Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd Report

I've been sitting here staring at a blank screen trying to decide where to start. I told my friend Monica I didn't know where to start and she told me to start with the fact that I'm a badass. So, here it is. I ran 103.7 miles on a hilly, rocky road. I'm a total badass. For those that don't want to read a long, boring blog, let me sum it up for you. I had a plan, I executed it. I smashed that pumpkin!

My journey began at 8:00 am on Saturday. 29 hours and 24 minutes later, it was over. It is amazing what a person can go through in that span of time and over that many miles. We all lined up and it seemed like people were fighting to be in the back. At a lot of races people want to be in the front. Not this one. I think most of us knew we had a long day ahead of us, and no one wanted to go out too fast. We took off and as we were running through the campground where the start/finish is, I got a little choked up. I've wanted to run 100 miles for such a long time. I've worked so hard this summer, and it was finally going to happen. The course consisted of an 8 mile out and back and 3 loops of 31.9 miles. The total length is 103.7. Nasty trick, right? 3.7 miles may not seem significant, but I'm here to tell you, it is.

We started the race with the 100k and 50k runners. Not far in we veered off to the right to do the out and back. I had read some blog reports that indicated there was a big hill. I ran a couple of miles and hadn't seen it, so I decided the reports were exaggerated. I was so very wrong. I started going up the hill and went up and up and up. I got to the top and went a little further and came to the aid station where we turn around. I said something inappropriate about the hill I had just come up. I'll just let you all use your imaginations. The aid station had waffles and bacon. I picked up a piece of bacon, but the ends weren't as done as I like (I like it crisp) so I was pulling it apart. Another runner said he'd take the parts I didn't want. Aren't ultrarunners weird? I also grabbed a waffle and put some peanut butter and syrup on it. Refilled my bottle and was on my way. I had gone maybe a tenth of a mile and realized I had left my second bottle. Well crap. I had to have it. I ran back to get it. I got it and headed back. Going back down the big hill there were two guys behind me that were definitely gaining. I didn't consider this a race, so it's not like I was going to speed up. They caught up and we started talking. One was Kelvin and one was Jorge. It was their first hundred too. Jorge thought he knew who I was and we started talking and realized we had both run Flatrock 101k. I remembered him, just hadn't recognized him. I ran with them all the way back to the start/finish.

I was getting ready to take off on loop 2 and heard Kelvin ask if Jorge was ready to go. Jorge told him go on, he'd catch up. I left right after that, but the group Kelvin was in was a bit faster than me. Fairly quickly, Jorge caught up to me. He told me he was going to walk up all the hills, run the downhills and any flats (there were no flats!). I planned the same thing. We stuck together. We were around a mile out from the first aid station, Mad Dog, when we encountered the HILL FROM HELL. I just can't even describe it. Yuck. We finally got to the top, then dropped down into the aid station. There they had all kinds of yummy goodies. I ate a bit and kind of waited, but Jorge was doing stuff, so I just took off. A lot of people stayed there. I don't blame them, the food was good. I headed to the next aid station, which was only a couple of miles away. After it we had to do a 3 mile out and back. The first loop this out and back wasn't a lot of fun, but it was no big deal. That changed the more we did it. Coming back into that aid station on the way back Kelvin and Jorge caught me. We stopped and got pancakes and Kelvin said he was going to hit the restroom and would catch up. I walked and ate. At some point we ran and I told them I'm slow so they could go ahead. They assured me they wanted slow, they had a plan, and we were all going to do this thing together. Sounds good to me!

Nothing eventful happened through here. I was glad for company because honestly, I was having doubts. I was less than 20 miles in and just wasn't having fun. I had company all summer, even on my long runs. That didn't really help me mentally prepare for a long run by myself. If I could do anything about my training over again I would do a few long runs solo, just so I was used to it. As we were coming into Savannah Corner Deanna ran out to grab my bottles to refill. I asked how her 10K went and she told me. She had a huge PR! That just made my day. I'm so happy for her! We got what we needed and took off. The next section sucked. The sun came out and it was hot. There was no protection from the sun so we were baking. I don't think it actually got that warm, but it felt like it. I really slowed down. Kelvin felt great so he kept going. Jorge seemed to feel fine as well, but waited for me. I feel so blessed to have met these guys. They made such a huge difference for me. Once we got to the next aid station it was partly cloudy again and that really helped. We pushed on to Hard Up Ahead, where my crew was waiting for us. Right before we got there Ken pulled up beside us and we chatted for a second. I don't really remember anything about this stop. We got in and out as efficiently as possible, but didn't leave without some pics! Here are Kelvin and Jorge. This picture of me is dorky because I'm laughing, but I love it. I had a lot of fun with these guys and this picture really captures that.

This next section was run on the blacktop road. Early on we discussed this and thought we'd hate it. It turned out to be my favorite part of the course. A break from the rocks was nice. A 135 miler caught up with us during this section and Jorge stayed back to run with her while Kelvin and I pushed on ahead. The next aid station was Bathtub Rocks. They took excellent care of us. My stomach was a little queasy here and they offered me endurolytes. I said they mess with my stomach so one of the volunteers dug into his own stash and got me something else. Saltstick maybe? Anyway, that was very kind of him. They took great care of us. As we were leaving Jorge got there and we knew he'd be back running with us soon.

This was actually taken on the last loop but shows what we had to cross.
I've really got nothing to say about the last 6 miles of this loop. We ran when we could, walked this hills, and just kept going. We got to the start/finish and I went to the bathroom and I think I changed my shirt and sports bra. Then I changed my socks and relubed my feet. My crew had gone to Sonic to get me a cheeseburger. It was so sweet of them, but it had mayo on it, which I'm pretty sure is the most hideous food known to man, so there was no way I could eat it. I feel like an evil b*tch for not eating it, but I just couldn't. I did eat a hot dog though. It was good! This is where I got to pick up a pacer for the first time. I found a hottie that I thought I might enjoy spending a few hours with and talked him into running with us. Here we are:
In all seriousness, it was a big deal for him to pace this far. Ryan was supposed to pace, but got hurt at football and couldn't. Rick stepped up and ran over 14 miles, instead of the 8 he had planned. I can't thank him enough. On the way to the first aid station we told Rick about the big hill. I think I had been dreading it since we did it the first time. As we're going up it he said "Wow, this is really a hill, isn't it." I think he probably wanted to complain a lot, but he didn't. He's awesome. We made it to Mad Dog and I hit the porta potty. OMG. It was gross. I barely made it out before I started puking. Oops. I got some french toast and they were making soup. I really wanted some warm broth but was afraid it had carrots and I'm allergic. I asked and the wonderful volunteer read the label for me. It was safe! The broth was great. We left there and headed to the out and back. When we got there I was hoping for more broth, but the soup had big carrots in it, so that was a no go. I asked if they had bacon. They said they could start cooking it. I told them I'd be back in three miles and would love some. We did the out and back, which I'm fairly sure got longer. I think Ken tricked us by moving the mat every single time. We got back and I peed in front of a truck because I was not risking another porta-potty. We got what we needed and got out of there.

(a break from your regularly scheduled program to tell you I took a break right here to peruse the internet for my next ultra. Thanks Rachel!)

As were were running toward Savannah Corner Kelvin said "I don't remember all of these hills last time." He was right! I remember the first year of Pumpkin Holler, Ken and some friends did the race a few weeks after everyone else. It was the Pumpkin Holler Invitational. Being a long time stalker of his, I read his blog report, and I remember him saying something about the hills getting bigger each loop. It's so true. The aid stations move and the hill and rocks grow.

At Savannah Corner Rick handed off his pacer bib to Libby. She was also taking on more miles than originally planned and I felt some guilt. This would be her longest run ever. I got pretty emotional at this aid station and was pretty ready to be done. We started out and I knew this part of the course was a bit easier, so I was happy about that. Overall I was just in a bad mood most of the time though. It was also through here that I started having to pee constantly. I also started hallucinating. There were lots of leaves on the course and I kept thinking they were other things. Not just thinking "oh, that leaf looks like a mouse" but actually "OMG, a mouse!" It was special. I don't remember much about this section. At Hard Up Ahead I made Rick come in the porta-potty with me. I used the bathroom while he stood there inside. Poor guy. I just needed to break down a little bit and needed him. The more tired I got the more I just wanted my husband. I am so glad he was there. We left there and had the road section again. At bathtub rocks they had grilled cheese sandwiches that were so so good. This aid station was nothing short of awesome every time we came through. They were all great, but something about this one just made me look forward to it every time. I have no clue who the people were running it, but I hope someone knows and tells them how impressed I was. As we were coming to the end of the loop we passed a familiar spot that I knew meant we were almost there. It breathed new life into us. I gave Libby a list of the things I needed before the last loop and she cut off early to go get everything ready while Kelvin, Jorge and I ran around the parking lot and through the finish line. It's hard to keep running through there and not getting to stop!

This isn't a great pic of Libby and I but it's all I've got. Congrats to Libby on her longest run ever!

Me with Jason. I made him take this because when I paced him at Heartland last year I made him take a selfie. I thought we needed one during my race too.

I did what I needed to do and picked up my final pacer, Jason. I knew we had one loop to go and we had plenty of time. Jason was excited and full of energy, so that helped get me going. Kelvin and I looked around for Jorge but couldn't find him. He always caught right up with us so we headed out. We did a lot more complaining about the hill going into Mad Dog. Ok, fine. I'll be honest. I complained a lot. Kelvin probably didn't. Jorge did finally catch up to us, but passed us and did his own thing the rest of the race. I hate so much that I didn't wait for him and didn't get to finish the race with him. Waiting longer and looking harder for him is probably the one decision during the race I would change if I could. In the moment though I just didn't think enough. I just took off assuming all was well and he'd catch us within half a mile.

When we got to Mad Dog I headed to the porta-potty. You might be asking yourself right now, Why? I puked last time, why go in again? Well, I stupidly thought it might be better. It wasn't. I barely made it out before I threw up again. The only two times I threw up the whole race was due to stinky toilets. Jason made fun of me a lot, then kicked us out of the aid station and down the road.

I started getting really tired. I actually fell asleep in the porta-potty. I came out and started crying. I was exhausted. Jason mostly ignored me when I was being like this, which was the right thing to do. No one could fix it, so we just needed to move on. He handed me a pancake and I took a bite and gagged. It was not what I wanted. We headed out to do the out and back for the final time. Jason handed me a cup of coke and said to walk and drink. I needed the calories. The problem was that it was very cold. I was freezing and just couldn't drink something cold. When he wasn't looking I poured it out. He saw the evidence on the way back though! It gave me a good laugh when I needed it. Through here I started thinking people were running up behind us. I could hear the footsteps and even heard voices. Jason kept saying no one was there. Once I stopped to pee and as I was squatted in the middle of the road I thought some people were coming up behind me. I freaked out. Jason assured me that I was just crazy. We got that done and headed toward Savannah Corner. We were really cold and tired and just not happy. We knew the sun would come up pretty soon and that's all we could think about. By the time we got to Savannah Corner we knew we could put away our headlamps. That was something to look forward to! When we got there they had hot cocoa! It was so good. I think I had hot cocoa, broth and some coke there. Probably some solid food too. I really reloaded on the calories. The aid stations were close together at this race, so I mostly just ate at them and not between. It worked very well.

On the way to East of Eden, we kept thinking surely it was around the next corner. One time Kelvin even swore he saw it. It turned out to be a random building. We finally got there and I peed and I think I drank some coke or something. Jason handed me a cup of m&m's and told me to eat and walk. He put way too many in there though and there's no way I could eat them all. I ate several, and then when he wasn't looking I threw them in the ditch and stashed the cup in my pocket. I'm not sure if he knows I did that. Lets see if he reads my blog! Ha!

I looked very much forward to hitting Hard Up Ahead the last time because then the aid stations were only 3 miles apart and I knew it was almost over. Everything hurt. I think my eyelashes hurt. We got what we needed there and got out. We just wanted to be done so we were hurrying. When we left this aid station Kelvin was having severe calf cramps. Jason massaged it for a while, but there wasn't a lot that could be done. We just had to power through. We got to Bathtub Rocks and had Jason take a picture. He fell going over them and broke his phone case. Thank goodness he didn't break his phone!

We didn't even stop at the last aid station. Jason grabbed us cookies and handed them to us on the way by. We were on a mission! I took a bite and threw the cookie. For the record, I only littered food. No trash. I put that in my pockets. With a couple of miles left a vehicle pulled up and Kathy Hoover jumped out. She had ran 135.6 miles, so what was a couple more? She had coached Kelvin all summer, so she came to finish it with him. She was just what we needed. Lots of energy! We started moving faster. Kathy and Kelvin got ahead of me but I was going as fast as I could so I just let them go. Eventually they stopped because Kelvin wanted us to finish together. With maybe a mile to go Kelvin felt a pop. He had pulled or torn his calf muscle. He was in extreme pain, but no way was he quitting. We slowed way down and he hobbled as well as he could. I was holding back tears because I felt so bad for him. We had been through so much together and I couldn't feel his physical pain, but I knew how upsetting that must be. As we were coming over the last bridge I couldn't hold back the happy tears any more. I was getting ready to cross the finish line and get the buckle I've worked so hard for. I could see my crew down there waiting for me and we were waiving and so happy. We came into the camping area and began the long slow walk around to the start/finish.

Coming in we crossed a mat that told them who we were. A huge crowd gathered and was cheering us on. I was crying. We finally crossed the finish line in 29 hours, 24 seconds. Well ahead of the cutoff.

Some finish line pics:

This is what we worked so hard for!

And finally, thank you, thank you, thank you to my crew and pacers! Rick, Ryan, Deanna, Jacob, Libby and Jason. You guys are the reason I finished.

To Kelvin and Jorge: Running this race with you guys was just something special. I am so glad you tucked me under your wings and helped take care of me. You made all the difference in my race. I hope we can all run again together someday. If either of you ever need a crew or pacer, I'm there.

Thanks to everyone else for the messages and well wishes and for cheering for me. I knew so many people were pulling for me. When I wanted to quit, and yes, there were times, I knew how much support I had and I kept going.

Thanks to all of the volunteers! Those TATUR's know how to put on a race!

Now it is time for some much needed rest. I don't know when I'll run again, but I know it won't be for a couple of weeks.


  1. Melissa.....You were amazing beyond words....the determination was there and you had your S**T together...You could see it in your eyes...this was going to happen. Of course it was hard to watch you as well as other runners in pain, but knew you were there and on a BADASS mission. I felt honored to be there, watch you run your race just as you planned and accomplish 103.7 MILES!!! You're a true inspiration. Meeting new people at the race whether runners or on crews was an added bonus. Congrats again on an amazing accomplishment. Yes...You're BADASS...that's a fact!!! :-)

  2. Your story is so inspirational, puking, food littering, and all! I am so happy for you. And dang, you look so good in your pictures, even after 103.7 miles! That's just crazy!

  3. Melissa, I'm thrilled for you. I followed your progress on the on-line tracking site. After completing a 100-miler, life will never be the same!!!!! Joe Galloway

  4. Fan-friggin-tastic!! Congratulations..So incredibly happy for you!