Some people might not think a 50 Miler is that big of a deal. Before the race I was reflecting on why this is such a big deal for me. I’m going to go into something deeply personal, not many people know about me. For the past 7 years, I have been a survivor of domestic violence. I had been through some terrible abuse and had thankfully moved on from that. Running has always been a big stress reliever and my freedom since I was 16 years old, and I turned back to distance running after my divorce after having a bit of a hiatus since college. I know that the work to recover from trauma will not be over after finishing a 50 Miler. But, I considered this a large part of my healing process. At the same time as training for this 50 Miler, I had bought a house, had employees quit on me, I had to search for a new job, I learned I do not have cancer (Hallelujah!) and am in the process of planning a wedding to now marry someone who makes me very happy. That was quite a bit of stress. On top of this, I have a volume depletion disorder which has always made being physically active difficult. I have been in the ER 5 times now due to this disorder and have struggled to keep it under control since 2006. I knew this day I would possibly run into that as an obstacle, and I did.
Before the Race
I am super fortunate to have such amazing friends, and a significant other, Gene, who is understanding of my love of running, since he is also a runner. Gene and my friends Carol and Katie planned to come with me to the race. Carol has ran a 50M and a 100K most recently and Katie has also run a 50M. They had trained with me, motivated me, and provided a lot of well-needed knowledge throughout my training. I am forever thankful for their support and so glad they came! They made it a weekend I will never forget and captured the moments on camera. I rented a condo at Collins Resort since I had a hard time finding hotel rooms – everything was $200-250 per night and I wanted some place where I can relax before and after the event. Plus I had not taken much vacation this year and was about to start a new job. Gene and I left by 11 am and were lucky not to run into traffic and got there just before 4 pm to settle in and get dinner around 6 pm so I could head to bed by 8:30 pm just after Carol and Katie arrived and then headed out to get dinner. I got plenty of sleep the night before and the night after so it worked out great. I feel badly for Carol and Katie that they didn’t get quite as much sleep, but I am so thankful they could be there!
Gene planned to drive me to the race start and then head back to finish sleeping while I raced. Katie and Carol insisted on seeing me off at the race start and then headed off to run Timothy Lake. I am glad Gene drove me. I am so not a morning person and took way longer than I thought to get my butt out the door. Gene got me there with 20 minutes to drop off my drop bags, stand in the bib check-in line and the port-a potty line before the race start. Katie got my whole morning start on camera with a lot of great moments. And before I knew it we were off.
The race started at 6 AM. Since the race was two out and backs from the race Start/Finish, it felt like it was broken up into two parts. My legs felt completely fresh. I had tapered well. 2 weeks ago I twisted my right ankle (previously tore a ligament in it in 2016 and had many injuries to it). I didn’t run that week and just did spin class and then ran a total of 18 on the weekend before the race and 12 on the week days. I really enjoyed the first half of the race. It was cold when we started and the trail was completely runnable for most of the first half. A bunch of us hiked the little section with more elevation gain. Parts of the first half reminded me of running Tiger Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Pratt Lake. I had some stomach issues and had to take care of it on the trail.
My Garmin Fenix is always off by around ~2.5 miles so my brain was always doing math to approximate really where I was at and the aid stations really let me know what mile marker I was at. I could not believe how quick the 14.2 mile turnaround came. I blew past all the aid stations until I got to mile 19.2 and stopped to refill my Camelbak and eat a couple orange slices. I was running and leapfrogging with a woman named Lisa who ended up saving this race for me later in the day. We were doing really great on time. I had a timetable I made pinned to my pack to keep track of where I needed to be at what times throughout the day to make all the cut offs. On the way out and back we had a breathtaking view of Mt. Hood.
The temperatures started to creep up, but there were a few streams I dipped my hat in and wet my hair/shirt to stay cool. For about 2 miles I had a bee chase me constantly threatening to sting me. I was terrified and ran faster because I’m allergic to bees and did not have an Epipen. I think they were attracted to the honey stingers. Any time I took a honey stinger out, a bee would start attacking me. This had me not eating very much nutrition for the day. A bearded man in a red shirt came up at some point and I asked, “Are you allergic to bees?” “No.” “Can you please get this bee off me!?” Later I ran into him and Lisa again and he said the bee followed him for a while. I felt bad, but relieved not to get stung.
Before I knew it, I was back at the Start/Finish at mile 28.2 to start the 2nd half. Carol and Katie were there cheering me coming in, and then helped me through my drop bag to get all the stuff I wanted (more Aquaphor on my feet, a blister bandaid on a blister that started to develop on my right big toe, sunscreen, chapstick, more honey stingers). I forgot to put on bug spray. I regret this now because I am covered in mosquito bites. Katie noted I really didn’t eat enough and I noted that. The volunteers were seriously awesome. They all kept my pack filled with water and electrolytes each time I stopped to fill them. One poured coca cola right into my mouth since it was a cupless race (thank you!). Before heading back out, a volunteer sponged my head in ice water and then I was on my way. I remember saying to Katie and Carol, see you around 6 o’clock. I had a feeling the 2nd half was not going to be as easy even though it was fewer miles, just 22 instead of 28. I had read a race report that said the 2nd half had a lot less coverage and the volunteers did warn me again on that before I left the 28.2 aid station.
After leaving the Range Station crossing the road, I ran into an older couple hiking on the trail. They asked me, “Is there a race going on? Where does it go to? How many people are in it?” I let them know there was, it’s 50 miles (they were shocked) and I was at about mile 30 and we go out to Warm Springs; there’s about 200 people in the race. About 3 miles in on this section, I started to have a hard time. I started to notice my volume depletion disorder was catching up to me. There were a lot of sections without shade and the heat was creeping up fast. It was around 1 pm. I started to walk because I felt like utter garbage. I was having a really hard time eating anything and I knew I was way behind on calorie intake since the beginning of the day. I was afraid of my honey stingers. I tried to eat some peach rings and some sweet potatoes out of a squeeze bottle Katie found online I decided to give a try instead of my cubed sweet potato slices I throw in a baggy that always get so squished. I couldn’t get much out. I was with Lisa for a bit and said I think I might have to DNF because of my disorder. She was encouraging but got way ahead of me as I was really struggling.
It felt like aid station 33.7 was taking forever to come. I kept asking people how far it was explaining my watch was way off. Some people didn’t answer. They looked pretty cranky and forlorn and others estimated 2.5 miles, maybe 1.5 miles. When I got there I felt like I was going to collapse. Lisa was there and she said something to me that completely saved the race for me, “We just have to make it 5 more miles and then it’s all downhill from there! We can do it!” She then headed off. It changed my mind from DNFing to continue. One volunteer was insanely helpful. I am pretty sure he has seen and been through bad things himself. He asked what he could do to help me. I explained I have a volume depletion disorder and the way I feel, I am so far behind on electrolytes so I need anything that has the most salt and electrolytes they had. He lead me to a giant bowl of salt pills and said take 2 of these now. Within a minute, I immediately felt better. He said take some more before the next aid station. I should have taken a handful but I only took 2. I regret this.
I rationed those 2 salt pills out getting through the next 5 miles. I was taking so long to get to the 39.2 mile aid station. Again I felt like I was going to pass out and again I kept asking people how far they thought it was. When someone told me I was about 1.75 miles from the aid station, I was convinced I should drop out when I got to it because I thought for sure I was going to be in the ER tonight. My legs felt heavy and I felt like a zombie just going through the motions. I saw Lisa coming back and she looked happy to see I kept going. I knew I’d get to the aid station with 15 minutes from cut-off and did. I nearly fainted, and could only get 2 words out, “Need salt.” This amazing volunteer opens up a salt pill bottle gives me 1, I say, “Need 2.” I took them. I start saying I have to decide now if I DNF or keep going. They re-assure me I got here with 15 minutes of cut-off and I can keep going, I could walk from here. Another racer, who I thought was a sweeper (I guess my brain wasn’t working right) gave me a hug and said sometimes it’s not our day and I can try this again another day. I said, “I can’t. I’m planning on having kids soon. This is it.” And he says, “I’m 62! You got your whole life to do this.” It got me to smile and laugh, of course. The volunteer sent him off with an otter pop. It looked amazing. I wanted one. I started feeling better, and took a punch of salt pills from the bottle for the road. The volunteer warns me some people react funny to those and not to take too many. I re-assure him I need them, explain my disorder and my doctor says I can never have enough salt. I realize I can do this now and ask the volunteer for an otter pop to send me on my way. Though I don’t like red-40 dye anything that otter pop was amazing and probably the only thing I had eaten for awhile sadly.
11 miles to go. My plan was to pop a salt pill every half hour. It worked. I needed it. Badly. Every half hour I felt like shit and was walking slow. And every time I popped one I was able to run again. I saw a sweeper who told me I would be the DLF and to tell the other sweeper ahead. Then I caught up to the runner who I mistook for a sweeper and passed him. My stomach started cramping. I wasn’t drinking enough at all and I couldn’t eat and it was growling. In a moment of despair heading up some elevation where my heart and breathing were just so messed up from my disorder, I texted Gene saying I’m trying to make it to the aid station 5 miles from the finish and if he could come get me if there’s no one there. I didn’t know if he’d have service though. My phone barely had service except at that one point. Then around mile 8 I caught up to a woman named Barb just after the only stream on the 2nd half, which I highly regret not taking a few seconds to splash around in to cool down. We were both struggling and walking. She asked if I wanted to pass her and I said no, I couldn’t if I tried. We started talking. She was from Portland and it was also her first 50M. I couldn’t believe she told me she originally planned to do the 50K the next day as well, but was glad she was put on the waiting list for it. She kept me going for a while, but around 3-4 miles from the finish she needed to pee. I was amazed she could pee. I hadn’t peed since that morning. I wasn’t sure if my talking was driving her nuts, so I said, I’m just going to keep doing my zombie walk and go on ahead. (By the way, Barb did finish! I had no doubt.)
Pop another salt pill and then I was able to run again for quite a while. I must’ve gotten way ahead of her. I get to where I remember being ~2 miles from the finish up by a road crossing, and I got really confused because the cones lead up to this big mound of dirt I did not remember at all. I almost went over it, but looked around and finally saw cones where I was supposed to go. Thank God. There was a really nice section to run in here. I could almost smile again. I knew it was almost over. I knew I would finally see Gene, Carol, and Katie again. When I knew I was close to the finish, it did still feel like forever but I kept running. I saw them waiting for me on the street. I couldn’t really say anything except “Hey” to Gene and then kept running to the finish. I felt terrible, but when I crossed the finish, all I could think of was “I need the med tent now.” And they brought me over to the med tent immediately to check my vitals and give me something to keep me from throwing up so I could keep fluids down. I couldn’t really celebrate. I just wanted to make sure that night I wasn’t going to be in the E.R. Anything but the E.R. I am so thankful to all the volunteers, the medics, my friends, and the runners out there that kept me going. There were so many moments I thought I wasn’t going to finish and well, I did!
I’m sure my parents and Gene will be relieved to hear, I think this is my first and my last 50 Miler. Though I am very happy I completed it, I don’t think my body with this disorder is meant for these distances. I like Marathons and 50Ks very much and think there will be many more of those in my future. But, I think 50 Milers and 100 Milers are something else. I am amazed two days after I feel relatively good and am moving pretty well. I am also amazed I completed this uninjured. I really thought my ankle would be trashed by the end of it and had planned on that. But, my body held up. It must have been those 18 years of running that prepared it. If it weren’t for this disorder, I think I would have aspired to run a 100 Miler.
After doing the 60K ~4 weeks ago, I knew I should have things to look forward to after this to keep from having post-race depression so of course I have planned to take some rest time and do other activities especially strength training, plan to pace Katie for 18 Miles in her 100 Miler, plan our wedding, a party for friends and a bachelorette party, actually finish decorating our house, and go tubing. So I am really looking forward to the rest of this summer and this year. I am also looking forward to my new job. Life sure did happen all at once for me this year! I also already got my toenails painted for the first time since 2016 (found they got less injured when they could breath). As silly as that sounds, I was pretty excited for that.