Monday, April 15, 2013

Found, but Still Searching: Umstead 100 Weekend

I have no idea how to start this little write up. I had one of the most important events in my life take place this weekend, and it had nothing to do with what I once thought was important.

As was indicated by my recent training updates on this blog, I've taken a total "weekend warrior" approach to training. A couple shorter, faster runs on the weekdays, and either one or two long runs on the weekends. Jogging around on these days required very little focus, and therefore resulted in very little focus. I casually jogged a peak long run of 42 miles in ankle deep snow and ice, and stopped for a deuce can of Miller Lite halfway through. The rest of the weekends were back to back 20+ milers or less. I actually felt quite confident in my ability to run a slow, "easy" 100 miles.

Since returning from Colorado, Samantha and I have spent little time together. We were looking forward to a weekend together without  work and school distractions(other than, of course, the 100). She got her work obligations out of the way, and I got a jump on studying and assignments. The road was waiting for us, and we took off on Thursday morning.

The drive down to North Carolina was great. We made good time getting to West Virginia, and really enjoyed each other's company all the way down. Instead of obsessing over the race, I was just enjoying the ride with her, talking about this and that, from work to life to how we will be valuable in  zombie apocalypse(we're weird). I realized that even though we met at a young age, we grew together independently, and took convoluted emotional paths to finally end up at the same place. After a rough patch of snow in the mountains of West Virginia, we called it a night at hotel in Greensboro, NC. They were downright fraudulent about their rates, but we were just too tired to give a shit.

It was the next morning that I really started getting nervous. Had I really prepared myself for this? I felt kind of light-headed and heavy-legged.

We made our way to Raleigh, were found our hotel and a bit to eat. I knew I should eat, but had no appetite. Friends were texting, "Are you ready? This is a big deal, man!" I tucked my phone in my pocket and tried to eat. After I got my fish tacos down, we headed to Umstead State Park to check out the race area and pick up my packet. It was only a couple miles down the road from the hotel, and we were early to packet pickup. We walked around for a bit, killed some time, and walked over to the cabin where I'd get my bag, number, hat, and tiny sample-sized bar of hippie soap.

Nothing left to do but do the damned thing.

Samantha and I went for a hike to enjoy some warm weather. The snow hadn't quite melted in the trails near our home, so actually walking on dirt was something we hadn't done in 6 months or so. We walked around, enjoying some new scenery and talking. There were but a few other people in the park, and we took our time. The trail would eventually lead to a lake, and I couldn't wait to see it. I continually drummed the pocket of my jeans with my fingers to make sure nothing fell out. I was beginning to fill with a happy, eager feeling as we walked through the dark woods toward the sun-exposed lake. I saw it over a hill, and had a hard time talking. Luckily, Sam was carrying the conversation and didn't notice.

We made it to the lake and she told me how much she loves being near water. I imagine she feels the way I feel when sitting on a peak. The feeling of being home, regardless of actual location. As we've grown, "home" is no longer a place for me, it's a face. It's her face. Clearly, I wasn't nervous about any race.

At the Umstead State Park in North Carolina, I asked a girl to marry me.

After 7(or is it eight?) years together, I shouldn't have been too worried about the answer.

nothing fancy, we aren't fancy people.

She said yes. We've been together since before she could drive a car. Why wouldn't she say yes? Because I'm a flaky, selfish, idealistic dreamer, that's why. I'm lucky she sees something else.

The Race itself?


I'll cut to it: I dropped out. No injury, no sickness, no soreness to speak of. I was conservatively running with the intent of speeding up. I reached the 100k(ish) mark in 12 hours. The only explanation I have is pretty simple. I'd had enough.

The first laps went exceedingly well. I routinely erred on the side of running too slow. Walked every hill, found an efficient pace for downhills, and ran easily enough to breathe out of my nose. The 12.5 mile loops still clicked by in the 2:00-2:20 range.
still running easy enough to wear a sweatshirt after lap 1
It did eventually heat up to a balmy 65 degrees, but not enough to bother me, in spite of being a blubbery Michigan Eskimo. The course itself is very enjoyable...for a few laps. The laps would be wonderful for two or three loops to make a fast, hilly long run. 100 miles? A little too much repetition for this guy.

Why drop out of this race? At mile 60 or so, a list popped into my head that I could no longer ignore. I've run 100 miles before. Twice. At altitude. Over mountains. It was slow, but the scenery and the terrain captivated me. Running dirt roads like the very one I live on just wasn't holding my attention. Dark was coming, and I wanted delicious food. Maybe an awesome salad and a beer.

Most importantly, I think my mind was just not in it. I just got engaged for Christ's sake! If I even had to think twice about leaving my beautiful bride to be as I go shuffle around in the dark on a boring ass loop for the 6th, 7th, and 8th time, I don't deserve her.

I hope this doesn't sound negative. I enjoyed myself right up until the point where I dropped out. I ran with wonderful people, saw a new area of the country, and had a fantastic long run. The ultra community, especially those subjecting themselves to 100 miles, is filled with great folks.

I'm not one to speak in certainties, but I think this is the last time I'll find my name on the list for a 100 start for a while. I realized when I reeaaallly casually jogged a 9hour 50 at this event, that the 50 mile distance is where my heart is. It's a distance that one can (somewhat) aggressively cover technical trail, while still clearly showing patience and endurance. My current demeanor just loves the 50 mile. I'm not patient or stubborn enough for a 100, nor am I intense enough for the marathon. Still enough wiggle room to use leg speed, but allows for some leeway. I think I'll set my sights on a fall 50 and make it my own pursuit of athletic excellence.

Since dropping out, I've had a couple excellent speedier runs in the 20 mile range, I'm running with some consistency and feel better than ever. I think this was a fantastic jumpstart to a breakthrough summer. A hobbyjogger can dream! In the meantime, I've got a wedding to plan(HA! as if men have say-so in the planning process. Seinfeld was right. There's a reason we're all dressed the same).

Enjoy health and wellness, everyone!


  1. Dude! Congratulations to you and Samantha! After the recent events in Boston, it was nice to hear some good news.

    You're absolutely right about how being with the right person changes what your perception of 'home' is. I've been married almost 20 years now, and I always feel at home with my wife, though our physical location of home has involved 1 Canadian province, 2 US states, and an island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

  2. Thank you, David. we've yet to meet in person, but your comments over the last year or so have been important to me. You gave a little advice last year when I moved back to Michigan, and I took it to heart.

    The Boston tragedy is atrocious. It does reinforce to our weird community that running itself is so insignificant, but the act of celebrating life through physical exertion is sacred to us. Thanks again.

  3. Congratulations! This is the most epic race report I've ever read for reasons that have nothing to do with racing! I wish you and your lady all the best and I hope ya'll enjoy the hell out of the spring!

    1. Coming from a dude with a blog that makes this dude want to blog even when his bloggin' game's got more dust than a ho's bible, this brings me joy. Thanks, Pat!

  4. Congratulations man! that is awesome, best wishes to y'all