Monday, May 2, 2011

The Operation

"But you know, Joey, only ONCE in all my years of running have I ever had an issue with a blister!"

That is a short excerpt of a conversation Joey Anderson and I had as he and I walked through the mid-afternoon heat Saturday.  Somehow we started talking about blisters and some of the problems he had experienced through his running years.  After I said this, I should have walked off the road, found a tree and 'knocked' on it!

Just before the start.  A word of prayer.  The National Anthem was fabulous!
I was thrilled when I saw Joey's smiling face Saturday morning when I was on maybe lap 3 (5.26 mile loops for this course!).  Joey had come to a family event in Goldsboro and made time for a little run/walk with me in the morning and the came back for a little over a lap in the late afternoon.  Trust me . . . I gave him a lesson in slow running in the morning session and a PhD in slow walking in the afternoon!  So enjoyed the time together and the mental lift it gave me!

For that afternoon lap with Joey and the one before it, I had decided to 'walk only' to avoid the 80*+ temperatures.  It wasn't all that humid, but the heat was tough . . . and the course had no shade.  But you deal with whatever it is that's before you.  You just adjust.  So I just slowed down to conserve energy.  That part worked pretty good.

Joey left as the sun was getting low in the sky.  As he was leaving I was changing shoes and socks, though I was not having any problems.  Joey and I even talked about the shoes I was putting on.  I told him how they had changed this shoe and I really didn't like it much anymore and he agreed saying they even made it heavier and stiffer.  I had brought three pairs of shoes and changing shoes at ~31 miles just made sense . . . the temperatures were starting to drop some and I thought starting again with fresh shoes and socks would be a welcome re-start.  I knew I didn't love these shoes, but I thought they were okay.  In hindsight, it turns out changing shoes was my critical mistake.  But I had no way of knowing that at the time.

The event was called "Cures for the Colors' and was a fund-raising event to support NC cancer victims.  The event was primarily a relay event but there were six of us who were planning to try to complete the full 100 miles.

Here is the course:

  This was the race's first year and I expected just about nothing, since it was not put on by seasoned ultra runners.  But I've got to say they did a very good job!  Food (hamburgers and hotdogs) , a great selection of fluids (lot's of choices!), excellent number of aid stations, nice planning for dealing with running at night on roads that weren't close!  And a nice, flat course with 3 aid stations along the 5.26 mile course.  I would do this race again.

Joey at the end of his walk!
After, Joey left and I had changed my shoes and socks, I decided it was time to start running / walking again.  And I was really pleased about how much energy I had conserved!  I felt fresh physically and mentally!  So far so good!  I was making good time!  And mentally I was 100% there!

I had decided to try to post short update on Facebook (my first time ever doing that!).  At about mile 39 I posted "It's a little hot but cooling.  Spirits good.  At 39"  I was moving better then I ever had before at this point.

But somewhere in the mid 40s I started to notice the bottom of my left foot was getting tender.  Then, a little later I was definitely hurting.  I knew I had a problem.

So I stopped at the main aid station to survey the situation.  And it wasn't very good . . . no . . . not good at all!  Definite blisters forming under the callous on the ball of my forefoot!  With my shoe off I hobbled over to the main aid station volunteers to ask for some help dealing with these blisters.  But there was no EMT, nurse or doctor around.  The aid station folks told me at Dr. Jim Atkins had earlier been forced to quit due to blisters.  Jim was the race organizer and was also trying to finish his first 100 mile race.  He and I had walked together for the lap before Joey came that afternoon.  I sure hated this for Jim!

Knowing I had a serious problem developing, I decided to change shoes to my most cushioned shoes, my most cushioned socks and stop at the other aid stations to see if they had anyone that might be able to help me deal with these blisters.  They didn't.

So, now back at the main aid station (now at about mile 58) I did my own surgery!  Those that know me know my eyesight is not so good up close . . . and I'm not as flexible as I used to be!  Okay . . . I'm not flexible AT ALL!  Especially at mile 58 of a 100 mile run!! So it must have been quite the sight - me with my headlight on, trying to find the edge of a callous on the bottom of my foot where I had a chance of getting a pin in!!  Many, many different pokes!  And when I hit one of the right spot, it looked like I had hit oil!!  A mini-!  "There she blows!!"  It was like there were many, many different blisters, all hiding under this one huge callous covering my whole forefoot.

So, with surgery over and shoes and socks back on, I headed out again.  While every step hurt, I found I could still walk.  And I even picked up the walking pace (faster walking!!) for awhile as the pain seemed to back off some.  But it got bad again after maybe a mile.  Pain was . . . let's just say significant.  At least with my foot hurting so bad, my legs felt relatively good, all things considered!

I got that lap finished and took a nap for about 15 minutes.  Decided to head out for another lap.

On my last full loop, at mile 1 1/2 or so, I saw Jimmy Ballard who was pacing a friend on his first 100 (sorry but I missed his name!).  They were moving really strong!  To show you how slow I was moving, they passed me again at about mile 4 or so . . . and he was on his finishing lap!

Toast . . . mile 70 at 6:45am.
Finishing that lap, I knew I was done.  But I needed 2 more miles for 70.  Doing my out-and-back, the last mile returning took me 40 minutes!  My decision to quit was easy.  I had (or even now have) no doubts that I did the right thing in quiting.  If you saw the bottom of my foot, you would understand!  So at about 6:45 am I quit.

Doing the math, I certainly would not have made the 30 hour cut-off to complete the 100, even if the blister issue hadn't come.  But I believe I would have been within an hour or so of it.  And I believe I could have walked the remaining 30 miles.  So I do feel good about this effort.  But . . . still . . . a DNF is a DNF!  This one is just a tad easier to swallow then Umstead . . . or maybe I'm just getting better at failing!!

Next . . . what went right and what went wrong.

Question: Why do you keep reading this??  It's not going to get any better!


  1. Frank, I said at mile 30 of Umstead 100: "I never had a blister issue before". You know what happened after that.

    Great job! You had a monster month. 62.5 miles, 52.5 miles, then 70 miles! How crap!

  2. without the blisters I'm sure you would have made it. You did a great job of pacing yourself and conserving energy. Looks like you were making good time overnight. I enjoyed spending a bit of time with you out there on the course.

  3. Amazing job Frank! I love your race reports too!

  4. This is ok. You are getting closer and closer. You have had a hard month. Jim is certainly right here. 70 miles is just about banging on the door to 100. I for one am certianly proud of what you have accomplished. Two years ago you would never have thought you could run as far as you have. You will get your 100 finish!

  5. Thanks for the comments folks! It's nice to know someone is out there!! I felt disappointed after Umstead . . . but I feel pleased after this one!

  6. Why do I keep reading this? Because you rock, that's why.

    Keep inspiring me!


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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.