One of the highlights of my Umstead 100 miler each year is running into horses along the course. I like horses.
Unlike VT100, the horses at Umstead are enjoying a nice Saturday or Sunday stroll so are willing to take a moment for a picture or to be pet.
This horse was very sweet (and as you can see from just above me) was hanging out with another horse.
I pet (and took pictures of both) but this was the best picture.
My friend Jason from the Reston Runners was running his first 100 miler.
At this point along the course he had run longer than he had ever done before. In fact he is REALLY speedy so had finished the JFK50 miler in about 9 hours.
This picture was taken about 10 hours into the race. Unfortunately by this time, he had not run 50 miles, but on a positive note this was because he was pacing himself for a 100 miler finish.
Sadly Jason had to pull himself from the course overnight when he started having health issues. But luckily they were just temporary and he was fully recovered by Monday (although I am not sure how long he was sore for).
Jason and I met via another friend (Jim Ashworth one the the two Reston Runner organizers for the JFK50 miler--Jim ran the VT100 last year and this year is signed up and knew I had run Umstead so could provide specific tips and advice)
Gilligan would sporadically show up on the course.
It was nice to see Gilligan and Tristan on occasion throughout the day. In the middle of the day, Tristan went rock climbing and I believe Gilligan entertained himself at the hotel. And by entertained I mean "slept".
In fact during this meet and greet I was a little worried that Gilligan would decide to protest and refuse to return to the car (they were at the T intersection near Gravlyn).
But alas Gilligan I guess knew if he returned to the car he could return to the hotel for some more sleep...
With my friend Frank, who I saw several times on the out and back along the course.
Frank is really nice, a super fast runner and was trying to complete his first Umstead 100 miler. He has run numerous other 100 milers but alas each year at Umstead some health crisis occurs before or during the race.
This year he finished with an amazing time of about 22 hours...way to go Frank!
I know Frank from several different ultra's including the 24 hour race around the lake, Umstead 100, VT100 and several marathons in the MD/VA/DC area.
As I approached 50 miles, I was surprised and delighted to see my friend Annette (who was waiting to pace the women's leader Jill Perry).
Annette in addition to being an accomplished athlete (she has placed first female at Western States), she is a race director of one of my favorite 50 km races...the New River Trails 50 km in southwestern Virginia in Oct.
The race is very flat, has aid stations every 5 miles (with the best home made cookies), yummy finisher soup and very nice hand crafted mugs as a race premium. I really enjoy this race and was the first person to sign up this year...I am still unsure what my award for this is but suggested she provide me a pacer to get me a sub 5 hour 50 km!
Starting my 4th lap I am feeling really good. I remembered my visor so should stop getting comments about how pink my face is (although after applying sunscreen at the second aid station in lap 3 I do not realize I have mitigated this issue by slathering on so much and not rubbing it in that I look like a pink tinted ghost). What I do not realize is that this lap is going to become my worst nightmare. Well not completely worst nightmare because that involves serial killers. But I get ahead of myself.
As I run along the jeep road I feel really strong. I have completed 37.5 miles and have no issues or problems. I have no blisters or hot spots, my stomach is doing well, my legs while a bit tender and tired are no more than what I would expect after they carried me 37.5 miles.
I see my friend Ann as run up the Jeep road. She is looking good. I also see my friend Monica who is finishing her 25th mile and looks happy. I am in between runners but happily chat and cheer on runners heading into the aid station.
Once I arrive on the airport spur I can see a few runners well ahead of me. One shirt in particular pops out, a bright neon yellow/green shirt which I know belongs to my friend Jason from the Reston Runners. I have been significantly behind him throughout the race but am now creeping up on him. I am not sure if he is struggling, I am speeding up or how our paths might be about to cross. Jason ran JFK50 miler in ~9 hours so is considerably faster than I. But it is his first 100 miler so I figure he might be running conservatively.
I jog along and wonder if I will catch up and how long this might take. Unfortunately my aid station breaks are always long, I tend to loiter at the unmanned aid station and I anticipate that I might start needing to find LaTree’s to stop at. It is getting later in the day and I am making sure I am well hydrated but this means sometimes I am hard pressed to make the 4 miles between porta potties.
I also notice ahead of me is my friend Vinnie. Vinnie and I ran a significant amount of several laps during the rainy year (2008) and only separated when he took a nap at the aid station before his last lap. Last year Vinnie was on fire and ran a sub-24 hour Umstead 100 miler but this year chatting at the pre-race dinner, I learned Vinnie was coming off a pretty bad infection he acquired in Thailand in the winter. Vinnie looks good and I am looking forward to catching up with him as well.
Approaching the airport spur turnaround, I see both Vinnie and Jason are just a few hundred meters ahead of me. I figure by the time I pass by the airport I should be caught up.
I am right. As I approach Jason, I am happy to have caught up with someone. For a while I have continued my trend of being between runners. I figure I had to work a bit to catch up but I figure he is probably going a good solid pace that I can maintain for a bit. I know Jason because my friend Jim A the former president and men’s JFK50 miler contact person from the Reston Runners asked Bill T (Luanne’s husband) and I if we would mind giving Jason some advice about 100 milers as well as about Umstead in particular. Both Bill and I communicated with Jason. I tried to give him general as well as specific advice about the 100 miler and tried very hard to answer all of his e-questions quickly and with as much information as possible.
I asked him how he was doing and he seemed to be in good spirits, having no major issues and was doing very well. Granted we were less than 50% into the race (in fact many folks will divide a 100 miler into two “equal” parts of the first 70 miles and last 30 miles, which I might concur with). He reports that he is eating and drinking regularly which is good. He has a handheld which he drinks from sporadically in front of me. I feel good that he is heeding the advice about “drinking before you’re thirsty”. We also walk the hills so I feel sure he is paying attention to the advice “walk before you’re tired” and at the aid station I see him eat, giving me confidence he is following the third important rule: “eat before you’re hungry”.
As we run we discuss his triathlons. He has competed and done well at Lake Placid Ironman. He has competed in it several years including the “rainy year” of 2008. I recall this year vividly because at the same time I was competing in the VT100 dealing with the same rains (and we even had death defying thunderstorms). Typically the Lake Placid Ironman and VT100 occur on the same day, which prevents me from ever thinking about volunteering or competing. But then again I am not sure if I could even do an ironman because of my aversion to swimming and biking…and dirt. Also my 20 minute T1 PR is not very good and would actually mean I had to exert myself in the bike to ensure I beat the time limit.
As we chat, I learn more about Jason. He has a 2 year old who is at home in VA and his wife is supporting and crewing for him at Umstead 100. I am impressed by his ability to raise a child and train for/compete in endurance events.
Approaching the T-intersection aid station, we both step in and grab a beverage. I am getting tired of the yellow/pee colored Gatorade but it is all that is being offered. I drink 3 cups and leave my cup for the next time I pass the aid station. There are pretzels, cookies, trail mix and other treats so I also grab a few pretzels primarily for the salt. I am doing my best to keep my stomach happy and well fed.
As we chat our ages come up and he mentions he did not realize my age. Apparently he thought I was a bit younger. This is very nice to hear. Because athletic competitions post our finish time, place, hometown and age many people know my age. In fact googling my name automatically gets a bunch of hits with my age. I am just glad races don’t post my weight (and in one races case, they do know my weight and could easily post it: Vermont 100 miler).
I point out that I am glad that Umstead 100 is not VT100 because I am running the 100 miler a bit heavier than usual (5 lbs). My defense is lack of consistent training because of all the snowstorms. In fact the truth is I enjoy my desserts and have not been as careful with my diet as I should be. Even worse about 2-3 weeks before Umstead, Tristan flew to New Hampshire for an ice climbing expedition and picked up a dozen gingerbread construction muffins which I ate over the course of several days. This actually followed a week in which a friendly neighbor brought some “Crumbs” cupcakes back from a business trip in NY.
As we continue jogging, we are approaching mile 42. This is not historic; however, we are 10+ hours into our race. Jason points out this is the longest (in time) he has ever run. I capture this moment with a quick picture. I ask him how he is feeling and he remains feeling good and in good spirits. I mention that for me, even at my first Umstead 100 miler, it was not until I was over 12 ½ hours into it that I was in “new” territory in time (and in fact by that time I was in a distance I had not completed either). It is going to be a bunch of “firsts” for Jason and I am happy to celebrate this small victory with him.
Jason and I continue to talk about various subjects and the miles just fly by. Pretty soon we are heading into the second aid station. Jason is a lot more efficient at aid stations then I. He goes in, grabs stuff he needs then moves along. I on the other hand loiter, chat, graze, and waste lots of time. My pacer from VT100 suggests I should waste less time at aid stations I could go a lot faster. Others point out if I took less pictures I could cut off a significant amount of time, but I figure I am having fun and maybe my loitering helps with my relatively high success finish rate. Alas I lose Jason.
After a few more cups of Gatorade, some ginger ale, cola, cheese, pretzels, salty potatoes and a handful of M&M’s and a half banana for the road I am off like a herd of turtles!
Oh yes, I need a potty break so I ask the timing table volunteers if I can put my pile of food on there table temporarily. They are very nice and say it is okay. After a brief potty break I come back, scoop up my stuff and move along. I feel like a chipmunk or squirrel because I shove a vast amount of this food in my mouth and puff up my cheeks. I figure it is easier to hold in my mouth than my hand. And supposedly what goes on at Umstead stays in Umstead, right?
Heading out of the aid station into the sawtooths I am alone again. I am bored so I start making phone calls and texting. I am pretty sure I am well between runners. I know Jason and others left the aid station well ahead of me and there were no runners visible as I left the aid station. I talk with my dad who had a nice hike in NY while I was busily running 45+ miles. He mentions that he hiked 5 miles or so and was tired. In fact he suggests I would not understand how tiring 5 miles is. Hmm…
I then get a text from my friend Jamie. She suggests I am the 3rd place female. This is when my lap and race take a turn for the worse. I do not handle pressure well. I also know I am not third place female. My friends: Jill, Shannon, Emmy and a bunch of other females I know are well ahead of me. I have no idea of my placement; however third place is wrong. Oh yes, Jamie suggests I finished 50 miles in 8 hours! This is crazy-talk. I text her that I am completing mile 45 and it is about 10+ hours into the race. The race timing system must be having a glitch.
In fact as I was heading by the T-intersection someone had made an odd statement to me about “way to go Tammy—great run”. I assumed they were being nice but it was an elite and they specifically seemed to be suggesting I was having the best race of my life. This is too much pressure.
Luckily before I can stew too much over this I am surprised to see my friend Ed walking along. Last I saw him we were not to far apart and I assume he is on the same lap as I and has passed me while I was ineffectively moving through aid stations (seriously I take a lot of time in aid stations). He is not moving very quickly so I start thinking he might be struggling.
I catch up and we chat briefly. I am lapping him. This is very sad. I know Ed has struggled in ultra’s before but I was hoping this one would be the one he could finish. After the race, I learn he has been having some asthma issues. And with all the pollen it has really acted up. We chat briefly then I move forward. I sense he could use some encouragement so decide, what better time to call my friend Jamie (who happens to be his coach). I call her and she picks up on the first ring. We chat briefly and she is able to give him some encouraging words. After a quick goodbye, I resume jogging and continue chatting with Jamie.
I need to figure out if I am hallucinating and am having the best race of my life. Jamie is pretty certain my name has popped up for the 3rd place female and is confident I finished 50 miles in 8 hours. I assure her that I have not been holding back that much and explain even at my PR at Rocky Raccoon 50 miler my time was a respectable (but not super duper) time of 9 hours 50 minutes. I suggest there must be a glitch. Jamie is shopping but can chat while doing so thus we chat for a while. We catch up about life, I ask her about her dog Morrison (who was taken for a long walk earlier in the day) and I tell her about Gilligan who keeps popping up on the course. In fact unbeknownst to me I am about to have another Gilligan encounter in just a few minutes. At some point Jamie decides I need to start focusing on running. So we hang up.
Just a few minutes later I get a call. It is Tristan. He asks me where I am. I am running the sawtooths, I know I am behind Vinnie and Jason. I am a bit puzzled by the question, but make sure he knows I am not the 3rd place female because that would be crazy!!! He ensures I have not made it to the T-intersection at Gravlyn. I say I am not there but have about half a mile to get there and 2 major hills. He says he is getting close to the intersection and has a surprise for me. For a few moments I think it might be my father in law who had expressed some interest in heading to Raleigh since he had gone to Duke many years ago for his B.S.
Oddly enough, after I hang up from Tristan, my father-in-law calls. I then become convinced he is the surprise at the T-intersection and they are just trying to cover for it. My father in law is calling to say they have picked up a celebration cake from Ukrops (a store that baked 2 of Tristan and my wedding cakes—we had a 3 tier cake as well as 2 smaller Ukrops cakes at our wedding so we could share lots of leftovers with our graduate statistics department back in 2000) for me. But I figure he simply asked a neighbor to do so. We chatted about the weather (which was beautiful), Tristan’s and my drive to Raleigh and how I was doing in the race. After a bit we hung up and I continued running along.
As I got to the T-intersection I was somewhat expecting to see Tristan and some mysterious companion or thing. I had conjectured it could be his dad, some yummy cake, the dog, my supervisors daughter (who he had rock climbed with…maybe she was ready to pace me a lap:-). There was an extensive list. Alas my surprise was Gilligan. He was a good surprise. I gave him a big hug and a kiss. It was good to see him. I took a self portrait with him. Then we found a regular jogger who was willing to take a family portrait. Gilligan even jogged with me a bit; however, I cautioned Tristan that Gilligan might not be as thrilled about heading back to the car which was about half a mile away. So they headed off to get some dinner and do whatever they do when I run 100 milers.
In fact I have no idea what they do. I assume they wander around aimlessly a bit, perhaps watch some TV (at least during Umstead March Madness is going on so I assume they watch the games) and perhaps drive around exploring the city or park. But like I said, I have no idea. And Tristan does not really talk about the specifics. As long as we do not get tickets or he does not disappear for days after the event I guess it will just remain a curiosity to me.
As I jogged along the Gravlyn, I continue to feel really good. I am having a perfect race, I am super happy (well except for the alleged 3rd place female) and am just thrilled to be doing I love so much. I catch up with the young lady who took my picture and we chat briefly. She asks a bit about the race and I tell her about Umstead 100. She is really impressed and wishes me luck. Once we get to the bottom of the hill passing mile marker 10, she turns around and heads back to her car which apparently is near Tristan’s.
By this time I am closing in on Jason and Vinnie. I power-walk up the massive hill before the T-intersection aid station and catch up to Jason and Vinnie. But have no fear, I lose them at the little aid station. This is the story of my race. I get into a rhythm and start to chat with other runners and then suddenly we arrive at an aid station. I “aid station” like it’s a full time job while others go in and out quickly. In fact a bunch of people before, during and after the race comment that if I either sped up my aid station visits and/or took less pictures I could cut off a significant amount of time in races. But alas I do not want to set the bar too high. Also I don’t handle pressure well which brings me to the continued speculation I am the 3rd place female.
Getting on the out and back I end up having a few friends comment about my status as 3rd place female. I try to explain in the span of about 15-20 seconds as runners pass by that I am not third. There is a computer glitch. Every time someone congratulates me for being third I feel like crying. I know I am PRing and that I am proud of but being third is too much pressure and clearly is not a accomplishment that I can claim nor do I want to. I like being mediocre at best and while I do not relish being last place in events it is a place I am comfortable with.
This gets me to thinking about the B&A trail marathon I ran a few weeks before Umstead 100 miler. This race was an unmitigated disaster in my opinion (well except for the fact I got 35 miles in over the course of the day). I started early, as I have at the race since my second time (the first time I did not know about the early start). With the early start I have up to 7 hours to finish but realistically I tend to finish in 5:30 or 5:45, so I am right in the heart of runners finishing between 4:30 and 5 hours.
Starting early with about 30 other runners I jog with my friend Amanda and several others. Amanda was recovering from a cold so planned to take it easy but her first few miles were pretty quick. After a bit Amanda needed more walk breaks than I, so I scurried on ahead since I wanted to build some mileage after I finished. As I was jogging along, the runner ahead of me angered me. He took a cup from an aid station then jogged with it for a while then tossed it aside. This made me so mad (this did motivate me—littering is one of my hot button issues). At that point I picked up the pace and decided to set about doing my own interpretation of karma. I decided I would beat this gentleman no matter what. I figured we all were early starters so I was not going to have to break a world record. I passed the runner. For a bit he was near me, particularly when I would loiter at the aid station (because I want to make sure I toss my trash in a garbage can, not along the course, thus I must drink while at the aid station). About 10 miles into the race I successfully got ahead so I was not getting caught at the aid stations.
Moving along I expected to be passed by the leaders including my friends Serge and Karsten. Typically the leaders pass me about mile 8 or 9 at the latest. I made it past the turn off for the half marathons and was still in the lead. Spectators could see I was an early starter (as we had an extra bib indicating this) and I mentioned it since I was not liking the pressure of being first. In my mind I was cheering on the faster athletes to go faster so they would pass me. I was not passed until about mile 17. I was very conflicted until I was passed because I wanted the extra mileage and to beat “litterbug-dude” but I really did not want to be first.
As I got to the second turnaround at the B&A trail marathon about mile 19.5, I was able to see where other runners were behind me. I had a good lead on my mortal enemy, litter guy (and my husband alledged that I only have friends, because apparently I refer to nearly everyone as my friend) and the first place women is about 1 mile behind me. I feel optimistic that she will be passing me about mile 24 or 25. As I continue jogging and chatting with runners who are passing me I am now cheering in my mind for the first place female. I want her to pass me so people stop informing me I am first place female (then I have to correct them, aargh). As I pass mile marker 24 I start hoping first place female is coming up from behind. Then at mile 25 I start getting worried. I am plugging along running 10+ minute miles because I want some time to run back along the course to pace in friends and the faster I finish, the more friends I can pace in).
Getting close to the turn off to get to the finish I know I have less than 0.2 miles to go and glancing behind me, the first place female is nowhere to be seen. In fact I finish (seriously nearly in tears indicating no, no, no I am not first female) and about 3-4 minutes later, the first place female arrives. On a positive note, with all this extra time I am able to run out 2 miles, cheering on runners until I catch up to my friend Amanda who I pace to the finish. I then head out on the course again to retrieve my good friend Jean and walk/jog with her in her final 2 miles. In addition to pacing my friends in I also get 2 slices of pizza and a yummy cookie with peanut butter (perhaps not the healthiest sandwich ever but oh so yummy!). This makes up for the stress I felt from about mile 13 on. The point of this digression is that I really really hate pressure that I would never be able to do in my wildest dreams. Whether in athletics, academics or any other area of my life if I am not able to do it I know my limitations. I might be able to break 24 hours for Umstead 100, but coming in first, second or third place in 16 or 17 hours is not even in the realm of possibilities.
Back to Umstead lap 4. I need to get this 3rd place female monkey off my back because it is weighing me down. If I had a stuffed monkey, I would have pulled it out and prominently displayed it. In fact the desire to alert the timing table to this glitch motivates me to put some pep in my step.
But before I get to the start/finish, I see my friend Frank and Emmy. Both are looking really great and I am pleased to get a hug and a picture with each of them.
I am thrilled to be finishing 50 miles. It is approaching 5 p.m. (11 hours on the course) and I am all set for a new Umstead 50 mile PR. Passing by the Umstead 100 miler sign I take a moment to take a picture. I need to document my progress and hope I look happy. Since I do not look at my pictures until a day or two after an event, it is always a bit of a surprise if I am in the picture, if I look happy and if the picture is in focus (although a picture being in focus is not readily apparent until I see it on a larger screen than my camera).
As I start the downhill through the parking lot I am delighted to see a friendly face. It is my friend Annette, the RD from one of my favorite ultra’s, the New River Trails 50 km. I also know Annette from the VT100 miler in 2009 when she not so surprisingly beat me significantly. Annette is so fun and really energetic. I get a big hug and a picture then continue on my way. I figure I will be able to see her a little more as I return to the course in a few moments.
Running up the hill, I am cheered on by many spectators. Because there are lots of runners on the course (even many of the 50 milers are still running) it is a noisy run up the hill. This makes me happy as it gives me lots of energy. Arriving at the top of the hill my first priority is to alert the timekeepers that somehow they have me a lap ahead of where I am supposed to be (with a 50 miler completion time of 8 hours!). They are now aware and assure me they will resolve this issue which makes me happy. No more pressure, wahoo!
My friend Chito is standing outside of the lodge waiting for me to arrive. He is going to be my pacer during my 5th lap. I don’t need to do anything major so I suggest that within a few minutes we will be off. He elects to make a final potty break while I eat and drink. As he heads over to the real restrooms, I indicate that after I finish my “dinner” I will head out on the course.
It is in fact dinner time, so I decide to supplement my usual food with a cup (and ultimately a second cup) of potato soup. I also ask the nice volunteers to make me a chicken breast sandwich including ketchup. Apparently I may be one of the few who likes my grilled chicken sandwich with catsup, but that’s okay. My stomach is feeling fine so I eat and drink quite a bit while at the aid station. Finally I decide I have had enough and get ready for my 5th lap.