“Summer!  Congratulations!!  You did it!”  My friend Chris exclaimed, moments after I’d crossed the finish line.  I was in disbelief.  I was here… I’d done it!  Chris Gaggia, part of the ‘AC100 club’ was congratulating ME. This was really happening!

“Thanks!”  I smiled.  “Where’s a good place to throw up?”

 

AC100 - Finish3I arrived in Wrightwood early Friday morning, the day before the race.  Nerves were starting to set in.  Somehow I had suckered my friend Matt into crewing for me.  We had only met once but he was a part of my CrossFit Survival community, but he was a perfect candidate for this, having had a lot of experience with long distance bike racing.  I went through my medical check as I started to connect with friends arriving for the race.  We grabbed some lunch and then it was off to the prerace check in.

Hal, the race director, gave his typical speech, and several others introduced themselves including a medic friend, Nick.  He was explaining to us some of the things that would happen during the race, including how ‘normal’ it was to have blood in your urine from damage to your kidneys that develops over time during the run.  Matt leaned over to me: “You’re crazy.”  I couldn’t disagree.

That afternoon I spent hanging out with my friends that I had trained with for this race, Tommie and Dawn, as well as Dawn’s crew Mark and Kristin who had been critical in helping me get ready for this big day.  Missing from our little group was Craig who was off prepping with his crew captain Rainer and Monte, who had opted to spend the night at home one last time before hitting the trails with us in the morning.  For all 4 of them, this would be their very first 100 mile race.

Sleep did not come easily that night… Matt and I shared a cabin with my friend Marcus England and his wife and I just hoped I wasn’t keeping the entire house awake.  Having failed at my first attempt at this race, I was terrified but so excited as to what the day had to bring tomorrow.  I knew I was as ready as I could be, but sometimes that just wasn’t enough.  So much can happen in 100 miles.

As we lined up to the start line, tears started streaming down my cheeks.  I couldn’t really explain why this race meant so much to me, but it did.  Both Jay Moore and Jimmy Dean Freeman gave me a big hug and we promised to exchange war stories at the finish.  Jimmy reminded me again to ‘have fun.’  I nodded, smiled, and just like that… we were off!

I started towards the back, promising myself I wouldn’t take off too fast.  Somehow Marcus and I found each other pretty close to the same pace going up the Acorn Trail and I settled in behind him and it calmed my nerves that I was going a good pace.  We would stay relatively close through the first aid station at Inspiration Point.  The moment I passed through, I saw all my friends and the excitement of the day started to hit me.  Come hell or high water, I was going to finish this race.

When I reached Vincent Gap, 13 miles in, I had my first ‘low point’ going up Baden Powell.  A few people passed me, including my friend Donn who was on a mission, as I made my way up and I promised myself that I would make up time on the down.  The famous Larry Gassan would greet me at the top with his camera, with a smart ass comment about this not being a ‘hiking club…’  part of my AC100 first timers initiation!

AC100 - Finish5As I relaxed on the down hill, I began to pick up the pace and make up time.  As soon as I seemed to get my rhythm, my foot hit a rock and I went down on my ankle, hard.  I tried to run and could only muster a shuffle – FUCK.  I caught up to my fellow tattooed ultrarunning friend Catra on the way down and she had hurt herself and would be unable to continue.  I was really sad for her in that moment, but Catra has a huge resume of ultra finishes including this one.  She would be just fine.

I came into the aid station at mile 26 limping a little.  There was Nick, my medic friend, waiting for me.  “I hurt myself,”  I told him.  “But I’m not dropping.  Can you help me?”  He wrapped my ankle for me and it immediately felt better to put pressure on it.  I decided to keep pressing on, but I was definitely scared that my pace had slowed below what I needed to be able to hit the upcoming tight cut offs.

I made it to mile 30, Eagles Roost, with time to spare but still pushing it in terms of making the Cloudburst aid station.  I had 2 hours to go 8 miles on a very tough section.  There I ran into my friend Donn.  We decided that we would face this challenge together.  I caught him and told him to stay close and I promised him we would make it.  But time seemed to be moving much faster than usual, and I looked down at my watch and saw it hit 4pm as I was on my last climb up to Cloudburst.  I realized I had just timed out of the race.

I stopped for a moment to sit on a rock and wait for Donn, but then I realized I would need to get back quickly to let my pacers know that they did not need to come out.  Plus I knew people would be worried about me.  As I began to make the final ascent, I heard my friend Rainer’s voice ‘Summer, RUN!  You have 6 minutes!!”

“WHAT??”  I screamed back.

“The cut of is 4:30pm!!  Run, Summer, RUN!!”

At that, I started sprinting up the hill, tears streaming down my face for the 2nd time that day.  I had the cut off time incorrect.  I had made it with 2 minutes to spare!

I was so excited to still be in the race that I took off in the next section, running my little heart out, making up 20 minutes.  When I got to Three Points, there was Rainer, Matt, June and David, with the most amazing sandwiches ever.  Solid food – YAY!  I was so happy!  “Enjoy this now, Summer.  Just enjoy it.  You’re going to make it.”  Rainer smiled.  And I knew in that moment, he was right.

At my next big climb up to the Mt Hillyer Aid Station I had caught up to my friend Craig.  I followed him through the boulder field, a section I had feared getting lost in during race day, and he was without a flashlight so I lit up the trail for both of us as we descended into mile 52 at Chilao Campgrounds.  This is where we would pick up our first pacer.  My coach, Shannon, was excitedly waiting for me.  I did my medical check and all looked good.  She asked me if I wanted her to lead or me, and I said it didn’t matter, so she sprinted off in front.  Or at least it seemed like a sprint to me at that point!  I smiled and laughed a little… “Maybe you should let ME lead.”  She settled in behind what would later be named by Monya the ‘Summer Shuffle.’  I may have seemed slow but I had actually picked up the pace when it got dark, and I was moving pretty well for this late in the race, at least for me.

Our 6 mile section went by quickly and it was made even more dream-like as the sun faded and the rain started to pour on us.  That was extremely uncharacteristic of this race and this time of year.  When I reached the Shortcut Saddle aid station, there was Monya, ready to take me through the night.

AC100 - Finish1Monya and I shuffled along down the long fire road as she began singing ‘Do the Shuffle!’ to the tune of ‘The Hustle,’ making fun of my attempt at a run, and making me try to run away from her!  I was unsuccessful.  The night hours went by quickly with her and I don’t really remember any of it being terribly uncomfortable or horrible, as it has been in past 100s.  I just remember that hills became a little tougher than usual due to lack of oxygen in my blood.  We ran across a lot of friends in that section, Kiley, David Chan, and Marcus who had injured himself and was going to drop at Chantry.  I dreaded my climb at mile 75, but as she delivered me to David, my last shift pacer, his energy and excitement carried me through the first few miles.  That is, until we hit Upper Winter Creek.

I don’t ever remember a low in a 100 mile race that took me as deep into despair as that climb took me.  I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t see straight, I even went tumbling off the trail at one point.  Thank God for David who grabbed my arm just in time.  It took us 2.5 hours to go 4.5 miles.  I wondered at that point if I could make up time enough to finish the race.  As we finally summited, I mustered a shuffle down to the Idlehour aid station.   It was there that I ran into my friend Diana, who had decided she needed to drop as well.  I was sad for her, but her encouragement helped me face what was ahead… the last big climb of the course.

AC100 - Finish4David took the lead and I focused on him as we charged ahead.  I was hallucinating so badly, at one he asked me if I saw the aid station ahead.  I pointed in two different directions and said “that one, or that one?”  It was neither.  At mile 89, we had 3 hours left to finish the race.  I was terrified I wouldn’t make it.  I had a full fledged meltdown about a mile away from the last aid station, thinking I wasn’t moving fast enough.  David calmly explained to me that I was, and we were off again.

Coming into Millard, the final aid station, I saw my friend Bob welcoming me ‘home.’  I was only 4.7 miles to the finish, with 1.5 hours left, and no more hard climbs.  He prepped me that I could not slow down, but as long as I kept moving, I would make it.  We reached just a little over one mile out with 40 minutes to spare, and there was my friend Louis Kwan, taking my picture.  When he told me I was on the home stretch, I knew that I was going to make it!

Monya met us just a few streets out from the park, where the finish line was.  The 3 of us ran/walked/hobbled into the park, and there I was, so completely overwhelmed by all of my friends and fellow runners welcoming me in.  My friends Mike, Ben and Howie immediately hugged and congratulated me, Hal was there to give me a big pat on the back and tell me that they were ‘changing the odds in Vegas’ referring to my close call finish.  My step sister Laura was there along with my all my friends.  Larry ushered me to my famous finish line photo.  I had done it!  I had completed the Angeles Crest 100!

AC100-Finish2I will be forever grateful for what my team did for me that day… from Matt’s unwavering belief in me and helping me get quickly and efficiently in and out of aid stations, to Shannon and Monya for keeping my spirits up during the night and enjoying a great adventure, and to David who pushed me exactly the right amount without breaking me, and being the one that was there by my side when this huge dream of mine came true.

The awards ceremony was surreal and I laid in the grass trying to remain conscious enough to enjoy every moment.  Chris Gaggia shot me one more ‘thumbs up’ before heading out.  “Sorry for my previous response to your congratulations”  I said, a little embarrassed.

He smiled back.  “No, that actually sounded exactly right!”

 

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There are moments in life when you step back, look at everything, and realize that things are absolutely perfect.  They are typically the simple moments.  I have learned to fear them.  When that realization hits me,  it means that everything is about to change.  It’s part of how the world operates.  We are constantly changing and moving forward.  People enter your life and then leave, sometimes abruptly and with no explanation. There are situations or people that you must walk away from too - sometimes abruptly and with no explanation.     Regardless, the only consistency in life is change.  Your choices are to get stuck in a rut where you are mourning your losses, or to jump on and enjoy the ride, knowing that the loss of one important thing always marks the entrance of another.

My life has been filled with adventure, loss, and the entrance of many, many great things.  It all began over a month ago when I left on a road trip, starting with my 50 mile qualifier for the Angeles Crest 100, and ending with Western States Training Camp – 2 days of running 50 miles with 3 of my favorite people in the world!

6-23 RideI arrived in Las Vegas with my dad the day before the Ride the Wind 50 miler.  My nerves set in, knowing that I needed a successful race, not just for my qualifier, but for my head, and to realize that my training was working.  My friends June and David has suggested this event and I’d come to visit them a few weeks before to do some running on the course.  That morning, I got up, calm, focused and ready.  I walked down to my car and low and behold, I had a completely flat tire!  Fortunately my friend Erich had flown in from Texas for this race the night before and he quickly jumped in his car and came to pick us up.  Hurdle #1 of the day – completed!

The race was small but perfect.  It was obvious that Jimmy, the race director, did this for the pure love of the sport and I was happy to be there supporting his event. June was running the 100 miler and David would be crewing and volunteering.  We took off and I realized that this would be more challenging than I originally anticipated.  It was technical, and although the elevation change was not significant based on what I had been training on, it was still fairly substantial for the desert.  The heat greeted us quickly and high winds set in as soon as temperatures dropped.  I finished in the dark that night, but somehow placed 2nd female, 4th overall!  Again, it was a small race, but it was exactly the confidence boost that I needed.  Most importantly, I was officially qualified for the AC100!

6-23 WS Training CampThe next week was spent pressing the ‘reset’ button in my life.  I spent several days in Vegas before taking off for the Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon, and then heading home.  The following weekend, Dawn, Mark and I jumped into the car and headed up to Northern California, where we would meet David Adams and spend 2 full days running along the Western States course.

I was full of excitement and nerves when we arrived in Auburn.  I had experienced these trails a few times but I couldn’t wait to show them to my friends.  I kept thinking that it was too bad I was slower then they were so that we couldn’t all run together.  We made a game plan before taking off as to where we would meet after we all finished.

We took off from Robinson Flat early Saturday morning and sure enough, the threesome was off ahead of me quickly.  I settled into my own pace and figured I would not see them again until our 32 mile run was complete.  Before I knew it, Michelle Barton, a highly talented So Cal runner had caught up to me (she had been running with Gordy for a few beginning miles) and the two of us took off running together to the first aid station.  Suddenly, I saw David, Mark and Dawn, who had just arrived.  To my surprise, the 4 of us ended up running together from there on out.  I am sure there were moments that we all held back for each other in different ways, but somehow our paces fell right into one and we were all laughing and enjoying the sights, and jumping into all the lakes we could find, having an absolute blast!  I will never forget those two days.  My confidence was high, my training was going well.  The AC100 was starting to feel like a reality.

6-23 WS Training Camp 2Upon my return I spent every moment possible on the Angeles Crest course.  Every run I’d feel a little more confident, and a little more terrified at the same time.  Some days I ran strong, other days I would have issues. I accepted that as part of the process, and kept pressing on.

I can say with certainty that in 40 days, when I line up to the start line of that race, I will have done everything I possibly could have to be ready.  I have made many sacrifices this year to honor it with my very best.  It may ‘just’ be a race but to me it is so much more.  Through my commitment to this event I have learned a lot about myself.  I’ve learned my value and I’ve learned when you are chasing your purpose, the right people fall into your life.  You do not have to chase them.  That is, of course, unless they are pacing you across the finish line of your goal race!

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130 Days – The 2014 Old Goat 50

March 25, 2014

There’s something simultaneously wonderful and terrifying about lining up at the start line of a race 100% ready.  You trained hard, you’re uninjured, you’re ready.  Wonderful because in a busy life, that is so hard to pull off.  Terrifying because you have nothing to blame it on if shit goes sideways.  This was one of […]

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171 Days – Mt Baldy Adventure!

February 12, 2014

“You ok?”  Mark shouted up to me.  I wasn’t really that far ahead but the high winds at almost 10k feet of altitude made it hard to stay upright, much less hear the person behind you. “Yep!”  I shouted back, while stopping to catch my breath.  “Just admiring the view of course!” “Of course!  You certainly picked […]

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179 Days – Red Rock Park AKA Wonderland!

February 5, 2014

Running in the cold has never really been my ‘thing.’  But for summer races, preparation typically starts at the beginning of the year so there is really no avoiding a little of it.  Fortunately in LA, things only get SO cold.  But no temperature could keep me from the Saturday morning adventure that I had […]

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257 Days until the Angeles Crest 100/The Ragnar Vail Lake Relay

November 19, 2013

“Hey guys!”  Monya yelled from outside our tent, “Is Hope in there?  Dawn came in and she’s not over there!” It was 2am and Kristin and I barely stirred from our sleeping bags, finally drifting into a deep sleep after our first two legs at the cold, rainy Ragnar Relay Race in Vail Lake.  There were […]

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Stopping to smell the Purple Poodle.

July 10, 2013

“Alright guys, two options today.  One is pretty straightforward, another is an adventure!” In true Bastard spirit, the majority of the team’s eyes lit up and raised their hands that they had chosen the adventure.  So off into the woods we went, to explore an overgrown trail and see how far and where it would lead […]

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89 Days – The Grand Canyon, Rim to Rim to Rim

May 6, 2013

“Lets just lie down here and take a nap until the others catch up,”  Erich said, as he lowered himself down onto the trail, on his back, using his pack as a pillow. “On tonight’s episode of  ‘I Shouldn’t Be Alive’…”  I said in a deep announcer-like voice.  Erich shot me a dirty look that […]

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108 Days – Bastards in Wonderland

April 17, 2013

“This is neat!”  I smiled over to Monte.  “I feel like I’m introducing my new boyfriend to…” “All your old boyfriends?”  Monte laughed, looking around at the highly skewed male population of what I lovingly refer to as the ‘AC10o Boys Club.’ “I was going to say family, but I guess that works too!” 10 Bastards […]

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122 Days – The Magic Is In The Details

April 5, 2013

“It’s too early to be this excited about life!!”  I shouted down to my puppy, who was suddenly doing hot laps around my apartment.  It was 4:45am and my alarm had just gone off.  After three full months of this, she was putting two and two together, knowing that when that sound happened, my feet […]

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