I had to reread my last post to remember where I left off. It was just before I toed the line for my first attempt at running 100 miles. Did I do it? Yes. Here is the story.
We dropped the kids off at my mom's house on Friday afternoon and headed to Raleigh. We arrived in time to quickly check in to the hotel and hurry off to the runner's meeting and dinner. I must say, driving in to Umstead State Park for the first time was stressful enough. The roads are small, rough, and not well marked. We drove for a while before seeing a small triangle sign pointing the way. Parked, checked in, got shirt, hat, bib, and headed for the meeting. Sitting through the race brief felt a little long and hearing the turns of the course described turn by turn with trail names, etc was extremely overwhelming. It was very cool to see some past winners and people going for their 10th to earn a 1000 mile buckle. Mostly uneventful though. Ate some pasta and headed for the hotel.
In the fall of 2013, I was introduced to Tailwind Nutrition. Their motto is "Everything you need all day, really". I tried it for training runs, used it exclusively for Thunder Road Marathon and stuck with it through the Frosty 50K and Mill Stone 50K. I was amazed how well it worked. I offer few words of wisdom to runners as people need to find what works for them, but one of my favorite mantras is to trust your training. In other words, do on race day the same things you did every time you ran leading up to it. So back at the hotel, I went over all the math with my wife for calorie intake and needed her to keep a log of calories consumed for me. Loaded the Jurek UD belt with baggies of Tailwind and settled in to sleep. Turns out there was some sort of biker convention that weekend as well. All the bikers were extremely nice, but their bikes and radios are very load. Bikes came and went all night and the rumble and the anxiety caused for a lot of tossing and turning. I can't remember what time I woke up on Saturday, but as I sat and ate a banana, there were still bikers coming back from a night of partying.
While I thought driving in to Umstead was daunting in the daylight, heading in under the cover of darkness was crazy. Of course the site of deer makes me even more on edge as my Prius would not fair well in the battle. So we parked and got a what I thought I would need and went over more thoughts with Sarah about what I might need and my race plans again. As a brief over view, I went in to this race really wanting to finish under the 30 hour cutoff. I broke it down to the 4 almost marathons. My thought process was to run them at 5 hours, 6 hours, 7 hours, and 8 hours (purely guessing that I would be mostly walking the last 25 miles). That would put me in at 26 hours which would be awesome. It also gave me room to maybe push for under 24 (to get a silver buckle) if I was still feeling good at half way.
Before the race, I prayed with a couple other runners which is a fantastic way to start a day, a race, or anything really. Grabbed my water bottle, strapped on the headlamp and got ready for the start. The start of the race was uneventful and exciting. It was the only time in the race where there would be a lot of people around. We got really spread out and would later run miles without seeing another runner. I hear within the first couple miles, on the airport spur, a guy got hit by a deer. Yes, you read that right. A guy got hit by a deer. We were bunched up running from the start and I guess the deer didn't want to wait for an opening and ran right into a guy. He was OK and made it to the aid station to get a few bandaids. Proof you never know what will happen during any given ultra.
Before the race... all smiles
So here is how my day went.
Lap 1: This was a fun lap. Met a lot of people. Everyone said pretty much the same thing. "My goal is to finish and if somehow I can finish under 24 hours, that would be awesome." I would settle in and run with a few people for a while and then someone would stop for water, slow down, speed up, etc and I would run with another group. This went on most of the first lap. The first lap did show me that Umstead is NOT flat. There are some pretty good climbs on the back half. They are steep, but not long climbs. Did wonder how much steeper they would get as the day went on though. So lap 1 flew by and I finished the lap in 2:21 which was 9 minutes ahead of schedule. No big deal, need to slow down and pace myself, but I figured that would happen.
Lap 2: We are getting spread out a little more and the course chatter is decreasing as people are doing more head down, focused running. Did meet a few people including a guy named Mike. He stood out to me because of our shared love of Jesus and that his 14 year old daughter was going to pace him on the final lap. I think that is the coolest thing ever. I pray my kids will run with me one day. Otherwise, another uneventful lap. The climbs did not seem as bad since I knew they were there and just had the mindset of "it's a hill, get over it". Still felt fresh and ran a 2:25 lap.
First quarter done in 4:46 (14 minutes under schedule)
Lap 3: Oddly enough, this may have been my toughest mental lap. The sun was up, runners were spread, and the newness had worn off. I am not sure I spoke at length to anyone on this lap. It was way hotter than I expected and I got behind on hydration. The spacing of the aid stations was not ideal for me. I would always have a good bit left at a water stop, but not enough to make it to the back aid station. So I either had to dilute the Tailwind I had to top off it off or try to pour in partial bags or as I did twice, I poured a whole new baggie in and made it too strong so I didn't drink as much as I needed. Did I mention it was getting hot? This made for a bad combo. I did find my self trying to chug some cups of water at the cooler stations to try to make up, but chugging water is not something I enjoy or practice. I will carry a handheld on short runs so I can sip often. Chugging causes sloshing in my stomach when I run. The hills were steeper this time around, but I made it. The back half (really 5 miles) is the hardest physically, but I know at the end of that, I get to see Sarah and get a kiss. I am thankful those aren't the first 5 miles of the loop. That would be even harder mentally. So I finished lap 3 in 2:43 which I was very pleased with. As far as I remember, this is the only time I really complained to Sarah. I told her it was hot and I was behind on hydration. Not to get graphic but I think I had not peed at this point which had her worried.
Lap 4: Sun if fully up and it is now the heat of the afternoon. I did manage to smile for the camera.
Makes the second quarter 5:32 and the first half (50 miles) 10:18. This is 42 minutes ahead of my best made plan. Which made me almost giddy. Not to mention, I still felt good. Got hydration back on track and have a pacer.
Lap 5: Before this lap, I put on a dry shirt and socks. Also added calf compression. What a boost those calf sleeves gave to my tired legs. Chris Minnis asked me soon after signing up for this race if there was anything I needed to make this happen. I said my biggest need was pacers. His response was an extremely gracious "when and where" response. So he drove from Concord to Raleigh just to run 12.5 miles with me. It was great to take my mind off of the run and to talk about his family and what they had going on. The coolest thing he did on that lap was going into the first water stop, he says "I will fill up your bottle if you want to keep moving." Even though I spent little time at any aid station, it was nice to not mess with zip lock baggies of Tailwind and trying to open and close a water bottle. Seems simple, but it gets hard.
Chris is in the background in the white hat.
Plus even if I was walking while he was filling the bottle, it was good to keep making forward progress. The other thing he was very good at was pushing me without being a pain. Again simple things like "let's run to that big tree up on the right." Breaking it down into small attainable goals is a great mental trick and he played them well. Having company was just the boost I was hoping for. We finished lap 5 in 2:55.
Lap 6: Next victim... I mean pacer, Scott Babcock. We were roommates for a couple years and know each other well. He is an extremely reliable friend and I know he would not have missed being there or taking part in this race with me for anything. He can up early and hung out with Sarah. When I would come into the main aid station, Sarah would always try to tell me stories and update me on other happens. Honestly, I did care, but needed to update her on my status and needs so I could get moving. Running with Scott allowed him to update me on some Umstead events while on the move. I took my jacket for this lap as I was slowing down and the sun was dropping, I was getting cold from time to time. Scott took cues from me on dress and almost fried himself in the woods. Other than that he has been battling some weird leg thing that made me worry, but he did great. He didn't push me, but didn't let me slack off either. I was still able to joke a little with him, but for the most part, the conversation was becoming more one sided at this point. We completed the lap in 3:07.
3rd segment done in 6:02 (never thought that would be possible) That is a total of 16:20 for the first 75 miles.
Lap 7: While Scott was burning up, I was still getting colder. 16 plus hours from dark to hot sun to cool dark again with no food I was getting cold. That said, I changed out my compression sleeves for full leg sleeves. Did this so I didn't have to take off shorts to put on tights. Also made sure I had gloves as my hands are the first thing to get cold. Seriously I have run in 50 degree weather with shorts, t-shirt, and gloves. Anywho, next pacer up... Charlie Doyle. He is a long time friend of Scott's. I met Charlie many moons ago through Scott and he has become a dear friend as well. So while I am adding clothes, Scott is telling Charlie to strip because there is no air movement and it is hot. Charlie probably got the worst pacer lap. This felt more like lap 3 and I guess is was lap 3 of the 2nd 50 miles. At this point I knew I would finish and maybe, just maybe under 24 hours. I just had to keep moving. I was quiet and just moving forward at whatever pace was possible. There was some level of grouchiness on this lap. I was getting used to running with a headlamp and dealing with his headlamp. I didn't like him behind me because then I had my shadow to deal with. I tried to stay on the smoothest part of the course and I kept ending up in the pitted section and making him switch sides. I do remember him saying my jacket lights up like a Christmas tree which is good news for safety. Also on a downhill, he commented that I was running under an 8:30 pace with over 80 miles on my legs. I had no idea, I just moved when I could. Those very short bursts of "speed" were balanced out with a lot of walking for another lap at exactly 3:07.
Lap 8: The Victory Lap: My beautiful bride, Sarah, agreed to run the final lap with me. While I joke about it being a victory lap, that was pretty much the mind set. I knew I would finish and I had 4.5 hours to beat 24. I could walk the entire lap and make that. So we set off on a stroll. She was talkative and I wasn't, but that is pretty much how we function on a daily basis. I don't mean that in an annoying way. She wore my hydration pack without the bladder just to get all my extra stuff that I never used from the back aid station. We did some running, but at the end of airport spur, I had to take off my shoe to get out a rock so I sat for a couple minutes. Then when we got back to the main trail with just a couple miles to go, I wanted to stop and sit on a bench for a couple minutes. At this point, it was starting to overwhelm me that I was really going to do it and I was ready to be done. It is always fun to get time to run with Sarah and this was no different except she probably enjoyed it more because I wasn't pushing the pace like I usually do when we run together. I mention those couple times stopping to sit down because of my finish time. Lap 8 time: 3:28. 21 minutes slower than the last two laps.
4th quarter of the race complete in 6:35. Making for a 2nd 50 mile time of 12:37.
Final race time? 23:02:09 for a SILVER BUCKLE!! Never thought I was capable of that. The human body is capable of so much more than we ever push it to do. God doesn't make junk.
|I have no idea what all the white stuff is, but that is a silver buckle in my hand.|
To this day, that 2 minutes drives Sarah crazy. Had I not sat down twice on the last lap, I would have broke 23 hours. It was not on my radar. My only math calculations were focused on 24 hours. Had I known I could have come in closer to 22:50 or even 22:45, I would have pushed just a little bit harder. No regrets though. I could not have planned for the day to go more perfect. I wore my Altra Olympus shoes for the whole time. Changed socks at 50 miles from a thin pair of Injini toe socks to a slightly thicker pair for both warmth and padding purposes. I did not have a single blister on either feet. I wore some older Adidas shorts that I picked up on clearance a few years ago. I changed from one Team 413 shirt to another. It keeps me inspired and I always get comments from other running that get a little boost from reading the verse on the back of the shirt. It also opens up conversations. My Jurek UD waist belt worked flawlessly for carrying my baggies of white powder. The Tailwind worked perfect. Never got hungry or depleted, just a little dehydrated in the middle of the afternoon. That was my fault. After the race, I went back to the hotel, showered, and went right to sleep. Woke up about noon and went to Red Robin for lunch which was my first solid food since the banana at the hotel before the race. Red Robin is awesome since they have a vegan burger with a lettuce bun and bottomless steamed broccoli. I got several bowls of broccoli. I could not have asked for a better race.