Daily Chatter

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fire on the Mountain Marathon - Race Report - Part 2

When I left off, we were going to bed.


We were in bed, we just were not sleeping.
LBM decided that he was going to spend the majority of the night attached.  Maybe he sensed that I was going to be away the next day and was trying to get his mommy fix through the night.
Whatever the reason, very very very little sleep was had.

I watched the clock for 4 and then 4:30 a.m.
I heard the wind really blowing outside as I got showered and dressed.  I kept reminding myself that once the sun came up and I was in the woods the lack of sleep, the blowing wind, the nervousness would all no longer matter.

With the rest of the house asleep I said a quick goodbye to Hubbs and left him directions to the finish line just incase he was brave enough to bring the kids to cheer me in and I was off into the darkness.

The drive.
Well, let's just say that Yahoo directions are not always the fastest way to go.  I made it to the finish area in 25 minutes.  Which was good and bad.  I had time to check in, arrange, rearrange and re-rearrange the gear, visit the port-a-potty (which was a nice surprise since I had figured we'd use the woods) and generally get more nervous excited for the start.  I did talk with a number of other runners.
Jimmy - he is a biker.  Mid-40s.  I had never ran more than a 5k and decided the night before that he would "try it."  Great personality.  Funny and upbeat.  A wonderful seat companion for the rather long ride in the trolley bus to the start.
Dave - he is a serious runner.  50, but didn't look it at all.  He has done JFK 9 times.  That's NINE times.  Another great person to share my ride with.  His goal, "to finish."  I think most ultra runners share that laid back mentality.  I love it!
Finally we arrive at the start the sun is coming up and there is an amazing view!
Just enough time for those who need to dash into the woods.
I visit with some local friends; Joel and Darlene.  He is a veteran distance runner and she is attempting her first trail race.  (Although she paced another mutual friend in 50 miles of a 100 miler)
We exchange well wishes and get final instructions then we are off!

The Race.
We start on a state forest road which means dusty and rocky but easy running.
Of course, I go out fast.  I want to keep Kari in sight as long as I can.
Good Luck.
Yeah.  I know it won't last long but I trail her until we hit the single track and then she's gone!
That puts me in fourth.  I will stay there until the "half."
(If you check the website prelim results you will see another female runner with a "half" time of 3:06 BUT we ran into the aid station one right after the other.  She had just passed me as we came up the hill.  But we actually hit the station at 3:20.  And yes this error gripes me! but I won't ask for it to be changed because it doesn't matter in the end BUT it bugs me because it's wrong.)

At the start we were told "get to aid station 2 and it gets easy."  Humm?  The first section was single track trails very technical.  Exterme decents.  I stink royally at decents and it has only gotten worse since the Big Fall.  In several areas the near vertical decent was covered with acorns.  I see runners RUN down some of these sections.  I can not do it.  I climb down.  I run.  I climb some more.
I trail is marked really well.  I have to applaud the DNR for maintaining such a wonderful trail.  After my main "being late" concern, my biggest worry is getting lost.  I had laminated the course directions but I wouldn't have really needed them.  Even with all the fallen leaves I could still find the trail. 
It was beautiful!
I frequently thought about how lucky I was to be doing this!

Somewhere early in the race on a decent I was attempting to pick up my pace and ended up nearly falling off the little mountain goat sized edge of a trail I was on.  I stopped my fall by grabbing a young tree which promptly snapped and threw me against the giant rocks sticking out of the mountain side.  I smashed my wrist but held on.  This wouldn't really hurt until the day after.

The Aid Stations.
I didn't stop at the first aid station.  I ran through but exchanged a few words with the volunteers.  It is amazing how much hearing different voices can lift your spirits.
By the second aid station and the thrashing my quads had already taken I quickly walked the second aid station.  I had packed Gu and my own supplies fearing that there wouldn't be great support but I was wrong.  There was water, gatorade, Gus, soda, bananas, chips, boiled potatoes, salt, pbjs, M&Ms, pretzels...
I took an extra Gu, ate a third of a banana and drank some water. 
At this point I had fallen in with a small group of runners.  One of which knew my ultra running friends (Rande and Kari), Joe.  Joe's wife had been the RD for the skirt chaser 10 miler I ran in the spring.  He was wonderful company since I often end up running alone.  However, I did not allow Joe to nagivate the trail for me.  Luckily his pace was a bit slower than mine so I took the lead.  At least I learned one lesson in the 2 other Ultras;
been your own guide!  If you get lost it's your fault not someone else's.
Joe and I chatted about running, the course, other runners.  We drifted apart in pace.  I was on my own again.  This would be the only serious moment of indecison about the trail.
We were told for the first "half" to follow the Red trail.  Easy, right?
There were sections where orange tape had been hung to assist us in following the correct path.
As I ran along a creek bed following the Red trail, I noticed a piece of orange tape off to my right.  The Red trail clearly went left and entered the creek bed, crossed over and continued.  So that's what I did.  Then I had doubts.  I didn't hear anyone coming and Joe should still be behind me.
I doubled back.  I waited.  I heard runners.  I waited.
Joe catches up.  He agrees that I was correct in following the Red trail.  We continue. 
Waste time.  Ugh!
The third aid station is unmanned.  Water only.  I don't stop.

When Nature Calls.
Before the third aid station I had pulled ahead of Joe again I knew I had created a bit of a lead and I HAD to pee.  I had taken 3 GUs and drank about 20oz of fluids.  The greatest thing happend.  There was a little open fronted cabin that DNR had built to house trail/forest information.  It made a great place to cop a squat behind!  Why tell you this?  Because I am not so much writting this for you as I am for me.  I want to remember what I did to create the results I had on this course.  Next year I'll look back and plan my race armed with a ton of information that I didn't have the first time out!
We'll visit this topic again later.

Half Way.
After the nature call and the third aid station, I was running everything but the steepest hills/decents.  The trail had gotten rocky and the footing was tricky but the majority of the trail was runable.
To reach the "Oasis" aid station; which was also the hand off for the 2 person relay, we had to climb another steep hill this is where the one and only female runner would pass me.  I'd never see her again.
I lingered at this station.  I filled my camelbak.  I ate potatoes and chips.  I took 2 tylenol.  I talked with the volunteers.  (There was a super nice young lady at this station and she was at other stations too.  She was so great.  She gave me chocolate covered coffee beans! Yum)  I had to "let" that other female runner go.  Joe had previously told me that there was another female runner who had had been running with but she had surprisingly fell behind.  She is an ultra rock star, I guess.  I didn't get to meet her.  I knew that she would negative split this race like nobody's business and I could not afford to mentally lose it by attempting to "keep up" with her.
So bye-bye a few minutes while she ran outta sight with Joe.

The Fast Section.
The next 7.4 miles were mostly on State Forest trail roads/paths.  They sucked.  BUT.  I was still in the woods.  I was still breathing in that great smell.  I was flying!  (9:35 pace)  My legs were already hurting due to the lack of trail training but if there is one thing I am great at it is putting
One Foot In Front Of The Other.
Whether it hurts or not give me a path and I can keep going.
So for the majority of this section I cruised along.  I caught Joe.  I passed Joe.  I hit the 5th aid station.  I only had one aid station to go.  I had been taking one GU between most aid stations.  So I only grabbed a piece of boiled potato, a drink of soda and a handful of chips and was off.
The course was on the State Forest road/path for a little while.  This became a bit of a mental challenge as did the return of some serious hills.  This early section after aid station 5 was the most mentally challenging for me.  I was alone, tired, sore and ready to be done already!
I just wanted to walk.
Yes, that's right.  Walk.
But if you've followed me long you know that Shelly doesn't walk on the road and this dirty rocky path was close enough to a road that I just couldn't walk.  I told myself that I would run everything but serious hills since my pace was actually faster walking then anyway.  Before I knew it I was back into the woods on a mountain bike trail. 

Mountain Bike Trails.
Let me just say this, mountain bikers want completely different things out of a trail than runners want.  I was thrilled to be back in amoung the trees but I ended up running on the "shoulder" of this trail more than in the trail it's self. 

Natures Calling.
(Didn't I already talk with you?)
So yeah.  There is a really big tree out there in the Green Ridge Forest that totally thinks I'm gonna call because you can't show that much of yourself to another living thing and not!  just saying.
I also left my splits and trail notes at that tree.  Opps.  I didn't realize it until I noticed I wasn't getting rubbed to death by the map which I had tried to tuck between my capris and shorts.
During this beautiful trail section I was, you guessed it, alone.  It really was amazingly pretty.  It was so quiet. 

 I did a lot of praying during the race.
A lot.
It started right away.
I prayed for many.  Too many to list.
But I do want to say that I prayed for Jen.  I wish I had noticed the times when I did because I would have loved to know how she was doing then.  BTW she did great in her marathon!
I also needed some prayers while I was running.  There isn't another way to make it through these events without Him with you.  I know that my body doesn't have the energy to accomplish these things.  I felt so filled while I was running.  It's hard to explain.  Maybe if I ran with others during a race I wouldn't feel it as much.  It is something that seems to happen when I really feel like I just can't keep going...but I do.

The Sixth Aid Station.
I met a really nice guy.  He was sitting at the sixth aid station but heard me coming.  I was praying out loud.  (yeah, I'm a weirdo)
He stood up.  He asked me before I was even there what he could get for me.  I stopped.  We talked.  He was so encouraging.  Such an upbeat positive person.  I am so glad I met him.  I doubt he will think twice of the lone salt covered pigtailed runner but I will think of him.  There are people who cross our paths that are put there for a reason and I think he and his kind words was one of those people for me.
Though you'll never read this, Thanks Champ!
His final words to me, "...you've only got about 5 miles!"

The Final Aid Station
aka the finish line!
I ran this race aid station to aid station to help mentally break it up.  It worked.  The final section was glorious!  I was flying as fast as my 26ish miles tired legs would take me at first.  The trails weaved in and out of the woods crossing several roads only to reentry the woods again.  The final sections of the race crossed many many creeks.  If the weather had been wetter there would have been NO avoiding the water.  Luckily I had been able to navigate all the crossing without getting wet. 
(This was a plus because my drop bag was not at the Oasis station for me to change my shoes had they been wet.) 
My old sad garmin had a terrible time keeping my mileage amoungst the trees so I didn't know how much farther I had to go until I came upon a group of walkers coming up the trail.  They said less than a mile to go.  If you ever have occasion to be back tracking a race, please don't ever tell a runner how far they have.  Say something else.  Say something encouraging.  Say something vague about the distance like, not far now!  Because that was the longest "less than a mile" I have ever run!

The Bonfire.
And then I was through the trees and back to the parking area and was handed a piece of wood and told to run around the tree line and back to the bonfire to toss my wood into the fire and end my race.
I could have cried.  The earlier finishers were cheering and the fire smelled wonderful.  But no family.  I reminded myself that I do this for me.  It's about my journey and showing my family that they can do anything they want by setting an example not by making them runners or even lovers of the sport of running.
So I ran along the trees taking it all in knowing that again that I had set a goal for myself and God had allowed me to experince His amazing world and the amazing abilities of my body as I exceeded those goals.

I tossed my wood into the fire.  I watched sparks lift into the air and I thought,
"I am so far from being done!"

I can't wait to see what I get to do next.


  1. "Shelly doesn't walk on the road" - loved that.

    Love the prayers.

    So true about the ultra runners mentallity "finishing" most are not out there to run PR's.

    YAY for exceeding your goals. Amazing. you are amazing.

  2. Hooray for you!!!!!! Loved reading about the race. I felt like I was right there!

    You are awesome and inspiring! And you even made me cry at the end!

    Way to go!!!

  3. What a moving and inspiring race report - thanks for taking us on the journey!

  4. awesomeness! this was such a joy to read :) you're inspiring me to try it :)

  5. Awesome race report! Thanks for sharing!

  6. "There is a really big tree out there in the Green Ridge Forest that totally thinks I'm gonna call because you can't show that much of yourself to another living thing and not!" - Best part ever! Loved it! Congrats girl! You are a true inspiration!!!

  7. You are amazing and inspiring....LOVED your recap! What an uplifting read today - thank you, and CONGRATS!

  8. wow shelly! u r a champion! congrats that is awesom!
    great recap! thank you for sharing!

    reading this is like reading a book. u should write a book about all your crazy races. i swear, reading this reminded me of dean karnazes's book where he runs 50 marathons in 50 states. totally awesome!!

    yay for shelly! u rock!

  9. This was a wonderful race report to read. Thanks so much for sharing. Congrats! I love that they have the finishers toss the wood into the fire to end the race! It sounds like you had an amazing day!

  10. You are incredible. The end of the report gave me chills. And it's nice to know I'm not the only one that sends up some prayers during races.

    Congrats on an amazing race and experience!

  11. chills. that is all. such an amazing experience!

  12. Beautifully run Shelly! I loved reading this. Congrats!

  13. great race report girl! It's like I was actually there with you! =)

  14. Wow great recap - the bonfire sounds like a great idea - need some marshmellows and gram crackers.
    Hoping that you were happy with your pace.

  15. Congratulations on a wonderful race. The experience of this type of race sounds like it goes far beyond the running and you were able to share that aspect of it as well. Thanks for the great recap!

  16. This was a beautiful race report - congrats lady, well done! So excited for you and can't wait to see what's next!

  17. Great report. I felt like I was experiencing it with you (albeit without the pain - haha).