Grindstone 100 Miler 2009 Race Report
Take a close look at these two women. Somehow they thought it would be a good idea to drive up and down Virginia Mountains on back roads and forest service roads for almost a full 24hours without sleep. And I am grateful for it. You are looking at endurance athletes in there own right – Rajika (Raj) Reed and Rebecca Nordby. They were my crew for the Grindstone 100 Mile Endurance Race that took place on Oct 2-4, 2009. They met me at every aid station and supplied me with food, water, and mega-amounts of encouragement. Without them, I could not have run the race I ran!
I would also like to thank my dad and mom, Jeff and Marilen Reed, my father-in-law and my mother-in-law, Godfrey and Rose Draviam. They have offered continuous support in my running pursuits. Thanks to Kirsten Ferry, MaryAnn Lambert, Wendy Pristash and all the faculty and staff at Brandywine Heights High School in Pennsylvania. These people followed the race online and provided an awesome collection of goodies for my family and me for race weekend. Thank you guys. Also, thanks to my family and friends who continue to take in interest in these races. All of you provide a great support system for me and I really count on it when I am feeling low during a race.
Thanks to Dr. Clark Zealand for putting on Grindstone and thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers. It is really a great time. I think I am hooked!
Before the Start
Raj and I arrived in Northern Virginia on Thursday night and I got a decent night of sleep. The next day we arrived at Camp Shenandoah just in time for the pre-race meeting. Things seemed a bit more subdued compared to the pre-race meeting last year and there was an emphasis on general strategies to stay on course, which was appreciated. After the meeting, I said hello to friends and started to organize my gear and drop bag. A focus this year for me was to get in and out of aid stations more swiftly. I prepped Raj and Rebecca for what I wanted at aid stations. Basically for every crew access point I wanted 2 new water bottles (1 – water, 1 – electrolyte drink), a new headlamp with fresh batteries, 4 gels, and solid food (later in the race).
Before I knew it, we were lining up at the starting line. It didn’t feel like I was ready to run and I began to feel like I wasn’t cut out for this. Wow, has this race started yet?
0 – 50 Miles
At 6:00 PM, Zealand Time, we were off. I got into a rhythm by about 3 miles into the race and ran with Adam Cassidy. It was nice to catch up with him and trade stories about running and training. After hitting the 1st aid station we were eventually dumped onto a wide forest service road which led to the summit of Eliot Knob. About 2/3’s of the way up this steep road, we literally ran into a cloud. When we got to the top, I couldn’t find where the orienteering punch was. Luckily I was close to a Barkley veteran who found it quickly. This must be old hat for Barkley runners, don’t they run most of the race in fog? I punched in and then I was back down the mountain and onto North Mountain Trail. This trail is a gradual descent with some nasty loose rock sections. On this section, I jammed my foot in between two rocks and irritated the inside of my big left tow joint – it hurt for about 3 miles, but then subsided. During this section Todd Walker and Bill Huggins came flying by me. For the next 10 miles I tried to stay close to this group. I finally got caught up to them about 1.5 miles before Dowells Draft Aid Station. I was glad to be running with them because the next section was the “bear leg” and I thought it would be nice to run in a group. No bear sighting here, but lots of bear poop. I ended up running with Todd most of this section. I would lead on the climbs and then Todd would tear it up on the descents. For the remaining portion of the 1st 50, I felt pretty low in terms of fatigue and muscle tightness. I started to feel better about 2 miles before the Reddish Knob Aid Station. Making the last portion of the climb to the aid station fun. We ran into another cloud and the visibility was about 5-10 feet. If I was on a trail at that point, it would have been very difficult to navigate. However, the wide Forest Service Road kept me on track. I met Raj and Rebecca at Briery Branch and dropped my pack to ascend to Gnashing Knob. I was feeling pretty good and glad to be getting to the halfway point. I stopped at Gnashing Knob briefly and ate and drank and was back down to Briery Branch.
50 – 100 Miles
I was still feeling good and glad to see Raj and Rebecca again. My plan was to take a short break and drink some soup and coffee. I was so excited to take a break and chat with the all-nighters, that I sat down in what I thought was a chair they had set up for me – ha! It was another runner’s with all of their supplies neatly laid out next to the comfy chair. I got up immediately when I realized it was meant for another runner and had a good laugh at myself. Thanks to the other runner’s crew for being patient with me! Rebecca saw how much I liked the chair and set up one that we brought along for me. I was in a great place and ready to work on the 2nd half of the race. I downed the soup and coffee that we made back at Camp Shenandoah and was off again.
Several miles before Little Bald Knob, Todd caught up with me. We ran together and really started to move when we hit the trail section coming down Grindstone Mountain. Dawn was finally breaking and I was really feeling strong, just like I did last year on this section. I met Raj and Rebecca again at North River Gap, refueled, got some tunes, and left. On the ascent of Lookout Mountain I spotted Mike and eventually caught up with him. After passing Mike, I kept thinking that Todd and Mike would eventually catch me. At the remaining four aid stations, I kept looking back, fully expecting them to be a minute or so behind me. I had this feeling until the very end. After I met Raj and Rebecca, I got back on the trail and they left for the next aid station. So, we really didn’t know what the race was looking like behind me. At Falls Hollow, I refueled for the last time, dropped my waste pack and took a handheld. Raj told me “Chris, you gotta move” and sent me out on the last 5.18 miles. Let me tell you, this 5.18 miles did not seem like 5.18 miles. There seemed to be some serious time dilation going on here! Even though this section went on forever, I focused on moving as fast as I could and enjoyed being out in the woods running.
I finally got to the wheeled 1-mile mark and ran a fast last mile in remembrance of my last mile at Grindstone 2008 (I must have run a sub-6 mile last year). Got back to Camp Shenandoah, ran through the finish and proudly hugged the totem pole.
Gear I Used, Food I Ate, Stuff I Learned
During the night, I wore a long sleeve technical shirt and a new pair of Patagonia Ultra shorts that I received for finishing this year’s CMMM 50 Miler. The shorts are very nice with lots of pocket space to stash Gels, wrappers, etc. I changed into a short sleeve technical shirt in the morning. I wore a pair of Montrail Mountain Masochists for the entire run. I like these shoes, however, I find I really have to cinch them up so that my foot doesn’t creep forward during descents. The balls of my feet took a beating during this run and I wonder if the extreme tightness of the laces contributed to this. I wore a GoLite HydroSwift waist pack. This waste pack has two bottles, a large back pocket and two side pockets, which are easily accessible. I really like this pack as it fits nicely and there tends to be no bounce. Once you put the pack on, there are two straps over the water bottles that can be tightened to hug the water bottles to your hips. A really great pack! I look forward to trying out some of the other packs GoLite has to offer. For headlamps, I used Princeton Tec Fuel headlamps and the Apex. I stowed an extra Fuel headlamp in my pack, as well as, extra batteries. At each aid station, I would swap my headlamp with another that had fresh batteries.
I did not wear a timepiece or GPS during Grindstone, nor during CMMM 50 miler in August. My Garmin 305 stopped working during mid-summer, so I started running without a watch and heart rate monitor. I really like running without it. My current feeling about the GPS/HRM for me is that if I am not going as fast as I want to, the tool is just a constant reminder of how I am failing to run fast. Now, I just go by how my body feels. When I remember, I ask aid station volunteers what time it is. I plan to keep experimenting watchless for my next several ultras.
For the 1st 50 miles I stuck mainly to Clif Gels. At each aid station, I would take a bottle of water and a bottle of electrolyte drink. At Briery Branch on the way back I had soup, coffee, and took 2 individually wrapped turkey & cheese wraps. At every aid station with crew access until the end, I took 1-2 turkey/cheese wraps and several slices of pear. The pear, wraps, and soup seem to really work well for me. I plan to continue eating these during long ultras.
Overall, I was very happy with the race. I met my goals and had a great time and got to socialize with runners on the trail. If I could have changed any part of my race it would be on my ascent to Elliot’s Knob. I ran the entire thing, which was probably not an energy efficient way to get up there! My preparation for the race included 5 weeks at 70+ miles with a 50 mile race 4 weeks out and a session of short, but very rugged & mountainous back-to-back runs. I also had 3 “tempo-type” runs I did during the month of September. Time-wise and from an injury prevention perspective, it is really hard to fit in more volume, but I wonder how 90-100 miles weeks would affect my performance? I have been fortunate and have healed nicely from Grindstone, now I am back in training for MMTR. I have unfinished business to handle on the backside of that course!