As I sit here contemplating on how to tell you about how it is to run 100 miles, I must make one thing clear …
I still can’t quite wrap my head around the notion that I actually DID IT! Although it was very real in the moment with so many highs and lows, when I finished – all I could think was, “Holy crap … I did it!”
So, the best I can do to explain my 29 + hours of running, is to break it down into segments. This race is perfect for that anyway because it is an alternating 15.3 loop course through the Arizona desert, with the last loop being a bit shorter at 9 miles.
My day started at 3 am on October 31st. My awesome pacers (Jen, Rebekah, and Mikey) started their day too … sorry guys! A cup of coffee, a mini bagel with peanut butter and a banana was my fuel. Dressed and out the door to the trail by 4:30 am.
Pemberton Trail is at McDowell National Park (right outside of Fountain Hills, AZ). The main hub is tent city, aka – Javelina Jeadquarters. Jeadquarters is where all the action is: a DJ, all the food, vendors, tents, and spectators. It is also the start and finish line. I rented a tent with two cots for everyone to hang out in when I was away on the trail.
Start time was 6 am and I was nervous! I was looking around for any of my running friends and couldn’t find any. Finally, Steve found me! Huge sigh of relief as he hugged me and said he would run with me for a bit. Steve and I ended up running about 9.5 miles of the first loop together and the time just whizzed by. He is truly a remarkable friend and am grateful he slowed down to my pace to run with me (he went on to run a 22 hour race overall, which is just stellar!)
I finished loop 1 feeling good and my pacers/crew were waiting for me as I came through Jeadquarters.
Jen, Rebekah, and Mikey were all on top of it as they filled my hydration pack, gave me some headphones for music, my GoPro and sunglasses (it was very sunny and starting to get really warm).
I was feeling great, listening to my music, running the opposite direction this time. The miles seems to click by and I passed the aid stations and stuck to my own hydration and nutrition. Somewhere toward the very end of loop 2 I started to really feel the heat and my head was hot. I was tired of carrying the GoPro and I hated my music. It had to go. I also left my phone behind because I didn’t want any extra weight, but I did take a small hand-held bottle of water to carry in addition to my Gatorade Endurance in my hydration pack.
The wheels started falling off. AND FAST. The first part of loop 3 was the hardest. Uphill, with large rocks embedded in the trail and smaller rocks, which were loose. I was walking and not feeling great. It was hot and my stomach was starting to turn on me. I was stopping at all the aid stations to take in extra fluids, like coke and ginger ale, as well as water. I also took salt tabs at each aid station to make sure I was getting enough sodium. Towards the end of this loop, I was hurting. Bad. My stomach was a mess and I felt so sick. I kept trying to talk myself out of it, but my body was yelling at me and winning the fight. I saw some friends along the trail and I cried … “this is so hard.” Emily, my sweet inspirational rockstar of a friend, passed me at the final aid station for loop 3, which was her first aid station for loop 4. I told her I was dying in this heat. Emily said she knew how I was feeling .. but encouraged me to keep going and promise her I would.
Ok … I promise. (But, I still had doubts)
I finished loop 3 and knew I would change out my socks, shoes, shirt and hat. It was also getting dusk, which meant I would get a pacer. I came into Jeadquarters so low and depleted, I started crying right away. Rebekah whisked me into the tent and changed out my socks and shoes. Then my shirt and hat. I was still an emotional wreck. Trying to smile and stay positive, but wanting to crumble at the same time.
I dillydallied during this pit-stop, not knowing if I could continue. All of a sudden, Rebekah put my daughter, Kylie, on the phone with me. I started to cry again as I told her I was having a tough time and didn’t know if I could make it 100 miles. She kept saying, “yes you can, I know you can.” I told her I loved her and thanked her for calling .. it meant the world to me.
Thankfully, I had Jen with me for Loop 4. She knew I wasn’t feeling well and just stayed upbeat and positive the entire time. I was running extremely slow and then it hit … I had to puke. WHAT?! I never throw up in a race. Like EVER. I didn’t have a lot to throw up, but whatever was in me, came up. Then I had the dry heaves. I felt so bad for Jen and I was crying all over again telling her I couldn’t make it. She kept pushing me just to make it to Jackass Junction (the mid-way aid station). I continued slowly and was so nauseous. I went from extreme hot temperatures and stripping off my coat, to extreme shivers in the matter of minutes. I had no idea what the hell was going on with me. Somehow I managed to make it Jackass Junction and went straight for the medical tent.
They had me sit and take in some ramen broth. I must have been there 30-40 minutes, but in that time, I downed 4 cups of broth and a few boiled salted potatoes. I also closed my eyes for a few golden minutes. I told Jen I may have to call it after the 4th loop and be happy with a 100k buckle instead of the 100 mile buckle. I was writing my DNF in my head the 2nd half of that loop as I still felt weak and miserable. I was crying just thinking about letting everyone down, especially my crew who flew all this way to run with me. I would be quitting. I never quit, but the end seemed so far out of reach. Jen reassured me that everyone would understand and my health was more important. She encouraged me to get to Jeadquarters and see how I felt.
Coming into Jeadquarters, I saw Mikey dressed and ready to go. I thought to myself, ‘okay, one more loop.’ (*HUGE sigh … I can do hard things)
This loop can be described as sleep walking, hallucinations, with a side of grilled cheese and broth. Mikey was the excellent pacer for this loop because I literally wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. It was pitch black out and our headlamps were the only source of light on the trail. I was seeing things that weren’t there and asked him if I could close my eyes and he could guide me. The answer was no. However, he did get me to Jackass Junction and fed me 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich and some ramen broth.
That put new life into me and we bolted through the second half of that loop, jamming to tunes from his iPhone.
Rebekah was dressed and ready and I couldn’t let her down. This was, after all, my last 15.3 mile loop. By now, all my pacers had worked out finish times and what it would take to get me to finish by noon on Sunday. There was a bit of anxiety that came with that and I felt the pressure to keep the pace up to make it. Was I really going to make it?
The sun started to come up on this loop and that gave me a new energy. I had less than a marathon to run and was thankful that only my knees and quads were starting to talk to me (if they could talk, imagine a pissy tone … yeah, that’s the one).
Rebekah ran ahead of me for most of the loop and kept me moving by timing my runs and walk breaks. I always tried to run a little further than what she told me to run just for my own mental game. So, if she said we were going to run for the next minute, I would try and run for the next two minutes. Anything to keep me going. It worked!
As I reached the end of loop 6, I was tearing up. Was this true … I only had 9 miles to go? As I came through Jeadquarters, I was given a glow necklace to signify I was on my last loop. I was crying tears of joy. Jen was ready and smiling to take that victory loop with me.
Victory loop. I had just over 3 hours to complete these 9 miles by cut-off time. It was go time.
AND, I went for it on this last loop. Everything hurt but I didn’t care. I could see that buckle now and I wanted it sooner than twelve o’clock. The bottoms of my feet felt raw, like they were being poked with needles from all the rocks on this course. But, they hurt whether I walked or ran … so I RAN. My pacers/crew had figured out my magic jam was broth and potatoes and had those for me at every aid station. I just didn’t think about it — I did what they said. And, I have to say, it worked.
Coming into Jeadquarters, the finish line was indescribable. All the colors of emotion flooding my mind. The cheers, claps and screams from my friends and bystanders who didn’t even know me.
I DID IT! What I once thought was impossible, was no more. 100 miles (100.9 to be exact) were all mine, and I loved sharing them with many others along this course.
The true rock stars of this 100 miler belong to my awesome crew and pacers: Rebekah Leoni, Michael Stribling, and Jennifer Sewell (pictured below left to right):
They were truly the best #Gteam and were there for me every step of the way. My buckle was earned because of them!
Huge shoutout to these awesome peeps who made my first 100 miler unforgettable: Steve and Malia Clemons, Emily Eliason, Joshua Moulthrop, Angelina Francavilla, Amy Eichelberg, Amanda Yu, Tony Nguyen, Jacette Valenzuela, Eric Compton, Greg Durbin, Shane Kaniela, Shannon Dempsey, Sara DeMuch, Leslie Platz Gray, John Schultz, Traci Porter-Cook, Missy Schield, and my sweet daughter, Kylie.
And — Last but not least, THANKS to Jamil Coury the race director of Javelina for putting on such a great race and ALL the volunteers, who truly made this race happen!! It could not have happened without those wonderful volunteers!!
(***photo credits to: Steve Clemons, Tony Nguyen, Amanda Yu, Rebekah Leoni, Michael Stribling, Jennifer Sewell, and Sara DeMuch***)