Monday, April 11, 2016

Umstead 100 Competitor

Finally, after volunteering at the Umstead 100 for about 4 out of the last 5 years, I ran the 2016 with my own bib, #97. It was an amazing experience overall, and not something I would choose to repeat or miss out on. I finished 75 miles in 21:30:21 and got some good stories out of it. The race is 8 laps of 12.5 miles each, I finished 6 laps.

Packet Pickup
Friday night (4/1) all four of us rode out to the HQ, and we actually missed the packet pickup window but got in most of the pre-race meeting. I got to meet up with a facebook friend Bill, and the kids played with his dog. I only mention this because this is where most of the pictures came from:

HQ ready to go

Got the kids to the starting line!

The aide station at HQ

this is the closest Kelley will come to an ultra
I didn't really sleep much after that. Figured I wouldn't, I was a solid bundle of nerves. And the 4 am alarm clock went off really early, but I was ok with that. A 6 am start meant I needed to leave the house around 4:30, get there around 5, do the packet pickup, and get ready to run 100 miles.

Race Day
The park opened about 4:45 and I got there shortly after 5 am. Got my packet and pinned on the bib. Saw my friend Tammy and talked to a few others including a nice guy from Ohio and a dude from California. You see the most interesting people at trail races!
Got my game face on, ready to start

The crowd in HQ before the start

The start/finish line really lights up before sunrise
Lap 1
There is a rule in ultras, and especially in long ultras, where you walk anything that smells like an uphill. This race has an uphill start, so when the gun goes off, the wild ride begins. and everybody walks.

It took about an hour or so for the sun to come up. I ran with a nice lady at first who was trying to break 24 hours and hoping to win the female 60+ age group. These are bad people, although she was really nice about it. Hanging with the sub-24 crowd through the first lap is a good way for me to blow up.
Goofing around on lap 1
The forecast called for rain in the morning. My goal was to hit 3 hour laps as consistently as possible. I finished lap 1 in 2:42:05. It sprinkled a little bit, and was cool-ish, very overcast, but not really cold or raining hard.

Lap 2
Well since it was barely raining but I got a bit cold, I threw that yellow long sleeve shirt back on. I didn't think it was going to rain much harder than it already was, since it was 9 am already and was supposed to be done raining by 10 am, so I left the plastic poncho in my bag and headed back out.

Before I hit the mile 2 marker, the bottom fell out. Hard, driving rain, powered by a cold wind. And just when I start to feel bad about my life decisions something comes running towards me. It was the entire NC State Men's Cross Country team - an entire freaking wolfpack of early 20's shirtless hardbody dudes cranking out 7 minute miles on the same trails I was going to be pounding all day long. They were getting rained on too, and about half were miserable and half were cheering us on.

About 90 seconds later on the same trail, here comes the NC State Women's Cross Country team. An entire wolfpack of hardbody 20-something girls running 7 minute miles in sports bras and tiny shorts. They were getting rained on too, and about half looked miserable and half were cheering us on.

Happy to see Tom!
At the end of lap 2 I was heading up to the headquarters when my buddy Tom from the RAM team was hanging out with his daughter! Tom and I both did the Swim Around Charleston last year, and I was quite surprised to see him out there. So he grabbed that picture and we got to hang out for a bit.  He also hung out while I changed clothes and walked the first half mile or so of lap 3 with me. That was exactly when I needed a boost, totally cool.

Finished lap 2 at 5:42, so exactly 3 hours for that lap including my lap1-lap2 transition time. 1 marathon down, 3 to go.

Lap 3
I did change clothes completely for lap 3. I planned for this, knowing that it was going to rain in the morning. It was a bit of a gamble that the rain was done, but the thought of going back out on wet shoes & socks for another lap was kind of scary. Turns out it was a safe bet. My toes were starting to rub together, and the change of clothes had some Injinji toe socks and a pair of Hoka One-One's with only about 100 miles on them. By the time I left HQ I was feeling great.

Mostly in lap 3 I was either by myself or talking to other racers. I floated around and probably ran faster than I should have, but sometimes that was to get away from someone loud or annoying, or to keep up with someone I was enjoying hanging out with. Left to my own pacing, I will burn out pretty fast so this wasn't the best thing in the long run.

official race photo
The best part about lap 3 was finishing that lap. Kelley and the kids were waiting for me at HQ! I knew she was going to bring them by sometime, and that was the perfect pick-me-up to get after being 37.5 miles into the race. We got to hang out some, and Tammy caught up with us in transition and got to meet the kids! Finally, that was really cool.

I'm behind a tree

Finishing lap 3

Got my shorty's


Evil Genius wanted a snow cone
I finished lap 3 at 9:03:38, so I took 3:15 to finish that lap including 30 minutes at the start to change clothes. Very even pacing up until this point!

Lap 4
Kelley and Ella

Me with Tammy

Got the kids
I ran most of the lap with Tammy. Not long after the airport turnaround, she had to pee. Which consisted of getting onto the side of the trail (barely off of the trail), dropping trou and letting loose. this is why I love trail runners. Eventually the miles add up so tall that we lose all sense of civility. there's no need to worry about getting behind a tree.

Naturally I got about 10 paces ahead of Tammy at that point, and that's when I had to stop to allow FOUR HUGE deer to sprint across the trail! They were all doe's, no horns. But they were huge and moving very fast. The last one looked like she had a big hole in her side, which was fairly disconcerting. They were maybe 20 feet ahead of me on the trail? I think that's the closest I have ever come to getting run over by a deer. It was insane. And, it literally scared the piss out of Tammy.

It might have been the snow cone, but my stomach started to turn around mile 45. Luckily Tammy had some tums in her pack, so one of those really helped. In these races, people fail because of their nutrition more often than they fail because of their training. You don't want to have stomach problems. I was really glad that cleared up, but I still needed to eat more and drink more while I was out there. Mentally, I knew I got pacers for the second half of the race, so I was really looking forward to picking up friends.

I really did feel good until mile 45. Significantly better than I felt after 41 miles in Alabama back in February, and waaaaaay better than after 50 miles in San Diego back in January. There is something to be said about the Umstead Magic, it's real. Crazy, but real.

There is also a raging debate going on among trail runners. Is there such a thing as a half wedgie? Women seem to universally agree that you can have underwear from only one cheek slide over into wedgie territory. Guys (boxer guys) universally agree that it's not possible. Wedgies are all or nothing in my world. Tammy disagrees.

Finished lap 4 (50 miles) at 12:40:20, lap time 3:37 including transition time with the kids. This point was almost 7 pm, and I finally got to pick up pacers. 2 marathons down, 2 to go.

Lap 5
For lap 5 I was joined by the incredible Jess from the 21 Days blog. Jess is a streaker; she's run at least a mile every single day since Jan 1 2013, over 1100 days in a row. I felt privileged to have her share today's miles with my tired legs. In real life, Jess is tiny, and funny, and motivated. She recently moved from Miami up to North Carolina, so I've been looking for an excuse to get together with her for something, and when she volunteered to pace me on my FB post about getting registered, I took her up on it quickly.

I still had to teach her some of the rules of ultra running since she's more of a 5-7 miles a day on road kind of gal, but she picked it up quickly. Walk the uphills, talk the entire time, bathroom jokes are encouraged. She may never want to see me again now, but dang it we had a good time.

The sun went down during this lap. I hope Jess got to see enough of the park, both in the daylight and in the dark. Running with the headlights turned off can give you a view of the woods with just the moon and the city lights. There wasn't much of a moon that night, so it didn't really work.

I was leaning over to keep my head in the shot
Somebody called me a "tall drink of water" on facebook for that picture. ha! Besides the sun going down and running in the dark, the lap was pretty uneventful. No deer, no rain, no barf. But when I was done...

Lap 5 (62.5 miles or 100k) finished at 16:20:41, lap time was 3:40. Much slower, and I was really just glad to be able to spend those hours with my friend. I've known Jess online since maybe 2009, and this was the first time we met in person. Worth every minute, and I can't wait to see her again.

Lap 6
The toughest part for this lap was just getting out of HQ. I almost didn't make it out for this lap. Dana was my pacer, her husband leads the contemporary service at our church. I sing in the choir for the traditional service, but Dana (and Kyle) and I still run in a lot of the same circles. I tried to talk her into pacing me for a lap one Sunday after the service, and eventually she agreed. at this point, 10:20 pm when I get back, she had to be questioning her decision.

It took me about an hour to get out of HQ. I really wanted to drop. My feet were killing me. The back of my knees hurt, that's a new pain. Of course my calves, quads, and hamstrings were sore. But the swelling in my feet was the worst part. I had to eat a lot, and drink a bunch of coffee to get over the sleep deprivation. Dana got loaded down by the RD with some extra stuff for me to carry, and I threw some pajama pants on over my running shorts to keep warm. Dana was warm, and supportive, and just the right amount of mean. We agreed to walk the airport spur and then choose weather to bail or finish the lap, but I have to admit after that hour break I felt like finishing the lap.

The airport spur is the flattest part of the course. After the turnaround I even tried to jog a bit. When that point came to head back to HQ and bail, however, I felt ok enough to go straight and finish the lap. Dana and I hit the aide station #2, I ate as much as I could. We walked through the sawtooth section and I didn't have to stop halfway up one of the steep climbs.

At this point in my physical condition, the mind/body connection wasn't really there. I don't remember much, and was having a difficult time forming complete sentences. But Dana and I talked the entire time, and I don't think I offended her too badly. So we'll call that a win.

Dana and I - notice my pajama pants
Lap 6 finished at 21:30:21, lap time of 5:10. We were walking at a pretty good pace, Dana had to shuffle jog some to keep up with me but once I got in motion it was not a good idea to speed up or slow down from there. I told the timers in the tent on the left of that picture that I was pulling out. 75 miles was enough for me.

Finish - 75 miles in 21:30:21
Kelley's cousin Ryan was on tap to pace me for laps 7 and 8. He is a long distance hiker and fairly new trailrunner - I thought that skillset would be a good combination to get me through those last few laps. He heard me tell the timers I was pulling out, and it turns out he got to HQ about 11:15, after they opened the gates at 11 pm. Since Dana and I started lap 6 about 11:10, we just missed him. I did text him from the trail once I absolutely knew I was done after 6, but he left his phone in the car and didn't see it.

After the 12 midnight gate opening was finished, my friend Allison showed up. She was upset about missing the gate, but waited around until 1 am when the park rangers opened the gate again. Again, the race organizers have no control over the park gates. opening and closing the gates is at the discretion of the park rangers. But when I finished, I saw Ryan and told him we weren't going out after all. Then felt bad for making him wait around HQ for 4 hours to get absolutely no trail time. Then I saw Allison and absolutely collapsed into her arms. I tried to cry, but again the mind/body connection was gone so I think I peed myself a little instead.

Ryan and Allison
Dana agreed to give me a ride home, so we all made it out by the 4 am gate opening. Apparently I was very chatty, and I knew that "Villanobobo had beateded Coklahoma" in the NCAA game that evening. I don't remember any of that. I do remember giving her some of the directions to my house before falling asleep in her car.

When I got home, the only working bathroom in our house right now is upstairs. So I had to climb a flight of stairs after running 75 miles. This would not go well. There's also a bedroom up there. It happened to have both kids sleeping in that bed. Apparently I did not wake them up by taking a shower, but left my clothes on the floor and made it back downstairs without falling. This is miraculous to me.

red discoloration, very swollen toes

I lost at least 4 of those toenails
Recovery went really well. I slept for a while on Sunday, got up and ate some, then took a nap. By monday I could walk around pretty easily. Still had some pretty bad blisters on my pinky toes, but that was the only lasting problem after Monday.

Actually the worst problem was a sinus infection. Apparently every possible inflammation response the body has to offer will be triggered after a certain point of endurance. Starting Sunday afternoon it felt like I had a pool cue ball behind my left eyeball. The pressure from the sinus infection generalized into a migraine that has now lasted for 7 days. I do not miss these multi-day headaches, this is my first one in over a decade. How did I used to live like this?

So the next time I try a 100... well there won't be a next time. This was my first and only attempt and I am totally ok with that. I've been telling people that I would try it again if I could get about 6" shorter and drop 50 lbs, which of course is not possible. Human feet simply are not designed to push 180 lbs for 100 miles. I didn't finish the last 2 laps thanks to my feet and my nutrition; you can't eat enough to fuel up a body this size to run for that long. It's impossible to not get dehydrated. The best I can hope for is to finish before that stuff catches up with me. In Ironman, that's totally possible. After 21 hours (or 24 hours, or the entire 30 hour cutoff) it's just not possible.

I ran 828 miles in training since October to get ready for this day. I put in the work, had the time on my feet. Sure I could have done more in training. But that was all I could do on race day. I finished 3 marathons inside of one day, and I feel confident that was my best effort. I'm calling this a win.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I'm glad that you have the perspective on this that you do. You definitely put a ton of work into this race and left all you had out there on the course. It's good to walk away knowing you gave it all you had and that you don't need to do another one. I think knowing the limits of our bodies is part of being a smart athlete. It sounds like you had a great experience all in all and it's awesome you got to run a lap with someone you've know online for years but finally got to meet in person!

Congrats on this amazing accomplishment!!!!

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Amazing!!! The rain must have been tough not to mention the distance. Way to push through that was definitely a win!!