Friday: Pre-race day:
My crew (Ryan, Marian, and Jenn) and I left Louisville, KY around 8:30 am on Friday before the Lake Martin 100 race. They all took the day off work for me which was pretty amazing. It started off with Jenn bringing some green macaroons with gold dust on top for us to eat on the way. She brought them because Marian had made an aid station blanket for me that had fabric with all different kinds of aid station food on it. Macaroons were one of the things on it. After those delicious cookies, I knew the trip was going to be a memorable one! Marian gave me a gift bag full of encouraging notes and race goodies from friends to read on the way down. It took us about 8 hours to drive to the race. I was able to check-in, receive my bib number, and shirt. My crew was also pacing me so they were able to sign the waivers there. We rented a cabin on site so we picked up the linens and headed to our cabin. Super smooth and easy check-in.
|View from our Cabin|
Our cabin was located on the same site as the conference center where dinner and the pre-race meeting would be held. The cabin was 4 beds with a chair that pulled out to a bed if needed, plus a bathroom. It had a back porch that overlooked the lake. It was a beautiful site. We also ate the pre-race meal that was prepared by an ultra runner chef. It was a taco bar, which was great. The dinner and pre-race meeting was just a short walk from our cabin. As we were finishing up our meal, the pre-race meeting started. David, the race director, went over the signs that we would see on the trail, reminded us to carry plenty of water, and start slower than we think. Fortunately one of my race motto since college has been, "Start slow because you can always ease up." I definitely thought I could handle starting slow. It was a pretty quick meeting and soon we were back at our cabin relaxing. Once at the cabin, my friends and I got our race and crew gear out and got ready for bed. Fortunately, I fell asleep fairly easily. I was more excited about the day to come than nervous.
|Waiting for the start|
Saturday: Race day
My alarm was set for 5:30am. I was awake by 5am, so I started getting ready. Our plan was to leave by 6:15 for the short drive to the race start. The race started and finished at the Cabin aid station. Being on the small size of races, parking was easy. It was just getting to be daylight, so it was still cool and no need for a headlamp. I hung out with my crew for a little bit before going over to the start line. The race also has the 27 mile fun run and 50 milers start the same time as the 100 milers. Before too long, I heard the gun go off and we were all moving forward.
“You got what it takes, but it will take everything you’ve got.”
The course was 4 laps consisting of 4 different loops passing each aid station twice. This makes it great for people who come to crew and cheer you on. I was prepared for the laps as I did several long runs as laps to practice. The aid stations were an easy drive to each other. When trying your first ultra, you will read, “your goal is to finish, don’t set a time goal.” I agree with that, but for me, it was important to have an idea of a time to figure out nutrition/hydration and for the crew. My nutrition plan was to take about 200 calories/hour as long as I could, try to eat some 'real' food at every aid station, and keep a steady flow of Tailwind and water going each loop. Once darkness hit to start drinking some coke to get some caffeine. My pacing plan was to keep an easy effort level for each lap and pay attention to what my body was telling me, knowing each lap would be slower. I had read to expect your first marathon of a hundred miler to be about your marathon pace time and a half. Of course this is a rough estimate with no elevation or weather taken into account. This worked out to be pretty close for me in this race.
The first loop, I took time to take a few pictures, walked the uphills and some downhills.This was the longest loop, 7.2 miles. It was so fun running somewhere new. Not only was the scenery interesting, but being in the south, there was a lot of southern accented runners - all super friendly. They gave me some great tips and things to expect along the course. This loop had several ascents, descents, and creek crossings. Some red dirt roads and single track trails with roots and rocks that could easily trip you up if you weren’t paying attention. On this first loop, I noticed my left calf felt a bit tight. When running a long race like this, it is best to address even the minute things. I thought maybe just a little more running would help loosen it up. When that didn’t happen, I took a salt tab to see if that would help. I think this happening so early on in the race is what helped me to continue to have an enjoyable race. I continued to take salt tabs about once every other hour or once per loop. As the day wore on, it got hotter, so I was already in the habit of extra salt and water to prevent dehydration . The first two laps I ran, I saw several people cramping and nauseated. About 4.5m in this first loop, I saw my crew at Adamson Trailhead. It was a nice surprise. I had just under 3 miles until I saw them again at the Heaven Hill aid station.
|Race day photo from Ultra Runs|
I started the second loop which was around 6 miles. This one was fairly runnable. There was a lot of dirt road running at the end of the loop. I met up with a guy, Terry, from Hazard, KY. We were swapping stories which made this lap go by pretty fast. He was running the 50 miler. This loop also ended at Heaven Hill aid station. This was another quick stop and off I went on Loop 3.
|Red dirt roads going past horse pastures|
|Single track trail going downhill to a creek crossing.|
|Single track uphill around some boulders.|
Loop 3 was around 5 trail miles. The 2nd and 3rd loops were the easiest. Not a lot of climbing, more dirt roads, and not very technical trails. By this time, I was mostly running by myself still slowly catching runners periodically. I was still feeling pretty good. This loop ended at the Cabin aid station which had nice indoor plumbing for bathrooms, so I always made sure I stopped in while there. At each aid station, my crew did an excellent job addressing all my needs, getting my bottles filled and nutrition met. I would often think of things I would want for next time. For example, I wanted to carry some lube incase I got a hot spot, Benadryl rub because I was hearing hornets or bees. I wanted to keep my pack light, so I didn’t start with these things which I typically carry on my training runs.
Loop 4 was just under 7 miles. It had lots of ascents and descents, trails across creeks and near the lake. I was still feeling really good, nailing my nutrition, hydration, and salt intake. I did take a minor detour on this loop. I didn’t see a cut through on one of the creek crossings. It might have added 1 minute, but I realized it when I didn’t see the blue flags.
When I finished the first lap, Marian said I was just a few minutes off my predicted time. I was impressed. I was only paying attention to the time on my watch to help me stay fueled and take the salt tabs. I also didn’t want to run more than 5 minutes without taking a walking break, just to keep the effort level easy.
|Ryan helping with sock and shoe change.|
|Marian and Jenn staying dry in the hour or so that it rained.|
After each 25 mile lap, I stayed at the aid station just a little bit longer. I changed shirts, socks and shoes. Each lap I wore a shirt that gave me things to think about if I needed something. My first lap, I was in my bumble bee shirt. It was a whole lap dedicated to Marian. All of our adventures that we have had, will have, and just going through life. My second lap was my skeleton shirt. It always makes me laugh because it shows metal parts connecting the bones together and who knows how I would feel surpassing my longest time and distance ever run on this lap. My third lap I wore my red Team Beef shirt that my brother got me when we did the 100K Dances with Dirt Relay. I thought about family and friends during this loop (and side note: my brother surprised me this loop). The last loop was my Livestrong YMCA shirt. It was a reminder of being a cancer survivor and the tough recovery. That whatever the last lap wanted to throw at me, I could handle it. I thought of other family and friends that had to have to deal with cancer. I thought of all my family and friends again who were there helping me get through cancer and were now supporting me in this crazy adventure. Also after each lap, my crew lubed up my feet with Trail Toes and checked for any hot spots and blisters. My feet escaped any blisters and major hot spots the whole race. My gaiters did a great job keep out debris. I had them rub some Tohi muscle rub on my calves and knees. I also washed my face. Now it was onto lap 2. Once I finished this lap, I would be able to have one of my crew members run with me. I couldn’t wait to talk with them about the course, what they have been up to, and hear what texts they have been getting from family and friends. I secretly was hoping I would have this next 25 miles done before dusk.
The second lap was pretty similar to the first. I felt pretty good the whole way. Occasionally I thought I was feeling a little nauseated, so I would chew on ginger to help. It was more chewing than swallowing, but it helped. I tried to continue to eat the solid foods offered at the aid stations. I was over the sweet chews I had brought. I was more interested in savory foods pretty early on in the race. Orange slices were hitting the spot at almost every aid station. It was also getting hot this lap. Jenn put one of my buffs in cold water so each time I came through the aid station I could squeeze it on my head. I learned this trick from my triathlon days. It was a welcomed relief from the hot sun. It also drizzled rain for about an hour which felt amazing. The weather was predicted to rain and possible storms leading up to race day, but once race day arrived, the rain looked like it was going to hold off but I am so glad it didn’t. I remember coming into Heaven Hill aid station (loop 1, lap 2) and telling Marian that I have officially run the longest timewise I ever had. It was a great feeling especially since I was still feeling good. This lap of 25 miles, I pretty much was by myself passing a few runners here and there. The last loop, my crew gave me my headlamp as a precaution, but wasn’t needed. As I was finishing up this lap, Ryan was able to have Kaiya (my IRUN4 buddy) and I facetime as I crossed the halfway point. It was a great boost of energy to be able to talk to her for a short bit. I had 50 miles done! Still feeling strong!
|Finished 50 miles before dark!|
50 and beyond
After finishing the 2nd lap, I did the same gear change but added my compression sleeves. Getting out of the chair for the third lap was harder than expected but once I got moving, I was ready to go again! Ryan ran the first two loops with me. After 20-40 minutes or so, we needed our headlamps the rest of the time. It was fun to share the trails with him that I had previously run alone and to see them in the dark. I was not too pleased to see a small snake on the trail. It startled me! However, hearing fish jump in the creek, the bullfrogs, the insects, and an owl was incredible. We came up on a runner that needed some light to change his headlamp batteries, Ryan stopped to help him. We also passed one more runner running solo. I was impressed with these runners, not having pacers. I was definitely glad to have my pacers. Sharing this type of experience with someone is the kind of memory I want to have . As we were finishing the 2nd lap - maybe around 10pm - I saw Marian and a guy come walking down to meet us. I was thinking they would be just taking my aid station order as Marian was up next to run with me. As I drew near I realized it was my brother who drove 8+ hours to watch me run. I had asked him after I signed up to come pace me, but he had gotten vertigo in the fall and didn’t have the mileage up yet. That was before we knew pacers could switch out at each aid station as needed. After he helped at that aid station, he went to get some sleep. He would come back early the next morning to run my last lap with me.
During the night aid stations, I started drinking a bit of coke for the caffeine, chicken broth, and would sit down. I tried not to linger too long. Just long enough to finish my food and drink. One of my crew members slept, one ran with me, and one waited for us at aid sations. It worked out great from my perspective. It was also energizing to see your friends come running to you as you neared the aid stations. The Heaven Hill aid station had a fire going at night. With 15 aid stations throughout the race, spending any more than a few minutes at each one can add up quickly to your total time. I told my crew, I wanted my stops to be Nascar pit stops: in and out - quickly, efficiently - long enough to get what I needed done until the next one. Needless to say, they nailed it.
Marian ran the last two loops of the 3rd lap and the first lap of the 4th and last lap. Marian had been keeping my family and friends updated on my progress so it was fun to hear all the conversations going on. It was also great just running with her since we had initially planned to run this race together and now she was healed from her broken rib to pace me. During the 4th loop of the 3rd lap, my headlamp went out which I expected. Marian had another headlamp so we continued on. I felt the light was a bit dimmer, so it was harder to see the obstacles on the trails and the rocks to keep our feet dry while creek crossing. I was still feeling pretty good at the start of the last lap. I couldn’t believe I was already starting it. This is when my crew noticed that my watch had stopped working. I hadn’t even noticed. It had stopped around mile 70. Once my pacers joined me, I didn’t look at it. I was now running the race mainly on how I felt, paying attention to what my body was telling me, addressing any aches or hot spots, food cravings although by this time I had only been using Tailwind. I kept trying solid foods but I couldn’t swallow it. So the last lap was run without any tracking device which was great. However around mile 80, I wasn’t feeling quite right. I was still moving forward, but felt like I had slowed down and I was having to pee alot. Marian realized I was having an electrolyte/ water imbalance. The water I was drinking wasn’t absorbing into my body. She quickly got me using her base salt. It took the rest of that loop and the next loop and half for me to start feeling better.
Jenn joined me for loops 2 and 3 of the final lap. I was looking forward to this because I knew these were the easiest and then hearing her perspectives from the race. I know she helped a guy who cut his hand as I passed him and told them he was coming, so I was looking for an update on him. I did more walking as my body was still trying to get the electrolytes and water balance back on track. I think it helped having easier terrain during this time to get me going. I never felt terribly low like I couldn’t finish but just knew I needed to take it a little slower. Jenn carried a bike light too that made it super bright to see the trail. At one point, my hands were getting cold and it was foggy making it hard to see. Jenn offered her coat but I thought if I could move a little faster it would help. Once it was light enough, Jenn suggested taking my hat and headlamp off. It was a great feeling to get them off my head. I had been wearing something on my head for over 24 hours and I was not use to it.
When I finished the 3rd loop of the 4th lap in the daylight, it was refreshing. My brother and the rest of the crew were there. I did my final sock and shirt change and headed out with my brother almost in disbelief at how close I was to finishing. I continued to walk/trot with some running. About an hour in, Jason said we probably have an hour left. Ryan thought it would take me about 2 hours to finish this loop. I was thinking closer to 2.5 hours on how I felt I was moving. I also told him how I took a wrong turn on this loop during the first lap and wouldn’t you know it, I did it again without even noticing! We got to the pasture and I was confused since I didn’t show Jason that tricky part. Jason said he noticed but it was a short out of the way so we kept on moving forward. The pasture is at the bottom of the hill before the finish line at the cabin. When I saw this, I started to tear up, smile, and was in disbelief. Jason was clapping and hollering. It was still maybe just under a ¾ of mile to the finish but we were already celebrating. When we finally got to the point where we could see the finish line, Jason said you have 5 min and 30 sec to get there to finish that loop under 2 hours. Again, I was surprised, so I took off a little faster. My crew was there cheering me on as I came across the finish line. I had enough energy to leap up to celebrate. I finished that loop under 2 hours just as Ryan had predicted.
|My brother and I heading out for the last loop.|
Looking back, I see a perfect day of racing. There were minimal lows, lots of highs, it was hot, it rained, muddy, slippery sections, body aches, nausea, stars, wildlife, beautiful scenery, etc. but that is what trail racing is all about. You learn to adapt and make the best of the situation. My crew offered their help and supplies to fellow runners, got to enjoy a beautiful night sky on Heaven Hill, and provided me with amazing support for over 27 hours to reach my goal.
|My incredible sherpas.|
I finished in 27 hours 27 minutes. I predicted my best race of my life for this 100 would be 27 hours and 13 minutes. I could not be happier with my performance. Of the 53 competitors signed up, only 29 finished the 100 miles. I was the 4th female finisher and 8th overall. The 3 females that finished ahead of me were the top 3 fastest female for the race in its 5 years of running with the first and second place overall taken by females! I squeezed into the 9th position for all-time fastest female on the course. But most of all, I crossed that finish line and ran my age in miles.
I wanted to do it. I decided to do it. I trained. I accomplished.
Not possible though without the support of my family and friends - even if they think I am crazy.
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”
|Obligatory finish photo with my crew- pure excitement and exhaustion|