Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Rut 50k

A year ago we saw some sweet videos about the Rut. You can watch them here and here. We kept saying to each other, "Oh some day we should do the Rut." And then I realized that "some day" doesn't happen unless you make it happen. Cory was immediately on board. It ended up being the most difficult weekend of my life, but not for the reasons you would expect.

On Thursday, we packed up the car and made it to a beautiful camp site with a great view of Grand Teton. That night we took both dogs on a little shake out run. Mayla started dragging during the fourth mile, but that was typical and it was a warm evening. After making dinner we went to bed early and sweet Mayla Heart was so snuggly. If I had known it would be our last night together I would have made it more special, but now that I look back it was nearly perfect.

Sunrise near our tent

The next day we drove through Grand Teton and Yellowstone and made it to Big Sky. We had some fun at packet pick up, grabbed some amazing pizza at Blue Moon Bakery, and settled in with a fire at our camp site. Everything seemed normal when we gave the dogs dinner. Shortly before we went to bed, Mayla started giving us a sad face. A few minutes later, she threw up. After getting it out of her system she seemed normal and started jumping and doing tricks for treats. We figured she had just eaten some grass.

We went to bed, and again Mayla was super snuggly. She normally likes to be near us but not touching, and I kept waking up as she wiggled her way between our sleeping bags. At about 3am I woke up to the sound of her getting ready to throw up. It was different this time. She did not regain use of her limbs and could not get herself up. We started to clean her up and realized that she had lost control over all body functions. Finally we got her clean and comfortable - it had been less than 20 minutes - but she was fading and we didn't know what to do since we were 30 minutes from the nearest town in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend with no phone service.

Before we could even discuss how to find a vet, she threw up again and it was done. She wasn't breathing and her body wasn't pushing out the vomit. There was a lot of screaming, sobbing, yelling, and overall denial; it was the worst few hours of my life. The sun came up and we borrowed some shovels from the campground host. My baby is buried in Gallatin National Forest.

My sunshine

We thought about going straight home, but neither of us wanted to leave without her. Returning to routine would be too difficult. We also tend to deal with grief through running. By that point, Cory had missed the 25k but he took Cadi, our other pup, for a 10 miler and he got 15 miles in with her while I was running the 50k on Sunday. My heart wasn't in the race but I found myself at the starting line. Thanks to our friends, Josh and Ashley, for letting us stay at their vacation rental so we would not have to spend the night in that tent full of memories.

From here on out, this report will only be about the race.

I went back and forth about whether I should start in wave 2 or 3. Each wave was separated by 5 minutes so that the field would be more staggered once hitting single track. After wave 1 I was too antsy to wait any longer and new friend, Pat, and I suckered our friend, Clarke, into jumping into wave 2. We were off and soon we were stopped in a line waiting to climb some super sweet and steep single track in the dark. The sun came up and it was a glorious morning with Lone Peak looming above us in a cloud... What a tease.

Since getting injured after San Juan Solstice in June, the longest run I've done was 15 miles. We had done lots of long days in the mountains with a mix of hiking and running so I felt prepared for the middle part of the course when things got technical. I was most nervous about how runnable the first part of the course was, so I was eternally grateful to Clarke who spent most of the first 11 miles with me. We talked a bit, we were quiet a bit, and mostly we just took it easy.

After Aid 2 I had to take my first extended potty break in the woods (3 total... ugh). As I stumbled back to the trail, my friend, Melissa Mincic, caught me. She had started in wave 3 and I was hoping she would catch up because I had lost Clark and I needed some girl time. We chatted a bit on the climb and I tucked in behind her as she ran every other switch back.

Melissa ahead in white

We started on our first technical downhill with some talus and scree and I found that it slowed other people down more than it slowed me down. You see, I do all of my technical running with Cory and he is really good at it, so I thought I was bad. It turned out to be one of my strengths. We started the climb up to Headwaters Ridge and I found myself picking off a lot of people. Just as we hit the field of "dinner plate" talus, I came up on a line of people and they were moving too slow. At that point I couldn't get around them. As we climbed they missed a small switchback and I short-cutted by them. I felt really good at the top and the views were breath-taking.

We started the downhill and I pissed off a few people when I dodged by them. Soon the talus turned into dirt and the grade became painful on the knees. I backed off the pace. There were a lot more downhills.  Soon we began climbing again and I passed some people that looked pretty tired. I felt like a lot of people stopped eating on the technical sections and found themselves bonking when the trail got runnable again. I was so happy to see Cory and Cadi at the Swiftcurrent aid station and I loaded up on gels and water for the second half of the course.

I relished the climb up Lone Peak. This is what I had come for. Cory and Cadi surprised me and met me on the ridge. By the time I reached the summit, I realized that it had been awhile since I had put down calories. It was too hard to breathe, let alone eat. I felt woozy on the technical descent and my stomach was bothering me. Finally I stopped and let at least 6 people fly by me as I tried to eat a gel. I was starting to get a pounding headache with each step and I felt like I had to pee every 5 minutes. I needed some quick electrolytes but I forgot to bring my Endurolytes. I was counting on Tailwind but I was quickly running out of water and I had a long way to go to the next aid station.

Everyone talks so much about the climb up to Lone Peak that I hadn't given the last 12 miles of the course any thought. I had glanced at the course profile and it looked like there were three uphill sections after Lone Peak. I was nearly out of water and it was starting to get hot as I ran down a fairly flat dirt road, but I was sure I would be to the aid station soon. There were two guys and a dog cheering us on and they told me it was still at least three miles until the aid station! If I could have changed one thing about the course I would have put a water-only aid station here. With the technical descent and the two uphills I was about to face, it just took a lot longer than expected to move through these eight miles.

I finally neared the aid station after some beautiful and hilly single track on a mountain bike course - ramps and ropes included! New friend, Vern, and I looked back and admired the mountain from which we had come. We moved quick through the aid station where they told me we had 5.5 miles to the finish. Since my GPS already said that we had gone 28 miles I thought we were closer to the finish. Oh well. Just gotta keep on keepin' on.

After some amazingly runnable downhill singletrack and another uphill, I came around a corner and saw Cory and Cadi. I had made it to the finish! 9:37 I think. This was the best directed and organized race I have ever been a part of. Thanks to all of the people who worked their butts off to make it happen. I was so lucky to have a great day with some new friends and to see Cory and Cadi so much along the way. We will be back to run some more miles and to visit the place where we laid our sweet Mayla to rest.

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