Monday, April 21, 2014

Pinhoti Strike Out




So going into this race, the Double Top 100, I had only one goal- to finish. It was to be the first of the Pinhoti Slam 100 mile races and from early conversations, not overly hard. I soon learned how little I actually was prepared.


On Friday I packed all my gear and headed to Hickory to meet Jeff and Phyllis for the drive down.


Important side note- apparently I had managed to lose my Salomon Speedcross trail shoes since the move 2 weeks prior. I spent the morning freaking out but decided to race in my new Hoka Stinson Trails- thanks to the Ultra Running Company of Charlotte- and Jaime (McDonald) who sent an old pair of her Salomon's with Jeff just in case. 

Jeff was also racing and Phyllis had agreed to come crew me and possible run the 50k. We talked about the race, what to expect and how it should go on the way down. We had learned that there was a mere 18 people running and only one other woman. Odds were good to finish in about 28 hours and possibly a win for me. When we pulled up at check in, we were greeted with different expectations. The race director asked us if we were interested in the early start at 3am, Jeff and I both laughed and told him that we had good 100 mile times. He told us that most runners were taking the early option due to the difficulty of the course. Each loop was anywhere from 5-8,000 ft of elevation change and the trails weren't technical but the climbs and descents were steep. When we got to the hotel, two runner confirmed the difficulty and were also taking the early start anticipating no less that a 30 hour finish. This began to worry me. I had been nursing a sore knee since the 100k in January and was just starting to feel about 80% of myself. Having bailed on a long training run two weeks before in pain and in tears, I had no idea how much I had physically for a semi-challenging course let alone one of this magnitude.  Jeff was also not 100%- he had mustered through the Georgia Death Race the weekend before and was taking care of a very sore IT band.

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Packet pickup Friday night

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3am start- headlamp is blazin
We did our best to calm our nerves, pack our gear and settle in for the evening at a decent bedtime to accommodate a 2am wake up call. Minus a totally random knock on the door around midnight that woke us up...I slept pretty well. The alarm went off and we started the morning routines...I had decided to wear my Lust shorts, Steampunk arm sleeves and Gordy tech shirt from INKnBURN. It was about 50 degrees at the start so it was perfect weather to be out racing in. We got some minor and vague last minute instructions on the course and set off. About 2 miles in we came to the biggest decent I have ever seen. The headlamp of the leader was straight down from me.  It was an almost mile and a half drop; nasty switchbacks and leaf covered rocks made the downhill almost impossible to run. We hiked down as relaxed as we could reminding ourselves it was going to be a long day.  Over the first few miles, most of the 12 runners at the start stuck together through the ups and downs. We climbed up to the first aid station at Cool Springs and found ourselves a little lost. We weren't sure which of the trails to take so we fanned out and found the flags the RD had said would always be on our right. Other runners had taken the wrong trails and would continue to make uncorrected mistakes over the day. We came back through that same aid station after a few more miles and headed back into the main aid station. We were all a little confused and the volunteers didn't know where to point us so we headed up the road to a cabin where the RD was staying. He pointed us in the correct direction (which we were on) and headed back out to complete the loop. We climbed, descended and the sun came up to reveal a really gorgeous day to be racing.

Just a short time later the sun rose and we found ourselves heading out on the "Pinhoti connector" which was a little mile out and back that we had to complete twice to make the course a full 100 miles. As we pulled into the main aid station, there were 4 of us that had decided to stick together. Jeff, Kyle and Benjamin. We cruised through the first half of the course exchanging stories and pleasantries. Kyle and I discovered we both had a background in Exercise Science and he was actually working on his Doctoral degree. We all enjoyed the company and agreed that it was helping the time pass. Through that second loop we were high in spirits. However at the main aid station on the third loop, Benjamin was struggling with some GI issues and decided to sit down. We found out later that he ended up dropping so it was just the three of us. The sun had begun to set low in the sky and by now we had been racing almost 15 hours and were roughly halfway through. I had begun getting some cramping and early blisters on my feet. The Hokas were feeling great but unbeknownst to me, my feet were wet and the skin was separating. The socks I wore were too thick and I wasn't sure how to fix it. On the back side of the course, you encounter about a 2 mile climb followed by the last leg down to the main aid station. We began that climb in the dark and feared that it wasn't going to be long for me. Somewhere along that climb I broke- my mind couldn't fathom another 40 some miles and at least another 10-12 hours of racing that is was going to take me to finish. I didn't want to dampen the spirits of the troop so I put my head down and led the charge up the climb. When the guys began jogging the soft decent- I encouraged them to leave me and continue. I knew I wouldn't finish and despite the tantalizing allure of a first place female finish and the loss of the Pinhoti Slam buckle- I just couldn't pull it together. I didn't want to get out on the next lap and get hurt in the dark or totally destroy my feet which would mean months of recovery. It was one of the hardest decisions I made but I pulled out of the race. Offers to look at and fix my feet and pep talks from Jeff and Kyle just weren't enough. I was done for the race, my watch was reading 19 hours and I had just ticked off a 100k. I could only think of a shower and sleep so Phyllis and I sent Jeff back out on a loop and promised to be back in the morning to check. A shower and bed never felt so amazing and I was out like a light.

We woke around 8ish and grabbed some breakfast then headed to the start. As we pulled in, Kyle was at his car prepping for the second half of his last loop. I wished him well despite the nasty fog and rain that had set in overnight. He managed a smile and was off. Jeff was no where to be seen but apparently had lay down to nap in the night and headed out about an hour or so behind Kyle. We fretted about cutoffs and when Jeff pulled into the station he knew he would have to move on the back half.  He dashed off with high spirits and an astoundingly short time later Phyllis went out to run Jeff in for his last 100ish yards. Jeff's finish time was  35:37 minutes- Only 7 runners out of the 16 that toed the line finished. This race was incredibly hard and we were so proud of Jeff's effort.




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Buckle!!!!!

As we started home, Jeff asked me if I had any regret not finishing the race. I said that the competitor in me wanted to finish but the reasonable person in me knew better, I couldn't have gutted it out for much more than 20 more miles which still would have left me short and not any happier. This race meant the end to my slam pursuit but a beginning to putting my body/health before my need to win. I made a promise to the RD that I would be back next year to conquer it.

With a bit of a chip on my shoulder- I look ahead to the Blind Pig 100 in just a few weeks to seek out my second buckle. My only goal is to finish... fingers crossed I am successful!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Eeek! Last minute thoughts, questions and other ponderings

So for the first time since March of 2012, I will attempt to run a 100 miler. I can say my stomach in in knots and my head is all over the place. Its been a busy few months!!

Positives:  1. An ambassadorship from my favorite clothing company INKnBURN This was the best birthday gift I received-awesome clothes to race in from a brand that I have the utmost respect for and is made here in the USA!!  They truly put passion into what they make and I feel honored to have been selected out of the hundreds of applicants.

2. Moving in with Chad to start a new life in Boone. Not to mention the trail and mountain running up there are killer- he opened his life to Daisey and I so that we could be a part of it.  Feeling love and support from someone has been so amazing. (thanks babe)

I feel incredibly blessed to have had both of these happen and a girl couldn't ask for more. My friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I am grateful beyond words.

Setbacks: Since my fantastic race at Weymouth I have been struggling with an unhappy left knee. I have tried to put focus into taking care of it; but working, training and moving 2 hours away has posed a challenge.These past weeks I have done close to zero mileage to hopefully allow it the time it needs to heal.

Conclusions: I will say I feel severely undertrained to take on the mileage but all I can ask for is what Coach Marshall said all those years ago: "Give 100% of what you have today- whatever that is- and I will be happy with it" So Saturday, at Fort Mill State Park I will do whatever my 100% is. This being the first race of the Pinhoti Slam Series, I need to finish it in order to continue. I am hoping to be able to complete all 5 of the 20ish mile loops with relative success. Those of you close to me know that I put an immense (and sometimes unnecessary) amount of pressure on myself- but that's just who I am- a competitive spirit...but 100 miles is an awfully long and humbling way. I don't want to focus on the "racing" but more on the "finishing" one step at a time, mile by mile.

Side note: The knee seems to be angry because apparently my chain on movement is incorrect- i.e. my glutes aren't firing when they need to. Nothing that can't be fixed with a little booty squeezing exercises and retraining the motor pathways. But I just find it funny that I am a literally a "lazy ass" (giggle)




Monday, January 20, 2014

Out of the Woods- Into the light

Hello 2014! Let's just say I kicked off this year's race season with a bit of anxiety. I had  planned to race 5-100 mile races including the Pinhoti Slam. I wanted to step up my long distance game and add to my belt buckle collection- what girl doesn't like a little more bling?! After a great race in October at the White Water Center 50 miler (yes I was slack and did not blog about it) I felt confident in my racing again. I was excited to have a year of long hard races in my future... Until December came around

It started as a skip- a second of breathlessness- a pounding in my chest...then it started to happen more often that I was comfortable with. I was referred to a cardiologist in December and have spent the last 30+ days hooked up to a halter monitor. Results are still pending on the tests but so far so good.  With having good days and bad days  I wasn't sure what to expect from my body this past Saturday. I hadn't been on a run longer than 16 miles in months and my training was sub par. The original goal with this race was to set the course record. A very fast 10:01:34   with an average of 9:37/mile. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to able to maintain that pace so I adjusted my goals. I decided to shoot for:
1. Finishing
2. A win
3. A PR
Any combination of those was going to make me happy and just finishing was a priority.

Let me start by saying that this race is one of my favorite races. Marie Lewis and her entire crew of race volunteers are awesome. The aid stations are well stocked and manned, the facilities are gorgeous (heated bathrooms!!) and the course offers a speedy challenge! I ran it 2 years ago with a lot of success and was anxious to get out there again. The Magnum Track Club and the Runners From Hell that put it on do one heck of a job and they are some of the coolest people in the Ultra world.

Friday around 5pm- Tom, Val, Danielle and I packed into the car and drove out to Southern Pines to stay the night before the race. The house we stayed at belongs to a racing teammate of Tom and I's and its a quick 10 minutes from the race. We unloaded, made a fabulous dinner and all turned in to get some sleep.

Pre- Race Dinner prep with the crew
Race morning held chilly temps in the 20s, but we were expecting a clear, dry day. We met up with Phyllis at the lodge and set up camp next to the course. Marie briefed us at 7:30 and before we knew it, we were standing on the line ready to go. As the gun went off, I said a silent prayer and asked God to give me whatever race he felt I deserved; it was up to me to run....one foot in front of the other, one loop at a time.

Two laps in I was feeling good- that's exactly what I was thinking as I found myself face planted into the soft sand about 1 mile into the course. I got up, brushed myself off and vowed to pick up my feet- less I want to spend the rest of the race limping through my laps. I'm not exaggerating when I say its a minefield of roots if you aren't careful; they can reek havoc on a racer. The course is a 4.5 mile loop which you complete 14 times. Yes, its a lot but the upside is there are 2 aid stations and you can run the entire loop if you have fancy enough feet to handle the roots. After my fall, I allowed myself to settle into a comfortable pace and was keeping time goals- reach this bench at this time, one minute stop at the station to eat... if I stuck to the plan I would be setting myself up for a pretty darn good performance. At the 50k split, I was starting to feel worn.  I knew my pace would slow but tried to stay on track;I was one, then three, then five minutes behind goals. I decided to turn the watch off and run with how I felt. I picked up Phyllis for a lap and she gave me a little pep in my step with her light running style and wordless grace. I truly am blessed to have her as a friend and a running partner- she's an incredible runner and her blogs are chalked full of motivation http://phyllisneriah.blogspot.com/

On the next lap she told me was in first with a stealthy lead and all I had to do was hold on. With 4 laps left when I grabbed my ipod for some musical motivation knowing that the faster I ran, the less I would have to race in the dark. I ran happy on those laps with my tunes in my ears- singing to myself and thinking about all this past year has held for me. I had fallen in love with my running again, was crazy in love with a good man, Chad,  and was surrounded with wonderful friends and my running family. I let that joy of all those people and my life flow through my feet! God was smiling with me every step of the way.

With about 1.5 laps left, I had to don my headlamp. The dark slowed my progress a tad but by then I was on the victory lap. At the "3 minute station"  I thanked the volunteers for the help along the way and headed for the homestretch. I had realized that I was going to hit a PR for this race but when I crossed the line and hour plus ahead of my previous time, I was ecstatic!! I had not only finished the 62.5 miles but had accomplished my entire list of goals. My finish time was 11:25:08- good enough for 1st female and 5th overall.

Tom finished a strong race and Steve took a good training run home with tapping out early as temps dropped into the teens. Many runners were beginning to suffer in the cold temps and made the same smart decision. Our cheering section of Val and Danielle, joined by Phyllis were incredibly patient and supportive as we knocked down lap after lap of the race and only had mere minutes to exchange a few words before we were off into the next loop. It takes a lot to run an Ultra but it takes a bigger heart to stand in the cold waiting for your runner to come in.

I feel cautiously optimistic about my performance this past weekend and am shooting for a 4 of the 5 hundred milers that were on the original schedule.  All I want is to run as happily as I can for as long as I can one step at a time. Next up is Double Top 100 miler on March 22nd so fingers are crossed that that race can go as well as this one.

Full Race results courtesy of Lee Timing:
 http://www.leetiming.com/WW100K2014_OA.htm

Race photos courtesy of Timothy Hale:
http://timothyhale.photoshelter.com/gallery/WEYMOUTH-WOODS-100km/G0000CWD5FPAkTAA/C0000RHb3taaszR0.
 



Friday, August 9, 2013

Anticipating the pain

Just need to take a few quick moments to get thoughts on paper-

After taking the time to just enjoy a fun run at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon with some of my favorite running friends, I am so excited and ready to race. Tomorrow I lace my trail shoes to run in the Annihilator 50k at South Mountain State Park in Connelly Springs, NC.

Feel free to check out the challenge here >> Annihilator 50K

I have been training -hard- for this race. Running countless hills in Boone, ripping up trails, and ceaselessly pouring over course maps, descriptions and elevation profiles.  I started my Ultra career on the trails and it's  a love/hate relationship. This is going to hurt- there is no other way to say it. There will be brutal terrain, lots of uphills and not to mention the weather- but I have been craving all of that.

It's beautiful if you think about it; being able to run through a gorgeous setting and feel the thrill of racing simultaneously. I love to focus when I run; hear my footfalls, the rhythm of my breathing and learn to run with the pain. I get asked a lot if I run with music and I usually laugh and look at the person like they are crazy. Why would I take away the most elemental sounds of the wood/trails/nature? I will never forget seeing and hearing the New River for the first time on that crisp October morning that marked my birth into the Ultra world. Yes my ipod is always packed should I need it but I can think of only twice I have ever used it.

My heart rate is cranking at 100bmp as I just sit here typing about it. All I can hope for is a good solid race with 110% effort forth. Those who know me well know just finishing won't make me happy. Fingers crossed I want some hardware but coming home with a finish will still make me smile. It feels good to stand up and stretch my wings.

Time to fly- time to race- time to do what I do best- run like hell.



Side note- yes I will have the infamous Uncrustable or two stuffed  in my pack (extra smiley faces there)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Return to Innocence

Whew- it's been a while. I may be a little rusty on how to write race updates but the next season for Ultras is right around the corner so I am flexing my finger muscles and getting back to it. Since deciding not to raceat Weymouth Woods,  I have found myself simply enjoying the act of running. The social, therapeutic and slightly ego centered aspect of it. I have found my joy again from roads to gnarly trails...I'm baaaaack! That being said I have raced since January- here's the shortened version:

I was excited to take a trip to Boston to participate in the ever-sought-after 117th running of the Boston Marathon. The experience in itself is spine tingling! My mom joined me on the trip north along with two dear friends Emily and Phyllis. The fanfare was easy to be caught up in!

Unfortunately on Saturday night I found myself feverish and unable to swallow effectively. After a terrible night of sleep I awoke with glands the size of golf balls. Trekking over to Boston General and the fantastic staff at their Sunday clinic (brilliant idea and covered by my insurance) they told me I had strep throat. The doc said "no go" when I asked about running. I literally sobbed for almost an hour, which hurt like hell in my state.  I refused not to race, I hadn't trained that hard to qualify and come all this way to sit on the side and not race. So I called my mom and she made an "in house delivery" of chicken noodle soup. I swallowed the dose of anti-biotics, painkillers and tucked myself in to sleep as much as I could saying a slew of prayers.

Monday morning we woke to say the least- giddy. I could swallow and there had been a drastic improvement on how I felt. Gear was donned and we were off to experience the bus ride out to the start. There are so many things that are part of the race that it would take me forever to recap but just know; it was magical. You want to pinch yourself and you can't help but grin.
The starting line

I had decided it would be an easy race- sit back and enjoy the scenery and have fun was the sage advice from my running partner and friend Tom. We headed towards the corrals and waited for our turn to run. Emily and I started out together but just about around mile 9 I had to drop back. I wasn't feeling too hot and slowed. All I can say is it is the most wonderful 26.2 miles anyone can ask for. Beautiful rolling course and a million fans screaming for you to do what you do best; run. From the screaming girls at Wellesley college to the kids on the side of the road handing out water, the city and every village in between supports this race like nothing I have ever seen. I could not stop smiling. I was part of something some people never get to race and I was loving all of it!

When I crested the small hill by Fenway Park- I knew I was almost home. Allowing my pace to quicken I zoomed comfortably to the last stretch of the race down Boylston. The cheers from the crowd are almost deafening. You feel like you could fly and soak every second in down that stretch.  Crossing the line drew a gasp and a few tears from my tired body. But it was when the volunteer placed that coveted medal around my neck that I was truly appreciative of what I had come to be a part of. I picked up my gear and headed back to the hotel- calling my dad along the way to tell him I finished and listed to his pride gush as his voice broke over the phone.I finished in a respectable 3:50 something time frame. Not shabby but by far not my fastest but I am happy to have ran and finished safely. 

What happened next has been on every paper, news cast and magazine around the world. I do not want to dwell on it because it is still a very raw memory for me and I want to remember the good in this race. We did not hear the explosion, but we did witness the chaos of police, national guard and military influx into Boston Common across the street from where we stayed. All I can say is we were scared, shocked but relieved to be safe. The stories that come from the survivors tell a far better account of the fear that gripped that city. A dear friend of mine and her family were injured in the bombing and the news of it shook me to the core. I am happy to report they are recovering beautifully. With that being said, the 117th running of the Boston will have a sour note to it however the good memories are still there for me.

Much love to the BAA and the city of Boston for handling the tragedy flawlessly. Unbelievable city, unbelievable strength in its'

people. Makes me smile with tears as I type this. My heart goes out to all victims of the tragedy, but we will run on #BostonStrong 
BOSTON BABY!

Upcoming for me will be my return to the Ultra world. The Annihilator 50k in early August will be a true test of grit for me but I have great company for that race and am excited to hit some trails. Followed up by the
WC Ultra Trail Marathon at the US National Whitewater Center. I am eager to get out there and race. LETS DO THIS!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Running from Regret.



Some of you may have noticed my continually lengthening of time between reports even though I have raced since my last one. I owe you an explanation. As I sat watching my hero divulge years and years of secrets and admit to his lies, I was moved by Lance’s look of relief and my heart was filled with a realization and complete understanding about what it is to carry a heavy burden of your own creation.  I woke this morning with an overwhelming need to tell my story and using this blog may be the best way possible. About a year ago my sense of selfishness crept up to a level that even I couldn’t understand or control. I made a lot of mistakes and I found myself “thinking” I was incredibly unhappy with my home life and that somehow it was holding me back. I had just been brought on to a spectacular racing team and offered an opportunity to work with my favorite shoe company. I had it all in my hands and I thought that going out on my own, flying solo would be the best thing. Life at home was nothing more than pressure into children I didn’t think I wanted and strained conversations over a late dinner because once again I was running late with other priorities. I didn’t take the time to work on or with the people or things that should have been first in my life. I ran to “run away” from it all and all I wanted to do was win. To run for the next victory, write a dazzling review of my races and show the pictures of my trophies.

So shortly after my success at Umstead 100 (literally a week) I packed my bags, left my husband and moved out of my house to a 1br. apartment in Charlotte. At the time I was thrilled. Being on my own, alone and making decisions only for me for the first time in my life. I could race everything and only have myself to deal with. Heaven was what I thought I was getting, but it turned out to be my own personal hell. Yes I had a shelf full of trophies but an empty apartment and when the music stopped and the lights came on in life, I began to realize how truly alone I was. There were some very dark days where I will admit that even brushing my hair was a chore let alone getting out of bed to run or pretend to everyone that I was OK and happy. Most people would not have recognized me or believed me in those moments, but they were there. I suppose everyone has those times and I am no different. But I am an excellent actress and can assure you that many people did not see the struggle.  

Let me say now that I am grateful to my wonderful husband who remained supportive through all of this turmoil. It truly takes a beautiful person to love someone through their selfishness, and now is his time to be selfish and I do not begrudge him that. I will also give a wonderful shout out to all my friends who have helped me along the way and have been there whenever I have needed it. But even they couldn’t help fill the hole that I had begun to notice that running was not even filling. I turned to counseling for answers and to shine a hard light on what was really going on inside my head. I did not want to go, didn’t want to feel like a crazy person and didn’t want to pay someone to talk to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the outcome. Sometimes it’s just hearing things out loud with someone who doesn’t judge that can make you realize your own mistakes and help you find the way to a happier you. I send mad love out to my sister-in-law who listens to people every day and helps them in life; Kristen you are truly and angel on this earth. 

As I sit here and write this, my heart and head are full of regret. I have hurt so many people; ripped apart my marriage hurt my husband and now I am left with the shattered pieces. Sometimes they say you must walk through the darkness to see the light and believe me I have a lot of walking to do. I can’t go back in time and fix what I broke, I can only move forward and ask for forgiveness. I have found myself turning to my faith for healing and for comfort and I have begun to “re-prioritize” my life. I have come to a deep understanding that first and foremost running will always be there for me. My irrational fear of not using my talent and the need to race/win have become laughable to me. What is a win if you have no one to share it with? Understand that I still love to race and win, but those voices have quieted for now. My focus has turned on putting back together my life in whatever way God has deemed me to. I am looking know for a balance in my life that allows me to live my purpose and pursue the running that I love. “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers” is a quote that I found that quiets my restless heart.  It is a hard long journey that I am on but I do not believe He gives impossible tasks. There are several things that I do know already:

1.       I want my marriage back, if it is in the cards and my future. That is an unknown for right now, but I am patient
2.       I want to have children. I want to pass on the passions I have and shape a life that I bring into this world with someone I love
3.       I want people in my life to know they are loved, appreciated and are important to me
4.       I want to continue deepening my faith. Without that, I am truly lost
5.       I want to give back to the world in a way that is meaningful; I haven’t found that specific cause yet but I know it is out there

So as many of you sit scratching your head as to why I am writing this now and today?It is because I have decided to not race this weekend at Weymouth Woods 100k. A race that just weeks ago I was sure I was going to not only win but was training to set the course record for females. I am content in my choice and can assure you that I have been asking and praying for guidance all week on my decision. This is my peace and I am ok with that. Priorities lay ahead, racing can wait. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New River 50k= New Time 50k

The New River 50k has become an annual trek up north on one of the prettiest weekends in October for me and some of my closest running friends in Charlotte. This is the race that started it all for me in the world of Ultras. The New River 50k is a flat out and back course that allows for some of the most beautiful fall sights on the trail that runs along the New River in Fries, VA. This year a few things were different. First off, I decided to stay in Charlotte instead of at the race sight the night before. Budgets and time dictated this decision and seeing that its just over a 2 hour drive ( and Speedy Steve offered to drive) I decided to try the early morning commute. Secondly, was the first time that Tom Patch was not running with us. He has a scheduling conflict and just couldn't come race. As for me, I had peeked at the entrants list earlier in the week and honestly had a little bit of nerves because of it. The pool of women coming to race were some of the fastest people in Charlotte and the surrounding area and familiar faces. I was seeded somewhere near the top 20% of the females but I knew looking down there list there were more than a few with no official times. One of those happened to be my good friend Mo Hoffman, who happens to be a sub 3 hour marathoner.  Not to mention the fact that Annette Bednosky, the RD, got the course certified by the USATF as a Boston Qualifying race and the 50k would be an official distance.  It was going to be a fast race.

The morning was a cool one in Charlotte but looking at the weather for the race (and past experience to count on) I knew the start was going to be very chilly. I decided on capri tights, my saweet One2Tri race jersey and flaming arm warmers courtesy of Saucony. I hadn't decided on my hydration set up so I had everything in the bag I needed. Pack, bottles and everything in between. I really hadn't taken the time to prepare mentally for this race as I usually do so a lot of prep was last minute, i.e. that morning at 4am. Steve and I left on the trek at 5am. He zoomed in to pick me up, windows down and Snoop Dog blaring...this was going to be fun! We covered all topics of the race, including pacing. Tom had given me a race plan that basically called for negative splits through the aid stations so Steve and I discussed the need to stick to the plan in order to get me my 15 minute PR and a time of 4:30.

We pulled into the race start just past 7am and climbed out into a very chilly and foggy morning next to the river. We met up with Mo, Jinnie, Stan, Megan and my super speedy Umstead co-racer Shannon. Freezing cold, we all made last minute adjustments to gear and headed to the starting line. As the 8am start creeped up the fog began lifting off the river and the true secret of this race was revealed. The sunrise on the trail is breathtaking. Its like a perfect postcard for the fall season as the colors of the trees, the fresh dew and the sparkling sunshine all are so crisp visually that you can't help but utter a few "wows" and thank God you are blessed enough to enjoy a few hours with nature doing what you do best....run......but I digress

Speedy Charlotte Ladies
We went out fast...I tried to pull back but as we cruised through the first 5 miles we were averaging about a 8:40 pace. Turning out over the bridge, I maintained that as best I could. This course is almost 100% flat and is a soft dirt trail so it is ideal running conditions for speed. Steve and I picked up a runner named Eric who hailed from just outside of Boston, MA and was on his first 50k. We ticked off the miles and before we knew it we were at the second aid station at mile 11(ish). Steve wanted to stop for some fuel so he and I grabbed a few PB&Js and kept trucking. Shortly after that station Steve wasn't feeling the race and Eric and I found ourselves alone counting off 8:30 even miles.  Eric picked my brain for advice for his future Ultras and I was happy to give it. As I said before this was my first race where I learned so much about my racing and I wanted to share that love of the race with Eric. As we closed into the turn around point we passed the leaders of the race. Doing some counting I was sitting at 12th female. Not where I wanted to be, but I was content with about 15 miles to track some down. I passed Megan, Mo and Stan who made it look effortless and Shannon and Jinnie were close behind. I love this part of the race because it allows you to see where you are sitting in the race and cheer on the leaders and friends. Eric and I ducked into the station, refueled and headed back out.
Eric and I just before the turn

Around mile 18 I noticed that my right foot was making some noise. The same spot that had given me issues at Hinson Lake was now rearing its ugly head. I decided to take some Tylenol and see if it helped, praying that it would hold out. Just past the 20 mile aid station, I was forced to stop for walk breaks. My foot was screaming at me and I slowly saw the time begin to add up. This (as I informed Eric) is where you will decide if you are an Ultra runner. When things hurt and you are forced to walk...can you pick yourself up and finish with the same dedication that you toed the line with. I was questioning myself and my foot at this point and seriously thinking there may be a stress fracture with the amount and location of the pain. I decided to push ahead to the next aid station and decide then what I would do. I kept thinking one step is inches closer to the mile that will take me to the finish line. Somewhere around mile 23 my Garmin ran out of batteries and I was running blind. Before that I was taking no more than 30 second walk breaks but then was forced to instead count my strides on my walks. 30 steps then run....as I crossed the river bridge and turned to the long last stretch home I had no idea what my time was going to look like.

As I crossed the marathon mark, they read out "3:52:33" I was shocked to learn that I had not lost that much time with my walking. This stretch home of miles has always given me a hard time. It winds riverside with turns that make you think the crossing is just around the next bend only to reveal more trail. I set my mind to the fact that it would hurt but it would be over soon. Putting my head down I trudged on, soon I was at the crossing that markes just under two miles to the finish and caught up with Eric who was dealing with a few issues and had slowed. I caught another female runner but knew I was still sitting out of the top 10 finishers. I promised myself right then that if I got a PR by more than just 3-5 minutes, I wouldn't put myself through this another year. I pushed home through the foot pain and to my surprise as I looked at the clock, I had not only set a PR but had accomplished it just 8 minutes short of my original goal. I crossed the line with a time of 4:38:26. Which was exactly 10 minutes and 32 seconds better than last year. I was stoked! Every year I have run this race I have achieved a PR, I realized at that moment that I would have to keep coming back here to race.  I thanked the RD Annette for a wonderful race, changed into some flip flops and waited for Steve to come in.

Beers by the river
Overall I finished 11th/47  female and 28th/125....yes I wasn't very happy with placing but damn it was a fast race. The winner- Megan Hovis of Charlotte- ticked off a 3:42 and Mo smoked it in second at 3:53...My best effort last year was good enough for 6th female....this year at 10 minutes faster it was only good enough for 11th...you catch my drift.


My toes had sustained some minor damage but my main concern was the swelling on the top of my foot. With Steve done and our beers poured, we headed down to the river to soak up the sun, ice our wounds and enjoy the beautiful riverside view of what is home to the New River 50k.


Post race foot- courtesy of Shannon :)- it ain't pretty

Side Note: The foot is doing well all things considered. Thanks to the great care of Dr. Kahn over a Greenapple Sports Med in Charlotte. They keep me truckin and I can't thank them enough.