GJ 35 miler
I'm very late to writing a race report but I hadn't made up my mind about doing it, since it was not nearly what my year was meant to result in, whatever that really means. For anyone reading that doesn't know, I am pregnant, now 18 weeks along. I spent most of 2017 focusing my training on kicking Georgia Jewel 100 mile course's booty. I worked hard, I raced often but not too often, I won my key races and was on point to make my goals, until late June when I started feeling really crappy. I took some time, I tried to recover, but when I started to ramp back up, well I just felt, wrong. A couple other signs popped up in training and I despite a negative pregnancy test the weekend before my 12hr race, I was in fact pregnant. What to do, now into July, 7 full months of a great season and I would not be running a 100 miler. Despite the joys of finally being on track with my family plans and loooong term running goals, I spent a lot of time being totally bummed and sad that I was again going to be "out" of the ultra community. Unlike my last pregnancy though, this time, at least so far no sharp stabbing pelvic pain when I run!! Wooohooo… so I have opted for the adventurous runner Mom route of staying not only active but active in the ultrarunning community and for now, "racing"- running, jogging, walking in the woods with awesome ppl. So when I successfully made it through Running with the Horses marathon in WY, I thought hmmm, maybe I can still make a 50K.
Heading to GJ to volunteer with my husband was a no brainer. We'd already committed to the trip, to my running family down there and I wasn't going to bail because I couldn't do my Big Goal. I set my mind on the 17miler but the closer we got the more I felt 35 was a doable adventure. It would be challenging, but not too hard at all, it was still a safe choice. So with a week to spare I let the RDs, Jenny and Franklin Baker know that I was committing to the 35 miler.
We got in Friday afternoon and Jenny put us right to work. I had some pretty good nausea that had me laid up in her air conditioned camper for a bit but when I came out race check in was in full swing and we hustled to clean up our act and be able to answer the runner's question and get everyone ready to run in the morning. It was so much fun getting to see all the runners with their different goals and excitement that I absolutely fell in love with the previous year. I had one moment that evening when the pain of jealousy for those doing the 100 miler struck me, but I kept it together. It was the first time I realized I would actually emotionally have a tough time volunteering for the race, not only because I couldn't run This one day, but because my life was changing…again, after my last baby and hiatus from 100s I just wanted 1, I DNF'd here at GJ last year and came back to, I just wanted 1 single 100miler before baby #2, but God had different plans and the kicker is that I would not/ will not be attempting another 100 miler for at least an entire year!! I know, I have the rest of my life… I do, logic vs emotion, that day, being there… well it hurt.
After check-in I realized I needed to get ready, 35miles in 90+ degrees and pregnant meant I needed to be super duper smart. I got my pack ready and headed for bed. I would be waking up at 3:45 to do final check in and watch the 100 mile runners take off.
Morning came and I somehow naturally woke up at 3:40, so I made my way to the check in tent and no time Franklin, Jenny and other support "staff" were up. We had some coffee and got the 100 milers set and they were off. Tough moment #2 passed quickly as their headlights bounced away.
I prepped and ate some breakfast and we were off in the creeper van to the race start. The trip was just long enough to get me really nauseated but luckily I didn't get sick or loose my breakfast calories. We made it to the race start a little late and so both the 50 miler and 35 mile races were delayed a few minutes, but in no time we were off.
I was surprised to feel really good and so I went with it taking off with 3 guys up front. I hadn't trained beyond 18 miles so I knew I could easily run 20 and definitely jog to 28, those last few, well they might be slow and ugly, but as long as I took my time I knew I could make 35. Knowing that, I planned to run what I could as well as I could, get out ahead of the heat and the pack. A couple miles in we came to a unmarked intersection and assumed wrongly to go straight. We hit a fence about half a mile up and turned back re-directing at least 40 other ppl back on course. Somehow a bunch between us and the people who followed us knew to turn right. When we got back we took off down the right path when I realized no one had fixed the problem, so I ran back to intersection again and grabbed a flag and B-lined for where my eyes went looking for a flag the first time around. I planted the flag and began a long slow climb while trying to get back to the 3 guys I was running with. I got back up there and as a pack of 4 we worked our way back to the front, just making it by the first AS at Johns mountain.
The AS was a good memory from last year so I took my time, almost forgetting it was a race, I turned toward the course and saw 2 women who had already gone passed and were trotting down the trail. I LOVE downhill so I went with it since I knew this section was primarily descending winding trail down the mountain. I got out ahead and felt great. I took one fall and getting up from it I remember that I need to be a little more careful that THAT… so I slowed down a bit, watching my footing with more caution than usual.
I rolled on through the next AS at the bottom of Johns mountain feeling very good and totally happy with my position. I was eating plenty, drinking well. The next thing I remember was crossing the road to the AS remembering this next section of the course had some killer uphill.
As I kept going, it sure did, climb, climb , climb. It was a long section getting to the next AS. The day was starting to get warmer and my pelvic joints were getting a bit sore. Once we were at the "top" you enter miles of gentle climbs and descents through this I started having trouble with footing. I'd experienced this on my long runs lately too, once my hip flexors were fatigued I really struggled… it was as if the same effort I would normally use to lift and place my feet wasn't enough, so I had to focus each and every step to get my foot where I wanted it, this meant going slow… and when it was really rocky, just plain walking. The heat too, I was so worried about having the "a little too warm" feeling so I kept below that and moved slow enough to stay comfortable.
With about 12 miles to go, I was tired. I was a bit uncomfy, but I was fine, it was just hard to wrap my head around 12 miles at the very slow pace I was going … I'm not accustomed to having to be SO careful…this would feel like FOR-E-V-E-R and it did. I broke into pieces in my mind, using my little fit bit to count a couple miles at time, give myself check points. Finally I came to the Power Lines AS, where my husband was volunteering and where I would be volunteering that night, 3ish miles from the finish. Dave, my husband said to me, "You're first female you know?" I looked at him smiling and said, "I know it… isn't that crazy?!" We hugged and I was off down the trail to the pavement. I was still uneasy having heard some telling rumors about a "crazy 50+% grade hill" and "some runner said they had to go down on their butt" so I was still waiting for whatever was the talk of the town. The last mile was smooth, I thought I was going to make it sub 9 minutes and then you turn the corner with 0.4miles left to the race and there it is, there it stood, the hill lovingly named "Mount Baker" stood there between you and the finish line. I hiked 20 steps for every 10 second breather I was taking. I was literally laughing out loud. I stopped for photos, the hill, painful as a hill can be, was the ultimate comic relief in an ultra marathon. So, no sub 9… more like a 13min mile, but I made it through the finish 7hr 24 mins and change and I was first female, feeling sore and fatigued but otherwise like I'd successfully taken it very easy. I felt good.
I took a few hours to recover and hang out with friends before we headed back to the power lines AS where we'd be camped out all night. We arrived just as the sun was setting and got settled into the darkness, we had no generator and nothing to make noise for the runners, so we opted for yelling and clapping loudly. We took care of the 50 milers runners and around 10 or 11pm we had ourselves a generator and lights! From here we had couple of the last 50 mile runners toughing it off through cutoff. We then knew we had a couple hours gap before the 100 milers started coming through so we opted for come sleep. By 3am runners were coming through. Sometimes around 7am I had my first big cry about not being out there myself. I had reached up and stretched while looking out at the view and the thought of how I'd be feeling seeing that same thing after 24+hrs of running and 95 miles under my feet just brought me to tears. I wanted to feel that feeling again so badly… it has been so long since I'd seen it, the sunrise after the long darkness that falls over during an ultra, having brought a strange comfort and anxiety of silence, darkness, solitude all broken by the rising sun; a new day, new energy, sounds of life begin again with bugs, birds, cars miles away somewhere…. I deeply, deeply miss that experience.
Around 1230pm we started to clean up the AS, there was one more runner out and it seemed despite being a solid bit past cut off, he was going to finish. Once we got him through and on his way to completing his first 100 mile run we all headed to the Finish Line. We packed up everything, all AS stuff had been returned and sorted, the parking lot was empty, just about everyone had gone. We stayed and with his family and support we brought in the last runner, he had completed the distance. It was an unbelievable moment to watch, truly impressive. I think every female left had a tear or two fall. Soon after we said our good byes and we headed back to Atlanta to go home. Once we hit the highway I had one last heavy heartfelt cry for what wasn't and could not be, it was over, time to move on. I don't know if it was just being emotional and pregnant or sleep deprived or both but that sadness just hung there with me for a few minutes. I felt silly, but raw. Then my husband said, well, why not next year??