Trail Monster Running

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Virgil Crest 100 - Race Report

“Everyone out here is hurting right now. At this point it’s all about who’s best at managing the pain.”

In the week leading up to the Virgil Crest 100 it rained pretty much every day, on top of ground that was reportedly still saturated from Hurricane Irene a few weeks prior. With this in mind Emma and I made the last minute decision to stay in a hotel the night before the race instead of camping. I’d camped at both of my previous 100 miler attempts, a shitty nights sleep and being “in touch with nature” always seemed like part of the event. But since we didn’t have a crew and we were pretty far from home we decided that a warm, dry bed after the long drive to get there was a good idea.

After an 8+ hour drive we arrived in Virgil, NY around 3:30 on Friday afternoon and found the local fire station where we picked up our numbers and schwag, a long sleeve tech shirt and handmade mug. Good stuff. The finishers buckles were on display, but I warned Emma not to jinx it by getting too close. I had handled the Maine 100 Mile Wilderness buckle before the run and ended up with a DNF so I wasn’t about to make that mistake again. We got checked into our hotel, then returned to the fire station to leave our drop bags and enjoy the pasta dinner. The pre-race meeting was underwhelming, no information that wasn’t already on the website, or found elsewhere by our obsessive research and planning process, so we left early and got back to our hotel before 8:30.

We had a good night’s sleep but the only problem with staying in a hotel a half hour from the start is that I worried about all the things that could go wrong during that relatively short drive to get there. There is something very comforting about sleeping in a tent only a few hundred yards from the start line, you know you’re going to make it on time. The good thing about the drive is that it allowed Emma to play DJ so we could rock out to the Beastie Boys, “because you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop.” Finding the start at Hope Lake Park was easy, even in the dark at 5:00AM. We were thankful that the relatively late start of 6:00 allowed us plenty of time. It was cool and rainy, but surprisingly, and annoyingly humid. One of the reasons I had picked this race was because I thought that late September would provide the cooler and less humid temperatures that I prefer. Oh well, it’s not like I hadn’t done most of my training in high humidity.

The race course is a double out-and-back on a 25 mile stretch of trail, primarily consisting of the Finger Lakes Trail, with a little something else thrown in at the beginning and then a sinister double up and down on the Greek Peak ski trails in the middle. 89% single-track, 7% gravel road and only 4% asphalt. Those are my kind of proportions. Although the race website throws out the number of “roughly 20,000 feet” of elevation gain, they also publish elevation details for each section between aid stations, and when you add those numbers up it comes out at 23,410 feet of gain and equal loss. Either way, that’s a lot of hills and way more than anything else I’ve ever attempted. The Vermont 100, the only other 100 I’ve completed, has a measly 14,000’ of elevation gain, and the 100 Mile Wilderness, which I did not finish, has about the same amount.

We made the final pre-race check in, then caught up with fellow Trail Monster George, and found a few other familiar faces (Nick, Ryan and Kristina) to chat with and calm the nerves. It wasn’t long before we all filtered out into the rainy morning, turned on our headlamps and lined up facing an uncertain darkness ahead. With the sputtering blow of a ram’s horn the crowd moved forward between rows of burning tiki torches. After about 100 yards of grass we picked up a narrow paved path that meandered through the grounds of Hope Lake Park and our group of 150 runners stretched out into a single file line of little bobbing lights.

Hope Lake Park to Gravel Pit: 4.4 miles, 990’ gain, 575’ loss.

It was hard to believe that Emma and I were once again setting off together on a 100 mile adventure, just 7 weeks after our last attempt. A year ago at this time we weren’t even able to think about running ultras, a half marathon was our fall racing goal. The plan Emma and I had agreed to was that we’d stick together for the first two aid stations, to 9.7 miles. Then we’d hit the serious hilly section of the race where we both thought I’d be faster, so it would make sense for us to each do our own thing. In the week before the race Emma was having serious foot pain, bad enough to make her and her chiropractor think she might have a stress fracture. And then there were the knee problems that have been plaguing her for the past three years and were the reason she pulled out of the 100 Mile Wilderness. Less than a mile into the run I had already started to doubt our plan, wouldn’t it be much more enjoyable to just run the whole thing together?

I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself so I just enjoyed where we were at the moment. It didn’t take long for the sky to begin to lighten, but under the heavy tree canopy we needed to keep our headlamps on. Emma and I caught up with Kristina who was running the 50 miler and we stuck together for the first few miles, and went back and forth with a few other friendly folks. It became immediately clear that it was pointless to try to keep our feet dry, the ground was just too wet, not to mention that it was raining. The trail was mostly double-track in the early miles which was good for allowing us all to settle into our appropriate pace. The first aid station seemed to come pretty quickly so we just grabbed a quick drink and moved through without really stopping. We were less than an hour in and my breakfast was still churning over in my stomach, no need to refuel yet, but I did remind myself to eat early and often.

Gravel Pit to Lift House 5: 5.3 miles (9.7 total), 730’ gain, 1320’ loss.
0:59:16 (1:49:31)

After the mostly uphill first stretch this next section felt pretty fast, and now that the sun was up (although still behind clouds) we were able to pick the pace up a bit. The terrain soon turned more technical with genuine single track, roots, mud, tight turns and numerous gullies that crossed the trail. Apparently the downhill running helped move my breakfast along and I felt the need for a bio-break, which I hated to do while we had such a good pace going and were amongst such a good group of runners. Emma and I both pulled off the trail but each found our own private spots.

Shortly after our pit stop we came out to the only section of paved road on the course, a mile long downhill with what we could only imagine were great views beyond the clouds and fog. This brought us in to the next aid station, Lift House 5, that we would see 8 times during the course of the run. Emma filled up her bladder while I searched for our drop bag. We left our headlamps here, not because we needed them on the previous stretch but this is where we thought we’d want to pick them up before it got dark on our way back through. Not having a crew required a little additional planning but this was what we wanted, to do it all ourselves.

photo courtesy of Nick Tooker

Lift House 5 to Lift House 5: 4.2 miles (13.9 total), 1450’ gain, 1450’ loss.
1:03:29 (3:01:00)

By the time we started the climb up the Greek Peak ski slopes on the east side of Virgil Mountain I had already decided I would stick with Emma through our first pass of the “Alpine Loop”. She’s always been better at pacing herself than I am and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. The trails up the mountain were a combination of access roads, steep ski slopes and insanely steep single-track. Some runners got out trekking poles, and others found branches to help out on the climb. We just went for the classic hands-on-knees approach. The only good thing about the steep hills is that they shed water pretty quickly so this was one of the driest parts of the course, and by now the rain had stopped.

After about a 600’ climb (with a stretch at 21% grade) we dropped back down, then faced another 600’+ climb to what most of us thought was the highest point. A 50 miler who had run the race last year warned us to hold off on the celebrations because there was one final climb before we were really on our way down. Once we did finally hit the high point of the loop we had a drop of about 800’ in 1.5 miles to get back to the aid station at the bottom of the mountain. This section of the course reminded me a bit of the Loon Mountain and Mt Cranmore races, except in this race we didn’t dare go all out on the downhills since we knew we had to run it 4 times, with many miles in between.

Once back at the Lift house 5 aid station (you hit it at the beginning and end of the Alpine Loop) I refilled the bladder in my Nathan pack, we both grabbed some food and an Ensure to drink on the next stretch.

Lift House 5 to Rock Pile: 6.1 miles (20 total), 1570’ gain, 1120’ loss.
1:21:00 (4:26:00)

I knew there was a climb coming up but failed to look at any of the information I had with me defining how much of climb. Turns out it’s actually the biggest climb of the whole race, going back up Virgil Mountain, this time all the way to the summit. At least it was a little more gradual, but then it was also more muddy. Oh well, no one does 100 mile trail races because they’re easy.

After summitting Virgil Mt we had one of the most runnable and enjoyable stretches of the race, a very gradual downhill over the next few miles on tight single track. We did pop out onto a dirt road for about a half mile where we caught up to and passed a few runners, then back into the woods for more muddy single track. In places it was hard to tell the difference between the trail and one of the many streams that crossed it, but Emma and I never really had any trouble finding our way. There was a short and easy climb up to the Rock Pile aid station where Emma filled her bladder again, we grabbed some goodies from our drop bags and food from the tables and got moving as quickly as we could.

Rock Pile to Daisy Hollow Rd: 5.1 miles (25.1 total), 1250’ gain, 1250’ loss.
1:03:30 (5:35:30)

Shortly after leaving the aid station we started to hear the famous dog barking. He lives at the bottom of a valley and gets a bit agitated with runners going by. It was going to be a long day for him too. After a very enjoyable downhill run we passed the dog’s house and began another climb on fairly technical terrain. There were actually ropes coming down the hill in a few places to help pull yourself up with. Once we reached the top of this short but steep climb there was another fairly flat and easily runnable stretch. The terrain was technical in spots, plenty of mud and quite a few logs across the trail to step over (mtn bike control).

A few miles before the turnaround at the next aid station we started seeing the lead runners coming back towards us. The first place woman in the 100 miler was 3rd overall, Acidotic Racing’s Ryan was in 5th, and Kristina was in 2nd or 3rd in the 50. When we saw Nick, who had passed us on the Alpine Loop, he told us we were about 1 minute from the aid station. I had counted about sixteen 100 milers ahead of us but there were a lot of people at the aid station when we arrived and keeping track of who was ahead became much less important than just looking after our own needs and getting moving again. I filled my bladder, but we didn’t have a drop bag here so we made this stop a quick one.

Daisy Hollow Rd to Rock Pile: 5.1 miles (30.2 total), 1250’ gain, 1250’ loss.
1:14:40 (6:54:11)

Hitting the turnaround was a major milestone. ¼ of the way done, we were having fun and feeling good. Despite having made an elaborate pace chart with various predicted finishing times based on our arrival at each aid station I didn’t feel compelled to look at it. I was content running with Emma at whatever pace felt right for the terrain we were on. By now we had decided that we’d stick together for the rest of the race, no matter what happened. Sharing this experience together was much more important than trying to beat a specific time or another runner.

Our way back to the Rock Pile was slower than on the way out, in part due to having to negotiate the trail with all the runners coming at us. The other factor was an increase in pee breaks, which I mention because both of us seem to have some issues balancing fluid and electrolyte intake in the right proportions. Since we were both soaked from the morning rain it was hard to tell how much we were sweating and neither of us were taking S!Caps (although we were carrying them), instead relying on the Nuun we were drinking, GU and various salty foods to get our electrolytes.

Shortly before reaching the Rock Pile we bumped into George who was coming down the hill towards us, with his usual big smile. We stopped to chat for a minute, I mentioned my suffering feet and George told me he had blister treatment stuff in one of his drop bags that I was welcome to use. By now I had wet feet for almost 7 hours and was ready for some dry socks so we planned to make this a somewhat longer stop. We both filled our bladders with help from Nick’s crew, changed our socks, Emma applied more band aids to her heels, and we grabbed some food from the aid station. What a difference a change of socks can make. I could feel some hot spots developing on my feet, but the dry socks seemed to make them feel a lot better.

Rock Pile to Lift House 5: 6.1 miles (36.3 total), 1120’ gain, 1570’ loss.
1:23:35 (8:26:51)

The biggest heartbreak of the race came less than 10 minutes after leaving the Rock Pile aid station: a 20’ wide stream crossing. Normally I wouldn’t mind a stream crossing, but I had just changed my socks. What a waste. I don’t know why I hadn’t remembered that this was coming up. With freshly soaked shoes and socks the hot spots on my feet continued to flare up and I was pretty sure blisters were forming. I was looking forward to changing my shoes but didn’t want to do it too soon since I only had one spare pair. I had 3 more pairs of socks to get me through the rest of the race but I knew I needed to be smarter about when I changed them.

By the time we got back to Lift House 5 I was ready for the change, the big descent from the top of Virgil Mt to the aid station really messed up my feet and I needed to assess the damage. Much to my surprise I couldn’t find any significant blisters amongst the white wrinkled mess that was my feet. With a little more help from Nick’s crew we took care of things as quickly as possible, I put on another pair of dry socks and switched to my Roclite 295’s. If I’d had another pair of X-Talon 212’s I probably would have put them on, but at this point anything dry was a treat. Emma took a few minutes to apply BioFreeze to her foot and knee, and we both applied muscle rub to our quads in preparation for our second trip around the Alpine Loop. Emma had told me before we started not to ask her about any of her aches and pains during run, that topic of conversation was off limits. Although she hadn’t mentioned that anything was bothering her I suspected that she was attempting to treat pain rather than prevent it.

Lift House 5 to Lift House 5: 4.2 miles (40.5 total), 1450’ gain, 1450’ loss.
1:22:59 (9:56:53)

We set off up the hill with the “Orange Shirt Guy” with whom we had been leap-frogging all morning. We were moving slightly faster than him but he was much quicker in and out of the aid stations. We soon decided it was time for another bio-break and he moved ahead, but it wouldn’t be the last time we saw him. Our pace was definitely slower this time around the loop, mostly due to the way we ran down the hills. With the way Emma’s knee and my feet were feeling the downhills were definitely the most uncomfortable and we were unable to take advantage of the potential for faster miles here. Our climbing was still pretty strong and we focused on having fun and the things that weren’t hurting. Generally speaking we were in good shape and everything was going well. By now the clouds had started to break up and we were rewarded with some great views from the ski slopes.

Back at Lift House 5 again I needed to reassess my feet. I looked for George’s drop bag but couldn’t find anything for treating blisters, and as it turned out there wasn’t much that needed to be done to my feet. They looked and felt pretty bad but there weren’t actually any blisters that needed to be drained. We grabbed our headlamps here, even though darkness was still a few hours away we knew we’d need them before we returned to this spot. The aid station crew was getting the hot food going and we enjoyed a few perogies before heading back out. By now the aid station volunteers were starting to recognize the runners, and the race director was making the rounds as well so it was great to get support from them. We were recognized as the married-couple-running-together and we definitely got a boost every time we came through an aid station.

Lift House 5 to Gravel Pit: 5.3 miles (45.8 total), 1320’ gain, 730’ loss.
1:25:46 (11:33:40)

Now we got to “run” the paved section in the opposite direction, this time up hill. We were mostly walking it. Back into the woods we settled into a comfortable running pace and were able to cruise along pretty well, but there seemed to be a lot more mud than on the way out, clearly the result of all the people that had churned things up throughout the course of the day. As we approached the Gravel Pit aid station we started to see the lead runners coming out for their second half of the race, this was a fun part of the double-out-and-back format. When we arrived at the Gravel Pit we were looking for more Ensure but for some reason didn’t have any in our drop bags. A cup of warm tortellini hit the spot though and after a quick chat with the #4 runner and his pacer about Pineland we were on our way to finish up the first half of the race.

Gravel Pit to Hope Lake Park: 4.4 miles (50.2 total), 575’ gain, 990’ loss.
0:57:26 (12:37:14)

There was a nice long downhill stretch coming out of the aid station, but thankfully not too steep so we were able to run it well. In fact, we ran very well all the back to Hope Lake Park, fueled by the excitement of almost being half way done with the race. The sun was getting low and I was glad that we’d get the first half done before dark, but I was also looking forward to running through the night, the change of scenery – or lack thereof – would help make the double out-and-back seem less repetitive.

On the paved path just before we reached the half way mark we once again caught up to “Orange Shirt Guy” and we finally introduced ourselves. We also met up with two young kids, presumably children of the aid station volunteers, who were very excited about running us in to the aid station. We didn’t have a drop bag at this aid station so we attempted to make it a quick stop, but the reality was that after 12+ hours of running all our stops were taking a while. It was dinner time so we mowed down a few spicy hummus wraps, drank some Mt Dew and chatted to the volunteers and few 50 milers who had just finished.

When one of the volunteers asked what we thought of the course I responded “It’s a course so nice you have to run it twice!” With that we headed out into the sunset for the second half of our 100 mile adventure.

Hope Lake Park to Gravel Pit: 4.4 miles (54.6 total), 990’ gain, 575’ loss.
1:12:17 (13:59:16)

A huge sense of relief came over me now that we were more than half way through the race, even though we still had a very long way to go it all seemed manageable. Of course we were beginning to get tired, and we had a few aches and pains but the finish seemed like it was within reach. Over the next 45 miles that feeling faded substantially.

Shortly after leaving Hope Lake Park we turned on our headlamps, we were each carrying one on our head and one around the waist. The bellylamp, as I like to call it, is great for illuminating the ground immediately in front while the headlamp works for spotting further up the trail. The climb back up to the Gravel Pit was slowed by the slick mud that reduced the efficiency of every step. Tortellini was still on the menu when we returned to the Gravel Pit so we each grabbed another cup and ate while we accessed our drop bags. We took the dry socks from our drop bags with us, and decided to save them for a time when we really needed them. Emma was still in a t-shirt at this point but I had switched to a long sleeve top. I also had a hat and gloves, which weren’t needed while we were running but standing around at the aid stations got chilly pretty quick.

Gravel Pit to Lift House 5: 5.3 miles (59.9 total), 730’ gain, 1320’ loss.
1:28:13 (15:34:17)

About 20 minutes after leaving the aid station we bumped into George who was not looking happy. It turned out that one of the aid station volunteers had sent him the wrong way and he ended up running a few extra miles. Major bummer. This made Emma and I even more glad that we had each other as we went later into the night. The next few miles of technical, muddy terrain were a lot of fun even though we were starting to slow down a lot. Slowing was to be expected given the distance we had already covered and the fact that it was now dark, but the fact that we were having fun and still enjoying each others company was a treat.

Back at Lift House 5 for the fifth time, and about to set off on our third trip around the Alpine Loop we took an especially long break to get ourselves ready. We both changed our shorts, 15 hours in the same pair of wet shorts is long enough. I also decided it was finally time to take care of my feet so I sat next to the fire and borrowed some blister treatment supplies from another runner. I drained 3 or 4 blisters, but put the same wet socks back on. This was one of the times when I wished we had a crew, we must have spent well over 20 minutes here. Oh well, I had long since given up worrying about how long this was going to take us. We had to do what we had to do to get it done.

Lift House 5 to Lift House 5: 4.2 miles (64.1 total), 1450’ gain, 1450’ loss.
1:49:43 (17:44:00)

Messing with my feet actually made them feel worse. The ups weren’t too bad but the steep descents on the ski slopes were killing me. I knew Emma was in pain but she wasn’t talking about it so I kept my discomfort to myself and just tried to focus on getting through this section. Emma pointed out the clear night sky, and the stars helped to provide a much needed distraction. I really was a perfect night to be out on a mountain.

Lift House 5 to Rock Pile: 6.1 miles (70.2 total), 1570’ gain, 1120’ loss.
2:29:00 (20:33:00)

It was around midnight as we made our way up the long climb to the summit of Vigil Mountain, fatigue was starting to set in but our spirits were still high. Despite the painful issues we were both having we spoke of them very infrequently. We caught up to and passed another runner on the way up, while he was treating his own blister. He then got us back while we were taking another bio-break. We leap-frogged with him several more times over the remaining miles, but never actually ran with or even spoke to him since he was wearing headphones.

At the Rock Pile aid station I had lentil soup and Emma ate chicken noodle. All the aid stations had a great selection of food, and the hot stuff was very much appreciated at night. I changed my socks again here, since we went through that 20’ long stream crossing shortly before reaching the aid station. I was finally starting to remember the layout of the course.

Rock Pile to Daisy Hollow Rd: 5.1 miles (75.3 total), 1250’ gain, 1250’ loss.
1:57:30 (22:36:08)

Much to our surprise the famous dog was still barking as we descended into the valley, although he was clearly getting weary from a full day at it. He wasn’t the only one, tiredness was really starting to set in and we were seriously slowing down. When we arrived at the turnaround at Daisy Hollow Rd it felt like another major milestone, and I wanted to celebrate by taking a nap by the fire. I had perhaps gotten to the point of not caring enough about time, had I been on my own I surely would have given in. I did sit down but Emma wouldn’t let me sleep.

Daisy Hollow Rd to Rock Pile: 5.1 miles (80.4 total), 1250’ gain, 1250’ loss.
1:52:05 (24:41:50)

Once we started moving again I was glad we hadn’t stopped for any longer. With every step we knew that we were covering this ground for the last time. Running became less and less common as the mud was at it’s best and our coordination was at it’s worst. There were numerous downed trees along this stretch, which were barely noticable 20 hours early but now destroyed any sense of rhythm we had each time we had to step over. Just as we’d get the momentum back up we’d have to slow back down to step over another log.
On the way down into the valley of the barking dog we passed George again. The smile was still missing from his face, you know it’s a tough course when George isn’t smiling. We said goodbye to the barking dog and headed up the hill to the Rock Pile as the sun was rising. This time we were greeted with grilled cheese sandwiches at the aid station. Perfect.

Rock Pile to Lift House 5: 6.1 miles (86.5 total), 1120’ gain, 1570’ loss.
2:13:28 (27:03:00)

Emma started to point out to me that my running pace was at times equivalent to her walking pace but far less efficient. I appreciated the advice but was annoyed that I couldn’t get myself to move quicker. Our conversation became focused on survival. We had every reason to believe that we would finish this race, but in our delicate, exhausted, aching state we feared that pushing too hard could lead to a disaster that would prevent one of us from finishing. Downhills were killing both of us in different ways, and we knew there were a few big ones coming up. Not to mention a few big climbs that would continue to drain what little energy we had left in us.

When we reached Lift House 5 for the seventh time, before starting our fourth and final time around the Alpine Loop we took another long break while I tended to my feet. I drained some new blisters, redrained some old ones, and changed into dry socks for the last time. I also made sure that we both ate and drank plenty. At this point it was too easy to forget about fueling up, but the reality was that we still had anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to go before we finished and it was time for breakfast.

Lift House 5 to Lift House 5: 4.2 miles (90.7 total), 1450’ gain, 1450’ loss.
2:01:01 (29:19:01)

For the last time around the Alpine Loop we pretty much walked the entire thing, especially the downs. The ups were exhausting and the downs were excruciating. We tried to stay positive and encourage each other, but we both feared that something could go terribly wrong and end the race for us. At least the views were nice. The sun was out and it was warming up. In fact, it was starting to get hot on the exposed ski slopes and it was only 9 in the morning. Near the top of the ski mountain we started to see the 50k runners coming towards us, they started at 8AM on Sunday. It was strange to see people moving so fast and effortlessly, everyone else we had come across looked like a zombie.

The final steep descent to the aid station just about killed us, I think it would have been less painful and a lot quicker if I had curled up into a ball and just rolled down the hill. We eventually got into Lift House 5 for the last time and we were grateful to be done with the Alpine Loop. I put my wet t-shirt back on since it was getting pretty hot, and we made sure everything was packed back into our drop bag.

Lift House 5 to Gravel Pit: 5.3 miles (96.0 total), 1320’ gain, 730’ loss.
1:56:06 (31:19:30)

I wanted to run out from the aid station since it was an easy stretch of dirt road, but it took a long time to build the momentum up to what could be considered a running pace, and it was a lot more painful than I thought it would be. The hard surface of the road was not good for my tenderized feet. Soon enough we reached the long climb on Carson Road and it was like a death march going up. Mid way up the hill there was a guy with a camera and he asked “do you think you could kick in the run for the camera?” I responded with “only if you give me a dollar for every mile I’ve run so far, and that’s more than 90.” He was there for the 50k runners and didn’t realize that we’d been at it for close to 30 hours at this point.

Near the top of the hill we heard a buzzing coming from the nearby bushes, bees apparently, but even a few stings couldn’t get Emma running again until we’d crested the hill. Back in the woods we wanted desperately to run consistently, but every little dip in the trail, mud hole, downed tree and rocky or rooty section forced us to a walking pace. This section was so much fun the first few times through but was now taking forever, with the mud factor made worse by all the 50k runners who had recently come though with their fast moving blender-like feet that chopped up the ground and made a big soupy mess.

This stretch was definitely the lowest point of the race for both of us. We wanted so desperately to be done, we’d had enough of “enjoying the experience” and just wanted to get off the trail. I knew we could finish, but being relatively close doesn’t actually make it any easier to get there. Every time I thought “the next aid station is right around the corner” it wasn’t. There was another little hill, or more trail that didn’t look like anything we had run before. I started to think that maybe we’d gone off course because nothing looked familiar, but periodically a 50k runner would come up from behind and give us some encouragement, and helped to let us know that we were on the right track.

As we eventually neared the Gravel Pit aid station we started to recognize where we were and a huge sense of relief came over us. In an instant we went from thinking “this nightmare will never end” to “we’re going to get this done”. This was our last aid station of the race and we were all business as we prepped for the final stretch. By now the temperature was into the 80’s so we made sure we had enough fluid to get through the last few miles, but we emptied anything extra from our packs. Emma changed into a fresh Trail Monster singlet and donned her saltire buff.

Gravel Pit to Hope Lake Park: 4.4 miles (100.4 total), 575’ gain, 990’ loss.
1:01:46 (32:27:00)

Before now Emma was unwilling to accept that a finish was guaranteed, but once we left the final aid station the realization that we were definitely going to complete this 100 mile run almost overwhelmed us. Fueled by our excitement we broke into a run and when we looked at each other we both had tears in our eyes. We hit the muddy sections head-on and negotiated the trail with a speed that didn’t belong at this late stage of the run. The pain wasn’t gone it became insignificant, the pride and joy of our accomplishment together displaced the discomfort.

When we emerged from the woods onto the paved path that leads circuitously to the finish we could see the end, and hear the volunteers cheering. George’s wife Ann was there and her voice carried across the lake. After nearly 32 and a half hours we put on our best impression of a sprint and crossed the line holding hands. It wasn’t my plan to run the entire race with Emma, but the further we got the more I valued her company and by the end it was clear that I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without her.

photo by Ann Alexion
The race director was there and he immediately presented us with our belt buckles.

Place: 15 out of 28 finishers, 54 starters
Complete Results
Race Photos

1 comment:

Paige said...

Excellent post, Ian! Congratulations to both of you :) It's extremely rewarding being able to share that experience with a spouse. Running together is the best, and I love that you and Emma stuck it out together. Great work!!