By Caroline Elisabeth Williams
Russ Evansí final instructions were, relentless forward motion, and unless you are pulled from the race for taking too long, or medical emergencies, no matter how slow you think youíre going, DO NOT QUIT. I told him that I had a good feeling about finishing well under the 30-hour cutoff, and he simply looked at me, as if to say, ďokay, weíll see.Ē Lou Jones told me to double my slowest JFK time and add about 3 to 4 hours. So I thought that I should have been able to finish comfortably in about 28 hours.
The course for Umstead 100 is eight loops of 12.5 miles. Walker and I were here last year to see who was running, and to offer any help. Last year it was ten loops of ten miles, and the runners had to deal with vehicular traffic on the course. This year we not only had two less loops, but also only a short stretch where we had to watch out for vehicles. The running surface was described as much better as well, although I donít think it made me any faster.
It was supposed to rain hard late Friday night, but the rain never came. So Saturday morning, we had cloudy skies, and high humidity. A few people, at the starting line, had plastic bags over their shirts. To the best of my memory, it didnít rain until well after lunchtime. Iím thinking around 2pm. Then it really came, with thunder thrown in for some exciting sound effect. I told a few people that the angels were bowling up there. ďThe angels are telling us that we canít be the only ones having fun!Ē I also hoped for the rain to end before the sunset. And it did!
First four loops went very smoothly. I felt anxious to get these laps over with so that I can experience what Iíve never experienced beforeógoing beyond 50 miles. I was concerned about my left foot, possible blisters from socks that didnít feel quite right. I had this sensation from the second lap, but didnít bother me enough to take a look at it then. So I knew that I had to take a look after lap four. There were no blisters anywhere; but I taped my feet anyway just to be safe. Laps five and six went slower, but I enjoyed the night portion. I didnít feel sleepy or cold. I was quite comfortable.
I was able to eat anything I wanted because I was also eating CRYSTALIZED GINGER. This works like magic! Iím not a burger person, but I ate one at the third aid station, and another at the headquarters (the first aid). It was the best tasting burgers Iíve ever had! I usually have nausea issues, but I never vomited thanks to CRYSTALIZED GINGER. I also tried to stick to solid foods. I naturally tend to lean toward soups, sandwiches, and nuts anyway, but Joey Anderson and Scott Brockmeier also advised against candy type foods.
Aid station folks were truly wonderful. They were patient as well as helpful. I donít remember which lap I was on, but it was during the night at aid three, I was walking away with a cup of soup. My hands were shaking so bad that I was spilling the soup all over the place. I thought, ďThis is not good. I donít feel cold, but I better walk back to see if anyone can tell me whatís going on with me.Ē Of course, no one knew what exactly was going on with me, but suggested that I sit a while, eat my soup, and get warm. I had all the right clothes on from the waist up, but I had shorts on because my legs usually donít get cold. Someone gave me and another guy a blanket. The other guy didnít look good. I told him to keep positive, that it might get better for him soon. When I asked him what lap he was on, he said sixth. I think he eventually dropped. When I got back to the headquarters, I put on long pants. At aid station number two, on my seventh lap, I was so frustrated with my inability to even maintain a shuffle that I just yelled out my race number and told them that I would be going on without any food or water, unless they had some ibuprofen, and/or something like Ben Gay. They had both, so I stopped. I swallowed the pills and rubbed on the cream, while whimpering like a baby. I apologized for my whining. I told them that I thought I was tougher than that.
On my last lap, I was saying to myself that this was the last time I would see this or that, the last time I would see the aid station folks. IT WAS MY LAST LOOP, and as Lou Jones told me, as he began his last loop and I was finishing my 7th loop, ďYou canít give up now!Ē I had five hours. Thatís plenty of time. I could walk the entire loop and still make it. But it I knew that I had to push a little, because it would be extremely long 12.5 miles if I walked the entire loop. It would be mentally difficult to walk the entire loop. So I tried to shuffle, which lasted a few yards at various points. It felt good to thank and say good-bye to the aid station folks. They all appeared genuinely happy for me. I found myself next to a runner at around mile 95. He also didnít appear to be having a good time, but seemed glad to carry on a conversation for a while. He said something like running 100 miles isnít good for our bodies. I laughed. We then talked about how some people can run several of these 100 milers in a single year. After few more exchanges, I told him that I wanted to push a little.
Less than ten seconds later, who do I see as I summit the little hill? WALKER!! Iím now laughing hysterically, and asked him where the final turn is. He said, ďItís right up there!Ē And I said, ďBut I donít see it, and if I canít see it, itís not right up there!Ē So Iím walking again, but this time with my Walker until I saw the turn. Walker told me that he would meet me at the finish. I was able to turn on the shuffle, feeling no pain this time. Iím seeing Doug Dawkins, who always has something nice to say about me, in a car with other folks. Iím seeing few other folks in another car congratulating me. But Iím finding myself too close to the bloody cabins, and Iím coherent enough to know that thatís not the way to the finish. So Iím yelling, and finally someone tells me to turn left. They had taken down the ribbon that guided the runners to the headquarters! That section was still muddy from the rain, so Iím walking again, then managed to put on a little speed as I saw the folks at the finish line.
I donít feel like Iíve completed a 100-mile event. Perhaps because I walked so much of it, much more than I thought I would. Perhaps because it was eight times around the same loop. Iíve read that doing a hundred mile event makes you a true ultra runner. Someone at the finish welcomed me into the 100-mile club. But I donít feel much different today. I donít feel any more confident about doing well at the future events I have on my calendar. I just wanted to see if I could do an ďeasyĒ 100 miler; I just wanted to see what my body/mind would experience at miles beyond 50. Umstead, this year, for me, was ideal. I liked the overcast skies, the little spurts of rain and thunder. But it was stressful for me as I found myself doing what I was told not to do: trying to calculate my pace to the cutoff. Iím not good at math anyway, so what the heck? Iím just glad that I chose Umstead as my first; and Iím even more glad that I was able to finish on my first try. What I will make of this entire experience is yet to be determined. Maybe I will never be able to make total sense of this. But for now Iím happy to have all of my training for Umstead result in a successful finish.
Caroline Elisabeth Williams.