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Lauren Robertson (E2 Athlete) : Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

My little race report…that has actually turned out to be really, really long.

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Yeti 100, September 29, 2017

100 miles, one day

I DNFd this race last year. I was under trained, lacked all confidence, and experienced blisters during the race like I had never experienced before. All of that spelled disaster. But, I gave it my all and kept going until I was shuffling at a 25ish minute/mile pace and it was impossible for me to finish in time. I came away broken, mentally and physically. On the way home from the race, I emailed Jason to make sure he knew I dropped – I could barely walk and had sent a crew member to turn in my bib – and he asked me to please come back. That’s all the prodding I needed. 🦄

After the DNF though I went through a very rough patch. I quit all physical activity and put on the pounds. After a few months, I finally got my act together, started running and working out again, and hired a sports nutritionist. The training over the summer went well but slowlyI felt myself waning and needed a push. I made some new friends during one of the Yeti training runs and Yeti Summer Camp and through them, discovered my coach. We haven’t worked together long but I do believe I improved as a runner in the time we have worked together and really look forward to the future!

Now, race talk. I recruited my crew very early on. We chatted and met several times to work everything out. Thursday before the race, Stephanie and I headed to Damascus. We arrived early in the afternoon, checked into the hotel and then walked around Damascus a bit before heading to the pre-race meeting. At the pre-race meeting, I met my coach in person and caught up with new and old friends. I left with my race swag and off to dinner we go. I was able to sleep well and woke up bright and early race morning. A fellow runner, staying in the same hotel, rode with us to Whitetop so his wife and newborn could sleep in. We got there at 6am with a 7am race start. I was able to use the restroom and relax in the car. Then all the other runners started to arrive, along with the shuttle buses, and my nerves started! Just before 7, Jason called us to the race start and gave us a little pep talk. “This is your f***ing day, f***ing enjoy it!” and we all yelled and clapped. The clock struck 7 and off we went!

The first few miles everyone was chatting and getting into their rhythm. The course starts in Whitetop, runs downhill to Abingon, turns around and run back to Whitetop, and then back again to Abingdon to the finish. The course is crushed/packed cinder and limestone. It is completely runnable so many of us were running intervals. Not technical at all but three are rocks here and there that will take you out, lol. Speaking of which, just before mile 10, I bit the dust. I tripped on a rock and sliiiid into home plate. This section of trail was very fine black dust. It took about 27 seconds for me to fall so when I finally went down, I slid on my palms and hit my hip pretty hard. I laid there for just a second analyzing everything. My palms stung a tad and my hands were completely, and I mean com-plete-ly, black with dust. My hip took a good hit too but after a few steps of running, I was A-Okay. A runner stopped to make sure I was okay and joked that she needed to stop talking to people because when she does, they fall, haha. Luckily, a crew stop was coming up. I wiped off my arms, washed my hands and was on my way. The next major stop was Damascus. The sun was out and it was getting. I needed my hat and a fresh buff. I scanned the a/s for Stephanie but didn’t see her. I had almost missed her a few stops prior and thought I had finally outran her (I wish!).I didn’t tarry long and headed on out. Just after the Damascus a/s is a trailhead and there was my Tibbetts. I got what I needed and tried to head back out as soon as I could.

This next section is my mental weak spot of the Creeper. The first half (Whitetop to Damascus) is all shaded and has lots of trestles. Damascus to Abingdon is open, flat and just plain gets to me. The entire Creeper is BEAUTIFUL, don’t get me wrong. Some of my favorite views are between Damascus & Abingdon – it’s just a mental tough spot for me. Anywho. I made it 33 miles to Abingdon in good time. I felt good. Felt solid. I changed socks and shoes, grabbed some grub, said a few hellos to people and was on my way again. Somewhere around mile 45 or so my right hip started to hurt and my legs were killing me. My piriformis had been bothering me for a month or so leading up to the race. Nothing major but boy did it flare up. So, around mile 45 I had a meltdown and just fell to my hands and knees. I shed a few tears, felt all sorry for myself, and then felt better. In true ultra-style, another runner came along and asked if I was okay. I said I was just having a moment and tagged along with her and her pacer until we reached Damascus. That where I felt all sorry for myself again but Anna and Tibbetts fixed me right up. Tibbetts sticked my legs really good, I downed some Tylenol and off we went. We quickly stopped at the Damascus a/s where I got yet another momma-hug from Sean and some Dill Pickle soup. 
That's when the magic happened and I felt amazing! I had picked Tibbetts up in Damascus and we made our way to Whitetop. Darkness came but we were still moving good. Unfortunately, I got very sleepy very early – like 11pm. I switched out pacers and picked up Anna at Green Cove and we made our way to Whitetop. Here I got a coffee hot chocolate after a 10 minute rest and off we go again. 66 down, 33 and change to go. Home stretch! Haha, Anna and I heard something pretty big in the woods at one point. I was all looking and trying to see what it was. Anna said – I don’t know what that is, I’m not looking! We turned out our headlamps twice to look at the stars and constellations. They were amazing.

Mile 80. We got to this crew point and as I was eating some grits another runner came up with her pacer and asked for a ride back to Damascus. This broke.my.heart. She cried. I cried and offered her grits. I begged her to please make it to Damascus on her own and see the sunrise. (To those of you who haven’t ran an ultra-distance that takes you into a new day – the sunrise really, truly brings a new day. It energizes you like nothing else. It is simply amazing.) I begged her to continue but had to leave to finish my race. I later found out that she did get a ride back and dropped. But, I know this sting and now know the sweet redemption she will get!

At mile 84, Damascus, I got my final pacer, Lori. At this point I had lost the big PR that I was looking for. I was hoping to finish in the 27th hour but I had taken too much time at the crew points and now had some work to do. I wasn’t running out of time, but I was definitely cutting it close. By the time I reached mile 92 I was hurting really, really bad. I got sticked again but when I stood up, I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg. I almost panicked (and internally truly thought I was in trouble) but I sucked it up and kept on. More Tylenol came and I tried to take off using trekking poles. Funny story – I had never even held trekking poles in my hands, much less tried to use them after running 92 miles. I very quickly realized that I couldn’t use them both but one, used like a cane, seemed like a good idea. So off Lori and I went, me and my cane pole. After stabbing myself in the foot roughly 6 times in as many yards, Lori ran the pole back to the car and we hobbled on. At this point, I could run a little but it was mostly walking. I found an ear 😂 (me: "Is that an ear?" Lori: "And you're picking it up?!" - it really looked like an ear, ya'll) and Lori tried to find small sticks I could jab in my glute to release my piriformis. It didn’t work. We found some cows and made our way to mile 96, Watauga Trestle. This is where my profile pic came from! I felt better, didn’t stop, just grabbed a Coca-Cola and kept trucking. I was gonna finish! This last 4 miles is really 17 miles in my mind. This last 4 miles are the least 4 miles of my life. If I never had to see these 4 miles again in my life, I would be happy. I told Lori that when we hear the interstate, it’s about a mile or so. We finally made it. And I see Sean again. I’m calling her my trail momma. I’ve met her just a few times but she makes me feel loved & special. And who doesn’t like to feel loved and special?! Sean starts jumping in the air and yelling YETI! and I start running. Ya'll, it felt like I was running a 9 min mile but we all know it was more like a 16 min mile. She runs me in and there is Jason. The most amazing, genuine RD ever. He yells when he sees me and says YOU DID IT! I get the best bear hug ever and he hands me my prize, my buckle. 🤗{I made a comment in an earlier post that I had imagined that hug for months and that is no lie. In training, during my cycle class, when the instructor was in my face screaming at me to push harder, I imagined that hug. That was my happy place when I wanted to flip the instructor the bird. (Tabbatha 😘)}

And then? Then it’s over. I trained for months and months. I ran for 29 hours, 24 minutes and 24 seconds. And now it is over. Now what? Now I hobble to the car and we go back to the hotel. Now my goal is to keep the post-race depression at bay - because its a real thing.

I texted my family that I finished and texted my coach, Josh. I swore that I would never, ever run on the Creeper again and that 2018 would be a year full of 50k and 50m PRs. Now, 2 weeks later, I’m taking all that back. 💚🦄💚🦄Thankfully, I’m no Star Wars fan so the 2018 sub-24 buckle is not super-duper appealing to me, just super appealing. I will be back but next year I am so very excited to give back, 100%, to this race.

Kathy Whitaker