I completed my first 100K ultra last Saturday at the Weymouth woods 100K Trail Run in Southern Pines, NC. The course consisted of fourteen 4.5 mile loops along the trails of Weymouth Woods State Park.
We got off to a chilly start right at 8am, and I hooked up with my training buddy Lauren and we set off for lap number one. The terrain was slightly technical, mainly due to the copious amount of roots both visible and hidden along the trail. Overall the trail was in great shape, with some small hills, boardwalks and pine straw covered double track.
Our goal was just to finish, and to feel like we could go a little longer if we had to. Lauren was using this race as a training run for the Umstead 100 Mile run at the end of March. We had talked about finishing in 18 hours, but that was a loose goal. The time cut off was 20 hours.
The first several laps we ran averaging an hour per lap. This race was a qualifier for Western States 100, with the qualifying time being 14 hours and under. We joked briefly that we could qualify for WS 100 if we kept up the pace, but we knew we would be slowing down soon enough.
We decided to employ the "lap countdown" method as we ran, since we thought it would be a more positive approach than counting mileage. By lap three, we had settled into a nice pace, walking the hills to conserve energy. It was also at this time my right foot began to find many of the roots along the trail! I wound up falling a total of four times, the only damage being a mild scrape on the knee. It was taking it's toll on me mentally, especially since Lauren was not falling at all! I always seem to struggle at the 20 mile mark, and combined with the falls, I was not a happy camper. I knew that if I just worked through it, I would start feeling better by mile 30 or so.
By the time we hit the 50K mark I was feeling better. Lauren's husband arrived with their two dogs, Bogart and Amelia, and Lauren was going to run a lap with each of them. The first lap went to Amelia, and she ran great! I could see Lauren's energy level increase now that she was running with her "babies"! The next lap was turned over to Bogart, who has a great canine ultra shuffle! Before I knew it, Lauren and Bogart had dropped me and were up the trail and out of sight! At this point I had hooked up with my friends Bob and Jimbo, and it was nice to run and chat with them.
The race volunteers and aid stations were amazing! The amount and variety of foods was incredible. There was chips, cookies, cakes, pizza, burgers, soups and even grits! Being vegan, I was impressed by the fact that they even had vegetarian and vegan soup! I stuck with Honey Stinger gels and Gatorade for the first few laps, then hit up the chips, pretzels, PB&J and grits the rest of the way! Not sure if the grits were truly vegan, but at that point I was willing to make some minor exceptions. It had not gotten above the mid 40's temp wise, so the soup and grits were a Godsend.
Before we knew it, the sun was sinking fast and it would soon be time to break out the headlamps. This is where the race changes. It would now require extra focus to navigate the course, and also the temps would now be dropping once again. A slight breeze had picked up as well, so when we got back to the main aid station I got into some dry gear, got my headlamp and back out we went.
I had done some night training runs, so running along the trail at night, especially with the "mothership" headlamp was quite fun! Lauren and I had taken to naming "landmarks" along the course during the day, so now they were keeping us motivated as we passed by them in the dark. "Son of a ditch", "Anita Hill", " Horse Poop Ridge", "Red Clay Rambler" and "Fudge Hill" were just a few of them I remember.
We were staying focused and happy for the final few laps, grinding it out. At one point we had stopped briefly (probably to wolf down more grits) and were delighted to look up and notice a beautiful star lit winter sky!
The last lap was upon us, and we said goodbye to all our little landmarks as we passed them for the final time. We pushed through the "Frostbite Mountain" aid station and thanked Jimmy and Doug for their continuous supply of grits and support. We were cruising towards the finish when our friend Jim appeared out of nowhere and shouted to us that we had three minutes to make it to the finish to get under 17 hours! The final landmark we had named "Stairway to Heaven" due to the fact that it was comprised of wooden steps and a nice little climb to the top where the timing mat and main aid station was located. So, after nearly 17 hours of running I now found myself sprinting like a jackass up the stairs to the finish.
I made it. Barely. 16 hrs 59 min and 55 seconds. To say I was happy/relieved would be an understatement.
Congrats to all the folks that broke 14 hours and qualified for Western States! I hope the lottery is kind to you.
I can only imagine what the women at the front desk of the hotel was thinking when I staggered through the lobby at 2 a.m.,still in my running tights, snot glazed and dazed. I nodded at her politely, went upstairs into my room and took perhaps the greatest shower of my life.
Thanks to Marie, the RD, for putting on a great event! Also a big thank you to all the wonderful volunteers that kept us fed and motivated.
I also cannot thank my running buddy Lauren enough for all her singing, happiness and motivation throughout the race! It was great sharing the journey with ya!