Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be sitting here. Twelve Umstead 100-mile finishes. Twelve.
And this 12th one was the most fun of all. No suffering. No nausea. No sleepiness. No blisters. (Note to self: Dude, keep on getting yourself sub-23-hour fit and then go at snail's pace. Wayyyyyyy more fun this way!)
Joy joy joy. This one was all about joy. Umstead at its purest. Umstead at its absolute best.
Thanks to those who ran with me. Thanks to those who volunteered. Thanks a ton to Team Gaylord, Tammy Gray (!!!), Beth Minnick (!!!), Fred "Doom" Dummar, RD Blake Norwood, assistant RDs Joe Lugiano and Rhonda Hampton, Sally Squier and her crew at AS1 and Dorothy Hunter and all the rock stars at AS2, and everybody else who had a kind word, rang a cow bell, hollered my name, called me a baby and told me start running again. One amazing day and a bit.
Here's some of what I hope I'll remember forever ...
• Getting longtime friend Bill Burns through much of the second half of his 8th lap when he was completely fried. Met him at AS2 while he was having some soup and looking like death warmed over. Talked him into getting out of that chair and going for a little walk. Walked and walked and talked and talked with him until I was pretty sure he couldn't stand to hear the sound of my twang any longer — and by then he only had a bit less than 2 miles left. Topics covered: NFL football. College admissions process. Hinson Lake 24-Hour tales from years gone by. The irony that we probably talked through these very same matters LAST year when I picked him at that that very same place and in about the very same shape. Burnsie is pure stud. I am proud to call him my friend.
• Seeing Jenny Nichols in cruise mode, complete with her award-winning smile, several times out there on the course as she rocked and rolled her way to a 22-hour finish. Your hugs out there were solid awesomeness. So impressed with the way you took care of business for your first 100-mile finish, rock star. Make that first of m-a-n-y!!!
• Lending a hand to my friend Linda Banks in her big ol' time of need late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, whenever that mondo thunderstorm decided to finally break bad and throw us a couple right-left combos. So I'm heading up the hill after that unmanned aid station that's at 3.5M/10.75M on the loop and is complete with port-a-johns when I see a runner up ahead in the distance looking back. Wait. Is she screaming? Pick up the pace a bit and, oh my gosh, it's Linda Banks. And she's kinda freaked out. Sorry about my headlamp in your eyes. What? Your pacers? You've gotten separated from your pacers? They think you're still in one of the port-a-johns? Oh. Tell you what. I'll double back and get 'em. So off I go. To mass commotion as I pass group after group of runner and pacer, each of whom think I've lost my freakin' mind because I'm heading in the wrong direction. And can't really hear that I'm asking, "Yo! Are you Linda Banks’ pacers?" because the wind is howling. Finally, I make contact with the pacing pair, and back we go. Was maybe a half-mile round-trip. Didn't affect my "race" at all really. And totally, completely needed to be done.
• Absolutely nailing the fueling for the first time in for. ev. er. Being so steady with a gel every 1:30, nibbling on a baggie of Chex mix with cheese cubes and dried fruit all day and night (!!!), slurping chicken broth throughout the dark, and staying with steady consumption of Gatorade, decaf sweet tea and water. And MAN did those two plain hot dogs with no buns taste awesome midway through that last lap.
• Amy Surrette doing the LAST FIFTY MILES with horrible blisters to knock out her first 100. Susan Dummar clocking a PR and then finding out several days later that she needed emergency gall bladder surgery!
• Sprinting the final half-mile with the world-famous and completely fabulous Toni Aurilio. Crying like a baby along with Team Gaylord hard dawgs Rob Colenso and Bob Gaylord as they rushed Toni up and down and up to her 23:57 finish line. Toni clocked 24:11 last year and really, really, really wanted a sub-24. To be lucky enough to be along for that final push -- even though I still had another lap to do myself after that -- has to be among the highlights of my running career. Thank you for letting me share in your amazing spirit, dear Toni.
• Being so full of running for my 8th and final lap. Deciding when I would run and when I would walk the whole time. Running the final 1.5 miles without stopping.
• Having a smile on my face for almost the entire 27 hours, 2 minutes and 53 seconds.