|Viaduct in the morning just before the storm rolled in.|
I ran this race last year as a last minute decision when the 20in24 was canceled due to extreme heat and the threat of severe thunderstorms. It was free, semi local and it was the weekend after the race I was supposed to run. I scrambled to recruit crew and organize supplies as it was advertised as pretty much self supported. I might add they did offer a 150 mile option which i did consider. My goal was to run over 120 at the 24 hour so what's a few more miles right? But since I would have had to take an extra day off and find crew (which was mandatory for this option) so I decided against it. Naturally.
|Photo by Destrie. Somewhere along the trail.|
My friends and I (Annukka, Rodney, Matt and Tom) all headed to Viaduct to help me finish 100 miles in 21 hours and 30 minutes and to break the course record. That did not happen.After my first lap, I announced I would now be aiming for a sub 20 finish and what ensued was a complete shit show. At mile 46 I went down hard on a tiny wrought iron bar sticking out of the ground while Anthony and Johanna (who had also driven up) were pacing me. Then after finishing the 2nd lap (50 miles) and trying to stand up after changing my shoes I found I could not. My legs stopped working. I could not stand. I made yet another announcement and that was that I was quitting. Annukka said no way and dragged me to my feet. Long story short, my viaduct experience ended with Rodney pacing me the last lap for 25 miles through the night and rain and into the morning. Death march. We were out there so long that when we finished Annukka, Matt and Tom were not there. They had formed a search party and were out sweeping the trail for me. My finish time was 25:50. It wasn't the result I had hoped for but it was my first straight up trail 100. I had wanted to quit but Annukka would have beaten me. I'm glad I didn't quit because I learned a lot. Only 3 people finished that year and I was 2nd. I also knew I was capable of way better. And with any race I completely bomb I planned on coming back.
|The never ending trail. Photo by Destrie.|
One year later...
As with any 100 miler Viaduct was a goal race for me. 100 is too big to not demand my complete respect. Maybe one day I will get to that point where I can just show up and run a 100 miler but right now I prefer to be tapered and trained. My last event was Cayuga Trails 50 miler which was a definitely a suffer fest for me. That was 6 weeks prior. The longest amount of time between races i have had all year. I followed the plan my coach, Michele Yates, had mapped out for me. I had some really tough speed workouts in there and some hill workouts that filled my legs and lungs with hot lava. I was loving the training and at the same time sort of dreaded the speed work routs. Each speed workout was like a mini ultra that I had to mentally break down into each repeat and treat it as if it was just like I was just going aid station to aid station. These workouts had as much a mental impact on me as a physical one. No doubt about that.
|Nobu and I jumping the tree for the 2nd time. Times 3-8 did not look like this. Photo by Caroline Thomas.|
Back in February when I originally sent Michele my racing schedule, I had indicated sub 20 hours (since that is what I had spontaneously decided I would do mid race during the viaduct last year) as my goal for Viaduct but as my training went on and the races came and went I knew sub 20 was definitely obtainable. I thought why not shoot for something ballsier? My friend Kat solidified this decision with utmost confidence. She dubbed the effort our "mission". Others fueled my mission with doubtful looks. I would make my supporters proud and prove the doubters wrong.
Friday, July 25th, Rodney and I jam our stuff into his Jeep and go to pick up Michael Daiguean in East Falls. It was to be Mike's first 100 after setting many course records in various ultra distances. His goal was 15ish hours. This was also to be Rodney's second attempt after his Rocky Raccoon journey was cut short at 20 miles in February. He wore a boot to heal his achilles for 6 weeks after which is ironic because his facebook name is Phil E. Achilles. Now you all know who that weird Phil guy is.
|Yeah that's Phil.|
We somehow fit Mike's stuff in the car as well and headed up to Lanesboro, PA to camp at Luciana Park at the start finish of the Viaduct. Last year, although I met lots of folks, I went up there only knowing my friends who came as crew. This year I knew it was going to be like a mini family gathering. Lots of local trail running friends I have met the past year were going to be there. We arrived around 6:30 pm and Harry Turner and his wife Victoria had already set up complete with pirate flag. It was Harry's first 100. Shortly after Mike, Rodney and I set up, my crew arrived. Dylan Armajani and Ken Tom on the scene.
|Team Trail WhipAss on a mission. Dylan and Ken!|
|Mel, Flo and Tom getting it done.|
|Gayle won the 50 miler.|
Nobu had arrived as well with his sister Tomoko and his mother Junko. They were there top crew and to make sure Nobu did not die. It was his first 100. Nobu is a strong, fast athlete but more importantly has the drive and mental toughness to do well in ultrarunning. He is a sub 3 marathoner and he is just getting started. He finished Cayuga as his first 50 which was not an easy course and he did it well under 10 hours.
|Nobu's crew, Tomoko and Junko. Whose crew is prettier mine or Nobu's? ;)|
|We should be in bed... or tent rather. Unless you are Destrie who didn't even bring a tent. ;/|
|And so it begins again...|
|Nobu, me and happy fun time.|
|Harry Turner signed up for the 50 but thought "Hey, I'll try my first 100 instead."|
|They all look like they have done this before!|
|You look like you could use an S cap, my dear.|
Nobu and I headed out on our 2nd lap this time a little less chatty. Still holding a steady pace. Sometimes he would stop for aid and I would keep going and he would eventually catch up. And finally, since this was not a USATF event, I could listen to MUSIC!!! I forgot how much I missed listening to music while I ran. I barely do it anymore because my speed work takes so much focus and my short tempo runs are so short I don't see the point. In trail races in general, I don't like to wear headphones because I like to hear those behind me in case they may want to pass plus I like the quiet. But this was only rocky rail trail. I could run side by side Nobu and still not block the path of runners coming the other direction.
|More happy fun time.|
|Mike cruising along.|
|Ken I think I love you!|
|"It hurts to a point and then it doesn't get any worse."|
At some point on the way out Nobu bounded up behind me like gazelle. He said he was feeling much better and I told him not to let me slow him down. He went ahead. This was somewhere close to the mile 11 road crossing which was almost 100k into the race. This is where a 100 miler always gets good! Seeing Nobu gave me energy. I bounced down the hill gracefully.. no just kidding. I picked my way down the hill like a drunk troll.
|Drunk troll coming through.|
Ken saw I was amped up and told me to slow my roll and not to chase Nobu. I assured him I wasn't chasing Nobu and I would stick to the plan. Up the hill I went while Dylan got ready to join me. Less like a drunk troll and more like an injured tree fairy, I thought. These are weird things that happen in my brain during a 100 miler. Another small goal of mine within the 100 was to run the whole thing. Aside from the very steep but short climbs, I succeeded in doing so for the most part. Dylan was very chatty which was good because I needed the distraction. Talking was difficult though because let's face it after 62 miles words are hard. Plus, my coach told me to keep the talking to a minimum. I did tell Dylan I thought I could possibly go sub 18 at this point and he tried to redirect me to the original goal at hand...sub 19 which was "easily" within reach barring a huge disaster, a disaster Ken and Dylan were there to prevent. (I put "easily" in quotes because in 100 nothing is easy.) I said I would focus on the original Mission but my new one would be in my mind. Back down the hill to the road crossing we went.
|Dylan's impromptu pacing jaunt with me.|
Ken and Dylan would now meet me at Melrose aid station and Mile 3.5 before I ended my third lap. I had my music in again and my spirits were lifted by Ken and Dylan's enthusiasm. With about 5 miles left in my 3rd lap I opened a fig bar and took a bite. NOPE! They had gone from being delicious to being the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. I spit out the bite wrapped the rest back up and stuck it in my UD vest. So be it. No more solid food. Fine. Ill show you, body. I'll drink my calories. So my insurance policy known as Coca Cola came into effect.
|Pacer extrodinaire Dylan Armajani aka Papa WhipAss|
Dylan and I left and ran under the Viaduct out the gravel road to Main Street where we would turn left on Jefferson and go up a paved hill before crossing the tracks to go into the trail. It was up this hill where it all went downhill. Feeling slightly queasy but trying to stay ahead of the game I had been chewing Gin Gins. They seemed to have been working, placebo or not I do not know. I was out of the kind in the blue wrapper so Dylan opened one for me in a green wrapper. It looked like a tootsie roll shape. I hate tootsie rolls. I started to chew and after about 10 seconds I realized that was not gonna work. I tried to take it out of my mouth but it was stuck on my teeth and then I started gagging and then dry heaving. I was determined not to let this reach disaster status. So was Dylan. He told me focus on your goal. You have 5:30 to complete this lap. You are good. So we ran.
|What I would have done without these guys I do not know.|
On our way out to Melrose I see a guy in a yellow shirt running towards us. It was Bill Cuthbert, the course record holder, and he had been in second place to Mike all day. I had not seen Mike yet!. Bill runs up to us and asks if I am Maggie. "Where's Mike??!?" I say. Bill explained he came across Mike sitting on the ground at the road crossing at mile 10. He was unable to move and was just sitting on the ground. He said he was with another guy and that he had let them know at Melrose that Mike needed aid. I found out later that guy was Harry who waited with Mike until someone came to pick him up to take him back to the start.
|Harry and Yunus early on.|
Mile 7, Ken is waiting for us. Dylan goes to him to restock and I go ahead to check in at the aid station and ask Vickie, the amazing Melrose Inn aid station Captain, for some soup. This time I did walk out of the aid station while sipping the insanely hot soup. As soon as it was finished, we were off again and I was feeling a bit better. Road crossing at mile 10, Ken is of course waiting. Ken makes sure I'm on schedule with my S cap intake and that I am drinking water which throughout this whole thing has been pretty good. I have never peed so regularly during an event like this. I try another gel since that and soda are now my main calorie source. Yum, island nectar Roctane! I choke it down and grab my knees as I start dry heaving again. Finally, this time, I get a result. Otto Lam would be proud. Up comes what I believe to be mostly soup broth. But I feel much better now. I have about 15 miles to go now. Sub 18 is totally out the window but unless I fall over on the trail and die sub 19 is in sight. And its still light enough to see without a headlamp!
|Destrie finishing her first 50 despite an injury.|
|400 Lumens total ;)|
Finally, I was headed down the dreaded turnaround point. Ask anyone at the viaduct, this was everyone's least favorite part because it dragged on forever. You ran to an orange cone next to a tiny table that had a sheet with our names on it. You wrote your split and then went back. I signed my split for the last time and Dylan and I headed back. Down the rocky ascent to the road, Ken announced he would meet us at every road crossing on the way back as well, including mile 10 which was only one mile away. Up the long hill the last time and back onto the trail. The miles begin to tick away surprisingly fast. We maintain a steady, reasonable pace and I don't feel like I'm over exerting myself like I sometimes do at any pace this late in a race. I run past Ken at mile 10 road crossing and on to Melrose. See you at Melrose, Ken!
More running at a reasonable steady pace.... Ken is surprised to see Dylan and I so soon and I sign in with Vickie at Melrose, thanking them all for everything as this is my last time through.
Onward. Dylan keeps it positive and I continue to push the negative thoughts of the endless trail out of my head. Even tho seemingly endless, its nothing like last year which felt like walking on a treadmill. I say my mental goodbyes to the little things along the trail, good bye little hill and goodbye mystery poop on the trail, goodbye big puddle and little puddle and splintery wooden bridge. Then after a minor stumble and fall on the final stretch of trail somewhere close to my watching ticking 100 miles we see the street lamp! Hooray, "civilization"! We hit the road and cross the railroad tracks and go down the hill at Jefferson. Every step on this paved downhill is excruciatingly wonderful. I am almost done and I am still running. My watch had ticked over 100 miles about a mile and a half ago of which I made a mental note of an 18:13 time. The last mile we do in 8:50 or so which wasn't an all out effort but it was "comfortable" and I thought it would be nice to finish without vomiting on myself or worse. Dylan and I make the right onto the Tannery Street gravel surface and run under the viaduct. One last right turn into Luciana park and I see the dim light of the aid station and a handful of people in chairs. I cross the finish line!
|Destrie and Colin.|
|I had to crop this picture. I just had to.|
|100 mile Mike.|
In the end, Mike finished with a time of 27 hours.
|Johanna and Anthony bringing it in.|
|Dylan, pacer victorious.|
Some of us achieved what we came for and some of us achieved it in an unexpected way and some didn't get the result they had hoped for... But this is ultra running and we live to try again another day.
Here's the thank you section: Thank you infinitely, Ken and Dylan. We did this! I can go on and on about how much you guys did for me but I think you guys know. Kat, thanks for believing in me. Elena, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and give me some of your mental secrets on how you achieved your amazing 17:33 100 miler in Vegas. Michele, you are an amazing coach and without your help I highly doubt I would be getting this result. I don't think the idea of running a sub 19 would have even entered my head without your training guidance. Not that you put the idea there but by following your workouts I started to realize what I was capable of. I wanted to see what would happen if I basically gave someone else the reigns in my training. I followed everything exactly as you wrote it down. I can do better tho. Thank you, Rodney, for once again driving my stiff ass back from a 100 miler. You will get that sub 3 marathon in November! Thanks, Nobu for getting me through the first half of viaduct and for putting in training miles with me. Mike, thanks for being an awesome guy. You continue to inspire me. Thanks, Mom and Dad for listening to me talk about running all the time. Thanks to Carl and David. I hope this tradition continues for a long time. Your event is truly unique. Thank you as always, Headsweats. Without you my face would be quite red. And last but not least, thank you , Vincent and Trail Toes. Trails Toes saved more than just my feet this time. :)
What's next?? NJ One Day November 8th - I have unfinished business in the 24 hour event....