Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bib #333 DNF: Jay Challenge Race Report

DNF. Did not finish.

Don't feel bad for racer #333. She had the most awesome racing experience of her life.

Listen up people. You must attempt the Jay Challenge at least once.


Put it on your bucket list. Near the top. Its that good.

Sorry for the suspense leading up to this post, but I really had to come to grips with everything that has shaken down since Saturday at 8:00 am.

My day started out with high spirits. I actually slept well the night before, had my oatmeal and banana breaky, and headed to the start line in good time. Hubs and I met up with our Durham group, and we all wished each other well. I am on the far right hand side in the picture. We were ready.

Little did we know, only 5 of the 11 racers in this picture would cross the finish line in this picture.

Here is my story:

The days leading up to the race had been extremely rainy. This had brook levels extra high, and conditions extremely muddy. Come race day however, the weather Gods were smiling down on us racers, because there were sunny skies when we started out. A little humid, but nothing extreme weather-wise.

We reached the rope section rather quickly (in the first 20 minutes or so). There was a large line up for the ropes in which many runners, including myself welcomed as a nice little break before we got going in what we knew was to be a long day. Many took pictures and introduced themselves to fellow runners. Spirits were very high. We waited for about 10 -15 minutes to clear this part. Hubs took these pictures. They are blurry due to mud and the fact that he was carrying a waterproof disposable camera.

Jen and I running in the woods.

Ropes to help our first climb

After the ropes, we ran to Aid Station 1, the first of seven Aid Stations, reaching it in a little over an hour. I thought a little slow, but I wasn't worried because I factored in the rope section, and was thankful for a slow and steady start.

Shortly after AS #1, we were dumped into our first brook run. It was then that I realized just how special this race was going to be. My friend Jen who I was running with, mirrored my thoughts when she expressed out loud. "This is a life experience, I am glad I have someone to share it with". I felt exactly the same way. Many took pictures. Hubs took these:

(The pink ribbons are the course path)

The water felt amazing. It was very slippery in parts and you had to be careful. What we were quickly discovering was that there were many parts of this race that were not running, rather maneuvering, but it was awesome fun. The brook water felt awesome on my tired calves. The scenery was beautiful. We also went through two culverts during this section.

Awesome adventure.

Again. Bucket list people.

We reached AS #2 in 2 hours, 30 minutes. We were beginning to worry about time, as aid station 5 had a cut off of 51/2 hours, and a fellow runner had mentioned that an hour per AS is a good rule of thumb. In many parts we were going as fast as we could, given that they were more technical then running oriented. AS #2 was at the base of the mountain, Jay's Peak. I opted not to change shoes or socks. I was ready to conquer the mountain. Here are some summit bid pictures:

(the white chalet at the top is the Summit)

Hubs near the base of the mountain pointing at Jay's Peak

Final Summit Bid (almost at the top of Jay Mountain)

Jay's Peak is roughly 5000 feet above sea level. It is a mountain, not Everest sure, but it certainly felt like it. We went up the mountain on an access path, and it was straight up. Not up and then flat section, and up again, as it had reportedly been in previous year.

We went straight up.

Now it was impossible to run up the mountain, even the elite runners could speed walk at best, and just hiking had my heart pounding. The higher up I went, the more difficulty I had with keeping my heart rate stable. The peak was in front of me, and it was very intimidating up close. It seemed to be taunting me as a mere mortal.

The only thing that kept me going was that the view kept getting better and better. Eventually I had to stop and take breaks. I don't know if it was the altitude or the climb that was getting to me at this point, but I felt like I couldn't breathe. I told Jen to keep going. I have never been pushed to my limit physically like this before by just simple walking.

Life altering, awesome experience. What humans can accomplish with determination is amazing.

I continued my way up. I would take little breaks to try and get my heart rate under control. One woman told me to drink more, I tried, but I was having that swooshing in my tummy feeling. Eventually I threw up.

Oddly it seemed to help, and I made it up to AS #3 at the Summit. I am not sure of time, but it was well over 3 hours.

On the peak, it was beautiful, breathtaking, really indescribable at the top of the mountain. Sorry if this sounds like a cliche, but I felt like I was on top of the world. It was sooooo tough to get up there, but somehow I found the power in my legs to make it to the top. I think that is why the view was so sweet. My only regret is that I didn't get my picture taken. Thankfully Hubs took a few pictures. Enjoy.

The awesome volunteers at the top of the mountain were very kind. They were concerned that I was dehydrated, and they gave me lots of water, salt pills, and oranges. I felt rejuvenated and ready to continue.

The run down the mountain was tough on the knees. I slowed to a slow shuffle, because I had read that alot of reports that you can really damage your IT band on the way down. I knew the race was far from over, so I slowed down. Here are some descending the mountain pictures:

At the base of the mountain was a bush marked section that was extremely muddy, made worse by the torrential rain that had occurred for a week straight prior to the race. The mud went past my knees in some parts. I almost lost my shoes many times (the race director warned us about this phenonmon he calls "shoe sucking" happening). It was hard to run. Some elite half runners passed me and I tried to follow cues from them on how to successfully maneuver through the mud in a more efficient manner. It seemed to help, and I even managed to catch up and pass a few of the full marathoners (not the half elites -Ha!) that had passed me on the Summit bid. Mud pic:

When I reached AS#4, 5 hours had almost passed. I knew I was likely to get cut at Aid station 5, the half way (19 miles) point as it was 8K down the road. It seems incredible that it was taking me this long, but the course conditions were brutal. Still, my spirits were high, I wanted to finish strong and as long as I was allowed to continue, I was ready and willing. I actually felt energized at this point.

When I arrived at AS#4, the volunteers asked me how I was, and I told them, much better thanks.

Then the they informed me that they were concerned about me and were pulling me from the course because I had been sick on the ascent to the Peak. I told them I was fine. Yes, I had been sick, but I was fine, and I knew I wouldn't make the cut-off, but could I please run in the half (basically AS #5)

I was told no.

That's it. This race is over for you, Bib #333.

What had started as a amazing experience suddenly felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me. My best experience suddenly turned to my worst. I fought back tears. I wasn't going to cry, but I was utterly disappointed. They took my blood pressure. It was normal. 120 over 70. I watched other full marathoners come into AS#4 and go onto AS#5. I felt helpless

Now hopefully you understand why its taken me a few days to come to grips with this. At first I'll be honest. I was pissed!!! Angry. I swore. Really, really badly. And I'm not exactly a potty mouth type. I felt if the RD was so worried about me at the Summit, why hadn't they pulled me then? They had also shortened cut off times despite worse conditions, and extra add on's to the course. I felt oddly betrayed.

Now strangely, I am grateful.

Its taken me a few days to realize this, but we live in such an instant gratification society that we automatically feel entitled to achieve everything we attempt. I expected to finish this race. I was certain I would. I was all ready to post a huge complaint/whine session about how I was wronged on my blog, and I'm glad I waited.

I was wrong. I can only work harder to achieve the goal of this amazing adventure race. Being new to trail running I attempted the hardest race put together for its distance in North America (according to RD) I will train harder next year, and I am determined that I will conquer this course. I will improve my fitness. I will finish this race. No excuses. Its all me. I will exceed whatever cut off there is.

That's what makes Jay special, to me at least.

293 runners started that the Jay Challenge marathon that day. 218 crossed the finish line. I wasn't among them. But I did share the experience of this race with the finishers. Among the 70 odd DNF'ers were 100 milers, Boston qualifiers, and overall amazing runners. Most were pulled at AS#5 and #6 due to not making cut off times. I felt lucky to have have ran with them and the finishers.

To all of those reading that completed or did not complete the Jay Challenge, congratulations on your accomplishment. I'll be back!

Thanks for reading!


Lily on the Road said...


No matter what, YOU DID A GREAT JOB! Be proud of what you accomplished and know what you need to know for next year!

I'm soooo very proud of you! Good Job, hope you're feeling better and are ready for the next challenge!!

God Bless! Jay Peaks next year will be YOUR year!!!

Melanie said...

Marci, it takes a strong person to have accomplished so much, as a person and athlete, and an even bigger person to have waited, and found the good in this. You will go back next year and be physically and mentally stronger to conquer this race. You should be extremely proud of yourself. I totally teared up but am happy that you're ok with all this now. Kudos to you!!! The pics are amazing!

Blyfinn said...

WOW, what an extreme emotional shift. It sounds like an amazing adventure. I don't think I would have made it as far as you did. You did great! good luck next year also.

Bob Gentile said...

I told them I was fine. Yes, I had been sick, but I was fine,
hmmmm --- Sigh)))) ummm I am kinda pissed for ya :-) is that ok?!

I mean yes you got sick & you puked and then you got ur butt moving again, that is what ultra running is all about...(fighting through the low points ) I guess they knew you were off on the cut off time and maybe just used the sick card as their main reason to pull ya :-(

well Marci I am glad your ok with it (ok not pissed for you anymore either, just had to vent a bit--lol)

Does look like an amazing course and one I will add to my list...Thanks & love the pics & also great attitude to say " OK I WILL BE BACK, better, faster, stronger Jay boy!!!!!

Barrie RoadRunners said...

Hi Marci,

Sorry to here that you were pulled. I talked to a few others that didn't make the cut offs and there was a lot of dissapointment. I think your attitude should be complimented, very easy to feel bitter and sore, but it takes some strength to see through that. As for our race we all finished although 2 of our group barely made the cutoffs. I found the brook running the hardest part ( at least the first brook), I fell numerous times and have the bruises to prove it. The "stroll" up mountain was spectacular. I loved the mud running at the bottom of the mountain. You may be pleased to know that you missed some of the hardest parts, the beaver swamp was ridiculous/amazing depending on who you talk to. Skirting around waterfalls felt was dangerous. The last 9 miles after the last manned aid station were more survival mode than anything as fatigue really set. Anyway, sorry we didn't get to talk to you there, but looking at the pictures you posted we were speaking to a couple of your group.
The fact that you attempted the and got as far as you did is a testament to your strenght

Steve W said...

Marci, I love your attitude about this race and life in general. I'm glad you took time to reflect on your experience before writing about it. Way too many runners who DNF'd did not do that and immediately blamed the RD for their results on the course. I was one of the lucky ones who finished and I hope you can come back and give it another shot. It was an amazing race that is difficult to describe to anyone who has not run it.....and next year you'll describe it to all of us, I'm sure!
Welcome to the world of trail running. Like you, this is my first year running trails as well.

Kim said...

I'm so proud of you for having the willingness to want to do it next year. You know what to expect and you will kick its butt!

It's good for people to get out of their comfort zone-not many do because they are afraid...afraid of failure-so for you to even attempt this is a victory all in itself! Great work girlie!

Marcy said...

Oooohh Marci this was one of the best race reports I've ever read (seriously ;D ). I'm so glad that this didn't overshadow the whole experience for you. It sounded like an awesome one. I have no doubts will will come back and finish it strong! CONGRATS CHICA!!

Marlene said...

It takes a strong person to come out of this with your attitude. I can't even comprehend what a physical & mental challenge this race was and you should be so proud of how far you made it. Congratulations! You'll kick butt when you return.

robison52 said...

What a fantastic challenge you attempted!! I have yet to run an ultra (my first one will be a 50k in April 2009) and can't even imagine how tough your course, but your posting makes it so much real! I'm a little pissed at the RD for you as well, if your heart rates are good, you haven't lost too much weight, and still coherent, you should be allowed to attempt a finish. Anyway, next year you can try again with a vengenance!!

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Just a couple of corrections to the information about Jay. The name of the miountain is "Jay Peak" and the elevation is 3968 feet.

Lily on the Road said...

Anonymous said...
The name of the miountain is "Jay Peak" and the elevation is 3968 feet.

Okay, thanks for the proper name, sorry I said Peak"s" !!!


How did Hubs do????? No mention of Hubs and his results....(I know, not his blog) LOL...

It is just all too exciting!!

P.O.M. said...

Sounds like an amazing experience! THanks for sharing and it's great to have a goal - finish it next time.
"I'm greatful for disappointments because it means I have hope."

Meg said...

Man, what a great attitude you have! Congratulations on a great race, I loved your report and the pictures! It sounds like you have many more trail races in your future!

Laura said...

What an amazing story and I am SO impressed for your great attitude! You make me want to train for it with you, though I fear it might be more than I can handle. Congratulations on a job well done no matter WHAT the race stats say!

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Hi Marci - The "race" on the 8th is totally up to you. Many people do full on race, many others just get out and enjoy. Personally, I try to survive - ha!! I started these to keep me honest with the training when I don't have something formal on the calendar, they mushroomed to 50 - 70 people per time just having fun together (sort of together, anyway)!! We'd love to have you!! You can check out past ones if you want in my sidebar.

Loved this report. I'm kinda with Bob - I'm sort of pissed for ya. It didn't sound like you were that bad but I'm sure they had their reasons. Maybe they aren't familiar with that ultrarunner spirit and tenacity. Hell, I've heard of people with 2nd degree burns on the bottom of their feet needing IV's and still finishing. Well anyway, your attitude is just amazing and I loved your report. I'm so glad you are still loving all the positives of this race. Where is Jay's? (not that I'd ever be fit to do this, but I had to ask cuz my baby is Jay!)

Anyway, I'm not usually this windy but guess I had a lot to say. Welcome to the virtual race!


Marci said...

Thanks for all of your commments. It was a hard pill to swallow to not finish, but the experience and challenge of it well exceeded any dissapointments. Lily Hubs ran the "half"(19 miles) as his IT band acted up, but it still qalifies as a DNF. He would have made cut-off though, I think, pretty impressive since he had not run in months!

Marci said...

Oops and I forgot to add:
Nancy - Jay Challenge is in Jay Vermont. Totally try it, its awesome.
Laura- lets do it. I think you have the perfect attitude for this race
And about elevation. I know the Peak is about 4000, but the race started at the town, not at the base, between that are my Garmin output was how I came to approx 5000ft elevation, but either way, it was realllly higghhh!! LOL. Thanks for the comments!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful pictures of the Jay challenge! I,too, pulled my first DNF ever, and it was something I can accept. The biggest disappointment for me was not being able to truly enjoy the mountain.Heck of a race, but I'm sure you'll get it next year!

Nitmos said...

Just catching up...
That was a lot to attempt whether you have experience or not. 5000 foot hill (mountain). Man, even attempting it was quite awesome.

Now you know what to work on for the next attempt. It'll be that much more special to you next year when you corss the finish. Great report! Sorry it didn't have the ending you hoped for you should be proud of the attempt (and your renewed determination.)

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