March 29, 2007

Old Friend

Umstead 100-Miler, my favorite ultra, is Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.

Well, it starts Saturday. I will still be out there Sunday until at least 4 a.m., and probably longer.

I have finished the 100-mile distance there seven times and made it to 50 miles two or three other times. All have been memorable. I have been out there during hurricane winds complete with rain blowing sideways (really neat for the 10 minutes; totally sucks once the temp drops 37 degrees!). Remember the Hail-Bop Comet? Yep, chased that puppy all night long in 1996, I think. One of the most amazing skies I have seen. I have had the same hallucination in separate years (MAN how did they build that condo out there along that power line???). I have fallen asleep running there and awakened before falling down. I have managed to finish fast enough to beat daylight a couple times, one of the coolest feats in ultrarunning.

Most of all, I have forged some dear, dear friendships in those North Carolina woods. Ben Clark, Brian Clark, Lee Cox, Will Brown, Tom Green, Missy Heeb, Shelly and Andy Wunsch, my buddy Bob Ring, Dennis Hamrick, Aaron Goldman, Leo Lightner. That's just the short list of people I have had the honor of playing in the dirt with there. Umstead is all those folks, and so much more. It's race director Blake Norwood and his wife Myra. It's top-notch aid stations with the kindest volunteers and the best food.

All packed and ready. Heading out tomorrow morning. Psyched beyond psyched.

Umstead is an old friend. Umstead is home.

March 20, 2007

Pacer Boy strikes again

Shamrock was completely and utterly awesome!

I helped a couple dozen marathoners hit 4:00 or slightly faster as an official member of the Shamrock Pacer Group. What fun!

Up to 10 miles, we were anywhere from 20 seconds to 40 seconds slower than 9:09/mile pace -- the average mile pace needed for a 4:00 marathon. I rolled us up to 11 seconds slow at 13.1 miles, the halfway mark, then backed off as the more vocal members of the tribe quieted.

Forty seconds slow at Mile 17, I gathered the forces and announced that it was time to mount the ponies and close the gap, and that we were going to do this gently in hopes of not having anybody run a particular mile too fast and blow a gasket or two. Whittling away, we passed Mile 19 20 seconds slow, Mile 21 10 seconds slow and hit Mile 23 precisely when my countdown timer hit 0:00! How cool is THAT?!

I finished in 3:59:47, then it was Rock Star Status with much hand-shaking and several photo ops in between two of the coldest Yuengling I have ever quaffed (nothing like a beer company sponsoring your marathon!). Weird though, having the stew line three times longer than the beer line.

Totally enjoyable day on the run.

March 14, 2007

Shamrock No. 22 just around the bend

Wow. Hard to believe that Sunday will be my 22nd Shamrock Marathon. Is that possible? 22? First one in 1984, that first spring out of college? Check. Nailed a Boston Marathon qualifier with a 3:06:45, my personal-best marathon, in 1991 at Shamrock? Check. 1984? 1991? Really? Oh so true.

This is my second straight year as a member of the Pacer Team, this time helping guide the 4-hour-flat group.

Know what's cool? I like it now more than ever.

March 2, 2007

Big Group This Morning

Man, everybody was there on my two-hours-starting-at-0400 run this morning.

Regis Shivers, who taught by example that you can compete and still be kind. Ben Clark, who has dragged me through countless trail miles that have helped me define the real me. Jeff, Neil and Pete, who I spent my first five or six years of ultrarunning chasing, running from, laughing and becoming brothers with. Dennis Herr, Gary Knipling, Chris Scott. Horton. Milton Webb, Dennis Hamrick, Mickey Jones. Aaron Goldman, who at 67 shared the final 25 miles of what turned out to be the first 100-mile finish for each of us back there in what seems like a lifetime ago. My current crew of Sophie, Potts, Michelle and Quatro, who show me over and over and over again that the best medicine is a big smile, a quick laugh, a good 'tude and a day playing in the dirt with people you love.

Anyone driving through this morning's pea-soup fog on that two-lane country road saw just one runner with a kick-butt flashlight and a funny-looking rain hat. They were all there, though.

(Regis Shivers Sr., about the toughest ultrarunner ever and a true man's man, died earlier this week after an excruiatingly long fight with cancer. RIP, dawg. RIP.)