Friday, October 17, 2008


Last Sunday (10/12/08) was the last race of the year for Terri Hayes’ inaugural SC race series, and a most awesome race at that. She puts a lot of effort into these races to ensure every runner has a successful run. She spared no expenses for the FATS 40M with full stocked Aid Stations (AS) every 5-7 miles, and water drops in between. FATS is a smooth trail system consisting of 6 loops of approximately 3,000’ of total elevation gain. Nonetheless, hard on the body with all the turns and deep dips which really takes a toll on the system at the end of the day. About 43+ runners showed up on an overcast Sunday morning with temps in the low 70s and high humidity. One of the volunteers, who was signing runners in, had a familiar face. I had to think for a minute and realized he was one of my Navy Commanders from my old Unit. We talked for a minute to fill the time gap, and he commented that he had no idea I did these long distance races.
Terri gave her pre-race brief, and with the extra volunteers, she decided to participate in her own race. She gave the runners the option to run 31 miles, or do the full 40 miles. Most, if not all, had decided on the full 40. My wife, her two sisters (Tammy & Shari), and the kids ran the main aid station, which they have done before for Terri (except Shari – Her first).
I started in the back of the pack so I wasn’t tempted to push myself and turn a training run into a race and make recovery difficult for Pinhoti 100 which was around the corner. This easy pace was nice and it gave me a chance to chat with another runner from across the river, and some runners from surrounding areas. The single trail was in excellent condition and I wanted to stretch the legs out with the system warmed-up and ready to go. The only problem was the difficulty in passing runners on this single track. It was hard holding back with the first part of the Deep Step loop mostly downhill and very fast. When I did get to a couple of passable section, I sprinted ahead to clear the way. I did not realize it at the time but I had already changed gears in my mind and was now racing. When I got to the Big Rock and Tower loop, the field had spread out, and I found myself alone. The Tower loop has a nice downhill section which I love to fly down. I was coming up on four runners, which I didn’t want to get stuck behind, so I dropped the hammer and got around them to give myself a clear path ahead. I blazed down the hill, around a few more turns, and past a couple more runners struggling with the humidity. When I hit the aid station leaving Big Rock, I asked how many runners in front of me and they told me I was in 7th place. I was having so much fun running the trails and going by runners that I forgot this was supposed to be a training run. Reality hit me and I reminded myself not to overdue it, or else pay the price in a couple of weeks. Besides, I knew I couldn’t win the race with my lack of training, and all the strong runners in the field like Brian Kistner. So I throttled back and set cruise control to a slow comfortable pace. Before long, the main trail head was ahead and a chance to see my family at their aid station. I could hear them a ½ mile out laughing and having a good time. I stopped for awhile and visited to see how thing are going. Paul Farrow (President of SORBA) stopped by on his mountain bike and we talked for a few minutes about the race and trail conditions. I told him how the runners had nothing but positive comment on how awesome the trail was.Another runner, which we passed each other a couple of times earlier in the race, arrived at the aid station and we had a brief conversation on the use of salt tabs during a race. I had wasted a lot of time at the AS, but in no hurry, so decided to get the next two loops over. I ran the next few miles with this shirtless wonder and wanted to hear more about his salt theory.
He introduced himself and told me about his previous accomplishments over the last 30 years of running ultras. I soon realized I was running with an incredible, and legendary, ultra runner which most could only hope to accomplish half of what he has. He was no other then Ray Krolewicz from SC. He was very entertaining and shared his not so normal view on training and running. From what I gathered, Ray and Karl King have opposing views on some subjects and often counter each other in a respectful way. It was just the opposite of everything I read / heard about running, but obviously worked very well for him considering his achievements (over 500 ultras, 19 sub 6 hr 50M races, national record for miles run in 24hrs, number of 1st place wins,.....). Not sure I got the facts right, but best I can recall. Last weekend, Ray just completed 104 miles in a 24 hour event, and at age 53 was out mixing it up a week later to get the training miles in for the week. What a gifted runner, and would like to hear more on Ray’s theory for a successful race. I certainly could use it.

A couple of runners passed us in the opposite direction on Skinny loop and was looking for Brown Wave loop. Ray and I tried to explain to them they missed the turn about a mile ago and need to turn around. They refused to accept they missed the turn and had a need to keep going in the direction opposite of us. After several more attempts, which ended in failure, Ray and I just shook our heads and kept on moving. They never ran the entire course and came up 6 miles short. Ray mentioned he will most likely not do the last 9 mile loop, and stop at 31M so he can make it back home in time for a B-Day party. Ray stopped at the next AS to get some water, and I thanked him for the company. I was good on water (carried two handhelds) and was ready to pick the pace up again. On the Brown Wave loop, I ran into another entertaining running who asked for clarification about the course. He asked if I was doing the Great Wall loop for the 40M or just the 31M portion? I said why not take advantage of such a beautiful day, and these awesome trails, and go the full 40. He laughed and said “thanks for throwing down the gauntlet you stud”. He laughed and I smiled and wished him luck.

Not to long, I arrived back at my families' AS and killed some more time and milled about. A few more runners came in and out, including the guy I passed on Brown Wave loop.

Laura asked if I was ok because my time was really slow. I said I was just enjoying the day and in no hurry. I also was feeling a little fatigued which I was not expecting. I still had one more 9 mile loop, and it was too early in the run to start feeling this bad. I did not like the thought of eating anymore gels or food. I did drink this lemon-lime flavored Gatorade drink at the AS, but was ready for something different. I thanked the girls and my kids for their help and off I was to knock out this last loop. I was about 1 mile into the loop when out of nowhere I had a sudden urge to empty my stomach. Just as I was trying to figure out what I had done, or not done, to cause me to feel this bad, I was painting the side of the trail with this lemon-lime hybrid Gatorade drink. After a few minutes of this, with a flashback to my VT100 episode, I shook it off and regained my composure. I walked for awhile and sipped water until I was confident enough to resume running. I felt a lot better, and didn’t have that blotted feeling. I’m not sure what happened, or what caused it. But based on how much fluid I lost from my stomach, my body was not absorbing what I had been drinking. I believe this is an indication of my sodium level getting too low.
I made it back to the AS for the last time and asked my son (Josh) to run the last 1/2 mile back to the finish line with me. We hung out for a few minutes at the finish line, and then jumped in the car and drove back to help out with the AS and cleanup. My wife, kids, and her sisters received a lot of compliments on their AS and the support they offered. I’m very fortunate to have a family involved in my passion, and willing to give up their off day to be out supporting our ultra community. Terri Hayes did another incredible job organizing this race and putting on a first class event. Can’t wait to see what she will do with this race series next year.

Overall, I felt a lot more tired then I should have, and now concerned I'm not ready for another 100. This is not the way to end your last long run going into a major event. What started out as just another long training run turned out to be a struggle in the end. I still don't have a handle on my nutritional side, and need to figure out what will works for me. It's been an exhausting outage at work, stressful, and maybe it has been more taxing on my system then I realized. Just like the low points in races, I just need to keep moving forward, and get to the other side, and grow from the experience.

On the flip side, this is the stuff I love to hate - knowing my chances are slim for success and toeing the line to push my limits again. The price is great - A risk for failure - But the reward of self discovery priceless.

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