Chapter 1: Commitment
To finish the race in under one hundred hours. Is that even possible at fifty-five years old? Maybe not. But if I was going to run the Cocodona 250 mile race across the rugged, blisteringly hot desert of Arizona, I decided, that would be my goal. Under 100. I’d never attempted a race that long. There were a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t try, maybe even a thousand reasons. However, at least for the time, I put them aside because, over the last year, Cocodona had captured my imagination. I’d studied the course maps, read previous racers’ accounts of it, and had been visualizing myself running through the red rock of Sedona, the flat, unrelenting desert near Prescott, and crossing the finish line in Flagstaff (in under 100 hours, of course.) I was hooked. Why? Why do I love running long? And why Cocodona?
Reason one: Significant things motivate me. If a race matters, if it has substance and value and meaning, it will motivate me to train hard and often, empowering me to outperform my personal expectations.
Reason two: Fear. Fear motivates me. Some of the biggest gains I’ve made in my life have been sparked by fear. Fear of what?
Reason three: The possibility of failure. In the case of Cocodona, the probability was real. As a life-long competitive athlete and businessman, I love to win. It feels so good at the moment. I would not say that I have a deep-in-my-gut fear of failure. I’ve failed plenty and I’m somewhat of a risk taker so the failures come maybe more frequently than others. I will say that failing or losing for the wrong reasons is something I fear. My old mentor, Richard Aller (Compton High History teacher and famous Dodger peanut vendor; may he Rest In Peace) used to tell me frequently, “it's okay to lose, just make sure you lose for the right reasons and that you learn from it.” The thought of failing for the wrong reasons motivates.
Reason four: My favorite place on God’s green earth is the middle of nowhere. When I’m out on a trail in the middle of nowhere, I experience spiritual awakenings and utter joy. I feel the ancient pull that those old prophets in the Bible experienced wandering hot, dry deserts seeking knowledge, objective truth and spiritual connections to something more significant than even the universe.
Reason five: I ain’t young anymore. At 55, I don’t have a lot of years left for epic journeys like Cocodona, the uphill climbs that I’ve been obsessively taking over the last decade that have helped me figure out who I am and what I’m made of. Perhaps facing my own mortality at my age is another reason.
Cocodona definitely had the gravitas to show me what I’m made of, partly because of what I’m not made of anymore, what I had cut out of me 25 years ago: my colon. By the time I was 30 years old, ulcerative colitis had been ravaging my body for several years, and after a particularly bad hospital stay, I finally took my Doctor’s advice to have my failing organ surgically removed, the very organ that contributes significantly to fluid absorption and hydration, absolutely essential for endurance athletes (especially those who run 250 miles across a desert.) In its place my surgeon created a J pouch, made from my own small intestines. Post-op, my doctors gave me a list of don’t-even-think-about-it activities that could instantly and dangerously dehydrate me and threaten my life. And while they didn’t mention running 250 miles across a hot desert specifically, I’m pretty sure Cocodona would have made their no-fly list.
I didn’t doubt my doctors, they’re intelligent and tops in their field, but something in me couldn’t let it go (not my colon, as we know.) I have always been captivated by the men and women who ran long. I used to follow the careers of guys in Santa Barbara where I live, like Mike Swan and Peter Park, who ran - and won - the straight uphill Pier To Peak Half Marathon and the rugged 9 Trails Race and set records for the Catalina 50 miler. To me there’s no greater measure of human ability, both physical and mental, than going long, and I wanted to take those measures of myself too.
By no coincidence, I partnered with Mike Swan at Elite Physical Therapy (Mike’s a physical therapist, I was the business side of the venture), and we struck up a friendship, and he became my coach. Mike, AKA, “Yoda,” took me on as a project, definitely a challenge for him, and he’s a genius at figuring out hacks to make the body perform things it shouldn’t be able to do. I don’t love the word “hack” because it implies short cuts, or that ideas were developed by a “hack”, but it's probably the best way to describe the ‘work arounds' necessary when you don’t have a colon. I would not be where I am without Yoda’s wisdom and knowledge and faith in me. And where am I? I’ve got buckles now for six 100-mile ultras, a bunch of 50s, and lots of other races. But 250 miles… Two and a half times longer than any race I’d done? And in the blisteringly hot desert? I needed to get Mike’s thoughts before I made my decision.
But before I hit up Mike, I had to talk about it with my other partner. For all the challenges I take on in my life, my partner in crime (she’s also a very good runner) is my bride of 29 years, DeAnna. When I left my secure job at a CPA firm and started my own accounting firm at 26, DeAnna said, “Go for it, Dave, I’m all in.” DeAnna repeated that phrase when:
I scraped together a little cash and bought our first house on a shoestring budget;
My colon began to fail and I decided to follow Doctor’s advice and have it removed (there were a lot of risks);
I started several risky business ventures, putting our future on the line;
I got the itch to start running long;
Whatever challenge I was passionate about and believed I could accomplish, DeAnna has always had the same response: “Go for it. I’m all in, Dave.” But, as I said, Cocodona is a different animal, so this one I wasn’t sure.
“Honey,” I began one morning while we were doing repeats up San Ysidro Trail, “I'm thinking about signing up for Cocodona 250.” DeAnna stopped in her tracks, looked at me and smiled. “Well, honey,” she responded, “You might as well sign me up too because I'll be doing all the training with you anyway! Go for it. I’m all in, Dave.” She wasn’t gonna let me have all the fun. I love that woman.
And I would need her. Over the next six months, we would have to put in so many hours of training, and to go it alone would have been impossible. Part of the reason why DeAnna and I run long is so we can spend a ton of time together on the trails. The training and competing, the highs and lows of it, have bonded us more deeply than either of us could’ve anticipated.
All right, DeAnna was in, so then I needed to talk to Mike to get a professional opinion. By the way, Mike’s one of the best endurance athletes I’ve ever met. He’s been at it now for over 30 years and shows no signs of slowing down. He knew what I would face from a first-person perspective, and a medical one. I knew Mike wouldn’t tell me not to do Cocodona. And he would know I’d done my homework, talked about it with DeAnna, and lived with it for awhile before I approached him. But I wanted his honest opinion. Mike immediately began forecasting what DeAnna and I would be up against. “Lots of two-a-days, guys, mostly at lower-intensity, probably kinda boring, but you’ll have to stick to the slow pace. And lots of heat training, no way around this one. You gotta go into Cocodona acclimated. You should also get in some elevation training too since much of the race is above 5,000 feet.
He said something like, “It would be a miracle if you didn’t suffer injuries during training,” Mike continued, “It’s such a long training period, six months. You really need to stick to your plan and be careful out there on the trails. And, Dave, we need to figure out how to keep from drying out in the middle of the desert like a raisin in the sun.
Lastly Mike and I acknowledged, what I already knew, my training will pretty much take over our lives for the next six months. Given my abnormal professional life (I am founder/partner of several ventures and CEO of MedBridge and part time Executive Director of Athletics at Westmont College) I was going to have to embrace the extra time training within a pretty tight schedule.
I paid the entry fee.
Chapter 2: Training
For many years, DeAnna and I owned a condo at Mammoth Lakes, California, and before mountain races would go up there and get in some altitude runs. They were game changers. But we recently sold our Mammoth place and got a cabin on some land outside of Telluride. Our training runs there, all above 8,000 feet, are in the most unbelievably beautiful country, and were inspiring. Fifteen miles in those mountains seemed effortless. But most of our training was in our local Santa Barbara mountains, including some races we do every year that would be good warm ups for Cocodona.
We started with Luis Escobar’s famous Santa Barbara 9 trails race, always a challenge with 11,000 feet of vert and zig zags that go up and down the Santa Barbara front country. We got lucky because they had to cancel the race the previous year due to COVID, it worked out that we actually got to do the race twice, in October and March.
Sandwiched in between those two races was a New Year’s Day run DeAnna and I hatched a few years back called, Tank's Backyard Ultra. Tank is our oldest Australian Shepherd. (His little brother is Zeke) and the race takes place basically in our backyard up San Ysidro trail. The 2.7 mile loop with about 875 feet of vert on each lap is open to all comers with no entry fee. Tank loves this loop and gets excited whenever we take him on it. There are two creek crossings and the terrain is technical. We do it as a last-person-standing format and start a new lap every 50th minute. Some folks just come, hike a few laps, chat with other people and hang out. Prince Harry and Meghan tried to bandit this year, but we didn’t come down too hard on them since it is open to all comers. The rest of us do 10 laps, call it good and enjoy the rest of the day.
After Tank’s and Nine Trails, DeAnna and I added another warm up race at the beginning of April, the American River 50. Our long-time training partner, and rabbit apparel co-founder, Monica DeVreese entered the race as part of her Western States build up (we would ultimately crew and pace her to her first WSER buckle!) so we decided to run it with Monica. But we had another reason why we signed up: Mike Swan came up with a hack and we were dying to give it a try.
Several years ago, Mike had read an article and filed it away somewhere in his brain’s hard drive about how bodybuilders pre-load on electrolytes before competitions to get their muscles basically waterlogged. Prior to their contest, they load up the muscles with glycogen (muscles will store more after having been depleted) then the muscle glycogen draws water into the muscle, which makes them look way bigger. A pretty cool hack.
Mike thought it might be relevant to my situation, because since I don’t have a colon and all of its water absorption features, if I were to go into a race preloaded with fluids and electrolytes like bodybuilders, the muscle glycogen drawing into the muscles tons of water, I might not dehydrate in the hot, dry desert. It was definitely worth a try, and the American 50 would be my experiment.
With what kind of electrolyte should I experiment with? As if God Himself led me to it, I listened to a Dr. Peter Attia podcast in which he talks about scientific studies that show which electrolyte drinks had the best absorption rates. He said studies show that electrolytes that have a 2 to 1, glucose to salt ratio are the best and the one called Liquid IV had that ratio. I bought Liquid IV powder to make gallons of it .
Prior to the race, I ate a low-carb diet, while still training, to deplete glycogen, then pound the Liquid IV for four straight days, downing at least 3 liters per day. As I went into the race, I felt completely “topped off.”
Mike also advised us to set our American River pace slow, as we would for Cocodona, never letting our heart rates go above 135 BPM. (My max is around 197-200 BPM.) Running that pace, with no goal in mind except to enjoy ourselves and support Monica’s training, was a fun way to run and made 50 miles feel almost easy. Neither DeAnna nor I had any soreness after the race, and we both jumped right back into training Monday morning. It seemed Mike’s hack could work, which gave us both a lot of confidence and set the course for how we would prepare for Day1 at Cocodona.
Our training progressed, and as Mike predicted the two-a-days training had taken over a big chunk of our lives and injuries did pop up - I have tendonitis in my heel that bothered me a lot - but nothing serious enough to disrupt our training, and by the time May rolled around, we felt we were ready for the most extreme physical and mental challenge of our lives.
Chapter 3: Journey
We drove across desert California toward Arizona, and arrived in Flagstaff that Saturday night for a Monday race start. On Sunday, we met up with members of our crew. First and most crucial, Chris St. Jean. Chris is our son Walker’s close friend. He lives in his van, usually in Flagstaff, and is a computer programer working on a team Walker leads. Chris is a most excellent long runner, and considers us to be his trail parents. On Sunday, we met up with DeAnna’s parents, Roy and Linda, who drove our van to Prescott, Arizona. Having such dedicated support calmed our anxieties.
Prescott, a former gold and silver mining town, sits alone in the high desert at 5,300 feet elevation. Forty-three thousand people live there, understandably so: The former gold and silver mining town has some great cafes, coffee shops, a few museums, and the weather’s relatively temperate because of the higher elevation.
As we pulled into Prescott we went straight to runner check in. It was windy but the smoke from a developingfire that had caused the race managers to make changes to the course, was nowhere in sight. For dinner that night we went to the Colt Grill off of Whiskey Row. There is something about pregaming on barbecue and salty starches and coleslaw that seems to fuel DeAnna and me just right. And I guess for other runners too, because we saw several of them at Colt Grill, including the legendary Dom Grossman, along with his wife Katie and their kids. I had watched Dom dominate Angeles Crest a few years back and was secretly a bit of a fanboy, partly because he has a real job (he’s an engineer, I think) and knows how to suffer. The meal was the ultimate comfort food and settled me down for the last sleep for a very long time.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great night’s sleep. According to my Oura Ring, I got eight hours, forty-seven minutes, which sounds good enough, and three hours, nine minutes of REM, not bad. But only sixteen minutes of deep sleep. My HRV was slightly lower than normal but is always lower at higher elevation, so I felt pretty good. An Oura Readiness Score of 82 wasn’t ideal but not terrible.
My own version of Bullet Coffee (oat milk, mct oil and 100% cacoa) and Chia yogurt along with 45oz of Liquid IV was the morning breakfast of champions. The uniform, courtesy of Joe & Monica DeVreese was head to toe Rabbit: white mesh long sleeve shirt for sun protection and nine inch Trail shorts, an Santa Barbara Running hat, a Nathan Pack with a 1.6-liter bladder, and a 20-ounce front bottle for the first 11.2 miles to Aid Station one. All fluid was Liquid IV. In an attempt to stay cool, we filled our ice bandanas before the race.
It was already hot at the 10 AM start, so I’d have to hold back my heart rate at or below my targeted 135 max BPM. Finally, after six long months of training, anticipating, and dreaming about Cocodona, the gun went off. I felt the simple joy and excitement of finally being in the race.
I was shocked by the pace at which some runners started. I took their heavy breathing as a warning, and slowed down even more. DeAnna followed closely behind me as I monitored my HR on the COROS. DeAnna doesn’t wear a heart rate monitor, and doesn’t need to, because we’re pretty similar relative to thresholds, so we do most of our training based on my heart rate. DeAnna has had vomiting issues, and the key was to keep good blood flow to her gut by staying chill.
Eleven miles in, we came to the first aid station with a big group of runners. It was the smallest of the aid stations and the glut of runners made it a challenge to get water and food. I ate a P,B and J sandwich and a few pickle slices, then we refilled our ice bandanas, topped off our fluids, had water dumped on us and headed back out into the desert.
We enjoyed a nice flowy section of trail, which was lined with dry shrubs, green grasses, and I noted a lot of different kinds of birds. As we went on, the temperature began heating up, and I felt some nausea, which is not normal for me. I knew it was probably due to the altitude and our lack of training in it over the last month (we couldn’t get back to Telluride), and it made me worry about DeAnna, so prone to nausea, so we ratcheted back our pace.
At the White Rock aid station (mile 18), DeAnna’s parents, Roy and Linda, were there to greet us, and it was great that they were getting the full ultra experience that we’d talked about so many times. De Anna's mom is blind so for her to sit in the thick of a crewed aid station gave her a real sense for the culture and a feel for why we enjoy this community and experience so much.
Leaving White Rock we had a climb of about 1,000 feet, but then savored a long descent into Skull Valley, so named by settlers who found human remains from battles between early pioneers and Native Americans. It was late afternoon, the sun had waned, and we enjoyed the cooler temperatures, the miles feeling free and easy. At one point, a drone hovered above us, checking in on us. It was captained by the race founder and ultra legend, Jamil Coury, and we gave him a big wave hello.
At the next aid station (Finch Wells, mile 32), we started to see the Big Guns, the top racers. Jason Koop was the race leader at that point, and looked calm and in control hiking up out of Skull Valley. “Stringbean” Joe McCaughnahey wasn’t far behind him (he would win by a lot!). Then we saw Annie Hughes looking fresh, early signs that she would smash this course. Eric Senseman and Dom Grossman sightings were a bit further down the road and both look locked in for a long race.
Roy and Linda had procured a good spot for our van at the aid station where we made quick work of the re-supply and ate waffles and cookies, then strapped on our lights and headed out into the dark. (The new Kogalla ultra strip lights were awesome. So nice not to have a headlamp squeezing your melon for that long!)
The long climb out of Skull Valley (mile 36) was steep and a low point in the race for me. I was still nauseous, and my lower legs already felt fatigued, and with 210+ miles still to go, I was struggling. Never mind my goal of finishing in under 100 hours. At that point, maybe I wouldn’t finish at all. DeAnna was half wheeling me and she seemed wanting to push faster but I was just hanging on in that moment.
And so we went, DeAnna half wheeling me as I was on to the second trip to Finch Wells Aid Station (mile 41) in the middle of a long ascent. We both drank broth, and I ate a piece of ginger to settle down my stomach, and then we continued the climb upward.
At Mile 48 - about one-fifth of the way through the race - we hit the Copper Creek aid station. It’s a blur, I barely remember it, only that we ate a little and sat by a heat lamp for a minute or so, but were anxious to get to Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott, another twelve miles away.
Not too far outside of Copper Creek and without any real warning, I heard the familiar sound of DeAnna heaving. I was surprised since we had made it through the heat of the day and our pace was on the slow side. I was sad for her and we stayed quiet for a long time. The stomach issues have been her cross to bear in so many other races. She's tried everything, sought medical help, and had blood testing before and after races. We really thought that THIS was the race where a modest pace would allow her to avoid the issues. It was not to be.
We kept moving but there was a pall over us both. We pulled into Whiskey Row (mile 61) at about 4am and agreed to take whatever time was necessary to get the blood flow back to her belly and for her to keep fluids and food down. She had broth and ramen and laid down for 20 minutes on a cot. I ate three pieces of pizza and shut my eyes, though I couldn’t sleep, instead listening to the reassuring sound of DeAnna’s snore. When she woke up, we had Runners High Coffee with a bunch of sugar and choked down a few cookies, and DeAnna said she was good to go, but we took it easy to make sure her stomach had settled.
The sun was rising as we made our way through Prescott, and De Anna seemed "up" but we kept it chill, mostly hiking and slow jogging the downhills. We had done the first 60 miles without our hiking poles and we picked them up at Whiskey Creek. It was nice to have them as we started moving again.
From there it was on to Iron King and a nice flat trail leading to a techie slick rock section where Howie Stern was hiding out taking photos. Just before the slick rock section, De Anna barfed again and was feeling depleted. I told her I was sorry, but we didn't talk about it, didn’t want to make it into something more, instead we just kept moving forward.
After the slick rock it started getting hot again, and DeAnna slowed down. At that point, I just wanted her to get safely to the aid station where Chris would be waiting in the van. About five miles before the aid station she said she was going to walk in and would reassess there and she pushed me to go ahead without her. But I stayed with her for two more miles, until she demanded that I go on. About a half mile down the road I came upon a coiled up rattlesnake in the middle of the trail. I ran back to DeAnna, using the snake as an opportunity to check in on her. She read me like a book and I headed off alone again, tail between my legs.
Chris was waiting for us when I arrived at Iron King aid station (mile 74). It was nice to finally have a crew. Chris is quite the ultra runner. He did his first 50 miler at Catalina and finished in just a few minutes over seven hours. He’s been top five at the Santa Barbara Nine Trails and then a men’s top ten at Javelina Hundred. So he knows how to crew and what to say and not to say in the heat of a race.
He got my pack all squared away, and I told him I wanted him to focus completely on DeAnna, that I was prepared to be crew-less. I was about to head out when DeAnna rolled in. We discussed the plan, and I took off toward Fain Ranch. DeAnna stayed with Chris and began the process of taking on fluids and calories to see if she could continue.
As I headed out of Iron king, I was a few hundred yards behind another runner who was going in the direction I had just come from - the wrong direction, I was pretty certain - but heat and fatigue do take their toll on everyone. “Hey,” I yelled, “I think you’re heading the wrong direction?” He stopped, assessed, and sure enough, realized his error, and we talked for a while as we moved down the trail. Eric is from San Diego and had a joyous demeanor. I’d see him and his pacers throughout the race, which was great, because those guys from San Diego were a kick and a really fun element of the slog through the false flat cow pastures of Fain Ranch.
The Fain Ranch aid station was only 5 miles from Iron King and when I got there I was shocked to see Chris ready to crew me. DeAnna had rebounded, Chris said, and she was already at least a mile into the section. It was a great relief, to know DeAnna was okay, so I reloaded my supplies, ate again, and left for one of the harder sections of the course. After more Fain Ranch Cow pastures and lots of ladders to climb over barbed wire fences, I settled into a groove and tried to stay hydrated in the increasing heat.
It was late afternoon on day 2, 87 miles into the race, and I'd been awake for about 30 hours as I started the steep, hot climb up Mingus. I had planned to take my first real sleep somewhere on Mount Mingus. Hot and very low energy, I took a lot of stops in shady places off the train and was passed by at least three runners, including Wes Plate who I had met earlier. He had done the race last year and was helpful with some insights on what to expect. Wes is a really great climber so he dropped me fast, but I managed to catch up as it flattened at the top, and we talked about his career and entrepreneurial ventures.
There were a lot of runners on this section of the trail, and I was dying for a bathroom break (meaning, emptying my J Pouch), and luckily caught a break at Mingus Lake which had an outhouse right off the trail. Shortly after, I made it to the next aid station at mile 92 where Chris awaited with the van. DeAnna was already half way up the Mingus Climb, he told me, which was great news, so I grubbed down 1,000 or so calories of Chia pudding, waffles, cookies and dried fruit, then asked Chris to wake me up in 45 minutes, around the time we believed DeAnna might arrive.
I slept deep and hard until Chris shook me awake. DeAnna was sitting in the van, a smile on her face, completely back in the race. To have her back gave me a great jolt of energy, and after she finished eating, we headed off, together again, toward the section from Mingus to Jerome.
We had a beautiful view working our way across Mingus Mountain as the sun was setting, then headed down the descent toward Jerome. The elevation profile seemed to indicate a nice, gradual downhill, but instead the descent was steep and rocky, but leveraging our Santa Barbara training ground with similar technical downhill trails, we made good time. On that stretch, we were thirty-four hours in to the race when we hit the 100 miles completed sign. Which played tricks with my mind, because my range for times for 100 mile ultras is about 23 hours to 33 hours (depending on terrain). Then I did the math: 34 hours X 2.5 = 85 hours. I was on target to crush my goal. But I also knew as the days went on I might struggle, slow my pace, get injured or sick - so much could happen. But at that moment, the nausea had disappeared, my legs felt fresh again, and overall I felt better at that point than I had at any other time in the race. If I just stick to the plan I will reach my goal.
As we entered Jerome (mile 109), once a copper mining town that sits at 5,000 feet elevation, we struggled to find the aid station. It was getting late and the streets were eerily quiet which brought to mind the Barenaked Ladies’ song about Jerome being haunted.
When we finally found the aid station, Chris was ready and waiting for us. I had apple pie in a cup, half a hot dog and a few cookies before DeAnna and I snuggled in for a 30 minute nap. We both slept hard and as Chris woke us we felt pretty refreshed and ready for action. We left Jerome with Eric from San Diego and his new pacer.
The steep, faint trail was hard to navigate at night and the loose rocks caused a few falls for both of us. It was on one of these particular stretches that DeAnna lost her footing and while trying to stay upright, injured her calf muscle. But she kept motoring forward that night, and we had fun navigating the varied terrain. Despite DeAnna’s injury, between Jerome and Sedona we passed 25 runners - and also passed the halfway point of the race as we headed to Dead Horse Ranch State Park.
After passing through the little town of Clarkdale in the deep of night, we made our way to the Verde River which we crossed quickly, anxious to get to Dead Horse aid station at mile 117 to refuel. At Dead Horse, Chris greeted us with meat and cheese burritos and we warmed ourselves by the fire. We both changed out of wet shoes, and I knew I'd miss my HOKA Evo Mafates, but the dry EVO Speedgoats were a welcome change.
We decided not to sleep and began the next stretch toward Deer Pass aid station. There was a small climb out of the aid station and we passed a few more people. This section, in the dark, felt repetitive, no doubt it was because we were sleep deprived and having those deja vu moments that that state of mind brings. It was the only time during the race that DeAnna and I wore earphones, listening to an episode of Bible Books in 30 Minutes podcast on 1st Peter. 1st Peter speaks of how to be a good citizen in a Godless society and how future hope can affect present reality. That second part especially seemed appropriate for the moment.
The sun began to rise as we finished the last several miles to Deer Pass. We said hello to rabbit legend and past winner of Tahoe 200, Sean Nakamura, who was changing out of his overnight gear. We also got passed by a runner and his pacer in a full body suit and head covering that made him look like a bee keeper, all in an effort to keep the desert sun off of him.
Near a pipe culvert under Highway 89, we met Andrew Glaze for the first time. He seemed to be sleep walking in his faux denim running shorts, and didn't look like a guy that was going to finish the race. But the man is kind of a legend, has run 17-hour 100 milers, and a sub 24 hour Angeles Crest 100. He’s one of those runners who can race every weekend. (He toed the line about a week later at Samo 100.)
By coincidence, Andrew works for the fire department near LaVerne, CA, and had been part of the crew who protected my parents’ house during the Marshall Canyon fires.
The light of the new day was refreshing and woke me up, and as we entered the next aid station, Chris greeted us with a “hoot.” DeAnna had broth, and I had pancakes, bananas and pickles. We took a15-minute nap and left the aid station in an effort to get some distance in the 14.4 mile trek to Sedona before the sun started blazing. I saw Chris looking at DeAnna’s injured calf, which had begun swelling, and we both knew something was not right.
Leaving Deer Pass (mile 130) toward Sedona we ran with a small pack which included Andrew Glaze and a runner from Salt Lake City and his brother who was pacing him. The guy from SLC had lived in Long Beach, CA, where DeAnna and I grew up. DeAnna had to pee so we dropped out of the pack and continued toward Sedona on the Lime Kiln Trail, a solid climb upward, and at the top we ran into Howie Stern and his pooch Mishka. DeAnna’s calf began getting worse and was turning black and blue, which I was sure meant that it wasn’t just a strain.
We took our time through the heat of Sedona and were thankful for Jason Koop’s heat training protocol, published in Ultra Running Magazine, which we followed to the letter. (I met Jason recently at Western States100 and thanked him.)
DeAnna was struggling even more on the downhills, the eccentric loads really hurt her calf. The blue blood continued to rise and the calf swelled even more. It was disappointing because she’d made it through her nemesis, “the barfs,” and at the rate her calf was swelling and darkening, I didn’t know how much longer she could go on.