Monday, June 13, 2011

Boogie . . . Damn you Boogie!

Boogie beat me again . . . damn it!

My training was good.  The temperature forecasts were good.  I knew the course well.  And I was relaxed.  This was going to be my breakthrough year at Boogie.  I was ready!

Up to this year I had always done the Boogie Fun Run aka "the Baby Boogie" aka the "Boogie Marathon."  And every year Boogie handed me my hat and said "Better luck next time, Sucker!"  Nothing about Boogie fits with my running.  Maybe that's why I love this race so much.

Anyway, after one poor finish after another I had the brilliant idea that if I couldn't do well in the marathon maybe I should step up to the "Full Boogie."  Okay, I know it seems stupid to think if I can't do well running 26.2 miles maybe I'll do better running 50.  But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And I had a plan!  I was going to walk virtually all of the first lap!  In the past, one of the key reasons for my stumbles was the mid June temperatures and humidity combined with the Boogie hills.  And it was 94° that afternoon.  So with a 6 pm start there would be at least 2 hours of bad Boogie heat.  So my plan was to conserve my energy in the heat and then spend it when it's cooler.

So . . . the race started.

But just before the start thunderstorms rolled in.  Clouds covered the sun, thunder rolled and the temperatures started to cool.  So cool compared to the afternoon heat I decided that I could go ahead and run lap 1.  So I did.  And soon we had some rain from the storm.  Not a lot . . . just enough to wet everything down.  And then the humidity went to 99.99%.  Nothing could evaporate in this humidity.  So every drop of water hung around.  And every drop of sweat did too!  Soon I felt like I was running in a hot shower.  But I kept on running.

From the top of Bethel Hill, the start where everyone parks!

The Boogie race course starts at
 the top of Bethel Hill and looks like a balloon on a string.  The start is where the string is tied to the balloon.  We run around the balloon (6 miles) then down the string (2 miles) and back up to the start/finish/main aid station for a 10 mile lap.  Everyone parks on the road so your car can serve as your gear drop station.  Awesome setup.

Looking down the other side towards the infamous Bethel Hill.

As we neared the main aid station at mile 6, I saw a bunch of kids with squirt guns soaking runners (as if they weren't already wet enough from their sweat!).  But I had heard the kids plan, so I developed a plan of my own.  At my car I had my own 'super-soaker' all loaded up and ready to go.  Hiding it behind my back, I walked up the last of the hill to the kids.  And then I sprang my surprise!  No way they expected to get soaked by a runner . . . especially an old runner!  Not sure who enjoyed this surprise the most, me or them!

But by the end of lap 1 was beginning to see the writing on the wall.  I was roasting in my own juices!  40 miles to go and I was already medium rare!  I knew I had to slow way down or I was going to be 'done' in 2 laps!  And I had forgotten to take my Cool-off bandanna with me the first lap.  So, with that now in place I completed lap 2 . . . slowing down some, but not near enough.  Plus, I told my friend, Charles West I was starting to feel a hot-spot developing on my left forefoot.  Walking up Bethel Hill I promised myself I would walk way more.  30 miles to go and I was medium-well already!  Oh crap!

Luckily I had a secret weapon . . . or rather 2 secret weapons!  Rick and Tammy Gray had promised to keep my company part of the way.  Tammy joined me first and right off her bad luck multiplied!  First I told her we would be mostly walking.  Then . . . it was almost like World War 3 started!  Thunder and lightning everywhere and the downpour came!  Honestly it was more then a little scary.  This sure didn't help the humidity any but I finally got my body temperature down to something comfortable.  But it was too late . . . the damage had been done.

But Boogie wasn't going to let me get off that easy!

I noticed that 'hot-spot' I had felt lap 1 had gone away!  And in it's place . . . thanks to all the rain, had now morphed into full-fledged blisters!  Nice one, Boogie!  Nice!

But there was one group of folks that was lovin' this weather . . . the frog population.  Never in my life have a heard a more strange assortment of frog calls.  It must have been a 'frog orgy' going on!  I swear there even frogs that sounded like goats!  At least these guys and gals were happy about things!

As Tammy and I passed the main aid station I considered changing shoes and socks . . . but since the weather was still threatening (though the rain had slowed) I opted to just keep going and wait to be sure the rain was over.

Next, Tammy handed me off to her husband Rick (who had been manning the main aid station all evening) for lap 4. 

Now I hate to brag, but in these morning hours I really gave Rick a lesson in the 'Lilley-style' of ultrarunning . . . er ultrawalking!  Rick runs 100 mile runs like they're nothing.  He has run 5ks in the 14 minute range, sub 30 10k and 2:30 marathons!  Imagine the fun he had on a slow walk with me in the rain!  But to give Rick credit, he adapted well!  Thanks Rick!  You and your wife kept me going.  I likely would have dropped without your support!

Before Rick and I started I had a rare treat!  I got to be there when my friend Laura MacLean finished her 50 . . . first place female!  I was so happy to get to be there and see her victory!  That made my night!

So with 30 miles completed and 20 to go, Rick and I headed out for another loop.  The blister pain was really pretty intense.  Several times I just sat down in the road to take off my shoe to try and re-adjust things to relieve the pain . . . but nothing worked.

Oh . . . and I had my first hallucination!  Rick and I both had our light off and then suddenly there were snakes crossing the road everywhere!  Maybe 50 of them!  I really couldn't tell what kind they were but they were everywhere!

As we got back to the main aid station and my car, I stopped to change shoes and socks . . . hoping that might help.  But as I went from my car to the aid station, it was hurting worse then ever.  And I told Rick I was quitting.  The pain was just too much.  Boogie had kicked my ass . . . again.  And this one was worse!  At least with my other Boogie races I had managed to finish.

Rick was supportive and told me that I knew best.  After a few minutes of standing around talking about it and being unsure about quitting, I decided I should just walk down Bethel Hill some while I was re-thinking my decision before I told the lap counters I was DNFing.  So we headed out down the hill.  In a few minutes I told Rick I was going to finish 40 miles before I called it quits.

Going down Bethel Hill it started to get a little lighter and soon we could recognize folks we passed.  And everyone was so encouraging . . . telling me 'great job' and 'awesome finish' super job . . . you did it!'  Somehow I found it really hard to tell them I was so slow I still had another lap to go and I wasn't going to do that last lap . . .

Yea . . . maybe Boogie did kick my ass . . . but I decided to kick back!  Okay . .  it wasn't much of a kick!  But I decided to finish this . . .

Luckily, our race director, Doug Dawkins, told me he would let me finish despite the fact that I was way over the cut-off.  Thanks Doug!

So I got my hat and headed down the hill for lap 5.

But within a mile my macho decision to finish seemed pretty stupid.  Quite frankly I seriously started thinking about turning around and heading back.  Then, I heard a car approaching.

It was Amy Schimmel and Lauren Wilkins coming by to check on me before they headed back to Raleigh.  Amy had every possible thing an ultra runner could need with her!  Her SUV looked like the Clampett's truck headed to California!  They knew I was having blister issues and asked if there was anything they could do!  So they stopped in the road and opened their mobile hospital!

Here is what they looked like Monday PM.
Amy got a folding chair, Lauren got Ibuprofin and the medical kit as I took off my shoes and socks (by this time I had blisters on both feet).  About this time, Jim Plant drove up and and the three of them looked things over and decided the best course of action.  Drain the blister and then use some of Amy's special 'blister tape' to tape over the problem areas.  These three were my saviors.  I would have quit without their help.

So on I went.  And things started feeling much, much better for awhile.  I was back running!  Hell yea!  Passed the aid station and hardly slowed down!  Ran about half way down Bethel Hill when the blister pain returned.  So I just walked.  Only one other person was out there, Paul Heckert and I passed Paul headed up the hill as I was about about half way down!  Yea . . . I was DFL . . . again!

Frank Sherrill was actually sitting in the middle of the road ON the turnaround point!  And he and I walked a way together until Tom Herbst came by and gave Frank a RIDE back to his truck!

Bethel Hill one last time . . . and I was was done!  Paul stayed to see me finish as did Doug Dawkins.  And Amy Surette and her kids were there too!!  ) Amy had finished her first 50 earlier in the morning and just hung out until the bitter end!  A very special thank you to all these folks.

So I did finish.  Based on my performance, I didn't deserve to be an official finisher. Quite honestly this was much more of a walk then a run.  But it was all I could do.  And I'm proud I finished.  Yea . . . Boogie kicked my ass again . . . but I did go down fighting!
Thanks for taking this Amy!


  1. Frank! That blister: Ew!
    But, nice work fighting the good fight in that heat. And, your plans to make the squirt gun fight fare were fantastic.

  2. In my opinion you finished this thing. You might not have completed it within the time limit, but you did finish the 50 miler in one sitting. You did not do 40 miles and then come back the next week for the last 10 miles. No you did the entire 50 miles at the same time. You were an official entrant to the Boogie and you started when everyone else did. Again, in my opinion you finished the Boogie and are now a part of a very select group. You completed one gutsy race and Tammy and I are so very proud of you. You dug deep and told those dnf demons to leave you alone. You are a FINISHER!

  3. Nice work covering the 50 miles and fighting through a tough event. You could have sat back and taken the easy road but chose not to. Nice work, you should be proud of your achievement!!

  4. Great Job and way to keep your head in it!

  5. Your snake hallucination got my attention. Shortly after I got home and in bed after completing the marathon I had a dream in which I stepped on a slew of green snakes. I apparently levitated above the covers and on the descent nearly bounced my wife completely off the bed. Weird dream. Great race. Bravo.

  6. Nasty blister, and awesome gutsy finish! We all need to learn from Amy on blister treatment.

  7. Excellent run/walk and blog post.

    That was me you walked by as you crossed the intersection beginning lap 5. I was turning to head up the hill to finish 46 and you told me you had "blisters the size of your ass." Now you have the pictures to prove it.
    I ended my effort at 46 miles and do not regret it. It was my first ultra and having the Boogie beat me on the first try is just motivation for a return trip next year.
    LOVE THE BOOGIE!!!!!!!!
    Great job!
    (Vibram) Chris Johnson

  8. Great job! I agree with RIck ( aren't he and tammy the BEST?!) Frank IS A BOOGIE FINISHER!!!! :o) WOO HOO!
    happy recovery, my friend!

  9. 'Nice' blister. Congrats Frank. I'm really jealous. Had to drop due to injury, but I hope to get back in the swing before too long.


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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.