5 Runners Show You How to Survive the Grindstone 100K

Set in the mountains of Virginia, deep within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, just west of the Shenandoah Valley, the Grindstone Trail Running Festival drew 800 runners from around the globe.
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This UTMB World Series race, an international level event, was a triple qualifier for some of the premier ultrarunning events:

Since triple qualifier events usually stick to the West Coast of the United States, this race was a brand new opportunity for East Coast runners to showcase their grit and talent.
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Check out the Grindstone 100K experience for these five runners: ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Grindstone 100k 6am start line.

Grab your race-lottery entries at the Grindstone Trail Festival

Grindstone Trail Festival consisted of three races, a:

  • 100 miles
  • 100K
  • 21K  

Although the 100-miler has been around for a while, Grindstone Joined the UTMB organization and constructed a brand new 100K qualifier.
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๐ŸคžThis new race doubles as automatic entry to:

  • Western States Endurance Run for the first two men and women 
  • UTMB CCC 100K for the top three men and women

Finishers of the Grindstone Trail Festival earned their UTMB stones (entries into the UTMB lottery) and Western States lottery entries. 

Grindstone Trail Running festival area was sponsored by Hoka and held at the Natural Chimneys Campground

The Grindstone 100K + a tropical storm = An unforgettable experience

Grindstone Trail Running Festival promises its entrants scenic trails, fall foliage, and technical terrain.
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But one additional surprise that runners got this year was the tropical storm that rolled in for race weekend!
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Although the 100-milers started with clear skies overhead on Friday evening, wind and heavy rain laid claim to the area from Friday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
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Luckily, this meant cooler temperatures for runners, but it also came with its unique set of challenges.
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We got to catch up with 5 of the runners after their 100K race experience.
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The Runners:

The Grindstone 100K course and elevation profile
  • ๐Ÿงญ65+ miles in reality, although the UTMB website declares it to be 62 miles
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ9 miles of pavement, ~11 miles of gravel road, and ~45 miles of trail
  • ๐Ÿ“ˆ11,000 ft of climbing and descending spread out over five main mountains
  • ๐Ÿ˜‹9 aid stationsโ€“3 of which had crew access
  • ๐Ÿซ‚333 starters (~82 of which DNFed) 
1. Caleb Bowen

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ1. Caleb Bowen

  • 2nd OA/ Western States Qualifier
  • Finish Time: 8:59:29 

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: Why did you sign up for Grindstone specifically?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb:
I signed up for the Grindstone 100k after finding out that it was selected to be a Western States Golden Ticket Race. 

  • To be honest, I really wasn't sure how realistic actually finishing in the top 2 was, but I knew it was going to be a competitive race and I need to challenge myself by racing faster runners. 
  • It was awesome that I was able to do so in essentially my backyard (4 1โ„2 hours away). 
  • I didn't have to fly, or drive for a long time but rather just hop in the car the day before, stay the night, and then race. 
The Calebs sweep Grindstone golden tickets! Photo credit: HollyAnn Swann

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were your main goals for race day?

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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb: I really didn't know what to expect in terms of what place I would finish. 

  • But, I wanted to be in the top 5 and I thought with my fitness level, I should be able to run around 9 hours for the 66+ mile course. 
  • I had run on the course a few times in the previous months, and I was able to run on some tougher trails throughout the summer.
  • So I had a goal of being in control and feeling comfortable running on the trails. 
  • They are pretty runnable but with rocks/roots, you never know how it'll feel until you get out there on race day. 
  • My last goal was a fueling goal, which was to keep my stomach happy but also to take in at least 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour. 

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some highs and lows you experienced during your time out on course?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb: I had a ton of highs out on the course. 

  • Highs: There were several moments where I kept thinking to myself, "Man! No matter what happens, I am running with some of the best out here." 
  • And when I found out I was in the lead, I thought to myself, "Even if I get passed and completely blow up, I can say that I went for it and led a Golden Ticket Race (even in the middle to end of the race)" That's pretty cool! 
  • Lows: As for lows, I didn't have too many. When Caleb Olsen zoomed past me as I was at the North River Gap Aid Station (mile 54/55ish) I started to think a bit too much about where 3rd place was. The next 8 miles were very tough and I did start to crack a bit going up the last climb. But, overall I thought I moved well and got to the finish line in 2nd place!

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: In retrospect what parts of your training paid off the most for this race?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb:
I believe that I respond really well to keeping my weekly mileage from 85-100 each week. 

  • I don't necessarily do too many stereotypical workouts, but I just cranked some miles and made a point to get on trails for most of my long runs. 
  • I also think taking trips to the course a few times helped exponentially. I knew the terrain, what was coming next, and how every climb and descent felt before running the race. That is huge! 

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some lessons learned or key takeaways from this race?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb: 

  • Mindset. I think keeping a steady mind and not getting too high or too low about things that happen in races is huge. Early on in miles 6-10 I was having trouble seeing well as the sun was coming up and for some reason that messes with my eyes. So, some of the trails were a bit tough to really rip it and I was being left by the group I was in. But, I just kept calm and remembered that it was a long race and there was plenty of time to move up. 
  • Determination. I also think believing in yourself even when it doesn't seem like you initially should be considered as a contender. I knew going in that I wasn't the fastest guy or the guy with the best results. But, I knew that if I could just stay steady and really hammer the parts of the course that cater to my strengths as a trail runner, then I would be dangerous. And dangerous is all I wanted to be. That was one of my mantras the whole day. I didn't have to win but I wanted to put some fear in the guys who were contending to win. And I think I succeeded in that. 
  • Rise & thrive. Being from Appalachia (Specifically West Virginia) one of my overall goals is to make my home a better place than I found it. And I think if I can inspire other runners in West Virginia to take risks, go for wins at big races, and grow our amazing community, I think we can make our home a place, a destination for runners to thrive. Yes, I know we'll never be Boulder Colorado, Salt Lake City Utah, or some other trail towns, but we have grit in our blood and I believe we have so much potential to compete with the best. On any given day, I could be the 4th best ultra/trail runner in the town of Huntington, WV. We have some great athletes and our community is growing. It's just so awesome to see and I'm stoked to see what the rest of the guys and gals do this year.
  • Expect ups & downs. Lastly, these long ultra races are definitely analogies to life. At some point, you are going to go through rough patches. Things won't go like you expect them to. You may trip up and fall (sometimes several times). But, at the end of the day, you must get back up and get to that finish line. 
Caleb with his crew at North River Gap Aid Station. Photo credit: David Moore

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What was your nutrition & hydration strategy?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb:
My nutrition strategy was to rely mostly on gels and then supplement some carbs/calories with mashed potatoes in the 3 aid stations where we had crew access. 

  • So, I took a gel every 4 miles (with most of them being Spring Awesome Sauce w/45 carbs, Maurtens 160 with 40 carbs, and Spring Hill Aid w/20 carbs but with caffeine. 
  • At the aid stations with crew, my crew gave me a coffee cup with soupy mashed potatoes and broth. It may not sound appetizing but it hit the spot. 
  • One other thing I did to ensure that my stomach wouldn't get upset with all of the gels was when I would go into an aid station, I would pour the rest of the water in my bottle over my head/neck to cool off my central nervous system. 
  • This was supplemented by the tropical storm and cooler temperatures with wind but I didn't have any issues at all so I think it helped!
Caleb previewed his Grindstone 100k kit for his Instagram followers pre-race.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What gear did you use?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb:
My kit was the coolest looking kit ever with my top being my Blue/White Roam and Run racing tech shirt. My goodness it's beautiful. Roam and Run knocked it out of the park. 

  • Then I paired that with a blue pair of Rabbit shorts, my trusty Aldi compression socks, and Speedgoats. 
  • I also used my UltraAspire Vest and a Petzel headlamp that I borrowed from my girl Lindsey. 

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What did you do to recover after you finished?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCaleb:
After the race we went to a Greek restaurant, and I had a great gyro with a type of rice that I cannot pronounce or remember to spell out. 

  • I also had a fair amount of Big Timber Forest Fest and a celebratory cigar (which is always part of our running group's post race celebrations as long as you finish the race). 
2. Josh Ried. Josh finishes the Grindstone 100k in under 10 hoursโ€“one of his big goals for the day.

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ2. Josh Ried

  • 9th OA
  • Finish Time: 9:56:11 

๐Ÿ‘‰Why did you sign up for Grindstone specifically?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJosh:
I wanted to see what a Golden Ticket race looked like and was looking at Bandera earlier this year. 

  • When the list of GT races came out Bandera was taken off the list and Grindstone was a new race added on. 
  • I grew up on the East Coast and I had months to prepare so I signed up!

๐Ÿ‘‰What were your main goals for race day?
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 ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ Josh: In no real order...

  • Nail Nutrition. 
  • Run my own race instead of fighting competitors since it was my first 100k and I wasn't certain how to pace or what the effort should feel like. 
  • Be happy and grateful
  • Place top 5
  • At least run under 10 hrs

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some highs and lows you experienced during your time out on course?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJosh:

  • Low: From mile 1-31 I felt quite bad.  My mind wasn't sharp, alert, or excited and my body was heavy and clunky.  I was running almost  a minute slower per mile for the opening 5 mile road section than I planned and the next 25 miles my body felt like I was at mile 50 already. My mind kept a steady flow of negative thoughts going.
  • High: At mile 32 or so I reminded myself to be happy and that despite the rough day I'd be happy enough if I just gave what I could.  Moments later I picked up some trash and said "alright karma, keep my body from breaking and I promise I'll push it". We had a deal. Somehow the next 34 miles felt better than the first 31 physically, and I was able to stay engaged, hit splits, and (relatively) hammer the final 20 miles to get in the sub 10 hr club. #happy

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: In retrospect what parts of your training paid off the most for this race?
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 ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJosh: 

  1. Volume (miles/vert/hrs)
  2. Practicing race nutrition in training runs

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some lessons learned or key takeaways from this race?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJosh: 

  • Confirmed that training volume matters and specificity is crucial
  • Happiness shouldn't depend on meeting expectations.  The expectation should be to be happy. 
Josh coming into Camp Todd aid station to refill bottles Photo credit: David Moore

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What was your nutrition/hydration strategy?
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Josh:
400-420cal/hr via Skratch Super High Carb in 500ml water, supplemented with pure water from aid stations to achieve closer to 750ml fluid/hr.
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๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What gear did you use?
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Josh:

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What did you do to recover after you finished? What was your go-to post-race meal/drink?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJosh:
Beefy Mac and Cheese, chicken sandwich, eggs and beef with chips, so much water. I really wanted a Fanta Orange Soda tbh.

3. Jeremy Pope. Jeremy restocking at North River Gap Aid Station Photo credit: David Moore
  • 12th OA
  • Finish Time: 10:37:05

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: Why did you sign up for Grindstone specifically?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:
Grindstone was a close race that would be very competitive and provided me with a western states qualifier, all while not having to run 100 miles!
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๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were your main goals for race day?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:
My main goal was to secure my Western States qualifier for the year. This would leave me with 16 tickets for the lottery in December for the 2024 race. 

  • Secondly, I wanted to have a strong race and I thought on a good day I could be top 10 and top 5 on an amazing day. 
  • I thought that sub 10 hours was doable if I was able to climb and descend well. 
  • I really started a little too conservative early and found myself completely alone 10 miles into the race. I enjoy running solo, but really it took me out of any placing goals early. 

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some highs and lows you experienced during your time out on course?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy: 

  • Some highs for me were finishing strong. I really had this in mind all day. I wanted to run strong the last 10-15 miles and I did just that. I used a little more caffeine than usual, so with that came more highs and lows than usual. I can usually keep and even energy levels with less high highs and low lows. 
  • Some of my low points came on the gravel road sections. For whatever reason the low points in energy and overall being seemed to be timed with the 2 later road sections in the race. Lastly, I did experience a few very low moments that came about 45 minutes to an hour after ingesting caffeine. This is something I need to experiment a little more with!

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: In retrospect what parts of your training paid off the most for this race?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:
Truly my training was about as good as it could be with a full time job and a family. 

  • The parts that paid off most in my mind were the uphill treadmill workouts I did. I have a treadmill that goes to 15% incline. So I utilized hopping on the treadmill in the morning for 45 minutes and getting as much climbing in as possible. 
  • I would then come back with a second run in the evening as an easy run. I noticed at the finish of the race my strongest points were still climbing. 
  • I really underestimated my ability to climb quickly throughout the race, and went in with a plan to take it easy on the 3 big climbs. I truly think I had a ton of time lost there where I could have made up with my strength!

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy: I forgot to mention 1 key piece of training!! I made a trip to the course and ran 16 miles of the course on Saturday followed by 29 miles on Sunday with 2nd place finisher Caleb Bowen. This was HUGE for me on race day. I knew every climb and what came before and after it!

Jeremy Pope cruising through the Grindstone 100K. Photo credit: David Moore

๐Ÿ‘‰What were some lessons learned or key takeaways from this race?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:
I always say, running is freaking hard...don't make it hard and over complicate it! The human body is amazing and you truly don't know what you are capable of until you put yourself in those uncomfortable positions. 

  • The art of "listening to your body" starts in training but really comes out in races. I feel at this point I am very experienced, but I have just gotten to the point of knowing my body on another level. 
  • I know the feeling of calorie deficit vs dehydration and the feeling of lack of fitness vs pushing too hard. 
  • I am 37 years young, but I truly believe I am just getting started in running at a higher level! 
  • I have some of the best people around me. I have a best friend in my wife who challenges me and encourages me in ways that help better my training while not just adding miles. I have training partners that have the best attitudes and encourage one another to be the best version of themselves. This is just the beginning, I believe that!

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What was your nutrition/hydration strategy?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:
No matter the temp, drink lots of water! I have found as of late, I need more water than I thought. 

  • If I can consume water, I can typically eat whatever I want. 
  • My liquid nutrition was a mix of Nuun tabs and First Endurance EFS Sports drink mix. 
  • From there I topped everything off with water at aid stations where crew wasn't. I tried the course NAAK mix, but wasnโ€™t a fan. 
  • From an eating standpoint I consumed somewhere around 12-15 Maurten gels, 4-5 Stroop waffles and lots of my kids fruit snacks! I can typically ride the waves of energy on Maurten gels and have found they really work for me. 

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What gear did you use?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What did you do to recover after you finished? What was your go-to post-race meal/drink?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธJeremy:
Many times I feel like I am so hard on myself throughout training that I don't take recovery seriously enough. I try to splurge a little and eat whatever I want. We headed to McDonalds! Spicy chicken sandwich, large fry and an Oreo McFlurry!!

4. Wil Walmsley. Wil comes through North River Gap Aid feeling strong! Photo credit: David Moore

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ4. Wil Walmsley

  • Finish Time: 12:45:19

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: Why did you sign up for Grindstone specifically?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
Stones. All about the UTMB stones to be able to enter the lottery for races in Chamonix, France. One of my rugby buddies, Casey Koza, went with me to watch my brother, Jim Walmsley, race at UTMB in Chamonix last year. (The UTMB Experience: A Spectator's View of This Epic Ultra)

  • The atmosphere during UTMB week was insane and made me want to be a part of it with the OCC 50km race being at the top. Itโ€™s long enough to be a challenge, short enough to not wreck the body (hopefully), and Iโ€™d still be able to watch the CCC and UTMB races the next day.

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil: Signing up for this race was interesting. The new โ€œstonesโ€ UTMB lottery system originally had 3 events in the USA, but they were all out west (Canyons, Speedgoat, and Western States).
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๐Ÿ‘‰In December, it was announced UTMB would be adding Grindstone for an east coast event. 

  • I was stoked. I figured being the only east coast event would cause Grindstone to sell out fast once registration opened. 
  • The day before it opened, I was on the phone with my brother and talked about signing up. 
  • During the conversation, I was trying to multitask. My 3-year-old son had a fever and was picked up from school. I was frantically trying to get him to take a nap before we had to pick his older sister up from school for a dance practice. 
  • The nap wasn't going well, they never do, typical parent struggles ya know. 
  • Anyways, Iโ€™m talking with Jim through all of this. We discussed the pros and cons of the 100 km and 100 mile races. The 20km race wasnโ€™t worth it to me for a single stone. I could get 3 stones in the 100km vs 4 stones in the 100 miler. The 100km had a pretty aggressive cutoff time of 18 hours, whereas the 100 miler was more forgiving at 36 hours. 
  • Jim then said: "If you're going to be out there for 100 kilometers, might as well do the full 100 miler." And I was sold.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: 100 miles or 100K?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
The registration opened the next day, and boom. I registered and texted my brother to let him know I had signed up for the 100 miler.

  • He responded right away to let me know I was an idiot. That was the exact opposite of what he was telling me on the phone. Apparently, with all the distractions, I misheard him. What he really said was 100km races are already long enough. At some point running stops being fun. 
  • The 100-mile race would have more than 50km more of suffering. The extra 1 stone wasn't worth it. If stuff went to shit, I would have to consider being on my feet for 36 hours and 2 nights. Yup. That sounds miserable. 
  • In hindsight, this should have been obvious, and I should have questioned what I thought he said.
  •  Not long after the feeling of โ€œcrap, what have I doneโ€ sank in, I sent an email to the race director, asking to be dropped from the 100 miler to the 100km, which they were able to do. Thank goodness.
Wil with those finish line feels.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were your main goals for race day?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
Finish. That was the primary goal. Iโ€™ve never ran further than 50km and wanted to have the mindset I was going to be running all day. 

  • There was no control on who else entered, so I didnโ€™t care too much about where I was going to place. 
  • I think I was eyeing 13 hours for a realistic goal, but even then, I wasnโ€™t sure how realistic that was. 
  • I knew the race would be about 65 miles. 12 hours seemed aggressive. 
  • If it took 14 or 15 hours, I was okay with that because I didnโ€™t know how difficult the course would actually be or how I would hold up for that long.
  • The other goal was to take it out easy. I donโ€™t know how many times I told myself before the race to not get caught up in the race day adrenaline. Iโ€™ve had a bad habit of getting too excited in shorter races, and then I go full send mode from the start. Surprisingly, that has yet to work out well for me.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some highs and lows you experienced during your time out on course?

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:

  • Low. Reading the weather report every day leading up to the race. It kept getting cooler and cooler with more and more rain. The anticipation of running in the tropical storm was nervous.
  • High. The weather ended up being better than anticipated, and I actually enjoyed it. The temperatures stayed cool and refreshing all day. There was a lot less rain and mud than expected. The tops of some climbs were chilly, but if that was the worst of it, it wasnโ€™t too bad.

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ

  • Low. I had a bad bonk between the Magic Moss (mile 38) and Camp Todd (mile 43) aid stations. Itโ€™s 5 miles of pretty flat roads and should have been one of the fastest sections. I got really thirsty on the climb to Lookout Mountain (mile 31) and made a mistake with drinking too many liquids. This overloaded my stomach caused me to get behind on calories. I felt good going into Magic Moss. But maybe a mile onto the roads, and the bonk hit. I tried to slow my pace, but my heart rate was still higher than it should have been. I eventually had to walk about a mile and a half.
  • High. The steepest climb coming out of Camp Todd. I took a few extra minutes to get some calories and make sure I would be in a good spot for the longest section on the course (9.9 miles). The 3 mile hike on the climb allowed my stomach to settle down. By the time I had gotten to the North River Gap #2 AS (mile 53), I felt much better and ready for the last 12.1 miles to the finish line.

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ

  • Low. While walking and bonking, I was really looking forward to seeing my friends, Annie Bauman and David Moore, at the Camp Todd aid station. Almost with equal anticipation, I was looking forward to having a Red Bull and get some caffeine in. I arrived at the AS and asked for the Red Bull. David said he didnโ€™t see one in the bag I handed him that morning. I started to frantically look through the bag in disbelief. Oh no. No. Crap. I forgot it.
  • High. Post race, I found that Red Bull back in the fridge at the Air B and B. I stared at it, glad it wasnโ€™t lost but mad at myself I had forgotten it. It gave me something to look forward to in the morning and was a nice laugh the next day.

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  • Low. I was using hiking poles throughout the race. At around 51 miles, one of the poles snapped at the very top of a climb. The tip got stuck in the dirt, which allowed my foot to kick the bottom. And snap.
  • High. Luckily, that was the last steep climb of the race, where the poles were beneficial. On the same climb, there was another runner (sans poles), who made a comment about how it must be nice to have poles as I hiked right past him. That felt good, and I tend to agree. Poles were very nice.

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ

  • Low. Each time I thought I was cresting a long climb and the trail would begin to flatten out, I'd put my hiking poles away, go about 50 yards, turn left, and gosh dammit. Another climb!
  • High. I was fortunate to have 2 friends crew for me. Whether I was running well or in a low spot, there was so much positivity from getting to see familiar faces. Iโ€™d have something to look forward before those aid stations. Then, Iโ€™d get to have some laughs getting to see them and hear about how my other friends were doing in the race.
Wil Walmsley joined 333 ultrarunners to take on the Grindstone 100K.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: In retrospect what parts of your training paid off the most for this race?
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
There were a few things I felt went really well during my training. Handling time constraints while building weekly mileage (working full time and being a dad), practicing with poles, and running easier.

  • I ran the Buckeye 50 km in July and had a decent base going into the training. My plan was to start the Grindstone training in August with 8 weeks to prepare. The training was to begin with 60 miles per week and build to 90 miles MPW over 6 weeks before beginning a 2-week taper. I wanted to try getting in one >20 mile run each weekend with my longest run being 35 miles 3 weeks out (I failed to get the full 35 miles in).

๐Ÿ‘‰The most important runs were the long runs...
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
I didnโ€™t follow any particular structure on how to get the rest of the miles in during the week. 

  • With having 2 kids and working full-time, I had to be flexible with my schedule. 
  • I did several doubles during the block (run in the morning and again after work) and skipped my normal weightlifting routine. 
  • During the peak weeks, I began waking up at 4am to get enough early trail miles to reach my goals (foggy night running was interesting). 
  • If there was a window in my schedule after work, I tried to get a run in. One example is both of my kids get dropped off and picked up from the same daycare. Several times, I would pick up the older one, drop her off at dance class, then get a quick run in before heading back to daycare to pick the younger one up before daycare closed. 
  • There was some burnout from constantly feeling like I was chasing miles. Luckily, I had a few friends also doing Grindstone. Seeing their daily runs helped keep me on track and stay motivated. It was especially needed when outside conditions were miserable.

๐Ÿ‘‰The only long run I ended up cutting short was my scheduled longest run 3 weeks out.
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๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil: I planned for this on the Sunday because I planned to be up late Friday to follow my brother's UTMB race. It ended up being an all-nighter into Saturday as my brother was able to win his race. 

  • This then turned into a full day of celebrating with a 10 mile run around the neighborhood, going with the family on our friend's boat, and eating dinner at a local brewery. 
  • The sleep deprivation and aftereffects of celebrating were being felt Sunday morning for the long run. 
  • The weather was also hot and humid. I managed to get 24 miles in, ran out of water, and decided I had had enough. That sucked. The extra 10 miles were not going to happen.

๐Ÿ‘‰The next positive in the training was getting out and using poles.
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
I tried to use poles once per week. It wasnโ€™t much, I felt comfortable when I had to use the poles during the race. The biggest part of the practice was how to get the poles in and out of the quiver I stored them in.
.
๐Ÿ‘‰The last positive from my training...
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil: ...
was making a big effort to run at an easier effort and staying in Zone 2. 

  • I figured this would mimic how I needed to run the majority of the race since it would be an all-day effort. 
  • Normally, when I run by myself, I start out easy. But when things loosen up and running becomes easier, I go with it and turn a lot of runs into harder efforts. 
  • I felt I did well this block keeping things at an easy effort. 
  • The biggest surprise for me from doing this was it allowed me to recover faster and get more weekly mileage in from not being as sore from each run.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some lessons learned or key takeaways from this race?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
When things get hard, they get hard for everyone. You just need to keep moving towards the finish and eventually youโ€™ll get there.

  • When stuff goes to shit in a 100km race, thereโ€™s time to rebound.
  • I canโ€™t tell my kids what I ate during the race. Theyโ€™ll be jealous of all the fruit snacks and oatmeal cream pies I had. Haha. Suckers.
  • At one point I had the thought that there was only a marathon to go. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined Iโ€™d be saying thereโ€™s โ€œonlyโ€ a marathon left. Crazy.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What was your nutrition/hydration strategy?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
I didnโ€™t really have a set nutrition strategy. Part of that was by design so I would force myself to enjoy the race and take time at aid stations. 

  • Iโ€™ve done other races, where I did plan my nutrition and never looked at any of the cool food offered. 
  • During this race, I had a mini breakfast sandwich at one AS, a quesadilla at another, enjoyed some charcuterie board food. And then, that kind of food didnโ€™t sound too appetizing later in the race.
  • In hindsight given the bonk, maybe relying on the aid stations for liquid calories was a poor choice to refill my bottles with. After the race, volunteers mentioned the Naak mix was separating in coolers and needed to be constantly stirred. Itโ€™s got a neutral flavor, so itโ€™d be hard to tell if it was diluted.
  • But I eventually was able to recover and get more calories in by eating the food I brought. I had oatmeal cream pies and Motts fruit snacks. Iโ€™m happy saying the OCPs saved my race since the first one of those I had was at Camp Todd.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What gear did you use?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil: 

  • Shoes โ€“ Hoka Tecton X2. They felt great and comfortable all day. I never thought about switching shoes with other options available.
  • Socks โ€“ Wahoo socks to start, then swapped into Hoka socks at the Camp Todd AS (right before the only creek crossing in the entire race (doh!)).
  • Bottoms โ€“ Rabbit FKT 2-in-1 7โ€ shorts (No thigh gap, no problem! Great vs chafe)
  • Top โ€“ Rabbit EZ Perforated long sleeve shirt. Love this shirt. Long sleeves were good in the cold, and itโ€™s perforated to be able to breath during hot weather,
  • Vest โ€“ Salomon Sense Pro 5
  • Poles โ€“ Leki 135cm Cross Trail Fx.One Superlite. Hiking poles were a huge bonus for this race.
  • Watch โ€“ Wahoo Elemnt Rival. I started with 80% battery and finished with 43% nearly 13 hours later. GPS stayed accurate all day.
  • Headlamp โ€“ Petzl Swift RL rechargeable. I love this headlamp and really like that itโ€™s got a rechargeable battery. For this race, I used it on the start and luckily didnโ€™t have to use it again at night.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What did you do to recover after you finished? What was your go-to post-race meal/drink?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธWil:
There werenโ€™t any options at the finish line, or at least if there were, it wasnโ€™t obvious. 

  • So, Jeremy Pope, who finished 12th, and I went into Staunton. 
  • We wanted somewhere quick to be able to get back to the finish line and see Casey Koza finish. 
  • We ended up picking McDonalds. I got chicken nuggets, fries, and a chocolate shake. It tasted awesome.
  • Then after watching Casey finish, we headed back to our Air B&B. We each had a Brewdog Elvis Juice IPA before calling it a night and crashing.
5. Casey Koza. Casey gives the thumbs up at North River Aid Photo credit: David Moore

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ5. Casey Koza

  • Finish Time: 15:45:09

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: Why did you sign up for Grindstone specifically?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey:
Myself and my buddy Wil signed up for Grindstone with the sole purpose of attaining running stones so we could run a race at UTMB.  Wil and I went there last year to watch his brother and had a great time so we figured why not qualify and run one of the races (OCC) for ourselves.
.
๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were your main goals for race day?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey:
My main goal was to remain healthy, not break anything and to finish in under 18 hours. All of those goals were accomplished so itโ€™s a win for me.
.
๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some highs and lows you experienced during your time out on course?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey: 

  • Highs were pacing myself well enough to start going by people after about 14-15 miles into the race and still feeling good.  
  • Biggest low was coming down the last big downhill and my quads were absolutely fried. I couldnโ€™t run another step downhill and it crushed me because I knew I now had no chance at being near 14 hours and most of the course was downhill from here on out.  I'm glad it took till about mile 52 to have it.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: In retrospect what parts of your training paid off the most for this race?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey:
Biggest thing that paid off was the long runs for sure, 1 in particular.  

  • Was a super hot humid day and my good friend Kim Roy was set to join me for the second half or last 10 miles.  
  • I wanted to bail out at 10 when I got back to the car for refills and was hoping she would bail on me due to the heat and humidity. 
  • But she sent me a text when I was at mile 8 that she was on her way and would be waiting.  
  • As miserable as I was, I had to get the last 10 in cause Kim showed up, so I struggled the last 10 but feel I ended up mentally sharper for it.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What were some lessons learned or key takeaways from this race?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey:
A big lesson I learned is when you get above the 50k there is going to be suffering, it's going to be painful and it really is as much about mental toughness as physical toughness.  

  • I think it relates to life quite well, thereโ€™s going to be struggles, there's going to be painful moments and you can either give up/fail, or you can persevere and grow as a person to become a better person/more successful. 
Casey Koza at an aid station during the Grindstone 100K. Photo credit: David Moore.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What was your nutrition/hydration strategy?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey:
I used an assortment of gels (Spring Energy, Maurten, Science in Sport) as well as Maurten 160 at each aid station. 

  • I kept myself on a strict schedule for eating and it really paid off. 
  • I still felt like I could run but my quads were completely toasted at around mile 50 and still sore as I write this 5 days later.

๐Ÿ‘‰Q: What gear did you use?

๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey: 

  • Hoka Tecton X2s
  • Swiftwick socks
  • Underarmour tights
  • Multiple shirts (including one of Davidโ€™s at the last crew point when I ran out of dry clothes)
  • Salomon Vest with bladders

๐Ÿ‘‰Q:What did you do to recover after you finished? What was your go-to post-race meal/drink?
.
๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธCasey:
My normal post race is Iron City light beer (a staple of all yinzers) (yinzers are Pittsburghers)  and whatever food I can get a hold of.  

  • But this race I was pretty well done at the end of it and soaking wet and cold.
  • So I went to the hot car to warm up and fell asleep shortly after a couple of bites of a bbq chicken sandwich. 
  • I didn't even get to enjoy an IC light till the next day.

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Abigail Lock
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Durango, CO
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Endurance athlete with a proclivity for mountain running and high altitude desert dwelling. NASM Certified Sports Nutriti...

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