Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Screwed by the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run

I have one final thing to say:
The organizers and volunteers of the Umstead 100 have ruined my life.
Completely screwed me.
What did they do?
They gave Shannon a wonderful, successful 100 miler in her first attempt. And now she is an Ultra Runner.

And me, the poor non-ultra spouse, has this to look forward to for the rest of my life:
  • Weekends of 48 hour sleep deprivation
  • Trying to get her to drink Pedialyte and watching her puke like she is an infant.
  • Changing her stinking shoes at 12 a.m.
  • Listening to her analyze race results for hours on end
  • Packing the car in the pouring rain and mud at 4 a.m.
  • Getting calls to come pick her up in the middle of training run
I guess I am partially to blame. I should have let her run "The Burning River 100" last summer, with no training, just like she wanted to. She would have gotten lost 6 times and end up starving, dehydrated, sun burned and covered with bug bites by mile 40. She would have dropped out, and I wouldn't have to worry about her running any more 100 milers.

It's 2 AM, she has run 92 miles, and she is still frickin smiling?
That's just not right.

But no. Instead the Umstead Endurance Run gave her a well supported, accessible, and friendly path to her first 100 mile finish. And now she is going to be running many, many more.

I feel most hurt by the friends who volunteered at the race and were therefore responsible, however indirectly, for getting Shannon hooked on this completely insane habit. They were enablers and dare I say even pushers.
I will be expecting an apology from all of the them, not limited to the following people:
  • Harold Hill for working Aid Station #2 and taking some fantastic photos.
  • Iris for working 2 shifts at Sally's Asylum and helping crew for Shannon and Kelly.
  • Josh for his pacing including Shannon for a lap. 
  • Ronnie and Karen for the tedious and unglamorous job of transcribing the detailed timing results.
  • Heiko for pacing 
  • Scott for working  Sally's Asylum to the wee hours of the morning.
  • Charles West for his volunteering and the great support he gave Shannon
  • Rhonda Hampton, Associate Race Director, for being a mentor to Shannon and insisting that the Umstead 100 be her first.
  • And of course, many others.
And with that, I'll wrap up this blog.
But I guess there will be another one next year, unfortunately.



Oddly enough Shannon did not take a lot of photos during the race.
I guess she was too busy throwing up Thai food.

Here are links to some friends' albums:


I have often struggled to describe what a strange event the Umstead 100 is.

But Iris has nailed it. See her post here: Umstead: A 100-Mile Heroic Journey to the Underworld

For one weekend a year, this bizarre "Underworld" secretly opens up in our otherwise unremarkable suburban state park. Top athletes from around the country and nearby descend into this dark nether place, performing feats of endurance and strength beyond the comprehension of casual observers.

While it exists in plain sight, the locals are unaware of it's existence. Even regular park users barely notice it's there. There are no huge cheering crowds, TV crews, or even mention of it in the newspaper.

During the race I was riding my bike through the park, and rode past a guy talking on his cell phone about watching basketball. Basketball? I wanted to shake him, "Do you see what is happening around you? Do you know what these people running through the park are doing?"

But I knew he wouldn't understand. The journey these 100 milers were taking was not happening in the world he lived in.
A few of us though, volunteers, friends and family, had the privilege to glimpse into this underworld, and cannot help but be moved by it. Some of us will be inspired to attempt the journey ourselves. Others, like myself, are content to be observers, peering over the edge.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Grateful and loved.

From my nieces in Michigan.
Umstead 100 was the hardest thing I have ever done, and it included many firsts for me. For example,
    •    This was my first distance beyond 52 miles.
    •    My first time puking twice, immediately followed by the thought, "okay, now I can really run."
    •    And the first time I was ever envious of someone with a broken leg. I found myself saying "Well, at least he gets to sit down."

Running 100 miles is a selfish endeavor, and would be impossible without the support of other people. I want to shout from the rooftops, thanking the volunteers and pacers of Umstead 100. They gave their time, energy, and weekend to help people they may (or may not) have known achieve their goals and dreams. They endured sleepless nights, rain, heat, cold, and then more rain, all to help someone else feel pride and glory. They are the unsung heroes. And I am very grateful.

For me, the biggest, most special gift of the weekend was not running 100 miles, or the euphoria of finishing, or having accomplished something that seemed impossible—something I had only dreamed about. Instead, what I hold closest to my heart is the love, support, generosity, and kindness that my friends and family gave me all along the way. I have never felt so loved as I did this weekend, and I am humbled and blessed by the love and compassion that surrounds me. You each gave me drops of sunshine that lit my way and made my soul shine. And I will treasure this for the rest of my life.

I want to thank you all (this is in no particular order). So THANK YOU

    •    Monique Turco, for flying down from Michigan at a terribly busy time, joining me for three laps, and running your first ultra with me,  For the music and unwavering positive energy, humor, and reminders of what the human body and spirit are capable of. Even in the face of cold rain. I admire you, and I am so thankful and feel lucky to have gained you as a sister!

    •    Barefoot Josh Sutcliffe for spending your 37th birthday with me, and for being so enthusiastic and relentlessly encouraging.  And thank you for pacing me barefoot. I loved all of the stares and comments. Thank you also for all of your advice and wisdom—before, during, and after the running. You are so giving. I admire your spirit and attitude. Thank you for seeing me through that tough Lap 6, and for singing to me when I needed it most. I really hope I can return the favor and crew for you next. And I promise I won't sing for you.

    •    Brandy Burns for never letting me stop and putting up with my manipulative attempts to sit down. You were the perfect pacer for Lap 5, the lap of bodily functions. I am both thankful to you for that, and feel sorry for you for that. I can't wait to return the favor for you one day soon.

    •    Iris Sutcliffe for spending your weekend with us, and volunteering for two shifts! It was so wonderful to see you when I would come through AS 1. Thank you also for helping me change my shoes, and for just being absolutely awesome and encouraging. I love hanging out with you. You are one cool chick!

    •    Dana Gay for coming out and running mile 68 with me. I cried when I saw you. It was such a nice surprise. Thank you! Thank you also to John and Gracelynn. I was so touched that they came out to cheer me on. It means the world to me. Here is to your upcoming half! I can't wait to do it with you!

    •    Elizabeth Edwards for leaving Issac and John and your warm, dry house to come out to Umstead by yourself, in a thunderstorm, in the middle of the night just to cheer me on. I know you had to sit at the gate for a long, long time. Seeing your face made me so happy. I am grateful and honored to call you a friend. I am also super sorry about spilling boiling hot chicken soup down your back when I hugged you.

    •    Randy and Lori for driving all the way down from Creedmoor in the middle of the night just to see me for one minute. Your support and encouragement lifted me up, and I so grateful for the gift of your presence. I love you both!

    •    Layna Mosley for being such a great friend and running hero! Thanks for your pre-race gift, and encouragement all along the way. I can't wait to run with you when we are both no longer gimpy.

    •    Gina Murray for encouraging me, listening to me, and being so supportive and interested in this event. I LOVE YOU SISTER! Oh, and the box of Kerr's chocolates just arrived, and I have already begun to stuff my face with them as fast as I can. They are SO good. You know me so well. THANK YOU!

    •    Joel Johnstone for being proud of me and telling me. Your support means so much to me. Thank you brother. I love you dearly! Thank you also for the music list!!

    •    Emma, Calyx, and Mia for the good luck charm and card, and for cheering me on. I love you guys and I am so thankful for your support!

    •    Kelly Bruno it was an honor and pleasure to go through this experience as a first-timer with you. I loved hearing updates on your progress, and seeing you out there made me smile. You are an inspiration, and I am in awe of your determination and strength. I am hoping we can have more ultra adventures, but also hoping that won't be for at least several months, maybe a year :)

    •    Laura MacLean for coming over to my house the week before to check on me, and wish me good luck in this ultra. I have always admired you in both your running talent, and more importantly, your beautiful spirit.

    •    Rhonda Hampton for suggesting that Umstead 100 be my first 100. You were so right. Thank you for making this a such a special event. It made me so happy to see you out on the course. Thank you for cheering me on. A highlight from the race was having you come by on a bike . You are simply amazing.

    •    Lauren Wilkins for lifting me out of my funk at mile 47, and reminding me of my true goal in finishing the race. I am so glad we both got to finish our first 100 yesterday! CONGRATS!!

•    Jay Spadie for running with me and making me laugh for most of the first two laps. You did so well yesterday! GREAT work out there.

•    Danielle Rowland for coming out in the rain to cheer me on, see if I needed a pacer, and also for offering to hide a toothbrush behind a tree for me. I am also grateful for your running beside me at mile 18 and letting me ask your advice on how to combat the dental decay that I will inevitably face from ingesting sugar for 24 hours.

    •    Heiko, Ronnie, Karen, Harold, Jenny, Scott, Brad, Ryan, Michael, Dennis, Lisa, Charles and all my friends who volunteered. Thank you for being there, and thank you for the encouragement. It means more to me than you know.   

    •    Everyone who left comments on the blog, I am so grateful for your support. Thank you for thinking of me and seeing me through this incredible journey. I loved hearing the comments as I completed the last lap. That was so incredible and brought me to tears once again.

    •    Diane Roberto, Godmother, for sending your spiritual guidance through the Internet. I appreciate your love and support in me with everything I do. I love you.  

    •    Dad for sending your love, words of encouragement, and support all along the way. Thank you for always being proud of me, and supporting my dreams. I remember running with you when I was 8, and I am so grateful to you for introducing me to the love of running. I know it took about 20 years for it to sink in :) Thank you also for the congratulatory flowers today! I cried when I saw them.

    •    Mom, for driving all the way down from Brooklyn, and popping out of the woods at mile 37 to surprise and support me, even though she thinks this event is absolutely crazy. I kept yelling to anyone who would listen "My mom is here!" Thank you for making me feel so important and special. I cry when I think about this. Thank you for being there for me. Always.

    •    Anthony, the love of my life, for enduring 6 months of ultra ramble while you sat on the sidelines. For a "taper toy" camera to distract me from my obsessing. For gathering everything I could ever possibly want or need and having it ready for me each time I came through the loop. For staying awake for 48 hours to help me, keeping a blog for me, advising me, making me stick to my plan, running/walking the last loop with me, and keeping my spirits up by reading all the words of encouragement from everyone on the blog. Thank you for being forever on my side. I love you with every inch of my being.

Happy and Blessed - Bob Sites Report from the Umstead 100

I've taken the liberty of copying Bob's report from Facebook to this blog for all to see. Bob's an amazing guy and it's been my pleasure to know him.

Happy and Blessed

I joked about my pacers 'trying to kill me', but they did exactly what I asked them to do... to be strong when I was weak...So when my slow walk up hills was with a limp, they were telling me that when we got to the downhill what we needed to do was run again. And as I reminded myself that 'it was just pain', they would run with me while I wanted to do what I actually saw a lady do on North Turkey Creek, in the wee hours of the morning... lay down in the fetal position on the bridle trail. Blake's admonition that our training got us to the starting line, but it was our will that would get us to the finish line, proved to be true for me. 

With the amount of time and effort that I had put into preparing for this race, and time away from my wife and family... I went into the U100 intent on a high goal... to finish my 1st, and perhaps only, 100 mile endurance race with a time under 24 hours. I knew there would be pain and that I would have to make that decision to suffer, multiple times... or not. As my fellow runners can attest to, it is a very personal battle inside of us that can be affected by many other influences, not the least of which are those special people in our lives.

After my first 25 miles, where I could keep myself motivated and actually ahead of my very detailed race plan, it became evident that when I was alone with the road that I could hear clearly the logic of pain talking to me. But as I was engulfed in 'louder' conversation with fellow runners or pacers, then the pain was not the voice to be heard and the pace was not slower. But then came the arrival of my pacers (they ranged from one I had met only once 10 days earlier, to one that had been a running friend, in Umstead, for more than 25 years). With their firm, yet compassionate, prodding, I was able keep on track and finished under 23:37.

I cannot explain how anyone else pursued their individual dreams and accomplishments at U100, but I was happy to hear that so many were successful and gave such classy efforts. My short list of these people include: Charles, Jeff, Jade, Shannon, and Jennifer. There are so many who put so much into these accomplishments: family, friends, race directors, volunteers, pacers, crew, timers, as well as the runners. I have been blessed to be a part of all of these dedicated efforts.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kelly finishes in 26:something

Truly amazing. She had to listen to my blather and bad jokes ("his face sure rings a bell!"). Truly a grueling experience for her. Oh, and she ran a 100 miles. Take your pick which is worse. I had the honor of also traveling with for the last two miles. Did I let up on the jokes? Nooooo. I'm relentless.

 Mark "The Man" Manz finished 3rd in a time of... uh... slower than 2nd, faster than 4th.

I logged about 30 miles within a 14 hour period. Does that count as an ultra?

I had a great time. Thank you Shannon, Kelly, and Umstead organizers for putting together such a nice birthday party for me.

Video of the start

I took this about quarter mile down the path. I got really lucky and it turned out better than expected. I love the audio.

It starts off with darkness. You can hear the rain and the ambient noise of the forest (and me sniffling)
Then you can hear Blake in the distance (I think that's him) shouting "Seven seconds!" and a cheer goes up.
The lights of the lead bikes appear as the gun goes off.

Then glimpses of the headlamps can be seen through the trees as the runners come around the bend.
The experienced 100 milers are relaxed and talking and laughing.
This is how "Just a run in the park" begins.

Shannon finishes 100 miles in 21:48

Loop 8 started slow with all walking. But I relayed all the comments and well wishes from the blog and it lifted her spirits tremendously Soon she became driven again, with a new goal of finishing under 22 hours.

Around mile 93 she started running, flew down South Turkey Creek, past Aid station #2 and ran much of North Turkey Creek. I stopped to get her soup and had to run as fast as I could for mile to catch up. Unbelievable that anyone can run after 96 miles.

But it was a struggle to the finish, with stomach issues, and shin pain. Alternating power walking and running to the finish.

At the end she cried.