Race Report 10/2/2009
I would first like to thank God for blessing me with the good health that made it possible for me to attempt and finish my first 100 Miler. I do not take my health for granted. There are many people with physical ailments who would love to celebrate their health as I have been able to do. Only through God’s grace was I able to train and prepare for something so demanding as the Grindstone 100.
Much gratitude goes to Clark and everyone involved in putting this event together. Your time and energy spent in making this such an awesome race is very much appreciated. I know we runners sometimes forget to thank you as we rush through your aid stations, but we do realize the event does not happen without the hard working volunteers.
To my pacers who supported me before, during, and after the race, thank you Micah and Jeremy. I never had a pacer in a race and therefore never understood or appreciated the importance in a one hundred mile event. Having those guys with me reminding me to eat and hydrate was huge. So many times I wanted to stop eating but their presence the second half of the race was awesome. Thanks for the encouragement and motivation to help me accomplish the biggest feat in my athletic career.
Thank you, Donna Elder and David Horton, for your support. It seemed like Donna was at every aid station smiling at me and reminding me that this was fun (?) I always appreciate Horton kicking me in the butt and reminding me that I was “second woman.” That’s always been a huge motivation for me as I have never ran an ultra where I beat all the women. Maybe one day I’ll be first “woman” as Horton says. All jokes aside, Horton has taught me the importance of setting goals and achieving them. His advice and wise counsel helped me become the ultra runner I am. He’s my free coach I guess.
Lastly I want to thank my Dad for being there for me. I think he was more nervous going into the race than I was. Having a son myself gives me a new perspective on what it would be like to see my son achieve his goals and dreams. I can’t explain how good it feels to make my dad proud of me. That’s so cool to be able to experience that day with him. Despite him manning two aid stations in the race, he seemed to be waiting for me at several of the late aid stops. That’s got to be hard watching your son fight through the pain. Does a father want to throw in the towel for his son or does he push him to more pain and suffering? That’s a tough question. Even though he wasn’t with me physically for the whole race, he was with me in spirit. He knew what I was experiencing, and I knew he was cheering and supporting me with his prayers. Thanks Dad! Good times!
I was pretty pumped up walking to the start line. We had a few minutes to soak it all in as Clark prayed and gave some last announcements. I looked back at the pack of runners and remember thinking, these people are crazy too. Surprisingly the pack went out fast and it didn’t take long before I was telling myself to back off the pace. Mario and I settled into a nice stride going into the first aid station. We were having fun running into the darkness and my dad was at the first aid station. He told me to take it easy early in the race and he would see me at Reddish Knob (mile 48).
I could feel myself getting sucked out with the leaders as Donna Utakis and I were running together for a section going into Dowell’s Draft. She was leaving me on the uphills and I would pass her on the downs. I wasn’t running my race but was working too hard and running the down hills too recklessly. All of a sudden I was flat on my back looking up at the bright harvest moon. I had tripped over a rock, fell on my right shoulder, rolled on to my back, and fortunately landed on dirt. I checked myself over and was relieved I only had a cut on my knee and some soreness in my shoulder. This fall became my wake up call realizing my race must change from running wild and careless to becoming more careful and conservative if I was going to finish. I let Donna disappear into the darkness ahead and began to settle into a comfortable pace. I thought how stupid I would have felt if I had hurt my right arm since I am a barber by profession. Coming home with a broken arm would have been tragic, but looking back on the incident amazes me that I landed in dirt instead of rocks and roots. At this point I settled on the fact that I was going to be alone in the woods all night and if I could just make it to daylight feeling good I would be okay. I knew that Micah was going to join me at the turn and that was comforting, somewhat.
I was hurting pretty bad coming into mile 36 aid station (weigh stop). I had been running with an abdominal cramp that came from working too hard early. Running down hills wildly always does that to me. I was really mad at myself for being so stupid; however, I weighed the same as at the start so I knew I had been drinking and eating well so far.
The lowest point of the race me came in the next section. My MP3 player died on me at 3:30 AM. I was 3 or 4 hours from daylight, alone in the woods, in silence. All kinds of thoughts crept into my mind as I repeatedly noticed how big and bright the moon was.
I don’t remember the exact section I was on at the time but the climbs seemed especially tough. I knew Little Bald aid station was coming up soon, but it seemed like forever. I did a lot of praying during that section. The reported eight miles to JB’s aid station at Little Bald seemed like twenty. I was asking God to give me the strength to make it to daylight. I knew if I could make it to the turn, I could survive to the finish. That eight mile section was huge for me because I walked the up hills and jogged the flats and recovered from the damage done earlier. My cramps were gone and my energy was maintaining. I could remember thanking God for the opportunity to celebrate my health while I suffered through the emotions of self pity and self doubt. As I left JB’s aid station feeling refreshed I saw an approaching light bobbing in the distance. It was the leader, Carl Meltzer. He looked focused and intense. He motivated me as I took off down the hill he was running up. I started calculating how far he was ahead of me and I was blown away. He is amazing.
It was really cold at Reddish Knob. I was glad to have my dad there to encourage me as I climbed to the peak. What an awesome view from the top! Breathtaking! I knew I would be back there soon so I didn’t stay long.
Finally I was at the turnaround where Micah and Jeremy waited for me on Gnashing Knob. Some snacks, Mountain Dew, and with my pacer in tow; I headed back for Reddish Knob. I was feeling pretty good now that the sun was rising and I was so happy to drop off my head lamp with Dad. The hot chicken noodle soup was like rocket fuel. I felt like a new man on a new day. Micah and I had fun as we talked about football in between him reminding me to eat and drink. Those thirty miles would have been very tough, maybe impossible without him.
When we finally got to Dowell’s Draft Jeremy was ready to go. He had my camel pack refilled by someone while he grabbed some food and told me to take off. I was thinking to myself, “why the rush!” As he handed me food to put in my pockets he told me I was in position to get top ten. That’s NOT what I wanted to hear because I was ready to slow down and just survive to the finish. Here he was fresh legs and well rested; talking about picking it up and catching the guy ahead.
The climb up Crawford was really tough as I nibbled on blocks and cookies all the way to the top. Jeremy continuously pushed me on with encouragement and lies. He kept telling me “this is the last climb” and then there’d be another one. It was frustrating, but it worked. I won’t mention the thoughts I was having about Jeremy through these sections. In my mind I was mad at him but I kept it to myself.
As we picked up the pace on top of Crawford I became emotional and choked up when we saw Bobby Gill limping with a walking stick. As we approached him Jeremy told me not to stop. He said he would stop and talk to him, but I offered Bobby some ibuprofen and told him I was sorry for his injury. Seeing him suffer made me realize how fortunate I was to be feeling good at eighty five miles into this monster of a course. As I ran off alone down the mountain I remember tears filling my eyes as I reflected on how bad it would feel to be so close to the finish and not make it. Once again I thanked God for getting me this far and realized how easily that could have been me walking with a stick.
Jeremy and I were rolling coming down off Elliot’s. I left him on the gravel road while he made a pit stop. He caught me at the bottom finally and told me how fast he had to run to catch up with me. This was surprisingly the high point of the race for me. I couldn’t believe how good my legs felt at mile ninety, running down hills. My quads were not sore as expected and my knees were feeling fine. I just let gravity take me down the single track to the creek and into the aid station. For me, this is what running ultras is all about; downhill single track trails, ninety miles into a hundred miler, ¼jacked up! Indescribable!
Hard work and training had paid off. I believe my constant eating and drinking led me to feel so good at this point. I have to give a lot of credit to MAX GXL. It is a natural supplement I have been using for several months. I can’t believe what it has done for my recovery during and after runs. I am convinced that the product is great for ultra runners.
Jeremy and I ran together into the last aid station. Needless to say I was ready to be done with this. I knew I had it licked but mentally, it was a tough last five miles. Jeremy finally let me hike with a stick a little but when we got to King’s Gap we picked it up again. I decided I was going to run to the finish once I got to the camp. Jeremy peeled off and let me run around the lake to the finish alone. Wow! What a feeling! I was finishing the Grindstone 100 Miler! Crossing that finish line was definitely the best and most satisfying feeling I’ve ever experienced in sports. I didn’t want that moment to end. Clark handed me my “hard to read” belt buckle and Patagonia finisher shirt and I hugged the totem pole with relief. That was a special moment there with my dad and my pacers. I looked to the sky and said “Thank you Jesus; all glory goes to Him, My Lord and Savior! (Phil 4:13).
Thinking back to that moment gives me goose bumps, but I have heard we have to find our own level of insanity as it relates to ultras. Training for a hundred was a strain on my family and caused me to question my ability to maintain my priorities. With two kids (ages five and twenty months) and a supporting wife, fitting in the long runs seemed impossible at times. I would like to thank my wife Kim for standing by me in my pursuit of these running goals; and as crazy as running ultras seem to some, Kim has been a huge encouragement to me. Although it was an amazing feeling to finish a hundred mile race, I have a hard time imagining doing another. My first priority is to keep God at the center and become the best husband and father for my family.