This past weekend I achieved an ultra-distance run greater than 50k after over two years of recovery and attempting to build my body back up from injury and surgery. I have been hesitant to share a ton of my training or endeavors since I started coaching with Carmichael Training Systems back in July. I’ve had a series of races this year and last, along with my first ever “Did not start” (DNS) at the Silverton Ultra 100k where I just did not perform at the level I wanted to all year. It’s been a humbling experience mixed with a lot of learning and life adjusting. On Saturday I really needed a “win” and I finally snagged one. Smart training, diet, and planned recovery periods paid off. My body is at a point where I can endure and enjoy long days in the mountains again and still feel good afterwards 😊.
I began my coaching journey with Andy Jones Wilkins at the helm a few months ago. He laid out an attainable, yet tough training plan, and I did the hard work. This was a needed distance before I tackle Black Canyon 100k in Feb 2019 and attempt to qualify for the Western States Lottery early next year. Jeana and I have had a lot of good and bad life events and travel lately, so I asked to do one on my own to take off the pressure of an actual race along with stressful travel, and AJW agreed.
Could I have done this on my own with minimal support? I believe so. Would it have been as enjoyable or easy without the selfless volunteering from my friends and loved ones? Not even close. If you skip the rest of this blog and can only read one more section, read this next part about the amazing people who helped me. It’s a description of the people who encouraged, supported, motivated, and ensured that I had a great day last Saturday. I owe them everything and I don’t even feel adequately deserving of their support. I am beyond thankful for them and will do anything asked of me in the future to support a life goal of theirs:
The whole crew minus Desiree and Lynne
Daniel Padilla: I met Daniel at a Trail Ragnar with Team RWB last year. All around great guy, fellow Army vet (soon to be retired), ever-positive. What sticks out most to me about Daniel is his love and devotion to his wife and children, his faith, and love for country. Always encouraging, and publicly spreading joy, happiness, love for others, and values. His values and effort are evident in the amazing brains and athletic talent I’ve witnessed in his son! You’re awesome man. I’m honored to know you.
Desiree Ritchie: I met Desiree at the Cheyenne Mountain Run last year on a tough climb. She had just moved to the Springs with her Army husband. I continued to see her crush runs at local events and HPRS ultras. Eternally positive, super strong and fit CrossFit athlete and runner. What sticks out most to me about Desiree is her devotion to family and her extremely cute daughter, encouragement for others, strength and endurance. Thanks for sacrificing part of your day and cheering us on!
Robbie Comstock: I met Robbie through our local Brewer’s Cup events a few years ago with his hilarious wife, Shae. Robbie has not been running long, but he is super talented. Robbie is the epitome transformation when it comes to health and fitness. What sticks out to me most about Robbie is his mechanical talent, hard work, endurance, and ability to tackle some tough runs in smoking fast times. Thanks for joining us for 20 miles my man.
Carolyn Atwood: Carolyn and I met through the Brewer’s Cup as Smiling Toad teammates. We were pretty evenly matched running paces until I watched her get faster and leave me in the dust. Carolyn and her dog Watson get all the credit for solidifying my first date with Jeana two years ago! What sticks out to me most about Carolyn is her ability to go after whatever she sets her mind to and endure, as well as her loyalty, and encouragement.
Lynne Day: I met Lynne through the Brewer’s Cup as well a few years ago through mutual friends and have shared many races with her. What sticks out to me most about Lynne is her never-ending pursuit of self-improvement. I’ve watched her grow into an ultra-runner and witnessed so many accomplishments in a short period of time. Thanks for choosing to share some cold, icy miles with us on your last big run before Dead Horse 50. You rock lady. Thanks for some awesome pics!
Jay Watts: I first met Jay through the Brewer’s Cup runs (see a pattern here) and mutual friends a few years ago. We’ve solidified into running partners (when he feels like slowing down) and become closest of friends. What sticks out to me most about Jay is his endless endurance, speed, and hugely giving heart. I don’t know too many guys who would give you all that they had, but Jay is one of them. Thanks for the continuous encouragement, shared miles, friendship, listening-ear, and support. Jay, you are my brother from another mother. You ran half of this run with me and still had enough in the tank to crush Fall Series 4 the next day.
Caty Rozema: I first met Caty the same day I met Jeana after a Brewer’s Cup event at Fossil Brewing company when they were roommates. Caty is an amazing friend, hard worker, and Ember’s favorite babysitter nearly every time we need to leave town. Earlier this year, Caty crushed her first 50K at Stumptown and blazed by me around mile 20. What sticks out to me most about Caty is her relentless devotion to work, life, and others. I am not sure I’ve ever witnessed a more giving or caring person who truly cares. Thank you for supporting and crewing all day, for miles shared, your love and support of Jeana, and care for our little family. You are SO great.
Michelle Whetherhult: I met Michelle earlier this year at a Brewer’s Cup Winter Series Race. I discovered that she was getting ready to run the Never Summer 100k and we talked often of getting in some training runs. We had not had an opportunity to run together until seeing each other at the Sangre De Cristo ultras (where she ran 100k), and then this weekend where she volunteered to run all 50 miles with me after I asked her to run a “couple” pacing miles with me two weeks ago. What sticks out most to me about Michelle is her constant smile, positivity, endless strength and endurance, and embodiment of what it means to be a part of this ultra community. Thanks for setting the pace and sharing those miles with me. We are now close friends. I see more epic adventures coming. The next morning, Michelle did the incline, and then ran 7.8 miles at FS4. I can’t even… wow.
Jeana: This woman does not need an introduction. All I can say Is the love, support, encouragement, devotion, and overwhelming dedication this woman gives me is completely undeserved. My future wife, my soulmate, life partner, hot running partner, and best friend. She sacrifices so much of herself to allow me the time and effort to develop myself and follow my training plan each day. I could not do this without her. She sees me at my worst. Endures and listens to my struggles. Loves me unconditionally. Thank you for the all-day support, words of encouragement, crewing, and running the last 8 hard miles with me by headlamp to make this a (finally) successful endurance event. I love you babe. More than anything.
Back to the run. Thankfully I was able to use Strava and my knowledge of our local trails to design a run that would be very tough, yet attainable. I spent a lot of time trying to design one that would help me at Black Canyon. I decided to move the elevation gain from 11k+ to about 9k. Black Canyon is a net downhill and has 7k of climbing with 9k of descent. It’s also point to point and at a lower elevation than where I live.
My first course was essentially an out and back, but fast incoming winter weather and some time on the questionable higher elevation trails forced me to go back to the drawing board and design one where I would have less chance of encountering the slick ice that I encountered last weekend after heavy snowfall. I’m glad I did. We had amazing weather before I winter storm hit the next day. I feel very lucky.
Robbie and Michelle met me at my house and we set out around 6 am. I let them know that for once, I was starting out conservatively and we took the short neighborhood roads to Bear Creek and met Jay about two miles in. The four of us ran easily through Bear Creek Regional, up to Red Rocks and down to meet Daniel at about 6.5 miles. They all ensured that I was not moving too slow, even though I felt like I was. We talked (me mostly because I am chatty Kathy) and everything clicked off quick. Daniel was bundled up (still 25 degrees out) and waving our Flag and a Team RWB flag! That was so cool! He pumped me up. We snapped some shots and finished up the pretty, rolling miles of Red Rocks.
Daniel Padilla and Team RWB!
As we neared Intemann trail, Carolyn met us with Watson and followed us over to the Crystal Park intersection. Jeana and Caty were there and hooting and hollering like an actual aid station at a race. It was awesome. I’m sure some of the local were wondering what the heck we were doing, but it was fun. We all joked and topped off our packs, then set off for some of the first real climbing. We headed up Iron Mountain, then down and back up a steep Red Mountain climb. Michelle sped up to try and beat her Red Mountain time from earlier in the week. So impressive. This was the first part of the day where I was feeling like there was a hard effort. Good stuff about 16 miles in.
I had a small headache, but we made it over to the end of Intemann where everyone was waiting for us. More cheers and support. Some ginger ale, quick fluid top-off, and we were on our way back. The miles back to Crystal Park were good, with some uphill running mixed in. Robbie finished his 20, and I thanked him for coming with. He would also be racing tomorrow with the rest of my support crew. We filled up some more stuff and set off for the first BIG climbing effort with Carolyn joining us for a few more miles.
Carolyn left us to head home at the middle and Jay and Michelle and I set up the steep descent bypassing the waterfall all the way to the top of Section 16. That was a tough part for me, but it passed relatively quickly to the top, and then the miles were easy for the downhill to High Drive. The middle waterfall cut had some slick ice and we had to slow down a lot to avoid falling. About ¾ of the way down I passed my good buddy Jin and his wife Lorine. I told them I could not stop and said, “love you guys!” and kept running to the intersection.
On the way down section 16.
When I arrived, my daughter Anya was there to encourage me and so was Ember, our cute pup. Everyone said we looked great, and Jay said his goodbyes. He ran about ½ the distance with me. What a guy! Jin and Lorine caught up to us and we snapped some photos before getting ready to take off. I fist bumped Caty and thanked her for filling all my stuff up.
Jeana and I before heading out. Anya drew a heart.
Lynne was waiting for us there at about mile 25.5 and ready to support the hardest section of the day! She set a solid hiking pace uphill on High Drive with Michelle while I lagged a little behind on the way up. I made a mental note of the snow and ice for later in the day and Michelle reminded to stay in the mile I was in. Good advice. We trekked up and High Drive miles went quick. I took a quick breather at the top and we headed up Captain Jacks. Once there, about 28 miles in, I started to have a small low point. Nothing horrible, but my stomach was starting to feel a little queasy, and sugary food wasn’t great anymore.
Heading down Seven Bridges. We live in an amazing place!
As we hit the new cut through from the old Bear Creek trail, the shade, and slippery ice slowed us to a crawl. Michelle handed me some tums and we kept it going. I was disappointed in the extreme slowness, but it also helped revive me a bit. I was eating, drinking, and functioning as I should, and when we hit the top I was very happy. We were just about at the 50k mark. Slow, but steady. Running downhill on 7 bridges felt great until we had to slow to our turtle walk again because of the treacherous ice. There was a lot of slipping and all we could do was just laugh at ourselves because it was out of our control. 😊
Gotta stretch sometimes!
Once on Gold Camp, there was still slick snow, but not as bad for running. We turned the corner and hit the aid station where Desiree, her adorable daughter, and Jeana and Caty were waiting. I drank some broth and filled up on some more calories. We took some time there and I noticed the cold front moving in. It was very cold sitting there. We decided to don our cold gear as it would be night when we returned. I did not want my dear ones or adorable little Stella to freeze, so I asked everyone to head to the 7 bridges parking lot only a mile further down around the corner because we needed to shorten the Gold Camp out and back because we had gained a few GPS miles more than my calculated route.
Doesn't even come close to showing how slick some parts were.
Better parts of Gold Camp w/ Lynne and Michelle
We set up over the St. Mary’s Falls trail and Gold Camp was a welcome addition. I call it “sneaky climbing” because it’s steady and hard to determine why it feels challenging even though it appears flatter. We had a nice cadence of jogging and hiking up, then turned around about 2.7 miles in and had an enjoyable run down. I was so happy to be actually running around 37 miles in. We crossed the little hump and met everyone at the parking lot. It was just getting dark and we were feeling good.
Lynne ran some parking lot laps to get her 14 miles in and Stella showed me her new friend hanging around which was a fox in the parking lot who probably had too much human food because he was way too comfortable around us. I named him Chester and we snapped some photos. I hugged and thanked Desiree and she gave Lynne a ride back to her car. Michelle and I switched on our headlamp and set down the blacktop (ouch) road to Columbine Trail. Those miles went so well, and we ran some of the uphill. We caught some gorgeous views of the city lights on that section. We hit Gold Camp again, went through the tunnel and before we knew it we were back at the parking lot for the final short climb at 42 miles.
We ate some soup, had some Coke, and Jeana was ready to pace us home. We started jogging a bit uphill on High Drive, but quickly slowed to a fast hike. We hit the top in no time and the brunt of the climbing was done! 9k+ of climbing. A quick calf and hamstring stretch at the top and Michelle started off downhill to where Caty would be at the final rendezvous before the home stretch. Michelle disappeared, and I was impressed at how well she was running downhill! Jeana and I kept going, took our time on the icy spots, and met Michelle and Caty at the car. My quads hurt at this point and I felt a small tinge in my right knee. All new stuff for me. But I felt pretty good. Caty snapped an awesome shot of just Jeana’s and my own headlamp coming. I thought it was the coolest photo of the day. Quick ginger ale sip, a bite of food, and we were off.
Awesome headlamp shot! Thanks Caty.
The miles through Bear Creek were easy with just a few little bumps along the way. I love the way our city looks at night in the park. We got into lower Bear Creek and realized we would be about ½ mile short. So, we took the long loop around to my house and added a bit at the bottom and finished at my front door! When we walked in the fireplace was going, Caty, Anya, and Ember were cheering, and Caty had pizza ready for us! Caty took a final photo of Jeana, Michelle, and I, and then I collapsed by the fireplace and basked in the accomplishment while quickly replacing calories. We all sat and talked and joked for a bit and I sent a final group text thanking everyone for helping me. What an amazing day. We finished a little over 14 hours and I am confident that we could have shaved and hour or more off without the ice and snow conditions.
Back at the house! 50 miles done.
I want to thank everyone who helped me on this and I want you all to know that I gained my confidence back. I’m ready to go beat Black Canyon and hopefully get into my dream race at Western States. I’m looking forward to helping everyone achieve their own dreams next year if I can.
Thanks for reading!
(P.S.) I was a little sore and tired the next day but not horrible. Here it is on Monday, two days later, and I feel amazing. This was my ultimate goal for CTS and AJW. Feel good after!