100 miles, 100 million thoughts

The weekend of Sept 7-8th 2013 I participated in my first ever 100 mile race, the Pinecreek Challenge in Wellsboro, PA.  It is probably the first and last 100 mile race I’ll do, I say probably because I know myself well enough to not count myself out to do something crazy again, or crazier than before. I constantly push that boundary of what is impossible, when in fact nothing truly is impossible if you put yourself in the right mind set and give yourself the adequate means to accomplish that goal.

I have to say I had no greater determination but to finish that race since my doctors told me it was the last ultra I should run in awhile until I got a few medical things sorted out. I honestly can say that I really thought that I would end up bailing about 70 miles in because at that point it would be dark and I’ve been terrified of the pitch black since I was little.  I also wasn’t sure how I’d do because I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the week of because my neighbor was partying every other day playing the music really loud that it shook the walls of my house.

My post on FB pre-race: everyone has a reason they run, some people, like myself run away from their fears & anxieties, the “demons” we hold inside of us because when you’re out there all your doubts and fears slip away & you are just one with your environment.

quiet the demons inside

quiet the demons inside

My weekend started when I left work a little early and then got stuck in traffic around Harrisburg,PA that it took me a good 30-45 minutes longer to get to Wellsboro than I had planned. I unpacked all my bags to see what I had. I made blister kits to put in my first aid kits I’d have in my drop bags, I packed extra powerade powder and even clothes because there was a 30% chance of rain overnight and staying dry is the only way to ward off blisters and chaffing.  Being the compulsively organized person I am I had packed all my bags at least a week prior to the race and had a checklist that I made to make sure I had everything I need.  I set out all my clothes, deodorant, body glide on the dresser of my hotel room. Once I had all my drop bags packed I took them out to my car so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning.  I took a shower, my medicine and I went to sleep but I kept waking up out of nervousness.

I actually set 3 different alarms to make sure that I got up at 4:30am so I could take my time getting situated and be out the door by 5am.  I had some excellent dreams friday night and I woke up refreshed and ready to go, though still slightly nervous but I kept telling myself I’d do what I could, that’s all I could ask of myself.  I chatted with a few people that I had done the race the year before (their first year) and said the course wasn’t bad and the volunteers were great, this settled my mind a little.

Me at the start area of the race ~5:45am

Me at the start area of the race ~5:45am

The morning of the start was really cold, it was about mid 40’s outside, enough that I needed to put on my capris over my shorts and put on a sweater from my car. We started at 6am and it was a bit dark so I put on my smaller headlamp that a friend gave me as a gag gift, that Tinkerbell headlamp did wonders until the sun came up! 🙂

I started my run with a guy next to me exclaiming “So far this is the longest 100 meters i’ve ever run!”, it was funny the first time he said it after the 10th time I heard it, not so much but I eventually lost him.  For the first 23 miles I was doing about a 10:30-11min/mile and told myself I needed to slow down or I’d burn out fast.

The first 23 miles were slightly boring because we ran to the end of the trail ~6 miles then back and forth 2 times each way until we reached 23-24 miles then headed south on the trail until we’d eventually turn around and come back.  I ended up picking up a deputy sheriff and a guy from Dublin around mile 15, the sheriff had run a few longer ultras like this so I kind of let him be my pacer because I liked his pace at that time, also he was rather fun to talk to, as was the guy from Dublin who’s family was crewing for him.  When I say crewing for those of you that don’t run, it basically means you have people that follow you on the course with all your food/supplies etc, some people have pacers as part of their crew.  I personally had no crew for this race at all. My family was picking me up when I was done and that was it.

guys i ran with for awhile, we found a natural spring on the path

guys i ran with for awhile, we found a natural spring on the path

natural spring

natural spring

I honestly can’t remember a lot of the conversations I had with different people along the way, but it was nice to have people to talk to or just listen to them talk for hours.

I have to say that I did learn a few things from my friend Hai’s recent 100miler up in Vermont, he gave me some good tips about efficiency in the aid stations and the best advice he gave me was “there is no try only do” which I kept in my head the whole time, you really don’t have to try you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and make forward progress.

My original goal was to get in as many miles as I could before it got dark, I knew that I’d slow down in the dark because if I was alone, I’d probably be freaking out.  At about half way through I decided to change my shoes because my feet were hurting a tad and I thought it was because they were a bit heavier so I switched to lighter mizunos.  I ended up picking up this woman from the mile 44 aid station until the next 2 aid stations around miles 54, her husband briefly stopped us before the mile 54 aid station to say he saw a bear cross the road. Sure enough, up on the side of the road was a mother bear and 2 cubs. I started to pray that I didn’t see them when I came back in the dark! I ended up making it just past the 2nd to last aid station on the way out before it got dark ~ 60 miles. I hit the 50 mile point a tad over 11 hours; which is a near personal best for me, my last 50 miler was 12 hrs 45 mins, decent chunk cut off.

hard to see but this is the bear cub crossing the road above the trail

hard to see but this is the bear cub crossing the road above the trail

The last aid station before the turn around was at the church, just a few miles before then I had linked up with a gal (Tiffany) and her pacer (Brian) who liked my pacing of  running for 5 minutes, walking 5 minutes ratio to keep myself going. I can say that the 1.5 miles to turn around was probably the longest 1.5 miles of my life. I stopped at the aid station after the turn around and waited for the people I had been running with so I wasn’t running alone.  I checked to make sure everything was in place, grabbed a long sleeve shirt because it was starting to get cooler.

After we turned around Brian decided to take me on as another person he was pacing, which i was very thankful for. I had no crew at all going into this, I think I was the only runner that didn’t have a crew for that race.  Brian went ahead of us and started to get some things from the aid stations ready and he’d take out water bottles and fill them while we’d use the port-o-potties and sat down a little.

I only got cell phone signal at 1 aid station that was mile 44 and mile ~80, when I got there each time I sent my dad a text message to let my family know where I was at so they knew they’d probably have to come up earlier because I was making better time than what I had planned. The first time through I texted my dad “bring tequila to finishline”, i was completely honest, if i was making it through i needed the tequila to kill the pain & celebrate this beast.

At mile 80 aid station Tiffany got a new pacer, at around 2am we came across a porcupine crossing the trail. It got scared it moved itself to place it’s spines towards us, we kept our lights on it and slowly walked past and it went into the woods.  I stayed with Tiff & her pacer for a good 10 miles but my Achilles was starting to really bother me so I slowed down. Then I was alone, my one headlamp had died so I was stuck with my one that wasn’t as bright and I still had another 1.5-2 hrs before the sun came up so I was praying that my headlamp would last or i’d be feeling my way around in the dark or I’d have to wait for someone behind me to run with them or try to catch up to Tiff.  At this point I was mentally and physically exhausted. I started to cry because I was in pain, I was tired, I just wanted the run to be over with, I just wanted to get to the next aid station.  Most of the aid stations were ~5-8 miles apart, this happened to be ~9 miles from the last station.  I was getting grumpy.

When I made it to the next aid station it was still dark, I grabbed a sandwhich and some mt dew, checked my Achilles again, filled my camelbak and thank the boyscouts then I was off for another 8 mile trek to the next aid station. I honestly can’t tell you how great it felt when the sun came out, though it was raining lightly I really didn’t care, I was no longer in the dark and I was slowly getting closer to the finish line. I knew I couldn’t stop more than 10 minutes at an aid station and that I could keep a 22min/mile pace and still make it in by 30 hours because I had gotten enough of a cushion early at the aid station cutoffs.

Coming into the last aid station I just shuffled along, my Achilles at this point was on fire. I wasn’t sure what was going on, I may have torn it but doubted that because i could still bend my foot. I probably bruised it and from the trail being banked it was probably me putting more force on my one side than the other so I kept trying to find more flat ground.

I stopped at the last aid station, by that time I was starving, so I ate another full sandwhich and got some gatorade and then slowly continued on. I got some gauze and medical tape and taped my Achilles a bit to make a buffer area so my shoe wasn’t rubbing against it so much.  I ended up running into the deputy sheriff i was running with early, he was with a guy that looked like a zombie. He ended up flying ahead now that the guy he was with had someone around him.

I did a lot of walking that last 3 miles, my Achilles was hurting so much that I just didn’t want to run anymore. I finally saw the end of the path where i knew the finish-line was coming up. I saw my dad and knew i was near the finish. I told him that I didn’t think I was going to run another 100 Miler, his response was “I’ve heard that before, so I don’t really believe you”  I got up enough energy to run through the finish and as soon as I was done I took a swig of Tequila.

at the finish

at the finish: 27 hours 50 minutes

I stretched a little and got in the car to go home, thank goodness my family came to pick me up because I started to cramp up in the car and needed to get out to stretch. While stopping my car battery ended up dying and my dad stayed with the car to get a jump and go get a new battery.  I got home and ate something briefly then took a nap, I didn’t hear my alarm and ended up sleeping for 4 hours then woke up, ate some pizza and a few hours later went to sleep.

The next day I had to drive back to DC and go to work. I stopped at the grocery store and got supplies for a baking gig I have coming up in October. I’m sure that was a sight to see, a small female gimping around and lugging 50lb bags of baking supplies into a cart then trying to put them in the car was also fun.  The drive back wasn’t that bad but I can say that I was fairly stiff for a few days.

All in all the experience wasn’t horrible, but it is not for everyone as it is a significant mental exercise. I do have to say that if I ever run another 100 mile race I will make sure to have a good crew with me.  As for now that goal is out of the way and I’m making less lofty goals, well kind of. I’m working towards qualifying for the 2015 Boston Marathon. I have a good 30 minutes to cut off my marathon time, then again I haven’t really “raced” a marathon yet because my PR at Baltimore was 4:14 but I ran the day after and was training for an ultra so I didn’t run all out.  Pretty sure I’m around or just under a 4 hour marathon now.  For now I’m taking a chance to recover a bit and then going to Disney in October.  Next goal races are the Baltimore marathon (Oct 12th) and Nike Women’s Marathon (Oct 20th) were I’ll see how close I am to the BQ and then work over the winter to get my times down.

Happy Trails,

Coach G

Ps: a few more pictures from my race

lots of toads on the course at night, almost stepped on a few!

lots of toads on the course at night, almost stepped on a few!

pretty bridge around mile 40

pretty bridge around mile 40


red salamander

red salamander

finisher mug

finisher mug


September 16, 2013. Uncategorized.

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