Last Sunday, I had the total pleasure of supporting three of my favourite crazy cat ladies as they ran the Big Basin 50k. It was a very bittersweet day because two of them, Jess and Kate both left the Bay Area on Thursday, moving to different parts of the country. I’ll be honest, I love these girls. I love running with them and I was not/am not ready to let them go. It was also the wonderful Jen‘s first 50k. She had trained hard and well for this race. So it was going to be a Big Day.
Jen had mentioned that her boyfriend, T, would be running a stretch with her. So I emailed Jess earlier in the week saying we’d be there to cheer her on and if she wanted me to run a bit with her, I’d love to. This was basically saying ‘Please can I join in the fun and pretend to be an ultra runner too?’ but luckily she thought I was being selfless and sacrificial and said yes! The race was basically three sections. 15 miles to Big Basin State Park, a 5 mile loop back to the aid station there and then 10 miles to the end. I’d be running the loop.
We got to Big Basin at about 11.30, with Jess expecting to get to the aid station at about 12.15. We had a great time at the aid station, cowbelling runners as they came through. Jen’s boyfriend T arrived and joined the Pacer Party. And more or less on time, Jess ran in. Sweaty hugs all round. She was running with a new friend the girls had made that morning, also called Jen (Jen K from now on) so she got a sweaty hug too. However the news on our original Jen was not good. She was struggling already and Jess was worried she’d drop out. This would be unbearable! T headed off back up the trail to find his girl, and Jess, Jen K and I started up the trail for the loop.
It was pretty much bliss. They’d already done 15 miles so I was definitely able to keep up. There was an enormous 2 mile hill which we speed-hiked. This also allowed us to talk so there was a LOT of chatting and laughing as we worked our way up the beast. There was one (now funny) incident when Jess thought she saw a snake in the grass – she squealed and leaped sideways, which meant Jen K and I also squealed and leaped sideways. It may have been a snake but when we had a look, there was nothing to see.
Eventually we hit the top and started running along beautiful downhill singletrack through the magical Big Basin redwoods. It was gorgeous and Jess and I both got a bit weepy about this being our last run together for a long time. My highlight was when a family of hikers cheered us on. They clearly thought I was an ultra runner too. So I just faked it, thanked them and ran on! And somehow, before I was ready, we found ourselves back at the aid station. My pacer-duties were over.
Jess and Jen K headed off down the trail for the 10 miles to the finish line. The Husband had an update on Jen – she was low and struggling, but fighting on. She was currently out on the loop with T. So we piled in the car and drove across some mountains to the finish line on the ocean.
Kate was already there – she’d switched at the last minute to the marathon so we got to hug her, feed her snacks and hang out a bit. We cowbelled the finishers and I got to meet a lovely lady who knew me from the blog – I missed your name, but if you’re reading this, hi and congratulations again on your awesome race! We walked up to the spot where the runners came out of the trails and towards the finish line and before too long, Jess and Jen K came barreling down like stars. Lots of cowbelling, lots of screaming and then the two badass chicks crossed the line. Super-proud.
And then came the agonising wait for Jen to finish. T had joined us by then, and with 20 minutes or so before the cut-off, he set off back up the trail to find Jen. We hung round at the bottom cheering people on. It got to 11 minutes to the cut-off. Then it got to 5 minutes. My nails started being chewed.
And then suddenly she appeared on the trail. We went crazy. I have never seen Jen look so completely exhausted and drained but we screamed a lot about beating the cut-off and the poor girl pushed on to finish. She crossed the line and basically stopped still for a long time and got hugged by T. It was very sweet.
Once she’d recovered, we all drove to Half Moon Bay and ate mexican food. We supporters were starving – the runners seemed less hungry.
I was so incredibly proud of these girls. Proud of Kate for deciding calmly that it wasn’t her day for 50k so she’d ‘just do the marathon’ and having the self-confidence to do it and be content. Proud of Jess for basically nailing the 50k and looking happy every time I saw her. Proud of our new Jen K for fitting into our little gang of cat ladies like she was born to it and for totally demolishing her first 50k. And proud of the awesome, tenacious, badass Jen for fighting through the many dark miles and finishing what she set out to do.
And then we had to say goodbye. Tears. More tears in the car on the way home. But also a lot of gratitude (cattitude?) for the runs we’ve had and looking forward to runs in new locations in the future.
Well done, ultra babes!