As is my usual M.O., I took a good look at the entrants list before going into this race. There were a few stand out names I recognized, and I was sure there would also be some strong local runners who I didn’t recognize. I made a list of the women who I was certain would be miles ahead of me:
- Samantha Drove
- Tracy Garneau
- Amy Sproston
- Darla Askew
If you don’t know who these ladies are, just Google them.
I decided to let those women battle it out for the podium positions, and then maybe I could sneak in for 5th place. I’ve heard that in some sports they have extended podiums that include the top-5 🙂
I didn’t want to have a goal which was strictly placement-oriented, so I came up with a time-oriented goal as well. Two years ago I ran the 50km version of DV in 5:50, so I figured I should be able to complete the 100km version in sub-12hrs, roughly double that amount of time. Sure, I would slow down over 100km, but I am also fitter now than I was two years ago.
I spent the days leading up to the race hanging out at my sister’s place in Vancouver. We ate copious amounts of sushi and my brother-in-law cooked up a mountain of crepes. There was also plenty of beer. I was carb-loading like a boss.
The race began in the pouring rain, but the forecast was calling for the rain to lighten up as the day went on. I decided to wear shorts (I hate wet pants), a t-shirt (so that if the weather improved I wouldn’t be too hot), and a water-proof jacket.
The race started in the dark at 6am and I found myself running next to Amy Sproston (I recognized her from Google). Running near her was disconcerting, but I wasn’t breathing hard and my legs felt good so I decided to just go with it. We took turns sharing the lead for the first 15km and I wasn’t sure where the other All Star ladies were. My Icebug Animas were gripping extremely well on the rocky/muddy trail, so I was able to run down the hills with ease, outrunning all of the nearby runners only to be passed again once we got back onto smoother trail.
At the 15km junction we turned onto the steep and technical Diez Vista trail. Amy was about a minute ahead of me, but I soon caught up and she motioned for me to pass. Nowhere in my pre-race planning had I ever envisioned leading this race. I felt like an imposter, but I decided that if the other ladies were going to pass me then I was going to make them work for it.
For the rest of the DV trail I was entirely on my own – no one to see in front of me and no one visible behind me. I focused on staying smooth and relaxed. The rain was pouring down in buckets now, and at one point it even started to hail. I had flashbacks of running Fat Dog 120, when the rain came down and runners began to drop like flies with hypothermia. I told myself to keep on eating and to avoid puking at all costs. “Keep the furnace burning” became my mantra. In hindsight, the terrible weather may have been a blessing-in-disguise, as it kept me very process-oriented.
Eventually I got off the DV trail and onto more runnable terrain. The trail was super cruisey and I found myself running all the uphills and flying on the downs. I did quite a bit of downhill-focused training in the weeks leading up to Diez Vista, so I was confident I was not going to blow my quads out with the speedy downhill pace. The fun trail eventually intersected with a flat, gravel road. I sighed and kept on running.
I am not a road runner. Occasionally I have fits of delirium where I think I want to learn how to run properly on the roads, but it only takes me one or two road workouts to come back to my senses. My road running skill (or lack of skill) is a serious liability for me if I want to be a competitive ultra-runner. Thankfully the weather really sucked this winter so I was forced to embrace the treadmill for several runs while my asthma went into full revolt from the cold air. The extra treadmill running has resulted in moderately better flat running speed.
Back to the race:
My improved road running skills came in handy during the several out-and-back road sections on the DV course. With each out-and-back I could see my competitors gaining on me, but I was able to move fast enough that I could get back to the safety of the trails without getting caught. I felt like a hunted animal, searching for the safety of a burrow or thicket. (We’ve been reading Watership Down).
The course turned onto a trail which ran up under a power line. The rain was falling harder now, and a bit of a cold breeze picked up. My t-shirt wasn’t cutting it and I could feel the cold begin to seep into my bones.
I ran down a series of switchbacks into the next aid station where Matt was waiting for me with a merino wool long-sleeve, water-proof cap, fresh buff and some mitts. Having Matt there with warm clothes probably saved my race. I knew that taking the time to change into warmer clothing was going to cost me the lead, but I also knew that if I didn’t take the time to take care of myself I was going to end up hypothermic.
It seemed to take forever to towel off and change my clothes, but surprisingly none of the other ladies caught me. I wondered if they were toying with me.
The next section of the course was fun, uphill trail. I settled into a good rhythm and found myself at the top of the climb way too soon. I had been enjoying the climb so much I didn’t want it to end 🙂 Now we were running on wide double-track trail underneath a power line for several kilometres. The trail crossed over raging streams and waterfalls, I wondered if they would burst their banks. A slight, cold wind had picked up and the rain continued to pour down. It was so cold, and I was so thankful for my wool shirt.
This section was, once again, an out-and-back. And, once again, nobody caught me but several ladies were very close. I was well over 40km into the race and I just wanted to relax. I told myself that I was never going to take the lead in the first half of a race ever again. It is much more fun to chase than to be chased.
I got off the power line trail and enjoyed several kilometres of super fun trail. I bombed down the switchbacks as fast as I could without colliding into any of the runners who were on their way up, and then embraced the power-hike back up the appropriately named “FU” Hill. Near the top of the hill I ran into Katie who graciously volunteered to tackle the other girls for me if they got to close. Thanks for helping me out Katie 🙂
From the top of FU Hill it was mostly downhill to the Start/Finish area, which was at the 59km mark of the race (it’s a convoluted course). This was the lowest point of my race. From the very beginning of the run, there had not been a single moment of relaxation. There were so many times when I just wanted to slow down and take a walk break, but I couldn’t find a good excuse! My legs felt fine, my stomach was fine, my HR wasn’t too high, my feet weren’t blistered. I just wanted someone to pass me so that I could stop running so hard. I wanted a nap.
I came into the aid station determined to sit down and have a break, but nobody offered me a seat. Instead, they all told me how good I looked, gave me a cup of hot soup and sent me out of there (after taking a quick photo with Gary).
I found myself running back towards FU Hill, when all I wanted to do was walk. I needed an attitude check and I pulled out all of my mental tricks:
- I reminded myself to be grateful. There were over 100 volunteers who had given up their day to hang out in the rain and make sure I got to the finish line!
- I reasoned with myself; there’s less than a marathon left!
- I tried to find some body parts to gripe about, but everything felt fine.
- I smiled at the runners who were coming down the hill as I made my way up. Fake it ’til you make it.
By the time I made it to the next aid station my attitude had begun to come around. I’d made it this far, I may as well finish this thing up. I enjoyed a cup of hot soup and then slowly made my way out and back up the hill to run the power-line trail for the final time. I was dreading that power-line trail, it was going to be so freaking cold!
Then something wonderful happened, I got caught! It was the first person, man or woman, to catch up with me all day. I can’t remember this guy’s name, but he was the most positive person I have ever met on the trails. He talked about how much he was looking forward to getting back on that power-line trail and seeing those BEAUTIFUL waterfalls. That conversation changed the rest of my race and I found myself completely re-energized. I picked up the pace and left my new friend behind as I gained a sudden burst of motivation.
During my trip back on the power-line trail I noticed that my lead had grown by a few minutes, and that the chase pack had shrunk from 4 ladies to just one. I assumed the other women had dropped out. The weather was so bad, I couldn’t really blame them.
Back down the hill I went, feeling smooth and looking forward to more hot soup at the 80km aid station. I drank a lot of soup at this race, and each aid station had a different delicious flavour! Strava tells me I had over 1.5hrs of stoppage time, I’m sure most of that was spent drinking soup.
At the 80km aid station I learned that I was not only 1st lady, but 3rd overall! How exciting! I left the aid station in good spirits, bound for the final aid station of the race before reversing the technical DV trail and running back to the finish line.
I spent too much time drinking soup at the final stop (87km) and one of the guys caught up and passed me. He was the only person to pass me all day. I had hoped to catch back up to him on the technical trail, but Mother Nature had other plans.
The narrow DV trail had transformed into a river with freezing cold water. My frostbitten feet complained loudly as I forced them to keep moving forward in the bitter cold. Whenever I could, I would detour widely around the water. I was moving very slowly.
Eventually the trail climbed high enough that the rivers reduced to mere streams. I was able to move more smoothly, but I still didn’t feel particularly quick. Whenever I needed to eat or drink I would stop and stand in place. I didn’t trust myself to simultaneously walk, eat and not trip on a root or rock.
I got back onto less technical trail and was happy to discover that I still had the energy to run. I ran down the hills, and shuffled on the flats and ups. The kilometres ticked by and when I reached the stairs which led up to the finish line I knew I had finally made it. I confess that I did not run up the stairs (I walked them), but I did manage to run to the finish line where Gary Robbins was waiting with a big hug. I tried my best not to ugly cry.
1st lady, 4th overall, 13:15.
- Most exhausted muscles: forearms, biceps and shoulders from holding onto my heavy, wet mitts!
- Blisters: None!
- Chaffing: Everywhere!!! Body Glide did not last. Also, I am not used to prolonged rain running.
- Gu and Hammer gels (various flavours)
- Mini Starburst (although these tasted amazing, I wouldn’t recommend it in the future. My mouth turned into a giant canker sore)
- Soup (vegetable broth, tomato, carrot, squash)
- 3 caffeine pills (100mg, every 4 hrs)
- 3 salt pills (whenever I felt nauseous)
- Water whenever I felt like it.
- Icebug Animas
- Swiftwick 7″ socks
- Ultraspire Spry 2.0 pack
- Asics shorts.
- Costco merino wool long-sleeve shirt
- Mountain Hardwear jacket (men’s small so that I could fit it over my pack instead of under it)
- Running Room mitts
- Icebug buff (x2)
- Nike waterproof golf cap
- Petzl Tikka headlamp
- Thank you:
- To my wonderfully, unbelievably, supportive husband
- To Susannah and Bernard for hosting us for the week
- To Gary Robbins and Ridgeline Athletics for putting on this event and dreaming up the 100km course
- To Ian and the team at Rockgear Distribution for helping me out with gear to train and race in
- To my training partners who help me believe in myself and enable me to dare to dream bigger
Next up, Bighorn 100 Miler in June!