May 17, 2015 by trailcats
by Harley Adams
I signed up for Thunder Rock 100 2015. Last year went so well, so why not repeat?
- I was unable to run without pain for the previous 4 months—mostly from a couch injury where I hurt my knee while holding a baby. But I starting feeling better the week or two going into the race so felt optimistic. The balance between health and fitness is delicate.
- No crew this time…we decided drops bags work, and it made better sense for Holly to be with Baby W instead of sitting around all night waiting for to see me every 5 hours. There are enough runners on the trail and well-stocked aid stations that this isn’t a worry. One of my compatriots, Mike Richie, signed up on the last day and ran solo—and beat his time from a year ago.
- McDonald’s breakfast—my pre-race meal was an Egg McMuffin. It was the first time eating at the McDonald’s nearest my house since moving here 10 years ago.
- The course was reversed with some slight tweaks. Lots of talk about which was better. On one hand, the logistics worked great with finish line at Raft One (especially for those with no crew). On the other hand, it sure would have been nice to have been able to time the best section of trail during the day. Either way, it’s 100+ miles of trail.
- After watching the weather forecast for 10 days lowering the chance of rain to the point of optimism, we had a gusher 18 miles into the race that made for some sloppy trails. Just know it’s going to rain on race day. Otherwise, not hot and not cold at night—great temps for a run.
- Trail running is epitomized by the informality of the start. We were all just milling about when we heard a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. This was the least casual start I’ve been part of, beating out the Cruel Jewel start where Willy “Nature Boy” Syndram found a stick and drew a line in the dirt and said “go” (link).
- This race has a mix of forest road, old overgrown logging (?) roads, and technical Appalachian trains. I wish it had more trails and less overgrown logging roads, but over 100 miles, the wide berths are a mental break.
- I made a late switch to Holly’s headlamp. New batteries, so I didn’t think about how long they would last on the brightest setting. I ended up burning through them on smooth dirt roads and at 3am or so it started to dim. I went into conserve mode when I needed bright light the most. I had a tiny handheld light as backup, but it didn’t have a fresh battery, so had to muddle in dim light for hours hoping I could make it to dusk. There was no moon, and the stars were bright, but with no light it was as black as it gets. I think I had 15 minutes to spare when the stars started to fade into morning.
- I wish I had done three things better: 1) test my duct tape supply—I wasn’t able to unfurl it when I needed to apply to hot spot on feet, which would have really helped pain, 2) manage the light situation better…especially putting my other headlamp in a drop bag instead of leaving it in car, and 3) have an extra supply of lube for that special spot all true ultra runners know.
My first DNF A day later, I have no regrets…I don’t think I had a choice, and the soft-tissue swelling today confirms it was more than a cramp. After battling with my cranky calf for 25 miles, even walking slow was becoming difficult. My pace dropped rapidly in the last few miles before the 82-mile aid station, so a crawl to the finish would have pushed the time limit anyway. Like everybody else running with wet feet for 20+ hours, my feet were on fire, and glad to go along with the drop.
- A handful of people passed me in the miles before I dropped, which gives me a warm fuzzy to think I was in 22nd place (about 125 entrants this year) when I dropped, and would have had a pretty good showing if not for the injury. I think right about mile 55 when I started to realize I could improve my time by a couple of hours from last year was when I first had to hold back on runnable trail due to injury. Dang it.
- Entering an ultra like this means committing to pain and persistence. So quitting hurts the ego a bit. But then I realize I don’t really care about buckles or ultrasignup.com rankings. I really like being on the trail, so that will be my next event. I can’t wait.