Thursday, March 29, 2012

Me and Umstead. Part 7. Going for the PR in 2012

It was Friday night before last years race while I was working in registration that I knew it was time to make another run for it at Umstead in 2012. It's hard to describe if you haven't been there but there is a special feeling in the air at Camp Lapihio. I'll never forget the feeling before my first 100 and it is so cool being around and seeing the newbies and relating to the excitement they are feeling. One of the great rewards of volunteering is watching people meet the challenges and especially the new ones. Ultra running has really grown in the area since I began in 2002 and I really love to see many friends crossing over to the dark side !

Since coming back from the injuries of 2008 I have been getting better every year and putting in more miles than ever. I knew when I made up my mind to enter that I was not just going to run to finish but I wanted it to be something special. At my age I have to face the reality that there won't be many more opportunities for me to improve and go for pr's so after getting Boston behind me last April , I immediately turned my attention to getting back into the best ultra shape possible. Just 5 days after Boston I was doing the Promise Land 50K for training with Jenn and then began my training. Of course I was doing other races and having a lot of fun but the focus in my mind was preparing for a PR attempt this weekend.

My trip to Tahoe Rim last July was a very important step in the process, mainly because I had not completed a 100 since Feb of 2007. I needed to get a tough one under my belt (and the big shiny buckle on it) to regain the confidence I would need. As soon as I recovered from PL I began trying to get out to Umstead and do a practice lap just about every week. I used these practice laps to work on different pacing strategies and visualizing how I would feel and what I planned to do each lap in the race. My PR is 23:15 but I planned to go big and try for 21 hours. I'm afraid it's going to be a lot warmer than I had hoped but if I use my head I'm confident that I have a real shot at obtaining my goal.

One of the best things of course will be that I have so many friends that will be out volunteering and racing. It boggles my mind to know that barely 10 years ago I was a near hermit. And one entrant in particular that I am most excited for is one of my training partners and special Angels, Amy Surrette. She will be running her first 100. I am so proud of her and all she has accomplished since we met and I will be so happy to see her cross that finish line for her first buckle/pendant, hopefully in under 24. You can do it AMY !

One thing that I have always done in all my ultra's is to go crew less and without pacers but this year I do plan to make an exception to that rule. Since it is local and is so close for so many friends I wanted to share this one with my wonderful Angels that have shared so many miles over the past few years. I was hoping for all of them to run some but it's looking like that's not going to be possible since Amy is running and Jenn is working as co-captain for the main aid station. Margo will be out of town and Laura is suppose to pace another lady but hopefully it will work out that she can run one with me. Karla and Lisa are planning to run the last two with me at least. A non Angel but dear friend Jerry is suppose to pace me on lap 5.

Well, this concludes our Umstead series of post for now. the next one will be my report on the PR!

Me and Umstead. Part 6. 2005 through 2011

After completing the race in 2004 I went ahead and did the Lynchburg Ultra Series as well as another full schedule of Triathlons over the summer months. by 2005 I was a committed ultrarunner and had lost interest in the he tri's so when the 2005 Umstead rolled around I was eager to be there to volunteer for the entire weekend, enjoying spending the time with friends and meeting new ones. This would also be the first year I would be a pacer following a day of helping at the aid station. I had a wonderful weekend and would continue doing this for the 2006 and 2007 races.

Unfortunately I spent most of the months preceding the 2008 race with a lot of pain which began with a really dumb move, not running in early 2007. The dumb running part was racing and racing through the pain. I was not able to mentally or physically prepare for the race but was hoping to at least be able to finish. Jenn was running in her first 100 and I was really hoping to stay with her as long as possible but early in lap two it became obvious I was not having a good day and had to let her go. te day ended up with a DNF at mile 69. If you are really bored you can read that report here.

I had written a long personal report but it disappeared into cyberland so I wrote this shorter one here.

In 2009, 2010 and 2011 I returned as a volunteer and pacer for the weekend again. 2010 was especially nice because I got to run the last lap with Jenn as she set a pr with a 21:55 ish finish. Karla was pacing her too so that made it extra special.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Me and Umstead. Part 5. My first 100

I hadn't really planned on Umstead being my 1st 100 miler for a couple of reasons but mainly because I had no desire to run 100 miles on rough gravel roads. For those of you newer to the area, through 2003 Old Reedy Creek Rd and Graylin Rd were just that. Rough, rutted gravel roads that only existed because before it was a park, people lived and farmed in the area. They were especially rough going down the hills as you would expect. I hardly ever ran out there because it was not very comfortable or fun so when I did run in the park it was on the single track. I don't remember exactly when but I heard sometime later that year that the park was going to re-surface the roads like they are today and that put the seed in my head that I would go for it in 2004.

So after a couple of 50k's I finally did my first 50 miler at Mountain Masochist in October 2003 off of 25 miles a week of training, just barely making the cut-off in 11:54. Over the next 6 months I bumped my training up to a whopping 29 miles a week with a couple more 50 k's and the inaugural Umstead Trail marathon before the race. For some reason I had it in my head that I was going to go for sub 24 despite everyone I knew advising against it. After all my 50k pr was still only about 5:30 but I was confident that I would do it.

In 2004 the race was 10 laps beginning at Camp Lapihio as it does now. We turned left at the fountain onto Reedy Creek and ran all the way to the gate at Trinity Rd. Turkey Creek did not exist yet so the aid station was where the picnic table and new fountain are located now at the start of South Turkey Creek. From there we ran back down by the lake and up Corkscrew to Graylin where we turned right and ran up Powerline. A left turn and through the B&B parking lot to Group Camp Road and then up that hill and back into camp.

I had a plan and had done many practice laps and the day went pretty much the way I had visualized it. Although I was much slower over all the 2nd half I was still running the same amount each lap. Amazingly when it looked like I was falling behind pace after 70, I was able to pick up the pace to mile 80 running that lap faster than any since mile 50.

One of the coolest things to happen was as I came in finishing lap 9, Matt Kirk a friend who had won the race earlier in the day in 15 hours was still hanging around at the finish taking a nap on the hood of a truck. When he saw me he jumped up and seemed more excited than I felt at the time saying you got it ! You can do this ! 24 hours ! I had to go down to the lake behind the camp for the last time( We had to start the race at the bottom of that hill and each lap we ran down there and back up to the lodge). When I got back around Matt was there trying to get me to eat something but I didn't feel like it and just wanted to get going. He finally convinced me to eat some cheese which sounded good to me. The only reason I didn't run as much the last lap was due to big blisters on the forefoot of both feet and it hurt worse to run downhill. It didn't slow me down too much though and I was a man on a mission. I accomplished my goal finishing in 23:48 and Matt was there to greet me. What an awesome experience !

Me and Umstead. Part 4. The Birth of Ultraman

After the ACL blowout I began going to the Y for swimming and weight work to strengthen the legs and stay in shape as well as biking more. I figured while I was doing those two ,once I began running again it was time to try a triathlon which was something I had always wanted to try. Like ultrarunning I had subscribed to a triathlon magazine in the early 80's but never got around to doing one. SO from 1999 through the next 5 - 6 years I participated in about 30 tri's but that again is another story although it does have a little something to do with this one. My running during this period was around 20 miles a week and I still was getting out and running some shorter runs on the trails, usually about 6 miles.

In 2001 I decided to enter the Uwharrie 20 miler which was my longest run since the mid 80's. I probably had not done more than 5 or 6 runs of about 13 miles over the previous years and that race turned out to be about the hardest thing I had ever done but I loved it.
In late 2001 I was going to enter it again for 2002 but found out that they would not be holding the 20 miler that year. I was disappointed but knew there was no way I was going to try for 40 with my running mileage still in the low 20's per week. I had only done a few 12-13 mile runs again and one 16 mile trail race in October but then I noticed a beginner friendly ultra in Va, Holiday Lake put on by David Horton whom I was familiar with and had met at the Virgina 10 miler. I'd always wanted to eventually enter an ultra so I decided it was time and sent in my entry.

That December of 2001 I also decided it was time to re-enter the world and meet some people so I began going to the then monthly NCRC meetings. I met Joe Lugiano there and told him what I had planned and he was great at giving me a lot of advice. I also met the Squiers and eventually made friends. On a side note, I noticed a beautiful young lady at one of those meetings around this time. Figured she was about 23 or so. It would be a couple of years before we ever actually talked at one of the Umstead series runs in August before I took on leading that social series. Turns outs ended up being one of my best friends and training partners, The Ultra Angel Jenn, but I digress.

So I did run that 50K plus in Feb of 2002, and loved it but I was still dedicated to doing my best in the upcoming Tri season so I would not run anymore ultra's that year. My first one of the season would be on Sunday April 7th which just happened to be Umstead weekend. I volunteered on Friday helping park cars and then working in the lodge with the pasta dinner. It was great meeting more ultrarunners and getting to know some of the local runners and volunteers better and was a bit sad that I couldn't be there for the race since I had already made plans to be In Wilmington on Saturday for the Tri on Sunday.

In January 2003 I ran my 2nd ultra at the Frosty 50K and was doing much better at meeting people, making friends and opening up a little more. I was planning on doing several more ultra's in the coming year leading up to my first 50 mile attempt in November but I was still trying to improve in the tri's at this point during the warm Spring and Summer months. Once again I had the April tri in Wilmington on Sunday of Umstead weekend but this time I volunteered on Friday and then came back and worked at the main aid station for 4 hours on Saturday before heading to Wilmington for the packet pickup. I really hated to leave for by now I was really loving being around the ultra community and although I wanted to do well in the upcoming tri season I could feel my heart was moving to the ultra world.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Me and Umstead. Part 3. First race impressions

And now back to our regularly scheduled Umstead stories.

The Umstead 100 was first held in 1994 and included just two entrants, RD Blake Norwood and Tom Newman. Beginning in 1995 it became an "official" race. I'm not really sure when I first became aware of it becoming an event as most of my memories of the 90's a blur. I refer to most of that era in my life as "The Dark Years". I won't go into any of that right now. Maybe a book someday? Anyway by 1991 I was hardly running at all and had no social life outside of immediate family and was living in depression without realizing it through most of the decade. So, anyway things were starting to get better for me emotionally by 96. I had taken up whitewater kayaking. mountain biking and I had began playing Soccer in an over 40 league so at least I was staying active. I ran a couple of hundred miles per year and did an occasional 5k or so but hardly considered myself a runner anymore and still had no friends and didn't really want any. I was always ready to retreat to my cave and other than kayaking when I had to go with a group on the dangerous stuff I did everything alone.

In 1998 I happened to have a soccer game around noon in Cary so before game time I decided to go by and check out this 100 miler I had heard about. I'd been aware of ultra's since very early in my running back in the 70's and had actually subscribed to ultrarunning magazine in 1982 or 83 but never got around to doing one. In fact I had only run one bad marathon in 1981 but back to this story. So I stopped at Camp Crabtree which is where the race HQ was that year and walked around to check things out. The only familiar face I saw was Joe Lugiano but I didn't really know him other than from knowing he was NCRC President at one time and I had seen his name in some ultra results. I hung around for about an hour and it looked interesting to me so after playing my soccer game I decided to return for awhile longer.

Once I returned and began hanging out I decided to offer to help at the aid station. After awhile of this and enjoying and learning about this sport of ultrarunning first hand, Blake asked me if I could sit at the finish and write down runners numbers as they came through each lap. I ended up working there until 11pm when I finally left for home. I was really having a great time and didn't want to leave. I don't have too many memories of the race but I did meet Joel Zucker as he came through a couple of times. You couldn't miss him because he was quite a character, a loud and loquatious New Yorker. Joel was one of the founders of the ultralistserv and unfortunately passed away several years ago after the Hardrock 100 which he loved so much.

One of the highlights for me was seeing Eric Clifton who I knew was one of the top ultrarunners in the country for many years and is still running quality times as a masters runner. He is famous for running in his homemade "jester" running tights. I was amazed to see him running so strong and consistently for so many laps. Just before he was due to come in to finish, Blake came over and handed me a card to give to Eric when he won. Blake had to leave to take care of something important and regretted not being able to be there to congratulate Eric as he crossed the line. How ironic it seemed that I, the walk on volunteer that no one knew was given the honor of meeting the race winner ! I thought it was funny that as soon as Eric finished he walked straight to a picnic table to sit and then after doing all that great running had to be helped into the lodge.

The other major impression that I got was a young lady that came through a couple of times and was always smiling and seemed to be enjoying herself. She had planned to stop at 50 but told me she couldn't believe how good she felt and decided to go out for another lap. Several hours later she came walking in very slowly and when I asked her how she felt she said "that was a really bad idea".

Later that year in October in the middle of the Fall soccer season I tore my left ACL which proved to be a pivotal moment in my life. I suddenly realized how much I missed running regularly,competing and training , setting goals and working to achieve them. I did a lot of praying over it and committed myself to doing all I could to get back to running. I was ready and willing to give up soccer, as well as pick up games of basketball and any other sport that may lead to further injury and keep me from running again. Well you know how that ended up.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Riser Run 5k XC

We now interrupt our Umstead history series to bring you a short race report.

Racing a 5k a week before running a 100 miler is not the best way to taper I'm sure so I promised I would just run it for fun. I certainly hadn't planned on entering anything but when Margherita told me about this one to support the Corinth Holders High School chorus I decided to join in the fun and spend some time with her instead of my usual Saturday morning routine. Margo is one of the Angels and her daughter Gabriella is a member of the school chorus so I was looking forward to doing my small part to show support.

Of course it rained most of the night and was still pouring down when I woke up at 6am. A check of the radar online showed no chance of a break in the weather and it was very tempting to go back to bed and run some other time. I am tapering after all and they already had my entry fee but I decided to go ahead. At least it wasn't cold and maybe the rain would slack off a little.

The rain was not too bad when I arrived and I parked next to Margo and Tony who was going to run also. I checked in and then headed out for a 3 mile warmup at an easy pace on the roads around the school with a couple of laps on the track before heading over to the start. The course was mostly the one used by the high school xc team with the finish on the track.

The start was in a grassy area and we would be running in the grass with lots of mud and puddles and standing water for the bulk of the course. I got off to a good start trying not to push the pace too much. My goal was not to get hurt, fall down or turn a knee or ankle so I didn't want to push too hard. I just wanted to get in a good hard effort and have some fun. After half a mile or so we had spread out a bit and then we turned onto a rough gravel road for about a half mile out and back. I passed several younger folks that had gone out too fast and then the order was pretty much set for the remainder of the race.

I passed the mile in 7:40 and was pretty happy with that considering the conditions. Just about then I was passed by a woman and she would be the only one to pass me. Around 1.25 we ran up a very steep grassy hill that slowed me down considerably but after that the remainder of the course was pretty flat. I just concentrated on being careful trying to maintain a strong pace. There was no need to even try to avoid the mud and water because the course was saturated. Fun stuff. I was loving it and loving feeling so much better than expected.

Went through 2 miles in 16:00 for an 8:20 second mile and then just maintained until I hit the track. with 2/10ths to go. Nice strong finish in 24:58. Considering the conditions , I've done no speedwork and that I was just putting out about 90% effort I was very pleased with my time.

A very enjoyable run in the rain and puddles. Now I'm really tapering. Seriously. I mean it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Me and Umstead. Part 2. First runs

My first encounter with Umstead as a runner came back in October of 1978. I had been running for about 16 months and racing for about 7 months and now I was looking forward to doing a cross-country race in Tanglewood Park outside of Clemmons NC. My brother, who I had gotten to join in with my running a few months earlier and I decided to go run on a trail at Umstead on the 28th of that October, about a week before the race.

We park on the Reedy Creek side which I think was probably the first time either of us had been on that side of the park and after looking over a map we headed down the Company Mill Trail. Things were going well until just after a mile we came to Crabtree Creek at the old mill site. There we lost the trail and after searching along the bank in both direction following false trails we gave up in frustration and ran back to our car. A quick look at the map and we realized that the trail continued onto the other side of the creek ! At that time there was no bridge over the creek or any other bridges on any of the trails for that matter. If you wanted to get to the other side you waded across.

Later in March of 1979 I returned to the park by myself on the Glenwood side of the park and went for a run on the Sal's Branch trail. Somewhere along the way, probably where the trail comes out at Big Lake, I got confused and couldn't figure out which way to go so I turned around and ran back the same way I had come ending up with about 4 miles.

Over the next few years as I had moved to Fayetteville and Hope Mills I didn't get back to the park but a couple of times. I was focusing more on trying to run fast 5 and 10K's so I was doing most of my running on the roads and track but I had always loved running around in the woods so I would occasionally find a trail to get in some miles. I took a new job in Oct of 1982 which involved driving all over Eastern NC so I began to look for parks and trails to run on close by to where I was working but that's another story.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Me and Umstead. Part 1.The early years

With the Umstead 100 fast approaching, I have been thinking about my relationship with the park and race so I thought I might give you a little history.

My first encounter with William B.Umstead State Park would have probably been in 1963 or 1964. My family had moved to Wake County over the Christmas holidays just after my 8th birthday and I was soon involved in Cub Scout and church activities and I have vague memories of picnics and gatherings in the following years. There may have been trips just with the family but it is hard to remember much from nearly 50 years ago now. I do remember playing in the creek down the hill from the main picnic area where the Sycamore Trail crosses on a bridge now.

In those days it was a long drive through the country to get there from Garner and other than the airport, which was much smaller then, there was no development on either side of the park so it seemed very remote.

When I was in high school I know I made a few trips out into the woods there and in probably 1972 or 73 I took a date there and we rented a rowboat and paddled around Big Lake. I've got some old photos from that day and if I can find them I'll see if I can scan them in the computer and post them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Which is harder? the old 10 lap Umstead course or the current course ?

That's a question I have often wondered about since the course was changed after my debut 100 miler in 2004. That year the bridle trails had just been re-surfaced in time for the race but Turkey Creek had not been built so we did 10 x 10 mile loops using parts of Old Reedy Creek, Graylin and a couple of miles out on the gravel roads from Sycamore and Group Camp road.

In 2005 Turkey Creek was opened but not quite completed and the course was changed to 8 x 12.5 mile loops with an extension just outside the park on Graylin to a 3rd major aid station at the Rangers residence. By 2006 TC was complete and the current course has been used ever since with just the two major aid stations with the 2nd one moved from the top of South Turkey Creek to the bridges at the bottom.

I have paced the new course for about 120 miles but haven't completed the race on the new course so I have been curious as to which one might be the hardest. I've asked a few runners that ran in 04 and since then their opinions and most answered that they felt they were about the same but the new one maybe a bit harder. I have thought from my experience that the older one was harder but had no real evidence to back that feeling.

I am entered in this years race and like 2004 I have been making a lot of practice loops at least every week or two for the past 10 months. I have been averaging right at 11:00 per mile give or take a few seconds on these so out of curiosity a couple of months ago I looked back in my journal from 2004 to see what pace I was doing those in at that time on the old course. I was a bit surprised that all of those were about 11:30 pace. So, is the course that much harder or am I in that much better shape now?

Only one way to find out so today I did a practice lap on the old route putting in the same amount of effort as my recent laps on the new course and the result? 11:22 pace which shows a little of both. The course is definitely more difficult and I am in a little bit better shape. Theoretically those figures would add up to about a 40 minutes faster time on the new course but there are so many things thing can go bad or good over the length of a 100 mile race.

The main reason a lot of people would think the new one is harder is because of the steep hills on North Turkey Creek but actually other than that there is only one really long climb up by the lake, the climb on Cemetary and a few other minor hills all done 8 times. Just think about this. In 2004 we had to go up that lake hill 10 times, UP corkscrew 10 times, Up powerline 10 times and UP Group Camp road 10 Times . Plus there was that steep little hill behind the lodge at Camp Lapihio that goes down to the lake that we had to do 10 times also.

Bottom Line? I say it was harder but don't let that make you feel any better if you are running the new course. It still ain't easy.