Not only did I (finally!) finish a 100-miler, I fell in love with a race. Falling in love can’t be entered into lightly, which is why it took me more than 300k steps to decide that this was really it – the real thing.
Is there such a thing as a “perfect race”?? Especially one that is run from the back-of-the-pack? If there is, then I definitely ran it and will recommend this race to first-timers every chance that I get.
Race registration was smooth and seamless, and Wolf Hills Brewery captures the spirit of the race – country with a little bit of rock-n-roll and a healthy dash of old school punk rock mixed in for good measure.
We stayed at a house that was a few hundred steps from the start line. The 7am start time was so ideal, particularly since there was no drive time or confusing directions (or confused GPS) to stress me out.
The race briefing from Jason Green was seriously the best that I’ve ever heard. He put the “brief” in briefing, no messing around. It set the standard for the day – no messing around. His rallying cries for never giving up had me tearing up. I knew it was going to be a great race.
The first 15 miles or so were all downhill, even though it was very subtle compared to what I’m used to, I forced myself to maintain an 11-minute pace through Damascus.
I saw my crew for the first time in Damascus. One of the great features of this race is that the aid stations are easy to access, so easy to get some ample crew time in. I felt extremely fortunate that I had personalized service at nearly every aid station.
There were a couple of long sections (between white top and Taylor Valley and Alvarado and Abingdon) that I was expecting to get water but read the AS chart wrong, these are crossings not aid stations. So heads up, carry enough water for about 10 miles. The Alvarado to Abingdon section was a bit more exposed than the rest of the course.
AS volunteers were truly incredible, and the ASs had everything I could possibly want. The Damascus AS was a party, push yourself to keep moving and refrain from partying too hard. Couldn’t help but dance with the unicorn each time that I ran through Damascus.
By the time that I got to mile 70 or so at White Top, I told a volunteer that my right hip was no longer working and asked for advice. She looked at me and offered a hug, and when I accepted she gave me a real hug! Then she spun me around and told me to look at the sky, which was full of stars, and told me that they were all in the sky for me.
She was right – there was not much I could do about the hip – finding the magic inside would be my only hope.
I flew out of that AS but then started struggling about 10 miles down the trail. I had to stop for stretch breaks and (twice!) I had to curl up on the side of the trail in a fetal position. My pacer did a great job of keeping me distracted, but by the time I got into Damascus I felt completely mentally and physically spent.
I was convinced that I would drop at mile 84/Damascus because I had tried so hard to turn it around with no success. An angel of a volunteer met me as I walked toward the AS and asked me my name. He told me that he went through exactly what I was going through the week before. I started listening to him.
Pretty soon, there were several volunteers trying to convince me to keep going. I had learned my lesson from previous races, I stopped the head chatter and looked deeply into their eyes, trying to take in every word.
Meanwhile, my pacer went to the car to get my second pacer and told her that I was about to drop. Second pacer was not having it, I knew I was in for it. I turned my head off, as the volunteers suggested, and only listened to my pacer.
She got me back on the trail and told me what to do. Pretty soon, we were both shouting and charging forward. We made it to Alvarado and (mistakenly) were told that I’d missed the cutoff. As I was crawling into the back of the car, someone realized that it was a mistake and race organizers gave me the green light.
I jumped back on the trail and fought my way through the next few miles. The sweeper came to meet us and told me that I was in jeopardy of missing the mile 96 cutoff and spent several miles pushing me harder. I did everything he said.
When we finally approached the finish line, volunteers had formed a human bridge for me to run under and I got a big hug from Jason Green, who handed me my very first 100-mile buckle.
This race has it all – beautiful trail and countryside, amazing volunteers and race organizers, incredible aid stations, and magic, magic, magic. If you are a first-timer, believe in the magic and go get after some big miles. In the right environment with the right support, everything is possible.