|Shortly after finishing the grueling 170 mile desert traverse|
Last week I completed the week long Grand to Grand Ultra -- 170 miles, self supported run (which means that I carried all of my food and gear on my back) through the desert, starting at the Grand Canyon and ending near Bryce Canyon in the Grand Staircase Escalante.
|Here I am, standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, at the start of the race, the day before it started. I have no idea at this moment how life-changing this run would be.|
When I got the opportunity through a local scholarship to run the race for free, I thought about how I could use this very scary and daunting event to raise awareness and donations for my friend Dakota, a 12 year old kiddo who is battling LCH, a form of rare diseases known as Histiocytosis. LCH affects about 5 per MILLION people a year, most often children. There is no known cure.
Dakota is a fighter. He always has a smile on his face. He's so inspiring to me! He didn't choose his fate. And I had an opportunity to help him and his family if I could raise money to help the cause.
The day I left for the starting line, I had so many emotions running through my head. My heart was beating out of my body, I wanted to cry.
|A jam packed school bus filled with runners, including me!|
|Thumbs up to Harry, JJ, and Steve. Inside I was freaking out.|
|Camp at night|
|My awesome tent mates. I love these guys! Matthew, Maia, Sarah, Emmanuel, Thomas, and Jean Andre|
Arriving at camp in the heat of the day, I was feeling a bit anxious about nearly everything... but the site of the canyon eased my fears and the first person I saw was one of my best friends and camp volunteer, Lisa. Lisa is good at keeping my emotions in check. I was very (VERY) happy to have her there.
|My bestie xoxo|
I had a hard time falling asleep that night. I had horrible heartburn and my brain would not shut down. I probably slept a total of 3 hours. I woke up at 6 to the blaring sound of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. This would be our wake up call for the next 7 days. (Strangely, I've added that back into my playlist since the end of the race... a song that tormented me for days is now a call to rally)
123 of us started the race. 88 of us would finish the Ultra (170 miles over 7 days) , 8 would finish the Challenge (a shorter stage race totalling 108 miles over 7 days), and 27 would not finish. But we didn't know any of this. We just wanted to get this party started.
|About 2 minutes before start!|
|Race director Colin Geddes giving race briefs|
|And we're off!|
95 degrees in the peak of the day, no cloud cover, no wind. Unrelenting. Painful.
Stage 1 knocked me down a few notches. I was completely unprepared for how grueling this race would be, but the arid and scorching desert reminded me that I was going to suffer. There was no other option.
Starting out, I took the first few miles at a good clip. The weather was still mild, but temps were rising. I ran a bit with Sam, the other Kanab runner, and we talked about how lucky we were, how this was "awesome" and that it was going to be "amazing". All smiles, we banked a few miles but then the reality set in. We'd have a bunch more hours to go. There was not even a breeze. And the last 8 miles traversed a desert landscape filled with cacti and tumbleweeds. I saw grown men stopping to puke (multiple times) and others dropping out. I felt pretty awful but I kept going. I caught up with another runner, Tim, and my tent mate, Morgan. We hung together for a while and then Morgan and I fell into a good rhythm, keeping each other's brains occupied by playing celebrity name games. We crossed the finish line together.
I limped over to my tent and started to bawl my eyes out. This sucked! I was so emotional. I felt like crap. I wanted to go home.
My tent mates (love them!) all came to check on me. Thomas, from Germany, gave me a tiny packet of some sort of voodoo electrolytes (ha!) that I gulped down and miraculously within 20 min. I was all smiles again. I felt OK! I also found out I have a wicked fast tent! Our tent (Pueblo) would eventually be home to the third and firth place females overall and 6th place male overall.
That night I slept pretty good. And I felt that now I understood one thing: this was hard.
Stage 2: 26.9 miles
Slightly cooler, more shade. Awesome views! Good moods!
I woke up at 6 (to that funky song, Blurred lines, AGAIN) and was ready to get things started.
|Taking a short rest before heading to camp 2|
|long, lone desert road.|
|Yes! I got this!|
|Sunset at Camp 2|
|Loving life (for real! I was so happy!!!)|
I woke up to that annoying Blurred Lines at 6 am sharp. You could feel the nervousness and anxiety in camp. Everyone knew that today would probably be the toughest day. Over 52 miles of hard terrain, a LOT of sand.
The first mile was awesome. I saw my friend Julie, who ran G2G in 2013, and she hung with me for another mile. She was very motivating, and gave me some mental tips to keep my mind in check when things would get rough (oh, they would.)
At around mile 4 I saw my Kanab friends Lisa and Nancy. It was just the BEST! I gave quick hugs and carried on to checkpoint 1. There waiting was Steve, the boys, and Sam's entire family! Lots of tears, smiles, cowbells, and then I was off to tackle the beast.
Hours later, through sand and sage, I made my way through Best Friends Animal Society, where I had a whole brigade of fans waiting :) I felt like a celebrity. IT WAS AWESOME! I felt amazing. I was hot. I was tired. But seeing my family and friends just boosted my spirits so much.
|before a big climb.. happiness :)|
|Heading to checkpoint 4 through Best Friends Animal Sanctuary|
|SOOO happy to see the fam :)|
|My kicks (yeh, those gaiters did nothing, by the way)|
|Motivation, provided by Marky Mark (and Molly -- my super bff rockstar of the week)|
|Heading out with friends :)|
|This is hard|
|fun stuff.. if only that storm would dump a bit|
|Can't believe I'm doin' this :)|
1.) Around mile 35 I saw a crazy site. I was sure I was hallucinating but no.. it was my friend Molly and Lady, her horse, in the middle of a beautiful field of flowers and desert shrubs at sunset. Only Molly would think to find me in the middle of nowhere. On a horse. She entertained me and J.B. (my long-stage companion and motivator to not give up).
2.) Around mile 38 a perhaps even stranger site -- a pair of glowing eyes on the side of the trail..no, not a mountain lion, but my friend Paul -- who may just be crazier than I am (sorry Paul!) who waited in the lightening storm for me and helped get me and J.B. to checkpoint 6. I still lol thinking about this. Paul rocks!
The sand dunes at 2 am. Insanity. The hardest thing I've ever done in all of my life. Straight up dunes. Not gradual rolling hills. STRAIGHT UP freakin dunes that you would take 1 step up, and fall right back down. I laugh now. I was not laughing then :)
But a few things I did stop to absorb -- the awesome night sky, the shooting stars, the absolute silence. The realization that I was going to actually finish this race! I was going to finish. I'd come so far, and after this long stage, I had it in the bag. I was so tired, but I had this. I would never give up. No matter what.
I rolled in at 5:45 AM. It was dark. I was cold. I was shaking uncontrollably. I felt sick. I was filthy. I just wanted to sleep. So I did.
Day 4: Recovery.
Day 4 (Wed) was a recovery day for some... but there were still runners out on the course. Runners had 36 hours to complete the stage. I woke up after about 4 hours of "rest" and felt like total crap. I felt ill, literally. I wanted to puke. I was hot, but couldn't stop shaking. I was pale, dehydrated, and still so, so tired. I took my sleeping pad out to a shade tree and put my feet up and fell asleep for a few hours.
That night was just awesome. A local singing duo came to entertain us, and we even got a coke! It was heaven :) I had my feet all fixed up by the awesome medical peeps (seriously, the BEST!) and I was feeling really GREAT!
Stage 4: 26 miles. Hot but breezy. GORGEOUS! Best. Day. Ever!
Funny all the highs and lows on this course. Stage 4 was my favorite. I felt good the ENTIRE run. I felt like it was the first run of the race. I had energy and stamina. The scenery was stellar. And then right at checkpoint 3 I saw a most glorious site -- my hubby and kiddos, and friend Nancy.. waiting for me! :) :)
JJ got to spray me down with water and he was loving it. Harry was a little bit emotional but I knew he missed me and I was so happy to hug them. I missed them SO MUCH!
|JJ keeps up the pace with me|
|Ready to go through the tunnel.. .fun stuff!|
At the end of Stage 4, I crossed the finish line only to be greeted by Best Friends founder and CEO, and my good friend, Gregory Castle. Gregory ran the G2G last year. He is an inspiration to me.
|I'm kinda tired :)|
I was so happy to get back to camp and see my friends and hear about their days. I was starting to like this camp life :) What the heck was I so worried about??!
Stage 5: 26.2 miles. Ugh.
Everyone was very excited for Stage 5. Running through slot canyons! Wee!! For some reason I was hating life today. I was SO tired. My feet were really banged up, my knee hurt, and my achilles ached. I didn't want to run through that damn slot canyon. It was just rocky and I had to jump from rock to rock (each time with an ow and an ow). I do love Peekaboo slot canyon, but I was over it. As I excited the canyon, I saw Steve and my friends Molly, Annie and Lexie. I was truly happy to see them, but I soon dissolved into a puddle of tears. I was just feeling so broken. I didn't know how I'd make it through. I wanted to hug them but I couldn't even hold back my emotions. I felt awful.
|I was def. holding back the tears here. Cool picture though!|
I drudged through more miles of sand and hills, intermittently crying and then yelling at myself to keep it together! (dont worry, no one was around to hear me being crazy) ha
At checkpoint 2 i met up with Ash. Ash is an amazing runner who is just all around awesome and has funny stories to tell. Thank God for Ash! He kept my mind from going down the rabbit hole of negativity. He told me good stories about yanking out teeth at a restaurant and eating crickets. He's also running another stage race (and even harder one next week! WHAT! ok, I had to stop whining!)
I eventually made it to Camp 6. I was never SO HaPPY! And to make things even better, my friend Nancy came to visit me and give me a pep talk! That made my day!!!
Only 1 day left. I felt strangely sad.
That night I spent a lot of time talking to other runners and the same feelings were shared among us all. We were glad that there was one more day. But sad. It was so odd, I can't even explain it.
Stage 6: 7.7 miles -- awesomeness!
I was so pumped this morning! Only 7.7 miles. Sure, it was over 2000 ft. elevation gain but you know what? I was so ready! I was feeling SO good! The air was chilly, my feet felt good, I was just on!
The scenery was epic. Seriously -- we were running on the edge of an exposed cliff face, with the brilliant pink hoodoos of Bryce Canyon at every turn. There were views for miles and miles.
|I love this pic of the finish line literally right on the edge of the mountain :) thanks, Molly!|
This was my best day EVER! I crossed the finish line and a flood of tears fell. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I did it! I seriously did it! I was never so happy EVER to see my husband, kids, and friends who were there waiting for me. Best. Moment. EVER EVER!
|About to cross the finish line!!!! 170 miles!!|
|Seeing Harry for the first time|
|A kiss from my man :)|
|I really missed this kiddo|
|JJ doesn't want to let go. I don't either :)|
|Best moment ever!|
To every person who emailed me throughout the race, THANK YOU! Your letters were delivered to my tent each night. I laughed and cried when I read them. It made me miss home so much. But mostly it humbled me. I am so very grateful for every single one of you who reached out to give me encouragement, donate to my fundraiser, make a sign, take photos, watch my kids, bring me gifts!!! You are all so awesome. I love you all!!
Here are a few more of my favorite pics of some really cool people, who I love!
|Rachel, my salty and sweet friend. I love ya! I miss you!!!|
|The amazing Kate and Mario. These peeps are simply the best!|
|My awesome tenties -- I learned some great french cuss words over the week :) :)|
|Sam and I shortly after the finish. I think we are saying CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS???|
|The best of the best -- such awesome support for me and Sam (Mandy, Sam's wife. And Steve, my husband)|
|My voodoo doctor, Thomas.|
|Matthew, one fast dude and such a cool tent-mate|
|Ugh! I wanna cry! My girls, Maia and Sarah xoxo|
|Our crew from Pueblo and Rachel. We rock!|
|No, not Jillian Michaels. It's Kate.. and she rocks!|
|Some of the best volunteers on the planet!|
|Sarah and Matthew. I love these two!|
|Jami! Coke and tequila :)|
|Celebratory champagne and pizza :)|
|Tatiana -- she's awesome!|
|I love Kanab!|
PS -- I kinda stole these photos from all over. :) Thank you for Molly Hiatt, Mark Morgan, Steve, Lisa, Barry, and a few others who I grabbed from.