I hardly even know where to begin with a race report for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, as the race started for me way before Friday September 30th. One thing that I have learned in running 100 miles is that you get to know your strengths and weaknesses pretty intimately through the journey. You also get to know the people around you pretty closely, and I think that has been the most rewarding of all. I have been surrounded by so much love and support on this journey, and I am so thankful to the people who helped make this such a rewarding and fun experience.First of all, my husband supported my training program 100% from day 1, even with a newborn and a lot of other life demands. My neighbors cheered me on as I ran up and down our streets with a hydration pack and a headlamp. My co-workers listened to me talk about this race every day for months, and then they sat by their computers on race day to see the updates. I have so many running friends, both virtual and in my day-to-day life who helped encourage me. My family was unwavering to keep my spirits high through training and race day. And last but not least, the Yetis made this race absolutely spectacular. I have never been surrounded by a group of people so generous with their time and resources, and it has been such a gift to have made so many new trail friends through this race. Thank you Jason Green, for sharing your beautiful little town with us and helping us reach our goals!
THE DAY BEFORE: My husband, Jon, and I arrived in Abingdon, VA with my parents and Cadence (our ONE year old) on Thursday evening in time to check into our Airbnb and go to the packet pick-up. (Pictured below is our cute little Airbnb house and my mom sitting with Cadence on her one year birthday.)
Packet pick-up was at the Wolf Hills Brewery, which should give you a pretty good idea that the Yetis like to have fun. 🙂
I didn’t sleep great the night before the race, but that has been the story of my life for the last year since Cadence was born. She didn’t go down until after 10 pm, and she woke up at 2:30 am to nurse. My alarm went off at 5 am, and Jon and I started getting ready to head to the race. It was so surreal to be loading up the car for race day! Jon was going to drop me off at White Top Station for the 7 am start, and then he’d go back to the house to get everything and everyone ready to support me for the rest of the day (my hero!).
WHITE TOP TO ABINGDON, MILES 0-33.4: The race started just as it was getting light outside. We all slowly started running downhill from White Top Station, and eventually everyone got into their respective pace groups. I love the beginning of a trail run because generally you run with a pack of friends (old or new) and chat the whole time. This was no exception as I ran beside friends from the start. Pictured below are my good trail buddies, Sam Terry and Jenny Nichols, who I met at the training run in June.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay with any one group for very long, as my stomach started giving me issues from the start (even before the race started), and I had to dip into the woods to take care of business. Ultras are notorious for GI issues, but I do not know why I started having problems from the very first miles. Either way, it was not a fun way to start the race, and I was starting to feel the effects of not having enough nutrition for a strong run. My legs felt heavy and hard to keep my projected goal pace of 10:30 min/mile with all of my bathroom stops. I kept thinking, “Really!? This is not how I wanted my race to end.” So much disappointment after all of my hard work in training. And so humbling! But the trail community is great, and everyone commiserated with my sh*tty situation. Haha. (Pictured below is the Damascus aid station. We passed this aid station 3x, and it was glorious with two tables full of food and fire pits waiting to lure runners to comfort.)
When I passed through the Damascus aid station (mile 18), one of the kindest volunteers gave me some Immodium, and I quickly adopted a fueling strategy largely around a combination of Immodium and Pepto Bismal. Luckily, I don’t think that my stomach issues were causing me to lose too many nutrients, and I soon was able to eat and drink more. I continued to run down the trail with mile 33 as my goal, where I would see my crew for the first time. I knew that if I could get to them, they would at least share the burden of knowing that I was struggling so much. (Pictured below is my greeting committee at the Abingdon aid station.)
I made it to Abingdon (mile 33) to see my crew about 15 minutes later than my projected pace. What joy to see my family! My parents came to help crew so that they could watch Cadence while Jon took care of me. I got to the aid station, changed socks, pumped, hugged the baby, popped a few pepto bismal pills, and felt like a new woman. They say that you shouldn’t have your parents crew for ultras because it is so hard for them to see you suffer. I’ve got to say, my mom gave me a pep talk that turned my race around. Katie (my pacer for later in the race) and her family also arrived just in time to see me off to the next leg of the race.
ABINGDON TO WHITE TOP, MILES 33.4 TO 66.8: After I left the aid station at Abingdon, it was like a whole new race. I was still working through stomach issues, but things were getting better, and I had a renewed energy and speed. THIS is what I was waiting for. I started clipping away at an 8-9 min/mile pace, which felt terrific. For once, my legs felt like they didn’t have to put forth much effort, and I was watching the miles click away. Running fast in an ultra is typically a poor race plan because you can burn yourself out way too soon, but I felt like I was moving more economically at a faster pace, and economy saves energy. I was able to enjoy the beautiful trails around me, and I felt happy and strong. I always want to enjoy my races, and that is part of my motivation in training. I was having a blast, and I felt like myself again. Fellow runners who had seen me struggling during the first 33 miles were so encouraging as I ran along the course. (Pictured below is the trail and the famous Watauga Trestle bridge. My new friend, Allen, is in front of me. Allen ran a lot of ultras in the 80s, then took a break and returned to racing only recently.)
I ran through the Alvarado aid station (mile 42) (thank you John Davenport for your ceaseless support!), and picked up new supplies at the Damascus aid station where we had our drop bags (mile 48). As I was running away from Damascus, Sean Blanton (aka Run Bum, RD of my first ultra race) drove by and honked and yelled my name. Something about having people know you and genuinely care about your success is so powerful. I love the trail running community! I was having a blast! (In the video below, I am running with my new friend, Tom. Tom’s longest race before this was a 10k. He ended up finishing 9th overall, which is incredible.)
My next stop was Straight Branch at mile 53, where I had planned to meet my crew again. I had to pump through the race, so my designated meeting times were largely around pumping times. I resupplied, pumped, and got to soak up love from my family and baby at these stops, and they were the treasures that kept me motivated and moving on. I think that being a mom helps put everything into a new perspective, and it also makes you appreciate luxuries like running on the trails all day so much more. I could not have experienced the fullness of it all without the support of my crew!
The next time that I would see my crew would be the top of White Top Station at mile 66, where I would pick up my new friend and pacer, Katie. I had been looking forward to running with Katie since she signed on to pace me in August, and it made the miles between 53 and 66 seem to breeze by. I ran through Taylor’s Valley, which is absolutely beautiful (as is every other part of this course), and up the steeper incline of Green Cove. It started getting darker and cooler as I ascended to White Top. I was slowing down in pace, but I was still feeling really strong and my nutrition was solid. (Pictured below are some of the scenes near Taylor Valley, including the red caboose aid station in the bottom left corner.)
I reached White Top Station just as it was getting dark. My crew (Dad, Jon, and Katie) met me and went through the routine of resupplying my food and asking me the pertinent questions about my well-being. I was really encouraged that my nutrition seemed to be spot on, even with breastfeeding, and my stomach issues seemed to finally be resolved after mile 66. I pumped for the last time and changed into warmer clothes. Then Katie and I strapped on our headlamps and headed out for our run. They had all seen a bear on the drive up to our stop, so we were sent off with lots of prayers and just a little bit more worry from my dad.
WHITE TOP TO ABINGDON, MILES 66.8 – 100.2: Running with Katie was so much fun, even at the 66+ mile mark when my legs were starting to feel tired. She made the comment that she doesn’t get long uninterrupted blocks of time to just run anymore, as she is also a new mom. Just like me, she squeezes in her training runs in the wee hours of the morning, or later at night. We both have super supportive husbands who help us pursue our hobbies, but there is something liberating about two girlfriends strapping on headlamps and running for hours through the dark on the trails. We turned off our headlamps to look at the stars dancing in the dark sky, and I saw two shooting stars. Running with Katie helped break up the race monotony and gave me something to look forward to all day. We ran from White Top to Damascus together, where we met up with Jon. The miles didn’t fly by, but we exceeded our projected pace, taking walk breaks as my legs demanded.
We made it to Damascus around 11:45 pm to meet Jon and my dad. Jon was ready to bring me on home! It was beyond fulfilling to share the last 16 miles of this race with Jon. He helped me get to this point for months of training and a full day of crewing, and now my husband, my champion, was there to help my tired legs push to the end. By this time, the fog had settled and visibility with the headlamp was only a few feet.
We stopped briefly at the Damascus aid station because it had at least three fires and tons of pie and other goodies. Ultra aid stations and the volunteers are fantastic! Then we were on our way! I was on a run-walk pattern for the rest of the race with Jon. I had projected a 14 minute pace for the last leg of the race, and we were able to exceed it throughout the run. We passed a girl around the Alvarado aid station, and I later learned that she had been in 2nd place. We also passed a few guys in the last 10 miles of the race. Jon steadily led me to the finish, running about a foot in front of me and to the side so that it felt like he was pulling me along. My foot started to hurt around mile 90, and my run was reduced to a shuffle, but my legs still felt like they had some power in them. We ran a few 10 minute mile paces to put some distance between us and the runners we had passed, but the last two miles of the race were mostly comprised of hiking.
What bliss to finish! Jon and I ran across the finish together at 3:44 am, with a finishing time of 20:44, and 2nd female, 7th overall runner. My dad was there to celebrate the moment with me, and my mom was a phone call away waiting with the baby.
I learned so much in running this race, and I had such a good time along the way. As with any goal, the more you work toward it and the more people you have surrounding you, the more fun and rewarding it will be. Thank you again to all of the fabulous and loving volunteers who made this race possible. Also thank you to all of my fellow runners who encouraged me along the trails. I am truly blessed, and I praise our Creator for giving me the ability to enjoy His creation.
Does this make you want to sign up for a 100 mile race? 😉