Each race, I tend to have a different mantra in my head that helps me through. This race was "Keep your eyes on the trail and your feet moving forward." It seemed to work.
The 40 mile and 100k runners started together at 7 am and the trail marathon runners started an hour later. The first few miles were slow while everyone tried to figure out their place and started to spread out. That was fine by me, I was actually hoping to do more walking than running in the first few miles anyway.
I ran with just a hand-held water bottle. I like to run light, and I just haven't found a pack that's comfortable. My bottle can hold serveral salt caps or a key, but that's about it. I'll usually wear clothes with a pocket if I need to carry more than that.
John and I ran the whole thing together, since his preparation was about as good as mine. Our strategy was to start out slow and taper off. This race was all about HR and energy management (and I anticipated damage control as well). It was overcast and humid, and the humidity was reflected in my HR. I averaged 161 for the race, which is about 10 bpm higher than I would have liked, but I was feeling good so I didn't back off.
I focused on eating a lot, drinking often, and getting plenty of salt. I think I took somewhere around 15 salt caps in 8 hours. I was taking about 1 every 45 min, plus I would take another if I noticed my hands starting to swell up. That worked well and I had no cramps or stomach issues.
We ran the first few miles with several other Nerds and that helped pass the time. They passed us, we caught back up, and by the second lap John and I were on our own again. We ran the first 20 mile is 4 hours flat, right on our goal time. We both felt good, too, so we wasted very little time at the aid station and kept moving.
The manned aid stations were fantastic. The volunteers had everything set up like a full-service gas station, except unlike gas station attendants, they were clean, attractive, and pleasant smelling. Unless you've run an ultra, you can't appreciate someone taking your water bottle from you, discarding the body-temperature contents, and replacing it with an ice-cold beverage of your choice. In the early part of the race, this is a nice perk. At the end of the race, this was crucial for my hydration, but also for my mental state. Ice water never tasted as good as it did at mile 25 of this race. I felt better each time a manned aid station came into view.
I made it a point to eat at each manned aid station, typically a rice crispy bar, half a chocolate chip cookie, a few orange and watermelon pieces, and a salt cap. Each time I got to our drop bags, I stuck 2 GU in my sports bra to carry on the trails if I needed a pick-me-up. I maintain that is what sports bras are intended for - snack holders.
As the day got warmer, I had to increase my salt to about every 30 minutes and I ditched my shirt. With the humidity, John and I were both getting warm and I didn't want to overheat. We were very lucky in that the sun never really came out. I think runners would have been dropping like flies had we been in full sun.
At the aid station at mile 30, someone told me I was the 3rd female. We had passed a few women, but that was not even on my radar for priorities. That gave me a little more energy, and John said if i didn't take third I had to ride in the trunk on the way home. We both still felt good and kept up our pace. That changed quickly and by the time we hit the last manned aid station, we were both feeling tired and John started to have stomach issues.
The last 3 miles were some of the hardest miles I've ever covered. Somewhere during the second lap I lost all concept of time and distance, and I would have sworn that they moved some of those aid stations. We walked more in the last 2 miles that anywhere else. Without mile markers, we had no idea how close we were and we were starting to get frustrated. Exhausted is an understatement.
When we came out at the gravel road that led to the finish line, I actually starting singing the Hallelujah chorus. We walked up the steepest part of the hill, then ran for the finish line. I was surprised at how good I felt. I was tired, but I didn't feel like I had been run over by a bus. That was a victory in itself.
We finished in about 8:09. That put our second lap only 9 minutes slower than the first, which I thought was fantastic for 20 mile laps. Without the last few miles, our pace was probably dead on the rest of the race. We milled around for a while, drank lots of water and stripped off our incredibly muddy socks and shoes. I'm still not sure what my official time was or what place we each took, but that doesn't really matter. (John didn't make me ride home in the trunk, either) We ran a consistent race at a challenging yet sustainable pace. We couldn't have run a better race without better training.
Thunderstorms and tornado's rolled in later and lots of 100k runners weren't able to finish. I'm glad we finished before the weather, but I can sympathize with those runners.
We were both pretty sore afterwards. My feet felt the worst; they were water- and mud-logged, and completely battered. My quads were pretty trashed, too, but I chalk that up to poor training. By Monday, I could go down the stairs without leaning on anything and today I feel fine. I have been eating like a horse, too. Hopefully that will taper off soon.
Thank you to all of the organizers and volunteers. Bad Ben, Sophia, and the Trail Nerds really do put on a helluva race.