Sunday, April 29, 2007

Promise Land 50K 2007

What a perfect weekend in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for a trail race.

My report is now posted at NCULTRA

Personally it was beyond my expectations. As I was running the last mile feeling stronger than ever at the end of an ultra, I was thinking, what a gift from God this weekend was. I said aloud a prayer of thanks. Thanks for a healthy body that allows me to do this. Thanks for a beautiful day in such a glorious place. Thanks for David Horton and all the dedicated volunteers for putting on this wonderful event. Thanks for a loving family thinking of me. And thanks for all the great friends and fellow runners waiting for me at the finish and still on the trail behind me.
What a feeling to cross that line and have so many people shake my hand and hug me as they offered their sincere congratulations. It doesn't get much better than to have the love and friendship of your peers.

With 267 starters there are too many friends and acquaintances to mention but there were a few special things that deserve attention. It was great to watch Tammy Gray finish her 1st 50K and then to see the scary looking blisters she had endured. Marie Lewis finished her 1st trail 50K. Until she went to Rocky Raccoon in February she had never run on a trail and this was her 2nd time on a trail. She had never seen anything like these steep, rocky trails. Johnny Raney kept his streak of finishing every Promise Land alive with a gutsy finish after having serious knee injuries the past couple of years. I met Johnny at my very 1st Ultra in 2002 and he has always been very supportive of my running.

I did exceed my goal for a course Pr by a long shot. I would have been very happy with a 7:30, so with my time of 7:11:52, I was overwhelmed. You can check out the photos here

Here is a link to a 6 minute video on you tube by Jeanne ?Craig and her husband.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Promise Land- Preview

I'll be heading off to the Promise Land 50k this weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This is the 7th year for this race, the 2nd in David Horton's Lynchburg Ultra Series. This will be my 5th trip to the race and the 4th time running. I skipped the race in 2005 to taper for Massanutten but I did sweep all of the course except the 1st and last 2.6 miles on the gravel road. Most of that was with Charlie Hesse, one of David's longtime friends and fellow ultrarunner. I took this picture that day of Apple Orchard Falls. I was using a disposable camera that day. I hope to get some better quality photos this year. David says it is the prettiest of his races and few would disagree.
My first time was in 2003.
I was barely ready for a race of this difficulty and had a tough day. My friend Tom Smith and I ran the whole race together that year. Brian Loose was with us for a good part of the day but left us behind about the 20 mile mark. Tom got sick at the 2nd stop at Cornelius Creek. Since we had come that far together I decided to wait and see if he would feel better. After about 5 minutes we began the long steep climb by the falls and back over the parkway. I never knew it was possible for two people to move as slow as we did that day over that mountain. It took us about an hour and a half to cover the 2.8 or 3.4 miles depending on if you believe Horton or the park service sign.
In 2004 I returned just 3 weeks after my first 100 miler and despite being in better shape the lingering fatigue prevented me from improving by more than 7 minutes.
Finally in 2006 I was happy to return in my best shape ever and ready to attack the course. I started off with Fred Dummar and Tony Rouse and before the 1st mile we were drenched to the bone by a freak morning thunderstorm. By the time we hit the trails going up Onion Mt, the trail was a muddy, slippery mess and at times we were running in rivers of ankle deep water rushing down the trails. We slipped and slid our way to Cornelius Creek , about the 16 mile mark when the rain finally stopped. Despite my best efforts I was 10 minutes slower than my previous two attempts at this point. I was disappointed but with two great friends and a beautiful trail I was happy to continue.
Fortunately the 2nd half of the course was in much better shape and I was able to make up a little time. Due to my better condition I was able to make the climb up the Falls trail more than 30 minutes faster than before. Fred fell behind but Tony and I ran to the finish together and despite the slower first half I set a course PR by 32 minutes.
The weather forecast and trail conditions are looking good and I look forward to a new course PR. No matter what, I know I'll have a great time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dunn -Erwin Rail Trail

Hey guys and girls,
If you ever find yourself in or close to Harnett County and are looking for a place to run, here is one that might interest you.
It's called the Dunn-Erwin Rail Rail. I first heard of it several years ago but today I finally had a chance to check it out due to having to service a store in Dunn this afternoon. I parked at the Dunn Primary School and planned to do about 6 miles. I was feeling good so I decided to go ahead and run the whole trail. It is a converted rail trail so it is nearly perfectly flat. The surface is crushed granite screening, just like the bridle trails at Umstead and the ATT. If you are picky about the distance you run, this is the trail for you. They have a concrete marker imbeded in the trail every 1/10th mile. It is marked counting down from Dunn in one direction and from Erwin in the other direction.
The length of the trail is 5 miles for a total of 10 out and back. As you leave the outskirts of Dunn , you pass through some farmland and residential area and then into a wooded area and some wetlands. There are several small bridges over little creeks. I was running about 3 this afternoon and was still able to be in the shade nearly half the run. The Erwin terminus of the trail is right in old downtown Erwin and the last 1/10th is on a concrete and brick sidewalk. There are about 12 lightly traveled road crossings, mostly in the first half so you have to be careful. It crosses under the highway overpass of 55/421about 8/10ths from Erwin.
There is no water on the course so plan to carry. Another option would be to carry a couple of bucks. The turnaround in Erwin is directly across the street from MacPhails Pharmacy or one block around the corner are two convenience stores. Unfortunately I came unprepared and did the entire 10 miles in the 84 degree temps dry. Jenn said I must be related to a camel on one of our two -plus hour runs in Umstead one time but that was on a cool day. I was getting a bit thirsty toward the end today
The trail is conveniently located about two miles from I-95. Just take exit 73 and go west toward Dunn. Turn right on Orange Street and it's just 3 or four blocks to the school. You can find more info on this and many other trails at

For a little history on the railroad that used to be here, go here

Friday, April 20, 2007

More Bull Run Run photos

Here is a link to some more photos from last weekends Bull Run Run. Sue Norwood took these while getting on a little workout while waiting for husband Jim who was running the race. She got some really nice photos of some sections of the trail I was too busy running to take the time.
Thanks Sue

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bull Run Run 50 Mile Report

Despite less than a perfect weather forecast, this past Saturday turned out to be a near perfect day for a run through the woods of Northern Virginia. I've posted my report here.

My time was 10:34:20

My Bull Run Run photos

You can link to many more photos and reports here on the VHTRC site

Thanks to Mike Bur for the photo of me crossing the Run and Thanks to Mike Day once again for hosting my favorite running website, NCULTRA

What a great time we live in to be an ultrarunner. So many events within easy driving distance every weekend of the month can make it difficult to choose. However, I had made up my mind a year in advance that I would return to challenge the rolling hills of the Bull Run Run. This would be the 15th year of the race that was the reason for the beginning of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. My only previous appearance was in 2005 and I ran 12:15 as I struggled for much of the 2nd half. This year I was hoping for a much stronger performance as I continue to build my fitness for a strong summer.

Tech Tags: ultrarunning ultramarathon bull+run+run 50+mile trail+running
Friday afternoon was cool and beautiful as I arrived for packet pick-up at Hemlock Overlook. It was great to see so many of my VHTRC friends while hanging around waiting for the race-briefing. We had a delicious meal catered by Carabba's and then I settled into the bunkhouse to get some rest. Fred would be along soon and before long it was lights out.
Saturday morning was near perfect with the temperature in the low 40's as we prepared for the start. Everyone was hoping we could get most of the run over with before the predicted rain would start. We started promptly at 6:15, just as it became light enough to see without having to carry a light. Fred and I planned to run together for as long as our paces fit and we started off easily in the middle of the pack for the short loop around the grounds of the park facility. Soon we were on the single-track and heading downhill to the riverside . I was feeling fine and enjoying the morning, the trail and the company.
The Bluebells were in their full glory as we reached the bottomlands in the river's flood plain. I was noticing how Spring seemed to be running about two weeks behind us in NC. The redbuds that were so pretty during Umstead have all turned to green now but are just opening their buds here in Northern Virginia as well as the dogwoods. Even better was the lack of mud this year. Despite some rain earlier in the week the trail was in very good shape. There were some muddy areas but not bad and it was not much of a problem all day. I was glad to reach the first aid station at Centerville Road and the 7.2 mile mark. Since it was a cool day I was running light without a bottle and I was getting thirsty and ready for some calories. I took about two minutes but Fred was in and out so I lost contact with him.
The next 2.2 miles to the turnaround are completely flat after coming down from the bluffs. This area can really be a mud-fest but was in really good shape this year. It also gives you a chance to see all the runners in front and behind for the first time. I was running well but didn't catch up with Fred until just as I arrived back at the aid station. After quickly downing some gatorade and M&M's, I caught back up to Fred and we ran again together all the way back to Hemlock Overlook and the 16.6 mile mark. Once again Fred was out quicker than me and for the rest of the day we would play leap frog. Fred had just run the 100 at Umstead and his energy would come and go and I was taking more time in the aid stations.
I continue to feel pretty good and was happy with my times so far as I passed through the checkpoints. I was quickly out of the marina at 21 miles but to me the next section is one of the most difficult of the course. Unlike the mountain ultra's in Virginia, there are no really long climbs but the ones here are relentless. Up and down, up and down. It is very difficult to get into a rhythm and some of them are very steep. Slowly but steadily they began to wear you down. As I was approaching Wolf Run Shoals, I was feeling their effect and I wasn't feeling too good. I've done enough of these to know I usually hit a bad stretch so I wasn't worried too much. A quick hug from Kirsten and I was quickly on my way to Fountainhead.
That next section is only 2 miles and not too difficult but my condition continued to worsen. I immediately sat down for a couple of minutes on a picnic table and Fred came in right behind me. He grabbed a slice of pizza and was on his way. I didn't feel like eating but a few chips and drank some coke and headed out on my way to the Do Loop. I felt better for the next couple of miles and caught up to Fred once again but by the time I got to the Do Loop aid station I was feeling worse than ever. Janet Vincent gave me a hug and asked what I needed. I told her I didn't know but I needed to sit down and get things under control. She proceeded to wait on me bringing me everything I asked for. Tom Corris and Lou Jones kept checking on me to make sure I was alright and then kindly suggested I get up and get going. After about 6 minutes, a rolaids, an e-cap, some coke and some grilled cheese sandwich, I thanked them and headed out.
It had been sprinkling rain off and on since about 11:30 and as I started into the Do Loop it began to rain a little harder. I put my vest on but I started sweating so I took it off and the rain stopped again. Amazingly, as I ran the loop I began to feel much better and I came back into the aid station looking like a different man than I had 45 minutes earlier. Janet and Tom both commented how much better I looked and I told them I had just needed a little Do Loop Love to get me going. I wasted no time and just grabbed a cup of Mt Dew and was on my way .
For the rest of the day I just got stronger and stronger with each aid station I passed. I had been steadily passed since around 18 miles but now late in the race I was catching back up to most of the group of runners I had been around earlier. My goal had been to run under 10:30 and as I came into the Marina with just 5 miles to go, I felt I had at least a shot at it. I ate my only gel of the day, washed it down with coke and took off on a mission. Before long I caught up to Fred. I was hoping to run with him a little but his legs were dead from Umstead and I was quickly out of sight. I was running great and passed quite a few people in those last miles but the rocks along the river slowed me quite a bit. A quick glance at my watch and I knew I wouldn't break 10:30 but considering the way I felt earlier I was very happy to be close. A strong, smiling run across the finish line and my race was done.
This is a fantastic race, all trail in a beautiful area. The VHTRC folks put on a 1st Class Event with experienced and helpful volunteers. Bob Phillips stepped up this year to take on the Race Director position and I think everyone will agree that he did a great job. On to the next one.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bull Run Run 50 mile preview

Spring in Virginia and the Bluebells blooming means it's time again for the Bull Run Run. It can also mean mud, and fickle weather.Here I am in 2005 acknowledging the cheers of all my fans as I come into the Fountainhead Park Aid Station. Thats Janet Vincent right behind me. This was the first time I met her. It got quite warm that year and there was a lot of mud. Last year was even muddier and a cold front moved in and some folks were dealing with hypothermic conditions. So what will we have this year? Looks like it might be a tough one with a high of maybe 50F and rain in the afternoon.
2005 was the only time I have run the race. I was training for MMT and had just paced 37.5 miles the weekend before so I wasn't expecting to run very well. I was actually feeling good early on and running with Graham and Dru for a while. Graham and I stuck together for 15 miles or so and then he pulled ahead. I was really struggling the last 15 miles and had to sit along the riverside several times trying to pull myself together and get my stomach settled so I could get some gels into me. Finally started feeling good the last 5 miles. I'm looking forward to a much better performance this year.
This event was the reason the VHTRC was founded and the club does a great job making it one of the premier 50 milers in the country. I look forward to seeing a lot of my Happy Trails friends this weekend. You can check out the race website here

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tips for finishing a 100 Mile race

I have purposely avoided posting my daily running schedule and other insignificant details of my day to day life on this blog. I don't want to bore away my readers so I have tried to keep it mainly about reports and upcoming events and the thoughts that may come to mind as I experience these events in my life.
What I hope to do with this posting is to give some ideas to basically two groups of runners out there. Those of you that have never finished a 100 and those that may have finished a 100 but had a miserable experience with throwing up and /or walking the last 30-40 miles. If you have successfully finished a 100 and in decent shape then congratulations. There is probably nothing here to benefit you. You may even be able to give me a few pointers on getting faster. ( I already know two big ones. Train more and get younger). I do not pretend to be any great guru, coach or exceptionally smart or gifted runner.I'm just an average ultrarunner with now 10 years of experience. I started off in the bottom 1/4 of finishers and in most races even now find my way in the middle of the pack although more towards the top 50% now. However I have had a little more success at the few 100's I've done. Scott Brockmeirer told me after having such a successful first one that maybe that's where I would discover my talent. I think it is probably true that some of us may be genetically more inclined towards the longer distances than others. But I also believe that my limited success is that I know myself very well and have the ability to monitor my condition and stay within my limits combined with an ability to make a plan and stick with it.
If you have never attempted a 100 then my advice is don't. Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind completely? Are you some kind of idiot? If you can answer yes to all three of these questions then perhaps you are ready for a 100 mile race and will learn something from this. My first word of advice to you is this. If you have only been running a year or two and think it would be cool to run 100 then don't . Not yet. There will be plenty of time to run a 100 later. First take several years to learn to run well at shorter distances. Study the great coaches and runners. Learn to do intervals and tempo runs. Become an efficient and stronger runner first. You will avoid more injuries and enjoy the long races more.
Ok, now for the rest of you that have tried and failed or suffered like dogs.

Training: Obviously the more miles you can run, the better you will be at this sport. But all of us are not gifted like Ray the K and others that can pile on 150 mile weeks. Most of us struggle with a 3rd of those miles. The good thing is that although more miles makes it easier, you can get by with a lot less. I ran my first 100 with only 29 miles a week average over the 6 months prior to the race. I had run my first 50 the 6 months before off of 25 miles a week. In between I ran 3 50k's and a marathon. They were my only long runs other than a couple of 17 milers. Since then I have bumped my mileage up to about 45 miles a week for the past two years. It has helped my times and my recovery but I have never felt any better than in that first one.( this was original written 5 years ago. Since then i have maintained close to 50 mpw with occasionally more and just finished the Tahoe rim 100 July 2011 and felt GREAT.) So what does that mean? Don't overtrain yourself. Most of us average folks will do better on less miles. You will be less likely to be injured and when race day comes you will have fresher legs. You can get by doing an ultra race or training run a few weeks before a 50 but you need to be more conservative for a 100. Yes, some people can run back to back 100's. Remember, I'm not talking to them, I'm talking to you who have tried and failed. It's not more miles or longer training runs you need, it's a better taper. Many folks advocate doing back to back long runs on weekends. Again this may work for some folks, but most of us would do better resting and recuperating. Unless you are a 100 mile a week runner and I'm not talking to you anyway, a training run over 40 miles is going to be counter -productive. My longest leading up to a 100 that wasn't running a 50k race is 25 miles. I may do a 35 miler a month before my next 100 but I also plan to taper for a full month.
It is very important to train the way you plan to race. That means walking on not just your long runs but even on some shorter ones during the week. You will likely be walking a lot in the race and you need to learn to walk well.

Nutrition: I've read thousands of articles from experts on nutrition over the past 34 years and have found a way to ignore most their advice. According to the experts, the diet I eat shouldn't allow me to be alive at 55 let alone run 100 miles. But again, we are all different genetically so what works for me probably isn't good for you. So what I'm saying is as long as you keep the body fueled and are within your normal weight range, there is no magic diet going to get you through a 100. If you are getting enough energy to get you through your workouts then stick with what works. If not, then experiment until you do.
During the race you will again have to do what works for you. But during the race is not the time to be experimenting. You should be practicing what you eat in your training. Some folks do fine on solid food, others do better on liquids and gels. I tend to do my best on the gels, liquids and candy with maybe some chips and crackers and cookies. If you do eat solid food then you should plan on walking longer to let digestion get going. Otherwise when you start running that food is going to sit there. Then you eat some more and guess what. Eventually it's got to go somewhere and if you keep stuffing food in there and not letting it digest then you barf. I have never thrown up in an ultra although a few times I wished I would. Stop eating until your stomach gets happy. You will live and you can keep moving although maybe slower than you would like. I once went 30 miles in the middle of a 100 without eating anything. You can survive off body fat. Just don't make a habit of it.
A lot of you like to take a lot of salt capsules and even use them in training. Sodium is very important obviously but I think a lot of folks use way too much. If you are training with them then you are not allowing your body to learn to naturally retain and keep your sodium levels even. You might as well be eating a high salt diet. Being old school long time runner that I am, I never used any salt additives for the first 25 years of running and somehow never died. Of course I wasn't running ultra's then but even today it doesn't take much. Yes, at times I do take a few caps, especially in hot weather but I would never take them at specific time or mile intervals. It only takes a few minutes to correct a sodium shortage but can take hours to undo and over dosage which will contribute to the nausea you may have felt as your body tries to find equilibrium. I think the most E-caps I have taken in a 100 is about 4 or 5 and they are very low in sodium content compared to most other supplements. If you aren't over-drinking you will be much better off.
Instead monitor your body and only take sodium supplements as needed. I know I need some when my stomach gets a little sloshy because fluids aren't absorbing. Other times if I start to get a little spacey then a little salt will fix it. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the wooziness from sodium depletion and low blood sugar but you can usually tell by your energy level.

Mental Preparation: If you have attempted a 100 then you are already mental but there is still hope for you. 100 miles is a long way to go and it's hard to get a grasp on the distance so don't even try. You just have to forget about your normal perception of time and distance and accept that you are going to be running a very long time. Live in the moment and don't think about how far you've been or how far you have to go. Just keep moving.
A lot of folks go into a 100 setting themselves up for failure. If you enter a race with the possibility that you might not make it then you probably won't. If you think that you get a certain distance or place in the event and you might drop there, then you will drop. Every 100 I've run, including Leadville which had me scared not knowing how I would react to the altitude, I have toed the starting line with the mindset that I would be collecting my buckle at the finish. When I start the race, quitting is not an option that is available to me. I once said that on the ultralist and was quickly reprimanded by someone that I was foolish and that kind of attitude could cause someone to be seriously injured or even die. I hope he didn't hurt himself with that jerky knee reaction because he missed the point. Obviously if my health was in danger I would quit and I prefer not to run myself into the ground. It is just a mindset that I go into. I know its a long way, I'm going to feel tired, and at times I may go through a bad spell but barring an emergency I will keep moving toward that finish line. The only time I dropped was at Vermont in 2005 and that was because I was severely dehydrated and my health would have been at risk to continue. I had been very successful in my two previous 100's and had gotten cocky and ignored most of the advice I am now handing out but that's another story.(update: I have had 2 more dnf's since this was written, one due to hypothermia and one timed out)
In my training before each 100 I visualize myself in the race feeling good. And I always see myself finishing successfully. Then on race day I just have to make the vision a reality.

Race Strategy: I go into every 100 with a plan and with the exception of Vermont, have stuck with the plan. It is very important not to go out too fast. It is very easy to do in a 100 because the pace for a 25 hour time is 15 minute miles. Of course it's going to feel easy early on. But just like any other distance the most efficient way to run is with fairly even or negative splits. That is a lot harder to do in a 100 but you still can't put too much time in the bank in the first half. You will see me walking in the first mile or two of my 100's and think maybe I'm going to have a slow day, but if you see me at mile 90, you will see me still running about as much as I was at the first 10, just slower. Too many people end up walking the last 30 or 40 miles because they only started walking when they had too. By then it's too late. It feels a lot better to be running near the end and passing folks at night. I actually passed the winner at Hinson Lake last year (2006) in the last hour. (He was still about 20 miles ahead of me)
Be realistic in your goal. If all you want to do is get that first finish behind you, then why are you going through 50 miles in 10 or 11 hours when you have a goal of 28 or 29 or 30? Your goal should be to slow no more than 2 or 3 hours the 2nd half so slow down. Do the 1st half in 12 or 13 hours. Take longer walk breaks and make sure when you run it's slower than your normal pace for 50K or 50 miles. Use the time to keep your energy level even. Eat and give the food time to digest and keep your stomach happy with the slower pace. You will find the 2nd 50 will be much easier than ever. After you get that first finish or finish feeling good then the next time you can go for a faster time or a harder course.( If you are going for a sub 24 then the first 50 should be around 11 hours)

I think that's all. I hope maybe this has given you something to think about and will be of help to you. I really like to see others succeed and reach their goals and dreams. Feel free to ask questions or call me a clueless idiot.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Laura's Umstead Report

My friend Laura has posted a report on her experience finishing her first attempted 100 miler at Umstead last weekend. Not only did she finish but did so in an outstanding time of 21:26!

You can link to her Blog here

I also have added a link over in the links column on the right border of this page.

Laura is a very talented runner and a very special lady. I call her The Trail Angel, but not because she happens to be very lovely. I met her while running along the trail at Carrboro in 2003. In just a couple of miles running together I sensed something very special about her. Afterwards I had a strange feeling that we met that day for a reason but didn't know why. It would be another year before I figured out that she was an Angel sent to help me move into the next phase of my life. Funny thing though, I didn't really get a good look at her that day at Carrboro and we were both bundled up for the cold weather so I didn't even recognize her when I next saw her later in that summer. But after that time we got to know each other better and since then I have felt very Blessed to have this lady and her unique spirit as my friend. I believe that God puts certain people in our lives to help us along life's journey, and knowing her has had a positive impact on my life.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Search for the Lonely Princess

Several months ago I wrote a story which you can find on this blog in the Sept. 06 archives entitled "The Lonely Princess" Since then I have had several readers ask if there was more to the story. At the time I had not planned anymore but recently I decided to do a sequel. I actually had an idea for another story using the first paragraph below but decided to take it in a different direction. So here it is. I hope you enjoy. Just remember, although there is some truth behind the story , it is fiction!

The Search for the Lonely Princess.

Progress had slowed to a mere crawl as the runner inched his way forward up the seemingly never ending climb. Even at this slow pace his heart was pounding at it's maximum rate as it tried in vain to bring enough blood to the skin surface to save the runner from over-heating. Finally, he could walk no more and slumped down, exhausted on a rock in a small patch of shade to escape from the relentless mid-day sun. His eyes burned as a river of salty sweat streamed down from his head and body forming puddles at his feet.

What kind of cruel sadist would stage a 50 mile race in the middle of August on this rock-pile called Massanutten? But more importantly, why was he here running it in the first place? If it was always this bad he would quit he thought as he tried once again to lie to himself. Although he could never really explain it to anyone, deep inside he knew what drove him forward. And why he would continue to run until he would one day be unable to rise from his bed to greet another day. He had to because it was the spiritual string that connected them.

He slowly removed his cap to wipe the sweat from his brow with his soaking wet shirt sleeve. Then he looked at her picture, scanned from an illustration in a child's fairy tale book that he had taped under the bill of the cap. At times like these he found comfort in talking to her. Even as bad as he felt, a smile crossed his face as he realized the absurdity of the moment. If they questioned his sanity before, what would they think of him now sitting on a rock in the middle of an ultramarathon in August talking to an imaginary Princess.

He had been in love with her as long as he could remember now. For countless years, he had searched unsuccessfully to find her. As a child she began to come to him in dreams and they would play together innocently as children do, not yet understanding the definition of love. Then for many years the dreams stopped as the boy grew to manhood. But one night after a long absence, she returned to his dreams, now as a beautiful young lady. And as they recognized each other they would gather in a tearful embrace at the joy of finding one another. But then the dream would end and the Princess would be gone leaving the man once again alone.

Over the many years he searched from face to face, eye to eye hoping to find her, believing that she truly existed. Several times he would meet someone and think the fairy tale would finally come true. But always it would just turn out to be more of a nightmare and the woman would merely be a Damsel in distress. Psychologist have a term for it, "white knight syndrome". Try as he may, he was unable to save them from themselves and in the process he began to withdraw from the world as he grew weary of the search. No, the True Princess would not need saving, nor did he. They just needed to find each other. And so despite the seeming hopelessness of the search, he could not let go of the vision. And as he searched and searched in vain, still she would come to him, the same dream repeated time and again over the decades.

And now here he sat, parched and exhausted on a rock on a mountain, talking to an illustration. Long ago a big part of him had given up on finding the Princess. She still came to him in that same dream, but she was always the same as she had been so many years before. Still the same young, beautiful face with long brown hair flowing gently over her tender shoulders. But time had not been so kind to the runner. The dark hair of his youth was now thin and gray and his face was showing the weathered stress of the passing years.

Placing the cap back on his head, he slowly stood and stretched before once again heading up to the summit of the climb. And as he began moving forward, he knew he would not give up on his search. No, they would never feel the reality of that embrace in this lifetime, but somehow, someday across the barriers of time and space , they would be together. In the meantime he had a race to finish. She would understand.


Thanks Steve Pero for the photo

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Volunteering At Umstead 100, 2007

Spring means it's time for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. It is always a pleasure to help out and be a small part of this most excellent ultra race. Blake and Myra Norwood and their key volunteers and staff put on one of the best ultra runs in the country. It is especially meaningful to me since it is held in my frequent training grounds and was also my first 100 in 2004.

Here are some photos from the race this year

Photos by Alan Hughes

Although I had read about ultras for many years, it was coming out to Umstead in 1998 out of curiosity that I was first exposed to the sport. I ended up hanging around and helping for about 8 hours that year and have been back to the race every year since. Three years ago I decided to volunteer as a pacer and after working at Sally's aid station all day, I was assigned to run with a runner I had never met. I was introduced to Anita Fromm and we headed off into the night for what turned out to be one of my most memorable nights of running. Anita was having a tough time but together we were able to get her to the finish line in what would be a PR for her and the beginning of a great friendship. This year I paced Anita again for the 3rd year in a row and although her 7th lap was tough she ran her 3rd PR in 3 years.
As always, the best thing is seeing so many friends and aquaintences all together for a weekend of running, fun and camraderie. It is especially rewarding to see friends achieve goals and finish their first 50 or 100 miler. The support I received in 2004 for my 1st 100 was so important in making it such a great experience. This year several of the Mangum Track Club ladies, Susan Dummar,Marie Lewis and Laura MacLean showed how tough women can be as they cruised through and got their first finishes. This was Laura's first attempt and she had a very impressive debut running strong in 21 hours+. Nearly as impressive was the great job of pacing her friend and co-worker Alan Hughes provided. Alan had only run one marathon last November and had afterwards discovered he had a stress fracture. After healing and recovery over the winter, he was able to stay with Laura for the last 37.5 miles, his longest run by far. Way to go Alan!
Local lady and NCRC member Jennifer Frahm had a great debut in the 50 miler which I believe was also her first ultra.
Next year poses a dilemma for me. As much as I enjoy helping out and especially running through the night escorting the Trail Princess, I think it's time I challenge myself on the course once again. At this time I plan to be there as an entrant and go for a PR.