What do you do when you’re not out running the trails? Celebrate the kickass accomplishments of others!
My good buddy and fellow BUTS member Olivia just ran her first 100-miler at the Hallucination 100 in Michigan and rocked it. She trained for-frickin-ever for this race, logging countless hours and miles of blood and sweat. She told me the day before the race that her goal was to run all 100 miles with a smile on her face—and she did. Because Olivia doesn’t have a blog, I asked her to share her story on here. So without further ado, I present to you the newest BUTS buckle holder!
My Big 100 Mile Adventure!
My experience of the Hallucination 100 miler at WoodStock (Hell Creek Ranch, MI) was life-affirming. Just the idea of running with a bunch of other hippies created a disturbing level of excitement for me (I missed the first WoodStock in ‘69). I was smiling from start to finish. 🙂
My friends, Allison and Vann, who ran there last year, assured me that the course was mostly flat and runnable with a combination of single-track and fine gravel roads. The chances of mud were to be minimal. This was surely to be amongst the “easiest” 100 mile races around (a perfect reprieve from the hills and humidity of Birmingham).
The race consisted of ~16.6 mile loops in a sort of out-and-back fashion. I broke the race down into about 4 mile increments; Bruce’s Deli (start/main aid station) to Grace (minor aid station) to Richie’s Haven (major aid station) back to Grace and back to Bruce’s. The 4 p.m. start was ideal for the night person that I am. And the temperature was PERFECT at about 90 degrees with 49% humidity and a sunny warm breeze. After the Jimi Hendrix rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, we were off! Around the campground and into the woods we went up a giant hill (ant hill – LOL!).
Loop 1 – The hippies are running, the hippies are running!
Some of the local runners were not as excited about the warmer-than-normal temperature, but to me it felt like air conditioning. Even before we made it to mile 8, I encountered a few runners who appeared to be melting on the trail. However by mile 12, the weather took a major turn at Albuquerque and the tornado sirens started blaring. No!!! It was not 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning in Birmingham; this was for real. SchIst! Well, there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms in the area that I had been tracking for over 10 days.
Thankfully, I was running with two guys pacing upfront and a local WS100 veteran behind me. With the wind howling like a train and the trees screeching, I had all of the motivation I needed to keep up a faster-than-planned pace. The main concern was about falling trees cracking my skull, but the inaugural “stupidity run” at Red Mountain provided the confidence to keep it moving. Finally, the wind died down and it started raining. Whew!
Loop 2 – Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
The light showers were fine but with rain comes MUD. Luckily, the main BOG was limited to a ¼ mile stretch a mile out from the start/finish area. Oh and there were fallen trees to navigate for the remaining of the race including one buzzing with HoneyBees! So much excitement!!!
Loop 3 – Howling at the Moon
Everything was utopian about this loop. I now knew the course intimately in the dark; I love running at night! Although it continued to rain, the moon was visible in the distance shadowed slightly by a few clouds; providing a little extra light. In fact, enough light to see that a little raccoon was up ahead on the trail. I was not afraid but also didn’t want to startle the little fellow. So, I slowed to a walk and said in my little girl voice, “hey little buddy, I just want to get by.” Just then the little thing charged towards me with its teeth showing and shrieking. I screamed and ran but I looked back to see the little eyes chasing me. I stopped again and swatted in its direction with my trekking poles to scare it away to no avail. I ran, it ran. I swatted more, it seemed to keep coming. Finally seeing that the little raccoon was undeterred, I tucked my trekking poles under my arms and sprinted down the narrow trail. Slowing not once but three times to make sure the little beast was no longer a threat. That got my adrenaline up a few notches. It was later reported that this little orphan (1 of 3 brothers) just wanted some of my trail mix.
Loop 4 – Let the Sunshine In
The sunrise was a beautiful and welcomed sight. Somehow I had kept a pretty steady pace through the night and was well-ahead of the 29 hr pace. 🙂 Arriving at the campground just ahead of the 50K/50M start made for a stampede of eager and chatty runners at beginning of the loop with my first pacer Becca. This loop would take me beyond my furthest run to date: ~67 miles. So far my routine of CarboPro, Coke (Thanks Maurizio), baby food, aid station food (heaped into my sandwich bag ninja-style) and S-tabs kept me fully energized. My “personal “aid station volunteers (all dressed in the same InknBurn tie dye singlet) could not believe that I had already run more than 50 miles since I was still smiling and revving to go. Eventually, I needed a couple of painkillers to soothe a little pain brewing under the toes on my right foot.
Loop 5 – Smiling and Laughing
FITS socks to the rescue! A quick change of shoes was also in order; from Pearl Izumi N2’s to Saucony Peregrines. Mark, “used to be a mechanic,” would now be my pacer to the finish. He was a great storyteller, photographer, secretary, nurse, and pace pusher. I heard stories about Italians immigrating to the US, posed for pictures, took a call from my husband Ermanno who said the tracker was not updating, and ran as quickly as possible on all of the roads and downhills (my favorite part). The highlight of this loop was getting a shout out from a BGR! sistah, Brandess, doing the 50 mile race. More coke and painkillers at Richie’s and we were off into the sunset with me laughing at my new distance PR of 75 miles!
Loop 6 – Cruising to the Finish!
There would be no stopping at the car this time. The goal was to put in a huge buffer of time to be able to relax and enjoy the end of the race. We made it to mile 91 more than an hour ahead of the cutoff time. Oh yeah!!! The only problem was the hotspot on my right foot; no blister but topped it off with some moleskin anyway. With 9 miles to go, nothing was going to stop me. Not even some ill-informed staffer at Grace (mile 96) who told my pacer that I was not going to make the 30 hour cutoff. What the..what?!!! 4 miles with 2 hours to go??? There was no way anyone was going to deny me my buckle! Once out of the aid station onto the main trail, I floored it until we got past the BOG with less than a mile to go. But I needed a moment to reflect before reaching the blue alien at the entrance of the campground, so I walked. What a great experience! 100 miles of smiles in the great outdoors.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped me to reach my goal and to those who have ever helped a girl follow her dreams!
Peace and Love,