216 Days – The Bastard 50k

“Kristin!  We forgot our space blankets!”  I said as we raced out of the chilly mountains in Azusa, headed towards Sierra Madre.

Typically for the Bastard 50k, our end of the year team run, all of our required supplies were checked at the start, but this year they were being checked at mile 22.  If any of the items were missing, we would be disqualified.

“What do we do??”  She said in a panic.

“I know!  We’ll run down into Monrovia Canyon and empty some of the neighbors trash bags and use them instead!”

I awoke with a start, two days before the Bastard 50k.  My very first stress dream about the event.

 

The 50k distance itself doesn’t intimidate me, but adding elements can certainly elevate the challenge.  This was Kristin’s first time running this far and I wanted her to have a great time.  I also didn’t want to hold her back.  I knew from past experiences one of three things would happen:  1) I’d be huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with her as she completely kicked my ass.  2) A random problem would surface and we’d work through it together.  3) We’d be the perfect match for each other.  What happened ended up being a beautiful combination of all three.

Let me preface this story by saying that I, in no way, shape or form, think I stack up to Kristin, even at a 50k level.  She is a wonderful runner and is no question, a better runner than I am.  But you never really know what will arise while you are running your first one.  I knew Mt. Disappointment 2013 was a big goal for her, and I believe that along with our other fast female 50k runner Dawn, she is going to be putting her name on the ultrarunning map very soon.

We took off at the latest start time, midnight.  It wasn’t entirely because I wanted to all out ‘race’ the event, but because I knew that we would get sunlight quicker.  Sun = energy after running all night long.  The first 12 miles were straight uphill, so we took it at a conservative jog/walk, all the way up.  We let the other teams go and fell into our own pace.  I could tell it was probably tough for her to pull back so much, but she did it with no complaints.  I appreciated the trust that she put in my pacing.

Once we finally hit a down section, I took the lead and was nice enough to point out some rocky sections by going ass over tea kettle a few times, letting Kristin know that she probably shouldn’t step there!  For some reason, we both ran into some stomach issues, new to both of us.  We took our time through a few sections, allowing ourselves to eat and digest our food well before pushing too hard.  As we neared the end of our descent, just before sunrise, we suddenly saw 4 headlamps pointed in our direction.  It was a very unnerving thing to see in the middle of nowhere and we were unsure what we had stumbled upon, until I heard a voice I recognized.  It was David Van Horsen (DVH), leading a pack of his Bastard teammates out of the mile 22 aid station.  We didn’t realize we had already reached it.

We were excited to see the volunteers who had spent the night out there to help us.  At that check point, Dave O. was supposed to check one of our required items so he jokingly asked to make sure we still had our shoes.  Kristin and I filled up quickly and headed up our last 4.5 mile ascent, the same climb that greets Angeles Crest 100 runners around mile 75.  It wasn’t long before we ran into DVH’s team.  I was incredibly impressed to watch him as he patiently guided his teammates, Corlyn, Lynn and Shawn, some of which had run into some issues in the night.  DVH and I shared our memories of the climb up to the finish of Mt Disappointment a few months earlier.  The roles were reversed this time, and he was doing a great job.

The only time in the entire race that I saw Kristin have a little ‘low’ was going up that hill.  Probably the only reason I didn’t follow was because of the amount of ‘lows’ I had felt climbing that thing in prep for the AC100.  As a result, I knew exactly where we were the whole time and was able to communicate how far we had to go.  It was nice to know that training was paying off, even if I hadn’t completed the event that year.  Both of our spirits were lifted as we summited to the bench, and it began to snow.

At Orchard Camp, the turn around for the Mt. Wilson Trail Race, we caught up to the team of Forrest, Beth, Raquel, Alex and Jim S.  I could tell Kristin was getting excited.  Having completely crushed the Mt. Wilson Trail Race when she ran it, she knew exactly how to really race this section.  She took the lead and I stayed on her heels.  It felt great to run hard on our finally descent.  “Go Kristin!”  I shouted.  “Bring us in!”  I felt the wind in my hair, the sun on back and… the ground on my face!  My left foot had hit a large rock and I fell, absorbing much of the shock to my right calf, as I tried to fall towards the mountain and NOT towards the large drop of to my left.  Kristin, thinking I was right behind her, kept running.  I got up and tried to run – fail!  My calf was screaming at me.  “C’mon Racer,”  I said to myself.  “You are a 100 mile runner.  Suck it up!!”

I began to run again.  At this point, Kristin was on the street and ready to rumble!  She took off sprinting and waited for me just before the finish.  We crossed together, holding hands, and jumping around like goofballs!

A moment I will never forget is when the two of us walked into the pub.  I looked around as my fellow teammates who had finished, with beers in hand, clapped and screamed for us.  They were genuinely excited for our finish, and very proud of what they had accomplished as well.  It reminded me of that scene in Titanic, where Jack and Rose meet up in heaven, walking down the staircase, and seeing all those they loved, clapping and smiling that they were together.  A cheesy analogy, but standing there by Kristin, seeing her family greet her, as the team all gathered around was my little moment of heaven.

Many stories emerged as I jumped from table to table, listening to their adventures.  I learned that Bob O, another Mt. Disappointment survivor, had also taken the lead that day and helped two young cross country girls cross the finish line of their first 50k.  We had 100% of our starters finish, and not just because of Eric or me, but because many of our ‘students’ such as Bob and DVH, had became the ‘teachers’ that day, sacrificing their own races, to help others achieve their goals, in ways that those they helped will always remember.

The  team of Monte, Tom Bigley and his daughter Lauren were this years winners.  As they told me how shocked they were, I told them I was not shocked at all.  Not only are each of them very good runners, but they had been consistent with practices and training, and simply ran smart.  It was well deserved!

I’m really happy that I chose Kristin as my partner this year, and I learned a lot by running with her.  Not only from a standpoint of a runner, but from one as a friend.  It was great to spend those 9 hours getting to know one of my teammates in a way that only 31 miles in the mountains can do!  This closed out another great year of ultrarunning, and started off another, with a very large and difficult goal.  As I said my goodbyes to the team, Rainer and I smiled over at each other, an unspoken commitment.  Come hell or high water, our 2013 goal will be achieved together – the finish line of the Angeles Crest 100!

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