Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report – 2016

I am tired, I am drained
But the fight in me remains
I am weary, I am worn
Like I’ve never been before

 

This is harder than I thought
Harder than I thought it’d be
Harder than I thought
Takin’ every part of me
Harder than I thought
So much harder than I thought it’d be
But empty’s never felt so…full

Toby McKeehan (TobyMac)

Those lyrics pretty much sum up the LAVS race.  I’ll still add pages to this race report but I don’t know if I could say it much better than that.  This race is HARD!  It seems like it would be somewhat easy.  Just an easy 50k a day and you beat the time cut off.  I’ve run hundreds before, I’ve walked long distances, but everything takes longer than you expect it should in this race.  I wanted to see if I could finish a race I knew I would hate.  I hate roads, I hate heat, I hate irresponsible dog owners.  This race supplied all of those in a great big heap.

This report is long!  There is a video at the end.  Probably not the best to read this on your phone.  Also more details for runners at the end.  My college roommate says he likes to get popcorn ready to read my reports so pop away. Enjoy!

I loved the people I met, both the competitors and the vast majority of the local population along the course.  Everyone that finishes this race has a shared experience that can’t be matched by other races.  While not at war or anything compared to that, we were up against the same horrible things: heat, cars, road camber, dogs, dehydration, hunger, pain, lightning, our minds, and finally time.  I really enjoyed the conversations I had with everyone I met before, during and after the race (well not the police officer during the race).  I hope to meet many of my new friends again in the future.

I will tell my Vol State story mostly in chronological order but with my usual tangents and physiology and science lessons.  I’ll be specific as possible at times so that future competitors can hopefully learn a few things.  I learned a lot from other race reports for this race.  Read them ALL!  It’s no joke running this race without a crew (screwed).  You need to arm yourself with as much information as possible.  If you have a crew, the only advice I have is to use it.  This race would be sooo much easier if I had one.  It’s my opinion that if someone doesn’t think a crew would help in this race, then they don’t know how to use one appropriately.

I suppose a little background on the race is in order.  You can look at my pre-race report here.  You can also read about my practice run for this event here.  It’s called the Last Annual Vol State Race as a joke of all the races that were called 1st Annual in the 1980’s.  The current course starts in Dorena Landing, MO with a ferry ride to Kentucky, then through Tennessee, part of Alabama, and finally finishing on private property in Georgia called Castle Rock.  314 miles, or 100π or even 500k (least accurate) is the distance of this race.  Of course with having to go off course to stores, hotels, graveyards, going on the shoulder from the road a million times, etc it is further.

Since I was running in the screwed division that meant I would have to drive to the finish line in Georgia, a 14 hour drive, and leave my car there.  We would take a bus on Wednesday from the finish to a town near the starting line following the course the whole way.  After exchanging rental cars due to the first car having completely bald front tires, I left home in MN Monday night and slept in my car to save some money.  I finished my drive Tuesday to the Super 8 in Kimball, TN where most of us would stay the night before the bus ride to the start line.  I went to Walmart to kill some time and to buy some pop (soda) for the morning of the bus ride.  2L Sun Drop was on sale for $1 so that’s what I got.  Little did I know how much Sun Drop I would drink the next week.

I went back to the hotel as it was 3PM and people should be checking in.  I met Wayne McCombs who I had met on the bus at Tuscobia and learned a lot from.  He would be driving the “meat wagon” this year which is the van that brings the quitters back to their cars at the finish line.  He reminded me of a few pointers he had given before.  Mainly to go slow in the beginning and to stretch.  Those are VERY important things for this race if not all multi-days.  I’ve only done one multi-day so I don’t have much experience but it certainly helped me in this race.

I also met John Price who has run this race more than anyone and wrote the guide book for the race.  It was a helpful book.  I brought the whole book with but if I were to do it again I wouldn’t take the whole thing.  I would laminate the turn by turn written directions and have them in a very accessible place (some hung them from the front of their vest).  The rest of the book I would just take pictures of the pages with my phone.  I ended up taking pictures of the pages on the second day since it was much easier to get to my phone than take my pack off to get to the book.  I also saved the .gpx file of the race route into my phone and could always tell if I was on the course with the GPS on my phone.  I had added the changes to the book since the last printing and also added the road angel aid stations that people on Facebook said they would have in their yard, fire station, etc.  I think a lot of people didn’t know that locals would put details on the race Facebook page of where they would set out water, etc.

 

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John Price and me before the race.  I’m so clean shaven.

I met a few other people at the hotel that I can’t remember now.  The one person you’d have a hard time forgetting was JT Hardy.  I’m an introvert for the most part but at an event like this where I have something in common with everyone it isn’t hard for me to talk to strangers.  I think JT would never have a hard time talking to strangers.  We discussed strategy a little, not even pretending that we really knew anything.  His longest race was a 50 mile so I guess I had a little on him there but this race is way beyond even the 100 mile races I’ve done.  I basically told him my plan on holding back the first day and what I had been doing to try to get heat acclimated.

So we all ate together at a Chinese buffet which we call the next to last supper.  It was awesome as it had sushi and the shrimp I like.  I sat next to JT and filled him in about the .gpx file and how to view it on his phone.  I ordered my finisher jacket since that’s when you order them (if you don’t finish they’ll give you your money back).  We got our race shirts as well.  This is important as if you didn’t want to carry it during the race, you wanted to get it now and leave it with your suitcase in your car.  Once you get on the bus ride the next day, you should only have what you want for the race or what you plan on throwing away.  There are no drop bags with this race!

I got back to the hotel and taped my feet.  I figured I’d have more time tonight to do it right than tomorrow night.  I skyped with the kids.  I checked over my pack list one more time, not like it mattered anymore.  I did end up taking out my long sleeve shirt and a stretch band.  What I wish I had brought was another tech t-shirt that I could keep dry, more on that later.

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Packing list. Crossed out items I didn’t bring.

I drove to the finish line and parked my car in the field.  I left my keys in the rental car as I didn’t want to lose them along the way.  I got on the bus and sat next to JT.  We started off and I met a bunch more awesome people.  John Price was on our bus so he would tell us things about the course.  It took nearly 8 hours to drive to the start with 2 bathrooms breaks and a lunch break.  8 hours to drive the course!  I got a lot of Facebook friends so we could keep in touch during the race and after.  The lunch was at the Glendale Market which is where the Bench of Despair is located.

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Before the race.
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I look so bad with my hair chopped before the race.  Photo Credit Ray Krolewicz
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Screwed group photo. Photo credit John Price

I found out a few people on the bus didn’t know there was a google group for the race so they made sure to get on that.  They kept asking how some of us know so much more about the race.  Again knowledge is power if you run this screwed.  Get on the Last Annual Vol State Race google group if you plan on running this.  That’s where you can ask a lot of questions to people who’ve run it before.  Really you want to meet someone who’s run it and talk to them for an hour to get a better idea of what it will be like.

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JT and me with my 2L. Photo credit Laura Carver
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Kim, Susan, Barbie, Cupcake, and about 4 more names I can’t remember (inside joke). I’m sure this was more comfortable than a lot of places she slept during the race, it was air conditioned.  Her shirt saying I’m hurt and I’m dying would be quite prophetic as she was mistaken for a dead body in a ditch by 3 people calling the police.
We got to Union City which is where we stayed in a hotel with an assigned roommate and ate the Last Supper.  This meal was at a buffet as well and the final directions of the race were given to us.  We got our American flags that we had to have displayed at all times during the race.  I found one on the road in McKenzie and wondered if that person got disqualified.  I talked to Andrei Nana from Florida who has run the Spartathlon race in Greece.  It’s a race I’m interested in running if I can get my speed up a little and if this race went well since it is also a road race.  My wife is even more interested in this race.  Not so much to crew me but because it’s in Greece!  I also ate with a few other people that weren’t on my bus that I ended up seeing for much of the race, Jesse Koketek and Novle Rogers.  My assigned roommate for the night was Paul Wilkerson from Illinois.  He told me right away he snored.  Great.  Luckily I had planned for this by putting the white noise CD I made for my children on my ipod.  I put in my earbuds and dozed off just fine.

 

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Last supper.  Photo credit John Price

The next morning we loaded on the buses to the ferry.  Most of us were taking pictures of each other and talking to the famous people no one outside of ultrarunning have heard of.  There were definitely 2 guys going for the course record.  Greg Armstrong who did end up beating the record by about an hour and John Cash who ran this race for the first time.  Greg won it the last 2 years.  We paid the $2 for the round trip ferry ride and walked on board headed to Missouri.

I thought briefly about how far I had to go.  I remember my first marathon 4 years ago which was from Two Harbors, MN to Duluth, MN.  You could see the lift bridge of Duluth for much of the race and get an idea of how much you had left.  I couldn’t see the finish line from here though.  In fact I’d have to be 34,570 feet above the ground to see the finish line.  You would have to be ever higher if it wasn’t for the fact that the finish line is 1200 feet higher than where we started on the bank of the river in MO.

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Joe Fejes – Multi-day superstar and course record holder until this year
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Laz the race director.
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Wendy, David, Laura, JT, Kim, and me.
82 of us started Thursday July 14th around 7:45AM with the lighting of the cigarette.  The ferry was late so I’m not sure of the real time, it was supposed to start at 7:30.  I finished (spoiler alert) just after the sun came up on Wednesday July 20th, for a total time of 5day, 22hours, 12minutes, 6seconds.  18th overall and 8th in the screwed division.  I was also the first person from MN to ever run this race.  I am super pumped that I got a 5 as the first number.  Being so close to 6 days, I now have an idea of what I would get at a 6 day race.  This time is actually in the range that the computer said I would finish in.  I wanted to be done by 8 days so I’d have time to sleep and drive home for my son’s birthday party.  I made it in plenty of time!  I didn’t think I’d make under 6 days until about 2am that morning of the finish.  I took caffeine pills for the first time during the race the night before I finished and it helped me to not have to sleep much at all that last 36 hours.  Only 62 would finish.
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Start line.  82 starters. Photo Credit Carl Laniak
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The Ferry Photo Credit John Price
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The race begins!
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Leading the race at the front of the ferry.
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Coming off the ferry.  I’m way on the right with the white and blue visor looking down.  The shirtless man is Greg Armstrong who would break the course record.

You’ll see in the video how most runners just look like everyday people.  There is no body type for ultrarunners.  We come in all shapes and sizes.  That old guy you see in church, could be a Vol State finisher.  The truck driver you see on the interstate, same thing.  The woman pouring your coffee at your local restaurant, same thing.  I just want to drive home that anyone can do this if they really want to.  Sure it takes training and determination, but you don’t need to be a super athlete.

The first part of the race is going mostly uphill through Hickman, KY.  It was the slowest I’ve ever started a race.  I planned on holding back the first 2 days.  I had never done a multi-day race before and I was told by several veterans of the race not to overdue it in the beginning.

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2 miles in with my roommate from the night before Paul Wilkerson. I wouldn’t see him again until the Natchez Trace Campground. Photo Credit Carl Laniak

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Already to my 2nd state in the race!

So the first 10 miles or so were pretty awesome.  Cars were moving way over.  It was cloudy and was obviously going to rain at some point in the near future.  We even had a stray dog start following us.  You can see a video of her in action at the end of the report.  She would constantly run in your way and jump and try to bite your shorts.  Kim Wheeler and Liz Norred named him Underfoot.  Finally at the Tennessee border, Wayne McCombs was taking pictures of us so he took Underfoot to keep her from bugging us.  I jokingly thought to myself Underfoot knew she couldn’t cross state lines without a health paper so she stopped.  He ended up taking her to a vet to get her shots, dewormed, etc and became the owner of Maxine, his 6th dog.  I saw a picture of her a week later and it looked like she had gained about 5 pounds already.

Underfoot
Underfoot
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State #3. This one took awhile to cross.

It was a few miles from Union City that it started raining.  I don’t mind rain but I hate wet shoes, especially at the beginning of a multi-day.  I finally got to Union City 16 miles into the race, ran with JT to downtown, and ate at a Wendy’s.  They always have free wifi at Wendy’s and I waited out the rest of the storm there.  I spent at least 30 minutes longer than I wanted to there but I wasn’t going out in the rain if it would quite soon.  The sun came out and I was on my way.  Now, I know the race director called that first day easy because it was cloudy and rained but it was full sun all afternoon where I was running.  It got hot!  My shoes kind of dried but I ended up changing my socks 6 miles out of town at Outdoor Outfitters.  Check out the bathroom stall photo.

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Don’t want that sidearm falling in.

I already had a small blister from having wet feet the last 3 hours so I took care of that as well.

So before the Outdoor Outfitters store (at mile 22.2) is the 20 mile bridge check-in.  There is a rendering plant near there.  Most people complain a lot in their race reports about the smell, calling it stinky bridge and the worst mile in the race.  The smell wasn’t bad at all!  I was amazed how little it smelled since I’ve cut open lots of rotten dead animals in the summer for work and it wasn’t anything like that.  Basically if you were to cut open a dead animal when it was below zero and nothing has really gotten rotten because of the cold, that’s what it smelled like.  The D-lab at vet school smells way worse to my veterinarian friends reading this.

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20 mile bridge check in.

Anyway soon after this bridge I came upon JT who had left Union City before me.  He was laying on the side of an intersection in pain.  His calves were cramping up bad.  I wish I would’ve taken a video of it, his calf muscles were all quivering and contorting like mad.  Looked pretty cool but I’m sure it hurt  like crazy (sorry JT, it really did look cool).  So Liz and Kim caught up to me just then as well.  We got him in the ditch on the other side of the road in the shade.  There isn’t much you can do with a cramp other than wait for it to quit.  Stretching just causes damage.  I think he took some salt tabs but those haven’t been proven to work by any real research.  All the well done unbiased research I’ve read shows salt does nothing.  Muscle spindles misfiring is the most likely cause of muscle cramps based on the newest research I’ve read. These are the cells that tell your spinal cord how much stretch the muscle has and more importantly how fast it is being stretched.  The body is basically over-reacting to the misfiring of the muscle spindles.  Or I guess it’s more accurate to say, the body is appropriately responding to malfunctioning muscle spindles that are sending way too many action potentials to the spine.  It thinks the muscle is being overstretched way too fast and causes the muscle to contract to prevent damage to the tendons and muscle itself.  Many things can cause them to fire inappropriately but some proven things are caffeine and physical damage to them.  If you’re prone to cramps, don’t take caffeine, it lowers the amount of input (stretch)  needed to fire an action potential.  Prevention research is still ongoing.  Just make sure when you read something you look at who sponsored the research and who’s telling you about it, almost everyone is trying to sell you something if they talk about cramps.  I hoped the placebo effect of salt tabs would work for him and left.

Sergio Bianchini came along then and I ran with him for a few miles.  He is a character.  He’s 75 years old and running this for the second time I think.  His running style wasn’t what you would call great but he’s 75 freaking years old so he must be doing something right.  I saw him at the end of the race and he was running the exact same as in the beginning.  JT I’m sure has hundreds of Sergio stories as he ran with him for I think 3 full days.  JT posted videos during the race and in one of them Sergio bought him lunch which consisted of a completely brown banana (it was cheaper than the yellow ones) and a can of Ravioli for a buck.  He would later get his arm hit by a car mirror and sliced it open.  He never stopped to have it looked at.  Just wrapped something around it and kept going.  I think he said “no problem”.

It was also with Sergio that I met my first road angel which is what we call the people that give us aid during the race, mostly just cold water.  As a screwed runner we can only get help from strangers not affiliated with the race or from other screwed runners still competing in the race (I couldn’t help anyone once I finished the race).  Crewed runners or their crews couldn’t help us at all.  I got ice cold water from this road angel.  It felt amazing.  I could run again!  At this point I had been reduced to basically just walking so that I didn’t overheat.

HEAT!

The heat was never ending and really got about the worst at 5pm after we had left Martin.  The sun was full on our backs.  Oh and there was NEVER any wind this entire race.  I’m used to MN where there is almost always a little wind.  Nope nothing in TN.  If you weren’t making your own wind by running you didn’t get any.  Semi trucks started to be something to look forward to instead of being afraid of because you would have 2 full seconds of air movement after it passed.  Sometimes I’d almost get cold if there were 3 of them in a row.

To acclimatize before the race I had been getting my core body temp up over 101 by taking nice hot baths after a run for about an hour.  I did this for 4 days plus just the regular working outside for my job that I’ve done all summer.  I also made sure to always run on the hottest days and hottest time of day as possible for all runs this summer.  I think what I did helped me some as the first 2 days weren’t super horrible, just horrible.  By day 2 I was definitely showing the signs of acclimation.  My sweat was very dilute which I had never experienced before.  Usually there are salt deposits on my clothes, face, pack, etc.  None of that this race though.  When sweat fell in my mouth I could barely taste any salt.  That’s a normal heat acclimation response.  The others are increased plasma volume which I had no way to measure and that you sweat a larger volume, that was easy to tell!  Sweat will drip off your shorts, gross.

The air temps the whole race ranged from 92-100 I think.  It’s hard to really know, but that’s what the vehicle temps said according to drivers we talked to.  The dew point was basically 70-74 the entire race with very little change.  It was foggy at night and so you could never dry out.  The humidity in MN is worse in July than TN.  The dew point gets in the 80’s with some regularity in July here.  The corn plants just pump moisture in the air like crazy on a sunny day, plus all the lakes and sloughs.  I was kind of surprised that it wasn’t more humid during the race.

BUT!  The sun is much hotter in TN.  Even though the race ended a month after the summer solstice; at the finish line the sun was still 5.6 degrees higher in the sky the day I finished than it was at home on the summer solstice.  95 humid and shady = not too bad.  95 humid and sunny = slow zombie walk of death.  The sun adds in my estimation 15 degrees to what it feels like.  Add to that the fact that full sun makes the road 150 degrees.  Your feet sweat a lot and I switched socks at least once a day to keep my feet dry.  I’d hang the wet pair on my pack to dry in the sun as I ran.

It was clear to me though that I would want to run as much as possible at night.  The heat just drained me that first day.  It was hard not to get mad at myself.  We had only made it 40 miles by the 7:30 pm check-in.  It wasn’t so much that we were only at 40 miles since I was planning on going slow anyways.  It was more-so that I felt so drained, like I had actually tried hard and still only made it 40 miles.

OK, back to the story.

Martin was the next town and I stopped at burger king at mile 27.7 to cool off and eat.  7.5 hours to get there, freaking ridiculous.  Some people got hotel rooms to beat the heat.  I didn’t want to get a room unless I could sleep so I kept going.  Martin is a long big college town so it took awhile to get out of town.

The next section to Dresden is where I met up with JT Bolestridge, Novle Rogers, Patrick Sweatt, and Jesse Koketek.  We were walking into the town of Dresden (which has some big Iris festival every year by the way) walking 5 wide down the road feeling kind of bad ass for some reason.  We ignored the guy dressed as a pizza.  We stopped at the aid station that the city had set up at a park pavilion.  We all charged our phones, had some snacks and water and tried to sleep/relax after the 7:30 check-in.  Oh we had to check-in at 7:30 AM and PM everyday so they knew if they needed to look for us if I hadn’t made that clear already.

I couldn’t sleep but it felt good to get off my feet.  I think I called home then as well.  Mostly I’d just leave Skype messages when I had decent WiFi and receive the videos the kids would send.  By about day 4 though the kids didn’t care anymore.  Plus the microphone in my phone was all messed up due to the sweat and humidity.

I moved on towards Gleason in the dark.  I chose to not have my headlamp on unless a car was coming.  I had yellow triangle reflectors on both sides of me.  With the almost full moon it was easier to see in the trees without a headlamp.  I carried my mace all the time at night and towards the end even carried it during the day since the last half of the race is much worse for dogs.  It was kind of creepy going through the deserted old highway with trees lining both sides of the road but there was always another runner within ear shot even if you couldn’t see them.  It went through what seemed like a  wetland in the dark.  Lots of weird frog sounds in addition to the Katydids.  I’d see a shooting star now and then most nights including this night.  Many nights you would see a faint flash in the sky now and then from lightning miles and miles away.

I met up with Novle and JT (Jason) again and I think we met up with Ed just outside of town.  When we came into Gleason before midnight we saw a big group of kids.  They were wondering if we were looking for Pokemon.  We said no.  We could hear them commenting to each other, “why wouldn’t they be out looking for Pokemon?”  Gleason had an aid station at the fire station.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of which I had 2, water, other food, and showers!  I took a shower and tried to sleep while charging my phone.  Again no luck so I left around 12:30AM I think and headed to McKenzie

On the outskirts of McKenzie there are a bunch of semi trailers parked.  I went over to them to see if there was anywhere to sleep under or in them.  There were also some large dumpsters (the long kind you put construction garbage in usually). While snooping around I heard what sounded like 3 kids walking on the road and talking loudly.  They were coming from the wrong direction to be a runner so I ducked down.  I walked around the dumpster as they went past so that they could never see me.  I later found out they were from the aid station looking to see if more runners were coming.  I just figured the less interaction with people at 3AM the better.  I kept on moving into town after that.

I made it to McKenzie by myself and they also had an aid station set up at some building.  There was some food, drinks, and a bathroom.  I had a PB&J sandwich again.  The building had mats on the floor.  They weren’t super comfortable but they were better than concrete or dirt under a trailer and looking back now, actually they were comfortable compared to other places I would sleep later in the race.  At least I could lay on my side on them.  I slept for almost 2 hours I think.  I was thinking of staying in the hotel in town that night but I likely would’ve slept too long so it was a good choice to sleep in the building I think.  Other people had caught up and were already leaving as the sun came up on day 2.  I thought I better get going as well.  Plus there was some morning workout group outside the door doing their cross-fit type looking thing.  I suspect we had taken up residence in their normal work-out area.

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McKenzie

 

There was a 24 hour gas station on the outside of town so I got some pop and chips.  The run that morning was nice.  I put my headphones on for the first time and enjoyed the foggy views of kudzu growing up trees.

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Morning of day 2

 

I checked in at mile 64 just before Huntingdon.  Nothing was really open in town and no gas stations were along the course.  I got some water at the police station and aired out my feet.

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Every County Seat has a town square with a courthouse in the center and stores all around. Most had a movie theater as well.  This one is in Huntingdon.

Here is a video of what the typical town square looks like.  We didn’t go through this town but they are all eerily similar.  All have one way roads going around the courthouse in the center with parking around it.  This one doesn’t have a movie theater but one building looks like it used to be.  I didn’t make the video so don’t hate me for how long it is.  Start at 0:45 into it.

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Vol State Humor
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A rarity in this race – wide shoulders.

My goal was to make it to Parkers’ Crossroads at mile 81 where there was food and hotels.  I wanted to get there by 1PM to beat the heat and sleep.  It took me until 2:30PM to get there and it was super freaking hot and sunny again.  I went into Dairy Queen and started getting all dizzy and my ears were ringing.  So I decided to sit for a little bit before I ordered.  I was still hydrated since I was sweating like crazy but I obviously was overheated.  It took me that long to get there because I had to walk the last 10  miles or so since it was so hot and I hadn’t rested much yet.  I got my food which was awesome and stayed at the Knights Inn which was the most reasonably priced hotel the entire race.  I showered and washed my clothes in the sink.  I slept for about 3.5 hours.

It was also at this stop that I realized I was getting heat rash all around my ankle under my gaitor on my left leg.  I had worn gaitors to keep the road dirt and sand out of my shoes.  They did that job great but looking back they definitely were the cause of the heat rash I think.  While I had heard of heat rash and correctly made that diagnosis, I didn’t really know what it was so I googled it.  The Mayo Clinic website information on it made me laugh.  So it’s plugged up sweat glands which made sense.  The funny part is the treatment.  Spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned buildings, don’t exercise, etc.  None of those things were going to happen.

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The beginnings of heat rash

I got up and re-taped my feet as the tape was coming loose from being wet the first day and I wanted to get a good look at the blister.  I put a blister band-aid on it under the taping.  I tape with cover-roll stretch for those new to my blog.  I also put new kinesio tape on my left leg as that gets old after a few days as well.  I had wanted to sleep longer but I happened to wake up before my alarm and checked the weather.  Rain was coming.  I had hoped it would be over before I woke up.  So I figured I’d get going and try to make it to Lexington 10 miles away and wait out the storm there in a restaurant.

I started out in the sucky suck heat that doesn’t stop until the sun goes down at 8pm.  I got a few miles out of town to check in at 84 miles at the 36 hour check-in.  Wow, I was behind where I’d hoped to be but not unexpected either.  I had no real clue how to do a multi-day.  I was about to learn a few lessons over the next 24 hours.

There were super dark clouds behind me and to the side of me.  On radar both cells were moving towards me somehow.  The food in Lexington wasn’t until mile 90.5 so I had just over 6 miles to get there.  The road was wide so I listened to my ipod and started booking it.  I really wanted to use the glycogen I had stored up during my slumber sparingly to last through the night.  But lightning coming down tends to make you move faster than you might otherwise go.  There was a gas station about 4 miles out of town but I didn’t want to sit on a curb and eat junk so I kept going.  I looked down at my watch.  8 minute miles.  I felt amazing!  Running was so easy now that it had cooled some and I was being chased by a storm.  I was even running up hills.  Only a superstar trying to win the race or an idiot runs up hills in an ultramarathon this long.  I ran the 6.5 miles in 1 hour when I finally got to the turn in Lexington that is supposed to have everything.  I ran around the area and did not find a single sit down restaurant.  Only gas stations and a couple pizza places with nowhere to sit as far as I could tell.  I was kind of pissed as I was looking forward to some pasta or something like that since I knew I’d have at least a half hour to kill while the storm passed.  Nope, you don’t get pasta (normally I hate pasta but I really wanted it now), you get more gas station food.  So I went in to the Little General and got some chicken fingers and potato wedge things.  I had a bunch of chocolate milk as well.  I talked to the workers there who thought I was crazy.  There was an outlet so at least I could charge stuff up while I sat.  The rain didn’t start for 30 minutes.  It seemed imminent just before I got there with the wind picking up for the first and last time the entire race.  Oh well, it barely rained for 20 minutes but I was still glad not to be in it.  Juli Aistars and Jan Silverman came in to the store and stayed about 1 minute and went out before the rain started.  I posted to Facebook I was happy to be catching up to some of the people that had run the race before.  They were all going into night mode like I was planning so that seemed to confirm that my plan was a smart one.

I started out again and now got to go mostly downhill out of town.  I saw a live armadillo and got a video of him.  I knew there was supposed to be some water left out at a fire station in Chesterfield since they posted to the race Facebook page.  It was more than I had hoped for.  They had some snacks too!  Snickers if I remember correctly.  I remember I was very happy and wished I had some paper to write a thank you note.

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Chesterfield

 

Soon after and without any fanfare at all I crossed the 100 mile mark.  If anyone had ever marked it on the road, I never saw it.  I took a video of myself making a new personal distance record.  Every step after would further that record.  I don’t remember much about Darden other than there was a closed gas station with a pop machine out front.  I got a couple of them.  If I remember correctly there was also a park or campground with a super kick ass playground with lots of soft areas to sleep, but I didn’t feel tired yet.  This was 100.9 miles into the race.

Parsons was almost 6 miles away.  It seemed to go pretty slow.  I was feeling pretty drained at this point since I had wasted so much energy with my race into Lexington.  What I did in an hour then, took almost 2 hours now.  I didn’t know what I’d find in Parsons to sleep on.  There was a hotel in town but I didn’t feel like spending money for a couple hours in a hotel plus I really didn’t feel like waking up the owner at 2:30 in the morning.  So I found a tractor trailer that had large wood beams (looked like untreated railroad ties) stack on it.  I climbed up there and got out my sleeping bad liner for the first time.  It’s silk and weighs 4 oz.  I treated it with permethrin to keep the chiggers, ticks, and mosquitos away from me.  It worked well keeping insects away but it wasn’t as warm as I had hoped.  If I would’ve been able to change into dry clothes or at least a dry shirt before I laid down to sleep, I don’t think I would’ve gotten cold.  I was ALWAYS soaking wet anytime I was outside, day or night didn’t matter.  Either I’d be sweating like crazy or it was too humid for anything to evaporate.  I set my alarm for 4AM (not like I ever slept until my alarm went off when sleeping outdoors).

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My bed in Parsons.

Around 3:30AM, 2 or 3 kids were out with their dog chatting up a storm and I assume looking for stupid Pokemon as it seems that’s all I saw people doing on sidewalks the entire race.  This set off EVERY dog in Parsons.  Dogs were barking everywhere and never stopped.  So I got up super tired and cranky.  Not good as I knew the next section was supposed to be one of the worst road stretches of the race.  I started moving at 3:50AM.  The gas station in town was open so I got some food.  I saw a few places that would’ve been much better for sleeping which made me more grumpy.

It was Saturday so I thought at least I’m getting the worst part of the road done without traffic since it’s not a work day.  People may want to call Southerners lazy but the roads are super busy at 5am on a workday so somebody’s working.  Well, I didn’t get the memo that said you will surely die or have horrible things happen to you if you don’t get to the TN River with your boat by sunrise.  It was a constant barrage of trucks hauling boat trailers.  No one was even close to the speed limit and no one moved over.  There is literally no shoulder for 4 miles out of Parsons.  It’s also very hilly and the last foot of the road has a severe camber.  I got a blister on my pinky toe due to my foot constantly having to fight the camber and from my foot slipping off the asphalt into the ditch a bunch of times.  The road gets a little better after that to the TN river bridge but not by much.  There is a hotel along the way and that’s about it as far as services go.  There are a few closed down gas stations.

I met up with Bo Millwood and Karen Jackson just before the bridge.  They were doing this for the second time together.  I think Karen had done it a few times before.  If I remember it right, Karen’s Christmas present to Bo was to pay the registration fee for the race.  I saw a photo of them from last years race that still busts me up laughing.  They used it as their Christmas card photo!  There are super nice people.  They must have something special to still like each other after running this two years together.  Yes she runs this in thin sandals.  They also took a dog home from the race.  It ran along with them over 30 miles so how could they not keep it!

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Pit Stop Market outside Shelbyville.  I ate there later in the race.  The only real food I had during the race.  I think I put on facebook I wanted to write a song about my love for the Pit Stop Market.  Photo Credit Jan Walker

We crossed the TN river and they stopped at a gas station just on the other side of the bridge.  I think this is around mile 112 of the race.  I don’t think I saw them again until the finish line.  I know they were always ahead of me at the check-ins anyway.  Karen was first place screwed woman which I think was her goal.  Awesome!

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TN River. You can see the boaters whose lives were saved since they got on the river before sunrise.

So it was 12 miles until the Commodore Hotel in Linden.  I had heard the story of Bo and Karen last year trying to stay there and not getting in since they didn’t have a reservation.  They had to grind it out in the hot afternoon to the next hotel 20 miles away.  I heard this story at about 1 AM so I made a reservation at 2AM while I was getting ready to sleep on the wood pile in Parsons.  It was just after 6AM now so I thought I’d get there around 9:15 and was a little worried the room wouldn’t be ready yet.  Oh silly me, you didn’t know your race would come to a grinding halt before you got to Linden did you?

Looking at my GPS watch data it looks like I made it almost 4 miles at a decent pace.  The last 8 miles took 3 hours which looking back at it now doesn’t seem that slow.  But it felt horrible.  Really the only reason it didn’t take 3.5 hours was that I ran downhill very painfully into Linden just so I could get there faster.  So what happened?  My ankles and feet were visibly swollen.  My heat rash was even worse and now on both ankles.  It was a solid red rash now instead of spots here and there.  It hurt to move the skin in any direction so of course walking and running both hurt.  By the time I got to the hotel at 10AM I had been on my feet for 6 hours without stopping.  I later determined that was the key issue, not getting off my feet and raising them up.

I somehow caught up to Clark Annis, Jeff Deaton, and Brian Trinkle about 4 miles from Linden if memory serves me right.  They all seemed to be fighting some sort of injury as well but seemed in much better spirits than me.  Looking back I should’ve laid down somewhere and tried to cool off but I didn’t.  A road angel came by with some water.  I didn’t really need any at this point anymore.  Parsons to Linden is indeed a long haul (about 18 miles) with no where to get water at night and barely anywhere during the day.  So I left Parsons with 3.5L of water and drank a 20 oz before leaving town as well.  I still had enough to get to Linden so I didn’t need water.  I did have a string cheese though,  which was AMAZING!  I wish it was like WI where every gas station has bags of fresh cheese curds siting out.

If I  remember correctly there were some super steep driveways leading off the road and going up the side hills in this section.  Someone said they would buy a beer for whomever made it to the top first.  No one tried.  At that point I would’ve been happy to be able to somewhat run on a flat road, let alone sprint uphill!

I got to the Commodore Hotel and got to the front desk looking the most pathetic I would look the entire race.  It seemed like I could barely talk.  I took out my money wallet thingy and just handed her everything since I couldn’t get anything out.  I asked if any restaurants were open yet and they said they could make me something.  I don’t think they were open yet but I must’ve looked pathetic enough to make me something.  They brought out a menu and I picked the spinach and artichoke dip appetizer and the special hamburger they made there.  I just said charge it to the same card.  I was hunched over hanging onto the desk this whole time mind you.

The room was in another building so we went there.  She was clearly worried about me falling down in the street.  We had to go up stairs and then downstairs to get to the room.  Whatever.  The bed looked super comfortable and I later found out it was.  She showed me everything in the room, something about the air conditioner, she could bring me a black out curtain if I wanted, etc.  She was going to bring me 2 bags of ice since there wasn’t an ice machine in that building I think.  I was kind of out of it.  So tired and painful.  I just took off my pack and laid on the bed, I never even locked the door.  I at least remembered to get stuff plugged in to charge.  At this point I was getting concerned with continuing the race or at least with how long it would take.  I wasn’t panicking or anything but it didn’t look good and there was a lot of race left, 190 miles to be exact. I took NSAIDs to help with the pain and swelling.  I hoped to not take anything this race since there was always a risk of dehydration which is a bad combo with NSAIDs.

I watched Top Gear on BBC for the first time while waiting for the food.  I always see ads for it when we watch Orphan Black but never saw it before.  It was the #1 show in the world for a while I guess.  Anyway, finally a knock on the door.  “Come in” I say.  I had to yell it like 3 times that the door was open.  Perhaps I couldn’t really yell, I was so tired.  She finally came in with the food and the ice.  I put the ice on my ankles and the food on my lap.  The artichoke dip was almost half cheese!  So freaking good.  The hamburger honestly kind of sucked but who cares I was starving.  I put the tray out and locked the door this time.  Got naked and put my feet on pillows and passed out for 5 hours straight.

When I got up it looked dark out.  Turns out the window was just shaded from the sun now and it was raining.  Hey at least I’m not in the rain.  I could actually walk to the bathroom OK.  I drank a bunch and went back in bed, this time with the ice under my ankles.  I fell asleep for a little bit and then checked email and such.  I thought about showering but figured it wasn’t worth it at this point anymore.  I emailed the group to see if anyone wanted my room.  JT and Sergio would end up taking it.  I never asked if they cuddled in the king size bed or not.

Footcare

On a tangent this is where I switched to my large pair of socks.  I brought 4 pairs of socks.  2 Medium and 2 Large Injinji.  I only wear Injinji socks as I get a lot less blisters with them.  I switched to the large pairs as my feet had swelled enough by this point to make them the better choice.  If you didn’t know already, you’re feet will swell during this race.  Both from the heat and from being on them all the time.  My pair of Altra Olympus 2.0 shoes I wore I got a half size bigger than my normal Olympus size.  I may still keep this larger size on the next pair as well though and haven’t decided.  I never had to cut my shoes open like some others did to relieve pressure and help with blister pain. In fact I never had blister pain.  My early blisters healed by the time I finished the race.  Make sure to take care of things early before they hurt.  I don’t care if you’ve never gotten a blister before, you better know what to do because you will get them in this race.  Go soak your feet and run 30 miles on the hottest day you can find to make yourself get blisters if you’ve never gotten them so that you learn before the race what to do.  Seriously.  I was surprised there were people who didn’t bring anything to take care of blisters in this race but there were and they paid for it dearly.  The chances of you being by a store the moment you need something is very very small.  Take your shoes off every time you stop to let things dry off.

You’ll notice a fair amount of the leaders in this race wear sandals.  If you can handle running in them they are a great choice.  Your feet won’t be as hot or wet and so you should have few to no blisters.  Don’t wear vibrams though.  You need more than an eighth of an inch of protection from the nails, glass, etc on the road.  Also the road gets to 150 degrees in the afternoon and you need some insulation between the road and your feet.  Only 1 guy ever ran this is vibrams and I’ve never read a race report that talked about his feet hurting so much more than that one.

Of all the items I brought, I didn’t use: my wet weather foot paste which I tossed on day 4 (4oz gone), my emergency light, a super small pocket knife, rain poncho, buff, and duct tape which I brought to fix things if need be.  I would still take all of those things if I did this race again.  Everything else I brought I used some of. I did not completely use up anything.  Learn how to tape your feet by yourself if you’re used to someone else doing it.  I don’t think there was any luck involved with me not having blister pain.  I planned and tested things as much as possible for this race beforehand.  I knew things would still go wrong but I tried to have versatile things along that I could McGyver something with.

OK so back to the race.  I left my key at the front desk and asked for ice water.  I saw the woman who checked me in and she didn’t recognize me at first since I could walk and was upright.  The amazing powers of sleep and ice!  I left at 6:30PM and went to the grocery store to buy some food and pop.  I got a 8 pack of fun size snickers and ate them all.  I met Juli and Jan again there.  The next town was Hohenwald which was a long town.  The food and motel part of town was 20 miles away.  A few miles out of town is a gas station that was supposed to be open until 7:30PM or so.  It was closed when I got there just before 7.  Jesse was sitting outside the store feeling very sorry for himself.  He had gotten there at 6 and it was closed then already.  I had planned on getting water here like he did so that sucked.  But then I found a spigot on the side of the building and filled up.  Jesse said he was going to pout a little longer so I left him.  This is an area that is easy to miss the turn.  There is a Y and since you are going against traffic and you need to go right at the Y, it is easy to just keep on going straight and not cross the road.  The gas station is right on top of the Y if you will.

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Go Right!

I checked in at mile 128 for the 60hour check-in.  Only 10 miles in the last 12 hours.  People at home were worried I think.  I mostly just told them I was tired so I slept a long time and didn’t tell about the zombie death march that morning.

I didn’t realize it at the time but I was starting what is known as 18 mile hill.  I could tell the road was gradually going up since we were clearly in a small river valley.  I never saw the river though.  It was still daylight for a portion of this section.  There is really no where to get water and not many houses along the road either.  Since the road elevation gain was so gradual I settled into a 5 minute run 2 minute walk pattern.  A few miles before you get to the outskirts of Hohenwald the climb gets much steeper as you leave the river valley.  I had just passed Juli and Jan by this point.  Finally getting to the top you realized you still had a ways to go to the town (like 6 miles I think the sign said).  I found what looked like a church with a parking lot and handicap parking sign but I kind of think it was a residence now.  There was stuff all around the outside.  Most of it looked like the junk I saw on a lot of porches along the race.  Stuff we’d put in the garage or basement here in MN they just put out on the porch in TN it seems.  The parking lot looked kind of run down as well.  I never saw a church sign but there could’ve been one somewhere else on the property.

There was a cat kennel outside that I put my feet up on and laid on the asphalt parking lot.  There were lights on in the building so I was quiet.  Jan and Juli came up and started knocking on the door to see if they could get water.  It was 10PM.  The lights in the building went out.  Great, can’t wait to see the cops I thought.  Luckily none came but I can’t imagine what the 2 people inside thought was going on outside.  Do people live in churches in the south?

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Google street view of the church? Now imagine junk all around the porch, concrete, and around that front door.

I laid there 30 minutes, not trying to sleep but just keeping my feet up since it had been 3.5 hours since I last had them up.  I had decided at least every 4 hours I would have to stop for 30 minutes or more and put my feet up since that’s about when they started to hurt.  I found out later this is something a fair amount of multi-day people do.  So there you go, lesson learned after almost 3 days.

I got going and reached the outskirts of Hohenwald.  I was hungry but there was nothing open on this end of town.  I found a playground after the airport and laid down around 11:20PM  I slept for almost an hour and a half but got cold again so I had to get going.

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I laid down and put my feet up on the little picnic table. It wasn’t super comfortable but the wood chips weren’t too bad.

So now it’s almost 1AM and I’m starving and thirsty.  I pass a bar and think if nothing else I’ll get bar food at the other end of town if nothing is open.  I didn’t know the bars close at 1AM in TN.  So when I finally got to the other end of town every fast food place seemed closed.  The hotel had ice but the pop machine was broken.  The next stop was a campground but all they were supposed to have was chips and water.  I saw some workers outside McDonalds smoking.  I had planned on dumpster diving there but couldn’t do that since they were outside by the dumpsters.  I convinced them to give me water to go along with the ice from the hotel.  I kept going and then saw Taco Bell down the road.  It was 1:40 so I just about full on sprinted to get there before they closed at 2.

I had to knock on the window since only the drive thru was open.  I scared the crap out of the dude but he broke the rules and allowed me to order.  I got some triple decker box meal thing for $5.  It was a ton of food for real cheap and tasted awesome as things tend to do when you are starving.  He even refilled my pop which again they aren’t supposed to.  I talked to him about the race through the window a little.  The workers wanted to know where I went pee.  I told them pooping was much more of a concern.  Then a truck pulled up so I had to move out of the way to not get run over.  The driver seemed to know about the race and asked what I got when I finished.  I told him “a sticker”.  He asked what the winner got and I told him “a sticker”.  Laz later told me I should’ve told him the winner got the sticker first.

Now a quick tangent; this sticker I speak of is the 314 sticker.  I’ve never put a mileage sticker on a vehicle before.  Even a hundred mile sticker seems kind of braggy/needy to me.  I don’t know why I feel that way but I just do, so I’ve never done it.  But I tell you what.  I’m putting that 314 sticker on my vehicle, no matter how braggy or douchie it is.  Most people will think it was a bike race or be thrown off by such an odd number anyway (yes it’s an even number but you know what I mean).  Pretty much only people who have done the race (and now you as well) will know what it means.  I told Laz he should make 100π stickers to really throw people off.  In fact if I were to ever get a tattoo it would be 100π.

So I ate the food on the employee picnic table out back and the guy came out since it was pretty much closing time and I think he was going to smoke.  He had cigarettes but never lit one up.  I told him I had just slept in a playground and he said he was homeless for 10 months in Chicago.  He confirmed that the playground plastic tubes were the best for sleeping if you could find them.  I had suspected that but never found any.  Hohenwald meant high forest in German he told me which explained the 18 mile hill into it.  He made it sound like Hohenwald wasn’t a very safe town.  It seemed by far the nicest town I went through at night but others did confirm it is a big drug town so looks aren’t everything.  He told me about the giant elephant sanctuary there.  He made it sound like there was an old story about gold along the Natchez Trace that the early explorers lost.  Who knows but good stories anyways.

I continued on the next 7 miles to the Natchez Trace Campground.  It was mostly downhill on a 4 lane highway.  I heard dogs everywhere and saw maybe 10 cars the whole time.  Weird for such a big road.  I got to the campground to find out the bathrooms were locked and so there was no running water.  There were picnic tables under a pavilion we could use.  I saw Jan and Juli there along with 3 other bodies.  I got out my battery pack to charge up everything and my sleeping bad liner.  It was 4AM.  I wanted to sleep a couple hours but that wasn’t going to happen.  I quickly realized that the body on the ground in the bivy sac was my roommate Paul by his snoring.  Someone had an extremely loud space blanket.  Juli was shaking with chattering teeth from being cold.  I maybe slept 30 minutes total being woken up every 5 minutes.  I’m sure I had woke them all up when I showed up and got situated as well.  The joys of sleeping outside with strangers.  This was about the only place on the whole course where the katydids noise wasn’t deafening.  It was dead quiet there so they didn’t help to drown anything out.  I should’ve slept on the bench on the porch under the lights and I didn’t remember my white noise on my ipod either.  It finally started getting light and I just got up realizing sleep would never come.  I was starting to get cold by then anyway.  I got some chips and filled my water bottles from a water cooler they had for us.  I should’ve looked how far it was to the next water stop but didn’t.  Jan and Juli left shortly after I did.

The next section was pretty good.  It was road construction but the road was pretty much done.  I went on the part over the barricade from the traffic and finally got to listen to music again.  Music really helps me move and I barely got to listen to it during this race due to the danger of not hearing things.  I was moving pretty good.  I went past the half-way point of 157 miles.  At the 72 hour check-in I was at mile 159 which was 31 miles further than 12 hours ago so I felt pretty good about that.  Much better than what I felt the day before anyway.  The main issue now was the large open sore that seemed to develop overnight on my lower back where the bottom of the pack was.  I think the wood chips made a cut there and that’s all it took to get infected and irritated by the pack.  Butt Lube didn’t help so I took a alcohol wipe to clean it off so I could apply a panty liner (yes I brought those in case of something like this).  The alcohol didn’t hurt as much as you’d think.  The panty liner held on good enough (it tended to slide around a little and started taking on sweat) but it was clear I’d have to take a shower to get things real clean and apply a blister band-aid to get it to heal and not hurt like mad.

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One of my cousins in NY would send me daily emails with pictures of my “fan club”. I got this one today. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a sign before.

Just before I got to Hampshire the TobyMac song I mentioned at the beginning of this blog came on.  The song is really about a father’s love for his children.  How you give to the point of having nothing left but still give more because that’s what love is.  I started crying.  I missed my kids so much.  It was weird how it just snuck up on me.  That lasted for the whole song.  I was told by many veterans that there would be high and low points and that you’d cry at some point.  I consider myself lucky that I cried from this kind of sadness and not extreme pain and feeling of hopelessness.

I got to Hampshire at 8AM.  There is basically nothing in this town if you could call it that.  Maybe 5 houses total.  There is a store but it doesn’t open until 1PM on Sunday which was today.  There was no water hose outside the building but there was a pop machine.  $1 per can.  I got 2 Yoo-Hoo and 2 SunDrop.  I was starting to not like SunDrop anymore but that’s what every pop machine had.  I was so thirsty I downed all 4 in 5 minutes and continued on.  I found a church just down the road that had a hose on the outside so I filled up my bottles there.  Since it was daylight and Sunday I was confident I would see a road angel before I got to Columbia.

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On the way to Columbia

I hadn’t had my feet up for over 3 hours so I found a nice cemetery at mile 163 and rested for 30 minutes.  I called my wife and made a reservation for the Richland Inn in Columbia.  This was probably the most peaceful time the whole race.  No cars.  Still kind of cool and I was in the shade on soft DRY grass.  I always wanted to sleep on grass but it was always soaking wet with dew at night and I didn’t have any waterproof tarp or anything to lay on.  I would bring that if I did this again.

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My view while laying in a cemetery outside Hampshire.
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Another cool looking cemetery.
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Lots of ranches like this.

I did meet a road angel and got some water.  I also saw Carl Laniak one of the race directors stop and pull over.  At first I got excited since I thought it was another road angel.  Once I realized it was him I yelled at him since he couldn’t give me anything since I was screwed.  It was getting HOT again.  Those few small clouds you see in the picture above somehow always went around me.  Columbia is another one of those 6 mile long towns.  I got a shake at the first gas station I saw.  Another runner was sleeping against the building in full sunlight with people and cars all around him.  No idea who he was or if he was actually sleeping but I saw him again that night sleeping on a gas station bench in Culleoka.

I got stopped by the guy who sits on his porch and takes down your information as he’s done for the last few years.  Clark was there as well.  I planned to eat at Hardees but only the drive thru was open so I couldn’t.  I just kept going to the hotel and ordered a pizza.  Took a shower and washed my clothes and put on my underwear I brought just for this occasion (to not answer the door naked ).  I got my pizza and slept from about 2:30 to 7PM.  This was the only time I got woken up by my alarm.

I ate the rest of my pizza and finally got out the door at 8.  I can’t remember if I had to re-tape my feet or why it took so long to get going.  Maybe I was just trying to memorize the guide book.  My 84 hour check-in was 179 miles so another 20 miles in that 12 hour period.  51 in the last 24 hours so I felt pretty good with that. 5 miles to the bench of despair in Glendale.  I got there at 9:25PM Sunday and signed the bench as is tradition.

I didn’t stick around long.  Just took some water and left.  Outside of Culleoka there was a nice surprise of an aid station in someone’s yard.  It was before you get to Culleoka.  There were quite a few people there.  No other racers at the time.  I sat down on an awesome lawn chair.  They had everything you could think of.  Tons of food, batteries, place to charge stuff.  I really just wanted some grapes and a pop.  I think I sang the Grape song by Andrew and Polly a little.  I had just charged everything a few hours ago so I didn’t need to do that.  I stayed there 20 minutes. Annette Dykes must have been one of them there but not sure if she lived there or was just visiting as I know not everyone lived there.  Anyway she remembered I wanted to get done in time to get to my son’s birthday party and congratulated me on the Facebook photo of me finishing.  Awesome how people keep tabs on us runners.

The road past Culleoka towards Lewisburg was creepy.  This is where the trees were pretty much up to the road and sometimes met above the road to make it like a tunnel.  The other parts were just as creepy as it was in another small river valley so it just seemed so closed in.  There were essentially no yard lights anywhere.  I was on full alert for dogs.  I heard plenty but I don’t remember if any came out on the road here.  I’m used to running in the dark but there was just something not right about this area to me.  At mile 193 there is a gas station that had a covered area with a light and fan going.  There was a nice wooden bench there and I laid on it for 20 minutes.  A cat came by but never really looked at me.  I’m pretty sure it was black.  I didn’t want to sleep here so I kept going.  At the aid station they had said I could sleep at the dentist office porch in Lewisburg.  That was still a long ways off and I was tired now so I would need to find someplace to sleep before there.

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Pretty sure that cat is black. Nice soft bench though.

I made it to to top of the hill before you go down into Lewisburg and saw a Waste Management building.  The fence around it wasn’t completed yet and I saw a truck parked up there.  I thought sleeping in the bed of the truck would be nice and hidden.  I had to climb an embankment to get there.  I didn’t even try to open the truck door to see if it was open.  It had a bed liner so I thought it would be a little warmer that way.  I got my battery pack out again to charge stuff and my sleeping bag liner.  I set the alarm for 3:30AM, it was now 2AM.  I knew garbage workers got to work early but figured 3:30 should be fine.  I woke up at 2:45AM cold again.  I tried to get back to sleep.  Then I heard a vehicle drive up the road to the gate.  Crap!  I could hear the chain on the gate being undone and the gate being slid open.  The vehicle drove up to I’m guessing 40 feet from me.  Super Crap!  All scenarios start popping in my head.  What if he has a gun and I scare him so much he shoots me.  What if he detains me and calls the cops.  Nothing seemed like a good outcome.  I heard what sounded like bags being unloaded and stacked.  I was hoping this was some sort of delivery truck.  The truck engine started back up and I thought he might be driving closer to me.  The truck I was in was only 15 feet from the office door.  But it wasn’t getting closer, I’m not sure what was happening.  I didn’t dare lift my head up and be seen.  The engine stopped and I heard footsteps again.  I had been trying to get my stuff packed up but any movement was super loud due to the bed liner.  I lay still and waited, trying to come up with something to say.  Trying to figure out if it would be better to pretend to sleep as I was found.  Finally I heard a garbage truck start up.  I sprang into action and grabbed everything and ran down the embankment hoping not to twist my ankle on the large rocks I was running down.  I got to the bottom just to see another truck pull onto the road.  They didn’t see me or didn’t care.  That was close!  So now I know when waste management starts their day, it 2:45AM.

 

 

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So this is the street view from 2013. The fence looks exactly the same now.  I think that’s even the same truck I slept in. I know it was red and was a little closer to the building.  There are a lot more other vehicles around the site now. I swear the embankment was twice that high the night I ran down it.

So I started down the hill into Lewisburg.  There were a lot of strip malls it seems to me.  A guy walking on the sidewalk actually looked afraid of me running towards him.  First time that’s ever happened.  I did end up seeing the dentist office porch which was concrete so probably not that comfortable.  The 200 mile mark is just before you get to the courthouse in the town square.

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That’s supposed to be me making the number 2 with my eyes being zeros. Kind of lame but I couldn’t come up with anything better at the time which was 3:45AM.

About a mile later there are some gas stations that were open.  So I go into one after having already purchased yet another SunDrop from a pop machine not knowing if anything would be open further ahead.  They have food there and a bunch of things on menu boards up by the ceiling.  I ask the lady if I can order anything or just get what’s already in the warming display case thing that all gas stations have with old pre-made food.

She said “I can make you anything you want hun!”  Awesome!!!

“I’d like the chicken salad sub then.”

“I can’t make that.”

“OK” so much for anything I want “I’ll have the tuna salad sub then.”

“No I can’t make that either.”

Dejected, I say “Fine I’ll have the Salmon dinner.”

“I can’t make that either.”

This is where the other customers start chuckling.  I finally give up and let people pay for their stuff since this is holding everyone up who is trying to get to work.  I ended up just getting the pre-made crap that I didn’t want since I didn’t feel like spending 30 minutes going through every menu board item to find out what “ANYTHING YOU WANT HUN” means in TN.  At least the packaged cake I got was good.

I started out of town towards Shelbyville just over 20 miles away.  There would be a few small towns I’d go through before there though.  I had been warned by previous race reports of the dogs on this 20 mile stretch.  They weren’t wrong.  The rest of the way to Shelbyville I not only had my mace in my hand but also my dowel rod in the other.  Someone had emailed the list about 2 pit bulls near some county line outside Shelbyville but I had no idea where the county line was so I was prepared now.  Leaving Lewisburg you go past a motel on the race route.  It looked pretty sketchy to me.  In fact the half mile to get to it from the gas station was awful sketchy as well.  Clark told me later that while walking this part a guy was following him and would stop when he stopped and move when he moved.  Clark finally turned around and started walking towards the guy and he turned and left him alone.

I met a few dogs in the dark but none came on the road and I was ready if they did.  Stray dogs I actually didn’t mind on this trip.  They ran away from you.  It was the dogs guarding their territory that were aggressive. The sun came up and lots of cars were flying down the road with little shoulder to move over on.  That was getting old. At 6AM I found a church off the road a bit with a wooden bench that looked nice to take a nap on.  It was short but I’d have to make due since I was tired and I hadn’t seen anything better for miles (of course a little further was a horse barn with bags of sawdust stacked up that looked like heaven).  A cop car was parked across the street but I didn’t care.  I did actually sleep for close to an hour.  My legs didn’t feel great due to being scrunched up and on a metal bar but I felt kind of awake at least.  I continued on my way after getting some water from a park hydrant nearby.  I never got a photo of this sleeping spot.

I went a couple miles when all of a sudden from the left come 2 pit bulls charging down a hill.  I start using my deep commanding voice and look to the right to make sure I don’t get smucked by a car while I cross the road to get some distance.  Luckily no cars so I run to the other side while still yelling at the dogs.  The tan one was the worst and the larger female who has had at least 2 litters of puppies based on her mammary development stayed back with the yelling.  I walked on the right shoulder while looking at the tan one and yelling at him to go home.  He followed on the other side of the road for about 100 feet.  Finally a group of about 6-7 cars came and I ran as they came along me so I could get some distance.  The dog kept walking and then started to cross the road.  Luckily another big group of cars came.  The dog looked at them and then at me and finally turned around and ran off the road.  I didn’t need to use my mace or anything but I warned everyone on email again with the exact mileage 209.  I had just checked in for the 96 hour check-in so I knew where I was.  I then came to the county line which was after the dogs.  I later found out that one of them got hit by a truck.  I don’t know all the details.  I’ll let the runner who saw what happened tell his story if he wants too.  I assume it was the tan one that got hit.  While I’m glad the dog was no longer around to hurt someone else, it pisses me off that the owner was so irresponsible to let it run around on the road.  The dog was doing it’s job and the owner wasn’t.  There’s no way this was the first time those dogs were in the road and needed to be in a fenced in area.

A few miles I see Clark in a graveyard gazebo in Wheel that has narrow but long benches.  I laid down and put my arm through the railing so I could fit on the bench.  He had only been there a few minutes and didn’t have much of an issue with the dogs.  I rested just a bit and continued on since there were supposed to be gas stations up ahead and they should be open now.  I found out later lots of people slept in this gazebo.  I was a pretty nice spot I must say.

I got to the Pit Stop Market I referenced above in a photo and asked what I could have as there was a kitchen there.  She told me to tell her what I wanted and she’d tell me if she could make it.  This was worded much better than “I can make anything you want, hun” so I said scrambled eggs and lots of hash browns.  She said sure.  I grabbed some chocholate milk and pop and sat down at a booth.  Took the shoes off and charged everything up in the wall outlets conveniently located at every booth.  Clark came in but didn’t order anything.  I got my food but it wasn’t hash browns like I’m use to.  It was sliced potatoes.  Maybe she heard hash rounds?  Whatever, they tasted good.

I left and in a couple miles there was another gas station I think in Bedford.  I wanted to get more water from the bathroom but they had a sign it was for customers only.  OK whatever, I bought the one and only Gatorade I had the entire race.  Skip that I think I got one from a road angel too.  Anyway, you also couldn’t use a credit card for anything less than $5 so I had to pay cash.  I usually just left whatever change I got other than quarters in the take a penny leave a penny tray that every gas station in America but this one has.  Want to know what they have instead at this not at all friendly establishment?

A tip jar!

Not a leave and penny take a penny tray.  Not a donation box for a local kid with cancer treatment bills.  Nope, a tip jar.

I should’ve taken money out of it.  I carried that change for miles, they sure weren’t going to get it.

Next I got to see a old guy beating the crap out of this walking horse while he was training it to do the big lick.  That pissed me off to no end.  I’m as far as you can get from an animal rights activist but this wasn’t right.  It wasn’t a corrective tap here or there, it was full on wind it up 5 times in a row beat down every time there was a misstep.  And there were a lot of missteps.  Tennessee Walking Horses do have a small natural lift to their front legs but making them do that big lick walk seems senseless to me.  I’ve heard horse owners say the big lick is a natural gait.  In my professional opinion the big lick is completely UN-natural.  They’re finally cracking down on the soring that used to go on and this guy was using a different method than that to make the horse lift it’s feet at least.  I really felt like going up to him with a whip and telling him that I’d smack him every time he didn’t skip.  No walking or running, you can only skip.  Oh, it’s uncomfortable and inefficient to skip you say?  Too bad, since you can physically do it, it must be a natural human gait.  Right?  Just like a horse lifting it’s feet super high in the air for NO reason.  I know that area is the big Tennessee Walking Horse area and I’m probably pissing off some of the nice local people who helped me during the race but I don’t like it.  I’m sure not everyone beats their horse but this was right out by the hwy for everyone to see so obviously he thought there was nothing wrong with it.

Done venting.

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Finally I got to Shelbyville.  I got my first ice cream bar at the first gas station.  It was just after noon and hot as always but I was getting used to it now.  Really I couldn’t even tell you what day was officially the hottest.  The first motel is the Magnolia Inn.  It looked sketchy and there were 5 very loud men with cars in the parking lot.  I’ll remind you it’s 12:15PM,  check out is at 11AM and you can’t check in until 3, why are there so many people here.  There is no office, you just go up to a window and some guy shows up.  I ask how much for a room and he goes “ahhh $50”.  If you’re going to try to scam me dude don’t start with an “ahhh” where it’s clear to me you’re just throwing a number out there you think I’ll pay.  I left and he chases after me yelling smaller numbers.  If he had got to 20 I would’ve stopped.  This place looked like too much trouble for anything more.

Bo and Karen went there as well that day.  This is the story they told me but I’m sure they will tell it better in their race report.  Bo asked the guy if there were any other runners staying there.  The guy didn’t know what he was talking about so Bo asked him if anyone wearing a backpack like him and Karen were there.  The guy then told him “No.  Your kind sleep under the bridge by the river”.  Needless to say they didn’t stay there either.

The other hotel was a little off course but I went there.  America’s Best Value.  I think it was $50 as well but it was quiet.  I took a shower and washed my clothes again.  I slept until around 5PM.  I re-taped my feet even though it wasn’t too bad.  I knew this would probably be my last time staying in a hotel so I thought it best to redo it now when it’s easiest.  I had a small heel blister that I took care of and then put Engo patches on the heels of my shoes to prevent any new ones.  I’ve never gotten heel blisters before but I wasn’t surprised since I had my shoes tied so loose the heels would slip.  If I tightened them any more though I would have much bigger issues with my tendons getting irritated like I’ve had in the past and the heel blister didn’t hurt so I’d take that trade any day.

I then saw a reddish looking bug on the edge of the pillow crawling up it.  I squished it to kill it and bright red blood came out.  The exoskeleton was clear so I’m guessing it was some sort of biting lice.  I know they let dogs stay in the rooms here so I was hoping it was from a dog, but very likely the person who stayed there before me had head lice.  Gross.  I know it didn’t come from me, but now I was paranoid I’d bring something home with me.  It wasn’t on the pillow I slept on but still it was in the room with me and I didn’t want to look to see if he had any friends.  I washed everything on sanitize when I got home and had my wife check me over.  No lice!  Huzzah!

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America’s Best Value wasn’t America’s most hygienic.

Starting out of Shelbyville sucked.  My ankles were a little swollen still even after sleep and icing them.  My heat rash was feeling better with hydrocortisone cream but still hurt some.  The main issue was my calves were super tight from sleeping on that church bench that morning and I also had some tight tendon I could feel flick over something with every step behind my left knee.  It didn’t hurt to walk but that tendon would flare up something fierce if I didn’t figure out which one it was or what was causing it.  Here are the views I had leaving town.  Let’s just say they weren’t helping to give me a positive attitude.

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Decaying church.
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Fenced off old hospital

I saw Wayne just before check-in and told him it might be a very slow night if I couldn’t figure it out.  He did a great job telling me I was doing a great job.  Even if you feel bad, knowing someone thinks your doing just fine helps a lot with morale. After about 40 minutes of stopping, trying to feel which tendon was flicking around, stretching, etc I figured out it was my lateral hamstring tendon flicking but that one of the muscles right behind the knee was super tight as well.  There are at least 2 small muscles just behind the knee that I have no idea how to stretch but I know if I crank down hard on them, they eventually loosen up.  Very painful but the only way I knew to loosen them.  I got my dowel rod out and worked on my hamstrings on both legs and also my calves for awhile.  Finally the flicking sensation went away and I could run with a very short stride and probably 190 cadence.  I’d stop every 5 minutes or so to stretch the calves and hamstrings some more.  I checked in at 226 miles at the 4.5 day check-in.  Only 17 miles the last 12 hours, not very good.

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Deer I saw that snorted at me a bunch.

Wartrace was 6 miles away.  I kept hearing gun shots in this section.  I got to Wartrace and put my feet up at the gas station on a bench and talked to my wife a little bit.  I had my mace and dowel rod out again.  I told people I needed some well wishes this night since last night had been so “bad”.  Hard to put it into words but the eerie road, dogs, Lewisburg, just added up to being a not at all fun, bad, depressing night.  They had to be emails, not texts or phone calls.  I planned on being in silent mode to keep dogs and people from knowing I was there. I left Wartrace at 10PM.

I was hyper vigilant this night.  I started the small back road section from Wartrace to Manchester.  This section is probably real nice in the day.  The trees cover the road almost 80% of the time it seemed like.  You could do this section easy with all the shade as long as you brought enough water.  It was like a 15 mile never ending tunnel with the katydids making a deafening roar.  I took control this night and charged ahead with no fear.  No headlamp needed even with the shade as it was a full moon tonight.  It basically felt like I was in The Walking Dead running down the middle of the road checking the tree lines constantly for walkers, I mean dogs.  Instead of a katana or a crossbow, I had my trusty mace and a foot long dowel rod.  Oh yeah, I was badass!  I had everything on my pack tied down so nothing would make a sound.  My collapsible water bottles had no air in them so there was no sloshing.  I quickened my cadence to quiet my steps.  I actually was past the first few dogs before they saw my reflector in the moonlight and barked.  But after a few miles the dogs seemed to know I was coming a half mile before I got there.  I thought that was weird.  The pair of loud Pyrenees in the large fenced in pasture came charging down the hill to the fence line but I’ve read about them many times so I wasn’t worried.  They followed me the whole way along the fence and barked for awhile after I was gone.  But still all the dogs ahead were barking.  Finally I found out why, Clark was just ahead of me the last few miles so they were reacting to him and then continued to react to me when I got there.  So much for stealth mode.  I walked with him for a bit and then ran again.

I found a church at mile 240 on the right with a 30 foot long picnic table and laid down on it.  There were no water spigots that I could find but there was an outlet I didn’t use as it was far from the picnic table and I didn’t want to risk forgetting I had something plugged in.  I used my battery pack instead.  It was 12:15AM and had only been a couple hours since my last stop but I needed to get my feet up and work on my calves some more.  Clark came and rested as well.  I don’t think I ever fell asleep, I just worked on my muscles while laying down.  I did feel quite rested though after 40 minutes and left.

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This is the picnic table at the church. Photo Credit Laura Carver

Soon after I left Clark a car seemed to be following behind me.  It would just stop for a while and then drive up to me and stop again.  I finally figured out it was someone’s crew.  I kept hearing this hollering and thought the crew was cheering on their runner every time he went past.  It was late so I was wondering why they were doing this.  Whispering Oaks Campground was only 3 miles away and I got there around 1:40AM.

I saw Andrei sleeping on a picnic table.  There were real bathrooms here.  Apparently there were showers as well somewhere but I didn’t see them.  I found some cushions and put them on a picnic table thinking this would be the best outdoor sleep of the race.  I set my alarm for 4AM.  I woke up when Clark came and found a spot to sleep.  I fell back asleep but kept having bad dreams.  I can’t remember details but I know they were about someone not letting me get to where I wanted to go or not letting me leave.  Stupid race was in my dreams already!  I woke up just before the alarm.  Everyone was gone.  I left some money in the money slot since it was nice of them to let us stay there.  Of course later runners said they had cots, food, drinks, air mattresses, and who knows what else set up for the runners.  Lucky bastards.  This is another place I slept that I don’t have a picture of.

Next stop was Manchester.  There was a gas station open 2 miles from the campground.  I got some food and pop there.  Soon after I left I realized I left my dowel rod there so I went back to get it.  That was the only extra distance for stupidity that I did this race.  Really it was maybe a tenth of a mile both ways so not a big deal.  It was daytime when I got to Manchester and I caught up to Clark.  He was going to get some supplies for his feet and I suspected spend some time in a hotel recovering.  I ate at Hardee’s and had lots of refills of pop, I was sweating like crazy already.  This morning seemed the hottest to me but it was mostly because I was in the full sun with zero wind most of the day.  I got out of town before the 5 day check-in, 253 miles.

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Sunrise before Manchester
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The county saved a lot of money on this sign.

Hillsboro was only 4 miles away but I stopped at a gas station to get some ice and refuel a little.  I put my feet up as well since it had been 2.5 hours since Hardee’s.  I put straight ice in my bladder and ice water in my bottles.  I don’t think putting ice on my back was the best idea.  My back skin felt all pins and needles under the pack the next 2 days after doing that.  It kept me cool though.  I left the rest of the bag of ice for the next runner.

Along the way I saw a buck laying in the shade with some cattle.  It was that hot that he just plopped down with them.  You can see it on the video at the end although I didn’t zoom in at all.  I think it was also around here that screwed winner Andrew Snope stopped.  He kind of hobbled out of the car and cheered me on.  I agreed with his finishing quote that being crewed would be much easier.  At least I’m pretty sure it was this day I saw him.  I think he was driving home or something.

Pelham was around 9 miles away.  I ran/walked most of this even though it was hot.  I found a new convenience store in Pelham that was hiding behind a row of trees.  I got a milkshake there and more ice water.  I wasn’t very hungry for much else.  I got back on the road to Monteagle.  4 large white dogs came out from a hole in a fence and followed me for a bit but they didn’t seem aggressive and always stayed in the ditch.  There were some clouds in the sky now but the shadows never seemed to get to me.  I could never catch up to one either.  I could hear thunder in the distance so maybe it would rain.

At mile 270 starts the 3 mile 1000 foot climb to Monteagle.  I just kept plugging away at it.  Stopping didn’t help so I didn’t do that more than once.  Plus when I did stop I sat on the guardrail.  I wasn’t on it for even half a second and thought my shorts had melted to it.  It was probably only 120 degrees but the metal conducted the heat extremely well.  I didn’t get burned at least.  I could see the road was wet in spots but I never got rained on and made it up to the top in an hour.

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View from about half way up.

It was almost 3PM now.  There was an Italian restaurant right there so I went in.  I got Bang Bang Shrimp and Blackened Chicken Alfredo.  They had awesome bread and butter there as well.  I was going over my rule of 1100 calories solid food but I didn’t care.  Plus I planned on sleeping somewhere.  My feet were hurting pretty bad so I took NSAIDs again for the second time in the race.  I charged stuff up while I waited and ate.  I left there at 3:30PM since the food came out quickly and I wanted to sleep.

I had the choice of going off course a quarter mile to a hotel or going to a state park right on the road that was free.  I didn’t want to spend more money and I wasn’t that tired yet so I decided to go the 3 miles to the park.  Of course I was tired almost immediately after I left.  It was super hot.  No shoulder on the road and apparently everyone works shifts in Monteagle since the road was very busy at 3:30.  I did finally make it to the park.  The bathrooms were pretty nice but that’s about all.  It seemed much nicer of a park on the bus ride a week ago.  The picnic tables were too exposed and too many people around that area so I found some trees and laid on my sleeping bag liner with my feet uphill.  I was there for 90 minutes but I’m not sure how much I slept.  My feet were pounding.  The person shooting hoops must have sucked since every shot seemed to make the loudest sound possible.  It seemed like he threw the ball at the rim every shot.  Mothers with their children kept their distance from me.  I finally got up super groggy and changed socks one last time.  I filled up my water and moved on out very slowly at first.

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Google street view

Tracy city was very close from the park.  Coming into town there was a old school building that was now called the art building or something to that effect.  Anyway it was up on a hill and it looked like every girl in the county from age 5-10 was there learning to cheer.  My sister-in-law is from NC and was big into cheering so maybe it’s just a southern thing where every girl must learn to cheer.  Regardless, they were all together shouting

“We got spirrit, S-P-I-RRRR-I-T, we got spirrit”

I wish you could hear it.  I don’t know how to write out the sound.  Just think of the most southern drawl you’ve ever heard with a lot of up and down changes of pitch and you’ll be close.  I swear no one had that much of a drawl when I talked to them in stores and on the street but apparently when it comes to cheering, the more the better.

So while I’m listening to this cheering on the left side of the road, I look over to the right side of the road which is a graveyard.  A quick glance shows no where to sleep and also with the cheering going on, I wouldn’t sleep anyway.  On second glance I see 5 people in the graveyard crying with one of them carrying a shovel.  Look left, cheering.  Look right, sobbing.  Something like that sticks in your head.  The pile of dirt didn’t look very big so I don’t know if you could bury pets in this cemetery in addition to humans or if it was a child that died which would make this even more tragic to have children cheering on the other side of the road.

I moved along down the hill to the gas station.  I knew it would be a long haul to Jasper.  There was an aid station at mile 295 in Steve Smalling’s yard but that was 15 miles away so I filled up with water and had a slushy.  I knew I’d have to sleep somewhere as I was still exhausted but nothing in town looked good or safe.  A few stray dogs said hello and went on their way.  I got out of town a few miles before check-in.  281 miles down, 33 to go.  By not sleeping in the hotel I had certainly gained positions.  I knew I would lose a couple since I needed to sleep for an hour soon.

I found a wooden pew in front of a church or at least what I thought was a church and laid down on it.  There was another pew to hide me somewhat from the road and it was just starting to get dark.  I didn’t get anything out of my pack.  I was in save time mode now, as this was my final push to the rock.  I slept soundly for an hour.  I got up and started moving.  I took half a caffeine pill during the long section to Jasper.  There wasn’t much traffic anymore which was nice.  I was running well again.  I wasn’t too concerned about dogs anymore but still had my mace and dowel rod out.

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I went back to get a picture of this after I finished the race.

Just before the 3 mile decent into Jasper I saw the same crew vehicle as the night before.  I figured I’d get passed by the runner.  Sure enough he passed me on the decent.  Every minute or so he’d yell out super loud.  So it wasn’t the crew cheering like I thought the night before, it was him.  I can’t even scream as loud as he could yell.  I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be singing or what but it was short 2 second bursts so it didn’t seem like singing.  This was just before midnight on a work night.  Every dog would start barking every time he did this.  I didn’t get to ask him what he was doing so I won’t say who it was as maybe there is some reasonable explanation.  I think it was extremely rude to go yelling in the middle of the night in a residential area though.  I ran the whole way down which cut close to 30 minutes off my time I was thinking it would take to get to Jasper.

When I got to the bottom of the hill, a cop stopped me to ask what I was doing.  I’m pretty sure he thought I was the yelling guy.  So I had to spend 5 minutes showing him the race route and telling him about the race.  He acted like he had no clue.  People had already been coming through town the last 3 days and I know for a fact a resident called the police to tell them about the race beforehand.  It’s his fault he didn’t know what was going on, not mine.  I felt like telling him to go bother all the Pokemon people roaming the streets the same as me in the middle of the night but I didn’t.  I finally just started walking away and he left.

I got to Steve’s yard at mile 295 and found Andrei sleeping there.  I drank some water and found 2 chairs to sleep on.  I set my alarm for an hour and instantly fell asleep.  A dog barked once that seemed really close and I heard Andrei jerk in his bivy sac.  He didn’t recall that at all when I asked him at the finish line.  He must’ve been really tired to not get woken up by that.  I woke up just before the alarm and turned it off.  I quietly got up and left just before 1AM.  Again I hadn’t taken anything out other than the battery pack to charge stuff.

My feet were soaked at this point from all the sweating yesterday and overnight in the fog.  If it was earlier in the race I would’ve changed socks and taken care of any blisters if there were new ones.  It didn’t feel like there were any new ones yet but I knew running in wet feet the next 4-5 hours would make some.  At this point I didn’t care.  Even if they showed up they wouldn’t start hurting before I was done or at least not enough to slow me down.  I’ve done this in other races as well towards the end.  I also was worried if I changed socks I might mess up my taping job and then have to spend time redoing that over the few blisters I had from earlier in the race.

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Chairs at mile 295.  When I went back he also had lawn chairs that laid down flat.
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I went back to thank Steve after the race and he took this picture.

I took the other half of the caffeine pill then as I wasn’t planing on sleeping anymore.  In about an hour I felt awake the rest of the race and beyond.  While I was going through town there was a car with 2 guys in it yelling stuff out the window.  I’m assuming they were drunk since I could hardly understand anything they were saying.  Something about I can stop running now since no one is chasing me.  I’ve only heard that joke from people in TN so it must be really funny to them.  In fact, someone WAS chasing me dumb ass, it’s a race and I’m not last.  Even if I was last there would still be Oprah chasing me!  I ignored them and kept going.  I saw them 3 more times as they circled around town.  Good thing that cop was busy harassing us runners and not getting drunk drivers off the road, wouldn’t want him to have to get out of his car.  Come to think of it, I never saw a cop pull a vehicle over the entire race.  If he came around a 4th time I thought about macing them.  He never came.

Next stop was Kimball a few miles away.  The parking lot was full of trucks.  I got there at 2:10AM.  I reserved a room for that night since it was going to fill up again due to all the construction workers staying there.  They gave me a bag to put all the stuff in I didn’t want to carry anymore.  I pretty much just had my 2 small water bottles left and first aid kit when I was done taking stuff out.  I left at 2:17AM and knew at that point I would finish before 6 days!  I got some pop and food at the gas station next door as it didn’t look like anything else was open and certainly nothing would be open the next 14 miles.

The next 3 and a half hours were torture.  Not because I was in pain, though I was.  Not because the miles were hard, though climbing Sand Mountain wasn’t very fun.  Not because of more dogs in the road, though New Hope had a bunch.  It was torture because the first of those 3 hours seemed like forever!  Once I knew finishing was inevitable, I got impatient.  I never saw a soul the entire time.  I texted when I got to the bridge that I was on my way.  I expected a response that someone was right in front of me or some other psychological torture.  I just got the reply “gotcha”.  Does that mean someone really is close ahead or behind?  I started caring now that someone would pass me right at the end.

Soon after starting the climb up sand mountain you enter Alabama.  I had never been to Alabama before this race so that’s one more off my list.  Only  6 states left and Guam if you want to count territories.

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Horrible picture of the Alabama sign.

When I got to the CR 132 turnoff, it was getting light.  I was flying high now.  Just a few more miles to go!  I ran.  Even the hills.  I even looked over my shoulder a few times I think.  I got to the border of Georgia and the castle rock gate just on the other side.

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Most called this road the cheese grater.

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I kept running.  I got out my iPod one last time and cranked a few power songs.  There was a sign telling you to turn although I had this part of the course memorized anyway.  It said 1 mile to go.  I turned on the field road and up the hill.

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Foggy dawn at castle rock.

There was another sign to turn left which also said 1 mile to go, or at least I thought it did.  Then into the trees for the trail lover in me.  I think there were a few more signs, probably said 1 mile to go on them as well.  Finally the open space with cars and people.  They let me keep going straight to the rock since I wasn’t wobbly (probably shaved 2 seconds off my time, lol).

Done!!!!!!!

There was no scenic view from the rock at the time because of the fog so I’d have to see that later.  I wanted to finish in the day so I could remember everything more and I did.  Better yet I was still under the 6 day mark.  I got to sit in the finisher chair.  I knew they always put a quote of what you say at the finish in the email they send out so I had something kind of prepared when climbing up sand mountain.  But I never said it and just started having a great conversation with everyone.  Laz, Carl, Sandra, Bo and Karen were all there.  Bo and Karen had finished a little over 20 minutes before me.  They had sprinted to the end and Karen fell and had some road rash from it.  Funny to think of sprinting at the end of 314 miles but I think almost everyone does it if they can.  The next hour or so was awesome talking to everyone and watching Andrei come in and finish.  There were some great stories and I got to hear about a lot of the runners I never saw on the course.

And of course I got my 314 sticker!

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Gotta do a Rocky pose

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“Official” finisher photo Photo Credit Carl Laniak
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Hard earned joy.
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The view from the rock a few hours later.
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Don’t fall down!

I took off my shoes and socks to put on some sandals.  I found 2 new small blisters at the base of my toes (I found 3 more smaller ones after I slept at the hotel).  They didn’t hurt yet but it shows how important it is to take care of your feet right away. In just the last 5 hours I had more than doubled the number of blisters by not changing into dry socks when I knew I should have.  Like I said earlier I didn’t care about getting them at the end of the race.  My largest blister the whole race was 9mm.

I went back to the hotel and they had a room ready for me when I got there at 10AM!  Shower, wash clothes, charge phone, sleep.  I got up at 3PM just so I wouldn’t end up waking up at 1AM or something dumb.  I drove back to thank Steve and take some pictures of the course I had missed in my last day scramble.  I saw 4 people coming down the hill into Jasper, and the few miles before the hill into Jasper a saw 3 more people.  All of them people I had ran with during the race at some point.  I cheered them on and told them about the aid station at Steve’s house.

I went back to the rock to see Paul, Jeff, and Brian finish.  They spent about 30 seconds arguing over what order they should finish in since they got there at the same time.  Note to future runners, have a plan in place for who goes first beforehand.  There are no ties and only one can go to the rock at a time.  That’s why you’ll always see finishing times at least 20 seconds or so apart.

So I figured I took somewhere around 870,000 steps between running and walking!  I’d be curious to know if someone had a step counter that ran this race.  Guess I’ll have to try for a million someday.

I got back to bed about 11pm.  The next day I left but stopped to wish JT, JT (Jason), and Novle good luck on their way from Jasper to the finish first.  I ended up sleeping in the same spot on the way home in the car again.  I slept one more time too later on.

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I’m so clean!

I had to drive past my wife’s work so I decided to get her some flowers.  I brought those and an ice cold can of Cheerwine.  I gave her a big inappropriate work kiss.  She was more excited by the pop than the flowers.  We only get Cheerwine once like every 5 years when we make a trip down south as they don’t sell it in MN.  So it’s a big deal.  THANK YOU honey for taking care of the kids for 11 days!  Thanks mom for helping out with the kids and giving her a break.  Thanks to everyone who kept tabs on me and gave me encouragement, it really helped.

When I got home I was a pound heavier.  I wasn’t surprised since I should have a lot more plasma volume, I was eating a lot, and my muscles were swollen.  By 8 days later despite eating a ton, I’m 3 pounds lighter than before the race and the lightest I’ve been in a decade.  I lost about 14 pounds before the race since so many people had commented in their race reports they were mad they carried a bunch of fat around for 314 miles.

My legs felt hot for 5 days straight.  Basically like they feel the night after a 30 mile long run.  I was always sweating at night sleeping and since I sweat so much more now, I would be soaked.  It finally stopped after the 5th night.

I had a 3 mile run 6 days after the race and it felt good.  My bones and feet ached some that night though so I’m taking another 5 days off before I run again.  I’ve got a hilly 100 mile in 5 weeks so I plan on mostly just doing hill repeats and nothing over 5 miles or so until then.

Here are my shoes after the race.   Altra Olympus 2.0 for those who care.  I put on about 100 miles on them before the race to break them in.

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I only tied my shoes 3 times the whole race. Just when I had to loosen them up from my feet swelling. I just slipped them on like slippers.
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You wear the heels a lot faster when you walk. Normally I’d get 800 miles or so out of shoes but probably not these.

This is the link to the final results with links to other peoples race reports and lots of other stats.  tinyurl.com/volstate2016 Here is the video I made.  The sound is bad in spots because the sweat and humidity messed up my phone microphone towards the end of the race.

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My finisher jacket I got in August. Back side.
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Front side.
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Looks Awesome!
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So since I take my wife’s vehicle to my races I wanted a sticker for it too.  I didn’t think it would be right to make a 314 sticker so I made a 100pi sticker instead.  No one has quite figured the meaning out on their own yet at races.

Stuff mostly for runners.

I had some foot pain issues before the race due to my training adventure run.  I’m lucky we have an awesome physical therapy department in a nearby town.  My physical therapist Shannon helped pinpoint a little better what muscles I needed to keep an eye on and gave some good suggestions on things to try to prevent the pain.  I couldn’t ever find any commercial shoe inserts that had the right amount of cushion for the inside of my arch.  I ended up making my own with panty liners that I cut to shape in a kind of wedge shape with multiple layers cut smaller and smaller.  I stuck these under the insole that came with the shoe.  This is all only in the right foot which had the issue.  It helped to counteract the road camber.  If I ever felt the slightest pain in the peroneal tendons, I’d work the knots out of those muscles and it would subside.  What’s odd is now that the race is done the pain is back some again.  I’ll have to look at my everyday work shoes I think.  Or maybe it’s just residual pain from running 314 miles.

I wore the Ultimate Direction PB Adventure vest 3.0 with the soft collapsible 500ml water bottles and a Osprey Hydraulics LT 2.5L bladder.  My awesome wife sewed the magnet that goes with this bladder bite valve to the vest so it wouldn’t flop around.

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Before I washed it.  Everything taken out already.

The vest, bladder, bottles weighed in at 1.5 pounds.  Initially I had 4.5 pounds of gear but I took out almost half a pound before the race.  I took out 4 oz of stuff during the race but purchased a sewing kit, hydrocortisone, and baby powder (which I never ended up using anyway) so pretty much my pack was always at least 5.5 pounds.  I could carry 8 pounds of water but I never carried that much.  I only used my bladder about 4 times and had it empty the rest of the race.  You need it for those times though.  If you’re walking you could just carry a gallon jug of water and some screwed people do that.  They basically just have a fanny pack for a few small things and carry all the water by hand.  I would never do it that way.  I usually train with about 8-10 pounds on my long runs due to having to carry all the water I’ll need for 5-6 hours.

You can see my packing list at the beginning if you want to see what I packed.  I never did take a picture of all my gear strewn out before I packed the vest.  Oh well.  I filled the pack about as full as it would go.  At least the main compartments in back were full.  I didn’t fill all the smaller pockets full.  I planned on putting snacks in them but never did.  It would’ve been emptier if I didn’t bring a large roll of toilet paper with.  You need some toilet paper with for emergencies anyway but I just brought a whole roll of Charmin Ultra cause it’s the little luxuries in this race that count.  And my butt hates rough toilet paper.

I used 2Tom’s Buttshield.  I used to use BodyGlide and still do but won’t for long races anymore.  I guess I noticed at 100 mile races that BodyGlide wouldn’t quite hold up and very slightly attracted dirt.  Buttshield is basically only dimethicone which is the thing you want.  It worked awesome.  I pretty much used up a entire roll during the race.  I used it on my butt but also crotch and upper legs.  Initially I didn’t get enough of my legs and started to get a rash the second day.  I started applying a bigger area and that helped it from getting worse.  I did some sewing on my short liner to roll over a seam I thought was causing a problem but I think it was more I just hadn’t put any lube in that area of my leg since I didn’t sew it until day 3 or 4 and it was already getting better.

I’d probably bring more blister band-aids with if I did it again.  There are lots of other uses for them other than blisters.  Any skin area you want covered with a soft water/sweat resistant bandage that stays on for days, these are great for.  The worked perfect for my back sore.

I’d not bring gaitors again.  The heat rash sucked and it only happened on the area under the gaitors so I totally blame them.

I never carried food.  I don’t know if this was good or bad, just a fact.

I wished I had some sort of small inflatable pillow to put me feet/legs on.  It wouldn’t take long to blow up and deflate and would’ve helped me sleep better.  It likely would’ve prevented the tight muscles behind my knee since I had them on a metal bar when I slept the morning they started to hurt.

This race will be more enjoyable with good running partners, whether planned ahead of time or just people you meet.  I never found anyone with the same running pace as me.  Most people seemed to just grind it out walking without stopping for more than a few minutes or sleeping much at all.  I suspect their feet hurt a lot more than mine did since they were always on them.  The guys who finish this race under 4 days probably don’t have much pain at all since they are only on their feet for 4 days.  That’s an advantage of being fast.

You will spend more time taking care of your feet then you have ever done before during a race.  Whether it’s blisters, taping, icing, or just putting them up above your heart, you will spend hours a day taking care of your feet.  Yes hours!  Granted you can nap while having your feet up but you need to put them up regardless of if you sleep or not.

Expect to have foot pain.  Not just blister pain but deep aching pain almost like it’s in your bones.  By the 3rd day, my feet would throb for 20 minutes while I put them up.  Or maybe I’d only notice it for 20 minutes before I fell asleep, hard to know for sure.  But when I’d wake up they weren’t throbbing.

I’ll repeat, your feet will hurt!  Most race reports talk about their feet hurting so I knew they would but most reports don’t tell you constantly throughout the report that their feet hurt.  Their feet did hurt the whole time, they just didn’t want to seem like a whiny pants.  To get an idea of what it’s like, do this tomorrow.  Wake up and think about your feet hurting.  Hobble to the bathroom.  Dread putting your shoes on.  Then all day chant my feet hurt.  All night chant my feet hurt.  Constantly think about your feet hurting.  Think about wanting to get something from down the hall and then decide it’s not worth the pain and extra distance to get it.  Then do that for 4-8 more days.  It wasn’t crippling pain for me but your feet will always let you know they aren’t happy.  I think I got off pretty easy compared to what others went through.  Especially the people who finished behind me.

Make sure you are careful running in the road.  The actual lanes are much flatter than the shoulders so it is very tempting to run on them.  Do NOT do this during rush hour or when you aren’t FULLY aware of your surrounding.  The most likely way you’re going to get hit by a car is when one is passing another one coming from behind you (so cars are in both lanes coming at you from behind).  You can’t see it coming and if there is a lot of traffic you won’t hear it coming either.  Sure at 3AM on a two lane road you’ll see a car an hour and you can run right down the middle of the road.  On the  4 lane roads the shoulders are 10 feet wide so you can even run on the right side of the road if you wanted to.

I just made my own sun hat with a Headsweats visor and attached a handkerchief with safety pins.  If you plan on walking a lot an umbrella is a great idea to keep the sun off.  Makes for a good thing to scare the crap out of dogs as well.  Just open it up at them and they freak out.  I don’t think I’d want to run holding one.

I brought another handkerchief to hold an ice bag on my head but never really planned on using it since in a trail run at home it seemed like a hassle and didn’t seem to help as much as I though it would.

Make sure your on the google group email list.  Also a good idea to join the ultra listserv as well if you aren’t already.  Lots of knowledge from the people who’ve done this for years.

Cost

Total spent during the race for food and supplies: $139.85 I never bought water or other “free” things.  I also didn’t try to haggle with everyone to give me free stuff so that’s probably a wash.  Grocery stores are cheaper but I was only by one once during the day when they’re open.  Some people got close to $40 worth of free stuff from road angels so there is some advantage to running in the day.  You will not see road angels at night.  You might find a cooler with something to drink in it at night but don’t count on it.  Even the places put on Facebook could run out of stuff overnight.

Total for hotels during the race: $313.27  That’s for 4 hotels.  I made use of them for at least 5 hours each.  So obviously you have to decide if hotels are worth the cost.  If you are running with someone and can share the cost they are a no brainer.  I was never offered any rooms from people ahead of me so I didn’t luck out there.  That’s mostly because I’d first check in around noon – 2PM.  I put this in here because no other race reports from years past but costs in.  I think it’s important for people to have an idea so they can budget.

Stuff before and after the race depend on where you’re coming from.  My rental was only $104 for 12 days due to a really good deal and them initially giving me a car with completely bald tires, so I got a discount for having to drive back to get a different one.  The hotel the night before the bus in Kimball I used points to get for only $30.

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6 thoughts on “Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report – 2016

  1. Congratulations Nathan! I really enjoyed your report. I fell asleep reading it last night and finished it when I woke up. I thought you’d appreciate that I had to take a snore break during your report!
    I can’t remember which 100 you have coming up but good luck. It’ll be interesting to see if it feels short and easy!

    Like

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