Monday, August 10, 2009

Viaduct Trail 100 Mile Run - 8/8/09

Shiran (NY)

Tiger trying to keep up with her new running buddy, Carl (DE)

So . . . I'm sitting in the airport, waiting to board a plane to Philadelphia, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had not packed any socks. I knew I was forgetting something! My list of things to do when I arrived in Lanesboro, PA for the Viaduct Trail 100 Mile Run just went up one item. Wal-Marts are everywhere, so this would not be a big issue, I thought.

What I thought would be a 3 hour drive from Philly to Lanesboro turned into a 4.5 hour drive. Friday evening traffic and road construction will extend any trip. This was not a big issue either. I would still have enough time to do some shopping, to get some dinner, and to get a good night's rest before the race the next morning.

The race directors, Carl and Dave, had told us that it would be okay to camp at the start/finish area, but I ended up staying at a rest area not too far away. Lanesboro is a very, very small town. It may not even be big enough to call it a town, and it definitely did not have a Wal-Mart.

After checking out the start/finish area and Lanesboro, I headed back to the main highway to see if I could find a place to do some shopping. The New York border is about 15 minutes from Lanesboro, so I ended up in Binghamton, NY. I did not find a Wal-Mart there either, but there was a Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked up socks that were relatively cheap and worked out well during the race. I also picked up a sports bra on sale and ended up wearing that as well, since I wasn't all that excited about the one I had brought with me. I know that you should never try new gear during a race, especially a 100 miler, but even the bra was a good fit. There was no rubbing or bouncing at all - the most important factors for a sports bra, lol. I also picked up some gels, and then I was on my way to the next stop.

I now understand why some races charge such high entry fees. Getting my own supplies was not cheap, lol. I found a grocery store called Giant and picked up all kinds of high calorie and salty foods. Not that I was planning to eat all of this stuff (just being prepared), but my shopping basket had: two 64-oz bottles of Gatorade, 1 box of miniature blueberry muffins, 1 pack of trail mix, 1 can of Pringles salt and vinegar potato chips, two 20-oz bottles of Mountain Dew, two 20-oz bottles of Pepsi, 1 pack of miniature 3 Musketeers candy bars, and 1 box of strawberry breakfast bars.

After my Giant shopping spree, I found a Subway to get my signature foot long veggie on wheat bread. I then headed back to the rest area to eat and to pack my drop bags. I split all of my goodies between the 2 drop bags. Saturday night's weather forecast was rain and cool temperatures, so I added rain ponchos, 2 long-sleeve technical shirts, 2 pairs of my new socks, an extra pair of shoes, a pair of tights, 2 hand-held lights, and a head lamp. I felt I was prepared for anything so I settled in for the night.

Carl and Dave were doing this race as a "Fat Ass" event - no fee, no aid, and no wimps. This is my favorite type of race. They would provide water and drop bag service at the start/finish and at the 12.5 mile turn-around point, with a mid-point water stop only. The race was on a rails-to-trails, with four 25 mile out-n-backs, making up the 100 miles. They had capped the race at 30, and at some point had started a wait list. When I asked to be put on the wait list, I was #4 from the top. After a few months, I finally made it off the wait list and onto the official starting roster. Race day came, and only 17 of us started.

It was a beautiful, cool day for running. I actually started out with one of my long-sleeve technical shirts over my short-sleeve technical shirt and shorts. Sleeping in the rental car the night before, I had become cold and draped myself in every piece of clothing I had brought with me. I'd rather have cool weather than blazing hot temperatures, so I wasn't complaining.

We started under the viaduct and immediately hit the trail. The worse part of it for me had to be the old bridge we had to cross. There were gaps between the slats. These gaps revealed a fast flowing river below us. One slip moving from slat to slat and down went your leg. I was too big to fall through the slats into the river, but I didn't want a broken leg or ankle either. All of the other runners ran or walked quickly from slat to slat with ease. I lost the whole field trying to cross this raggedy-a$$ bridge. My whole body just trembled. I had a hard time balancing my big feet on the narrow slats, and it really freaked me out. It would have been easier for me to swim across except I haven't swam since high school, and I doubt that I remembered what to do in a body of water deeper than I was tall.

Once I crossed the bridge, it was all good. I caught up and passed the last 2 guys. The trail was wide with trees, wild flowers, and brush on both sides. Occasionally as we neared a street crossing, we would pass a house. Once we crossed the street, we were back on the trail.

The rails-to-trails was rocky in some areas and smooth in others. It was relatively flat, except for 2 "V"s, where we would run straight down one side and immediately start back up the other side. Since race director Carl had told us to follow the trail by imagining how a train would travel, I was puzzled when I got to the first "V". He had said that a train pulling all of that weight would not make any sudden turns. Therefore, if we followed sharp turns, we would definitely be off-course. So, how could a train travel down a steep descent and then pull back up on the other side? It wasn't until I was running with Carl (DE) that my question was answered. There was a bridge connecting the 2 sides of the "V", and when they built the rails-to-trails, the bridge was removed, probably due to safety issues. I'm not sure why that had not occurred to me before, lol.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Somewhere along one of the initial road sections, a runner catches up to me, and we start chatting. Shiran (NY) had driven down to the race that morning but had been stopped by the cops for a tail light that was out, so he had started the race late. He didn't seem to be upset at all and had luckily gotten off with a warning. At one point, we were talking about the railroad spike that we would receive at the finish for our efforts. I had told him that since I had flown and only had carry-on luggage that I couldn't take my spike onto the plane with me. I had planned to ask and pay one of the race directors to mail the spike to me. Shiran immediately offered to mail it for me and he had only known me for a couple of miles. How cool was that!

Way too soon, it was time for Shiran to take off. He would remain cheerful, encouraging, and fast the entire race. Shiran would also steadily move up the field to finish 7th overall in a fine time of 23:44:19. Wow!

A few miles down the trail, one of the runners that I had passed once I crossed that raggedy-a$$ bridge, passed me back. That meant that only one other person was behind me. It's always comforting to know that someone else is attending the back-of-the-pack party besides me.

At the turn-around, both race directors were there. I told them that I loved the course, and they seemed please to hear that. They commented that they were worried that so many runners started out so fast and that I seemed to be on a good pace. They were just being nice, lol.

It was starting to warm up, so I put my long-sleeve shirt in my drop bag and grabbed some chips, a gel, and a breakfast bar to nibble on the way. I also refilled my bottle with Gatorade and headed out. The last guy was close behind me, and right after I finished up the first of the 2 "V"s, he caught up to me. He introduced himself as Carl (DE), and then a little light went on in my head. He was the race director for the Delaware 100 Mile that I was signed up for in September. We started chatting and ran many, many miles together.

Carl was training for the Cascade Crest 100 Mile, a very difficult race in Washington. He had successfully completed sixteen 100 mile races, including Massanutten, another difficult 100 miler in Virginia. Whether he knew it or not, I had decided to hang with him as long as I could. He was such good company and a treat to run with.

We made it back to the raggedy-a$$ bridge, where Carl breezed right over it, and I tip-toed my way across. How in the world would I cross this bridge 6 more times?

Back at the start/finish area, Carl and I refueled at our drop bags. With one out-n-back and 25 miles down, we headed back out. It was very warm now. Since there weren't many of us, it was like a small family. We would all give each other encouraging words as we passed by one another.

I followed Carl's pace. When he walked, I walked. When he ran, I ran. I was determined not to DNF another race for the year.

We made it back to the 12.5 mile turn-around and refueled. I asked the race directors if we would get back to the start/finish area before dark, which would give us 50 miles. They believed that we could do it. I thought about that raggedy-a$$ bridge and grabbed a light from my drop bag just in case. I couldn't imagine crossing that bridge in the dark.

Carl was now on a mission. He wanted to finish 50 miles before dark. Shay (PA), a volunteer, offered to run with us for a couple of miles, and we gladly accepted her offer. Although not an ultrarunner as of yet, she was great company. I'm sure Carl enjoyed hearing someone else's voice besides mine, lol.

Byron (NY) came along and asked for water. I had Gatorade in my bottle, but Carl had water in his camelback and shared with Byron. He chatted for a minute but quickly went on ahead as the second place runner was close behind him. He had taken a nasty fall earlier in the day but refused to drop out. The bruise on his arm was not pretty, but he said that it was his finger that was causing him the most anguish. It turns out that it was broken. He went on to win the race in 18:26:57 before heading off to the hospital. Now that's what I call TOUGH!

The sun was going down, and it was cooling off. Carl began to pick up the pace, and I had started dragging. My right foot had been bothering me all week, and now it had started screaming at me. It actually felt better to run than to walk, but after almost 50 miles, I was walking more than running, and the foot was feeling worse. I popped 2 Advils, which did nothing to numb the pain. It didn't matter. If a sore foot was the extent of any problems, I could finish.

I soon lost sight of Carl. I was now alone, only seeing those who had started their 3rd or 4th out-n-back. When the coast was clear, I ducked off into the brush for a potty break and then started walking towards the start/finish area. By the time I made it back to the raggedy-a$$ bridge, it was dark. Carl had already started his 3rd out-n-back, and all I could think about was my aching foot.

I have only been able to finish 100 milers if I completed the first half in 12-12.5 hours. I arrived at the start/finish area to complete 50 miles in 14.5 hours. I knew that I would not finish under 30 hours. I talked with race director Dave, and he told me that they would wait for me to finish. That was encouraging, but what could I do to make the foot feel better? And I really didn't want them to wait for me if it took me much over 30 hours. But I had to at least try and give it my all. Maybe I could catch Carl, and we could finish this thing together.

I sat in a chair with my Pepsi and changed my socks and shoes. I grabbed trail mix, a gel, miniature muffins, and refilled my bottle with Gatorade. I had been nibbling all day, but I still seemed to be hungry more so than usual. I also grabbed a jacket, tying it around my waist, and a head lamp to go along with my hand-held light. I announced to the volunteer that I was going back out. She asked if she could do anything for me. I told her that I needed someone to carry me across that darn bridge. Bless her heart; she told me she would if she could. We both laughed, and I headed out, cursing the raggedy-a$$ bridge. It turned out to be the last time that I had to cross it.

I arrived at the same road crossing that I had met Shiran earlier in the day and for some reason I headed up a street that ran almost parallel to the trail for a little while. Once I realized that I was on pavement and not on the gravel and dirt trail I turned around, but in the dark I had a hard time finding the trail. I almost cried. Where was the trail? At that point, I should have turned around and went back to the start/finish, but I still had delusions of catching Carl and being able to finish. Calm down and focus! I finally wandered around until I saw a marker. The trail was right where it had been all day. I was getting tired, lol.

Half way through the "out" portion, I stopped at the water only aid station and filled my bottle. A couple of runners who had been together most of the day, just as Carl and I had, were leaving. They had seen Carl and said that it was too bad that I could not hang with him because he was looking good and moving well. I agreed and immediately knew that I would not catch him. I wished them well and trudged on.

Now it had started to rain. I wasn't moving fast enough to stay warm, so I put the jacket on that I had wrapped around my waist. My foot was killing me. Every step on a rock sent a shock through my foot and up my leg. I was also starting to weave across the trail. And a few times I became nauseous. I leaned forward, hands on knees, expecting to hurl, but nothing came up. What in the world was going on? I rarely have tummy issues during a race.

The last six miles to the turn-around were a struggle. One of the lead runners on his last out-n-back asked if I was okay. I told him that I was, but clearly, I wasn't. It was time to drop, but I had to make it to the turn-around point to do so.

I soon saw Carl coming towards me. At this point, he had to be at least 4 miles ahead of me, which meant that I had about 2 miles to go before I could drop. I'm not sure how I had expected to catch him. I wished him luck, and we both continued on our separate ways. Carl would finish his third out-n-back giving him 75 miles in 22:30. That was good training for the Cascade Crest 100 Mile.

All day long I had seen cute deer hopping across the trail and running through the woods. Imagine my surprise when a little while later I smelled skunk. Come on! Wasn't I having enough problems already? I moved my lights across the trail. The last thing I needed was to be sprayed by a skunk. The smell was messing with my tummy, and I again bent over, hands on knees, expecting to vomit. Again, dry heaves was all that I got. I stumbled on, and then I saw the skunk, scurrying into the brush. I was now motivated to run a few steps. Please don't spray me! Please, please, please . . . .

I finally made it to the turn-around (without being skunked). Race director Dave came out onto the trail asking who was there. I told him. He asked how I was doing. "I'm done," I responded. I had just DNF'd at 62.5 miles in 19:47. If this had been a 100K race, it would have been a PR for me. Darn!

I sat down in a chair by a small fire. My foot was so sore. It was throbbing uncontrollably, and I was exhausted. Dave talked with me for a little while, and then he woke up a volunteer to man the aid station while he packed up the drop bags of those that had visited the turn-around for the last time. He then helped me to the truck.

Once back at the start/finish area, I climbed into the rental car, cleaned up, and changed clothes. I then took a nap. When I awoke, it was light out, cloudy, and drizzling. I drove the short distance to the start/finish area and said my good-byes to the race directors. I gave them an unopened bottle of Mountain Dew and Pepsi and the remaining Gatorade since I couldn't take any of it onto the plane. They were planning to run Carl's Delaware 100 Mile so I will see them again next month. I told them I would be back to their race. I enjoyed the course, and I really did have a good time.

Sitting in a chair with his railroad spike was Shiran. I congratulated him. He had remembered that he had told me that he would mail me my railroad spike. I told him that I did not finish. He said he'd send me one any way. I laughed and told him that I wanted to come back next year to finish and earn it. I'm sure he understood.

1 comment:

  1. You are such a trooper! I am so amazed by all of your various races. You always have such an upbeat and positive attitude and are truly a special lady.

    And of course you always select the toughest courses for your ultra's in my opinion...I tend to select races that are not going to cause me to break a finger, risk a skunking or have a crappy a$$ death defying bridge to climb across:-)