My First 100 MILER {Katie's race - highs and lows} Mountain Lakes 100

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I did it, I am finally a 100 mile finisher.

Something about that just feels good. I think what drew me to the 100 mile distance originally was just that it is kinda the initiation of an ultra-trail runner.

We choose Mountain Lakes 100 in the Oregon Cascades, the race started at Lake Olallie with spectacular views of mount Jefferson to be my first 100 mile trail race. 

The race draws some good competition because it is beautiful, challenging and scenic without having that much climbing, just over 12,600 ft of climbing making it pretty runable.. when the conditions are right!

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I must mention we were so lucky to have our good fiends Lacy and Jan (owners of Happy Campers Gluten Free Bread) there to crew us, camp with us and support us for this adventure! Also Gwen, he ran this entire race as my pacer and I am so lucky to have him! Yes he registered and entered as a regular runner, but he promised me he would run with me to support me the whole way! <3

THE RACE STARTED COLD..

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we woke up with snow on the ground and overcast an sky, but we were lucky, we missed the heavy snow and freezing rain by one day! 

They made some slight changes to the course due to the wild fires during September which apparently made the course a little more difficult than previous years.

 Photo of the snow on the course while they were marking it

Photo of the snow on the course while they were marking it

We started in snow, ran 3 miles on dirt road and then had 20 miles of snow about 8 inches deep! This was a fun change to the course, I love running on snow. But it did make it more difficult that is for sure.

We felt like we were as prepared as we possibly could be, we had hot weather gear, rain gear and tons of cold weather gear, we had poles, all the shoe options, drop bags sorted and packed, friends, support, inspiration, and so much food! We packed way too much food but thats better than too little, we had dried apples and bananas the few days before, we had Skout Backcountry Bars and gels, we had Nuttzo 2GO packs, we really had everything we could want and need and that helped settle our nerves.

 


What we did not prepare for was being sick before/during the race.

On my way back from Norway I caught a nasty flu on the plane that knocked me out totally for 2 days, and then the 5 days before the race I was still feeing it, low-energy, sore throat and shivering. The day before the race we arrived to the area of the start to freezing rain which made me feel really grateful that we had my dads truck and camper to stay cozy in, but what did suck was that the cold weather must have lowered Gwen’s immune system enough that started to feel the flu setting in too!

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Shit happens though and that is life.

I can make tons of excuses about everything, and I could have made a few really good reasons why I couldn't have started that race.. But I wanted to run 100 miles so damn bad that it was going to take a lot to stop me.

The power of the mind is crazy, and even though we both felt life crap, we were determined to get out there and have fun running my 1st 100 together!

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My goal was to do my best, and try to finish under 24 hours… and then of course I always have that goal in the back of my mind.. to win! :)

Ill start with the LOW POINTS!

All was well until after the 2nd aid station (mile 16ish), I am pretty sure I ate way too much and about 30 minutes later I had the BIGGEST LOW POINT OF MY RUNNING-CAREER! It is a funny thing because I always want to eat lots of food at aid-stations but I am often so scared too! At the Rut a few weeks back I was eating Skout Bars, pickles and even handfuls of peanut butter stuffed pretzels and I was great, but this time was another story..

I dont know if it was the snow made it so my body was working harder than I calculated, or if it was the nerves, the weird electrolyte water they were serving, or just a few too many PB&J’s but it was bad!

All the sudden my stomach turned and I was feeling like death, cramps, gas-like sensations in my stomach and extreme nausea.. like I was positive I was going to throw up and pass out at the same time. I have had some stomach issues before, specifically during my 1st 50 miler I vividly remember having stomach cramps for about 40 miles, but it was nothing like the debilitating nausea and pain I was feeling during this. 

The pain sent a wave of cloudiness and chills through by body that forced me to slow down.

I told Gwen I needed to see if sneaking off the trail quickly for a “pody-break” would help, and when I got off the trail I almost passed out while I was searching for a spot to go. 

It was bad.. I was terrified. Why was this happening so early in the race? It wasn't even 20 miles in.

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I run 20 mile long runs regularly and never do I experience this. What did I do wrong? Is this going to destroy my race? How can I continue like this? How can I finish if I am in pain like this? All of the thoughts and emotions were coming up.

I was a total mess, physically and mentally… and I didn’t know what to do.

But then there was GWEN <3

He told me “it is ok, no matter what happens we will find a solution, it’s not over.”

He said “Its normal, that happens to everyone” and he tried to make me laugh by telling me about this stupid Navy Seal Book he is reading and how they report back to their headquarters “Situation normal, all fucked up”… that made me laugh.. :)

He had me slow down and walk (luckily it was just as we got to a really steep climb, so everyone was walking) He assured me that it would pass and that it is ok if we walk for a while so it can pass. 

In my mind I was thinking, this better pass quickly because I cannot go on like this! But I was really scared that it would not go away, what if this pain and nausea continued, what would I have to do… what would happen to my race?

So we walked, and I tried my hardest not to focus on the pain, the nausea, the fear.. we tried to talk about other things to keep my mind off the obvious. 

I decided to stop eating and stop drinking the gross electrolyte drink I had in my bottle, until my stomach settled I did not want to put anything else into my body.

After about 30 minutes of dredging slowly through the slush and snow up this big climb, the nausea was not as strong and I told Gwen we can start to job again.

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Still no eating or drinking, I knew that I had plenty of calories in me to carry me for probably 30 miles at this slow pace, and I just wanted the pain to go away… and my stomach told me the only way for that to happen is to stop eating.

If Gwen was not there to assure me that it would pass, I don’t know if I could have handled that low point. I know that reading it does not sound that serious, and even as I type this now it doesn't seem all that bad.. but it was. It was extremely severe.. It was so bad that it forced me to stop, to walk and to even stop at moments due to blurred vision and pain.

I remember telling myself and Gwen that this pain is the worst, and I can handle any other type of pain and know I will finish, like muscle soreness, joint pain, leg pain, etc… I know that pain and it is possible to run through it.. but this pain is not. 

In a way this low-point, this specific pain really helped my race overall. Why? Because it put everything into perspective really early in the race.

It was only mile 20 and I had decided that no matter what type of other pain I got, as long as it was not this nausea, I would NOT COMPLAIN, I WOULD RUN THROUGH IT, I WOULD FINISH, because I knew that it was possible. 

With this mind-set I really changed the way I raced. 

Yes I was scared and worried that I felt my legs (tiered) at mile 15, and worse at mile 20, but I wasn't going to even mention it to Gwen because I swore not to complain about any pain that was not debilitating. 
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At mile 26 we were back to the start/finish aid station where we got to see our crew and refill supplies from our drop-bags. It was so nice just to see Lacy and Jan and quickly speak to friends and volunteers before rushing out of there!

One thing that my friend Jameson (an experienced 100 miler) said to me at this aid-station that I will never forget, and that helped me so much was when I was explaining to her that I just had the lowest point ever in my running career and now i felt a little better. She said to me “Good. Good. You got it out of the way and now you can continue, that is good.” For some reason this is not what I was expecting to hear, nor what I wanted to hear.. but it was Exactly what I needed to hear. It helped me SO MUCH, because she was right, now that i experienced that, I was less likely to experience it again, and I could do my best from re-making that mistake. So If you are reading this Jameson, thank you so much, you are a queen! <3

My stomach was feeling better so I decided to eat oranges and drink some plain water. It held ok, so I made a promise to myself that no matter how badly I wanted solid food during the remainder of the race, I was NOT going to eat any. I was only going to take in liquid/easy calories, I was NOT going to risk going through that shit again. So the menu for me for the next 70 miles was oranges, watermelon, gels and water… period.

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The next stretch was pretty big but I felt good about it because we had just done the hard part of the race- we were done with the snow and most of the high-climbing stuff so they told us it was pretty runable from here on out. 30 Miles until we saw our crew again at mile 55, where we had our second drop bag filled with familiar goodies, cold weather clothes and our headlamps. The aid stations were all between 7 and 5 miles apart from here on out, so that was really helpful and was our singular focus moving forward… just getting to that next aid station. 

It really helps to break it down into these small manageable pieces, just 5 miles till the next aid. 

I cannot begin to think about total miles remaining until after the half way point, my brain just cannot handle that. So I didn’t. 

We cruised along smoothly, the leg pain was there but the stomach pain was mild with no nausea.. so all was good in my mind! 

One thing that I wish I had done from the start was to put vaseline on my toes under my socks from the start! I started doing this only at mile 30, which was all ready too late. But it is really surprising how big of a difference this does at stopping blisters. Even wearing shoes with a wide toe box like Altras, rubbing and blisters almost always happen, so having that slippery substance between the toes makes them much happier. Yes it requires an additional 3-4 minutes at those aid stations where you need to add it (which for me was about every 15-20 miles) but it was well worth it.

Pretty quickly I found a fueling schedule that seemed to work and I was too nervous to try anything else, so I stuck to it. It was actually pretty low calorie wise, one gel (100 cal) every 45 minutes, and every aid station I would stuff my face with oranges or watermelon, but I figure that only added 50-100 calories. This was much less than I was accustom to eating during races, but I had trained lots of my long runs to be with very minimal calories, so i guess I was burning fat very efficiently. 

The course was beautiful, the trail was so nice and runable, it was not technical and it was not steep. There were climbs and decent’s and even some big ones but they were all at a very nice grade that was not steep, making it so much less painful on the legs and knees than steep stuff. I was really grateful for this.

At mile 35 ish we realized we had made a big logistical error…

it was the afternoon and we were still 20 miles from our headlamps.. we were not going to make it before dark. This was really a stupid thing to do looking back, but while we were planning our drop-bags we figured that we would easily make it 55 miles before dark, and why carry extra weight if not needed…

WRONG..

I think we did this in some sort of panicked state. I am always quite paranoid about my headlamp and we usually always carry it with us at all times, just in case. Who knows why we did this but we know we will NEVER do it again. We will just carry it from the start and pack an extra one or two in the drop bags. 

So there we were, probably a good 3-4 hours away from our headlamps, with only 2-3 hours of light left, if we were lucky! We knew we needed to find a solution, and we got so lucky. We found ourselves running through the darkening forest with still 7 miles to our drop bags, and 2 miles to the next aid-station. We were forced to run those 2 miles super slow because we couldn’t see much at all, but we finally arrived to the final aid-station before our drop bags just as it was getting really dark. 

The volunteers at the aid station were shocked to see us running in with no lights, but they were all so kind and did not make us feel stupid for our mistake. We told them we fucked up and begged to borrow a light, promising that we would return it on our way back through later in the night. (This part of the course was an out an back with a big lolly-pop on the end, so we would pass again through this aid on our way to the finish). Luckily one of the volunteers found a spare flashlight in her bag and lent it to us! 

So we ran the next 5 miles sharing this one light, still running very slow because if you have ever done this you know it is not easy. Luckily we then were passed by our friend Annie, who had her headlamp on of course and was happy to run with us to the next aid. So we now had a little more light, we had her run in front, then me in the middle with no light, and Gwen following behind with the flashlight. This made it so much easier and faster and we arrived at the mile 55 aid-station in no time!

This was a big one for me, mile 55.. Everything from here was all a count-down to the finish. I now allowed myself to see the race in miles to go, 45 miles to go.. I could do that.

We also got to pick up a pacer here, our friend Jan was going to run the 16 mile loop around the lake with us, coming back to this aid-station where Gwen and I would run the remaining 29 miles by ourselves. 

Having Jan with us to run those 16 miles mad such a difference!

Running in the front, or alone, is extremely taxing on the brain because you have to focus so much on the trail, the course markings, rocks, roots, and make sure your still on course. DO NOT UNDER ESTIMATE HOW TIERING THIS IS. Having a pacer that can run in front and lead helps so much, especially during those nighttime hours. 

So if you have the opportunity to have a pacer, do it! 

The nighttime miles were draining energy wise but we just kept moving at a really consistent pace. We were slow on the downs, slow on the flats, and slow yet steady on the climbs. Other runners started to notice our consistency and mention it to us! This was pretty funny for me, to see some runners choose to use their energy so randomly, walking slowly on the ups and running fast on the downs, but hey whatever works is great! 

I found it much easier to just keep a constant pace that was sustainable, Gwen assured me that this was ok because if we felt good still at mile 90, we can push hard and pass people during the last 10 miles.

He warned me that if we decide to push now, even on the downhills, we risk blowing up, injury, or just tiering ourselves out too early and then everyone would be passing us at the end. He helped me manage this situation mentally, and be ok with being the slow-steady one. And it worked.

This is the machine that we use currently while camping/traveling to make our espresso! It is so practial, and is perfect for 2 espressos!

Before we knew it we were back at the aid-station where Jan was leaving us, but before he did, him and Lacy had a surprise for us.. They made us espresso and even served it to us in our small espresso cups that we love!!! This really cheered us up and gave us some energy to get our buts out of there!

We grabbed out poles for the first time as we knew we had some long gentle climbs on the next 29 miles to the finish.. and with our state of being we knew we would be power hiking those climbs. This is where poles can make a BIG difference in my opinion.

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I dont especially like running with poles, but I can tell you I LOVED them during that final third of the race. They helped us power hike up the climbs and they helped us keep stable as we ran the downs and flats. We did not just hold them to our sides while we ran, we actually used them as we ran and it was amazing.

At that point our legs and stabilizing muscles were so tiered that I am pretty sure I would have tripped and fallen without the poles. But thanks to them i did not fall one time during the race!

We were getting scared though, it had taken us so much longer to get to this point because of the snow and then the headlamp fuck-up… Our 1st goal was to finish, which I had no doubt I could do.. but our 2nd goal was to finish under 24 hours.. and as we calculated it in our minds, we realized it was going to be REALLY close..

I did not have the energy to calculate and recalculate as we went along, so luckily Gwen did all that for me. I was just moving as fast as I thought I could sustainably go… 

We were on track to the sub 24 if we just kept this pace.. but then as we were about 8 miles from the finish Gwen recalculated and told me we were not going to make it at this pace.. We were climbing the last big climb of the race and we planned on running once we got to the top, but we could not afford to wait that long.

He said we had to start running NOW if we wanted that sub-24 buckle. So we did and this final part of the race still blows my mind.

We started to run this uphill, and I do not know how I did it because I thought I was doing my best just hiking. I had no energy to run, but I guess our bodies have some extra juice tucked away for emergencies.. and this was an emergency.. 

The only issue was it was still 8 miles to the finish, which is a long freaking way when you are running on emergency reserves! 

We did not have our gps watches on so so we really didn't know how far it was at this point, or exactly how long it would take us, or even if we would really make it sub 24 at a run. All we had was Gwen’s timex watch with the time, and he was saying we had 1 hour 30 minutes to make it. 

So we ran, and we passed the 2nd place female putting me in 2nd place.. wow that was weird!

We kept running, in fact we got faster and faster. We ran as fast as we could on the down hills, it seemed extremely reckless and our legs somehow glided over the trail. Where the hell was this next aid-station.. It should be here by now, we kept pushing and the miles kept going by without getting there.. I was starting to doubt that this was possible..

Maybe we made a mistake and it was further than we thought.. It was giving everything during the downhills and I was fading fast.

We finally made it to the last aid station, 3.6 miles from the finish.. we did not stop.. we could not stop.. we had 40 minutes to go and my energy was fading. I had just given everything for the last 4 miles and we still had that same distance to go!!!!

That killed me mentally.. how the fuck is it possible to keep this pace for another 40 minutes?… but there was no time to think, only time to act.. to run.. to try.. to give it my all.. because if I didn't now then when would I? 

If I didn't try my hardest and just give everything during these past 40 minutes of hell, then what.. was I going to finish in 24 hours and 2 minutes and not get that silver buckle…

How stupid would that be? How mad at myself would I be.. I would be so mad at myself for not pushing just a little harder, for not running that flat bit, for not… this is the kind of thing that was running through my head those final miles of hell.

I was pushing harder than I had ever before, I was closer to puking from exhaustion than I ever had been, and Gwen told me that my face was whiter than he had ever seen it. At one point about 2 miles out, I told Gwen I had to slow down.. I was dead.. he looked at me and told me I needed to eat because I didn't look good. I think I did eat a gel right then but I don't actually remember.. But we did start running again 30 seconds later because we had to.

I could hear faint screaming, bells, noise… excitement of the finish line!

We were almost there, but where the F was it! I was so excited to stop this pain, to stop my legs, to be done. It had been one entire day and night, nearly 24 hours ago that we started this race at this very point, and it was about to finish.

This was the moment I had been waiting for, running towards.. and it was happening!!!

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As we approached the finish we felt like we were going so fast, and then we heard it, 23 hours 56 minutes! We had 4 minutes to make it 100 meters.. we were going to do it!!!

I slowed the pace down slightly knowing I should if I wanted to be conscious as I crossed that line, still pushing hard though.. I finished my first 100 Miler in 23 hours, 56 minutes!!!

 We were the last ones to come in under 24 hours... what a close call!!!

We were the last ones to come in under 24 hours... what a close call!!!

It was done.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here is our video from the race!


We get lots of questions about what gear we use and love, so here it is for you all.

This is the one we both wear for longer races/adventures

  • We LOVE the Salomon SLAB 12L Vest/pack

The 12L one has a zipper pocket running up and down in the back and allows us to stash a rain jacket, headlamp, maps, all laying flat along our back for a more comfortable fit.


They are so comfortable!

  • SHORTS

I ran in the Salomon SLAB 3" Light shorts which are amazingly lightweight and amazingly expensive. If you find a good deal on these or have the budget to try them.. its worth a try!


This is even the exact color I have!

JACKETS

If you do not have a super lightweight jacket to run with you gotta get one!!! I wore my Nike Impossibly Light Jacket most of the race (which is not water-proof) but is great to keep warm, breathable and comfortable.

I don't like wearing water-proof jackets unless it is really raining hard.

When it really rains, I wear my Salomon one which I got for FREE from Salomon when I was on my Running Dream Trip in Norway!

I like size medium because I have long arms

It is really expensive but again it is really amazing and I LOVE IT.

It is actually totally water-proof and very comfortable, the hood stays on well when running which is important too!


The Superior's that I have like 5 pairs of!

SHOES

I wore the ALTRA Superior for the first 70 miles, and I wish I would have changed into the ALTRA TORIN's a little earlier. 


The Superior are a trail shoe where the Torin's are a road shoe..

These are the exact ones I have and love

So the Superior have a little more traction than the Torin's which I needed for those first 30 miles of snow. But the last 70 miles were practically buttery smooth trail that were totally fine for the Torin,.. I like the Torin for long runs because they have a super wide toe box and are more cushioned... 

My feet got tender and a few blisters because the toe box on the superior is just not as wide as my feet like, so now looking back I wish I would have changed shoes earlier!


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Thank you for your support,

we love you guys!

-Katie and Gwen