It's hard to believe, but this was my final long run before Western States which is now only 19 (GULP!) days away. Since my taper was set to begin just after this race I decided to race it hard. Give it all that I had and see where my fitness level was.
My heart was heavy driving into the parking lot knowing that this race would be memorialized by several runners over the recent loss of Angela Ivory. The sweetest trail runner that I've ever met.
Thomas was kind enough to provide some Ivory colored ribbon for us to wear during the race and I pinned my on along with my number a few minutes before the start.
The first leg of this 34 mile course features a 7.0 mile out-n-back down a trail called "Winding Stairs". The name fits because you rapidly run down 3.5 miles of winding switchbacks before reaching a gravel road and then climbing back out.
I gave myself about a mile to get warmed up before starting to push the pace on the downhill. Even then I settled in behind some other runners at a moderate pace to save some quads for the river section of the course.
I climbed back up to the 1st aid station around mile 8 in about 1:30. I grabbed enough food to carry me down the river for 6-7 miles and filled my bottles with Powerade.
This ended up being a mistake. I was experimenting with drinking all calories instead of just water and I learned that this doesn't work for me. I can handle a half-n-half mix, but either way I need plain water.
Thomas, Tom, Bo, and I ran this entire section together down the historic & scenic Chattooga River. Banjo music played far away over the mountains in the distance behind the beautiful blue Carolina sky. (That's a joke)
Halfway through this section I took a horrible fall into some rocks. It was the kind of fall where you just immediately hit the ground without sliding. It nearly knocked the wind out of me and ended up straining some muscles in my chest. I jumped right up and kept up with the pack. No time for medical evaluations now - If I could breath, then I was running!
Viktor and D-Ray caught us on down the river about 2 miles before running into the next aid station. Man, they passed us like we were standing still. It was great to see Viktor moving so well after running the course just the day before too.
I ran into aid station two very thirsty and hungry. I had brought my Steri-Pen to treat some extra water along the long stretches, but I was jonesing for some soda. Like an idiot, I swilled down 4 cup fulls and crammed my mouth full of food before taking off. This didn't settle too well and I felt like I had a baby lamb in my stomach. After a mile of burping I started to feel good and and began to push the pace harder on this downhill section.
I've also learned that I need 1 SCap in 80 degree weather and can use up to 2 per hour when it gets over 85. These kept my kidneys functioning perfect and held general fatigue and cramping at bay too. I need to be drinking water with these, instead of sports drink.
So, I make it back to the aid station and there is now about 10 miles left to go back down the Chattooga to finish. I ate as much food as my stomach would allow, refilled bottles with water, grabbed some food for the road and hit the trail again quickly.
I felt like I smashed this section! I ran all of the downhills & flats and even jogged a lot of the uphills. I ended up filling up my two 20 oz. bottles two extra times through here so I was going through a lot of water.
I made the final turn towards the finish which meant there were three miles to go. These three miles usually go on FOREVER, but I knew that it would go much quicker if I made myself run them. My legs and body were beginning to red line in this section and I though of Angela. How she fought cancer for so many years and still managed to come out and finish these ultras. Her spirit for life helped push me faster and harder up that final climb to the finish.
At last, I crossed the highway and headed into the campground towards the finish line. My watched showed a 7:35 finish time which was my fastest time ever by about 30 minutes. It felt good to do that for Angela.
In closing I would like to share this photo and poem about her.
Slipping into Brightness
Angels rose before sunrise
To slip along a trail greeting
Nature as she found it
And the sun which lit
An already Angela brightened day.
Angela sang of exuberance
Since joy was the only way
She accepted the world
As she found it
And the people who lit
An already Angela brightened friendship
Angela faced each day
Each opportunity to experience
With an embrace
Angela runs now
Well after sundown
Darkness unable to dim
The memories lit by
An Angela brightened life
Poem By Ray K