Let me tell you, this race did not end the way I initially planned. I signed up for the inaugural Falls 100 Ultra Trail Marathon in Falls of Rough, Kentucky after it popped up in my Facebook timeline about 4 months ago. I was already planning to train for the New York City Marathon but had been looking for a 50 miler in the cooler weather, and Falls100 fit the bill with a race date of December 1st.
I am not a trail runner by default. I primarily ran on roads until 2017 when I trained for my first Ragnar Trail Race. However, I had completed a few trail runs and 40 miles on trails in Tennessee earlier in the year and I was ready to go further on trails. The Falls 100 seemed perfect as it fit my timeline and it was very close to home-my mother in law has a summer place at Falls of Rough and of course, she was fine with us staying at her place for the race. A no-brainer! My husband, on a whim, decided to sign up with me. He has never done distance past a marathon and had never completed a trail race at this distance, so I was happy to have him give this a go. A looped course with multiple aid stations, manageable elevation and in the cold of December? PERFECT!
Training went off without a hitch. I ran trails for two-thirds of my training. (I did run roads for about 4 weeks leading up to the NYC Marathon. Then, it was back to trails for the remainder of my training.) Kentucky weather was not really cooperating; we were getting lots of precipitation. It made it difficult to train on trails without hurting the integrity of the trails for sure! Either way, I was excited about this race.
The Falls 100 is put on by Central Kentucky Race Management. The race directors are not strangers to endurance events and one is the director of Elizabethtown’s Backyard Classic, so I felt comfortable running this inaugural race. The course is on an old ATV park property that is privately owned, so the main downside is that there was no preview run for this race. However, the race directors were very good about communicating with runners leading up to the race; and they were very honest about course conditions! It was going to be a wet race. Also, in the days leading up to the event, the temp changed from the high 30s to race day temps of 50s and 60s with chances of thunderstorms! Unreal weather for Kentucky at this time of year. So much for my hopes of running in cold, snowy weather…
The race started with everyone huddling under canopy tents as it rained sideways. It was all downhill (actually uphill) from there. I started out with my friend, Jill, who was running her first trail half. We did well, but joked about how slippery the uphill climbs were at first.
Unfortunately, there was a sign down at our first turn, and we followed the herd…the wrong way, for over a mile! We got turned around and back to the right spot, but that put me behind more than I liked. Jill told me to go ahead of her to make up some time and off I went. People were in good spirits for the most part, despite the rain. I ran into my friends, Abbi and Glenn. They were having a great time and invited me to join them for a bit, which was fun and took my mind off the mud, which we compared to peanut butter at this point, because that is what it felt like you were running in….if you are from that part of the state, you would know the dirt there is clay and silt. When you mix that with water, well, you get cement (or peanut butter) like conditions!
Things got a little muddier as the course went on and once I hopped back onto the paved road for the last 2 miles or so of the course loop, I began to wonder how my husband was faring. He was in front of me and faster than me. As I got close to the start/finish line, I saw him at our makeshift aid station by the car and stopped to chat. He was not happy that the course conditions weren’t making things any easier for his first 50-mile race and wanted me to consider dropping down to the marathon distance with him. I told him “Let’s go out on to our second loop and talk about it” and off we went. We decided going into this loop that we would not try to go full out and just have fun, which is what we did. There was a lot of laughing and sliding at this point. We talked to many others who were finding the course not as fun this loop around. Several were dropping down to shorter distances. As one man remarked, “At this point, this is not about athleticism, this is about staying upright”! I was suddenly thankful for all of the yoga I had been doing to help with my core balance at this point.
As we got closer to the start/finish, I thought more about my ultimate time goal for this race and how I had prepared and I knew there was no way this course was runnable (for me). I did not want to walk 50 miles. I wanted to run 50 miles! Even more so, I knew to attempt 50 miles wasn’t the safest bet. My husband told me I had nothing to prove and going on would mean risking injury from running in the dark in these conditions (I had no poles to assist in the climbs up slippery ATV trails), or from the chance of thunderstorms for later in the evening. It was then I knew he was right and instead we agreed to finish together. It made me happy to know this was my decision and that I was FOR THE FIRST TIME, finishing a race with my husband. He even agreed to hold my hand as we crossed the finish line together! Haha– You know what they say-partners that run together stay together. No seriously, I was very proud of him for completing his first trail marathon and I was happy to do it with him. Our friends met us at the finish line with big congratulations and we received our medals with huge smiles. We learned after we had finished that many others had dropped down their distances due to the weather and trail conditions. I give ALL of the finishers out there kudos for starting and completing every distance because that course was something you could not train for at all! It was not my day to run but it was my day to finish a trail marathon distance with my husband, which was a great experience.
The race directors/race management company was amazing and very accommodating. The aid stations were well stocked, we never ran out of water or electrolytes, and the course was well marked as trail races go. I loved the swag and the course scenery. As we left, we told the race directors we would be back in 2019, pending no crazy rainfall amounts in the days leading up to the race!
Until next year, Falls100!