I started the year in training for the Georgia Death Race that was supposed to be in March, right about when the world was shutting down due to COVID. One positive thing about having commitment issues and being the type of runner who typically registers for races the week/morning of and letting the lottery decide is that I did not have to deal with many race/hotel cancellations. On New Year’s Day, I entered the lottery for the Yeti 100 Endurance Run. A week later, I opened my e-mail at 4 am to find out that I won the lottery. I remember feeling super ecstatic and cheesing so hard during a FARTLEK session at the track that morning.
I also started working with a new coach, Ian Sharman, head coach of Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching. After GDR was postponed, we decided to switch my focus from training for a mountainous race to work on a little speed. I felt intimidated at first, but I made progress quickly and enjoyed finishing my runs faster, thus having more time to do other things!
In June, I received an e-mail from the Race Director about the “shot-caller buckle.” You must declare that you will finish the race under 24 hours before starting the race to earn this buckle. If you fail to finish sub 24, you won’t receive any other awards.
On my next bi-weekly Skype session with Ian, I asked him if going for sub-24 would be an attainable goal since I no longer feel afraid to run 100 miles. I felt super giddy when he said yes! The Yeti 100 is known to be an excellent course for attempting a first sub-24 finish.
COVID did not affect my training at all. In fact, I spent more time outdoors with my puppies and it is easy to be socially distant when nobody wants to run as much as I do. With things ever so continually changing, I found the most comfort by being consistent with my training. In July, the Army moved me from Fort Bragg, NC back to Arlington, VA. I quickly established new running routes, maintaining an average of 60 miles a week and peaked at 85.
This is how a typical a training week looked like for me:
Recovery Run (7-8 miles)
Various Speed Session (10 miles)
Recovery Run (7-8 miles)
Progression Run or Mile Reps (10 miles)
Long Run (16-26 miles)
Daily: dynamic stretches, foam rolling +walk/hike 1-3 miles with 15-20 lb weight vest.
September finally arrived. How badly did I wish the Yeti 100 was on the first weekend instead of the last. Not only because I was beyond ready for a real race, but that is when I was in the follicular phase of my lady cycle, which is when I feel the MOST energetic, confident, and would have had an easier time getting into a flow state. I knew by race day, I would be in a part of my cycle where I typically feel scattered and it’ll take a lot more effort to stay focused/motivated. Tip to the ladies: don’t make life-altering decisions during the late luteal phase of your cycle that will also haunt you on race day.
Once again, my BFF Vy was down to crew for me, so I flew her in from California. I picked her up at the Ronald Reagan National Airport after work. I had been up since 0300 and needed a nap badly, so her first crew task was going to the grocery store to grab my fave snacks and prepped veggies. Shout out to my DARNG NCO Team for supporting me with the Whole Foods gift card!!
I woke up at 0330 to cook fried rice and start packing for the weekend. Vy was fast asleep. The truck was loaded by 1100 and then we started our 5-hour drive to our hotel in Abingdon. Since we waited until three days before the race to book a room, our cheapest (pet-friendly) option was Super 8.
Packet pick-up was at the Creeper Trail Cottages. The only person I recognized was Lisa McFadden. She gave Vy and me a giant hug! Seeing a familiar face calmed down some of my race nerves.
Vy and I snapped some pictures at the Yeti famous caboose, but didn’t explore much more of Damascus like we normally would because it was raining and she was sick with bronchitis. Back at the hotel, we went over the race plan/charts, but in the end, it still very much felt like we were winging it. I told Vy not to worry too much because there would be full aid stations and we’ll eventually figure out where we are supposed to be. I charged my headlamps and got my clothes ready. I fell asleep around 2100 but woke up at 0100 feeling anxious. It took me an hour to fall back asleep.
FRI 25SEP20 RACE DAY
I woke up at 0330, stretched and ate breakfast (Dave’s Killer Blueberry Bagel with almond butter). There wasn’t a coffee-maker in the room, so no pre-race ritual poo for me! I’m not too worried as there will be bathrooms at the aid stations. I mixed lemon Tailwind into my hydration pack and gathered everything I needed. We left the hotel a 0420 to arrived at the Creeper Trail Cottages by 0445. The temperature was 60 degrees with light rain. I chose to wear
Northface Rain Jacket
XOskin compression capri and toe-socks
Osprey Dyna 6
Altra Lone Peak 4.5
Petzl Nao+ headlamp
Suunto 9 Baro
Section 1 Miles 0-28 Damascus to Green Cove to Damascus
I catch only the last few words of Jason’s brief, turned on my headlamp, and then we all started running on the Creeper Trail. In the normal Yeti 100 course, you’d go to White Top, but it was closed due to COVID, so we ran to the Green Cove. The first 14 miles were going straight up a 3-4% hill. In between Damascus and the Green Cove was an aid station at Taylor’s Valley. I got to see my sleepy crew once, but had no reception during this part of the section to contact her. I arrived to Green Cove at 0800. On the way back to Damascus, I met Jeff Wilson and he introduces me to his group. They were doing 4:2 run/walk ratio. I shared with him my goal of earning my first sub-24 buckle and very much appreciated chatting with Wendy, Ruthie, and Scott. We got 30 minutes of heavy rain at 1000 and then a 40 min break from the rain as we all came into the aid-station in Damascus.
Section 2 Miles 29-46 Damascus to Alvarado to Damascus
I refilled my pack with Tailwind and left the aid station at 1100 feeling good. It started raining again. At 1115, the second round of heavy rain poured for 38 minutes. I stick to Jeff’s 4:2 strategy and take the time to appreciate the beauty of the Creeper Trail. I arrived at the Alvarado aid station at 1240 and returned to Damascus at 1500, an hour ahead of schedule.
Section 3 Miles 47-64 Damascus to Alvarado to Damascus
For the remainder of the race, we repeated laps of the previous section. Chafing was happening between my upper thighs. I changed into another pair of XOskin toe socks with foot powder, but my shoes were wet, so I’m not sure how much it helped. At Uwharrie 100, I had two pairs of Lone Peak 4.0’s (regular and Rain Snow Mud versions) to get me through 8+ hours of a tropical storm. Oh how I wish I brought the RSM Lone Peaks for this race. On the Yeti website, course description says “Crushed Limestone and Cinders left over from the trains. Smooth Surface” Because of the rain, the trails were anything but smooth. Many Yeti veterans recommended gaiters; however, I have not yet tried running with them. I wonder if it would’ve helped keep out the little rocks that I kept having to shake out of my shoes. The rain finally stopped at 1620. Now it was too humid and warm. I took my rain jacket off and stuffed it inside my pack. I returned to Damascus at 1915. I could’ve started this section without my headlamp, but I wore it in case if I couldn’t finish before sunset.
Section 4 Miles 65-82 Damascus to Alvarado to Damascus
Vy sent me out with a refill of green tea Tailwind, potatoes, and a couple of baggies of fried rice. I rolled Biofreeze on the back of my calves, which were starting to tighten up. I wore my rain jacket because it started drizzling again, but immediately regretted it after the first mile back out, so I stopped to take it off and put it back in my pack. My feet are starting to hurt at this point and the chafing was really bad. I made peace with the puddles and ran through them instead of avoiding them. The puddles cooled my feet, plus it was fun splashing through them like a kid. When I reached the Alvarado aid station again, I didn’t care about germs or COVID and grabbed a spoonful of the community lube to slather inside my upper thighs that have now rubbed raw. I check back into Damascus around midnight. I asked, “Am I still on schedule for sub 24?” and the volunteer responds, “Yes, but you’ve got like 5 hours, so you mustn’t dilly-dally!”
Section 5 Miles 83-100 Damascus to Alvarado to Damascus
I felt relieved to ditch my jacket finally and changed out my long sleeves into my RADrabbit tank top. There were extra shorts in my duffel bag, but I remembered how painful it was changing out of compression pants to run my last lap at Uwharrie 100 so I dried my thighs as much as I could and sprayed it with Skin Slick Anti-chafe (recommend if you don’t want to touch your wounds). I switched out the batteries for my Petzl Nao+ and Petzl Tikkina headlamps. Vy refilled my hydration pack with green tea Tailwind, fried rice and purple potatoes for the last time. I rolled on some more BioFreeze on my calves, told her “I love you!”, and started the final lap at 0015.
My feet are hurting so bad. I was grateful for the rainbow sign that read, “Don’t Think, Just Run!” I switched to 1:2 pace and worked myself up 2:2, 3:2 until I can get back into a 4:2 pace. My anxiety kicks in whenever my brain started calculating how much time I have left, so I’d have to bring myself back to just focus on the next step instead. Other times my heart would start beating out of control, so then I’d STOP, close my eyes, take a deep breath and let it go as I push off with my foot. Feeling and acknowledging my pain also helps me stay in the present moment. There were absolutely times where I would start preparing a speech for why I ran 100 miles and received no buckle if I didn’t finish sub-24. Then I’d remember, “No way, I worked too hard for this!” That’s when I would hold my hand up to my face and picture the buckle instead.
It was a weird combination of adrenaline,caffeine, and exhaustion that kept me going during this lap. I took 3 packs of Run Gum Spearmint (100mg caffeine each) hoping the chewing would keep me awake, plus it was nice to the minty sensation was welcomed to combat the heat. My heart was racing like crazy and I felt like I was having an out of body experience when I ran! Vy said I basically felt being meth’d out on Run Gum. I would later find out that I had a regular spearmint gum pack and probably should have grabbed that instead.
I had 45 minutes to do the last mile and tried to run it in, but I felt like I was going to die. I was incredibly thirsty and had to ask someone else’s crew if I could have their water since my pack was completely out. She handed me a gallon and I guzzled it all over myself before hobbling my way towards the finish line. On the bridge, I turned around and saw a few headlamps behind me which helped kick me into gear to finish running strong. Jason greeted me with a high-five, a hug, and not one but TWO gorgeous buckles!!! I was so happy!!! My finish time 23:21:59. That’s a 4-hour PR from my very first 100-miler at Umstead and a great come-back from my DNF in December!!!
I fell asleep immediately by the fire pit for a couple of hours with Wendy (who also finished sub-24, congrats!!). I peeled my socks off to find four giant blisters that made my foot look like it grew extra toes (I’ll do you a favor by not posting a pic). This was my first time having blisters EVER in my 3 years/5500 miles of running. I felt so confident that I wouldn’t get any blisters, I didn’t even pack blister care in my kit. Oops lesson heavily learned. I ate a pack of Oreos to bring myself back to life a little bit before I hobbled my way over to Vy, who had fallen asleep in the truck. Back at the hotel, I took a shower that burned in places that shouldn’t and fell back asleep. We checked out at 1200 and made our way to Cameron, NC where the other half of my crew would continue care for us.
CONGRATS to everyone who finished or was brave enough to toe the line!! Those race conditions were tough and I’m glad I never felt like I was alone. Thank you Jason for going out of your way to make this race happen and all the volunteers your positive vibes the entire time! Ya’ll make me feel proud to be a part of the Yeti family!! Much love to my (k)REW Vy and Tricia; thank you once again for dealing with the good, bad, and ugly sides of me! I would not have succeeded as well without your love and the way you pay attention to all my needs. Coach Ian, thank you tremendously for your time in building my training schedule, providing feedback/reassurance, and believing in me!! To everyone else who have shared miles and are always cheering for me, thank you for being a part of my journey!
I told my coach that I needed time off to fix things that I have literally been running away from this year. Although I am really curious to know how much faster could I finish a 100-mile race without all the rain and blister issues. I would also like to take a stab at 200-miler next! We’ll see, the possibilities are endless!
Total Miles September: 303
Running miles YTD: 2168 miles (412 hrs 14 min )
Walking/Hiking YTD: 312.44 miles