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Title:Coming Back Together - Graveyard 100 Race Report 2014
Date:Saturday March 8th, 2014
Author:Juli Aistars
Post-ultra, post 100 mile finish -- I love the state. It is the best feeling. It is a struggle. The body has been blown apart, rearranged, and in the process of reassembling. Some pieces will be missing (like another Fenix flashlight :)), some will land up in a new zone, there will be some new pieces of me. I go into a 100 mile event one person, I come out another.

I meet new people, get to know a person I thought I already knew, a new experience is added to my repertoire, a view of an ocean crashing on the shores under a gray sky is added to my memory banks, a few words exchanged with someone whose name I've heard but whose eyes I never saw up close and personal... Life seems a little different, a little deeper, maybe more meaningful after an only too rare "in the moment" experience.

The Outer Banks is no longer some mysterious place that I've heard of, now I can picture it in my mind, the way I saw it last Friday evening, 30 mile an hour winds blowing, the Pier House trembling and straining under the power of the ocean's waves and the wind's unbeatable strength. I walk out of the hotel with Val and Michele and almost get blown away. But this is Friday and tomorrow will be calmer.

I meet Heather, Brandon's wife at the pre-race meeting. Caleb, Andy and Rebecca seem to be deep in a discussion, children of race directors who think this life is the way it is for everyone. Or maybe they don't. They are selling candy bars for a cause -- I get two to eat on the course. Maybe that dark chocolate will save me in my darkest hour...

Brandon runs a tight ship -- he is brief and to the point. We want to get out of that house on the ocean and back to safety in the hotel. He introduces Frank Lilley who I have wanted to meet. Frankenlilly is what I always think of, the Gas Giant, a man who likes to run and run for a long ways. I don't miss my opportunity -- he is a man who exudes a warm feeling and who made me smile every time I saw him on the course. Good to meet you, Frank! I will be seeing you out there again.

We have dinner with Caroline, Walker and Haija. Michele had offered to pace me at Graveyard. She is a local RD and 100 mile runner. I don't feel I need a pacer, but it sure would be nice to have company at night. She is not trained, having "life" to deal with. We decide that 30 miles will be fine. Val is there to crew me and Michele has plenty of experience with that as well. I am going to be pampered and I am not ashamed. Truth be told, it seems easier not to have crew or pacer to worry about, but I am hoping if I don't have to think too much for myself, I will run around 22 hours. At 55, I intend to bring down my 100 mile PR of 21:14, but somehow, I know it will not be this time. The weather looks to be in the 50s, but it will be colder at night. The wind could be a problem, or it could be a blessing.

I sleep not quite 5 hours and hope the Thursday night 8 hours will pull me through without naps on the road. We are out early, Walker kindly driving me to the race at 3:30A so Val can sleep in. I am shivering, but that is par for the course. I later find out Brandon set us off a few minutes early because he couldn't stand to watch :) It is normal for me, the way my body keeps me warm.

I run with Jacob, a sub 3 hour marathoner and just back from deployment. I learn a lot about him in just about 12 miles -- one of my talents. We catch up with a lady. I find out it is Donna Utakis. We talk briefly and she and Jacob both pull ahead. I have a feeling I will not see either of them again, but one never knows in these things. I never saw Donna, but I must have passed Jacob in the very late miles, not knowing it. Hillary is his wife, crewing him. I hope for her sake that Jacob doesn't like the 100 mile experience too much. It is his 1st...

I see Val and Michele first at mile 21.4, the first aid station. Michele is excited that I am 3rd woman. I know that it is too early to get excited, but it is nice to know.

I have just come off 2 weeks of trying to avoid sugar, including any added. The plan is to try the same during the race, but that quickly fizzles when I have Vega gu and Glucerna. It quickly works on my system. I enjoy the cool temperature, the cloudy skies, the snatches of ocean views. Often, the hills on both sides (there is a name for those) obstructs it. I want to climb over to see, but it would involve walking through private property in most cases. There are houses, but many are empty for the season. From the signs, it looks like the season starts at the end of March. Hardly a business is open, so no nice bathrooms to use when I need them. Men work on roofs. I wonder if it was the damage from high winds. Living here must be a constant putting your house back together.

I reach 50 miles in just under 9 hours after crossing the 2.5 mile bridge with the only big "hill" on the course. I feel good, but I know better. I don't feel great. I know the miles will start to wear on me. The running becomes not so free and easy. I tell Michele it is daylight and I will continue to run on my own.

I reach mile 62.9 in about 12:15. Val asks me what I need -- I answer "Michele". I spend a long time changing clothes, shoes, and talking to young Isaiah in the building where the aid station is. He is volunteering, about 14 years old, as polite as can be. "Can I get you anything else?" I thank him for volunteering. His father has run an ultra. Isaiah sticks in my mind -- it is so nice to have young volunteers.

Everyone makes us feel welcome at the aid stations. There are 4 main ones and water stops in between. The course is point to point. I am slowing down but it is to be expected. But Michele is with me. I often think pacers can slow you down, especially when you don't know them, since my MO is to "get to know" people. I know Michele, but I have gotten to know her a lot better in the long drive here, staying overnight on the way. She is a pleasure, one of those people who is calm and collected, interested in a lot of things, someone who loves long-distance running. She knows when to talk and when to just run in silence. She offers suggestions here and there, knowing I am struggling. She recognizes that I hardly drink on the course, meeting them with the one water bottle almost as full as she gave it to me. I try to do better. I don't like to eat, I don't like to drink, I just want to run and enjoy the moment. Eating, drinking, eliminating, responding to the elements reminds me of being in my body, and I want to just move through the universe. But I must take on the whole experience. I can't pick and choose...

I see Heather several times. She is a dedicated RD, doing "whatever is necessary" to make sure the runners get what they need. I won't soon forget the "vegetarian" sausage at Aid Station 2.

Me and Michele make it to Aid Station 4, the last before the finish. A half-marathon to go. I have 1/2 a hamburger. I see Drew in a chair. I met Drew at Aid Station 2. He said, "I've been trying to catch you and it is impossible!" He said he would change clothe and try to catch me again. He did at some point as did many.

We are now 6.5 miles from the finish. I have been very slow. Michele just accepted and did not try to prod me. She is a quiet pacer and I like it. I sleep in the car at the water stop. I have slept on the trail on the way here. Michele let me, even pointing out a place. I didn't sleep enough before the race. I do what I must to get it done. Several have passed me as I inched along, but I don't care at this point. I just want to get there. I am looking for my MOJO before the finish. I don't want to straggle in. No matter how the race goes, I must finish strong.

I eat the dark chocolate almond bar from the kids. It gives me mental energy. I eat some other things. I need energy. The nap helps, though it is short.

Michele and I leave, 6.5 to the finish. I find my MOJO and start running. I don't stop until the finish, I don't dare. Michele says nothing but keeps the pace. She does just what I need. I hear later that Val left the car in gear and it started to roll backwards. Michele held it back while he jumped in to put it in gear. She is quite a woman! I understand why pacing works for some -- you need to find your perfect pacer. I have found mine, though Melanie Haber matched her at Vermont in 2008 :)

My legs feel light again and we are keeping a decent pace. We pass 12-15 runners who have passed us. They encourage us, we reciprocate, but keep moving. There are bends and curves to the finish and it seems to never appear. If it is 10 miles away, I will not stop. We make the last 6.5 in about 1 hour 16 minutes. Home!!! Mike and Brandon are there, a sight for sore eyes. I don't use a Garmin or a watch, so I hoped to make it under 24 hours. I didn't know until I saw the clock, 23:36! I will take it!

Brandon and Heather have a community room at the finish. I see the runner, whose name I should know, I certainly know his face, who was on the phone when we passed. He explained he was calling his ride. We took showers -- what a very good idea to have a place for showers and naps if needed on this point to point course. This is Hatteras...

We have a long drive home, so we get on our way. This was my 50th race where I reached 100 or more miles -- a landmark.

Congratulations to everyone who finished or even started, the stellar times by the winners, the strong race that Donna Utakis and Maria Vargas ran, Jacob's first 100 in under 24 hours, 5 women under 24 hours and on and on... Every runner out there is different now, in a big way or a small way. Life goes on...

Thank you to each and every volunteer, thank you Isaiah, thank you to Andy, Caleb and Rebecca for the dark chocolate bar that helped me find my MOJO and finish under 24 hours, thank you Brandon for a race I loved and Mike Melton for his seamless timing and quick results. Thank you Val, for being there when I need you, making it "all about me" and thank you to my excellent pacer/crew, Michele. My relationship with her is something new and different now and I love it!

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Posted:March 11th, 2014 6:41 am
Last Update:March 14th, 2014 11:28 pm
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