And just like that it was over. I could not wrap my head around the fact that I was done, that was it, it was over. I sat down in Braeburn Lodge and had a coffee and a HUGE (world famous) cinnamon bun. Still trying to understand that I actually did it, 100 miles. And it did not feel like I did it. It would later, just not in that moment.
Rewind 42 hours earlier, I stood on the starting line again questioning “why” I was there. Here I was toe to toe with elite, world class athletes, Montane Yukon Arctic veterans, and then there was me. I had trained for this race, and thought I was ready, but looking around I started to question me being there. I trusted my coach Jon as well, like he said “Trust the Process” much easier said than done sometimes. Then my thoughts went to my gear, was it good, would it hold up in these extreme conditions, would I hold it all together for 100 miles. Only time would tell.
I had a friend send me an email about 2 weeks before the race and I kept a copy in my jacket pocket so that when those moments came when it was almost unbearable, I could read it and put myself in a better place. Hopefully I would not need to look at it that much.
Just before the clock counted down, I hugged and kissed my son and husband goodbye and told them I would see them at the finish line. My son ran with me as far as he could and all I wanted to do was stay with him. But looking at his smile and how happy and proud he was I knew that it was time for me to go and I would see him later. So off we all went with good paces on the Takhini River.
The trail was great this year, everyone seemed to be in really good spirits, and it felt really good. The river was amazing all in itself, in a few moments I wished it would go on for the whole 100 miles. I got to the first checkpoint much faster than I anticipated. My SPOT was still not working so I had to wait to have it fixed. I sat down, had my frostbite check and was all clear. I got a nice hot bowl of stew, a bun and a hot chocolate. It really does not get any better than that! Finally, my SPOT was fixed and I was able to leave, just as I was about to go, I heard, “Mom, Mom!! Wait! ” I turned around and there was my son running to catch up to me on my way out of Muktuk. He was so excited and happy to see me and all the racers. The dogs were howling and everything felt just right. What could go wrong, feeling like this?? So, I left feeling good and thought I have about 25-30 kms until I bivy for a few hours.
After leaving and heading back out on the Takhini, I got into a good rhythm and everything just flowed. I came around a bend and there was one of the crew members on his snowmachine and he was starting a fire. I stopped and talked with him a bit. He was there last year and was a real big help and breath of fresh air when I needed it. His kindness will not ever be forgotten, I would not have made it that far the year previous without his words of encouragement. Seeing him put me a really good mood and off I went again. I finally reached the spot where I was going to bivy and I did a check, I felt good, not too tired, so just keep going. And I did.
I made it to the Overland Trail parking lot and there was a lot of people and vehicles there. So, I decided to keep going. Another 4kms I started to realize that maybe this was a mistake. I was very tired all of a sudden and there was nowhere to put my tent up. Feeling frustrated with myself, and mad that I did not stop where I originally intended to, I had to keep going wanting nothing more than just a few minutes of sleep. I had now been going for 15+ hours and was ready for a break. I finally came to a spot where I just said, this will work, just stop already. So, I put up my tent got in my sleeping bag and tried to sleep. The moon was full and it was like a spotlight in my tent. After almost 4 hours of just rolling around I decided that this was not working and just to get on with it.
I was packing my stuff up and one of the other racers stopped to chat. I was more interested in getting my gear together and just getting back on the trail. Finally, I departed and passed him. As I continued on the trail, I was passing a lot of racers in their bivies. I was sure wishing I was them sleeping and getting a good rest. I came to a spot where a herd of Bison had run across the trail and wolf tracks were hot on their heels. It got cold that night, so there was a lot of in and out of jackets and extra layers. My hands and feet were fine, thanks to all the practice prior to the race.
The sun started to show itself as I was starting the incline between check point one and check point 2, Dog Grave Lake. I knew that this would be a bit longer with the climbs. I remembered what it was like from the year before. I could not believe the time that I was making, I was almost a day ahead from the year before and it all seemed so unreal. I loved seeing the mountains in the daylight that I did not see from the year before. It was just breath taking. I kept telling myself I earned every step and I earned every mile to be there. These were words that someone that holds a place in my heart said to me. He put things in to perspective for me. I really felt at peace.
Before I knew it, I was making the climb in to Dog Grave Lake. I pulled in to the checkpoint and was surprised to see quite a few racers. I was dead tired as I had now been awake for over 24 hours. All I wanted to do was sleep. I went in for my frostbite/blister check and again everything was fine, not even a blister. I ate my meal, and it was the best dam meal I ever had along with the hot chocolate! I talked with another racer and she asked if we would meet up, I told her I was only going a few kilometers from the check point and going to stop and sleep. So, I wished her my best and off she went and so did I. I went 5 kms from the checkpoint and found a good spot. Being as tired as I was, the idea of putting on my snowshoes to stomp out a spot was really irritating. I did it and put up my tent and tried to sleep again. I was almost asleep and a fellow racer went by and checked my bib number. That was it, I was wide awake again, and with maybe 30-40 minutes of sleep. The sun was still shining so I thought, might as well get on with it.
Again, I packed all my stuff up hoping that it would be the last time that I had to take it out and put it all back. I knew I had about 50-60kms left so off I went.
I got to see some amazing sights, the places that I went through in the dark were now in the light. I felt totally at peace. Everything really came together and then there was another climb. It was dark by then and as I got to the top there was the other racer from Dog Grave. I could not believe that I caught up to her! She told me that she was going to sleep for a bit and we would catch up. I told her I would find a spot to stop and we would meet up later. I was going through the night with a full moon and these amazing mountains views. About 8kms later I found a spot and put up my tent, and put in my foamy, my sleeping matt, and my sleeping bag. By this point I was out of a change of socks that were dry. And all 3 pairs of shoes were also wet mostly from sweat. I knew that after this I would not be able to stop. So, I tried to sleep again, and after 20 minutes another racer came and checked my Bib again, this time I said “Excuse me?” and they just said, “Oh sorry” and continued on. By then I was still awake and thought that this is impossible to sleep. I felt wide awake and decide to just pack it all up and go. It was probably the best decision that I made.
Heading down the trail with a good pace, I felt good, after about 18kms I felt very tired, so tired that I was starting to fall asleep while walking. It is a strange feeling, you are awake, but you are leaning over and almost fall over. A lot of the other racers were all biving, and I was wishing for it at that point. I had some instant coffee that I brought and decided to give it a try and see what would happen. After about 15 minutes I felt GREAT!! And thought, why have I not been doing this all along??? Soon I was on my way to Braeburn Lake and the Northern lights came out to guide me there. They were with me all the way to the finish line. You could nto have asked for anything better. I have not ever seen Northen Lights that bright and magical in all my life. It was truly spiritual. I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world and everyone that I passed that was sleeping I wanted to wake them up and say, you should be seeing this!
I went down the “tree tunnel” which seemed to take forever. It started to feel like I was being tricked you would round a corner and the same long tree tunnel would be there again. This went on for quite some time before I got to the “slow decent” on to Braeburn Lake. I was crossing lake and seen 2 dogs running around. I remember thinking, who would let their dogs out at this time of night?? Then I seen the checkpoint sign. As I got closer, I realized there were no dogs and there was no check point sign. I knew that I was hallucinating, so I kept my head down and just went as I knew I was close to the finish line. I did not think that this would ever happen to me. I kept telling myself it will be over soon and then you can sleep.
I had this trail that seemed to go on forever in the bush, with steep hills. I got to the end and could see Braeburn Lodge. I was not sure if I made it or I was imagining it. But then my friend that was part of the race crew came to greet me. I was so happy to see him. He was talking away to me and I do not think I heard a word he said. I was very happy to see Phil! I was still in disbelief that I made it. I crossed the finish line and they put the medal around my neck. I still did not believe it at this point.
I sat there drinking my coffee chatting away with the owner of the lodge. Other racers were coming in and I was looking to get out of there to have some quiet. My husband and son came to get me with some friends of ours that came to see me race. I tried to sleep on the way back to Whitehorse, but no such luck. Back in the hotel room I got to shower and told everyone I would try to sleep for a few hours. They all left, and even though I had a comfortable bed and blankets I took out my sleeping bag and slept in that. It was where I found my most comfort. At that point I was wishing I had taken longer to enjoy it more. It is truly remarkable how you find comfort in discomfort.
This is where I feel the most alive. It was where I really found myself, it was like I was finally alive again. It brings you to a place you cannot experience unless you push yourself to see what your limits are. Once it finally sunk in that yes, I did actually finish a few days later, I cried.
I would not have ever made it without my coach Jon and all his knowledge. He is very patient with my schedule that changes very quickly from time to time. He helped me realize that you need to slow down and trust the process, it really works. You have to believe that you can do it, and if you believe it, it will happen. I look forward to my next adventure with Jon assisting me every step of the way!
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