No run intended

The Rock/Creek Stump Jump 50k is over and it was amazing. It was the most challenging run I’ve logged yet. I decided a while ago that I wasn’t going to run the whole thing if I felt like I was going to cause my self some serious damage. In all honesty, I really didn’t think I would be able to go the distance on this one. I just didn’t think I could get my self ready in time. After all, it has been well over a year since I’ve run anything beyond a marathon, and I’ve never run over this kind of technical terrain which included some 5,400 feet of elevation gain. But low and behold, after 7 1/2 hours and 3 hornet stings, I was crossing the finish line with energy to spare. I really didn’t mean to run the whole thing, it just kind of happened. That was kind of the theme for the weekend.

My friend Sarah and I left Charleston Thursday morning. Wanting to be prepared for anything, I packed absolutely every piece of running gear and tech I had the night before, except for my shoes. I managed to remember band-aids for nipple chaffing, but the things that go on my feet, those I forgot. It hit me when we were about 2 hours into the drive. I couldn’t believe it. We were too far into the drive for turning around to be an option so I started racking my brain. I could buy a new pair of shoes in Chattanooga, and try to break them before the race, but almost more importantly than not having my shoes, I didn’t have my orthotics and I knew I would be in serious trouble without those. I basically had two options.

1. Buy a new pair of shoes and try to break them before the race and just run without my orthotics and my hope my feet don’t fall off.

2. Have my house mate Andrew, overnight my shoes to Sarah’s house.

I tired calling Andrew but he wasn’t picking up. It was mid afternoon at this point. I didn’t know what the cutoff time was for overnight delivery but I was starting to get nervous. At the very least I needed something on my feet to run in. In the days leading up to the race I was getting nervous about not having broken in a pair of Trail Running shoes. I’ve always worn the Asics GT line. I haven’t really found another shoe that works for me, but this shoe is most definitely not designed to hit the trail. I was kind of kicking my self for not having tried to find an Asics trail shoe a month ago, but now I was kicking myself even harder for not having any shoes at all. Sarah knew of a great local running shop in Chattanooga but I wasn’t sure we would get there before they closed, and if I was really going to buy a new pair of shoes I really wanted at least two days to break them in. Fortunately, as we drove I was able to whip out my iPhone and bring up any and all running shops in range of us. Remarkably, there was one right off the highway we were on in Augusta Georgia. I felt somewhat relieved as we pulled up to the Fleet Feet shop. I used to buy all my shoes from Fleet Feet in Winston Salem so I knew they would carry my shoe. If I couldn’t have my orthotics I was at least going to have my shoe….or not. Murphys Law, they were back ordered on both the 2130’s and 40’s. Actually they had one pair of 2130’s left but they were a half size to small. I was getting desperate but I knew that half a size would make a huge difference over the course of 31 miles.

Fleet Feet Fail

Fleet Feet Fail

I walked out of the store continuing to kick my self. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. We got back on the highway and continued our journey still facing the same problem. At some point I reached into my pocket for my phone to try to call Andrew again, but I came up empty. “Frack me!” I thought, now I left my phone at the store what else could possibly go wrong. I started looking around the front of the car and thankfully found it laying in the cup holder between the seats. I guess I had left my phone in the car while I was in the store. As the screen came to life I saw that I missed a call from Andrew. He had called while I was fumbling around inside Fleet Feet. As dialed I only hoped that he would pick up this time. He did. I knew over-nighting would be an expensive proposition so in the interest of doing the minimum amount of financial damage, I decided to just have the orthotics shipped and buy a new pair of shoes in Chattanooga, even if I had to wait until tomorrow. Besides, you can never have too many running shoes. Fortunately the running shop in Chattanooga was awesome. They actually let me buy my shoes over the phone and said that if I didn’t get there before they closed that they would hide them outside somewhere for me. Runners are awesome. We ended up arriving before they closed, and my orthotics were sitting at Sarah’s front door the next morning. Crisis averted.

Chattanooga is beautiful. After living in Charleston for over a year now, I’ve discovered that I’m really not a coastal/beach kind of guy. I need hills, mountains, and forests. Chattanooga has all of the above. I felt much more at home in Chattanooga than in Charleston. The view from Sarah’s house was amazing, as was her house itself. I was anxious to start breaking my new shoes, and since we had spent all day in the car we decided to go for a nice walk around the neighborhood, which turned into a short run. All of the views from the mountain were gorgeous. When we returned from our run, Sarah’s parents were home and they were cooking up a feast. Sarah has two of the most awesome parents around. They’re super fun, friendly, and have some serious skill in the kitchen. They had whipped up an amazing meal consisting of fresh salad, steamed garlic brocoli, some sort of amazing honey drizzled steamed rice, and the best smoked salmon I have ever had in my life. It was pretty much the perfect running fuel. They could not have done it better. The level of hospitality did not diminish for the rest of the weekend. They even sent us packing with an amazing omelette, hash browns, french toast and fresh squeezed apple juice breakfast Sunday morning.

Friday was the day of the expo, carbo-load dinner, and Dean Karnazes speaking. We were both getting pretty pumped for this race and for the chance to meet Karno.

The North Face Kong Pack.

The North Face Kong Pack.

After picking up our packets Sarah took me on a little scenic mountain tour. We hiked around a few short trails and she showed me more amazing views.

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I think could definitely get by in a city like this.

We also went and scoped out part of the trail ahead of time. We knew it started at the highschool but really had no idea where the trail was. Fortunately this awesome science teacher was out for an afternoon run and showed us the way. Again, we had no intention of running, but we got to talking with the guy and before we knew it we had logged a few miles on the trails. Runs happen.

Musroom rock.

Musroom rock.

The carb loading dinner was at 6:00 and go figure in consisted of chicken and pasta, what else?

Sarah's shirt landed in her alfredo.

Sarah's shirt landed in her alfredo.

One of the reasons I love running so much is the amazing stories that you get to hear. We chatted it up with one guy at our table who was signed up to do the 50k and the longest run he had yet to log was only 14 miles. Now I’m not snuffing at 14 miles. That’s more than a half marathon and no small feat by any stretch of the imagination. But tomorrow, he was going to have a go at 31! He was training with a buddy of his, but his friend didn’t keep up with the training and dropped out on him, but he was still here, doing his thing. There’s some inspiration for ya. I had the chance to listen to many more amazing stories like this while I was out on the trail including one about man and his girlfriend completing a 100 mile race in France a week ago, and another from a woman who had just completed her 13th Western States 100! So awesome.

After the carbo dinner we watched Karno himself speak. We didn’t get the chance to talk to him that night but we got to exchange a few words at the meet and greet after the race on Saturday. People, have called him a running god, a robot, superhuman and I am hear to tell you that he is none of those. He is a human being, composed of flesh and blood like you and I. He’s just super committed and super passionate. Perhaps he’s genetically inclined for running, but he primarily got to where he is out of hard work and determination. He’s a really humble, and honest guy, who literally runs everywhere. He doesn’t own a car. I managed to calm myself down just prior to meeting him in the interest of not acting like a giddy school girl. I couldn’t really think of any particular question to ask him so I basically just thanked him for being who he is and doing what he does. I always feel kind of awkward about asking people to pose for photos but this guy is one of my biggest heroes so I had to do it. Sarah got one with him too.

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It was actually a really touching moment when Sarah talked with him. She told him that this was her first race and that she would be doing her first Marathon in two weeks, and that his words meant a lot to her and the she quoted a line from his book. He took her hand in his and gave one of the most sincere thank you’s I’ve ever heard a human being give. You could just see in his eyes how touched he was that someone had found his words inspirational and helpful. I would have loved to have spent some more time with him, but he had to run. (sorry I had to do it) Of course now as I sit her writing this I’ve got a couple of great questions, but I can always e-mail him. That’s what I love about running. Your heroes are accessible. Name me another sport where your heroes are so reachable, or one where you get the chance to participate with them?!?!

We had perfect weather for the morning of the race. We left the starting line at 8:00am. All of the racers took off from the same point but at about 3/10 of a mile Sarah and I’s path split. It would be 7 1/2 hours before we saw each other again. I should mention at this point how incredibly proud I am of Sarah. She has been training for months now with Team in Training for her Marathon in LA which is in just a few short weeks. Being that her Marathon is so close, she signed up for 11 miler, and I can tell you that 11 miles on this course was nothing to snuff at. What’s more, this was her first race and what a hell of a way to start. This course was brutal. This wasn’t some flat out road race. We were traversing up and down mountains, over rivers and endless rock beds. She killed it.

I made the decision to run with my iPhone b/c I knew there would be some breathtaking views, and I was kind of on call. I was originally scheduled to work an event with the Credit Union League, but instead Lindsey and Darek would be at the helm. Neither of them have a great deal of experience shooting video, and I thought they might have a question or two for me as the day wore on.

The first 3-4 miles were kind of rough. I had this stitch in my side that just would not go away. Eventually the race jitters calmed down and I settled into a grove and enjoyed the run. I grossly underestimated the difficulty of the course. There were climbs that literally brought you to your knees and it was all you could do to maintain an 18 minute pace up them.

It's all uphill from here.

It's all uphill from here.

There were long stretches of trail where the trail actually all but disappeared and in its place was a never ending river of rocks.

They don't call it rock garden for nothing.

They don't call it Rock Garden for nothing.

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It really hit he how tough this course was when I looked down at my watch for the first time and saw that nearly 2.5 hours had passed and I had scarcely covered 10 miles. That was humbling. On any other run I would be close to 14 by that point. It was then that I decided to forget about finishing in a good time just focused on having a good time, which I did. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that alive. Every now and then I would pass someone and then a mile later that same person would repass me. It was a big game of passing and repassing. But the long stretches of trail where I was solo was what I relished the most. I was just alone with my thoughts and pain. It was great. Every now and then I would stop to take a photo.

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Mile 15 or so.

Follow the chick with the fuel.

Follow the chick with the fuel.

Aid Station.

Aid Station. Many many thanks to the Volunteers for hiking out in the woods to help us crazies out.

I learned quickly that if I wanted to take in a view that I should just stop and look rather than lift my head up from the trail while running. Anytime I took my eyes away from where my feet were going some loose rock or snarling root was liable to take me down. I managed to stay vertical the entire 31 miles, though I did run right through a hornets nest and got hit 3 times. The stings actually made me forget about the pain everywhere else for a while.

Actually, save for the stings, I felt really good the whole time. I never had the feeling that I wasn’t going to make it, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. When I reached the last aid station I knew I was going to be ok. I was 6 miles from the finish and had only one major 700′ climb to go. I decided that I had enough left in the tank so I decided to use up what I had left on this last climb. I powered my way to the top, but upon summiting I was pretty spent. I really couldn’t muster up anything better than a 12:00 pace, so I just held that until the finish where I got my self up to a sprint which was little more than 9:00 but I didn’t care. I finished, and more importantly I still felt good. I felt better than I did at the end of my last organized 50k race and it wasn’t nearly as challenging. Plus I was one my feet for 90 more minutes this time. I took that as an encouraging sign. It’s monday night as I am writing this and I feel stiff I won’t lie, but not really tired. I was able to get out and run 4 miles on Sunday and I did an easy 10-12 miles cycling today. I’m going out for a longer ride tomorrow. So I’m not totally incapacitated! One step at a time.

Thanks for reading, I knew this one was a doosey.

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~ by glennikin on October 6, 2009.

4 Responses to “No run intended”

  1. Dude, if I could hug you right now I’d break you the hell in half. A *FIFTY K?!* I need to go buy a hat just so I can say “my hat’s off to you.” Congratuflippinlations.

  2. Yay! I’m proud of you for finishing! I can’t believe you forgot your shoes lol. Good thing it all worked out 🙂

  3. Glenn, great story. I love reading your posts and really love that you take the time to do this. I am so proud of your attitude and your committment. (sp?) I hope someday, when you write all these life advenures into a book, that you will autograph one for me. I am so proud of you and happy that you achieved yet another goal. I love your attitude and I especially loved the show-buying-phone-losing debacle. Great problem solving skills! Peace. Rest. On to the next adventure.

  4. wow…. just wow…. i was going to share with you my little run recently but now it seems silly by comparison! LOL My home town hospital hosts a 5 K every fall… That’s a 5 not 50!!! Anyway, I did some very modest “training” and did just fine I’ll have you know!! Been trying to get myself into running, I love the idea of it… the idea anyway! LOL

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