After a whirlwind of crazy circumstances on Friday afternoon, I finally made it to my mothers house, a short drive from the start of tomorrow's Uwharrie Mountain Run. We gathered everything we needed for tomorrow's race and settled on our plans for all the logistics for the following day. By 9:00, I was in bed and fast asleep.
The morning came quickly, but I slept well. I drank a cup of joe and started to consume 4 mini whole wheat bagels with cream cheese (yea that is right, 4 bagels!) to fuel up for the long day ahead. The drive over to the check in was uneventful, but I was feeling calm and confident for the day ahead. The weather was looking to be perfect, albeit a bit cold at the start. I checked in, said hey to some familiar faces and hopped on the bus to be shuttled over to the start. The bus ride was probably the worst part of the day actually, since buses always make me car sick, but the ride wasn't too long. The starting area was filled with some more familiar faces and we chatted while waiting for the race to start. Not 5 minutes after arriving we were told to make our way to the starting area.
A little pre-race talk from the RD and then we were off. After a short section of paved road we hit the steep rutted out double track ascent to access the Uwharrie Trail. At the junction though, the top 7 all kept following the double track. Thoughts buzzed through my head that I should just let them go up the wrong path and take the lead, but then I realized I'm not a d-bag, so I yelled out that they had taken the wrong turn and enjoyed my 3 minutes of being the leader until they all caught back up and passed me. Not 15 minutes later I was in 12th. No worries though, because I had just hit my first split in under 7:00 hour pace.
While beginning the rocky and steep descent of Horse Mtn, I began to feel a strange pain in my hip. A pain I had felt before on an attempt to set a PR at the Bent Creek Gobbler. My good spirits began to fade after thinking back on how that all played out and I knew that I had to do something soon or risk not even finishing the race. I thought it over, began to shorten my stride, increase my turnover, especially on the downhills, and tried not to create too much impact on the hip. I concentrated on my form over the rocky terrain and hoped that my mother would have some Aleve at the 8 mile aid station. I ended up making it to the 8 mile aid faster than I had ever before in 79 minutes. I was still well under 7 hour pace. Luckily my mother did have some Aleve, so after I restuffed my pockets with food and grabbed a new bottle, I downed the 2 Aleve and hoped for the best. I don't like taking medicine on runs, or period for that matter, but I didn't pay $70 to go home halfway and after experiencing severe hip pain on an earlier run, I felt it was a necessity.
The next 6 miles were like they always were, my least favorite section of the Uwharrie Trail. No matter when I run that section, I lose time no matter how fast and how good I think I am feeling. By the time I had gotten to the mile 14 aid station I had lost a couple of minutes and was now more on pace for a 3:24 out, than a 3:20 which was the plan. And the next 3 miles are not easy. I bombed down the first descent as best I could in a manageable, you have to run another 24 miles pace, to the bottom of the first hill I planned to walk for the day. If you have ran Uwharrie before, you know which one I am talking about. Once I reached the hill, I trotted the first section of the climb until it got to a grade that I felt hiking would be the better choice. I made it over, feeling good and headed down to another dreaded section. This section is really tight, has a lot of twist and turns, and steep little ups and downs. In other words, it is an energy drainer and a flow killer. This was when I began to come up with a mantra to get me through this section. Mad A suggested that I do so when the going got rough, so I did. I tried to downplay the ridiculousness of the trail by repeating, "This is nothing, Easy". It really worked as I was soon off that section and blowing past the 17 mile aid station. I had lost no more time, but I was still on pace for 3:24 out.
The trail gets much more runnable here though, and you can really open things up. My energy levels were feeling good so I started to pick up the pace a bit. I was soon crossing by the leaders and I knew I was getting close to the turnaround. About a mile out, I looked down at my watch and it read 3:12. I was making up time and I eventually cruised into the turnaround at 3:20:30. I switched out my bottles, restuffed my pockets and was out of the aid station in 20 seconds!!! I came into the aid station 9th and left in 7th place. I was feeling extremely confident at this point and knew that I could run relaxed on the return and just stay smooth. I was on pace to run a 6:40 and had given myself a 20 minute cushion for breaking 7 hours. I soon passed the 6th place guy after the turn around and even with relaxing a bit I had dipped under 6:40 pace by the time I reached the 23 mile aid.
But soon enough, It was time to face the tight, slow section again, so I began to repeat the mantra as I did before, but I got a little side tracked while passing all the rest of the 40 mile and 20 mile runners heading in. I felt strong during this section, but it must have been all the people I had to go by that slowed me down as I came to the mile 26 aid and had lost about 6 minutes. I was now on 6:44 pace, but I wasn't too concerned. I still had a nice cushion. But then came the section I always lose time on. This section just seems to drag on and on and I soon found myself at 6:50 pace when I hit the 29 mile aid. I was feeling alright so I began to pick up the pace and was aided by a nice gradual downhill. I felt like I was moving well and I really wanted to have at least the same 10 minute cushion when I got to the 32 mile aid. But after the first nice and fast 1.5 mile of this section. It begins to follow a creek bed closely, gets real tight and technical, and then turns up the steepest hill on the entire course. A hill so steep, I had to walk. I grunted my way up it, and began to push again to the 32 mile aid. Food was becoming hard to get down as well at this point.
I crossed the road, looked down at my watch and saw that I had 89 minutes to get to the turn around. I quickly switched out bottles, restuffed my pockets with food and left the aid station with 88 minutes to get to the finish in approximately 8.2 miles. And the last 8 is much more difficult than the first 8. I tried to get a stinger waffle down upon leaving the aid station, but I almost threw it up when I passed by the 6th place man. I was really trying to push the pace and the dryness of the waffle did not want to dissolve in my mouth. I ended up only eating about 3/4 of it. I kept the pace moving steady until I reached another hill that is better to walk shortly after you cross a wooden bridge. I took the opportunity to down one of my gels while walking, but knowing that the taste would probably send me puking up the trail, I decided to employ a tactic of eating gels I had tried at Tanawha. What you do is only pour out about a pill sized dab on your tongue and then just swallow it down just like a pill. You hardly taste the thing at all. Keep repeating until you down the whole thing.
After I reached the top of the hill, I knew that I could not walk another one if I wanted to finish in sub 7. I hit the next aid station, downed a cup of Coke, and then took off. I soon caught the 5th place guy and he said that he was glad to see me so he could get some motivation back. Passing him gave me some motivation as well. He mentioned about the chance of still getting a sub 7 time and I replied with "We are going to have to run hard and it is going to hurt." This was exactly what Matt Kirk had told me just one week ago and it was the truth. After I said that, I think it fired us both up, because we both began to pick up the pace substantially. I pumped my arms hard up the rocky climb of Horse Mtn., came into the 2 mile to go aid station, grabbed another cup of Coke, and then went into straight hauling mode. I had 22 minutes to finish the last 2.2 miles to finish in under 7 hours and there was still one more 400ft climb in front of me. I cranked down the trail, leaping over downed trees like I was fresh and then hit the bottom of the final climb. I began to pump the arms again and really try to get up the climb as quickly as I could, I was beginning to feel that it was in the bag but I couldn't let myself let up just yet.
I reached the top of Dark Mtn with 1 mile to go and about 9 minutes to do it in. I began to sprint. I threw myself down the extremely rocky section of the final descent as fast as I could, looked at my watch when I hit the bottom of it and I had 5 minutes to finish in under 7 with little under half a mile to go. And then I ran down the trail faster than I had ever ran down it before. I felt like I was flying, I felt connected with the ground, my breathing was calm, the sharp switchbacking turns didn't even seem to slow my pace. I yelled out once I saw the finish line one more switchback below me and I cruised into the finish line in 6:57:24. I slammed my water bottle down in celebration. I had ran the last mile in about 6 minutes. I had just accomplished a goal 3 years in the making. I had become an Organ Donor.
Everything during this run went off almost perfectly. I nailed my nutrition, something I have never done before. I never really felt like I was bonking and when I started to feel a little weak I would double up on calories. I also really got my hydration and electrolyte replacement down pat, another thing that I usually do not do well. I think that the longest time I spent in an aid station was 30 seconds and that was the first one due to finding the Aleve that definitely alleviated my hip pain. My mother would have all the food I would need for the next section of trail laid out on a chair and I would empty the trash from my pockets and stuff them with the new food and a new full bottle of water was ready each time with 3 salt pills in the pocket. The whole process was seamless. I guess 3rd times a charm.
I would really like to thank all the people that helped get me to this point as well. For the sake of your boredom, I will just list their names only and not tell you all that they have done for me. These aren't in any specific order by the way: My mother, Hannah, Mad A, Matt Kirk, all of my friends in the Pisgah Nation (that helps shorten the list, it could have gotten really long), my father, the Griffiths, DART, USFS, the RD's, and God's beautiful ever evolving creation, which without I would not be running at all.
On another note, Hannah was 6th place female in the 8-miler. Her first ever trail race and she killed it!
|About to start|
|And we are off|
|coming into mile 8 aid|
|20 second aid stop at the mile 20 aid station|
|nice medal hannah|
|8 miles to go!|
|Hannah is always rockin|
|trying not to throw up|
|elated and done!|
|that's a good looking couple right there|
Was singing this song all day in my head! Check it!