I have been crewing at Horton and Zealand ultras for a year and a half. I took on this role quite naively at first, and then became addicted to the Virginia ultra scene like a crack addict, crewing at every race and training run that I could convince my runner to attend.  So, I was pretty excited to run one of Hortonís races myself, hoping to complete my second ever ultramarathon at Holiday Lake. It was very special to finally race with many of the people I had come to know and respect over the past couple of years.

My training went well. I was a little worried in the early days in late December because I was coming off a month of rest following my first Ironman at the end of October, and didnít know if I had enough time to ramp up my mileage.  But I followed an accelerated plan and got enough miles in so that I was confident that I could go the distance on race day.

Surprisingly I wasnít nervous before the race. I knew I could finish, although it wouldnít happen very quickly. I am persistent and tenacious, but Iím no Speedy Gonzales. I set a goal time of 7:30 for myself.

The first half of the race flew by. For the first time ever I was surrounded by other runners most of the time! I am very used to running alone as Iím the slowest of my friends, and typically come in near the end of any long distance event whether it is a running race or a triathlon. So I canít tell you how great it was to actually run with other people!! I talked to a lot of folks on the way out, and spent quite some time running with my new found friend Matt up until we separated just after the turnaround. And surprisingly, I made it to the turnaround at 3:07! Holy cow! This was more fun than humans ought to be allowed to have!

The second half of the race is definitely more challenging than the first half. My usual hip and knee pain set in around mile 17 or 18. Thankfully this is several miles later than it usually starts. My only complaint was that the Mortonís Neuroma in my left foot had been acting up since mile 6 or so. But when itís flaring itís actually less painful to run than walk, so run it was. Most importantly though, I was very, very grateful that I wasnít experiencing any of the stomach issues I usually have when running long.

Iíd like to apologize to all the aid station folks who asked for my number only to be met with a blank stare. I tend be pretty slow in processing questions after about mile 20, so I hope I didnít seem rude. You guys did a great job keeping track of me and Iím glad I pinned my race number in a nice, visible position on my right thigh, so you didnít have to rely on my fuzzy brain to help you do your jobJ Oh, and thanks to the very nice young man who helped me stow my head lamp on the way out, and my gloves on the way back in. You did great interpreting my hand gestures and half sentences;) I only hope you understood when I said thank you.

I was definitely slower on the second loop. And by that time, running partners were more difficult to find, so I ended up running by myself for longer stretches of time. But I enjoyed the solitude, soaked in the beauty of my surroundings, and allowed my mind to wander. I especially enjoyed the snow flurries!

A few miles from the end I caught up with Jeffrey and Ben. We ran to the finish together. Jeffrey was upbeat and gregarious, and gave me a boost at a time when all I could think about was how I wanted to sit down for a few minutes. The three of us cheered and jumped for joy when we ran over the spray painted Ď1 mile to goí sign on the trail.

I crossed the line at 6:42. Forty-five minutes ahead of goal - an amazing feat for me! I got a warm hug from Horton and felt pride wash over me at once again accomplishing something that even two years ago I never thought Iíd be able to accomplish. I was thrilled to complete my first Horton Ultra and only my second ultra ever. Itís amazing what your mind can convince your body to do.

I love trail running in general for all the wonderful, low-key, unassuming people who seem to flock to it. I have never felt so accepted by a community as I have at the trail races and ultramarathons I have attended, whether I was crewing or running. Early on in my crewing days I remember telling my runner that all trail runners seem to be happy. I just wasnít sure if trail running attracted happy people, or whether trail running created happy people. Either way, itís a wonderful world in which to live.

Thank you to Horton for this race, for your infectious passion for ultrarunning, and for the congratulatory hug when I finished. Thank you to all of the volunteers who worked tirelessly before, during and after the race. Thank you to all of the new friends I made while I was there Ė Tracey, James, Matt, Jeffrey, Ben, Mike, and many others whose names I canít remember. And a huge thank you to the friends I trained, traveled, and raced with Ė Daren (Ďmy runnerí), Todd and Alicia.

Iím already signed up for the Terrapin half marathon. And Iím pretty sure that once I finish IM Lake Placid in late July that you will find me back on the trails in Virginia.  OkayÖ.. you got me. Iím not just pretty sure. Iím positiveJ

Elaine Estes