Monday, October 26, 2015

Ghost Train

This is my first ever race report and it feels fitting that it would be for my first ever 100 mile race. There are so many people that I need to say thank you to. I had not planned on sharing with anyone that I was racing Ghost Train this year and aiming for the 100. I was unsure of what I could accomplish and was not prepared for the attention that I would get. I wanted to push myself and see how far I could go and I wanted to see what was on the other side. I also wanted to perform well.

People are amazing. Once they knew that I was doing this I instantly had a crew and support system.  I had the best pacers, the best crew station, the best emotional support, and this is an incredible race with 5 star aid stations. I had every opportunity to be successful, now it was just up to me.

The day was beautiful, if not a bit chilly. Getting situated at the start line was a bit of an ordeal but Kurt took care of everything. I only had to worry about myself. My sister, who was my Crew Chief (it is always better to have a title I think), was a bit anxious. She was going to attempt her first ultra, 30 miles, and then crew for me through the night!!!!! She rocked and is amazing to say the least. She is just returning to running after being out for health reasons and is being super smart with her return. For her race, she did a 3:25 on her first loop (which was a PR in itself) and then joined another runner. They worked together and she finished in 7:43. A fantastic almost 50K time!

I had set up a pacing chart when I knew that I had people that were going to run with me. I wanted them to have an idea of when I would be in. Micheal Wade did that last year for his epic run and it was so helpful. The problem is that I had no idea what I was going to do! I had a general guess for up to 50 miles but beyond that was new territory. I put my best guess on paper and sent it to the group. I ended up being 66 minutes off! Not bad for trying to predict my abilities and factoring in the unknowns.

Before I even got to the starting line (once the cat was out of the bag that I was going to do this) I received some wonderful advice that I carried with me for the ENTIRE race. Levi sent a well wish and I tapped him for advice. I had not had a chance to pack anything and I was seeing what others had packed and that was starting to really freak me out! He told me to not worry about it and that over time his drop bags had gotten smaller and smaller. Then he asked "Do you want it?" I knew I did.  I kept that in my head and when things got tough - Do you want it? YES, I want it! Thanks Levi for my mantra. When I thought that I lost it at mile 41 this is what made me spit out my mouthful of blood and say "Let's go, I want to move" But now I am getting ahead of myself.

The other wonderful thing I received was a note from friend who had just completed her first 100 and rocked it!!!!! I hear that the TARC 100 is a beast and she rode the beast. She sent me an encouraging note with a sticker - some trail juju! I imagined that I had trail juju through out the night. When I thought that I saw a couch in the middle of the trail I attributed that to a little trail juju.  Seriously a couch.

The first 15 miles, I knew that I was going to be excited but I wanted to try and keep it at an easy pace, one in which I could easily talk. I kept it at about 12 minute miles. It was tempting to try to keep up with people but I had to remind myself that I wanted this and that I had to do my own thing. I nailed my first loop within two minutes of my prediction. I had the opportunity to run in front of Eric Sherman, Mike Saparito, and Steve Tursi for some miles. It was great. I listen to DFL running podcasts on all of my long runs and this felt not different except that the show was live! Eric and I got to put in some miles together and I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to run with my friend. He also introduced me (officially) to my next running buddy Steve Tursi.

I caught up to Steve during the 15 to 30 loop and we stuck together until 60 miles. He was smart about the race and such a great support. He was also there to pick me up when I went hard into the railroad ties at mile 41. We were chit chatting and next thing you know my face is implanted in a rail tie and the wind was knocked out of me. I thought that I lost some teeth. I could not breath and I had a fleeting thought of "game over" I crashed my knees, my entire front side, and my face. Thankfully Steve was there and another runner who was carrying a first aid kit (note to self, carry a first aid kit) came to my aid. The bike support also got there quickly and we got my face cleaned up. At that point I decided, "I want this." I spit out a few mouthfuls of blood, Steve checked to make sure I had all my teeth, I took a cold pack from the bike support, thanked everyone, and started our forward motion again. I did not run those rail ties for the rest of the night.

I was excited to get back to my support because I knew that I would be running with Tom for the next 15 miles. I was surprised by my intern, Haley who came out to cheer me on. What a boost seeing her! Of course, she got to see me with a bloody face and a lip that was now looking like I got a botched botox treatment. But she did not hesitate to give me a hug! Then we were off - Tom, Steve, and myself. I was still feeling really strong at this point. The only things that hurt was my face, chest and knees from the crash but I was trying to not focus on it.  Tom is hysterical! What a great pacer and exactly what I needed for those miles. Unfortunately, my brain muscle was turned off so that the rest of my muscles could work harder and I did not catch on to all the jokes until the next day (after a nap). He worked the aid stations and gave me great advice. I was sad to let him go at mile 60 but I am hoping that I convinced him to run an ultra. He wants it.

Next, I was joined by the amazing Amy Pham. She has been gradually getting back into running and has been my training partner on the rail trail. We have put in over 50 miles together on the trail. She was nervous because the longest we had gone was 8 miles. But she nailed it. My stomach was having issues, it was dark, and I took another tumble (my poor knees). We were supposed to meet Steve at the aid station. He did not seem to be in a good place and I did not want to leave without him. We went to the drop bag area, the aid station, and then asked Levi if he had seen Steve and nobody did. We waited for a few minutes and then left. I felt bad but I knew that I needed to move. I, unfortunately, did not run with Steve for the rest of the night but he was fighting his own fight. We did a walk run for the entire loop. Her husband Viet met us at the half way point to make sure that we were doing alright. He was ready to jump in if needed but Amy gutted it out and did the entire 15 miles.

Next up was Micheal Wade. I was super excited to share some trail miles with Micheal. I paced him in the same stretch last year and knew that he would be just what I needed. Unfortunately, my stomach was in turmoil at this point. It was really difficult to eat because I had torn up my mouth and my jaw was now misaligned. I was drinking Tailwind so I was getting in calories but I really wanted a pickle (which I couldn't because it stung the bejezus out of my mouth) and salted potatoes. Micheal kept it very light and super positive. I still felt strong. The darkness was closing in but then I realized that it was my headlamp batteries that were dying. Micheal had two headlamps and got me suited up with his. We would run until my stomach would start flopping and turn it into a brisk walking pace until it would settle again. I felt really good when I was able to run up to the road cut and pass some guys that were probably in there early thirties, I said "Looking good" to which they replied something to the effect "Wow, you are looking strong" and then Micheal told me I was a rockstar. I wanted this.

We got back to the my crew station as it was getting to daylight to pick up my last pacer but before we could go out my stomach had had enough. It was not pretty. My last pacer was my mom. We were going to walk the last 10 miles together. She had been training for this for a couple months to get herself to the point of not only walking 10 miles but going at a brisk pace. She was amazing. She took off in nearly a sprint. I was struggling to keep up. My left knee was starting to remind me that I had taken a couple tumbles on it and it was not happy. We pumped it out to the aid station and they had some great vegan hash and my mom got me some cola to settle my stomach. The effect of food was incredible.

It was also at this point that we saw the 15 milers racing towards us down the trail. Kurt was in the lead pack chasing after Mike Wright. He looked strong and fresh, nothing like a person that had been up for almost the entire night. I don't know how he does it!

We needed to walk out to the turn around and them come back. We passed by the aid station and I told my mom that I just needed to keep moving. I had stopped to give Steve a hug when we passed him, he said that this race was kicking his ass but he was finishing.  I also ran into Judy. I had met her and her wonderful husband Adam at some races and I am always so happy to see her and she gave me a such a wonderful boost.

I starting to feel the effects of no sleep, little food, and over 90 miles at this point. I was getting emotional and struggling to keep composed. I got back out to the road - just a mere two miles from the finish and I was feeling dizzy. I stopped. My mom was encouraging me to move. I didn't. Then two 15 mile runner came through and showered me with compliments and awe. Yup, that worked, I moved. We did not stop again. We just rocked it to the finish. I ran the last bit from the covered bridge back to Levi (who had been there all night volunteering and giving me encouragement). I collapsed in his arms. I could not hold back the emotions anymore. I wanted it and I got it.

Kurt ended up coming in second in the 15 mile race with a smoking time of 1:45. My mom set a PR for our 10 miles and we did it in under 3 hours, and my sister rocked her first 30 miler (and crewed the entire night). I think that we all wanted it.

For some numbers, my time was 25:11. I came in 16th. Out of the 114 that were attempting the 100 only 41 finished. I was 5th female. I came in 66 minutes over my predicted time but I felt strong throughout the entire race. I am now thinking about my next one. What could I have done if I had not planted my face and body into the railroad ties? Could I have gotten my sub-24 that I was aiming for?

There are so many people to thank that did not make it in the report. My father for hanging out endless hours to only see me for fleeting moments, my wonderful mother and father in law that are a second set of parents for me (and brought some amazing soup), Josh and Leah who just make everyone feel good - thanks for the boost at the end that helped me keep it strong, John and Jaquie who we met at Pineland farms a couple years ago and love running into - the cheering on the trails was great. Chris at the Milford aid station, you are a role model. Thanks for everything you do. I am sure that there are more because there were hundreds of amazing people out there. Thank you all!


  1. Wow! What an accomplishment! It was great as a 15 miler seeing the 100 milers out there and cheering them on. Such a great group of supportive runners and volunteers!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with everyone, Terry! You are a remarkable woman who is so strong in so many ways!

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