This report is a bit long but most of it is back ground going into the race than about the actual race itself. First off, planning to run my first 100 miler was a journey, one that I wanted to embrace and enjoy every minute of. I’m a planner and an organizer, but don’t necessarily follow an exact training schedule. So for at least 6 months, every race I ran, every hike, or training run was all leading me to this event. But before I got to my 100 mile race, the Blind Pig 100, I ran the Georgia Death Race. GDR was 68 miles long and 40,000 ft of elevation change, with lots of hype of dying, I focused all my attention on the Death Race and didn’t give my first thought to Blind Pig 100 until after I finished the GDR which was just 4 weeks before. (You can read my DGR race report)
“Trail Running 100: Embrace the Journey” was started as an ordinary woman, wife and mom on a quest to run a 100 miler and to embrace that journey that would lead me there. I planned it all out, picked the “perfect” races leading up to it. First a 36 mile race, then a 50 miler, leading up to the Death Race at 68 miles, then Blind Pig 100. I would do it, share what I learned along the way and try to share my struggles as well. It seemed the plan was going very smoothly, completing races, staying injury free (well for the most part, a few scrapes but trail runners don’t count those).
So I came off the Georgia Death Race on a huge high finishing in just under 21 hours. I felt great, had a super fun time, enjoyed friends, made new friends and as far as races go, it could not have gone smoother for me. Now I needed to focus on Blind Pig 100. I had no running buddy to do it with. Everyone I knew that was going to do it, was no longer doing it. I was hopeful as I reached out to Brad, my new running friend who I shared several miles with on the GDR trail with. He had gotten injured on GDR and my hopes of a running buddy were fading fast. Getting myself excited to run the first 50 miles solo was mentally proving to be very difficult. My friend Carrie Dix, who had paced us during GDR was also stepping in again to help crew and pace the last 50 miles of BP100, and while Brad Scott was injured during GDR and no longer able to run BP100 he quickly offered to help crew me as well. I think they were all more excited than I was. But this was a journey, and I had planned and trained and was determined to stay focused.
The week leading into Blind Pig I went and bought myself a iPod Shuffle to keep me company and stalked Ultra Signup some to see if I could reach out to any other potential buddy to run with. One new friend I found, Lisa Grippe who was running the 100K solo seemed happy I reached out to her. We thought we might have compatible paces and be able to run some together. As I said, I’m a planner, I got myself organized with bins containing: clothing, medical supplies, food and fuel items, shoes, jackets, hats, etc. Everything was labeled so it would be easy for my crew to help me out as needed. I had packed enough stuff to keep me running for weeks but I was determined not to forget a thing, you never know what you might want or wish you had. That is one really nice advantage to a loop course, you can get to your crew and stuff and always know exactly what you have to choose from.
I’m not the worrying type. I plan things out and then what happens, happens. Carrie and I drove up Friday afternoon, picked up my race number and got our camp site setup with our pop-up shelter. Then we headed back into Spartanburg for dinner and a good night’s sleep at a hotel. I slept well, woke up and was able to eat part of a bagel with peanut butter, had some coffee and we headed to the park. We unloaded, organized my things and I was ready to go. Lisa came and set up at our site with us, as I said she was going solo and Carrie was happy to help her out in any way she could. Runners gathered at the start line, they played the national anthem and off we went. The course is a 9 mile loop with a half mile out and back at the start to make up the 100 miles. Each loop when you came in, you checked in at the timing station and might I also add very awesome Aid Station, you then looped around the camp ground and passed your camp site.
The course was a beautiful single track, somewhat technical course for the first 5 miles or so. Then dropping into some absolutely beautiful flat trails that winded around for roughly another 4 miles before a couple climbs up and out, dropping you back to cross a bridge, then all uphill to the Aid Station and camp ground area. I did catch up to Lisa, who didn’t have to run the ½ mile out and back at the beginning of the race. Starting around mile 5 or so, she and I stayed within sight of each other or with each other for the most part. The first loop seemed to go by fast and I was on a high. Loving the course, and the single track trails which are my very favorite type of trails to run on, I couldn’t ask for anything better at that point. I went out on a good pace on that first loop checking in at around an hour 40 minutes. Quick check in with Carrie and off for loop two. Carrie had stacked 11 small stones on the table at our site representing the 11 loops. Each time I came in one of us would toss one out, keeping count of where I was. Loop two passed fairly quickly, I stayed with Lisa for some of it, but after that point I only saw her leaving the aid station as I was coming in.
I listened to my music, chatting with runners that I saw. On my third loop, I began running with a fellow runner named John. John and I would stay together for the next 3 loops. Usually he was just behind me as we hiked the hills and ran all the flats and down hills we could. Those loops took us through the heat o f the day. It got into the 80’s and quit hot. We saw many runners struggling with the heat. John and I both were drinking Tailwind, and we seemed to keep on our steady pace. As we came in completing our 5th loop, we expected to run one more together before picking up our pacers. We discussed that we needed to grab our headlamps because before we finished our 6th loop it would be dark. John’s friend who was crewing and pacing him met us as we came across the bridge and said we could now pick up our pacers. Whoo hooo! Carrie quickly got her shoes on and ready to go out with me, John and his friend got out ahead of us and I never saw him again on the trails. Brad and his wife Paula had showed up while I was on my 5th loop and they already had bacon and grilled cheese sandwiches ready to go. I grabbed some of each and off we went.
It was so nice to have Carrie this time out. I was excited for her to see the beautiful trails but before we got half way around the loop it had turned dark. With the dark, we continued our pace with a fast hike, we didn’t stop or slow down, just kept moving. We came into the Aid Station and our crew, trying to quickly grab what we needed and head back out; not forgetting to throw out another rock! We were joined by other runners in the night on our loops, Noah and Nick joined us for a couple loops, and later we meet Dean who kept us quit entertain during one loop. Someone new to talk to and for them it was company as they were running solo.
Finally we came in after loop 9. I knew my feet each had hot spots on them and I was going to need to have some duct tape put on them to avoid a total blister fest. Brad quickly helped get my shoes off and slap some duct tape on my feet. What a life saver that turned out to be, never tried it before but had always heard that was the thing to do. This time Brad and his loyal dog JoJo joined us on loop 10. It was dark, this was the only point in the race I began to feel sleepy and slow. I had some chocolate covered espresso beans in my pocket and that seemed to do the trick until it turned light about half way around the loop. Carrie finally got to see the second half of the beautiful course in the light. She had gone five loops totally 45 miles with me, what an awesome friend!
We got back to our camp sight, down to one more rock. Paula had just made fresh scrambled eggs. I sat down and ate some as Paula got herself ready to head out for my last loop with me. I was afraid it would be disappointing for her as I was so slow, not the run she might have been looking for. Not even sure if at this point I’d be able to talk a lot. As we passed the main Aid Station before heading back out, I grabbed more bacon and they had fresh warm pancakes. I was off for my last loop. I had not really been running since it had gotten dark. My legs were tired but as we hiked through the night I also felt like they had recovered some. Once Paula and I got to some downhill’s and flatter sections I decided to see if my legs could run. Sure enough it actually felt good to start running again. I told Paula as we started our loop that I hoped to hike a little faster and complete it in around 2 ½ hours. So now with a little running mixed in, I was determined to finished in that time. We finally got the flat section of the course, I looked at my watch and it was 10:10am, I knew it had been taking us an hour to get through this section so I had mentally set my mind on finishing by 11:30am which would be a time of 27:30. I ran as much as I could but really I think I was about at the end of being able to run. Paula and I had not seen a single runner on that last loop until we finally came across Matthew and his 10 year old son, Douthard during our final miles. Now there was some inspiration seeing those two! Finally we hit the last two hills and knew the bridge was just around the corner.
As we dropped into the bridge we saw Carrie and Brad waiting across the river for us. I had asked them to meet us there so we could all walk up that last hill and into the finish line together, because what seemed more appropriate but to finish with all the awesome people that helped me get there. As Paula and I came across the bridge I asked her what time it was (my watch was dead). She said it was 10:57am. Holy Moly, I could finish this thing by 11:00am but I needed to run that darn hill to the finish. I had not run it once during the race but I was running it now. Brad got ahead to try and get a picture of me finishing and Paula and Carrie were right behind me. I rounded the corner to the finish and the timers, throwing my hands in the air and gave a shout. 100 Miles Done! Angela (the Race Director) said 26:59 was my time, a sub 27.
My first 100 miler and what a great finish! Angela gave me my buckle, which I had begun to call the “Bacon” during my race. Everyone says go bring home the buckle, but Blind Pig, I was bringing home the bacon!!!
We got back to our camp site and I threw out that last rock!