Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sometimes getting to the starting line is the toughest part...
The oldest of my 7 sisters and new crew chief champion, Taya
...no, really. Sometimes it is hard to believe it at mile 70 of a 100-mile race but it turned out to be the case this time around. I had originally planned to go back and run the Bear 100 again this year. Some last minute changes at work left me scrambling. I had the "hundred-mile itch" and I needed it scratched pretty badly. Scanning opportunities that fit my schedule I narrowed it down to LeGrizz 50 in Montana and Grindstone in Virginia. I still really wanted to do a hundred so I entered negotiations with my much better half and we finally made it happen. It turns out that Grindstone worked nicely in the schedule and I would be able to see my sister Taya and her family (I was the last of her 8 siblings to go back and visit her). The plan was to fly out early Thursday morning, catch a few sites in D.C., buzz down to Swoope, run 101.63 miles, hop on a plane, and get back home. When race week arrived I had developed a horrible cough and a sinus infection that wouldn't let me sleep very well. I was determined to hydrate, take lots of vitamin c, etc, and deal with it. By the time I boarded the plane I was miserable and seriously doubting if I should make the trip. Right before take-off the pilot came on over the intercom and said they needed to make one last check on the plane and we would be off in 5 minutes...45 minutes later we were de-boarding and I was starting to wonder if it was a sign. I was coughing constantly and had a fever. I seriously considered getting a voucher for my ticket and heading straight back home. Knowing how disappointed I'd be if my cold broke the next day and I was still in Wyoming got me back on the plans-4 hours later. When I landed in D.C., it turns out it had rained 7 inches that day. I was starting to wonder what the course would be like, but all the humidity seemed to be helping my cough so I started to get excited to race. I was able to spend some time with family, slept well, and then Taya, her husband Jon, their baby daughter Grace and I headed SW to the race start.
We had a bit of trouble finding the Boy Scout Camp and the start so we stopped at the Swoope post office to ask directions. It didn't help much. An old toothless man gave us directions (via his toothless mouth) using things like "turn right at the old Smith place and then turn at the bungalo" while doing some sort of 80's break-dancing movement with his arms. Anyway, we arrived about 90 minutes before the 6 p.m. start, I got drop bags set, changed into my racing gear, and gave Jon and Taya last-minute instructions. They had never been to an ultra before, let alone crewed at one so they were nervous. I assured them that it wasn't rocket science and little could go wrong.
Virginia trails in the fall at twilight
Clark had seeded the race and given us the race # where he thought we would finished. I thanked him for the #1 race number and asked him if he also had a neon glow-in-the-dark target for my back. Starting at 6 p.m. took a little adjustment. After a prayer by Dr. Horton and a national anthem we were off around the lake and up the trail. I settled in with Brian (#3) and Chris (#2) and it was looking like Clark had it pretty well dialed. It was fun to meet some new people and chat. it turns out that both Brian and Chris were both teachers also. I knew it was going to be a fun night.
My plan had been to alternate between my BD pack and a hand bottle. I started with my light and would pick up some warmer clothes at mile 22 when I met my crew. We buzzed along in the cool night. When I picked up my bottle and my EFS flask at 22 I asked Jon for my LS capilene T. He said, "Your dropbag isn't here." I didn't have time to wait so I just kept running. The trail was exceptionally well-marked and the climbs were longer and more technical than I expected-nothing like the feeling of a flat rock flipping up and cracking your ankle bone. The temperature was perfect and my stomach was holding up great. I was taking in 200-300 calories of EFS per hour with no queasiness whatsoever. My only small issues were my cough and I was starting to feel pretty sleepy much earlier than I expected. I blamed it on the lack of sleep, or the time change and expected it to change soon. The top 3 moved along together for much of the first of the race. By the turnaround Chris and I were still within minutes of Brian. We knew he had pacers and we didn't so I was hoping we could help each other out later in the race. After the turn around I was incredibly sleepy. The sleep monster had me by the throat. I was literally falling asleep while I hiked up the road. I kept trying to drink Coke at the aid stations and fuel well but my head was still bobbing and I was wandering all over the trail. Finally I couldn't hang with Chris any more so I settled in for the sun and morning hoping that I would wake up with the sun. No luck. Finally I decided that I needed a short nap. about 2 miles from the aid station I pulled on my whodini jacket, curled up in the pine needles and took a 10 minute nap. It was obvious at this point I was playing defense. Throughout the rest of the race I did my best to maintain my position because each time I tried to really hammer I would start coughing. I did hold my position and finished in 21:21:54
Despite my little problems I gleaned some good things. I kept the EFS flowing all race. I was even able to take in a couple of ounces with a mile to go. I'm hoping that this will help reduce my history of stomach problems while racing. It was awesome to see my sister and her family, meet a lot of gracious, kind and tough people, and run a challenging race on a new course. I'll definitely be back. And hopefully I can give Brian and Chris a better race.