2017-09-29 - Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

~100 miles @ ~17.5 min/mi


With a dear friend, five months after the 2017-04-29 - C and O Canal 100 Miler, starting on my 65th birthday: another 100 miler finish, in a little over 29 hours. Like the first: no expectations, no goals. It is as it is. We just say "Yes". And it's all good.

Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run - photo of Stephanie Fonda and Mark Zimmermann by Glenn TachiyamaAt 2am Dr Stephanie Fonda begins singing classic-rock oldies with me: "Brown Eyed Girl" - "Here Comes the Sun" - "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" - "Bad Moon on the Rise" - "Homeroom Angel" - "Peace Train" - "Moonshadow" - "Goin' to Carolina in My Mind" - and more. When we don't remember the lyrics we make them up, or mumble.

We're at mile ~75 of the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, and we're having fun together. The Yeti follows the lovely Virginia Creeper Trail, a rail-to-trail path near the Tennessee and North Carolina borders in southwestern Virginia. Our journey begins at 7am on Friday morning, after a van ride to Whitetop Station. The course is simplicity itself: start at Whitetop, run ~33.5 miles to Abingdon, turn around and go back to Whitetop, then return to Abingdon to finish.
Yeti race director Jason Green has an awesome Zen attitude. He prefaces the event with an inspirational speech:
This is a straight shot. Remember, trains don't make left or right turns. At every intersection you'll see a brown sign with a train on it. Every weekend, 8-year-olds start here and they end up in Abingdon. Don't be that person.

Thank you, everyone, for coming. It means the world to me. It means the world to my family. All your hard work is appreciated today.

It's your f***ing day — enjoy it!

And then, we run. The reward: a big belt buckle.
2017 Yeti 100 mile finisher's buckle
Jarian Rich and ^z at Damascus VA, mile ~50 of the 2017 Yeti 100 milerIn the gloom at the back of the pack Stephanie Fonda and I begin. The first 25 miles of the course is an almost-imperceptible downhill, ~1900 feet of descent that translates into an average ~1.4% negative grade. We trot at a comfortable pace for ~0.4 miles and then walk ~0.1 miles. Repeat that 50 times. Five hours later, we've finished a quarter of a hundred miler.

But wait a moment — if this could be sustained it would result in a 20 hour finish time. No way! Our quads begin to twinge. The next ~9 miles takes us ~2 hours. At Abingdon, one third done in ~7 hours, we check in and reverse course.

Cheery: we arrive at the Damascus mile ~50 aid station about 11 hours into the race. Volunteer Jarian Rich is there, bedecked in unicorn horn, lavender tutu, and glitter beard-of-lights. His ultra-positive energy is ultra-contagious.

Less cheery: Stephanie is starting to develop troublesome blisters. A good friend of hers, who wishes to remain anonymous, crews for us. He's a godsend, driving us to the race and back, meeting us at aid stations and road crossings, cheering us along, checking on our status, and basically going far beyond anything that could be asked. Call him "Mr Supererogation" — Supe for short. Mid-race we pause for 20 minutes while he doctors the Fonda feet. Then onward and upward, into the night.

Flashback: after packet pick-up, the evening before the race we eat at "Hey Joe's" in Damascus. Then Supe drives me to Abingdon where I stay with ultra-nice Cheryl and Dennis Clay, whom I met and became friends with in April at the C&O Canal 100 where their daughter Emily managed the corps of volunteers. Clay family hospitality extends to after the Yeti, when Stephanie and I literally must crawl, groaning, into (separate!) tub and shower to rinse off grime before kind Supe chauffeurs us home. Thank you all!

The Virginia Creeper Trail passes over ~45 trestles, some only a few feet long, others stretching a fair fraction of a mile. Above us through the night glitter brilliant stars and a first quarter moon. Trailside waterfalls cascade noisily downslope over boulders. We open and close gates to keep cattle in their place as the path takes us though meadows. (Stephanie has to stare down one cow that menaces her.) A toad hip-hops around our feet; a chipmunk dashes across the way.

On an adjacent mountainside a tree farm features pines in regular rows and columns. A valley filled with fog reflects our headlamps. As night progresses my usual no-sleep "hallucinations" begin: the pattern-matching visual neural net goes into overdrive and random shapes made by tree branches become bridges, hypermodern-architecture office buildings, piñatas, and walls. Shadows on the ground spell out words in curly fonts: "Lego", "Exit", etc. Distances and perspectives shift: the ground curves upward and we're walking at the bottom of a bowl. Approaching runners are 20 feet tall. Sometimes by glancing away and then looking again the illusions are dispelled; other times, they persist. Weird!
Jarian Rich and ^z at Damascus VA, mile ~50 of the 2017 Yeti 100 miler
Jarian Rich and ^z at Damascus VA, mile ~50 of the 2017 Yeti 100 milerThroughout the race we meet the nicest people. During the long dark cold climb back to Whitetop, Louisiana residents Kerrie and her friend Ron lend us gloves and entertain us with conversation, as do others. Aid station volunteers are uniformly helpful, though distances between food and drink are farther than some might have expected.

At packet pickup the evening before the Yeti we visit with ultra-legend Tom Green, the only other participant over age 65. During the race we see him again, pushing a perambulator with locomotive-bright lights that slice through the darkness. Dead last, in the position of honor, he finishes — yay!

The Virginia Creeper Trail mostly consists of crushed stone, with black grit that gets on socks and legs. In places it's paved, and oddly there are stretches with jagged stones sticking up through the asphalt. Rather a hazard to some runners, who might trip. I stumble early, on a root at mile ~2, but stagger and recover as Stephanie catches my elbow. Others nearby cheer.
At mile ~85 muscles in my lower back spasm. When it begins to look as though we might not make the final 30 hour cutoff, at my insistence Dr Fonda trots on ahead. A timely result is crucial for her, to qualify for next year's Vermont 100 and perhaps other ultras.

A couple of miles from the finish line, ever-awesome Supe meets Stephanie and escorts her in. Her official time is 28:16:58, good for 109th place overall, 44th woman to finish. Brava!
Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run - finish line photo of Stephanie Fonda by Glenn T
Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run - finish line photo of Mark Zimmermann by Glenn TWith my back glitching I resemble a zombie more than a yeti as I stagger toward the finish line, pausing to stretch sideways every few paces. Based on mile markers by the trail, starting at mile 90 my splits in minutes are 18.1 + 21.3 + 23.6 + 23.4 + 27.0 + 27.2 + 25.6 + 30.4 + 25.5 + 26.9 for mile ~99. (No data for the last mile.)

My official time = 29:00:59, 125th place overall, 71st male. Whee!

Overall, the 2017 Yeti has 136 finishers, plus 44 participants who begin but drop along the way and 17 who register but for whatever reason don't start. See the Runkeeper trackfile for GPS details of the first 66+ miles with Stephanie, from Whitetop to Abingdon and back.

It truly is All Good. Thank you, Stephanie, for the best birthday present ever!

^z - 2017-10-31