Monday, April 18, 2011

I love 24-hour races!

If you are a marathon runner or an ultra runner and have never participated in 24-hour race, you've missed a really fun format.  There is no easier way to run your first ultra then at a race like this!  Fun and low-key.  The only pressure is the pressure you put on yourself!

This last weekend I traveled to Hampton, VA to participate in Happy Pace Races (that's right  That is REALLY their name!) Virginia 24-hour Race at Sandy Bottoms Park.  The race is put on as a way to raise money for the American Cancer Society and, unlike many races that support a charity, this one really cares about it's mission.   Very cool in that area.  But realistically this race is really more of a 'fat ass' race then a real 24-hour event.  Everyone brings their own support and aide.  But the race did get some surprise food and drink which was nice, and they did have volunteers that kept up with each runners laps.

The course was a 3.75 mile route through Sandy Bottoms Park, a park of land reclaimed from trash dumps and interstate road construction residue.  Very nice place when you consider what it was like not so long ago!  For the race we left the start / finish, ran maybe a 1.5 miles next to  Interstate 64, left turn, go 1/4 mile, another left between a drainage ditch and the woods.  Follow that for a mile or so.  Big incentive here was it smelled terrible so you wanted to get by this part just as soon as you could!

Another left through the woods, another left beside a marsh back to the trail beside the interstate, right turn and 3/4 mile back to the start / finish.  We did pass some beautiful marsh areas.  The trail was for the most part a gravel road.

But the neat part of this event is the team competitions!  This added a whole new dimension to a 24-hour race.  A group of runners banning together for common support and results.  I loved this and hope other 24-hour race will pick up on this.   Competition was three ways:  1) individual runners, 2) a traditional relay where one runner passes the baton to the next runner and 3) something they called an ultra team . . . where each team member runs the full race and team member distances are added together!

Alanna's Super Team banner!!!
Our team, Team Awesome, was put together by Shannon McGinn.  This 12-person team was a team of 11 really talented runners . . . folks who have won 100 mile ultra event or have been solid 100 mile performers.  Heck, one even participated in this year's Barkley!!  Oh yea . . . and the last team member has a solid history if minimal performances in a variety of race distances, never performing at a level that could even be deem average.  Yes . . . that's me . . . the team excuse.  For more on that, see my previous post.

Sabrina, Shannon, Jessi, Jonathon, Tom and Dave . . . all one the front row!  Go Team Awesome!
But Saturday was a new day . . . and another chance for something really good to happen . . . it didn't!  By the time I had completed four laps (~15 miles) I knew my day was going to be a struggle.  My legs just got tired.  Period.  No doubt I had not fully recovered from my Umstead 100 failed attempt.

So quite early in the race I knew this was going to be a hard day!  And it was.  After about mile 35 I don't believe I ran a step.  Okay 'peanut gallery' . . . I know I don't run all that much anyway!! But this was not pretty . . . I just did what I had to do.  But this really wasn't cause for concern . . . after all I was just becoming a better 'team excuse!'

For the first half of the day, the class of the field was Sabrina Moran (another Team Awesome member!)  Sabrina lead the race for 13 hours until she had to stop due to some painful toenail issues.  Following her was Jonathan Savage.  But when the rains came in the evening Jonathan had to quit due to his weird skin disease.  Bummer, since he was running strong and had saved plenty of energy for the full 24 hours.  Sabrina ended her day with 82.5 miles,  Jonathan ended his with just a little less at 78.75 miles.

Shannon before the race.
Shannon McGinn essentially died at about mile 65 or so when the torrential rains, lightning and wind hit at maybe 8:30 or so.  Those of you that know me well, know how much I love running in a storm!  And I had a GREAT storm to run in Saturday night! Did about 2 laps in this and loved every second!  Bet we had 4 inches of rain and the trails became creeks!  Great to splash through!  Totally soaked!

I was bound and determined to finish 14 laps (a double marathon) and I had 13 complete when the rains stopped and the full moon came out!  This just keeps getting better!  I LOVE running at night (as long as I can stay awake!).  Plus, I still had the mud puddles to splash through!

So Shannon, Jim Plant, Amy Schimmel (all Team Awesome members!) joined me as we all headed out for another lap.  Amy and Jim pulled ahead, but Shannon and I just hung together, walking the lap in darkness.  Oddly, Shannon shares my love of not using a light unless you absolutely have to! About the mud puddles . . .  not so much!  Together, on that lap we solved at least 1/2 of the world's problems!  Very fun for me to get to know Shannon a little better.  Super lady!

Ray . . . photographer, master ultra legend and nice guy!
When we finished that lap, Team Awesome got together to try and decide if we needed more laps or not.  Cheryl Lager, our team member who had won last year's race with over 100 miles, wanted to finish 75 miles and needed one more lap . . . so she headed back out.  Shannon needed two more for 75 and was planning to head out after a little rest.  Amy Schimmel was out finishing her lap 14 and Jimbo had already done 14, but went out with Amy anyway!  Such a nice, fun guy! Ray Krolewicz and Tom Gabell had taken a snooze during the storms and had just come out, refreshed, to add more laps!  Not sure where these two guys ended up but you can bet with some serious miles!

Sabrina Moran on the left Tom Gabell on the right.  One was NOT paying attention at the briefing!

Jessi Kennedy and Dave Lettieri had done a ton of miles each (Dave 60 miles and Jessi I'm not sure about) and had already headed back to NJ.  Jessi had had a tough day with some back issues.  So sorry Jessi!  But I sure enjoyed our lap together!  Not often I get to 'run' with the frickin' overall winner of a 100 mile race!

Jessi, Alanna and Dave paying attention at the briefing!
 Alanna Garrison-Glast completed 52.5 miles when all was said and done.  I didn't get to spend all that much time with Alanna . . . she just runs too fast!  But this lady has the unique capacity to brighten anyone's day with her laugh and wonderful spirit!

Me . . . well I tapped out at 14 laps when the team decided we were good.  52.5 miles.  I do think I had a few more laps in me, but had little desire to do more unless it was necessary!  I admit it . . . I'm a wimp!

When I left, Shannon and Alanna were sitting in camp chairs with warm jackets on and blankets covering them.  Shannon, a cancer survivor herself, wanted to finish 2 more laps for a 75 mile day.  But after I left, Shannon, with new life, rose from the apparent dead and finishes 83.5 miles . . . the overall female winner for the event!  WOW!  Folks . . . to come back like that after mentally checking out is unbelievable!  What a TOUGH chick!

Three heroes for the days were Charles West, Sid Dos Santos and Todd Glast.  These guys served as crew for all 12 of us!!  Hard work all day and all night!  I hope I get a chance to return the favor!  Thanks to each of you!  Seriously . . . you guys ROCKED!!

Such a fun time and I loved meeting and sort of getting to know these super athletes and just good folks!

Turns out the team was right!  The 11 team members of Team Awesome set a new race record by themselves!  They didn't even need 'an excuse!!'  But 'the excuse' had a blast anyway!!  And 'the excuse' was ready if needed!


  1. great report!
    That does sound like a fun day

  2. Awesome Frank, great job. Wow what a great race.

  3. Don't sale yourself short there. 52.5 miles after your run at Umstead is nothing to be upset about. You contributed not only miles to the team, but I know you were Mr. Encourager. Great run in what most of us think of as tough conditions. Glad you were able to realy enjoy your first 24-hour.

  4. Thanks for the comments folks! It's always nice to know that someone actually reads this!

    I just learned that there were two tornados . . . one on either side of the park but each within a mile or so! I had no idea! I was honestly having too much fun running and singing in the rain while splashing through the trails!

  5. glad you had an "Awesome " weekend

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.