I cried because I had little sleep because of a backed up toilet and what I think was a rabid deer, until I met a man who had driven 10 hours and slept in his car with his family to run this race….
That being said, the other lesson I learned was that sticking to a plan actually worked. First, on training: I knew there would be hills and I knew it wouldn’t be as bad as Louisville, but my hill and strength sessions seems to have paid off. Even the steep hills (the worst coming later in the race) didn’t have me gasping for air or pausing every few steps like fish at the Eiffel Tower (metaphors aren’t my strong point). But enough about me, here’s my report.
- Sleep? Check (kind of). The family came down and we stayed in a “cabin” rather than camping. However, we had to move rooms due to a rodent incident and then the toilet backed up in the second room. The net result was about 5 hours of sleep (about 4 ½ more than the last race, so I was loving it!)
- Water/Fueling? Check. I would only drink water, eat at the aid stations and drop an S-Cap an hour (it was pretty cool outside, so I didn’t need to overdose on sodium). I also used the Camelbak Octane XCT (NFI) with a 3 liter bladder so I would only have to stop when I wanted to. I also carried a few waffles in case I got caught starving between two aid stations.
- Drop bags? Check. We had the opportunity to have two drop bags, one at 10 miles and one at 20. Since it was going to be wet and muddy, I had a pair of socks and shoes in the 10 mile bag and the same in the 20. My Hokas were in the 20 mile bag just in case I felt I would need the extra cushioning to help me through the last 10 miles.
So, back to the start.
Leg 1- 3.8 mi- “I’ve Been Slimed” My plan was to take the first hill (mud and 500 feet of elevation gain) slowly. I planned 20 min miles, I did 14 ½. The mud was pretty bad, but having run the ½ marathon here in 2011, I knew what to expect. From there, I finished off the first 4 miles in just under an hour. Ahead of my schedule, but not killing myself. The aid station had bananas, so I picked up my first meal of the day.
Legs 2-5 14.1 mi- Various ups and downs, some nice views as we ran around a lake. Walked the hills when they got a bit too steep, ran the downs. My plan was to be at a little over 4 hours through 18 miles. By the 18th mile, I was at 4 hours, 13 mins. It was like I planned it! I will admit that about mile 15, I started focusing on the drop bag at mile 20. I had passed up the 10 mile drop bag because my feet weren’t too wet, but a few dunkers and some rocks had me fantasizing about the Hokas. It became the vision pulling me forward to mile 20. Little did I know that sometimes dreams can become nightmares…
The last 3.4 miles to the aid station is called “Devil’s Daughter”. A lot of water, mud and muck with a few hills thrown in. It’s evident in my times (16, 14 and 20 min miles) that running was not an option because of the terrain and having to pick your way through the fun. Because I felt good, though, and had pace myself I did something I’ve never done- passed people. It was a strange feeling, and one I hope to repeat!
I hit the aid station/drop bag point, changed into the Hokas and bounded off with dry feet and renewed cushioning. Mile 22 slightly changed that perspective. The leg is called “Stairway to Heaven” for a reason. There are two hills, one short, one longer, both “fun”. The first hill is a hands and knees, grab what you can, pray you don’t slide, uphill struggle. It’s only about 200-250 feet, but it was slick and I passed some people as they slid by me (I was going up, they were on their way back down). The shoes I had changed out of had much better grip than the Hokas, but there was no going back. Handhold by handhold, I scaled the hill.
What waited for me next was at mile 24. The “Stairway to Heaven” itself. A staircase that seemed to go on forever, but in reality a 400 foot high hill that someone thoughtfully built a staircase into. 17 minutes and 43 seconds later, I was through that nightmare and into the 2nd to last aid station.
I then settled into horse trails (behind a few horses churning up the mud even more) and was caught by the guy from the beginning of my report. We kept a decent pace and chatted through the last 5 miles, slipping here and there, descending the extremely muddy ski slope near the end and then wading in a waste deep stream while his daughter paced us for the last mile.
He had come down from Michigan the night before, slept in the car with his family, they had run the 10k and they were going back later that day. People I know call me crazy, but there’s always someone out there that will outdo you! Our great conversation kept my mind off of the last 5 miles, and I finished with a PR at 7:26:52. The time was good enough to finish in my age group, but not in the top 5.
Overall, very happy and it got my head back into things after the DNF. Dances With Dirt is a great organization. Aid stations were stocked and friendly and apart from the accommodations the night before, a great time was had by all.
War Eagle 50k in less than 3 weeks!