Turning 40 the ‘ultra’ way

Holding hands as they cross the finish line, Nicole Grunenwald and Kemmerer resident Anne Rudy celebrate as they complete the 42 mile Twisted Fork Trail Ultra Marathon in Park City, Utah, on June 29. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Kemmerer woman completes 42-mile race for 40th birthday

KEMMERER — Plenty of people struggle with birthdays — getting older isn’t always looked upon in a positive manner. But one woman fought the status quo and set her goals for something higher. Anne Rudy wanted her 40th birthday to be special and welcomed it with open arms by completing the Twisted Fork Ultra Marathon on June 29.

For those not familiar with an ultra marathon, it’s basically any marathon longer than the standard 26.2 miles. The Twisted Fork, held in Park City, Utah, is a 67 kilometer (41.6 miles) trail race with 6,105 feet of elevation gain.   

Imagine if you can, bushwhacking your way up wild terrain, drudging through streams, over fallen logs and paths and getting covered in mud. Rudy’s story sounds more like an episode of “Man vs. Wild” starring Bear Grylls than a marathon. Rudy said it was quite an experience.

Rudy and her husband, Rex, live in Kemmerer with their four children: Levi, Teagan, Axel and Marcel.

“The Twisted Fork was not a just a 40-mile run.” said Rudy. “It was an insanely challenging 40-mile adventure, which actually turned out to be 42 miles. One I want to remember, always.”

The plan to sign up to run the ultra marathon started in January. Rudy was trying to qualify for membership in the Marathon Maniacs Club and searching for marathons in the area. Not only did Rudy complete the Bear Lake Trifecta last year, which is three marathons in three days in three states, she wanted more.

She was determined to gain membership into the elite group of the Marathon Maniacs Club. Running an ultra marathon gave her extra points. After discussing her goal with her longtime friend, Nicole Grunenwald of Colorado, they both decided to run Twisted Fork. They marked the date on their calendars and began training. 

Rudy ran almost every day to train. It was difficult at times to find enough time to run, and she said she is grateful for the support her family gave her. She was running more than 60 miles per week. She said her longest training run was 31 miles.

“I felt good after,” she said. “I was tired, but I felt like I could go further. What’s another 10 miles after already doing 31?”

She said she felt ready, but still had so many doubts. What would the terrain be like? What if we can’t make it? Those thoughts can be self-defeating at times. 

She said they had to make a strong effort to fight those negative voices in their heads. Rudy and Grunenwald kept each other going. When things got rough, they would say, “Forward is a pace.” 

“There were tears, trips, falls, scrapes, bruises, doubts, angry outbursts, blisters, sunburns, aches, pains,” Rudy recalls. “There were also giggles, jokes, great conversations, moments of peace, beauty, friendship, silliness, camaraderie, solidarity, confidence, love and loyalty. When I felt I couldn’t go one more step, Nicole was my encourager, and when she struggled, I led. We kept each other moving.” 

If they didn’t finish the race within the maximum allotted time frame, they wouldn’t get credit for the race. They had to keep moving. As long as they were moving, they were making progress. Forward was their pace. 

Rudy reflected on her extraordinary experience.

“We scrambled through former riverbeds with boulders and loose rocks of varying sizes,” she said. “We ran in lush forests with more shades of green than there are hues of green crayons and more types of plants than I can describe. We ran through fields of wildflowers like the scene in Wizard of Oz. We ran paths lined with towering white, aromatic, lilac bushes as far as we could see. It felt magical, dreamy, unreal. At times, I felt drunk with the grandeur, by the emotion, exhaustion and struggle.”

The trail tested their emotional and physical limits.

“We witnessed partners splitting up,” she said. “We would not do that to each other. we promised to finish together. We vowed to not quit.”

They keep their forward pace. At times it was difficult to know if they were on the right path.

“We cheered when we noticed bright orange streamers tied to trees or bushes, or a dab of orange paint on a rock, affirming we hadn’t lost our way,” Rudy said.

After 12 hours and 45 minutes, they crossed the finish line. They had started at 6:15 a.m. and finished less than 15 minutes before the official cutoff time. Their forward pace brought them success.

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