My achilles/cheat mtn dNF- BUMMER:( , then I ran blue ridge relay with the CATS ( which was fun!) but then got sick for 3 weeks-- where I coughed and coughed. 2 rounds of antibiotics, round of predinsone, still coughing.. I still ran but my breathing was terrible and I coughed ALOT and I felt SOO tired. I felt like I was wishing in one hand and you know what in the other when I would even talk about grindstone with my Sophie ( my stellar pacer!) and Eric ( my coach). GRINDSTONE. it was weighing on me like an albatross around my neck. and I desperately didn't want to feel that way. I LOVE ultrarunning. I'm so passionate about my training and love what I do. I do this for FUN!!!
Then both my sweet boys caught strep the monday before the race. I got them on antibiotics and they were feeling MUCH better by wednesday thank goodness. But then, I woke up in the middle of the night with my throat killing me. I was really beginning to think it wasn't even meant for me to run. I was crushed. I had worked so hard.
I had kept saying all week if it was meant for me to run grindstone it would all work out. I know this sounds crazy but Thursday, the day I was supposed to leave for grindstone; I took my kids to school, went immediately to the dr for a throat culture. It came back negative. YES. I was prescribed allergy meds stating that is why i was coughing- it not bronchitis or pneumonia. I had felt so terrible! suffered for weeks! allergies?! really? really. gargled salt water for my throat. I took claritin and some nasonex and WOW. I felt so much better. SO I decided YES I was going to run grindstone BUT FIRST I was going to go play 9 holes of golf. Should I have been resting? probably. but I would of probably just worried about loading the car with all my gear and stressing about the race itself. So playing golf on such a pretty, sunny fall day what just what I needed. I didn't even think about the race.
I loaded the car, and drove my boys to my parents house. I was a little emotional leaving the house as I hugged and kissed my boys and my parents bye. I felt like I had been through so much the past couple months. I really couldn't wait to run my race, I had worked so hard all summer for-- BUT I knew grindstone was going to hurt-- on a good day it would hurt. I knew I was a little undertrained from the past couple weeks forced taper. I hadn't ran in the mtns very much at all since august. and nothing over 10 miles. I knew I didn't need to be chiseled to a peak for a race like this, but i knew I had to be STRONG. So I spent the next 2 hours driving to Roanoke, va "getting my mind right" and coming to terms with the epic journey that lay ahead.
I woke up friday, and by golly, no sore throat! the dr was right! allergies!! yay claritin! After brock and I had a big breakfast at cracker barrel, we drove the rest of the way to the boy scout camp at Swoope, Va. We set quickly set up our tent, and went to the mandatory race meeting.
I weighed in and got my race packet and I have to say the swag is pretty sweet!! Grindstone hoody, grindstone patagonia r1 hat, and 101.85 sticker, and a great assortment of gels, cliff blocks and cliff bar. :) wow! I feel so special. swag PLUS: camping, the aid during the race, pre and post race food, finisher's buckle and patagonia finisher's shirt; makes this race the best value EVER. I feel so spoiled!! It was so wonderful to see all my friends at the campground pre race. I took a nap for about an hour, then proceeded to get all my gear together and give last minute instructions to my SUPER CREW of Brock, my big brother Brian and my sister in law Tammy, who is a nurse practitioner. ( how can you go wrong with a NP on your crew?!)
I then got with my pacers Rob Colenso and Sophie Speidel and went over what I felt my race strategy would be.. before I knew it I was lining up, wishing all my friends good luck on their journey and we were off!!
I carried a full ultraspire pack with all my goodies ( S!caps, gels, tums, nuun) and a hand held of perpetuem. I tried my best to go slow the first mile. It was so hard to hold back because I hadn't really RAN RAN in awhile. ( from where I was sick) I was just trying to go out very very easy. I found myself running with Megan S. we chatted and got to know each other the next 2 hours or so. Megan is a bright, articulate, sweet soul and a very strong, fleetly runner and we worked very well together. The first mile of the race megan and I were passed by Joann so we knew going into the first mile we were second and third. At Elliott's Knob, we began a big monster climb, and I LOVE climbing. so I cranked up my ipod and began to hike alone and just get into my zone. I knew it was still extremely early in the race but I wanted to go by perceived effort and I knew climbing is one of my strengths and wanted to maximize that in this race as much as I could. I got my punch and ran partially down the knob an onto the single track.. I felt warmed up from the climb and was running really fluidly and happily down the trail. I really had to focus to reign myself in, telling myself I had a LONG LONG time to be out and just keep my pace so insanely easy feeling. I could start working after mile 50.
I'm unsure at the mileage but know I came through the second aidstation in second place and David Horton was there and said, "jenny nichols are you going out too hard?!" and I said "nope, I'm running slow as I can." and then went up another big climb YAY!. I love climbs. I passed 2 men, and then realized I came upon the first place women, Joann. She told me she was having trouble with the climbs. I asked if she wanted to work together a bit, that I really didn't want the lead because it was just so early in the race. She never answered me, so I just passed her and hiked on up the hill.. continued running my pace based on perceived effort. I got to the AS at mile 22 and that was when everyone knew I was first woman. I got my handheld of perp from my crew went to the AS, got some coke. Told Quatro not to tell sophie I was in first ( because sophie and I had talked many times about me hanging back and then coming from behind the last 50 to finish strong) but by looking at my watch it looked like I was right on pace to run 12:30- 13hr first 50.. I was right on the pace i was supposed to.. I just felt everyone was going out REALLY slow or either it was the night running that had everyone slow. ( I love night running)
So I continued on.. just running alone and listening to my tunes. If I came upon a guy I would hike behind them for a bit, but then always feel antsy and go on.. I was relishing the solitude, running in the dark. It felt SO GOOD to just be out in the mountains running at night. the wind had nip in it on the ridges and I just felt SO ALIVE. I had a really stressful summer: some family drama that really hurt me deeply, an injury, illness, angst /frustration /fear in missing training.. I just kept my head down and tried to keep plugging along the past couple months. Trying to stay focused on my goals, keep my intentions pure, my heart open, rise above the negativity and toxicity that I felt was trying to hinder me from my goals. I knew things would get better if I just kept moving forward ( you see, ultrarunning has taught me that-- there are so many parallels between living life and running ultras) So I pretty much had the attitude of THANK YOU GOD just for letting me just have this experience. Letting me be here in this moment, running in the mtns feeling strong, capable and just GOOD about myself. I knew it was still early in the race but I was gracious just to run 30 miles strong and happy.
Every AS I saw Horty ( bless his heart! he does have a heart, you know!) he would say "dont hurt yourself, girl" at AS 30-something.. TWOT lot 1. It was a zoo. I got a little overwhelmed. I had to weigh myself ( 128 was 129 at the racers meeting- go me!) switch packs, get another hand held of perp. but while it was cool to see so many of my friends I was a little geeked out of my head and I couldnt think straight. I had went over to the table to grab some coke and food and I had like 4 people it felt on top of me asking loudly "how do you feel? are you eating? are you drinking? tummy problems?" "UUUUH.. good, yes, yes, and no!" I just felt tad social anxiety/nervous and overwhelmed by that AS big time. so I was REALLY happy to get back in the woods and start climbing ( thanx Q for the sammich!) on the wild oak trail! whoop!
and OMG was that a climb. 8 miles later I show up at Jb's and hilary's AS a little spent... asking--" UH where's reddish knob and the T crossing??" They told me it was 5 miles down the road and I can make up time on the road.. so off I went noshing on some yummy zucchini muffins and running on the gravel/muddy road. I made it to Frank G's Aidstation and he met me with a cup of chicken noodle soup. He filled my handheld while i walked up to the punch and ran back down. I have to say kuddos to frank for very efficiently running an AS that had people coming at them from 3 different directions!
I ran on the pavement SOO excited I was close to my crew and picking up Rob to pace me.
At the 50 mi mark, it was great to see my crew, rick and tammy grey, Guy Love killin it, marc griffin, etc. I was happy to pick up rob, and hike back up to reddish.. the sun was rising and the trees were SOO pretty in the orange morning light. I made the joke, who needs drugs?! go run 50 miles and then go look at trees!! lol the fall foliage was magnificently beautiful on the course. We were moving great, feeling great, and I was still having a blast. We start to see the other women racers as we hiked up the mtn. megan 2nd ( we encouraged each other and she looked strong) then was Z. carlson, joann, and linda barton all together ( smiles and encouragement from every single one! everyone was looking good at mile 50) . WHOA. what a race. I wondered if that was stressful all those gal conglomerated together like that. I was thankful I didn't have to worry with it and they just had to chase me, and I just had to keep pushing to extend/hold my lead.
so back through reddish AS, and on to JB's I kept trying to run all flats and downhills and hike the ups.Rob was great company and we became fast friends. At Jb's AS I ate a breakfast burrito. It was great seeing other runners on my return back. I really liked that part. very holiday lake ish!
so remember that 8 mi climb that had me a little tired earlier at mile 40? well mile 60ish here I am having to going down hill. it's here i first starting having little issues with my knees hurting and me being unable to run the downhills the way I want.. I was breaking. it was really like 2010 MMTR coming back to haunt me. I was a little self conscious, rob could see how bad I was sucking at running the downhill. and I knew I had a LONG way to get to the finish line. I started trying to even jog some ups to make up for my slow downhill running.
the miles rob paced went by lightening fast.. so fast we got to the twot lot in 3hrs 30 min and rob thought it was take 4 hrs.. my crew wasn't even there yet! doh! no worries sophie was there and tammy grey called brock and here they all came running:) I got a new pack, weighed myself again ( 128-yes that has to mean I'm doing SOMETHING right) ate a doughnut and started down the road with sophie.
I was glad to be back on the trail with my buddy. but I also KNEW WHY I had sophie to pace me to the finish. I knew I would be hurting, I knew I would want to let up, I knew I would be stupid... I knew sophie would be my "autocorrect" and not let me screw up. I didn't need anyone to empathize with my pain, I needed someone to tell me to suck it up and keep pushing. I needeed someone to keep prodding and prodding and get all they could out of me until I got to the finish knowing I gave it my all.. SOPHIE SPEIDEL is that person. Sophie had ran grindstone twice, she is the toughest lady I know. I feel so extremely blessed to have her for a friend. We have so much commonality. ( obviously) She has such a good heart, and has gone out of her way to help me so many times with my running, advice on motherhood/ balance, life in general. I have always felt so at ease and comfortable with her, I can truly be myself and not have a filter and that is rare to find many people like that. Where you can lay it all out there, say whatever is on your mind and they still accept you. So yes, I feel I hit the friendship jackpot when I became friends with her.
So I guess if you are going to be going in a dark place, it's good to be there with some one you trust. ( exact same reason why I had beth minnick pace me at umstead)
So sophie and I ran and hiked with purpose and intention on the big climbs.. she saw immediately my dilemma with my sore knees, but we just tried to work through it and around it. She constantly encouraged me and told me how well I was moving.
I ate a pork barbecue sandwich at mile 72.. onward we pushed.
I iced my knees and quads at mile 87. that last half marathon really took FOREVER. There were melt downs, whining, kicking rocks followed by obscenity. ( oh, how far was I from that place where I was so thankful to be out in the mtns 50 miles earlier-- it was more "please God, when is it going to end?!") I was embarrassed, I felt weak, frustrated my body wasn't performing the way I wanted it to. but no matter what I was doing.. Sophie was constant and consistent in telling me I was doing great, I just had to keep moving.. and always pointing out the positive. Her patience and tolerance REALLY is what got me to the finish. I was descending Elliott's knob in the daylight. not many grindstone finishers got to do that!
she made me run ( I could barely) so she could take a picture. mile 94 ish?
Men started catching me and passing me. and it upset me.
I went through the last AS, I felt like a failure because I wasn't running strong. but guess what? we kept on and on.. sophie telling me megan was going to catch me if I didn't run some and pick up my pace. she kept encouraging me to jog, ( dispite my moaning and groaning and being a pain in the butt) until holy crap we REALLY were at the shower house at the camp. 1.5 miles to go. I was SO thankful knowing I was *almost* there and that not only had I ran my first mtn 100 but I also won.
Crossing the finish line I was so happy:) happy it was over lol, happy I had a good race.. happy my brother and sister in law ( this was the first time I've had family other than brock at an ultra) where there to share in the experience.
kissing the pole just for mark guzzi
totem pole LUV
brock and I at the finish
finish line with my STELLAR PACERS: Rob and Sophie
me and the toughest dude I know: Jon Basham!
my brother Brian and I at the finish-- so special to have him at my race!!!
I changed clothes and then collapsed in my tent and slept hard 3 hrs. then got up and took a shower and cheered on the finishers with sophie and rob. it was so great to see all my friends complete their journey.
The winning part was special because I have never won an ultra. so yes, winning was cool. It was also special because it's one of Clark's races.. I think it was just full circle. Terrapin 2009 was my first LUS ultra I raced, MMTR 2011 was the first ultra I ever won an award ( I got a down jacket for being 10th), and now-- big, bad, scary Grindstone, one of the toughest 100's east of the rockies, I won. and actually aside from the last 13 miles of misery-- I LOVED the course. and the entire race just had the best vibe and was so FUN. FUN, people!! grindstone is FUN. maybe I shouldn't broadcast that, the secret will get out.
That being said, I don't think I'm some superstar. I know the women's field wasn't deep-- my 27 hours while a solid women's grindstone time isn't the fastest.. not like sandi's 22 hrs, for example. I know I'm not an elite... I'm just a stay at home mom who likes to run in the mtns. but I think jeremy ramsey said it best when he said "you just have to beat whomever shows up." it's true.
I wont lie.. getting award and standing beside of Kwik Karl was pretty freaking cool:P all my little mommy friends watched the documentary human red bull express a couple weeks before Grindstone( they called me while it was on and asked "is THIS what you do?") uh, no-- no even close. okay, sophie would want me to say this.. Karl's interview post RRR in sept with IRUNFAR was extremely inspiring.She suggested I watch it. I would tell myself ( when I would worry about my fitness) "I don't have to run fast, just run all day." it's a great mantra. :)
I'm just thankful I had the positive experience I did, grateful for my crew and pacers, and it was wonderful to see all my hard work achieve the results I desired. Because I do work very hard when it comes to my training. and I know from this experience Im going to grow. I'm going to gain fitness, even more mental tenacity, and I gained much needed experience for racing mtn 100's. so I know I will get better. I like 100s. I'm good at them, and I can eat ANYTHING I think while running them. That part is so fun, not having to be picky about my fuel. I also feel having run the course now, i can hopefully improve my time. ( I love running courses you are familiar with)
I know this post is crazy long.. but I just want to express my thanks again to Clark for putting on such a wonderful event. Thanks to all the volunteers!!
Rob, sophie THANK you for all your help-- RAWK STAR PACERS!! brian, tammy and brock-- SUPER CREW!! THANK YOU!!!