Archive | August, 2011

Lean Horse 100 Mile Ultra Marathon Belt Buckle (2011)

Lean Horse 100 Mile Ultra Marathon Belt Buckle

Here is the Lean Horse 100 Mile Ultra Marathon belt buckle from the 2011 race that took place on August 27/28, 2011 in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Thomas Whalen, of St. Louis, Missouri, was the winner of the race in 15:34:43.

Deborah Hamberlin, of Tempe, Arizona, was the female winner with a time of 20:30:01.

Lean Horse 100 Website

Posted in Bling, Featured, Medals, Ultra Marathon1 Comment

Ryan Sandes – 2011 Leadville 100 Winner – iRunFar

Ryan Sandes Wins 2011 Leadville 100 Mile Ultra Marathon

Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run Results

South Africa’s Ryan Sandes is the winner of the 2011 Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run.

Sandes ran the prestigious ultra marathon in a time of 16:46:56.  The third fastest time in race history according to @iRunFar‘s Byron Powell.

Second place went to Dylan Bowman in 17:18:59.

Neal Gorman took third in 17:48:57

Top Leadville 100 Male Results

  1. Ryan Sandes – 16:46:56
  2. Dylan Bowman – 17:18:59
  3. Neal Gorman – 17:48:57
  4. Michael Arnstein – 17:56:47
  5. Jeff Browning – 18:27:03
  6. Ryan Burch – 18:35:42
  7. Tim Parr – 19:02:04
  8. Charles Corfield – 19:09:40
  9. Duncan Callahan – 19:11:29
  10. Brendan Trimboli – 20:08:17

Lynette Clemons was the first female finisher.  She broke 20 hours finishing in 19:56:06.  She was the 10th overall finisher. Only 9 men finished ahead of her.

Top Leadville 100 Female Results

  1. Lynette Clemons – 19:59:06
  2. Rhonda Claridge – 21:11:
  3. Andrea Metz – 21:13:

Congrats to not only these but all finisher of the 2011 Leadville Trail 100 Ultra Marathon.

Leadville Race Series Website

Results/Image via iRunFar

Posted in Results, Ultra Marathon0 Comments

Fred Murolo’s Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report (2011)

Fred Murolo’s Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report (2011)

Volstate—When Romance Meets the Pavement

Executive Summary:

I ran the 2011 Last Annual Volstate Race, 314 miles of roads across Tennessee, finishing characteristically in the middle of the pack, 6th of 13 finishers (19 starters). It was the hardest thing I ever did, both physically and mentally. I don’t see myself doing it again, but I feel the race is a part of me now. I could see myself going to the last supper or the Rock or visiting the runners along the course, but it will be a long time before I could see myself stepping off the ferry again as a runner. The race took a lot from me, but gave something back. I am a Volstate graduate.

Full Version


I have been running since 1976, when I was in college. I love running. I have run hundreds of races short and long. Nothing really prepared me for Volstate.

When I joined the ultralist in 2006, I think I listed Western States as my long term goal and Badwater as my fantasy race goal. But over the years I changed. I didn’t put my name in the lottery for Western States last fall; I have never applied to Badwater. I imagine they are great races; they just aren’t what I am looking for anymore.

For the last few years, my fantasy race has been the Volstate. The idea of a journey run, along the roads, across a whole state, under tough summer conditions appealed to me. Laz writes so eloquently about the travails of the Volstate runners, about the searing heat, the humidity so thick you feel like you can cut the air into cubes, the pain, the isolation, the sheer daunting task of covering 314 miles on foot. There is a romance to it. It draws me in. My wife, who is completely supportive of my self-actualization through running, is on board. If it was something I had to do, she was with me. She would even crew me as much as possible (we do have a law firm and two kids to take care of). But she does warn me that this is not really my kind of race because of the aloneness, the isolation. I like to see and interact with other runners.

I first write to Laz in 2010 and tell him I want to run the race in 2011. Not surprisingly, he ignores me. If anything, this increases my interest. Finally, with a little help from John Price I am able to gain entrance to the Volstate email list. Laz inquires, “Are you joining us this year?” Such innocence of form, such understatement. He could just as well be inviting me to the work picnic. I say “yes”: one word, heavy with portent and loaded with the commitment to run the state of Tennessee in July. I am all in.


I have already run a 100 miler in early April and a 72 hour in mid-May, so I have a base. I put in 7 weeks of an average 100m/wk, and then back it off the last two weeks before the race. This is plenty of mileage and my legs never feel whipped during the race, because it’s not really about the training mileage. I just am never going fast enough to beat up my legs. I could have used more heat acclimation though, much more. I also make it a point to drop the pesky 10 winter pounds I carried at Umstead and then lose another 4 for good measure, so I can’t complain that I am just too damn fat to run through Tennessee. I will start the race in very good shape (for me).

I also spend much of the spring reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables, over 1400 pages. This requires a lot of patience and reminds me that the struggles of life are infinitely more trying than anything we opt to undertake as leisure.

The Beginning

Wednesday July 13th, my wife, Karen, and oldest son, Jake and I are at the last supper. There is a surplus of nervous energy. I meet Gary Cantrell (Laz), the race director, and Carl Laniak, the assistant director and a past king of the road. I see a few familiar faces: John Price and Joe Judd. I meet Joe’s wife and daughter. I meet Marv. I meet Rich Limacher, the Troubadour. I meet Lynnor and tease her about trash talking her daughter. I see Erika. I meet Abi. I meet Naresh. I buy an ice hat. Don Winkley and his crew, Donald Brown, set me up with a small American flag to display on my person while running.

After dinner, I am still gathering and storing that good ultra feeling from talking to others. I’m in the parking lot of Ryan’s with Laz, Carl and Rich. We’re joking about corrupt politicians and dumb politicians. I notice Carl is wearing running shoes that are so beat up they are falling off his feet. He looks like he could run the race tomorrow and win. Laz’s mustache looks like it’s curling into his mouth as he jokes about his dealings with small town politicians. Rich is wearing a Volstate polo shirt vintage 2009. I’m loving this. Laz and Carl also joke about the two Freds and two Joes and having a team competition. I tell them that I would be inclined to bet on the Joes.

I go back to the hotel and make last preparations, laying out my clothes, pinning the flag to the back of my race shirt, organizing and reorganizing the food and materials. The plan is to do about 50 miles a day and stay in hotels. Karen will be there till Saturday evening when she has to fly back home to take case of the kids and to handle the work I am ignoring. That will leave Jacob and me in the wilds of Tennessee.

I think about race favorites. I think about the two Joes. Joe Ninke finished second last year and is an ultra-stud. He has completed Matt Mahoney’s all-but-impossible Wickham Park 200 miler a few times. He just did 110 miles in 24 hours in the heat and humidity in Florida a couple of weeks ago. Joe Judd won the 72 hour men’s division of Three Days of the Fair. He glided to a relatively easy victory and looked like he could just keep going indefinitely. I know experience is a benefit, so I also think about Don, Fred Davis and John Price, who all did it last year. John has done it several times, including the double and another near double. He also walked/ran across the country this spring. I would like to be competitive; I would like to do this in a week, or even a little less, but I really don’t know what to expect.

The next morning at 7:00 I am on a ferry boat across the Mississippi. It’s not much. The road in Hickman, Kentucky, winds down to the river and there is a little barge-like craft there, with room for about 8 cars and people standing around the cars on deck. Joe Judd’s car is on the boat. His wife and daughter and new puppy are headed for St. Louis when we reach the Missouri side of the river.

The river is wide and muddy and the water level is still pretty high. We power over to the Missouri side to the ferry landing that is even less built up than the Kentucky side. A two-lane road just basically ends at a ramp at the river’s edge. You can’t even see any buildings. The runners get off the boat and line up at a white line for the cars waiting for the ferry (there are no cars waiting). At about 7:23 a.m. Laz lights a cigarette and the race is on, sort of. The 19 runners shuffle back onto the boat for the return trip, and then we wait till we get back to Kentucky to actually run (or walk). I see Joe’s wife, daughter and puppy on the shore. I talk to Marv about his work in New York before he retired. We talk about horse racing. I have to go the the bathroom, a porta-john lashed to the rail. I’m getting a little jumpy. Castle Rock, Georgia is 300 and something miles down the road.

Back at Hickman about 7:55, we start the run. Some people jet off ahead—not me. Joe Judd and I talk and basically walk through Hickman. We talk to Stu; we talk to Diane. We miss a turn about 2 miles into the race and realize about 100 yards later, so we go back and take the unmarked left to the overlook. As we are heading out of town, Joe is enticed by the smell of fried chicken coming from a convenience store. He stops and I forge on and do a little running on the road to Union City. I see my crew every couple miles for a change of water bottle and some food. We make Union City by lunch and eat at the Subway. I go in and stop to cool down. It’s about noon and in the 90’s, though there was a little high cloud cover earlier.

I leave the Subway and head up the road toward Martin, the next town. It’s heating up. According to people who ask me what I am up to, the heat index reaches about 110. I wonder, what a heat index really is; who knows how hot it feels. But I am crewed and have ice in my hat and in a bandanna on the back of my neck, and this is all doable. As the afternoon slides away, I am mixing in running and walking and feeling hot, but okay. Then at a mid-afternoon crew stop I pee and it’s dark brown—not good. I think I know what happened and what it means, but it is disconcerting, and I’m in the middle of a hot afternoon. (Please don’t try this at home. Blood in the urine is nothing to take lightly.) I infer that in the heat my kidney function was low (my blood being used for cooling) and I emptied my bladder and managed to get it irritated inside so that I was passing some blood from the bladder scratch. My immediate solution was to drink a little more and not to empty the bladder all the way. This helped, but it’s not easy to hold some in every time you go.

I go on to Martin and Joe catches up. We walk and run together for a while till he stops for some food in Martin. I go ahead toward Dresden, but he catches up again, and we go through that town together, following markings painted on the road. It starts to thunderstorm and he decides to head to a motel while I keep on in the evening. Naresh and Josh were a little ahead of us and are also heading to the motel in Dresden. I head on to Gleason and go some of the way with Sherry. She moves ahead when I stop for my crew. She connects up with Sal in Gleason and they walk all night.

While I am alone at one point, I try out my pepper spray (highly recommended by the experienced runners for bad dogs). I spray a cloud at the ground in front and to the side of me. The light breeze wafts it up and over to me causing me to cough and tear up a little. Nice. I walk past some fields in the darkness. I hear an exhale, almost a sigh, close by to my left. It spooks me for a moment and I wheel around with my headlamp shining across the shoulder and into the field. I see a Holstein sitting about 30 feet away. I swear that sigh sounded human.

A few hours later, I am on old Route 22 and am overcome with the need to crap right on the side of the road. So I do. I haven’t done something like that since . . . well I never have. I’m a grown up; I don’t squat on the side of the road. But I do because I have to. No cars come. It is a quiet night. I then head on to McKenzie where we stay night one. I am at about 55 miles.

At the motel, I pee and see the fresh blood and know it is my bladder. I question whether it makes any sense to go on. My wife tells me that I should sleep and decide in the morning. I have put a tremendous amount of mental and physical effort into preparing for this race (not to mention the cost of traveling to Tennessee and getting the rental car and provisions) and do not want to bow out after one day.

Other things about Day One

I am wearing a nearly new pair of Asics 2160 road shoes. I have worn this series for at least a decade. I tape the insides of my heels and the balls of my feet and the sides of my big toes to ward off blisters. I wear Drymax socks. I get blisters anyway, right under the tape and other places, but they are not that bad the first day. I am wearing a triathlon sleeveless top, with back pockets. I wear the same top every day because I pinned the flag to it, and I can’t muster the energy to move the flag. I wear a white running hat, but during the heat of the day (about noon to 6 p.m.), I switch it out for the ice hat. I have ice in a baggie on my head and ice in a bandanna on the back of my neck. I also put on a white oxford cloth cotton button down shirt to keep the hot sun off me. It helps. I use Two Toms roll-on on my arm pits (one application in the morning) and get no chafing there the whole race. I wear running underwear and compression shorts under long running shorts. I have two sets of these that I alternate, changing only at the end of the day. I lube my butt and crotch with a mixture of Desitin and Vaseline (also one application a day). It works great. Despite the heat and humidity, the long hours and multiple days, I have no chafing issues.

Although I don’t often advertise it to the world, I am vegan, have been for a few years. My concern on the road for all this time is getting enough calories. I do not eat health food on the roads of Tennessee. I drink mostly water in my handheld, with some Succeed every now and then to change the taste. I eat Fritos and mint Oreos as snacks to get the salty and sweet sensations. I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I eat tropical fruit and nut mix. I have a big apple pie from Costco; I have a slice now and then. Joe wishes he had some of this pie. From the road, I eat mainly Subway—12 inch sub with lettuce, tomato, pickle, avocado, oil and vinegar. At crew stops I drink Coke, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Chocolate soy milk, V-8 and cran-grape juice. It works, as long as I am sure to pack in enough calories. I never have stomach problems.

I mostly use food to replace salt lost in sweat, but I do take some S-caps. I take 7 the first day in all that heat. My hands swell. I take fewer from then on, really using my stomach as a guide. When my stomach feels too full and that it is not emptying fast enough I take an S-cap and I feel better.

The people of Tennessee are generally nice. Many ask what I’m doing and offer encouragement. The approaching drivers usually give me as much room as possible on the narrow roads. I wave to everyone, especially those who move over so that I have room to run without having to run on the rumble strip. Many of them wave back, the preferred way being a raised finger (pointer finger, not the one I see raised by drivers at home). I never see anyone running or riding a bike, except those in the race. I do see a lot of people mowing lawns. There are a lot of small houses with big lawns.

Tennessee has a lot of road kill. In the hot humid temperatures, it smells rank. You can smell death and rot long before you get to a carcass. Sometimes there is no carcass at all, just a mark on the road where the blood spilled and that smell of death. Armadillos are popular targets, and the remains suggest that the armor doesn’t do much for them. There are pieces of it all over the roads. Turtles are also a common sight—lots of broken shells and turtle parts. By day 4 I smell so bad, I figure I fit in with the roadkill.

Day Two

I decide to go ahead. I just can’t bail on this race because of the blood. But at my wife’s recommendation, I decide to walk almost all of the day, so as not to further irritate the bladder. If I jog even a few steps, I feel the bladder bouncing and the irritation. I drink a lot of water and I pee a lot, but I labor to hold in the end of the flow, so my bladder is never empty. This leads to some damp running underwear. So it goes. My only wardrobe change is the addition of calf sleeves. I’m not sure if they do anything, but they keep the sun off my legs. As I just start out, I find a quarter. This is the beginning of my finding a lot of change on the road.

I see Joe again as he catches up to me in the morning and we walk together for a bit, both stopping for lunch in Huntington, but at separate places. He eventually pulls ahead in the heat of the afternoon and disappears. We are on a broad highway with large shoulders and no shade. I see someone riding a bike along the road up ahead and then see him talking to my crew. I get up to the crew car and it’s Rich Limacher. He has been cruising along the course and talking to runners. He is resting in the air conditioning of the crew car. I take his place and change my socks. Rich had a blow-out on the bike and has called his wife to come back from Lexington to pick him up.

I am having trouble with blisters, having walked the whole day. I have blisters on the ball of my left foot, the inside of both heels, my left little toe, and the foot pads of both feet—the bottom of the feet just behind the second and third toes. These blisters are about half dollar-sized and painful, because they jolt the nerve in that area just about every step. I keep going.

We cross the interstate at Parkers Crossroads in the evening and I keep going to Lexington, about mile 92. Not a great day. It goes a lot slower when you walk the whole thing. Right at the end of my day, my wife walks about 5 minutes with me so we can discuss how we are going to get her to Nashville the next day with me in the race. We agree that I should go to Parsons and check into a motel for a nap in the afternoon. Then I can rest while Jake takes her to the airport. When he gets back, we can take off and go all night. That’s the plan.

Just before going to the motel, we see Naresh and Sherry walking up. I greet them enthusiastically. They are going to walk through the night. I ask Naresh how he is doing in the Vibrams. He says he’s fine, but Sherry interjects, “Don’t believe him. His feet are killing him.” They go on and I never see them again in the race.

At the motel that night I am a little down. I drink an O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer (my first one ever) because I have read somewhere that they are good for kidney function. I shower, tend my blisters and think about the days to come without my wife, with all these blisters, with the bladder thing, with a lot of miles still to cover. Sleep this night and every night is fitful.

On day two we also hear that Joe Ninke has dropped. He was pulling a narrow cart with his supplies, and it didn’t work out. He ended up dropping around mile 108. I was surprised, having penciled him as the favorite. A lot can happen in this race. Don Winkley is now ahead.

Day Three

I hit the road late, probably 8:30 and see Josh a few hundred yards ahead of me. This is the worst day for my feet and I have trouble getting a rhythm going. Josh is slowly pulling ahead. I see Laz and Carl. They are in good spirits, and they suggest that Josh and I keep our relative positions to the finish with me trying to catch him over the next 215 miles or so. I tell them that they should go back and talk to him some more and delay him so that I can catch him now. I meet Joe Ninke, who is in their car. We shake hands and I tell him I thought he was going to win. He is very nice and gracious. Afterward, I think I should have been more politic about his troubles. I feel bad. He has no way of knowing how much I respect him and his abilities. I move along.

Josh’s wife drives up and introduces herself and wishes me well. She seems very nice. A friendly face can buoy your spirits. Within the next half hour I pass Josh as he is stopped with his crew tending to his feet. I can empathize. I try to keep a steady walk/shuffle. If I stop for even a few seconds, starting feels like walking on hot coals. I have to beat down the foot pain all over again.

I have to go through a long construction site with dump trucks and heavy equipment. There is dirt on the road and narrow shoulder and the road is chewed up and this adds to the foot pain. I come up on Fred Davis. He is not feeling good and is moving really slowly. I try to encourage him and gently suggest he might want to stop at a motel and take a break to recharge. He tells me that he never does that. At about 2:30 we are a mile outside of Parsons. I run that last mile to get to the hotel in time so Jake can leave with Karen.

I hug and kiss Karen. I am hot and tired and feel like crying as she leaves with Jake. My emotions are raw and close to the surface. I try to rest, but sleep in the middle of the afternoon is tough. Soon Jake is back. He’s tired and wants to rest a bit. Finally, at about 9:00, we are back on the road, heading for Linden.

The First Night Session

This is still part of day three, but it feels like a new day because of the rest stop. It’s my fourth running session as the days and nights start to mix and blur. We are at mile 108. We head off past some roadhouses filled with cars and pickups on Saturday night. I cross the Tennessee River for the first time on a long bridge with a good wide shoulder. The moon is just past full, and it’s a nice evening, though still pretty hot. On the other side of the river, the road is narrower, the shoulder one of those twelve inchers, with the rumble strip built into the shoulder. Tough going, but little traffic. I hear a lot of barking dogs and have the pepper spray right in my hand, but no dog rushes me.

In the wee hours, we come into Linden (mile 125), and we are moving right through—destination Howenwald. In Linden, I see a runner on the road ahead. At first I think it might be Naresh. It’s someone tall and thin. It turns out to be Joe Judd. He has just left his hotel and started on the road. We walk some more miles together. At about 7:30 a.m., I again have to crap on a quiet stretch of road. (Somehow, I’ve lost all culture and am now a caveman.) We are almost up to my crew car and I ask Joe if he can send Jake back with some paper towels. Joe continues on and I can’t catch up. He cruises into Howenwald and I limp in, literally. I go slower and slower as I become depleted in the hot morning air. The last 6 miles take about 4 hours.

On the way in to Howenwald, I get annoyed at Jake—tireless crew, helping his father. He has a habit of lying to me to make the next stretch of road seem better than it is. We climb the hill 6 miles outside of Howenwald. He tells me it’s all downhill after the climb and that it’s close. Not true. It’s 6 miles and rolling. I explain to him, probably not as gently as I should, that I need accurate descriptions because I am counting on them for every stretch of road. It’s deflating to expect something and get something else.

Coming into Howenwald, I see a Rottweiler mix dog, big and muscular, cross the road and hide in the ditch on the left. I am concerned. He turns out to be really friendly and he follows me all the way into town. Jake gives him a bowl of water along the way. Later, he rolls in some stagnant water in a roadside ditch and smells awful, even at a distance. Juli Aistars stops by to talk a bit and raise our spirits as does another very nice woman. The dog is about to jump in Juli’s open car door when her husband, Val, closes it. The smell would never have come out of that car.

Finally we’re at the motel in the early afternoon (mile 144). The plan is another rest and another all-nighter. I send Jake for ice and food while I rest in the room. I hear moaning at the door. It’s the smelly dog. I hear Jake pull up, and the motel owner asking him with an Indian accent: “Did you arrive with a dog, sir?” Jake tried to explain that we were from out of state and most certainly did not own that dog. I could just picture that dog stinking up the outside of the motel.

Before I try to nap, I put my burning painful feet in an ice bath and put icy cold wash cloths on my shins and knees. I moan so loud I’m afraid that the management will think someone is being murdered.

The Second Night Session

That night, Sunday night, at about 9:30 we started the fifth running session. We are headed to Columbia. The motel in Columbia is on the other side of town, at about the 180 mile mark.

My feet are killing me. I just can’t get a rhythm going. I keep stopping in the car and putting my feet up or changing socks. The miles are passing really slowly. At one point in the night Jake and I sit in the car and talk about his career and business aspirations for about an hour. It’s a great talk; I wouldn’t trade the time for an hour walking down the road, but I need to move on. I’m in the middle of a race. I cut a hole about 2 inches in diameter in my right shoe insole to take pressure off the foot pad blister. It seems to help a little, but the going is still slow, with many breaks. Later, I see Josh pass by on the other side of the road. I see him break in to a run. I get out of the car and trudge on. This is the worst night. I make maybe a mile an hour with all the stopping. At another point, Jake and I talk about the real possibility that I might not finish this race. I can barely walk this night. The feet are so blistered by this time and the foot pad blisters feel like they are on fire. I’m winding down and in a bad place mentally about my chances. I know from other long races that these periods pass, but I have trouble envisioning going another 165 miles on these feet. I am very aware of the blisters on the foot pads, both little toes, the ball of the left foot, the insides of both heels, the outside of the left heel, and the back of the right heel. I push the pain away; I keep walking.

Toward dawn, Jake is wiped. I’m getting a little energy from seeing the brightening sky. I come up on the car and Jake is sleeping. I bang on the window several times and he stirs. I tell him I’m moving on and he should go ahead and meet me in two miles. He nods through the window. I move on. My left foot is starting to get numb under the foot pad; the right is still killing, but I can move better. I go a mile and then another. The crew car never passes. I keep going and don’t see Jake. We are in a low area of several creeks with small ridges on both sides. There are a lot of dead box turtles here. I observe that when shell is hit apparently the front of the turtle still crawls to the side of the road.

I also notice the exposed ledge at the edge of the highway. You can see the close horizontal lines of the sedimentary rock. I remember as a child looking for fossils in areas like these. I pick up a few pieces to bring home to the kids. I also pick up a small piece of turtle shell and armadillo shell. Yes, I am picking up pieces of road kill to show my kids.

I try to speed up a little to get as far from Jake as possible before he wakes up and comes after me. This energizes me ever so slightly. Finally he appears, apologetic and a little worried that he has not been attentive. It has only been about an hour and a half; I made maybe 4 miles in that time. We are both a little ragged and decide that we will get at least to the halfway point, 157 miles and then drive into Columbia and get lunch. I think I may drop out if my feet don’t feel any better. I am starting to feel liberated at the thought of getting off this road and flying home to my family. We go to about mile 158 and mark the road with duct tape. In the deepest recesses of my mind, I have to admit that my feet were starting to hurt less and that I moved better when I let go of the mental burden of thinking of the miles ahead. Thinking I might quit after a few more miles made those miles easier—something to contemplate.

We drive into Columbia. It’s Monday about noon time. I call my wife and tell her maybe I should drop; my feet are making it too tough to walk at any decent pace. It’s just not working. I could be home by tonight. She asks if I will be very disappointed about dropping. I reply not now but eventually, yes. She asks if I would feel it necessary to come back to conquer this. I admit that I very well might. She asks if I really want to go through the first half again. I reply, no I don’t. She reminds me that we have put a lot into this; training, expense, turning our lives upside down getting the help of others with the kids. She advises that we go to the motel, get a room and relax till dinner time and then get back on the road. We will probably feel better with more food and rest. She makes it clear that the best way out of this race is through it, not dropping out of it. I value her advice; she’s thinking clearly, not like us, the two scuzzy road warriors.

Monday Evening Session

We follow her advice, get some lunch and check into the Richland Inn on the far edge of town. We rest and then drive back to the tape at about 5:30 p.m. It’s over 20 miles back up the course. We pass John, Fred, Lynnor and Erika around Hampshire. I’m starting a mile or two behind them. Jake later tells me that Paul was in the store in Hampshire and that I should catch up to them that evening. I like the thought of walking with others, but I’m a little disappointed that I have now put myself back another half day. I was solidly ahead and am now with these five. I catch up to Lynnor and Erika and Fred. We walk along for awhile. Lynnor and Fred are talking religion, not my subject. I talk to Erika for awhile. She seems really strong 160 miles into this race. She walks fast. We all do. She is excited at the prospect of completing this race at age 19. I see no reason why she wouldn’t finish. I think Jake likes Erika. He is taking a lot of photos of the race. He takes a lot of Erika.

Fred drops back and I talk with Lynnor for awhile. She is proud of Erika, as Erika is of her. They draw strength from each other. As ultrarunners are prone to do, Lynnor and I have some no barriers conversations, about life and family and raising children. I walk a little with Paul as well. He started 14 hours late and is doing great. We talk about a lot of things. He is uncrewed; all the people around me are. Paul has a big pack. He seems very strong. We head into Columbia.

At the near end of town, there is a convenience store. Paul and Erika and Lynnor stop. I forge on thinking of the motel, and the luxury of being crewed and not having to hit every convenience store for food or water. But it’s still about 5 miles more. At the edge of downtown, Erika, Lynnor and Paul catch up, and we walk through the city. The directions send us through a sketchy area of town, through a dark neighborhood parallel to the main road. A police car pulls up, and the officer warns us to get to the main road. He says there are shootings and killings here on a regular basis. It’s near midnight. We move on and get to the stretch along the main road. The motel is about a mile up ahead. I am really happy to get there and feel like I’m back in the race. I need a good day tomorrow. I really need a good day tomorrow. I’m thinking Shelbyville, about 46 miles down the endless road.

Tuesday Day and Night

Having gotten back to the motel after midnight, I get a late start in the morning, hitting the road at about 9:00. The sun is already doing its thing, and the first five miles out of Columbia are shadeless, with a wide shoulder. While I am ambling down the road, Lynnor and Erika march up. I am delighted to turn a few more miles with team Matheney, but it doesn’t last long. We turn onto the Culleoka Highway and there is a convenience store the on right that caters to the runners. It even has signs welcoming Volstate runners, and it has the “bench of despair” outside. Erika wants to get some ice cream. She is beaming, saying that only one Volstate runner has dropped after the bench of despair. This is around mile 185, but she can feel the true prospect of finishing. She and Lynnor enter the store and I walk on, and sometimes run in a rumbling shuffle. I feel motivated today. The road is narrower and there is shade from the trees along the shoulder. I pass through Culleoka, which is a small village, and then see Laz. He is driving with his daughter Amy today. She is very nice. I tell Laz about my wife not letting me quit. He laughs and laughs. I tell him about my blisters and just dealing with them. He tells me a story of a prominent ultralister (unnamed here), who asked him how you keep going on blisters. Laz imitated the questioner’s stiff-legged heels only walk while telling. He said, “So I told him you just do it.” He laughs some more.

Laz and Amy move on and I head on toward Lewisburg. And I think that is the solution. You just do it; you deal with the pain and work to overcome it. Today, so far, it’s working and I am pushing it. I head into Lewisburg, and it’s hot and there is more road construction. In places I can run/walk on the new areas of pavement not yet open to traffic, but in other places, I am dodging cars around construction barrels. It’s about 4:30 in the afternoon and there is traffic and it’s a tough stretch. Finally I get into town and really there’s not much there; downtown is deserted, except one young man listening to a discman, a relic of the 90’s. I move on to the highway connection on the outskirts of town, and Jake and I go have some dinner: more Subway. We’re a little past 200 miles now. I take about an hour in the car to gather myself for the evening session, another haul, to Shelbyville, about 23 more miles down the road.

Just as I am getting out of the car to start on to Shelbyville, I see Lynnor and Erika walk up the road. I ask them if they are heading on to Shelbyville and Lynnor says no. They need to eat and rest. I wish them well and start on again. I don’t see them again.

Just a few miles out of Lewisburg in the deepening twilight, about 200 yards in front of me there is a heavy car crash in which a compact car rear ends a tractor with some kind of trailer on the back. The car ends up in the ditch with airbags deployed. As I run up, an older guy exits the car and staggers out of the ditch. His car is smoking. A guy who lives across the street comes running over and assumes control, directing traffic around the debris. I pick up pieces of car and put them on the side of the road out of the way of passing cars, and then I move on. A minute later I see a police car speeding to the accident site.

I turn right on Route 64 and move on toward Shelbyville. This day (night now) is going relatively well, and I know if I can just hold on to the energy, I will have gained back some miles. I am passing through walking horse country and in the gloom I can see big barns and lots of white-fenced pasture. There are dogs out here. I am running with a handheld in one hand and the pepper spray in the other. Several times I rouse dogs that come from a long way off and come right out into the road barking and chasing me. I turn and yell at them, and none try to rush or bite me. At one point I’m yelling “No!” at a pit bull, and a voice from a house set back about 50 feet says, “No, Angel, come home now.” Angel, right. So I say, “Go home, Angel.” Angel eventually tires of chasing and barking.

At another point my headlamp picks up a pair of eyes in the road ahead and I think it’s a dog and I yell “No!” and the eyes pause and bolt away, but in a loping manner. It was a deer in the road.

I eventually head in to Shelbyville. As usual, Jake misleads me as to the distance and makes it seem shorter than it is. I am running out of energy and barely walking at this point. The last two miles take at least an hour, even though I know we’re so close. Finally I get to the turnoff to the highway. I’m wiped and it’s about 3 a.m., but we made 46 miles today, and I’m optimistic. We check into the Best Western, which is the nicest motel we stay at the entire trip.

After an ice soak for the feet and legs and some rest, it’s late. I am not going to be out the door early.


We’re moving slow after a long Tuesday, and Jake goes down to load the car. He comes back with a note from Joe Judd that we should call him before leaving. Joe is at the same motel. Joe and I agree that we will move along together and Jake will crew us both. I tell him that I can offer him anything I have and a crew and I can give him a ride to Nashville airport Friday afternoon, because that’s when we are going back. He has his doubts about that schedule, but he accepts.

We move on toward Wartrace, but we get a late start, nearly 11:00. We see Laz’s wife Sandra and then we see Laz. Then, right in Wartrace we run into Stu and Marv. They both started solo and then tried to relay, but have now dropped. It is great talking to them and they give us each a Coke. Stu tells us he likes to drink Coke mixed with milk. We have ours straight, but Jake later tells me that Coke and milk go great together. When the roadside visit is over we move on through Wartrace through the heat of midday. The sun is baking us as we head through rolling hills of farm country. We are a little wilted and we make terrible time through the afternoon. I enjoy Joe’s company and we talk easily of our lives and adventures. The miles tick by but not fast enough. I think that we both need more calories, but we are way out in the country. Joe eats a few cookies from the motel in Shelbyville and some of the food in the crew car, but it is not enough.

We are coming into Manchester and it’s about 10 at night or so. We are about 3 miles from the cluster of motels on the far side of town. Jake is waiting at a closed convenience store. Joe is done for the day. He suggests we mark our progress here and come back on Thursday to start from here. I am thinking we should run for the rock on Thursday and these three miles might blow that plan up. I say I’m going to walk it in to Manchester. He and Jake take off in the car to get food and check in to a motel. I go as fast as I can into town, trying to gather the last energy of the day to make the motel. Eventually, I see Jake on the sidewalk ahead and he directs me to the motel. We are all bunking together. Joe makes a tentative plan to rise early and have Jake drop him back at the convenience store so he can meet me up here no later than 7:00. That should leave us time to put some good distance in on Thursday.

I take off the foot tape. I have about 15 blisters now, some in clusters and at various depths, some regular, some blood blisters. For the last two days, my second toe on the right foot has been swollen about twice normal size. Tonight I notice the left foot is the same. The foot pad blisters now have companion blood blisters and blisters coming up in the skin between the big and second toes of both feet. The feet also feel as if the bones are being pried apart. I also notice that my legs are swollen, and the skin swells out above and below the compression sleeves on my calves. I try to be quieter during the ice bath so as not to disturb Joe.

Then I take a shower to strip off the road grime and all of a sudden I am sobbing in the shower. I am getting to the end of my strength and composure. I keep it quiet: no need to share this with a fellow competitor and my son. I get back to my bed and email Karen from my phone. I tell her that I am wiped and I know this is just too much for me and us, that I miss her and the kids terribly and can’t wait to get home, and that I am going to stick with less dislocating events in the future. I use email because I don’t want Jake to find this when he texts Carl from my phone with the daily progress.

I lie in bed and think, “I’ve got to finish this. I am running out of energy; I am running out of sanity.” At about 5 a.m., I ask Joe in the next bed if he’s going to get up and head back to his point so we can put in some good miles today. He tells me he thinks he is done. I am surprised, but I shouldn’t be. He has been thinking of dropping for two days. My crewing solution really worked more for me than for him. I ask him about 10 times in the next 2 hours if he might reconsider. He’s a friend and I know, I really know now, how this race depletes you and leaves you ragged. I think maybe if he just gets out there he can do it. But in the end, he is done, and we offer to get him to the bus station where he can get to Nashville and get a flight to Denver. It’s kind of sad that our alternate plan lasted less than 24 hours, but we both have things to do. We shake hands and wish each other well, and I head back to the road.

Thursday into Friday

My plan is to go to the end, with only short rests in the car. This is an ambitious plan; I am about 100k from the finish. I haven’t covered that in any 24 hour period.

As I start the day’s run, I take stock. The feet are bad, but I can master them for a few hours at a time. The legs are okay. My spirits are up and down, but the prospect of a run to the finish is intoxicating. I move along and see John P. at a convenience store. He waves as I pass. A few minutes later he shuffles up to me and we cover some miles together. It’s pleasant and we talk about our running history. I know nothing of John’s life, but I know his mileage from the late 80’s; with some people it’s just the opposite. I have no idea how much Lynnor trains, but I know some of the subdivision regulations of the Woodlands.

John has a Garmin and can tell me our pace, which is interesting to note. We’re walking, doing about 19:00 minute miles for the most part. We have been on the road for a week; I’m fine with this pace. We are getting closer to the mountain. After Pelham, we will climb for three miles to the plateau. Then we will go through Monteagle and Tracy City and then down the other side. Laz has said that the steep downhill at mile 290 something hurts. John tells me he plans a break at the motel in Monteagle and then a midnight start for the rock from about mile 275.

A thunderstorm is building at the near edge of the mountain. Thunder starts to rumble. We’re going to get some rain today.

A man in a pickup truck swings onto the shoulder to talk to us. He tells us he heard we are in a race and it’s hot and he has a bottle of Power Ade for each of us. I thank him sincerely and take mine. John declines; he’s completely self-sufficient. We run into Laz. We move on and John stops for lunch in a little restaurant. I move ahead as far as I can before the skies open up. The rain would be refreshing, but with the condition of my feet I don’t want wet shoes and socks, so I ride out the storm in the crew car on the shoulder. While it rains, I see John and then Paul walk by. I talk briefly to both. At first John doesn’t recognize me in the car. We are all a little fried by this point. Before I get out, I try to eat as much as I can so I have a surplus of energy for the afternoon activity.

As the storm slows to a drizzle, I get back to it. Soon I’m climbing the mountain. I know it’s 3 miles, and I put my effort into it, getting to Monteagle in just about an hour from the bottom. I replenish my water and get some snack food and send Jake for food, while I head toward Tracy City. I have been to Monteagle and I spent 4 summers as a child in Sewanee, just about 6 miles to the west. Having never been back there since 1965, I would love to just drive through Sewanee again, but I’m in a race and the course goes the other way.

On I go down a windy road with no shoulder. Soon a police officer pulls up and asks me how I’m doing, but it really comes out like, what the hell am I doing. I explain that I’m not just some scraggly staggering homeless meth head. I’m a scraggly staggering journey runner and racer, having come over 275 miles from Kentucky and heading 35 more miles to Georgia. He is hardly satisfied. He says he has reports of some crazy person running in the road and creating a traffic hazard. I apologize and do my best to seem lucid. He asks me to please stay on the shoulder at all times (the shoulder here is about 8 inches wide and is all rumble strip). I say okay and he lets me go. I have a copy of my license in my shorts, but he never asks for id. He does pass me about three more times before I get out of town.

During this time, I am shuffling from Monteagle to Tracy City and waiting for Jake to return with food. He takes over an hour, and I start to think that he is lost. Then I am convinced that he is lost. I consider my options and think I will try to finish with what I have. I take inventory—4 mint Oreos, one Ziplock with some Fritos, a baggie with two Tums and one S-cap, 4 dollars and some change I have picked up on the highway. I think, if I have to I can make it with this and look for Jake later. You get crazy after a week on the road.

Then the white Dodge Journey shows up, and all is well. I tell Jake about my fears and inventory. He thinks it’s funny and that it sounds like the scene from “The Jerk” when Steve Martin is leaving home. “All I need is these 4 Oreos, and these Fritos, and this S-cap . . . .”

I move on to Tracy City in the evening. This is a depressed town. Dead. I see an older man at a table outside a closed bakery. He motions me over and we talk a few minutes. He finds out what I am doing and says he would like to do something like that and that he used to walk a lot but the leg has been acting up. He has to be about 80. I encourage him to keep walking; you never know.

Later as I’m leaving town a little sub-compact passes me two or three times. Finally it stops near the entrance to a dirt road and the driver motions me over. He is about 75 and he is driving with a teenager in the passenger seat. We talk about the race and what I’m doing. The man tells me a story about how he used to have a repair shop. He put a small room in the back where he could sleep if he needed to. Years ago a man from out of town had his car break down and the man let him sleep there while he was fixing it. This was a roundabout way of his offering a place to stay if I needed it tonight. I thanked him and said that it was a very generous offer but I had to get to Castle Rock Georgia by the morning so I would have to be on my way overnight. He wished me well and warned me about traffic on the road down to Jasper.

I continued on and it got dark. I knew that the road down the mountain was coming up, but there is a lot of flat road after Tracy City before it plunges down to Jasper.

At some point shortly before midnight the race changes. Jake reads an update from Laz that says that there is a 4 or 5 way competition for 6th place. Paul, Sal, Josh and I are within a few miles of each other heading to Jasper, and John Price is in Monteagle resting before his run for the rock. Jake is excited. He says let’s get 6th place. I say to him that I’m really mostly competitive with myself and my goal that has propelled me through this day is to finish in less than 8 days. But . . . it is a race, and if he thinks we should really compete for 6th place, I’m with him. No long rests to the finish, pushing it as much as possible the rest of the way.

For the first time, I reach down inside myself and I consciously summon the strength to push the pace. I do not want to save anything at this point. I tell Jake I am summoning. He thinks it sounds like the occult, but it’s really about drawing out my reserves. I think of finishing this race and getting back home. I think of my wife and how much I miss her. I think of how great it will feel to finish. I think of famous quotes about struggle and determination, like the one from Teddy Roosevelt. I even think about Aragorn’s speech from “The Return of the King.” “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day.” I am about 24 miles from the finish. I am ready to run, to leave it all on these roads.

We move ahead and I start down the mountain toward Jasper. My legs feel great (not my feet, but I’m managing that pain) and I run the whole way down. I know Paul and Sal are in front of me and Josh is close behind. About 2/3 of the way down, I pass Sal. He is moving in obvious pain walking gingerly. We exchange pleasantries and I run off ahead. Now that I’m being competitive, I don’t want him to think he has any chance of catching me, so I disappear as fast as possible around the next curve.

When I reach the bottom I keep running as long as possible and then shuffle as best I can. We turn right in Jasper at mile 296. I am getting tired again, and I try to eat to keep my energy level up. It’s past midnight. I keep the awareness that Paul is now ahead and Josh and Sal behind. I’m pushing to try to catch Paul. Jake sees him every time he moves ahead. We’re less than a mile apart; I envision overtaking him and trying to shuffle past him. I talk to a nice police officer in Kimball along the river. He is into the race and the tale of the four runners. At one point he tells me Josh is about a mile behind, Paul a half mile ahead.

The night wears on. Then Jake reports to me that Paul told him he was probably going to stop to rest. He tells me to keep pressing to stay ahead of Josh. I don’t want Josh to see me because it will charge him up. I think he’s faster than I am. I have to stay out of his line of sight. I manage to stay just out of sight, although I see his crew car a few times. The hours pass and then we’re past mile 300 and on the bridge over the Tennessee river, second crossing. It’s a big, beautiful, arching bridge and it’s empty. I think of peeing into the river, but realize that in my condition I could fall in over the low railing. Bad way to end the race. So I pee at the top of the span, right on the road, probably about the hundredth time I’ve peed on the road in this race. Then I shuffle on down the other side. The road through South Pittsburgh and the rest of Tennessee seems to take forever as the night grows stale. I see a snake on the road around 4 a.m. I step right over it. I think it’s about to become a dead snake, lying there in the road. The terrain is rolling up and down here.

Finally I turn right and start the climb up Sand Mountain, another 3 miles up. I’d like to say I ran it. That would be a lie. I walk it, but briskly. It is just starting to get light. All the traffic is coming down the mountain. I walk some of it on the right side of the road to avoid the cars. About halfway up I turn and see the Tennessee sign, and know I am in Alabama for the first time. On I go.

At the top of the hill for the first time in almost 8 days my stomach feels lousy. I ask Jake for an S-cap, and he has trouble locating the bottle. We’re both a little out of it. Eventually he does, and one cap calms my stomach right down. We see Donald, Don Winkley’s crew. He is driving back down the course to see where everyone is.

I turn left on the last road. Just a few miles to go. It is morning, but I am still chasing the sub-8 day finish. I see Abi; she has to go somewhere, but wishes me well and offers her house for a shower and nap.

Finally, there is the gate, and I enter the final stretch. It is actually marked with ribbons. I turn left into the corn field and try my best to keep a reasonable running pace on the soft, sandy soil. I am so anticipating the finish that this section seems to take a long time. Finally, I take the last turn and see a motley crew and makeshift camp with a few cars including my crew car parked there. I cruise into the finish and Carl helps me stop before plunging off the rock. I look for Jake. He has gone back to direct me and take pictures of me finishing and has taken a wrong turn in the cornfield. He arrives about 5 minutes later, very winded. We have a laugh at this. He gives me a bottle of champagne. We toast and I down a big glass. Then Jake finishes the bottle and takes a well-earned nap.

Official time 7 days, 23 hours, 42, minutes and 46 seconds: sixth place. The last 100k takes us one continuous stretch of 23 ½ hours. We manage to finish ahead of the others that were near us on the road last night. Jake is very satisfied at this. So am I, but I’m happier to get in under 8 days. I tell Naresh that we finished around the same time—7 days and something (he really beat me by just about a whole day). We laugh. Finishing feels great. I can turn off the motor.

I accept handshakes and hugs all around, and then Josh sprints in 25 minutes later, and I’m just another guy at the campsite. I sit around for awhile talking to Marv and Stu and Laz and Carl and Naresh and Donald and Don and Sherry. I congratulate Josh. I love everyone. It’s done.

The Rest

After some talk and a few minutes of rest, I wake up Jake. We should get up to Nashville in time to turn in the rental by about 2:00. I give my cooler, bought at Walmart last week for the race, to Carl. I should have tried to give the campers some of the left-over food and stuff, but I’m too spaced out at this point. We say our thank-yous and goodbyes and drive off. We take the same wrong turn out of the cornfield that Jake took running to meet me, and we get the scenic tour on the way out. Then we’re at a car wash trying to make the Dodge presentable for return. It was brand new 9 days ago, with 6 miles on it. Now it has about 1,150 and is filthy. It smells like dirty running clothes (surprise). We wash and vacuum and toss some trash and pronounce it okay. Then we go to the airport where we cannot get an earlier flight and end up waiting (sleeping) for about 5 hours. Finally, at about 1 a.m., I slide into bed. My wife says sleepily, “Honey, you’re home.” I’m home.


So, I completed my fantasy race, a race I had romanticized with the help of Laz and others and felt compelled to do. There was a great risk of failure and I teetered on the brink of failure, but I did it. I’m pleased. And I haven’t supplanted it with something bigger and badder (really there aren’t that many races bigger or badder); it’s still my fantasy race. And I learned along the way that there is a limit to the amount I should ask of my family to let me do things like this. This race exceeded that limit; I was too long away from my wife and kids and business. So, I can scale back. I can concentrate on races we can drive to, that won’t be so dislocating to others. And I am so thankful to Karen and Jake and everyone who helped me and who had to listen to my growing obsession with this challenge.

Other than that, with the incredible difficulty, the romance of pushing down the road across this state in July, enduring the elements, the hardships, climbing and descending and climbing again, I thought I might have some epiphany, I might get a glimpse of some greater meaning of existence. I would like to be able to end this report with some pithy literary quote, like “I know myself and that is all.” I’d like to say I learned something profound out there.

And I did learn something, something simple. Probably something I already knew. I like to challenge myself to be a better version of myself as a runner. But it’s really more important to challenge myself to be a better version of myself as a person, a husband, a father.

But, come on, this is running. It’s a lark, a child’s sport. I do it just because I love it. It’s not opening up some deep inner meaning or showing me how to live my life. And to the extent that I should think that it will, that this race will cause the world or nature to whisper something impossibly profound in my ear as I struggle down the highways of Tennessee, “Isn’t it pretty to think so.”

Fred Murolo (2011 Vol State 500K Finisher)

Posted in Race Reports, Ultra Marathon, Vol State0 Comments

Ryan Hall and Matt Dixon Discuss Recovery (Video)

Ryan Hall, the fastest marathoner in USA history, sits down here with esteemed triathlete coach Matt Dixon to discuss recovery and the importance of recovery during training leading up to a big event.

Hat tip to Navin Sadarangani for sharing!

Posted in Marathon, Running, Video0 Comments

Naresh Kumar’s Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report

Naresh Kumar’s Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report

Some adventures transform a man. The sleepless nights, the euphoric feelings, the few silent minutes spent in contemplation, the conscious decision made to suffer through the heat, day and night on the endless road, recover and regain the strength, push forward only to sink deeper at the end of the day, the struggle to stay awake and do it over and over, hoping to get to the rock. Run, walk, eat and sleep – This is the story of my journey called The Last Annual Vol State Road Race 500K.

“The Last Annual” part is a joke. The race has been taking place since 1981. There’s no formal organization, no website, no registration fee, nothing. It’s a race for a bunch of people who likes to run real long distance. All the way from Dorena Landing, MO to Castle Rock, GA. 314 miles, 500K.

Like Laz mentioned once “You would not believe how alone you are on the side of the road. All of those people who pass by a few feet away are in another world. They’re in their little air conditioned metal box, but when you get done, you can remember every step of the road.”

Days before the Vol State:

I kept quiet on the Vol State list. Though I got my name enlisted as solo, unsupported, I didn’t make it official. These days, nothing’s official unless it’s facebook official. I thought about it several times. I can still pull back my entry, it’s a tough race, I don’t need to go through this, I’ll just show up as a volunteer and crew some of my friends but finally I had to shake off such odd thoughts and made it official on FB. This was the biggest step for me pre Vol State.

Next big question, what shoes am I going to wear? I have never run in shoes, besides my first two marathons. I have either run in VFF or would go barefoot. I picked up a few good pair from REI and felt miserable running in those and promptly returned them. I decided to take my VFF (Trek Sports) for a test ride on Vol State course on a hot day. Ran/Walked 22 miles and felt pretty comfortable and decided to stick with them. Also picked up a camel backpack and tightened all the cords and told myself that anything that would fit in it, I would take it. I wanted to keep it as minimal as possible, no space for anything that I MIGHT need during the race.

Besides planning for logistics, vacation, travel and other stuff, it was fear and anxiety that took over me. A week before the race, Vol State is all I could think of all the time. It got so frustrating and made me restless to the point that I just wanted to get on that damn ferry. I wrote to a couple of runners who have finished Vol State in the past asking for suggestions and advice. Everyone responded but four of the replies were so good that I took a print out of it and carried it with me during the race.

Here’s the excerpt of some of the conversation:

  • It is very hard Naresh; I would say the volstate is harder than a Barkley fun run….because it is SO far!!! The volstate requires toughness, but even more important is PATIENCE. There is no doubt in my mind that you can finish, but do not underestimate the need for patience. It is very far! – Carl Laniak
  • I don’t know if you’d consider running with your mouth closed, but I thought that helped regulate my effort and the core temperature – Matt Kirk
  • Nothing will prepare u for Vol State. No packs advise no strategy from other runners, no amount of heat training. By the end of the second day, crewed or solo, we will all feel like cow dung. Experience will help. But nobody can give you that. Permission is huge! Are you permitting yourself everything it takes? I’m serious when I say this: a fast walker can do this in ten days. Burn the ships. Destroy any possibility of an easy out. Divorce yourself from the world. Resign yourself to the fact that the start is in MO and the finish is on Sand Mountain. This is your job for the next 4-10 days. Accept it. It’s not easy, and it only gets harder. Exponentially harder in the last 30 miles. But, when the castle rock gate comes into view, and you realize you are only one mile from the rock, you will know that you have done an amazing thing. And it will have been worth it. – Mike O’Melia
  • Don’t worry about staying on the road for 10 days, you will be back to Nashville the following Monday after the race start – Laz

I was so pissed off with Laz’s comment and I told myself that even if I had to drop out, I’ll ensure to not drop out on Monday.

I was thinking much about the movie “The Way Back”, story about four men escaping from Siberian Gulag and their 4000 mile long trek for freedom. They face freezing nights, lack of food and water, mosquitoes, an endless desert, the Himalayas. At one point after reaching the great Himalayas someone questions about how they are going to get past the mountains and the guy replies “We walk”. That got stuck in my head. We Walk. To keep pushing forward. After all I at least have access to stores and civilization unlike these men who didn’t have anything.

Laz send another update few days before picking up the crewless runners from the rock to the start line:

humidity so high you can cut the air into blocks.

sun so cruel it sears exposed flesh.

they have heat advisories in effect.

people are supposed to minimize their time outside…

tomorrow we go pick up the crewless runners at the rock.

god help them.

if people hadn’t done it before,

i would say it couldn’t be done.

Charity : Water : Joshua mentioned in his blog, after he made it official about his Vol State, that if an individual attempts to do something that could result in death then one should raise money for a cause in that process to help the less fortunate. That stuck in my head. I asked him whether I can join hands with him in his campaign and he accepted gladly. Though I wanted to run this race for myself, I had another good reason to motivate myself and finish this race. Being born and brought up in India and having lived in a less fortunate place, I remember what a great deal it was to get clean drinking water. I decided to contribute a dollar for every mile as my contribution. Every mile counts and every mile would help realize building a well somewhere that would provide clean drinking water (Thanks Joshua for letting me part of your campaign).

Limerick Taxi Service:

Two fares named Naresh and Fred

Got in and were so full of dread,

That all the way through

“What’d I get myself into?”

Is what the both of them said. –Troubadour

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That was Rich’s poem for us and he goes by the name ‘Troubadour’ in the Ultralist. He offered a ride for me and Fred Davis for The Last Supper. Meeting Fred prior to the race was such a blessing. He had finished Vol State several times and his maps and notes were of such great help during the race. Everything just fell in place. Out of office, back pack, pepper spray, maps, I checked the items one after the other before jumping into the car. When I couldn’t get my hands on an Indian flag, I drew one myself on my race shirt. Rich was at my door. My “This is it” moment. Divorce from the world. I had a little cultural exchange with Rich and Beth during our ride and I had the chance to see their jaws drop when I started talking about “Arranged marriages in India”. We talked about a lot more stuff but I was not present in the ‘present’. We were driving through a part of the race course and Rich told tell me that I would have made it till there by day two, hopefully!!

The night before I left Nashville, I went on Facebook and un-friended my parents, sister and couple of friends who might possibly update my parents about my race. I still remember how mad, yet proud, they were when I told them about my first 100 mile finish. This time its three times longer and getting them worried about my adventure is the last thing I wanted. (Mom, Dad, Sis and friends – If you are reading this, I am sorry)

The Last Supper:

A ritual where all Vol State Runners, crew, volunteers, family and friends meet at Ryan’s steakhouse in Union City, TN the day before the Vol State. I heard so much about The Last Supper but I am here finally and things started getting real. I met all the runners and their family members. Ultra legends Dirt, Laz and Marv collectively had over 100 years of Ultra running experience.

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I thought I was the baby in the group but Erika beat me on that. I had couple of email conversation with Lynn, Ericka’s mom and an awesome runner, but meeting the mother daughter duo running the Vol State was such a pleasure. Finally, my friend Joshua showed up with his crew. Josh and I had several hours of conversation through email and chat prior to the race. Both of us were equally anxious and scared. Soon, we all retired for the night. I couldn’t go to sleep. I met Lyn, Erika and Sherry in their room and we had a blast talking about our races and other stuff.

For some reason, too much of anxiety kept from going to sleep. It didn’t work out no matter how hard I tried. I might have slept for an hour or two. Morning arrived sooner than I expected, 5:30AM, packed my bags, filled it up with water and jumped into Shannon’s yellow bus. I took a ride with Diane, my running friend who introduced me to the ultra world, and John Price who is a legend by himself. He recently ran across USA self supported and he also ran the Vol State double last year. We stopped at a couple of spot en route to click pictures and headed straight to the Dorena Landing, MO where our Ferry was waiting for us.

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Ferry ride was just the beginning:

Things started becoming more REAL for me. Things that I have read and heard about are happening to me. Last year I signed up for Vol State but had to pull back due to family emergency. Last Supper, Ferry Ride, Bench of Despair and the Rock were some of the notable things and two of it has already happened. The Ferry took us across Mississippi river to Dorena Landing, MO.

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We got out of the ferry, lined up at the start line and before we knew it, Laz lit his cigarette. Clock started ticking. Race is ON. We ran towards the ferry. Wish I could put it in much better words to explain the joy of the moment, but one has to be there to experience this.

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The ferry ride back to Kentucky was silent, at least for me. The longest 10 minutes of my life. Fear was creeping through  my spine; I disassociated myself to a corner of the ferry and was gazing at the water contemplating for the next few minutes. This race is something I never thought I would do. I had a humble beginning to the Ultra world and after 16 months of Ultras, here I am running the Vol State 500K. I had all sorts of questions and doubts but before I knew it the ferry landed on shore, I shook it off and took off with the rest of the runners.

First step into a sea of Uncertainty:

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The road wading through Hickman, KY towards Union City, TN. We took the wrong road within the first 3 miles of running but thank God, John price hollered and put us back on track. The day was starting to get hot, field was getting scattered but Josh and I were still running together. I stepped inside a bank on my way to refill my handheld bottle. Before we knew it, we made it to Union City, about 18 miles into the race.


Made a quick stop at a Subway and I ate a tuna sandwich and lots of Coke. Josh and I soon caught up with Don Winkley, another Ultra Legend, and his crew Donald. Laz and Carl were standing under the bridge at Mile 20. “This is your worst 20 mile time, isn’t it” and I nodded, “yes indeed”. It took over 5 hours to run 20 miles. I had no goal for day 1 except that I talked myself into running at least 40 miles every day. I ran a bit with Don Winkley, another Ultra legend, who eventually won the race this year. While I was out of water and ice again, I stepped into an outdoor store and the lady was kind enough to give me some ice and let me use the faucet to refill my backpack. That refill took me all the way to Martin, TN (Mile 29)


Made another quick stop at a McD and drank a large banana smoothie. I checked my feet and noticed that the duct tape has slipped over but it wasn’t all that bad. Refilled my pack again and headed out. Josh resupplied his stock and we took off. We noticed a church sign that said “The Most Effective Daily Exercise – Walking with God”, right message at the right time.

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It was a long stretch to Dresden and the day was getting hotter. The road almost appeared like an interstate with wide shoulders. Josh’s crew would pass me every now and then. I finally noticed the sign board “Dresden – A great place to live”. I was sitting under a tree for a bit and Josh’s crew hollered at me and asked me not to move, there was a dog charging towards me. I was feeling cold all of a sudden, my first encounter with dog during Vol State. He barked a bit, circled around me and left. Thank God. It was mile 40 and my feet were killing me. I just wanted to rest somewhere. There was a motel about 3 ¼ of a mile off the course and at that point I was ready to go that extra mile for some good rest.

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I picked up gallon chocolate milk and a sub on my way and got in my room. The motel owner, an Indian family from Gujarat, offered me a great discount and one of the best rooms. Felt really proud for having that India flag on my shirt. It unites every one of us no matter where we are. Took a cold shower and tried to rest but couldn’t go to sleep and was just lying on my bed. Iced my feet and kept it elevated, meanwhile I munched on some chips and sandwich and flushed it down with chocolate milk. When I realized that sleep is not my best friend that night, I decided to head back out. It was 12:30am. Before heading out I spread all the items from my backpack on the bed and decided to dump everything that I never touched for the day except for pepper spray. I woke up Josh and he asked me to get going and that he would start an hr later. I backtracked from the motel and rejoined the course. It was crisscross from there and if not for the directions painted on the road, I would be surely lost. It was funny that 500K direction was marked right next to a 5K race route. I am sure the 5K runners must be wondering who would run 500K and might even think it’s a prank.

It was a long night. The Old Route 22 which would take me to Gleason was so dark and lonely. I had a doubt at times whether I am on track. A cop passed me at around 2am and when they turned around, I was sure they were going to check on me. They were very friendly, I told them about the race and they asked me to be careful and went their way. Finally made it to Gleason (Mile 48) and after going through the town, it was Old 22 once again. Before heading out I checked my feet and it was a nasty sight. There were blisters everywhere. The skin started reacting to the adhesive tape. I should have left the duct tape intact before leaving Dresden, instead I thought I’ll tape my feet with the JnJ adhesive tape. A very costly mistake and I paid for it heavily. I removed the tape, cleared the blisters and applied some of the advanced blister band-aid and wore my Injinji socks. It was pitch dark and the road was wading through some corn fields. Soon, Josh’s crew passed me. It was the first sign of traffic after a long time. Blake told me that Josh is about 3 miles behind me. As I kept going I saw a flash light coming towards me. After about couple of minutes I noticed that it was Fred Davis. Apparently, he never rested and he turned around somewhere and was heading in the wrong direction. Not sure how far he went in the wrong direction but he turned around and we spoke a bit and I took off. It looks like he made the same mistake last year too but he is one strong runner who never rests.

Soon, the sun was out and a couple of very friendly dogs kept me company as I headed into McKenzie. I made a call at 6 in the morning to let Carl know my position. McKenzie, Mile 57. I stopped at a small local country café shop and had bacon and eggs and biscuits with lots of coffee. The waitress was very nice and I was soon joined by couple of local regulars and it was story time. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences and getting to meet new people on the road. Even as I was packing my bags to leave, I saw Fred stopping for breakfast at the same café. It felt good for having covered 57 miles on Day 1. Except for the blisters, I was feeling really good and goal was to get to Huntingdon by noon.

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At this pace, you can win the race:

I was on Old 22 once again. It was a long and quiet a hilly stretch. By now, I could smell a road kill from miles away and I was getting better at judging what it would be. This section had a huge rattle snake with its jaws wide open and it was smelling nasty. Later on I smelled a raccoon and my guess was right. Soon, I smelled evilness, and there was Laz. Carl and Laz were driving around and they stopped by. “Hey man, you are doing well, in fact you might even win this race”, Carl hollered.

I spoke with Laz and Carl and told them about Fred. They laughed. Carl told me that Sherry and Sal is in Huntingdon and resting for the day. Josh rested a bit at McKenzie and when I called him he was about 4 miles behind. I was feeling tired but not sleepy though. I kept pushing my way and after passing the courthouse, I stopped briefly at a small breakfast inn and got myself a cheese burger. While it was getting made, I spoke to the locals and it was story time. There were people of all kinds, motor bikers, construction workers, truck drivers, students, etc. After sharing my quest, I was pleasantly surprised when the lady handed over my burger and told me that it’s on the house. First act of kindness, my first free meal during the race. They asked me to keep my eyes open for Holly bobo, a girl who got abducted from her house and is still missing.

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I made it to Huntingdon, had my cheese burger, took cold shower and tried to sleep but the attempt went in vain. Cleaned up my blisters which were getting worse. Treated it with lots of peroxide and let it dry before applying fresh band-aids. 3 hrs went by with little sleep. Soon, Joshua joined me. His crew was equally tired. I stepped out for a bit and met Sal and Sherry. Sal was just heading out while Sherry wanted to catch some more rest. When I couldn’t get any more sleep, I decided to hit the road leaving Josh and his crew back at the motel.



It was pouring cats and dogs and by the time I filled my backpack, the rain subsided. Though the sun wasn’t out, it was humid and the air was dry. Breathing was getting very difficult. A gentleman who was mowing his front yard asked me where I am going and when I told him that I am going to Lexington, his jaws dropped. He waved at me to get in his truck and when I told him that it’s a race, he just stared for a moment and continued with his mowing business. He must be thinking, “What an idiot”, but it was very nice of him for offering me a 25 mile ride.

I saw a familiar face on my way to Lexington, it was my dear friend John Spencer. He was biking on the course. Meeting a familiar face during Vol State is the best thing to happen. We chatted a bit and he told me that he met couple more runners ahead of me. Must be Sal and Sherry, I thought. While he took off to meet other runners, I caught up with Sherry on my way. I gulped another bottle of chocolate milk and Sherry and I headed out together. Our next stop was at Parker’s crossroads. We made a quick stop at McD. I had an apple pie and a large smoothie as it was getting difficult to keep anything solid down. As we were passing through the interstate intersection, the sign board was showing “Nashville”, I read it as “Heaven” until Sherry hollered me and I realized that I am en route to hell :).


Sherry is such an awesome runner. Listening to her ultra running stories and experiences made me realize what a strong willed woman she must be. I first met her at Oak Mountain 50K in Alabama in 2010. She left me to dust at the last uphill climb. While I was struggling to even walk that hill, she ran the hills and put me to shame. I was so looking forward to meet her and time permitted me to run a bit with her. Made another quick stop at a convenient store and drank a bottle of Starbucks cold coffee. The store was owned by an Indian guy and he hollered “Jai Hind” when I was leaving the store and wished me luck.

Lexington came in sight pretty soon but fatigue was setting in. It’s been close to two days and I had very little sleep. We sat at a gas store. I gulped a bottle of coke and took care of my blisters. Fred Murolo caught us at the gas station and he retired for the night at a motel close by while Sherry and I decided to get to Parsons by morning.

First Low Point:

After a few hours of running/walking, fatigue got too bad that taking even one step was getting very difficult. I decided to crash on the side of the road for a while. Sherry wanted to rest too. We found a spot on the side of the road and rested for a bit. I napped a good half hour. I just wanted to lay down for a few more hours but we decided to keep moving. Time was ticking so slow. My feet were waging a war inside my shoes. I could feel the blisters getting worse but dreaded to look at it. It got worse when we hit the section of the road which had very little shoulder. There was some kind of construction work going on and the debris on the shoulder was so hard on my already blistered feet. Swore a little here and there when I would accidentally step on a sharp object. The section was getting hilly as we got closer to Parsons. just hated every bit of it. Soon, we spotted Sal in the distance. Carl and Gary passed us at that point. Day 2, we called in, 107 miles.

We crashed at a motel which was owned by an Indian family. The Indian flag on my shirt lit up their face. Sal, Sherry and I were at a very low point. I looked at Sal and he told me how bad he is hurting and that he is going to switch himself to “Survival Mode”. I switched to Survival Mode too. The steep uphill climb and the nasty shoulder debris took a toll on my blistered feet. It was hurting so bad that I thought my race is over. I was at a very low point. How am I going to continue another 207 miles with these feet? The very thought was mentally challenging. I was regretting so bad for taping my feet with the adhesive tape. But the damage is done and I need to keep going. No point in complaining coz everyone’s hurting, one way or the other. I got myself into this and I need to get out of this by myself. I tried to sleep but I had a nightmare that I am calling Carl and letting him know that I am dropping from the race. I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. With the help of the first aid kit provided by the hotel owner, I took care of my blisters, took a shower and got ready to hit the road.

While getting ready to leave, we saw Fred coming in. He was barely moving at that point. I could see that he was hurting really bad. I personally went to thank the Indian family for their hospitality. The Indian masala chai that they offered lifted my spirit a bit. I devoured a huge cheese burger at a small joint across the motel while sharing our stories with the strangers. One of them said that they saw another runner a few miles ahead. We all thought it must be Abi. I filled my back pack with lots of ice and water and headed towards Linden.

The road from Linden to Perryville had very little shoulder and the drivers were so rude. Sherry almost got hit by a pick-up truck and the driver didn’t give a damn about us. Soon we reached Perryville and crossed the bridge across the Tennessee River.

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Switch to normal mode and Begging for food:

Though I started from parsons in “Survival mode”, running the little bit of downhill towards Linden made me feel that I am still in game and moved to “Normal Mode”. But I was having a different issue now. Starvation. Though I gulped a large chocolate milkshake and a cheese burger, I was hungry. Earlier a stranger offered us some green apples. I ate them and took some more from Sherry and I was still hungry. It was like a car full of gas all of a sudden going empty. A few miles before Linden, I located a bar on top of a hill. I wanted food, period. While Sherry and Sal were waiting, I went up the hill to see if the bar had anything to offer. It was a local country bar. Three to four gentlemen having a very strong southern accent arguing with each other about something while the waitress looked completely wasted. I had to repeat myself thrice every time. When I asked whether she got any food, she said “No”. I persisted; I was ready to take anything even leftovers at that point. When she looked at my shrunken face, she took pity on me and offered to give her frozen pizza which she had saved for herself after the shift. I was smiling at this time. Like a wanderer in the desert who found an oasis.

I quickly went down the road and informed Sal about the good news and saw his face lighting up. Sherry decided to lie down instead. The waitress offered some Mountain dew while the pizza was getting ready. The bunch of drunkards heard our story and thought we were on drugs. One even said “You are stupid or what; there are lots of things to do for fun” in a mocking tone and everyone laughed, I did too. Here I am in the middle of nowhere at the wee hours of the night begging for food at a bar. How often will you get to do this in real life. Meanwhile, the pizza was ready, and waitress saw the whole pizza disappearing right in front of her eyes. We ate it as if we didn’t eat food in days. Though it didn’t fill me up, my gas meter got up a bit. Any amount of fuel is good. This angel, though she was drunk, was the only reason I survived another night and kept moving.

The James Bond Dog:

Feeling rejuvenated, we started our long walk to Hohenwald, which was about 19 miles from Linden. Having taken care of the body it was time to take care of the mind. At this point, I have hardly slept ever since the race started. Though we all kept a good pace, we needed some rest. We napped a bit on the side of the road and then after about 5 miles we stopped again. This is where something funny happened. While we all were lying down on the side of the road, we heard something as if a dog was tiptoeing and following us. Assuming that it must be a hallucination, I closed my eyes briefly when Sal hollered again saying he heard something. It was indeed a dog. It was tiptoeing on its feet so slow and silent following us as if someone has deployed it to spy on us. When we got up in a jiff, the dog hollered so loud signaling all its friends in the neighborhood, the next few minutes was crazy. Running and walking at a fast pace on my blistered feet was no fun. It was a long night. The sun was out before we knew it and when we saw a nice church parking lot, we decided to lie down there for a few minutes. We soon got company but the dogs were much friendly than the previous ones. That’s when we saw Abi passing us. She looked fresh and strong and was running. I had my doubts whether I will ever get back to running with a decent pace in my life after Vol State. At this point, 3mph was the new 7mph. As we entered the city limits we picked up some food from a gas station and crashed at a motel at Hohenwald. This brought us to the end of Day 3, Mile 144.

I started to wish a truck would hit me:

After a cold shower and taking care of the blisters, I slept a good 2 hours but nightmares woke me up. That’s when I saw Sherry taking off. She had some foot issues and had to go to Wal-Mart. I tried to get more sleep but it didn’t work so well. Sal and I got ready and went to Hardees. Had their biggest and heaviest cheese burgers and flushed it down with several refills of coke. Our goal for the day was to get to Columbia. We met Gary and Sandra on our just before we hit Natchez Trace. When Gary asked how I am feeling, I told him “Gary, I wish a truck would hit me, not hard but a little bit to injure me so that I can take that as an excuse and drop out from the race. I would gain sympathy from others and yet leave the race as a hero”. That’s exactly what I told him and I was being honest. That was the thought running in my head while running from Lexington to Parsons. I was hurting bad, very bad. Later that day Gary sent this in his updated but didn’t reveal my name.

“i think this call for an updated list bio: fantasy ultra goal: to be hit by a truck, and only injured slightly.”

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After chatting a bit with Sandra and Gary we headed towards Columbia. I was worried about Sherry at this point but Carl assured us that she is moving strong and is past Natchez trace. It was Sal and me at this point. Soon, we reached Hampshire. We found a store with a vending machine. I was hungry by now. It’s so frustrating when you have food right in front of you but you can’t have it. All that’s there between me and food is a thin glass. I was drooling looking at the bag of chips inside the convenient store like a dog in chains looking at food. Its right there, but I just can’t have it. I was really sad. I should have carried an extra cheese burger. Drank couple of coke instead and marched towards Columbia.

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Made it to Columbia early in the morning, Day 4 and Mile 184. Sherry had already made it to Columbia, TN that morning and crashed at a motel. We crashed along with her in the same motel later that morning. Sherry took off early though. Sal and I rested a bit. Inspected my feet and there were more blisters. As I was adjusting my feet to accommodate the existing blisters, new blisters would show up at another spot. Removing the socks was the most painful thing. At one point, it was so excruciating, it felt like walking on razor blades. I slept a bit only to be awaken by the same signature nightmare. All my nightmares would be the same. It’s about making a call to Carl and telling him that I am done with the race and asking him to pick me up. That nightmare was my wake up alarm throughout the race.

Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing – Matthew 6:3

Content with a few hours of rest that I managed to get, I stepped out and it felt like an oven and it was 100% humid. Sal and I hopped inside Shoney’s and decided to have a long lunch to beat the heat. The waitress was too kind. She was very excited to hear about our quest and went around the table and told every other guest she was waiting on about us and our adventure. I ate like a pig. It was a lunch buffet and ate at least four plates of food and downed several glass of coke and a huge dessert. When it was time to get the check, the waitress told me that it’s been taken care of. A random stranger she was waiting one had paid for our food and also asked her to not tell us until the stranger left the restaurant. I so wanted to thank the stranger but he was long gone. In a world where everyone deserves attention, this random stranger not only taught me a great lesson but how to live by it. His act of kindness really lifted my spirit and made my day. Like they say “Today you, tomorrow me”. I asked the waitress to pass on our sincere thanks to that man if he ever shows up again.

It was still hot outside but we decided to keep moving. Sal kept a good pace and I tried to keep up with him. Refueled at a couple of vending stations on my way and narrowly missed the “Bench of Despair”, a very important landmark of the Vol State Course. A stranger who was aware of the Vol State stopped by on the side of the road and handed over a water bottle. After a few miles, Gary and Sandra greeted us with their big smile. Gary said that we picked wrong time of the day to run. It was a hot day and he mentioned that he measured the surface temperature of the road and it was like 146F. Exchanged the story about the act of kindness from the stranger with Sandra and we made our move.

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I love Tennessee, period.

I had nothing but good experiences throughout the race, even back at the crazy bar, filled with drunks, people were kind. On my way to Lewisburg just before I got to the intersection, a cute old man in a pickup truck probably in his 80’s stopped by and offered to take me to his house for supper and drop me back at the exact location. I still remember his face. His act of kindness moved me. I hated to say “No” but I had to, and gave him the reason. He asked me to be safe and left. I remember telling Carl how I met a cute old man who is the best granddad one can ever ask for. Pain and suffering was inevitable during Vol State but I am so glad and thankful for the experiences and I enjoyed every bit of it as an unaided runner. I have read couple of story book on wayfarers but getting to live a life like that was something. No matter how good I get with words to explain, one has to be there, in that moment to understand such experiences. While my pain and suffering was making me strong, people and their act of kindles along my way were teaching me to live and appreciate life.

Amid the “pain and suffering” is the “pure joy” of traveling the open road with nothing but your own power moving you forward.

My encounter with a cop, getting investigated to becoming Facebook friends:

I didn’t see Sal in a long time. It was already dark and I was sitting by the courthouse in Lewisburg. I thought I would wait a bit for Sal to catch up and then head out to Shelbyville. Took my shoes off and was massaging my feet and there were two guys sitting next to me. One was a huge guy with piercings and tattoos and the other was a skinny guy. We had a little conversation and I told them about the race and they were pretty shocked. But what happened the next one hour was something that I never expected.

I see a cop car going around the court house:

Huge guy: Watch out. He is gonna go around the court house.

Me: <Blinking>

Huge Guy: He is gonna go around the court house one more time and pull over right in front of us

Me: <Panicking and blinking>

Huge guy: He is pulling over, act kewl..don’t worry

Me: <Thinking: why should I act kewl and normal>

The cop by now has pulled right in front of me and had the beaming huge light turned ON, pointing it on my face. I was panicking by now but acted as if it’s no big deal. The cop was asking for backup and two more cars joined him. He stepped out of the car and took my ID. Another longest 10 minutes of my life. I waited until he got back to me once again and asked me what I am doing at this time. I explained about the race. He frowned. I explained in detail, he frowned more. Finally he asked me to leave right away and asked me to meet him at the Shell station which was about 0.5 miles from the court house. I picked up my stuff and left while the cops were having a word with the other two guys.

As soon as I made it to the Shell gas station, one cop followed me and asked me more about the race and other details. Once he got convinced that I am a nice guy (A little self compliment) he got interested about the race. I started telling him about Vol State, Barkley, Strolling Jim, UltraMarathons and about Laz. He was surprised that there were events of suck crazy long distances and that there are people who run such races. We spoke like good old college buddies for about an hour about Ultramarathons and about India. The cop went ahead and launched Facebook from his laptop and “like” the Vol State FB page. He said he is going to track my progress on Google maps. Then he asked me whether I can be his friend on FB. When I told him how to find me, he sent me a FB friend request with a note “This is the nice cop you met at Lewisburg”. I told him that I’ll accept as soon as get back to civilization. He wanted to click a picture with me and we waited for Sal to show up, but when he did, Sal was in a pretty bad shape. While we refueled at the gas station, the cop went ahead and helped Sal with his motel booking and left. People have been nice throughout the race, including cops. Sal was thinking about dropping at that point. His hands and legs were swollen pretty bad. I walked him to the motel and asked him to reconsider his decision in the morning and took off to Shelbyville.

Those surviving on the road are doing just that surviving…barely

It was a long night. I looked up and saw a plane in the sky. Up there, inside that big nice tube is a guy sitting in his chair in an air-conditioned space with a nice blanket and comfortable pillow with everything he wants to eat and drink and there must be a beautiful waitress attending to him if he needs anything. Back to reality, here I am on a stinky road in the middle of the night out of water and out of food limping on my blistered feet suffering. Such is life. God is good, beer is great, people are crazy, I was signing that song loud, really loud. If any of my friends would have seen me at that time, they would have thought I have gone nuts. I made it to Bedford Co by the middle of the night. Sleep deprivation was killing me. I might have slept for about 6 hours since the race start. I was starving. I was surprised since I ate a whole large pizza but I was still hungry. I got to a nice little breakfast café by 4:30AM. I knocked at the door and the lady told me that they open at 5:00AM. I asked her for some water and she let me in to refill my backpack.

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I couldn’t stay awake at this point. I looked around and there was a church and a cemetery behind it. Perfect. I headed into the cemetery and found a nice spot to lie down. I passed out for about an hour and I got up to my alarm, the same old nightmare. That one hour nap felt so good. I passed the idea on stopping for breakfast and sneaked out of the cemetery. I wanted to make it to Wartrace by noon and was planning to crash at my good friend Amanda’s house. Shelbyville courthouse came in sight and made my check in call to Carl. Day 5, Mile 227.

It was a hot day. I could feel it. My foot was getting cooked inside my VFF. I should have stayed at Shelbyville but I braved the sun and decided to head to Wartrace. I regretted my decision. I felt horrible. The heat was sucking everything out of me. I drank the whole 100oz of water and was still thirsty. Heat was making my already blistered feet worse. There was not even a single shady spot to rest. I had no other choice but to push and when the Marathon gas station came in view, I ran into the station and grabbed a gallon water jug and drank 3 ¼ of it. The lady who was buying some stuff stood there astonished while I was drinking. I paid for it later and sat for a while before going another mile to my friend’s house.

I crashed on the couch and tried to sleep a bit but mind wouldn’t just rest. It just wouldn’t hibernate or even go idle. The effort put in to go to sleep was worse than the blisters. My foot was evidently swollen especially near the toes. Two new additions to the blister family, a huge blister on the right foot toe and a big one on the left heel. Tried to stand up and felt miserable. I have 78 more miles to go. I switched myself to survival mode. I got 5 more days and even if I average 16 miles a day I should be able to finish the race. Refueled myself and hit the shower which ended up being the most painful one. I was moved to tears while replacing the band aid. I decided then to push to the finish line. No more sleep breaks, only rest stops to refuel. It wasn’t about getting to the rock but I just wanted to be done with it. I was losing myself. Patience, patience, I spoke to myself.

That night I called my mom:

While I was getting used to the newly formed blisters and fighting the fatigue, an uninvited visitor showed up. Shin splint on my left leg. Yet another lonely night. I was really getting worried. What if it gets so bad that I couldn’t keep up with 16 mile/day average? To keep myself distracted, I called a couple of friends. Spoke to Joshua for a while and then with Diane. I was so craving for a soda when I was a few miles away from Manchester. I looked though my bag and four quarters and $5 bill but no more extra quarters and no $1 bill. The vending machine wouldn’t take the $5 bill and I don’t have enough quarters. Another dog drooling at the food scene. I stood in front of the vending machine in silence expecting a miracle to happen, that out of nowhere a soda bottle would pop up. I was wrong and I left, frustrated.

The shin splint was getting worse. The left foot was swollen by now. A little ice would help but where would I find one in the middle of nowhere. It felt as if a brick was attached to my left foot. I was literally dragging my left foot every single step. I felt the need to sit down but I was dreading about the pain that I have to endure once I start walking again. A church graveyard was in sight and sat down there for a while. I couldn’t go to sleep but just sitting down felt so comfortable. I wanted ice so bad, I decided to keep moving and was so glad to find a convenient store. I drank couple of coke, picked up a 10lbs ice bag and started walking. There was no motel in sight. I tried calling Sherry to check if she had crashed anywhere in Manchester but no reply. I finally found an abandoned gas station. Threw my backpack down in frustration and kept the ice bag on my left feet. It was still hot and humid and the ice was melting away. I told Carl later that morning while I was at Hillsboro and Gary included it in his update.

naresh is in hot pursuit in hillsboro (app 260).

ok, he isnt in hot pursuit

he is sitting in an abandoned convenience store

with a bag of ice on his foot


says his foot feels like a brick attached to his ankle.

says he only hopes to wake up someday and not feel like this.

That’s right. I was only hoping that I don’t want to wake up someday and not feel like this. I called my mom. She was surprised about the late night call but I covered it up with a couple of lies. We spoke about a lot of stuff going on in the family and in India. After disconnecting the call, I wept. No point sitting here and drowning myself in self pity. I am here because I chose to. Was thinking about Mike’s email; This is your job for the next 4-10 days. Accept it. It’s not easy, and it only gets harder. Exponentially harder in the last 30 miles. He was right, every bit of it.

When your whole world consists of discomfort, the only thing to do is laugh. I told myself to HTFU and move on. To really HTFU. By now the ice bag was nothing but a piece of plastic lying on my leg like a blanket. I took a few steps and it felt much better. Icing the feet didn’t get any better but at least it didn’t get worse. The early morning sun rays brought some hope. I took it real easy, maintained a comfortable pace and made it to Hillsboro.

When I’m weak, then I’m strong:

I know the tougher sections are ahead of me but I tried hard not to think about it but just take it one step at a time. I was really at a low point that morning but “This too shall pass” and it did pass. I enjoyed some good biscuits with sausage and bacon and lots of coffee. Rain or shine, I was ready to hit the road. The waitress helped me fill my backpack and I took off. I called Carl and updated him as well. Day 6, ~260 miles.

Picture 104

It was a hot day. Hillsboro to Pelham took forever. I put my head down and just looked at the ground in front of me and took one step at a time. Couple of guys in a pickup truck offered a ride which I had to decline. They even handed over a $5 bill which I had to decline. I told them it’s a race. They replied “God save you” and took off. I called Diane and she told me there’s a café at Pelham which remains open till 2:00PM where I would get good food. I did make it by 2:00PM and had a huge salmon, rice, mashed potatoes and lots of Dr Pepper. Carl was driving through the course and he guessed that I would be at the café. Amy and Carl accompanied me for lunch and I told them the cop story. A friendly stranger joined me for lunch before Carl and Amy joined me. He gave me lots of pointers about the course but he said that the next 6 miles is going to be tough.


Picture 107

Picture 109 Picture 111

Every time I was explain the VS course to someone, once I get to the Monteagle section, their jaws would drop. I understood that it’s going to be a tough climb but never realized it would be that hard. In the middle of the day when it was hot, the pain increases exponentially. It was so steep that a biker got down and started pushing his bike. I was out of water by that time once I got to the top, I was glad that it’s done. I headed into a bar again and everyone just froze for a second. One guy asked me whether it’s raining, “No, I am just sweating hard as I ran up the mountain” I replied. While the bartender was filling up my handheld, I was explaining about the race and tried to be in the A/C for a little longer. Climbing Monteagle really aggravated my shin splints and there was a huge swelling. Stopped at another gas station on my way to Traci city and iced my feet. Knowing that I won’t find anything once I start to Jasper, I bought lots of Danish buns and Beef jerky and made it to Traci City.

I can write a book titled PATIENCE:

I hated the Traci City-Jasper section as much as I hated Lexington-Parsons. Hardly any shoulder and the traffic would just zoom by. I had to literally stop every time a car approaches and wait until it would pass. I don’t want to get hit by a car now, not even slightly. Along with shin splint and blister, fatigue was setting in and it was getting real bad. I didn’t sleep after leaving Wartrace. Pain kept me wide awake. Body is willing but the mind won’t shut down. The more I think about the finish line, the more frustrating it would get and I was losing my patience. “Patience – the capacity to tolerate trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset”, It’s a word with no time factor associated to it. Tolerate, but without getting upset or angry. That’s precisely what Jasper section taught me. I was so pissed off at one time after leaving Wartrace that I picked up a stick and started hitting a tree to vent it out but not today. Carl in his email told me, “Don’t underestimate the need for patience” and emphasized it in caps. Took a couple of deep breaths and kept pushing forward, to be patient, to learn to appreciate the journey as well as its completion and that this too shall pass. I have started the race and passed the middle and the end is inevitable, and if I am patient enough and endure, I will get there.

Sandra drove all the way from the rock to check on me. They knew that I didn’t get any sleep in the past 30+ hours. Seeing a familiar face in the middle of the night was such a blessing. We spoke for a minute and she took off and returned after a while along with Amy.

The downhill section to Jasper was a killer. I would have loved this section any other day but not today. The grade was so tough to walk and running was the only option I could find some relief for my tired feet. At one point, I felt I should curve my body like a ball and just roll down the hill. It was very humid and I was out of water by now. In my mind I imagined that I would be in Kimball, TN once I am done with downhill, but I was wrong. The downhill took me to Jasper and it’s another 5 miles to Kimball from there. I had little water left in my handheld and I tried to ration on it.

I was sleep walking on the Kimball road by now. A cop stopped me and when I told him about the race. He looked for a spare reflective vest in his trunk for me but he didn’t have one. He asked me to be safe and warned me about the traffic. I asked him whether he had extra water by any chance but he didn’t have any. I was totally out of water by now and could feel the effects or dehydration. Started walking at snail pace. The sound of speeding vehicles gave me hope that the interstate junction is close and that I can fill my water there but the intersection was nowhere in sight. It was just like the mirage that would make a man wandering in the desert to think there’s water close by.


Seeing a waffle house from the distant gave me hopes that I’ll survive. A part of me wanted to stay at a motel and rest but another part of me wanted to keep pushing and be done with it. I listened to the latter. I had a huge BLT sandwich, big bowl of chili, lots of hash browns and lots of water. The waitress was surprised that I drank so much water and she asked whether I am doing ok. I told her about the race and that I am at Mile 300. They thought I am on drugs and didn’t talk to me much after that. I don’t blame them. I was smelling nasty and looked dirty and my zombie look was enough to prove.

The Longest 14 miles of my life:

I still had a good shot at Sub 7. I couldn’t believe that I was thinking this way. I was ready to push the lever from Survival mode to race mode again. It’s just amazing how time and energy can impact mind. Moments ago, I just wanted to finish the race and now I am aiming for a Sub 7. I was determined. I have come this close; why not give it a shot. At the same time, I didn’t want to get over confident. Race is not over until I set my foot on that Rock. It was a tug of war. Push hard for Sub 7 or take it easy and finish. I looked at my shin splint and it looked pretty swollen. I haven’t removed my shoes ever since I left Wartrace, so I know pretty sure there’s a nasty sight inside. I decided to push for a sub 7 and take chances. I read the direction and walked against the direction of the traffic hoping that it would take me to New Hope Bridge, but when I didn’t see it coming, I decided to back track and go the other way. I lost a good 45 minutes in this confusion. I walked across the New Hope Bridge crossing the Tennessee River one more time and stood there for a minute. I crossed Tennessee River three days before after leaving Parsons and here I am crossing it again. I took a moment to appreciate everything that I have been through and thanked God for enabling me with His strength, without Him I am nothing. He was my strength when I was weak. When I had every reason to drop out from the race, the Lord gave me his strength and brought me so far and I had no doubts that He will enable me to get to the finish line. I called Carl to let him know that I am just passing through the bridge and made my way towards Sand Mountain.



I spoke to Josh briefly and told him about my position. He was excited for me and told me to get it done. The traffic was so bad, the roads so narrow with lots of twists and turns. The curve was too sharp. Sometime I had to stop well ahead based on the sound from the distant traffic and let the car pass. They were driving too fast. One car passed me so close that I lost my balance and fell down and luckily ended up in someone’s yard. I am glad it wasn’t anything serious. I was extra careful from then. Walking my way towards Sand Mountain I was going through the directions and it said “Easy 10K to the finish”. I underestimated the “easy 10K part” and dumped most of my water and ice before climbing the Sand Mountain. Another big mistake.

As I started climbing Sand Mountain, I saw Carl, Gary and Abi going up the hill and they said they will wait for me at the state line which would be 495Km mile stone. The uphill climb was very difficult especially my shin, it was crying in pain. I looked at my watch; Sub 7 was out of reach by now. The little detour at New Hope was a waste of 45 minutes. Precious 45 minutes. No regretting at this point. Gary was clapping and encouraging me along with Carl, Abi and Donald (Don’s Crew). When Abi approached and asked how I feel, my instant reply was “I want to kill this guy” pointing towards Gary. For making the last 10K very difficult and making it hell as if I didn’t have enough of it. Everyone had a good laugh as no one expected that response from me.




5K to the finish line. That Einstein guy was right about his theory of relativity. When you sit next to a pretty girl for one hour, and it feels like a minute, as opposed to when you sit on a hot stove for one minute, and it feels like an hour. That 5K took me for ever. Time slowed down, really slowed down. I was forced to witness the passing of every second of every minute. The more anxious I got, the slower time passed. Finally, I made it to the corn fields. It’s not too far now. Carl asked me whether I am cognizant enough to follow the pink ribbons that would lead me to the rock. He knew that it’s over 36 hours since I shut down my eyes and he was really concerned. But I was wide awake. This is it. This is the moment. This is what I have been waiting for. I assured him that I’ll meet him at the rock and they took off.


Started passing the pink ribbons one at a time as the course went wading through the corn fields. I started running after a point. The excitement was too much to hold. Day 1 was flashing through my head. I was scared and full of doubts not knowing whether I would be able to accomplish something of this magnitude and here I am still in pain and suffering but running towards the finish. Mind took over body and all the pain seemed very trivial. The rock was in sight. Carl was at the rock to ensure that I don’t trip and fall off the ledge. I walked to the rock and Carl hollered to Gary, “NOW”. Timer stopped. It’s finished. It’s over. It’s freaking over. 7 day 00:55:04. First Unaided Finisher and Fourth overall.


I sat down on the rock, the place where I wanted to be for the past 7 days. I ran, I walked, I ate and I slept, going through heat, days and nights through pain and suffering to get here. I sat right there. I was trying to talk but it was getting difficult to say anything. The pain that went mute briefly returned with full force. When I couldn’t talk any more, tears took its place. No matter how hard I tried not to get emotional, I couldn’t help it. I sat there. In Silence. No one spoke a word. They allowed me to be in the moment, to cherish the experience, to enjoy my finish. Covered 56 miles on my last day. Vol state was an experience, an adventure of a life time, it taught me so much, a challenge greater than I ever imagined, it showed me what I am capable of, to endure and keep moving forward in spite of pain and suffering, to have fun, to live the moment and above all to take one day at a time.

Carl helped get to a chair and everyone sincerely congratulated me for my finish. I finally drank good water. My mouth still tasted bad after drinking water from a dirty puddle.

I asked Gary, “Who’s the guy going back to Nashville on Monday after the race start, who”, he laughed. He knew very well how to encourage me and he did exactly the same. Abi offered me her course map (Thanks a lot Abi) which Gary signed it for me: Naresh, “the Monday Man”, You are my HERO! – Laz

Monday man

Picture 210


I had the opportunity to see every other runner finish. I was extremely glad to see Joshua finishing the race, strong. He ran a Sub 8min pace the last three miles of the race. Now, that is something. We finished what we started. The full 500Kms. It’s over.


I am glad that our adventure didn’t cost our (Joshua and Me) life. With support from amazing friends, we not only met the goal but exceeded it by over a $1000 dollars and still counting. Thanks so much for your contribution, support, wishes and prayers.

Charity Water

All’s well that ends well:

It was fun times after finishing the race. “Gary, it feels like I am in a space ship”, that was my first reaction when I got in Gary’s car and the cold air was blowing on my face. First time setting my foot in a motorized vehicle after 7 days. When I insisted to stay awake in the car, Gary very well knew how to put me to sleep. “Just pull back the chair and lie down, you don’t have to sleep”, Gary told me, the next thing I remember, I am waking up in his driveway. Almost an hour flew by. When we decided to crash one night at a motel in Kimball, I managed to get a good discount as the owner was an Indian. But when he heard about the race and the cause, he refused to charge me for the room and he insisted. He invited all of us for lunch. This would be Gary’s first time tasting Indian food and I told him how lucky he is to get his first experience as Home Made Gujrathi Food. The food was delicious. Carl, Sandra, Gary and I enjoyed the food and above all the hospitality extended by the family.

And just like that, it all came to an end. No more sleeping on the side of the road, parking lots and cemeteries. No more travel stories and meeting new people. Now that I am back to reality, all the experience remains as a good memory and that the journey to the rock has served me well.

Naresh Kumar

Post race:

  • Mom, Dad, Sis, I’m sorry!!
  • I accepted the cop’s friend request and we are buddies on FB now.
  • I read ALL the responses from my friends from Chennai Runners group. Huge thanks to Navin for keeping everyone posted about my progress in detail. Navin, thanks a lot. For your support and encouragement and for being there when I need you the most. Thanks for all you time spent in writing daily updates for our group. I also want to thanks everyone from Chennai Runners, for your support and prayers. I sincerely appreciate each and every one of your thoughts for me.
  • Thanks to my friend Angel and my friend Jeff Bauer for keeping all my friends updated. Jeff your timely tips and suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank You!!
  • My blisters have healed up pretty good and I treated me a nice bike. Thinking about riding the Vol State course sometimes, soon.

Bike 006

Battle of the Vol State:

they got on the ferry & they rode it to kentucky,

they were headed for a battle in the state of tennessee.

there was heat and pain a waiting, but they didnt waver

they were bound to make their way; to the castle rock, you see.

the sun went down and the runners kept a comin

there wasnt near as many as there was the morn before.

they ran thru the bottoms and they ran over ridges

they ran thru dry stretches where a camel wouldnt go.

the sun came up and the runners kept a comin’

there wasnt quite as many as there was the night before.

they ran so far that stray dogs couldnt follow

down the endless blacktop to the slopes of never more.

the sun went down and the runners kept a comin

there wasnt near as many as there was the morn before

they left their homes & they left their loved ones

to fight a hopeless battle in the state of tennessee.

but those who reached the rock down in georgia

found the prettiest sight that they would ever see…

the finish. – Laz


Posted in Race Reports, Running, Ultra Marathon7 Comments

2011 Vol State Last Supper Marvin Skagerberg, Lazarus Lake (Gary Cantrell)

My Vol State 500K Photo Journal + Race Report (2011)

Along the course of this year’s Last Annual Vol State 500K I documented the 314+ mile journey on my Twitter and my FacebookRunning Page‘ (view here).

Below is my race report along with a few of those Facebook updates and photos I took throughout the race (and others).  The race report is very long and was done for me, to help me remember the race as time goes by and memories begin to fade.  If others happen to enjoy it or benefit from it then that is even better.

The Vol State 500K is one of the toughest races in the world. The race starts in Missouri then touches part of Kentucky before making it to the July oven on earth that is Tennessee for the next 290+ miles. The race concludes by leaving Tennessee and dipping down into Alabama briefly before runners finish at ‘The Rock’ atop a mountain in Castle Rock, Georgia some 314 miles after starting. Continue Reading

Posted in Photos, Race Reports, Running, Ultra Marathon, Vol State7 Comments

BITS 2011 – Mikki J. Trujillo, Dallas Smith, Jennifer Whitley, Monkey Trent

Josh Hite Turns ‘Blister In The Sun’ Into Fun Run for 2nd Straight Year (Results, Photos)

The 2nd annual Blister In The Sun Marathon took place this morning in Cookeville, Tennessee at Cane Creek Park.

Race Director Josh Hite, for the second year in a row, won his race. This year Hite completed the five loops with a time of 3:16:55. He bested the next closest finisher by nearly 30 minutes.

The battle for 2nd and 3rd places went down to the wire with Murfreesboro’s Chris Estes taking 2nd by 35 seconds over James Ramsey who had to settle for third.

The female winner was Jennifer Whitley who finished with a time of 4:19:42. The next two women’s finishers were Michelle Walker and Kelly Delmar.

1. Hite Josh 33 Cookeville, TN 3:16:55
2. Estes Chris 39 Murfreesboro,TN 3:45:21
3. Ramsey James 324 WTF 29 Nashville, TN 3:45:56
4. Hogue Jeffery 39 Grand Bay, AL 3:47:38
5. Matlock Jeff JEM 46 Ashland City, TN 3:57:02
6. Ma Vincent 41 San Jose, CA 4:01:16
7. Smith Dallas Dallas 71 Cookeville, TN 4:04:07
8. Rayder Christopher Nut Junior Sized 12 Memphis, TN 4:08:49
9. Whitley Jennifer The Running Raven 45 Murfreesboro,TN 4:19:42
10. Jimenez Albino Albino 40 El Camino, Spain 4:23:17
11. Rayder Robert Roasted Nut 42 Memphis, TN 4:23:47
12. Trice Winston Winston 38 Hayes, VA 4:27:11
13. Acton Jesse 28 Nashville, TN 4:29:53
14. Staggs Danny Dano 47 Livingston, TN 4:32:49
15. Walker Michelle Mom of 6! 42 Evansville, IN 4:35:21
16. Samuelson Mike Ultramike 45 Lakeland, TN 4:41:46
17. Delmar Kerry Miller Time 40 Tanner, AL 4:48:58
18. Holm Randall Hulm Runs 50 Muscle Shoals, AL 4:52:56
19. Steven Rebecca Rebecca 49 Wichita, KS 4:59:19
20. Sherman Bill Bill 51 Ft. Walton Beach, FL 4:59:41
21. Baker Bill Bootheelbilly 60 Nashville, TN 5:02:08
22. Workman Curtis Curtis 43 Villa Ridge, MO 5:07:02
23. Weeks Robert Bob 43 Fortmill, SC 5:09:40
24. Holt Thomas Holt the Bolt 34 Cookeville,TN 5:12:37
25. Trujillo Mikki Sloppy Seconds 35 Cookeville, TN 5:25:47
26. Anderson Wade Wade 50 Readyville, TN 5:25:48
27. Maples Chris 42 Murfreesboro,TN 5:33:20
28. Bolton Diane DianeB 50 Nashville, TN 5:41:19
29. Rosenbloom Trent Trent 41 Nashville, TN 5:42:52
30. Stupanch Nancy Nancy 50 Oveido, FL 5:44:23
31. Trainor Heather Crawlmommy 37 Roswell, GA 5:56:33
32. Ward Jay 38 Murfreesboro,TN 5:57:57
33. Bronson Kyra Kyra 33 Kansas City, MO 6:09:54
34. Min Phil Phoolish Phil 56 Birmingham, AL 6:48:11
35. Macon Larry Larrry 66 San Antonio, TX 7:15:51
36. Lee JD JD 72 Knoxville 7:29:16
37. Taylor Diane DaineT 54 Nashville, TN 7:35:14
38. Ivory Angela Angela 43 Nashville, TN 7:35:15

Legendary Dallas Smith finished in 7th place with a time of 4:04:07.  Dallas’ buddy Albino Jiminez, of Spain, finished in 4:23:17. Jiminez just ran all the way across Spain back earlier this year.

12-year old Christopher Rayder finished in a shocking time of 4:08:49. Rumor is it that he ran a 3:23 at Grandfather Mountain Marathon last month.

Angela Ivory finished her 297th marathon while Texas resident Larry Macon finished his 707th career marathon.

Instead of finisher’s medals the runners received finisher’s frying pans!

Congrats to all of the finishers. Those five loops around Cane Creek Park and the elementary school in that heat can wear down the best of runners.

2011 Blister In the Sun Photos

[photos by Naresh Kumar and Chris Estes]


Posted in Marathon, Results0 Comments

Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon Sells Out in 4 Minutes!

Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon Sells Out in 4 Minutes!

Registration for the 6th Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon opened at 8:00 am this morning. It closed before 8:04 am after selling out in less than four minutes. 3 minutes and 58 seconds to be exact.

The Monkey course is one of the most challenging road marathons in the United States. It includes 3,700 feet both of ascent and descent, nearly 7,500 feet of total elevation change.

Race Director ‘Monkey Trent‘ had the following to say when I asked him about the Flying Monkey Marathon selling out in less than four minutes:

Every year, my faith in humanity diminishes as more and more people want to come flog themselves in our useless, rinky dink race.

Even worse, many people don’t learn from their mistakes and come back, year after year. While I am not a terribly religious Monkey, I think this is pertinent: (Running Reverend) Dallas ‘Mt. Juliet’ Smith reminds me that Proverbs 26:11 teaches, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”

Remember last October when marathon runners across the world threw a fit when the Boston Marathon filled in 8 hours?

Yeah, exactly!  FOUR MINUTES!

If you didn’t have your credit card information memorized then you got shut out this morning.

An anonymous marathoner had this to say about the race filling up:

I was on at 8:00 a.m. August 1 to register, finished the first page, selected “continue” and was told it was full. What a disappointment.

I talked to several disappointed ‘fools’ this morning who had similar stories about getting shut out.

The race is popular because of the difficulty level and scenic views it provides overlooking Nashville.  It doesn’t hurt that the Monkey has awesome swag, a unique finisher’s wood/medal, and a finisher’s potluck buffet of goodies and beer that would cost you $25 a plate in a big city.

All the goodies and food are included with your registration.

Monkey has a high retention rate of runners from year to year because the race serves as a bit of a homecoming for several elite and popular marathoners from around the country.

No one runs off after this marathon (even if they had the legs remaining to do so). Almost everyone hangs around afterwards for the food, drink, and fellowship among friends and with runners they have only read about or seen from a distance before.

The popular cult marathon takes place just outside of Nashville in the Harpeth Hills every November.

Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Website

RELATED: The 10 Best Marathons in Tennessee

Posted in Marathon, Running5 Comments

Blister in the Sun – Original Gang of 15 – 2010

Blister in the Sun Marathon Could Be Fatal (Few Spots Left)

Blister in the Sun marathon race director Josh Hite, a distant marathonian cousin of Monkey Trent (which might explain a lot), was conquering so many marathons at sub 3-hour blistering times that he decided to create his own marathon to challenge himself.

This would have been ok if he hadn’t decided to invite several of his closest running friends to the inaugural event. Fourteen others showed up last year to Hite’s surprise.  He had to assume his good buddy Dallas Smith would be there, but he laughed at the remaining fools as they showed up.

He knew what he had in store for them.  Five laps around Cane Creek park in 90+ degree heat. The second half of each lap, up a hill and around Cane Creek Elementary School…aka ‘the oven.’

Everyone was all smiles the first couple of laps…then lap 3, 4, and 5 (for some) happened.  There were finishers but even Hite didn’t come close to breaking three hours on his own course.

Hite had the following to say when I approached him earlier today for his advice to newbies running the 2nd edition of BITS:

I told someone today that this could be the toughest marathon when you combine physical and mental.
This is not a course which you should be concerned with its certification.
Interesting fact I found out last week:  more people die from the heat than any other weather related incident.  That includes tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding…
This is an event that will suck the liquid from your soul if you try to race it.
Welcome to “Cook”vul.
You thought Furnace Creek was hot, try Cane Creek.
Keep running; it is so hot that it will melt your soul if you stop moving your feet.
I heard that Cane creek school was holding a “bake sale” during the race.

The scary part is that the field has already doubled from last year. Thirty runners have already upped their life insurance and signed on to Blister in the Sun this year.  However, a handful of spots remain available for the race which starts on August 7, 2011 if you are up for the challenge.

For more info check out the BITS Website (HERE) or contact RD Josh Hite via email at

Hite won his own event last year, but several runners have signed up in hopes of knocking Hite off his microwave!

The inaugural finisher’s medal was an engraved Zippo lighter. No telling what the sadist has in store for those that might finish this year!

Cookeville Regional Medical Center is 3.9 miles from the course. The hospital can be reached at 931-646-2039.

Check back here at Run It Fast after the race for results and check our Twitter feed @runitfast for live updates as the race is taking place.

Posted in Marathon1 Comment

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