Much like a looped course, or the way one breaks ultras into smaller mentally digestible bites, I feel like my race report should be broken down into pieces as well.
Piece one, Pack..Pack all the things one may need for rain, or sun, hot or cold. I tried not to obsess over the weather forecast the week before. March weather in the mid Atlantic/south can be all over the place. It snowed one week and was 70 the next, so I decided to bring something for each weather possibility.
Piece two, Drive.. Lawst and Galoot swung by the house right around 1pm and were greeted enthusiastically by my tapered dog. While he spun and ran laps around the yard we packed up the car and were off. The drive took just about 3.5 hours and we were at our cabin. Piece Three; Sleep This was a really weird taper and even stranger night before…I actually slept. (Well, I was asleep anyway…my noisy sleeping bag was apparently moving around all night according to Galoot) Sorry if I kept you up!! Piece Four; Race! This is self explanatory, or should be anyway. Now onto the race lap by lap; Edge (a fellow TrailHead and knower of all things running) had so nicely given up his weekend to come up and crew, even though TJ100k doesn’t really need crewing since its a looped course, it put my mind at ease having him there. Ben, (Cruel Jewel Experience partner in crime) also came up, driving up first thing in the morning he was there by lap 3 or 4 to pace me in!
Lap 1 was in the dark, completely. I had a little nausea to start that would last the first 4 laps. Probably nerves, excitement, and caffeine. I wore my HRM to keep myself from going out too fast, full disclosure, I still started out a wee bit fast, but not as fast as I actually wanted. All hopped up on caffeine, sleep, and tapered legs is always a bad combination for me and if I wanted to start conservatively I would actually need something like a HRM to remind me. I ran in the dark with a few people until the first aid station. I didn’t need anything so I kept going, right into the hilly part of the course. I could see headlights somewhere behind me, but kept moving, I would run most of the race alone until I picked up Ben, and even then we didn’t start seeing people until the last loop or two. Eventually I came upon the lake and could see the start/finish on the other side, just as quickly the lights came into view, the trail turned away and headed back into the dark. It twisted back to the lake again, and in the dark I started to worry if somehow I had done a little loop and was back to where I had just been previously. I kept going waiting to see if I would cross the same bridge again…I didn’t and came into the start/finish in 1:36. Faster than I had planned, but I felt great! (of course the caffeine had found my stomach by now and I needed to stop at the porta john… Lap2, back out into the dark again, alone. I am actually really happy running long races alone. People ask what I think about, how I don’t get bored..but this is a race, I am thinking about racing. “keep your heart rate low, nice light steps, relax, stand tall, engage your glutes, relax..” Somehow my brain goes into almost a computer like mode, checking all body systems. So there is always plenty to keep my brain occupied, never mind all the rocks and roots underfoot that I am trying not to trip on. Just after the far aid station (since this course is looped there is the start/finish aid station and the aid station on the far side of the park.) The sky started turning a cool grey. The clouds hung low, obscuring the sun rise. There was mist rolling off the trees in the distance and it was quiet and beautiful. Another trip to the porta john. Lap 2, 1:34 Lap 3. Now the sun was up and I shed my headlamp, gloves, and buff. And got some delicious chicken broth Lawst had so kindly made…yum! I took off again knowing that this lap would be about the same effort and pace as the previous two. It was pretty uneventful, felt good, took some s-caps from the far aid station because I forgot mine and my stomach was still a bit unhappy so I thought perhaps some salt would make it feel better. It eventually did, though I still stopped at the john at the end of this lap. Lap 3, 1:32 Lap 4 it misted, and by the end of this loop began to ran hard. I felt good and was still running almost all of each loop up to this point. I was happy that time was ticking by so quickly, and actually enjoying the looped course. Looping around meant no worrying about going the wrong way, after loop one at least, it meant no second guessing turns, and no worrying about running down hill hard and missing an important turn. This lap I finally didn’t stop at the john!! YAY! Lap4 1:37 Lap 5, it was now raining hard and Dr Horton reminded me to take a jacket! The RD, Andy Jones-Wilkens also had decided that pacers could start at lap 5, instead of lap 6 as the website had stated. This was good and bad. I was in a groove coming out of lap 4, and an added pacer threw me off a teeny bit from my rhythm, even though his company was quite welcome. I had also been told I had a good lead over the rest of the women so I got a little unfocused and stupidly started slacking off and chatting with Ben. None of this is Ben’s fault of course, he is an awesome pacer..and actually was helpful in keeping me focused and relaxed in later laps. We chatted a bit, as the course got sloppier and sloppier, I think it turned into a training run for me..you know, with the usual training run partner it was a slippery slope that I fell into for a loop. With the rain, and the field trampling over and over the same trails it was getting quite mucky. This would be where I let the pace sliiiide and the first time I started walking a bit of the hills…. lap 5, 1:49 Lap 6 was mentally tough, and this loop was where I was really lucky to have Ben and his words of wisdom. I had basically run almost 50 miles with very minimal walking, and it hit me mentally. The trail also got quite bad and coupled with the realization that I had just run about 5o miles and hadn’t seen anything but clouds and rain and more mud put me in a mentally low frame of mind. It had been a snowy winter, and cold wet early spring and suddenly I began feeling overwhelmed by all the cold grey rain that seemed endless the last month. By the end of lap 5 we had decided that there would be no more conversation so I could refocus and get my brain back into the race, so very few words were spoken on this loop. Every time I slipped or rolled an ankle in the mud Ben would repeat, “keep this loop smooth, everything is smooth.” Loops 5 and 6 had suddenly become mentally tough, I was close, but not that close. My HRM was wet and felt like it was constricting my lungs..I took it off right at mile 50 and suddenly felt like I could take a deep breath! Wonderful! The trail was getting worse, and I was worrying about eating anything because my stomach had finally gotten better and I didn’t want to tempt fate by eating something that may change my good belly vibes! I finally realized there were avocados at the aid station and some fat, and calories were what I needed.
I ate 1/2 an avocado at the end of this lap and felt immediately better. The mental picture of popeye eating spinach popped into my legs, and I think I had the popeye song stuck in my head for the last 15 or so miles :) Lap 6: 1:54 (oops!) Lap 7 My parents so nicely decided to drive the 4 hours from Chapel Hill to see me run, and showed up right as I was racing out of the start/finish. I could see them out of the corner of my eye, my mom was picking up her pace to come talk to me! I waved a hello as Edge said, “you have 30 sec to get out of this aid station, shes right on your heels.” I laughed internally, figures, my parents always have impeccable timing. They can sense when to show up for the last exciting part of an event so they don’t have to stay too long, but also don’t miss the action. They came exactly when I was heading out on my last loop and I was getting ready to put the hammer down. Thankfully Edge explained why all I did was smile and wave, and then took them to the 2 other places where they could see me run by multiple times. Later my dad said he saw that all too familiar look in my eye, the “I want this bad, get out of my way” look and he knew I wouldn’t be stopping for a chat…or letting anyone catch me either. (I think this look is usually reserved for food at the dinner table, perhaps that’s why he knows it so well) This is the lap where my 10 min lead had turned into barely 2 minutes and I had to have a talk with myself. I had led the women’s field the whole day, which is not unusual for me. I have a terrible habit of going out too fast when others pace themselves better…and I spectacularly blow up in the third quarter. Typically I psych myself out now in the last second. I start to doubt my pacing, and what I have left, I begin to think that maybe the other women have been running super easy, biding their time to pick up the pace….and sometimes, many times, this internal self doubt gets too loud and I sort of give up. For a split second I had that thought, but shook it out of my mind as fast as I could. I had trained hard, I had run in the snow, the cold, the muck, the ice, and everything in between all winter, I wasn’t going down with out a fight! I put my head down and ran, and ran, and ran. Grindstone 100 had toyed with my emotions. I had mentally thrown in the towel by mile 66 in a puddle of doubt and self pity and I just let the other women go by with out giving chase. I had let that voice take over, “you started too hard, you haven’t been able to keep anything down for 5o miles..its over, give up…” and in a way I did. I was not going to let that voice win again, this would not be Grindstone part II…I made up about 5-6 minutes the last and final lap and was so proud of myself for overcoming my own demons! Lap 7 1:43 This of course wasn’t the end of my day. In the usual spirit of my ultra races, I finished feeling swell, but 10 minutes later the ground was spinning and I had to lay down. I tried to close my eyes and act normal, but I knew it was coming. Poor #Danton walked up to chat just as I lost my composure….”Hey I wanted to congratulate you on a great race, how do you feel?” “Like I am going to vomit…” and I did, on my shoes, with #Danton holding my hair like an ultra-gentleman. :) Total distance 62.7 miles, Total Time 12:00:35 and set a new course record!
Thank you so much AJW and John Anderson for hosting such a fantastic race! This race is a must for any east-coasters looking for a spring 100k just to run, or to use as a tune up for summer 100s. All the volunteers are runners, and most ultra runners so they know exactly how to host a perfect ultra. There are too many other people to thank here as well. All you aid station captions, and happy VA faces know who you are. I am so happy I signed up for this race, just seeing you all again made for a really great race! Of course I was be remiss if I didn’t give credit to my TH friends and training buddies. Thanks Lynx, Ben, Crash, Burn, Willow, Nate, Pinto, Bounce and everyone else for making the long cold and dark winter runs fun! Thank you Edge, Ben and Lawst for the A+ crewing/pacing, and congrats Galoot on your first 100k! So glad I got to share the experience with you!
And as always, my two favorite guys at home. I love you, thanks for supporting me. Check out this little video made by some of AJW’s kids and student, the were running all over the course all day, even up and down ladders!