GRINDSTONE 100 2016 Recap
Oh where to being describing Grindstone100. This was my last big race of the year and my “A” race. Everything sort of lead up to this 23,000ft of elevation gain, mountain run in Virginia. I picked this race for a few reasons:
#1 - It was close to my brother's house so he could crew. He was crewing at Blackhills 2015 with me, so I wanted him to see the opposite of a pissing blood, DNF 100-mile experience.
#2 - It is a Hardrock and Western States qualifier.
#3 - To see where I was at and if I was capable of conquering one of the big Mountain Ultra's
The 2 weeks leading up to GS were full of stress, poor sleep and everything you don’t want to happen before the hardest endeavor of your life. We bought a house, so yea that was super exciting, until 3-4 days before we were to leave for GS the sale fell through. Our house still sold so we still needed to be out of our house by the 7th. Suzi and I worked our butts off to get everything we owned in storage units all across town. We spent the last few nights before I left for the race with her on a little mattress and me sleeping in an inflatable canoe in a big empty house thinking how in the world is this all going to come together.
Thursday morning, I woke up in my inflatable canoe and got myself ready out of a suitcase we'd been living out of these last few days. I took my truck to my friend's Mike's house the night before because when I got back to Nebraska we would not have a house anymore. I grabbed my race bag, which was frantically thrown together in the middle of packing the house up and headed to Lincoln to pick up my Crew Chief, also known as my Mom. We quickly headed to Omaha and met Crystal (ultra-awesome-pacer) and soon we were flying to Washington DC. We landed Thursday afternoon and made it to my brother's house for all kinds of awesome food. I ate a good dinner and headed to bed with an early morning wakeup call so I could still sleep some on Friday.
With the Friday 6PM start, my plan was to wake early Friday, get to the race headquarters and then sleep most the afternoon away. I executed that plan for the most part, my mid-day sleep was broken up by lunch, but I was able to get back to sleep after that. I probably got 3-4 hours that afternoon. I woke up at around 4 and had a few hours until race start to run through stuff w/Crystal.
It had rained most the day Friday and we knew going in it was going to be a cold wet run. Hurricane Matthew had made the forecast for the next 24 hours mostly filled with rain as well. Luckily this didn’t turn out to be too big of a variable to overcome. I'd say the worst the rain did was cause some slower more cautious miles for me on the trails. Being my first time on these trails and the dense fog picking up my headlamp light, making it not illuminate the rock, I was slowed down through most the overnight hours. Here are some of the most memorable thoughts of the first 20 miles Friday evening:
"How are these people running this fast on these rocks?"
"Are all 100 miles going to be like these first 20?"
“Do these climbs ever end?”
I saw my crew for the first time at mile 20 Aid Station. The climbs weren't actually as bad as I was expecting. They were long... very very long, sometimes climbing up for 7 miles but the grade wasn't steep enough to make me breathe harder than I wanted to or cause my heart rate to get to high. I took each climb throughout all 100 miles with a solid mindset and effort but careful to not overdo it.
I left that aid station around 11PM and would see them again around 3AM at mile 37.
The next 17 miles included a few more big climbs, but the trail got less rock-filled and slowly became more packed dirt that I could run well on. My Nike Pegasus shoe choice was actually still holding well, I didn’t have any feet pain and was able to start cruising through miles again. I picked up quite a bit of time on this section as I listened to a couple different books on tape. Arriving at around 2:30AM I beat the crew to mile 37 and got some pancakes and other food in a baggie and started the big climb out of this AS.
I felt good entering this station and good leaving. That quickly went away on this 7 mile-3000+ ft climb up. This was my "low" of the race. It wasn't a low that slowed me down a great deal but I was soaking wet, cold and climbing climbing climbing. Every 10 minutes it got colder, rained harder, and got muddier. This climb seemed to last forever. I had no one to chat with and I just had to find that inner strength to keep pushing and not let it slow me down.
My initial plan when I broke down Grindstone on paper was to be at the turn around (mile 50) at 6AM, 12 hours after starting. The fog had probably cost me 1/2 an hour on that first 25 and then this muddy, slick trail had cost me at least another 1/2 an hour. I got to Crystal and my crew at the turn around at 7AM and was really excited to see them. My brother asked me here how I was feeling and I was said “surprisingly really well, I had 1 low and it didn’t last too long and I’ve ran ever since”
There aren't many people in the world who can make you excited about running 50 more miles up and down mountains in the cold rain, but heading back out with Crystal was all I wanted to do at this point. We made good time through the first miles of daylight on this section. We were running most the hills to try and keep our body temp up. This worked well at that and also helped us get through quite a few miles quickly. We had some good chats and before I knew it we were at mile 63 and crew again. I ate some soup and drank some pop here. I stuck to my plan of only water and pop all day long, removing any sugary electrolyte drinks from my plan. I was taking hammer electrolyte pills and those seemed to help me be able to eat a lot of real food every chance I got.
I left mile 63 solo with the plan of picking up Crystal again at mile 80. This actually worked well for both of us. She got to get some stomach stuff taken care of and I got to try and fly to a 3-hour goal of the next 17 miles. In these mountains with the trails how they were that was a tough goal but I was excited to try and hit it. I was in and out of the 1 AS in between and I hit mile 80 in 2 minutes under 3 hours from leaving mile 63.
The crew was there at 80 and I took some time to re-fuel and get ready for the last 20. I knew from the outbound trip that these 20 were going to be the toughest miles of the entire day. These last miles with Crystal had us climbing up those really long climbs again, which seemed twice as long as before. On the big long climbs up we had fun singing and taking karaoke requests from other runners. I was still able to run all the downhills, that lasted all the way to the finish. My quads felt fine coming down even the steepest of hills. The last one down the road was steep but we were flying because we were so happy to have made our final summit in the cold rain.
Around mile 90 we had to cross 4 or 5 creek crossing that had filled with water. These were dry on the way out but on the way back with tired legs I kept miss-stepping and getting more soaked. After that we had a few head down, focus on the rocks, trail headlamp, not so fun miles here. We got through them but they were a total grind. Just then this huge branch came crashing down from the top of a tree. I looked over at Crystal and was like "just a branch". We stayed focused and strong and made it to mile 95 Aid Station so happy to see humans and coffee. I had some serious chaffing struggles the last 10 miles of the race, I’ll spare you the gross details but it was making every step super painful.
I spent the last 5 miles really reminiscing on the entire day. I probably could of ran these better or stronger but I felt like doing whatever I wanted for those 5 miles and that I had earned that right throughout the day so I hiked a good section of these 5 miles and thought about what an amazing day it had been. I finished in 27 hours and some change, honestly I haven't even looked at what my time was. I am just simply satisfied in this finish on that day.
It was tough.
It was tough.
It was fun.
It was what I paid for.
What I trained for.
What I came for.
Happy Trails and stay dry.