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Cocodona 250 Race Recap 2022

My knee was covered in KT Tape, but I let go of all the anxiety and stress of a potential DNF (Did Not Finish). It was the start line of the Cocodona 250, and I had never been calmer. The race would simply unfold before me, and I would do the best I could. Two hundred fifty miles is too far to conceptualize, and moving forward for three days is too difficult to imagine, so I simply planted myself in the present and heard the count down to zero. Then we were off. Cocodona 250 had begun.

For three miles, the pace was gentle, but it slowly picked up. It took all my patience to hold myself back, which meant I was quickly being passed. Less than an hour into a multi-day race, runners ran up the hills and flew down them. It differed drastically from my strategy, but it started to impact my morale. I was not used to being passed so frequently. But the success of my race depended on being consistent. I put in headphones and tried to enter my own world, paying less attention to the 50-plus runners that ran by me. I trotted on at my own pace.

The start of Cocodona 250

The start of Cocodona 250

The miles ticked by. The weather was hot, but seeing my crew at mile 20 completely reframed my view of the upcoming days. It was amazing to have my Aunt, our friend Ginny, and multiple other friends that would pace me later on in the adventure at the aid station. Cocodona 2022 would be a completely different experience than 2021. The route was different, and the pace was faster.

Day one went perfectly according to plan. Well, except my feet suffered in the heat. I was used to the stubborn cold of Montana and not the 80-degree temperatures of Prescott. But, after a couple of sock changes, my feet felt more at home. Darkness came, and I arrived at mile 60 to pick up my first pacer.

Josh is a thru-hiker with the trail name Aladin. Actually, all my pacers were thru-hikers, and it turned out to be a fantastic strategy. Josh and I had never met before, but he came right to pace me after trading Instagram DMs when he finished the Arizona Trail. He turned out to be an excellent pacer, and he always had something to talk about and kept me sharp. Josh took care of the navigating while I worked on running as much of the downhills and flats as I could. We quickly shot up into the top 5; all the people who ran so hard for the first few hours had fallen back. Night one was perfect, especially because Josh brought a small disco ball to pump up the nighttime energy.

My pacers traded out about 1 am, and I began running with Ari. She was also just off an Arizona Trail thru-hike and training for a marathon PR. I met Ari on the John Muir Trail while she was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and I knew her demeanor would be perfect for pacing a 250-mile race. She has the background as a Division 1 college runner and the experience of a thru-hiker. We charged through the night and navigated a complicated cross-country section full of literal bushwhacking, but we were soon in third place.

Running with Ari at Cocodona 250

Running with Ari at Cocodona 250

I had a great few minutes with my crew at Mingus Mountain and then trudged toward Jerome. I covered the first 100 miles of Cocodona in 23 hours and still felt fresh. Had I gone too fast? I was a little worried about the pace I was setting.

On a three-mile descent into the historic town cut into the mountainside, I stretched out my legs for a couple of six-minute miles. Things were feeling great, but 250 miles is a long way.

Sydney was my pacer from Jerome to Dead Horse State Park. Once again, she was just off a section hike of the Arizona Trail, and we had met in Bozeman. Serendipity brought together my fantastic crew and pacers. I am not a planner and fighting a small quad tear, and IT Band issues meant that I had done substantially less planning than I had even hoped.

I crossed the knee-deep Verde River with Sydney and began to feel tired. I had been awake and running for about 36 hours, and my mind started to feel sluggish. It was also getting hot, and my feet hurt.

At Dead Horse State Park, I took off my shoes to soak and rest my feet. Kristen and Ginny already had an Epsom salt tub and a few minutes in the cold water completely revitalized my energy. I took it even further with a cold shower and then continued through the heat with Josh. The energy my pacers brought was unmatched. We all wore eccentric clothing and outfits and focused on having fun rather than treating the three-day event as a competition. Efficiency was the key, but fun was the goal. The results would take care of themselves.

Josh ran with me through the rolling hills of the desert in a full dress. Every time I saw his tiger print dress flap in the wind, it brought a smile to my face. It helped spur me on at a good pace. We crossed the halfway point, but I began to crave sleep. I tried to lay down for ten minutes at the next aid station, but another runner’s hysterically screaming children ruined any rest I hoped to get. So, I trekked on toward Sedona with Sydney.

Cocodona 250 trail running race recap 2022

Cocodona 250 running into Sedona

We ran across striking ridges just as the sun was setting. But, as it dipped in the sky, I became exhausted. I quickly turned into a zombie and decided to lay in the dirt for a couple of minutes. I fell right asleep, and two minutes later, I was back on my feet, moving forward. At about 150 miles into Cocodona, my body was hurting. My hip had a sharp pain from an overused hip flexor. I could dull the throbbing hurt with a little massaging, but it would be a part of my race the rest of the way.

We jogged into Sedona at 10 pm, and I needed sleep. My Aunt Kristen and Ginny have a van, and they set it up for me to sleep in for an hour. Initially, it was tough to fall asleep, and right when Kristen woke me up, I walked outside and threw up. I am a puker, and it is normal but never fun.

I quickly put my shoes back on, tried to eat some food, and then moved off down the course with Ari by my side. Everything was straightforward until I opened a Red Bull from my pack, and it immediately made me want to vomit again. Then we had to cross Oak Creek. The flowing water would have been an easy ford in the daylight, but it was tough in my tired state and with only headlamps lighting our way. I slipped and slid across the slick bottom before exiting without a fall. My feet were soaked, and I was getting cold fast.

I needed to push hard up the Casner Canyon climb, but my stomach started to rebel. I emptied the contents all over the rocks and then began dry heaving. Some combination of the cold, exhaustion, and extreme exertion for two days caught me. It was my most challenging section. It took forever, and I moved at a snail’s pace. I was passed multiple times through that night and fell back into 6th.

As the sun rose, it became a battle. I needed calories, but my IT Band and hip flexor were flaring up. Even when I couldn’t run, I walked. Munds Park and my crew wouldn’t get closer if I rested.

The hellacious section finally ended, and as the day warmed up, so did my body. I trotted into the aid station with my crew waiting. I had very little mental energy left, and they took care of it all. I soaked my feet while they filled my pack with electrolytes and calories. They even had two smoothies and BLTs waiting for me. Their energy completely revitalized me, and I ran out of the aid station with Josh. It was a 16-mile out and back, mainly on roads. The out portion went well, but I craved sleep. Even in the middle of the day, I laid down in some pine needles and got five minutes of sleep. Then I was ready to go! We flew back down the hill and back to the crew. That is when the next long section began.

A Cocodona 250 Cat nap

A Cocodona 250 Cat nap

Sydney jogged off with me through a 26-mile stretch. The section was broken up by an aid station 18 miles in that did not allow crew. We quickly covered the first 18 miles, but then things fell apart. As we entered the outskirts of Flagstaff, the temperature plummeted. My hip screamed in pain, and I became delirious. We did not pack enough clothing, and I began to shiver. I put on light sweatpants, and Sydney wrapped herself up in two space blankets. It would have to do. We were so slow, and I was stumbling. I laid down for a 4-minute nap and woke up in a panic. My mind was gone, and I couldn’t figure out where I was. When things came back slowly, flashing lights appeared behind us.

The cops had pulled us over. It was 3 am, and I couldn’t form complete sentences. Luckily, Sydney convinced the Sheriff that we were running an ultramarathon and not causing trouble. Freshly awakened by the interaction with law enforcement, I was energized enough to make it into Fort Tuthill.

Walking into Fort Tuthill with Sydney in two space blankets

Walking into Fort Tuthill with Sydney in two space blankets

I ate, tried to stay awake, and prepared for twenty more miles through Walnut Canyon. A friend Bryce had shown up to pace me, and I was excited to try to run through the section. There were less than 40 miles left, and it was time for the final push, but after one more nap. I slept on the trail for ten minutes and then told Bryce to set an uncomfortably fast pace. Last year, he was my only pacer and led me through this section, so we knew how to do it. Feeling revitalized by the rising sun, we ran most of the way, and I texted my crew precisely what I wanted at the next aid station. It would be my last aid station, and I wanted to try to catch at least one of the runners ahead.

With the efficiency of Nascar, my crew did everything for me while I simply sat in a chair.

Spoonfuls of soup were thrust in front of my face, and I simply had to eat them. Water was handed to me while my arms were sprayed with sunscreen, and my shoes were tied for me. It was amazing to have such great help from friends and family. Then I was off. It would be a push to the finish line, and Ari was pacing me through it.

Rolling hills led up to a massive ascent to Cocodona’s high point. At mile 235, we began climbing Mt. Elden. From somewhere deep inside, a reserve of energy boiled up. I knew there was a runner just ahead of me that I could catch. I ran up the hill, not at a shuffle, but at a running pace. Ari fell back, expecting to see me puking around each corner, but I held it together. I grabbed a handful of lingering snow on the last ridge and stuffed it into my hat. I was burning up from the exertion.

I quickly grabbed water at the last aid station and began flying downhill. There were only eight miles to the finish of Cocodona. I passed another runner and moved into fifth place with six miles left. Ari had caught me, and we trotted down to Buffalo Park. My crew joined me throughout that last mile, and we all ran into the finish together. It was emotional, but I was drained. Immediately upon crossing the finish line, I cracked a beer and fell to the ground. I had used it all. The most fun three days of my life were over. Cocodona 250 is in the books and I became the first two-time finisher.

The finish of Cocodona 250

The finish of Cocodona 250

The finish of Cocodona 250 with my crew

The finish of Cocodona 250 with my crew

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