Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pacing It Forward - Waugoshance and Run Woodstock


Waugoshance Trail Half Marathon July 13, 2013
Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 Mile Run
September 6 and 7, 2013

I was bored and put this in the Google machine, “What is a pacer at an ultra?”  The response I got was this: In the traditional sense, a pacer is a runner participating in a race to help another runner maintain a particular pace-usually a fast, demanding pace that may be too strenuous for the runner to achieve alone.”
Did I read something about fast?  Ha, never been accused of running fast before.  Yet twice in the same year I was asked to pace friends at races.  I’ve never done that before.  Can I do it?  Will I disappoint them?  I have to say “Yes.”   I’m honored, and a bit frightened I may let both of them down.  

Pacing Part 1: 

      Rochelle is a girlfriend I met through my local running group (Your Pace or Mine Running Club.)  She wanted to do her first trail marathon, the Waugoshance Trail Half Marathon in Mackinaw City, MI.  She’s done a half before, but never on a trail.  She was both nervous and excited.   We both made reservations to camp in that area and meet up at the campground on Friday.  

On Saturday Erick (my husband) drove us to the race.  I should mention we were very fortunate to find the start of the race, this was quite an accomplishment-no real markings or directions to the start were provided.  At the start novices are chatting about poison ivy and bugs and such.  We brush off the chatter and are happy we put the Deer Fly Tape on our hats.  If you’ve never been in Michigan in July on the trails, this is a must.  You will hear those little suckers buzzing for your entire run, but you won’t get bit as they are glued to your head. Rochelle enjoys the trail almost as much as I do.  I didn’t hear a single complaint out of her the entire time.  She was made for this!  

Rochelle’s only goal for the race was to finish within the cut off time.  I plan to get her in with a little time to spare.  I have done more trail running than Rochelle and my running pace is a little faster than hers.  I’m comfortable that we will meet her goal.  
The trail was marked well but you wouldn’t know it when I start headed the wrong direction and Rochelle has to correct me.  Yikes!  I’m supposed to be there for her and I’m already screwing up.  Thank God she saw that course marker that I missed!
Before we know it the race is over half way done.  We’ve crossed a dam, switchbacks and lots of quick hills.  She is in great spirits.  After a road crossing we hit a wet and muddy section of trail, she takes it all in stride.  We have talked the entire time, I feel we have bonded over this race, it will connect us.  We reach a point that the trail ends and we are back on a road that I know will make a few turns but eventually lead us to the finish.  She’s getting tired, but she powers through it.  We make the last turn to and see our husbands ahead at the finish.  Her children are cheering for her.  As we approach the finish she grabs my hand and we cross the finish line together.  I am overwhelmed at how I feel.  This was her race, she finished almost thirty minutes faster than she had planned. I’ve learned you get more than you give when you pace.  

Pacing Part 2:

My friend David (the fellow that paced me at Kettle Moraine) asked me if I would pace and crew for him at the Hallucination 100 Mile at Run Woodstock.  The crewing part, I got that.  No problem.  The pacing part? This is like asking a turtle to pace a rabbit. No joke here.  David took 3rd place over all in 2012, I took 63rd place out of 69.  Big difference in our speed.  I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me.  

We met up with David and his wife Amanda a few hours before the race.  David is relaxed and seems ready to go.  He gave Amanda and I a run down on what he would like us to do as his crew.  I look over his supplies.  He has a cooler filled with Boost and a small stash of food.  He also had a small tacklebox filled with things like batteries, powdered gatorade, M&M’s, electrolyte capsules.  He had a few extra clothing items in a bag and that was it.  When I packed for an ultra I looked like I was going to be away from home for a month.  I think I have more stuff stashed in my purse on a daily basis than David takes to an ultra.  
The race starts at 4:00 PM.  We go watch David and the rest of racers start.  The weather is predicted to be good.  A far cry from the past two years of rain and mud.  We all enjoy the music and atmosphere that this race provides at the start/finish area.  There are a lot of campers and I get a chance to visit with a lot of my running friends.  
Earlier in the day, a runner approached us while we were hanging out at the RV.  He surprised me by saying that he read my first blog post about my 100 miler at Woodstock.  He said I inspired him to run his first 100 this weekend.  I am in awe of this.   I had no idea anyone actually read this blog, other than my family.  
David’s first loop was under three hours, just as he expected. (The course is 6 loops of about 16.6 miles.) David is pretty easy to crew as he does not need or want a lot of support.  We refill his bottles and he heads out.  He takes his headlamp with him as it will be dark the next time we see him.  David’s second lap goes by fast and again he doesn’t need much from us.  Between laps, Amanda and I go back to the RV and get about 2 1/2 hours of restless sleep.  Neither of us really falls asleep as we are thinking about David and don’t want to miss the alarm to get us up.  I’d hate for him come in from a loop and us not be there for him.  Most of the time we wait about a half hour extra in the dark and cold because we don’t want to miss him.  

I lose track of what happened when during the night.  I remember convincing David to take a clean, dry shirt so he wouldn’t get hypothermic during the night.  I also remember him coming in with a green look about him that told me without even hearing the words that his stomach had turned on him.  I think it is the first time he’s ever been through this.  I’ve had more than my fair share of stomach issues at ultras.  I remind him that it will pass and he will feel better.  Overnight, he is forced to slow his pace to allow his stomach to recover.  
He comes in on the second to last loop and I am ready to go do my official pacing duties.  Even his slower pace overnight was still faster than my usual pace.  I am only hoping not to be a disappointment to him.  I’ve told him several times before the race, but I remind him one last time as we head out.  I tell him that if his pace is too fast for me that his has to drop me.  I don’t want to slow him down.  He assures me that won’t happen.  He has faith in me that I will keep up.  David has a few times during the loop where he wants to just walk.  I know what that is like.  After a few minutes I suggest we start running again and he agrees.  He runs far more than I do at that point in a hundred miler.  We laugh as a black cloud comes out of nowhere and it begins to rain briefly.    It feels great and we actually enjoy it.  I’ve been at this race four years in a row.  I enjoy the course and I get to know it better each time.  There are several wooden bridges with no hand rails.  David takes a bad step and slips over the edge.  He lands with one knee in the bog and one on the wooden planks.  Both his hands smash onto the planks and break his handheld bottle.  His Boost energy drink is everywhere.  Fortunately the water bottle got the worst of the fall and not David.  He’s a tough one, he gets up and keeps moving forward.  

There are only a few miles left and I know that David could run faster than me in finish a bit earlier.  I offer the suggestion to him and he flat out refuses the idea.  He said he knows he will still get a sub 24 hour finish with me.  That turns into his goal.  We have about a mile left on the course and we see one of David’s boys waiting for us on the course.  He runs the last of the race in with us.  His son is as fast as David is, I see ultra running in his future too.  We hear the music that we know is playing at the finish line.  We come out of the woods and charge to the finish.  David and his son cross the line.  

David and Amanda feel like family to us.  We’ve been at several races together in the past year.  It’s amazing how running can bond you.  You see each other at your highs and lows.  You get to see the core of a person, the part that is left there when all the daily distractions are stripped away.  David did not care that I was a slower runner.  He just knew that I would be there for him and help get him to the finish line.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I'll Never Be Your Beast of Burden - Beast of Burden 100 Miler

I'll Never Be Your Beast of Burden

Beast of Burden 100 Mile Run
Lockport, NY
August 17th and 18th, 2013

Kettle Moraine was a great run.  I didn’t accomplish my goal, but I don’t regret going to the race.  Erick (my husband) was driving us home from Wisconsin and I don’t even think we were out of the state when I started scheming about my next 100 mile attempt.  He agreed that since I was trained up to the 100 mile point, I might as well find a race that I could do to get that coveted buckle.  
      I have never done a race in New York, so the Beast of Burden 100 Mile Race appealed to me even more.  When I saw a photo of the buckle on the race’s Facebook page, I knew I was in.  I had to have that buckle.  Erick checked his work schedule and said it would work.
It is very typical of me to post what my next big event is on Facebook.  I feel it helps keep me accountable.  If other people know I am planning to do a certain race, I know I will get it done.  My friends and family are supportive and I think (geez, I sure hope) they like to follow my progress along the way.  I posted that I was going to be doing this race in New York and it would be my first 100 miler without a pacer.  About five minutes later my buddy Joan (that I met at Outrun 24) chimed in and said she would come pace me.  Who does that?  How lucky am I? She lives in Canada a few hours from where the race was set and said she would meet me there.  I still have no idea how I got that lucky.  
My buddy Mike (a local friend that also attempted the Hallucination and Kettle with me) said he would also sign up and attempt to tame the 100 mile beast again.  Mike and I wound up driving out to the race together from Michigan, it was just bad luck that Erick got stuck working and couldn’t  take me to the race.)  Typically when Erick and I travel, he drives and I navigate.  Since I was driving to this race, I handed Mike the atlas and he promptly told me he has no idea how to read that thing.  We did make it to New York, after getting lost in Toronto and a slight detour to Niagara Falls.  

Joan met us and we planned for the following day.  I slept pretty good, we were able to sleep in a bit as the race did not start until 10:00 AM.   That is a late start for a lot of races but the race director said he likes to sleep in.  I like this guy already!

At the start of the race I meet up with Jennifer, she’s a friend I met on Facebook a few months prior to the race.  She’s done a 100 miler before, she has an awesome sense of humor and I was excited to meet her in person.  She is exactly what I expected.  The race starts and we proceed to run the first 25 or so miles together.  I head out quicker than I plan to, each time I look at my watch I tell myself to slow down, but I don’t.  She does a run walk plan and when I walk with her she is taking one step to my two.  She is so entertaining that I double time it to stay with her.  
Jennifer and I
The course is four out and backs (25 miles each) along the Erie Canal Towpath.  There is a main aid station (start/finish and turnaround point), a half way aid station and a turnaround aid station on the far end.  Joan said she will stay up all day and then pace me at night when Erick arrives.  I’m still not sure how people do this.  These people are superheros.  They come out and volunteer their time and stay up all day and night for nothing but a thank you.  Amazing.  I see Joan through out the  day and she takes care of me, filling water bottles, smiling and making me laugh.  

The towpath is almost completely flat.  That can be a good thing if you are looking for a personal best time.  It can also be a bad thing as you don’t engage other muscles like you do going up and down hills.  I enjoy the view of the canal and the path reminds me of a trail I train on at home.  
The day is warming up fast and there is not shade on this course.  It wound up reaching around 80 degrees.  Jennifer and I are getting close to completing our first lap and someone headed out from the aid station tells us there are snow cones up ahead.  Frozen water with food coloring, heck yeah!  I’m in.  It’s already hot and I can’t wait to get one.  I fill my bottles and grab some food and someone hands me a
Snow Cone Holder
snow cone.  I don’t have a free hand so I shove it down my cleavage.  Jennifer laughs at this and takes a picture on her cellphone to preserve the memory.  
I head back out on the course, we part ways here for a while.  We see each other along the next loop and she wound up dropping at the 50 mile mark.  She had some stomach issues and had been dizzy at some points.  

Mike and I cross paths now and again, he seemed strong but that heat was getting to us all.  I’ve said before that I typically forget a lot of the middle parts of my races.  The beginning and ends are easier for me to remember. It’s hard to stay cool today.  The aid stations are stocked with ice and I fill up bandanas and tie them around my neck.  It feels wonderful.  The volunteers also fill up our water bottles with ice.   I try to stay hydrated and keep up with nutrition.  Easier said than done at an ultra.  Any day of the week I could eat a whole package of oreos, but you put a plate of them in front of me at a race and I might eat one the entire day.  I think I survived on watermelon.  I just can’t get enough of it at ultras.   I never felt sick to my stomach at this race, although I did swallow a S-cap and it got stuck in my throat, making me dry heave.  Ultra running is so sexy...
       I am headed into the main aid station, but on the other side of the canal. I think I see the RV in the parking lot.  I call Erick and he is there!  My spirits lift, knowing he will be my rock as he always is at these events. When I get there he lets me know that he will take over crewing and Joan will pace me as soon as I get to the 100K mark, near the far end turn around point.  
The next 12.5 miles go by fast in the dark.  There is nothing to trip on and I can’t wait to get on the trail with Joan.  Until then my company are huge bullfrogs.  They hop across the path and I have to watch my step to avoid landing on one.  Huge bugs come out and I have to make sure not to breathe too deep and inhale them.  The moon is pretty full and I love the reflection on the canal.  Before I know it, I have Joan for company.
I of course stall at the aid station, using the real bathroom and wanting to sit just a few minutes.  I change my shoes to justify sitting.  No one argues with me, so I enjoy it.  Joan and I head out and she is a ball of energy.  You would never know she had been up all day.  She tells me stories and most of the time I just answer with, “Uh-huh” or “Oh.”  Her stories are interesting and funny, but I just don’t have the energy to laugh.  We walk more than run, typical for me after the 100K mark.  I always think this will change as I pass the 100K mark more in races, but it just hasn’t yet.  

Joan keeps me going,  she gets me from one aid station to the next.  She promises me that she will rub my calves if I keep moving.  I can’t imagine how good this will feel, so I do what she says.  At the next aid station she follows through and gives me a nice massage.  It is just what I need.  We press on.  Before I know it another out and back had gone by and we are headed back to the finish line.  Daylight has been here for some time.  I know Mike is still behind me somewhere.  Erick has been giving us updates.  I think he is only a few miles behind me and I am really hoping he meets his goal today.  Later I find out he fell short at the 93 mile mark, the exact mileage I made it to at Kettle.  I know it is still the furthest distance he has gone.  He’ll be happy enough with that, but he will still want a 100 mile finish one day.
We head towards the drawbridge to make our last pass over the canal.  Wouldn’t you know it?  A boat is coming through and the bridge is going up.  No choice but to stop and watch it go by.  The bridge returns to its place and we cross the canal one last time and head towards the finish line. My finish time is 27:55. I’m handed my buckle from the race director and I sit down and am treated like royalty by the volunteers.  
I feel fortunate to have tamed the Beast of Burden.  It wouldn’t have happened without the support of my friends and family.  I’m thankful for what they did to help me achieve my goal.

Months later I had the image from the buckle tattooed on my calf.  The Beast is now a part of me, both mentally and physically.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Memories Are Priceless - Kettle Moraine 100 Miler

     The Memories Are Priceless
Somewhere near Madison, WI
June 1st, 2013

     After finishing the Hallucination 100 Miler, my friend David sent me a congratulations card and a keychain with "100" laser cut into it.  David had also finished his first 100 miler at Woodstock.  It was the first time we met in person, but we had been Facebook friends for a few years prior.  In the card, David said if I considered doing the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler he would come pace me.  How do you say no to an offer like that?  You don't, you just get back on and give your credit card number.  

     The last long run was done at Outrun24.  100K was in the books.  Once again the RV was packed up and we drove to another race.  We had several other friends that would be at the race, so it would be like a running family reunion.  This race would also be an actual family reunion for me too.  My brother Dean drove in from Iowa to crew and be Assistant Sherpa to my husband Erick.  My parents have never been to one of my races.  They drove down from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my mom stayed up all day, night, and part of the next day to watch the event unfold.  She still tells me that this was one of the coolest things she has ever seen and she would love to see it all again.  
Mom, Dean, me and dad.

Pre-race packet pick up was easy and I saw lots of familiar faces.  David drove to the campground and we had a nice pasta dinner and discussed the race.  I felt ready for it.  I knew it would be harder than my last 100 miler, the course had more elevation change and the trails would be more technical.  

     Race morning we met up at the start line.  It was a humid start which would turn into some brutal heat on the prairie sections later in the afternoon.  I enjoyed visiting with friends along the trail.  Many of the earlier miles were spent with my friend Mike.  He lives near me and we enjoy running trails together.  The trail was in good condition and the morning passed by fast.  

My buddy Joan (we met at Outrun 24)

     As with a lot of races the middle part turns into a blur for me.  I might remember something like the train that was passing through and I had to stop and wait for what felt like five minutes (but was probably one minute) until I could cross the track.  I remember Mike tripping three times in less than three minutes and hoping I could keep myself from doing the same thing.  I also remember the sucking mud and heat on that prairie.  But a lot of the day just runs together. 
Unlucky number 13?

     My aunt and uncle surprised us by driving up from Milwaukee to see the family and watch me run past them at an aid station.  They probably had no idea that when you go to watch an ultra runner at a race, you really only see them for about a minute or less.  It really isn't much of a spectator sport.  Unless you are crew, then you get to see the "best" a runner has to offer.  It's been said that CREW stands for Crabby Runner, Endless Waiting.  Pretty much true.  David decided he wanted to crew all day for me then pace me.  Now that is a guy who loves ultras and trail running.  I wish I could bottle his energy and sell it. 

      I was allowed to have my pacer after the 100K mark or 6:30 PM.  I came into the an aid station at 6:20 PM and Erick decided that it would be best for me to hang out for ten minutes and take David with me instead of heading to the next aid station and picking him up there.  Heck, someone tells you to hang out and relax for ten minutes in an ultra, heck yes!  Sounds good to me.  I took the opportunity to get on a clean shirt and hat, and we left shortly after.  About five minutes later it was pouring out, so much for that fresh shirt.  The rain was coming down in buckets and it was getting pretty dark as the storm came on.  The trail (of course) was very technical in this area and had steep drop offs.  I had to slow to a fast walk to avoid slipping in the mud.  We came around a corner and heard some crazy noise.  I had no idea what it was and when I saw the source of the noise I was even less sure.  David quickly identified the baby raccoons on the side of the trail that were born at most hours ago.  We moved a little faster to avoid a mad momma raccoon.  
    The course is designed as two somewhat looped courses and shares the start/finish as the 100K point.   We arrived at the and I told Erick that I hadn't been eating much.  He forced a half of a PB&J down my throat.  David and I left and headed back on the trail.  About a quarter mile later my stomach decided the half sandwich was not a good idea and rejected it.  A minute later I felt like a million bucks.  David was astonished how someone could go from vomiting to feeling great in a matter of minutes. I see my buddy Mike coming into the 100K mark where he takes a finish after blisters got the best of him.   David and I are off and running.  We later came to the top of a hill and David told me to switch off my headlamp and look up.  I saw more stars that I have ever seen in my life.  Then minutes later I heard the call of a whip-or-will for the first time in my life.  We push on down the trail.  I start to have a few hallucinations and David tells me what is real and what is not. We run along and I think I see an aid station.  Turns out it's a lake.  We press on.  The words written in stone on the trail spelling out "Hola-Hola", that was real.  Some people, yup-most of them were real.  

      I feel something on my ankles that I think might be blisters.  We stop at an aid station and my brother Dean takes a look.  He's an athletic trainer at a university and knows his stuff.  He shines his light on my ankles as my mother yells at me for sitting down.  I told her that I'm not allowed to sit down-she's just doing her job.  Dean reaches over and pops a blister on each ankle with his fingernail.  Yikes! I didn't see that coming but he tapes them up with precision and tells me to move on.  I feel a lot better and we start chasing cut offs.
     My pace is slowing and I'm not sure there is much I can do about it.  My feet are very swollen and each step is beyond painful.  We come to each aid station with only 10 or so minutes to spare.  I only know this because I see less food out and people are packing things up and there is no hot soup left on this cold night.  This discourages me, everyone lies to me and says I have plenty of time left, but they still push me out of the aid stations fast.  
     Daylight is here and I should feel recharged.  Instead I just keep moving, not feeling especially hopeful.  David forces me to eat when I don't want to by telling me I can only walk when I am eating or drinking.  I listen to him but at some point the rest of my race turns into a death march.  We get to an aid station or what should be an aid station and only find a port-a-john and a table that was supposed to have water jugs on it.  Guess they closed the aid station early as David knew we were still on time at this point.  A few miles down the trail we encounter a runner headed towards us.  Turns out it is one of the race directors.  He says that at this point I am not on pace to finish in time.  He gives me the opportunity to take a 100K finish.  Not much of a choice now, is there?  I knew my pace was too slow and wouldn't improve enough to make up for time lost.   We continue heading into the next road where my husband and mom are waiting.  The relief on their faces astonishes me.  Like worry washing away.  Later they tell me that the race director had someone sweeping the course for stragglers and they did not see us.  Erick feared that we I fell off an embankment and David was trying to get me out.  When the sweepers came in and said no one was left on the course, Erick challenged them and they admitted to skipping a section of the course and taking a ride in a car and that they did not actually clear the entire course.  I'm surprised my mother did not have a heart attack at the thought of me lost or injured.  The race director was obviously not happy with what happened and came out on the trail on his own to find us.  We weren't lost, he just wanted to know we were ok.  
Me with the RD and David 

     Did I get a 100 mile buckle?  No.  Did I wish the next day I could have run faster or tried harder?  For sure.  But did I have a great time seeing my parents, aunt and uncle and my brother?  Absolutely.  Will I try a 100 miler again?  You know it! 

My Facebook post on June 4, 2014

     "This weekend I saw 93 beautiful miles of a gorgeous state park on a glacial trail. I spent 52 miles of it with an amazing friend. I had very dear family members along to cheer me on and support me. I ran between fields of wild flowers followed by hot and humid prairie. I trekked through the woods in a thunderstorm at dusk. I ran through a perfectly starlight, cloudless sky hours later. I encountered a baby raccoon only a few days old on the side of the trail and heard a whip-poor-will for the first time. I witnessed the sun coming up after running more than 24 hours. Yes, I missed 7 miles of my race because I am not a fast runner. But looking back now, I don't regret a minute of it. The memories are priceless. "

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Relentless Forward Progress - Outrun 24 Hour Run

Relentless Forward Progress
Outrun 24 Hour Run-Kirtland, OH
April 27th, 2013

     The 100 miler from Woodstock was in the books.   The Fall 50 was a success.  The bad news?  Two stress fractures,  malleolus and tibia.  I knew that stabbing pain I felt at the 100 miler was not normal, but what feels normal in a 100 miler?  The good news?  Well, guess I have a good enough pain threshold to get through the Fall 50 Miler with an injury.   I was stubborn enough not to see a doctor until December.  By that time, he said I was fine to walk on a treadmill to start training for my next race.
       The Outrun 24 was the next big thing.  I had a few marathons prior to it (Martian Marathon -MI and Blue Ridge Marathon-VA) but they were just training.  Martian is a boring race, the course flooded as usual and was run through subdivisions.  The Blue Ridge was great hill training.  I ran that race with my podcaster friend Ashland Dave from the Running in the Center of the Universe podcast.  After Outrun 24 I would do the Pittsburg Marathon as a last long run for Kettle.  
     Outrun is a 24 hour race with three race distances as goals.  You can get a medal for a 50K, 100K or a buckle for a 100 miler.  I planned for the 100K with no time goal in mind.  This race was to be training for the Kettle Moraine 100 miler in June.
     What I knew for sure: it was about a 1 mile loop in the woods on a nice smooth path, if you tripped on anything it would be a stray M&M that some one dropped after the one aid station.  Nice bathrooms, heated and stocked with toilet paper would be available each mile.  There was one hill, the elevation gain/loss per loop was 65 feet.  I could also access my gear EVERY mile and not have to carry a pack all day.  Sounds perfect.
     What I didn't know: I would meet a crap ton of new friends!  I went to this race knowing one person, Mike (from Dirt Dawg's Running Diatribe Podcast, he was also my pacer at my 100 miler.)
I left this race with a lot of Facebook friend requests, including one from Joan (she will be mentioned in a later blog post.) If we lived closer she would be my BFF.  I also didn't know how inspiring these new friends would be, this race had an amazing vibe.
     I also met Peg.  Peg Leg.  The course "mascot."  She is a mannequin leg with race decals plastered to her.  She wears a Road ID and an ankle timing chip.  We would carry her for laps and see how far she would travel.  She wound up with over a 50K on the course.
     The race starts at 8:00AM on a Saturday and ends 24 hours later.  I had a plan to do 100K at this race for training for Kettle.  The aid station was well stocked and kept me going, especially the pizza!  You guys doing the 5K's need to rethink it.  Come over to the darker side of running.  We have things like cookies and pizza.  The other food highlight was a frozen coke a friend brought me.  I joked to Zack (the RD) that we needed a margarita machine.  The day was pretty warm.  He told me not to say that as the following year it would likely be cold and he would need to serve hot chocolate...if I only knew how true that was (flash forward one year when I wear every item of clothing I brought and am still cold...)
     The most notable thing of this race was a lady I met named Crystal.  She was so energetic during the race.  She and I chatted at different times but about 50 miles we had a nice talk.  She told me the furthest she had ever run before was 50K.  I asked her how far she planned to run, she said 77 miles.  I was curious about this as she would only get a 100K medal for this.  She said her family had a Biggest Loser type competition and lost 77 pounds.  She had promised to run 1 mile for each pound they lost.  She went on ahead of me and I was just left in awe.  That was a big distance to cover for her.
     I finished up my 100K and went back to the RV, had a nice hot shower and had a good night sleep.   I got up in the morning early enough to see the award ceremony.  I discovered that Crystal not only met her 77 mile goal but kept going ALL night and finished up with 106 miles.  ONE HUNDRED and SIX freaking miles.  Amazing.  What a machine.  I am in awe.
     There is some magic at this race.  Is it Zach-the amazing RD that gives you his cell phone number in case you have any questions?  Is it Peg?  Is it the fact that you run a one mile loop for 24 hours (or less) not knowing anyone when you arrived but leaving with more friends that humanly possible?  
All I know is I will be back.

Changing Plans and Chasing Cutoffs - Door County Fall 50 Miler

Changing Plans and Chasing Cutoffs 

The Door County Fall 50 Mile Run
October 20th, 2012

If things went as planned, I would have been pacing a friend in to her first marathon finish in Grand Rapids, Michigan this weekend.  She wound up with a stress fracture and had to postpone her race to next year.  I deferred my entry as well, hoping next year we can get her to the finish line.  I then began scheming which race I might be able to do in place of the one that was no longer going to happen.  
I batted my eyelashes at my wonderful husband, Erick.  I started with, “We could go camping in Wisconsin!”  Then, I followed with, “While we are there, maybe I could run a 50 mile race.”  He did what he usually does, shakes his head at me in disbelief that I asked him about yet another race.  Of course, he said yes.  Have I mentioned how lucky I am?  (Hopefully he sees this when I ask about the next race.)  

Signing up for the Door County Fall 50 miler hurt the pocket book as much as it was going to hurt my feet.  Wow.  Those race entry fees are steep.  One hundred and forty dollars later I read the fine print on the race details.  An eleven hour cutoff!  What?!?  Thinking back, I realized my best 50 mile race took me thirteen hours and one minute.  And this race would be six weeks after my first 100 mile finish.  Who knew what kind of shape I would be in then.  
I finished the 100 miler and took exactly one week off from running.  I walked a lot that week, which helped me recover faster.  My feet were not pretty.  I wound up losing two toenails, a third is hanging on by a thread.  Other than that, I had nothing worse than a little tendonitis in the ankles.  
I worked a new training schedule into place.  I didn’t run anything longer than twelve miles after Woodstock.  I had a ten day break while we were on vacation in Peru.  Lots of traffic and narrow, unfamiliar streets stopped me from venturing out.  I did manage to run once.  It was only thirty minutes on a run down soccer field, but it was better than not running at all.  12,000 feet of elevation made me winded and I had to take a lot of walk breaks.  At  home, I did a week of short runs and it was time to head to Wisconsin.  
Finishing my 100 mile run was a huge mental boost to me.  It reminded me that I am tougher and stronger that I think I am.  I knew with an eleven hour cutoff I would need to kick this race into high gear.  I mentally prepared myself by saying there was no acceptable outcome from this race but to finish in eleven hours.  

The night before the race I texted both of my pacers from the 100 miler.  Mike told me that if there was an eleven hour cut off, I should aim for a ten hour finish.   My other pacer Dave offered words of encouragement such as, “Well, there’s no rocks, roots or snakes- this will be a walk in the park.”  
We had four days of rain before the race.  I reminded myself it was a road race and that I wouldn’t be in eight inches of mud, like some previous races I have done.  Race morning I woke up at 5:00AM, it was still raining.  Erick packed up the RV and we were on our way to Gill’s Rock, Wisconsin.  At the start I met my friend and fellow ultra runner, David.  He also ran his first 100 miler at Woodstock.  His wife, Amanda was there to run as part of a relay team.

David and I joined the crowd of about 150 solo 50 mile runners at the start line.  The race announcer gave some sage words of advice.  “Get to Gill’s Rock, head south, and don’t stop until someone hands you a beer.”  Man, I love ultras.  Minutes later we were on our way.  Within a mile I lost sight of David and never saw him again until the finish line.
The weather started out about forty degrees and warmed up a bit every hour.  The fall leaves were still mostly on the trees.  Brilliant colors popped as the sun came out and lit them up.  It made me feel alive.  I had some good tunes playing on my iPod and all was right with the world.  
Sherpa Erick met me every chance he could along the course.   It was awesome to see him and our pup, Jersey along the roadside.    

I tried to keep every mile under thirteen minutes, to ensure an eleven hour finish. At the half way point I only had a few miles over the thirteen minute per mile mark.  I had some time banked.  Time in the bank can be a dangerous thing, it can mean you went out too fast and you will pay the price later.  Some times that one minute you put in the bank at the start will cost you five minute later on in the race.  I hoped I hadn’t gone out too fast.

The course is run on the shoulders of roads and on some sidewalks.  There are no police or volunteers to direct you or stop traffic.  I had to stop and wait for traffic to clear to cross roads.  Their were signs every mile with the race logo to let you know you are still on course. Some small symbols were painted on the road to assist you as well.  It wasn’t hard to follow, the race director told us that if you are in doubt of where to go, go straight.  

I was surprised that in my race packet there was a front bib and a back bib.  Both had my number and the word “solo” on it.  I figured a back bib was for if fell on your face, they wouldn’t have to bother rolling you over to see who you were.  I pinned the bibs on front and back as instructed. I did not realize how much this one thing was going to  motivate me during this race.

At some point between 15 and 20 miles, I started seeing runners fly up from behind me.  As they pass, they say, “Nice job solo!”  I see on their backs they have bibs that read, “relay.”  I now realize why I am wearing a bib on my back.  Almost every relay runner said something encouraging to me.  One lady who must have seen my earphones in, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Solo, you are amazing.”   I have never had this much support from other runners at a race before.  It was heartwarming and really pushed me harder towards the finish line.

The first half of this race has some nice hilly sections.  After that it leveled out nicely and was easy running.  I say easy, but after thirty or so miles sometimes easy is not the right word.  There are nine aid stations over fifty miles.  I planed ahead and took my hydration pack with two bottles of water and gatorade.  I also have several packets of GU and Clif Shot Blocks.  The aid stations have cookies, bananas, Clif bars, oranges, apples, gatorade, and water.  Not a bad selection but nothing compared to the smorgasbords in some ultras.  The 28 mile aid station will have home made chicken soup.  I have thought about this all day.  Soup broth was one of the main things that has helped me though my other ultras.  I get there and the nice ladies hand me a cup of the best soup I have ever had.  Super salty and warm.  I think about the time I am wasting at this aid station, so I head out.
All is going well.  My miles are mostly below that thirteen minute per mile goal.  Then I hit a rough spot, miles 41 and 42 take almost thirteen minutes.  Miles 43 and 44 are closer to fourteen minutes.  I am having a real low,  I think I need real food.  Just then a lady runner starts to pass me me.  She says her name is Ann and that she is David and Amanda’s friend.  She senses that things are getting tough and asks what will help.  I said a peanut butter sandwich and a coke would be amazing.  She tells me it will be waiting for me at the next aid station and she heads off.  I feel like she was an apparition.   

Shortly after, I see Amanda running towards me.  She greets me with a sandwich and coke.  The food and drink hit my bloodstream and instantly I feel better.  I thank her and head out.   I have less than six miles to go.  I see Erick along the roadside, he is surprised that I am doing so well after hearing from Amanda about my low spot.  I’m feeling good, so I just go with it.   I can’t believe I have so few miles to go and my strength and spirit has returned. I hope this feeling can hold out until the finish.  I realize at this point that a sub-ten hour finish is within reach, if I can just keep this pace up for a few more miles.  
I pass a lot of people, mostly solos and a few relay runners.   I hear what people say as I pass them.  They all are surprised a solo runner has so much energy so late in the game.  At mile forty-eight, I see a woman cheering on a man I believe to be her husband.  She was part of his relay team.  She crosses the road and gives me a high five and tells me that I have inspired her to consider running the solo race next year.  I am thrilled that I inspired her. 

I finally see the marker for mile 49.  I kick it in high gear in this last mile.  My last few miles have been some of my fastest all day.  I wasn’t sure how long I could keep up this pace, but I know I can do it one more mile.  I round the corner and I can see the finish.  I am almost overcome with emotion, seconds later I cross the finish line.  My time was 9:48:28.  This was three hours and thirteen minutes faster than my best previous fifty mile race.  

In the words of Ryan Hall, “The best way to become a mentally tough runner is to believe that you’re a mentally tough runner.”  These words rang true to me about this race.  When I first found out about the eleven hour cutoff time, I wasn’t sure if I could do it-until I told myself that I could.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

100 Miles to Redemption -Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 Miler

100 Miles to Redemption

Hallucination 100 Mile Run
Run Woodstock  Hell, MI
September 7th and 8th, 2012

       It started with my husband reading the book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  He passed it on to me and said, “We should do one of these!”  I laughed at first and before I knew it we were signing up to run the North Country 50 miler.  We had both done some marathons at this point, so how hard could it be?  Training began and a few months later he injured his back at work and it was not possible for him to continue his training.  I pressed on but come race day, I was ill prepared for the hills, heat and humidity.  I fell countless times and wound up dropping out at the 35 mile mark.  He decided to do the hard trail marathon anyway, untrained and did manage to finish.  I felt a failure.  I signed on to do the Run Woodstock 50 miler in September 2010.  I wanted a little redemption.  The race went exceptionally well and I finished in 13:01.  I even took third in my age group.  Granted there was only 3 in my age group that finished, but I’m not complaining. 

The next spring I tackled several marathons including the back to back, Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig Marathons.  One on Saturday, the other on a Sunday.  I thought if I could do 50 miles in one day, I could surely do 26.2 miles two days in a row.  Luckily, my stars aligned (all 4 of them in the Marathon Maniacs) and I completed this journey.  So what next?
On to what I called the “Epic Fail” of last year.  I signed up for the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 mile run for September of 2011.  Things felt good, my training went well.  I had a previous 50 mile finish and a handful of 50K’s in at this point. I had pacers and crew lined up.  So what was the fail?  Well, I was not prepared to adjust when things didn’t go according to plan.  The rain came pouring down for days before the event, soaking the trails.  It continued through out the event leaving 8 inches of mud that would suck the shoes right off your feet.  I tiptoed around it the best I could, cursing and unhappy the entire time.  I wound up a the start/finish aid station at the end of loop 3 (of 6) trying to change my shoes and socks...this was pointless.  The race director told me I had 4 minutes to get out of the tent or I would miss a cut off.  I just handed him my bib and was done.  I felt defeated, I did not think there was any chance to finish the race in the alloted time.  So I packed it in with a 50 mile finish before risking a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the entire race.  
After the race I was so depressed, feeling like I failed.  People asked how I did and I said, “Well I only finished 50 miles.”  Of course the non-running friends would say, “Only 50 miles, what do you mean?  That is great!”  They did not see how I missed my goal and 50 miles was not the brass ring I was hoping for. 

Friends began to ask me what race I planned to go to next. They said they wanted to know so they didn’t sign up for it.  They knew the black cloud would follow me and make for some crummy race conditions.  So I decided one thing.  I needed to just embrace the suck.  Take what mother nature threw at me and make the best of it.  I took on a motto that I heard a friend say.  If the race wasn’t going as planned, I would say to myself, “This sucks! But I love it!”
After a few days of sulking, I got back up on that horse.  Determined to surpass the 50 mile distance.  I signed on for the Top of Michigan 100K in October of 2011.  This race again struck me with bad weather.  It was 40 mph winds with a temp of 38 degrees and driving rain the entire time.  I sucked it up and finished it in 13:00.  I felt vindicated after finishing the 100K.  I took 3rd place in the women under 45 category.  I like to say that, it sounds good.  I always put an asterisk after that.  There were only 5 people in my age group to begin with.  One was a DNS (Did Not Start) and one was a DNF.  I got third just by finishing, but hey-I’ll take third place.  I scored some nice race swag for it.  As a back of the backer I rarely get to place in anything, I take what I can get.  After the elation of this race I decided I would go back to Run Woodstock in 2012 and get that 100 mile buckle.  

2012 consisted of several marathons and a 50K, all I said were in the name of training.  I followed a training plan from Bryon Powell’s book, Relentless Forward Progress.  The title of the book became a mantra for me.  The summer consisted of lots of long, hot training runs in almost unbearable weather.  The neighbors looked at me as if I were crazy (of course I am.) Who intentionally goes out to run in the hottest part of the day?  I went out when it was raining, on purpose.  I was bound and determined to run in all weather so when race day came this year, I would be ready.  The culmination of the training happened at the North Country Trail Marathon, the same place I DNF’d at mile 35 two years earlier.  Granted I only did the marathon, I was treated to 92 degree weather and high humidity.  Luckily I just didn’t care.  The race went on and so did I.  No record setting times, but I finished it.  

Two weeks of tapering began.  The Facebook chatter was all about how great the weather was to be for Run Woodstock.  Then it changed.  The weather prediction went to (Surprise, surprise!) RAIN!  My husband tells me to stop looking at the forecast.  Every time I looked at Facebook someone was saying, it was going to be another Mudstock, like it was the previous year.  I refused to let this bother me.  I reminded myself that I trained in all weather.  I would accept and embrace whatever came my way on race day.  While everyone else was complaining about the weather, I shouted, “Bring it on!”

Now to set the picture for the race.  For anyone not familiar with the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 miler, it is in the Pinckney State Park, not far from Ann Arbor, MI.  The course is described as “Dry and runnable.”  The course is made up for 6 loops, about 16.7 miles each with an elevation gain of 1,301 feet per loop (7,806 total.) It is made up of single trail, rail trail and horse trail.  You encounter an occasional runaway mountain biker or horse on the trail.  A very small section of the race is on a dirt road.  Some describe it as one of the more technical trails in the area.  But that doesn’t say much, as there really aren’t technical trails in this area.  The trails are clearly marked and I never had a problem following the markers.  
The "Dry and Runnable" course.

The rules for the race are that you have to finish in 30 hours.  You also have to run the first two loops on your own, then you are allowed a pacer.  I knew my pacers would be crucial to my success.  I asked my friend Dave if he would pace me again this year.  He came out for one loop in the rain and mud last year.  I thought for sure he wouldn’t sign on again after my “fail” last year.  But he graciously accepted and said he would do the 3rd and 4th loop with me.  This is a huge deal as it is the night time hours on the trail.  Who in their right mind would get up in the middle of the night and run on a trail for fun?  Well, Dave would.  He eats this stuff for breakfast.  He’s such a tough trail runner that if he fell and cut himself, he would probably bleed spinach.  
Pacer Dave
On to pacer number two.  I leaned upon a man who was partly responsible for my desire to do a 100 miler.  Mike is a podcaster, and I listened to his show for years.  I remember when he did his first 100 miler and I thought, “Wow, that is amazing someone I know ran that far.”  Along the way, I had met a few other people that had run this distance, but Mike was a great resource and willing to help me when I needed it. I gave my pacers only one demand.  I wanted them to lie to me.  Tell me I look great when I look like crap. Promise me that you’ll buy me a beer, get me a pizza, anything to keep me moving forward.  They both laughed at me when I said that I wanted them to lie to me, but we all know when you look like crap and someone tells you the same, it really doesn’t make you feel any better.

In the race you are also allowed to have crew.  For this I enlisted my Sherpa, also known as my husband Erick.  He is so generous to take me to my races and wait for a long time while I play in the mud and have fun with my running buddies.  We also brought my best friend Ronda out to keep Erick company and to be my biggest cheerleader.  Crew is so overlooked and under appreciated.  They wait for you for an hour, just to see you for one minute. I count these two as a blessing at this race.  

Run Woodstock is a hippie themed event.  It is three days of peace, love and running.  They have races of every distance.  You can run a 5k, 10K, half marathon, marathon, 50K, 50 mile, 100K and 100 mile. They even have a “natural mile” and of course I saw them on the trail well before I began hallucinating.  The race takes place at Hell Creek Ranch, near Hell, Michigan.  Yes, you can say you “Ran through Hell.”  It is a weekend of music, bonfires, friends and running.  There is a laid back feeling that makes you feel welcomed.

A close friend of mine had passed away recently, she battled cancer and it took her from us way too soon. I decided I would dedicate this race to her.  Her spirit was with me the entire way.  I felt she was an angel on my shoulder, if I almost tripped on something, I would say, “Thanks Joyce.” There are different kinds of suffering, hers was not chosen, she did not
choose to have cancer.  Yet she fought a good fight.  I would choose to suffer some by the pain inflicted in running 100 miles, in her memory.

About a week prior to the race I asked Mike if he wanted to do a pre-race interview for his podcast.  He’s game, so we meet at a local mall.  After lunch we do the interview with some strange Kenny G type mall music blasting in the background.  He’s told me earlier that I seem very relaxed about the race.  I hate that the race is a whole week away.  I want to start it now.  We do the interview and of course I feel as if I have said, “like” and “um” too many times, hoping I don’t sound like a total idiot.  Fifteen minutes later, he shuts off the recorder and we say our good-byes, knowing the next time I will see him will be about mile 66 of the race course.  

      Two days prior to the race I finally begin packing.  My dining room has become a staging area for all my gear.  I can no longer see the kitchen table.  I pack as if I am going to be running for a month.  I put in several changes of clothing, shoes, socks, rain gear, and way too many gels to count. Everything from baby wipes to trekking poles.  I don’t want to miss a thing.  
My feet looking pretty good before the race.

One day before the race.  I have lunch with a friends in from California.  He and his wife are doing the 50K.  He’s recently come off of doing a 200 mile run.  He gives me load of advice and I feel even more confident that the only outcome from this race is to cross the finish line, there is no acceptable alternative.

The night prior to the race I worked my shift at local running store.  Customers and coworkers wished me luck even though I don’t think some of them were still able to wrap their heads around this distance I was tackling.  The store’s elite athletes can run 5K’s in under 15 minutes, but the thought of 100 miles at any pace is overwhelming, even to them.  At home, I checked Facebook messages, lots of well wishes from friends and family that would keep me going during the race. I update my cover photo on Facebook to a photo my husband took.  It is of me from behind.  I’m in my typical running gear and pack.  I had no idea how beneficial this photo would prove during the race.  I guess when you pass someone from behind that is exactly what you are going to see, so a lot of people recognized me.  

Race morning I wake up and check my Facebook.  There is a video posted on my wall by my pacer Dave.  I click on it and the Black Eyed Peas start singing. “I gotta feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night...”  A huge smile appears on my face and I start dancing around the living room. This song became my race theme and popped in my head countless times later that day. 

We arrived at the ranch about 1:00PM and found our assigned parking space for our RV.  A recent purchase that my husband convinced me would be great for my races.  This proved to be accurate.  I picked up my race packet and bib, which took about 30 seconds, then back to the RV to watch TV and relax until the start.  Just before leaving the RV, I slipped on an orange rubber bracelet a friend gave me last year after my first 100 mile attempt.  It simply says the word “Remarkable” on it.  He felt that even though I had not met my goal, it was still remarkable that I would continue on this journey.  
     The start was 4:00PM.  I personally like the late day start.  You get the night portion in before you are super tired, unlike some 100 milers that start in the morning and you run all day then into the night and back into the day again.  I’m not much of a morning person anyway.  I got a good sleep the night before, not having to worry about getting up early or missing the start.   I was able to eat a decent breakfast and lunch and fuel for the day, that can be hard to do for an early morning start.

3:55PM-start coral.  I’m not even nervous.  For the entire week before I was telling friends I felt like a race horse waiting for the gates to open so I could get running.  I had no pre-race anxiety.  I knew there was no alternative but to finish.  I had made my “Quit List.” I knew what reasons would be acceptable for me do drop from this race.  1- a broken bone that was protruding from the skin. 2- loss of consciousness for longer than a few minutes.  3- not making a cut off.  (If this happened, I vowed I would give up my bib and finish the race on my own.) I meet a friend who was also doing his first 100 miler.  (He killed it, finishing 4th place overall.)  My goal is just to finish.  I have told everyone I would be happy if I come in at 29:59:59 in last place.  

4:00PM-Go time.  We make a quick loop of the campground, as I pass by Ronda, she says, “You’re almost there!”  I had to laugh at that, if you count 99.9 more miles to go “almost there.”   Just after leaving the camp we head into the woods and up a short hill.  Everyone stops running to walk up the hill as soon as we are out of sight of the spectators.  This is common in ultras, almost everyone walks up the hills.  But it is still comical to see people walking in the first 2 minutes of the race, but I did it too. It is sunny and 80+ degrees out as I head out on my epic adventure. 

     I thought a few of my friends and family might want to track my progress, so I turned my cellphone over to my husband and he updated my Facebook status every 4 or so miles.  What I later found out was that people were checking their computers every hour of the entire race, watching it unfold.  I was humbled by the outpouring of comments and concerns as this adventure took place.

Slip and Slide.

I start out into the first loop.  The humidity kicks up fast.  I enjoy the trails and the camaraderie with the other runners.  In trail and ultra running you tend to meet more people that you would in a road race.  I’ve made some great friends during races.  Sometimes you wind up running for miles with a total stranger that becomes a friend before long.  I have only one goal for this first loop, to finish while the sun is still out.  It will be a challenge as it will start getting dark about 7:30PM.  The first section of trail is pretty sandy.  I enjoy this as I don’t have to be careful of tree roots and rocks. The only hazard in the trail is the horse poop. Luckily, I dodge it all.   I fly down the hills, unusual for me as I am kind of a slow poke on the descents.  I come to the stretch of rail-trail.  Nice and flat, no trip hazards.  I know this section will be my saving grace.  I can put some time in the bank here and slow down when I get back on the trail.  After a while we pop back into the woods and then down the path that leads to the aid station.   I arrive the first aid station at mile 4, known as the Grace Aid Station.  Erick and Ronda are waiting there for me.  I don’t really need anything at this point.  I have plenty of water and sports drink in my pack.  A quick hello and I am on my way.  I follow a nice section of dirt road.  I enjoy this as I again I don’t have to worry about tripping on a rock or root.  I come to a road intersection.  It is Kelly and Doyle Streets.  This makes me laugh as one of the first ultra runners I met is named Kelly Doyle.  I think she will get a kick out of this.  I continue on the dirt road and then see signs saying “All Ultras, This Way.”  I follow the sign and duck back into the woods.  There is a nice section of wooden boardwalk and trails intermixed.  Some decent hills bring me to a walk and then back to speed for the descents.  I remember the trail from the past two years.  I’m feeling like I won’t get lost.  Last year I had a close call, but someone yelled out to me and I was able to get back on track.  I cross a road and see my crew.  They trade water bottles with me.  I’m doing good, still don’t need anything from them but a smile and encouraging words.  I head up to the 8 mile aid station, known as the Richie’s Haven.  There is a big yurt there.  I never fail to be captivated by this yurt.  Such an unusual structure to see in the middle of the woods.  Richie’s has lots of good food that I want to stay around and sample.  I grab a small bite and a gatorade and head back out.  Into the woods I go.  I reach the section that is tough to descend.  It has a layer of a fish-scale like material to keep erosion down.  I think it is made to catch the tread on my shoes.  I have to go slowly to keep from tripping.  I’m not graceful by nature and I really don’t want to do a face plant here.  Shortly after, I am back on to the familiar dirt road and I am headed to the 12 mile aid station.  It is the same aid station as the 4 mile one, the course is a sort of figure eight design.  I arrive at the Grace and am still feeling fine.  I’ve made good time.  I pass my crew and head back to the trail.  I remember from years prior that this section had the hardest hills.  One hill seemed to go on forever.  I fight not to put my hands on my knees to push myself up. I know it will only make my back hurt later if I do this.  I’m feeling pretty groovy.  All is going well, until it doesn’t.  At Mile 15 , I step the side of the trail and start vomiting.  What?  I didn’t even feel ill.  It came out of nowhere.  As I stand there a few of my friends pass by.  I know they are thinking my race is over.  They ask if I am ok, I say I will be in a minute.  They seem satisfied with this answer and keep running.  I might have been stopped for 2 minutes at most.  I know this will pass.  I threw up last year too, but it was at mile 46.  That was a different story.  Last year I took a cup of vegetable soup and swallowed a pea.  I hate peas.  I think the thought of it alone made me vomit.  I have no idea what happened this year.  I hadn’t tried anything new.  No matter, I just wiped my face off with a bandana and headed back to the trail.  I come to the last mile before the campground.  I encounter the runners headed out for the “Natural Mile.”  There is always something shocking about seeing people running naked in the woods. I got a laugh out of it.  Sorry, but it is a pretty funny sight. I soon arrive at Bruce’s Deli, the start/finish aid station, mile 16.6.  The race organizers record my time and I tell my crew I had thrown up.  They start planning what might help.  Someone runs out to get something to settle my stomach and it will await me at the next aid station.  I met my goal, it is still just barely light out.  The first lap was about 4 hours long.  It is about 8:00PM.

Erick puts my headlamp on me and gives me my handheld flashlight.  A trick I learned to help give more dimension on the trail at night.  I also put on a reflective vest as there is more traffic on the road  section than in the years past.  I head back out.  Nothing eventful.  I follow pink flags with little silver reflectors on top.  Easy course markings.  I have no problem following them.  The race organizers did an amazing job marking the course.  I know I need to start my nutrition fresh.  I try to eat a a gummy energy gel product.  I gag on it.  I spit it out and dry heave.  Happily, I know there isn’t anything left in my stomach.  I start with more water intake and one vanilla GU, it stays down.  At Grace, there are Tums awaiting my arrival.  I nibble on them and all seems well.  If I try to chew it whole, I get a different response.  I chose to nibble.  Ronda handed me a ziplock bag with three slices of watermelon.  It tastes amazing and I can keep it down.  (I take watermelon from them at each aid station from here on out.)  I pass some people on the road and trail, some also pass me.  No one passes without saying something.  Some encouraging word.  “How’s your race going?” ,“You’re doing great” , “Keep it up!”  We are not competing, we are on the same team.  No one makes me feel inferior because I am slower than them.  The rain starts about 10:00PM, just like the weatherman said it would. I embrace the rain.  I expected it.  I remember it from last year.  I remember it getting the better of me.  It made the course a mudslide last year and I knew it would this year.  I was ready for it.  BRING IT ON!  The cold drops feel great after the heat and humidity of the afternoon.  The rain looks like shards of light in my headlamp. It plays tricks on my eyes.  I plow (and plod) through the course.   I pass a lot of people that have clearly never ran in conditions such as these.  I embrace the suck.  Because in the end, it is the suck that makes it so good.  The remainder of this loop goes by just fine.  I have hot soup broth at the aid stations. I tell them only broth, no veggies...they graciously honor my request.  I don’t want a pea incident like last year.  I knew the second loop would be tough in the dark and alone.  The last mile goes by quite fast, I’m happy when I arrive at the start/finish to meet my pacer.  

I come out of the woods and pass the tents.  I loop through the campground and I know Dave is waiting for me.  In the dark with my headlamp on, I start singing as loud as I could, hoping to call him to me.  “I gotta feeling, that tonight’s going to be a good night....”  Half way through the lyric I see him and he hears me and joins in. Huge smile on his face, ready to tackle his very first ultra marathon.  More broth at the aid station, I change my bottles and I am on my way.  I’m so happy to see Dave that I hug him.  He will be my life line for the next 32 or so miles.  The second loop took about 4 1/2 hours.  so we have 1 1/2 hours in the bank still.  I know I will need this as the race is in the final stages and I am fatigued.  Dave couldn’t be happier to be on the trails.  He couldn’t care that it is raining and muddy.  He’s unselfishly taken time away from his wife and children to come pace me.  I’m very fortunate.  He knows these trails.  He’ll keep me on track.  A few minutes later we see a headlamp coming towards us.  I tell the fellow he’s going the wrong way and he seems ok with it since he knows the aid station is near.  Then I start wonder, maybe it is us that are lost.  Dave assures me we are not lost.  He’s correct.  I turn a corner and think I see a person, it turns out to be a shrub.  Dave laughs.  It turns out to be nothing like the hallucinations that will come later.  We get to the rail-trail and Dave begins “Rabbit Hunting.”  Picking off people on the course,  passing people.  We say encouraging thing as we pass.  He counted 17 people we passed in his two loops.  I feel strong as he says encouraging things to me.  He tells me I am running through the ankle deep mud so much better than last year.  We talk about our families, jobs, politics (which he thrives on and I pretend to understand) as we run.  Dave’s brothers have come out to crew for him this year.  They are full of energy each time we see them. I absorb it.  We head back out to the road section.  I told Dave earlier that this was where I could make up some of the slower times on the trail.  He pushes me along.  We sing songs about rain to entertain ourselves...”Singing it the rain....”   I laugh remembering us doing this the year prior and everyone laughing at us.  We didn’t care.  We run into Juli, a friend of mine doing her first 100 mile run.  She is in a low spot.  She tells me she’s already cried twice.  Juli can’t believe I have so much energy and am so upbeat.  I say that she needs to suck up some of my energy and push on.  She does just that.  We pass each other along the course a few more times, her pacer couldn’t keep up and she dropped him.  Some hot broth awaits me at Richie’s Haven.  Only a minute later and  we are on our way.  I know not to waste too much time at aid stations.  If I spent a little over minute at each aid station it would be about 30 minutes time lost.  We head out.  Dave’s headlamp starts going dim.  He decides to grab his flashlight instead of wasting time changing batteries.  He says” Wow, my hands are numb.”  I move my fingers.  Hmmm. Mine are too.  Dang it.  Why did he have to say that.  I wasn’t cold until he said it.  The temps had dropped to 50 degrees and we had a cold rain.  We find out later a lot of people dropped due to hypothermia.  I say to Dave, “We will just have to run faster to stay warm.” He agrees.  We press on.  The entire time I think, I am going to get arm warmers or a jacket at the next aid station.  We arrive at Grace and I’m not even cold.  I pass on all my gear. He gets his batteries and we move on.  We tackle the big hills in the mud as best we can.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Slipping down the hills.  Still not as bad as last year, not even close.  At least we have perspective.   We arrive a the start/finish aid station on schedule.  We refill water bottles, get a small bite to eat and head back out.  We know in a few hours the sun will start coming out and we will be feeling groovy.  Somewhere near Richie’s Haven Dave realizes he’s never run as far as he has at this point.  He’s surpassed the 26.2 mile mark.  A few miles down the line I pass the 62 mile mark, my furthest point of running distance.  We see our crew.  I do the one and only equipment change of all my gear.  I ask for a new visor.  I packed everything but the kitchen sink.  Two huge bins full of gear and all I take is a visor.  Guess I was a little over prepared.  It is about 9:10AM.  We are both in unchartered territory and loving it.  Each step is new.  We keep moving forward.  The sun has been up for some time.  I still haven’t eaten much.  Mostly broth, vanilla GU, and watermelon.  I try to take an S-Cap every hour.  I usually take two but one seems to be all my stomach will allow.  A few of them opened up in my pack.  A white powder coats the bag and each pill tastes super salty as I try to swallow it. 

      We are in the last four mile section. We were right.  The daylight dried up the course and all was good in the world.  Dave is on his way to finishing his first ultra marathon.  I am as excited for him as he is.  I’m so glad I could be there to see this.  I know his friends and family will think he is a rock star for this, but he keeps telling me that I am the rock star.  I am humbled by this.  I don’t know how I got so lucky to have him as a pacer.  He’s my trail brother.  We round the bend and head into the campground.  He starts yelling that there is a 100 miler coming through.  He’s still thinking about me, when it is his moment.  As we come to the aid station I see a few friends from my running group, Your Pace or Mine.  I get some high fives.  I suck the energy up and take it with me when I head back out.  Dave crosses the line and is now an ultra marathoner.  He’s just finished his first 50K.  I’m so proud of him.  I give him a hug and thank him.  I need to keep moving.  I know I will need every minute as the night comes.  I think, I should change my shoes and socks.  They are both wet.  I think about sitting in a chair to do it.  Sitting, that sounds good.  Wait, NO IT DOESN’T! There is a saying in ultra marathoning, “Beware of the chair!”  If you sit down, you won’t get back up.  I decide to continue on in my wet shoes and socks.

I pick up Mike to pace me.  It is about 10:30AM.  While Dave talked my ear off, Mike is more reserved. Not quiet by any means, just not the same as Dave.  I tell Erick I want broth.  He says to keep moving and Mike will bring it to me.  Erick hands it to Mike and warns him there might be a carrot in the broth and to get it out for fear I might gag like I did on the pea last year.  I don’t know who did what, but there was no carrot when I got the broth.  Probably a good idea, crisis averted.  I describe the trail to Mike, we cross to the rail trail and I feel myself lagging behind him.  He’s fresh.  He’s got long legs and a huge stride.  I struggle to keep up.  He’s fast walking and I’m doing a shuffle run.  He uses a new tactic.  He puts music on his phone and tells me to stay close enough to hear it.  If I get more than a dozen steps behind I can’t hear the lyrics.  I keep up.  He’s still just walking.  I warned him before he said he would pace me that it would be late in the game and I would be struggling to keep up with him.  He still agreed.  He’s good at fast walking.  Every time I ask him if we are on pace he says, “Yes.”  He lies to me.  Just like I asked him to.  I know I have the one and a half hour buffer from the first two loops.  I will use most of it later in the race.  I force myself to run the nice flat sections.  I need more and more walk breaks.  He says nothing about this.  He’s just what I need at this moment.  I don’t feel like chit-chatting.  I seem to only have one word answers for him the entire time he is with me.  I feel like he might think I am ungrateful as I am not even hardly talking to him.  I just don’t have the energy to talk.  Mike looks back to see if I am still with him.  He checks to see if I am drinking and eating.  I am, still water, watermelon and an occasional S-Cap.   Better than nothing.  I take broth when it’s available.  At mile 80, I took my trekking poles.  I thought it might help me in the climbs.  Turns out there are so many rocks and roots that I couldn’t get the poles to get any purchase and I turned them back over to the crew shortly after.  It was worth a try.  The climbs and descents become increasingly hard on my legs.  
3:33PM.  We cross the start/finish line for the 5th time.  One loop to go! My crew posts a photo on Facebook saying I’m looking good and have an excellent attitude.  Hopefully this is true.  I lose a lot of time, I can’t seem to keep my feet at more than a shuffle.  My left shin is starting to bother me.  Mike says it is probably a bit of tendonitis.  I feel the huge blister that was under my left arch pop.  I’m kind of glad if finally did, relieving the pressure.  My feet feel so swelled up.  I know I really should loosen up my shoe laces.  I don’t want to waste a minute.  I touch the orange “Remarkable” bracelet on my arm and draw energy from it.  Someone thought I was remarkable.  I want to finish this race.  My back and neck are getting sore.  I lean on a tree from time to time trying to stretch it out.  Your neck gets very sore in ultras.  They say if you don’t look down, you will go down.  You need to be constantly aware of the path ahead of you. I am constantly scanning for rocks and roots.  I had a few near misses but have not fallen.  I am thanking my trail angel, Joyce for that.  
The temps are mid 60’s, just perfect.  My clothes have dried from the overnight rains.  I never bother to change into anything fresh.  I keep losing time.  I probably know this, but Mike keeps telling me I am on pace.  He knows that I don’t care if I come in last place at the last second, I just want to finish.  I find out later that he’s never kept such a close eye on his watch in his life.  At Grace, Erick asks how I am doing.  I say my shin hurts.  He says, “No, it doesn’t.” He tells me to keep moving. I do just that.  A mile down the road I feel a sharp pain in my shin.  I think for a second that this might be the end of my race.  I yell an expletive.  Mike looks back and asks what’s up.  I tell him and he just says, to keep moving forward.  I give him a puzzled look but do as he said.  My brain is not registering things right at this point.  I walk a bit and eventually start to shuffle step again.  A few miles later Juli blows past us.  She’s got a new pacer and a whole lot of energy.  I never see her again at the race.  

Mile 92: The Hallucinations.  We see Erick and Ronda before Richie’s Haven.  Erick will later tell me that when he looked at my face, there was nothing but a blank expression.  I had a glazed over and dazed look.  The race started to race live up to it’s name right here.  Just before the Yurt I look to my right.  I say to Mike, “Do you see that RV?”  He tells me to keep moving.  After the aid station I see cars everywhere in the woods.  I think my brain just wanted me to get to the next aid station to see Ronda’s vehicle or our RV at the campground.  Either way, it messed with my head.  I would look off to the side of the trail and think I saw a cat.  Mike held steady with his response telling me to keep moving forward.  When darkness came on I saw dirty socks all over the trail.  Another hallucination best I can tell. I think they were really rocks.  I have my headlamp on for the last road section before Grace.  A car pulls up and it is Dave.  He starts yelling for me to move faster.  That this is my pay-dirt, the flat straight sections.  I shuffle faster, which still isn’t fast.  I know I have lost a lot of time even though Mike continues to tell me we are doing fine.  I am elated that Dave came back out.  I know he will be at the finish line to celebrate.  As we pass Grace for the last time, Erick tells me that I am a machine.  I know I am in the home stretch.   I do the best I can to shuffle run the rest of the way in, except for that last hill that never seemed to end.  I keep asking Mike if he can see the road.  We have to cross one road and then it is a one mile section to the campground.  We’ve agreed he will turn on his recorder at the 99 mile mark and do a short recording for the podcast.  I am following his headlamp in the darkness forever.  It seems to be never ending.  He finally says he sees the road.  I scream in joy.  We cross the road and he turns on the recorder.  He asks me questions and I give one word answers.  It is all I can muster.  I know I will sound like an idiot in this recording, more than the pre-interview.  But at least I have an excuse for sounding off at this point.  I’m grinding away at the last mile.  Mike asks me if I am excited.  I say I will not be excited until I see the campground.  He says, “There it is!”  I see the campfire at the tent closest to the woods.  I scream out in joy.  As I come out of the woods and into the campground I am thrilled, awake and alive with victory in my veins.  I am yelling so my husband knows it is me.  I hear him yell back.  I cross that finish line and he hugs me and he is in tears.  I have no juice left.  Not an ounce of water left in my body to produce a tear.  I am very dehydrated.   I’m given a peace sign finisher medal, an awesome belt buckle and a hat.  A bottle of champagne is produced.  Hugs and toasts with several of my ultra runner fiends, crew and pacers.  We take photos to preserve this moment  I tell my husband I will NEVER run another 100 miler.  He is smart, he knows me.  He says, “We will talk about it tomorrow.”  

A matter of a few steps to the RV and a few more photos.  I announce that I need to sit down.  This comes as no surprise but I am told to hang on for a few more photos.  I feel my ears ringing and I say, “I’m about to pass out.”  One second later I am being carried into the RV.  I don’t remember anyone picking me up, just being carried in.  I’m laying down and feel cold and sleepy.  My husband is a trained first responder.  My pupils are fixed and dilated.  I have no capillary refill and my lips went grey.  He has someone get the medics.  They come and give me oxygen, take my blood pressure.  They say if I will drink they won’t hook up an IV.  I agree to drink anything.  They get another call of a woman passed out in the campground shower.  I find out later it is Juli, she wound up in the Emergency Room that night.  I am lucky.  
The Finish!

I fall asleep in the RV. I wake up later and need help walking 2 feet to the bathroom.  My husband helps.  I also realize I never brushed my teeth. My teeth feel like they have fur coats.  He hands me my toothbrush and a cup of water.  I tell him the toothpaste tastes terrible and ask where he got it.  He said from my kit.  I know there is no toothpaste in there.  We both realize it is hydrocortisone and I can’t spit it out fast enough.  Guess you shouldn’t ask someone as tired as you to do something like that.  Tomorrow I will spend almost two hours pouring over the kind words of encouragement and congratulations from friend and family.  These are people that I was sure were so tired of hearing about my running that they wouldn’t even pay attention.  I’ve exhausted them all year with races and long training runs.  I honestly felt maybe just my family and a few friends would follow the posts.  I found out later that people were glued to their computers for 30 hours.  Hoping, waiting for word of my success.  I am so fortunate.  I thank all of them for caring.  I am beyond words for this public outpouring they have given me.  
There goes another toenail

I wake up after 9 hours of sleep and still can’t comprehend what I did.  I hold the buckle. It seems surreal.  Who am I?  I am just a normal person.  I love running.  I had a goal.  I ran 100 miles.  I finished in 29 hours, 28 minutes and 26 seconds.  I was close to last, and that was fine with me.  149 people registered for the 100 miler the race.  Only 69 finished.  I was number 63.  They say in ultras that there are three kinds of people at the finish line.     The competitors, the runners, and the survivors.  I’m not sure if I am a runner or a survivor, I’m just glad I finished.

Erick wakes up and asks me what is on my mind.  I simply mutter the name of the next race on my radar.