This is the Dam that both 100 and 50 milers run along for several hundred feet. You can see some frost on the shrubs/bushes along the lake. This was really beautiful.
Here I am with Kim Sargeants mom. Kim's mom is a mainstay at this race and I have seen her every year (and of course I have seen Kim each year as well).
The Race: Lap 1
Pretty soon there was an announcement that the race was starting within 5 minutes. Yikes, socializing sure does make time fly! I started as far back as I could then realized this might not help in my goal of 9:30. So I moved forward a bit. As I moved forward I heard my name “Tammy”. It was Tammy (the other one, not my split personality). We chatted for just a moment then gun went off. And that is when I saw Don Lister’s wife (her name escapes me now as it did then…and yet I have spent hours with her!) I got a picture then started moving forward. At that time I mentioned to my friend Tammy I need to get a pair of handwarmers. She had a spare pair and gave me hers. How sweet! I will need to add handwarmers to my packing list because it was nice to have the first few hours when it was really cold.
I realized I needed to move forward to get into the pace I wanted to run so I scampered pretty quickly. I knew the first few hundred meters the course was wide and had no hazards. Once I got onto the trail I had to be responsible and pass with care. I continued to be pretty far back (easily in the 75th percentile). I know that I will fall in behind slower runners and just coast. But that is not going to get a quick time although it will get a finish. Today I had goals!
Running along the sun started coming up. I was being very cautious about roots and to run within my ability. The first boardwalk was super icy and I realized I could easily run alongside and get to the same place. Thus I chose alternate routes around boardwalks when I could. Sadly there were many boardwalks that were over streams, marshy area’s or over area’s of thick forest/shrubbery. When I did get forced to cross boardwalks, I crouched down, spread my hands out and waddled very slowly. But I did not fall! And that is all that is important.
As I ran along I was passing runners who might have gone off to quickly. It is easy to do with all the energy and excitement. In fact I was a little distressed about my speed but the runners were so bunched up that I wanted to find some clear space. I know that falling on this course is a fairly common occurrence so I figured I needed to get into a good sized gap where I would have 5-10 feet ahead of me and 5-10 feet behind me. It is easy for runners to take out other runners when to crowded. And if you are the faller you can easily get a kick in the face if you are tailgaiting.
Soon I was running past the first aid station. I love the aid stations at Rocky. They have such enthusiasm and energy. But I needed to keep moving. A quick cup of heed and soda and I was off. I did not grab any food as I had just finished a biscotti about 30 minutes before the race and I knew the next aid station was in just a few miles.
Heading out I was excited to recall that the next sections had fewer roots to trip me up. And some switchbacks which I like. This section I expected to see the front runners. In fact the front runners had passed by the time we got here. They were all haulin! But the runners we saw were a mixture of super speedy runners as well as some early starters. Regardless they were 15 or so miles into their race and were all looking strong.
Approaching the DamNation Aid Station I was thrilled to see my friend Mike Potter from Across the Years. After a quick hug, I headed to the aid station to grab a cup of heed and some soda. I was feeling really good and I wanted to stay that way with sufficient beverage and munchies. After just a few minutes, I headed back onto the course continuing to run 10-11 min/miles. This was a pace I found was challenging but manageable. I was feeling great and was happy.
The section from DamNation to DamNation is a pretty quick 2-3 mile segment. The majority of this segment is on very runnable jeep road followed by a bit of single track and even a wide earthen dam. I was running along with a group of other runners. They were a mix of experienced ultra-marathoners as well as new ultra runners. The conversation was flowing and the pace comfortable. In fact it was too comfortable, so I moved on ahead. Although this section did have a few fits and starts with moving ahead. There was one long bridge where I lost all the time I gained and then a long visit at the Damnation Aid Station had me back behind my friends. But alas they were running a steady 12 min/mile pace. I realized this was not the pace I was looking for considering I tend to loiter a lot at aid stations and am not the most efficient self crewer (even with lots of stuff in my fanny pack!). I was a bit bummed to move forward from this group of runners since it meant I was alone having to set my own pace. Sometimes I feel like the horses at VT100 where it is a lot easier to fall in behind slower runners and just enjoy life. But then I realize that I have a whole bunch of friends nudging me along in spirit so I pick up the pace when I find my pace slowing.
Along the dam, the 50 milers rejoin the 100 milers who are about 14 miles in their race. The 100 milers had a 1 hour start on us so we are all running a moderately similar pace. But the 100 milers are also fairly spread out by this time. While I can see a bunch of 100 milers well ahead and when I glance back there are other 100 milers but there seems to be a lull of runners.
In just a bit, my DamNation Aid station visit is pretty quick the second time around. I refill my bottle drink a bit more and eat more then continue on. I know half the battle of ultra’s from my perspective is keeping watered and fed. After a quick thanks I head off. The next segment I am not overly fond of but I don’t despise like the rooty section near the start/finish. This section is a significant amount of jeep road (which I like) but also has several fairly long hills (which I do not like). But it goes pretty quickly. This is where I ultimately lose my friends and actually remain pretty well alone for 15-20 miles. I do chat with a variety of runners but some are too fast and some are too slow. I feel like goldilocks because there is no one who is “just right”. And I know I need to run my own race since this is an ultra and I really want to finish in 9:30.
As I run along it is warming up nicely. But that just means I am starting to be comfortable in my two pairs of pants, and 6 tops and even pair of pink moeben sleeves as well as thick hat and gloves (yes I know I’m pathetic!). Seeing other runners on the course with singlets and shorts is shocking, I won’t even consider taking off my layers down to my skirt and tank until nearly 70 degrees (and I have not even done any heat training which changes this threshold to about 80 degrees!).
Running along I am feeling strong and happy. But my knee is a bit tender and my ankle is sort of throwing a fit. My knee is a chronic issue and I know I just have to run through it, but my ankle has been getting more painful since JFK50 and my shin splints as well as after my Boston Qualifying time at Arizona. This bums me out a bit but both problems are manageable so far by just ignoring them. I try to be extra cautious about where I put my feet so I land solidly each step but I am moving to quickly to pay too much attention and my contacts really are only about 80-90% effective. This means everything is a bit blurry/shadowy. I really should have picked my parents better because this issue is caused by a severe astigmatism, which both my parents have/had. My old strategy is to follow other runners and see where they place there feet and plant my feet exactly where they do, but alas I am running stag. Oh well, so far I am moving pretty effortlessly and I am happy.
Hearing lots of noise and seeing some folks in the distance I realize I am approaching the final aid station before the start/finish. This year they are Jimmy Buffett themed which is cool. They all have Hawaiian lei’s so it is like I am back with my people. They are all so nice and it is great to get a few hugs. But I am a girl with a mission so after a quick bottle refill and some food and drinks, I head off.
It’s back to my least favorite part of the course. The part where I always trip and fall. I love the views of the lake (not that I see them, but I get to see them after when I look at my pictures) but alas I am not able to appreciate these views as I am too busy try to detect a difference between shadows and root balls.
The boardwalks are still a bit icy so I run alongside each of the boardwalks. Earlier in the race I would “crabby-across” with my arms out, and feet apart going very slowly but here it is simply easier to avoid the boardwalks. One place I get a bit caught up in a vine but am able to dislodge myself. Since this area is less than 3 miles from the start/finish, the trail is getting crowded with runners heading back on the course for their second lap. I am delighted to see friends who are running both races. It is starting to be a beautiful day with bright sunshine, rising temps and the course (other than the boardwalks) are super fast. This year unlike last I do not have to scamper hundred of feet to keep my feet neat, tidy and dry! And since there was only a light dusting of snow, I do not expect the course to become muddy and sloppy.
I am excited when I veer away from the lake. So excited I almost take a wrong turn (or I should say go straight when I should take a correct turn). It is a sharp turn and once I re-right myself I head into the final stretch. We get close to the street and I know I should be getting to the start/finish within about 10 minutes. I am really excited. I will be setting a PR for my lap time. And I am feeling really strong. Maybe too strong.
In my mind I make a checklist of what I might need to do at the aid station. I need to eat and drink and refill my bottle but I also need to make some wardrobe adjustments. I have 2 pairs of pants but am thinking I can live with just one. I have 5 upper body layers but think it I can take off one layer and I can untie one of my layers from my waist. I also know I need to get my visor and my sunglasses. It is really bright out.
As I head into the aid station I am excited to see my first lap is under 3 hours!! I know a sub 9 hour 50 miler is unrealistic but I am really pleased with this time and feel it bodes well for my goal of sub 9:30. A few quick treats including some soda, M&M’s, pretzels and a handful of cookies I am happy. I see my friend Shannon Farar-Griefer who is running the 100 miler. I have met her several times and love her moeben sleeves! In fact my favorite pair is a pair of daisy themed arm warmers (and matching skirt) that I won at the Western States 100 miler lottery this past December. But since this is not a “big race” I am not wearing these (like my silver sparkeley fanny pack certain other items only show up for 100 milers). We chat briefly but then I have to self-crew and deal getting stuff in and out of my drop bag.
As I am debating what to do I actually decide I may not be the ideal decision maker. I am standing next to a gentleman who I ask, “should I take off my pants?” I am not sure this was an appropriate ice breaker but I was a little worried that I would get cold. After a brief discussion we decide my pants are coming off. He was very nice and helped steady me while I did this. Then I take off my upper layer, untie my layer around my waist and take out my sunglasses and visor. Now my flower-inesss is complete. It is time to start lap 2!