Monday, April 2, 2012

Getting my rocks off at Umstead

With a title like “getting my rocks off” I had perhaps explain…….

A few weeks ago, my friend Lauren and I were doing a training run at Umstead – I did 20 miles, Lauren did one more lap for 30. As we ran, we had a conversation about the 100 mile race – we had an idea about how we could symbolize each of the 8 laps. So, when I was helping out at the Ellerbe Volunteer Marathon, I picked up 16 quartz rocks at “The Dog Pen” – the place where the Mangum Track Club Shirt Runs end. On Wednesday before the race, I placed two piles of 8 rocks next to a tree at the top of “Effing Hill”. One pile for Lauren, one for me. Lauren got all of her rocks off, she threw one into the woods each time she passed the spot – me, well I brought a rock back to my truck each time I passed the pile. But I didn’t get my rocks off. There are three rocks left in my pile. Bollox.

I guess that is a roundabout way of saying Umstead didn’t go to plan. Bolloxed it up comes to mind. But did I? I mean, I got a 50 mile PR – first ever sub 11 hours. I think my 100k split was also a PR too. But I didn’t sign up for a 50. Or 100k even, I signed up for a 100 miles.

Here’s what happened – four solid 12.5 mile loops, all pretty evenly split, which got me in for 50 miles at around 10:50 (it’s very nice to have the Western States qualifier in the bag already). The fifth loop started off with a break before heading out with my pacer Deanna (awesome pacer by the way). It was always going to be a slower loop – I anticipated that. It’s tough to get going after the extended rest, plus it takes a while to get used to running in the dark. Plus of course I had already done a hard 50, and the fatigue kicks in. Yeah, I expected all that. What I didn’t expect were the sharp pains in my Achilles when going up hills that started just after the half way point. As the lap progressed the pain got worse. I am not sure when I started to worry – probably with a couple of miles to go, I probably expressed some doubt to Deanna while going up Cemetery Hill with a mile or so to go. I definitely decided I was going to see the medics at the main s/f area.

Guido took a look at my leg, detected some inflammation and raised temperature around my Achilles area, and told me that the weird tingling I felt in my ankle when I touched my calf pointed towards an Achilles strain –  he did additional tests and suspected that it was not likely a tear. He told me that it was up to me if I continued – but it wouldn’t improve by running, and that I haven’t got a tear. Yet. And I should look at the time left, and would I be able to finish if I limped through the remaining loops?  And “did I know how long a tear takes to heal compared to a strain”? I did take it as a hint, but it seemed pretty certain he wasn’t going to “call it a day” on my behalf.

Ice for 20 minutes, then a test jog. I could walk slowly with not much pain – but up hills and actually running gave me those shooting pains.

DoNothingStupid Jimbo, DoNothingStupid. I made the decision and DidNothingStupid – and told Guido, who told me that was a smart choice. But egads it hurts. It's disappointing. It sucks.

But remember this? It was a very fast 5k – well the day after that, I had Achilles pain – to quote: “I noticed a minor tweak in my left Achilles tendon” – but decided on “sucking it up buttercup” and ran through it. For quite a few days. I really can be a dumb ass some times. In all fairness, I did run 57 or so miles with no issues, but I guess it hadn’t healed properly.

All of the bad stuff aside, the disappointment was extremely well diluted by a considerable amount of awesomeness. The awesomeness of seeing so many friends meet or beat their goals. The awesomeness of the whole Umstead experience. The awesomeness of the race management, and the supreme awesomeness of all of the wonderful volunteers (Guido in particular) – truly, thank you all for being there.

As they say, you can learn a lot from a DNF, so, what did I learn?

  • I can run fairly even pace for almost 50 miles – the “Method of Doom” really does work. My first three loops were all around 2:40 give or take a minute. 4th loop was just 10 minutes slower in the heat of the day.
  • If I am injured…. maybe, just maybe “MTFU and suck it up cupcake” isn’t always the most appropriate way to get healed.
  • Friends are everything – seeing so many friends really helped to lift my spirits.
  • Deanna could get a full time job as a pacer, she is great. (If only there were full time jobs doing that)
  • I can run 50 miles on gels and liquids (and the occasional “bacon treat” only (not sure how much that contributed to the steady pace on the first four loops.
  • Next year – no dreams of sub 24, no shooting for Western States qualifiers or 50 mile PR’s – 100 miles or bust.

So, until next year I guess. If I can get in.

In the meantime, what do with those 3 rocks left all alone in a pile at the top of Effing Hill.



  1. I love your blog! 100k at umstead... 85 miles at Hampton... and then on to the 100 in sub-24! :)

    1. Time to start plotting for "Mission Hinson" :)

  2. Jim, MTRC. That's all there is to it. And it was great seeing you. Thanks for letting me join you through that effin section which includes that effin hill.

    By the way, the high school cross country runners who paced me on lap 6 have names for many of the hills at Umstead. Their name for the effin hill is "despair."

  3. Great update Jimbo and good call, a hard one to make but you did the right thing. You will get 'em next time!

  4. Jimbo - I knew you didn't finish but but didn't know what happened. Being a medical expert (NOT) I know you did the right thing stopping. Achilles injuries are notoriously slow to heal. Take it easy and you'll be 'good to go' for the VA24!

  5. Jimbo, there is much to be said for your amazingly positive attitude and outlook. Im sorry it didnt go as planned, but congrats on a great 50 pr, and for having the smarts to know when to make a good, yet painful, decision to drop...Jeff Sack

  6. Jimbo - Thank you for the awesome idea(it was all you, not me)and for getting me my own special rocks from the dog pen and putting them on top of the hill for me. It really did help to have that to look forward to each time I made it up! When I threw the last rock, it was glorious! Why don't we do a run when we are all healed up where we start at the exact time of day you had to DNF and do your last 3 laps, even into the night? Each time you get up Effing Hill, you can carry a rock back to your truck just like you planned. :)

    1. Love that idea! Yep, the 37.5 mile Rock and Redemption Run. Let's do it!

  7. oh my gawd LOVE the rock and redemption run idea.

    your blog always makes me sooooo happy. you are awesome.