Sorry this has taken a little while. Honestly, it feels as though it's been forever since Sawtooth, though Google Calendar tells me it's been exactly a month. It felt like forever ago when it was only a week out, too. This will probably make for a less detailed and possibly less accurate description than normal so we'll see how this goes.
As a runner I know once said - sometimes DNF stands for Did Nothing Fatal. I remember it being really quite humid out from the get go. And warm but at least it was cloudy for a while and that helped quite a bit. It wasn't HOT right away but definitely not cool.
It seemed crazy crowded at the beginning and it was really hard to know what kind of speed to go. I tried to aim for easy and comfortable and not pay attention to what others were doing (ie, don't worry about people going by) and to not stress if I was behind a conga line once we hit the single track. I seemed to go back and forth between being all by myself (how was that even possible?) and then catching a conga line and hanging with them a bit before going around them. I tried to balance going slow with not going so slow that I'd be digging a hole for myself later on. There was lots of talking around but I wasn't too chatty at the beginning, mostly because paces weren't set. I was mostly enjoying listening to other people talking, though.
The first aid station is crewless - there's just no good place for people to park and so you don't see your crew until about 20 miles in. It's a little out and back to get to that first aid station, which a lot of people hate because you go down a steep hill for maybe half a mile for the sole purpose of hitting the aid station and then have to turn around and go right back up. I actually really liked it - I love out and back sections because they give you a chance to see people. I was still close enough to see Marcus and Ron here, which was 10ish miles in. Possibly a sign that I was going too fast? I refilled my Nathan pack, emptied my garbage, and perused the food table. It was a goal to slow down enough to SEE what was on the table (something I'm terrible at) and make myself take something back out on the trail with me so I could snack at regular intervals in-between gels. Nothing looked too appetizing since it was typical short ultra fare that early on. I tried an orange. Mmmmmmmm. Delicious, if a bit full of seeds. I grabbed a couple more slices to take with and a couple cookies and headed back on my way.
Despite having crew, I opted for little drop Tupperwares at most of the available places. I figured this way I wouldn't have to worry about my crew getting lost on new (for them) roads and I also wouldn't have to worry about figuring out how many gels and s-caps to grab for the next section since it would all be portioned out already. I will definitely do some version of this again - it was super helpful to just have to grab what was in the Tupperware (including fresh baggies for snacks/trash/wet wipes) without having to think and it definitely reduced time spent digging around for gels/s-caps or forgetting to get a new baggie or what have you.
The Beaver Bay to Silver Bay section includes these horrid, awful wide open sections on rock cliff faces. Really quite pretty when it's not 90 degrees and 90% humidity (both stats I've heard thrown around and while I don't know if they're true, I'll believe them). So I was going through this section right in the heat of the day, making it rather like an oven with the heat radiating off the rocks. A humid oven. Oh, it was gross. Amusingly enough, it was in here that I decided my cheese stick sounded tasty. It was a rather warm cheese stick that was thinking about becoming melty and I knew it SHOULDN'T taste good but . . . yum. I actually made a point of eating it slowly, thinking my stomach might just rebel against it but it was delicious and I wish I had had another one. In here, I caught up to a small group of people and we chatted a bit. Alfredo is the only one I really remember because he has an awesome name. He also had trekking poles all folding up and stored on his Nathan which I thought was a little silly at first (when I had first seen them on him 20 miles ago) but throughout the day they seemed more and more appealing. Anyway, this group was going REALLY slow through here. Walking pretty much everything, including flats and some downhills. I hung with them for a while because it was nasty out and I knew I didn't want to go all that much faster anyway. After a while, though, I knew I had to move at least a little faster while my legs were still fresh and happy, so I went around them. I wasn't going too much faster, but I was running the downhills and the flats and I felt good about my decision.
I started the day in my Austin-Jarrow jersey and typical race shorts, knowing it was going to be hot and figuring I wouldn't change until night time. I am definitely done with my race shorts for ultra distances now - after chaffing from the seams at Voyageur and what they did at Sawtooth. I changed out of them in Silver Bay - where they were already soaked from the humidity and definitely rubbing me funny, despite the body glide. Andrea tells me that I may have alarmed one of my crew when I set him to the task of finding sunscreen for reapplication and then walked a few steps away from the crowd, turned my back, and changed my shorts.
Coming into the aid stations were generally pretty awesome. The early ones are full of people - volunteers, crew, spectators. You just feel like a rock star coming into this mass of people cheering for you. I came into Silver Bay rather hot but left feeling pretty awesome in general, ready to tackle the next section. I also discovered the fabulousness of having ice down your bra. How have I not done this before? An added plus is that it slowly drips down your shirt and helps keep your core cool. I also went back to my hat for this race. I've found that generally with my short hair, having my hair down and a hat on top actually makes me more hot so I've been avoiding it all summer. However, I wanted my head covered as sun protection so I tried some pigtails and that worked great. Having a hat also lets you have a hat full of ice going out of the aid station and that was also wonderful. I was super sad one all the of ice was gone from my hat and bra.
So I'm unsure as to exactly where the shit hit the fan. I think I've decided that heading up Mount Trudee must have set it off as I can't remember my breathing coming down after that and the timeline makes sense. So we'll say from about there on, I was hyper-ventilating more and more. As in sounding as though I was finishing a hard road 5K instead of barely running downhill. That phase lasted a while and wasn't terribly alarming and then I moved into to sounding like a donkey (picture the "hee-haw, hee-haw" type of noise). I knew I was in trouble when I made this realization and didn't find it funny at all - I realized that I should be at least amused by it and instead felt detached from it. In retrospect, I don't think I took it seriously enough when it started. I think I was breathing hard from heading up Trudee and just did my usual recovery method, which is to start running again and wait for the breathing to come back under control, only this time it never did and instead of realizing that and stopping for a few minutes, I just kept going. I didn't really feel like I had a tight chest or as though my throat was constricted - it just felt as though there wasn't any oxygen in the air to breathe. When it became obvious that it was just getting worse and worse I did back off and walk, only that didn't really slow my breathing down. I also tried stopping to sit on a rock, which didn't seem to effect anything at all since I wasn't willing to sit for all that long. When I tried sitting on a bench, it was way too late. My fingers went tingly and then the tip of my nose. I'm pretty sure I lost feeling in a couple fingers (I spent some time trying to determine if they had feeling or not and then got distracted by something) and the tingling moved into my palms. Once my cheeks started going, I had this thought in the back of my head that I better get into the aid station before the tingling moved any further. I don't think I was panicked in here. I don't recall panic or drama. Maybe a little frustrated that I couldn't run what was a nice, mostly downhill, runnable section but mostly I was just sort of removed from it.
I had lots of runners ask if I was okay as they passed by. I would usually managed to huff out something like "Fine but can't breathe." I did tell someone (Dale Humphries?) to tell Lisa I was coming, if she was still there, which I didn't think she would be. When I was just around the corner from the Drainpipe (less than a mile from the aid station), two runners FORCED me to sit down. I tried to tell them that I tried sitting earlier and it didn't help and what I needed was to just keep moving to get to the aid station but since I couldn't breathe, I couldn't really talk, and they interpreted that as panicking. One guy kept going so he could let people at the aid station know I was having issues and eventually I convinced the other guy to let me keep moving (it's not as though there was really an alternative, anyway . . .). He insisted on staying behind me and wouldn't let me run or even really walk fast. "Slow, slow" is what I kept hearing. Good advice, I'm sure, but I just wanted to be in to Tettegouche. I don't even know the guy's name to thank him for watching out for me.
Andrea and Ethan (who was volunteering) came out to meet me and got me settled in at the aid station where my crew had set up a chair and my gear. It took me a solid 45 minutes for my breathing to come down. I was urged to lay down at first (on some poor person's now gross and sweaty fleece blanket), but that definitely made it worse and made me start to feel panicky. My fabulous crew was wonderful, as was Ethan who took off my shoes and socks for me and took my pulse a few times. Everyone stuck the perfect balance of taking care of me and just letting things get down to normal and forcing some decisions on me when I wasn't making them (such as "okay, now I'm going to hand you soup and you're going to eat it"). I took a full hour at Tettegouche but was laughing by the time I left. A woman who had been sitting near by (waiting for her runner? volunteering? I'm not sure) told me she couldn't believe I was getting up to go and that I was amazing. I did a full clothing change, helped by my awesome crew and, with a baggie full of oranges, I was ready to head out. Andrea said she'd be ready to pace at Co Rd 6 and so I had something to look forward to with the next aid station.
Something else I will do for my next 100 - I taped a list of place to Body Glide at each aid station. Very helpful! I can only imagine this would get more helpful the longer I go.
I headed out of Tettegouche in my running dress and half tights, expecting the temperatures to start dropping as night hit. I also had a long sleeve shirt around my waist for the same reason. Not a block down the trail, I put the long sleeve on since I was chilled from sitting for so long. About a half mile out, I realized the chafing from my shorts was pretty horrible. My fix last time was to put a Buff around it, so I stopped and gave that a go. Turns out trying to do that under half tights just makes the Buff rub the chaff, as opposed to protecting it. I made it across the Baptism River before taking it back off. Happily, having the brief bout of extreme rubbing with the Buff made it feel not so bad without it. I ended up chaffing so bad that I pussed. Ow. Which is probably much more than you wanted to know, but there you have it! The long sleeve came off not long after that since it was actually still really hot and humid, despite the sun being on its way down.
All those people telling me it was going to cool off at night? Liars. Every one of them. The night brought no relief from either the heat or the humidity.
Tettegouche to County Road 6 was horrible. It took me 4ish hours to go 8ish miles. The hyperventilating came back as soon as I started going uphill after crossing Hwy 1. This time, I was mildly panicked about it. I knew what it could turn in to so I had to stop at the top of every hill or part way up, depending on how big it was, in order to let my breathing come back down. I couldn't run at all. I couldn't walk very fast or it would start up again. It became very obvious in not very long in that I was either not going to make the cutoff or I would be so close that I wouldn't have a chance to recover in the aid station before having to leave and start it again. I found a nice rock on top of a hill, overlooking a lake down below, with an inkling of light still in the distance and I sat down and had a short little DNF cry. At least as much of one as you can while attempting to bring your breathing down from heading uphill. I was okay after that and just kept moving along as it became even more obvious that there was no making it in before the cutoff unless I could magically suddenly run. I was breathing hard the whole way but at least the donkey didn't make an appearance again. I sat on rocks, I sat on stumps, I sat on stairs. I had no thoughts of feeling better than a dead weasel, no songs running through my head, nothing since somewhere before Tettegouche until I was done. Which, since I had mostly the same song in my head for the previous amount of the race, might have been a good thing.
This section was horribly long. It took forever to get in. I had several people pass me, most of which checked in with me but I didn't sound like death anymore. At one point, I was positive the sweeps had caught me (I actually have no idea when the sweeps start. They probably weren't even out there yet) as there was a group of chatting, laughing, singing men behind me who seemed to be giving me space to work. They eventually passed me, though, and were definitely not the sweeps. We had to be almost in, right? I mean, we were heading downhill. How much further down can it be? A lot further, as it turns out. Since you come out on a road and then run down the road some, you can't even see or hear the aid station to know you're getting close. You just keep going and going and going. Eventually, I saw Andrea coming up the trail for me. Time for a quick hug and more tears. On the way down she asked if I wanted to know about the time and I let her know I knew I was over the cutoff. I can't remember by how much, though. Cut off was 10:30. 10:37 is sticking in my head for some reason, but I feel as though that might have been when I found Andrea? We had a ways to go after that so I was well past the cutoff by the time I straggled in, struggling to breath even on the flat road. I don't know if I missed the cutoff by 15 minutes or half an hour.
County Road 6 was littered with dropped runners. We were everywhere. I heard later that as the volunteers had packed everything up and were about to leave, they found three runners laying on the ground on the edge of the little clearing who didn't have rides to get anywhere. Here I thought I was dead last coming in and there were still people dragging themselves in when we were leaving the aid station and we stuck around for a while so as bad as my slog fest was, theirs must have been worse. My crew was perfect. Upbeat without being annoying about it. Encouraging things to say without making you want to slap them.
My crew was Jan and Dick - Jan was my assistant cross country coach in middle and high school as well as the mother of a good friend of mine and Dick is her man. They are both runners and coaches and while they had never been around ultras before, they know runners and were a great help. Andrea was, of course, fabulous. She made me the awesomest pin to wear on my Nathan and was perfect moral and otherwise support.
I spent a little while at the aid station before leaving. Turned in my timing chip. Ate some soup and sausage. I was torn between wanting to head right out and crew Marcus for the rest of the rae and wanting to go to bed and stay in bed all day Saturday. I called Lisa and managed to hit her in an open window before she started pacing and where she still had coverage and let her know what had happened. Luckily, the house we had planned to crash at the end of the race wasn't too far away and we headed there for some sleep. After showering, of course. And scaring the crap out of poor Mary Jo, who was obviously not expected us until the next night. Happily, shower-wise, since it was so humid and I was so wet already, adding water to the chaffage didn't cause the extreme pain I was expecting. Trying to arrange my body in a way to be able to sleep was interesting, though . . .
We woke up around 7 or 8 the next morning (when it was STILL hot and humid. I recall swearing as I stepped out the door). I didn't feel as though I had slept at all. I called my dad to let him know not to come up, as he was planning on crewing the last few hours for me. Andrea and I ate some breakfast and then we headed back out on the race course to find and follow Marcus around for the rest of the day. After a brief debate with myself, I put on my long sleeve Sawtooth shirt for the day. Which I may or may not be basically living in since then:
I decided that since this is not a finisher shirt (that's what the hoodie is for), I am damn well allowed to wear it. Plus, it's the general shirt for all three events and I covered the distance of one of them, at least. In any case, I am in no way ashamed to wear it.
We met Marcus at Temperance, where I told him I had already finished and he better get his butt in gear. It was actually quite nice to have another runner to focus on and it was good to still be around the race and my friends and help the runners out. I had two friends tell me things that made me feel better (well, I had lots of friends trying to make me feel better but these two really resonated). One was from Maria, who took a minute out of her own awesome race to remind me that it took her three times to finish Sawtooth. Now, if you don't know her, Maria is fabulous and tough and an inspiration so it was nice to be reminded that Sawtooth slapped her down, too. The other was from Tony who told me that I would have more DNFs, maybe even a whole column of them to line up with my finishes. For some reason, that made me feel a lot better. Going to the finish line was hard, though. I actually couldn't really be at it and had to leave and head up the trail to wait for Marcus to come in since 100 mile finishers don't need a teary-eyed DNFer wandering forlornly around, barely able to cheer for finishers. I ran with Marcus and Andrea for the last half mile or so and then was able to focus again on taking care of "my" runner, though he didn't need much taking care of this year.
I spent most of Sunday moping around and then felt a lot better. Except for the part where it was gorgeous and cloudy and cool and windy. Really? We couldn't have had this perfect running weather two days earlier? It made me angry every time I looked outside. I think it was good to be able to just mope for a bit, though, and let it get out of my system. Since I already had taken Monday off of work, I kept it off and slept in super later and went for a run and a dip in some water and felt a lot better.
I haven't decided yet what's coming next this fall but I wish I didn't have to wait a whole year to take on Sawtooth again. Though, much as I was ready to take it on RIGHT NOW a week afterwards, right now I'm okay with having that year to get ready.
I posted a long thank you note on facebook that I'll copy here: I have some pretty awesome friends. Jan and Dick for crewing for me and being nothing but positive and willing and saying they'd do it again. Andrea for being a rock star crewing, coming up the trail to find me, and letting me cry on her shoulder about missing the cutoff - I'm glad you were able to go pace without me. Ethan helped take care of me when I drug my hyperventilating body into Tettegouche so I could get sent back out 45 minutes (an hour?) later in high spirits. The mystery runner who didn't know me but made me stop and sit and stayed with me until I insisted I needed to just get into the aid station and then insisted on staying behind me. - I'm so sorry I don't think I even thanked you. Rick and Wayne for waiting for me at Co Rd 6, giving me hugs, and being awesome to be around the next day. Maria for taking a minute in the middle of her own awesome race to remind me that she DNFd her first Sawtooth, too. Micah for driving me around from aid station to aid station on Saturday when I realized I couldn't drive the car (someone please teach me stick) and putting up with a worn out me. Lisa for giving me words of encouragement at the finish when she was tuckered herself from crewing/pacing. John Storkamp for putting on a fabulous race to test us all and giving me a hug at the finish line. And, of course, Mary Jo for letting me show up at her house at midnight, crushed and defeated and then taking care of us all post race.