My first attempt at the 100 mile distance was upon me. I was a mess. The week had been way more stressful than I had hoped it would be, and I felt the weight of all of the pressure I was putting on myself mounting to an unmanageable level. Friday was a flurry of preparation, organization, and fussing over minute details. I went to packet pick up, and there I met with my pacer/crew, Jennifer, who had driven six and a half hours to come help me through this race. She barely knew me, but was willing to sacrifice time away from her family and responsibilities to meet my goal. Her experience was so calming, and everything she said, I took to heart. So when she told me our team was fine, and everything would work out, I knew she was right. When I thanked her, she said, “Someone did this for me for my first 100, and I am excited to be that person for you.” So cool. I drove home and tried to relax. My family could tell I was really stressed out, and Dave asked me what I was afraid of. I said, “not being able to finish in the time cut off.” His response was so beautiful and heaven-sent. He simply said, “Then you let them cut your bracelet off, you keep going, and I’ll be out there for as long as it takes to support you through to the finish. Those ladies in Haiti need you.”
Our alarms went off at 2:30am. Dave and our eight year old, Joe, were manning the Snake Creek aid station, and were planning on camping out there all weekend. When we arrived and I got checked in, I tried to eat a Larabar, but I just couldn’t. My stomach was just roiling. It made me nervous that my go-to bar was already failing me. I tried to keep my nerves in check as the race director, Jenny gave us a pep-talk, and then she sent us out into the dark with our headlamps bobbing down the road. I was terrified. I prayed and prayed, and begged God to calm my nerves and help me not to get overwhelmed at the thought of what lay ahead of me.
The couple of miles were all uphill, so I walked, just as I had promised myself I would, and tried to assess my body and my response to what was happening. I was calming down, settling in, but I was still praying non-stop. As I ducked onto the trail, I continued to pray. I prayed for the ladies for which I was running, I prayed for my family, I prayed for the race directors Jenny and Franklin, I prayed for the other runners, and I prayed for the volunteers. I prayed that I would meet Jesus in a big way out on those trails (but not in a final, death sort of way – please, God, no broken bones, either), and that I would be open enough to let Him work through me. The sun rising was such a huge boost, and seeing the sun coming through the trees just felt like God was acknowledging my prayers, and assuring me that He wasn’t going anywhere.
I knew I would see Dave and my little Bubba at Snake Creek, and it brightened my spirits to roll into their aid station making such great time. I was feeling fantastic, and got downright teary-eyed when I saw them. Ridiculous how emotional those dang trails can make you feel. It’s some kind of weird, trail voodoo or something. So this is the first time things start getting a little sketchy. I was trying to drink water and UCan, but even at Snake Creek aid station, I didn’t have the stomach to eat much of anything and switched from UCan to tailwind. I did decide to grab a Huma chia gel, and this proved to be a wise decision, as this was pretty much my main source of calories the entire day, other than Tailwind.
I hit the manned (unmanned) aid station, and the guys there told me I had about 2.5 miles of rollers and then a 2.5 mile climb up John’s Mountain. Great. John’s Mountain sounded peachy. Just as I started heading up the climb, I began seeing runners coming the other direction. They were running the 35/50 mile races, and I would see them from then on out for quite a few hours. It was nice to see other runners, and be able to encourage (and be encouraged by) other crazy souls. That climb up John’s Mountain did something to my psyche, however. I felt nauseated, demoralized, and just really low. It was hot, the sun was beating down, and I was incapable of escaping the elements. I just had to keep climbing. I remember traversing a narrow pass, and a gentleman coming around the bend. He had a huge smile on his face and said, “The views up ahead are amazing!” I wanted to punch him in the face. I restrained myself from saying, “shut up”, and I think I managed a grunt and a grimace. The view was absolutely breathtaking, but I felt like I might fall off the side of the mountain that bore my eldest son’s name, so I trekked on. I passed a guy after some hairy-scary stone steps who smelled like peanut butter (the guy, not the steps), so I knew the aid station must be close. John’s Mountain aid station was a super-hero themed oasis at the top of that evil mountain that I never wanted to see again, but knew I would be climbing again in the dark of night. The aid station volunteer who was refilling my water complimented my shorts (Lululemon! Seriously. They are absolute perfection), and told me she didn’t think I was drinking enough water. Her comment about the water stuck with me and I started really pushing the fluids. Low and behold my nausea subsided (thank you, ma’am!), and I started to feel better and better.
I joyfully traversed the two creek crossings and rolled into Manning feeling strong. I saw Jennifer, and got super excited. I got the heck out of there with a smile on my face, knowing that the next time I saw Jennifer she would be heading out to run with me. This section from Manning aid station to Narrows aid station included a long road section, and it had gotten so hot by this point, I felt like I was frying on the blacktop. There was no shade to be found for long stretches, but I just pushed fluids, dodged an angry dog, and trudged on. I got to Narrows and finally felt like eating (Hallelujah!), so I asked what they had. Grilled cheese with MUSTARD! My FAVORITE! Thank you, JESUS! This is also the point when one of the volunteers informed me that I was in third place (for the ladies). Being that this was my first 100, I didn’t really want that information, but I had it, so there it remained, banging around in my head. It caused me some confusion when I passed two ladies soon after, and then later saw the first place woman after she hit the turn around (I was about 4 miles from the turn around still, so she was WAY ahead of me). My friends, Paula and Gentry, who had come up to volunteer at the race, told me that there were two ladies in front of me (2 plus 2 equals 4 ladies ahead of me, which does not put me in third place for the ladies, aid station guy), but at that time I still hadn’t figured out that there were some 3 am starters among the ladies out on the course (so aid station guy was actually right). Hence, my confusion. I quit trying to figure it out and just went on.
Just prior to the turn around, there are climbs up and down a powerline cut. They were dusty and rocky, and I felt myself slipping and sliding. I looked up that big, ugly, climb and sighed. They were also very exposed, and I began to really hate the sun. I was feeling low again when I hit the turn around, but Paula and Gentry, along with my pacer/crew Jennifer and one of the aid station volunteers, worked quickly to get me ready for the return trip. I could tell they were excited for me, but also understood that they needed to get me out of that aid station as soon as possible, so that I didn’t get too comfortable. The aid station volunteer who had been helping me, asked me what color my urine was, and I proudly stated “clear!”. He looked shocked, and Jennifer looked downright giddy. I was doing well with my hydration. I think I hugged Paula 4 or 5 times before I left. I haven’t seen them in a year, and hated to let them go. I don’t think I can even explain how much it meant to me to see them out there. It was like a little taste of home.
It was so amazing to be with someone after running alone for most of the first half of the race. There weren’t that many of us running the 100 miler, so we were pretty spread out, and there weren’t many opportunities to run with anyone. I was grateful I had finally hit “pacer time”. We came into Narrows happy and chatting. The HAM operator immediately started questioning me about if we passed anyone, if so, when, and what they looked like. Apparently, the woman and her pacer who had been 2 hours ahead of me at the turn around had not yet made it to Narrows. It was dark, and everyone was concerned. It is a very sobering feeling when something like that happens, and you realize that it must be so stressful for the race directors and volunteers to try and keep tabs on all of the participants. We saw Whitney, my other pacer/crew and amazing friend, who jumped in to help me at the last minute. She helped us resupply, and I knew that when I saw her again at Manning we would be running together! We headed out into the night, and prayed that all was well with the other runners.
I picked up Whitney at Manning and we immediately got our feet wet at the stream crossing coming out of the aid station. It felt downright heavenly. Poor Whitney was with me during the section of the course that I hated the most. John’s Mountain. Here we go again. I complained and fussed like a big baby, cursing and pouting the whole way up. We heard some coyote “communication” and this shut me up for awhile, because I was instead thinking about my own mortality vs the fact that I didn’t want to climb anymore. We finally saw the aid station, and I wanted to cry happy tears. I got some broth, Whit got some chili, and on we went…down the hairy-scary stone stairs with the rickety hand rail, in the middle of the night. We kicked rocks and cursed up the next climb, which also felt like it was never-ending. I was feeling pretty low, but Whitney kept me company, and we talked the entire time. I couldn’t have made it through without her. Oh, and by the way, girlfriend had competed in (and PR’d) a 5k early Saturday morning, before running with her nutso friend all night. What a rockstar!
Snake Creek aid station became visible, and I got absolutely manic at the sight of my boys. Jennifer was there, cheering me in like a wild woman, and at this point I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to finish this thing. I do recall making the comment to Dave, “I am never, ever doing this again.” I was obviously delusional and out of my mind. Everyone kept telling me I “looked good”. I’m not sure what that means 84 miles into a 103.8 mile race, but ok. Thanks, guys. Jennifer and I headed out, and I asked her how long she figured it would take. She said she had told Dave we would be to the finish around 11am. For some reason, I did not like that time. “What?? 11am? Do you think it will be that late?? Is it really going to take me 6 hours to get there? I did this section in 4 hours, yesterday.” I’m not sure why one hour made such a big difference in my head. She reminded me that the last time I ran this section I was 24 hours earlier in the race. Minor details. In any event, I was really tired and getting sloppy. Jennifer kept having to tell me to be careful and pick up my feet, because I was tripping and stumbling when I was trying to run. Finally, I decided to hike until the sun came up, and this proved to be a wise choice. My hiking was stronger than my running at that point, and I was hiking faster than my run pace. Jennifer advised that I only run on the downhills, so that’s what I did, and it worked out perfectly.
We got to the last manned aid station before the finish, and we tried to just get in and out and back onto the trail. The sun was up and we were ready to make a go at the final section. Jennifer is super intuitive. She knew exactly when I needed to just hear her talking, and she didn’t expect any sort of response from me. She told me stories and kept my mind occupied with things other than the pain I was feeling, and I just kept going as fast as I could go. When we hit the rock garden she asked me if I remembered that section from the day prior, and I told her I didn’t. I’m not quite sure how I could possibly have forgotten that lovely menagerie of rocky goodness…maybe I just blocked it out. In any event, it is now forever etched into my brain. She talked, and I climbed and picked my way through the rocks. She was so positive and upbeat, yet I knew she was climbing the same crap I was, and had been up all night too. She is a badass.
We finally hit the gravel service road and I think both of us laughed out loud. I was nearly there. This was really happening. Not only was I going to finish, but I was going to finish strong. God met me out there on those trails and came through in such a huge and awesome way. People donated to my run for those incredible Haitian women, and there was no guarantee that I would finish the race. They did it because they believed in the cause, and they believed in me. He gave me strength and perseverance when I had none, and He placed people in my path to lift me up and help me through. He kept my body in good working order, and my mind in check enough that I didn’t totally crumble. He answered every last one of my prayers. I crossed that finish line holding my 8 year-old’s hand…Bubba saw his mom finish what she started, and nothing could be sweeter. I ended up finishing 2nd place overall and first place for the women, with a time of 29 hours and 9 minutes. My first hundred…still so surreal…
- My husband, Dave, for being my biggest supporter, for challenging me, and for never leaving my side.
- My dad and his wife, Donna, for coming all the way from NJ to watch my other two kids so that Dave and I could be gone all weekend
- Jennifer Langevin for crewing and pacing me – Your calmness, confidence, and experience pulled me through some very dark places. Thanks for your sacrifices to be there, and for being as excited about the Corn Grinder Project as I am!
- Whitney Reece for crewing and pacing me, and being an all around incredible friend. You saved my butt, and I’ll never forget it. I love you, girl!
- My kids for putting up with my training schedule with grace and understanding. I love you knuckleheads.
- My mother-in-law extraordinaire, Joan Corbo/Mommamia, for promoting the snot out of my fundraiser, encouraging me behind the scenes, and being that ever-present, quiet vote of confidence.
- Jenny Baker – for rallying behind the Corn Grinder Project, and helping me get the word out. Thanks for going to bat for me, and being so passionate about a girl and a cause that you barely knew anything about. And by the way, you and Franklin knocked this race-director thing out of the park.
- Paula and Gentry Johns – thank you for taking time away from you sweet family to help out at the race and come see me out on the course. I loved every second that I got to see you guys.
- Bob Winzinger for being an amazing brother, and helping to spread the word any chance he could in the hopes of getting some support for the project. You always believe in me fiercely.
- Jeff and Sarah VanderMolen – thank you for your tireless work for the people of Haiti through Haiti H2O. You are making a difference in this world, and I want to be like you when I grow up. I love you both.