"I need every advantage possible today if I'm going to succeed . . .
Ahhhhh . . . I know! If I start the at the back of the pack I'm giving up 30-45 seconds. And why? Just to be NICE to all the FASTER runners here today? Heck . . . they didn't have my race day challenges . . . to hell with them! Let THEM be nice to ME! I'm starting from the FRONT!"
So I started heading up through the crowd to start on the first row! 30-40 seconds in the bank! NICE!
But some plans just fail. On my move to the front I run into Mark Long, Tom Herbst, Tyler Peak and Darrell Elliott. Had to say hello to these guys! And then the unthinkable . . . I was boxed in. But still I was maybe 1/2 way to the front . . . 15-20 seconds banked. That would just have to do.
Another advantage of starting in the front is you get to run with folks you normally don't get to. Heading out from Camp Lapihio I got to catch up a bit with Frank Maguire until my first walk break came. Another advantage was for awhile I was ahead of Eric Pate, Ron Fleming AND Scott Wingfield! YES!
One of the really nice parts of the Umstead course is there are a lot of sections that you run out-and-backs so you get to see those ahead of you. Running out by the airport overlook, I see the leaders fly by and then eventually everyone else! It's shaping up to be a great day!
Coming back from the turnaround I run awhile with Lee Cox. I've seen Lee at several races but we never really met. Lee was running in sandals and was really using this race as training for the Umstead 100 coming up soon. Turns out Lee and I both love fishing and I enjoyed spending some time with him.
Soon we caught up with Kerrie Anne Loyd, a first-time marathoner from Atlanta . . . a very neat young lady who is about to get her PhD. Eventually Stephen pulled ahead and Kerrie Anne and I got to sort of get to know each other. One thing about Kerrie Anne is she wouldn't walk. Never! She might go slow up a hill, but she wouldn't walk!
Near the end of the single track porting, Kerrie Annie and I picked up another first time marathoner, Mark Swan from near Raleigh. After passing the Cedar Ridge Trail intersection and going down Corkscrew Hill, Kerrie Anne and Mark pulled ahead and I was by myself.
At the Reedy Creek Aid Station, I grabbed some Oreo cookies . . . not something that usually sounds good to me while running but hit the spot today. At this point I was cruising along pretty. But soon the lead runner passes me! Honestly he looked like he was just having an easy run. Very relaxed and didn't appear to be pressing at all! The second runner passed and he was definitely working hard . . . much harder then the leader if looks are not decieving!
Passing the straight section beside Ebenezer Church Road, I knew the fun was about to begin! The hills coming up happen at exactly the wrong time!
The first big one is the worst! I just try to walk up it as fast as I can, and then take advantage of gravity on the back side! To me, this section going out is way harder then coming back after the turnaround at the Graylyn Aid Station turnaround. I just keep pressing my pace all I can . . . but I'm tiring.
One great thing about this section is you get to see everyone! Anthony Corriveau passed me before I even knew it was him! He was flying down the trail! Laura McLean passes. And then here comes Shannon Johnstone, in 4th place but still snapping pictures!!
Mark Long passes me. He's really moving well in spite of his recent injury layoff. I have to kid him about his "poor conditioning!!" I believe he was ahead of his last year's pace (relative to me!). Right behind Mark was Scott Wingfield. Then, Eric Pate and Ron Fleming quickly appeared. All seemed to be running strong (though later Ron said he was struggling badly!).
Making the turn to Graylyn I see the sisters again . . . still laughing!
Nearing the Graylyn Aid Station / turnaround, I saw Amber Poole and Jon Shingleton. Due to life's interruptions, their training was way short of what they wanted, but I was "blown away" to see how strong they were running! Well ahead of me!
Katherine Kemp from Wilmington caught up to me on the Ebenezer Church Road straight section. This was Katherine's fourth Marathon (and her second Umstead!). I enjoyed our few minutes together, but she pulled ahead and zoomed on up the trail!
My plan all along was to go as hard as I could to reach the final cut-off station at the Cedar Ridge Aid Station. Last year, they told me I missed the cut-off at Reedy Creek by 5 seconds . . . but told me if I could pick it up and make it to Cedar Ridge before their cutoff, they would let me finish. So, really my race this year was to the Cedar Ridge Aid Station! After that, I just had a 3 1/3 to 4 mile "cool down!"
At Reedy Creek I asked had I made their cut-off. They didn't know when their cut-off was, so obviously I had made that cut-off! Just one more to go! I tried to take advantage of the long downhill leaving Reedy Creek. But all of a sudden my left hamstring started cramping up . . . I never cramp up! I tried running with my left leg straight (bet that looked funny as in my mind I looked like "Chester" on Gunsmoke!) Running straight-legged didn't work too well. I walked for a while and stopped several times to stretch . . . that did seem to help some. But the cramps kept coming back. My pace had slowed significantly and I still hadn't reached the final cut-off!
Heading up Corkscrew Hill, I tried to push it . . . but that's hard to do going up that mother! But I ran all of it I could (not really that much!) Going uphill didn't cause as much cramping as going down. Finally . . . the top . . . and the Cedar Ridge Aid Station, And final cut-off! And I had made it!! What a relief! I was some kind of relieved! I would be an official finisher!
Heading down Cedar Ridge I got to see a bunch more folks! First was Lee Cox who celebrated with me on making the cut-off! Then, Lisa McFadden and her sister, Samantha, looked fresh as daiseys! Samantha was running her first marathon and had had a cornea issue with her left eye, which was patched! Even with the one-eye handicap she was doing great! And Lisa is just one of my favorite running friends! One of the world's nicest folks who always makes my day a little brighter!
Mark Swan passes. He has really kept his pace and done well! I congratulate him on his first marathon finish (just a little early!). Then, I see Tom Herbst coming up the hill with a smile and a word of encourgament! Next, I see Amber heading up the hill and seeming fresh and strong! Soon I pass Jon, just a tad behind. Then, Katherine, then Kerrie Anne!
I believe the nicest thing about trail runners and ultra runners is the sense of support and encouragement everyone passes along. Everyone has a word of encouragement for each runner! And it real! Everyone means it! Just a great sense of community out there!
Cedar Ridge is a bitch! But I kicked it's ass . . . in a slow, plodding, walking sort of way!
Then it's back on the hard, packed stone surface of Reedy Creek Trail! One last big hill appropriately named "Cemetery Hill." Passing the top, I see the graves of past runners that didn't make it! (Or maybe the graves were just early residents!).
I got to the turn back to Camp Lapihio, but I wasn't sure I had the right turn. No one was there. But I did see a sign with a red arrow pointing to the right, so I made the turn and soon knew I had guessed right. Soon I see cars of runners heading home. All stop and shout words of encouragement and congratulations! But maybe I'm looking so bad they are stopping, thinking its a funeral!
I cross the finish line at 5:54! 10 minutes better then last year!
And surprise!! Who is waiting there at the finish line for me but Eric Pate! What a nice guy to sit around an hour just for me to finish! Thanks Eric!
At the finish got to celebrate our victories with Katherine and Kerrie Anne. Also, Frank and Donna Maguire and Stephen Lilly were still hanging around! As was Lisa McFadden and her sister. And another of my favorite people in running, Laura MacLean. Laura had come in 3rd for the women! And still hanging around to congratulate us "back-of-the-packers!"
As I came out from getting my Moe's Burrito, Kerrie Anne was sitting with her friend, Mickey Fong (AKA Bubbles!), who I had met at Uhwarrie. I had to sit down and catch up with them. What fun people! Mickey finished as the 13th female! Mickey is friends of Anthony Corriveau and Shannon Johnstone . . . both of whom won awards! Way to go you two!
And speaking of fun . . . I DID have fun! And fun was something that had been lacking recently in my running. As we were walking to our cars, Laura MacLean told me she loved seeing me smiling so much today! And I was smiling . . . and enjoying being with so many great folks.
Just a terrific day!
Pictures I took from the day.
Pictures taken by Shannon Johnstone
PS . . . By the way, at Umstead you get a Finisher's Pint Glass rather then a medal. Just my luck I got a defective glass. Won't hold beer! Strange . . . I can't see where it's leaking though . . .