Crewing Tahoe 200

Not only would this be my first experience at a 200-mile race it would be the first time I would have to coordinate so many things as a crew chief.

So, let’s back up just a little. I was introduced to Ana by a friend when he reached out because she was running a 200-miler in the North Georgia Mountains and needed some pacing help. That was an easy yes for me as I love helping others when I can. Unfortunately, while I would spend 2 different nights in the mountains pacing her, her race ended early when managing too many variables and the sleep deprivation made a finish impossible.

Ana had her sights ultimately set on Tahoe 200 and after a disappointing finish she hired me to coach her. After our time together we were now friends as well and we found a balance in a coaching relationship. While she put her trust in me to help coach her to a successful finish at Tahoe, I had to find a way to take an athlete who jumped straight into a 100-mile race that she did complete to a 200-miler finish in Tahoe. This was clearly not anything I would recommend anyone do but I accepted the challenge knowing how much Ana really wanted this.

Pre-race photo

The very first thing I wanted was for her to get more experienced at races and particularly a 100-miler. A few months later she attempted a local 100-mile race and while that race also didn’t end in success, it offered us both critical information on things we needed to do. It also offered Ana some much needed experience with other races. She would also run and successfully complete a 100k race just a month later. This was a win she needed, and I needed for her. More learning again for both of us.

Now we needed to get our Tahoe 200 details together. I would go with her to serve as her crew chief and pace her at some point. While she could have a pacer for 150 miles, I clearly couldn’t do that and manage all the details that this race required. Ana was able to secure 4 different local runners in the Tahoe area to help pace. We did a couple of zoom calls with them to work out details on their available timing, distance they were comfortable running and how to plug everyone into the plan. While a plan was coming together on one hand there were also huge pieces that were just not dialed in. Things for Ana like a shoe that worked and nutrition. These pieces to having a successful race are often critical.

Other things Ana did spend time on was reading articles and listening to lots of podcasts on running 200 races, how to manage sleep during them, taking care of blisters and mental toughness. She explored her why and found things to hang pure grit onto.

I could go into way too many details here about just getting to Tahoe, but we made it to the race start with Ana well rested and ready to see this race through.

Race Start, it’s an amazing scene!

They had trackers on each runner, and I was able to use that as my main guide to how she was moving and when I’d need to meet her at the next crew station. She would first have to run 30 miles and I would have no real idea how things were going until I saw her. Although one text from her at mile 10 to tell me that AS didn’t have food and the spring energy she needed to even resupply her pack. She had no food and was not happy about it. (Later I would learn some volunteers shared from their personal supplies to get her through)

First sight of Ana and she’s all smiles

So, the first critical thing was going to be nutrition and getting behind in that at by mile 30 wasn’t a good thing. At the first crew access AS in Tahoe City, I walked out to meet Ana about a 1/2 miles out. We were able to talk, and she caught me up on how things were going. We didn’t waste any time talking about the race itself, the stunningly beautiful course, or the new friends she had met along the journey so far but rather we got straight to what she needed and how she was feeling. My job was to see that I got every critical item she would need into her pack, as well as help her with any clothing charges needed. Putting on dry clothing and making sure she had a working headlamp heading into the night could not be overlooked. It would cost a runner their race and it’s not far into the race when your runner is not even able to think through some of these things. My job was more than chief cook, bottle and clothing washer but also to handle every decision and shield her from all the stress that she didn’t need. I would make decisions and Ana completely trusted me to do that.

Next crew stop would be mile 50. Here was when she would pick up her first pacer Kaytlen. Kaytlen and I met at the trail head along with her husband, Taylor who dropped her off and would be a pacer for Ana later in the race. We had to hike in a mile to get to the aid station, so I need to make decisions on what exactly I needed to take to her. Once again, I hiked out probably 3/4 a mile and met Ana on the trail so I could get an update on how she was doing and quickly make plans for what I would need to do at the AS to help her. One of the most important things I could do was to reassure her and give her lots of encouragement.  She was very close to our estimated pace at this point.

Her feet were doing well, and she was in good spirits after spending much of that section with a runner who she said saved her. Now however, a complete change in our plan needed to go down as Ana really wanted to try and sleep. She had also shared that she was struggling to breath and has a rough cough. First thing was to get one of the medics to listen to her lungs and make sure she was good. This could be anything from struggling with the altitude, dust that was on the trails and even the very dry air that we were both not used to. Or it could be a cold, COVID or the flu setting in. No matter what, now we would have to monitor and manage this carefully. (We would learn after the race that this is called the “Tahoe Cough” and many runners suffered from the same thing).

First up was to get her a quick nap. We had a Subaru Forrester as our crew vehicle and after the race started, I used blankets, pillows, padding and sleeping bags we borrowed from Kaytlen and Taylor to set up a sleep station for her. Complete with a sound machine that plugged into an outset in the back. Due to her labored coughing, she couldn’t get much sleep but after an hour and a half or so I needed to get her up and going to keep her well ahead of any cutoffs. When I did wake her and she got up, she got sick to her stomach and felt really bad. At mile 50 it was looking like her race once again would not see a successful outcome. While we lost a lot of time, Ana got on a change of clothes, was feeling better and was able to keep moving forward heading out with Kaytlen.

Ana just before dropping into Incline Village

I went back to our Airbnb that was located about midway on the out and back course. I would retreat here after each stop to take care of any things she would need the next time I would see Ana, coordinate with her next pacers, update her husband, Eric who would fly in late on Saturday, kept track of Ana and Kaytlen’s progress and try to get a little rest myself. I would get an update or two from the pacers so I could dial in any additional things to our plan that now looked nothing like our original one. We were now way off our plan due to the early rest we hadn’t planned for, and her pace had slowed as well, which I was sure was due to the cough and struggle breathing.

As I was getting an update from the tracker, I saw their course would literally take them right through the streets of Incline Village where our condo was located. While I was not allowed to crew here, I could drive along the course path to see if I could get a glimpse of Ana and Kaytlen, get any updates, and try to encourage them both. As I drove through Incline Village, I found the course route and saw them crossing the main highway right away.  I rolled down my window to encourage them as I had done all the other runners I passed before getting to them.  Ana was now really struggling with her breathing and coughing badly. I went to find a store where I could get some cough medicine for her and drop it back off to them. I was now growing pretty concerned about the cough and mostly just the difficulty it makes to breath which also makes all the climbing more difficult. It wasn’t a good combination and I wanted Ana to have the best chance of completing the race.

I went back to following the tracker to keep track of Ana when I got a couple of text updates from Kaytlen letting me know that things were going well. The main thing now was to keep her moving forward and in good spirits.  Attitude is everything!  I was now also in touch with her next pacer, Madeline.  We arranged a meet up time and got something to eat before heading to the next AS where we would change pacers. This was Spooner AS and you were very strictly not allowed to crew your runner here, but you could switch pacers.  Ana had slowed her pace significantly and my biggest concern was getting her to the halfway point at Heavenly so I could get her as much sleep as possible. Madeline and I discussed how I thought we were going to need to push Ana at this point a bit. We made a quick switch, and they were off toward the turnaround point but before long I would get a text from Madeline saying Ana wasn’t happy with her!  We needed to push Ana to keep her moving but careful that we don’t push too hard, and she isn’t able to keep the pace and get discouraged. If you have paced at all, you know that when things are tough it can be a delicate balance.

Madeline and Ana ready to roll

My next job was to head to the Reno Airport so I could pick up Eric, Ana’s husband who was flying in to help crew and be a support to Ana. As soon as we got back to the Airbnb it was time to check the tracker to get a progress update and figure out when they would get to Heavenly which was the turnaround point. Here I knew Ana would need as much sleep as we could afford to give her.  It seemed that the big struggle had become her getting in nutrition, and lack of sleep was not far behind. For Ana it started with aid stations not having what she wanted to eat, and it can be difficult to eat. We were now at the halfway point, and I felt I really needed to make sure Ana understood that she had to eat, we had to get calories in her. After Ana’s nap, she took care of patching her feet up with more tape, switched shoes, clothes, and got in some much-needed food. Madeline was going be sure to keep an eye on her drinking and eating. Eric and I headed back to the Airbnb confident she was in good spirits, well fed and ready to go. After a couple hours of sleep, myself, I was up to check on the tracker and get an update from Madeline that Ana was running hot, out of water and had dropped her! Ana also wanted pizza! I was busy trying to get pizza together when the next text is from Ana to meet her on the trail with Pizza and water because she doesn’t have any. I start moving to get what I could of the pizza ready and get out to the aid station.  Again, this was the Spooner Aid Station that strictly had no crew access. Joselio who was the next pacer met me at the AS and after the AS captain gave me approval, we both headed out on trails to find Ana and Madeline. We came to Ana first and she had been able to get water from a mountain biker on the trail and was only about a mile out from the aid station.  Joselio went back with Ana to the aid station while I kept going on the trail to find Madeline and get her back ok.

Those are some of the sweetest flowers Eric!!

Let me add this quick story here, which I still remember fondly. When Joselio and I got to Ana on the trails headed towards the Spooner aid station, I spot her coming towards us carrying a handful of yellow flowers. Like a scene from The Sound of Music, as if Ana had been frolicking in the flower fields picking flowers instead of moving down the trail. When we get up to her, she tells me she had forgotten it was Father’s Day!

Joselio and Ana heading out

After Ana spent more time getting some food in and having the medical person help retape her feet, a shoe change and she was off again with Joselio this time. This section would have some good climbs and heading into the 3rd night of the race. We needed to find a way to get Ana another nap even if it’s just a short one. The original plan was a couple long naps during the race, but early on when we got hours off schedule, I knew we couldn’t afford long naps, but we would have to find ways to get smaller short naps in. After letting Ana take another short nap on the side of the road just before heading up the big “Powerline” climb headed back to the Brockway Summit. I wanted to do the climb with Ana and Joselio to give Ana that extra support and see her to the top of what would be a tough climb.  As it started to warm up on the climb, Ana started to peel off layers of coats and long sleeve shirts and we tossed them onto bushes, knowing I could pick them all up on the way back down. Where the strength and grit came from, I have no idea!  Ana made that climb like she just started the race.

Taylor now jumps in and paces Ana for the 20 miles stretch between Brockway and Tahoe City. We are waiting to let her sleep again when she gets to Tahoe City AS and has only 30 miles to go.

Taylor and Ana

It still feels like a long way to the finish, but she is getting closer with each step. I feel like my job continues to make the decision that gives her the very best ability to get there. After getting to Tahoe City, we give her an hour nap and repack her pack getting her ready for the final push. While everyone is so vested in this journey of hers, we each played a role in getting her this far. Now it’s my turn to jump in and pace her home, and we all know there is little to no room for error. The whole team feels the stress of how close this might all be, and we all know it could be very close.

Headed out for the final 50K, we all know this is going to be close

After getting Ana up and ready we get right out of the aid station.  I had downloaded the course onto my phone, as Ana had asked all the pacers to do, but in the upcoming section there had been some vandalism and some flags were missing.  I was ready, until we got off course.  We were following flags and it took me a short distance to figure out we hadn’t seemed a flag recently and possible needed to check the app.  Sure enough we were off by maybe ½ miles or so. I was so frustrated with myself knowing I didn’t have time for that, and unfortunately Ana knew that. I didn’t want her to feel the stress as we quickly adjusted and were back on course. I texted the team to have someone check the tracker for me just to be sure. Taylor quickly replied letting me know we were showing on course!

We were also now on some smoother trails, and we did some running and moving much more quickly. Of course, there was plenty more climbing to come. I have to say the entire time, not just on the course with Ana but even during all my other interactions with Ana, she stayed positive.  Never once did anyone, her or the team ever suggest she wouldn’t or couldn’t make it. I never once heard the word “quit” from anyone.  As her coach I had told her you never give up!  It’s not over until they pull you from the course! Go down fighting if you must, and in the end a win is finishing strong!

Almost to the top!

During the early morning hours when Ana slowed down, I needed to let her take a short trail nap.  Something she didn’t want to do with anyone else, but she trusted me when I told her we were going to do that. She fell asleep about the time she asked me how long.  Fifteen minutes later my alarm went off, and she was back up on her feet with not a single complaint.  We were quickly back to a strong pace and way ahead of the time we thought we’d head into the next aid station even after taking the short nap.

The final aid station was just 10 miles from the finish, but it would not be 10 easy miles.  I knew this was an aid station with sleep stations, so Ana quickly headed off to get a little more sleep while I took care of her pack and got some food. Soon she was back up and, in a chair, next to me. They brough her some food from their extensive menu they had posted in this large warming tent with heaters, and I shared the last of the hashbrowns they had given to me.  Hashbrown had turned out to be a winner for her the second half of the race.

Homeward Bound!

Now we were off to get her to the finish line. The aid station worker briefed us on what the final climb was like, but the 1.5 miles of hard climbing was more of five miles of tough climbing.  Ana was again back to struggling with her “Tahoe Cough” and had to stop frequently trying to cough up what was in her lungs and keeping her from breathing.  Once to the top of that big climb and knowing we were now mostly going down, we didn’t want to miss taking it all in.  We now knew that a finish was not a question. We enjoyed the views and the scenery, the conversation of two friends who had experienced a major adventure together as we descended the final miles. I was in awe that the runners had gone up that same climb just days before to start off this race, I might have been ready to quit within the first 5 miles.  What an incredible journey! Literally against all odds with so many things that just didn’t stack up for a finish, here we were going in to see her cross that 200-mile finish line!  I literally had tear in my eyes as we both ran down to the finish with the crowds cheering and I could only imagine how amazing that must have felt for Ana!  Well done my friend!  Well done!

An amazing finish and flowers from Eric!
Total Badass with all Grit and no Quit!

Endurance Hunter 100 Race Report

In 2021, the first year of the race, I paced for a friend of mine, John Cremer.  We navigated through the last 45 miles, and I saw John to a strong finish. While it was an inaugural event and I could see a few things that could be improved upon, it did not stop me from wanting to sign up for the race almost as soon as registration opened. Running this race would complete the Pinhoti Slam for me, having already run Double Top 100 and Pinhoti 100 in other years. The point-to-point race starts in Blue Ridge, Georgia and ends in Chatsworth.  I immediately lined up Brad Goodridge as my trusted crew and Alex Anaya to pace me. I really didn’t give the race too much thought until much closer to the race.

Another fun fact about this race, my friend Ana Robbins was also going to run the race with me.  Well, the plan was to stay together if possible and I worked on trying to line up pacers for her in case we had to “break up”.  Getting additional pacers didn’t work out but more on that later.  We would plan to stay together if possible.

The race started at 7am on Saturday morning which is nice for not a crazy early wake up call.  Ana invited us to stay at her cabin in Suches the night before the race which helped us to make last minute plans for Brad to crew for us both. Although it was probably the least prepared I’d been before a race in a long time, I felt excited and confident going into it.

Let me first give you some details on the challenges of this race because compared to most 100 milers I’ve run in the past; this one had some unique challenges.  First off, the weather, which might ordinarily not be a challenge, but April in Georgia is unpredictable.  It called for cool temps during the day and freezing overnight. If you know me at all, you know cold is my least favorite temperature, but I’ve learned to bring the right gear and suck it up for the most part (minus a little complaining that is). The race director had already required that each runner carry a space blanket in their packs for emergency purposes.

Another huge challenge is there are only 9 aid stations in 100 miles and except for one, they are all between 8 and 15 miles apart. On a flatter or faster course, that might not be so bad but in the mountains with lots of climbing and obstacles to navigate, that can be a long time between aid, your crew and support. This meant carrying a little extra gear, water, and food.  The race was not that huge, but it did have 100 milers and 100K runners on the course, otherwise without the company of Ana, it would have been a long time between seeing anyone else.

Water Crossing at Mile 8

One of the rather big challenges that can be devastating for some runners, is lots and lots of water crossings.  The first one was at mile 8 in the race.  They were sometimes deep and extremely cold and while your feet would warm up within 50 yards or so, your socks and shoes did not dry out.  The first aid station that would give you a longer reprieve from the water crossings where you could put on dry shoes and socks was at mile 65.  Lest we be fooled into thinking they would stay dry the rest of the race; one final deep crossing would be around mile 96.

One final big challenge was a section of the course that had a significant number of blown down trees. This long section required you to go under, over, around, and sometimes climbing through these trees.  All of which took a significant amount of time, and you could not get into a good running rhythm with the constant stops to navigate. If you can imagine, being tall makes having to go under very hard, or if you are shorter, going over a little more difficult. Either way, it sucked a lot of time this course required from you.

Promptly at 7am we started our race from Downtown Blue Ridge where we ran out of town on paved roads and then followed the railroad tracks before we hit more roads to the first aid station at mile 8. I felt we had a very comfortable middle of the pack pace, although admittedly for Ana it was a bit faster than she would have liked.

 Shane Tucker and I chatting away

 After the first aid station we immediately hit our first deep water crossing and the trails quickly dropped us into a more reasonable pace for both of us. Not too long after we hit the trails, it also began to snow and covered the ground in beautiful white. This section was on the BMT (Benton MacKaye Trail), a section I had never been on.  At first there were a few runners around us but soon we hardly saw anyone as the race had spread out.  While the weather was pretty chilly and my fingers started to hurt from the cold, it was an extremely beautiful part of the course.  Nearly 13.6 miles later we cruised into the second aid station and our crew of Brad and Alex.

Enjoying the Beauty of the Course

I was able to get some warmer mittens for my hands along with some hand warmers, eat some food and head out for the next section.  This was one of the shorter sections at 8.4 miles that would put us onto the Pinhoti trail and where we would encounter at least 6 miles of navigating the downed trees.  Again, a beautiful section following the river, and we shared some of those miles with another runner, Todd, before he sped ahead of us.  Our race continued with us seeing our crew after long stretches and we kept up a steady pace. Alex took a break to get some sleep before jumping in to pace at mile 54 and Brad met us at mile 40 just before our long push for the next 15 miles. Ana and I had discussed breaking up before getting to Brad and I let Brad know that the new plan might be for Alex to pace only Ana starting at 54 if I went on ahead of her. It would get dark before we got to Alex to pace so we got our headlamps and hoped we would stay together. I had moments where I felt strong and wanted to move faster but I didn’t really want to be alone or leave Ana alone for this long stretch. We stayed together and got to Alex more than ready for him to pace.

Leaving the Mulberry Gap Aid Station at, it was mile 54, and it’s always a nice feeling when you know you are over halfway.  Not to get too comfortable though because this course really starts here.  Well, the climbing does anyway. It feels like a long grind to the top of the first climb right after leaving the aid station with plenty more to come. We didn’t discuss it, but Ana slowed down and I knew she was struggling with feet or leg pain. It was time for me to get moving at my own pace, and as Alex and I were together slightly ahead of Ana, I told him that he should stay with her, and I was going to keep going at my pace. I headed down the trail at a late-night jogging pace and it seemed like it only took a few miles before I began seeing headlamps ahead and began to pass one runner after another. By the time I’d gotten to the next aid station, I had passed about 7 runners. It’s a large climb from this aid station and into Fort Mountain Park. More headlamps and eventually I passed a few more runners though this tough climbing and technical section before catching up to our earlier friend, Todd and finishing that Gahuti trail loop with him.

It was light out when I got to the aid station at mile 75, and I was well taken care of by Brad and the aid station crew as they fed me spaghetti. Now that I think of it, that might be my first ever spaghetti breakfast, but I needed food and it sounded so good.  Todd’s family had greeted him, and he indicated that he might like a nap.  Brad informed me that Ana had dropped from the race, and he was leaving to get her and bring Alex to pace me to the finish.  I tried to finish up and head right back out where I met Alex about a mile down the trail.  This was the long 301 loop in Fort Mountain Park that Alex and I knew so well and had been on way too many times together.  We stopped briefly so I could take off all my warm layers from the cold night as it had started to warm up in the morning sun.  We had just gotten to the bottom of the powerline switch backs when Alex told me he saw a carrot! If you’ve paced me in a race, you know I like to chase carrots late in a race.  My goal is always to try and take care of myself the first 2/3 of the race so I can finish strong the final third.  That’s when I like chasing people down. So, Alex thinks I’ll catch this person on the climb up the powerlines when I’m sure I’m almost on my last gasp of doing anything. Then just as Alex suggested, I’m easily able to pass and finish the huge powerline climb with Alex’s encouragement the whole way. After the climb we hit the aid station in the park one last time where I dumped everything from my pack, got more food to eat and headed out for the final stretch of the race. This time Erin Barbely joined Alex and me to pace the final miles.  Erin had come up last minute as we thought we’d want an additional pacer to help Ana.

Brad met us one last time at the next aid station and then it was downhill to the finish.  NO IT WASN’T!  But it wasn’t all uphill either. Erin led the way and kept me running when we weren’t climbing, we all got our feet wet at the last big water crossing and made our way to the final miles that were finally downhill.  Now Alex sees more carrots and I try to tell him I’m not vegetarian, but it was the motivation as I ran every bit of the final few miles passing at least 2 runners before crossing the finish line.  It was an amazing feeling having such a strong final 40 miles on this tough course!

Why coaching? Why now? Why not?

Coach Trena

Why coaching?

When I started running it wasn’t something I thought much about. It all sort of happened organically as I joined a hiking club to get in shape. From there I began to add running into my life regularly.

One thing I realized right away was there was so much that I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t know about the type of shoes to wear. Was I someone who pronates or was I a neutral runner? I picked shoes by what looked good. Because of course, if you know me, when I started running I quickly decided if I couldn’t be fast, I could at least look good. I did a fair share of 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons leading up to running a marathon.

What I didn’t plan was that I would enjoy it so much. I not only enjoyed running but I also enjoyed the whole training process. I met friends and found running partners to train with.

It was really when I ran my first trail marathon a short time later that I knew immediately that was my true happy place. Being outside and out in nature was always part of my childhood. We didn’t watch much TV or play indoors; I spent my youth outdoors and in the mountains at on our large family property. I had enjoyed hiking and training on the trails and now I’d found a place where the two intersected. Welcome to the world of trail and ultrarunning!

One small step or one race later, I ran an ultramarathon on trails. The idea of “one and done” is not in my DNA! I very quickly learned that ultrarunning leads to running 100-mile races for some people. I couldn’t even wrap my head around that thought. I mean really, most people “don’t even like to drive that far” as the expression goes, which we hear all the time from everyone who isn’t an ultrarunner.

But just as my outlook with running began, my attitude was to Embrace the Journey. It was all an unknown, but I am also the type of person that wants to figure it all out. I launched my blog http://www.TrailRunning100.com so I could share all the things that I learned along the way. I knew nothing and didn’t know how many others knew nothing like me. I wanted to share all the ups and all the downs. What worked for me and what didn’t. I wanted to share the good, the bad and the really ugly of our sport.

After a couple years of running and sharing my journey on my blog, an online running magazine reached out to me asking if I’d write a regular article for them. For nearly two years I wrote articles for them on things like getting redemption after a DNF and how to overcome the post race blues and more. I have also written pieces for several other online sites such as the Human Potential Running Series Elevating Your Run Experience – Human Potential Running Series .  I have written and shared my personal journey to healing with Trail Sisters  Running Towards Healing | Trail Sisters®  as well as sharing my story on the Ten Junk Miles podcast.

So I guess the simple answer to “Why Coaching” is that I love to share with others and encourage them. I am naturally a person who likes to help and see others achieve great things.

Why now?

Now after about 10 years of running and after many ultramarathon of all distances including over 20 different 100-mile races, I’m still continuing to learn things.  I’ve run races in a lot of different states and made lots of friends across the US and in Canada. In the last six months or so I’ve had many random friends and people I’ve met running ask me if I coach or would I coach them. I’m always happy to share everything I’ve learned, and I guess it’s a natural question at this point for people to ask me.  But it also tends to send me down a road of the reasons I don’t coach.  Well, basically that was because I wasn’t sure I could create a plan to really help train someone else.  End of story.

Well maybe that was the end of the story, or so I thought it should be.  But, then I started to think about why couldn’t I coach.  What do I need to know beyond my experience as a seasoned ultrarunner?  How do I learn?  I spent some time talking to other coaches I knew on how they learned or what courses they took to be certified and started doing research on becoming a certified running coach.  The one program and certification that stood out to me was the one by UESCA (United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy) which is the only program that actually offers an Ultrarunning specific certification.  It’s a Certification that is the result of a joint partnership between renowned ultrarunning coach, Jason Koop and UESCA. The content of this certification was the highest quality training program in all areas including those that are unique to ultrarunning and based off of science.  They had me at Jason Koop!  Just the reputation of Jason Koop alone was enough to let me know that this was the certification that I wanted and the information that would best teach me how to coach others.

Why not?

I don’t believe that a certification alone makes someone a good coach. I’m going to combine what I’ve learned along my journey, my experiences as an ultra runner, what I learned from using professional coaches myself along with my certification program to coach and guide others to success.  I’m naturally a very encouraging person.  I love to talk to other runners and share with them.

I’ve talked to many of my friends who know me both from running and others who don’t know me at all as a runner.  I’ve asked them the question about me coaching.  Could I do it?  Would I be good at it?  It seems like a big scary step but one thing I’ve always been doing is to “Embrace the Journey”.  It’s part of my motto or my mantra so to speak.  So now I’m going to embrace the next step in my journey.  I’m going forward so I’m “Embracing Your Journey”!  Allow me to combine my experience as an ultra runner and the knowledge I’ve gained along the way as well as through my certification to help you reach your goals and dreams!  So why not?

Javelina Jundred Race Report

First of all, loop races are not really appealing to me but because of the huge Jalloween Party at Javelina it has been one of my bucket list races for a while now. I’m also a huge fan of all the Aravaipa Running races. Earlier in the year when my friend Janice Anderson told me she was running the Javelina Jundred race and how it had been so easy to do as a solo runner with no crew, I figured I’d put my name on the long waitlist and hopefully get to join her for the big party in the Arizona desert.

Within a couple of months I was on the start list and friends of mine from Ten Junk Miles, Matt and Jenn Hoadley who had expressed an interest in going to the race were on board to come crew and pace me.

Now you have to know that Matt Hoadley knows everybody. And I mean EVERYBODY. I thought I knew lots of people but compared to him I don’t. Matt would be fine with me telling you that he’s a recovered alcoholic. He has an amazing story that he shares openly and has and continues to have a huge positive impact with his story. So, Matt not only has a huge list of friends he couldn’t wait to see at Javelina, he and Jenn are also well connected and experienced with the Javelina race.

The morning before the race Matt got up early and went with his friends to set up a canopy tent in one of the best locations (which I couldn’t even begin to know where the best place would be). Matt arrived back at the hotel telling Jenn and me how elite runner Devon Yanko was also sharing this canopy with us, along with her crew Corrine Malcolm. The ultimate men’s race winner Arlen Glick was in the canopy right next to us. Turns out Matt is as big an elite fan and follower as I am, so I was soon jealous that I was running the race and not hanging out at the main aid station (AS).

With crew and pacers Jenn and Matt Hoadley

If you don’t know anything about Javelina besides that it’s a big party, it is a 20-mile loop course around the trails of McDowell Mountain National Park that you complete 5 times. There’s a 100-mile distance, 100K and starting in the evening a 1 loop 20-mile race called Jackass 31K. This is the real party race event! The other thing you should know is that the 10-mile AS that you get to 5 times is another huge party. Jackass Junction is quite famous and possibly the most well known AS in all of the ultra running community and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. If you like a good party, great food and awesome music in the middle of your race then this is for you. But, you have to be careful not to get too comfortable at this AS.

Janice and I at the start

The morning of the race, Janice and I both lined up in the sub 24-hr corral just behind the elite runners as race director Jubilee Paige builds the excitement and counts down the start. Sub 24 is not my normal pace but I was definitely hopeful going into the race. However, I did tell Matt and Jenn both that anything can go wrong and ultimately, I wanted to have fun and finish. I don’t want to spend my race stressing over a time or pace, I’ll run by feel and see how it goes.

By now you might also know this race is held in the Arizona desert over Halloween weekend. So, it is very HOT!!!!! Managing the heat is the biggest reason runners don’t finish this race and nearly half won’t. With a 6:00 am start time before the sun comes up, I quickly fall into to a comfortable pace to get some miles in before the sun and heat come out to play.

For the first 15 miles of that initial loop, I was doing really well. I had a comfortable pace and no real issues but that very quickly came to an end. On the first loop of the course, you take a different route from the 3rd AS back into the main crewing AS called Javelina Jeadquarters. This is not only the main AS but where crews are also taken care of with food vendors and even a mini store to buy ice for themselves or their runners.

It was in this section heading back to Javelina Jeadquarters in that first loop that the day started to really heat up in the sun. My stomach was already starting to feel rough which I’m not unfamiliar with. Then during that section my Piriformis issue that I dealt with a few years back also started to act up on those climbs. Right away I knew this might turn into a rough day ahead.

I came into my crew just a little ahead of my schedule. Once you get into the AS you do a little out and back to the finish line timing mat and back out. You do this short out and back all through what they call “tent city” and are cheered on by tons of people, many even lining the way to give you high fives. With Matt’s connections, our canopy was basically the very first one you came to as you entered the AS. Our plan was for me to drop my pack as I came in, (Matt and Jenn would restock it while I did the out and back) and they would hand me one of my cold drinks to drink while I ran the gauntlet. It was a great system that worked perfectly each loop.

Because Matt and Jenn had not crewed or run with me before I’m not sure what they thought after that first loop. I knew I felt pretty rough and can only imagine how I looked. After my gauntlet run, I came back to the canopy and mostly I think talking about the heat. They grabbed my ice bandana from my crew bag and got it filled with ice and put around my neck. Jenn had a cooling towel she laid across legs as I drank some ginger ale and when I left told me to take the cooling towel and that as long as it was wet it would stay cold. Life safer! Race safer and game changer!

Staying cool use the “cooling” towel Jenn gave me

My plan on the second loop was to slow myself down and get my overheating and stomach situation under control. Time to put my fast hiking skills to work. Every AS had buckets of cold ice water with sponges to put over your head and on your body and ice to put in your packs. The volunteers would soak the cooling towel and sponge cold water on my arms at each AS and for the next 8-10 hours that was my lifeline to keeping cool.

By the end of that second loop I had started to rebound well. I had just one more loop before Jenn would join and pace me. While my stomach never completely settled, it was at least under control. My nutrition plan was all liquids during the heat of the day and see how I felt at night to eat some food. My Piriformis had thankfully quickly settled down after that first loop and the climbs were shorter and gentler on it. At Jackass Junction on that third loop I was greeted by local Atlanta runners Cassy and Jared. It’s always a lift in the spirit to see friends you know on the course. I had mostly run the race alone even though it’s a big race. Unless you run someone else’s pace, you do not stay around anyone for too long. I ended the third loop feeling much better and was excited to hit the next loop with a pacer.

I picked up Jenn and it was so nice to talk to someone. She told me all about what was happening in the elite races and how many people had already dropped from the race. It made that loop seem to go by quickly. But before I could finish it up, my stomach that was still feeling rough had me puking at the final AS of the loop. Nothing sounded good to eat afterward, but the slightly cooler night weather helped.

Jenn and I got back to Javelina Jeadquarters, and I went to do my gauntlet run with a recovery drink Matt handed off to me. Almost every time, I would loop back around after the timing mat and would exchange words with RD Jubilee who greeted ever runner, every loop. One time she even poured ice water on my sleeves! This time I got my “final lap” glow in the dark wristband and headed back out with Matt. Because it was a rough day with the heat and my stomach, we never talked about my pace or my finishing time. I had early on thrown out any idea of a sub 24. This just did not seem like a course that me of all runners had a chance at that and I was totally ok with it. I did my best to keep up a good pace and run when I could but if you’ve ever tried to run when your stomach is upset, it is not really easy. When Matt and I got to Jackass Junction the final time, I was really wanting something sweet like Skittles to get a sugar buzz and finish the race. Honey Albrecht who I met at Mogollon the month prior went over to Matt and asked if I was Trena. Finally, I knew someone that Matt didn’t!  Honey came over and said hello and it was so nice so see another familiar friendly face with encouraging words.

When Matt and I got back in off the final lap I dropped my pack the last time and ran to the finish and was never so proud of a 24:16 finish and just finishing the race at all! Not long after I finished another guy, Fred Johnson who I had met and run with a little at Mogollon also finished (we shared a few Javelina miles on my second loop). I told race director Jubilee that Fred and I had both finished Mogollon last month. She told me that she knew we had. Jubilee is my girl crush! What a fantastic lady and race director!

With Race Director Jubilee Paige shortly after my finish

Joly Javelina what an amazing race! I’m not sure I could have just dropped a crew bag of stuff and completed this race solo. It turned out to be so much more mentally challenging than I could have anticipated. Matt and Jenn were the best! Did I mention that they also helped to crew my friend Janice during her race? They might be available for a fee, but I set the bar pretty high with this desert party fun!!!

View of “tent city” also known as Javelina Jeadquarters from above

Mogollon Monster 100 Race Report

I had decided early in the year that this would be my year to start checking off some of my bucket list races.  The west coast was really drawing me in with beautiful trails and views.  At the very beginning of 2021, I signed up for Pine to Palm 100 in Oregon.  I had this one on my list for several years and this seemed to be the year to do it.  My running friend and local Georgia runner, Rich also signed up for the race.  We were both excited about the challenge.  As September neared, we began watching the Oregon fires pretty closely and knew that fires had cancelled this race in the past.  Five days before the race and only just a couple days until I was going to get on a flight to Oregon, we received an email about the race cancellation.  Rich was quick on the draw and found another race that offered a similar profile with around 20,000 ft of gain and just happened to be a race on my bucket list.

The race director of Mogollon Monster 100 had purposefully extended the cutoff date to sign up for the race because they knew other races would likely cancel and runners would want to do this monster.  It played out just as they thought it might and there were lots of Pine to Palm runners who jumped into the Mogollon Monster race at the last minute.  Huge thank you to Aravaipa Running and RD Noah Dougherty!  I scrambled to change flights, cancel cars and lodging and rebook things in Payson, Arizona which is less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix. The next few days were a whirl wind at work and printing out the necessary information about the race so I could actually study it on the flight out.  It all seemed to happen so quickly I didn’t even have a chance to tell friends and family of the change in plans.

This is a little look at a small section of the Mogollon Rim or The Rim as the locals call it

Brad Goodridge had again agreed to the switch races and crew for me.  At the time, I had no idea how much one could really use a crew for this race.  I had also decided that I was going to run this race with no pacers.  This would be the first time I would take on a tough 100-miler and do so with no pacing help whatsoever. I knew I’d have crew to see me through with additional aid and provide encouragement along the way, but I’d have no one specifically with me during the long miles and overnight hours.  While I knew Rich was going to be on course, we didn’t make specific plans to run it together. 

This was the race’s 10th year and the first for it to be a point to point course.  Most of the aid stations were a good distance apart and crewing for it was said not to be easy with long drives in between sections on rough roads and virtually no cell service.  They also said that it was so difficult to crew because you most likely could not get to all the crew locations and still meet your runner at the next one. “It’s always helpful to read the small print” said by way too many runners after the fact.

“The race covers roughly 100 miles, climbing the Rim in six separate locations spending a lot of miles along the Rim, on top of the Rim and the challenging climbs up and down with climbs and descents at 30-45% grades at some points.  Expect to climb a total of approximately 20,000 feet along the way, never below 5,200 feet and never above 8,000 ft in elevation.  While other races are certainly at higher elevations, and/or with more climbing, they certainly do not contain as rugged a terrain that is found on this course.

“This is a VERY technical course in many areas, specifically the Highline Trail, Donahue and the soon to be revered Myrtle Trail.  The first 40 miles will have nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain.  That coupled with the terrain, moderate elevation, and intense Arizona sun, this race will certainly take its toll on each runner.”

“This race and this terrain can destroy you. Nobody eases their way through the Monster.  Do not underestimate this race.  If you are not a self sufficient runner, you will fail here.  If you cannot find your way out of a paper bag, you will fail here.  If you cannot make it several hours safely on your own, you will fail here.  We do not mark this course like an Ironman.  We mark it appropriately for the turns necessary to follow the trail and to prevent runner confusion where necessary.  We’re not painting the trail in gold, you need to know the course, and you need to pay attention.”

“Do not be fooled though, this race course will absolutely make you earn every mile you traverse.  Come prepared, know your course, and tackle the Monster…”

We arrived in Arizona a day ahead of the race to get things sorted out and to go check out the course and crew locations as best we could.  I had done my best to be ready but my training had all been for a much different race.  Still, I felt confident that I was prepared as best I could be.  Due to limited space and parking, crew was not allowed at the starting line of the race.  It was a drop off or shuttle situation.  So, Brad dropped Rich and me off about 30 minutes before the start of the race. We took a few pictures and chatted with a couple of people before the race started at 6:00 AM. 

Race motto:  He’s out there…

We knew there would be very limited cell service, if any, so we couldn’t use the tracker on my phone for Brad to keep track of me.  The race started immediately with the first climb up to the Rim.  I knew I would have some service there, and quickly texted Brad so he’d have some reference as to how long that took. The first 10 miles of the race included the first climb up to the Rim and then a stretch across the top before going back down to the bottom to the first aid station.  This downhill section was one of the best running downhills on the course, and once I headed out of that first aid station and started up the second climb, I realized I had gone out way too fast on that first section.  My legs could really feel that second climb and I needed to make sure I managed things well from there on, or I would not make it.  That climb showed me just how rough the course was going to be.  This was definitely a race you needed to take seriously and manage yourself well.

I wouldn’t see Brad until almost mile 27 and after the first 3 climbs. We had heard that the toughest part of the course was the first 40 miles.  Thinking about it later, because this was the first year of this point to point course, I’m not sure anyone knew just how rough this would actually be. I don’t mind a technical course but just how technical would it be?  What is “their” definition of technical?  I would quickly find out. After the race, local runners who knew the trails and had run it other years said that this new course was probably at least 50% harder than in the past.  With no frame of reference as to the past races, that didn’t tell me much. I’ve run a handful of tough races including several Hardrock Qualifiers and this one was definitely topping that list.

I was mostly running solo as the runners spread out.  On some sections I would be around someone else for a short time, but quickly the terrain or climbs slowed one of us down and I kept telling myself I need to “run my own  race”.  Again, this was the first race that I was going solo with no pacers at all.  I always enjoy the company of pacers at night or late in the race, but it felt like time for me to tap into some confidence and see what I could do on my own.  As my crew, Brad was always encouraging me that I was tough, and I could do it.  It was just enough encouragement from an experienced runner like Brad who knew what it was all about out on a 100-mile course to give me that confidence I needed to not doubt myself. Usually once a race starts, I get into game mode and really focus on what I’m doing.  I want to enjoy the course and the race but also stay focused on my goal.

I saw Brad again at around 46 miles after completing four of the 6 climbs.  I managed to make it up the fourth just before the sun set.

Views like this are some of the best part of the races

This time when I reached Brad, I had to make sure I had my lights and put on some warm dry clothes for the night hours. I tried to make some mental notes as I got close to aid stations as to what I needed to do there. If you know me well, you know I always have a notebook for my crew.  In that notebook are notes for  each aid station that I will see them. There are reminders of things to ask me or check on, get weather updates so I’m prepared for what’s ahead, and based on miles and estimated times I know when I want to grab my lights, put on warm dry clothes or possibly change shoes.  When I see my crew, I also try to update them on how I’m doing eating and drinking so they can help me manage that as well.  Sometimes I need to sit and take in food even when I think I feel good.

Warm clothes and some broth!  I get chilled if I sit too long especially at night.

I had just completed a several mile road stretch that I was able to pick up some time on.  After getting ready for the night hours and some warm broth I headed out and wouldn’t see Brad again for another 15 miles.  This section of  the course was known as the cabin loop.  It offered a lot more runnable trails but still some rolling hills and climbs out of canyons.  The night temperature seemed to go from warm to very chilly.  I wore a long sleeve shirt with my Patagonia Houdini jacket and gloves that I took on and off.  I was around a few more runners in this section and enjoyed the company at night.  This was a nice section to be on at night as it wasn’t near as technical as the down hills off the Rim or the very technical up hills climbing back up to the Rim.  I tried to just focus on getting to the next aid station, although the miles between aid stations were mostly long with 9 – 10 mile stretches.  They had crew spots in between some of those long 10 mile sections which made having crew a huge help.  Normally a 10-mile stretch doesn’t feel so long but when you are covering large technical climbs and brutally technical downhills that are sometimes almost scree sections that are very slippery to go down or up, it seems like forever. For me, having my poles were not only a must on the climbs but also on the downs as well.  However, the toughness of the climbs was always surpassed by the sheer beauty of the Rim and surrounding mountains.  It was just gorgeous!  I didn’t stop to take many pictures, but I was always looking around at the extreme beauty of the Mogollon Mountain and the Rim.

It was still dark when I got to the General Springs Crew Only stop and see Brad once again.  I was in good spirits but knew I would have to go another 25 miles before getting to crew once again but a full aid station was only about 3 miles away.  I focused more on what I needed from my crew bag,  I don’t usually use any drop bags when I have crew, and I didn’t have any here.  Brad walked with me across the Rim Road where I dropped down the powerline section.  We had seen it the day before when we scouted out the course.  You saw where the course flagging crossed the road and just disappeared down the hill.  Now I had an idea of exactly where I was on the course and all I could do was go down what was for me the toughest downhill of the course.  Seemed like complete scree field and straight down loose rolling rocks that made going down and staying upright very difficult especially in the dark.

After leaving the next aid station I probably hit the most disliked section of the course for me.  It was still dark and night during most of it, but it was a lot of climbing up, coming down and climbing up again and we spent nearly 10 miles going along this Highline trail just below the Rim.  Finally getting to the next aid station at Geronimo, mile 72.4, was the best.  It had just gotten light out and they were serving up blueberry pancakes.  What could  be better?  I also got a huge hello and hug from my friend, John LaCroix.  After a long dark night, it was a perfect welcome to the daylight and seeing a familiar and friendly face was huge as well.  Now off to climb number 5 up the Rim.  It was now 8 miles to the next aid station and as I remember it, there were no easy climbs up the Rim and this one was one of the longest.  You begin climbing the moment you leave the aid station, but onward you must go.

Resting in some shade and taking in the views!

Once to the top at the Donahue aid station, I quickly tried to get what I needed, some broth and food to fuel the next section.  Five more miles and I would see Brad again at mile 84.2, but not without the final climb up the Rim.  It was a quick drop down and then back to climbing out.  It was still very early hours of the morning, but the heat was already beginning to be overwhelming with the exposure of the Rim and steep climbs.  I found myself climbing up the final climb to the top with a guy named Josh.  We were both struggling equally in the heat and with more than 80 miles on our legs.  We had to take short breaks under each small piece of shade we found to get our heart rates back down and cool down just a bit.  The thought of Brad being at the top of this climb where I would see him for the final time, was what got me to the top.  I told Josh that Brad would have plenty of cold drinks and ice for our packs there. I knew we had plenty to share and it was a life line for both of us.

Happy for some shade and clean clothes!

Josh and I showing our excitement for being so “close” to finishing!

I was finally able to get rid of my lights and pretty much everything I had been carrying in my pack.  I changed into clean dry clothes for the heat of the day and was ready to finish the final 17 miles.  Those were not at all easy miles with the final 12 having no aid stations.  It was hot and exposed and all I could do was just stay moving.  Definitely felt like some of the longest miles and again I spent it almost completely solo as Josh fell behind not long after we left Brad. 

I didn’t go into this race with goals or even expectations except to finish!  By the end, I felt pretty darn proud to have made it to the finish.  Josh also made it across that sweet finish line! There were 150 runners who started the race and only 88 of us made it over that finish line.  Aravaipa did an excellent job with this race but there was no handholding on this one although it did come with plenty of fair warning!  Read the small print!

I also got to spend some time with this local legend and total badass, Honey Albrecht! She runs these trails and climbs The Rim all the time!  I think she does hill repeats here for breakfast!!!

Amazing Views!





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Washington Yeti 100 Race Report

Spoiler alert here……a DNF is a DNF!  I wasn’t going to do a race report on my Washington Yeti 100 race but after several weeks of reflection I decided I would.  It wasn’t because I didn’t finish the race or not wanting to share failure. I personally enjoy hearing the stories of failure, picking oneself back up and keep chasing the dreams.  I always like to share authentically and while initially I was and basically still am totally okay with my decision to not complete the 100-mile race, but no matter what the reason is for dropping out of a race or not finishing, there always seems to be that regret after.

Explored the 2.5 mile “creepy” tunnel on the course the day before. We’d have to go through it four times.

Let me go back to the beginning.  I signed up for this race sometime in early 2020 or maybe even late 2019 long before Covid starting cancelling races.  I let a number of my races rollover which is what I did with the Washington Yeti 100.  I really wanted to run the course just outside of Issaquah Washington, in my home state.  So when July 2021 rolled around I was still very excited to go run the race although many of my Georgia friends who were also originally planning to run it, no longer were going.  I decided this would be the perfect race for me to run solo and without any crew. 

When I grew up in Washington, I was not a runner or even a much of a hiker.  However, I did enjoy outdoor activities, but never experienced the trails there.  It’s only been in more recent years as a runner that I’ve gotten on the trails in my home state. Of course being friends with Jason Green, the race director, and having run all of his other Yeti races, I had to go run this one as well.  With a little travel planning and not much race planning, I arrived in Snoqualmie, Washington the day before the race.  The race course was a couple of out and back sections of a rails to trails through what they call the Issy Alps that included a 2.5-mile long tunnel.  Very manageable with little planning.

Small race start with perfect weather

A month prior to this race I had run Bighorn 100 in Wyoming and felt I was in relatively good shape.  I had even shared with a couple friends and with Jason Green that my goal was to go Sub 24 hours in this race.  Now, I’m not a Sub 24 runner and I cannot by any means just jump in and run that pace.  I was in good shape and because I’d run only one other Sub 24 which was at the Yeti 100 in Virginia, I really wanted to do it here as well.  I had shared it with a few others to really hold myself accountable, and even Jason had said, “this isn’t like playing horseshoes!”  I knew almost would not count!

So, I found myself at the start line with a lofty goal for myself and a very small race field.  I didn’t really care about the size of the race or placing, my only goal and focus was getting my Sub 24. One thing going in to any 100-mile race, you have to know there is no such thing as an easy 100 miler. For me a flat course that doesn’t have a lot of climbing is almost the worst kind of race for me.  I like the natural breaks of hiking hills and running some good downhills.  Hence, a flat “easy” looking race doesn’t exactly play into my strength or appeal much to my sense of adventure.  For me a flatter course eventually causes a lot of hip discomfort and I have to really think about my pace and taking walk breaks.  I don’t train doing intervals so it’s not something I plan to do in races either. All that leaves me in a race where I have to do a little more thinking and very specific care of myself as the race progresses.

So here I was on a starting line where Jason gave us the “have a great day” speech which I always love to hear him give and making sure we all knew that we could drop down to the 100K midrace if we needed to.  Jason explained how many runners had waited 2 years to run the race but with Covid and shutdowns many were unable to train properly.  I have never been a big fan of offering drop down distances in races.  I always held the belief that you finish what you sign up for or you DNF it.  I try not to even allow myself to think about any other option but to finish. Well, those were judgments I held but would be humbled by those options later.  After Jason’s speech we were soon off. 

The first stretch was about 3 miles out and back.  Jason jumped on his bike and lead the way to the turnaround point.  Most of it followed next to a lake with some nice views, and out and backs always give you the chance to see other people to say hello, good job, way to go or any number of encouraging words.  This was a small race with very few runners between the two races, 100 mile and 100K.  I found myself running near the front of the group not because I’d gone out too fast, but I was running what I felt was very comfortable for me.  I tried to just focus on my race and not others but because the race was so small once we came back from the first out and back and then went the other way for a 20 mile out and back, I found myself mostly alone.  I went back and forth with one runner in those miles and our aid stations were a fairly long distance apart, so it made for mostly solo miles.  I turned on my music and just enjoyed the scenery.

I came in and left the next aid station without seeing any other runners around.  It would be another 7 miles or so to the turnaround point.  Then it was back to the start and repeat the out and backs once again.  There were a few runners ahead of me but most of the race was still behind me. My race was about to take a very unexpected turn.

First checking me out

Now on his hind feet taking a look

I was running along, listening to my music and taking in the scenery when from my right and just feet in front of me a bear jumps out of the woods/brushy area and onto the trail running several yards down the trail before jumping back into the brush on the right side.  It surprised me at first and I immediately stopped.  At this point he did not feel threatening to me and was far enough down the trail, maybe 20-30 yards away so I didn’t have any real fear of him/her at this point.  I stood there waiting for him to run off and go away so I could safely continue down the trail.  I didn’t want to move or at all be threatening towards him, while he made a couple of shorter runs out onto the trail and back into the brush.  I don’t have a lot of experience with bear encounters, although I did know it was a black bear and my first instincts are not that he is going to attack me.  That being said, I still did not trust him or want to give him any cause to come after me.  So, I continue to stand and just watch him.  Then he stood up on his hind legs and looked at me and my instincts started to change a little bit.  I thought he might feel threatened and even sort of wondering if this is a momma bear with some cubs nearby that I just didn’t see.

Then I started to get a little more nervous and not quite sure how to assess what’s up with this bear.  Then it decided to come back on the trail once again and began walking straight up the trail towards me.  Not fast but it was still not something I expected.  I start thinking to myself, “ok, what do I do?”  “I can’t run, he’ll chase me, I can’t out run him” “what do I do”.  “Do I wave me arms, make noise”.  I started immediately looking on my pack for a whistle, I thought was attached to it. No luck.  So what now?  He was still walking up the trail towards me, I was alone, no other runners were around.  Now I’m too afraid to even scream or make noise for fear I would upset him as he continued towards me.  I began walking very slowly backwards up the trail.  Then a couple of runners, one who I’d been around earlier in the race, came around the corner from behind me and could see me backing up the trail.  Immediately they knew something was wrong, although they couldn’t see the bear yet.  They simply saw me moving backwards up the trail and knew it was too early in the race for me to be acting “crazy”.  As soon as they came into view of the bear, they both immediately started waving their hands and making noise to scare him off.  They were both friends and runners from New York State and seemed to know what to do, and just having them there immediately made me feel safer.  It took what seemed like several minutes before even their noises and motions to shoe him off the trail and back into the woods was successful, and as soon as he went up into the woods we quickly got passed that section of the trail and on our way to the turnaround point.  I stayed with them until the turnaround point.

These two were my new heroes!

At the turnaround aid station runners began to come in behind us, also telling stories of seeing the bear.  They were all in groups and didn’t seem to have too much to say other than seeing it.  After a quick stop at the aid station, I was on the trail headed back to the first aid station where the race started, before I would do it all over again.  I had grabbed what I needed and headed back onto the trail as quickly as I could.  When once again, I found myself running pretty much solo and many of the runners who had been right behind me had now passed me and were just ahead.

Soon I came to the same section of trail where I’d encountered the bear on the way down.  I saw that what was now the left hand side of the trail, was a very large berry patch.  That explained why the bear had no intentions of leaving his feeding grounds.  It didn’t take too long after realizing I had interrupted this bear and the vision of him coming up the trail towards me that I began to relive it and have somewhat of a panic attack.  I knew black bears were not usually aggressive, but it’s a very large wild animal and I was literally on my own with no protection.  In another few miles I was back at an aid station where I’d see Samantha Taylor, Jason’s co-race director and friend of mine from Georgia, along with Stephanie McNamara who was also there from Georgia helping out with the race.  They both began cheering for me as I came closer to the aid station but by now I had pretty much lost it.

A very stressed look on my face as I got to Samantha and Stephanie

I had in just a few miles all but decided that I was not doing another solo out and back.  Jason had offered a drop down to the 100K race which would keep me from doing this section a third and fourth time.  I had never once considered dropping down in any other race I’d run.  When I get into my zone and running an event, I want to finish what I start.  Finish what I signed up for and what I trained for. In fact, I so disliked drop down options, I even frowned upon races that offered them.  So here I was deciding to drop down.

It was funny how quickly my thinking could change and I saw things from a different perspective.  Samantha said she wouldn’t change my race until I got back to the starting aid station and see how I felt then.  But 13 miles didn’t change my mind, as I was still a bit shaky just thinking of that bear still being there.  A couple other runners that I was with briefly over those miles shared that the bear was in fact still there just over the side of the trail.  That would confirm my decision.

Once I got back to the starting aid station, I retold my bear encounter a little more to Jason as he tried to make sure I did want to drop down.  He encouraged me at that point to get moving because I still had a good bit left of the 100K distance to run.  I now changed my thinking, adjusted my goal and just wanted to finish a strong 100K race.

The course was beautiful and felt so peaceful and comforting to be running there.  Well until it wasn’t.  While I could not take home any awards by dropping down to the shorter distance, I still managed to finish second place overall and first female.  I didn’t need an award, I just wanted to feel good about what I came to do.  I enjoyed the trails and while I didn’t complete a Sub-24 100 miler, I felt confident in what I had done.

I got some sleep that night and the next morning went up to the race finish to watch the final 100-mile finishers and even went out and briefly paced the final finisher in.  I’ll be back to finish what I started, hopefully next time with either friends to run with or a few more runners to keep me company during a few stretches of the course.  A DNF is still a DNF in my book, but I guess a win is also a win.  Sometimes we all need our thinking challenged a little bit.

Bighorn 100 Race Report

It is around December when I am usually considering what races I might do the next year. Looking ahead to 2021 was a little different as I had several races from 2020 that were rolled over to 2021 due to the pandemic. The biggest race on my rollover calendar was Lavaredo in Italy at the end of June.

But then many of my local friends started to talk about doing Bighorn in June offering a variety of distances from the 100 miler, 52 miler and 32 miler. While I really wanted to do Lavaredo, my family was not comfortable with me traveling to Italy and Bighorn was one of my bucket-list races, so the decision became easy. Then immediately my parents and my husband Ed all wanted to go to Wyoming to join me and the others at the Bighorn race.

Our Group from Georgia

My training leading up to the race was some of my strongest. I was feeling great but big mountain 100 milers which are some of my favorite races also scare me to death. DNFing a race does not scare me.  It is the unknown and all the things that can go wrong that scares me but excites me at the same time.

Knowing Brad Goodridge was going to be my crew chief takes a huge load off my mind. He takes care of all the details that are out of my control, and I know he will not miss a thing. He usually has much more confidence in me than I have in myself and lets me know when I need it most that I can do it!

Sherri was going to pace me as well as Ed. Both strong climbers and could join me on sections of the course that had the biggest climbing sections. Those are the plans I had laid out but when I say big mountain races scare me to death, it is largely because in 100-mile races, my experience says plans do not always go as expected. Bighorn 100 would be no exception.  If you have a run 100 miler, one thing that you learn is that they are a 100 miles of problem solving. Having a plan is great but being able to adjust your plan becomes the game changer that can save your race.

Group photo waiting for start
Rami, Troy and I enjoying a conversation
with John Fegyveresi (ok yes, we were fan stalking him)!

The Bighorn 100 has experienced rain the last several years of the race. That rain leads to lots and lots of shoe sucking mud. It also goes up to a fairly high altitude that is notoriously very cold and often snow covered during the over-night hours. All of this with around 22,000 feet of climbing and a 35-hour cutoff. I had an “A” goal of a 30-hour finish but really my main goal is always to finish and have fun. I love the mountains and enjoy the trails and scenery. God has created a beautiful masterpiece and it is an honor and privilege to be able to run in it and I never take that for granted! We do these races to go places few will see, experience limits few will push, and gain a perspective we would otherwise never have!

First big climb

The race starts off with a very large climb of over 4,000 feet in just the first few miles once you hit the single tracts. Due to logistics, Brad did not go to the start of the race, but Ed and the rest of the Atlanta crew saw us off. I knew Brad would be waiting for me at mile 13.5. Early in the race but after the race’s first major climbs so he would have a good gauge on how I was doing. From there it would be rolling hills and a good downhill drop into the 30-mile mark and picking up Sherri for the big 18-mile climb to the high point of the race.

Close to seeing Brad and dropping off my poles
for the next 20 mile section

Those first 30 miles seemed to go by quickly. The scenery was spectacular, and I shared some of the miles chatting with a couple guys from Denver. It was the final aid station (AS) before dropping into Sally’s Footbridge, the 26.5-mile AS where I came across the first of our Atlanta runners. The heat of the day had started to get him and slowing down some and cooling off at AS is definitely a key in the heat.

First Aid Station where I see Brad

I got to Brad at Sally’s Footbridge where I picked up Sherri. I was feeling great and ready to have company for the big climbs ahead. The course was so beautiful, and I was excited that Sherri was going to have lots of hours in the daylight to enjoy its beauty. She usually paces me during night hours and misses so much. I did not want her to miss this course. It is also here that you have to be sure to get your lights and warm clothes for the night. It is easy to see why people forget that because of how warm it is at this point in the race and nowhere near dark. This is always when my check list for Brad comes in handy. He makes sure I do not miss a thing especially later in the race when I can no longer think for myself. This next section as Sherri and I began the long climb toward the mile 48 turn around, was when I got my first punch in the face. So far, my race had been going perfectly as planned but those plans were beginning to be challenged. Living in Atlanta does not give us any altitude training although we had gotten heat in recent weeks, which would later prove to be helpful. As we quickly rose in altitude, I began struggling to breath. I knew it was the altitude, but it had caught me off guard as I have run at altitude in other races and never experienced any issues. Now it almost seemed the life was being sucked right out of me. All I knew to do was just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. Sherri kept encouraging me saying that I was doing great.

Sherri and I just after she joined me

We finally got to the AS 8 miles from the turn around. It had seemed slow going but it was still a while before dark and so far, not gotten cold on us. I sat down a minute to reset things and take in some warm broth. Let me say here, that these AS were over the top and some of the very best. The volunteers were experienced and knew exactly what to ask and do for you. Some AS were so remote that they used horses to get the supplies into them. That is some dedication to help out runners!

So here I sat needing to reset things and get my mind into a positive mode instead of being discouraged. One of the AS workers must have immediately seen I was not doing well or in a good place. He began waiting on me and seemed to have taken me on as his personal project. He gave me a few minutes to drink my broth and then he came over with a pulseox tool to check my heart rate and oxygen levels. He knew right away I needed to recover some more before leaving. He would come back to check my oxygen levels again several more times before allowing me to leave when my readings got back into good ranges. Even though we continued to climb in altitude I had gotten over the hump and didn’t really struggle as much after that.

Where the altitude struggle started

The next AS was 4 miles from the top and turnaround. Sherri and I finally got out our lights and put on warm layers and jackets. It was dark and cold as we came into the Jaws AS at the turnaround. Brad was parked and waiting on the road just outside beyond the AS. As soon as Sherri and I walked in, one of the AS workers immediately came over and took hold of me. I wanted to use the porta-potty and get some more broth. Again, this worker took me on as her personal project not letting me out of her sight, even holding onto me to guide me. I must have looked worse than I felt. Soon I was out of there. Quick stop with Brad to drop Sherri off and adjust a few things before I was ready to take off getting down out of the cold and altitude. I ran on and off with other runners all the way down the mountain.

Brad and Sherri met me back at Sally’s Footbridge just before the sun came up. Sherri was originally planning to jump in here and pace me for the next brutal climb and about 17 miles. She hinted as we came into Jaws that she might not jump back in. She knew my goal of 30 hours was within my grasp and she did not want to slow me down. So, I had mentally prepared myself to finish solo.

I dumped a bunch of gear here to lighten my pack and knew I did not need all the extra things because it would soon be daylight and warm out. The next 3.5 miles was an unbelievably tough climb up at least 3,000 feet. Once I got there it felt like I was home free with a nice rolling section ahead. During this long 7-mile section, the day would start to heat up and by the end as I got to the next remote AS, the course was completely exposed and the sun was out in full force. The beauty of this course was also in full force.

I now had 6 miles and another rough climb leading into an AS and seeing Brad and Sherri one final time. Now the 32-mile runners were on the course and began giving encouragement to us 100-mile runners which was appreciated. The oven of the day began to really take its toll. Not just on my pace but my spirits as well. I knew I would see Brad very soon and knowing he had some cold drinks for me kept me moving forward when I did not think I could.

Brad came down the trail a bit and walked me into the AS. I know the look on my face might not have showed it but I am not sure I was ever so happy to see you Brad! Another fairly quick reset. I was anxious to get this race finished. Brad and Sherri updated me telling me that Ed wanted to pace me in the final 4 miles so now I had that to look forward to.

I’m definitely struggling in the heat of the day
but the views still did not suck

The next AS was another reset from the heat then on to the final big uphill push before a long decent and some flat miles to the finish. Rami Odeh was running the 32-mile race and as luck would have it, he was just behind me near the top of that final hard steep climb. I waited at the top for him. Rami had also been working with me as my coach on nutrition and weight training over the last few months. He had seen me through some extremely challenging times in my life and I was very happy to see him now. I was ready to have company and have him pace me to the finish.

I waited for Rami to get up the climb so he could pace me in

Even that plan was short lived. As we headed down, I took off running (well I called it running) and ended up dropping Rami. Just like our more recent training runs together, sorry coach, call it a testament to your good coaching! This long downhill that we came up just the morning before seemed way longer than I had remembered, even though it was endless going up. And as one plan falls through to have Rami pace me in, I see my husband, Ed coming up the trail towards me ready to pace me in the last 10 miles of the race. My legs felt great, my feet were in good shape, my stomach was doing okay but the heat had now just about brought me to my knees. It was midafternoon and not an ounce of shade anywhere.

A couple of more AS and a lot more heat, I finally crossed the finish line. As you come into Dayton, Wyoming, the finish line was in a packed park, the crowds were overwhelming. The long shoot to the finish was lined with people cheering in the runners. It was that 100-mile bib I wore that almost had crowds on their feet to cheer for you. It was all I could do to smile as I crossed the finish line. I would have been in tears but honestly, I think I was too dehydrated to produce any or they dried on my face in the heat. I nearly collapsed into a chair and needed several cold cups of water as Brad and Sherri were immediately at my side helping me.

We found a shady spot in the grass for me to lay down and recover. Sherri collected my buckle and finishers jacket for me. A little while later Rami came in and joined us and we all got a cold beer to drink.

So while my “A” goal didn’t happen as I missed it by about 45 minutes, my goal to finish and have fun was more than met.

Such a well put on race! I cannot express enough how great a job they did with this race. The pre-race activities, the swag, the RD’s, shuttle drivers, to all the many, many great volunteers. We do not run these races without a lot of people helping us along the way. I have run lots of beautiful courses and you really cannot compare them. Bighorn though was spectacular with its beauty and if you have to suffer on some mountains somewhere, this scenery will definitely keep you in good spirits. I feel blessed by all the great people helping me and to have finished when nearly half of the runners who started the race did not. Embrace the journey because every step is a blessing! Great friends and family are an even bigger blessing!

2nd in Age Group 50-59 Female
Rock, Buckle and finishers jacket

The Footprints We Leave Behind

It seems like I hear a lot of talk about our carbon footprint. I’m not a political activist and don’t really have a “cause” that I have a connection to. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen someone so passionate about a cause that they broke down in tears crying. Their cause didn’t happen to grab me the same way it did them, but I’ve thought to myself many times since then, I wish I could be that passionate about a cause. About anything really.  While I might not find myself that passionate about a specific cause, I do have a natural inclination to want to take care of our planet and nature that I love and enjoy.

Let’s talk a minute about that carbon footprint of ours. What exactly is that? Wikipedia describes it this way, “A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.” As I started to look deep into this, it becomes an endless rabbit hole that quite frankly is way too complicated for me. I’m not a science person, talking about CO2 and fossil fuel burning leaves me lost. It all leads to climate change and the short of it for me is that it all has to do with taking care of our planet. Finally, something I can understand and get behind.

I love our planet! I grew up as a kid loving the great outdoors. I could not get enough of it. As a child we were pretty much expected to play outside and no one worried about where we went or what we did, just be home by dark. So, enjoying our great earth is not something I have to think about wanting to take care of, it’s part of a logical belief that we should all do so.

As a hiker and trail runner, enjoying nature and being in that great outdoors is my love. Even my very life blood. The trails of nature are where I’m the happiest. “Leave no trace” is a phrase most every trail runner has heard and endorses. We can’t enjoy the trails if they are not taken care of by the very people who use them.

So, if we are going to take good care of Mother Earth and reduce our carbon footprint, what does that look like for the average person? The everyday trail runner? Are we going to get an electric car, never fly on a plane again or maybe ride a bike more and drive less? All these are great ways to reduce our carbon footprint but maybe not where we are going to jump in to start with.

Most of us have heard of the 5 R’s; refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. It all starts by learning another R and that’s to rethink. Going zero waste is a great step towards making a positive impact on our environment so let’s look at each of these R’s from a trail runners perspective and see some simple ways we can impact the footprints we leave behind.

Refuse – The first step should be to reduce the amount of waste in the first place. Once it’s created it requires energy and resources to address it.  Use a reusable cup at races, even if they might provide paper cups, simply refusing to use them is a first step. We can refuse to use plastic disposable drop bags and instead use one that is reusable and retrieve it after the race, instead of disposing it.  Develop a simple mindset of refusing to use things that create waste if we can use another greener option.

Reduce – This is the simplest way to make small changes. Always be asking yourself, “what are ways we can reduce our waste?” Don’t buy small individually wrapped items to eat but rather buy in bulk size and put in a small bag to carry. Refilling a water bottle to drink from and avoid buying bottled water whenever possible. If you take a look around, you can find lots of simple ways to cut down and reduce the amount of waste you leave behind.

Reuse – This is also a fairly easy way to make an impact. Simply by reusing something, the affect can literally be having no waste at all. Those baggies we use to carry our food or snacks can be used again. Our water bottles can be refilled thus, used many more times. Even by donating our used running items allows them to be reused/repurposed rather than thrown into a landfill. Flagging used by Race Directors on a course can be reused. There are an endless number of small things we can do to have a positive impact. Think about what you throw in the trash and see if possibly there is a way to reuse it.

Recycle – For our part to recycle items it takes a bit more effort. Obvious things like cans and plastic bottles, or other plastic products, along with cardboard can all be recycled. It does require a little research as to where to recycle them and exactly what they take. A little effort on recycling goes a long way on the impact we can have on our planet.

Rot – Composting is a another option and is also great for gardens with a simple to set up compost bin. The old hikers’ motto “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” doesn’t make an exception for food scraps. When we walk out of aid stations with food like apples, oranges and bananas we should not toss the peels but carry them out with us instead. An apple core can take up to two months to decompose and an orange peel or banana skin up to two years. It’s not only trash and an eye sore but also a cue to others that it’s not a big deal to litter. Natural litter is still litter and litter begets litter. Even if there is not an option to compost them, tossing them on the trails is not an alternative.

So, there you go. A few beginning ideas on how we can put the 5 R’s into action as trail runners. Challenge yourself to find many more ways. Sometimes taking care of Mother Earth is as close as picking up trash left behind by others and making sure we don’t inadvertently drop trash ourselves. Let’s challenge ourselves and consider what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. The only footprints we leave behind should simply come from the bottom of our shoes.  Now, let’s go for a run.

Black Canyon 100K Race Report

This was Sherri Harvey’s race!  She wanted to run a 100k so we looked at several spring races to choose from that wouldn’t interfere with her spring motorcycle riding days and she picked Black Canyon. As soon as they opened the race to a waitlist only we put our names on the list. It was around six weeks before the actual race day that they finally invited the waitlist into the race. We had expected it to happen so we kept our training up planned on being able to run it. 

We made our travel arrangements and dialed in our runs and training. If you don’t know Sherri Harvey there’s a few things you should understand about her. She is an engineer and she likes everything neat and orderly and by that I mean she likes a schedule. If her schedule says we are “supposed” to run 18 miles, we run 18 miles because that’s what the schedule says. More on this later.

We headed to Phoenix, Arizona a couple days before the race. Sherri had never been there, never experienced their awesome running trails or even seen the big saguaro cactus before.  We were more than excited to run this race as we travelled to Arizona. We were both a little disorganized, forgetting things, losing things and last minute race changes. It was nice to have the extra day to get it all together. 

I’d run this race two years before and felt pretty confident in how Araviapa Running is able to put on outstanding events. On race morning you are picked up by a shuttle from the designated parking location and taken to the start. This year with Covid it was much more complicated with specific shuttle times based on your race start time. But just as I knew would be the case, the whole race, which has literally hundreds of runners, came off flawlessly. 

Race Director, Jubilee Paige

We immediately met up with local Atlanta friends Chris Girard and Ellen Comeaux at the start. Wave starts were every 15 minutes with thirty runners in each.  We were spaced out and welcomed by the amazing race director, Jubilee Paige. I have a major girl crush on Jub!  She’s full of energy, talented, fun and an outstanding race director, what’s not to love about her!

Social Distanced Starting line with Chris and Ellen!

It was a chilly morning start which is typical for this race and February desert weather. Sherri and I had discussed a sort of race plan which was mostly to go out slow and just enjoy the day. The number one goal was to finish. We probably should have discussed a “break up” plan but we had run a 100 mile race together with no issues, this was a far shorter race. No problem. Of course, nothing is a problem until it is. We ran Mountain Mist a few weeks earlier a little too fast at the start and had a great race the first half but then struggled the second half. Our goal this race was not to do that again. 

Sherri likes to have a race aid station chart which I usually make for each of us. This time I only made one for me, assuming she had made hers. Then the last minute change in our start wave, made the cutoff times wrong on my sheet. Harvey likes her schedules. She likes to take the chart and figure out in her head what time we will get to the next aid station and how far to get there. I’m more of a run by feel runner. I run what’s comfortable and Harvey needs time to warm up and find her groove. 

Trying to take in the view and let Sherri set the pace

The race started and we were on paved roads for maybe a mile or so before hitting the trail. It seemed like a slow comfortable pace to me, we chatted and neither of us was redlining with some crazy pace. I don’t remember how long it was before Harvey started saying we were going out too fast. She was telling me our pace. Yes doing math in her head, or from her watch and I was sure she was wrong because it didn’t feel too fast to me. It was comfortable and I felt really good. The beginning of this race is largely beautiful downhill running. You are warned not to go out too fast because the course is deceiving. The second half is tough. 

Finally Harvey told me that if I was having a great day I should leave her. But this was her race. I didn’t really care how fast we went, I was enjoying the day. Hence the need for the “break up” talk. We were going to run it together so I would wait every so often giving her a chance to catch up. I took pictures of her running and enjoyed the scenery. I don’t think she was at all impressed with my picture taking or telling her to smile. 

How can you not have a great day here?

If I had to guess I’d say the further we went the more frustrated she got with me, and I was feeling so good. We tried to get Harvey to recover and bounce back as I was certain she would. With each section the distance between us seem to widen and the wait at the aid stations just a bit longer. No breakup plan still. I will say that when the 20 MPH headwinds kicked up, it did make things considerably tougher.

We rolled into the 30k mark just halfway into the race. I was only feeling better as the day progressed and Sherri was clearly worse. The next section was a little longer and once we got onto that section, the gap really widened. I began chatting and enjoying the company of several other runners before settling in with a couple younger guys. We kept a solid pace getting to Black Canyon City aid station at around mile 37.4. It was getting dark and now it was clear Harvey and I were definitely breaking up. I could run with one of the guys I’d been with and not have to be alone in the dark for the second half which promised to be much tougher. 

Smile Harvey, this is supposed to be fun!

I got my drop bag here, changed into a dry shirt, grabbed my headlamp, my waist lamp and poles, then got some food. Just as it was starting to rain and I was going to take off, Harvey came in and let me know her plans to drop. I could clearly see her swollen knees and the pain in her face. Finishing would be very painful for her so she made the decision to accept her first DNF. 

My new friend John and I took off for the next long section. Sherri would go back to our car and hopefully jump in to crew for me at the Table Mesa aid station some 13.5 miles later. I didn’t expect her to make it there in time, but the long sections of climbing definitely made the second half slower. We continued to run strong on the downhill’s but the long uphill climbs were slower. I was happy to see Sherri at Table Mesa. She was in a good mood, maybe the first all day, and made sure I had gotten something to eat and that I had everything I needed. 

Now John and I were off towards the finish.  Around 7.7 miles to the next aid and then 3.6 to the finish. Most of the time I led the way for John. He liked the pace I was setting and I was climbing the uphills really well. This section would find John on a bit of the struggle bus. I could tell he was in pain but he never said a word. This was his first 100k and after we hit 50 miles this was all new territory for him. We had a lot of climbing in that section and he said he probably couldn’t run any more. We had a really strong hiking pace so it wasn’t a concern and we had more than enough time to finish in his goal. 

Finally, the last aid station. I tried quickly to put fresh batteries in both of my lights while the aid station workers were trying to give out shots of fireball. Sadly, they couldn’t seem to get any takers. I quickly said “I’m from Georgia. We have fireball at every race, I’ll take a shot.” Clearly Arizona shots are not the same as Georgia shots. They handed me a cup with what was closer to 3 shots. No problem, I only had just over 3 miles to go. John said the aid station workers told him the trail was smooth to the finish. He must have smelled the barn because now he led the way and we ran the entire 3.6 miles with him crossing the finish line just before me. Excellent day on the beautiful Black Canyon trails! I was definitely in my happy place all day. Sad not to get to finish with Harvey so she could get a second buckle but I’m sort a 100-mile buckle purist. I don’t really like buckles for less than 100 miles. It was bittersweet but sweet none the less. 

Harvey we’ll find another epic race adventure to run but, in the meantime, you are still one of my favorite pacers! 

Running Home in the Tri-Cities

The Tri-Cities, Washington is my hometown. West Richland is where I actually grew up right on the banks of the Yakima River.  Those were simpler days in a smaller town. Nevertheless, I call this home where most of my family and many of my friends still live. At times there is a tug at my heart to go back home to experience and embrace the changes since the days long ago.

Seeing the Columbia Valley, where the rivers that all join together at the very heart of this great community, I remember the many hours as a kid I spent enjoying all that it had to offer. I rode motorcycles in the hills, rode my bike freely in the streets, swam at the public pool and water skied on the rivers. It holds many fond memories of my younger years.

Starting in the 3rd grade I went to Hanford when it was at the time a K through 12 school, later graduating from Kamiakin High School in 1982. In high school I ran track one year but my love was playing JV and Varsity basketball. After graduation I went away to college because of course back then there was no way to get a 4-year degree locally. I never returned Tri-Cities to live.

It was much later in life, after my kids were grown that I took up trail running as a hobby. It wasn’t long before I found myself drawn back to the Tri-Cities to run the Badger Mountain Challenge Trail Race. To run the hills and mountains that surround the area where I grew up, I would see it all with a whole new perspective, a “Vantage” point if you will.

The Badger Mountain Challenge is put on by a local race director and draws runners not only from the local area but also from many other towns and states. The race is a one of a kind, top notch race experience. It’s held in the early Spring at the end of March and provides multiple running distances from 15K, 50K, 50 miles and 100 miles. My favorite distance is the 100-miler where you can go big or go home, and here I could do both!

The 50 and 100-mile distances start off at the base of Badger Mountain in Richland then the course takes you up and over the mountain, across to Candy Mountain where you again go up and over it.  You run alongside orchards as you travel out towards McBee Mountain in Benton City. Next, the course goes up the face of McBee and along one ridge line before coming back, circling across the other ridge and down, following the same path back to the start at Badger Mountain. The 100-mile runners do this twice. In addition to the long race distance, the challenge with this race is often the ever unpredictable weather that mostly includes very cold temperatures and wind that time of year, especially in the overnight hours.

For me it was a time to come home to see and experience my childhood stomping grounds more on foot. The mountain top views give you the chance to take in every part of this beautiful valley, appreciate all that it has to offer and really see how it has grown over the years. I was able to watch the sunrise over the Columbia River and see the surrounding mountains while running where my younger feet had not traveled before. I made many new friends during the race and walked away with an unforgettable experience when some of my family came to watch me finish a race for the first time.

There are several trail and ultra races of varying distances in and around the Tri-Cities area.  You can find them with a simple search on the UltraSignup.com website.

I ran the race a few years ago. Now when I’m in town, these mountains call me once again to come run and hike them, where I capture new memories and see my beautiful hometown from a whole new perspective all over again. This year’s Badger Mountain Challenge will take place March 26-27.  It just might be the perfect time for me to go home again.