Shannon & Pam, after months of training, officially became ultrarunners with finishing Way Too Cool 2010 (3/13/10). They continue to run the long distances as they continue to challenge themselves physically & mentally. This is where they post those triumphs and also their tribulations.

March 14, 2010

Way Too Cool 2010 Race Report - Shannon

The big morning has arrived and it is cold, but sunny and beautiful! Way Too Cool 50k (WTC) is here! OMG!

Pam and I are as ready as we'll ever be. We did what we were suppose to do. Could we have done more, yes, but we did what we could with our busy schedules.

Aren't we so cute standing in front of the WTC frog?

We started off running on pavement for the first 2 miles and that's when I saw my first hallucination - a 6' talking banana - but it's ok, because Pam had the same hallucination, so we should be ok - right?

After we hit the dirt, and realized we were in fact the last runners, we jumped off the trail for our first pit stop. Now we can get serious.

The first 7 miles wasn't bad but it was MUDDY. Friday's rain did a number on the trails. The 1st 7 miles just gave us a false sense of "oh this is no biggie" - ya we ain's seen nothing yet. Below is our first water crossing. Is that it? No problem! As you come into the first aid station it was mostly technical, muddy, and downhill (I forgot about that part when I was headed back to the finish line - funny how you block the negatives).
We arrived at the first aid station feeling good. Our goal was to get there in 1:55 and we did it in 1:35. Cool 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We're gonna need it. We stripped one layer, refilled our paks and headed out across Hwy 49. Oh and I saw that talking banana, again! HHHMMM.

After crossing 49 it got really muddy, but we've trained in mud, this is no big deal, we're ready.
We got down to the Quarry Road and felt great. We started to come across some of the larger bodies of water. Here's Pam tip toeing across one of them.

Then she says, screw it, and just tromps right through the next one. You go girl. She looks so happy!

At some point in time, a fellow FTR got this pic of us. It's definately after Aid Station #1 cuz we're sporting our new Trail Turtle shirts.
And at some point, Pam took this pic of me ----->
I have no idea when, but I'm still smiling, so it's before the 2nd aid station.

I did start to struggle once we got on the single track after Browns Bar because we had to constantly get out of the way for the Elite Runners coming back. We were still trying to get to the half way point and these awesome runners we're already on their way back - OMG! But because of this you are trying to get out of their way by slightly stepping up on the side of the trail which caused my right leg to start to really fatigue. So then I tried to step to the left, whenever I could, but sometimes that was just impossible as most of the time, the left side was the side you could slip down the hill on .
We made it to the 2nd aid station in 3:45, our goal was 4:07. Still ahead of schedule, this is awesome, we've gone half way and we're ahead of schedule. I'm feeling fatigued, but I'm still feeling good. Pam is looking great. We refill our paks, grab some snacks, and head up. Yes, up. It's hard to get started after even a short break, but it's even harder to get started again when you have to head UP. It wasn't a hard "UP" but it was still an UP that was hard on the legs.
Once we got going again, Pam got out in front of me to help pace me as my legs were really feeling it. The mud, the river crossings, the getting out the way for other runners, and the up hills were making my legs tired. At this point I realized my braid had fallen out. I told Pam "I'm like Sampson." She said "But you still have your hair." "Ya, but I need my braid!" I know this is what did me in! I just know it.
I kept up with her for the most part, but at about 18 miles, I found it harder and harder to keep up with her. Pam is like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going, and going. She gets that 2nd wind and bam, she's gone. When I really lost her was when I had to make a pit stop, that required more privacy than a quick pee on the side of the trail. So I had to hike up a little embankment to get out of eyesight. You know that old saying "Does a bear poop in the woods?" Well I got a new one. "Does an Ultrarunner .......?" Oh and the answer to both those questions is, YES!
Then came Dead Truck Trail. Dead Truck Trail is very technical, and has some extreme downhills (See Getting Stronger post for pics). By the time I hit the major downhills my legs were really tired and my toes were starting to hurt from them hitting the front of the shoes. I also started to notice my heels were getting rubbed raw by my shoes because my socks had fallen down below my shoes. GREAT!
I survived the downhill only to come face to face with the MOTHER of all river crossings.
The picture doesn't do it justice. I couldn't see the bottom and the water was flowing pretty darn good. So I skirted over to the right side of the pic where I could see the rocks below and just went for it hoping I wasn't gonna get washed away. I was out there by myself. Kind of scary. It came up to my knees. I hear from others that it came up to their waists, this from very tall people, who had gone straight across instead of what I did. I'm glad I did what I did. YIKES.

Once you make it down Dead Truck Trail you come out at the bottom of Ball Bearing aka Ball Buster! My goal was to be at the bottom in 5:30, I hit it in 5:25. When I saw my time I said "sweet"!! This is where I hit the wall. This hill is the MOTHER of all hills. Not only is it extremely steep, and just keeps on going, it was muddy and slippery. I had a really hard time getting up this hill. I had 35 minutes to get to the next aid station or I was not going to make the cut off. Ok, no problem, I can do this. I had to stop several times to catch my breath, etc. I felt nauseas, dizzy, and all I could think about is I want to lay down and go to sleep, oh and I WANT MY MOMMY!!

I made it! I made it to the aid station with about 10 minutes to spare. My goal was to be there in 5:53 and I think that's exactly when I made it (I was a bit out of it and forgot to hit my lap button). When I got there I looked right through everyone. I was looking to see if Pam was still there. I knew she was ahead of me, I just didn't know by how much. The first awesome volunteer who spotted me asked me what I needed, I asked for a cot. Ya they didn't have those there - sheesh! Then another awesome volunteer spotted me and grabbed me and told me she had sent Pam on her way. She kicked her out of the aid station! Thanks Pam for trying to wait for me, but I'm glad you didn't! As I was dealing with my stuff, refilling my pak, I guess I looked pretty out of it because one of the awesome volunteers asked me if I knew where I was - LOL. I said yes, finished up, grabbed half my PB&J and headed back out.
As I left that aid station, one of the awesome volunteers rooted me on and said it's only single digits from here. I had to think about that one. Remember, I was really out of it after BB. But then I realized what she meant. I only had 9 miles to go. OMG 9 miles, shoot I can do 9 miles any day. Ok you can do this!
So I made it through the first cut off, now I have to make it to the next cut off. The top of Goat Hill. I have to do it in 1:30. It's 5.1 miles and mostly on a downhill grade. I'm thinking, no problem. I can do 5 miles in 1:30.
I stuggled. Every uphill grade I hit was a battle. I made it to the bottom of Goat Hill in 1:12. Goat Hill is another MOTHER of a hill. It's steeper, but no where near as long as BB. All I could remember about that hill was one training run with a couple of gals who'd done it before and one of them (can't remember who exactly) said it's an 8 minute hill. So that's what I told myself. It's an 8 minute hill. If I can do this in 8 minutes I will make it to the top in 1:20 (my goal had been 1:16). It was another hill that I had to stop & catch my breath and bring my heart rate down, and I really thought I wasn't going to make it. All I could think of was you can't quit now! It would really suck to make it this far and not be able to finish with only 4.1 miles to go. So I pushed! OK it's an 8 minute hill if you haven't already done 26+ miles. I made it to the aid station in 1:25. It was a 13 minute hill for me.
Phew! I grabbed my PB&J out of my drop bag and took off. That's when my left foot started to hurt. NNNNOOOOOO! I've got 1 hour to do 4.1 miles. I can't have foot pain. Well I did. So while I tried to eat and hobble I splashed through more and more water.

After one of my river crossing and then mud sloshes I took this pic. Love my gaiters!

At some point I took this picture which is a reminder why I run trails. It is so pretty. Where else can you come across countless waterfalls? It's what its all about.
Okay, back to the RR. The foot pain is tolerable, but everytime I saw a hill, I just wanted to cry. No matter how little, it was an awful site. But at least going up hill, I didn't feel my foot pain.

I had to keep telling myself that you can't quit! Demons were battling in my head. This was the hardest part. The last 4 miles. This is when you realize how sucky it is to be out there by yourself. No iPod and no buddy. The brain can be relentless.
I needed to be at the final aid station in 8:06 to have any hopes of making it through the finish line before the 8:30 cut off.
I made it to the final aid station, I think, in 8:20. That left me 10 minutes to go 1.3 miles. Now I can do that on flat terrain with fresh legs, but there is no way in hell that these legs were gonna pull that miracle off. But I pushed through. I didn't stop at the aid station, I just kept going and then I turned the corner and saw that hill - you know the one I mention in the first part of this post. Several explative words came out of my mouth (here is when it IS good to be by yourself), and I started to climb. At this point, all I could think of is why push it, you're not gonna make it in time. But then I remembered a guy who was behind me before and after Goat Hill (he struggled more than I did getting up that hill). He said it doesn't matter if you don't make the 8:30 cut off, you will still be able to say you finished a 50k. That's right. I made it through 2 other cut offs and now they can't stop me from finishing.

It was the hardest mile of my life! But when I came around the corner and could see the finish I got the extra adrenaline I needed to finish it up. I was looking at all the people for a face I recognize and there he was! My husband, Mark, with camera in hand. He got a couple of good shots of me coming toward him, but his is my favorite! Me going through the finish line with my time showing (Ya you can't really see it in this little pic).
I finished in 8:46. Not the 8:30 cut off, but I still finished my first 50K. Will I do it again? Oh I have to now! I have to redeem myself! What will I do differently? More training on Ball Bearing and Goat Hill.
Afterward, a few of us girls headed over to the pizza parlor and had pizza and oh so good beer.

I think the best part of this whole thing is that Mark has a new appreciation for what I've been training for. All day today, Sunday, he's told me how proud he is of me and how impressed he is. He had gotten there pretty early and saw quite a few runners come through. He said a lot of them looked like someone had beaten them up - bloody, etc. Once he realized how far I was going he finally GOT IT! These past few months I've been gone A LOT, this was what it was all for.

PS - Pam finished in 8:20! She is my hero. A true Trail Turtle!
For lots of pictures click HERE.
I would like to say thanks to Diane for all her guidance and loving pushes to get us prepared for this day. Diane we couldn't have done it without you!

BTW - there were at 50 water crossings. Not all of them big. I took pics of every crossing. Some were very minor, but they counted if they were running water. This doesn't account for all the mud puddles we had to go through as well.


  1. OMG Shannon, I have tears in my eyes! I am so happy for you and even more happy that Mark was there for you at the finish and is so proud. I can see a glimmer in Charlie's eye too every once in a while on Saturday.
    Awesome job. You beat the worst demon of them all, that mental demon. You did it and you are awesome. I wish I could have seen you both out there too. I was looking but I was sort out of it myself that morning. Just a bundle of nerves! Next year!!

  2. Such a great post, Shannon. I was so sad to lose was lonely out there without you. But I can't tell you how inspired I am that you kept going...You are a tough cookie, braid or no braid!! next year for sure...mark you calender for the lottery date!

  3. Dear Ultra Runner,

    I have tears in my eyes from your RR. I am so happy for you!! What an inspiring RR. I can't wait to share it with my wife. I felt like I was with you the entire way. I have a lot of respect for people that can finish that race with a fast time, I have more respect for people that fight it out and show the trail who is boss. You are the boss. Congratulations on a jobs so well done. Trail Turtles ROCK!!!


  4. Wow,I'm so impressed. Very exciting race report w/ fab pics. WAY TO GO! I've enjoyed following your story the last month or so as i train for my 1st 50K. Thx for sharing!