07 April 2014

Umstead 100: Misery, Party, Blisters, Hallucinations of Jesus, and Sub 24 (though far from my goal)

 Umstead 100 is always a fun 100 miler. There are good friends, reunions, friendly volunteers, runnable course, Ray K, proximity to my sister, lots of runners, and so much fun. Of course you have to do it. Of course.
Tony is Da Man (photo by John Price)

I had a lot of trouble in the race. In fact, when I finished, I sat on the steps to the lodge bawling. "Why can't I just run a good race? Why is every race I run terrible?"

But it was fun. I spent time with good friends. We had great weather. I got to see my sister and super cute nephew. So it was a good race for those reasons.

Umstead is a great race because the course is great - fairly runnable, with some challenging hills. The weather is usually mild, in April for North Carolina, with usually pleasant race-day temps, though it can get cooler at night. The footing is good. There are port-a-potties twice on the 12.5 mile loop, and real bathrooms. There are two big aid stations with TONS of food, and a few smaller ones with limited amounts of food and Gatorade and water. It is a real fun party ultra, with great crowds and smiling folks. I love it. Also, it's ten minutes from my sister's house, which is even better! I had John Price crew me, and he's an amazing crew too, so everything was perfect.

Lap One
I began running with Tony, which was fun. We went out too fast - 1:55 for the first 12.5 miles. I didn't remember it being so hilly. We flew in and out of the aid stations, not stopping at any except the main HQ. We caught up on each others' lives and laughed and talked.

Lap Two
My tummy began hurting and I ran into the Port-a-Potty. Oh no, would this be a repeat of my first Umstead? Ugh. I ate chewable Immodiums at the aid station and washed it down with SNOWCONES. I love Umstead.

Lap Three
Tony and I began feeling somewhat crappy - my stomach, his legs felt dead. (He ran a 50 miler on sand two weeks prior.) We suffered and were quiet in our heads, chatting occasionally.

Hal Koerner was in the lead, and passed us. He was running up a hill - blasting it, actually - and Tony and I were walking. Tony yelled, "Good job," and I said, "Running? You're amazing. You're supposed to be walking it and complaining, like us!" He laughed.

(John Dennis also passed us, saying nothing more than screaming, "ON YOUR RIGHT" because he NEEDED that tangent. We moved over quickly for him.)

Lap Four
I was feeling better, and trying to swallow my gus. I ate poptarts when I could, and Tony was suffering a lot. I tried to cheer him up.

We were running on the flats in the hilly section after the second main aid station. It was Hal Koerner. I recognized him from behind. He was walking the flats. We stopped and walked up the hill with him. He told us he had a crazy week, and we chatted for a few  minutes. A really nice guy. We laughed when he said, "Didn't we meet here last lap?"

Running so fast I'm a blur (photo by John Price)
A bit before the aid station, I began running and Tony was still walking. We separated then, and Tony made it one more lap before leg cramping left him with a credit for 50 miles.

Laps Five and Six
Toast of gingerale (photo by Mary Shannon)

My pacer Carter Swampy met me. Carter is the nicest guy; we barely knew each other and now I adore him. We met at Croatan, and he offered to pace me. He paced for me two awesome laps, and we had a blast. He pushed me, let me set the pace, let me be ridiculous, told me entertaining stories, acted as my therapist, laughed, looked at my blisters, watched as I ate poptarts, and had fun - all while running or cursing at the hills.

My sister met us in the middle of lap five. It meant a lot to me; she had a baby three weeks ago and was recovering from surgery a week ago and couldn't walk far. We hung out for a few minutes, chatting, and she even brought my adorable nephew.

My headlamp stopped working. I hated gus. All food was awful. Drinking a normal amount sloshed in my stomach. My feet were hurting. My hamstrings, my hamstrings. That blister - the one I always get. OW.

Lap Seven
Kevin and his awesome fiancee Isa met me. They were incredible. They fed me, they made me run, they listened to me whine, they took care of me. I was miserable. My blisters sucked, it was dark, I was tired, and running sucks.

Lap Eight
Before lap eight, I hopped on Denise's massage table for a mini-massage. My legs felt better and Melissa began pacing me with a run-walk mixture. Unfortunately, my blisters felt like hell, worse, and my feet were so swollen I could only hobble. Misery. I was crying and wanted to stop. I wanted to curl up and nap. I hated everything. Everything. Melissa was telling me stories about deer attacking people and I was wondering if one would do that to me.

At the second big aid station, I had them pop my blisters. It took time, but now I was able to run again. They also gave me a cute throw-away fleece, and I felt warm. Melissa and I ran to the finish.

I sat on the steps and cried. What a disappointment. I trained so hard and to fall apart? Do I just not have it? Is the end just too difficult? Should I stick with 50 milers? Do I need to run in bigger shoes? Should I amputate my little toe? Am I too slow? Should I stick to roads? Am I crazy for doing this?

I don't know. I love ultrarunning. I am hungering for a good race, for a PR, for a race where I know I ran my best. It's been a while, but I'm hoping I'll have that soon.

Even if I didn't run my best, I know I did all I could do. I ran sub 24, which is still quite good. I need to talk to my podiatrist about my recurring blister on my pinky toe, eat more sweets, and figure out my tummy. Life is good. Umstead was fun. I finished, and running is almost always a blissful, beautiful thing.

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