We (Wife Sunny and oldest son Christopher) headed out of Dallas at noon on Friday. We drove to Huntsville and checked into our motel. Then we headed over to the park for packet pickup and race meeting. After that group got together and headed over to Chili’s for some dinner. Then it was back to our room and asleep by 9 PM. I got up at 4:15 AM and it wasn’t raining. It looked like we had caught a break and would start on a dry course. I started to get dressed and eat/drink my breakfast. (Endurox and a bar) I had planned to eat a bagel later on the drive over with peanut butter but my nerves had my stomach feeling full. Soon I heard thunder and I could hear the rain coming down pretty hard. I put on my 88¢ poncho and headed to the lobby to meet up with Edgar, Steve and Shaheen. My feet got soaked just running up to the motel lobby. We took off and picked up Neil and headed to the start. One quick bathroom break and I was then under the tent at the starting line.
Loop 1 - 3:35 (10:50 pace) Neil and I lined up together and got started. The first 3 miles were runnable with lots of roots. It was still raining hard. We reached the first aid station (Nature Center) in 33 min. (11 min pace) I was feeling good. The next 3 miles were about the same with fewer roots but more wet spots. We arrived at the second aid station Dam Nation at the same pace. It was starting to get light so I dropped off my light in my drop bag. The next 6 miles was a loop out and back to Dam Nation. This was a runnable section. Each time I ran this section it felt more hilly and wet each time. By now Edgar and Shaheen had caught up to us and even passed us up by a min or two. The next 3.5 miles led to Park Road aid station. At some point Neil and I asked about the first time I would go down. I said loop 3. I ended up falling twice on loop 2 and once on loop 3 but never in the mud. The last 4.4 miles back to the starting line was the fastest section. We were knocking down sub 11 min pace back. I kept thinking all along that this first loop was 30 min too fast and I would have to back off from my fast friends soon. Apparently all of their talk of just wanting to break 24 hours was just sand bagging. When we all got back to the start our bags were still in Steve’s car since no one expected us to be back this early. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I would just grab food from the aid station and I was good to go. This is the first place I saw my crew (Sunny and Christopher). They were wet but very excited to see me come thru and it lifted my spirits. After a couple min at the aid station the bags showed up. I drank a quick Endurox drink and reloaded my Endurolites.
Loop 2 - 4:02 (12:05 pace) Neil took off first as his bag was there. Neil was always very fast out of aid stations. I will need to learn from him. As I passed runners or my crew on this lap they would tell me Neil said to tell you he is just ahead and I needed to catch up. Could someone tell him to slow down for me? I finally caught up to everyone at mile 26 at Dam Nation. After we left DN I just couldn’t keep up with them. This was the hardest mental part of the race for me. I had to check my ego and come to grips with the fact that I could not run as fast as everyone else. My ego didn’t like being the slowest but my goal was sub 24 and I knew this loop needed to be 4:15 and not sub 4 hours. I remember thinking at mile 30 that I was tired and if I doubled this distance I will still only be at mile 60 with 40 to go. You can’t think about everything in a 100 mile race. You have to work on the mile at hand. By mile 36 I had come to peace with myself and I was trying to run conservative and smart. I saw my crew and they thought I looked good. I had come thru my toughest mental battle of the race all on my own.
Loop 3 - 4:17 (12:50 pace) I got my music for this lap and God and I were going to run this loop together. I started to feel I could do this but I still had this fear of legs going dead later on. I was still running strong. I noticed a new very large tree down on the Dam Nation loop. I guess it had fallen during our race. My right knee was starting to hurt. I could also feel my wet sock folding in my shoe. I decided I would get back around to the start and get some new socks. At Mile 52 at Dam Nation I ran into Shaheen. Her ankle was in bad shape and she was icing it. I thought it was time for her to drop but I wasn’t going to put that in her head. She would have to come to grips with that on her own. We walked for a few min and I told her to manage mile by mile and decide what she could do. She could not really walk so she started to run. My 13 min pace was too slow for her and she took off like a shot. I finished the loop in the light so that was good.
Loop 4 - 5:21 (16:00 pace) I got rid of my music. Changed my socks and pick up my pacer Mike B. I let him know that the last two loops were going to be slow and the goal was to get us in Sub 24 hours. It felt like we ran around half the time but the pace indicates we were not running too fast. The mud pits were growing and getting worse each loop. Each time we would hit a mud pit runners were on both sides trying to find a dry path. I would be the one guy that would just walk right thru the middle. I think the water had run off and flooded more of the course. I let Mike know I didn’t want to hear anything negative so no complaining about the mud. I was starting to get cold. I think my body was not working as hard and, thus, not creating heat.
Loop 5 - 6:15 (18:45 pace) Mostly walking. By the time I got to mile 86 my knee was real sore and I was afraid of pulling something. We calculated what we needed to do to get to sub 24 and did that. I would skip aid stations and let Mike catch up to me. I wasn’t drinking much and I was peeing every 2 miles. On the Dam Nation loop Mike gave me his shirt because I was so cold. I had heard that hypothermia would sometimes get runners on these long races. We grabbed every shirt we could find out of my Dam Nation drop bad. I had on 4 shirts and gloves and still I was cold. I remember early in the race running for 10-15 min and it was so easy. Now every couple of miles I would say let’s run for 30 seconds and see how far I could go. Many times we would turn a corner and I would say this is uphill let’s stop running. It became a joke like washing your car and it started to rain. I saw my crew for what would be the last time until the finish at mile 95. Sunny gave me a jacket and she will tell me later that I looked done. I was struggling to hold a 20 min pace walk the last 5 miles. At one point we hit one of the boardwalks and I didn’t make it up the ramp, but instead slid backwards. I jogged just a few steps so I could make it up the ramp. I would also moan as I would fast walk/jog down off the boardwalks. We were walking a 21 min pace and I was breathing heavy like I was on a tempo run. I felt I could finish but Mike and I talked a few times that if I needed 2 more miles I wouldn’t break 24. I told him if this was 3 miles longer I wouldn’t finish at all.
Total 23:31 They are going to have to mail me my Belt Buckle. They ran out of sub-24 buckles 5 people before me. I sat down after the finish and Sunny took off my shoes and socks. We got in the car pretty fast and drove back to the motel. After a quick geriatric bath I was off to bed.
Post wrap up: Knees are very sore and my abs as always. My feet took a beating. I had a few blood blisters. I am not sleeping very well but I hope that will get better as my legs come back. I took an Endurasoak bath Monday night and it helped my legs a ton. I can walk again. Just don’t tell Sunny cause this laying around the house and watching TV and having her fetch my meals is great. I have to give a big thanks to Sunny for being there for me. She had everything ready for me everywhere I needed it. It meant the world to me to have her and Christopher out there cheering me on. Also a big thanks to all my friends for running with me and cheering for me even hours after you could have gone to bed. Thank you to Mike B for pacing me the last 40 miles. He did a great job.