I had class Friday morning when the race started, so I wasn't there for this, but right off the bat, about 20 people took a wrong turn because whoever marked the course used the wrong colored ribbon.
No worries, Craig kept going and while he was a bit later than I expected him to be at the Olympian Hall aid station, he was in great spirits and well ahead of the cut off time. Big hug, big smiles, and he told me all about how he had to run after a guy because the guy was running off course, and how he had to give somebody else a bunch of his food and how they all got lost... runners had a hard day out there besides the course markings because the weather was super hot. I saw some extremely salty faces, and heard about a lot of puking bouts. When I saw Craig though, the temperature was dropping steadily.
At the high school we saw some familiar Fort Collins faces, which was lovely :) Mary and Cat were waiting for Marie to come around. As we left the high school there were no markings (SHOCKING), and we had decided not to bring the course maps because it was like carrying a book (big mistake), so we asked the check-in volunteers where to go. "Straight." Okay, sweet. Thanks.
Little did we know, we were completely wrong, and this would be the beginning of the end for us.
We began a 2,000 foot climb up 5 miles to an aid station, where we were told we had gone the wrong way and would have to go back. We weren't the only ones, either. About half a dozen runners were there right at that moment who had done the same thing as us- a couple were people who had passed us along the way, a sign to us that we were on the right course. Well, that and the fact that we were following reflective ribbons. 5 of us took a car ride back to the high school, which just added more time to the 2 hours off course we had already run. Of that group, Craig is the ONLY ONE who kept going. The others were so dejected at the thought that they would have to run 107 miles to finish (the course was 102 total, according to the website), and one guy had lost his top 6 placement, that they all dropped. Craig and I finally rolled into the correct aid station 2.5 hours past the cut off, but nobody made us stop. They gave us soup, and I filled up Craig's bag with whatever he needed while we warmed up at a blazing camp fire.
Leaving the fire was brutal. I was wearing a t shirt, fleece, and my down jacket with the hood on, but with temps in the low 30's and some sweat on my back, I was a little cold. Craig was layered up too, and that smarty pants had packed some chemical hand warmers to put in his gloves. Sweet!
The rest of the night was rough. Pain, fatigue, anger, and just plain sleepiness were setting in for Craig (snap, for me too lol) and I did my best to keep up a one-sided non-annoying conversation and make sure he was drinking and eating. Early on it had been a bit of a joke- I'd yell "DRINK!" like I was at a bar giving him a shot, but as nausea set in, it was more "okay, if you can keep it down do your best to sip that water."
So we slogged through the night, just waiting for the sun to come up. When it did, it was like we were different people. We began running steadily again, the pain was lessening, and it didn't feel like we had been awake all night. And holy moly the scenery was stinkin GORGEOUS!!!!
Many people throughout the race heard our story of getting lost- so many people had done the same thing in that spot as well as others, that I knew the race director was in for some nasty emails. Craig had been told that because we were directed in the wrong direction he would be allowed to finish, despite coming in past the time cut offs (we assumed this was for everybody, not just us). As we approached the high school yet again, however, we were told that the aid station had shut down and we wouldn't be allowed to continue. Roch Horton rolled in with us, and was totally shocked that we were being stopped. Roch is an ultra running legend, and he and Craig had never even come CLOSE to being cut off at a race before. Both of them were just getting their legs back too, and wouldn't have had any problems finishing the race in the overall time cut off. It was ridiculous. They both thought about continuing on anyway, but fear of the next couple aid stations not being there forced them to comply.
When we made it to the finish line after eating some food and visiting with some of my friends, we kept being approached by all these people we had met along the way, wanting to know if we had made it- the two guys and their runner who gave us a Redbull and some Powerade at the Fish Creek parking lot, the volunteers at the Dry Lake aid station, Wendy and Scoot from Fort Collins, the guy I chatted with who was with the Tarahumara racers, the irunfar guy Bryon Powell... I felt like Craig was a little mini-celebrity haha. I really enjoyed all the people I met at this race and feel confident I'll see some of them again in the future. Thanks to the volunteers who helped us so much and were out there all night! I am hugely impressed with Craig's ability and determination to keep on going after so many problems. He is my running inspiration, and I know he'll get the next one done.
Craig is still dealing with a huge disappointment. At the time I had only felt about 5% responsible for such an epic failure, I was just as pissed as him about the crap job done marking the course. Not just for Craig, but for all the others runners. This morning I'm feeling much worse. I studied the course maps beforehand, but in such a way that I just knew which aid stations we were supposed to get to, and the basics of the course, rather than recognizing that I'd have to make a sharp right here, and a veering left at this point. It's a 100 mile race, I didn't think they would make an exhausted runner memorize that kind of detail! After all, the Hares- the fast runners racing for money- weren't allowed pacers to guide them through the night. I have never run in a race that was poorly marked, and I relied too heavily on the wishful thinking that there would even BE signs, and that we would be able to follow those signs without any problem. I blame myself at least 50% now for such naivete. Luckily, Craig holds me responsible for zero. He said I "did everything with awesomeness" and that he couldn't have asked for a better pacer or better company. "Wouldn't think twice to beg you to pace again in the next one, and of course, i'll be there to do the same for you."
Well Craig, you can bet your ass that I'll be there for the next one, and we are going to DESTROY that flippin race, whatever it may be.