It has been a week since the most painful, wonderful girl’s weekend of my life took place. Time to put it down and preserve the memory. As I write this I am fully recovered just experiencing the fatigue that comes after a race of this distance. I apologize in advance for how lengthy but I promised not to leave any details out that I can remember.
Welcome to my Jackpot Ultra Running Festival race recap. 48-hour race. Start time 10am Friday, February 12th, 2016.
Smart training and a final long run of 60 miles had me rock solid prepared going into taper. Proper sleep, nutrition, regular sports massage and chiropractic visits all contributed to this in keeping me injury free.
Both my husband and son were stricken with awful upper respiratory infections. I had my doctor on alert. I knew I would come down with it, the question, would be when. That day was Sunday the 31st, just 12 days before the race. Bronchitis. It was battle stations. The plan was a shot in the katookus and to take antibiotics for 5 days. I had to be careful when coughing to protect my back and ribs.
Monday I spoke to Registered Sports Dietician Dina Griffin and we ironed out a nutrition plan. You have to plan for the ifs, ands, and buts for distances like this, having a game plan helps to be prepared in any situation.
Leading up to the race I had the dream team crew assembled. A crew can make or break a race; this KREw could only set me up for the best possible result. Bobbie and Kathryn returned to be with me from Jackpot last year. Business partner and my coach Rebecca, Tiffany, LeAnne, Kathy, and Teri were all on board. Later at mile 40 I was surprised with another amazing woman, Brooke.
Rebecca and I spoke leading up to the race. I didn’t need a plan or strategy. I had minimum goal of 100 miles and once I reached that, if all things were still going well, continue on “until”. She would keep an eye on me in the event I went into dark places. I love this woman. Best business partner and amazing friend. She knows me better than a lot of people. We had been through hell together and got ourselves out of that, I knew without a doubt she would have my back during this race.
My concerns leading into the race were cold, my feet, and being sick. It snowed 2 weeks before the race. Seriously. Snow. In Vegas. I am acclimated to desert life. Last year at Jackpot it was 86 degrees, I loved it, it was perfect for me but brutally hot for others. I ordered a micro fleece base layer for the cold nights and for peace of mind. Having wrong sized shoes and a comedy of errors riddled my feet with issues at Jackpot last year. My magic slippers arrived the Wednesday before the race, Skechers Ultra Trail 3. These shoes had all the right updates to make this the perfect shoe for me over the previous model Ultra 2. I have wicked bunions and the toe box was just a smidge wider in that area, they felt like heaven on my feet. Just the right amount of cushion and very light compared to other high cushion shoes. A shake out run on the Jackpot course let me know they would do just fine. In my taper runs I was seeing how my body handled Dayquil, it may become a necessary component at race time if I was still sick. It is important to know what is bothering you in your mind when leading up to a race. Address it, prepare for it and all other scenarios that could possibly happen. If you do that, on race day you go into automatic plan of action.
Before the race I had dinner with my beautiful friends Bobbie and Kathryn. We ironed out details, and they distracted my crazy taper brain. These two are my rocks, two of my closest friends. I consulted them after Jackpot last year before signing up for this year. I knew, without them, I couldn’t do it.
Quick backstory. My Mom’s name was Bunny. Her favorite color was purple. On her deathbed (I hate you cancer) she made me promise to find my joy and return to ultra distances, they were my happy place. #4Bunny. For the whole story visit my personal blog: http://coachkristie.com/2014/10/18/4bunny-2/.
LeAnne had shirts made, and I had necklaces made for this special KREw of ladies.
I had my gear and supplies set out in the days leading up to the race. A plastic tote and cooler would keep it all organized for when my brain would inevitably shut off. Bottles labeled, and a legal pad to help my crew to keep track of my fueling. That ball of fur and love, Cosmo, at the bottom of the picture was completely spoiled by my crew and they even brought him to me to take a lap with me.
The race venue is very close to my house. A start time of 10am (campsite set up at 8am) meant no need for me to get up with the roosters. I woke up without the alarm and went downstairs. I’ll be honest; I didn’t feel good, at all. I had slept ok, but had chills and heavy sweats in the middle of the night. I took my temperature and I had a low-grade fever. Years of training and a huge crew that many traveled from other states were on the line. I had also promised my husband I would not attempt this distance again for a very long time. I had one shot at this. Time for me to SIUB (Suck It Up Buttercup) and get the job done. It was going to hurt, but I would get it done.
First breakfast was a two-egg salad sandwich on Papa Pita thinwich with flax seed bread. Banana and coffee (Boston Crème Donut flavor- be jealous) all chased with a shot of Dayquil and a bottle of water.
I packed the car and headed off to meet the crew to set up camp. My husband captured this photo:
Heather was back from last year, we got to meet her boyfriend Scott. Not only was he amazing while taking care of her, he volunteered in the aid station and took care of all of us out there.
Getting close to start time:
The weather was perfect. Mid to upper 70’s little to know wind. Bright blue skies. The race venue is at Cornerstone Park. I watched this park being built. I run there often. My son learned to ride his bike there. This park is very sentimental to me.
The course is a horseshoe small track of 2.38-mile loops. You go out clockwise and double back counter clockwise. Mixed surface of concrete, pavement, loose dirt trail, and single-track rocky/gravel trail. It is around a lake full of beautiful ducks, geese, seagulls and other wildlife.
Beyond Limits Running puts on the race. Shout out to race directors Ken and Stephanie who finally tied the knot. They really put on amazing races and think of everything so each runner is guaranteed a good experience. This photo was from day two, Stephanie and I had a giggle about the popsicles, and they were, um, uniquely shaped. I’ll just leave it at that.
45 minutes before the race start I had my power mocha shake. 2 scoops Generation UCAN chocolate protein, 1 scoop cinnamon Generation UCAN, 1 cup of coffee and almond milk. I also took 6 branch chain amino acids.
My son plays for the Nevada Storm travel hockey team, I was surprised just before the start by Danielle and Derrick from our hockey family who came by to wish me well.
Grandpa Bill and Grandpa Mike from my son’s school JAWS (Jog and Walk Stars) family wished me well last year at Jackpot; they came back this year too. Support means everything when doing a race of this distance.
And so it began. My plan was to walk either the first or first two loops to get properly warmed up. I was going to be here a while so I had plenty of time. Also when you are looking at this distance you really have to know your body and know how best to support body preservation.
Just before the start the race photographer captured this:
This is me on day two with my son’s card; loop 27 (his hockey number)
All my other fuel was at the camp site: Generation UCAN, UCAN snack bars, pretzels, pickle juice, sour cream and onion chips, and plain chips. I also had sea salt, peanut butter and honey sandwiches cut into squares.
Having fun with LeAnne:
Nutrition and fueling was good. Every two hours I would take two branch chain amino acids (my magic pixie dust) and every 1:15-1:30 I would take in fuel. Electrolytes (nuun) one tablet in water, every 4 hours or more, not less. Pickle juice as so desired. Dayquil. Plain water I sipped, I’m a sipper. A phrase that would be used A LOT during this race “hydration NOT AN issue”. To say the least, I had this WELL under control. My poor bladder wasn’t as thrilled and would let me know as the race continued, naturally at the furthest location from the closest bathroom.
I mentioned before the race directors try to think of everything so each runner has a good race experience. For example, massage therapist on duty during the race. Yep, you heard that right. My plan was to make a stop every 25 miles. This became a key component in battling lower back pain. This image is from mile 75 in day two:
My husband was able to come and take a lap with me. That was a very special moment. It was albeit comical as he didn’t quite understand the job of a pacer and I jokingly told him he was fired (I was serious). Seeing him out there gave me so much energy, I wish he could have stayed more, but was thankful for that lap.
I was on the single track area chatting with some folks and as we came around the corner when one said to me “I don’t have to ask, that has to be your son by the look on this face”. I look up and there he was. My sun, moon and stars. He and my husband were hitting the road to go to a hockey tournament in California and they were wishing me good luck. Seeing them meant the world to me.
My son’s hockey team, The Storm won the championship, 3rd banner of the year. They sent me a good luck video when I had 15 miles left to go. Love each and every one of these boys, the coaches and parents.
The sun went down and I was surprised, I was still warm. I felt good. Then magic happened, my business partner, coach, and dear friend Rebecca arrived. This picture pretty much says it all. It had been 4 years since we had seen each other. I adore this woman.
Here’s where things begin to get mottled. I have snippets of memory. So bear with me during the rest of this recap.
Around 9pm I switched over to solid foods with a slice of pizza that was quite possibly the most amazing slice of pizza ever. I had practiced in training with solid foods so I knew what I could handle.
As night settled the temperatures started dropping drastically. I was behind it, my core temperature dropped. I got cold. I forgot to put on my warm base layer. I went into dark places. The only way I can explain part of it was sensory overload. I felt, heard, and saw everything but with this acute sensitivity. It was overwhelming. My skin was crawling. Everything bothered me. I got on my own nerves. Smells, sounds, lights, feelings. Fabric itched my skin, voices were too loud, lights too bright, pain in my back and feet was hard to put out of my mind. I was in full on sensory overload and was on the verge of going batsh&t crazy.
Coming in somewhere around mile 40 I was met just before the campsite by Tiffany she had someone on facetime. My dear friend Laura was checking in. She asked me where I was, I said mile 40, then behind a tent someone jumped out and said “what mile?”. Big surprise was this amazing woman who drove all the way from Arizona to surprise me, Brooke. This photo is actually from the finish:
Seeing her greatly lifted my spirits. Surprises like this I would learn would be what would distract my brain and keep me going. She and I set off together. Some times I would just chatter to myself to keep my brain/body from shutting down. I remember passing people sleeping and saying to Brooke “while they’re napping, I’m a lapping”.
I remember seeing a shadow dart across the path in the distance. I pointed it out to Brooke. “Did you see that???” I could tell the look on her face…she thought I was hallucinating. That was a real possibility. As we rounded the corner, what I thought was a rat? A cat? It came bounding across the path in front of us. It was a desert hare. I had my bunny sighting. I needed Mom to check in on me, and she did.
I had an agreement with my crew that I would only sleep if I got to the point where I knew if I sat/laid down, I would go to sleep quickly. I am a toss and turner kind of sleeper and didn’t want to waste time trying to fall asleep.
I was out with LeAnne and I was in dark places again. I finally started yawning. I got really cranky. Really cranky. I told LeAnne I could sleep. We got back to the camp and settled into her car. Another bunny hopped by right when I needed one. Heated seats, my super fluffy hockey Mom blanket, and the white noise of the fan in her car helped me to snuggle in and go to sleep.
I opened my eyes and the sun was rising. I felt better. Not fresh, but rested. I was out for about 90 minutes.
Time to address the feet. I knew I needed to address them but I chose to wait, as I didn’t want to stop and risk my core temperature going down. I also knew once I started I would have to periodically stop and put on fresh bandages. While in the warmth of LeAnne’s car I took off my shoes. I had just a couple blisters. Miracle of miracles nothing around my bunions. Each big toe had one on the side and I had a small one on the back of my heel. No bruised/black toenails, all in tact. The magic slippers were working.
These are my shoes after 100 miles, truly magic slippers
I lanced blisters, bandaged up with band aids and mac n cheese duck tape (Team NC shout out), changed into fresh socks (shout out Thorlos Experia), slathered up with anti chafe (shout out team sponsor Blue Steel) and put my shoes back on. It was time to get moving again.
As I started out you could see where others were in their level of suffering. One of the most supportive people (we shared many hugs and tears throughout this race) was Francisco, both his IT bands were out and he was still smiling and moving forward, one foot in front of the other.
Soon it was time to shed the layers and change into fresh clothes. New energy was about to take the course. At 9am was the start of the other races (Marathon, 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, and 100 miler. With this Showgirls and Elvis arrived to kick off the start of those races.
The live band started
Part way along the way in day two these spunky cheerleaders were there, they greeted you in the finish shoot every time as if you were winning the race, this fella and I took some laps together later in the day (sorry cannot remember his name) he has completed thousands of races (many ultras) he was a machine.
All of this was awesome. I’ll admit to being a little grumpy as the new races started. I was hurting. Suffering. I was tired. All these excited fresh-faced people made me grumble under my breath. Seeing them did breathe new life into me and I was excited to see more familiar faces from last year’s race.
One of my crew (she popped in on day one and helped) was there to run the 6-hour. Kathy came away with a 3rd place AG win and stayed on to crew the rest of the way until my finish.
Sky (she is one heck of a volleyball player and soccer player I tell you). And yes, those are giant mushrooms. I love my crew!
Lisa and Austin
Today was about powering on. My crew stepped in and paced other runners while taking turns with me. Our campsite became a hub for other runners. My crew fed them, got coffee; we even supplied everyone with Blue Steel if they needed it.
He told me to ham it up (taking a lap with Teri from my crew)
Then he said “WORK IT” So I “Worked IT” gave him my best Zoolander Blue Steel pose
Having the photographer there was a fun comic relief. He was funny and a great distraction. Fatigue and pain was setting in. I was still coughing but was no longer taking Dayquil. I had to make sure I protected my back when I coughed and laughed. I was deteriorating and needed to protect myself in every way I could. I could see fatigue and delirium was setting in on my crew. Tiffany gave me a giggle when she jumped sky high over the “snake” on the trail. Poor defenseless stick…..
Remember the food menu board? The promise of turkey sandwiches kept me in the moment and motivated me to keep moving until they were served. I destroyed 4 of those bad boys, then later came back and had two more. I was at the point of staying in the loop I was in to keep from seeing another night looming ahead.
My crew was staying on top of me to make sure I ate, drank (hydration NOT an issue), got sunscreen reapplied (shout out to Raw Elements USA), and stayed on top of foot care. They also took care of each other and other runners. These women are AMAZING.
Me working on blisters:
As the sun began setting I was smarter about bundling up and being warm. I remembered my base layer. Pain was setting in deeper and deeper. Someone asked me to explain it. My back felt like back labor. If you have ever given childbirth and had “back labor” you know what that is. My feet (not that I know how this feels, but was the best description) felt like I was walking on fire that had thumbtacks facing up. Looking around you saw all levels of suffering and people still moving forward.
I was a hot mess. The sensory overload happened again. I knew what to expect, so that was good. My crew was getting tired. Somewhere as the night wore on I was reminded that Rebecca’s flight was before the official finish of the race. We all agreed it was time to readjust my goal, as I was NOT going on without her. I wanted her on my final lap, period. So now it was just about getting that buckle.
I love how my crew tried to get me warm coffee (I took three sips and was done) and hot chicken broth (one sip and didn’t want it). They took the most amazing care of me and went out of their way to try anything they could for me. A crew can make or break a race. This crew made my race, and frankly other races for others they helped.
Night continued. Body temperature was good. I was keeping up with the massages every 25 miles. Those and tiger balm relieved my back pain. My feet, another story. I wanted to chop them off.
This is a shot of Bobbie watching over as Kathryn works on my feet. You can also see signs that the most amazing team sent to motivate and cheer me on (again, the surprises are what kept me going)
Here are the signs (from my kitchen table a few days later)
More bragging on the crew. While my sensory overload couldn’t handle it, this was so cool, and it was really appreciated by me and the other runners. Never take anything too seriously, always have fun!
I mentioned before but with 15 miles left I got a video good luck from my son and his hockey teammates. It kept me moving. I needed that, more than those boys will ever know.
I was in dark places. Hanging on to little things to keep me moving. There were noticeably a lot fewer people on the course as people dropped or finished the other races. I just kept focusing on little things to motivate me like the next thing I was going to eat. Talking to my son before he went to bed. I was powering forward. LeAnne got me to tell her how I met my husband. Retelling that story brought me out of a deep dark place.
A memory snippet. I remember needing food. Wanting food. Getting to the aid station and looking around and nothing striking a chord. The volunteers started naming food to try to get something to click in my mind. One of them mentioned a grilled cheese sandwich. My eyes perked up. It sounded good. It ended up being the most amazing grilled cheese ever.
Rebecca took a loop with me. I had completely forgotten we all changed my goal to the 100, I wasn’t going to continue on until morning. Reality sunk in at that moment I only had 3 more loops left. My whole crew would take my final lap with me. For the first time I realized, holy sh&t I am going to do this.
I took my laps with Rebecca. The last loop we picked up everyone. I picked up my last card for the final loop, it was my loop for Mom. The card said “#4Bunny” on it. Rebecca and I were leading a parade of awesome. The crew was behind us. Other runners on the course new I was going on the final lap, lots of hugs and high fives and well wishes. As we rounded the final corner before going on to the single-track rock from h&ll part of the course my crew all went on to be at the finish. I wanted Rebecca with me. The emotion of what was happening set in. The tears started. I cursed this part of the course (it was the most beautiful and most painful part). Just as I was to reach the final stretch to the finish I gave Rebecca my things to carry and hugged her and thanked her. She of all people new this was more than a race. So much significance. I hugged her again and she went up to the finish.
I turned the corner and saw the finish line, put all the pain aside and ran. I ran to the finish to be greeted by the open arms of my crew.
The moment I had waited for was here. I got to sit in the “finisher’s chair”. The race director put my medal around my neck…. then reached into his pocket and brought out the buckle. Anyone who has ever earned a buckle will tell you this is an emotional life changing experience. That has to be the biggest understatement. There are no words to describe this moment:
I would find out later that I had placed 1st in my age group and 5th female overall.
As I was coming in for the finish, Ed was at 200 miles. He would later beat the course record, a Badwater veteran, and going back again. He is a class act and a beast of an athlete. Every lap he had kind words for everyone.
Thank you to all the generous KR Endurance team sponsors for continued support: Skechers Performance, Generation UCAN, Nuun, Zensah, Raw Elements USA, Glimmer Gear, 1BandID, Une Vie Designs, PlowON Gum, Gray Cycling, Blue Steel Sports, Synergy wetsuits, eNRG Performance Dina Griffin, and Swim Spray.
Thank you to my family, friends, Storm family, IRC and Team NC for supporting me during the insane rigors of a gigantic training cycle.
Thank you to the best team EVER. KR Endurance. The most amazing and supportive group of people, period. I LOVE YOU ALL!
My family, my support system: My loving husband Joel and our son Ty. No way could I have ever have done this without their support. They saw me go through a demanding training cycle. Put up with mood swings, nutrition patterns, and more. Their love is everything to me. I love you Joel and Ty to the moon and back.
This. These amazing women. They were there for me during the good, the bad, and the ugly. They helped other runners in need. They endured sleep deprivation, my darkness. They were all committed without a doubt to make sure I did this. Without these women I could not have. This was by far the most painful wonderful girl’s weekend ever. Kathryn, LeAnne, Tiffany, Teri (not pictured), Rebecca, Brooke, Bobbie and Kathy, thank you will never be a big enough for all of you amazing women. I love you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my feet, for being a part of this amazing day.
One final Thank You. To my business partner, coach, and dear friend Rebecca. We have been through hell together. We made the best decision ever creating KR Endurance. Together we can do anything. I know this. You are an amazing Mom, Coach, friend, and athlete. Thank you for always having my back, blue thumb giggles and your friendship. Thank you.
Bobbie and Kathryn went home. LeAnne headed back to CA. Brooke to AZ and Rebecca to the airport. But not before Rebecca put this on my car:
Kathy, Tiffany and I chilled out at my house. I had to show off for them and go up and down the stairs (remember my magic pixie dust? there’s a reason for them, they work).
I was closely supervised during sleep after the race
Tiffany and I went out for a celebratory breakfast