Thursday, April 2, 2015

Umstead 2015

It's my favorite day of the year. The week leading up to the 2015 Umstead 100 Endurance Run was sunny and in the high 60's/low 70's with some spotty rain so surely it was setup for a good race day? Yes, actually, yes it was. But the day of the race was set to be sunny with a high of 41* and overnight low of 27*. So this was going to be a chilly piece of awesome.  I was scheduled to pace 3 friends for 4 laps of 12.5 miles each, which begs the question - was I actually prepared to run 50 miles?

Headquarters at Camp Lapihio

I took it easy saturday morning, and packed a bag with lots of layers to add on if they were needed. Made my way into Umstead State Park around 2:30 pm. The first friend I was going to pace was Paul. Paul's wife sits in the next cubicle from me at work, so as much as I already knew about Paul we had never met before. Hanging out around the headquarters were plenty of other people cheering on the runners and eagerly waiting for family members to Laura .... On Your Left, Please! What an unexpected treat! We had never met before either but have been online friends for a few years. Her kids were out and about too, little scamps.

She's tiny! and really fast.
Hanging out in this environment is absolutely infectious. These people are idiots. Anybody who would actually consider running 100 miles obviously has a screw loose. And when you get there, and see them all shuffling along in agonizing pain, you really want to join in. Seriously, if you get to go spectate one of these things get out there.

These runners complete 8 laps of 12.5 miles each, making 100 miles. After they complete the first half of the race they can pick up pacers for the last 50 miles. This is where I like to volunteer. This is my comfort zone. Before race day I had made arrangements with Paul for 2 laps, then Master Man for 1 lap around midnight, then pick up Tammy around 4 am for my last lap. I actually saw Tammy and Master Man first in the headquarters before Paul finished his lap 4. Great to finally meet Tom, he's a professor at my alma mater Appalachian State so I was amped to run with him for a while.

Paul and I before running
Finally around 3:30 pm Paul finished his lap 4 and I knew I had him for laps 5 & 6. At this point what happened was considered running, but we walked every uphill and it took until about 10 pm to finish those 25 miles. Trail ultras aren't about running fast. it's about not giving up, ignoring the pain & fatigue, and pressing forward anyway. The miles seemed to fly by to me as we talked about training, work, friends, family, anything is fair game when you're on the trails. We got to see the sun go down in the forest, and I convinced him to run with the headlights off for a while just to fully appreciate the city lights and the moon over the woods at night. it's incredibly beautiful and very few people get to see that.

The race used a new timing system this year. There is one aide station halfway around the loop (well, 6.8 miles in) that had a timing mat, and the start/finish line had the other mat. Every time one of my athletes crossed a timing mat I got a text message.

When Paul and I finished his lap 6 around 10 pm, Tammy was in the headquarters after finishing her lap 5. Turns out, Tom crossed the mat at the aide station for his lap 6 and DNF'd, so there was no midnight lap for me. Turns out that was ok, Tammy was early. Her lap 6 took just over 4 hours so I just hung out in the headquarters and ate until then.

So at ultra marathons (if you've never done one) they really dole out the spread. Umstead 100 puts out some of the best food around. There are grills at both aid stations with a steady supply of burgers, dogs, chicken, this year they even had brisket. Inside the kitchen had spaghetti until around 2 am when they busted out the pancakes and french toast, as you really should do around 2 am. Running 100 miles you have to take in plenty of calories, and turn those calories into energy at a remarkably fast rate. Ultra fare is widely varied, but I do love the food at this one.

About 2:15 am Tammy and I took off for her lap 7. I had to really add on the extra layers to stay warm, Tammy did too.

The dino pants really make the layers complete.
Mostly I asked her about how she finishes so many of these dang things. Tammy's trying to grand slam this year. She got into the Western States, which is the hardest lottery in ultra running. She's also doing Leadville 100, Wasatch 100, and Vermont 100 this year, so Umstead is really just a warmup hundred to test the fitness.

As I type that, it sounds completely insane.

Yep, it really is completely insane.

Finally the sun came up and we turned off the headlights and finished the lap around 6:45 am. Taking 5 hours to run 12.5 miles isn't going to break any speed records, but we had a blast. I always have fun hanging out with Tammy, she's a great friend to have.

6:48 AM, finished my 38 miles and I'm hungry.
For the record, Tammy finished in 29 hours, 14 minutes. Paul had a knee problem pull him from the race after only 7 laps, but 87.5 miles still gives him a personal distance record. With the weather getting colder many more people dropped out of the race than normal. It was 21* when I left the park at 7 am. They ended up with over 100 finishers and about 30 that DNF'd over 50 miles. You have to take what the trail gives you, and this time it was dishing out cold.

I think my 2016 big goal is going to be finishing the Umstead 100. It's time for me to step up to the big game. This was my third time pacing. Time to join the idiots and race this thing.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Wow, your friend Tammy is doing so many hundreds this year! That is insane! I can't even wrap my mind around running 100 miles, honestly! It's impressive. That's cool that you've paced people 3 times. I can see how being around that environment has you wanting to achieve this goal yourself!

Abby said...

I cannot even think about one 50K, let alone a 50 miler... how does she do that many 100s? Badass!

Unknown said...

This trail race looks awesome!