Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra

So as most of you know, this past weekend was suppose to be my first attempt at running 100 miles. Due to the fires in California, the AC100 was canceled for 2009. September 19th was a date that I had been living and training for since I was crewing my buddies for that race in 2008. So, life goes on and I happen to stumble on the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra in Rockingham NC. Some friends of mine were going and I thought that it would be a great training experience for me. I had not run more than 50 miles at one time or been up longer than 18+ hours from the SCARs adventure. Plus, with the price being $24, how can you say no.

I know most people think that I am any number of adjectives in the realm of crazy, nuts, or insane, but this really comes out when you tell them that you are going to run in a circle for 24 hours. I did start questioning this myself. I thought back to the Delano 12 hour and had mixed feelings. Proud that I had run the farthest in my life, but I still to this day have an irritation of being rained on due to that race. Running in 8+ hours of rain just SUCKS! But, Hinson Lake did seem to be a beautiful nature place to run, so I said, what the heck.

If some of you don’t know, the car ride to and from some of these events can be an adventure itself. I ended up riding to the event with Christian Griffith and Matt Kahrs. We get up in the Rockingham area around 10 0’clock that night and decide to look around at the setup. We start walking around looking at things and talking about where to setup our canopy for the event. There had been talk of rain during the event and we wanted to have somewhere we could stand and dry off. We decide to start walking the 1.52 loop around the lake and for some reason, not one of us had a thought of grabbing a flash light before we jumped out of the truck. So I pull out my blackberry and it has enough light for us to see where we are going. We end up getting around the whole loop without anyone getting hurt or tripping. I just know how stupid it looked for 3 grown men walking around in the dark by the light of a blackberry!

We show up just after 7 am to get registered and unload all the gear under the canopy. Before I know it Tom Gabell, the RD, is gathering everyone around the bridge for the start of the race. There is a welcome, a prayer for safety for all, and then we start. From the very beginning I end up running with a guy from around the area name Trent. It takes a few laps for the group to thin out and get into your own rhythm. Trent and I run about 4 or 5 laps together and then my stomach starts to act up. I don’t know if it is from my previous choice of food or nerves. I let Trent know that I have to make a pit stop and that I am sure that I will see him out on the course. One great thing about these loop events is that usually they have an actual bathroom instead of having to make due in the woods. I come out from the bathroom and Trent had decided to take a break and wait for me to come around on the loop. That is one thing that I have really learned to enjoy with ultra events, being around like minded people that understand why you run like you do.

So Trent and I just start working through the laps. People ask me how can I stand not only to run that long, but then seeing the same thing over and over. Well, my thoughts are that you have to figure out a way for yourself to break it down. You don’t eat all your food in one bit, so you can’t look at an event in one big lump or it will be over whelming. So Trent and I start working through thoughts of breaking this down. We decide to run 4 laps and walk 1. After doing that a few times, we decide to change it up and start walking all the inclines and run the flats and down hills. We continue this for I don’t know how long then start setting up other goals of after so many laps we get to sit down and take a 5 minute break, change shoes, or even getting some real food instead of just snacks.

In the afternoon Trent’s family shows up to support him, his wife and 2 young boys. I really learned the value of family at this time. It was such a great distraction to have his boys wanting to go out and run with us and encourage us to keep going. At one point I kinda pulled away because I was getting choked up missing my own wife and daughter. They were suppose to be there, but due to my wife’s work, I came without them. I don’t plan to ever do another loop event without them being there.

The day wears on into the night. Trent’s family heads home from some well deserved rest and we keep working through the laps. When we get to mile 62, Trent decides to call it quits due some foot pain that he is not sure of. With this being his first ultra event and never going this far, I agree with him to play it smart and rest. So for the first time in 18+ hours, I set out on this loop alone. It was kinda odd. Someone had given me the idea of listening to a movie on my iPod. I just happened to have the movie 300. Wow, what a boost of a movie to listen to while you are tired and need to get pumped up. I know some people thought that I had really gone over the edge when I am in the middle of the woods screaming the line, “This is Sparta!!!”

At this time I realize that if I just keep going that completing the next 2 laps will put me on the top 10 leader board for the males at the event. I don’t really think of myself competitive, but I have never finish in the top 10 males of any ultra event that I have ever done, so it gives me a boost to get my name on the board . So, I again start figuring out ways to break down the event into bite size sections. From 1:30 to around 4 I keep walking the laps and just try to keep moving. Looking back on it, I think I was too easy on myself because during this time I keep sitting down for a few minutes each loop. Trent rests but will not go to sleep and tries to start crewing me, asking me what I need and getting things for me so I don’t have to get up out of the chair. He was being a true example of what I have come to love about the ultra community, helping your fellow brother or sister runner to push on in an event an toward their goals.

After resting for a few hours and watching me trying to continue on, Trent decides to rejoin me in the fight of keep moving for 24 hours. Finally, after a longer than usual night, the sun finally comes back up and I get to experience the magic of the 2nd sunrise. For those of you that don’t know, in an ultra event when it goes so long that you are seeing the sunrise for a second time, it does a great thing for you of positive feelings and a boost of energy that is really unexplainable.

One of the most incredible experiences came at 7:44 am on Sunday morning. We had just finished a loop and I was calling it quits. I was at 85+ miles and that was the top end goal that I had set for myself. At this time the Hinson Lake workers handed us a banana with our race # on it and said “RUN!” I don’t know what happened, but it was like a shot of adrenaline to my system and Trent and I took off at the fastest pace we had done in 24 hours. We ran almost the entire loop and got back in 12 minutes!!! I actually didn’t want to keep going, but we had another 4 minutes, so we keep going and got another half mile before the horn went off. I never, ever would have believe that I could run an 8 minute mile at the end of a 24 hour event with 85+ miles on my legs! Ended up 14th place over all with 87.13 miles completed. A major learning lesson for me was that your brain controls the situation a lot more than your body does in an ultra event.

I truly enjoyed myself and think that Tom Gabell did a fantastic job with this event. The volunteers, mostly his family, were wonderful and I truly appreciate all of there hard work and know that some of them were there 24+ hours. Thank you so much!!!

I am very proud of my fellow GUTS members that showed up and rocked this race and supported each other. Kena, you did awesome with 104 miles! You go girl! Tom and Perry, thank you so much for the encouragement and better yet the grilled cheese sandwiches! Tom, you saved me with that second one about 5 am!

Trent, brother, what can I say. I don’t know how things would have turned out with having you there to talk to and distract me from going in circles for 24 hours. Your beautiful family was a Godsend. Becky, thank you for helping out with all the silliness there. I am sure you didn’t think you would be putting up Christmas lights inside of a canopy in September! I am sure there are many more ultra events in the future that we can team up again!