October 11, 2013 by trailcats
June 1st. That was the date of my last long run – 31 miles in the sweltering heat of DC at the North Face Endurance Challenge. A presumed tibial stress fracture kept me from running for three months after that. At first it was really hard to cut back on running. I felt like I had all this pent-up energy and took up riding my bike a few times. Eventually I succumbed to the couch potato life. It didn’t take long – I fully embraced it in the end. Ten pounds later it was September and I was ready to try running again. I maybe did four 4-mile runs, two 10-mile runs and one 12 mile run – and felt pretty ok. Nothing really hurt – except my time. I was moving pretty slowly, what with the months of inactivity and the extra 10 pounds and all.
Meanwhile Harley started running again in mid-July. He was still preparing to run the StumpJump 50k in Chattanooga, TN that we signed up for back in February or so. I was still on the fence – until the week of. I mean, I had one hell of a taper!
As always – races mean getting up way too damn early. So at 4AM on Saturday, 10/5/13 – we obeyed our alarm clocks and got moving. The joy of being me, means I get to sleep while Harley drives. I woke to the car swerving right and left up the winding road to Signal Mountain . The temperature dropped 10 degrees from Chattanooga to the start of the race and we were stoked. I had a little pre-race fuel in the form of my friend and coworker Angela’s awesome Simply Chopped bars.
We hopped out of the car and did all the usual race day rigamarole like putting on shoes, getting race bib and race packet, going to the bathroom no fewer than seven times – wishing that one would be a two. We ran into Kyle at the start of the race and felt like we were getting back in the groove seeing people we know. Which shouldn’t be hard to do as this was the largest 50k we’ve ever done – close to 600 people signed up.
Yes, 587 signed up. But only 448 started. How many people finished you ask? 343. There were over 100 DNFs. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Here’s what happened.
1. The course was harder than I anticipated. Sure I saw the elevation profile – but remember – I am not as fit as I once was – and these were some hills. And nothing winds me quite as much as hiking fast up a steep hill. I’m guessing the newbies were caught off guard too. A big race like this attracts a lot of first time ultra peeps. As soon as I realize I’m trying to keep pace with a newbie, I back off – it means I’m probably going too fast. They don’t know this yet. I wish they wouldn’t quit – walking is always an option – hence the running phrase – relentless forward motion.
2. There were yellow jackets. Lots of them. The first bite I got was on my hand. One of the little effers got under my water bottle strap and was attached to my hand for awhile. That was my first loud f-bomb while running amongst strangers. My second-thru-eleventh f-bomb began when someone in front of said, Uh Oh, Yellow Jackets! Run! Well EFF. I took in the situation and said EFF It and ran – waving my arms like I was batshit crazy. I had one rather large hornet vs yellow jacket stuck to my running tights. So I walked away with a mere 3 stings, Harley 2, and one unfortunate son of a Bee got stung ELEVEN times and an even more unfortunate guy told me at least one went up his shorts – Yee-OUCH!
I am still scratching my left thigh inappropriately in public almost a week later. When neither ChiggerEx nor hydrocortisone worked – Harley went to google and heard about taping a penny to the bite. We both discovered that it did work – to the extent that we didn’t scratch the area the size of, say a penny. But we sure as hell did when we took it off!
3. It got hot. It got hot (87F) and humid (78%) and man, was I an unhappy cat. I got so hot that I started getting chilled. I had to think – do I quit? Cause lord knows I’m beat. Do I walk? Well hell, if I walk, then I have to be out in the H/H even longer. No, I’ll just run. Slowly – but forward. Luckily there were awesome volunteers at each of the aid stations – and the AS were plentiful – every 3-5 miles. But only one had the ice. And luckily I wore my favorite Headsweats hat that held some ice atop my noggin. And some ice went in the sports bra, too. Luckily there is lots of room in mine for ice.
Harley suffered from severe leg cramps, likely secondary to poor electrolyte replacement. Despite his pain, he powered through and revealed his inner SuperMan.
So did we finish? Hell yeah, we finished. It definitely wasn’t our best showing but we did it – and proved to ourselves that we are back in the game! We also enjoyed hanging out with Brooke, RunBum, and Kyle afterwards.
By the numbers –
Holly 7:02, 19th female (out of 64 who finished), 142nd overall.
Harley 8:06, 253rd overall
It was a tough course for sure but it reminded me of why I sign up for this crazy stuff. I love running trails, meeting other people who like running trails, pushing myself to a ridiculous limit, being a little competitive, and eatingeatingeatingeating!