Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pacer Report

Saturday was a completely different kind of incredible than anything else I've ever been around. It was the 18th installment of the Umstead 100 Ultra Endurance event.  Anyone who would run 100 miles on trails has a completely different mindset and environment than anything I have ever seen before.  These ultra trail junkies are a different breed.  It's fascinating.  Runners at the Umstead 100 complete 8 laps of 12.5 miles each for a total of 100 miles. Since that can get boring, they can pick up pacers at 50 miles for company and motivation.  The race starts at 6 am, I got there about 4:15 pm and met Tammy Massie at 5:30 as she hit the 50 mile mark, I paced her for 2 laps.
Me at home before heading out to Umstead

First I want to address the mentality of people who run these trail hundreds.  They have to be very determined, enjoy pain, and have a high tolerance for sleep deprivation.  You don't have to be fast.  Fast is bad out there.  Nobody attempts to run the entire thing.  It's walk or slow jog the whole way.  There are still fast people out there, but as Tammy says, she "prefers to enjoy life".  The race starts at 6 am, before the sun comes up.  So then while you are racing, the sun comes up, then it goes back down again, then it comes back up again, then you finish the race.  It gets hot, then it gets cold, then when it starts to get hot again, you finish.  This race has a 30 hour time limit, and she's finished it in 24, 25, 27, 28, and 29 hours.  I thought she was going to get her 26 hour finish this time, but it ended up being 28:45 instead.

I can't imagine the mentality of a race taking 2 hours longer than you expect and still being happy with it.  Well, maybe Ironman.  I also can't imagine running in circles for 28 hours straight.

Tammy was still looking and feeling good when she came in at the end of lap four.  She ate some, loaded up some extra clothing, loaded me up to mule stuff for her, and we hit the trail.  I've done plenty of mountain biking on most of these trails at Umstead, so while I didn't know the specifics of the loop I was familiar with the park.  The loop starts out running from a campsite, to an out-and-back spur, then in mile 2 meets up with a circular part that comes back to the main road in mile 11 and back into the campsite start/finish line.

So we take off for the first lap and start telling stories about the kids and other races and we're laughing and having a good time.  The sun is still out.  The trail is cool, but not uncomfortable.  The environment is amazing.  The other people I was hanging out with at the headquarters are now out on the trail with their runners.  There are all kinds of crazy people out there.  We're keeping about a 12 minute pace and taking pictures wherever we can.  Here's one that someone else snapped of us and posted on facebook:

Tammy and I on the trail - maybe mile 4?  It's still daylight.

In mile 6 we hit the secondary aide station.  They had a few other places on the trail that were unmanned tables with water etc hanging out, but this was a serious aide station.  There was about 15 volunteers and tons of real food out there.  I did carry 4 gel's with me, but didn't end up using them.  At this aide station I grabbed a few slices of pizza (from Rudino's - yum!), half a turkey sandwich, some candy, and refilled my bottle with gatorade. Tammy also switched out her headlamps as it was about to get dark.

The second half of the loop had the biggest hills.  Some of those hills I had fallen down on while mountain biking, so of course I had to show off the scars and tell the stories that went with them.  We didn't jog up any of the hills - that would be too ambitious.  Anything that felt like a slight uphill grade made it worthy of walking.  That's how you survive these ultras. 

The first loop took about 3 hours, so it was after dark by the time we made it back to the main campsite.  The HQ had the biggest aide station at the turnaround.  And runners would take plenty of time to eat, change clothes, whatever they needed there.  They had hot dogs, veggie burgers, ribs, chicken, pretzels, candy, you freaking name it. Anything a crazy runner would want.  Tammy said that before the start they had a full breakfast spread with bagels and pancakes.  They want you to go out for each lap with as much fuel as you're going to need to get back there safely.  I was feeling pretty good after the first lap, so we both got some fuel and headed back out there for Lap #2.

That's when everything started getting crazy.  It was well dark by then, so we both had headlamps on.  Running through the woods at night is not something I ever expected to do.  I was feeling good enough after the first lap that I thought I might try to pace someone else for a third lap and end up with an accidental ultra putting in 37.5 miles.  Well, by the time Tammy and I hit the big aide station in mile 6 I was starting to rethink that strategy.  I could tell by then that I really did run a full marathon 2 weeks earlier. 

Around 11:30 pm a big thunderstorm rolled in.  Tammy is pretty afraid of lightning, so we got off of the trail under the shelter of separate trees and waited for the storm to blow over.  I started out in a yoga squat, then went into child's pose, then finally just sat down on the wet ground.  I tried to keep my ass dry, but it just didn't happen.  Turns out we were hunkered down for about 30 minutes, just sitting in the woods getting rained on hoping we weren't going to get struck by lightning.  And at that point in the night, I was 23 miles in, and Tammy was 73 miles in. 

You can imagine how you would feel when you're 23 miles into a marathon.  Then try sitting for 30 minutes while the temperature drops so everything gets cold and all the muscles stiffen up. Then try standing up again and running the last 2 miles back tot the HQ.  Or try running another marathon after that.  I could barely stand back up so I knew that the third loop was out of the question.  We walked it back to the HQ without really jogging any more and I went straight into recovery mode.

The volunteers out there were amazing.  There was a ton of them. And pacers get treated just like runners.  One of the volunteers was forcing me to eat more since I was obviously looking pretty rough.  So when I was done, I had another hot dog, a cheeseburger, half a turkey sandwich, some olives, pretzels, chicken noodle soup, and two bottles of water.  We finished the second loop at 1:03 am, and by then the park gates only opened up at the top of the hour, so I had to wait until 2 am before I could drive home.  Gave me plenty of time to recover in the HQ, eat, find my car and find my way back to the gate.  I got home about 2:30 am. 

Honestly I can say that taking 7.5 hours to go through almost marathon distance hurts much worse than running a 4 hour marathon.  However, the recovery is so much easier.  It was slow, with lots of walking, but those hills don't play games and I tend to marathon on flat courses.  So by the time I was done I was really glad to be done.  After resting again in the HQ I was really feeling bad.  I don't see how Tammy went back out there for 2 more laps.  But she did, and she finished in 28 hours and 45 minutes.  It takes a special kind of insanity to do that. 

Also on Saturday night, Kelley took the kids to the local ballet!  They wore some costumes that my mom made a few months ago, and they went to see The Little Mermaid.  We were only able to get three tickets, so I wasn't planning on going with them anyway.  They had a blast!  The entire environment was so much fun.  Check this out:

The costumes are fantastic!  Bigun's even has a cape!

Outside the theater

Inside the theater.  Evil Genius was actually less evil than we expected!

They got their picture taken with one of the actual ballerina's!  Loved it!

The show was outstanding, they did a great job.  And the kids were actually well behaved.  Anytime EG doesn't set the theater on fire is a successful outing.  They were well behaved and had a really fun time.

Getting home at 2:30 am saturday wouldn't be a big deal.... except.  Our friends Joe and Gina (Gina maniac'd with us) were both running the Raleigh Rocks half marathon sunday morning and we agreed to keep their kids while they raced.  So I set that alarm for 6:30, hit the snooze button once before they dropped off their three kids.  Of course, soon after that our kids were up, and the 5 of them had a blast playing together all morning.  They both did really well in the half, and it was Joe's second half in 16 days so he qualified for the Half Fanatics.  Really cool.

Needless to say, I spent sunday afternoon in bed watching Game of Thrones and napping.  and constantly stuffing my face like any good post-marathon party.

Monday turned out to be quite eventful too!  It was my mom's birthday so of course we had the kids call and sing to her. And Bigun lost her first tooth at school.  She was just walking to lunch, it wasn't even really loose, and it just fell out like it was ejected from her head.  So strange.
Missing tooth anyone?

So that was crazy and unexpected!  The tooth next to the one that fell out is quite loose, so we thought that was going to be the first one to fall out.  This is totally bananas.  My girl is growing up so fast!


Matty O said...

Good for you for pacing those people! Holy man, that is just nuts haha. I am sure they had plentyyyyyyy of stories to tell and it was probably more entertaining to you than anything else :)

Love the girls' costumes, too cute!

Chris Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Johnson said...

Nice post.
I have so much respect for the ultra folks. I was waiting for the rain to stop to get a tennis tournament in for my daughter. But I kept thinking how that same rain was falling at Umstead. I plan another attempt at 50 miles. But I think I have left the 100 mile dream behind.
Your daughters are beautiful! I have three daughters (12, 12, 16). Man, I miss the Disney Princess age. But it is all an adventure.

Hugh Jass said...

That trail ultra sounds insane! I think sleep deprivation would be my biggest challenge (as if running 100 miles weren't challenging enough).

Sounds like it's time to get out the video camera, some string, and tie that tooth to something awesome!

Al's CL Reviews said...

Great job for being a pacer. I'm sure your friend appreciated it.

The girls are adorable!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Nice job pacing! That's awesome! I would never RUN 100 miles but I think it would be fun to pace a bit for something like that. You are so right that it's a totally different kind of mental game than marathoning!

The girls are adorable. Glad they had fun at the ballet!

Sophie @ threetimesf said...

I honestly never knew that any of these crazy races and challenges existed before I started reading your blog! Big well done to you both :)

Also loving the ballet pics! Your kids are so adorable...even without all their teeth!

raulgonemobile said...

That's awesome.. nice job pacing, and nice insight into what it's like out there.

I think just being up & awake and all for 24+ hours would do me in. lol

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Goodness. That sounds like fun, but I know how much harder running on trails/hills is to running on flat ground. I think my pace is about 3 or 4 minutes slower per mile.

I think that would be a great way to find out if you would want to do an ultra. Are there other races where you can just go and pace for a lap or two? I like that idea.

I think I may start with an attempt at a 50k; we will see how it goes from there.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

That is so cool that you paced your friend! One of my coaches is doing a 100 miler later this month and has 2 people pacing him for his last 2 laps. he is insane!!

What a full weekend!!!

McCrae said...

Ohhh my goodness... I'm just thinking about how loopy and mean I get after being awake for 18hrs. I really can't imagine walking/jogging/running for 29hrs. I can't wrap my mind around it. What a terrific thing for you to do and what an incredible woman, this Tammy gal is! On a side note, you have a beautiful family!