Heather Cobb has completed the FLRC 100K Ultra Challenge—AGAIN!

Talk about perseverance, @Challengers! The indomitable Heather Cobb has completed the FLRC 100K Ultra Challenge for a second time, this time with a running time of 20:04:05 and an elapsed time of 23:53:33, which works out to a razor-thin margin of 6 minutes and 27 seconds under the 24-hour cutoff. Impressive running once again from Heather on an unseasonably warm but rainy and windy day!

She followed the now-familiar strategy of starting with Forest Frolic at 5:45 AM, moving west to hit the other trail courses in order: Thom B, Tortoise & Hare, and Danby Down & Dirty, which she finished in the early evening. Then, running in the dark, she knocked off Pseudo Skunk Cabbage and East Hill Rec Way, then headed over to the South Hill Rec Way, and finished off with Cornell Botanic Gardens, Waterfront Trail, and the Black Diamond Trail.

Looking forward to a report and pictures, @heathercobb3!

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Thank you Adam! I have so much to say about both efforts, I will put together my thoughts soon! In the meantime, enjoy this picture of me after I finished, glad to be done.

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Better pacer choice this time around

Heather, were you a little tired maybe?? Nice job & contrats!!

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Amazing work @heathercobb3! Congrats!

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Congratulations Heather! Amazing accomplishment, wow!

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Congrats! That was a whole lotta running!

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Congratulations! :smiley:

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Congrats Heather! Wow, and what a nailbiter with the timing. Well deserved photo finish… haha! And, you are the only person who has run all challenge courses consecutively twice. Perseverance.

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The extra 48 minutes and 54 seconds from last time must have really been gnawing at your soul. Congrats on grinding it out in what is probably crummier weather and less daylight than your last attempt. Welcome to the finishers list again! FLRC 100K Ultra Challenge - Finger Lakes Runners Club

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@aaronking32 You have no idea. I’ll expand more on this in my report, but when my pacer and I started BDT, we had 3 hours left (started at 2:45, needed to be done by 5:45). We got to the turn around sign at exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes. :scream:

Phenomenal effort to all who pushed their own limits, for sure on all those who tackled the 100k once, let alone twice. And that’s an awesome finish photo of you grounded Heather. Nice work.

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Wow awesome accomplishment @heathercobb3 !! Great job!!

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You’re so hardcore! Amazing work @heathercobb3, an heroic feat!

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Thank you all for your congrats! I’m not sure what burning desire made me want to do this the first time, let alone give it another shot the second time. I can now safely say that desire has been fully doused. I am a huge fan of ultra running, but out of all the things I’ve learned this year, it’s that I really prefer shorter races.

Anyway, onto the report. It’s rather long and grouped by course, but if you’d rather read it grouped by effort, you can do so here.

Going into this 100k challenge, I had several things working against me. 1) For the first effort, I was 2 weeks out from running my first 50 miler. 2) I’m a slow runner, and I’m not a fast hiker on the trails. If you look at the times for the challenge courses, I am in the bottom 10-20. My speed doesn’t bother me, but it does work against you when you have a tight cuff off. 3) I wasn’t completely trained for 100k. The 50 mile race took a lot out of me, and I don’t think I fully recovered for either of these efforts.

Note: my crew/pacer for effort 1 was @Jesse_Canfield, the first to complete the 100k in May. My crew/pacer for effort 2 was Jess, my friend from Canada who agreed to this on a Saturday night after we had both imbibed a little (when the best impulse decisions are made, right??). Major props to Jess for the international support (driving 4 hours from Ottawa, getting 4 hours of sleep, crewing and pacing me for 24 hours, getting only a few more hours of sleep, and then driving back to Ottawa).

Forest Frolic
Effort 1: 10th Course
Effort 2: 1st Course

Effort 1: We started out at 6:00pm, giving us 3:45 hours to finish within the cut-off. The temps were in the mid 40s, but with a little bit of rain.I planned on hiking the whole thing and had hoped to keep it at 20 minute miles, but my right calf was so cramped up that there was no way I could do that. Every rock, root, and uneven surface sent my leg into agony. I wasn’t eating or drinking at this point, and anything Jesse gave me I either held in my hand or held in my mouth. The thought of eating anything was exhausting, and any urging from Jesse was met with a “No.” As the miles wore on, I got slower and slower. I couldn’t climb over logs or down into creeks without holding onto Jesse’s arm like a little old lady being helped across the street by a boy scout. I had no balance or strength left in my legs. I side-stepped up climbs, counting to 10 before I could take a break. I was so tired, I was sleepwalking. Once we got to the last 2 miles, Jesse refused to tell me how long we had left, and kept saying “Just this little incline and then we’ll pop out by the cars.” Ultimate lying by the pacer, because it felt like hours later before we finished, with me asking multiple times “Where’s the pop out?!” Finally we finished at 10:30pm, 45 minutes over the cut off. I didn’t care, I just wanted to get off my legs and sleep - at that point I had been up for 29 hours. I ended up taking a nap in my car at the trail head until about 2am before heading home.

Effort 2: Jess and I got to the trailhead around 5:30am. The forecast predicted rain on and off all day, but with warm temps. We had both brought copious amounts of clothes, but rain is not my favorite thing to run in. We could hear the wind and rain on the roof of her van, and considered delaying a little, but ultimately decided it didn’t matter, we were going to get wet either way. The challenge started at 5:45am. The first few miles were fine, with minimum rain, until we hit the top of the powerline where the trail turns left into the woods and onto the Finger Lakes Trail. The wind picked up, and it just poured for about 10 minutes. It was miserable. We kept trudging forward, the rain let up, and the sun began to rise. The mud wasn’t terrible, but worse than the weekend before during the group run. There was no way to stay dry on the creek crossings, with water up to our calves. We finished the last few miles quickly and headed off to Thom B.

Thom B.
Effort 1: 9th course
Effort 2: 2nd Course

Effort 1: We started in good spirits. I was already considering this one knocked out and my brain was onto thinking about the last course and being able to go home and sleep. Unfortunately it was not quick. My IT bands began to ache, and while that took away from the pain in my feet, it meant I couldn’t do a ton of running. Soon the right calf cramp began, which was the downfall of the rest of the challenge. I had no less than 2 complete meltdowns, countered by moments of euphoria, with acapella singing and more refusals to eat or drink. We finished around 6pm, but I was beginning to doubt we could finish within the cut off. I couldn’t run, and hiking fast was nearly impossible as well.

Effort 2: I was feeling good going into this course. While Jess drove us to the Hammond Hill parking lot, I ate pizza and changed clothes (I was completely soaked from the downpour). We hiked most of this, running the downhills. We only saw one other hiker with two dogs - when the dogs ran up to me I only saw them out of my periphery and they scared me so badly I screamed. There was a lot of yelling at the RunGo directions and good-natured cursing of Pete’s name. My feet were holding up well, but when we started this course it felt like a hole had formed in my sock on my right foot. Turned out the lining in that shoe had folded and ended up causing a lot of blisters on the bottom of that foot.

Tortoise & Hare
Effort 1: 7th course
Effort 2: 3rd course

Effort 1: I was running late from my predicted time, but @kag22 was patiently waiting for me when I got there. I knew my feet were pretty beat up, so I asked Jesse to pop my blisters (A+ crewing). Karen and I headed out and it was so great to have someone on the trail with me finally. Conditions were good, but with the bridge out at the south end of Treman Lake, it added some mileage having to come back around on the Finger Lakes Trail. We saw and chatted with @sryan004 before hiking the rest of the way to the finish.

Effort 2: Our original plan was to go to DD&D before T&H, but with starting a little bit later, I was concerned about the park closing before we could get to T&H, so we switched the order up a bit. Conditions were great, feet were great, but once again we had the added mileage from the bridge being closed. On our way back, we saw @Petorius who was doing a T&H double. I had been keeping the challenge efforts on the down low, scanning the QR codes right away at the beginning (later editing my time so they would all show up on the activity log), so when I confessed to him what we were up to, he was surprised and excited.

Danby Down & Dirty
Effort 1: 8th course
Effort 2: 4th course

Effort 1: Legs were holding up, but the blisters on the insides of my heels (where I always get them) were beginning to bother me. Jesse debuted his pacing for the challenge here, and once we got into the woods, I asked him to stay behind me on the climbs because I knew he was better at them than me. If he was in front I’d force myself to go too fast to keep up. Despite the elevation gain, we seemed to make it to the Pinnacles in no time. I wanted to sit down, but knew it would do no good so we carried on. I ran a little of the downhills, but didn’t fully trust my legs so it didn’t last long.

Effort 2: Not much was different from the first effort, except I felt more comfortable running the downhills. The riverbed was a complete mess from the rain earlier in the week, so we couldn’t do any running here. We did hear a good rumble of thunder, but it didn’t lead to anything. We made it to the Pinnacles just as the sun was setting, and I finally got a picture. Jess kept trying to negotiate with me: “If you stop running you have to eat and drink.” It worked, for the most part. It got dark half way through this course, and we finished at 5:45, leaving 12 hours to go before the cut off.

Pseudo Skunk Cabbage
Effort 1: 1st course
Effort 2: 5th course

Effort 1: The original plan was to begin at 2am, tackle the trails during the day time, sandwiched between the road courses, and I believe this was going to be the last course. However, Jesse’s plans had changed, and I knew I needed a pacer for the trail courses and wanted someone to be around during the last courses as well. So I shifted the plan to start at 9:45pm on Friday. I had been up for work during the day, but had gotten a few hours of sleep between noon and 5pm. Starting Skunk this late meant very little traffic, and with the moon almost full, I hardly needed my headlamp. I felt really good, and ended up running my fastest course time. I don’t think this was detrimental to the outcome of the rest of the challenge, though.

Effort 2: On the way over to this course, I tried to get some sleep in the back of the van, but ended up feeling a little car sick. I lollygagged getting ready, unsure how I should dress. It was warm, but I knew it was windy (ultimately I was not dressed warm enough). Jess was going to get some sleep, and I was going to tackle the next 5 courses solo. I knew this was going to be tough, in the dark, alone, after having a pacer for the last 12 hours, and I was not wrong. I headed out, and within the first mile it poured, again. I was trying to keep my pace under 15 minute miles, but almost immediately my feet began to ache - and, spoiler alert, they didn’t stop for the rest of the night. Turning onto Ellis Hollow Road, the wind picked up, blowing hard and cold. I had several moments of crying, exacerbated even more by a text from Pete sending encouraging thoughts my way (but the perfect pick me up). I wasn’t running at all, just trying to get through the miles. When I made it back to the community center, my spirits picked up. I only had 5 more courses go to, most of them short, and I would get Jess as a pacer again for the last 10 miles.

East Hill Rec Way
Effort 1: 2nd course
Effort 2: 6th course

Effort 1: I ran this quick, because I knew I would have to come back uphill to the parking area. Once again, the moon was so bright I didn’t need a headlamp.

Effort 2: I ran this as quick as I could, and luckily Jess was able to meet me at the other end so I didn’t have to make the trip back up to the parking area.

South Hill Rec Way
Effort 1: 3rd course
Effort 2: 7th course

Effort 1: As I was getting ready, I put a pair of sweatpants on and I hesitated a little, thinking about how I was chilly and I could just go home and sleep. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Jesse showed up which meant I couldn’t back out. He offered salt potatoes which were a saving grace for the rest of the challenge. For some reason this course just kind of kills my soul a little. He took a nap while I headed out and got it done in due time. I didn’t have my headlamp on for most of this, which meant I was scared multiple times by deer who decided I wasn’t a threat until I was only a few feet away.

Effort 2: I put on warmer clothes and headed out while Jess took a quick nap. As one tends to do when they’re 45 miles into a 100k, I began doing trail math. I had to keep up a 17 minute mile pace for the rest of the courses to finish exactly at the cut off. However, it felt like I was moving through mud. I was so tired, I was moving as fast as I could, but I couldn’t go any faster than 17-18 minute miles. My feet were in agony. Any uneven surface, pebble, or stick sent fire through my feet. When I got back to the van, I knew we had no margin for error. I had to be ready to get out of the van as soon as we arrived at the next course.

Cornell Botanic Gardens
Effort 1: 4th course
Effort 2: 8th course

Effort 1: We parked at the Wildflower Garden parking area and I walked over to the start/finish. Once again, I didn’t need a headlamp and busted this course out pretty quickly. The spooky yet somehow soothing tones of a hooting owl was my soundtrack for this run.

Effort 2: We parked right in front of the gates - we couldn’t take the time to park at the Wildflower Garden and have me walk over, and I didn’t want to have any more time on my feet than necessary. I got out without thinking and started the course. At the top of the first hill as you’re going clockwise there was a large branch taking up the entirety of the width of the road. I had to step into the grass in order to go around it, which set my feet on fire. I had to go to the bathroom so bad, but there was no time for pausing. I finally couldn’t take it any more and took a break in the woods, which meant I had to speed up to make up the time. I ran as much of the downhills as I could, and stuck to the insides of the turns as much as possible. Anything to shave a few microseconds off my time and to take a few less steps.

Waterfront Trail
Effort 1: 5th course
Effort 2: 9th course

Effort 1: I was feeling pretty good going into this, but I hadn’t eaten a ton. I started to run but began to feel sick to my stomach. I ended up sitting on some rocks and dry heaving before hiking the rest of the course. When I finished I ate some more salt potatoes and was just overall feeling miserable.

Effort 2: As soon as we parked, I hopped out and began the second to last course. I knew the end was in sight, and I would get my pacer back after these last 3 miles. The wind off the lake was so strong and cold; I could hear the Canadian Geese calling from the inlet. I kept fighting for the 17 minute mile, but it was slipping away, and by the time I reached the turn around point, I had slowed down to almost 18 minute miles.

Black Diamond Trail
Effort 1: 6th course
Effort 2: 10th course

Effort 1: Jesse and I parked and I rested for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before I was being ushered off to the trail. The sun was about to rise, and I put on a podcast and my spirit began to pick up. Jesse met me at the road crossings, giving me pain meds for a knee that was acting up, and refilling my water. The gentle downhill was nice on the second half.

Effort 2: We parked at the Children’s Garden and wasted no time getting started. Earlier in the night, Jess had asked me to give her 3:45 for this course, but the best I could do was 3 hours. I scanned the QR code at exactly 2:45 and knew we had to do 17 minute miles to make the 24 hour cut off to the minute. The worst part about this course is I know it so well. Even if Jess could lie to me about mileage, I know exactly how far out the bison are, where the road crossings are, how far it is when the telephone poles begin. I was in total agony. The “gentle uphill” felt like a mountain. When Jess talked to me, all I could respond with was “uh huh”. I wasn’t eating or drinking. She kept telling me “Just 3 more hours”, which felt like a lifetime. I had a few moments of tears, but they weren’t nearly as bad as the meltdowns I had on Thom B during the first attempt, so I knew I was in a better headspace. Around 3:30am Jess mused who we could call to get my spirits up. I had received a text about 20 minutes before from our running friend Oak sending encouragement, so we gave him a call. He picked up (he was on his way to drag a tire through a cemetery - ultrarunners are weird), and I immediately began crying about my feet. He responded “Of course your feet hurt, that’s what’s supposed to happen!” It was the perfect pick me up and I am so grateful he answered my call.

When we started, we knew we had exactly 3 hours to finish, and when we got to the turn around, our watches read 1:30. If we kept up the same pace on the way back, we would do it. As soon as we turned around and I felt the downhill begin, I just started running. Jess was so excited, “Oh my God, we’re running!” It didn’t last long, but I would run whenever there was a fence, and told Jess when we reached the telephone poles we would run every third pole. We began to bank time, and I kept asking Jess how we were doing. “I think we’re doing okay” she would say. It was difficult to believe her, due to the mile/kilometer math she had to do. Turns out she was lying to me because she didn’t want me to slow down - perfect pacing strategy! As we were getting closer to the end and I saw we had half an hour to do a mile and a half, then 20 minutes to less than a mile, I started saying “We’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it!” Finally the yellow poles at the bottom of the trail were in sight, and we ran to the finish at 5:39am, with 6 minutes to spare. I didn’t think I was going to cry, but as I ran that final 10th of a mile, tears just started coming.

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Here are the calculations I used to try and keep a good timetable. Having done the courses before allowed me to use my longest time as a “buffer”. In both efforts, this table became useless after the very first course.

Forest Frolic, Effort 2:

Thom B., Effort 2:

Tortoise & Hare, Effort 1:

Karen and me after we finished.

Tortoise & Hare, Effort 2:

Bridge is closed!

My pacer Jess and me in front of the raging Buttermilk Falls.

Danby Down & Dirty, Effort 2:

Pinnacles

Black Diamond Trail, Effort 1:

Two hot air balloon and a paraglider!

This is the closest I’ve seen the bison.

Black Diamond Trail, Effort 2:

Finisher photos:

Effort 1. That thousand-yard stare…

Effort 2. Much happier!

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You are amazing!!!
:grin: Karen

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Great reports, @heathercobb3, and thanks for a look into what makes an ultrarunner tick. Along with the physical and mental fortitude, I’m impressed by the efforts that your friends will go to for you! Remind me never to get tipsy with you and agree to something that I might not survive. :wink:

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Tl:dr

Real talk I don’t like her that much but beggars can’t be choosers