OK, I've gathered my thoughts from the race this weekend so here is my race report. I need to go back to this last weekend because I had a very bad stomach virus which left me weak and dehydrated at the first part of the week. I spent last week getting as many fluids and electrolytes in me as possible. I wasn't able to get a run either on the weekend, but I figured it was better to go into the race rested than get more running in.
I made the trip down to Huntsville on Friday and met a couple of my blogging friends Clea and Mark at packet pickup, they were nice enough to invite me to a pre race dinner at The Homestead. We were joined by one of Mark's friends John who has run several 100 milers before so I was able to gain lots of knowledge and get some helpful tips before the race. One thing I've learned about ultra runners is that they will share any and every tip to help another runner get to the finish line. The race is very rarely against another runner, but against the course. One tip really helped me out a lot as I stopped at a grocery store and picked up some Boost meal replacement shakes for the race. These things were amazing and I might not have finished without them.
Friday night I slept pretty good and woke up around 4am and had a Boost, laid back down for a little while and then got dressed and headed to the park. I checked in, turned in my drop bag and started the wait. With about 25 minutes until the start I ran into Clea and we decided to run the 1st loop together and I would try to stay with her as long as I felt good. The weather was warm for February as I believe it was 60 degrees and humid. Not ideal conditions for running an ultra, but really nice to stand around waiting for the race to start. Once the race began I felt really good, but I could tell it was getting warm and and I wanted to stay on top of my hydration and electrolytes. With this being my 1st ultra, I probably spent a little too much time in the aid stations, but I just wanted to make sure I got my bottles refilled and grab a little something to eat. Making choices on what to eat can be a little difficult as everything looked good, but I usually made the safe choice of pretzels, PB&J sandwiches and crackers. I wore a Nathan vest without the bladder and carried 2 hand held bottles; and put gels and salt in my vest pockets. Next time I think I will go without the bottles and use the Nathan system as I want to see what its like to have both my hands free. Our group grew a bit during the loop and so did the conversations; before I knew it several hours had passed by.
At the end of the 1st loop the hills were starting to bother my right knee. The up hills were fine, it was the down hills that were starting to really hurt, which isn't good as the down hills is where you are supposed to make up time from walking the up hills. I slowed down a little and finished the first loop in around 3:40. I grabbed my bag and reloaded my vest with gels and salt as a volunteer refilled my bottles. I also drank another Boost; and I must say it was so good I could have drank my whole bag of them right then. I showed some restraint because I knew I would need them later.
I left the aid station for loop number 2 after what seemed like forever and the heat really started to get to me. The second loop was by far the hardest for me as it seemed like I had so far to go and I really didn't know if I could make it all the way to 50. I walked a lot more on this loop and ate more at the aid stations and took in more gels trying to get more energy. The sun was high in the sky and thank goodness there was a breeze that would come and go as I could feel the temperatures rising into the high 70's and low 80's. I hit a real low point about mile 27 as I tripped on a couple of roots but didn't fall; then I slightly sprained my right ankle. I was getting really pissed off at these roots, so I had to stop, walk a little and recompose my self. I walked to the next aid station, got some food and took off again. I only had 4.5 miles until loop 2 would be over and I knew if I could get started on loop 3 nothing would stop me then! Those last miles seemed to take forever, but once done I settled into a chair and reloaded my vest. I could feel a blister forming on one of my toes on my left foot so I went to the medical tent to get it looked at. Sure enough one was forming on my middle toe so they lanced it and taped it and I was good to go. I changed socks and put some more Blister Shield on and I was good to go. I had another Boost shake and off I went on the last loop.
I don't know if it was the recovery I did on loop2, the extra time I spent at the aid station because of the blister; but I felt great starting my 3rd loop. Mind you I wasn't running very fast but I felt like I was. I felt like I was flying through the trails not even putting my feet down. There was know way I was slowing down, then a root got in the way and almost put me down again. OK, back to reality and now everything hurts from the head down. I was just putting one foot in front of the other and going forward. As I was at about mile 40 I ran into Ryan who was looking good but was having a really bad chafing day. He had to cut the liner out of his shorts and he still had 50 more miles to go. Those guys and gals doing the 100 mile race are tough as nails and one day I hope to join them.
The last 10 miles are still very vivid in my head. I can still taste the roasted potatoes I had at the Dam road aid station, the sounds of the frogs croaking at sunset, the squirrels rustling up the trees and the sounds of feet hitting the dirt. It was an amazing experience. I took an ipod with me on this race, but I never took it out of my vest. The sounds all around me motivated me and kept me calm. The complete darkness in some sections made me feel like I was the only person in the race, and it felt good. With the darkness came cooler temperatures, if I only had some legs left I would run like the wind. Unfortunately my legs had very little left, so I jogged for a minute and walked 2. It was slow, but I was moving forward. The heat of the day was taking a toll on many runners as several were not able to keep any food or liquid down. For a 100 mile runner this was the end and a few were just getting to the next aid station to call it quits for the day.
The last few miles I swore must have taken me hours to finish. Every switchback I thought would be the last one. I thought I heard the generators of the finish line and then I couldn't. I kept waiting for the main road to appear and it never did. This went on for what seemed like forever, and then there it was, lights of the finish. I had no sprint, I had nothing but a shuffle left, but it got me were I needed to go, to the finish line. I crossed the line, received my medal, took a picture and sat down. I was done in more ways than one.
I had another Boost(did I tell you that I really like them?) and got my things together. I sat down long enough to get really stiff so getting up and walking back to my car with my bags was a little difficult. I stopped at McDonalds on the way back to the hotel and when I got back I could barely get out of my car.
Once in the hotel room I tried to eat but the food just didn't taste good so I took off my nasty clothes and took a shower. It wasn't a long shower since I was tired of standing, I just wanted to lay down. I had two blisters and my right upper ankle was a little swollen, but nothing too bad. I called my wife and told her that I was hurting and that I would NEVER do a 100 miler because that would be crazy!! I didn't sleep very well that night so I got up early and headed back home fairly early.
Now that I've had time to reflect on the race, I can't wait to do it again and I will be doing a 100 miler at some point in my life; just not sure when. I think I need many more miles on the legs and get my weight down quite a bit. The extra weight hurt my knees on the down hill sections. There are too many people to thank for getting me through this race, but I have to thank my wife and family. They were used to seeing me head out the door early on weekend and late at night on week days. Without their support I wouldn't have made it to the starting line.
PS- When is the next race?