Yeti 100! Our first 100 Miler

Getting Ready For Yeti

I'm not quite sure how The Yeti came to be the one we signed up for, maybe it was a strong recommendation from some friends that ran it the previous year or maybe we heard it was a good course for a first 100 mile attempt.

Whatever the reason, in hindsight I am so grateful that this was the one we chose.

The Yeti 100 is made up of the Yeti Trail Runners, a community of ultra runners that exemplify what the ultra community is all about. Laid back, friendly, conversational and always ready for the next challenge!

When a race sells out in like 6 hours.. you know it's got to be something special. And it is!

Training for the Yeti started in April, a 24 week, somewhat modified plan taken from the book "Relentless Forward Progress" by Bryon Powell. The plan would take us up to 70 mile weeks at least three or four times and we even would end up having one 80 mile week at peak.

Before all this started it was supposed to be four of us: Me, my running partner Heather, our "Virtual running partner Emily and my friend Jason.

Before training even started, Jason was out.. doctor's orders.. a short time after training began, Emily was out due to personal reasons.

This left just Heather and I and that was fine as we would be training together. It would be Heather and I's fourth training cycle together. Our first 100 miler training cycle. I was intimidated to say the least.. this was not marathon training and the weekend doubles and high week mileage looked insane!

In the end.. we showed up everyday and I am thankful to have a partner like Heather.. like me, super diligent, disciplined and motivated to complete (and complete well) the task at hand. That's not to say on some of those early 2am and 3am mornings, I didn't feel like getting out of bed.. but when you know someone is relying on you... you GET OUT OF BED!!

Heather is one of those partners that is consistent and reliable! I am a lucky man to have her!

As the final days of training approached,, we were feeling good, we were whole... we were ready!

The Day Before The Race

Heather showed up at my house a little earlier than I expected, about 5:30 AM or so. We had a good 7 hour drive to Damascus, VA so we needed to get on the road as early as possible! I thought I had everything we needed, we packed our stuff in my car and we were on the road!

About half way into the trip I realized I left the Tailwind in my kitchen closet! Oh shit! We're going to have to find some.. and without going to far out of the way! Some quick searches online had us heading to Durham, NC to pay a visit to Bull City Running Company. Their website said they had Tailwind.. and they did! We purchased what we needed and Heather grabbed a cool hat, we chatted with the two awesome employees there for a bit and we were back on the road. Mistake corrected!

It would be around 3 PM when we arrived into Damascus, pulling into The Creeper Lodge, a beautiful 6 room cabin with a common area, and a beautiful deck over looking the creeper trail and a stream that flowed parallel with it. Heather and I would soon be running on that same trail with a couple hundred other runners!

The first order of business was getting into the room and getting our drop bags ready. This meant all of our food, back up tailwind, headlamps, jackets, battery packs, etc.... basically anything we may need when we have access to it needed to be in the bags.

With drop bags packed we headed out for some dinner and a beer. BoBo Mc Farlands was the place!
We enjoyed a great craft beer and an awesome burger! One of the best I've had!

After that it was off to packet pick up!

When we got there, there were people everywhere! And everyone seemed to be sporting Yeti gear of some kind. I saw Yeti hats, shirts and plenty of Yeti tattoos! This race has sort of a cult following it seemed. I won't say I wasn't happy to be a part of it!

We ran into some friends, grabbed some photos and got our stuff as well. Heather made out like a bandit.. got a sweet hoodie in addition to the normal swag they gave everyone. A Yeti trucker hat and a very cool and colorful t shirt!

We got out of there and it was time to crash.. it was going to be an early morning... and very LONG day!

Race Day

The alarm went off at 3:30 AM. and the first thing out of my mouth was "the gym boss is in the drop bag" to which Heather replied "Oh Shit!"

So the gym boss is an interval timer that was an important piece to our race strategy. Run 4 minutes and walk for 2. The gym boss beeps at each interval alerting us it's time to either run or time to walk.
The problem was we wouldn't have access to our drop bag until mile 18, approximately 3.5 hours according to our pace calculation.

It was about a 20 minute ride to Abingdon to meet the shuttles at 5:45 AM. It was a little cool outside and when we got there we saw all the shuttles lined up and we walked over to one and grabbed a couple seats.

The ride up to White Top was long and switched back up the mountain with lots of curves and turns in the road.. Sitting towards the back, we were being swayed to and fro and I seriously thought I was going to throw up... and the race had not even started yet! Luckily, I did not and we arrived at the start. Daylight was breaking and the race was to start at 7 am sharp!

As we made our way closer to the start line we ran into a runner that we kind of sort of didn't meet at the One Mile with a Smile 12 hour event just a few weeks earlier, where Heather and I ran our 50 Mile tune up. Ironically, we did connect on Strava just a few days before Yeti! Elisa, was looking for some common friends of ours, they had planned on starting off together. But the race was about to start and they were not in sight, so that wasn't going to happen. We noticed she had her gym boss on and we explain that we left ours in the drop bag. As luck would have it, she was also running a 4/2! We asked if we could hang with her until we reached out drop bag and she happily obliged!

Right before the start RD, Jason Green made a couple points, finishing off with "....this is your day now go fucking enjoy it!" The crowd of runners... also known as the "Yeti Trail Runners" love this guy and you can tell right away how like-able he is!

At that, we all took off, about 250 of us running the 100 miler! All hoping we'd cross that finish line in 24 hours, no doubt some would cross it earlier than that and some would cross even later.

Heather and Elisa hit it off right away as I stayed just up ahead. they immediately started to get to know each other and I jumped in a bit as well! My first impression of Elisa was that she was laid back, fun and feisty, competitive and loved the word "shit-show" as she said it about a dozen times before I mentioned to her that i bet I could guess her favorite word! She laughed as I began to ring a virtual bell yelling "ding, ding, ding!!" after every "shit-show" came out from one story to the next! We were all laughing and having fun as we clicked off the first several miles, moving forward at an over-all average pace of an 11:07 or so or the first ten miles.

I think that might have been a little faster than the girls wanted to go but we were getting our walk breaks in and we were all feeling good... there would be plenty of time for slowing!

The Yeti 100 takes place on the Creeper Trail and runs down from the community of White Top down through Damascus (the half way point) and then down into Abingdon. The trail itself is a reclaimed railroad track that is made up of crushed gravel, charcoal and in some areas grass along the middle.

The trail was very wide in most sections and at some points became very narrow, this was where grass had mostly grown in middle, almost creating two very narrow paths that at some points I had to run on if we were passing someone in front of us.. which we were passing runners all the time! :)
Not that we were going fast, its just that our strategy allowed us a faster pace when running due to the walk breaks. We would end up leap frogging with other runners but more than not with our strategy we would slowly pull farther and farther away.

I never seemed to lose the conversational pace.

We pulled into the Damascus aid station at mile 18  just under an 11 minute mile and grabbed our Gym Boss, some more food for our packs and some back up Tailwind. We also needed to fill up our bottles from our race vests. The volunteers are awesome about getting them filled for you. Once we got them back we needed to add the Tailwind to them and these bottle caps can be a pain in the ass. They never seem to screw on right and you have to kind of snap them into place and then twist them tight again... not fun when you been running for 3.5 hours. I was also getting rushed out of there as no one wanted to spend too much time there. The whole idea is get in and out quickly so you are not wasting to much time. I was a little frustrated with the bottle and Elisa wanted to grab a photo and roll and still run will us.. and we wanted her around too! The more the merrier!

We got out of Damascus aid station clicking off a 16:05 mile. So we took about 5 - 6 minutes to do all that and get rolling!

Te next aid station was Alvarado which was the funnest group of volunteers by far and was another 7.5 miles or so!

This is how we were doing it... breaking this run down.. reducing to the ridiculous.. "let's just get to the next aid station!" We never wanted to count down the miles "...only 75 more to go!". This would just seem to overwhelming for us to think about. But getting to the next aid station.. doable!

The Aid Stations provided cold Ginger Ale and other cola options. We were all about the Ginger Ale. They also provided boiled potatoes with salt for dipping, chips, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, pickles and sweets like M&M's, skittles and other items. I stayed mostly with the savory items. We were getting plenty of sweet from the Tailwind and rice krispy treats we were grabbing from the tables too!

Somewhere between getting to Alvarado and leaving we had a real creeper on our trail! Enter Lael, a seasoned ultra runner who had been behind us for awhile until we noticed her as we looked back! Lael admitted that she was hearing how much fun we were having and noticed our 4/2 strategy and had just been following along in the background, somewhat apologizing! We quickly invited her up closer to run with us! She accepted and we got to know her a little bit and I shared a few miles with her while Heather and Elisa hung just behind us!

Running with a small group sure helped in making the miles go by fast. There were a lot of solo runners out there and I am sure it got lonely after a while! Many had pacers joining them at mile 50.

We finally made it down to Abingdon, the final aid station heading down the mountain and the turn-around to head 33 miles back up to where we started, White Top Station, about a 3,000 foot climb.

While we all seemed to be feeling fine, we all needed to hit the bathroom.  As I was entering the bathroom a runner we were leap frogging with earlier on the trail came out. Bryan had the whole trail runner look going, mad trail beard and everything! What was interesting about Bryan was that this was his ninth (or eighth)  attempt to finish a 100 miler. We encouraged him to hand with us for the 4/2. And he did for a while but then he gravitated back to his own strategy. Bryan finished this one!!

O the way out of Abingdon, we stopped get a photo with Jason Green. As we took off, he looked at us and said "Hey listen you guys, get back down here!" Yes, 66 more miles is a long way and with night fall, anything can happen... it's without doubt that some will not make it back to Abingdon... On foot anyway! Jason's words "Get back down here!" would stick with me for the rest of the race!

We clicked off a 21:24 minute mile upon leaving Abingdon.... bathroom breaks!!

Still good time though. The cut off pace for a 24 hour completion is 24:30. We were still ahead of the game

Our little group of four still was hanging tight through mile 44 or so and still making good time. Our friend Elise was starting to have some GI issues and she could not find a place to the bathroom anywhere.. it seemed the trail didn't offer and access to the woods either. It was either a climb on one side or a drop on the other.... With no where to go.. she really just had to maintain a solid walk for now.

Elise told us to keep on moving down the trail and so we did.

We eventually lost Lael as well.

It was just Heather and I now and I was thankful for those ladies for the first 45 miles of the journey! We really had a blast and they kept Heather great company! I know she appreciated it too! Life long friendships cab be made on the trails. Running can strip you down and when you share those long miles with others, connection are made!

We made it to mile 50! The Damascus aid station for the second time. Here, work had to be done! It was still daylight now but it would be getting dark soon and way before we reached White Top station... And although it was still quite warm out, the temperature was going to drop.

So we grabbed our jackets, headlamps, beanies, gloves, etc - and stuffed them in our race vests. We saw Lael for a brief moment and waved.. we were happy to see her there. After filling our bottles and getting some food from the aid station we were out of there!

18 Miles to White Top!

Two miles later we saw a runner up ahead.. "Is that Elisa?" Heather said. "I think it is"I replied
We picked up the pace and as we got right behind her, Heather and I sand the verse:
"Reunited and feels soo good!" Haha.. It was awesome!

The first thing she said to us was that she missed the Damascus Aid Station.. "Oh No!"

Andrea was crewing her and they finally connected, Elisa was walking at this point, still had not gone to the bathroom and said that Andrea was running to her with food and supplies. Andrea would be pacing her from here on out!

We said our good-byes and headed up the trail. We new she was in good hands and had all the confidence she was going do well!

It started getting dark on us so Heather put her headlamp on, I left mine off to conserve! Navigating the trails in the dark was risky business! Rocks and roots stick out of the coal and by this time when your basically shuffling through the run, it is easy to trip and take a fall. I feel twice earlier in the day while it was still light out. Luckily, nothing to serious!

The journey up to White top from the Taylor Aid Station proved tough and long, A ten mile hike in the dark. It seemed like it was forever but we finally made it. I couldn;t believe we caught up with Bryan Burk up there. We shared some words and he commented that he couldn't believe Heather and I were still together. MY reply was I would never leave that woman!! :)

White Top Aid Station was 66 miles into this journey. I had some chicken wings with a sauce that melted my face off and some awesome sweet potato soup. Heather had gone to the bathroom to change into her warmer clothes as I guzzled down some ice cold ginger ale. When Heather arrived back I suddenly realized I was freezing and put on my long sleeve tech shirt over my short sleeve and then a jacket over that. I had put my beanie on as well covered by my trucker hat. I did not have gloves so I had to make do with pulling the long sleeves over my hands to keep them warm.

Upon leaving.. we walked quite a bit as we did after leaving all the aid stations... let the food settle, muscles loosen up, ease back into out routine! Happier now, we were heading DOWN the mountain. The final pass pass of the Creeper Trail and 33 miles back down to Abingdon!

But we were just looking to get to the Taylor Aid Station at this point. 10 Miles.

Some where around mile 70 I think, Heather tripped. I was right by her side and quickly grabbed her arm as she fell. whew.. that was a close one. Unfortunately, about ten miles later, she tripped again and this time it all just happened to fast.

She went down hard and I saw her face hit the ground! I was afraid of what I was going to see when she got up.

As I helped her up, Coal left it's mark on her right cheek and on her chin. it also appeared that her lip was bleeding and she had a big scrape on her knee. One her bottle were a casualty in fall as well.

It wouldn't be until the Damascus Aid station that I could get her cleaned up with some baby wipes that we had in our drop bag. It would be probably more than an hour before we got there.

Current average pace at Mile 80: 13:35

with 20 miles to go the distance was starting to take its toll. We began walking more and running less. Since Heather's fall, she was really hurting. Her ankle was in pain and the back of her opposite knee was causing some trouble. The only thing hurting me were my quads... they were wrecked.

But we pressed on.

We got the Damascus Aid Station around mile 85 ish and it would be our third and final visit there, I got Heather cleaned up and the wounds were not that bad, plus she is so damn tough anyway, I was not really worried! Grabbed my battery pack to get my watch charged up, are some quesadillas and we were back out. The next mile showed a 25:55 minute mile.

The last Aid Staion was Alvarado and was about 7.5 miles down the trail.

Along the way we were passing runners  slowing briefly to share some words of encouragement. At this time, 15 miles from the finish, everyone was hurting. And people have dropped out at this point. 15 Miles when you may only be able to walk can take a very long time. If the troll come in, as Brian Burke tells us... it's over.

But the trolls never entered our mind, we were not quitting, WE were going to finish this!

Somewhere before Alvarado we came up on a group a group of guys in which two of them had on Boston Celebration jackets. Of course, Heather and I both ran Boston in April so we had to chat with these guys for a while. So glad we did because I had mentioned to one of them that my head lamp went dead a few miles back. Turns out they had like four extra. He said as long as he got it back at the finish line, I could use! That was a god-send!

We chatted a bit more and then left them. I was still trying to pull out an average pace of 13:45 or so. Heather was doing great but needed a little encouraging to run a little bit more than she really wanted too. She is a true champ!

We made it to Alvarado and were greated by just the happiest ladies! The were on fire.. or let's say they were on "Fireball"!! They totally were trying to get us to take a shot! Fireball is the thing at Yeti!
All the cool kids are doing it!

But not us! :) I was afraid how it would effect my stomach and now just 8.5 miles from the finish, I was not about to risk anything weird going down into my stomach! We ate some food and hit the road.

Okay.. 8.5 miles to go! WE CAN DO THIS!!

The trail to Abingdon was long, we walked a little more and ran a little less.. but we were running and that was important. It hurt. With every step my quads screamed and Heather's ankle was in pain.

I was hallucinating at this point, seeing buildings in front of in the dark distance and people hiding on the side of the trail. At one point I saw man up ahead, a silhouette, he was holding what appeared to be a garbage bag.. at next glance, he was sitting, the bag in front of him and it was though he was facing us. As we got closer and were coming out of the woods onto street. What I was seeing was a street lamp! The mind can play some crazy tricks on you when you'e 95 miles into a 100 mile event!

The last three or four miles I felt like I was on a treadmill.. come on finish line... where are you?
I was approaching 100 miles on my watch and there appeared to be nothing coming ahead other than more darkness... I wanted so desperately to see some lights, hear some music or start seeing people.

I was getting cranky. Complaining. Where is the fucking finish line!

And then.....

There it was!

15 - 20 people sit along side the finish line and Jason Green on the other side waiting for us!
He hugged us both an congratulated us on a solid job well done! He double buckled us for the finish and the sub 24 and we felt like conquered what we came here to do.

We crossed the finish line at an average pace of 13:47 per mile! Well under the 14:30 needed to get the sub 24 hour finish!

Our finish time was 23:01:56 and we ran 100.27 miles! So back out the .27 and we ran 100 in under 23 hours! Far better than I anticipated.

We rested for a few minutes, ate something and then hobbled over to car and went back to the Creeper Lodge to crash! Yes! It had been a long day! But and awesome one!

In Summary

This was an amazing experience for Heather and I both. I am so happy it was a successful one at that. I cannot honestly think of anyone else in this world that I would have wanted to do this with than Heather! In this point of my life and what surrounds me, she is, a lot of times what keeps me going.
I thank her deeply for her dedication to the process, for showing up and inspiring me everyday! I am a better man because of her!

I want to thank the Jason Green for an amazing adventure and a spot on race course with perfectly times aid stations staffed with amazing volunteers who all have run the course and really know the needs of a 100 miler endurance athlete. I couldn't be more thrilled with this experience. There is no wonder this event sells out in 6 hours!

Running 100 miles had been on my bucket list for about 5 years. The time was never right until now. Thinking about the 100 miles distance before I ran it seemed an almost impossible thing to do. But nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it, when you work hard for it. And in the end, it wasn't as hard as I thought. It wasn't easy... but when you break it down and you show up prepared and do what is necessary, sometimes things go a little better than planned.



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