It was difficult to believe, but the big weekend was finally here. Within a month of my DNF at Umstead 2011, I had decided I was going for a redemption run in 2012. I had been waiting ever since for another shot at Umstead 100 and it had been a loooong year! I made sure to get a deep tissue massage 8 days beforehand to help work out some tightness in my calves and IT bands. I also got a pedicure 7 days before race day to try to prevent blisters by smoothing out the rough edges from old blisters and callouses. While waiting for my pedicure, I spontaneously decided to see if I could get some custom artwork.
|I know I have funny-looking toes, don't laugh.|
With the Umstead race logo triangle and a sparkly "100" on my big toes for an extra boost of motivation and confidence, I was ready to go.
The Umstead 100 course is a 12.5 mile lap that is shaped like a lolly pop with an out and back spur. There is quite the buffet of an aid station adjacent to the Head Quarters building and a second manned fully stocked aid station buffet, AS2, at about mile 6.5 of each lap. There are also 3 other water points along the course, one of which had gels, snacks, and Gatorade.
My plan was to run the first 50 miles in about 12 hours, with each of the four laps in 3 hours plus or minus a few minutes. The second 50 miles would be run in 16 hours with an average of 4 hours each lap. Total goal race time was 28 hours, leaving me a 2 hour cushion to finish under the 30 hour time limit in case of unforeseen issues. I was not going to make the same mistake as I did last year when I foolishly thought I could make it in under 24. Going too hard on the first 50 was not the sole issue last year, but it certainly did contribute to my DNF.
I volunteered at registration on Friday which was a lot of fun because I got to see and meet so many of the other runners. I also got to hang out with my friends Jimbo Plant, Gene Meade and Tammy Massie and met Jimbo's friend Franckie from Tahoe. I attended the race briefing and enjoyed dinner outside at one of the picnic tables with friends. I scarfed down a plate of delicious spaghetti and meatballs and two helpings of race cake and vanilla ice cream. I am a girl who knows how to eat, so ultra running fits me perfectly.
|Start/Finish of each lap. I took this photo before the race started.|
|Linda Banks and I on lap 1|
|Random Super Dave Cockman and me on lap 2|
|Chad, Amelia, and Bogart on Turkey Creek|
37.5 miles down, 62.5 (100K) to go and still on track time wise.
|Coming in to HQ at the end of lap 3 with my Sam shirt on|
|Enjoying ice cream while Jonathan and Charles West check out my blisters|
I have found from experience that periodically walking backwards uphill during a very long run uses different muscles and gives the "forward motion" muscles a break from the continuous use and abuse. I got some funny looks from other runners on the course, but it really seems to help me when the legs are weary of moving forward. If you haven't before, give it a try on your next really long training run or race and see if your legs don't experience some relief when you use different muscles walking backwards. Just don't fall off the trail, crash into obstacles, or other runners while you are doing it! You'll need to peak over your shoulder once in a while to confirm the way is clear. It also helps to have a pacer like Renee who will look out for you and lets you know when you are wandering too far to the side!
One of the hills I used this method on throughout the race was the steepest hill of the course, aptly dubbed Effing Hill. It is the first significant hill after entering the Sawtooth 79 section just past AS2.When we got to Effing Hill, I told Renee about my pile of rocks at the top of the hill. It was Jimbo's genius idea that he shared with me during one of our training runs. A couple of days before the race, he collected 8 rocks for himself and 8 rocks for me from the MTC "dog pen" and he placed them in two piles at a tree at the top of Effing hill. My pile was on the left (L for Lauren) and his was on the right. I had already thrown 4 of my rocks into the woods with glee - one for each time I conquered Effing Hill. The rocks were different sizes and I decided to throw my smallest one on my first lap, next smallest on the second lap, and so on, thus leaving the largest rock for my 8th lap. I threw rock #5 and Renee and I continued down the trail.
|My Dog Pen rocks just before I threw my 4th one. Jimbo's are on the right.|
|Me and Renee after Lap 5|
One funny thing that happened on the back side of Sawtooth 79 section was that two male runners called out to us and asked if we had seen the "glowing eyes in the woods". They were pretty freaked out thinking they were coyotes or something. Having done many night/early morning runs at Umstead, my home turf, I asked if there was a group of them and about this high (making motion of expected height) and they said yes. I was like "those are deer, we see them all the time at night". We had a good chuckle over the men who were afraid of the does. We made it back to HQ in a steady 4:24. Slow, but still chugging along.
|E and I after lap 6 - less than a marathon left!|
|Getting my feet worked on again before lap 7 while enjoying a frappucinno|
I don't remember what we talked about during our lap or how I made it through yet another 12.5 miles. One thing that I do remember is that we were just past AS2 next to Ebenezer Ch. Rd. when I heard the birds beginning to chirp. It was about 5:30 in the morning and they were waking up and bringing in the new day. It was then it "dawned" on me - pun intended - that I had made it through the long night, the darkest and hardest hours of a hundred miler and I had not fallen asleep on my feet or laid down in the middle of the trail as sometimes happens to weary runners. That in itself was a success. Soon the sun would be up and my quest would be coming to an end. By the time we were jogging down Powerline Hill on Graylyn trail, the sun was up and the birds were in full swing. We made it the 3 miles back to HQ in 4:30, my slowest lap, but it included about 45 minutes of stopping.
Our trail buddy and training partner, Gene, was waiting to join us for the last lap. He had pace another friend, Amy Surrette, on her 6th lap and then worked in a nap before getting ready to pace me. I was now on a mission - so close to finishing yet so far - and I quickly grabbed a short sleeve shirt from my supplies in HQ and headed back out to start my 8th and final lap. Mo and Gene were not ready for me to be so fast as they were now used to my customary lolly gagging between laps. Gene had promised he would wear his kilt to amuse me on the last lap and I barked at him "where's your kilt, get your kilt on" or something like that but being a good natured fellow, he took it all in stride. Mo had planned to change into something cooler and was getting ready to do so when I took off down the hill, past the start/finish flags and tape one last time, leaving my pacers behind in my rush. I wasn't worried because I knew they would catch up to me quickly seeing as they were still relatively fresh compared to me, despite earlier pacing and volunteering. They soon joined up with me a little ways down the camp road. We were now a "last-lap-ass-kicking posse" and we were laughing and joking despite me being both weary and whiny. When we reached the cone for the airport spur turn around, I went around one way and Gene ran around the other. Mo caught our silliness with her camera.
|All fun and games at the turn around|
When we reached AS2 for the last time, I hit the porta john (I was staying hydrated for sure) and Mo snapped this great shot of me as I emerged. :-)
|Exhausted, I gingerly push the germy door away from myself.|
|The last-lap-ass-kicking posse|
|Heaving my last rock!|
When we reached the top of the Powerline Hill, we saw another friend, Amy Surrette, also on her way to her first 100 finish. She was with her husband Andy and was walking due to very bad, painful blisters. I teared up a little seeing the pain on her face. I knew partly what she was feeling and was compelled to give her a hug. She is a strong, strong runner and I knew I would see her at HQ shortly.
We picked it up a little down the hill and ran the whole way to the bridge at the bottom then walked until we turned right onto Reedy Creek trail again. We saw Rhonda's husband Mike in the truck at the water stop, but I'm not sure he saw us. At this point, I just had a couple of miles left until I finished my first 100 and I was focused on that. Compelled by this knowledge, I kept on moving and tried to pick up the pace as much as possible. Every step hurt my feet, but I was also getting excited. We walked with a purpose up Cemetery Hill and when we crested it, I started right back to running again. In a few minutes, we were turning right onto the camp road, past the gate and my puking rock where my race had ended prematurely the year before. The camp road is fairly rocky and with every footfall, my sore aching feet protested the punishment, but I knew I was so close to my goal and I was not about to stop running now. I remember saying to Mo and Gene that I was really going to finish, that I couldn't believe it and asking if it was real or if it was a dream. We turned left at the fork in the road, then past the old cabin on the right, through the clearing, and then all of a sudden the finish was in sight. I could hear the cheering of all the wonderful supporters and volunteers. They were cheering for me! I sprinted forward, striding over each timber across the trail so as not to catch my toes. Those last yards were just as I had planned and imagined and I flew up that hill and under the banner in 28 hours, 29 minutes, and 57 seconds.
After my head cleared a bit, I sat down with the best bacon and cheese omelet I have ever had. I think I had two more pancakes by Ben. I also enjoyed a lovely massage courtesy of Denise. It is all really a blur now as I am writing this 7 weeks afterwards, but I had Chad and many friends there congratulating me and taking care of me. My parents arrived and my mom gave me a banner she had made me. Mom was really disappointed that they had not arrived in time to see me cross the finish line. Mo gave me two congrats balloons that she had bought ahead of time - I guess she knew I would finish all along. I talked with Jimbo and Alanna and I think Jennifer Frahm and Jenn Ennis. I gave Amy a hug after she came into HQ after her finish. My mentor and friend, Rhonda, told me how proud she was and that I ran a great race. So many friends had impressive first performances. Bill finished his first 50 in under 10 hours. Bob, Charles A., Shannon, and Jeff finished their first 100 in under 24 hours. Linda, Alanna, and Amy all finished their first 100. Jade and Bryant had big distance PRs. As Jimbo would say, there was a whole lot of awesomeness going on at Umstead this year.
|With Mo and Gene at the finish|
The Umstead 100 is a special race put on by amazing people who truly care about the success of their runners. It really feels like you are with family when you are there amidst all the enthusiastic, dedicated people involved in this event. I am especially lucky in that I am local and have had the joy of meeting and getting to know so many of those who were out on the course and involved in the race. Some additional perks of the Umstead is that finishers receive a certificate of completion for the 100 miles, prints of the photos taken by race staff of them on the course, detailed splits, and a nice letter from the RD, Blake, welcoming finishers into the ranks of hundred milers.
|My finisher's pendant!|
|Freshly showered and resting on Chad's shoulder|