9 months ago I went to a birthday party for a friend. The plan was to have fun, have a few drinks, and bring your credit card to sign up for some ultra races.
I knew I wanted run a 100 mile race before I turned 35 in August 2016. I signed up for Zion 100 even before completing the Squamish 50/50 and not knowing if I would be able to run that race, let alone run 100 miles.
I in August 2015 I ran Squamish and finished as the 4th place female finisher. Then I knew I just needed to put my head into training for the 100 miles.
I made my own training schedule. I looked into hiring coaches but they were very expensive. My friends told me if I did finish Squamish, I could finish 100 miles and if anyone could do it, it would be me ("because you're crazy" they said).
I asked a running friend (my clinic leader for my first marathon) for advice who had run Western States twice (oldest and largest 100 mile trail run in the US) and he shared a training plan with me.
I started seriously training in October. On an average week, I ran 80-100 miles, 4 hours of stairs, plus 5 gym sessions, and individual workouts (like TRX, water running, and spinning). I did a lot of runs from Deep Cove and up BCMC to the top of Grouse Mountain. I just ran a lot.
My day started at 4:30 am in the morning everyday. I ran to GWA. In the afternoon I ran and went to the gym again. Every Thursday, I did 25 km (15 km on my own and 10 km with the Vancouver Running Company). On the weekends, I did double runs (30-40 km Saturday and Sunday), one day on trails and one day on roads.
Training was going very well until February when I was not feeling so great. Being a vegan is not easy with this crazy training schedule. All I wanted to do some days was sleep, and then I went to see my naturopath. I started taking a number of different supplements and took a slight break from running. After a couple of weeks, I started feeling better.
During all this, I found out in December I got into the lottery to run the Tokyo Marathon for February2016. I had never planned to run a marathon before the Zion 100 miler, now I had to do road training and trail running, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that.
I did not taper before the Tokyo Marathon. I didn't plan to race it, and didn't PB, but the trip to Tokyo was a gift - a nice break from everyday life. Running 20-30 miles a day while I was on vacation, with all day to train and not have to worry about work.
Leading up to the race, I was hitting a wall, and decided to start running with the Fraser Street Run Club for more social runs. Lots of runners from Fraser Street were running Zion.
Going into the race, I felt like I would be one of the slow girls in the Fraser Group - there were 31 of us going from Vancouver to Zion, 7 of us racing the 100 miles. I knew how amazing some of the runners were, and I was intimidated by them. But I found out they had more faith in my abilities, than I did.
I had a crew of people there to help out and a friend who offered to pace. But I wanted to do it on my own and not have anyone wait for me.
I knew I wanted to do well. 25 hours was my goal. I knew I can run 50 miles in 12 hours or less.
2 days before the race, the organizers emailed us saying the weather was going to horrible, saying we could pull out from the race, or that the race may be cut short (due to mud, wind, and rain).
After 9 months of training, thinking I may not be able to do the race or complete it, I was so sad. I decided to make the best of it, go on the trip, and see what happened. On the race morning, I woke up at 4 am and had to be ready for any weather conditions. I had drop bags at the aid stations and a few changes of clothes. We started the race at 6 am.
Before the race, everything hurt and I was so mad. My back, my hip, my ankle. But that's tapering and I started the race with a very positive attitude. Everyone was asking me why I was so happy!
I was also worried about eating during the race being a vegan. I also hate eating and running at the same time, but I knew I had to force myself to eat during 100 mile. I decided to go with baby food while running and eat avocado, candy, pickles, fig bars, and bread at aid stations. My crew took care of me at every aid station and it was so nice to see familiar faces during the course.
Once I started running, I felt great. At 50 miles, I knew I was going to finish. The only thing that was going to stop me was the weather, or if something unexpected happened to me during the race. I was smiling at everyone.
During the race, we even had to climb a rope! That training at GWA really paid off.
Just over 50 miles, I made a new friend - Russell. I knew he was having a hard time and I said let's run together or speed walk for the entire race. We started chatting, he told me about his family, wife, and kids. I was worried about running alone at time, especially with the animals out there.
I saw my friend who was supposed to pace me originally. He was pacing another friend of ours. Since I had Russell, I told them go ahead, and I would finish without them.
It became very muddy and the rain was horrible. We speed walked a lot. From 10:30 pm to 5:30 am we didn't see anyone else. Once the rain stopped, we were able to start running more.
At mile 78, we had to stop because we were so cold. I sat in a tent for 5-10 minutes with a blanket around me and my friends helped me change and forced me to eat. Russell's wife then joined us.
We took another break after doing several loops. Despite having so many layers on, we were still so cold. The rain started picking up again. We were running in mud and it was so hard to move our feet.
I looked at Russell and said we should stop taking breaks if we wanted to meet our time goals - now 26 hours. At the aid stations, people were lying down on the floor, trying to warm up and waiting for it to stop raining. We were getting a lot of negative vibes from people there.
Russell's wife joined us, despite not having run that far before. It was a 7 mile loop that took over 2 hours to do because of the weather conditions. It was so hard.
We had 9 miles to the end, it was 7 am and starting to get light. When we got back to the aid station, we couldn't see anyone else. It turns out the course was closed, because of the rain. We were the last 100 miler finishers - they closed the course, and they were sending other people straight to the finish line (without completing all the required loops).
I looked at Russell, gave each other a hug, and started to cry. We were going to be 100 mile finishers. We felt great, we weren't limping. All we had to do was make it 6 miles to the finish. Running in the mud was horrible. We definitely hadn't trained for this.
I ran and walked the last 6 miles. The last 100 meters I sprinted to the end and felt great. I was in shock (and still am) that I did it. The only part of my body that was hurting was my swollen ankles (I didn't want to waste time changing my socks at the aid stations). When I finished, people asked how I did it. They came up to me throughout the race and told me I look so strong. Others legs were shaky, but mine weren't wobbly.
After getting my buckle I went home, showered, and relaxed with friends. The next morning, I even went for a 10 mile run/hike with a group. I knew on Sunday after the race, my recovery wasn't going to be too bad. I think a big part of that was all the strength training I did at GWA.
Working out at GWA for the last 4 years has made a huge different for me. How do you run 100 miles? It's more mental than physical and knowing that you are strong.