I signed up early for this one knowing that it would be the 25th anniversary, and David Horton's last year to be the Race Director. Last year the race was sooo hard, I had to go back and so I could take on the challenge again.
About two weeks out from the race I had a wonderful conversation with a friend and someone I respect sooo much. It wasn't just about tapering; it was about being ok in my head about tapering. She nailed exactly how I was feeling, and somehow it helped to know I wasn't alone. I must also admit that it helped that during taper I happened to run into her a few times out and about.
So here I am in this taper, my legs feel great, and the race is less than a week away. Tuesday night I feel a little scratch in my throat. Wednesday morning I just don't feel good...sore throat, sniffles, worst case scenerio in my pre-race book. I see Cassie, and the first words out of my mouth are, "I'M FREAKING OUT!!!" Here I am all tapered and now getting sick. She offered me advice, but I already had in my head to go to Whole Foods and hit the juice bar. I took shots of potions, vitamins, and pastes that will soon not leave my memory. I was determined to cure myself in the next 48 hours without taking anything that would dehydrate me. So I got through Wednesday, with the positive vibes of my good friends, and then Thursday repeated much of the herbal/terrible tasting remedy and more positive vibes. By Thursday evening I would say I was about 70%...not quite how I wanted to head to the race.
Friday morning I headed to Lynchburg Virginia with the hopes of beautiful weather, a not scratchy throat, and some friendly faces. I didn't know many doing the race, and wondered if I would feel like a stranger in their Kingdom. What I would learn over the next 24 hours is that the EAST COAST ULTRARUNNERS are just AMAZING!!
After enjoying some of the history of Lynchburg, the Point of Honor, I ate and then headed over to packet pick-up and the pre-race meeting. When I entered and got my packet, I was warmly welcomed with a hug from Dr. Horton himself. Then Annette introduced me to her friend, Amy, who wasn't going to run. Instead of just sitting back with some unfriendly small talk, she gave to me a friendliness and comfort I can't quite put into words. She offered me race advice, we talked about her move back, and we rejoiced in her reason for not running...even though standing at the pre-race dinner she wasn't entirely convinced volunteering was the position she wanted to be in. It was just incredible.
From there I enjoyed just the constant warm welcome and conversation I received. It was as though I was a part of this community that was foreign to me just a few hours earlier. Every race I have travelled to over the past year has left me with this same feeling...just awesome. I must admit to feeling honored with the people I get to share time with at these races.
The pre-race meeting/seminar/sing-along was quite something. How many times could people laugh, joke, sing about "Horton Miles??" So somewhere along the way, I thought the race was only 52 miles, and that "Horton Miles" were only 2 extra miles. Well, Friday night I learned it was actually 54 miles. I had wanted to have a 10hour race, but that is when I thought it was a 52 mile race...
I headed to the bus at 4:45am Saturday morning. They were heading to the start line at 5am SHARP. I had a nice crew on my bus, and there wasn't too much chatter. When we arrived at the start line, I asked the guy behind me, Jesse, if I could share his light until sunrise. He was super sweet and happy to let me run with him. Before too long, it was time to head to the start line. And after a prayer...off we went.
they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
The colors were amazing, and the on-going company was even better. There was non-stop chatter with new folks, and the miles were just flying by. Before I knew it we were starting the set of climbs leading to the half-way mark. Part way up, I saw Sophie, a fellow Montrail Althlete, coming up. Her plan for the day was to take it super conservative in the first 1/2 and then see what she could do in the second half. So off we headed together....and before I knew it we entered the aid station that Amy was volunteering at. You must remember that I had just met her the evening before. She hollored and cheered for me, and as I was leaving the aid station I saw on the back of her SUV a set of signs, "Happy Birthday Meredith!" I was just blown away and so truly touched!! I told Sophie that the East Coast Runners had made my day so special. It was crazy. Sophie and I must have covered about 5 miles together, and they were some of the best of the race. We had great conversation, and just a really positive time together. As always, it just makes me feel so fortunate to be on a team with all of these wonderful people!
Up the next hill, and we separated. Before too long I hit mile 27, the half-way point. This is where I had my biggest time waster. I needed to go to the restroom, so I headed into the woods. I ended up having to head pretty deep in the woods to find a covered spot, which took about 5 minutes. Afterward, I went back to where I placed my gear on the side of the trail...a must to mark where you went off trail. I started up Buck Mountain at 5:06 into the race.
A Song of Ascents.
Does it really ever get any better than this?