Sunday, October 26, 2014

Uwharrie Trail 100M 2014

My plan for the Uwharrie Trail 100.  Show up, eat, drink, run, climb,
eat and drink some more, run and climb some more, smile, and have fun.  
I did all of these, and it worked. It's the people involved along the way that
help bring a race/run like this together.  I am blessed with wonderful family,
friends and now a Uwharrie family, which includes some amazing race directors,
Dan and Amanda, and some fantastic volunteers. Vinny, your soup kept me chugging

Having an understanding family that also runs is
a plus to an ultra runner.  I was prepared to go into this race with no
pacer, but just days before Shannon, my daughter, offered her fiancé, Danny to
pace me through a loop.  It was a good thing that I had Danny through that
third loop because I was in pain, my spirits were down and I needed to keep my
mind off of the next two loops.  It turns out that Danny knew just what to
do--talk about this and that, ask how I was feeling, tell me I was doing great
and NOT to tell me about the sick kiddos they had been dealing with back at
camp.  We trudged through the dark very slowly but surely and he safely
returned me back to HQ.  There I met up with J.D., my husband (who just
finished his own 100 miler at Oil Creek, a tough course, just six days
earlier), but thought he could handle a loop at my "asleep on my
feet" pace.  J.D. did not let me just slog along as I expected he
would, however, he was a man with a mission and that was to make sure I
finished.  He'd tell me to speed up my walking and to run when I thought
it wasn't possible.  I was practically sleep walking/running the entire
loop with him until the sun came up and the new day dawned.  Shannon camped
out with the babies while my pacers were pacing and made sure all was well on
the home front--roasted marshmallows and carved a jack-o-lantern with the
babies, and dealt with sick babies.  Thank you to my very own baby girl, I
know that was gross and even parents don't like to do what you had to do! 

Having friends who run is also a plus to an ultra
runner.  Juliet Brundige, who named me her Sasquatch Sister, offered for
me to bunk with her and a ride down with her as she too was competing in this
race.  She informed me that she could not offer me a ride back, but did
suggest that maybe I could run home.  Haha:)  Since we share the same
interest and both get excited about all of this ultra stuff, it made for a
pleasant evening the night before.  Thank you my Sasquatch Sister!  I
look forward to sharing some more trail time with you!  Juliet achieved a
PR of her own on this challenging and unrelenting course.  Way to go,
Juliet!  By the way, I'm sure I was catching glimpses of Sasquatch while
out there alone.  I always felt like I was being watched.  Spooky.

Yes, I'm going to say that having volunteers that
run is a huge plus as well.  Those folks know how to take care of a lady.
 The food was amazing!  I typically only eat peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches and occasionally some soup on these races, but who could resist the
fresh hot waffles and bacon a Vinny's Station?!  Wow!  And then the
hot, homemade potato soup made with a Food Network recipe by Vinny, himself!
 That was like heaven through the night--just imagine--sitting by a
roaring fire with a hot cup of delicious soup in your hands in the middle of
the dark, cold woods.  Like I said, must be heaven.  Then came
another wonderful surprise, Kelly's Kitchen, because it was loaded with my MTC
folks!  Such an uplifting moment to see all of those beautiful blue
shirts!  And then to hear them call you by name (your name is Antonette,
but everyone calls you Rosie, haha), and ask about J.D.--just like family, I
swear.  The Headquarters Aid Station is always a great place to return to
because you can check one of those loops off, but on top of that you get many
cheers, claps, "way to go's", and "what can I do for
you's?".  Believe it or not, with all of that time on the trail to
think about what you'll need when you get to the aid stations, somehow, when
you get there you forget!  Thanks to one of the boys behind the table that
asked me if I needed any salt tablets! Yes, I did, but i had
forgotten--you saved me!  Then off you go with a lot of "you got
this's" and "great job's".  And you trust them, because you
know that they've been in your spot before or they are part of that ultra
family that supports their own runners at these events.  They get it.
 I love y'all!  

What completes this amazing race is the wonderful
race directors (RDs).  This may have been Dan and Amanda Paige's first
event as RDs, but you never would have known it.  I think everything went
perfect.  Wow, how do I sum it up for you without leaving out the
important details?!  First of all, there are multiple training runs set up
on the course and Dan, himself, attends them.  The shirts, buckles and
awards are all great!  Personally, In ever had one unexpected issue out
there on that trail.  Every mile was marked, every aid station was manned
and provided anything a person could need, there was always a presence of
medical aid available, the trail was well marked with flags and glow sticks so
one could easily find their way in the dark night.  Dan and Amanda treated
my family like their own.  Both of my young grandbabies (3 yo and 1 yo)
were there with my husband, and they played with them, held them, talked to
them--it was just wonderful to come across that finish line and see that those
babies were a part of the ultra family.  It's just like when you see your
child eating a healthy meal and you feel good about it, well I saw these babies
being part of a healthy experience and I felt good about it.  Dan, Amanda
and their children go over and above what would be expected and made this
experience a memorable one.  Bayla is still talking about Ryan.

Explaining those miles/hours on the course is
easy, yet difficult.  I can tell you about this climb and that climb, but
to get you inside of my head at that time is probably impossible.  It's
weird how you imagine that you'll think about everything under the sun while
you're out there because of all of the alone time you'll have, but your head
doesn't work like that--at least mine doesn't. I constantly keep up with
my goals, and when I start falling short of my goals (like when I expect to be
at the next aid station or mile marker) then I start to recalculate.  When
I start thinking of how far I've still got to go or when things get tough, I
count.  I'm a counter.  Everything is possible if you break it down
in to manageable amounts, so I broke down the course like this:  6 miles
to Vinny, 9 impossible, grueling, *%^#$ miles back to Vinny, but in the middle
there would be a little pick me up at 5.5miles when I got to Kelly's Kitchen,
after getting back to Vinny all I had to do was 5.4ish freakishly hard miles to
the end of the loop--and there you have it one loop of 20 plus miles.  
All I had to do was repeat it four more times.  This helped me manage each
loop in my head, although there are certainly times that my head takes over and
tells me it's impossible to keep going.  We, my head and I, battled
frequently with this thought.  I ultimately won the battle with this  
little speech to myself--This is your "me time", this is your
"vacation", your "alone time", and just look where you
are--exactly where you always wish you were when you're not, and you can't
waste such a gift.  It's just pain, and it's your pain--no one can take it
from you, you can't give it away,--it is all yours now use it in a positive way
and quit whining.  (I talked to myself a lot.)  The course, for me,
can be described like this--the first 6 miles are the easiest.  You can
run most of the first two miles, although there are some ups and downs and then
at mile 3 there is a pretty significant climb, although it did not have an official
name, I eventually gave it a name that I can't repeat.  After that climb,
there were many ups and downs until you reached the first AS.  The next
5.5 miles to Kelly's Kitchen are very hard.  You come up to Sasquatch Summit
around 7.25 miles and it is a steep climb up through big white rocks, few trees
and it just keeps going.  You can't just walk it up though, you have to
climb it.  On the first loop through at the start of the climb I had a
huge cramp attack the inside of my inner thigh and then move up and down my
leg.  I was startled and scared, I just knew that if cramping started at 7
miles in that I would never make it to the end.  At the top of the climb,
I started digging into the cramp with my hands and forced it out (I have a huge
bruise from it now!)  I cursed a little and then told myself to suck it
up.  I had to climb Sasquatch Summit with my hands on loops 2-5and mainly
depended on my hands to pull me up by the last two loops.  Once you clear
this hurdle you can't rest easy though, because you know that in the middle of
mile 8 you are going to be faced with the "Soul Crusher", and yes,
that was what it was named.  It goes on forever, it's hard, it is brutal going
up and brutal going down--steep both ways.  Going down has the extra bonus
of scree and you were constantly in danger of losing your footing and sliding
down on your rear end instead of running down with your feet.   The Soul
Crusher did not succeed in crushing my spirits for long though, because each
time that I fought the battle with her and came out on the other side, I felt
stronger at least until the next loop.  However, she did succeed in
crushing my two big toenails--they will be history soon.  After getting
through those "significant" climbs and many other non-significant
climbs, you are rewarded with some great running--soft, pretty, creek
crossings--just watch out for the snakes!

I had the great fortune to meet up with a friend
for a few miles on loop two, Jeff Kimrey, and but for him and his quick
spotting and quick warning, I would've been sporting a Copperhead bite instead
of a buckle at the end!  Having someone to run with had picked up both of
our spirits and we were running and talking, and then all of a sudden he said,
"SNAKE!" and he jumped up in the air.  Well, since we were
moving fairly fast at that point I had no time to actually verify that there
was a snake, so I didn't even bother to look, I just took two huge leaps on
legs that just minutes before didn't feel like they could raise more than two
inches in the air.  We then looked back at the most beautiful copperhead
snake with her head reared up in the air, maybe three inches high.  I'm
sure she was wondering what the heck was that or dang, just missed her!
 It was scary, exhilarating and so cool.  Thanks, Jeff, for saving my
life and my race!  

After the snake, I kept on keeping on, (all the
whilst keeping a good eye out for any critters on the trail and hoping I'd get
lucky enough to see a Rattlesnake) and finally reached Kelly's Kitchen.
 From Kelly's Kitchen back to Vinny was less than 3.5 rolling miles with
the exception of maybe only one significant climb.  After Vinny's there is
5.4 or so, I think, to the end.  There is some great running through this
part, lots of creek crossing and rock hoping, Hallucination Hill, and a few
steep short climbs thrown in just for fun.  Hallucination Hill comes at a
time on the course when you are anxious to just get back to HQ, and it is
steepish and rocky.  It slows you down right when you think everything is
getting easier--Uwharrie's way of reminding you that she is still the boss and
respect is due!  Did I have any hallucinations?  Yes, I saw a fluffy
white kitten, which turned out to be a beautiful piece of white rock called
Feldspar, and I think I saw some Planet of the Apes faces once at the top but
then thought that can't be.  The kitten is funny because I recently told
J.D. that he would find his "spirit animal" on a run like this, so
apparently mine was a kitty.

 That's the race course, a piece of one loop or a
piece of another loop, so that you can get a feel for what each section of the
20 mile loop feels like.  However, each piece of each and every loop has a
different story out there and each one is to be respected.  The story
changes with each loop and can have new characters, new emotions, new
atmosphere, new meaning, new "second wind", enter at any time.
 That keeps it exciting and mysterious as to what the next loop will be
like and always makes you wonder if you'll be able to handle the next one.

The final loop does have a story that was unique
in that my run had turned into a race!  An unexpected turn of events had
happened.  I started this race almost as the last person on the trail and
had never really laid eyes on but a handful of the 100 milers and that was only
once or twice.  On the last loop, I had to go it alone due to no pacer and
I was ready to just plug away at the course and try to finish before the 36
hour cutoff.  But, right before I stepped my foot on the trail, J.D. said
he had to tell me something, which was--they say you may be the first female
finisher.  "You're kidding me" , I say with complete shock.
 He says nope.  I say, gotta go, with absolutely no emotion because
my head was counting and calculating.  I didn't slow down to eat those
PB&Js like I had every other loop, I just held on to that little plastic
baggy of sandwiches until it was almost pulverized into liquid.  My pain
was gone, magically and mysteriously gone.  I was blown away with this
news.  I started running with a renewed energy stronger than the one that
I had started the whole race with, stronger than any that I'd ever felt before.
 My timid little feet that are always so very scared and careful on the
trail, especially going down as those who know me well will confirm, were
moving fast and fearless over every root, rock, and I was no longer running
that trail, I felt like for the first time I was a trail runner.  That
trail and I had a mission and that was to keep me up in front of the females.
 I ran like a crazy woman--talking to myself, eating that pulverized
PB&J's on the big uphill, leaping, jumping--I felt like I could fly.
 I could hear voices somewhere and I was sure it was a woman's.  I
just knew that the lady behind me was going to catch me at any second because I
knew that she was a strong runner.  I caught up with a male 100 miler and
his pacer, a lady--whew, I thought, maybe it was their voices that I had heard.
 Voices travel out there on those trails.  We said our hellos and
goodbyes, I passed him and I kept on keeping on.  I passed a bow hunter in
complete camouflage, even his face, and had some creepy thought about what he
was really hunting and I sped up even more! I reached Vinny's (mile 6 of loop),
grabbed my PB&Js and Gatorade and asked the update on the women racers.
 He told me--you're it.  What?!  You're kidding!  OMG.
 How many males will finish, I asked.  OMG.  Maybe I won't even
be the last finisher.

New goal,  stay ahead of the last runner I
passed.  I continued to run like a crazy lady.  

I came up on another runner, male.  He
seemed to be in a lot of discomfort.  He gave me some encouraging words
and we said our hellos and goodbyes, and I kept on keeping on.  I thought
about him often during the remainder of the loop and every time I would have to
battle yet another difficult beast of a hill, I thought he's never going to be
able to handle this in his condition.  You can never assume anything about
any runner at any point of a race, beginning, middle, how they look, act, or
behave before, during or after a race, because ultra runners are made up of
some magical ingredients inside that can't be seen.  This guy did finish
the race--he was on his feet for almost 40hours, well after dark on the second
night just plugging away at what must have seemed like eternity.  Just
amazing and beautiful--magical.  

I continued my crazy running until Sasquatch
Summit and Soul Crusher took a little bit out of me, but not too much because I
was planning ahead for them.  My plan was to push up hard for 10 counts
and if you need to, rest, and if not push up hard for another 10 counts, and
this is how I handled every hill from that point on for the last loop.  I
employed a new technique that my body made up on the spot--I went into an
almost squat, legs wide apart and arms at90 degree angles and I climbed/marched
up.  It was trying to suck the life out of my legs, but then I heard
voices again, and off I went.  (The voices were probably just campers, but
it didn't matter because it was all I needed.)  I got in and out of
Kelly's Kitchen.  I was trying to make sure that I was out before any of
the racers saw me because I know that anytime your mind and body can renew
itself with a second wind, and I didn't want to motivate them to chase me down
if they saw me!  I needed to know that there was someone on my heels in
order to make it out of those woods before the36 hour cutoff or I might not
make it.

Off I went heading to Vinny's for one last time,
recalculating all the way because my time was starting to slip away.  The
miles to Vinny's had gotten longer and I had not planned for that!  Where
is the 14 mile marker?  I was getting worried that I would not buckle this
race and all that work would have to be done again next year!  (That's how
I think.)  Then I looked up and there she was, the trail gods had sent me
a gift, a trail angel named Rhonda.  She nonchalantly said that she'd run
with me for a while, if I wanted, and so I said sure.  We made it back to
Vinny's and she offered to run in with me, if I wanted.  I said sure, but
was hoping she wouldn't think I was a wimp, because I knew that I'd be
suffering on the last five.  Wow, Rhonda is an ultra running aficionado.
 She stayed behind me "just for some company" but her words were
perfect, challenging, and the motivation that I needed.  I realized
quickly that she was not going to let me back off, relax, or just finish.
 She challenged me to get my time down as low as possible.  I was
thinking that she clearly had unrealistic expectations of me.  I told her
that that last mile and a half was very long and that there was no way.  I
tried to tell her, but she didn't fall for it.  I told her that I just
wanted to finish before the 36 hour cutoff and she replied I think you can do
it under 35.  My new goal, my new challenge.  My crazy, fearless
running started to come back, she was right, I am a "smell the barn"
kind of runner and it was calling me.  She talked me through with
encouraging words, funny stories and bar jokes!  She gave me something out
there on that trail that I will take with me to every race I do--she made me
believe in myself.


An ultra runner walks into a bar and the bartender says...
Hey, does my bar look like a hill to you?  
Made that one up for you, Rhonda.  (Crickets chirping)

28 Starters
8 finishers-7 males/1 female (me!)

Inaugural Uwharrie Trail 100 miler, Uwharrie National Forest, Troy, NC; October 18-19, 2014 

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