#305 Graveyard 100 Race Report

Graveyard 100 done! Buckle #15 earnt! Very much a race of two halves... I'd had a good look at the forecast and after Friday's insane wind and rain it was due to be windy and at our backs for 6-8 hours before turning around and being in our faces. So you can guess what my plan was. Fly like the wind for as long as I could, and then die a horrible death. Doomed to failure of course.

So I do that anyway.

I was in second place for miles and miles before the big boys and girls slowly picked me off, but through AS1 - 21 miles in 3 hours (there are only 4 Aid Stations!) and AS2 - 42 miles in 7 hours and 50 miles in 8:45, and that's when the fun and games started... lots of sand blowing about in the wind as that turned exactly as forecast and then started getting weird pains in the back of my left knee and front of my right knee, slowed right down for a while and seemed to ease off, certainly the right one, left one never really stopped. Not so much sore, but would just lock up, that was fun!

AS3 (62 miles - after a meander trying to keep my feet dry in the floods! - best aid station ever btw! Must have had 8 tables of goodies! The game for this race though is simply to get out of AS3 and face the 25 miles to the next AS at 87, as the lights go out and boy it was lonely as the demons come out to play, I was 13th by then, I saw 1 other runner from about mile 45 - 77. About mile 70 I stared feeling real sick, so tried to find a shop to get a can of coke. That was fun, nowhere open... pace slowed, wind turned straight in our faces and the temperature dropped through the floor. Running pretty much stopped as that made me sick, couldn't throw up, and totally went off water. I was very envious of the crewed runners at this stage. Eventually reached AS4, few chugs of coke, sit down and felt far better, bit of pizza and cookies and trotted out of there, mile later same thing. Couldn't stand water, felt sick, knee hurting & freezing cold. Ipods died, was not a terribly happy bunny, but hey, it's no big deal, the sky was clear, the stars were out and after probably 103 and a bit miles the finish hoved in to view! (this is not a race for folk who don't like seeing where they are going, often you can see miles and miles and miles ahead, I reckon you could see where AS3 was from 15 miles away...)

22:21, about 3.5 hours faster than last year so not unhappy with that. An hour PB for a P2P or big loop 100 too, I've a couple of quicker times at lapped 100s but they're more straightforward logistically in comparison. Finished 17th I think, out of 125 I think signed up so that's pleasing too as there was some serious boys and girls in the house.

I would say I am recarbing in McDonalds, but feel so sick I have just a diet coke and hoping to either finally throw up or for the nausea to pass!


I'd successfully completed this race in 2013 and really rather enjoyed it, well, in so far as you can ever say you enjoy a 100 mile run! But due to the weather the course was altered mid-race to make the course an out and back rather than the planned point to point and frankly I felt I'd rather made a mess of the end of the race. Although 25:40 isn't the world's worst time for a 100 miles I felt I had a much better run in me on this course, as it tied in nicely with my long schedule and could complete another State with the Albany Marathon the weekend before I was keen to have another crack at it, hopefully see the whole course this time and not fall asleep before the finish!

Arriving in Kill Devil Hills on the Friday gave me rather a sense of deja vu, the wind was howling, the rain was pouring and the waves were crashing. Ominously looking like a repeat of last year as the tail end of a storm passed over, but the forecast for the Saturday was decent and despite ridiculously strong winds in the night, by the time I headed out the door to catch the minibus to the start at 3am it had all rather abated and the good news was that the course was open the whole way down. Yay!


This year you could catch the minibus from either the Hampton Inn or Hilton Garden Inn, I chose the latter as the race route goes 10 feet from the hotel and would enable me to park the car there and use that as a giant drop bag about mile 24 or so. So essentially I arrived at the start in marathon mode, no pack, just a bottle and feeling rather under dressed! Everyone else seemed to be in jackets and beanie caps etc like it was Winter! it was rather chilly I will admit and I was having serious doubts as to if I had chosen the right clothing. I was envious of those who were being crewed and this wouldn't be the last time I thought that this day...

Last year I am sure we all hung out in a shelter of some sort but I couldn't see it and an awful lot of chaps were hanging out in the toilet block to be out of the wind and in some semblance of warmth, so I hung there till maybe 15 minutes to go and then bumped in to Shawna Wendlandt and her friend Amy (doing her first 100) and we chatted till the start which was nice. I'm a slightly quicker runner so a few moments before the start we said out good byes I meandered to the front and then we were off!

Now last year Foxy Davey (we ran together till about 72 when Foxy had to DNF) and I charged off at the start like a bat out of hell before of course being clawed back after a mile or so. Lesson learned. So this year I set off even quicker, no way were they going to catch up within a mile! lol Actually though I had a plan and it was cunning.

Checking the weather forecast told me that I had 6-8 hours of the wind being straight at my back, then it would shift around to come from the west and then be direct in our faces, not super strong, but I'd rather have a 15 mph wind at my back than in my face. So basically fly like the wind for as long as possible, then grit it out when the legs die and the wind is in our faces. It's not a great plan and I suspect decent runners would be horrified as I'm basically condemning myself in advance to a sorry finish, but one day I'll maybe be able to hold on.

I didn't however go stupid hard, I just ran at what I felt was comfortable and not forcing it. In fact as a pacing exercise I did remarkably well, stuck to a pretty consistent 8:15-8:30 type pace, lost a little time at the water stops (there were three before Aid Station 1) but otherwise just as fast as I could go without forcing it. There was a chap off miles ahead in no time but I was actually in second place for a long time, not exactly sure when I lost that as there was a pack of 5 or 6 running together more or less who leapfrogged with me a time or two, but was probably mile 7 or 8 and did well to resist forcing it if anything as I wasn't slowing, they had sped up.

The day dawned (you start at 0500 in the dark and sun up is maybe 90 minutes later) and was a lovely dawn with clear skies and barely a wisp of cloud in the sky, which was how it was to remain the entire time. I hit AS1, 21 miles in about 3 hours, was just in and out as had no drop bag and trotted along to the car a few miles later to put on my pack (all prepared with food and drink etc), swapped caps (I should have changed shirts but didn't for no reason I can fathom now) and was off again. We then hit the bit of road through Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills/Nags Head which in 2013 had been a complete disaster area, huge lakes of water, sand everywhere and almost impassible in places. This year it still had sand in places and the odd puddle, but at all times easy enough to avoid, or the sand was so thin it made no difference (I was wearing gaitors and glad of it too).

That was basically the next 20 odd miles to AS2 at 42 miles, just a long, long strip of houses in the main and the odd restaurant an so on. Sea to the left, waves crashing in, but nothing remotely serious, sun was out and warming up a little. Road surface good, not many people or traffic about, head down and although my pace was slowing and I was taking fairly frequent little walk breaks the pace was reasonable enough and rolled in to the aid station in about 7 hours.

All four of the aid stations were absolutely excellent, very helpful people who couldn't do enough for you and tons of goodies. I had a small drop bag here, basically just food to replace what I had in my rucksack, quick loo stop, sort out of the provisions and was gone again in five minutes tops I'd guess and then in no time that seemed to be the end of civilisation!

This is not a race for those who don't like to see where they're going by the way! Often times you are looking at a straight road heading off in to the end of sight, you saw something and thought, great, nearly there, and it was four miles away! The first real time this occurred to me was when I saw the bridge across to Pea Island, it has a big "hump" so can be seen from some distance out and it took forever to get there!

I hit mile 50 in 8:45 and was pleased with that, the afternoon was warming up now and I noticed that as forecast the wind was switching around, the downside of that was that after the big bridge there was lots of sand around (and it looked like a lot of construction vehicles were used to keep the road clear from the sand being washed/blown over the road I presume). So every time a car went past you'd get a bit of sand blown over you and the wind was blowing it my way. It was only bad when a lorry went past, which thankfully was rather infrequently. In those cases it was close your eyes and mouth and put your head down...

American drivers are very considerate by the way, I'd say in the entire 100 miles only 1 car was a bit closer than I would have liked and 99% gave a wide berth, often going right over to the other lane(s) depending on the width of the road.

About this time I started to get some knee issues. An odd kind of stiffness/mild soreness at the back of the left knee which came and went, never really getting any worse, but disconcerting as it came and went. Probably more concerning was the right knee though where on a few occasions the leg would go down and got quite a sharpish pain, enough to make me immediately stop running, and it would stop when walking, so would walk for a bit and then trot off again but always expecting the pain to return when I put my foot down. Not good when you've got 40-50 miles left to go. Couple of ibuprofen but this really was the point where time started to slip.

For a long time I'd been half thinking I could finish in around 20 hours, I'd slowed but was making good progress. I'd had one or two chaps pass me just after AS2 but then came a long stretch where I really was alone, I saw one other runner from around mile 45 to mile 75 or so!

After the second bridge the sand greatly diminished and in fact aside from a lake and sand dunes all over the place just before AS3 at mile 62 the roads from here on in were excellent. Took an extra ten minutes I'd guess to find away around the lake to keep my feet dry, but just about managed it before hitting the best aid station I've ever seen at any race. Tons of hot food, cold food, medical supplies, things to stick in your pockets, etc, etc, etc not to mention half a dozen folk who were just so nice and helpful and friendly. Found out I was 13th too at this stage, which frankly was rather surprising. I knew not many people had gone past me but to be that far up the field 100k in was pleasing.

The game plan at this race if you're not being crewed is simply to get out of this aid station, its 25 miles to the next one at mile 87, nobody is quitting at 87. AS2 at 42 is too soon to have any thoughts of dropping, so the game is just get out of here and get back on the road. I put on my headlight and jacket here, a bit early but it would be dark in 90 minutes or so and it was easier to do that here than on a random bit of road. But 11:30 for 100k or so, I'd slowed, but maybe 40 miles in 9 hours for a PB at 100 miles?

I now tried to do 13:45 pace with very much a walk/run strategy. That would be about 5.5 hours to the last Aid Station and then could probably just walk to the finish for a PB from there. I was doing just fine for about 10 miles or so before I started feeling a bit of low level nausea, not quite enough to be sick, but enough to be a pain. Tried to throw up a couple of times without success, I was going off water too (but thankfully I had picked some chewing gum at the aid station which helped, oddly I had some "Werthers Originals" with me which I like to suck on later on in the game to get some flavour in my mouth, a few hours before they were yummy, now they tasted weird and horrible!) what I needed was a good burp! I've had this before, chug some coke, burp, feel better.

It was dark now and far off in the distance I could see the Cape Hattaras lighthouse where the Aid Station was (I guessed I first noticed it 15 miles out!) and I started to look for a shop. Now we passed through several little towns, a fair few shops looked open, but were closed, or shut at 8:30pm or 9:00pm. The wind had picked up now and was directly in my face and it was getting pretty cold and worse I was getting chronically tired too. Now I don't mind at 3am when that happens but this was just normal bed time and I couldn't keep my eyes open! I was not a terribly happy bunny for what seemed like forever and far off in the night, the light house was forever flashing at me and seemingly never getting any closer!

I slowed and I slowed, 15 minute miles came and went, 17 minute and finally 18 minute, but I did at least feel I was forcing myself along and not overly dawdling, and a couple of the slowest miles were wasting a minute or two checking on random stores that I passed. Oh for an ice cold can of diet coke, I had $20 in my pack and would gladly have paid $20 for a can about this point I can promise you!

The miles pass, it gets windier, it get colder, these are grim bits of the 100 milers, the good bit is that when the lights went out I think I was at mile 72, no not much more than a marathon to go, and as long as I maintain any kind of forward movement, I'm going to finish well inside the cut offs. I'd been looking for the left turn to the lighthouse for about 4 hours it seemed before it finally showed up and nice warm welcoming tent awaited. Plonked myself down in front of the heater (fatal I know, but nobody is DNFing at mile 87 with 12 hours left on the clock, and I reckoned I deserved 15 minutes of coke and pizza, and fudge cookie things that I wish I could remember the name of as will get some of those. Felt much, much better very quickly and didn't even stiffen up that much, was very quickly passed by three runners I think, no idea where they had come from, crewed no doubt as hadn't seen them in the aid station and I even chased after them for a while.

Probably a mistake as before I knew it was feeling rough again and the "I can't face water" thing returned. It's so bizarre, at mile 89 lets say the water just tasted dreadful, to the point I'm thinking I've got tainted water, but at mile 99 the exact same bottle tasted just fine and it was the same water. Was all a bit of a plod to the finish, again you could see the lights from miles and miles away and never seemed to get much closer, but I actually sped up a marginally compared to some earlier miles so made progress reasonably enough.

I knew that the clocks were going forward an hour over night, so that was no worries. For some reason though on my second garmin it never occurred to me that the time it showed would automatically update (I have one field set for real world time) so about mile 97 I notice its 3am in the morning and I'm thinking, how on earth have I managed to take so long to do this? I'm not even going to break 23 hours now. Have I been asleep? Duhh.... wasn't until 20 yards from the finish when I saw the race clock I realised my daftness!

22:21 is pleasing enough in retrospect. I can certainly do better on that course I think, especially crewed, it makes such a difference with so few aid stations. At the finish Brandon gave me a lift to a hotel just down the road where they had booked a few rooms for folks to rest up in which was really nice to get warm, have a drink and little nibble on a couple of bits whilst waiting for the minibus for the drive back. All in all a decent effort and recovered remarkably well too, I was walking fairly normally the next day!

Things I Learnt

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