Like Shannon said recently, the journey to becoming a 100 mile ultra finisher is quite a selfish pursuit. That being said, I would like to begin by thanking all of the people (and animals) who made it possible for me to get from the starting line to the finish line of the 2012 Umstead 100. A lot of time elapsed between the two despite the fact they were separated by about 20 feet in reality. The irony of a loop course. But I can honestly say that I probably would not have made it around that loop 8 times had it not been for the amazing crew and pacers who carried me (not literally, though the thought did occur to me) along the way.
So a HUGE thank you to my pacers who saw the best and worst of me out there:
Alex: You are my rock and I am grateful for your advice even if I don't listen. I always know afterwards that I should have. Yes, I know, I should have slowed down and stuck to my loop goals. I will next time! I am so glad that we got to spend a loop out there together, pounding out the miles when I still felt well. You got me through a lot of training and injuries that otherwise might have taken me out of the 100 for good. You believed in me. You always believe in me. Thank you for that!
Rachel: I know you still think I'm crazy, but I appreciated all of your stories (even if I thought Alex had told them to me the loop before and tried repeating them to you). And don't worry, my stomach was sloshing way more than your water bottle. And thanks for trying to take the attention off of me when I was bringing up gas in the woods.
Josh: Your jokes were pretty terrible, but I was laughing on the inside and appreciated every single one (because it meant that I didn't have to contribute to the conversation). I was also introduced to all kinds of new Umstead species, which was a real treat considering I had not been aware of them the first 6 times around. Hmmm...suspicious... yes, I think so. But it got me through a very long 12.5 miles, which means a lot.
Kari: I'm sorry if you didn't know what you were in for when you mentioned to Alysia that you'd be willing to pace me for a loop. Hopefully I didn't ruin the experience for you and you'll consider pacing someone else again in the future. It was a long lap, with lots of stops, but you guys only "almost" lost me a couple of times, which isn't a bad percentage. Especially since I think you almost wandered off the trail and started "seeing" things (like dry land during a torrential downpour) before me. I knew from the start I was in good hands!!!
Alysia: The good news is you didn't have to decide whether or not I could keep going nor did you have to call me out on hallucinations. I think the Kelly you had to put up with for 12.5 miles was way worse and I am grateful that you put up with me through the fatigue, the irritability, the silence when you could have just left me in the woods. That was the hardest 12.5 miles I've ever done and I don't think I could have kept putting one foot in front of the other (which was all I could do by the end) if it hadn't been for you! And thanks for the ride home. I think I was conscious for all of 10% of it. Good thing I didn't have to drive myself home.
Chris, Melody, and Callie: Thank you so much for chasing me around the trail. The spaghetti and sausage was delicious at mile 33 even if I had to "drink" it from a solo cup because the fork was in the car. Chris ran with me for a little bit (which I appreciate given your hip) and Melody made friends with another runner after Callie had an emergency poop. It made miles 33-34 fly by, which is a very welcome experience!
Kate and Ryan: Thanks for lugging my survivor leg around the course. You guys seemed to be everywhere, which was very welcome given the otherwise monotonous course and continuous rain. Plus, your costumes rocked. And your signs were cool. Not to seem selfish, but the dry clothes at mile 80 might be the most memorable moment for me. I still have your clothes and will get them back to you soon. :)
Monique: The cliff shot block thing-a-ma-jigs rocked my world. I think that's all I ate from mile 50-70 much to my surprise considering I didn't even know what they were when you offered them to me for the first time. I also can imagine that sharing a room the night before the race was not what you had planned on and I appreciate how accommodating you were. I must've rolled over about 100 times during the night and finally gave up on sleeping at 3:45am, which I'm sure woke you up too. Sorry and thank you!
Iris: We could not have finished a race like this without wonderful volunteers like you. Thanks for putting up with our "pickiness" as we came through the aid station. I can't imagine what it was like from your end, but I am very thankful from my end. And all of your help at our little camp spot was awesome. Between you, Josh, Monique and Anthony, I always felt so taken care of during the race. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and clearly hadn't prepared for what a 100 mile race entails. I couldn't have been luckier to have you guys on my side, a last minute crew that made my finish possible.
Anthony: I felt like I was home every time I came down the trail towards AS#1 and saw you standing along the sidelines. I know you probably would have loved to have been out there racing too, but your support for Shannon and for me was incredible. Thanks for blogging about me; I know my friends and family appreciated the updates.
Shannon: I am so happy we met in the woods that one day 4 weeks ago. Yes, our meeting was really that sketchy and it couldn't have worked out better! Thank you for opening up your home to me before the race and sharing your crew team with me at the race site. It was great to see your face just about every loop (except the last 2 when I think you were home in bed while I still pounded out a few more miles!) and to cheer each other on. It was one hell of an experience and I'm so glad we could experience it together.