I’ll try to be brief…
Last September after I finished my first attempt at an FKT on the eastern WA Columbia Plateau Trail, completing 103 of the 130 miles, I thought, eh, I guess I’ll do the Badger 100 next year. After finishing the 50-mile at Badger twice, I always said: “no f’ing way am I EVER doing the 100 miler”. Well, ya know, a girl can change her mind.
I started a five-month training plan for the 100 miler and after a month and a half thought, damn, I’m killing this and feeling great. Then…my mom got sick. She got really sick and my life became chaotic going back and forth from Seattle to New Hampshire while worrying about convincing her to move out here, but I was determined to keep up with my running plan. Once when my mom was in the hospital, I was going out for a run (as I usually did) and kiddingly said: “I’m going to go for a run on the rail trail, don’t you wish you could come?”. And very seriously my mom said, “yes, I wish I could go with you.” Well, damn, it brought tears to my eyes and I figured once she was on the mend from what we thought was lymphoma, I’d get her running. Unfortunately weeks later we found out it was a complicated presentation of stage IV lung cancer and only three weeks after that she was gone forever. So, Badger was for my mumma and there was no way I was getting out of it.
If you’ve ever done a Badger Mountain Challenge race (100 mi, 50 mi, 50k, and 15 distances), or any of the Nomad Trail Runners of Eastern WA runs, you know it’s gonna be a good time, even though it sucks at the same time! 100 miles is a stupid silly distance but oh you know, it’s all about the buckle! One hundred miles is a great opportunity to think about all those things you haven’t had time to think about and just deal with every minute as it comes up. Or not think at all. Whatever suits ya fancy! I’m a bit of a loner in general and running long distances soothes me while I’m totally being who I am – all masks are taken off. Ok, blah, blah, blah, now let’s get to the actual race!
Richland WA offers many options to use AirBnB (which I did – 0.8 mi from the start) or a variety of hotel/motels and even dirt cheap camping right in the grass at the start/finish line. I like the idea of staying nearby so I can crawl out of bed and get my lazy tired ass over to the start line within an hour. Leading up to this morning and to the start line, I felt really good about my training and was confident I’d get it done. My goal was a finish time of 28 hours, although I secretly wanted to finish much sooner. It’s good to have goals…
The race starts for both 50 mi and 100 mi distances at the same time of 7 am (always the last Friday of March), which I find to be a respectable start time, although, 8 am would be better. Oh well, can’t have everything. The weather was absolutely ideal…seemed way too good to be true. And we were told at the feeding fest night-before briefing that the trails were neither muddy nor moon dusty. WHAT? What kind of BMC is this? Sounds too easy! On race morning, after a quick last minute briefing by race director Jason Reathaford that included something like “are you all crazy?!” off we went up Badger Mountain.
While heading up Badger it can be a bit dangerous to go too fast because it’s a pretty chilled out uphill. About 1/2 way up I looked and Jess Mullen, who wasn’t too far ahead of me, so I slowed down. She’s good and far faster than me so I figured either she’s injured and in recovering or she’s smaat-a (that’s my New Hampshire accent there if you wondered) than me, so I backed off. Thanks Jess! Spoiler…Jess came in 2nd for women in just a smidge over 23 hours. Yeah, I wasn’t anything close to that. Coming down Badger felt good and fast as usual. Time was passed by a great conversation with Dan Fielder who was in the 50 mi field. We talked about crazy ass adventures and the next thing I knew the aid station for Candy Mountain popped into my face. A quick hello and thank you and I was off for the slog up Candy Mt. I think Candy Mt is a tougher part than Badger despite the lower elevation. It’s a bit steeper and just as there’s relief at the top, the trail throws out a messy rocky section. Luckily it only lasts long enough for a little bit of cursing (ok A LOT happened in these 31 hours) then a steep downhill before reaching the scary dark culvert that runs under I-82, plus two or three-ish mile paved road section until reaching the 10-mile point at Jacobs Road. Voile! Almost there…no not really but onward. Another quick hi, thank you, yes I’d love you to fill my water bottle (seriously the BEST volunteers are at Badger races) and off to run along the long winding seemingly never-ending vineyard roads to the jeep trails. The jeep trails…sigh, big, big sigh. This section can make or break a runner as it’s relentless curly ups and downs on sandy soil trails. Getting through this section and over to the first pass of drop bag at McBee parking wasn’t nearly as eventful as the last two years where we all dealt with lots of rain and mud (in 2017) and moon dust and afternoon scorching sun (2018) but regardless, it’s a good time to get the dirt out of the shoes and change socks before heading up to McBee ridge. The famous McBee climb is one of kind for a non-sky-run race and for 0.7 miles you’re going straight up ’til you get to the friendly aid station (I was happy to see my running mate Phil from last years Grey Rock 50 km race) where poles can be dropped and picked up on the way back. And…of course, it rained heading up. McBee ridge over to Chandler Butte looks easy on a map, but it’s peppered with rocks that beat up the feet after a while. Having recently converted over to Altra LonePeaks, my feet felt pretty fresh and happy on the rocks for the first time. In no time (hahaha) I was over at Chandler AS being waited on and the wonderful vollies hooked me up with a gluten-free grilled cheese and soup. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout… Chandler is the official turnaround of the 50-mile out and back with a slight change from the way up and over McBee to instead descend by way of a winding loop back to the McBee parking AS. Not bad even with the patches of snow here and there to slip-slide on.
The last 18 miles of the 1st 50 mi loop went pretty well, other than as I was heading up Candy Mt, I was pelleted by cold rain with little more than shorts and a long sleeve top on. Damn, I was wet. Luckily it’s always windy out there so I dried relatively quickly once it stopped. I should say most of this first 32 or so miles was spent skipping back and forth with the same 10 or so runners. Some were 50 and some were 100 milers. It really is a social race. At around mile 38-39 I met up with the first 100 miler in their 2nd loop (he was 61-62 miles in at that point!). By the time I got to the end of loop one at the start/finish, I was just a few minutes behind last years 50-mile time. Clearly, I was on track for a decent finish…or was I? Will Elmquist, one of my pacers and crew was waiting for me at the 50-mile point. He assisted with great efficiency to not only make sure I got warm before I got cold but also get some food in me and back out. I found out days later that despite Will telling me the heater wasn’t going in the tent, (I’m sure was worried I’d want to go into it for just a minute), it was on. Hahaha well done Will. That’s a good crew member!
My 3rd time up Badger was just as it was getting dark. I was happily looking forward to seeing Will at Candy Mt AS to pick him up as a pacer. It was a bit more lonely on this round of Badger as by now the field of runners were pretty spread out. As Will and I headed out I realized how much slower I was by now, as Candy is a pretty brutal “easy” climb. At the top, the views were magnificent. The clouds had cleared and soon we headed down the steeps careful to take it easy in the dark. Going through the culvert was a bit easier this time with a headlight. On the road section before Jacobs AS around mile 60, we came across the foulest smell that seriously was like human poo spread across the region. Hesitantly I finally got Will to believe it wasn’t me! Lots of poop conversations after that! Haha! All things start going crazy at night including a zombie nearly ran into me on the road (it was maybe the 3rd or 4th runner heading back to the finish passing me). I looked up and said “dude” as he nearly clipped me but he did not seem to even see me. I get it. It was zombie time. By the time we got to the jeep trails, I realized I was way off schedule. But, to be honest, I wasn’t too stressed because I thought the only thing that would keep me from finishing was a serious injury. I still felt good, just slow and tired when we got to McBee parking. Here Will milked a blister. This then leads to a conversation similar to the one in the movie “Meet the Parents” (ok, if you haven’t seen it, look IT UP) followed by a 3rd change of socks for the day. I am extremely pro-change-socks when on a sandy course. It makes a massive world of difference. The second time up McBee to the ridge was brutal but made so much more pleasant than the first by now having pacer #2 Amal Katrib keeping me company and knowing I wasn’t going to have to go up it again for another year. About halfway to the turn around at Chandler, I ran into Scott my office mate and friend who was pacing his pal, Rebekah. They were kicking ass. Rebekah ended up finishing in a bit under 29 hours for her first 100 miler! Nice work! This was a tough long section that Amal did an amazing job keeping me focused when I wanted to lose my shit because I was so tired. Coming down the ridge to McBee parking AS for the 4th time was bittersweet. It was just getting light and as we dipped down into the valley trail it was oh so cold. The ridge actually felt pretty good for the hours we were up there. I was going pretty slow at that point, so I hoped some coffee in the form of a mocha (did I mention how awesome those volunteers are!) and a trip to the portapotty would fix all my needs. Well, this led to a whole world of both interesting conversation and hurt. Apparently, I was in the portapotty a bit too long because Will came over and asked if I was ok to which I replied “no”. I’ll spare the same details they got but let’s just say, I was a bit dehydrated despite having no other signs of it and the plumbing was working like shit (or not! haha).
From McBee to Candy, Will was back running with me after taking a nap in Scott’s car and man I was suffering. Not only did I have the “incident” in the portapotty but by bum chafing was uncontrollable at that point. That seriously held me back to the point where I was pretty annoyed. But, it is what it is. I use Monkey Butt for ladies but it just wasn’t good enough. I was alternating walking and running but still able to at least jog on the downhill and flats. I think. It’s kind of a blur at this point. It was probably a blur then too now that I think about it. Out on the road section, I mooed at some cows (if you know me you know I do that a lot) in the distance and Will kept on saying they were horses. I still think they looked like cows. That’s the closest I got to a hallucination. Candy was another hard slog uphill but this time felt scorching hot as by now it was late morning (I think). I picked up Amal for her to do the last 4.6 miles with me and for the first time in the whole race I was just getting edgy and irritated. My ass was so sore while my mind and my legs and my lungs wanted to move. Usually, I can bust it up and down Badger but I couldn’t…at all…not even down. Only in the last part right after coming off Badger to finish did I look back and there was a 100 runner (A guy Chris about my age who was doing his first ultra ever!) behind me. Way to light a fire as I could finally run – ok, more like a fast hobble. The best part about finishing a Badger race is that sincere smile and hug from Jason!
Stats for those of you stats freaks: Time 31:03, overall 73/83 finishers (many DNFs or drops to 50 miles), female 13/18. I honestly thought my time would be better but I don’t really care…it got done and I had fun. Animals I saw: cows (maybe), horses, cute fat round mice (even a dead one), and one rabbit. Why do I NEVER see badgers on the Badger race? Food: I ate a lot of gels (I prefer Gu but also can tolerate pretty much any of them), grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon (there was a lot of bacon there!), soup, chips, olives, gummy treats, and I don’t know, whatever else I could get my hands on. I do not usually have an issue with being able to eat and this was no exception. I eat on a schedule of every 45-60 minutes and it works. Drink: I don’t do water in long races, instead I carry my own Gnarly Hydrate mix and use it the whole time. I also drank soda and coffee/hot chocolate here and there.
Thanks to my awesome crew and pacers Will and Amal for all the cheers, smiles, stories, conversations, sing-alongs, brain assistance and just for putting up with me. And a massive thanks to all the phenomenal volunteers who put on this race and take care of every runner with a smile on their face the whole time. Honestly, Badger is one of those races you always look forward to doing again. Will I do the 100-mile option again? Hell no! Well, I don’t know…maybe…we’ll see…probably. The belt buckle is cool.
That damned culvert may keep me from ever running Badger again. I hate it!
Well done El, that’s why we love you.