All I can say is WOW! That course kicked my behind for 10 solid hours! I have so much more respect for this race and those that finish and compete in it year in and year out… hats off to you, and now, to me too! It truly was a perfect day to run for a mid June day at least. Nice coolish temps in the high 50’s to start, with highs in the mid 70’s or thereabouts. I felt good from the start, didn’t sleep worth a crap the night before, but didn’t feel sluggish or anything, and took off with the other 199 competitors on my longest journey on foot ever. You see, I am a HS rookie this year and my only other ultra was the 50k at the WV Trilogy last year. But I digress… So here we are trotting along the 2 or 3 miles of pavement before we duck into the field past the AS1 and into the gradual climb through the nettles section that I heard and read so much about. My calf sleeves seemed to do a fine job at repelling most of the nettles, though a few got me on my kneecaps and lower thigh, nothing too serious though. I settled in with a good sized “train” of runners ambling up the climb, feeling comfortable.. so comfortable that I felt like I needed to move along and I bridged up to the next train of folks where I stayed for a bit into AS2 for a water refill and a little snack of boiled potatoes and salt and some bananas and fig newtons. On I went where I hooked up with another group, though a bit smaller this time in number.. I think there were 4 or 5 of us and we hung together for several miles mainly descending and some rolling flat stuff. All the while I began to understand what folks mean by a rocky course! I have never experienced such a tough trail where total concentration was necessary.. the few times I lapsed, I fell once and had some really close calls a couple other times, fortunately no real damage on the time I went down, just a little scrape on my palm. I ended up running the section from AS 3 to AS 4 largely by myself as I was slower out of the AS than my other companions. This section was tough for me and I welcomed the dirt road leading to AS 4 and our drop bags and little rest I got while I changed into fresh shoes and socks and had some more fruit and salty potatoes.. yum. Now, the Road Across the Sky, and it was really a tough section for me overall. My mental focus was really breaking down and my lack of mileage in preparation for this (avg around 25-30 miles a week.. pathetic I know) was starting to show in joint pain at my hips and my poor feet just ached from the rocks all day to this point. But I kept moving.. through AS 5 to AS 6 and the entry to the Sods where the wheels really started coming off. This is the only point where I really wondered if I could finish. But I had already gone 27 miles .. what’s 13 more right? So onward it was. I crest the hill as you head across the long exposed trail across this huge meadowy section and Dave Snipes passed me and chatted a bit and I couldn’t keep up. It gets a little fuzzy here, I just remember really rolling and coming back to life in the boulder hopping section and actually catching a few folks and pulling back up with Dave right after the boulders. I stayed with him through AS 7 and up the ski slope and down the “butt slide” section as he called it and into the final AS. Dave was just what I needed and he coached and chatted and moved at just the right pace for me to stay engaged on the trail and keep moving strong.. so Dave if you read this, THANK YOU for letting me run with you, it was a pleasure! He had a little more pop in his legs out of the last AS onto the road section and soon was off ahead of me. This was by far my toughest section… go figure, the smooth road section did me in! I really just had to keep moving as my whole body was hurting and aching and I ran a little and walked a lot but once I crested the little hill as I came up over to the finish I heard a guy say I was going to break 10 hours. Music to my ears as I felt like after leaving AS 7 at 9 hours that I blew the chance to finish under 10 after moving so slow.. but I made it, barely in 9:58:24. I am definitely coming back next year and hope to make this a staple of my annual race calendar. Thanks to all the competitors and volunteers and folks cheering, it feels so good to hear someone clap for you or have an AS worker take your hydration vest and fill it up for you and be so cool and helpful when you feel like you can’t take another stride forward, they give you the spark to get it rolling again! Awesome day!
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