Written by Lynx,
The race started at 6am at Hope Lake Lodge. With the overcast it was still pretty dark and cool enough for long sleeves. The race started with 67 runners, the 50 mile had probably double that so it was a good crowd. Leading up to the race it had been a self-mental battle between “this is your first hundred, go out and enjoy it,” and “I’m gonna destroy this race!” The training leading to this had given me a confidence that even I have to admit seemed over the top.
The first mile curves around hope lake and after the first turn I could see a gorgeous line of light behind me that stretched for a half mile. The first few miles I kept last year’s winner in front of me. Figured if I was still with the front of the pack around mile 40-50 and feeling good then I would make a move to the front. The trail went along for about another 7 miles of single track with some easy up-and-down before opening up to road. We hit the road and it quickly reminded me of Smith Level going into Carrboro (moowahahaaa!!) Tired of taking the down hill slow, I leaned forward and picked up the pace, right past 1st and 2nd place. Going down the hill and wondering if I was going to fast, then realized I couldn’t slow down if I was so no point in worrying. Got to the bottom and Garmin said it was a 6:03, this was maybe a dumb move the first miles of a 100.
Next came the Lift House aid station, we passed by this aids station 8 times throughout the race, and the Alpine loop; ran it 4 times. A 4.5 mile section up and down ski slopes, one climb followed an old lift up to the top so you could really tell the legs were supposed to hurt here. Got lost, following the guy who won last year, a fruititarian from Russia, (from here on known as Fruit Guy) it seemed like a good idea at the time. Went part of the way back down the hill (Icarus was being smart and using trekking poles here unlike myself,) then back up the hill; Fruit Guy was pissed, he swore a few times but with his accent it was tough to tell what was said. Something about boxing with Sylvester Stallone I assume. Back on course we did the second climb, shorter but steeper. Heading down back to sea level still on the heels of Fruit Guy, at this point I decided that I hadn’t trained my ass off all summer to wait. You sir may not eat meat, or cheese, or oranges (I was told this later by Wisp); but I’ve got my Damascus Church legs on and will bid you good day.
In-and-out of the Lift House with the help of Ringo,Wisp and Tiny. On to the longest climb of the race passing an old hollow tractor engine that looked big enough to crawl inside of and get into the fetal position. On the way to the 25 mile turn-around I hit the hill with ropes to help climb it; technical and narrow it ran along a steep grade that would later prove to be extra fun once covered in slick mud. In second place behind the “guy who is going to win this race,” according to Fruit Guy; I made it to the 25 turn in 4:24. The top 3 were all within a minute of each other. First place was flying through aid stations, not stopping sometimes. The reverse of the course was a bit easier; down the hill with the ropes, a few creek crossing shallow enough to rock hop, down the hill with the tractor engine, the Alpine loop in reverse. With our Crazy Great Crew fueling me with water, gels, and tortillas the whole way.
Got back to the 50 at Hope Lake, Wisp changed my socks that I thought were wet. Later they proved to be bone dry compared to what was coming. Out of 50, about 6 minutes ahead of Fruit Guy feeling good and the rain started. I decided now was a good time to pick up the pace and put distance between me and 3rd place and maybe catch up to 1st place. Took advantage of the easier miles at the beginning of the course and just ran everything. I saw Kevin about 2 miles out, he was moving well and in good spirits! He asked “where’s the veg guy???!” Kept running and began to feel great! One of those runs that we all hope for, especially on race day! Managed a 10:30 pace from miles 50-56; crossed paths with Wackus who said 1st place had 19minutes on me (time to play catch up!) Got into Lift House again at mile 60, asked how far ahead 1st was “30 minutes ahead!” I heard Wisp say as I left, damn this guy can run! On to Alpine for the third time; the steepest climb of the race after an hour of rain I had no poles and the idea that I might have to claw my way to the finish became a reality. I was shoving my fingers into the dirt up to my knuckles to get enough traction to move forward. Finish the Alpine loop…again and back to Lift House to see The Fantastic Crew ready to help. This was good cause the “jacket” I was wearing did nothing to block the wind and rain. Got in and was shivering so toweled off and put on Wisp’s jacket (before you ask, yes it was a bit small on me) with the help of Tiny and Wisp arm warmers and a trash bag courtesy of Ringo.
Still raining, I managed a good pace up to about mile 70 but the ground was getting slicker. Seeing less and less runners on the course I figured people had started to drop, it was now dark and raining. Occasionally a 100 mile relay runner would appear then disappear. Now back to the rope climb for the second and final time. The mud made it nearly impossible to make up the climb (which couldn’t have been more than ½ a mile) faster than a slug pace. Half way up a head lamp comes bobbing up the hill behind me, turn around to let the relay runner by; it was Fruit Guy! Fucking pomegranates! He passed me and was gone a minute later. I couldn’t go that pace over this terrain, even after the hill it was becoming more mud trench than trail. This was a humbling moment, wondered how the hell he could move that fast in what was becoming a bog of suck. Thought maybe he had better shoes or just had an energy left that I didn’t. Got to the 75 mile with Wisp and Ringo who was ready to pace. I said “yes” but I meant “PLEASE HELP!! This sucks!” As we left the aid station my left IT band locked up but let go after a few paces. Came across some other 100 milers going to 75 aid station and saw I had almost 6 miles on 4th place. As long as I kept drinking, eating, and didn’t take a bad fall I had 3rd place. Have to admit that I was feeling ok with just finishing the race without worry.
Making good time till mile 84 when we got to the longest descent, which had become a Slip N’ Slide with trees. Picked our way down with hands on trees and roots. Almost to the bottom, and Fruit guy is hunched over a log with his pacer standing next to him. This is the first time in a race I had been disappointed to catch someone. Guess I’m not done yet. Oh the feelings the 100 can bring out! Into Lift House with Ringo and knowing I had no only a couple minutes on 3rd place now. Traded Ringo’s jacket (which didn’t look good on me at all) for my own, grabbed Wackus’ trekking poles, and then Wisp and I started the Alpine Loop for the 4th time. The trekking poles helped immensely! The rain had made it more like ice skating down hill than running. We tip-toed and ran on the side of the trail to try and find traction. It was slow but my mood was still ok, then we saw Icarus, Remus, and Ringo and my spirits picked up. One because they were both still in it and Ringo said Fruit Guy had dropped; he was cold, and it was getting colder. Ate some pizza and a perogi at Lift House then we were off on the road with 15 miles to go!
Now came the mud, mud, roots and more mud. The part of the course that had previously been run-able was now a festering, shoe swallowing, slick as snot, hell hole suck fest; to put it nicely. I think it lasted about 6 miles but I’m not sure. Still using the trekking poles they were sinking a couple inches in the ground with each energy sucking step. FUCK!!!! Was yelled after 4 miles of this I think. Managed to jam my foot into a root that ripped the toe nail from the toe, don’t remember what choice words I used. I think it took us about 2 hours to do, compared to about an hour on the Alpine Loop (4.5 miles) advertised as the hard part of the course. Wisp was incredibly patient here as my mood and pace declined. This had gone from a 100 mile trail race to a 100k race and 35 miles of “suck repeats” –Remus. The only glimmer of hope was that in theory the last 2 miles were not going to as bad. Though, I think maybe I was on a treadmill of mud and roots.
Then came the last 2 miles!! Gravel road and asphalt walk path, finally stable footing! Wisp tried to get me to speed up but there wasn’t anything left and I knew I was going to take second. Walked across the finish, hugged Wisp and Ringo, sat down and didn’t get for I’m not sure how long.