Terrapin Moutain 50k

Sedalia Center, Bedford, VA – My hometown

March 23rd, 2019, one day before my 32nd birthday.

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I came back early to Virginia to train a bit up for the Blue Ridge Double Marathon (April 13th, Roanoke, VA), hitting up a 50k I’d been eyeing for a while, but was never in Virginia the right time of the year. I wanted to do another 50k for my birthday considering it was:

1. on a weekend again (last time for a while!)

2. Very close to the number of miles I am old (31 vs 32)

3. In my hometown, and my family had purchased the Sedalia Center and turned it into what it is today (Arts center)

4. Very good elevation training for the Blue Ridge Double

The Blue Ridge Double Marathon has a little less than 8000 feet of gain and equal loss, Wisconsin isn’t the best place to get training let’s say. I got some good time on feet and very good mental training from the Cactus Classic Marathon not long ago. Everything pointed to this being the perfect race and the perfect fit.

The race itself was 31.3 miles, 7000+ feet of elevation gain (again, equal loss), along and on Terrapin Mountain in Jefferson National Forest, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of the Peaks of Otter in Bedford, where I love to train…and a 9 hour cut off.

55576572_403077580471699_745418842968162304_n Ouch. Two of my 50ks I’ve taken rather leisurely, I’ve finished in 9-9.5 hours (albeit one was in blizzard conditions and my toes threatening frostbite; the other, Table Rock, another training race with just over 5000 feet of gain, one mountain but right after a hurricane hit making water crossings….interesting). My only other 50k with comparable gain was my first (also just over 5000 feet of gain over two mountains) but only about half of it was truly off road and not much of it trail…well, some of it just random flags marking your way in the woods. There wasn’t a good comparison for anything. This made me fear the 9 hour cut off time. I estimated I needed under a 17 min/mi. No biggie, back to being fearless?

I got back to Virginia the Monday before the race, tired, but the drive was manageable. I ended up planning a cool training run on Wednesday where I would run from a parking lot, up to Flat top summit, back down to the parking lot, and then up to Sharp Top summit and back down again. I stopped to take in the views and pictures, but tried to keep up the effort when I was moving. It totaled 8.5 miles with 3,300 feet of gain (for perspective, that’s most of the Blue Ridge Marathon’s elevation gain condensed into a third of the distance of 26.2 miles). Felt great the whole time. Felt great the next morning, but that afternoon, I started to feel sore. By Friday, I was having issues going down the stairs. The downhills I did was taking a bigger toll than I realized.

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The Pavilion overlooked by Terrapin Mountain

Friday afternoon, I went with my mom over to Sedalia to check out the scene and pick up my bib. What a windy windy day. Windchills dropped into the lower 30s before sundown. I was seriously not prepared to deal with these temperatures. Once again, I trusted a long term forecast (it was previously supposed to be in the upper 60s for highs, although the forecast for a sunny day held true). I brought only certain attire. The open pavilion was not sheltered from the winds, and the mountain loomed over the center from behind. I picked up one bib, a hand made mug, and a few stickers and a luggage tag, and one fall copy of trail runner magazine. I got to speak with the Race Director, a younger guy (Clark Zealand). I guess I was so nervous I gave him the impression I didn’t know what I was doing.

 

I got to ask if the course had any water crossings. He assured me that there were several creek crossings as well as mountain runoff water everywhere. I asked how much road there was, was answered it depended on what I considered road. He assured me that there was a bunch of satisfying single track. He mentioned that part of the course overlapped with both the Promise Land 50k (another 50k that has been on my radar but it’s in May and I’m usually recovering from another big event in mid-April) and Hellgate 100k (something I had wanted to do last year but was injured)…super interesting to me.

We left the center and returned to Bedford where we ate at Ruby Tuesday’s where I got ribs and a nice salad…a new pre-race meal from a new place! I don’t really fear what I eat beforehand anymore. It will be what will be. However, I know my body very well and I know my stomach is not very sensitive, even during a race (post race is a different story). I had most things sorted out for the race, but getting a taste of what 45°F and high winds felt like at the race site made me make some small changes.

I did not bring any tights, so capris it was. I changed my previous thicker socks opting out for my thinnest most compressive socks to help water shed (from being forewarned about the water on course). I was going to wear a singlet and a lightweight long sleeve pullover over top, but switched to my thermal long sleeve turtleneck (keeping the singlet on top of the thermal baselayer) and my Altra Wasatch jacket (wind/water proof)…yes three layers for a starting temp in the upper 30s. I changed my head gear to a hat and a tech tube over it covering my ears. Based on the race elevation profile, I opted to leave my pole with my mom who would meet me at the mile 9.5 aid station (the only aid station you could have crew at), as most of the first 1/3 of the course was a little uphill, and 5 miles of downhill on a gravel road. I kept with my choice of using the Altra Timps (1.5s) and trail gaiters.

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Sunrise that morning (mom’s pic)

I got in bed around 9pm, but we all know how the story goes.

 

I was awake every hour, almost on the hour, the entire night. The wind didn’t help blowing against the window of my room. I got up about 15 minutes before my alarm, around 5:00am. I crawled out of bed and got ready. Darkness greeted us as we headed back to the Sedalia Center. Light was no where in sight even upon arrival. It was bitterly cold, the wind remnants were still making their way through, so we sat in the car as more and more people arrived. There was going to be a pre-race briefing at 6:30am at the pavilion. I crawled again out of the car with an additional coat on, and listened to the meeting. It was just cold. My moral was sinking with the temperatures. He mentioned that there was still snow up there. Great.

Let me speak about how this went mentally a bit. There was something off about this event. I am pretty comfortable doing 50ks, even when I’m not trained, I usually have no fear, but I had a great anxiety radiating from this. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I discussed this feeling with friends and my team, but no one really understood what was going on. And how could anyone? I didn’t know myself. This was something I was alone on and I would have to get through it myself. I just didn’t want to start. I’ve never really had this feeling be this strong before. Like something bad was going to happen. I kept thinking about my plan…I knew there was a 10 mile climb in the middle part of the race, and I knew there was 5 miles of downhill before it, and rolling downhill after it until the finish that I planned on banking some time. I knew I needed to push myself appropriately to beat the cut off, put my head down, and power hike my best hike for all the uphills. I knew I was sore still that race morning and not sure how that would affect my pace.

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Sunrise, also mom’s pic

6:45am, the first twilight appeared, good thing because I was getting nervous about not bringing my headlight. We returned to the car after the meeting. 5 minutes from the 7am start, I reluctantly headed to the starting line, two giant yellow inflatables. Sunrise was at 7:14am if I recall correctly. It was light enough to see the trail at this point. But somehow my nerves didn’t settle and I became uneasy. 2 minutes til start, we all lined up in the short corral, all 400 of us between the half marathon and the 50k, and I got my Garmin ready. Now THIS was a race start I remember.

55564390_2226569950731048_6466732047686696960_nThe race was of course started off with a large gong, literally. The gong was hit several times as I pressed start on the Garmin (which wasn’t GPS ready, sigh), and we all headed out to the road to head up the first climb. I expected the participants to be more elite at this race, the race website mentioning that this race advises that this should not be your first at this distance, or your first trail race. I had asked on facebook to east coast trail runners who have done it how much road there was. Mixed answers all over. Jeep roads are roads, dirt roads are roads, gravel roads are roads…but none are asphalt. This race had them all and more. So kicking things off was the paved road that led to the left out to another paved road that led to a (assumed) jeep road that was well eroded away going straight up in vert. I ran a big portion of this and a little into the bigger climb that was getting a lot more steep as it went. The trail was wet, lots of mountain run off. I assumed the rest of the course would be this way.

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My sunrise pic.

I was getting more and more discouraged. Some dude was constantly yelling out, and another guy behind me was constantly screaming out “THIS IS A HARD 5K Y’ALL”, like it was funny. It was not. He said this like a dozen times or more. I looked up as the climb got harder, and saw the mountain was on fire (the sunrise, not literal fire). This is a pretty rare sight where the mountains look red instead of blue (Blue Ridge Mountains). It was stunning. I grabbed my phone and took some pictures. My mom also saw this and took pictures from a different place of course. This apparently happened the morning of my first 50k, which wasn’t too far from where we were, and when I was leaving with my friend Andrea to go back to Wisconsin last October. All in Bedford county.

55730991_427939057968780_7448547063152771072_nPretty soon the trail leveled out just a bit to open up to our first stream crossing. Water was flowing pretty good, but it didn’t seem too deep. A bunch of half marathoners (who stayed with the 50k’ers for the first 4 miles before diverting) were trying to go off trail to try and find a better place to cross. Some were in the way in the shallow part and I didn’t want to waste time waiting for them to tip toe around the creek. I don’t mind they were trying their best to make good of the situation cause they had the whole 9 hours to finish a half, but I didn’t have that luxury. I plowed through the crossing, the water splashing up to my hips soaking me from there down. My Altra drained super fast and the socks did their job. So early on in the race, I was glad I wore the minimal socks. However this is when things went downhill (while still going uphill!) very very fast.

The first gust of wind took my breath away. That wind hit my wet capris and stole all my body heat. I started to tear up. It hurt so bad. I kept thinking about the Cactus Classic marathon and how cold that was, but mentally I could not move past how bad my skin felt wet and cold, and each gust of wind that hit me chipped away my already low moral. I wanted nothing more than to be in a warm car, or in a fleece blanket. I had taken my allergy meds so the temperatures weren’t affecting me that badly (starting temps were at 39°F and were supposed to drop 1-2 more degrees before it started to rise throughout the day again; RD: “Good news everyone, it’s supposed to be sunny and 56°F today….[long pause] at 4pm today!”).

55608067_878889169111342_3933785079259594752_nI continued to climb and struck up a conversation with another girl. She had done the race back in 2016 or 2017, and didn’t finish by 3 minutes. 3 minutes… I asked if the climbing continued, and she said yeah. She said she was determined to finish and she pushed onward by running segments of the hill. I continued to power hike hardly being able to keep an 18:00 min/mi pace because my thighs were frozen stiff. I had to occasionally stop to place my hands on them to warm them. Sure would have been nice to have had trekking poles for this, had I known this climb was this steep and this long, would have been worthwhile even with the 5 miles of downhill awaiting on the other side at this point. My regret weighed on me. I wasn’t able to keep a decent pace at all. The trail had at some point turned into single track like a traditional hiking trail. I was hurting still. I couldn’t even perform at the level I expected of myself, and every time I tried to run a bit, I could feel that lingering soreness pulling on my muscles. I wanted to quit. There was no way out. I hated everything. Why were things so bad?

The hill crested up at the first aid station. I crunched down and tried to warm my legs. I had hit my first gel (GU S’mores, I usually don’t do GU, but this is a pretty good one) just before arrival. I felt good I kept my nutrition on pace this early, despite my actual pace cracking over 17:00 min/mi. I came up to the table, and grabbed two little cups of coke (well off-brand), and two orange slices and headed off with little downtime. The longer I stood, the colder I got. 5 miles of downhill have arrived. Misery was hanging off of me like a veil. I trotted downward from the aid station, and realized my legs were still really tights and sore from the run the past week. I was still discouraged. So much negativity. This path going down was purely gravel. Easy time to make up pace. Things were dry and more sheltered. My legs started to warm up as I approached an easy 11:00 min/mi pace trying to hold myself back a bunch because I knew I could easily blow up on this. The scenery started to change quickly. A few good miles dropped my pace down to the 14-15 min/mi average. I was feeling a bit better, but I knew the 10 mile climb would be long and slow regardless of terrain.

55881996_1518116398320342_3957881430633086976_nThe road dumped down to the next aid station, now 3 miles away from the last one. This was perhaps my favorite, manned by what appeared to be local college students, blasting music from their car, and a single table advertising that they had REAL coke, not the off-brand coke the other aid stations were trying to pass off. I found this hilarious and loved it and applauded them. They also had oranges, and I took some of that too. I asked where people were since I had not seen anyone for miles now (since the half marathons split off at the last aid station). I also realized that my watch distance was off by about 0.4 miles now (behind). So my pace wasn’t as dismal as it appeared. I took off back down the hill.

I needed to relieve myself at some point, but felt comfy finding a safe place to do so since I had not seen a single soul in almost an hour and there was no promise of any port-o’s along the course. It was at this point I realized my capris had completely dried from the water earlier! I was so excited, thank you so much Inknburn for making quick dry material. I also realized I wasn’t sweating much which also helped in warming me up. The run rose above the trees and I felt glorious. The wind would occasionally whip at me, but wasn’t nearly as bad. I still clung onto wearing all my layers but unzipped a part of my jacket. I passed by some cabins and hit another paved road.

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From the previous day

Along this part, I quickly noticed this was where me and my mom got lost the previous afternoon looking for the 9-10 mile aid station location (so she could meet me there). I knew I was close to the next aid station. I ran past the rushing creek for a few of those final downhill miles, and it was very peaceful. Very beautiful. I saw the aid station from afar and moral rose. I was finally getting out of that huge slump. I wasn’t by any means on cloud 9, but it was where I should be.

55505648_269442474009486_1445216440238997504_nI arrived at the 9-10 mile aid station around the 2 hour mark, right when I said I would be at the earliest. Confidence rose, as well as the course right past the aid station. This aid station was also quite small, but friendly. I grabbed some grapes and a few mandarin orange slices, which actually were really good as opposed to orange slices. I grabbed quite a bit of coke and met my mom. Yay someone finally made it to the crew point at the beginning of my race! Big smiles.

55514099_908498869541708_4909985601807187968_nI grabbed my poles and talked a bit and then headed uphill to the 10 mile climb; mile 9.5 to about mile 20. Still on a gravel one-lane road, I locked in my power hiking pace and settle in for the long haul, literally. I remembered what I felt like at Table Rock 50k, same kind of gravel, going click click click click on up. I was told I was 5 minutes behind the guy in front of me at the aid station.

The grade of the hill was probably varying between 10-15%, just what I had been training for, although after a long time I really thought I would burn out. I was exerting pretty good effort, at least zone 3 from what it felt like. I avoided looking down at my watch unless the mile beep was heard. I was hitting around 15 min/mi constantly. Somewhere in here, the gravel road turned into single track. Same kind of single track that I found around mile 2-3 that discouraged me so. Poles definitely made it better. I started to wonder where the stream crossings were. My feet were definitely not wet. I arrived back out of the woods as the grade of the hill increased a bit at the aid station with the real coke and along the gravel road again. I greeted them all again asking if I was last. They said there were a few behind me. I got some more real coke in me and saw my watch was about 0.6 miles behind now (this was mile 13.2ish). It was another 3-4 miles to the next aid station.

55690714_643338852753933_4025760648557232128_nIt was pretty lonely still. A half hour passed, just clicking along, when I came across a single soul…well multiple single souls. It was a small group of people making their way up around the bend. I told myself as soon as I catch them (obviously I had been catching them this whole time) I would hit up a gel. Good plan. I got to them. They would run occasionally, but mostly just walking. I noticed the guy had a gash in the middle of his forehead with dried blood. He seemed to be taking the lead of their group, as one of the women in the group didn’t feel great it seemed. He told her to walk backwards, and as I passed, I asked if everything was ok. He said she just had a tight butt. I said I wish I had that problem, trying to make a light-hearted joke. The group chuckled and I wished them luck and moved onward, and still upward.

Caught one more girl, she was by herself. We chatted a bit when I would catch her. She would run a bit and then walk slowly for a bit. This made me feel more confident in my power hiking training since I was keeping up. This was her first 50k. I told her she picked a doozie of one! She hadn’t done a marathon yet either (although she had done one in training, just not a race).

I made it back up to the aid station, which apparently I would hit 3 times total during the race, and got some more fake coke and this time they had watermelon. I grabbed a slice and oh man let me tell you. Watermelon is the hands down best aid station food even though it’s low in carbs and stuff, it just feels good man. I felt up my water pack and I was good for the next 5-6 miles (as they told me that’s how far it would be, more accurately “it’s 5 or 6 miles depending on which one you like better”, which I did not quite understand). The section would be a lollipop style out and back with a really long stick.

Still going uphill, the trail turned into jeep road, or double track, you choose which. If I were a jeep, and yes, I have a jeep, I would feel pretty uncomfortable taking my car up here haha. It was all fun and games until I encountered a gate. The gate was to keep cars out of the path, it was metal and extended across the whole trail and a little off to the left side. The right side was useless to maneuver around since it was up a bank, and the left side seemed like the path of least resistance as there was a little foot trodden path around it to the side. The metal pole jutted out into that little path and I ducked under it, but then BAM. I stood up too quickly, and really hit my head just above the forehead…a sound that resonated pretty loudly considering the people behind me yelled if I was ok.

I honestly wasn’t sure, I hadn’t hit my head like that in forever it seemed. It wasn’t bleeding, but it was pounding. I slowed to a walk to do self-assessment. I wasn’t dizzy, my vision was ok. Everything seemed to be ok, as the girl I had passed passed me again. I saw all the people coming back from their round trip to the top. If there was a place for bad things to happen, this was it. There were so many people. I resumed my power hike and caught up to the girl again, as the mountain here rose up along the ridgeline. The double track became grassy…great, prairies, my favorite. Insert rolling eyes here.

There are trails I don’t like, and they are grassy ones and horse trails (where the ground is pitted with hoof indents). There were no horse trails here though.

The grass wasn’t that bad, as a majority of it hadn’t started growing yet. It wasn’t dead, but it was close. It more so was interesting because it was on a mountain…why is there grass on a mountain?! The main reason I don’t like grass/prairie is because of the lumpiness. It’s annoying you can’t really be 100% sure of where you’re stepping and how it’s going to turn your ankles. Slows me down for sure. The mountain got a bit steeper after about 6-7 miles into the 10 mile climb. My head was doing a bit better, and I kept drinking. I still hadn’t gone through my 2L pack of tailwind mix though. I was salty all over.

55564256_382200872626176_662649553249370112_nAbout 2 miles from the turn around in the “pop” of the lolli, I ran into some more guys and passed them after a quick chat. I rejoined the girl doing her first ultra, and we hiked together the rest of the way and when we got to the top, there was a guy there camped out making sure everyone punched their bib. On this course, there were 3 locations where you had to punch your bib (all with different punch patterns) to assure you didn’t cut the course. This first one was very obvious, more on that later.

The end of the 10 mile climb was upon us. Mile 19 something. I kept thinking about the similar climb in Cloudsplitter at mile 79 (the 10-12 mile climb from there), and I just couldn’t recall anything other than the pain I was in trying to run the little bits of that uphill to try and make the cut-off; listening to my dying watch beep telling me I did anywhere from a 7 min/mi to a 34 min/mi…so mentally draining and that’s where my mental toughness so to speak came in to play. At least on this climb, it was sunny, albeit windy as heck, and it was daylight, no hurricanes, no cold fronts, and my watch was almost accurate to within 1-2 minutes per mile. I knew at this point, there was one more big climb, but I got to go downhill for the next 3 miles!

When I headed out with the girl, she lost me pretty quickly moving much faster than me downhill. My head pounded in protest, so I kept my run slower than I wanted. My quads also protested from being sore still. So this is where my training caught up to me, doing it so close to a race. I kept a pretty good 11-12 min/mi pace down the double track “roads” and right when I was about to get back to the metal gate, there were two racers I passed. I felt my heart drop as I knew they were at least 5 miles behind me, and I calculated as I often do obsessively in races (I swear this takes up half of my mental energy and 80% of what I think about when I run), that they would not make the cut off. I got to the metal gate and distinctively put my hands on the metal end and slowly wiggled my way around it. Safe.

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Snow. I found it.

As I headed to the aid station, with it in sight, I started to remove my water pack and get it ready to be refilled. I started the painful process of removing my jacket. It was finally getting warmer, as I’m sure it was around noon or later now. I tied it tightly around my waist. At the aid station, I refilled with tailwind (thanks for being the sponsor! I carried a bag of tailwind around the entire race for nothing haha), grabbed MORE watermelon, and more fake coke. I was ready for the climb, as the climb went literally straight up at the aid station on single track. Being able to see it from the get-go was pretty encouraging, for me anyway. It looked exactly like I expected.

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Technical trail is technical.

Oh, it’s cold without my jacket. I don’t think the wind “returned” but it sure made its presence known. I hiked my usual hike for this terrain and grade. It was steep, technical, and almost exactly like Sharp top. Go figure. Same county, same string of mountains. The only difference was that this climb leveled off some times. Sharp top does not level off. The climb was about 2 miles. I hit times I had seen before on these kinds of hikes, so I was fine seeing them (the 21-27 min/mi). I didn’t fight it and just kept my effort level even. It got more rocky. The top was great. There was a short out and back, probably a quarter of a mile, where the 2nd bib punch was. It was out on a rocky outcropping, overlooking the land. The punch was a little closer to the edge than I would have liked let’s say. Upon turning around, my dizziness from being at the point of no return (drop-offs surrounding me) jumped at me and I knew I had to move back fast or I’d be doomed (dooming myself). Heights don’t do me any good.

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This was the top of Terrapin Mountain.

Now it was off to what is known as fat man’s misery. I was intrigued by this and thought about what it might be. It was described as as place with two rocks that was hard to get between. One, I didn’t know if there was a way around? And Two, would everyone fit through it? I passed by some very large rocks the size of cars up here that may have been like it, as I had to climb down them.

55460023_2117992804958303_409036325740609536_nBut until I arrived at fat man’s misery I didn’t truly know. What I witnessed answered all my questions. I had caught up to the group in front of me as well, another group I had not caught before. There was a guy there pacing the group from the Blue Ridge Trail Runner’s group (that I had went to my first group run with the Thursday before the race and did a really fun scavenger hunt run with them through the city of Lynchburg…of which I knew like 2-3 of the clues of like 30—insert shame face emoji here). This guy had caught me at mile 13 (just getting on course I assume) and was heading up to the multi-stop aid station before the Terrapin Mountain climb to join his runner.

55897223_336715943861078_820092780758958080_nThere were two very very large rocks that there was no way around, that seemed to be joined by other very large rocks surrounding it. If you were to find your way around, you would have found your way off the side of the mountain. They formed what looked like a very small cave that was slanted like a parallelogram (got that spelling right first try, thanks spelling tests in geometry 10th grade!). I called out to the guy asking if he would take my picture at the end. He said sure! I tried to hurry my way through, and quickly realized the drop down into the pit was larger than my inseam. I slid down my best slide into the dark, small pit below in-between the two rocks. The passage between them was…interesting. It really made you feel fat because you could not stand upright, but your feet were balanced. Trying to walk forward while keeping your whole body at an angle otherwise is actually very difficult, so I would slide my torso forward, then my hips, then my torso, and so on until I was through. Whew!

He got my picture and I thanked him. He moved on quickly to catch his group. I got out and it wasn’t over. I reached another pile of large boulders. I had to climb them to get over them. OUCH. Oh no, I was cramping, and threatening to cramp in every muscle, literally. The rocks were much too high for me not to hoist myself up or throw my knee over and pull up. Joys of being an average girl.

I was starting to panic a bit seeing as I could not manage myself into a position where I would not cramp. I was perhaps gonna cry. I was stuck and I shouldn’t be. This was the first time I had not brought salt with me. Figures. I was stronger than this, I can get over these stupid rocks. I might hurt my capris but I was gonna get over this. This was not going to stop me from finishing…they’re just ROCKS. I thought about the Dawn Wall. Heck, I can climb one small boulder. I gripped the sides of the rock with both palms and gave one LARGE push and hoisted myself up so my butt would “grab” the side and I’d be able to slide off the other side. OUCH. Again. It felt like my entire chest cramped inward. Like the muscles from my shoulders to my sternum seized up. I’ve never felt anything like it. I knew I just had to relax. I made it. And I slid off the back side with a small jump.

I started to run a bit, as I felt so tight in the torso. I focused on breathing and relaxing my muscles. Mind over matter. This helped a lot and I started to drink a LOT more than I had been, seeing as tailwind was my only source of salt out here, although I was not thirsty…tricky game to play folks. Heading DOWN the mountain, it was a lot like Sharp top. I knew the terrain and hunkered down, tightening the abs and locking into position for the steep downward grades on the technical single track. My chest slowly relaxed over the next mile. My foot started cramping forcing me to a walk for a hot minute. Mind over matter…

56184244_338723480093743_6172360710115295232_nI passed through caves of rhododendrons, passed by massive hibernating grape vines. Truly was a scenic trail. It was what I expected here and also what I needed and wanted all along. I was slow as the trail started its countless switchbacks. Garmin slowed as it clocked this one mile at almost 30 minutes. I knew I had been moving the whole time, so I blamed the switchbacks. It was about six miles from the last aid station. I knew this was the long haul between them. The trail winded down and turned into pure forest single track. Every time I thought I was at the bottom, I wasn’t. A few stream crossings finally appeared, although more in the way of mountain runoff. I was able to tip toe around basically all of them. No biggie at all, and no loss in time. Dry feet are happy feet.

I had heard rumors of a rock garden from a past participant. So far on course, and now closing in at the marathon mark, I had seen nothing worthy of the rock gardens from Cloudsplitter. Then it appeared, out of thin air really…no, not really, they’ve been there a while. The rocks resembled something of what I found at Cloudsplitter, but VERY dry. Not too long a stretch either, but mostly downhill made it more complicated than it needed to be. Was this what Cloudsplitter would have been like dry?! I started to question everything in life.

The trail split at the bottom it seemed. Go straight to the aid station, awaiting me at the bottom of a very large rock gravel “road”, and the right, going back to the start/finish. A crew of dudes sat there directing “traffic”. I went forward looking forward to that fake coke. Hey I can’t tell anymore now anyway what’s fake and what’s real. Noted. The rocks along this path were annoying. I didn’t even mind the rock garden or the technical boulders at the top of Terrapin. Heavens no, not these rocks. They were like rocks that wanted to be sckree but couldn’t make it to the top, the fallen angels of rocks. Ah the classic Bedford county red clay/mud. Good thing it’s dry, no stains to anger mom today.

Continuing down into the aid station, I found good southern folk with all the fixin’s. Literally. This aid station was the buffet you wanted in a trail race. Potatoes, soup, sandwiches, pickles, candy, corn?, and a lot more. I spotted the watermelon and grapes right away and honed in. I ate a piece and then realized on the table there was a thing of salt. I thought to myself, hey that’s real nice at this point to have salt for those who need it. Then I thought again, looking at what was in my hands… WATERMELON. SALTED FREAKING WATERMELON WHAT A GENIUS IDEA!!!! 11/10 for this aid station, heavy clapping. I swooped that salt right up and spread it on a fresh piece of watermelon. I bit down, and HEAVENS OPENED UP TO ME. Nothing was more mouth quenching (it’s the quenchiest), the umami. I would do this race again for this moment in time. What was this? MORE? Sweet tea!! And not the absolute cheapest stuff either (sorry Devil’s Lake Dances with Dirt). 3 cups please.

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Reluctantly, I had to leave back up the fallen rocks hill. Getting back to the intersection of trails, I asked if I went right (my previous left), and they said no, up the hill to my left. Sad face. “But that’s uphill again”. They didn’t find it funny I guess. I thought I was hilarious.

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From earlier in the race, but additional picture!

UP the hill I went. And that’s the story for the next 6 miles. Rolling hills…but it mainly just felt like it was uphill. I ran a lot more here making up time somehow in fear I would miss the cut-off. More streams, but like, actual creeks. Easy to jump rock to rock if you have agility still. I could see if you were tired, jumping rocks and potentially slipping on one into the frozen waters of the Atlantic below would not be your cup of tea. I found out at this point, I was not tired at all. I had finally warmed up, and was actually sweating a bit, and was moving very well. I had expected the last part to 1) be on “roads”/roads and 2) for it to be net downhill. Where did these hills come from?!

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This picture captures everything about my hometown. Taken about a mile from the finish.

I’ll save you the details, but all of it was moderately technical single track that went up and occasionally down for a bit. This was more so a trail (after looking at my relive) that went along the side of the mountain instead of actually going up or down it, which is why it was so up and down. I was so tired of it all! I put forth a lot more effort here. I had also been told by a prior participant that when I got to the stream crossing you couldn’t avoid, you were almost home. Well this stream I came on was certain high from the recent rain and I was able to avoid about half of it. Pretty nice stream. Though there was no avoiding the silt that entered the shoes whenever I crossed a stream. Pfft. Eventually the trail spit me out onto the “road” we started on, I recognized a cabin we’d passed in the first 2 miles. It was wet, same as before, as I no longer cared about wet feet this close to the finish. 56328689_165974090971204_7655112063554945024_n

55639990_2370984943134603_5453005712974151680_nBack on the paved road, I could see the finish area. I was keeping a pretty mild 10:30-11:00 min/mi pace. It was sunny and warmer. About a quarter of a mile away I could see my mom and sister sitting on the side and I waved my poles. I came into the grass shoot with the giant yellow inflatables at 8 hours and 11 minutes, about 50 minutes before the cut-off time that made me so nervous before. In a 50k, 50 minutes is quite a bit. In a 100 miler, 50 minutes is not a lot in my opinion (cough Cloudsplitter, although none my fault for being so late to finish, well kind of my fault for falling). I was in super good shape and although my soreness was still there, it was not nearly as bad as it felt before. The course was 31.3 miles. My watch totaled 30.3, a whole mile off, no doubt due to the switchbacks and mountains…with their powers combined, makes GPS irrelevant.

All I wanted to do was put my feet up. I got changed in the port-o and we headed out for Pokemon Go Community day for a bit. The next day, I was not really sore at all, and was moving MUCH better than I had on race day or the two days leading up to race day. This race was really solid prep for the Blue Ridge Marathon Double. I did a mountain run on the road yesterday even and everything was easier and more manageable than it has been in past times. This was the first time I truly stuck to a race plan I created for myself. I told myself to power hike my best on the climbs and run the down and flats. I had specific paces to hit on each up and down, and hit them right on target. I just did not know how that would turn out time wise for beating the cut off. My nutrition plan played well for the most part, I could have had more in the middle climb, but everything went ok. I am truly tired of the cold however. There are still things to learn from this, no matter how many races I do. I hope I can pass down information to others.

I am currently signed up for the Blue Ridge Double Marathon April 13th (1am woooo!), The Epic “80” mile gravel bike, plan to be at the Wisconsin Marathon for my friends, the Dirty 30 12- miler (was supposed to be Rich’s first 50k, but that didn’t pan out due to work scheduling), and the Badger 100 miler in August. There are others, but they won’t be for racing. I have yet to decide what to do at Cloudsplitter. On the one hand, I want to do the course right, and not injured and have a good day. On the other hand, I have done it and have nothing to prove, there are far more 100s out there for me. Maybe I will figure it out.

Cactus Classic Marathon

The Cactus Classic Marathon, Manito, IL.

When will I learn that March is like the worst month it seems to race?

Last year it was my celebratory 31st year on this round planet, ’round this planet, ’round this planet…that roundness giving us seasons, by running a 50k, or 31 miles. I still have a 50k in store for this year too, the day before my birthday (I don’t know why, but there aren’t races on Sunday at least in the Spring, seemingly anywhere in the US). More to come 🙂

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Before leaving for the race.

“Spring” marathon. No, not really spring, it was before Daylight saving (that night actually), and actual Spring starts later this month. But we’ve been through quite the winter, and not only us, seemingly enough. Rain and snow both have been plaguing most of America this winter. And I learned it wasn’t over. March: In like Lion.

Since Rocky Raccoon, I haven’t been able to really go out and run. I was in a car accident that moved my rib cage and made it difficult to breathe. Going through insurance, it took a while to make a PT appointment and get something done about it. Finally, very late February, I was able to get in and start the recovery. Found out more that my spine had shifted as well. The week of the race, and still not registered, I went out for a test “run”, a majority of it was power hiking at incline. It went fairly well as long as I kept the pace easy. So I signed up, knowing my friend Andrea would be doing it. We’d talk about a plan on the way down to the race outside of Manito, IL, which is outside of Peoria, IL.

I felt incredibly bad about not being able to pace Antelope Canyon for my friend Sonja. But not being able to run, or know how I would fair past 3 miles, I did not want her to have to be accountable for me in case something happened to me. I was supposed to lead her and be strong, and I don’t know if I could with even 75% certainty.

Regardless, I was signed up for the Blue Ridge Double Marathon in April, and I needed miles badly. I have a secondary race lined up, Terrapin Mountain, which I have my doubts of whether I can finish below the cut-off time, but the elevation there is legit and will help a lot.

As usual, I checked and stalked the weather, knowing I can’t handle a certain level of cold. A few hours south, they forecasted for rain, 100%, from Monday on, and 47-50°F. Sounded good. I was optimistic since the forecast didn’t change for several days leading up, nor the day before the race. I packed the usuals, but very disorganizing so. This came back to bite me.

Andrea and I headed out from Madison Friday evening for the 8am race start on Saturday.

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That feeling when you discover there is no more snow covering the ground! We did it, we ran away from winter.

The closest non-murder hotel we could find was just outside of Peoria called Morton. It was very clean, and the front desk lady was very talkative and told us of the lore of the prohibition era there and the park we were visiting, along with how safe the town was. In the room, I started laying out all the things I needed for the race. I checked off all the boxes except:

– Hydration bladder

– half of my needed nutrition

Ooops… so I had no way to carry water! At least I had my collapsible cup. Aid stations were just about 3 miles apart from each other. With the cold and rain, I doubted I would need to hydrate up and I did a “marathon” in December with only a handheld for each 13 mile loop. The nutrition was more of a worry since I didn’t know what they would have and some of that nutrition was my tailwind which depended on me having something to carry water in. Onward to sleep land.

The four hours of sleep was ok, I managed off an on every hour, waking up about 10 minutes before the alarm.

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In Vanny with Andrea keeping warm before the race.

We had a quick breakfast and was out for the 45 minute drive (yes, further) to Sand Ridge State Park—but wait, there’s more! It was bright outside, bonus! The park was known for its sand which apparently was deposited there when the glaciers melted there long ago. Neat! Always up for a geology lecture. The Cactus Classic was also known for the course, not only very sandy, but also very filled with cacti. I had my doubts about the cacti to be honest. I grow cacti as a hobby (well, mainly succulents), and they do not like the cold. How are there cacti that can grow this far north?!

Upon arrival, it was a small area with two open pavilions. Two Port-o’s and two enclosed state park restrooms (open!) were all that was there. When I got out the car for packet pickup, it was cold. Slightly bitter, and a wind in the air to make things sound poetic here. Pickup was easy and back to the car we went. At this point, I regretted not bringing heavier tights. I opted for my more heavy duty wind/water proof jacket because I’m weak like that and didn’t care if I got too hot (since I never have and we’ve had this discussion on this blog before of “when have I ever regretted wearing too much” and the answer being never). I didn’t wanna wear it because I’ve been wearing it for a majority of runs and races for the past year and it had shrank a little in the wash over time (gonna write outdoor research about that since it was quite the pricey jacket). I wanted to wear something cute! But Cute wasn’t warm and I was not about to quit out of a race because I didn’t dress appropriately.

So I wore craft baselayer, Inknburn pullover (I felt cute inside at least), heavy jacket, Inknburn tights, brought my lightweight gloves I had to buy while pacing Bandera (the mitten part is what mattered), wore the really thin XO Skin socks (figuring when the rain started, there would be water everywhere and I have recently read that thin socks prevent foot damage better than thicker socks when wet), gaiters and brand new Altra Superiors. I have not ever owned any model of the Superiors, but after I think one short run with them in the snow, I was ok with the idea of trying a marathon in them especially with the threat of sand and muddy puddles all over tarnation. I trust Altra clearly. The Superiors are just low to the ground and I think I’d have a better feel for the trail with them in this case.

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The “after” picture, but the Altra Superiors.

The race started just behind the pavilions in the woods. The pre-race briefing was useful. The RD (I assume) talked about how the course was the previous day… mostly ice free, frozen, hard sand, but because of this, they were not able to mark the course as clearly as they wanted to. The general rule was “when in doubt, followed the ATV tracks”.

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Cool fungus at the start.

I think it was a simple “on your marks, set, and go” for the start. I had myself plugged into the iPod in the right ear super super low volume since I planned on pacing Andrea for at least 6 miles, and encased in a plastic baggie, encased in another plastic baggie that held my cellphone in preparation for the predicted rain. I was not going to be able to take pictures of the course (I have some regrets about this but my phone would have been wrecked had I managed to get it out and back in of it’s tight plastic baggie from all the water falling from the sky). So this time you’re going to have to use your imagination!! You can do it, I believe in you!

Usually with looped courses, I try and describe the first loop and leave it at that. But today, the first and second loop (13.5 mile loops) were completely different from each other. So let’s begin. Starting right off, the snow had really melted everywhere in the area (as we physically had driven out of the snow covered lands right after getting to Illinois). The exception were giant snow piles that were now humble little mole hills of snow, and the trail, where snowmobiles and runners or skiers had pounded down the snow into two slick lanes of ice.

Upon entering the trail, we were greeted with a small stretch of snow/ice. Mostly ice along the tracks of the snowmobiles, and mostly crunchy-ish snow otherwise that was pretty runnable I would say. You could avoid some of the snow if you truly wanted by sneaking around the sides of the trail. Someone had clearly taken care of the trail as the briers and weeds had been cut down to about 6” stubs, all the same height as each other for the entirety of the trail. The trail was very solid, and to my memory was never really muddy (I think in part because the ground was still frozen tundra). Some of the sand sections were mushy, and some of it was mushy-solid, but none of it was too loose, nothing like the beach on a dry day. I am not sure how much of the course was actually sand since it started raining about an hour after the race started. I was able to keep my feet dry pretty easily before the rain started too! Mainly avoiding some shallow ice puddles by running on the snow nearby, but nothing I had to really walk or strategize how to get around. The trail was really runnable and I was pleased. I encouraged Andrea to keep going and walking hills and such. We spotted the cacti! They grew along the edges of the trail, although they were pretty sad this time of the year and all wilty. But they were there!

A little over an hour in, the rain began. We both knew it was coming. I put up my hood and carried on trying to still keep the feet dry for as long as possible. I think I managed to keep my feet dry for almost 8 miles. The forest sheltered us for the most part from the wind gusts. Andrea made 8 miles feel like just one. I was in a fairly good mood and our pace was on target to have her in below the cut-off time for the first loop. I challenged her to pass the girl we had been behind for a while. On a part of the trail, the left side opened up from the forest to a giant field, and the trail here was really flat and really runnable, best section the whole race. We made really good time here. As the rain fell, harder and harder, puddles grew larger and larger. We started walking around them. Eventually, the puddles were so expansive we had to start going through them.

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1st loop = runnable. 2nd loop = solid ice.

We ran through the forest with pines, and we ran through a section that was pretty hilly for the flat course, that reminded me of our single track back home (most of the race was at least double track). At the top of this section, the single track made a small creek of water so staying to the side was difficult. Soon after, the puddles were longer and deeper, now instead of ankle deep, now they were calf deep and the water pierced our skin in shock and our feet numbed. After a few good strides, the shoes would drain and feeling would start to return to the toes. This assured me I wasn’t getting frostbite…at least not now. The temperatures for the day did not feel like they were rising. Starting temp was 34°F.

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Leaping across the icy sections in the trail that’s currently underwater. Yes, into water, but water without ice hopefully.

For the second time, I had to put on gloves during a race. The last time being at the OPSF 50|50, that 50k I mentioned from last March, see here for details. I clutched the gloves tight and water would pour out literally like a faucet. I touched my legs every now and then, and they were soaked through and I could drain water out from them just by touching them. I was glad I wasn’t wearing something heavier because they would have been heavier by the rain falling and I doubt I would be warmer in these conditions. I touched what was in my pocket…it was hard and cold. I realized it was the hot hands I had activated before the race started…it was frozen!! It was true my legs were suffering so much I could not push the pace, and I couldn’t take longer strides. I stuck with Andrea the rest of the first loop instead of leaving her. It was safer this way too in case one of us fell…because no one was going to come and get us and sitting there in the frozen puddles in the rain was not an option. I touched my coat, and realized all the waterproofing from it had disappeared…I guess it gave its last hurrah at Cloudsplitter. I didn’t have any other option but to keep going as is. Things were getting brutal and harder to handle, but we tried to stay positive. Andrea’s feet were doing well in her new shoes, but her feet were losing feeling and her legs were locking up hard. I told her we needed to press on harder to get our heart rates up and to help circulation of heat in our bodies to get through.

Was that thunder? We contemplated if they were going to call the race.

Eventually we got to find another girl to pass. The next challenge. The course then turned to kind of horse trails, MY LEAST favorite terrain on the planet. You could tell where the divots in the ground were and if you hit a mole hill wrong, your ankle would take the spill, or you’d be in a small bowl of water. The high ground kept you dry if you placed your arch of your foot on the top of the “hill” and would not collapse under you keeping you dry and moving forward. But your steps would be shorter and running is made difficult. If you can picture a horse trotting through the mud on a trail, you can imagine there are several hoof prints embedded in the ground. Before the end of the trail loop, there was a giant steep hill that was hard to run down without feeling like you are going to faceplant forward and die. You couldn’t tell by the reflections what was mud streaming down or if it was icy and you would slip down to your doom. Upon reaching the bottom I asked Andrea to turn around and see this monumental hill. This was no midwest hill, we have no idea where it came from.

By the end of the nightmarish first loop, Andrea bowed out respectfully after coming in at a record PR time despite the horrible conditions of the day…about to get worse, none of us the wiser. I said I was going out for another loop and I should be able to run it faster than the first at my own pace. I refilled my water at the start (thanks so much Andrea for letting me borrow one of your boob bottles, that sounds hilarious and horrible but I wanted to use the terminology I just came up with…these are basically just soft flasks that go in the front of your hydration vest/pack instead of a bladder in the back)…and I headed back out with a mission.

The rain had melted a little bit of the trail snow and created more puddles. So naturally I tried to go around the puddles, to seconds later find out the once runnable snow was now solid sheets of ice with no traction AT ALL. Oh ok ok. Another plan, ride the side of the trail. I ran up the hills we had walked before, and faster down the hills than we did before trying to get through this loop fast so Andrea didn’t have to wait too long for me. I checked the next two miles on my watch…I was…slower than I wanted. I was locked up from the cold, and couldn’t extend my stride. Not that I lacked energy at all, I was really fine and the first loops felt like 5-6 miles, not the whole 13.5. I knew I was behind on nutrition, I couldn’t help it. I had probably had 100 calories in the form of tailwind and one gel on me the first loop, and grabbed a few orange slices from each aid station that had food (I think there were three that were manned). Other than that, I had nothing to spare and saved my last gel for mile 21 when I wanted the boost.

I stopped keeping up with every other mile for some reason. So I read mile 15, 17, 19, 20…

I tried to associate miles from the first loop to the second loops to compare as I was keeping a keen eye on the splits for the first loop with Andrea. I knew mile 4 was rough for us. But when I got to mile 4 on the second loop, it was…slower! Why? The course got harder. Within minutes of being out on the second loop, the apocalyptic skies opened up their fury and poured its hardest rain. I was alone. I had not seen another runner since the half way point aid station. This was the case for 95% of this loop, unknowingly to me. I heard sounds from the wind that sounded animal like. I started to think what kind of wildlife was going to be able to eat me in Illinois. Was it wolves? At some point, I ran across spines in the trail that didn’t look like a plant. They were about 6” and looked like porcupine quills, pointy and black/gray on one point and white on the other. I was in a (now) runnable section of trail and didn’t stop. I needed to run hard and fast whenever I could cause with each quarter of a mile, the trail got worse and worse, and runnable sections decreased exponentially.

I tried my hardest to sneak around puddles that were now lakes in the trail, but I would get caught in brier bushes as they tore into my coat and legs. I learned all the individual colors of briers out there because I would still encounter them on the side of the trail where the rain had worn down the snow to pure ice and basically made the trail impassable otherwise.

During the middle of the big downpour (the rain never did stop once it start, it only got heavier), it because impossible to avoid the now rivers flowing through the trail. The trails were now flooding massively and the water was so deep that you could not see the bottom in the least. One wrong step on the VERY hidden ice beneath would have your ankle flying out from under you and you into the water. I slid under the water hundred of times trying to find some sort of traction. My muscles pulled in all sort of directions. But the worst part was the temperature of the water, being mostly melted ice and rain falling from the skies below 40 degrees. My usual plan was to sprint through these passages of water, being they were pretty short the first loop, and it wasn’t so bad and minimal water would seep in. The second time around however, I was in the water for minutes at a time for very long stretches of trail, having to go through the deepest sections of it because if you tried to run on the sides, it was all hidden ice under it and you would quickly go under. The first few seconds weren’t bad, but after that, the pain seared upward. The now knee deep ice/snow-flood waters pierced my skin like it was prying it open from the 2nd layer of skin out, radiating up into my frozen quads and my spine. My calves froze solid and I lose all sensation and feeling in my feet. I forced a spring through regardless and continued to sprint past the flood waters on the more solid trail (still in puddles but just not as deep typically), where I would have to keep my heart rate up until blood flow brought warmth to my feet. Each step was pure numbing pain like my skin was made out of ceramic, waiting to break. It wouldn’t give, and I couldn’t push off. I literally would just have to plant my foot on the ground and force movement through my hips to move forward.

Once I was able to feel again, things got better, but this happened every quarter of a mile at least, and got more frequent as the miles ticked by. Mile 20 never ended I’m convinced. I knew my watch was gonna beep with something ridiculous like a 21 minute mile after all these flooded trails during that particular stretch, but it was 16 instead. I never stopped, but I also slowed down finding the best and most shallow ice free route each time. I was needing calories…

I started getting angry, I could tell, I was yelling at the briers. I stubbed my toes and gashed my feet on the 6” stalks that were now under water, and I couldn’t see them. I was climbing around a particularly deep section and saw a small foot sized mound I could use to hop across one section of flooded trail. As I got a foot hold, the ground collapsed under me as a tree branch whacked against my face as I fell into the icy water hip deep now. I cried out in pain. I thought about the Titanic scene where Rose and whats-his-name was on the fireplace mantle piece of wood floating in a frozen Atlantic Ocean (well, I knew many people faced this fate as the Titanic story was real and these things did happen) and know I would have just died. And if I hadn’t died, I would be traumatized the rest of my life and probably moved to the amazon to make sure I never saw anything cold again. This helped keep me sane. At one point during mile 21-22, I thought about dropping because there was so much water, that I could not reheat my feet and I was not about to get frostbite over this. But at the same time, the sky stopped doing the thing.

I was a little confused, but I knew rain had to stop, and I had been out there a long time. In no way did it warm up, or the sun come out, but I was able to put down my hood, and it was ok. God sometimes sure does test your very limits eh?

I arrived at the 2nd to last aid station. A guy there wanted to talk to me (I think he was the RD?? he was at least at the start/finish when I was there after the first loop). I knew since I had not seen one soul this whole loop, I had to be the only one out here. He wanted to know if I had seen anyone and I chatted a little about the condition of the trail, cause after all that mess, I was pretty done trying to go for any time. I sat there and inhaled some oranges. He didn’t ask if I wanted to drop, and I appreciated that, as I was feeling much better after not being in frozen water recently (recently as in the last 5-10 minutes). I told him I was fine to finish the last 5-6 miles and off I went again.

Crossing the road here, I headed up to single track again. The streams were flowing down the hillside along the trail (path of least resistance, sigh). But since there was no ice lake on the trail, I just ran straight through the trail creek, and joked about how I had not been told there were stream crossings in this race, nor that half the race would require a kayak. The flood trail creeks were rather shallow and fairly stable foot underneath so I plowed through. I still ran uphill since uphills were far more runnable than a majority of the trail now. Silt was pretty firm in these sections also mushy much like the sand. I could tell some of the water was draining, either that or this part of the trail was pitched correctly enough that the water didn’t flood there or the trail drained well there or something. My arms were incredibly sore, especially my forearms. I think it was from clenching the gloves and trying to keep the water flowing out of them by squeezing them all the time…that and trying to keep my hands from feeling like death. The gloves ended up being so heavy! So when the rain stopped, I took them off and I was basically fine. The wind wasn’t too bad in the woods.

I passed by the final aid station with two perky people, a guy and a girl, looked like they were also runners and got what was going on asking if I wanted to try some yoga without touching the ground challenge they were apparently doing before I showed up. They told me sorry about the oreos, they kind of drowned. As I was eating my orange slices, I glanced down and saw them. They resembled nothing of oreos. They looked like those dinosaurs that you give kids to put in a glass of water for 2-3 days as they expand into a bigger dinosaur, like fuzzy on the outside and sort of resembled a dinosaur once engorged with liquid. Or just really deep fried oreos without batter. They were so poofy it was baffling. The girl told me as I was leaving that my friend was waiting for me at the finish. I told her to tell them I am coming as fast as I can (in a high spirit voice).

Then the horse trails came. I started yelling at them too. But then decided to redirect my voice into just singing Korean pop songs on my iPod instead…until…

There was a soul. A single male soul. I had caught someone? Someone was out here too? They were walking. They seemed ok so I moved on but I most certainly stopped my singing outloud. He didn’t seem too in the mood to talk. I wished him luck and that we were almost there. I got the feeling he didn’t believe me. And then finally, the large downhill thing…

On the first loop, Andrea had told me that she saw cars parked and that were we almost back. She was right, and we rejoiced! I constantly was on the lookout to my right for these cars. The cars never showed up. But before I knew it I was back at the finish. I put on my best stride and got through the finish line where just Andrea and the RD and a friend were still there. 53570311_415758482329804_7334058636794134528_n The timing mat was just barely under water this time, as the first time I passed through it, it was very covered in water. I asked if I was last. I was apparently the 2nd female to finish and 1st in my age group. The cars were all gone because people had dropped out and/or didn’t meet the cut-off. 53442035_534210843653341_1343876364767330304_n Everyone had left, but the few poor souls still out there, with no final race cut-off. I immediately made plans to change into my spare clothes. I was gratefully for the full stall of the camp site restrooms to change in. I grabbed a sandwich the race provided from Subway and Andrea and I headed off into the coming darkness.

As we left, we passed through the small town of Manito, where we really saw the flooding in town. We hit a patch of really bad standing water in the van unexpectedly. We also had to take turns going under this bridge were a lot of standing water stood. We passed by a bank, and it read the temperature as 41. I remarked to Andrea that it was getting colder. But Andrea said it never got above 35 that day. So much for the forecast of upper 40s.

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As we headed back on the interstate, the rain picked up again and standing water on the highway would pull the car if we stayed in the left lane for any amount of time. This storm was no joke.

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Local Flooding almost as deep as the fire hydrant in Manito.

As for the race, the aid stations, they were sort of minimal, but who can expect even a volunteer to be out in that mess? But more so minimal on food. Water was an option but no electrolytes on hand that I saw. They had pringles and oreos and bananas and oranges. Good enough for me anyway. It’s not a complaint on my end. Most of the food could not be kept out because of the weather or was utter destroyed by the weather which most volunteers apologized for (they didn’t need to). The lady at the first aid station was super sweet, and was staying in her car until a runner came, and stayed the whole race!! Every volunteer was there because they wanted to be there and each one was helpful and cheery despite the terrible day that was of no-one’s fault. Overall the race was well done. I have to say, even with the warning that the course was not marked to their expectations, it was very easy to navigate and I did not get lost or get close to taking the wrong way. It was marked well.

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Really weird barn near the race.

Out of 10 women, 7 started, and 3 finished. The DNF rate was at or above 50% for this race. I placed just based off of the fact I didn’t give in or give up and I go through ridiculous things and situations to finish what I start. There are so many scenario in the past few years where people would not blame me for quitting or dropping out, but I don’t. This should give you an idea of how much was going against me at Habanero for me to DNF.

Last bit of good news, I tried those Superiors. I didn’t get any blisters, and lost all my skin on my callouses (pain free!). When I say I don’t callous well, I mean it haha. My feet today are pretty banged up from all the stalks I encountered by accident and slipping and turning my ankles quite a few times, but the most sore part of me today are my arms. Time to get ripped I guess!

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Localized Flooding outside the race location.

I like to say I’m working on my PhD in mud and water on trails.

Let the count down to the Blue Ridge Double Marathon begin. Stay tuned for the Terrapin Mountain race report, coming soon.