It has been ages and ages since I’ve written anything. A lot of crappy things happened, a lot of good things happened.
An amazing thing happened this weekend, though — amazing enough to dust off the ol’ blog and write about it!
I finally ran (and walked. So much walking!) 100 miles!
Short back story: when COVID shut everything down, I went a little bonkers and decided I was going to run 100 miles. On my treadmill. (it’s a thing). I trained really hard but had to stop at mile 72 due to massive hives and the fact that the hot belt was literally cooking my poor feet. Needless to say, I was not happy. So I signed up for another 100 miler four months later. I chose a Yeti race because I know those
crazy awesome people are super supportive. Also, it was a no-drop race of 7.7 mile loops. Everything over 25K would count. Even if things went sideways, I was sure I could hit 100K.
I trained in the most mind numbing way I could. All of my long runs were either on the treadmill or short (5ish) mile loops. I knew boredom would be a factor. In retrospect, I should have watched the exact same movie every time I was on the treadmill. That might have helped!
The race was down in a tiny little town called Damascus, VA. The RD is local to the area and he uses the races to support the local economy (which I love!). Damascus is a through-town on the Appalachian Trail and seven different trails run through it (hence the name of the race). The trail we were using was the Creeper Trail. It is a totally flat rail-to-trail that runs along the river, through some farm land, and through people’s front yards. For real.
A couple of running friends and I shared a cute little house, 0.4 miles from the start. That is the beauty of small-town races! We were able to set up a canopy in the aid station area and had just about everything you could ever imagine there. Some people came with a full crew to help them but the compact course meant that wasn’t strictly necessary.
We started at 5:00, on one of the two light up bridges leading you out of town.
We all had headlamps but it was very dark and uneventful. All along, we had been focusing on turning around at the old, rusted Pepsi machine that is along the trail. It is even part of the race logo! When the RD told us that we actually had to go about 0.20 miles past it, there was some grumbling. Also, the turn around was a bit… vague. I was towards the back of the pack and suddenly I heard shouts of “turn around! turn around!” and a mass of headlamps coming back at me. Apparently, the lead runners had shot right past the turn around marker and didn’t realize it until they hit a gated off cow pasture. Oops!
The morning passed somewhat uneventfully. I kept a 4/1 run walk interval for the first 50K and then switched to 3/1 until I hit 50 miles. I had a text string going with my husband, son, and friend at home and sent them a text every time I finished a loop, since there was no tracking for this race. I tried to eat as much as I could but I started out a bit in the hole. I had brought along some pancakes and shoved them in my vest pocket – I managed to force down a couple and that kept me going. Before heading out for loop four, I had a quesadilla from the main aid tent and that was MAGIC! I think that was my fastest loop! That gave me enough of a burst to PR my 50 mile time by 1 hour and 40 minutes. I was hoping for more but the sun was fully out and that is my kryptonite.
I had started the race in shorts, a long sleeve top, and a fleece vest. I used a handheld for my water. As the temps rose, I lost top layers. After my 50 mile loop, I put on a tank top and hydration vest that I had only used once before. I got it because the back was mesh (cooler) and had soft flasks in the front pockets. I used just one flask and use the other pockets for snack and my phone. I also started using trekking poles. I had never used poles before but, even though the trail was not technical at all, there were a lot of opportunities to twist an ankle or fall on your face.
The afternoon puttered along. I listed to an audio book for a bit and then switched to music that reminded me of my favorite people. I said hello to all of the animals and talked to a few other runners but we were mostly doing our own thing.
As the sun went down, I started to get cold. The loop where the sun set, I was still wearing shorts and a tank and about froze. I put on a sweatshirt and thought that would be enough because the temps were supposed to be around 45 degrees. I was SO WRONG! The wind picked up and and I turned into an icicle. Even though I didn’t want to take the time, I switched to my fleece leggings and added a long sleeve shirt. I met up with someone who was walking my pace on this loop and we took turns pushing each other along. I finished a bit ahead of schedule so I decided to take a 10 minute power nap. It was around 1:00 in the morning and I was very sleepy.
The nap was nice but I cooled off a lot and all of the pollen and trail dust settled into a solid block in my lungs. When I started the next loop, I could not get a full breath and what breath I had had a pronounced whistle to it. I could not talk in more than gasps. I tried to stay with someone from a nearby tent but she pulled ahead at the turn around so I just kept going as best I could. This was my low point. I was around mile 71.
When I got back to camp, I got a cup of super hot water from the aid station and sipped that for a bit to try to loosen the crud in my chest. I also put a buff around my neck to keep it warmer. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself when Jesse, the race photographer, wandered by. He asked if I was quitting, too. I replied “hell no! I need my buckle!” I said that I was worried because I was having breathing problems and he was like, “well, it’s not going to get any better sitting here”. So, off I went! The hot water and cough drops that I grabbed helped a bit and I was able to keep an okay pace for the next loop.
In the middle of loop 11, I bumped into a friend from my running group who was walking to finish off her 100K. She had done the 50 miler the day before, went to her rental and slept, and then came back out. We walked and chatted as the sun came up and things were okay. She said that she wanted to walk with me for the 12th loop, too, and I was pleased to have company. As we returned to camp, it was starting to sprinkle. I changed tops and my housemates had come back to crew me for the last couple of loops (they had done different distances and finished the day before). They shoved me into a poncho. I hate ponchos but I did my best not to throw a fit because I knew I was not thinking clearly and should listen to them. Unfortunately, in the hubbub, I forgot to get a snack to eat on the way back. We were less than a mile out of camp and rain started to come down in buckets. The cold and rain were doing a number on me and I had a deep cough that was concerning. I also desperately needed my sugar boost. I about cried when my snacks weren’t in my pocket. My walking partner got some snacks from a fellow racer who was driving home (the course crossed several roads) and it helped but I was fading fast. My tent crew was getting frantic and my home crew was concerned.
We got in to prep for the last loop and I collapsed in a chair. I had been fixated on hot broth for about 3 miles and literally burst into tears when one of my helpers said I had to get right back out there. I ate something, I think it was an egg sandwich, loaded up my snacks, and headed back out. I was solo for the last loop. I was worried. I was 92 miles in. I had to finish!
Two miles from camp is a coop with turkeys and chickens. I have chickens so I was always happy to see the coop on the course. When I hit that going out for the last time, the rain had slowly stopped. I decided to have some more sugar right then and quick check my messages from home. I saw the concern about my time but my friend said that as long as I don’t sit down, I will make it. Well, I can do better than that! I ditched the damn poncho (no, really, I was glad to have it. But I was even more glad to take it off!), said goodbye to the chickens, and started to really “walk with purpose”.
I went from a 23 minute pace to an 18 minute pace for the last 4 miles. I came in to camp a full 30 minutes ahead of what my team thought I would! Heck yeah!
By my rough count, 133 people had originally signed up to run the 100 mile distance. 32 actually did (19 women, 13 men). And I was one of them!
My time was 34:28:32. My overall pace was 20:18 per mile, including aid stops, and my moving pace was 18:06 per mile. While I kind of wish that it had been faster, honestly, this was exactly the race that I trained to have. That moving pace was spot on.
There was a fun finish area festival that night, or so I heard. Several live bands played and there were food trucks. I was too beat to enjoy any of it but my housemates did bring me back a tasty burrito!
I give this event an A+! The aid station food was top notch, the volunteers were amazing, the comradery and team spirit in the camp and on the trails was invaluable. I will definitely be coming back!