Transelkirks Scramble Leaderboard

 

“We’re going to do it. We’re going to get to 100 miles.” I said this to my crew four hours before what would be the official 100-mile lap of Lastest not Fastest. Part of the early declaration was because I’d miscalculated the hours to 100 (my math game isn’t the strongest and apparently gets weaker after 20 hours of running). Still, the other and more significant part was I’d had a nearly perfect race and knew I was going to make it there.

One hundred miles isn’t the race distance for Lastest Not Fastest. There isn’t one. Every hour on the hour, runners set off on a 4.13-mile loop until there is only one person left standing. It’s a race where you can go as long or as little as you want, see what you can do, as long as you’re back at the finish in an hour and you start the next.

 

Running the 4.13-mile loop next to the river with Nate Lewis.

 

2023 was my second experience with Lastest Not Fastest, and the backyard ultra format. I was coming back to this race to show myself how much I’d grown as a runner and to see what I could do by crushing my previous effort.  In 2022, I’d run 45 miles, calling it good after loop 10. I’d hit a distance PR, and everything hurt. Almost immediately after runners left for loop 11, I wondered if I could have done more. I felt I let myself mentally be done, refusing to push physical limits. Since then, I ran my first 100k, where 45 miles came and went. I’d learned how to work through that pain that is here to stay but not get worse (friends call this “steady state sh*tty”). I got out for more long run-ventures, getting more and more comfortable with 50k efforts. I had an FKT attempt that featured a decent-sized mental low getting off course. I had a self-pity party and then saw the distance through. I loved it all, and it was time to look for where the first 100 would be. 2023 was winding down, so eyes were on 2024.

Two months before race day, it was announced that 2023 would be the last Lastest (spoilers- it’s back on for 2024). Ok, there it is, then. There’s the hundred. I knew distance goals were dangerous as they took part in ending my race in 2022, but I wanted to make the most of the opportunity of this last race. So, I set a goal to see what I could do. Start every loop, aim for last, and just tag 100 on the way there.

The first 50k of Lastest Not Fastest was the easiest 30 miles I’d run to date. I had done four practice loops a few weeks before- so I only needed the first two loops to micro-adjust the pace strategy. 52-minute laps and 8 minutes in camp was the target sweet spot. Run the first half enjoying the protection of the trees to work while banking time in the back half to walk flats and rest. Having this dialed early saved a ton of thinking and made room for fun. The other bit that made it easy was the community energy on and off course. The very nature of the race format is slower; no one is out to be the fastest. You have plenty of time to learn new names, hear people’s stories and goals, and enjoy time with friends. The loop is short and recently moved to its new home in the Columbia River Gorge, making it accessible for friends and family to cheer and support from the sidelines. It’s a huge encouragement boost. Good times are fast times at Lastest. Those first eight hours flew by.

I’d planned to hit the 4-mile mark of each loop at 50 minutes and walk to the finish. After the first loop, that didn’t feel fun, so I made a game of it. Run in backward. Grapevine. Skip. Dance. Whatever I could think of while on course. It was fun and ended up being a win-win for mood, coming up with something to do at the end of a loop.

Another mood lift to pass the time was meming on my socials. It was a fun motivator for me to mark personal milestones in the race and a way to broadcast how I was doing to friends and family who were not present. We’ve had one, but what about the second 50k?

 

Some of my Lastest Not Fastest memes created during the run.

 

At 50 miles, I was having a fabulous day. The weather was stellar. It was exciting that the regular aches and pains had not arrived yet. I had been consistent with lap times. I was changing socks every 5 hours to keep blisters at bay. In three more hours, I’d switch shoes. I was optimistic about throwing down another 50-plus.

Then, I stopped eating solids. Around loop 15, while approaching 100k, nausea arrived. At this point, only Gatorade, Coke, and Boost were sustaining me. I knew a higher and consistent calorie intake was important for a successful night, so while I was in a determined to be jolly mood despite the discomfort, my crew was worried. They would stuff my vest with snacks that’d come back uneaten. I recall coming into camp after another round of not eating, sitting on the pavement, saying, “I think I might vomit.” I never did get sick, but this prompted a new strategy from my crew. The theory was I needed to let food (real food) have a few minutes to settle before resuming running. So, instead of running at the start, I’d walk the first 2-3 minutes. Two loops later, I came into the finish line chugging boost to celebrate two things- a distance PR and a happy tummy. I posted another meme and stuck with that strategy for the rest of the race.

 

My crew keeping me going through the nausea.

 

While uncomfortable, the nausea battle didn’t feel hard. Around loops 19 or 20 (roughly 78 miles in) felt hard. Steady-state shitty had finally arrived, and the math in miles and hours to 100 and beyond was not friendly yet. Feet hurt. The field had dwindled. I was tired and hours beyond any effort I’d ever done before. This was new territory, and the only point I let the idea of not making it to 100 enter my head. But this is why I was out here, not just for the sought-after triple-digit milestone, but to push myself. Feel the low and mentally pull out of it where I hadn’t been able to before. This reminder drove me back into focus. I embraced the tunnel vision of my headlamp, had Lady Gaga on repeat, and kept starting loops.

Sunrise arrived packed full of emotions. My Bluetooth headset was flooding with notifications of friends and family, realizing I was still going. I took a haggard selfie saying this was dumb, but I was so happy I got this far. My shin had started to complain, but I ignored it. Eight runners remained, and 100 was one loop away. Because of math loop 24, it ended at 99.4 miles. How mean is that? With on-course pit stops and camp shuffling, my watch was in triple digits already, but for 100 to count officially, we needed to go out again. I gave my coach a tearful hug, telling her I was going to go get it done. It was happening.

 

Ultra Ice Bandana $19.95

 

On that loop, the shin pain elevated to a yell, and for a brief moment, I wondered if my routine suddenly turned to shuffle hustle would to get to the finish on time. That loop had the most walking of any other loop, but as I got to my 4-mile marker, I knew I’d make it. I came into lap 25 with 103 miles, looking haggard as all get out but smiling. I honestly can’t remember if I did a silly finish here. I was just happy. Holy crap, I did it! My first hundred-miler and 24-hour race! I limped over to camp, and my crew spent what remaining few minutes I had to massage my complaining shin the best we could to get me to the start line again. I left for lap 26.

 

Running Lastest Not Fastest is a great way to meet others in the trail running community.

 

A quarter mile later, the shin was screaming. Could I push it and see if I could make the loop in time hardcore shuffling, or was that worth risking injury? Was this injury at all, or had I hit the magic number and been letting my shin say it was okay to stop? No. Everything else felt good mentally and physically  (relatively speaking, for running 25 hours), and I wanted to go more, but I could not run on this leg. I got what I wanted out of this race. I started the loop, but it was okay not to finish it.

I limped, and I cried the whole way back to the start line.  As camp saw me coming in, I reassured them I was ok, and tears were of pure joy. I wasn’t last, but that day was a win for me. I set out on this race to see what I could do, see how much I’ve grown, and to do that surrounded by a community of love and support. I collected my DNF glass, hugged and cried out my happiness amongst friends, and called it a day.

Now that Lastest is here to stay, I’ll for sure be back someday to see if I can go even further.