The Course is located at the William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, North Carolina. Set on rolling terrain with 8,000 feet of total elevation gain the 12.5 mile loop must be completed 8 times within the 30 hour time limit.
The race began the following morning at 6am. It was a crisp beginning to a beautiful day with an early morning temperature in the low 30's. The 250 entrants set out in the dark under a nearly full moon. I ran the first 1/2 mile or so with my friend Tony but he was moving way to fast for me so I settled back on my own. Tony ended with a new pr of 19:24:46, an incredible run! I spent a good part of the first loop on my own although there were always people around this early in the race. It was nice to get a sense of the course myself, watch the sun rise and just begin to take it all in.
During the next 3 loops (37.5 miles) I ran with with Emmy mostly and also spent a few miles with Frank and Ira. The company was good and the day was sunny and beautiful with temperatures getting into the 50's. I completed the first 50 miles (4 loops) around 9hrs 50min. I was right on target as I had been told to expect about a 2hr difference between the 1st and 2nd half of the run. My goal was to finish in under 24 hours so this should leave me plenty of cushion.
All the runners were fairly spread out at this point over the 12.5 mile course so I spent much of the next 25 miles running alone with occasional conversation from runners I happened upon. The day remained perfect and I was feeling very good so I just put on my ear phones for a while and settled into my groove. And as always there was my greatest motivation after loop 5 when Tani and Isla were there to encourage me. Even after 62.5 miles I could not resist a kiss. Now that is one special lady kissing me back because I guaranty you I stank!
I said goodbye and goodnight to them as it was getting late and cold. By the time I came in after mile 75 it was around 10pm. My girls were back at the hotel, the temperature had dropped back into the 30s and I was not doing so hot. I still managed to keep loop number 6 under 3 hours but I was experiencing a physical and mental pain and fatigue like never before. I am not sure there is any training I could have done to prepare for what happened during the next 8 hours. Before heading out for loop 7 I requested a pacer and ran inside race hq to change my shoes and sock. I had a couple of hot spots (blisters) which was a first for me. I thought the best thing would be to put on a fresh pair of socks and change shoes. Wow did it feel good to take of those shoes but it was not easy getting on the new pair as my feet were beginning to swell significantly.
So after a few minutes inside struggling with my shoes and getting in some warm dry clothes for the night and early morning hours I got back outside to meet my pacer Melina. She was great. She really helped me stay focused on the goal of completing that loop in under 4 hours. With a great deal of encouragement and thoughtful conversation we made it around under our goal. Although I walked much of that loop we kept the walking pace steady and ran a couple of miles (I think) towards the later part of the loop. Eighty seven and one-half miles complete, 12.5 to go.
I was hoping to feel energized at this point knowing I only had one loop to go but that was not the case at all. I had no intention of quitting, but aside from the extreme physical discomfort I felt very out of it and I think my brain was telling me I was in worse shape than I actually was. I decided to go inside hq again and sit down for 2 minutes. Although not by design this was good. I saw Tony, Rick and Steve who encouraged me to get back out there. I felt like I was begging them to let me sit for just 2 minutes which they did. As I got up to leave I remember Tony telling me to just run when I could. Even if it was only 10 feet at a time. Every little bit would get me closer to my goal. After a few other encouraging words from him which I really took to heart, out the door I went to meet my new pacer for the final loop, Suzanne.
Suzanne and I made our way out in the cool early morning air for the final loop at 1:47am. The moon again was nearly in full bloom. I had over 4 hours to get around and Suzanne was great as she also encouraged me as Melina did and began to understand rather quickly I think when I needed conversation and when I did not (I recall Suzanne saying she would like to be a coach; She would be a good one). I think I was a bit disoriented at this point and recall constantly asking what time it was and often literally falling off track as I was constantly losing my balance when walking. We ran in little chunks and walked big ones. I am not certain but I think we began to run in larger spurts the further into the loop we got. Although we made it around with plenty of time to spare somewhere in the 3 hr and 45 min range I was never certain where I stood until I crossed the finish line and was handed a sub 24hr finisher buckle from a friendly bearded man who I grabbed in an emotional hug. While this journey is individual in so many ways I know I could not have completed it without the support of many before and during the run. Thanks to all the volunteers for being so helpful the entire weekend, really awesome support. Melina and Suzanne for showing up in the middle of the night to help a stranger. Tony for helping me with my training and being so encouraging. And of course Tani for always being there and believing in me.