Race Report: Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

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.Yeti map.PNGFirst 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.

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Does this make you want to sign up for a 100 mile race?  😉

Ready or not, here comes race day: preparing for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

I’m just about as ready as I can be for Race Day, and I feel strong as Friday approaches.  The reduced volume of training this week has given me extra time to make race day plans and go shopping for supplies.  This is my first 100 mile race, so I am sure that I will learn a lot about what I need and don’t need on the run.  I ran 33 miles of the Creeper Trail course in June on a training run, so that really helps as far as anticipating the terrain and elevation.  I know that I will learn a lot about limits on this course, as I push further than I’ve gone before, but thankfully, I will have family and friends (both in body and spirit) there with me to help!

I always pick a verse for my goal races instead of thinking of a mantra, and that helps me refocus and remember that God is in control, and as my Creator, He designed me to run for His glory.  I chose Isaiah 40:26 for this race because it is a reminder that out of all of humanity, God knows each one of us.  He created me to run and He knows my passions.  He also created my sweet little baby, not one of them is missing, and He loves her individually.

Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.

About the course:  You can see more about the course here.  In summary, this is an out and back, out again course, so I will run the same 33ish miles three times.  The trail is an old railroad bed, so it is mostly smooth and wide.  The elevation profile is like a tipped bowl, where most of the first 33 miles will be descending from White Top Station to Abingdon, then I’ll run back up and then down again.  The risk is that it is easy to go out fast downhill for the first 33 miles and bust your quads for the last 66+ miles. There are 5 aid stations that runners will pass multiple times due to the out and back nature of the course.  It is anticipated to be in the mid to upper 60s during the day and in the low 40s at night. I am told that White Top Station can feel downright cold and layers are necessary.

My crew and pacers: My husband is my number one support in every way, and he will be critical in helping me on race day, as he knows me better than anyone.  My parents are joining to help watch Cadence and crew during the day.  Finally, I have an awesome new speedy friend, Katie, who will be coming out with her husband and baby as well.  I met Katie through Instagram (@katyhaytay) when she was traveling to Atlanta.  She’s from Memphis, so this is no small commitment from her.  We went for a run together, bonded over running, babies, and Jesus, and the rest is history.  Actually, it’s not quite history yet, but it will be after she paces me through the night with a headlamp blazing the trail!

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Virtual friends who ended up real life friends!

How I expect for the day to go: For people unfamiliar with trail running or ultra marathons, there are a few things that are very different from road racing.  Endurance running most often involves a mix of running and fast hiking.  I won’t be running the whole time, but I would like to keep moving forward as quickly as reasonable.  I’ll carry my food and water with me in my hydration vest and restock at aid stations and when I meet with my crew (parents, Jon, and Katie).  The fuel that I plan to carry includes gels, shot blocs, pouches, and bars.  Plus, I have a variety of foods to eat when I meet with my crew and at the aid stations.  I plan to run a conservative pace in the beginning in the hopes of saving some juice in my legs to finish strong. There is a 30 hour cut-off, but it would be fun to finish earlier than that.

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Practicing runs with the hydration vest. I will miss her on the trail!

The plan is to see Cadence at least twice during the race, thanks to my parents who will be helping out. I will either need to feed her or pump.  Most likely, I’ll be pumping. I’ll meet with Katie at mile 66 to have her pace me for half of the remaining leg, and then I’ll pick up Jon to finish out the race.  I am so thankful for the team helping me run this race, and I am just about as excited to share it with them as I am to run my first 100. :)))

There will be race tracking about every quarter of the way that can be found here, and I’ll hopefully we’ll have enough cell signal for Jon to post a few updates to my Instagram account, @runningwithcadence.

Prep: This being my longest distance yet, I have spent a little extra time trying to map out what I’ll need each hour and mile of the course. I have planned out my fueling strategy, and I am aware that the digestive system works really differently when it is forced to operate on the run for this long of a duration. I purchased supplies over the weekend, including tape, etc just in case I have foot problems or anything else. On Monday I saw my fabulous medical massage person, and she did a final easy massage to keep things loose.  Most of my supplies are packed up in little baggies so that I can grab what I need quickly on the run when I meet my crew.

Any concerns:  I followed a training plan developed by my coach, and I feel strong going into this race.  I have one little place on my ankle that every once in a while gives me a little pain, but when it does hurt, it seems to go away once I start moving. 100 miles will be the real test!  Also, I had surgery in May, and I am always aware of the incision spot above my belly button

My biggest concern is that I am still breastfeeding, so my nutrients and hydration will be diverted to feed a baby.  Cadence turns one year old on Thursday, and I didn’t want for this race to dictate when I weaned.  She’s been waking up a lot in the night to eat lately, so my supply is not as diminished as I would have hoped by now.  Either way, she’s my number one priority, and breastfeeding is worth whatever happens on race day as a result. I also hope that she will let me get a little more sleep on Thursday night, as this past week has not been her best sleeping record.

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Travel: We will leave on Thursday late morning to go to our AirBNB house in Abingdon, VA.  There is a mandatory race meeting on Thursday at 7 pm, and the race starts at 7 am on Friday morning.  We’ll stay through Sunday morning before hitting the road again.

Ready or not, here comes race day!

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What is the longest race you have ever run?  Any tips for race day prep?

Yeti 100 Mile Training Run on the Creeper Trail: 33 miles to make new friends

A lot of ultra runners joke that they signed up for an ultra race after having one too many drinks.  I signed up for my first 100 mile race at 8 weeks postpartum.  I guess 9 months of conservative running made me a little drunk on the idea of running my first 100.

I signed up for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run in Virginia along the Creeper Trail because it is being hosted by my trail running friends, and I will have so much love and support from the Yeti community along the journey.  The course is meant to be an “easy” first 100 along an old railroad bed, which is exactly how I want to run 100 miles, easily.

On June 4, a bunch of yetis completed a 33 mile training run of the course and I took over 100 pictures.  Don’t worry, I selected my favorite 62 to post here.  Haha.  But seriously, I am using this post as a way to get to know the course and remember it a few months from now when I get ready to run 100 miles of this beautiful Creeper Trail in Virginia.

Creeper Trail

My husband and I arrived around 10 pm on Friday night, and we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Abingdon.  Cadence was a good sport for the drive, but our 5 hour drive quickly became 6+ hours with all of the baby stops to nurse, get dinner, change diapers, etc.

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We met the group at 8:45 am on Saturday at White Top Station.  The Creeper Trail starts at White Top Station and ends in Abingdon, Virginia.  One leg of the course is about 33 miles, so the 100 mile race will go from White Top to Abingdon, back to White Top, and end again in Abingdon.

Jason, the Race Director and king of the Yetis, gave instructions and tips at the start and along the run.  He mostly just encourages as much fun and beer as possible, which is just another good reason to run 100 miles.

The trail is mostly crushed limestone, and not technical, so it is really easy to fly through the first downhill leg of the race.  Jason cautioned us to take the first 33 miles slow and easy, even though we will be tempted to fly.

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Near the top of White Top Station is a side trail where you can get a view of a Christmas tree farm.  I stayed with a larger group of trail runners for the first few miles.

Within the first few miles we spotted a really pretty waterfall/rapids area and decided to dip our toes (except for Jason, who got all the way in the water).

And then we were off again!  I ran with Kristen and Sean (bottom of the three pictures below) after about two hours of running, and I stayed with them until we reached Damascus.  It turns out that Kristen is a pretty badass mother runner!  She has a 16 year old, a 4 year old, and twin 2 year olds!  Sean is pretty badass himself, having run Western States and Leadville, among other tough races. What a fun marriage they have!

There is an aid station at mile 6.3 (which is also 60.5 and 73.1), which is around this area.

Then we came into the Taylor’s Valley region.  Jason warned us that as beautiful as this area is, at night it can be creepy because there is a dog that barks.

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Having much fun!  I had such a great time running both with groups and with individuals. So much to talk about on a run!

Apparently you can get a killer fried bologna sandwich at the Creeper Trail Cafe.  This is about 10 miles from White Top. Kristen and I decided to pass on the opportunity.

The first half of the trail felt much more shaded by dense trees.

Before reaching Damascus, the trail runs along the highway. It’s not as aesthetic, but it does serve as a good way to break up the scenery.  Somewhere between Taylor’s Valley and Damascus, I tripped on a rock and supermanned across the trail. This is probably the worst fall I’ve had running, and the dirt is still embedded in my hands five days later. (But no permanent damage and I’m ok!)  There is a fresh water spring piped out of the side of the mountain along this road.  I used it to clean my wounds, but it is also great to refill water packs.

Yay!  Damascus!  This is about at the halfway point.  There are a few little shops and some small restaurants.  There is an aid station here at mile 17.4 (which is also 49.4 and 84.2).

When we got to Damascus, I said goodbye to Kristen and Sean and found a bathroom with a bench to pump at the Sundog Outfitters store.  They were incredibly accommodating to me, and I had no problems pumping and dumping with the hand pump that I carried in my pack.

I picked up a flatbread sandwich at Subway and walked and ate until I met up with some of the yetis who had stopped for lunch.  I walked with them for a few minutes (long enough to catch Jason chasing lunch with a shot of fireball).

Then Sam and I decided to head off and run our way to the end.  I had met Sam in the early miles of our run, but lost her when she sped up to the front.  Lucky for me, she took a break in Damascus to find tacos, and I was able to catch up with her.

Sam and I ran together from Damascus to Abingdon, and I am so thankful to have met my new friend!  She knows so much about running and so many other interesting things in life.  She’s also a really strong runner, and it was great to be paced by her.

The second half of the course has a lot more farmland, and there are bigger stretches of exposed trail where the sun can get pretty hot.

Moo!

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We came into Alvarado at around mile 25.  It was starting to get pretty toasty here.

This trestle crossing alone makes the whole race worth it!  There are 141 trestle crossings in the race, making scenery big reward for the hard work.

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Sam and I tried a timer on the camera, but I was a bit off.  This river is so beautiful!  I am thankful that I had my friend to share it with!

Crossing through lots of farmland.  Beautiful but hot! The elevation starts to go slightly uphill around mile 27.  There are no tough hills along this course.  Just gradual down, and gradual up.

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I ran out of water about 6 miles from our finish.  I was trying to be brave and act like it was no big deal, but I was hurting.  Between the heat and my boobs diverting all of the liquid in my body to produce breast milk, I was thirsty!

Luckily, we came across an extremely charming cabin with an equally charming older woman who generously filled my hydration bladder with fresh, cold well water.  Mmm mmm!

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So then I ran with water sloshing in my belly for the rest of the course. There are lots of bikers and some horse back riders along the trail, and everyone is so nice.  Different sections have different concentrations of people.  The last aid station is at the Watauga Trestle which is at mile 29.4 (which is also 37.4 and 96.2).

And then we reached the end of our ~33 mile training run along the Creeper Trail!

We’ll be seeing this view twice on the day(s) of the race! 30 hour cut-off!

Here is another one of my new friends, Jenny, who finished just after Sam and I completed the course.  We all sat around and talked about running after finishing, and this lady has quite an impressive resume!  Not to mention that she is just as sweet as she is beautiful!

And here are the real railroad tracks that led us to a cool drink!

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So that’s it!  I am so thankful that I was able to join the yetis for this great training run!  I feel so much more prepared for the race now that I have experienced the course. I know I have some work to do as I focus on training, and I can’t wait!

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This is the elevation profile.  We’ll run down, up, and back down.  Look out quads!

See you friends on September 30, 2016!

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Has anyone else run a 100 mile race? 

What did your training look like? This is going to be an interesting training season for me, as I balance having a baby, work, and training.  Thankfully, my husband is super supportive of me.