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GEER (Great East Endurance Run)100K 
September 27, 2008 - Shenandoah State Park, VA

I was excited about tackling this challenging 62-mile trail ultra in the19-hour time limit. It sounded so beautiful – running along the Blue Ridge Mountain. But it poured all night the day before the race. Though it was the most extreme terrain ultra I had run so far, I was doing well. It was 10 times tougher than Vermont and more difficult than Laurel Highlands. I felt good. Around mile 40 I met up with a runner in her late 20s. We were doing well together. We supported each other through conversation. But then we were met by the sweeper from hell. He turned out to be my nightmare. He was annoying, completely unsupportive, and very negative.

Jon met me at mile 45 and began to pace me. I was mentally wiped but I went on. Having Jon with me gave me renewed energy, but I was worried because the course was now all up rocky terrain and hills, and it was dark. It was about 8:30 at night. I started to chafe underneath my breasts. I could feel a burning sensation.

I met all the cutoff times but I was sure I was not going to make it after mile 50.7 as it was all up very rocky terrain in the dark but I did. I found myself climbing up a monster mountain for most of the next 6 miles and stopping intermittently to catch my breath. I was having the same breathing “problem” I experienced at Laurel Highlands, also on a wet, rainy, misty day.  

At mile 55, for some reason I threw up under the dark and starless sky. I had never puked before, during, or after a run. I threw up my lemon-lime Gatorade. It glowed in the dark. Then I had to pee, so I pulled down my skort on the trail. Then I tripped over a tree root and fell twice. When you fall in these races, the pacer or the sweeper can’t touch you or pick you up. I dragged my ass up, got back on my feet and dusted myself off as Jon, the sweeper from hell, and a second sweeper watched.

I made it to mile 50.7. A runner in front of me disqualified himself and said to the volunteer, "“the sweeper was terrible and that is no way to run a race.” I felt the same way. But I continued with Jon as my pacer. My body was battered and bruised. My mind was numb. I was on top of a mountain with only 11.3 more miles of steep technical downhill to the finish in the cold, dark night.

My running shoes were wet, my blisters were stinging, and a fungal infection was simmering in my toes. I didn’t want to risk any type of injury tiptoeing and dragging my ass down the mountain. I had already fallen 5 times on slippery rocks and through flooded creeks, and had scraped my knees, elbows and wrists. At mile 56, I announced to the volunteer I was disqualifying myself.

Jon and I were able to hitch a ride back to the start with one of the local residents from the woods in his pick-up truck filled with cabinets and tires.

The bumpy ride down the steep rocking trail was the roller coaster ride from hell. I had to balance myself with my arms extended and my sore legs and beaten feet spread. We hit a lot of rocks, flooded roads, and huge craters! I bumped my body a few times and almost had my eyeballs, my only visibly working organ, stabbed by tree branches I couldn’t see in the dark. It took about 20 minutes to get down the mountain to the parking lot and the start/finish. It was a harrowing experience but we got to the finish in one piece. There were still runners coming in. By now it was 19 plus hours into the race. I was one of 71 starters but not one of the 29 finishers.

Back at the hotel, I took a hot shower and washed my hair. While combing my wet hair, my fingers on my right hand began to painfully spasm, twitch, and lock. I yelled for Jon who had to physically separate my locked fingers.

I am also the author of Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times. Read excerpts, praise, and reviews, and order the book here from the publisher, Amazon, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble. My GEER  journey and what I endured is one of many ultramarathon experiences that weaves through my memoir. 

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