All this year I had been planning on running my first 50 Miler at Run Woodstock the weekend of September 7th-9th, then about a month ago on a 50K training run I allowed my arm to be twisted into the 100K. What’s 12 more miles? Isn’t running in the dark more fun? I couldn’t argue with the latter, the former, well I’d never ran further than a 50K, never mind a 50 Miler, but sure why not? Just like that I was in for 100K.
The following week I ran a super hot trail half +3 miles and the week after a double at PLRA (for those who don’t know, a fairly difficult/technical 10 mile loop of trail). Then came the “Great Fall.” What was supposed to be an 18 mile run down Woodward was cut short when I came crashing down on my face after 16.95 miles. All scraped up, chipped tooth and a hurt ego forced me to take an entire week off from training, something I haven’t done in the last 3 ½ years. My biggest fear was missing the trifecta of races (three weeks in a row) that I had already signed up for – The Crim 10 Miler, Milford Labor Day 30K and LSD 100K.
I healed up enough to run the Crim nice and easy with friends and I did the same with the Milford Labor Day 30K the following week, keeping my pace right about 9:45. I was honestly thankful that I was ABLE to run. The fall made me take it a bit easier; this was probably the best thing to happen to me with the 100K coming up. I’m always accused of tapering poorly, but this was different. 100K is serious and this was becoming more and more real as the time wore on. Tuesday was the last day that I would run until the race start at 4PM on Friday, September 7th.
Without running much the week of the race, I had plenty of time to think. I began to worry about my ability to finish 62 miles. Could I really do it? That’s a really LONG way. The plan was about 4 hours per loop for a finish time of around 16 hours. Aid stations every 4 miles. The #4 seemed to be a theme. I embraced it, which then made the 62 miles seem more manageable. I was feeling more confident and then I received an email that asked what my fueling plan was. For some reason this sent my nerves into high gear. I’m not sure why exactly because I knew what I was going to do.
– Ensure every 8 miles
– Endurolyte every hour
– Nuun in my handheld, topping it off at each aid station and adding a tablet every other time or as needed.
– Honey Stinger Chews to eat as needed in between aid stations
– Coke at Aid Station
– Food – Whatever looked good at each aid station, making sure to take something for the road
The other two items of my plan – never sit down and take as little time as possible at aid stations, which would both prove to be EXTREMELY valuable. The packing of my two drop bags was interesting. I thought I had over packed, but I wanted to have almost the exact same items in both bags. I guess you can’t be over prepared. I had a long sleeve, two short sleeves, a tank top, sports bra, jacket/poncho, extra chews, body glide, A&D ointment, shoes, socks, batteries, head lamp, extra handheld, hat, head bands, beanie and probably a few more things I can’t remember. It seemed silly to me to pack some things that I would never wear unless the temps drop into the 30s, but I threw them in anyways. Best. Decision. EVER!
Finally Race Day had arrived. I was a bundle of nerves, which was a bit odd for me. I don’t normally get nervous before trail races. They are so laid back and chill. We tried to relax and hydrate while waiting for the start. I was just itching to get going because I knew that once we started moving, I would be relaxed and the nerves would be gone.
Soon the pre-race instructions were being given and it was time to line up for the start. I tried to focus on my 4’s. 4 loops, 4 miles between aid stations, 4 aid stations per loop.
And then we were off and “running.” The start of the 100K was the same as the 100 Mile, which meant we began at a little bit slower than a trot. We looped around the campground and then off onto the single track. The three of us chatted for much of the first loop. Not much went on during this loop. The miles ticked off quickly and before we knew it we were ½ way through the first loop. We saw Wild Bill here and he grabbed my Ensure for me from my drop bag. I drank it quickly and that didn’t seem to sit well in my tummy. We walked a bit and then began to run again. I wasn’t feeling too wonderful, but hoped it would pass. I dropped back a little thinking that the slower pace may help. It did. The second half of the loop passed by uneventful as it began to get darker. We made it back to the start/finish just in time to beat the darkness.
Here our crew got us prepared for the beginning of the night portion of the run, while we took advantage of the campground bathrooms. I did this to ensure that I could “see” whether I was properly hydrating, not because I didn’t want to use the woods. I downed a cold Ensure on my way to the bathroom. I swapped out my wet shirt (it was really humid) for a dry one, hat for headband/headlamp and grabbed my full handheld. One quick stop by the aid table and off we went for Loop 2.
The three of us took off together, hoping to stick this loop out as a group to avoid having to run in the dark alone. Before we were even a mile in, I dropped back. I yelled ahead, “Go, I’m okay! I just need to walk a minute. I’ll catch up.” The truth was I wasn’t okay. I felt nauseous as if I could puke at any moment. I spent the next couple miles talking to myself, trying to remain calm and hoping the feeling would pass. Each time I tried to run the feeling would return. Thoughts of bailing at Mile 18 were consuming me as was the darkness. I didn’t want to puke and lose so much of my hydration and calories I had taken in, but I didn’t have a choice. I pulled over to the side and all the Ensure came back up, still cold.
Knowing that I had lost at least 180 calories, I decided to walk a bit and work on eating some Honey Stingers and drinking Nuun until I hit the aid station. Several runners stopped to make sure I was okay and gave me advice, which coincidentally matched my plan. No more Ensure for me. At the next Aid Station, I ate salted potatoes and PB&J and drank two cups of Coke. I walked a bit as that settled and then picked up running again. Phew! I felt SO much better. Thoughts of bailing were replaced by how awesome it was to be running on the trails in the darkness. Soon I was ½ way through the 2nd loop. I didn’t need to change anything here, but I did reapply Body Glide and grab some turkey lunchmeat to go.
Somewhere here or maybe a little bit before here, it had started to rain. It actually felt good initially. Then it poured so hard that I could barely see. The trails quickly flooded as there was more rain than could be absorbed. I kept in good spirits and there were plenty of “stay dry” and “hey, I heard it might rain a little tonight” comments. I had known ahead of time that rain was a possibility overnight, but it was supposed to come in waves and be done by 4 or 5 AM. It was probably around 11PM or so when it started coming down. For the remainder of the loop, I ran when I could and hiked quickly the rest of the time. I knew I had a poncho and dry clothes to put on once I reached the start/finish again. Of course, it let up a mile or so away from the start/finish.
Loop 2 finished. I swapped out my handheld because the pre-stocked pocket was empty of Nuun/Endurolytes/Honey Stinger Chews. My pacer, Karen, changed batteries in my head lamp and I used the bathroom. I grabbed some Ramen Noodles and decided against the poncho and shirt change as it seemed like the rain may have been done. We set off with the group but, again fell back a bit. Thankfully, this time it was due to some unsure footing for me, not because of my stomach.
Loop 3 was the toughest of all the loops. It continued to pour and the temperature dropped to around 50. I regretted not grabbing that poncho, but thankfully my pacer had a waterproof jacket on and she was overheating a bit. It took about 5 miles but, she finally talked me into putting it on. I guess I realized that this was not the time to be stubborn or argue with the person who VOLUNTARILY chose to spend her Saturday night/morning in the pouring rain pacing my fast hiking butt for 16 miles. Besides my teeth were chattering like crazy from the cold rain and I knew the dangers of hypothermia. This coat saved my race and I owe Karen big time for letting me wear it for 3 ½ miles until I reached my own change of clothes.
Once I reached the ½ way point of Loop 3, I let my pacer fill my bottle while I grabbed a dry short sleeve, long sleeve and jacket out of my drop bag. I quickly changed out of wet clothes and felt so much warmer. I had some hot soup and enjoyed the warmth of the kerosene heater for a few seconds as I ate. Sadly, this is where I left Andrea and Rick as they were trying to get her warmed up, she made it 4 more miles and then had to DNF. I was still pretty cold, despite having layered on the clothes. I knew I had to keep moving as quickly as possible to stay warm enough. My teeth chattered for about a mile, but then they stopped. Phew! Crisis averted.
I was running where I could, but mostly due to lack of sight from the rain and poor footing due to mud it was more fast hiking than running. This was beginning to cause some blistering issues on my feet. I knew I should probably change my socks, but I also knew that would require sitting down. I was in no condition to sit down. I knew I would get too cold and never get up. The blisters were more annoying than painful, so I just tried to ignore them. Four miles later we hit the 3rd aid station on the loop and found Sandra and her pacer Kacey huddled around the kerosene heater. Her knee was preventing her from running and walking wasn’t keeping her warm enough. I grabbed what I needed from here and wished her well. I knew I had to keep moving. I just needed to make it to sun-up, which was just a couple hours away.
The rain and the mud were taking its toll on me, but I refused to let Mother Nature win. I kept trucking on as fast as I could. The last couple miles of that loop were tough. Karen took the lead to try to find the best path through the mud. I was so thankful for that. She was an amazing pacer who kept tossing encouragement my way. I couldn’t have made it through without her. Finally, we saw the sign that said “Pink Flags to the Campground.” I LOVE THAT SIGN!!! I was so close to my LAST loop!!! And it had stopped raining. As we made the turn into the campground, I could see the 50 Milers/50Kers taking off. I had made it to sun-up, well almost. I was going to finish this thing!!!
As I pulled into the start/finish, Wild Bill and Rick told me how great I looked and then they started giving me crap about who knows what. I think it was a test to see if I would give it back like I usually do. They wanted to make sure I really was “okay.” I must have passed the test. After a quick shirt change “No Wimps” short sleeve, a dry long sleeve and my beanie, I was off with my pacer Kristin. I warned her that this would be more of a fast hike than a run because the trails were a disaster. I guess I may have lied.
Soon I was running where I could, not just the downhills as Wild Bill had told me to do. I couldn’t believe I was still able to run. It actually felt better to run than hike. So I ran. At the first aid station on the loop, I stopped at the table and almost fell over. I knew I needed to eat more or else I wasn’t going to make it. I grabbed more food than normal and also a Coke and Mountain Dew. I also had a GU. We walked for a bit and then I was running again. I think it helped that there were more people out on the course now and most of them were all running. Before I knew it we were halfway around. I shed my long sleeve, beanie and finally the headlamp. I was feeling great. Sadly, my pacer wasn’t. She dropped back with cramping issues but, told me to go ahead and keep running. I reassured her that I would be okay and thanked her. Off I went, a little running, a little walking. I was seeing friends all over the course, which helped keep my energy up.
I was SO excited to pull into the last aid station. Only 4 more miles to go! I can’t remember what I grabbed here, but it was hard to stay there for long. I was SO close to the finish. The trails were drying up nicely for the most part which allowed me to run quite a bit of the last 4 miles. I tried to NOT run the uphills, but sometimes I caught myself running them too. The only thoughts I had were of finishing, but then I was wondering how it would feel to stop moving. Soon I saw my campground sign and before I knew it I was running through the campground right towards the finish line!!!
The Tears. . .
The cheese of re-enacting the age group award reception
The Chair I was finally allowed to sit in
What an experience! I couldn’t have done it without my crew and pacers. I’ve learned so much from all of them that helped me to get to the finish line. It is days later and I still am overwhelmed by what I was able to do. Now that I think of it in its entirety, it seems unreal. In chunks of 4 miles and 4 loops was all I allowed myself to think of it. I’m in awe of what my body was able to do in that last loop. Even though I lived it, I can honestly say I don’t believe it was possible. So amazing!!! And I can’t wait for my next one!!!