The Tale of the Crazy Desert 100k Virtual Race, Part One

Who is ready for another exciting true race report ? 

It all started when the world was suddenly taken over by an invisible enemy called Sars-Cov-2, or coronavirus , as it’s friends call it. Because of the dangerous lurking virus, all of the running races and ultra marathons across the world were cancelled , much to the great sadness of runners who had been training for them. To keep the runners from falling into depression, gaining weight or becoming alcoholics, the race director gods decided that they would let the runners send them money in exchange for a t-shirt and a medal if the people wanted to run a pretend, or virtual , race in some safe spot away from possibly germ-carrying fellow humans, such as on boring treadmills, around one’s backyard, or for the lucky ones, on the streets and maybe even trails in their area. No travel necessary. No groups larger than 10 people. No touching.

So I, being a likely candidate for all of the above risk categories,  jumped at the chance to spend money on new t-shirts and medals to hang in my living room for all to admire. I chose a few shorter distance races and then, probably due to peer pressure, I signed up for a 100k race, yes ONE HUNDRED KILOMETERS. I’ve done it before, said I to myself, I can do it again. But what did I forget to tell myself? It’s going to get hot soon, dummy! You will need to train for this in the heat before you can run it , IN THE HEAT. Oops! Too late. Already committed.

And train in the heat, did I. I am also running the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, so I have been ramping up mileage for that as I posted about recently.  The good thing is that everyone has decided it’s okay to count the miles you run for races towards the GVRAT total mileage. So I added another 100k to that total with this race, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After my 22 mile run at Huntsville, I thought to myself, I want to get that 100k done soon. Originally I was going to run a few more long runs, but the heat was really intensifying. We had a terrible week of extremely humid weather and then a miracle happened.  A high pressure system was in the forecast which means God sends DRY air from the north with pleasant breezes! It still gets very very hot compared to other places, but without the humidity, well, it’s a dry heat. Like a desert instead of the rain forest we are used to.

Maybe it was just good timing, or maybe it was the Holy Spirit, but something prompted me last weekend to start making plans for this weekend before I even knew about the coming weather change. First I asked two of my good friends if they would be available to do some miles with me. And , super awesome people and adventure-loving runners that they are, they both quickly said that would like to be part of the fun. I got my husband’s blessing and then made a reservation, or so I thought… for an overnight campsite at the local state park and starting making preparations. I tapered (barely ran any miles) and cleaned my house and ate a lot for a week. I bought drinks and snacks. The days flew by. I was getting very excited! The weather changed and I was feeling good! Nothing improves my mood like dry northern air. Seriously.

Instead of a morning start on Friday, I decided I would start Thursday evening at 6 PM and run all night to beat the heat. Then Thursday morning, I suddenly thought that I did not need to wait for my husband to get off work since I really didn’t need him to go with me because I didn’t really need to put up a canopy because we weren’t going to sitting around in the sun, so I decided to start at 4 PM, which ended up being a very good thing.

Thursday morning I just had to go buy ice and a couple of things I had forgotten. My van was packed with a tent, chairs, coolers, food, drinks, clothes, shoes, a beach towel, sleeping bags, baby wipes, water, and gluten free chocolate chip cookies. I was so ready to go! The state park I chose to run in is only about 20 miles from my house, which is one part of the virtual racing gig that I like. You can run your race anywhere. My friend Robin was going to meet me there.

As I pulled out of the driveway, I sent a text to let my friend know I was on my way. She replied that she was at the park and that the office DIDN’T HAVE MY RESERVATION! My mind starting racing and trying to think , what happened and what can I do to fix it? I prayed.  I pulled over at a seedy motel parking lot and used my phone to find my reservation and took a screenshot and texted it to her. Then I looked closer at the reservation.

You can probably guess what happened. Yep, I had clicked on the wrong date! I blame their hard-to-use website, but whatever. I texted that I was on my way. Then she texted that they could find me a spot. So I relaxed and thanked God for saving the day. I pulled up to the park and the lovely ladies picked out a great campsite for us and off we went to unload and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Remember how the plan changed from 6 PM to 4 PM? If I had started at 6, I would have not been able to fix the reservation because the office would have been closed! Once again, God had saved the day by rearranging my plans without me realizing it.

Starting a virtual race means there is no starting line or race director or other runners lined up nervously waiting for the go signal. You just say, okay, here we go, and start your watch and run. I did not have a detailed plan for how I was going to complete 100k/62 miles of running, but I knew one thing, I had a time limit. In order to ‘win’ the coveted award of a belt buckle, this particular race had a cutoff of 22 hours. I figured that was very doable even at a slow pace. I knew I had to remember to do several things to be successful, not run the first half too fast, take walk breaks, take in regular calories, electrolytes and liquids, reapply ointments to prevent chafing (still ended up with severe skin damage)  and not give up when the going got tough, which I knew would happen. (There was only thing I forgot.)

This was not my first ultra. I knew my body was going to hurt. I knew there would be times I would feel bored and tired of running. I knew I would get sleepy. Visions of wild pigs, snakes, and spiders on the trail at night had made it a little hard to go to sleep the previous night so I decided I would run on the park roads most of the time after it got dark and until morning. The state park has about 5 miles of flat, wide, dirt trails through the forest if you run all of them. And the asphalt/gravel park roads that go around the camping areas are probably another 3 miles total. As you can imagine, we covered the same ground many times in 62 miles.


TO BE CONTINUED! Read Part two here


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