In training, I ran my first 100-mi week and for several months maintained a weekly volume around 75-90 miles. Then I spent the last 2 months upping the intensity and decreasing volume – a lot of elevation gain and a lot of speedwork. The last month of training was difficult. We had just moved to our new house, and I was so completely distracted. I ended up doing a somewhat of extreme taper without even intending to do so, but it paid off.
My daughter and I drove down and stayed at a cabin about 45 minutes away from the race headquarters. She was volunteering at the last aid station. The fall colors were coming in fairly nicely, but the constant drizzle and overcast sky didn’t do any justice. We showed up for the pre-race briefing at the Mountain Institute near Spruce Knob. It was incredibly remote! I found my friend, Jennifer, who was running all three days. The WV Trilogy is a 3-day stage event with each day being 50k, 50 miles, and finally 13.1 miles. Jennifer had run the 50k that day and shared her thoughts about the course. She looked really good and strong for the following day’s 50 miler.
I slept pretty well that night, I never felt anxious or nervous. I didn’t actually know what to expect from myself other than knowing I’d finish. What I really wanted to do was to race it all-out. I toed the starting line at 6 am with Jennifer. There was a chilly spitty drizzle and plenty of mud. I was feeling pretty good, and my legs just wanted to go. Before long I realized I had completely left Jennifer. She obviously was going to be taking it easy since she still had one more day of running ahead of her. Realizing that, I figured I’d just keep trudging forward. However, I greatly missed her company all day long. We climbed up to Spruce Knob and what I’m sure would have been a spectacular view was completely obscured by the dense cool fog. Daylight was making its not-so-grand appearance. I dropped my headlamp and jacket at the first aid station which I would later regret.
Once we hit the woods and onto singletrack, my legs took over. I was completely absorbed in the moment. I followed behind a couple of pretty fast guys for some time, but eventually I realized that I was cruising along way too fast and dropped my pace. I was finally all alone and would stay that way for the remainder of the race. I just stayed focused on getting from aid station to aid station. I was feeling really good and fast by the time I came into aid 2, but things started to drastically fall apart for me between aid 2 and 3. I couldn’t stop fantasizing about being at home. It was all I could think about. I got very, very cold in the windy mist coming across the ridge, and I had foolishly surrendered my jacket at aid 1. I was mentally crushed.
I felt tired and aid 3 seemed like it would never come. I told myself to get to aid 3 and if I really wanted to quit then nobody would hold it against me. I was getting miserable and had no desire to be out there whatsoever. I felt somewhat renewed when I started seeing people coming back out of aid 3 which is at the turnaround point of an out-and-back section, so I knew I was finally getting close. I also knew at this point that I was making good time, because I knew aid 3 wasn’t that far away and these were the front runners heading out. I only passed one other girl on my way down the switchbacks to aid 3. It was then that I knew I couldn’t quit.
When I reached aid 3 they told me I was 2nd female, so I knew I wasn’t delusional, though I was starting to feel that way! I grabbed a few snacks and got out of there. I was a little regretful that I didn’t take the time while I was at the aid station to work on my right foot and change socks and shoes. On the way there, I had inevitably gotten my feet really wet, and my right insole had buckled and folded and was severely blistering my foot. I had never had this issue before with my Speedcross. Only halfway into the race, and my foot was in serious trouble. I ran on it until every step became torture. I finally stopped and jerked the insole out after trying to readjust it several times with no luck.
I was really pushing the pace hard all the way to the next aid, and my foot was feeling much better! I was taking a huge gamble, running up long, steep hills and burning my legs. Then there came what I called the minefield which was a long stretch of slippery, rocky trail along a stream where missing a beat at the pace I was holding was a surefire twisted ankle! Still feeling pretty upbeat coming into aid 4, I was in and out quickly after refilling my peanut butter cup supply. The trek to the next aid station seemed like forever, and I was getting a bit tired and running less. There was a LOT of steady climbing on this section, and I was starting to crave the finish. When I finally arrived at aid 5 my mind was really tired. I wasted a good deal of time hanging around there for a while messing with my shoe, drinking soda, refilling my water, and snacking… delaying the inevitable. With only one aid station left, I headed back out into a beautiful pine-canopied section of trail.
This nontechnical section started off with a really easy grade through canopied pine trees and was perfect for grabbing some quick miles. Eventually my opportunity to “make a run for it,” faded and I was going up and up again, and I was getting really tired. I told myself I had to hurry up and get to the aid station so I could see my daughter! I don’t remember much on the way to the last aid station other than giving myself redundant pick-me-up talks and fishing through my iPod for “that” song (whatever it was!). After what seemed like centuries, I heard people! There it was, my fabled aid station… or was it a mirage? Coming into the aid station, I was greeted by everyone singing “Happy Birthday!” It was fantastic! My daughter was having a blast, and it was so rejuvenating to see a familiar face! (Yeah, running 50 miles in the mountains is a fantastic way to spend a birthday, by the way!)
The last 4 miles to the finish was actually a bit of a memory blur other than initially getting a little lost for about a mile. There was one last climb to be had for the final mile, and what a climb it was! I grabbed sticks to use as trekking poles to help me just keep a pace of any sort. Finally, I could hear the finish line! Checking my watch, I was indeed going to come in under 12 hours which was originally my ultimate goal. I crossed the finish line in 11:52:58… exhausted, relieved, accomplished, complete. I finished 2nd female with the 1st female being almost 2 hours ahead of me! It was an incredible adventure and learning process.
Post-race recovery was really fast. I wasn’t very sore at all the next day, and 2 weeks later I was back to running 40 miles a week. I chalked a lot of this up to the volume I ran prerace. It was back to the drawing board for 2014. I already knew exactly what I was going to do. It would be the year of 100s. Now I just had to convince my family that it wasn’t such a crazy thing to do.