Top Ten Moments of Umstead 100 Endurance Run

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Over the weekend, I received an outpouring of support and congratulations for finishing the 2014 Umstead 100 mile endurance run.  While I fully intend to write a proper race report, I realize that reading about running around a loop eight times doesn't appeal to a lot of the folks who sent support my way on Saturday and Sunday.  Further, I understand the value of such race reports in the weeks preceding a first 100 mile attempt but realize they have their time and place.  Instead, I bring you my ten favorite moments (and then some) from this past weekend in what I can only describe as 18 hours and 47 minutes of elation.


I arrived at the headquarters aid station (HQ AS) after my third lap at 12:40pm, just as things were starting to heat up for the day and when one of the volunteers mentioned they had snow cones, I gladly accepted the offer.  These were not your average chipped ice with store bought syrup.  No sir.  Umstead 100 would not stand for that. No, these were made with love and prepared early in the week, see for yourself:

Yes.  That is 25lbs of sugar they reduced to make simple syrup for the runners.  SO MUCH thought goes into every aspect of the race.  The pancake mix and cinnamon raisin french toast were also equal labors of love.  I opted for lemon lime on race day but I had the option of four or five flavors.

9.  Power Phrases.

In the weeks leading up to the race, Michelle asked what she could do to help me succeed on race day.  I gave her one task, aside from telling her "Do not let me quit," which was finding and making power phrases to give me each lap.  Before the race, she put on my first band, "Make It Happen," while we sat at the table over breakfast.  For each subsequent lap, she taped on one additional band and by the end of the race my wrist looked like this:

Note in the background the Vuvuzela (and buckle!) that was sounded as I entered the headquarters aid station each lap.  The two orange power phrase bands came from Jordan and Rudy and said, "Embrace the Pain. 75 Down" after lap 6 and "Not Dead, Don't Stop. 87.5 down."  These were awesome!  If a negative thought entered my head I looked down at these and used it to get me going again.  My aunt Jan even sent in a power phrase, "Remember that guy that quit? Neither does anybody else."  

8.  "There's a raffle after the race and one of the prizes is an industrial tortilla steamer"

Rudy joined me for miles 65-75, see number 5 below, and somewhere around the lap he pulled a pretty good prank on me that was a much needed laugh.  Rudy: "Hey, did you hear there's a raffle after the race tomorrow morning?  I think it's at like 10AM.  One of the prizes is an industrial tortilla steamer!"  Me:  "Wait! What? NOOOO"  Call me gullible.  I suppose one can hope right?

7.  "You'll see the pine needle where we start to walk."

I marked points on every hill/incline/mound/elevation gain on the course early in the day with landmarks (i.e. specific trees) so that later in the day I would continue to run to those landmarks in an attempt to keep the same effort throughout the day.  The last real hill before returning to the headquarters aid station was on a big open road without a distinguishable tree to indicate a point to start walking.  However, there was a pine branch that was in the middle of the road that I used to mark about the halfway point of the hill.  I told Jordan this on our first of two laps, so around 86 miles in.  He had a pretty good laugh and didn't understand how I could mark the course with A pine needle.  I suppose in my tired state I didn't do a good job explaining what we were looking for, nonetheless I LOVED seeing that pine branch each lap.

6.  "@RBSherfy is KILLING me"

The last lap was all business.  Make it to the middle aid station and by 17:30 and then finish sub-19, which I felt was achievable considering that I had done the back half in close to an hour every lap.  We ran all the downhills and POWERHIKED the uphills.  I forgot to mention that Jordan crushed the Mountain Lake Hell Climb Saturday morning and then drove down to Raleigh to run 25 miles with me.  Can you say BEAST?


So I come into the headquarters aid station after my fifth lap, now 62.5 miles in, and Michelle is not at the car and nowhere to be found, which wasn't an issue because the aid station volunteers took care of everything I needed.  When I left the aid station, Michelle was at the car and dressed to run with me, which didn't make any sense because she was not planning on running because of IT band issues.  She said Jordan would be around the corner on my way back but was parking the car.  We did the out and back airport spur, so the first two miles of the course and when I came around the corner RUDY pops his head out from around the gate to which I reply, "YOU'RE SUCH A LIAR!"  Rudy had planned on coming but as we were getting on I-81 on Friday afternoon, I received the text below letting me know he wasn't going to be able to make it.

To say that it was an AWESOME surprise would be a huge understatement.  I suppose I'll let him slide on getting my hopes up about an industrial tortilla steam, so perhaps my reaction was accurate?!? but it was awesome having Rudy with me on lap 6.  He pushed me to start 10 feet earlier then my marked trees, go a little harder on the hills, gave me a random fist pound every now and then to keep my spirits up, GOT ME TO DRINK FLUIDS AND TAKE GU, and basically left me in much better shape for Jordy who I was going to run laps seven and eight with.  We had a blast, laughed, and enjoyed doing what I love doing, running with friends.

4.  Notes of encouragement from family and friends.

Michelle really exceeded expectations here.  I mentioned above that I had asked her to make power phrases to take with me for each lap (See Number 8 above) but she took it upon herself to collect notes of encouragement from friends and family.  Each lap she would give me a new note to read, on my long walk out of the aid station up the hill while I ate food.  Some were hilarious and others were encouraging; all were very special and kept me going.  I carried most of them with me during the run (as long as they fit)!

3.  Tammy, Rick, and the countless other runners, crew, and volunteers who gave their support.

I would argue the camaraderie between ultra runners is unparalleled.  I met Tammy at Terrapin Mountain and she let me know she would be at Umstead this year, a comforting thought knowing there would be at least one familiar face at the race.  However, I did not have the opportunity to meet her husband Rick, a now seven time Umstead fininisher, who perfectly compliments her warmheartedness and welcoming attitude.  Michelle spent the majority of the day with Tammy, which was so nice and thoughtful making her feel welcome when she didn't know anyone else at the race.

Throughout the weekend, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth everyone showed us both at the aid stations and out on the course.  It was incredible how supportive other runners were when you would pass them on the either the airport spur or on the section shared between the outbound and inbound loop.  Shout outs to Rick, Mike Pastore, and two gentlemen whom I don't know their names but met before the start (Richmond and Alexandria).

2.  PARENTS!?!

Whenever I entered the area where Michelle and Tammy were setup, along with lots of other families and crews, I shouted VUVUZELA!!! to let them know I was coming because I couldn't see around the bathroom pavilion in the photo below.  When I rounded the corner after my second lap, I shouted Vuvuzela quickly followed by "PARENTS?!?" in disbelief of seeing MY parents standing with Michelle and Tammy!  It was such a surprise to come around the corner and see them there with Michelle.  Michelle was ready with the camera and captured my surprise as I came down the hill and obvious excitement of seeing my parents, whom I hadn't seen since the holidays.

They made the 4+ hour drive each way to see for maybe 15?!? minutes of time in the aid station.  Unfortunately, they had to drive back and work on Sunday, which further makes their trip that much more special.  They spent 10 hours in the car to see me for 15 minutes.

1.  Crossing the finishing line and being welcomed by Michelle, Rudy, and Jordan.

If only I could bottle the elation and euphoria of this moment and save it for a rainy day.  I wasn't even really all that concerned about having completed the race as much as I wanted to let those three people standing there, who had given so selflessly and generously their time and support, a hug and express my gratitude.  I'm pretty sure I gave them all a hug...and maybe a kisses too?!?  I simply felt overcome with gratitude and appreciation for having Michelle, Rudy, and Jordan there in that moment.

 Elation.  Joy.  Overwhelming euphoria.


Two days post race, I'm feeling surprisingly well and not too sore.  Sure my feet hurt but considering the event I'd say that's to be expected.  I do have a slight confession though.  In the weeks leading up to the event, I was living in fear in many ways.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of getting sick the week of the race.  Fear of stepping on a pine cone the wrong way when walking Gillie and rolling my ankle.  When I crossed the finish line, it was like all of that fear had been taken off my shoulders and I had accomplished something associated with a full-load of self-induced pressure.

Little things post race that are/were awesome:

As I stood around the finish line chatting with everyone, someone mentioned cinnamon raisin french toast was inside and asked if I would like some.  I had been thinking about it all week since I had seen it on Facebook.  It was delicious!  Can you tell I'm excited about it?

Post race, they had a fire inside the headquarters aid station building for participants who were struggling and for other runners to get warm by.  The fire felt amazing and made the french toast taste even better.  The photo kinda looks like a jerk photo though as I sit there looking at my buckle next to people laying in cots (that kinda look dead?).

I might not have openly admitted it but I really Really REALLY wanted to go under 24 hours.  The are four belt buckles that finishers can earn including the one below, 100 Miles - One Day.  The other three are Champion, 100 Miles, and 1000 miles for 10 time finishers!!!  

I've been wanting Five Guys since I did a training run with Geff way back on February 19nd but exercised self-control to not get it because I know it's not good for me.  However, I was determined to get it on Sunday after the race and Michelle drove there as our first stop.  I received the above text from Keely, which I thought was appropriate and also incredibly accurate.  I suppose I'm kinda predictable in that way.  Hey! What can I say?  I like to eat so I run a lot!

Michelle laughs but I genuinely had fun the entire day (except the 30 seconds I got sick leaving headquarters aid station starting lap 5) but it was a fun and enjoyable experience.  I didn't feel miserable or like I wanted to stop and with the amazing support crew I had, support from runners and volunteers out on the course, and a surprise visit by my parents the day went by in one enjoyable euphoric blur.


Rutemill April 8, 2014 at 3:18 PM  

Dude what's incredibly amazing is your (and Michelle's!) selflessness. Throughout the whole time Jordy and I were there, you were SO thankful. That's reflected by your 10 top moments that aren't anything like "I crushed lap #x and felt super great." You & Michelle were overly thankful and it really made me conscious that I should be more grateful! It was like you were running for all of us and not simply yourself, which is crazy because of the amount of selfish time it takes to train for one of these events. It really shows that races are celebrations. Nonetheless, YOU ran 100 miles under your own power and did it in STYLE! Congratulations man. Rest well.

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