This DUMASS (Dahlonega Ultra Marathon Association) event was my first ultra last year. I was more than excited to run it again this year. I had just a few goals for this race. The most ambitious goal among them was to try and win this race if I could. Last year, it was a complete accident that I came in first for the ladies. This year, I wanted to really work for it because I knew I had some great competition and my work was cut out for me. My other goals were to surpass my upcoming birthday miles and try to run 45 miles or 70 loops. But, I fully intended to run more if I could to max out. My side goal was to use this as a great training run for GDR. This was perfect because GDR was 2 months away. With the elevation gain being approx. 100 feet per .65 mile loop, it would definitely be a good trainer.
When I pull up to the Hiker Hostel, Phillip Sustar is directing traffic and has me pull up to the very edge of the driveway. When I get out of my vehicle, I am face to face with the Chasm of Fear. Good Lord! I forgot just how steep that downhill is. I am already scared looking at it remembering the pain in my quads from last year as the day wore on. IT was an oochie owie every step I took coming down that hill after several hours.
I check in and chit chat with runners before the race. I am nervous, and I am already cold. I hate the cold worse than any runner I know except maybe my friend Paul who hates the cold even more than I do. It's about 28 degrees outside. I know I'll be fine once this race gets going!
Willy gives us some course directions and off we go! There are a lot more runners on this course than last year and it takes a few minutes to thin the group out. It's going to make passing folks interesting but luckily it is wider than a single track. The first thing I notice though on the first loop is that this is not has hard as I remembered. I fly down the Chasm of Fear passing folks who are being cautious and then I am flying up the steepest hill passing people walking. I run up that hill at least 11 to 15 times before I decide to walk it up once. LOL Willy sees me and says, "Wow, Angela look at you running uphill!". I laugh as I know it's a miracle. Steep uphills and long uphills are my weakness, but I continue to work on it.
One of the runners named Paul, whom I do not know, tells me that he has read my blog from last year's race! That is such a high compliment, and I am a little embarrassed trying to remember what the heck I wrote from last year! LOL Anyways, he asks me if I am going to win this again today. I simply reply that, "I do not know as there are a lot of strong ladies here today". This is true. I looked on ultrasignup 4 days prior to the race and saw that 4 females out ranked me and had run some strong races. So, he asks, "how do you run one of these races?". He is referring to a timed event and also informs me this is his first one. I tell him to keep moving, do not go to the bathroom more than 3 times, and to eat and run. He laughs and says, "I'm hosed! I already went to the bathroom once!". I crack up laughing as we are only one hour into this race!
Early into the race Anne asks me the same question though. And, I get nervous thinking, "I wonder if everyone here knows that I won last year?" I am uncomfortable with the thought, and it's hard to explain. I really do want to win, but I also want to do my very best.
While I am running, I am monitoring my heart rate, and I know it's too high this early into the race and that I can only maintain this speed for so long. Sure enough about 2.5 to 3 hours into the race I get really nauseated and my stomach is burning. I know I have to eat as I have gotten behind in my nutrition, and I decide to walk about half of the lap to the aid station and get food and go with it. I do this for maybe 2 laps before it subsides. However, it comes back later into the race, and I really need the port-a-potty but every time I come around it's in use. I do not want to wait and I keep going. Finally, I HAVE to wait or else it's going to be a sad day in my tights...LOL Out comes Cecilia who laughs as she sees me waiting, and I go in. I feel better after that trip, but I am not fully recovered from my stomach. I am walking and texting Lee. Margaret comes around and asks me if I am ok, and I assure her that I am fine, but I just need to walk a little. I get out my music and decide it's time to get into my head and re-group.
From this point on, I catch a second wind. I just needed to get into my head and tune out everything around me. I had emailed a few folks before this race just letting them know that I wouldn't be as talkative or social at this race in order to meet my goals. My friends completely understood as they get that I wanted to do well. I know that I am much stronger when I run solo for the most part. I wanted to avoid getting caught up in conversations and into other people's paces. It's not good for me to run faster or slower at this point but rather at my pace. It's very easy for me to get caught up in another runner's pace on a loop course.
Although, I am running with music I can still hear. It's so motivating and nice that people are encouraging me so as I am running loop after loop after loop. What an amazing group of ultra runners out there today! I remember Cecilia offering me an extra water bottle when I was carrying my pack, but I politely declined. I wanted to train with my pack since I knew I'd have to with GDR. One of the funniest comments was when another runner asked me if I was running the 12 hour or the 24 hour race, and I said just the 12 hours. He said, "Oh Good, because I was worried you were running the 24 hour because you are going to kick my ass!". I laughed so hard.
Sometime late into the afternoon before the sun sets, Tyler informs me that Margaret is one loop ahead of me. I am really surprised that she isn't further ahead of me! lol She is such a strong runner and is so very consistent. But, she is also a friend and someone I enjoy running with when it happens. But, darn I do not want to lose this race by one loop either! Margaret told me that morning that she is just here to get her miles and she may not stay the whole day. Margaret is a very focused runner who honestly uses these timed events for training only. She has bigger fish to fry in her other races. But, at this time I am not thinking about that in the moment. I am just thinking to try and maintain my pace and not let her loop me again. I feel that maybe just maybe if she doesn't loop me again that I can catch up. But, in order to take the lead I know I have to make up 2 loops. So, I have time to think about it and how to go about that, and I do come up with a strategy that did work out for me.
So, while maintaining my pace I start to check out the runner's board that is being updated every lap. When I am in my 59th lap, I feel my eyes burn. This is the last lap that I ran last year at Hostelity at the end of 12 hours. My eyes are burning because it's daylight. I think of my brother Zack and how proud he would be of me. I quickly have to stop this line of thinking and just be happy.
I finish my 59th lap with pure joy because I have 3 hours and 15 min left in this race. I'm so utterly happy because I now see how much I have improved in just a year. I am so shocked, surprised, and honestly happy to know that I have so much time left. I am wondering how many more laps can I possibly run in that time? I am doing the math trying to figure it out because I just can't get over how great I feel. I've run 38.65 miles in 8 hours 45 min on 5900 feet of elevation gain, and I feel great. I am overjoyed with the notion that 50 miles isn't my goal, but I'm thinking that 45 miles is just around the bend and that 50 miles just might be a reality.
This is my new motivation and it pushes me forward. I am still running that steep little hill, and I am still flying down the chasm of fear. I half run and half hike the gradual hills. It's getting dark and then it's dark. With just over 2 hours left in the race, Tyler starts to run behind me as he has continued to inform me that Margaret is still one lap ahead of me. I am feeling just a wee bit panicked because there is not much time to make my move to try and gain a loop. I tell Tyler that I'd rather lose by 10 loops than to lose by one loop. Somehow, that is just unbearable for me to fathom that thought after running this hard all day long. I apologize to Tyler and tell him that I am not going to talk as I just need to run. I feel like we are night ninjas, and although I am sure I am not flying it sure feels like I am. I feel like we are on a mission, and oddly enough I visualize us on some night military mission running through a jungle. I know that is odd, but it's just what I focused on. I had a mission. I am running all the hills as I know the only way I can catch up is to run as much as possible and besides it's dark and this is fun!
My friend Jessica shows up and I apologize to her that I cannot stop and talk and she doesn't expect me to but pushes me forward. I briefly say a few words every lap, I think, as I pass. Her husband Mitch encourages me at some point as well. It's just all a blur because all I know is that Tyler is behind me, I have my music, and all I need to do is run. Finally, I see Margaret! It feels like relief because for what feels like forever I have not seen her on the course. This loop is crazy as you don't know who is where at any given point because you can't see the other side! I've been running and running and running and never catching up to the ever consistent strong Margaret! I have never been so happy to see her. I pass by her, but I still know that I now have to lap her. Tyler runs another one or two loops with me and stops to check the board when his leg gives out and tightens up on him. He had been running injured all day!
So, I go back out again on my own and just try to run as much as I possibly can. Finally, in about 2 laps or perhaps the next lap, I pass Margaret at the aid station. I keep running and then I'm told on my next lap that Margaret is done for the day. I have just finished my 69th loop. I am shocked, surprised but then I do remember how she told me earlier that she was there just to get her miles. And, then I remember how she uses these events as training. On the next loop, I stop at the aid station. Candy is trying her best to feed me! I cannot eat, but I eat to make her happy! I see Margaret who is all smiles, and she tells me that she knew I'd be surprised when she stopped! I thanked Margaret profusely for pushing me. I told her that she pushed me hard because she did when I knew I was just one loop behind. She said that was her plan, and she knew that she was pushing me! I was surprised, happy, and thankful. And, off I went to run some more because my 12 hours isn't finished yet.
Jessica tells me goodbye before her and Mitch leave. She tells me that they won't be there when I loop back around. I tell her that I am going to keep running and she says, "Make it certain". I take it that she means for me to win and to make it certain that I do. And, I tell her I will do my best. So, as I'm off running it occurs to me that I need to finish this as strongly as possible because I haven't won anything. The 12 hour night people have yet to run! Oh geez, so I am not letting up by much to finish this out.
I come up behind Kena towards the end of the day, and she tells me how proud she is of me and that I am one of her heroes. I am so incredibly touched that she could pay little ol' me such a high compliment. I am overwhelmed because she is one of my heroes! I tell her how I watched her online as she crossed her 250th mile at Across the Years race. I was so proud and happy for her because she is such an outstanding runner but also is a wonderful person. I cannot express how great this lady is! For her to pay me such a high compliment, will always remain one of the highlights of my life.
I am in my final loop and yet again, I am running down the Chasm of Fear, and I run up on Paul Nyholm. One of my truest friends in trail running, who just a year ago, was the only person I knew to run with for months. We were both so green and new to mountain trail running, and we suffered A LOT! Oh the stories, I could tell as it was like the blind leading the blind. I am so incredibly proud and happy for Paul because he has just finished his first 12 hour race! I tell him let's finish this last loop out together because neither of us have time to run another loop. As, we are walking up the steep hill and into the parking lot. There is my family waiting on me. I am so happy to see Lee and my kids and even my sister-in-law who has just came in to visit. I am so overjoyed that I forget to stop my Garmin as I only had about 4 minutes left before the end! lol I briefly kick myself for not signing up for the 24 hour race as I feel great! lol I know that sounds odd, but then that thought diminishes as I'm stoked to have accomplished my goals for this race.
Leigh is totalling the results. I already know I have won for the ladies. She calculates for me that I ran 78 loops which equals 50.7 miles! OH MY! I am thrilled, happy, ecstatic, and overjoyed! I can't believe that I ran a pinch over 50 miles on an uphill loop course in 12 hours. Then she informs me that I have placed first overall and have the course record. I cannot believe it. I never knew I was leading for the men too. However, the race isn't final because the 12 hour night folks have just started running. I have to wait till morning.
The next morning, I am in the bed with my laptop reading the chat and trying to look for updated results online or on FB. There are no results! I am watching the live feed and nada! No information! Ughh now this is feeling like agony. People are chiming in that they want to see the results but nada. I can only imagine that the race volunteers and Willy are probably exhausted. I am dying a slow death as I gotta know if I won or lost. I see photos of Willy congratulating the 24 hour winners male and female and of the 12 hour male. But, I see no mention of the female 12 hour winner. Finally, I message Willy later in the morning for the results, and I've done it! I am the overall winner of 12 hours of Hostelity and have the course record. It was a close call because Ronnie Hines ran just a few loops shy of me. However, the night race is a different beast because I know that there are only 3 hours of daylight in that race and it's an all -nighter...but still what a fantastic job by Ronnie and all the other 12 hour night runners!
That morning I am chatting with Jessica and tell her the results are confirmed, and she is excited for me. She says, "you know you were on pace for a 24-26 hour 100 mile finish?" I replied simply, "That's SIC"!! She says, "Yes, you are!".
Lee asks me that morning, "So, next year what are you going to do run 80 loops?" He is amazed and proud that I won the whole dam thing and have the course record. I just tell him, "No, I am just going to enjoy this moment for this next year because this will never happen to me again in my lifetime."
And, I go on to explain that records are meant to be broken.