More than just a few races, this trip was also a honeymoon for Ryan and I. Barely able to scrape up enough cash for this adventure we set off with high hopes of having fun and learning a thing or two about ourselves. When our trip started out by having someone drive into us while pumping gas at the start of our trip we should have just turned around and driven home. Instead we pushed through, hoping for three weeks of fun and to compete in both of our key races for the year-UROC 100k for me and Grindstone 100 for Ryan. Well, life had other plans for us.
As we drove further away from home we were soon treated to a clamp missing on the front of our truck camper which meant we weren’t driving anywhere until we fixed the issue. It was late at night and luckily a dollar store was open. Ryan went inside and bought all they had, a cheap piece of twine. I researched online and found the nearest Walmart which was open for 24 hours. We had a 6 mile drive to get there. Luckily we made it there and we got a tie down for the camper. Back on the road again, until we were so tired we had to take a break. We took a nap at a rest stop and continued on.
The next day we did a short run in Iowa before continuing on our journey to Colorado. We finally arrived in Frisco 2 days after we left and went for a “run” to almost 12,000 feet. It was more of a jog/walk/wanna die but we were out west trying to acclimate. I knew better and didn’t pay attention but this was much too quick of an ascent for me. I was going to suffer with the elevation. We had a restless night of sleeping in the camper, experiencing a bit of stokes breathing and headaches. We should have gone back down to Denver, but instead we tried to do more running which ended up being another painfully slow sufferfest.
The weather started to deteriorate and we were stricken with crazy thunderstorms and then snow! Jack puppy had a big fall running down the trail and hit his face. He ended up in the vet for x-rays because he was wimpering when he opened his mouth or bit into anything. Luckily it was just a bruised jaw and he was given some pain medication. The mornings were freezing and it was a challenge to get our dishes washed because the water froze so quickly. We were not prepared for these temperatures. The trees were glistening in the brightest yellow I have ever seen on a tree! There were orange and red colors as well! We kept trying for more runs and they just kept getting more challenging. Then the handle that pops up the camper broke. The camper fell on our heads and we had to find a place to buy a new handle. Luckily we found a place in Denver who sold the part. We drove down to Denver and luckily the part worked! Okay, back on track.
We drove to Gray and Torey and had an adventurous ride up to the trail head. Ryan ran ahead with Jack puppy and I hiked up. Ryan waited for me and the three of us started up the steeper talus section of the hike. Suddenly a very aggressive dog came charging down the trail and started to attack Jack puppy. I started screaming and running after the dogs trying to save my little pup. Jack puppy ran toward Ryan and I and Ryan grabbed Jack by the collar and picked him up off the ground with the other dog trying to bite his leg. I was screaming for the owners to get their dog off my dog and finally they did. They said their dog never acts aggressively and they didn’t know what was going on. Well, five minutes later we ran into a person who was warning us of an aggressive dog. We were not too happy about this. We had fun standing on top of two 14ers and then came down with searing headaches.
We drove back to the mountains and spent another cold night camping. I started to cough up stuff and have some trouble breathing. We tried another run and I got a bleeding hemorrhoid so I was now going to be on ass cream and hopefully be healed by the race. We drove to Aspen for some running and found a nice dirt road to camp off of. It was pouring rain and we were excited to hear the rain stop at some point during the night. What we woke up to was about 6″ of new snow! The kicker was when we were driving out there was a freshly fallen tree that someone removed with a hatchet. How lucky were we! We tried to do a run at Snowmass and I just suffered from the altitude. I was losing hope on the race at this point.
We drove to Leadville where Mt Elbert stood covered in snow and surrounded by bluebird skies. Ryan ran ahead and I tried to hang. I felt so sick and finally asked him if he would mind sticking with me for the climb up. Ryan kept me company up the mountain and we were stricken with headaches. The summit was beautiful and I was so excited to tag another high point! Jack puppy was so proud of his summit! We had an uneventful trip down and I started to swell up in my face, hands and feet and became much sicker. Ryan took me to Golden where it was under 6,000 feet and all I did was sleep and eat for two days. I prayed that it would be enough for me to recover.
We drove up the night before the race and slept at 9k where my cough returned. I also almost killed us during the snowstorm by sliding on some black ice on Vail Pass. Someone was looking out for us and we were okay. After a few hours of sleep we drove to the race start where it was absolutely frigid. I was not feeling right yet and figured I would give it my best. The race started and I was surrounded by the most amazing runners from all over the world! It was incredible just being there next to them! As we took off I could feel in my lungs and my legs that today was going to be a battle. I tried to stay strong as I suffered up the first climb. I had a mild headache and the nausea set in quickly. The hose on my hydration bladder would start to freeze and the water would make me gag. By the time I was on the descent my hemorrhoid was killing me and I was feeling sick. Ryan was at mile 5 waiting for me and I told him I needed my ass cream at the next aid station.
The next 9 miles were brutal. I could barely run and barely breath. My legs were dead, my ass felt like there was a knife stuck in it, I was frozen and I could not eat or drink without throwing up. How could I go 62 miles without food and water. My only goal at that point was to make it to Copper Mountain. I wanted so badly to see that beautiful ridge on top of the SKY chutes. I came into mile 13.7 feeling so awful and depleted. Ryan gave me my cream that I applied in the porto potty where I learned the hemorrhoid was now bleeding a lot. I saw Everett and Alyssa there and was so sick that I could barely smile. I made my way up the next climb and by the time I got to the snowline I was coughing up blood. At that moment my heart sank and I knew my race was over.
A woman who was a medic was arguing with me to turn back and run almost 9 miles back to Frisco. I told her is was better for me to go up and over the pass and into Copper which was shorter. A guy was coming up and told her he would take me over the pass. He sacrificed his race to walk with me over the pass while I coughed blood and my headache became unbearable. My vision was now blurred and each step was beyond painful. He had a talk with me about the difference between being tough and being stupid. Dropping at Copper was being smart because I was risking my life and other peoples lives if I became a rescue. He made me feel better about my decision. I thought about all the people who were rooting for me, believing in me and the ones who helped me get there. I felt like I let them down but in my heart I knew it was not fitness that did me in, it was my health. I prayed that everyone would understand. This was my first DNF and I know it was the right decision because when I woke up the next day I did not regret it.
The guy who pulled me over the pass took me to treeline and I told him to run ahead and let everyone know I was dropping and not well. He took one last look at me and told me to be careful before dissapearing down the trail. It was a long walk out and I was trying to keep my sanity. I could feel delirium setting in from the pain and my lungs and throat hurt so bad from the coughing. I focused on seeing Ryan again and with each step told myself I had to get to the next aid station because only then would I be safe. I was terrified and wasn’t sure if I would collapse on the trail or not. After almost 7 hours I was at mile 27, and saw Ryan, Travis and Alyssa standing there just looking at me. I don’t remember much after that. I think I was so focused on survival that once I saw safety I just let go. My next clear memory was laying in the hospital room hooked up to oxygen and enjoying it. My headache got much better and was just annoying at that point and my nausea slowly went away. The cough slowed down too.
Over that 27 mile period I drank less than 1 liter of water and ate 1/2 of a gel flask, 1/3 of a banana and a small piece of orange. I probably threw up most of it. The doctor told Ryan to get me out of Frisco and down to under 7k feet. He got me in the car and we drove towards Kansas. We stayed in a hotel that night and someone thought it would be fun to break into our camper. I wish I saw the look on their faces when they smelled it and saw all of the stinky clothes and shoes on the floor of the camper from us rushing out of town. Luckily they didn’t steal anything. We got out of there and started driving through Kansas.
It was warm out and it was Sunday afternoon. All of a sudden BOOM! One of our tires blows out. Ryan pulls over and we get the spare on. Our other rear tire looks ready to blow and there were no tire stores open. We found a Walmart just over an hour away and hoped we would make it there without another blowout. We made it and dropped of the car. When we went to pay for the new tires our bank cards were not working. Perfect timing for the bank to think our cards were stolen so they shut them down. After several phonecalls and answering of questions we were allowed access to our money again.
Ryan decides he wants to drive straight through to Virginia. It was going to be a rough ride. We got pulled over in Missouri for a taillight being out and were so tired. We drove past the Arch and kept plugging away until neither of us could keep our eyes open. We took a nap at a truck stop and continued to beautiful Virginia! It was so pretty and Ryan was very excited about his race. We tried to find a place to sleep and ended up spending the night at a truck stop. We woke up and did a beautiful run! It felt so good to be a sea level! My legs were still not right and I was still coughing but could tell I was getting better.
We tried to find a campground that night but because of the government shut down they were closed. Some old dudes who got kicked out of the campground told us of where to camp for the night. We slept off a dirt road with yahoos freaking us out all night. We were not going to spend another night there! We woke up and went for a run where I managed to cut my leg on something. We didn’t know what it was and I did pull some sort of object from the wound. It didn’t hurt too bad at first but as the night went on it became unbearably sore. I woke up to it being very swollen and I was having trouble walking.
I tried to go for a run and it was not happening. My leg swelled up a bunch and I knew it was infected. We also received bad news that Ryans race Grindstone 100 was not happening because of the government shutdown. I wanted to cry for Ryan. The whole trip was one thing after another and then he doesn’t even get a chance to race. It was hard to swallow so we hopped in the car and drove home to NH, taking turns through the night. It was a long drive and 20 minutes from home we got pulled over for the tailight again. Luckily the cop let us go after we shared our story.
We got home at 4am and I woke up with my leg throbbing and swollen now down my foot. My doctor was kind enough to see me and as suspected I have a very bad infection in my leg. I was given a tetanus shot and some antibiotics and told to rest today. There is a slight chance that i will be able to run the Nipmuck Marathon on Sunday. Either way I will be there whether I am running or crewing for Ryan.
I want to thank my sponsors for helping me on this adventure. I feel like I let you down and will make it up to you! I just need some time to regroup and get better. La Sportiva, Choucas Hats, UltrAspire and JULBO USA you all have a special place in my heart. Thank you to my coach Jack who prepared me perfectly for this race. I wish my body responded to the altitude better because I feel like I am finally ready to play with the “big girls”. Thank you to Ryan and Jack puppy for sacrificing so much to help me chase this silly dream. I feel like I let you down this time and I am so sorry you didn’t even get to toe the line. Thank you to my friends, you inspire me and believe in me. Thank you to everyone for your help and well wishes. I am not discouraged, instead I am excited to focus on lofty goals (at lower elevations!). This trip was the kick in the ass I needed. I am more excited than ever to chase that dream and chase the fastest girls in the world! Watch out 2014, I am on a mission!
I want to finish by first of all congratulating the amazing runners who did finish UROC!!!!! I also want to congratulate Aliza on her new course record at VT 50 last weekend and to Jane and Jess for finishing their first 50 mile race their as well!!!! I want to leave you with this:
Life sometimes brings you to dark places to teach you a lesson. You have to look deep and it is very hard to stay positive when you have three weeks of non stop nonsense but somehow I did. These things that happened aren’t the end of the world. They are just little bumps along the way. No matter how bad your life may seem take a look around. There is always something beautiful. Our trip may have been a disaster but we got to see beautiful mountains, see old and new friends, wake up to the prettiest sunrises, a rainbow, and snow capped mountains! We got to see spectacular foliage and got to share it all together. Jack puppy taught me something important on this trip. When life throws poop at you, instead of walking around it-sniff it, roll in it and wear it proudly knowing that you didn’t let a little poop ruin your day. You will be able to take a nice bath and wash it all away. 🙂