Awesome Race Swag
I don't even know where to begin. It's super early Sunday morning, the day after Way Too Cool. It is daylight savings and I didn't go to bed until after midnight so in reality, I should still be sleeping. But I can't. My mind is still super excited and thinks it is still out there on the trail. My body however, is happy that it is not.
I did bring my camera with me but I didn't take very many photos. That was probably a good thing or I might STILL be out on the trail some where! But I have a few and I will do a follow up post with some of Van's pictures and Coach Nikon's. They both took quite a few towards the end and after the race.
So in true Peanut style, the Peanut woke up at 2 am on Saturday morning. I woke up and thought "oh no, not today!" Luckily (and unfortunately) Van's took care of her but she was up from 2 to 4:30 or so. I woke up at 2 and then tossed and turned until I finally had to get up a little after 4 am. I woke up feeling exactly like you do when you have to catch an early morning flight. My mind was buzzing, I was rushing around even though I had pre-packed everything last night. By 5 am I was pulling out of the garage and heading to Cool.
It was so foggy when I was driving down Highway 49 I could barely see the turns in the road! I could also see significant frost on the ground. Oh man, it's going to be a cold one.
I arrived at Cool and scored a sweet parking spot right in the fire station lot. I could even see my team's tent from where I parked. Instead of getting out of the car however, I reclined the seat and took about a 30 minute nap. Aaaah, that was nice. When I woke up I decided to venture out to see my team and see just how cold it really was out there.
Cold. Freaking cold. Our awesome team coaches brought a nifty little heater though for our tent to keep us warm. We chatted nervously and Coach Nikon assured us that it will warm up when the sun comes up . . . in 90 minutes!
When 7 am hit I started my usual routine. I had a can of Ensure and then hit the porta potty. The only thing I did differently this morning was not have any coffee. None. I usually have a few sips if only to get the juices flowing (ahem) but decided against it. Best move ever. I will tell you now, I had absolutely zero tummy troubles yesterday. Not even a pre-race gurgle which I ALWAYS have!!!! I was beyond excited. I think the combination of the no coffee followed by my religious daily dose of ALIGN is really helping!!
A little before 8 am I ventured to the starting line with Garmin. We sort of positioned ourselves in the middle of the pack. The first two miles of WTC are on pavement and many runners are notorious for starting out super fast despite it being an uphill two miles. I didn't want to burn out too fast and I know myself, I can get caught up pretty easily. Instead, once Garmin took off I found myself running along side my awesome dear friend Big D. Big D and I met during the Summer 7 training group. We ran together after that was over and we both did a big 20 mile race in Auburn last September.
Big D is my trail partner. We just know each other’s quirks and thoughts out on the trail. Big D is the only person I can feel comfortable running in front of and she prefers me to be in front. I know that she only likes people running on her left and I automatically gravitate to that side. She reminds me to drink and we talk and support each other no matter what. So it was a complete joy for me to find her within the first mile yesterday. She only found out she was running WTC about 2 days ago. She had never run an Ultra before either so we were experiencing our first together. Cool.
After the first two miles you hit trails. Muddy, sloppy, watery trails. So many people were puddle jumping and I was thinking “c’mon. Really? You do realize what will be ahead of us right?” ha. I also saw Mike L. out there taking pictures! Thanks Mike!!! I can’t wait to see them.
The first 7 miles were uneventful. My knee felt fantastic. I was watching my footing so as not to tweak my ankle which I normally do on this rocky downhill section. I saw Lily, Coach Nikon’s wife and Pigeon on the side and they took our arm warmers and gloves because the sun was out and boy was it warming up nicely!
At mile 7 you hit the first aid station. I asked for a cup of water and was handed a Sprite. Gross! Not what I needed but whatever I was still happy and excited to be out there.
At this point you cross Highway 49 and head towards some single track. Big D was with me all the way. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. People were losing shoes in the big sticky piles of mud out there. You really could not get proper foot placement it was just so slippery. Still, that made it fun.
Big D and I chatted the next 8 miles. When we hit the next aid station (ALT 1) we were super excited and ready. As lady friends do . . . we grabbed some food and then took a potty break.
I think we both were feeling pretty good. I had been taking an SCap every hour as I have done on all my training runs. At the aid station I found the potatoes. Yum. Just what I needed. I don’t think we stayed too long but boy was it rough starting out again. It is amazing how stiff the legs can get when you stop running, even for just a short while.
I apparently became “trail leader” and was leading a group of men and women. None of them wanted to pass but since Big D was directly behind me, I didn’t feel pressure. If they wanted to get by they’d ask. We were starting our loop which was about 6 miles on a portion of the course I don’t think I had ever been on before. I was feeling great, that is until we hit Dead Truck Trail.
It is called Dead Truck because there is supposedly an old truck at the bottom of a ditch but I never saw it . . . although my head was down almost the entire race watching for rocks and mud so that isn’t surprising that I missed it. Dead Truck has a big down hill section. This is where I lost it. My knee decided to revolt and completely went from zero pain to agony. We were at mile 20. I told Big D that my knee was done and my speed going down hill quickly slowed. No one seemed to mind so maybe I wasn’t entirely alone on the downhill agony.
Soon we approached the river crossing. There has been much talk amongst our group about this crossing and just how “high” the water really was. See for yourself. The guy in the read shirt my mind you is quite tall.
The water came up to just below my waist. It DID however cover my knee and let me tell you, it took everything I had to get out of that water. Not because I was stuck, but because that icy cold goodness felt fantastic on my knee! Alas, we had to keep going.
After crossing that we eventually hit Ball Bearing. I remembered this massive hill from our training runs. What I didn’t remember was how incredibly long it was! It was probably over a quarter of a mile long and straight up. I slipped here and my hand braced my fall and landed in about 3 inches of icky red mud.
My knee was super excited to be climbing though. Up hill climbs equals zero knee pain so that was a nice break for the knee. We were also climbing this hill with some animated people who were hooting and hollering up the hill which makes for some great energy when you need it.
After we climbed Ball Bearing we reached the next aid station, ATL 2 which is at 21.7 miles.
It was here that I noticed my knee hurt the most whenever we stopped. So in addition to more PayDay bars and potatoes, I also took 2 Tylenol. I figured we're only 9 miles from the finish and it was worth risking any tummy troubles.
Once again trying to run from a stopped position was almost impossible. It takes a good 3 to 5 minutes before your legs remember exactly what to do. Thirty minutes later the Tylenol kicked in and I felt much better . . . so long as we didn’t hit any significant down hill sections.
Instead, we hit Goat Hill which is another monstrous climb. Apparently it is shorter in distance than Ball Bearing but much steeper. Big D and I just kept moving. Walk. Run. Walk. Run. Again, I welcomed the up hill climb. Your reward for reaching the top of Goat Hill is the Goat Hill Aid Station which is at mile 26.8. Big D and I hooted and hollered because we had finally run farther than a marathon! I didn’t want to stay too long for the fear of not being able to keep going.
The sections after Goat Hill were probably the most muddy and the most unstable footing wise. We were slipping and sliding. By now, Big D and I were not talking but that is how we roll. Even though we can run for hours with each other and not say anything, it is nice to know she’s there. Every once in a while we’d do a check-in with each other, “how you doing?” or “need anything?”
From the ALT 2 aid station I started playing some mind games with myself. I’d count down with each beep of my Garmin. 9 miles, 8 miles, 7 miles. It sometimes helps to think that way. I wasn’t miserable but I was eager to see my friends and family. I had told them I would finish much earlier than I knew we really would. I didn’t care about time but I knew Vans would be worried.
At some point on this section I hollered back to Big D that we were not stopping at the Hwy 49 aid station. I wanted to keep moving since it was at mile 29.7 and so close to the finish. I came into the aid station first and waited just a few seconds for Big D. I tried a coke while I was walking . . . yeah, do not recommend. Ick.
Finally we were on the home stretch back towards the finish. We had another uphill climb in front of us and we were walking but walking fast up this climb. When the rock infested gully finally cleared a little, we started running up the hill.
We reached a section where a man was standing with a big megaphone. He yelled out “if your name is Pam raise your hand!” Oh boy was this the jolt of energy I needed. Turns out it was my friend Jersey Girl and her horse of a dog Crush. I got some big cheers here and all my pain slipped away. We were on our way in!!
Big D and I crossed the finish together. 6 hours and 30 minutes, a full hour longer than I had hoped but I did not care. I saw Vans and the Peanut immediately, both with big smiles on their faces (Van’s also had a look of relief). They gave me hugs and high fives. Big D and I hugged each other too. She is the best running partner. Thank you Big D for everything!!
The adrenaline was flowing so much I barely remembered my knee. Coach Nikon was the first of the team to find me post finish. He had finished over 90 minutes ago. What an amazing day. The whole team continued to trickle in and we all lined up quickly to get a post race massage by the awesome Lily.
The whole group hung out for a while after the race eating cupcakes and drinking beer. I got my massage and was hugged repeatedly by the Peanut. Who said "go momma go" ever so sweetly.
Today I feel okay. My knee is swollen like a softball but and I am still wearing my compression socks for recovery. I was never hungry upon finishing the race. I know I ate a ton out there on the trail. I had 2 GU gels, 1 Luna Moon package, probably the equivalent of a bag of potatoes and at least one full PayDay bar if not 2.
Despite the knee, I had a fantastic time out there. It was so much fun and I am so happy that Way Too Cool was my first ever ultra. It didn't hit me until Captain Kirk said "hey ultra runner" to me that, yes, I am indeed officially an ultra runner! I guess I need to change my blog profile!
Thank you to everyone who supported, encouraged and motivated me whether it was during yesterday's race or during my entire training period. Because of you I finished. Thank you!
Race pictures to follow!!