Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 Race Report
Or, how to get by with a little help from your friends…
Every year for the last 5 years, I have had my biggest endurance event of the season the weekend after Labor Day. Previously, it had been the Ironman Triathlon, or Superior 100 trail race. This year I tried something new & signed up for the Hallucination 100 mile trail race in Pinckney, MI (which is only 2 miles from Hell, MI, so lets just call it Hell…)
The race is just over 60 miles from my parent’s house, so I was able to combine a family visit and the race in one weekend. The event is advertised as “Run Woodstock – 3 days of peace, music & running.” It sounded interesting & different from any of the events I’d done before. The course was 6 - 16.6 mile loops with aid stations every 4 miles, start time of 4pm on Friday afternoon, and cutoff at 30 hours or 10pm on Saturday.
Matt and I, and Raleigh the puppy, headed to Michigan on Wednesday afternoon, with a quick overnight outside of Chicago before finishing up the drive on Thursday. We arrived with plenty of time to relax Thursday evening & Friday morning before heading down to the race early afternoon on Friday.
There is camping available at the race start/finish area for those that sign up early enough to secure the sites. Because I had registered fairly late, we did not have a campsite, and were required to park across the road & walk our gear into the start/finish area. Matt was planning on “camping” out of the car parked across the road & occasionally meeting me at the aid station that was about half way on the loop.
We walked my gear over to the start/finish area, and the afternoon was really starting to heat up. The sun was coming out and the humidity was on the rise. I was already sweating. My heart sank a little, as I placed my drop bag in the tent, and then found a cool spot in the shade to wait with Matt & Raleigh for the race to start. I was hot and sticky and had barely walked a half mile… This was not good.
There was a “mandatory” pre-race meeting at 3pm. It lasted 5 minutes. Basically they said that part of the course was on roads that weren’t closed to traffic, crossed paved roads, and to watch for cars…. I was not impressed.
There were people milling around everywhere. Setting up camps, wandering around. More people than any of the trail races I’d been at before. And I didn’t know any of them. It was odd. Trail racing in Minnesota is a small, close knit, very friendly group. I wasn’t feeling that here. I had the name of one person who was a friend of a friend, but couldn’t remember exactly what she looked like. I tried to stay calm and not worry about the late start, heat, and unknown events that lie ahead.
Soon enough, 4pm arrived, and the 100 mile & 100k runners all lined up together. The 100k runners had to do 4 loops, the 100 mile, 6 loops. Any 100 mile runner could drop to the 100k after 4 loops, however.
We ran through the campground before heading out onto the single track trail. It was a conga line of runners, as we walked and shuffled along the trail. The trail was soft, not rocky or rooted like the previous Superior Races I had done. I was curious why people were walking, it wasn’t even hilly! But I tried to be patient, knowing that after awhile we’d all get spread out. Sure enough after about 1.75 miles, we came out onto an open crushed gravel trail. It was flat, and a great opportunity to let the group spread out a bit. We ran that for a mile, and then turned back onto the single track. It wasn’t far & we were coming into the first aid station at 4 miles. It had taken me less than an hour, and I felt good. I passed through the first aid station, and out onto a gravel road. We followed the road for another mile and a quarter or so before turning onto another single track trail. This section from aid station 1 to aid station 2 seemed long – aid station 2 was at 8.8 miles. I crossed the timing mat and was sitting at 1:38. My plan was to run loop one in 3:40 (as it turned out I ran the first loop in 3:25). I left aid station 2 and headed to aid station 3 (which was actually aid station 1 again – you hit that one twice on each loop). From aid station 2, it’s a two-track road up to a paved road, then you hit the single track trail again before meeting up with the gravel road that takes you back to AS 1/3. I was excited that I was already back to AS 1/3 and headed for the Start/finish area. I kept plugging along at a nice pace, feeling good, but geez, this section felt like a long 4 miles. On every single loop, that last 4 mile section felt like it took forever!
I came into the Start/Finish area after loop 1 feeling good. The trail, I was hesitant to think, felt easy, and forgiving. I grabbed my headlamp and a hand held flashlight for the second loop because it was only a matter of time before it started to get dark. I left the start/finish AS just as the evening 5k got under way. ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? I headed onto the trail, just as I had on the first loop, shuffling along, walking, and going really slow. I was beyond irritated! I run trails so I don’t have to deal with crowds, and here I am shuffling along with a huge group of people?? Again, I talked myself into being patient. “It was going to be a long race, stop getting so stressed out. You’re going to want to walk later,” I told myself. I took a deep breath, and soon enough was back out on the crushed gravel path, motoring right along.
After this is where things start to get fuzzy. The loops start to get jumbled in my head. But this is what I know: it got dark, it started to rain. And rain. And rain.
I know that by the time I got to AS 1 on loop 2, it was dark, but it hadn’t started to rain. I was basically running alone. There were folks around, but I hadn’t really found anyone to chat with. I met the friend of a friend, Linda, on loop 1 and we had chatted briefly before I pulled ahead. I would play leapfrog with Linda throughout the race, and was always grateful for her cheerful words & positive attitude.
By the time I got to AS 2, on loop 2, it had started to rain, but it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t cold, and after the humidity at the start, it actually felt ok. I was moving well, and everything felt good. I was continuing to eat & drink well. I rolled into the start/finish AS at the end of loop 2 at 7:24. Still under 4 hours for that loop.
I was starting to get tired, so had some caffeine & more calories. I saw Matt & I could tell he & Raleigh were getting tired. I was hoping they could nap in the car while I continued on into the rainy night. I could feel my attitude dropping with the continued rain and darkness, so turned on some music as I headed out on loop 3. That helped some; until my IPod died. And it started to rain harder. I pressed on. I connected with a woman for the last 6 miles of the loop, and we chatted some, which helped those miles pass more comfortably.
Just over 4 hours later, I rolled back into the start/finish AS having finished 3 loops. I was soaked to the bone from head to toe. I knew I needed to regroup. I didn’t see Matt anywhere, but I had my phone, so sent him a text letting him know I was in the AS (it was set up, so from the outside, you couldn’t see who was in there.) I started to take off my shoes and socks, and get my feet dry. That was my number 1 priority. Get my feet dry, if even for only a few minutes. I changed my shirt. Matt came in with some hot broth, and that tasted amazing. I was so grateful for the help. He asked if I wanted a rain jacket, I said, “no,” I wasn’t cold, just wet. I was still moving fast enough to stay warm. I spent about 20 minutes in the AS, but trusted it was time well spent to get comfortable, take care of my feet, and regroup. Matt said he’d meet me at the half way aid station this time around. I told him to text my pacer, Cory, to let her know I was ahead of schedule. I was still doing ok, and happy to have 3 loops in the bank already.
As soon as I left the protection of the AS, out into the rain, I immediately got goose bumps. So much for not being cold… Just get moving, I told myself. I left the campground and headed out onto the trail, it was now a river of muddy water. Within 2 minutes of leaving the campground I was in ankle deep water. My heart sank. I shuffled along – the hills that had felt nonexistent on the first loop had grown, and now taken on the qualities of a greasy slip-n-slide. I finally got out onto the gravel path, it was pouring out in the open. I told myself, “You are impervious to the rain.” I pretended I was seeing the rain in my headlamp as if I was looking at it from behind a window. “I am impervious to the rain.” I kept running. “The faster you run, the sooner you’re done,” I told myself. I just kept repeating, those 2 mantras. It was all I could do. It was so dark. I tried to look for any light on the horizon. Any hint that morning might be coming. Nothing. It was dark. It was raining. I was starting to get cold. I could feel my attitude sink. On the gravel road between AS 1 & AS 2, the wind was blowing and I was down right chilly. I was looking forward to seeing Matt at AS 2. I tried to keep moving, but my pace was really slowing.
I got to AS 2, and Matt was there. I refilled my pack, and together we walked in the pouring rain up the two-track to the car parked on the paved road.
The car. The warm, dry car. Raleigh, curled up in his crate sleeping. Oh, how wonderful it all seemed. I stood under the hatch out of the rain, while I changed into a dry smartwool shirt and my raincoat. I tried to eat a bit more, too. I had to keep moving. If I finished 4 loops, I could be a 100k finisher. I’d be ok with that, I thought. I pressed on.
Matt had charged my IPod and I turned it on, the music helped. I was warm and dry under my jacket. I was moving. But the trail was a mess - a river of muddy water in some places, and a greasy slip-n-slide in others. I just wanted to be done. I knew Cory would be waiting for me at the end of this loop. But I still had 2 more loops to go. As I struggled through those last 8 miles on loop 4, I had no idea how I would finish 2 more loops.
I walked into the start/finish area after 4 loops looking for Cory & Matt. I didn’t see them, so headed into the tent to change my shoes. I had to get these wet shoes & socks off. I tried to keep an eye out for them, but from inside the tent, it’s hard to see. I cleaned myself up, still wondering where they were. I worked on not bursting into tears. I still didn’t know how I’d do 2 more loops. The trail was in terrible shape. So muddy. So slippery. I was tired of being soaked to the bone. After 15 minutes, I had new shoes and socks on and headed out. There they were, looking down the trail for me. I called to them and tried not to cry. I had given Matt my phone earlier, so it wouldn’t get wet from the rain, so I had no way to tell them I was there. My attitude continued to sink.
Cory, was so excited to be there, and that helped. Other than 1 time earlier this summer, we hadn’t seen each other in nearly 17 years. We did have a lot to catch up on. So we headed down the trail. We chatted, and kept moving. I tried not to worry about how I was going to do yet another loop. At 8.8 miles, Matt & Annemarie were there. What a sight for sore eyes!! The 4 of us hiked down the two-track road, and then Cory & I were on our own again. My energy level was on a roller coaster. Up and down. Up and down. As we got closer to the end of the loop, my attitude got lower and lower; how was I going to do another loop? How?? I started to cry. I just wanted to be done.
I shuffled into the start/finish area with tears in my eyes. The volunteer who had been there on every loop looked at me and asked me what loop I was on. I said, “5” and he asked if I was going to go on. Somehow I nodded my head yes. He refilled my pack and I stumbled back to my drop bag to change my shoes yet again. Annemarie & Cory helped get me cleaned up while I ate a hard boiled egg. Thank god, Annemarie had hard-boiled eggs. Seriously, who would have guessed? But all I wanted was protein. I was sick of sugary gels, and bars. I knew if I was going to even attempt loop 6, I needed food. As my two amazing pacers cleaned up my feet, I ate and slowly started to feel better. At some point, the rain had stopped, so that was helpful, but the trail was still a mess.
Annemarie and I headed out. The early section of the trail was actually in much better shape than it had been earlier. We chatted, and moved forward as best as we could. There were still places that were very slippery, and just trying to stay upright was hard. I’ll be honest; this last loop was sheer determination. I don’t remember much about it. Annemarie kept me entertained and moving. I wanted to be done and I had to cover the distance to make that happen. So with sheer will, I pressed on. I had no idea how long it was taking, and in the big picture it didn’t matter. I just needed to finish.
What I did notice though, was that the people I thought were in front of me, when I was headed in on my last loop, were headed out. Maybe I was farther ahead of the pack than I had initially thought. That charged my internal competitive spirit a little bit. I marched on toward the finish. That finish line finally came into sight and I shuffled across the timing mats. I was so glad to be done. I collected my finisher’s goodies – a straw hat, medal, belt buckle, sunglasses and age group award (2nd place) VW bug. It was quite the haul!
My crew found me a chair to sit in and got my muddy shoes and socks off. Shockingly, I finished without a single blister. The chaffing from my shirt, shorts, bra and pack however, were a totally different story after being wet for nearly 26 hours. My official finisher’s time was 25 hours and 56 minutes.
Final thoughts – ultra distance running, while advertised as a solo endeavor, is most definitely not. Thank you to my AMAZING husband, Matt; and my two fabulous friends, Cory and Annemarie. Without you, I would not have finished 100 miles.
I have no interest in doing this particular event again, for a number of reasons, which if you’re curious about, I’ll share with you individually. There’s a ton of events out there, and some connect with you and others don’t. While this was a nicely organized event, I just didn’t love it.
Next up is TwinCities Marathon on Oct. 9. That will be event number 40 in my 40 by 40 quest - my goal for this year was to finish 40 events of a marathon distance or beyond before my 40th birthday.
And if you've made it this far, thanks for reading!!!