This year I chose not to camp out, instead woke up at 4 a.m. Drank some water, a cup of coffee and ate toast with nut butter. This is about all my stomach can handle before a big event. My hubby drove me to the start line where energy was high. Go Beyond events are always energizing and it's nice to see so many familiar faces. It was cold but temps were forecasted to be 30 degrees cooler than last year mid-day, with no chance of rain. I kept going back and forth long sleeve or short sleeve...in the end long sleeve it was. My gear was inspected at check-in and briefing went as usual, except for the warning of a minor bee problem on the June Lake trail, which later turned out to be a major problem.
0700...time to get rolling. As always this race doesn't start with everyone running it's more like a PT hike. The trail is fairly narrow and it's hard to get past folks initially. Eventually groups began to form and runners found their comfort zone. I cruised along feeling great until approx. 4 miles in when I felt a shocking sensation. It was like multiple shocks on my ankle, butt, and shoulder. Not knowing what happened I stopped and looked at the ground, I seriously had visions of a plant jumping out and stinging me. When I looked up I saw several runners in front of me at a standstill. I then felt more, but saw nothing. It was then I could hear people yelling and hollering. I looked down and saw hornets, some stuck to my clothing. It was strange they didn't sting at first, it was more like being zapped by electricity. I was pulling them out of my clothes. People were beginning to bush whack to get off the trail and as we moved further up you'd hear more folks yelling knowing you were about to enter the same area again. All in all, I ran through 4 swarms of them. They stung so badly but the adrenaline kicked in and I ran faster than I had planned or wanted. I just wanted to get out of the trees. It was so cold out I believe the chilly air helped suppress the pain.
Pressing on most of us did. Not without an annoying feeling mixed of mild pain and itching. The boulder field this year was wet so instead of hopping from one rock to another the process was a bit slower for me. I felt pretty good trying to block out the mental frustration from the bees. At aid station 1 I grabbed a quick coke, handful of M&M's and a Justine’s Nut Butter. In my hydration pack I had Nuun (Watermelon). The view was foggy, the sky was overcast, but it was a gorgeous morning for a trail run. I was trying to stay focused and enjoying the small talk with other runners.
By aid station 3 I was starting to cramp pretty bad and I was freezing, there was a horrible head wind that made it cold and tough for me to push through at a decent pace. As I made my way to the aid station tent one of the volunteers was trying to get me to open my pack but my fingers were so cold it wasn't happening. He filled the pack for me, and then I realized it was Yassine Diboun. He is a well-respected ultra-athlete and from this area. I remember hearing him say "Come on Nikki, only 12 more miles to go, you can do this." And off I went, feeling re-energized and rested. As we started a heavy ascent my right calf started seizing up. In the worst place possible on the side of the mountain I was lying on the ground grabbing my seizing calve. Another runner ran by and gave me a mustard packet at me to ingest, which I did along with another tablet of Nuun, in 2-3 minutes I was off running again headed for the Plains of Abraham. I was able to complete the ascent and then descend into the Plains of Abraham moving along at a good clip and again enjoying an amazing view of the mountain only this time on flat ground! Coming into aid station 4 the workers there had been notified of me being down but saw that I had recovered well. My only goal now was to eat and finish with a PR. 8 more miles to the finish!
I grabbed my Trail Butter, ate some fig newton’s, another PB&J, more coke and away I stomped. The last 8 miles was tough. It began to rain real hard and my joints were throbbing. I was wet, cold, but motivated to get this race in the books! I kept my Trail Butter easily accessible and kept taking small bites, espresso flavor is the BEST!!! Trail Butter was the key to this years solid stomach throughout this event. I hit the last boulder field and it was pouring so hard I had to keep my focus on footing. I saw the tree line I needed to navigate to and felt the finish nearing. As I popped back into the trees I met up with another runner and told him I needed to get in by a certain time. He said “Let's get it done, stay on my tail and we'll make it home for a personal record.” And that's just what I did. The last few miles were tough on the body but easy on the mind, I knew I was going to finish this race regardless of all the issues that all of us runners had faced. As I came across the finish I saw friends and family cheering and was so pleased with my performance. As I looked back at the clock I realized I had PR'd by 20 minutes!
A huge thanks to God, Nathan Hydration, NUUN, Trail Butter, Mustard, and the 17 stings I received to increase my adrenaline!