UD Ambassador Tara Warren Shares of her Ouray experience.
The Ouray 100 is known for its big ups and downs. With over 42k feet in elevation gain running above 10k feet, there was bound to be some sturdy stories to fill up the blank pages of my book of memories covering the 50 hours spent on this breathtaking course.
One of the first things you will read on the race website is the following quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” I get now why RD, Charles Johnson, picked this quote. To finish this epic race was way out of my comfort zone, it would test in me in ways I would never volunteer for and push me physically and mentally to almost breaking points. I can’t imagine that gray twilight being my norm.
There are 15 different sections in the 100 miler, and each section involves climbing and dropping from a peak or pass on trails originating from the picturesque mountain town of Ouray, Colorado. I knew I was info a fun time when after the race started promptly at 8am, my water flask flopped out of the pocket of my adventure vest that I had forgot to zipper, and landed right in the middle of the surge of starters. Ahhh… I appreciate the kindness from the runners helping me get put back together even at 30 seconds in. That would be the story of my race.
“Be gentle with yourself. There’s nothing wrong with having no damn clue what you’re doing. Some of the best things in this life are built on uncertainty and taking a risk. Calm down, think less, do more…” ????: Top of Twin Peaks / Mile 83ish
The night before the race, I got a sweet text message from a friend of mine. She said, “Keep your head on, keep your mental crap together and problem solve like no one else.” I was feeling
fantastic and relaxed at mile 21. We had already climbed around 10k feet. Hit some incredible views and weather. Even the 4×4 weekend safari groups coming up the pass managed to not
bug me too badly. As I descended from Imogene Pass into the Richmond AS, I filled my water, chit-chatted for a moment and then continued on taking a left back down the road we had just
come up earlier in the day.
I could not believe how great I felt on that downhill. Rainwater was dripping from the mossy limestone cliffs that had been carved out for this jeep road. The rock had so many variations in color; black and gray along with all the greens and baby wildflowers poking out through different cracks. I remember it all and reached out touching it as I flew by. I had this section all to myself and I was loving it. A little less than an hour went by when I found myself back at my destination, Lower Camp Bird AS. As I rounded the corner and looked ahead, the area was deserted. There wasn’t even a swedish fish, pretzel or person on the ground for miles. It was a little shocking. I was super confused. I got out my little laminated map and confirmed that I was in the right place. But, where was everyone. With zero cell service, I could not lifeline my hubby or anybody. My heart began to race, the lumps inside my throat began to bubble up. There was no denying what was happening, but I just kept trying to wish it away. How could this be? Where was I? How could I go back up the wonky, wet jeep road AGAIN? Didn’t I just watch the story on Netflix about the dude getting lost at this race? It was devastating and I was furious at this ridiculous turn of events. I must have missed a turn that would have taken me to Richmond Pass back at the previous AS.
There were only two choices: one, continue to take the jeep road about 7 miles back into town and take the DNF. Even though I was ahead of schedule, with tight cut-offs and my broken spirit, I didn’t know if I had it in me to push that hard playing catch-up for the rest of the race. This thought consumed me making me sit down and sob. Then, I cried harder thinking about choice number two, get my crap together and get up the mountain. I knew my hubby and little dudes would be waiting for me at the next aid station with all their hugs, motivation and food. I sure wished they were there at the moment. If I picked heading back up, I would now be looking at an almost 9 mile climb at close to 4k feet. My head was still reeling with frustration at my error and I was hoping to see maybe another runner come flying down to commiserate with. Instead, on the horizon I spotted a chocolate brown bear. This was the first bear I had ever seen in the wild and I was in such a bad place that it didn’t phase me too deeply until later on. We watched each other for a little bit and then it headed back towards the mountains into town. I guess that meant that I was headed back the other direction up the pass! Decision made. So, up I went with a hot fire lit that would keep me motivated and hungry throughout the race.
There was no mistake about it that a race with this type of terrain and altitude would bring many different challenges. Getting off-course was definitely not one I had ever dreamed would happen. Through the next two days, I would encounter midnight lightning storms above treeline, falling back first into a quick flowing creek, microburst rainstorms that put river crossings up to your thighs, sensational hallucinations, moonlight glissading patches, views from passes and peaks that would bring tears to my eyes, fields of nettle, wildflowers from every color pallet and variety, a summit sunset, two cotton candy sunrises, hail on sunburn, loving and supportive volunteers and RDs, much needed hugs from my kiddos and hubby, motivation and positivity from my all-star pacer, AND so many high fives from the remaining racers.
This race was an experience to remember. Had I not kept my mental stuff in-check and been calm enough to problem solve out on the course, I would have given up at least three different times. However, the only way through the tough times is through them. Nobody wants to experience those, but just like Roosevelt mentioned in his quote, without challenging or daring yourself in huge ways, you won’t know the bitter emotions of not making it, or the sweet satisfaction of victory when pushing through the struggles. I will always choose getting out there and living versus letting life pass me by in the “gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”