The deep elite group and I slowly climbed our way up Mt.Werner. We navigated our way through the long grass, trail, rocks and dirt until we reached some supporters at the top of the gondola. I quickly exchanged out my 2 Ultimate Direction handhelds for my Blaze Plus fuel belt...complete with GU Energy gels and a Simply Bar. This would be the start of a long day for crew chief and hubby extraordinaire, Wyatt Yates. Jordan Whitlock would soon join me for the rest of the ascent. A good friend of mine who encouraged me to run my own race even though Rhonda Claridge would briefly pass us at the crest of the mountain before I made a strong pass on the downhill leaving both of them behind.
The mountain weather wouldn't disappoint. I found myself already with a chill and quickly put on a light running shell jacket at aid station #2. Tim Olson would lead the way down the technical section of fish creek falls. Myself and a few other guys quickly passed through the aid station there and hammered down on concrete road to Olympian hall. There, I would meet up with Wyatt, do some more quick weather change outs, refuel and be on my way. This section of the course was a huge circle and on the back side (after yet another big climb), I found myself struggling mentally a bit. I questioned if my legs were going to bounce back and/or if I was going to get through this low so early in the race (around 30 miles). Meredith Terranova (backup crew), talked me through it. I was on my way again and with the extra encouragement on the course from her hubby, Paul Terranova...I found myself breezing through Olympian hall, back up Fish Creek Falls and on my way to Summit Lake for the first time. *** All of that would be put to a standstill...With a quick stop and stare down from a standing bear...I slowly raised my arms to make myself appear bigger, and let out a sigh of relief as he ran off the other way*** The easy road from Long Lake to Summit Lake would be cold, for now it was night time and the glow of dim lights along the way inspired me.
Next up, a rough, downhill jeep road that rolled right into Dry Creek Aid Station and continued on down to Spring Creek aid station. This was the part I really needed to utilize ( I told myself). Always noted as a downhill runner, I would be sure to use those sections to capitalize on any lead I had, and to push myself the hardest I could so I knew what I "had." You guessed it...now on the turn around, it was the long ascent up...passing through those aid stations once again, only this time dry (thanks again to hubby Wyatt!). On the way down a freak thunderstorm passed through, down poured on all of us, and moved on.
Playing games with myself to keep the focus, I counted in my head...5,6,7,8..up to 30 seconds...30 seconds that is all the break you can have after a few minutes of pushing hard Michele ( I told myself). The plan worked. Numerous runners poured down the mountain as I ran up...their words of encouragement meant so much more than they would ever know. They "moved" me...all the way to Summit Lake aid station for the second time.
Keeping my stay brief, my tummy fueled, and my mind optimistic I got on the flooded, now technical Wyoming trail. My heart sank, I realized I could hardly see through small, dim beam of light coming from my head lamp. "Am I getting night blindness? Are my eyes watering so bad from the snow and cold I can't see?" (Yes, I said snow, although not that bad, it was snowing)...Oh no!!! I made a rookie mistake and forgot to change out my batteries!!!!" Feeling so slow, and like I was losing ground, I pushed myself through the darkness, splashing in puddles and tripping over tree roots. This was supposed to be the "fun" trail for me! Thankful my light wasn't totally out, I surged onto Long Lake aid station where I would be forever grateful to the aid station volunteer for giving me new batteries! With only 45 minutes of darkness left...and about 13 miles to go...I rushed out of there like my pants were on fire! I needed to be strong on these last two sections in order to make up some time. Although never even looking at my watch for a majority of the race, I did now and saw that I could MAYBE make it under 20 hours. My emotions were getting to me, my anxiety grew with each step towards Mt. Werner aid station (the final one before the finish). Frustration built, " where is the damn aid station!?...it has to be around this corner, okay up this hill, okay around this corner, grrrr!" With all the voices in my head, a real one appeared, "great job Michele, almost to the aid station!" ...a fellow 50 mile runner would exclaim. Relieved, I trudged on, soon greeted by Mt.Werner aid station and numerous 50 mile runners with their energized words as my quads screamed out on the final downhill.
On the last trail called zigzag, I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the way in. I loved every painful minute of this race. The other runners, volunteers, race director, and supporters made this experience the best I could have asked for. With God all things are possible, and I am so happy he decided to give me the ability to run again. I did not break that 20 hour mark, but I did finish 1st female 20:16:54, 7th overall.