The race started at 06:00 with gusty winds and rain. I felt a bit slow starting out in the dark, but in no time the first aid station was in sight at mile 4.8. Lots of race food: gels, fruits, potatoes, waffles, sandwiches, etc. Next, I ran 5.7 miles and returned to the same aid station. I went out on this same loop again but realized my mistake when I didn’t see any other runners. This added an extra 5.7 miles to my run.
(Lesson learned: asked volunteers at the aid station which route to take next!)
The race moved on through mile 10, 20, 30. Rain came and went. I dried up when there was a break from the rain and the sun shined through. Hills are beautiful. So are single-track trails — well, when they are not muddy. I struggled with stomach issues around mile 35 or so. My pace got slower.
I made it to the next aid station at mile 39.2. Audrey, the volunteer, asked if I would like some chicken noodle soup. I told her hot soup sounded wonderful except I don’t eat chicken. She offered instant miso soup, and I happily drank every drop of it. That was so kind of her. I thanked her for the soup.
I completed mile 48 at 17:30. The next loop was 6.5 miles and I would be running part of it in the dark. I didn’t expect this loop to take forever, but it did. I missed a couple of orange ribbon markers that showed the route, so I rerouted, adding another 0.6 miles. Thankfully, back on the right trail, I pushed forward. About 5 miles into the correct loop, I felt spent. I was convincing myself that with my mistake miles, I was done with the race since I would reach 100K distance by the next aid station. (It would not be an official finish, but I didn’t care.)
Then out from nowhere another runner came up behind me in the dark, struggling through the darn muddy single-track trail like I was. His name is Luong. We were both so thrilled to have each other for support. As we continued on the trail, he shared many wonderful stories, how he took control of his life, did a full Ironman, and now his first 100K. He got me so inspired. When we arrived at the second-to-last aid station, I shared my pity story with the volunteers, explaining why I wanted to drop out. They simply said that was part of ultra running. They encouraged me to finish the race. They pointed out that we had 6.5 miles left, with over two hours to complete it. “Just keep moving,” they said.
Luong and I looked at each other, and off we went. We pushed hard, hiked fast, walked fast, and ran slowly through the never-ending muddy trail. With a half mile left, a couple passed us, inspiring us to move even faster. As the finish line came in sight, we ran and held hands together as we crossed our first official 100K finisher line to loud cheers from volunteers and Luong’s friends.
I received a race shirt along with a glass cup and a hat. I had never gotten so many race perks at once. When I picked up my Finisher medal, I was surprised to be awarded with the Second Place medal in my age group!
I am so glad I decided to race my first 100K in Ford Ord National Monument, Monterey Bay. Inside Trail Racing did an amazing job hosting the race. The trails are beautiful and well-marked. The volunteers were remarkably helpful and encouraging.
I know at one point I was asking the forest, trees, and sky god to give me strength to continue. Perhaps my prayers were answered when Luong came along because that made all the difference in finishing our race. Sharing the challenge made us stronger. And if I had given up, I wouldn’t feel as great as I do today.
Happy recovery time now.