Carolyn Howard's Blog

Born 2 Run 100 and what inspires us …. May 29, 2012

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California Paradise

This past weekend, I was blessed to be able to put together two nights away from home to run the Born 2 Run 100 in Los Olivos.  It was further from Thousand Oaks than I thought and with Friday night traffic, I arrived just in time to see Luis Escobar, race director, under a huge oak tree explaining the course, telling us that we were on our own out there and we better be able to solve our own problems.  We took a moment to acknowledge Micah True’s presence and know that he would be running free with us the next day.  Then, everyone dispersed to get a beer, burger and hang out by the fire.

There were about 30 tents set up and the central camp/ main aid station in the middle of nowhere.  I decided to set my tent up near the front because I didn’t want to be running out of my way if I was crewing myself out of my car.  I was so excited, I decided to have a beer to chill and hopefully get a good night’s sleep.

The sleep was not to be. After the party shut down at 10, it quieted down but a couple hours later a car pulled up right next to me and they set up their tent.  It was noisy because they were 8 feet away from me and having a great time.  I was thinking negative energy would do me no good so I let it go and again at 3:30 when they woke up again.  At 4  main camp started preparing and I gave up on sleep.  At 5, the Mariachi music started – blasting loud.  Good times but I think I like Mariachi music a little less now…

As I was prepping, I realized that I did not have my hand held?? How? I use it everyday and it is crucial.  I really like hydrating that way because I take smaller sips.  So, I had no choice but to get creative.

God bless duct tape. Worked great!

At 5:45, Luis briefed us and at 6 all the races started. 10 mile, 50k, 100k and 100 mile.  It was misty and perfect running weather.  When I tell you it was beautiful there, that doesn’t even begin to describe the stunning golden hills of grass dotted with oaks.  Each oak was a work of art unto itself – it was hard not to stop to take too many pictures.

After a few miles, I settled in with a relaxed runner enjoying her 10 mile race.  We started into great conversations about kids, spectrum disorders, autism, healing and Peru.  It turns out that Miss Crista Scott is a Masters student in Clinical Psychology and quite articulate.  We just went on and on about running, alternative healing and paradigm shifts from running.  Before I knew it, she was finishing her race and off I went on the yellow loop.

The most memorable part of loop 2 was the dead cow.  As I am coming up the road, I can see a cow and a pick-up truck pulls up.  This is really a gruesome sight which I won’t describe.  One of the guys from the pick-up says “this’ll be tonight’s tacos”.   The other guy says she died in childbirth.  Then they hook up a chain to pull her off the road as I am running away as fast as I can.

This disturbed me for the next few miles.

When I came into the main camp, Luis says “you are fourth overall”.  I remember looking at him and thinking “why are you telling me that, I’m not real competition for anybody”, but it did give me something to ponder.

Third loop back on pink and I caught up with Mark Jacob.  He was having some IT problems and someone had given him a knee band.  That’s how the people were at this race, they would do anything to help.  Mark has been giving me advice and encouragement for the past couple years – ever since I heard that people ran 100 miles at one time.

Throughout these first loops there were other amazing people I met, Eric and Flint and John all had inspiring stories and made the time fly.

I saw Crista back at camp and I said “if you want a real psychological study, come with me and run the last 10 miles.”  She said she would think about it…

I saw 8 turkeys along the way.

4th Loop

I think this is where it got problematic for me.  It was really hot, hot, hot as Luis had warned.  I was good with my S-Caps but was only carrying my handheld for water.  When I got into the aid station known as Wild Bill, I was hurting.  They saved me.  They put a sheet of canvas soaked in ice water on my back a couple of times until I cooled down, gave me watermelon and an extra bottle of water to carry back to camp.  This was truly crucial to my ability to keep going.

My self-crewing was also taking a bit of a toll.  There seemed to be alot of things I needed to do when I got back to camp each time.  Get more food, make changes to clothing, sunscreen, fill water – it all took a chunk of time.  It was at this point that my noisy neighbors became dear friends.  The guy who was camped next to me came to check on me and see if there was anything that I needed.  Seriously?  These people are so kind and so cool.  I was a little addled but he persisted and sent me out with HIS Nathan and HIS handheld.  Unbelievable.  I know this is the kind of people that run these races but still it was so cool.

Loop 5

Fifty miles done, fairly uneventful. Still a lot of people out because of the 100k.

Every loop, I think from 3 on, I drank an Ensure.  I was feeling like I needed some solid food and didn’t have time to cook.  So, I took bread and cheese and headed back out.  I took a few bites and then tucked it in my running bra.  After a few miles, it got nice and moist and melty.  Worked out pretty well.

Take pictures or run?

Loop 6

My BFF Amy was driving up to help me through the night and got there just as I pulled in for loop 6.  I had a little more daylight and really tried to hustle to take advantage.  I wasn’t sure how much things would slow down at night.  I felt good and really enjoyed the frogs croaking and jumping on the trail.  There were just a few people out and every few miles I would see a headlamp.  I didn’t know where I was in the line-up but I knew that two guys had passed me.  It was in the back of my mind that I might be the 1st female but I just didn’t know.

Loop 7

Going along next to a woman and she says “what mile are you on?”  I say “71” and she says “me too”.  This is where I say WTF?  Where did she come from?  Turns out she had been in front of me a good part of the day.  That kind of ticked me off for a few miles as I hurried to put some distance between us.  It was too much pressure to be close together if that makes any sense.

I did enjoy a fine bean burrito and corn on the cob at the aid station.  I don’t think that this was the reason for my later stomach distress, but possibly.   I really felt good every time I ate real food during this race.

Loop 8

No idea really.  I really don’t have any specific memory of this loop but I was moving along pretty well and in good spirits.

Loop 9

I didn’t want to eat towards the end of this loop and skipped my ensure which was a big mistake.  There was no convincing me though.

Loop 10

And there was Crista.  She had set her alarm for 2:30 and was smiling and ready to go.  She was the perfect balance of encouragement and quiet.  I figured she would be, considering she will be “reading” people for a living.  It turns out that most of the day she was drinking beer and getting a tattoo which was hilarious to me.  She went through it with me and it was not pretty.

It was everything I had heard about.  System shut down, throwing up, seeing things, making deals with the devil to lie down on the trail, sleep fantasies.  I was ok physically but my mind was ugly.

Below is a portion of Crista’s  blog which can be found at http://misscristascott.blogspot.com/2012/05/ten-things-i-learned-at-born-to-run.html?m=1

I swear I did not pay Crista to make this sound fun 🙂  I am honored that she found my brutal 10 miles inspiring and I am so glad she was with me.

Lesson # 10 – You are only capable of what you set your mind to. 
Here’s a picture of the course map.
The first few miles I went along at a steady pace (think of yourself as a rechargeable battery! building up momentum…). Soon, I found myself running next to a woman named Carolyn who was keeping about the same pace as me. We quickly started chatting (I don’t even remember what about) and then our conversation blossomed into a full-fledged discussion on children with Asperger’s, medical treatments, the gridlock in the insurance companies, and the importance of finding something that gives you an emotional release. Being a Clinical Psychology student, I found myself talking a mile a minute (hahaha, silly pun),  and when she checked her Garmin, I was blown away by how much distance we had covered while blabbering away. We had run 7.5 miles, and negative thoughts had not even once crossed my mind. Mental barriers usually crowd my mind during the first few miles of my runs, and it shocked me that I had not even thought once how much my body hurt, how slow I was, or how bad of a runner I am. I know it sounds awful, but these are thoughts that often flood my mind. I’m used to them. And I shoo them away the majority of the time.
Carolyn, and me, taking one of my many pictures during the run.
But talking to her, discussing in detail about our experiences in the mental health field, observing the beautiful scenery…created an environment and atmosphere where I discovered that running is truly a mental experience. I had been plagued with the fears of not being able to run the entire time during my race. None of my fears even slightly existed in this moment for me.
It was also during this run that she told me about her run : she was doing the 100-Miler. Meaning, when I crossed the finish line at 10 miles, she would continue on for the rest of the day.
“What’s your projected finish time?” I asked, blown away and well-aware about the difficulty in answering that question.
“Well,” she said. “I have an elusive goal of 24 hours. We will see how that goes. I’m thinking I’ll be finishing in under 27 hours.”
I picked her brain about her training, eating habits, weekly-running distances. Before I finished, however, the finish line quickly approached.
I hugged her and thanked her for such an amazing run. I told her how effortless it felt, and how I felt more energetic than I ever have before after a long run (the longest I’d ever ran…ever!).
Here I am finishing up my 10-Miler at 7:49 AM. She was 1/10th done.
Flash forward a few hours. I had a beer in my hand and was prepping myself mentally for a tattoo, when Carolyn crossed the finish line for her third loop (the course was in the shape of a figure 8, with the center being the starting line, finishing line, and main aid station). I cheered her on, and she approached me, out of breathe.
“Hey, just think about this, I know it may scare you,” She started, and my mind started spinning wondering what she was about to ask me. “But would you want to run my last 10 Miles with me? I’m not sure when it’ll be, but just think about it!”
And then she was off. I sat dumb-founded, staring into the depths of my half-draken beer.
These are the thoughts that ran through my head: Can I do it? What if I injure myself? That would mean I ran 20 miles. …so what if I injure myself. I can’t pass up this opportunity. I will slow her down!

It only took me another few minutes to decide that I would be her pacer for the last 10-Miles of her 100-Miler.

Flash forward to 10:30 PM. Carolyn crosses through the aid station, and began filling up her water bottle and sucking down an energy goo.

I quickly rushed up to her. “I’ll do it!” I told her. “What time should I be here for your last lap?”

Because this was no fancy race (thank GOD), there were no timing chips. I had to just have a good idea of when she was going to be at the finish line and then I’d wait for her.

“Around 2:30 AM, I think,” She told me. I saw the fear in her eyes when she told me the time. I shrugged it off.
“I’ll be waiting by the fire!” I told her. And I set out immediately to lay down for a few hours before running with her. Boy, let me tell you, I sure as hell felt guilty sleeping knowing she was out there, in the middle of nowhere, running on the trails with just a headlamp.

Another runner, Flint, had almost convinced me to run the last two loops with her. “It would totally count as a 50k,” He told me, and I immediately felt myself want to jump into it feet first.

It wasn’t until I learned that she was currently in first place for the women’s 100-Miler that I decided to just do the last 10. I was honestly concerned about slowing her down.

My alarm went off at 2:30 AM after a surprisingly heavy sleep. I quickly rushed down to the campfire and starting line to wait for her. There were a few people huddled around the fire, some who were taking a break from the trails, some who were waiting to cheer on their friends, and others who had dropped out and not-yet made it back to their tents.

At 3:00 AM Carolyn appeared out of the darkness. She was shaken up, visibly crumbling and I knew in this moment that my job was not to pace her, but to help keep her going and be a moral support.

“You regretting this yet?” She hesitantly asked me, with a shaky laugh that said more than her words.
“No way!” I told her, dismissing the idea. “This is an honor!”

Off we went, shuffling into the darkness, headlamps bobbing on our heads.

The trails at night were very different. Never in my life had I ran at night, let alone in the middle of the night, let alone in the middle of the night on a trail out in the middle of nowhere.

“There was a pack of coyotes following me earlier,” She told me. I found myself scanning the rows of trees and being reminded of scenes from The Blair Witch Project.

I couldn’t believe that she was going at this all night long.

“The nights are long,” she told me. “It’s nice to have some company out there.”

We didn’t talk as much as we did during our first ten miles together. But we continued on, and I would remind her throughout the run that this was her last lap, she was so close to finishing, AND she was well ahead of her projected goal time.

“That elusive 24 hours doesn’t seem so elusive anymore, does it?” I told her. She cracked a smile. A valuable thing when a runner is approaching 98 miles.

Time, for me at least, seemed to pass quickly. We went through two aid stations where I picked up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I ate along the way.

I tried not to ask her how much further we had, until I was convinced it wasn’t much further.

“We are at mile 98,” She told me. I started jumping up and down.

“TWO MILES!” I yelled out into the darkness. “You will be done in two miles and there is nobody else behind us for miles. You’re gunna win this thing!”

Her disposition changed drastically. You could see relief and happiness flooding her entire body. Within minutes, we had the finish line in our sights and we shuffled towards it.

“I hope you know you’re an incredible inspiration to me,” I told her as we neared the finish.

She laughed, obviously not taking me seriously, which only added to my admiration of her. She had no idea how mind-blowingly amazing she was, and how she completed a feat that I still struggle with wrapping my mind around.

Here she is, ladies and gentlemen, the female winner of the 100-Mile Born To Run Ultramarathon. Mother of three, powerhouse of a woman, and my inspiration!

Before I met Carolyn, I had no idea how people were capable of running more than a marathon (which in and of itself is a scary idea to me, still). After this experience, and meeting all the wonderful people I did, I have a feeling I’m going to be sucked in for life.

It wasn’t until after Carolyn went off to bed that something struck me: I had ran 20 miles in under 24 hours. Although it was not back-to-back miles, it was still the furthest distance I had ever ran in my life. Before this race, I had not even ran 10 miles once. Doing it twice was something I never thought possible.

Well, there you have it

I finished in 23:35 and was higher than a kite for two days afterward.  I felt like everything was beautiful and  food tasted better and the breeze felt delicious.

I’m not sure who is more tired. me or Luis Escobar…

Thank you to my family, especially my husband who made the weekend possible.  Thank you to Amy for driving into the middle of nowhere to make sure I made it through the night. And thank you to Luis for a great adventure!

Very cool plaque!

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