Well, I must say that I am still buzzing with the energy and excitement that overflowed out of me this weekend from being able to experience RDL100 with all of you unbelievably crazy, fun, awesome, amazing, talented, inspiring, and badass people!
I had the pleasure of being given the opportunity to pace the most wonderful Christy Bentivoglio from Cool to Rattlesnake, which, by default, meant I got to hang out with Bill Rundle and Jenni Love, her devoted crew, as an added bonus! The stretch through which I would pace Christy was a little over 32 miles, and we would share those dark, cold, tough miles through the long night. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that for anything! I love those trails, and I run them myself as often as I can. I know them well, in the daylight, but nighttime brings a different perspective entirely. I was excited. The American River Canyon trails feel like home to me, and I am so lucky to have them in my virtual backyard, and even luckier that I live so close to the endurance capital of the world. It is events like this, that give this area its claim to fame. What’s not to love?!
My pacing duties began just as the sun began to set, as Christy came into the Cool aid station looking strong and ready to roll! A slight altercation with an unfriendly race or park attendant made for some confusion and chaos, and none of us could believe that this woman was really trying to remove us from the aid station, but after that excitement died down, and Jenni ensured that a letter would be written about the situation, it was time to hit the trails! Christy’s race was more than half over already, she just just had 48 miles (32 of which we would share) and all night ahead of us! Easy peasy, right?!
What an exhilarating experience it was! Shortly after we set out on the first Cool loop, we saw what we were convinced must have been a UFO sighting – the sky lit up in an awesome haze beneath the cloud cover and a blue streak of light shot out of the flying object and across the illumination, and then seemed to linger quite a while. I was awestruck. I wondered if anyone else was seeing this, and was immediately reassured when Christy said she saw it too. (The next day, we learned it was a test missile launch, but for the sake of entertainment, we will just call it UFO.) We were so distracted and in awe by the sighting that Christy finally had to force herself from watching it so she wouldn’t trip! Probably a good idea, all things considered.
A couple miles later, we had the rare privilege of a mountain lion sighting! Yes, a real mountain lion on the Olmsead Loop! Our lights caught the reflection of his eyes, and then we made out the muscular shape of his body. He was no kitty. We hesitated, contemplated. He watched us for a second, and then turned to walk away, pausing once again to look back at us. We decided to keep moving but also keep a light pointed in that direction and not turn our backs to him. I’m not going to lie, this was a little nerve wracking at the time, especially knowing we had to go back out through there one more time, and with less people the second time around! I don’t know that I would be comfortable running those trails at night alone! We made sure to give runners coming our way the heads up, but not many seemed fazed to my surprise. We were reassured by the glow of headlamps in front of and behind us, and we joked that we probably wouldn’t be the prime target being in the middle, and that we would just have to outrun those guys behind us and we’d be fine, and so we pushed on. This has been quite the year for me with wildlife sightings and encounters. I was just saying to a friend about a week ago how I had yet to see a mountain lion, but that I was quite alright with that, in fact. And then I see one! This was such an exciting and incredible experience, I still can hardly believe it.
As the miles ticked away, and we traveled through warm and cold and then colder patches, rocks and roots and more rocks, I knew there would be ups and downs, both literally and figuratively, but Christy pushed through and held it together through all the undulations, even when, as she put it, there were more “uns” than “dulations” and the trail seemed all uphill (both ways, in fact, Christy confirmed it!). We made it to Rattlesnake Bar sometime before 4am, where I was relieved of my pacing duties and passed the torch to Ellen Fletcher, who would carry her (not literally, although I’m sure Christy wouldn’t have minded) through to the finish line. Christy came through Rattlesnake, got down to business, didn’t waste any time, and headed right back out without hesitation. That woman is amazing, and so full of positivity and perseverance – she is such an inspiring friend. I am so happy and grateful to have been a part of her second 100 mile race experience. I was so happy to be at that finish line! Christy, congratulations, you busted ass and you kicked ass, you earned that finish, and you finished with smiles and sarcasm, two of the best things ever. And then you put on your pimp jacket and flashed your bling, I mean, swim jacket and belt buckle (same thing really). Ballin. And because of all that, you are my hero!
To be among so many amazing people, both friends and strangers, all smiling, friendly faces alike, and watch those bold and brave individuals cross that finish line after giving every last bit of themselves they had to offer, was such an emotional experience, words could never describe exactly how that feels to watch, and I can’t yet imagine just how it feels to be on the other side. I witnessed some of the most moving finishes I have ever seen, tears were shed all around, and emotions still overcome me just thinking about it. It filled me with such a sense of joy I don’t quite know how else to describe it. All I know is that I can’t wait to experience my own first 100 mile finish line.
This was definitely the greatest experience I have had so far as a part of the ultrarunning community, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of it. It was so fulfilling to see so many friends, new and old, and make many more new ones, and see firsthand just what you all go through during these amazing endurance challenges, these tests of character, whether you are running, crewing, supporting, directing, or pacing. I admire and respect you all, so much more than you know, and I feel honored to be among such incredible humans.
I read once that ultrarunning is analogous to peeling an onion, or something like that, and it stuck with me. It requires digging down deep, into the very core of your being, to find out what you’re made of, what’s really inside. Each time you surpass another threshold, you peel off another layer, get a little closer to your center, and expose a fresh, raw surface deeper than those with which you’ve previously been acquainted, learning your limits and then surpassing them… and this process can ignite emotions you didn’t know existed, emotions that have no words; tears, laughter, ecstasy, discovery. It is this letting go of what no longer serves you, letting go of the thoughts that get in the way, the self-imposed limitations and obstacles, pushing through the pain and resistance, and getting down to the bare bones of your being, the center of your existence, and realizing just how far you can really go, how little you really need, and how much you can really accomplish, and how profound those truths really are when you meet them for the first time. I witnessed this in so many people this weekend, and I will never forget that. That, to me, is ultrarunning. Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of this most incredible community.