Faking ultra!


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.

Big Basin - not unattractive!
Big Basin – not unattractive!

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.

Pacer Party of 2
Pacer Party of 2
Jess and Jen K arrive at the aid station
Jess and Jen K arrive at the aid station

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.

Jen K and Jess cross the line!
Jen K and Jess cross the line!

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.

Totally creepered this photo of the two of them being lovely
Totally creepered this photo of the two of them being lovely

Once she’d recovered, we all drove to Half Moon Bay and ate mexican food. We supporters were starving – the runners seemed less hungry.

These girls!

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!


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    This is so great! I loved reading your (much more lucid, detailed) account about what happened on race day. I have to ask – how did the Husband know my status at Gazos Creek? I don’t even recall seeing him at the aid station. Or maybe I was too out of it?

    Thanks for being out there and supporting us – it was soooo wonderful to have Team R out there to cheer us on. xo

    1. Cathryn says:

      So the boys were out getting ice-cream when you came through. However we’d made friends at the aid station with this dude called Billy. And Billy was there when you guys headed out on your loop, so he told the Husband who then told me.

      1. Jen says:

        Ah, that makes sense. I was afraid that I was so out of it that I didn’t even see your boys!!

  2. dlubi says:

    Awesome post!!! Thanks so much for sharing this experience with all of us readers! I wish I could have been there to cheer as well! You rock, and I hope I can join you at an event soon!!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      We can’t wait to run with you soon!

  3. Bean says:

    Jen is so amazingly tough! It was so great of you to go cheer everyone on. I really struggled with my first 50K as well. Maybe your first 50k really has to suck so the rest can be amazing. Maybe Jen and I need a redemption 50k. But only if you will sign on to cheer, pace and cowbell! So sad that people are moving on but just opening up more vacationing/ running locations;).

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’m trying to think of it that way too…but sob!! Not sure Jen will try 50k again 😦

  4. Hsuan says:

    Hi I am not sure I was the “nice lady” (mostly a stinky lady at that point) but I did talk to you at the finish line and it was really nice! You are so awesome to be there to cheer for your friends and other runners! Looking forward to see you on the trails again!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yay, you WERE the nice lady! Thanks for commenting so I can remember you for next time I see you. Congrats again on your run! xx

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