Umstead 100 – My First 100 Mile Race
“George, check your watch…how are we doing on time?” I asked for maybe the 100th time.
George is my running mentor, he has taught me everything I know about ultra-running that I did not learn “painfully” on my own. Now he is my final lap pacer for my first 100 mile race. I’ve asked him to check our time countless times over the course of the last 11 miles. George laughs as he informs me “if you can run one and half miles in two and half hours you’re going to finish well within your goal time.” I nearly lost it. I had been fighting off the emotions of finishing my first 100 for the past 11 miles. After a long day, after 98.5 miles and after nearly 20 hours I nearly lost it.
Almost as a joke I signed up to run the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. I had been running long distances since 2000, and ultra-running since 2008. During that time I could not get my head around running ONE HUNDRED miles. Truth be told, when a few friends told me about their 100 mile plans back in Aug; I still could not see me running that far in a single race. Umstead registration opened in Sept and from everything I had read about the race, I knew it would sell out fast. The Umstead 100 is advertised as an ideal first 100 mile race/run.
Sitting in a hotel room in Cleveland, Ohio (we were going to a Browns game) after a 20 mile long run that morning I decide I would try to see if I could get a spot in the upcoming race. I felt pretty confident I would get shut out of the race as spots went traditionally really fast. And truthfully that would have been okay, at least I could tell my running friends I tried.
The registration window opened at 1200 and come 1215, I’m still hitting the refresh button on my lap top without gaining the coveted Umstead entry. My son who had been sitting next to me watching me wear out my F5 key, asked what I was doing. I explained all the details of the race, the entry process and the fact that most likely there were no more entry slots available this late in the game. At 12:19 with one more push of the refresh key my 2014 Umstead dreams would be put to bed, and that was okay by me. Then the unexpected, “Congratulations” you have gained entry into the 2014 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. Wait. What? The page went on to inform me that I had 19 minutes to fill out the registration form with my credit card/billing information to get my official entry confirmed. “Oh…I still have time to get kicked out” I thought to myself. I was sure that with such a popular event that the race organizers over booked a few slots to ensure all the credit card processing went correctly.
I again expected to find out that the race had filled up before I entered my information in the system. After all I took up nearly every second of the 19 minutes (Bernie Kosar’s Browns Number). One last press of the enter key and I thought for sure my Umstead dream would be over. Then, a “Congratulation, you are an official entrant” Banner was centered on my screen. What? Wait. What? WHAT? I looked over to my son Anthony, “I’m in, I got into the 100 mile race.” Anthony looked over towards me and said, “You’ve got to run 100 mile now, you big dummy.” “Yea, Anthony, what have I done?”
Now fast forward 8 months, 1,000+ miles, three dedicated training runs and I’m standing at the starting line for the at Umstead. It’s really hard to put it all into perspective, 100 miles is a long way. Going into this event I had three goals, finishing was always number 1. In any form or fashion a finish within the 30 hour time limit and I would consider this a successful event. If I could hold up a decent pace, my second goal would be to run a sub 26 hour finishing time. And if all the starts aligned in the sky, if God blessed me, and my body could hold up, a sub 24 hour finish would be the ultimate. You see for an amateur athlete like me a sub 24 hour finish in a 100 mile race is pretty darn good.
The alarm went off around 3 a.m. I woke up got dressed and prepared my routine big breakfast . I was surprised how calm I was. Arriving at the park, we were early but not the only ones waiting on the gates to open. Race morning my wife, Michele was with me and after making our way into the park we found our parking spot, unloaded the car, set up our pit stop area and the next thing I knew it was nearly start time. I worked my way to the rear of the lineup hoping to link up with Nathan. Nathan and I had planned to run the first 50 miles together. Michele was up front taking pictures. I said one last prayer as the clock ticked down. The morning grew quiet and then the sound of the start and 300 pairs of running shoes began to move.
We took off for our first lap right on time 0600. My plan for the day had me running with my friend Nathan M. This would be his first Umstead as well, although he had run 100 miles at a 24 hour event (Hinson Lake) last Sept. In all honesty running with Nathan for the first 50 miles, was a security blanket for me. I figured since he had a 100 miler to his credit, he might drag me along. As things do, this plan nearly went out the window before the gun went off. In the sea of bodies, darkness and headlamps I lost Nathan before we even lined up. With my security blanket gone this was the first time I got nervous. I did my best to remain outwardly cool, but inside I was pinging a bit.
When the start went off I slowly made my way with the herd out on to the course. This start went much like any race start. The crowd was excited; a lot of high fives, waves and camera flashes were going off. Umstead uses an alternate starting loop that you only run once as we made our way along this route I was looking forward to seeing something familiar (I ran three training laps here in Feb.). I reasoned maybe something familiar would get me back into my comfort zone.
Easily making our way down the trail it was not long before I saw that familiar site. In front of me about 50 yards ahead was the back of Nathan’s head! How in that collection of people, were we only yards apart and yet unable to find each other? With a few low tempo surges I caught up to Nathan and we settle into our plan to run laps paced at between 2:45 to 3:00 hours. Our day would be made up of eight laps each of 12.5 miles around William B Umstead State Park.
This opening lap was awesome, the sun was coming up, excitement and energy was in the air and we were running the Umstead 100! It was hard to believe this day had finally come. Nathan and I talked a lot during this lap and we committed to sticking with our plan. Our plan for the day was to run one mile then take a two minute fast walk break or we would fast walk the up hills, and run the down hills and flats. And I’m here to tell you, you can’t run a mile without encountering some type of uphill at Umstead. At this early stage of the day we may have been able to run some of the smaller uphills but knowing we had a taxing day in front of us, we chose to be conservative, if it smelled like, or even looked like an uphill we fast walked it.
Not wanting to miss the Umstead experience we also took time to snap a few pictures along the way. After all running 100 miles is not all about the finishing time. Nathan is great at capturing the moment it pictures. We also took time to meet some new friends and chat with those we knew from other races or had met on line.
LAP 1 2:28:27 lap time, 12.5 miles/11:35 cumulative pace/ 8:28 Saturday event time
Our first transition went well, our crews (my wife Michele and Nathan’s running partner in crime Paul) were standing by waiting on us. Michele and Paul had picked out a prime location on the Headquarter loop, which enable us to see them as we made our run up to the timing/scoring tent. We would also see them again as we went back out on to the course. This was a perfect set up, we could tell them what we needed in one pass and when we got back they had it waiting on us. To our crews, Thank You so much.
At this point in the race I was so relieved that nothing on my body, was giving me any issues. In the month leading up to race day, my left IT band had tightened up which caused some outside knee pain. Today that would not be a concern. The only issue I was having was that in spite of wearing my normally full proof gaiters, I was picking up small rocks in my shoes. During our first lap transition, I had to take a few minutes to take off my shoes and clean them out. This simple action gave me the first big scare of the day. After sitting down cleaning out my shoes and getting my snack, when I stood up my lower back locked up tight as a drum. For a split second I thought, No… I don’t want to go down for this. Determined but concerned I moved on the best I could and thankfully once I went back to a running gait my back slowly loosen up again.
Back out on the course Nathan and I went to work. Our spirits were high, our pace was solid, if not just a bit fast and we were enjoying running under a bright sky and near perfect conditions. The trail at Umstead is advertised as very wide, level, flat and forgiving. All but the latter of that was true. During the 20th running of the Umstead 100 the trail was very rocky, rock infested, rock polluted, rock contaminated, rock diseased, rocks where everywhere. And then there were more rocks. We had been told that they had just preformed some maintenance to the trail, and it was in good condition, but over run with loose rocks.
The day was progressing just the way I had hoped. We were making good progress, no surprise issues had made their way into the day and the crowd support, aid stations and fellow runners were uplifting. Out on the course it was surprising to me the number of people who knew me, had read my blog or followed me on Twitter. When you’re faced with a run in excess of 24 hours it is nice to hear encouraging words whenever you can get them.
The major challenge of this lap was the second encounter with the five good size climbs Umstead has to offer. These hills came up around mile seven and a half or eight. I called this the backside of the course. On our second accent I commented to Nathan, that we were going to pay for this later tonight. Fast walking up these monsters, we made very good time. I had remembered from our training run when Umstead veteran Dan P. told us that we had to manage our legs so that we did not lose the ability of running the down hills. If we chose to run or push faster on the up hills early in the day we risked destroying our quads where we would be forced to walk the downhill’s later in the night. I heeded that advice thought out the day.
LAP 2 2:31:50 lap time, 25 miles/12:01 cumulative pace/11:17am event time
The second transition went much like the first, Michele and Paul were standing by. They were ready to receive our requests and they had everything we needed when we returned for our pit stop. A caution of “Beware the chair” always was at the forefront of my mind. I had planned to never sit down during this race, but because of the rocks getting into my shoes I had to sit down occasionally to clean them out and my back locked up each time. This was going to be a routine scene. Clean out shoes…back locks up. Thankfully each time I was able to walk, jog and run my back, back into shape.
Moving out on to our third lap, Nathan did a quick math drill and figured out we were a good bit ahead of our plan. I was a bit concerned but also feeling great. My legs were alive, my lungs were working but not over taxed and mentally I was in great spirits. We vowed to slow down some to not risk burning out, yet we still made very good time. I never felt like I was running outside of myself. It was a wonderful day and then the sun came out.
Going into this race, with an IT band issue I decided I would run in my CW-X Stabilyx compression tights. The extra compression these offered around my knees really helped with stability and comfort. I also noticed that when I wore them during the Graveyard 100k, my IT band issue was greatly reduced. The plan for Umstead was to wear the tights, with shorts over them, a long or short sleeve shirt, depending on weather, my Ultimate Direction race vest, hat or beanie, head lamp, Garmin 201 GPS, my dirty girlz gaiters, and my Nike Air Pegasus shoes. But realizing how hard it is to get those compression tights on/off no matter how hot it got during the day I was committed to them. If my back locked up bending over to clean out my shoes, taking off those tights would put me in traction. As warm as it got mid-day…I kept motoring along. A few of the girls on the course kept commenting to me about wearing the tights all day. I tried to explain that they were holding my knee together, but the girls weren’t having anything about that. They let me have it every time we passed each other. I did notice that I was the only guy out there in full length tights, and for a while I got a little self-conscious, but then I noticed my knee. I had not thought about it all day…tights are good. Plus I felt like Superman!
As we approached our return to Cemetery hill, I noticed that Nathan was looking a bit hot and was dragging behind some. I was feeling great at this point. Hitting the 1.5 mile marker for our return to the HQ loop, Nathan wasn’t able to keep the same pace. As much as I did not want to break from him, I felt like slowing down would have affected my ability to keep moving. Also after our fast start we both knew a sub 24 hour finish might just be in the cards. I looked back to Nathan and told him I had to keep moving…he nodded, waved and we parted ways.
Making my way to our pit stop both Paul and Michele asked where Nathan was. I felt terrible telling them that I had to leave him. I told Paul that Nathan was okay, but running slow. I then told Michele what I needed and made my way up the hill to timing/scoring. At the turn around was HQ Aid Station and a wide spread of food. The event staff is SUPER, they tend to every need and refuel you as fast as you want to move through. Another race tip I held fast to was to not spend more than a few minutes at any aid station. I made sure I was in and out within two to three minutes max. But let me tell you….them snow cones are awesome!
LAP 3 2:50:07 lap time, 37.5 miles/12:33 cumulative pace/1:50pm event time
Lap four would be my first solo lap. This was also the first lap I was feeling a bit fatigued. The heat was getting to me a little bit. After cleaning out my shoes again, making sure I got in an extra drink along with my hand held water bottom I hit the trail again.
For the entire race I carried a Nathan quick draw water bottle and wore my UD race vest. The race course had two fully manned aid stations and two more unmanned water stops. I choose to forgo the extra bottles the vest could carry and packed them full of GU and quick snacks. I made sure to top off my bottle at every aid station. With the heat of the day I did not want to run out of liquids. As it got hot I started to pour cool water over my head at every aid station. This did wonders to keep me from getting over heated. For snacks I snagged something to eat at every opportunity. I had pizza, boiled and salted potatoes, chips, cliff bars, cookies, potato soup, crackers and GU. The best were the Reese cups I was able to stow away for mid lap pick me ups. I was very thankful that for 99% of the race I was able to eat and drink when I needed and that my stomach did not present any issues.
Hitting the hills for the fourth time really became a chore and it was then that I started to count down the number of times I would have to scale these monsters. The RD/Staff had placed a sign “Hills Are Your Friend” at the base of one of these. It took all my will power to not kick that thing with every pass. Good thing I did not kick it, I would surely have pulled a hammy.
Coming into the HQ loop and thru timing/scoring this was the first time it really hit me, I’m half way done. I also remembered from all the advice I had been given that half way of a 100 miler is not 50 miles. It’s not 60 or even 75 miles. Many think the half way point of a 100 mile race is mile 80. I rounded back to my pit stop, Michele had gone on an errand but she had everything I needed laying out. She was a trooper today.
LAP 4 2:42:31 lap time, 50 miles/12:39 cumulative pace/4:32 event time
With 50 miles down and the hottest part of the day behind me, I began to feel really strong. It was lonely out there running by myself, but a lot of my training I ran alone. Settling into some prayer time and thoughts about my life, It turned out to be a good lap.
As I moved back out on the course a friend Tina, said hi and asked if she could help. Tina was recovering from a bum hip so she could not pace with me, but I told her I did not have a pacer for lap 6. And that I thought I might need one. Tina told me she would go to work and find me someone. Now you have to understand I met Tina once. We chatted on the internet a few times. Yet she went right to work for me like we were old friends, ultra-runners are something. Thank you, Tina.
Lap five was routine until I caught a good size rock right in the middle of my instep on my right foot. Instantly I knew I would pay for that later. I’m grateful that no “race ending damage” was done as it did not affect me for the remainder of the night, but I knew that was going to hamper my recovery. On my left foot, at the base of my middle toe a hot spot started to develop. Blisters had been a major issue for me during previous runs of 50 plus miles or more and with this “friend” popping up, my mind became very fixated on it. Nearly every footfall I was questioning was this blister getting worse than last time?
I rolled into Aid Station #2 in good spirits and under full power. I was feeling really good, and noticed they had some potato soup. This looked, and smelled so wonderful. I grabbed a cup full and proceeded to down it at light speed. Nearing the bottom of the cup…it hit me. Oh I had a case of the belly flops. That full load of soup with a large drag of Gatorade and my belly had the swish swash going on. Walking out of the aid station I realized I needed five minutes to let everything calm down. Glancing at my watch I marked the time and began a nice slow walk. During most of the race when I fast walked I kept up a 14 to 15 minute per mile pace. But during this belly settling time I manage to just stroll along. This was not about time…it was about NOT losing my stomach. Five minutes later my stomach was back in check and it was me against the hills for round five…three more times I had to see these things. The next time I would see them it would be in the dark. Was that good or bad, I wondered out loud.
Lap 5 2:52:12 lap time, 62.5 miles/12:53 cumulative pace/7:24 event time
While I was feeding my face at the HQ Aid Station at the end of lap five, Tina yelled for me and standing next to her was a young man named Ben S. Tina said “Brian meet Ben he is going to pace with you.” Although I was feeling strong and ready to go it solo, knowing that I had a pacer, knowing that someone else “cared enough” about me to find someone for me, was touching. I was very happy to not have to go out on this lap alone. I had a pacer lined up for lap seven and eight. But six was a question mark, and it wasn’t anymore. Ben and I headed down the hill to my pit stop. I introduced Ben to Michele and began my swap over to a long sleeve T and night time running gear. As I was swapping shirts Michele asked if I needed deodorant…I had to think about that but “no I’m good.” “Thanks Honey, we all smell pretty bad.” During these later transitions I had to make time to visit the head, I’ll spare ya the details.
Once out of the bathroom, I grabbed my water bottle, chowed down my snack. Pre-race I set up food packs for each lap alternating between apple sauce or pudding, with crackers, GU, Hammer Endurolytes and pain meds. Once downed what I could eat and stored the rest in my vest Ben and I were off. After some brief introductions while we fast walked out of the HQ loop I told Ben my pacing plan. I also told him I was sorry if I was moving too slow and that I would do my best. For just meeting this young man…within minutes I found out I liked him and that I was in very good hands.
My GPS had died around the 13 hour mark, from here on out I would be running by feel. While Ben and I chatted I told him at this point I was still able to stick to my plan of walking the up hills and running the downs and flats. Making our way to the Airport spur, I told Ben where my mark was and when I was going to begin my run. The sun was still holding on to the day but it would not be long before the night set in. We made our way to the turn around and headed back towards the main trail. About then I told Ben with the darkness coming on I was losing my references of what was an uphill. Ben reassured me that he knew the trails like the back of his hand. Ben lives in the area, runs Umstead nearly every day and by the way he was laying out the course I was sure he logged plenty of miles out there. His knowledge of the course really helped out on the darker back side.
The routine of hitting all the aid stations continued as well as cleaning out my shoes. On the back side we stopped quickly for water and Ben got a bad case of Wasabi water. What is Wasabi Water…yea I thought the same thing but my brain was so out of it by this point I wasn’t sure what my name was. The water jugs the RD/Staff laid out must have been recently cleaned and the one Ben filled his bottle out of had a strong taste of bleach. It wasn’t long before the water in Ben’s bottle was tossed out along the course. Not sure who said it but we were both sure Ben had nice clean breath after the Wasabi/bleach water.
Chatting with Ben also helped the time go by, after two laps solo it was nice to get caught up on the happenings of the race. , Ben told me that during the start, a deer had come out of the woods and collided with a runner in the lead pack. Man I knew Umstead was tough but wild life that came after you, come on that’s not fair. The other big news, World ranked, top ten ultra-runner and 2 time Western States 100 winner Hal Koerner who came to Umstead to set a course record had dropped out. Even with my lacking mental state I figured out that if Hal dropped, that meant if I finished I would finish ahead of him. Earning me the title “I Beat Hal “2 time Western States champion” Koerner.” Ben confirmed that, that made sense to him. I’d like to thank Hal and the Academy! When you’re a middle of the pack finisher it’s the little things!
For the rest of the lap Ben filled me in on local points of interest around Umstead, the grave markers along cemetery hill , mill stacks, and foundations from old mills, a reported aircraft wreckage and the miles after miles of single track trails. Time flew by and we made the turn for HQ, and I dropped the big question. Ben, could you stay for another lap? George N. my mentor would be there to pace me but with Ben’s knowledge of the course I thought it would really help me to keep moving fast.
Lap 6 3:05:32 lap time, 75 miles/13:13 cumulative pace/10:30 event time
Everything I’ve heard about the Umstead 100 had been true, great event, great support, great community of runners and well organized. I was also told that lap seven would be the hardest lap. And when I finished lap six at the HQ Aid Station this thought came front and center.
George N. was at the HQ building waiting on me and within seconds of munching on food we were headed back down the trail to my pit stop for one more round of cleaning shoes and visiting the head. It was around lap five that I thought about changing shoes. With the constant threat of a blister and the fact that I had not gotten any to that point I decided I would not change up shoes. At the lap seven turn I considered it again, as the blister issue in my left shoe was getting just a bit worse. Not wanting to wake a sleeping giant, I decided on simply tossing out the rocks and to get moving again.
Heading back on to the airport spur is also when I noticed that the speed of the overall field had slowed considerably. I on the other hand felt like I was running just as fast, or had only slowed a little compared to everyone else. I was growing more and more confident of being able to finish strong. But I was not ready for what George told me next. “Brian, if you keep moving at this pace you’ll not only break 24 hours but you might run a low 23 hour finish.” “What?” I paused, gained my breath, “George, what did you say?”
George and Ben worked well together and we made our way to Aid Station #2 pretty fast. Ben with younger legs pulled us along seaming running just out of my reach but close enough that I was without knowing it trying to keep up with him. That was a great move on his part. We hit the hills on the back side. Honestly at this point in time it was a challenge for me. I was really, really, tired. I tried my best to keep up the fast walk pace but with each step it became harder and harder. It also took me longer to recover before I could put the hammer down and run at a fast pace again.
Then I made maybe the most prolific statement of my life. I reasoned that I would rather be punched in the face twice by Mike Tyson (climbing Leadville’s Hope pass twice) then getting punched by Sugar Ray Leonard 40 times (climbing Umstead’s five hills eight times.). This statement compare the affect of two big climbs vs. 40 smaller ones. This thought brought a bit of laughter out of everyone but I was dead serious. I was sick of these hills. They might not be the monster mountain climbs like those at Western States, Hardrock or Leadville but their cumulative effect was adding up.
Coming off of the last hill on the back side we made a left hand turn which placed us on a nice flat section, with a little up hill near the end. Ben explained that after this slight uphill we would have a downhill section of approx. three quarters of a mile. Great I thought, and then it hit me…”Ben I think on the last lap I’m going to try and really fly this section.” Good idea he replied and George agreed. “Even if you blow up it’s only a mile and a half to the end. You could walk it in and be near a 24 hour finish” Ben reasoned. George agreed and commented he would not let me walk it in, he had a cattle prod at his ready. That little bit of excitement spurred me to open up my legs some, Ben ran right along with me. It taxed me just a little but to run free and fast felt really good at the point in the race.
We passed a ton of people making our way back to the HQ loop and the end of lap seven. And thankfully the first untruth about Umstead showed up…Lap seven was just another lap. And I’m thankful. At the HQ Aid Station we said goodbye to Ben, I really wanted him to know how important his support was to me. We shook hands and I was moving again. George and I made our way back down the hill and for the last time to my pit stop.
Lap 7 3:07:57 lap time, 87.5 miles/13:28 cumulative pace/1:37 Sunday event time
Michele was there standing by, she was a sight to see on every lap. It gave me great strength to know she was going to be there all day. Running 100 miles is tough no doubt about it, but sitting around waiting on someone to run it…that might just be mind blowing. Thank you, Michele.
Our pit stop had become routine and I was in and out within minutes. It seemed hard to believe as we fast walked out of the HQ loop that in little over three hours I just might be done. This final victory lap would also be a great time to say goodbye to all the demons on the course…GOODBYE MILE 1 SIGN, Goodbye Airport Spur, and Goodbye unmanned water station, I shouted out into the darkness,. George and I were rolling. My legs at this point felt great. That’s not to say they were not fatigued and in pain but I could do with them what I wanted. I was so thankful that I had managed my pace correctly that I was able to attack the last lap and not be reduced to the walking dead or worse.
Worse, we saw worse. Runners sleeping along the trail, signs of upset stomachs, runners who were now walkers with no zip left in their legs or bodies. We pass runners who’s once easy strides now were reduced to hobbling along in the dark. We passed a good number of people as we made our way to Aid Station #2. I did not count the number of runners we passed but I think I would have run out of fingers and toes. George even commented that he was the pacer but could not keep up with me on the flats and downhills. The uphills were another story.
At Aid Station #2 my stomach was done, I forced down some more food but I’m not sure I could eat much more. I think I may have been at the tipping point. A couple cups of Mountain Dew, a few boiled potatoes, a handful of chips, cookies and I was out of there. This time I took a few extra seconds to stop and say, “GOODBYE Aid Station #2, Thank You and I LOVE YOU!” Some of the workers hollered back “You’re done, your last lap?” With a thumb in the air and a big smile on my face I haul my tired butt out of there.
Making my way from the aid station back to the hilly section I had the most unnerving experince of the entire 100 miles. It was dark, quiet and still. I had worked myself a good way in front of George when out of the blue someone behind me yelled “BEAR.” I came 100% unglued. I spun around in all directions and every direction at once. I shined my headlamp into the woods, into the sky and on to the ground hoping I did not see two steely eyes looking back at me. Bear, really a bear…97 miles and I’m going to get eatin by a bear. I decided to get the heck out of there.
Surviving the Umstead bear scare, I had five more hills to fight on. And fight I did I gave each one my best…it was slow but I made it.
Goodbye first hill, I hate you!
Goodbye second hill…so long
Goodbye sign that reads “Hills Are My Friend”….You LIE!
Every goodbye I shouted out loud into the darkness. Looking back it was fun at first but by the end it became my way of announcing I was done with that part of the 100 mile war.
And finally I was done with the back side hills. Next up the power line downhill was looking right at me. Just like I told Ben, I opened up my legs once again and flew my way down this part of the course. I zoomed past three groups of runner who had no idea what or who passed them. Each group lifted me up with encouraging comments as I moved along. It felt so good to be strong at the end of this event.
Last 1.5 miles
After power line downhill we passed the 11 mile sign meaning we had 1.5 miles to go. Once again I asked George for a time check. His reply was, “were good.” I could tell George in a humorous way was tired of me asking, he replied “Brian if you can run 1.5 miles in 2.5 hours you have a solid sub 24 hour 100 miler.” My weak brain could not make heads or tails out what he had said, my only reply was “WHAT?” George said “Brian, you got this, at this pace you may be near a sub 23 hours, just run.” Hearing those words choked me up, my eyes began to tear, the throat closed up and it was hard to breath. The goal of the last eight months was getting closer step by step.
My goal was clearly in front of me, and behind me were all the people telling me they didn’t think I should do this. All the people with the sideways looks when I told them of my goal. All the doubters who told me I was crazy. They were all about to be proven wrong. I was on pace to blow even my goals away. I had people who believed in me and two of them were out on the course, George and Michele. I was near breaking down. But I had to pull it together…1.5 miles was still a long way to go. And this was no time to get emotional; I had some work to do.
Making the final right hand turn off the main trail and on to HQ loop things got very real, I again asked George for a time hack and he confirmed we were on target for a sub 23 hour finish. I was really struggling to keep in all together. We ran the HQ loop, slowed down to avoid some rocks, cars, rough trail sections and the next thing I knew I was running downhill to our pit location. I was so hoping Michele would be there or be up the hill near the finish line waiting on me.
I so wanted Michele to see this finish. She believed in me more than anyone, she saw the miles I logged, she saw the hours I put in, she was witness to the cold, lonely, wet and dark training runs. I wanted her to be there and to see this. I passed our pit stop and there she was, “Michele come run in with me” I called out. she jumped up and ran with me the last 50 yards to the finish line.
Uphill 25 yards and to the scoring tent was all I had left. Scaling the railroad ties the last time was tough…my legs were now dead. Reaching the top of the last hill the event clock was in sight. George told me an sub 23 was in the bag yet when I tried to read the clock my brain could not make heads or tails out of the mixture of random numbers….I was scared I blew my sub 24 finish. Nowhere on the official clock did I see 23 or even 24 for that matter. How did I miss a sub 24?
I finally crossed the timing mat for the last time. In all the hype and confusion, all I could ask was, “what was my time?” ”My finish time what was it?” A race official told me 22 hour 51 minutes and 5 seconds. I lost it! I broke down like a little baby…my eyes were full of tears and it was hard to breath. I stood around in a mixture of confusion and emotion. Three of us finished at once, Blake, the RD was getting buckles to present to us. I had finally gotten myself together when the finisher behind me broke down…next thing we were all crying together. Watching while Blake presented her with a sub 24 belt buckle. My eyes locked on to that shiny silver token, I could not wait to get mine. After all the pictures and hugs, I was next!
Blake presented me with my buckle and said some words of congratulations, It was so nice to finally hold that buckle. It was nice to reach a lofty goal, it was nice to run 100 miles and it was great to be done. I wanted to get pictures with George, with Blake and with Michele. I wanted to always remember this epic day, and Oh what an epic day it was!
We then headed into the HQ cabin and finally after close to 23 hours, I got to sit down. After 100 miles, I got to be still.
I got to stop running.
GOD tells us “Be still and know that I am Your God.” I’m so thankful our creator God has blessed me with the ability to run, with friends who support me, George who invested in me and with Michele who supports and who loves me.
Umstead 100 Complete – 3:12:29 lap time, 100 miles/13:43 cumulative pace/4:49 event time