You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.~ Dr Seuss (a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Geisel)
Before the adrenaline wears off I thought I should recap this weekend's event, my second 100 mile finish.
This past weekend I embraced a feeling that was more powerful and pure than anything I ever thought I could experience, complete and utter confidence. The week leading up to the race my nerves were low, I have never felt more ready for anything, beside the day I said "I do" to the special man by my side.
This podcast specifically I may have listened to ten times in the last four months:
- Breathing, am I breathing to hard that I feel overworked?
- What do I need to do right now for me to get to where I want to be?
- Listen to your body
- And smile. Smile coming into the aid stations. Smile as you pass other runners. A smile translates to positive energy and attitude even if you feel like shit (to put it bluntly) it will change your game.
In March I ran the Terrapin 50k; elevation gain 7000 ft, finishing time 5:51. The last weekend in April I completed Promise Land 50k with 7800 ft of elevation gain in 6:26. (I found myself actually "racing" Terrapin with the top 10 females...which was totally new territory. At Promise Land I stuck to my plan to not get wrapped up in the “racing game” and keep this as a training run since I had just ran Glacier only 2 weeks prior and I was still recovering.)
In April, I completed the Glacier Ridge 50 miler in 9:10. The elevation for this race was around 7500 feet of gain.
This brings me to MMT, it’s about 18000 feet of elevation gain. So based on the finishing time at these three races I was able to figure that I could be at Elizabeth Furnace (mile 33) anywhere from 6-8 hours.
The morning of we couldn’t have had more perfect weather, in the mid 40's to 50's. I had my husband and sister with me to take me to the start. Right from the very start I felt calm and comfortable. Usually I don't listen to music at the beginning but, this time I just felt I wanted to the be in the zone. I hugged my hubz and sister and stepped foot in the pack. Put two headphones in waited for the feet in front of me to start moving. And I was off on a 103 mile journey. The first 3 miles are rolling hills on forest road. I was looking forward to this section to warm up the legs, get the blood moving and shake it out. In this very first mile right to the very last I started telling myself "listen to your body" and started my mantra of asking myself "am I comfortable?" The hills felt easy to trot up so I continued on entering the Massanutten trail. The toughest section in the beginning 25 miles, in my opinion, is just getting to Edinburg
as its still dark and kind of difficult to get a real good flow going over this technical section. The sun started to rise as I was approaching Edinburg and I was thinking to myself how lucky I am to get to do this, I have so much support and people all over rooting for me and I had my sister and husband out here supporting me on this journey.
It was going to be a beautiful day as the weather was calling for high 60's and nothing but sunshine!
The next two sections before Elizabeth Furnace are very runnable. I teamed up with a couple guys on and off taking about how the were feeling, their running experiences and what got them there that day. Talking to the other runners helped break the monotony of the same 3 Black Keys songs that I couldn't stop listening over and over again. Something about these few songs were just the right beat and right mix of goodness to go with my pace.
I arrived at Elizabeth Furnace just under 7 hours which was perfect for my projected time. Right in the middle. When I got to EF, I indulged in some Pringles, Fruit Blend and refilled Tailwind. Asked myself again "am I comfortable?" "Do I need to dial back?" knowing it was still early, only mile 33, the answer was I felt good and comfortable.
So the next part of my plan, projected time for Habron (mile 54.) Knowing my finishing times at Glacier and the 50Ks I gave myself a projected time anywhere from 10 to 12 hours to get to this AS.
The one section I knew was going to be one of the toughest was the 9 mile section from Veach to Indian Grave. The climb up Veach is very long and steep. I made sure I was hiking strong, consistent and steady all the way and paying close attention to how much I was drinking as it was around 3 o'clock and it was getting hotter throughout the day. As I was hiking I didn't feel overworked just tired. It was a long section and I think visualizing and mentally preparing before hand helped me to keep moving right along.
|Photo Credit: Paul Encarnacion|
I knew I had about 4 miles of road to get Habron(mile 54) and I was feeling good just trotting right along. I was right on point with my projected time goal as I arrived at Habron just around 11 hrs 30 mins. This plan I created for myself really helped me to feel like I was accomplishing more than just running the miles but it was keeping me in check and reminding me that I really do know my body. I know exactly what I am capable of without pushing the limits.
These next two sections were probably the most important part of my plan as one of the sections is the longest section of the whole race. The second, in my opinion is one of the least runnable sections of the whole race. Especially on this particular day. I wanted to make it to mile 70, the line before dark. (Last year I made it to this AS at 11pm)
|"gross these feet are SO nasty" Photo Credit: Mike O|
The section from Camp Roosevelt to Gap Creek was a really tough section as I predicted. I was projecting this to take me about two hours. Its only 5.6 miles but VERY difficult to get a good flow going with running. Since there was a huge rain storm the Thursday prior to race the water, mud, creek like conditions made it nearly impossible to run any of this. I kept up a pretty good pace knowing that it was getting close to dark and my goal was to get to Gap Creek before dark. After plugging through the 5 mile creek bed I arrived at Gap Creek according to plan in 1:45 just under what I predicted.
Coming into Gap Creek made the extra push I had all day SO worth it. John, my sister and the “running family” were all there cheering me in. I could hear everyone yelling as approached “there’s that lil redhead!” The greeting into this aid station made it very difficult to hold back my tears of joy knowing that I had so much support from everyone here and I made to the line. AND I still had my reserves left to rock it out with John all night.
Leaving Gap Creek my legs were feeling really good, no major issues. However, I knew I was a little behind on my calories and my stomach was bloated. My answer to the question “am I still comfortable?” was still yes at this point and I had a smile on my face.
From this point on I didn’t have a projected time goal. I figured I would have set myself up for a strong finish if I got in according to my plan and stayed focus on “my box.” I felt even more confident to have John with me to encourage me where I needed it.
|let your light shine bright!|
After climbing and descending Bird Knob my next major challenge was Scothorn Gap. I remember this section being a complete sufferfest last year. This 8.9 mile section was the second to last real push I needed to break sub 29 hours. John informed me I really need to push hard up this climb and not do a death march otherwise I would becoming in around 29 or 30 hours. According to my plan, I gave myself a wide range that I thought I would finish in, anywhere from 26 to 30 hours.
Checking in with myself and staying inside my box helped me to feel as good as I did. The only thing stopping me, which is kind of a major thing, was the sleep walking. I trained really hard for this and this was the moment at mile 90 I knew I had what it took to do more because I was prepared. All my training prepared me for this right here. John’s encouragement at this moment helped me to dig deeper than I ever knew I could and I did work!
Hands on knees step after step pushing every step to the top. I climbed Scothorn, I what I believe is a very difficult 3 mile climb, in less than 30 minutes at mile 90! It was bittersweet knowing that was my last real major climb besides Jawbone. (insert chuckle laugh)
As we were descending from Scothorn, the sun was rising and the sky was a rich, beautiful fiery magenta and orange. We could see the sun come up over the ridge line and I checked in myself once again and asked “am I comfortable?” My answer this time was, I couldn’t be more! I was with my husband descending through these beautiful mountains with this picturesque sunrise and I just pushed myself harder than I ever thought I was capable of with my thoughtful, kind, caring, patient husband there to encourage me every step of the way. He brought out the better in me, a stronger one that I did not know existed.
From this point on John and I were just doing work. He kept me moving faster than I thought I ever could this late in the race. That same confidence that I had at mile 1, was still there it was just a little beat down. John’s encouragement totally made up for it that slighlty beaten version. My plan was all coming together as we started to get closer to Gap Creek the second time. We realized I was looking at more of a 28 hour finish if I pushed. My calories were good, hydration was good (as I was peeing like every 20 mins!) stomach was still very bloated and my legs were surprising me. I kept telling John I can’t believe I feel this good, his response was “that is because you trained for this, this moment right here.”
It was now completely daylight which was such a renewed energy. After seeing my sister at Gap Creek 2, I had so much energy and could taste the finish. John started cranking out the numbers again and realized that we had 1 hr and 45 mins to come in sub 28. I was in shock that was even a possibility. So knowing what we had left the climb up Jawbone, the 2 mile downhill and the 3.5 of road we felt confident to pull this off. On the climb up Jawbone we said “hi” and “bye” to Ryan Nebel as he literally just blew right pass us. On his way by he encouraged me that I could get in sub 28 as that was his same goal. He told me if I get to the ridge line in 20 mins I got in the bag. Thank you Ryan!
After reaching the top I was so stoked because it literally was all downhill from here. Unfortunately, this 2 mile downhill section is not at all one of those sweet, single track runnable down hills. Its like someone decided to drop a big FU and dump every rock you just tripped over for the last 100 miles and put it in your way, I dug deep for patience, tripping a lot not able to get a good flow but, just kept moving as John encouraged “you got this babe just keep it moving.”
Finally, reaching the road I recall last year when I hit this section and I was doing nothing else but the dead man shuffle. The bottoms of my feet felt like there were nails in them and there was little to no running going on. This year was a whole other game. I was running this! It was SO hard because I truly couldn’t pick up the pace any faster than I was doing but I wanted sub 28 SO bad. I did everything I could to just put mind over matter, think about my training, my plan how it completely worked and to use all grit and determination that I had left to cross this finish line with a smile and to be healthy.
|"Holy shit did that just happen"|
I started to realize I just PR’d a 100 mile race by 6 and half hours. Which was completely blowing my mind. It’s because I listened to my body. Not just during this race but during my training. I took care of it, I let it heal when it needed to. I built this machine to do exactly this and do it well.
Running into the finish line is a feeling difficult to put into words. There is no pain, the feeling of going through the lows and overcoming them with much better highs is something that so many people will never get to experience. I couldn’t be more grateful for that. The fact that I get to share this special bond, this very special feeling with my husband is something I will always hold so dear. The finish line with my sister there made it that much sweeter. Family and friends that are out there supporting you in this crazy sport is something so priceless. I crossed the finish line in 27:57 exceeding any expectation I had for myself. Because really the only expectation I had was to cross the line with a smile and to be healthy doing it.
A lot of people asked me why I had a 6+ hour PR because last year as my first 100 my only goal was to finish with a smile and be healthy. This year, I got to know myself better, listen to my body. I set goals, not expectations and was open to the fact that at any moment something could change and I need to be open and except that. This year I had a plan and it worked. If it didn’t work I would be ok with that and learn for next time.
I can’t thank Kevin enough for putting on a phenomenal race. This is my second finish and will NOT be my last. As I sat at the finish enjoying very well-deserved beer I saw Kevin hug every single one of the runners as they crossed the finish line. We are gross, smelly, nasty individuals when we come across that line but, he doesn’t care. He is the first one that gets to give you a respectable, well-done hug. That right there is the true definition of this sport.
To all the volunteers, thank you!. You make this whole thing possible. You all out did yourself. The thoughtfulness is unreal. You all make sure there is virtually everything available for us and you go out of your way to make foods that accommodate EVERYONE. As a vegetarian, I must say the Butternut soup at picnic was my favorite and those vegan wraps, amazing!
What did I learn:
- 5 min naps on the road at mile 90+ are life changing
- A smile gets you a long way
- Your probably stronger than you think you are but listen to your body
To all the runners Congrats. Being in this club is pretty damn special. Recover well and Cheers.
As always, Happy Trails and thanks for reading.