WV Trilogy Race Report – Ashley Dolin

WV Trilogy 2016

Arrived Thursday evening at the Mountain State Institute with Brittany Pauley. We set up camp in the big, open, windy field. Nerves start to kick in after the four hour drive of discussing each of our race plans. The 50k was her first ultra!

After setting up camp we headed over to the main yurt for packet pickup and dinner. Along the way we met Rob from Mt. Airy, NC. Super cool guy who was running all three days.

The main yurt is slowly filling with runners and those who will aid us along with some of their family. I greet all of those I consider my running family with a warm hug, and introduce Brittany to anyone she may be meeting for the first time. After all, we are going to be here all weekend blending in together.

My plan all along after running an achy 30 mile training run a few weeks before Trilogy, was to take the 50k easy, survive the 50 mile by making the cutoff times, and give anything else left of my body to the half.

Up early Friday morning after very little sleep, due to the kite I slept in shaking violently in the wind all night. I had slipped my clothes in the sleeping bag the night before so they’d be warm enough wear in the crisp tent air of the morning. I panicked as I searched the tent for the clothes I knew I laid out the night before, only to finally remember the lump in the bottom of the sleeping bag was them. I accidentally wore the shorts I intended to wear the 50 mile day for the 50k instead. Crawling out of the tent in the dark field I noticed it was warmer than expected and not raining! Brittany packed a Coleman stove, so we fought the wind and made oats. I even had Earl Gray Tea. We made our way to the start to have a pre-race poo. I hollered at the line of port-a-johns, “Brittany, did you warm the seat up for me?”, no reply. I found an empty toilet, made a TP nest, and got settled, only to find out my feet dangled. Now I know what our 4 and 6 year olds feel like when the bench is missing from our bathroom at home.

Lining up at the start with my take it easy plan in the front of my brain, I was excited to see the months of training put to use today, and the two races after. Brittany and I had hit the hills at Kanawha State Forest for months; now was both of our chances to see all that climbing pay off.

Andrew Rhodes blew the big blue horn and we were off! Running a while and meeting a few new people was nice. I met a sweet lady named Dawn from Virginia. Mary Jane and I ran what seemed like a good 10 miles together, even going through the drop bag aid station still chatting. We walked up the first really steep hill and she said, “That one was a real booger!” I love her terminology.

At Judy Springs, I ran solo up top. I’m pretty sure I heard a coyote licking its lips as I ran by. It was pretty dreary up there; no sun, rainy, and super windy. Climbing back down, I met Stacy from D.C. Super nice girl who was racing the Army 10 miler Sunday in her home area. Glad I didn’t take any wrong turns and survived the creek crossings, it was nice to see the aid station again. Dennis, Pete, and Andrew were all great as I went on fighting to keep my happy pace.

Not many miles later, I came to the last aid station where the ladies and gentleman were super-sweet and gave me a warm cheese quesadilla while filling my water pack. Took off from the aid station and had my first experience climbing Cardiac Hill. Mary Beth Strickler had told me about this climb and how you get to finish on it all three days. I walked every bit of it, followed the course markings to the finish downhill, and crossed the line in about 8 ½ hours. Brittany came along after she was saved by some trail running angels from Michigan. Life is good. I congratulated Sarah Bee and Mary Jane then found the land line to call my husband and tell him how the day went for me.

Everyone did a fantastic job Friday. Those who just came up for the 50k or half or both encouraged those of us who chose to run all three races. Saturday morning I built up the mental strength to crawl out of my tent once again, but this time there was a cold solid downpour. Wearing a free poncho I got at a 5k, I knocked on the door of the car where Brittany was asleep and told her to go back to bed since I was going to eat breakfast at the main yurt today. Hot food, yum. I had a bad case of the nerves, so I only stomached a handful of cooked oats with brown sugar while chatting with Krista and James Dick about Cedar Point.

Leaving my poncho inside, I follow the crowd of racers outside to the dark starting line where I pose for a photo with Krista and Sarah Bee. Dan Lehmann hollers “Go!” We are off. Rain is constant in our head lamps so looking up is difficult since all you can see is a solid sheet pouring down. The night before, a group of us decided to loosely hang together all day and make the cutoffs. Joe McQuade, Mary Jane, Sarah Bee,Lorraine Moore, and I for the most part hung together taking turns leading. Once the same came up enough to turn off the headlamps, I found myself on Huckleberry Trail a ways along. I smack my head hard on a hemlock limb after turning sharp on the trail to keep following the blue ribbons.

Heading up what we came down in the Judy Springs area on 50k day, was a little harder today since it was leading to the first cut off at 25 miles. Out and back on Whites Run is a task. I ran behind Charlotte Johnson. At that point I was leading the group we formed the night before since running up hill hurt way less than pounding down. Charlotte and I chatted a bit, laughing at how “downhill” is not what we’d call this trail. My group caught me easily once the real downhill began. We high-fived and cheered every runner who was making their way back up the hill. Krista, on her way back, told us a tale of tater tots at the aid station. My morning oats had long ago burned off and the idea of warm tots made my pace quicken and mouth water. After making our way down the switchbacks and crossing the creek, we made it to the aid station. “We heard you have tots”, I excitedly yell to Joey Jarvis and Charles Belcher. We all get what we need from our drop bags and four of us head out of the aid station with a fist full of tots. I also have a dill pickle spear Charles dug out of the jar for me. “I’ll never look at tater tots the same way again.” I say this to my group and they all laugh. It’s true.

Four of us prepare to go back up Whites Run as Sara Bee comes doan and says she hurts too much and is done. We all tell her “No” and we hurt to. There is also plenty of time to spare for this aid cut off.

Joe McQuade asks me to lead since he claims I am a beast on the hills, and it hurts my legs way less than the declines. Up we climb, I start to break off a bit and see a few more racers heading down to the aid station. Once I’m up top on the rolling section of Whites Run, I get a bit dizzy. I have an emergency sucker tucked away for just such an occasion. It helps! Following the directions on a plate Adam Casseday made is not too much of a task at this point. Lorraine is right with me, so we chat and catch up as we run to the next aid station. I tell her my husband will be at that aid station. I’m excited to see him since we’ve been apart a few days and so much has happened. Descending Hortons Trail, Lorraine takes off saying,“This is it!”She had known the race thanks to prior race years. I arrive at the aid station to find my husband and daughters. Surprise! Now I have to be a mom when I’m finished. I kiss our girls, tell Lorraine’s daughter how strong her mom is, and take my pack from my husband who filled it with Nuun tabs for me. Michael Bee is also at this aid station. He says Sarah kept running. This makes Lorraine and I happy.

After I grab some sugar (Payday and Almond Joy) and a hot cheesy quesadilla, Lorraine and I take off for a three mile climb up Allegheny Trail. Lorraine’s daughter snaps the last photos as we make our way down the gravel road preparing for the last major climb. My watch dies at 10 hours or 37.5 miles. Lorraine and I make it to the top and start a rolling section with some little climbs. I pull her up and on the downhill areas, she leads. I only have the real time on the Timex I wore on my other wrist. My goal was to make the last aid station by 6:30 pm. Then the wind picks up, the rain blows out of every tree, and we just keep running through it all.

After a particularly windy, wet, and sloppy trail section, I look up and see the glorious last aid station. (Lorraine told me later on I had started to sprint.) “Man, am I glad to see you guys!” I yell. “And we’re happy to see you.” Aaron Yocum replies. Michael Bee was there so that meant Sarah was still trucking on. My Timex said it was 6:05 pm. Plenty of time left if I had to walk every bit of the last 3.8 miles. A huge weight was off my chest. We had made every cut off in the worst weather imaginable and Lord willing, we’d see the finish line by 14 hours.

We crossed all four cattle gates in the day light. The cows were almost close enough to pet as we ran from one gate to the next. We saw a tree that had beautiful red leafs as we climbed the fences. Finally we turned our lamps on and pushed out the last bit of the race on a trail lined with trees on both sides, making it even darker. Then there is was: 1 mile to go. Cardiac Hill is a walker at this point and a man named David joined us as we share how happy we are about today’s accomplishments.

Crossing the line is sweet victory. My husband is there and our six year old runs out to take my glow stick. Lorraine and I can finally hug. Brittany is there with tears in her eyes for me. The felling is the ultimate runners high.

I hobble to the main yurt and am greeted warmly by everybody. I lay on the floor with an upset belly as it takes a while to get going. We work out sleeping arrangements since there are four of us now and the tent is soaked. Julie Tisone’s girls made cookies. I am able to stomach half of one. That is what gets me off the floor. With a yurt secured for us and some dinner at least on a plate, I manage to survive the rest of the evening!

It was easier to get up and running Sunday than to lie in the yurt where I slept very little for the third night in a row. At least it was warm and not wind blown.

A man tried to blow Andrew’s blue horn for the start of the half marathon, but to no avail. As we started the race I was tight, but loosened up as the race went on. Also, my quads were super sore, but up hills once again felt way better on my legs than down hill. Eating way more for breakfast than any previous day, I felt energetic as the miles flew by. Mary Jane, Lorraine, and I hung out until we split on the uphill towards the fire tower. I led there and Mary Jane took off at the split in the trail as we crossed the four cattle fences to the finish. Up Cardiac Hill one last time and I actually passed a man who was just doing the half! Crossing the line for the last time was bittersweet. I’m glad to be finish, but sad it was over. Months of training paid off, and a bonus to my finish, I was actually starving and able to eat. Didn’t stay that way long, but nice to load up on hot, salty food. My first Trilogy was eye opening. As I walked to the shower, Joe Tucker asked me how I felt and my reply was, “Like I accomplished something”. I’m grateful for everyone who came out and helped in any way to make this fantastic race possible.

The days following the race involved the dreaded task of unpacking, straightening my bent tent poles, and sleeping 13 hours in a row as soon as we got in the door. Now I know it’s possible to make those cut off times and race back-to-back-to-back days on little sleep. I am anxious to try Trilogy again. I would love for Lorraine’s race plans to cross mine again.

Happy Trails,

Author: Ashley- Female Trilogy Finisher