Friday evening I drove up to South Carolina with my friends Sara and Dawn. Sara is an amazing runner who runs a sub-3 hour marathon and has been setting new records in the Low Country Ultra races, but hadn't run longer than 8 hours/50 miles. Dawn is super determined and focused, building up her miles with a goal of 100 miles at Delirium 24 in February- she was aiming for 100k at Epic. We stayed Friday at a another friend, Tiana's, house in nearby Greer, meeting up with Tim (of Low Country Ultras fame) there as well. We all stayed up too late talking and joking around, but it was a lot of fun!
Saturday morning we woke up, had breakfast/coffee, and drove over to Croft State Park. Tim had set up a tent for us the day before, and it was so nice many people thought we were the official race check in. It was overcast and chilly waiting around, so by the 9 am start we were all excited to get going! After a quick loop around the campsites to thin out the runners we were on the trail- a technical, hilly 3.1 mile lollypop loop. I started out running with Sara and Tim- as they're both faster than me I thought it would help me get in some good miles early on. As it had rained heavily the night before there were some muddy areas of the trail, and with rain forecasted I was worried it would be a lot worse after dark. But although there were some fairly steep uphills at the beginning/end of the loop, the majority was very runnable flat/downhill. Technical downhills are a strong point for me, so I wanted to take advantage of them as much as possible!
A lot of the middle sections of the race are sort of a blur...at some point Tim separated from Sara and I, and at some point Sara and I agreed to stay together the entire race. As it was her first 24 hour, she wasn't looking for a specific mileage, and we were having a lot of fun running together anyway! I worried I was slowing Sara down, but she said she would have gone out too fast and crashed without my help. I'm not sure if she was just being kind, but at night I think I was a lot more comfortable running than she was, so who knows?
Despite the previous forecast, the rain held off all day. The trail actually got a bit easier with the mud drying up a bit, although as I got tired I was walking more of the uphills. But Sara and I kept a good overall pace, hitting 40 miles around the time it got dark- just after 5pm (a bit over 8 hours into the race), and then 50 miles around the halfway point of the race. At night the trail was nearly empty- it was clear many runners had either gone home or were napping in their tents. It had also gotten very cold, so I changed into warmer clothes and added gloves and a hat during the night, which was very helpful. At one point it was snowing- the 1st snow I had seen since moving to the south! I took a few completely walking laps with Sara and Tim during the night, and there were some crazy conversations going on during that time...
A few hours before the end of the race it finally started raining. I'm very grateful it held off so much longer than I expected, but it really knocked me down psychologically when it came! I had been enjoying a great trail with great friends for about 20 hours, but at that point I just wanted to be done. I believe Sara and Tim were feeling the same, and we all had low moments which we had to talk each other through. I started having stomach cramps, possibly since I had only been able to take in ginger ale for several hours. Luckily I had been able to fuel enough earlier that I still had energy reserves, but I was getting exhausted and the cramping got worse. The last lap I did I was doubling over in pain. Even the sky getting lighter couldn't lift my spirits, since I knew there was still over an hour left in the race.
We got back to the start after about 22 1/2 hours and 83.7 miles. At that point Sara and I learned that the 2nd place lady had called it quits, and we were assured we would tie for the win and break the course record. We definitely had time, and I was willing to do one more lap if necessary, but given the situation we decided to stop there. Sara was feeling better than me at that point physically, but mentally she was ready to call it quits too! Tim went back out, as he still had competition for his race, and we saw Dawn go out once more as well- she had already finished 100k but could take 3rd lady with one more lap!
Sara and I waited for our friends at the aid stations, huddled in blankets. I hadn't been too cold while moving, but once I stopped I was wet and freezing and just couldn't warm up. At least I was finally able to eat a bit which helped ease the cramping. It was so exciting to cheer Tim and then Dawn in! In the end Sara and and I tied for 1st female with 83.7 miles, Tim took 2nd male with 86.8 miles, and Dawn was 3rd female with 65.1 miles...low country ultras definitely represented well that day!
I had been aiming for 85 miles, and I knew I could have done one more lap in time to make that goal, but I was happy to settle with 83.7. I have big goals for my upcoming "A" race, Delirium 24 on February 8th. I chose to do One Epic Run mainly as good practice for Delirium, so I wasn't pushing myself as hard as I could have. I took too much time between laps, didn't take my nutrition as seriously as I should, and walked at some points when I could have run- but I was enjoying such good company! All in all I think I learned a lot from the experience- my first official 24 hour/first trail 24 hour- and I had a super time for about 20 hours of the 22.5 I ran. I can't wait to get back out there to make my next race even better!