Where do you start in a race like Grindstone? I guess last year would be a good place. Last year I DNF'd at 35 miles so this year I was back for some serious redemption. I guess my stomach didn't get the memo that I wasn't stopping because it decided to wreak havoc on my physical capabilities and my energy levels starting from the second mile. No joke. Mile 2.
The race is interesting for the simple fact that aside from being 100 miles with 23,200 ft of elevation gain and 23,200 ft of elevation loss, it starts at 6 pm. Everyone runs all night.
My personal encounter with the race this year was like nothing I have experienced and nothing I ever want to experience again. As we took off down the trail from the Boy Scout Camp where the race started the light of day began to dim. 2 miles after the start I felt a gurgling in my stomach that signaled a need to let go of whatever I ate prior to the race. Crap #1.
Not too worried about the placing or time at this point I continued down the trail with the ever dimming light of day and tried to post pone the use of a head lamp as long as I could because I knew I would be using it for quite awhile through the night.
Before another 20 minutes passed I needed to go again. This became an annoying pattern for the first 22 miles. I got the aid station with my brother, Kevin, as my crew. I told him what was going on and let him know my energy was going down the tubes because of the issues. He gave me some Tums, some more electrolytes, filled my bottles and got me on my way.
Into the night, and down the trail, I continued releasing demons every 20-30 minutes. The terrain was awesome. Last year the fog was so intense you couldn't see a thing. This year, the stars were incredible. The mountains are a perfect place to see stars because of the lack of city lights. I was enjoying the long downhills as those were the sections where I actually felt like I was moving. The uphills were a bit frustrating simply because my energy levels were down and I wasn't climbing well.
Before too much longer I stumbled into the aid station at mile 35, my stopping point last year. This year I felt worse. A huge headache accompanied my constant stomach cramping and because it was about 2 in the morning, I was very tired. I asked Kevin to wake me in 10 minutes. When he did, I ate some stew and a few crackers. Gu was out of the question and was actually adding nausea to the list of ailments.
I left the aid station feeling somewhat better now that I had a few calories in my system. I soon caught up with a guy named Chris. This was his first 100 and his friend had dropped at the last aid station. We enjoyed much of the incredibly long climb together. Unfortunately, as the calories burned off, so did my energy and before too long I simply couldn't keep up. Many people passed me on this climb as I would stop along the side of the trail to relieve myself again and again.
Soon, my pace was nothing short of pathetic and I kept looking behind me waiting for a baby to catch up to me crawling on hands and knees. With a throbbing headache I puked up the stew and crackers that remained in my stomach just as a guy was passing me. After hours of climbing I reached the top of Little Bald Mountain and began my decent to the aid station. The fastest I could muster was a slow shuffle down the hill.
When I finally did reach the aid station I collapsed in a chair. I wasn't thinking straight, I wasn't seeing clearly and my head would not stop pounding. An aid station worker came up and asked me what I needed. I think I asked for soup because that's what he brought and it was delicious. The broth warmed me and as I sat by the fire I started to nod off to sleep. The same volunteer came over and wrapped a sleeping bag around me and handed me another cup of soup telling me to keep eating. I told him of my trouble and he brought over some more soup and Mountain Dew. I don't remember anything after that until I woke up hearing my friend's voice. Dave was saying bye to the aid station and I was opening my eyes still wrapped in the sleeping bag. I asked a guy sitting next to me what time it was because my watch decided it would be a good time to stop working in the middle of a race. He told me it was 6:00. I had slept for 30 minutes. A volunteer saw that I was awake and brought me some more soup and Mountain Dew. I decided to get moving down the trail because I wasn't even half way there.
I thanked the volunteers profusely and began running down the trail. My stomach still gurgled but my legs felt new, my energy felt new, and I felt great!
Now running strong, I approached the 50 mile turnaround. First, though, we all needed to summit Reddish Knob. Upon reaching the top of the mountain I stopped and just looked around.
The sun was just starting to peek from behind the mountains to the east and was illuminating the mountains to the west which was West Virginia. Soon afterward, I caught up with Dave and took full advantage of the fact that I was feeling better and knew I should run well while I had energy because I might not be able to keep food in my system. That's when I threw up again. I saw my Dad soon after and there was a crew access point just short of the 50 mile turnaround. Not wanting to stop on the short side of 50, I only stopped at the crew station the second time I saw it. My dad and Kevin had swapped positions, Kev was back at the tent sleeping and now my dad was out here. He had brought some of his famous bean soup for me and it was nice and hot. After eating that, several slices of bread, and a cup of strawberry applesauce, he helped me change my socks and shoes and sent me on my way. I felt like a million bucks.
I was climbing well now and energy levels were through the roof. Before too long, I reached the next aid station, grabbed another cup of soup and was sent on my way. Running downhill strong upset my stomach a bit and I, once again blew biscuits and lost the rest of my calories through other methods. Though, this would be the last time I did either in the race. My tally was 14 relief efforts involving pants around my ankles, and 3 barfs. Thankfully, the tally remained there.
Upon reaching the same aid station I had my 30 minute nap, I sat and ate to try to regain the precious calories I had lost recently. They had made this heavenly concoction which started with a half of an English muffin topped with a mixture of scrambled egg, sausage, bacon and cheese. It was a delight. Snagging one of those, I started down the trail to see the kind of beast that had nearly killed me the night before.
The temps were still cool, but were warming up nicely. The high grass on either side of the single track trail brushed my filthy legs as I passed them. The top of this mountain looke completely different the last time I was there.
I started down the mountain and was taken aback by the steepness and wondered how I ever got up this last night in the condition I was in. Needless to say, I was a bit impressed with myself, but was still a long way from the finish line. On the way down, I passed several people along with Dave. As time would wear on and my energy levels plummeted he caught up with me again near the aid station and we ran into the 65 mile aid station together.
At the aid station was my dad, Kevin my friend and pacer Adam and my mom. My mom had driven out to the race to support me for the time she could. It was awesome to see her and gave me a giant lift. I was back to feeling quite defeated as I flopped into the chair. Out of energy I asked my dad for a 10 minute nap. Afterwards I ate, stocked my pockets full of Gu and took off with Adam. It was awesome to run with him. He kept me quite entertained and laughing the whole time. Soon I tried a Gu and it stayed down. I was back and it felt great. I could eat between aid stations and so I could continue to run well. I passed several people and one guy called me Lazarus because I came back from the dead.
Adam and I ran well together. We were roomates in college and he was always a faster runner than I was. I liked running with him because it gave me someone to silently compete with. Today, he would be running farther than he ever had before. The miles went quickly and we ran very well. I was shocked at how well we were moving and how quickly the mies went. More aid stations passed and soon it was time to pick up our head lamps and enter the second night of running. We had 13 miles to go and I really did not want to be running at night again. I was getting tired but continued to push so that we didn't have to run more dark sections than we had to. Unfortunately, we needed to turn on our headlamps about 6 miles from the finishline.
Reaching the last aid station we had 5 miles to go. I was very tired but Adam, never failing, brought to light this little gem and put things into perspective. It went a little something like this.
"I'm so tired." I said
Adam, "Would you like a straw?"
"Do... you... want.. a straw?"
"So you can suck it up?"
My dad, and I both had a laugh and Adam and I left the aid station after eating several packages of Scooby Doo fruit snacks.
Making our way toward the finish line I couldn't help it. With about 3 or 4 miles until the finish line I ran hard. Adam and I ran hard through the woods at night hoping to break 30 hours for a finish time. Then we saw the finish line and ran even harder. I saw the clock and it said 27 something but I didn't really care. I finished Grindstone and hugged the totem pole, hugged Adam, and hugged my dad. We went inside and ate and ate and ate.
A hot shower had never felt so good niether had crawling into a tent and going to sleep. My final time was 27:46