If you don’t want the nitty gritty on an amazingly, breathtakingly, AWESOME journey – you should probably close your browser now. I am excited to write about the whacky and wild adventure that was the StageCoach Line 100 miler.
If you follow my blog, you know I have been training and working towards this culminating race for the past calendar year. Not going to lie, I experienced some serious burnout on the horizon of this event. After 10 months of intense – high mileage training – my body and mind were ready for a break. However, the break would not be awarded until my successful completion of the 100 miler!
Well, great news fam – I completed that sucker with an hour to spare. I finished in 30:06 – its was one hell of a journey. It was also 1:21 minutes faster than my previous 100 mile time. Not too shabby. As for the low down, I have a lot to share about the whirlwind of a trek.
For starters, wow! Northern Arizona is stunning. If you have never been – I highly recommend you sign up for a race and go experience it for yourself. The race started near Humphrey’s peak – the highest mountain in Arizona. The first quarter of the race was spent climbing up into some dense and beautiful aspen and pine forests. The trail was wooded, shady, and beautiful in every direction. Being late fall, the temperatures were pretty perfect for me (well, for the most part – more on that later). The colors had also started to change and the leaves were breathtaking as they shimmered in the sunlight.
I cannot say enough positive things about the race itself and the participants. Arizona is home to some incredible trail runners. Every race I have experienced on the Arizona trail has blown me away. Not just for the scenery, but for the community of people. If you aren’t familiar with ultrarunning, it might surprise you to find out that it’s much less of a competition than it is a journey. The folks you meet on the trail are typically willing to lend a hand, a glove, or even the shirt of of their back – if it means it could help you finish your journey. You meet people out there from all walks of life – everyone just out experiencing what nature has to offer while testing their limits and chasing their dreams. It’s actually one of my favorite parts about the sport. You might end up spending hours going about the same pace as someone. The time is best spent getting to know this random stranger that you are venturing on the edge of discomfort next to.
This race was no exception. After completing the Triple 50 this year, there were some familiar faces at the Stagecoach start line. It was exciting to see some of my Triple 50 pals again. Little did I know, that they would save my LIFE later in the race. Unbelievable. Just wait until you hear about it.
So, first 34 miles of the race were super smooth. I was trucking along at a solid pace. On target for a 25 hour finish. Somewhere in the next 7 miles I started to get some pretty angry blisters. I had preemptively put moleskin on some former, “trouble spots”. However, these efforts were futile. Approaching mile 50 I knew my feet were F@$!ed. But, such is life. As a relatively seasoned ultrarunner, I accepted it as it was, welcomed the discomfort, and forged on.
Approaching the mile 54.5 aid station, I looked forward to seeing my crew, getting my warm clothes, and wrapping my crying pinky toes in tape. Thankfully, I had grabbed my headlamp from the crew at the previous aid station – so I was prepared for the instant pitch black that surrounded me as soon as the sun set. I was, however, unprepared for the frigid dessert cold that came with that sunset.
I rolled into the aid station. I looked everywhere for my family. Luckily, the aid station had a cell phone booster (for emergencies). I was able to make a call to my awesome crew. Bad news, however – the road was SO SO bad that there was absolutely no way for their car to make it. And if they would have tried to drive the last 8 miles to the aid station – it would have easily taken them another 45 minutes. At this point in the race, I knew stopping for too long could be catastrophic both mentally and physically. I knew I needed to keep going – with or without the gear. WELL LET ME TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED THEN. One of my old pals from the Triple 50 just happened to be there crewing another Triple 50 compadre. These two fellas went out of their way to help me. They gave me layers to put on, gloves to keep my hands warm, and even spare batteries for my headland (just in case). It was so humbling to be given aid from random fellow ultrarunners. When I say, every competitor wants to see you succeed – this is a perfect example of how amazing the ultrarunning community is. Words cannot express how grateful I am to my Arizonan friends. I would have truly struggled to keep moving if it weren’t for their kindness and willingness to help. Of course my poor family was devastated that they weren’t able to make it. But, it was absolutely not their fault. Side note to anyone considering participating in the Stagecoach 100 – the Boundary aid station is insanely difficult to get to. Crew should allow at least an hour to get there for their runner!
Speaking of crew, HOLY HECK! I am probably the luckiest ultrarunner in the entire world. I had the best, most amazing, selfless, dedicated crew. My boyfriend, his mom, my sister, my nephew, my cousin, his daughter, and our fur baby – were AMAZING. My sister and boyfriend’s mom stayed up ALL night driving from aid station to aid station – bringing all of my supplies, helping me lance blisters, feeding me, helping me change clothes, lifting my spirits, and doing anything and everything I needed to be comfortable. So freaking selfless. My boyfriend was a true hero as well. Not only did he spend the whole day coming to aid stations, he stayed up all night so he could come out on the trail with me at mile 67.5. By this time it was COLD AF, DARK AF, and I was getting TIRED AF. Well, again, luck af for me, I had him there as a pacer. And wouldn’t you know, he didn’t stop at mile 88 like we had planned. I was hurting pretty damn bad – so he stayed with me and saw me through to the finish line. If that isn’t love – I don’t know what is. The entire time he kept encouraging me and telling me how proud of me he was. He also made jokes, stayed positive, and hustled me to keep moving when I needed it. He is and always will be MY HERO.
Another really crazy thing about ultrarunning that you might not know if you aren’t familiar is that it’s really not ONLY the runner who is doing amazing things. Sure, saying you ran 100 miles is cool BUT none of these race’s finishers would be fueled, hydrated, or successful without the awesome volunteers at the aid stations and the incredible unsung heroes that devote their time and energy to making sure their runner is safe, comfortable, happy, and in good spirits. They hurry up and wait for upwards of 30 freaking hours – Y’all are the real MVP’s! Love you to bits!
On another note. Let me tell you about miles 67.5 – 80. The most concise way to sum it up would be, “UGHHHHHHH”!!!!! It was super duper dark. Like the scary dark that feels like it’s about to swallow you whole (the only benefit to this remote desert darkness was the view of the stars – top notch for sure). Needless to say, trekking up and down mountains in the DARRRRRK ass dark slows you down quite a bit. At this point, it becomes more of a power hike than a trail run. Well, between 2am and 6am my boo and I covered a, “13 mile” segment of the trail. I say that skeptically because it seriously felt like 35 miles, folks. THE LONGEST STRETCH I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED (mentally at least). By the time we finally arrived at the mile 80 aid station – I briefly considered throwing in the towel. It had been an extremely long and extremely cold night. All I could think about was a warm breakfast and a warm bed. However, who was I kidding? I’ve never not finished an ultra and I wasn’t about to break that streak on mile 80 of 100 miler. Ha! I’m way too stubborn for that. I was also super fortunate (again) to have my honey bunny with me. He assured me that I could crush the next section and pushed me to keep on cruising. Seriously, thank god for that amazing man.
Onward and upward. The sun had come up and a new day was upon us. It was time for some caffeine and MUSIC. We tried to get the party started – although it was somewhat of a sputter, at that point. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I knew from previous experience that at this point it comes down to mind over matter. Will and determination trump failure and weakness – EVERY darn TIME. I kept telling myself, “mind over matter”. I kept moving forward knowing each step was chipping away at the remaining distance. I even thought about one of my favorite ultrarunners who has helped coach me over the years. He always uses the phrase, “relentless forward motion” – and that eloquently summarizes the mentality required to run ultras. It’s beautiful, really. I often call upon that mantra when the miles get tough.
Running 100 miles can be likened to riding waves. Some miles will be thrilling, intoxicating, and FUN. Other miles will be terrifying, defeating, and even AWFUL. What matters isn’t how you experience each wave, or in this case, mile. It’s what you chose to do with that experience. Dominate it by overcoming it with positivity and fortitude? Or let it dominate you by drowning in negative thought and insecurity. The choice is yours alone.
I chose pretty wisely on this journey. Even though I had some REALLY tough waves. I didn’t let them drown me. I chose to refocus on positives and keep moving forward. Another beautiful analogy that can be applied to so much more than just trail running.
Approaching the last 12 miles was a great feeling. Although, it also felt like some of the longest miles I have ever “ran”. I use that term lightly here because even my fastest effort by this point in the journey was no more than a slog. The sun had started to beat us down. Low on water, we trudged toward the last aid station. What felt like 97 years finally got ya to mile 97. Although, we did question if we would EVER make it to that freaking aid station. The heat and dehydration also made us start seeing funny things in the distance. Is that a tent up ahead? Oh, no it’s just some pink elephants. HA!
Long story not so short – we were just miles away from the finish. Strangely enough, my body was able to run again. This is proof that your body is so much more capable than your mind thinks it is. We ran it in for a downhill finish – and a 30 hour, 100 miles journey was over – just like that. I was greeted at the finish with a champagne shower and sparkly signs as my family and crew cheered loudly and of course captured the ending on film.
I am humbled by the love and support I was showered with over the weekend. It was an amazing adventure and I am so grateful to be able to continue chasing down dreams and pushing limits. Full send. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Crazy K-Z 💕