We arrived at Rob's house in Santa Fe in the afternoon and started organizing all our stuff for the race until he came home and took us out to dinner with his partner, Dana. GREAT food, though I tried to stay away from the refried beans haha :)
I don't think it's any surprise that I hardly slept at all Friday night. I was rudely awaken by Craig slapping my butt over and over again exclaiming "wake up!" just before 4am. "Did you really just wake me up before our alarms went off?!" lol I probably slept about 4 hours, tops. 1 cup of coffee and a slice of wheat bread with peanut butter, honey and salt later, we were on our way.
You could tell right off the bat that it was going to be a PERFECT day. The sun wasn't up yet, but the rain had stopped and it was around 40 degrees. My hands and feet were a little cold for awhile, but I knew it would get warm later. We checked in in this building where they had food and drinks- it was so charming!
The first 4.2 miles with 721 feet elevation gain and a 555 foot elevation loss to the first aid station went by like a snap of the fingers. I couldn't believe it. We sailed through the first aid station without stopping (though we made sure they got our numbers- you have to check in and out of every aid station) and continued the climb to Guaje Ridge: 2.2 more miles, 1,540 ft elevation gain, 170 ft elevation loss. You could really feel the comradery up this first major hill, people were working hard but still loving it! Trying to make sure I stayed on top of my nutrition, I opened up my EFS liquid shot, which tasted like Cinnabon icing. Holy moly was it sweet, but it got the job done. I reminded myself to look around and enjoy the scenery, which despite the 2000 fire was gorgeous with the clear blue skies.
I was pretty stoked when we arrived at the Caballo base aid station- I was ready to get that climb done and done. To the top it is 2 miles and 1771 ft of elevation gain, which is a 17.2% grade. It was STEEP. Forget running, my goal was to hike the whole thing without having to stop and catch my breath as we approached the 10,480 ft summit. Success! All smiles at the top, I even did a little heel click and a jig lol. Knowing that we were done with the biggest climb of the day and still feeling good was a relief. (Thank you so much to Rachel Granzow for the Caballo summit pics!)
Back at the Caballo base station, I finally started eating more- they had WATERMELON. I can't tell you how refreshing it was! Absolutely the perfect food to eat in that situation. I sprinkled some with salt, and ate other random things, like nutella and peanut butter on graham crackers with salt, pretzels, m&m's.... stuff I never thought I'd be able to eat and keep running, but I have definitely improved my stomach strength. While I was happy to have that climb done, I also knew we had only gone about 13 miles, so there was still much more to come.
The next part was a little unexpected for me, I had forgotten that it was almost immediate uphill to Pipeline aid station. In 2.8 miles we climbed 1,169 feet and descended 222 feet. Almost immediately I lost Craig and began to hit the wall a little bit. I managed to pass and stay in front of one lady- the only other person in sight, but I was starting to get a little dizzy and weak so I took some stopping breaks. Finally, after the steep climbing was over I started jogging again and reached a group of 3 and followed them to the aid station.
And we were off, Rob, Craig and I headed out to the Ski Lodge. 2.9 miles there (total mileage at this point 19.2), 293 feet elevation gain and 629 feet elevation loss. It was part way through this section that we saw Slusher pacing Nick, who went on to set a course record for the 50 mile and win by an hour and a half. I cheered for them and tried to give high fives (missed haha) and ran to catch up with Rob and Craig. Along the way I had some stomach issues from all the food I ate at the aid station, but managed to keep up with the boys even while walk/jogging behind them.
The 2.9 miles and 629 feet of elevation gain back up to Pipeline was a little exhausting, but then you were right back to the wonderful Pipeline aid station and done with 22 miles. Another long pit stop while Craig and Rob gathered the things they had left behind for the trip to the ski lodge.
At one point though, I don't know where it came from, I decided that I was going to finish with the boys, and not let these people pass me. Mile 25 was 18:14, but mile 26 was 12:20, mile 27 11:41, mile 28 11:28, and I caught up to Craig and Rob.... and then I promptly lost them again. haha Finally, I knew it would happen eventually, I twisted my ankle and wiped out on the rocks. And just like every run I've had where I twist it, I did it again 3 more times. Every step was just awful, my SI joint was aching, my foot was so sore and I was just ready to be done.
I was all smiles coming into the Last Chance Saloon where Craig and Rob were, the LAST AID STATION!!!! I think I must have looked like death anyway, because Rob and a volunteer came up to me asking questions that I couldn't really answer, and I don't even remember. haha Finally, I looked at the volunteer and said, "Are you Steve?" And when he said yes, I explained I was one who had been talking to him on dailymile and he gave me a hug, and brought Deb over to meet me. It was so nice :) For once though, we left the aid station really quickly so we could just be DONE already. Steve had some photos up on his blog of their wonderful aid station (I believe the first one is from Michelle B.):
At the VERY end you have to scramble up some boulders, I'm talking having to use hands and feet. There was a guy right behind me and he said something along the lines of this being pure evil. We were laughing, but seriously, it was just plain cruel. At the top though, I rounded the corner and people were cheering for everybody as we crossed the finish line. It was amazing.
So overall, I am super glad I did it, and though it resulted in a poor time, I'm happy with HOW we did it- took it easy, socialized, enjoyed the views, spent over an hour at aid stations lol... next year I'll worry about having a better time, this year was just to make sure I could do it- and I could!