I decided a few weeks ago to have at the full stoga after my spring racing season wrapped up. I had targeted memorial day weekend to get out there before it got too warm over the summer, but wow did I miscalculate. I was so set on running on Monday that I didn't really even consider the weather and that ended up being my biggest challenge. After plotting out paces and checkpoints, I thought a 6am start would be good enough to finish around dusk. Jandy, Julia and James met me at the northern terminus to grab my drop bag for the river hills and see me off. The first 10sih miles through norther lanc are poorly maintained, overgrown fields and I slashed my legs pretty badly through all the nettles. Made a few wrong turns on side trails and added some bonus mileage early, which probably hurt me later on. Jandy caught me at some of the trickier road crossings, and then James and Julia picked me up to pace around mi 12. The three of them bounced around to catch me or pace me at various points. I started to notice how unbearably hot it was around the 2hr mark as well, and realized this would be solely be a game of hydration all day. It was in the mid 70s with no wind by 9am.
My first big stop was the speedway around mile 20 where I bought a bunch of cold drinks and tried to cool off in the shade. Starting up again on the exposed roads was mentally and physically tough as I felt my hips (my biggest weakness with long distances) starting to tighten up. The next 12 miles were hot and monotonous, with a stupid reroute around a warehouse that served up more poison ivy and nettles. Somewhere in the middle here I changed shoes from my favorite little racing flats (NB1500s) to something softer, but changed out a few miles later when I saw Jandy again because they were too soft and I felt like I needed the responsive energy return of a firmer shoe, despite my feet feeling a bit achey already.
The next stop was mi 32 at the end of the greenway trail where I refilled my 2 550mL bottles and pounded some pretzels for the salt and got a great pep talk from Tony. Everyone feels bad at mile 30 of an ultra but it doesn't get any worse. Ha, ok. County park was a nice respite from the heat, but I didn't really cool down in the woods, only briefly halted the over heating. I started to really struggle on the way out of county park around mile 37, but knew I had Andy (and a surprise fly by from Sarah) at the Turkey Hill at mi 40, where I figured I'd take as much time as I needed and reassess. It was around this time that I really started walking to stave off jello legs (did not work, they were still jello). We wogged into the Turkey Hill and I set about eating and drinking like it was my job. Bought a kitkat and bag of peanut M&Ms and Andy brought salt n vinegar chips, which were clutch. The kitkat was mindblowing.
Things started to get really bad in the heat on the way out of Turkey Hill. Sarah joined me and we walked/jogged some long, exposed stretches because I had stopped sweating. It was in the high 80s by this point and quickly climbed up to 90 degrees after noon (or so I'm told) and I was starting to feel dizzy. The trail followed the river until mi 44, then climbed up through some sketch trails, popped out behind a cemetery, and then I had a very exposed, solo 6 miles until Martic Forge. I remember running a bit through the hamlet of Conestoga, then realizing I needed to walk so I didn't pass out, called my parents and had a lovely, mildly delirious chat with them for 2mi, added some bonus miles when I missed a turn, then started to feel dizzy and sleepy and wanted nothing more than to lie down and nap. I was lucid enough to realize this was dangerous. I guess James got worried that I was taking too long and came back for me along Pequea creek rd, and after trotting along with him, I just sat down in the road, then lay down to feel the cool, shaded pavement on my skin. I spaced out a bit but I remember repeating that it felt like I was in a sauna, so Andy and James iced me down for a while until I was alert enough to finish the mile or so Martic. I was pretty worried about finishing safely at this point, but knew that I could trust my friends to make the call for me, so I didn't say anything about dropping (despite whingeing about how dumb this was back at the Turkey Hill).
Things turned around for me at Martic when Jandy gifted me freezy pops. They might well have been nectar and ambrosia from the gods. I moved pretty quickly out of that "aid station," double-fisting freezy pops down the martic trail, passing a bunch of swimmers walking back on the path; must have looked alarmingly unhinged trotting along with my snacks. The second wind lasted until about Pequea, where I met Jandy, James and Julia to change into my trail shoes and regroup. Julia joined me to hike since by this point, I did not trust my legs to run on anything remotely technical. The minor knee twinge I had been feeling blew up into hot knives through the medial joint, feeling the worst on the flats, but luckily the river hills are not flat...
Julia and I made slow but steady progress to pinnacle, where I met Tony and Andy and some divine cheesy garlic bread and tried to ice and massage my knee, to no avail. Only felt worse on the way out. We grabbed our headlamps and refilled bottles for the final 6 miles. Made it about a mile before it got dark and while we were physically ok and moving well, navigating down in Kelly's run proved very challenging and we lost a lot of time looking for blazes. My fried braincells weren't helping things as I kept second guessing if we were even on the stoga anymore, but, to be fair, I've only run that section twice before, and with the benefit of daylight. James came down to meet us, which was a welcome reassurance, and we power hiked up out of Kelly's to the shelter.
Andy picked me up for the final 3mi to finish from the shelter. I remember apologizing that I would probably need to walk most of it, but something clicked and my brain and body wanted to go. We ran off and kept it at a steady trot except for a headlamp malfunction. I could hear the traffic on the bridge and was getting excited to finish. We climbed up out of the trail onto Holtwood Rd and the Norman Wood bridge and I felt amazing. I instinctually ratcheted it down to murder mode and dropped a 6:10 mile over the bridge, thanks to the slight net downhill. We pulled off to the right on the other side and cruised through the small park section to the southern terminus sign at 16hrs and 7mins. I honestly didn't think I would be able to do this and owe so much to everyone who helped crew, pace and offer moral support.