On Friday, I took another little break from Holiday Sweating mainly so I could taper a bit before pacing my friend Travis for the last 17 miles of his first ever 50 miler. Instead of a workout, I slept in. Instead of evening yoga, we went to dinner at Causwells and then saw Kinky Boots at the SHN Orpheum. It was an amazing show, btw – if you haven’t seen it, you should go!
On Saturday we were up early getting ready to fulfill our pacing duties (Casey was pacing Kellen and I was pacing Travis). We were meeting them at mile 33 and helping them get through the next 17 miles to their big 50 mile finish. I seriously love pacing, its such a great way to get miles in and most of all, to give back to the sport – plus supporting friends on their journeys is always SO INSPIRING! Just makes me want to run more…Of course, part of getting ready consisted of picking out the perfect pacing outfit because anyone who does ultras knows – that this shit is bananas – b-a-n-a-n-a-s. 😉
In addition to my amazing shirt, I had also decided to give my Hoka Valor 2’s a spin – wanted to put some additional miles on them – and see how they held up. And before I get into the meat of the race report, let me just say, they are a great shoe but I’m still not sure I’m great at running in them. I found the downhills to be especially challenging for me – I just never felt confident on my feet – and I have actually worn and tried quite a few of the Hoka and haven’t yet felt very suer footed running in them….which some people tell me comes as you wear them more often. We’ll see….
While en route to the start line where we had planned to park and then take a shuttle to Stinson Beach, we got a call from Andrew (who was pacing our other friend CJ) that the shuttles were all screwed up. He asked us to grab him in Tennessee Valley and then we’d just drive to Stinson from there. We ended up taking him and another new friend, Will, over to Stinson and enjoyed the morning hours of catching up with friends (those pacing, volunteering, or just cheering on runners).
At around 9:25 am I got a text from Travis that made me a bit nervous. He was at mile 22ish (the top of Cardiac) and thinking about dropping because of stabbing pain on the top of his foot. Of course, I immediately started texting and trying to call him to talk him out of dropping. The thing is, you can usually work through some pain. And he was already so far and had trained so hard, I just couldn’t let him drop. Besides, pain will often pass or you just manage it (and grit your teeth) until the finish line. I’ve been exactly where he was and I knew that if I could try and convince him to at least run / walk to me, I could get him to the finish without a problem. We anxiously waited and hoped that all of our runners would come through.
And right on schedule, Travis made his way through mile 33. I was so happy to see him but also could tell he was having a bit of a low point. He’s one of the strongest, fastest runners I know – a super good friend and training buddy – who I know has the mental toughness and strength you need to be an ultra runner. But even when you’re super strong, pain and low points are hard to overcome by yourself.
So as we climbed out of Stinson, I tried to keep his spirits up with stories, jokes, and a positive attitude. He was in a bad way though. He was cramping really bad; so bad that I could literally see his calf muscles seizing up on him. I was worried about him on a few of the narrow parts because the seizures were causing him to lurch forward on occasion. After he took a pretty good forward slide over a bridge as a results of the cramping, we had to stop at the base of the bridge (where he’d basically crawled to after falling) and I massaged the cramp out of his leg (probably the most painful part of his day – having someone dig into your cramping leg – OUCH!).
We got through the climb out of Stinson – as difficult as it was – and then things started to turn around. As we were coming up to the crest of the climb, he ran into an old friend who was out hiking. Friendly faces and some encouragement was all he needed to start really moving again. That and a pacer who was forcing him to drink, take salt and eat. He started running up the rest of the hill and then basically came sprinting through the next aid station. I forced some salt, sports drink and additional calories on him to help with the bad cramping and we made our way back out. He was in high spirits and doing what he does best – dominating the downhills. He was like a madman running through the deep mud (both amazing and terrifying) – as I was struggling to keep up (on relatively fresh legs!!) and trying really hard not to fall on my face in the slippery mud, he was cruising and making it look easy (bastard…:)).
We rode that high for a good 4 miles or so and then we hit the next big climb. It’s a killer climb so I knew it would be important to keep him moving and try to distract him as much as possible. His hamstrings were seizing up pretty good again so every time he wanted to stop moving, I’d make him turn around and walk up the hill backwards to take some pressure off. We played the goodbye (fuck you) game – where we started saying goodbye (and fuck you) to everything on the trail – and that helped lighten the mood and get the miles to pass. My favorite moment was after about a good five minutes of silence, he gave a big giant fuck you to a low flying bird. It was just really good….really, really good. 😉 Once we started to crest again, he was back to himself and we were rolling along at a pretty good clip. More mud sloshing and me almost falling on my face trying to keep up and we were in the home stretch.
With only about a 10K left to go, I knew the goal would be to keep moving and then have a strategy for the last mile or so which is on the road and in my opinion, a super shitty part of the course. We could see the road and made a plan to run just to the edge which he did – no problem – and super fast, for the matter. Once at the road, we took a little walk break and again, planned to start our run at the crest. We ran until the bottom of the crappy hill and took a little break before starting our run at the crest. Up and over we went and then the finish line was in our sights. I gave him a little pep talk and said sprint it in and let him go have his moment through the finish line.
He was way fast and came through all smiles. Shortly after CJ came through looking super strong and with an amazing time. She PR’ed on the course big time and remarked she could’ve kept going. Love it.
Then we saw Jessi, Kellen and Casey come through – with amazing times – and all smiles. Casey said Kellen never stopped smiling out on the course. He said he was the most pleasant and fun runner. I’m really not surprised.
We hung around a little bit longer and then had to go retrieve our car from Stinson and then it was a mad dash home to make it to dinner we had planned (and had reservations for) with our friends. Getting clean was a little difficult….
This morning, we brunched at Causwell’s (they’re starting to know us in there – hah!) and then I went on a solo style, grind it out 11 miler run over the bridge and up the hill and then I’ll be getting ready for my trip to Portland. I’m coming for ya Jenn & Tash! 😉
How’d you holiday sweat this Saturday?
My week 2 holiday sweat points: 77.8
Stay Sweaty friends!
Jennifer Hellickson saysDecember 7, 2014 at 12:59 pm
Love this! So impressed that he stuck it out through the muscles cramps – yeowch! But (from experience), there is – hands down – NO ONE better to be on the trails with than you, so I’m sure having you there for the home stretch also helped pull him through. Amazing story & congrats to you both for the strong finish! See ya soon 😉
Jamie saysDecember 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm
Excited to see you very soon! 😉
Alicia saysDecember 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm
I love your shirt!! So glad your friends did well and finished the race. It would be so exciting to take part in a race as a pacer. Love the goodbye game you guys did, haha!!
Jamie saysDecember 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm
Alicia, haha, it’s my all time fave game when I run ultras. Sometimes its necessary to flip a few things off along the way 😉
The silent assassin saysDecember 9, 2014 at 9:35 pm
I’m running my first ultra at CWR. 52 miles. I’ll have to remember that FU game!
Jamie saysDecember 10, 2014 at 6:06 am
It’s a good one, for sure! You’ll kill it, I’m sure of it.