Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon 100 - July 26, 2014

The Viaduct. A tiny fat ass ultra in the middle of nowhere (Lanesboro, PA).  Carl Albright and David Kennedy started the Viaduct in 2007.  They were the only two participants and the course was 68.63 miles long.  Then in 2008 they made it a 100 miler...

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!
Two of the most genuine, fun loving, amazing people you will ever meet.  I'm honored to call them friends, let alone have them give up their entire weekend for me to help me with the Mission.  But that's what we do as ultra runners.  I would do it for them and they would do it for me again.  Dylan is also the founder of the Trail WhipAss which Ken and I are both members of, so this was a WhipAss effort.
Mel, Flo and Tom getting it done.
Mel Lancet and his crew came over after they arrived to say hello as well...Tod Egry, Tom Vincet, Flo Barnes. Gayle Ross, who was there last year as well, was ready to run the Viaduct.

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? ;)
Yunus Brevik, another first timer 100 miler arrived with his daughter, as did Joey Parente fresh off of Vermont 100 in an impressive sub 23 hour finish for his first 100. He was there to pace his friends and get them through the Viaduct.  After nightfall, Destrie Cossaboom, showed up (yes that's her real name and no she is not a stripper), as well as the Fishtown Beer Runners with their tent mansion. Anthony Lo Cicero III (yes also his real name) was taking a second crack at the Viaduct along with his FBR crew Johanna Reade Goode and Lil Dave Maver, and another beer runner Jen (not baby Jesus Jen).
We should be in bed... or tent rather. Unless you are Destrie who didn't even bring a tent. ;/
 Finally, a little too late, we all went to sleep. Snug in my tent I slept for 4 hours or so.  Upon waking at 4am, I ate some cold oatmeal I brought and drank some pre brewed coffee I had put in a water bottle Thursday night.  I'm one of those people who can eat a decent breakfast and go run. For this reason, I don't usually start fueling right away.  At 4:55 am I ran over to the table to check in with David Kennedy. Then we were off into the chilly 57 degree morning in the dark.

And so it begins again...
I ran with Nobu.  I knew he was faster but he seemed to want to go my pace and I was happy to get through the beginning miles with him.  My coach told me never to let me heart rate go up too much to where conversation is not easy.  We chatted a lot the first lap and caught up to Harry who had been just ahead of us for a while.
Nobu, me and happy fun time.

Harry Turner signed up for the 50 but thought "Hey, I'll try my first 100 instead."
At the first road crossing which was 3.5 miles into the lap Nobu and I handed off our headlamps and long sleeves to Tomoko and Junko. The viaduct has only one aid station at mile 7. It is an out and back for an alleged 12.5 miles making it a 4 lap course.  I told Ken and Dylan to just wait for me at mile 11 since I wouldn't need much aid aside from water which I could get a mile 7. Nobu's mom and sis were at every road crossing. They were so cute and supportive and they helped me through the beginning half of the day just by enthusiastically cheering for us at every road crossing. It honestly amazed me throughout the weekend how well they meshed with the ultra running vibe.

They all look like they have done this before!
After lap one, My goal for the first lap was 4:15 and we did it in 4:14.   I was surprised to find my legs felt like I had run 25 miles. Usually I feel like a new person at this point. No big deal.  At Cayuga I had tapped into something that I had not before. It taught me I can go on with legs that felt worse than they did at that point. I knew I could maintain the same pace for the most part even though everything was becoming tight and painful. Ken offered me an S cap, or rather demanded I take one along with handing me fresh water bottles and Dylan brought me my tray of assorted bars and gels so I could restock my UD pack.

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.
 Periodically, I would see Mike crushing it on the trail.  Every time we passed each other he was putting more and more miles between us.
Mike cruising along.
After our second turnaround when we signed the book and descended the rocky steepest hill the course, I started to feel really good. Nobu hit a low and began to fall behind. I put in my music and let it carry me through miles 38- 50 finishing the second lap in 4:34. My reward for finishing that lap, I had promised myself some coffee. I was feeling tired but was saving my 5 hour energy for my last lap.  Ken had it ready for me over ice! It was like rocket fuel.
Ken I think I love you!
The second to last lap is always the hardest for me because it's not the last lap. In this case it was the third. I figured this would be my longest lap and I would try to keep it close to 4:30 but figured it would be closer to 4:45, which it was.  The 50s were tough for me. It became harder and harder to keep my stride. Without really focusing on moving, I would slow. I could keep a decent pace if I was really concentrating.

"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.
 I yelled to Dylan and asked him to pace me for the 1.5 out and back to the turn around point. I hated this part.  It lasted what seemed like forever.  This was also the deceiving part because Carl and David in true ultra marathon race director form had purposefully made the turn around long "to make sure it was definitely 100 miles".

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.

More running.
I know I was supposed to ease up and stay steady but I knew if I could maintain 10 minute miles or better I could get in to the start finish and be out on my last lap by 6:30 pm leaving my just 2:30 to finish the last lap and possibly finish under 18 hours!!  I came into the start finish feeling borderline nauseous but optimistic. It was just before 6:30pm. Dylan was ready to pace me the final miles and Ken was ready to finish this out and meet us at every road crossing. " Ken we are going to do this!" I said.  At this point, by" this"Ii meant sub 18! Kinda reminds me of Viaduct last year where I made the announcement after the first lap that I would now run 100 miles under 20 hours...  Well at least I waited 3 laps this time and at least I wasn't clear what I meant by "this".  I can say with complete confidence though, that sub 18 was NOT out of reach and in the future is absolutely attainable.  It was, however, not going to happen that day.

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.
#KenTomming
Meeting Ken at 3.5 road crossing, he of course asked if i was eating but I told him I could not.  Upon stopping, I began to feel like I was on a tilt O whirl. Hmm now that I type that I am not sure what a tilt o whirl is or if i have ever been on one but I imagine it would feel like how I felt trying to stand next to Ken's car. I could not tell which way was up or down.  I sat on the bumper.  Still no good.  I felt weak. I had to get going . Ken insisted I do a gel which I had just done before reaching him.  It stayed down despite being difficult to swallow.  I think we discovered at this point that potato chips were also able to be effectively swallowed without invoking my gag reflex. The sun was setting and it started to get cooler so we figured now was a good time to get me into dry clothes. I quickly changed into my dry WhipAss shirt and new shorts.  My pack was soaked and the thought of putting it back on sent shivers up my spine.  Since muling was allowed Dylan offered to carry our water so I didn't have to. I had wanted to avoid muliing all together for my own peace of mind but almost 80 miles in my priorities have changed.   Dylan filled up a bottle with coke and I may have taken a sip or two of ginger ale and we were off again to Melrose at mile 7.  Soup.  I knew Melrose had soup.  It had saved my ass last year it will save me again.
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.
Dylan and I meet Ken at mile 11 road crossing and descend down to the road  and ascend back up to the trail.  Coming down the steep hill  to the road on the loose rocks is were we finally switch on our headlamps. 200 lumens each we have.  I have the Black Diamond Icon and Dylan has the Petzl Nao.  Being able to run on the wide trail side by side we probably looked like a car coming at the other runners. It may be overkill on a non technical trail like this but I imagine this will be a complete game changer for me on a technical course.  Either way it was nice to get to test out my new lamp.

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!

#moreKenTomming

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!

The spike!
"Official finish time 18:34" Carl yells.  I knew what my time was because I had a watch on (whose battery lasted the whole entire time) but hearing the words aloud associated with my own performance somehow made it surreal.  In fact, it was very surreal. Someone brought me a chair and I immediately sat down.  Lots of people had stayed awake to watch me finish even though it was after 11:30 and all of them had been up since 4am at least.  Even this guy Colin who I barely knew and who had ran the 50 miler and had been done a half a day ago had waited up.  Colin Trower was one of those happy shiny people who helped me get through the day. He smiled every time we passed each other and it made me wish Yoshiko was there.  Destrie was also awake and waiting. She had limped through her final 30 miles to finish 3rd female in the 50 miler.
Destrie and Colin. 
Someone puts down another chair next to me and out of the darkness steps Nobu! Nobu! I had been so focused on my own race I had not thought about Nobu for a few miles. Which is a good thing because it means we didn't catch up to him on the trail. He had finished his first 100 miler in 17:56!  I knew he was capable of an amazing performance but this was beyond human, especially for his first one.  Watch out ultra world. Nobuyori Takeda is about to take you by storm!

Prince Nobu
Junko, Nobu's mother, begins to serve everyone delicious homemade noodles she brought but I cant eat. I sit in my chair after getting changed into warmer clothes and try to sip my Recoverite. My legs had begun to throb and radiate pain from deep inside but Ken's crew duties hadn't ended according to him.  He helped me elevate my legs and applied pressure to the points that were painful. This was a life saver!

I had to crop this picture. I just had to.
 Finally, I'm just too tired and close to 1 am I lay down to rest.  Just after this, Anthony leaves with Johanna on his last lap.  My heart quietly goes out to him as I lay in my tent. I was in his shoes last year.  It was going to be a long night for him and his pacer Johanna. I also hear Mike stir from his tent and ask Ken if he will drive him to the 10 mile mark in the morning and if Dylan would pace him for his final 10 miles. He was going to get it done!  A 2:24 marathoner who is used to setting course records, was going to just get 100 miles under his belt, course record or not.
100 mile Mike.

In the end, Mike finished with a time of 27 hours.
Johanna and Anthony bringing it in.
Yunus came in sometime late morning and Anthony brought up the rear, finishing looking strong and surprisingly dry despite the sudden thunder storm that rolled through in the morning and brought a down pour.
Dylan, pacer victorious.
 And me, I finished an entire jar of Claussen pickles throughout the morning. I lay in my tent during the rain munching the delicious treats, grateful to be dry and long done running. Ken had been so concerned about my salt cap intake the previous day, I thought I would make him proud.

Yum yum.
We said our goodbyes and with Anthony's finish the 2014 Viaduct came to an end. I thanked Carl and David for another great event and they were both happy I had finally had a good race after what happened last year.  People have asked me leading up to this "Why are you training for that event? Its just a fat ass." How much a race costs, for me, doesn't dictate how much effort I put into it. And just because this race was free doesn't mean the experience can't be as meaningful as a Badwater or a Western States. I pick and choose my goal races but like I said before this is a 100 and the way it was executed last year demanded my utmost respect and effort this year.

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.



 Mission accomplished.

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....