Short version: Nanny Goat was supposed to be my 4th 100-miler (all taking place in a span of 16 weeks), and I planned for a PR. However, knee pain prompted me to drop at mile 63. I have no regrets. After resting for about 8 hours, my knee felt quite a bit better and I actually went out to pace some other people at the end of their 100-mile races. Total mileage with pacing was about 74 miles. I would have liked another buckle, but it wasn’t worth risking injury. This also enabled me to go out and help some friends with their races. While the event turned out totally different than I had anticipated, it was a very rewarding experience.
Much longer version:
I completed my first 100-mile race at the beginning of February, followed by another one 6 weeks later, another one 5 weeks later, and then Nanny Goat 100 planned for last weekend. I had high hopes for this race. I’ve learned a lot in each one of my ultras, but 100-milers in particular intrigue me because so much can happen in the last 30 miles or so. But this is part of what I love about them. If it was easy and races went perfectly, they wouldn’t be appealing. As much as I want things to go well, I love challenges.
My PR going into the race was 24:53 set on a similar flat loop course a couple months prior. I had trained well, peaking at a 90-mile week which included a 47-mile weekend. I felt great and went into the race seeking a PR. I’ve put less emphasis on even pacing in ultras recently because I feel like it drags me down and makes racing not as enjoyable. I’ve always been a very analytic runner. I love numbers, and I love my Garmin. But I’ve tried to get away from that. I greatly attribute my attitude shift to Eric Clifton.
Eric was the second well-known ultrarunner I ever learned about, but for 4 years, I only knew about him from what I’d read (and later watching “Running on the Sun,” which chronicled the 1999 Badwater 135 race, which he won). Eric’s a heart runner. He runs as hard as he can for as long as he can. This has resulted in some huge successes, including records that stood 15+ years. As one might expect, this strategy has also led to some equally epic failures. Eric and his outlook on running (and life in general) intrigue me. I could talk to him for hours and not get tired of hearing what he has to say (and I have had the opportunity to do that).
Eric encouraged me in my second 100-miler in March to take a risk and not run conservatively. I ran by feel and got a PR by almost 4.5 hours. In my third 100-miler last month, I committed to it just in time to start my taper, so I ran it somewhat conservatively. But going into Nanny Goat, I wanted to try his strategy again. Of course I knew that doing this would lead to a huge PR or crashing and burning, but I’ve discovered that I love racing in the moment and am much happier running by feel and risking a meltdown than I am focusing on numbers and running “smartly.” I’m not saying this is the “better” way, but I am saying that it’s becoming my preferred way of approaching ultras.
I looked forward to Nanny Goat as I knew a handful of people who would be there. I was carpooling with my friend Colleen who I met at my second 100-miler (and who also ran my third 100-miler), as she lives relatively nearby. Our 4-hour trip to southern California was uneventful, and we arrived at the race site in the early afternoon the day prior to the race.
The course is a 1-mile loop that starts/finishes in a barn. (This is not nearly as torturous as people assume.) There were about a dozen stalls in the barn that groups of people could claim. A group of us had chatted a few days prior, so by the time Colleen and I arrived, someone had already claimed our stall and all of our names were written on it. I smiled because I already felt at home. Other “room mates” besides Colleen were Mitch, Josh, Eric, and Jeff. Mitch and I cross paths at a lot of races, and I first met him at a 12-hour race I did last summer. He was also at my 100-miler last month. I met Josh at my second 100-miler (and again at my third 100-miler); coincidentally, his first 100-miler a few years ago was at Rocky Raccoon, which was where I ran my first one this year. Josh is also the founder of the Run It Fast club, which is a community of people who encourage each other to push beyond their personal limits. (FYI, “fast” is relative, as evidenced by the fact I’m one of the newest members of the club.) I met Eric at my 100-miler last month; he’d been at my second 100-miler too, but I don’t recall seeing him there. I had never met Jeff in person, but we’d chatted a bit online leading up to this race.
At the race site, I ran into a ton of people I knew and got introduced to a bunch of others. There were many hugs and goofy poses. Colleen is very photogenic, and she has a certain pose she does. I won’t try to explain it. Just look at the photos and you’ll see her doing it and the rest of us–why? Because it was fun. I also got to meet the race director, Steve. He’s hilarious.
A couple group photos; I knew most of the people in them already (I’m in the jeans and red shirt):
Colleen and me with the race director:
I walked a loop of the course to see what it was like. It was essentially flat. The “worst” part of the course was a .15-mile or so section where there was grass that was uneven and had lots of potholes. I knew the novelty would wear off of this area during the race. My favorite part was a straightaway section (about .1-mile) that was shaded by orange trees; at the end of it, runners ran partially around a goat pen (yes, a literal goat pen) and then through the barn, around a curve, and a gradual downhill for another .1-.15 mile. There was an out-and-back section that I didn’t care for, particularly the hairpin turn at the end of it.
Colleen and I discovered our stall was barren, unlike the other ones, so we made a trip to the dollar store to shop for some Hawaiian themed decorations. We came back and quickly decorated before heading to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with over a dozen other runners. Not everyone who went to the dinner knew everyone else, but it seemed like everyone quickly got acquainted, and I don’t think anyone felt left out.
Our barren stall:
After our trip to the dollar store:
After dinner, Colleen and I drove to the home of Evelein and Sebastiaan, two runners we didn’t know. Ed (the Jester) had seen one of us mention looking for a place to stay the night before the race, and he put us in touch with that couple who belonged to his running club and were interested in hosting out-of-town runners. They were really nice. They’d actually offered to make us dinner, even though we decided to go out with the group; we invited them, but they declined.
Saturday morning, Colleen and I went to the race site at 6:30 for an 8am start. All check-ins were done on race day, so there was a decent line when we got there, but we quickly got our bibs and swag. Timing was done by a bracelet that contained a timing device; there was a sensor we passed each lap that read the bracelet and displayed our name, time, and mileage each loop on the barn wall.
“Room mates”: Mitch, me, Josh, Colleen, and Jeff (Eric was missing):
Some more pre-race group photos:
Colleen and me in front of the live streaming web cam (where we smiled and waved at all 4 viewers, haha):
Outside of the barn, doing the “Colleen pose” before the race:
One of the most memorable people pre-race was my friend Tony, Endorphin Dude to some who know him. He ran the race last year and had a pretty epic meltdown and stopped at mile 88. He came back this year for redemption. As a result, he didn’t bring his notorious cape, decided not to take photos during the race, and opted not to do any of the other silly stuff that he normally does. I will point out that since Nanny Goat last year, Tony’s completed 2 100-milers; I was at his second one and accompanied him on his last loop. This year at Nanny Goat, Tony declared he was “all business.”
Me with Eric and Tony pre-race:
Me with Josh:
With Eric and Jeff:
I had to laugh when all nearly 200 of us gathered in the goat pen and the announcement was made for people who “weren’t very fast” to move to the back, and about 90% of people moved back. Someone sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, and then we were off.
The race started out with some cloud cover which was really nice. It was a bit crowded the first couple loops before people spread out, but it wasn’t too bad. I was just enjoying the opportunity to be surrounded by so many friends. At the very first out-and-back, as I was approaching it, my friend Brady who was coming back from it sprayed me with his water bottle. I figured it was going to be a fun day! I didn’t run with anyone in particular, but there were so many runners (and walkers) out there that there was always someone to talk to if I wanted. The out-and-back section was nice in the respect that you got to cross lots of people going to and from the turnaround point. I tried to always say something to the people whose names I knew.
Early on, I was making myself walk part of the grassy area (one minute each lap) as I felt like I was expending more effort than necessary when I ran it. I was running the rest. My average pace (including walking) was consistently 10-something minute miles, and I felt fine. A 9-something minute mile slipped in there somewhere, but only once. Everyone seemed to be moving at really good paces.
At mile 18, I noticed a hotspot and chose to deal with it ASAP. When I went into the stall, Eric was there. He had knee issues and was trying to remedy his situation with tape or something to get back out. I didn’t have tape or know how to use tape, but I gave him an alcohol towellette to at least clean the area so the tape would hopefully stick. After I fixed my foot and did what I thought I could to help him, I got back out on the course. It’s funny because I thought I would have been frustrated to have to stop so early to take care of my own issue, let alone taking additional time to help someone else, but that wasn’t the case. The day was young, and I wanted to stay out there as long as possible; I also wanted my friends to be out there as long as possible too.
My average pace, not including stops, stayed at 10-something minute miles for quite a while. As the clouds burned off, it got warmer. It wasn’t “hot,” but the weather change was noticeably slowing people down. I normally don’t have any stomach issues, but I started to feel a bit nauseous around the marathon point. I kept going, expecting the feeling to pass. By the time I got to 30 miles, I’d still been keeping my moving pace under an 11:00 pace, but I wasn’t feeling better, so I opted to slow down more. My running pace (or effort, as I was only looking at mile splits, never instantaneous pace) remained the same, but I walked more. Another issue I had was the amount of dirt in the air. I have asthma, and stuff in the air irritates my breathing. I always develop a cough when I run, but in ultras, I can normally stave it off for many hours due to the lower effort level early on. But I developed it in this race earlier than I’d hoped. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was annoying and did slow me down.
There were a handful of photos taken of me mid-race; here are a few:
The warmer weather seemed to affect a lot of people. The smarter people resorted to walking a lot more to save their energy for when it got cooler. There were a lot of people throwing up and not being able to keep food down. I was forcing myself to eat, but my stomach continued to feel terrible. One older man, who was 81, actually collapsed on the course and was taken away by ambulance. I think it made everyone else pay a little more attention to what they were doing and ensure they weren’t pushing themselves too much. (The only “perk” of the warmer weather was that people started taking their shirts off, and half-clothed fit people aren’t too hard to look at.)
At mile 40, I still wasn’t feeling well, but I was running a bit with my friend Chris and new friend Andrea. All three of us were at the exact same point; those two both went on to run over 100 miles in 24 hours. At mile 41, I got a popsicle, which is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten in a race. I felt a bit better after eating that, but that was short-lived. I was retreating to the stall more than I wanted. But I had more hotspots to deal with and just felt sick. At one point, 4 out of the 6 of us assigned to the stall were in there in various stages of brokenness. I knew my issues didn’t set me apart as there were people feeling worse than I was. I discovered this when I tried to get the other 3 to come out with me for a walking loop (any forward motion is better than none), and no one wanted to go, so I went out alone.
I wasn’t having a good race. I don’t mean that I didn’t like my time (as ultras in particular are defined by so much more than that); I mean that I felt pretty awful. And I’d begun having some issues with my right knee, which is a knee I’d previously had some problems with about a year and a half ago that knocked me out of running for a full month. I remember my friend Brady catching up to me and exclaiming, “I finally caught you after chasing you for 48 miles!” That made me laugh; I was a mile or two ahead of him at that point. We ran together a bit before parting ways. Somewhere around this point, I met a guy named Geoff who I stayed with for about a mile. He was running Badwater this year, and got accepted in spite of the fact he’d never crewed there before. Since I crewed one of my friends there last year and had written about my experiences and lessons learned, I told him I would send him the link to that in the eent he wanted to pass it on to his crew. I noted that he must be having a bad day too as he was just a couple miles ahead of me at that point.
I made it to 50 miles in 11:13. I can typically get to the 50-mile point in races quicker, but considering all of my breaks, I was surprised it hadn’t taken me longer. I continued to feel sick. One nice lady shared some ginger chews with me, which helped a little bit.
Shortly before the 12-hour point, I found myself walking with a new friend, Leon. He’d been flying around the course early in the race but was now moving at my pace. This was not just his first 100-miler but his first ultra. He wasn’t feeling well and said he was considering downgrading to the 12-hour. He was well over 60 miles by that point. I told him that even if he kept moving at the pace he was currently going, he could still break 24 hours for the 100. It seemed like he felt pressured to make a quick decision since the 12-hour point was approaching. (People could freely switch between the 12-hour, 24-hour, and 100-miler midrace. If you stopped under 12 hours, you were included in the 12-hour results. If you kept going past 12 hours, you were included in the 24-hour. If you reached 100 miles before 24 hours, you got included in the 100-mile and 24-hour results and had the option to continue to 24 hours. If you reached at least 86 miles by 24 hours, you could keep going to 100 miles and had 4 additional hours to get there.) I told him not to base his decision on the 12-hour point because he was probably just in a low point that would pass. I encouraged him to keep going and if he still felt like stopping later on, he could stop then; the only difference would be that his results would show up in the 24-hour instead of the 12-hour, which was a minor technicality.
My knee continued to bother me, which troubled me. Ultras hurt, and my knees always hurt eventually from the constant pounding, but this is always both knees. Pain in just one knee was concerning to me. When the pain eventually moved to a different part of my left knee as a result of compensating for pain in my knee, I was also concerned but kept moving. My friend Josh, who’s an awesome runner, dropped down to the 12-hour. One of his deciding factors was that he’d taken 2 pain pills and his knees didn’t feel like they should have after taking that medication; I kept this in mind. I was bummed about him dropping down because I really like Josh and he’s always encouraging out on the course, but I understood his decision as I secretly wondered if I faced the same fate.
I continued to move forward and took two pain pills. An hour later, I took two more. Not only did they not seem to mask the pain at all (as they should have), but I started to develop pain in my right IT band. I went back to the stall and talked to Josh and Eric. Josh had already dropped and tried to encourage me to go back out, as I would expect any good friend would. But it just wasn’t worth the risk of injury to me. Eric had knee issues too, and after reiterating to him multiple times throughout the day that a single race was not worth seriously injuring himself, I realized that I needed to listen to what I was sincerely telling him (and a couple other people).
At that point, Eric was at 47 miles and I was at 60. He wanted to get to 50 miles and I realized 100k didn’t sound too bad for me. We went out and slowly did a loop together before grabbing a beer for two final “beer loops.” We chatted a lot. Eric had dropped out his last 100-miler too (my third 100) after not being able to keep food down, so it was sad to see him not reach his goal again, but I knew he’d made the right decision. We spent the last couple loops encouraging others and eventually made it back to our stall.
While sitting in the stall, I was a bit torn between being silent and not drawing attention to the fact I’d dropped and continuing to cheer others on. This isn’t likely for the reason it seems. I was at peace with my decision and I didn’t have a problem with people knowing. However, there were quite a few people dropping and I didn’t want this to unintentionally provide someone going through a low point justification to drop unnecessarily. I picked up on this when I told Colleen and she hinted that maybe she should stop too. She’d had knee issues too, but said she was feeling okay; I told her to keep going and to do her own race.
There was a period of time where I tried to sleep in a chair with my legs over the edge, somewhat elevated. My knees ached so much just sitting there. Sitting there, I was confident I could have kept going and gotten to 100 miles in less than 28 hours, but it just wasn’t worth the price it would cost me. I’m determined, but I wasn’t willing to risk seriously injuring myself for that race. Had it been a different race, like my first 100-miler, I might have made a different decision; I had a finish-at-almost-all-costs mentality in that race. But now, I have nothing to prove to anyone, including myself. I think I slept about an hour.
My dad, who lives just a couple hours from the race, wanted to come see me finish. I called him late the night before and told him about my decision to drop. He said he understood, and I was glad he still decided to make the drive to pay me a visit. He showed up early, around 6am. Even though I wasn’t running, I was happy to see him and I was also glad he got to see part of the race. He stayed about an hour before heading back home.
About 8 hours after doing my 63rd loop, I decided to officially get my timing band cut off. I’d laughed at Eric a couple hours earlier when he’d gotten too close to the sensor, registered an extra lap, and went back out to make his actual laps register the number of registered laps. As Steve was cutting my band off, Eric started laughing and I looked up at the barn wall to see it registered another lap for me. Steve said it was no big deal and there would just be a one lap discrepancy. I was sure I could talk to the timing people to get that one deleted, but instead, I went back out to walk a lap. I ran into my friend Vanessa who was also walking, so we did the lap together. My knee felt quite a bit better. However, I don’t think it could have handled being out there for 28 hours non-stop, at least without injury.
After my 64th loop, I was just hanging out in the barn cheering for people coming through. Seriously, if you want to witness triumphs of the human spirit and see just how far people can push themselves, come to the finish line of a 100-miler (or work an aid station near the end). I was so proud of everyone who had been out there all night and continued to move forward, now close to the 24-hour mark.
I never intended to go back out on the course, but it just sort of happened. I’d been trying to get things for runners when they came through (pain pills, coffee, batteries, gels, ramen noodles, etc.) when my friend Brady came through and asked for a gel. There weren’t any out at the aid station, so I went to get some from my private stash. By the time I got a selection (I wanted him to have a few options), he was already out on the course, so I went back out to catch up with him. After I caught up with him, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep him company for a loop.
I really like Brady. I just met him in person the week prior, but we’d been Facebook friends for a couple months. My first knowledge of his family came last year when I crewed for my friend Karla at Badwater. Ed the Jester, who had hooked Karla and me up, had very colorful attire, and I noticed the day prior to the race that there was a “mini-Jester” accompanying Ed and his pacers. The kid was named Colby, and Brady is his dad. I read a report Colby had written after Badwater and continued this kid’s progress is races… his first marathon late last year, his first ultra at the beginning of this year, his first 100k in March, and then I saw him and his parents at my second 100-miler. I didn’t get to meet Brady, but I met his wife Shawna and saw all three of them a lot on the course. A week prior to Nanny Goat, Colby (at the age of 12!) became the youngest known 100-mile trail race finisher. I had the awesome opportunity to spend the final 7 miles with him and a few others (including Ed and Brady).
Brady’s a Marine. There was a woman out on the course carrying a flag for 24 hours to raise money for a military charity. Brady insisted on catching up to her when she was within sight of us. She was just walking but had a good walking pace, and Brady paced off of her. While I don’t think we ever mentioned it during the race, I knew Brady and I both realized it was Memorial Day weekend. Being in the Air Force, Memorial Day causes me to reflect on friends who have died in combat. Two in particular always come to mind. The 4-year anniversary of my friend Roz Schulte’s death just passed a few days prior. Roz was my first friend ever killed in action. She was an intel officer deployed to Afghanistan; she was a strong, confident woman who was also incredibly compassionate. Her life was cut short when her vehicle hit an IED. The other person I always think about is Nate Nylander. Just over two year ago, when an Afghan military member opened fire in a briefing room, Nate, who was in an adjacent area, ran toward the sound of gunfire in an effort to help others. In his efforts, he thought he incapacitated the gunman, but this wasn’t the case and led to a shootout. Unfortunately, Nate’s gun jammed and he was killed. However, his actions prevented further loss of lives as others were able to escape unharmed. I also did not realize until after the race when I looked at his Facebook page that Brady had dedicated his final 50 miles at Nanny Goat to a fallen hero: Marine Sgt Trevor Johnson.
After doing the first loop with Brady, I decided to stay with him for a couple more. He wasn’t quite to 90 miles, so I didn’t plan to stay with him the rest of the time as I didn’t think my knee could handle it, but I wanted to keep him company while I could. I refilled his water bottle, got him gels and oranges, kept him company, and tried to encourage him to run when he probably didn’t want to. I tried to stay positive for his sake. Late in a race like that, I know (from seeing others and from personal experience) that people’s moods are very unstable and that mental lows are more easily triggered than mental highs, so while I joked around, I tried to remain cognizant of what I was saying.
At one point, I reminded Brady that the weekend before, Colby had broken down his race into 5-mile segments, so I told him he only had about two “Colby segments” left. Colby and Shawna were supposed to get to the race near the time he was finishing, but it was dependent on flights as they were returning from a trip. I think it’s so neat that Brady and Shawna have set a positive example for their kids and that Colby had a 100-miler under his belt (and a buckle ON his belt) and that even his 6-year-old sister Mimi loved running, including a difficult 10k trail run the week prior.
I thought it was funny that I completed three more loops within the 24 hours than I’d gotten credit for. I’m assuming I could have brought it up at the time and maybe gotten credit, even though I’d removed my timing bracelet, but it wasn’t important. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter whether I got credit for 64 or 67 miles. My race was over and the experience wasn’t about me. However, I did take a break after 4 loops of pacing Brady; I didn’t want to leave him by himself, but our mutual friend Ryan had come out to help out and he stayed with him a few miles. Ryan actually paced a handful of people throughout the race.
During the break, I rested my knee, drank some water, and ate a quesadilla. I also cheered as runners continued to go through the barn, some finishing their 100-milers and others with a few miles still left. My friend Mark came back, after doing something terrible to his knee the previous day, to cheer runners on. He even kept Brady company for part of a loop. His beautiful new bride Sharill also came back out; she had walked 20 miles the previous day.
Tony was pacing runners on their last laps, and when a finisher was coming through, he’d announce it and everyone would get up and yell and cheer (more than usual) and take photos. He was really in his element. Oh, you’re probably wondering about Tony’s own “redemption” race… It didn’t really happen.
Tony struggled a lot early on with keeping food down. He’d put a ton of pressure on himself and did not seem to be enjoying himself in the ways he normally does. He got as far as mile 43 before having a meltdown of sorts. He ended up making it to mile 50. Through some heart-to-heart talks with friends, he had an epiphany. He had been concerned about what people might think, but he realized that his true friends would still love him regardless and that a buckle from this particular race wasn’t going to change anything. Once he let go of the burden of not reaching 100 miles last year, the old Tony returned. Watching him out on the course in the morning encouraging other people, taking care of their every need (including feeding Colleen pancakes off a plate while walking), and celebrating their accomplishments really made me happy. Tony’s a great person, and helping other people reach their goals in spite of not doing what he had been dwelling on for over a year showed real growth in my opinion. There was no doubt he was genuinely happy being out there.
When I took over for Ryan at mile 96, I was surprised how fast Brady was moving. As we ran down to the grassy area, we were easily under a 10-minute pace. I was glad when he chose to walk at the grass, haha. We continued chatting and I kept reminding him to drink water (de ja vu of what I remembered him telling Colby to do just a week prior). He seemed happy when I pointed out that we had less than a Colby segment left. He also looked at me at one point and said something to the effect of, “Wow, you are really filthy.” I told him I knew this, to which he responded, “No, I mean, I’ve never seen a white shirt that dirty!” Thanks, dude.
I loved seeing the runners who were still out on the course, all less than a couple hours from finishing their 100-milers. I tried to cheer for everyone and remembered that same point in my own races—so much distance covered, but still feeling like the finish line was so far away. Some of the people out there looked pretty beat up, but it was inspiring. I loved seeing Ed out there well past the 24-hour point and the completion of his own race. That’s what I love about the ultra community—people truly care about one another.
There was a woman named Danni who, with about 5 hours left, was on the very edge of being able to make the cutoff and get to 100 miles. The concern was that people tend to slow down late in a race and she actually needed to pick up the pace by about 2 minutes per mile to finish the 100 miles before the cutoff. So what happened? Ed sacrificed his own standings to ensure she made the 86 miles in 24 hours and then completed the 100 miles. Ed completed 108 miles in 24 hours, a mere 3 miles behind 3rd place, but this didn’t seem to matter to him. Seeing Ed out there in the final hours helping Danni was heart-warming. Ed is continuously a beacon of hope in these kinds of races. At one point, I counted no fewer than 8 people around him in the final several hours. Why? People know if they stick with him, they will finish.
I discovered my friend Colleen was on her final loop when we passed her on the out-and-back section. Tony had paced her a handful of miles then went to take care of Jeff who was in greater need of support at the time, so she was by herself. I got Brady through that loop and then told him I would catch back up but that I wanted to accompany Colleen at the end of her loop. I ran back to where she was to walk with her. She was in a lot of pain, but I was so proud of her. I wished I could have accompanied her more, but I realized it was impossible for me to be in multiple places at one time. I know she could have finished the race on her own, but I’ve found that company is really nice to have during long races. I encouraged her to run at the very end and she did. It was a beautiful sight to see when I announced there was a 100-mile finisher coming through and the barn erupted in cheers. I let her run through the finish area while I hung back a bit and walked around the side—it was her moment. I hugged her and then went back out on the course to catch up with Brady.
While running to catch up with Brady, I felt the blister on one of my baby toes pop under the pressure of the toe next to it. I felt the skin slide down as my now-raw baby toe constantly rubbed against the toe next to it. Had this been my own race, I am quite sure I would have stopped to assess it, but this wasn’t my race, so I quickly put it out of my mind. I had to focus on Brady, especially since there were only a few miles to go.
Brady’s friend Tanya also spent some time pacing him, including in the final few miles, so I got to talk to her a bit. As time went on and Brady’s family hadn’t arrived, I began to get concerned they wouldn’t make it by the time he finished. I tried calling his wife Shawna and then texted her. I figured she was still in the air (an accurate assumption, it turned out). I also texted her to tell her he was doing well, where he was mileage-wise, and that people had been with him non-stop for at least 15 miles (including Tanya and me at that point).
Pacing Brady with less than 4 miles to go:
Out of the blue, Brady hit a low point, but luckily this particular one wasn’t until almost mile 98. I recall an exchange where I asked him if he needed anything—Gu, water, etc. He said he “felt like goo.” I had to ask clarification whether he felt like he wanted some Gu or whether he felt like he was goo. He confirmed it was the latter. Brady still had plenty of time to make the cutoff, but I wanted to keep him moving at a decent pace and still running in some parts because I knew he could do it. At the end of the final loop, in the last .1 mile, Tanya called Shawna so he could leave a voicemail. I had wished his family would be there for his finish, but that voicemail was the next best thing and I thought it was a very sweet gesture. I really admire how close his family members are to one another.
Brady ran after hanging up the phone. Once again, I got to announce there was a 100-miler finisher coming in. I seriously don’t think I could ever get tired of doing that. And again, I stayed back a bit and let him get his buckle, take photos, etc. without getting in the way. When he went over and sat down, I asked if he needed anything. He smiled, held out his arms, and said, “A hug?” Of course. Have I mentioned how much I truly love my ultra family? Honestly, I’m closer to a lot of ultrarunners than I am many members of my own family. Running long distances bonds people together. Some of my closest friends were once strangers I met mid-race when we were both in low places.
Brady with his buckle:
As I rested a bit, I saw Mitch and Jeff pass through the barn. For some reason, I thought both of them still had two laps to go. I got antsy just sitting around, so I took a shortcut to backtrack on the course to find Jeff who looked like he was in really bad shape; Tony was with him so I knew he was in good hands, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have more company. Luckily I chose to go out when I did as he was actually on his final loop.
Jeff was moving slowly, leaning to one side, and not very responsive, but his young son was right next to him showering him with praise. It was precious to witness. At one point, Jeff told him to go ahead, but he refused and said, “No. I want to finish it with you. Together: father and son.” His son was walking right next to him with his arm tightly around his waist and his head against his chest, practically holding him up. I felt so privileged to be there to see this very special moment. As we got to the barn, Tony announced Jeff was finishing and once again, the barn erupted in cheers.
This is one of my favorite photos from the entire race. It shows Jeff and his son, his wife off to the right, and Tony and me off to the left. This was about 15 feet from Jeff’s first 100-mile finish:
Unfortunately, I realized around this point that Mitch was already done and had finished just 10 minutes before Jeff (when I’d thought he had another loop). I was happy to learn Ryan had been with him at the end, though. Next, a woman named Elsie finished (her second Nanny Goat finish), then everyone waited for Danni to come in. With seven minutes to spare, Danni crossed with finish line with Ed and a few other people, including her husband. This was so neat to see.
I know I won’t remember everyone (please forgive me), but some other notable things that I know happened at the race: My friend Kristin (who I met at my second 100-miler) completed her first 100k. Lynne, who had been the photographer at my second 100-miler, signed up for this race with the intent to do 20 miles, but she completed 50. Diana also completed 50 miles for the first time. Lots of people set distance PRs. It’s really sort of irrelevant what the numbers are—it’s just incredible to see people go farther (and in some cases WAY farther) than they ever had before. My friend Giovanni completed the 100-miler after completing his last one just a week prior. My new friend Leon, who considered stopping at 12 hours, kept going and not only finished 100 miles but did so in under 24 hours… and he’d never done an ultra before.
If you want to talk numbers, more impressive to me than the 24-hour winner (121 miles) is the guy who got second place in the 24-hour (and third place in the 100-miler)—Kent ran almost exact even splits in the 100-miler, with the last 50 miles being mere seconds quicker than the first 50. Additionally, he managed to cover significantly more miles in the last 12 hours than in the first 12 (for a total of 119 miles). Events like this give people an opportunity to test their limits, and many of them do far better than they ever thought they could do.
After the race, I took down our decorations and snuck in a shower. There was a single shower in the vicinity, and since people took showers at different times, there wasn’t a line. I was also surprised at how clean it was considering how many dozen dirty runners had been in there before me.
After showering; I was clean, but I managed to lose my hairbrush so my hair was a mess, haha. With Colleen and Tony:
Over a dozen of us went to lunch together, including some more friends who hadn’t made it to the race as well as Brady’s family who had finally arrived. I told Shawna that after spending 7 miles with Colby and then 8 miles with Brady just 7 days later, she was next on my pacing list. Lunch was fun.
This isn’t a very good photo, but this is Brady and Colby. Colby was proudly wearing his shirt and 100-mile buckle from the previous weekend.
Then Colleen and I made our way to our friend Eric’s house. He was in the process of moving and had no furniture, but we were just grateful for a place to sleep for free. He had his 4-year-old son there and I played with him a while upstairs. That kid had a lot of energy; I wish I would have had more energy to play with him more.
Monday morning, Colleen and I had breakfast with our friend Paul. Paul had attempted the 100-miler at Nanny Goat but dropped due to back pain. He had been at my second 100-miler, but I did not meet him until this race. After breakfast, Colleen and I headed back to Las Vegas. Luckily, the majority of traffic was heading in the opposite direction, so our drive wasn’t bad.
Paul, Colleen, and me at breakfast:
Looking back at Nanny Goat, I don’t have any regrets about the “running by feel” strategy I approached the race with. Even if I had tried to run more even splits, I don’t think this would have prevented my knee issues. And in future races? I plan to use the same strategy, at least for the time being. I know it sounds ridiculous, as this is a new realization for me too, but I would rather enjoy myself and crash and burn than to conservatively and safely run more even splits. I’ve discovered that even when I crash and burn, assuming I don’t have serious physical problems, it’s temporary and if I keep going, I’ll get a second (and third) wind.
I also have no regrets about stopping when I did. As I already said, I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I erred on the side of caution instead of potentially injuring myself. I would have liked another buckle, but it wasn’t worth the risks I would need to face to get it. There will be other races. Also, if I had stayed out there the entire time doing my own race, I would have missed out on the opportunities I had to help other people in their own journeys. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.
The ultrarunning community is very selfless and giving, and the people in it motivate me to be a better person. Through the current time, I feel like I have gotten so much more from others than I have given. I truly appreciate chances I have to give back, in any capacity. I doubt anyone would have dropped out if I had not been there, but I hope that in some small way, I was able to make their journey a little brighter. I try to embrace the concept of doing what I can with what I have wherever I am. At Nanny Goat, I was capable of going out and keeping some other people company, so in my mind, there was no reason not to do this. Likewise, it took virtually no effort to offer words of encouragement to others on the course. I aim to never get too wrapped up in the things I can’t do that I forget to take advantage of the things I can do, however small they may seem at the time.