2016 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run

12376298_10207376662188186_1881369676864077756_nTruth: there’s no way to make running 100 miles a cohesive story (I knew that while I was running it). You have been warned.

PRE-RACE

For my thoughts leading up to the race, check out this post and my Umstead marathon race report. I have more to say about what I learned, but that will have to wait until a later post (or rot in my head).

A family crisis the day after the Umstead marathon kept my mind off the 100 for the entire taper period. Andrew and I were making frequent trips to Charleston to tag-team with family members while also juggling work and family at home. I lost a few pounds in the three weeks before the race, in addition to recurring sleeplessness due to stress. Note: not recommended. I knew I would have to consciously put the stress aside so I could focus on getting through one hundred miles.

I wasn’t super-successful with sleeping or eating all week, but slept like a woman without care on Thursday night. Refreshed, I headed to Camp Lapiho to get my packet and attend the race meeting Friday afternoon, finding my Peep friends Megan and Juliet to sit with during the briefing.

pre-race speech

“Pee before you wet your pants.”

Back in December, I saw race director Rhonda Hampton one Saturday in Umstead. I was surprised and honored when she asked if I was willing to wear bib #100 to represent the first-time hundred mile runners. One of my duties as #100 was to recite the 3 golden rules of ultrarunning at the pre-race meeting, as well as offer encouragement to those running. I spent many training miles thinking about what I might say.

I kept it short and simple, feeling self-conscious around the ultra-running giants in the room, many of whom had generously offered their wisdom during my training. It was up to each of us, I said, to run the 100 miles before us. But what makes Umstead special is the amazing community of support. So while each of us must cover every mile on our own feet, lean on that positive energy when the going gets tough. Everyone—the race organizers, volunteers, friends, families, and other runners—would be pulling for us to achieve our goals. I also asked each runner to offer encouragement to others on the course, because helping others reach goals they didn’t think were possible brings out the best in yourself. I tossed in a joke before I recited the three rules. “My running buddy said the first one is to pee before you wet your pants. But I didn’t see that anywhere on the website.”

Lap 1

12439293_961559897285374_3907335914321747024_n

Megan and I, lap 1, AS2.

The start. Oh boy! We’re finally running this. I sent a final text to my crew advising them I was turning off my phone, so they could feel free to start the trash talk. Megan and I ran to AS 2 together. We were both relieved to be running, after months of training. Training was hard, tapering was hard, but THIS we could do. We talked about the confidence our 2:00 am, 39 mile crazy run had given us. I felt excitement as I wondered about the day and night ahead, having put aside my family stress for a little while. “All I have to do this weekend is run? Bring it!”

We were greeted at AS 2 by my co-crew chiefs, Steve and Danny, who were volunteering (possibly to low-key AS captain Chris Squire’s chagrin), Ken, Jeff, and Cheryl. Jeff and Cheryl joined me for some miles on the back half of Lap 1. I wore my Suzie shirt, knowing that Suzie would have appreciated the level of the challenge, even as she would assuredly have grilled me about balance.

Lap 1 split: 2:33 (each lap is 12.5 miles). 8:33 am. 12.5 miles finished!

Lap 2

12938281_961617300612967_2547207062406585630_n

Wet rats on Lap 2, AS2.

It was humid already, and I refilled my Nathan pack with ~1.5 L of water. Since I’m lousy tracking time, I had landmarks along each 12.5 mi loop: Stretch at the bridge at the bottom of the Corkscrew. Stretch on the stone bridge at the bottom of Graylin. Drink a 10 oz water with half a Nuun tablet every lap, twice that if it’s hot. Eat at every aid station, especially the two main aid stations. These tips came from Danny and Jon, both U100 finishers, and they worked great. There was an unmanned aid station at miles 4 and 10, but it was mostly stocked with sweets that didn’t appeal.

Jeff continued with me awhile, and it poured rain. We saw some Peep friends out training for Boston—Sarah, Gray and Kerry, as well as Anne and Jeff.

I enjoyed the back half of lap 2 with some other U100 runners, and spent some time admiring the creamy yellow buckeye that was in full flower all over the park, but especially Turkey Creek.

Lap 2 split: 2:38. 11:13 am. 25 miles finished!

Lap 3

danny and steve

Danny and Steve bossed, teased, and looked out for me for 100 crazy miles.

I was over my wet shorts, and reasoned that even if it rained again, I had extra pairs to change into. A Trailhead friend Galoot happened to be in the lodge and he and another volunteer refilled my water pack and helped me get another bottle of Nuun ready to go while I changed. I wanted dry shoes, but word at Lapiho was that we had one remaining cell with rain, so I compromised by drying off my feet, recoating them generously with Vaseline, putting on dry socks and stepping back into my wet shoes. Worth it! I’m off!

As I came down the Corkscrew, I saw my friend Diane, who accompanied me to AS 2. Throughout the race, my #100 bib is getting me many grins, thumbs-up, high-fives, and cheers. I’m excited by all the positive energy and this time, I’m part of it as a bona fide Umstead 100 runner.

I caught back up with Megan at AS2, and she and I headed back to Camp Lapiho with Karla and Danny. Brandy and some other friends met us on Graylin for a bit. Megan was having some trouble with blisters, but she was super-efficient at the aid stations and Camp Lapiho. She posted rock-solid, consistent sub-3 hour splits all day, eventually finishing in 23 hours and change for her first! 100! Woo hooo! What a run she had.

Lap 3 split: 2:49. 2:02 pm. 37.5 miles finished!

Lap 4

My big treat to start this lap is a dry sports bra, tank top, and dry, brand-new shoes and socks. It’s the little things!

I’ve run more miles with my friend Danny than anyone else, and he’s seen me at my best and worst on many runs and races. He tells me that it is past lunchtime and I should eat something substantial. Wait, what? Lunchtime already? I balk. He talks me into some grilled chicken. Eating is one of my few strengths, so I’m a little puzzled why nothing at the huge smorgasbord seems very appealing. Umstead aid stations are legendary and besides chicken, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, and veggie burgers, plus any snack you could want. Karla and Danny head out with me after another refill of my pack. The rain has dropped the humidity and washed some of the pollen and dust out of the air, which is excellent, especially now that I’m wearing dry shoes. We see Vanita and she joins me for a few miles of her afternoon run.

12321274_10209428346928154_1580391822725514970_n

Simon joins me for a few miles as a surprise!

I get to Trinity Road and Andrew and Simon are there to surprise me! Andrew drops Simon off to run, then meets us at AS2. Simon runs by my side and checks to make sure I’m walking the hills—very serious about his pacing duties. Ann and Audrey are at AS 2 with big cheers. My other crew leader and great friend Steve jumps in for the back half of lap 3 with a long and entertaining story about nearly poisoning himself with an unknown fruit while on vacation (manchineel tree) and taking some silly photos. The sun is out and it’s hot.

Lap 4 split: 3:09. 5:13 pm. 50 miles done!

Lap 5

12439191_10153998077293617_4720683238685669370_n

Kellie and Gordy ready for Lap 5!

I was expecting to feel like I did when I finished Old Glory at 50 miles. That is, cooked. But my race has barely started and I’m excited to see my first official pacers and start gearing up for nighttime running. Luckily, I seem to be able to focus on the end goal, and I don’t think about my aches and pains because I’m not finished yet. My friends Kellie and Gordy are waiting, and Danny picks Steve up to grab dinner and go get his car. I try to get in too but they lock the doors. Guess I’ll run another 50 miles instead.

Gordy asked for Lap 5 because he is filling the role of paparazzi. He’s the official videographer for the 12 Things of Christmas, our Blue Ridge Relay team, and he wants to take some photos and videos while it’s still light. He does. Many. And then he gets everyone else’s photos and puts together this great video. I am especially happy about the video because there is actual proof that I was running. I remember walking a lot.

12931144_961860897255274_5238879885096617512_n

Off to see the Wizard! Lap 5.

My friend Kim appears on Reedy Creek Road and joins us for a few miles! As we turn onto Turkey Creek and roll past the Butt Tree, I start asking myself what I want to eat. We come down the hill into AS2. “I can’t think of anything I want to eat…hey, PIZZA!” I head out with 3 small pieces. We pick up my son Stephen and I am so excited and proud that he’ll run a full lap with me. He’d come out with me for a run in the dark one Friday night and we had a great time. The flow of running and conversation works on teenagers and their parents, too, and I really love that. Steve and Danny are there again! but they won’t share their coffee.

Lap 5 split: 3:20. 8:34 pm. 62.5 miles done!

Lap 6

12920522_961890580585639_4968197110576498097_n

Goofing off at Camp Lapiho with Stephen and Danny, between laps 5 and 6. No blisters, pinky promise.

I arrive back at Camp Lapiho and it’s now truly dark. My best friend Ann and my buddy Ken are here to pace lap 6! Whatever misgivings they may have had about keeping up were surely quelled; I’m not moving fast. I changed into my bigger shoes, re-lubing my feet. One of my toes is numb and I’m convinced there’s a blister on it. Danny tells me it’s fine and there’s no blister and I head back out with Ann, Ken, and Stephen. We’re barely out of camp when we run into Gordy who is wandering around in the dark looking for his car. He didn’t make the 9:00 gate!

12961586_10207875144690249_324962593080730385_n

AWESOME cheering section at AS2 as I reach mile 70. The support was incredible and I later figured out it was nearly 11 pm.

As we’re descending toward AS2 I can hear people whooping it up. It’s pitch dark and I have absolutely NO idea what time it is, but am mildly surprised that AS2 volunteers have this much energy at whatever-time-it-is. I look up and realize it’s a huge crowd of my friends—out to cheer me on. I was actually speechless for a minute. Andrew is there, Jeff and the girls, Will and Margaret, Jean and Bill. I can’t believe it! And my friend Kelly is there to surprise me and jump in for pacing.

Stephen is arguing that he should be allowed to continue on with his pacing. He wants to run back to HQ and hang out with Steve and Danny. He’s been in rare form all evening, talking non-stop in the way that only a 15 year old boy can, but he’s also checking on me continually and making sure I’m walking the hills. He’s been great, but he’s running his first half marathon the following weekend and doesn’t need to be out running 18+ miles, no matter how slow. He’s also asking me about putting in for the Western States lobby, which is not a topic I want to discuss at the moment!

12524419_961972577244106_1416383149390542691_n

Barely contained chaos between laps 6 and 7 with my lap 6, 7, and 8 crew.

We continue along in the dark. I love being out at Umstead at night—what a rare treat. I started feeling pretty tired, and got quiet, chugging along and listening to the conversation. I made a poor decision that since it wasn’t hot anymore, I didn’t really need to drink much Nuun, which was not appealing anymore. Kelly had brought me some Fritos, my favorite running treat (salt!!!) and I nibbled a small bag of those between AS2 and Camp Lapiho. Ann and Kelly slowed to encourage a solo runner on Graylin while Ken and I kept trucking. Ann helped me change and get ready for lap 7 and Jon and Carolyn were there and ready to roll for lap 7, along with Kelly. I added another layer and was ready to go.

Lap 6 split: 3:53. 12:28 am. 75 miles done!

Lap 7

Heard outside the porta-potty at Graylin/Reedy Creek at 1:30 am:

12932941_961948590579838_6111234190331263533_n

Lap 7 pacers Jon and Carolyn are matching and ready!

“Marco.”

“Marco!”

“MARCO!!!”

“POLO! GEEZ! Go away Jon!”

“OK, she’s alive!”

I remember very little of lap 7. I was told that I demonstrated my owl calls—I know two, barred owl and great horned owl, and can render them with startling volume, especially in a dark forest. I probably needed some coffee. I remember feeling baffled when we got to AS2 and I looked at the huge buffet but couldn’t see anything that looked good. Jon filled a bag with random salty snacks and then coerced me into eating some. Carolyn and Jon told me later that I was still pretty chipper, but definitely loopy. Apparently I cheered on other runners, spectators, volunteers, a few trees and even some cars when we got back toward camp. At least I didn’t forget my own advice!

Lap 7 split: 4:31. 4:59 am. 82.5 miles done!

Lap 8

12920477_10209635424622391_6040914598121121626_n

Danny telling me I need to eat the rice between laps 6 and 7. Mercifully there are no photos between laps 7 and 8 when my face “looked like a blueberry.”

I am so happy to see my lap 8 crew of Jeff, Steve, and Danny, my runner brothers from other mothers. This is it! Although I never thought about dropping, I know now that I’m getting close to the finish. I’ve run 87.5 miles and have just 12.5 to go. And I know that these friends will get me to the finish. Camp Lapiho is bright after being in the dark woods and I’m squinting. Actually my eyes, and actually my whole face, are swollen, but I didn’t realize that. My legs still feel good, but my chest is tight and it feels like everything I try to swallow gets stuck in my throat. I’m also cold, and I’m wearing a long sleeved shirt, a wool pullover, and I’m trying to pull on a jacket, look for my gloves and hat, and think about what I can eat, not noticing worried looks from my crew.

I hold my hands up and say, “Whooaaa, look how swollen my hands are!” in a voice that probably suggested that I was drunk rather than awake for 24 hours and 87.5 miles into a run. Danny starts taking off my watch. “Hey…whatcha doing?” “Your watch is going to bust off if we don’t loosen it.” “I still think I have a blister.” “You don’t have a blister. Your feet are fine. Leave your pack here and let’s get moving.”

While I’m watching Danny fiddling with my watch, I look up and see Rhonda and two medical staff. Uh-oh. They’re all looking at me—I better get out of here fast. One medical guy says to Steve and Jeff, “She’ll be fine, but she needs salt and no more water.” Is he kidding me? It will take me hours to run the last 12.5 and I don’t get any water? Apparently I have hyponatremia. I started feeling a little sorry for myself.

There was some commotion as Rhonda tried to figure out who was actually in charge in my crew and doled out salt tablets with strict instructions that I should have one every 45 minutes. In the end, Jeff got the salt, Steve set the timer, and Danny had Gatorade to wash it down. It takes a flock!

I’d given up on eating. I was feeling lousy but I knew I could make it. After we reached Reedy Creek, I tried to run but felt like I was gasping for breath just walking. I could hear snippets from my crew talking about me in the third person—THIS IS NEVER GOOD—and I could tell I wasn’t walking straight despite trying to seem normal—later, I found out they were debating whether to take me back to HQ if my breathing did not improve. I was also really, really tired.

“Maybe I needed some caffeine.” I swallowed half a coffee-flavored gel and immediately threw up on the side of the trail. Everything that came out besides a tablespoon of Gu was water. No food. I threw up again and was suddenly irritated with myself for getting here. I knew I’d somehow screwed up my food intake and all I had in my stomach was water. Totally preventable and here I was, retching, at mile 89. I was pissed. I handed half a Gu to Steve and tried to make a joke. “Well, I think I’ve had about enough of this.”

I straightened back up and suddenly, I felt monumentally better. I could breathe and the chest tightness was gone. But I was still frustrated. “OK. It’s time to run.” The four of us set off down Reedy Creek. Dawn broke slowly as it does in the woods, sunlight filtering through the still-bare trees, black sky lightening to blue in the east.

A jangling alarm goes off. “Time for salt!” “I think I’m good. I feel much better.” “Nope. Rhonda’s orders.” This builds into a comical routine every 45 minutes, with my feeble attempts to refuse it and the guys telling me I have to take it, somewhat gleefully. Later Stephen said “when I heard an alarm, I didn’t know what it was for, but everybody got really excited and started laughing. Except you, Mom, you looked so miserable that I kind of felt sorry for you.”

12809686_962124763895554_8494032442983612180_n

Last lap of Turkey Creek. I’m finally waking up and feeling like my goofy self again.

I was asleep on my feet and kept wandering off to the right until my crew took turns filling the space on my right and steering me back to the road. I’m not sure how much I ran. I expected to feel excitement on this final lap and was disappointed that I wasn’t in any shape to join the banter. I do remember giving Chris a hug at AS2 and thanking him and Hope for being there for all the runners. He smiled, shook his head and said, “Steph, you have quite a crew.” I think my friend Audrey was there too (again! What a pal) to send me to the finish with some good energy.

12901258_962857437155620_995414554506967375_o

Last 2 miles and I’m so excited to see my family and finish this!

I honestly don’t remember seeing any other runners on that lap, though I was told there were many others out there. If you know my three crew members, you know that they kept me entertained, even if you were as tired as I was. There was Little Red Riding Hood, Bob Dylan and flubbed Robert Frost. After AS 2, I was feeling much better. The salt, plus some sips of Gatorade and a little bit of coffee, was helping. I knew where I was headed.

About 2 miles from the finish, I see Andrew and Stephen. I was so excited to have them run me in! Simon is waiting at the finish with Ann and Ken, which means they’ve stayed all night to see me finish. I am finally turning onto Camp Lapiho Road for the last time. I teared up just a little but I was so thrilled to cross that line and get a hug and my finisher’s pendant from Rhonda. Hugs all around! I could not have reached the finish without my awesome crew. I went inside the lodge and had a made-to-order cheese omelet from my friend Keri, which was the best food I’ve ever eaten. I hugged and said goodbye to my tired crew, and tottered to the car with Andrew and the boys, where I instantly fell asleep.

12920407_10209434803369561_3362530148524817390_n

Finished!

Lap 8 split: 4:15. 100 miles, DONE! Finish time 9:15 am, 27 hours and 14 minutes.

Postscript

I learned so much but that will have to wait for another post. Here’s what I posted on Facebook the day after the race:

To all, I can’t thank you enough for all the support I had last weekend for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. The race organizers, particularly Rhonda Hampton, put their hearts and souls into the event. Volunteer captains like Ben Dillon, Rebecca Sitton, Jennifer Ennis, John William, Jeannie Armagost, Joe Lugiano and Dana Mathew spend days on their feet before, during, and after the race, taking care of runners’ every need. Other friends (too many to list!) pulled a volunteer shift or three working aid stations, taking photographs, setting up, cleaning up, cooking, timing, etc.

So many friends came out to run a few miles with me during the day or to cheer me at night. Many more of you, near and far, sent words of encouragement via Facebook, email, and text message. And my fun and crazy crew of Andrew Jeffries, Kellie Davis, Gordy Blackwell, Stephen Jeffries, Ann Camden, Ken Taylor, Kelly Cook, Carolyn and Jon Armstrong, Jeff Cobb, Danny Jessup, and Steve Fallaize pulled me through the night and to the finish. Andrew Jeffries brought the boys out to pace me, took care of me before and after the race, got my car home, and did a million other small things to help me achieve my goal.

I was proud to wear the symbolic #100 race bib as a first-time 100 mile finisher. Big congrats to many friends who ran, esp. fellow Peeps Megan Sullivan and Juliet Brundige. Thanks to ALL for making my experience so joyful and memorable. Life is rich!

Dust of Snow, by Robert Frost

The way a crow
[Shook] down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Advertisements

LEAP!

give it a tryPssssst! I’ve been training for a big race this winter—the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. I’ll start at 6:00 am on April 2 and have 30 hours to finish the distance.

You better believe I’m nervous. This is twice the longest distance I’ve ever run!

Like any big goal, this one will be achieved in a Zen-like series of small steps. The run itself will be completed one mile at a time. There will be miles where I may have to focus on every step that takes me forward. As in: I can’t think about running 100 miles, but I can rock these next 100 feet, Yo.

I’m usually blasé about training. I’m Type B about most things. Through the Peeps, I’ve found that everyone seems to be on a training spectrum. At one end are people who really focus on their goal race. They have a training plan and they follow it to the letter, working hard all the way up to race day. Post-race, they relax and often take a break, sometimes feeling burned out. I’m closer to the other end of that spectrum. I rarely train hard or specifically. I’m usually at the low end of recommended weekly mileage. I sometimes make a plan but then never look at it.

The advantage is that I rarely burn out, because I don’t work that hard to begin with. WELL FOLKS, I’M WORKING HARD THIS TIME.

While I already had a qualifying race (Uwharrie 40), I knew I’d feel more confident if I could run 50 miles in the fall. The Old Glory Ultra was a perfect race, also with an 8-lap format, that helped me get my head around the distance. Maybe. I didn’t run into major problems that I had to troubleshoot, so rather than stressing about everything that went wrong, I agonized that nothing really went wrong (eye roll).

Somehow, I thought that running the additional training miles wasn’t going to be a big issue. I love to run and looked forward to logging extra miles. An aspect of ultras that I really like is the ability to go out any random day and run 15-20 miles if adventure calls.

In December I added yoga twice a week and in January I added strength training too. This is laughably inadequate to serious runners, but I never claimed I was serious, and these small additions were big steps for me. I hoped that they would help me stay healthy, and I do think they have helped.

Adding mileage has been a bit of an issue, as it turns out. I always undertrain the recommended mileage. The late Umstead 100 director, Blake Norwood, recommends 50-60 miles/week minimum. I will only have 2-3 weeks at that distance—my longest week was 67 miles. If you start surfing the web, you’ll very quickly psyche yourself out looking at training plans with 90-100 mile weeks. Of course, I’m not winning races, but for me, that kind of volume is unrealistic. Personally, I could not stay healthy, nor maintain the family/work balance that we need. In January, I ran 188 miles, and February is ending with a new record of 200+. That is a whole lot of miles for me.

With the added mileage, I have run into a few challenges:

  1. My left ankle has been bothering me since December, when I sprained it on a trail run. Of course I didn’t get it x-rayed. Don’t be ridiculous. It still hurts on trails and starts hurting about 3 hours into a fire road Umstead run. I’m sure it will feel great after another 24+ hours of running.
  2. My usually-sturdy calves have been really tight lately, feeling sore and bruised. This has kept me from doing the hill work I had planned.
  3. I’m pretty misaligned, with my entire left side tight from the hips down. This has probably caused most of the nagging hurts that I’ve experienced in the last 5 years: hip labral tear, ITB syndrome, etc.

As I told a friend, it’s always some damn thing. My friend Mimi is working hard to get me feeling good. I went in for what I described as “a little tune-up” and she laughed and told me to come back again next week.

I have had a lot of fun along the way. One Friday evening I took Stephen out to Umstead to run at dusk, and we finished a 12.5 mi Umstead loop just after 9 pm. It was exciting to be out there at night and we even heard coyotes.

I met a new friend, Megan, who is also training for the 100. As a big bonus, our pacing is similar. Not only that, but she was willing to meet me last weekend at 2:00 am for a training run! We ran two steady loops of the course, saw the sunrise, then picked it up the last 15 miles (!), finishing 39 miles just before 10:30 am. [Saturday night I slept for 13.5 hours straight.] It was Megan’s longest-ever run, so we cheered at miles 37, 38, and 39. What might have been a long solo slog turned into a pretty excellent adventure. In addition, my energy was great and I felt good the next day.

This coming weekend I will run my 4th Umstead Trail Marathon, as a “tune-up” race. My challenge will be to focus on running an easy pace and not try to place in the top 15 women to score a plaque (I’m 2 for 3, so the temptation is there). It’s a really fun hometown race and I can’t wait. After that, I’ll cut back my mileage until race day on April 2.

Some of the things I have in my favor are:

  1. I have an iron stomach. I can eat a variety of food when I run. On Saturday, for example, I ate a piece of leftover pizza and a carrot cake Clif bar on my [short!] 15 mile run. Honestly, the pizza was just to show off, but it was surprisingly good.
  2. I have no sense of elapsed time. I do feel sore, but I can run for hours and mentally feel like I’ve just started. I sometimes get unfocused, but I never get bored.
  3. I have a lot of positive energy and a good sense of humor that should help me past some lows. I possess a mental stubbornness that won’t let me quit.
  4. I have a wonderful, supportive family and a great pacing crew. My 15 year old son plans to pace a lap—I am looking forward to that as much as anything. Andrew’s support is rock-solid. Good friends will keep me positive and laughing through the night and steer me toward the finish. They give me confidence.

There’s plenty of uncertainty about how the next few weeks will go, how the race day will unfold, how I will feel, and how I will manage pain. I can’t predict what’s coming and what challenges I may encounter.

Eno

My favorite race photo. Trails = joy. Photo by Scott Lynch.

I’ve finished running my longest distances for training. I’ve done my best preparation. At this point, I can only hope that it’s enough.

It’s time to trust my training and see where the path takes me.

It’s time to close my eyes and stand at the edge of possibility.

It’s time to leap!

A listicle race report from my first 50 miler: Old Glory Ultra

The Old Glory Ultra was my first 50 mile race. I’m still surprised that I completed it and that it went so well. I ran for hours, I had a great time, and I learned a lot of things that I want to remember. However, rather than writing an endlessly long and boringly detailed race report, I settled on a set listicles. Listicles are hot–Buzzfeed-worthy–and I teach millennials, after all. In the end, my plodding, story-telling self became annoyed by the sound-bite format, so if you want a real story, ask me on a long run sometime (by then, the story will be good, though the percentage of truth will undoubtedly decrease).

IMG_20151114_053128_334IMG_20151114_053013_877

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-race shenanigans in the Foxfire Country Club.

Pre-race silly shenanigans at the Foxfire Country Club. One of many reasons I love doing races with these guys.

 

8 Facts

  1. The race was the Old Glory Ultra, held at Foxfire Village outside of Southern Pines.
  2. The Southern Pines Ultra Running Club put the race on. They did a great job. Now they’re called ROAM – Runners Of Abundant Miles.
  3. This was my first 50 mile race. It was in an 8-lap format.
  4. The course had 2-3 miles on trails at a nearby park, plus grass/cart paths on the golf course.
  5. I ran 5 laps with Danny, then a lap with Karla, then a lap by myself, then a final lap with Karla.
  6. Jon also ran the 50 and Carolyn paced him for 4 laps.
  7. Karla was 2nd overall female in the 10 miler, and 4th OA!
  8. Running is a team sport. I would not have arrived at the start, much less crossed the finish, without the encouragement and support of my husband Andrew, my kids, Stephen and Simon, and the many miles logged with my Runnerpeeps crew. Y’all rock.
This is what the course looked like at 5:30, 30 minutes before we started.

The course was a bit dark at 5:30, 30 minutes before the start, but the starry sky was incredible. Glow sticks lit the way on lap 1.

8 Numbers

  1. 50 miles = 8 laps x 6.25 mi loops
  2. 10 hours, 11 minutes
  3. 12:13 min/mi pace
  4. I was 6th of 13 female finishers, 24th out of 37 total finishers.
  5. 5 friends = 177 miles total
  6. 4:47 for the first half; 5:20 for the second half (not sure where the extra 4 minutes went)
  7. 25 mi = my longest training run to prepare. 50 miles was my longest weekly mileage. I wish both of these had been better, but lost 2 weeks of training because I was sick. But you don’t need crazy mileage to run ultramarathons.
  8. 5 species of oaks: turkey (Quercus laevis), blackjack (Q. marilandica), water (Q. nigra), post (Q. stellata), and scarlet (Q. coccinea).
Lap 3 done! Danny and I are 18.75 miles in. Weather was perfect for running all day.

Lap 3 done! Danny and I are 18.75 miles in. Weather was perfect for running all day. Photo by Karla.

8 Answers to Questions You Might Ask Me

  1. Yes, 50 miles.
  2. I did it one mile at a time.
  3. Yes, Dad, you have to pay. Fifty-one other people did, too. Don’t ask how much. I got a really nice t-shirt and earned a medal.
  4. Yes, it did hurt after a while. Especially my feet.
  5. I enjoyed the course far more than expected. It was pretty, with lots of visual variety and a couple miles through the woods on dirt—OK, sand—it was in the Sandhills.
  6. The terrain was easy but the course was hilly. So, neither easy nor difficult.
  7. Sure, I’d do it again. I might even run farther.
  8. I enjoy the physical and mental challenge as well as the journey. In the midst of a very busy life, and one that has experienced some stress and sadness lately, I appreciate the luxury of spending a day focusing on a singular, relatively simple task that brings me joy, plus the time to reflect and feel grateful for all that I have.
Star Wars chicken noodle soup. Because everyone needs The Force at mile 25.

Star Wars chicken noodle soup. Because everyone needs The Force after 30 miles of running.

8 Things I Ate
1. Uwharrie cookies
2. Bananas
3. Coconut chocolate chip Clif bar
4. Fritos!!!
5. Gummi bears
6. Salted caramel Gu (2)
7. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
8. Star Wars chicken soup…and more.

8 Lessons or Items that I’ll Remember for My Next Long Run

  1. Sunglasses really helped—have had problems in the past with blurred vision and goopy eyes at the end of long runs (and for hours afterwards). I love the pair I have but they’re very dark—would love a clear pair.
  2. Thinking ahead about what I needed to do at the aid stations helped me be more efficient. I *wasn’t* efficient, but it moved me in the right direction. I might even make myself a checklist for a run with a similar format.
  3. At times I found myself enjoying the conversation and the miles but then suddenly realized I needed to drink water or eat something. The flow is wonderful (and having no concept of elapsed time is a true gift in these kinds of endeavors), but I need to remember to pay attention.
  4. Love my lucky running hat from Ann. I love that she gave it to me, and it’s really excellent. Lightweight, shades my face, reflective, hides my gray hair.
  5. Vaseline. Soooo many uses. No chafing or blisters.
  6. Gin gin ginger chews. They really helped settle a queasy stomach.
  7. Wet washcloth in a ziplock bag. Loved wiping the salt and grime off my face after many miles.
  8. I didn’t like my water options for a multi-lap format. The Fuel Belt was comfortable and I liked mixing one bottle of Nuun and also having plain water, but I grew annoyed trying to fill 3 bottles at the aid station. I switched to a single bottle belt but it was not padded and would not stay put—kept riding up and spinning around. I’m thinking about a belt that is wide and padded and holds 2, 12 oz bottles. With laps, it didn’t make sense to wear my 70 oz. hydration pack.
Packing for a long distance race. I packed 5 hats.

Packing for a long distance race. I packed 5 hats.

8 Things I Wore
1. Pearl Izumi fly shorts
2. Saucony long-sleeve shirt
3. Baleja hidden comfort socks
4. Brooks Glycerin 11s, size 10
5. Moving Comfort rebound racer sports bra
6. Dirty Girl gaiters
7. REI running hat
8. Tifosi sunglasses

IMG956407

Jon and his star pacer, Carolyn, getting ready for another lap. These races are like a tailgating party. Photo by Karla.

8 Stories, 1 per Lap

  1. Jon says he’s going to run with me and Danny today, then disappears off the front. One guy sprints around everyone on the cart path near the start, yelling “Playing through!” You have to love long distance races—people are always so much fun. Danny and I get lost in the dark woods with two other guys, but we were not as lost as Jon. He appears behind us around mile 4 with some speedsters. Hilarity ensues.
  2. Drop off head lamps; eat Uwharrie cookies, split a banana. Realize that we were idiots for getting lost and bicker about whose fault it was and how much extra we ran. Nickname one woman we keep seeing “Whinypants” and feel sorry for her friends.
  3. Danny continues to introduce himself to fellow racers. “My name is Danny. I’m a Libra. I like long walks on the golf course.” I claim I found him hitchhiking on US 1 and can’t get rid of him. I can’t believe that we’ve run 20 miles already. We get back to find Karla getting ready for her 10 mi race. Carolyn is out pacing Jon. We know he’s been there because there is half a can of chicken and stars sitting on the ground.
  4. We joke around with the race photographers—the results should be good. My stomach is growling. We see hole #15 6 or 7 times. We look for Karla on the 10 mile run and figure out that some of those runners skipped the section through the woods. Eat Star Wars chicken noodle soup at the halfway mark and hope that the Force will kick in soon. I carry so much food out of the aid station that I’m dropping it on the ground.

    IMG956402

    Danny drags me away from the food table to start another lap–5, I think. Photo by Karla.

  5. Neither of us feels great, but Danny thinks I should go ahead. I agree but can’t run fast enough to actually lose him, though I try 3 separate times. Laugh at the ridiculousness of a looping, hilly course. Turtle trying to outrun a fellow turtle. Who cares if I finish the loop 3 minutes ahead? I sure don’t. We are finished with 50K at the end of the lap! Danny says he’s going to take a longer break at the aid station to see if he can get his energy back. He doesn’t fool me.
  6. Karla goes out with me on lap 6. She takes my mind off feeling sick by telling me about the 10 mile race and filling me on how Jon is doing. At the halfway aid station I open my bottle and realize I’d accidentally filled it with blue Gatorade and hadn’t noticed for over an hour. Water has never tasted so good. My shoes are feeling tight, but the conversation makes the lap go by quickly. We finish the lap to find Danny drinking beer. Neither Karla nor I is surprised.
  7. I start the lap feeling horrible, but suddenly, I’m euphoric. I feel great! Can’t tell if it was the bathroom stop, the Fritos, the ginger chew, or some kind of spiritual transcendence. It was my 4th fastest lap, so I’ll take it. There are fewer runners out on the course, since many of the 50K people are finished. I appreciate running solo for a bit to mentally re-charge. I think about the many special people in my life. Then, since I’m in the Sandhills, I start identifying trees. But I can only remember the five species of oaks I saw, plus longleaf pine.
  8. I return to the aid station for the last time but can’t think of anything I want to eat. I know I should eat something. Danny is asking what I need and I honestly don’t know. My feet hurt. Finally I look up at him and the aid station volunteers and say solemnly: “The. DOGS. ARE. BARKIN’.” I grab some Fritos, I think, and Karla and I head out. Just as we’re about to make the turn into the woods, we see Jon and Carolyn who’ve looped back out of the woods, about 20 minutes ahead of us. We cheer at them and head on. I started out feeling excited about finishing, but now I’m just dog-tired. We make the last turn to run by hole 15 and I know the end is near and pick up the pace a tiny bit. I see Jon, Carolyn, and Danny standing at the finish cheering me in and wonder if everyone else has left. Woo HOO! Fifty miles done! The race director hands me a medal and I thank him for a great race. We pack up our stuff and hit a Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner. Jon, Danny and I all order exactly the same thing: bacon cheeseburger with fries and a pint of Sam Adams’ Octoberfest. What a great day with great friends!

    Woo HOOO! Fifty miles and done! Photo by Danny.

    Woo HOOO! Fifty miles and done! Photo by Danny.

An interview with Santa following the 2014 Blue Ridge Relay

The Blue Ridge Relay is a 200+ mile race that starts in Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia and ends in Asheville, NC. The 12 Things (in various iterations) have been part of the race for four years. We usually finish in the middle of the pack, but we have more fun and team spirit than any team out there. Here’s a link to the 2014 video made by our official videographer extraordinaire, Gordy Blackwell.

###
Interviewer: So, you’re a runner now.
Santa: Yep. Doc said that I needed to drop some weight. I wasn’t about to give up cookies, so I bought a pair of running shoes. Now I’m hooked.

10498637_10204922715370539_6520140089566386691_o

Ho ho ho! Leg 36, 6.8 mi into downtown Asheville. GO BIG OR GO HOME.

INT: What happened to your reindeer?
Santa: Well, PETA was on my case about the overtime, and the vet bills were through the roof, even with insurance. So I retired them and found them good homes. Now it’s me, my headlamp, and a sack of toys. Overhead is so much lower.

INT: How on earth do you run around the world in one night?
Santa: Subcontractors are the way to go these days. Ultra-running has really taken off, so there are all kinds of weirdos who are willing to run all night. They’re happy to get their long run in so they can spend Christmas Day with their families drinking egg nog and foam rolling. And most of them will work for cookies and a cheap medal, though the real cuckoos insist on a belt buckle. Ho ho ho! You can’t make this stuff up.

INT: Let’s talk about the relay.
Santa: The Blue Ridge Relay is great training as we build up my mileage for Christmas Eve. Plus, it gets everyone in the holiday spirit a few months early. The course is beautiful and the race is incredibly well-run. We have a great team—this is our fourth year—and I’d argue that we have more fun on the Relay than any other team out there. We are known for supporting the runners on every team as well as our own with our wacky brand of Christmas spirit.

11 of 12 Things of Xmas at Santa’s Sleigh, a small family-owned gift shop on Leg 4 in Ashe County. We’re now friends with the proprietor, who dresses as Santa every Christmas Eve.

INT: Word on the street is that you threatened a runner on another team during your last leg into Asheville.
Santa: That’s not true. I merely told him that he’d be on my naughty list if he passed me.

INT: Who was that guy in the yellow tights at the start?
Santa: That’s Elf—name is Jeff. Nice guy and great runner. It wasn’t such a smart idea he had, though, running a sub-7 minute pace down the mountain from Grayson Highlands. We call him “Lightning Tights” now.

Jeff start

Elf leads off the 12 Things of Xmas from Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia.

10687505_10204914064314268_924559256571100989_o

We missed our team captain, so I put his head on a stick.

INT: What happened to the Grinch?
Santa: Our team captain and fan favorite, the Grinch, will be back in 2015. He’ll be grumpier than ever, of course. Growing up with bad weather and worse food (not to mention England’s performance in the World Cup this year), it’s no wonder he’s a Scrooge.

INT: You really stepped up the decorations on your vans this year.
Santa: Not bad for a team of 8 men and 4 women, eh? We had wreaths, stockings, tinsel, and Christmas lights this year. We also lit up our runners during the night with battery-powered Christmas lights. Adds a lot of cheer and safety, too.

???????????????????????????????

Festive vans that just got better throughout the race. Unfortunately, team attire did not improve.

???????????????????????????????

We rocked the Christmas lights in our sleds, errrr, vans, and hung the stockings with care.

??????????

“My arm hurts.” “What?”

INT: Any tips on what NOT to bring?
Santa: I put jingle bells on my shoes for my first leg. Wow, that was an annoying 10K on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

INT: I hear you had the Gingerbread Man on your team.
Santa: Oh ho ho! Yes, he’s one of our speedy Peeps. Sometimes his head gets a little big—you know, “can’t catch me!” and all that. But he’s a great teammate, despite his addiction to scented candles, I mean Twizzlers in weird flavors.

Good help is hard to find in today's job market.

Quality workers are hard to find in today’s economic climate.

INT: There were reports of guys on your team wearing ugly, Christmas-themed shorts. Can’t you enforce a dress code or something?
Santa: Unfortunately, no. These guys work for cookies, so there’s not much I can do. I don’t think we did anything illegal, unless it’s illegal to be too white. There’s just not much sun at the North Pole.

INT: So where were you most sore after the relay?
Santa: My abs are killing me! It’s not easy sucking in your gut for 6.8 miles while people are driving by taking pictures and video.

INT: Oh, come on. Santa is supposed to have a belly like a bowl full of jelly!
Santa: Yeah, sure, and the whole world knows it. Even Santa struggles with positive body image.

10688004_10152247351156286_7493554495223559541_o

The 12 Things of Xmas finish strong in Asheville, NC!

INT: Will there be a video this year?
Santa: Yes, of course! Our official videographer Gordy is already hard at work putting it together. I’ll post the link here when it’s ready.

INT: What is your advice to folks who are thinking about doing the Blue Ridge Relay?
Santa: Pick great friends for teammates who can be flexible and roll with the unexpected. Drive safely. And don’t forget to soak in the experience, to have fun and to share the holiday spirit along the way.

10687470_10204922935976054_2806454028698051602_o

31.5 hours, 208 miles, 12 happy and exhausted teammates. 27K feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of loss. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The Never-Ending Reindeer Run (#NERR) Part 2: The Journey

IMG_7721

Uwharrie shirts, check! Ready to start!

Friday, December 13
It’s an old sailors’ superstition that voyages should never start on Friday, much less Friday the 13th, but we are rational types, not swayed by old sailors. We were, however, swayed by unglamorous rush hour traffic, though we started on our 3.5 mi leg reasonably close to on time.

We had a great crew of Andrew and our boys, Jon, Will, Marcus and Suzanne to start our 50 mile journey as the shadows of the golden December afternoon grew long. We took it easy, admiring familiar views, joking and laughing.

I was a little quieter than usual—going through my mental checklist—trying to think of what we might need for Saturday, feeling out my feet, and wondering what I would forget or wish I had on the long day ahead. I can be highly organized when needed, but find the effort of managing details exhausting. The forecast for Saturday looked dismal, with rain, heavy at times, starting late morning and continuing through the day. However, Joanna and I both felt confident about covering the distance.

???????????????????????????????

Andrew and our younger son, Simon, helped us kick off our adventure. Simon’s first point-to-point run!

Dusk fell and we had not quite reached the cars. It was one of Simon’s first point-to-point runs and after we explained that we were only running one way, he enjoyed the journey and worried less about the distance. We wrapped it up and reconvened at Milton’s Pizza and Pasta with Audrey and Carolyn to carb-load for Saturday.

IMG_7741

We had a great crew for Day 1!

IMG_7743

Because it’s the hunting season and we were running through state gamelands, we chose our 2013 Umstead marathon shirts. We also removed our antlers prior to takeoff.

Saturday, December 14th
Joanna and I met at Rolling View in Durham at 7:00 am. You know it’s going to be a long run when it takes this much time to drive shuttle. We left my car there, dropped off supplies at Creedmor Rd, and parked where we’d finished the previous night, at Raven’s Ridge Rd.

We actually arrived at the start at 7:30, but we’d told friends we were starting at 8:00. Inexplicably, we did not head down the street for a quick cup of coffee. A great crew joined us for the first few miles: Diane, Gordy, and AnaRita had started earlier then turned around and ran back with us; Melina, Mimi, Bubba, and Missy set up a shuttle and went one way with us, and Audrey and Lisa saw us off before they took their pooches for a walk.

We fell behind our estimated time early and significantly, and I’m not sure how. Our friends knew that we had a long day ahead and let us dictate the pace, and we stopped frequently for photographs and walk breaks. We guesstimated our total finish time for 32.2 miles would be 6-8 hours, though we knew 6 hours was unlikely.

We said goodbye to our peeps at Possum Track Rd., and Joanna and I were on our own for a few miles. It finally felt like we were doing a long-distance run. We were quiet and grew more focused. The section between Possum Track Rd. and Blue Jay Point County Park has beautiful beech and holly forests, and some large swaths of mountain laurel that will flower come May–definitely worth a return visit. Today it was overcast and the rain started pattering. Our banter about gunfire was no joke—we passed through state gamelands and it was peak hunting season. We passed one guy with a long bow and could hear intermittent gunfire, fortunately a ways off.

One of my favorite photos of the NERR. Joanna covering some distance on the MST through a beautiful beech forest in winter.

One of my favorite shots. Joanna covering some distance on the MST through a beautiful beech forest in winter.

We met Carolyn and Jon on Six Forks Rd. just outside Blue Jay Point County Park, about 10 miles into our trip, and Jon joined us for the rest of the day. Jon is always upbeat and it was great to have his company. Never once did he complain about our slow pace or the lousy weather we would have most of the day.

It started raining in earnest soon thereafter, maybe around 11:00. Time slipped by without me really noticing, something that has happened to me in previous long run experiences. We switched off leading and following, without really discussing it, just getting into the groove of moving across the terrain. These are moments that ebb and flow and you’re covering ground like water flowing over rocks, almost without effort. When I reach this place I feel like I could keep running forever.

We stopped at Blue Jay Point County Park for restrooms and water, had I been smart enough to refill my pack there, rather than just my small bottle. The pull of the warm Visitor’s Center was hard to leave, and I felt some fatigue as we emerged into cold rain to hop back on the trail.

The section from Blue Jay Point to Shinleaf seemed endless. None of us had run that section in its entirety, and Shinleaf was supposed to be our halfway mark at 15.5 miles. So you can imagine our dismay as we ran on…and on…and on…with no sign of Shinleaf. It was past 18 miles on Joanna’s Garmin when we finally pulled up to the restrooms, only to find them locked and the water turned off.

We were drenched, cold, and discouraged. Again I learned—don’t wait to eat. I kept thinking I’d grab a snack when I got to Shinleaf—I needed the calories sooner. Joanna sent out an update and we were shocked to realize that it was nearly 2:00—we had thought we’d be there by 11-11:30. My body felt as though I’d already run well over 20 miles. Inwardly, I groaned. All I kept thinking was this: We were only halfway. Half. Way.

I pulled out my phone while I snacked to see a text from our friend Nancy. “Need soup? I’ll be home in 10 min and can bring you some.” Sent at 12:15. I felt bad calling and asking her to bring us stuff. I like to be self-reliant. Our next road crossing was Creedmor and we had snacks stashed there. But we were all soaked and shivering. She DID offer, we reasoned. I called.

She answered right away—she and Jean were at Bull City Running in Durham. “Oh…” I said, trying to hide my disappointment, “never mind, then.” “We’re done shopping, and I think there is a soup place next door. Hang on…” I waited while she assessed the options and conferred with Jean. “We’ll be at Creedmor with chicken noodle soup in 45 minutes.” I looked at Joanna and Jon, nodding. Heck yeah. “Thanks a million. We’ll try to get there within the hour.”

We were still cold and stiff, but we now had a purpose. When we reached Creedmor, about 20 mi according to our map, we not only had hot soup waiting, but encouragement from Nancy and Jean, which warmed us as much as the soup. Nancy’s vehicle was a fully equipped mobile aid station. She had a rain jacket, recycled mylar blankets, spare gloves, and two headlamps. We scarfed down the soup as she and Jean used towels to wring out our gloves. I put on my spare jacket and we broke into my tin full of snacks. In about 10 minutes I had eaten soup, Fritos, Uwharrie cookies, a Luna bar, and a Coke, and stuffed my pockets with extra snacks. It was just after 3:00 and the rain had stopped for a few minutes. “Maybe it’s done,” I said hopefully. Jean shook her head. “I just saw the radar. It’s about to start again, and hard this time.”

IMG_7774a

Feeling happier with some additional layers, hot soup, and TLC. Nancy and Jean were the best!

As Joanna noted, we weren’t thinking clearly and took the headlamps only “just in case,” because, I thought, surely we’d finish before dark. But was after 3:00 and we still had 10 miles to go. We thanked our buddies many times, crossed Creedmor Rd, and headed west.

It started raining again, and hard. “So…what do you guys like to do for fun?” I called through the downpour. They chuckled. We were feeling better after our rest stop. And from here on out, we’d be covering trail none of us had seen before. We were intrepid explorers again.

???????????????????????????????

We actually saw this on Day 3 but passed many other old homestead and outbuildings like it in the rain on Saturday.

Unfortunately, it was raining too hard for photos, but we passed some interesting sights. We squelched through mud for what seemed like a mile on the long section between Creedmor and Boyce Mill Rd, which made running nearly impossible. We passed a few overgrown clearings with old home sites, some beneath the spreading canopies of large oaks that spent their youth in the open. The gloom of the day made them a little spooky.

We grew quiet again as we focused on the task at hand. We had a map but didn’t want to stop long enough to take it out in the rain, so we killed time by speculating how far we had left to go. We came off the trail at the Waterfowl Impoundment Area on Highway 98 and checked the map posted there. It was another 3.7 miles to my car.

Conference time. It was nearly 5 pm and rapidly getting dark, and it was still pouring. It would take us more than an hour to get to Rolling View. Joanna and I looked at each other, trying to guess what the other was thinking. I couldn’t tell whether she was merely willing to keep going, or really WANTED to finish the leg tonight. Personally, I felt kind of ambivalent. We could get out of this mess and just start here at 98 in the morning. We looked at the map again and realized we would have to wait at least 30 minutes for Andrew or Carolyn to drive up to 98 to find us. Forget that—we were moving on. I gave Andrew a quick call to let him know we were doing fine and planning to finish.

Headlamps on! We jogged up 98 and then ducked back on the MST. I wondered what passing drivers must have thought of us. Joanna and Jon took the headlamps but I preferred to run in front and retain as much peripheral and night vision as I could for as long as possible. My greatest concern was that I was steadily getting colder. I wasn’t sure that we could move fast enough to stay warm, and mentioned to Jon that although we were now committed to finishing, that we might have made a mistake. If one of us got hurt or hypothermic, it would be pretty difficult to claim in hindsight that we’d made the right decision. I didn’t dwell on it or worry about it—just made note of it and moved on.

The last of the twilight faded and we were really in the dark. We tried to switch off the lead but since the headlamp was on Jon’s head, all he could see was rain, so he stayed just behind me while I looked for the next trail blaze in the dim light. Joanna had a lamp behind us and we moved, mostly in silence, through the dark forest. It was easy to tell when we’d taken a few steps off the trail, because the untraveled forest floor was much softer underfoot, so we never went astray for long. When we did, we retraced our steps to the last blaze, then scanned 360 degrees to find the next one. The trail blazes were like little lanterns in the woods, beckoning us forward. Suddenly, I realized that even though I was freezing and exhausted, that THIS was the adventure, and well worth the price of admission. As Andrew loves to say, life is rich!

After a few stumbles, we resigned ourselves to power hiking. We passed a few spur trails and what looked like access roads, but I insisted on continuing to follow the blazes, which I knew would put us right where we parked. I didn’t want to risk a short cut and get lost. We suddenly came to a sign with an arrow that said Parking Lot and hoped it was the right parking lot. Soon thereafter we saw my car. We made it! Shaking with cold, we piled into the car and went to retrieve our vehicles. It was after 6:00.

My desire for a hot shower was starting to trump my desire for food, but Joanna and Jon pointed out that once I’d had that hot shower, I wouldn’t leave my house, but I’d still be hungry, which was 100% true. So we changed clothes at Chow where we met Andrew and the boys and Andrew treated us to a celebratory dinner. Joanna and I felt we’d earned the Flatliner—burgers with a fried egg and bacon. We’d run 32.2 miles in 9 hours and 50 minutes—the longest amount of time I’ve ever been on my feet for a run. Yeah!!!

Sunday, December 15
My shoes didn’t dry overnight, but that was OK, as I had a back-up pair. I never did figure out whether I liked the Cascadias that much better than the Adrenalines or if they just seemed better because they weren’t soaking wet and I hadn’t run 32 miles in them.

9:00 seemed like such a reasonable start time when we were planning, but Joanna and I needed to meet at the finishing point, Red Mill Rd., by 8:00 to drop off a car, so I was out the door and on the road at 7:30. I had to get up early because I was so tired on Saturday night that I couldn’t even think about getting things ready for Sunday. Today we wore the 2012 Uwharrie Mountain run shirts, one of our favorites. It was cold, but the sun was shining. It was going to be a good day.

We dropped off my car and drove to Rolling View, where a great crew of Peeps had joined us for a section or two. I was feeling low on energy so it was awesome to see them and soak up their enthusiasm. Jon was back in his still-wet shoes, and Nancy and Jean were there, as well as Suzette, Marcus, Emily, Ashley, Scott and Steve. We set off in high spirits. I felt pretty good, all things considered, though of course my legs were a little stiff and I had ITB pain throughout the morning.

IMG_7784

Our crew on the footbridge. It was a great day.

The section from Rolling View west is probably my new favorite discovery. We wove in and out of coves and around every corner there was a view of the lake. I had my camera out a lot to snap pictures and at one point, lamented that the view we were admiring was not photographable. “Must be present to win,” said Scott, and that was a great mantra to carry us through the morning.

???????????????????????????????

Cypress trees near the long footbridge. The day was perfect.

IMG_7789

Our crew on the footbridge. Sharing the morning made it even better!

The section ended with a long footbridge through a beautiful section of the lake, with buttressed cypress trees hugging the shoreline. It was perfect. On the other side, we said goodbye to some of our friends and headed on. Ashley and Scott ran a shuttle and saw us to Cheek Rd. They are both triathletes, and every time we came to a road crossing, they and Jon exclaimed that they’d been there before on a bike ride. Marcus and Jon stayed with us to the finish.

Me, Joanna, Jon and Marcus at Cheek Rd and headed to the end.

Me, Joanna, Jon and Marcus at Cheek Rd with just 5 miles to go.

The route got decidedly less scenic as we approached I-85, and you could tell that this section was put in as a connector, not as a primary recreational trail. It was a bit of an adventure finding the tunnel that went under I-85, as we passed an air field and then ran parallel to the roaring highway, picking our way through standing water and a lot of trash. Finally we found the tunnel and then ran the short section to Red Mill Rd, just a nondescript rural road in Durham County, where we found my car. It took us just over four hours to run the 14.4 mi sections, so we felt good about how our tired bodies loosened up once we got moving.

IMG_7803

Unscenic corridor along I-85 before we found the tunnel.

So that’s a wrap for the Never-Ending Reindeer Run. Joanna’s great re-cap is here. I’ve started a couple of lists of notes, one of what we did well and another with some of the many things that I learned, that I will save for another post. If you’re still reading, thanks for coming along and experiencing our journey. I’m not sure that I can explain any more clearly our multi-modal reasons for doing the run—on the one hand, doing it because it was a fun and unforgettable adventure, on the other, tackling a tough challenge that tested our limits.

I’m sure we’ll plan more adventures like this one, and we’ve had many subsequent conversations that have started with “Next time…”

Afterward, someone mentioned how different our experience would have been, if the weather had been nicer. True enough. But the weather gave us the experience we had, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

map2

Richmond marathon, Twittified

I’ve been accused of being chatty and wordy. Funny that the social media outlet I love to scorn (Twitter: “everyone talking; nobody listening”) has become one that I enjoy as someone who struggles with conciseness. The 140 character limit is always a fun challenge, especially since I refuse to use text-speak, abbreviations, or bad grammar. With that in mind, here is my Richmond marathon report in a series of imagined tweets:

Pre-race: #Richmondmarathon with my family and @runnerpeeps! Andrew and Stephen off to start the 8K in the rain; Simon is with Amy. #gametime

Start: Peep panic ensues when we see we’re on the wrong side of the road. Mad dash and the Peeps are off! #losthalfthepeeps #raincanquitanytimenow

Mile 1-5: Drop behind Jeff/Kelly/Cheryl because I’m panting. Steve would be proud I have a plan: 8:45-9s for 20 then see what happens. #usuallywingit

Mile 6-9: Beautiful scenery; crossing the James River with flowing water, boulders, and fall colors punctuating the mist. Gorgeous. #roadrunsmaybeOK

Mile 9-11: There’s my friend Diane! Love running with my training buddy for the 2009 NYC marathon. She’s running for a BQ today! #shemadeitby4seconds

Mile 11: “I could see Jeff for a long time but can’t see him now.” On cue Jeff tears out of a port-a-potty next to us and takes off. #catchthetarheel

Mile 12: An overweight man running next to me is alternately singing and muttering to himself. I see another man dressed as a turkey. #passtheturkey

Mile 13.1: 1:55 and feeling good. Just behind Jeff shouting “Go Pack!” Finally draw even and bust a move to get his attention as we hit the party zone.

Mile 14: “I’ve heard a few ‘Go Packs’ along the way.” “That was me, you idiot.” Choke and spew Nabs everywhere at the 14 mi AS. #itwasnotpretty

Mile 15: Diane’s husband John is on the bridge as I come back over the river, then I see my pal Martin! Yeah! #lovemesomePeepsupport

Mile 16: “These are my people!” I’m so pumped for the junk food AS, but I’m still coughing so I go with plain water. #noFritos #sadtrombone

Mile 18-19: Run with Cheryl, who’s focusing with music. Want to pull her past the wall but she tells me to go. Hate leaving my friend in a tough spot.

Mile 20: Run past @bullcityrunning signs and feel the #RUNDRM love. This is where I pick up the pace. Hello, legs? Are you there? #noanswer

Mile 21: See Kelly and think how cool it would be to finish together. But she’s running strong and I’m not sure I can pick up my pace. #catchthatPeep

Mile 22-24: Trying hard to catch up with Kelly. So close…when I suddenly realize, oh crap! It’s not going to happen. #insidejokebutnottoofunny #rats

Mile 24: Momentarily discouraged, then realize I can likely make all 3 of my goals, including the secret one! #attitudeadjustment Woo hoo!

Mile 25: Looking for any excuse to walk and try every mental trick to keep moving. Like magic, Karla, Shellie & Doug appear, cheering! #thankyouPeeps

Mile 26: No matter what I do, I’m slowing down even as I am falling downhill to the finish. Thank you, gravity. #whereismile26 #leavingitalloutthere

Mile 26.2: Andrew + Peeps are at the finish; my friends are arriving too. So excited (and pained) as everything seizes up. #hellohamstrings #finished

Post-race: Celebrating good friends, 4 first-time marathoners, a 50th birthday, many great races, and my new PR (by 19 min!*) of 3:51:12! #PeepsRock

Just a few of the Peeps doing the Richmond races!

Just a few of our Peeps doing the Richmond races! Great weekend!

[*Richmond was my 5th marathon and a new PR was my “easy” goal. Why? Well, my 1st, 3rd, and 4th marathons were the Umstead marathon and my 2nd marathon was New York City (where I blew up at mile 14 after running 8:30 miles the first half).]

Local. Community. Running. Inspiration. Encouragement.

Like many runners, I track my mileage. I used to do this haphazardly. [As in, I tracked my mileage when I was doing well, but didn’t bother when I was slacking off.] Now, I capture it all—the good, the bad, and the next-month-will-be-better.

square logo stacked

For information about our running program, check out runnerpeeps.com.

Our friend Steve suggested that doing a 1000 Mile Club would be a fun activity for our group running program, Runnerpeeps, and he was even willing to track individual mileage. We were thrilled with the idea. Steve had an excellent response, and soon we were encouraging all our Peeps to participate.

Together, we discussed it more. Running 1000 miles in a year is a fun challenge. But for many Peeps, a thousand miles is not an appropriate goal. Some have a single race goal in the fall or spring, others are working toward their first 10K, and still others love the half-marathon distance best. Averaging 83 miles a month is not in line with many of these goals. There’s also the implicit suggestion that more miles = better. We wanted to be collaborative, rather than competitive.

Our vision as a company is this: Peeps work hard to achieve their individual goals, while encouraging and inspiring others to be their best.

Run around the world with the Peeps!

See the world with the Peeps!

How could we use monthly mileage to inspire all our Peeps to work together as a team? Steve had a great idea—make it fun—set a goal for the Peeps to run around the world, an impressive 25,000 cumulative miles. We started in Singapore, and he usually has a guessing game each month for the next city we make it to, mileage-wise. Who wouldn’t want to play?! [As of April 1, we’ve made it to Cairo.]

I kept thinking about another incentive tied to this common goal, one that would inspire everyone to participate. One that would tie into our company ideals and vision. Our group is LOCAL, it’s about COMMUNITY, and we work together to use RUNNING as a source of INSPIRATION, to ENCOURAGE ourselves and each other to be our best

The idea finally hit me.

Runnerpeeps will donate a penny for every mile run by the Peeps in 2013. We have not yet decided on a charity or project. We are small, there are ~70 Peeps, and we want our donation to make an impact. The donation needs to tie closely with our ideals: Local. Community. Running. Inspiration. Encouragement.

1000 miles or 500 miles, 100 miles or 50 miles. Our goal in this, really, is to pull each other along, to be better versions of ourselves through our running. I read something recently that said it well: “Fitness is not about being better than someone else…It’s about being better than you used to be.” Or even thought you could be.

I hope all our Peeps are as excited about this as we are. Because when we work together, we can accomplish amazing things. Rock and roll, Peeps!

Quite possibly our largest gathering of Peeps, at our 2012 Jingle Bell run. There’s something special about a group that gets together on Christmas Eve morning to share each other’s company and celebrate the chance to run.