Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Miners Revenge/That Damn Run - Long Run Report?

Well, it coulda-woulda-shoulda been a race report, had I not totally screwed up and missed the sign-up deadline!  But, in a fun little turn of events, my long run on Sunday gets to serve as an incredibly belated race report from last October - hooray!  And a bonus spectator report, because UIH was smart enough to sign up in time.  Let me explain...

Last October, UIH and I signed up (in time) to do a fun little trail Half Marathon called That Damn Half and I had one of the best days ever!  The race was awesome in every way:  the course was terrific, the swag was phenomenal (Pint glass!  Women's specific tech tee!), and I rocked the heck out of the race with a nice little (trail) half marathon PR!  Aaaaaaand, then I never blogged about it.  I have no earthly idea why, since I loved the race so much, and I took pictures and everything.  I assume I got busy, it happens.

Fast forward to Sunday, when UIH toed the starting line for the Miners Revenge Trail Marathon (there was a half option as well, which is what I had planned on doing).

Seriously, it was a starting line.
The full marathon course was two different loops of thirteen-ish miles each.  The first loop was uncharted territory for me, but the second loop was a reverse course of That Damn Run, so I decided to run it "backwards" - meaning, the same way I ran it at That Damn Run - so I could see the marathoners coming at me.  I figured that was a great way to cheer for UIH and get in my planned long run.  Genius!

I had some weird nerves going into the day, because I totally felt like I was banditting the race!!  Obviously, I wasn't going to eat at the aid stations or take a medal or anything, but I felt so guilty about running on a marked course without a bib.  I cheered at the start for UIH and all the runners who were smart enough to meet the deadline, then lingered for a bit, wandering back to my car to get my gear ready.  As I was walking back, a friendly voice called out to me, "You should be running this race!  So I could read about it on your blog!"  Hey!!  It was my AR50 aid station fangirl!  We chatted for a bit and I still didn't take a picture with her.  Next time, for sure.

I chatted with the RD for a minute, also, which totally helped me feel better about the whole "bandit" thing.  If the RD knew I was running the course for fun, then I must be okay!  He was super nice and friendly.

So, off I went!  Even though the course was marked, I was a little worried about getting lost.  There's some precedent for this fear, as you know, so I tried to be extra vigilant about watching for the blue ribbons marking the course.  I needn't have worried (yet), because the course was extremely well-marked.

Damn.  All told, my day included something like 4,200' of elevation change.
So, the first four miles was pretty much all downhill, which is a really lovely way to start a long run, other than that whole false sense of awesomeness thing.  I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling that I could run like the wind, but kept thinking about those poor marathoners who were going to spend Miles 22-26 climbing this bad boy.  Yikes!

You can't tell, but this was a very, very, very steep uphill, which is why I stopped briefly to take a photo and catch my breath.

Pretty view!

My trail buddy.  No clue what kind of lizard/gecko he is, but I saw five of these little guys during my run and I loved their coloring.  Also, you know how lizards usually dart around so quickly?  These guys were just sort of moseying, enjoying the scenery.
The weather was just about as perfect as it gets for me:  low 50s, nice cloud cover, not too much wind.  I spent nearly the whole morning with a smile on my face, enjoying the day.  As I arrived at Mile 5-ish (almost Mile 21 for the marathoners), I saw the volunteers setting up the aid station tent.  They were having some trouble with the pop-up, so I stopped and tried to help, with no luck.  I felt sort of bad that I'm not mechanically inclined, but since it was such a cool day, they probably didn't even need the cover.  It misted/sprinkled for a little bit, but there was never enough rain to be a big deal.

I thought a lot about That Damn Run while I was running.  I remembered a lot of the course and the friendly runners I had chatted with that day.  One guy had recognized me from another race we had both done, and another guy had joined our conversation, which meandered onto the topics of shoes, training for ultras and awesome local races.  There was one section of trail that I had particularly enjoyed last October, which was a little trickier on Sunday because it was somewhat overgrown and there was lots of poison oak.  It struck me how very different the trail looked in springtime versus late summer/early fall, which is the only time I've run it.

I saw the first marathoner coming at me when I was about seven miles into my day.  Yep.  He had run 19 miles in the time it took me to run seven.  Whatever.  I stepped off the trail and cheered for him.  He looked like he was out for an easy 5K, the way he blew past me.  I will never, ever look like that while running.
Second place guy was quite a ways back, then third place guy was pretty significantly behind them.  I was really happy about seeing the marathoners, though, because I knew I would get to see UIH soon!  I was running along, thinking how happy I would be to see him, when I came to this completely unmarked fork in the road:
Hmmmm, which way to go?
I stopped and scratched my head for a bit, trying to decide what to do.  I slowly headed in one direction, all the while looking back at the fork to see if any marathoners were coming from the other way.  Once it was just about out of sight and still no blue ribbons, I headed back.  Then I went the other way doing the same thing.  No marathoners, no blue ribbons.  I mentally retraced my steps, trying to decide when I had seen the last blue ribbon.  It had been a bit, so I decided to head back up the trail and see if I could figure out where I had gone wrong.  Less than a quarter of a mile later, I saw what I had done:  there were ribbons on a fence post next to a much smaller trail that I had missed because there were no ground markings.  Aha!  Back on course and only lost for about ten minutes.  Pretty sure that's a personal best for me.

My excitement about finding the trail didn't last long - less than another quarter mile on this trail, there was another fork with no ground markings that was in much denser trees and covering.  I wouldn't be able to see the other side of the fork if I traveled too far in either direction, so I stood there and waited for a marathoner to come through before I decided which way to go.  Thankfully, I barely waited a minute, and then I was off in the correct direction again!

I was at more or less Mile 10-ish for me, and was starting to see marathoners pretty steadily, but no UIH.  I told myself not to worry.  Just because I should have already seen him didn't mean anything was wrong, particularly since I had been off the race course for somewhere around ten minutes or possibly more.  I texted him.  No answer.  I tried the Find My iPhone app.  His location hadn't been updated since yesterday.  Okay, I was pretty sure he wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere, no need to panic.  So, I only panicked a little.  I kept running, going over the possibilities in my head.

This did not happen while I was lost, this was actually part of the trail.  There were several water crossings during the course, but the others were either very narrow or had walkable rocks.  Not this guy.  I looked up- and down-stream before deciding that the only way to get across was this one.  So of course I stopped mid-creek and took a picture.  Pretty sure everybody does that, amIright??
There were three distinct possibilities for what happened with UIH:  1.)  The first loop kicked his ass and he decided to call it a day at the half marathon, which meant he would have been waiting for me for quite some time and I should really get my ass in gear.  2.)  The first loop was still currently kicking his ass and he just hadn't gotten to me yet, or 3.)  The far more likely scenario - UIH was kicking everybody's ass and had shot past me like a rocket while I was out wandering in the unmarked fields.

And of course the answer was Number 3.  I returned to the starting area with just about 14 miles on my Garmin and checked in with the timing tent to ask if I could track a runner.  UIH had bolted through the first 13 mile loop in 2:15, something like the 14th person to cross the line (which included the speedy half marathoners who were finished with their day at that point!)  I was so excited for UIH!  He was having a great day!

I hustled out to the car to get my jacket and my post-run shake, then settled onto a rock to watch the runners coming through.  I knew if UIH had pushed the first loop so fast, that he would do his best to barrel through the second one, too.  Around four and a half hours on the clock, I knew I would see him any second, and I was right!

My amazing UltraIronHubs, finishing a trail marathon with about 10,000' of elevation change in a time that's faster than all but two of my wimpy road marathons!  He's such a beast!

Race schwag was a DUFFEL BAG and an awesome finisher's medal!  The super cool  pint glass was for winning second place in his age!

Next year?  Totally signing up for this race!!  Also, here are all the photos I meant to blog about way back last October:

Pre-race selfie!


The aid station volunteers were fantastic!

Little bit drier in October than it was in April, huh??

Post-race selfie!

Finish line decorations.

How the hell was I this fast just six months ago??

Have you ever been a "bandit" on a race course??  Ever forgotten to blog about a race for over six months??

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Snapshot Saturday

Eighteen Miles.  1350' of climbing.  Fourteen water crossings (though none of them were actually deep enough to get my shoes wet!) Photo credit goes to UltraIronHubs, which is why they're all of my backside.  LOL!

Okay, technically, this was more of a mud crossing, but I still counted it.

Gorgeous wooden bridge.  I didn't count this as one of our water crossings, actually.

Puddle jump!

Wild iris.  I think.

Little balance beam.

Big balance beam.

Looks like I'm entering a cave.

There were lots of runnable sections of the trail, too, but it really seemed like the whole day was technical and rocky like this.

Action jumping shot!

Careful...caaaaaaaaaaarefuuuuuuuuullllllllll.  I should have just splashed through these, but I'm a weenie.

This view didn't suck.

Slow and hot, a "character building" run for sure.  I was whiny and underfueled the whole time, but I got 'er done!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Post-Race Blues - it's a Thing.

I always forget how hard the week after a big race is.  The first few days are so nice, with everybody congratulating you and other runners asking about the race and actually wanting to hear the gory details.  Plus, you're still so sore that going for a run is slightly less appealing than normal, so it's easy to sit on your ass and continue to eat like you're training for an ultra, because - hello, recovery!  But then three days turns into four and five and now nobody cares about your little run and you're not really sore but you're not exactly sprightly either and good heavens, did you really gain five pounds in five days?


Recovery is not my favorite phase of the training cycle, even though I know it is completely critical to my performance at my next race.  I was a good girl and I didn't run for five days after the AR50.  Immediately following the race, my muscles felt terrific, but the tendons in most of my joints felt very tight and stiff, particularly in my knees and feet.  I've never felt anything quite like it before, so I knew I needed to take my time getting back into the swing of things.  I ran four very easy miles last Thursday, then five slow miles on Saturday, then 16 hilly monsters on Sunday.  Yeah, I know that last part doesn't sound very smart, but I promise I did a LOT of walking during those sixteen!  UltraIronHubs and I were scouting out part of the Gold Rush 100K course we'll be running next month.

62 miles of this?  Yes, please!

Ah, yes, the 100K.  I didn't want to sign up for it until after I had successfully run the AR50.  There was no real logic behind this, to be honest.  I knew I was going to run it and I had even talked UIH into running it with me - yay!  But even though it's been on my mental race plan for months and months, I had a complete freak out some hesitation about pulling the trigger.  I was still feeling a little fragile after running 50 miles and looking at the elevation chart for the Gold Rush made me feel sort of clammy and sick.  Hence the recon run on Sunday (even though we had already paid for the race on Wednesday before the price increased - no backing out now!)

It was a little cloudy and chilly when we started, but it warmed up into a gorgeous day.  On race day, by the time we get to this point in the early afternoon, I have to imagine it's going to be blazing hot out here.

I follow all trail markings.
Our car was parked just past the bridge you can see waaaaaaaaaaay down at the river.  That was an incredibly steep first mile, but a really pleasant last mile.
UIH and I had one of the nicest runs ever on this trail.  It's going to be a super tough race, there's no doubt about it, but the views were incredible and even though it was very hilly, none of them were insurmountable.  The footing wasn't treacherous and there were good stretches of very runnable terrain.  I felt so much better about the race after we scouted out this section, which is the hardest part of the course.

Only one little glitch in the day, and you are going to want to skip this next photo if you are squeamish about bugs - I picked up a tick!  I've never been bitten by one before and I'd like it a lot if I never got bitten by one again.  It hurt!  UIH told me he'd had one many years ago in his Army days and didn't even know it, but I felt it the minute that sucker (ha!  See what I did there?) got me.  It stung like the dickens.  UIH managed to pull it out without a problem once we got home and I'm sure I'm completely fine, but the bite spot hurt for two days.  No thank you.

I love my husband.  I was lying on the ground so he could remove my parasite (Mr. Tick bit me in the back fold of my knee, I couldn't get to it myself), and before he got the tweezers, UIH grabbed my phone and said, "You want a picture of this for the blog, right?"

How do you handle the post-race blues - Eating a lot?  Running too soon?  Signing up for another race? Or something more sensible?

Monday, April 7, 2014

American River 50 Mile Endurance Run - An Ultra (long) Race Report!

Alternate title:  The One Where Pahla Learns to Let Shit Go.

I've seen "Frozen" twice now, and I thought it was a pretty cute movie.  I'm not a SuperFan by any means, but let me tell you, that song, "Let it Go" was pretty much my theme song for the day Saturday.  Sometimes, even when nothing seems to go the way you thought it might go, everything still turns out amazing!  Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

Our story actually begins a few weeks ago, when Big Boy's track calendar incurred a small change:  an all day meet about an hour away (in the opposite direction) on the same day as the AR50.  Which meant that UltraIronHubs couldn't be a pacer for me, or even, you know, BE THERE AT ALL.  Sad trombone!  There was nothing to be done for it, though I did briefly entertain the idea of sending Big Boy to his race with somebody else so UIH could be with me.  I wanted to be that selfish, but of course I wasn't.  "Let it go, let it go-ooo."  So instead I wrangled my sister and my mom into crewing for me.  Ha!  I don't think they fully understood how long and exhausting the day was going to be for them when they agreed.  I probably won't be so lucky next time, now that they know.

Leading up to Saturday, it had been a long, crazy week at work, the way most weeks are.  I was about my average amount of well-rested and well-hydrated, meaning that I was okay, but maybe could have done better.  I'd had my normal pre-race chicken and rice dinner and gone to bed ridiculously early, since the alarm was set for 2 freakin' 30 in the AM.  My race morning "stuff" all went well - coffee, oatmeal, et cetera.  My colon was cleared, my gear was ready, it was time to go run the hell out of this race!
The time on the clock is actually "time left until the start of the race."  We started at 6 am.  In the dark.
I hit the port-o-potties a couple of times and started making friends, because that's just what I do.  I was chatting about shoes with the nice woman behind me in line and she told me that she was volunteering as a Sweeper.  I so want to do that someday!!!  She got to run at the very, very back of the pack and encourage the stragglers to keep up their pace.  I suppose she also had to enforce the cutoff times, which would suck, but I think it would be awesome to cheer on the very last runners.  They work harder, you know.  On a side note, as nice as she was, I was happy that I didn't see her again during the day!

As I was getting out of the car to line up, I turned on my Garmin and it instantly chirped "Low Battery" at me.  WTF?  Of course it was charged, I charge it every single time I run, when I'm loading up the data onto the computer!  Well, apparently, the little charger prongs hadn't fully connected the last time I used it two days ago and it had drained itself instead.  I tried not to freak out, because, really, what were my options here?  I was going to run no matter what.  But all I could think about was all those miles that Strava wouldn't record!  WAAAAH!  "Let it go, let it go-ooo."  Thankfully, I always keep my GymBoss in the car for client workouts, so I set it for 8:1 intervals as an eating and drinking reminder and clipped it onto my hydration pack.  I hoped the Garmin would last a few miles, so I could keep tabs on my progress and manage my pace, but no such luck:  it was a dead, blank screen before I even crossed the starting line.

I started at the very, very back of Wave One.  There were two waves and I really didn't belong in Wave One, a fact I announced to the volunteer as I picked up my packet.  There was absolutely no way I could run fast enough to be with the Wave One-ers!  I deliberated dropping back to Wave Two, but I knew UIH was on a bit of a time crunch to get back home after seeing me at the first aid station, so I stayed in my designated wave and thought I could just hang back and keep my pace slow.

There were between 400-500 runners in each wave.

Here we go!
So of course I went out way, way, WAAAAAAAY too fast.  I'm an idiot.  The first mile was paved, so it was easy footing and easy to just go my regular pace, as opposed to my, "I'm going to be running all day" pace.  I should have taken a walking break when everybody else's Garmin chirped at the first mile, but I didn't, for no good reason that I can recall.  My headlamp was essentially useless once we were on the dark trail (it's fine in town, but apparently puts out very little light in the "for reals" dark), so I hustled to keep up with the other runners rather than lose my footing and fall so early in the day.

As it got lighter, I was able to step aside and let other people pass me and tried to get into my pace.  I started the GymBoss and took in a little Gatorade, but by Mile 3 or 4, my stomach was letting me know that I had made a huge mistake.  I was under-hydrated and underfed.  I felt awful and started to freak out a little.  It was way too early in the day to not feel good!  I walked some more, even though the terrain was flat and easy, and I heard myself say (in my head, later it would be out loud), "If you feel like you want to cry, eat something."  This is sort of a strange mantra for a girl with a healthy relationship with food, but it's a plain and simple fact that when I'm feeling down on a run, I need calories!

So I walked and I ate some peanut butter pretzels - OMG, yum! - and I made friends with a guy who was wearing the neatest gaiters.  My opening line as I came up behind him:  "Are those pin-up girls on your gaiters?!?"  Yes.  Yes, they were.  We chatted.  He was looking for a 13 hour finish, like me, but had started too fast, like me.  His wife was way ahead of us.  This wasn't his first 50.  He was great company as we cruised into the first aid station and I got to see UIH for a minute.
I never saw any of these people again.  They probably finished before I was at the halfway point, speedsters!
I gave him my stupid uncharged Garmin and thank goodness he offered me his watch.  I couldn't keep track of my pace - hello, running math! - but at least I had some idea of where I was in the day.  I mostly hustled past the aid table, since it was so early and I still had everything I needed.  We turned onto the street for another long, paved stretch that included a pretty good hill.  Pin-Up Gaiters had gotten ahead of me, so I ran and walked alone for awhile.  We turned onto the American River Bike Trail and I was a little surprised that we stayed on the paved trail, rather than the dirt single-track that runs more or less parallel.  In reading the course description, I had mistakenly believed that we would be on the dirt.  This was sort of disappointing, honestly, as I've been doing all of my long-run training in the dirt, but no matter.  I know the bike trail very well from years of running and training there, so either way this was going to be the most familiar part of my day.

Somewhere along here, I was lamenting the aid station chart that was supposed to be in my pack, but was instead languishing on top of my printer, where I accidentally left it.  I knew where I was, but I didn't really know where I was, mileage-wise and race course-wise.  Running Garmin-less made this much worse.  I felt weirdly lost.  The guy next to me told me we'd been running eight miles when his Garmin chirped.  Eight miles was exciting!  I was further than I thought, but I wished I knew when the next aid station was.  Apparently, all I had to do was ask and the running gods would provide:  there on the trail appeared somebody else's dropped aid station chart!  You can't imagine how happy I was to pick that baby up!  I felt bad for the guy who dropped it, of course, and hoped that losing it didn't screw up his day.  I didn't look closely at it until later, but there was a very detailed and aggressive pace/goal chart attached.  I wonder if he met his plan.

A few miles before aid station #2, I was out of water.  I wondered why I hadn't filled up at aid station #1 and vowed not to make that mistake again.  I was walking and eating enough and my stomach was feeling much better.  I called my sister and let her know that I was going to be on the tail end of the times I had told her to meet me.  By the time I cruised into the aid station at Willow Creek (#2), I really had to use the bathroom.  Hooray for hydration!  I filled up my water bottle and skedaddled on down the trail.  Just a few more miles until I would see my crew at the Aquatic Center!

What a wonderful and welcome sight!  My mom and sister, who did fantastic at their first ultra crewing job!

Only a half marathon into my day, it's not hard to keep smiling!
Leaving the Aquatic Center, there are two long, steep uphills that are really only walkable.  (Okay, I'm sure there were plenty of hotshots who ran them, but I walked.)  I took the opportunity to call UIH and let him know that I was feeling much better.  I knew he would be worried about me, especially since I didn't feel great just five miles in, and I wanted to reassure him.  I had gotten my stomach under control and I was really looking forward to this stretch of the race.
This is the second long uphill.  I took the photo while walking up the first one.  There was a guy on a bullhorn, cheering on the runners at the top of this hill.  He was AWESOME!!  I could already hear him while I was taking this photo.  His energy absolutely carried me up that hill!
Aid Station #3 was full of energy - the volunteers were dressed as superheros and they were so much fun!  I filled my water bottle again and grabbed some salted red potato chunks.  I was feeling fantastic, so I didn't linger.  There were plenty of people around to chat with and I think we were all feeling pretty good at this point.  It's far enough into the race that you've settled your nerves, but not so far that you're feeling tired yet.  I passed people and got passed, and hung out with a guy named Joel for a few miles.  He was coming back from an injury, but was an experienced ultra runner, so his race plan was just to keep moving forward.  Good plan!  I saw Pin-Up Gaiters again as we passed each other back and forth.  Somewhere around these parts, there were a pair of guys coming up behind me who were carrying on a conversation I couldn't help but overhear.  I burst out laughing when one of them said, "...he's going to pace me on the last 100 miles."  I turned and apologized for eavesdropping, but that's just not a phrase you hear every day!  We joked a little and I asked him about his upcoming race.  He and his friend were running WAY too fast for me to chat with them more, unfortunately.

I ran happily into aid station #4, ready for another bottle of water and more potato chunks.  I was thinking about when UIH ran the AR50 two years ago and how strong he looked at this point (Mile 20), when the volunteer behind the potatoes said to me, "Ummm, do you write a blog?"
"Yes....Adventures of an Average Athlete?"
"OMG, yes!  I read your blog!"
I squealed like a piglet and thanked her (at least I think I thanked her.  I hope I did.  I couldn't exactly remember later, because while we were talking, I was thinking about asking if I could take her picture to post here and then I thought that might sound creepy or weird, so I didn't.  But then I regretted not asking.) and told her she made my whole day, which she did.  I LOVE being recognized from my blog!!

Off I went, feeling all full of myself and semi-famous and excited that I would get to see my awesome crew at the next aid station, which was also very nearly the halfway point (Mile 24.31).  Looking back, this was definitely the best I felt all day.  I still had a good amount of energy, I was fueling and hydrating well (I stopped right after the aid station and used the bathroom again - yay!), and I was more or less on the time plan I had given my crew.  The only negative was that the next four miles to the aid station were pretty much all uphill, but I could handle that.
Because, you know.  Llama.  On a leash.  On my race course.  Eating a tree.
I love, love, LOVED the cheer signs!!
Still smiling because I am almost halfway done - woo hoo!
Love my mama!

The aid station at Beal's Point was awesome, with an announcer calling out everybody's name, LOTS of spectators, and - my personal favorite - indoor, flushing toilets.  Everything a girl needs to run another 26 miles!  I am super familiar with the five miles between Beal's Point and Granite Bay, so I was feeling really good.  I picked up a new friend who was really struggling and had been dropped by her running buddies.  She ran intervals with me and my Gymboss (which had long since been changed to the far more reasonable run:walk ratio of 3:1).  She was running her first 50 and it was even her first ultra!  She had a lot of marathon experience.  I assumed she had only run road marathons, because she seemed pretty overwhelmed by all the dirt and hills we were encountering.  She had thought that she would run the whole fifty miles without taking any walking breaks.  I tried not to laugh out loud.  I imagine there are people who don't walk during ultras, but I am sure as heck not one of them!!  We caught up with her running group, who kind of seemed like they were giving her a little shit about being a slowpoke.  Maybe it was funny, I couldn't tell.  I left her with them and continued on my way.
My amazing view at Mile 27-ish.
I came into the aid station at Granite Bay a little bit behind the time I was hoping to, but still well within the window I had told my crew.  I was getting tired and even though I was trying not to "dread" anything, I knew that the next part of the course was the toughest ten miles of the day.  I hugged my mom and filled my water bottle and grubbed on salted potatoes, but didn't linger.  The faster I got this done, the faster I'd be done with it, right?

The guy who dropped his aid station list/pace chart very accurately described Miles 30-40 as "The Meatgrinder."  It was hard.  I walked A LOT.  I finally turned off the Gymboss altogether because it was just pissing me off.  The day suddenly seemed very warm and the field had really, really spread out.  I had nobody to talk to and it was just SO difficult.  A little after 2 o'clock, somewhere around Mile 32 or so, I... well, I didn't hit the wall, exactly.  But I didn't really want to be doing this anymore.  I called UIH because I needed to hear a friendly voice.  We chatted for just a minute or two, but the cell coverage was spotty.  I was lonely and I felt like crying, so I ate some more pretzels.  And then I ate some more and drained the last of my Gatorade, and then I finally felt a little less like crying.  I was pretty sure the next aid station was farther away than the advertised 5.22 miles.  The few people I ran into looked as desperate and exhausted as I felt, but eventually I made it to Buzzard's Cove and aid station #7.  And not a moment too soon, because I was out of water again.

Making it to the next aid station was more of the same, but it was a little closer (just 3.47 miles away), so I felt a little less overwhelmed by the task.  I had to pee really bad, but there were no bathrooms out here in the middle of nowhere, so I dodged behind a tree when there didn't seem to be anybody too close behind me.  I got pee on my shoes, and of course the people behind me arrived in time to see me pulling up my skirt, but my diminished modesty was nothing in the face of the relief my bladder felt!  Onward!

After aid station #8, where I tore through the salted potatoes and filled up my water bottle, I ran for quite a few miles with a really, really, really nice guy named Dave, who pretty much saved my life, or at least my sanity.  As I came up behind him, he tried to step aside and let me pass.  I asked him if I could just follow his shoes for awhile and we started talking.  He was an experienced ultra runner and usually much faster, but he was pacing himself as part of 100-mile training.  His friends were all probably done with their races.  We talked about his daughter and my kids.  I asked if his wife was a runner, too, and he hesitated before saying, "No.  I don't have a wife.  But my girlfriend runs," and we laughed about how it was better to not have a wife than have a wife who doesn't run.  I took my turn pulling in front of him and before I knew it, we were at aid station #9, Rattlesnake Bar, where my mom and sister were waiting!!
Look how cheerful they still are at Mile 40 (almost 41)!!
My sister walked with me to the food table, where I proceeded to dip a boiled red potato into a bowl of salt like a chip into salsa.  Her eyes got huge, and she was all, "Well, I would have taken up running, too, if I'd known you could eat like THAT!"  Dude, I only run ultras for the all-you-can-eat buffet.  I filled up my water bottle again and lingered for a few minutes with my mom.  I knew I was so close to the finish, but oh, man, I was getting tired!  They reminded me several times that I only had single digits left, that I could totally do this.  I knew they must have been tired, too, but they were able to give me so much energy!
Still smiling!  Ready to get this thing done!
I headed back out on the trail alone, since my new BFF Dave had left before me.  I knew he wasn't too far ahead, though, so I put a little hustle into it.  I'm such a stalker.  I had a total second wind thing going on for a few miles, where I felt like I was really pretty close to finishing.  I caught up to Dave and we chatted.  It didn't seem like very long at all (2.98 miles) and we hit aid station #10, Dowdin's Post.  I got there just a few seconds before Dave, and lemme tell ya, the crowd went CRAZY when he arrived!  And I still don't know why!  I assume they were from his running group.  Or maybe he's a famous celebrity and I was too dumb to recognize him.  I filled my water bottle and grabbed some potatoes, but he was chatting and laughing with everyone and I really needed to keep moving, so I headed out.  I thought for sure he would catch back up with me, but I never saw him again.  Sad face.

I'm not sure exactly when I stopped running altogether, but it was somewhere around here.  Even though I was at Mile 44, so close I could taste it, I just didn't have any run left.  My walking pace was awesome, though.  It was a real hustle, arms a-swingin', feet picked up, but just shy of a run or even a jog.  I had to pee so bad I thought I was going to burst.  I'd actually had to go at Rattlesnake Bar, but didn't have the wherewithal to find the porto-potties there.  Silly me.  Every step I took was screaming in my ear:  Go!  Pee!  Go!  Pee!  Go!  Pee!  It was agony.  The trail was a rather steep incline on one side and a very steep ravine on the other and all surfaces seemed to be creeping with poison oak.  Not exactly squat friendly!  Finally, somewhere around Mile 46, there was the tiniest clearing and I took the opportunity.  I was barely into my squat when I heard (thankfully) female voices coming around the corner.  "I'm over here!" I hollered at them.  "Oh, do you want privacy?" they asked.
"No, I just didn't want to scare you."
"Girl, we TOTALLY understand!"
Ultrarunners are the best.  They ran past me, I pulled up my skirt and off I went.  Of course, less than a mile later, there was a porto-potty on the trail.
This is NOT a porto-potty, it's just a pretty picture of the beautiful American River.
I had been looking forward to the final three miles all day long.  It's a horrible, awful, no good climb called Cardiac Hill that nearly took my breath away when I paced for UIH, so you wouldn't really think I'd be excited about that, but here's the thing:  it's the last big climb.  And it's a hill I've run several times now, at the She Rocks, the Rock'n River and the AR 50.  It was the evil I knew and it meant the finish was less than an hour away!

I started laughing when we turned the corner and started climbing Cardiac.  I was giddy.  Yeah, it was awful, but it was almost over.  For months now, I've been dreaming of climbing this hill on this day and finishing with a smile on my face, and now it was happening!  I had one final thing to do, and that was take a picture at the "1 Mile to Go" sign.  My favorite picture in the world of UIH was taken in front of that sign and I wanted one of me, too.  I climbed and I walked.  It was tough going, but I didn't stop.  Everybody on that hill seemed to have a pacer cheering them on, encouraging them to run just a little more and telling them what a great job they were doing!  I tried to summon my inner pacer for a little of that oomph, but she was exhausted.  Walking with my hustle pants on would just have to do.
He's so handsome.  I'm glad I married him!
I reached the "1 Mile to Go" sign with a huge grin on my face.  I pulled out my phone to snap the victory photo and... it was dead.  My fucking phone fucking died at fucking Mile 49 of my 50 mile race.  Are you kidding me??  I wanted to cry.

So I ate another pretzel and I kept on moving towards the Finish Line.  "Let it go, let it go-ooooo-ooooo!"

I looked at my watch, 6:04 pm.  I had exactly twenty minutes to get to the finish before I was going to have to "let go" of my PR dream, and you know what?  That wasn't going to happen.  I walked my little heart out that whole mile.  There was a tiny bit of trotting, a little bit of hustling, but nothing much resembling a run.  I gave it everything I had left in me.  I climbed that last, cruel hill and I knew the finish was right there waiting for me!  I looked for my mom and my sister as I broke into a run-ish, but being the most AWESOME CREW in the entire world, they weren't at the far corner, they were right smack dab next to the finish arch, because they knew that was the picture I really wanted!!
Money shot.

I looked at my watch again and totally had to choke back tears.  I did it!!  I ran 50 miles all by myself and I beat my previous best time by seven minutes!!  As I was running through the long, long, loooooooooooong finisher's chute, I heard the announcer saying, "Here comes Pahla B, with her arms in the air!  Look at that smile!!"  Seriously, it was like he knew that all I wanted from the day was to run happy.

Official finish time - 12:17:58

Sobbing as I picked up my medal and finisher's jacket.

Who rocks?
My sister rocks!
The AR50?  Oh, you know.  It was the Best.  Day.  Ever!