Josh Winters Umstead 100
A long report for a long race
Posted on APRIL 4, 2017
When I first heard about 100 mile endurance runs I couldn’t understand how someone could do something like that. And I still don’t think I fully comprehend what it is to run 100 miles.
This quote has been on my desk for a few years now it reads “Don’t decide how far you can go based on where you are right now”. Why limit yourself to doing the things you know you can accomplish? I wrote out a list back in 2014, it included things like the double-crossing of the Grand Canyon and the last thing on that list was to run a 100 mile race. That race ended up being the Umstead 100. A 100 mile foot race though Umstead State Park in North Carolina that has been going on for over 20 years.
The race sells out super fast and the registration process is a simple first come first served type with a little twist. The first 250 people that click the button lock the site for 12 minutes, if all the spots don’t sell they reopen it and repeat the process until its full. Usually it sells out in the first 2-3 rounds. Jerry and I both got in on the first round.
That was back in September. At this point I had all ready been training for the R2R2R crossing of the Grand Canyon that was in Oct and right after that I had the opportunity to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I took a few weeks off for recovery and jumped back into training by December. Training consisted of mostly running (go figure) some strength training until I developed some knee issues and had to back off on that and lots of walking. I would go out and walk a couple of miles at lunch at least 3 but sometimes as many as 5 days a week. The theory is that only the elites can run the majority of 100 mile races and even they walk most of the hills. So the faster and more efficient I could be at walking the better my chances were at finishing. Ask Kat (my pacer for the hardest 25 miles I have ever experienced) it was all about walking, stumbling and just finding a way to keep moving forward at that point.
Besides the walking I had another few key training events. A trip to Providence Canyon to run a 50k race with the MAS crew was on the books. The plan was to practice pacing and finish with energy to spare, it was a bonus that I got run the entire thing with Kat and Tia. Second was a night-time run; another group of MAS runners meet up and we spent the better part of the night running around town visiting all the Waffle houses in Warner Robins trying to get used to running well sleep deprived.
I should get to the race now that I have rambled on enough about other stuff.
The race started at 6am Saturday morning, 200+ runners standing outside a small lodge where they had just feed breakfast to anyone who wanted to partake. Ready, Set, Go, that was it. Super low key and most people started off walking as it was slightly uphill and a little crowded for the first mile. Everyone was chatty and friendly. Jerry and I stayed near each other for about the first 1.5-2 miles but then split as we had planned not to stay together at this race. I ran next to a group that included a lady who was trying to finish her 10th Umstead 100 and earn her 1,000 mile award.
I completed the first lap (12.5) miles in (2 hours 30 minutes). I Felt good , got rid of my long sleeved shirt and picked up my sun glasses from Penny and started out on lap two. Lap two was much like lap one 2:37. 2 more laps until I got to have my pacer join me. By lap 3 the hills were starting to slow me down I felt like my left foot was starting to develop a blister 3:05. After that lap I emptied a few small rocks from my shoes and applied some ointment to my feet. 1 more lap until I get a pacer, that is what I kept telling myself. I still felt ok I was struggling though stomach issues which seem to be the norm for me. Working to find something I could eat that wouldn’t cause me stomach discomfort. Small snacks seemed to be ok, then I got found and got hooked on Cheese-itz for about 2 laps. They had just about any snack you wanted at the aid stations and would even bag them up so you could take them with you and not have to slow down much. My goal as always was to be in and out of the aid stations without losing time. Time spent not moving forward is wasted time and needs to be minimized as much as possible in my opinion. But I wasn’t surprised to see much faster runners pass me and then see them pass me again a mile or two after an aid station because of that wasted time. 2 major aid stations per lap, 8 laps you could easily waste an hour or more of your race time if you’re not careful. At the end of lap 3 start of lap 4 I took off my shoes to apply more ointment to my feet but had a thumb size blister on the inside of my left heel that needed to be tended to. Some mole skin and duct tape and I was back out on course and in much less pain. Lap 4 3:11.
lap 5 Pacers….. Jay joined me for lap. Besides my blister and just being tired I felt decent for all ready having 50 miles on my legs. Jay was able to keep me distracted from the pain and since I could still run somewhat decent we did some calculations and set a goal time to finish the lap. He carried my snacks, my long sleeve shirt in case it got cold and my water bottle when we were going up hill to save me some energy it was fantastic. He was working hard to keep me on my pace goal and we even came in a few minutes before we had hoped. Lap 5 3:41. Jay was busy texting the rest of the crew as we neared the end of our lap and they we ready to go when I got there.
Lap 6 was Chucks turn to pace. Jay handed off the gear and off we went. Chuck was great at telling stories as many of you all ready know. He was able to keep me distracted as the pain and tiredness was really starting to build. Sleep walking was starting to become a thing, I would close my eyes and try to figure out how many steps I could take and still stay on track at this point I think it was around 10-12. The duct tape was holding up well on my foot but my legs were shot and running was become very very difficult. Much like Jay Chuck kept the crew posted and when we got back to them they had things ready to go. Lap time 4:10.
Kat took over pacing duties for the last 2 laps covering miles 75-100. The last two laps were a blur of pain and exhaustion. At this point we knew that as long as I kept moving forward I would make the 30hr cut off. When we started out I was sure of it but it didn’t stop me from asking Kat over and over again and even insisting on her telling me our lap times every mile. So you don’t have to look back I did the first lap in 2:30, I did my 2nd to last lap in 4:02 and my last lap in 4:33 for a total of 8:35 to cover the last 25 miles and the first 25 were covered in 5:07. The time seemed to move by quickly but the miles moved by very slowly. I would see a mile maker but couldn’t make it out in the dark, I didn’t wear a headlamp because my pacers were so good they just made sure to stay close enough to me so I didn’t need one. I would tell Kat there is a mile maker, she said don’t worry about it just keep moving. Head down move forward. Everything from my waist down hurt at this point and hurt badly, my left shin felt like someone had stabbed me with a knife. I would attempt to run but in truth it probably wasn’t any faster then the walking I was doing. The exhaustion was really starting to get the best of me, I wasn’t counting my steps when I closed my eyes and Kat would have to keep tapping me on the shoulder and telling me to wake up. She would encourage me to run some of the slightly downward slopping parts to help me wake up. The step downhills were oh so painful so running them was pretty much out of the question. She had me eat the chocolate covered espresso beans which didn’t seem to help at all but she made sure I was taking in enough water and food to get to the finish. Without her I am sure I would have ended up sleeping on the side of the trail until someone else came by and found me. Although I had been sure I would finish in time I never really felt like the finish would get there I remember saying something about how long the last lap was taking and how badly it seemed to be kicking my butt. Kat keep insisting that I was doing great and would be just fine. Head Down move forward. Some people will tell you once the sun comes up you get a burst of energy, I didn’t really get that feeling. Mine was more a feeling of relief that I no longer had to look at the light of the headlamp which seemed to be lulling me to sleep as it moved back and forth across the trail. I was also glad that Kat got to see most of the park in the sunlight as it really is a pretty place. Jay got to see some of it as well. Chucks shift was dark the entire time, Sorry Buddy. Once we passed the half way aid station for the last time things started to pick up. I was now sure the end was near and my adrenaline was starting to kick in. It was becoming much easier to stay awake and I was even able to run parts of the last 5 miles. Very small parts and only when the trail was slightly sloping down but running none the less.
And then it was there, we made the turn and passed the sign showing I only had 1/2 of a mile to go. I ran the downhill, I even managed to run the short uphill to the finish line. I crossed the line in 27:49:24. The race director was at the finish and quickly handed me a buckle and I got a picture with her. I went to sit down but between my crew and the aid station workers I was quickly wrapped in a blanket and mostly carried into the lodge where they were cooking french toast, omelets and a number of other items. The people who put on this race are so fantastic that if I had asked for steak and eggs I am positive they would have found a way to get that for me. I sat for a while ate some french toast but really I just wanted to get back to the camper and lay down. We made a fairly quick exit, Greg attended to my blister which now was larger than my thumb and filled with blood. I will spare you the picture but it is pretty bad ass lol. Then we were on the way home, another epic adventure in the books.