*Disclaimer: I received 3 Buff® products as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.comto review find and write race reviews!*
The weeks of constant planning and anxiety came to an end. Kettle 100 race day was finally here. I couldn’t plan any more and whatever happens, happens. I tried to mentally prepare for every disaster and at the same time prepare myself to take whatever mother nature handed me.
Saturday morning was cool with a slight breeze and cloudy. Pretty much ideal race conditions. I placed my drop bags on the designated tarps, hoping that I had everything I could possibly need. I had some goal times in mind, but at the same time, I just wanted to finish. It was my first 100 miler after all.
My friend Sarah was also running the race, which was nice to have a running partner for the start. I told her right away that I was going to take the first 64 miles excruciatingly slow. The last thing I wanted was to show up at mile 64, dreading the final 36 miles. Another worry of mine was the bugs. Trail reports throughout the week warned us that the mosquitoes and ticks were the worst they’ve ever been. So keeping a steady pace was necessary to keep the bugs off, but not too fast that I wear myself out. Good thing I packed my UV Insect Shield Buff®.
The race began at 6 a.m. sharp. Sarah and I started out nice and slow, chatting with some other runners around us. We got to the first drop bag in no time and that’s where things became a bit more challenging. I was waiting for Sarah, all the while, she thought I had already left and she was trying to catch up to me. Eventually I headed out to continue the race, hoping I’d catch up to her at some point. After the first drop bag, the runners started to disperse considerably. There would be long stretches of time before I’d see another runner. For the most part I kept to myself, and that’s pretty much how things went for the next 49 miles. I would have quick chats with runners here and there, but nothing substantial. This was probably the longest I’ve ever run by myself – around 12 hours of running alone. At first when I was 4 hours in to this lonely stretch, I got nervous on what mental state I’d be in once I arrived at Nordic (where my pacers were waiting). But after a while, I kind of enjoyed taking in the trails, going my own pace, and really absorbing everything.
By the time I got to Nordic, mile 64, I was ready for some company. There was no more IF at this point, it was WHEN will I finish. I didn’t have a difficult time leaving the transition area like I thought I might. Probably because I just spent the last 12 hours running alone and couldn’t wait to talk to my friends. It also started to thunderstorm soon after leaving Nordic, which allowed me to focus on something besides the soreness that was setting in my legs and feet.
Miles 70-75 threw a whole other curve ball at me. The rain basically made this section into a major mud pit of technical trails. The leaves from the surrounding trees were sunken down, blocking the light from my headlamp. It was slow, and long, and made me very sleepy. But the last thing I needed was to trip and fall 30 miles from the finish. When the trail opened up just before HWY 12, I felt refreshed and so glad to experience the beautiful sight of the moon and stars shining overhead with my friends.
HWY 12 was the area I was most intimidated by. I knew this section would be difficult to maneuver through at night, especially after already running for 20 hours. I kept my head down and just kept moving. After the mud-apocalypse section, this 4 mile out and back section wasn’t so bad. I was back at HWY 12 in no time.
The Final Stretch
I had 14 miles left – That’s it! I felt great. The sun was coming out and I felt a burst of energy. Things were going well, and I was keeping a strong pace north of HWY 12, until I started to feel the blisters expanding on the balls of my feet. They were getting worse by the minute and there wasn’t anything I could do till the next aid station which was over 4 miles away at this point. I had to keep moving because the clouds of mosquitoes were ready to bite if I were to stop. Because of stupid blisters, I had to change my running form completely, which is never a good idea. The 4 miles felt forever until I finally stumbled to the final crew allowed aid station – Bluff Road.
There, my awesome crew put mole skin on my blisters. They wanted to pop them, but even the thought of it made me want to puke. But the moleskin at least gave it a buffer from my socks. Thankfully the final 7 miles I was allowed up to 5 pacers, and without even a second thought, 5 of my best running friends were there to see me finish up this final stretch.
The last 7 miles didn’t seem real. It was like I was there on the trails, but not there at the same time. It felt amazing and sad all wrapped together. This event that I’ve trained so hard for would be done in just a few short miles. The last 7 miles, my friends made me laugh – and made me feel slightly embarrassed for reasons that will stay on the trail. It was the perfect ending to this great journey of training for my first 100 mile trail race. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew and pacers. #LiveMoreNow