Twisted Branch 100k – 2019

2015 – 17:36:56 (Trained)
2017 – 18:01:38 (Sorta trained)
2019 – 18:53:38 (No training)

Start Photo by Ron Heerkens Jr/ GF Media

I’ve tried all approaches to Twisted. Training/no training. They all end up the same. Maybe this is the course I strive to beat. But so far – it just eats you up. As the wise Vidmar told me after I told him this same thing — “It seems to find, expose, and make us confront any vulnerabilities we might have going in. But, perhaps that is also its gift.”
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It was a rough few weeks leading up to this. 55 hour work weeks. I felt trapped and frustrated. And after spending the weekend before in the ADKs, I just wanted to retreat back. I considered the DNS. But of course as the week ended – things settled down. And a long day in the woods is all I wanted anyway.
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I was curious if this was still the hardest ultra I’ve done.

It is.
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Going into this – I had no running miles. But tons of time on feet. Weekends in the mountains. Italy trip and CUT112 still on my mind. I knew finishing wouldn’t be an issue. How would running that much go – after not running much at all?

So to start. My CUT112 buddy Adam was running too. And after sticking together for 112 miles before – we started this race together. With Abby by my side as well. The 3 of us cruised along for a while, until Abby got out her poles and left us in her uphill dust.
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Running actually felt ok.

We cycled through running, and hiking. Feeling like we were moving well and making good time. Feeling like I was running more than past years – but then again… I didn’t really remember. We found ourselves at 50k near 7.5 hours.

We both bonked hard on our way into Patch Rd Aid Station. My feet were hurting – and they never hurt like this. I fiddled with my shoes – the tongue kept getting sucked and scrunched into my shoe, putting pressure on my foot. I adjusted it, but knew it wouldn’t last.

Adam bounced back quick. I still felt depleted. But we’d try to run as much as we could to get to Bud Valley.

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Going into this – I didn’t care about finishing. During this – Definitely didn’t care about finishing. I was content dropping at Bud Valley. But told myself if Mertsock was there…. I couldn’t drop. And of course he was.

I was excited he was there. Smiled and waved as we ran in. Pretending I wasn’t dying inside.

I fiddled with my shoes again at Bud. And complained about my socks. I even looked at my spare socks in my drop bag – but changing them seemed like such a large task. I would survive with what I had. My shoes on the other hand – were living there last miles. And my feet were feeling there death.
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Spirits were good when Mertsock jumped in. But soon after the clouds rolled in and we were drenched. The rain lasted a while. The mud was not cool.
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My spirits didn’t last long. I was trying. My brain chemicals were gone.

I kept feeling like I couldn’t come back. I was defeated.
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I’d hear my breath get weezy. Tears would roll in my eyes. Nothing was wrong. Why was I freaking out?

I was frustrated that maybe this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. This wasn’t the stress relief I was looking for earlier in the week.

I was tired of eating Aid station stuff. I didn’t want anything. Tired of gels. and pickles. Even the real food didn’t look appealing. Although Lake David got me with Donut slices and coffee beans.

I was tired of feeling chased. I kept craving our “no mans land” – but every time we’d find our spot, we’d hear voices again. So many people. — Not that it wasn’t great to see how others were doing. I think we all just look for that time of solitude.

Photo by Mertsock at Lake David

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Panic attacks creeped on me basically the whole time from Bud Valley to Urbana. Without warning.

Luckily the 3 of us have done this before. We were re-living the CUT112. Adam and I racing. Mertsock pacing. Both of them knowing my deaths won’t last forever.
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My goal was to make it to Urbana. All I really wanted to do was run the stretch from Michelsville. My favorite 2.5 miles, no matter how I feel – I’ve always been able to run there.

I was not expecting to have a melt down. On the way down from Lake David – I couldn’t control the tears. I saw the Michelsville tent. Tried to stop crying. Nope. I couldn’t stop anything. I ran by the Aid saying “I’m just gonna go.” Ditching Adam and Mertsock. And for the first time – actually cried. As I ran away. It felt good. A little dramatic. But I felt free!

I heard Mertsock running behind me. And as the melt down ended and we navigated some fence and barbed wires, I was excited to get this done.

A little guilty for leaving Adam after he had stuck with me all day. But Mertsock assured me he’d catch up. And he did.
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We swapped Mertsock for Strat at Urbana. I was content with stopping here all day. But my current mood had me ready to finish at the beach.

I was slow again.

Mount Washington is never the worst of the course. Every year it’s always felt pretty good. Maybe you stop caring at that point? Or maybe the switch backs make it forgiving. The worst is the trail just after.

It takes forever to get down to Winding Stair road. I used to think it was the Triad trail. But Triad is quick. And fun switch backs.

But this pre-Triad trail…. had me angry. I was angry at the mud. Angry at this little hill that Strat and Adam bounced up. But I was stuck walking in place. So mad. I cried. Cause I don’t know what else to do with emotions.
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It was relieving to reach Winding Stair rd. And we ran our way to the Triad turn. And kept running our way through the switch backs. I looked and saw 10:46 pm – 14 minutes to beat 19 hours. (which we actually had 10 more minutes cause of late start) But I asked Strat –

“Think we can finish in 10 minutes?”
— Strat “Yes”.

“Really?”

I believed it. We cranked a few extra gears. Rolled in at 10:58pm.

Another by Mertsock at Lake David.

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Part of me never wants to do this again. Part of me thinks this course is just not meant for me. Then the stubborn part of me wants to see if I can do it….

Guess we’ll see in 2 years. Staying true to every odd year.

Next year I’ll bring back the lights.
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Twisted. A super runnable course. Sneaking over 10,000 feet of gain in 65 miles. All via the best trails in the Finger Lakes.

Something makes this course so challenging. Harder than 100 milers. Harder than staying awake for 51 hours.

Some seem to figure it out. I just don’t know. Sure is awesome though.
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Thank you Scott. Your creation is one of a kind – and the best and hardest on the east coast. Thank you Twisted Crew – for all the hours of hard work and support along the course. Thank you volunteers for helping me survive, and all the high fives and cheers.

Thank you Adam for sticking with me – no matter how many times I told you to leave. Best company and great friend to spend the miles with.

Mertsock for pacing us for 20 miles. Keeping me moving even while my brain had lost all hope. Attempting shoe fixes mid trail – resulting in broken laces – but using Macgyver skills to pin things together and make it work. Always the luckiest to share miles with you.

Strat- For transporting everything and everyone. And pacing us the last bits from Urbana. Telling us we’re crushing it- even when it felt like we were crawling. And pushing us when we felt we could run.

Chris-O – For spending your birthday with your run fam. Lucky to have you all over the course. And especially at the end. Thanks for laughing at me and supporting me like always!
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What’s next?

Pretty sure Im adventuring every weekend.

But then a road marathon in November. yes. A marathon. Cause it’s been a while. And we’re getting G-Street back together.

The end.

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