While I’m not sure what exactly enticed me to sign up for Mountain Lakes 100, I did. A few weeks ago my friend Allisa and I were texting back and forth after she had finished running 50+ miles and we agreed that sometimes you just do things. You don’t always need a why – you just do it, and if it feels special and meaningful to you – then that is great!
Most of me feels like I signed up because I wanted to focus on getting and staying healthy this year and to run another 100 miler without starting on an empty tank. For some reason my mind justified that running a 100 mile race not at high altitude (course sits at about 5,000 ft of elevation) seemed like a great way to focus on striving to get and stay healthy.
For me, staying healthy this last year has meant consistently getting more sleep, resting when my body asked, paying more attention to eating nourishing foods, turning an interest into a lifestyle, dreams into executed plans, mitigating stress, and re-learning to trust (in myself and others). While there is plenty for me to continue to cultivate – there is drastic improvement from this time last year.
Delving into homesteading, sustainable living, raising 39 chickens with Josh and growing/making our own food has helped me in more ways than 100. Expanding in areas outside of running has really been a big factor in becoming a healthier me. Unless we have friends visiting – we typically don’t even talk about running. Most of our conversations revolve around raising chickens, gardening/farming/harvesting, fermented foods, Urban Farmer podcasts and goals outside of running.
I wrote a post about running since Run Rabbit Run back in July, and that theme of “running strong & some hiccups!” has remained true. Since July, I’ve felt mostly great, remained injury free and handled any hiccups that arose the best I could. Did I nail 100% of my training? Nah. Did I do my best at the time? Yes! Can I do even better next time? Always! What matters most to me is that I get to stand at a start line happy, healthy and filled with gratitude. For the record – a 100 mile finish line is the most anti-climatic thing ever compared to your journey (life and training included!) to getting there.
There was a hope that I would recap the races that I ran/big adventures separately over the summer leading up to Mountain Lakes 100… but, that didn’t happen – so here’s the highlight reel!
It was becoming obvious to me that I was struggling with my long runs a bit, so if there was a trail race with an appropriate distance close by that matched up what coach had planned for me – I ran them. No tapers, specific goal times and the only intentions were to run strong, have fun and practice fueling.
Originally I had signed up to run the El Vaquero Loco 50k at the beginning of August. Your classic rugged mountain trail running race, the 50k has about 9,000+ ft of elevation gain in it. 2 weeks before El Vaquero I had a pretty easy time accepting that I wasn’t quite ready for it at that time. I knew I could get the distance done, but that it would take a lot out of me and I was worried about how long it would take me to recover from it. So, I decided to run the 25k which has over 4,500+ ft of elevation gain. That being said – the 25k was still my “biggest mountain run” since Run Rabbit.
El Vaquero was pretty low key and a fun event. The course was well marked, the aide stations provided the basic necessities, and I felt happy and strong in all of the expected places. The bigger climbs of the course were tough for me – and admittedly was a bit hard on myself during these. The finish was super fun, and somehow I managed to finish 5th lady which completely surprised me! While getting a burger at the finish line I met my friend Meredith.
The next weekend Meredith and I ran 23 miles (my first trans canyon run!) starting at Teton Canyon via an old climbers route, up to Hurricane Pass and traversing over to Static Peak, tagging Static and then down Death Canyon. IT. WAS. AWESOME. Meredith is an extremely talented all around mountain athlete that I have a lot of respect for, and it was great getting to know her more, hear her stories and plan future adventures!
During the month of August we had anywhere from 1-5 guests staying at our place every day and one of them brought a death cold that Josh caught, and gave to me the day after running with Meredith. I tried to let it run it’s course “naturally” and upped the sleep, zinc and fire cider, but by day 3 I was thanking chemistry and reaching for the Mucinex.
Mostly cleared up by the next weekend other than some congestion and snot – I jumped in the Harriman Park 50k, and was excited that the terrain/elevation appeared to be similar to Mountain Lakes 100. I hadn’t run an ultra distance in almost a year, and was a little nervous but mostly excited and prepared to feel the distance and to dig for strength if I started feeling tired.
Josh and I drove up the morning of the race. He met me at the first aide station and was then off on his own adventure in the woods for the day. Early on I was questioning the course markers. Some signs had blown over, but luckily I had read the course description about 100 times because the race director had emphasized that it was important. So I trusted what I read and went with my gut. After the first aide station I came up to a course marker (that was a pile of wood with the sign like 5 feet from it and a trail going 2 different ways) that I had no idea what to do with. I stopped and stared at it. Looking both ways. Then I looked behind me and saw the 2nd lady running up. We talked about the situation, and both decided to run back to the aide station together and ask which way to go. So we did. The volunteers came out with us, fixed the sign and sent us on our way together.
After that experience, we both admitted we were nervous about the potential of getting lost, but glad we were running together! This entire experience was new to me – running 1st/2nd in an ultra, working together with another woman during a race, and the course marker fiasco! We talked, laughed, shared stories the entire time, and both looked at each other with “what an interesting day” looks when a girl riding a horse asked if we could stop running and open a gate for her.
As the miles ticked by (we ran like 23-25 miles together?) my mind starting wondering, “Do we finish together? Is she going to drop the hammer? Should I drop the hammer? Maybe we should talk about this!” I told my mind to stop, enjoy the experience, and it would work itself out. With about 2 miles to go my new friend was running in front, and I realized I was running suuuuuper close behind her. She told me that I looked strong and that I should go for it…
I hesitated for a second… and then I went for it.
Finishing 1st lady, 2nd overall with an 80 minute 50k PR time of 4:33:xx. Crossing the finish line first in an ultra trail race was a new experience for me, but running with someone and working together as a team was by far my favorite part of the race.
After 3 big for me weekends in a row my legs were feeling really good, but by the next weekend – I was starting to feel a bit tired, and took a step back knowing that I had friends coming to town to run the Teton Crest Trail – starting from Phillips Canyon, and ending at String Lake in Grand Teton National Park for a total of 41 miles and 9,000 ft of elevation gain. Becca and Julia both drove up from Colorado, and I was even MORE stoked (didn’t know that was possible!) for the run when I learned that neither of them had been to the Tetons before.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day when it comes to having a group of 3 people running together who all have different running strengths. We alternated who ran in front every hour, and it was almost seamless other than Julia and I starting to feel the heat going up Paintbrush Divide. Luckily we had Becca to drag our butts up to Paintbrush Divide and then pulled off a rally of a finish to the day! I’ve always looked up to these 2 ladies who not only crush it on trails, but also life and getting to spend the day with them was such a treat!
The journey to Mountain Lakes starting line has been incredible. To me this weekend is bonus miles to celebrate it, and the people who I’m so grateful for who have played roles in it. Family, Josh, my coach, friends. I wouldn’t be who I am, or in the place that I’m in without any of them. I know it’s up to us to create our own happiness, make decisions, be healthy, but we’re better together. Teamwork will always make the dreamwork!