|Rolling into town. Photo by Ryan Hagy|
I am just going to dive right in. Friday morning, my crew chief Hagy and I stopped at Whole Foods, grabbed some tastey looking foods and hit the road. I picked Pad Thai from the hot bar, and along with jelly beans, a couple bagels and muffins, I had a carbolicious day. As we came closer and closer to Titusville, PA, the roads began to move from gently rolling, to long steady uphills and downhills, something I rarely get to experience in Michigan. And then we were there, Titusville Pennsylvania, birth place of the oil industry. The terrain seemed foreign with wide valleys, fast flowing rivers, and roads winding between tall hills.
Hagy and I quickly set up our tent, securing a spot in the middle school parking lot, across from the race headquarters (Titusville Middle school). We had time to kill before packet pickup started, and decided it would be wise to go check out the route to the Petroleum Center aid station, the only crew access point away from the middle school. This ended up being a smart move, as it was really the only time I was able to take in the scenery without feeling a sense of urgency.
|Hagy looking cool while we were surveying the area|
The road to Petroleum Center aid was... treacherous to say the least, funny thing was this was the only aid station the race director was comfortable having people drive to. After checking out the sites we stopped by packet pickup, where I noticed my bib # was 117 (17 is my lucky #) and decided this boded well for the future. Walking around the school I had the chance to talk to Jill Perry, a badass montrail athlete who was very enthusiastic about there new shoes. I had the chance to get my hands on the Montrail Bajada - a shoe receiving glowing reviews from irunfar.com editor, Bryon Powell. Expecting the small lugs found on the Rogue Racer, I was pleasantly surprised by the Bajada's heavy lugs.
I had packed my two drop bags during the week before the race. Included food- a wide variety of gels, a bunch of clif shot bloks, red bull, ensure, and salt and vinegar chips. I also packed fresh socks and shoes. Last minute I gave Ryan some stuff to keep with him that could be useful, but really only for emergencies. I figured everything essential needed to be in my drop bags.
It took a while to fall asleep, Jason stopped by at about 10:00pm, he made it to the race safely, but had to push a deer out of the road with his car. Im glad he didnt get hurt. Ryan had little trouble passing out, I was jealous.
I woke up at about 3:00am, ate a bagel and a couple tortillas with nutella. I felt stuffed. To stay warm I headed to the middle school where someone who worked at the school had made coffee for several early risers. Score, I got a nice warm cup of coffee and relaxed for a couple minutes. At about 4, I headed back out to the tent and put on my clothes, and dropped my drop bags. It was a 5am start so I kept my headlamp and was ready for action. I was excited to use my new fenix HP11 to light up the trails, but about 10 minutes before the race start, I noticed it wouldnt turn on!!! Freaked out, I ran outside and luckily they hadnt taken my drop bag to Petroleum Center aid, and I grabbed my backup lamp. Shit, this lamp wasnt nearly as bright as my fenix. Disappointed, I had no choice but to suck it up and proceed.
|Cool start photo by Ryan Hagy|
|Keith Straw leading our conga line|
Running along, we had some nice conversations getting to know everyone in our conga line as we cruised our way to Petroleum Center. Arrived at PC1 (1st time through) in 2:40 and change. Knowing this was almost halfway through the 50k I felt like I may have been moving a little too fast (although a lot of people were ahead of me), but wanted to get in and out of the aid station. Ryan had fresh bottles of water and amino waiting for me, so I grabbed them and then started the long climb up Heisman Hill. I said, Hi to Kieth, but was power hiking strong (which I was very pleased with) and passed him as I moved up the hill. The next sections kinda flew by, running alone most of the time I just settled into a rythm, focused on eating, drinking and enjoying the awesome sights and sounds. There were a few more serious climbs on the backside of the 50k, which was definitely the slower half. I came into the Titusville Middle School aid feeling great at almost exactly 6 hours. Again Hagy had fresh bottles waiting for me and I refilled my pockets with gels and shot bloks and hit the trail.
|We only had to run this 3x|
I dont remember much of the 1st half of this loop. I was feeling OK, but not as good as I had earlier. Somewhere along the way I noticed I was heating up pretty fast and sweating more than I was used to. Nice hot (75-80 degree) fall day. I took off my shirt, at the risk of looking silly with my nipples duct taped, and occasionally splashed water on myself to keep cool. I noticed I was getting thirsty more often and not drinking enough, and realized I hadn't peed in over an hour. I immediately started pushing fluids and chugged a water bottle along with popping an Scap. I maintained this attitude until PC2 and was feeling much better by the time I arrived. I tossed my shirt (which I had been carrying in my waist band) into my drop bag, grabbed fresh water and more gels and immediately jumped back onto the trail. Again, exactly 2:40 for this section. Feeling much better once I was rehydrated, I maintained an aggressive power hike up the long steep climbs and soon found myself enjoying some smooth shallow descents, perfect for me and my thunder thighs.
|Ashley Moyer making it look easy|
The last mile or so into the flat drake well loop is, in my opinion, one of the toughest sections of trail we ran all day. Its downhill, but steep and technical, which really takes a toll on your quads and feet. Then you dump out onto some pavement which added to my groaning foot discomfort. Energy-wise I had been on top of my game, with little stomach issues, except some slight naseua when I think I over salted with Scaps too frequently. I had been doing a great job of mixing up my fuel between gels, clif bloks and the occasional potato wedge, snickers, or twix bar. This fueling strategy is now my go to, as I was averaging 250-350 calories per hour fairly comfortably.
Ok, Titusville Middle School Aid. 100k finished. Again, this 50k loop clocked in at 6 hours (actually 5:59). Knowing it would get dark soon, I dropped my bottles for a hydration pack, and even better, Hagy got my Fenix lamp to work!!!!! This really had me pumped. Turns out the 10 pack of new batteries I bought at Walmart were all duds - making me think my lamp was toast. He put in some fresh batteries (awesome thing - they had batteries at the aid stations) and it was working again. Here I made my only mistake all day. I changed out of shoes that were uncomfortable into my Speedcross 3s that I had added a high volume insole to a few days before and hadnt run in since.
|Switching shoes and grabbing tunes before dark|
I grabbed a slice of pizza, took a couple bites and stuffed the rest into my pocket for later :) Armed with my 120 lumen headlamp and fresh socks and shoes I charged out to see if I could run another 6 hour loop. I was hours ahead of my projected 24 hour goal. Feeling pretty good for the hiking and running the flats, I quickly noticed that my toes were getting crushed on downhills. Not only that, but my gait changed slightly in these shoes and my quads started to ache on long descents. Now I am not sure if this was because I was over 70 miles into the race or if it was because of the shoes.
|Shoot, I left my sunglasses down there - will you go get them for me?|
Doing a little more walking than I should have (I still need to get mentally tougher) I came noticed my pace slowing. I finished off my pizza as well as a cup of chicken broth while power hiking switchback mtn. It was dusk as I neared the top. Then I heard a rustling in the woods, louder than a chipmunk. I looked up, and there was a black bear standing about 100 feet off the trail, just looking at me. Probably trying to figure out why I smelled so bad. Not knowing what to do in this situation, but having read about Ellie Greenwood scaring away a bear at Western States, I raised my arms high, began shouting and carrying on. The bear retreated, looking back at me, until I began making a racket again. I proceeded down the trail as darkness set in. From here on, anytime I heard anything in the woods I expected to see a bear, but thankfully did not.
I came into PC for the 3rd time, but noticed I was at about 3 hours, 20 minutes slower than the previous loop. Deciding my shoe choice was a terrible move, I put on a fresh pair of MTE101s I had put at PC just in case this exact scenario occurred. It was here Hagy told me I was moving along better than many other runners. That was all I needed to hear, and with a cup of Ramen left the aid station. My feet were much happier as dusk ended and night set upon us.
|Sadly, this sign is right. At least I got 75 miles in first|
The night was kind of uneventful. I slowed down, partially because my quads blew up somewhere after mile 85, but I managed to get down the long last downhill section and run all the way back to the middle school. Hagy was waiting - I sat down chugged a red bull, ate a cup of ramen, looked to Ryan, who indicated he was ready for his first pacing duty ever, in jeans and his 13 year old tennis shoes. No worries, I wasnt moving very fast anyways. 7 mile victory loop here we come. It was amazing to have company. I had been running alone for almost 17 hours after separating from Jason and Kieth after about 2:40 into the race, and I think I proceeded to talk Hagy's ear off.
Somewhere on this section is the Boughton Acid Works, an old acid dumping ground, which was devoid of all vegetation and reeked of sulfer. Kinda eerie to hike through at night. Then we came to a giant suspension bridge over the major river the race travels around. It swayed from side to side as we initially charged across. I had to stop for a moment and take it all in. Here I was in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, on the middle of a swaying bridge, having run over 90 miles and in 4th place. I asked Hagy to turn off his headlamp for a minute and I did the same. It only lasted a second, but I was flooded with positive vibes that can only come from doing what you love and conquering immense challenges.
|Hill of truth about mile 4|
We turned our lamps back on, climbed "The Hill of Truth" which was a long one, but nothing could stop me now. Quietly I suffered the long downhill back to the road, and finally ran it in. To aid station #4, which apparently was not the finish line. After a brief celebration, I turned around and ran back to the actual finish at the back entrance to the middle school. I found myself a chair and plopped down. Ryan grabbed some warm clothes for me and I just sat there in a daze. A PR of 20:52, almost 2 hours faster than Kettle.
|Come here foot, I want to take these socks off|
|Sub 22 hour 24k gold plated buckle - now I need a belt|