Wednesday, May 22, 2013

the lil redhead that did....patience over 103.7 miles

 "Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself." Saint Francis de Sales

Growing up I remember my mother always telling me "Patience is a virtue." On my wedding day John's granddad told us the key to a good marriage and life is "lots of love, lots of kindness and lots of patience." The morning of the my first 100 mile race I toed the line with these two things in mind along with a positive and care-free attitude.

Saturday morning the air was cool and muggy but pretty much perfect running weather. The start was filled with excitement, anxiety and the song "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey in the background. The clock quickly struck 4am and I took my first step thinking in the back of my mind, I WILL be back 103.7 miles later. To say that out loud seems like an impossible task but my body was going to listen to my mind for the next 34 hours and it was going to happen.
My peeps
The first three miles of road were relaxing. The week going into the race I didn't run at all, so the built up anxiety from tapering was shaking out and being put to good use. In the darkness the view ahead was filled with several twinkling head lamps with the sound of calm rushing water from a stream near the road. At this point I was really just relaxing into the run enjoying the calm setting...talking to a few of my friends as we made our way up and onto the Massanutten Trail.

This is where we all started to spread out more. I started to get nervous because my footing was a little sloppy over the rocks. I stumbled, stubbed my toes and twisted my ankles far more than I would like to this early in the race. My eyes were still acclimating to the early morning terrain and my feet were as well. (Especially since I had a fresh pair of Hokas on. Depth perception a little off...) The climb over Short Mountain is very technical and tedious to travel over. Since the air was so muggy my breathing was heavy and I could feel my heart working a little more than normal. I tried to slow down a tad thinking I was probably just excited to be on the trail after a week of doing nothing plus the extra adrenaline was making my heart work overtime. After reaching Edinburg aid station the sun has come up and I was excited to start running with daylight and looking forward to for a great day on the trails.

(**Side note its literally 2am on the Tuesday after the race and I am writing this. The last two nights my body still thinks I am up running in the woods. I woke up originally because I was hungry (as my appetite is extremely off) and I can't sleep so I figured I would try and finish this blog post :)

Clearly having too much fun.
Photo by Bobby Gill 2013. 
Moving on between Edinburg and Woodstock is where I was delighted to see some friendly faces; Lisa, John G and I all met up. They agreed that the last section was difficult for them as well. Which made me feel better knowing it wasn't just me struggling over that first climb and the heavy air. So the three of us just kind of joined forces. We set a comfortable pace as we moved on discussing all our early race anxieties and issues that we just worked out. For the next 30ish miles and 8+ hours we covered miles, climbed mountains, soaked in the many breathtaking views together. We got into "silly mode" right away once we met up and I at one point was laughing so hard that my stomach hurt and I think I pied a little :/ We shared burps, farts, laughter, sang songs basically just letting it all loose on the Massnautten Trail.

Hot n' sweaty.
Photo by
Aaron Schwartzbard
There were people that passed us and claimed were having far too much fun for 100 mile race. Running with the two of them made it feel like we were out for a training run. Truly blessed to have such great friends and share this experience with them as we traveled through these beautiful mountains. We pushed each other where we could and helped each other get to the top of several difficult climbs and onto the next aid station.

All day I just put mileage out of my mind, I had an aid station chart in my pack and would be aware of timing but I didn't want to get to wrapped up in the "numbers."  I was ahead of cut-off by at least an hour and half which was perfect. I was simply just being patient and embracing the moment.

Coming into the Habron Gap (mile 54) was a big landmark for me. Essentially this was the start of night running as we approach this aid station around 8pm. This is also where I was picking up my first pacer Pam. I know Pam through FRSC (Frederick running club) I haven't really had much of an opportunity to get to know her since we moved to the area, so what better time than covering some dark, dirty miles together in the middle of mountains.

This aid station was also a good gauge for me to evaluate how I was feeling. I have never ran anything over this mileage so I was excited to break new ground. EVERYTHING felt good! So crazy. My legs still felt very fresh, no major issues with feet, a couple little hot spots. I was in general just hot cause the air was still so muggy. My stomach was starting to feel a lil woosy but after some magic potion (vegetarian pho broth) it calmed itself down and I took some food (salted boiled potatoes, pb & J's) to go. I thought I was doing really well on my own taking a gel every 30 mins and a salt stick every 1hr. There were a several times throughout the night, I could feel the energy rush depleted before the 30 min timer even went off on my watch, so I would eat real food before hand.

The next 15sih miles of terrain were very technical and unfortunately there were very few sections we could actually get a good rhythm running. Lots of Mud!! I do remember getting a little frustrated cause I wanted to move faster and you can't it's just too rocky to run.  So this is where I started to remember that "patience" thing I was talking about earlier. One foot in front of the other. Just take a deep breath and continue chatting with Pam to keep my mind off my frustration.

Jordy rockin the shirts.
Halfway through this section we had a stop at Camp Roosevelt aid station.  Holy crap was this ever a breath of fresh air!!!! This is where I got to see my family for the first time. They were crewing while John was trying to get some rest to start pacing at 70. My MIL, and SIL's made t-shirts with "lil read that could" logo on them.
They were full of energy and pampered me up while I did a fresh shirt, sock and shorts change here. Felt like a new women after I left here. The people cheering you on at the aid stations is a huge game changer. The energy is just what the doctor ordered ;) The minute you start to feel low...they just pick you right back up!

Pam was exactly what I needed to cover that section she was fresh, full of energy, talkative and distracted me from the reality that my body was on the downhill slop of a 100 mile race. Thank you Pam!!

The next big landmark for me was mile 70. I was really looking forward to this section to start pacing with John. He prepped me before the race that when we start together we were "going to do work." Mentally I needed that. Even though I had wonderful company the whole time I really needed to push a little more. I do believe getting it over with faster causes you to have less pain. At 70 for whatever reason I demanded chicken noodle soup and thought a perogie sounded really good to me. It was comfort food but not smart food since I was sticking to mostly watermelon, pg & j, broth and potatoes all day. Plus I haven't eaten meat in a month so this seemed like a good idea at the time.

John and I left 70 to go up the dreaded Jawbone and Kerns Mountain climb. My legs at this point were still feeling amazingly fresh and my feet were starting to actually feel like I have been on them for almost 24 hours and 70 miles of tough terrain. Which is when I started to realize the extreme of what my body was capable of doing and started to get a little emotional, but held back my tears of joy and complete amazement.

There was absolutely no variation in temperature from the day to night. I was sweating just as much at 2am as I was at 2pm the afternoon prior. From this point on John was consistently monitoring my water and gel in take. As we made our way up this climb my stomach was really starting to feel off and because of this I moving at a snails pace over Kern's Mountain. John had thought my salt balance was off so I went to take a salt stick and next thing I know that chicken noodle soup that went in about an hr was now all over the rocks in front of me.  The tears that I held back were now rolling down my face....

I whipped off the tears, looked up and took my next step closer to the finish. This moment was good. It was now a clean slate; for more clean food, hydration and to now balance my stomach out again.

From this point on I basically just ate and drank when John told me I needed to regain my energy and calories. (Seriously can't imagine if he wasn't there.) I have been over Kern's Mountain and remember it be being difficult but nothing compares at mile 75 in a race. It is only a 4 mile section that took me 2 hours to travel over given my condition. This whole section was completely demoralizing! I felt like I stayed pretty positive even though I was dropping "f-bombs" every 10 min. The key was stay positive and be patient, I think I still had that and I held onto it. (minus the "f-bombs" of course)

Walking into Visitor Center I saw my mother and father in law standing there waiting for me with a big smiles and cheering me in. I had to do everything in my power not to break down into a pile of teary, blubbery messyness. That section just kicked my ass between the climb, the rocks and getting sick. I was officially feeling beat up.
feeling beat up.
I knew they were exhausted from driving around all night following me, so to see there smiling faces was such a sweet moment. Honestly I wanted to just rest my head on my mother in laws shoulder and cry a good cry BUT I knew I had to get some food back in that stomach and keep moving!! 

Mile 78 to the finish I was an emotional basket case. I was in shock I was still moving. I was moving and my legs weren't screaming at me. I still had a positive attitude and I knew that I was finishing this thing. (Not that I ever really doubted it but it was just becoming more of a reality every step I took.)

Leaving visitor's center felt like I was going home. I have done this section on a couple training runs so I was prepared for the climb up Bird Knob and kept in the back of my mind, as John reminded me also, that we have some sweet downhill sections coming up that we were about to take advantage of. After climbing and going through Bird Knob aid station we had one climb and then a freaking sweet 4.5 mile rolling hill section that gave me so much energy and confidence. I love the pink trail! John told me we were running this section in about 9 min miles at mile 85 and keep it up!!  There were a few rolling hills that I would get enough momentum and just run up these hills. I was already on the verge of hysterically crying and running these hills flawlessly at mile 85 to almost 90 miles is enough to make anyone cry. As we continue to cover ground I would start thinking about the moment I was in...with my hubz heading to the finish of a 100 mile race. I had to decide where to spend my energy crying or moving forward... it was hard to do both.

That section was so fun! Mostly because I know how much fun John was having on that downhill run and we were so in that moment together. Pretty special.

Heading into Picnic Area our family was waiting there.  We went in grabbed food, refreshed and headed back out. My feet were really starting to feel the steps now but it wasn't enough to stop.
Highs n lows
These last 10 miles were bittersweet. I say that because again we approached a section that took that confidence I had at mile 85 right away from me. I hate Scothorn Gap Trail! This section was equally as bad as Kerns Mountain. 4 miles took 2 hours! The climbs were relentless, the rocks were brutal, and it was mile 90+ into the race. I kept tell myself...patience. As we headed down the forest service road to the next aid station I was running high on adrenaline now.

This was the last aid station and I was heading into mile 96!  In that moment I was thinking back on the day prior, all the miles I covered, all the climbs, and beautiful runnable trails I got to enjoy with my friends and husband. It was all sinking in now. I kept telling John "I can't believe I'm doing this or rather I did it!"

Through this section of the trail/ service road heading into the aid station there were SO many butterflies. Literally a flock of 8 or 9 butterflies that all flew up and over us at one time. Another baby butterfly that kept swaying its way back and forth in front of me as we trotted down the road. Simply beautiful. It was a sign that those above were watching over me this whole time, were carrying me home.

Running into Gap creek mile 96 was like a freaking party! I was doing this thing. The family was there to refuel us and send us on our way. We only had a 10k left ( a mountainous 10k but non the less a 10k) What was left of the course was jawbone climb, a down hill then 3 mile road. Getting to the top of Jawbone is another huge landmark cause its THE LAST CLIMB!! I still had a run in me on the trail but unfortunately the trail down from Jawbone is just too technical to get a good rhythm going. I was so close I could taste the finish. I was so ready to take my shoes off,  ready to stop eating gels, ready to mentally shut down, ready to hug everyone at the finish...just ready to be done. After you set foot off the trail you have 3 miles of road to the camp. These 3 miles feel like 10! My feet were so sore by this point I just didn't have it in me to run this section.  John would talk me into running little sections of it here and there but I pretty much walked swiftly, closed my eyes, listened to the rushing water, and soaked in that moment step after step closer to the finish.

FINALLY the arrows! the arrows to the finish...Every ounce of adrenaline, energy that I thought I didn't have, rushed through my body and I started running up the hill at 103 miles! The single track downhill section takes you that much closer to hear the finish line...taste the finish line. My tears were out of control. I had SO much joy knowing my hubz was following me into the finish of what was about to the biggest accomplishment of my life. I gave John a kiss, looked him in the eyes and said "Thank You"  and he shot off to the side as I ran pain-free, joyfully and effortlessly into the finish line of a very difficult 103.7 mile run. 34 hours and 35 mins later I achieved my goal.
running into love :)
Photo Left - Bobby Gill 2013.

a well earned high five.

One of my sweetest moments was giving Kevin Sayers a high five at the end.  I started on the wait list for the race at #64 and was accepted on the entrants list a week an half before the race. "Patience is a virtue." I truly can not thank Kevin enough for giving me the opportunity to run MMT as my first 100. This is such an unforgettable event and he does such a great job putting it on.

The love and support at the finish is so hard to put into words. There are so many people I met out on the trail there were genuinely happy to see me cross the finish. People that had no doubt I would finish. I was so excited to hug my family and see my friends I ran with the day before (and just couldn't catch up to ;) My dearest friend Leila drove into see me at the finish. She got a real taste of  what ultrarunning is all about it that day. I think she now understands why I do what I do after seeing me finish...

I know this was REALLY long and maybe drawn out a bit but these are the moments I remember. The highs and lows. I was blessed with a great opportunity to run this race and I took it and literally ran with it. I felt as though I was "in the moment" the whole time. I took in deep breaths of mountain air, relaxed to the sound of the whippoorwill calls, saw the most beautiful wild flowers, enjoyed the company of people around me, soaked in the smiles and words of encouragement from everyone around me. Most of all shared a memorable lifetime achievement with the man that's always by my side. I love you more than words will every explain babe.

Running in the woods, climbing peaks and valleys is where I feel like I am at my best. 
I am my happiest.

Again Thank you Kevin!! To all the volunteers this event wouldn't happen without you. To my family- I wouldn't have wanted anyone else out there smelling my stinky farts and watching me powder my butt lol. You are the only ones that can put up with my crazy antics. And I love you all SO much for that.  Friends and family that were cheering me on from home and believed in me all the way. Anxiously waiting for me to check into the next aid station. I know that feeling and Thank you! All of your energy kept me alive and positive.  My hubz I love you so much and can't thank you enough for ALWAYS being my side. Can't wait to have so many more adventures like this. You are my rock.

Massanutten I will be back again. You captured my heart. 

Photo by Tim Toogood


  1. Congrats on finishing a tough 100 race!!! Emily and I were tracking your progress all weekend long via VHTRC website. Hitting up TWOT on 6/29 if u and John would like to join me and a few crazies let me know, good traing for Grindstone. Cheers

  2. Great Write Up Gal, all of us Gambrill Park Trail Runners are so proud of you !

    Mike "O"

  3. How come your blogs always make me all teary eyed?! So incredibly proud sissy! The amount of motivation and determination is truly inspiring!

  4. Great report..Great race...So proud of you..

  5. I am happy to be a part of your amazing day. We are very lucky, you and I. I could not imagine a better Life/running partner. I am proud and I love you.

  6. Thank you everyone!! So glad you enjoyed the report. Very difficult to put this experience into words.

  7. Congratulations! Awesome Job!
    Elizabeth from Mountain Peak Fitness.