10:51 PM- Mile 88
“Colin, they’re right there! Let’s crush ‘em!”
I ran hard up the hill, vomiting in between strides as my heart raced out of control. Colin yelled up to me, “Sally be careful! We still have 12 miles left!” But the storm within me raged- a well-known fury who exposes herself with increasing intensity in the later stages of a race. We reached the top and careened around a corner, focusing on the tiny headlamps almost a half mile away. “I didn’t train this hard for 7th place dammit!”
Stormy. That’s what I’ll call her. I’d like to say I know her well, but after each race, I reflect on her and I shudder- Who was that? She’s relentless, punishing, and heartless toward any physical pain I’m feeling. And on this particular day; June 27, 2015, Stormy had been waiting patiently- brewing quietly for 62 miles- she was angry and I knew she wasn’t going to show any mercy once she took over.
June 26th- Pre-Race Meeting
“…and Sally McRae, mother of two from Huntington Beach…she won Cuyamaca in 2013…”
I giggled to myself as my little bio blared through the speakers of the tightly packed and humid Olympic Hall. With the exception of a small 50 mile strict training race in April (which I didn’t make public) and a 30 mile race in Italy, I hadn’t done anything noteworthy in the eyes of “the press” this year. I flew under the radar for 6 months; training intensely under the watchful eye of my coach Ann Trason. And I loved it. I gave no care to what my competitors were doing; I was aware of their accolades; their numerous races; and how their impressive resumes naturally cast them as favorites to win Western States, but at the end of the day, it all meant nothing to me. I hold a deep respect for my competitors and many of them my friends-greatly inspire me; but I will always believe my greatest competitor is myself- which makes sticking to my goals that much easier. Eyes forward on the prize; not to my left or right; not on people.
I playfully curtsied and waved to the crowd before stepping back into the line of 15 women-I was enjoying myself; and so humbled to be standing among some of the best ultra runners in the world. I glanced down the line and back to the crowd- taking it all in. “I can’t believe I’m here again…it’s time.”
June 26th- 11:42pm
I should have been asleep, but instead the dulled light from my cellphone illuminated the room. Sleeplessness was normal for me the night before a race; anything more than 3 hours would be a good night’s rest. I didn’t worry, I had slept well during most of my taper and I knew my body was ready. I had been tossing and turning, so I grabbed my phone and began re-reading the notes I had accumulated over the past few months. Notes to myself:
*Remember who you are- Be who God created you to be.
*Ignore the noise.
*Run with Grit and Grace.
*Be a champion in patience and in the pursuit.
*Focus on now.
*Give everything and then give more.
I closed my eyes and began running the course for the 1,000th time in my mind. I had trained on the course 8 times in the previous months, falling in love with every twist and turn; and making vivid mental notes: “remember that burnt tree; the peculiar shape in that boulder; stay to the right when you hit the 2nd creek; power hike this climb, but run this one…” and then I drifted asleep.
At 1:11am I awoke in a pool of sweat; clinched fists and frantic, “I missed the race!!!” I jumped out of bed relieved to see the time, but shocked at how soaked I was. I changed and moved to the other side of the bed. I stared into the darkness and again started running the course in my mind; only a few hours until the first alarm would go off; thankfully I fell asleep for another 90 minutes.
Race Day-June 27th 4:45am
ODESZA blared through the earbuds of my iPod. I stared at the ground, surrounded by my crew and dear friends; I could sense Billy was nervous as he stood next to me and so did Jimmy; I watched as Jimmy grabbed him and in “Jimmy Style” began encouraging him. I stared back at the ground, calm and focused. “You trained your heart out for this race; you’re strong- now go run YOUR race…” the words from a card my husband had written me were on repeat in my mind. I smiled- I was in a much better place mentally and physically than I had been exactly a year ago and I knew…I just knew it was going to be a good day.
“5…4…3…2..1..!!!!” voices thundered throughout Squaw Village and my belly filled with butterflies- the race had finally started!
Escarpment to Lyon’s Ridge- Arrival: 6:58am-Mile 10.5
No effort, no energy, I reminded myself to take the first 4 miles extra easy; it really didn’t matter if I was 1st or 81st to the top of Escarpment as long as I was staying steady and using little effort I would set the right tone for those first 30 miles. Those first few miles clicked off easily- my training was filled with intense climbing, so the climb up Escarpment was enjoyable. I paused a couple times to take in the sunrise- it was glorious and it reminded me to be thankful for what I was doing that day, “I GET to do this!”
I was unsure of what place I was in as I came into the Lyon’s Ridge Aid Station; I had been quietly following my teammate Kaci for almost ten minutes- we entered less than 60 seconds apart from each other; I wasn’t concerned with placement just yet; I had made the firm decision to not wear a Garmin watch until Foresthill, so when I checked my $1.30 neon digital watch for the time, I was quite pleased. I was hoping for a 2-hour arrival and I was a couple minutes ahead of schedule. I grabbed a piece of potato; and a piece of banana; while the enthusiastic and smiley volunteers filled my bottles; then quickly hopped back on the trail.
Lyon’s Ridge- Duncan Canyon- Arrival 9:26am- Mile 23.8
My taper was made up of short runs; little climbing, and gym sessions; so it was of no surprise that my legs felt a bit wobbly the first few hours- to me, it was a good sign; they were prepping for the brutality ahead- awakening slowly; alerting me to run patiently.
I was thrilled to see Ann, Marie, Ohnmin, and Pen waiting for me as soon as I began descending toward the Duncan Canyon Aid Station. Although I had told my crew to not tell me what place I was in, a volunteer immediately let me know that I was 12th woman. Ha. Okee-dokee. It was an exciting pit stop as the crowd roared and cheered for all the runners coming in, but Ann was firm with my 60 second “in and out” timeframe and like a whirlwind a bar was shoved in my mouth, an ice bandana was strapped on my neck, a new pack replaced the one I had started with, and ice was shoved into my sleeves…last minute instructions from Ann and ”Now go Sally, get out of here!” 60 seconds. Done.
I giggled to myself as I caught the trail again, “Wow…did that just happen?!” They were like a well- oiled machine; clearly they’ve crewed the Indy 500! (love you gals!)
Duncan Canyon to Robinson Flat- Arrival 10:48am- Mile 29.7
I was less than a mile from leaving Duncan Canyon when a rock jumped out of the ground; grabbed me by the foot, and slammed me to the ground, opening the skin on both knees and bruising the outside of my right knee. As soon as I hit the ground my calves seized up-( OH MY GOSH THE CALVES!) I instinctively yelped and rolled to the side of the trail gripping my legs when my stomach began to seize up (a fun little thing I deal with after having had two children…ab separation.) I had been running alone and didn’t think anyone was around when a gentleman surprised me, “You okay?” I was completely embarrassed knowing I had just screamed like a kicked puppy, “Yes, totally cool- all good!” My calves relaxed and I hopped up and started running again, but slowly making sure they weren’t going to tighten again. I looked down at the blood and dirt on my knees- the side of my right kneecap was clearly swollen but nothing serious. I started to pick up the pace a bit and hit the first climb out of Duncan Canyon- overall I felt good and I made sure to eat and drink as I climbed. I didn’t see any women except for Denise Bourassa- we had frog hopped casually a few times but after passing her before Duncan Canyon I never saw here again. I ran with a couple groups of men here and there; chatted with the cool and friendly Ian Torrence and then began distancing myself from groups (I don’t typically like running in conga lines) as I got closer to Robinson Flat. About a quarter mile from the Aid Station I came upon a line of runners led by a woman, I tried making out who it was; again, I don’t like conga lines, so I hopped to the side of the line and ran to the front, glancing to see who was leading the group…Nikki Kimball! I ran ahead for 10 yards then turned around and yelled back, “Run with me Nikki!” We let the men pass us and excitedly greeted each other. We began quickly catching up with each other. And I learned her legs were cramping up pretty bad; she had been short on nutrition, but you’d never know it; she was smiling and so happy to be running her 10th WS and with the goal of getting her 10th Top 10. We encouraged each other and hugged before breaking off to see our crews. It was so uplifting to spend those 2 minutes with Nikki, I was all smiles entering the insanely loud Robinson Flat Aid Station. My buddy Colin was at the start of the Aid Station and pointed out where the rest of the crew was stationed. The famous Robinson Flat Crew Lane blared with shouts of encouragement and smiles; I hugged a few dear souls along the way, then found Margie, Dave, and Colin ready and anxious to get me moving out of the aid station. Like Crew B, they were swift and organized, fresh bottles, food, ice bandana, ice in the hat, and done…”Let’s go Sally- get out of here!” I was stoked to already be at Robinson Flat- I really couldn’t believe I had already ran 30 miles- it was going by so fast and still, I felt great.
Robinson Flat to Dusty Corners-Arrival 12:21pm- Mile 38
I kept eating, sometimes as much as 400 calories an hour; my stomach would get bloated and so I’d take a break from food and focus on fluids. Take care of yourself Sally; you’ve got a 38 mile race waiting for you. I told myself this over and over again.
This section of the course is relatively easy, lots of downhill but also completely exposed- I stayed steady making sure to assess how every part of my body was feeling along the way. I arrived into Dusty Corners shocked that 8 miles had already gone by. Ann was waiting at the front of the Aid Station and quickly directed me to get sprayed down with water and then to the crew. My stellar ladies once again worked on me in a flurry and before pushing be back onto the trail, I pulled them in for a group hug- I was so moved by them, I needed them to know how grateful I was for their selflessness and care for me. I then hopped back on the trail- feeling strong and peaceful; excited to run the next 5 miles of beautiful single track.
As far as I knew, I was now in 11th place, You have a lot of ground to make up if you want to Finish in the top Sally! It was Stormy speaking…so I told her to shut up- there was still lots of race left. Patience.
Dusty Corners to Michigan Bluff-Arrival 4:14pm-Mile 55.7
A few minutes after leaving Dusty Corners Aid Station, I heard the voices of two women; I glanced back to see Pam Smith and my teammate Caroline Boller- I pushed against Stormy who had the urge to take off down the trail, It’s only Mile 39! Chill! A few minutes later Caroline greeted me and quickly said she would be passing. She passed with intention and I watched as she picked up the pace down the trail- I wanted to chase her so badly, but stayed put. Not yet, Sally. A few minutes later Pam approached and we chatted for a few minutes before I hopped off the trail to pee. At that point I didn’t feel like talking and along with Pam a man also passed and I was then alone. Three people passed in a matter of 2 minutes- I didn’t like that feeling.-I’m gonna bury them! Stormy was fuming.
The trail started to descend toward the iconic Swinging Bridge; it was this section last year where my heart broke; I stayed positive and intensely focused on every inch of the trail, reminding myself to lift my feet a little more and watch out for the rocks. I didn’t want a repeat story. When I got to the bridge I raised my hands to the sky and smiled, “Yay! We’re here and I feel great! Time to climb!” The climb up Devil’s thumb was challenging and dead quiet, until I heard, “There you are! Yay!” I quickly flipped around and saw the smiling Nikki Kimball. “Yay! I was wondering when I’d see you again!” And from that point on, Nikki and I stayed together all the way to Michigan Bluff. We shared stories; talked about grace and joy; and worked together to pass several people along the way, putting ourselves into the top 10 women by the time we reached Michigan Bluff. The miles we shared will go down as some of the most treasured miles I’ve ever shared with anyone. Nikki is an incredible woman with a beautiful soul and I’m humbled to call her my friend- love you Nikki!
Nikki and I ran into the Michigan Bluff Aid Station feeling strong and smiling; again a strong contrast to last year, when I arrived limping and holding back tears. At this point I was increasingly anxious to get to Foresthill, I was excited to start pushing; my plan was to race the last 38 miles hard and I knew that in order to do that, I HAD to feel good going into Michigan Bluff.
Just as I neared the runner’s chute into the aid station, I heard the sweet voices of my babes, “Yay Mommy!!! Go Mommy!!” which immediately triggered tears- it was a COMPLETE surprise to see my tiny Makenzie and Isaiah standing there; I wasn’t planning to see them until Foresthill. I grabbed them for a quick hug and looked up to see my husband and dear friends, The VandenAkkers with their kids all cheering- it was overwhelming but Ann and Colin were swift to make sure I was focused and kept me moving, “Come on Sally MOVE! You can’t slow down- let’s go, let’s go!” I jogged down to a spot where I was greeted by Margie and Dave and they quickly went to work; removing my pack, icing me down, and making sure I ate something. At this time, I glanced up to see my teammate Alex Varner standing there and instinctively became upset- “You dropped! Are you okay?” He threw back a big smile and told me to not worry and then proceeded to cheer me out of the aid station. (Alex was my pick for the win but I’ve since learned he made a wise decision to call it a day- check out his race report!).
I spent the most time at Michigan Bluff- roughly 4 minutes; definitely too long, but I will say, I was stoked to be leaving there happy and healthy. Ann gave me last minute instructions on how to run the next section and told me that she would be seeing me at Bath Road to pace to Foresthill- something I had been anticipating all year- running with my hero! Alex shouted at me as I jogged away, “there are two women who just left…go keep them company!” And as soon as I hit the trail, Stormy nudged me, Go get them and next time don’t take so long in the aid station- Focus!!
Michigan Bluff to Foresthill- Arrival 5:34pm- Mile 62
Motivated, I picked up the pace to see who was accompanying Nikki (I was positive one of them had to be Nikki because we came in together and she was feeling strong). Less than a quarter mile in and I spotted them- Nikki and Pam! I caught up just as we hit a climb and we all power hiked together, laughing and joking. We then came upon Joelle Vaught who told us she had gotten lost earlier in the race and was feeling a bit deflated, so we urged her to run with us, “C’mon Joelle! It will get better!” And with that, the four of us ran down into the canyon, pausing to splash around in an ice cold creek before climbing back up to Bath Road.
Nikki, Pam, and myself stepped onto Bath Road together. Ann was again focused on getting me moving- “Let’s go Sally; I’m ready to pace you in!” She threw a wet towel across my shoulders and we started jogging up the road, “How are you feeling?” Ann had been in tune with me all day and was hoping I’d feel good at Bath Road- to her; it was a good sign that I’d have a strong Finish. “I feel really good Ann, I am so excited about the last 38 miles!” She smiled and then I blurted, “Ahhhhh we’re running together! I am so happy! Thank you Ann!!” I ran alongside her with a huge smile, trying to digest how the woman who was once an evasive athlete whom I deeply admired from afar was now running alongside, as my coach and friend. It’s a stretch of the race that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
As soon as I saw the Foresthill Aid Station, I picked up the pace; I ran through the runner’s chute without slowing down and headed straight to my crew situated 200 yards down the road. At this point my kids suddenly appeared and began running alongside me, “Go Mommy! Mamma you’re doing so good! Yay Mamma!” I again welled up with tears and reached for them when I heard my crew firmly guiding me toward them, “C’mon Sally!!” I arrived, ripped off my arm sleeves; grabbed some food, and a fresh bottle while Colin wiped me down with a wet rag. I also got to finally put on my Garmin watch! I looked at Dave- Pacer #1 and said, “Now we race!”
Foresthill to Rucky Chucky River Crossing- Arrival Time 8:41- Mile 78
We took off down the road- it was loud; exciting and I felt strong. “Dave, can you believe we’re already here; we’re doing this AGAIN!”
He smiled back and said, “Yah, and are you sure you want to stay at this pace?”
“What? How fast we going?”
We turned onto the iconic Cal street and hopped on the trail, I was giddy. But it wasn’t long before Stormy reared her head, Race mode now; let’s push- let’s hunt!!
A few days before the race I had written Dave a note and put it in the Foresthill Crew Bag; I explained my goals; the pace I wanted to keep and the importance of not letting me whine or slow down, along with other key instructions on how to keep me moving. Dave wasted no time in keeping me focused and as soon as we hit the first small climb comforted me with, “I know you want to powerhike some of these climbs, but you’re gonna have to earn that- run hard on the flats and you can powerhike the climbs, deal?”
“Okay, deal. Let’s do it!”
And for the next few hours we pushed as hard as my legs could go; and if I ever slowed, Dave let me know, “Stop looking at your watch; I’ll lock you in….pick it up Sally…c’mon I know you have more to give than that….”
My stomach had felt good all day, but since leaving Michigan Bluff, solid food wasn’t particularly attractive, so I resorted to drinking as many calories as possible; and thankfully, on this day it worked. I was still holding a steady 300-400 calories an hour and my energy stayed level. Each time we stopped at an aid station I attempted to eat a piece of banana and a piece of potato or watermelon. We moved through the aid stations quickly and each time asked what place I was in and how far ahead the next woman was. I started to become obsessed with catching the women ahead of me.
“Where is everyone? I feel like we’re running hard and there’s no one in sight!” Stormy was fully present; impatient, and intense.
Dave reminded me that I was in a different place compared to last year; and then encouraged me to pick up the pace. Within minutes we spotted Joe Grant; his stomach had been revolting and he was feeling uneasy so we encouraged him to run with us, “It’ll get better Joe- cmon!” Joe kept pace with us and we enjoyed good conversation until we got to the 7-minute hill where he pulled away. Don’t let him pull away!! Go get him! I smirked back at Stormy- I’m not chasing him uphill!
At this time, I started to get quiet; I started to wrestle with myself. I knew this section was going to hurt; everything hurt. But it wasn’t “injury” pain, nor was it an upset stomach pain- my body just hurt. 75 miles of pounding- I was tired; and mentally I wanted a break. Dave’s voice broke my train of thought, “Sally, let’s hit that pace; you gotta move, I know you don’t want anyone catching you and don’t forget who’s behind you!”
I started listing the names of the women behind me, “Yah, Nikki Kimball, Pam Smith, Michelle Yates, Joelle Vaught, Shaheen Sattar, Denise Bourassa, etc…”
And then I told Dave, “Let me run ahead of you for 1 minute; I need quiet.”
I surged about 10 feet in front of Dave and started talking to myself, “Don’t think, just go. Don’t think, just go.- YOU are your greatest competitor…now dammit move!!
“Okay, Dave- sorry, run next to me; let’s do this!”
“No, I totally get it- you’re doing great Sally- let’s keep moving; you’re gonna hit your goal time to the river!”
We hit the last aid station before Rucky Chucky and I anxiously asked what place I was in, “You’re 7th woman!”
“Are you sure? Last aid station also said I was 7th, but I thought I left Foresthill in 8th?”
“Nope, you’re 7th and the woman before you left about 7 minutes ago!”
“That’s it? Dave we made 13 minutes on her- whoever she is; let’s go get her!!”
Stormy started to boil within me, “Top 5! Top 5! I Want Top 5!!”
We coasted into the Rucky Chucky Aid Station in the time I had hoped for; and it was still light out. And like every other aid station before, the volunteers were quick, friendly and helpful- filling my bottles and keeping me moving. My friend Kelsie was standing in the aid station waiting for her runner when she nudged me, “Your team mate is in the water.” My eyes lit up, “Dave! Caroline is in the water, let’s go get her!!”
I grabbed my bottles and sprinted down the steps, completely unaware of the life vest a volunteer was holding up- “Hey! It’s the law! You need to put this on!” Embarrassed and frazzled I slipped into the vest, keeping my eyes on Caroline who was barely halfway across the river.
Stormy shouted at Dave, “She’s right there!! We’re passing her hard Dave! Cmon!!!”
With our vests on, we jumped into the water while volunteers pointed out the deep spots and big rocks. We moved quickly down the line; I kept my eyes on Caroline, ignoring Joe Grant directly in front of me and Caroline’s pacer who was in front of him. I looked back at Dave, “Can we pass in the water, I want to pass now!”
Joe let go of the line and floated away on his back. I (Stormy) was now breathing down the neck of Caroline’s pacer.
“Dave, as soon as they step on land, we’re passing! You ready!?”
“Let’s do it!”
All four of us stepped on land at the same time; we ripped off our vests and I leaped in front of Caroline before she could hit the trail, “Hey Caroline, we’re gonna pass real quick.”
As soon as we passed, we picked up the pace and sprinted hard for the next 100 yards, hitting the 2 mile climb up to the Green Gate Aid Station.
“I want top 5 Dave! I’m in 6th now, let’s go get more!”
We ran most of the climb, slowing for a few seconds here and there when Dave could hear I was breathing too hard.
Stormy had completely taken over.
Green Gate to Highway 49-Arrival 12:03am- Mile 93.5
Janet Freeman (Don Freeman’s wife, TRN) grabbed my bottles as we flew into the Green Gate aid station; Colin and Margie were nearby urging us to keep moving, but I was hard pressed on finding out how far ahead the next female was,
“When did the last female leave?!!”
“38 minutes ago!”
I shoved a banana in my mouth and grabbed my bottles from Janet (you rock Janet!!).
It was time to run the final 20 miles with Colin-Pacer #2.
I grabbed my headlamp from Margie and thanked Dave for his solid pacing; then took off toward the trail with Colin.
“You ready to do this Colin? Don’t let me whine.”
“Yep, there’s a little drop here and then I want you moving; this is a very runnable section.”
Colin filled me in on what was going on ahead, “By the way, you’re not 6th- you’re in 7th.”
“What?!! No I’m not! The last few aid stations BEFORE I passed Caroline said I was in 7th, and so passing her would put me in 6th!”
“Magda, Stephanie, Kaci, Aliza, Emma, Nicole, and then you….that’s 7th place.”
“SERIOUSLY?! I need to stop asking- this is driving me crazy!”
“Don’t worry about it, you need to get obsessed with that Finish line- Focus!”
Colin kept me on pace as we glided along the single-track, slowing only to powerhike the climbs. At this point in the race I was thankful to be moving so well, but became increasingly aware of my belly- I wasn’t nauseas but I also didn’t feel like eating anything. Colin kept reminding me to take in calories and I started to become irritated.
“I am taking in calories!!”
“When, what did you eat?”
“I didn’t eat, I’m drinking them.”
“You need to keep getting calories in if you want to last all 20 miles!”
Stormy wasn’t very patient- she just wanted to run.
We hit the ALT Aid Station(85.9) and they confirmed that I was indeed in 7th place; we also learned that the two women in front of me were “Not looking too good”.
“Sally, you’re moving well- keep that up and we’ll get them.”
“Let’s do it!”
We were in and out of the aid station in less than 2 minutes. We kept a steady pace; but I again became frustrated at how slow the pace was, despite my efforts, “Why does it feel like I’m pushing a 6:40 pace and I’m barely keeping a 10:30 pace!!”
“You just ran 85 miles, now just focus on moving forward.”
It was pitch black and the trees hovered over us like a cave. Stormy growled, Pick it up Sally, you don’t have much time left!
I started to pick up the pace, pushing so hard I began dry heaving every couple minutes. I doused my head and neck with water hoping to cool down my increasing body temperature, I was on the verge of blowing up, but Stormy was cruel and then suddenly, a flash in the distance caught my eye. “Colin! They’re right there! Let’s crush ‘em!”
I ran hard up the hill, vomiting in between strides as my heart raced out of control. Colin yelled up to me, “Sally be careful! We still have 12 miles left!” But the storm within me raged. We reached the top and careened around a corner, focusing on the tiny headlamps almost a half mile away. “I didn’t train this hard for 7th place dammit!”
We entered the Brown’s Bar Aid Station (Mile 89.9) and I immediately asked about the women ahead of me, “When did they leave?”
“About 20 minutes ago.”
“Colin we’re gaining on them- we’ve got 10 miles to catch them-but whose headlamps did we see? Are there men in front of us?”
“Yes, there’s a couple guys right in front.”
Not what I wanted to hear.
“We’ve got 10 miles to get them, Colin- let’s go!”
We raced out of the aid station and I had learned that it was Nicole and Emma ahead. I became obsessed with catching them.
“You’re moving so well Sally, you’re gonna catch them!”
Colin believed in me- I believed in me.
“I will get in Top 5!”
We arrived at Highway 49, just 7 miles from the Finish line; and to my surprise my family, friends and crew were all there to cheer us on and tell us that the two women were now only 15 minutes ahead and barely staying upright.
We were in and out within 60 seconds pausing only to fill our bottles.
Highway 49 to Robie Point Arrival Time: 1:10am- Mile 98.9
“Colin, there’s a nice climb right here, we’re gonna powerhike it and then let’s rip down to No Hands!”
As we climbed, I suddenly went weak, a flashback from last year’s race filled my mind but I didn’t want to speak it audibly, so I kept it to myself. We were just a quarter mile away from where Shaheen had first crept upon me last year. I became frantic,
“Colin, who’s behind us?!!”
“What? No one. No one has been behind you for a long time; there’s no way anyone is running as fast as you.”
“Just find out, I need to know at the next aid station, who is coming? There are so many women behind me and they all want top 10. I can’t get passed!”
“Sally! Just keep moving forward, don’t worry about what’s behind you.”
We hit the meadow and I shuddered, when Colin spoke my fear,
“Hey remember this section last year…”
I interrupted him and bit back, “I don’t want to talk about it- Don’t say it!”
“Say what? This is such a beautiful section; you can see so many stars.”
“I thought you were going to bring up Shaheen and how I had to race her right here!”
I started to pick up the pace, “No one is going to pass me!”
Stormy grunted, Faster Sally, Faster!
We were a mile from No Hands Bridge and still no runners in sight. If Nicole and Emma were barely upright, why on earth have I not caught them yet? We continued moving well and came into No Hands Bridge (96.8) in good time. Colin encouraged me to at least get some water into my bottle despite my curt protests. We were in and out of the aid station within 20 seconds.
“Colin can you believe we’re running across No Hands right now? How is this almost over? And where the hell are those girls!”
I continued dousing my heated body with water and dry heaved as we hit the dirt.
“This is it Sally, you can do it; keep up this pace.”
Colin continued to encourage me as we peered through the darkness.
“I think those are headlamps in the distance!”
We couldn’t make out how far away they were but we knew we didn’t have much time and so we continued to push.
“Sally you’re breathing so hard, slow for a few seconds, you gotta get up Robie Point strong.”
I slowed my pace for a minute and then settled back into pace, dry heaving and now wavering from side to side on the trail.
“Colin, I’m so tired; and everything hurts.”
He didn’t give in to my whining, “It’s supposed to hurt.”
We made the final drop into the canyon before climbing up Robie; the only headlamps I could see now were just 100 yards away and they belonged to a male runner. We hit the Robie Point Aid Station and I glanced back into the darkness, assuring myself that no one was going to spring upon me.
We stepped onto the road and my eyes filled with tears. I had missed my A & B goals.
Stormy sunk away- disappointed.
Colin looked back with a smile,
“Yes Sally! Everyone is at the bridge waiting to run you in!
He was upbeat, proud, and excited about another top 10 Finish.
I slogged up the road, fighting tears.
The pavement hurt; my brain hurt; I was dizzy and breathing uncontrollably. We made our way across the iconic white bridge and was surprised to see that my in-laws and my baby sister had made the trip to the high school. I was so happy that I reasoned it would be okay to let a tear or two fall.
I hit the track and beckoned for all who wanted to run with me, to cross the Finish with me. My daughter settled into pace alongside me; I glanced at her smile- overcome by her joy, “Good job Mommy!” My heart warmed…the race was just 50 meters from Finishing.
20 hours. 27 minutes. 33 seconds.
Heartrate: Broken but Thankful.
The jump across the Finish line had shocked my body for a few minutes and I had to be helped to the Medical Tent as every muscle in my lower body began to seize up. We made our way to a cot where I bundled up in a blanket. Stephanie was bundled in a blanked next to me and we began exchanging our “war stories,” and then Kaci wandered over for a big hug. It was a tough day for everyone…as is expected for 100 mile races, right? Well done ladies- love to both of you and to all my fellow competitors, may we continue to race strong and gritty and may we continue to uplift and support each other along the way.
June 29th, Monday- 10:15 A.M.- Phone Check-in with Coach Ann
“Sally! How are you?! I am so, so proud of you.”
“Thank you! And thank you so much for being there all weekend; I can’t thank you enough.”
“Oh, I had so much fun. How does your body feel?”
“Pretty good. Just tired- I slept for almost 10 hours last night!”
“That’s great! That’s exactly what you need- I want you to take it easy this whole week.”
“Ha. No problem doing that; I intend to just sleep a lot and hang out with my kiddos.”
“You know you had a great race on Saturday…are you happy about it?”
“It was a deeply competitive field, so yah, it makes me happy to finish where I did I guess.”
“Are you happy Sally? I just want you to be happy- you know you ran a great race.”
“I didn’t train to be 7th place…I really should have ran faster in those first 62 miles.”
“Well, did you learn anything?”
“Oh my gosh, YES! I learned so much; thanks to you! I also know I still have a lot of work to do!
I’ve already been thinking about training and racing strategy for 2016, can we chat a little about that?”
“Yes, of course….”
The Most Important Part of Any Race Report- #BeThankfulAlways
*My Husband and children– thank you for your enduring love and support while I trained for this race. I know it wasn’t always easy if ever I was away, and your longing for me only showed me how much you love me. I love our tight circle of 4 and couldn’t have trained and raced this well without you. You are my treasure and I love you to the moon and back.
*Ann Trason– My coach, my friend. Thank you for teaching me how to take care of myself; it has been a life long journey of learning how to do just that; and I can’t thank you enough for showing me that I truly am worth it. Thank you for your consistent care and support both on and off the training course. You changed me as an athlete both physically and mentally. I am so grateful for all I have learned from you and look forward to continuing to learn from you. Thank you for being a crew chief rockstar- I can’t wait for Western States 2016!
*Colin Cooley, Dave Daley, Margie Daley- For your undying support, encouragement, selflessness, humor, and love; I love you guys so much and am so incredibly grateful for the sacrifices you made to see me through to another top ten finish. Group hug! #seeYouinSquaw2016
*Marie Boyd, Pen Perez, and Onhmin- Thank you for jumping in on a whim to crew me; seriously you ladies worked incredibly well together and were so focused on my success; I simply can’t thank you enough. Thank you thank you!
*Nike Trail Running & Team- Thank you for your continued support of me as an athlete; for believing in my abilities, for putting together the RADDEST team around, and for providing legit gear to go the distance. There’s at least 50 names I need to thank…so big group hug to all of you; you know who you are!
Nature’s Food Nutrition- Thank you for your continued support and for providing rockstar protein powder that kept me fit and strong while I trained. I am so thankful to all of you!
Craig Thornley & All WS Volunteers– Absolutely superb event! Thank you Craig for your tireless care and concern for each and every runner’s safety and experience. I know you don’t hear it firsthand enough, but the “unseen work” that you do is overwhelmingly visible in so many ways. Thank you. And to all the volunteers, your graciousness, quickness, excitement, and selflessness will never go unnoticed; I know you hear it all the time, but truly, this race cannot happen without you. I take my ice hat off to you and give a big sweaty Sally hug and Clif gel kiss to each of you! he he! xoxoxo
Sally’s WS100 2015 Race Results & Fun Stats
*Finishing Time: 20:27
*2nd Fastest Woman among the top 10 for the last 38 miles.
*25- Number of Clif gels consumed between El Dorado Creek and Brown’s Bar
1- Number of falls.
1- Number of shoes used for the entire race.
3- Number of race vests used from start to finish.
Sally’s Training Stats Leading to WS100 2015
Biggest Week- 125 miles, 30,000 feet of climbing
Longest Training Run- 50 miles
Number of times training on the Western States Race course- 8
Number of sauna sessions- 10
Number of gym sessions- 70
Average days running per week- 6
Number of injuries- 0
Sally’s Racing Gear and Nutrition
*Shoes- Nike Wildhorse 3
*Shorts- Epic Lux Black 3-inch shorts
*Singlet- Nike Elite Team/Specially made for WS
*Hat- Green trucker hat from the dollar store.
*Arm Sleeves- White EnduraCool arm sleeves
*Bandanas- $1 cotton bandanas for the neck
*CarboPro, Tailwind, and Cliff products
*Bananas, Potatos, and Watermelon.
*Whenever Bars- Blueberry Lemon
*Ginger Ale & Coke
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, you deserve a Reading Award! Ha! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my race report, please feel free to share with family and friends and post your questions and comments below! I appreciate YOU! Until next time, Run Strong in ALL you do!