StageCoach Line 100 Miler

If you don’t want the nitty gritty on an amazingly, breathtakingly, AWESOME journey – you should probably close your browser now. I am excited to write about the whacky and wild adventure that was the StageCoach Line 100 miler.

If you follow my blog, you know I have been training and working towards this culminating race for the past calendar year. Not going to lie, I experienced some serious burnout on the horizon of this event. After 10 months of intense – high mileage training – my body and mind were ready for a break. However, the break would not be awarded until my successful completion of the 100 miler!

Well, great news fam – I completed that sucker with an hour to spare. I finished in 30:06 – its was one hell of a journey. It was also 1:21 minutes faster than my previous 100 mile time. Not too shabby. As for the low down, I have a lot to share about the whirlwind of a trek.

For starters, wow! Northern Arizona is stunning. If you have never been – I highly recommend you sign up for a race and go experience it for yourself. The race started near Humphrey’s peak – the highest mountain in Arizona. The first quarter of the race was spent climbing up into some dense and beautiful aspen and pine forests. The trail was wooded, shady, and beautiful in every direction. Being late fall, the temperatures were pretty perfect for me (well, for the most part – more on that later). The colors had also started to change and the leaves were breathtaking as they shimmered in the sunlight.

I cannot say enough positive things about the race itself and the participants. Arizona is home to some incredible trail runners. Every race I have experienced on the Arizona trail has blown me away. Not just for the scenery, but for the community of people. If you aren’t familiar with ultrarunning, it might surprise you to find out that it’s much less of a competition than it is a journey. The folks you meet on the trail are typically willing to lend a hand, a glove, or even the shirt of of their back – if it means it could help you finish your journey. You meet people out there from all walks of life – everyone just out experiencing what nature has to offer while testing their limits and chasing their dreams. It’s actually one of my favorite parts about the sport. You might end up spending hours going about the same pace as someone. The time is best spent getting to know this random stranger that you are venturing on the edge of discomfort next to.

This race was no exception. After completing the Triple 50 this year, there were some familiar faces at the Stagecoach start line. It was exciting to see some of my Triple 50 pals again. Little did I know, that they would save my LIFE later in the race. Unbelievable. Just wait until you hear about it.

So, first 34 miles of the race were super smooth. I was trucking along at a solid pace. On target for a 25 hour finish. Somewhere in the next 7 miles I started to get some pretty angry blisters. I had preemptively put moleskin on some former, “trouble spots”. However, these efforts were futile. Approaching mile 50 I knew my feet were F@$!ed. But, such is life. As a relatively seasoned ultrarunner, I accepted it as it was, welcomed the discomfort, and forged on.

Approaching the mile 54.5 aid station, I looked forward to seeing my crew, getting my warm clothes, and wrapping my crying pinky toes in tape. Thankfully, I had grabbed my headlamp from the crew at the previous aid station – so I was prepared for the instant pitch black that surrounded me as soon as the sun set. I was, however, unprepared for the frigid dessert cold that came with that sunset.

I rolled into the aid station. I looked everywhere for my family. Luckily, the aid station had a cell phone booster (for emergencies). I was able to make a call to my awesome crew. Bad news, however – the road was SO SO bad that there was absolutely no way for their car to make it. And if they would have tried to drive the last 8 miles to the aid station – it would have easily taken them another 45 minutes. At this point in the race, I knew stopping for too long could be catastrophic both mentally and physically. I knew I needed to keep going – with or without the gear. WELL LET ME TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED THEN. One of my old pals from the Triple 50 just happened to be there crewing another Triple 50 compadre. These two fellas went out of their way to help me. They gave me layers to put on, gloves to keep my hands warm, and even spare batteries for my headland (just in case). It was so humbling to be given aid from random fellow ultrarunners. When I say, every competitor wants to see you succeed – this is a perfect example of how amazing the ultrarunning community is. Words cannot express how grateful I am to my Arizonan friends. I would have truly struggled to keep moving if it weren’t for their kindness and willingness to help. Of course my poor family was devastated that they weren’t able to make it. But, it was absolutely not their fault. Side note to anyone considering participating in the Stagecoach 100 – the Boundary aid station is insanely difficult to get to. Crew should allow at least an hour to get there for their runner!

Speaking of crew, HOLY HECK! I am probably the luckiest ultrarunner in the entire world. I had the best, most amazing, selfless, dedicated crew. My boyfriend, his mom, my sister, my nephew, my cousin, his daughter, and our fur baby – were AMAZING. My sister and boyfriend’s mom stayed up ALL night driving from aid station to aid station – bringing all of my supplies, helping me lance blisters, feeding me, helping me change clothes, lifting my spirits, and doing anything and everything I needed to be comfortable. So freaking selfless. My boyfriend was a true hero as well. Not only did he spend the whole day coming to aid stations, he stayed up all night so he could come out on the trail with me at mile 67.5. By this time it was COLD AF, DARK AF, and I was getting TIRED AF. Well, again, luck af for me, I had him there as a pacer. And wouldn’t you know, he didn’t stop at mile 88 like we had planned. I was hurting pretty damn bad – so he stayed with me and saw me through to the finish line. If that isn’t love – I don’t know what is. The entire time he kept encouraging me and telling me how proud of me he was. He also made jokes, stayed positive, and hustled me to keep moving when I needed it. He is and always will be MY HERO.

Another really crazy thing about ultrarunning that you might not know if you aren’t familiar is that it’s really not ONLY the runner who is doing amazing things. Sure, saying you ran 100 miles is cool BUT none of these race’s finishers would be fueled, hydrated, or successful without the awesome volunteers at the aid stations and the incredible unsung heroes that devote their time and energy to making sure their runner is safe, comfortable, happy, and in good spirits. They hurry up and wait for upwards of 30 freaking hours – Y’all are the real MVP’s! Love you to bits!

On another note. Let me tell you about miles 67.5 – 80. The most concise way to sum it up would be, “UGHHHHHHH”!!!!! It was super duper dark. Like the scary dark that feels like it’s about to swallow you whole (the only benefit to this remote desert darkness was the view of the stars – top notch for sure). Needless to say, trekking up and down mountains in the DARRRRRK ass dark slows you down quite a bit. At this point, it becomes more of a power hike than a trail run. Well, between 2am and 6am my boo and I covered a, “13 mile” segment of the trail. I say that skeptically because it seriously felt like 35 miles, folks. THE LONGEST STRETCH I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED (mentally at least). By the time we finally arrived at the mile 80 aid station – I briefly considered throwing in the towel. It had been an extremely long and extremely cold night. All I could think about was a warm breakfast and a warm bed. However, who was I kidding? I’ve never not finished an ultra and I wasn’t about to break that streak on mile 80 of 100 miler. Ha! I’m way too stubborn for that. I was also super fortunate (again) to have my honey bunny with me. He assured me that I could crush the next section and pushed me to keep on cruising. Seriously, thank god for that amazing man.

Onward and upward. The sun had come up and a new day was upon us. It was time for some caffeine and MUSIC. We tried to get the party started – although it was somewhat of a sputter, at that point. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I knew from previous experience that at this point it comes down to mind over matter. Will and determination trump failure and weakness – EVERY darn TIME. I kept telling myself, “mind over matter”. I kept moving forward knowing each step was chipping away at the remaining distance. I even thought about one of my favorite ultrarunners who has helped coach me over the years. He always uses the phrase, “relentless forward motion” – and that eloquently summarizes the mentality required to run ultras. It’s beautiful, really. I often call upon that mantra when the miles get tough.

Running 100 miles can be likened to riding waves. Some miles will be thrilling, intoxicating, and FUN. Other miles will be terrifying, defeating, and even AWFUL. What matters isn’t how you experience each wave, or in this case, mile. It’s what you chose to do with that experience. Dominate it by overcoming it with positivity and fortitude? Or let it dominate you by drowning in negative thought and insecurity. The choice is yours alone.

I chose pretty wisely on this journey. Even though I had some REALLY tough waves. I didn’t let them drown me. I chose to refocus on positives and keep moving forward. Another beautiful analogy that can be applied to so much more than just trail running.

Approaching the last 12 miles was a great feeling. Although, it also felt like some of the longest miles I have ever “ran”. I use that term lightly here because even my fastest effort by this point in the journey was no more than a slog. The sun had started to beat us down. Low on water, we trudged toward the last aid station. What felt like 97 years finally got ya to mile 97. Although, we did question if we would EVER make it to that freaking aid station. The heat and dehydration also made us start seeing funny things in the distance. Is that a tent up ahead? Oh, no it’s just some pink elephants. HA!

Long story not so short – we were just miles away from the finish. Strangely enough, my body was able to run again. This is proof that your body is so much more capable than your mind thinks it is. We ran it in for a downhill finish – and a 30 hour, 100 miles journey was over – just like that. I was greeted at the finish with a champagne shower and sparkly signs as my family and crew cheered loudly and of course captured the ending on film.

I am humbled by the love and support I was showered with over the weekend. It was an amazing adventure and I am so grateful to be able to continue chasing down dreams and pushing limits. Full send. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Crazy K-Z 💕

Old Pueblo 50

I am absolutely honored to sit here in this lovely airport and write about one of the most incredible races of my ultra running life! I have been looking so forward to the opportunity to share all the gritty details about the Old Pueblo 50 miler I *FINISHED* on Saturday, March 2nd… so here it goes:

If you read my post on Friday about the week leading up to the race, you already know that I was feeling CRAPPY all last week. Of course, the final 50 mile event for the Southern Arizona Triple 50 award – and I wind up with body aches and a sore throat. Well, shout out to @luckysmarket for having all the illness fighting remedies I could stomach (approximately $50 worth) in the days leading up to Saturday – THEY WORKED~!

On Friday night, pre-race jitters had really taken hold. All the logistics, drop bags, gear, and nutrition was in place for success. Yet, I couldn’t help but worry that my energy level would be lacking and my mental fortitude would be compromised by the end of winter sickness – a circumstance that was (RED ALERT) out of my control. Things that I can’t control, are of course, a tizzy inducing panic button trigger for me – so sleep was not on my mind’s agenda Friday night.

By the grace of God, and my incredible guardian angels (love you Mom and Dad!) – *3:50 AM* I woke up (again) feeling absolutely FINE. The only remnant of the previous days ominous illness was a very mild sniffle. “A SNIFFLE”, I thought in my mind – is the absolute least of my worries. I GOT THIS ONE IN THE BAG.

Trusting your training, nutrition, and pre-race preparation is a huge part of the pre-race mental journey that can either make or break you as an ultrarunner. I placed my faith in my hard work, my dedication, and my guardian angels and set out to CELEBRATE the journey that had brought me to this awesome finale. I hopped up, ate my oatmeal, banana, peanut butter fiesta bowl, geared up, and rolled out!

At this point, the jitters turn into utter flipping excitement (at least for this enthusiastic former cheerleader turned endurance athlete). Driving to the race feels like being on a cloud. Jamming out to, “High Hopes” by @panicatthedisco to keep that energy level up and those spirits high. (Side note, you will learn I am a SUCKER for mainstream pop music – uptempo jams are absolutely MY JAM).

Press fast forward – race begins promptly at 6:00 AM. At this point, it is still dark. The group of 25-mile, 50-mile, and 75-mile competitors set out onto the first 9-mile treck to the Melendrez Pass aid station. In my typical, conservative fashion, I fall towards the back of the pack – knowing that, even though I want to CHARGE up the first several miles of hills – I have a FULL day ahead and need to conserve as much energy as possible. This, however, gives me time to do one of my favorite things – link up with other runners at similar paces and get to know them. True friendships are forged under these conditions. We are all just people – out here on a unique journey – chasing what makes us feel alive (even though it also often makes us feel dead for at least a few days).

The most spectacular part of this, is that people participating in this sport come from ALL walks of life, range in ages from 18 – 70, and represent a richly diverse set of experiences, athletic abilities, and even body types. Yes, you heard that right – being an ultrarunner doesn’t mean you are automatically 6ft tall and 100lbs. Granted, some VERY talented ultrarunners ARE – there are also folks like me, short, stocky, full of muscle and even more full of DETERMINATION. There is quite a bit to be said about this, from my perspective – as it is a stigma I have struggled with, internalized, and opposed for most of my ultrarunning life. However, I will save that topic for a future post and get back to the deets on this AWESOME day.

As the sun begins to rise, the beauty of our surroundings literally comes to light. Roughly two hours of climbing brings me toward the high point of the 25-mile loop (which I get to run TWICE – wooot!) At this time I roll into the Melendrez Pass aid station, which is loaded with goodies and smiling volunteers. What an incredibly selfless group of locals who spent their Saturday out on the trail, supporting us on our journey! Huge shout out to these awesome folks is due – and the course was well equipped with them. Onward and upward, after a quick water fill up and an electrolyte chug.

The course continued to climb, revealing the absolutely stunning vistas of Mount Wrightson. As the highest peak in Southern AZ it’s prominence and snowy summit were quite a sight to behold. Oh, and good grief, how could I forget to mention the 947 (actually 52 but felt like 947) STREAM CROSSINGS! A precipitous course combined with high levels of pre-race winter precipitation made for quite the adventure. Knee deep, unavoidable water crossings were encountered again, and again, and again. I was somewhat prepared for this and had been sure to have dry shoes and socks at the ready in my drop bags. However, as I approached the halfway point of the course, I realized that efforts for dry feet would be futile. At this point, I had also actually convinced myself that the ice cold water was actually pretty darn awesome for my tired feet. Ice bath submersion for achy feet throughout the course? Doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me – and once I shifted my outlook on it as a positive opportunity for cooling down – I reveled in the water and smiled at the adventurous nature of it all.

The halfway point was a cause for celebration. I arrived at the 25-mile turn around with sparkly bells on after 6 hours and 15 mins. This was right on target with my goal – AND – best of all – I got to see my AMAZING crew. My sister, Willow and nephew, Blaze, had drove down to cheer me on. They were exceptionally emotionally supportive for the remainder of the day AND they helped me get all the things I needed from each of the aid stations they were at. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have such tremendous cheerleaders in my life – they make these adventures so much MORE special!

Leaving the Kentucky Camp aid station after 25 miles of fun felt like a great big BUZZ of energy that catapulted me forward. I was riding the high of making it half-way, seeing my fam, and fueling my body all the way to the next pit stop at the Gardner Canyon aid station at mile 29. Oddly enough, this is when the surge of energy starts to peak for me (on a good day, of course). In my mind, the framing goes like this, “20 miles to go – strong, steady, pace for a strong finish”. As someone who has been into ultrarunning for many years, 20 mile runs have become somewhat of a benchmark distance for me. If I have taken a hiatus from (lonnng distance) running for a period of time, or I am gearing up to train for another 50 miler – a 20 mile run is a common distance for me to experiment with and gauge my current fitness level. That being said, I have ran countless 20 mile training runs, sometimes even twice in one week, or even on back to back days. The benefit to this is, when you are 30 miles into a 50 miler – you can be CONFIDENT in your ability to stomp out the last 20 miles… it goes back to the, “I eat 20 miles for breakfast mentality” that has served me quite well for many races. It is looking adversity in the face and laughing because you aren’t afraid. It is taking on an impending challenge with unwavering determination and a sense of, “I was born to conquer this”, or a giddy, “this will be fun”. Unrelenting positivity is certainly my biggest strength as an UltraRunner (because lord knows it’s not my pace ha!).

The rest of the day, although very physically demanding, was such an occasion for gratitude. There were a few later miles where I had to practice some empowerment breathing techniques and focus on relaxing my tensely excited upper body (and digestive system). Mile 35 brought me to the Cave Creek aid station with more fabulous volunteers and my FAM BAM!! We exchanged hugs, I filled up on food and fluids, and I zoomed out of there with the finish line set in my sights. “Time to SEND IT”, I encouraged myself in my head.

The next few miles brought some steep climbs, incredible views, and heart pumping adrenaline. Closing in on 9 miles to go and approaching the Melendrez Pass aid station for the last time! I made sure to stock up on some calories for the road. Even though the finish line was getting closer – this would be the worst possible time for a bonk! Now, to be fair, after running for 10 hours with more hours ahead – eating sounds like the absolute worst thing in the world. But, it. does. not. matter. Just like I force myself to push through mentally challenging lonnnng training runs – in the latter part of a race I force myself to consume calories. It’s the only way to ensure a fierce finish – which are my absolute FAVE! Now, I will admit, every ultrarunner is different with their nutrition strategies and requirements – but I have ran races on minimal calories and I have ran races on optimal caloric fueling – I am here to tell you — it is ALWAYS better with more fuel. #trustme

Closing in on the last five miles and I am chasing the AZ sunset – literally! I know that I am close enough, and feeling strong enough to accelerate. Oh, and that downhill finish doesn’t hurt my cause one bit! Chances are, by now, I look like a 95 year old grandma post hip replacement trying to do some version of, “running” because you better believe I am sore. However, in my mind I am a gazelle. I float along the trail. You wanna talk about a, “runners high” – try bombing down the last three-mile hill during the FINALE race of the Southern Arizona Triple 50! Not many sensations can compare to the feeling of closing in on the final miles of an Ultramarathon… well, perhaps one. THE FEELING OF FINISHING IT!!!!

I make my final descent where the course splits off on a grassy, dark, thorny surprise adventure. I can see the lights at Kentucky Camp in the distance. Nothing stopping me now. I am so close to a strong 13 hour finish that I charge forth without a second thought about the cacti encroaching on the trail. I can feel the energy of the finish line, I can taste the triple 50 award’s sweet victoriousness in the air. Heart pounding, tears streaming, hopping skipping, sprinting, jumping for joy – I BARREL ACROSS THAT FINISH LINE. 13:04. I FREAKING DID IT. I am elated. I am stronger than ever. I am the fiercest version of me I can be. My hands and heart go up to my parents above for looking out for me throughout the day and keeping my focus and my pace STRONG.

It was an incredible day with amazing runners and volunteers. I could not be more grateful for this experience. It is on the trail that I feel most connected to my Mom and Dad. It is also on the trail where I feel most connected to MYSELF. It’s a beautiful place to be. My heart is so full. I hug my sister, newphew, and friends I made along the course. We laugh about my bloody legs and fierce, unrelenting “go-mode” face. I shake the race directors hand and thank him for such a tremendous day. And so it goes. The Southern Arizona Triple 50 is in the books for 2019! #grateful #blessedbeyondmeasure #harderfasterstronger

Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding my journey, strategies, or process. I am by no means an expert. I am still growing and learning with each training cycle and race. Although, I wouldn’t have made it this far without some excellent ultrarunning mentors and friends. I am here to share triumphs, failures, strengths, weaknesses, and ALL.

Please share, like, comment, subscribe – your helping a girl on a mission reach for her full potential in that which she loves most. #peacelovetrail #ultrarunningblog #nittygritty