Whose idea was this anyway? I can’t even remember if it was a New Year’s resolution or if I just thought running 31 miles in the woods sounded fun. After this experience though, my admiration for ultra runners has increased tenfold. These races are hard work and I spent the better part of the last three months, running and running and running. Luckily I have had some great people to train with and it’s been fun.
The RACE: Darin, the kids and I headed up to Bellingham to meet Ronda, Kris, Steve and Micheal who were already at Kevin and Carla’s house. Kevin and Carla, friends of ours in Bellingham were enjoying a Hawaiian vacation, and graciously let us crash at their house for the weekend. After a restless night for me, nerves I think, we runners headed for Fairhaven Park, the race start and finish.
After bathroom breaks and package pickup, over 300 runners lined up for the start of the race. My number one goal was to finish and my second goal was to not be last. Darin pulled up just as we were starting and cheered us on.
The first 6 miles was a fairly flat trail with some great views of the ocean. I felt strong and managed to stay with the back pack. Darin, Leah, Cole, and Cole’s Gameboy, were waiting at the first aid station. It was great to see them and Leah announced in a perky voice that she had thrown up! What?? Apparently it all happened in the McDonald’s drive thru, but not to worry, she had managed to roll down the window and most of the barf was all over the outside of the car. As Darin and the kids jumped back into the Barfmobile, I headed onto the trail. The next five miles were switchbacks and fun rollers and my pace was consistent. It was the best part of the race for me. After aid station #2, I did a run/walk up three miles of gravel road with some serious elevation gain. Still feeling good, I refueled, talked a bit to Darin and headed out for the next 8 mile section. This is pretty much where the wheels came off! The first four miles on the ridge trail were fairly technical, so it was almost like hiking for me – avoiding rocks and roots, and a bit of scrambling up boulders. But the trail was beautiful and I’m guessing the view would have been amazing if the clouds had lifted. After an hour and a half, I figured I must be getting close to the aid station, I mean really, I couldn’t be going *that* slow. Well actually I could be going that slow, slow enough in fact to take almost three hours to get through 8 miles. Seriously! Some highlights of my time up on Chuckanut Mountain: I got to meet Robin and talk about kids, Canada and racing; a number of people offered me food and drink as they passed by (did I really look that bad?); and I got to labor up little Chinscaper and reminisce about climbing Mt St Helen’s.
After the final uphill push it was a very slow down hill to the last aid station. Darin met me on the hill and ran about ½ mile with me. I think he was worried about my pace, since the cut off time was 8 hours for the race and it didn’t look like I was going to make it. Luckily at that last aid station, 6 hours and 45 minutes into the race, I set my mind to finishing before the cut off time and kicked it into gear (relatively speaking). At 7 hours and 30 minutes, I saw a city sign that said 2 miles to Fairhaven Park. I literally yelled with joy. I can do this! Half mile later, sure enough the next city sign, 1.5 miles to Fairhaven Park, ok looking good. Another half mile, another city sign, 1.5 miles to Fairhaven Park. What the …. About this time, I started asking random people out walking their dogs and strolling with their kids, Where is Fairhaven Park? How much further to the park shelter? I’m not sure, but I think some people pulled their kids a little closer when the crazy lady started shouting out questions. Somehow I kept moving my legs and with a time of 7 hours and 55 minutes, I ran across the finish line and collapsed. Well ok, I didn’t collapse, I just walked around a little dazed, I ate a bit, talked to friends and spent some well earned time sitting on a bench in the sunshine. Oh, and I wasn’t last!
The next day we were planning to do a quick trip to Canada to see Grandma S who isn't doing well, but on the way to the border, Cole rolled down his window and christened the Barfmobile on the other side. And this adventure called Life continues …
Note: First picture is another great shot from Glenn Tachiyama