I distinctly recall Mike mentioning this race to me way back in September when I was contemplating entering into the realm of longer distances. Of course, I scoffed at the idea of traveling "all the way down to Kentucky" for a half marathon. *Sigh* Little did I know it would become my third in the ultra distance :) The 60k became my next goal, and was exactly four weeks after Louisville, and three to four weeks prior to McNaughton Park 50M. Gorgeous. I packed up my running suitcase, made sure I had my AAA with me (!), some tunes for the road and then set out on the longest solo roadtrip I've ever done.
So I took a picture of it :) Naturally. I made it in 7.5 hours, and I only stopped twice the whole time. A miracle considering I'm a gal and I have a teeny weeny bladder, lol. I checked into the lovely Kentucky Barkley Lakes Inn just off Hwy. 24, and a mere 3 miles from the start line. Since I had 3 hours to burn until dinner, I took a nap, walked some laps around the hotel grounds, made some decaf, watched some TV, took another nap, then decided I should use my time a little wiser and get everything ready for the morning.
Since I was making record time getting ready, and still had an hour until dinner, I made my way into town to pick up my packet and check out the area.
Dinner was delicious! I had such a great time getting to know the Yarger duo and their running adventures, and along with Meg they all had a number of very cool stories and tons of ultra experience. I was in heaven! Norm has got to be one of the sweetest and most adorably funny guys I've met in my adventures thus far. Thanks for hangin' with a newbie, Norm! After dinner, I headed back to the hotel, double-checked my stuff and then hit the hay. Start time was going to be 7:00a.m.
I slept great! Grabbed a bowl of oatmeal, a biscuit, banana, and some decaf from the hotel lobby, and then headed out. Somehow I managed to drag ass in all this (not sure where I did that), and when I hopped up on the Community Center steps to drop off my drop bag, I only had two minutes until start. Whoa! No potty break for me, and I didn't even have any water in my handheld yet! It was raining, as it had been since late the night before. It was one of those annoying heavy drizzle rains, but thankfully not a downpour. It was a tad chilly, but I knew it wouldn't be all that bad once we got moving. I decided to wear shorts this time since I figured the mud might be an issue and I didn't want muddy wet tights suctioning on my legs all day. I am so glad I went with the shorts :) I also had a hat on to keep the rain off my glasses, this came in super handy.
I ran into Ed at the start, and recognized a few other peeps, but everyone was pretty much in their zone, so I kept to myself and instead agonized over my need to pee really badly, and that I had an empty water bottle. "3-2-1 (BANG!) GO!" The first 1.75 miles were on paved road, leading up to the trailhead. I went out fast with the front of the pack, but it felt pretty good. One guy caught up to me and said hello, and asked how I was doing. I didn't look at him at first because I was concentrating on my feet, but as he kept talking I looked over and recognized him as my rabbit from LLTH. Ha, duh, that's why he was talking to me like he knew me :) I told him I had no water and he said the main aid station is at the trailhead and the water is probably set up already. It was! So I said good luck as he went on and I stopped to fill up my handheld.
As expected, the trail was muddy, only to get muddier as the day went on and as almost 400 pairs of feet pounded it for 1-2-3-4 loops. It was going to get interesting! The first loop wasn't as congested as I thought it might be, but maybe that's because I kept to the front at first. An older man dressed (literally) in a body-length garbage bag caught up to me. I recognized the LLTH Buff he had on as he passed by on a downhill section. When we got to an uphill, he began walking and I zipped by him. About halfway around the first loop (11.3 miles/loop) he caught me again and then stayed with me up to the North Welcome Station AS. He complimented me on my form and kept saying I was doing so great on uphill sections (which, to be honest, were nothing compared to LLTH or Stone Steps...mere bumps). He asked me for my "secret", and I said, "training on flat pavement!" He thought that was funny. We swapped running stories for a short bit, then he thanked me for forcing him to pick up the pace so that we could chat and then said he needed a breather. He was running the marathon distance so I knew I wouldn't see him again, so I said goodbye and headed on my way. Sweet old feller, I tell ya!
So basically, the first two loops (of three, for the 60k) went by in a flash. I ran a lot more than I anticipated and felt pretty good. I had a few flashes of really bad stomach pains after eating a bean and cheese burrito at an aid station...yea, won't do that again. So I stuck to my Nuun and three Clif Shot Bloks/hour, and twice I had a Gu instead of the Bloks. I also had some peanut M&M's and peanut butter pretzels since I knew I could handle those just fine. I had thrown a pack of cola flavored Bloks in my vest, and decided to give them a try on my second loop. I usually only have the cran razz Bloks, but I went out on a limb and gave the cola flavor a shot. BAD IDEA. If there's one thing to remember in distance racing nutrition, it's that consistency is key. Truly, don't try something new on race day. The cola flavor was awful. I took one and thought, "hmm, that tasted funny, maybe I need a drink." So I gulped some Nuun, and tossed another Blok in my mouth. "Hmmm, it still tastes like throw-up." Now, I had put just enough Bloks in to cover me for 8 hours, so I couldn't just toss something based on flavor. I needed the electrolytes, bad! So I put the third one in my mouth, the second one was still only half chewed in my mouth and I held them in there like a two-year old holds their vegetables in their mouth because they're too grossed out to swallow them. Ugh! I wanted to spit them out, but couldn't in my right mind waste them. So I used the old "no taste" technique and held my nose as I choked them down. Blech! I let the guy behind me know how awful they were as he was there through the whole ordeal. He laughed and agreed, said he did the same thing when he tried that flavor.
Anywho! I digress. I zipped through those first two loops, a few stomach probs here and there, but nothing that would stop me. I had some trouble letting myself relax into the race, but I'm thinking it was mostly because of the weather. I knew I needed to walk more, so I told myself my third loop would be my lolly-gagging loop, and then I'd take some pictures. I checked my GPS at the 50k mark, and I did a blazing (for me) 50k split of 6:28...whoa! I wasn't expecting that. That gave me the mental boost that I needed for the final loop. In this race, I learned why it is that loop courses tend to have such high drop rates. Wow, it was realllllllly tempting to just take a right at the main AS, at the trailhead, and just head for the car, especially since the course was so horrifically muddy and I was starting to feel every single muscle ache and scream at me. But, luckily, I was really good and never hung around any of the aid stations, especially the main one. I filled up water and that was about it.
On the final loop, I pulled my camera out and snapped a few pics. I knew there wasn't going to be a way for me to put into words how muddy it was, so I needed to document it. Here's a pic of the trail...
And, of course a pic of my shoes which are actually neon green but you can't tell that here...they match the mud!
I was starting to get a little anxious as I was over 25 miles into the race and I still hadn't fallen, but I did run into a briar that cut my left knee up a bit when I went to pass someone on the narrow trail. I was wondering when the ball was going to drop. There were so many muddy bodies throughout the day, people who had bitten it early on and were just caked in the stuff. And this was no ordinary, whatevs mud. This was some hardcore, clay mixture that when wet turned a funky orange/yellow/mud color and it was THICK. We're talking shoe-sucking! The sound of my feet squishing in the stuff cracked me up and I caught myself laughing outloud at it more than once :) There were a couple of close calls, but not enough that I lost count: I stubbed my toe three times (thank goodness for toe guards!), and rolled each ankle once, but even those weren't bad because I didn't even cuss :)
At about mile 28, I began to notice aching in my arches that was beginning to feel more painful than achy, so I switched up my gait a little. Then, I got that old sensation back...my right shin was dropping in to say, "Hi!" How nice. So I reduced movement to a brisk walk. Wow, that felt great! I guess I'll take some more pictures...
A Marine-looking dude who I had been going back and forth with on the trail most of the day, along with two chicks in tow, came by at this point and he said hey and asked if I was okay. I said I was just going to lolly-gag for a bit and shake out the legs...I didn't want my wheels coming off so close to the end of a race :)
At about mile 32, I saw Marine-looking dude up ahead and he was walking, looking pretty beat. I slowed up as I came upon and asked him how he was doing, he said, "My wheels came off at mile 29. I have nothin' left!" I said I didn't want to say I told you so and he just laughed at me and said, "Ponytail, I'll see ya at the finish!" And I took off, feeling really good again. Ponytail is what people started calling me throughout the day. It was actually pretty amusing.
Cara, that I ran with for awhile at LLTH, caught up to me towards the end and we chatted for a bit and finally introduced ourselves (I never did get her name at LLTH). Tanya also caught me somewhere near the end, so that was cool to finally meet her in person! I thought she was Juli at first. Tanya was truckin' along and she shot up ahead of me. What a trooper! When I finally reached the main aid station and was steered to the right to head towards the finish line, I wanted to drop to the pavement and kiss it. Only 1.75 miles left to go!! Since my drop bag was still there, and I didn't want to worry about finding it later, I went ahead and grabbed it and threw it on my back. I thanked the volunteers and then hit the road. This final section was all pavement and a lot of it was uphill which my legs hated at this point. I was so tired, every muscle in me ached, and my piriformis (of all things) was screaming at me to stop, but I didn't. I was so happy to be almost done that I took a pic...it even hurt to smile, lol...
I saw one dude up ahead of me, well way ahead of me, and I knew there was no way I was going to catch up to, let alone pass him. So I thought this was funny and quite apropos...
Of course, literally, as soon as I snapped this picture, a guy came out of nowhere and passed me. I shouted, "Hey, this is a No Passing Zone!" He turned back to me, laughing, and said he just couldn't resist passing when he saw I took a picture of the sign. Good stuff. I approached the J.H. O'Bryan street sign and saw a volunteer up ahead directing me to turn. And then I could see the FINISH LINE!! I was going to finish, f'real! About 20 yards to the line and someone comes up alongside me and I recognized him...he had been ahead of me most of the race and I didn't even remember passing him. He said he couldn't let "ponytail" beat him, but that he wanted to cross the line with me. So we finished together at exactly 7h:30m! Woohoo! The volunteers at the finish said I didn't look like I had been running in mud all day, "she doesn't even have anything on her hamstrings! And she's got pearls on!" Of course I do, it's pretty much my thing :)
I hobbled to the car to toss my stuff in and before I went to get some hot post-race grub, I snapped a pic of my feet. I guess they don't look that bad here...
I holed up in the Community Center with other finishers, inhaling some absolutely divine veggie lasagna, chili, brownies, soup, fruit salad, and everything else I could fit in my stomach. I wanted to see if I could catch Norm or Ed but after an hour or so I started getting those post-race shivers so I decided I needed to get cleaned up and into some clean, dry clothing. I went back to the Inn and luckily they had rooms left so I had no problem getting another night. Phew! There was just no way I was going to drive 8 hours at this point (in the rain, tired, sore, tired, hungry, sore...). When I finally peeled off my shoes and socks (which were so corroded and crusty that I tossed them in a plastic bag to deal with later) you could really see how muddy it was!
I looks like I have running tights on...made of mud! Gross, that's so unbecoming... Yes, my feet really are that white; this pic was taken without flash :)
So all in all, a freakin' fabulous race! Steve Durbin and company put on a great event and I have every intention of returning. The trails were challenging with all the rain and mud, but that just served to make it even more fun and exhilarating in a very youthful "playing in the mud" kind of way. Plus, all the ultrarunners got a sweet belt buckle for their achievement. It's some serious hardware, too. And you know what I'm most psyched about through all this? I never fell! Not once! This was my first ultra without one of my signature spills. I almost felt...dare I say...that I missed it? I thought, what am I going to report back to Mike...that I had a good race? *Gasp!*