Hi all, Steph’s mom here – I have been posting on her behalf since she started the G2G Ultra. There were some satellite problems and Steph’s blog from Day 2 just arrived now, so here it is, a bit out of sequence as she is already to Stage 4 (Day 5)….
We had, well, another adventure today, that is for sure!! Today it was make it or break it time: if Stuart felt okay, we would keep on trucking, but if he had problems with his stomach again then we were Marriott-bound for sure. We loaded him up with drugs of all sorts, thanks to the ER nurse in our tent (who also attended to my knee – score!). He felt okay when we started. Actually, he felt great. We set off at a fairly good pace and were really enjoying the trail. It was scrubby and quite technical, with fewer cacti than yesterday (I think we still have spikes embedded in our toes from before). Stuart is much more suited to this type of terrain and it showed. He flew along, pulled back by my annoying little warnings, “Stuart, you don’t want to push it too much!” and “Hun, be careful!” (Mood killer, I know, but I was worried his manly pride would take over a bit and he might push himself even harder today to make up for yesterday).
Despite my chirping from behind, he kept trucking along brilliantly. We were having so much fun looking out at the red escarpment rising over green plains. Beautiful. After 3 miles, we took a sharp left and headed straight uphill. Although it was tough climbing, I think we both appreciated the change in terrain. And my gosh, the views from the top!!! When we reached the plateau, we entered into a forest and were treated with soft ground covered in cow patties and pine needles underfoot. We caught up to Jo Peterson, who placed fourth yesterday and was experiencing a bit of fatigue. Jo was my tentmate from another 250 km stage race in Namibia in 2009 and I was so happy to see him. We trudged on together, the three of us, cheering on the downhills and grunting on the uphills…. After about 12 km, we came out of the trail and hit a road. We ran along at a pretty good clip and I think we were even around 6th place at that point. It was such a relief to be having FUN together and a bit of a confidence booster for Stuart as well. After a few more kms, I started to worry that we hadn’t seen any orange flags marking the course. Unlike other races though, the course director has only placed flags at turns or confusing points, rather than put flags every 500m or so (called confidence markers). It seems like a small thing, but it is a big one. When you are tired or in the zone, it is very easy to miss a turn sometimes, especially if you are looking down…. So usually I know that I’ve gone wrong quite quickly because I turn around after 500 m without seeing a flag. This time, however, there was no way to know. Stuart and I finally saw two orange flags tied to a bush beside the track and breathed a collective sigh of relief. Jo was behind us as well, which made us feel confident we were on the right track. Another couple of kms on a slight incline went by. I checked my polar watch and saw that we had gone over 6 miles since the last checkpoint. The next checkpoint was only supposed to be about 5.5 miles away, so I started to worry again that we had somehow, someway gone wrong. We came up to a van parked by the side of the track and I desperately asked the driver if she had seen any other runners. My heart sank with her reply: “no, I haven’t seen a single person…” Shoot.
Of course, the disappointment of our wrong turn made me instantaneously trip over my own two feet again, opening up a gaping, bleeding scrape on my left hand. Pity party ensued. Stuart pulled me up and we both tried to do the whole “it could be worse” thing and a little “we’ll be fine”…. but we were crushed. It is hard enough to run an ultra, but to know you’ve been spending energy in the WRONG direction is tough to recover from. To make matters worse, we were both out of water and we knew we had a long way back. We ran into Jo on the way back, who had followed us astray. After a couple of kms we got back to the orange flag… but the strange thing was that we couldn’t see another flag in any direction. We checked out every route and there was NO other trail. Turns out, it was just our luck that the forestry people had started tagging their own trees with the SAME ORANGE FLAGS!!! Yup, we had followed the wrong orange flags. So unlucky. Shaking our heads we headed back down the trail to the place where we had missed the cut off. All in all, we ran 10 km out of our way, making our total today 56 km instead of 46!!
After an hour and a half without water, Jo, Stuart and I made it to checkpoint two. Boy, it was going to be a long day ahead. We were both battling waves of disappointment, but luckily at different times. Actually, we were still having a blast and so grateful to have each other (and Jo!). We pulled a bit ahead of Jo after the checkpoint and kept trudging along. We drank a ton of water to try to make up for our little dehydration episode, but it took some time to get back to normal. Fatigue hit the legs. But we pushed on through, knowing that we would come out of it…
And we did!! We had an amazing time, enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. At about 46 km in (by our count, not the race count!), we met up with Jo again and another racer, Dan. Dan is a total caricature: tie-dyed shirts, peace signs hanging from his backpack, afro, and he even carried a beer with him to camp last night (I had a sip – awesome). Dan soon pulled ahead but Jo, Stuart and I made a pact to stay together until the end. Both boys started flagging and I got my second wind, so I coached them through some walk/runs to get some miles down. The boys had the same expression on their faces, which was rather adorable… Every time I suggested a little job, they would grumble together but willingly comply. When I felt them pull back, we’d walk. It worked amazingly well and we kept up a good chat, which helped… But just before 50 km things took a turn for the worse (again!). I have a photo of both Jo and Stuart doubled over in perfect synchrony. I know, cruel to capture the moment, but it was just too cute (they recovered and laughed, I swear). Our walk/run turned into a walk/stop, but I counted down every km and then every half km until the end. One km to the finish and Stuart starting dry heaving again (poor thing). Jo got nosebleeds. But we kept going. The three of us finished hand in hand, so relieved to be finished our extra-long adventure!!! I can’t imagine spending the day with two more awesome men though. I am a lucky girl.
As per our (now) routine, we went straight to the med tent, where I cut more flesh off my hand and cleaned out goo from my hamburger knee (sigh). The back also got a bit of chafing, so Stuart lovingly cleaned it off while I whimpered and the tears rolled down. I can be tough as nails on the race course, but I am a total baby once I cross the finish line.
We really did have a great day today…. And I’m so grateful for Stuart. I wouldn’t want to do this race without him. Tomorrow is the long day and we haven’t had much time to recover, but everything that could go wrong in this race already has…. so bring it on!!
Thanks for the messages 🙂 Keep ’em coming!! Sadly, the pina coladas will have to wait at the Marriott as we are planning to kick a little more ass tomorrow…