Saturday, December 22, 2012

Doomsday Marathon

I honestly have no idea how many marathons I've run.  But it's been a bunch.  Maybe 80.  Maybe more.  My first was the Marine Corp Marathon back in 1983 I believe (I'm not sure because I gave my medal away!).  Since then there have been a lot of marathons run

I've run most when I was healthy, some when injured, and some when I was sick. Some have been easy, some REALLY hard.  Some fast (for me!) and some really slow.  But through it all I only failed to finish only one . . . the Leadville Marathon back in 2010.

This DNF (Did Not Finish) really bothered me . . . and haunts me to this day.  To be fair the marathon kicked my butt and I missed the time cut-off at mile 20.  But instead of turning in my bib and finishing the race anyway . . . I listened to the race director and rode back to the start in the "Van of Shame."  I'll never really forgive myself for that mistake.  Very disappointed in myself.  I felt good and could EASILY have finished . . . just outside the time limit.  I had done all the really hard parts!

Well, last night I had my second DNF . . . I quit at mile 10 of the Doomsday Marathon!  That's right . . mile 10!!  And I'm not the least bit upset!

This was a very unique race!  First, it was on the winter solstice . . . the last day shown on the Myan calendar.  We all had fun kidding about this being the end of the world.  The race started Friday night at 9 PM!!  Never had a marathon start at night and on a Friday . . .. crazy!

The bad thing about starting a race at night is that I couldn't take any pictures.  That sucks!  Plus, my eyes are so bad I rarely know who I was running near!!  I do love running at night but I think I like a race to start during daylight and the run into the night!

The day was cold and windy but luckily the wind died down some for the race!  Temps were in the low 30s with only minor wind.  The course was in a wildlife management area near Hoffman, NC . . . definitely in the middle of nowhere!  The course was a 2.4 mile loop on really sandy farm roads that surrounded this HUGE grown up field!  Since this was in the middle of nowhere there were no houses or lights at all!  As a result, we had an awesome view of the stars all night!  I love night running!!!

Of the 2.4 miles, probably 1 mile was simply loose sand . . . like you have near the dunes on a beach.  Not packed or firm like the sand near the water . . . just loose!  NASTY running!  And my hip hated it! 

In the middle of my third loop I knew I needed to stop.   So I did . . . and never a second guess if I made the right call.  I definitely did!  Maybe I should have quit after 2 lap . . . but I thought the pain might pass and the hip would adjust.  So I gave it two more laps but finishing was not to be.  So I stopped at the end of 4 laps . . . just under 10 miles.

I was not alone!  I was surprised by how many others injured themselves in the loose sand.  Everyone struggled.  The winning time was just over 3 hours (3:04 I believe) and the second place finisher was maybe 8-10 minutes back.  Then there was a HUGE gap to #3 and the other finishers.  And everyone suffered with the sand.

So I have my second DNF.  It's looking like I will definitely need to avoid loose sand like the plague!  And I'm going to have to think hard about running any trails . . . at least for awhile.

But that's not so bad.  While I love trails and trail running, I can still run on roads and well-packed dirt roads.  That's fine with me!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Running 100 miles - "Lilley-style"

Like in music, there are lots of ways to write a song.  So to in running.  There are lots of ways to run 100 miles.  The following is simply ONE way to do it.  It certainly may not be the BEST way to do it.  It definitely is not the FASTEST way.  It is just simply my way.

So if you are interested in what it takes to be a "Lilley-style" runner . . . read on!


First . . . it helps to be stupid.  Seriously.  Smart people who attempt a "Lilley-style" run can usually SEE the train wreck coming . . . and thus avoid the collision all together.  But still . . . both smart people and stupid people CAN do this . . . it's just easier to be stupid.  That's all.


As in virtually every endurance event, proper preparation is the key to success.  And "Lilley-style" running is no different.  It takes months and perhaps even YEARS to properly prepare.

See . . . the bedrock of "Lilley-style" running is you need EXCUSES.  Preferably medical excuses.  Here you can use your own creativity.  My excuse is a hip arthroscopy but yours can certainly be different.  Fused disks in your back would probably work.  A torn ACL repair in your knee could work too.  A hip replacement might be a good option.  I have one acquaintance that is using "poor blood circulation in his legs" as his!  Brilliant!

But things like a meniscus tear in your knee just simply doesn't provide the needed level of excuse . . . I've tried that three times and it simply just doesn't work as well.  See . . . if properly treated, torn knee cartilage essentially goes away in mere months.  For "Lilley-style" running you need more.

Your excuse must be a long term excuse . . . one that you can "pull out and use" over months and even years!  As you can see it takes a long time to properly establish an excuse like this . . . and health insurance helps too!

It certainly is possible to skip this section of the preparation and still be successful in your 100 . . . but people will laugh at you.  Heck . . . people may laugh at me with my excuse preparation plan in place!  But at least their laughter is behind my back and not to my face!

The next part of preparation is the training itself.  You MUST train.  Definitely.  But here you must be careful and not over-train.  Three days of running a week is plenty.  Five days is too many.  And no "long run" run should EVER be over 15 miles in length.  10 is better.  I suggest using other races as preparation runs . . but here you need to be careful.  Run your training runs just like how you plan to run your 100 . . . very, very slowly with PLENTY of walk breaks!

Don't over do your training.  That could spell disaster.  Instead limit your training to only a month or two.  Save it all for the 100.

Choosing the Race

This part is tricky!  You have to carefully select a race that plays to your skills!  Not every 100 mile race is an option.  "Lilley-style" running just simply can't be rushed!  So you need a race that will allow you the time necessary to execute a proper "Lilley-style" run.

There are two keys I suggest you use to select YOUR race . . . 1) the course difficulty, and 2) the race time cutoff.

If you just simply look at the time cutoff of a race you could make a serious mistake.  There are plenty of races that have what APPEARS to be a generous time cutoff.  But, in reality, is not!  The race director has you climbing MOUNTAINS and such!  Stay away for devious traps like this!

This last weekend I found a race that was perfect . . . easily allowing a "Lilley-style" 100 miler.  It was the Kinston 48 Hour Race.  I was a bit concerned that the 48 hour cutoff would be a hindrance to my "Lilley-style" run.  Perhaps that would not be enough time.  But it worked out to be fine!  As a matter of fact I'm now suggesting 2 day and 3 day timed events are the BEST format for displaying "Lilley-style" running.  You'll see why in a minute!

The run itself

Photo by Stephanie Carter
To properly execute a "Lilley-style" 100 mile run you have to LOOK like a runner and TALK like a runner.  Blend in.  Wear running stuff.  Wear Hokas . . . they definitely indicate your seriousness to the effort.

Once the race begins, "Lilley-style" running is quite similar to traditional running styles.  The primary difference is the speed of execution.  "Lilley-style" is executed at a slower pace . . . with more walk breaks.  Start off with everybody else but then just "eeaaaassseee" back to the rear of the group so that they don't interfere with you.

Now . . . everything that happens in other running styles happens here too!  It just simply takes longer.  A lot longer.

But oddly . . . if you choose the race carefully . . . finishing 100 miles "Lilley-style" lets you finish not all that far behind everyone else!  Seriously!  As an example, let's examine the results from this weekend's Kinston 48 hour Race.

17 folks started the race . . .
Lee Kelly after finishing his first 100 miler!
Tim O'Malie before his last 5k lap (Note stick crutch in chair and smile on his face!)
  • I was tied with another (Lee Kelly) as the 4th person to finish the 100 mile distance!!  

  • 6 total people finished 100 miles or longer!  So I wasn't even DFL!!!  (Okay . . . the last guy to finish the distance (Tim O'Malie) had injured himself (torn calf muscle) and had gotten another race participant to fashion him a crutch so he could complete his last two loops of the course (2 x 5k)!  Yea . . . he is a tough guy!)
  • I finished 1st in my age group!!  (True . . . I was the only person over 60 years old and there weren't any age grouping . . . but I'm spinning it like this anyway!!)

And here is the secret magic trick on why 48 hour or longer timed events  are so good for "Lilley-style" . . . most of the folks that enter really don't plan to do 100 miles . . . BUT they count in the number of race entrants!!  Of the 17 folks that entered, only 10 or so REALLY wanted to run 100 or more!  But if you run this type of event you get to SAY you finished 4th out of 17!!!!!

 Brilliant!!!  To the unknowing . . . you will appear to be a 100 mile running ROCK STAR!!!!!

So choosing the right race is VERY important for respectability purposes!  This course was virtually flat . . . maybe  20 feet of ascent per lap (5k) so a total ascent of just under 650 feet over 100 miles!!  If a 100 mile race were held here, the race director would likely have a cutoff of somewhere between 27 hours and maybe 30 hours . . . and maybe even less.  Nowhere near enough time for a properly executed "Lilley-style" 100!

In "Lilley-style" we try to see just how LONG it can take!  Extend the fun for as long as possible!  Last weekend I did a proper "Lilley-style" run AND reduced the time it took to 39 hours and 36 minutes!  So I know for sure you can do a "Lilley-style" 100 that fast.  I'm not sure if it can be done any faster or not!

There are four rules to running "Lilley-style" that you do need to bear in mind.
  • Smile and at least try and LOOK like you're having fun!  Having fun is definitely not a REQUIREMENT for the full race.  As a matter of fact . . . maybe 1/2 the time is spent NOT having fun at all!  It sucks!  Big ones!  But you must try and appear like it is a blast out there!
  • Whine . . . especially on Facebook!  That way you get A LOT of moral support!  And believe me . . . you need that support badly!!!  Quite honestly the Facebook support I got kept me going!  I would have stopped without it!  Seriously.
  • You must drink at LEAST one beer during the race.  Two or more are even better.  While I have yet to try it, I am fairly certain that wine would be an acceptable substitute . . . as long as it comes from a box.
And just because you're doing the race "Lilley-style" doesn't mean you have to miss out out on all the fun that normal 100 mile runners get to experience.  You can still have all the muscle cramps, aching joints, blisters, etc.!  But I'm finding that you do give up some quality on the hallucinations you get to see!

For me at Kinston, the hallucinations began just after dark on the second night!  But my hallucinations weren't as vivid as some 100 mile runners describe.  Mine were just indeterminable shadows / shapes flashing across the road in front of me . . . and things that sort of looked like people running along the edge of the woods beside the road.  I knew for sure these were hallucinations and they weren't REALLY there . . . so I guess I'm mildly disappointed.

But that is about all you miss.  If you choose a normal 100 mile event you may miss any finish line celebrations, awards ceremonies and such.  All that has been picked up and packed away for next year by the time you arrive at the finish.  But there is a silver lining . . . you don't have to feel guilty about not helping them do all that work!  But if you choose a 48 hour event . . . well that just doesn't work.

So that is a quick summary of "Lilley-style" running.  With this, you too should be able to go out there and finish a 100 mile RACE!

So . . . will I continue to refine "Lilley-style" 100 mile running?

Who knows?  At the end of the Kinston race I was 100% sure I was done with this kind of thing.  But now as the pain is beginning to ebb and, being old, my memory starts to fail . . . so I'm not so sure.

Like with other art forms, "Lilley-style" running needs to grow, expand and change with the times.  And until someone else comes along to champion the continued refinement of "Lilley-style" running . . . I just may have to keep doing it myself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crooked Road - 24 Hours of Fun???

What a race!

The Crooked Road 24 was a really great 24 hour race!  Great course, great volunteers and great food! But what a day of ups and downs for me!

It all started at about 8:45.  Not the race . . . that started at 8:00 am.  No . . . at about 8:45 or so it felt like someone stabbed me in my back with a knife!  Oh crap!  Immediately I knew what was going on.  One of my pesky little kidney stones decided it needed to break away from it's happy home in my kidney and make a journey to freedom!  I've known I have a bunch of these little hellions in my kidney for a long time, but they seem happy up there and haven't often made a 'break-away.'

Of course I didn't bring pain medicine, nausea medicine or my strainer to a race.  Heck . . . it's been over a year since my last kidney stone episode.

The good news is that doctors want you to walk to help the stone move . . . . and I was doing my normal walk / run interval.  So this should be okay.  I did check with Sharon Scott and Karen Cowher and Karen thought she had some prescription pain meds but at that point the pain was pretty manageable.  Nowhere near as bad as my last episode!  Pain would come and go but never got higher than maybe a 7-8 . . . and often less.

I just kept moving . . . and started really forcing fluids!  What??? No cranberry juice at an aid station???  :-)

Honestly it wasn't all that bad.  I didn't get nauseous and the pain was never crazy bad.  And about 11:30 or so I must have passed the stone because the pain ended.  I hope that little sucker is happy in the porta-potty!  I'm guessing he wished he had stayed in my kidney!!  Serves the little bastard right!

Photo by Lauren Wilkins
Photo by Ricky Scott
So all morning I did keep forward motion, but not very fast (as if I'm EVER a fast mover!) and by noon I was well behind where I had hoped to be.  I couldn't get that time back, so I just tried to keep at it.

Weather was an issue again this year.  Not during the daylight . . . that was awesome!  But once the sun set, the temps fell below freezing pretty quickly, just sucked the fun out of the night running for me and a lot of other folks.

But the Crooked Road folks planned well!  They had an awesome huge fire built in an old oil barrel and everyone just gathered around when they got cold!  Plus, they had awesome soup again this year!  Heck . . . it's worth coming to Crooked Road for the soup alone!!

I had honestly hoped to stay out there all 24 hours.  But I just didn't.  I took an hour nap around 10 pm and when I finally got to 50 miles at about 3 am I just lost motivation and gave in to the pain and tiredness.  I climbed in my tent and slept 2 1/2 more hours.  Then got up and out of my comfy warm sleeping bag and went back out into the night until the 8 am finish.  Ended the 24 hours at about 55+ miles I believe.  Certainly not my 62 mile goal but it was within my grasp if I had just toughed it out.

It amazes me how supportive the entire ultra community is.  I had so much fun, turning laps with so many great people.  I'm sure I'll miss mentioning several, but:
  • Lauren Wilkins came out with me twice.  She always brightens my day!, 
  • Johnny Nolen did a couple of laps with me too!  Together we solved about 1/2 of the world's problems!  Plus, he introduced me to a new business lead!!  Awesome!
  • Enjoyed spending some time with Mike Flores . . . such a nice guy!
  • Paul Heckert and I had a Bloody 11w reunion and plotted out Vol State strategy!  
  • Tom Gabell just had a bad, bad day but good for me as I got to do some laps with him!
  • Who doesn't enjoy spending some time with Iris Sutcliffe??
  • Sondra Jarvis and I got to run a few laps together Sunday morning!  Lot's of fun!  She also lifted my spirits when I needed it!
  • Enjoyed meeting and running with Daniel Matthews . . . a fairly new ultra runner who really, really toughed it out and overcame some NASTY blisters to finish his first 100k!
  • Got to meet and spend some laps with Brent Lynch . . . another Rocky Mount, VA runner and another really nice guy . . . plus one heck of a runner!
  • I didn't get to run much with Mo Percy . . . she was just running too fast!  She just had an awesome day finishing as 2nd Female with 79.3 miles!!  24-hour PR too!

Mo at the end.   Photo by Lauren Wilkins

Me with Crazy Gene Meade and Mo Percy - Photo by Lauren Wilkins

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trail runners are becoming a problem . . .

I probably have a different perspective than most.  Besides being an ultra runner, I am also: 1) a race director, 2) the coordinator of volunteer trail maintenance at one of our state parks, and 3) on the Advisory Board of that park.  Plus, I've been a trail runner since about 1974. 

In my early days I never saw another trail runner.  EVER!  I would see hikers, but never runners.  I'm sure there were other trail runners around . . . but not that many!

And during my early days I would see some trash on the easy / short trails near parking areas.  But in the real backcountry I rarely saw much trash except around popular trout streams!  But that isn't the case anymore!  I'm seeing less and less hiker and fisherman trash.  But I'm seeing more and more runner trash!  Namely . . . empty gel pack and the tops of gel packs!

Come on folks!  We can do better than this!

So far all the runner trash seems to be going 'under the radar' of my park officials.  And those of us doing the trail maintenance (all trail runners at my park!) try hard to cover up the problem by picking up all we see. 

My park is a fairly small park where we can easily cover the trails.  But some of the larger state and national parks have huge trail networks that become quite difficult to maintain completely.  At some point park officials will start noticing the trash problem . . . maybe some are already seeing it.  So . . . guess what happens.

Parks will start making it harder and harder for race directors to get permits to have our races!  That's what!

So here, my rant takes two prongs:

  1. The first is obviously a human problem.  Trail runners.  Folks . . . if you carry a gel pack in, you can certainly carry it out!  Simple!  And be extra careful with the tops you tear off!  Try to not totally tear the top off.  Then, you can easily roll the empty gel pack up and stow it in a pocket or small zip lock bag to dispose of when you get to a trash can.  If you do tear it completely off, stick it inside!  Just don't drop it!  These things just NEVER degrade!  And if you do happen to drop it . . . consider it a race penalty and GO BACK AND PICK THE DAMN THING UP!!
  2. The second prong of my rant is directed to the companies that manufacture gels, etc.  You all hire smart people.  Find a way to package gels so that the tops won't get torn off!  And is it possible to package gels in something that is bio-degradable?  You all have a huge responsibility here.  It is simply not okay for you all to continue to produce packaging that PROMOTES littering.  And when you come up with a great packaging idea . . . don't patent it . . . share the idea freely so everyone can benefit!
 One more idea for trail runners . . . on your training runs, carry a plastic grocery bag and help us trail maintainers by pitching in and picking up trash any you see!  And if you see a park ranger, make sure he knows what you're doing!!!  :-)

Medoc Marathon 2012 - Re-Run

Medoc "put it on me" . . .

It was just a good, old fashion "ass-kickin' . . . and I took it like a man.  But it was an "ass-kickin' " none the less.

For the first lap and a half I had my buddy, Chad Wollenburg, with me and this made all the difference.  Chad must have scared Medoc because while he was there it really wasn't so bad.  Lap 1 was just fun (isn't it always??  :-)  )  Temperatures were perfect and just a little windy . . . Hurricane Sandy must have stayed east or something because we never got rain nor all that much wind.

Bridges were SLICK as usual.   There was a huge dead tree down that almost totally blocked a bridge down by the creek on Summit Loop and Chad took a really bad crash during his 1/2 loop . . . I was right behind him and I didn't see Medoc do it . . . so maybe it was just a slip.  Or maybe Medoc was under the bridge and tripped him.  I didn't check.

There were probably 60-70 young Civil Air Patrol members on a training exercise and I saw them all day.  (Thankfully they moved that dead tree on the bridge!).  I'm guessing all these folks just upset Medoc and by afternoon he was just simply pissed!  And guess who he took it out on?

When Chad left we had finished about 14.5 miles or so and we had maintained a slow but steady run/walk interval most of the way.   But when Chad left, things got harder!

Every 15 minutes or so something new would start hurting!  Then it would go away, only to be replaced by a different pain!  Hip would hurt for awhile, then my knee, then my foot, then . . . (you get the picture!)  Nothing serious at all.  Just pains! 

Old and out of shape is not a very good combination.  I can't do anything about being old, but I can do something about my lack of conditioning.  Someone once told me that every run and every race is simply training for your next one.  So training has begun.  But I have a long, long way to go.

And that damn Medoc had better just leave me alone!  Whinning . . . complete . . . as is the Medoc Marathon 2012!

Now where is my medal???

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Well . . . maybe I celebrated too soon!

Well . . . maybe I celebrated too soon!  Maybe my hip isn't all the way well!

Over the last week or so I've started feeling some of the old feeling in my hip!  Not a good thing . . . but not terrible either!  I guess the smart thing will be to go see Dr. Jones again and see what he has to say.

Perhaps my lack of hip pain was a combination of wearing away some scar tissue AND the hip injection he gave me 10 days before my 100.  I'll be giving it time before I go see him.  Plus, I'm going to try one really long run and see if that helps again!  I mean . . . what have I got to lose!!  :-)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Volunteering at Hinson Lake

Well . . . it's mid-day Thursday and my foot tendonitis still hurts . . . actually got worse yesterday for no apparent reason!  Stupid foot!

So I sent a FB message to Tom Gabell that I was giving up my spot.  But I'm still planning to travel to Rockingham, see friends, cheer folks on, and volunteer as Tom needs me.  But no running.

I was really hoping to run and had set my sights on 75 miles as a good target.  Guess that will have to wait!  Crooked Road is the next 24 hour unless I want to run one at the track in Kinston on October 27th . . . not so sure about a track 24 hour . . .

Anyway . . . the best news is my hip CONTINUES to not have any pain!!  This tendonitis crap will pass and then I'll get back to some hopefully smart training.

And a lot of training is need for my next big adventure.  But that will have to wait . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

5 more days

Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Then . . . Hinson Lake 24 hour Run starting Saturday morning.

Until then no running, no cross-training . . . just healing to be done.  Hopefully, my foot will be fine by then!  Seems to be getting somewhat better already . . . or maybe it's the NSAIDS!  Either way I can now walk with just a little limp.

So glad I have my Hokas.  They will make everything a lot more bearable!

But I'm not stressing at all.  If I can run . . . well . . . I'll run. 

If I can't run?  Well . . . I'll just eat for 24 hours!  Oh . . . and I'll probably temporarily remove my 2 drink daily limit!  Just sayin'

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Running without pain

I can't believe it!  My hip is STILL not hurting!

I never realized just how much pain I was having . . . now I know I was having a constant low-grade pain all the time.  But I wasn't aware of it!  Seriously!  Guess you just get use to it!

Now, it feels fantastic to run without my hip fussing at me.  So . . . what did I do?

I overdid it!

There is a hill near my house . . . down maybe 1/4 mile losing maybe 50-60 feet, the back up the other side with equal distance and gain.  I walk down the hill, run up, turn around, walk down, then run up.  I call it 'my rocking chair.'

I haven't run hills or intervals since my hip started hurting 18 months ago.  So Monday I did three repeats on the rocking chair after a 3 mile warm-up.  Up on my toes on the uphills.  Stupid!  I knew better.  But I was just so excited and it felt so good . . .

So I inflamed a tendon on the outside of my foot.  Doctor x-rayed it and says no stress fracture.  I've played it smart and haven't run since.  It's Saturday and I'm starting to feel better already.

Should be 'good to go' by Hinson time next Saturday.  Hinson goal . . . 100k.

But I've got to remember to ease back into running.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I said I would do it if I ever finished a 100 mile race. 

I can't remember now whose tattoo I saw several year ago that caught my attention.  But I saw someone's new tattoo that they had gotten when they had finished their first 100 miler . . . and it seemed a fitting reason to get one. So I decided then that I would do the same thing if I ever finished one!

No sooner then 30 minutes after I finished, Connie posted to Facebook, "Now, the big question of where will your tattoo go???"

At the time I didn't know.  But with the help artistic help of Eric Ghiloni and his advice on where to go (Cliff at Modern Electric Tattoo) I decided on this.  Connie's reaction . . . "I knew you were going to do it but I didn't think it would be THIS BIG!"

Everyone asks how bad it hurt when they were doing it.  The answer is hardly at all.  Honestly. 

But it is sure itching now!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bloody 11w - Finally


Going into the Bloody 11w 112 mile Race I knew . . . this was my chance!  My best chance.  And probably the last chance I would have to achieve my long term dream of finishing a 100 mile race.

You see . . . I'm a three time looser when it comes to 100 miles races.  I've tried three times before and each attempt ended in a frustrating failure.  Usually a mental collapse.  In my last attempt in May 2011 at the Cure for the Colors, I felt like my mind and body were strong but blisters caused me to quit at 75 miles.  But I've often wondered to myself if that race too was really just another mental collapse.  Could I really have pushed through the pain to get the finish?  I don't know . . . but I have a long history of wimping out.  Maybe that is one of the reason why I have wanted to finish a 100 mile race so badly.

The deck was stacked against me.

Essentially, my hip started interfering with running 19 months ago.  Finally had surgery in October 2011 and my running has been limited ever since.  In the last 2 months the hip pain has been getting worse and worse.  My surgeon guessed scar tissue was building up.  My physical conditioning has suffered greatly with my reduced running.  I was spiralling downhill.  So physically I was not ready to run 100 miles. 

My hip surgeon, Dr. David T. Jones in Raleigh told me 2 weeks before, he would like this to be my last effort at 100 miles.  He didn't say absolutely no more . . . but it was clear to me he felt like I should probably scale back.

So this was to likely be my last attempt.  My last chance to achieve this allusive goal. A goal I have had since 2008.

Given my lack of physical condition and my hip, I knew for certain I couldn't really run 100 miles.  But I thought maybe . . . just maybe I could walk it!

In 100 mile races, virtually everyone walks . . . usually a lot of walking is necessary.  Walking obviously is slower than running and most 100 mile races have about 30 hour cutoffs.  Clearly that wasn't possible for me right now.  I needed a race with very lenient cutoffs.

So I found the Bloody 11w.  This race was actually designed for people like me: older &/or with limiting physical conditions.  How cool is that!  And it actually sounded fun!  Walk down a wide highway, stop in at convenience stores and restaurants along the way.  Take your time and still finish within their 72 hour cutoff!  How hard could that be?

Well . . . I would learn it would be pretty damn hard!

The Course

The race started with 11 participants in Knoxville, TN at 5 am Saturday before Labor Day and we had to finish 100 miles just north of Kingsport, TN by 5 am Tuesday.  The complete race was 112 miles and ended in Bristol, VA.  But there was a 100 mile option.  Two of us had physical issues to deal with.

The race essentially followed highway 11w the whole way, with detours to the old 11w road that took us through the towns of Bean Station, Rogersville and Surgoinsville.

I grew up in Kingsport and traveled the old 11w many, many times.  Oddly I had never driven the whole 'new' 11w since after Interstate 81/40 was completed it was the fastest way.  From what I remembered of the 'new' 11w, it was gently rolling hill and basically flat . . . traveling up the valley.  Man . . . was that perception wrong!

The course is literally uphill the whole frickin' way! (It was rolling hills but ever increasing elevation.)  None of the hills were really steep but they just kept going and going!  Slowly climbing . . . up . . . up . . . up . . .

A "Fat Ass"  Journey Race

The Bloody 11w is a "Fat Ass" race - meaning there is no aid provided.  Well . . . this proved to not quite be true!

One of many Tennessee Aid Stations along the way.

Really, the Bloody 11w is a miniature Vol State 500k.  You can run crewed or not.  I chose to not be crewed and thought this would be fun.  Plus, it was just hard for me to ask someone to drive to Tennessee with me to watch me fall on my face after 30 miles or so!

Race Director Naresh Kumar
Being uncrewed (or "SCREWED" as our RD Naresh Kumar called it!) means:
  • You start and can carry anything you like
  • You can purchase anything along the way
  • You can accept any unsolicited help
  • But you cannot solicit help except to beg for fluids if needed

Never having done any sort of 'journey run' before I had no idea of just how valuable a crew is to you: 
  • You don't have to carry the extra weight of a pack and your stuff
  • You can get ice and fluids ANYTIME you like
  • You can have a TON of supplies in the car just in case you MIGHT need them
  • You can get whatever kind of food you want.  Your crew can just drive to get it.
  • If you want to sleep, your crew can drive you to a motel.  Or have a cot for you.  Or you can sleep in the crew vehicle.
  • Air conditioning is available to you to cool off.
  • And the list goes on and on!
If there ever is a next time . . . believe me I WILL BE CREWED!  Both are hard, but un-crewed really is screwed!  Just like Naresh said!

Here is what it's like to NOT be crewed!
  • You can only eat what is there . . . where you are . . . what you have.  What you THOUGHT might sound good to eat 5 miles ago!
  • You have to carry all your fluids . . . sometimes carrying a gallon or more just to make it to the next point to re-supply.  
  • Fluids are never cold . . . always hot!
  • You sleep where you get tired.  Not in a motel (unless it just happened to work out perfectly!).  Hopefully you can find a cover to sleep under.  Or maybe some soft, low-cut grass to lay on.  Maybe.
  • You have nothing extra except what you choose to carry.  And you want to keep your weight as light as possible.  You have only the bear minimum of everything.
  • At night, stores close.  Some stores aren't open Sundays, or Holidays!  But you never know what will be open and what is closed.  If you run out of food or fluids you just run out.  If you were crewed, you have availability to everything, anytime!
I've always been impressed with Vol State participants . . . but from now on I'm going to bow down in their presence!!  I can't imagine 314 miles over 10 days . . . in July . . . most uncrewed!  Damn . . . those folks are tough!

And then I think about Doug Dawkins and John Price crossing the whole frickin' US - uncrewed!  Folks . . . those are ultra running Gods!

How did the hip do?

My big worry of course was my hip . . . would it allow me to walk that far?  Or would it seize up and refuse to go further.  I was not optimistic.  The race started and within the first 3 miles my hip started complaining.  At times it got bad; then it would ease off some.  Pain varied from a low of maybe a 3 to a high of probably a 7.

Painful . . . but no so painful I seriously considered quitting because of it.  The pain continued all day Saturday.   All Saturday night . . . Sunday morning and up until ~ 6 pm Sunday (Mile 63).

Then . . . the pain stopped!  That's right!  Stopped!  Not eased off!  It completely went away and didn't return until mid-day Monday at about mile 95!  (I talked with Dr. Jones once I got home and he believes that maybe I simply wore away the scar tissue!)  Since getting home . . . no significant hip pain!

THIS IS FRICKIN' AMAZING!!   Ultra running just may have had a positive impact on a hip joint!!!!!!  Ultra running helps . . . not hurts!!  (Okay . . . that may be a stretch!)

It turns out my big challenge at Bloody 11w was facing dehydration and heat exhaustion.

The Race -


For me the race started alone.  I missed the start of the race!!  Long story but the short version is my newphew, Andy Hicks, was driving me to the start and I was unsure which exit to take and I told him one exit too early onto highway 11e.  We knew 11e and 11w joined (that was the point where the race actually started!) so we needed to either turn right or left.  We weren't sure.  But a policeman was right there and he pointed to the left and said it was 3 miles.  Well . . . it was 3 miles . . . but to the right!  Lots of confusion but I finally started on my way about 15 minutes late!

I didn't want to do this whole race alone so I decided to press it and catch up with some of the slower folks.  Took me awhile and quite a bit of actually running . . . which I had planned to NOT do any of!

Finally caught up with some and started walking.

By mid day Saturday the sun was bright with minimal cloud cover and the temperatures had climbed into the 90s . . . well above the predicted 80s.  Also humidity is fairly high too.  And when you're on 11w there is no shade to speak of.  Reading Psyche Wimberly's race report from last year, I learned to not necessarily follow good safety rules and to walk on the right side of the road if 1) there was any shade and 2) the road shoulder was reasonably wide.  That helped.  But after Blaine, TN (mile 15) the road narrowed to 2 lanes and walking on the right side of the road just seemed too dangerous.

By mid-day things got very serious.  I knew there was a long 5 mile stretch between Blaine and Rutledge without any stores.  But I thought I had plenty of fluids in my 3 liter bladder.  But I didn't actually check!  Within a mile of the last store . . .  I ran out of water.  All morning I had been drinking and misjudged how much I had consumed!  Rule from this point forward - "Never ASSUME anything.  Check it out!"

Also, while I had been drinking all morning I had not had to stop and go the the bathroom.  This is a cardinal rule in ultra running - make SURE you're urinating fairly frequently . . . if not, increase fluids until you do!   That is just ultra running 101 basics.

So I was already dehydrated to some degree . . . and I ran out of fluids!  When you are already dehydrated, the temperatures are in the low 90s, the humidity is high, you're out of fluids, you have 4 miles to go to more fluids and there are no clouds and NO SHADE . . . it's time to be concerned.  And I was.

I started knocking on doors of the few houses we passed.  No one answered the door!  And no water spigots out front either or I would have just helped myself.

I really started feeling the effects of heat exhaustion and dehydration!

I honestly just made it to the Hardees in Rutledge (mile 29).  Once there I drank cup after cup after cup of ice cold fluids - Mountain Dew, Coke, sweet tea and water.  I just can't tell you how much I drank!  I just drank and drank . . . sitting in the air conditioning for 3 hours before I finally started peeing again.  Dehydration often brings on nausea, and food sounded terrible but I forced myself to eat a little.  Finally, we decided to continue on but once we started back, I just had nothing.  No zip at all.  Energy was totally gone.

Essentially the same thing happened again on Sunday coming into Rogersville at mile 60.  I found myself chasing little patches of shade back and forth across the highway just for a few seconds of shaded relief.  And this time I got dizzy and disoriented.  I had fluids but the heat just overpowered me.  Can you imagine what it must be like to run Badwater?

To keep things complicated you almost need to be a chemist to run these things,  It's all about keeping yourself hydrated and having the correct amount of electrolytes (salt).  Too much or too little of either is not good.  And realistically you never really KNOW where you stand.  Hydration is easier than electrolytes.  The peeing rule works pretty well on hydration but electrolytes is a different story.

Too little salt usually leads to cramping . . . so if you cramp usually salt helps.  But sometimes you don't cramp.  You just bloat.  Or you loose energy and seem lifeless.  Too much salt can lead to retaining fluids (swelling) and heart issues.  Too much salt has never been an issue for me, but it sure has for many others.  :-)

Paul Heckert and I had sort of been together all day Saturday.  Late in the afternoon we formally decided to keep together and help each other out.  Paul is a veteran 100+ mile finisher and we both move at about the same pace.  In all my other attempts at 100 miles I had always been alone in my quest.  It really helped to have someone there with you.  There are times I helped pull Paul through some rough spots.  He certainly did the same for me!  I believe our working together was one of the primary things that made this attempt a success.  Thanks Paul!

Saturday Night / Sunday Morning

 Saturday night / Sunday morning is sort of a blur.  But one thing I remember clearly is a call I got from Stephanie Carter, another Bloody 11w participant.  She and Chris Knodel were together and had gotten to the point where 11w meets 25e and they were unsure which way to go.  I checked my GPS and told them to stay on 25e/11w for a couple of miles and then 11w would go off to the left.

Then, hours later I got another call from Stephanie, "Frank, just exactly how far is it to the top of this frickin' mountain?  We've been going 9 miles and there is NOTHING here.  No houses, no stores and we're out of water!  What do we do?"

Crap . . . they had turned left (north) on 25e instead of right!  They had just gone 9 miles out of their way . . . UP A MOUNTAIN!!!!  I really had nothing for them.  I suggested trying to hitchhike back to where they had left the course.  And to knock on doors for water.  But they hadn't passed a house in miles!  Finally, out of total desperation they drank water from a creek and found a ride back.  They decided to just drop out of the race.  Who wouldn't after that!!

We finally got to the only 24 hour convenience store for probably 30 miles and took a break . . . got a pizza and topped off our fluids!!!  Then, on a couple more miles to Bean Station proper.  Nothing was open.  We finally stopped at about 3 am at a post office on the north side of town and slept probably 1 hour on the grass there.

Then, on towards Rogersville and our second sunrise.  The road from Bean Station was mentally hard . . . simply a never-ending climb.  But we were refreshed after our sleep and the miles passed on.

The people I met along the way were terrific!  Like the lady running the all-night convenience store in Bean Station.  Paul and I stayed there probably 1 1/2 hours drinking fluids, eating pizza and snacks.  She was a hoot!  And in Rogersville just before I made it to Hardees I saw a little hill beside the road that was shaded.  As I stopped I saw folks out on their porch so I ask them if I could rest there a minute or two.  They said sure.  Then offered me something cool to drink which I declined.  Then they offered some fresh fried chicken and to drive me anywhere I wanted to go!  I declined again!  But how nice was that?

This really was a race . . . at least in my mind.  Another competitor was also a physical misfit, having significant circulatory issues in one of his legs.  And I wanted to beat him!  And he wanted to beat me!  (Which he eventually did . . . like a drum!!).  Gary Cantrell (aka Laz) is a gnarly ultra veteran probably known most for the races he has created.  It is Gary's perverted mind that created the Barkley Marathon, arguably the hardest race in the world based upon the finisher percentage.  Also, Vol State 500k is a Cantrell creation I believe.  And now he was the creator of the Bloody 11w.  At the pre-race dinner we kidded each other about who would be DFL (Dead F*@king Last).  Guess from that perspective I did kick his ass!!

Laz passed us in Rutledge when we stopped 3 hours to re-hydrate and start peeing again.  And I never saw him again!

Laz and his buddy Steve Durbin had recruited an all-star crew to help them . . . Terri Preast!  Terri often drove back to check on us and see if we needed anything and to make sure we were okay.  I think secretly Laz had sent her back to find out if we were catching up!!

Sunday Morning

It was a tough climb out of Bean Station and dealing with the heat going into Rogersville.  Paul and I were trashed before we got there!  We needed to cool down and rest and decided that the Hardees there would be a good spot.  We ate a lunch and tried to cool down and gather our energy, but the sun and heat outside were simply relentless.  So we decided it would be smart to simply rest until later in the afternoon when it cooled down.

 I called my sister-in-law, Sherie Spencer and she came to our rescue!  Guess we sort of broke the rules but Sherie drove us to her house in Kingsport.  We washed out our clothes and took a 30 minute nap on something SOFT!  Then, she drove us back to the Hardees in Rogersville where she had picked us up.  A big storm came through as we drove but when we arrived in Rogersville the storm had just stopped!  Sweet!!  Perfect timing!

Sunday Night / Monday Morning

Paul and I crushed Sunday night / Monday morning and I thought we just might catch Laz.  We went from Rogersville (mile 62.5 at 6:30 pm) to just outside of Kingsport (mile 84 at 4 am) . . . 21.5 miles in 9:30 and we stopped for a 30 minute nap in Surgoinsville while it rained again.  That night was probably my best memory of this race.  We both walked steadily all evening and morning and the part leaving the 4-lane 11w main road and traveling the old 11w through Surgoinsville in the middle of the night was just fabulous!

With completing such a great night, I hoped that maybe we had gained on Gary and Steve.   But, in all honesty I knew that catching them would be REALLY hard unless they had problems.

At 4 am Monday morning Paul and I needed another nap.  But we couldn't find a good place to sleep and we were sinking fast!  So in desperation we opted to get under an awning of a closed gas station. . . next to the pumps!  Not soft . . . but dry!  After maybe 30 minutes we got a wake-up visit from a local sheriff's deputy wondering what on earth we were doing! 

Paul is a astronomy professor at Western Carolina University and had a class he had to teach Tuesday morning.  With the long drive home and knowing he would have to stop often to snooze, he decided he needed to quit at mile 85.  I know he would have been able to finish.


So Paul left at daylight and I saw my third sunrise!  I was refreshed and decided I would try to catch Laz.  I picked up the pace and pressed on, entering Kingsport then crossing the north fork of the Holston River.  This is my home . . . where I grew up.  It felt good to be there.

After crossing the river and heading up the big hill by Walmart a van stopped up ahead and flashed their lights!  Then, the door opens and a good looking lady started running towards me!

As you can imagine, this sort of thing just happens all the time to me!  It's a real problem!

Turns out this was Abi Meadows coming down to see how I was doing and to hang with me for awhile!  Abi had earlier won the race!  She had finished the complete 112 miles in 38:46 and had passed the 100 mile point at 34:48!  Abi hung with me for probably a mile or so but then she had to go find her son who was also competing but had dropped out at about mile 50 or so.

Abi told me that Laz was at mile 94 or so (I was at mile 88) . . . so realistically no catching Laz!  Guess that sort of took my drive away.

About mile 90 I got hit by a freight train that was moving through Kingsport.  I never saw any tracks, never heard the train,  but I sure felt the impact as it knocked me on my butt!  All my energy just left!

I struggled on, took another short 10 minute nap at a Putt-Putt miniature golf course, and slowly made my way towards the finish.

From mile 85 I knew I was going to finally finish my 100 miles!  And I would finish during the day Monday (the race cutoff was 5 am Tuesday).  My goal was to finish 100 miles . . . but secretly I had hoped to complete the full 112 miles.  The last 12 miles are really, really hard with lots of hills.  But I know I could have done it.  I was tired . . . but I could have done it!  But I started thinking about Sherie having to drive me to my car in Knoxville and she had to work Tuesday.  I thought it would be easier for everyone if I just stopped at 100 . . . so at mile 95 I decided to stop at 100 rather than finish the full race.  I later found out my sister-in-law would have preferred to have driven me back to Knoxville on Tuesday!

The last 5 miles just took FOREVER!  I know this road like the back of my hand.  Long straight stretches that just seem to go on forever,  Then a slight turn and another long straight stretch!  At least this part was flat . . . and I was smelling the barn!

A couple of times as I closed in on the finish I teared up.  Just thinking about finally finishing a 100 miler.  Thinking about my family that have been so supportive.  Thinking about all I had gone through since Saturday morning.  Thinking of all my friends . . . many who had constantly been sending me encourgement via Facebook.  It was all just very emotional for me.

The finish to this race was perfect.  I'm use to being the last finisher.  Usually by the time I get to the finish the volunteers have packed everything up.  Maybe there are a few folks still there. But maybe not.  For the Bloody 11w there was no fancy finish chute . . . no crowds (heck . . . only my sister-in-law was there!), no fanfare, just a simple finish line to cross.  And I crossed it.

Here are a few pictures . . .

Who can really explain this?  "Well I had my welder and I had some metal . . ."

Cherokee Lake just past Bean Station

World's Smallest Police Station - Surgoinsville

Allendale Mansion - Kingsport

Crossing the N Fork of the Holston River - Kingsport

Crossing the 100 mile finish line.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Just a quick blog post to make sure anyone interested knows I did successfully complete 100 miles at the Bloody 11w.

So much to say about this experience . . . it will take me awhile to process the experience and do a proper race report!

But I did it!  Details coming for sure . . .

Monday, August 27, 2012

Quick update . . .

Last Wednesday I had my hip injected with something similar to cortisone.  Unfortunately, it appears the injection did more harm than good.  Even with ultrasound, injection placement can't be perfect every time.  The Bloody 11w 100 miler starts this Saturday morning.  Doctor says no running, walking or biking until then.

This is frickin' awesome!!

  • Another reason / excuse to NOT finish this "bad boy"
  • Another reason that when I DO finish it may be the most incredible athletic performance in this century! I'll probably be ask to be on a Wheaties box.
Okay . . . that is so far from true it's not even funny!  But all this adversity is definitely giving me added fire!
I will start.  And I promise I will give this a 100% effort.  But I won't do something that will cause me harm.  But can you imagine the feeling when I finish this???

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is the fourth time is the charm??

The Situation

It's no big surprise that my running has been on a downhill spiral for well over 18 months.

It started with a pain in my hip . . . especially in the mornings.  I thought it was just an age thing.  But it kept getting worse.  And worse.  And worse.

Finally in October 2011 I had arthroscopic surgery.  Recovery has not been as fast as I had hoped.  And now recovery seems to have peaked and maybe even has regressed.  Don't get me wrong, my hip is WAY better then before surgery.  Way, way better!  But it's also far from normal . . . and doesn't appear to be getting any better.  As a result of all this, my fitness has suffered hugely.  Both endurance and strength seem to be stagnant and improvement appears to be less and less likely.  If I run more than 3 miles or so my hip almost always starts complaining.  But I've been able to walk (mixing in some running).

My Goal

All my running friends know that my running goal is (and has been for several years now!) to finish a 100 mile event.  I've tried three times and failed each time.  My last try was in May of 2011 at the Cure for the Colors Run where I dropped at 75 miles with some pretty nasty blisters.  At that point, my fitness was good.  But given the decline in my fitness and my hip recovery seems to has plateaued . . . maybe forever . . . I'm really worried that this crazy goal of mine may not ever be accomplished.  Certainly in a 'normal' 100 mile run - my chances of success are virtually nill.

Where there is a will . . . there's a way!

So I've been looking for some event where I have a chance.  Just a chance.  That's all I want!  (Okay . . . that's not ALL I want!  I want to FINISH the frickin' race too!)  I had been thinking about "3 Days in the Fair" as a great venue for me.  But that is next spring and my fitness continues to spiral downhill.  Realistically there is a significant chance that my current poor fitness level MAY only decline further.  So I really needed to find something sooner.

And I have . . .

The Bloody 11w 100 mile Run

Here is a link to the 2012 website.

This race was created by Lazarus Lake or "Laz" (aka Gary Cantrell) the perverted brain behind The Barkley Marathon . . . the toughest race in the world if you judge toughness by number of finishers!  But the Bloody 11w wasn't designed to be hard!  Just the opposite:

"This is a fatass style event. The runners take care of themselves. However, with a 72 hour limit for 100 miles, this is a chance for the old, slow, or disabled folks to log a legitimate 100 miler and with probably a dozen or less runners, someone will get a chance to win a race."

Sounds PERFECT!!

When I grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, Highway 11w was the only road to Knoxville.  2 lanes the whole way.  And full of trucks!  Passing was risky but staying behind the slow cars and trucks would try the patience of the Lord!  The result was one of the most dangerous roads in Tennessee and many, many people died in car wrecks. As a result there are many stories of ghosts walking the highway and ghost cars / ghost trucks approaching and then simply vanishing!

11w was also the scene of one of the worst accidents in Tennessee history when an 18-wheeler crashed with a bus full of people! 14 people died in that one accident.

The Bloody 11w race starts at 5:00 am on September 1st in Knoxville, TN where Highway 11e and Highway 11w meet.  The course then follows 11w northeast to it's intersection with Highway 11e at the Virginia state line in Bristol, TN-VA . . . a total of ~111 miles.  There is a 72 hour cutoff at the 100 mile point.

Last year a buckle was created . . . but I don't believe there will be any buckles for this year.  Still . . . that's a PRETTY COOL BUCKLE!!!

Here is Psyche Wimberly's race report from last year's event.  This is a great read and will sort of tell you what the event may be like.  (Incidentally . . . Psyche just FINISHED the Volunteer State 500 K race.  500 K . . . that right . . . ~ 310 miles!!!)

My Plan

The first and most important part of my plan is to respect my hip.  Believe me . . . if I don't keep my hip happy, I have 0% chance of finishing.  So I will be very gentle with it.  I'll only run downhills . . . and if my hip starts fussin' at me . . . I walk . . . all of it if necessary!  Walking really isn't the way I had hoped to do my 100 miles.  But if that's what it takes . . . that's what I'll do!

And forget my hip for a minute . . . my fitness level really sucks.  Honestly.  This will largely be a 100 mile hike with some running thrown in.  But likely a long, slow, hot, painful hike!

Since this is a "Fat Ass" style race, there are no aid stations or support of any kind available.  As a result, you have to carry what you think you'll need and stop at stores along the way to re-supply.

I'll wear a backpack with a hydration bladder and room for lots of stuff.  Right now I'm planning to carry: 2 extra pairs of socks, an extra pair of shorts, an extra shirt, a blister / first aid kit, a brimmed hat, a rain jacket, a visibility vest with blinker lights, Cool-off bandanna, salt pills, TP, gels, camera, a debit card and cash.  And I may carry hiking poles . . . not sure about that yet.  Plus, I may put together a 'drop bag' with some extra stuff (like extra shoes!) and find a place to hide it on the road.  I'm planning to keep going and maybe nap on the side of the road if necessary.  If the weather is bad, I may crash at a motel if one is there when I need it.

I am seriously under-trained.  Honestly.  Even if I were to walk 100% I am still highly under-trained.
  • Since surgery I once walked 50 miles. 
  • I did run/walk one marathon.
  • My longest training run/walk has been 15 miles.  
  • My longest run without a walk has been 5 miles.
Basically I suck.  Folks . . . this will definitely NOT be easy . . . especially with this sort of training.  But realistically this may be my best chance.  I'm going to try.

There are 9 people currently in this event!  (Actually I hear there are more but the website hasn't been updated with any new names!)  Joining me will be Paul Heckert, a friend and proven ultra runner with one 100 mile run and another 150 mile run completed!  We'll start together but we may find we need to separate depending on how all this plays out.  Also Laz, the race creator, will be attempting the event too.  Laz has had health issues too, so for this event he may be back with Paul and I.  Plus, I've met a few of the other folks running this bad boy.  Should be one crazy race!

So this isn't going to be anything very impressive.  But I'm thinking this may be my best chance ever to finish 100 miles.

Race starts at 5:00 am Saturday, September 1st.   If you want to track my progress online, try:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ultrarunner / Ultrarunning

I've recently been thinking a lot about these two terms . . . plus the relationship of speed vs distance.  At some point my ponderings will make some sense to you.  But now just prepare yourself to be bored.

One Facebook post last week really got me thinking.  Basically it said something like "Anybody can run a marathon, but how may can run a 5k in sub-20?"  Interesting comments and basically true.  I worked quite hard for years but never was able to run a sub-20 5k.  My best was a 20:01 . . . close but no cigar.  I really worked hard trying . . . hill training, intervals, strong tempo runs, long runs.  But was never able to close the deal.  I'm thinking that part of the answer is genetics . . . some folks can just run faster.  And some folks can bust their ass in focused training and NEVER do it.

I agree that anyone CAN run a marathon.  It may take awhile, but anyone can finish one.  But most folks are intimidated and simply never try.  Or when they look at a training program, the long runs simply scare them off.

There is no comparison of the pain involved either.  A 5k hurts . . . bad for a few minutes.  But then it's over and recovery happens in 5 minutes.  Any marathon is significantly more painful!  The pain starts in the last third of the race and may not fully leave for a couple of weeks for some folks trying their first marathon.  In my mind finishing a marathon is a much more meaningful accomplishment . . . even if I had finally gone sub-20 I am certain I would still feel this way.

So in my mind, distance is more significant than speed.  But that's just me.  And likely I feel this way in part due to my lack of speed!  Let's face it . . . I'm not fast!  20:01 5k and a 3:58 marathon best.  Middle of the pack at best!  So maybe my infatuation with distance is understandable and if I were a faster runner I would be more interested in speed.

One other reason too I believe.  Once I finally quit focusing on my time . . . my enjoyment in running increased SIGNIFICANTLY!  I simple started have way more fun!  I started taking pictures during my marathons and ultras and I love looking back at the pictures and re-living the run!  And remembering all the people I met and things I saw.  And recovery takes only a day or two.

So I became an ultra runner.  For the uninformed, an ultramarathon is any run that exceeds the distance of a marathon . . . 26.2 miles.  So if you run 26.3 miles you have officially met the criteria of being an ultra runner.  But most ultramarathons are at least 31 miles (50 k) or longer.  Popular distances are 50k, 50 miles, 100k, and 100 miles.  I've completed all these distances in races with the exception of the 100 miler.  That one has evaded me.  Three attempts and three failures.  (How many 5k races are there where anyone fails to complete the full 5k?)

In my mind if you have completed any ultramarathon within the cut-off time allowed you are an ultrarunner . . . forever!  Even if you never do another ultra . . . you have qualifed as an ultrarunner.  Period.

But I've recently become conflicted about the speed thing.  See . . . I've had to slow down even further.  Walk way more and run way less.  Earlier this year I completed 50 miles during a 24 hour race.  And honestly I felt like a second-class citizen.  None of the other runner made me feel this way . . . my feelings were totally self-imposed.  I didn't run . . . at all.  I just walked.

Honestly, it was still hard.  Very hard.  I hurt.  Bad.  It was a painful effort, but I did it . . . and I was proud.  I know that many people would not have gone through that much pain just to finish a measly 50 miles at a 24 hour event.

But I was still bummed that I didn't run.

So here is the question.  Let's say this my only ultra event, would I be an ultra runner after completing this?  Part of me says absolutely yes.  But another part of me says no.

And if walking it all doesn't qualify me as an ultra runner in that case, how much of it would I have had to run for it to qualify?  Do you have to run 100% of the distance?  (I don't think so!)  How about 75%?  50%  How about 10%?  Folks that practice a walk / run approach in my mind are definitely ultra runners.  And how many folks that have completed a 100 mile event have run it all?  Almost none!!!  Virtually everybody walks at least some.

I guess it really only matters what I think.  But somehow other peoples opinions matter to me too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Horse Flies (Part 2)

Today, after one Medoc loop I just have a ton of important, new information that you runners and hikers may be interested in.

Medoc horse flies continue to change tactics every trip I'm there.  Today, they were all down by the creek where no air was moving and the heat and humidity is at it's highest.  And rather than the 'mass attack' they launched on my last visit, this time there were a long series of individual assaults.  I'm guessing this battle tactic will be scrapped as I ended the day with 6 confirmed kills and 3 more likely kills!  And my kill count would have been MUCH higher had I not started using my invention . . . but more on that later.

In Part 1 of my blogs on horse flies, I talked about the secret research grant jointly shared by Umstead State Park and Medoc Mountain State Park.  I am now more convinced then ever that there is indeed some sort of secret horse fly breeding program underway.  Four of the kills today were kills of a totally new, HUGE varient of a horse fly that I've never seen before.  This sucker had to be 1" wide at least.  And when one swooped in for the attack, you could hear it plainly and well as feeling the 'prop wash' from his/her wings!  But the good news is that this new variety is slow, probably due to it's huge size.  I'm guessing that this model will not end up as the terrorist weapon, as it is fairly easy to kill due to it's lack of speed and manoverabilty.  But when they do bite you they really take a chunk!  My fear is that with further genetic engineering, they will be able to breed speed and agility into this monster. 

If Park officials are able to successfully accomplish this, summer running as we know it will likely end.  We will be forced to adopt clothing similar to beekeepers.  Even with hi-tech fabrics, these new summer running outfits will be hot and greatly limit air circulation.

The other issue today was the spiders.  Webs as just a nuisance . . . they drive you crazy but they really aren't a problem.  But there is one variety of spider that make these webs across trails that are just plan mean.  They bite!  Hard!  And their bite is every bit as painful as any horse fly. 

I'm going to do some research on exactly what the name of this variety of spiders is called, but you've all probably seen them.  They sit right in the middle of their web and they really don't look like a spider at all.  They look more like a little piece of black leaf . . . irregularly shaped.  These little assholes were just pain eating me up today.

But necessity is truly the mother of invention. 

I picked up a little stick about 15-20" long and started waving it in front of me to tear down the webs as I ran.  This actually worked pretty well!  But when the trail took a turn and went back down to the creek, the horse flies attacked again!  So it was a dual assault . . .  spiders and horse flies teaming up for the sole purpose of making my life miserable.

Since I had the stick in my hand, I started waving it around my legs and arms as well as in front of me.  This proved to be enough movement to keep the horse flies from landing! 


The key is to have a stick long enough to almost reach your shoes, and light enough  to wave in front of you easily.  True . . . you may look a little silly waving this stick around you.  But the alternative is to get eaten alive!

I have mailed in a patent application already . . . so this invention is patent pending!  I've got to come up with a name for this invention!  Something with marketing sizzle so that every runner will want one . . . or more.  I'm thinking I'll paint these in a wide variety of colors to match your running outfit!  At the Medoc Meltdown on August 18th we'll be debuting  these miracle inventions . . . selling for only $10 each and that price includes a individual custom fitting (color version will be just a little more).  So be sure and bring your wallet or purse!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A time for honesty . . .

My hip doesn't appear to really be getting any better.

There . . . I've said it.

Some days are pretty good.  Other days . . . well . . . it's almost like before my surgery.  Not quite as bad but very similar.  And I'm not feeling improvement.  Things are not getting worse but they certainly are not improving.  The 'tightness' I had been feeling has gotten somewhat better, but the tightness is now being replaced with pain.

I will go back and see my doctor real soon.  He gave me a 2 week supply of Celebrex to try . . . and that did make a significant positive difference.  So I got a prescription and had it filled at my local pharmacy.  When they told me my cost was $237 for a 30 day supply. I just about had a heart attack right there on the spot!  Holy crap!

I didn't get pills.

That cost is just plain obscene and I couldn't bring myself to spend that kind of money!  So I started taking Aleve and that helped too . . . just not as much.  BUT I DON'T LIKE TAKING NSAIDS LONG-TERM!  My personal opinion is they are simply masking the pain . . . the very pain that is telling you there is a problem!  Plus, these pain pills carry a risk to your kidneys.  I'm okay taking NSAIDS for a short duration but not over an extended period of time.

At my last visit to my doctor he suggested that if the Celebrex worked he was thinking maybe we would inject my hip with something!!  Okay . . . HE would do the injection and I'm not exactly sure what medicine he was considering.  He did x-ray my hip and didn't see any issue so he suggested this just may be "scar tissue" causing the problem.

The other thing I keep thinking about is something the doctor told me just after surgery.  He said he saw arthritis in my hip.  That was not good news because there really nothing to do if the arthritis gets worse . . . except a hip replacement.  So I'm wondering if this pain is really simply the arthritis spreading (or whatever it does!).  But I believe arthritis does show up in a normal x-ray and I'm thinking my doctor would have said if he thought the ultimate issue was a progression of the arthritis.

I'm not sure just how far I should go in "chasing this rabbit."  Would the injection stop the pain permanently?  Or is this just another step to isolate the underlying problem?    If it is scar tissue what do we do?  Keep injecting or more surgery?  Is this really arthritis getting worse instead of scar tissue?  Is there REALLY an ultimate solution?  Or do we just say enough is enough.

While I'm "whining" about this hip pain, realistically it's not terrible.  I CAN deal with it.  It's just that this hip pain is causing a continuance to the downward spiral I'm finding my physical condition in.  Less running yields less calories burned, which yields increased body weight, which yields both increased joint stress AND a steeper uphill battle to gain back conditioning.  Both of these yield less running . . .

In recent weeks I have been seeing my conditioning improve some.  Kind of hard to tell with all this hot weather, but I do believe I'm  seeing some gains in strength and endurance.  I feel like if I could do some interval / speed workouts they would make a positive difference but every time I've tried to add speed, I pay the price with significantly increased hip pain later.

I've bought a bike and have roughly been alternating days running and riding.  I'm guessing this is the major reason I'm feeling like my fitness has improved some.  The biking seems to be a good compliment to running even though the muscles used are quite different!  The bike is kicking my ass!  But in a good way.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Horse Flies

This picture doesn't show their fangs.
These guys are just plain MEAN!

Well . . . that's not entirely fair!  If there are any horse flies at all there simply have to be female horseflies too.  And they also must be mean (probably meaner than the male horse fly but in a passive-aggressive way!) 

I wonder why God put them on this earth?  What the hell good do they do?  There must be something . . . some value to our ecosystem.  But I just don't see it.  Apparently, based on my observations they are only present on earth for one reason - to harass humans each summer.  Sure they do harass animals too, but most animals seem more capable of taking their attacks in stride.  People . . . not so much.

Horse flies have their favorite haunts . . . places where they know it will be easy to find people to attack!  Pools and lakes are one of their favorite hunting grounds.  They first just 'glide' in quitely and light somewhere on you . . . usually your head or your back.  Not sure why they go for your hair / scalp but I'm certain they KNOW an attack on your back makes it hard for you to swat them.  They are sneaky, plotting little bastards!  You never know they are there until the chomp down on you, injecting something like alcohol immediately just to make it painful.  Then, the real fun begins for these little asses!

You start swatting at them, you really don't know where the hell they are, you just hear them buzzing around and every once in a while you see a blur as they circle in for another round of attack!  I'm thinking they MAY attack in packs!  All you ever see is one at a time, but the others are behind you, coming in for the kill as one buzzes in front to distract you.

Eventually, there is only one solution you think . . . jump in the water and go under!  Ahh that should outsmart the little bastards!  I'll just hold my breath for awhile and they will think I disappeared and move on to torment someone else!  Brilliant!  So once you come back up for air, you are SURE you've outsmarted them.  Immediately you're attacked again!  The little SOB was just circling . . . waiting for you!

The only way to deal with these little wolves is to go sit in a chair and put a hat on.  That forces them to attack a portion of your body that is visible.  Brilliant!  So eventually one lands and quickly prepare for their meal and you swat . . . hard!  They simply take to the air for a few seconds!  And we humans are too slow to see that they are gone and we can't stop the slap!  So we slap ourselves!  If you don't shout out a cuss word, but instead listen closely . . . you can hear the little bastards laughing!

And don't think insect repellants are of any use.  Actually, it's a little known fact that DEET is an attractor to horse flies!  They LOVE the stuff!  When they smell DEET, it's like us smelling a barbecue . . . we're heading to it!  Even if we aren't invited to eat, maybe we can at least score a free beer or two!

While lakes and pools are easy pickings, sometimes they opt for forest trails where they know a runner will soon come by.  They choose these places because they are bored.  Basically a bunch of horse flies get in a group and just "hang out" together.  Resting and taking it easy.  I'm guessing they probably are drinking some horsefly version of beer or liquor, singing and just having a good ol' lazy time.  Then, when a runner approaches they decide to have some fun!

On the trails, the attacks usually are just a single horse fly!  So I'm thinking they're attacking just to show off to the others!  Good sport!

I love it when I'm in the rear and start to see someone in front of me start yelling and waving their arms like they are a crazy person!  (The reason I love it is two fold . . . first it's just plain funny as hell and second I'm almost laughing cause it's not me the attack has been launched against!)

Sometimes you get "lucky" and one of your wild swats actually connects!  I put the word "lucky" in quotes because unless the swat was lethal, all you've done is now pissed off a drunk horse fly!

The dam little SOB will circle and attack, then circle again and attack, circle and attack, again and again.   You would think he would either get tired flying that far, or he would get dizzy and crash into a tree or something.  But hell no!  The pissed-off, drunk six-legged little wolf bastard will chase you literally for miles! 

Usually this ends badly . . . either for you or the horse fly!  Sometime you get really luck and manage to connect with a swat and kill the little bastard.  But sometimes all your attention being paid to the attack diverts your attention from where it should be . . . the trail.  The result is a human face plant.  I find that usually this seems to satisfy the horse fly and he'll fly off back to the party, laughing all the way.

One NC horse fly coming back to base ofter a mission.
Most folks in North Carolina don't realize that a significant reason why we have such a real issue with horse flies is our state government.  Working together, Medoc Mountain State Park and Umstead State Park have secured a secret research grant from a little known agency of the CIA to develop a new variety of genetically-engineered horse fly to be used as a biological weapon in the war against terror!

And these two parks then use their trails as testing grounds for these nasty little bastards.  So if you do run trails at either of these parks you will be up against some of the biggest, baddest horse flies known to man!  I've heard rumors of horse flies so big they can actually sink the little claws into your head and fly you away to their hidden lairs to be eaten later!  So be extra careful out there!

That is all.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Boogie Beat Down - 2012 version

Beginning 2008 I started going to the Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie.  The first year I went with no real expectations or goals other than to see what this race was all about.  So many friends just loved this race, so I decided to go and see it for myself.

I didn't have my blog then, and I didn't write any sort of race report . . . but the afternoon/evening is etched in my mind.  Three things: HEAT, HILL and HUMIDITY.  It was hell on earth.  I did what most Boogie veterans call the 'Baby Boogie' . . . only the marathon (the full Boogie is a 50 miler!) That afternoon it was so hot and humid it was just unbelievable.  97° at the start if I remember correctly.  Janet Smith and I had decided to run this thing together . . . both of us had heard all the stories and were quite terrified of the race.  And Boogie didn't disappoint!  Just at dark the first thunderstorm hit . . . then another about midnight.  The rain cooled the temps but the humidity went to 100%.  Lightning everywhere.  Bad blisters from all the rain.  Finally finished . . . slowest marathon of my life (and even at that point I had some slow ones!).  I had NEVER been so happy to see a finish line in my life!

And ever year since, I have returned to Boogie.  And ever year Boogie beats me down.  In 2011 I finally decided to try the 'Full Boogie' and that turned into one of the hardest finishes I've ever had and one of the few races I SERIOUSLY considered DNF-ing (DFN = Did Not Finish for you non-runner readers . . . all the other DNFs I've had were either 100 milers or one race where I missed the time cut-off.).  I was DFL . . . (That stands for 'Dead Fuckin' Last'!).

So this year I showed some sense and backed back up to the 'Baby Boogie' . . . more my speed!  And I thought it was going to be a cake-walk this year!  At the start of the race the temperature was only 81° and the humidity was LOW!  So instead of HEAT, HILLS and HUMIDITY . . . all we had was HILLS . . . How hard could that it be?

Plus . . . I had decided that this year was the year to intentionally walk the distance.  Okay . . . I'm a wimp!  But I decided virtually no running!  So this year I didn't experience the physical Boogie beat down . . . but I did suffer the mental beat down.

Other runners don't care.  And EVERYONE is supportive of anybody out there trying.  Runners are amazing like that.  And Boogie runners and Mangum Track Club (MTC) runners are unusually supportive.

But I'm a RUNNER.  I've always been a runner.  Since 1975 I've run.  10k . . . then 5k.  Started trail running in 1976.  First marathon in 1982.  I AM a runner.

Sure I've walked.  Many times.  Sometimes when I'm tired.  Sometimes when I'm hurt.  And many time a walking interval is planned.  I usually walk hills in longer races.  But usually I run too!

This year's Boogie was the second race where I walked it all.  The first was the VA 24 Hour race a few months ago.  Walking at that event was necessary to maximize the distance the team needed me to do.  So I was okay with that.  But this was only a marathon.

Intellectually, I know it doesn't matter.  Being out there  is way better than staying at home doing nothing.  Plus, it's simply GREAT to see all my MTC/running friends and acquaintances!  These folks are so inspirational!  And so supportive.  Being with them is like getting free drugs or something! 

How can you not just love these people??  Most are certifiably crazy.  Each is a totally unique character.  And they are all fierce competitors and supportive friends.  Each and every one has a kind work for every person they see.  And there are many many more . . . just like these!

But when I only walk I just don't personally feel fulfilled.

So I want to go to races . . . and not just to volunteer but as a participant.  But I don't want to 'just walk' these races.  Hopefully I'll heal up and everything will be fine.

No matter . . . Boogie is an awesome race that everyone needs to try.  I mean, we all get a little 'full of ourselves' from time to time.  Everyone needs a race that will bring them back to reality!  Everyone needs a 'beat down' at least once a year.  And Boogie is mine!

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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.