Summer Camp. I’ve gotten into the habit going into 100 milers with a mantra that I reiterate to myself throughout the race. Vermont 100 was “Enjoy the journey.” The inaugural Eastern States 100? “Summer Camp.” I signed up for this race as soon as it opened last year. Originally a PA native, but having spent most of the past 20 years in the South, I was excited to come back and run some of their trails.
Of course, I wasn’t exactly sure where this race was; somewhere in central PA. I knew it started with “W” and was thinking Wrightsville, which was near Harrisburg, which was near Dickinson College in Carlisle – where I got my bachelor’s so many years ago. So I’m thinking it will be a nice reminiscent drive from DC to Wrightsville. Then two days before the race, I mapquested it – oh, WATERVILLE, and it would take at least 5 hours. This did not take into account the Little League World Series traffic I encountered in Williamsport. DC has nothing on LLWS traffic! J But as I sat in traffic Friday night, watching the ETA on my Garmin get later and later, I didn’t stress. I’d get there when I got there. I was going to summer camp!
I prepared for summer camp a la Keith Knipling –no tapering, just show up and run (though if I did it in true Keith fashion, I would have run a 50-miler the weekend before, and then bought out the Sheetz on the drive up J). The race set-up was superb - free tent camping located near showers, and we were allowed to drive our vehicles to the start/finish area (which also had bathrooms but no showers). Though I borrowed one of Keith’s tents, and we had tent-pitching practice with Mario Raymond earlier in the week, I elected to just sleep in my Jeep Friday night.
Saturday morn, the race started at 5am with 1 mile along a paved road, and then onto single-track. The race was almost entirely single-track. Most portions were so beautiful! I say “most portions” because I am not a fan of the slick moss-covered, tilted trails that we were sometime on along the creek beds. However, I LOVED LOVED LOVED the pine tree needle-strewn trails. Unlike the Massanuttens, in which you have a good climb but then run along the ridge for awhile, this race seemed to go up, up, up, then a little ridge of flat running, and then down, down, down. However, we did have some beautiful views the few times we were out in the open. A nice breeze, too.
I didn’t tell her beforehand, but had decided to run this race for Jo Leigh, who is having some health challenges. I had picked up some teal ribbon and pinned ribbons on both the front and back of my pack. Needless to say, the ribbon starting fraying soon into the race, and I would feel what I thought were spider webs along my arm, and look down and see the ribbon, and be reminded of Jo, and think, “Here Jo, here is a mental snapshot and some energy from the mountains.” (We now share the common bond of being NoVa/Florida gals.)
I have been doing some experiments with my body in recent months, trying to see how far I could push it without breaking down, and so felt tired throughout most of this race, as I had done no tapering of any sort. In fact, I did not start to feel good until ~mile 70, compared to most other 100 milers when I start to feel good at ~mile 30.
In addition to the beauty of the trails, the aid stations were FABULOUS and a big help in getting through this run due to the energy of the volunteers!! Each was well-stocked, and had their own “personality.” I almost started crying going into some of the nighttime ones due to the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers. Ring those cowbells!!! I must take a moment here and thank some sweet man at the mile 41 AS. The AS previous to 41 had these AMAZING electrolyte chews. When I opened a package up on the course, it looked like dog kibble but tasted waaaay better. Pumpkin spice! Light and flaky deliciousness! Needless to say, I was very excited to see them at the mile 41 AS. I shoved two in my pack while exclaiming how much I loved them. He asked if I had crew or pacer, to which I said, “No, I am at summer camp,” and so he said he would get my bag back to the start for me, and would also give me some more pumpkin spice chews!! There were 6 places to have drop bags along the course, so I used them.
Naturally, I was wearing my Nathan Intensity hydration pack – I love my pack! However, those who have seen me with it at races can attest to my s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s in refilling it at aid stations. Thus was the case at the next place for drop bags, Halfway House. As I went to the table to examine the food options, one of race personal told me, “You’re 4 minutes behind the lead woman,” to which I then sauntered over to my drop bag and started to fill my pack with my drink mix. To which he said, “6 minutes .. . ok, now it’s 8 minutes. . . . “(Who was this guy, Quatro Hubbard Vth?). What did I say to him? “It doesn’t matter, I’m at summer camp.”
The next stop for drop bags, ca. mile 60, I had clean clothes, shoes, and socks, as I knew I would have taken my morning t-shirt off at the earliest possible moment in true Team STAKK fashion (though Steph Wilson and Kari Brown probably wouldn’t have even worn a shirt to start J). Yes, I changed my socks, and yes, as soon as we left the AS, we crossed the deepest water crossing on the course J At this point, I had made a new friend, Mark, and we leap-frogged with each other over the next 20 miles, until I passed him for good (his final remark was “I need a nap,” so I need to find out if he took one).
As it got dusk, I finally started to feel good and was running a ton. I kept my light off as long as possible, because at least if I fell it wouldn’t be the sharp rocks of the Massanuttens, but pine needles. It started to rain shortly after 1am, and though I had my Naked jacket with me, didn’t put it on and tried to use the rain to cool off. I had messed up my electrolytes again, so was swollen, and was trying not to drink a lot as I was almost out of S!Caps. I was watching my time and pulled into what I thought was the 88 mile AS, a bit bummed b/c it had taken me 2 h 15min to go what I thought was 6 miles. As I was grazing at the picnic table (again, surrounded by glow sticks, Christmas light, and incredible enthusiasm from the volunteers), I somehow mentioned about this being mile 88. They said “No, this is mile 91.” 91?!?!??! Can I contain my excitement? And then I went over the edge, as I spied what may possibly be the best aid station food ever - Fritos!!!! Literally, unicorns, pegasuses, and rainbows began exploding all around me. I emptied one cup of Fritos into my hands, downed them, took another, downed them, and it was at that point that I heard one of the men say, “Just get her the bag.” I had a drop bag there, and was looking forward to getting my Succeed Amino mix – but sadly, we couldn’t find my drop bag quickly and I didn’t feel like hanging around and taking off my pack anyway. Off I ran. 9 miles until a shower!! I had been organizing the order of events for the shower over the past few hours in my head, and so was super-excited to be getting closer.
When I got to the final AS, they told me I was 2 minutes behind the lead woman. All day, I did not care about my place among the women – because I was at summer camp J However, upon hearing that, I decided it would be super-cool to win a PA 100 miler. I took off down the trail, and after just a minute or so came upon lights – Ashley and her pacer. I passed them and kept on running. Someone had said the last section was downhill. “C’mon where is that downhill?” I kept asking myself. However, arriving at the “downhill,” I immediately was stricken with a mild case of Tourette’s – no soft pine needles here, this was classic MMT rock! And boulder hopping! Downhill! In the dark! In the rain! I was sooo happy to reach the bottom and run the short section of road/grass to the finish line. Time for the shower!!!
In all, this was an awesome race. The trails were incredible, the aid station fare and volunteers top-notch, and race organization superb. You never know what to expect with a first-year race, but Craig, Denny, Jen, and all the rest of race management had their stuff together! I am definitely putting this race on my schedule for next year, and I will definitely do a Kathleen rather than a Keith taper so I have more energy throughout the race. It is a tough race, definitely on par with MMT – dare I say a bit tougher due to all the ups and downs? Lots of cool swag, perhaps the best of which was the free “small” ice cream cone from the county store (if that is a small, the large cone must feed a family of 7).