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2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF)

~76 miles @ ~15.9 min/mi

^z at Umstead 2015, apparently floating down a hillAnother ^z 100 miler start, another Did Not Finish result! At Umstead State Park in North Carolina on 28-29 March 2015 I withdraw at the end of lap 6, official mile 75, after 20 hours and 21 minutes of fun.

And it truly is fun! I feel fine mentally, and am not actually too tired. But alas, as at the 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF, big bad blisters end the game.

Ultra-kudos to kind Mary Ewell, who snookers me into entering Umstead, drives me six hours to the race, reintroduces me to her lovely sister Anna (who lives in nearby Chapel Hill, and at whose beautiful home we stay), cheerfully crews for me, helps tape my über-ugly feet, and gently lures me out with her at 10pm on Saturday night to trek a final dozen miles.

Thank you so much, dear Dr Mary. What a wonderful friend!

Approaching mile 25 I miss a turn on a spur trail, go off course, and find myself approaching the start/finish area from the wrong direction. Oops! Dash back along the dirt path. Locate the branch point where I wasn't paying attention. Award myself a bonus ~0.8 miles when I get to the official checkpoint and run past the chip sensor. And yes, It's All Good!

Splits for the 12.5 mile Umstead orbits turn out awesomely level-paced and in near-perfect accord with the game plan proposed by experienced 100 miler friends Stephanie Fonda and Marshall Porterfield. They advise me to finish each circuit in ~3 hours during daylight and to aim for ~4.5 hours/lap through the night. As it happens, times for the first four loops are respectively 2:52 + 2:58 + 2:58 + 3:11. It adds up to a mile-50 total of 11:58. Spot on, eh?

At that point, however, the ball of my right foot has developed emergent "hot spots" — troublesome, but not yet crippling. I invest ~10 minutes at the race headquarters cabin in cleaning the foot, piercing incipient blisters with a safety pin from my bib, squeezing out clear liquid, and changing into clean dry socks. Then it's back out for the evening lap. Its elapsed time is 3:42, as the sun sets and walk breaks get longer.

Back again at the start/finish, mile 62.5, I confer with Mary. We return to the cabin and commence another round of safety-pin blister-pricking. Mary gives me moleskin to stick over the bad spots, and we cover that with duct tape from a kind race assistant. I'm skeptical that it will last more than a mile, but can't say "no" to Mary's cajoling. So 20 minutes later, into the night we go ...

^z at Umstead 2015, greeting photographer Hope Squires
^z at Umstead 2015, flying lowThe final round takes 4:39, as Mary walks and I limp. We practice aid station discipline, as I have throughout the day, and only spend a couple of minutes refueling at the midcourse stop.

At 2:20am we arrive back at race headquarters. I withdraw officially from the event, with the GPS reading 76.9+ miles. It's more than 7 miles farther than I've ever made before, and continues the linear progression established in recent years: 69+ miles at 2014-04-26 - CO Canal 100 Miler DNF, 62+ miles at 2013-10-12 - Tesla-Hertz Run - 100 Miler DNF, and 52+ miles at 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF.

At this rate, by 2020 perhaps I'll score 100, eh?

Before leaving home on Friday afternoon I draw a Tarot card from the "Dream Enchantress" deck: the Knave of Pentacles. The accompanying commentary says, "Whatever news comes your way right now, do not be misled. Go slowly, taking careful, steady steps. Keep your belongings secure." Excellent advice for any ultramarathon!

During Umstead I accompany ultra legends Tom Green and James Monroe for parts of the first few dozen miles. Conversation with them (and scores of other fellow travelers) is delightful. I pick up bits of trash and touch trees as I pass, imagining that they give me energy and perhaps are inhabited by comely dryads who appreciate a human contact. Occasionally I try a bit of trail Taiji as I trot along. Orange course-marking cones offer the opportunity for a new sport, "Cone Bopping": generating tones by whacking the opening at their apex. Hey, gotta do something when alone in the woods!

"You are a Hill Climbing Machine!" one racer tells me, as I pass by. "Beard Power!" encourages another.

^z at Umstead 2015, saluting the perfection in the universe
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Umstead_2015_blisters_z.jpgThe obligatory race evening photo of blisters shows them already receding. Three days later I'm able to run half a dozen miles comfortably around the office neighborhood. Perhaps if I toughen my feet by more long walks? Perhaps if I pre-tape? Perhaps ...

Other lessons-learned include the value of getting good sleep for a few nights before a long run, the utility of carrying lots of baby-wipes and grease, and the importance of having a supportive companion. During the post-race drive back Mary gently suggests that I might try to eat more protein. Even if most people don't have a major deficit in that department, as a vegetarian who trains fairly hard maybe ~100 g/day or more would be appropriate. Buddies Kristin and Stephanie concur, and Kristin refers me to the vegan "Pure Green" powder, with protein from yellow peas, alfafa, rice, and other plants. Perhaps ...

The GPS trackfile (Runkeeper app on an iPhone 6) shows a total climb of almost 7,000 feet, in close agreement with the official course estimate of ~8k. During the late afternoon I discover that I can speed-walk ~16 min/mi without any need to pick up both feet to run. With just a bit more practice? Perhaps ...

Does mindfulness-meditative practice help? Inevitably there's failure to attain the only goal, which is to have no goals. But staying open to possibility, while abandoning hope and expectation ...

Perhaps ...

(race-day photos by Hope Squires) - ^z - 2015-04-20