The normal 2.5 hour drive down to Hampton, VA was a nightmare- due to the rain and tornado warnings bringing high winds- it took a long, SCARY 4 hours! AS soon as we arrived at the hotel, I made my dinner and tried to organize (and reorganize) all of my things so that excellent crew Chief Max- aka BEST boyfriend in the world- would be able to easily find things for me. I also created a nutrition document that listed what i needed after every loop.
Race morning came early; the start finish line was nestled next to a beautiful lake- which at the break of dawn was crawling with mosquitos. DEET and sunblock were a MUST have item for this race.
I knew going into this race, I would be racing against the clock, course and myself. My basic goals were:
- To find my free and my happy place while running
- Keep my heart rate under 164
o Average- 148
o Under 164- 22h:48m (still could work on this)
- Break the current course record/ Break the VA state record for my age group
- Run 120 miles
The course was a 3.75 mile lollipop course that was measured with a 2 foot gain at the start of the course (you got to pass a “Bark Park” with cute dogs playing). The course was pretty deceptive as in it felt like it could be classified as mildly rolling towards the end of the 24 hours. The course had a 20 foot section of precarious roots if you weren’t looking, other than that it was a soft, groomed trail. There were barely any negative effects from the full on downpour that the loop received the night before. Runners were informed that the back section of the course had been improved with new bridges built and wood chips spread where there were trail flooding issues- I cant imagine trail conditions if this was not done- for that I am grateful. The loop had a water aid station 1.5 miles in and a porto-potty about 3 miles in.
The race is a fundraiser for cancer. It Raised $16k this year. There is both an individual and team competition. Many ultra newbies went out and walk/ jogged/ skipped to 50 miles. It made my heart smile to see the people I chatted with on the trail make their 50 mile goal. There were 11 different state age group records broken at the race! The top two men also pushed each other to new PR’s and a new course record of 126 miles.
The first 30 miles (up to lap 8) I kept pretty consistent 9:00-9:25 mile with one 20 second walk break taken in the later part of the laps.
The first lap, I ran around dodging the silk worms, thinking with close to 300 people coming through a lap, I wouldn’t have to worry about them any more. WRONG- these silk worms just kept multiplying and falling from the trees. I pulled at least 10 off of me each lap. The worst was when the got in your eye or dropped on the back of your neck- on many occasions, I did the freak out dance trying to throw them off of me. They kept the run interesting and something for the other female runners and I to bond over.
Miles 30-62 – I slowed down because I couldn’t keep my heart rate under 164. Laps were
in the 45 minute range. Every lap, I stopped and got ice water sponged on me and left with a popsicle. The first time I asked for a popsicle, Max handed me a melted bag of strawberry mush- My heart broke inside- at least it tasted good. He saw the disappointment and sadness on my face and RAN a mile to the grocery store to buy me new and intact popsicles for the rest of the race.
During the afternoon hours, one of the racers had a heart attack- Luckily, there were runners around him that performed CPR until EMS arrived at the scene. I arrived at that part of the loop when they were implementing the AED. THAT, friends, is scary stuff to witness. Thankfully, they were able to revive him and took him to a local hospital. Every time I passed that spot again in the race, I sent a prayer up to God for a quick and speedy recovery.
Miles 60- 85: Usually, I get my second wind around mile 60 that lasts until mile 75, that second wind never happened, I just kept a steady burn until mile 85. I had my first cup of Mountain Dew which was delightful. They allow pacers on the course at 9:00 pm – I was happy to have the company. I had been running alone most of the day. The RD had arranged a group of volunteers from a nearby army base to work as lap counters during the day and to act as my pacers to switch out with Max at night.
Mile 85 is where I started to grow nauseous. It was disheartening because Max and the army volunteers were there to run with me and I ended up doing more walking than running with them. At least I was walking at a fast pace. Around mile 90 is where I threw up for the first time. However, a few miles after 90 is where my nutrition plan backfired big time on me. Imodium, tums, pepto bismal, you name it, I took it, while it slowed things digestively down, the nausea was overwhelming- and I was still frequenting the forest and don john. I hit 100 miles at 20:01- this was still on target to reach my 120 goal if I was still nutritionally sound. However, with the lack of calories in my body, it was rebelling. I sat down for 15 minutes trying to gain the will and energy to get back out there. It was when I started the next loop, I realized that my feet kinda hurt- to the point that it was more painful to walk on them then run. Before I went out on my last lap, I sat for about 25 minutes, cold and exhausted. There was a bag of popcorn which sounded so good at the time that I devoured.
The last lap, Max and I walked hand in hand just about the entire way- it was a good bonding experience. We talked about my race nutrition and how to optimize it for next time, the house that we just put an offer on- how to improve it and customize it to our own preferences. It was this lap that I was brought to tears with how bad my feet hurt- I think my stomach pain masked the foot pain. I had developed and ingrown toenail, blisters the size of a soda can on the balls of my feet, bruised upper, and heat rash. This lap took over 1.5 hours to complete.
I came walking in to the finish physically, emotionally, and morally defeated. My face was white as a ghost- a sign of how depleted I was. I questioned my desire to run, if I even deserved to have such lofty goals of higher mileage and If I was meant to run ultras. The race director encouraged me to use the remaining time to keep adding mileage- but I was DONE- D.O.N.E -done.
Even with all of the hurdles I faced at this race- I still was able to accomplish a triple crown of achievements with 108.75 miles
- First female/ 4th overall
- New course record
- VA state record for the 20-34 female age group
Luckily those feeling have since subsided a week after the race- It was just a bad experience, that I can learn from.
Of course I couldn’t have done this with out my sponsor TSTARRUNNING and the super cute skirt that gave me an extra bit of speed and confidence!
- Dry Ice is needed to keep popsicles cold overnight
- Must add some binding food to my all liquid nutrition strategy (Im thinking pretzels, cherios, bread)
- What nutrition works for other stellar runners- wont work for me.
- No amount of bug spray will keep silk worms off of you
- Having your crew keep track of your mileage is a good idea to make sure you are getting proper credit for laps run. (there was an issue where Max had to prove that the volunteer missed a lap)
Nutrition: ~4,170 calories
- 9 Boosts Plus’ at 360 calories each (3,240 calories)
- 6 fruit popsicles at 60 calories each (360 calories)
- 1 liter Mountain Dew (~440 calories)
- 1 bag smart pop popcorn (130 calories)