LOVE HARDER , EAT BETTER & EXPLORE FURTHER
“As every runner knows running is about more than just putting one foot in front of the other; it is about our lifestyle and who we are” - Joan Benoit Samuelson
Runners, in my opinion ultra and trail runners especially, are the most selfless, caring, optimistic, determined people on Earth. Not only do we toil and suffer in our own competitive spirit, but in a moment’s notice we’d do it for our friends, family and sometimes complete strangers. I got to witness the brutality of the Cruel Jewel 100 from a side I often don’t get to enjoy - pacing, crewing and spectating.
Sarah Woerner is an amazing runner; strong, fast and competent. With nothing on our schedule last weekend and the urge to camp, I asked if she was set for crew in her Cruel Jewel 100 attempt. Turns out - my girl could use a pacer for 35 miles, my specialty. Luke and I packed up the Subaru and headed out to Camp Morganton (the Mile 50 aid station and turn around point for CJ100) Friday afternoon, aiming to get there around 9-10 PM. We expected Sarah anywhere between Midnight and 1 AM, so we were able to tuck-in and get an hour or two of sleep.
Franklin Baker rolled in around midnight, looking strong and met his crew parked a few cars down. We checked in for sweaty hugs before he proceeded to cover his undercarriage in lube and head out with Daniel “Hot Daniel” Lucas. Even though the sun was down the night was dank and muggy, I knew I would be sweating within moments of running. Franklin let us know that Sarah wasn’t moving too well when he saw her, and we noticed that she was losing a bit of time on our schedule, following the UltraSignUp Tracking. At this point we also found out that unfortunately Nathan Holland had dropped with a lot of nutrition complications from the terrible heat, it seemed no one was keeping food down.
Closer to 2 AM Sarah came in to Camp Morganton. Her feet were in a lot of pain and she wasn’t moving well, it broke our hearts knowing she might not head back out. We spent a bit of time relaxing, trying on different shoes and going for a walk before she made the right call and pulled out. The way her feet were, the last, tough 56 miles would have been an excruciating walk. Live to run another day!
At this point I was jittery and caffeinated beyond all ultrarunner’s dreams. Without too much thought (especially to my beyond understanding and loving husband who has to put up with crazy shit all too often) - I offered my pacing services up to the 4 men still hanging in the 50 mile aid station getting ready to head out. With quick glances to each other, probably to the effect of “This chick could either be helpful or super annoying and maybe my wife will get pissed”, one gent spoke up.
Benjamin was the first bloodied person to come into the aid station and was still moving pretty well from what I could see. I think around 2:00 AM everyone is desperate for another human to share the misery with - so I headed out. I decided I go with Ben for 20 miles to the Mile 70 Aid Station. GOODNESS, was this the most fun I had had out on trail in a bit. Even though he was definitely hurting and fighting his way through the hellish climbs we had, Ben kept on chatting and laughing with me. We kept up a safe pace for climbs so he’d have plenty left for the last 30 miles and I tried to keep his nutrition and stomach issues in check - no puking (while he was with me that is !). Although my decision to disappear into the night may have been crass, I knew I made the right decision. It was absolute bliss to learn about Ben, hike like I hadn’t since GDR and see the sunrise over the Benton Mackaye Trail.
Around 8:00 AM we made it to the Mile 70 aid station, we found Luke asleep in the Subaru, and I gave Ben the biggest, sweaty hug and sent him on his way. A new member of our extended trail family.
Luke and I headed to Vogel State Park where we were going to camp with the Bakers, Hollands and Daniel Lucas. After an hour or so I felt great and beautiful bluebird day was calling my name. I hit the Coosa backcountry trail for 7 miles. After weeks of some tough road running due to work and time issues, it felt beyond amazing to enjoy some self-care on the trails. I got another 3k of gain in that 7 miles, but felt lighter on my feet heading back to camp.
For the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed spending time with our favorite hoard of children and the ultrawife duo Katy Holland and Jenny Baker. Of course I have no pictures with them :/ too busy wrangling husbands, children and one crazy Vizla named Forest. We tracked Franklin through UltraSignup and kept in touch with his crew. I kept track of my new friend Benjamin - hoping any momentum I might have gave him stuck around.
Finally around 6:00 PM we headed down to the finish line knowing Franklin would be coming in shortly - and boy was he coming in hot. He and his last pacer Chris were sprinting in, definitely ready to be done. It was so exciting and inspiring. He was the 6th finisher in under 31 hours! Eventually we all headed back to camp for dinner. Benjamin came running past our site to the finish line about an hour later - about to beat 32 hours and still moving like a fiend. I hopped up from the picnic table and jogged with him all the way to the finish line. I’ve never been so thrilled for someone, even a complete stranger who I’d only met a few hours ago.
Later that night, I helped Jenny cook dinner for the boys. We shared wine, laughs and cheers to the runners still coming past as the rain and thunder poured down. Finally, after being up since 5:30 Friday morning, we hit the hay (the air mattress in the back of our Subaru) around 10:00 PM. One last meal shared with the Bakers and goodbye hugs all around and we headed back to Huntsville.
Two weeks of rough schedules and stress left me desperate for this weekend. Not for the running or the training, but for the amount of love you can just soak up at an ultramarathon. Its better than therapy. True determination and spunk come through at these races, everyone, especially those of us who race a little to often, should take the time to volunteer and crew and remember what the sport is all about.
And on that note - I just signed up for the Pinhoti 100 Miler and I’ll be coming into one of my hardest training weekends to date. A 30-mile sandwiched by two 20 mile runs. Working with a new coach has given me a little more confidence and I’m excited for the rest of the year.
Over the river(s), through the wood(s) and up the mountain(s) we go.
Grand Viduta Stage Race - My first Stage Race, Huntsville's first Stage Race, and whole lot of fun and worth taking some sick time to run 13 miles Friday morning.
Friday - 13 Miles, Land Trust Conservation Trails
For once I was glad that I work such early hours normally during the week - so sleeping till 6:00 AM on Friday morning was like a vacation. Till the nerves of getting ready to run at race pace 3 days in a row set in.
Luke got up and made us some coffee - I married a man who gets up at 5:15 AM everyday to make me coffee and kiss me off to work. Even though he doesn’t have to get off to work till nearly 8:00. I’m a spoiled brat.
Scarfed some breakfast, watched the news and relaxed before heading out the Land Trust - one side of the Monte Santo trail system which you can enter off Tollgate Road. I was excited for this first day, not only was I taking a half day away from the office AND doing my favorite activity, but on some of my favorite trails as well. About 2 miles from our apartment we can hit the trail heads for the Land Trust, hell I spent more time climbing Waterline repeats then I want to remember preparing for GDR.
Day 1 is twisty, turny, topsy, turvy and hits nearly every trail on this side of the Mountain. I am truly glad I know the trails and researched the course a bit because it could definitely have gotten a little confusing [PSA some of the lead runners, including myself, had to run under tape on a section of course that we looped back on to - although there was a sign to take this turn it was definitely a little nerve-wracking to run under marking tape!].
I kept my effort under control and ran most of the race with the nice gent named Darren. I knew that bombing out of there trying to keep up with Sarah [Woerner] and Emily [Ansick] would only lead to disaster later in the weekend. Climbing waterline was more fun than usual - it wasn’t mile 20 of Mountain Mist AND there were ropes! The ropes were actually a godsend in the slippery mud - I engaged some leftover GDR climbing muscle and all the pushups I worked on so my arms looked great in our wedding pictures :)
I knew I had finished third female - come to find out, Sarah took a wrong turn in the last few miles (where we had to run under to tape) and ended up running an extra 7 miles! That girl has some grit. That put Emily Ansick a few minutes in front of me and Sarah with a bit of time to make up over the next few days.
Saturday - 16 Miles - Monte Sano State Park
Day 2 - a little bit longer, but a little bit easier. 16 miles on the North Side of the Mountain utilizing a lot of the trails I use for long runs and that several local races utilize. Today was scheduled to be a bit warmer, but at least that meant the trails would be a bit drier (and that I would definitely be running this day with a full water bladder). The whole atmosphere of this race becomes so much fun on the second day - we know we’re all a little tired, about to get more tired, but happy to be out there all the same.
My legs didn’t feel too sleepy from the day before and I was excited for how much downhill we were going to get today with only a few rolling climbs. I’m definitely a technical runner and an endurance runner, short easy stuff just ain’t my thang.
We start and somehow I end up leading off the ladies for a little bit while we enjoy the lollipop on Cold Springs trail, I quickly realized my mistake and backed off a bit. I could definitely feel my post-GDR sleepy leg syndrome still and I felt like my pace was just slower than normal. I felt great on Mountain Mist, a quick climb and on to Bucca, put down some solid speed and got to spend time in my little running bubble. And then the day just felt LOOONNGGGGG, especially running along Keith and Logan Point. Although I generally love these trails for their shady rolling parts, I just felt like it was dragging and the air was still and it was so HOT.
Finally I got to see Shelby’s pretty aid-station face where we met back up with Mountain Mist Trail and I knew I was home free. Just the rest of Mountain Mist, to Cold Springs [one last climb] and then some road and trail to the finish at the train tracks. I finished 3rd Female as originally seeded, only a few minutes behind Sarah and Emily.
Sunday - 14 Miles - the Day of Many Yawns
I’ll keep this short and sweet. This day sucked. I hated starting the morning barely able to stop yawning. I started early with my caffeinated Tailwind and hoped everything would work out. On a brighter note my legs felt pretty great, but I knew the climbs were coming and they were going to come hard [that’s what she said].
First up, the climb up Warpath - a favorite of mine. Short and steep and technical, I had lost the women around mile 4 after keeping a good pace trying to wake up and was just now losing two men I had been chasing. Seeing Luke at the aid station at the top of Warpath was a nice surprise, chugged some Coke and tried to keep from yawning in his face. We headed down Rest Shelter, a fun downhill to you get halfway and it gets a little technical and the-ever-clumsy Liz rolled her ankle - OF COURSE halfway through the last day of the stage race. Luckily this wasn’t as bad as it could have been, I tied my shoes tighter and kept on trucking but lost a LOT of time dealing with that pain in the ass. We got some flat stuff but then the dreaded mile-long-climb up Arrowhead commenced - this broke me a little.
Topping out and running Natural Well things started to turn around, I sprayed my head down at the aid station hose, sucked in some more Tailwind and proceeded to descend Natural Well - probably my least graceful trail work of all time. Just stayed positive waiting to see Death Trail - just like the stairs at the end of Georgia Death Race I have a sick, twisted passion for Death Trail. I love it, I don’t do it enough, its not really runnable, but its fun for me. Put your hands on your quads, smile and bear it.
I knew the finish line was a bit further after you top out, so I kept on running to the Amphitheater where there was music, my husband and FOOD.
Soaked to the bone - I hugged the ladies and got into dry clothes ASAP. I took a hoe-bath in the sink too as all the pollen off the leaves was making me itch something fierce.
Ending up in Second Place felt great - even though I knew Emily, Sarah and I were about seeded correctly. They put on amazing performances and even though the weekend could have gone differently - that’s trail running right? This ain’t no road marathon with 3459823 course sentries. RunningLane, near and dear to my heart, put on a great event.
It's hasn't been long since we were celebrating our nuptials on a beach somewhere. I'll tell you all about that (or mostly), but first you should hear about the day I finally wed my beautiful bride!
Wedding Morning Recap
Liz and I tried to add a little tradition to our typically non-traditional way of life, so we spent our wedding night apart. The 6:00 A.M. alarm came way too early, but the coffee was shortly ready, and Tyler (Best Man) didn't even struggle that much against being woken. We were responsible for marking the 5k course and needed to get started. We marked the course with leftover wedding ribbon, which is totally invisible when hanging from a tree. As we ran back into the parking lot after marking, I caught my first sight of Liz. I was so happy to see her charging towards me since we had fought a little over something silly the night before. Her big hug set the tone for the rest of the day as we celebrated with our friends and family.
Wedding Day Controlled Chaos
After the 5k, we retreated with my brother and sister-in-law back to the apartment for a few minutes peace and coffee before the crazy started. I think that was the last time I sat still for the rest of the day. Tyler was the MVP. I abandoned him at the Lumberyard to start setting up while I rushed to grab the bride's gift from my secret hiding spot. Tyler and Michael had everything well under control when I made it back. The tables were bedecked and my parents were unloading the cakes. My posse (aka groomsmen) skedaddled back to the apartment with the intent of grabbing a cool beverage and relaxing until our part of the show; however, there were bowties... Among the four fully grown men, none had the skills required to tie those things. Enter youtube and every mirror-ish surface in a small apartment. We struggled for over an hour against those little devices. Three dudes in a tiny bathroom and another in front of the microwave. Multiple youtube instructionals played. Finally, voilà! Tied bowties and only 10 minutes to spare.
The Nuptial Event
In standard Liz form, she sauntered down the aisle with her father, and I'm pretty sure said "Hi" or "What's up" to at least half the people there. She had the biggest grin on her face, while I was fighting back happy tears and trying to hold it together long enough to recite the vows I prepared. She was beautiful. I started reading from my vows, but just decided to wing it. Cary got misty eyed, not gonna lie. Our officiant, Jenny, said some awesome words, and finally let me make out with my wife. I think someone said "get a room." Then I took my bride's hand and headed out the door as she said "see ya' lata!" in her best Southie accent (meaning south of Boston to all us normal people).
After we finished making out behind the fountain. We scrambled around taking as many photos as we could in as little time as possible. Luckily, we had a race photographer, Rachel, on duty so she was used to following runners around. A few shots with family, a few with the parties, and then off to the street we run on almost daily. The party really got started after we came back. Our favorite local band, Falcon Punch, was up on stage taking requests. It was a crowd full of ultrarunners so endurance wasn't a problem. Dancing, eating, and drinking continued until the staff kicked us out.
The Best Part (aka Honeymoon)
Early Sunday, we headed south to Pensacola. It's a five and a half hour drive down to the coast, and the only entertaining sights south of Birmingham are a few odd town names like "Pine Apple." Once we hit Pensacola, we stopped bayside at the Fishhouse to join the other Easter Brunch parties. I think we were a little under dressed, but we didn't care. We had our first seafood of the trip and stretched out legs at a park beside the bay before heading to our hotel, The Margaritaville.
While I was parking the car, Liz requested some bubbly for our honeymoon lodging. We had a gulf view room on the top floor. Pretty swanky. We relaxed in the room for a bit, but we both felt the urge for a run after the long drive. The road out to Fort Pickens was perfect. A couple of miles of hotels and a long stretch of dunes extending for miles with a bike lane along the side of the road.
That night, we settled into some oysters and seafood at Peg Leg Pete's based on a friend's recommendation. The food was great and atmosphere on the balcony was perfect with a little live music drifting up from the bar below. Being ever hungry runners, we started planning our next meal as soon as we finished this one and asked the waiter for his recommendations. Any time waiters at different restaurants recommend the same place, you should probably go there.
Monday was a rest day for us so we took it easy in the morning and went for a walk along the beach to some of the shops where we acquired the sexy hat in the picture above. We spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach with music, beer and Kindles, only taking breaks to play in the water and eat. Lunch was served at Red Fish Blue Fish at the patio bar. It included some bay fish and a few local beers. The proprietor of the place was sampling some new beach bucket mixed drink blends and decided we looked in need of a freebie. We walked back to our beach chair with a small beach pail and straws. The evening ended with dinner at the Grand Marlin sitting with a great view of the bay and included a variety of great seafood and the enjoyable company of my hot wife.
Yah we're pretty damn cheesy. Please, please, please get the pun.
I’m letting my husband (yah, it sure is fun to say that) handle a G-rated wedding and honeymoon recap, while I take on the morning of. YES - we put on a little group trail run at Blevins’ Gap Preserve in Huntsville, Alabama. These are trails we met on last year in July and come back to for Wednesday night trail runs.
Well, Luke comes back, I have a tendency to only roll my ankle here so I avoid it like the plague these days.
Saturday - Wedding Day - Morning
5:45 AM - Alarm goes off, at Jess and Mike’s house where I spent the night. Yes, we followed that silly tradition of not staying together the night before the wedding. Oh well, at least we try to put on the charade. It worked out since we decided to have a big, silly fight right before I left anyway.
5:50 AM - Running shoes tied, just light enough out to see and a charged iPod. Good to go. Definitely needed to get away on my own and just enjoy the quiet the morning of the big event. Uneventful and hilly 8 miles does the soul good. So does strong coffee and puppy kisses from Nacho and Pika [Jess & Michael’s Cattle Dogs].
8:00 AM - Meeting everyone at Blevins’ Gap.
GOODNESS was I in a great mood. After seeing a good bunch of Huntsville peeps already running up Cecil Ashburn I was super excited to see lots of lovely people pull into the parking lot. Liz, Todd and Mike from my Highland City Striders in MA, Jackie and Jeff and the Floof all the way in from Atlanta, my Aunt, Uncle and my Dad, and even a whole bunch of the Hough clan. I took off a little early to get to the overlook to make sure I got pictures of everyone. I headed back down the short way with Liz, Todd and Mike and were quickly caught by Jackie and Jeff and my favorite poodle this side of the Mississippi. We charged down the mountain (ankle-sprain-free).
Luke and his best man had taken it a little slower to start pulling the ribbon off the trail we had used to mark the turns. I caught up with everyone in the parking lot before grabbing a water and heading back up trail to catch up with my family finishing off the Hike. I think I nearly killed my Dad … but HA! he got on a trail for me. And then I got him in a suit for me!
10:00 AM - Noon
I spend the rest of the morning freaking out, shaving my legs, making our bouquets, trying to pack for the honeymoon and in a fair amount of terror. Eventually I made it into a car and to the venue and finally into a very nice Bloody Mary. And [very organized] CHAOS commenced.
TO BE CONTINUED......
Monday - 4/3
Spent most of the Monday after GDR exhausted and sort of nauseous - personally victimized by my standing desk - and walking a bit funny. Doing A LOT of stretching and rolling the day before helped bunches, but you just can’t quite erase 72 miles and 20,000 ft of climbing as easily as you might think…
Tuesday - 4/4
Getting antsy (and not sleeping well anyway) Luke and I got up early and headed to the gym. I spent 45 minutes doing some easy strength and recover exercise (with no weight) and a little bit of core work. It felt good to get my muscles moving again. Here’s my short strength circuit, which I’ll do after runs a few times a week, and my recover circuit which I NEED to start getting done every day or every other day to keep up with tight IT bands.
Strength Circuit x 3
Squat - x 10
Lunge - 20 Walking Lunges
Plank - 1 Minute Plank.
Single Leg Squat - x 10 Each Side
Push-Up - x 10
Recover Circuit x 3
Clamshell - Each Side x 10
Side Hip Bridge - 10 Hip Raise from Side Plank, Each Side
Single Leg Hip Thrust - 10 Thrusts, Each Side
Side Leg Raise - 10 Raises, Each Side
Weighted Hip Thrust - 10-20 lb Weight on Lower Stomach, 10 Hip Thrusts
Wednesday - 4/5
Took a long lunch to get over to the on-site gym. Got on the stationary bike to get a good sweat going, pretty easy considering the AC hasn’t worked in the building in a few years, and went back at the recovery circuit.
Couldn’t bear to miss the Pub Run this afternoon, so I laced up, and we jogged on over to our favorite brewery. Five easy miles shared with friends and I felt great, though I think I sweated 4 times as much as everyone else. The easy pace felt great but the short downhill we had to take mid-run nearly killed me. That and the LOADS of pollen that have descended on Huntsville. 6.4 Miles
Thursday - 4/6
Legs feeling mostly back and bouncy - Luke and I went out for our favorite “Flat 6” around our neighborhood. It was National Biomechanics Day, I felt compelled to try to keep a consistent pace, my steps light and my leg swing high. Love my Milestone Pod for giving me that extra push to keep my form great.
Friday - 4/7
Too beautiful out to stay in at lunch - I laced up for my loop around the power plant cooling towers. It’s a perfect out-and-back 3 miles from our parking lot (I know since we do a seasonal 5k race here!). I promised Luke we’d take the afternoon off and focus on some wedding stuff - this was not a difficult choice.
Saturday - 4/8
A perfect trail day! We waited until the afternoon to get started, since it warmed up into the 70s, and after some pancakes and construction we headed out. From our apartment, to a trail head, to the tippy top of Monte Sano and pack ended up being a perfect 13 mile “long run”. I felt recovered and great (definitely pushing too hard on the climbs - Liz wear your HRM dammit!) until we headed for the descent and the heat and sun nearly knocked me out cold. Thank goodness we had thought to bring water with us - though strapping my pack back on nearly gave me PGDRSD - [ Post Georgia Death Race Stress Disorder, I made it up, its perfect].
We even got Luke into some Lululemon!( He loved the Vent Tech Short Sleeve (which I now sing the praises of the women’s Swifty Tech Short Sleeve ) but a pair of shorts just weren’t perfect. The man has the widest quads known to man and everything (I mean EVERYTHING) was starting to chafe. Great yoga, swim and hangout shorts but we’ll hold judgement until he can get a hold of a pair of 3’’ inseam shorts.
Sunday - 4/9
I volunteered to split time the Bridge Street Half Marathon in Huntsville - my favorite job! You’re telling me I get to stand in the sun, drink coffee and scream encouraging things at people! What! Yay!
I got to the start around 7 AM to start my stopwatch and headed out for an easy 4 mile run to my Mile 10 timing spot. AND I ended running into the entire half marathon - so I got to do more cheering!
To round out our day Luke and I hit the Redstone Arsenal for a bike ride - out to the river and back - it was gorgeous, if tremendously windy, and we had a great time. I hadn’t been on my bike in almost 5 months!
So to summarize - I was feeling great, like I hadn’t run 72 miles uphill, by the end of the week. I still somehow feel like I’m catching up on sleep. Our wedding is in 4 days - my training schedule is back with bite - and I’m pretty sure I’ll wander to the altar desperate for our honeymoon and to take a nap.
72ish Miles of Gorgeous Single-Track, Hellish Climbs, Rolling Fire Road and Sizzling Sun - 5th Female, 15 hours and 40 minutes. A solid way to cap off my first year on the ultra scene.
Friday afternoon - after using precious vacation to sleep in and pack carefully - we packed the car and headed to Amicalola Falls, GA for gear check, packet pick-up and the pre-race meeting. No matter how fast we drove and how few pit stops [i.e. Liz nervous peeing every 30 minutes] it seemed like we were only LOSING time. Intending to be there by 5:00 PM to record an interview with Ryan Ploeckelman for East Coast Trail and Ultra Podcast. We made it just time. Hopped in line for gear check and spent some time chatting with the always awesome Franklin Baker, Nate Holland, Jeremiah Lackey and some other lovely Rock/Creek peeps. Gear check went smooth [except that time when Liz, Luke and gear check lady couldn’t get my head lamp working…] and we caught up with the Merritts and AJW to check out the gorgeous views and grab dinner in Dahlonega.
Luke and I crashed with Jackie [future Golden Ticket winner ☺], Jeff, Alexa, Matt, Matt [also running GDR] and Mattie at the Sunrise Cabins near Vogel State Park [the race starting point] - P.S. these are gorgeous, well-kept cabins that I will definitely be planning another training weekend at. Needless to say it was a full, smelly, jittery house. Between anxious crew members, buzzing racers and of course poodle puppy Bernie, getting everyone to sleep was not the easiest job. #beastcoast tattoos on, RockTape applied, and alarms set for 3:15 AM and we were out.
Race Morning - Miles 0-21 - “We are here to have FUN”
After I wrapped my blank railroad spike in my thermal shirt and caught up with all my favorite people it was time to head to the starting area, i.e. the road in front of the visitors’ center. A few encouraging words from Sean “Run Bum” Blanton and we were off! I knew the quick start on the road would prevent an epic conga line that would start as the climbs came on so I went out quick keeping up with the lead female crew. I stuck with a crew of gentlemen for a bit (who I quickly led on a wrong turn…) before catching up with Jackie to start the Dragon Spine climbing. Doing this section in the dark was a lot different than our training run on a cool March morning. I never really ended up alone in this section of never-ending hills and we all started to freeze a bit as we ran through some clouds and rain. I was still cruising the downhills and pushing the climbs feeling great - knowing I’d be strong here. I spent most of the next 20 miles heading towards Skeenah Gap jockeying with Jackie, where racers with a >73% Ultrasignup Rank [I knew those numbers would be used for something someday!] got to see their crew. I was SO happy to take the long downhill towards Luke and [surprise!] Jenny Baker. These angels quickly refilled my pack, stuffed me with food and coke and sent me on my way.
Miles 22 - 47 - When Everything Felt Great
Somehow in this section the stars aligned. My climb/hike was still strong, I was still running the downhills and flats and eating like a CHAMP. For those who don’t know me - I used to struggle very hard with eating on the run, spending a lot of time off trail if you catch my drift. I only made one pit stop, refilled with water and Coke at aid stations and kept moving, eventually ending up in 2nd place for a bit behind Aliza Lapierre and then 3rd when Jackie came back from a rough spot. The views were gorgeous and I felt ALIVE. Single track here was very enjoyable until we hit the dreaded fire road - for a while I enjoyed this section and the lack of roots and rocks, until the steady climbing to Winding Stair [our final, crewed aid station] began. This was an on and off hike/jog and I could feel my legs starting to get heavy. I was quite happy to see Jackie come flying by - I knew she had this locked up and she looked strong and determined.
Finally getting into Winding Stair, sunburned and fading, I got a second wind getting to see Luke, a smear of sunscreen, a cold towel from Jeff, and more pretzels and Coke. I was a bit sad knowing with my pace and place I couldn’t take Luke with me as my safety runner [Top 5 Male and Female cannot take Safety Runners for the last 20-something miles]. I knew I could still run so I took off, Pam Smith passed me at this point as well - alright 4th place ain’t bad and I knew there was some more single track to come.
Miles 47 - 63 - When Things Got Slow
Yup things got slow. With some recent ITBS catching up to me, and only a year’s worth of ultrarunning experience, heading towards the 100k distance started to suck ass. I was absolutely determined to stay positive, smiling, and keeping some mantras going “Today I get to run”, “This is my race to finish”, and other hits such as “Fuck Sean this is stupid” and “Shit, are we still going uphill”. On the road to Nimblewill Gap we passed some good ole hillbillies [and a kid playing with a fishing pole with no line?]. Alondra Moody passed me flying and put me solidly in 5th place. Now I was run/walking scared. I wanted that Top 5 finish, I wanted to be Sub-16:00. So I kept moving. As much as I could jog, I jogged and my patented aggressive Mall Walk was still pretty solid.
Heading up towards the last aid station, I let out a few sobs, pounded two Oreos and some Coke and got out of dodge before the wonderful volunteers convinced me they could tape up my IT Band and I could sit for a bit - I wanted to be done. What sucked next was a wonderful downhill section that I could not run for the life of me, it was completely demoralizing.
Miles 63 - Finish - When Things Got Slower
I accepted that this was going to be a test at this point. Keep my head down and walk as fast as my legs would let me. My climb was still strong but I just couldn’t run without being in a lot of pain - oh well, there’s only one way to the finish. Sean added about 4 miles of rolling single track on the “Hike In” trail to Amicalola State Park. On any other day this would have been a lovely trail run, I’d love to go back; at the time it sucked balls knowing I was only losing more and more time. After a bit of road and some more trail as the sun started to sink, I knew I was closing back in on the Visitor Center. I could hear the shouts and children playing, my pulse throbbing and my breath catching. I finished off a nasty switchback section and popped out of the woods to see Luke and Alexa shouting for me. What they thought were laughs were actually a few racking sobs as they said I only had two miles left. Two miles, more mall walking and 650 stairs to top out the Amicalola Falls.
The stairs were actually my favorite part of this race. I found some sick spiritual pleasure in climbing those stairs - it was the only motion that didn’t hurt, the grated steps were an easy focal point and the noise of the falls cleared my head. Topped out and headed onto some pavement and the last trail trek to the finish. Crossing the cold creek with sore feet is a great finish - even though I completely brained myself on a low branch. High-fived the Grim Reaper himself and fell into Luke’s arms completely spent.
I don't have any finish line pictures (yet? Maybe someone was out there?). I’m not sure yet if I want to go back and make a play for a Golden Ticket next year - but I do know I want to get stronger and fix the issues I start having after 50 miles or so. Not sure if a 100 is a goal for me yet, but I do have a solid summer of training and racing yet with a few more insights into what happens the longer you go…
Special shoutout to some of my favorite companies - Honeystinger (scarfed Pomegranate Chews all day), Saucony (Peregrine 7s for life), Milestone Pod (letting me run GPSless, because who needs to know how slow they're going....) and Muir Energy (Cashew Vanilla was that something extra early in the morning).
Plop. How hard you sit down after an ultra into the nearest chair (or dirt pile). Plop. Exactly how you scoop these cookies out onto a pan. Plop. I think its also a name for a horse turd? Which these totally look like.
I like easy recipes - ones I can dump everything into my food processor, make some noise and shove in the oven. Especially post-mudrun, mid-taper, when I feel like I'm going to pull my hair out.
Our sweet tooth is ridiculous - we literally run to keep off the love handles that would surely find us if I made buttercream frosting on the reg. Good thing these cookies are low in refined sugar and are sweetened with a bit of molasses and dried fruit. High fiber and a kick of protein from oats and peanut butter these tasted great after dinner, pre-run and mid-cycle.
3/4 Cup Flour (I used King Arthur Wheat)
1 1/2 Cup Oats
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 Cup Molasses, +1 or 2 Tbsp Depending on Sweetness
1/4 Cup Water/Nut Milk
1 Large, Ripe Banana
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1/2 Cup Chopped Apricots, Raisins, Nuts, Chocolate Chips, Coconut Flakes, Nickels, anything you want...
1. Preheat over to 350 Degrees F
2. In food processer, process flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt for about 15 seconds. This mixes all the ingredients together, breaks down some of the oats and leaves a nice texture.
3. Add Vanilla, Molasses, Banana and Peanut Butter. Process on low until a dough begins to form. Add extra molasses and/or water as needed to get that gooey, cookie dough texture (easily forms balls, doesn’t crumble).
4. Either in the food processer or in a bowl, gently mix or pulse in raisins and apricots.
5. Grease cookie sheet and form dough. We made about 7 cookies with this recipe, but this could also be flattened and cut into bars of any size. [End up eating a bunch of cookie dough - hey! It’s Vegan!]
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes in preheated oven - check bottom of cookies to make sure they don’t get too brown or overdone.
7. Eat alone or top with some honey/peanut butter/fruit or be a fiend like Luke and cover it in dark chocolate syrup….
If you like 'em let me know! Post recipe-attempts or improvements! My next batch will probably be bar shaped with some walnuts/pecans in the mix...
We are pretty much creatures of habit. Nights before races we spend with friends as often as we can, either at a local place carbing-up or cramming into someone’s home for great food, conversations and DESSERTS. This week we chose the latter, going to Lea’s for a buffet of homemade goodies. Home by 8:30, spending an hour or so prepping things for the morning and hitting the sack.
Up at 5:00 AM - pretty standard for us, I’m off to work most days by 5:40 so the alarm clock wasn’t a bother. Luke has the pickiest stomach pre-race, where I just piled some blueberries, yogurt and peanut butter into a bowl of oatmeal and went to town sitting on the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee. Race morning the contest is always who can beat the other to the toilet …I’m the only one drinking coffee….I always win HIZZAH
Up on the mountain by 6:15ish with plenty of time to spare. Hit the potties again and spent time pre-sweat hugging everyone we knew. Happened upon some of our favorites the David Dye and Shannon Sharp WOOT - got in a quick warm-up mile or so with them (wherein I bailed off into the woods, not to borrow a tree, nope). Then onto our favorite part of the morning - pre-race speech and sermon. Cary Long is one of my favorite people and race directors - and did I mention he’s going to be in our wedding! - this man cares more about the community and putting on a safe , worthwhile event more than you probably care about your children. The organization is incredible, the swag is on point, and the pre-race vibes are amazeballs - quote “DO NOT SUCK TODAY”.
So - zero goals for this race, really I promise, with Georgia Death Race next week (see here if you don’t know what hellish shit I’m talking about http://www.runbumtours.com/georgia-death-race) I just wanted to see how my fitness was even after a peak 85 mile, hilly week just past. I knew Emily Ansick was coming - super fast, hot chick from the South who could whoop me right quick in a fast race - so I figured hey, start with her, hang on for a minute and run how I feel. Turns out “hang on for a minute” lasted 4 miles or so till I missed a quick turn and she was OFF. Never caught her again, but knew I never lost too much time and was only a few minutes behind, shucks. Couldn’t have asked for lovelier weather or better volunteers truly. The majority of the race went perfect, climbing just hard enough, cruising on the flats and trying to keep myself uninjured on the down-hills [Note the RockTape around my knee, something had been bugging me in a tendon there the last few days, off to rest and stretch and roll all week].
Got to see all the leaders and all my friends at the out and back section around Mile 10 - my sexy [future] husband cruising and the even sexier David Dye making this ish look easy. If you notice me dripping shin-blood in all of these pictures - I zoned out, missed the ACTUAL TRAIL through S.O.B. Ditch and bushwhacked through briars, we'll call it Barkley Fall Classic Training. Mile 13ish - an easy rolling section before you climb out to the finish - I got a little slow and lonely, but hey, I turned it around and beasted [read, took the Strava Course Record] the Cry Baby/ Death Trail Climb.
The climbs are amazing, Death Trail being on of my most favorite in the whole park, and the downhills are super fast and runnable. This course will make you cry for your mother, if you’re not trained, or make you feel like a trail running god[des]. At the end of the day I came in around 2 hours and 30 minutes. About 15 minutes faster than last years time, 15 minutes behind my hubby, and good for 11th OA and 2nd Female. Happy as a clam and ready to rest up next week!
Luke Hough & Liz Canty
Liz Canty and Luke Hough. Co-habitants who like to run, race, explore and drink much too expensive beer. Read along through the awesome, the sweaty, the daily life and the occasional bickering over which running shoes are the best…