Sunday, December 18, 2011

619 Catch Me If You Can

Rudolph Rampage ½ Marathon

I did not know this at the time, but this would be one of my most memorable runs to date. The # 619 and the words catch me if you can will last forever and I am sure I will think about it on every run for the rest of my life.

This started a little wile back. My friend Dan and I were running one day and we were talking about his little girl and about the Rudolph Rampage ½ Marathon. He had hurt his ankle running a 100 mile endurance run and I told him that I would like to run with Bri and pace her for the ½ marathon. Little did I know what I was getting into at the time.

The plan was to just keep her at a pace to break 2hr (this being her goal). The bigger reason was so there would be someone on the trails with her incase she got hurt. Bri is just 10 years old. I had registered for the run and was planning to be there anyway and I did not plan on running any slower then 2hr. I was more than happy to be able to run with her.

Now I am not a slow runner and I know that there is always some one bigger, better, and faster. I did not think this would come in the shape of a 10 year old girl. (more on this latter)

The morning of the run I was really excited to run with her. She is a great kid and an amazing high spirited runner. I would get to the run and see some good friends. I met up with Teo and we talk a little bit about his Iron Man and me breaking 5hr at a 50k. Latter I would see William and he gave me a card from him and Kristin saying job well done about the 24hr run that I had put on the week before. Good place and good friends.

Then the little trail blazer would show up. She was so excited and that just amped me up even more. Dan and I would talk a little bit about the run.

The start.
Bri took off and I just tried to keep up. Telling her at first to slow down a little bit. She was running close to a 7 min pace and I did not want her to go out two strong. I told her don’t worry we will catch them latter. After the 1 mile and trying to slow her down I gave up. I thought to myself that this is her run and you are just here to make sure she does not get hurt. I just needed to let her run. She ran and boy did she run. She new where all the hills were and where she could really kick up the speed. She is a lot like me when running the trails. Were slow on the up hills, but on the down hills and the more technical parts we fly. 

The end of loop 1
This was a 2 loop run that had a 10k as well. As we came to the last mile of the 1st loop we would get passed be 3 runners and I could tell that she was concerned about this. I told her it was ok that they were running the 10k. We would come up on the start/fin and I had to grab a water bottle. I did not have a chance to get any water at the aid station. She was moving so fast and I did not want to slow her down. Dan would give her a Gu and pass me her handheld. We were off on our 2nd loop. We would hit mile 8 a little over 1hr. I did the math even if she slowed own to a 10min mile she would still be able to break 2hr. about mile 10 there was a bridge crossing where Dan, Allison, and Kristin would be. Dan asked what her pace was; Bri quickly said “I don’t want to know” then he asked if we were ON pace. I then told him O YEA! This was about the time both of us started feeling the miles. She would slow down to about a 10min pace going up the hills, but still hitting about a 7:40 going down the hills. This is where I get in to some one being bigger, better, and faster. This is where I realized that this was about the same pace setting that I ran last year and I finished in 4:48:38. I knew then that there was NO WAY she would not break 2hr. I was having trouble keeping up with her on the down hills, but would see how the up hills were getting to her. One of the last up hills I ran next to her to help keep her at a steady pace, but as soon as it was over she was off again. As we hit the last mile I said “ok one more mile” she was quite at this point and I knew that she was giving it all she had. I said this more as a were almost done, not so much as a lets kick up the speed. She told me she was giving it all she had. We hit the finish and she did hit another gear taking off.

The finish.

She would be the 1st female finisher. This coming from a 10 year old. WOW that is something. As we got done I felt so excited for her. I then realized that if it was a road ½ that there would be a slim chance that I would be able to keep up with her. I run better on trails this is not common for people. I know that I will never be able to keep up with her again in a race. This 10 year old will keep getting faster and faster. I am happy to have had the chance to be a part of her running and hope to get in some training run with her again. I am looking forward to seeing her blow past me in any events we run together in the future.

After the run I talked with friends and made some new ones got some food and laid down. I was gassed. I had planed on running another loop after but new that my legs would not hold out.

I will never forget this. This is what makes running so amazing for me. To see someone so young be able to not only hold her own in a run, but surpass so many seasoned runners.

P.S. my legs are shot LOL 

Monday, December 12, 2011

One Epic Run

            This would be my 1st attempt as a RD (race director) the idea came to me about a year ago. Why are there not more ultras in the Upstate? There are many great trails out here. As I asked myself that I thought well if you want one set one up. Then I started trying to register for some and would end up missing the cut off on 3 Ultras, because I did not have the $ to register in time. Dang I though I really am going to have to get one going.

            I went and talked to the park rangers about holding a 24hr run at Croft State Park in Spartanburg S.C. As I started talking to them about it they asked “do people really do that?” I gave them a list of ultras that were all over the world. After about a week and some paperwork they got back to me and said yes. (But it would be yes under the understanding that I was completely responsible and libel for anything that may come up) the reason for this is because I did not have (and could not afford) insurance.

           I asked a friend to help me set up a website and he did an amazing job. I would email or text him just about everyday asking him to do this or do that. I knew I had to be getting on his nerves, but being the good friend that he is he never let on to it. The computer equipment I have at my house can barley get on the internet much less do any kind of IT work. I put the word out to some ultra running friends of mine. I thought that maybe 30 or so runners would come out for the run. With GREAT support from my friends the word was out, and before I knew it there were 95+ runners. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. My only hope and goal was that the runners were able to have a good time.

          I spent the next month trying to find sponsors for the run. It was the end of the year and most all places I went to for help were taped out for there yearly budget. I did get some. Road ID gave me bibs and giveaways. The Tomato Vine provided me with patatoes and oranges. The Rush Fitness gave me some 23day free VIP passes to the gym. The rest would come out of my pocket. One of the runner’s brothers sent me a $200.00 check and when I received it I fell apart with tears. Another runner got (One Epic Run) stickers for all the runners. I was floored with all the support from all the runner. I would receive emails almost daily asking if there was anything they could do to help. I would tell them no hoping that I would be able to get everything together on my own. I did not want any runner to do anything more than come out run and have a good time. I would have two runners that would be coming out for there birthdays (and they were so supportive of this run) their were two more that would use this as one of there state runs for the 50 states club. (one would be starting early and the other would show up late in the night) The run was becoming more than I ever thought it would. Part of me felt so overwhelmed with the amount of support from everyone.

     Boy did I make a lot. Got bib# that were paper (what was I going to do?) then Road ID saved my butt. There is a whole laundry list of stuff I did wrong. With every mistake I made I looked at it as just a way to improve and move forward to create a FUN run that people would want to do every year.

     I did not expect that there would be this many runners that would come out, SOOO I decide to just keep it to myself. I filled out paperwork for fewer runners than I had. I started to think. What if the park does not let me do the run next year? What if they come out and shut it down? Then I started to think- well I did not lie to them the paperwork I filled out was for the amount of runners that would be running all night and I was still under that number. There would be some first time trail runners coming out and I did not want to do anything to detour them from running the trails. I would never want to be part of a runners BAD trail experience.

     The only regret that I had going into the event is that I myself had to close the run. One of the main reasons that I did this is for that very reason, but I had to. L

Some relief.
     I went out for a preview run the Sunday before the run. I thought that it might be a good idea to talk to the Park Rangers about the amount of people coming. As I got ready to say something they looked at me and said “well looks like your going to have about 100 people out here” I know I had to turn ghost white. The fact that almost every camp site was sold out for that weekend was probably a dead give away. The Rangers seemed cool with it. They knew that it would be good exposure to the park and as long as we as ultra runners took care of the park they were happy to have us out there.

          As the run got closer I got A LOT of help from friends and family. Some friends that were running in the “event” were able to come out and give me there thoughts and opinions of what would make it better. I listened very closely to there advice. I thought to myself who better to tell me what might make it better than the people running in the “event” I was so great full for the fact that they were willing to do that.

The week before the run.
           I started Monday so happy. Had a great string of weekends in Columbia running with friends and checking out the Harbison 50k trails helping with The Girls on the Run meeting new trail runners and just cool people. I got up that day not wanting to go to work. I had a really bad feeling, but with the job I had I always had that feeling. Lunch time hit and I got an email from my boss. (not good) I knew what was about to happen. (something I had been waiting on) Well I went home not to return to that job. Yes I was without work, but I was happy. The truth is I HATED that place. I had been looking for something new for about 6 months. Now I can focus on finding a new job instead of trying to find something wile working 10hr days. As I was cleaning out my desk I got the weather update for the weekend from a friend that was also coming up to run. I added it to the email I had saved and sent it out. As I was driving home I got an email back from one of the runners. Telling me how I should have used the BCC and not the CC. FUCK I did it again. He asked me not to do that last time I sent out a mass email. I know in my rush to empty my desk I put the email list in the wrong line.

Friday Morning
           Got up at 6am and started packing stuff in the truck. The plan-pack, get a workout in, go to interview, pick up B-day cookie, meet Bo, puck up trailer that I had packed the weekend before, drive to park (the workout never happened). I spoke to my friend that was going to let me use there leaf blower the night before and it sprang a leek. My 1st though was “yep that would happen” LOL I just put a big smile on my face and asked to barrow a rake. The trail just had some spots that I really needed to take the rake to. Yes it’s a tail run, but people would be running at night and I DO NOT won’t anyone getting hurt. The day before my Grandmother and Sister help make 88 PB&Js. Yea we did that. I thought that I would be asking a lot from the Volunteers and that was one thing that I could get done so they could focus on the runners and not making sandwiches.

Panic attacks
            Yea their real!!!! I have been in combat and never had a problem. (the most clear headed I have ever been in my life, when the SH** hits the fan it is like the movies everything moves really really slow and you see everything play out), but putting the last box in the truck- hot flash, shakes, had to go in my apt and wash my face. This was different it was something that I had put together. There are people that are expecting this to be a fun run. Did I forget anything? Did I do enough? On and on the thoughts ran past the front of my brain. I though dam how do people do this on a large scale???????

           I got to Bo’s house and we went to the park. We got there and started setting things up. Ran the trail and started marking it. We got about ½ way and ran out of flagging. Off to Home depot I went. When I got back we hit the trails again. At this point it was dark I was thinking this is a good thing I will be able to mark any bad parts where someone could take a wrong turn. I thought it would be a good idea to take my flask with me. I knew it would be hard to sleep and with a little buzz it would be easer.                                      Well a little buzz became a big buzz. At one point on the trail I backed up to check and see if the marking was in a good spot and down I went. There was a really deep drop off and would have been really bad if it was not for the tree routs. They had grown out to form a basket looking deal and I fell right into it. Bo and I got done and went to get a nice dinner. When we came back we chilled out and set up camp.

Bed time
           I layed there for what felt like forever but just could not sleep. I got up and set up more things hoping to make it as easy on the volunteers as I could knowing that they would be freezing there BUTTS of just sitting there all night.

              This is a bit of a fuzzzzz for me. I was freaking out on the inside. The runners started checking in and I had my early runner out on the trail. Seeing friendly faces felt nice and I think helped calm me down a bit. i started the race brief and really don’t remember what I said. All I was thinking was please like it please like it pleases like it. As I got done with the briefing the ranger told us we had to move our cars because of a horse event. SHIT the run starts in 15min they told me it would be Sunday. All the runners were good sports about it and jumped in there cars and headed on down. The run kicked off at 10am thank God. As they ran off I got a call from the ranger asking me to bring him a turn by turn of the run. This freaked me out thinking that the horse event may make me change the course, but I did get to run to the trail head with the runners. That was really cool!!!!  

1st loop
           As the runners came out and hit the aid station I heard them talking about the mud at the end. I grabbed the rake and hit the trail. I raked what I could so that the mud would not be a problem. I did not want something that I could fix to be a reason that anyone would not have fun. I knew it would be a COLD night and that was plenty for some one to deal with.

          I got to run a little with friends in between RD duties but did not want to be away for to long incase something happened that I needed to be there for. The volunteers were amazing keeping track of all the runners and staying positive for them. Hell they took care of me A LOT. When it was time to get the pizza I was trying to do the math to work out how many we needed and it came out to 60 pizzas. They looked at me like I had lost my mind. I was working on about 26hr of no sleep at that point and needed help. They saw that and even though they never said anything I knew that I was no longer the RD I was just the guy sitting behind the table with a funny smile on his face. Latter I would ask them if I was just in there way. They were kind to me and let me set the stove/grill on fire 2 times before saying anything to me. About 4pm I got my 5th or 6th wind and was good to go. Everything was going great. My friends/Volunteers had keep everything going and did not need me. I felt good knowing that they were there for not only the runners, but me. 

 I hit the wall. HARD. I was crashing. I remember saying that we needed to pack it up and call it the end. Thinking well Joe you did your best. My friend looked at me and said go get some sleep I got this. I did not want to leave the run, but at that point 36hr with no sleep I needed to crash. I went and sleep in a friend’s truck for about 1hr and got back to the aid station. I sat there trying to stay awake. This would not happen. I know I looked like a baby trying to fight the sleep. i woke up at one point and realized I was in the fetal position in the chair curled up next to a friend. I woke up another time with them picking my head up so it would not fall into the heater that I was sitting next to. That would go in for about 3hr.

          As the sun came up I was together again. I was able to get my thoughts somewhat in line. Started takeing the Aid Station down at 9am and getting ready for the breakfast. I thought that I maybe takeing it down to soon, but I had to get it down so I could move on with the next thang. They had also started getting the horse event together again and new I needed to get out of there way. I don’t think the runners had a problem with that.

The breakfast
           It took off there were not many runners there, but the ones that were I think really liked it. Hell I really liked it. I was able to talk to them more and get a feeling of them as people not just runners. A lot of times on runs like this you know people by name and what pace they run, but not much more. It’s the things like pre run dinners and little breakfast like that after that you get to know them. For me I got to know them all a little being able to see them about every 30 min to a hr. that was a bit treat for me.

Back on the trail.

           Bo came back out with me to take down all the markings. I thought to myself this guy is amazing. He ran 2 loops before running. Then he ran 50+ miles and now back out to help brake the trail down. He could be home by now in his nice worm bed, but he is still helping me.

It’s all over
          The drive home I though I am never doing this again. I am tired as hell and my body feels like T total shit. I started to think about all the nice things everyone had to say about the run and started to cry. I knew the lack of sleep was making me more emotional then I normally am but they were tears of joy. I got to my moms house so I could just park my truck and pass out. I would not have to unpack anything until he next day doing that. If I went back to my Apt I would not be able to let the trailer just sit over night. My mom asked me how it went and what the runners thought of it. I tried to tell her but was choking up and could not speak. She asked me why I was so emotional all I could say was “their words were so kind” then shower and bed.

           Well there is the story of a run from an RD’s perspective. All I can think now is how kind all the runners were. The great things they had to say about the run and how it was set up. How the Volunteers keep the runners happy and keep me going and were more than I could ever ask for from my friends.

           This was not a one man show. There are a lot of behind the scenes stuff that took place to make this happen. I received so much help along the way from friends, family, and the runners. Looking back I would love to do this every year. (maybe when its not so cold) the Ultra community is so kind. They are capable of doing so much on so little and are willing to put there selves out there to help someone they don’t know and never met. If for some reason I can put it together again this is something that will last forever. Theit were distance PR’s some 1st time rail runners and birthday runners. No one got hurt (bad) it’s a trail ultra something you can’t avoid. I think everyone had fun (my main goal), and I took so much away from this that I never thought I ever would.