Unfortunately, no one in the group of (mainly Leesburg Mafia) runners that did Kerry’s Death March with me on Saturday had a camera on them (where are Aaron and Bobby when you need them?).  So although KDM certainly lived up to its name, we unfortunately have no visuals of :

1.     The big meaty rattlesnake that sent me screaming like Neve Campbell.  It was just lazing there in the trail with its diamond-backed pattern and by Sean’s account I jumped 5 feet to clear it (by the time I saw it I was nearly stepping on it).  I was still screaming steps later when I was sure I spotted another one, convincing me that I had entered the nightmare Indiana Jones portion of Shenandoah and putting on a sprint like I was escaping Matt Woods’ angry grizzly.  When the snake flurry ceased, I stopped screaming and trotted back to the first snake, which was still sprawled across the path and making Sean, Brian, David, Gina, and Courtney take a wide bushwhack around it.  This sighting hit home a point that Sean had made earlier in the morning when Justine was reluctant to run ultras out West like Zane Grey because of the snakes: ‘At least out West it’s all open so you can see the snakes before you step on them.’  Indeed.  As we were on the topic of snakes I also recalled the time my friend Sarah and I were enjoying a hike around a lake in Thailand and flushed an Asian cobra vertically that was in high grass only 5 feet away from us.  We were too scared even to scream, almost too scared to hold our digestive tracts, but fortunately the flared cobra was scared too and darted off in the opposite direction (Sarah and I were distinctly lacking in hygiene by that point in our 3 month South-East Asia backpacking adventure, so I don’t blame the snake for wanting nothing to do with us).

2.     Courtney’s profusely bleeding head.  It was only after our lovely dip in the waterfall pool at mile 25 that we noticed that blood was dripping from a nick next to Courtney’s left eye, creating crimson waterfalls of his own.  Apparently Courtney’s eye had made friends with a rock during a spill.  Courtney had spent the entire run talking about a) high school track times (85%), b) geocaching (10%), and c) pointing out alternative routes that were either downhill, directly to his car (perhaps?), or required us to scrutinize the map for a while so he could catch his breath, all which was entertaining enough to actually make us want to wait for him.

3.     Little Devil Stairs, the only climb I’ve ever truly enjoyed every step of, and the only climb that I think I will ever be able to hang with Brian Schmidt on, primarily because he wanted a second opinion on which way exactly we were supposed to ascend this glorious waterfall every time we had to cross over it (Courtney and Gina made some wrong calls and ended up getting in some bonus Stairs).

4.     Me looking miserable at the top of Little Devil Stairs.  I was enjoying myself so thoroughly along the waterfall climb that I didn’t notice that something really horrible had entrenched itself in my stomach after the first aid station.  For the remainder of the run I would have to do 5-6 fartleks to catch up with the rest of the group every time I had to stop to allow for the exodus of the offending intestinal matter.  With 4 or so miles to go I ceased all eating and drinking and was able to control the spasms and enjoy myself again, but there were some serious low points during the mile 15-20 range that prompted several a ‘Is she okay?’ from fellow runners.  If I’m going to make it through Highland Sky in June I’m going to have to seriously figure out my stomach, which has always been my Achilles heel for ultra running.  I suspect that the highly concentrated PowerAid from the aid station was a major culprit, and I promise in race situations to forgo my beloved double-stuffed golden oreo cookie.  But this was an excellent wake-up call before my first ultra race in over 2 years (since Laurel Highlands 50k in June 2009, my first and only ultra race).  For me, it’s not about fitness, it’s about knowing that if I put my salt pills in my pocket without a plastic baggy they will disintegrate (lesson learned Saturday), that I need to bring my own drink mix or really water down the Gatorade/PowerAid, that I need to eat nothing solid and perhaps not drink so much.  I’ll have one more chance at Holy Cowan’s Gap next Sunday to see if I can get the hang of ultras.

Overall Kerry’s Death March was a great romp.  We ran a relaxed pace, keeping the group together.  I was given a small dispensation to bomb down the hills (‘Are you sure it’s okay, Sean?  Sure I’m not being a tool?  It’s just fun!  100%?  Okay, I’m going, last chance…..Don’t worry, I’ll stop soon’).  Of course my sporadic shoots to the front had some near dire consequences – like almost stepping on the rattler.  And on one downhill bomb I got distracted by having to weave through a group of Boy Scouts and missed a turn that could have spelled doom.  Fortunately I didn’t get too far down the hill before stopping to wait so I was still in earshot of Sean and Brian when they called for me from above.  I trotted up the hill to the turnoff, blaming the swarm of Boy Scouts for missing it, which prompted one of them to retort, ‘Don’t worry, you sure distracted us too.’  Oh well, what run is complete without some dirty Boy Scouts?


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