June 23, 2021 29 Comments

"There's no way you're supposed to be. There's nothing you're supposed to do. There's nowhere you're supposed to go. And you'll find you're in an eternal here and now. That's your way of discovering who you are, and how the universe works, and what man's place in it is. I want you to do something that expresses you. No more playing games with me. I want to see you."

This is the intro to the song “Totem” by STS9 and apparently also a quote from philosopher Alan Watts. It was these lyrics that I grooved to on repeat up the twelve switchbacks of the Casner Mountain grade through miles 184 to 189 of the Cocodona 250. I was deep in my unknown zone, never having run more than 100 miles at once before. The music invigorated me, maybe a little too much. My husband and pacer at the time compared me to his childhood pitbull Liam, pulling on the leash with a goofy grin, tongue out, until I’d need to crash under a shaded ponderosa pine for a ten minute trail nap. The excitement was nearly impossible to contain. When I wanted to run, I ran.

Shelby Farrell laying down on some grass under a tree taking a short trail nap.
In the rugged Arizona landscape, grass and shade are welcome assets for a quick trail nap. - P.C. Jason Gerhart

Let’s dive into these lyrics a little deeper and analyze them against the feat I was tackling. The Cocodona 250 is a roughly 257 mile (yes, there is a bonus 10K+ to this beast) trail adventure from Black Canyon City, Arizona, all the way to Flagstaff, Arizona. Currently, the longest point-to-point footrace in the country. The course crosses the entirety of the Bradshaw Mountain range, and is notably the first trail ultra to navigate through this rugged terrain. Runners venture into numerous historical pioneering towns before getting a 360 view of Sedona and climbing into the Flagstaff grand finale.

Trail runner Shelby Farrell running on trail into the Sedona valley.
The Sedona valley rewards all comers with spectacular scenery. - P.C. Emily Halnon

That entire song intro resonated so hard during the grind, but it’s the “I want you to do something that expresses you. No more playing games with me. I want to see you.” And the song echos out… “you, you, you…” I committed to giving my entire self to this race. The act of running Cocodona 250 was exactly how I was expressing myself at that moment. How I was showing this repetitive voice in my headphones, myself, and everyone rooting for me, who Shelby Farrell is. I was painting a masterpiece, but instead of acrylics, my medium was dusty footprints, bloody boogers, and the hooting and hollering of a good time. Recognizing this gave me power. I had no doubt in my mind that I would be crossing the finish line of the inaugural Cocodona 250.

Trail runner Shelby Farrell running on trail overlooking scenic mountains.
Cocodona's nearly 40,000 feet of vert takes runners from desert valleys to breathtaking overlooks. - P.C. Howie Stern

The “unknown” continued to challenge me. After sneaking ice in my socks because A) it was hot, but B) my ankles were getting beyond sore, I learned what the early signs of trench foot and painful blisters meant for a race this distance, and vowed to never make that mistake again… For miles the pain in my oozing inflamed feet and swollen sunburned lip left me whimpering with every step. Rocks and stumps looked like thrones. These seats were sirens calling my overworked flesh to rest.

Shelby Farrell sitting behind car taking a trail break sipping a Dos Equis.
Redbull and Dos Equis are a unique adjunct to a hydration strategy. - P.C. Emily Halnon

My body wanted to run, but I needed to figure out how to compartmentalize the pain. I told myself that the blisters weren’t going to put me in a wheelchair (like say a strained achilles might). The lip would heal. Even though the moment I accidentally grazed it with a salt tablet made me scream. I pulled up my Turtle Fur Tube, oftentimes biting it in my teeth while pushing through the numerous uncomfortable sensations my body was stabbing me with. Like a dark witch had crafted a voodoo doll of me, slicing through my stuffing with a pile of leftover bib pins. It didn’t help that the aid stations were always further than I thought, and every turn, especially at night, when the glowing tents didn’t pop into the horizon at the precise moment I expected them, was a massive buzz kill. (Sincere apologies to my amazing pacers who I relentlessly heckled every time this happened.)

Trail runner Shelby Farrell running on trail through the Prescot valley.
Shelby with husband and pacer Jason Gerhart cross the Prescott valley. - P.C. Howie Stern

When I was able to block the physical discomfort and run, the highs were like no high I’ve ever experienced. The highest moment: chasing sunset to summit Mt. Elden, getting handed a Pabst Blue Ribbon by the one and only second place finisher Peter Mortimer, seeing the livestream crew IRL, I was on a higher plane. Proud of my ability to be coherent in this moment, knowing that I had been smart enough in my fueling and sleep strategy to get me to this point with my brain still firing on-- okay maybe not all cylinders-- but enough! I was existing in a dimension that only the exhausted ultra runner could tap into. There was no (strike that…) minimal pain. Every cell in my body elated knowing where I had carried my being over the past ~110 hours.

Trail runner Shelby Farrell at mile marker 250 on the Cocodona 250 trail.
What do you do when you have come 200 miles and still have 50 to go? Yep. Keep moving forward! - P.C. Jason Gerhart

As I process the experience I feel both foolish and appreciative of the discomfort I fought through. Foolish because I was fine. I wasn’t dying. Not that I ever thought I was, but I wonder if I could be less dramatic in the suffering (something to test out in my next 200+ adventure). I am appreciative because I proved to myself something that I had done time and time again during hard moments in life-- I kept moving forward.

Trail runner Shelby Farrell smiling and holding finisher's buckle at the completion of the Cocodona 250.
It's almost impossible to hold up a buckle and not smile. - P.C. Scott Rokis

About the athlete: Shelby Farrell is a distance runner born and raised on the East Coast, currently running wild in Southern California. Her longest race prior to the Cocodona 250 was the 2020 Javelina Jundred 100-miler where she finished fifth for females. Relive the desert magic here. She is a Kogalla Ambassador and basks in the glow of her UltRA light-- it makes her feel like her spirit animal, the mountain lion, on the hunt charging through the dark wilderness. When not running she works as goodr sunglasses Media Megalodon. Be sure to creep her YouTube channel for weekly training highlights as she continues to challenge herself on the run. @shelbzzf | shelbzzf.com


29 Responses

Becki Lynn Bauer
Becki Lynn Bauer

June 26, 2021

Thank You, Shelby for sharing your race experience at Cocodona250-ish!! It was an Absolute Pleasure meeting you and your husband after the race! You are a Bad@$$!! Cheers!

Dani Chong
Dani Chong

June 25, 2021

Keep moving forward! I’m in awe of this accomplishment and so inspired to keep goal chasing! Well done!

Jimmy Malthaner
Jimmy Malthaner

June 25, 2021

Down to earth. Pushing the boundaries on our physical and mental being is an awesome feeling. Congratulations on your experience.

Kelly Graybill
Kelly Graybill

June 25, 2021

Keeping it real, digging deep, staying hungry and continuely moving forward….your a true mountain lion warrior!

Cailin M
Cailin M

June 24, 2021

You are an animal Shelby and I love following along your ultra running journey…after all you dragged me to my first 10k!!

Sheri Sadler
Sheri Sadler

June 24, 2021

Such a great recap of the race. Shelby is such a great writer and a fun person!

Nicola G
Nicola G

June 24, 2021

Thank you for sharing this. I felt like I was literally with you. Helps me prepare for Cocodona 250 in 2022!!! If it’s going to be half as epic as your journey I’m in for one helluva ride.

Bobby Clark
Bobby Clark

June 24, 2021

Couldn’t be prouder of you! Best trainer I could have asked for. Can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

Precious Moreland
Precious Moreland

June 24, 2021

Absolutely amazing!

Megan Dionne
Megan Dionne

June 24, 2021

It’s honest blogs like these that somehow paint the picture of the pain and grit it takes to get an ultra done, but also inspires in such a visceral way! Thanks for writing Shelby! I can’t wait to experience this firsthand one day – minus the trench foot.

Nick Sept
Nick Sept

June 24, 2021

I had a blast watching the livestream and the drop ins from “Shelby from Goodr” were always fun. I picked up a pair of Goodrs because of you, too! I enjoyed reading the part about the voodoo doll, graphic but painted a picture of how you were feeling. Excellent job out there Shelby!

Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

June 24, 2021

This is so inspiring! I’m Training for my first official 100, but I would love to one day do a distance like this!

Laura Hall
Laura Hall

June 23, 2021

There are some great tips and ideas for ultra runners (I won’t be doing 257 miles) but I’m grateful for the things you Shared especially dealing with the mental/emotional aspects. Very cool.

Adria Biasi
Adria Biasi

June 23, 2021

You are awesome!!! Thank you for sharing

Jessica Turner
Jessica Turner

June 23, 2021

I watched the live stream of the race and you were always so composed, well-spirited and focused. Inspiring for sure!

Andrea korry
Andrea korry

June 23, 2021

Way to push through the hard stuff!!

Tyler Corbett
Tyler Corbett

June 23, 2021

This was so wonderful to read. Thank you!

Leslie Smith
Leslie Smith

June 23, 2021

She makes you feel like you were there with her! Very inspirational!!

Austin Cox
Austin Cox

June 23, 2021

It’s amazing to see how all the athletes that participated made it through such a grueling course. Great job on the finish!

Sandra
Sandra

June 23, 2021

Doing what expresses you. Way to push past the pain and doing you. Congratulations!

Ryan
Ryan

June 23, 2021

Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Judith Shaw
Judith Shaw

June 23, 2021

Doing my first 100 miler this fall. I, too suffer from bloody boogers! :) thanks for the inspiring article.

Chad Hause
Chad Hause

June 23, 2021

I absolutely love that first quote and your take on the event. Currently faced with a question of doing something similar this maybe the perfect nudge in the right direction.

Caitlin
Caitlin

June 23, 2021

The call of the sirens – perfect analogy, that’s exactly what seats are, even if they are rocks and stumps. So tempting, but equally dangerous! So I pressed with your race and your story, well done.

Caitlin
Caitlin

June 23, 2021

The call of the sirens – perfect analogy, that’s exactly what seats are, even if they are rocks and stumps. So tempting, but equally dangerous! So I pressed with your race and your story, well done.

MIchael Vetter
MIchael Vetter

June 23, 2021

Thanks for being an amazing inspiration to everyone who toes the line of an Ultra! I hope and pray to be able to take part in an Ultra someday, it’s all a matter of time management!
Thanks again!

Kerry
Kerry

June 23, 2021

Congrats on the great finish! This race sounds like a grueling one.

Cody Sherstabetoff
Cody Sherstabetoff

June 23, 2021

Awesome story. Love the scenery shots.

Marv Akins
Marv Akins

June 23, 2021

Thanks for sharing your race experience!

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