06JUL22 – I was notified that I was off the wait list for the 2022 Eastern States 100! I had 5 weeks until race day. I spent most of the year training for the Boston Marathon, San Diego Marathon, and Blackbeard’s Revenge 100. All road races and little hills. Eastern States is a 103-mile loop (98% single/double track) with 20,000+ ft of elevation in the PA wilds.
I kicked off my training on the Appalachian Trail. Every weekend I went there or to Hawksbill Summit at Shenandoah National Park. During the week, I ran on the road, did hill repeats, and walked my dog wearing a 20lb vest. I honestly did not get in more the 31 miles a week. It was pretty silly of me to set an A goal of finishing in 30 hours, but at least I knew from my 35ish-hours finish at Uwharrie 100 in 2019 that I had 36 hours in me and that was the time limit for ES100.
12AUG22 – My BFF Vy flew in from California to be my crew once again! Friday morning was pretty relaxed. I used UltraPacer to create a race plan (found on the ES100 FB Group, super helpful to join).
This should have been done weeks ago to study the course profile and prepare drop bags accordingly.
We departed from Baltimore at noon and checked into the Genetti Hotel in Williamsport, PA at 3:30pm. I got a military deal for one of the suites. It was nice! However, I regret not getting that last hotel room at the Happy Acres Resort that was available when I called. We would’ve been 2 minutes from the race start instead of 40 minutes. Packet pick-up started at 5pm, so we left the hotel at 4:20pm. We had the option to pick up before the race, but since it was my first time, I’d rather not deal with all that in the dark.
Before returning to the hotel, we stopped at Wegman’s to buy a salad for dinner and paired it with my mom’s savory sticky rice that she packed for Vy to bring (thanks Mom!!) I also made sure the truck had a full tank of gas.
In the hotel, we made drop bags out of Ziploc gallon bags and filled them with Tailwind (TW) packets/Honeystinger chews. My plan was to try getting in 250 cal/hour. Each TW packet is 200 calories. I figured I should be fine as long as I went through the packets and grabbed food at the aid stations.
Still feeling pretty relaxed. We even made time to do a charcoal face mask before bed (my first time!) and decided to try a neuroSLEEP product. I would advise against trying new stuff before races, but luckily this drink knocked me out and I got some good sleep! Vy complained about people partying all night, but I slept right through it.
13AUG22 – RACE DAY!!
I woke up right before my alarm at 0245, brushed my teeth, got dressed, braided my hair and piled it into a bun. I drank a Celsius energy drink to ensure that I would use the bathroom. Those have been my go-to energy drinks over coffee while it’s been hot this summer. We left the hotel around 3:40am.
XOSKIN: 2.0 Sleeveless Form Fit
XOSKIN: 4.0 Women’s MAX Compression Shorts Midi (Mid Rise Waist)
2 Buffs – most of the course is shaded so I didn’t wear a visor like I usually do
Petzl Nao+ Headlamp (Back-up: Petzl Tikkina Headlamp with extra AAA batteries)
Salomon Adv Skin 12 Hydration Pack with both soft flasks
Mandatory Emergency Blanket
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 6’s with XOSKIN toe socks
Print-out of race plan in a Ziploc bag
Watch: Coros Apex Pro
Brand new trekking poles – Black Diamond Distance Z
I left my old set in California because one of the poles would no longer collapse. When I checked my local REIs for size 110cm, there were none available and the earliest they would arrive was August 18. Luckily, they were available at the Huntington Beach store, so I asked Sarun to pick them up and Vy to bring them. Crisis averted! Super thankful because I used them for the entire race!
Start – Little Pine State Park
The weather started out SO NICE, 50 degrees (a little chilly for us Southern Californians). I wasn’t expecting the cool weather and felt bad that I told Vy to pack only her beachy attire. Oops! I came prepared with some blankets, long-sleeve shirts, and jackets for her to use. The race started promptly at 5am.
It’s always super cool watching all the headlamps bob up and down as we take off. I didn’t even turn mine on until we got to the trail. I tell myself to take it easy through the first two aid stations and mindfully take my steps to get warmed up. Mile 2 and 6: I rolled my problem right ankle. My brain accepts it thinking, “Good, now that I’ve got those rolls out of the way, the swelling will stabilize my ankle for the rest of the race.” I don’t roll my ankle any time after that.
Once the sun came up, everything in the forest seemed so magical. I regret not having my phone to capture any pictures. I usually carry my phone but decided against it because there was no service.
I met Rachel with the glitter on her face and Jennifer from NY. Funny that Jennifer was also ran Blackbeard 100 in March and got off the wait list for ES100 at the same time as me.
AS3 – Lower Pine Bottom AS (Mile 17.8)
Here is the first time we get to see our crew again. Vy says I arrived 40 min behind the pace chart. I laughed, knowing that the 30-hour goal was not realistic and that I was good as long as I stayed ahead of the cut-offs. She refilled my Tailwind and gave me a Perogi. I should’ve eaten more and packed more TW as it didn’t occur to me that I was about hit the biggest segment of the race.
AS4 – Brown’s Run (Mile 25.8)
I laughed at the sign that said “WELCOME TO THE SHITSHOW” I am still in good spirits. However, as the day got warmer, I slowed down significantly. Although we had dryer conditions compared to previous years, 80’s in PA is still hot/humid and when you are behind on nutrition, it certainly doesn’t feel good. I remember meeting Nate, who was also struggling. Chatting with him and learning about his family helped me get to the Happy Dutchman aid station (Mile 31.6).
AS6 – Ritchie Road (Mile 38.5)
This was the only section out in the open and I wished I had a visor or sunglasses. It was frustrating to climb with the sun directly in my face. On top of that, I had to fight the biting flies. I felt so relieved making that right turn back into the woods! I smiled to see the lady with her assortment of stuffed lions, tigers, and bears with a sign that read: “This is not a hallucination.”
AS7 – Hyner Run (Mile 43.2)
I finally saw Vy again. At Hyner, we are allowed pacers, but Vy says she will pick me up at Slate. I used the bathroom, grabbed my headlamps, two fresh Buffs, and more TW/Gels. Again, don’t know why but I chose not to take a pause and eat some real food.
Leaving Hyner Run, a volunteer asked, “Are you familiar with the course?” I tell him it’s my first time here. He said it gonna be 8 miles until the next aid station with about 1000 ft of climbing, but none if it was too crazy. Because I was so tired, that statement did not seem accurate to me as I descended one of the steepest hills throughout the course.
The sun sets at 8pm, I felt my body wanting to power down for sleep. I really wished Vy had come out with me or grabbed my phone for some music. I met Wayne from NY and ran with him briefly in the dark. I tried keeping up with him, but then I bonked hard. So badly did I want to just lay down on the trail, but I was afraid of snakes and bugs, so I kept pushing and told myself I would take a nap at the next aid station.
AS8 – Dry Run (Mile 51)
In a race, I usually say, “beware of the chair,” but I threw that rule out the window and immediately went for it. I took off my hydration pack and told the volunteers that I would nap for a few minutes. I think I was out for almost an hour! I woke up and the volunteers were getting ready to shut down the aid station at 11pm. I said to the guy sitting next to me, “Man, I really don’t want to go back out there.” One of the volunteers gave me a cup of ramen and chicken broth and when I stood up, I was surprised to find that my feet felt fresh again! THAT NAP WAS A MIRACLE!
I changed out of my short sleeve shirt and put on my XOskin long-sleeve shirt. When the volunteer asked whether I wanted to head back out on the trails, I felt good enough to continue! Now the game was to stay ahead of cut-offs. Another volunteer reports that there might be a rattlesnake on the trail within the next 5 miles. Cool, if I run into him that would be my second rattler of the day 😊
I take off and start the countdown from 12.7 miles until I’d get to see Vy again! I had been mentally drafting a DNF speech, but the fact that Vy flew all the way from California helped motivate me to change my mindset to finish and make her time worth it. I passed by a handful of people who were struggling. They did not give me confidence that I would make it to Slate Run, but I was on a mission! Man, I really wish I had some music. Instead, I tried to meditate to the tapping sound of my poles whenever I went uphill and ran anytime it was downhill.
AS10 – Slate Run (mile 63.9)
I finally arrived at the aid station at 3:05am. All the volunteers cheered and said I had 10 minutes to fuel up and get out. Not bad! I scan the area looking for my crew. However, there was a huge miscommunication and someone announced earlier that I had dropped from the course, so Vy went back to the main site. Bummer! Luckily I was in a good mood, so I said to the volunteer, “That’s funny!” Anyone else probably would have been hella pissed, or even myself, had I been on the downside of things. I refilled my TW bottles and grabbed some Honeystinger gels and everyone cheered as I took off.
The next few miles were steep downhill. It was actually my favorite part. I kept chuckling and comparing myself to my enduro mountain bike (2020 Trek Remedy 8). We both suck at climbs but have so much fun bombing downhill. I’m also glad I’ve experienced difficult races with my poles as it requires skills and coordination to run without tripping over them. I recently bought a new Kogalla light and was hoping to use it, but my Petzl Nao+ headlamp was plenty bright. I got about 8.5 hours out of it before I switched to my back-up.
Another long climb, followed by another sunrise going to AS11 Algerine (mile 69.3). When I reached AS12 – Long Branch (Mile 75.8) The volunteers said I had TWO minutes to get out of the aid station and then 4.7miles of downhill. I took off stuffing my face with a grilled-cheese sandwich. It was wonderful!
AS13 – Blackwell (Mile 80.5)
I passed by a handful of people going downhill into this aid station. When I arrived, the volunteers said I had 10 minutes. This easily could’ve been another place to quit, especially when you think “Damn, I’ve got another 23 miles to go”. I took off my long-sleeve shirt and Vy immediately gave me her tank top. She decided to go out with me. We had 4.5 miles to the next aid station at Sky Top, but this would end up being the hardest 4.5 miles for me. I made the mistake of relaxing and thinking I had plenty of time, but I ended up panicking and pushing really hard to make it to the aid station on time.
AS14 – Sky Top (Mile 85) 10:45am
Here the volunteers gave me soup, watermelon w/ salt, pickles, and Coke.
8 miles to the next aid station… the sign said it was all downhill from there. FALSE. Only the first two miles out of the aid station were downhill. Probably the flowiest downhill and favorite out of the whole race. Then we did so much climbing on green grass you THOUGHT would be lovely and luscious after running on rocks all day. WRONG. The grass was all patchy and just completely messed with your mind. I welcomed the rocky and rooty trails when we got back on them. I pumped my fist in the air and had the biggest grin when I finally saw the aid station.
AS15 – Barrens (mile 93.1)
There had been another runner chasing the cut-offs with me, but I found out later that I was the last runner to make it to this aid station. Vy said she would meet me at the finish line. The volunteers helped me refill my water/TW and cheered for me as I headed out for the next 6.2 miles. Somehow I made it through all the hardest parts of the race without falling. During this section, where it’s somewhat “flat,” I tripped and fell on my right side. I was so exhausted that I started hallucinating. I saw a ninja, a man in a coat, several variations of Yeti, roots that looked like Copperheads, and one Wookie in the tree. Oh and throughout the night, I had been hearing random applauses and women whispering. Not normal at all!
AS16 – Hackett (mile 99.3)
I rang the bell signaling my entry into the last aid station before the finish. I ate lots of pickles and took whatever watered-down TW was left. I had 1.5 hours to complete 3.8 miles. Seems like plenty of time, but at the rate, I had been going, it was still too close for comfort. The volunteers said it was all downhill from there. NOPE. There was definitely some more climbing involved.
I had a Forrest Gump moment trying to describe the rocks on the course.
There were big rocks. There were small rocks. Rocks that went up. Rocks that came at you sideways. They were EVERYWHERE. They don’t call it Rocksylvania for NOTHING. At some point, I felt like my body was floating over the rocks and my mind kept repeating, “I can’t believe I’m still out here running. It’s been 35 hours.”
Thankfully the last mile was truly downhill. I booked it and passed three runners. I don’t care if I would’ve been DFL, I just wanted to be done already! I crossed the finish line at 35:31:37 and immediately sat down on the grass. Everyone congratulated me and Ben handed me my buckle (sorry Ben, I feel rude for not standing up to take a picture with you!)
Link to Strava Data
Eastern States 100 was the most challenging course I’ve done to date. I recommend it to the toughest trail runners out there (and highly recommend putting in more than 5 weeks of training as it is a graduate-level race) The RDs and volunteers were top-notch! I came to the race not knowing anyone, but they all made me feel like a rock star and I definitely would not have been successful without them!
To my #1 (k)rew chief and pacer VY!!!! I’m so sorry for being hangry and mean to you T_T. Thank you for being my best friend no matter what and helping me accomplish another crazy goal!! I love you so much!!
I give glory to God and thank Him for the gift of endurance and opportunities to explore my limits. Life is good!! 🙂