Monday, April 4, 2011

Umstead 2011 - the review

Jimbo early on (Thanks Jade for the pic)

Today is the second anniversary of my first Ultramarathon – I did 50 miles at Umstead, it took me 11:48 for the distance, and I was absolutely thrilled with that performance. That race started off a whole new way of life for me – I have become passionate about the sport – I have completed other 50’s. 3 x 100 mile races, 24 hour races, 100k’s 50ks etc. etc. Along the way, I have met many people and made many friends. The biggest gathering of people I know is probably at Umstead 100.

This Saturday just gone – I ran another 50 at Umstead – this time over 40 minutes faster. I should be thrilled, but I am not – this time, I set out to run a 100 miles, and I also set a target (a tough target) of completing 100 miles in 24 hours. It didn’t happen though; a plain old common cold made for an uncommon experience. I woke up feeling slightly worse for wear on Thursday (I was kinda hoping that the beer I had had on the Wednesday evening was coming back to haunt me – yes, I was actually hoping beyond hope that I had a mild hangover. No such luck.)

By Friday, I had a fully-fledged cold – but figured I would be ok – my nose was stuffed, but I didn’t feel like I had a fever, and didn’t notice chest congestion. Game on.

6am start – lap one.  9 miles into it, I felt a dull ache in my right calf. This is exactly how it felt before the OBX marathon a few years ago, an injury that put me out for a few weeks. I had to stop to massage the muscle a couple of times. For a few moments, it did cross my mind that this would end my race, right there on lap 1. But after a minute or so stretching and massaging, I felt it loosen up and I was able to jog and walk. There was no real improvement, but it didn’t get any worse, so I took it easy for the rest of the loop. Back at the aid station, I used The Stick ™ to massage the calf, and it really did feel better after that. I was probably 10 minutes behind my game plan because of that. I did manage to make up that time on Lap 2 – there was a dramatic improvement in my calf, and I felt good, so remaining in my happy space, I ended up with 25 miles in about 4:50. I had decided previously that if it took over 5 hours for 25, then I would abandon the efforts for sub-24, and shift down a goal to “distance PR”.

My 50K split was around 6:05 – very thrilled with that, it is probably my second fastest 50k time, and I was still feeling incredibly strong. Shortly after that though, on the hills of N. Turkey Creek – I started wheezing and breathing became labored, and a cough developed. Oh good, my cold is moving to my chest. My pace dropped dramatically in those last few miles of that loop. At the aid station, I met with Leila who had come to the park to help out – she was awesome, and waited on me hand and foot for 15 minutes or so, while I tried to get a recovery going – I took in plenty of calories, in the form of OJ, coconut water and Myoplex. After the little break, I did feel quite a bit better. 

As I set out for lap 4, I pretty much gave up on any thoughts of sub-24 – there was though the possibility of two PR’s – 100 mile PR and 50 mile PR (with a secret goal of sub-11). Leila walked with me for the first couple of miles or so, the company was great, and I started again to feel that that all would be good, as long as I could keep moving.

The absolute highlight of my day came when my friends Paul and Katie road past on their bikes with signs on their backs. “Go Jimbo” and “Jim you inspire us”. Wow – that was simply wonderful, and really made me feel better, and put in spring in my step. Well, at least for the next 4 miles or so. Some slow jogs and plenty of walking. Until N. Turkey creek again – the hills – hills that I have power hiked dozens of times – really took it out of me. I was taking a break half way up just to get my breath back; it honestly felt like I was at altitude. When I was struggling to go down Powerline Hill – this was when it really started to sink in that it wasn’t going to happen today. Still, I had two possible goals to aim for. A sub 11hr 50, or at the very least a 50 mile PR. With something like 2 miles to go, all  I needed was two 13 minute miles to beat 11 hours. I couldn’t even manage that. So – I will just have to be happy with a PR of 11:07. I can’t help but feel disappointed though. Other than the calf strain early or whatever it was, I felt pretty sound “mechanically”. I ended up hanging out in the aid station helping out other runners – the carnage can be quite spectacular….. is that what I look like after 75 miles? Ugh!

Thanks Paul and Katie - that meant so much!

Two days later, and the cold is clearing up – it would seem its only purpose was to screw up my 2011 Umstead.

Very special thanks to Leila for helping out, to Connie, Nicole and Barbara for being willing but sadly unused pacers.

There was a great deal of awesomeness on display. Frank did his first 100k, Linda her first 50, Charles and Dan finished their first 100 milers, Fred, Ray, Dave, Meredith and Tammy also finished – as did many more. Others put in valiant efforts, but didn't quite make it.

Performance of the day though had to be reserved for Sharon – who not only completed her first 100 mile run, but also learned how to blow snot rockets. I love ultras, where else would that come into polite conversation?


  1. Colds suck! And so does Turkey Creek! But you, my friend, are awesome! So glad I've gotten to know you! A true high point!

  2. Great summary Jim, glad you are feeling better and congrats again on the PR! Wish I could have been there while you were running. I saw a few folks finishing up on Sunday AM. Still can't imagine how you guys do it!

  3. You are awesome, Jimbo, and it sounds like your Umstead experience was, too- even if it wasn't the experience you set out to have:))