Last year I ran the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run. It was my 3rd 100-mile race and I usually wouldn't repeat a 100 (I like different buckles), but I loved the Yeti 100 so much, I just had to go back.
Getting into the Yeti 100 was not easy. The race sold out 10 minutes after registration opened and crashed UltraSignup. I actually didn't make the cut on the first round but thank God Race Director, Jason Green let me in off the waitlist.
As usual training for a 100-mile race takes A LOT of time, so like probably 90% of the field, I felt like I probably could have trained harder. At this point, it was what it was and I did the best I could with the time I had.
For the first time running a 100 mile race, I didn't have a crew or pacers. It wasn't by choice, but living in Utah, it's hard to find someone to fly out to Virginia on their dime to stay up all night while you run. I decided I would drive to Damascus a day earlier than I originally planned. I felt this would give me enough time to get everything together, see the local sights and relax before the race. I just didn't want to stress out on last minute details. I was already a little nervous and I just wanted to chill out.
Like last year, the day registration opened, lodging was pretty much sold out (unless you were renting a house on Airbnb), so I called Lee at the Hikers Inn and booked the tiny Airstream trailer in back of the main house that I stayed at last year. It is too small if you have a crew or pacers, but it was perfect for one person. I love it!
Me in front of the Airstream.
It was pouring rain when I arrived and from the weather forecast, it looked like it was scheduled to rain through the start of the race on Friday. Knowing that if there was one thing that could take me down during a 100-mile run, it would be wet feet. Wet feet love to make blisters and blisters can take you out, so I went in search of protection!
I took a little walk down Main Street and hit the Dollar General for supplies. I picked up a cheap yellow raincoat that was a little more durable than the $1 plastic poncho I had, a roll of Duck Tape and some extra food for after the race. Without a crew, there would be nobody to get me food after the race while I laid down, so I wanted to make sure I would have something in the Airstream in case I was too tired to leave.
Damascus welcomes the Yetis! It is really cool how excited the towns along the course are to have us here!
After shopping, I walked over to the Damascus Diner (which was less than a block from the Hikers Inn) and had a chicken sandwich and a beer for dinner. By the time I left there, the rain had started up again.
I got back to my Airstream, settled in with some Netflix shows I downloaded and laid in bed listening to the rain hitting the top of the metal trailer. I loved the sound, but I did have to put earplugs in as it got pretty loud the harder the rain fell.
On Thursday morning, it was still raining. I packed my drop bag and watched some more Netflix and drove my car down to Abingdon (the finish). The shuttle to the start would be picking us up there and I wanted to make sure I knew how to get there. There would be nothing more stressful than getting lost and missing the shuttle to the start at Whitetop.
By the time I got back, a few other runners had arrived at the Hikers Inn, including some awesome ladies I had met at previous Yeti races! We chatted a bit and walked down to the Damascus aid station so Beth could drop off some of her amazing signs!
So great to see Beth, Jennifer (who was running her first 100) and Karen!
Beth makes the best signs every year!
This one had me rolling! 😂
Welcome to the Damascus aid station.
The Damasus aid station was the only place we could have a drop bag, so without a crew, I really had to think through what I was going to carry and what I was going to put in my drop bag.
After a short visit, we all headed back to the Damasus Diner for dinner before driving to Abingdon for the packet pick up. I am not superstitious per se, but there is one thing I do as good luck before every 100-mile race, I have a steak for dinner. I was pretty happy that they had steak so the tradition could continue!
My lucky steak!
The packet pick up this year was held at a really cool local pub called Wolf Hills Brewing Co. The back hallway was used for the packet pick up and the front of the house and bar was a great gathering place for a pre-race beer and getting to know some of the other runners and crew.
Enjoying a little pre-race fun!
A walk through the packet pick up.
Super fun to see Nadia! We both ran last year too!
Nadia and I getting our Yeti/Unicorn on!
If I had an extra $150, I would have bought this!! I loved it so much!!
Race Director, Jason Green and I.
Always great to see my Menphis friend Kaci!
Sometimes it's the little things that make a race special. Jason writes a handwritten note on the back of EVERY bib!
Between the nerves and the rain, I didn't get much sleep before the alarm went off. This was worrisome as my Achilles heel has been staying awake. I didn't want to go into the race tired, but there was nothing I could do now except to suck it up and try my best.
When I woke up, I could see that it was still raining so I took the roll of yellow Duck Tape I had bought and I covered my shoes with it. I knew that the rain was not supposed to last all day, but if I could keep the rain out of my shoes, I would have a better chance of keeping my feet dry and blister free. I put on my yellow rain jacket gathered my gear and drove back to Abingdon to get the shuttle to the start.
Once we got to the start, the line to the toilets was too long and since this wasn't chip timed I didn't want to miss the official start, so when Jason said for everyone to get to the starting line, I left the line and headed to the start.
Jason always gives a great pre-race talk. This time I found it ironic that I filmed him telling us that nobody has ever gotten lost.
It was still raining when we started, but I felt like I did all I could so stay as dry as possible. Even without the rain, the humidity was much worse than I am used to living in Utah, so I was going to be wet regardless.
I met a really nice guy named Al and we ran the first 15 miles together. He had a DNF last year and was looking for redemption this year. He started having knee trouble and I left him just before we got to the Damascus aid station at around mile 18. I thought about him throughout the race and really hoped he would finish.
Me and my new friend Al! I look like a rubber duckie! (Photo Credit: Carol Plummer)
With all the rain that had fallen over the past few days, the trail was in pretty good shape. There were only a few places where puddles had formed, but for the most part, the water drained off pretty quick.
The trail drained pretty quick. This was about as bad as it got. Surprising with all the rain, but it helped keep our feet a little dryer.
I like to call this Boo Radley's house.
With all the rain, there were lots of little waterfalls along the course which made me feel like I was in Hawaii at times.
Am I in Hawaii?
I made it to Damascus and at that point, the rain had stopped, so I took the tape off my shoes, grabbed some food and was out. I was ahead of pace and still feeling great.
Fun with Jarian Rich and Sean (the Run Bum) Blanton!
To try an save my legs, I started doing 2:2 intervals which worked really well to keep me at the pace I wanted. I was well under pace without killing myself. I got to the famous Pepsi machine at the same time as another runner and we went to see if Jason had hidden any Fireball mini bottles in it as in past years, but to our disappointment, it was empty!
Where is all the Fireball?!
I kept plugging along until I hit the next aid station at Alvarado at around mile 25. At this point, my arches were feeling it a bit and I realized that not only did I (just like last year) leave my insoles in my shoes at home, but the ones I bought in Atlanta before I left were in my new shoes that were sitting in my trunk at Abingdon (along with my glasses which I would need later).
The course was so green!
Alvarado aid station around mile 25.
So that's where the Fireball is!! LOL!
Abingdon was 8 miles from Alvarado and was where we turned around for leg 2 of this race. When I got there, I promptly handed my water bottles off to one of the fabulous volunteers to fill for me while I ran to my car to get my insoles and my glasses out of my trunk. The next time I saw this place would be at the finish. Instead of changing insoles, I just put the new shoes on with them already in my shoes. Dang, they felt good! I shut the trunk and went back to get my bottles and I was off. It wasn't until I was about 2 miles down the road that I realized I didn't pick up my glasses. This would bite me in the butt later.
Coming into Abingdon (Photo Credit: Michele Jacoby)
Awesome volunteers were such a tremendous help! (Photo Credit: Michele Jacoby)
We got to run over 140+ trellis bridges.
(Photo Credit: Appalachian Exposures)
I was still moving great by the time I got back to Damascus at around mile 49. This is where it was mandatory to have a coat with you. I was still pretty hot and without a crew to drop stuff or pick up stuff from, I changed to a bigger pack and stuffed a coat, long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, hat, gloves, and every other warm thing I had. Last year was really cold and I did not want to get cold. This proved to be a mistake.
Heading into Damascus and greeted by some T-Rex friends!
I was going uphill and my pack was way to heavy. I got to the Taylors Valley aid station and saw Jason Green. I was one-hour under pace at mile 56 and still felt great. I told Jason to get the sub 24 buckle ready for me!
My pack was really starting to bug me. I was still staying on pace, but the weight of it was taking its toll. I pulled out my headlamp when it got dark and even though it's light, everything I took out of that pack helped lighten the load. I couldn't wait to get to Whitetop where it would be cold so I could put some of these clothes on and lighten up the pack even more, but it never got cold. I put on the sweatshirt and got too hot.
Once it got dark, without my contacts or glasses, I started to have trouble seeing. My headlamp is really bright and that helped. I have used this headlamp a lot and the charge usually lasts a really long time, but it must have not been as charged as I thought because somewhere between miles 70 and 77, my headlamp went dim and somehow between not being able to see and listening to a podcast (on a speaker to scare away animals), I somehow, someway, took a wrong fork in the road and ended up on a street. I couldn't see as my light was almost dead, I didn't have my glasses or contacts on, and I only had a little pen light to see about 5 feet in front of me. I kept second guessing myself, walking back and forth to try and find where I was supposed to be. I thought I had to be close to the Taylor's Valley aid station as my Garmin was showing me at over 75 miles.
I looked around and realized that I had not seen any runners in quite a while. With how the course is set up, I would have seen faster runners pass me or slower runners on their way up to Whitetop. I saw nobody. The only thing I could think to do is to make it back the street sign and call Jason. If he knew where I was, maybe he could direct me back to where I needed to be. I pulled out my phone and there was zero service. I just sat on the trail and cried.
At that moment a big old opossum came running in front of me and made me aware that there might be bears out there and I had beef jerky in my pack!
I stood up and tried to get myself together enough to figure this out. I didn't make any turns, so I just started walking back in the direction I came. I didn't have enough light to feel safe enough to run as the flashlight was small and the light bouncing made me a little nauseous. Just before mile 77, I could see headlamps on the other side of the river! This made me happy as at least now I knew where I needed to be. All I needed to do is find where I was supposed to cross the river. About a 1/4 mile later I found where I went wrong. Then my Garmin died.
As I got back on the right side of the trail (about 3 hours after getting lost), I ran into 3 other runners and asked if I could run with them. My spare headlamp was in my drop bag at Damascus and if I could run with them, I could at least see better from their lights. They were so nice and welcomed me into their group. Again, I thought we had to be super close to the Taylor's Valley aid station, but when they told me we were still 5 miles away, I really wanted to cry. I was getting really tired and my moral was in the toilet. At this point, I knew my sub 24 was gone and I wondered if I would even make the cut off!
We made it to the Taylor's Valley aid station and I sat down and had a little soup. My flashlight only took one AA battery and at this point my headlamp was dead and that little light was almost out. With another 7 miles to Damascus and my spare headlamp, I asked the aid station volunteer if they had a AA battery. Thank God they did! I at least had a little light if I lost my new friends.
We got to Damascus and I grabbed my drop bag, got my spare headlamp, changed my shoes and socks, grabbed some food and a cup of hot tea for the road. I was sooooo happy to have a cup of hot tea! Coffee can be bad on my stomach but a cup of tea was AWESOME!! It gave me a little uplift that is for sure.
About an hour later the sun had come up. It seemed like it took forever to get to Alvarado (mile 91.7). When I got there I saw Beth (who was waiting in Jennifer) and I just started to cry. I was so ready to be done. I grabbed some food and kept going. I knew the next aid station would be the finish!
Trying to stay happy in the middle of a meltdown is hard! (Photo Credit: Mary Deane Davis)
About 6 miles from the finish I was crossing one of the bridges and I heard what sounded like something rolling down the mountain, breaking branches on its way. I looked up and saw this big black bear running right at me! I started to run, then remembered that you shouldn't run away from a bear, so I started walking really fast. The bear ignored me completely and just ran under the bridge an took off. I yelled to the runners ahead of me and warned them that I just saw a bear.
I caught up with them and was happy to see that they were the same friends that rescued me earlier in the night. I stayed with them another 2 miles then wanted to sit down on a bench. I thought I only had 3 miles left, but when a guy told me I still had 4 miles left, the thought of doing even one more mile broke me. I melted down. The man told me that I could do it, but at that point, I just didn't want to do it! I had already run 102 miles and I was DONE!!
I sat on the bench for a minute ugly crying and told myself: "You want that buckle, you have to cross the finish line!" I dragged my sorry butt up and just went mile by mile. When I had one mile left, I started running slowly. The closer I got, the more emotional I got.
Out of nowhere a girl in a rainbow tutu and a unicorn horn told me that the finish was just around the bend. For some reason, I realized that with no crew, I wouldn't have any finish photos (why that was what I thought about was beyond me), but she took my phone and sprinted to the finish line to capture my finish! That was so nice of her as she got some great shots!
I crossed the finish line with 106 miles and a huge hug from Jason Green. I got that buckle too!
Running to the finish line!
Jason's hugs are almost as good as the buckle!
Jason giving me my buckle.
I grabbed a chair and was offered a shot of Fireball, but opted for cold PBR! I saw and congratulated my friend Nadia as, with the completion of this race, just earned our Yeti Distance Challenge jackets!
Nadia and I showing off our new buckles!
All I wanted to do was to take my shoes off, so I headed back to the car and put my filp flops on and relaxed as we waited to see who the DFL finisher would be.
Not long after I finished my new friends Jennifer and Al both finished their first 100 mile races! Whoo Hoo!
Jennifer and I at the finish! (Photo credit: Beth Walle Whitworth)
Al finishing with his father! How cool is that?! (Photo Credit: Al Thompson)
Janette Maas finishes DFL in a very emotional and inspiring way!
After the race, I somehow made it back to the Airstream without falling asleep at the wheel on the drive back! I got a hot shower and tried to sleep, but as anyone who runs 100 miles knows, EVERYTHING hurts which makes sleeping hard, but I did my best and got a couple hours rest before the after party.
Trying to sleep, but everything hurts and I'm dying! 😂
The after party started at 6:00PM at the Yeti Trail Runners Social and Pleasure Club (aka the Damascus aid station). This was a great time to celebrate, relax and have a few drinks with some of the coolest people I know!
Javier and my sister have been friends for a million years. I owe him for giving me a ride to the Yeti Spaghetti in 2014. I may have never found this amazing group if it wasn't for his kindness to help me out! Javier kicked butt collecting that awesome sub 24 buckle too!
Mila and I came dressed to impress!
It's the love shack! LOL!
Just chillin' by the campfire.
Coolest girls ever! Kaci and Stacy!
The next morning I packed my car and headed back to Atlanta. On the way home, I got a little sad. Running a Yeti race is like going to summer camp. You make tons of new friends and spend some good and bad times together, then you go your separate ways wondering if you will ever feel that sense of comradery and fun when you get home. The answer is always no. It is probably why we can be ugly crying vowing to never run again during the race and a week later wondering when registration for 2019 will open. I get Yeti amnesia every year and I hope I am never cured.
The Yeti 100 swag did not disappoint! Custom beanie, bag, t-shirt, emergency blanket, and a Yeti 100 skateboard deck!!
Registration opens in January for 2019, not sure if I can swing the entry fee next year, but I still wearing my bracelet and have already reserved the Airstream just in case! That is if Jason hasn't banished me for being the only person in the history of the race to get lost! 😂
I am in it to win it!!
HUGE THANK YOU to Jason Green and to all the AMAZING volunteers. None of this joy/pain would be possible without you! Also, THANK YOU to every runner and other crew people who offered to help me when I needed it. It really made this race feel like family and I sure did appreciate it! LOVE YOU ALL!!