Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Jackpot Ultra 100 Running Festival

(Made by my running buddy Joshua at

100 miles??!! Did I really just do this?  Yes, my body is telling me I did but my brain is still trying to catch up.  I hope I can share my thoughts and feelings of this whole experience adequately enough for you, the reader, to enjoy yet at the same time to realize, it is a dream that any runner with a willing heart and the commitment to training can accomplish.  I'm not a super hero, or super elite running woman.  In fact, I still consider myself a regular, back of the pack, kind of running girl.  I'm not fast by any means.  I just find happiness in being around other runners out there doing what makes them happy too.   

So, how did I come to this decision of 100 miles?  Well, the easy answer would just be to say Cory Reese made me do it.  He was a great influence and I will be forever grateful for his inspiration.  Reading about his experiences is what probably gave me the courage to realize that maybe I can do this.  I am fascinated with long distances and have been for a long time.  I wasn't getting any younger and I thought if I was ever going to attempt something like this then I better get going on it soon. 
(Cory at mile 36 at the Jackpot Ultra 100)

This is the training plan I followed but didn't pick it up until around week 11, since I signed up for the race with only about 14 weeks of training before race day.  That was alright in my thinking though because I was already actively running before starting this specific training plan.  

Friday afternoon we headed on down to Vegas, where we stayed with my cousin in her beautiful home.  We drove over to Cornerstone Park to check out the surroundings and get a general idea of where I would be spending the next 30 hours.  We could see a lake, pathways, motion sensor light poles, dirt trails, public bathrooms, picnic areas and a little bit of grassy area.  I think it helped with the pre-race jitters to see that, however I didn't sleep very well that evening. 

I got up about 6:30 am Saturday morning and was ready to go by 7:15 am.  Cornerstone Park was only a 10 minute drive away so that was very ideal for those who would be coming and going throughout the day and night to help pace me.

The route we would be running was a 2.38 mile loop around the lake in a horseshoe shape, 42 times.  We would run the outer loop first and then make a big turn and head back on the inner loop.  I had set my stuff up right near the half way point and so I was able to have an aid station at the starting/finish line and half way through on the grassy area.  It was a very convenient set up.
The cutoff for completing the 100 miles was 30 hours and since this was my first hundred miler I was planning on using all 30 of those hours.  I had no idea what to expect, only that I WANTED desperately to just finish.  Mark, my dear husband, helped me get my stuff set up and hung around until the race started.   
Cory found us and set his stuff up by mine.  That was comforting for the fact that it meant I would at least see him once in awhile.  There is a great sense of calm and comfort in seeing a familiar face at a race when you are so far from home and attempting something like this for the first time. A couple of other sweet friends from home decided to come down and do the 6 hour event and so I was super happy about that as well.  London and Monte Riding have been friends for almost a year now and they make me smile daily through our Facebook conversations in our running group.  Another familiar face was Cinder, who lives in Vegas and was an amazing volunteer at the race.  She brought her massage table and hung out all day and night helping many people, not only with massage but at the timing table and the aid station.  THANK YOU CINDER! Those volunteers are really angels.  A race certainly couldn't be done without all they do.
London, Me, Cinder

After a big group picture and then listening to the Star Spangled Banner on the trumpet by a very like-able and well known ultra runner, Mr. Ed Ettinghauser, it was time for this party to get started.  And boy what a party was in store! OK, running may not be a party but hanging out with so many other amazing, fascinating ultra runners just felt incredible.  9:00 am and we were off! Would I really be out here 30 hours???
The temperatures were comfortable for most of the day with only a couple hours that were a little bit yucky. I was so grateful for some nice cloud cover but definitely wore my sunscreen.  I learned that lesson quickly from other experiences.  

I had told my mom and a couple other friends to text me or call anytime day or night.  I wouldn't be going anywhere except around and around in a circle and would definitely love some company or distraction once in awhile.  My friend Laurie Oldroyd called and wanted to see what the surroundings looked like so I took this picture to send to her.  You can see see way across the lake the starting/finish line area.  You can also see that the scenery just wasn't that gorgeous, but we had birds and geese honking at us throughout the day, hanging out in different places on the course.  Also, because the course ran all the way out and made a turn and then went back the opposite direction, we were always seeing other runners.  It was awesome to say hi and wave to everyone attempting this same crazy thing.
The first 32+ miles I wore this green shirt and then after feeling completely soaked from the warmth of the day I changed my top.  I had texted my family around 2 or 3 pm and said to come back and help me out.  They got my clothes, and other things needed, body glide, baby wipes, etc handed off to me to do a quick change in the bathrooms.  I said hi and goodbye quickly and headed out onto the course again.
It was amazing how completely refreshed I felt and ready to tackle some more miles at this point.  I had my ipod in and was enjoying some tunes, but sure wishing I could have a buddy to run with at this point. 
So as the day went on I just continued running and walking trying to not over exert myself and would see Cory occasionally.  He gave me some good advice to pretend like the race really starts at mile 60.  So, for now I needed to just conserve and run smart.  He talked about how he had definite places he would walk and had those specific places planned out every loop.  I probably should have used that strategy but didn't.  I went with the feeling of run when my body felt like it and walk when it didn't.  As long as I had some good music I was doing alright.  Cory's strategy worked wonderfully for him as he set a new 5 hour PR!  

As the day started turning to late afternoon and early evening we were then allowed pacers.  We could have any amount of pacers but only one at a time.  My sweet cousin, Laurie Brister, who opened up her home to our family (and gave Mark and I her king sized bed to sleep in) was the first that would join me.  She showed up around 6:40 pm.  She runs a little bit and has run one half marathon.  I wasn't sure how long she would be hanging out with me but I was more than thrilled when she ended up doing 14.25 miles with me!!  She just kept going around and around those loops with me, 6 times to be precise.  I think it was about 11 or 12 am when she finished up.  We must have been having so much fun together that we completely forgot to take a picture out on the course, so we got one on the morning after the race.  Yes, I'm standing but not for long in this picture. 
Another friend of mine who lives in Vegas came by with her husband.  I wanted her to run with me but she didn't feel ready.  Her husband ran half a loop with me.  They cheered for me though and made a cute sign and hung it in a tree so I could look at it as I went around the course.
It was so amazing to me how every encouraging text, sign, phone call, message on the phone, person pacing, people giving thumbs up, etc. just would give another little boost when I would start to feel tired and want to quit.  I will admit right now that I was tempted around mile 60 to just be done.  But I knew there were so many friends and family rooting for me that I just couldn't quit.  

After my cousin, Laurie was gone, and my friend Mike and Robin Ballard had left, I was alone for just a short amount of time.  Then, my most sweetest ever husband showed up. He brought me some avacados (yes I was craving that at 1:00 in the morning) and my recharged phone and garmin (I had two) that had died earlier in the day.  Like I said, it was nice to have my cousin live so close to the course.  Mark then ran 2 loops with me for a total of 4.8 miles.  It was dark outside, yet peaceful and just so comforting having him there with me.  I had no idea he was planning to be there in the night for me.  It was about 12-1:30 am that he spent with me and I was so grateful.  Once again no picture. I think my brain had gone to sleep for the night.
Somewhere later in the evening Cinder wanted to give me a hug from all my Facebook Running friends back home who were asking about my progress and cheering me on.  THANK YOU to all of you!  You know who you are!  I felt very supported and loved by all of you.
Somewhere around mile 45 I was enjoying some luscious cheesecake.  I did have a few times in the day and night where I would get nauseated and wasn't sure if I needed more food, less food, more water, less water, more salt tabs?  It's all a challenge to figure out the fueling.  Some gingerale and pretzels usually worked the best when this issue came up.  

After Mark was done pacing me, a girl who lives 2 hours North of me wanted to pace.  I had only met her once briefly at a race last month and then we conversed at length on Facebook.  She had talked about wanting to be part of this experience with me.  I was cautious because I didn't know her, yet I realized that this could be a huge blessing for me.  She told me she was going to be in town and to text her anytime in the night when I was ready for help.  I texted her at 1:30 am and she arrived not too much later.  

Around 4:00 am my son also showed up and surprised me.  He did one loop with me and I was super happy about that.  He got to see a little bit of what ultra runners experience as we came upon a woman who was really struggling.  She was crying and needing a boost.  We hung out with her for quite a long distance and shared stories and helped cheer her up.  
We watched the moon go across the sky and at mile 85 stopped for a picture before the moon was gone.

This sweet girl, Robin Williams, who dropped everything and came to help me, hung out with me all through those lonely, dark hours of the night from around 2:00 am until about 8 in the morning.  The weather was a little cool and I wore sometimes one jacket and sometimes two.  I was very grateful for such beautiful conditions though.  I knew the heat would be coming though when the sun came up, but boy did I ever want to see that sunrise.  
She stayed with me for about 20 miles and we just talked all night long about anything and everything, but mostly about running.  What a great support and such a selfless act for me a stranger but now forever friend.  Here we are saying good-bye as she is leaving around mile 91.  I still had 4 more laps to go.

 I had 9 1/2 miles left!  I could do this!  I was tired and dragging and barely running at all.  Occasionally, I would muster some strength and shuffle along for a little bit but it was challenging.  The sun was pounding down now and it was getting super hot.  There was no cloud cover this morning.  I slathered on some more sunscreen and just tried to finish those last few miles.  Mr. Ed Ettinghauser, the guy who played the trumpet for the opening of the run yesterday was coming up behind me as I had 3 laps left.  He was walking most of the whole course due to an injury.  It was pretty amazing to watch him walk so fast with those long legs.  I hooked up and visited with him and his nephew for a complete loop.  I asked about what keeps a person wanting to do these 100 mile races multiple times?  I just don't think I personally have it in me.  But Ed here, he is going for the record of most 100 mile races done in a calendar year.  That is just crazy, yet impressive!!  I felt honored to be able to see him finish.  I still had 2 more loops to do and was just so done both mentally and physically.   

Little did I know what was in store for me as I was anxious and worried about finishing this race alone.  I looked up and saw my husband there waiting for me.  I gave him a big hug!  He was there to finish my race with me and I just about cried.  He will never know the joy that brought to me.  We carried on continuing down the course.
I had seen this specific poster (there were a few others) along the course and loved it.  Mark took a picture of me with it.  I thought the first 2 statements were so appropriate at this very time of the race! I most definitely needed to keep thinking positive and just keep breathing deeply to get this done!  
I only had one loop left after this and I just dug in deep and finished the job!  When I figured out about how long I would be out there and that I could make it under 26 hours I pushed a little harder to break that time.

25 hours 49 minutes and 33 seconds later 
I crossed the finish line to my first 100 mile race!

I was elated, relieved, grateful for life, family, friends and so happy to have had this experience and to also be done!!!
I crossed that finish line and received my medal and belt buckle.  Cory Reese, my friend and inspiration was there to greet me and cheer for me as well as my family. There are not enough words to express how grateful I am to so many people who helped make this happen for me.  It's definitely not a solo experience.  There were dark times in the night when it just felt too overwhelming and I would just break down and cry.  There were phone calls from special people who brought so many emotions to the surface.  There were some absolutely amazing texts from a dear sweet friend, Julia Hubbard, who has been where I have been and knew what to say to help buoy up my spirits. And I'm forever grateful!
 The ultra experience is a profound one, and worth doing at least once!

When we gathered all my stuff and headed back to my cousin's house I was hungry and all I wanted was a big fat sweet potato.  So that was my first after-race meal.  A couple hours later after an ice bath and hot shower and putting on jammies I had a soft flour chicken taco and soft flour beef taco, filled with lettuce, salsa, guacamole, and cheese!  That hit the spot magically and then I headed to bed! Lights out for this lady!


kate said...

You are so so amazing. What a great example in all that you do and what a great undertaking. Congrats to you!!! Thanks for sharing this experience. Now just need to recover and keep smiling.

Angie Whitworth Pace said...

Susette, this made me cry!! I am so thrilled for you. We all knew you had it in you to accomplish this. You are so inspiring and AMAZING!! WAY TO GO!!!

Josh said...

I am so proud of you! Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment! Seriously. You rock.


Cory Reese said...

It was a special moment watching you cross that finish line. Your hard work and dedication in training definitely paid off. I'm so thankful I was able to spend all those hours out on the trail with you. You are AMAZING!

Becka said...

So incredibly proud of you!! And 25ish hours? HOLY COW!! You, my friend, are not a "back of the pack" 100 miler, that is an amazing time.

Great job, hope to see you soon!

Amy @ Run Mom Run said...

You are absolutely incredible! I am so impressed and proud of you! For a gal who spent most of 2013 saying running wasn't working you sure rallied! You almost make running 100 seem possible to me. Maybe I just need to be your companion for a 100 miler sometime.

Gina Horkey said...

What an incredible experience! You rock lady!! I knew you could do it:-)

Murph said...

Oh My Gosh! You are my Hero! Great job getting that puppy done!

Renee said...

Congratulations a thousand times, Susette! You did it! You know I was rooting for you and thinking of you! Reading this makes me want to run 100! Way to go!!!!!!!!!!!

Kevin said...

I'm so very proud of you! I can't begin to express how much of an inspiration you are to me and so many others. If or when I ever do a 100 miler it will be because of you and Cory. Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

Kevin said...

I'm so very proud of you! I can't begin to express how much of an inspiration you are to me and so many others. If or when I ever do a 100 miler it will be because of you and Cory. Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

slitwil said...

Wow!! I don't think I have any desire to run 100 miles in one setting but that is truly amazing!! I have seen you at the Baker's Dozen races but didn't realize we are the same age!! Congratulations!!

Julia said...

SERIOUSLY AMAZING. I am not even sure I have any more words left for just how inspired I am. You are incredible Susette. So strong--inner strength and physical strength. SOOOOO grateful to know you! Congrats on an INCREDIBLE accomplishment! Thank you for sharing your journey:) Some day I hope I can follow in your footsteps:)

Karrie said...

YOU DID IT!! Another wonderful accomplishment. Congratulations! You cheer for and help so many others and everyone wants to give that back to you. Glad you weren't alone and had support during your adventure. I seriously am in awe of you! Way to go!!

Kathee said...

That is such a touching recap! I'm so happy for you and amazed by your strength! In every picture you look just as fresh as ever!

Sume Family said...

Susette, I loved your recap of this amazing race! It made me cry just thinking about your experience. You and Cory are definitely inspirations for me. Thanks for sharing.

Robin said...

You are so amazing! Being able to complete nine laps with you, I can emphatically tell everyone that you have the spirit of a warrior and tenacity of your pioneer ancestors. I wanted to test the waters of an ultra and consider myself fortunate to share a small piece of your experience. It's ironic that we grew up only a few miles apart, attending elementary and junior high school together, yet I don't know that we ever knew each other. I hope you'll be able to pace me when I get up enough nerve. You are forever my sole sister and have truly changed my life for the better. <3

Robin said...

You are so amazing! Being able to complete nine laps with you, I can emphatically tell everyone that you have the spirit of a warrior and tenacity of your pioneer ancestors. I wanted to test the waters of an ultra and consider myself fortunate to share a small piece of your experience. It's ironic that we grew up only a few miles apart, attending elementary and junior high school together, yet I don't know that we ever knew each other. I hope you'll be able to pace me when I get up enough nerve. You are forever my sole sister and have truly changed my life for the better. <3

BEAST said...

I'm speechless... the Fri. & Sat. training schedule alone was unbelievable! Congrats on such an amazing accomplishment! I'd like to know more about how you fueled for this event. Please consider writing a post dedicated to fueling for a 100 mile race.

Michael said...

I have been a terrible blogger and not been out to read your recap. I knew on FB you had finished and was in awe.

CONGRATS, CONGRATS, are truly amazing!!!! It sounds like you had a great support system around you. And a race where I can eat cheesecake on the course...well sign me up lol.

Awesome job! I just can't even begin to imagine doing anything for more than 24 hours...esp running! WOW!

LyndiLou said...

Susette... I am in awe! What a completely amazing experience. I love the different people that came to support you and cheer you on. I love that you shared how much it meant for each different person to take turns running with you. It's amazing to think of doing something so big and hard and having so many there to encourage you. Thank you SO much for sharing your experience. I think you are completely amazing and so fantastic! Love you lots!