do every weekend. He used his legs all the time. Can I really be complaining about my ankles hurting? I start to dig deep in me telling myself that I can do this, that I can climb this mountain, that I can trek through all the sand that keeps making my feet slip back with every stride, that the heat of the day will eventually go away and I'll be able to continue in the coolness of the dark. All of my issues are temporary.

Photo by Glen Delman Photography
I feel the need to talk about what's going on in my head so I start to open up to Anand about why I need to get through it. I share my dad's story with Anand feeling relief with every word that comes out. I ask Anand to please remind me of my dad, if and when, I find myself struggling to push again. He promises he will. Anand shares with me what is pushing him to finish...his mentor who inspired him to run, his parents, and his children. I think we inspire each other and find respite in story telling, allowing us to not feel our bodies temporarily. I make sure we stop and take in the beauty that's all around us. It's still hot, but the setting sun is splashing warm colors all over the landscape that surrounds us. It's hard not to be taken back by Utah's beautiful desert scenery.

We keep pushing up the mountain wondering when the climbing will stop. It just goes on and on and on. Now we're cussing about the endless climbing, feeling anxious to get to the next water drop. Not because we need water, but because it's a landmark along the course meaning we're that much closer to aid station 3. We know we're golden if we can reach the third aid station. With my headlamp on, I'm now more thankful than ever for my trekking poles because I'm stumbling a bit on the trail. Several times my poles stopped me from tripping over into the ditch nearby.

I'm also beginning to notice a pattern with myself. The moment it's dark, I have to constantly go to the bathroom! I'm stopping to pee every 20 minutes. At one point, I have to take a crap for the 3rd time. Anand respectfully waits ahead of me, I pull my tights down, and start to stick my butt out to do my thing.
Photo by Glen Delman Photography

And then out of no where, a truck starts coming up the trail! I'm thinking "WTF! I haven't seen a vehicle in HOURS. And now, when I have to take a shit, a truck is coming???" I sigh, and think to myself I really care? Not really. It turns out, it's two of the MDs driving up in a Jeep.

They turned their headlights off, either trying not to flash their lights in our eyes, or giving me privacy because they could see that I was taking a dump. Either way, I do my business and walk over to their Jeep. I'm teased by an MD who says he might have some Tylenol for me. I respond, "I'll give you my borg score if you give me two Tylenol." He says he thinks he may have two, digs in his pockets, and pulls out two pills. I'm happy, and tell the MDs that I will participate in the study again.

The medical team. Dr. Dave on far right.
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Maybe 30 minutes later we finally get to aid station 3. I think it's around 11:30 pm. Anand and I are starving and looking forward to some warm food to eat. To our disappointment, there's nothing warm to eat. Just the usual daytime aid station snack food...skittles, pretzels, Doritos, some cold meat chilli, and iced beverages.

Aid station food/race nutrition
I'm freezing my ass off now because I'm no longer moving, I'm around 8,000 feet up, wearing shorts, a short sleeve, and a thin wind breaker. I'm irritable, hungry, PMSing, and wanting this stage to be over with.

Poor Dr. Dave is my next MD victim I verbally attack. He asks me for my journal and my spare batteries. "Spare batteries?! Spare batteries??? What spare batteries?! Why would I be carrying spare batteries?!! That's so stupid! Spare batteries??? NO! I'm not doing this anymore!" Angry and shaking my head, I pout in the chair munching on a bowl of Doritos because I'm so hungry and there's nothing else to eat. I don't give a shit about spare batteries. Feed me. Dr. Dave gives me a cup of iced gingerale, which seemed like a good idea when it was offered, but now I'm even more cold. He gets me a blanket to cover up, and I totally bury myself in it not wanting to ever come out of it. I give him my journal, but I'm unwilling to deal with anymore of this gear check BS. Just hand over the bag of Doritos. He's smart. He gives me the bag of Doritos, and does not probe any further about those spare batteries.

Reluctantly, Anand and I decide to head out. It's about midnight. I take the blanket off, and instantly feel frozen to the bone. My legs are so stiff from the cold that they can barely move. I'm whining to Anand how cold and miserable I feel. His hands are frozen, but tells me to just keep moving. After about 15 minutes, I finally started to warm up again. We have about a 2.3 mile climb further up the mountain before we make the 7 mile descent down pavement. I'm looking forward to hitting the pavement, but know all too well how awful it's going to feel on the body.

Photo by Glen Delman Photography
We make it to the pavement and steadily move downhill. I feel like I could do a run/shuffle down, but I think power walking with Anand is a better idea. I'm not as anxious as I was earlier, we chat a bit about his family, and how we're going to retire after this race. No more multi-stage races, maybe just stick with shorter distances like 50k's, and definitely don't want to do a 100 miler anymore. Maybe even do more half marathons and marathons! I keep checking my watch knowing we're not too much farther based on our pace. I know you can't see the campsite until the last several minutes so that makes my level of anxiety significantly less.

Meanwhile, I'm reflecting a little bit about how I was feeling during this section the last time I did this race in 2011. I had been anticipating this 7 mile stretch for several months now. It was the section of race when I made some pretty profound discoveries about myself, and my life. The last time I was on this section, my mind and heart were filled with so much turmoil, confusion, depression, pain, and anger. It was agonizing to say the least trying to finish this 7 mile stretch back in 2011.

This time around, I feel more peaceful. Other than what you'd expect to feel after having done 115 miles, I was feeling much more calm. I was not experiencing a chaotic mind or soul. It was a relief for me. Possibly even a bit uneventful, anti-climatic, and boring. Nevertheless, I was less distracted.

Photo by Glen Delman Photography
We finally see the campsite, and Anand and I said we would stick together until the very finish and run in together. And together we did! Putting off running until the last minute, we jogged it in, and were welcomed by racers, staff, and volunteers all flashing headlamps, honking horns, banging on trash cans. It was festive just as I remembered it last time. Who gave me my race finish hug this time? Carol! I couldn't believe she stayed up to see me come in. It's 1:45 am and I'm tired, but wide awake at the same time. I just want to eat so bad! And I need ice even more!

Photo by Glen Delman Photography
I set my stuff down and make my way to the MDs. No one even approached me to see if I was all right, which irked me a bit. I walk up to the MDs standing around chatting. "Do you need something?" I'm asked. "Yes, I need ice. Really bad." I'm greeted with hands coming out of his jacket pocket gesturing he's pulling ice out of thin air. I'm not entertained. Another MD says "I'm not sure where the ice is." Once again, the wrath of Maya's PMSing is let out. "YOU GUYS ARE THE MEDICAL STAFF!!! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHERE THIS STUFF IS!!!" I'm so angry at this point. Mark, one of the racers, comes up to me and gently says, "Maya, why don't you sit down and I can get you something. Are you thirsty? What would you like to drink?" Whimpering I ask for gingerale. He says there's no gingerale. I'm empty now. I'm not surprised anymore. Mark, as ever so calmly and politely offers me lemonade or ice tea. Lemonade puhlease :( Carol whips me up a grilled cheese sandwich and tells me it'll be the best grilled cheese ever. I have to 2 am and after going 52 miles, it's the best f**king grilled cheese I have ever had. An MD brings me a bag of ice. I'm happy again.
Mt. Everest blister on the inside
of my heel

Carol grabs my sandals for me from our tent, I pull my shoes off, and just leave all my crap next to a chair. I'll grab it all in the morning. For now, I don't feel like doing anymore. And OMG is that blister on my right heel the size of Mt. Everest. At least it doesn't hurt. I use the "bathroom" just outside our tent, toss and turn a bit from being sore, and then pass out.

REST DAY - 0 miles! - 21 Jun 2013

I slept for a few hours, but as usual after running so many miles, I can't sleep very well. I wake up to find that I have slid down the tent into Teddi who has slid down into Candy. We're on an incline...nice!
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
I get up excited for the day! It's the rest day! Walking around isn't so bad with my foot. It's sore, but not terrible. It was actually hot this year at camp. I made sure I took some time to look at the views, sit at a special picnic table, and reflect on where I was 2 years ago, and where I was today. It's a gorgeous and peaceful place to be.

One of several spectacular views at camp after stage 4
After nibbling on some food I brought with me for breakfast, we finally had lunch. Breakfast burritos! I'm starving. I manage to get in one full burrito, and a second burrito with whatever they had leftover. Not enough to eat, but it'll do.

River Rest Day!
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
The best part of the day was shuttling over to "the beach." I hung out by the Colorado River for a couple hours, swimming, taking my tape off, washing my hair (again!), being asked hypothetical questions by Bear, more swimming, and then finally pouting that we had to go back to camp all ready. I really wished we could've spent the whole day there! Two hours wasn't nearly enough. After our shuttle breaks down on the side of the road (it was that hot out), we get to camp and prepare for dinner time. I tape up my feet again, and grab some yummies that included dolmas (yum!).

Dr. Rob
I was able to talk to Dr. Rob who finally helped me out with my ankles. Thank you Dr. Rob! After beating around the bush a bit about the prognosis of my ankle and foot, and listening to me blurt to him "you guys are useless!" it was decided that ultimately if my foot was fractured, then it's fractured and running another 26 miles really wouldn't make a difference. Great! Then I'm running the marathon stage! I thanked Dr. Rob for his frankness and medical advice, and got ready for bed.

STAGE 5 - Marathon Day 26.2 miles - 22 Jun 2013

Sleepy and puffy
I wake up feeling a bit...puffy. Happy, but definitely a bit on the swollen and puffy side. But, hey so is everyone else in my tent!

Breakfast consists of the usual fruit, coconut milk yogurt, a tiny amount of oatmeal, soy milk, and oranges. John the cook even offers to bring me coffee as I like it. I feel spoiled, but I like it. Thanks John! Everyone looks a bit sleepy. It's obvious who are morning people and who are not. Who was up until 3 am, and who wasn't.

I'm looking around at the scenery. It's so beautiful here. And now I'm thinking, "does it really have to end already???" "I can hardly wait to do another one of these!" So much for retiring from multi-stage races. I'm giddy with excitement, I don't care about my foot even though it's hurting, and I'm totally looking forward to celebrating after the race (Stage 6 anyone???). Really though, it's only 26 miles. I'll be done by early afternoon and will have the rest of the day to hang out!

The race starts and up we go again making another 10k climb up the La Sal Mountains. I feel pretty good. I'm in my own space, and for the first time, am actually interested to listen to music on my iPod. It pumps me up and I power walk my way up the mountain. Once again, the scenery on this day is exceptional. I can't stop oooing and ahhhing at the landscape.

As I make my way up, I'm realizing that it's the last day so I can push harder than the previous days. I can trash my body because it no longer matters! I'm in a zone focusing on moving quickly when I see a butterfly, "oooh a butterfly!" This makes me giggle.

I get to the top of the mountain at the first aid station, fill up my water, and bust out. I start running because now it's my kind of terrain again. Technical downhills, and lots of rocks. I roll my right ankle within 15 minutes and I can feel the tingling and numbness go up the side of my calf. Ouch. Now my right ankle is really jacked. It's hurting more and more and I'm hoping the pain meds will start to help. If anything, I hope my adrenalin kicks in soon so the pain numbs out.

Right about to hit the 10% down hill grade
I make it to the first water drop more than 5k away in less than 30 minutes. I'm feeling awesome. I'm staying cool, I'm eating continuously, I'm drinking, and it's a beautiful day. I think I'm finally acclimating to the heat and altitude. I'm determined to get to the second aid station so I keep hustling on. Then I see the 10% grade sign. This is the section where I know I can really make up some time. It's also the section that can really kill your knees. 10% paved downhill is quite steep. But I don't care. I embrace the fact that it will be thrilling to fly down a hill. I take off over the crest like a roller coaster about to make it's first dip, and start hauling ass as fast as I can down this hill. My legs feel like the Road Runner's and I swear 10 feet is passing below me with every stride. I don't allow my legs to even remotely break down the hill. I let gravity and momentum totally take me for a ride. It's the most amazing running sensation ever to allow yourself to just GO!

Some have bigger rocks than others :)
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
Running Porcupine Rim
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
I get to the bottom in record time, catch my breath for a minute, and then continue running until I get to the second aid station. I'm making great time. In and out of the aid station I try to hustle when I can through Porcupine Rim. The heat is getting worse though and I know this section is brutally hot. So I slow down, focus on hydrating, and climb my way to the turnaround. After a quick bathroom stop (those GUs and shot blocks are getting to my stomach), I grab my rock, my favorite number 22, and make a run for it. It's now all technical downhill for the 2.5 miles back to the aid station. I'm gleaming with excitement, my feet don't hurt, my ankles aren't hurting, I'm in my element running down the rocky path, and I don't feel like throwing up. What a great day!

I get my water at the aid station, get my rock aka "cock" (you can ask me about this) checked by staff, and take off. Only 10k ish left to go and I'm done. I'm feeling pretty good, but remember it being a very hot 10k the last time I did this section.

I'm doing my best to cool myself down by pouring water on my head and shirt. After about 15 minutes, my adrenalin is wearing off and I'm feeling the intense pain in my right foot and ankle. Shit. I'm still moving along making a 10 min pace mile. I'm slowing down, but at this pace, I'll still be done in just over an hour. I can handle that. I keep trying to run because every time I slow down to a walk, my foot hurts worse and it gets more difficult to get going again. I remind myself that this is the last day so just deal with it and push through it. I keep running.

I run out of water, my mouth is so dry, but I know I'm less than 2 miles away. I finally see the bend in the road that leads to the finish. I start running again. I have mixed feelings about it all. I want to finish, but I'm sad that it's ending at the same time. I run down the hill and keep pushing until I cross the finish line. I'm greeted by Candy and Carol. I sit down and start crying. It's been a brutal week, but I made it.

After my sobbing, I go get something to drink. I'm not ready to eat, so I just keep drinking water. I hear Paul's voice telling me to drink! So I keep drinking. Dr. Rob finds me and asks about my foot. It hurts like a motha. Not like a motha as it did at the Atacama Crossing, but motha enough to be a nuisance. He gives me a game plan for recovery so I can be ready for my next race, and then later he casually tells me I sprained my foot and sprained my ankle, and he can't rule out a fracture. "I have a sprained ankle?" I didn't know I sprained my foot and ankle. At this point I catch on that he didn't tell me this the night before because he knew it would psyche me out, and I ask if this is why he didn't say anything. He chuckles, "Yeah." I thank him for that. I feel like I finally got the medical assistance I needed all week.

As always watching the remaining competitors come in is an inspiring time. I'll never forget Kurt Egli coming in as the song "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton was playing. Talk about the most depressing and terrible song to finish a 148 mile race LOL!


Welcoming Anand into the finish
Photo by Glen Delman Photography
This year's race was a very different experience for me. It was the most I had ever run alone. I spent a lot of time by myself this year, which was hard on me at the beginning of the week, but quite all right by the end of the week. I now know that I can do long distances without a buddy and can entertain myself, although I'll always prefer a buddy over solitary time. That moral support is important during times of struggle. I thank Anand for staying with me, and waiting for me when I was needing to take a moment in the shade of a tree/bush, when I was hunched over trying not to vomit, or needing to take a piss/dump. That meant a lot to me.

It's okay to stop, and it's good to know when to stop. I used to think it had to be all or nothing. But I got to do 93% of the course, still feel like I succeeded in the race, and enjoy myself in the process. It was after all, my vacation. There's nothing wrong with slowing down, protecting your body, and your sanity. It doesn't always have to be a suffer fest every minute of the way.

Ditch Buddies
Of course, I learned that OB tampons make absolutely wonderful tools for severe nose bleeds. Amazing how it seemed that so many women happened to have OB tampons on them this year. Thank you to everyone who donated to my tampon collection fund. And a little advice, if you have small scissors on your pocket knife/kit...cut the string. It's a bit awkward trying to eat Shot Bloks as a string blows into your mouth.

My awesome tent mates (minus Nick!)
Teddi, Candy, Jenn, Carol, and me

It doesn't always have to be about you surviving. Sometimes sportsmanship is more important. Helping a racer who is struggling more than you not only gets your mind off your own problems, but builds a friendship you would've otherwise missed out on.

Eat. Drink. Run. Repeat!