Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 Uwharrie Mountain Run

This is continued from my somewhat unnecessary prologue here.

Here are some other good race reports from the day: Brittany ZaleAlicia ParrBrandon ThrowerKristi B, Sean Butler, and Frank Lilley.

Pictures that Shannon took during the race are here.
There were 260 that we edited down to 200.

Stalled out
We left the house at 4am and made the 2 hour drive to Uwharrie. The weather was standard issue for this race: 33°F, pouring rain.
We were about 9 miles away from the race parking, driving on a dark back country road, when I tried to pass a slow moving semi-truck. I say try, because as we were passing our car stalled out next to the truck.
The truck drove away, and we were stopped dead in the wrong lane. The car would not start again, like it was out of gas, though the gage said I had half a tank. "Uh. Now what?"

I got out and pushed the car into someones driveway as oncoming traffic dodged us. For a moment, I thought we would miss the race and I actually felt relieved. I was being spared from a day of slowly limping through the forest in the freezing rain.

Shannon flagged down some other 40 mile runners who were driving by and were gracious enough to stop and help. But we didn't need a ride, because the car mysteriously started again, and we were back on our way.

Alison serving up breakfast

Poor Frank got attacked by Big Foot.
Shannon stopped and gave him a hug.

Finally we made it to the Church parking. There was nice warm building with breakfast and bathrooms, where everyone made their last minute preparations. We said hi to everyone, then caught a shuttle to the start area.

The start area was cold, muddy, and dark. 
The rain continued to pour as we stepped out of the van into the mud of the start area.
By the time I got my drop bag organized the sticker label with my number on it was soaked. Some helpful folks gave me some pins to pin it to the bag. At first I was concerned it would fall off, but then I remembered I probably wouldn't make it to the turn around anyway.

Ultra Brad took second place once again.
We lined up at the start, where Shannon took pictures and race director Kim warned us of ongoing military exercises and Bigfoot sightings in the forest. I kissed Shannon good luck, and remember thinking that she should move further back behind the faster people.

But it was really me who should have moved back. When we hit the trail, I slowed to a walk up the steep hill and was passed by 5 or 6 guys. After the first mile, I started actually running and waited for the pain to come.
But it didn't. That strained muscle that had been bothering me all week had amazingly healed just in time.
I felt a small twinge when jumping over a log, but that was it.

Still, I was unsure of how far I would make it. My last successful long run was the Faust Marathon back in November, and I had to sell a tendon to the Devil just to finish that. And since then, I have twice had to quit runs and walk home limping because of that tendon.

So I tried to take it easy and not push myself too hard. I walked up the steep hills and hoped my legs would hold up.

Alicia Parr Crumpler, past 20 mile winner

Grace Wallenborn, 40 mile winner in 2009,
poses in a stream crossing

Shannon got a picture of almost everyone she passed.
This was one of the guys who stopped to help us when our car stalled in the morning.

Around mile 19, Trailhead Goofus played the harmonica and banjo.
Going to Uwharrie,
Fall on my face,
Going to Uwharrie,
Run a race,
Going to Uwharrie,
Break my neck,
Going to Uwharrie,
Run like heck

Shannon stopped and took a video too:
Someone else got another video here.

Too Fast
I got to the turn around in 3:31. I was so happy that my legs had made it that far. I chugged an Ensure, stuffed my pockets with skittles and ditched my fuel belt into the drop bag.

Shortly after I left, I ran into Shannon. She was less than a mile behind me, and the second place female.
"Are you crazy?!", I scolded her, "Your going too fast!"
But she was smiling ear to ear, "No! I feel great!", and gave me hug and kiss.
The exact same thing happened last year, when she bonked pretty bad. I assumed the same would happen again.

Organ Donor
My average pace was 10:40 at that point. I had to get it below 10:30 to make it under 7 hours and gain entry into the coveted Organ Donor club.

So I started taking the downhills as fast as I could, flying down them, bounding with huge strides.
I knew I was beating my legs to a pulp, and possibly ruining my races for the next couple months.
But my legs would heal eventually. Organ Donor would be forever!

I managed to get the pace down to 10:28, but at about mile 36 I was jumping over a log and I felt a twinge in my left calf. "Oh no"
This is the same calf muscle that popped off and ran away during the Umstead Marathon last year, and denied me my sub-3 in Detroit. I just had 4 miles to go!
Hoping to stave off the dehydration, I grabbed a cup of HEED at the aid station at 38, tilted my head back and dumped it all down the front of my shirt.

Stalled Out Again
I was 2 miles from the finish line, and I still had 24 minutes to get there. 12 minute miles? No problem!
"I'm going to make it!"
But then I hit the last hill. I didn't notice it on the way out, but coming back it seemed as steep as the side of a building. My left calf was about to pop off, so I could no longer use it to push up. I had to climb using only my right leg.

I watched the minutes tick away as I inched ever so slowly up. If I could just get to the top, I could fall down the other side to the finish, but it seemed to never end. Even though I was breathing laboriously, I started to get very cold, and my arms started to tingle like blood was no longer flowing to them.

I was moving so slowly that I actually considered crawling on my hands and knees because it would be faster. Finally! I got to the top with about a mile to go and 10 minutes left. I started to ramble down the other side...
But no, it was a false summit. The trail turned and continued to climb. This is where Uwharrie broke me.
I stopped.

Trailhead Layna "Willow" Mosley
2010  40-mile winner
Invisible Rope
Meanwhile Shannon was a few miles behind running with Willow, who was helping pace Shannon through the last tough miles. Shannon asked her to run ahead and pull her with the "Invisible Rope".

Must be some mistake
Realizing I wasn't going to make it under 7 hours, I stopped and rested for a minute. Only the thought of hot soup drove me forward again, and I gimped up and down that last rocky mile, finishing in 7:05.

I must have looked terrible, because Kim the race director seemed very concerned, "Are you OK?"
The soup was wonderful, and I was so happy to have finished.
I went to the radio tent to check on Shannon's progress. The ham radio operators keep a huge chart to track the runners as they pass through each aid station. This is in case someone gets lost out there.

I looked up Shannon's number and it said she had already passed the 38 mile aid station.
"That's gotta be a mistake", I said to myself. She was on pace to break 8 hours. I kept rubbing my eyes and double checking the chart.
"First female has not come in yet", I heard someone say.

I got my camera out, and look who comes down the hill in 7:51:03

My jaw hung agape. I was in awe.
"Oh my God. You won. I can't believe it! And you made Organ Donor!"
Somebody there whispered to me "say you knew she could do it!"
But that was not true at all. I would have laughed at the suggestion. I had doubted her every step of the way.

Another Shelf
So now I am facing injury yet again, as I have to build Shannon another massive shelf to house her giant 1st place finisher award vase.

Our roles have now reversed. Now she is the trail runner, and I am the one trying not to cry.