Walking around Camp Shenandoah on Friday afternoon, I wasn't excited. I wanted to run more than anything, but I did not have any of the usual pre-race jitters or nervous energy. I just felt ready to go.
Let's start withe prep. After two disappointing hundred mile DNF's plus Hellgate last year, when I started thinking about Grindstone I knew I needed to toughen up more than anything. I read all the race reports I could find from things like Hardrock and the Barkley to learn more about the suffering.
For each of those three DNF's from earlier, I did the common back-to-back long run approach and I changed that this time. I wanted to get more comfortable being in the mountains for long hours. So in July through mid-September, I did 5 40+ mile long runs (plus two back-to-backs). The other big adjustment in my training was the inclusion of a 15-18 mile run one day during the week. I really enjoy these types of runs now; 9-10 hours in the mountains.
So for the race:
My approach for the race--thanks in huge part due to some discussions with the one and only Dr. David Horton and 100s and the Grindstone course in particular--was to start slow and speed up. Grindstone is an out-and-back course, and the way out has ~12,500 feet of the 23,200 feet of gain. The way back is MUCH easier...if you still have quads to run.
I started out in the back of a conga line in the first mile, then had to surge a few times to find someone to run with that I knew. I settled in with Alex Hall, a runner I met at training weekend who ran 26 hours last year and knew would be good to run with. We did the first 20 miles together until he stopped to water the trees and I kept on. He went on to cut 45 minutes off his time from last year. Running with him established my style for the first half of the race. Power hike uphill and then trot/shuffle downhill. I was eating a Star Crunch and drinking a Succeed slurry (1 pack Clip2, 1 pack Ultra in 8oz water) between aid stations and then grabbing real food at every aid station (pretzels, Snickers bars, and soup mostly).
The way out I didn't have any muscular issues whatsoever. I was wearing my Salomon Sense, and my achilles started nagging descending Lookout Mountain into North River Gap (mile 35). I think that was just due to the short choppy stride I'd been doing and wouldn't have been an issue if I had used a longer stride--but that probably would have caused other issues. I swapped shows at mile 53 and that ended the problem. I didn't stretch out my stride until I was descending down from Little Bald Knob on the way back and I was able to run every single downhill on the way back
The race went better than smooth. Thanks to the easily-digestible slurries keeping my metabolism going, I was able to eat real food the entire race. I joked with Rachel Corrigan, my first pacer that I felt cheated since I hadn't suffered, and that was true all the way. I started to really hurt in the last few miles into the finish when my ibuprofen had worn off, but I never really suffered. I don't want to do a play by play, so that's basically all I'll say about the race itself. My crew was the best I could ask for, they got me in and out of aid stations very fast and did everything so I could just stuff my face while I was in them. Even when I changed shoes I was stopped for maybe two minutes.
I finished and it feels great. I ran the first 50 miles even with the finish time from my first (and very flat) 50-mile race 2 years ago and that feels better. I negative split by 50 minutes and that feels even better than that. I can actually walk around today and that feels best by far.
This race was great for many reasons. I loved being able to see people I knew on the way back. Huge congrats to Jenny Nichols on WINNING the women's race in her second 100! She definitely needs to stick to mountain races. And also great job to my friend Marc Griffin for shaving over 2 hours off his previous best here and for now finishing all 5 Grindstones!
I've got the Hardrock application sitting on my desk, and that will be mailed off soon. Masochist is in 4 weeks. Now it's time to step back from running in general from at least a few days and let everything settle.