Monday, April 28, 2014

FlatRock 101K

As I sit here with my feet in a tub of ice water to reduce swelling, trying not to vomit from the persistent nausea I've had since Saturday afternoon, I ask myself, "WHY?" I don't really have an answer, besides that I had something to prove. Guess what? I proved a lot of things. I'm tough, I'm persistent, and there's nothing I can't do if I want it bad enough.

Race day started at 4:00 am when I got up to get ready. I woke up, gathered my stuff, and made sure Libby was awake. She had stayed the night at my mom's house and needed to be at the race bright and early to volunteer. I'm so glad she stayed there as she helped me finish getting my drop bags ready and kept me sane. I went downstairs, got dressed, and went to the kitchen to forage for food. I had just sat down with a bowl of cereal when Rick came in the kitchen and said something about rain. I looked at him like he was crazy, and he pointed out the thunder and lightning. I hadn't even noticed. I started freaking out. I think we all remember the craziness that was the FlatRock 50K in the fall. I did not want a repeat of that today, especially when I was doubling the distance. I had done a decent job of not freaking out about the weather, even though the forecast said it would be really hot and it might storm.

I finished getting ready, got Ryan up, tried to get Adam up, and loaded up the car. Adam wouldn't get up so I left him at my mom's house and made arrangements for Rick to get him later. We started driving and I could see it had rained quite a bit. I was getting upset. I started telling them I couldn't even start. Rick and Ryan were having none of that. I got to the race and didn't start feeling better. I just got more nervous. I started getting ready and went to check in. I talked to Jason a bit. He signed up for the race planning to run it with me. I was thrilled because it meant I didn't have to spend hours and hours on the trail alone. Eric did his prerace briefing, I took some pics, and it was time to line up.

The race started and I was running nice and easy. My plan was to go into the woods in last place. I hate the first part of the trail and hate when people are behind me and I have to go faster than I want. After running on the road a bit we hit the trail. It's like being dumped into hell. The first part of the trail goes up and up and up. It sucks away your air, makes your heart race, your legs burn, and just generally sucks. I think it's likely that I'm just a big giant baby, but I just hate this part! We eventually got to the top and then settled in to run when we could. Jason wasn't liking the first part any more than I was, but I assured him that soon we'd be out of that crap and then have some sections that are a lot easier. See, I know this course. Well. I used to run it all the time. This is both a blessing and a curse. I told Jason he'd get sick of me telling him where we were and what was coming, but he never said if he did.

Not a lot to say about the first few miles. We were taking it easy and chatting. We hit the first aid station, Max's Place. Got some food and drink and kept going. More running, more chatting. Sometimes other people would run with us, then they'd take off ahead. We were ok with that, we knew it was a long day, a tough trail, and were 100% ok with coming in last place. The next aid station, formerly Oak Ridge, is now Dana's station. This one is manned by Ken and Dana Childress. For followers of this blog, you might remember I paced Ken the last 25K of this race last year. You would have thought that would have convinced me to not do it. He just made it look easy! They helped us refill water and whatever else we needed. I don't remember a lot about this stop as it was quick.

We took off and were enjoying the relative flatness of this section of the course. Still not a lot to say, we were just running easy. Talking about a lot of things, though I don't really remember now what we talked about. Jason would slow me down every once in a while, reminding me of the long day ahead. It had also started to get pretty hot and sunny. When we got to the turnaround station I was greeted by my family. Ryan was helping out until he paced and Rick and Adam were there to crew for me. I started reloading my hydration pack and Sean came over to make sure I didn't need anything. I was pretty well set. He told me I was really red and I said yeah, I was sunburned and didn't have sunblock until the start/finish. Another runner was there with his crew and he had some sunblock. I rubbed some on as quick as I could as I needed to get out of there. I'm not entirely sure who it was that let me use their sunblock, but I really appreciated it.

Right before the turnaround the first time

We headed back out for the next 25K still feeling good. It was getting really hot though. I was staying on top  of my hydration and nutrition and felt good. We cruised through Dana's station again and entered the harder section once again. Something I haven't mentioned yet is snakes! We saw so many. Not far past Oak Ridge I saw my first copperhead of the day. I stopped and threw my arms out to stop Jason yelling "Copperhead!" I wanted to stop and he made me go around it. So gross. I eventually lost count of the copperheads I saw but it was more than 5. I can't even guess how many snakes total. I have ran mile after mile on this trail and have only seen one other snake. I think it was in here that I saw a baby armadillo. It was so cute! I asked Jason if he would pick it up and put it in my hydration pack so I could take it home. He said no. He told me I'd look like a redneck Paris Hilton. I cracked up!

Random photo that I just really like for some reason (because I'm weird?)

 When we got back to Max's place with 4 miles to go I was starting to feel the run a bit. I was ok, but I was hot and getting tired. Thankfully nothing really hurt yet. Michael Mora was at the station and he looked a little rough. I told him to come with us and he could stay with us as long as he needed. Michael, Jason and I left the aid station at the same time as William Sprouse, who I hadn't met before. The four of us ended up finishing the first 50K together. I don't think we ran a step of that last section until we hit the road. As we came out of the woods Jason realized that if he hurried he could have a new 50K PR on that course. He took off and said he'd meet me there. He got his PR! So did I. My previous fastest 50K there was 9:13. I finished Saturday in 8:56 (I think). This isn't an official PR for the course as it's part of a longer race, but I know now I can do it faster! I was thrilled with that and it gave me the motivation to go back out.

At the aid station Rick and the boys were ready to help me with whatever I needed and Libby was there also, along with my friend Krystal. They helped me change shoes and socks, I relubed everything and went to the bathroom. I also tried to eat but my stomach was starting to rebel. I had 1/4 of a sandwich but when I tried to take another bite I threw up. Decided that was enough of that. Got some watermelon and that was better. Ryan was ready to jump in and pace. We left the aid station and were ready to tackle the second half. It was time to do what we had just done all over again.

My super duper pacer/son.

 Same story as before, the first part sucks. This time it was worse though. My heart was racing and I didn't feel well. I just couldn't get going. Jason was moving faster and I told him to go on, run his own race. He kept waiting for me. He'd get ahead and stop and wait for me. I kept telling him to go. Maybe a mile before Max's Place I threw up. It was massive. Also rather humiliating considering both Ryan and Jason were standing there watching. After I threw up I felt better so I started going again. We finally made it to the aid station and I sat down a couple of minutes. I got some food and liquid in me and took off. I was feeling awful and all I could think was that I had over 20 miles left of this. I knew then it was going to be a long evening/night. At the start/finish I had heard some reports of people dropping. At Max's I heard even more. The heat was really getting to people I think. I heard of so many people that had cramping and nausea. Every time I heard that someone else dropped I think I was more determined to finish. The conditions were brutal and that just made me want the finish even more.

Ryan was awesome. He kept his eye on the time and told me when to eat and when to take an endurolyte. He also kept me drinking. He asked a lot how my stomach was and I tried hard to be positive, but I was miserable. I just kept moving and was finally at Dana's station. Joell was there with William as he didn't have a pacer and she wanted some extra miles. She was going to be pacing me the last 25K but was hoping to run more. She did! She paced an entire 50K. What a woman! Ken and Dana got me food and snacks and were positive. Dana told me she was impressed with how far I've come since I met them. She's such a sweetheart. Rick was here to help me. He was originally not going to be at this station, but I was getting chilled and wanted a dry shirt so I asked him to be there. The poor guy. I was so demanding and he was so patient and nice. I changed my shirt and felt so much better!

We left and were happy to have some easy trail. About the time it started getting dark we hit the trickier part of this section. There's about a mile that just kind of sucks. No other way to describe it. Someone was behind us and ran with us for a bit. He stopped to do something and we got ahead, but I had to sit once to eat and try not to throw up. I had reached a point where eating anything was super challenging and I definitely couldn't walk and eat. After the man got ahead of us he stopped a said "It's moving away, but there's a really big copperhead right there." I was so tired and sick and I freaked out. I way overreacted. I was done with that race at that point! He told me I had to go around it and it was moving away and I'd be ok. I finally went around. What a baby! He talked to Rick at the finish line and I think he had gotten quite a laugh out of it. I wasn't amused. We kept walking and were finally almost to the turnaround. With less than a mile left I threw up again. A lot. Really, it's a shame no one got to see it. I don't know how a person could have so much liquid in them. Poor Ryan just stood there waiting for me. Have I said how great he is? He's a good pacer for me and really just a good kid. I'm so proud of him. When I got to the aid station Adam came up and hugged me. He's so sweet! Sean got me some broth and some ginger ale. Both were great. Joell was getting ready to pace me and I think Ryan was relieved to be done. I sat a while and I finally asked the time. I told Joell what time I wanted to leave because I knew she'd make me.

I eventually left for my last 25K. I knew I could do it, but I just didn't want to. I was sick and dizzy and my heart was racing. I just wanted to get to Dana and Ken because I knew they'd fix me up. I also knew if I left that station I'd finish unless I got pulled due to time. A few times I had to stop and sit and just let everything settle. I'd climb a hill, get really nauseous and dizzy and have to rest. There really aren't words to describe how hard it was. Imagine having a stomach virus and still running/hiking/basically crawling a 50K. On a really tough course. I think I threw up a couple of times through here, but maybe just once. It was a massive amount again. Joell tried to get as far away as she could because it makes her sick and I just felt so bad that she had to listen to that. She was concerned with the amount of liquid I was losing. I got to Dana's station and sat down and told her I need help. She gave me some soup and as soon as it hit my throat I started gagging. It tasted great, but I couldn't really swallow anything. One of them told me to suck on some pretzels. I did that and then Dana had me put salt under my tongue. I sat and ate pretzels and salt. She told me that I needed to do the same thing at the next station and also sent some with me. She told Joell that if I threw up again within 2 miles I had to come back to her station. I knew that meant if I did it again I was done. My race was over. At that point I was determined to hold everything down. Alternatively, there was absolutely part of me that was hoping I'd throw up again and the choice of whether or not to finish would be taken away. I hated that part of me, but it was there. I wanted to be done. Hours ago. Rick was here again and he just looked concerned. I'm so glad the boys were sleeping in the car. Adam certainly didn't need to see me like that. They helped me get what I needed and we started out toward the finish.

Closing my eyes for a few minutes

I really don't remember much of this section. I walked slowly, I probably cried, and I certainly whined to Joell a lot. She was cheerful and sweet and just kept me going. She put up with me when she was probably ready to push me off of a cliff. I don't know what I did to deserve having her as a friend. She's wonderful. Not too far from Max's Place I told Joell a creek was coming up and I think I want to soak my feet. I did it and wow! It felt wonderful. My feet were just killing me. My toes felt like someone had been stomping on them for hours. The cold water felt great. That motivated me to get going and get to the last aid station. We got there and someone handed me a flashlight and said he was told to give it to me. He didn't know who it was and I haven't been able to figure it out either. Can someone please tell me so I can thank someone? As we were leaving the aid station I did something weird and caused my headlamp to only have a red light. That wasn't going to work. I used the flashlight the last several miles instead. Talk about a lifesaver!

We tackled the last section knowing it meant the end was near! I don't think we talked much. I think I whined and we just walked. We stopped a few times. I threw up again with about a mile left. Eventually we could see the finish. I got so emotional knowing it was almost done. When we had about a mile to go I asked Joell to call Rick to make sure he was going to be there. While she called I kept walking. I was so happy. I knew I was going to sit down soon! I told her when we get to the road I want to turn off our headlamps so we could sneak up on the finish line. We got there and I so wanted to run, but it was not happening. I told her I'd run when we got to the gravel road. I also picked a spot where I wanted to turn our lights back on. Right before we got there someone saw us and started blowing the air horn and ringing the cow bells. I ran through, slapped the hand, and started crying. Eric came up and hugged me and gave me my buckle and 101k sticker. I cried on him. Then Rick came and hugged me and I was sobbing that I was so tired. I'm such a baby. Jason had waited to see me finish and he gave me a hug and said he was out of there, he felt awful and wanted sleep. He met his goal of 22 hours! I, however, did not. I finished in 23 hours, 14 minutes. I finished though! That's all that matters. Libby gave me a hug and asked what I wanted. I wanted biscuits and gravy! She fixed me some and I sat down to eat.


I think 49 people were registered for the race (maybe 48?) and 37 people started. 22 finished. I was one of those finishers! I couldn't be more proud of myself. A little braggy maybe. I feel like I have something to brag about though. Not because I'm an awesome runner and had a great race. Because I'm an ok runner, I had a horrible second half, but I did it anyway. You don't have to be the best to accomplish great things. You just have to want it. I wanted this race.

I am so thankful for all of the volunteers at this race! They were all amazing. It was a long day and night and they gave up a lot of time to help us crazy runners.

For more photos, click here  Rick and Kristi Mayo of Mile 90 photography took pics and they are amazing!

I have so much more I'd like to say and so many more stories I could tell, but I think this post is already about twice as long as it should be. I'm ready to take a couple of weeks off to rest and recuperate, then it's time to start asking, "What's next?"


  1. What's next???? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! I think you'll figure it out. I hope I'm there to see you do something even more amazing.

  2. Outstanding accomplishment Melissa! Great mental toughness to get the finish with what you were dealing with.