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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Race Report: 2019 Badger Mountain Challenge 100-Mile Endurance Run, Richland, Washington (about three hours east of Seattle), Friday/Saturday, March 29-30

Contributed By Connie Kolita

I have REALLY been wanting to finish a 100-mile trail run.
I have tried five times in the past four-ish years to do this (three Burning River courses in Ohio, one Mohican course in Ohio, one event on the KY/TN border called No Business), and each time I failed because I missed a cutoff. (As a runner, you have to be certain places on trail by certain times, or else they don't let you continue. Cutoff times are firm.)

But I have still REALLY been wanting to finish a 100.

Working my way on the course (Photo credit: Chris Ruby, FotoRuby Photography, Tri-Cities, WA)
Ultrarunners who have meant well have said/inferred, why don't you try a course such as Umstead, Indiana Trail, Tunnel Hill, etc. - courses with less elevation gain/loss... and maybe you will earn your first buckle there-? (A buckle is what you get when you finish a 100 miler. Like it's literally a belt buckle. For road marathons you get a medal; for this you get a buckle.)

I wished I could have followed their advice-- but no. You've got to run a course that is in your heart, in your head... at least that is what I have thought all along.

In October 2017, I traveled to Richland, Washington, with my husband Mark Gleckler to see his brother Brian, who lives there. I had never been.

Right when I saw the mountains I loved it.

These mountains are not like, MOUNTAINS, mountains... but they are mountains. They're not Utah's Wasatch front, or mountains in Colorado I have yet to see, but they are mountains.

During the trip, we did a day hike up Badger Mountain (elev 1593) and back. I LOVED IT. His brother lives about five minutes from the trailhead and I thought that was just cool.

Fast forward a year to fall/October 2018. I was playing around on the Interwebs and I saw it: open registration for the 2019 Badger Mountain Challenge 100-mile trail run. I thought... how awesome is this... it's fate! I'm gonna run it! I'm gonna get my first buckle at this race!

Then my hopes were dashed: I kept reading and it said that the gain/loss on this course was 16,200-ish feet, with two 2,000 foot climbs. Um, I live in OHIO, and there aren't any mountains here to train on. Plus, the courses I have already "DNFd" (running term for Did Not Finish) were 8,000ish feet (BR), 11,000ish (MO), and 14,000ish (NB). Plus again, I have never climbed that long (2,000 feet) in my life. There was no way I would be able to do it.

But I signed up. There was something about this course that spoke to me.

So beginning in November 2018 I started training. I trained almost daily. I honestly didn't run much; I did more hiking, always with our new rescue dog Sid who is a beast of a trail dog. But every time we would hike - and I mean every time, for pretty much four months - we would hike hills. We would hike the biggest hills I could find. And we would repeat them.

I only told five people that I was doing this: my husband and four amazing co-workers at the JackRabbit-O'Bryonville running store:  Jody Collier,  Walker Smith, Jason Bradley, and  Abe Mancino.

I was sick of talking about wanting to finish a 100; I just wanted to go out there and do it. 

Packing for this event was tough, as I hear that the weather could feature literally anything. BMC100 finisher  Taryn Graham had said online at one point this event is like running a summer race immediately followed by a dead-of-winter race (up on the 2,000+ foot ridge at night) immediately followed by another summer race! What??

My husband and I nicknamed our upcoming trip as the WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?! trip.

On Wednesday, March 27, along with Mark's 14-year-old son, we flew into the Pasco, WA, airport.
Mark's brother Brian picked us up. On the way to his house, you could see all three mountains I would climb: Badger Mountain, Candy Mountain (elev 1394), and McBee Ridge (elev 1942). They looked a lot bigger than when I had last seen them.

Thursday, March 28, was packet pickup at a great store called Runners Soul. Volunteer photographer Chris Ruby took "before" photos. Then there was a group dinner/Q&A at the church. The vegan pizza was amazing and I really enjoyed RD (Race Director) Jason Reathaford's talk. I had heard that Jason is a great ultrarunner in his own right. I met a couple of local runners who were super cool and who knew some Ohio runners such as NE Ohio's Connie Gardner. "No I am not her... yes she is about 20 hours faster than I am, haha."

The following is the synopsis of the actual event, which for the 100 mile is an out-and-back 50 followed by another out-and-back 50:

Start in summer clothes, even though it was a bit cold. Hike up Badger Mountain; not bad. Run down Badger. Fine. Hike up Candy Mountain; not bad. Run down Candy-- that was tough! A steep downhill for sure. Through a culvert and onto a bit of road. Through some vineyards onto... it's the jeep trails everyone has mentioned. Tough! Nothing flat about those! Sand everywhere! This section just kept rolling.
Some of the climb up McBee Ridge-- you can see the little runners on top

At mile 18.5... first glance at the infamous McBee climb. I liked it, cause I trained for hills. Put rain jacket and pants on. Adrenaline going. Then the hardest part of the course: once you get up on the (2,000 ft) ridge, run four miles to the Chandler Butte A/S (aid station) ... in the rain, now... and oh yeah those four miles will be nothing but skull-sized rocks. Check into A/S, then turn around and do those four miles back, in more rain. That was tough . Then down a mile to the bottom of McBee. Take rain jacket and pants off.

From the top of McBee Ridge... you can see the trails way below(
Back through the jeep trails, through the vineyards, up the back side of Candy-- definitely a steep uphill ! Second rain storm, albeit brief. Run down the front of Candy. Getting cold. Hike up the back of Badger, run down the front of Badger, where my husband was waiting at the start/50. The front 50 took me 14 hours (6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday), which for me, on those hills... I thought I was kicking butt. Quick turnaround at the A/S -- pick up dead-of-winter down coat, and I looked Mark straight in the eyes and said, I'm gonna FINISH this thing. Off I go, back up Badger.

Insane massive up and then down... and/or down and then up... on the jeep trails
That is where/when I met local ultrarunner Pat -- Pat Grengs. Age 53. Pat had run this event before, and he saved me. We stuck together most of the back half, through the dark of night, with the exception of when we got lost on McBee Ridge at 5:15 in the morning for 20 minutes because he was sleep walking and I spaced out and stopped looking for flags (course markers) . That was stressful, because I immediately became convinced that those 20 minutes we had just burned would come back to cost me my first buckle.

Oh yay, second (and final) hike up the back side of Candy Mountain... tough! but scenic...
But no -- Pat kept saying we were OK on time. As runners know, it is IMPOSSIBLE to stop doing math in your head, so I began talking that I would DNF a sixth time on account of missing a cutoff. There was Pat... "Really, we are OK."

Back to summer clothes-- literally tank top and running skirt at this point. Gonna be 65 and sunny. What weather!

Some of the running conditions were - shall we say - difficult! (Photo credit: Chris Ruby, FotoRuby Photography, Tri-Cities, WA)
Eleven miles to go, so mile 89 ... Jacobs Rd A/S... and there is my husband, jumping in to pace. SWEET. We tackled going up Candy the last time, then stopped at the final A/S... the Candy A/S.
It was there, with 4.6 miles to go, that I looked at my husband and said, oh my god I really AM going to finish this. I started to cry. The volunteers started to clap.

Off we go. Obviously those last miles felt like they took forever. I felt so... warm at this point, dry eyes, scratchy throat, chapped lips. But who cares... here comes the final down, then a left into the finish.

Getting there... maybe mile ... 95?... I think this is Badger before we start the final left turn then descend in to the finish.
I had thought about this moment for four years. I stood there at the line, dropped my poles, put my hands to my face and just cried. RD Jason gave me a warm hug. I remember mumbling things into his shoulder, like, "IT WAS SO HARD!" and "WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, KILL US OUT THERE?!" Jason beamed as he handed me my buckle, along with a stuffed animal badger which is ridiculously cute.

About mile 99... Mark took this... I tried to smile but my lips completely cracked at that point, haha...
I ran for 31 hours 29 minutes straight... 6 a.m. on Friday to 1:29 p.m. on Saturday.

After leaving Jason I was greeted by my husband Mark, his son Colby and his brother Brian. It was great that Mark was there. I really love you and I can't believe you have put up with all of my practically living in the muddy woods for so long. I love that you are my life partner!!!

At finish. (That time clock is not for our 100, it's for either the 50k or 15k events which were going on that day).
I then looked up and saw Pat, who had finished ahead of me because he is so used to doing all of these climbs. I hugged him and said that I would not have this buckle without him. This is truth.
A quick stop at the medical tent for a brief and wonderful foot soak, then limped to Brian's truck as we went back to his house. I felt "weird" for a couple of hours... shivering, warm, back to cold, hungry, nauseous... but since then I have actually been OK. One small blister between two toes, which upsets me because I try and be obsessed with foot care as my coworkers know, haha... but that was not bad.

SUCCESS! (Photo credit: Chris Ruby, FotoRuby Photography, Tri-Cities, WA)
In the end, those five previous DNFs were totally worth it because I learned from each attempt. They made me want a finish badly. The main thing I learned is that there is no way to shortcut it -- if you want to finish a 100-mile trail run you have to train, hard, for like four to six months. You simply must put in the work. I put in the full work this time-- and MAN this buckle is SWEET!

Pat and I with our buckles and the cute little badger stuffed animals that they gave us (Photo credit: Chris Ruby, FotoRuby Photography, Tri-Cities, WA)

Gee this only took four years.........YEAH, BUCKLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An aside - fun elevation chart… aaaAUGHHHHHHH!

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