Dam Yeti 50 Miler!

The Prologue
Laying on the bed, just having checked into an AirBnB in Pittsburgh, PA for the Thanksgiving holiday with Heather's family, a facebook post came across the newsfeed about the opening of the Dam Yeti 50 Miler! Heather and I just completed the Yeti 100, 2017  (23:01:56) at the end of September and it was still sweet on our tongues! We looked at each other, we needed not say a word about it... we were in!

We registered that night!

We started training for the Yeti 100, 2018 about 9 weeks ago and we new that throwing in a 50 miler this early was a bit risky! But risky is what we do! It's what all of us endurance ultra runners do, isn't it? We put it out there. And what will be, will be!

Ultra runners don't scare easily! We just relentlessly move forward!

The Road Trip
I awoke at 5 AM Friday morning and made my last preparations before scooping up Heather at 6:25 AM at her house! She was all ready to go and I helped her carry out her bags, complete with a recyclable bag with her Keurig coffee maker in it! If there is anything that Heather and I are just as passionate about as running, it's coffee... aaannnd beer! But we'll get to that later!

Destination: Abingdon, Virginia! A 6.5 hour drive with stops along the way!!

This was going to be a great time! I love taking road trips with Heather! We sing, we joke, we have the funnest time! Skittles, Combos, fun music, some x rated shit I cant talk about, a little lunch and a quick beer would help us along the way!

We arrived just after 3 PM and checked into our room! We settled in quick and back out we went!

Damascus Brewery
We wanted to head over to the local brewery and thought we would have to wait for a while for it to open, but as we drove up to it the open sign was on and it appeared they had opened early on this Friday evening!

We parked and went in!

There were two men sitting at the bar as we crossed the threshold of the propped-opened door.
Both older and one wearing a white t-shirt and overalls.
There was a young man behind the bar that was all of 21 years old and we ordered our beers!
A black IPA for me they called "Bazinga" and a Imperial IPA for Heather called "Rage"!

We quickly met Adam the brewmaster and owner, a young guy in his late 30's maybe early 40's. Super cool and friendly, Heather and I were already enjoying ourselves and knew we came to the right place!

We struck up a conversation with the two guys at the other end of the bar! One of the guys was off the AT for about three days having gone over 400 miles on the trail. Impressive! I can't remember his name but he was very interesting as traversing the AT is something that Heather has always wanted to do. Our friend in the Overalls name was Shannon! Genuine and kind, he only resided in Damascus seasonally and just happened to had volunteered at the Yeti 100 last September! Unfortunately, we did not have the pleasure of meeting him then.

We had our beers, paid our bill and headed to packet pickup!

Creeper Cottages would not only be the the location for packet pick up but also the finish line for both the 50 miler and the 50k option.

The line was not to long as we arrived right when the door opened up! We snapped a few photo's , grabbed out packets and then headed to dinner!

Dinner took a little longer than expected. Unusually busy for the restaurant we went to, they were
having some service issues! But we finally got our food, which ended up being delicious and then headed back to our hotel down in Abingdon.

Once back to the hotel we made some final adjustments for the following morning, set up the coffee maker and settled in for a good night's rest!

Heather instructed me to set the alarm for 3:45AM.... I set if for 3:30! :)

It was going to be a long day in the morning... We are hoping to complete 50 Miles!

Race Day #theprep
...BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! 3:30 AM had arrived! Quickly, it seemed...  but I shut it down with tap on the snooze button! This would buy us 8 more minutes or so. After all, I did set the alarm 15 minutes ahead of time!

Heather got out of bed first and made us coffee! For the record I was going to do it but she countered that she would make it! I simply could not rob her of that joy of serving me coffee in bed! #shelovesme

We sat around for a while, finished our coffee and started getting ready for the long day ahead us! Stalking the weather for the last week or so, we were counting on rain and thunderstorms most of the day! We going to get wet, that seemed a sure bet! I don't think I cared too much. The humidity was in the upper 90's so some rain might do us good!

Heather was rockin' the Altra Torins, with Feetures no-show socks. Shorts and a tank top that would be dressed over with her Nathan Vest! Head covered by the new trucker hat she bought from Bull City Running on the way here. Heather opted out of the front flasks this time around. Mostly because those damn tops are so hard to deal with and she busted one of them during a bad fall on the same trail last September during the 100 miler. She had found an old bladder that fit the vest so she would use that! We mixed up her tailwind and I helped her get it attached to the vest and she was all set!

I pulled out my Altra Paradigm from my bag that I wore for the 100 miler in September and only ran in them just a few times since on some long runs. With a total of 144 miles on them, 100 were from the Yeti 100. I threw on some shorts and some Balega socks. Slipping on the Paradigms, they felt like home! So comfortable! I wore a grey super thin Atla tech shirt with micro-netting on the shoulders, chest and back for ventilation! I grabbed my Nathan vest, filled my soft flasks with Tailwind and put them in the hotel refrigerator to keep them cold. I put on my Buffalo City Jug Shop Trucker hat and I was ready to go!

Heather and I gathered our bibs, our watches and it was time to make the ten minute drive from Abingdon to Damascus to catch the 6 AM shuttle to Whitetop Station, a 3,000 foot ascent up the mountain.

We arrived to the parking lot where the shuttles would arrive with plenty of time to spare! Now, it had started to rain. We just hung out in the car and waited.

The shuttles finally arrived and by this time the rain had stopped.

As I got out of the car and opened the back door to get my vest I had realized I left my soft flasks back in the refrigerator at the hotel! There was no time to go back.

Heather recommended I just use two of the bottled waters I had in the trunk! Hey, that seemed like a great idea! I had some extra Tailwind in my racebag. I mixed it up and put the bottles into the pockets that the flasks were supposed to go and they fit quite nicely!

Heather used the bathroom real quick and then we made our way onto the shuttle! It would be a long winding road up to Whitetop Station. If you were at all prone to motion sickness... this ride would get you!  We positioned ourselves in the middle of the bus and handled the ride up just fine! Some great conversation with another runner on the bus passed the time as we made the long haul up the mountain!

Race Day #therace
Off the shuttle we made our way to the start line. No arch, no timing chips, and no frills. Pretty much a line in the dirt! (#grassroots)  Just over 220 people were gathered in pairs, or in circles, some off to the side getting some final stretching in. Some were there to do the 50k, others would be doing the 50 Mile. We were waiting for Jason Green to give us the pre-race talk before letting us go!

Jason, a fun guy with a passion for the ultra community and ultra running, quickly and quite directly let us know that 11 year old girls come out every Saturday starting from here, riding a bicycle and somehow make all the way down to Abingdon! No one's ever gotten lost in a Yeti! #dontbethatguy
Jason went on, trains do not make lefts or rights, they just go down the hill.
He tells us this because this race is set on the Creeper Trail. It's a reclaimed railroad track covered with crushed gravel, cinders and coal. The course takes us over several trestles and bridges and through gorgeous fields and beautiful pastures! The landscape on this course is simply breathtaking!

And were off!
As Heather and I begin this 50 mile journey down the mountain, I turn on our gymboss, an interval timer that we use to lets us know when to walk and when to run! Our strategy for the 100 was a 4 minute run and a two minute walk. Yes! right from the start! This worked very well for us as we completed the 100 in 23:01:56! So naturally, we thought we would do the same for the 50.

As we got going and the two minute beep went off to start walking, Heather suggested maybe we should run through it. Do a 10/2 to start out. It wasn't hot yet, we were going down the mountain and there was a cool breeze sweeping up against our faces that just felt amazing! Okay! Let's dial the pace back a it and try this out. We can always switch back.

It would be an 10 mile run to the first aid station down in Taylor Valley. These 10 miles were effortless as we continued on the 10/2 interval! We met some folks along the way and chatted with each other. Doing this always helps to pluck away the miles! Once at the aid station, we wanted to be in and out as quick as possible. That was one area of improvement we needed badly based on our down time analysis of the 100 miler, spending nearly one hour and forty minutes at aid stations!

So as we arrived at Taylor Valley, we saw the usual suspects of the ultra buffet! Sweets like M&M's,
Skittles and Gummy Bears. Lots of salty goodness like pickles, chips, pretzels, etc. A couple things we noticed right away... no Ginger Ale... and no ice! Meaning the drinks were not cold! NO BUENO!! Also no boiled potatoes!

Oh well! As we like to say... "Happy & Grateful!"

As planned we were in and out in no time, a minute to a minute and a half tops! That stop included we clicked off an 11 minute mile after leaving.

From Taylors Valley we continued downhill with some new running partners sharing the trails with us! Ashley, also running the 50 miler from Virginia whom we know from other races and on social
media and a couple 50ker's Diane and Kathy from outside the Pittsburgh, PA area! All three of them fell right into Heather and I's interval of 10/2. We were making our way to the Damascus Aid Station now which would also be the location for our finish line! Traveling another 7 miles from Taylor Valley, Damascus would be mile 18 on our journey of 50!

Damascus aid station is always a fun stop! It serves as the drop bag location, which we did not use that service this time, and a place where spectators seem to gather as it's right in town. We thought there might be some "real" food in here as there was  for the hundred. Sadly there was not but I wasn't worried about it. An awesome volunteer filled my water bottles as I grazed the buffet of simple and complex carbs! Before leaving we ran into Shannon, the guy from the bar with the overalls! He asked us if we needed anything for the next aid station? Uh... Yeah!! Some ice cold ginger ale would be awesome right about then! He said he would have it waiting! We high-fived shannon and told him he was awesome for taking care of us like that!

Ashley was wanting to stick with us and was changing her shoes. We wanted her to hang as well but we did need to get moving. This stop was already taking us longer than expected, so we had to roll. Unfortunately, Ashley was not ready!

We were hoping she would catch up.
She never did.

Leaving Damascus our minutes per mile went off at 14:34! This was not terrible but it was longer than we wanted and would ultimately be the slowest mile of the entire race. Our two new friends, Kathy and Diane were about 30 seconds behind us and as I told Diane earlier, we were switching back to the 4/2 for a while. They were keeping up but I could tell after every run segment they were fading, getting further behind each time until we could no longer see them. From Damascus they would only be running about six and a half miles out and then back for the finish.

Heather and I were alone again and it was at this point I noticed some pain on both sides of my ribs from the plastic water bottles I used to replaced the forgotten soft flasks. It was weird and I would not have foreseen this. But my ribs were feeling bruised. So crazy.

I just tried to ignore it. Keep moving.

Conversation kept us busy and the miles were passing by. Passing a few runners here and there we were back to the 10/2 but alternating with the 4/2, mixing it up a bit! This was helping us to gain ground. Helping us to get to the finish line quicker. We were feeling good and our runs were quick or quicker with an overall pace of about 10:20 minute miles!

Now moving further and further away from Damascus, we were headed to the small town of Alvarado, home of our favorite aid station! At least during our 100 miler! But before we go there, low and behold a friend we made at the One Mile with a Smile 12 hour Endurance Event came rolling up  behind us! She asked how we were doing, shared a little chat then right on past she went!

Will the real Heather Gardiner please stand up!!

If you know Heather, she is very competitive! And so was this woman... so when these two get together in a race of this capacity, it's the perfect cocktail for a horse race!

The other runner was up about 30 seconds ahead and then stopped.. we saw her dip down and reach in for something. Out came her hand, she raised it in the air, "Got it" she said and took back off! Oh yes!! The magical broken down pepsi machine on the side of the trail! We too dipped down and reached our hands in... Bam! Airplane bottles of Fireball!! We each grabbed one, stowed it in our vests and got back to running!

At this point, we jumped back in to a 10/2 and caught up with the female runner that Heather had her eye on. We hung for a few and kept moving forward.

Alvarado Aid Station would have us at mile 24.5, just shy of the halfway point of our journey
through the Dam Yeti 50 Miler! Still feeling good, we grabbed a drink to take with us and wolfed down some food and grabbed some slim jims for later!

Our mile buzzed off at a 12:24! We were happy to be moving through at this rate of efficiency!

We had one more aid station to hit on our way down the mountain before heading for the turn around in Abingdon! When we arrived, the volunteers told us we had 3.5 miles to go to get to Abingdon and there would be no aid station there and they would be the next aid station!

I was a little discouraged by this as for some reason as I thought we would only have to go about a mile and a half out and back for the turnaround... once I did the math, it made sense! What was even better was that when we finally did arrive back at the aid station, that would mean we would only have 13 miles to go to the finish!

But that point was still 7 miles away! That's still a long time!
The mile leaving Watauga Aid station was a 13 minute mile. Not our slowest but not our fastest either! All in all, still doing well!

Let's get down to Abingdon!

When we arrived we were greeted by a bearded man on a unicorn! He was the turnaround! We took a moment to grab a quick photo and head back towards Damascus! Finally on our way back!

At this point several things were on my mind. What time was it? I hadn't looked at the my watch time for hours and I didn't yet want to.  We still had some ground to cover! We were just now leaving mile 33.5. Also, this is this point where we can start accessing who's behind us where we are.

About a quarter mile past the turn around the runner we knew from One Mile was heading to the turnaround and told Heather she was the fourth female. Someone else we knew said they thought we might even be in the top ten!

Whoa.. we didn't know this! And it lit a little fire under our feet! Top ten?? No way!

We pressed on.

Now moving back up the mountain.

Back at the Watauga Aid Station we again grabbed some food and drink, saw a few people we knew just arriving from the other direction. We shared some words and then took off! We were still doing the 10/2 and 4/2 alternatively!

It was mile 37 now and I was definitely starting to get tired. The sun was high, the air was hot and I was sweating from head to toe. Heather was too.

13 Miles to go! We got this! Relentless Forward Progress!

3 Miles later, Mile 40, I was starting to deteriorate just a bit. I was drinking plenty of water but not really eating. Alvarado was the next aid station about 5 miles up the trail. Around mile 41, our runner from One Mile came into site behind us. Heather did not want her to pass us. Heather was claiming to be feeling good and I could see the competitiveness rising up from her spirit. We kept running, skipping the walk breaks, not looking back.. we must have ran for 10 minutes and as we stopped to walk, approaching Alvarado, I looked back. She was still right there. Ugh! I thought.

We came to the aid station and were offered popsicles! We both accepted, grabbed a drink and began walking. I never ate. We were there for a total of 30 seconds. The runner Heather was staying in front of was on our heels.

And as she passed us around mile 42, I got the look. "oh no, this isn't happening!"
But I didn't have it in me to keep running like that. This wasn't my fight. I just wanted to make it 50 and get there not feeling like shit!

But Heather said she felt good and she wanted to catch her. She believed she had it in her. I told her to go.,

And when she did...  I wasn't sure how to feel about it. I was now alone with 7 miles to go. I didn't know if I should be mad, proud, encouraging or what? But I told her to go.

As she started moving faster and I got slower, walking even. They disappeared around the curves into the trails. But I kept running. I was trying to stick to the 4/2 at this point the best I could. I finally had them back in my sights. I kept running. They finally stopped and walked. They were together now and I was hoping that Heather had a strategy! I was feeling kind of abandoned, I guess. And at mile 45, emotions and logic and proper insights don't always line up!

I started running as they were walking and passed them. I said nothing. I was exhausted. Tired. They caught back up to me during my walk break and encouraged me to keep up with them. I tried for a little while but eventually stopped and walked.

Again they got further from me.

And then... Heather started walking. the other girl kept running. It was clear that Heather was letting her go. Damn!

By the time I caught up to Heather we had less than 3 miles to go. We walked and talked about what happened. She had tried she said. That was all she could do and now she won't feel bad about it.

That's a great attitude and I congratulated her on her effort. She definitely had more in the tank than did at this point. I was struggling to get it done!

We did more walking than running during those last two miles but we chatted it up and made the best

of the last little jaunt of our journey! We took a right off the Creeper Trail and followed the chute to the finish line where Race Director Jason Green would await our arrival. Greeting us with the biggest bear hug you could ever want.

We had done it. 50 Miles. DONE!

We gathered ourselves. We took off our shoes. Gulped down some cold gatorade and eventually settled inside the cabin for some cold beers and some food! We caught up with our new friends Kathy and Diane and Husband Scott and had some great conversation reflecting on our day. Races like these will always be remembered.

When it all shook out Heather came in 11th Place overall and 5th Female. I came in 12th place overall and 6th place Male. There were 120 finishers and 10 participants that started but did not finish.

Our finish time was 8 hours and 36 minutes and we spent a total time of 9 minutes and 2 seconds at aid stations.

Fun Stats
Calories Burned: 4,738
Elevation Gain: 791
Elevation Loss: 2,362
Average Heart Rate: 144
Average Cadence: 166
Average Temperature: 84F
Fastest Mile: 9:03 at Mile 23
Slowest Mile: 14:34 at Mile 18

It's important to note that this course now officially holds our first 100 mile distance ever completed and our first point to to point 50 miler ever completed. The Yeti Trail Runners are a family and there is no other ultra community like it.

We are proud and honored to be a part of it!

This event puts us at 2 of 4 on the 2018 Yeti Jacket Qualifications!
100K @ 24 Hour Run For Cancer and this Dam Yeti 5o Miler!
50k and 100 Miles to go! #TheDamYetiJacket


I love this quote because it exemplifies what we say all the time... You don't have to be the fastest. You just have to be smart and keep moving forward. I don't think we came in 11th and 12th because we were stronger or even faster than the rest of the 130 runners still out there. It was because we approached the race differently, with strategy and smarts. 

"Your toughness is made up of equal parts persistence and experience. You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head." - Joe Henderson


Popular posts from this blog

Yeti 100! Our first 100 Miler

How I Got to the Marine Corps. Marathon.