I feel like in a way this race was a good marker of how much I have grown as a runner, mentally. In the past I have been terribly grumpy the day of a race(mostly because I am so nervous) I worry, I stress, and if I had forgotten the things mentioned below in the past I probably would have let it get into my head and affect my race. I admit I am quite proud that I just let them all roll off me and looked for the positive or a good solution with out using extra energy to panic or worry.
First it started right off (20 min into the drive) that I forgot my heart rate monitor; my pacing crutch. I use to hold my legs back when the first 20 miles feel so good and I want to run them as hard as I can. I momentarily broke out into a cold sweat and felt my stomach drop, but we were caravanning with other people, and I reasoned it would be a good test of my running maturity if I could pace myself with out the help of a gadget. If there was anything I have learned from my epic blow up at Pinhoti (Yea I ran the first 40 miles in first place..where I didn’t belong and paid DEARLY for it in the third quarter of the race) it was be loose, be comfortable. In an ultra, the race really doesn’t begin until the last 1/4 of the distance. I pushed the thought out of my head and focused on the here and now, which was driving to the mountains (wee!) with my husband and friend, Nathan.
Second “oops” was I forgot my nutrition plan at the rental house. I had planned on eating avocado’s during the race, and of course I left them on the counter in the kitchen. Not 3 miles into the race I realized it, ugh! I panicked for all of 1/2 mile. I thought about if I could see some of the other TrailHeads along the course at the aid stations maybe they could text Drew to go get me some…. nope. I would find another way. I mentally took a deep breath and started thinking about other foods I had packed as back up. I remembered I had golden raisins and walnuts in the car and figured that would do just fine.
Third, I forgot to rewet my contact lenses and had some fun double vision for the last 10 miles, but by then I was so close to finishing I didn’t have the time or energy to worry about that either. I figured I just needed to roll with it and found that squirting myself with my water bottle at aid stations helped.
Ok, so onto the race report;
I fell right asleep at 10 Friday night, only to be wide awake at 2:30 am trying to get updates on Jordan, Ben, DJ, and Kurtis who were all 14 or so hours into their race. I texted back and forth with ET, and learned they were all still plugging away.
I snuck quietly out of my bedroom and into the loft and did some yoga and some visualization of sting up hill hiking, and speedy downhill running. Of course another friend and his family had arrived at midnight and I didn’t realize they were just below in on the couches in the living room! Sorry guys!
I often get quite before races, I don’t mind some nerves before a race. The quiet helps me focus and switch into racing mode.
As we parked at the start, we saw DJ and Kurtis eating and getting ready to head back out. Kurtis warned me, “you are going to want to run the first 50k, its some pretty sweet runnable trail, if you are trained to run the hills… hold back though, the final 20 is pretty brutal. The Duncan Ridge Trail, or the dragon’s spine, was pretty gnarly.”. I tucked that into the back of my head and smiled.
The start was actually pretty low key. We listened to a quick countdown and then were told “go!” I ran and chatted with another woman until we started to climb. The first several miles were on road, I thought about walking but decided I would when I felt my breathing get harder. We took a right into the single track, where I guessed I was in 4th or 5th place. The aid station volunteer warned that I was upfront and he knew the guys ahead of me were “some really fast guys,” and to take it easy. I smiled and nodded in response, he didn’t’ know me, so I wasn’t worried.
I soon found myself alone for a bit. I kept mentally checking my breathing rate and heart rate. I caught up to a guy that was going slower than I wanted on the downhill and reminded myself not to get anxious, but to just follow along behind him and use his slower pace to hold me back so early in the race.
We finally got to the “T” section of the trail, and I almost made the same mistake Nathan did… but I was lucky that there were 2 hundred milers that had chosen to take a break right at the trial junction and pointed me in the right direction. The downhill was fun to run down, and I made up some places going down. This section must have been the north side of a mountain because it was a beautiful trail that wound through dense ferns and moss covered tress. On the way back up I saw Nate, and not knowing he had gone the wrong way I bounced up and down and greeted him with a big smile.
I usually like to run my races alone and think and focus, but I had fallen instep with 2 other guys who knew the trail well. Living close by they both trained on the course so I figured they knew what they were doing. (the two guys finished first and fourth) By the time we hit the gravel road we three had split up and I was back to running alone.
My hips were tighter than I would have liked, and the pinch or minor tear in my calf started bothering me on the road. I had hoped to glide effortlessly on this non technical section, but I was having a hard time maintaining an 8:17 pace. Oh well, I knew the technical part was coming up and it would give my tight hips a break.
The next 15 miles were great, every 5 miles I got to see my wonderful husband and friends every 5 miles and that was a great mental boost. It was getting hot and I was finding relief by dumping water on my head and drinking chicken broth and taking scaps and salt stick caplets.
As I entered the last aid station before DRT I was mental ready for the steep climbs and descents. I was told there would be no aid for the next 7 miles, which really seemed to be closer to 9…but whatever…I had packed two chicken broth pouches and had my Orange Mud Vest pack full.
The DRT was, in a way, a nice break, the climbs were too steep to actually run, so I welcomed the hike, and the trail was narrow… lined by poison ivy so there was no pausing at the side of the trail. I have never seen a trail with so much poison ivy! I was glad I had worn my knee socks, and was very careful not to touch anything since I am so allergic to poison ivy. I was lucky to escape with only one little patch of poison ivy rash on the back of one hand! Don’t misunderstand me, this section of the trail had no switch backs so it was straight up and down with no relief. I think there were 11 named peaked in the span of 11 or so miles so the hills were relentless. Good thing I had been running 1/4 mile repeats at a 10% incline on the treadmill in training! (Thanks Jordan!)
Somewhere along here I found myself in second place overall, but with the sun setting, my calf barking at me every time I hopped over a rock or root, and my double vision from salty sweat on my contacts I decided I would be happy with first female and would go easy on the descents since I couldn’t see the rocks and roots very well anymore in the light of dusk. Third place caught up to me(Richard) and we chatted and hiked the last few miles in. I kept thinking the trail was beginning to get runnable again, but would second guess every time I felt a little niggle in my calf and decided power hiking would be just fine. Not worth tearing something or falling (again) before my summer training really even started! (Again, maturity and wisdom, right? Maybe..)
As I hiked with Richard I realized his quads were toast and he didn’t have much running left in his legs. Mine had recovered, and I was feeling really good..no pain cave today. I told him to go ahead that I was going to stop and pee, but he insisted on waiting for me… so I decided that dusting him in the last few miles wouldn’t have been right. He offered that we cross the finish together (by now we had been trading 2nd and 3rd place back and forth for nearly 20+ miles) I told him when we got to the 1/4 mile left on the pavement I was going to jog it in, and said I wouldn’t mind 3rd overall since I was first female after all. (oops can we see where my competitiveness went out the door here… I’ll come back to this..)
As we hiked the last mile in the dark I swore I could hear my friend Grub in the distance echoing across the hillside… so I called out “GRUB?!” 2 headlamps bobbed in the distance. It turned out to be Grub and Nymph! I started to ask if they had gotten bored waiting for us to finish… and then I noticed someone else. Jordan. I thought to myself, “oh crap he should have finished long ago.”. He looked pale and tired. I said the only thing I could think of… because really what do you tell someone who was on pace for a 24 hour finish who is now 30+ hours into the race…” just get it the fuck done, we are almost there! See you at the finish!”
And we were almost there! As promised I jogged it in with Richard. It was so nice to hear our crew and see their smiling faces after 13:32 hours of technical, yet beautiful trail.
I was happy to be done, but feeling really good still. This is one of the few races I have finished and not been dizzy, vomiting, or just generally feeling terrible… which really pleased me. I have been tinkering with my nutrition for several years and it seemed to me that I had finally gotten it right! The earth didn’t spin, I was happy to walk back out and watch and cheer on the next several finishers.
Now back to that comment I made about my competitiveness going out the window… after the race I realized I missed the CR by less than 3 minutes. I SO could have set a new CR… does this mean I have to go back next year?!?!
Things that did go right;
- Nutrition! Chicken broth, veggie broth, I think I had seven 8oz packs of broth, handful of walnuts and raisins, one GF cookie, 2 slices of orange, 1 banana, 2 packets of almond butter, 2 Vespa (one Shoes! Alta’s Superior 2.0, comfortable enough for each surface I ran on: road, gravel, rocky single track and pine covered trail.
- Hydration pack. The Orange Mud Vest Pack (I had the single bottle Vest Pack)
- Crew and friends! Can’t go wrong with them!
- Really well marked course, helpful volunteers, and super RD’s
- I expected it to be quite a bit further than 50 miles, so I wasn’t too surprised that my Garmin read 57.2 miles.