I'll just give the facts about the DNF on this post and tell more about the run later.
I'll jump into this report at 75.9 miles. I had run over Short Mountain in good shape, hopefully on my way to my goal of 28 hour finish. Coming out of the woods and onto a minor gravel road, I started looking for Edenberg Gap Aid Station. Usually an aid station is a noisy lit up place. I ran all the way down the road searching left and right with my flashlight and never saw or heard anything. It was after dark, raining and very foggy at the time. I got to the stop sign at the end of the road and shone my light up and down the highway. I saw two reflective markers hanging on the left hand side of the road across the street from the stop sign, and nothing else. 2 markers together are supposed to mean turn that direction, but I didn't see any more markers down the road and I didn't remember running on the highway last year. Then I shone my light across the road and saw a trail of markers leading back into the woods. So I followed it, up and up. I was climbing another mountain.
I saw a woman I thought was Donna Utakis heading down the trail about a mile in and asked about the aid station, she told me to turn around because I had missed it. I assumed she was walking back to drop from the race, but I see they have a finish time next to her name, so it couldn't have been her. Anyway I ran back down the rocky trail at full speed because I was impatient and annoyed. I stubbed my left foot coming down and threw my right foot out in front of me to try to avoid falling forward. My right leg jammed the ground hard with the knee locked and all the impact went into my right hip. I got to the road and for some reason that only someone who has run 78 miles over mountains could understand, I turned down the highway and ran about a mile or more looking for the aid station. This was down a steep hill on pavement and it really caused me some problems with the hip I had just jammed. At the bottom of the hill, I knew I was wrong. So I turned around and marched back up that same hill. I had spent well over an hour (I would guess it was getting close to 2 hours) looking for the aid station at this point.
As I neared the top of the hill on my way back, I saw two headlamps entering the trail I had first gone down after missing the aid station, but my hip and general fatigue wouldn't allow me to run fast enough up the hill to ask them where the station was. So I yelled out with all my might, "Hey, you two runners, STOP!" And they did, thank God. They waited for me. They knew I was the "girl who missed the aid station" because there was talk at the aid station about going to look for me. The woman runner (who apparently was not Donna) had been back to Edinberg and didn't understand why they hadn't seen me yet which was causing some concern.
The two men directed me back to the station, which was basically, right on the corner near the stop sign off the road a bit on a little dirt drive. There were no glow sticks or reflective markers marking the way in and I assume the runners were entering from some other place and exiting where the men directed me to go in. I still couldn't see the aid station from the road through the fog. Cars had parked between the station and the road and were blocking any lights from showing. Also it was extremely quiet there! Like I said, I think the runners must have turned off somewhere else. I'll have to figure that one out.
Also I want to note, one of the runners with the headlamps said he missed the same staion a few years back and ran down the highway looking in the same direction I did. I believe him because he added, "it was a hell of a hill to climb back up when I found out I was wrong. I also met an aid station worker at Woodstock Tower who said he made the same mistake last year but didn't go all the way to the bottom of the hill. I add this information so I won't seem like a total moron.
I checked in to Edinberg Gap. One of the volunteers was just heading out to hunt for me as I came in. After checking in I headed back up the trail toward Woodstock tower, the same trail I had first taken when I missed the station. My heart wasn't in it, my hip hurt, and I wasn't going to finish in 28 hours. My hip reduced me to a walk and my crushed spirit reduced me to a crawl. I'll admit it, I was moping. I got to Woodstock Tower eventually and told them I quit. I blamed my hip, which probably would have made me walk most of the remaining miles, but really I think it was more the disappointment of having a good run turn bad from such a stupid mistake. The hip hurts, like a bad bruise, but I could have pushed on if my spirit was willing.
So that is my sad story. It makes me sound kind of stupid, but don't throw stones unless you haven't done something stupid in the dark after running over 80 miles on rough trails through the mountains. On a lighter note, so you will understand how my mind works after running for so long, just before this unfortuante event I was wondering why my handheld light wasn't shining where I pointed it, and then realized I had the handheld pointing at the ground and was trying to shine my water bottle down the trail. Maybe a pacer wouldn't be a bad idea next time.