October 20-21, 2018
October 20-21, 2018
My training for the Uwharrie 100 probably wasn’t what it should have been, but I did the best with what I’ve got. I live closer to the coast of NC where we have absolutely no hills, unless you count bridges, so training for a mountain race that is all single track with 17,000 feet of elevation gain I had to get creative. 80% of my training runs were on flat road, although I did some of my long runs on somewhat hilly single track at Merchants Millpond State Park as the race got closer. After I went to Uwharrie for a course preview/training run in July I decided that I needed way more elevation gain in my life. My legs just weren’t ready for the hills. So, after that, once a week I would go the ECSU stadium near my house and walk/run up and down stadium stairs for an hour or so. I had even measured and counted the stairs to keep track of my elevation gains. I definitely saw improvement from these workouts, going to the September Uwharrie training run I felt a lot more confident. But not totally confident, my weekly training mileage for Uwahrrie 100 only peaked at 50 miles, I was hoping for way more, but was paranoid about a constant twinge in my leg, so I was training while also trying not to injure myself further. Also, closer to the race I started strength training, which I have never done for a race in the past, it was my way to get strength without putting too much strain on my body. 2 nights a week I would just pop a p90x video in, trying to build more leg and core strength. I think these workouts made a significant impact.
The Morning Of
I woke up at 3:30 the morning of the race, took a quick cold shower, got dressed, and went downstairs where I ate 2 waffles, some fruit, and made 2 packs of oatmeal to eat on the hour long car ride down to Uwharrie National Forest from Greensboro.
My mom drove me to the start of the race, hardly any parking left when we got there, so she dropped me and all my gear off on the side of the highway. I got checked in, got my bib, and made it just in time to turn in my drop bag for the Crossroads aid station.
Because of the nature of the course, being a 20.5 mile figure 8 loop that the 100 milers would suffer through 5 times, I knew that I would be passing through the crossroads aid station 10 times over the next day and a half. This aid station made the most sense to send off whatever provisions I might need further into the course because I would hit it so frequently. For Crossroads I packed 10- .5L water bottles, water mixed with 3 scoops of tailwind each, along with 10 Waffle Honey Stingers and put them in a bag cooler. My nutrition plan was to chug a bottle of tailwind each time I passed crossroads and take a honey stinger with me as I left to eat in between aid stations and then to eat as much “real food” at aid stations as my appetite would allow throughout each 20.5 mile loop.
The race kicked off right at 6:00am and runners were bunched up tight until the first aid station and even a little past it. I was in the back of a pack of about 7 or 8 runners about 1.5 miles in and heard an insect fly right past my face, immediately after I felt a surge or shooting pain in my left shoulder blade and down my back. I was stung by something! And it hurt bad! It would hurt for atleast the next 15 miles. I eventually saw it as a blessing in disguise because the pain in my back took my mind off a lot of the anxieties I had about completing 100 miles and the slight twinges in my legs that I had been feeling the past days/weeks leading up to the race.
I Completed my first loop in 4:40, feeling pretty good, had to have a cheeseburger when I got back to the start/finish, quickly changed my socks, put some compression sleeves on my legs and was out of the aid station within 10 minutes.
For my second loop I decided to ditch my hydration pack and just carry a Nalgene 1 liter bottle. My back was still slightly throbbing from the bee, hornet, wasp, whatever it was sting and I figured I would give my back a break from carrying weight because I still had a long way to go. I also knew that it was supposed to rain during my second loop so a part of me wanted to keep my pack as dry as possible for the later miles ahead.
The first 40 miles were overall smooth as could be, I spent hardly anytime in the aid stations, but I could feel that by the start of my 3rd loop this would quickly change.
I knew heading into loop 3 that I would be hiking in the dark, so I got my hiking sticks and hydration pack and entered more of a fast-paced hiking mindset rather than running. I was glad to have my wife Cathrine and 2 year old Harrison at the start/finish to help me get my gear and mind right starting out my 3rd loop. I think it was about 4:30pm Saturday when I started my 3rd loop. I felt tired but I don’t think I realized how tired I was until I later saw a picture Cathrine took of me holding a hotdog, barely holding my eyes open.
Miles 40-70 pretty much consisted of fast hiking, 20-minute miles and long breaks at aid stations, knowing that I shouldn’t sit down, but would, and then would go through the mental struggle of fighting sleep and getting going again. My body wanted me to stop so bad there were times that I would lay on the trail to try to release gas and it would feel so good just to lay down that I almost fell asleep on the trail.
Getting to Kelley’s Kitchen on loop 3 at 8:30pm, I was surprised by an eruption of cheers and hollers as I walked the hill up into the aid station. I got up there and felt guilty that I couldn’t run it in after they did all that cheering for me. I was happy to Cathrine, Harrison, and Nick hanging out at the aid station, although it took me a moment to register that it was them, I was barely walking straight at this point. Nick drove all the way from Fort Bragg to come cheer me on briefly at Kelly’s Kitchen, I originally asked him to pace me, one of the few people I know that could do the distance, but he’s in Reserves and had to be back to Fort Bragg that night. I sat down by the fire for a few moments, which was a bad idea, Harrison cuddled up to me and wanted me to play monster trucks with him, saying “Come on, Dad! Play trucks”, I wanted to call it quits so bad at that point, but everyone encouraged me to get up and keep going. Eventually, after a brief session of monster trucks I got up and left the warmth of camp.
I made it back to the start/finish sometime in the middle of the night, I don’t know when, I sat down changed my socks, had a cup of hot chocolate and enviously starred at the tent 50 yards away from me where I knew Cathrine and Harrison were all cuddled up and warm on the soft, inflatable mattress. I swallowed a salt tablet, which was a mistake because for some reason my extreme tiredness also brought along some nauseous and I spent the next five minutes focusing on my breathing trying not to throw up. I had the watery mouth sensation that I get just before I know I’m going to throw up and almost blew chunks a handful of times. I must have been really concentrating because there was an aid station volunteer sitting near me and she looked over at me and said “you doing the 100 miler?” Yes. “What loop are you on?” About to start loop 4. “Ok, you look like you’re really contemplating something” Im doing my best not to throw up. Im not sure how it came out in my tone, but she stopped talking to me after that. In my head I knew she thought I was contemplating dropping there and call it a day for a 100k finish, but I was just too focused on getting back on the trail before I threw up in front of everyone. Thank goodness in the end I never blew grits.
After a long mental struggle, I started loop 4, still doing my best to stay awake and walk a straight line as fast as I could. The reflective trail markers were playing tricks on my eyes, my headlamp would catch a marker off in the distance and I would completely convince myself that it was the next aid station coming up ahead, that happened to me countless times. Not good for the morale at all.
When I made it to Crossroads aid station I could see on the aid station volunteers faces that they thought I was going to drop out. I knew I looked the same way the others before me looked that I had seen dropped earlier on in the night, I kept trudging along. It took me 5 hours to reach Kelley’s Kitchen from the start, I got there sat down by the fire, there was a guy sleeping in a chair next to me and some other racers doing the 100k who did not look like they were going anywhere anytime soon. I was ready to drop. I had tried everything to feel better any nothing had worked, well almost everything.Kelley’s Kitchen was the most laid back aid station, no blaring music, there wernt a bunch of people drinking around the fire, just quiet conversations and cheers every once in awhile a runner would ascend out of the darkness of the trail, a perfect place for a nap. I asked an aid station volunteer if I could use one of the cots they had setup in a nearby tent and he got it all set up for me with heavy wool blankets. I chugged a mountain dew and half a cup of roman noodles and asked the volunteer to wake me up at 5am, 20 minutes from now, and curled up on the cot and passed right out. As I drifted off I could feel my muscles relaxing and the gas releasing from my insides. Sorry to everyone everyone at Kelleys Kitchen! Best sleep I’ve had in a while. I was woken up before I knew it and felt like I was at 110%. My legs felt fresh because I hadn’t been using them much for running, my stomach felt great and I had a huge surge of energy come through me. All systems go, I was ready to run.
I ran everything I could as fast as I could and hiked as fast as I could when I got to the uphills. The last 26 miles were a blur to me just because I was moving as fast as possible without getting hurt. It was a lot easier to keep a positive mindset when landmarks that I had become familiar with came around a lot quicker because I was moving so much faster. I have had problems with drinking caffeine and crashing in races in the past, so for the last 26 miles, every aid station I hit I would chug a cup of mountain dew to keep the caffeine high moving along.
On my final loop Sunday morning I think I passed 6 or 7 runners, I was just ready to be done. When I got to the Crossroads aid station for the last time, Someone at the aid station told me that the runner just ahead of me was the 5th place male and that he had just left the aid station 15 minutes ago and was taking it pretty easy. That was my plan, to take it easy for the last 6 miles and just speed hike it to the finish, but now I saw 5th place as my new goal and I was gonna get it! I chugged my last tailwind and a mountain dew while the volunteers hyped me up. I sprinted out of the aid station gunning for 5th. I ran hard for about 2.5 miles until I finally saw the runner and his pacer ahead of me. I caught up to them, we briefly spoke, then I sprinted every flat and downhill I could after that to put as much distance as I could between us. I completed my 5th and final loop almost as fast as my 2nd loop, I was proud of how my body held up after 100 miles.
I made it to the finish in 31:10:04 and felt great! I had been so focused on getting to the end that I forgot about the belt buckle that 100 mile finishers receive at the finish line. Cathrine and Harrison were there to hug me and congratulate me. We quickly packed the car up and headed back to my moms, then on back to Elizabeth City the next day. Surprisingly I have felt worse after shorter distance races than I felt after this 100 miler, I think I felt worse after my first marathon than I did after this race. I contribute that to the tailwind I had every loop, along with eating as much real food as I could stomach. I slept from about 5pm that evening until 7am the next day, only to wake up for 30 minutes in the night to raid the fridge. I was walking and moving furniture the next day and back to work the day after that. It will probably be a few weeks before I try running again, but I do feel much more confident in my ability at the 100 mile distance. I was dreading it, but now I am excited about Umstead 100 in April 2019.
This was a very well put on race, Dan and Amanda really care about it and all the participants, and it shows. All the aid station volunteers were awesomely helpful, almost to the point where in my tiredness I was getting internally frustrated at how nice and helpful they were being. Im thankful for all the help they gave me. This was a great course for my first 100 miler. I think it is too soon to say if I’ll will be back to fight it out at Uwharrie 100 again, but I am leaning towards probably.