Call me crazy all you want or turn your nose up in derision, but this event was never intended to be the “gateway drug” to longer, more ridiculous events. It was a check-the-box one-and-done kind of thing. So now that I’ve done it, guess what? My opinion on those matters remain the same. I’ve done it once. Check.
So you’re wondering how did it all go? Lucky you, this is a race report, so you shall find out.
Yowzers am I sore right now. But you could figure that one out already right? I mean, really Alicia, did you not read that this race self-flagellation event was 40 miles long? That’s 40, as in ”40″ trail miles, whatever that might mean in actual standardized measurements.
So, the weather. I’ve done the 20 mile event twice before and both times is was cold and rainy. Same this time, but whatever, because that’s what I expected. I didn’t let myself get thrown off by two days of 70 degree weather within the previous week. Wet and cold. Good running weather. It cleared up late morning and warmed to near 50 degrees. Balmy.
At the start, Race Director Kim (of Bull City Running) announced that we should keep our eyes peeled for a couple of novelties. One is Big Foot, since there had been “sightings” and a film crew was in the area filming that bit of newsworthy information during one of their reconaissance visits. The other thing to watch for would be groups of men in military garb carrying large automatic weapons. There were some military guys doing some training exercises in the area and that we weren’t to be alarmed if we were to encounter such a sight.
Well, I never saw Big Foot but a group of us did come across the military guys. As we were cresting the first big climb, I saw something much larger than a squirrel rustling in the brush in my right peripheral vision. I didn’t get a good look because the Uwharrie trail is rugged and I’d rather keep my eyes trained on where I’m going. A short piece after, there are 3 big guys in camo carrying big, black automatic weapons approximately 3 feet to our immediate left. It’s hard to gauge their expressions. They appeared to be waiting for us to pass, because when don’t you encounter a bunch of nutcases running along a secluded mountain trail in the cold, early morning rain? One of the guys running near me tips them off that the “other guy is back there”, pointing to where I saw the rustling brush. I’m like, “Dude, that is so not fair!” I assume rustling brush guy was attempting to stay away from the three big guys with guns, but what do I know? I’m just some nutcase running through the cold, early morning rain in the middle of nowhere.
Back to the run itself. If you’ve ever done something that lasts a really long time, you know that orders of events can get muddled. Hence, I’m not even going to try and give you a chronological accounting of what happened when. Instead, here’s some stuff I remember. Some of it may be in order. Some of it not. Whatever.
Early on, up the first big climb, there are at least 3 women ahead of me. My stretch-if-everything-goes-really-well goal is a top 3 finish with a time under 8 hours. Primary goals in order of priority are (1) finish, (2) fun, and (3) race at the end if I’ve got it in me. I don’t even try to stay with any of those three women because I want to go at a pace where I know I can (a) finish and (b) have fun. I figure the top 3 is not even going to happen and I’m completely at peace with that. So I don’t hold you in suspense, I placed 4th female in just under 8 hours and 5 minutes.
At some point early on yet beyond the first big climb, I discover myself leading a train of people. It’s a familiar position in trail races. Carrboro 50k, Run at the Rock , Little River Trail Run, etc. Early in all of these events, there is a gap ahead of me and a train of people behind letting me set the pace. Then I hear a voice calling out “Hey Alicia!” Who’s that? “It’s John Armstrong.” Well, well. Flash me back to Little River. “So, John, are you going to tail me the whole way then sprint away at the finish like you did the last time?” Ha ha ha. Anyway, John and I did run together for a long time. Almost half way before we split. It’s nice to have familiar company.
Other running compadres include Jen from northern Virginia who apparently is buds with all of the really fast trail runners from that way, and Alan who I ran some of the Carroboro 50k with. You can always tell when Alan’s talking because he uses an Irish brogue to go with his outfit (kilt). He also makes an entertaining koo-koo-koo-koo sound when we approach an aid station. I can explain that one away by noting that he is a Trailhead. Those of you who know the Trailheads know what I mean. Wink, nod.
I felt great at 20 miles. This is a radical departure from how I felt when finishing my two previous 20 milers. Then, it was hard to imagine anyone could turn around and run that trail again. This time I did imagine it to be possible. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.
I would be remiss to not mention the banjo picker situated on the edge of a power line cut through about a half mile from the turnaround. This race scores A+++ for the sorts of touches that include geographically appropriate musical accompaniment, locally thrown pottery for finisher “medals” and, yes, opportunities to view big foot and imposing militia en route. The opportunity to muck about in muddy wet weather were just bonus features for this particular year (and every other year I’ve done this race).
Nobody was more surprised than I was when I caught back up to Shannon & Layna somewhere between 20 and 29 miles. For a little while, I was in 2nd position. It didn’t last.
Which brings me to the last 10 miles. Ouch. It was the downhills that were my downfall and fall down I did. Twice within about a minute of each other on a relatively flat and only minorly technical section of trail. These up close visits with the wet clay ground could be considered an early warning signal of what was to come.
When it comes to trail running skill, I’d score myself a 6 out of 10 at best. Overall. My self assessment for technical down hill running is 4 out of 10, and that’s when my quads aren’t trashed from 30 previous miles up and down small (but steep) mountains. ?Those last 10 miles have a lot of ups and downs. I could continue to get up the up’s with some profiency, albeit painfully, but the downhill stuff was a major problem. The final mile of this course is a very steep and rocky downhill. I did a whole lot of walking through there. Painful walking, grasping saplings as I gingerly stepped down the mud-slicked rock strewn steep pitch. I lost a lot of time here, but whatever. I finished.
With such a long event, you know that an important element of success is staying fueled. I had a plan that included Heed in my Nathan belt bottles, Lara Bars, Recovery e21 electrolytes and a couple brands of gummies. All said and done, I only ate a couple of Lara Bars and subsisted primarily on gummies, Heed and electrolytes. I had both Honey Stinger and Cliff brands of gummy products. Each product had it’s plus’s and minus’. Honey Stingers are tastey like candy and don’t stick to your teeth, but Cliff’s package is easier to use while running and has a couple of flavor options that contain caffeine. I liked both. If I had to pick just one brand to use, I’m not sure which I would pick, so I guess it worked well to have both on hand.
Immediately upon finishing this difficult event, my primary feeling was less of accomplishment and much more a sense of great indebtedness to Gary, Remy & Daren. I felt broken down and somewhat selfish for the opportunity to say “ooh wee I ran 40 miles in one day.” As time passes, I do feel some satisfaction for completing the event, so I can’t say it was a mistake to do it. However, I feel obligated to offer tribute to each of these men’s part in my accomplishment.
First for Gary. Even though the race is no more than a 2 hour drive from our home, he must have spent close of 10 hours on the road over the course of Friday through Saturday. That’s partly because some idiot left her trail shoes in her truck. Yes, that would be the truck parked in the driveway at home in Durham. So once we make it to Asheboro and I promptly realize my error, we eat a quick and early dinner then Gary drives back to Durham to get my shoes. He’s back by 9:30pm, so not too late, but really? Alicia, really? Forgetting shoes for a running event?
As I mentioned, Saturday’s weather wasn’t what most would consider ideal for a 2 year old to romp playfully around in. Particularly a toddler that doesn’t like to wear winter hats, coats, mittens, etc. It is my understanding that Remy spent most of the day asking to go home. Oh, my dear little boy. I am so sorry. Can’t go home until Mommy finishes her ridiculously long trail trudge. It may be hard to discern, but I do love you little man. Sigh…
Now for Daren, my intrepid, highly organized, detail oriented crew. For reasons that escape me, Daren offered to crew me through this foolishness. But then, Daren’s run many times longer than 40 miles, so one shouldn’t put too much stock in his quality of judgment when it comes to things like this. If you want to win a court case related to traffic signals and crashing and stuff- he’s your guy- but don’t ever ask him whether running 40 miles in one day is a reasonable pursuit. He may be a little biased. All I know is that it can’t be easy driving around all over creation to intercept me every 3-9 miles so I can rush into and out of sight over the course of a minute. He may not have been running, but he was on the job for over 8 hours, especially when you add in transport and other duties related to other friends participating in the 20 and 40 that day.
So that’s it. I ran 40 miles on rugged trails with lots of support. As I taught Remy to say, “Ta. Da.”