Graveyard 100 was my second 100 mile race. Almost since clicking on the registration link in early December I began to wonder how the Graveyard would be different from my first 100 mile race at Umstead a year before. The most obvious differences between the two would be that I would be running solo, and that Graveyard would be a flatter course run point to point verses a looped course.
Solo: How was running Graveyard solo a different challenge then running the same distance with a support crew and pacers? At Umstead there were 2 named aid stations approximately 6 miles apart. On top of that with proper placement of my own support team I had 3 refueling points which I could get any type of food/fuel or support gear. Being a looped course we passed these pit stops 24 times. At Graveyard the race provided aid stations were on average 20+ miles apart, providing only four opportunities to reload before the next leg of the race.
Compounding the separation of the aid stops, running solo meant that I could receive no other outside support. Anything I would need at points other than the aid stations, i.e hydration, GUs, clothing, body maintenance, or anything to keep me in the game, had to be carried in my race vest or placed in my drop bags. The end result being that I had an extra burden of carry those items on my back or account for the extra time to retrieve the needed items out of my bags.
The closing stages of a 100 mile race are hard, long and can be defeating. For my run at Umstead I had two pacers who ran laps 6, 7 and the final lap number 8. George and Ben made those closing laps as easy as the last 37 miles could ever be. They talked to me to keep my mind occupied, they challenged me to keep me moving fast and they kept my spirits high when I just wanted my mommy. For the Graveyard I was all on my own.
|Part 1 of the Run||Part 2 of the Run|
Flat paved course on Highway 12: The Race Director Brandon Wilson said in his race brief that when they laid the course out that they designed in the opportunity to run the entire length of the Outer Banks and Highway 12. The course may be (mistakenly) viewed as easy because its flat, and has a smooth asphalt surface. In fact it’s because of this surface that the 100.5 miles of the Graveyard are long, hard, and unforgiving. Approaching the midway point I noticed how much pounding my legs were subjected to because of this surface. The shoulder section we ran along was at a constant slope, either to the left or right. This induced angle to my foot fall wreaked havoc on my ankles. Umstead and other trail courses may have unlevel and rambling trails but they vary in imperfections. The Graveyard featured long segments of the same abuse subjected to weak and tired muscle. The Graveyard course finds your weak points and pounds the snot out of them.
|Part 4 of the Run||Part 5 of the Run|
Point to point (P2P) vs Looped course: Outside of the obvious support issues between the two 100 mile courses the P2P race offered a more isolated running experience. Within the first 5 miles of the P2P race the pack spread out to the point the other runners when a good portion behind or in front of me. The pack likewise spread out at Umstead but being a loop course it was not long before you were in constant contact with the other 100 mile hopefuls. Some of these runners where on the same lap, completing the lap or going out for another lap. At Umstead there were periods (minutes) of time when I was alone on one leg of the course or another. At Graveyard there were large periods of time (hours) where I felt like I was the only one on the planet. In the lonely hours past midnight this isolation effected my brain.
|Part 6 of the Run||Part 7 of the Run|
Is that a space alien?
In the middle of the night as I made my way to the end of Highway 12, I was on a section of the course that ran between two sand dunes. In the dark of night, with low visibility, low mental reserves and at a low point in the race I approached a highway rest area. Nothing more than an parking lot, out building with a porch and a parking lot. As I approached this location something caught my eye and nearly freaked me out. Unable to completely identify what I was looking at I thought I was in for a close encounter.
|Crossing the Bonner Bridge||Nearly done and in the dark|
Maybe it was the lighting, maybe my waning eyesight or my lacking mental acuity but something someone was standing on the porch, and they were watching me. As I approached closer and closer this person or visitor was focusing more and more on me. The unique shape of this object confirmed it was a person of some type but it’s odd shaped head made me wonder if they were from a different planet or solar system. And I freaked out. Nearly jumping out of my skin along the side of the road I thought for sure that in the dark of night and all alone I was going to have an encounter. Then one step before my time on this planet ended and I was abducted to another world my eye caught a glimpse of what was terrorizing me. My visitor was a floor mounted pay for use tourist binocular. The isolation of the Graveyard almost had another victim.
I finished the Graveyard 100 mile endurance race in 23 hours 05 minutes and 20 seconds.
I placed 10th out of 42 other solo runners and 29th out of the 131 who started The Graveyard of the Atlantic. This was an outstanding, well organized, well supported race with volunteers that make you feel like a Rock Star and a course that lives up to all its advanced billing.
Check out my running of the 100k race at the Graveyard from last year, here
You can check out the Graveyard 100 web page here
Other Graveyard 100 Race Reports:
Randall Woody Woods, Race Report