My main job at Weymouth was trying to keep Charles West away from the aid station volunteers.
Charles thought I was there to 'crew' for him in his effort to qualify for the Western States 100 miler . . . the super bowl of ultra running (yes . . . he was successful!). But actually Marie Lewis called and asked me if I would be willing to do a special favor for her. Charles is well known for getting a little 'focused' on his goals and as the race progresses Charles transforms! In addition to intimidating aid-station workers, Marie was very concerned about the long-term effects that seeing Charles might have on any of the children he might come in contact with. So Marie asked Erich Chatham and I to try to keep Charles away from people.
Just the look on Charles' face will, at times, put "the fear of God" into the souls of the un-informed! Charles transforms from a friendly, mild-mannered, fun-loving guy into what appears to be a wide-eyed zombie creature that can't talk and just walks around giving you weird looks! Dogs run from him. Children cry in terror. So as race director, Marie needed a strategy to handle this situation.
At this year's race I was quite successful as we didn't lose a single aid station volunteer to Charles' stares. And not a single child started crying!! A few children did get wide-eyed when they saw him in the afternoon, but Erich and I were able to talk with them and convince them that Charles wasn't real . . . only an actor 'playing the part' of a zombie as entertainment for the race!
Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures of Charles. Every time he finished a loop my job was to get him his stuff and get him back out running just as fast as possible so I didn't take pictures during his lap transitions. (Quite frankly that's probably a good thing . . . there are children that read this blog and I wouldn't want to scare them!) But here are two shots of Charles that I can post . . . he almost looks human in these two!
|First lap . . . Charles hasn't transformed yet.|
|Charles with Fred 'Doom" Dummar about lap 4. Transformation underway.|
Weymouth is a NC state park near Southern Pines and must have been an experimental forest where agronomists and biologist were secretly trying to bred a variety of pine trees to develop gnarly roots that would stay near the surface of the soil and even above. Not sure exactly why they were doing this . . . probably it was some tactic to be used against the Soviet Union during the cold war.
|Eventual winner, Tomasz Kochanowicz, in an easy section where the roots weren't hiding.|
Virtually every runner at Weymouth fell victim to these roots at least once during the race and I'm guessing the face-plant record at the race is north of 10 falls!
Uninformed people would think if a runner runs 62 miles they would lose weight for sure. Well, perhaps a few do, but this is another area of competition at Weymouth that most runner are not aware of. Marie, and aid station captains Susan Dummar and Doug 'Boogieman' Dawkins plot for months to develop ways to thwart the weight loss for their runners. Their goal is "No Runner Loses Weight!" If a runner doesn't gain weight, then Marie, Susan and Doug lose. But they win if a runner gains weight! So the game is ON! They fill the two aid stations with food to tempt runners using unfair tactics . . . things like constantly cooking hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh, hot pizza (no one can resist pizza!), lots of homemade soups and even grits (with ton's of butter for sure!!). And of course the usual high calorie diet supplements like gatoraide, potato chips, Mt Dew, Cokes, ginger ale, etc. You have to almost force them to give you just water! All day and all night they are trying to stuff food into the mouths of their runners. No doubt . . . Susan and Doug won the competition this year.
|Susan Dummar's main aid-station. Complete with propane heaters too keep runners warm as they feast!|
|Decisions! Should we cook hamburgers or grilled cheese next? Everyone's got an opinion!|
|aka "Man-Camp" Doug Dawkins' hidaway aid-station|
|Bill Keene stumbling out of 'camp' full of grits!|
This is DEFINITELY a race to stay away from!!!
And yes . . . like I said Charles did qualify for WS! As he finished lap 13 with one to go, he had an hour and 15 minutes to finish the last 4.5 miles. After about 58 miles of hard running, all those Weymouth roots and the cold temperatures I really didn't give Charles much of a chance for success. His lap times had slowly been creeping up and up.
But Charles had a secret weapon . . . Dan Gardiner! Dan is one heck of a runner (2009 Medoc marathon winner!) and one heck of a nice guy. Plus one heck of a motivator! And I should have realized if you take a motivated runner (Charles). And add a motivating, encouraging friend . . . you would get success. About 15 minutes before the 14 hour mark (Western States cut-off), Erich Chatham and I were plotting a strategy of how we were going to survive the trip back to Raleigh with Charles after he had missed the cut-off. We were scared.
But I looked up and there was Dan with a big smile on his face!!! He said Charles was just a minute or so behind! Unbelievable. Charles knocked that lap out is just about an hour! Talk about a motivated runner!
Unfortunately my camera battery died so I didn't get a picture of Charles finishing. Damn! But . . . for the record . . . he smiled!