The Grindstone 100 has been in my sights for the past three years. I first heard about this race through my friend and teammate Joe Wrobleski's amazing 2011 race report. At the time I had no desire to run a one hundred mile race (but was considering my first 50) and enjoyed the report from the safe distance of the blogosphere, with no danger of getting all jacked up and registering for an ultra.
Immediately following the Peaks 50 I knew that I wanted to register for a 100. I began to scout out a good race and cycle through the collection of reports on our team site Trail Monster Running. I wanted a fall race. It's my favorite time of year and would allow an entire summer of training to prepare for the challenge. I immediately thought of Grindstone, mostly due to the unique 6pm start, which I somehow figured would help with my fear of running through the mountains at night. (In fact, with a night start and a course that takes most runners around 30 hours to complete, assuring that we'll strap on our headlamps for a second time, Grindstone will have more night running than I've ever done. But there's ultra-logic for you...)
After taking all things into consideration (price, location, logistics etc.) I settled on the Virgil Crest 100 in Cortland, NY. My friends Ian and Emma ran it last year and wrote a report that is nothing less than epic. Virgil Crest went very well for me. With Ian pacing me through the night and the Trail Monster crew out in full force I earned a 7th place finish and my first 100 mile belt buckle.
I went into this season knowing that I'd like to build up to another fall 100. And my thoughts turned back to Grindstone. But, after a rough time at Wapack and Back I decided that I wanted a more runnable course. I'm not a hiker, and didn't want to sacrifice those moments when you're flying across the trails for the "monster climbs" and epic summits of the Blue Ridge mountains. I found a flat race with gorgeous views and set my sites on it. For the next month or so the Pine Creek Challenge in PA became my new goal race.
But, along with my injury/illness and the perspective that I gained through the recovery process, I began to question what I was running these races for in the first place. I would like to run 100 miles along the Pine Creek Gorge one day. I'd like to run up the coast to Belfast with a $20 bill in my pocket before the summer ends. But, when racing and setting a target that will serve as my goal for the year, I want to tackle something that scares me. Something that pushes (and hopefully expands) my boundaries as a runner and something that I don't know if I can complete. And with 23.000 feet of elevation gain/loss and a course described as "without a doubt, the toughest 100 miler east of the 100th meridian) Grindstone is all of that. And more.
I went into Virgil Crest with the goal of finishing. I raced as hard as I could and had a good day and an unforgettable experience. I'm going into Grindstone with the same goal, and looking forward to testing myself in the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia in just over two months. I'll be posting stats from my training, which will include several trips to NH to run in the White Mountains, and a self-supported trek across the 43 mile Wapack and Back course, as they happen. Stay tuned and again, thanks to the ultra community for reading and for all of the support.