Race Review: The Graveyard 100K

By: Brenda Carawan

Last Saturday was the annual Graveyard 100 and I couldn’t have been more excited about returning – – this time for the 100k distance. I had to promise my coach this would only be a training run with the goals of landing nutrition, training and just putting myself in the race atmosphere to get better acquainted with that “nervous feeling.” My initial shock came quick arriving on the east coast, IT WAS BLOODY COLD! I really didn’t expect the cold to be that much of an issue since I lived there before but apparently the warm Texas winter took its toll on me. Race morning the crew arrived safe and sound. I had asked my friends Rachel and Brian if they would meet me for another round at Graveyard. They were my pacers from last year’s race and we worked so well together I was excited when they said yes. My good ol’running buddy, Jon, also offered to crew and as a last minute addition, our friend Frank asked if he could ride with the crew and watch the race so we happily added him to the mix.

At the start, we went over last minute details and enjoyed time chit-chatting. The crew was completely making me laugh and I could tell I was in store for some fun times.


The Party Before the Party

 Gun start and I was off and running…  Since the race started at 3pm it meant we would only have about 2.5 hours of daylight. Translation: Sun to keep us warm. With my last minute outfit change I knew I would be roasting the first ten miles but it also meant the last 50-miles I would be warm. Good call too! My Rogue 30k long sleeve addition was perfect for the cold race. I really enjoyed the 10-mile turnaround point because we could wave hi to everybody – a nice little boost to see so many smiling faces. The 100-mile runners that I got to see looked a little more tired. They were hitting the halfway point by that time. The Graveyard course is setup as a point-to-point but due to tidal flooding on the highway further south, Brandon the Race Director, had no choice but to change the course to an out-and-back. A call that later proved to be the right one because the road closed again later that evening and didn’t reopen until the following day. I have to say that Brandon and the race team of family and volunteers did an absolute outstanding job from start to finish. The way they handled communication with the ever-changing weather and road closures was phenomenal especially because they were literally making all of these changes as the 100-mile race had already started on top of getting ready to handle the 100k runners!

17 miles in I picked up my first pacer, Pro-Triathlete Rachel Jastrebsky. This is Rachel’s first year racing pro and I couldn’t be more excited for her. Her husband would be pacing me during the later miles. Last year this time they were engaged while both training for Kona. They literally got married and the next day flew to Kona to compete in the Ironman World Championships.

Chilling with Rachel!

Chilling with Rachel!

Heading north I had to battle a nasty headwind for a while so I asked Rachel to help me keep my pace slower so I could get rest a while in a lower HR zone. She was too funny because every time I sped things up I’d hear, “Brenda, you’re speeding it up buckaroo!” Somewhere in the 30-something miles the crew asked if I needed anything because it would be 8 miles before I got to see them again. I decided a bathroom stop was in order, except there wasn’t one. They said they would drive further down the road to find one. As Rachel and I came up on a restaurant the crew was waiting. They had received permission from Awful Arthurs Restaurant to let me use their bathroom (THANK YOU!!!). By this point I’m guessing it was just about dinner time because the place was hopping. All sweaty and looking like a ninja with my balaclava on, I ran through the restaurant and found the bathroom. When I exited the bathroom I heard, “There’s the runner!” and all of a sudden as I was running back through the restaurant the place erupted with applause and cheering! How exciting and funny! Everyone was so incredibly kind and it gave me such a big energy boost.

Back on the road, it was completely dark and we knew we were coming up on water crossings. The crew asked beforehand if I would want to change socks and shoes if my feet got wet and knowing I use to run through the water in trail races I decided I would do the same and not worry about changing out. Ummm…yeah right. The second my feet went underwater they felt like ice blocks. Every step felt as if my feet were going to shatter from being so cold. We kept running in the water and I told Rachel to have the crew ready and waiting with dry socks and shoes. I was wearing my all time favorite DryMax Maximum Protection Socks so even with the amount of sand and debris in the water I wasn’t worried about blisters, but while my socks held up their side of the bargain, I couldn’t hold up mine. The water was too frigid and since this was a training run it made sense to just take extra time to change. In a matter of about a minute the crew had propped me up on the back of the vehicle and like a Nascar tire change I had two people taking off wet shoes and socks and two people putting on the dry stuff and had me back on the road. Between the bathroom ovation and Nascar change out, I found myself on a runners high pushing the pace. Thankfully Rachel reminded me to slow the pace down and get into the correct HR Zone.

Crewing Handing off the Calories

Crewing Handing off the Calories

After the turn toward Duck and Corolla, Rachel passed me over to Jon. It wasn’t the original plan but Rachel had foot issues earlier that week so she decided it was best to run a little less and let Jon pick up the miles. Jon and I got to catch up on everything and I finally confided that my legs were no longer the flat land running legs I once had living in Virginia. The flat road was killing them. We laughed because we use to pride ourselves on being flatlanders. Further down the road though, the bike path we were on had a few teeny raises. Jon called them hills, I called them raises. Regardless though, it was heavenly just to change muscle groups for a few seconds (I hardly recognize myself writing this)! After a while, Jon switched me over to Brian for the final 18.

Ninja Runner!

Ninja Runner!

Last year when Brian paced me I was in bad shape and hallucinating. This year Brian kept commenting on how talkative I was, my pace was good and we even joked that I was doing simple math. We got to catch up on his training, talked about how cool it was that we were all together again and then BAM. Stomach pain. Roughly 15 miles from the finish I started feeling terribly nauseous. I finally had to tell Brian I needed some quiet time to just stay within myself and focus. My balaclava was completely covering my mouth and the thought of tossing cookies caused me to pull the mask below my chin – just in case. When we finally got to the crew Brian got some Tums, Aleve and a Coke. I decided to layer everything so down the Tums went first. With 10 miles to go I got the Aleve down and then drank a full Coke. Everything started kicking in quick because with four miles to go my pace was picking up. The only big problem was I’d lost my eyesight to the cold. For the last 10 miles I was only able to make out the white line in the road and could see bright lights but wasn’t able to distinguish if they were street lights, car lights or runner headlights.

It was all so frustrating because I felt great and wanted to run a little faster but felt disoriented not being able to see. Brian did such a great job helping me navigate to the final turnaround point. The crew waited for us there and cheered us on. We turned around with two miles to go and at the last minute I yelled to them asking how close the next runner was. All of a sudden I hear the vehicle screech to a halt and Jon yelling out the window, “Dontworryaboutit!” And then they all started roaring with laughter and took off. Tough love. I had asked them a couple times after the halfway point where the next runner was and every time I asked they came back with, “What HR zone are you in?” or “Just keep yourself comfortable, this is a training run.” I’m glad they stuck to their guns and didn’t let my competitiveness and derail the purpose of me being there.

The final two miles went by quick. I kept freaking out thinking a car was going to hit us but Brian kept reassuring me the lights coming toward us were runners, not cars. At the finish line I could hear the crew yelling with excitement as I ran through the chute finishing in 8:58:04 as the 100k Overall Male/Female winner. There’s no way it could have gone that smoothly without Rachel, Brian, Jon and Frank. Altogether they worked as a well oiled machine getting me to the finish line.

100K - Done and Done!

100K – Done and Done!

Finish Line with Race Director, Brandon Wilson

Finish Line with Race Director, Brandon Wilson

We took a couple of pictures and finally decided it was time to eat. Off we went to find food at 1am. . . . after two restaurant stops of being turned away because the kitchen was closed, we found ourselves feasting at 7-11. Nachos, taquitos and who knows what else. They filled me in on their Crew Highlights for the day.

So on that note, crew highlights:

  1. Crazy lady at Aid Station 3: “GDMF!!! Tell Daddy – Momma’s here and SHE’S PISSED!!”
  2. Renaming the Expedition crew vehicle to Sexpedition (See pic)
  3. Nascar style sock and shoe change
  4. Jon: “I’m in the mood to throw pancakes at runners.” Rachel “Well they’d probably appreciate the carbs!”
  5. “Umm..I think we just ate all of our runners’ food…whoops.”
  6. 7-11 Gourmet dinner at 1am
Crew Deviants caught on camera!

Crew Deviants caught on camera!

Crew deviance caught on camera!!

Finally, HUGE thanks to the crew, Rachel, Brian, Jon and Frank! Also, super thanks to friends Tom and Amy for hosting all of us! Big shout out and thank you to DryMax and Rogue Running for their support!! And of course, the two people on the planet that I love taking orders from – my husband Russ and Coach Amanda. 

Congratulations to all of the Graveyard 100 runners especially Valmir Nunes who won the 100-mile race overall/male in 13:48:34 and Connie Gardner who ran 15:33:12 winning 100-mile 1st Female Overall!! WOW!


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