Grindstone 100!

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The Grindstone 100 came and went and I’m a better person for it.

Looking for my second 100-mile finish after last year’s Eastern States 100, Grindstone delivered the rugged mountain challenge I wanted in a race. 100-mile courses are supposed to be hard and testing and I wasn’t looking to cheat myself with an “easier one.” The Grindstone take-home?: The climbs don’t ever end.

Leading up to the race, a friend and I decided that we’d more or less stick together until the 50-mile turn-around point. We stuck to our plan afterward deciding that it was more fun (and safer) to stay together during the evening hours when energy levels dip and minds can muddle.

Thankfully, my mind never muddled too much. Because the race starts at 6PM on a Friday evening, the dark running kicks things off when you’re likely still alert and focused. With the fall of the second night on Saturday, my mental state stayed pretty sharp which I could attribute to myriad reasons two of which I think are most important–running with a friend and staying well-fed.

A Few Pros of the race:

  • My mental state. I think I’ve successfully wrapped my head around the 100-mile distance. The dark moments, this time around, didn’t seem as dark or sustained. They were fleeting and I pushed them away easily. I stayed positive and smiled to myself often.
  • I amazed myself by staying well hydrated throughout the course. Although the aid stations were a bit far apart for my tastes, averaging about 7.5 miles between them, my hydration levels didn’t fluctuate. I took advantage of the Tailwind available and refreshed my hydration bladder as necessary.
  • Hokas. Last year, I planned out so much of my Eastern States run to a fine detail. Very specific arrival times at specific aid stations, dialed in my caloric intake, etc. That was great and everything you should do. But one thing I neglected was my shoes! I wore the same flimsy Inov-8s I’d been training in which were fine for shorter distances, but after 80 or so miles, the bottoms of feet were so sore! No so this time with my Hokas. (Although I did develop blisters). My feet held up much better with the increased cushioning. Made that mental note.
  • Camping. Camp Shenandoah is a perfect race HQ and place to camp. Seriously, if you run Grindstone, save some money and camp for free right by the start and end. The grass is soft and the ground flat. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and stayed at a place in Staunton, VA, but honestly, the campground is more than sufficient. We camped there the second night.

A Few Cons of my race:

  • I was slow. Whatever. I finished in 34:27. I train as often as I can while still respecting the distance and other participants. Finishing is always a sucess in my book and Grindstone offers ample time to it with a 38 hour limit. A lot could wrong and a lot of mistakes could be made but there’s always time to correct at Grindstone.
  • Blisters. One of the reasons for my slow finish was certainly my neglect of foot care. Blisters in the last 10 miles were painfully sore. I’m making a point to learn all I can about blister prevention in order to have a better, more enjoyable, race next time.

I truly loved Grindstone and being out on those trails. The first night’s, and to a lesser extent the second night’s, dense fog created a contemplative and moody atmosphere for moving through the forest. As my head light’s crisp beam struggled to break through the heavy pellets of water, scanned deep and isolated forests, and I climbed steep southern hills in the dead of night, it was exciting and felt like a real mountain adventure.

Rolling into the finish close to 4:30AM seemed to be a fitting end to my race. I savored the last few meters, which I typically can’t remember after a race. I noticed the early morning sky, the other runners cheering the rest of us late commers, and the satisfaction of a buckle and hand shake with the race director. And I remembered to turn off my watch too.

 

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