Monthly Archives: April 2020

Running the NO VIRUS 100 solo Ultramarathon

We knew it was coming.

Then the news appeared as a simple e-mail in my inbox.

“Dear Runners,
It is with heavy hearts that we are canceling the 2020 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Due to the situation the COVID-19 pandemic has created in North Carolina, the state is cancelling all park permits for groups of over 100 people, which included our permit at Umstead……..”

I understand, respect and support the decision.  But hold my Gatorade.

On the same day that the Umstead 100 should have been run, I set off on my personal endurance challenge the “NO VIRUS 100.”  A solo ten-lap run around our lake community.  To run 100-miles your why needs to be bigger than you.  This run carried some extra weight.  I carried a purple banner on my vest to remember Theresa (Terri) Banks and to honor my daughter Jessica.

The plan was to run ten loops around our lake community.  An aid station would be set up at our home and I would carry enough hydration/fuel to get around the lake.  No big deal, I’ve run solo 100s before, right?

At 52-miles I thought my soul was being ripped out of my being.  Laying on the garage floor, my breathing was out of control, my heart rapidly maxed out and I was unable to communicate with my wife. I could not see how I could take another step let alone another 50-miles.

It really was a perfect day until it wasn’t.  Starting at 5 in the morning I pushed through the early hours right on plan for my first sub-20 hour 100.  I was feeling great even running long sections of the loop making up lost time from the 10,000 small but merciless hills in our community.  Each lap averaged over 800ft of gain over the 10.25-miles.  logging 42-miles in under 8 hours I was cruising along destined for sure victory. 

Then it got hot, my hydration ran out after forgetting to fill my bottle on the previous loop.  And the heat took away my desire to eat.  After a steep climb, the bottom began to drop out of my day.  With nothing to drink, the heat reflecting off the blacktop and my belly empty I began to melt into a weaken imagine of my former confident self.  Stumbling into my home base pitstop I was suffering from a caloric deficiency. I “Bonked” hard.

In runners terms, the Bonk is basically a complete shutdown of all of the body’s systems.

Bent over me on the floor of my garage my wife was pleading “Honey what do you need?”  I couldn’t get an understandable phrase out, all I could mutter in undetectable tones was I didn’t know.  I knew I was crashing but I couldn’t reason that what I needed was food.  My race was ending as I was falling fast…  Then out of the blue Bryan S. owner of Run N Tri Outfitters in Wake Forest, NC stopped by my house.  This was unplanned, unexpected and so welcomed.  Bryan was in the neighborhood delivering shoes when he figured he would stop in and say hi.  It was about this point that the weight of failing with so many people around our community aware of what I was doing weighed on me.  I could not fail, I didn’t want to fall short in front of my friends, my family, the community and at a distance my daughter.  I knew I had to get up and get moving.  Bryan was a big help.  Walking the road leading to my loop he carried my food, handed me a slice of pizza and told me I would be okay.  I figured if he could get me to the end of the road, I would in fact be okay.

We made it to the end of the road, and Bryan in a long sleeve shirt, jeans and nearly new shoes didn’t stop.  This crazy guy who spells his name “wrong” ran, walked and hiked with me for 10.25-miles telling me the entire time how inspiring I was to him and the running community he built in NC.  What….I was near death and I’m inspiring.  If your running store owner doesn’t show up and run/walk/hike you back from the brink of death…you need to visit Run-N-Tri.

Over the night, my wife did 7 miles with me, and a neighbor Ryan B. whom I only met once before, and simply in passing, jumped in for 10.25-miles.  An older couple Brad and Gil met me on every lap as I went by their house with water and smiles.  Even into the 22d hour Brad and Gil were there!  As I fought my way back from near defeat people kept telling me how inspiring I was.  It was “the community” that came out to support me that kept me in the fight until eventually, I was running strong again.  I finished my race by crossing over a chalk-drawn finish line signed by my friends and family. 

At the end of a long day of constant movement, I finally sat still and let it all soak in.  My wife then placed a handmade finishers medal (Thank you Katie) around my neck.

We did it…

I finished the 1st and I hope last “No Virus 100” with 102.50-miles in 24:39:00 but more importantly, I finished feeling like the most blessed runner ever.

Thank you, Lake Royale, Thank you Run-N-Tri Outfitters and Bryan. Thank you Ryan, Brad and Gil, Vince and Katie, Laura, Amanda and Ava, Rosie and Al, Lance and everyone who drove by, stood on their porches, waved, honked and offered me a bottle of water or a bucket of chicken and a cold beer.

Thank you, Michele……there’s no way I could have finished without you.

Thank you, Terri…for putting up such a brave and courageous fight, for 19 years you fought your ultramarathon against breast cancer.  As an X-husband, I simply stayed quiet and admired you from afar.  Rest in peace.

Thank you, Mike…you gave Terri everything she needed.  I respect you more than words could ever express.

Jessica….I Love you.

Running the new normal?

Social distancing, solo running, virtual races and broken dreams. Is this the new normal for our running community.

Many of us did not see this coming, but when the largest moneymaker on the planet shut its doors (Disney World) I knew the world was going to change. Then the race cancellations came, Boston, Umstead, Western States and I fear “Leadville.”

What can you do?

Myself, I continue to run and train with the faint hope that my goal race, Leadville Trail 100 will go on but I’m worried. I’ve been training with an eye on tomorrow, whatever tomorrow looks like. For me to run at the level I need to I have to be chasing a goal. And in times like these, I believe that is important for all of us.

Focus on the health benefits of being active. If you can’t get the social fix that running brings to your life never lose focus on how running improves your physical/Mental health. I enjoy running alone or with a group and racing keeps me focused but for the short term we may have to find other forms of community.

So whats next?

Are virtual races, and personal running challenges the way we will test ourselves in the future? When the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC got canceled instead of sitting idle I ran 26.2-miles on race day to get my 38th marathon in. Many other runners online have posted similar runs including one guy in the UK who ran around his backyard to get in his marathon completed. I’ve also seen many folks participating in personal challenges whether it being the “3 x 4-miles a day challenge or backyard ultras.” Are “FKTs” going to be the next big wave to stay motivated? Will “Peleton and Zwift” style treadmill races going to be the new standard of competition? Can you see a world where “I-Marathons” catch on the way NASCAR and INDY CAR have embraced virtual racing?

What will the new running world look like for you?

The world and RUNNING will survive this challenge, but it’s going to change. How it changes and whether you continue your running journey is up to you. As long as you run you’re a runner. Races will change, the virtual race organizers will fill the void. I can see a world where if you post a Strava segment over a prescribed distance you’ll earn the bling that so many of us collect. I see FKTs being posted more often and over more routes. I see PRs on treadmills being the next benchmark much like a “BQ” time standard. And I see a day when our races return.

We will shape the new world..Running and otherwise. Stay focused, stay safe, keep running, embrace the change and you’ll be ready for the future.