Standing at the start line of Silver Rush 50 I could feel nervousness vibrating throughout my entire body. That sensation had started well before the start line, and choking down my oatmeal at breakfast had been quite the chore. There may have been a struggle with a few dry heaves. Eventually I gave up on the oatmeal, and got the rest of my calories via Tailwind Nutrition.
The shakeout run around Turquoise Lake the day before had felt effortless, but I was unsure how that would translate into the day ahead.
I was standing next to my friend Amy O’Connell, and she shared a few friendly reminders with me that were much appreciated before the shotgun went off.
Part of me wondered if my body would allow me to make it past aide 1 at mile 6.5, while the other part wildly believed that if I could get to the turn around I was going to be good to go.
We start up the short steep hill, and the running begins. My legs felt good, my chest had a manageable dull ache, and I was able to find a controlled clip early on. I figured there would come a point for me to get it out of the way, but it came much earlier than expected. I caught my toe, and fell at mile 3. Luckily I was still wearing my gloves, so while I ripped my hand back open for the 3rd time in 3 weeks, at least I hadn’t ground anymore dirt into it. It was at this point I decided I was going to Michael Jackson it the rest of the day, and run the remainder of the race with only one glove to protect my hand that already looked liked a zombie had taken a bite out of it.
It was right after this that I caught up to Neeraj. While not entirely sure what we talked about I know that listening to somebody else talk for a little while helped me dial down the nerves… for a few minutes. We didn’t run together very long, but I knew I could expect to see Allisa at mile 6.5. It felt like the aide station came up quicker than expected, but I was happy to see her. She refilled my 12oz bottles with Tailwind, told me I looked great and on I went. Before leaving the aide station I scanned her face for a trace of, “Calm the F, down. It’s going to be fine.” However, her expression of the nervous/excited/unknowing of what was ahead mirrored mine.
I left the aide station, and continued on the gradual climb until mile 10.5. At this point you hit a downhill section that continues to mile 13/14. Knowing better than to blow my quads, and in an effort to minimize too much jarring that would create a cranky rib… I yogged it. The turnover felt nice, the air was cool, my nerves were f i n a l l y on their way out, and a smile the size of Texas was gracing my face.
I love you, Leadville.
Coming into mile 14, I was totally psyched about how good I was feeling. The energy from the aide station fed right into that, and I could feel my excitement for the day continuing to build. Allisa took my bottles from me, and then told me that my friend, and fellow Tailwind Trailblazer, Mike, was at the aide station. This caught me by surprise.
“He’s not having fun, and wants to drop because he wants to drink coffee and eat donuts.”
Now that did not catch me by surprise. I let out a small laugh knowing that was definitely something Mike would say, and replied with, “Did you promise him coffee and a donut at the turnaround? Maybe that will make him happy!”
With my bottles refilled with Tailwind, I started making my way out of the aide station. On my way out I saw Chad from Palmer Divide Run Co. who was crewing his wife, Jesse. (Love those folks! Check them out!) We chatted briefly, and he asked if I needed anything. He gave me a glove that was a little smaller, thicker and better suited for the day as I explained the Michael Jackson situation I had going on. A big, “Thanks!” and on my way I went.
It was only a matter of minutes before I caught up to Mike, who was undoubtedly in a mental place of, “NOPE.” in that moment. He divulged his plan to me to call it a day at the turnaround, and seek happiness in coffee and doughnuts. I was confident that Allisa had already given him a list of reasons why he shouldn’t drop, and knew that he didn’t need that from me. For every negative thought he voiced I did my best to combat it with a smile, counter with a positive thought, or said nothing and sent those super posi vibes people talk about on the internet his way. My hope was that maybe he could talk out whatever funk was going on in his head, and turn it around.
We’re climbing up to 12,000 feet, and things are feeling pretty solid. Running where I can, hiking when the effort became a bit too much for my chest. I experienced a brief bout of wooziness, but it quickly dissipated as Mike reminds me to keep sipping away on Tailwind.
Eventually, wild flowers start to appear and you would have thought Mike was Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.
His wildflower stoke was real.
Photo: Mike Bell
The darkness started to fade, and a smile finally emerges. Although I do question if it’s the wildflowers or him knowing that he only had 3 more miles to coffee and doughnuts. It didn’t matter. The only thing that did matter was that he was starting to enjoy the moment he was in.
We descend down to Stumptown, and I enjoyed getting to see and cheer on a few fast friends on their way inbound. Running into Stumptown we are greeted by a complete party! It was great seeing and hearing cheers from Runners Roost teammates, MeiLee, Julia, and other friends from the running community.
Photo: MeiLee Langley
Allisa was ready and waiting for us with the items in our drop bags spread out. To my surprise Mike starts eating from the aide station, and refilling his hydration pack with Tailwind. I smiled, and thought, “Good for you!” …while quietly celebrating that I had locked in company for the remainder of the race.
Chatting with Allisa she reminds me, “Remember, once you get to 30, you’re basically done!” This is the awesome shit that ultra runners tell each other, and the power it can have is pretty outstanding.
We take our time getting things in order, re-apply sunscreen, and cram food into our faces. Tailwind is incredible, but after a while you do start feeling the need to chew. Que potato chips.
For some reason even though I had kept up with my calories I was starving. Looking back, I’m pretty sure all I did was talk about food on the way out of Stumptown while cheering on friends we saw along the way. The effort started feeling a little more difficult for me once we made our way back above tree line. We get back up to 12,000 ft with zero pukes or stomach drama on my end which is a huge success for me.
Photo: Mike Bell
Descending back down to 10,200ft we’re laughing, joking, and Mike starts telling stories. My legs feel fresh, and I’m mostly listening to Mike’s stories but start hearing Kasey Musgrave’s “Follow Your Arrow” bounce around between my ears. Over, and over, and over..
“Just follow your arrow
Wherever it points, yeah
Follow your arrow
Wherever it points”
To my surprise we manage to catch a few people on the final climb of the day going back up to 12,000 ft. From what I recall Allisa has us in and out of the next aide station, and we roll through it pretty quickly to continue on what I remember felt like a soul-sucking climb at that point. Luckily Mike was there to pull me a long, and to drop a few friendly, “Drink your Tailwind” reminders.
“This was a lot more fun to run down.”
“When did the sun get so warm?!”
To adequately narrate the climb Mike let out a, “Damn, Gina!” Which I legit belly laughed over. It’s still funny.
We finally hit the single track that had been just below us and such a tease for the last couple of miles. My legs and chest were starting to feel the work of the day, but found some relief once they were able to turn over a bit on the downhill. Splashing through a few small streams felt realll nice!
Coming into the final aide station at mile 40, we were greeted by sweet Margot, the tell-it-to-you-straight daughter of 2 Runner’s Roost teammates. I couldn’t get over how much she had grown. She excitedly informed me that I was running 11th female.
Photo: Allisa Linfield
There was a bit of a buzz and some hype at the final aide station, as Allisa had informed the medical volunteer who was there that I was the one who had fallen on Mosquito Pass and broken her rib during the marathon. Ironically enough it was the same volunteer who put an oxygen mask on my face last year, gave me a Zofran and the same one that I lied to about the amount of pain I was in to get out of the ambulance this year. I received a look of surprise, and some cheers for my sheer stubbornness. Maybe it was a little stupid, too, but I have absolutely Z E R O regrets.
The last handful of miles to the finish felt the longest. When I could hear the announcer my excitement and energy that had started to dwindle a bit bounced right back. I couldn’t believe the day that just unfolded had actually happened. Surely I was dreaming!
Photo: Julia V.
33+ miles of team work!
Photo: Allisa Linfield
Once reunited with Allisa shortly after finishing, I hugged her, and couldn’t help but let out a few tears of happiness, and excitement. This gal had been by my side through a somewhat tumultuous last few months, and I was over-the-moon stoked she had so eagerly agreed to come up to crew on such short notice and be part of a day that I will never forget. So grateful for our friendship!
Last year when I attempted to run this race and had been able to train accordingly, sub 10 was my “perfect day” goal. Showing up at that start line this year with less than ideal training, and the mindset of accepting whatever it was my body was going to allow was a huge lesson in humility for me. So often we get caught up in the expectations we set for ourselves, when in reality sometimes we surprise ourselves the most when we have no expectations. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day, broken rib included!
Big thank you to Tailwind Nutrition for their support! Tailwind Nutrition has ultimately been a game changer for me when it comes to running long. Especially at high altitudes.