6:30am, race day. Standing at the start, shivering, temp about 37 degrees. Race gear: Race Ready shorts, Nike base layer, cycling jersey. I opted for the cycling jersey over the hydration pack from a comfort standpoint, due to the length of the race. I had my ultimate Direction hand held and my Montrail Rouge Fly. I had the Hokas packed in my drop bag at mile 26, just in case.
Off we went, into the darkness along a paved road. My trusty Fenix headlamp, affectionately known as "The Mothership" due to it's amazing brightness, was appearing somewhat dim. It was then I remembered not having replaced the batteries after the Hinson Lake 24 hour ultra. Thankfully, other folks lights provided me enough vision, and an hour into the race, it was beginning to get light.
Photo by M. Percy
We ran on the road for a mile or so, then onto some double track. Mile two was marked by a creek crossing, then a watery tunnel. Since there was no way around the water, you just had to embrace it and slog through it. Despite the cold, my feet felt okay. The Rouges dried out rather quickly as well.
I was feeling okay at this point. I was trying to keep a steady pace, being somewhat conservative but staying ahead of the cut offs. It was going to be a long day, regardless. I went through Peavine Gap Aid stations #1&2, then on through Dancing Creek and Parkway Gate AS at Mile 15. I was staying hydrated and had taken a gel and ate a Cliff Bar up to this point. It was also around this point I noticed I was not feeling particularly strong on the hills. I was power walking them, but still was feeling somewhat tired. Not a good sign.
I fought my way from Parkway Gate up to Robinson Gap, then enjoyed a nice downhill into Irish Creek AS at mile 19. Two miles later, I went through The Reservoir AS, three minutes ahead of the cut off. I grabbed some food, refilled my hand held and headed out for the climb up Long Mountain.
The climb up Long Mountain felt endless. It was 5 miles of climbing to get to the Long Mountain AS, the halfway point. I felt myself slowing down. There was no "pop" in the legs, and I found myself trudging up the mountain. I was now getting very fatigued. I was trying to do cutoff math in my head, to no avail. My form was really suffering, and I began to feel like a marionette with all it's strings tangled up. It seemed like an eternity had passed when I finally crested the climb and hit the flat stretch that led to the Long Mountain Aid Station. Upon reaching the aid station, I was greeted by a rather sheepish young man who informed me I had just missed the cut off and was being pulled from the course. I told him I understood, and he actually thanked me for not freaking out on him. (apparently the woman who came in right in front of me was pulled too, and was not too happy about it!)
It was my first DNF. I was okay with it. I was just not feeling it. I would have been pulled either going in or coming out of the loop section later in the race anyhow. My drop bag was here, and I could catch a bus to the finish line and watch everyone finish. As I walked toward the bus I heard a knocking on one of the bus windows. It was my friend Jenn, who had made the cut off but had been struggling with a cold/sinus issue all week and decided to drop, knowing that she would not have enough to finish the second half. I asked her about our friends Tim and Mo, and she said they were both looking good and heading up Buck Mountain towards the loop.The buses then headed out, bringing us to the finish line.
Jenn and I set up shop at the Country Store across the street from the finish. We sat on the porch, drank coffee and watched the finishers come in. Many of the folks that crossed the line looked pretty beat up, as conditions on the loop were rough. The 12 hour finish time was extended by a half an hour due to the challenges along the loop. Jenn and I waited anxiously for Mo and Tim to come in, standing in the dark at the finish line. As the last bus was about to pull out, We got on it. There was no cell service, so we had to wait about a half hour into the bus ride before we could reach Mo, only to find out she was already back at the hotel! Mo had made it to mile 41 before missing the cut off. Our friend Tim was pulled at mile 38.
Mo at Mile 41
293 people started, 236 finished. There were also 49 people that did not start. This is one that will go back on the calendar for 2013. Next year I will not run a 50K two weeks before this race. I will train more on hills. I will be back.............
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." - Edward Abbey