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Devon Yanko Caps Off Rollercoaster 12 months With 2 Course Data and a ‘Golden Ticket’ Win

Regardless of a lupus prognosis, ultrarunning legend Devon Yanko completed 2022 very robust and has her eyes on even greater issues to return.

The race season is over for Devon Yanko. This yr she got down to do 5 100 milers, however solely accomplished two 100-mile races and a 50-mile race at Brazos Bend in December. It’s not what she anticipated when she began out. However throughout this rollercoaster yr, she’s needed to navigate each monumental highs and lows.

The highs? The 40-year-old runner moved to Howard, Colorado. She outright gained the Umstead 100, positioned fourth at Excessive Lonesome 100, and, most lately, she gained the Javelina Jundred in October.

The latter was a notable victory for the unsponsored Yanko. But, the information was pretty quiet regardless of besting probably the greatest ladies’s 100-mile fields this yr.

The lows? Simply 3 weeks earlier than Javelina, Yanko was recognized with lupus, a persistent illness that causes irritation and ache all through the physique. She’d been unknowingly preventing the illness as she tried to run 5 100-mile races as a part of her self-created “DY DIY Slam” (a twist on the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning).

Whereas her life will proceed to alter as she adapts to a brand new actuality, her performances at Javelina and Brazos Bend have Yanko specializing in extra good days to return.

“I can’t management what my physique will do, not whereas racing and never with lupus,” Yanko mentioned. “However I can management my thoughts.”

The ‘Devon Yanko DIY Slam’

The Excessive Lonesome Path in Colorado alongside the Excessive Lonesome 100 course; (picture/Shutterstock, Fransisco Blanco)

Yanko kicked off the yr with a 14:23:13 at Umstead 100 in April. That gave her the outright win and set a brand new course file and a private greatest. For sure, Yanko’s confidence was excessive.

“The final time I ran 100 was 2017,” Yanko mentioned. “I began to suppose, ‘Oh, no, I nonetheless bought it. The hundred continues to be good to me. This Grand Slam goes to be enjoyable.’”

That was the unique plan. However, she mentioned, “Positively, it didn’t work out that manner.”

In June, simply forward of her second race on the Kettle Moraine 100, she felt off bodily. She had a tough time respiration. And seven miles in, she collapsed.

(Picture/Howie Stern)

As a result of a race employee examined optimistic for COVID on race week, a health care provider shrugged Yanko’s situation off as a case of COVID.

However she was decided to not let that sluggish her down on her DIY slam. In order Yanko battled an undiagnosed downside, she booked much more races to maintain her hopes alive.

Sadly, although, she was solely in a position to run another of the unique 5 races she signed up for: the Excessive Lonesome 100. And he or she mentioned it was the worst she’d ever felt in an extremely.

“I began with a mix of an autoimmune flare-up … and PMS, so all of my health was erased,” Yanko mentioned. “It turned laughable. I couldn’t eat something. Then, I had the worst blisters that I’ve ever gotten in my total 16-year profession. The bottoms of the balls of my ft had been coming indifferent, absolutely. At a sure level, you’re similar to, ‘What subsequent?’”

Yanko nonetheless managed a fourth-place end. However that’s when the dominos began falling. Docs tried to deal with her low iron ranges however to no avail.

She needed to drop out of the Leadville 100 in August. Then, she dropped out of Run Rabbit in September. But nonetheless, that month, she knocked off two quickest recognized occasions (FKTs) in Colorado on 22-mile and 41-mile trails — the Mt Yale 360 and Rio Grande Path. And he or she accomplished each in 1 week.

Confidence barely restored by her FKTs, Yanko signed up for the Hennepin Hundred in early October. Her health was feeling good as she began. She was ticking off the miles in underneath 7 minutes. However at mile 50, once more, she dropped.

The next week, Yanko went in to see one other physician, trying to find solutions.

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“They had been like, ‘There’s nothing fallacious. And it’s best to simply cease working,’” she recalled. “I believed, how are you going to inform me there’s nothing fallacious with me, after which inform me to cease working? That is not sensible.’”

So she bought a 3rd opinion the subsequent day. And it paid off. Lastly, Yanko was in a position to get a prognosis: She had lupus. That realization got here simply 3 weeks earlier than the Javelina Jundred.

Taking It in Stride

Yanko working within the Javelina Jundred; (picture/Howie Stern)

The information was bittersweet. A solution offered a pathway ahead with therapy. Nobody may ever inform her, “There’s nothing fallacious with you” once more. She knew what was fallacious together with her, and she or he knew what she needed to do.

The previous adage of “don’t do something new close to a race” went out the window. She began therapy instantly, lower than a month earlier than Javelina.

“I used to be placed on the COVID-famous hydroxychloroquine. Nevertheless it prompted unhealthy negative effects. So my medical doctors suggested to cease taking it,” Yanko mentioned. “I’m nonetheless on methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug. I take that after per week, and took it the 2 weekends earlier than Javelina. My physician mentioned, ‘Choose a day you wish to do nothing since you’ll in all probability really feel like demise.’”

When Javelina arrived, every part was totally different. Yanko had stopped consuming sugar, lower out alcohol, and tried to restrict stress to mitigate and forestall irritation. That’s possible why her first gel in the course of the race got here proper again up. It was the primary sugar she’d tasted in a month.

She pushed via the nausea, although. And on the opposite aspect, she felt a little bit higher.

“[Yanko] wasn’t positive if she would ever have the ability to attain her full potential once more,” mentioned Sandi Nypaver, Yanko’s good friend and pacer at Javelina. “[But] watching her on the primary loops, it appeared like she knew that good days had been nonetheless potential. She was dancing with the race director. She had her recreation face on.”

That movement state carried all through the race. Yanko slowly picked off runners all through the day till there have been no ladies in entrance of her midway via the fourth of 5 20-mile loops. For 30 miles, she was on their lonesome up entrance.

“All of us go on the loopy prepare to nowhere, however all of my worst-case situations had already occurred,” Yanko mentioned. “They occurred. I survived. And I’m nonetheless exhibiting up on the subsequent begin line.”

She took the win in 14:36:10, reserving a golden ticket to the 2023 Western States.

“It was sort of surreal,” Yanko mentioned. “It’s so validating to be genuine to myself, when I’m true to who I’m, and I race the best way I wish to. That’s what this outcome [is]. It was simply a lot greater than I may’ve imagined, having this chapter finish on a excessive word. [And] to do it at a race I really like with individuals I really like.”

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What’s Forward

There are nonetheless miles to go for Yanko, each actually and figuratively.

Actually, she capped off the yr with the 50-mile win at Brazos Bend, although she initially hoped to do the 100 earlier than a lupus-related situation made her select the 50-mile race as an alternative.

Figuratively, she’s nonetheless studying about her persistent illness. She’s nonetheless adjusting to life together with her new remedy. Inside 3 hours of ending Javelina, Yanko needed to take her chemo medicine once more.

She hopes to get on a special one that’s accredited for lupus however has to attend to show that this one, which is cheaper, doesn’t work. As a result of, in her phrases, “insurance coverage corporations are assholes.”

Yanko has additionally been educating individuals about lupus, particularly on her weblog.

On the opposite aspect of the coin, Yanko can also be stoked in regards to the future. Javelina proved she was nonetheless on the prime. She will compete. If all goes nicely, she may return to the Western States podium. It’ll depend upon the day and one thing out of her management. However total, she’s prepared.

“I’m at a stage the place I don’t have sponsors,” Yanko mentioned. “I’m not accountable to anyone. What sounds fascinating to me? Perhaps it’s a ridiculous model of the DIY slam. I’ll see what alternatives come my manner subsequent yr. If I get an invitation that sounds enjoyable, perhaps I’ll do this.”

“A health care provider advised me to cease working this yr,” she mentioned, “However I’m obsessed, and I can’t cease.”

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