Monthly Archives: April 2015

24 Hour Ultra Run Against Cancer – My 6th Running

I’ve run the Virginia 24 hour ultra-run against cancer SIX times, and NOTHING, no amount of miles, no time on my feet, and no conditioning could have gotten me ready for what we had to overcome. It was a wet, cold, and muddy mess!

10379907_617726664995691_2469713185856281525_oSandy Bottom Nature Park, a great little park

During the course of the event and for 22 hours straight, it rained, the temperatures dropped, and the trails around Sandy Bottom Nature Park decayed into an overused, water soaked cattle path. For 75 miles I made my way around the 3.75 mile course working on my ultimate goal of logging 100 miles.

sandybottommapThe red line high-lites the course

I was winning the war and everything was falling into place. I was ahead of my plan. My lap times were holding strong. My stomach and mental attitude were in a good place and the conditions as bad as they were, had not been a factor. My gear including my Running Buddy kept my phone dry, myself and my shoes that was another issue.

10996080_10153357611266495_4793688193297852481_n 11124690_10153357611371495_800871800359427248_n
The trails before The trails after, and this was a good section early on in the day, trust me they got much worse

PRE-RACE:  7 a.m. the traditional run brief was given by the Race Director. This year, George 60’s birthday and the 12thinstallment of the race saw the largest gathering of runners and teams competing for the 24 hour title. 215 runners came from states all over the union to rack up the miles. This would also be the third year I would captain the Run4Life team. We won this event the first time out (2013), came in second last year and although we had to make numerous substitutions leading up to the race, we felt good about our team chances.

11124485_1008632309147925_5967563728340585244_nTeam Run4Life, 2015

Planning for this race I did an honest and complete review of my five previous starts. I reviewed aspect of my previous races and made sure I corrected each of my shortfalls. I was in the best shape of my running career, fully recovered from my 23 hour Graveyard 100 finish. I had gotten over the serious blister issues that had plagued me in previous 24 hour runs. Gear wise I had reviewed all of my running kit to ensure I selected only the best and most reliable components for this installment.  The Hoka Rapa Nui shoes and Injinji toe socks fixed that isse. I examined my refuel/rehydrate plan and corrected all the time wasters. Toeing the line for this great event, I felt like my “A Game” had finally came all together.

11140182_10206606114500427_5244895512707917605_oMyself with Paul making early laps

Gray long sleeve technical shirt
Black Opedix compression shorts
Injinji performance black low rise toe socks
Hoka Rapa Nui trail shoes
Dirty Girl, puppy dog gaiters
Running Buddy
Garmin 201 GPS watch
Nathan, quick shot hand held water bottle
Fenix HP30 LED headlamp
Apeara performance duffle bag

For some great race photos check out Sunsets, Oceans and Sports Photography

THE RACE:  For 2 hours it was a near perfect day, for 2+ laps everything was falling into place. As I made my way along the back side of the trail rain drops began to fall. What started off as a slow and sporadic rain turned into a steady all day long soaking. Us endurance nuts hated it, but it was the type of rain farmers dream about. Hour after hour the trail conditions worsen. Lap after lap and into the night the majority of runners continued to battle the elements and themselves. Of my five prior attempts, today would be by far the hardest to remain out on the course. It took some guts and gits to choose to go out there lap after lap.

run24Somewhere around mile 30

My race plan would follow much of the same plan that worked so well for my Graveyard 100 run. I would run/walk a 25/5 minute ratio for 50 miles then drop back to a 20/10 minute ratio and continue that as long as I could. From the very first segment I felt very strong, in control and working my way through the day. It is always tough during the opening stages of a long race when you begin counting the laps and realizing you have a long, long way to go.

Somewhere around lap four I remember thinking, “wow I have a long road ahead of me, many challenges are going to take place between now and lap 26 or 27.” The one thing for certain was that my legs were up to the task and my Opedix compression shorts kept everything together.  My thighs, IT band and hamstrings, body parts that are always subject to constant strain during an endurance event were never an issue.

Early on many people found that their race did not start off on great terms, the real battle(s) would come in the dark hours. One thing that was consistent during the day was the pace of Steve S. and Megan S, the male and female winners of the event. These two rolled by me time and time again in the best of conditions and the worse and never lost a stride. These two ran 133 and 131 miles respectively and made it look if not easy, routine.

My course record at this event was 75 miles and my goal for the day would be 100 miles.  I wanted to log another century race, just a scant month from my last. I was mentally and physically ready to do battle. With such a grand plan I was not ready for a relatively small body part to give up on me. Making the turn for 75 miles I felt a slight sensation at the base of my left heel, the point where my Achilles tendon connects to the heel. At first I thought it was just going to be a slight inconvenience, but as I closed out 75 miles…my tendon was angry and getting more and more out of hand.

As the night rolled on and it got dark, footing became a major issue.  The trail was so torn up, pot-holed and water logged that at one point I thought the Park Rangers may cancel the race in fear of the damage being done to the trails. Thanks to my HP30 LED headlamp seeing where I was stepping was never an issue. At one point while trying to find some dry ground to run on it became apparent that it was easier and burned less energy to simply run straight ahead no matter the depth of the puddle pond lake in front of me.

11196358_10153357611756495_8437203665910693572_nAndrea’s legs after her state record setting run

Working lap 22, when I was the greatest distance from the starting point the pain on the back of my left heel got to be nearly unbearable. I tried to ignore the pain. I tried all the pain management tricks that had worked in the past. I tried to separate the pain from my body, I tried to embrace the pain, and I tried to simply believe it did not hurt. Nothing worked, when I could no longer manage the pain I really feared my Achilles could rupture or tear. With each step/stride forward it felt like someone was pinching my Achilles, not with their fingers but with razor blades. I tried to adjust my stride, slow down my leg turnover, and or running faster. Those adjustments did nothing and in fact made my Achilles crankier.

At this point in the night I did not want to even consider dropping out of this race. For such a simple and flat course the race at Sandy Bottom always gets my goat. Even though I had reaffirmed my plans to never give in, to make the turn for lap 23, as I approached the turnaround point I paused to ask for a second opinion.

The door was open.

19 hours had ticked off the clock. It took me ten minutes to finally tell the volunteers at the scorers table I was done. In that ten minutes of deliberation my body temperature had dropped to the point that I began to shiver violently. I had to admit the obvious, I was done and it broke my competitive heart. I’ve toed the line at this race SIX times and I’ve never made it 24 hours. I wanted to continue, I wanted to reach 100 miles and yet my body gave out on me. I’m the team captain and I’m not out there with my runners. 48 hours later and I question my decision, maybe I could have been able to continue;. I can only tell you that at that moment, I made the right call.

Team Champions for 2015:

Steve S. a running machine and won the event out right with 133 miles
Paul. 89.25, another solid performance
Andrea. 88.25, she set a new state record, after a very bad race start
Shannon. 75, a new distance PR
David. 75, in his first 24 Hour run
Chris. 60, a week before his “Run for the Fallen” run
Ally. 57.25, a 24 hour PR
Steve J. 52.5, a distance PR
Hank. 50, a distance PR
Kim. 41.25, Always a smile!
Steve D. 30, Thanks for stepping in at last minute!
Team Run4Life = 834.25 miles 

6 yearsRunning total at this event

I will be back in 2016, I’ve totaled 406 miles at this race. George awards a special jacket for everyone who runs 500 miles at this event…I want that Jacket. I want to be there again with team Run4Life and I want to run my best at this race, my very first ultra. I honestly believe if I had continued to run, being back in 2016 may be in question.

Product Review Fenix HP30 24 Hour Run Ultra Marathon

Update to my initial product review:

A good friend of mine asked me to pace her during the 2016 edition of the Umstead 100 mile endurance race.  This was Andrea first 100 mile race and we figured she would need me for 10 hours to help her finish up the final 50 miles.  Since the bulk of these miles would be run after dark, I knew I would need my Fenix HP30 to help lead the way.

andrea100a(Andrea, Wendy and I with my trusty HP30)

Well Andrea had a rough go of it and instead of taking 10 hours it took us nearly 16 hours to close out the night.  Andrea fought through a rough patch and my Fenix headlamp never gave up either.

finishing picture(Two 100 Miler finishers, Wendy and Andrea
Hank the one man support crew and me with my HP30 that never gave up)

If you need a powerful light, one that even after 12 hours never gives up the fight, a Fenix light is what you need.


Lightening Your Way:

What I’ve learned from running long distance races, i.e. 50 miles, 100k, 100 miles and 24 hour races. Unless you’re an elite runner, the majority of us will be pressed into service after the night time sky rolls in.

For my 6th running of the Virginia 24 Hour Ultra Marathon I was able to test drive the new Fenix HP30 LED headlamp. The HP30 throws off up to 900 lumens of light. Let me tell you on this wet, cold, and dark night it really lit up the trail.  After 15 hours of rain, where the trails turned to soup it was nice NOT having to worry about seeing where I stepped.  The Powerful LEDs penetrated the night, lit up the trail, and clearly showed the way.


From their Web Site:  The new Fenix HP30 Headlamp employs high capacity, belt-mounted18650 cells to generate a powerful  900 Lumens in Burst mode and 500 Lumens in High mode.  An extended 764-foot/233-meter beam distance reaches farther.  The battery box USB port stands ready to power critical navigation and communication devices.

hp 30

What I liked about the HP30. Right out of the box I could tell this set up was well made and up to the challenge of extreme night time running.  When it was time to put it to use, in the middle of a monsoon, during a 24 hour run this set up was easy to use and simple to rig up and adjust.  Once in position the generous amount of light delivered came with no extra burden on weight or complex operation.  At dusk I retrieved the headlamp out of my running bag, placed it on my head, turned it on, and then I ran. I didn’t have to worry about my lightening equipment after that. The HP30 offered simple, and hands free use.

The HP30 not only provides an awesome amount f light but also an ability to charge other USB powered items.

If you’re looking to upgrade your lightning gear or if you’re looking for your first night time running outfit, one stop to their web site is all you need.

You can check out the HP30 at Fenix Store
Follow them on Twitter  
And Like them on Facebook  

My only regret is I did not get any in use photos, but this at no fault to the HP30, it was so wet, and I was so waterlogged that I did not want to pull out my camera.  I’ll be sure to get some photos at the Boggie 50 Miler in June where we start running at 6 p.m. BUT I have no fear of the dark…my HP30 will again lead the way.

Five Things You Need To Do To Run 100 Miles

Five Things You Need To Do To Run 100 Miles

This week is the final taper week for my 6th running of the Virginia 24 Hour Ultra Run For Cancer, third as team #Run4Life captian.  Not that I’m an expert or accomplished 100 mile runner, but I thought I would offer you Five Things You Need To Do To Run 100 Miles.


#1 Sign Up…no kidding signning up for the race, admiting to yourself that you want to tackle this distance is the biggest first step.  If you don’t believe in yourself enough to sign up, how can you ever run the distance.  Check out how it went my first attemp to run an Ultra marathon and maybe 100 miles.

24hr2012(My thrid finish, not 100 miles but 75 had to do)

#2 Tell Everyone You Know…Once you commit to yourself that you want to run 100 miles, tell everyone you know.  Post it on Facebook, Tweet it on Twitter, post pictures of your entry acceptence on Instagram, write your grandmother, send a Western Union telegram to your old Army buddies….get the word out there.  The peer pressure of knowing your goal is out there for the world to see, and hold you accountable is powerful. How did I do at Umstead?


#3 Be Determined…You signed up, You paid the fees, you told your friends and family.  Now refuse to give in, the thought of running 100 miles is scary, but if you believe…you can do it.  In the months leading up to the big race refuse to even consider failure, never think of giving up, never entertain the thought.  Believe in you and you can do it.


#4 Plan…Sounds simple enough.  Any other race distance you might be able to train and just show up.  But to run 100 miles you have to have a plan, where are you going to refuel, rehydrate and change clothes or get first aid if you need it.  100 miles is a long way, even for the elite ultra-runners this race is long, spanning 15+ hours.  In that time a lot can and will most likely go wrong.  You have to plan for 100 mile success of surfer 100 failures.


#5 You Have To Be Prepared To Suffer…No ay around it, running for 100 miles, or as near as you can get is going to hurt.  You have to be prepared to suffer, I’ve had blisters that cover 1/2 my foot, toe nails that screamed out in pain, knees that hated me and an achilles pain that felt like someone was inserting a hot poker in the back of my heal.  Want to run a 100 mile race, you have to suffer.

For a Professionals  tips on running 100 miles check out MARCO CONSANI: TOP-10 TIPS FOR RUNNING 100-MILE ULTRAS here.

My First Ultra Marathon – 24 Hour Run For Cancer 2009

I’ll be running my 6th Virginia 24-Hour Ultra Run for Cancer, how did it go during my first time out?  Here is a look back…

Virginia 24-Hour Run for Cancer April, 18/19, 2009.
16.5 hours, 14 laps, 8 pounds, 1 fall, 1 snake and 1……ah  A GHOST!


My first ultra-marathon experience is in the books.  First impression of this experience is that this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done (running wise).  I completely underestimated just how hard running for 24, well 16.5 hours would be.  I also misjudged how much motivation I would lose when I realized I could not make my primary goal nor my secondary goal of 75 miles.  At the end of the day 52.5 miles would be it for me.  Over the course of that first ultra-marathon day, I lost 8 pounds, I fell on the trail, and I had an encounter with a not so friendly snake.

Frankly Scarlet, I had…had enough.

Going into this race I really had no idea what an ultra-marathon was all about.  I was once asked  by an ultra-running friend to give the races longer than 26.2 miles a try.  I flatly told him “no way, a marathon is enough for me.”  Never did I believed I would be up for the extreme distances of an ultra-marathon.  Then the Earth shifted off it’s axial tilt and something in my brain went a bit off center.

I started running long distances in 2000, and by 2009 I had a few marathons under my belt. I figured I was in pretty good shape, was a veteran to this running thing and was looking for a new challenge.  Somehow I stumbled across and decided I wanted to find out what running for 24 hours would be like.  I reasoned I would run a bit slower, and take a few breaks, but I also felt like I was up for the task.  The weeks leading up to the race I devised an awesome running and resting plan.  Laying it all out on an Excel spreadsheet I was pretty proud of myself when I hatched a plan to run for ONE HUNDRED MILES…heck that was only a little over 4.1 miles an hour, a snail like 14:24 pace.  I convinced myself surly my 4 hour marathons and 1200 miles a year had me in shape for this century challenge.  Staring at my planning masterpiece I figured this was going to be easy. (Insert evil laugh here….)

The Virginia 24 Hour Run For Cancer was run over a 3.75 mile lollipop looped course at Sandy Bottom Nature Trail in Hampton, Va.  The trails were flat and for the most part easy to run on.  One section of the trail covered an unimproved foot path with exposed roots.  This proved to be a challenge as the hours/miles wore on and as darkness set in.  Funny how the roots grew in height or was it I could no longer lift my feet?  I’m sure it was the roots.  This is a very nice course and a very well organized and supported race.

sandybottommap(24 Hour course in red)

Not only was this my first exposure to ultra distance but also to the ultra-crowd, I found this collection of running brotherhood a really nice bunch of people.

24runbb(Race Director George N. giving the brief,
I’m standing to the far left)

After getting the morning safety brief from George, our Race Director and founder of the race, he offered some advice to all first time ultra runners. “The Tortoise normally beats the Hare” and with those sage words the race began and the crowd of over 100 was off.  The excitement in the air did little to help me heed his advice and slow down the pace.  I turned the first lap in little over 40 minutes.  My car was parked just a few feet off the trail, as my make shift race HQ I taped a copy of my running plan on the window so I could monitor my progress thou out the day.  Although it was early I could not resist checking my running plan.  By my calculations I already had 10 minutes in the Ultra Bank, 100 miles…ha ha maybe 110?

Heading out on the second lap, I felt great…it was a wonderful day and the course was pretty easy.  As I made my way around for lap two, three and on to four I wondered why people where already walking?  This is a race right, making the turn to go back out on the trail I asked how my lap times/miles where holding up, one of the volunteers informed me I was up near the top of the leader-board.  My mind went into over drive, maybe I could win this thing?

Back out for another lap I was ahead of my 100 mile plan, I had a solid 30 minutes banked, and my legs were loving life.  Laps seven and eight went by just like the first 20 plus miles except I was a bit more tired during this cycle. Then there was the encounter with the snake.  I’ll only say that I did cry like a little girl when I nearly stepped on this thing in the middle of the trail.  I’ll also comment that my lap times thou this section of the trail were greatly improved.  I do not like snakes.  It was time to take a longer break get some food/fuel and change my shoes.  Feeling a bit overheated I decide I would take advantage of the down time and have a solid sit-down for my lunch/dinner.  From here my race fell apart.


The extend time off my feet, the pace that I had been running at and the marathon limit to the distances I had run all came together in one rapid descending tidal wave of fatigue.  The miles after 30 were tough.  The extended break was tough, after the extended time off my feet my run was reduced to a 75% run to 25% walk ratio.  Slowly that decayed into a 60/40 mix with the approach of  night fall and the dark hours on the trail.

As night time set in I was not prepared for the dark.  Some how in my great 24 hour running plan I did not have any lightening equipment.  With night time setting in navigating the easy trails became increasingly hard.  Without my own lights I was forced to try and stay in contact with other runners just to find my way around the trails.  Seeing what was right in front of me was left up to my own senses, moon light and sheer luck.  The compounding effects of fatigue and the dark trails reduced my run to a fast shuffle this unfortunately brought on additional problems…namely a tree root and blisters.  My body, feet, legs, and back had never gone that far before.  The accumulation of fatigue was beginning to add up exponentially.  One lap felt like three and four miles felt like 12.

As I made my way over a relatively easy part of the trail my toe caught of something sharp.  My momentum continued forward as my foot was stuck in pace, the next thing I knew I was landing on the trail in a flying heap.  After a flash of anger passed I quickly inventoried my body parts to make sure nothing was missing.  At this point in the day my body was battered and now bruised and not so pleased with my choice of running an ultra-marathon.  Making things worse it was beginning to get cold and very very dark.

On my second to last lap, the 13th of the day, as I made my way thou the trail portion, around 10 pm I was maintaining a 10 minute run, 5 minute walk pace and moving pretty gingerly thou the darkest portion of the course.  The pack that started out the morning as one group of runners was now spread out in thin groupings.  At this point I had not seen another runner in over an hour and the darkness of this section was messing with my mind and spirit.  I was simply sore and tired.  During one of my strides as my left hand made its way back behind my back I felt the sensation of someone reaching out to me. I felt the sensation of skin touching my hand.  I felt someone holding my hand.

No kidding it felt like someone reached out and held my hand.  I instantly jumped out of my skin, spun around, directing my flashlight all around me and into the darkness of the empty trail.  No one was there…..just me and the emptiness of the nighttime.  Needless to say my pace was a bit quicker…the rest of that lap and my final time (lap 14) covering that portion of the course.  I’m not one to believe in the supernatural…..but something weird happened there….and it felt pretty real.

2011-12-29_14-57-17_909(52.5 miles)

All in all I came out of this experience…with no real injuries, a little leaner, very tired and a lot smarter on ultra distance running.

Why I Blog About My Running Racing Training

Why I Blog, Post, Snap, Pin, Tweet, and Write about my running adventures.

It’s not to brag, it’s not to say look at me.  Mostly it’s to keep myself in check but then I receive some feedback like this…and then I know the real reason I blog, post, snap, pin, tweet, and write about my running!


@MaltTroll   Thanks for the straightforward advice. I need to do this weight loss gig … again. Sigh

@running2oki   I started & couldn’t jog 1 mile without walking love my journey, can’t wait to see where takes me!

@running2oki   LOVE this! your experience reminds me that my goals are possible! thank you! #inspiration #motivation

@owen_runs   I enjoyed reading that. Thanks for sharing!

@runanninarun    brilliant post!! Thank u!!

Sara H (Facebook)  Sometimes when you post things I feel like you are talking right to me. This is the 2nd day in a row that a post from you has made me get off my butt and just RUN!! Thanks for all the info and motivation you provide!  Thanks again for all your advice and motivation, it’s great to get it because i don’t know many runners!

Dave G (Facebook)  Brian writes an awesome running blog. He shares running experiences, stories, reviews running gear and is an overall awesome, inspirational dude.

Fitness – Weight Loss – Running – Eating

You have run the miles, watched what you eat and lost the pounds.  Now what?  The most important part of any diet or weight loss plan is to maintain your healthy lifestyle.

Here are 5 habits to help maintain your weight and not squander all that hard work!


  1. Stop Dieting  You can’t live  on that diet forever.  You can’t continue to follow the fad diet.  Get back to eating normal, but the new normal for you.  Make sure you eat full, well balanced meals containing lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits & veggies.  I don’t eat perfect, but I eat a heck of a lot better then I did.
  2. Be proud of your Success and Reward Results  Continue to set weekly and monthly goals, and make sure you reward yourself when you hit your targets. Celebrate with a fun activity (instead of a huge restaurant dinner with extra dessert), new running gear or a new workout outfit.
  3. Find what works for you  We are all different, Try cooking your own meals instead of eating out.  Supplement your meals with a smoothie or shake.
  4. Get Some Sleep  Lack of sleep can lead to irregular appetite & an imbalance of hormones which can lead to decreased levels of Leptin, your natural appetite suppressor. Make sure you get your 7-9 hours of Zzzz’s!


  1. Be Active, Stay Accountable  Keep up your new healthy lifestyle by staying active and being accountable for your choices.   Just because you’ve achieved your weight loss/fitness goal doesn’t mean you should regress back to those old habits!   Be Proud, Keep strong & motivated for a happier, healthier, fitter you.

Run 15000 Miles Ultra Marathon Runner

UPDATE: I’ve reached 18,000 MILES

While on a remote tour to Thule Greenland, August 2nd of 2000, I started running with a simple 2 mile run on a treadmill.  I was out of shape, 30 pounds overweight and simply feeling bad about myself.  I got on a treadmill with no expectations, I just wanted to lose a few pounds and get in reasonable shape.  I never would have guessed where those first labored steps, those first few out of breath miles would take me.


15.  I lost 30 pounds and for the most part I have kept it off for 15 years.  I did gain a few pounds back here and there but as of today I’m 30 pounds lighter.

14.  I got in shape…from that first two mile run I now run ultra marathon distances (greater then 26.2 miles).

13.  I’ve met and become part of a great and supportive running community.

12.  I ran a marathon (13 to date) and become a Marathon Maniac, ran two marathons within 14 days.

11.  I began this running blog.

10.  I ran a race on top of the world and the middle eastern desert.


9.   I’ve run two 100 mile races, both under 24 hours.

8.  I’ve run and raised over $5000 for charity.

7.  Captained a team which won a 24 Hour Race (most combined miles). #Run4Life

6.  Ran a 200 mile relay with 6 good friends.

5.  Ran the Air Force Marathon, and Marine Corp Marathon.

4.  Ran sub 4 hour marathon in Niagara Falls, USA and Canada.

3.  Changed my outlook on life.

2.  Had a running feature which I wrote published.

1.  Found the “ME” I never knew I could be.

I only highlight these to show you that if I can change my world by simply running, YOU can too.

My New Long Term Goal…25,000 miles before I turn 55.

#run #run365 #runchat


Volunteering at Umstead 100 Mile Ultra Marathon

Not every runner has a blog, but I believe every runner has something to share.  When a friend of mine volunteered at a local 100 mile race, and told me about his experience I knew he had seen the race from a side few get to see it.  A couple hundred run the race every year, but only 20, 30 or 50 who take time out of their lives to put on the race get to view it from a different perspective.  Here is Umstead 2015 from Dave’s side of the len.

My name is David G.  I am a 36 year old police officer, husband, and father of two wonderful children.  Running has been a passion of mine since 2007.  In 2014, I became interested in running longer distances.  I have completed several half marathons, three marathons and two 50k’s all within the last year.  As those distances have increased I feel like I am treading in unchartered waters.  A new benchmark for me is a 50 mile race. I’m presently training for the JFK 50 in November. While talking strategies for JFK, a buddy told me a great way to gain knowledge about running ultra-distances is to volunteer at an ultra. Taking his advice to heart, I decided to volunteer at the Umstead 100 mile Endurance Run. 

davidg(Author and volunteer, David G.)

I worked at Aid Station 1, which is at the race headquarters, Camp Lapihio.  My shift started at 2:30 am.  My wife asked who in the world wants to start a shift at 2:30 in the morning.  Quite excitedly, I said “me.”  Of course I was so excited I arrived at William B. Umstead State Park, Raleigh, NC about 10:30 pm Saturday night.  Arriving on site the atmosphere was electric.  I walked into camp and was amazed.  The place was packed with runners who had already completed the race.  They were eating, chatting and telling stories of how “their race” had unfolded.  I was in awe. 

Reporting to my assignment I was partnered with a cool 13 year old kid named Alex. Together, we poured water, Gatorade, soda, and handed drinks to runners as they came through.  The runners were so generous and very appreciative.  This race does a great job with the amount of support for runners. 

umstead finish

Volunteering, I was given the unique opportunity of helping runners when they needed help the most.  As a runner, I cannot express how appreciative I am for volunteers.  At certain points in races a banana, a GU or a Gatorade can make or break our day.  I never realized how fulfilling it could be to be there for someone else.  Umstead is a long race.  with 1,000 feet of elevation gain per loop (8,000 feet total).  Runners have to complete eight, 12.5 mile loops.  There are two Aid Stations and two “water only” stops.  When runners got to our location, they needed support.  We did whatever we could to make them comfortable for their brief stay before they headed back on the trail. 

During the time I worked, I saw some runners at their worst, both mentally and physically.  Running 100 miles is a grueling feat.  I saw runners who were at their worst one moment make a decision; a decision that they had trained to hard and had come too far to give up.  I witnessed that same runner go back to battle the course.  They battled fatigue, adversity, ups and downs but in the end, the look on their faces when they crossed the finish line was priceless.  Upon finishing, most fell into the arms of loved one.  I witnessed one girl collapsed at the finish line.  She did not collapse out of pain.  She was weeping from joy.  I was so proud of a complete stranger that I could hardly control my own emotions.  Countless times I saw men and women finish who were then greeted by proud loved ones with a well-earned “you did it” or an “I’m so proud of you.” 

Likewise, there were others who walked up slowly and reported that they were withdrawing.  For those who could not complete the race, the pain and despair in their eyes made me sad for them.  They had given it their all, fought the good fight, but in the end just did not have it that day.  I was disappointed for them but equally as proud for the effort that they had shown throughout the day. 

A typical loop at Umstead takes most runners about 3 hours to complete.  In the later stages of the race, some take longer.  I observed one older man come into our station and tell us that the last loop had taken five hours.  He thought he had fallen asleep and sleep walked most of the loop.  One volunteer told me about a runner she had encountered on the way into the park.  She saw a runner standing alone on a desolate trail looking confused.  She stopped and asked the gentleman if he needed help.  Delirious he told her he was thinking about taking a nap in a ditch but could not decide what ditch he wanted to sleep in.  Luckily, the volunteer sought aid for him.  Then there was another guy who staggered into our station and I don’t think he even knew where he was.  He was at mile 87.  We made him go into headquarters and sit by the fire for a little bit.  He got himself together and later I saw that he had totally recuperated and managed a sub 24 hour finish. 

To me this race is obviously physically hard.  The mental toughness I observed was something I’ve never seen.  People were battling themselves and winning. 

Grace Lichtenstein states, “Your opponent, in the end, is never really the player on the other side of the net, or the swimmer in the next lane, or the team on the other side of the field, or even the bar you must high-jump. Your opponent is yourself, your negative internal voices, your level of determination.” 

paul umstead(Paul, ran 100 miles in one day, then took a nap, well done!)

It was such an honor to work alongside a great group of volunteers who were out there for one reason, to see runners succeed.  Overall, volunteering at Umstead taught me something invaluable; next year I want to be one of them.  I want to experience the feeling of crossing the finish line and being met by my loved ones.  I want to feel proud the way they felt.  I want to be embraced the way they were embraced.  What an awesome day it was.  I will always remember volunteering at Umstead.

Running Questions – How Do You Run Hills? – Marathon – Ultra Marathon – Racing

Since my post on Running Hills, I received numerous questions on the topic.  To answer the most popular question, I decide another hill post was warranted.

Running Questions – How Do You Run Hills?

If you run long enough, if you enter enough races sooner or later you will be forced to run hills.  Over the course of countless hours logging miles on the road and trails, I’ve seen my fair share of challenging inclines.  How you see the hill and how you adjust your running pace and stride determines (in my opinion) whether you’re successful or if the hills will get the better of you.  I have three keys when facing a challenging hill: I adjust my mental attitude, I concentrate on my form, and I shift down to a lower gear.

I adjust my mental attitude:  Over time I have learned that attacking the hill might sound good in the moment, but it often leaves your power reserves drained and the hill winning the battle.  Now when I know I’m approaching an incline my goal is to maintain an even pace and conserve my energy use while climbing.  The hill is no longer a place to try and pass another runner, make up ground or accelerate.  I’ve learned over the years that if I can keep a steady and even pace, I will by default (as other runners slow or blow up on the hill) make up ground on the field.  I mentally accept that a slow and steady pace is the equivalent of speeding up and in turn a win.

I concentrate on my form:  The incline of the rising terrain is enough of a challenge; I do not need my running form to fall apart to add to the extra burden.  As the road or trail in front of me begins to increase I concentrate on staying upright as I run with just a slight lean into the hill from the hips.  I have and many runners make the mistake of leaning too far forward and or hunching over into the hill.  Running up right and landing on my forefeet provides a healthy spring into the next stride and makes the most of the energy used to propel me forward.  I try to maintain a healthy arm swing and keep my head up, this maintains a powerful position as I make my way up the hill and to a faster finish.

I shift down to a lower gear:  The hill is a challenge, there is no way around it. Unless your an better than average runner, you (I) should not try to run at the same pace while climbing the rising slope.  Accepting that I can’t keep up the same pace, I also don’t want to slow down too much trying to maintain the same stride length.  Much the same way a diesel truck driver downshifts to keep his rig going up a long incline, I down shift into a shorter stride so that I can maintain a consistent leg turnover as I scale to the summit.  This shorter stride saves energy, keeps my legs in their power zone and maintains some pop in my legs all the way up the incline and into the down slope.

Running hills in training and on race day will make you a better runner and if done correctly will provide a better race day finish.  Having a plan to conquer the hill will likewise help you win the war against the inclined road or trail.  Adjust your mental attitude, concentrate on your form and shift down to a lower gear and you will find success on the hills.

Check out my other Running Questions posts on Hydration, and Staying Motivated.

Do you have a running question?  Shot me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to give you my thoughts.