My first ultra marathon, who would have thought that four months ago when I was sitting on the couch most of the time that now I would attempt an ultra marathon. This was one of those things that you heard talk about thats all. I did not know that races longer than a marathon existed. Oh I guess I knew about the Ironman in Hawaii but that was different this was something that I could attempt. Now I had lost over 20 pounds and was feeling pretty good about my conditioning but had no idea what to expect as I had only raced on the road so far. Irene Backer had told me that it was going to be a lot more laid back than a marathon so I figured just take it as it comes. Terri the RD (race director) of the Ultrasontrails.com had asked for more help at the aid stations so I asked Aly, Ariel and Kyle if they would like to try it and they readily agreed to my surprise. This was going to be an added bonus to have them at the a.s., but then I asked them if they would like to pace me and they said yes again. What a deal, I now had a pace team for the run. We decided that I would run the first 14 miles alone an then Aly would run the next 14 taking us to the 28 mile a.s. then Ariel and Kyle would do the last 6. Training had went fine as we are now in new territory for us and are not on any plan just kinda loosely following a marathon plan and trying to get out to Paris mountain state park (a great little training mountain in Greenville) as many times as we can.
Well race day finally arrives with the temp supposed to be in the low 80's. We load up the truck, packing a cooler with everything we think we might possibly need and head to the Buncombe trails which are in the Sumter National forest along I-26 and Hyw 66 winding all around up toward Whitmire. We start at the Brickhouse campground where Terri has set up race headquarters and organized it very well, she did a great job on the whole race. Aly, Ariel and Kyle were to help out at the a.s. until they ran with me. There was a nice sized group of about 70 at the trail briefing and then they said go and headed down the trail.
Now the Buncombe trails were not supposed to be a real hard ultra course it was more of rolling hills with a some rocks and roots etc... but the thing is if you are going out to do a 34 mile run in the woods don't think it is going to be easy. Terri had a.s at about mile 8, 14, 20 and 28 along with water drops at a couple of points in between. So now with this being my first ultra experience I had taken my camelback and fuel belt so I figured I had about 72 ounce of liquid with me at least, along with roctane gu and a few snacks. The worst to me would be running out of liquid.
The trails starts out with a 4.5 mile out to get to a 25 mile loop and then you come back on the same 4.5 mile section. The first 4.5 mile go down to a creek and back up and down a few times thru some quite steep rolling hills. This section was the muddiest of the course with the rain we have been having the footing was not good at all and there was many spots where you could lose your shoe in the mud if you weren't watching out. We also crossed the creek a few times so my feet were already soaked. I was trying to keep a good pace and had started out last so I had to pass the trail sweep along with anyone else I could catch. After making the turn off the 4.5m out trail onto the loop I remember the trail kinda leveling a bit to more rolling hills with a lot of sand. I caught a few people during this section and also got lost for a while with two other runners I finally decided which way to go and headed down the trail to the first a.s. 8 miles were done. I grabbed a little bit of food and started running again. The trails now were nice with rolling wooded trails and some fields with some rocky and root sections but overall very runnable. I made it to the 14 mile a.s. in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I was really doing quite well except my right top of the arch of my foot kept barking at me. Just as I was about a quarter mile from the a.s. a man came running by me very fast and I talked to him at the a.s. and he said he legs were finally warmed up, wow finally warm after 14 miles of running that is awesome, come to find out later Aly was talking to his wife at the a.s. and he has done many ultra's and she crews for him his name is Thomas Brussiere check out his blog I follow it now. Oh well Aly, Ariel and Kyle were at the a.s. and I was real happy to see them to get some food and take a little break. I spent a little too much time there and finally Aly was getting excited to hit the trail with me so we headed out for the 14 miles to a.s. at 28, this would be Aly's longest run to date.
Now I was following Aly just trying to somehow keep up with her as she had a FRS energy drink and a Roctane gu so she was rested and ready to run. The trail now was awesome, between miles 14-20 it was rolling through the forest with a nice pine needle padding for your feet and not near as muddy although we did cross the creek a couple of times. Even with this softer trail at about 18 miles my right foot was killing me and I was walking way too much, Aly was trying to get me to run but the pain wasn't letting up so I took a couple of ibuprofen and tried to run as much as possible. I was not wanting to take anything after my ING experience but my toes felt fine it was the top of my arch that was hurting me now. We made it to the 20 mile a.s. and got food and liquid and headed out for 8 miles to the final a.s. at 28m. This section of 14 miles was really the most runnable part of the course to me but I think I had spent a little to much of my energy on the first 14 so it took us over 3 hours to make it to the a.s. at 28. Ariel and Kyle were running on the trail to us as they were waiting so long. We had passed a few more people along that section also so that was nice. After we finished Aly said we should go try to that 14 miles some day just to see how fast we could do it and I agree we should.
Well 28 miles are done and only a 10k left right? This should take just over an hour is my thought. Now my mind is still pretty good, Ariel is just kinda floating down the trail and Kyle who ran a 3:20 marathon on his first one is just telling me "you got this" and I am hooting and hollering away for the first mile we ran just over a 12 minute mile real good for me at this stage but then my energy kinda just fizzled. We had to turn back on to the 4.5 mile muddy trail we started on and I was slap wore out. Just then we meet two guys heading on the trail towards us and looking kinda lost I knew we had to make a right turn to get on that trail so I told them follow us and they did. This is where I met Wayne Downey a really fired up Christian ultra marathoner I started talking to him and ended up gaining some energy by doing so. We made the turn onto the last 4.5 and were getting so close we thought we could taste it. "That is what thought did" is the saying right man alive was it tough, the down hills now were just as hard as the ups as my legs were basically dead tired. The trail was more muddy now from the days use and footing was not good at all, you kinda just slid down the mud and scrambled across the creek and back up the hills. We were not going very fast at all but I was really enjoying it still as Wayne and I were just praising the Lord together talking away. At about 3 miles left I was not concentrating enough on the trail and I caught a root and fell down. Ariel then told me dad you need to eat a gu so I did and I drank the last of my liquid. This made me really nervous but Ariel again saved the day by giving me her gatorade bottle and we kept going. We made it to about 1.5 miles to go Wayne and I still talking away and a stinking root got me again, so down I went. Now at this point with over 32 miles done I am not thinking super clear anymore but it does hit me I need to concentrate on the trails so I tell Wayne to go ahead and I will see him at the finish. He takes off and Kyle runs ahead a little way too. Ariel stays with me but I know she has plenty of energy and could easily run with those guys so I am very thankful for the company at this time. She just keeps giving me positive talk and I keep moving slowly getting this thing done. They say the last 6.2 of a marathon is like a second marathon and I agree but now I think the last 2 of an ultra is another ultra, what I mean is at this point in the race I was moving real slow and all I can think is I want to sit down. Everything hurts even with ibuprofen and the only way to make it stop is to sit. The littlest hill now looks like Mt. Everest and you know the only way to get it done is to get it done, so keep moving. We finally start to see the burnt forest which happened earlier this year and I know it is almost finished and finally there it is the finish! Whew that was tough, Aly must have told some people my name as when I came running in I heard them saying it so that felt really good. What a feeling finishing my first ultra, the time 7:15:40 the longest I have ever done anything like this so far. The final 6 miles had taken 2 hours to finish but the important thing is it is finished.
Kyle and Ariel after pacing me for the last 10k.
What a great help that is thanks alot.
Me and Aly, I finally got to sit that felt real good!
Aly looking great after running 14 miles pushing me the whole time, I think she could have run that 14 in just over 2 hours without waiting for me. Way to go thanks I love ya.
Wayne Downey the ultra man and I sharing contact info.
Terri has some great help as when you get done their is plenty of food and drinks. I really can say she does a great job of organizing the races as the a.s. were well stocked and the people were all really friendly and helpful at everyone of them. We ate some of the food and soup, drank some more powerade chatted with Wayne and shared contact info. and then it was time to head on home.
Well now what, to tell you the truth after finishing my first thought was I wanna find another marathon on the road this trail stuff is to hard, but after the runners high hits me and I mean like for 2 days I feel so pumped I have to sign up for the rest of Terri's ultra's so I do. The next one is a 50k up on the Chattooga river June 7th see ya there!