I got sick and tired of reading other people's hundred mile race reports. There came a time when I realized it wouldn't do me a bit of good to read anymore reports. I could take little ideas from this person or that person but once that gun sounded, it was to be my story.
Having run over 50 marathons, I knew I had that distance in the bag. Don't get me wrong, marathons are challenging. Over the last year or so, I had started running ultra marathons and very quickly realized I had found my calling. See, i've NEVER been very fast. There were hundreds if not thousands of runners who were much faster than me at every single marathon I went to. What I did find though is that if I was well trained, I was able to keep pace much better, later in races, when others were hitting the wall. My thought was that if I could run further, than I would probably reel in some of those that were ill equipped for the ultra distances.
Running The Umstead 100 was no different. I knew that there were to be over 250 runners attempting to run 100 miles. I knew a lot of these folks had run many 100's before and had a huge advantage in the experience department. I didn't care. I wanted to beat them. As usual, at the runners meeting, I picked one young buck who bothered me that I wanted to beat. I headed back to the cabin with my brother, Scott, to try to get some sleep before I would be up and at em at 6:00 AM the following day for my first 100.
Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well. I kept thinking I would sleep through my alarm and miss out on my first 100. At 5:15 AM on Saturday April 6th, I realized that wasn't happening. It was on in a big way. My race crew captain, Chip, and my brother, Scott, were at the starting line to see me off. I heard my brother yell "I Love You" and I was off.
At The Umstead 100, we were to run a 12.5 mile loop 8 times. I had heard horror stories about people taking off too quickly and paying the price later in the race. I was going to do my best to gear back a little in the first couple loops. I had to run 4 loops (50 miles) on my own before I could have the company of my pacers. The first loop was an exploratory loop as I had never been on the course before. It went well but I knew I was up against a tough day because the course was not easy. I jogged my way through the first loop and felt great. It was early.
We had a cabin right on the race route (Thanks Blake) which was ideal. I could check in at each loop and then make it to the cabin where I would eat food, re-hydrate and get inspiration from my family and friends who had come out to support me. As it was only a little after 8:00 AM when I got to the cabin the first time, there were only a couple waiting for me. We had a quick chat and I was on my way. I had realized very early that there was NO WAY that I was going to take a 5 minute break at the end of each loop like we had planned. That would take 40 minutes and it would just be harder and harder to get back up once I sat down.
The second loop was a breeze. The day was BEAUTIFUL. I ran a bit with a lady who said that the year before it was pouring rain at this point and that the thunder and lightning came around midnight. I looked up to see no clouds and no threats. The day was perfect. I was beginning to feel as if it were my day. I felt confident even though I had 80+ miles to go. I was in my distance mode. I wasn't going to be stopped. As I got close to the finish of my second lap I heard the magical words, "GO DADDY". I saw my wife and two daughters at the cabin. It gave me such a charge to see them. For a quick minute I sat down and for a second I felt something going on with my big toe. Understand this, I wasn't going to stop this race unless there was "bone showing" but having a toe issue at mile 25 is no bueno.
I started my third loop in a great place. I was feeling strong and determined and the race was going to plan so far. It was fun to see people out on the course. You see so many different running styles and body types in ultra races and I certainly saw some familiar faces. I even had one guy say "hey I bought these shoes from you a few months ago". I was a bit surprised to see people starting to look pretty rough. The Umstead 100 offers a 50 mile finish to those that get over halfway but can't finish the 100. I started to realize that there would be many 50 mile finishers as there were people who looked like there was no chance in hell they were running another 70+ miles.
I knocked out my third loop even though I was sensing my body starting to slow down a bit. The scene at the cabin was incredible. I now had close to 10 friends and family at the cabin to support me! I felt the love. After having run so many races by myself with no support, I was eating this up. I felt lucky to have that many people who cared enough to take a day and come watch me run. It can't be much fun, especially when you see me once for 2 minutes then you have to wait 2 and 1/2 hours to see me again. From what I hear though, my crew loved the experience.
Finishing my third loop I knew I was going to finish this race. My body felt like it was getting slow but my mind felt as sharp as a tack. If it was to be true that ultra running was 90% mental, I was just fine. As I went out for loop number four, I knew that I would be picking up my wife, Kristen, for the next loop. The fourth loop was uneventful but I still felt good.
As I was getting close to finishing the fourth loop, I saw a guy who looked like he was about to fall over. He was mumbling and not making any sense at all. He looked like I did many times, in the past, stumbling out of bars. A few of us made sure he was "ok" but he wanted to finish. He was running the 50 and I was amazed at how beat up he looked after running 50. I had another 50 miles to go. I did my best to not think about those dropping out of the race.
I picked up my wife for the fifth loop. I was now half way done with the race and I had the best looking woman in the park running my next loop with me. Kristen and I had a great run together. The only real excitement was when I started to get that funny feeling in my stomach. As I was far from a port o john, it was time to shit in the woods. I had even brought a little toilet paper with me for this type of occasion. As I was heading off the trail to "hide" from other runners, a runner says to Kristen "whatever he's going to do, he's wasting too much energy getting off the trail". I was confused, did he just want me to shit on the road. I laughed at the scene. I gave birth to a Texan and was back on the road.
Kristen ran really well and and was a AWESOME pacer. I dropped her off and picked up my friend, Drew, to take me the next 12.5 miles. Drew and I are friends but have never had that fishing trip or marathon trip that brings men together. This was that opportunity. Drew and I ran great together. We listened to music the whole time and Pearl Jam was helping me get through the toughest part of the race. It was really weird but I was actually having fun. Drew is about as laid back as me so we just straight up knocked off the 12.5. It was just starting to get dark when Drew and I were finishing up our loop. It was time for my brother in law, John, to take me into the night.
John and I are great friends and it was a pleasure to run with him. We slowed down a bit as it was dark and I was starting to feel pretty beat up. Of all the pacers, John had the least running experience. I could tell he was a bit nervous. At one point he said to me "I know running 100 miles is a very big deal for you. I just want you to know that running 12.5 miles is a VERY BIG DEAL to me". That statement alone gave me some perspective and I was proud of John for stepping up and pacing me. With our headlamps ablaze, we ran through the night and it was still beautiful. I was starting to feel a bit emotional as I knew this adventure was winding down. John did great and got me through the toughest part of the race!
As John and I were finishing the loop I knew that I only had one more loop to go. I also knew that my brother, Scott, would be with me. Scott and I have been on so many adventures together. I knew that once I got to Scott, the race was finished. I had a nice surprise as Drew had decided that it's much more fun to run rather than watching so he decided to do the last lap with us too. This was actually going to be Drew's first marathon so I was thrilled to be a part of that. Scott, Drew and I pushed on through the first few miles. I then saw a figure on the side of the road. It was my sweet wife with her headlamp on. She was joining us too. Therefore, I had a group of three running with me on my last loop. I tried to stay in the moment but all I could think about was the finish line. My body started rejecting gu's and such and I just wanted to get this done with.
We ran really well together and had a great night. It was fun to be with these folks. After a couple hours of running in the middle of the night, I looked down at my watch to realize that I had run 99 miles and I had only 1 more to go. I asked my crew if they wouldn't mind leaving me alone till the finish. When they left, I had a very special few minutes. I felt my mothers presence looking down on me. She is the reason I started running in the first place and I felt her spirit as I was finishing the most incredible run of my life. I shed some tears and blew her a kiss like I do at every single race I run. I pulled myself together and realized that I was turning the corner for the last time and the finish line would be there soon.
As I passed the cabin, I got some thunderous applause from the crowd. All my family and friends were at the finish line. I "ran" up the last steps to the finish line. I crossed the timing mat and didn't quite know what to do with myself. My body literally started to run again because that is what I had been doing for the last 21 HOURS and 24 MINUTES. I laughed as I had to tell my body to stop. I was just standing there when someone came up and put a belt buckle in my face. Holy Shit, here was the buckle that I had dreamed of for a long time. I did it! I just stood there crying like a baby. I looked up to see my family and it was almost too much. I was so appreciative of these people who were out in the middle of the woods at 3 in the morning for me!
After, we took a few minutes to soak in the finish and then headed back to the cabin. I literally felt like I was 80 years old. My body pretty much shut down. My brother took care of me, like he always does. He took off my shoes for me and that's when I saw the toe! My big toe on my right foot looked like somebody else's. It was huge and blistered and ugly as hell. I was surprised that it didn't affect me more during the race although I knew that I wasn't going to let anything as small as a bad blister slow me down. Running 100 miles was supposed to hurt.
The next few hours after the race were tough. My hips hurt so much that I couldn't turn over in bed. My toe was so bad that I didn't even want to look at it. I threw up, had the chills, had the sweats, had the upset stomach but MOST IMPORTANTLY, I had the Umstead belt buckle that I had earned.
I will talk more about recovery in my last Umstead post and also share some exciting news with y'all about a future event that's looming, LARGE! I want to finish by saying thank you to my amazing crew. Kristen, Hunter, Scott, Sarah, Jermaine, Reagan, Chip, Katherine, Drew, Julie, Levi, John, Kari, Izzy, Dillon- y'all were such a blessing to me for this race. Thank you, from the pit of my heart, for being a part of that craziness. Till next time!
I finished The Umstead 100 on April 6th and 7th in 21 hours and 24 minutes. That was good enough for 34th place out of 250+ starters and yes, of course, I beat the hot shot!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
My last five years of running led directly to The Umstead 100. I took every baby step known to man before I ran my first 100 including 5k's, 10k's, 15k's, 10 Milers, Half Marathons, Marathons, 50k's, 40 Milers and Double Marathons. On April 6th and 7th of this year, I ran 100 miles at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Event in a time of 21 Hours and 24 Minutes. I've broken down the Umstead race report into three sections. The first will cover training leading up to The Umstead 100. The second report will cover the actual race. The last report will cover recovery and FUTURE PLANS!!!!!
The Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Event in Raleigh, NC sells out every year in far less than one hour. It is one of the hardest races to get into because it is quite possibly the best race in the USA for first timers in the 100 mile distance.
On the day registration opened, I was working at Black Mountain Running Co. I had a plan to close the shop down for a few minutes while I tried to register. Truth be told, when I had my first break from customers, I looked down in horror to see that I was late in getting to the computer. I was literally one minute late and by the time I got to the website, it said that the race was sold out. After throwing out every curse word in the book, I went to The Umstead 100 Facebook page to see if others shared my dissapointment. To my surprise, I saw a post from the race director that said 20 spots might open up in 20 miuntes as some that got through will not finish their registration in the given 20 minutes. Although I felt it was a total long shot at that point, I kept the closed sign on the door for 20 more minutes. At the given time, I tried to get in the system and you will not believe what the screen said..........................Race Sold Out.
After throwing out a few more f bombs, I felt like a failure. Because I have the tenacity of a Bulldog, I tried the Facebook page one more time. I nearly laughed when it said that 3 more spots might be available in another 20 minutes. My guess is that at that point, there were probably hundreds trying to get 3 spots. At the given time, I started hitting the refresh button on the Umstead registration page like I was playing piano. Right as i was beginning to feel sorry for myself, a different sort of screen popped up. When I saw that there was a 20 minute countdown going, I nearly shit myself. I'm fairly certain I got THE LAST SPOT.
I took about five minutes to fill out the registration and blew a kiss to the heavens when I pushed the finalize registration button. The next screen was borderline poetry in my mind. It said CONGRATULATIONS, you're officially registered for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race. I was literally screaming in excitement when I realized, holy shit, i'm going to run 100 miles and if I had ANYTHING to do with it, I was going to run this bitch in less than 24 hours.
It wasn't long after my entry that I started getting a plan in place to train for my first 100. I knew that 50-75 mile weeks would be the norm and I looked forward to putting my body through the necessary paces. I decided that in addition to running one marathon a month, the crux of my training would be 3 ultra marathons back to back to back weekends. I figured if I was to learn how to run tired, this would be the perfect way. I got to the business of siging up for training races for Umstead. I decided on two ultras and one marathon. The Moab Red Hot 55K, The Mt. Mitchell Challenge 40 Miler and The Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate ended up being the races I chose.
Needless to say, the month of February was going to be challenging. The Moab Red Hot 55K was BEAUTIFUL. I ran with my Brother, Scott and we had quite the adventure. When I got to the finish line I silently asked myself if I thought I could run 3 times that amount in two months. My silent answer was a resounding hell yes!
The Mt. Mitchell Challenge 40 Miler was in Black Mountain so I was very familiar with the race course. I felt confident and ready as the gun sounded. It was a great day and the conditions were stellar. I was happy that I was sticking to my plan of "taking it easy" getting up to the summit of Mt. Mitchell and then turning on the burners for the 20 mile downhill finish. The plan worked to perfection and I ended up with a top 20 finish. I felt like it was the best race i'd ever run and i was starting to scratch the surface of my potential.
The following weekend, the conditions were far different at The Asheville Marathon at The Biltmore Estate. It was cold. I wore pants. The race was rather uneventful and it felt like it was going to be a long day. I got into my endurance zone and knocked the race out. I crossed the finish line with my daughter, Hunter on my shoulders somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:45. Really, I didn't much care about the time. I was proud of the effort but even more proud of the fact that I had survived the crux of my training for The Umstead 100. In one month, I was going to be running my first hunj and I felt ready.
I tapered pretty hard for Umstead so the last month of my training consisted of a couple short runs per week. Although it was my first 100, I felt like I could go to Raleigh and compete. Although finishing was my first priority, in the back of my mind, I knew this was a race. As race day approached I knew that I was in a good place. The only thing that would stop me was "bone showing". Even then, I think I would've considered duct tape. Race day was upon me and it was time to get to work.