Going the distance

Life is like a long distance run. Most of the time you're looking forward, but occasionally you look back at what you've covered… You know there will be obstacles throughout the journey - but deep down, you know you can handle anything that comes your way. Most importantly... you keep putting one foot in front of the other and let 'NOTHING' stand in your way!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Oh the people you meet. Part 2

This weekend after I finished my last pacing lap at Umstead 100 I saw a few friends from Charlotte hanging around the finish line. As I was telling them about my night and the people I had paced, one of them asked "You are here to pace complete strangers? Why? How do you do that? What do you talk to them about?" My canned answer was I just like to give back. But really it goes a bit deeper. 

As I was getting ready my notes and thoughts to write this I decided to read my daily devotional first. God always seems to know each day what I need to hear. Today was about Luke 10:25-37 The parable of the good Samaritan. Where Jesus teaches us not "Who is my neighbor?" but, "To whom can I be a neighbor?" 

Truth is I had 10-15 friends running the race this year and I could have offered to crew and pace for them. We could have pre planned their laps, paces, nutrition, coordinated what tho have ready after each lap. Jumped in and ran the last 50 miles with them. Gave them motivational speeches, chatted about common interest, etc... There is nothing wrong with this scenario.Dozens of runners have this crew set up and ready for them. 

However there are just as many who fly in from out of state, or don't have enough friends that can break away from their own family life and commitments. So Umstead 100 has a back up plan in place. A army of volunteer pacers who are willing to give up a few hours on a weekend and blindly and randomly take out a lonely runner who is exhausted, dehydrated, sore, blistered, chafed, etc... for a 12.5 mile lap around the park. Most of the laps covered will be in the dark with temperatures dropping, possible rain or windy conditions. A lap could be as fast as 2 hours our as slow as 6 hours. You could be walking or running. There are so many variable unknowns that can happen? 

Why do we do it? For some like me its a chance to give back to the race what someone did for me in 2013 when I ran my first 100 miles. For others its just a chance to help out at a fun event. To see someone complete the event of a lifetime. To be part of something so big many don't even know it's possible. 

So here is my 2016 Umstead 100 experience. 

Race Day: I'm packing up so I can make the 2.5 hour drive to the Umstead State Park . My phone rings and its Elizabeth the pace coordinator. She knows I'm willing to get there early and go out with a runner before 6 pm ( the official pacer start time)   I told her I would be there by 2 and she asked if I would be on the look out for Whitney who had made request for pacer help for lap 7 and 8   and was trying to be competitive. I let he know I would be ready 2:30 if needed. 

I made the 2.5 hour drive to Raleigh with the help of a Dunkin Donuts XL coffee and a turbo shot.  As I'm driving into camp Lapiho I see Amy Sureete volunteering and directing traffic. She directed me to where pacers were parking and then I headed to race headquarters and checked in with Rebecca Sitton who always has a smile even at 4 am after being awake for 30 some hours. (Must be something in her coffee cup) I make my round of hellos, hand shakes and hugs. Ben ( the pankake man) Tim Preeble, The massage lady Denise, Gene Mead, Amy Surrette,  Tom Patch and Steve Grace are there to Pace Jessica. Bill Weimer came through on his way to a 50 mile day. Joe Speed Demon came through on his way to a 50 mile day.  Mark Manz , Sarah Ferris and then Stephanie Carter. I sat down and eat get my pack ready keep looking and waiting, No Whitney? I text Elizabeth and she lets me know there may be a issue and she is out of the race. So i just hang out waiting for us to open the table to runners. Shaking hands and talking with more familiar faces Jonathan Savage who couldn't run this year drove up to do the second worst volunteer job there is BLISTERS. It takes a special person to work on feet of 100 mile runners. 

Finally  at about 4:30? Elizabeth says "yes I have someone for you!" Then tells me grab my pack and go catch her. 

Turns out its Whitney and shes back in it. We do a brief introduction on the fly and we are off and running. I find out she wants to keep pushing as long as she can stay hydrated. She thinks shes in second but not sure at this point. We discussed her finish goal time ( 17 hours but it's looking more like 18 after the breakdown)  I told her to yell at me if  pushed  the pace to hard. We talked about other races and what motivates us to run 100 miles. This was her second 100 her first was Long Haul 100 in FL 2013 We  talked about our families.  On the hills she would point out a tree and we would walk after reaching it, then pick up the pace after it leveled off. Down hills were wide open. Just before AS2 her mom was on the trail and ran with us for a bit. Then her husband was waiting for her at the top of the hill. I asked what she needed from the AS so I could run ahead and get it? I had her hand off her pack so I could run ahead and  get it filled with ice for her. We made a smooth pass through the AS with out losing any time. We started into the back side of the course. We were passing people and moving quick. We passed Jeff McGonnell a Ultra running legend in my book. He wanted to chat but saw I was pacing and understood I had to keep moving. I told Whitney how impressed I was that he had done the Mt Mitchell Challenge so many times ( My facts on elevation were a little off on  The Challenge is this: Begin at dawn in Black Mountain, the quaint "front porch of Western North Carolina", and follow trails to the "rooftop" of Western North Carolina, the 6,684' summit of Mount Mitchell - eastern America's highest point - then return to the start/finish area!  With a starting altitude of 2,360', the elevation gain for this 40-mile run will be 4,324' - in the first 20 miles!) but trying to remember that and keep pace wasn't working for me? As we passed others I shared tidbits about them as well Like Ray K and how long he has been running ultras Somewhere over 500 ultras? He once held the 48 hour record. . We passed "The MadMan" Ian Maddison who I had paced 3 years ago at age 72 and he was back again for another 100. This was his 3rd Umstead but he's been running 100s since the 80's. I was really impressed with his 10+ sub 24s at Western States. Before we knew it we were running past the gate and back to the race headquarters. I took her pack again and ran ahead to get her more ice and water let Elizabeth know we needed another pacer. I wished her good luck and she was off. I was wore out. doing the lap in just over 2 hours. Whitney ended up finishing in 17:13

I sat down and changed my shirt. I checked my lights and asked when my next shift was? Elizabeth said how about now? Introducing me to Erin's husband who explained that she was in 3rd place and wanted to get a sub 3 hour lap? I grabbed some water and a quick snack, a few pieces of candy and we were off and walking out. We chatted and walked to the gate. She said she wanted to run as much as possible but was sore. I couldn't tell her how sore I was from just coming in. So we discussed how we became crazy enough to run 100's.What inspired us to do this? She told me reading Ultra Marathon man had a big part. I admitted the book had inspired me as well.  She was already a Iron man finisher and knew this was possible. On the way to the airport turn we saw a lot of runners  I knew and gave the high 5's and you look greats, Way to GO! Keep It up! Hey Its Curious George! Not sure what she thought that i knew so many of the runners, If I had a back story on someone who was doing something big I would share it. DOOM Fred Dumar running his 10th Umstead going for his 1000 mile buckle, Mitchell Harra from Charlotte out running his first.  It was crazy how I knew so many people at this event. We continued to into the dark. The wind would cut through us on occasion but we stayed comfortable. After AS2 we started to power walk the big hills we were on track to do a 2:20 lap. Somewhere on the back side running was getting harder for her so we pushed a 14 min walk pace. I'm not sure but I think I was moving too far ahead of her when she informed me how anoyingly reflective my Altras were. So I made sure to keep along side of her as much as I could. At one point another group came up on us and we're passing I thought it was her with me until I looked over and realized I was with two runners. As we passed mile 10 I asked if I could get her something at the unmanned  AS  and when I stopped she started running again. I had to sprint to catch her. Coming up the final hill she was running again. We came up on Rachel Dubois and David Salomon ( The Ambassador) Who at that point I couldn't remember his name. Rachel rambled off a quote I had posted a few years ago and told me how often she repeated it it in her head to help finish races. "Its all about the 10 feet in front of you. If you can make it there you can go any distance" She said it was posted on her motivation board, and reminded me how what you  say can impact people. (Thanks for the reminder) They told Erin how great she was doing and we pushed past them.  We kind of joked about the obligatory Way to go and your almost there people throw out to motivate you. Before we knew it we were through the gate and on our way to the turn around for her to go out on lap 8. I handed her off to her husband and wished her good  luck and the obligatory "you can do it" We finished the lap in 2:44, a sub 3 hour like she wanted. 

Elizabeth thanked me and told me to eat and get some sleep. I had until 1 before she needed me. I grazed the buffet and drank about a gallon of ginger ale some chicken and soup. Then chatted with Mr Runners Anonymous Scott Lynch, then Mark Manz joined in. I'm still kicking myself for not getting a 3 stooges pic with these two?  I finally decided I better get some sleep or she would send me out again. I saw my friend Ian requesting someone to walk a lap with but I was way to wore out and would have been no good to him. I packed up my gear and went to the van for some sleep. 

I reported back in at 1 and they said I was good to go until 3. So I ate some more food and went back for more sleep. 

I reported back in at 3:15 and see Elizabeth has taken a runner who needs help. So I go inside and started getting my cold gear on. Big Mike? monitoring the results desk is laughing at me. You put on more stuff than my wife? Long sleeve shirt, wind jacket, Salomon Vest, long pants over my shorts, and a down jacket over everything. 

Waiting for a runner I talk with Finian Curran who made the drive up from Charlotte  to help pace. Then I see Jeff McGonnell in a chair and he asked me to set a 5 min timer so he can sleep. Just about time to be done they tell me I have my runner so  I let Jeff know its time to go.  Now they lost my runner and can't  find her? Finally the coordinator come out and says never mind, she may be done. Shes mad, needs blisters treated and wont be going for a while. Then just after 4 a volunteer comes up and says shes not a pacer but just walked a guy in from AS2 and he needs a lap 8 pacer. 

So I get Jay, He hasn't been able to eat anything and cant drink. Hes mumbling some of his words, but hes determined  enough to finish this. So we stop at his car and get him a dry shirt and a wind jacket, and we head off into the darkness. The dark is always fun everyone's headlamps make them look like monsters, then you get three together and with some of the new lights its like a flood light. Jay tries to run but at this point his jog is equaling my fast walk. We talk of other races and and the park, Turns out hes a local from Wake forest. We just keep pushing into the 10 feet in front of our head lamps. Just before our first long hill stop to pee he keeps going. When I turn back to the trail hes gone?! What The... I LOST MY RUNNER?!?!?  He had been walking on the side of the trail. Did he fall over and roll down the hill? I start shinning my light up the trail on the side into the woods. Then I find him he is hugging a tree so he didn't fall over while he peed . Whew!   How was I going to explain that one?  

We started moving again I tried to get him some candy or something with calories. Each time he would sip water it made him start to gag and heave. We were at mile 5 of 12.5 he kept trying to jog but just the motion of it would make him sick again. I tried to keep his mind off the pain and get him talking. If we could just keep pushing forward, I knew he could finish. He knew he could finish, it was just gunna hurt to do it.  We started passing others who were having similar issues. Soon we made it to AS2 the clock read 00:00:05 so we were right at 6 am  I asked if he needed or wanted anything? He just wanted to keep moving and roll through. I stopped and put together  a bag with some bagels and chips a handful of honey stingers, a banana for me. At his pace it didn't take long to catch up.   

As we slogged up the hills on the back half the he began to get a little energy to jog. We were still passing others. Once in a while someone would pass us. We passed Elizabeht who had taken on a runner. They were walking backwards down the hill because his legs hurt so bad.  The sun began to rise and it gave him more energy and hope. We made it to the unmanned aid at mile 10 and made the turn for home. It was easier to talk now and I had him talking about his kids and their accomplishments, How he likes to play speed golf.  This gave him more energy but not enough to run. Seeing people heading out on lap 8 was heartbreaking knowing they would be pushing the clock to finish before noon. 

We made the gate and he asked me to put his headlamp and water bottle in his car when we passed it. He wanted me to grab his finish bag he had ready as well. I ran a bit ahead, made the swap and we made the final push up the steps. Murray,Jay finished in 25:40. Our lap took 3:40. I checked into the desk and let them know I was willing to take one more if someone needed help. Unfortunately we were 15 min away from the 8 am cut off. 

Since I didn't pick up another runner, I changed into some warm clothing and had some breakfast. And hung out at the finish line watching and cheering  as finishes made their way in. 

Jeff McGonnell in 26:00 

Jessica Willey in 26:19 who had brought a amazing crew of Tom Patch and Tin Ha with her. She had doubts about the distance and was ready to call it at 50. But her crew wouldn't have it. 

Fred Dummar 26:54 finishing his 10th Umstead 100 and earning his 1000 mile buckle. 

Some others friends I was unable to stick around for: 

Steph Jeffries in 27:14
Ian Maddison in 27:30
George Wannop in 28:48
Mitchell Harrah in 29:08
Rachel DuBois in 29:30

I had thought about going out to push or pull in some other runners. But as I was packing up I received a text from work and If I could make it back I was needed to work. So I packed up, said my goodbyes and headed home. Another weekend at U-100 done for me. 

In closing I am inspired and encouraged each year by the will of every runner to cross that finish line. From Jason Tischer this years male winner at 15:30 and the first female Leigh Jackson at 15:41 all the way to the last determined finisher Cynthia Wong-Klinek at 29:46 

They all had the courage to start and the determination to finish. 

To the dedicated army of volunteers that put this event on each year under the direction of Rhonda Hampton you are what makes this race such a world class event. I am humbled to be asked each year to be a part of it. Thank you to Elizabeth Werner for organizing a great group of pacers to help these runners accomplish this tremendous goal of running 100 miles. 

Side notes.

So you picked out your own crew and pacers? Did you fully vet them? Do they know what it takes to run 100 miles? Is it your half marathon buddy that says I can get you through 12.5 miles? Will they get in your way and use the event to make new friends? How well do they know you? You know them? Are  they family that will play to your suffering and recommend you quit when you only need new socks 15 min of sleep and a red bull? 

The reason I ask is I've seen and heard horror stories about pacers and crews. 

So I'm not saying go to a race and fully expect them to have a support crew for you. However if you come to Umstead 100 there will be a group dedicated to taking care of the runners who wish to have some assistance. We will do anything but carry you across the finish line. We will mule your gear, monitor your wellness, get you water and food, talk with you motivate you, shut up if you want us to. We are there for you, All we hope is you keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it back to the start finish line.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Dryer.

Out of a need for a place to dry my shoes and gear. I decided to build my own custom drying rack. Something portable but sturdy. I have made a few of these for friends but don't feel there is a big market for them. So my Christmas present to the masses is this simple plan.

Many of you have requested the plans or to buy one. Honestly for a few bucks at Lowe's you can build your own. I made mine based on my size. Using my torso length of 21" as a guide and a 12" shoe.

Materials to start with are:

1-10' piece of PVC
1-5'   piece of PVC

7- T's
6- L's
5- caps (optional)

Lowe's or Home Depot will have everything you need. If don't have a saw. You could ask nice and probably find a associate to cut the pieces in store for you. I used 3/4" pipe I felt 1/2" was not sturdy enough.

Cuts are as follows:

2  @ 21"  ( B-C)
2  @ 7"    ( A-B)
4  @ 11"   (  E  )
4  @5 "     (A)  ( C-D)
2  @7"      ( E-E)
4  @ 3"      ( D-E)

Start buy building the top frame in the pictures I have labeled "A" as the starting point building down to the base.

Start with a T as the center and attach a 7" A-B to each side and a 5" A out the top.

Add a B elbow (L) on each end'

Connect a 21"  B-C to the bottom of each elbow.

Now build the base.

Start buy laying out the T's and L's

First assemble the E 12" sections these will be the shoe post. And the E 7" spacer.

Next assemble the 4, 3" D-E pieces between the T and L. D this for both sides.

Now you should have 4, 5" pieces C-D connect these to the remaining T's. Finish off the base by connecting the the remaining corners D.

Now turn and adjust and tighten the base.

Finish by adding the top uprights. Now you are ready to keep your gear dry and organized.

I do not have mine glued together. However you can use PVC cement to attach everything together. There are also PVC paints available on the market if basic white is not your style.

I have set this up on a wire shelf in the summer with a old fan blowing upwards to speed dry times.

PVC can be cut with a tubing cutter or any standard saw.  Or you can sweet talk a plumbing guy at Lowe's to make the cuts for you.

Want me to build it?  $25.00 + shipping. But you can do it for about $15.00

Monday, April 14, 2014

Oh the people you'll meet

This past weekend was the Umstead 100 mile endurance run. A event of this magnitude could not survive with out volunteers. So when the email came out requesting help I signed up to be a pacer.

Pacing a 100 is much different than pacing a marathon. A marathon you hold a steady pace for the entire race. In a Ultra your pace becomes determined by the condition of the runner. So you may be running or walking  possibly a combination of both. You could be a mule and carry the runners water bottles. You need to be part babysitter, best friend, entertainer, or worst case a medic.

I used a volunteer pacer last year for my first 100 and knew how important this position is. I agreed to pace two laps. 9 pm and 4 am

On Saturday morning I had a 5k to run.  Not in my original plan, but I had won the entry and decided why not. It had been a long time since I ran one.  When I arrived at the race I decided I might as well race it and see how fast I can go. 22:41 and 12th over all. Not bad for someone who slacks off on speed work.

I won 2nd in my age group, so I decided to hang around for the awards.

But enough of that this report is not about me.

About 11:00 it was finally time to get on the road. I arrived at the park around 1:30 found a parking spot and made my way to the HQ building.

I ran into many old friends and watched the runners come in. As I rounded the side of the main building I saw Charles West. We shook hands and I asked where I could check in to pace. Finding out I was there to pace he asked if I would be able to pace the second place female? She was coming in for lap 5, and was ready for a pacer.

He quickly introduced me to Jeff her crew member. I said I could do it but my shoes were still in the car. We decided he would go out for lap 5 and I would take lap 6. This would give me me time to get ready.

I went to the car and grabbed my bag, shoes and my chair.  Then returned to check in. I set up my chair and checked into the volunteer table. Rebecca had me pick out my volunteer gift. I went with the red hooded sweatshirt.I really didn't need a gift but thank you.

When I came back out I found Frank Lilly sitting in my chair. He told me how comfortable it was and I should think about buying one. I laughed and told him I had sat the last two hours. I didn't need to sit.

I was too busy working myself up getting nervous. I asked Charles you sure you want to put a top runner in my hands? He reassured me Id be fine.


Before I knew it Jeff was back and filling up a ice pack and getting things from Traci's bag.  And we were off. I took her water bottle and introduced myself. I could see she was focused on getting this race done. She quickly questioned If I had ever done a ultra. I let her know I had done this race and several others.
From there the chat was a minimal other than her asking for water. She informed me her plan for the hills. I stuck with her and followed her lead. run 20 walk 20. At mile 4  I started to question he water needs? Did she have enough or could I refill at the water drop coming up.  As we approached the water she said to fill I ran a head to do this so she could pass with out stopping. After filling her bottle and mine it took me forever to catch her.

We continued on until mile 6 when I asked what I could do for her at AS 2. Just fill the bottle while she used the restroom. She cave me a powder formula to add to the water. As we passed the butt tree I ran full speed ahead into AS2 to refill as quick as possible. I was ready when she finished her pit stop.

The second half was uneventful we kept a steady pace. When we made the turn att he gate I asked what she needed from the turn. She just asked that Jeff pace her next lap. I sped ahead to let them know we were back and to get Jeff ready to go. I passed Jonathan Savage as he was heading out. I alerted Jeff and Charles we were back and refilled her bottle. Passed it off to Jeff and they were off for the next lap.

I had done my job a 1:58 lap to keep her on pace. It was awesome to run with a elite runner.

The Wait

I grazed the food table and found a spot to set up with the group  from Charlotte who had drove up to pace. I set my alarm for 8:15 and sat down to sleep. However I just kept talking and eating. Before I knew it my alarm was going off . Guess I didn't need a nap yet.


Elizabeth told me I would get the next runner. While waiting I chatted with Gene and Amy. I felt a kick in the butt and  turned to have Elizabeth tell me I had my runner.

Sarah a 30 something first time 100 miler. She asked me to hold her coffee and we began to walk out. She kissed her boyfriend and we were off to make a stop for warm clothing and a bathroom break. She changed tops and downed her coffee. She stuffed her pack pockets with GU and food. From there we started a steady run through the gate. On the airport spur we began a walk run plan. I told her to let me know what she needed.

We walked the up and ran the downs.Talked about races, shoes, Born to run. I shred my night running philosophy to her. Only focus on the 10 feet in your light. If you can make it that far keep going.

We cheered and danced to every mile marker. Before we knew it we were coming into AS2. She picked up some soup and we were off.

Up and down the hills. She was afraid off falling off the trail so I tried to keep her in the middle of the trail. The moon and stars were lighting the trail well. Around mile 11 We turned out our lights and walked through the dark for a while. Taking in the night sky.

As we made the turn i took her pack to refill it and left her at the runners bathrooms. I handed her pack to a volunteer and let the coordinator know we needed another pacer. As I passed her off I let the next pacer know about her positive attitude and how she was moving.

My second shift was done a 3:02 lap. I had gone  my many miles it was time to sleep.

I picked my sleeping bag and a blanket from the car, settled into my chair near the turn and just outside the lights. Set my I pod alarm and pulled my buff over my eyes. This was good for about a hour then the temperature  started to drop. I decided to find a bench in the lodge. I moved in along the wall as close to the fire as I could get while staying out of the way. Jim Wei was doing a awesome job keeping the lodge warm with a roaring fire.

I woke up around 3:15 as planned. Prepped for a cold walk if needed, and found some food. I checked in with the pace table to let them know I was ready. He warned me he still had 3 am pacers in front of me waiting for runners.

I went back in the lodge and sat at the on deck bench for pacers. I had 3 in front of me. We talked and watched runners come in with their sub 24 buckles. We took pictures for some and grabbed blankets for others. A few came in at their lap turn ready to give up. Going through  emotional low or just needing some rest and warmth.

Beth McCurdy and Kelly Wells came in. Beth was clearly done. She finished but said she had a rough day. I think I heard her say "I'm done with ultras." It reminded me of waking up with a hangover and saying I'm done with drinking.

As other runners came in either finishing or making the turn.  I started thinking about who I would get. Would it be the runner still holding a strong pace, or one who was going through a low and needed someone to hold them up and walk a lap.

Finally at 5 there was one pacer ahead of me. I was getting excited to go. Whoever I would get was going to get the benefit of the sunrise.

A pacer came in with his runner and reported a seeing a older man weaving on the trail and yelling loudly. We were kinda worried if the runner was OK. Then  Ray K was the nest runner in. I assured the pacer it was fine.

They called my name and said I was up. I turned to meet a older man with a white beard.


I introduced myself and asked what I could do for him or get him? He said I hope you are ready to walk a lot. I reassured him I was there for whatever h wanted to do. He asked for something to numb the soreness in his quads. I had some spray "Arctic Freeze"  in the car. So I left him at the runners bathroom and picked up the spray from my car. I sprayed his quads down and threw the bottle in my pack. Just in case.

We started moving t a steady pace. I started to question him on his running experience. I found out he had lost track of how many 100 he had done. Over 30 he thought. (35 as of this one) He started doing ultras around 1982, Has ran Western States several times.

On the airport spur we passed Ray K and his pacer. I made some comments to Ray about never hearing him sing. That changed rather quick. I was feeling sorry for the girl who was pacing him. Ray seemed to get louder with each step. Ian and I picked up our pace and made some distance on Ray.

Our topics of conversation bounced around from Ultra running to computers, urban planning, the environment, disaster preparation, our  jobs and family's. I found out he is a semi retired professor from UC Berkeley.

He told me how he was having issues with the tendons in his feet. Causing the feet to shrink and pulling the toes downward. A pending surgery to fix this issue could never fully recover. The new shoes helped him get some relief from the stress.

Before we knew it we were approaching the butt tree. I took his water bottle and  ran down the hill into AS2. I filled his bottle and he went for his drop bag. He asked for some soup then took off his flashlights from his fanny pack belt. I sprayed down his quads again, and we were off.

We fell back into our mixed conversations. At the Frost quote "many miles to go before I sleep."  I said I was more of Seuss fan .during my long runs.  "Oh the places you'll go." "Oh the people you'll meet."

We talked about how my church was using social media to make the gospel relevant to today's youth. How The Sermon on the mount would have looked as tweets.

I questioned how Hemingway would have handled twitter?  Probably would have added to his madness.

 We fell back into a discussion about Ultra running. I asked him about the changes he had seen in gear and runners over the years. I asked if he wore his belt buckles or showcased them. He told me about his 10 sub 24 finish buckles are in a big frame.  10! Sub 24's at WS. This guy is my new hero. Toeing the line on a 100 at 71 years old. Amazing!

He told me he was working with a runner who was training runners 60+. The muscles react different and need this coach is going through some of the same issues he is. I asked how long he planned to do 100's? He didn't have a goal of how many more. It depends on how his body recovers. But he will continue as long as his body allows.

We made it through the power line and had to manage pass some other runners. The morning running groups were starting to pass us. A few bikes zipped past. We heard a lot of good jobs and keep going from passer buys. We didn't see many of the racers or crews still on the course.

As we headed down the steps Ian's wife came out to greet us. She thanked me for being his pacer. She handed him a stuffed moose That held a small sign that read the "Wild Man". I'm guessing he crosses all his finish lines holding this.

Sarah that I had paced overnight was sitting with her family and cheered us in. She let me know she had finished and thanked me.

We neared the pacer cut out and I thanked Ian for the time together and it was a honor to meet him. He told me it was a pleasure and he was honored to have me be his pacer.

I met them on the other side of the finish and recommended she take him in and get warm. I told them the pancakes and french toast were awesome. His wife had him from here and my job was done.We did a 3:48 lap. Not bad for walking the whole lap.

"Oh the people you meet"  For the next couple hours as I ate some breakfast and cheered in runners I reflected on my experience at Umstead. It certainly gave me more perspective on the race. Being on the outside looking in. Seeing it from three different angles, changed my whole experience of this event.

While eating breakfast I over heard another runner say to his volunteer pacer, " I don't know what they paid you guys to pace but its not enough."

I cheered in some more runners, and talked with some friends who paced or had finished the race. About noon I finally packed up my chair, my paddle ball and my remote. I packed up the car, hugged some old friends and drove to the main parking lot of the state park to get some sleep before driving home.

 A event of this size relies solely on the efforts of the army of volunteers. I was honored to be in that army this year.

Contrary to popular belief this world is made up  99.9% of others. It felt good to be selfless for the day and help "others" reach their goals. Looking back I had even managed to hide from the camera lens. This race was not about me.

Great job to all who had the courage to start ,  the will to preserve and the heart to endure.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why do "Half" of anything?

I have never done a "Half" marathon because of a stupid thing I read once on why a full was better than a half. The logic was why do half of anything? Then I here people say things like, I'm "ONLY" doing the half.

So rewind back to New Years eve 2012. I set a resolution to do a official 13.1 race in honor of the 2013 year. So on New Years day 2013 I started of the year with a rainy 13.1 mile run.

Fast forward past the Sultan 50k, Columbia Marathon, Umstead 100, 12 hours of independence, Hinson lake 24 hour (100). Now October and I still have not even looked at a half marathon.

Monday October, 7th. I'm wasting time on Facebook and see a question from Greenapple Sports and Wellness. First two to answer a question win entry into the Rock-tober Fest half marathon. I won.

Race Day

Shoe decision was going to be a start line decision, settled because I only had one pair in the van. Hokas. Not exactly a speedy shoe.

I get to the race and pick up my Greenapple shirt. Then had to make my way to the Porta jon. I made it out with 3 min to the start. I pushed my way along the outside to get as close to the front as I can, and were off.

I don't put to much work into being fast. But never having done a half marathon my first would have to be a go big or go home effort. I set my sights on 1:45.

Pre said "The only pace is a suicide pace..." So I had to go for it. If I crashed and burned I would crash and burn. Everyone always says don't go out too fast. Since when do I listen to anyone?
1 7:31.3 1.00 7:31
2 7:40.9 1.00 7:41
I felt great for only being two weeks after my 100 mile finish. I started passing people and moving forward.

The first water station was not maned well. I held up 2 fingers to indicate I wanted 2 waters and had to grab for my second one. As I did I took the cup intended for the guy right behind me. I apologized and handed him the cup.

3 7:48.1 1.00 7:48
4 7:40.1 1.00 7:40
5 7:53.9 1.00 7:54
6 7:55.4 1.00 7:56
7 7:49.5 1.00 7:50
I kept pace along Josh James. He kept trying to talk but I was concerned with holding my pace. At that point I didn't know if I could hold it. And the music was keeping me moving.

Then my my hip flexor got cranky about mile 7. That is also when the hills started.
8 8:11.5 1.00 8:12
9 8:17.5 1.00 8:18

Then Josh took off past me. Then someone else passed me, and another, and another.
10 8:02.5 1.00 8:03
11 8:18.3 1.00 8:18
12 8:05.9 1.00 8:06

The finish was set up so you could see it from a long way out. With a little help from Metallica, I put the hammer back down. I pushed through the finish with everything I had left. had.
13 7:56.2 1.00 7:56
14 1:24.9 0.19 7:28

1:44:18 Just under my goal. I was ecstatic.

One lesson I learned after the finish was... Let someone else bend over and get the Gatorade for you. I held my own but definitely saw stars. I hit the free ART treatment from Greenapple. Then picked up some SWAG.

Will I do another? I don't know. But now it's done. It is a respectable distance with a dumb name. I think it is a great goal distance to train for. And will encourage people to do one.

Five weeks until I pace at Thunder Road Marathon. I better make a plan and get training.

Thanks to Scott Greenapple for setting me up with the entry.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A little less conversation...

Going into this years Hinson Lake Ultra Classic I decided it was time to focus. If I wanted 100 miles, I would need to simply shut up and run.
I camped at the Lake on Friday night. Staying in my van with no air mattress and a warm sleeping bag could have been worse, but I survived.
Pre race I mingled and got my stuff together. I packed as light as I could for a event like this. I had a box of Roctane energy GU 4 gallons of Nuun, and 3 pre filled bottles. I had a box full of medical supplies, tape, bio-freeze, sunblock, baby-wipes, ect...
Five minutes to the start I confirmed my goal of 100 miles, removed my hearing aids and started weaving my way to the bridge.
Jerry the RD was giving some pre race instructions... Wait!? Did he just say belt buckle for hundred mile finishers?

My focus just became a bit tighter.

I managed to push my way to the start line and line up with the elite runners. Savage and Bobby Cordell, Bobby asked me my plan. I told him my goal was to not think about it. I was here to run, and thinking would get in my way. And the horn went off. I went way to fast on the first lap at a 8:32 pace.

After crossing the bridge there was some initial confusion on who my lap counter was. I made sure someone documented my lap then continued on. Every lap through the day I tried to get confirmation my lap was counted. A few times I had to get the attention of some of the younger volunteers. When they changed shifts I tried to get their names and introduce who I was to them and thank them for helping count laps.

By lap 5 or so I found my grove and started sticking to a strict plan of walk the dam, walk the big bridge and up Mt. Hinson. Late in the day I decided running the bridge and walking up the hill to the turn and descending Mt. Hinson by running was better.

The day rolled on well, I stuck to my plan. Smiled for the camera, thanked the volunteers. Gave some high 5's and fist bumps. Hey wait that volunteer chatting with Jerry is Jason and his lovely wife Katie just handed me a drink. Cool they made it. But instead of stopping to chat I kept going.

But kept focus on the goal. I wanted to have 50 in before 6 pm. it was important to have 14 hours to get the back half of this done. I had watched Bobby Cordell and Jonathan Savage crash hard during the afternoon laps. I just prayed I could keep my pace up.

I have no Idea when Derrick arrived, but he was a welcome help. He was able to do a few laps here and there. His son Jake (10) was helping me keep pace but no way I still had his energy.

Side note: I have to really thank the Lashway family for their support the last 3 years at the lake. Derrick and his kids have been awesome in pacing, cheerleading and volunteering at the race. I never asked him for help this year but they took time to drive out on their own.

Miles 50-70 got a bit shaky and slow. I took a time out to get a 15 min massage before I needed it. My Garmin died so I had to set up a charger for it. I took a break to eat some solid food. Sent a few text. Chatted a bit and put on a shirt.

Around 10 PM I had slowed to 2 laps per hour and my right quad was getting tight. I took some Tylenol and bio-feezed the muscle. Derrick came out with me and we walked a lap. He tried to get me running again, but it was short burst. I started to do some math if I could finish in time with this pace. Then we did a second lap. At the first bridge I put my music back in and told him run the wood. We ran each wooden bridge until the the Hill, Then at the down hill I kept going. We made it back around and after I checked in on my lap Derrick was sucking wind and said GO! I can't keep up with that.

I picked up my now charged Garmin and cleared the first part of the run. Reset it to zero and I was off. I had to stay in the 12 min mile range to make this happen. 3 laps per hour. I really trained well for this part of the run doing numerous solo dark runs to prepare. I started lapping people overnight. I was wondering if they got tired of seeing me pass.

From that point on I only stopped to check in and get some cheers as I walked the dam. Charles, Jerry, Kelly and Derrick were there every lap. Cheering me on. The clear view of the night sky was perfect, it would be easy to sit and hang out for a while.

By the time I made 56 laps I started counting backwards on how many to go. After checking in on each lap my phrase was, "And there were 10, 9 , 8, 7,..."

As I came past the table around 5 am I finally made it on the leader board. I yelled out a loud YES! I didn't care if I woke anyone up.

With four laps to go I told Derrick I wanted him to come with me on my final lap. As I reached the end of the dam it happened. My I pod died. I remembered there was someone charging theirs on the porch. So I walked past back to the lodge and hijacked their plug. I put in my ears and slowly made my way back for a lap with out music.

As I passed people I heard some great jobs and words of encouragement. It made me wonder how many of those I missed through the day by being plugged in.

Now with 3 laps to go i picked up my I-pod hoping I had enough charge to finish. I found my 5k speed play list and blasted "Stone cold crazy" to push me through. My last mile was at a 12:19 pace. 22:05 on the clock as I crossed the bridge. 100. miles

I could have added some more miles to my total but was happy with my "HUNDO"

I hung out at the finish watching the sunrise and catching up with friends I had missed over the day. It was fun to watch the energy level pic up of those who had slept and wanted to get in just one more lap. I walked my banana to the end of the dam and walked back.

My Elvis Plan of , A little less conversation, certainly brought me plenty of satisfaction.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Umstead 100 Endurance Run

First before I start the story I have to thank those who helped make it happen.

God, because He makes all things possible happen. Giving me the drive, desire and determination to attempt and complete this event.

Viki, my wife: For putting up with me being gone long hours on runs, for getting up in the middle of the night to run, for putting up with all my emotions, and crazy dreams. For cheering me on and reassuring me whenever I let doubt set in.

Paisley, my daughter: For being my biggest cheerleader. Always knowing I could do it. For putting up with me being gone long hours on runs, for getting up in the middle of the night to run, for putting up with all my emotions, and crazy dreams. For putting cards in my drop bag to read every lap. ( More on this later.)

Vince Smith, for having the courage to say I’m signing up and giving me a training partner to go through this with. For listening to my life ramblings on our long runs. For listening to my corny jokes. For sharing details and information he learned. For Driving to Umstead in December and learning the course, and for signing up for a 50k in January with a bunch of crazy trail runners. Having someone to share this experience with as a rookie was priceless.

Jonathan Savage, for slowing down on his long runs to teach and give advice. For sharing all the information he gathers on his wiki. For taking us on a tour of the course and teaching us what to expect. Responding to every question I had. And for reassuring me I could do this. On race weekend for making sure my drop bags were organized, checking with me every time we passed. Making sure I slowed down, and reassuring me I had plenty of time. For working on my ugly feet at mile 87.5 and getting me blankets to warm up before I went back out. For being at the finish line when I came in and ushering me into the lodge in front of the fire and getting me anything I needed. And for driving Vince and I back to Charlotte.

Jason Rose, who committed to pace me months ago when his wife was planning to pace another runner. And even after Katie had to drop out he still made the 2 hour drive to pace me for 25 miles of hell. Keeping me on track while I marched along at a 19 min mile pace. Making sure I was drinking and ate food. Being right with me up to the final push into the finish line.

Denise Martin, For being a saint of massage therapy. Spending long hours giving massages to stinky dirty ultra runners and keeping us going.

Charles West, and Charles Akers for answering my stupid questions on Fb and for telling me how I would rock this. For getting me what I needed at the aid stations and pointing me back on the course. For treating me like a rock star every time they saw me.

Rebecca Sitton, who also made sure I didn’t go without anything and for communicating with my family on how I was doing. For posting awesome FB pics. For cheering me on every time she saw me.

For my crazy inspiration Ultra running friends. Who have shared their experiences and give inspiration every day Chad Randolph, John Gordon,Kelly Wells, Mark Connolly, Mike Morton, (Julius) Sung Ho Choi, Bobby Cordell, Amy Surrette. The Sutcliffe family, The MTC, Jamie McDonald, Bill Weimer, Frank Lilly , The Sultan, Vladimir Dropa, and many more.

Charlie Engle for these words of encouragement : It's gonna be a great day for you. It's not everyday that you get to cram so much living into one relatively short period of time. It's a gift you give to yourself.

Matt and Jeff for starting the Fathers House Ghana. Rescuing children from the Fisherman on Lake Volta and raising them as discipleship of Christ.

For Blake Norwood and Rhonda Hampton and their army of volunteers that put this event on and make every runner feel like a rock star.

Now for the details of the event.

Friday before the event I started feeling sick. Already being a germ o phobe I was getting nervous. The last thing I needed was to get a cold. So for the week I was plagued with a sore throat. I believed it was allergy related but my mind and hormones already in overdrive made everything seem worse than it was. By Thursday I was convinced I had a fever. But nothing short of broken bones was going to stop me from towing the line.

I picked up Vince and Jonathan and we drove up to Raleigh Friday afternoon. We made our way to the race headquarters and checked in, went to the pre race briefing. Did the Oath, I will drink before I am thirsty, eat before I am hungry, walk before I am tired. Then all the first timers were asked to help set up the tables and move the benches for dinner.

We ate the pasta dinner then made our way to the Hotel. As Vince checked us in the desk staff were explaining the work out facility and amenities. He was quick to let them know we wouldn’t need them and asked if the breakfast could be set up by 4am for us. Then proceed to explain why we were in town. They had never heard of such an event and were amazed.

I never sleep well the night before a race and this was even worse. I tried to go to sleep with the TV on but just kept staring at the movie. I finally turned it off just before 10. The proceeded to wake up about every hour until 3 when I finally got up. Everyone was up by 3:40 and we were out the door by 4:30.

Getting to the park and shuffling around until 6:00 was just making my nerves worse. I opened a card my daughter put in my bin it said Believe - I believe you can do it c’mon daddy run,run, run. At 5:55 we lined up with 286 other insane individuals. A roman candle went off at 6 and we were under way.

The Course: A 12.5-mile loop with spurs in Umstead Park. The course will be repeated eight times equaling 100 miles. There are two out and back spurs on the course. The Headquarters Spur is 1.85 miles long and accesses the start/finish aid station, race headquarters and parking. This spur allows you to see fellow runners up to 5.3 miles behind and in front of you, as well as providing some race camaraderie. The other is a .75-mile long spur to adjust the course to the 12.5 mile distance. The course is marked with 12 mile markers. So each lap is easy to break down. For me anyways.

The sun rose on the first lap and it felt like another Saturday morning group run. The trail is wide multi use trail. Bikes, Horses and foot traffic. I remember seeing a pile of Horse Poop telling someone to watch out. It made me think of something my Dad would say “ HORSE S#*T! Thats just horse s#*it! The mile 7 aid station took care of us quick. And we were off to finish the lap. Original plan was 2;30 for lap 1 we did it in 2:16 A bit fast but recoverable. At the end of the lap my hearing aid gave me a warning the battery was dead. So as I entered the lodge Rebecca was quick to ask if she could get me anything. When I said a hearing aid battery she was stumped. Good thing I packed one. Its was a new request she had never had and we laughed about it.

Back out the door and Vince and I were off for lap 2 by mile 3 I realized I still had my headlamp on. I felt kinda silly wearing it after sunup. I made a plan to drop it in my AS2 bag. When we hit AS2 I was offered a burger. WOW that was good. Well there goes my food plan. I wolfed it down bunless and had some salted potatoes. And caught back up to Vince before the hill. . We started making new friends and tried to slow our pace down.
It worked we finished lap 2 in 2:30. 25 miles done.

The day was starting to warm up so I ran in for some sunscreen and changed into a lighter color shirt, The black was drawing too much heat. I opened the next card from my daughter Dream - of 100 you’ll be there soon. Out the door for lap 3 Charles West filled my water and asked if I needed anything, and told me I was doing great. I was good and headed back on the trail. Vince and I caught back up and we decided that mile 2-3 had just gotten longer for some reason. Late in the lap Vince was having stomach issues and was slowing down. He told me to go and not wait for him. I put my music in for the first time and started moving along. AS2 was a quick in and out and I kept moving. The rest of the lap was fairly uneventful Lap 3 2:40 37.5 miles done, still right on target.

Not too memorable on the turn around for lap 4. Started chatting and making new friends on the way. Every time I would start my music, someone would start chatting. By the time I made it to AS2 my knee was getting sore my right IT band was not happy and began to pull on the knee. I had the doctor take a quick look and we discussed hydration. She had me add salt to my water bottle and showed me a couple stretches. She rolled my IT band with a stick and made sure to discuss hydration again , Informing me I should pee once per lap. This is when I realized I had not gone since just before the start. I made sure to finish my water bottle and refill at the next to unmanned water drops.
I finished lap 4 in 2:57 @ 10:25:25 for the front 50. The easy part is done.

I knew it would get dark on the next lap and being worried about my hydration and my knee I took some extra time in the lodge I changed out my handheld for a camel back and tried to get Denise to look at my knee. We miss-communicated and she seemed busy, so not to burn time I headed back out. I had brought hiking poles to use after dark but decided to try them out. They were light enough to run with and helped keep my hands up when walking and stabilize me when I became tired. Out of the gate I caught up with a new friend Jayson L? we decided to stick the lap out together. Just after mile 3 I needed to do the Morton stretch and Jayson wanted to graze from the unmanned aid station. As I was stretching Savage rounded the corner and stopped to discuss how I was doing, warn me to slow down. And make sure I was hydrating. His advice and guidance helped make much of this race easier. We departed into the loop and I felt the poles were getting fairly easy to use I worked into a decent rhythm when walking and was still able to carry them when running. At AS2 I picked up a LS shirt and my headlamp. Some Tylenol and we were off. Around mile 10 it was getting cool enough to put on the LS shirt. A mile 11 Vince and his new friend caught up to us. We chatted a bit about my poles and then I started to pick up the pace. I didn’t want to get too cold. As I passed the parking area Jason Rose was waiting for me. Lap 5 3:24 62.5 done. 3 more laps to go.

In the lodge I was able to change into warmer clothes and I had Denise give my IT band a massage. Discussed strategy with Savage and got some encouragement from some others. I opened the next card from my daughter Splash- yourself with water you’re halfway there. ( 50 mile ooops) BTW Text me. By now I had spent way too much time in the lodge. I made a quick food graze and headed out to find Jason. Get it done cheers to runners

I told Jason what to expect as far as my plan to walk run at this point. My IT and knee were pretty much toast. He took a quick look at my knee and taped some acupressure points. But at this point the only things I would quit from would be broken limbs or passing out. I saw too many in the lodge who had quit for various reasons. With this much time left why would anyone quit?

Having Jason out there was AWESOME he had his phone and was giving me updates of the games and texting back and forth with Katie. He had some fresh jokes. I told him I was disappointed he wouldn't get the real feel for the hills without seeing them. After what was forever we made AS2. I wanted to get my tights out of my bag, and Emily Hanson was there to help me get food, put away my bag, whatever. I I needed more salt and the poured some in my soup. Wow that sucked but prolly needed it. What I thought to be my tights turned out to be another shirt. So no warm help from my bag. I did manage to get some warm soup. And off we went to march out the rest of the lap. Going down the powerline hill the woods are open and the wind cut through my thin layers. By the time we made it back to AS1 I was getting the mumbles. Lap 6 , 3:40 75 miles done. Now I was felling sore and felt I was off track for the 24 hour finish.

I changed into my tights with a pair of insulated pants and 2 LS shirts. While my shoes were off I had Jonathan look at my feet. He sat me down in his chair and could see I was shivering so he covered me with blankets and had the red cross volunteer get me a warm water bottle to put on my chest. Jason wanted to rest and retired to my van so he could pace my last lap with me.

I picked up a pacer and had some more soup. A handful of candy. Now double layered and a fresh pacer we were off. I let him know I expected to walk a lot he was good with this. I let him know he may need to remind me to drink and eat. I don’t remember much about the lap other than it was slow, cold and dark. We discussed motivation and the single track trails in the park. I found out he was a Shackleton fan. We discussed his leadership and the Endurance expedition. He kept me moving. We noticed many people moving like zombies. Shuffling along. Pacers supporting their runners, holding hands. Doing anything to motivate their runner. I joked that I may be slow but my mental status was good and I was still focused. We discussed my joy of night running. Only focusing on the 10 feet in our lights made it easy to break down the thought of 20+ more miles to go. At AS2 I asked him to get my pre mixed Nuun from my bag. He would have to mule it for me for the next hour. He did good kept me talking and moving forward. We finished the lap in 4:54 87.5 miles done, Farther than I had ever gone in 24 hours. This also included warm up time and Jonathan patching up my feet.

It was now 4:25 am and I had 22:25 hours on my feet.

At The turn around I saw Charles Akers. And remember him telling me if I needed anything he would do it or get it for me. I called him over and told him here is what I need. I need you to put on this bib number and the timing chip and finish my lap. He said no. I told him NEVER tell someone you will do ANYTHING for them. It was all a fun joke. There was nothing that was stopping me from finishing this on my own. After some food and refilling my camel back. I turned to head out the door. Just as Vince was walking in with his shiny new buckle. He did it. I gave out a big howl and congratulated him. He told me get going, go get yours.

I woke up Jason and he shared some food he had packed for me. Some mango and a energy bar Katie made. Thank you Katie. It was now 4:40 ish am and the sun would rise on my next lap. I was hoping it would give me some energy for the push to finish.

I settled into a rhythmic pace and we started passing people. Focusing on the 10' in front of me. We made it to the unmanned aid station and I needed to use the bathroom. I noticed one of the port o pots was locked. This seemed weird because there was no one around. I knocked on the door and there was no response I had a fear someone passed out in there. Jason and I were able to pry the door open and lucky to find it empty. Someone must have bumped the latch. It would have drove me mad the next lap not knowing.

The death march was back on. Getting into a rhythm we pressed on at a 19 min pace. I don’t remember much of AS2 I just wanted this to be done. The sunrise came and gave me a bit of a boost. Jason kept me entertained with searching twitter and checking race updates. Every hill we did I made it a point to say that's the last time for that one. Before I knew it we were at mile 11. (98.5) ONLY 1.5 more to go and this thing is in the bag. Morning runners were out and they were telling us great job. We passed many that were just heading out for lap 8. There is one last climb before the gate. I did not remember it being that long and steep. At this point i wanted to be done. I started to focus on the last quarter mile. I tried to run but my knee was locking up my feet hurt. my IT band was twisted.

Then we reached the parking area. I stabbed my poles in the grass and started to run. Digging deep inside past everything I no longer thought I had had in me. All the cheering crowds were asleep or gone home. All but one woman sitting in her chair waiting. She jumped up and alerted the scoring table I was coming in she was cheering for me. And there it was the finish line 100 miles done 26:46:15.

I was handed my buckle and Jonathan hugged me and congratulated me. Then he immediately shuttled me into the lodge and set me in front of the fire. Asking what I wanted and if I needed anything. I asked for my bag and a coke. I had my buckle in hand. It was all I needed. I opened the last card from my daughter it read SMILE I love you no matter how you did I know you did awesome CONGRATULATIONS!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Half so nice, I did it twice.

So what to say about the Columbia Marathon?

I had no intention of doing it but when a Theoden Presented a Face Book contest to win I had to try for it. I solicited enough friends to like my comment and I won.

It was timed perfect in my Umstead training. I figured I could run in and use it as a long training run. No pressure and just have fun. I also knew it would be a chance to have a decent PR. Since my first Marathon in 2009 was my only official 26.2 race. 4:20 shouldn't be too hard to beat. I have paced a few 4:30 and a 4:45 since then and had tackled the distance many times in training runs.

So as race day approached I kept telling myself, just take it easy don't push it. DNS do nothing stupid. Then a few days before the race someone posted this quote:

"Spinal Tap once observed that it’s “such a fine line between clever and stupid"

Now armed with my new motto I started How many marathoning rules am I about to break?
First, nothing new race day.
At the beginning of February I decided to try a new shoe. The Pure Flow, 4 miles in it went back. Then the Pure Connect 2, 60 miles in and still not making me run happy. So 7 days before the race I get Brooks to work out an exchange. It would be tight but the new shoes were to arrive before race day. Of course they came late Thursday no time to break them in.
Second, taper.
Because I was only using this as a long run I continued with my normal training week plan of 60 miles. From Monday to Thursday i had put in 40. So no taper.
Third, hydration.
I have been training with Nuun. Race day probably should have carried my own hydration but decided to go with what was on the course.
Fourth, nutrition.
I knew the race would have GU every other water stop, so I decided to not pack my own and take a chance on mystery flavors. I was right about mystery flavors. They had Chomps in watermelon, or fruit punch and gels in Lime, espresso and chocolate. I decided to go with chomps. I also like it when races offer this much GU. It feels like trick or treat and gives me a chance to pick up some extra training fuel.
Finally, sleep.
I never sleep well the night before a race and this race was not in the budget right now. I figured a two hour drive before the race would be fine. I went to bed at 10 with having everything ready to go in the am. I woke up at 3:45 and was out the door by 4. So now I was going to run on less than 6 hours of sleep.

I stopped for coffee at Mc Ds and was on the road by 4:15. I learned a few things about driving at 4 am. 1st is Classic rock really does ROCK. Thanks to WRFX In two hours there was NO bad music played an only one commercial break.
Next I learned or began to question if we are securing the borders to the north of our great country. I have never seen so many Canadian licence plates. I began to wonder if the only drive at night?

Enough rambling. Back to race details.

Just outside Columbia I have to stop for the bathroom, to my surprise McDs was only open for the drive through. However the Comfort Inn looked inviting. I found a spot and snuck in to use the lobby rest room. Too bad I had already ate breakfast, they were getting ready to open the continental breakfast area. On my way out I met a runner from Ohio who was just heading to the race. We chatted for a minute then we both got back on the road.

My GPS navigated me into the parking garage where I was set to meet Jason and Katie Rose. they had my shirt and bib. While I waited I set my Garmin my original plan was to go with 4:00 and see how things felt. Then I decided why not go for 3:45. So I decided to set Virtual training Partner to 3:45:00 Why not?

I met up with the Rose family and we made our way to the start, or what I thought was the start. I was standing at the finish and was wondering where everyone was 15 min before the start and It barely any one around. I decided to walk over to the bag check and realized the start was on the other side of the Capitol building. SMH

As we went to line up I looked for the 3:45 pace group. It was strange because all the pacers were only spaced about 20 feet apart? I lined up just behind the two 3:45 pacers and made some small talk. I wasn't impressed that they were not getting the group around them organized. I like to know who is going to be using me to pace and what there story is. It makes a connection before go time. I also let them know what to expect of me and my pace experience.

And were moving. I decided I would keep with this group for the race. That worked well until about mile 8. I had to use the bathroom and made a quick stop. As I exited I could still see them. I decided I would just run my own race and not worry about them Going into the mile 8 we had 2 min in the bank according to my VTP. I decided to just run my own race and not worry about the pacers. It felt strange for a while. After pacing so many races and being conscious of others. This time it was all for me.

I have no idea what mile the photographers were set up on but I decided to do a heel click. I barely stuck the landing. I hope the shot was worth it.

I continued to load up on GU chomps. I would grab 2 packs every time they offered them. I ate one pack around mile 10, As we came into down town I started to remove my arm sleeves, I was going to toss them in the bushes and pick them up after the race. As I tied them together I decided to stuff the extra GU and Chomps I had picked up in them an tie them closed. By the time I got things together we were already nearing the half split/ finish line. As I rounded the corner I saw Jason picking up his drop bag just off the course. I made a quick detour and asked him to drop my make shift bag at my car. Katie turned and saw me heading back out and gave me the "whatareyoudoin" look.

Great Job to the Rose Family on their outstanding Half Marathon PRs.

My half split was 1:52:57 so I was still good on time. As I crossed the start line again I could clearly see the field had been more half runners than full. Where was everybody. It looked more like our Saturday group run than a Marathon. At least with the lack of a crowded street I could take a look around and enjoy the second half. I really enjoyed the course being a double loop of the city.

I began talking to a runner that had been leapfrogging with me. He was from Milwaukee. He was exited to be running in the sun and away from the snow. We made casual observations that the hills were not so bad the first round but may suck the second time. I kinda felt bad telling him I was hoping just that. Being most of my Umstead training was focused on training for the suck.

My VTP had me ahead of the 3:45 pace by 3 min so I decided to pull a Galloway on the second half and walk through the water stops. Anything under 4:20 is a PR and your not out here for that anyway, this is just a training run... right?

I was happy to see they had banana half as an option instead of GU. All the tables had Chomps but the only gel flavors were espresso love, and chocolate outrage. I grabbed a few more went for the chomps and had one more pack at mile 16. I did not like the fact that other runners who had taken the banana option felt OK with dropping the peel in the road. Have they never seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon?

The walking water stops was working well but I could feel my hips getting tight around mile 18. "OK now the suck is going to begin." But in never really did. In the back of my head I expected the wheels to fall off. I put my VTP on the countdown screen to watch my pace and to see how much more I had to go. I gave up working out any math on a finish time. I came into mile 20 and said to myself only a 10k from here.

Mile 20 -23 is for the most part all uphill. I put my head down and focused on the 10 feet under my hat and kept moving forward. Mile 21 was the first time I let myself slow to over a 9 min pace. my worst mile of the day was mile 23 I slowed to a 9:24. From here I knew it was only a Saturday morning 5 k to finish. Mile 24 and 25 were still tough. Once but with the finish line in sight I picked up my last mile and found the 8's again.

I would say one of the coolest finish straightaways I have run. A farmers market was set up on both sides of the street. The SC capitol building was the backdrop for the finish line. The people were cheering and yelling your name. Probably the most crowd support on the course. I gave it everything I had left. I pushed my way through the finish to see the clock read 3:51:XX. I was handed my medal and immediately corralled for a photo. After the photo I remembered I should stop my Garmin. It had me at 3:48:xx So I figured chip time should wash out around 3:47ish. Official results were 3:50:16 ( I forgot to turn auto pause off , bathroom , and bag drop) A 30 min PR. I'll take it. Especially for a training run.

BRYAN HOJNACKI 26193 00:42:34 01:19:47 01:52:27 02:37:57 03:16:53 03:51:21 00:08:50 03:50:16

After the race I walked around the Capitol building and debated climbing the stairs. Then the thought of up would be fine, down would suck. I decided to head for the car to get some cash. I swore I smelt BBQ in the little farmers market set up. Checking my phone I had a text from Jason telling me he felt like a drug mule dropping off the GU at my car.

I went for a walk in search of BBQ, this is never good to do when your hungry. Apparently i was wrong the Q place was on the course somewhere and knowbody could give me a name or directions. I would have to leave hungry. A I made my way back to the parking garage I cheered in other runners. I guess there were more out than I had thought. In the parking garage I watched runners take the elevator. I laughed as I took the stairs thinking I just ran 26 mile I surly can take the stairs.

I'm extremely happy with my race. Only regret was failure to bring a camera. I love this course and probably will put it on my list for next year. I would definitely recommend it. Someone told me it was hilly. But I never felt like it was more than Charlotte. Only thing I think they were missing was neighborhood and crowd support. A few residents were out cheering but very few. The Columbia Hashers were out with 2 beer stops. ( I declined) The Police were great. And the aid station volunteers were awesome. A very well organized event in every way.

Next up 27 days to Umstead.