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!!!

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!


  1. Congratulations! I'm glad I could help.

  2. Well done, Bryan! It's one tough race for sure. Now, start planning your assault for next year, and the silver buckle. :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience--so inspiring! Congratulations on your first 100 miler.