15OCT19 – is when originally signed up for Monadnock 50 miler. I can’t remember what my thought process was for this decision as I was tapering for Uwharrie 100. I think no matter what happens at the outcome of whichever race I prepping for, I had something else to look forward to. Plus I started liking the idea of being the first to test run new courses.
07DEC19 – I received news that hubby was returning from England two weeks early. Now that he was going to be home, I would be lying if I said I didn’t take advantage and asked him if he would be okay supporting me if I attempted my third 100-miler for the year. Of course, he said he was down…how appropriate is it when he complains that he always gives an inch and I will take a mile?! Marriage ? It just so happens that this was on the same day as the Western States lottery, which I did not get lucky with this year. He makes me feel like a winner though!
08DEC19 – The next morning I asked Richard, the race director of Dirty Wolf Ultras, if I could switch my registration from 50 to the 100. He asked me if I was serious and I said Yes!! I did go back and forth about feeling excited and scared. He said I had until 2000 to change my mind, but I couldn’t back down and turned off my phone/laptop before I could do so.
13DEC19 – Talk about some last-minute planning… Friday after work, AJ and I went to Academy to pick up a bunch of Clif-Bloks, Honeystinger Waffles and energy drinks. Around 1900, I printed out a map of the route from Ultrasignup and opened up the data on Richard’s Strava. AJ circled on the map where to expect the hardest climbs. We noticed there were a lot of downhills, so I played a couple of YouTube videos on downhill running techniques. I also learned how to tie my shoes after 29 years properly. Yes, you can totally laugh at me.
Richard intended the race to start late so that we would be spending about 15 hours in the dark. I had issues with lights running out at all three of my last big races, so this time I packed a total of 4 Petzl headlamps and 1 flashlight.
14DEC19 RACE DAY – We decided to save money by driving up Saturday morning instead of staying at a hotel. I woke up at 0400. For breakfast, I had Dave’s Killer Pumpkin Spice bagel+almond butter with coffee. I scrambled eggs, honey, and soy sauce with the rice I made the previous night and scooped them into Ziploc bags to eat with avocado later (thought I’d try something new on race day) It’s a three-hour drive to Crowders Mountain State Park so we left the house at 0530. We made two stops along the way. ? I was in an extremely cheerful mood, singing and wanting to dance in the car despite how ugly the weather was outside.
We arrived at Boulders Access (START/FINISH) at 0900, right when the 25 milers were taking off. I picked up my race swag. At 0930, Richard gave the 50/100 Milers their race brief. He told me he was interested in my comparison to Uwharrie 100 course…made me feel a little pressured, but also thankful that he believed in me (or so I assumed). Luckily the rain stopped, so that helped me appreciate the race’s late start a little bit more. It was still chilly, so I wore my RADrabbit long sleeve, XOskin capris, XOskin toe socks, Altra Lone Peaks 4. I also used my Black Diamond Carbon Z trekking poles.
Lap 1 (6 hrs 10 min)
The race started promptly at 1000. Turns out, I forgot to charge my Suunto Baro 9, so I started out with battery at 65%. I remembered to put it on ultra mode this time, hoping it would last at least 30 of the 120 hours that it was supposed to give me. However, when you put it in this mode, the display turns off (probably something I should’ve tested before). Throughout the race, my watch kept popping up with the message to “Calibrate Compass” so I ended up not really paying attention to it (and feeling regret this super expensive purchase) I was super excited to run into Jameelah during the first few miles. She is a long-time ultra queen! ^_^
I drank Tailwind at every aid station – I think I am officially switching to Tailwind after this race!
I ran by myself for a bit until I met Andy, a Gulf War/OEF vet who was also stationed at Fort Bragg a long time ago with the 82nd Airborne Infantry.
At the Linwood Access, I felt delighted to see Dave as the aid station captain and gave him a giant hug. He is the one who called me crazy at the end of The Stevest back in July. I felt a little embarrassed when he announced to everyone that I signed up for Monadnock 100 because I didn’t get into Western States. ?
All the climbs/summits during this lap weren’t bad because I was so happy to experience something new and the views were breathtaking. I had even more fun on the way back down. I rolled my problem right ankle once at mile 22 but didn’t have any issues with it after that.
Lap 2 ( 7 hours 15 min)
Back to Boulder’s Access, still in a super cheerful mood. Especially since I finished the first lap before it got dark. I was also grateful for a real bathroom there. Richard reminded us all to grab our headlamps. I drank my supergreen smoothie and ate Okinawa sweet potatoes. I took off with Andy, hoping that I could stick with him throughout the entire race. I felt super happy and relaxed throughout this lap. We watched the sunset over Pinnacle. It was so beautiful! We shared many conversations to pass the time and took turns leading on the trails. I hope that I can run still run ultras when I’m 54 years old as well (this idea does not really excite AJ). I also chuckled that it’s not every day I get to lead an Airborne Ranger! We caught up to two other guys and I would fall way behind them climbing uphills, only to catch up by crushing it on the downhills.
Lap 3 ( 7 hours 55 min)
I felt so bummed when Andy decided to drop after 50 miles. Richard mentioned something about me not having much time to spare at my current pace, so the confidence I felt earlier disappeared and was quickly replaced with panic. I feel bad I didn’t even say goodbye to Andy or thank him for running with me. AJ had been getting stuff for me out of the truck, so I sorta huffed at him to hurry up so I could get my things together (sorry babe!!!).
I hated being alone during this lap, but I appreciated the moonlight and seeing a handful of shooting stars. Ascending the Pinnacle, I got lost trying to find the turn to go back down. Because half of the race is meant to be in the dark, I think it would’ve been really good to have reflective markings on the trees as we did at Uwharrie. I’m not sure why the state park didn’t allow it because that would have been super helpful. Once I found the yellow arrow I booked it downhill to Sparrow Springs to make up lost time. When I saw AJ, I asked him about what Richard said, but he reassured me that I was doing great.
At this point, I should’ve prepared for the hardest part of the course/night by changing into a dry shirt and putting on a jacket. Instead, I was stubborn and told myself that I would be wasting more time if I did. When I looked up the weather for Charlotte/Gastonia and didn’t consider how much colder it would be on top of the mountain. Apparently, temperatures dropped to 27F by 0300. I slowed down significantly ascending to the Towers. It was super cold and windy. Coming down, I remember there being frost on the steps and finally thought, “Holy crap I could actually slip and die in this race!” I made it back to Sparrow Springs at 0450 and was met with total silence at the aid station. AJ, still happily crewing, said I had about a couple more hours in the dark. I switched out my headlamps and took off, forgetting to put on a jacket still. I thought about calling AJ back, but he had already taken off so I tried to tough it out despite the cough that was starting to come on.
I told the guys at the 161 Aid Station that I was worried about time. Oh how I wished I could go back feeling happy and relaxed, not worried about it. He said if I made it back Boulders within 1.5 hours then I would be good. So I downed some Coke, ate some bacon and booked it.
Lap 4 – DNF
I watched the sunrise as I made my way back into Boulders. Instead of celebrating that I finished the lap in the time planned, I was met with voices of concern, so I started off the last lap feeling panic again. I rushed on my nutrition and again failed to put on a jacket thinking the sun. Sure, the fear kept me warm for the first half miles, but then I was quickly back to feeling miserable and cold again, which wasted a lot of energy.
Now everything was hurting and I was coughing really bad, making it hard to breathe (how I usually try to find my calmness). As I started the climb up the Pinnacle, I felt sick and super lightheaded. I ate three Clif-Bloks (100 calories) and a Spring Speednut energy gel (250 calories), hoping this would correct the issue until Sparrow Springs aid station.
It took me 2 hours and 50 minutes to finally get to the aid-station. I drank and ate whatever I could hold down. AJ offered to go up Rocktop/Linwood Aid station/and back to Sparrow Springs with me. I finally changed the shirt/put a sweater on, but it was too late. My body was already shutting down. I could barely move or keep my eyes open. The sun was starting to warm up but I felt so cold. I asked AJ to be honest and whether he thinks I would make it since he knows the difference between me simply wanting to quit vs. giving it my all. I decided it would not be safe to climb/pass out on the rocks in the next miles to come. I completed 83.6 miles in 25:42:30.
AJ went back to Sparrow Springs to let the aid-station captain know of my decision and grab the truck. I totally KTFO on the way home, barely managed to take a shower, and crashed hard for 16+ hours.
16DEC19 – I woke up super sore, swollen, and completely drenched in sweat. A small blister formed on the right side of my big toe and my back was stinging from the chafing. Other than that expected, I was physically okay. Emotionally, I was a mess!! I spent Monday morning going over what happened with AJ, followed by a whole day (at work) processing my feelings about the race. Of course, my mind was agonizing over all the “Could’ve, would’ve, should’ves”.
The results were posted on Ultrasignup: 19 people started the 100-mile race and only 4 finished. Awesome job to everyone else who toed the line (including the other distances) because this was a really tough course!! I have no regrets for signing up for the entire distance, only the fact that I didn’t take care of myself properly. It is definitely a learning experience and I can say it’s excellent training for GDR. What would also help tremendously is if I didn’t wait until the night before the race to start planning.
Comparison between Monadnock and Uwharrie 100
Monadnock – 4 laps, more elevation (16,000′ advertised but you can see what my Suunto tracked), more scenic and runnable spots, great aid stations every 3-5 miles, the biggest challenge is late start time + 30 hour time limit
Uwharrie – 5 laps, more technical and you had to be alert the entire time, earlier start time + 36-hour time limit, hot food and lively volunteers at aid stations during all hours of the race
Both are very challenging courses and require proper training. I do not recommend either for first-timers (but really who am I to give any advice, especially after making impulsive decisions myself)
Thanks again Richard for putting on this race, introducing me to such an awesome course, and letting me be one of the first few who got to experience it in a race. I definitely got the most bang for my buck and would do it again. Thanks to all the volunteers who came out and made the race possible (and the yummy food!) ?!! To my husband, thank you for being the best support ever!! Putting aside work stress to deal with my taper tantrums, waking up early and getting us safely to our destination, staying up all night to crew for me, tracking my time, encouragement, buying me weird snacks at 0200, and dealing with my post-DNF emotions. I feel super lucky to have you and wish I could’ve made you more proud by finishing. To my God, for my health and keeping me safe through yet another crazy adventure. ?
2020 registration for Monadnock Ultra is open !! ?