This year was the inaugural year for the Lake Ridge Endurance Run, which takes place at Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, Virginia. The race was slated to take place last year, but could not do so officially due to Covid. Lake Ridge is a timed race with 6, 12, and 24 hour options and I opted for 24 hours of fun!
The race had a 1 PM start, so Barry and I arrived at Claytor Lake around 11 AM to start setting up. In addition to crewing me, he was also volunteering at the race during set up and for an overnight shift. We had a large, grassy area to set up in and with only 20 of us running between the three time options, there was plenty of room.
I finally invested in a rolling, stackable toolbox to use for ultras and Lake Ridge was it’s maiden voyage. I had fuel (Honey Stinger chews, Huma gels, Tailwind powder, salt tabs, and liquid IV) in the top compartment; first aid, light sources, and personal care items in the second compartment; and spare shoes and clothes in the bottom compartment. It worked really well during the race and I was able to find everything I needed!
Kim was running the 12 hour, and she arrived about an hour before the race start. I continued making my final preparations for the race – loaded my pack, ate a snack, applied sunscreen, and got my shoes on. I was debating on whether or not to wear my gaiters to help keep rocks, etc. out but then I realized I never put velcro on the back of my newer shoes so I wouldn’t be able to attach them anyway. Before I knew it, it was time to line up for the start of the race.
With a 1 PM start, it didn’t feel like race day. I didn’t get up early and I was around the house doing chores that morning. So I didn’t have the best mindset at the start. That’s not the fault of the race at all. But I need to figure out how I can get my mindset in the right place no matter what time a race starts.
At 1 PM we were off and running. The race course is a 4 mile loop with about 400 feet of elevation gain that starts and ends at the beach area. From the start, we ran down a paved path for about a half mile before hopping on rolling singletrack trails for the next 3 miles. The final half mile to finish the loop was back on the paved path. Kim and I ran together for the first half mile, but she was moving at a faster pace than I wanted to so we split up once we hit the trails.
I didn’t have any distance goals going into the race, but I did have a goal to move for the entire 24 hours. I knew I should run my loops between 1:10 to 1:20 if I wanted to meet that goal. I wasn’t really feeling it, but I moved along at what felt like a conservative and comfortable pace. I finished loop 1 in 1:04. Barry was there and commented “that’s a little fast” and he was right.
The Hokies were playing Middle Tennessee in football at 2 PM, and I ended up listening to the game on the radio using my iPod from miles 4-15. This carried me through loops 2 through 4. I did finally settle into a better pace, running those loops in 1:08, 1:15, and 1:13 respectively. We ended up winning the game, but I still wasn’t in a good mood. I don’t know what was wrong with me. For some reason, I just did not want to be there, I didn’t know why I was there, and I didn’t know what the purpose of running this race was. My heart was just not in it.
During loop 5 (miles 17-20), my friend Michael caught up with me- he was on his sixth loop. It was nice to have company and swap stories. I fear I probably wasn’t the best company due to my mood. I kept trying to get myself out of my funk. I had good company, I was on pretty trails, and it was a really nice day for running. I tried to be grateful for the ability to be out there running, but I just couldn’t flip the switch. Loop 5 clocked in at 1:10.
Every 4 miles we arrived back at the start/finish area and got to hit up the awesome aid station. The volunteers were so helpful and encouraging. They took great care of us during the race and had all kinds of food available to us. I think it was after this loop that I ate half of a cheese quesadilla. Yum!
The sun would set during the next loop, so Michael and I grabbed light sources before heading out together. The aid station had music playing, and everytime I headed out on a loop I would have whatever song was playing stuck in my head for the next loop. We ran loop 6 (my loop 6, Michael’s loop 7) in the dark in 1:16 and loop 7 in 1:18. All I could focus on was getting through 8 loops for 32 miles, which would put me past a 50K distance. I was over 8 hours into this thing and still wasn’t feeling it at all. I had decided I could sit down after 50K to reassess my life.
Two miles into loop 8, Kim caught up with us. She was totally crushing it. She was on loop 9 and well on her way to getting her 40 mile goal. The three of us ran together to finish this loop, which was a lot of fun. Loop 8 clocked in at 1:20. It was almost 11:30 PM, I had been going for over 10 hours and finally, I could sit down! I was also pretty sure I had blisters on the outsides of my heels that needed attention.
This ended up being my longest stop during the race – taking 1 hour and 35 minutes. I used the restroom, treated and taped the blisters on my heels, and changed into a dry shirt, dry socks, and different shoes. I think I also ate a hamburger. I definitely ate a burger sometime overnight, and it was probably during this stop. During my break I also got to see Kim finish her race a little before 1 AM to complete 10 laps for 40 miles!
When I headed back out for loop 9 (miles 33-36), Barry came with me. He had gone home during the evening to take care of the dogs, but arrived back at the race after I finished loop 8. It was nice to have his company. Part way through the loop, we stopped in the woods and cut our lights off. It was scary but also incredible to look around in the total darkness and feel the stillness of the night. I finished this loop in 1:18, still solidly in my range of 1:10-1:20.
Loop 10 would take me from miles 37 to 40. I decided to head out on this one solo. I think it was important to prove to myself that I could do it. I am scared of the dark and I do not like being outside at night. It’s not any worse in the woods because it’s all bad for me. During my solo loop around 3 AM, I found that running through the woods at night was a bit exhilarating. It’s kind of like the night belongs to you and you alone, and that’s a cool feeling. Loop 10 clocked in at 1:15.
I was still struggling mentally, and could only make myself do two loops at a time. So after loop 10, I stopped again for a little over an hour. I think this is when I ate some delicious, hot chicken noodle soup. It was a little after 4 AM and I was so sleepy. Barry and the other volunteers encouraged me to take a 15 minute nap, but I worried I would wake up cold and feeling worse than I already did. Michael came in while I was stopped and we headed out together for loop 11 a little before 5 AM.
We were both tired and sleepy, so we walked this whole loop and the next one. I was kind of glad we did, since that soup I ate was still settling. I did start having some stomach issues during these two loops and started having to make pit stops every 2 miles. I think it was also on this loop that we heard a bobcat screeching. It sounds a lot like a baby crying, so I just told myself I was hearing a baby crying from one of the nearby campgrounds in the park.
During loop 12, as dawn was breaking, I started seeing things that I knew weren’t there. At one point, I was sure I saw a man in a hard hat ahead on the trail that was working on some trees. But when Michael and I rounded the corner, he was gone. I saw glimpses of other random stuff that disappeared as soon as my brain registered that they were there.
The sun came up towards the end of loop 12 (miles 45-48). This gave me new life. And finally, finally I was into the race and ready to run! I cannot believe it took 19 hours for my heart to be in it. That was a really long time to hang in there. After loop 12, I also took some Imodium which helped settle my stomach down. Loops 11 and 12 clocked in at 1:23 and 1:31.
I had 5 hours left in my race and I was 48 miles in. I felt like I could get in 3 more laps (12 miles) with my remaining time, which would get me 60 miles. And all of a sudden I was determined to get that. I took a cheese quesadilla to go and headed back out for loop 13. I ate half of my quesadilla and ended up putting the other half in my pocket for awhile before finishing it. During this loop, I saw a penguin along the trail. It turned out to be a log that I had already run by 12 times, but by loop 13 and after staying up all night it was a penguin. My brain didn’t even question why a penguin would be in a state park in Virginia. Loop 13 clocked in at 1:13.
Before heading out on loop 14, I grabbed my earbud so I could listen to some music. Other than listening to the football game, I hadn’t listened to anything during the race. This was my second 24 hour race and I always think I’ll want to listen to stuff throughout the race. But so far I always end up running most of the race without anything. The music was a great pick me up and I finished loop 14 (miles 53-56) in 1:12, my fourth fastest loop of the race.
When I arrived back at the start area, I saw that Kim had arrived back at the park to run a loop with me. I was thankful for the company! She had to put up with a fair amount of complaining, because I was really ready to get through this final loop and be done with this race. I was fighting off some cramps at this point and the loop seemed to take forever. For the record, I showed Kim my penguin when we ran by it and she agreed that it looked like one. But maybe she was just doing that thing where you agree with the crazy person so you don’t upset them! We finally hit the paved trail and I only had half a mile to go. I think we ran this whole stretch, and finished the loop in 1:18. It felt so good to cross that finish line and be done!
After I finished, I sat in a chair right at the finish line and took off my shoes and socks. The volunteers gave me cool, wet washcloths and it felt incredible to wrap my feet in them. In total, I ran 60 miles in 23:05. The race didn’t do awards and we only had 9 runners in the 24 hour division, but I ended up being the first woman and third overall which was pretty cool!
We had fantastic weather for this race, with sunshine and highs in the 70’s during the day and lows in the 50’s overnight. Finally a timed race without any rain! (Looking at you Allison Woods, and you Crooked Road) The trails at Claytor Lake are so nice, as was the staging area at the beach. As with all of the TrailAdventure races I have run, the race was well-organized and the volunteers were top notch. They took such great care of us. I loved that I could request a quesadilla and then go run a loop and they would have it hot and ready for me upon my return. During the race, in addition to my own fuel, I had: Coke, fig newtons, sour patch kids, two cheese quesadillas, a hamburger, and chicken noodle soup. There were so many other options that I didn’t eat, including baked potatoes on the fire, scrambled eggs and bacon in the morning, etc. Overall, Lake Ridge was such a gem of a race. I hope this race continues to grow in the future!