“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home. ” — Wendell Berry
About six weeks ago I received an email,“You made it into the Rut 50K! Immediate Reply Needed.” My immediate thought was “Yeah right, very funny!” Well long story short, I signed up and I FINISHED!!! Not just finished, but finished with intact body parts and a smile spread across my entire face!
I first heard about The Rut 50K from a friend that lives in Big Sky and then after reading the write-up in Trail Runner Magazine last April I went immediately to the website to sign up. Being in the midst of recovery from FAI surgery #3, I was saddened to find the race full since I wanted a goal race to motivate me through summer. Then summer was compromised by a knee issue and I hadn’t even thought about The Rut until six weeks before the race and then BAM, my waitlist number came up and I was in!
To say this race was a bit emotional for me would be a HUGE understatement. I couldn’t sleep the entire week before the race and I had horrible heart-palpitating anxiety. I was so afraid that both my body and head were not ready for such a challenge, but I wanted to finish so badly. The above quote by Wendell Berry was read to me in a yoga class that week and all I could think about was, “I have to run a lot of f-ing inches!”
I spent the day before the race wandering around the resort wearing three jackets, freezing my ass off, and staring at the looming, incredibly pointy Lone Peak wondering how the hell you even get up there. I had a fantastic breakfast at Bugabook Cafe and started carb loading (aka beer) at noon. A friend of mine emailed me the 12 Reasons The Rut 50K Is The Most Bad-Ass Trail Race In The U.S. and I just thought, “Shit!”
On race morning, I woke up at 4am, made some coffee and oatmeal, turned the faux fireplace on, and crawled under the covers and read The Maze Runner until 15 minutes before the start (thank goodness for mind-numbing addictive fiction to distract from upcoming event).
The start was so exciting since the race began in three different waves. I got to watch the start of the same race I was running not once but twice! I began in the front of the third and final wave and set out on my way up the mountain. The double track quickly narrowed to single track and I got stuck in a line of bodies weaving up the mountain, which was great since the traffic jams kept me from going out too fast.
The first 10 miles were great – all runnable, single-track, awesome terrain. A third of the race was already over and I felt fantastic. I was way ahead of schedule, but knew that I had only covered about 2,000 feet of gain, which meant I had 8,000 more feet of ups to go.
Then I hit the new Headwaters section…. Imagine traveling up 1,100 feet over a little more than half a mile on loose ground, sliding scree, and no real trail then descending through a gully holding onto a rope with dirt and rock falling on you from runners above and then precariously stepping across a scree filled ridge wet with freshly fallen snow and then falling on your ass and sliding halfway down the damn mountain back down 2,000 feet to some semblance of a trail just to go up another 1,500 feet to the Tram Dock Aid Station – awesome!
There was a 12:00 cut-off at the Tram Dock and I got there at 11:40 which was way too close for comfort. I had been keeping a pretty steady pace and had never been that close to a cut-off before. When I descended from the Tram Dock, there were still many people on their way up and it broke my heart to know that none of them were going to make the cut-off. The race director sent a post-race email saying the “course cut off time to the Tram Dock Aid Station was a little aggressive” and will be adjusted next year.
Now I just had to get to the top of 11,000+ foot Lone Peak and sail 10 miles back to the finish. I knew if I could make it to the top of the peak, I could finish! I can honestly say I was on all fours and used every muscle in my body to make it to the top of that peak. It also took all of my will to not stop and join the PBR drinkers listening to the bluegrass band that made a home on the ridge and call it a good day!
But I wanted the bacon! I was told there would be bacon on top of Lone Peak, and all the way up I entertained the idea of ending my 15 years of vegetarianism just for the story. When I finally reached the top, an aid station volunteer asked what I needed and I just said a hug and got the best damn hug of my life. I started sobbing like a baby because I was just so tired and happy and the views were magnificent and I was running a freaking ultra after everything I have been through and ughhh! I then took a look at the bacon and passed, ate a fistful of potato chips and then got on my way.
Nothing had prepared me for the bone-breaking descent -we’re talking at least a thousand feet a mile for three miles oh geeze!. The descent hurt so much I fantasized about running on flat pavement and was elated when I hit a semi-flat section of trail and could actually run. I got a second wind during this flat section and was absolutely stoked to get to some gentle downhill. I mistakenly thought I could cruise on down to the finish and started pushing for an under 10 hour finish until I of course took a turn around a corner and then damn another thousand foot climb. WHY ARE WE NOW RUNNING AWAY FROM THE FINISH?!? This section of trail broke my heart, it was steep and muddy and there were ropes to help pull yourself up the trail. “What a sick joke!” I thought. “Seriously, f-bomb, f-bomb, f-bomb?!?!??” I said out loud to myself.
Heartbroken and dejected I trudged up the hill to the last aid station where I was told I still had 5 miles to go. I ignored the cheers and didn’t even stop at the aid station. At this point everything hurt and I just wanted to be done and I couldn’t stop saying to myself, “Never again! This isn’t even fun. Why would I ever do this? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Wahhhhhhh!” I tried to go somewhere happy and managed to pick up the pace and then BAM another freaking climb at mile 30 – SERIOUSLY!?!?
I could hear the cheers and the announcer yapping and then finally I could see the finish line. I mustered up my remaining energy and finished strong and tough like I hadn’t just been crawling and swearing my way up a hill.
I walked around like a zombie with tears streaming for a few minutes before piling my plate high with the best finish line feast I have ever seen – potatoes, squash, coleslaw, spicy TOFU STEAKS, and pie! I ate everything in sight without the least bit of stomach difficulty and took one sip of my Big Sky beer and called it a night!
I think I did everything I could right – no stomach issues, no serious mental breakdowns, no injuries, and no thoughts of quitting ever. I have honestly never been so proud of myself. I can finally put the last three years of hip surgery drama behind me and start dreaming big. It only took a few hours of post-race recovery to commit to coming back for The Rut 2015! Maybe next year a little faster with a little more training and maybe next year I will go for the BACON 🙂