Two weeks before the race, I didn't know I was going to run the Pistol Ultra 100 miler. I was planning on running a 24 hour race. Unfortunately, during that week, a lot happened and I was told that the 24 hour race may or may not occur, and so I messaged Will Jorgensen if he would allow me to participate in the race. I even 'promised' him that I would break the course record. He was gracious and said that as long as I gave him the heads up a week before the race, he would get me in. After finally getting word that the 24 hour race was officially cancelled, I had 1 week to prepare for this 100 mile race. I would be carrying a pack while running as it was a 10 mile 'looped' course. Things were not as I planned and so I had to make the best of the situation. Although the course was 'flat', compared to a track it was still hilly, and knowing that, I immediately began my mental training to slow down the pace slightly to that of the course. I had one week before the race, and a lot of time to think about it.
The Pistol Ultra Run is run on the paved greenway in Alcoa, TN. The start and finish is located at Alcoa High School (which is on top of a hill) and it goes out on a lollipop (out and back with a loop at the other end) for a little over 9 miles, and then on the other side, the 100 milers go down and back to make the full loop exactly 10 miles. Down the long out and back, we would go on mostly flat terrain, with a few rolling hills, and the first aid station we would come across would be a little over 2 miles away from the start, while the second would be about 4 miles from the start. Being a greenway, it was easy to run, and there were only a few places that I would never want to run in a 100 miler.
5 Pairs of ASICS Road Hawk FF (first time racing in them)
KT Tape (to wrap my feet to support the arches)
Nike Combat Compression Shorts
Underarmour compression shirt
OrangeMud endurance pack (to carry all my foods)
SWORD (the only drink I would carry in my pack)
Red Bull (for the extra caffeine boost)
Ben Gay (instead of warming up, I use this guy to relax my muscles)
Peanut Butter Crackers
Pickle Juice (because hey, lets stop cramping)
My favorite Buff that I got from Sinister 7
iPod Shuffle (when the going gets tough)
Yurbuds Focus 200 Earphones
I had the best people around. My sisters and their husbands. They knew exactly what I wanted, and I left with them a notebook with the details of what they needed to do for me. I am blessed to have a supportive, efficient team/family that would support me and get me out without wasting too much time at the 'camp'.
As the course was basically a 10 mile loop, I calculated that with minimal stoppage at the aide stations, I would only need 1200 mL for the big loop, and mainly eat the 2 crackers every 2 miles while stopping for drinking every mile to make sure I don't go too fast. At the aide stations, I would only drink a cup of coca-cola or pickle juice, and then when I come back with an empty bladder, I would throw the bladder at my sisters as I did the small out and back at the back half of the course, and when I came back to 'tent city' they would have everything prepared. I would use that time to walk, drink pickle juice and coca-cola, put the endurance pack on, and then once I reached the 10 mile mark, I'd go off again and repeat it. After every 2 laps, I would switch shoes, and take a 20 second breather, but I would be off again. After finishing mile 40 and mile 80, I would try to jolt myself forward by drinking Red Bull. I would start the race close to an 8 minute per mile pace, and as the day drug on, I would slow down at a decent rate, and coast til the finish to finish before midnight (On Friday night, I guessed that I would finish at 15:30... but my PR was 17:30, so I had no idea what was possible)
Before the race, I was hit by nerves because I wasn't fully mental prepared, and I knew I had enough people out there that would support me, so I mass texted, FB statused, and IG storied for encouragement, and from there, the nervousness I had within me was forcefully expelled and I was able to listen to some crazy songs that I usually don't listen to and got myself to my bed to sleep. Waking up at 6:00am, I gave myself 1 hour to prepare and leave at 7:00am to get to the race at about 7:30am. I got everything ready, and ate a small breakfast and listened to some crazy loud songs and got there and set up my table with my friend Chris.
Lap 1-2: Nervous, but Easy
Before the countdown began, I meandered to the front, all lathered up in a minty smell, I stood beside James Barnard and Ron Wireman, two super speedy local runner friends of mine. When the countdown started and the race started, I cruised forward at my pace, because, after all, this was MY race and I was only running against myself. 5 minutes before us, the 50k runners were set loose, so I decided it would be nice to catch them bit by bit, and that I did. Forcing myself to walk at the first mile was nice because it was me displaying to everyone that I was doing my own race (and it was also an announcement to myself). As I went out and greeted and encouraged everyone out and back, I felt pretty good. I wasn't sure if I was ready, but the only way I know how to find out is to run ahead and try. Ron eventually caught up with me on the return trip, and as my running pace was faster, I would end up going ahead of him until my walk point, at which he would catch up and pass me (he was running the 100k) and so we chatted a good bit on the way. I saw a lot of other friends at the race and it was a fun mad gathering of people and I totally enjoyed the run, and as I came back. At this point, the weather was on point, a little cloudy and a little sunny and the temperature was just perfect. I finished the first two laps at about 80-85 minutes per lap, a pace I was confident in.
At this point, it had started to get hot, so I took off my t-shirt and as I ran on, I began noticing how hot it was getting. I eventually took off my underarmour shirt and just ran with my pack (I received a wonderful pack-tan, courtesy of OrangeMud). I had slowed down slightly because of my plan, but I was still going at a fairly decent clip, as I was feeling strong... but it was getting really hot. I had experienced heat exhaustion in prior races and I started taking notes on what I needed to watch out for... but I felt pretty good. I kept on at a decent clip, finishing the loops in 85-90 min. I was still gliding smoothly and still had enough energy, but with the heat, I did my best to drink enough... and on my 5th lap, I noticed a huge problem. I had stopped sweating. This was not good. My body temperature was going to go high and I would have nothing to help me. Just because I felt good didn't mean that things were going in a good direction. I finished my 50th mile at 7:00:00 (8:24 min/mile pace) and knew that this would not continue, so I had to make sure to keep the next half safe.
Lap 6-7: Can I Recover from this?
It was during my 6th lap that I started feeling my body slowly break down, and though my body was running at cruise control, my heart beat was getting a little bit out of whack, and my energy started depleting. As it was 3:00pm when I started this portion of the race, it was still hot. I'm not sure when the hottest part of the day was (which was at 74 degrees), but I knew that I was suffering from the temperature. As I wasn't drinking enough, my body wasn't functioning as efficiently as I could. I knew I was still going at a fairly decent pace, ready for a course record, but if I didn't take care of myself, I would end up on the side of the road out... and so after my 6th lap, I stopped a little because I knew I was screwed. Normally, I'd have this feeling at about 70 miles into a 100 mile race, but today was different. 60 miles in, I was slightly overheated, didn't have enough water or food in me, and my stomach wasn't in the best of shape. My 7th lap was going to be a hard one, but I went on. Instead of worrying too much about the other laps I would have to run after this, I needed to make sure I ran this lap as best as I could, knowing that slowing down will cost me. I continued on at a slower pace (being close to 6:00pm at this time) and I looked around and thought, everyone else is suffering as much as I am, so I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. Let's run to the nearest person and encourage them and push forward and continue to fake it til I make it. I'm pretty sure it was at this lap that I stopped at Woody's Aid station and ate popsicles and put ice in my buff and water on my head... and wow, that made a difference. I didn't feel any more dead than when I started the race... just about the same amount of dead. I kept at it, and before I knew it, somehow found my way back to the starting line to get ready for my 8th lap.
Lap 8-10: The Real Story (this one's a long one....)
I still had 3 laps, and my body was recovering from the heat beat down, but I had minimized the break down, and so I was not doing 'badly' but I was at hour 10 and change, and I needed to finish the next three laps in 5:30 to get to my goal. That was about a ten minute mile to the finish, and so I figured I could just run this one at a 9 min mile and the next at a 10 min mile, and the final at a 11 minute mile and so I went off. I continued onward and thought I was going at a decent clip. However, when I made it back, I was even more exhausted, and I held onto a 10 minute pace, and I didn't know if I could go any faster. I believe it was around this time when there was lightning and rain and a little hail, but that didn't bother me. I welcomed it as I had put on another underarmour shirt. At this point, my willpower started dying and I hoped that the rain could somewhat revive me. I had 20 miles to go and the 10 minutes per mile pace was already killing me. The pace to go at that speed was too much, and so when Mary Cates came up to me and asked how I was doing, I told her that I didn't think I could make it... hope was draining out of me. She looked straight at me and told me to go on. She told me that nothing was decided, and so I hobbled onward... and as I kept on going, that hobble turned into a run, and I continued pushing at that pace. I came here to chase after a record. Not to give up 20 miles before the finish without even trying. But slowly, that momentum too died down, and so did my pace.... but all of a sudden, a multitude of faces poured into my head. It was the faces of those I coached, the faces of those that knew I was out here, the faces of those who sent me texts of encouragement, the faces of those who supported me during the race, the faces of those running with me, the faces of those who knew my story. I wasn't there for my own personal glory. I was there to show them all something, that one can persevere through hardships and conquer it. That despite the hard times, you can look at pain and suffering straight in their faces and give them the middle finger as you scream and press forward. I chose this and I was going all the way to the end to finish what I came to do... and so that spark became a light. Each step I took forward, I became a little more exhausted, I felt like I was slowly getting choked, and wires gripped my muscles. I continued forward determined that I would go at that pace or die trying. On the way back, I had caught up to one of the 50 mile runners who was going at a decent clip, and so my focus was only on him. I followed him like a possessed man, knowing that this was the only way I could get back to the end in time, and as I caught him and made small talk with him, he told me something that instantly made my life better. He said he was going to support me and help me get to the end and get that course record. We ran on. We met another guy on the way, and he also joined in on the mission. I was going at their pace, and despite my weariness and negative attitude, I pushed that aside because now I had people that were willing to put up with me and help. We went on to finish the 9th lap, and I threw off my OrangeMud pack to run without being held down for the last 10 miles, and drank a lot of liquids, knowing that this last push would be it. I had 1:40:00 left and 10 miles to go. We three went at it. Mark Rollins (the first dude) talked about how he ran earlier that day and today would be his second race, and was visibly excited about the mission, and kept the group lively. Doug Slater (who ended up winning the 50 mile race) let me mutter, "this freaking sucks" and 'yell' helped with the pace, but even with all that support, I felt like giving up... but they didn't let me. I couldn't let them waste their time on me, and with their race and everyone else in mind, I had to push through. I was running for more than myself. I was running for everyone that supported me and everyone who could be encouraged by this story. At the turnaround point, Mark could not keep up and told us to go ahead without him, and so Doug and I pursued my goal and kept on going and going. Throughout the last 15 miles, I didn't really stop except for the 'huge' incline and aide stations so this was really taxing, and as the noose around my neck felt tighter, I was closer to the finish line. I continued pushing at that pace and with 2.5 miles to go, I knew this was going to be okay. I was going to make it. I maintained that pace and continued towards the goal. Once I reached the top of the hill, it was the small out and back, and so I went down, and on the way up, I felt my quads start to seize up, so I told Doug to go ahead, I would walk up and then run the last bit once I reached the top... and I did. I came up the hill, started running, and then at the finish line, I crossed the mat at 15:24:56.3 a new personal record, a new course record, and so very glad to be finished.
First of all, without the support of my crew (Maika, Mary, Nathan, Tim), I would not have been able to make it through. They are THE BEST crew in the world. Will Jorgensen and Mary Cates totally rocked as they made the race so epic. Jeff Woody and his crew, as well as ALL my Haw Ridge friends made my run easier as they all supported. Also, thanks to the Pistol Pic Peeps (Misty, Samantha, Kenneth, Ethan) because they were taking thousands and thousands of pictures of all the runners. I have so many other friends and family that I would love to thank because each one of them supported me during the last 3 laps. OrangeMud has been awesome in allowing me to use their pack, and rep them as well as SWORD with their drinks (Berry is best) because I made it through even though I wasn't making the smartest decisions. I still have so much to learn, but with the support of so many, this time, I challenged, I fought, I persevered, and I was able to succeed.