Thursday, April 9, 2009

Umstead 100 Mile - 4/4/09

I am still on Cloud 9 after this race. I'm not sure where to begin. Last year, I took a 50 Mile finish at Umstead. I had slowed down so much that I could not have finished within the 30-hour cut-off. What a difference a year makes!

It was a 9.5-hour drive to Raleigh, NC, and I woke up Friday morning thinking, "I don't want to go." So I laid in bed, and I tossed and turned, trying to find some motivation to start my next adventure. This was scary. I had not run a step of this 100 mile race, and I was already in trouble mentally. I finally got up, got dressed, and drove to the airport to pick up the rental car.

When I got back home, I proceeded to pack up everything. I almost forgot my pillow and comforter (it would be another cold night sleeping in the car), and I went back into my townhouse to retrieve them. And then I had to make another trip into my townhouse because I almost forgot my CDs. I needed some good music to keep me awake during the long drive there and back. Get it together, girl! My mind was not into this weekend, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong.

The plan was to sleep at the Umstead State Park where the race would take place, but because I had gotten a late start, I arrived at the park after they locked the gates. I was now forced to find a place to sleep. Of all things, I had forgotten to pack my gloves. The temperature would fall into the 40s at night, and there's no way I could survive without gloves. I found a Walgreens, and they had ugly, brown garden gloves, 2 pair for $3 - perfect! I then drove a little further, and there was a Wal-Mart. I did a Jim (CA), parked the car, and settled in for the night. I was only about 15 minutes from Umstead, so this worked out well.

A few minutes after 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, I was parked at Umstead, drop bag in hand, and headed to the lodge to check in and pick up my race packet. We are given the option of a hat or t-shirt, and as I did last year, I chose the hat. Although I took the 50 Mile finish last year, I had not worn the hat, because this race is billed as a 100 Miler. Looking at the race logo, you would never know that a 50 Mile race existed. So I had vowed that I'd wear my hat when I finished the 100 Miler here.

Umstead is a 12.5 mile loop, repeated 8 times. The course is a wide, finely crushed gravel road. The surface is so smooth it's like running on dirt, without any roots. The course is very runnable, even though it's not very flat. Some of the climbs left me breathless, especially in the later loops.

I'm sure I'll forget somebody, but a whole bunch of my running buddies were here: Fred (OH), Frank (MN), Winston (GA), Tom (GA), Chris (GA), Kevin (GA), Scott (GA), Al (GA), Anne (GA), Rosemary (KY), Louise (IL), Amanda (DE), Kim (OH), Tammy (VA), Rob (TN), Susan (TN), Rhonda (NC), Marcia (NC), Don (NC), James and Rebecca (MD), Jim and Sue (VA), Jim (FL), Yen (TX), Russell (CA), and Mark (NC).

We started at 6:00 a.m. with headlamps and flashlights for the next 45 minutes or so. Was I ready for this? It sure didn't feel like it, but it's not like I could turn back now. I took off with everyone else, a slow steady climb up to the airport spur (a relatively short out-n-back section of the course). I talked with Amanda, and then someone comes up behind me, saying that he would know my voice and laughter anywhere. That's not a good thing, is it? It was Mark, whom I'd run with at the Big Butt 50K in SC a couple of times. We ran a little together, before he found his groove and took off. I then caught up with Frank, and we ran the remainder of the first loop together. Frank and I had both DNF'd at RR100 earlier this year, so we were both being cautious, trying to do this one correctly. Unfortunately, the heat got to my friend later on, and he became sick and had to take a 50 Mile finish. You did well, Frank, and congratulations to you!

There are 2 fully stocked aid stations and 4 additional unmanned aid stations per loop. I only stopped at the fully stocked aid stations. There were porta potties at the fully stocked aid station at 6.5 miles into the loop and a real toilet close to the lodge at the start/finish fully stocked aid station. My one drop bag was at the lodge. We could also send out a second drop bag to the aid station at 6.5 miles, but with a 12.5 mile loop, one drop bag was enough for me.

At the end of the first loop, I went to my drop bag, got rid of my headlamp, flashlight, jacket, and gloves. It was starting to warm up. Although I wore tights and a technical long-sleeve shirt, I was comfortable most of the day. Some of the faster women were down to shorts and a running bra, and the faster men were down to just shorts. They made me cold just watching them, lol.

The next 3 loops were a blur. On my 3rd or 4th loop, I saw Don running the loop in reverse. It had been a while since I'd seen him, but Don and I had run several marathons together in the last few years. His son, Brad (NC), is a speedster but was volunteering at the timing table at the start/finish area this weekend, while Don volunteered as a pacer.

My plan was to finish 4 loops (50 miles) in 12 - 12.5 hours. When I finished my 4th loop, I was right on time. I saw Don waiting patiently, and I spoke to him briefly. I was going through my mind what I needed to get from my drop bag (lights, jacket, and gloves). After my drop bag visit and as I was approaching the aid station, Don asked if I would like some company on my next lap. Man . . . would I?! I warned him that I may talk his head off, but he assured me that wasn't a problem because he had 5 sisters. I laughed, assessed the food, and grabbed a slice of cheese pizza. That's what I'm talking about! That had to have been the best cheese pizza I have ever eaten, lol.

I have never had a pacer in any of the races that I've done. Don was my very first, and he was the best thing that could have happened to me for my 5th loop. We talked and talked, ran some downhills, and walked a lot of uphills. I think I would have finished the 5th loop a lot slower if it had not been for Don. With his help, I had added a little more time to the bank. As it gets darker and colder, I inevitably get sleepier and slower, so I need a lot of additional time to account for the slow down. Don, thank you so much for pacing me.

When we finished the 5th loop, I was sad to see Don leave. Most of the runners who took a 50 mile finish were now off the course, and the remaining runners were far and few between. Besides, with the darkness, it was hard to recognize who was still out on the course, even on the out-n-back sections. I would be alone for a long time. I had my water bottle filled, drank some Mountain Dew, had some potato soup (my staple for the remainder of the night), and headed back out onto the course for my 6th loop. I can do this . . . I think, lol.

Within the first few miles of the 6th loop, my buddy Fred caught up to me. Fred is incredible. This would be his 8th 100 Mile finish at Umstead, and his 51st 100 Mile finish overall. He is steady as a rock, and unlike us mere mortals, he does not slow down during the night. We chatted for a couple of miles, but I had started shuffling, and I couldn't keep up with Fred. Darn it . . . he was actually running up the hills, and I didn't even run up the hills when I was still fresh, lol. I watched him get further and further away from me, and I again settled into dragging my a$$ along the loop, lol.

At some point during the night, I had a mild case of hallucinations. I saw several runners coming out of the woods towards me onto the road. I guess they were just ghosts of those runners in the past who DNF'd, lol. When I start hallucinating, all I can think about is daylight. Oh, how I wanted the sun to come up hours before it's time, lol. And it was also cold, and I had to move fairly quickly to stay warm. Every time I stopped for a potty break or at the aid stations for more potato soup, Mountain Dew, and water, I would get cold, start shivering, and start losing it mentally. The trick is to keep moving.

On my 7th loop, after weaving across the course because I was falling asleep on my feet, I took a 10 minute stop at the 6.5 mile aid station. They had a heater, and it felt good to sit and eat my soup in front of it. A volunteer came over to keep me company. I probably looked like death warmed over, but she made no comments to that effect. She asked if she could get me anything else to eat or drink, but at that point, I was tired of eating and drinking. I would finish the soup only because it was warming up my insides. We talked about how cold it was and what time the sun would come up, but I could tell that she really wanted me to get going again. The longer you sit, the greater chance of you quitting. I had to get moving, and she knew it. I looked at my watch, told her I would sit for 2 more minutes, and then I would be on my way. She stood as I sat in front of the heater, both of us silently wishing my body out of the aid station, back out onto the course. I was too out of it to ask the volunteer her name, but I want to thank her for willing me back onto the course.

And just like that, I was back to shuffling and walking, trying to get warm. After a while, I was weaving across the road again. The harder I tried to walk a straight line, the closer the trees were coming toward me, letting me know that I had gone diagonally instead, lol. And I was yawning, hardly keeping my eyes open, and there were those runners coming toward me again from the woods. Why wouldn't they leave me alone in peace, lol?

I finally got back to the start/finish area. The sun was coming up, and the realization that I could walk the last loop, and still make the 30-hour cut-off perked me up a little. I sat with more potato soup, and a volunteer came over and asked if I would like a pacer for my last loop. Yes . . . please! I needed some company terribly!

Julie (NC) was wonderful . . . my second pacer ever, in the same race! Although she was a 5-time Boston Marathon finisher, she seemed perfectly happy to go along at my snail pace, lol. We had such a good time, and she told me lots of stories (just as I had asked her to) and of course, I told her some, too. Although at that point, I'm not sure how much sense I was making. With Julie's help, I was going to make it, but I was tired beyond belief. We tried to shuffle some of the downhills, but after a while, we just power-walked the remainder of the loop. The sun was bright, making it hotter than the day before. Julie and I began stripping gloves and stuffing them in our jackets and tying the jackets and extra shirts around our waists, but we never stopped. We had a 100 Miler to finish very soon.

After 28 hours, 49 minutes, and 53 seconds of running, walking, and shuffling, I finished the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. I received my beautiful buckle and proceeded to hug everyone that was still hanging out at the start/finish area (James and Rebecca, Frank, Tammy, Russell, and Amanda). I then promptly sat my tired a$$ into a chair, lol. Man, did it feel good to sit and not move, lol! Fred came over and told me, "well, it's about time you made it in." We all laughed. Yes, I was slow, but I beat that 30-hour cut-off into the ground, stepped over it, and rolled right along, darn it! I could slowly feel the pain of my RR100 DNF fade away. I felt really good . . tired, but good.

Note: The pictures above were taken from the Umstead website. I still can't format well, so in order of appearance: Rhonda (NC), Yen (TX), Jim (VA), Jim (FL), Chris (GA), Kim (OH), Blake (Race Director), Tyler (NC), Tiger, Tammy (VA), Tiger and the Start, Kevin (GA), Scott and Al (GA), Rosemary (KY), and Mark (NC).

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