Umstead Endurance Run is a loop course, 8 loops each 12.5 miles long. I have heard this makes it a race with a good attrition rate, since it is so easy to make it back to HQ and drop. I never really thought about it in those terms. I just focused on the loops. I really didn’t think of each ‘loop’ per se, for the first 4. It was just a matter of getting them done.
Loop One 2.47
Loop Two 2.56
Loop Three 3.30
Loop Four 3.43
Loop Five 3.50
Loop Six 4.17
Loop Seven 4.27
Loop Eight 3.46
It was a great day for running, fairly cold (and especially for North Carolians) in the 40’s-perfect for Buckeyes who had barely had any warm temps! The race starts with a ½ mile somewhat rocky dirt road from the campground (Camp Lampihio) and then turns onto this wonderful wide white bike path. The path is at least ten feet wide, made of white granite or limestone. It’s a softer surface, no rocks, just beautiful. I knew about the surface ahead of time, so I made sure I had my Dirty Girl gaiters on, and had Velcro on each pair of shoes I had brought.
I ran the first two laps too fast. I ran into Helen Malmberg, at the start, who was at Mohican last year, and is the Race Director of the Haliburton Ultra. She introduced me to Ruta Mazelis, who turns out to live in a neighboring county in Ohio. Ruta was the RD of the Dan Rossi Memorial Ultra, and knows some of the same runners I do. She is running the 50 miler, so she and I chat for the first five miles of the race. She tells me to go on around that time, and I run on ahead. The course is really nice. There are hills here, although I did make the mistake and say ‘what hills’ when Steve asked me about them later in the race. (ANY incline is a hill after twenty-some hours.) These hills are a little more gradual but long, kind of relaxing and casual in the early hours of the race to power hike up.
“Patience is a virtue.” I was impatient that second and third loop. I wanted to run. I wanted to log those miles in. I held back as well as I could. It’s hard when you’re a newby. But I knew I had many miles to go.
I knew the fourth loop would be tough. It was predicted to be a high of 72 that day, and I had was not acclimated to that at all. It turned out that Raleigh Airport posted an official high of 79 degrees that day. I ran that faster that I should have with the heat. I was eating and drinking, but it seemed like I really wasn’t sweating too much. Or peeing much, considering I thought I was getting water in me. (I was taking Suceed caps every hour for electrolytes.) I was, however, getting sun burnt!!! I had liberally coated myself with sunblock at the start of the race, but I could feel myself turning pink like my shirt. The aid station did have some sun lotion for me to use. (Later I did find I had tucked my sunblock bottle into my own drop bag.)
Toward the end of the 4th loop I was “thinking too much”. Everyone knows most ultrarunners don’t think too clearly after a few miles down the road. I knew I would be finishing the first 50 miles in over 12 hours. For some reason I thought I only had 24 hours for the race. What? There was no way I could do another 50 in less than 12 hours. Panic set in. Then I forgot what I was thinking about, probably got amused by some wisteria at the side of the road.. Minutes later I remembered it was a 30 hour race. Okay! I was really looking forward to meeting up with my pacer Steve Leopard.
Thank goodness for cell phones and reception in the park. Steve and I made contact as I started my fifth lap, he linked up with me after 2 miles. His brother-in-law, Troy, also joined us for the lap, which was very cool, because the constant talking helped. I have learned that it is good for a pacer to talk, it stimulates the runner. Steve and Troy talked to me, and also chatted with each other. Troy has just moved to NC from Ohio, and Steve was telling Troy all about the park.
Once it turned dark, I didn’t ask what time it was at all, although I knew it was around 11pm when Troy left so he could get out of the park. I then completely forgot to take my Succeed caps all night.
Steve was great. He talked to me, we chatted about races, running, drugs (I’m a pharmacist) health care; he made sure I was eating enough and drinking. When we had to stop at the Red Cross Station (twice) to bandage up my feet he went out to my drop bags and got whatever I needed out of them.
I would say the fifth lap was the hardest mainly because I just hadn’t been up 24 hours since college days (long long ago). I would feel bad, then I would feel good. Then I would feel bad, then I would feel ‘not so bad’ then it might even swing back to feeling good again. It was true then, about what I had read about ultras: there will be bad patches. Be patient, they will go away, to maybe become good patches. I kept having this vacillating up/down mentality going on.
Steve had to stop pacing me after this lap, because he was having knee issues, which he knew beforehand (and I knew too.) It has to be tough being a fast runner and then tone it completely down to a shuffle/walk.
I picked up my iPod for Lap 7. I also picked up Ann, as my last pacer! She caught up to me as I headed out. Ann was part of the volunteer pacer group that Umstead had set up, runners out there volunteering their time to shepherd us poor runners in. Ann actually had been a shepherd in her past career, and still had sheep on her property, along with her ten dogs. It was great to have Ann with me, she did a good job of talking to me, keeping me going, making sure I was drinking and eating.
I was wobbling on this lap, although I did have the mentality of ‘7th lap. 7th lap’ going. I had read “it is darkest before the dawn”. This is when armies attack, when you are the most vulnerable, the least mentally with it. I had also read that you will feel better when the sun comes up. You know what? It was true.
Ann and I hit the HQ around 730am. I finally looked at my watch at this time. I had not glanced at the time since dusk. I asked what the cutoff time was at the next aid station. I was told the cutoff was here, at 8am, they wouldn’t let anyone start the last lap if they weren’t in before 8am. So I made it, all I had to do was the last lap!
Yeah, right. Ann said she would like to go out with me again, and I was all for that. We walked the first six miles. I was so afraid of blowing up, I didn’t want to lose it for the last six miles. Now I understand how people drop out after 80 or 90 miles of a race. My leg buckled once or twice and I just kept moving. Blisters were growing on my feet, just out of the aid station. I really didn’t see what I could do about them as this time-just keep going forward.
Another volunteer pacer joined us around mile six, Rob I believe is his name. He did not end up with any runners, but was going to run ahead and see if anyone needed help. At the time I was DFL (dead fing last) which was just fine with me. You know what they call the last person across the finish line? A finisher. I asked him to see if there was any coffee left at the aid station, because I had drank all my Adrenalin energy drinks and had been caffeinating myself since about 4am on.
We got to the midpoint aid station and they yelled at us to keep going they would bring our drinks to us. I got a little scared here, because this was the first time I thought about not making the time limit. Ann and I shuffled forward, and Ann checked her watch, and asked me if it was important to just get the 100 miles, or finish in the official time. I told her I wanted to complete the race within the time cutoff. This was when she said something about “we’ve got two hours to go 3.5 miles so we’ve got to move.” So every downhill, she suggested we shuffle down it. I would say yes to about her every suggestion about the shuffle. The blisters were growing. I knew the course so well by this point I knew every little downhill. We kept going forward and forward. We hit the last good downhill, and actually saw other runners ahead of us! Huh!!
I knew after this downhill, we crossed a bridge, had another uphill, and then it was one mile to the turnoff to the campground. We caught more runners here, and passed 4 or 5 runners on the hill. Ann kept me shuffling forward.
The mile between mile 11 and 12 has to be mismarked. It was at least 4 miles long. I kept looking for the turnoff to the campground.
OHMYGOD there it was. Finally. I knew I could do it. We were well within the cutoff. We hobbled over the rocky road for the last ½ mile. The runner in front of me stopped to pee in the woods. I was amused. I was not stopping for anything at this point.
I heard my husband yelling at me from the top of the hill and I gave him a “Whoohoo”.
He said to run and as I hobbled up the hill I said I was running. About ten feet from the finish line, I sprinted it –I was done!!! 100 miles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!