40 Hours and 1 Minute

At this point, I just have to smile. I really do.

But while I was 103 miles into the hardest race of my life, screaming at the top of my lungs over howling mountain wind, convinced my husband had abandoned me… it really wasn’t all that funny.

How did I get here? Everything had been perfect. How did it all go so terribly far down south? Nothing made sense. All I knew was I needed to finish.

And, I guess that’s where this story begins…. 

I signed up for Cruel Jewel 100 for one reason: retribution.

Grindstone 100, two years prior, had gone horribly wrong, and I hadn’t done a 100 since.  I needed a redo. Though I had finished Grindstone, I felt my time didn’t reflect my skill. I needed another finish with a better outcome. So, I trained differently. I worked harder. I prepared better. I laid the groundwork, and I did everything right. I was ready to accept my punishment and tackle a bad beast. A cruel beast.

So I picked the cruelest beast– a 106 mile bad boy with 33,213 feet of gain. Add in the 33,213 feet of loss, and you’ve got one nasty, angry, seriously messed up piece of a course in the mountains of North Georgia.

But this was a beast close to my heart.

The race started and ended at the park I’d spent my spring, summers, and falls camping at since I was still in my mother’s womb: Vogel State Park. It was in this place I first slept under the stars, where I’d caught my first fish, gave a boy my phone number for the first time, burned my hand falling in a fire, and hiked to my first waterfall…The flashbacks are endless, but suffice it to say, the place is special. Running 100 miles here would be the cherry on top of a lifetime of memories.

And I even had a crew. A big one.

I usually just kind of gut these things out dragging my sweet husband, Dan, behind me and hope for the best. If I can enlist the help of the occasional friend or family member, I’m lucky for sure.

I don’t know if it had anything to do with the race taking place at our family’s favorite park, but nearly all 5 of my siblings, my nieces, my nephew, and my parents wanted to come and support my race!

I was floored. My sister, Melissa, and brother-in-law, Duncan, offered to support me from 50 miles onward crewing me from their truck. I had Dan lined up to run 25 with me, my trail junkie friend Ashley Bailey ready to run 10 with me, and an ultra friend Erin locked and loaded for the final 20 back into Vogel. Mom and Dad would hold down the fort back at Vogel, and keep all of our kids entertained while they waited for me to finish the race.

With all the details handled, I was confident and excited to tackle the Dragon.

A little about this dragon…

The race began at Vogel down by the lake. It traveled out and up along the notoriously difficult Coosa Backcountry Trail, and onto the even more brutal Duncan Ridge Trail–also known as the “Dragon’s Spine” for its disgustingly steep ascents and descents. From there, the route would continue along various evil mountain trails and roads to Camp Morganton in Blue Ridge, Georgia the 52 mile turnaround. Once there, runners would turn around and do the entire thing again, with the addition of one terribly wretched 6 mile section down and up a mountain…just for kicks.

There was nothing really “doable” about the course for mere mortals, but you know,  us ultrarunners have this whole superhero complex thing going on. We’re pretty sure we can handle anything. And we usually do.

Lookin’ for friends.

At the start line, I nervously looked around for some familiar faces. Though I knew a lot of runners I chat with online would be there, it was hard to recognize people in a sea of hats and running gear. I finally spotted my friend “Gangsta” aka Zachary Andrews. In true Trail Gangsta fashion, he had rolled up to the start with seconds to spare. We took this selfie, swapped good lucks, laughed a little bit, and then the RD said GO!

The instant we stepped foot on Coosa, I knew it was going to be a long day. With the race start at noon, the sun was at its highest, and humidity was up right along with it. Lord, help me… I kept saying to myself in my best southern drawl.

The first 8 miles took me two hours. Now, I understand that’s still a pretty decent pace for these trails, but I felt like I was just crawling.

20160513_174216Every runner I’d come to, I’d try to chat with, hoping a little camaraderie would distract us all from the pain. I was sick of running by myself. Shoot, I’d  done almost all my training by myself, so when I got the chance to be around people, I wanted to talk!

Some people wanted to chat with me for a bit–shout out to Ted and Jason–and I made a few new friends here and there. Others just wanted to be competitive and blew right past me. …their loss.. I giggled to myself, thinking it’s what my Mom would say.

By the time I got to mile 20, I was pretty beat up and discouraged. “I feel like I’ve already done 90 miles.” I laughed to the aid station crew.

“Welcome to the DRT [Duncan Ridge Trail].” They chuckled back, reminding me just how brutal of a course I was running.

Ahhh, they’re right, dangitt… I came to terms with the fact that I had signed myself up for this mess, and I needed to work hard for that finish I wanted!

And that’s exactly what I did.

After I left the 20 mile aid station, I finally dropped the hammer. The sun began to set a little, the miles started clicking off, my mood improved, I made a few friends, and everything began to fall into place. Fuel felt right. Energy level was high. Feet ran good. Muscles were strong…I got this.
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My mom and dad were waiting at Skeenah Gap, mile 25, and they were my goal I was working towards for the first portion of the race. My mom had never been to an ultra event before, largely due to the fact that I’ve almost died at them more than once, and she’s just not a fan of sittin’ around sweating bullets worrying about me. Can’t say that I blame her..But, Mom came nonetheless, and I was so excited to see her and Daddy there.

When I came down into Skeenah, I was beaming. I gave my parents a huge sweaty hug. The course was beating me up, but I was happy. I knew they were proud of me. I could feel it. Their love gave me what I needed to keep pushing onto 52 miles, where I’d see more of my crew: Dan, Melissa, and Duncan.

I couldn’t wait.

No, I mean, I genuinely couldn’t. I wanted some company, dangitt!  And I couldn’t get it till mile 52. So from 25 on, I freakin’ hustled. I bombed every down, and climbed every up like a boss. When I finally got to 52, Camp Morganton,  in the middle of the night before Saturday morning, I was a little spent. But, I got to see my family.

Like my mom, my big sis had never been to an ultra, and neither had her husband, so I was pumped to experience this with them. I was unsure how they would feel seeing me all bent out of shape from 52 miles, but they jumped out of their car like a couple of pros, and got to work taking care of me. They patched me up, filled me up, and pushed me out of the chair and back onto the course. I was so thankful for them! Once again, having them there was just the boost I needed. This whole retribution things was going to be a piece of cake.

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69 Miles in with Dan, Duncan, and Melissa!

Dan jumped out of the truck to tackle miles 52 to 75 with me. Together, we fell into our familiar rhythm of running and laughing our butts off. Dan is not only my husband, he truly is my very very best friend. We’ve been this way since we were teens, and nothing’s changed a bit. Running with him is everything perfect. Even with 52 mountain miles on my legs, Dan gave me so much life it was like I had just started the race.

We ran strong all through the mountains towards mile 75, getting help and caffeine  along the way from Melissa and Duncan around mile 69.

I went through plenty of lows, but Dan made sure I got back to the highs. Several times, I remarked I had never felt so good during a 100, and I hoped it would last. He assured me it would, and that I was well trained. It would all finally come together, he encouraged me. As I effortlessly climbed up mountain after mountain, I knew in my heart he was right.

We hit a paved section around mile 70-75. We ran it at such a solid pace, that we were even running alongside some of the fast 50 mile racers who were also out on the course.

“Dang, Honey.” Dan said. “You’re killing this!”

“It’s about time I had a good race.” I shouted back. “I just need to keep chipping away. We got this.”

Ash B.

Dan ran me into mile 75, right into the arms of my sweet friend, Ashley Bailey. Ashley and I had some tough trail to tackle together, but she was ready. So was I.

We quickly got to work on the next few miles. Once again, the comfort of having a close friend with me greatly distracted me from the pain. But when I punted a massive rock with an already beat up foot, the distraction wasn’t enough…

“Ahhhh!!!” I wailed, as I hobbled to the side of the trail.

“Nope. Get up. Keep moving.”

“Ughhh. Ashley. You don’t understand. This crap feels broken.”

“I don’t care. You gotta finish, girl!” She snapped back.

Grrrrr. She was right…I had told my crew to be hard on me, and they weren’t playing games. It helped though, because I got up and continued to run hard on the downs, with my toe slamming into my shoes. It will be over soon. It will be over soon. It will be over soon.

Ashley ran me into mile 80. A little defeated, but even then, I was still moving well.

And then Big Sis Took Me to School.

IMG_5305Melissa, my super fit sister, had never stepped foot on a real trail, let alone a super technical one winding its way up and over some of the meanest mountains on the East Coast. But, at mile 85, she wanted to run.

Of course I was excited to spend some time with my sister, so I was all for it. She jumped right in behind Ash B and me. The camaraderie of the group felt much like a girls night out– albeit a few thousand feet of climbing dirt and kicking rocks.

My sister really surprised me with her ability to hang with me on the ups, and bomb the downs. She never tripped, never complained, and barely broke a sweat.

Geez, she needs to be racing this thing, too! I thought.

Again, the support and conversation from my family and friends kept me moving at a great pace. We brought it into mile 85 stronger than ever, and it was finally time to wrap the party up. I was so sad to leave my sister and Ashley behind, but I was looking forward to another friend.

Erin.

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Erin, me, Melissa, and Ashley

Erin is an ultrarunner who loves mountains. We weren’t super close, as life just has us in different places at the moment, but she’s still always up for a good ultra run. I asked her a couple weeks before the race if she’d be up for joining me, and she quickly agreed.

When I finally ran to Erin at mile 85, I knew I was in good hands. She was armed with a pack, some lights, food, and a giant roll of toilet paper attached at her chest.

“….The crap is this, Erin?!” I laughed.

“Hey, nobody wants to wipe with the wrong leaf.” She replied.

Fair enough! From this point on, my crew and I had to part ways. The next time they could see me would be the finish.

“See you soon!” I shouted, as Erin and I took off up the trail.

Erin pushed me hard.

Forcing me to bomb every single down, even on my jacked up feet. She made me crank it like a chainsaw on the ups. I submitted, and did as told. As we breezed through the mile 90 aid station, I was grateful for the push.

“Thanks for making me work, girl. This is awesome.”

“Yeah, you’re doing great!” Erin replied, as we power hiked up a climb. “We keep this up, we’ll be at that finish line quicker than you thought!”

“Yeah. I think you’re right. I feel absolutely amazing!”

We kept the good flow rolling well into the night. Mile 92, 93, 94, 95… Even as the temps dropped and the wind picked up, I was still confident in my ability to finally sink that solid finish I’d been eyeing. I had it. I was on top of the world. I texted Dan to tell him the good news.

“About to roll into mile 97. I’ll be down sometime this evening.”

But then my world turned upside down.

Somewhere shortly before the mile 97 aid station as we ran into my second night of wakefulness, my brain did something interesting and terrifying. It stopped firing, and it happened without warning.

I first noticed it when I tried to say something to Erin, but only three of the words I’d intended to say made it out of my mouth. The rest that came out was a warped mess of things I had no intentions of speaking. I could hear myself saying it, but I couldn’t make sense of it, and I definitely couldn’t control it.

One minute I was totally fine, and the next minute I was completely confused and wondering what I was doing. This had happened to me before at Grindstone, and I was petrified of what was coming if it got any worse.

We kept moving and I stayed silent, but as I feared, I began to hallucinate. The weird thing I always hallucinate about during these races are little kids. I swear it’s my motherly subconscious feeling guilty about being away from my babies all day. Regardless the reason, I see kids. Not cute kids. Creepy kids….And, I started to see them with Erin.

Little old timey looking boys were staring at me from behind trees.

Pioneer era girls in dresses frolicked on the trail before me.

“Erin!” I cried. “I’m losing my mind! Where is that aid station? We need to get to the aid station!”

At least that’s what I said in my head, but what came out was slurred and confusing. Erin handed me some bars, told me to drink more Tailwind, and found some caffeine in my pack. I choked it all down and tried to get a grip on reality.

But reality only got worse.

When we reached mile 97, I felt incredibly puzzled. I still could not communicate well despite ample food, hydration, and caffeine. My words wouldn’t come out right and my thoughts were far from coherent. From what I’ve been told, I sounded full on 100% drunk. Like clearly I hadn’t been running for 97 miles, I’d just been sitting on a mountain kickin’ back with 190 proof Everclear all day.

Why was I running? Where exactly on this course was I? How would I get to the finish? Where was my husband?  Who were these people talking to me?! 

“Do you want some soup, sweetheart?” I heard someone ask.

Yes! Yes! Soup please!… I was thinking. Apparently, whatever I said back had nothing to do with soup, and everything to do with me being a delusional hallucinating freak show.

Erin had to get me out of this aid station quick, before I lost any chance of making it off the mountain, or ever having ultrarunning friends again!

She instructed me to get up away from the fire and head into the cold. Even delusional, I knew that where I was wasn’t where I needed to be. So, I followed my pacer back into the darkness and down one of the easier stretches of the race towards the finish.

If the race ended at mile 100,

I could have stumbled on down to the finish line, delusional and all.  I’d done it before, after all. Plenty of times. Heck, I’d probably even have a real respectable time to tote. The 100 mile retribution would be mine! Finally!

But this race didn’t end at 100.

It ended at 106, and I still had quite a ways to go on an increasingly sleep deprived brain.

Everything in my core tried to pull my mind together. I prayed hard, literally begging God for mercy and clarity. I kept telling myself: You’re still in control. You’re still in control.

But it was too late. I wasn’t in control at all.

I started to black out. I stumbled. I felt Erin yank me up by my pack before I fell to the ground.

“Steady!” She shouted.

But I couldn’t steady. I could move my feet forward, but I couldn’t process direction.

Where am I going?  Why is she yelling at me to move? Am I dying?  Wait..Am I dead?

My brain was done.

“Help!!!” I would scream. “I’m so confused! I need help!”

“You’re okay, Ashley. I’m here with you.”

“But where’s Daniel?!! Why has he abandoned me?!!” I cried.

“He hasn’t abandoned you, Ashley! He’s waiting at the bottom of the mountain.”

“No!!! No… you’re lying to me!”

Full on “mountain drunk” had progressed to higher than a kite. Like a bad, bad trip.  The feeling felt disgustingly similar to how I’d felt when I overdosed on meth as a teen. A feeling I’d swore I’d never feel again.

I stumbled again into the darkness, completely trapped and hopeless in my own clouded mind.

Erin grabbed me by my pack behind the neck,

and slowly walked behind me down the mountain at what was later described as an agonizingly slow pace. The wind was fierce. The temps were low. And I was barely moving.

“Ashley, you’ve got to keep moving.”

“I’m dying, Erin. Seriously. Tell my kids I love them.”

“You’re not dying Ashley, you’re just sleep deprived.”

“No..no..you’re wrong.”

At one point, I was convinced I actually already had died, and I was reliving my last hours of life. The next, I was certain I was dreaming, and I had already successfully crossed the finish line. Another time, I was apparently stealing Erin’s toilet paper roll and cussing her out!… For the record, I haven’t said a swear word in a decade, guys. I also apparently started calling Erin “Ashley” for some reason.

Eventually, I settled back into the fear that Daniel had abandoned me in the woods (because he hated me) and was never coming to get me. In fact, I apparently somehow got a hold of my cell phone, plopped down on the trail, dialed his number at 2 in the morning and screamed, “You abandoned me!!!!!”

Erin grabbed the phone and talked to Dan, and he decided to run the couple miles up the mountain –in the middle of the night–  to help her escort me back down. (That’s love, y’all.)

“But, I don’t even want to go to the finish place!”

I kept screaming this, completely unaware in my clouded mind that the finish line I’d trained the entire past year to see was just a couple easy miles ahead of me. It was close to 3am, well after I’d planned on finishing the race, but I still fought Dan and Erin hard.

“I don’t want to finish. I want to go home!” I slurred.

“Yes you do, Ash. You do want this finish line.” Dan said, now joined in the quest to get me off the mountain.

“Yeah, there’s no way we’re gonna let you quit, Ash. We’re finishing this!” Erin added.

“But I’m dying! I’m dying, Ashley [Erin], and no one cares!” I cried back in garbled words to Erin and Dan,”You all keep telling me to go to this finish, but I need a hospital! You’re trying to kill me.”

Now of course this is all hilarious now, but while it was happening, I was absolutely petrified. I genuinely believed and feared the things I was saying. I couldn’t form a coherent thought. I couldn’t communicate. Add in the confusion of a headlamp shining on nothing but trails, almost 48 hours of no sleep, 103 miles on one of the hardest courses out there, in and out of the blackness in my mind, and it was just one truly nasty experience.

Dan and Erin were going to make sure I got that dang buckle, though. I moved slower than a slug, and fell every few feet, but I still moved. Erin and Dan only had to hold onto my pack to make sure I didn’t face plant, and guided me in the right direction.

Finally, around 4am,

IMG_6357

I slowly crossed the 7th 100 mile finish line of my life, huddled securely next to Erin. Though it was one of several, it’s the first one that I only partly remember. Someone handed me a buckle, and said something about that I did it. I just bent over and cried. No…sobbed. I sobbed hard…and that’s all I remember

The next morning,

I woke up in a bed at a cabin in Vogel, and looked at the ceiling. Everything came back to me about the night before. I just closed my eyes tightly and started to cry. Not happy tears really, just heavy tears. Tears so heavy with emotion, they drop right down to my neck.

I cried for the loss of my race. I didn’t get my retribution. In fact, I didn’t even come close. My performance at Grindstone had actually been several hours better. An entire year of training, hoping, praying, striving…For nothing.

I rubbed my head, and wiped my eyes. I looked over at the nightstand and saw my buckle, and sighed. Strangely enough, I’d technically done one of the best 100 miles I’d ever done the night before, but that’s what’s so cruel about Cruel Jewel. It doesn’t stop at 100.

It takes you just past that point. Just far enough to break you.

I kicked my feet out of the covers and onto the ground.

My legs felt fine. I cried again, realizing I had plenty of juice left in them. Had I not been so delusional, I could have crushed that last easy part of trail and gotten exactly what I’d hoped, worked, and prayed for all year!

Ughhhh, I cried quietly as everything sank in. What a terrible outcome.

I walked to the bathroom, and I looked around in a daze. I noticed all my family’s things scattered across the floor. My entire family was staying in the cabin. I spotted my daughter’s clothes, my sister’s makeup bag on the counter, my Dad’s toothbrush, and my niece’s bathing suit.

Dang. Everybody’s here. 

I heard breakfast sizzling in the kitchen. I was embarrassed to walk into the room and face the music. My amazing race had ended in the worst way possible, and at this point, they had to know about it.

I wiped my face clean and walked out of the bedroom.

And in that moment, everything changed.

My family started chanting,  “Ashley! Ashley! Ashley! Ashley!”

“Woohoo!!! Congratulations!! You did it!” They shouted.

The room was decorated with signs my nieces and nephew and children had made for me while they had waited for me to finish.IMG_6359

Tears came rolling back down my face. Not heavy ones this time, just happy ones. Everyone got up and hugged me, and asked me to tell them all about the race.

They giggled as I told them about the memory loss, and said they’d already heard the stories [that I’ll never live down] from Dan and Erin.  I listened to the kids rattle off their list of old familiar Vogel adventures they’d enjoyed while I was running, and I smiled. I scarfed down some Southern style breakfast my Mama had made, and in that very moment, I no longer felt significant loss. I felt incredibly and overwhelmingly loved.

You can’t always get what you want.

Everybody knows that. And after so many excruciatingly awful ultra races, I for sure know that. But I also know that if you’re lucky, you do get what you need. And that’s exactly what I got at Cruel Jewel.

The truth is, there’s something that I’ve needed more than ultra retribution for the past couple years or so.

What have  I needed?….Friends.

In recent past,  I’ve struggled with a lot of loneliness. My kids are in school and have friends, my husband works all day, and I work from home. I have a lot of time to myself. Though I have thousands of insta friends and twitter pals, I don’t have many real life friends. All of my close girlfriends live out of state. And out of my runner friends, most of them have busy lives. With the mountains being almost 2 hours away, hardly any friends are available for, or are even interested in, joining me in pursuing my passion–mountain running.

I know it’s cheesy, but I’ve always kind of had this dream that I’d have a group of friends who run in the mountains with me. Maybe after, we’d get coffee together, talk about life, support each other. I’ve wanted a village. A community. A group. Something to be a part of…  Shoot, I’ve even prayed for these friends to exist in my life. Often. Embarrassing, but true.

That moment though,

as I walked into the kitchen where my family was, I realized something.  I already had my village. No, it didn’t look like a scene from Friends, but these were my people. And it looked exactly how God wanted it to look.

It looked like Daniel, running 3 miles up a mountain in the middle of the night, and on tired legs, to make sure I was safe.

It looked like Erin, holding onto my pack, and walking with me for hours down a mountain in the freezing cold, encouraging me to never give up.

It looked like Ashley driving two hours and waiting in her car all day just to run with me and support me for 10 miles.

It looked like my sister, Melissa, lacing up a pair of my trail shoes she’d never worn and charging up a mountain, only to encourage me along while I was feeling low.

It looked like my brother-in-law, Duncan, driving around the mountains and losing sleep, just to know I had enough bandaids and  redbull.

It looked like Mom and Dad driving into the backcountry, and waiting for me all afternoon just to hug me and tell good job.

It looked like my nieces and nephew and my sweet children, coloring little signs to tell me they were proud of how hard I’d worked.

It looked like the droves of text messages pouring in from my concerned family and friends, dying to hear how I’d done, and telling me they were praying and thinking of me.

It looked like the friends I’d chatted with out on the course like Brad, Zachary, and Jason, and the volunteers who’d told me Good job!

It even looked like the messages from strangers online who told me I was on their heart all day, and they’d been hoping I’d had a great race.

It looked like my village. It looked like my crew. It didn’t look like I was lonely. Far from it. It looked like I was loved.

It took me 40 hours

to finish 106 miles, and 66,426 feet of elevation change at the Cruel Jewel 100. 40 hours of pain and suffering, and what felt like a complete and total failure to reach my goal. But it only took me one quick minute the next morning to realize and appreciate the race for what it truly was: a success, and a village of people banding together to support someone they loved. In that minute, I realized how rich my life was. My soul was instantly filled with immense pride and joy. Yes, I’d gotten exactly what I needed at Cruel Jewel.

And ironically,

when I checked the results for my official finish time, it wasn’t 40 hours even, but 40:01..

…I guess a minute truly can change everything. 

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Thank you so very much for reading my latest story! I know my experience was crazy, but I can’t say enough good things about Cruel Jewel. The RD’s put together something really special here. The volunteers were helpful, the aid stations were spot on, and of course the route was an amazing challenge. I also want to say THANK YOU again to my family and my friends for all you did for me. I clearly couldn’t have done this race without any of you. I’m deeply grateful. Let me know what you think in the comment section below. I appreciate the feedback! ~Ash

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71 thoughts on “40 Hours and 1 Minute

  1. Billy Yang says:

    Wowwwwww….

    So much wow. Jeez, what an ordeal. I’d say congrats on finishing but heck, I’m just glad you survived it. That race and that course sounds like no joke!

    You should dial up the TRN hotline to retell this tale. Or something. Gripping read my friend. Way to get it done, mad props.

    Like

    • John says:

      Hi Ash!
      Bravo for hanging in there! I saw you towards the end when you were having that meltdown. I was the dude that kept yelling “do not DNF!!!” You probably don’t remember it. But I’m so darn happy for you and your awesome crew and pacer. Way to get it done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • AshRuns100s says:

        Hahaha Hey, John! Wowwww okay so I have ZERO recollection of this! 🤔😂 but thank you for encouraging me! I guess I took your advice! Haha. Were you racing the 100 or 50?? Thanks for reading!

        Like

    • Emily says:

      I am so inspired by you! Your writing two years ago inspired me to explore ultrarunning, and I am hoping to do my first 100 next year after baby is born! I have been wanting to say THANK YOU for your openness about sharing your great moments along with the vulnerable ones. One day I hope we can meet!

      Like

      • AshRuns100s says:

        Oh man, this is so cool. Totally made my night. Thanks for telling me! When are you due?! Heck yeah, would love to meet! Thanks for reading my blog and chiming in! ❤️

        Like

        • Emily says:

          Hey back!! I’m due Sept 6! Dr ordered no running so I’m bummed right now but planning on picking up my training as soon as I get the OK!
          I live in the Midwest but would absolutely love to visit Georgia.
          Do you have any tips for running post-baby?
          Thanks for replying!!!

          Like

    • Rachel Palmer says:

      I am so thoroughly impressed by this. Via the Internet no less, not even in person, I found myself holding my breathe reading your tale. I have completed 1 ultra ever-33.5 miles to be exact ( actually 34 miles on my watch😉) and this race, YOUR race, is epic. Keep inspiring Ashley!!

      Like

      • AshRuns100s says:

        Hi, Rachel! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving kind feedback! Ha ha, YES, when you run that far, you definitely count that extra half mile!!! :*D Have an awesome week.

        Like

  2. Kat Whitaker says:

    I have been reading your blog for years, and I have followed you on instagram over the last year or so. I don’t check in on your blog often, but I just so happened to check it today. I got the treat of reading your Cruel Jewel recap that you JUST posted!

    I love your sprit. I love your toughness. Your blog posts always inspire me and make me want to push myself further. Because, if she can do it, I can do it… right? Haha.

    I’m training for the Yeti Snakebite 50k in August, and I’ve been more focused and determined than ever before. I’m hoping to prove to myself that despite a few dissapointing races in the past, I can do what I set my mind to.

    Thank you for the inspiration and congratulations on an amazing race. One of my running buddies attempted the 50mi and had to back out at 30. He said that course is NO JOKE!

    Like

    • AshRuns100s says:

      Well I’m happy you stopped by, Kat! How sweet of you!!! I appreciate your kind words. You can absolutely do it!! I have bad race after bad race, but every now and then, there IS a good one… it does happen! 😂 Honestly, the bad ones are better for building character. So keep at it, friend. Good luck to you!

      Like

  3. Tara Fleck says:

    Your story made me tear up. I can’t imagine running that long or that far and think it is amazing. I would love to do an ultra one day, but don’t think I could handle a 100 mile race. Congratulations on completing it!

    Like

  4. Lindsey Hardesty says:

    Ash, I hope you don’t mind if I share this on the We Run Huntsville facebook page because it is the best race report I’ve ever read that was written by someone I don’t know personally. I laughed, I cried, I felt like I was there! We had several north Alabama runners doing the 50 & 100 and I know they’d really enjoy reading it. And… CONGRATS!

    Like

    • AshRuns100s says:

      Hey, Lindsey! Thanks so much for reading! I don’t mind at all, and really appreciate you sharing. I got to meet Greg (I believe ?) at GDR. I told him I need to come check out your group! Have a great weekend.

      Like

  5. Mindy W says:

    Thank you for writing so honestly about your race. The brain shutting down and the hallucinations are very scary to me and I do not want to lose it in front of friends and strangers. I can’t say reading your experience helps me overcome that fear but more that one can survive it.
    More importantly, I think the Liar tries to deceive us into believing we don’t have community. What a gift to be able to see that you do have community. Many of us (ok, definitely me) train solo a majority of the time. Do not stop praying for community and friends. He will provide you with one but it might look different than you expect. It has for me.
    Finally, this is seriously epic. It just is. What a story to tell! Congrats on finishing!

    Like

    • AshRuns100s says:

      I think I’m one of the rare lucky few that totally loses it Iike this. Ha ha! Don’t let it scare you:) I think you’re right about that deception. Thanks for pointing that out. Thanks for reading, Mindy! 😘

      Like

  6. Craig Lloyd says:

    Hands down one of the best race reports I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot). You are surrounded by amazing people. Those of us who are your friends are always here for you, but we also envy the ability for others to experience you (and your family) in real life. Thank you for sharing that, I really appreciate.
    You may already know, but I won Trail And Ultra Running. We are compiling a series of experiences and photos for a book that is to be published in June. If you’d allow it, I’d love to include this race report. It tells the exact kind of story we are trying to capture. If you’d be ok with that could you email me at craig@trailandultrarunning.com?

    Like

  7. Beth McCurdy says:

    Wow what an amazing experience Ashley. I’m so proud of you. DUMMASS events posted your report on their Facebook page, BTW. LOVE YOU and thanks for not asking this roadie chick to not pace you HAHA

    Like

  8. Taylor Cropper says:

    What a great write-up. It was riveting. You are a total boss and there are only a few people in the world who can fathom accomplishing what you just did. I was glad to read about you recognizing the most important accomplishment of being surrounded by people who love you. Sounds like a great crew. As a husband, I was dying about Dan running up to your rescue. Probably the fastest 3 miles he’s ever run. Nice job -thanks for sharing.

    Like

  9. Trails2Brews says:

    The reality is that you dont decide how you perform in an ultra – it decides. All you can do is put your head down and take what it gives you. You did that – Your crew was great – You have that buckle – plus a minute.

    CJ100 is no joke – Great job!

    Like

    • AshRuns100s says:

      Thanks so much for chiming in! You are so right… the ultra definitely decides. Every time! We just gotta take what we are given. Thanks again for reading. Have a great day.

      Like

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m not an ultra runner, but I know a bunch! Amazing accomplishment! From beginning to morning after! I had friends on that course and in aid stations. I love reading your stories! Better than anything on TV ever! Hope you are recovering well!

    Like

  11. Aaron Owens says:

    Great race and writing! You truly do have a great group of family and friends. I was in the 50 mile race and remember seeing you and your pacer at the last aid station before Coosa. I’m glad to hear that you finished. That is one tough race and you inspire so many! Recover well and I look forward to hearing about it on a future podcast.

    Like

    • AshRuns100s says:

      Thanks, Aaron! I do have a great crew. I love my people and I’m even more reminded of how special they are today! How did your race go? Appreciate you chiming in. Have a nice week.

      Like

      • Aaron Owens says:

        I had a great race thank you for asking! My longest outing both in distance and time and first time running late into the night and early morning. I’m already looking for the next challenge!

        Like

  12. Kent Burke says:

    SO proud of your effort and unrelenting determination. In fact, I’ll be honest and say I’m jealous. I just can’t even muster the motivation to train for another marathon (I continue to do half’s), cause I’ve had to relegate myself to the run/walk method of Jeff Galloway or I won’t do anything at all; which means many hours of being gone if training for a marathon or longer (dare I even THINK of something longer!). Just don’t understand how you motivate yourself for those hours of training. What weekly mileage did you put in for this one? Great job Ash! You’re my running hero for sure

    Liked by 1 person

    • AshRuns100s says:

      Dawwww, thanks Kent!! Honestly l didn’t put in mileage really, just stair mill training. I felt very strong on all the climbs! I’m a big believer in balance. Training is what’s left after I do everything else, and as long as I’ve got kids in the coop, that’s how it’s gonna stay. 😊 You can do enough to get by and just go for it! Thanks again for reading and saying hi!

      Like

  13. Anonymous says:

    Your an ultra runner so we already know your tough as nails and can do what it takes to get to a finish line. Now we also know your crazy brave to share this story and your personal emotions to the world. keep up the great writing and hype of our sport, our sport needs more people like you and your village of peps.
    Amazing effort
    Congrats once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Adele Jordan says:

    Ashley, first off, congratulations on your triumphant journey! I don’t know you but I feel like i do. You were in my thoughts as you ran, kept checking yours and Dan’s instagram page. I love reading your blogs for I can relate so much to you. I have 3 kids and get those feelings of guilt when I race, but they are always proud and im sure your kiddos are too. I get spiritual as well for I’ve had issues with meth in the past. I’m always trying to redeem myself and cover up the pain I caused my family. So how wonderful it was for your whole family to be there, I am so enamored by that!!! Reading this gave me hope that someday my friends & family will at my next 100. I admire you and love you for all that you’ve overcome! You are so strong in all aspects and I want to be like that. I had a bad experience at my last hundred, fainted at 69 but kept going and finished. Thank you for being someone I can relate to, you are an inspiration! It’s an amazing life eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • AshRuns100s says:

      Wow, we are kindred spirits aren’t we! Ha ha! I passed out around mile 70 of a 100 once too 😂😂 I always say I’m done with these, but my friends remind me that my soul is too attached at this point! Thanks for reading and letting me know what you think. I appreciate it so much, and it’s good to know someone out there can relate! 😘

      Like

  15. proactiveoutside1 says:

    The only time I’ve hallucinated was because of pneumonia-induced altitude sickness around 13K. That was interesting. But wow. Not like this! Great story and very cool that you found a really good silver lining after your finish. God bless, Ashley.

    Like

  16. Hazel says:

    Hey Jen,
    Second time sitting down to read your experience at the CJ, the first time I was interrupted over and over again. So glad I came back to reread this, this is a masterpiece. Your experience caught forever right here. From kicking the rock to each greeting of your family and friends. A perfect ultra not only from the run but the support and that one minute, one second that your perspective changed from being embarrassed to you knew and realized what you have within your family and friends.
    Thank you a million times for letting social media in on your life to experience it with you.
    Your insta friend, keep the knife at the ready.
    Hazel

    Like

  17. Jen says:

    I’ve been following your journey on IG and your blog for a while, and as I comtemplate my first ultra your blog and race is truly inspiring and gives me a window into something I hope to be a part of. It also hits home as I’ve been lonely to. Most of my friends are out of state and we all have busy lives. Your right tho family is “crew” anyway loves this post glad you came off the mountain

    Like

    • AshRuns100s says:

      I’m so sorry I missed this comment. Thanks for reading the post and for leaving your thoughts. You will love ultrarunning, everyone does:). Did you sign up for a race yet?

      Like

  18. taramclamb says:

    Well Ashley, I have to say… Justin has asked me several times if I’d read your post yet about Cruel Jewel. Honestly I was terrified. Haha. As the wife of an 100 mile ultra runner and his crew most of the time, my worst nightmare is when to push him and when to say, “You’re done!” …guess that’s the nurse practitioner in me too?! Ahhhh, my heart was literally beating out of my chest reading your account of the hallucinations and the delirium because I knew it was coming. Lawd Jesus. If I’d had been Erin/”Ashley” 😂 I’d have said mmmmmkkkk, you’re done. Haha. Gotta be an ultra runner to know when to really say it’s over I guess. He has one in August – Lord I hope I’m ready – I know he will be. CONGRATULATIONS on the finish even if you don’t remember that last 9 miles!! Your legs knew what to do far beyond what your mind did. [[BTW, I crave that village too. Keep praying for it friend]] ~Tara McLamb

    Like

  19. seanrodg says:

    Hi Ash! Thank you for once again giving me the perspective I needed to see. I’m glad you had such an agonizingly wonderful experience. That was a pretty cool story especially the end. The lesson part. The part where it really mattered.
    I, like you, have wanted those things. A group of like minded friends to enjoy my passion with.
    I, like you, have prayed for it. And in sameness, I have a village already. I feel like a selfish fool. And that’s okay because that’s what change is about I guess. Dang it. And I didn’t even have to stumble mindlessly into the finish to learn it. Thank you for helping me to know I need to count those blessings I have, be grateful and enjoy what I already have.
    But, if you and Dan are ever in Central Texas (I moved out of the mountains and I’m missing it bad!) give me a shout and we’ll run the Hill Country like bandits. Keep smiling and keep that perspective shinning.

    If there was ever a scent I loved most
    It would be the scent of home
    Pines
    Not just any pines but mine
    The ones in the yard and up the hills and mountains around me
    Mixed with the scent of oatmeal cookies and melting crayons
    Wet dogs and fresh raspberry jam
    Man I wish that I could smell it again
    If only memories came coated in scents
    I’d pull them out of the drawers in my mind
    And bottle them for days like today

    Like

  20. Leanne Hood says:

    Literally bawling my eyes out at work. I knew I should’ve waited until I got home to read this. Fantastic recap. I’m a new follower of yours, and going for my first hundo in July 2017. I’m obsessed with everything ultra right now, and plan on studying your blog to learn as much as I can from you!

    Like

  21. debgnigh says:

    Wow! What a run and what an experience. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so sorry it did not go as you hoped, but I really appreciate the positive perspective you took on what could have been a huge disappointment. You ran an incredible race and FINISHED. That is amazing and inspiring. I’m so glad God provided sweet friends and family to encourage you. What a gift to have that and to be able to appreciate it in the midst of a hard moment. I’ve really enjoyed following your adventures and would love to join you on a mountain run sometime! Do you ever end up in SC or NC?

    Like

  22. Crystal says:

    Congratulations Ash, I really enjoyed reading your race report. I ran Cruel Jewel last weekend and the RDs really delivered on the Cruel. Before CJ the most elevation I’d run (ok shuffled) at a hundred was about 24,000-25,000 ft. and that was the toughest race I’d done in my life. I had anxiety about this race, I’d read as many race reports as I could find and after reading those I knew not to underestimate that course. I told friends that I had no idea if I would finish and I think people actually thought I was being humble but I wasn’t, I was terrified. 🙂 That was tough, I ran across some great people during my race, and like you I enjoy chatting with others on the course. I am looking forward to reading your other race reports.

    Like

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