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 !