Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell, 2009

Bryon Powell over at super awesome ultra blog asked me to write a short response to these two questions:

"What 2009 running moments are you proudest of? What in your running life you are most thankful for?"

My response, as well as others from ultra elites and everywomen/men, can be found here.

Writing back to Bryon gave me the chance to reflect on 2009 and what it meant to me personally, professionally, and in my running life. I am so proud of my kids and what they have accomplished this year, and I am proud that Rusty and I have been able to raise mindful, thoughtful, and compassionate teenagers despite all the mixed messages they get from their peers and the media. Professionally... I am very proud of a few new programs and initiatives I have organized that will benefit the health and well-being of my students, and grateful to work for and with people who believe in me and have confidence in me. I love my school, my students, and my colleagues!

As for my running life... despite getting older and busier (see above), I am proud that I was able to run a few course PRs at a variety of distances: 5k (20:30 on the hilliest 5K course in town); 50K (5:42 at Potomac Heritage 50K in cold, wet conditions); and 100K (14:58 at Hellgate 100K). I attribute this ramp up in speed during the second half of 2009 to my huge miles from Grindstone training over the summer coupled with more longer hill repeats and harder track workouts thanks to AJW's coaching plan. I also recovered well from Gstone, taking a full week off post-race and then no speed or tempo for 4 weeks. This recovery plan made a huge difference for Hellgate and I am using it right now as I recover and get ready for 2010. My oldest son graduates from high school this year, and will be off to college in August. This will dictate my race planning, as I will have a lot on my plate this spring with school, coaching, and "senior year" parent stuff. As a result, I am focusing on just one key race this spring, the Terrapin 50K in March, and then just training through and volunteering at other ultras. Over the years I have figured out that trying to race in April and May, while juggling coaching, work, and parenting, as well as heat acclimation, is not a good recipe for me. It is better to train in January and February for a March key race, then scale back for a push at Highland Sky 40 in June (my second key race).

I will not be training for a 100 miler this year, but I plan to refer to my 100 miler training cycles as I go for a sub-9:30 at Masochist in November(key race #3). I love the challenges of going for course PRs, and this will be my fourth Masochist and third attempt at the sub-9:30. In 2006 I ran 9:40 and in 2007 I ran 9:34, so the challenge is set!

Finally, if all goes well and I emerge from Masochist injury-free, I am considering running a road marathon (gasp!). A few of my ultra buddies and I helped out at the inaugural Three Bridges Marathon a few weeks ago, and it was a blast. Low-key, flat and fast, this race is the closest thing to an ultra in vibe. We had an aid station with hot chocolate and soup, and were able to jump in to pace runners at any time since it was a four-loop course. The course followed a beautiful rushing stream and was very serene...perfect for my first road marathon since 2003. My marathon PR is 3:28, set at Richmond in 2001. I am curious to see what the ultra training effect will do...can I run a PR nine years later? We shall see!

I am very thankful for so many things in my running life. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...

thankful for my VHTRC peeps (shown here causing trouble at the VHTRC Gap-to-Gap training run, 1-09)

thankful for my Charlottesville training buddies, Bill and Quatro, shown here with Jack, Stephie, Bess and Robin on Q's birthday run on the AT, 1-09

thankful for fabulous trails like the Rivanna Trail, 1-09

and The Wild Oak Trail, 2-09

thankful for the Catawba Run-Around, the defining run of my ultra career back in 2004, and one that I am happy to share each year with new friends--here are Rebecca Byerly and Bobby Gill atop McAfee's Knob, 3-09

thankful for the chance to pace Marlin Yoder at MMT 100...what an honor! 5-09

thankful for redemption at Capon Valley 50K after my Bull Run Run drop, 5-09

thankful for the chance to run the Priest and Three Ridges with good friends, with the mountain laurel in full bloom, 6-09

thankful that racing gave me the chance to bond with Michelle Harmon at Highland Sky 40 as we brought it in for third place, 6-09

thankful for more bonding with Michelle, Bobby, and Marc Griffin at Catherine's Fat Ass 50k, 7-09

thankful for new ultra friends who "get it" like Hallie, who was totally hooked after suffering through Martha Moats Baker 50K, 8-09

thankful that I could train for Grindstone with Rusty and watch his reaction to the climb up Chimney Hollow, here with Quatro, 9-09

thankful for the endless support of my family and students, here at the Grindstone finish line, 10-09

thankful to be able to share the ultra life with Virginia while volunteering at the SMUT 50K, shown here with Gary Knipling, 10-09

thankful for a reunion of friends old and new at the Mountain Masochist 50+ finish line, here with David Horton and Bethany Patterson, 11-09

thankful I can share the pain and pleasure of a tough 5K with Virginia and Carter, here at the Boar's Head Turkey Trot 5K, 11-09

thankful for annual training runs with the VHTRC, here at Vicki's Death March, 11-09

thankful for the chance to experience my fifth Hellgate 100K sunrise over Headforemost Mountain, 12-09

I am also so, so, so thankful to the folks at inov-8, who selected me to be a member of Team inov-8 for 2010. I am very excited to be representing a company that supports the very best of the ultra life: competitive yet inclusive, committed to excellence yet down to earth, and environmentally conscious. I look forward to being an active ambassador for inov-8 and grateful for this amazing opportunity!

As the waning moments of 2009 drift away, I would like to wish my family, friends, and readers a very healthy, happy, and safe 2010. Thank you for your positive vibes, shout-outs, and support. I can't wait to share new adventures on the trail and in cyberspace with you in the new year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spending time in the Pain Cave at Hellgate 2009

Readers of this blog will know that I put it out there on my previous post: my BHAG. This is an acronym used in the business world that stands for "Big Hairy Audacious Goal."

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.
—Collins and Porras, 1996

My BHAG for Hellgate #5 was to break 15 hours after coming very close in 2006 with a 15:16 and then again in 2008 with a 15:03. I came into this year's race enjoying the training effect from summer 100-miler training and Grindstone 100 in October, and I scored two PRs in a 50K and a hilly 5K in the last month to boost my confidence. Plus, race night fell on my 47th birthday...what better way to celebrate than to bust it loose and break 15?

Over the years I have become well-acquainted with the Hellgate course. One could say we have a "love/hate" relationship... I love the course but hate certain sections. "Familiarity breeds contempt" might be an even better way to describe my feelings for Hellgate: the more I struggled for the sub-15 benchmark, the more determined (and frustrated) I became. I know exactly where I typically run strong and where I typically fall apart. So this year, in setting up this BHAG, the plan was to minimize my mistakes from the past and capitalize on my fitness. I focused on all the areas within my control: fitness, nutrition, rest, equipment, and attitude. The areas of the race out of my control were weather and trail conditions (and, of course, the chance that I might fall and get injured. Fortunately I only fell twice with no lasting effects). I accepted it was going to be cold, wet in places, and possibly icy and/or covered in leaves. I knew about the Devil Trail, and was ready to take it on.

The Devil Trail: 3 miles of rocks, leaves, off-camber trail and rocks.

If there was ever a year for me to achieve this BHAG, this was it. I am in the shape of my life thanks to a summer of 100 miler training set up by Andy Jones-Wilkins. Andy had me running more weekly miles, more intense track ladders, and more hill repeats than ever before. Adding the Grindstone 100 into the mix, a few longer runs in late November and swimming and pool running 2-3 times a week since early October helped me stay stretched out and injury free. I was also mentally ready to start spending time in the Pain Cave. I read up a lot on sports psychology and training and the concept of getting comfortable while being uncomfortable is something I totally buy into. I coach my lacrosse players to embrace this mindset so Hellgate presented me with the chance to walk/run the talk!

The first half of Hellgate is the toughest---the most climbing, no daylight, and long sections on knarly trail. But there are also long sections of gravel roads which I tried to run whenever I could. If it was at all runnable, I ran it. That became one of many mantras for the race---"Run the Runnable Stuff." I also took advantage of the long downhills and tried to hammer those sections without trashing my quads. By the midway point, I was feeling great on the climbs but my right hip flexor was screaming, so the downhills were slower than I wanted. Donna Utakis, last year's womens champ, came into Headforemost Mountain AS (mile 22) right behind me and we started the process of leapfrogging one another. She was feeling great on the downs while I was hammering the ups, but we managed to stay near the other and this was perfect as it kept me focused and moving.

Donna Utakis enjoying the climb in the Forever section--NOT!

This was the key to my race, hands down. I drank about 1200 calories from Perpetuem Cafe Latte (absolutely the most de-lish flavor sport drink ever), and had the rest come from mix of Hammergel, Clif Shots, EFS, Sharkies, Clif Bloks, three egg mini-quiches and half a plain burger (which was personally delivered, with Horton's permission, 200 yards up the trail by John Cassilly, my de-facto crew at mile 43). The "real food"--eggs and the burger-- came at crucial points in the race and combined with the other gel products, provided me with a grand total of about 3800 calories for 15 hours, which is 230 calories an hour. Perfect!


I am in awe of the Hellgate finishers who are also Beast Series finishers. After running the Grindstone 100 in October, they also run the Mountain Masochist 50 in November! There is no way I could attempt to run a decent, competitive time at Hellgate if I didn't take a long recovery after Grindstone. Rest and recovery are essential to my training, so after Gstone I ran very little save for a 50K, a 5K, a few 4+ hour runs and a few track workouts. The rest of the days were filled with sleeping in and pool running/swimming. I took at least one day off a week and often two days, and came into Hellgate feeling very rested and eager to race---always a good sign!


Yeah, it was cold out there. At the pre-race meeting we were told to expect temperatures overnight in the low teens and only in the 30s/low 40s during the day. Fortunately we had very little wind, and the trail conditions were a bit wet but not bad. In fact, we ran through an inch of lovely, soft snow for a few miles on the Promise Land 50K section of the course, and had a few icy patches where I lost it and ended up on my rump, but overall conditions were perfect for a race. I wore the same race kit that I wore in 2006 when we had similar conditions: Underarmour tank top, Patagonia Capilene Zip-top, Patagonia fleece vest, Sugoi jacket, Patagonia beanie, Injinji toe socks, and Arcterex gloves. No problems at all staying warm, and I shed my jacket and vest at mile 40. One tip that worked well was to stuff my hydration pack hose down into my tank top to keep it from icing up...this worked like a charm, though my bottle top froze and I had to unscrew it every time I wanted to drink from it.

Sunrise over Headforemost Mountain--it was about 7:00 am and 15 degrees, the coldest period of the race


A few days before the race I happened upon an Endurance Planet podcast that featured Krissy Moehl and Lisa Smith-Batchen talking about goal setting in ultras. Krissy and Lisa are two of the most humble and inspiring ultrarunners today and the wisdom they shared in the interview became a key component of my BHAG plan. Krissy talked about how she likes to look at racing other women as "competing with" as opposed to "competing against" and I really liked that idea. I am competitive. Anyone who knows me, or who has watched me race or coach lacrosse can attest to that. But I also embrace the idea of synergy, or working together for a common goal. When Donna came upon me at Headforemost, I didn't realize how instrumental she would be in helping me achieve my goal, but I knew I wanted to take Krissy's advice to heart and race WITH her. We would chat a bit, laugh when I fell (again), commiserate, and then run. She was really fast on the technical downhills while I was strong on the climbs. When we came into Bearwallow Gap (mile 43) together, Horton yelled, "It's a race!" But I shook my head and said, "Nope! She's helping me break 15!" and he was bummed, I think. He likes races, and I like collaboration.

A true BHAG...serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit

As we left Bearwallow, I knew the next three sections would be the key to achieving a sub-15. Over the years I had always had problems- stomach, energy, attitude--in these sections, so the mantra now was, "Let's spend some time in the Pain Cave." I had to move really well and run as much as possible, and it was important to reach Bobblett's Gap (mile 49) by 12 noon (I got there at 11:55), and Day Creek (mile 56) by 1:45. Donna had been moving really well on the downhill from Bobblett's but I was pulling away on the climbs in Day Creek, so she waved me on and I started to hammer. I got to the Day Creek AS at 1:47 and didn't stop. My mind was racing with the math and I knew I had to run 1:12 on the last 6+ mile section. In the past it took me anywhere from 1:15 and longer, depending on my attitude. This time I was ready. I sighted Brad Birkholz, Jarett Tighe, Justin Faul, and Jack Kurisky about 50 yards ahead and made reaching them my goal. I ran as much as I could, but at times it was so steep that walking was more efficient. "Every step counts" was all I could tell myself.

A true BHAG is clear and compelling

I wasn't looking behind me, I wasn't racing someone else, only the course and the clock. I asked myself, "do you have the courage to do this?" Spending time in the Pain Cave means not being afraid to go to the edge, to experience discomfort, and to take a risk. As I reached the top of the climb, I asked the guys to help me run it in for a sub-15. They smiled. "We've got this" one of them said. The time of day at the top with 3+ miles to go was 2:27. We had to run 32:59 to make it. Brad took off, then Jack. Justin and Jarett followed. I tried to stay behind Jack, feeding off his energy. The "one mile to go" sign came up and I had 9:59 to run a mile. Piece of cake, right? I felt like I was running tempo pace, which is about 7:20. But as I neared the finish line it was clear I was running more in the 8s. We turned in to Camp Bethel, onto the driveway, and I knew it was about 400 yards to the finish. Jack was about 20 yards ahead and he yelled, "go Sophie!"

I will never set a course record, so this was the closest I would come to that feeling of urgency. It was exhilarating. I rounded the bend and saw the clock: 14:58 with 20 yards to go. I had done it.

People like to shoot for finish lines.

This was my last Hellgate 100K, at least for the next few years. It was my fifth finish and I achieved my BHAG, but I also missed my daughter's swim meet to race this year, so the time is right to enjoy the memories of the past five races and give back to the event as a volunteer. I have grown so much--as an ultrarunner and as a person--because of this race. Now it's time to let it go and move along the trail. Thank you, David, for another memorable adventure. They say that ultrarunning changes lives, and I know for sure that this race has changed mine.

I am so grateful to my husband and kids for their support of this crazy race...and to all the players in this year's drama: Ed Duval, JR Ankney, Donna Utakis, Jack Kurisky, Brad Birkholz, Jarett Tighe, Justin Faul, John Cassilly, George Wortley, Charlie Hesse, Susannah Greever, and of course, David Horton and his band of merry volunteers. Happy Trails to all.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Road Trip!

Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny, 50-degree day. Rusty and I packed up the FJ with his bike and my running gear and headed over to Montebello, about an hour from our house and the site of the finish line for the Mountain Masochist 54 Mile Trail Race (MMTR).

Here we met up Dan Wiggins, Carter's XC coach and our good friend. He was up for running a bit of the MMTR course and the AT, and checking out the finish line of an ultra. He was in for a treat! At 11:50, Geoff Roes, the winner, came in posting a 20+ minute CR. Here is the quiet MMTR finish line at 12:30.

We ran and biked over to the top of Crabtree Falls Meadows, and then Rusty turned around while Dan and I headed south on the AT towards Spy Rock (no bikes allowed on the AT---bummer). I had always heard of this monolith but never seen it---man, it is very cool. Incredible views of the entire MMTR course as well as the Priest and Three Ridges Wilderness from atop its 100+ yard summit:

After taking lots of pics, it was time to head down to the where the MMTR course merges with the Fish Hatchery Trail and we saw Rusty just as he was coming down from the last MMTR aid station---perfect timing!

We had fun hammering down the last miles of the race course to the finish line just in time to see the 9:45+ runners finish. MMTR is always a huge reunion of VHTRC and East Coast runners---this year, the race was dominated by Canadians (top-2 women and third male), a Californian (second male), and an Alaskan (the winner). The top-2 males and females got automatic entry into Western States---sweet! It was very fun to see my buddies finish---all seemed to have stellar races and personal best times in the perfect weather. It was also fun to see many others who spent the day crewing or playing in the woods, like me.

Jenny Anderson and Bethany Patterson

Martha Wright, scoring a huge PR

Rick Gray, my faithful blog commentator

The gang at the finish: Marc Griffin, Ed Duval, RD Clark Zealand, Martha Wright and Donna Utakis

Jenny Anderson crewed for Annette Bednosky---so glad you had a great race, Annette!

The sun went down behind the mountain around 4:15 and the finish line got cold---fast. Time to wrap it up and head down the mountain... Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, about 30 minutes from the finish line:

We met Dan's wife and daughter here and watched the sun set behind Humpback Rocks while eating fabulous veggie pizzas and drinking some yummy beverages. A perfect way to end our ultra road trip!

MMTR results and pics are here. Congratulations to all the MMTR finishers, and to Clark Zealand and his volunteers for putting on such a great event! Hmmm...I had so much fun watching the finishers celebrate, I think I'll run it next year...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grindstone 2009

It's taken me some time to wrap my head around the Grindstone 100. For one, I am still struck by how unbelievably perfect the weather was, and once again how freakingly difficult running 100 miles---and particularly this 100 miler--is, for me. More significantly, I am overwhelmed by how generous my ultra friends are with their support of one another. It was humbling and reassuring to see so many familiar faces at the pre-race meeting getting ready to mark the course, at aid stations as crew, on the trail as pacers, and coming into camp at the final hours as sweeps. I was particularly touched to find that, earlier in the summer, when I asked Marlin and Michele to crew and pace for me, neither skipped a beat. Their response was "sure thing, can't wait, it's gonna be awesome!" Wow. I am someone who resists asking for help in many facets of my life, so their generous spirit blows me away, and days later I am still humbled by it all, as I am reading emails and FB posts and cards sent in the mail by everyone congratulating me on the finish...unreal.

When I arrived at Camp Shenandoah on Friday afternoon, I felt calm excitement. It was fun to see new faces mixed with the "regulars" and I was psyched about the womens field---Donna and Elizabeth were returning and Kim, Francesca, and Ruthann would certainly push the pace a bit. Clark and David gave the pre-race talk and then it was time to get some rest and get ready...but it was hard to get some nap time as Gary and Karl M were chatting up a storm outside my tent! That's what these races are all about in the end...the connections we make with one another.

I was given lucky #13 and met up with Marlin to discuss the crew strategy. Marlin is so experienced and he ran this race last year, so I knew I was in expert hands. I had organized all my nutrition in drop bags for each aid station with instructions for each, and we debated clothing choices. I went with a skirt, tank top under a long sleeve VHTRC patagonia, and arm warmers. I packed extra jackets and tops in each drop bag and was happy to have the Mountain Hardware zip top when it got cold in the early morning---and it got cold!

We took a bunch of photos at the start and then at 6:00pm Clark said "Go!" and we were off down the hill to the lake.

Bobby Gillanders, me, and Bill Potts

Bobby Gill, me and Quatro Hubbard

The Start

My goal was to take it out nice and relaxed (as per AJW's instructions) but also a bit faster than last year in order to stay in contact with the women up towards the front. This would be a new strategy for me as I typically hang back and pick my way through the field, but last year I was too far back to make a dent so I decided to see what would happen with a faster start, especially since I came into the race fitter and faster than ever. By Dowells Draft, mile 22, I was almost an hour ahead of last year's splits and feeling calm and relaxed. The moon was finally out from beneath the clouds and would follow us all night, and at times throughout the night I thought a runner was approaching with their lights, but it was only the moon lighting up the trail...and at one point, when I was dealing with a bad patch climbing up Little Bald, I was inspired by these words from a favorite song:

When I was young I spoke like a child, and I saw with a child's eyes
And an open door was to a girl like the stars are to the sky
It's funny how the world lives up to all your expectations
With adventures for the stout of heart, and the lure of the open spaces

There's two lanes running down this road, whichever side you're on
Accounts for where you want to go, or what you're running from
Back when darkness overtook me on a blind man's curve

I relied upon the moon, I relied upon the moon
I relied upon the moon and Saint Christopher

Fittingly, my St. Christopher's medal around my neck (my reward for finishing MMT100 in 2005) clinked with my "Run and Play" charm with each stride and became a calming reminder all night of these words--and perhaps was a bear deterrent, to boot!

As I approached the mile 37 aid station I was really pleased with how I was feeling---again an hour faster than last year and no stomach issues. I got in and out in a flash after being weighed and switching flasks (EFS) and bottles(Perpetuem Caffe Latte), and it was great to have the VHTRC crews pitch in the help.

Kim was a few minutes ahead but I was not concerned about racing---just getting up Little Bald in one piece. This is a 2-3 hour climb and very lonely and tough. I found myself needing to stop and rest to get my heart rate down and that was the first sign that the wheels were spinning a bit. At the top, I passed by Martha Moats Baker's grave and said a little prayer for her. It was cold and lonely up there, and I was looking for the lights and sounds of JB and Hilary Basham's aid station. I finally got there three hours after leaving the last AS and was ready for some warm food, so I sucked down some chicken noodle soup and went on towards Reddish Knob and the turn around. Night time was almost over, yeah!

A few miles later, after more soup at the base of Reddish Knob, I climbed to the top to see the most spectacular sight: the big moon on the West Virginia side and the rising sun on the Virginia side. Wow. This was definitely worth the 50 miles to get here!! I met Marlin at the next AS and grabbed the camera---I couldn't run the rest of this race without documenting all the glory around me.
I was having an energy lull at this point---dawn had come, I was getting sleepy and the shin I nicked on a rock at mile 23 was starting to act up. My attitude was bad and I just kept telling myself, "relentless forward motion..." I got to the Gnashing Knob AS and sat by the fire, had some more soup, and got ready for the return home.Marlin ran with me on this section, and it was fun to see so many friends coming in---Bill and Bobby G looked awesome, as did Sniper, Rick Gray, Mario, and Adam who were all coming back from fighting their demons. I love that! Finally I saw Gary and Dave and while they looked tired, I had no doubt they would soldier on.When I got back to JB's aid station at mile 58, they were out of eggs but Hilary handed me an awesome blueberry pancake---man, that was the best! The Basham aid station is my favorite because JB knows what every runner needs from his incredible experience crewing for Andrew Thompson's AT speed record attempt as well as Barkley. Thanks JB and Hilary!! After this aid station I took some great pics, including one of the southern Massanutten Mountain, shrouded in morning fog:

Coming down Little Bald *should* have felt good after all that climbing and road but it was a struggle. My quads were screaming and it was too early in the game for that to happen, and my anterior tibialis, bruised when I fell at mile 23, was tightening up with all the downhill pounding. I also noticed that my wedding rings were really tight around my finger--a sure sign of too much chicken noodle soup and other electrolytes. I did a mental inventory and decided that at the next as I would switch out the Nuun for plain water, I would lube and change my socks, and I would get an ice massage on the quads. In addition, I knew Michele would be there ready to pace me and that her company would be key to my race.
Sure enough, as soon as Michele and I got rolling out of the aid station I started to make some time up and feel better. The climb up to Lookout Mountain is long and in the hottest part of the day, and we did sit a few times to get the heart rate down. Susannah gave me a great quad massage at the Lookout AS (mile 72) and Wendy was a star in getting us fed and hydrated just as Jay Finkle caught us. Jay would run with us for the rest of the race before he took off down Elliott's Knob at the end--fantastic run by Jay!

We were making great time and Michele showed me why she is such the star pacer---every time I started to run she would comment "great job, Sophie" and like a lab rat, I responded to the positive reinforcement without questioning. My long ladders on the track and tough tempo runs (thanks, Andy!) were beginning to pay off and soon we were hammering down Dowells Draft before entering the AS (mile 18) a few minutes ahead of Ruthann, who came in 5 minutes after we did...RACE ON!

Marlin worked his magic and got me in and out and soon Jay, Michele and I were across Rte 250 and the last 18 miles were beckoning. We had a gorgeous sunset over the Deerfield Valley on our right and a long climb ahead up Chimney Hollow, but we were passing people right and left on the climb up and soon we were descending into Dry Branch Gap with a 30 minute improvement over last year's split---whooo-hoo! Marlin was stoked for us and we got our food and went---I think we were in there for 2 minutes max which is waaaayyy better than last year when I spent 20 minutes there whining. Nothing like a little competition to add a spark to the last 20 miles of a race!

The moon was out and it got dark on us at the top of Elliott's, which is a nasty technical section. I was glad Jay was with us as I was happy to just be quiet and listen while Michele and Jay chatted. This section seemed never ending with all the rocks and when we got to the fire road, Jay took off down the mountain and Michele taught me how to run down scree: baby steps, quick feet, baby steps. She learned this while pacing Joe at Hardrock and it really helped me. Last year I could barely walk, let alone run down Elliotts so I was super happy with the progress we were making.

At the bottom of Elliotts I had the nicest surprise: a few of my lacrosse players and their siblings were there to cheer me in! I heard them ask, "Is that Mrs. Speidel?" in the dark and then we were cheering and laughing as we hit the AS. I think they were a little freaked out by seeing their coach so loopy but they told me they would be at the finish---despite the fact it would take us 2 more hours to get there! Awesome.

The last 5 miles of Grindstone are a combination of nasty fire road, single track, technical, rooty trail across streams, and forest paths. As the first 5 miles of the race it has a nice, gradual ascent over Kings Gap but coming back it is just long and slow going. Jack Kurisky had joined our group and we were power walking/shuffling the best we could---I really wanted to run but all systems had kind of shut down...but at least I didn't feel nauseous, which was a first for me in a 100. I think I did a good job of taking in calories, water, and electrolytes, probably the best in my four 100s. I was really happy about that and had plenty of energy to run the last 400 yards to the finish line.

Time: 29:37, exactly an hour slower than last year with 2.5+ miles added to make the race an official 101 miler. I had held on as fourth woman despite a strong challenge from Ruthann, who came in about 30 minutes later. Rusty, Carter, and Virginia were there at the finish along with my students and we basically took over the place for about 10 minutes. Rusty always says that "the Speidels are the loudest family anywhere" and once again we proved him right. I was stoked---so happy to be finished, so happy with my race, so happy to have everyone around me to celebrate. It was just overwhelming. Clark gave me a hug and then I hugged the totem pole before climbing into the tent and crashing for a few hours.

Around 4:00 am I woke up, took a hot shower and then sat at the finish line with Karl (who had won the race 10+ hours before me) and Clark waiting for Gary Knipling to come in. It was my first time meeting Karl and I was so impressed that he was there, in the middle of the night, hooting and hollering as each new finisher's lights came into view. A classy guy and very fun to hang out with.

One of the things I love about Grindstone is the ease of the finish finish, you climb into your tent, you crash, you awake to a new morning and then eat a delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits, hash browns and fruit served by the boy scouts. The race lingers on as the final finisher comes in under the 38 hour cut off, awards are handed out, thank yous are given, and then it's time to head home---and it's only 10:30 am! The schwag this year was schweet! In addition to entrants sweatshirts and visors, all finishers received Patagonia long sleeves (thank you Clark for the white!) and a heavier weight Patagonia long sleeve for the top 5 women. Here are the top 2-5 women: Elizabeth Carrion, Kim Gimenez, me, and Ruthann Helfrick:

A race like this requires immense time, sacrifice, and patience on the part of so many people. Thank yous... where do I start? To Clark for dreaming up this wild and difficult race on my favorite trails, to my dear friends in C'Ville and elsewhere for the good luck notes and good juju, to the gang at the VHTRC for being who you are and not ever changing, to Andy Jones-Wilkins for the fantastic coaching, preparation and inspiration, to my students and their families who stayed up late to watch their crazy coach finish 101+ miles, to my loud, supportive, and loving family for celebrating at the end and enduring my passion for this sport...and of course to Marlin for the endless help and Michele for being my friend and phenomenal are the best! I love you all.

David Horton was asked "What was the revelation?" upon completing his record-setting Pacific Crest Trail speed record in 2005, which was made possible by the support of so many. His response was, "We need people in our lives. We need help and we need relationships." Amen.

Me with Michele Harmon, a true star pacer and friend

The VHTRC gang: Gary Knipling,Amy Sproston,Quatro Hubbard, Mike Broderick and Mitchell Goodman

Bill Gentry, Bill Potts and me

Now I've paid my dues because I have owed them, but I've paid a price sometimes
For being such a stubborn woman in such stubborn times
I have run from the arms of lovers, I've run from the eyes of friends
I have run from the hands of kindness, I've run just because I can

But now I'm grown and I speak like a woman and I see with a woman's eyes
And an open door is to me now like the saddest of goodbyes
It's too late for turning back, I pray for the heart and the nerve

And I rely upon the moon, I rely upon the moon
I rely upon the moon and Saint be my guide

--Mary Chapin Carpenter