Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Uwharrie 102.5 Mile Trail Run: "Pain is Temporary, Quitting Lasts Forever"

Race: Uwharrie 100 (102.5 Miles)

Where: Uwharrie National Forest, Troy, NC

When: October 19, 2019, 6:00 a.m. - October 20, 2019, 3:32 p.m.

Weather: Perfect start, degraded to a level beyond description, perfect ending.

Miles, Time, Place: 102.5ish miles, 33:32:37, 11th Overall, 10th Male.

Training Data: A massive 8 week training block was concocted for this race consisting of just over 660 miles and over 160,000’ of vertical gain which built to 85 miles and 27,000’ a week. Training was done in the heat and humidity of Eastern North Carolina and could not fully prepare me for what was to come. Longest run of the block was 11 miles.

Gear: Took a lot, but used very little which is described at the end.

Let's Get this Show Started
First, this is a top notch race and you are a fool to not give it a shot. The Uwharrie 100 is touted as ‘Simply Unrelenting’ by race director Dan Paige and his wife Amanda. I could see some smirks in the crowd as he stated this, but I had planned for the worst and took it serious. It is possibly the only 100% single track 100 miler on the Beast Coast. Meaning it doesn’t use service roads, fire roads, or double track to piece together it’s 20.5 mile loop. It doesn’t boast massive climbs which I love, or big steep technical downhills that blow your legs apart. But what it lacks in those areas it makes up for in technicality from the first stride to the last, an unnerving amount of mental focus required by the runners, and it’s climbs and descents are a continuous unrelenting experience with little to no flat ground to really stretch the stride out and take a mental break. If you want a shot at defeating this course, you better bring your ‘A’ game in every facet of this thing we call ultra-trailrunning.

The pre race was like any other pre race for the most part. We arrived early, grabbed our packets and bibs, took the pre race photos, and ate the meal of pasta and meatball sauce that was provided. I loaded up with two plates, a salad and 4 chocolate chip cookies, along with the sweet tea. A true southern staple and really only drank it in hopes of it being a ‘southern charm’ for the race. Once we finished, our group headed back to the start/finish camp to set up our aid tent which we were able to put in a perfect spot directly beside the trail. This wouldn’t mean a hill of beans come loop 3 or 4.
 Hotel check in was up next and we got settled, well, we unloaded all our gear to make sure it was organized and ready for the race, laid out our gear to be worn at the start of the race, showered up, and for once in a race I became eerily calm and slept well. But the weeks leading up to the race had made me a nervous wreck for various reasons due to tapering and a couple of personal family events that came up unexpectedly.

(John Caracoglia, Joseph Sutton, Chris Coker, Matt Kornegay)

We woke up at 4 am and begin race prep, double check everything, begin fueling and hydrating, and arrive at start/finish camp around 5:15 am. Aid bags are dropped off which went super smooth and was well organized by the race director and volunteers. This race is essentially a well oiled machine with every little detail thought about by the race director and volunteers out on the course.
We then began getting prepped for the start of the race with last minute adds and deductions from what we wanted to carry the first 20.5. We are down to the last few minutes before the start and this is where the ‘we’ tends to become an ‘I’. This race is no different, and it’s pitch black so I have no idea where any of my guys went. I set up behind the front 8-10 guys with 1 minute to start. There’s a lot of last minute scurrying by runners, headlamps on, horn sounds, we’re off instantaneously onto the single track we begin our trek to finish the 102.5 mile 5 loop course as 100 milers or 3 loops for the 100k runners.

1-20.5 (Wow this is going to be tough to finish.)
I began in the front pack meandering through the trail in the blackness of night headlamps torching the way. A new front pack quickly developed launching ahead, and I stayed within the second pack which seemed a little more weary of the trail and directions of the trail due to what seemed like all of our collective inexperience with the Uwharrie trail system. A couple of miles in I could already tell my work was going to be cut out for me on this course. A few ankle rolls of both feet, several toe slams on rocks, roots, sapling stumps was already seeping into my mind of how they would feel later on in the race. The continuous focus on the technicality of the trail took my focus away from being able to sight markers and blazes which caused our small pack to jump off trail several times until the sun began to rise. It was frustrating to say the least, but it was better to jump off trail and redirect, rather than roll an ankle, trip and fall, or smash yet another toe.
The ground finally begins to change shades of black to gray, but I kept my headlamp on until I could essentially no longer see it light the ground due to the light of sunrise. I wanted to keep it on as long as it helped illuminate rocks and roots to mitigate as many trips as possible. I made it through Crossroads Aid Station and by this time we had all separated. I was in and out in around 30-45 seconds. Onward I went to face off against Sasquatch Summit for the first time. It really was not that hard or super technical as climbs I’ve done in other races, but I knew the 4th and 5th times were going to feel much different. There’s a short distance between here and Soul Crusher, but still, there is no mental break. Several more ankle rolls and toes cracked against rocks later, I made it to face off against Soul Crusher. Given the name because of the climb, the illusion you’re peaked out, and then another climb to it’s real peak. Essentially jogging up this entire section, I could tell this one was going to add up as well, but I carried on running my own race and only seeing a fellow runner here and there.

On to Kelly’s Kitchen Aid Stop I went through more technical train, dried up creek beds, passing through pods of Boy Scout Troops who were sincerely supportive of us all running. Heading in to Kelly’s Kitchen is a technical down and the rocks and roots just seem to jump up and grab your feet even though you think your step memory has accounted for them all. A quick stop at Kelly’s Kitchen of less than 2 minutes, and I headed back out. At this point of the race a couple of guys has made their way up to me and we ran together for a bit. This was the point on a downhill where my left foot caught a rock and threw me forward with a turn coming up and a good size 6-8 inch tree ahead of me. Luckily I put my left hand up in time and ducked my head to the side preventing a potentially race ending or catastrophic injury. All I could do in the moment was turn to the guy behind me and say ‘It’s too early in the race for that kind of thing to happen’ and I nervously laughed it off as we made our way onward. It’s one thing to go for a goal in these types of races, but another to execute as you had envisioned it. Onward back to Crossroads we ran and the little group we had separated as a couple of guys when ahead and pushed the pace ahead of me. This section was the most non-technical of the technical trail, but the focus still had to remain for rocks and roots. A short stop at Crossroads to refuel and onward I went through the section deemed ‘The Land that Time Forgot’ which did not seem to be an issue on this pass, but eventually became a massive mental struggle to wrap my mind around and seemed to extend itself further and further from the end of each loop. The technicality of this section from end to end was the most difficult and chipped away at any pace, rhythm, and mental strength I would develop through this self proclaimed ‘5.5 mile’ section. Once through this section on the first loop there was a brief stop at the main camp for refueling and dropping off gear I had taken into the darkness of the start. All of the aid stops on this loop were pretty uneventful, with volunteers going above and beyond to take care of me and other runners as they would be coming in or heading out.

20.5-41 (All alone is a strange feeling.)
This would be the only loop I would be able to get away with the least amount of gear. For some reason I felt hot from the start of this race and was thankful for the decision on just keeping minimal gear through the second loop. This loop mirrored the first almost exactly with pace, but there was a little more time spent at aid stops since I realized I was beginning to have some hydration issues, and I wanted to make sure I had enough calories to make sure I did not get into too much of a deficit that would cause problems in later miles. I was drinking a full 18 oz. bottle of fluids between aid stations, plus fluids at aid stations, but when I used the bathroom twice during the first two loops, I knew I had a problem. I began consuming more fluids this loop than the first, and began to take Hammer endurolytes to try and correct the issue as quickly as possible. For the most part this loop was pretty uneventful from a physical standpoint. The only real issue I had was a bad roll to my left foot around mile 25 that began to make me think there was a broken bone due to the pain from each step shooting up from it and into my leg. But eventually it subsided, or either some other thing eventually took over it’s place on the scale chart of pain to focus on more.

From a mental perspective it was a very difficult 20.5 mile loop. The laser focus required on the trail had begun to eat away at my mind, and wear me down. Also, the field became so spread out that miles were largely spent alone, and the thoughts of that loomed large in my mind for the first time ever in a race.  I’m not exactly sure why this weighed on my mind so much, but it did and I began to think of some of the personal things my family had dealt with the two weeks leading up to the race. My son in particular began to stick out very vividly in my mind, and made me go to a not so pleasant place with an upheaval of emotions beginning to occur around mile 30 that I had to suppress. I would feed off of this single visual for the next 72.5 miles. Needless to say, I was ready to get back to the main camp once I left out of Kelly’s Kitchen to hopefully see some familiar faces in my pacer/crew Daniel Holmes,  wife/crew Olivia Sutton, see a glimpse of civilization, get a mental reset, and go back out to face more of the same I had just experienced.

As I traversed the miles to the main camp on the second loop the last section seemed to add distance to itself already, but was manageable. After crossing the second shorter bridge I felt a sense of relief as 41 miles was almost complete. As I crossed the mat I completely disregarded the aid tent and intensely focused on our personal tent area to see if Daniel or Olivia had arrived. No one had arrived yet which was a bit of a deflating moment since I knew I would be out on the course for at least another 5-6 hours until I would see them. I headed over to the aid tent to grab a few items, fluids, and a bottle refill and then made my way over to our tent. At this point I knew rain was possible and nightfall would set in before my return. I picked up my rain shell and headlamp, and sat in a chair for about 20 minutes to mentally reset. I did not want to take this stoppage time, but I knew I needed it to regain my focus on the task at hand. As I was sitting I looked back at the main aid area and saw what appeared to be my little brother. I knew it wasn’t, but I looked over several times just to be sure. First hallucination checked off! I would later run with Sean Wojdula on the third loop and get to know more about him before he would take off and finish 3rd overall in the 100k.

(Photo Credit: Stephen Pusser)

41-61.5 (Positivity gives way to darkness.)
Loop three was similar to the first two, and after the mental reset I seemed to get into a better frame of mind except for the ‘black olives’ on the ground that in actuality were acorns. Hallucination two a go! For the climbs I would just put my head down and go until I felt the downhills begin to pull me forward. My footing became better from a technical standpoint and I seemed to have begun visually memorizing the course and retaining it from the first 41 miles. Specific rocks, roots, and technical sections began to have a familiarity to them, and my foot placement became more precise with every step. Physically I felt extremely well, and mentally I felt like I had come back from the dead. My hydration and calorie intake had begun to take shape and everything seemed to be clicking perfectly.

My pace had slowed a little, but I seemed to finally have that rhythm I had sought in the beginning hours of the race. I was in an extremely positive mindset at this stage realizing the execution of ‘mitigate, manage, overcome’ had been a success thus far with my own forethought into what I needed ahead of time, the volunteers asking me the important questions along with their encouragement to keep pushing, and Sean Wojdula (100k runner). Running several sections of this loop with Sean positively aided my ability to relax a little, pick up my pace, and have a bond with a fellow runner. We shared a few stories about life, races, and our current experiences in the Uwharrie National Forest. Eventually he would take off and cruise into finishing his Uwharrie 100k story, and leaving me behind to finish writing mine for the 100 miler. I firmly believe people are put in your life at certain times to help you overcome what may seem like an insurmountable or impossible task at hand. I also saw Chris Coker going out of Crossroads as I came in who had been half of my ride to the race. We did a brief check on each other that seemed to last quite a while in my mind. Maybe I wanted it to continue, but it seemed we both knew there was no time for socializing while we stood around wasting time. These moments on the third loop were a Godsend. As I kept attacking the third loop the drizzle of rain began, and I just hoped it would hold off long enough for me to get back to the main camp. The rain would hold off with about one mile left on the third loop. I was greatly appreciative to get three loops done without any rain, but I knew once it began to rain that it was there for good.

I made it into camp and there was my crew, Daniel and Olivia. I was extremely happy to see them, and had all these things I had saved up to tell them, but all I could focus on was food, hydration, rain jacket, self checking my physical pain, trying to reset my mental fatigue, and prepare for a loop I knew was going to be tough, but I could never imagine just how tough. It was a short stay in camp, and around 10:15 pm when I told them I was ready to head out. Olivia told me she loved me, I mumbled it back unintentionally, and I could tell with the look in her eyes that she was worried about me heading out, and confused by my physical and verbalized actions. It’s one thing to have all these thoughts you have while out on a course and have very great intentions with them, but it’s extremely difficult to verbalize or show them physically when the relief of finishing yet another section consumes you and you begin to realize you have to go out and get after it again with the same amount of intensity if not more. It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining, and yet you have to find a way to refill all those tanks and go back on the attack in what seems like seconds to minutes of finally catching your breath.

(Photo Credit: Stephen Pusser)

61.5-82 (An indescribable loop, and thoughts of 'the note'.)
I took off into the night of the trail with rain beginning to come down, and beginning to get heavier in the next few miles. I reached a handrail ‘bridge’ that I never recalled seeing. The trail began to look completely unfamiliar to me in the rain, and began to take on a new form. I turned around to go back over this bridge, checked the marker to be sure it was a race marker, went on my way a little further and didn’t see anything confirming the route, turned around again to confirm the marker a second time, and then headed out again towards Crossroads Aid Station. Even though I checked this marker three times, I swore someone had tampered with it because I did not recall the bridge any of the first three times I went through the area. This was essentially an overwhelming amount of mental fatigue setting in. As I continued through this section my pace did not seem to slow much, but the distance seemed to become longer than what I remembered to Crossroads. My headlamp began to die out about a mile and a half from main camp, but I had packed an extra set of batteries, and a spare light.

While I was running at the start of the 4th loop, somewhere along the way my extra batteries had fallen out of my pocket and a panic set in for a brief period until I remembered I had packed an extra light in my jacket. This spare light proved to be a life saver, even though I had to hold it for about 5 miles preventing me from polling with both arms. It proved to be much more effective than my headlamp allowing me to sight markers well in advance, and the angle at which I held it to the ground illuminated every rock, root, and uneven spot for footing even in the rain. I just could not see myself holding it for the entire loop and was ready to get to Crossroads for a battery change. I never realized how many service roads were between the main camp and Crossroads until this loop in the downpouring rain. Several times I felt as though I was going in a one mile closed loop circle and everything began looking exactly the same as what I had just ran through. It was a huge relief to finally see the Crossroad Aid Station lights, but the rain was beginning it’s unrelenting beating for the night. Once at Crossroads, I loaded up on fluids and calories which had turned to high fat with some carbs, a volunteer helped me with my battery situation, and they were ‘encouragingly’ kicking us out of the aid station as politely as possible so we wouldn’t get comfortable and have quit bugs begin to creep in. 

From here I made my way to Sasquatch Summit and was passed by his pacer and Walter Handloser who is currently tied for the most 100 mile races completed in a single year, and is well on his way to breaking the record. I had been hoping to see him since packet pickup, but no luck. As he passed, my headlamp flashed across him, and I instantly knew it was him. The rain had become a pure downpour at this stage of the race, and it was as if Handloser looked like an apparition with rain in front of my eyes and a foggy mist being made from my breath. It was almost unreal in my mind to see him, and even more unreal in that particular moment of driving rain, flooding trails, and about to reach Sasquatch Summit. We exchanged a few remarks and he made his way on ahead. As I encroached on Sasquatch Summit I could see their headlamp guiding the way up steadily. After those moments I quickly reentered my own thoughts and race. I climbed Sasquatch Summit and realized I had been going a different route every loop, and that there was an actual route up this boulder section. I could not believe how clear the trail looked to me even in the downpouring rain. The trail markers clearly highlighted the straight up ascent that I had made more difficult on myself earlier in the day by climbing unnecessary portions to get to the same peak position. I laughed at myself out loud in this moment, and then became frustrated with myself that I had ascended been ascending this section all wrong and in a harder fashion. 

I quickly overcame these thoughts once at the top and began my way to Soul Crusher where the climbing felt good, but the ascent seemed far more difficult than before due to the torrential rains. The HOKA Evo Mafate’s held firm, until an intense downhill section where it was highly technical with rocks and roots, and had become slick from the rains. From here to Kelly’s Kitchen seemed to go slower, but I stayed steady and was just trying to prevent a catastrophic injury by doing more in the moment than I should. The trails had finally become small streams or so flooded over that you could no longer see rocks, roots, or unknown dips. Footing at this point was key, and the pace slowed a bit more and I would run alongside the trail but stayed out of the middle unless it was clear. Once at Kelly’s Kitchen I sat down and made a sock change just to change things up, but the dryness was short lived. The volunteers helped out every way they could with food, fluids, and just checking in on me. They gave a weather update to provide hope the rains were ending soon, but that break never came through the next section. I thanked the volunteers, and went on my way as they cheered.

From Kelly’s Kitchen to Crossroads began the meltdown of all meltdowns. I remember a short climb and the trails had began to collect so much rain water that it was going over the front of my shoes. I began to yell aloud at the trail and the rains ‘Is that all you got! It cannot possibly rain any harder than this! I am going to beat you.’, and as if it were provoked on cue, it would rain harder, and then even harder, and when I thought that was all, it began to come down so hard that the pelting of rain on my hood became almost deafening. I had began to hear ‘voices’ in the woods early on in the fourth loop, and what would sound like someone sloshing up behind you through the water, but each time there was nothing to my left, right or rear. The voices became more persistent through this section until I reached the main camp area. I finally made it into Crossroads Aid Tent, and the volunteers at this stage were a huge help and highly positive. I was mentally and physically out of it from the torrential rains, trying to navigate flooded trails, keep my sanity, and just bank on the idea that ‘the rain had to end at some point’. I never caught her name, but there was a volunteer at Crossroads that was a huge help who wore a Grumpy Bear Onesie. She provided me with laughs to get me back motivated to head out, aided me any way she could, and let me stand by the fire to dry my jacket, but stayed on me very intentionally about getting out of her aid station and moving forward. She was awesome in the moment of knowing what we needed as runners, what we didn’t, and getting us out.

Once I dried my jacket to my satisfaction, I headed out of Crossroads into what I called from this moment on ‘The Section of Hell’ and many other words. My feet had began to be quite sensitive some miles ago, but this, once again so called ‘5.5 mile section’ seemed to expose any weakness I had at the time I would come through, and this time was the worst I could imagine, or so I thought. The trail seemed to extend itself yet again, and my meltdown that started earlier, began to rear it’s ugly head again. But this time much more pronounced, verbalized, and almost on the brink of mentally destroying. The ascents and descents seemed to become far more technical than I remembered, and justifiable so with the rains still coming down at a unfathomable rate. The trails flooded even more to the point where water was rushing down, or making the trial look like a layer of glass due to the amount of water puddled on top which made me second guess every step or just hope I made the right move. The streams began to flood at this point and footing had to become much more precise to cross what were at one point bone dry creek beds. Once I crossed the second bridge I had mentally had enough of the rain and came up on a runner asking him how much further to the main camp and he stated ‘half a mile’. Well, I’ve heard this on other runs, and mentally this sent me over the edge. My downward spiral had spiraled out of control and it felt as though I had miles to go instead of half a mile.

I cussed the trail, the conditions, and myself from this spot until I got into the main camp and was actually going deeper into the pure darkness of my mental state until it reached it’s peak and I was a completely broken human being under the main camp aid tent with Dan Paige hearing and seeing me come in under these conditions first. Then Olivia, Daniel, and Amanda Paige seeing me at rock bottom completely in shambles and trying to piece me back together the best way they could, one sharp edged fragile piece of glass at a time. They had me sit and then they all began their magic, but I could sense everyone seemed worried about my current mental state, and the fact that I did not think I could take anymore rain and I verbalized this the best way I could. Daniel ripped off my shoes, socks, gloves, and rain jacket. Olivia was trying to talk to me, as well as Amanda Paige, but I had taken myself to a very deep dark place that seemed to be another world away, and I could tell they knew it with they stares I got from them. The helplessness I could still sense from Olivia not being able to do much for me weighed on my mind, but her being there was enough and kept me pushing for the finish and not once thinking about quitting. At this point it was me versus the course and there was no way the course was going to defeat me.  My feet were extremely sore, and my hands were ghostly white from the water absorption, but physically I felt capable to keep pushing on. Daniel was able to get my dry socks on, but brought my shoes over and said ‘well, these are just as wet’ and dumped the water out of them before placing them on my feet. 


Mile 82-102.5 (Completely broken to the core.)
A long sleeve base layer was put on and my rain jacket was placed over top. It was time to grind, fight and claw out of the abyss, and Daniel had his work cut out for him as a pacer, but it did feel good to finally have another person with me on the trail and that person couldn’t get ahead or fall behind leaving me to go it alone for another lap. I never cared about my placement in this race and I went into the race with that mindset at mile one. I still did not know my place in the race at mile 82 until later on the trail when I began to get passed in the last 9-10 miles. It was brought to my attention later in the 5th and final loop I had come out of main camp 3rd overall. My pace slowed considerably after the first 4 miles of this loop, and every step became more painful even though me and Daniel conversed throughout the entire 5th and final loop which seemed to help at times. The climbs, downhills, rain and every toe slam and ankle roll had finally taken their toll. We made it to Crossroads after what seemed like hours. We left out of aid pretty quickly after slamming down some bacon and waffles dipped in syrup.

We trekked onward and made it to Sasquatch Summit one last time. I wavered a couple of times, wobbles a few others, tried to catch a extra breath at others, but kept my head down waiting for the downhill to begin, and so it did. However, my feet felt completely broken with the pain level magnified even more on the downs now. We reached Soul Crusher and I stopped to use the bathroom before the ascent so I didn’t have to stop midway. The climb started and I began a rambling chant with each strike of my poles. Daniel kept my focus on the task at hand and we reached the false summit, and then we went ahead and crushed Soul Crusher. It was slower this go around, but it was done and I didn’t have to revisit it again. On to Kelly’s Kitchen we went which was pretty uneventful with us conversing to pass the time, but me intensely focusing on every step with the downhills which caused more pain with each mile, especially the technical downhill to Kelly’s Kitchen and additional rolling ridges. More bacon and several cups of fluids later we headed out for what seemed like the home stretch.

The trail had begun to clear of water, and was pristine with every rock and root visible, but my feet continued to be a focus of excruciating pain becoming more and more sensitive to even small bits of dirt entering my shoes. Through the next section we continued our talks, but they became less frequent as my focus became more internal instead of external. We reached the Crossroads, and I now considered this the new home stretch. Possibly the biggest mistake of the race. I took a little more time at aid using the bathroom, eating, hydrating, but talking very little. The volunteers were still going strong and willing us to the finish.  The next section on the 5th loop was by far the most difficult and technical of the race at this stage of the race, especially with the condition of my feet.

We began ‘the home stretch’, downhill we headed and I was very cautious and gingerly stepping. I knew in this first downhill it was going to be a long road to get to the finish because of what I had memorized about this section. I set a goal of crossing the first bridge and then I would be ‘in the home stretch’, once there I would re calibrate. The problem was getting there, it took what seemed like a lifetime. Hallucination Hill was never a problem the entire race, until now. It continued to climb and seemed to never end, but my pace had become so slack that it was all an illusion in my mind of a distance and time warp. The technical became extremely technical in the manner in which I navigated trying not to slam or contort my feet in any fashion. Muscularly I still felt as I could go faster, and I believe I’d have been fine mentally if I could have picked up the pace. My feet had other plans and no matter what I did to move them faster they seemed to become almost like slugs sliding across the ground. Daniel had begun to accidentally kick my heels. I knew then that my stride had become some kind of strange drag. More heel kicks later my left pole slid off a rock for placement, reached back and struck Daniel’s shin with the sure sound of a pain inducing strike. I laughed a little on the inside because of all the heel kicks, but I apologized about my death march, fading form, and worthless stride. Payback was to come for me anyway as I had one final right big toe slam into a small sapling stump that seemed to ring through the forest, with me slamming my poles into the ground and doubling over in pain. Daniel exclaimed, ‘Ooooohhhh!’, and I’m sure the trail laughed at me in confidence that it had finally broken me. 

We finally made it across the first bridge, and the second one became the new ‘home stretch’. I climbed, and climbed, and climbed and kept asking Daniel why we were still climbing because that second bridge should be coming soon. He eventually thought I had hallucinated the second bridge because I talked about it so much and we had been almost two miles without a visual confirmation on anything that resembled what I was referencing. I began to get passed by one runner, and then another, and another. I would drop from 3rd to 11th overall in the last 9.5 miles of the race, and knowing I could not make my feet move any quicker became extremely frustrating internally. We finally made it to the second bridge and I had a sigh of relief that I had made it. Roughly ‘a half mile’ and we were finished!

The emotions began to take over at this point, especially once I crossed the concrete drain tile and headed up one final time. I could hear the quiver in Daniel’s voice as he tried to talk to me, and that meant we had made it to the finish of quite possibly one of the toughest 100 milers on the East Coast. I had a short emotional outburst before getting there, and me and Daniel had our moment together before I took off running to the finish. I would have loved to see myself through his eyes to see how dysfunctional my stride must have looked trying to run it in. 

I crossed the finish, heard the beep of the timing map and it was over. I was finally able to expel everything that had built up over the last 33.5+ hours of non stop running, and was able to get the famous ‘buckle handshake’ and embrace with race director Dan Paige. He is a true class act, and puts on one heck of a 100 mile event along with the many volunteers he has out on the course. His wife, Amanda Paige, gave me a hug as well and congratulated me on the finish, and we were able to talk a bit after I sat down. Olivia came over and spoke a few personal words to me, and gave me a kiss even though I’m sure I smelled of death at this point. I still couldn’t really talk much, and honestly couldn’t believe I had reached the finish. This race had taken everything out of me, and when I thought I was empty I had to tap further inside to keep going forward to the finish. A huge surprise was looking over and seeing that John Caracoglia, Chris Coker, and Matt Kornegay had stayed for the finish. It was truly humbling they had stayed to see me cross that finish, and I was glad to have shared the moment with people I knew. Otherwise, the finish would have just been a finish in my own mind and no one to share it with. 


OLIVIA: Wife and the Magic Behind it All
A huge thanks is owed to my wife Olivia for allowing the training time, and then being at the race through the torrential rain to support me and encourage me, even though we had far more important family things going on back home. I never did have the words during the race to let her know how important it was for her to be there and for me to see someone familiar, but just her being there helped more than she may ever know or than I can describe. Only she knows what I put myself through in training, preparation, and the level of effort I give day in and day out, especially during a race event.


Daniel Holmes: The Man
Daniel Holmes, one of two who got me started in ultrarunning. The other being John Caracoglia. Daniel was instrumental in helping with gear decisions, gear changes, making me eat and hydrate, and pacing me for my worst 20.5 miles of the race. That could not have been fun to do or see, but I am very grateful to him for helping me through some of my darkest miles and sharing the experience with him. It was truly a human to human bonding experience, and one I am glad to have experienced with one of my biggest running influences and motivators.


A standing ovation for the course, Dan Paige, Amanda Paige, and Volunteers.
The Uwharrie 100 Mile course is not for the faint of heart, weak of mind, or someone who is looking for an easy 100 miler. The participant should not underestimate the difficulty of the course based on the profile, that ‘it is only a loop course’, or that it’s ‘just another single track’ race. It will test everything you have, and then some. Dan Paige speaks truth when he states ‘It is Simply Unrelenting’, but you have to be relentless against it as it becomes a monster in the late miles. The final two laps build to one big crescendo that separates the mental game from the physical all the while forcing you to still be extremely smart in both facets. Key decisions, smart execution, laser focus, management of worst case scenarios, thinking miles and even loops ahead for needs, the will to overcome some of your darkest moments in life and dig yourself out of that dungeon are needed to defeat this course. You may even need others to dig you out of those moments at times which includes the course volunteers, words from your crew/family/friends, or a spiritual revelation that leads you to find something you never knew you had. If you like hard, difficult, remote races, this is the race for you. This trail takes on a life of its own loop after loop. It will not disappoint!


This race report is about the experience through my eyes. However, the race, training, preparation, running the course with smarts/forethought, and just getting to this climactic point in my life goes far beyond just me, and a huge debt of gratitude is owed to all of those who have helped me get to this point in running and life in general. No matter how small of an influence it may have been by someone, it is sometimes the small influence that lead to the greatest effect.

Gear Junkies:
Shoes: Evo Mafate (82 miles) and Challenger ATR5's (20.5 miles).
Socks: Balega Mohair (Two Pairs) (92.5 miles), Feetures Merino Wool (10 miles)
Gaiters: Dirty Girl
Shorts:The North Face BTN Long Haul
Shirt: Nike Dri-fit Miler
Gloves: Nike Therma
Hat: HOKA and Greenville, NC Fleet Feet collaboration
Lamps: Black Diamond Storm, Bontrager Ion 120
Poles: Black Diamond Distance Z
Rain Gear: Marmot Shell (good for light rain/drizzle), Land's End windproof/waterproof rain jacket (Never leaked).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tideland 24 Ultramarathon

Race: Tideland24 Ultramarathon 2017
Where: Croatan National Forest, Cedar Point
When: November 4th, 2017 8:00 a.m. - November 5th, 2017 7:00 a.m.
Weather: Perfect for racing!
Miles, Time, Place: Completion of 100.57 Miles in 23:37.39, 7th Overall, 4th Male (First Official Ultra Marathon Attempt)
Training Data: 465.9 miles from September 11th – November 1st. 62 Hours and 37 minutes of training time. Race day weight 176 pounds, post race weight 166 pounds and over 16,000 calories burned.

The race began not on November 4th, but sometime back in July and August as I prepped for the 2017 Blue Ridge Relay 6 Man Ultra. I was strictly training for the BRR with no intention of doing any type of race of this capacity afterward until I had the privilege of running with a few runners, that I consider way above my level, who began talking to me about entering the Tideland 24. I wanted to see how I would do in the BRR before I fully committed, but I kept the idea in the back of my mind. A long story short, our 6 man ultra-team had a tremendous showing, and one week after the finish I began loosely training for the Tideland 24.

I gave myself a total of 5 weeks of training in order to prep for the Tideland 24 (September 18th – October 22nd). After the first week of working back into training, I was surprised that I was able to jump back up to 60 miles for the first full training week. For the second week I was able to maintain that level and increase to just over 71 miles, and for the third week I increased to 81 miles for the week. This is where my training became interesting as I wanted to push for 90 on the fourth week, but had never done anything over 80. On the fourth week I went for the 90 miles, and was extremely worried about the time I had to try and get the miles in and if my body would accept the beating. My legs felt surprisingly fresh and loose on this extremely hot and humid week for October so I adjusted for 100 miles, and then readjusted again for 110 miles not really sure if I would reach that goal, but gave it a shot anyway. I was shocked in my body’s willingness to be able to run 110 miles in a week at varying degrees of difficulty, and at varying times of the day in order to mimic what I might face during Tideland 24. For the fifth week I dropped my training back to 83 miles so my body would accept the mileage from the week before, while still maintaining a good high mileage week.

My taper began after October 22nd which gave me roughly two weeks for my body to absorb all of the training and mileage I had put it. I kept running those two weeks at very high intensity, but much lower mileage just to keep up my cardiovascular and my overall strength. I set up 4 specific runs that had Strava KOM’s within them that I thought I could beat. This gave me good competition goals to reach while not actually having to physically race someone. I went 4 for 4 on my KOM’s those two weeks, and finished with over 350 miles ran for the month of October. So I was surprised at my speed to say the least. I started my taper way out in order to prevent injury or some freak accident and keep risks down. To quote my running buddy and friend Tim Garriss, "two weeks before a race there is nothing to gain but an injury". And I believe he quoted this from Charlie Choo Justice. I’ve heard it from various sources, but it really stuck with me when Tim told me during a training run this past year.

So on to the race! I was fortunate enough to have a friend, Austin McIntyre, put me up in his family beach house for the weekend and let me have some peaceful downtime on the water fishing before race day. The day before the race we scouted the trail and I picked up my packet. I was able to meet Jason LeDoyen at the registration table who was the race director for Tideland 24 and is also a 2017 Badwater 135 finisher. I was in shock and awe to be able to shake his hand and talk to him a little bit about his experience in Death Valley.  What stuck out to me most about him was that he was just as interested in talking to me; an individual who had never ran a solo ultramarathon, as I was in talking with him. He is a very humble and down to earth human being, and talking with him made me want to prove myself on the course that much more.

The morning of the race comes, and I’m a nervous and emotional wreck. More so than usual for any other race I’ve ever ran or any athletic event I’ve ever played in. Maybe it was because once I was dropped off I was going to be racing alone until my wife, Olivia, made her way down later that night over 14 hours after I started. I wouldn’t say I was 100% alone since I knew other runners, but I also knew we were all running with different strategies and goals so I would see them, but not really see them. I get all of my drop bags and gear in place, and I get a couple of pictures made before the race. The National Anthem is played and we are all at full attention. The race director goes over the race brief and then gives the time left before the race begins. There are a couple of minutes left before the race and we all begin to funnel to the front and I work my way up. As the seconds count down, I managed to get closer to the front with what I would consider the lead pack, and we are off.  On the first lap a member of the military runs out in front with the American flag with all the runners following. Being able to run directly behind the American flag with the leaders and the one lone serviceman holding it was inspirational beyond belief.

Lap one goes extremely smooth to the point I lose focus of my initial running strategy. I was so jacked up from the emotions of the start, adrenaline due to it being a race, and the overwhelming fear in my mind of the fact I have a high probability rate of failing my debut attempt at my first ultra marathon, even though I’ve put in the hours and miles for it. I was going fast enough at the beginning that I put down the two fastest lap times of all runners for the entire race of 10:18.92 and 10:22.83. These were almost a full minute better than the second fastest lap time. This is not meant to brag, but to illustrate just how far away from my initial strategy I went. The lead group, that I was in, began lapping runners somewhere around lap 3 or 4. I kept telling myself that I needed to get back on target because I had nearly 23.5 hours left to run, but I felt so good that I just wanted to keep running. By lap 5 I finally settled into what I felt was a comfortable pace and began to put down consistently smooth 12-15 minute laps up to lap 18 which would be about mile 24.5. I was still going fast, but this is the pace that I am used to and have trained at week in and week out.
I hold a pretty good pace to lap 37 which is right around the 51st mile. At one point during the first 50 miles, Jenny Poage Wilson, who also finished 100 miles and about 5 minutes ahead of me, yelled out to me that I was on pace for 150 miles. Daniel Holmes exclaimed to me that I was on pace for a 18.5 or 19 hour finish of 100 miles. I loved the positive vibes, but all I could think was, "I feel really good running, but guys and girls, I’m not going to be able to stay consistent enough for that to happen and I hope I don’t crash". The encouragement through the first 40 miles was nothing like I had ever been a part of, and probably why I just kept going at a breakneck speed. Between laps 18-37 I had a few stops that I could have done without, but the gels and quick snacks were not quite agreeing with my stomach I could feel a sugar crash on the way. I took a longer break at lap 38 for a sock and shoe change, to rest my feet, and just try to get myself cooled down and heart rate back to normal. This was my slowest lap of 43:24, and in hindsight, I should not have stopped but for maybe 10 minutes, putting the lap time somewhere in the high 20 minute range. One of the hardest things to do was to take this break because the clock is ticking and continues to tick valuable minutes and seconds off your total time.

As I entered into the ¾ phase of the race (mile 51-75) all I could remember was what Daniel Holmes had told me during a training run about keeping my head together between miles 50-75 and I would be able to grind out the rest. Well, this bit of information was far more beneficial for me than I think he could ever imagine and I kept going back to it being said to me over and over again. He also told me that he who keeps down food and fluids usually finishes at the top, but I’ll get to that a little later. As the miles and laps went by, I began to draw inspiration from other runners who continued to chase down their goals. It’s not that I did not do this from the beginning of the race, since there was so much encouragement from the start, but my mind seemed to drastically change after I approached the 60th mile and my emotional state of mind seemed to become more and more enhanced with every passing lap.
Once I approached the 70th mile, which was around lap 49 and just over 14 hours into the race, I began to feel I would not finish in time for whatever reason. My mind seemed to slip a bit more, and rational thoughts became irrational. At this point, I began to have the GORUN crew conduct calculations on my average lap time needed in order to finish the 100 miles. Being in the state of mind I was in, I could not conduct basic math and even based on their calculations I told them they were wrong and that I could not finish in time. This occurred around 10:00 p.m., and fortunately this was the time that Olivia showed up at the crew tent. I had a brief discussion with the crew and her about the time and that I did not feel I could finish the final 30 miles in the allowed time left. It was at this moment that I told everyone I should just quit since there was no way I would make it for the 100 miles. If I couldn’t reach my 100 mile goal, then I figured it was best to crash and burn in dramatic fashion and just quit and get some rest. Fortunately for me Olivia stated that she was leaving without me in the car with her, she would see me in the morning, and that I was going to finish the race. Stephanie Slayton then stepped up and essentially told me to get back out on the course, and stated that I had plenty of time.

So on I trudged into the night to around mile 78 when the hallucinations began. The higher the miles became, the more dramatic the hallucinations seemed to become. The first was a boat on the water which is not too far fetched considering I was racing at Cedar Point and was surrounded by water, but there was no boat and there was definitely not a moving boat. I then began to dodge snakes slithering under my shoes that were actually just sticks, pine straw, or a line of leaves. Rather large fish began to appear at the surface of the water in the pitch black of night as I ran over the bridges, but when I would look closer it would just be a shadow or the glow from the moon. Trees then began to look more and more like people or shadows of people, and in one instance a tree moved an orange glow stick hanging from it to point me in the direction I needed to run.

The hardest miles by far were between 1:30 a.m. – 5:00 a.m., or the ‘hours of doom’ as I began to call them in my head. This put me around mile 85 with 15 left, and also the most challenging point of the race in my mind looking back. If I were running under any other circumstances the 15 miles is not that difficult, but this was at the end of a 100 mile run this time. Uncharted territory for me. Really anything over a 50K was uncharted waters on this day. This became the period where my mind would drift into deep dark periods of thought, and I would have to constantly bring myself out of it with the thought of something positive that someone told me recently, or that I saw on Facebook from a friend. I thought about things that close family and friends told me before the race. I also thought out loud, verbally talking to myself, about finishing for my wife and kids so it wouldn’t seem like a waste to have trained all that time and failed, and strangely enough I even thought about the times I had working in my dad’s tobacco fields as a kid even though they were some of the toughest days and summers of my life. I then began to think of how crazy it seemed to draw inspiration from some of the toughest work I’ve ever done in my life in order to drive myself through another even tougher challenge.

It was at lap 65 where I began to feel I was skirting up to the edge of the proverbial ‘wall’ again, and Stephanie Slayton explained to me that they needed me to put down a 24:16 every lap from then on in order to finish 100 miles in less the 24 hours. I call Lap 66 the miracle lap now, but I was just trying to bank time at the moment. For lap 66 I was able to lay down a 14:18 lap which I ran in its entirety. I had not ran a lap this fast since Lap 30,and this was mile 90-91 mind you. Lap 67 was a 20:08, and Lap 68 was a 18:25 which I was able to run/walk both. Sucking up all the pain, agony, anxiety, stress, fear, emotion, and mental weakness, and being able to direct all the energy to my legs and feet banked me enough time to finish 100 miles under the 24 hour cutoff time. Halfway through lap 68 I felt I was cruising and in a good rhythm, but it was at this moment my foot caught a stump and threw me forward and off the trail, causing me to use every ounce of energy I had not to fall to the ground. That would have been a major game changer had I fell and been injured at this point of the race. After these three laps I never ran again until I was about 300 yards from crossing the finish for the 100th mile. 
On my last few laps when it was clear I would make it, I received probably the most encouraging words of the day from the race director, Jason LaDoyen. As I went back out for a lap, he told me how it had been a pleasure to watch me work and compete throughout the day. This gave me a huge boost and encouraged me beyond a shadow of a doubt not to BONK in the final laps. Later after the race he would go on to say that I did great at maintaining focus and mitigating risk, and that I seemed happy the entire race. I’m not exactly sure I did that all by myself, everyone around helped me avoid risk, kept me from imploding and becoming my own worst enemy, and helped me avoid potential catastrophes. Either way, he gave me some great words of encouragement during and after the race, and I am truly grateful for that.

On the last lap I had the privilege of walking with one of the volunteers who was picking up glow sticks, and who trained people on how to fly C130’s. I lit up like a Christmas tree when he said this, and he and I began to talk for the next 20 or so minutes. I honestly think he wanted to walk with me to make sure I finished; I wanted him to walk with me so I could keep my mind off the pain. Once I rounded the corner I said, "well, I guess this is where I gotta look like I was running for 100 miles", and he said "yes sir, you gotta look good for the cameras and videos" and we parted ways. He is the gentleman who took my picture in front of the ’72 Lap’ sign. Once I crossed for the 100th mile I was completely overwhelmed with the toll of the emotional highs and lows that I completely broke down sobbing in front of Olivia.

For this to have been my first solo ultramarathon, I think I did extremely well, but can also learn quite a bit from the knowledge and experience gained. I should be able to take this with me into the future and start to fine tune how I would like to run the next race and try to hold to my strategy more early on. I told Jenny Poage Wilson that if I had to do it all over again that I wouldn’t take off like a ‘spaceship’. Later, Jennifer Price, another runner from our GORUN group, stated that she thought it was pretty ‘ballsy’ to take off at such a fast pace at the beginning of a 24 hour race like that. I say I wouldn’t start out that fast ever again, but I have a feeling that it is part of my style and something that is ingrained in me. If I’m going to race, I’m going to go for it with all I have. Having a few days to think back to if I had to do it all over again, I would probably run the exact same race that I did. Minutes seemed like seconds, hours seemed like minutes, and in the end strategic decisions throughout the race became the difference in completing 100 miles or completely failing at the attempt.


No Pain, No Gain: Some of the symptoms of the race included my first crash where I skirted up against the wall, but didn’t hit the wall and was able to keep myself in check. My heart rate at one point was so high, I thought it was going to beat out of my chest, and I had to start dumping cold water on my head and neck for about 6 straight laps. The pain did not begin until later. It started with my feet and would come and go, but in the end, it became almost unbearable because I had pounded the hell out of my feet for the first 50 miles. Due to it being a clockwise course, 100 miles took its toll on the outside of my right leg, and I began to have some swelling and major soreness around mile 80. By mile 95 I felt as if I was dragging my right leg along, and each little rise in the trail felt like a mountain. I ended up having only one little blister, on my smallest left toe of all places, and it forced me into a sock and shoe change with 2 laps left. At this point shoes didn’t even matter, they all felt like I had a layer of concrete under both feet no matter which pair I tried. The day after the race I had some major swelling around my right knee and down the side of my right leg, as well as quite a bit of bruising on top of and underneath both feet. Overall I would say my body help up pretty well for my first attempt at anything over a 50k training run that I’ve done.

HUMANS OF THE RACE (In No Particular Order):

Mark Markham: One individual who I never met in my life, but I was able to talk with on one loop later into the race and that I drew a ton of inspiration from was Mark Markham. He was running 100k for his late mother and a fallen soldier (SSgt. Kerry M. Kemp). Mark runs races for Flags4fallen, and to hear his story and what he has done and continues to do is beyond impressive. It was probably lap 5 or 6 when I first saw him with his pack on, but as the laps wore on I began to think about the soldier on his pack more and more. At one point I was completely overcome with emotion when I saw his pack that I had to check myself so I wouldn’t become too overwhelmed and become an emotional mess. Like I said earlier, my senses for this race were extremely heightened, and I was in an emotional state of mind that I have never been in before. This gentleman provided me more than enough inspiration, and he completed his 100k.
Daniel Holmes: Another individual was Daniel Holmes, who I have personally ran with. He gave me quick tips throughout the race, as he could, to help me keep going and keep pushing. Whenever he saw me or had a chance to talk to me, he didn’t hesitate with words of encouragement, conduct a status check, and give tips for me to mitigate a catastrophe. As I began to get up into the higher miles and was still vying for a top 3 spot as well as a 100 mile finish, he brought it to my attention to focus solely on the 100 mile finish instead of trying to get a top 3 spot. Being that it is a race, this was extremely difficult for me to talk myself into doing. Especially since I went between 3rd and 4th into the early hours of Sunday morning. I truly missed this guy during the final laps and early morning hours. This guy was unknowingly my Sherpa during this race, and I will be forever grateful for all of his insight he shared to get me across the line for that buckle.

 Stephanie Slayton, and the GORUN Crew: My personal perception was that Stephanie was the main fixture and the rock of the GORUN crew that kept myself and other runners alive and running mile after mile. I began to become ‘argumentative’ into the later laps, but she was able to keep me with it and keep me moving forward. When my initial food strategy went south, they offered up items of ginger ale, avocado, and bacon. I drank and ate these three items for over 12 hours. I bet I drank a 2 liter of ginger ale, ate 4 avocados, and had over a pound of bacon. For some strange reason these foods sat well on my stomach and seemed to mix well with my hydration choices. The crew also lit a fire under me when I needed it the most to give me the extra push to get out on the course and chomp away at some time. Me finishing the race can be attributed to the supplies provided by the crew, their encouragement, and the push provided by them lap after lap and keeping me believing I would get there. Like I told them all, "I held it together until I didn’t and then until I thought I couldn’t or wouldn’t get the 100 miles".   I may have ran it, but they encouraged me all the way. A huge thanks also goes to Scott Barker for cooking bacon all night, and to Terry Wayne Self Jr. who swapped the batteries in my headlamp while I was out on course in another headlamp in order to save time. I owe these men and women tons of volunteer time for when they do their own races.

Sherry Vick: Sherry played an integral part of my race from the impromptu hose down of sunscreen in the mid afternoon, to constantly checking my status, and even down to giving me food on the spot, offering up all kinds of other services that I may have needed but usually refused because I couldn’t hardly think, and in the end, she was filling my hydration bottles to help me cut down on time at the crew tent. Especially on the last few laps.

Amy Richmond Campbell: I didn’t know her before this race. I just knew she was involved with the GORUN group I am in. It wasn’t until I was into my later laps and was able to walk with her along the course that I was able to find out about her running goal, get some laughs in, and just pass the time away and keep my mind off of the immense amount of pain my legs were starting to be in. Plus she had really cool lights on her shoes that became almost psychedelic with the state of mind I was in. So I would get really excited when I would see the lights from a far in the early Sunday morning hours.

Dawn Cash-Salau: I saw her in a fleeting moment and she made mention of my hydration bottle. This is no ordinary hydration bottle you see, it is a Reindeer Dash for Cash CamelBak. I won this bottle in the 10 miler race last year for 1st in age group. I have used this bottle ever since in my training runs, during the Blue Ridge Relay, and hold it near and dear to my heart. The RD4C is run in remembrance of her late husband, Captain Christopher Cash that benefits the Captain Christopher Cash Memorial Foundation of NC, Inc. Her noticing that bottle during the Tideland 24 sent a chill over me, and had such a huge impact on me that when I took back off on the course that I was overcome with emotion and yet again had to find a way to direct the emotions elsewhere. It truly inspired me to keep going and not give up when she noticed the bottle in my hand.

Olivia Sutton: This would be my wife, if you didn’t already know. She showed up at my darkest hour like a ‘knightess’ in shining armor to see me through and to ensure me that I would finish. She also left me in my darkest hour knowing it would be best to not give me a potential outlet to find a way to stop and leave early. Around 5:30 a.m. I just happened to cut my phone on, and again like clockwork, there is a text saying I am at mile 95 and that I am going to do it and that she was on the way! These were the most calming words I think I’ve ever heard in my entire life, and I nearly broke down right then and there, but I saved that part for after I crossed the finish for the 73rd and final lap for 100 miles. I am forever grateful to her and our kids, Danica and Maverick, for allowing me to put in the time to train this entire past year, and to continue to train to see just how far I can take my running.

Jenny Poage Wilson: Jenny provided encouragement for me to run the Tideland 24 before I even knew what the Tideland 24 was. Once I was at the race, the encouragement continued, and I discovered we were both on the Fleet Feet Racing Team for Greenville, NC. She provided encouragement in a more direct manner during the entire 100 miles I ran, even though she herself was vying for 100 miles. She would give updates, status checks, and seemed to be more methodical about the race. We both had different strategies, but had the same outcomes in being able to finish the 100 miles within 24 hours. We were minutes apart with her finishing about 5 minutes ahead of me. She finished 3rd overall female, and 6th overall. She was able to smoke the course at the end as I was not due to taking off like a ‘spaceship’ at the beginning. I wanted to be able to feed off of her strong energy in the final laps and take off and run it out with her, but I just had no more run left in my legs and I told her to go. She was a true grinder at the end of this race, and I aspire to be able to finish my next race in the manner in which she did.

Other Runners, Family and Friends: I am grateful to the other runners who encouraged me lap after lap. Especially John Caracoglia. I would say he is one of the few who helped me to see I might could do this ultra-running thing, and he encouraged me every single lap he saw me during the race. I also have to give credit to my BRR running crew: Ryan Perkins, Brad Bagley, Josh Hefner, Troy Wilkie, and JAG (I still don’t know that guys real name). Without training for the long run with these guys this past year, I wouldn’t have even made it 1/3 the way to my goal of 100 miles in this race. We trained to the max, pushed each other to the max, and fed off of each other during the BRR like no other team I’ve ever been on. To these guys I owe a ton of credit for what I have recently accomplish and hopefully continue to accomplish. Tim Garriss is another runner I also owe a ton of credit for being able to do what I have done over the past year. He provided me great insight in how to try and train for running when we would go on longs runs, and how to mitigate injuries and issues closer to race day.

Ryan Perkins: This guy, crazy guy, great competitor, great to train with, and one cool friend who is probably a better friend to me than I am to him. He was tracking me the whole time, sending out updates via Twitter, sending encouraging words through Olivia as my race progressed, and the first to congratulate me on my 100 mile finish outside of those who were at the race. I am forever grateful to this guy for caring so much about my running ability, and what I can potentially achieve. Anytime I have had self-doubt or start complaining he essentially tells me to suck it up, get with the program, and finish what I set out to do. Everyone needs a friend like this!!

Travis Sutton: This would be my younger brother. He has believed in me since the beginning. Maybe because he is my little brother, or maybe because he was trying to make me succeed. Either way, I cannot thank him enough for encouraging me even when I didn’t think it was going to be possible to reach the goals I had set. He himself is the one that has truly inspired me by having the guts to move across the country and risk his entire livelihood on taking that chance. If there is one thing he has taught me it is to take the chance, it may pay off big or it may not, but if you don’t try it, you will never know.

Marjorie Sutton and Richard Sutton: My parents! And I owe them a ton of praise and thanks for raising me to be the person I am today. I honestly believe growing up on my dad’s tobacco farms and being forced to work in them since I was 11 has given me the mindset, pain tolerance, and endurance to attempt these ultra marathons I have become interested in. Like I said earlier, it is kind of funny how memories of one extremely difficult task can be drawn from in order to accomplish another possibly more difficult task. My dad was and is still super tough on me, but I believe I am better for it. My mother has also allowed me the time to run by watching my children when training came down to crunch time and I had to run 2 or even sometimes 3 times a day for training. She has truly been a blessing in allowing me to reach my running goals.

Friends…ALL OF YOU! I thank you all for the outpouring amount of support, well wishes, watching the live updates, and the personal messages that were sent before, during and after the race. I also thank those of you who are super positive individuals, post things that are positive, and try to remain that way day in and day out even though some days I know it is probably tough for you. I drew upon these things during the entire race, especially knowing people were watching the live feed, and how disappointed in myself I would be if I let everyone down tracking my progress. Just remember, people out there need some sort of positive influence, quote, comment, or remark to make them feel like they can get through the day sometimes, myself included. I forced my mind to draw on so many positive things rather than negative during the race, that I believe my mind was in complete overload and shock by the end of the race. The race took more of a toll on my mind than my body I believe, but without all the positive thoughts, my mind might have been in even worse shape after the race. To put it in perspective, it took me 6 days to feel somewhat normal again, and to be able to sit down and write this race perspective.

Quote of the Race: To quote Olivia about my race after it was all said and done, "You suffered a traumatic experience, a positive one, but nonetheless, a traumatic experience". I replied back, "Traumatic experience sums it up well. Who knew one of the greatest personal achievements would also be one of the most traumatic". Funny enough "Meet Me in the Woods" by Lord Huron, one of my favorite songs, sums this race up pretty well until the sun began to rise on Sunday morning. If you've never heard it, give it a listen, and you will more than likely see why. 
On to the next race!! To be continued, until then...