02DEC18 – My first time hearing about the Mattamuskeet Death March (MdM) was at the Nutcracker 12 Hour. There, I met the MdM race director Brandon Wilson. We ran the first few miles together while chasing after George in his pink Christmas Story bunny costume. He told me about MdM because I shared with him my experience with mosquitos at Hell Hole 60k last summer. After Nutcracker, I don’t hear much from Brandon or about MdM until 21JUN19, my friend Shawn posted on the FRC group Facebook: “Probably not much interest, but if you are seriously interested in Mattamuskeet Death March, you may have a chance to get in if you let me know ASAP.”
Without any hesitation, I responded with “ME.”
I found out that it was George who dropped from the race for work reasons. We have been running together at many events this year so I felt even more obligated to take over his can, especially since he crewed and paced me at Umstead 100! I told my hubby about the race and how it’ll be “The Most Miserable 100k You’ll Ever Attempt”. He said, “For your sake, I hope you don’t get picked.”
Later that evening and much to AJ’s relief, Shawn reports that Brandon had chosen whoever was first in line. Feeling a little rejected, I entered myself into the Georgia Death Race lottery that opened up that same day. AJ begged “Why don’t you ever pick “fun” sounding runs?” NOT ENOUGH SUFFERING!!
The next morning, I showed up to the FRC Trail Heads group run at Carver Creek State Park and that’s where Shawn told me that Brandon thought that I was “a bit soft” for his race and I would be competing with veterans and legends of the sport – people who run 200 and 300 milers! Even though I’m indeed a softie, I felt a little salty. Thanks anyways Shawn for believing in me enough to nominate me!
29JUN19 – The following weekend, Brandon messaged on Facebook. He realized that I was the girl who ran with him at Nutcracker. He admitted that he called me soft and I laughed admitting that I felt salty by his words!! It turns out he had a choice between assigning the can to me or Lisa McFadden and based on my race history, he hasn’t seen me do anything outside my comfort zone. Of course, I couldn’t be mad because Lisa is awesome! George introduced me to her when she was volunteering at Run the Rock. Brandon suggested that I crew this year and try again next year. I did offer Shawn help, however I am not sure about next summer because it will be time for me to PCS. That’s when Brandon said he just so happens to have extra ammo can. I imagined Brandon devilishly saying the following words, “But I don’t think you want it.”
Of course, now I couldn’t back down from the challenge!! I accepted and was assigned can #49. Ann was not entirely thrilled about me doing this race because the #worldsflattest course wasn’t her idea of training for the mountainous Uwharrie 100. Sorry coach!
Now I had to figure out “how can I suffer better?” I went to the Fort Bragg Ammunition Supply Point to borrow a practice can. I explained to the supervisor why I needed one can, and he just raised an eyebrow at me and gave his approval. I guess when stationed at Fort Bragg – saying that you’re doing an ultramarathon with an ammo can is not entirely strange. I didn’t even have to sign for it! I tested out a couple of backpacks and ended up with an Osprey Sirrus 36 pack and brand new pair of Altra Torin 4 from REI.
09AUG19 – Thank God, USASOC gave us four day weekend. I drove to RDU to pick up Vy. After last-minute preparations at Tricia’s house, we drove to Swan Quarter. The 3.5-hour drive flew by for me chatting with Tricia and singing to 90’s alternative rock. We arrived just in time for dinner and ammo can presentation. Brandon greeted my crew with a giant grin, “Do you guys think this is stupid or what?” and took my MdM Virgin photo.
The Wilsons try to personalize each ammo can. Brandon’s daughter Beka painted the Long Beach Poly High School Jackrabbit mascot on mine. Most of my friends feel “old” when they are reminded that they graduated from high school 11 years ago. For me, I feel delighted when I get to represent the few in our age bracket at an ultra since typically the participants are older.
After dinner, we checked into the Airbnb that Shawn booked for us. He was doing a double, so he had already started earlier at noon. We unloaded all my stuff to reorganize it and put all the water bottles into the freezer. Vy commented, “You’d think after completing XX ultras you would have it all down packed.” Haha no!! Every race is a learning experience!!
10AUG19 – Woke up at my usual time without an alarm at 0330. Even if I tried to go back to sleep, I couldn’t because I was too excited. I did my usual routine – did devotions, some stretching, and even went out to watch the sunrise over Mattamuskeet Lake. I was beyond ready to start running, but Brandon purposely designed his race to start late for early suffering.
START – We were given a timing chip to wrap around our ankle. Then we took the traditional group picture in Fairfield Cemetery (one of many that we would see along the course) At 0900 we all shuffled through the “Gates of Hell” and got started on a very long day.
The course is 66.6 miles (or so they say) in a figure 8 loop around Lake Mattamuskeet. Flat course – but the challenge is carrying the awkward size ammo can with the marbles. Brandon says the marbles are actually there to scare away the bears. I may never know if this is entirely true, but after hearing from Karen Jackson that she encountered a bear, my mind accepted that my marbles were there for my safety and hearing them actually made me feel relieved. I hoped that it worked on dogs and other wild life too since I brought nothing to defend myself!
After the first 6 miles, I ran into Brandon himself, handcuffed to his ammo can and said, “Well here we are…8 months later.” Since he was a veteran, he didn’t have to suffer with marbles. Me, being such a considerate runner – hurried up ahead so he wouldn’t have to hear the rattling of my marbles (I also felt annoyed talking over them). In retrospect, I wasted the perfect opportunity to annoy the crap out of him!!
Mile 8 – I spent a couple of miles walking with Lisa and her friend Cherie on HQ Road, since it was all gravel. Cherie considered me a freak of nature because young folks don’t usually do these type of events. They both laughed and said I could basically call Cherie mom because she has a daughter who is two years younger than me. I totally admire these ultra badass moms!! We also laughed about making it a primary goal to beat Brandon.
Mile 15 – The only sign that is out on the course. Another reason to thank God for my crew is that I’m directionally challenged, so they make sure I don’t miss a turn!
Mile 17 – Brandon’s girlfriend Belinda drove around the course giving out popsicles. They were so heavenly in the heat. I video chatted with my hubby to show him my stupid looking hat. He said I looked too happy. I felt really good during this part of the race. I told my crew to meet me every 5-6 miles. I truly felt overwhelmed by the level of love I was surrounded by.
Mile 30 – I caught up to Jeff and started leap-frogging with him. Then we got hit with a lightning storm, so I had a nice break inside the truck with the girls. The A/C felt so good! I thought about the mosquitos that came post-Hurricane Florence, so I was mentally preparing myself for the bugs that would come out once this storm was over. It wasn’t too bad throughout the race!
Mile 41 – Stopped at the Airbnb to drink a protein shake and brushed my teeth. By now, the sun has completely gone down and what should have been my bedtime. Since it was dark out, I asked the girls the stay super close. I confess that I am afraid of the dark!! A mile from the house, I somehow lost my phone.
Mile 44 – I saw Jeff again so the girls went back to look for my phone and I stuck with him for the next few miles. We finally chatted with each other and both apologized for being anti-social all day because of our stupid marbles.
Brandon pulled up at some point along the road and cackling and asking if we wanted more marbles in our can. Jeff and I were back to running in silence, so all I could do was shoot him an angry look.
Mile 54 – A blister started forming on the outside of my left big toe and heat rash developed from not taking off my wet socks. I decided to take them off and ran the remainder of the race in my Luna Sandals. I was able to maintain good paces in them, but what slowed me down was my need to pee or drop a deuce every 2 miles. I know, TMI!!
Vy hopped out of the truck to run with me. I’m glad because it really was so creepy at night. When we weren’t talking, I made a little game in to distinguish the sounds between frogs, crickets, and cicadas. I’m pretty sure I heard a bear and a pack of coyotes too. Apparently, I didn’t learn from Umstead to recharge my headlamps and bring extra batteries for my flashlight. We had to rely on Vy’s little phone flashlight since I lost my back-up flashlight (my phone).
Mile 60 – What a relief to make that final last turn back onto the 94! I was definitely feeling exhausted and delusional. We grabbed another light source and portable charger but failed to refill all my water sources. Vy continued to run with me. Tricia agreed to meet us every 2 miles. It was pitch dark, so I would look for the tail-light. I ran out of water at Mile 63, so for the next two miles I stared at the tail-light, feeling desperate to get to it, but it only seemed to get farther and farther away as I kept running. Earlier Vy said, “You’ve been doing a great job at handling your emotions!” Nope, not this time. I exploded and screamed, “If she keeps moving, I’m gonna *BLEEP*in’ punch her!!” (I would find out later that she wasn’t moving and that my mind was playing tricks on me)
Mile 64 – I finally reached the truck and told Vy I needed to finish the last mile by myself because I felt so angry/embarrassed. Even if my watched had tracked extra distance, the math in my brain was off and believed I had only one mile left. I grabbed a bottle of water, crushed it, and started sprinting. I saw a green figure moving ahead, and seriously thought it was Jeff’s shirt glowing in the dark. Either that or it was a ghost. I got really excited to catch up with him so I laser-focused on the green light and followed him to the finish line!
I finished at 0449 (19 hours, 49 minutes, 24 seconds) Brandon congratulated me for proving that I am NOT soft and handed me a beer from a cooler that had a sign that says THAT SUCKED +/-. What a funny guy ?
I looked around for Jeff, but his crew said he had already gone to sleep 50 minutes ago. I was shocked!! I believed I had followed him all the way in! Tricia laughed and said I was hallucinating and it must have been a firefly – there were lots of them out! I apologized to Tricia for cursing at her. Luckily she completely understood how I was feeling and forgave me !! After taking a shower and a nap, she helped me search along the 264 for my phone. Thank God for technology because we were able to locate it using the Samsung Find My Mobile without any damage! Plus we found it just in time to attend the Champion’s Breakfast.
What an awesome race, this one is my favorite to write about so far!! I’m really happy that Brandon and his family decided to bring it back. It was a great challenge, marbles and all, in a great location. I would have loved to explore it more. The best part is how connected we are in the NC ultra community!!
Biggest shout out to my (k)REW: Vy and Tricia!
I definitely could not have done this without them. ? Here is an idea of how spoiled with the type of love I get:
Vy – picking up okinawa sweet potatoes, dragonfruit, jackfruit, and Vietnamese salt from my parents and carrying them on the plane from California, Tricia – grinding fresh coffee beans and making fresh coffee for us to drink and to mix with my protein shake during the race, Vy – giving me back and calf massages with Vick’s or Biofreeze when I was hurting.
And the usual: making me avocado toast or pbj pitas, refilling my water, mixing electrolytes in my handheld, drying me off with a towel every stop, spraying me down with sunscreen or bug repellant, making sure I got calories when I didn’t want to, and most importantly never complaining or getting mad at me, even when I became cranky. A huge part of my drive to finish was to make sure that I made their time worth it! I love how both of them are good at keeping themselves entertained so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them. Plus they make ultramarathons and crewing look fun 🙂
The greatest glory goes to God. Not only for protecting all of us, but for continuously teaching me to have courage, faith, and humility through my racing. Even during a race with death as its theme, I am able to anchor my hope in Him! ?
George if you’re reading this: THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT for dropping out of the race!! ? And you really missed out!! ?
Time to focus on training for Uwharrie 100!! And yes I did win the lottery for Georgia Death Race in case you’re wondering. Brandon says his ammo cans make carrying a railroad spike seem cute.
Gear: Pack- Osprey Sirrus 36 + 1.5L hydration bladder, Top – RADrabbit Crop, Bottom – XOSKIN 4.0 Pulse Compression Capri, Socks – XOSKIN toe socks, Sunglasses – Goodrs “Whiskey Shots With Satan”, Watch – Suunto Baro 9, Shoes – Altra Torin 4 and Luna Sandals