I had been looking forward to this race for a while. Actually since 2013. The problem is that it never fit into my schedule. Odd thing is that while I have run 100 milers I have never run a 50 miler; this was gonna be sweet.
I found out that I was going to California. Work was sending me on a mission, for 3 weeks! Hot damn! Instantly I hopped on UltraSignup and started looking for races. I found a couple; some looked pretty easy or weren’t really trail runs. I came across Nine Trails Endurance Run. It’s part of the All We Do Is Run series of races and directed by Luis Escobar. Cool.
Before the run, I had a one on one with Gary (my coach) and I was emphatically telling him about California, Zombie Runners, nice weather, trails… While we were going some details about the upcoming event, I told him I bought some Tailwind and thought I would give it a shot.
“Have you ever used it before?”
With hesitation and knowing that I was going to be told not to I replied “yeeeeess… Zion…“
“Did you like it?”
With more hesitation “No I hated it”
Gary is confused….
I figured it was mixed badly and the water was tainted by the containers from prolonged exposure to plastic containers.
We resolved that I would seek out the nutrition that I was used too. He noted that this run was gonna be a hard one and 9 or so hours is not the kinda run you wanna be testing things. Good advice.
Check in – I introduced myself to Luis. We talked about the race. He emphasized that I should have lots of water. I confirmed that I have the 1.5 litre bladder and 1.5 litres of bottles. He felt that was adequate and mentioned that there are only two aid stations, one that you see twice and two water stations, of which I should only fill up on the way back from the turnaround point.
Moving along to Saturday morning. I ended up betting on getting breakfast at Denny’s because I didn’t plan very well for this trip. It was 5 or so in the morning, the doors were open. I look around and a guy comes out of the kitchen and says:
“Thought you were a 24 hours?”
“Yeah but we are doing the 2 month cleanup…”
I didn’t know what to do. I started looking for alternatives, but couldn’t find anything, not even a damn coffee. I decided to head to the race and wait for the start. I was hungry so my breakfast was one of the energy bars I grabbed for the morning part of the race. I wasn’t worried because I tend to over pack. I’d rather run with too much food than not enough food.
I didn’t have a target time. I had no idea what I was in for. They said this was a 35-mile race that ran like 50 miles. When I first told Mel about it, her first impression was this was a hard race. I guess 10,000 feet of climbing over 56 km should have tipped me off. It didn’t.
It was no surprise that during the pre-race meeting 15 minutes before go time, Luis said,
“This is a triple black diamond race. If this is your first Ultra, YOU SHOULDN’T BE HERE.”
OK! Message received. This was going to be tough.
Luis was adamant that we all were at that pre-race meeting. So much so that he called the potty line over.
“HEY GUYS! GET OVER HERE, YOU CAN GO TO THE POTTY AFTER. I’M SERIOUS! GET OVER HERE.
Here is the list of rules, they are all “NO” rules, no pacer, no drop bags – you have to carry everything with you like a REAL ultra runner, no crew. You can wear headphones if you wanna be like that.
Be nice to the volunteers, without them the race wouldn’t be on. If you want to complain, you can complain to me. I can tell you now what my answer will be if you want…”
He continued to tell us about a guy that really wanted to do the race but wasn’t confident that he would be able to do it within the cut off. His resolution was that he would let the guy have an early start, like 4 am. That wasn’t good enough, he suggested 2 am, but that still wasn’t enough time. Unable to satisfy the guy, he asked him what time he wanted to start, he said 10 pm Friday (yeah the day before). The group was supportive of the fellow, though, we all chuckled.
We walked to the start line and this is where we all had to raise our right hand and give the famous ultra runners credo “…and if I die, it’s my own damn fault.”
We were off.
I planned to take it easy since my friend Lucy infected me with the 48-hour flu that left you with a persistent cough. I had the damn cough for 3 weeks by the time I arrived in Santa Barbara. Hers lasted 5 weeks. I was wheezing, this wasn’t going to be a heroic effort. But seriously, I don’t think there was all that much climbing…
NOT A JOKE.
Holy hell. I thought I was on the stairway to heaven. I mean Fat Dog had lots of climbing, but this race, this race was either an incline going up or going down. I wasn’t really ready for it either. The winter didn’t ever give me a chance to train for down-hilling. Stupid southwestern Ontario.
Typical of Ultras, I ended up listening to these two guys bantering about food. It was obvious that they were buddies out for a good run. Having not really had a breakfast I started to complain to them.
“Guys – it’s too early to be talking about delicious food….”
They appreciated my point of view and I joined their conversation telling them how much I was loving Cali as there was no hiding the fact that I’m Canadian eh? I’d play leap frog with Tom and Chris for the next few miles. Every time I’d catch up Tom would jokingly mention to Chris that they needed to pace themselves. A little further ahead I got to a marker that marked a left turn (stripped flag on the left). I turned left and continued to climb. Tom and Chris caught up and called me to the right. After a friendly debate Tom says “Hey, I’m not a hoser eh? This is the right way, we trained on these trails.”
I guess there is no arguing with that logic.
I reached the aid station and refuelled. Checked my watch, 2:15 hours. I figured that I might be able to pull off an 8 hour run. I continued downhill. The trail past the aid station was probably my favorite. It nice single track that zig zagged down the side on the mountain. The footing was good and allowed me to cruise. In this section I was in control just enough that I was confident that I wouldn’t lose my footing and nose dive off the side of the mountain.
I had about 5 miles to go before I got to the turnaround point. As I continued to climb I bumped into a guy named John. Started the usual trail chatter, blah blah, I’m from … where are you from… It’s pretty hilarious though, every time I visit the States I get asked if I know Mike or Jim or Jane from Canada. I never know them. However, when an American ultra runner asks a Canadian ultra runner where they are from, and then they ask you if you know someone from the same region of Canada, there is a good chance you know them. Well he asked me if I know this crazy girl called Elise – certainly do.
Since we started downhill again, I left Jim. At this point I noticed my low back started to feel it. I focused on engaging my core to minimize the jolts and what not. I started to occur to me that Luis WAS SERIOUS ABOUT THIS BEING HARD.
I got to the turnaround in a little more than 4 hours, something like 4:10 I think. It was starting to get hot out there. It might have been 26 C at that point and the sun had made it way around the mountain. I suddenly realized that I was going to be in direct sunlight for my way back. John had told me that he thought it would take him at least an extra hour to return to the start/finish. I finally set a target- 9 hours.
I was pretty sure the second was going to be tougher, and it was. The noon hour sun was beating down on all of us. Over the first 4 miles back I already drank more water than I did on my previous intervals and stopped to fill up at the first of the two water only stations.
I continued to climb. Being in the sun and heat of the day, looking at 32 C now, I was paying close attention to my heart rate. It was running high no matter how easy an effort I tried to maintain. I kept trying to remind myself it was OK to slow down a bit, try to catch up on the downhill.
This strategy seemed to work, but as I was closing in on the finish, my legs were a lot less nimble. A lot of the trail ran along cliffs edges, I remembered the credo (…and if I die, it’s my own damn fault). It made sense to me that I should probably not push too hard and be sure of my footing.
Upon getting the final water station, one of the volunteers was asking if we wanted a beer. He barely finished saying “BEER” and I said “YES”. I traded him my empty water bottles for a beer. In the time it took them to fill up the bottles I was done the beer and on my way.
Not having thought through the consequences of drinking the BEER, I started to realize why it is best left to the end of the race. I kept burping, my gut was a little bloated; it wasn’t as rewarding as I thought it might be. (I seriously considered keeping that experience to myself)
After a coughing fit about a half-mile from the finish, crossing the finish line was sweet relief! 8 hours and some 42 minutes, wow a long day on the trail. Each finisher was treated to a hug from Patsy Dorsey, the races creator, some 25 years ago.
I loved this race. It was small, and you really felt as if you were a part of a community. Everyone was friendly and the coolers were stacked with water and other drinks. Most importantly, the coolers had plenty of recovery drinks: BEER. I expected that the beer was reserved for those who bought it, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was for everyone.
Although I was sick (stupid persistent cough), the race moved along well. I ended up 26th out of 103 runners, not so bad. Time for some rest so that I can get healthy and prepare for an exciting season: Pick Your Poison, Cayuga 50 mile (where I’m gonna do my damn best to beat Mel :), and my ultimate target for 2016, Grindstone 100.
Strava GPS Track
Hi. I’m Lizzy. Some of you may know that I’m a runner from Waterloo, pretty new to the long distance running.
A couple months back I decided to sign up for the Beast of Burden 100 mile race in Lockport, NY. It’s a flat, out and back course, 4 times along the Erie Canal. It is also in January- which adds a bit of a unique element to it. Not gonna lie, my main focus in doing this race was the timing. I had no huge interest in a flat race (I prefer a bit of climbing). The reason I signed up for this race was because I wanted to get another 100 mile race under my belt before I turned 20, and considering my birthday is in March, I had few options for races (my first 100 was in September).
When looking into this race- the main thing I focused on was the weather. From there I looked into past results and gauged my finish time based on other people I knew who were around my time. I estimated about 28-29 hour finish – give or take depending on weather and trail conditions.
I already knew this race was gonna be fairly different though because of the obvious race conditions and such, but also for this race I was going to have a crew. My dad was coming- it was his first ultra experience. Byron and Lucy were coming as well to pace and crew me. I was allowed to have a pacer after 25 miles (super early in the race) so having 2 pacers would be nice- just to have people to talk to.
On Friday the four of us headed to Lockport around 3:30-4. We got to our hotel, Lockport Inn, and it was freakishly adorable. Got all of our stuff unpacked and settled in, and Byron gave me wet wipes with a sassy title on them and a Runs of Anarchy hat (which I already misplaced and he had to give me another one…) then we headed out for dinner at a little pasta restaurant.
When we got back to the hotel we hung out in the room drinking beer (Byron a bit too much) and talking. Mainly it was Lucy and I on the bed half asleep while Dad and Byron talked in depth.
Race morning: So. This section is gonna be a lot of information that no one really needs to know about me- so if that makes you uncomfortable, stop reading.
I had my alarm set for 7 am Saturday (10 am race start) but woke up at 6 am. I was quick to realize race morning that I got my period. Not gonna lie, I kinda flipped at first. Lucy and dad were still asleep, so I texted my Mum and Rhonda to ask what the hell I was gonna do. Rhonda told me to take advil every 6 hours to fix some things, so I took one then. I then messaged Byron to tell him, because turns out you can’t have secrets from your crew and I was….less than prepared. I hoped that it would work out well and started getting ready for race morning.
Got to the race start and picked up my stuff, saw Steven and Lucy and I headed to the car to get my shit in order while Byron and Steven talked. Pre-race announcements, and race started.
The start of the race was fairly uneventful. It was chilly, but not bad. ‘Bout -6 celsius or so? First quarter flew by fairly uneventful. I made a couple friends, Mike and Gary, got a couple selfies, was FORCE FED Mr. Noodles by my crew which I bitched and whined about cause I ~thought~ it was too early in the race to be eating that much (I’m inexperienced don’t mock me). And ended up getting through the first 25 miles (40 km) in ~5 hours. 5:22 according to Byron’s spreadsheet. At this point in the race Lucy came to start pacing me, which I was incredibly excited for. We talked boys and other shenanigans to pass time, like Lucy and I do. We talk about everything and anything. In this 20 km going out it started to get dark but I didn’t start to use my headlamp yet because Lucy’s is practically a car headlight.
At the 20 km aid station, my crew quickly found out that I had a blister on my toe. Lucy went to help me and Byron quickly cut in to pop it. I looked away and didn’t feel anything. Then I felt everything. He attacked me with that needle. I was practically crying while Lucy asked him to stop but he attacked my toe a good 5-6 times before finally I had enough. We got some food and headed back again. At the mid aid station we had our first traditional “us” moment. There were a few runners in the aid station as well as a bunch of volunteers, mid aged and around my age. I asked Lucy to grab me something and she responded with “What am I your fucking bitch or something?!?” to which I responded “Don’t be a fucking prick for god’s sake Lucy!”. This is fairly normal for us. I think the aid station volunteers thought we were going to kill each other. They probably didn’t want to send us into the night together.
Lucy and I finished up the first 50 miles together with an overall time of 11 hours. At this point Lucy and Byron decided to switch up pacing positions and Byron would pace me for the last 50 miles. He wasn’t quite ready so this was my longest aid station stop- being 25 min, but then we went on our way. Not gonna lie, I don’t totally remember the next 25 miles that well. I remember talking, then not talking, but other than just trying to keep myself running instead of walking, I don’t remember much.
At this point in the race it was what…maybe -12 celsius? I don’t remember being that cold though. Leaving aid stations was rough for the first 5 minutes until I got moving, and sometimes long walking breaks (over 2 minutes ahaha) I would start to get chilled. According to my dad, it was cold (he bitched a lot even after the race was over…). Also, apparently at this point in the race I started getting “short” with people (according to my dad as well – told me post race). I definitely can see that happening, I don’t remember snapping but I do remember I wanted some people to shut the fuck up at some points. (not my crew obviously they were wonderful)
Heading out into the last 25 miles I was at about 17.5 hours, with about 6.5 hours left until 24 hours. This was WAY ahead of my schedule, but at that point in the race it isn’t as necessary to hold back. Heading into the final ‘lap’, Byron told me he anticipated my time to be 24-25 hours based on my past pace and my want for more walking breaks. In my head though, I wanted 24. Obviously I did, cause someone told me it would take me longer, and I’m stubborn as fuck in these events.
I started the lap by saying I want to “take more frequent but shorter walking breaks”. For the first 75 miles, I had often walked at the bridges. The race is located along the Erie canal, so there were frequent bridges (1-3 miles or so). This gave me a realistic and visual goal that I often used. I tried to push myself in the next 20km to run to all the bridges, and if there was no bridge for awhile, to get a certain km mark in before walking. Near the end of this leg, Byron started pissing like a dog. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought he was marking his territory. It started with me laughing each time, and got to the point where he would just disappear and I wouldn’t even notice until he was back.
When I got to the 20 km turn around, it was just before 6:30am. I came in determined to be in and out in under 10 min, deciding not to change my clothes and just pee and eat. I wanted to be done. When I was running across the bridge (to get to the aid station), dad and Lucy were across the bridge cheering and yelling “They haven’t seen anyone in 1.5 hours!!”. I went in and went straight to pee, and when I came out they informed me that at present I was in 8th. Cool. I asked what place female. They said 2nd. Cool. I ate a bunch of cookies and started leaving.
Right after leaving the aid station, Byron said “Let’s run to all the bridges, then walk. You decide how long you wanna walk for, but we only walk at bridges.” Son of a bitch. I agreed, thinking it’s almost every mile that’ll be easy. First bridge wasn’t for 6.5 fucking km. God dammit. I did it, because that’s what I was told to do.
We finally got to the aid station, and as I ate I heard Byron say “Could we get some shots?”. I guess I do remember telling him now I wanted shots at the last aid station, but at the time it confused me. Here’s a vital thing that happened next, that made a BIG difference in how the rest of the race went for me. I wanted Fireball, Byron wanted Jack Daniels. We said that. They poured 2 Jack Daniels, Byron corrected them by pouring my shot into his own glass. Let’s take note of that for a second. That’s about 2.5-3 shots worth. After not having slept for a full night and having run for awhile. Regardless, we took our shots and went on our way.
At this point it was light out and we got moving again. 10 km left. First 4-5 km were fairly uneventful, with walking running breaks. Then Byron started getting pretty hyper. Whenever he would see a bridge, 300-500 metres out he would tell me to pick it up till the bridge. Which I did. Then he got worse. Weaving around me, running directly behind me, hitting my arms with each step, and when I told him to stop he started hitting the back of my knee with his hand. And pissing just as much as before. And he was talking, oh lord was he talking.
With the way the race course is, you have a point where you can see the aid station on the other side of the canal, but have to run a mile out still, cross a bridge, and run a mile up till the aid station. We were at this point. Lucy and Dad were across the bridge screaming their ears off. I took my final walking break then set in for the last 3 km.
Byron continued to make the most annoying sounds I’ve ever heard (at the time at least- I was tired), but it probably helped me run faster. I finally crossed the finish line and was told my time was 23 hours 28 minutes. I received my belt buckle and took pictures and headed into the tent.
While sitting there I was informed that I got 8th overall (32 registered, 30 started, 18 finished) and 2nd overall female. Cool. I also found out at this point how Steven did, getting 3rd overall. I changed some of my clothes, was fed veggie burgers, and asked to go back to the hotel when I started shaking.
At the hotel, Lucy ran me a bath and helped me get my clothes off (we reached a new level of closeness). When I was done showering, I came out to everyone passed out in the room. We packed up, and headed home.
HUGE thanks to my pacers/crew. I honestly could not have done the race without you guys. Plus there’s no way in hell I could have gone that fast without you guys. You guys made the race. Dad, who went out of his comfort zone and spent an entire weekend awake with people he didn’t know, you were a great help and I’m surprised how quickly you picked up on what a crew does and was able to help so much. Byron, you have a way of pissing me off and endearing me to you all in one fell swoop. Couldn’t have done the last half nearly as fast without you- thanks for pushing me. And thanks for crewing me and force feeding me the first half of the race, regardless of me complaining. Lucy, I won’t get how you treat me like a bro and a child all at once, but somehow it works. I love how much love you have even in the short time we’ve known each other. Thank you for rubbing my nasty feet, making 25 miles fly by and babying me along the way. THANK YOU GUYS!!!
It’s December, the apparent rainy season for the Cayman Islands. I flew down there December 4th ready to fulfill the second my second obligation as the trainer for the Team Diabetes fund raiser. I was anxious to meet everyone since I had only communicated to them via email. This would no doubt turn out to being an experience of a lifetime.
Up to this point I was expected to, and I was for that matter I was sending a weekly email to a group of twenty or so fundraisers. I’d focus my messages on subjects that people would hopefully find useful during their training program. Simple things like hydration, heat training (Cayman Islands is hot when considering we all live in Canada), and other “helpful” subjects. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s your first rodeo or not, it’s good to have the reminder. My coach regularily is on me about making sure that I keep up my hydration and nutition regiment even though the cooler weather makes me lazy.
As we waited patiently for the plane to take off, my wife was asking me over BBM if there were others on the plane with me. I replied to here saying that there probably were but I didn’t know who they were. I mentioned that I heard some folks saying they were from Saskatchewan and I figured they were part of the team since we had a strong showing of Saskatoonians.
We landed and the race organisers made sure that entrants had a sorta red carpet appeal. They worked with Customs and managed to give us a priority line. Instead of waiting in a line of 200 or more people (a couple of planes landed within minutes of each other), we were able to bypass the long line and make our way to the van/bus taking us to the hotel.
During the check-in process I met up with Donna, the National Director for Team Diabetes, and she introduced me to Joe, the event planner. It wasn’t long after us meeting and he asked me:
“How do you feel about coming in last?”
“I expect to” I replied. As far as I was expecting, I wasn’t there to prove how fast I could run. I was there to help people out. To make sure that the last person made it across the finish line safely.
I got the chance to meet everybody that night. Joe had organized a meet and greet with delicious finger foods. It was a great opportunity to really get to know the stories. No doubt, it is an attractive proposition, fund raise x number of dollars and get an all expenses (within reason) paid vacation to Grad Cayman and run or walk a marathon or half-marathon. Think is, that most people don’t do it, so to find out why these 20 people were, was a pretty moving experience. I feel bad, cause while I learned about some, I really didn’t get the opportunity to understand why each and every person was doing it.
The race itself was an early start, 5 am. At 4:17 am I got a call from the front desk. It was Joe.
“Are you coming?” We needed to board the bus to the start at 4:20 am.
“Yeah, I’ll be there in two minutes.” I wasn’t going to be late. I was going to be exactly on-time. Just like I am for my own races. But “some people” get nerveous about my precise time planning. Maybe they have right to be. 🙂
This race really appeared to appreciate the support from Team Diabetes. I noticed that there were other teams out on the course, but ours was the only one to be called out by the race announcer. We gathered together and found our places in the crowd at the start. Team members lined up according to their respective time goals and I found the walkers at the back.
I don’t even remember, was it a gun? Was it just a count down? I was busy chit chatting and looking around. At any rate, the race started and we were off. I was walking with Wendy. Such a sweet lady. Her mom had passed two weeks prior and suffered greatly from diabetes. So much so that she was bedridden and blinded from it. I figured that was her motivation. She wasn’t going to be fast, but that didn’t and still doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was there and she had raised the money to help the Canadian Diabetes Association. Not only that, she had a smile on her face the whole time.
I walked with Wendy for about 2 or so miles. She knew that I needed to touch base with the rest of the team and so she insisted that I run ahead. I sped along and caught up with some of the team members. Each time given them a high five and checking in with them. I wanted to make sure they were hydrating well and that they felt good. I passed Betsy, she was with her 13 yr old grandson. He was a little young and so was asked to stay with his grandmother who was walking the half-marathon. Like a good sport, he did that, but when I saw him I asked
“Wanna run?” His eyes popped out of his head. I took that as a yes.
“C’mon then, I’m trying to catch everyone.”
We ran together from about mile 2.8 to mile 5.8. I think we caught up to about half of the team, which I thought was pretty good. I decided that we need to head back. I had to check in on Wendy. As we ran back, everybody was cheering us on. I was a little confused but soon realised that everyone thought we were among the leaders of the marathon. I tried to tell people that I was just running to the back of the pack, that was futile though. As if they would understand what I was doing.
Once I rejoined Betsy I left her grandson with her and found Wendy, she was doing well. I walked with her for a couple of minutes and then I got the text message:
Leave the halfers catch up with Kathy.
I motored forward. My mission wasn’t to find Kathy, but instead to find Janice. A mistake that was cleared up somehow. Each time I’d catch up with a Team D runner I’d give them a high five, check-in to make sure all was ok and then motor on up.
I saw Bonita – she went to give me a high five. I saw her finger brace and opted out. I didn’t want to knock her mangled finger tip off, besides it made for a great communication tool.
I tried to keep an eye out for each of the runners. Cheering them on was my job. I think I was able to give a high five to everyone except our media champion, Rustie, a morning show host in Regina. Instead I heard her say “Hey Byron” and I thought from that moment that all of Saskatchatoon would think fellas from Ontario were to good for them.
R u with anyone
I replied to the text,
Not even 15 minutes later
R you with her
I was thinking, jeez I’m not The Flash. I trying…”
Yet – she put space between us
10 minutes later, I finally caught up with Janice. She told me of hot spots and chaffing. I stopped her immediately and we taped her up and added body glide. Pulled out the sunscreen and applied a new protective layer. Now we were ready to finish the last 15 miles of the race.
Janice was trying to keep her spirits up. The heat was exhausting and I don’t think the weather in Nova Scotia prepared her for what she was subjecting herself to. I checked on her pretty frequently, making sure she was sipping water and her electrolyte drink. Also making sure she was getting some food into her gut. We didn’t want her to repeat the pogo stick attack a fellow runner experienced from his muscles seizing up. The guy couldn’t put his foot down flat and when he tried to he just sorta bounced up and fell down to the ground. On his way down he bounced of a car adding to the hilarity even though it was evident that his situation was serious. I looked over at her, I don’t think the her toes were feeling good, you could see it on her face. From that point I repeated over and over, “Smile”.
When you are feeling hopeless, you have a sorta binary choice. Enjoy what you are doing (or fake that you are enjoying it), or let the world fall apart around you. If you choose the latter, then you are most certainly setting yourself up for failure. The voices telling you to stop what you’re doing use this weakness as their advantage. They repeat over and over, this is too painful, there is no reward in pushing to the end, you will feel better if you just stop. These are all lies. If you actually do stop, when you realize that you could have kept on to the end, all you are left with is regret. It is impartive to smile, it doesn’t matter if it’s fake, this helps generate positive dialogue in your head and staves of the little deceitful devil.
We pressed on. I could tell that the heat was really getting to her and that the pain in her legs was agonizing. I changed up my strategy. We would find smaller goals, run two light poles ahead, then walk to the next light pole. For three light poles we’d run, then walk for one. Short stops at the aid stations would allow us to cool off with some ice and a chilled bottle of water. We persisted forward.
With about 3 to 4 miles left. I started getting pinged by text.
Just checking in
How far out
I didn’t really think much of it, though it did seem like I was being nagged. Like kids in the car saying “Are we there yet?”. As the remaining miles decreased to one single mile, I kept pushing Janice to press forward.
“C’mon lets run this one in from here, you can do this” I said to her. Everytime she’d break into her walk, I was on her to run. I wasn’t giving up. She could do it, she just needed to tell herself that she could. We turned one corner, then another, each time making a liar outta me as I kept repeating that the end was just around the corner, it wasn’t, not quite.
Finally it was in sight. Janice picked up her pace and started to run full out towards the finish. As we crossed the finish line, her boyfriend Dylan pulled out into the corral and one of the race volunteers pulled out a chair for Janice to sit in. I went to the side and Donna said:
“Watch this, this is why I was pestering you,Dylan wanted to be ready.”Dylan got down to one knee, Janice oblivious of what was going on was looking at her medal she earned. Dylan pulled out the ring and with a “Will you marry me?” followed by an emotional “Yes” these tow love birds were engaged.
It was an increadible day. A team of 21 fund raisers, each with their own story making it to the end of the run. For me it was inspiring to see them work so hard in the heat of the Carribean, the second part of their obligation, the first part being the fundraising which I’m proud to say they raised over $130k CAD for diabetes research and othe activities related to diabetes.
For me the story doesn’t end there. The following Tuesday morning, about eight of us had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 4 am to get out on our plane, which was to depart at 6:15 am. Over the trip, you start to develop bonds with people from across our wonderful country. The fun part of the trip home, is that you just want to spend every minute you can with these great people. As we waited to board our first plane, it felt like we were all getting closer byt the minute. Sharing stories we’d been shy to share ealier on. Saying things about each other that we’d been relunctant to say fearing that it may be misinterpreted.
We finally did board the first plane and flew to Kingston, Jamaica. We had a 6 hour layover there. Once we made it through customs, we started to throwing out ideas of what we should do. One of the taxi drivers overheard and started suggesting things we could do, visit the Bob Marley museum, eat at some restaurant. When all was said and done, the group decided to hang back at the airport. We kept each other company and continued to get to know each other.
It was noon, and we had 2 hours and 30 minutes to board. The check-in for Air Canada opened and I reached for my passport. It wasn’t there. In a stop, drop, and roll approach, I looked for my passport frantically and confirmed Rustie’s observation that I was a little scatterbrained. It was nowhere to be found. I walked back over all the places we had been. The group pitched in helping me scan the airport. We went to the Security Post, Customs, the Police station to file a police report (which automatically voids a passport by the way).
Earlier I slipped the taxi driver a $10 cause I felt bad for leading him on about maybe heading in to Kingston. He saw that I was frantic, when I pointed at him to say, get your van, he jumped into action. Kenneth drove me towards the embassy. I was hoping to maybe get a temp passport issued immediately. As we were driving, I finally got through to someone and they basically informed me that I had a 3 day stay ahead of me. This wasn’t good. I needed to be in Ottawa on Friday for my grandfather’s funeral.
We headed back to the airport. I thought I’d try my luck. Maybe it would suddenly turn up. My new friends had at this point passed through security and were worried for me. I got a BBM message from Rustie telling me to get in the airport so they could throw some money over to me. I got into the airport and looked for this glass they’d be throwing money over to me. I headed to the security and tried to negotiate with them. She wouldn’t let me pass, but pointed to the second floor where Mike was standing in behind the glass wall. I rushed over and in a very Hollywood move, he tossed a ziplock back with cash in over to me. My heart warmed.
Earlier on I had also reached out to my wife, Lindsay, thinking that a picture of the photocopy may come in handy, she also sent a pic of my birth certificate. Realizing that I was in a futile situation, I gave in and asked her to help me figure out where to stay. She found the Mayfair Motel, a minute walk from the Canadian Embassy. Kenneth and I became friends. He seemed to be looking out for me. He brought me to the Mayfair and gave me his cell number.
“Call me if you need N – E – Ting mon” He said with a seriously Jamaican accent.
I decided that there was nothing more I could do that day and I retired to my room where I began my bedbug check – all clear. I tried to relax and take it easy, what else was I going to do right? The following day I went to the Embassy. A wild experience on it’s own, you aren’t even allowed to bring in your cell phone, you had to leave every device at the security post. I entered, talked with consular services, filled out some forms and then headed to get some passport photos. I thought maybe I would get my passport that day.
That wasn’t the case. I had to wait at least to the next day AND somehow I would need to book some flights once I got word from the consular services to move forward. I waited around for another day hoping that I would hear back. I didn’t. It got late, so I went to bed.
I woke up the next day, it was still a little dark out, so I assumed it was pretty early. I just hung around and tried to be patient. Time was ticking away and it was looking like I wouldn’t be able to make it to Ottawa for Friday at this point. 9:00 am chimed and with so too did my BlackBerry. It was the consular service letting me know to book a flight for no earlier than Dec 11. My heart sank, there’d be no way I could get from Kingston to Ottawa in time for the funeral, which was to be help at 11 am. I replied back and asked if there was any chance to get a flight that day. The response was positive, but to make sure it was and evening flight because there was no certainty that I would be able to get my temporary passport earlier than 4:30 pm.
I reached out to my network and got an itinerary so that the passport processing was now able to take place. I don’t know if I was as anxious as I was between 10 am and 3 pm previously in my life. I hung on to my BlackBerry and I was checking it every 5 minutes, no message. Finally I got what I had been waiting for “Come pcik up the temporary passport.”
I called Kenneth to bring me to the airport and I flew to JKF, transfered to LGA, stayed up all night, flew to YYZ, walked across the airport and made my way to YOW. When we landed I sent a BBM over to Lindsay.
Landed – come get me – may have to circle
It was 10:16 am and I was stepping into my car. We still had time to make it to the funeral. I couldn’t believe it, I might just make it there I thought. Lindsay drove. We pulled into the church parking lot at 10:40 am. Unreal I thought. I grabbed my suit that Lindsay brought for me and changed in the parking lot. Fully dressed and a little stinky I made it.
Alls well that ends well.
That Dam hill race takes place in Springbank park in London, ON. It’s a 2.24km loop that you run over and over.
I knew I was totally under trained for this event considering I had only done 3 3hr runs and a bunch of runs in the 2- 2 1/2 hr range, but I figured I’d just run as much as I could and power walk when I had to. I also went into this race with a heavy heart knowing that my friend Diane (also a runner) was in critical condition in the ICU after a freak accident. Her prognosis wasn’t good Friday night,
Thanks to Chris and Christa Baker for letting me sleep over at their house and giving me a ride to the race. They were both going to run the marathon. Melanie was coming to pick me up Sunday morning so really my only option was to keep moving throughout the whole 24 hrs 🙂
At the start of the race I ran a few laps with Nick. He was aiming for 100kms in the 12 hr event. It was nice to chat and get to know him a little in the early hours of the race. I felt good for the first 5 hrs, then my legs and feet felt dead. So I decided a walk break was in order. I walked 2 loops and then continued on running. And that was my pattern for the rest of the race. Run til my legs hurt too much, walk 2 laps, feel better, run a few more hours. Though the run to walk ratio got much smaller as the time went by. Sometime in the afternoon, I decided to check my phone and text Mel to tell her how I was doing and get an update on Diane. Sadly, I learned that she had passed away a few hours earlier. Mel said to keep on running ‘run for Diane’. I think I cried for the next two loops. Thanks to Clay Williams for running out to stop me and give me a hug around this time.
The thing about this course is that when night falls, the skunks come out! The one section of this course was skunk central. Every time I went by I looked for their eyes being lit up by my head lamps. Skunks don’t bother me in the least except that I didn’t want to get sprayed by one. I gave them a wide berth every time I saw one.
I got really tired around midnight. I almost stopped and lay down on the trail, but remembered that the stone cottage was warm and available to us. So I went in there, elevated my legs and feet on a chair and crashed on the floor. I think I stayed 10-15min then got up and kept going. I was at 132km at that point. Getting to 100miles seemed to take forever. It was tough going. Finally made it though! One more loop and I was closing my eyes, yawning a ton and hallucinating a bit. Time to crash again. This time I made the Decision to rest for much longer -40min went by I think before I was able to get up, get some warmer clothes on and head out for a few more loops. I was on my second walking loop when I saw Melanie arrive. She ran over and we chatted a bit. It was close to 7am and I decided I could probably slow jog the last hour. Until I caught up to a guy who was at about the same mileage as I was. Then with about 30min to go, I decided I wanted to try and beat him if I could even though I wasn’t completely sure what our total mileage was but I knew we were close. I think I heard some one say if I stayed ahead of him, I could finish in second place. So I POURED it on! I thought I could get in 2 more laps for sure. I didn’t look back once. But I did listen for his beep over the two timing mats along the river side to see how much of a gap I had. Much to my dismay as I passed the finish line, Mel yells ” you have time for one more loop plus a bit more!” I kinda didn’t want the bit more part. And turns out I had to finish one more whole lap so they could plot my final finish spot. And omg, was that last lap hard. I hadn’t planned on one more loop. My pace was slowing and the lactic acid was creeping up my legs coming up That dam Hill for the final time. My legs felt like cement blocks and the final sprint didn’t feel very sprint like. But I finished!!!
My first 24hr race! It was tough. Especially the hours between 12-6am. I’m happy I stuck it out and finished good enough for first female and 2nd overall. Surprisingly I never got bored running all my loops. I never listened to music either. I listened to the sounds of the ducks and geese near the river and that was entertainment enough.
Thanks to Clay and Rhonda for crewing, Mary-Lou for the hug at the beginning, all the runners who gave words of encourage to during the race (Maryka, Jodi, Mary-Lou, Steven, Nick, and all those whose names I don’t know or can’t remember), Dave Carver for the entry, all the volunteers at the aid stations, MCMTiming, Melanie for coming to get me & driving me home.
Hey, my name is Lucy and this past weekend, I ran my first 50 mile race at Haliburton.
I started running a bit more seriously last year and did a couple of half marathons before I started running Ultras this year. I was at Fat Dog pacing my great friend and coach Byron Guptill this August and the experience was incredible. It required enough mental strength and resilience that I thought this 50 miler would be a piece of cake after the British Columbia mountains and mean-ass weather.
My goal for this race was to finish under 12 hours.
I got to Haliburton on Friday, picked up my race kit and left for the place I would stay overnight. I slept with one eye open, making sure my alarm was still on – you know, just in case.
Got up in the morning, got to the restaurant to try and get a bit of food in me but I was such a nervous wreck that I just tried to distract myself with the conversations flowing around me. Byron came in, ready to start his day/night to support all the runners. It was so great to see a familiar face of which I know can lean on for support, or at least a good smack in the back – “you’ll be fine, it’s all good”.
The start line was busy, and it was so dark outside. All there was to see was hundreds of headlamps but you could feel the excitement and the hype. As I said moved towards the start, I said goodbye to my honey and stood there for minute before the “gun” went off. I was so afraid, I actually cried. Then I thought to myself, “if you’re crying now, you’ll be wailing later, Bergeron. Suck it up pussy”.
Bam! It’s time to go! We start running, getting a feel for my surroundings, getting a feel of my gait, my breath, settling into a comfortable pace – the coach said to take it easy on the way to the turning point (40KM). As I look around and listen to the conversations, I hear a familiar voice: Jim Morrison! God, it was it nice to see this guy. Those who know me will understand the respect I have for him and how much I look up to him.
The sun started to rise and I was feeling good, I had what felt like a good pace going and I was hyper as hell, but respectful of how things could turn around ever so quickly (lesson learned at Fat Dog!).
I passed Aid Station 2 where my coach was, and I was happy to see his face, left my coat and other layers and got on my merry way listening to his instructions: “eat food, drink more, hurry get the hell out of here!”.
As I am getting familiar with the trails and my feet are feeling agile and quick, I tried to look around me and enjoy the incredible space I am in.
Around KM 16, I started thinking to myself as I went forward, “what the fuck were you thinking? You still have 64KM to go. 64! Are you going to be able to maintain this pace? How the hell are you going to deal with the pain?” This lasted over a period of about 10KM.
As I was leaving another Aid Station, shimmying along, running by the water and checking things out, I kicked a rock that felt like a boulder, which ricocheted between both my ankles, leading me to yell louder than I thought I did “FUCK!” Someone was standing there and looked kind of uncomfortable as I apologized to her without really meaning it…
After that, I thought to myself “come on Bergeron, are you really gonna keep up this shit talk for 54KM?” I then decided that it was a great time to trick my mind, which apparently is an easy thing to do. I thought that if I was then at KM 26, I only had about 14KM to the turnaround point. After that 40KM turnaround, I’m coming back towards the finish line, getting closer and closer rather than further and further. That was all I needed – I picked it right back up and took advantage of the downhill’s and running the roads rather hard (against the coaches’ advice (I know, I know!)) as my breathing felt great. I felt on track for a good split.
BAM – it’s here already, the 40KM turnaround, YES! The amazing people at Aid Station 7 filled my bottles back up, I put an assortment of food in my Ziploc back and on I go; or I thought I would.
The simple motion of stopping my feet seemed to have triggered all the joints to say “Hell no, you’re not doing this to us twice!” My body was hurting so much and I knew I still had 40KM to go, not just 10KM more as a 50KM would have normally been.
I went to the dark place again despite my will; I couldn’t shake those negative thoughts. I said to myself as I was looking at the ground, “If I bail and hit my head on this rock and pass out, no one is going to give me shit. No one is going to tell me I failed and they will just come get me.” As this idea seemed more and more appealing, I realized what I was thinking and shook myself and though “Come on, you’re no fucking pussy, you can do this, you’re prepared for this, you’ve ran in a storm that a ton of people quit in. Come on, Bergeron, let’s go.” I then did an overall of my body: Ankles – they feel like shit. Knees – they’re fine! Hips – meh, sore but no biggie. Breath – All good, A1. “Alright,” I thought, “then pick up your feet and let’s do this shit, give ‘er!
Again, I was able to push harder and take advantage of the downhill’s and easier terrain at times. I made a new friend, Neil, who was doing his first 50M as well and had spent 3KM before he realized he was going the wrong way. Our conversations kept us busy and we kept on moving through the Aid Stations, barely stopping.
My next “happiness goal” was the excitement to see Byron again – a familiar face, I thought, someone who will give me the strength for the final stretch. I soon realized that I was closer than I thought to Aid Station 2. When I realized how close I was, I just went for it and saw Byron and went “HEY! I’M HERE, I made it this far!” We hugged and he kicked me outta there and on I went for the last 10KM stretch. I was hanging on to the thought that I would see that familiar face again soon enough and then, it would almost be over. I could almost taste the finish line.
Off the road and into the trail we go again. Neil and I had caught up to each other again and were trying to keep each other going. Another strong wave of pain hit me but this time, it was hard, it felt excruciating. My body felt like it was shutting down, and fast. I could barely eat anything.
These few KM’s of trail felt like 80 years.
Neil was aware of his surroundings and knew what stations were coming up and was trying to explain them to me. I was getting grumpy AND loopy – I had no idea WTF he was talking about. I kept asking him if he was sure ‘cause I sure as hell wasn’t going to do an extra 3KM.
Sure enough, he was right – we made it through and looped back to Aid Station 2. I was looking for that green hoodie, but I couldn’t find Guptill anywhere. I was puzzled. A girl said to me “Hurry, Byron’s waiting for you at the finish line!” Well, that was all I needed to give me one last bit of push. I felt like I was going to fall to the ground my ankles were so sore. I could barely pick my feet back up to get momentum to start shuffling again.
And go – all road until the end – THANK GOD. Rolling hills were on the menu. My watch had just died at the last Aid Station, which I was relying on so much to help push me and guide my effort (good note to self, not to do that during a race). I was walking the climbs for the first bit. Although the watch was dead, I could still read the time: 5:25PM. I had worked way to hard not to finish under 12 hours as planned. I was gonna make that time if my damn life depended on it. Neil had caught up again. “Come on Neil, let’s give her, let’s get this done”, I said. We kept on going and going. I consider myself quite a positive person in general, however, at that time, I was the most annoying whiney baby there might’ve been on that whole course. “When the fuck are those hills gonna end!?”
And finally, there it was! No figment of my imagination (as one might’ve thought), the finish line, I could see it. It was almost over! I ran with what little power was left in me, but all of it, ran as hard as I could and crossed that line. This was the most relief, happiness, pride and so many other feelings I’ve felt at once. I screamed “I’m never doing a fucking 100-miler!” as I hugged my coach (holding back my tears with all my pride) who was laughing hysterically at me. I hugged my honey and his familiar arms had to pretty much hold my whole weight as my feet couldn`t bear my weight for one more second.
Byron pointed at the clock and here it was, that time I had hoped to see during this entire journey: 11:49:31. I had done it, the feeling of crossing the line was great but seeing my time, that I was able to achieve this goal the first time around, that I had the strength and the resilience not to give up even when it hurt more than I thought I could handle, that in itself was the greatest feeling of accomplishment, ever.
Lesson of this race: you are stronger than you think. Be resilient. Be your best you, even when you think you’re your worst you.
Thank you Coach for always pushing me but trusting me, showing me what I can do and having faith in me. I can’t wait to cross the finish line of my next big challenge (with my mandatory crew, of course) – La Harricana, perhaps?
Hey. My name is Lizzy Hughes. I’m just a normal kid from Waterloo who likes to run. This past summer I decided to attempt to run one of these ultramarathon things I’ve heard so much about. I started with a 50 mile race, which suddenly turned into a 24 hour race two months later…which suddenly turned into me signing up for my first 100 mile race, only 3.5 months after running just 50 miles. Despite this I was feeling pretty good about it. Until about a week and a half out. I started noticing some pain in my heel, only to find out that I had a bruised bone in my heel. Okay okay I can deal. Keep running, baby my foot. Do some barefoot running at cross country practice…and shit. Stepped on a nice sharp piece of glass that went straight up into my big toe. Okay that hurts a lot. Go to my RMT. Find out that I have a minor tear in my hamstring- that apparently could potentially put me out of running for 3 months. Baby the leg, baby the foot, super glue the toe. Let’s go race weekend!
Come Friday, I went to class and then was picked up by my good friend Kim. We drove up to Haliburton- Kim, Richard, their friend Ruta, and myself. We got there just as dinner was starting so Kim (fellow 100 mile runner) and I went straight for food as Richard (50 km) and Ruta (12 km) unpacked the car (God bless their souls). That night I glued my toe together again and had Mama Kim tape up my toe as well, then half cried myself to sleep knowing what would come the next day.
Okay okay I’ll get to the race. Started at 6 am. I just stuck with the crowds for the first section. The route was a 25 mile out and back, starting with a 10 km loop, then going out to 40 km, turning around and coming back. I stuck with people on and off, talking sporadically but in general sticking to myself. I remember the route being so bright and beautiful. My perspective changed as the race went on.
My first fun event was getting a wasp sting right on my ankle along the sock line. Turns out the stinging turned into a sprain feel. I discovered at this point my angry side- letting every rude word I could think be said.
I ended arriving at the turn around in 6 hours and 8 minutes. I was feeling pretty good about myself with this. I had been hoping to get the first 50 miles done in 12 hours, allowing myself a good 18 hours to finish the next 50 miles. Things OBVIOUSLY didn’t go as planned, because that just wouldn’t be right. This next section was odd. During the run back to the start, I had my only incredibly evident “down”. Turns out, when I get tired in a race, I turn into a weepy wimp. I went from singing and dancing to crying at the frogs, that were probably lonely and without a family- I can only assume. While running to the start/finish line, getting ready to start the second half of the race, every thought that came to my head made me want to cry. From wondering if I could finish to picturing my finish, I displayed my least favourite side of myself- my annoying teenage pathetic girl side. I ended up arriving at the turnaround at 13 hours and 8 minutes. Putting me an hour or so behind my intended goal. Triggering my wimpy side.
Thankfully, I didn’t have long until my pacer, Steve, would arrive. I had been anticipating his arrival practically from the start of the race. While going into the beginning loop, he wasn’t at the aid station yet, so I set off alone with my headlamp. The loop started with roads and ended on a trail, with an aid station in between. When I got to the aid station it had gotten fairly dark. I learned something else about myself at this point. Apparently, I don’t like going into dark forests that are inhabited by bears all alone. A very eager saviour came to my rescue. Chris, who had run the same race the year before in 26 hours, VERY eagerly offered to run back to the aid station with me. I accepted and attempted to absorb his enthusiasm. He was the first to “convince” me that I would finish the race. Through that 5 kms, we ran every section we could, and during the walks I would continually hear Chris yelling “IT’S BUCKLE TIME!” in between our conversations about life.
When we arrived at the aid station, Steve was eagerly waiting for me with his watch ready to switch out for my dead Garmin. I decided to change my clothes at this point considering the dropping temperature and put on my compression socks. I ate something quickly, had my toes insulted, and set off into the night with Steve.
Steve had this great idea. He brought along a portable music player and decided to play my music out loud for me. Turns out I have the most embarrassing music a person could have. Every song that came on had me apologizing. As we hiked through the forest, we came upon many different people. We were passed by the first place runner coming the opposite way (much to my dismay…) as well as a fellow rookie struggling with tummy issues. I gave my ginger pills, salt pills and traumeel pills and moved on.
At this point my “run” turned more into a hike. I could feel Steve trying to push me forward, as well as my entire body and soul trying to hold me back. Finally, we got to aid station 6. This was at the 30 km point and the last aid station before the turn around (aid station 7 was right at the turn around). I was having some pain on my back and was quick to discover that my sports bra was playing this fun game called “Cut Lizzy’s Entire Back Open”. On the plus side, this gave Gary, an aid station volunteer, a new experience to deal with that he was evidently uncomfortable with. I was taped up with gauze and medical tape, drank a cup of coffee (which I don’t do much) and sent on my way.
Immediately after we began walking, one of the rudest, most offensive songs to be made began to play on my ipod, which in turn began to blare in the forests for all to hear. I continually asked Steve if we could skip and he insisted that he isn’t easily offended and it would be fine. From here I had to apologize and attempt to explain how it was my awful friends that put this song on my ipod as the lyrics got more offensive. Steve actually stayed with me though- surprisingly.
Our music died almost directly after I offended the forest. This happened just in time for my coffee to kick in. Poor Steve. I don’t think I stopped talking for 30 minutes straight. Anything that came to my little mind came right out of my mouth.
At this point we were verging on 2 am and the rain started. It was almost refreshing at first. Then, as my steps began to slow and the rain continued to thicken, the refreshing rain turned to cold rain. We finally got to the turn around where I added pants and a hat to my clothing. I had a cup of soup as well as another cup of coffee. Poor Steve.
This next section felt like years. The hills were all uphills. And obviously, this is the point where we go off course and add a couple more hills into our workout. Cause why not. Sounds like fun.
We trudged on and I kept changing clothes because of the rain. Every section that I had planned on running turned into ankle deep mud, meaning that I walked everything.
At this point my 28 hour goal was out the window and my revised goal was to finish before the 30 hour cutoff.
And then the longest section of the race came up. That section between aid station 4 and aid station 5 was only 7.5 km, but I could have thought it was 40 km if I hadn’t have known. At this point the sun was coming up, and regardless of the bright new day, the only words coming out of Steve and my mouth were “I think I see the aid station. Never mind.”, “Where the fuck is that aid station?”, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me there’s another hill.”. (This is the point in the race where I started swearing a lot more…)
Oh did I mention that the entire time Steve was with me he continually asked me about my pee? From frequency to colour (I don’t know how he thought I’d figure that one out at 3 in the morning…). Every time I would take a piss he would practically clap for me. Yaaaayy kidneys! It was like being house trained.
We FINALLY got to the fourth aid station, which-thank the lord- quickly turned into the 2nd aid station. At this point it was 9:30am on Sunday, with about 12 km left to go. I decided at this point to ditch half my gear and clothes and try to push it. I dropped my outer pants, handhelds and outer jacket. I don’t know where the energy came from but Steve and I decided to play in the woods for awhile. I still had to walk the hills but stretching the legs felt surprisingly nice.
It took about 90 min (give or take…more give) to get through the hill loop (10 km) before getting back to aid station 2, the final aid station. Weeks back I had met one of the aid station volunteers, Don, and he had asked me what I would like the most to see at an aid station. Thinking I’m funny (which I am), I said a good couple tequila shots. Obviously, Don provided. I had told Don from the start that I would take my shot at the last aid station. Throughout the race Steve had said that he wouldn’t take a shot due to tummy issues, but when approaching that station Steve decided he was in. What was a silly joke was suddenly turned into the entire aid station shooting some tequila at 11 am on a Sunday. Seems about right.
We walked/jogged into the finish line, 2 km away. I ended up passing the finish line in 29 hours, 30 minutes. I was obviously met with the best cheer squad a girl could want. Huge thanks to the Haliburton crew!
If you have made your way here before, then you may have noticed a little re-skin, a name change, and a new URL: blog.runsofanarchy.ca. On this blog, I have been telling my story about my love of running. This blog has been one of my vehicles by which I share my love and enthusiasm for running with others, no matter if they think running anything longer than 100 m is far to long, let alone 100 miles or more.
“Runs of Anarchy”? Runs of Anarchy is a running group. There is no formal structure to the group. We have a cool name, a sweet logo, and some killer swag. To us running isn’t just an activity, it is a lifestyle.
This blog is a reflection of a person’s passion to run. You will find stories about race experiences and in some cases, life lessons. At the core, the blog is about realizing that we define our limits. More to the point, our capabilities are boundless. Moving forward, you will be introduced to incredible people with great stories. People with different paths in life, but people that share a common passion, the love of running.
Change is good.
When I got back home from Utah this past April, I was happy that I finished my first 100 miler. To this day I still think I could do better. I looked at the calendar and realised that with the recovery cycle, I didn’t have much time. I decided that a couple of things needed to change. First, I thought it was time to switch up the coaching staff.
I asked a fellow ultra runner, Mel (who kicked my ass at Zion), if she liked her coaches. If they had a spot I’d give them a shot. With a stroke of luck I had new coaches, Gary and Eric of Ridgeline Athletics. Just some guys from BC, right?
Next I started to prepare for the race. I knew that I’d need crew and pacers for sure. My dad said he’d be there to crew, same with my wife. It was a matter of finding some people I could sucker into flying across the country to run up and down mountains, and probably at night, so they get nothing in return; no spectacular views or anything. In the end, I was able to get Mel and Lucy to willfully agree to help me out with my adventure.
A week before the race, I get a Facebook message from Mel. She hits me with “I really don’t think I will be ready for pacing duties”. I shake. I lined this girl up thinking that she would bust my ass across the finish. Now it was looking like I’d have to figure out how I was going to do that to myself. I played it cool though, I finished our chat with “Let’s see how things go”.
Mel and I flew out about a week early on Gary’s advice. I certainly didn’t want to repeat the mistake of getting into a new time zone, then racing without adapting to the shift in time. When the two of us made it there, we hung out in Abbotsford, Vancouver, Chililwack, mostly walking around and discovering the beauty of the province. We also got a chance to meet Gary.
The Wednesday ahead of the race was an exciting day. My wife, Dad, and my second pacer Lucy were all showing up in Abbotsford. Mel and I picked them all up then headed to Manning Park resort making two important stops, lunch and then some grocery shopping.
We settled into the cabin at the resort and hung around the picnic table in front of the cabin. We all got to chatting. It was good to see that everyone would feel comfortable with each other while they were going to be spending a lot of time together waiting on me. While we were bonding, I noticed one of our neighbor’s was wearing a Canadian Death Race shirt circa 2013. I shouted over at him asking if he had done it solo or as a relay. He and his friend came over to our table and started chatting.
Brian who was wearing the shirt says “I am running the 50 mile, was supposed to do the 120 but I had an injury early on this year”
Ted is his friend and states, “I don’t care if I am DFL, Im gonna finish this one”. He was taking on the 120 miler.
“Dead Fucking Last!”
Thursday was the final day for prep. I focused my entire day on the small details; double check my gear, make sure I sign in, go to the UBC physiology testing, revise my plan, triple check my gear, go to the mandatory meeting, freak out, get nervous. I finalized my plan into queue cards. It was simple and followed the advice of Pam Reed, which was also echoed by Gary. Gary did give me a little more to work with of course. As my bed time approached the magnitude of what I was about to take on really started to sink in. I was frazzled to say the least.
I woke up Friday morning and I felt surprisingly calm. I may have apologized for my nerves the night before, if I didn’t, then here goes: “I’m sorry”. After having breakfast and getting my stuff together, my dad drove us to Ashnoloa River Road where the start of the race was. The day was beautiful. When we finally arrived at the start, I ate some more food and danced my nerves away. As the start time approached, I decided to join everyone at the start line. I signed in for the third time (they really want to make sure you are running the race) and walked down to the start with my dad trying to get me to pose over and over again. I’d turn around and allow him to take my picture, but all he’d get capture was my displeasure of having to pose for another picture. On the walk down to the start, I’d hear people yaking and joking about my pack. It was full, 3L of water, my emergency bivvy, my headlamp, my food, etc. Oh well, I guess I wasn’t cool enough? Whatever, I had a massive climb to start the race and I needed to get in the zone.
The race started and I was blown away by the number of people who literally shot up the mountain. There is no way that I would be able to run this whole thing with that kind of effort right from the start. Instead I moseyed my way up the first of four mountains. As I climbed, and climbed, and climbed, people kept passing me. I stuck to my plan, the first half could never feel like work. I kept my steps as slow and steady as possible. Even over exaggerating them so that my perceived effort was in fact very easy. This guy Tim, also from Ontario spots me and starts climbing with me.
“This is a pace I like” he says. So you’d think he would hang with me the whole climb right? Wrong. We aren’t even half way up and even he finds my pace to be too slow. Then, as if the universe is trying to tell me something, DFL Ted passed me, turns his head to me and says, “what are you doing back here?”
Fast forward to the summit. The trail is single track and looking out over the valleys makes the climb worth it. As we cross the top and start down, I am easily able to pass people since I spend no time calculating my next step. Like skier staring down a mogul field, I spot my line and trust my feet to effortlessly guide me down the slope. I held back enough so that my breathe wasn’t a conscious effort. I passed Tim while he was taking a pee break.
“Well you’re still light on your feet!” he says with what I took as a surprised tone. I thought to myself, I better be fuck sakes, I not even a quarter of the way through the ridiculous commitment of mine. The trail continued down where you crossed over steep slopes. Hit steep descents and ran along a stream, maybe two, or maybe it was the same one I saw it twice, whatever, too much to process.
I looked at my queue card, after hitting the first aid station I was already 15 minutes behind my target and it wasn’t looking good for my second target. Listening to Gary’s advice repeat in my head, I made sure that I didn’t put any extra effort to close the gap. When I entered the second aid station, my crew was waiting for me, I handed off my pack and my poles and hit up the aid station for some food. Bacon! Queso’s! Mars bars! I stuffed my face, and you’d think I’d be happy. I wasn’t, I was pissed off. I was 30 minutes behind my estimate of when I’d be there. I could help but think that I’d be DFL. Was I supposed to be ok with that?
Hastily, I made my way up the dirt road to begin the second climb. This time we’d summit Flat Top Mountain. The first 25 km felt good and I was happy to get going. All I could think of was that I’d probably not achieve 36 hours. So it was time to reframe what that meant to me. I had lots of time since this would be another slow climb. Even so, I was surprised when I’d pass some runner on the way up. That said, I was still being passed by more people than I was passing.
I caught up to a girl named Brandi who passed me earlier on the climb up Flat Top, she was putting her jacket on, it really hadn’t crossed my mind, but I guess it was cooling off . We started our small talk and covered the normal subjects. It was pretty ironic seeing as she just had pointed out that being from a cold climate I’m probably suited to run in the hail.
Did I forget to mention that? 10 minutes (or so) into my climb, I started to hear the rumble of thunder. Shortly after that I’d get a glimpse of lightning. I’d count, one, two, three… hoping for a long count. Apparently that means the storm is far away? Short count. As I passed Brandi the wind picked up and before you knew it there was hail, falling burned out trees, the whole lot. Once the hail turned to wet snow blobs, I decided that it was time to get into my cold and wet weather gear. All you folks that laughed at me for having a lot in my pack, you can stop laughing now. Shit just got real.
The climb wasn’t finished, and the wind was relentless. Sheets of rain made their way to the ground – sideways. I was carrying my poles while I walked through streams of water funneling down the single track trail. With plenty more mountain to climb the tree cover opened up. The unrelenting storm saturated you. The cold temperature made you shiver. There was nothing you could do but to press on. The one piece of equipment I wish I had at that point was a set of gloves. My hands were freezing cold. I shove them in my mouth just to warm them up. I kept thinking that I needed to ditch the poles because I wasn’t using them for anything other than freezing my hands. Once I found some adequate tree cover, I attached my poles to my pack, problem solved.
Crested the mountain was a huge relief. I started to run and my body was warming up aging. I was so focused that when I happened to look over to my left I remember the reason why I came out to do the Fat Dog in the first place. It is incredibly scenic. The clouds looked as if the were stretching out in some form of perspective. Ah yes, hallucinations. I shook my head and focused on the trail. Let’s go!
Running down Flat Top is awesome. The trails are runnable and the slope is gentle. With little effort I was able to cruise down the mountain and catch up to many of the people that passed me earlier on. I focused on trying to meter my output, finishing this leg would mean that I was 66 km in (two thirds to run). I started to think that maybe I needed to spend more time figuring out where that threshold is between going fast enough, but not too fast as to drain my legs before I need them. I ended up convincing myself that since the downhill really didn’t feel like much any effort that I was cool. Let er rip. I entered one of the aid stations before the river crossing. The volunteers are amazing, they would get my drop bag and prep my pack while scavenged for food.
Trying to keep minimize my time at the aid stations, I made off with some food and continued to eat while I finished the last bit of the mountain. I noticed that the darkness was setting in. I’d held off getting my headlamp (which made for an interesting final bought through the trees) until I crossed the Pasayten river. I made it across, put my headlamp on, and in just a few km before I’d see my crew.
I got into the aid station at Bonnevier (bon-i-vi-er). Wet and cold, I barked out some orders about taping my toes, get me this, do that. I was pretty focused on getting on my way but my crew wanted to slow me down to make sure I started to think a little more clearly. At first I was thinking I’d just head out in my thermal top and shorts. As my core temp cooled down (cause I was idle) I changed my mind. I eventually agreed to the idea that it was going to be cold, likely wet as well. Missing my winter running underwear I popped on my Calvins followed by my running tights. Ready! Well not so fast really. There was an equipment audit and I didn’t have my second lamp. I thought an extra set of batteries was enough, nope. Mel cruised to get my headlamp that was in the car. She ran so hard she gave herself an asthma attack.
With all of the mandatory gear, Lucy and I made our way up the mountain, slowly. We were passed by a number of runners. By now I had played leapfrog enough to feel comforatable in my pacing. We made our way up the switch backs and then boom boom started… ha ha, this wasn’t the boom boom of thunder. Not this was a much more personal problem. Poop! The worst! I’d go boom boom, clean up in all that and apply lube. Take a few steps, and now I was too hot, so I’d adjust, I’d be OK for a bit. Finally I could take it, I took my jacket off, then my top. I could regulate my temperature. Lucy to say the least, was concerned that I was top less in the cold night with rain coming down sideways cause of the “light” winds. Just for a bit till I cool down I reassured her. Then of course I did cool off, too much so. We’d go through the exercise till she’d finally offer me a piece of clothing.
Hey do you want to wear my rank top?
Yeah that sounds good!
While I was standing top less, she striped down to her bra and handed me her tank top. I fumbled with it while I tried to put it on. I don’t know what it is about girl tank tops, but they aren’t easy to slip on like guy clothes.
“Come on – you’ve got inside out”. She says laughing at my inability to insert my head into the garment.
“Isn’t this the tag?”
We started back up the mountain. Boom boom. I was frustrated, Lucy was cold.. I couldn’t get any momentum. To add to that, I had gone boom boomed so much that I drained my supplies, no more lube. I knew at that point, that I would feel the wrath of the boom boom, at some point.
We continued slowly, it was getting colder and the rain that was forecasted to ease off, didn’t. We were drenched even with our “waterproof” jackets. We were overjoyed when we made it to the end of the Heather leg. We figured that we would be able to warm up a little refocus and make it on our way. Instead we found some amazing volunteers that were braving the horrible weather just the same as the runners. The ais station was a makeshift tent of tarps strung together. It was crowded. Many runners huddled together in emergency blankets trying to get warm. If it hadn’t hit you yet, it was here that you started to realize that we were in some difficult conditions and you needed to be prepared for them.
Stopping is never a good idea. It is an especially bad idea when it is cold out. You need to move to generate heat, so its obvious to say that us having been stopped just to queue up for some water and food would make you cold. In fact it caused Lucy to catch a chill. As it set in and I think she started to doubt herself. We got the emergency blanket on her, though it wasn’t enough at that point. After a couple of minutes, she was able to sit down. Negative thoughts must’ve been bouncing around in her head. I crouched so that we were both looking straight into each other’s eyes. I tried to encourage her to reframe the situation.
“Look, this is all in your head, you can do this, you aren’t letting me down, you’re not slowing me down, think you are warm and you’ll be warm.” One of the volunteers passed her one of her bottles filled with warm water. It helped us out, in no time Lucy was back on her feet.
As we were leaving the aid station, I asked how far it was to the next aid station, and what kind of terrain we expect.
Think it went like this: “It is 14 km downhill from here.”
Bull shit. More like up, down. Up and up, then down. More up, down. We continued along the trail and we came to a place where it was impossible to see very far at all. I had 275 lumens but I think I needed more, like 500 or more even. It was unbelievable how the clouds (fog?) were so thick up top that the markings were impossible to find. Some guys caught up to us and with their portables suns. Making the night turn to day was enough for us to find the trail and we ran off.
As we ran along the weather weather conditions improved slightly, it was still cold but at least it was no longer raining. We continued along three brothers till we got to a ridge line. With shaky legs I took this very slowly and once over we started down the mountain.
“Is that a cliff?” Lucy asked peering over the side into the abyss. A few steps later I confirmed, “No that’s a lake.“
It was getting light out now and we just entered Nicomen Lake aid station. The volunteers here weren’t as helpful here as they had been everywhere else (and as helpful as the rest of the aid stations). We paused here for maybe 10 minutes to regain our focus, eat a bit, fill our bottles and head down to the flats. With the sun up, our spirits were up as well. The rain was held off and we seemed to be making good time heading down the mountain.
Over night, I didn’t see much. The rain, clouds, and general darkness didn’t really allow you to see much of anything other than the immediate trail in front of you. This was not the experience as we made our way to the Flats. At one point I was looking up the trail and I swear there a soldier circa WWI holding his head as if he was mourning something. As we’d approach the soldier, he’d disappear into the leafs and roots on the side of the trail. Later I’d see a garage, then a car, a house. Each one of the visions morphing into the leaves when I’d approach them. Interesting times ahead I thought to myself.
We made it to the aid station, sorta. There was an obstacle in my way. I had to cross a river by walking across a fallen tree trunk. It seemed easy enough, but it wasn’t. I was tired and this really challenged my balance. I fell/jumped off the log and landed in a bunch of branches, thankfully.
Not having learned my lesson, we stopped. I had my drop bag and I was slow to replenish my rations. I focused on the food. I wanted coffee, but never got some. I stood by the heater. Lucy had plead with me to keep moving. Eventually we did, very slowly.
Mentally I was getting weak. My body was tired and I was giving into it. We only had 8 km to cover before I’d switch pacers. The narrative in my head made every climb seem like a impossible task. Each time I start upwards I’d notice that my feet ached more and more. Foolishly I focused on the pain. With sloppy footing I started to kick a rocks with my right foot. Each time I yelp as if a hammer just smashed my little toe.
I was back on the narrative of how I’d blown away my goals. I’d be DFL. I reduced myself to a whimpering walk. Each turn I’d hope that we were at the Aid station, but no, it would be another climb. Growing ever tired of the theme, are we there, no this is another damn climb, the narrative was amplified in my head.
As we approached the Cascades aid station, small children and their parents would appear (these were real people). Suddenly I focused on the fact that the aid station was right around the corner. There was no way toddlers would be a km or more away from the car I figured.
I saw my crew. I started to take off the wet clothes and then I remembered that I was wearing Lucy’s top.
“I’ve got something to show you!” I said as I was striping down. I posed, I looked good.
I pleaded with Mel that I would get some time to lay down. After some bargaining, she only allowed me 15 minutes, and she timed it. I didn’t sleep but it was nice to be horizontal for a while. When my 15 minutes were up, I ate some food I didn’t want to eat, then I got me dressed for the day run. As I was eating, my crew mentions that there were only 20 or so runners that had come through and some 49 had already dropped. I couldn’t believe it. A smile came across my face.
“I’m not dropping.” I said with assured determination.
Mel pulls me out on the trail. We are running. She has no sympathy. We are running. Between Cascades and Sumallo aid stations, we head down the side of the highway. At an easy pace, her fresh legs are pulling me at a 6:00 min/km pace! I complain and whine as to try to influence her to slow down a little for poor Byron. She ignores me. I keep up with her. I complain more, I point out that I just ate and can’t keep that pace without cramping. She listens to me plight for probably 30 seconds and basically says suck it up whiney baby, lets run. I’m thinking maybe if I say that Gary told me I should slow down after eating solid food that this might make her ease off the gas. I was wrong.
We arrive at Sumallo aid station. 84 in! 84 out! The fastest I was through any aid station on the course. We hurdled through the trail. I did everything I could to keep up. Mel would vary her speed a little, but only long enough to keep pulling me through at running pace. Up the hills, I’d still walk these, but we were pretty good about running through most of skagit. It really felt like I was on repeat. There were 3 (?) bridges that we’d cross. Each time I’d look to see if I could see fish, each time I would fail to spot one. Each time I felt like I just did this. Was I in a time loop?
We made it to the out and back aid station. People were clapping and very supportive. I sat on the ground feet out. Ski Patrol comes over to ask me how I am doing and start getting to the reason why I refuse to sit on a chair. I explain that I am sitting on the ground feet out because I was told it was the best thing to do, then he agrees and explains the significance of stretching your feet out. I guess I checked out. My crew shows up a little late (I didn’t realize this till after the race) and starts helping Mel with I get out of the aid station.
To this point I hadn’t aggravated my little toe since Cascades aid station. I was getting a little sloppy and I stubbed my toe a couple of times, like I needed to remind myself how it felt like to have a hammer smash your toe. Mel pointed out that there are medics at the aid stations, they would take care of my toe.
“84 in! Need a medic. Just need someone to help me with this blister under my toenail.” I clarified as I saw Lindsay approach. I didn’t want her to think and then worry about me being hurt. Well, I was – sorta, but not really.
The volunteer came over to help out and immediately decides that my blister under my toenail is not a blister. He decided he was going to fashion some form of donut to put on my toe to keep it from rubbing and I purportedly to keep the pressure off the sore spot on my toe. Frustrated, Mel told him to wheep the blister. Though he still wouldn’t buy our story of the existence of a blister under my toenail. After a bit of back and forth, I thank the gentleman for his effort and excuse him. Mel took over and used her safety pin to drain the blister. The lady volunteer that was there was being a little more helpful. She bandaged my toe and provides some Tylenol in an effort to dull the pain for a while. I lubed up, kissed my wife and left.
We didn’t make it far. The bandage has to come off and the blister needs more attention. Mel produced the pin, I took my shoe off and she proceeded by ripping all the skin under my toenail, adios blister! As we finished up with my toe, a couple of 120 milers passed by us, one asked
“Are you ok?” I thought in the back of my head, well that was nice of him to ask, but I hardly belief he actually wants me to be ok! It is more along the lines of “man I hope your ok – but your pain is my advantage. See you at the finish line – lets have a beer after I beat you. The beer is on me.”
With my shoe back on and we started our climb up the final mountain range. I was a little confused because I lost track of where we are on the course. I stopped looking at my queue cards that provided me information because I felt discouraged by knowing how far off my estimates I was. We climbed and climbed. Switchback after switchback. I got a sense that Mel wanted to get to the summit before dark. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. Though I noticed that her ease in climbing the mountain, I offered for her to get up as high as she could before sun down. I insisted even though she didn’t really want to leave me, thinking I would slow down even more. She may have been right, but because I didn’t want her to be right I convinced her to press on as much as she could and then I continued to try to catch her. It got so dark that I sat down and put my lamp on. Getting up I started along and there she was. She was lonely?
We kept on and it was here that I started to notice my quads were tired. I pushed through as much as possible but was starting to get discouraged again. Surprisingly we turned a corner and we made it to Camp Mowich. All of a sudden it dawned on me, we had 1 aid station till the finish.
“Half marathon to finish? I can do a half marathon in my sleep!” I continued with delirious enthusiasm “and that is what I am going to do!” The folks around the campfire got a chuckle from that. I drank disgusting coffee ate a little and we were on our way.
This section proved to be very hard mentally. I was suffering. My legs were so very tired and my knees were starting to scream at me. Moving was hard and I really slowed down. Mel was no doubt frustrated by this. Going up, while it proved difficult because I was still trying to moderate my climbs was easier than anything. At this point I just wanted to finish. The longest 8 km stretch ever. We moved across steep slopes that had nothing more than a narrow single track carved into the side of the mountain. Mel was leaned into the mountain trying not to look at the steep drop on our right. I thought it was funny – not thinking about the misery of sliding helplessly down the mountain. I figured that since it wasn’t a waterslide, there’d be too much friction, you won’t go far!
We make it to Skyline, the final aid station. I am sore. Beat down. At this point the I am thinking I am probably DFL. We join some runners, but it appeared that they are in the 70 mile run. I wasn’t motivated to beat them out of the gate. We drank some coke, eat some chips and start the final push. It started with a steep climb up, followed by a lovely run. We made it out about 5 or so minutes (don’t really know could have been 30 minutes) from the aid station and I notice that there were no markings, and realized, we hadn’t seen a marking for quite some time. I stop Mel.
“I’m not moving forward until I know there are marking ahead.” I know I am not moving quickly and there is no way in hell I am taking a step I don’t have to take to get me to the end. Mel is likely a bit aggravated with me, but easily agreed to run ahead and scout for the marker. I watch her float like a ghost up the mountain side. I’m convinced that she didn’t once touch the ground when she went ahead. Serious, she was floating as if she was Casper the ghost or something. She came back only to report that there was no marker up ahead. The couple that she ran ahead with continued along anyway. I still wasn’t convinced. I needed to know for certain. I was miserable (to be around). I even caused a backlog of people on the ridge. I think there were 20 people that caught up to us and I got a lot of the them to second guess themselves. By this point I guess I was somewhat convinced that we were probably heading the right way.
I ended up allowing myself to believe that if this many people made it this far, then I could rest assured that we were on the right track. About what felt like a km ahead, some brave souls confirmed they saw a marker. That is where I switched into race mode. I realized that I wasn’t DFL. I realised that I don’t want to give up whatever position I was in. I realised that I need to run.
Mel looked back a little puzzled but ready to run. We were off and running. We hit a climb that I think it is the final ridge line on our way home. We climb fast now. I huffed and puffed my way up to each crest. Each time hoping that it was the final crest to reach the top. Each time I was wrong. I tried not to look back. I tried to keep my focus on moving as fast as I can and putting as much a gap between me and the backlog of runners I created. Up, up, up, Mel was moving with what appears to me as an relaxed effort. I gasped for air and started throwing out excuses for it. “You have a better VO2max” I say. Just as we make it to the crest of another climb I was overtaken by the couple that Mel was scouting with. I notice that we made it to the top.
The rest of this run was mine. We bounced down the rocky path. I am careful not to step on loose rocks knowing that my agility is compromised by having been out for some 40 hours on the trail. We were movers and shakers now. I felt no pain. I ran.
The fluidity of the run was exhilarating. I couldn’t get over it. I was 180 or so km in and I was running! I wasn’t thinking of anything really at this point but to keep the run going. Mel would turn back every now and again, probably to check if I was still with her. I think she couldn’t believe it either. It was a double take after another. “Yup he is really still on my heals… let’s keep it up.” Is what I imagined her thinking.
We started passing runners. We got words of encouragement, applause even. 70 milers shout out “solid finish” then they started to run with us. They dropped off after 100 m or so. With my ego booted a little, I felt like we picked up the pace just a little.
Dy heave. A little more of a dry heave…. more dry heave.
After the quick dry heave, I felt better. We carefully navigated our way down a final rocky descent and then picked up a nice trail. We passed a fellow runner that was vomiting and I think to myself “they’ll feel better soon”. We continued to run. I wondered to myself when the trail would start to look familiar, like in the videos I had watched, and no sooner that I start thinking that, we made it to the cover of the trees and the trail was smoother. I started to think we were really close now. I kept anticipating that I would see the finish each time the trail turns to the left. I didn’t. Mel turned her head back, I’m was still running. She was in disbelief (I’m sure of it) and rightfully so, I was such a whiney baby. She blurted out “You’re a rockstar” We continued to run…
We finally made it down to a dirt road and there were the glow sticks. I was ecstatic, I thought the finish was 200 m away I start sprinting…. only to realize 500 m later, that we were still a long way off. I was gassed. I couldn’t keep up to Mel, I walked, I ran, I walked, I ran. Finally I was able to hold a pace that brings me to the finish. We saw it, but the path took us the long way round. We crossed the final bridge, rounded the corner, I handed my poles to Mel and try to keep up with her.
We crossed the finish line, and I looked at the time clock, wait, what? 42 hours 13 minutes… How was that possible? I thought I’d be more than that for sure!
Lindsay and Lucy were there at the finish they like me were excited but quickly switch into crew mode. I slowly make my way to the ground and as for the chair to be brought closer to my body. As I lay on the ground with my feet up, a UBC student came to me and says something. It didn’t even sound like English. Then one of the race volunteers brought me my buckle. I gripped onto it tightly, never to let it go.
Special and sincere thanks to my wife. She has been supporting me through this crazy habit for the past 2 years now. Never batting an eye when I say I need to run. Then coming out the main event no matter how worried it makes her. To my dad for flying out from Halifax to drive my team around the course. To Lucy for helping through the first night. Her company was invaluable and I appreciated her honesty in setting me straight (left out of the story). Last, but not least, to Melanie for kicking my ass and showing me no mercy. Thank you so very much.