Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chasing the moon

A few weeks ago while I was running the North Fork 50, I talked with a woman for a little while who told me about another race she'd done, called Chase The Moon.  It sounded like something I should do--a 12 hour overnight ultra, which would be great nighttime training for Javelina--plus, it was organized by the same people who put on the Bear Chase (which I've done twice and liked).

This is a great idea, planning your next ultra, while you are currently running an ultra.

The only problem with Chase The Moon was that this year it was scheduled for July 22nd/23rd.  That's only 3 weeks out from Howl At The Moon (I seem to like moon and bear themed ultras), and knowing the way my body recovers (poorly and slowly) it seemed likely that I would ruin my chances of doing well at Howl if I also did Chase The Moon.

Hard choices.

Howl is, and always will be, my "A" race.  It was my first ever ultra.  It is like a family reunion in motion for me.  Everybody from Second Wind Running Club is there.  I cut my teeth running with these people during the 13 years we lived in Champaign-Urbana.  Howl is my kind of terrain (not technical) and my kind of course (loop).  I love this race.  If I can just withstand the heat and keep my mind in the game, Howl is literally the only ultra I stand a chance of doing well at.

It is getting harder and harder to do Howl every year though.  Not only do we live about 1,200 miles away now, but also, the race has become hugely popular.  It used to be you could just show up and do it.  Nowadays online registration fills within 15 minutes of opening.  No kidding.  You have to be sitting at your computer the instant it goes live, hit "refresh" like a zillion times, and hope you can type in all your information before it sells out.  I was lucky enough to get Rob and me both in for this year (it is the only race we can do where we have family to watch Will), but in the future, I don't know if we'll make it.  This could be our last chance to go back and do Howl.

And yet.  I know I can't let my emotional ties to this race stand in the way of what I need to do for Javelina Jundred.  Staying up all night, or at the very least, getting more experience with nighttime trail running, needs to be a priority for me.  I've realized it is not as feasible as I had thought, to go out by myself and run the trails around here alone.  Chase The Moon would be an excellent opportunity for a supported nighttime trail run.

I needed to figure this out.  I knew I couldn't pass up Chase The Moon, but I also couldn't forfeit Howl.

Luckily, there was a middle of the road option: doing Chase The Moon as a relay!!

I am so, so thankful to Rob and Angela for offering to be a 3-person team with me.

Team Ultraordinary!

Our game plan was: Angela would be the first team member to run when the race started at 7pm.

Luckily these storm clouds blew over and we never got more than a couple drops of rain! Also: I love this picture of Angela!

Angela was stoked.

Let's get this party started.

Angela ran hard for the first loop (10.3 miles) and got back super fast-- before sundown!

Rob headed out next. Practically in the blink of an eye (well, something like an hour and 20 minutes), he was back.  When he'd taken off, I hadn't known whether he would be doing one loop or two.  So I just sat there ready to go, or not, depending on how he felt.

When he came into the transition area, he didn't even slow down.  He had his race face on and was all business.  He grabbed a couple packs of Clif Shot Blocks and kept going.  I thought, great, he has turned this from a fun run into a race.

As I waited, I started getting pretty nervous about heading out on my own run. I really didn't know what these trails were like, and I hadn't seen the course during the daylight.  I had thought I'd be okay to do 20 miles in the dark, but the waiting game was wreaking havoc on my nerves. Plus, Will kept wandering out of the van and begging me to cuddle with him instead of going to run.  That was hard to pass up.

Rob returned from his second loop around 11:30 or 11:45pm.  He was still in race mode, rapidly handing over the baton to me and ushering me to the start line.  I wanted detailed trail information (was it rocky or steep, would I get lost or die?), but all I got from him was: "This is not a fast course, it is more hilly than I expected."

The course was set up so that you alternate directions on loops: odd loops were counter-clockwise and even loops were clockwise.  I was starting on an even loop, so headed out in the clockwise direction.

The first bit was paved, until you got to the turn off point where the loops split direction.  I had worried this would be confusing, but it was well marked and I had no trouble.  After I turned off onto the clockwise trail though, it did become a bit disconcerting.  I was completely alone and it was pitch black.  I'd thought there would be other runners around me, but I swear, I didn't see anybody for the first 4 miles.  The turns were marked with glow sticks, but you had to be pretty vigilant or else you could have missed them, and there were a lot of intersecting trails out there.  I found myself getting nervous during the sections in between "confidence markers," and was always happy to see a glow stick letting me know that I was still on the right trail.

Even so, I was pretty uncomfortable during the first section of this loop.  This part of the course was kind of rocky, and I was still trying to get used to running in the beam of light from my headlamp.  I definitely had enough light, but I felt like I had trouble with contrast or something.  I was constantly worried that I would misjudge a rock and catch my toe on it and end up sprawled on the trail.

I began to get a little mad.  The woman I'd chatted with at North Fork told me this race course was "super easy" and "not rocky or technical at all."  She had gone so far as to explain it as a "wide, smooth, dirt path," and said you didn't even need a headlamp because the full moon was so bright.

That was complete bullshit.

First of all, you definitely needed a headlamp.  It was pitch black out there.  Moreover, I would have described the course as a shitty, suburban mountain bike trail.  The section I had started out on was not a "smooth, wide, dirt path."  There were definitely rocks.  The 1,300 foot of elevation gain per loop was not insignificant either.  Most of the course was constantly undulating, in that shitty way mountain bike trails do-- uphill for like 10 steps, followed by downhill for 10 steps, and so on.  There were also very few sections where it was straight.  I found it hard to build up any kind of momentum or rhythm when I could almost never see what was in front of me because the course turned like every 1/10 of a mile.  Maybe all of these things would have been completely a moot point in the daylight, I don't know.  All I knew was that I was unhappy, didn't feel comfortable running mostly uphill on rocks in the dark, and I had no idea how I was going to manage a full night of running at Javelina Jundred.

Things got better by the time I reached the aid station, roughly 4.5 miles in on this direction of the loop.  Not only was it nice to see the volunteers, eat some potato chips, and be reassured that I was still on course, but after that, the trail was significantly more smooth.  I no longer worried about rocks after that, but I did more frequently meet counter-clockwise runners on that section (I'm not sure why I hadn't seen people during the first half).  It wasn't like there were steep mountain drop offs or anything (from what I could tell in the dark, the views along the course were mostly suburban neighborhoods with houses that probably all looked the same), but it did get kind of annoying to keep having to pile off into the knee deep (and possibly rattlesnake infested) brush to "share the trail" with other runners.  All the runners I met were nice, but there was quite a range of paces out there.  Some runners were part of 5-person relay teams, and hell bent on not getting out of your way so they could maintain their 7 or 8 minute miles.  Some people were doing the 12 hours solo and walking.  I was just trying to hang on.

The last mile (or maybe two?) before heading back into the start/finish area was wider and even smoother, and although still a bit undulating, more of what the North Fork woman had described to me.  Maybe that was the only section of the course she had chosen to remember.

All was quiet back at the van, so that was my cue to keep on running for another loop.  I put myself into a "get the job done" mindset and headed back out again.  I did stop a while at the transition area aid station to refill my water (they had only 1 water jug and there were like 5 people filling up, so I had to wait in line and that was kind of annoying) and grab some more food.

This time I was on an odd lap, so headed out in the counter-clockwise direction.

It was a completely different experience, to start out on the smooth section.  "This is a super easy course," I found myself thinking.  "Not technical or rocky at all."  You still needed a headlamp, but maybe, just maybe, that North Fork woman hadn't been crazy after all.

Even so, I did have to concentrate on the trail in the dark, and I realized that I found it hard to eat and drink while doing so.  I was in a pretty significant bonk by 4 miles into my second loop (14 miles total) and did my best to suck down some Wild Friends nut butter and just hang on until the aid station.  I also realized that I was feeling pretty nauseated.  I had this throbbing over my left eye.  The bobbing light of the headlamp was really annoying me.

I breathed my way into the aid station, and boy was I ever glad to see those people.  It occurred to me that it was probably around 3am, and I was exhausted.  I drank cup after cup of coke and pounded down some potato chips.  I spent quite a while in the aid station talking to the nice volunteers and generally trying to get myself back together before heading out for the last 6 miles.

Seriously, only 6 miles to go.  I could do this.

I wasn't moving fast, but I kept moving.  My legs were starting to feel the ~2,300 feet of elevation gain I'd put on them, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to eat again until the finish.

I just hung on.  Even when I got to the rocky section, it seemed shorter than on the clockwise loop, and not nearly as difficult (which is ridiculous, it was the same exact trail).  I was absolutely thrilled when I finally saw the start finish area up ahead and coasted on into it.  Yay, I was done!!

I did it!! 20 trail miles in the dark!! (Actually it was closer to 21).

I had no idea what to expect when I got back to the van.  It was 4:18am.  Would Angela want to run again?  Would Rob?  Should I wake one of them up if they were sleeping? Just as I reached the van, I saw the door open, and Rob walked out, dressed in full running gear.  He reached for me to hand him the baton.  For me, this was a fun run, for him, this was a race.

After Rob left, I drank some ginger ale at the finish area and quickly got very cold.  And nauseous.  And that throbbing over my left eye wouldn't go away.  Eating real food was not an option.  I went back to the van and took a quick, semi-warm RV shower, and then climbed into bed with Will.  "Mommy, is that you?" he asked.  "Yes," I told him.  He crawled into my arms and said, "I'm so happy."

I fell into a fitful sleep, while Rob ran another 10.3 mile loop.  When he finished that, runners still on the course were diverted to the 3.5 mile loop (because time was running low).  He finished the 3.5 mile loop at 6:19am and not allowed back out onto the course because the cut off to start another 3.5 mile loop was 6:15.  Which seems pretty ridiculous, especially for relay runners.  The 3.5 mile loop had taken him only 28 minutes, and with more than 40 minutes still left on the clock, he could easily have completed another.  But whatever.  The race was over for Team Ultraordinary.

A million thank you's to Angela and Rob for being on the relay team!! This was the best of all possible worlds for me. Not only was I on a relay team with two of my favorite people, this also gave me a chance to trail run for around 4 and a half hours in the middle of the night.  It was very good nighttime training for me, but without the stress of doing the solo race right before Howl.

It does, however, raise a certain level of panic for what to expect at Javelina.  Even on this "easy" trail, nighttime running was far from easy for me.  Rocks and hills aside, I think the darkness contrasted with the circle of light from my headlamp made me nauseous.  I never threw up, but I didn't eat anything until lunchtime the next day, and even now, my appetite is still off.  That certainly hasn't helped me recover.  People have suggested trying a waist lamp instead of a headlamp.  As luck would have it, Rob has one of these, so he said I should try that "next time."

Oh great, there's going to be a "next time."  (I guess there has to be).

Anyway, thanks again to Angela and Rob, congratulations to both of them on their fantastic runs, and thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Trip 2016: Everything is Ultra (Part 5, Hardrock to Home)

Continued from Part 4.

After Rob finished pacing Ryan from Ouray to Grouse, there had been talk of him jumping in again at the last aid station, Cunningham Gap, 10 miles from the finish. Ryan had another friend pacing him starting at Grouse, but none of us were sure if his pacer would be able to make it all the way to the finish (that would be over 40 miles of pacing. At Hardrock).

Rob missed the call from Katie in the morning, and only later received her message saying that she was in Silverton and could give him a ride to Cunningham.  Damn. Rob briefly considered just running over to Cunningham on the road (6 miles away) so I could stay in Silverton with Will and the van, but we didn't know how close Ryan was and we were concerned that Rob might not make it there in time if he ran.

So we loaded up the van and drove.  I paid very careful attention to the road, as it deteriorated from asphalt, to gravel, to rutted out dirt and rock.  Parts of it were a little steep and scary, but it wasn't anything like the terrifying mountain pass between Ouray and Silverton.  I convinced myself that I'd be able to drive the RV back to the Silverton after Rob left to pace Ryan.

Cunningham Gap was beautiful.

Friends at the aid station explained that runners would have to go up and over this mountain in order to reach the finish.

William made friends with Ryan and Katie's dog while we waited, and they played together in the stream.

We had no cell signal at Cunningham, so we couldn't track Ryan.  All we could do was wait, and watch, and wonder whether his pacer John would feel like continuing to the end, or whether Rob would jump in again.

Waiting and cheering on other runners as they came into the aid station.

At last we spotted Ryan and John descending into the aid station.  They were walking, but Ryan had a smile on his face as he went to the aid tents.  John looked very tired and and seemed glad that Rob was there to take over pacing.  He'd been with Ryan for almost 15 hours by this point-- all night long and most of the next day.  It was now 3:30pm, and he was done.  He updated Rob on everything he needed to know, and then said, "Bring a headlamp."  There was still over 5 hours of daylight left and only 10 miles to go, but the terrain was difficult, and you never know what might happen.

Getting ready to go.

Ryan and Rob leave for the final 10 miles.

Tiny figures heading up a very tall mountain.

Ryan and Rob took off, up the final mountain.  I was just in total awe and amazement that Ryan was still going, still smiling even, after all this time and so many miles on his legs.

All that was left to do was wait.

Well, wait, and drive the RV back down from Cunningham Gap to the finish line at Silverton.

There were some steep and rocky parts out of the aid station.  I would have been a little bit nervous even in a car.  With the RV, I just had to Lamaze breathe and hope I didn't meet another vehicle coming around any of the corners or sections where there were drop offs on one side.

Will stayed very good and quiet, and eventually we made it off of the dirt road and back to the smooth, paved highway.  It was a straight shot back into Silverton, and I had no trouble finding a place to park the van right by the finish line.

My sweet little co-pilot

I had thought that we might have a very long time to wait (what with Rob having taken the headlamps and all), so I wasn't in a hurry as I chatted with people, tidied up the van, and made something to eat for Will and me (we had kind of forgotten about lunch, might as well move right on to dinner).  Then I got a text from my mom, who was tracking Ryan from her computer at home.  "They're at mile 97!" she said, and I thought, holy shit, they're going to be here soon.  They won't need headlamps after all.  I'd better get to the finish line.

Will and I grabbed our camp chairs and went over to hang out with Katie and the rest of Ryan's crew.  My phone buzzed and I saw this text from Rob:

Everybody cheered.  We tracked them on my phone as they got closer and closer.

At last we saw them coming down the road.

Ryan had done it!! He was a Hardrock Finisher!! 

I was so, so happy for him!

The sun set over Silverton that night, and we went back to the van to get some sleep.  We were so close to the finish line that every once and a while, I would wake up hearing cheers as another runner kissed the rock.

By the next morning, Hardrock was officially over, and it was time for us to head home.

We took the long way, stopping by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

We finally made it back late that night.  What a trip it had been! I would go back to Hardrock anytime.  


The Trip 2016: Everything is Ultra (Part 4, Watching the Hardrock Winners)

Continued from Part 3.

It had been a very long day.  I'd been taking photos and tweeting everything I could about what was going on during the race.  I was overwhelmed by the kind words and appreciation people from all over the world expressed to me about my on-the-ground updates (thanks if any of you are reading this).  I began to feel a responsibility to document the race as best I could, and I sort of wished I could do this for a living.  It was fun!  

Nevertheless, it was hard to post very many updates from Ouray.  I only got cell signal maybe 25% of the time, and the going was very slow.  After Rob took off from Ouray to pace Ryan, I had very little idea of how they were doing.  I couldn't get the runner tracking to update on my phone, nor could I get the GPS from the spot tracker Rob had taken with him.  

I tried my best to get some rest after the sun went down, and I cuddled up next to William in the bed of the RV and slept for about an hour.  Finally I got the runner tracking to load on my phone, and I saw that Ryan had checked into the Grouse aid station at 11:19pm.  Great news.  They had made it there.  Or at least Ryan had made it there.  Presumably Rob was with him.  I thought maybe in an hour or so, Katie would be bringing Rob back to Ouray. 

What didn't occur to me was that it had taken them more than 6 hours to get to Grouse (this was longer than we'd been expecting), and Ryan had not yet checked out of the aid station.  He was still there.  He was feeling terrible.  He spent a long time at Grouse with Katie, Rob, and his other pacer, getting care.  It wasn't until 2:30am that Katie brought Rob back to Ouray.

Rob felt surprisingly good considering all he had been through in the last 9 hours.  He drove us back across that terrifying mountain pass to Silverton and told me bits and pieces about his pacing adventure.  He said Ryan had not been able to eat or drink much between Ouray and Grouse and gotten very behind on hydration and calories.  Everyone was right--this section of the course had been extremely difficult.  It had taken Ryan a while to recover at Grouse and feel well enough to continue with his other pacer, John.  Rob also told me that Nick had ended up dropping at Grouse, due to severe stomach pain.  I was sad to hear that news.  I really hoped that Ryan would be able to finish.

When we got back to Silverton, Rob said he was done.  Done, done, done.  It was 3:30 in the morning, and he and Will piled back to sleep in the RV bed.  As long as Rob was staying in the van with Will, that freed me up to go to the finish line and see who was going to win this race.

The most recent updates from iRunFar indicated that Kilian and Jason Schlarb were still running together.  Supposedly they'd shared a sandwich at one point, and even a pacer (Emelie pacing them both).  I wondered what on earth was going to happen.  Would one of them pull away from the other towards the end, and which would it be?  How could you even do that...leave someone in your dust after you'd run with them and shared so much over nearly 100 miles?  I couldn't help but wonder if they would finish this thing together, hand in hand even.  From what I knew about Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet, it seemed like the kind of thing they might do.

I must have been the first person standing there at the finish line, but little by little the crowd grew.  At last, a race official (Dale himself, I guess) told us that it would be soon.

And then they were there.  All I could see was a rush of two figures together, one of them wearing red.  They were moving fast into the finishing chute, and I didn't even realize until they were already past me that it was both of them-- Schlarb and Jornet, and they really were hand in hand.

They bent to kiss the rock together (this is how you finish Hardrock, you kiss the rock), ensuring a tie.

 Then they turned to each other and embraced.

Media and spectators swarmed them.  Soon I couldn't see a thing.  Someone brought them little white folding chairs and they sat down to answer questions.  They said they had talked it out and planned to finish together this way.  After running the entire race side by side, it just would have seemed ridiculous to have a fight at the end.  Both of them seemed to acknowledge that Kilian could have gone faster (in fact he has, in previous years), if he had wanted, but what was the point?  To be alone and suffer? Or to be with a companion who has become your lifelong friend?  The decision was clear to them.  Each said it was an honor to have run such a race and finished with the other.

I started crying. With so much hatred and violence in the world, this, this is the thing I want to remember about how people can be: this sight of these two grown men holding hands and running towards the rock together.  Neither was seeking to hurt or undermine the other.  They had worked so hard for this and just wanted to share the experience of winning this race.

Under the cold starlight, I wandered back to the van, in awe of what I had just seen, and fell asleep.

Several hours later, Rob and Will and I were all up again, and we went to the finish line to see the first place woman, Anna Frost.  She had led the race all day, and now as she finished, she floated towards the rock.  She had this look of total bliss on her face.  She weaved among the crowd, giving everybody high fives.  You could tell she was just so happy.  You never would have guessed she had just run 100 hard miles in the San Juan mountains.

A while later, Emma Roca, the second place woman ran towards the finish line.  All day when I'd seen her at aid stations, she had been surrounded by these kids.  I assume these are her kids, but I guess I don't know.  Either way, it was very sweet.

Emma Roca got an accordion serenade from Ricky Gates as she headed towards the finish line.  (Incidentally, didn't Gates pace Anna Frost for a while? See...this is the way ultra runners are.  You do your best. You race against yourself and the mountains. But you support everyone else out there and want them to do their best too).
Ricky Gates playing his accordion.  Kilian and Emelie are wearing yellow coats.
There was a long time between finishers, and the crowds would thin out during these lulls.  At one point, I was still standing there and Kilian and Emelie walked right by me.  They were both drinking coffee from blue mugs.  I had to say something, but the only thing I could think of was, "Congratulations!"  Kilian smiled and nodded in his humble way and said, "Thanks."  They kept walking, and I thought, I just congratulated Kilian Jornet on winning Hardrock. How is this my life.

Thanks for reading

Stay tuned for Part 5.

The Trip 2016: Everything is Ultra (Part 3, HARDROCK from the start to Ouray)

Continued from Part 2.

As the sun set on Thursday night, tensions ran high. We still hadn't figured out where we were camping, and Hardrock was starting in a matter of hours.  We checked a few campgrounds between Durango and Silverton, and...surprise, surprise...they were full.  Just before I reached full on panic mode, Rob found an out of the way dirt road where we could pull off and park the RV overnight (did you know, you can camp for free in most National Forests, including the one we were driving through). It was a beautiful place to sleep. Problem solved.

We woke up bright (actually dark) and early the next morning and drove into Silverton. I was picturing a scene of mass chaos, like the start of the Chicago Marathon, but in reality, we parked about 2 blocks away from the start line and saw not only Rob's friends, but also a bunch of famous people, just milling about as they waited for the race to begin. It was way more low-key than I had envisioned, and no more crowded than the photo below.

Almost go time.

Rob and Will stayed right by the start line, but I headed down the road a bit to get photos of the runners after they rounded a corner.  Nick Clark took an early lead.

I can't help but wonder what he's thinking here. Whatever it is, it's in a British accent.

I wasn't even looking at where I was pointing the camera, I was just scanning the crowd of people as they streamed by.

It kind of threw me that Nick Clark came by first and I didn't see Kilian anywhere. I'd thought Kilian would be up front. I wondered if he had started the race after all.  It was only later when I went through my  photos that I finally found him. He was kind of incognito in that trucker hat and jacket, several rows back from the front runners!

Blurry photo of Rob's friend Ryan (in the red shirt)!

After the throngs of runners (okay, there were only around 200 people in the race) went by, I finally looked over and realized who I had been standing next to that whole time.  It was John, from The Barkley Marathons documentary!! John is Will's ultimate hero.  Will can recite every statistic pertaining to John that occurred during that race.  I am normally terrible around famous people, and this moment was no exception.  I tried to sputter out to John how much Will admires him, and how Will wants to run The Barkley someday.  I asked John if he could stay right there for a minute and I ran over and got Will so I could take a picture of them together.  Instead of asking for any advice on how to get into or run The Barkley, Will told him, "Today is July 15th. My birthday is less than a month away, on August 12th."

Thank you, John.

Photo op completed, we headed back to talk to Rob's friends at the start line.  "So, Rob, do you want to pace Ryan from Ouray to Grouse?" Katie (Ryan's girlfriend) asked.  Pacing someone at Hardrock is like the ultrarunner equivalent of graduating college with highest honors.  Katie explained that Ouray (mile 44) was the first place where you could have a pacer.  Ryan had a pacer lined up starting only at Grouse (mile 58) to the end. He wasn't expecting anyone to jump in with him at Ouray, but if Rob could do it, it might be a nice surprise.

The thing is, if you get asked to pace someone at Hardrock, you do it. For Rob, I knew this would be an amazing experience.  I absolutely wanted him to pace, as much for himself as for Ryan.  But the logistics of the situation caused my panic levels to rise.  In order for this to happen, I knew it would probably mean that I would have to drive the RV from Ouray back to Silverton (or else be stranded there). I had no idea what that mountain pass was like, all I knew was that I had only driven the RV twice--on perfectly flat, wide roads with absolutely no traffic.

"We have to find a way," I said to Rob.  In typical Rob fashion, he shrugged, and said, "We'll see."  We headed back to the van and began the drive to Telluride--where there was an aid station some 28 miles into the race.

The only way to get to Telluride from Silverton is through Ouray, so I saw that mountain pass I would have to drive if Rob was running with Ryan (instead of driving) back from Ouray later in the day.

The pass was terrifying. Steep gradient, at least 100 hairpin turns, road construction, and a lot of traffic (because it is literally the only way to get between many of these mountain towns). Rob never tells me I can't do things, but even he was uncomfortable driving this road.  "This requires a fairly advanced level of RV driving," he said.  In other words, more than experience than the two very short trips on flat roads I had taken.

Nevertheless, Rob didn't seem worried (does he ever worry?), so I tried not to let my concern about what would happen ruin the rest of the day.  We had some time in Telluride before the runners arrived, so we took the (free!) gondola up into the ski areas and looked around.

Rob told me if I wanted to run, I'd probably have time for a couple of miles. I was wearing cargo shorts and didn't have my watch with me, but you never pass up an opportunity to run.  I don't know how far I went, but it was uphill at over 10,000 feet of elevation, so it wasn't easy. The views were breathtaking, if I'd had any breath left to take.

Afterwards, we took the gondola back down to town.

Telluride. I did not throw up on the gondola, probably because Will was holding my hand.

We walked to the aid station in the town park a little bit before the front runners arrived.

(L-R) Kilian, Xavier, and Schlarb, arrived together. Schlarb was behind the other two by a little bit when they left.

Joe Grant leaves Telluride.

Jeff Browning.

Timothy Olson.

Nick Clark!

Anna Frost, the first woman, arriving around the same time as Clark

Emma Roca, second woman, getting hugs from her kids.

Rob's friend Ryan rolled in!

Aid station menu. I was wondering if the vegetable broth, and hummus or black bean burritos are vegan. Also, my one contribution to the race thus far was when this sign blew down and I went and found someone with duct tape and taped it back up.

After Ryan left Telluride aid, we talked to Rob's friend Jaime, who was crewing for a different runner.  Jaime told me that the section between Ouray and Grouse (where Rob had been asked to pace) was the only place on the Hardrock course where you could actually die.


It's been real, Telluride. Heading to Ouray.

We left Telluride and headed to the next checkpoint where we would be able to see the runners-- at Ouray.  This was where we would have to finalize the details about whether or not Rob was pacing Ryan.  Parking in Ouray was a basic cluster cuss, and we made it to the aid station about 3 minutes after front runners left with their pacers.  Garrrrrr.  Emelie was pacing Kilian. I would have loved to see them take off!

We had a long time to wait before any of the people we knew came through.  I began asking around, and before too long found Rob two possibilities of getting a ride back to Ouray from the Grouse aid station after his pacing gig with Ryan was over.  That way, Rob, Will and I would be together, and I wouldn't have to drive the van either back to Silverton or to pick him up at Grouse.

Jim Walmsley sighting at the Ouray aid station. Word had it that he was supposed to be pacing Joe Grant from here, but he got lost and/or had trouble parking, and ended up arriving after Joe had already left. (And Joe was at Ouray for a long time because he was being treated for a severe bump on his head that he'd gotten from a fall or something). Anyway, Walmsley took off by himself to find Joe.  Joe ended up dropping from the race between Ouray and Grouse (that bump on his head was a concussion), and Walmsley turned back up in Ouray.

Here's a little animalito I discovered while waiting beside this tree in Ouray.
 Once we got the logistics of pacing figured out, Rob was kind of like, holy shit, I need to get ready.  The route from Ouray to Grouse was something like 14 miles and involved a 5,000 foot climb.  In the heat of the day. But during this section, the sun would go down, and they would be running in the dark for a while.  Rob needed to pack his headlamp.  He also packed my headlamp as a back up.  He needed to pack his own food and water.  Rob was prepared.  Aside from Handies Peak (a 14-er), this was one of the hardest sections of the course.
"Rob, hold still. I'm going to pretend I'm taking a picture of you, but really, it is because Walmsley is behind you." 
Nick Clark and his crew/pacer (also named Nick).
Anna Frost arrived nearly the same time as Nick Clark. I think they had been running together.

Anna Frost and crew taking care of her feet. I did feel really bad for the famous people running this race. In the aid stations there were swarms of spectators surrounding them with iPhones and cameras, taking pictures. It made me glad that I am as slow as f*ck and nobody is bothering me while I am trying to run and take care of myself. I only took this picture because they literally stopped right next to where I was standing to re-do some blister care on Anna's feet.
Ryan came in probably around 5 in the afternoon.  We had no idea how he would be feeling, some 44 miles into the race.  We also hadn't told him that Rob would be pacing him (just in case it didn't work out, we didn't want him to get his hopes up), and we weren't even sure he would want a pacer.  Rob was prepared for whatever.  Go with Ryan on a 5,000 foot climb, or not, depending on what he wanted.

At the Ouray aid tent. Ryan is in the red shirt and blue trucker hat. Rob and Katie are getting him what he needs, after he's run 44 miles in the San Juan mountains over the last 11 hours.

Ryan was cool with having Rob jump in as a pacer.

Rob is either thinking, "This is going to be fun," or "What have I gotten myself into."
They took off running as they left Ouray aid!

My mom had been reading up on Ouray and found that it is called "the Switzerland of the rockies"... or something like that.  "Take a picture for me!" she texted.  And I'm sorry to say, with all the commotion going on, this is the best I could do.

With Rob out pacing Ryan, Will and I were suddenly on our own.  I was so proud of Will because he had been so good and never complained even though it had been a very tough day (we'd all been up since 4:45 in the morning).  He had mostly been entertaining himself by running laps around the baseball diamond in the Ouray town park.  This poor kid, he must have run about 10 miles, and it was hot.  We stayed for a while, chatting with Katie and the other members of Ryan's crew.  We estimated that it would take Ryan and Rob around 5 hours to cover the 14 difficult miles between Ouray and Grouse.  Then Katie herself would drive Rob back to Ouray, where Will and I would be waiting.  It should be around 11pm, or maybe midnight, when they returned. But then again, anything could happen in a hundred miler.

Will and I went back to the van so that I could make us dinner, and I told him we could watch a movie together on the iPad before we went to bed.  He was beyond thrilled.  We did these things, and then we hunkered down for the night.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

Thanks for reading!!