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Run Woodstock - Day 1 - Hallucination 100M/100K: 2014 Recap - Surprises
Though training partner, Dennis Hanna and I have completed four 100 milers together, the most recent being Burning River in Ohio just 5 weeks ago, I decided I wanted to try a 100 miler solo.
I picked the Hallucination 100, part of the Run Woodstock weekend, just 5 weeks after Burning River. It is a 6 x 16.67 mile loop course, and starts at 4 pm.
The first surprise is that outside of my immediate family (husband and son), only Dennis, and 2 other people knew I was going to run this. It wasn't that it was a secret, but I was nervous about running my first solo 100, and just didn't want to talk about it with anyone besides the above named people.
I did not know what to expect running my own pace. Our previous 100 mile times ranged from 28:19 to 30:42. (Yes, that's hours and minutes.)
I estimated my pace for each loop, for planning, and so Bill would know when to expect me back at the start/finish area. It had me finishing in 26 hours, but I concluded that my finish could truly be 2 hours on either side of that. I just didn't know what to expect.
For planning, I really like the 6 loops. Since each loop is exactly the same, it is a great way to monitor progress. Comparing each loop's time, we can see if I am fading, or holding steady.
I expected to finish the first loop during daylight. Figured night would come early in my second loop. The third loop would be completely dark. Daylight should come part way through loop 4, and then 5 and 6 would be complete daylight.
I really like the notion of the 4 pm start. Nightfall during a 100 miler can really suck the life right out of your soul, and with a 4 pm start, night will happen before we are physically and mentally fried. Bonus.
Bill and I rented a nice mini-van, but did not sign up in time to get a spot in the close parking lot. We parked in a lot about a third of a mile away. Bill would be able to nap during my loops.
We started at 4 pm with about 90 degree heat, high humidity, and a forecast taunted us with the threat of thunderstorms.
I spent the first loop focusing on staying comfortable. It would be way too easy to go out too fast. I paid attention to runners around me, chatted a bit. I chatted with various runners for a few miles each, but didn't really stick with any particular runner for too long. Just the way it worked out with pacing, aid stations, etc.
About mile 6, we came to an overhead power line right-of-way, where a serious cable appeared to have recently fallen. I was nearly an inch in diameter, and was waist high. Not a problem in the light, but this would be pretty darn dangerous our next time through in the dark. When we arrived at the next aid station, we learned that they had already been alerted, and troops had been deployed to take care of it.
With about 2 miles left in our first loop, the thunderstorms lurked in the distance and we heard tornado sirens blaring. Winds erupted as though they had been bottled up and waiting all afternoon for the right moment. Tree debris rained down on us stinging our limbs. An enormous crack of thunder and other imposing sounds stopped us in our tracks. We looked around fearing something very large was wanting to drop to the earth. We continued on to the start finish. I made a point to stay near some other runners. If I was going to get squished, I guess I wanted witnesses.
I had estimated my first loop would take 3:20, and arrived in 3:17. I call that pretty darn close. I went in the aid station tent to get my headlamp. The tent walls kicked up from the wind, and knocked me around a bit. I stayed upright, but was feeling fairly intimidated. Brandi Henry, an experienced 100 miler who was crewing another runner, advised me to hurry up and get back into the woods where it was safer.
I rushed out, Bill walked me to the trail head while I downed a sandwich quarter, some snacks and a Diet Coke. I spotted another runner ahead of me, and told Bill I wanted to stick with him. I just didn't want to be alone during the storm, and this guy seemed to be pretty strong.
We started loop 2, and soon encountered downed trees that were not there our first time around. The guy in front of me moved one out of the way, and I told him "Now this is why I like to run near big strong men." Without him, I would have had to climb through it, and would likely still be all tangled up in the branches like a spoof on Poltergeist.
A few miles into the second loop, the winds settled down. Night came, and so did some light rain. The temperatures dropped a bit, but not as much as forecast.
I tried to stay with people as much as I could. Running on single track, you often hear someone behind you, or in front of you, chat for miles, or run quietly, and have no idea what they look like.
I ran behind one guy for several miles. He started calling out alerts. "Rock"... "Branch"... "Flag"... When I got to the alerted item, I'd re-iterate "rock"... "branch"... "flag" like a humble echo. After a while he asked me if that was annoying me at all... "No! I LOVE IT!" I said, and explained that my training partner did that in the other 100s that we had done, during the night portion, and it was very very comforting.
After a while we ended up being separated. That often happens at aid stations.
When I thought it was about time, I started looking for that cable obstacle. Found it. The deployed troops had propped up the cable, and posted reflective signs on it. It was completely visible as we approached. That was a relief.
From about this point on, except for short convergence with an occasional runner, I pretty much ran alone. I focused on staying comfortable. I was not aware of my pace, I just knew I was staying comfortable. I was pushing just a tiny bit, but hopefully at a level that could be maintained for 100 miles.
My other concern was my ribs. I had fallen very hard, twice, about 10 days before Burning River, and had some very angry ribs. I fell again during Burning River. Each time, I land exactly the same way, concentrating the bruising, rather than spreading the wealth. So, I decided that any time I had unsure footing, I would need to power walk. I tried to remember where the sections of roots and tricky footing were. There were also places where the footing was decent, but it was hidden by overgrowth, and also decided I needed to walk those parts at night.
I estimated my second loop would take 4:10, and I did that one in 3:44. A bit ahead of schedule.
Third loop, mostly alone. I saw other runners here and there. No iPod. No pacer. Just me. Downtown Fiction's song "I Just Wanna Run" just kept going through my head. Over and over and over and over. Its a good thing I like that song.
I focused on staying comfortable, and kept my eyes glued to the trail just a few feet in front of me. This actually takes a fair amount of concentration and energy.
I estimated the third loop to take 5 hours, but I did this one in 3:54... and was too fast for Bill. He missed me by about 4 minutes. I was still feeling comfortable, and strong. I was only aware of my time when I arrived at the start/finish aid station.
I estimated loop 4 to be partially in daylight, and therefore another 4:10. Because I was about an hour and a half ahead of schedule, loop 4 was completely in the dark, but took 3:56.
I was still feeling strong. Bill walked me from the aid station to the trail head again, which is about an eight of a mile. And sent me off on loop 5, just as daylight was thinking about emerging.
And then we got more light rain. It wasn't the depressing soul sucking rain, but the sorta let the air out of your balloon rain.
Somewhere in that fifth loop, I caught up to a couple guys who were diverting off the trail. They alerted us to an old dead tree that was now swarmed with bees. You could hear them from several yards away. The tree was inches from the edge of the trail. I had remembered seeing the tree on each loop, but the bees were definitely a new addition this time around. Figuring that no bee would mistake me for a flower, I just continued on the trail, quietly, and went right past the bees, and luckily, they ignored me.
By the time I finished that fifth loop, the sun came out, and things warmed up. I had estimated that I'd be tiring out, and would do loop 5 in about 4 and a half hours, but it was my fasted loop, at 3:17. Missed Bill again. He arrived about 40 minutes after I came through. I love his support, I love seeing him, but I always plan to be self sufficient, using aid stations and drop bags, so missing him is a bummer, but not a problem.
Knowing that the last loop will be the hardest physically as well as mentally, I allowed myself 5 hours in the pace chart. Things can simply fall apart with very little notice. It is very easy to think you are almost done, and let your guard down, and let go of that drive that you need to keep going.
I still felt reasonably strong. OK... Final stretch... 16+ miles left. Well, let's just go aid station to aid station.
I started passing lots and lots of people. Some were 100 milers on their 5th loop, some were the morning's half and full marathon runners. I think I said "Passing Left" more often than I heard "I Just Wanna Run" in my head.
I focused on trying to recall the trail and anticipate landmarks. A fallen tree, a turn in the trail, any distinguishing features, I tried to know what was coming next. It kept my tired little brain occupied.
Then I came upon a new sign. It said "Honey Bees. Course re-route ahead." I guess troops have been deployed for the bee situation. Wow, these guys are responsive. A few minutes later, we arrived at the diversion. Another sign (and I wish I had a camera). Hand made sign, it had "Bees" with an arrow pointing up, and "Runners" with an arrow pointing right. Since I am not a bee, I determined I should go to the right.
I silently bid goodbye to each distinguishable landmark, feeling a mild sense of accomplishment, like crossing an item off a ToDo list. Aid stations were the major milestones. When I got to the Richie's Haven aid station for the last time, which is at the half way point, and the second drop bag location, I was able to cross that last task off my list, and move my bag from "Live Bags" to the "Dead Bags" area, which means the volunteers can bring your bag back to the start/finish area.
Now I just have a little over 8 miles left. Very very easy to fall into the slump now and succumb to exhaustion. I looked at my watch. I am also still very much ahead of schedule, and I can afford to slow down. I started to let go of that drive a bit. This can be very very dangerous. Let go too much, and you can end up crying in the fetal position on the side of the trail. Hold on and push too much, and you can end up crying in the fetal position on the side of the trail.
I decided to push just a bit. I still felt reasonably strong. Actually, I felt worse during the middle of the Marine Corps Marathon last fall. I got to the last aid station, and guess who was there... Bill! Oh it was so nice to see him. I was so jazzed. I told him I might be slowing down a bit... to which he teased "Good, then maybe I can get to the finish before you!"
OK... only 4 miles left. Heck, I call that a day off. But let's not get overconfident, a lot can happen in 4 miles, and much of it isn't good.
Now that it is my 6th time through, there are a few landmarks that I know are coming up. About a mile from the start/finish, is a quarter mile stretch of shoe sucking mud. It brings me to a crawl every time. But I know that once I cross a road, there is only a tiny bit of muck, and about 1 mile left.
OK, here's the yuck muck. Here's the road. One more landmark that I have learned... about a third of a mile from the finish, is a big pile of horse poop. I continue and continue and continue. Where oh where is that beautiful pile of horse poop. Horse poop... where are you?
Plug away, plug away, plug away. Ah Hah! Horse Poop! Yay Horse Poop! I have never been so happy to see horse poop in my life.
Just a couple more minutes, and I am done. OK... I hear the finish. OK... I see the finish area. Around the corner... there it is yay!
Tah Dah! I completed my 6th loop in 3:21. For a grand total of 21 hours and 30 minutes. Surprise number 2. Holy cow! I couldn't believe it. In the 100 miler, 24 hours is a benchmark. It is a very big deal to be under 24 hours, and I was under it by 2 and a half hours!
I finished, and the timing guy said that I had won my age group. Hey, that's cool. So I asked... how many women finished ahead of me. He responded "2 ahead of you". I re-iterated "Oh, 2 women ahead of me." He said "No, 2 men." Holy crap. Well, it turned out not to be true. 5 men finished ahead of me, but I didn't know that until the next day. But one thing was true. I was the first woman. Surprise number 3.
I won. My jaw dropped and I just cried. I couldn't believe it. I was on cloud 9. I stayed steady, stayed comfortable, held up well even on the last loop. I'd compose myself for a bit, and then tear up again, and repeat "I won" in a crackly choked up voice.
They told me they needed to just verify that I actually did all 6 loops, and to come back in a few minutes to get my trophy. We went over to the aid station, collected my drop bags. I got a small snack from the aid station, as nausea was trying to settle in. I knew I'd need to eat small bits of gentle food to avoid throwing up. I know that seems backwards if you are not a runner. But in the last 21+ hours, I have likely burned about 7,500 calories, and probably consumed under 2,000.
Now that the push is done, all that discomfort that was held off, now comes flooding in, engulfing my feet, legs, neck and shoulders. It was like Moses had parted the sea of discomfort, and my body was now a chariot in the Egyptian army being tossed and swept and crushed by the returning sea.
All of a sudden, walking was painful, awkward, and difficult. My 6 loops were confirmed. I got my trophy. It was now time to walk that third of a mile to the car. It might as well have been 20 miles. It seemed an impossible distance to traverse.
I shuffled delicately like a fawn learning to walk. We finally made it to the car. We had brought a folding chair, and a huge jug of water, rags and towels. I sat down and I cleaned up as best I could next to the car, removing the big chunks of mud from my legs.
Now comes the scary part... removing the shoes. This is both painful and a relief. I found that I had worn holes right through my socks, and brewed some blisters where sock material used to be. I found a few standard blisters on toes, and then a new one for me: The arches of 3 of my toes looked like someone used a carrot scraper on them. Strips of skin were just plain missing.
The post-race meal was all the way back at the start/finish area, and was lasagna. I didn't feel I could hobble all the way back there, and though I like lasagna, it just did not sound appealing at the moment. So, we packed up, and headed out.
Nausea still present, but mixing with a bit of hunger, we saw a sign for a comforting familiar Culvers. Yep, that will work. I need something pretty predictable.
We stopped for lunch and ice cream. My legs were absolutely protesting any sort of movement. Actually, they were protesting being stationary too. I decided to go for a short walk on the sidewalk along the road. It took me 3 tries to get up on the curb. If any one was watching, I am sure they were not saying "Oh, I bet she just ran a lot of miles." Uh, no. More like "Its a bit early to be that drunk, isn't it?"
We headed back to Wisconsin, a few more leg stretching stops on the way. I got home and did the whole ice bath thing. And then had a shower. Best shower ever. And then a real treat - sleeping in a bed. Wow, I haven't done this since Thursday.
Morning came, and my legs were a bit stiff, but I walked around the block to loosen them up. And surprisingly, only mild soreness. I guess that makes surprise number 4.
Mayor's Marathon and Half Marathon: 2014 Recap - Alaska Is Beautiful
Everywhere you look, it looks like a post card. You can be the worst photographer in the world, and take great photos.
Big group of us in Alaska. Some of us traveling together, some of us with slightly different itineraries. It was me, husband/webmaster Bill, our son Danny, marathon travel friends Abby and JoeWee, Bill's sister, her husband and their 2 kids, and friends of Abby and JoeWee's (and acquaintances of ours), Chris and Holly LaVessar.
The marathon start was cold, windy and rainy, and on a bike path along a busy highway. Not the most pleasant part of our trip, but everything else was so wonderful, that I didn't mind.
JoeWee, Abby, and I ran the full marathon. Chris and Holly both ran the 4 mile. Bill's sister's family cheered for us at mile 18. Chris and Holly caught a glimpse of us a couple times in the 20s.
While in Alaska, we enjoyed hiking, a boat cruise, driving excursions, a trip to Denali. We absolutely loved it.
And the longest day... well that is just so darn cool. It gets dark enough to need headlights, but light enough to be outside walking around on a sidewalk without a flashlight. At 10 pm at night, it is still as light as it is here in Wisconsin at about 7 pm.
Marathon number #10 for 2014.
Lifetime marathon 86
Marathon sub 4 state number 44.
Sunburst Races: 2014 Recap
Sunburst has been on my marathon To Do list since I started running marathons, even though I am a University of Michigan fan.
After I signed up for the marathon, the Sunburst Marathon course was changed for this year, due to renovations, and could not finish on the 50 yard line of Notre Dame's stadium. Bummer. They allowed us to defer, but I chose to stay in for 2014.
Indiana is a re-do state for me on my quest for a sub 4 marathon in all 50 states. In 2009, I did the Tecumseh Trail Marathon, had a tough day, and was inadvertently lost for about 20 minutes. This was before I knew sub 4 marathon buddy JoeWee. I ended up way over 4 hours. It turns out, JoeWee was there too, and also got lost, and also had to re-do Indiana.
Training partner Dennis Hanna's youngest son is studying pre-med at Notre Dame. To prepare for my short trip, Dennis supplied me with a campus map, and all the must-see items on the Notre Dame campus, as well as where we should eat our pre-race dinner, and post-race lunch.
We followed Dennis' map and instructions to a T. We saw the Grotto, Touchdown Jesus, relics of saints, and lots of other things I no longer remember, but know that I enjoyed. The campus is beautiful.
We enjoyed a pre-race dinner at Rocco's Restaurant.
The marathon was very nice. It got pretty warm by the end.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a lunch at the Chocolate Factory, and treated ourselves to a few varieties of malted milk balls. Some of them even made it home.
Marathon #9 in 2014.
Lifetime marathon 85.
Sub 4 state #43
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