Barkley Fall Classic 2020 Race Report

A few weeks ago I ran the 2020 edition of the Barkley Fall Classic “50k.” 50k in quotes because it is likely longer than a 50k, estimated to be more like 35 miles, with 10k-12k feet of gain and loss. I finished in 12 hrs, 49 minutes, and 6 seconds.. mere seconds before the cutoff!

Due to a drastically reduced field size this year (typically 400+ racers, this year had just over 100), there was a prerequisite for the race that you had to be a previous finisher of the 50k. I previously had completed the race in 2018 and 2019 so was thankful to have “qualified.” Prior to the race, runners were prepared to expect a heavily modified race format. The biggest of which were: 

  1. The race started at 7AM and sent groups of ~20 runners off in waves every 15 minutes, however the overall race cutoff remained the same for all runners, 8:20PM. So if you started in a later wave, you just had to run faster! I started in wave 3 at 7:30AM.
  2. No food at aid stations, you had to carry all of your food for the day, which could easily be 10-13 hours, on your person. 

Packet pickup, which is usually the night before along with a pasta dinner, was now race morning, about 40 minutes before you were scheduled to start running. Meaning that you saw the race map about 40 minutes before. Not the worst thing, since this was a field of veterans that should have a basic mental map of the park and what to expect for the race, but still, that added to the unknown.

The start line was staggered by our numbers. We all stood next to distanced signs, then lined up right before we started running. Then we were off! Up to Big Cove, up Bird, then on the North Boundary Trail to the Garden Spot. Down to Tub Springs, then down/up Testicle Spectacle and then down Meth Lab Hill. There are several portions of both hills, Testicle and Meth Lab, that are near vertical descents and climbs in spots, where your only choice is to butt slide down or to climb up on all fours. I was glad I had my garden gloves on me!

The temperatures were on our side this year, with 50 degrees at the start line and only up to 75 degrees during the day, a huge break from the 90 degree, sunny races of past years! I was very thankful for the cool temps, it really helped on the exposed power line hills. 

After Meth Lab, we started the first of TWO climbs up Rat Jaw. Rat Jaw is a briar infested power line cut that has about 1k feet of gain in less than a mile. Before heading up I got to see my friend Keith Dunn who was manning the bib punch at the bottom of the hill. There are a variety of bib punches along the course to ensure that you made it to each point. Keith had some encouraging words to share.. I think he reminded me that the sooner I get up the hill the closer I am to dinner and beer. So I started up the hill. The briars were lush this year! I followed the path of the runners that had cleared the path before me, up and up and up. Made it to the top without much trouble, but it did take over an hour! Up to the fire tower then back to Tub Springs for the “decision point,” which is where you decide if you’re going to continue the 50k, and do Rat Jaw again, or do the marathon. I reached the decision point 1:20 hours before the “decision cutoff” so of course I was going to continue to the 50k.

I refilled my water and continued on down the jeep road, until I got to the Old Mine Trail, which is where I made my huge mistake. The turn was marked with an orange ribbon, but we had already passed this on the course before, was the orange ribbon there before? I couldn’t remember. I even took my map out and looked at it! Argh, I made the dumb decision to keep going down the Jeep road until I reached the highway, following the course from before. When I got there, there was a ranger there, I said “hi, which way?” and he said “oh no, you’re not on the right route, you missed a turn about a mile back” Ahhhhh! The damn Old Mine Trail! It was a mile back, and UPHILL. So I turned around and ran back to the orange flags that I had seen before. The whole ordeal probably took at least 20-30 minutes off my time, but I have no idea exactly how long because I didn’t look at my dumb watch (no GPS watches allowed). It was more mentally taxing than anything: How could I have messed up, I even looked at my map, now I’ve lost all this time and have expended this extra energy.. Ugh. I started down the correct “trail” aka through the steep, uncleared woods that shot off from the Old Mine Trail and it popped me out at the bottom of Rat Jaw. I got my second bib punch from Keith and he had some helpful words to share, “You still have plenty of time, you’ve only lost some extra energy.” Well that was kind of true, I still had hours to finish and I did lose extra energy running an extra mile down and uphill, but I can’t go back and change that so here we are. I started up Rat Jaw for the second time. There were way less people around me than there were on the first time up; I only saw maybe 1-2 other people total for the whole hour+ climb up. Definitely felt like a more real Barkely experience, being alone on Rat Jaw for that long. I made it to the top for the second time, up the fire tower, and back down to Tub Springs to get water and head to the finish! 

At Tub Springs I put away my leather gardening gloves, aka climbing gloves, and got out my Patagonia Houdini and headlamp. The sun sets at around 7:30PM and I knew I was going to be out later than that. Temps would be dropping and it would soon get dark.

I started off on the Chimney Top Trail (CTT) with a little over 2 hours until race cutoff at 8:20PM. My legs were really feeling the miles and elevation of the day at that point, with over 10 hours already on them, and a couple of more hours to go, so I was moving along at a slow but steady pace. I thought I had plenty of time, but I kept hitting false peaks on CTT (which I expected) and never seemed to start descending. Time went on, the sun set at around 7:30PM, and twilight ended soon after. I turned on my headlamp, and with about 40 minutes to go until cutoff, tried to ignore all of the leg and foot pain and started running. As time clicked on my jogging turned into what felt like a full sprint downhill in the dark. Finally I exited CTT at the ranger station with 6-7 minutes until 8:20PM. If I wasn’t in a full sprint before, I was now. I no longer felt any pain in my legs and only wanted to get to the finish line before cutoff; I was flying down the road like a bat out of hell. Finally, I saw the lights from the field and rounded the corner to the finish. The few last remaining people came over from their cars to jump and scream as I sprinted it in. I was the last person to finish before cutoff at 8:19:06PM. I was so happy I made it! I stood there for a few seconds in disbelief as the official timers counted down to the final cutoff for the race. Definitely too close for comfort! 

Thank you to all of the race volunteers, park rangers, photographers, timers, and organizers who gave their time in what was a very unique race and circumstances to make sure we were safe. 

Biggest thank you to my husband Ian who is the best supporter through all of my races 🥰

Barkley Fall Classic 2019 Race Report

I finished the 2019 edition of the Barkley Fall Classic “50k” in 12 hours, 30 minutes, and 57 seconds! Here’s my race report split into pre race, race, gear. 

Pre race

I was on the waitlist up until about three weeks before the race, I got the email while we were in Switzerland for CCC. I immediately accepted then thought about the consequences later. 🙂 We flew into Nashville rather than Knoxville for last-minute flight cost reasons, plus Nashville is cooler. After spending some time there we drove to Oak Ridge where our hotel was (~30 min from Frozen Head). We hit the Walmart for some last minute items, and went to packet pick up in Wartburg. There’s also a spaghetti dinner and movie, definitely go to the dinner! Everyone is super friendly, stressing together over the map; it’s a good time. Also stop at Brushy Mountain State Prison, there’s a great tour, moonshine tastings, and gift shop!


Race starts at 7am, alarm set for 4:45am. We geared up and got to the start line. I dropped my drop “bag”, a shoebox, with Keith Dunn. It had precious trekking poles for later. Laz said some words then lit a cigarette to get us started. We sprinted (really seemed like it) from the start line to about a mile to Big Cove campground, then up Bird Mountain. 14 some switchbacks later (it feels longer coming down) we were at the top! There was actually a time cutoff here this year, 90 minutes. I made it up in 53 minutes. Then you start down, and continue on to the North Boundary Trail. I was familiar with the blaze colors on the trail so happily announced to everyone when we were on the other trail. We hit the first aid station at Bald Knob, then headed back down a jeep road to hit aid two at the Ranger Station. After that we started up Chimney Top Trail, the trail of a million false summits. Up until now it’s been relatively cool out, 70s-80s maybe, and all of the trails are tree covered and shaded. So good, and so about to change. 

Then we hid aid three at Tub Springs then continued on to Testicle Spectacle! Down AND up it. Really steep hill/mountain, very exposed to the hot sun. Folks were on their butts sliding down and on all fours crawling back up through the dusty hot mud. I counted the tough areas on the way down, which helped mentally count down the tough areas on the way back up.

Then we headed down Meth Lab hill. More butt sliding, more dusty hot trails. We got to the prison aid station, refilled, then went around the back of the prison to climb the ladder over the wall, then through the tunnel under the prison (so dark in there). We came out the other side and, tada! Rat Jaw! 0.8 miles and 2000 feet of sheer hell. I had been having lots of success on all fours from Testicle so started bear crawling up Rat Jaw. Hot sun, really difficult climbing. The briars were truly awful this year, there was an eye-level archway of briars for about half the way up, it was too thick for the lead group to break through. You had no choice but to bear crawl up through it, which lead to briars everywhere, including in my hands. Finally we made it to the top, then climbed the three story fire tower for the bib punch.

Then back to Tub Springs for decision point, drop bags, and poles! I made it to Tub Springs at 4pm, the cutoff to decide to move on to the 50k was at 5pm, so about an hour cushion, pretty tight time-wise, and I was really power hiking and running most all of the runnable parts until this point. I got my poles and continued the 7-8 additional miles for the 50k finish. This was a repeat of the North Boundary Trail and Bird Mountain, the path we had started on. I made it through all those ups and downs, down the 14 switchbacks (really never ending), and emerged to run it in for 12:30:57 50k finish. Yay! I finished 40 minutes slower than my time from 2018, but feel like I really benefited from the experience of knowing what was coming, and felt great at the end.


I had to change my trail running shoes last minute before this race because my toes were too destroyed from CCC to wear my normal Sauconys. I ran in Altra Timps and they were awesome, very roomy. Other than that – the normal outfit I wear for almost every trail race – injinji socks, patagonia skirt, patagonia shirt, hat, zensah sports bra, nathan vaporhowe pack, lots of clif bars, shot blocks, black diamond trekking poles, black diamond headlamp. 

I got in to the BFC 2020 so I will see you then for another 50k finish 🙂 


UTMB CCC 2019 Race Report

I ran UTMB – CCC 2019 and finished in 24:28:35! Here’s a little about pre-race, the race, training, gear, and nutrition. This race is 63 miles and 20k feet of gain and loss.

Pre-race, arrival/packet pick up

We arrived to Chamonix, France on Thursday morning, the day before the race. We were already in Europe for our honeymoon, but we had flown into the Geneva airport then grabbed a bus from Geneva. Super easy/cheap to do.

When we got there we had tickets to do the Aiguille du Midi – really recommend! It was awesome. After that I went and gathered all my required gear and headed to packet pickup (you have to pre-sign up for a time slot to go, I picked 2pm-4pm). The line was not long, the whole process took less than 20 min…honestly my husband spent more time waiting in the supporter’s bus line to get his wristband to be able to access the aid station busses. 

When you get to packet pickup you show them your passport, they print out a sheet of all of your required gear, you put it in an airport security bin, then you bring it up to a person to check to make sure you have it. You sign a paper agreeing you’ll carry it all for the whole race, then they issue your bib and tag your hydration vest with a tracker. Easy peasy. 

I had also registered for the Dot Vision GPS tracker beforehand – I do not recommend doing this. It was an extra 30E and since the race tracking itself is so good, my husband didn’t end up using it at all to track me. Plus you have to keep it upright, at the top of your pack to work correctly, not worth it. 

Race morning

There are busses to drive you to Courmayeur from Chamonix the morning of the race, you need to register for a bus time beforehand. I think I picked 7am? I tried to pick one of the later ones, no need to get there super early. Ian rode with me on the bus. When we got there we just hung out inside the ice rink lobby where it was warm. No lines for the women’s restroom cause this race is only 15% women; very long lines for the men’s restroom. One perk of being a girl. Finally we walked out to the start, there are 2 corrals based on your bib number, which is based on your ITRA ranking. Bibs 3000-3999 in corral 1 and 4000+ in corral 2. Corral 1 goes at 9:00am (the elites are in the front, roped off), and corral 2 goes off at 9:15am. I was in corral 1. 


The race started! It was a gorgeous cool morning, most folks were in shorts/t shirts but some were bundled up. I was happy I was in shorts/a t shirt because it warmed up quickly. The first climb up to Tête de la Tronche was the longest continuous climb in the race, but it wasn’t bad at all. It’s still cool out, you feel fresh, spirits are high, it flew by. Then you come down to Refuge Bertone, there were snacks and water refills here. I refilled my flask and realized it was water with gas! Just remember they have both at the aid stations. I kept going to Refuge Bonatti. It’s pretty flat and uneventful between these two. Very runnable. At Refuge Bonatti they were instructing runners to refill bottles at one of the mountain run-off fountains, causing a bit of a bottleneck to fill up but it was fine. 

Then we made our way to Arnouvaz. There were a ton of people there cheering, because the spectator busses go here, however this is not a support/crew stop. Ian was there and I said hi to him, quickly went through the aid tent, and headed back out and started up the mountain number two. By now it was hot outside, it was around lunchtime, and we were headed up the second major climb of the day. This climb was rough for me. I don’t know if it was altitude or heat or a mixture, but I started feeling a bit lightheaded and just not into it, but I did not stop. Lots of people were stopping to take breaks on the side; you can take a break when you’re at the top and start going downhill. Finally I made it to the top at Grand Col Ferret, it was cool, windy, and cloudy at the top. This is also where you cross from Italy into Switzerland! I started down and realized that running, especially downhill, did not feel good anymore. It was at this point that I pretty much started walking it in, more or less, around 32k in. Oof. I made it to La Peule, they had water here. I’m pretty sure this is where they were refilling water with a hose! I was glad to have it though, it was so hot and I was going through my entire 2L bladder and 16oz flask in-between almost every aid station. We went through La Fouly which is a cute little town. The cheer busses go here too but Ian wasn’t here because he was focused on getting to Champex-Lac. It also took 3 hours for him to get from Arnouvaz to there because the tunnel under Mont Blanc was so backed up.

Then we continued on to Champex-Lac. On the elevation map this bump looks like no big deal but it feels significant when you’re doing it, but knowing that I’d get to see Ian and get hot food and water refills kept me moving. I made it to Champex-Lac before dark, so got to see the gorgeous sunset reflected on the lake. That was amazing. This is a fully stocked aid station, hot food, all the things. It’s really nice, but don’t get too comfortable! Keep moving!

I kept moving on and the sun set quickly. It got cool out but not cool enough to put on my jacket or anything. This next section felt very achievable because the mountains are not as high as in the beginning of the race, and you get to see your crew in between each mountain, luxurious almost! I made it to La Giéte then down to Trient, this was not too bad. I can’t remember if it was exactly here but there are tons of sleeping cows all over the mountains during the next two mountains. Then up to Les Tseppes and down to Vallorcine. I felt pretty miserable at this point, but there’s only one more mountain!!!! So I geared up and kept moving.

I should say at this point, because I’ve been walking the race since 32k, that I was still moving pretty well and quickly, this is because I did not sit down at any aid station. I was at each one for less than 10 minutes, and usually less than 5 minutes. Get your stuff and keep moving, you can eat and walk and make up a few miles while you’re regrouping. One woman even said something like “how are you walking and I’m running and you keep overtaking me at every aid station?!” Just get out of the aid stations as fast as possible, they are TIME TRAPS. Thanks so much to expert crew Ian who knows how these things work and can get me in and out of them quickly. 

So then I started the (last!) climb to Tête aux Vents. This climb was really difficult, it was so steep that there were stairs built into the mountain at some points. Also I know that on the elevation chart it looks about the same as the two you just did, but it really does feel longer. So I made it up. I did put my jacket on at this point because it was pretty chilly just because it was nighttime and on the mountain. The sun started coming up and there were amazing views of Mont Blanc. It was also a nice point just to remember how far you came around Mont Blanc and now you’re almost nearing the end! 

I made it to La Flégère and just wanted to burst into tears. So close now! Now there’s just a giant decent to Chamonix left. The downhills REALLY hurt. My quads were long gone and my toes were all squished in the front of my shoes, but almost there. I kept going and going and finally left the trail for the town, we went over that rickety bridge over the street, then started the jog into the city. The finish is the best part of all of these races, they run through at least a quarter mile of the town so everyone who’s outside, or eating at a cafe, stops what they’re doing and claps and cheers for you. It’s amazing. I crossed the line in 24:28:35. It was amazing. 


HA! I had been coming off injury and I was in a walking boot with a severe bone bruise until the middle of June. I hadn’t run at all in two months, swimming only. So I started from scratch.. 10 mile weeks, 20 mile weeks, 30 mile weeks. I made it up to a 47 mile week as my biggest week and an 18.5 mile run as my longest run. Not adequate at all, but it got the job done. You can walk this thing if something goes terribly wrong and your only goal is to finish. It is possible.


From the bottom up: Saucony Peregrines, Injinji socks, Dirty Girl gaiters, 2XU calf sleeves, Patagonia running skirt, Patagonia t shirt, Zensah sports bra, Squirrels nut butter chafing cream, Arc Teryx waterproof jacket, Buff, Hat, Photocromatic sunglasses, Garmin Forerunner 935 (died at mile 55), Nathan VaporHowe, Black diamond carbon trekking poles (essential), a belt with food in it. My pack was so loaded with all of the required gear (seriously it started ripping and I had to use the hotel sewing kit to sew it the night before), that I liked having my food in a separate belt. I changed bras/shirts once when it got to be nighttime, I’m glad I did because I was super sweaty from the day and I probably would have gotten colder faster if I hadn’t. 


I tried to eat every 20-30min. I ate shot blocks, cliff bars, I had tailwind in my flask for the first half of the race, then I ate tons of stuff at aid stations.. Bars, pasta, cheese, bread, everything.

Any questions? Let me know! Instagram @brimil

Barkley Fall Classic 2018 Race Report

I finished the Barkley Fall Classic 50k 2018 in 11:51:14. It was a crazy, incredible experience, and I am now completely impressed and mind-boggled by folks who attempt the big Barkely. This report is split into sections: Pre-race, Race, Gear, Helpful Tips. 


We arrived to TN on Friday, went to visit Brushy Mountain Prison, now open for tours and they have a distillery! After that we went to packet pick-up where we saw Laz (who had JUST returned from walking 3k+ miles across the US from Newport, RI to Portland, OR), and Jared Campbell, 3 time finisher of the Barkley Marathons.

After getting the course map at pickup, I spent a few hours comparing that to the research I had done with the park maps available online prior to arriving. I attempted to make an elevation map from what I knew, and wrote down the blaze colors for each trail on a piece of paper (the blaze colors was the most helpful, elevation map didn’t help, just know that elevation is going to happen, a lot of it). 

After this we drove back to the park for a couple pictures of the yellow gate, and went to the pre-race pasta dinner where they showed Where Dreams Go to Die by Ginger Runner, and then the runners were announced on the field at the Coalfield High School Football Game (go Yellow Jackets!) You’ll see why they’re called the yellow jackets soon enough :). The football players would be crewing the aid stations the next day for us so it was nice to be able to support them at their game. 

Race morning I felt awful. I’d had a cough all week and wasn’t able to fall asleep until about 1:30AM because of coughing so much. The alarm was set for 4:45AM so I woke up with little more than a long nap under my belt. I felt terrible, coughing, dizzy from lack of sleep, and obviously really worried about the day ahead. I internally debated if I could live with myself if I DNS (no) so I put the clothes on and got out the door. Due to being sick almost all food was unappetizing so I didn’t eat as much as I normally do pre-race and was only able to get down 2 bananas, half a peanut butter sandwich, and coffee.  


The race start is in a big field (where everyone parks too). Laz & Durb said some words and at 7AM, we were off! We ran out of the field and up the road, past the yellow gate, and began the ascent on BMT, what people affectionately refer to as the ‘conga line’. We went up several switchbacks, reached the peak, and continued down on the NBMT. For me, this whole section was about power hiking up, and running down the mountain. I grabbed walking sticks off the ground whenever I saw them to help with the climbs. We reached Aid 1 at mile 7.6, it took me 2.5 hours to get there! We continued and passed SOB ditch, up to the Garden Spot, and then on to a new section which is outside the bounds of the park map available online, but still in the park (I think?). It was an old jeep/coal road that went down to Aid 2 (took me 4:27:57 to get to Aid 2). Everything has been challenging but reasonable for a trail race with elevation up until this point. Now, all that ends. After Aid 2 we started the accent on Testicle Spectacle. This is unmaintained, and up a power line. There were points that were so steep that the only way to get up was on all fours, or to try to pull yourself up via plant roots. At this point it was mid-day so the sun was overhead, it was 90 degrees outside. It was extremely tough. The total up and down here is only a mile or two, it took me 1:43:45 to cover it. So we went up Testicle, we down Meth Lab hill (I think?), and then went to the Prison. The aid station at the prison had ice!! I really believe my ice bandana is the only reason I was able to get through the next section. Next we got to climb over the prison wall (where Jared Campbell was doing the bib punches!) and go through the tunnel under the prison (it is REALLY dark in there)! Next, we started up Rat Jaw. This was absolutely the most difficult thing of the whole race. I put my leather gloves on for the briars and started immediately overheating and getting really dizzy. After just a minute or two I had to pull the gloves off so I wouldn’t pass out, it was just too hot. Rat Jaw was like Testicle but worse. Steeper, more dusty places where it’s tough to get footing, there were people sitting and taking breaks all over the place. Carnage everywhere. I got to an old mine trail where Rat leveled off a bit and there were park rescue guys on ATVs talking to about (not kidding) 20 people laying in the shade taking a break. I stopped, I had to. I was dizzy, overheating, my heart rate was way too high. I was seconds away from calling Ian to tell him I was going to drop and get taken back to the prison. I sat in the shade on an ATV for maybe 5 minutes just panting and coughing and watching the world spin around me. I ate something, waited another several minutes, listened to the park rangers tell us we’d only done ⅓ of the Rat Jaw elevation so far, ⅔ more of elevation to go, which just seemed impossible. Finally one of the rangers said he could take 5 people back to the prison (of the 20 sitting there) and people just stood up like zombies and said nope and started up the trail. I didn’t look back to see if anyone had taken them up on their offer. It wasn’t good going up. I saw two people quit and come back down. I went up a little bit, took another break in the shade in another area where it leveled off a bit, ate more, then continued back up. Briars were scraping my arms and leg and more than a few times plucked the hat right off my head and I had to grab it off them. Finally after what seemed like an impossible task, and took such a long time, we reached the lookout tower. There was an awesome group of people cheering up there, their cheers could be heard most of the way up Rat, and it was keeping us going to try to get to them. I went to the top of the lookout tower for the bib punch, took a couple pictures (the only photos I took the entire race) and then went back down. Now just an easy peasy (comparatively) descent on NOM trail to see Laz and continue to the 50k!

At my bag drop at the checkpoint I was able to grab my trekking poles (life. savers.) and get my bib punched from Laz. As he punched he asked each person “Are you going to finish this race?” and I said “Yes. Yes I am.”

We started up CCT and I was so happy I had my poles, I felt determined and started strong power hiking up. The CCT is deceptive, there are tons of false summits. After the first several I pretty much stopped expecting to ever reach the top, but I eventually did, then started back on SBT. It took me 2:55:32 to do this section. I was so excited to finish that I ran it in and made it just under the 12 hour mark. I was so happy to be done. Huge thank you to Ian, as always, who did a great job cheering and photographing. 


On me: Saucony peregrines, injinji socks, dirty girl gaiters, 2XU calf sleeves, Patagonia strider skirt, Patagonia shirt, Zensah sports bra, dirty german 50 hat, homemade ice bandana, nathan vaporhowe hydration vest

In my pack: Map, compass, food, bandaids, arm sleeves, leather gloves, refillable bottle (cupless race)


Train for this like it’s a mountainous 50 miler, if you do that, you should be ok.

Familiarize yourself with the park map and trails before arriving, note the color of trail blazes. (AllTrails app was helpful). 

Read race reports from all years of the race, since it changes every year, and you’ll probably get some combo of what you read. 

Have fun! Talk to people! Lots of folks on the course are very accomplished ultra runners and listening to their impressive resumes and stories can help pass the time. 

Wear calf sleeves

Wear a hat

Drink tons of Sword

I didn’t end up using my leather gloves on Rat Jaw and my hands are (mostly) fine. No worse off than my arms or legs. 

Feel free to holler at me with any questions, GOOD LUCK! Twitter & Insta: @brimil

Trail Naut Aran 50k 2018 Race Report

Trail Naut Aran Race Report (informe de carrera de les meves experiències)

On August 4th, 2018 I ran the Trail Naut Aran in Salardu, Spain, which was 52k with 3,100 meters of gain/loss (32.3 miles, 10,170 feet) in 9:57:52, for 5th woman out of 12 female finishers, and 41st overall out of 82 total finishers. Here’s how it went!…

I found the race by searching on the UTMB site, I was looking for a destination/vacation race, and Salardu was about 3hrs 45min away from Barcelona, so I signed up. The website and all race communications were in Spanish, but with the help of Google Translate that wasn’t too much of an issue. This race was also good prep for me because it’s approx. the same length/elevation as the Barkley Fall Classic that I’m doing in September 2018, so I wanted to get a sense of what I’m getting myself into :). 

In preparation, I plotted all of the aid stations on Google Maps, and broke down the distance and elevation between them on a sheet I could carry with me. I kept my watch on the elevation data the whole race, not milage, because it was easier in my head to process “only 2000ft of climb and 500ft of decent until the next aid” rather than “3 miles to the next aid”, because in reality those 3 miles could easily be 1.5 hours of climbing.

The race took off at 7am from Salardu with about ~90 runners. We ran through Salardu to Unha (the town 1 minute away), then started up the mountains. I started with my Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles in my hands (lesson learned from Lavaredo) and kept them extended and in my hands the whole race. Once up and around the mountain, we went through fields with lots of cows and horses roaming free with bells around their necks. It took me about an hour to make it to Aid 1 – Eth Orri, Ian was there waiting. I refilled bottles, ate some food quickly, and kept moving. The next part was very runnable, I felt like I ran all the way to the next aid station. I hit Aid 2 – Mongarri in 1:54:11. Ian was there too. Same deal, eat food fast, refill, go. After this there were some significant uphills, I put in my headphones and just zoned out and hiked. We reached the top, went down around the lake, and hit Aid 3 – Lac de Montoliu. 

After this aid, we began an even more significant hike uphill. There were many areas of scrambling, steep drop offs, 70% grade. At one point during the pre-race briefing which was in Spanish (which we don’t speak), Ian and I were trying to figure out if the RD said this part of the race was “difficult” or did he say it was “not difficult”? Question answered, it’s difficult. We climbed to the highest point of the course and the highest point in Naut Aran, Tuc de Maubèrme at 9,449 feet! 🙂 This mountain is also so close to France that I believe we crossed into France for a bit on our way up. 

I made it to the top, then had to go back down the way we came, which was tough with other runners coming up at us, but it was fine. I kept going, hit Aid 4 – Planheth deth Pas Estret and Aid 5 – Colrad of Varrados and then began another ascent to Tuc dera Pincéla, 8,353 feet. (also I told a bunch of people this race only went up to 7,500ft which I truly believed until writing this report and actually converting the meters to feet so.. I was blissfully unaware of the actual elevation :))

The Tuc dera Pincéla area was really cool, we got to run on some ridgelines which was amazing. After this I started the 4,583ft descent (who needs toenails anyway?) back to Salardu. On the descent there were some really amazing areas, fields covered in wildflowers and butterflies; we descended through a waterfall/river at one point, jumping from rock to rock to stay dry. Then finally, back to the town and done! 

I couldn’t have been happier with how the race went or my preparation leading up to it. I felt really strong the whole time, everything that was runnable I ran, and I felt good after. I did the KV (vertical kilometer) the next day which was 3.5k and 950meters of climbing (2.1 miles, 3,116 ft.), then after that I was pretty wrecked :). My intention for the race was to have fun, and try to do my best, which I think I achieved. 

What I ate:

Pre race – wheat bread, peanut butter, bananas, nutella, trish moves bar

During race – cliff shot blocks, honey stinger waffles, bananas, melons, crackers, almonds, dark chocolate, coca cola, gatorade, tailwind

Post race – beer, wine, all the things 🙂 

What I wore: Saucony Peregrins, Injinji socks, Dirty girl gaiters, Nike shorts, Patagonia shirt, Zensah sports bra, 50 SPF sunscreen, USA buff, Nathan hat, Oakley sunglasses, Gamin watch

What was in my pack: Nathan VaporHowe with 1L of water (required), refillable bottles (required), whistle (required), Goretex rain jacket (required), emergency blanket (required), a bandaid, wet wipes, a sunscreen stick, my phone (required), 2 iPod minis & headphones, food (required). 

Brazos Bend 100 2017 Race Report

This past weekend I ran the Brazos Bend 100 miler.. my first 100 miler! It was an excellent experience and I want to share my journey with you guys. Skip to the end for training, food planning, crew prep, and gear worn. 

Brazos Bend 100 is a looped course, 6 loops of 16.67 miles. It’s dead flat, maybe two 20-foot long bumps in the road per lap. Each 1/2 loop is a series of loops or out and backs itself, so you’re always seeing other runners that are ahead/behind you, it’s nice because while only around 200 people do the 100, you do end up seeing a lot of other folks on the course, plus there’s also a 50 miler, marathon, and half marathon that start at different times the same day, so at times there are lots of folks on the trails (the trails are primarily dirt and gravel roads, and they’re very wide, so more people is fine!)

The race started at 6am, it was around 26 degrees at the start, unusually cold for TX. We took off at a steady pace so I warmed up, and the sun came up quickly as well.. probably around 6:30-7am. First loop I felt great and it was uneventful, I was finished the first loop in 3:16. I ate food from my pack and the aid stations, which there are plenty of.. one every 4ish miles. I did learn after the first loop that it was accidently 1 mile long, they had forgotten to put some turnaround cones out, but the cones were there when we went back for the second loop. Bonus miles!

I came back around to the start/finish, saw Ian, I swapped out packs (I have two Nathan VaporHowe’s so I wore one while Ian packed the other so I could quickly just take the new one each lap). Started off on lap 2, it was really warming up so I dropped some of the layers I was wearing. Lap 2 was also uneventful, I found some friends to run and chat with which helped pass the time, and I was also still feeling great. Looking back, I did not start out conservatively enough and was not able to maintain my pace for the whole race. I finished lap two with a cumulative time of 6:31.

Lap 3 came and went, 50 miles in 10:15 (a 50 mile PR by an hour and 15 min, that’s how you know you went out too fast, lol). On lap three the sun was up and the gators were OUT! I was worried going into the race that they’d be all over the trail and I’d have to leap over them. I saw 3 the whole race: 2 swimming in the lake and 1 sunning itself on the bank. Just stay far away from them and they’re no bother. 

Lap 4 started and I think about halfway through this lap is when it started to go down. I knew from reading other 100 miler race reports that you should take the first 60 miles painstakingly slow and eat a ton, while I was able to eat A TON, I did not go slow enough. The sun went down after 4.5 laps and it got really cold really quickly. My pace slowed significantly. I talked to Ian at the 4.5 point and told him to get ready to do half of lap 5 with me, knowing that my pace and mental state were on the downward trend and I needed a buddy. I finished lap 4 with a cumulative time of 14:53, 67+ miles in. 

Ian and I started out on lap 5, it was dark out, I was doing a lot of shuffling and walking. He did a good job of encouraging me to trot a lot, a few minutes of power walking with big steps and a few minutes of trotting, which was honestly just as fast as the power walking at this point. Once the sun went down the hot food came out at the aid stations, which was really nice. Cup-o-Noodles, cheese quesadillas, bean burritos, all the good things. I was not really into chewing food anymore at this point so Cup-o-Noodles was perfect, just broth and really soft noodles that I was able to drink. I had to make a pit-stop on lap 5 for an aid station volunteer to check my feet, there was some rubbing on my heel and everyone knows that if you don’t address small problems right away during 100s that they turn into BIG problems, so I sat down and let this very kind woman take off my shoes/socks and cover my feet in vaseline. My feet were in bad shape and it was jarring to see, huge and swollen, covered in a rash, felt like pins and needles all over, but 0 blisters (hurray!) so I just loosened my elastic laces a bit to ease the pain on the top of my foot. Lap 5 felt like it took quite some time to finish, I came in to mile 84 in 20:12. 

Lap 6!!! Last lap! Ian was considering going back out with me but he didn’t have enough clothes, only shorts and a windbreaker, and he’s only ever run 13.1 miles ever so he was enough of a trooper to stick with me for 17, I’m very thankful for that. I was so freezing cold at this point that I had to put on my giant winter parka that has a fur hood and comes down to my knees. I also had on: a long sleeve shirt, a Patagonia houdini, a down vest, another windbreaker, a Patagonia Nano Puff, and now my winter Parka. I was so cold and nothing was making me warm. The parka helped and I took off with the intention to walk it in on lap 6. I walked the whole first half of it, dying to find a buddy to walk with. I tried listening to music but eh, music in the pitch dark in a gator state park while walking alone wasn’t doing it for me so I was in find-a-friend mode. I took out my phone which had been away until this point and took it out of airplane mode to find lots of encouraging texts, yay! This really helped. I found one lady who immediately admitted to me she was going to drop, noo! I tried talking her out of it but sure enough she dropped at the next aid. Need to find a positive buddy. At some point on the second lap I ran into my AirBnB roomie Elaine, BOY WAS I HAPPY TO SEE SOMEONE I KNEW! We stayed together and chatted until the end of the race. Elaine is a total badass and has completed 13 (now 14?) 100 milers so she was wise and cheery, and even trotted a little towards the finish! We crossed the finish line together in 26:31. 

Overall it was a great experience and I’d do it again. The TROT community is exciting, welcoming, and just great folks. 

Training: I went into training with a solid base, I had just come off of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail  which was at the end of June. After taking a few recovery weeks, I started following this plan that I found on the internet pretty religiously. 21 weeks felt long enough to build up again but not get burnt out (I was very burnt out after LUT), another perk of this plan is 2 complete days of rest per week. I did 0 those days. While following the plan I obviously moved some things around to account for vacations or races, but I tried to hit that weekly mileage each week. My longest training run was 35 miles, a month before the race. 

Food planning: I wanted to get in 200-300 calories per hour, so I tried my best to make sure I’d be carrying enough food to eat, and also planned on grabbing stuff at aid stations. This was a looped course, 6 loops of 16.67, so I had my bf/crew person Ian pack my hydration pack with all of these things and I just put a new one on when I came around. I meant to whittle this down better before the race but didn’t get a chance to, so he just put all this stuff in my pack. 

Crew: My 1 crew person was my boyfriend Ian, and also emergency pacer. He was great, my packs were perfect (I showed him how to fill up the bladder and where to put the food, where to put my iPod, etc.). It was seamless. 

Gear: I stayed in the same outfit/shoes/socks the entire race, just added or removed layers from it. Nathan VaporHowe, Saucony Hurricane shoes (road shoes were fine), Injinji socks, Dirty Girl Gaiters, 2XU calf sleeves, Patagonia Strider skirt, Patagonia Houdini pants, Zensah sports bra, Long sleeve with NP PHL tag, Patagonia Houdini jacket, Nike down vest, a random windbreaker that Ian got from a golf event, Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, and last but not least my Calvin Klein knee-length parka. 

Questions, comments? Find me on the interwebs on Twitter/Instagram @brimil 

Happy running, yall! 

Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017 Race Report

Note: At the end of this report I have bullet points on the good, the bad, Aid Station Food, Aid Station Cutoffs, Runner Tracking, and Gear I wore/carried, if you’d like to skip down.

I ran the 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Cortina, Italy and finished in 29:07:05, 53 minutes before the 30 hour cut-off. Going into the race I had never run more than 50 miles, had never run at elevation, and had never run a European trail race, so it was hard to predict a time when I would finish, but I was hoping for the 24 hour mark. In preparation for the race I had read several race reports, but none from anyone who finished towards the back of the pack, so I’m writing this to hopefully help someone in the future!

The race started at 11pm (23:00); I had taken a 3 hour nap earlier that day to try to prepare for the sleep deprivation. It was cool and clear when the race started, 1,500+ runners took off through the town and immediately started a crowded uphill climb on a single track trail.

Initial uphill climb:

I got my trekking poles out halfway through this climb and used them throughout the remainder of the race, I should have started the race with the poles in my hands. Trekking poles will save you during this race, bring a good pair. I reached Ospitale aid station (17.9k, 11.1 miles) after 3:04 hours, at 2:04am. This aid station was extremely crowded, and it was hard to get to the table to get food and water. I ate some food quickly, refilled my water, and kept moving. After this there was a long hike uphill, then downhill through the woods to Federaveccia, the second aid station. I arrived at Federaveccia (33.9k, 21 miles) after 5:52 hours of racing, at 4:52am This is where you could have crew meet you, and my boyfriend Ian gave me some cold pizza that he brought which I quickly ate. Taking in calories is extremely important in this race, I tried to always be eating something while hiking, whether it be a Gu, Honey Stinger, or Larabar.

Views around Federaveccia:

The hike after Federaveccia was a long, long uphill to our first real mountain peak of the race, to Rifugio Auronzo. Before you get to the Rifugio you’ll come up to Lake Misurina, which is a pretty flat area and very beautiful.

Lake Misurina:

At this point, the sun had come out which gave me a renewed energy, but it was also getting very hot outside (around 80-87F, or 27-31C during the daylight hours). I made it to Rifugio Auronzo (49.2k, 30.5 miles) after 10:17 hours, at 9:17am. This was where I first started to feel dizzy and ill, maybe from the altitude, it was 7611 feet (2,340 meters) at the Rifugio. I sat down for a moment and then ate broth, bread, and Coca Cola and the sick feeling passed. After this you’ll go up and around the mountain to Tre Cime (elevation 9,839)! After this there is a long downhill to Cimbanche aid station, where you can get your drop bag and see your crew. I was walking every uphill and steep downhill at this point, I walked almost the entire race.

Views from Rifugio Auronzo:

After you stop at the Rifugio, you’ll go up and around the mountain and on the other side is Tre Cime!! It was really exciting to get to this point and take a lot of photos.

I arrived at Cimbanche (66.9k, 41.5 miles) after 14:02 hours, at 1:03pm (13:03). I ate food, but didn’t bother changing clothes because my feet weren’t wet (there are no water crossings before this point) and I was just going to get more sweaty in the hot sun anyway. Speaking of hot sun, there are MANY rivers, streams, etc. from snow run-off off the mountain, I highly suggest dipping your hat, Buff, legs, arms, etc. into this cool and refreshing water. It really kept me going.

The next aid station comes up pretty quickly compared to the others, which have all been about 10 miles apart until this point. I reached the Malga Ra Stua aid station (76.4k, 47.4 miles) after 16:21 hours of racing, at 3:22pm (15:22). It is SO IMPORTANT to eat and fill your water bottles completely at this aid station, the next hike uphill is grueling, and the next aid station is the furthest away.

I left Malga Ra Stua and started the long hike uphill, which seemed to last FOREVER. It was at this point where I started to hallucinate a bit, the trees would be zooming backwards if I looked at them, I would see quick movements out of the corner of my eye that were nothing. There are also a few water crossings at this point. If you toss some huge boulders in the water you may be able to make a jumping point for yourself and only get one foot wet. This is also when the thunder, lightening, and drizzle rain started. There are some dark times during ultras, and this is where they were for me. Just keep telling yourself that you’re ok, you’re going to keep walking forward, and that everyone is rooting for you to do this because you can do this. I also put my phone in a waterproof wet bag at this time so I don’t have any of my own photos after this point.

Col Gallina aid station (21:00):

I reached the next aid station, Col Gallina (96.5k, 59.9 miles) after 22:12 hours of racing, at 9:13pm (21:13). For this aid station and the last one, I was coming in just under the aid station cutoff times. The cutoff for this aid station was 9:30pm, and they were breaking down tables and getting ready to close it down at 9:30pm. They are extremely strict about the aid station cutoff times, no exceptions. You could have crew at this aid station so I got to see Ian again. I changed my shirt to a long sleeve (for the colder night), and changed my socks to dry socks, but kept my same shoes on. My Garmin was about to die so I took it off and plugged it into a charger to run with (but I forgot to turn on the charger so it died anyway, brilliant). Once I noticed this I turned on the charger and started a new run once the watch was charged enough, so I only missed a couple miles of the race.

I had a new fire under me because I was so close to the cutoff and didn’t want to get cut, so I took off like a mad person out of that aid station and began the next climb. There was a solo guy with a make-shift aid station at Rifugio Averau (elevation: 8691 ft / 2649 m), he has hot tea and water which is nice. I kept going and made it to Passo Giau (103.9k, 64.5 miles) after 24:38 hours at 11:39pm (23:39). This was the last time I could see Ian before the finish. I honestly don’t remember anything about this aid station, I can’t picture it. I think I was pretty out of it at this point. This was also the last aid station with a cutoff time (midnight).

I kept going through a few more difficult hikes up, at this point it was raining and VERY foggy, making it pretty difficult to see the trail and course markings. If you’re here in the dark try to find a few folks to run with, two headlamps are better than one. Luckily I found a guy named Fred to run with and we stayed together until the end of the race. That helped me keep a good pace, and the chit-chat kept me from getting in my own head about the night, rain, climbs, etc. We hit the last aid station Rif. Cord da Lago (111.6k, 69.3 miles) after 26:54 hours of racing, at 1:55am on Sunday. IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE! LITERALLY! After this aid station you go downhill for ~10k towards Cortina. There are some steep sections but also some really nice rolling single track in this section, I was so amped about finishing that I was actually able to run a bit. I came out of the woods onto the street in Cortina, then it was a couple more kilometers to the finish line!!! The bar crowds had long gone home by the time I finished at 4:07am on Sunday, but I’m very lucky and had some great friends wake up to cheer me in. I finished in 29 hours and 7 minutes, 53 minutes before the 30 hour cutoff. It was an incredible thing to be able to participate in and finish.

The good: Race scenery is like no other, it’s beautiful and you’ll want to be videoing and taking photos the whole time. Volunteers and staff I encountered are friendly and want to help you. The race is well organized. Overall this is an excellent race! A lot of people do the race (1,500+), some folks may see this as a ‘bad’ but I appreciated being around other people almost the entire time.

The bad: It is a tough, tough race!!! (is that good or bad? :)) There is A LOT of walking uphill and walking downhill. Weather in the mountains can go from good to bad quickly (like a clear night to golf-ball sized hail in 5 minutes – it happened the night before the race), be prepared. Some aid stations are pretty far apart, be ready to carry a lot of water, I had run out of water a couple times and that is no fun (I had a 2L bladder in my backpack and two 500ml bottles, which is 6lbs of water!).

Aid Station Food: The aid station food (VARIES per station, also they did run out of certain items by the time I got there near the cutoff times): White bread baguette, olive oil, chocolate pieces, crackers with Nutella, crackers with Jelly, pie, apple slices, bananas, cookies, water, Coca Cola, the Italian version of Gatorade/sports drink, hot broth and noodles, sugar cubes, cubes of cheese, meats (salami), hot tea.

Aid Station cutoff times: The aid station cutoff times and elevation are printed on the bibs. The race is very strict about cutoff times and won’t bend them. They have timing mats at each aid station (or people that will scan your bib) to register your time; some of the timing mats are at the beginning of the station and some are when you leave, so make sure to get out of there quickly to register your time if you’re near the cutoff.

Runner tracking/info: They offered runner tracking through an app and it also posted to Facebook. The tracking also gave the expected time when you would reach the next checkpoint so this was very helpful for my crew member. Also when you finish there’s a website where you can see your place, pace, stats, etc., for each aid station and the whole race. It’s very thorough.

Gear I had on me: Brooks Cascadias shoes, Injinji Socks, 2XU calf sleeves, 2XU shorts, Patagonia tshirt/Champion dry long sleeve, Zensah sports bra, Patagonia Houdini jacket, Arc’Teryx Goretex jacket, Buff, hat, Nathan Vaporairess, 2 Camelbak quickstowe flasks, TREKKING POLES!

Gear I carried in my bag: 3L of water, Gu, Honey Stingers, Larabars, other food, Emergency blanket, whistle, Patagonia houdini pants, gloves, extra injinji socks, chafing cream, bandaids, a poncho, phone charger, watch charger, a Jackery charger bar, ibuprofen, salt pills, waterproof wet-bag, 2 iPod shuffles, headphones. I didn’t end up using a lot of this and felt like I had an extremely heavy pack on. If I did it again I’d try to leave some of the non-required items behind.

I hope this was helpful for you if you’re thinking of doing the race! It is an incredible experience and I would highly recommend it. If you have any questions please feel free to message me, Twitter & Instagram @brimil. Cheers!