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Tunnel Hill 100

November 15, 2014

Cold, colder, coldest, sleet, snow....did I say it was cold?

100th ultra, 24th state, new PR, 25:09, fun girls trip, as always

The average temps in Vienna (not Vienna, Vayanna) are usually 40-60 degrees.  They were predicting it would be in the teens and that it would snow on Saturday night.  We lucked out with 23 degress at the start and very little sprinkle of snow.  However the temp never got higher than 30 degrees. It was cold for me because I was out there in the elements for 25 hours.  After her 50 miler, Marilou promptly put on her full length down parka and fell asleep on the bed. Did I mention it was cold?

There is not much in Vienna, two hotels, two restaurants ... And a prison.  Luckily we found a room and food, nothing else.  This was the first year of this race and it was put on by a very experienced race director.  He gave out great info and the drop bags and course were well detailed on the website.  The aid stations had the usual fair and every one of them had slim jims (chemical meat stick).   Now I have never seen that type of food at an ultra run.  The locals gobbled them down.  Even Marilou tried one, she promptly spit it out.  Rookie Rita stayed as far away from them as possible.  Rita even developed a new move for packing drop bags.  She basically throws her entire little body on top of it to squeeze out every last drop of air....not sure why.  She did have the liveliest and well decorated drop bags with Seahawk duct tape, cool.

The Tunnel Hill 100 is a rails to trails race and run on old railroad tracks that have been converted to trails with only a 2% grade...basically no major hills.  The crushed gravel and dirt surface treated our feet well.  On either side of the trail there were lots of fallen leaves so when you were running you could here the squirrels running and chasing each other as they scurried though the crackling leaves.  At least I hope they were squirrels...  Just after it turned dark a skunk joined me on the trail and I think we both scared each other as he left promptly without spraying me.

Since this course was my type of running, no elevation and no hills I thought I could do well.  Unfortunately I didn't realize how the cold would affect me.  My legs kind of stiffened up a lot and it was tough going at times.  Breathing in that cold air eventually got me coughing.  I kept hacking up phlegm. Marilou told me later that was my lungs defense was to produce this lovely phlegm to protect my lungs.  At one point I was coughing really hard.  Another runner near me said, "Don't forget your lung that you hacked up back there."  Haha

I ran well, first 50 in 10:35, 100k in a little less than 14 hours, so on pace for sub 24 if I could keep moving.  But I had to put on my big parka coat to keep warm and my legs felt stiff because of the cold.  I no longer thought 24 hours was possible and did think I would have a good time, possible PR.  

I'm running down the trail and I see this back pack reflecting back at me as my headlamp is lighting it up.  Curious.  Next to the backpack is a runner knelt down with her head on the ground.  I went over to check on her.  She said she needed five minutes.  It was cold and sleeting a little. I made her promise to get up in five minutes....she promised...later I saw her on an out and back....good thing she got up....not sure what would happen if someone stopped on the trail for too long in the cold.  Those benches along trails are tempting to sit on and take a rest...but having to get up again...I just don't take the chance....I tell myself run by any benches fast and only wish you could sit.

At one point I got really sleepy and started staggering on the trail.  I would run some to keep myself awake.  Along came Helen who was a swift power walker.  We talked and walked and ran to keep each other awake.  She then said she was nauseous and promptly started to dry heave....the power of suggestion....I started gagging as well.  Thanks dry heave Helen.  

On recovery day the snow really came. First it was freezing rain followed by two inches of snow.  If this had come a day early I would likely not have finished, funny how things work out.  There are always a few times during a race this long when you want to quit or you consider stopping. I always try to think through these moments to realize what it would be like to be disappointed in myself for not giving it my all.  I also think of how awful I would feel for not finishing.  I think, all this way and no buckle. Can't count this one.  Then I think if only I was injured, then I could stop.  Then my stubbornness gets me out and headed to the next aid station. I think if I quit how will I get back to the hotel, will it be awful to sit and wait for a ride.....so I just keep going.

Tunnel Hill 100 is called that because you run through a tunnel at mile 36, 40, 86, and 90.  The first time through the tunnel it was daylight and I didn't have my light so I got a little vertigo as I was running and tried not to hit the wall.  As we left the tunnel there were icicles hanging from the walls outside the tunnel...cold.  Now this tunnel was nothing like our tunnel up at Hyak near Snoqualmie.  It was only about 500 feet long and you could see the light on the other side as you entered.  There were also a lot of bridges along the trail so it was beautiful at times.  Probably earlier in the year this race would have been exquisite with leaves turning colors from all the deciduous trees.  I hope they make three changes before they offer this race again, earlier in the year, better color coat, and no Slim Jims at the aid stations...or at least offer a healthy alternative.  I know... Picky.

My goal for this race was to try to finish in under 24 hours.  But really I wanted to stay in running motion for the whole hundred.  This means I didn't want to walk in the last ten to twenty miles like I have in a few other hundreds.  I ran and walked up to 96 miles, then walked to the finish, met my goal..  After all this was my training race for the upcoming 72 hours at Across the Years.  Silly calling a hundred mile race a training race...well ultra running is silly.

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