On Saturday, June 5 I ran the Dam Yeti 50K in Damascus. It was the first official event I’ve run since January and I was really looking forward to it! It’s always a fun time with the Yeti Trail Runners.
We stayed at our usual place in Damascus for the weekend. I arrived on Friday afternoon and met up with Lauren and her family and with Charlotte. Christine arrived soon after and the four of us girls headed over to Abingdon for packet pickup. We got there right as it was starting and got in and out pretty quickly.
On race morning I was up at 4:30 AM to have my coffee and breakfast (PB & J toast) and get ready to run. Charlotte and I were both running the 50K and Christine and Lauren were crewing us. This year the race started in Green Cove and Christine gave us a ride up there. It’s a curvy road and Charlotte and I both got motion sick from the ride. I was so thankful to make it out of the car without puking. Christine dropped us off “Kiss & Ride” style about 30 minutes before the race start at 7 AM. We wandered over to the long bathroom line.
It was really chilly up there! Later in the day, Christine told me her car showed 46 degrees when she dropped us off. I never made it through the bathroom line and opted to pee behind a tree before jogging over to catch the pre-race meeting.
As you can see in one of the above photos, Charlotte and I were standing at the back of the group during the pre-race meeting. At the end of RD Jason Green’s speech, this crazy thing happened. He immediately went “3-2-1… GO!” and then I realized we were at the front of the stampede! As we turned and started running down the trail, I said to Charlotte “oh no, we are at the front!!” She giggled and laughed while I squealed and covered my head. I can now empathize with Simba from that scene in the Lion King when the wildebeest stampede in the gorge.
Luckily the masses left me unscathed and I was able to settle into my pace. It was dark and cool and super green along the trail. Less than a mile into the race, this deer shot across the trail and nearly hit a runner. It was crazy and there was a whole group of us there that saw it. Someone joked “well anyone who didn’t already go to the bathroom just did!” Hah!
I had decided to use a 7 minute run / 3 minute walk interval for this race. The first 17 miles of the race are on a downhill grade and I tried to keep my pace in check since I have the Eastern Divide 50K on June 19. I took in the beautiful scenery that surrounds the trail and before I knew it I was rolling into Taylor’s Valley around mile 7.5. And this is where I have some explaining to do. But first, here is the sequence of photos.
So. Before you judge me, let me explain myself. As I was running through Taylor’s Valley towards race photographer Jesse, the girl in front of me fell. The sequence of photos above literally span 3 seconds, at most. It took 1 to 2 seconds for my brain to switch from posing for the camera to recognizing that she had fallen. I did stop to see if she was okay (she was!) and if she wanted help getting up. But I stopped past her because I have no concept of long lense cameras and I thought if I stopped even with her I would be blocking the photos of the people behind me. So that’s what I have to say for myself. Moving on…
Shortly after the Taylor’s Valley incident, I arrived at aid station 1 around mile 8. This year our crew was allowed to be here so I got to see Lauren and Christine! As I ran in, I saw some other friends who also cheered for me! I was still feeling fresh and was running strong and relaxed. I refilled water and checked in with my crew.
From there, I continued on my way down the trail towards Damascus. Along the way, I stopped for a bathroom break in Straight Branch around mile 10. In addition to the runners around me, I started seeing some bikers on the trail and a few Appalachian Trail hikers.
Before long, I rolled into Damascus at mile 14 and aid station 2. This aid station had a Dolly Parton theme, complete with plaid shirts and blonde wigs! I refilled my water again and also got a popsicle (popsicle count: 1). I was still feeling strong and effortless and was maybe running a smidge faster than planned. About a half mile later, I met up with my crew at the town park to refill Tailwind and fuel.
I headed off for the stretch from Damascus to Alvarado feeling good. But within a half mile I definitely started to feel the heat, and fatigue started creeping in. The stretch from Damascus to Alvarado always feels tough to me because a lot of it is exposed and you’re running on a gradual uphill. On top of that, I tend to hit a rough patch between miles 17 to 22 during 50K runs.
On the way to Alvarado, my stomach started feeling like I had too much liquid in it and I felt like I had a side stitch. I continued with my 7/3 run/walk intervals but I slowed my run down a little. I knew I needed to stay on top of hydration as it continued to heat up outside, so I took little sips of water each walk break and ate some solid food every 40 minutes or so.
I tried to stay calm about how I was feeling and just focus on the things I could control. A little while later I was rolling into Alvarado at mile 21. At this point I had been running for over 4 hours and I was getting spacey. I met up with my crew again and they made sure I was stocked with fuel and reapplied sunscreen on me. My calves had been having those little wave-like feelings they get before they cramp, so I also picked up some salt pills from my supplies.
I walked across the parking lot to aid station 3. The aid station was certainly stocked with anything you might need during an ultramarathon, haha!
The volunteers refilled my flasks with ice water and asked if I wanted a popsicle. Why yes, I do! The volunteer helping me asked me “What color makes you happy?” which is probably the best way I’ve ever heard of someone asking what flavor I wanted. My answer was blue, of course. And yes, it did make me happy. (Popsicle count: 2)
From Alvarado I headed down the 5 mile stretch towards Watauga. This section of trail has my two favorite bridges. The first one is known as the “big ass bridge” and I crossed that around mile 23.
It was getting really hot during this section and sometimes I cheated a little on my 7/3 intervals and would walk 30 seconds to 1 minute early. My hips started to feel really tired and sore, and both of my calves and my left shin kept trying to cramp. I was getting to the point where I was day dreaming about getting to sit down and take off my shoes. During this section, we crossed my second favorite bridge on the trail, but it was SO hot through this exposed section.
Between miles 24 and 25, I decided it was time to take some salt pills. I reached in my zipper pocket for them and found that the pocket was open and they were gone. Well, shoot! That was a major bummer, and I’m also not happy that I littered somewhere on the trail. I knew I’d have to make do without them and continued on.
I arrived at aid station 4 in Watauga at mile 26. Here, I ate some pickles and had a cup of Mountain Dew. Like in Alvarado, they had ice water at this aid station and it was such a luxury on such a hot day! All of the volunteers were so awesome taking care of us.
As I continued up the trail towards Abingdon, I started seeing more of the 50 milers headed back down the trail for their out and back section. We all cheered each other on as we passed, reveling in our mutual suffering. I gotta be honest, I was glad to be doing the 50K on that day.
During the final stretch, sometime after mile 27, I started leap frogging with another runner. We were talking about how our races were going and I mentioned my calf cramping and losing my salt pills. She said she had something to help and gave me two chewable tablets. I eagerly took them and only after eating them did I think to ask what they were….. I guess that’s kind of ultrarunning in a nutshell! And for the record, they were just chewable salt tablets. I think they helped some, but it was late in the race and I think I was already pretty messed up on salt levels. Each time I transitioned to a run, I had to keep my right knee kind of straight to prevent full on cramps in my right calf. But I was so thankful for her generosity!
I passed through mile 28 and knew I was getting close! I’m proud that I was disciplined in sticking to my 7/3 intervals even though I was very tired and feeling pretty sore. I basically lived within 7 minute chunks of time and my life was ruled by the beep of my interval timer.
About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, I glanced up and noticed a steer on the wrong side of the fence. He was eating leaves at the top of the hill along the trail. A few feet down the trail, I saw where the fence was broken. I couldn’t really do anything about it, and I heard that later on several more steers found their way onto the trail. At last, I made it to the Abingdon trailhead, with a little over 30 miles on my watch! A volunteer told me to turn right coming off of the trail, turn right again at the red phone booth, and then head down the road.
I knew we were finishing at the brewery, but I didn’t really have a concept of where that was in relation to where I was or how far away it was. But all I could do was keep moving. A little over half a mile down the road, I could hear the music and then I looked to my left and saw the finish arch. Yay!
As always at Yeti races, I was greeted with a big bear hug from race director Jason Green at the finish line.
I finished in 7:15 and change, which is my second fastest 50K. I worked hard out there, but I also tried to keep my overall race effort at a moderate level since I have two 50K races so close together. That definitely got harder the last 10 miles with the heat, but overall I think I had a solid day and ran a good race.
Christine and Lauren had some chairs set up in the shade and it felt SO freaking good to finally sit down! I also enjoyed some cold lemonade, a homemade ham sandwich, and a popsicle (popsicle count: 3!). After sitting with my shoes off for awhile, I got changed into dry clothes and we continued to hang out at the finish line and cheer in other friends. There is a certain atmosphere at Yeti races and the finish line is where it really shines. Exhibit A: Mr. Inspiration. Resident DJ and official welcoming committee for runners coming into the finish line.
We cheered Charlotte in and hung out for awhile longer, soaking in the post-race vibes and catching up with friends.
Then it was time to head back to the house. On the way back, I got super thirsty so we stopped at a gas station. I headed in with plans to get an ice cold Gatorade from the fountain drink machine. But I came out with both a Gatorade and a mango fruit slushie. All I can say is it was hot outside and I was thirsty!
Once we got home we got cleaned up, had a late dinner, and then I had another popsicle (popsicle count: 4!!!). We had a good time sitting around chatting and hanging out and stayed up entirely too late.
On Sunday, everyone got packed up and we all hit the road to head home. All in all, it was another excellent Yeti weekend with my Wild Mountain Chickens. On to Eastern Divide…. I hope there’s popsicles!!