During the next section of the race, I probably had the most ups and downs. Things would go from good to bad with the flip of a switch.
When leaving Panamint, Nick suggested that the girls drive out to Lone Pine to take a break and get some rest in the hotel I had reserved and he, Derek and George would take over for a bit. The girls knew that they needed to rest a bit in order to be functional later in the race, but were worried that the guys wouldn’t remember certain things. For example, I needed chapstick every so often or they knew where certain clothes were or where my white sunglasses were when I needed them. They were little things, but the girls had their system of doing things and exact places were they kept certain items. But, they put their faith in the boys and hesitantly agreed.
Derek stayed with me as my pacer for the time being. I knew that after Panamint I would be going up my 2nd major climb… Father Crowley, but I didn’t remember how soon after Panamint it would start, how steep it was nor how long it was. I guess I didn’t do my research too well! I knew that I only had a couple more hours of night left and I wanted to get as far up that hill as I could until the sun came up. I am kind of a head case when it comes to hills. If I can’t see them, I can charge up them, but the second I realize how steep they are I convince myself that I need to slow down. I’m afraid I’ll tire out too quickly. I guess I need to be more confident when it comes to hill running! Anyways, I told Derek that I just wanted to listen to my music and I told him not tell me anything about the upcoming hill. Just let me do my thing.
I could feel the climb start immediately, but surprisingly I felt really good. The shower and cat nap had rejuvenated me and I felt fresh. It actually felt really good to run again. I charged up that mountain and started to pass runners. Every time I would pass a runner I would even feel better. I hardly even stopped for aid going up the hill. I was in a groove and was afraid that if I stopped, I would have a hard time getting into it again. I ran this way for over an hour and I think I passed at least 10 runners, but then Nick informed me that he had seen Lisa and she said I needed to slow down. I still had 7 miles up the hill to go and she didn’t want to see me blow up. I reluctantly listened to my coach and crew and started to alternate running with some hiking.
This lasted for a couple miles and as I began to reach the crest of the mountain, the sun started to rise. It was perfect timing as I was able to see how far up I had just climbed. At this point though, I was starting to fade again, but I kept on trucking the best I could. I was hoping that at any time now, my mom, Jana and Traci would return. I was tired and my hip started to hurt again and I needed their peppiness to help keep me going. I kept watching cars drive by, hoping that one of them would be ours. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before I saw my silver jeep driving towards me.
It turned out that the girls did not have quite as a good time through the night as I did. I had made a reservation at the Best Western in Lone Pine for Monday, but of course it got messed up and so they drove about 50 miles to find out there was no reservation and then drove 50 miles back. Ouch.
Jana got out and paced with me a bit and it was good to have a girl to talk to for a while… no offense boys! At this point though I was falling into a deep, deep low. I was hurting, tired and pretty much just miserable. At some point my mom took Jana’s place. My mom was great and offered wonder words of encouragement, but I still had to resort on making some stops in the van to rest periodically and just collect myself. After one of my breaks, I made the mistake of asking what mile I was at. 85 I was told… I still had FIFTY miles to go, which I just couldn’t wrap my head around. I started to cry. I didn’t doubt that I was going to eventually make it, but I knew it was going to probably be another 15 hours or so out on that course and at that moment it sounded dreadful. Around that same moment, coach Lisa appeared and walked with my mom and I for a little bit. I explained to her how my hip had still been killing me since Stovepipe Wells and wasn’t getting better. I was trying to get sympathy out of the wrong person, though and she told me I needed to learn how to deal with the pain and this was something that I had signed up for. Basically.. suck it up buttercup! Pretty much it was exactly what I had needed to hear even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time. Then Lisa suggested to do some leg swings while holding onto one of the posts on the side of the road to help open up my hip. I listened to my coach and it seemed to work a little bit.
After the small pep talk, I continued to run/walk with my mom for a couple more miles. She pulled out some more letters from friends and read them to me, which helped to place me in a better mood. I cried a little and we laughed a bit, but I started to feel good enough to run a little again. Then to top things off, Lisa found me again and told me there was actually a doctor on the crew she was on who could kinesiotape my hip! We quickly got it taped and although it didn’t help right away it definitely helped to open up my hip during the last 40 miles of the race.
I decided I wanted to run alone for a while after that. I was starting to come out of my low and I just wanted some time to myself to reflect on how far I had come and how much farther I had to go. Not too much longer later I passed though the Darwin checkpoint, mile 90, in 24 hours, 44 minutes. I was surprised to see one of my “Mas Loco” friends who I had ran the Copper Canyon 50 mile with, Chris Rios, at the time station and was greeted with the biggest hug ever.
I continued to run the next couple miles alone, but things started to go downhill fast again. Caffeine was wearing off and I started to become drowsy. I also started to feel my blood sugar levels start to drop a little. I stopped at the van again to compose myself a little and told my crew that I had wanted some sweedish fish or gummy bears. They were having a hard time finding the candy so I told them that I would get on going and then they could run the candy up to me when they found it. However, they didn’t quite understand or realize quite how bad I needed some sugar and ended up driving off to the next stop. I kind of started to freak out a bit because I had my mind set on some sugar, which I didn’t get and so started bonking really fast. I was also running alone and so I couldn’t have my pacer run up ahead to grab food.
Of course I made it the mile stretch to the car, but when I did I needed another break. I told my crew I needed 20 min to try and fall asleep and that they needed to leave me alone. I could hear them plotting though from outside the car saying how they were going to force me to drink some Vitargo before they were going to let me run again.
Basically I knew I was going to have no choice on the matter, so I gave in without a fight. When my nap break was up, they asked if I would have a bottle of Vitargo and so I said, “sure,” which totally caught them off guard. They were expecting me to put up a fight. Even though I was starting to get a little sick of Vitargo after have been drinking it for more than a day, the 300 calorie serving greatly helped to raise my blood sugar and I felt significantly better after only a couple minutes.
My mom joined me back out on the road when I got going again. I know when I first started thinking about who I wanted on my crew, I didn’t want her, but I was so happy that I had changed my mind. I guess I thought that when I had my low points during the race, it would be hard for her to see me so miserable and I didn’t want her to see me like that. However, it was during my low points that she turned out to be exactly what I needed. She never showed signs of feeling sorry for me. During this next portion we would pick a certain landmark to run to. Once we got there, we picked another one to walk to. We repeated this process for several miles until we finally came to one of the biggest milestones in the race… mile 100. Basically all I had was a 50k to go now!
When I got to mile 100 (which was about 27.5 hours into the race) I was happily surprised to see that my crew had written on the road with some sidewalk chalk. Things like, “We ❤ Alexa,” “Lisa is watching you!” lol and “Hi!!!! Rockstar!!!”…(inside joke lol). It’s funny how such simple things can make you so happy during ultras. Sometimes it’s almost as if your mindset goes back to that of a child. Also sometimes, your crew is almost forced to treat you like a child as well… forcing you to eat and drink, asking if you need to go potty. Stuff like that. Sidewalk chalk definitely made me really excited though.
My mom continued with me for a couple more miles after the 100 mile mark and then Jana took over for a bit. During this section, one of the other runners, Claire (who was the only other girl younger than me in the race), and I started to go back and forth a lot and this is when crazy incident #2 happened. Claire’s crew vehicle stopped working. The temperatures were starting to rise back up a bit too. Not as hot as the previous day, but hot enough where we still needed aid and fresh water about every mile. Of course we were not going to leave her hanging and so her crew transported Claire’s major necessities into my second crew vehicle. Neither crew wanted to freak Claire out and so they didn’t want to tell her what actually happened. Runners just don’t need that kind of stress during the race. But of course she was going to wonder why she was being crewed by a different vehicle, so my crew told her crew to tell her that they just had to go run into town for an errand. However, in their quick thinking they ended up telling her that the errand was that they had to take one of her crew members to the hospital, which was pretty much worse than the car breaking down. But then it eventually came out that her car broke down and I could tell she was majorly stressed. I don’t blame her, I would be too. Jana and I stayed with her and her pacer for a little bit and I tried to cheer her up a bit and convince her that my crew was on top of everything and everyone had the situation under control. We ended up crewing Claire for about 5 miles or so until her team got the car running again. Everything ended up being just fine.
Around 110 miles, Traci jumped back in to pace. Things were still off and on good and bad for me. We power walked with Claire for a little bit more. Her blisters were so bad that she couldn’t run anymore. To take our mind off the pain we started doing Army chants. Claire is in the army and so she would yell out a verse and the rest of us would repeat. It was quite silly, but a memorable moment of the race.
A mile or so later, I was surprised again by my crew. This time with my favorite food during an ultra… a McDonalds plain hamburger and french fries. Holy crap, it was delicious. I scarfed it down in about 2 seconds and then was back out to run. I even ran 2 whole miles without taking walk breaks, which was a big deal for me this far into the race! Traci was so proud and told me how I was flying doing a 11 minute mile and 10 minute mile back to back.
I think I had exerted myself a tad too hard and just needed to sit in the car one more time for a couple minutes. My feet were also killing me and needed a break. I didn’t have any major blistering going on, but I get this problem where after 60-70 miles of running they get extremely itchy! This had been going on for quite a while now and it was just so uncomfortable, I couldn’t take it any longer! I laid in the back of the van and Jana and my mom each grabbed a foot and massaged my feet out for 5 minutes. OMG, it was the best feeling ever. I can’t even explain. Then instead of putting my shoes back on, I put on my Crocs. Traci and I also came up with a new game plan… We would run to TWO poles that were spaced out on the side of the road, and then walk one. Before we had been doing run one pole, walk one.
We left the van, put our headphones on and went to work. We had maybe 8 miles until we reached the city of Lone Pine and we just needed to get it done. Our new system turned out to be great and we got into an awesome groove. Over the next few miles we would pass 3 runners. I started to feel good again and so not wanting to stop me in my good rythym, Traci would run up ahead of me for new bottles of water or Vitargo and then run them back to me so I wouldn’t have to stop at all. She would even bring back 2 at a time so we could last 2 miles without aid and distractions.
This part of the race was maybe the highlight for me. I was so proud of myself for being able to run so strong after 110 miles. Also each step I took was a new distance PR for me since the farthest I had ever ran was 101 miles and I was moving well! During one of the sections that Traci had ran back to get new water and I was by myself for a few moments, the road had turned slightly and all of a sudden I could see the city of Lone Pine. Once again, I started to cry, but this time with joy. We were so close now. Once we hit Lone Pine, I would have a half marathon up to Whitney Portal and I would be done.