Friday, March 8, 2013

2013 Umstead Marathon Race Report

All these people showed up and  ran,
even though the mascot was not an opossum

Big Showdown with Josh
Four months ago I challenged Josh to a big showdown in Umstead, and we both had been training hard since. I had beat him in his last 2 attempts at Umstead, and held an 8-1 record against.
However, that one loss was our last race. Who would come out on top?

Strategy
His plan was to go out fast.
My plan was to take it easy until Cedar Ridge at mile 21 where I would run by him and crush his spirits.
Everybody falls apart at Cedar Ridge and I knew I would see him there.

Mile 21
And I did.
As I headed down Cedar Ridge, there was Josh struggling as expected.
Unfortunately he was headed up Cedar Ridge and was actually 3 miles ahead of me.
No problem. I figured I just needed to run the last 5 miles at a sub-3 minute pace, and victory was mine!

Forget Cedar Ridge, Mile 3 is where things start to get hard
Falling Apart
So I sprinted towards the bottom at a sub-3 pace.
After about 4 steps, my right hip gave out and I had to stop and walk. It hurt too much to run downhill.
Hmmmm. After some more calculations, I realized that I might not be able to catch him if I had to take walk breaks. Rats. So I conceded the race to Josh.
Well played, my slipper footed friend. You win this time.

But the race wasn't over yet...

Oddly enough, my wheels had, in fact, fallen off.
Big Showdown with Josh Shannon
Another of my rivals, my wife Shannon, was just ahead of me.
Near the bottom, I saw her and my Sister Monique coming back up.

Shannon whines about every little incline, so surely she would be struggling up this notorious hill.
And my hip was OK running uphill, so I pushed hard. I was flying. (Well, about a 9:45 pace, but it felt faster)

Around every turn, I kept expecting to see her. But no. I passed several guys and made it to the aid station at the top. "Your wife is just ahead of you!" they lied. She was no where in sight.
I realized that Shannon was going for an Umstead PR. Nothing motivates Shannon like numbers, and she would laying down a ferocious pace to get to the finish. I had no chance.

Not a big hill by itself.
But at mile 25 it is soul crushing

Big Showdown with Josh Shannon Monique
But I did see the pink shirt of my sister walking slowly up Graveyard Hill (or Cemetery, whatever).
My record against her is a competitive 7-8. I had a chance to tie things up.

I put my head down and plowed up the hill and over. I was gaining ground, and I saw that she was running with Shannon! Two rivals for the price of one!

But I just could not hold onto the pace they were running. When they made the turn at the fountain, I lost sight of them, which made my hip suddenly hurt like hell again. So I decided to walk it in.
"You're almost there! Come on!", some volunteers taunted me, as I walked the turn at the fountain.
I could not push past the pain anymore, "You know how far a half mile is?" I pouted.  

My sister lives near Detroit, with no hills or trails.
She still kicked my ass. Again.
Big Showdown with Josh Shannon Monique Figge
From the corner of my eye I spotted Jason Figge coming up behind me.
Not sure what my race record against him is, but I know he kicks my ass in every single track event.
I couldn't let him beat me.

Suddenly I could run again. The sight of Mile 26 had me at a full sprint. A little friendly completion can really change your mood!

As I neared the finish line, I glanced behind, and he was 30 yards behind me. I had it wrapped up.
So I let off the gas, put my arms up in victory and crossed...

I was Figged!
Arrrrggg! Jason sprinted by my outstretched arms like I was standing still, crushing me at the line by 1 second.

Big Showdown with a Marathon
My last successful marathon was Umstead 2011.

Since then I had signed up for 7 marathons and ultras. Due to a compounding cascade of injuries, they were all either DNS, DNF, or DNFR. (DNFR is Did-Not-Finish-Running, which means I injured myself during the race.)

But I finally managed to finish a marathon actually running, which is really fricking hard.

Thank you Umstead Conclave and volunteers. This is the best race on the planet (though an opussum would make it even better), and it brings much happiness to me and a couple hundred friends who enjoy the privilege of running it.

Congrats to Josh, Shannon, Monique, and Jason and everyone who was out there running.

Until next year...



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