IMTUF 100 2014: Layers

“You will be consoled according to the greatness of you sorrow and affliction; the greater the suffering, the greater will be the reward.”-St. Mary Magdalen de’Pazzi (credit to Harrison for placing on my pace card)

Few rules are black and white in the human experience playbook. Of course there are a few consequences to simplify the decision making process—fire is hot and burns, jumping from a 1000 ft cliff without a parachute will kill you. For the most part, nearly every aspect of life—human interaction, connection, interpretation—is layered. Every person, place, thing, and experience has a surface—the surface is objective. What lies below are the layers. The more complex an experience, the deeper the layers—this is how I choose a 100.

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The Surface (High Level Stuff):

IMTUF 100 is a race set in the Payette National Forest near McCall, ID. Breathtakingly beautiful, wild country…Home to lots of elk, bears, wolves, and other things with teeth. 97% trail/singletrack …only 100yrds of asphalt.

2014 marked the 3rd running of the race and the first year it is a HR Qualifier. The race rotates directions each year…I ran clockwise.

2012 IMTUF had 31 starters,16 finishers (5 women). 2013: 29 starters, 19 finishers (4 women). 2014: 63 starters, 40 finishers, and all 13 women that started finished! (So pretty much women are badasses and everyone will run alone).

Start and finish: Burgdorf Hot Springs. Established in 1870, hot pools and 130yo cabins-no running water, no electricity, heated by wood burning stoves, no cell service (aka. Heaven).

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Coolest damn men’s race shirt I have ever seen.

I smile a lot.

Idaho has good beer.

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My crew was drunk.

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The course was long.

The Layers:

I choose my long races first off of trusted opinions; however, I really didn’t know anyone who had either ran this race or knew someone that had ran this race. I was told how amazing the area is (rated #1 by Christy Jo). I was drawn to the fact that it is small, all mountain “running”, and a HR qualifier. It’s also no secret that I enjoy out of town races and running in general—ups my level of commitment and takes me outside of my cozy familiar surroundings. Keeps me focused.
My crew and pacers—Jared, Aric, Harrison and Jim—they like to party. It helps that they know EXACTLY what they are doing (not just on the party front). This is not a mistake on my part. I knew this race was more than I had ever taken on—these boys (yes boys, 13yo locker room boy humor, boys) know me well and know what it takes to go the distance. They also have great taste in beer and know how to get my mind off of the road (or trail) ahead.

Arriving at Burgdorf, I was NERVOUS. The boys were gradually pounding large 8% (and higher) beers in preparation for the pre-race briefing…I chose a safe, large 7.8% one (my face was numb by the end). The race director spoke FOREVER while Aric, Jared, and Harry added commentary—“Will we be going past Jug Mountain or just between the peaks? How is the run off? Will it slow us down? What are the conditions near Lick Creek? It’s really more of a fun run. Cairns? Karen Skaggs is on the course?” (Yes, these were actual places on the course and they actually were saying these things during the long, emotional briefing) I could not stop laughing. My crew was the natural favorite. Game on.

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6am start. I don’t know if I slept at all or if Aric was sleepwalking—I found him standing behind the truck when I went outside at 2am after non-stop elk bugling kept me up half the night (I am not complaining…it was awesome).

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From mile 0 the field was thin. I loved it. Jeremy and I ran together chatting for roughly 7 miles. The sunrise over the burn scarred area is nothing less than spectacular. The smell of elk urine is horrid…you win some you lose some. However, these first few miles had the smoothest runnable trail of the entire race. I appreciated it and couldn’t stop smiling.

Coming into crew at mile 13 was nice. I normally wouldn’t care if they went back to bed and ate pancakes (okay, Jim cooked) this early in the race…but I asked them to be there just to unload some gear and snag some food. Damn glad I did…no actual aide station until I saw them again at mile 32.

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Already the entire field is essentially running solo—loving it, I needed this. The single track at this point rolls along the Secech River and was easily one of my favorite stretches of this course. I was paying attention to my pacer card and mileage (new thing for me…paying attention) and noticed that other than a VERY light aid station packed in by a couple of backpackers at mile 19, we were approaching our first real climb…it was respectable and HOT. I ran out of water near the top where another light aid was supposed to be…Another runner (I like to call him Boise…he calls me Smiles…we are officially friends) shared his water and we were both totally out of calories. Honestly not a big deal—it made me think and that’s what I was there for. 8-miles to crew of mostly technical downhill, I miraculously get cell phone reception. I barked out orders that involved applesauce (which they didn’t give me…only 60 calories) and Boise was paying attention.

“Coming in hot!” My crew is the best…the course is off…both were obvious. I was happy. I needed this.

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Ten miles (or 12) to the next aid—Other than an elk hunter in camo packing out a half an elk on his back (nice bearded man) and a lot of fresh bear poop, I saw no other human being until a mile outside of the aide station. Boise caught up to me to ask about applesauce. Apparently he had been fixated on the idea of applesauce since he heard me on the phone. We talked about his awesome lofty goal to catch a fish in every mountain lake in Idaho…he started with the highest, most difficult access lakes first (apparently all Idaho lakes are numbered). Boise said the fish in those lakes were practically jumping into his arms—this man may be a serial killer, but I like him. I gave him all of the applesauce out of my drop bag.

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Leaving aid at mile 43ish I felt like a Rock Star—rolling into aid at mile 48, I felt like a bad ugly version of Milli Vanilli. Thank God I have my crew here. I hopped into the back seat of Jared’s truck (wardrobe change). Jared says “you know that color you turn right before you start puking? You are that color, so do something.” Jim says ten seconds after I get out of the truck, “you look great!” The boys feed me, pack my pack and I am out with Aric—across the river and out of the aide station.

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This next climb and decent with Aric over an area called Snowslide, was my absolute favorite climb and decent of the course as far as scenery goes. We reached the top of the climb over Snowslide Lake before dark. The decent would have been a tree stump, obstacle course hell if the smoke jumpers had not gone in and cleared the trail—debris piles that smelled of fresh pine, literally towered over our heads. There was supposed to be a water drop somewhere along this decent (there wasn’t) and Aric shared half his bladder with runners that were dry. Did I mention my crew is awesome?

We talked and talked (did I mention I was basically alone all day) and took it easy…my stomach was settling (but not okay) and my legs felt good. Aric pointed out bear scratches up a tree and eyes in the woods (his headlamp was like a motorcycle headlight). I was more than happy to have him there—Aric was one of my first trail running friends and the first person I had ever paced at a 100. Not only is he ridiculously entertaining, I am ridiculously afraid of the dark. He is wise and reintroduced me to my friend water. I really would like to see that section in the daytime…

We rolled into mile 59 later than expected. Jim yells lovingly “where in the hell have you been?” Harry is in full stretchy pants (apparently so was Jared…I think they were trying to get free coffee). Time for a wardrobe change, the boys found me a nice open spot away from “the creepy guy in the truck”. I ate solid food—avocado and grilled cheese. Not a bad idea. Too bad it didn’t last.

I took off up the road with Harrison as he gave me a rundown of their day and every crude hashtag and goat story they conjured up over the past 21 hrs. We were running (okay, shuffling…but it felt like a Boston qualifying pace at the time). We turned up hill and my stomach immediately started to roll as my head started spinning—Harry kept me in a good place. I trust my pacers (this was becoming even more important). Harrison is good with numbers. He had done a lot of work before going into this race mapping out aide stations, calculating pace (including effort and fatigue) and now he was trying to calculate calories while feeding me small portions of (delicious) citrus jellybeans. As Kathleen would put it, he has autistic tendencies.

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At the top of this climb (or I think it was the top), things went bad fast. I was spinning then vomiting (poor Harrison, he handled the pukefest like a pro). I was officially a mess and was only feeling relieved for short periods of time. He actually cleaned me up and readjusted the plan. I kid you not he had a pack filled with anything I could possibly need for hours on end (good damn thinking). He kept me moving, sipping on Pepsi and totally mentally distracted from the fact that I was not pulling out of this stomach/dizzy hole anytime soon. Harrison knew things I didn’t about the course and I could tell he was agitated (I wish I had video of him looking from watch to card to me)—aid was off, mileage was off, I was a sick mess and there was nothing to be done about it…it was fine (not really) and I was still happy.

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After what seemed like an eternity, we rolled into the goat aid station…yes, they pack this small aid station in using several fairly large goats (goat jokes…not okay). Although the aid station was small, this couple was hopping to our every need…at least the needs that they could meet. People looked bad here. Broth and Coke (or was it Ginger Ale)—It does not even matter, it worked. I was able to perk up for a short, but great period of time…sunrise.

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The scenery was stunning! Happy does not adequately describe how I felt… I do know that I had resolved that I was no longer eating. Liquid diet from here to finish—Good thing both Harry and Jim are numbers guys.

From sunrise to (nearly) Jim I can honestly say I have never felt so sick and had such a great time all at once. The trail leading into the 2-mile stretch of dirt road (named “terrible terrence”) was an absolute shit show of no trail, high grass, and cut down tree stumps below grass level. The problem in my head lied in the fact that Harrison was supposed to have 25 miles with me and his watch had cleared 35 miles—I had been so sick (and slow)—I was approaching 95 miles …I was PISSED….and completely exhausted. I decided at this point that I was NOT putting in for Hardrock.
Here comes Jim…chipper as a lark trotting up the road. He was so full of happy praise and excited I was running (my legs still felt okay) and so eager to pace—I wanted to punch him in the face. I am extremely glad I didn’t.

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I was excited to see that Jared had brought Jeremy in hours before (and Jeremy was doing well, all things considered) Aric was happy despite very little sleep (must have been the coffee). My crew is AWESOME! I would change while they packed my pack, discussed my finish plan, sprayed me down with sunscreen and threw me back at it before I had a full chance to let them know that I was DONE! The other great thing (sarcasm) about out of town races—if someone travels and waits all night to eagerly pace you to your finish line goal, you don’t drop (it’s bullshit really…but you still won’t do it).
Jim allowed me to debrief …and somewhat recover—then he ran me and ran me and ran me. Then we climbed up to the highest point of the course…it was HOT (good thing he likes the heat…I don’t). We came into the “Clooch”Aid station sooner than anticipated—yes, Clooch. Cloochman Saddle—the boys had fun with this one too (imagine that). These ladies were fun and gave me half a Stella before heading up for more climbing.

Jim kept me steady and moving. Boise passed us like we were standing still. No secret here that I was struggling…Jim knew and responded perfectly. Jim not only has experience under his belt, he knows me quite well. I have paced him several times but this was his first time pacing me…he knows he can push me and I am comfortable saying no if I am hitting my limit. This section also had one of the most technical long decents—my quads were losing it. Jim used nearly all of his water (and his hat) keeping me cooled down.

As soon as the trail became “runnable” Jim made me run—yes, actually made me. He looked at his watch and said “I don’t want to scare you…but it is 4:20 and we have #$Q@% miles to go” (I am not a numbers guy…I knew Jim meant business). I did not go through last night and bring these guys up here only to time out. I ran downhill and it was hurting like my femurs were going to shoot out of my kneecaps. I was no longer smiling—Jim noticed.
Running…then he decided to tell me his mistake (I still think it was an evil plan…whatever, it worked) that he had looked at his watch incorrectly. Up the road I could see Harrison, running in flip flops with his camera around his neck (familiar sight from Europe…he is going to get carpal tunnel)—he had gone a little further than a mile from the finish…and was outrunning me with ease in flip flops (surprise…not). Caison, Jeremy and Jackie’s son, pedaled up to me on his bike and smiled a smile only a kid can do (loved it). I saw Jared and Aric through the finish line chute.

I knew I had made it. I was grateful to my friends (yes, Jared is my friend too…important spouse quality), humbled by their caring, smiling from ear to ear, and happy…genuinely happy.

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The Deep Stuff:

I love 100’s. They are a metaphor for life—100’s are self-inflicted life training in a controlled setting. 100’s push me to my mental and physical edge and allow me to choose my reaction or sometimes lack of reaction. They teach me how to adapt to a situation that for the most part is completely in (and out) of my control…I can check out at anytime I choose; however, I choose to stay to see if I can figure it out (like life). Put anyone under physical and emotional stress and see how they react—it gives you a glimpse into their character. Similarly, put someone at the top of their game in a competition—how that person treats the competition also defines their character.

Life does have aide stations but you have to look for them. Life has layers that run deep, but only those who go down to discover those layers understand what is above them.

Life is training for something bigger…but it’s also just a fun run.

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