Kat Whitaker (E2 Athlete) 2017 Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run
Yes, that extra F was intentional.
It wasn't my first, and most likely won't be my last.
For one to Toe the Line of the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, on your maiden 100 mile attempt, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. You expect runnable trails along an old rail line, glitter, unicorns, ceramic cats, trestles, pastures, amazing volunteers, a Badass RD, and sure, a shit ton of pain. You never expect your day to go sideways, but alas, shit happens.
What do you do when afterwards, you don't get to proudly wear your race t-shirt? You have no fancy blingy buckle to wear? You've put in countless hours, dollars, and miles but feel like you've wasted it all. You have friends and family that have sacrificed a lot for you to reach your personal dreams and goals. Yet you feel like you've let yourself, your crew, and your pacers down.
Well, you let yourself cry for a few days. Then you get over your damn self.
I started this race a little worried, in the back of my mind, I was thinking that I didn't really feel good. I felt ok, but off. I never really let that get into my head. I paced myself according the the plan Josh that had laid out for me. I moved forward, didn't goof around at aid-stations, ate, drank and carried on just fine for 42 miles.
There, I picked up my pacer Jenn on my second pass through Alavarado. I ate a pickle and a quarter sandwich and all was good. Within 3 miles of having Jenn with me my gut started to go south. I started to feel motion sick. People walking along beside me made me feel queasy. Soon enough, there were pickles on my shoes... Then there were frequent and urgent bathroom visits in the trees on the side of the trail.
Rolling into Damascus, almost 50 miles covered, my pace wasn't horrible considering all the stops I'd made. I was nausous and my stomach was a mess, but my thinking was that once I slowed down going up to Whitetop, my stomach would have a chance to reset.
Going up that 17ish miles consisted of many, many breaks in the trees. Other than the upset stomach, I wasn't in horrible shape. My crew (hubby Chuck and coach/pacer Josh) leap frogged me on the trail using my truck. Once at a crew access point, I was feeling pretty low because the stomach stuff wasn't easing up as I'd hoped. I sat on the tailgate of my truck, hugged Chuck and sobbed into his hoodie. Crying never felt so good! I left there feeling slightly revived and was able to run a lot between the visits in the trees. I got some soup at one of the stops on my way up, which was helpful, then threw up the soup, which was also helpful.
Getting to Whitetop around midnight, I wanted hot soup and I wanted to use a real bathroom and not have to endure the pain of squatting down for a change. There was no soup left and there was a line at the bathroom, and I needed to go NOW. So, squatted again and then sat at bench for a moment. I remember telling Chuck as I sat on the bench that Josh though I was in the bathroom while I was taking a break, laughing because Josh is serious about keeping up the forward movement. Like I was getting something over on him!
I didn't stay there long at all, I walked up to Josh and we set out down the descent.
I thought instantly upon leaving, that wasn't what I needed. I needed a refreshing aid-statin stop. I left feeling mentally and physically drained.
It didn't take long after that for negative thoughts to start creeping in my mind, and out of my mouth. One of my goals for this race was to avoid that negativity. However, I'd done a decent job at holding it back for hours and once I let it start spewing, it was on. I have never said Fuck so many times in my life. It was a one word insult that I could scream out, at myself, at the course, at my stomach, at the night, at everything.
I had no idea what my pace was. I didn't ask. I wanted to stop at every crew access point on the way down Whitetop. I tried the trick of hugging Chuck and crying my eyes out again. This time the tears just drained me further. I cried to Josh, why was this happening? I needed to throw up, but nothing would happen. The bathroom breaks on the side of the trail started to get more frequent as we went down the trail. Nothing was going well.
It got colder, I got slower. We'd been warned that the temperatures would drop through the night. We were prepared with layers, jackets and hand warmers. Still, I was chilled deep down, sick, and as the hours passed I allowed myself to wallow in the misery.
I don't think Josh knew quite what to do with me. We'd walk and chat, then I'd cry, then I'd be ok. Then I might or might not have threatened suicide a few times. I mean, who doesn't want to jump off a trestle into a freezing creek in the middle of the night? I was burping like crazy. I was ranting about an alien coming out of my stomach like in the movie, I told Josh that it was going to eat him when it came out. He should have been worried... In my mind my stomach was this huge thing that had taken up all of me. I was cussing at the trestles because they stank, they were cold and they made me motion sick.
Nearing Taylor's Valley, I told Josh that I was getting in the truck this time. I needed to rest. I wasn't sure of my pace or what time it was. I felt sure that I was pretty much done. We finally made it to the aid-station and they were basically closing up. There were only two vehicles there, and neither was Chuck in our truck. We walked past the tent to check a few other vehicles parked neaby, no Chuck. I freaked out. I started crying and accused Josh of telling Chuck not to be there. He promised that he hadn't done that and we walked back to the tent and I sat down. It was a little after 6AM. Looking at the 'cut off' on the list, Taylor's Valley was 5:38AM.
I got some hot cocoa and Josh talked to the aid-station volunteers. They said they didn't have an official cut off, but the cut off to get to Damascus was 8AM. I had less than two hours to get 7 miles. Josh said my pace had slowed to a 30 minute mile. I knew in my heart that there wasn't going to be a physical revial here and he had known for awhile that I wasn't getting any faster. They gave me Ramen and it turned my stomach. We were out of tricks. Game Over.
No one had cell service, Josh went up to the volunteers house up the hill and called Jenn (my first pacer) and her husband Ron. They came and picked us up since we had no idea where Chuck was. It took over 30 minutes for them to get there. I was frozen and my heart was broken.
Once we were picked up, we left the Taylor's Valley aid-station and went on to the next crew access point looking for Chuck. My truck was there, but he wasn't. We broke into my truck, got my purse and Josh's wallet with the room key and left Chuck a note that we were heading back to the hotel.
Turns out, he'd gone walking on the trail looking for us, realizing he'd made a mistake and had actually skipped the Tayor's Valley stop, when he walked up to it. Being awake for 24+ hours can mess up your crew's judgement too!
Since the race, I have had some pretty bad stomach issues and I've had a horrible cold. Feeling physically unwell in addition to the emotional upset, I am having a hard time coming to any sort of conclusion or a 'what's next'.
My thoughts and feelings have gone dramatically from one end of the spectrum to the other. One minute I'm sure that I want to tackle the distance again. The next I ponder the absolute rediculous insignifcance of moving myself forward for 100 miles.
Until inspiration strikes again....