My decision to enter this race was based upon a challenge from one of the Facebook friends I haven’t seen since high school. I never turn down a dare or a challenge! Little did I know what I signing up for.
I followed pretty much a regular 50k training plan and somehow disregarded the whole “trail” thing. Two of my running buddies were nice enough to join me for a 26 mile Wildwood trail run 2 weeks before the big day and we ended up running it in about 5 hours. I was surprised how my soreness was so different from running the same distance on the road. It was mostly the tendons and things around my feet and ankles that were sore but the recovery time was surprisingly quick. I knew my body was up for the task!! The week before the race, I kinda started to psych myself out about the distance and how I had no idea what the trail was going to be like, but I decided to think about the race piece by piece and told myself that I was just going to relax and enjoy the beauty and awesome weather that all of my other runs in the Bend area have offered me in the past.
My boyfriend was nice enough to accompany me over the mountain the night before the race and wait for me at the finish line. We had this delicious dinner and a beer at Baldy’s BBQ. What a great way to fuel!
For weeks I’d been looking at the Bend weather just to make sure it wasn’t going to be raining. The forecast said chilly but sunny. It somehow slipped my mind that I was going to be running on Mt. Bachelor and not actually in Bend. The morning of the race when we left our hotel to make the 25 minute drive to Sunset Lodge, it was windy, chilly, & misty. I tried to remain positive as I watched the outside temperature gauge in my car drop from 47 to 38 as we climbed in elevation. Once we reached the lodge I knew I was in trouble….the wind whipped and the chill was sobering. “Holy shit!” my boyfriend remarked as he opened his door to help me gather my things…”are you sure you don’t want to go home?” “Shut up! No!” I said, even more determined than ever to conquer the race.
“Good luck! Love you!” he said as I stepped out into the biting wind and trotted to the shuttle van. There was a buzz of excitement and dread amongst the runners huddled in the van savoring ever last minute of warmth before being delivered to the mercies of the mountain for the next 5, 6, 7, 8 hours. As we gathered at the starting line one lively gentleman in his late 60’s exclaimed “Hello Idiots” which prompted a hesitant giggle from the small crowd of 7am early start runners. Dave the race coordinator met us at the starting line and basically said “ready, set, go” and we were off.
This isn’t so bad I thought to myself as I bounced off the soft mossy padded dirt trail. Before I hit the first mile I got my first small taste of elevation gain. I was suddenly feeling a shortage of breath unfamiliar to me…oh crap…the elevation is going to get me I thought. I eased back and caught my breath and enjoyed the next 8 miles listening to a mix of Beck, Rhianna, & JT running almost by myself in the middle of a gorgeous wooded paradise with just a tiny drizzle sprinkling my face.
The first Aid station at mile 8 came so quickly that I was like “pfffftt….keep your GU…I got this”. If only I knew what lay ahead for me in the next 7 miles. My left calf had flared up a little bit on my last training run and at about mile 9 it again made its presents known. Couple that with massive elevation gain, dropping temperatures, and finally a snow storm, and you have yourself the recipe for a major come to Jesus running moment. Everything from crying, to telling myself I must be injured and couldn’t possible finish the run, to dear Lord what if I somehow wander off the trail and they don’t find me till spring entered my head. “Get it together, you’ve trained for this and you’ve done way harder shit….well maybe not but you’ve still done some hard shit….quitting will feel way worse than finishing this thing in a little pain….think about how great it will feel at the end”. I decided to hold onto the thought of what this accomplishment would feel like at the end and that is what kept me going.
At the next aid station I actually felt sorry for the poor souls who had given up a whole Saturday to hang out in a blizzard and give gummy bears and salted potatos to weirdos in compression sock. That was mile 15… nearly half way done. “I can do this”. I clung firmly to the goal of 6 hours and check my watch intermittently to see how I was pacing. The next aid station was at mile 17 and comically labeled as The Luau. I ate some salty chips, high 5’d a few people in plastic leis and was off. My calf was aching and I couldn’t feel my hands but dammit I was more than half way done! From them on out I enjoyed the scenery; massive brain like mushrooms, meadows and creeks. At mile 21 an awesome lady in a down jacket with a cow bell ran along side me and shouted “mile 21!” and told me I looked great in my running skirt. I text my boyfriend to let him know I was 10 miles out and was running in snow. I gave myself permission to speed walk the last couple killer hills. The trail looped back around and I hit the Luau station a second time at mile 24 and started to feel awesome. 7 miles left!! I gulped down a caffeinated GU, stopped to pee (I’m pretty sure some dude saw my butt) and continued down the mountain. The rest of the trail was either flat or downhill and I savored every moment. Around mile 27 the trail was completely exposed just just in time for a lovely sideways wind & sleet storm. Full body exfoliation….BONUS! At this point I just started laughing at how ridiculous this was and I was giddy because I was only 4 miles out.
Final text to my guy telling him I was almost done. He replied that he was waiting for me at the end and I couldn’t wait to see him! I booked it down hill for the next 3 miles and got so excited when I saw the highway that I wanted to jump up and down if I could’ve. The next 2 miles felt like FOR…EV….ER. Once back on pavement….the mean people who designed the course had us run up a giant hill to the lodge. I’m pretty sure I said “are you f**cking kidding me” out loud. Once I saw the roof of the lodge I didn’t care I just ran. I finished the race in 6 hours 9 minutes and ate the delicious Mexican cuisine the race organizers had set up for us. When I saw my boyfriend at the end I told him that I never needed to do that again but as the weeks went by after the race I felt myself craving another challenge….perhaps a 50 miler??