Yeti Ready…Lets Roll!
The instant I saw the Yeti 100 Endurance run pop up in my Facebook Feed, I knew the Yeti was going to be my first 100 miler. I was elated, and felt the “running Gods” dropped it in my lap. It was definitely meant to be. (backstory on how this went down) Hosted by Yeti Trail Runners, on the the Virginia Creeper Trail, one of my favorite places, it was the PERFECT setting. If you are going to be physically and mentally taxing yourself you might as well do it in a place you find enjoyable. The handmade Buckle…OMG!
I had 10 months to prepare, I was 100% committed to make it happen. Those who know me, will attest, it’s all or nothing with me. Before I could get started, I had a couple of things I need to address.
100 Mile Preparation…these all contributed to successful Race Day!
Training plan– No brainer for me as I have relied on the information and plans in Bryon Powell’s book- Relentless Forward Progress, A Guide to Running Ultramarathons since I ventured into the ultra running world. I have worn this book out and highly recommend it for anyone considering ultras. I love that fact the book, provides several options for plans and makes suggestions for adaptations. I initially was going to do the 70 mile per week plan, but came to my senses that with a full time job, husband, and kids this was not going to work. I settled on the 50 mile, 26 week plan. I ran 5 days a week, and cross trained with Cross fit and Yoga one day a week. In previous training plans, I was able to successfully maintain 2-3 days of Cross fit. It became obvious very quickly, that one day of Cross fit was all that I could manage. I added yoga in the final two months and love it! I stayed consistent with my training plan. Some weeks were better than others. I really focused on back to back runs and this proved very helpful. The best part about high mileage is building in races into your training. Long training runs with support are awesome. My highest weekly mileage was 55 miles.
Wheezing– My running buddy Kmac, who happens to be a Physicians Assistant, had been telling me for several years that I wheeze when I run. I did not notice during my runs, only post run chest tightness and smoker type cough. It was so minor I did not make it a priority. It wasn’t until my first run after a 6 week illness at the end of 2016 that I realized I could not breathe. I had to bail my run. Kmac was right.(she is always right :)…really she is). My general practitioner diagnosed me with exercise induced asthma. She hooked me up with an inhaler and eventually a daily prescription for singular. Wow! what a difference it made!
Weight– I had not weighed myself in several years. Like most women, I hated the number I see and go by the way I feel. I knew I had put on some pounds after starting Cross fit but attributed that to muscle. While much of it was muscle, a lot of it was not. It really became evident to me when I saw my post 75 mile finish line pic. Wow! I was healthy in more ways than one. I was eating healthy, but my portion control needing reigning in. I joined a Macro Wellness challenge at Cross fit, tracked my food intake in My Fitness Pal app and dropped 18lbs. I was feeling great, eating right, and running faster than ever! Amazing what dropping a few punds will do for your running. It also helped I could breathe.
Pacing Umstead 100– I was so honored to be part of Jenica and Janet’s first 100 mile at Umstead. Jenica and Janet, both from Portland, OR, crushed the Umstead with sub 24’s. I was so honored to be part of their journey and it was so great for me to witness my first 100 mile race. I paced Jenica for her final 25 miles. She was happy as could be and it was so awesome getting to know her over our 6 hours together. I learned from her to zip thru the aid stations, eat on the go, and to walk fast as hell. I can honestly say this experience helped me greatly! Love you girls!
Gear Adjustments– Outside of shoes, my only major gear purchases were the new Garmin 230 (I wanted the auto sync to my phone), Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp ( I had Lumen envy at my last 24 hour race) , and Ultra Vesta, Ultimate Direction hydration pack. My Nathan vest had served me well but I really wanted more hydration options and storage. The vest is made for women and has many adjustments. It was weird at first but I have come to love it. The body bottles are the best!
Running Nutrition– I had long given up on gels…NASTY! I relied on real food, Nuun, and S caps. After reading up on benefits of Tailwind Nutrition, I gave it a try. It worked great for me. So easy and fast to get our the door. Like any hydration supplement, you do tire of it but it is worth avoiding “gut” issues. My preference is for the naked,unflavored.
Feet– My sister, Amy, said to me after my first successful ultra, “If you are going to keep up running this distance, you have to do something about your feet” She was right! I will spare you the photos. Trust me, when I say my feet/toes were slayed. Hence, started my 3 year foot wellness journey with the help of John Vonhof’s book, now in the 6th edition, Fixing Your Feet! I have ready every page of this book and continue to reference it regularly. I am amazed at the number of people who ignore preventative foot care. Your feet have to be healthy to carry you the distance, why do people ignore them? I guess my feet issues early on, set me down the right path. My friend Anj nicknamed me #BlisterSister the blister whisper. It makes me laugh…I am happy to share my foot/blister care input with anyone. My claim is…I read the foot book so nobody else has to! I found the REAL blister sister at Blister Prevention. Rebecca is all things foot care. I reached out to her with some questions via email and she was quick to respond. Check her out!
Feet…My final Foot Plan– My foot care journey continued well into my training. After three years, I felt like I had finally nailed it. Feet issues were not going to stop me from crossing the finish line. I am happy to report, post 100 miler, my feet were in the best shape of my running journey! Whoo hooo! What worked for me: injinji toe socks ( fresh pairs at miles 17.9, 48.9); Dirty Girl Gaiters; transition to Altra ( Olympus, Torin) from my previously coveted Hokas; Kinesio Tape ( taped my feet and toes night before); Superfeet Berry; and ENGO blister patches on my insoles and inside of my shoes. I had one minor blister I felt within the first 17 miles, while wearing my Hoka Challengers(17.9 miles). I took a huge risk switching shoes two months prior to my race, but totally worth it! I am now an Altra convert with a large collection of Hoka’s.
Race day run plan– I procrastinated the shit out of pulling this together but in the end I am so glad that I did! Early on, running Friends Anj and Fred said they wanted to pace me! I was blown away with their support and willingness to take on this monumental task. Of course my sister Amy was going to pace, but how far, was the question. With pacers queued up, a plan for 4:2 run walk segments, I built a very detailed google spreadsheet for my pacers and crew.(I had a relapse of OCD) The spreadsheet had links to everything we needed for the weekend but most importantly my mile by mile plan, pace estimates, crew instructions, directions, etc. I am very happy to share for anyone who is interested.
I was fortunate to have covered over 88 miles of training runs on the creeper in preparation so I had some solid pace data to work with.
Intimately knowing the course proved to be a huge mental booster for me. While I know this is not always possible. I will certainly make this effort for future races. I love every aspect of the Creeper Trail, I will never tire of it, and this went a long way on race day. Love where you run!
Orthopedic Visit/PT– Four weeks prior to race day my right knee started a sharp pain on the inside of my knee cap. WTF? I had come way too far to have my race de-railed with three weeks to go. I took a week off, but the pain persisted. The pain was manageable but the unknown of it stressed me the F*&^% out. Dr. Google was no help, so I hesitantly made an ortho appointment. In my 7 years of running, this was my first trip to the Dr. for running related pain. Long story short, he said you can run, back off, and lets do three weeks of PT. If you still have pain we will give you a cortisone shot.
First day of PT, I was diagnosed with tight quad muscle. I was elated to know the cause! I was given a series of daily stretching exercises and we taped my knee. I felt relief immediately! It was not gone but got significantly better each run. I got my final taping the day before the race. Race day..I felt no pain! Wow! Or I mentally willed it away! Crisis avoided! I am now a firm believer in stretching and PT! Thank you Cary Orthopedic!
Finally…Race Day…I am certain time stood still 3 weeks prior. I was excited, anxious, and ready. It was the first time in my life I felt the taper crazies and second guessed all my training and if I was tapering correctly.
7:00 am, Jason sent us off with “Go have a F$%^ing good time”. I settled into my 4:2 segments right from the start. The 17.9 miles of gradual downhill is a great way to start a race but will eventually slay if you don’t hold back. I was relaxed, the weather was a perfect 50 degrees, and life was good!
I was about 45 minutes ahead of my scheduled arrival in Damascus. I quickly hit the Damascus aid station for a sock and change out of my Hokas into my Altras. I had been feeling my right pinkie toe for about two hours and was really looking forward to a shoe change.
My “Crew” was very busy while I was running repairing for my arrival.
I was off and my next stop was end of the first lap in Abingdon, mile 33.4.I arrived 45 minutes ahead of schedule in Abingdon. I easily spotted my crew and had to yell from the trail to get their attention. My already large crew grew again with the addition of Cynthia, Fred, and my Cousin Erin and her two kids. I had never met my cousins kids and had not seen Erin in three years. I had no idea she was coming! It was so nice of them to drive 3 hours to cheer me on. Wow! I was feeling great! Seeing my family and friends just energized me more.
Lap 1 down…2 to go. Next time I was in Abingdon, I would be crossing the finish line! I refilled my bladder with tailwind and water, popped some motrin and was off! The sun finally peaked out around 3:00. We had been under cloud cover all day. The temps were still great and it was good to see the sun.
I came up on Brad and razzed him for walking and had him join me in my 4:2 segments. It was nice to have company and he entertained me with all his crazy running adventures. Just when I thought he had told me the craziest thing I had ever heard he topped it. Thanks Brad for the entertainment! I regret not getting a picture with Brad at the finish line. He finished 20+ min ahead of me. At the finish, he thanked me and said I inspired him to finish the race. WOW! After we parted ways, he programed the 4:2 segments into his phone and finished. Seriously……knowing I helped him in such a small way is priceless. Ditto BRAD!
I arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Still feeling great and was excited to pick up my first pacer Anj. We had only texted the past few weeks so we had lots of catching up to do. As Amy loaded in a new Tailwind bladder into my pack, I ate some twix bites and chugged a Perrier and coke. I was growing tired of the naked Tailwind so the Perrier and coke tasted great. I grabbed my turkey & avocado wrap, chips to go, and we were off.
Before we headed uphill to Whitetop, I hit the aid station to .put on dry clothes and a final sock and shoe change. I knew it was going to get cold and I wanted to make sure the majority of my clothes were dry.
I was still warm so I put on dry clothes and stuffed my Yeti Wool shirt, gloves, and vest in my hydration pack. I am amazed at how much stuff I can cram in the back pocket and bungee. I changed into my Altra Olympus..by far my favorite Altras. They are really wide in the toe box and make my feet very happy. My feet were holding up really well and I was thrilled. We walked while I ate my turkey wrap then we hit the 4:2 segments up to Whitetop.
As the sun started going down, I started to get cold. I put on my yeti wood shirt and gloves. It was so glad I had them.
It was about this time that Anj and I came upon the “Creeper Kids”. Two “children of the trail” who were somewhere between 5-7 years old. They zoomed passed us on their bikes cutting us off. I was paranoid they were going to plow me over. They said the only people who could go fast on “their trail” were bikers. With one eye covered, we cautiously watched their bike tricks. I went in total mom mode and advised one of the boys doing bike tricks in cowboy boots was probably not a good idea. I envisioned this kid was going to crack open his skull and we were going to have to take care of him. That was not the reason I wanted to DNF. They then proceeded to zoom past us beyond our sight and jump out of the woods to scare us. OMG, we were being terrorized by “children of trail”.
At this point it was really starting to get dark. They were running beside us trying to find their fort. Anj said, ” Can you go past this trestle?” Thinking perhaps they had limits. They quickly responded they could do whatever they wanted and said “let them come look for us”. How in the heck were we going to lose these kids who had no flashlights…only a pocket knife. We were totally entertained and a little freaked out. We decided we had to lose them. We took off at a faster pace, not looking back, and finally we lost them. It was so freaking funny. At this point it was pitch black.
We continued our 4:2 segments up to whitetop. The incline, while not too bad, definitely slowed my roll with 50+ miles on my feet. We were encouraged by the runners headed back down the mountain at how fast their pace was. That was something to look forward to. We hit Whitetop, about 15 minutes ahead of Schedule around 10pm. I was in need of Motrin ( I dropped my bag somewhere on the trail after sharing some with Brad) and food. My crew was there and hooked me up with twix bites, Pierre, coke, and loaded my bladder with Caffeinated Tailwind.
I noticed someone sitting down and I asked if I could sit and Amy promptly responded NO! Dang…she looked so comfortable. I thought she was a volunteer, but later found out she was a runner on the “struggle bus” It was busy up there as my crew got me set and aided several other runners. Fortunately, I had a very well stocked rolling aid station that they fed many runners in need. Mile 66, and people around me were starting to fall apart.
It was time to head down the mountain. I was looking forward to the 17.9 miles of downhill with Pacer #2 Fast Fred!
We were off! I had not seen Fred for several weeks so we had a lot of catching up to do (Kate style- save the chatter for the run). Fred was militant about making sure I was sipping my tailwind on every walk segment. It was getting hard to do but I knew I needed to do it for hydration and calories. The Motrin was kicking in and I was ready to roll. The trickiest part of this downhill section was the pesky rocks on the trail. You had to be very careful to pick up your feet. Fred tripped several times and somehow managed to stay upright. I think I only tripped once…that was a miracle. It was VERY dark, and we both were trying really hard to stay upright. Surprisingly, the only wildlife I encountered was a large brown spider hanging down on the trail that I literally ran into with my face.
Funny thing is I had no concept of how much I had slowed down. I felt like I was running fast. I was later informed that was not the case. Fred was kind enough to continue running although my pace had slowed to almost walking speed. But I was still running! I was determined to run the entire race. Amy, after working aid at many Graveyard 100’s , was certain I would be walking towards the end of the race. I took that as a challenge and was hard set to keep up my 4:2 segments.
Fred and I started to discuss the possibility of me finishing sub 24. Fred cautiously, mentioned that there was a lot of time and miles left in the race and anything could happen. We started passing people and it confirmed we were steady and strong. It was at that point I mentioned that while passing people was great, I did not get nearly the satisfaction of passing a man as I did when I passed a women. I am not typically a competitive person, but when I heard I had moved up from 13th to 10th place female, it was a little motivation to push a little harder.
While I was defiantly slowing down, we still made great time and arrived in Damascus about 20 min ahead of schedule. Fred and I were greeted by my crew. I was impressed they were outside at 2:45am. Amy dropped in my final tailwind bladder, I grabbed a Perrier, a coke and took off for 11.5 miles with by brother-in-law Jon. 16 miles to go!
Jon was fresh with great stories to keep me entertained. I still laugh at his comment early on ” I have too much pride to let you out run me tonight”. I was confident this was not going to be an issue. I paced Jon in his first marathon in 2009 so it was great for him to return the favor and run with me in the wee hours of the morning. My spirits were good, his new Garmin, hot out of the box, kept us on our 4:2 segments. As I unintentionally slowed, Jon and I discussed the fact I could finish the race sub 24. Wow! This really was never part of my verbalized plan. When I worked out my run plan my estimated finish was 23:50 but I never dreamed this was possible. I just wanted to finish and get get my buckle. At this point, I knew I was going to finish and a sub 24 was in my reach. I was excited and eager to get to the finish line. Jon was militant with his “tough love” and said if you want to finish this sub 24 you need to keep up your segments. I was still moving but it was not very fast. He pushed me to catch up with people ahead of us and pass them. If my memory serves my correctly, we passed two people.
I was feeling good. I was surprised I was not ” seeing things” in the dark. At one point, I decided to look over the side of one of the trestles. Why? I have no idea. Bad idea…the ground was moving up and down towards me. EEEK! The only other issue was looking intentionally at the mist in my headlamp beam. Jon mentioned it, I looked at thought I might fall out.
We finally came upon Watuga Trestle, where Jon would drop off and I would be paced to the finish by my sister Amy. When I saw the lights from my crews led umbrella ( purchase so I could easily spot my crew), I was hit with a rush of emotions and the tears began to flow. I quickly composed myself and fought back the tears. I thought they went un noticed but apparently there was not fooling them. I hit the porta potty, grabbed a Perrier and a bag of bugles and we were off.
4.5 miles to go! It was surreal that I was so close to finishing. Amy kept me distracted with great conversation. I was still talking, happy, and weaving. She ran alongside of me and often held onto my hydration pack. She was so paranoid I was going to drift off the side of the trail. I am sure I look like a drunk trying to run. About two miles in, Amy said ” I have some notes I want to read you”. Instantly I began to cry and said “You are going to make me cry”. Her firm response was ” WE HAVE NO ENERGY FOR EMOTION“. I replied “OK” and quickly snapped back to my happy weaving self. Bottom line best line ever that she pulled out of her ass! Way to go Amy!
Believe it or not, the miles passed quickly. Again, I thought I was running fast, but I wasn’t. In my mind I was so that was really all that mattered. Amy kept me on the 4:2 segments. At one point, I just wanted to be done and kept running. She quickly scolded me that I need to stay on my segments and my plan. Reluctantly, I started to walk. It was my only act of defiance/rebellion towards my pacers. Given my feisty personality, this is even shocking to me.
Finally I saw a red light in the distance. I said, “Amy do you see that red light?” She said, ” There is no red light”. I said “Yes there is…..see”. Finally she saw the light! In my mind we picked up the pace. My brother in law Jon was at the head of the finish shoot and yelled to alert all we were there. OMG! I was hit with a rush of emotion and could hear my family and friends screaming. I am not sure what I said. I do remember someone dressed as a unicorn🙂 and Amy yelling ” WE HAVE NO ENERGY FOR EMOTION” over and over as we ran up the chute! I DID IT! I was done! I finished far stronger than I ever imagined possible. 100 Miles!
8th female, 1st age group 40-50, 26th overall! ( all this took me by surprise)
The Yeti 100, hands down, was the most rewarding physical and mental challenge I have ever accomplished. All miles beyond 75 were uncharted territory for me. When I finished my 75 milies at Croatan 24, I could not even fathom running another 25. Honestly, it scared the crap out of me.
I attribute my Yeti 100 success to my race preparation ( which started months in advance), run plan, along with my physical and mental preparation. I was on my mental game. I never dreaded what was ahead of me and approached it with sheer excitement from the day I registered. I knew it was going to be tough, and there was a strong possibility that I would face some some race day woes, including failure. Deep down, I was doing what I loved, running in a beautiful place with like minded crazy people. I was determined to enjoy every single mile. While there were times I was not sure if a burp would actually be a retch, I mentally willed away things that would steal my joy. Oddly, I never felt my nagging knee, perhaps it was there but I was having not part of feeling it. I was a happy, slightly emotional ( towards the end) runner for all 100 miles.
I was so fortunate to have the support of my family and friends as crew. As I reflect back, would my experience have been different without them? 100%! Seeing them out on the course was a true mental boost and I looked forward to it. My Pacers were an absolute game changer. They were excellent! So fresh and committed to getting me to the finish line. Those dark hours would have been so different without them. They all kept me chatting and laughing. I am certain, everyone heard us coming. Perhaps this is what scared away the wildlife.
Two weeks post Yeti, I am still giddy with excitement with what I accomplished. I am thrilled to have such a strong 100 mile finish behind me. I know in the ultra running world, I have a lot of challenges ahead of me and certainly some DNF’s. It’s all part of the lure that keeps me coming back. If it was easy, everyone would do it. I am motivated by the sheer fact that failure is a strong possibility.
Will I do another 100? Absolutely!
When…..I don’t know.
Whats next? Gosh……I am struggling with that questions right now.
For now…I was bask in the glory of my shinny kick ass buckle!
Here are some misc pictures:) The course is BEAUTIFUL, since I had run the course twice before, I made the conscience decision race day not to slow my roll with pictures. I was taking it old school and searing the images in my mind!