I signed up for the Umstead 100 when registration first opened on 08SEP18 at noon. This race sells out very quickly every year. That day, I was coming down from a Uwharrie training run where I receive no cell service. I had to rush to the nearest city in Biscoe while refreshing the Umstead webpage like a madwoman until my data was restored. To my benefit, there were technical difficulties on the registration page so spent over 40 minutes in my truck at the Walmart parking lot before I was successfully registered for my first 100-mile race!
Planning anything past 48 hours tends to be a challenge for me. I’m the type that likes to put one foot through the door and figure out the rest later. However, I’ve learned that failing to plan is planning to fail. My coach Ann wrote this on her latest article in Ultrarunning Magazine which coincidentally arrived in my mailbox on the same day I e-mailed her the first draft of my race plan. Luckily there are pace calculators online that make calculating splits easy. On the Umstead 100 webpage, it said historically runners run the second half of race at 1.5x first 50-mile pace so my race-plan was built according to my C goal of 27 hours.
I was granted a 4-day pass from work for the entire race weekend. Early Friday morning, I drove to Raleigh to pick up my BFF Vy from the airport. She crewed for me at Southern Discomfort and was down to crew me again, even though I warned her that CREW stands for “Cranky Runner Endless Waiting”. We started off the rainy day having breakfast at Tricia’s home. Tricia gave me the Paul Mitchell treatment and braided my hair just like she did for the Tobacco Road Marathon.
Ann recommended having two of the same hydration packs so we went to REI to pick up two brand new Osprey Dyna 1.5L. I hadn’t been training with handhelds but in my typical Karen fashion – I decided to try several new things on race day. My first fail was ordering my Spring Energy Gels too late. The 100 M Candopackage literally arrived at my doorstep on Friday at 1336, but I was already in Raleigh and did not want to drive 1.5 hours back home to get it. I packed enough gels from previous orders and
Around 1400 we drove to Umstead State Park to pick up all my race swag. My bib was #231 to which my sister sent me a Bible Verse:
Psalm 23:1 – “The Lord is my Shepard. I have everything I need.” It was perfect because I had been feeling really stressed out about whether I had enough for the race.
At 1700, we attended the race brief which was an hour long. Vy huffed and said that it wasn’t “brief”. I laughed because that happens regularly in the Army! Then we spent time in my truck setting up my new gear/last-minute purchases and, to my regret, only “briefly” went over my race plan. We had the traditional spaghetti dinner with Lisa, Laurie, and other ladies who were volunteering at the course. Originally I paid for a cabin, but there was no electricity or water. Lisa recommended getting a hotel so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the rain, cold, and spiders before the big day. Luckily, my trail sister Liz offered to stay in her home.
I woke up at 0200 and couldn’t fall back asleep. I was able to video chat with my hubby to calm down my nerves a little bit. He is back on his rotation in England so he couldn’t come to my race. He promised that he would stay glued to his phone in case I needed him for emotional support. Liz’ dog woke her up so she came out to make me coffee and see us off.
Lap 1 & 2
The race started at 0600 from the Race HQ at Camp Lapihio. The entire course is
Lap 3 & 4
The weather warmed up to the
Lap 5 & 6
Everyone told me that the real race begins after 50 miles. Tricia showed up so Vy went over my race plan and instructions on what to fill my pack with.
Lap 5 was exciting because every mile was a new distance PR for me. Plus I was finally allowed to have a pacer so Vy went out on this loop with me. She had been feeling antsy from sitting around and waiting for me. We still had daylight during the first half of the loop. I wish I could say that I was happy and energetic going through loop 5 with my best friend, but I felt my mood fluctuating and my answers getting short with her. I started lap 6 feeling pain in my feet, discomfort from sweaty socks rubbing, and just wanting to sleep. I knew I had to keep moving. I thought maybe I needed to change my Injinji socks because all I could focus on were all the painful sensations on my feet. Vy and Tricia tried to coordinate bringing me another pair of socks, but Tricia got lost and I ended up losing Vy and walked in the dark by myself. I latched on to Ian and Gordon and started running with them. I felt bad that I lost Vy, but also relieved because now I was in a plain ugly mood.
Suddenly I heard Tricia’s voice “Who’s that sexy California babe?!!”
Vy and Tricia caught up to me with a pair of socks that belonged to someone else, one of my roasted purple potato, and Vaseline. We thanked Ian and Gordon for running with me and I finished lap 6 with the girls. They truly experienced the WORST of my wall. I wanted them to be near me, but at the same time wanted them to go away so I could just wallow in my misery. She also reminded me to be thankful for having an amazing body and they both sang for me. When I stopped at the bottom of one of the steep hills, without hesitation Vy would rub my calves which were feeling extremely tight. It’s amazing how incredibly in tuned Vy is when it comes to taking care of others.
Thank God that Tricia came!! Even though I had I invited her to cheer me on, I definitely did not expect her to stay because I didn’t want to take time away from her hubby. But much to mine and Vy’s relief, she ended up staying overnight and I even though I was too cranky to show it at the time, I was more than grateful for her chipper attitude.
Lap 7 & 8
This time George went out with me. Tricia told him that he was exactly what I needed right now – someone who has actually been through it. I am so glad that George volunteered himself to be part of my crew. I feel bad asking people to give up their time for me! He told all his friends to look out for me during the race and to give me a push if I appeared to be lagging. He made it his personal goal to help me earn my first buckle!
One of the other rules of success at Umstead is “Drink before you’re thirsty.” I managed to stay well hydrated and got really good at popping a squat and peeing in the woods. I spooked myself out a couple of times imagining ghosts as George talked about the cemetery close by and the story behind Bloody Highway (11-W) in Tennessee. We saw a pair of green eyes watching us pass by that probably belonged to a fox.
Aside from the aching pain in my feet, the most frustrating thing to deal with how my headlamp reflected off the pollen that came down on us as if it were snowing. I’m really glad that I’m not allergic to pollen!
During the last stretch of loop 7, George went ahead to gather everyone to go out on the last loop with me. I hadn’t noticed that my headlamp was dying out, so after George booked it, I was left in the dark and had to slowly make my way back to HQ. What a fail, my coach warned me about this and I even stopped at Best Buy to get an extra flashlight, only to forget it!!
Liz showed up at 0500 to join us on the last lap. I felt happy to see her but also feared that I would not be able to give her a good time because I wasn’t my usual goofy self. I finally got to experience a sunrise during an ultramarathon and appreciated hearing the first bird chirp of the day.
I hadn’t experienced many GI issues throughout the day, but I reached a point where I did not feel like eating which breaks one of the rules, “Eat before you’re hungry”. I was not consuming nearly the amount of calories that I was burning. This race has plenty of food at their aid-stations yet I still too stubborn to stop for long at the aid-station to refuel, afraid that I would waste time there. This probably caused my energy to crash and adding more time anyhow! I forced myself to eat Oreos and a banana at the aid station which gave me life to run every time.
My energy levels kept going in and out again. You’d think I’d feel energized being on the last lap. There was no doubt in my mind that I would finish, however you could tell I was not giving my best effort.
George knew how to be both encouraging and stern, breaking down my goals to run/walk to certain trees. There were a couple of times where he was upfront and said “Your energy sucks right now!” to which I wailed, ” MY FEET HURT!!!” He laughed and said, “Well what else did you expect?” I tried to seek comfort with my breath, but I winced as foot felt every.single.rock. George chuckled and pointed to the ground saying, “Just step right here.” I wanted to scream because there were literally rocks everywhere.
During the last couple of miles, George made me smile every time he announced that a virgin was coming through. My adrenaline finally kicked when we turned the corner to head towards the finish line. I smiled, trying to stifle any crying, but was also afraid that I would trip over the stairs like George did his first time there. The crowd was cheering as the three of us sprinted back towards the HQ. I felt slightly disappointed because Vy & Tricia were nowhere to be found. They were supposed to run that last half mile in with me but had fallen asleep in their car. My disappointment was overcome by surprise to see Tina and Stewart from work. Tina was taking pictures of me and yelling “GO SERGEANT REED!!!” as I was running in with a giant smile on my face, crossing the finish line after 27 hours 12 minutes and 47 seconds.
I received finish-line hugs from all my friends and Rhonda, the RD, handed me my very first 100-mile finisher buckle. She thanked me for choosing her race. We all went inside the race HQ for some pancakes and omelets. After I peeled off my Altras and Injinjis, I was happy that there were NO BLISTERS and all my gold-painted toenails were still intact. Woohoo
From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU: to my Crew/Pacers, Vy, George, Tricia, & Liz – for showing me unconditional love by dealing with my sweaty gear and cranky self.
True to its philosophy, the Umstead 100 is a great race to start laying foundations to build on for future races. I loved everything about it! So excited to say I am now qualified for the 2020 Western States 100. Best believe that I will be watching the clock on Nov 8 to register on Ultrasignup. Wish me luck!