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Hi there I’m Suzy!

I uplift other women in the areas of running, lifting, and motherhood

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Blackbeard’s Revenge 100 Miler 2024

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It’s taken me a minute to process my Blackbeard’s Revenge experience.

Even days after the event, I can’t even really mentally categorize it as a “race” because the conditions made it so far beyond any challenging race I’ve ever done (including the exact same event last year).

What conditions?

The weather in the Outer Banks is very unpredictable. I knew we’d have wind from my experience last year but this year called for rain during the first 10-15 hours as well.

Gross.

Blessedly, the wind was also forecasted to change directions to become a tailwind for the second half of the race, putting wind at our backs and pushing us forward.

I’m no stranger to rain, so I started mentally preparing and packing appropriately.

The main concern in these conditions is foot health and increasing your risk for blisters.

And a blister early in the race can mean a DNF (did not finish) later- doesn’t matter how well you’re physically trained.

But then two days before the race, there was another reason to overthink.

The RDs, after feedback from local municipalities, NCDOT, and the National Weather Service, made the course into an out-and-back (instead of point to point).

The southern half of the course was predicted to be completely under water with only emergency vehicles allowed in/out.

This meant we would run south for 50 miles in the rain, then turn around and run the same portion in direct 30-40 mph headwind.

Why would you run in that?

A lot of people have asked me why I still wanted to run, given these conditions.

After all, I have the Boston Marathon in three weeks, which is a race that’s incredibly hard to get into (and may quite possibly be my last for a few years, given a performance decline in recent months).

It was about fulfilling a commitment.

I know how bull-headed this sounds. But when you train for something like a 100-mile race, every training run or cross-training workout reinforces your decision to fulfill said commitment.

My training cycle was 20 weeks long.

I move my body in a purposeful way 7 days a week (not all running, varied intensities) with this goal in mind.

That’s 140 times where the decision to race is reinforced.

From this perspective, stepping to the starting line is an easier thing to do than skipping the race altogether!

Blackbeard’s Revenge: Miles 1-20

I ran with my pal Rachel for the first 20ish miles. This was her fourth attempt at the 100 mile; she had to drop for various reasons the three years prior.

She wasn’t going to let a storm stop her from getting redemption!

Totally spoiling the ending here: Rachel ended up earning her finish in the most brutal conditions and lowest finish rate of this race’s history!

We are both chatterboxes, so chatting with her during the first portion really helped to dissociate from the rain, which was essentially a good water pressure shower.

Miles 20-40

It didn’t take long for the roads to flood in certain areas, leaving us completely soaked shoes and socks in shin-deep puddles. Every time a vehicle went by, it would spray water up and soak nearby runners.

This happened to me three times.

When I tell you I was dripping wet from head to toe, I mean it. Wet rat style.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

In keeping up with shoe and sock changes, I reminded myself frequently that the weather was out of my control. 

Miles 40-60

The next big milestone in the race was crossing the Marc Basnight Bridge, which is 2.8 miles long. 

Since we were turning around at 50 miles on the re-routed course, this year required us to do this 2.8 mile bridge twice.

Last year, this was the most terrifying part of the race for me- bird carcasses everywhere, gusts of wind that felt strong enough to take me off my feet.

Blessedly, this year the rain stopped completely when I got to the bridge (!) and the wind took a breather (!!). On top of that, the sun peeked out while on the bridge and we got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset.

I cannot overstate what a mood lifter/power up it was to see sunlight after 12 hours of rain!

Miles 60-80

Here’s where I almost died…and I wish I were being dramatic.

If you’ve never felt what 25-35 mph headwind + 45-50 mph gusts feel like, go to one of those indoor skydiving places and hang out in the wind tunnel.

Now, move forward for 20+ miles as the temperature drops 15 degrees…!

Sometime around 3 am, my Husband Trey texted to check on me.

This saved me.

I was starting to feel really sleepy and it felt like my bones were frozen.

He drove to me, pulled over on the side of the road, and let me warm up in his car. It took 45 minutes to stop shivering.

He also brought some merino wool pajamas from the night prior, so I put the top between my windbreaker and raincoat and pants over my running tights.

In hindsight, this break saved my race (and probably me).

Don’t do this race without a crew. Even if your crew is one very dedicated individual.

Miles 80-100

Trey continued to follow the course and meet me every 2-3 miles for the remainder of the race so I could get out of the wind, which had knocked me down twice- like, pushed me over on the ground.

It also allowed me 15-20 minutes at a time to get off my feet, which were extremely swollen at this point.

If you are considering this race, note pavement is a factor.

Sure, it’s easier to dissociate (versus a trail, where you can easily trip on a root or rocks) but it is so much harder on your body to run on pavement for 100 miles.

Around mile 80, I started the death march.

For those unfamiliar, that’s when you go from running or run-walk ratios to straight up walking.

My coworkers had created a private Slack channel where they scheduled messages and voice memos of encouragement every hour (swoon!) and one of the messages said “forward is a pace“.

I held onto this as I walked.

It would have been really easy to get down on myself at this point, but your brain can only hang on to one thing at a time so I clung to forward is a pace.

Finish

This is the only race in my life (72 marathons, 10+ ultras including two other 100 milers) where I didn’t know if I’d finish.

Even at mile 99, I thought, “yikes, this could go either way“.

120 people signed up for the Blackbeard’s Revenge 100 miler. 112 started. 60 of us finished.

That’s a 53% finisher rate.

Last year, this race took me 24 hours, 30 minutes and I was 21st.

In 2020, my virtual Blackbeard’s Revenge effort (0 out of 5 stars, do not recommend a virtual race of this length) took 24 hours, 58 minutes.

This year, it took 30 hours, 1 minute and I was 50th.

…somehow, I squeaked out 3rd Masters Female though (perhaps I ought to lead with that).

Though it’s slower than my other attempts, this is the race I am most proud of.

Like, of all the races in my whole life.

Even as I’m typing it out, it seems like someone else’s story because it’s so outlandish.

Who survives that?!

Me, that’s who.

What’s next?

As you can see, I’m taking a breather after Boston and focusing on shorter local races. I’ll probably volunteer at a few events as well.

That’s the beauty of running- you can enjoy the community in different ways. It doesn’t have to be full speed all of the time.

If you’ll be at the above races, I hope you’ll let me know! I hang out on Instagram and love connecting with other runners (that means you!).