Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Holler 100 mile-Rising from the Dead!

Me, Steve and Mark

Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd- Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Race held in the 17,000 acre J.T. Nickels Preserve in the Ozarks.

My garmin registered Elevation Gain 15,221/Elevation loss 15,213. According to Ultrarunning magazine that would be on the low end of 4 for terrain.  4=very hilly, total climb between 150-250 feet per mile (7,500-12,500 feet in 50 miles)  Surface- my opinion is it was a 3. Ultrarunning magazines definition of 3=trail or dirt road with some rocks, root, and/or ruts.  My garmin registered 102.53 total miles.

Crew Chief Royal (My hubby) and me
 Me and the Pumpkin crew headed south Thursday morning for Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd! My Brave crew chief Royal drove. Our friends Steve Conn and Mark Francis came along to crew and each run a 50k. We enjoyed the "road trip" down, taking time for plenty of stops to take cheesy pictures of ourselves! I was feeling rested and ready to tackle another 100 miler. 

Pumpkin Holler was my first try at a little faster hundred. Usually the goal is to finish under the cut-off. This time I wanted to kick it up a little. My training this year has been insanely great! Simply because of my running coach Cari Setzler (the "Boss"). She has been training me since last year. She has gotten my mileage higher with plenty of quality speed work.  I've been healthy and fast all year long, a few PR's...and not even the slightest nagging injury.


Me, Steve Conn, and Mark Francis- Ready for take off
I wasn't sure what my "comfortable" 100 mile pace would be. The last time I tapered was in June for Kettle 100k.  Every run I have done in the last 4 months has been on tired legs. So even when I've been running in my "easy" heart rate, I've felt fatigued. I couldn't remember what it felt like to run feeling rested. The "Boss" gives me my weekly training schedule and I just simply do what she says. If she says run tempo pace...that's what I do, hill repeats....done...easy pace...okay. I just knocked off one work out after another, 7 days a week. It was an aggressive schedule. I enjoy training hard, and was looking forward to the reward of my efforts. 

Pre Race Meeting-

I found it strange that couple of days before the race I got an e-mail from the Race Director. In all capital letters it read, "THIS IS NOT A FLAT COURSE." I had read the website quite a few times and was under the impression the course was fairly flat. I went to the website and sure enough, it said no where that it was flat. I thought to myself, "how could I have read the course description wrong?"  No big deal, I'm a strong hill runner and whatever the course was, I was fit and ready!

The Race directors introduced themselves and the first thing they said was, "We would like to apologize for saying this course is fairly flat, we have changed the wording on the website" They told a cute story about how they came out and drove the course and it didn't seem very hilly, came back... drove it again, and thought, huh...I guess this is fairly hilly...came back a third time and thought, oh dear.... this is a very hilly course! They also told us they always like to give their runners a little something extra- so the 100 mile course was going to be 101.3 miles.

We would start the race on an out and back that measured 8 miles, then we would do a 31.1 mile loop three times. This was all on gravel, lightly traveled park roads. Whenever the course had an out and back they had timing mats. I appreciated that they did this. You like to think everyone is honest, but unfortunately I've seen, it doesn't always work out that way.

Morning sunshine on the river

Race morning I was calm and ready to race. I wanted to run this race as perfectly as I could. I was wearing my heart rate monitor and planned to keep my heart rate as low as possible. I had no intention of running for pace, it was whatever my body was truly comfortable doing, 100 miles is a long way. I wore a Nathan hydration pack that I would keep full of water, then I would refuel with a glass of Perpetuem at the aid a variety of foods. It was in the 50's at the race start but the temperature was going to quickly rise to the mid 80's with full sunshine.

5...4...3...2...1...BANG...the race is on! I decided to wear my headphones for the first lap. With headphones on you risk running to fast, but I felt I was smart enough to resist the urge to get carried away in the music. I ran along, enjoyed my music, and concentrated on staying extremely comfortable. I could have ran faster and still been in my "easy" zone, but the pace I was running was already at a fast 100 mile finish pace. I cruised through the first 8 miles easily and was back at the start.
I had done a great job drinking my water, I filled my pack again. Drank a glass of perpetuem, grabbed a little food and took off for my first 50k loop with my music still on. I ran across the bridge that was near the start/finish. Nice and easy pace. I knew I had a long day and night ahead of me. I ran patiently leaving myself as fresh as possible to be able to run through out the night. 

The course was hilly gravel roads with quite a few rocks. I'm glad I decided to wear my Inov-8 RocLite 268 trail shoes. The soles of the shoes gave me a lot of protection from the rocks as I ran across them. Plus, I appreciated the toe protection since I kicked quite a few big rocks. I lubed my feet with body glide and wore my shoes with Injinji socks and no gaiters. I personally think the trail shoes do their job of keeping rocks out of my shoes.

I had no problem running the hills. I run hilly trails nearly every day. Even though the course was hilly, I found it easier than trail hills. My legs were strong and fresh! I was just floating through the course. I was slowly passing people through out the first lap. It was incredibly comfortable. I couldn't imagine getting tired at the pace I was running. I was absolutely LOVING this run!!!!

I picked up my first pacer Mark at mile 39.58. Him and Steve had both signed up for the 50k, that way they could get a finishers medal and a t-shirt. I had to laugh when they were asking the Race director if they could start their 50k when they started pacing me. The RD said, "that is fine, I'll start your 50k time when you start the race, but you will not be eligible to be overall winner of the race". How funny the RD thought I might just be running fast enough for them to finish faster than any other 50k runner.

Mark and I had a blast running together! We are both M.U.D.D. club runners but we haven't run a lot together. This was great because all our stories were new to each other, we chatted non stop!  During long distance runs conversations can get really deep and personal. In a 31 mile run you can feel like you have a friend that you have talked to every day for years. I love that! I can't express how important Mark was to my experience.

 My legs were still feeling fresh this lap but I was starting to eat a lot of TUMS. The dreaded digestion problems were sneaking up on me. I was trying to keep drinking and fueling myself but it was getting more and more difficult.

I picked up Steve for my final lap. I'm comfortable with Steve. We have run quite a few training miles together. I trusted him completely to do the best he could to help me be my best. I am very confident of what I'm suppose to do at a race. I don't let people push me into doing things that I know from experience are not good for me. I told Steve from the start that I always lead. I know how to pace myself. This is how we ran for approximently 10 miles of the course.

That's when my stomach issues were getting  bad. I wanted to mentally make myself run. Mentally I knew my legs felt great. But my stomach, chest, face, throat, were achy, sick and nausous. My body was completely drained of energy from not being able to keep water or food down. I trudged along with Steve just a few feet in front of me. He kept me moving a tiny bit faster than I wanted to go. Our next aid station was taking forever to get to. I wanted to throw up more but just couldn't. We kept moving forward till finally we saw the station.

Royal and Mark came up to me and I immediatly started violently puking. It was zapping every bit of energy out of me. It was a burning vomit that made everything in my body hurt. I tried to look at my crew and appear ok, but I knew my eyes were glazed and I was unable to focus. They had to catch me from falling as I tried to stay upright. Royal asked me if I wanted to sit down. I said, "No, I can't sit down, that's death in a hundred". The problem was I couldn't stay standing. I had to get water and nutrition in me. Royal changed my shirt, sat me in the chair and covered me with a blanket. He massage my calves, knees and ankles to keep my blood flowing. It was freezing in the chair. Steve held my head so I could take a little nap. Mark brought me a couple of advil and I washed them down with Starbucks expresso double shot. I had to get moving, my break was over. I left that aid station One hour after I had come into it. 4 women had passed me and looked at me with pity as they ran by.

I could barely stand up. My legs were frozen after sitting for that long. I shuffled one foot in front of the other and took off up the hill with Steve. I could see by the look on the aid station captain that he was worried. He knew Royal had a car, and Steve had a phone with him. He told Royal if I had problems they could drive out on the course and get me.

It was so cold I had to move along just to stay warm. I would shuffle as long as I could then walk. Steve was encouraging saying, "great, you made it a mile that time". We arrived at the next aid station. Royal and Mark were still sitting in the truck. The way I looked the last time they saw me they didn't expect me so quickly. This station had hot chicken noodle soup. I still wasn't hungry but was trying my best to drink as much as I could. They poured me a big cup and I stood there and drank it slowly. I joked about never running another 100 while at the same time saying what I needed to remember to bring with me at my next one. I finished my soup and was on my way. The station crew said, "it's only 13 miles to the finish, just an easy Tuesday night run".

Steve and I walked off. We were about 1 minute away and I realized I was feeling good. I looked at my watch and thought I must have accidently stopped it and told Steve. Steve said, "no that is correct" his was the same. I could actually still finish this race in a good PR time. Steve made the logical suggestion, "We should run sub 10 minute miles from here to the finish line". I said, "Let's do it!!! Let's kick some pumpkin a$$!" It was time to put on my music and open up a little can of whoop a$$ on the Pumpkin Holler!.

I was totally pumped! We took off running! Steve went just a little ahead of me. He started us off at about a 10 minute pace then pushed it just a little past that. We were barreling up hills, knocking off one mile after another. I felt Freaking Awesome!!! My music was jamming, I tried to sing but I hardly know any words to my songs. I bopped my head to the tunes and played the air guitar as we picked off the miles. Yeah Baby...bringing it home!!!

We came to the last station we would see Royal and Mark. I yelled my race number to the station, "20 in and 20 out! I'm not stopping till the finish line!" My hydration pack was full of water and we were booking along feeling great! Royal and Mark didn't know what the heck had just happened. Royal yelled to me "be careful."

We cruised along at sub 10 minutes miles and started picking off one runner after another. I passed every women back that had passed me during my break down. Catching people was great motivation to keep moving. Although it really wasn't that hard. My legs felt great, my breathing was great! I just figured I would run a little half marathon to the finish line. This was fun! I love it!!!!

About 9 miles in to our "speed trip" my stomach was getting upset again. I had gotten a lead on all the women that I could. The next women in front of me was Debbie Leftwich and I doubted I would be able to catch her. She's a very talented and ultra experienced 100 mile runner. I was sure she would be running strong to the finish. So I started doing more of a run walk to the finish. I was still ridding my body of stomach upset. But it wasn't as violent as the middle of the night break down. At this point I was able to drink and even ate a package of honey stinger chews during our "speed trip".

We were less than 1/2 of a mile to the finish line when I turned around and saw a women running behind me. I took off in my best end of a 100 mile sprint, she didn't even try to catch me. She had seen me barrel past her earlier, so she knew I could pull out the speed when needed. I stayed into it all the way to the finish line. I finished in 24:48! For a 100 mile PR...I beat my best time by a whopping 3 hours!!!!!! I was 4th overall female and 13th overall finisher. Woo Hoo!!!! Pumpkin Holler!!!!!

My husband was a wonderful crew chief. Everyone that has been at races with us knows how well he takes care of me. Mark and Steve were amazing! Thank you so much guys! The aid stations were well stocked with great food. My favorite had to be the Mad Dog Station. The station captian (a dude Martha Stewart)  had baked these delicious ginger cookies shaped like a dog biscuit! He even stamped each cookie with a  stamp that he made. Each cookie read Mad Dog on them. He made so many that they never ran out.  I was filling my pockets with them at each stop.  Really fun! The course was country beautiful, with bluffs, barns, Long horn cows, horses, snakes, adorable houses, friendly people....I could go on and on!  Thank you Pumpkin Holler for an incredible race!!!!

Sitting on couch the day after the race enjoying the view- totally worth it!!!
    You can see my feet looked great after the race. My Inov-8 Roclite 268's were the perfect choice!