I need to start with a great big thanks to my crew and pacers! Ringo,Lynx, and ET! It was really so fantastic to have them there and have their help and support…and thanks to all my friends, family, and treahead crew for sending your vibes, texts, emails and facebook posts!
So where to begin, in the beginning maybe? So May 1980, I was born,…no wait, that’s too early…
Ok this summer 2013 a trailhead and I decided it would be fun to try to see how many miles we could do in a week…we started with a plan to build up, and take appropriate weeks off so we could max out and not get injured. A few weeks into this plan, I realized that with all this mileage..why not sign up for an actual race? Makes sense, right? So will a little help and a lot of butterflies Lynx signed me up for Grindstone…(yes, that’s right…couldn’t actually hit the “enter” key myself)
Fast forward past my 150 mile week in the July heat, and on to October. You all know what happened to Grindstone In October…or what didn’t happen I guess.
Anyway, in a panic I emailed around looking for another race, and Todd, the RD of Pinhoti graciously let me sneak into his race at the last minute.
So there I was, at the starting line this Saturday thinking about my 6 week taper and wondering if my legs would even remember how to run, never mind how to run fast. As Et snapped some prerace photos, Lynx tried to guide me to the front of the starting line. Burn wished me good luck and told me this had better be the last time he saw me until the finish..and went to the back of the croud. I could see Ringo and his excitement for me off to the side as he gave me a thumbs up….
And we were off!
The start is very reminiscent of Uwharrie Mountain Run. Start down low in a forest parking lot, pop onto a road for barely even time to register it, and then (in this case) quickly into very narrow single track. In the bunch of the narrow single track I got pushed pretty far back and stuck behind lots and lots of guys. This frustration of walking all the puny hills and my overflow of annoyance from Grindstone probably wasn’t great for the smart pacing at the beginning. The trail was dark and narrow, there was quite a drop off to the right and it was steep on the left. The only way around anyone was to wait for the water crossing. To my shock people were stopping and waiting their turn to hop on each rock over the water. (this is a trail race right?) I knew there were 15+ water crossings throughout the race so I plunged right in and around several people. I heard someone yell at me for cutting, and then someone also exclaim what a great idea it was to go through the water…(again, this was a trail race,right?) unfortunately I let It all boil over and went too fast, by sunrise I had put in my headphones and tried to cool off.
After finally getting around several herds of people I was able to run my pace, 8min-:9:30 min pace…oops! But at the time it felt very comfortable. I try to run on feel, I know when my heartrate is getting too high and when to walk, and it wasn’t getting high enough for me to walk. I got through aid station 1 not wanting to stop because I was afraid I would get caught back up in the slower groups again, but had to get some water because I was trying to make sure to drink one bottle between each aid station (they were all roughly 4-6 miles apart) The first 15 miles I cruised quite happily, Mostly all by myself, which I like during races. Otherwise I like to chat, (yes I know, shocker there) and I stop actually racing. I realized I really liked that I could see my crews smiling faces every 5 or so miles, it helped the miles tick along and was helpful to break up the race into smaller parts mentally. By the third aidstation Lynx started to inform me something about #2 was more than an minute back…wait, #2? As in who was #1…oh crap! I had just assumed I was so far back that I was stuck in a huge gap between the middle of the pack and the front of the pack, I did not realize I was the front of the (women’s) pack. That knowledge always messes with my head at the beginning of a race and I panicked a bit. I thought about the pace I had been running (now about 50k into the race) and how much farther I had to go, and how could I hope to hold people off, I thought about some of the rude comments that had been made at me earlier and hit my mental low…only 50k into the race. Of course this is also the section where I wouldn’t see my crew for 15 miles (there were still aid stations in between, but no crew) I slowed down, A LOT, and slipped back to 4th women.
I also have a sinus infection, and this was where the pressure in my head became unbearable. Its worse on my right side, and felt like it was going to pop my right eye out. Luckily the crew had my neti pot and I used it as soon as I saw them…oh sweet relief! (but not until mile 45 or so) Mile 35-41 is the highest climb in but was much less technical and had more switchbacks than Grindstone had so it felt mentally easier and I had crested the top much quicker than I had anticipated. At the top I was rewarded with a really beautiful fall colored view, my crew plus the other crews, and a little bit of pavement, Lynx joined me and we started down the other side of Bald Rock.
This of course was a public park and there were lots of people out enjoying the day. As a matter of fact I had to give my quads a break by using my arms to lower myself down on the rocks (this section was a bit like the top of grandfather mountain, lots of big boulders.) We happened upon a 3some. Two adults and their very adult mother,(maybe in her late 70s) who fell, right on her hip onto the rocks! Yikes! We all stooped down as visions of ambulances danced in our head. She insisted she was ok, and on we continued.
I finally got to my netipot and picked up Ringo. Somewhere along the way with Ringo the sun set and the night came, and I got out of my funk. Theres not much to say for the next 15 miles. This is where I will explain the single compression sock, i stared to get a small blister and decided it was time to attend to it. Unfortunately wet compression socks are impossible to get off, and even worse trying to get back on. Lynx’s with his quick thinking grabbed a regular sock of mine and put it on. I had already wasted 5-10 min messing with getting it off, so we just left it that way. Back onto the singletrack there was a lot of up, a lot of dark, and at some point I could no longer eat solid foods so I could only drink,,,so needless to say there was also a lot of peeing. Lots of good storytelling from Ringo, he kept me moving, kept my spirits up and kept track of my calories forcing coke, dates, and ginger ale down my throat to keep me from bonking. What more could you ask for from a pacer. Oh…and he also kept my ego pumped up (thanks Ringo! this is my Ringo plug…he pushed me just enough, but not too much because he was aware I was close to bonking while he counted just a handful of calories I could get down)
Lets fast forward to mile 85. To my wonderful surprise the last 15 miles were mostly on jeep roads and a little single track, a field, and around a track to the finish. My pace went from a single track slog, to a11:30 min mile. And with Lynx’s encouragement we started reeling in people left and right. (we went ultrarunner hunting!) We were moving so fast we actually missed Ringo and ET at the last aid station we ran into a guy coming the wrong way, somehow he got turned around and was bonking and confused, we made sure he followed us to aid station 95 where his crew was. (lynx will add in red because at this point i was coasting in on fumes and too much caffeine.. I don’t remember too much) From here we went on to some single track that was low on the technical side but high on the Alabama-Deep South-Banjo scale. Came out of the woods to a lake and ran on a built path through the middle. Dropped the 100 miler who had been behind us, shortly caught up to another. On to the road and ET and Ringo were in the car with words of encouragement. As we ran “the longest road in the world,” I pointed out the lights ahead, sure signs of another runner. Passed him a couple minutes later.-Lynx
Lynx got a good chuckle too because I did ask if we were on the right course (it was very obvious to anyone that we were)Finally after some obnoxious road and lots of lynx poking I could see the lights of the high school track just around the corner. I was so excited! I turned off my headlamp hoping to run it in without blinding everyone. Of course when we got onto the field, we couldn’t see the reflectors without our headlamps illuminating the way. I looked down at my watch to see 22:58 crap!!…I decided I needed to go under 23 hours so I sprinted (or at least it felt like I sprinted) across the finish line. As I crossed there was a woman, who looked quite familiar smiling at me, holding a sign…things did not register until after and she came over…it was Sidetrack’s MOM! She stayed up to come watch the finish and have us over for tea. I missed the tea, I passed out on her guest bed,(there is a funny pic of me passed out with a grin on my face) and then puked in her guest bathroom….I was happy, and excited, sick to my stomach, tired as hell…but so alive and so proud of myself!
All in all the race was really well organized, all the marking kinks have been worked out. No getting lost, not once. There is something like 80mi of single track, a few street crossings 10-15 mi of wide trail, a handful of annoying pavement to the finish, and a 1/2 of a lap around a rubberized track. The leaves weren’t quite peak, but they were well on their way, there were plenty of nice views, rolling hills, and not too technical trail. I would say it is a great race, I really had fun, perfect weather, beautiful sunset, and even a shooting start or two.
I havent mentioned my dear friend ET much to this point because I only saw her a few minutes every 5-10 miles, but I know how important the driver/crew is and I am so thankful that she came! Not only did she get to each aid station, but she organized and set up and rolled with the changes as they came…she took very good care of me and she took a lot of excellent pictures!
Thanks for sticking with me through my 100 mile ramblings! wispy