Thursday evening, Brock and I zoomed up the interstate towards Elkins, WV. I looked out the window at the big yellow moon that hung in contrast to the inky blackness: the mountains in various hues of purple and dark blue. My heart rate picked up at the thought that 24 hours from that point, I would be OUT THERE running in the moonlight all night long.
However, a far cry from my first 50k pre race jitters this past january 2, I was anxious and excited and raring to GO!! I couldn't wait! I was continually telling myself to just be patient and chill out. 50 miles was a long way and my longest run was 42 miles I had ran in march with the IMTR's. although I had done many back to back runs over the summer. I knew my lack of experience in the "ultra world" may put me at a disadvantage with the more seasoned runners.
We checked into the holiday inn express in Elkins at about midnight Thursday. I couldn't sleep so I busied myself getting all my gear and 2 drop bags together and changed out the batteries in my headlamps. I finally decided to take a hot shower( to make me sleepy) and then I crawled into bed, hoping to sleep late.
7am: my eyes flew open, dang it! I was hoping I wouldn't wake up until at least 9 or 10 am. I laid there and tried to go back to sleep. no luck. So I got up and went downstairs to eat breakfast. I had some oatmeal, yogurt and fruit and went back upstairs. Brock was still sleeping ( he had worked some CRAZY hours to get to have friday off to come to WV and crew for me) I was a little jealous of him as he laid there snoozing away, and i was in full on hyper mode but really wanting to go back to sleep because I knew it would ONLY help my race. So I tried to sleep, didn't really.. but by the end of it, I decided that it was beneficial that I was off my feet and resting. So I read part of a book on my kindle and played around on facebook.
About Lunch time Brock arose and we went to a cool little hamburger joint called "scotties" and I confess, I had a bacon cheeseburger and fries and both were AWESOME. Brock had breakfast ( they serve breakfast all day).
We went back to the room, I laid around some more and watched a movie with brock. Around 4pm my friend Marlin Yoder called and he was in town and wanting to go have pre-race dinner together. I had met Marlin earlier this summer on Memorial Day, when beth and I had driven up to Charlottesville to run with Sophie and some of her VHTRC friends. It was the first run back since Marlin had ran Massenutten 100 and I instantly could tell that Marlin was not only a strong runner, but a kind soul :o) We were instant friends!
Marlin, Brock and I walked from the hotel to CJ Maggies a local eatery/chain in the area. I had a grilled chicken salad, and ended up just picking at the pieces of chicken and eating them. I was still full from my bigger lunch and was almost afraid to eat a big dinner.
Marlin headed over to the 4h camp for packet pick up and I went up to the room to change into my race clothes and grab my gear.
As soon as Brock and I arrived at the 4h camp. I knew this was going to be a special experience. Camp Pioneer is the PERFECT venue to stage an ultra event. The camp provides so many nice amenities for the runners and is a beautiful back drop for both the start and finish of the race. Electricity and excitement filled the air as I began to see old friends and make new ones.
I was SUPER HAPPY to see my buddy David Horton.:
He is always alot of fun to be around, and definitely keeps the mood light and everyone around him humble:oP
One by one my crew filtered in : Rick Gray, Will Jorgenson, Jim Cobb, Kathleen Cusick.
We all went to the racers meeting together where RD Adam Casseday gave some last minute instructions and answered questions. I loved Adam's ending advice "JUST FINISH." sage. wise. sound. makes total sense to me! I was a little jittery because while my first goal was to finish my first 50, after looking a some pace charts ( will was nice enough to give me one he laminated to carry with me) I decided that I REALLy wanted to run 10 hours .. I knew breaking 10 hours was a stretch.. but I was just inwardly praying that I wouldn't be out on the course 12 hours.. I have meager experience but I learned VERY quickly with my first 50k Frozen Sasquatch, the longer you are out there, the HARDER it is.. it's so much better to just hurry up and get in to the finish as soon as you can and not dawdle.
I went back to the car with brock, got my handheld and nathan racing vest on, went over some last minute crewing instructions with Brock. This was his first time crewing, and I explained to him how to mix my perpetuem to make a paste for me to eat out of a gel flask, and exactly what I wanted out and ready to go each time I'd see him.. also explained that while alot of people camp out at aid stations I really try to get in and out as soon as I can because I don't want to waste time. and it would also be a great way for me to make up time if I hurry up and beat people out of the aid stations since I don't have to dig through drop bags, and will be switching handhelds he already will have filled and waiting for me. I let brock know how happy I was to have him share this adventure with me and that I was EXTREMELY appreciative he was there to crew and take care of me! :o)
I walked over to Rick's van where everyone else was getting their gear ready. Everyone was so excited and just ready to go! Kathleen and I walked over to start and Horty both gave us good luck kisses ( on the cheek, of course:oP) and told us that we'd better both be first and second. I told him that Kathleen and I were going to work together and just try to work hard and get it done.. didn't know about placing though.
The Race started and we were off!! The pace felt slow, but it was 8 min miles one after another, after about 6 miles of the same ( marathon pace for me) I was starting to get a little worried. Grossman had warned me numerous times about starting too fast for ultras. BUT EVERYONE was running fast. I knew we had about 17 miles of Forest Service road before we'd even SEE single track. I thought maybe I'd better take it as it comes?? We climbed and climbed but instead of my usual: "oh let's just speed hike up this steep hill" Kathleen and I ran... One other girl kept leap frogging with us. and it was making me nervous because she was going faster and surging and I just thought to myself " this is just too much, I cant RACE here the first 6 miles in.." so I let her go-- I kinda felt maybe she was going out to hard( hoped that was the case) and hoped that I could catch her later on. I went through the first AS.. second female, kathleen right behind me 3rd female... we hammered on up the mtn and got passed this time by Whitney Robinson ( who was the overall winner) She glided past us, looking relaxed and calm. I tried to stay with her and keep her in reach but felt while she was cool, calm and collected, I was breathing hard, heart rate up and just a mess.. so I backed off.
and ran with jim, rick and kathleen.. we got to AS 2 and Horty and Adam were both there. Horty was like " yall are 3rd and 4th.. what's up with that??" I just said something smarty like " it's a LONG race and it hasn't even started!" but I already was feeling a little out of it and bonky... Adam ( who is SO cool, yall) gave me a hug and told me I was doing fine, quickly got my handheld back to me and quickly lead me down to the single track ( thanks for getting me out of that AS fast buddy!!)
I got on the single track and immediately thought " CRAP! this is going to take awhile." I was happy to be on the single track, but I just felt awkward. I was slipping and sliding and cussing at the mud. I was ahead of kathleen and rick but jim was ahead of me. I caught him and he told me that the first girl who passed us earlier was having a tough time with the single track. She was just walking. Jim said " you'll catch her. " That lifted my spirits, but then after a couple of stream crossings, and some steep up hill sections, here come rick and Kathleen. Kathleen was feeling GOOD. She was just flying up those hills and had so much energy, laughing and talking...
I was happy for her, but at the same time, I felt SAD... because I was feeling like CRAP! I couldn't hang! I was gelling and eating salt tabs every hour.. why did I feel so bonky?? Will passed me...I was trying to keep negative thoughts out of my head, and just keep going. "run your own race" I told myself.. I drank almost all of my hand held and ate some of my gels maybe I wasn't eating enough.
I was happy that I was almost to AS 4 because Brock would be there with a new hand held and my perpetuem. I ran into the AS( mile 23), brock horty and adam where all standing there. I said: " I know.. I suck!" brock handed me my stuff, horty told me they were 7 min ahead of me not far at all to just get going.. adam told me I had plenty of race left to hang in there. THANKS so much guys.. That really helped having yall encourage me!! I left AS 4 MUCH happier:o) I turned on my ipod and ran up the Forest Service road I felt GOOD and Strong. WEIRD how things can turn around like that. I turned back onto the single track.. more slipping and sliding and wading around in deep mud, I tripped and fell flat on my a$$. I think that was EXACTLY what I needed. I stopped for a brief second, I looked up at: the moon, the tall spruce trees that surround me, the huge ferns at my feet on the forest floor. I could hear an owl hooting very close. I laughed out loud. THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!! I decided right there to not worry anymore about racing or my place. This was my FIRST 50 miler, who did I think I was??? I had no idea what I was doing. I just needed to take care of myself ENJOY the experience and as Adam said at the racers meeting "Just Finish". So off I went zooming through the single track, moving much faster now that I had freed myself of my burden staying up with my friends, and jockeying for position. I listened to a Widespread Panic show, and just was in wonderment of how cool the woods are around Cheat mtn. I really would love to come run those sections during the day.
THEN I saw someone. that someone was walking slowly, and drinking on their hydration pack and they didnt look happy. It was the girl who passed me at mile 6! AW.. I always have mixed feelings about this. I'm super competitive. It's just my nature. I am assuming this is WHY I love to run and race so much. BUT, as someone who as done quite their share of bonking and deathmarching, I definitely felt huge amounts of pity because trust me, I've been there. As she let me pass, I asked her if she needed any salt or gels... she said " a steak dinner" I told her she was doing great, and that she flew up the FS road and here soon we'd have plenty of that to run on to the finish. and with that I took off trying to put as much space between me and girl who is now #4. SO MUCH FOR NOT RACING..
once I got on the FS road it was about mile 31, and I had 2 more miles before AS #6 and me getting to see brock. I tried to stay focused and formulate a plan on exactly what I needed to do to get in and out of there quick and on up the road. I was just feeling REALLY good and knew I had the girl behind me probably working hard to catch me on the road so I HAULED A$$. I ran 730-8min pace the next 2 miles. I was working hard but I didn't care... I felt with 20 left to go, this was THE TIME to be working hard and not be patient. So got to the AS and Everyone looked so shocked to see me!!! haha because there was kathleen, rick, and jim.. I had caught up to them!! YES!!! I got my handheld of amino, and new flask of gel and yelled at kathleen, rick and jim to LET's GO!!! WOOO!!
So off we went in the darkness. all laughing and having fun. I kept looking at my watch. I told rick I didn't want to obsess over time, but I really felt we could break 10 hours if we ran 9 min miles.. BUT I also knew we had SO much climbing to do. and we were 17 miles away. I really just enjoyed running the next 13 miles with my friends.. kathleen was feeling good again and took off up ahead. Her ipod was on and you could hear her singing she would yell back at us every 5 minutes for us to get up there with her. Kathleen is SO STRONG. I can't wait until I have the fitness she does. Girl is FIERCE!!
I just tried to hang in there and eat and drink. The last 4 miles there was ALOT of down hill, rick, kathleen and jim ran on, and I was having a rough time.. no death marching, but I was in survival mode FOR SURE.. It was ALL I could do to run 12 min miles. seriously, those last 4 miles felt like they took FOREVER. I knew ED and the girl I had passed were behind me so I tried to run in the dark and get around every turn in the road before anyone could see me ( paranoia I know) but I could see their headlamps on the switchback section of FS before I hit the last couple miles of pavement so I knew they were there and didn't want to get caught!
I saw Ashley Dolin pushing her bob stroller with little martha up the Forest Service road. Ashely REALLY was what kept me going at Frozen Sasquatch in january She was 7months pregnant and out in the cold working her aid station like a CHAMP. I was SO cold and SO tired and she kept telling me " YOU CAN DO THIS!!" :o) So ashley gave be another bear hug and told me I was doing great:o) I was just so happy to be close to finishing!! The Dolins are good people:o) love them:o)
I FINALLY got to the 4-h camp... turned onto the grass.. AAHHH that is the sweetest feeling running on the soft, wet grass! ran across the field and to the finish to where Brock, Adam and my friends were waiting for me! I DID IT!! I finished my first 50 miler.
SO HAPPY to be FINISHED!!
Congratulatory hug from Adam.... who is one of the best Rd's ever! ( and he's a super fast runner:oP)
Hug from Will.. who tore it up the last 10 miles.. he told me to "embrace the pain." :oP
no, I didn't get to break 10 hours. I ran a 10:07. but I really feel my next 50, being in the day time, and having gained the experience I have from running cheat, I can easily run in the 9 hour range.
I ended up 3rd overall female!! and I score a SWEET piece of pottery ( which was my motivation to keep going and not get passed when I was in survival mode)
and what of my friends??
SPEEDY MARLIN YODER!! I never saw him after about mile 3. He ran a 9:36. WOOO HOO!!
Will, Jim and Rick finished strong! and celebrated at the finish line
Kathleen got second overall female and ran 9:59:53!!! WAY TO GO to break 10 hours.. she is such a strong runner. it was truly an awesome experience to get to run those sections with my buddy!!
and I also had the added cool factor of walking around with a big red blotch on my forehead from my petzel myo... but as you can see... I was completely, totally and utterly BLISSED OUT that I got to run in the mtns all night long, I completed my first 50 and it didn't go that bad, if anything I think it's my new favorite distance.. :o) can't wait to run another!!
RESULTS are posted. Seriously, I would HIGHLY recommend this race! It's fantastic in every way imaginable. The course was VERY well marked with reflective streamers ( as opposed to glow sticks these worked VERY well and are highly visible). The Aid Stations were all stocked with goodies, happy, AWESOME volunteers who kept you moving down the trail! The awards were EXTREMELY nice. The patagonia finishers shirts were VERY NICE. The facilities at the 4h camp were awesome, with a dining hall, showers, plenty of room to camp across the road in a lovely hay field ( where the runners parked their vehicles) I really just can't say enough GOOD things about this race. It was very apparent the planning, thought, hard work and preparation that Adam and his Volunteers put into Cheat Mtn.
Super appreciative of Brock. ALL his help crewing and going to the race with me. He had an amazing time at aid stations 4 and 6 with Bill Potts and his crew! Thanks again to Adam and Horty for all the encouragement and positive affirmations when I needed them at my low point at mile 23!! :o)