Monday, September 9, 2013

Stubborn is as stubborn does, or how I ran 100 miles.

I did it.  I ran 100 miles.  27 hours and 24 minutes.  I didn't do it alone, and I maybe didn't do it well, but I did it.

A few minutes after the finish with my pacers and crew - Brian who paced me 39ish miles, Pat who crewed and paced me 23ish miles, and Pat's wife Karen, who was awesome at crewing and who's smile and kindness just kept me pounding away until I could see them at the next aid station.

Wellsboro, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area is amazing countryside.  The town is picturesque, and so is the land, with trails and hills and the "Grand Canyon" of the state, an extremely beautiful tree lined gorge that can be biked along, kayaked through, hiked above, or, run along.  For 100 miles.  If, you know, you're one of those crazy ultra runner type folks.  Like me.

We had a 4 hour drive to the hotel near the race start.  We stopped at this really cute restaurant on the way, called "The Log Cabin."  The staff squeezed us in, since they are a small place and normally take reservations, and we ate food.  I was.. unwise in my choice of the chicken parmesan, which though was delicious, led to problems later in the evening.  I was panicking about getting to where packet pickup was in time (a precursor of my obsession with time and cutoffs, I think), but we got to the store, grabbed the packet and went to the hotel.

The hotel was great and clean, and I called Patrick and his wife, Karen, who were acting as Pacer and Crew for me, to check in.  They would be in town in about an hour, around 9, and since it was 8, I got a shower, laid out all the gear I would need for the next day, and then Pat and Karen were there.  We spent a few minutes with basic instruction, then all headed to bed.

Then I woke up at 12:30 with awful heartburn.  It was bad.  I paced a bit, tried to drink some gatorade, and I hadn't brought any tums with me.  I ended up emptying the contents of my stomach, and as a result, felt MUCH better.  I went back to sleep until the alarm went off at 4:15.

Sky is starting to brighten just before we start the race at 6:00 am on Saturday, September 7th.

Gear on, hubby had gotten me coffee, we woke the little guy who was up and bright eyed and excited to see me off.  It was chilly in the morning, but I wore arm sleeves, and no headlamp.  I figured I'd warm up pretty fast, and didn't really think I'd need the headlamp on the flat course starting out.  My stomach felt solid, but I didn't want to take any risks beyond the coffee, so after a few nibbles of a pb sandwich I had brought from home, I decided not to eat anymore.  I didn't really have heart burn from the night before, but my throat had a lingering sensation, and I wanted everything settled before I tried anything else.  And I felt good otherwise.

Oh, and the other wrench, for good or ill, was that my normal female monthly cycle had chosen Friday to arrive, but I'll just say it didn't cause me any issues on race day, and leave it at that.

Lining up for pre-race info.

My boys enduring the cold to see me off.

Jason and Eli saw me off, and the race started.  I went out easy, wearing my garmin, carrying sunblock, 2 bottles of drink on my waist pack, as well as gels, s-tabs, a couple baby wipes, and my ipod.  The day started, the race started and I felt great.

 The sun peeking out under the low morning fog.  The fields and farms along the path were beautiful.

 Now the first 20 or so miles were an out and back section that I would do twice.  I got into a nice rhythm and was enjoying the scenery.  I passed some people, some people passed me, I made some comments about the weather, and eventually ended up sticking with this nice woman named Patty for the rest of the out and back sections.  It was nice to have the company to babble back and forth to, and we picked up another young woman who stuck with us for a while, then she pulled ahead.

I still was feeling iffy about eating, so I kept hydrating and nibbled on a cookie the second pass through the first aid station.  The cookie was great (people were swearing by the spice cookies).  We cheered everyone on as we kept passing the same people a few times on the out and back.  The scenery was really beautiful with the fog lingering over the hills, and I put some sunblock on my face and arms, not wanting to risk the burn doing me in later in the day.  My stomach finally started to argue me into feeding it, so I had a gel, and about 15 minutes later, had another, and everything was great.

When I finished the first out and back section, Jason was there with Eli, and I gave him my arm sleeves.  The second time, Pat and Karen were there to see how I was doing.  It was really nice to see such friendly faces.  I grabbed some peanuts and some coke for caffeine, and went on with Patty.

Running in after 20ish miles with Patty to be greeted by Patrick and Karen.

The course opened up a little more into some wider fields and more open with the sun coming out.  The next aid station was about 4 miles, so we kept chatting, and Patty's husband rode up the course to say hi on his bike.  We had gone over 20 miles, and my legs were feeling it a bit, but otherwise, I felt great.

We reached the Aid Station at mile 25, and Patty didn't linger, as she was shooting for under 24 hours.  I had no desire to hold her back at all and am just grateful she pulled me into such a nice pace for 25 miles.  I had some food, chatted a little with Patrick and Karen, who checked to see if my bottles needed to be filled, brought me some food and more gels, and then sent me back off into the wilds.  Patrick agreed it was wise to let Patty go, as that pace would burn me out fast.  The stretch and minor rest I had at the aid station was great, and I was off in a short time.

Patty and I coming into the Darling Run Aid station at roughly mile 25.

Karen waiting patiently for me to arrive.

The next 20 miles were probably the most difficult for me, at least mentally.  I was feeling great, with minor aches that come from having run so far, but nothing that was bothering me.  I knew the next 20 miles would be lonely.  The next aid station was not crew accessible, so I wouldn't see Karen or Patrick, and then there would be another 8 or so miles until the mile 44 Aid station where I would pick up Brian, my first pacer.

I put on my headphones and started up some music.  The course was by no means lonely.  I passed lots of Amish and Mennonite folks and bikers and a couple of other runners and I kept leapfrogging each other.  I put my headphones in and listened to some music, stopped and took some pictures, and enjoyed the scenery.  I was tired, but I told myself I would run at least until mile 33, because then I would have run the entire first 3rd of the race.  Then I could walk and run the next third, which would give me a lot of walking time that last third when I would probably need it.

I was doing ok eating gels and drinking, but my bottles were getting low.  I kept peering around the next corner, wondering when the next aid station would pop up, and starting to get a little concerned.  Just as I finished the last of my water, there it was, manned by scouts.  I asked them to fill my bottles with gatorade in one, water in the other, and I ate part of a cheese sandwich.  They also had chocolate milk, which I had been drinking at the aid stations.  I also had some coke to give me a little caffeine, and as I walked out of the aid station I had some gummy bears.

Lonely, but gorgeous, views.

I walked and ran the next few miles, a little more running than walking, but not as much as before.  I was listening to some podcasts, and mentally I was ok, but I was more lonely than I had been.  Then around the corner, I see a familiar guy on a bike towing a trailer with a little kid.  Jason and Eli!  They rode with me for the last couple miles to the Aid Station, chatting about their day, cheering me on, telling me how good I looked, showing me cars.  It was the little boost I needed.  When we got close to the Blackwell Aid station at mile 44, I could see Patrick and Brian waving to me.  I gave them the good old "WOOO" and ran in.

 Coming into the Blackwell aid station.

I took a little more time at Blackwell.  I was having some chafing, so I took a few minutes to address that.  Brian and Patrick and Karen were helping me out, filling my bottles, asking what I wanted to eat.  I ate another cheese sandwich, had some more caffeine, and did a double-check on my gear.  I left my ipod and my garmin behind, and set off with Brian.  The one thing I forgot to do was to apply sunblock again, and the clouds broke away and the sky brightened.  Brian and I chatted happily, he asked how I was doing, we stopped and checked on a guy who was having some issues with food, and we saw Pat and Karen, who were exploring one of the local attractions until they met back up with us in about 8 miles at the next crew accessible aid station.

Really neat bridge near Cedar Run.

We continued on, and most of the way out of Blackwell we were being passed by 100k runners.  I was watching for a friend of mine, Roger, who was running the 100k.  I kept peering up ahead of me, and finally I recognized him and gave a loud "WHOO."  I ran up, gave him a hug, and just seeing him for a minute and encouraging each other on was great.  Part of the ultra running family I've gathered these last few wonderful years.

 We reached Cedar Run aid station, and Brian sat me down, filled my bottles and I think I ate a turkey and cheese sandwich. A couple of the ladies had accents, and everyone was very nice.  As we were leaving, a bunch of ladies on a porch asked what we were doing, and were astonished and not believing that I was heading for 100 miles.  I told them I'd see them on the porch when we came back if they were still awake.  (They weren't there next time around)

During most of this time, we were running a bit here and there.  My chafing hadn't gotten much better, but I was ignoring it.  My feet and legs were tired and sore, but there were no sharp pains, my knees were holding up, but I was having major pain in my right shoulder due to reaching back for my waist pack all day.  Brian was keeping me moving, and I was starting to worry about cutoffs.  We needed to be to the mile 60 aid station at Cammal by 11:30.  We were well ahead of schedule.

Coming into the Slate Run aid station.

We got to mile 55, the Slate Run aid station and Patrick and Karen were there.  Just seeing them as I was coming in was enough to speed me up and make me smile each time.  I came in, and Brian suggested I change my socks, which I did.  I also ditched my waist pack and decided just to go to a hand held.  Patrick handed me a toasted cheese sandwich, and I drank more caffeinated soda... I just can't recall what type.  I was pretty beat at this point, but happy to be halfway done.  I tried to fix my chafing issue again, and helped for the moment.  I really wanted to get to the turn around and be on my way back to the finish.  Patrick and Karen were setting off to get some food and would meet us at the next aid station at mile 60.  I told them to take their time, since we would hit that aid station twice, and I wanted to make sure they were taking care of themselves too.

A new friend running with us.

After slate run, another runner of the 100 miler joined us.  She was a very nice girl, and had her garmin set to beep every 5 minutes so she was walking 5 and running 5.  I thought this was a good strategy, so we hung with her, since she was going our pace.  She was nervous about running in the dark, so we stuck together for quite a while.  The longest she had run before this was 44 miles, and she didn't have a pacer or crew, so Brian and I helped her out as much as we could.  She was talkative, and made the time pass.

We came to the next aid station, which was unfortunately, down a set of stairs in a basement.  My legs weren't happy. Patrick and Karen were there, and I was happy to see them.  They had all my stuff, and I wanted to change clothes, but I decided to wait until after we hit the turn around.  We all left, it was getting dark, but it was only a mile and a half until the turn around, and then we would get back to the aid station and I could change into new clothes and eat some food.

Out of the aid station and towards the turn around, I sprinted about 20 feet.  My large twitch muscles agreed, and it felt good to stretch out, even for just a minute.  I slowed back down and Brian and our new friend caught up.  We mixed running and walking and it was sprinkling.  It seemed to take forever to get to that little turn around sign, but we made it and headed back.

Brian stooped down on the trail and picked up a huge toad!  It was so cute, and it really perked my spirits right up.  We started seeing them all over the trail, and were careful to watch a bit more where we stepped.  I was using my headlamp at this point, on a low red setting. With the trail so wide, not much more was needed, and the brighter white of my headlamp was making my glasses foggy and blurry.

We made it back to the Cammal aid station, mile 63 now.  I gathered up my things - I was sluggish with tired, and knew I was looking a little out of it as I looked through my gear for what I was going to change into.  I wasn't being very communicative, and asked Brian and Pat to find me soup.  Karen went upstairs with me and stood outside of the full sized bathroom while I was getting changed in case I needed anything.

I washed my face in the sink, and it felt amazing.  I changed all my clothes except my sports bra (which I wasn't having any issues with so I didn't want to change it).  I changed into a loose long sleeved shirt for the night, new underwear and new shorts, powdering myself and trying once again to fix my chafing issues.

B-man taping up a toe for me that was hurting when I changed shoes.

I decided to change shoes into something more cushioned, but when I stood up and walked around, my right pinky toe was hurting.  I was standing and staring at my feet contemplating if the pain was bad enough to fix, or if i should just run through, and Brian and Patrick were looking at me, and asked me if I was going to throw up.  I told them what the problem was, and Brian sat me down and doctored the toe.  There was no blister, but it was sore on the side. The taping helped, so I set out again, enthusiastically looking forward to being through the night and picking up Patrick at mile 80.

Brian and I setting out again from Cammal.

Things got a little groggy for me after that.  We set out mostly walking, trying to keep our pace brisk.  I kept falling back, and the change of shoes was a bit loose at the back.  It wasn't bothering me too much, but I was worried about it, and told Brian I would change back to my other shoes at the next aid station.
This is where the really tough grind began.  It was raining a bit more, and I was getting grumpy and worrying about my pace.  Brian and Gwen were faster walkers than me, and I would start out keeping up with them, but then I would fall back, then jog a little to catch back up.  Brian would slow down, make sure I was ok, and we would start going a bit faster again.  It was a 6 mile slog to Slate Run, where Pat and Karen were waiting.  I was tired, I was hurting and tired of being chafed.  Patrick brought my shoes, and I don't remember if I ate anything.  I was asked if i wanted tomato soup, but declined.  I changed my shoes, and got up and walked back up to the trail when I was ready, figuring Gwen and Brian would catch up to me fast.  I was a little down because I felt like I couldn't break into a run; Gwen's achilles was paining her.  We had 11 miles until we would see Patrick and Karen again, and it seemed like it was taking forever.  I kept asking Brian about cutoffs and pace, though we were doing ok.  I tried to put some running in here and there, but I couldn't sustain a good pace.

Then I looked up and saw that the stars were out and amazingly beautiful.  My stomach was feeling a bit off, so I chewed some gum and then had a peppermint, and I just gazed up at the stars, and tried not to go off the side of the trail.   I spent a lot of the time that I was falling back looking for toads, and looking at the wildlife I could see in the dark.  We saw a couple deer too.  Those miles in the dark were long - even after the Cedar Run aid station, which I also made a quick trip.  Ready to be done.  I was still trying to be in good spirits, but I was in a cloud of tired.  I was quiet, and Gwen was talkie, so I didn't feel like I needed to talk, which was probably not great for me.  The woods also closed in and then it clouded up, so I couldn't even see the stars anymore.

We kept hoping Blackwell aid station would appear, when suddenly a friendly face appeared from the gloom.   Patrick had ran south a few miles to meet us!  I was happy to see him, and it was a good boost to pick it up a bit.

We made it to Blackwell.  Only 20 miles left, and it was 3:30 in the morning.  I was 2 hours ahead of the cutoff, but it was stressing me out.  We went out of Blackwell, and Brian ran a little bit more with us to get a last little bit of mileage.  Brian finally said he would turn around.  I gave him a giant hug, and he would be there at the finish after he caught a little bit of sleep.

A lot of walking was now happening.  The next aid station was a long ways away, and I was so sleepy more than anything.  Patrick was encouraging, even when I was nagging him about pace.  We chatted about this and that, and mostly just having his company was good.  He stayed beside me, and when I asked him for something I had him carry he had it right there for me.  We almost bonked into a porcupine, but it scrambled off of the trail pretty quickly.

I was zoning out, slowing down, hallucinating aid stations where there were none, and worrying about cut offs.  It seemed like the boy scout aid station would never appear.  So I ran.  I needed to run.  I ran pretty hard for as tired as I was for at least 1/4 of a mile... it might have been longer or shorter, but I needed to run.  It was kind of crazy - my legs all of a sudden felt great, the all-over body aches I was having stopped, and I ran strong and well.

I kept the off and on running until we reached the aid station.  I had run out of gels about halfway through, so was really looking forward to some food.  The pickings were minimal.  There was still plenty of food there, but nothing looked appetizing.  I had been hoping for a gel, something simple that I didn't have to think about chewing and could suck down for quick calories, but I settled on half of a pb sandwich and some hot cocoa.  I don't think I sat down, I just grabbed the food and walked.  Patrick filled my water bottle, and we were back out.  I ran as much as I could manage after that.

The sky was getting lighter, and I kept pounding out as much as I could.  I started to wake up a bit more, and Patrick and I were enjoying the scenery.  I started playing games with myself to run to a certain tree, or after we hit the next mile marker.  I also tried changing the gait of my step to reach a little further, just to change the muscles up a bit.  It all was serving to mix it up enough that I was staying awake.

I was still hallucinating aid stations, much to both Patrick and my entertainment, but eventually we made it to Darling Run, 4 miles to go.  I was well ahead of time.  It was 8:30 in the morning.  I had 3.5 hours to go 4 miles.  The aid station offered me hot cocoa and scrambled eggs, and I decided I could sit and relax a bit.  I was staring at my feet, Patrick standing nearby, and I asked, "How much time do I have to get in under 28 hours?"  "You have an hour and a half."  "Lets go!"

I finished the eggs, burnt my tongue trying to finish the hot cocoa, and we were out of there.  I didn't run much, but I tried.  After maybe a mile, we spotted Jason and Eli on the bikes.   A little while after, Brian joined us as well.  I was shuffling along at a walk, when Jason peered behind at another 100 miler that I had passed earlier in the morning.  We were about a mile from the finish, and Jason said, "She's starting to run..."

Talk about lighting a fire.  Brian and Patrick and Jason laughed at me as I peeled off.  I didn't run very long, but I put a bit more distance between me and the person behind me.  It was so great to come in with everyone with me.  We spotted Karen in her purple jacket as we came around the final corner, and I opened it up and sprinted to the finish, Brian running ahead to capture the moment, Patrick cheering me on, and Jason coming up from behind.  It was amazing.  My legs felt good to stretch it out, and I crossed the finish line in 27:25:02, well under 28 hours, and well under the cut off of 30 hours.

 Bringing it home.

So here I am - the proud finisher of the Pine Creek 100 mile challenge.  In summation, I don't think it really could've gone much better.  I had a few issues, a few learning experiences, but I'm happy how it went.  I loved my crew and pacers, my husband and son were there with me and cheering me on, and all the friends and family that couldn't be there in person were rooting me on from far away.  I know I am one stubborn girl, and I think this is proof of the tenacity one can have when one puts one's mind to something.   Dreams and goals are real, and I went from being a chubby girl that was happy about running one mile without stopping, to running 100 miles in 27 and a half hours.


Jeff Heller said...

Truly truly amazing. Love that you took the time to chronicle it so thoroughly, and am especially glad for all the support you had through this undertaking. You've come such a long way, and it's beyond impressive.

Ash said...

I couldn't be more proud of you, sweetie. You're amazingly amazing!!!

Ash said...
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