• Dr Russ Reinbolt

Tahoe 200 Endurance Run

Tahoe 200 Endurance Run

September 9-13, 2017

“Coyotes, Pine Needles and a Gold Medal”

“Hey you’re the pine needle man!” “We heard all about you.” This was my greeting as I found #83 Richard Gould at the finishers party. He was my savior who lent me a long sleeve shirt and a pair of running tights at four in the morning when I was freezing my ass off around mile 170.

This was but one of many challenges I encountered during my second go of the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run. This 205 mile race around Lake Tahoe required fighting through many obstacles. Racers had to deal with cold nighttime temperatures, driving rain, a river crossing, daytime sun, rocks upon rocks upon rocks, missing drop bags, long solitary and seemingly never-ending sections of night running and miles of trail that seemed to go on forever.

I finished this race last year in a respectable 87 ½ hours. This time around, I had set bronze, silver and gold medal goals with the latter being to finish under 80 hours. Having trained so hard and having done so well at Badwater just two months ago, I knew I was fitter. And more importantly, I knew I was mentally stronger. Last year I didn’t know what to expect. This year, I knew exactly what to expect. Last year my goal was just to finish the stupid race. This year I told myself to enjoy the experience as much as possible and not to focus on the finish line. I told myself not to calculate how much further I had to go all the time. Another simple strategy: just focus on getting to the next aid station. Limit downtime and keep charging from aid station to aid station. Sleep when needed.

I had a feeling I would do really well. I knew I was ready. I could tell because I wasn’t nervous or intimidated at all by the ridiculous task ahead of me. The start couldn’t come soon enough.

Of course, I knew I would suffer. It’s unavoidable in ultramarathons. But having worked the last few months with Brian Alexander my mental skills coach, I had acquired new tools to deal with the mental adversity. In simple terms, I was singularly focused on maximizing my performance at all times. I told myself to stay in the moment. The race would then be composed of a 3 ½ day string of moments. I would try to be positive at all times while limiting the unavoidable negativity. Perhaps most importantly, I would not dwell on the omnipresent allure of the finish. It sure would end up being a case of ”easier said than done”.

Logistically, I had meticulously prepared six drop bags, containing my essential gear to be available at designated stations along the way. I would be doing the race without a crew. This is considered being ”unsupported”. I would be entirely dependent on the aid stations, my drop bags and myself. I wouldn’t have a pacer.

It sure is funny: I swore four weeks after last year’s race that I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever do this race again. But like childbirth, we only remember the good parts and we forget the painful unpleasant parts of these stupid events!

I arrived at the starting area about an hour and a half before the official start. I had deposited my drop bags in the appropriate location the night before. They would be transported to the aid stations before our arrival. All I really had to do was pick up my GPS tracking device, put on my running pack and wait for the gun to go off. Ten minutes before the

starting time, my number was one of many that were called out over the PA system. ”Why the hell are they calling for number 98?” I wondered. The race staff was doing a final check of the GPS trackers and mine was not registering. I realized that I left my tracker in the van after having gone back to make a few final adjustments. And, it hadn’t been turned on! Man did I dodge a bullet there. It would’ve been an absolute disaster to start off the race without my GPS tracker. I couldn’t believe that I was so careless for such an important task. I flew back to the van, picked up the GPS tracker, strapped it on my pack and checked back in at the starting line. Nothing like adding a little extra sprinting before a 200 mile race! All systems were now go.

After a few photos, we were off. I wouldn’t return for 3 ½ days. Climbing up the ski slopes of Homewood Mountain Resort, I felt really strong. I noticed that I settled into about 20th place. Expecting people to pass me, it just wasn’t happening. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe I better chill out and slow down. I didn’t belong up here.

Anyway, I just cruised along until the first aid station around mile 6.5. I grabbed some handfuls of food and refilled my water bottles for the next 14 mile section. For this race I would use Tailwind as my drink pretty much exclusively. I had heard great things about this drink. It’s marketed as a performance fuel that contains everything one needs for an ultramarathon, allowing a racer to minimize solid food intake. That would turn out to be the case for me. This stuff worked fantastically. Of course though, I would eat thousands of calories from real food, primarily fatty foods.

The miles until the first big aid station at mile 31 passed very smoothly. I was met with a huge, crushing surprise though when none of the volunteers could find my drop bag. Easily my biggest bag, it contained all my cold weather gear and my rain gear. How in the hell could this have happened?!?! And…in true perfect Murphy’s Law fashion, it had started absolutely pouring rain upon my arrival to this Tell’s Creek aid station. I remained calm despite this being a potentially devastating setback. I went into problem-solving mode. First and foremost, I needed some protection from the rain. I asked around for someone to lend me a rain jacket or poncho but none were available. A volunteer suggested that I take a garbage bag and cut out a hole for my arms and my head. This would have to do. There were no other options. I would run like this until the next major aid station where I could pick up an extra shirt and an emergency poncho that I had packed in my next drop bag.

In a few miles I came to a river that was flowing above the level of my knees. Two other runners up ahead had taken their shoes and socks off, crossed the river then dried off their feet on the other side. I made the reckless mistake of just charging through the river with my shoes and socks on. My race was going so well I didn’t wanna putz around. Stupid mistake: I would end up getting blisters because of wet socks for most of the rest of race.

Soon I ran through a campground site. I had to get some warm clothes. Like a drug addict looking for drugs, I went to the first campsite I came upon and begged some campers for any warm article of clothing that they could spare. Some people gave me one of their old hats. I couldn’t thank them enough. This one item made a world of difference in helping to keep me warm. I couldn’t express to them enough how grateful I was. They said they were happy to help me.

Despite these early obstacles, I could tell I had a fantastic race going. My effort level seemed to be the same as last year but I could tell I was way ahead of schedule already and I was much higher in the standings. I ran many miles with Katie from Texas and another younger girl, Julia, who I nicknamed the Black Panther because she had dark hair and was wearing mostly black. Katie won the Bigfoot 200 womens’ division last year. I questioned being up with these young studs, thinking I should probably cool my jets.

Shortly after midnight this first night, I arrived at the mile 63 aid station, the Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort. I remember that I had come through here last year at about four in the morning. I had a huge fatty meal consisting of bacon, guacamole and lentil soup. I then went over to the sleep area and actually was able to catch some Z’s for about 15 minutes. I awoke fairly well-rested despite all the background noise, mostly support crew talking to their runners as they were coming in.

On my way out I asked a volunteer to ask anyone if they had an extra jacket to lend me. As expected in this great sport of ultramarathons, another racer dug into his pack and pulled out a lightweight jacket that would prove to be of tremendous help to me going forward. This guy’s name was Kevin and he was number 169. I told him I would get the jacket back to him at the end. He doubted his ability to finish and said “Just keep it.” I told him” thank you, thank you, thank you.” He didn’t seem very confident. I sure hoped he would make it.

Buoyed by a 15 minute nap, a full stomach of food, some Motrin and a Red Bull and now the comfort of knowing I had a jacket to help keep me warm, I stormed out of this aid station invigorated and with a winner’s mindset.

I had entered unchartered territory. I could tell that I was pretty high up in the standings. This meant that we runners were pretty spaced out from each other. I couldn’t see anybody ahead of me nor behind me. The marker flags were scarce. It was so disconcerting not knowing for sure if I was heading the right way. Sure enough I came to some markers and several signs leading me off the road onto the Tahoe Rim Trail back into the wilderness. Feeling positive, I rattled off the 18 miles section at a really good clip. I barely stopped at the next aid station, Housewife Hill- mile 70.5.

I loaded up on water, Tailwind and of course more bacon and guacamole and charged out for the 15 mile section up to Armstrong Pass, the highest point of the race. I psyched myself up for a lot of climbing and power walking. I remember reaching Armstrong Pass at dusk last year. Now I had reached it during daytime allowing me to take in the awesome views. Reaching the pass, I was able to power the down hills now towards the next aid station. I reached a three way turn in the trail. We would have to descend one mile steeply over a very rocky section for an “out and back“ down into a little valley to get to the aid station. That pissed me off because I knew we would have to climb back up upon returning. The guys ahead of me who had left the aid station were moving very slowly. Though told it was only one mile it seemed like the aid station was about five miles away. Finally…I could see the big tent with some RVs and lots of cars. It looked like a party was going on down there. I couldn’t wait to arrive. I found my drop bag hoping to change into some fresh clothes. Unbelievably, my socks, shorts and shirts were saturated with water. I rang them out like a damn sponge. There was no point in changing in that the clothes I had on already were drier than the ones in the drop bag. This was another major bummer. I had really looked forward to this. I told myself from here on out to try to not look forward to anything so as to avoid setting myself up for disappointment. Just plow forward!!!

I had the medic do some more patchwork to my blisters and previous taping. I did change shoes which was relatively exciting.

I noticed that Katie and several other runners that I couldn’t hang with earlier were looking pretty rough. They had their shoes off and their feet up. It looked like they were in a bad way and had no intention of leaving the aid station anytime soon. (I would end up beating all but one of them.) Though I was pretty much only concerned about my individual performance, it was empowering knowing that I was doing so well when measured against some other very strong runners.

Before long, probably no more than 10 minutes, I again left the aid station for the 20 mile section to Heavenly Ski Resort which is mile 103 and basically the halfway point of the race. I told myself to stay positive, run strong, run smart and ”maximize my athletic potential”. To be frank, the last ten miles just sucked ass. I became really cranky. (“Hangry”) I could tell I needed more calories. I would estimate 10 to 15 runners passed me during this section. Despite my efforts, I became very negative and frustrated. I soldiered on, one foot in front of the other. Again, I don’t primarily measure my performance when compared to others. But when getting passed over and over again, it is tremendously demoralizing especially when I was feeling tired, sore, famished and bored. On top of that, I knew that when I finally did reach the damn aid station, I still would only be half friggin’ way.

After what seemed like an eternity, I could see the lights of the ski resort off in the distance. It seemed so close yet it would be about 45 minutes before I would actually arrive. Once again, it seemed like the resort was moving away from me as I progressed.

When I finally did arrive, I was ecstatic. Food! I needed a lot of it and I needed it fast. I would probably spend about an hour here. While eating, I had some more foot care from the medic. I popped four Motrins. Of course I loaded up my bottles with more Tailwind. I then laid down for about a 20 minute nap. Of course, it was extremely difficult to fall fully asleep with all the goddang noise. Fools would come into the lodge talking at full voice not knowing that people were trying to sleep off to the side. There was a lot of “shooshing” going on.

When I did awake, and after reorienting myself to the situation, it was frigging brutal. I realized I was smack dab in the middle of a 200 mile ultramarathon and when I got up from under the blanket, I had 102 miles ahead of me. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to turn over and fall back asleep more in my life!

I don’t know how I did it but I dragged my butt up, put my pack back on, grabbed some more calories and headed out into the darkness. The last thing I did was gulp down a Red Bull and its 80 mg of caffeine. Within ten minutes, my spirits skyrocketed. I flipped the switch from being down in the doldrums to having a perfect winner’s state of mind. I probably ran nine to ten minute miles for about five miles. I couldn’t believe how strong I felt. I wanted to be nowhere else in the world right then, than out in the middle of a 200 miler in the middle of the wilderness, conquering a gigantic challenge. I felt so ALIVE!

Once again, no one was around except for the few runners that I actually passed. I noticed that many of the dudes that had passed me heading into Heavenly were nowhere close to leaving the aid station when I left. They looked awfully comfortable being attended to by the volunteers. They were not abiding by the ultramarathon axiom: ”Beware the chair!”

I experienced something really freaky for the last half of the push to Spooner Summit, mile 123.5. Basically I had entered a highly functioning zombie state. I truly felt like I was half conscious. I knew that if I stopped and sat down I would fall asleep immediately.

We had to run through a three mile section of extremely annoying rocks, all about the size of one’s fist. Every step required meticulous attention to avoid blowing out an ankle. While doing so, I felt like I was on a trail made by, for some strange reason, a black woman I could picture plain as day leading to a weird destination. She was with me but not talking to me. She was talking to two other people but I couldn’t understand their conversation. I kept trying to figure it out but I couldn’t. These people actually seemed to be like ghosts. I could tell I was dangerously close to my Badwater experience the first year when I became altered. “What the hell was going on I asked myself?” I had entered a near “dissociative” state. Though super scary, I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed it.

During this rocky three mile stretch, I would pass a man and woman who hated the rocks as much as I did. They asked me if I knew how much further to the aid station and I ended up being “spot on” in my estimation. Having an encounter with some real human beings brought me back to reality.

At the Spooner Summit aid station, I noted that I was now approximately four hours ahead of last year’s pace. My goal of breaking 80 hours this year became more and more obtainable.

We runners were waited on hand and foot. As always, I inhaled as many calories as I could. The crew captain made me a huge bacon, cheese and guacamole tortilla wrap . Once again, I attempted to catch a catnap. Sure enough…no frigging way! In the makeshift sleep tent, five runners were huddled under blankets as close to the propane heater as possible. Their silly chitchat amongst their crew made sleeping impossible. One pacer tried to give his runner a pep talk but the poor dude just looked back at him emotionless.

I wanted to bank some sleep but there simply was no point in wasting time knowing that the noise would continue. I decided to get up and get going. “Attack attack attack” I told myself.” Let’s keep pushing baby!”

To ensure my safety, a volunteer escorted me out of the aid station and across a busy two-lane highway, which they did for all the runners. As had become a very effective pattern, the good-old combination of Red Bull and Motrin propelled me forward. Guided by both my headlamp and moonlight, I made good time up the trail. Passed by only one dude, I wouldn’t see another runner for a good solid three hours. As dawn broke, I enjoyed my first true panoramic views of Lake Tahoe off in the distance to the west. It was now Sunday morning and I pictured my family getting ready to go to church then probably off to Sunday soccer games. As each minute passed between 8:30 and 10, I envisioned where Diane and the girls were at the time. I really enjoyed the very pleasant distraction, as it helped occupy my mind for a short period.

I passed by Marlette Lake, without question the most scenic part of the race. For some strange reason I kept thinking about Ella’s soccer coach and his family. My head seemed to be playing games with me again. Getting deeper and deeper into the race, I noticed that for large chunks of time, I would be transfixed on one solitary topic, person or vision as opposed to having multiple random thoughts like what occurs to normal people in normal circumstances.

I made really good progress as I entered the big Tunnel Creek aid station, mile 140.5. Here in the town of Incline Village, it became very clear to me that I was way, way ahead of schedule and in line for one of the best races I’ve ever had. I called my mental skills coach, Brian Alexander, to check in. He reminded me of my mission statement: With focused and unrelenting drive, I will strive to maximize my athletic potential while demonstrating to others, through example, the value of proper behavior, self sacrifice and discipline.

Specifically he told me to focus on trying to maximize my athletic potential and to remain focused on the goal. He also reminded me to” just breathe” yet also to try to enjoy the experience each moment at a time. Before the race, I told him that that would be one of my main goals.

Running along Lakeshore Drive in Incline Village, I was able to reach Father Bill, the Pastor of the local Catholic church who I had met a few months ago. One of my silly goals was to receive communion once in my life DURING an ultramarathon. Because he was just about to start mass, I would have to settle for a blessing from him over the phone. I still thought that was really, really cool. Two miles later, I would pass by Dewey McDowell’s house. He graciously allowed me to stay there before and after the race. In an amazing coincidence, his house was directly on the race course. When I went inside to fill up my water bottles, I had to resist the strong urge to lay down on the couch, kick up my feet and start watching a Sunday football game. I told myself I was in the middle of an ultramarathon.” Keep it moving buddy,” I told myself. “You’ve got work to do.”

I psyched myself up for the brutal 1500 foot climb over 1.1 miles up Powerline Trail on the edge of town. As I began the climb, I noticed that it was exactly high noon. Last year I remember starting this climb at dusk. Therefore, I was now seven hours ahead of last year’s pace. “Holy crap!” I told myself. “You’re killing it dude.”

Last year I naïvely faced this section, not knowing what would hit me. This year, I knew what to expect but wasn’t intimidated. I knew it would be a suckfest so I decided just to charge and charge and charge to get it over with. There was no ski lift or tow rope taking me to the top. To get up there, I had to suck it up and just PUSH. We even had to bushwhack through some overgrown shrubs for a bit. Man did it feel good when the trail leveled off. The temp had warmed up quite a bit requiring frequent hydration. I slowed some but still made pretty decent time heading towards the famous Brockway Summit aid station--mile 155. Last year I arrived here around midnight. I remember it being like a big get-together in the middle of the wilderness with lights, music, heaters and loads of runners enjoying a party-like atmosphere. A gourmet chef catered to everyone’s delight. This year, I only joined three or four other runners who seemed much more serious. I told the aid station captain to wake me up from over in the sleep tent, that they had placed a hundred yards away from the main tent. After a very solid 90 minute nap, indeed he did exactly on schedule. When he shook my shoulder forcefully to take me out of my coma, it truly felt like I was in a dream. Again I faced the brutal reality of having to leave my soft, warm, comfortable cocoon to run 50 more damn miles. To make matters even worse, the next 20 mile section had nearly broken me last year.

Gut check time: I would not let this next push defeat me this year. I thought of how happy I would be after this section. I knew I would hate it. I tried not to think too much. “Just do what you trained for Russ.”

Leaving Brockway, I noticed the comfortable temps. I therefore didn’t take extra clothes for the nighttime. Sure enough, that would come back to bite me in the a$s. The temperature plummeted. Around 2:30, I had become so cold that I started shivering while running. I tried to run faster but by this late in the race, I had become too tired to run fast enough to generate more body heat. I realized I had at least five more hours of freezing to the bone before the sun came up to warm me.

Tapping in to my survivor skills, I decided to stuff pine branches between my two shirts to provide a layer of insulation. I jammed as many in as I could, front and back. I looked like the Michelin Man. It worked…but at a cost! The dry pine needles were breaking off the branches and heading down south into my nether region. I was being poked in the balls with hundreds of needles. With each step, it felt like my boys were being attacked by an army of fire ants. Man did that hurt! I had a decision to make: stay warm and destroy my nuts. Or, freeze and protect the family jewels? I decided to push on and block out the pain.

After about 30 minutes, I saw my shadow. That meant someone was coming up behind me! My savior would be #83, Richard Gould, from Perth, Australia. I told him of my plight. He pulled out a long sleeve thermal shirt and some running tights. Yeah, baby. No more need for the fire ants…I mean pine needles. Energized by a long nap back at Brockway, he took off ahead of me, laughing along the way. I couldn’t thank him enough.

It took me a good ten minutes to change and to remove all the branches and needles which seemed to have multiplied since being placed so carefully earlier.

After a few hours the caffeine wore off. Yup. Zombie state again. I decided to treat myself to a trailside nap. I pulled over and rested for 10 minutes. I couldn’t fall asleep laying on twigs, small rocks and other things poking up from the ground into my back. But for sure the rest helped. My mind cleared and I received a little physical boost. These rests allow the mind to take a break. It’s super taxing and draining to have to think, focus and concentrate for basically three and a half days constantly.

Like last year, this section just went on friggin’ FOREVER. I can’t describe how unpleasant it is when time seems to stand still. I can handle physical pain pretty well. Mental pain? Meh, not so much. It’s a constant struggle to not flip out and go postal. I have to admit I’ve let out primal screams many times to release the negativity. A lot of my ultra friends confided that they have done it too.

I remember one of my better screams being at mile 170 when I landed on a rock and forcefully twisted my heel causing a piercing pain at the base of my Achilles tendon. Averting a much more serious injury, I could tell it wasn’t a “game-changing” blow. For a few hours, I experienced a ripping sensation in that area with every step. I ran through the annoying pain until it just went away.

After basically eternity, I approached the Tahoe City aid station, mile 175 at 1:15 am Sunday night. Ah, civilization again. Was I now on another planet? Who are these people? Are these cars? Whoa…streetlights? Joining a handful of other runners, I devoured some delicious, thick lentil soup and of course…MORE bacon. Give me the fat baby. The shift to getting more calories from fat sources worked so well so far that I wanted to drink the juices from the frying pan!

I headed out for the next 20 mile slog, stuffing in as many calories as possible as I left. So relieved and proud of having finished the last brutal section, I told myself this next push could be conquered as well. I reminded myself that after these 20 miles, there would only be left a meezly little “victory lap” of 10 miles!! Then it would be party time!!! Or, should I say, lay-my- butt-down-on-the-ground-and-stop-moving-time!?

With a fresh infusion of Red Bull and Motrin flowing through my veins, off I went. I was super pumped knowing I pretty much had my gold medal performance goal of 80 hours in the bag. But, I still had a hell of a lot of work to do to get it.

If the last section could be described as “brutal,” this section could be described as… well, I can’t describe it.

After the caffeine wore off, the visual hallucinations really became vivid. I got a kick out of seeing families camped out on the edge of the trail, respectfully not moving as I approached them. Politely, they always left before I got really close. How nice that they didn’t want to bother me? They must have known how seriously I wanted to break 80 hours.

This hallucination was a good one: I saw three bulldozers parked way off in the distance. They were gone by the time I got close. They must have been electric-powered because I didn’t hear them when they were driven away.

I didn’t see any rhinoceros’s at Tahoe like I saw at Badwater two years ago.

Between miles 185 and 190, a runner and his pacer passed me. We were teased by isolated, faraway lights, piercing the pitch-black nighttime. This tormented us into thinking the coveted aid station was near. To add to the misery, the lights never became brighter or more clumped together as we descended innumerable downhill switchbacks over super rocky trail. Despite several cathartic yells of frustration, the misery persisted. I had no choice but to robotically put one foot in front of the other.

In a fatigued haze, I had forgotten that the organizers moved the last aid station to mile 195, instead of mile 190, which would leave 10 instead of 15 miles for the final drive to the finish line. I ran on paved roads for most of the way. I actually made decent time, so much so that I thought I had somehow blown past the aid station.

Now Monday morning around 10, empty of calories and therefore full of major crankiness, I collapsed into a chair at the Stephen Jones aid, mile 195. I remember being pretty pissy to the aid station captain who was one of the assistant race directors. I let him know I didn’t like that they didn’t say where the aid station had been moved to. He diplomatically reminded me that it was well-described in the race manual. (I guess that was in one of the parts that I didn’t read!) Feeling like a total prima-donna, I apologized sincerely while I gobbled up the food he prepared for me, my blood sugar rising by the minute.

Here, I met Nora from New Jersey. Having become lost off the trail in the darkness around mile 60 during the first night, she came back out on the course to get some training miles in and to help other runners. She agreed to pace me the rest of the way. I had mixed feelings about this. It would be great to have someone ”take me home” but I knew she would push me more than if I went by myself. I apologized for being too tired to respond to her questions and conversation. She understood the position I was in.

Nora ended up being an absolute trail angel. She encouraged me to eat and drink more frequently. Though having never met me before, she even physically stuffed food in my mouth periodically. In my hazy zombie state, I had left the mile 175 aid station without my hiking poles. Unselfishly, she let me use hers for the rocky, long final climbs of the race.

I told her I was super, super sleep tired again. The hallucinations became more vivid. She had me lay down to take a ten minute rest, hoping I could then push much harder for the last eight miles. I was going on fumes at this point.

Of course…no sleep. But the break refreshed my mind. I arose a little invigorated and ready to get the damn race OVER!!

When I pointed out to her the nice young family up ahead on the trail waiting for me to come closer, Nora just shook her head side to side. She couldn’t see them so I described them in detail. The man had a dark blue hat on with a blue and white hooded sweatshirt. His wife and kids were standing behind him. By the time I got to where they were when I first saw them, they decided to go to the other side of the trail far ahead. On the way there they must’ve changed clothes for some silly reason. They must have been very shy, because once again they were gone when I got up to where they were standing the second time.

The man must not have had his parking brake on because as I passed his car on the side of the trail it was rolling downhill. I told Nora to hurry up and get inside and put on the emergency brake. Sounding a little irritated, she said “Russ, there is a car there but it’s not moving. You’re just hallucinating again.” Without the energy to challenge her, I just let it go. I hoped nobody got run over by the car rolling down the mountain. Over the next few miles, I would see other families on the side of the road. I simply couldn’t figure out why all the families disappeared as I got closer. I guess they just didn’t want to distract me, probably knowing that I was really trying to focus on finishing strong. How sweet of them.

Digging deep into the tank, I powered on. Somewhere after mile 200, I choked down a shot of tequila, a bottle of which and shot glasses having been left on a trailside chair.

Running as fast as I could on the flats and down hills, which were probably a “blazing” 12 minutes per mile max, I finally entered the Homewood Ski Resort property. I could smell the finish line. I wanted to “let her rip” but I couldn’t because the trail consisted of incessant six inch -sized rocks, any of which could break my ankle if I went down the slopes kamakazi-style.

What I desired so much for so long had finally arrived. Nora had gone ahead to position herself for photos and videos of me crossing the finish line. I experienced pure unadulterated bliss the last quarter mile. Not only was I done but I had beaten my gold-medal goal time by an amazing two and ½ hours for a time of 76:31! I turned my head and my hands to the heavens and said silently “Thank you God!” The next thing I said was “Never again!”

Epilogue: We learned a few days after the race, that coyotes came down out of the woods the night before the race and dragged away some people’s drop bags, sitting unattended. That explained my missing bag containing my cold weather and rain gear!!

I finished in 19th place out of more than 180 starters.

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