December 14, 2010

Math is Sometimes Good

In the spirit of go-for-it-to-finish-the-year-big, I unveil the following ...

The 12-in-17 Plan.

That's 12 in 17, as in 12 more runwalks of at least 2 hours in duration across the remaining 17 days of calendar year 2010. Why, you ask? Simple. Because once I knock down these 12 runwalks of at least 2 hours in duration across the remaining 17 days of calendar year 2010, I will then be able to stand on the tailgate of the Millenium Falcon (aka 10-year-old Ben Gentry's name for my 2004 Nissan pickup) and crow ...

"Oh yeah, 2010. That was the year that I averaged a long run every other day. Yeah. For the whole year. Yeah."

Some quick math. 365 days in 2010. Half of that is ... lemme see here ... 182.5. And with this being Dec. 14 and my total resting at a big, fat 171, and my JMU Christmas break time off from work running (arf! arf!) Thursday, Dec. 23, through the end of the year, lemme see here ... if I can manage to throw down an extra one here ... and here ... and ... oh, lookit ... we come to Dec. 31 and a year-end tally of ... 183.

Sometimes, you just gotta go a little crazier than your normal crazy. Yep. Must. do. this.

Let the hunt begin, baby!

December 7, 2010

One step at a time

Beautiful, beautiful solo run this morning. Two hours of 9 minutes run/1 minute walk through the darkened streets of da 'Burg before work. 19F with a steady wind that made it a heckuva lot colder than that. Wore tights. Hopefully will have the good sense to continue doing that all winter.

One of those mornings when 1.6753-million thoughts streamed through my brain and nearly all were positive. Or at least wound up as positive after passing through the this-frozen-morning, endorphin-covered filter that sometimes doubles as my brain.

This morning's random list ...

• Why do coaches holler at us when we're reffing? Does it EVER help their causes?
• Another huge training year. Record totals for long-run frequency and overall time on feet. Sweetness!
• Need to e-mail Brad to snag a spot pacing at Shamrock Marathon again.
• Beeeeep. Oh wow. Already at 7 cycles of 9/1? No way!
• Crewing Amy at Hellgate this coming wknd is gonna be awesome!
• 17 weeks till Umstead. 23 till Three Days at the Fair. Not many more after that till OD 100. Lots to do to get ready. Oh what fun it will beeeeee!
• If 2-hour runwalks help define you, is there any hope at all that you can be classified as "normal?"
• OK, how 'bout this: In tonight's varsity girls' game, the first time a really obnoxious fan yells, how 'bout I blow the whistle, stop the game, run up in the stands and scream my head off at the dude? "Actually, idiot, yeah, I do happen to know what a walk looks like. I've done, what, 1,000 games maybe. I've called a few walks. And while we're at this, a kid hasn't had to be completely still to draw a charge for, oh, I dunno, maybe 20 years. He can even -- brace yourself -- be jumping in the air. It's called The Rule of Verticality! Oh, and one more thing: We don't cheat your team! Now, because I suck so badly, here's your $5 back. No, really. Keep it. What? Am I being a jackass?!" (Sorry. referee non-humor. Sometimes, I need to vent.)
• Slow down. Easy does it. Smiles rule.
• Man, that wind is cold. Man, that sky is gorgeous!
• Rabbit!
• How am I gonna finish Umstead, do 250km at Three Days, then come back and finish OD, all within a 9-week stretch? I know. I know. The same way I have been since the first day I laced up those adidas SL-72s 35 years ago.

One step at a time.

September 30, 2010

Saved by a Trash Bag

OK, so Hinson didn't go anywhere close to as well as I had hoped.

Did slightly more than 100km, 41 laps, before shutting it down at 4:20 a.m. Sunday after an 8 a.m. Saturday start.

In freakish 97F, I popped off 25 laps with my friend Suzanne in 8:00:00 -- on pace to crack my 100-mile PR by one hour!!! -- then the puke-fest ensued and I managed just 16 more laps in the remaining 12.5 hours. Well played, Goob. Well played.

I was eating. I was drinking. I was flying. And then, pretty much all at once, ka-BLAM! Stomach went South. I walked. Tried ginger ale. And kept walking. Tried candied ginger. Walked and sat. Walked and sat. Switched to really cold water. Tried cheese 'za. Even considered eating a bug that I found crawling across my lap about 3 a.m. Sunday, but it got away before I could close the deal.

I let my friend Donnie drag me back outta the chair and back out onto the course for one more lap shortly after the bug thing. I had one more lap to get to 100k. Donnie had one more lap to, as he so eloquently put it, "beat all the bozos who quit or will quit at 100k," so off we went. I had nothing left at all. Check that. I could still dry-heave great. Did that three times on that final 1.5-mile loop.

I went for it. I drew back a nub. Hinson Lake grade = Ep. ic. fail.

Solo trip home bordered on miserable. Cranky and tired from a fitful 3 hours of sleep afterward -- after practically no sleep Friday night -- and then a 6-hour drive with not close to enough stops. Proud that I kept trying and trying to find some sour belly answers before finally packing it in during the run, yet still pretty disappointed in the final outcome.

Short runs Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Lotsa non-running time to sit around and feel like an old coot and an abject failure who maybe shouldn't even try long ultras anymore.

Then came a marvelous thing this morning. That thing? A Trash Bag Run.

Woke up normal time for a Thursday, 4:01 a.m. Coffee maker was perking on auto. Wait? What's that roar? Is that rain hitting the side of the house? OK. Lemme look a sec. Whoa! That's not rain. That's SHEETS of rain! Great. Outstanding. So I'm gonna go do a solo 2-hour runwalk in the dark in THAT? On still-probably-too-tired legs four days after a 100k puke-fest? Really? OK, so now would be a good time to try out that new Mizuno jacket Craig gifted me as part of my TRC gig. Right? Um, well, maybe not the best idea to test-drive it in THIS weather. OK, maybe I'll just mess around and go 30 minutes or something once it gets daylight.

And that's when it hit me. Oh. my. GOSH! I know EXACTLY what I need. Serious time for a first-time-in-a-few-years Trash Bag Run! Lemme check over here in the garage ... and ... bingo! ... still one big, honkin' brown leaf bag left from the fall. Sweetness.

So a 20-minute drive later, I'm shoving off from JMU's Godwin Hall parking lot wearing a trash bag as a rain jacket. Learned the trick at my first Old Dominion 100-Miler when I think everybody in the field was wearing one as the sky dumped buckets on us at 4 a.m. on that steamy June morn.

Wind is cranking. Rain is blowing. Temperature is mid-50s. And then there is me, with the bag covering my torso and my Outdoor Research Gor-Tex hat-covered head poking out of a hole I tore in the bottom of the bag. And I have the biggest smile on my face. And the happiest song in my heart.

Two hours of runwalk later, I'm ready to take on the world again. And all it took was a driving rainstorm and a brown trash bag.

Lucky, lucky me.

September 23, 2010

Pre-race Thursday

(Subtitle: Even Pro Tapers Suck)

Did I pack those extra shorts? Wonder if I should really drive I-81 and U.S. 220, or if I oughta go U.S. 29 that I know. Well, that I know except for that part around Greensboro. I gotta remember to call my boy Doc when I get around there too. Been way too long since I saw him. Can't believe they're actually moving to Charlottesville. How cool is that? Is it really gonna be 92F Saturday? Holy crap, that's gonna be something. And with 200 and whatever people in the field, there is really gonna be some carnage out there. Please please please do not let yourself be part of that. Patience, patience, PATIENCE. Dude, it's 24 hours. There is no "too slow" for the running. We're talking just-faster-than-a-crawl pace at the start. And gentle walking. Man, I hope Andy can meet with me and David today or next Tuesday to yak about that Choose JMU brochure. And I gotta tell Chris to dig out that Duke Dog coloring thing and send it to Monyette. Maybe I ought to re-do my to-do list first thing. Is it Saturday yet? Or even Friday so I can get going on this trip. On Friday, do I Little Grill first for the awesome Blue Monkeys, or do I just run short, shower quick and then get the heck outta Dodge ... and get to Rockingham by late morning ... and sit around all day freakin' myself completely out. OK. OK. Little Grill. Or maybe I run short, shower quick and then meet Jack and Vince for Shank's muffins like a normal Friday. All that's left to pack is the cooler. Did I put my Saucony Rides in there? No I am NOT unpacking this whole truck. Wonder if I can find some pumpkin beer somewhere? Doesn't that sound delicious for Friday night? Especially if it's been on ice all day. Chocolate milk? Check. Ginger wedges? Yup. S-Caps? Si. Thyroid med? In the bag on the counter by the potato bowl in the kitchen ... with the S-Caps, ginger wedges and Nathan electrolyte tabs. Oh, and the chocolate goldfish. Why does 10 p.m. always feel like what I imagine 1 or 2 a.m. should feel like when I'm doing a timed event? Maybe it's cause I always go. out. too. fast? Slower-than-everybody-else-who-is-serious does not necessarily mean slow enough. Do NOT forget to re-order that Student Information Card. This will be my third time at Hinson. Is the third time really the charm? All good things come in threes, right? And I really hope this book on CD turns out to be a good one. So glad Rinn's letting me borrow her GPS. Is it Saturday yet? Or at least Friday, so I can get this show on the road? OK, so it's Thursday. And I'm typing this from the driver's seat of my pickup. At 4:38 a.m. OK, def time for a short run.

September 14, 2010

Dear Hinson Lake 24-Hour ...

Hello, my friend.

Next weekend, I'm coming down for another visit. This will be my third trip. The last two have been, um, interesting.

You look and sound pretty lame, but you've shown me your bad side both times so far. Lemme see ... 67 miles in 15 hours the first year ... 72 miles in 19 hours last year ... a pair of not-so-impressive days that started well and ended really, really badly.

Dude, 91F next Saturday?! Seriously? Kewl! 91F. Any chance you could bump that up maybe 10 or so? Last time I went stupid long in that kind of heat was Old Dominion 2009, and it squashed me like a freakin' bug! Thing is, you are a lot different than OD. Your ground is soft the whole way. Shaded, too, for almost the whole 1.52-mile loop. Another diff: your drinks and snacks are much closer together. Don't get me wrong now. You are still hard. But it's a way diff kind of hard than OD or Massanutten or Mohican. You are sneaky hard. Especially after the lights go out.

Well, and this summer has been pretty brutal here in Virginia, so I've been baking on many, many long runs this summer.

Anyway, I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I'm coming back. And this time I'm a LOT more ready than I have been the past two times. Don't wanna bore you with a buncha numbers, but suffice it to say that I've been working my hind end off in my hippy-out kind of way all year.

This time, my mind is in a different place. The 5-minutes-here, 5-minutes-there yoga has helped a lot with that. So did that solo 6-hour 50km three-peat of Brown's Gap Road on that smokin'-hot Sunday not too long ago. And that 4-hour road run with Bob where I fought through a pretty major bonk, yet managed to actually control the pace for the final 5 miles. And, of course, the bazillion 2-hour runs that all add up to steady-as-she-goes ultra fitness. Well, and there's also a nice 25:00:00 at Umstead and a decent 125 miles at that 48-hour in New Jersey. And guess what? No sore-as-you-know-what quads and hammies from a way-too-fast Charleston Distance Run two weeks before coming to see you this year.

So, how's this one gonna play out?

I've been playing this game long enough to stop short of predicting a final outcome, yet I'm feeling safe in saying that, this time, I am up for a good fight.

Wanna know what my plan is this time? OK. I'll give you a hint. I don't have one. Yeah. That's right. No plan. How come, you ask? Well, it's like this: I've tried the meticulous plan the last two times and, as you know, you have pretty much sent me home sniveling. The trouble with me and "a plan" is that when the plan blows up, the inability to properly execute "the plan" becomes a serious catalyst for me to quit. This time, I'm rolling on instinct.

Don't worry. I haven't totally lost my mind. I'm bringing some food, chocolate milk, ginger, S-Caps. And I'm bringing my little Nathan belt with the two 10-oz. bottles. Well, and beer. My cooler's bigger now, so there's room for more than there once was.

Anyway, in the end, as we said growing up, talk ain't nothing but talk. Reality is something different. Ultra translation: Like Malcolm Campbell said once in the middle of a 6-day, "You know, this was so much easier at home with my No. 2 pencil."

This is a 24-hour run. Stuff is going to get sideways. And there's gonna come a time or two when you'll help me peel back a layer or two and see what I have deep down inside. Will I or won't I? It's a worthy question. My hope is that we don't get the final answer until 8 a.m. Sunday when the final horn blows.

Anyway, lookin' forward to raising a glass with you Friday evening. And then seeing what we have for each other the rest of the weekend.

In the meantime, stay dry and dusty.


August 29, 2010

The full-on def of WOOT!

Yup. Looks like I am a member of the inaugural team at The Runner's Corner, my buddy Craig Lowry's Harrisonburg, VA-based running shop.

Three words: Pretty. dang. kewl!!!

August 11, 2010

When I Run

When I run, I'm a 15-year-old with my whole life ahead of me. When I run, I'm a gazelle. When I run, everything eventually makes sense.

When I run, the world is right. When I run, problems dissolve. When I run, creativity flows. When I run, I am closer to God than any other time.

When I run, I am a great dad. When I run, I am a moving writer. When I run, poetry comes easily. When I run, tension melts.

When I run, old friends run with me. When I run, boundless energy follows. When I run, imagination comes alive. When I run, resolve personifies. When I run, my mood soars.

When I run, nature engulfs me. When I run, my smile is ceaseless. When I run, priorities untangle. When I run, my dreams come true.

When I run, I am fearless. When I run, I am strong. When I run, responsibilities vanish. When I run, I get lost in happiness.

When I run, I become -- if only for a couple hours -- the person I am meant to be.

August 6, 2010

One Zero Zero

So many races. So many finishes. So many stories.

Walking the last 25 miles and talking the night away with Aaron Goldman on the way to my first finish at Umstead 100 in 1996.

Climbing the gravel road up to Woodstock Tower with Ben Clark at 2 a.m. in June 1998. Mile 92 or so. Ben falls asleep hiking, walks in a ditch, slaps himself awake, then makes fun of me a couple minutes later when I scream like a 6-year-old girl at what I thought was a monster in the bushes. (Gotta love those early-morning hallucations!). We motored on to a 22:51 finish at that Old Dominion 100.

Me and Amy Brown laughing our way through the final 25 miles of this year's Umstead, then Amy and my brotha Bill Potts -- who watched over me the whole way and paced me Miles 50-75 -- being there at the finish line when longtime friend and Umstead RD Blake Norwood gave me my 1,000-Mile Buckle.

Sharing Promise Land 50km with dear buddy Michelle Huston on her way to her first trail ultra finish line ... just five days after she finished the Boston Marathon.

Mike Broderick's really loud "Gentry, I'm not going to let you DO that!" comment that woke me up 30 seconds after I sat in a chair at Mile 80 of Mohican 100-Miler. We went on to finish in 25 hours. Without Mike, I'd probably still be in that chair. It was 2005.

Suzanne Weightman sharing all 90 miles with me at the Virginia 24-Hour Run for Cancer, including hiking throughout the night as my stomach went so far south that all I could do was sip water and moan. Trying to get me to try something at around 2 a.m., Sue hit me with the classic: "Here, try this cracker. I put garlic on it. Garlic goes with everything." I ate the cracker. And several more. Absolute magic.

Doug Young giving me lots of lip for puking at the 100km mark of that Umstead in blistering heat after we split a way-too-fast 9:25 first 50. I puked 36 more times (give or take three or four here and there), walked from 70 to 80 miles, slept 1 hour, walked to 85, slept 30 minutes, then somehow kept going on the way to a 27:30 finish.

That moment, somewhere at the bottom of Bird Knob around 8 p.m. on May 8, 2004, when Molly Gibb stared me dead in the eyes and said, "Stick out your hand. OK. Now. Promise me that you won't run off and leave me, and I promise that I won't run off and leave you. (We shake.) OK, now let's do this thing." Then we hiked the final 45 MILES of Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-Miler together. (Actually, we ran hand-in-hand the final 300 yards across the grass at the very end. "I stayed up all night with you on your birthday, so we should do a little something to celebrate." Yet another Molly classic.)

Time spent out there with legends and characters. Tom Green. Chris Scott. Doug Young. Mickey Jones. Dennis Hamrick. Jeff Newton. Pete York. Neil Hayslett. Frank Probst. Lee Cox. Ron Shaw. Shelly and Andy Wunsch. Tom Sprouse. John Dewalt.

Is there any way to truly thank the gazillions of people who have contributed to my first 100 finishes? Takes someone a lot smarter than me to figure that one out. Maybe by sharing my deep love for this craziness, I am making at least a small repayment. I hope so, anyway.

A running lifetime of epic moments.

100 ultra finishes. One. Zero. Zero.

And here's to a whole bunch more.

July 16, 2010

A Good Run So Far

Rattlesnake 50km this past weekend marked my 99th ultra finish line. 99 ultras.


If you had told me I'd be at this place back in 1991 when I was training for Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50-Miler, I would have agreed. Same at Mile 33 when I had yet to walk my first step. Same at Mile 42. Most def not the same at the Mile 43 aid station when I was so shot to pieces that I walked the next SIX MILES, cussing myself and RD David Horton and Running Times mag where I'd seen the ad for the race and anything else I could think of to cuss.

After hours of walking, I had convinced myself that I was 1-and-done with this ridiculous ultra experiment, that I'd never set foot on another trail as long as I lived, that people who did this stuff and called it fun were complete morons ... and then here came Dennis Herr. On his mountain bike. Riding the last teeny little technical section of trail on the original MMTR course. Uphill. Without thinking, I broke into a jog. "Yo Dennis." "Hey Billllllll. Wow. Only a mile to go now. You look GREAT! Great JOB!" I did that final mile in 7:09. Have 11 more MMTR finish lines, too. And 10 Umstead 100s, 10 VHTRC Fat-Ass 50kms, 9 Rattlesnakes, etc. etc.

Next after MMTR was Wild Oak 50-Miler. I blistered the 16.5-mile road section, ran most of the next 10-mile trail section and then blew into so many pieces that it was lucky I had enough carcass left to be considered a finisher. I crossed the raging North River with Scott "Maineak" Grierson, the burley dude who almost hiked the Appalachian Trail faster than Horton ran it in 1991. Maineak saved my non-swimming a** twice crossing that river, then climbed Little Bald with me as we passed a dozen runners, then crushed me on the 7-mile mostly downhill to the finish.

The 100-miler finishes loom the largest on the list -- one Old Dominion, one O.D. Memorial, one Mohican, one Massanutten in addition to the 10 Umsteads. The recent 3 Days at the Fair 48-Hour (123.52 miles) and the Massanutten Ring are two more I'm particularly proud of knocking out.

I've done a couple 3-day journey runs, but I don't count those in my total. The Lexington-2-Elkton 3-Day and the Tour de Shenandoah -- the Skyline Drive trek -- were both complete blasts, but just seem a bit too much like training runs to count. Same with when Ring and I did the 77-mile Greenbrier River Trail. Big fun, but not an ultra for my list. I did count when Bur, Q and I did the Double Rivanna that year, so there you have it. Maybe my rule is "more than two" equals in ultra? :) Anyway, one thing is for SURE: if I ever do 4 loops at Wild Oak, i absolutely WILL no-matter-what count that monster. Hah!

Sorta interesting to see names of runs that no longer exist. Del Passatore 100K, the RRCA Eastern Region Track 50-Mile Championship, Fort Valley 50-Miler, August Lunacy 50km. Makes me feel a bit dinosaur-like.

What a fun trip I have had so far. Thousands of miles. So many, many amazing people. What a lucky, lucky dude am I.

Catherine's Big Butt is next Saturday. No. 100 looms. How totally cool is it that such a milestone should happen at a no-entry fee, no-schwag, party-out-for-hours-after-the-finish event such as Catherine's? Perfect.

I have 99 ultra finishes. And 46 marathon finishes. Me. Not a beast like so many of those guys I knew when I started. Just some skinny, blabby guy whose smile is a lot faster than his pace now.

One ultra finish from 100.


May 18, 2010

My first 48

3 Days @ the Fair = 144 laps for 123.52 miles. Thoroughly, thoroughly pleased with this first foray into multi-day fun.

It's Thursday the week after the run and my brain's still got a general fuzziness about it, but here are some impressions that I need to commit to words in hopes that they don't vanish.

Things to remember: Take a table. Take a lawn chair. HEED watermelon rocks. Fresh fruit (watermelon, blueberries, strawberries) rocks even harder!!! Decide to take a sleep break only when your eyes begin to cross. Opt for covering two more laps before each sleep break. Eat a belly-full immediately before sleeping. Change SOCKS!

More things to remember: Spray bottles with cool water. Rain hat. When running on this much pavement for this long, re-apply sunscreen often. Pitch tent as close to the tangent you will be running as you can. Extra steps matter a LOT when you're going for this long.

Practice VERY slow running. Often. So that it doesn't seem quite so weird when you are forced to do it. Develop several different walking "gears." Practice those often, too.

For 2011, remember to bring RD Rick McNulty a six-pack of Starr Hill Lucy.

So, how did it go? Still not sure I have the words to convey it just yet, but i did learn a few lessons along the way.

10) A .85-mile loop is just about perfect for the multi, especially when there's a full-service kitchen right on the course that stays open the entire race.

9) Walking through the heat of each day = solid strategy.

8) Cheese quesadillas are ridiculously tasty at Hour 42.

7) When you sleep, make sure the shoes are off and the feet are ABOVE the heart.

6) A kind word is always worth the effort.

5) Sitting in a "normal" chair without propping your feet above your heart? Worthless.

4) Tough is contagious. Soak it up at every chance.

3) Laughter is strong medicine. For yourself and those around you.

2) Bacon. rules.

1) Run 3 mins., walk 2 mins. is solid. And will be even moreso as I learn how to run slower.

Random thought that flashed through my mind about 3 a.m. Sunday: There is a universe between "I think that I can" and "I have."

May 11, 2010

Here It Comes ...

Three gear bags jammed full. A sleeping bag. A tent. A cooler on wheels. A folding chair. A four-pound bag of trail mix. Myoplex lite. Organic chocolate milk.

Am I running a race or going on a two-week jungle safari?

The 3 Days at the Fair is Friday through Sunday at the New Jersey State Fair. Course is a .85-mile loop. Entrant list reveals 31 pre-registered runners are in the 48-hour. Starts 9 a.m. Friday. Ends 9 a.m. Sunday.

Do I have any idea what I'm getting myself into this time? Not really.

Do I have a plan? Yes. Run 3 minutes. Beep. Walk 2 minutes. Beep. Repeat until i can't stand it any longer, then go to something else. Idea is to go SLOOOOOWLY until, oh, dark ... the first night. (Wow. Yeah. You know it's something when you can use "first night" AND "second night" when talking about a race you're doing. Wow.)

Message for this one is simple: Run from the heart. Embrace the unknown.

This one's been calling to me for some time now. Tomorrow is the 6-hour drive up. Friday, we tee it up. And round and round we go.

Here's to shuffle shuffle plod plod fun fun. And hopefully some unbridled joy along the way.

April 3, 2010

Always Remember

Yep. Did it. Busted out my 10th Umstead 100-Mile finish last weekend. So much help from Potts and Amy Leigh "Flame" Brown. So much good juju from so many others. Equal parts humbling and hard-to-believe-all-aimed-at-me.

Potts crewed me throughout the day and paced me from 50 to 75 miles. He saved my race at the end of Lap 5 by making me eat when I was totally outta gas, and then making me feel as if it was MY decision that we get up and get back out there. Flame jumped in @ Mile 75 @ 11:45 p.m. and dispensed her charm, fantastic compassion, expert ultra knowledge of what it's like to be "out there" all the way until we crossed the final line. At 7 a.m. the next day. Incredible. Not sure I could have done this without those two.

I really thought I'd have something moving to write about as the magnitude of this thing sets in. Truth is I don't. What I do have is a snip from a mid-week this-week e-mail to my dear friend Bobby G ...

When I was 9, my “other” dad, University of Tennessee men’s swim coach and legend Ray Bussard (my dad Sam’s best friend since the ‘50s), said this to me through a serious Jack Black haze: “Bill, listen to me. Never forget this. Dedication is the simple virtue that separates the extraordinary from the ordinary.” Heavy for a 9-year-old but, dude, I took it to heart. Never had a ton o’ talent in the running or the writing, really, but I’ve always recognized that sheer will gets you a long way.

Ray is early 80s and memory loss is kicking his ass right now, but he’s still around. Anyway, when I got to the Mile 11 pie plate on my final lap Sunday morning and me and Flamey were kinda quiet for the lone moment in the final 25 miles she paced me, I looked up at the sky and said, quietly to myself, “I heard you, Coach. And I promise to always remember.”

March 20, 2010

Umstead No. 10? Really?

Seems as if it was just last year that I got the crazy idea to drive down to Raleigh and run around in circles a buncha times to see if I could finally get to the finish line of a 100-mile race. Turns out that "last year" was really 1996. Yeah. 1996.

Although I had packed in some 30 ultra-distance finishes by then, I had tried and given up three years in a row at the Old Dominion 100-Miler. Good sense would dictate that 100 miles was probably not my distance. Me and good sense have never been pals. In this case, it seems to have worked out OK, I guess.

What do I remember of that first Umstead? I remember my finish time of 24:44:18. I remember hiking the final 25 miles with the legendary Aaron Goldman, who was 67 and had triple-digit ultra finishes but never a 100-miler until we made it around. I remember my friends Andy and Shelly Wunch passing us with one mile to go on Shelly's way to the overall female win.

Other Umstead memories: That time Doug Young and I split 9:25 for the first 50 on a blisteringly hot early-April day, then my stomach imploded and I somehow barfed/slept/walked/suffered my way to a 27:30 finish. That time Ben Clark and his Army Ranger buddy D.J. and I joined together and crushed the final 30 miles en route to a 21:57 finish. The "hurricane year" when I DNF'd at Mile 54 with early-stage hypothermia. Stuff happens when it rains sideways and the temp drops 37 degrees in an hour.

For me, Umstead is about each of the people I've had the pleasure of sharing the path with. Doom. Will Brown. Lee Cox. Mike Whalen. Clifton. Leo Lightner. Tom Green. Missy Heeb. Art Moore. Kevin Sayers. Bob Ring. Dennis Hamrick. Tom Sprouse. Pete Lefferts. The list goes on and on.

I've seen Umstead balloon from a field of 54 to a field that fills online in seven minutes ... when registration opens in September.

Umstead is the massive start with all of its crackling energy, and also the stunning quiet of an 2 a.m. lap when it feels as if you are the only person still awake on the whole planet. Umstead is aid every 2 miles or so, with no worries about going off course ... even when I'm so tired that I run headlong into a tree (see 2007!).

Umstead is RD Blake Norwood, assistant RD Joe Lugiano and a cast of thousands who give of themselves so we can come play and play and play. It's Myra Norwood, Blake's wife and a calming presence with one of the world's best, kindest smiles.

Umstead is a 12.5-mile loop that has a pie plate marking every one of its miles. Umstead is a worthy challenge. Umstead is sneaky hard. Go out too hard and you can pay dearly. Before you start, 100 miles doesn't really seem like 100 miles at Umstead. After three loops, it often still doesn't. After five ... a different story.

Umstead gets in your blood. If you fight it, it can bite you. Hard. If you embrace it and take what it gives you, it can be your friend.

Umstead is an indelible part of my story.

March 3, 2010

Whole Lotta Ahhhhhh

If it weren't a 5-hour round trip from Grottoes, this would be my Home Away From Home.

Oh wait. Maybe it already IS! :-)

February 25, 2010

By The Numbas

1,102 days in the run streak as of 2.25.10

687 calories in that totally yummy McSkillet Bfast Burrito i just knocked down!!!

200 laps of the same 400-meter track that i ran in 7:44 one 1995 August day in Maryland

129 finishes marathon or longer in my "career"

90 miles, my 24-hour format PR ... so far :)

45 marathon finishes

25 Shamrock Marathon finishes

20 pull-ups done after this morning's run

16 100-milers I have managed to finish

14 laps of the 2.5-mile road circuit over at EMU covered in a long training run last summer

12 Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50-Miler career finishes (really???)

10 Umstead 100-Miler finishes i will have after i bag this year's in late March :)

8 DNFs at 100-milers across the years (OH to be even half as tough as my friends)

5 guys who will gather tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. to run w/ me

2 hours of run/walk for this morning's "workout"

1 ultra finish it took me to find my true home

February 16, 2010

One of the Giants

Ladies and Gentlemen, the phenomenal Ed Whitlock ... in the conversation of the fastest of all time. The personification of simplicity.

January 31, 2010

Happy Meter

Totals For January: 40:28 for all runs. Long runs: 15 for 33:18. Legs feel great. Brain feels better. Happy Meter is pinging on all cylinders, which is no small feat these days with work, the fam, blahblahblah lotsa other things asking for attention.

A great test — and the main non-racing test — of my fitness works like this: When, during a run of 2 hours or more, does the Happy Meter peg a 10? This morning is a perfect example. I felt the rush at 45 minutes. Wow. After only 45 minutes? Perfect!

The Happy Meter is also my best mode for watching frequency of long-run activity. Too many long runs packed too closely together and — bam — the Happy Meter doesn't buzz until, say, 1:20. Sure sign that I need to back off in a big way to just shorties for three to four days straight.

Good to have benchmarks. :)

January 29, 2010

Day 1,075 ...

Today was Day 1,075 of the current run streak.

Popped 2 hrs. of 7 mins run/3 mins walk today starting at 5 a.m. with Carp, TJ, PJ and Frazier. I'm a lucky dude to have buddies crazy enough to join me for a weekday, before-work 2 hrs. Especially when it's 16F. Beautiful full moon. Minimal breeze. Lotsa laughter. Good, good times.

Why a streak? It's a question I've been fielding a lot since this streak jumping into four digits back in November.

Aren't you worried about your knees? (No.)

What do you do when you're sick? (Suck it up and run/walk the 20-minute minimum. Only happened once so far during this stretch.)

With reffing three to five nights a week during high school hoops season and getting home anywhere from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., how do you get enough sleep? (Sleep is a crutch — at least for me.)

Do you really, truly like running that much to not take a day off? (I love hearing the following echoing in my head: There will be a day when I can no longer do this. Today is not that day. :)

It's actually pretty simple. I just go run. It helps me think. It helps me work. It helps me be a better dad, husband, friend.

Maybe most of all, though, it makes me very, very happy. As long as that keeps happening, why take a day off?

January 3, 2010

The best ultra runner ever

Check this out.

Pretty darn motivating.