Nicholas DiPirro and Michael Dubova, the two guys who won the race this year are good friends who ran together the whole way. John Anderson, the co-race director wrote this in his race report, “As they left for their last lap, well under course record pace, we were all wondering when one of them would drop the other, which we fully expected. It’s a race after all! As we saw them across the lake, about 12 minutes from the finish, they were still together. Would it be a 400m sprint? Nope. As Nick and Dubova came out of the woods and approached the finish, they held hands, laughing and sprinting, and jumped across the finish line in a tie for first place.”
This is such an awesome picture (taken from John Anderson’s FB page). I love it.
Oh, and it was the first time either one of them had run a 100k and they did end up setting a new course record.
I think what these two did is a wonderful representation of the feel of the entire race.
The day just had a good feel to it. If you’re thinking about doing your first 100k, I highly recommend this one!
The swag for this race was well above average. Each runner got a huge bottle of Monticello Reserve Ale along with a TJ 100k shirt and Klean Kanteen coffee mug.
Despite my 3 am wake-up time, I was in high spirits race morning. The chance of rain that had been looming in the forecast all week had all but disappeared and I was excited at the prospect of attempting my first 100k at Walnut Creek (which happens to be my favorite local park).
I knew I was under trained. My weekly mileage had barely crept above 30. I’d run the race loop during training, but I’d never run more than two consecutive laps. And on the few occasions that I’d run two laps, I’d been sore and exhausted afterward. The thought of running 7 laps was more than I could wrap my head around, but today I was going to find out if I could do it.
I got to the park at about 4:30 and set up my drop box (all of my food, water bottles and hydration pack, change of clothes, Body Glide, cooler full of ice, etc.) One of the great things about this race is that you have access to all of your personal stuff every 9 miles.
Lap 1 (1:53:55)
I started too far back (there were only 3 people behind me) so the first couple of miles I was forced to go much slower than I wanted to. I spent a lot of my time looking for appropriate places to pass people. This was not necessarily a bad thing. I needed to be taking it slowly during these early miles. I was surprised how easy it was to see in the woods with my headlamp. I think it helped that everybody was grouped together. I was using the light of the people in front of me and behind me, too.
One good thing about running in the dark was that I had a hard time figuring out where I was on the trail. There were a couple of times when I was waiting to come to some landmark only to realize that I’d already passed it. The course was extremely well-marked and easy to follow even in the dark.
There is one other aid station on the course in addition to the start/finish area. When I got there, the volunteers were very helpful and asked if I needed anything. I didn’t so I ran right by without even checking to see what was there.
I felt happy and strong as I came in from my first lap. Volunteers asked me what I needed and tried to entice me with goodies. My friend Rebecca was there to crew for me though, so I handed over my hydration pack for her to fill while I picked out some food for my next lap.
Lap 2 (1:50:02)
It had been dark for the first few miles on my first time by so I had missed seeing them, but there were two bright daffodils growing by the side of the trail. They really stood out in the brown winter woods. I would see those daffodils 5 more times that day and each time they made me happy.
It was starting to get hot and I was drinking more than I had anticipated, so I stopped at the second aid station and a volunteer filled my water bladder for me.
On the second big climb after the aid station, I caught up to a group of runners. The gregarious man in back turned around and introduced himself and gave me a fist bump. He then introduced me and the man behind me to everyone in his group. We talked for a while about Charlottesville and the course, then he pulled a pair of orange women’s bikini bottoms out of I don’t know where (it honestly was like a Houdini trick) and asked me if I’d ever heard of the game “Trail Cinderella”. Like the idiot that I am, I said “No. What is that?” just as it dawned on me. “Don’t worry. If it fits, I promise to have you home by midnight.” This was definitely one of the strangest exchanges I’d ever had with another runner.
The group was moving along at a pace that felt good to me and their lighthearted banter kept my mind busy, so I stayed behind them for the rest of the loop.
If I was smarter, I would have stayed behind them for the rest of the day because the two women in that group were the same ones who ended up passing me near the end of the race.
I later realized that the man was Gary Knipling, a 72-year-old ultra-running veteran who has run well over 100 ultras.
Lap 3 (1:56:35)
Heading off on loop 3 was new territory for me. I had never run more than 2 consecutive laps of this course. I was mostly pretty amazed at how not terrible I was feeling. I was starting to get a little bit of a headache, which I figured was a lack of caffeine. I am used to getting a massive dose of caffeine in the form of about a pot of coffee every morning. I had only had time for one mug before the race.
Photo courtesy of Charlottesvillain Photography.
When I arrived at aid station #2 and was asked for the third time that day what I needed, I replied “What do you have with caffeine?” That garnered a bit of a chuckle. I was offered coke or lukewarm coffee. I hesitated for a minute because I’m used to drinking coffee and I can’t even remember the last time I had a soda, but the soda was cold and sounded much more appealing, so I downed a cup. I then noticed the bucket of ice water with cloths in it and I don’t think anything else would have made me happier at that moment. I rinsed the sweat off my face and headed down the trail feeling much better.
Less than a half mile later, just as I’d pulled my chocolate covered pretzels out of my pack, I found myself suddenly airborne and then crashing to the ground. Some choice expletives may have escaped. Grateful that nobody was around to witness my fall, I hauled myself off the ground and assessed the damage. My palm was simultaneously stinging and throbbing and my knee was bloody but I was able to run and open and close my fist, so I figured I’d be ok. I squirted some water from my hydration pack onto my knee to try to clean some of the mud out and continued on my way.
The fall darkened my mood for a while, but I was still feeling pretty strong when I came in from my third lap. John Anderson was so encouraging every time I came through. He again told me I was doing awesome.
I changed my shoes while Rebecca filled my handheld and then I was on my way again.
Lap 4 (2:05:08)
It felt good to be wearing fresh shoes and to not be wearing my hydration vest, but this is where things started to get hard.
The heat was getting to me and my energy was waning. I had some chafing starting on my upper arm and under my bra strap. I felt like there was a thorn in my shoe, but I waited until I was about 3 miles in to stop and check. There was something in there, but even after I got it out the bottom of my foot kept burning and it seemed to get worse as I went along.
At the aid station, I applied some Vaseline to my chafing and washed my face off with an ice towel while a volunteer filled my bottle for me. She also told me that my friend Andi had stopped by and wanted me to know that she had been there, but had to leave before I’d come through. I felt bad that we had missed each other but happy that she had taken the time to drive out to see me.
I was feeling a little nauseated at this point which I thought was a combination of the heat and the fact that I’d been eating too much sugar. I’d had a couple of Clif Bars, a Kind bar, a Honey Stinger Waffle, some Fig Newmans and a couple of chocolate covered pretzels. It was then that I discovered the boiled potatoes and vat of sea salt. Yes! The big, crunchy grains of salt were delicious. I scooped up as much salt with each piece of potato as I could and headed out of the aid station feeling much better.
Lap 5 (2:23:34)
This was the hardest lap of the day for me. At the start/finish area I had taken off my shoe and discovered that the bottom of my foot was burning because I had a huge blister. I put some tape on it, but it didn’t seem to help. It still hurt like hell. Everything hurt. I had a few knee twinges and began to doubt if I’d be able to finish at all.
The thought of running two more loops after this one hurting as much as I was hurting was overwhelming. I asked myself why I was doing it. What was the point? What difference did it make if I hauled my butt through these last three laps?
It didn’t get any better. My blister felt like it was growing. The two guys who won the race lapped me for a second time with just under two miles to go to the finish. I heard the announcement that they’d be coming in in about 10 minutes and realized that it would take me twice as long to get there and then I’d still have two more laps to go.
John was still telling me that I was doing awesome as I came in from each loop, but I was having a much more difficult time believing him. Did he not realize how much slower I’d run that lap?
Lap 6 (2:23:26)
I hadn’t even asked her to, but Rebecca had changed clothes and set out onto the course with me as my pacer. I’ve never had a pacer before and didn’t really know how it worked. I usually run by myself and find it difficult to run at somebody else’s pace even on fresh legs with lots of mental energy. I had neither. She asked if I wanted to be in front or in back and I told her in front. I may have pushed myself to keep up if she was in front but in the mood I was in, I knew that trying would just piss me off.
Heading out with Rebecca, my awesome crew and pacer.
It did help to have someone to talk to, although I didn’t have the energy to say much. It also helped me run a little more than I would have by myself, only because there was somebody right there who would know every time I stopped to walk.
At the aid station the volunteer asked if it was my last loop, which was just depressing. Nope. I have to do this whole thing AGAIN. I really didn’t want to think about that.
I was excited to see Andi at the finish area. She had driven all the way back out again, which made me really happy. I felt bad that I only saw her for a few minutes, but I was so tired and eager to get out again, if only to get the damn thing over with.
One more lap to go. There was no “only” about it.
Lap 7 (2:34:31)
Rebecca headed out with me on my last lap, but turned around after about a half mile because her hip was hurting. I was ok with that, though. I was carrying my headlamp again because it was going to get dark on this loop and I was kind of excited about being alone in the woods in the dark.
One of the girls I had passed earlier in the day caught up with me on the first big climb. I asked if she wanted to get by, but she said that my pace was just perfect. We ran a little, but mostly walked together and talked until the aid station. Halfway up the hill, we’d had to turn our headlamps on.
At the aid station, the volunteer filled my pack for me for the last time and I grabbed what I thought were two miniature Snickers bars. I walked slowly out of the aid station sucking on chocolate, but was disappointed when I went to pull out my second candy bar and realized I’d accidentally grabbed a Milky Way. Dejectedly, I put it in my pocket and forced myself to start jogging. Although I’d been excited to run in the dark, it was far from fun for the first couple of miles. It was much harder to see than it had been in the morning and I kept stumbling on rocks and roots. It didn’t help that my blister had gotten worse and every time I inadvertently landed on my midfoot, or on anything that made my foot turn in or out, it was absolutely excruciating.
For the first few miles out of the second aid station, the trail is steep and fairly technical. My pace slowed drastically. The girl I’d been chatting with had gotten ahead of me at the aid station and it wasn’t long before the guy behind me passed me as well.
Now I was alone in the dark woods. I made peace with the fact that I just couldn’t move as quickly as I wanted to on the rocks and steep hills. For a while a sliver of moon peeked out from behind the clouds. The warm wind felt nice and I saw several frogs and spider’s eyes on the trail in front of me. I could hear the frogs too and every once in a while the rustle of leaves that I assumed were deer.
The trail gets less technical once you get out by the lake so I was able to run a lot more during the final stretch to the finish line.
There was a lot of enthusiastic cheering for each and every finisher. I remember being impressed at the Blue Ridge Marathon because the race director high-fived each runner as they come through. But here I got hugs from the co-race director and Andy Jones-Wilkins, the race director. Andy also personally handed me my two dollar bill finisher’s medal.
That picture is better than any race medal.
John Anderson’s wife Michelle came over and personally congratulated me, too.
After more than 15 hours of running, it felt so good to be done. I ate the veggie burger that I’d been dreaming about for the last 27 miles and a cupcake.
It was incredibly hard to get up from my chair when I was finished eating and even harder walking to the car. It is amazing to me how quickly you can go from running to barely hobbling once you stop.
I can’t say enough good things about this race. It was well-organized and everybody was incredibly helpful and friendly. There were a lot of little (and not so little) things I didn’t even mention. There was a dinner the night before and breakfast and award ceremony the morning after. A “mobile aid station” (a group of volunteers running in the opposite direction checking on runners and offering Gu packs) was out on the course. Andy was out there running for a little while too, offering encouragement as he sped by with a huge grin on his face.
Sixty-eight people started the race and 48 (46 within the 18 hour time limit) finished .
You can find complete race results here.
The blister I ran more than a marathon on.