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The Unspoken Rules of Being a Badass: A Runner's Guide

2012 Volstate 500K Race Recap – Charlie Taylor

2012 Volstate 500K Race Recap

Charlie Taylor

It really is a selfish thing to commit a week to a race, but if you get the right thing out of it, it could be the smartest thing you ever did.

Volstate is a manmaker-even if you think you are strong, most people have absolutely no idea of what it takes to reach down inside your inner self after, say, 4 days and 200 miles in the bank and the feet are feeling like hell and pull out yet another 50 miler.  As an old friend once said, “It makes you stronger than dog breath, and you probably smell worse.”  I can see myself, after this race, running another race, be it a 5K or a marathon, be able to pull more out of myself to finish hard or to push more when I hurt.

Last year, when I ran the Strolling Jim 42 miler, I wrote that it was the hardest thing I had ever done, well move over, hard thing and welcome to Volstate!  2 of my good friends, Naresh and Joshua ran this beast last year and their dedication and perserverance to finish opened my eyes to a new and larger challenge.  I was interested at first, but scared to tackle such a monster.  Trent Rosenbloom, of Flying Monkey Marathon fame, even said, “Nobody can run 314 miles and live!”  And I believed him!  At the time, my longest runs had been Strolling Jim, a 50K and my 50 mile Birthday run on July 10.  During the fall and winter, I ran and finished Stump Jump 50K, Big Dog Backyard Ultra, Lookout Mountain 50 mile, and Mountain Mist 50K (Great Race shirts!),  plus 3 marathons and all this time, my mind was processing the thought of running 10- 50K races at once.  My HRC running buds, I found out later, had a running bet that I would not do it, and during the race, that I would quit, beaten and trashed.  Sometime in January, I made up my mind to go all in and immediately started gathering things that I would need to run 314 miles.  I also announced to my friends that I indeed would be running and finishing the volstate 500K.  At first, I toyed with the idea to have a crew, which meant that someone would basically follow me with supplies and I could stop anytime I wanted, get a cold drink, eat something, sleep in the air conditioned van, get fresh and/or dry clothes or shoes, have immediate shelter during a storm, etc and it still was scary. My son, Matt and Maddie, his girlfriend immediately volunteered but I soon realized that a crew would probably work about as hard as the runner so I decided to really go all in and run this thing Un-crewed, which meant that once the race started, I was on my own.  I could carry anything I wanted to carry, however, if you had too much weight, you would pay for it dearly.  I could purchase anything from a store that I passed but I had to either eat or drink it, carry it, or leave it behind.  All water had to be carried or found when you got close to running low.  Sleeping arrangements could be in a motel (if you were close to one), in the woods, or just really anywhere you wanted to catch a nap.  You could not accept anything from a crewed runner or his crew and you couldn’t drop stuff or have anybody “meet” you with supplies but could accept anything from a stranger or another un-crewed runner.  Additionally, you could not get into on onto any vehicle for any reason (unless a policeman ordered you to).  This made the race take on an entirely different look.  I liked it.  As soon as the Volstate chat board started up, Charlie T made his first official mark by announcing to all that he was indeed in.

2012 started pretty good with training for volstate but then I broke a bone in my hand in a nasty fall during Mountain Mist 50K and then during the crazy hot 92 degree Boston Marathon in early April, I tore my right hamstring.  I finished Boston in a pitiful 4:02 and followed it up 10 days later at Nashville’s country music half in a pitiful 1:39.  I limped pretty bad through most of the race and was hurting pretty bad even 5 miles into the race.  That night, my wife said to me, “What in the wide world of sports happened to the back of your leg?”  When I looked, I had a 5-6” black bruise all across the back, just above the knee.  The next day, I visited my chiropractor, Dr Jason Hulme (king of Chiropractors) and he immediately let me know that I had a torn hammy and referred me to a Doctor.  Turns out that I only had a grade one or two tear and after him telling me I should heal pretty fast, I decided to take a week off and recover.  Strolling Jim was a week away, and I really, really wanted to run it, but wisely passed.  I had convinced 2 friends to run it with me and both did, with Tom Dolan finishing a fantastic 5:48 and winning a coveted Blue Shirt.

After about a week off, I gently resumed my volstate training.  Sometime in mid May, I started carrying my race backpack and I loaded it with about 18 pounds of junk to simulate race weight.  Through the month of June, more than half my running was with the backpack on, even some speedwork, which probably was not too smart.  After the end of June, I wore it on every run.  The bad part is that I never did really get into a serious groove of Volstate training.  Usually before a long race, I would run at least 3 doubles, 20+ on Sat and 20+ on Sunday and at least a 20+ run every Saturday, knocking out 70-80 miles per week.  For some reason that I can’t put my finger on, that did not happen this year.  I did average about 60 miles per week leading up to the race with a high week of 92 miles-but that was the week I ran the “Run Under The Stars” 10 hour ultra and ran 54 of those miles during that period.  This was held on June 9th in Paducah, Ky and I felt like it would be a great endurance event just a month before Volstate.  My 54 miles earned me a 12th place finish overall, but there were 4 relay teams in the top 12, so I was the 8th individual.  The one thing that I did notice after the RUTS run was that after 54 miles, my legs DID NOT hurt.  No calf pain, no hamstring pain, no quad pain.  This was great because I remember how bad I hurt after last year’s Strolling Jim and after some of the 50K races, I could hardly walk.

I had been drinking a new product called ASEA since before Boston.  This product had been developed over a 16 year period by some scientists as an anti aging and healing drink and they had accidently discovered that it did an amazing thing for extreme ultra athletes.    They could go longer without Bonking, or hitting the wall, had more energy, and recovered as much as 30% faster after using ASEA for 2-3 months.  It kept them from building up the lactic acid that screws up many of a runners  race about mile 19 of a marathon.  This mixture works on Redox Signalling molecules in the body and helps the body to heal itself.  Ever notice that a young kid heals a lot faster and better than an old person?  It is because the body stops making the things that make it heal itself.  ASEA  makes those cells work like you were younger and in the process, your endurance levels are higher and your recovery is faster.  One ASEA drinking triathlete, Rich Roll,  finished 30 full Ironman races last year!  An old high School friend, Ron Singleton, had been hasseling me for a year to try this and I did not want to be bothered by another Amway type gimmick and finally I told him that if he believed in this as much as he said he did, just send me a free case and I would check it out.   Old Ron is pretty tight, but in 2 days, I had a case of ASEA.  I started drinking it before Boston and maybe I could see a few results but the real results came after RUTS.  No sore legs, no sore quads, no sore hammy and I ran 54 stinkin miles!  Then… I drove my 5 speed truck the 180 miles back to Gallatin.  After last year’s Strolling Jim, I could not have pushed a clutch for any reason.  (more on ASEA later)

So, now July is upon me and I’m worrying myself silly trying  to decide what to wear, how to keep my pack lighter, what to carry (they say you will throw away what you don’t need) , what I absolutely needed, how to get my sleep, and how to plan my race.  I had decided that I would be best if I ran all night, then rest during the heat of the day, so I bought a small water filter pump in case I ran out of water somewhere in the middle of nowhere (and there is plenty of that on Volstate).  I later dumped the pump with Naresh when I saw him  on the road.  My friend, Brent Blevins, convinced me to take his 11 oz hammock, which I did use 3 times.  All the necessary stuff like Ibuprofen, band aids, mobile home duct tape ( real winner), my Olympus tough Camera, I phone, Sunglasses, an extra pair of shorts, shirt, and compression socks, among some other items.  Since every ounce would make a difference, I watched every entry very carefully, trying to keep the loaded pack under 20 lb (8 pounds would be water).  One of the best things I brought was about ½” of black duct tape on an almost empty roll that was great for taping hot spots and some killer blisters on the feet.  I folded it in half and it hardly took up any space, but worth it’s weight in gold.  I also carried 6 – 8 oz packets of ASEA, one for each day. 

On the evening of July 10th, my 53rd birthday, I headed toward Chattanooga and spent the night with my son, Matt, then got up early to meet the group at the finish line.  The vehicles are left there so that when you finish, you can get in the car and leave.  There were so many un-crewed runners this year that it was decided to rent a 15 passenger van and everybody split the cost and drive to the start line, 314 miles away.  We all loaded up and headed toward the start, following the course backwards.

I really didn’t know anybody except John Price, who was starting his 6th consecutive Volstate race.  2 years ago, John ran from the finish line to the start, then turned around and ran back to the finish.  Last month, he ran from the tip of Scotland to the tip on England, some 600+ miles.  And my friends thought I was Crazy.  I also knew Mike Melton, race director of Strolling Jim and Diane Taylor who had left the Rock several days earlier walking and we were supposed to pick her up in Lewisburg.  There were some top notch runners in this bus including Julie Aistars who had won Volstate in 2010, Dan  Fox, who held the un-crewed course record, Sal Coll, Sherry Meador, Abi Meadows, and several others.  The bus was driven by the craziest man in America, race founder Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake.  Laz is also the creator/race director of the toughest race in America, the Legendary Barkley Marathons, a 100 mile race in Frozen Head State park, on unmarked trails with no support with over 60,000 feet of elevation, and 60,000 feet of descent.  Only 13 runners have finished the race in the required 60 hours in the past 27 years.  Twisted minds usually create twisted races and I knew I was in for pain, misery, fear, and a lot of unknowns.  I felt mighty good being in the company of these people.

As we traversed the course backwards, John and Laz gave us “virgins” pointers about stores that would be open late and other necessary information that we might need.  I kept my eyes peeled for available water, coke machines, and where the hills were.  We made it through Monteage and down the mountain on the old road, Manchester, Wartrace, Shelbyville, and picked up Diane in Lewisburg.  Then it was on past I-65 to a little store where “The bench of Despair” Resided.  Word is that many runners, having run 185 miles , when taking a break on this bench would call it quits.  We all got our pictures made in front of and sitting on the bench and all declared that they would not quit on that silly bench.  This store owner was smart, she had painted the name on the back of the bench and I’m sure she got plenty of questions from outsider about why that was painted on the back.  She also made some of the best milkshakes in the country and she told me later that she made 28 milkshakes for us.  Several of us drank 2 of them. 

We all loaded back up and headed toward Columbia, then Hohenwald, Linden, then crossed the Tennessee River into Parsons before heading to Lexington where we turned north toward Kentucky.  We crossed I-40 and 82 miles later we ended up in Union City, Ky, about 15 miles from the start where we would eat the traditional “Last Supper” at Ryan’s Steakhouse and crash for the night before getting up early in the morning and heading to the starting line. It had taken us 9 hours to drive the course, Lord, what had I gotten myself into? 

 The meal was good but the company was great.  Several former “Kings of the Road”  traditionally show up to eat with us and everybody gets to know each other a bit more because after tonight, each is on his own.  Crewed Runners had driven to the start with their crews. My friend Joshua Holmes and his crew chief, Mikki Truillo were there.  We all ate, then went back to the room to crash about 8:30 and I slept like a log until the clock went off about 5:30.  Made final adjustments, filled water bottles and got in the van to head to Hickman, Ky.

The intended race course starts on the west side of the Mississippi River, you ride the ferry over, then when it comes back the race is on and as soon as it docks, the race is on.  This year, the Mississippi was too low for the ferry to run so we started on the Kentucky side and at 7:18 AM on July 12, Laz sent us on our way.  2012 Volstate was on!

Just like they said he did last year, Sal Coll took the early lead.  Most of the rest of the field were slower but I left at a comfortable pace, probably 12-13:00 per mile.  Many started out walking.  Just as you come off the ferry, there is a pretty good hill climbing into Hickman.  I was in 3rd place pretty fast but I knew that meant nothing with only 313 miles to go.  I took it pretty easy and got into a relaxed rhythm.  Why this wasn’t too bad, I thought to myself, but I’ve been around enough to know that I had absolutely no idea what I was to expect over the next 5-6-7 (or more) days.    We wound around through Hickman, passed the overlook where Laz was waiting on us to cheer us on (I think I heard the words, Poor ignorant fools, a couple times) and headed out of town back toward Tennessee.

The road to Tennessee was fairly level, through the corn fields and soybeans and other than the sign some 10 miles later that said “Welcome to Tennesee” you couldn’t even tell you had left one state and entered another.   It was another 5 miles to Union City and we were clicking the miles off, about 5 per hour.  Sal was still considerably in front and appeared to be pulling away and Joshua and his crew were right in front of me.  The sky was nicely overcast, keeping the hot sun hidden from our tender skin.  Who has tender skin anyway?  It could not have been a more perfect day to start an ultra and run what turned out to be my longest run ever, 67 miles before I stopped for the night.  As I wound my way through Union City and down Hwy 431 into Martin, I  noticed that I had run my first 50K in a little over 6 hours, which would be a speed race compared to the rest of what was to come.  As I passed UT Martin, I called Terri on the phone and we chatted for several minutes while I used the opportunity to walk for the first time.  Just before that, I had passed a roadside fruit stand and bought 2 big fresh peaches for $1.  The lady asked if I wanted a bag for them and I told here I would eat them both right now.    After I hung up with Terri, I stopped for my first meal, a Wendys hamburger and 2 refills on a coke.  People in the store looked at me funny, I’m sure I smelled like a dog.  2 older women who came in backed away from me until a guy behind the register asked me how far I was running. When I said 314 miles, he was shouting out to all the employees what I was doing.  Everybody was friendly then.    I ate and was back on the road. 

There was nobody in sight.  I moved on past the hospital and the Hwy 22 bypass overpass.  I remember using the guardrail at the end of the bypass to stretch my legs and calves and moved on again.  I thought it funny that I had run about 33 miles and my legs didn’t hurt a bit.  A mile or so later, I saw that I was running low on water and stopped in at a gun store and they let me refill my bottles and water bladder.  I was back on the road and toward Dresden.  At the 38 mile mark, the route turned left to go into the town of Dresden (Laz had the race go right by each city/county courthouse, which I thought was kinda cool)  At that turn, someone had painted on the highway “Welcome Volstate runners” with a turn arrow.  At every turn was an arrow.  Obviously they had held a 5K in the town and at every turn, one mark said 5K with an arrow and right beside it said 500K with an arrow.  Wonder what the 5k runners thought?  Probably what my friend Trent said, “Nobody can run 300 miles and live”  I went past the courthouse and headed out of town when a car pulled up beside me, I was walking for only the 2nd or 3rd time, and it was Laz and Carl.  Laz leaned out and told me that I was gonna have to pick up the pace to below 10 min per mile if I expected to get anywhere.  They drove off and I went on.   I rounded the big curve, headed down the big hill and crossed the main road, staying on course.  The road went under a railroad overpass and I secretly wished I had some paint to write Volstate Rules! On the bridge.  Notice I said Secretly.  This was when I realized that again, I was running out of water and 2 miles back, I had passed a store and there was only open country in sight.  Around a curve beside a big open field, up a hill and over it, and I found a house with a woman sitting on the porch where I asked if I could use her faucet and she said ok.  As I was slopping around in the fresh mud I had made, she brought me 2 trays of ice which was might nice.  Turns out that the water was well water, which had a slight taste but it was wet.  I went on.  I passed the Champion Mobile Home factory on the left.  This plant had moved here after being in Paris for 25-30 years and burning down on Christmas day 4-5 years ago.  Next was the small town of Gleason.  It was approaching 6Pm and I figured that stores would be closing so I tried to hurry.  By the time I crossed the tracks, everything was closed but I did see a lighted coke machine off to the right.  Then I heard my name called.  It was Sal and he was sitting off beside the machine.  His legs and hip were hurting and we sat and rested for a while.  I called Terri again and told her that I had completed 48 miles and felt great and was going on.  Then called Laz and reported our location, then we moved on toward McKenzie.

 Sal left me in the dust.  Then rest of the day’s run was in the total darkness.  I have no idea what was around me but it was a bit cooler than the daytime and I still felt good, although I was getting tired.  I caught Sal again and we went the rest of the way into McKenzie at a fast walk, probably a 15 min pace (fast for us at the time).  Just as we got into McKenzie, we saw a store sign and since it was close to 10 PM, we figured it might close at 10 so we picked it up and scooted on in.  We both loaded up, I ate a baloney sandwich, some beanie weinies, a bag of chips and a coke and just as we finished they closed the store.  Julie and Paul had come in right before closing and barely got served.    Sal and I got back on the road and we both decide to head toward Huntingdon, some 15 miles down the road.  It was late but we figured we could reasonably knock it out.  Sal again left me and Jay joined him.  I was getting tired and slowed down a bit but stayed steady and came into Huntingdon about 2AM.  As I got closer to town, I would hear dogs barking like crazy and I figured that I was pretty close to Sal and Jay.  I pulled into the town square a few minutes later and they were both sitting on a bench and Sal had his head in his hands.  They were trying to decide what to do.  I told them I was gonna go find a place to sleep and just down the street I decided to get behind some trees right beside the Police station.  I made my bed with 2 trash bags, took off my pack and my shoes and lay down but could not get comfortable.  About that time Julie and Paul came by and I’m sure I scared the crap out of them when I called their names from behind the tree.  After tossing around for 15 min, I decided to look for a better place to sleep and hardly got on the road before finding a junk store right across the street that had several sofas sitting under the overhang.  Boy, they sure looked more comfortable than the ground so I turned one backwards so nobody would screw with me and again, removed my shoes and attempted to cover myself with one of those foil blankets they give you after a marathon.  Not a good cover,  first, they make a LOT of noise with every move and they don’t breath which makes you sweat profusely.  But when it started to rain in the middle of the night, it did keep the water off me.  I went to sleep about 3:30 AM and woke around 7:00AM from noises out on the street.  At my 7:30 phone call to Laz, I reported 67 miles gained and turns out, he was in a motel room a mile away.  I got my stuff together, put my shoes back on and started to head back out on the road.  That is when I noticed what I had done to the sofa.  This thing had been sitting there for a long time obviously and had dry rotted.  Every time you pushed your finger into the cloth, the finger went through the cloth.  All over the seat cushion and back, I had torn the sofa, pretty much destroyed it really.  Wonder what the junk store owner thought when he saw his blue sofa all shredded like a wildcat had been on top of it?  Well, a volstate wildcat had.  Later, I thought about what a scare it would have been if, in the middle of the night, a big snake had crawled out from under one of those cushions.  Oh the life and adventures of an ultra runner.

In leaving, I made another mistake.  There was a really good smelling country restaurant right across the street from me and I passed it up, hoping that there were more by Laz’s hotel.  Of course there were not.  Then, just as soon as I got away from the junk store, the bottom dropped out of the sky and it rained like a cow peeing on a flat rock for probably 20 minutes.  I managed to get my emergency rain poncho on, but the feet got really wet.  I kept on and discovered no food down the road.  I was hungry so I dug a Clif Bar and a fried pie (real healthy) out of my pack and had breakfast.  I crossed the main road and made my way toward Clarksburg and Parkers Cross road.   It was a nice wide road and once again, I was almost out of water.  A couple miles down the road was a salvage store and the man who was mowing the yard allowed me inside to refill my water.  It wasn’t cold but again, it was wet.  As I got back onto the 4 lane, I again ran into Sal.  He had stayed in the motel where Laz was.  He stayed a bit in front of me and after the top of the hill, I noticed a big dog come at him and he actually crossed the road to avoid it.  Sal must have smelled like Purina Dog Chow or something because that dog really seemed to want to eat him.  He had a pepper spray and I don’t know if he used it but the dog stayed after him for a while.  When he quit and crossed back over, I had picked up a stout stick in the ditch and for some crazy reason, he didn’t even bark at me, much less try to eat me.  We went on And again, Sal left me.  I don’t remember much about Clarksburg, except that I stopped at a store on the left and got some food.  I was really hungry by now and the belly was growling like a bear.  Just barely out of Clarksburg, I got sleepy and started wobbling in the road and decided that I would find me a place in the woods and catch a couple hours sleep.  Just barely off the road, I found a nice spot, secured my hammock, took off my shoes and got some deep immediate sleep.  That hammock slept great.  Thanks a million Brent!!  It was a lot cooler in the woods and even though I was only 40-50 feet off the highway, The trees muffled the road noise and I was in my own little world.  All good things must end and it was time to move on.

Well rested, I hit the road again and a few miles later I came into the small community of Parkers Crossroads and the crossing of I-40.  There was a Subway on the right just before the interstate and I was hungry so I stopped in and wolfed down a 6” Black Forest Ham and a couple refills from the soda machine.  I refilled my water with Ice and water and as I was leaving, saw Sherry walking past the restaurant.  I got back on the road and since I had a good rest, proceeded to pass her and head on toward Lexington, some 10 miles down the road.  Probably 5 miles later, the sky started turning black and lightning starting cracking to the right, the left, and in front of me.  I grabbed my trusty emergency poncho and pulled it on just in time to escape another deluge.  I was already wet, so I ran this one out.  It rained for the next hour or so, sometimes so stinkin hard that you could hardly see.  Lightning was popping all around but not next to me.  I saw several places where I could have parked for a while, but decided to knock out miles instead.  By the time I pulled into Lexington, my feet were really trashed, I felt hot spots on both feet right behind the toes and big blisters on both heels.  The big toe on my right foot was screaming in pain. It hurt to walk and it hurt to run.  Directly across Hwy 712 where we were to turn was a Little Caesars Pizza and I went in and got a large pepperoni and sat on the curb outside and ate half of it.  The lady also gave me a bag, so I packed the other half for later and put it in my pack. (Everything in there stayed dry).  I walked back up to Hwy 712 and sat on the curb right beside the road for a final rest before heading East when I saw Sal once again.  He was sitting in a store across the street with a couple other runners and one of them had gotten a text from Julie who had offered her room to anybody who wanted to catch a nap.  Since my feet were hurting so bad, I was excited about sleeping in a bed and the other 3 all agreed.  Since I was going to get a bath, I hobbled over to the Dollar General and got a box of Epsom Salts and some baby powder and some more snacks for tomorrow.  After a quick hot bath and a good treatment of the feet, 3 of us all sat butt to butt (clothed of course) on the side of the tub with our feet soaking in an Epsom salt bath for several minutes.  I was asleep very shortly after laying down and we all had agreed to hit the road about 2:30 AM. 

When I got up, the feet were looking bad, they did feel some better after the salt bath and I spent a bit of time popping more blisters and I started rubbing my ASEA over the blisters and dressing them with my black duct tape, taping the big toe, padding the heels and bottom of the foot and easing my socks and shoes over the sores.  Finally, we were all out the door and back on the road towards Parsons.  It was 18 miles to Parsons and the intent was to make it as far as we could before the 7:30 AM check in and we all separated pretty quickly.  There was a little country store 3-4 miles out of Lexington in Chesterfield where the guy inside had a real cool Billy Ray Cyrus mullet and as I was moving around, Sal came out of the bathroom.  There he was again.  I ate a sausage biscuit and got back on the road and maybe 10 minutes later, the sky dropped out again.  This time, I had had enough and luckily, I was right beside an old abandoned car lot which had a big long covered porch across the front and an old car seat sitting there.  I waited out the worst of the rain on that porch, updated my facebook posts and ate 2 pieces of my last night’s pizza.  Finally the rain slowed down and I was back on the road, to find that Sal had holed up in a store right beside me.  We made our way on toward Parsons and once again, he dusted me.  I made my 2nd morning call to Laz at mile 108 which meant that I had run 41 miles for day 2.  I did sleep 5-6 hours in the motel and 2 hours in the woods above Parkers Crossroads, so I was on the road about 16 hours.  I made it to Parsons and crossed the Tennessee river a few miles later.  Out of water again, I found a store at the end of the bridge and the girl sold me a bladder full of ice for $1 and I refilled all water and bought more snacks.  Local fishermen were gawking at the idiot with the backpack  and when I told them what I was doing, I was immediately their friend for a while.  I moved on and ran through the day with 2 more downpours and a brutally hot sun in between.  Luckily, I had worn my Montrail red hat with the drape down the back so that kept the sun off me to a great degree.  I was wishing I had bought a small umbrella at the Dollar General like John Price did, which would have really knocked the sun off.  Steam was rising from the wet road and then it would rain some more, making mincemeat out of my  feet.  I arrived in Linden around 2 PM, cold and miserable after running through another rainstorm.  My feet were telling me what an idiot I was and I was starving.  There on the sidewalk sat Sal. 

We talked for a minute and decided to hobble over to the Food King and get something to eat since it appeared that nothing else was open on Saturday afternoon.  We discovered that they had fried chicken and some nasty looking spaghetti which I chose.  Even though it looked nasty, it tasted pretty good and the lady loaded me up with what appeared to be a double helping.  They had it so cold in there that we were shivering almost immediately so we ate fast and as we went outside, it was raining again.  We both decided that we were tired and trashed from the rain and we would see how much a room cost.  The price was not too bad, especially with us splitting the cost, so we checked in.  In the check in process, Sal secured for us the ability to put our clothes into the hotel’s clothes dryer.  We both showered and once again, I treated the damaged feet and I poured the rest of my Epsom Salts into 3-4 inches of water in the tub.  I don’t think Sal soaked his feet but I did for half hour and by that time Sal was sleeping soundly.  Sal is a guy, by the way.  I got our clothes in the dryer and set the time for one  hour, then I crashed.   We slept 3-4 hours and it felt great but hurt terribly to touch the feet back to the floor when I got up.  I again carefully dressed the feet and we made our way downstairs in dry clothes to hit the road again.   For some reason, I had left the Epsom salts in the tub and as we were walking out, we ran in to Dusty and Psyche who had checked into the hotel.  They looked like it hurt to walk and I offered them the salt bath, which they both accepted gladly.

We hit the road about 6PM towards Hohenwald.  This is one lonely stretch of road, especially at night.  3 different times I stepped over what had been a large live copperhead snake a few hours earlier.  Cars had killed these venomous monsters while they either crossed the road or were sunning themselves in the road and I had no idea if there were more of them crossing the road at any given moment.  2 different times, I stopped and snapped pictures of these beasts and kept my eyes open for additional ones.  Copperheads, unlike rattlesnakes who will warn you and really don’t want anything to do with people, are more aggressive and don’t give up their space real easily.   They are just plain mean. I didn’t see any live ones though.  Once again, Sal ran off and left me and as I ran on toward Hohenwald and I ran up and down big hills and as I was passing a side road, heard my name called out.  It was John Price and he had been attempting to sleep in someone’s driveway.  He decided to join me and we both headed out toward Hohenwald.  We stopped and rested in front of a church and I ate the rest of my pizza.  When we left I ran off and left him.  I got into Hohenwald about 2AM and saw a baseball field off to the right and thought I might sleep in the dugout but the gate was locked and then I found a gazebo across the street in front of the Vocational School.  I decided to tie the hammock to the posts and after I found an electrical breaker to turn off the blinding light, I slept pretty darn good.  Again, Brent, the hammock was the bomb!   I woke at 7AM, just in time to call Laz with my 3rd day report.  I was at mile 144 but I had only logged 36 miles in the 24 hour period, most of them soaked to the skin.   I was slipping and did not like it.

I moved on.  The sun came out hotter and hotter.  The big fluffy Cumulus clouds dominated the Tennessee sky and I thought “In the middle of personal torment, God will still give you beauty to behold”  I almost cried looking at what was before me.  The hills were extremely long, not steep but still worked me like a plowhorse getting to the top of them. In a bit, I saw a vehicle stopped in front of me and it turned out to be Laz, Carl, and Naresh and after a minute or two, I was allowed to unload 2-3 pounds of stuff I was carrying but didn’t need.  The rules are that you can dump something but you can’t have it back if you decide later that you need it.  I felt lighter.   Sometime around noon, I crossed the Natchez trace and as I sauntered on toward Columbia I noticed a campground on the left which appeared to be empty but, again, I heard my name called out.  It was John and he was standing in the door of the building and motioning me to come join him.  Turns out, he had talked the owner into feeding us.  Sherry and Richard were also there and for a half hour I got to sit in an air conditioned building and ate 2 big salads, washing them down with several refills of coke.  He charged us $2 each for these fine meals.  Angels on the road, that’s what that is.  At that point we were 10 miles from the halfway point of the race and directly in front of us, according to John was a 5 mile hill, then a big downhill, then another great big hill.  We took off and I felt much better with the belly full, so this time, I was the aggressor and moved all the way up the 5 mile hill at a fast walk.  I pulled away from the other 3 and pretty soon I was by myself.  Finally when I reached the top and started down the other side, I started running again.  I found that if I put my feet down just exactly the right way, it didn’t hurt hardly so bad.  Even though the downhill was violent, it felt better than it had before.  At the bottom of the hill, I saw signs for a fruit market in a mile or so and I began tasting fresh peaches, apples, bananas, anything, but by the time I got there, the big sign said CLOSED ON SUNDAY.  Well, just dash my hopes then.  A few miles later was the community of Hampshire and I stopped in at a small store, refilled the empty water and ate an ice cream sandwich, secured some more beef sticks and other goodies and met Sherry as I was leaving.  Directly across the street was a junk store and I thought it funny that they had a big sign advertising that they sold ELVIS HAIR.  Now I wish I had gotten me some Elvis hair to wear for the rest of the race.  That would have gathered some stares.

Immediately after Hampshire, I encountered the cat daddy of hills. It rose majestically in front of me and seemed to be at least a mile long, followed by a steep descent.  The hills from there on into Columbia were rolling and farmland lay on both sides of the road.  It was again, brutally hot and my water got low quickly.  I stopped at a house and filled the containers from a garden hose and all was well.  I had passed the halfway point and had positive energy before me.  I still cannot figure what took me so long to go such a short distance but as I approached Columbia, it was getting dark.  As I pulled my head lamp out of my pack, it refused to come on. Now it’s dark, I have several narrow bridges to cross and Columbia has a pretty bad gang related reputation.  I guess if I encounter them, I will use my dog scare tactics, get me a big stout stick.  When I got to the narrow bridges, I had to really scoot across and barely beat a car on one of them.  At the end of one of them, a car stopped and it was the man who fed us the salads back at the Natches Trace.  He gave me a big bottle of water and it tasted better than the water hose water.  I made it on into Columbia and stopped at a gas station to refuel with both food and water.  I ate a big sub sandwich and sat on the curb for a half hour or so and Sherry and Richard, who were probably 3-4 miles behind me showed up.  Then John came in and the 4 of us made the final 4 miles into town, past the courthouse and to the hotel.  I had been planning on sleeping on the front porch of a friend’s mobile home dealership  so I could charge my phone but as I got closer, I decided that my feet needed attention and I needed a bath.  Nobody wanted to split a room but they were not terribly expensive, so I got a room. It was 2AM and I was tired.  The bath felt great and the soft bed felt even better.  The next morning, I again dressed the feet with both ASEA and duct tape when I got up.  I had slept 6 hours and got up about 8AM.  I called Laz and made my 4th day report.  Mile 179 but again, a measly 35 miles for the period.  I vowed to myself this crap was not going to happen again.  I would run all night if I had to but I was not going to run less than 40 miles a day.  I still had 135 miles to go and it would take 45 miles per day to break 7 days.  I went into the continental breakfast area and ate 3 giant waffles loaded up with syrup and felt great.  As I was checking out, the desk clerk informed me that the others had left 2-3 hours before. 

I eased outside, back onto the feet, with my water all filled with icewater and headed east.  I saw a Dollar General but it was too far off the course to even consider (200 yards at most) so I hit the trail, more walking than running.  About 6 miles outside Columbia was the store with the Bench of Despair and I eyed it with distain as I walked into the store.  I passed on one of those great milkshakes but had me another of my newly discovered recovery drinks, Chocolate Milk and talked to the store owner a minute.  She told me that the other 3 had been by the store a couple hours earlier but were all moving slow and hurting.  I let her take my picture in front of the bench but no pictures sitting on it.  Then I moved on.  A few miles later, Culleoka came into view and again I took advantage of a bit of air conditioning and another chocolate milk before moving on again.  Then another store just before I crossed under I-65 where I refilled my water before crossing the interstate.

 Something happened when I crossed I-65, I felt a new life.  My feet still hurt like hell but I felt better and I picked up the pace.  The road crew was working on the road and only one side of the new 4 lane was open so I opted to run on the good side and stay off the uneven terrain. The road swept to the left in a curve and then as it went up the hill into Lewisburg back to the right in a sweeping s curve.  A car pulled up beside me and once again, it was Laz and Carl.  This time I was running much better.  I hate it that 2 times when they showed up, I was barely crawling but I’m sure they have seen much worse.  This time, I was stronger than Superman.  I slowed to talk a minute and as they left, I did too.  Up the hill and the terrain became difficult to run on, big rocky places, uneven ground, and some dirt but as I topped the hill, Lewisburg was in front of me.  I scooted down the hill, halfway hoping to see some helpless volstater in front of me that I could sprint past, acting like I had run this way the entire time.  Nobody was in sight.  As I passed the shopping center on the left, a woman was getting cash from a cash machine and I guess I looked homeless, she moved over until I ran past her, not asking for the handout that she was expecting from me.  I’m telling you, we were all a sorry, smelly looking bunch of people.  I moved on, crossed the bypass, the railroad and into the square and again, passed the Courthouse.  I was quite enjoying this courthouse business.  Just past the courthouse, I spied a Welch’s soda machine and my 60 cents got me one of the best tasting grape sodas that I had ever drank.  I almost sucked the bottom out of the can it tasted so good.  Around the curve and up the hill where you could see over the town and  I was again getting hungry and spied a Mexican Resturant on the right.  Now here is something I haven’t eaten on this journey, so in I go and ordered a big plate of 3 giant tacos, refried beans, and rice.  I told the waiter that he should seat me away from anybody because of my smell and told him why I smelled.  He put me in a corner and I immensely enjoyed my meal.  I felt so good that I left a $6 tip on a $9 meal.  The waiter was smiling to beat the band as I left to hit the road.

Going down the big hill and past another shopping center I spied John in front of me. He appeared to walk some then run some, and feeling pretty good, I soon caught him.  We walked/ran a bit before I decided to run again.  We were 20 miles from Shelbyville and we both were determined to not stop till we got there.  I moved on further in front for about 5 miles before coming to a store setting in a corner and stopped in to refill water and get snacks and by the time I was walking out, John pulled up.  The sky had been getting darker and a giant wall cloud was forming in the west and all of a sudden, the lightning bolts  were popping again.  It was certain that we were going to get wet, really wet, so we both decided to wait a bit under the overhang outside and see what was happening.  We used that opportunity to call Laz and report and I called Terri and talked a bit.  Then the rain did come and it came hard.  We were under a roof but the water was driven by the wind in on us and we both snuggled against the wall, me against the propane tanks with my cursed solar blanket wrapped around myself, John hid behind his umbrella until the wind ripped it out of his hand and luckily I just reached out and grabbed it as it flew by.  Eventually the rain stopped and we got back on the road.

We turned right on Hwy 64 to Shelbyville, or as the locals call it , Shebbyville, and the road was great, wide, gently rolling, dark and much cooler.  I felt good and decided that I could knock out the 15 remaining miles in 3 ½ hours, so I set my pace on 12-14 min miles and soon ran away from John.  With About 6 miles to go, I came upon Richard.  He was moving slow but he was indeed still moving.  That is the secret to Volstate, don’t waste time, keep moving.  Even a slow walk will get you another mile clicked off.  We talked for a bit and up ahead saw a store with a soda machine in front. As we got closer, our mouths started watering for a soda but, alas, when we got there, the thing was unplugged.  I plugged it in but the reason it was unplugged was that there was nothing in it.   We sat in rocking chairs on the porch and each ate a bag of peanuts ( I always had food with me) and decided to bust a move toward Shebbyville.  Richard said he was gonna walk some more and I still felt some zip, so I went on.  Only 6 miles till sleep.  Most of my training mornings, that is less than one loop around the Station Camp loop and takes about 40 minutes, however, most mornings I don’t have over 200 miles on my legs and carrying a heavy backpack either.  I maintained my 12-14 min pace for 3 miles and then suddenly got really tired, 3 miles to go and it was a walking pace, more like 18-19 minute per mile.  I climbed the hills which became a bit longer and stayed on target.  Just past a bridge over a creek or river on the right sat a fruit stand and it was one of those honor system stands.  Sitting outside on a big table were several baskets of big Navel oranges, and other fruit and Veggies.  The oranges were priced at $3 per basket and my mouth was watering like crazy for one of those oranges.  I grabbed 4 of the biggest ones and slid $2  in the money box and went on my way, peeling oranges like I was scratching a winning lottery ticket.  Man, did it taste good!  The juices tried to run down the sides of my mouth but no, I let none of it get away.  Then I ate another one, then another, then the last one.  I’m sure God put that fruit stand right there for me when I needed it.  I was about a mile or so from town and as I got into Shelbyville, the road turned left and my little map said the hotel was on the left next to Pepper street.  The only thing I saw was a fleabag looking place but I was so tired that it was perfectly ok.  I checked in, paid my $40 took a shower in an ancient bathroom, cleaned the still screaming feet, and crashed.  Before I went to sleep at 3AM  I knew that I would not be up before check-in time, so I texted to Carl that I was at mile 222 and had run 43 miles on day 5.  Better than 35.  Back on track.  92 miles to the rock. 

I woke at 8AM, dressed the feet and headed out to the middle of town for my near pass by of the Shebbyville Courthouse and the old men already congregating on the steps and benches looked at me as if I were a space alien.  I went on by and shortly found a little store just as I went out of town on the right where I reloaded with water and bought some more snacks.  Back on the road and I left Shelbyville behind, heading toward the mighty town of Wartrace.  The 10 miles to Wartrace was hot with big clouds in the sky but mostly sun.  The heat was unbearable but every now and then, one of those big clouds would wave it’s hand in front of Mr Sun and give me a couple minutes relief.  I was still pretty beaten and about 7 miles out of Shelbyville I was wobbling in the road so I found me a little place just across an electric fence wire where I bedded down under a tree for an hour or so.  Everytime I took a sleep break, I slept like a baby and within an hour, I was refreshed and ready to go again.  As I came into Wartrace and stopped at a store on the right, I got one of those frozen drinks like an Icee and sat in a chair by the window, charging my phone and eating the Icee thing with a spoon (to avoid an ice cream headache), then ate a pretty good hamburger before taking a pic of myself with the owner’s son.  When I asked for water, the owners, who had eyed me with suspicion the entire time I was in there, told me I could get water from the spigot outside.  Another funny note:  when I was eating the Icee, I sat in a chair with my legs laying across another chair and he came by and started putting the chairs upon the tables, including the rest of the chairs around me and actually asked me to take my feet off the other chair and put it on the table top, fencing me in.  I offered to get up so he could put my freakin chair on the table too and he said I could stay there.  I think I will bypass his damn store next year when I run this thing, even if I am starving.  I spent about $10 with him, but again, I guess I looked like a homeless bum.

 I went on past the famed Walking Horse Hotel, turned right, then right again to follow part of the Strolling Jim Course.  As I left Wartrace, the terrain became much more up and down.  It is amazing how much different Tennessee can look in a matter of a mile.  Just past the writing on the road where Mike Melton had written 2 months earlier for the Strolling Jim runners “This is Not a Hill”, some turdhead in a car hit me directly in the middle of the back with a Sonic route 44 cup full of ice and some drink.  It made me mad and as he “hit and run” away from me like the coward he was, I notated his license number and obtained a mental image of the car, just in case I might run into it parked at a house somewhere on my way to Manchester.  I told Carl what I had planned for him, that cannot be repeated in these pages.  I got over it pretty quick though and moved on before turning left onto the road Laz used to live on.  This must be where he picked up some of his demented mind, because this road was crazy, it started out ok but pretty soon, I passed a goat farm and 2 big Great Pyreneese  that wanted to eat me if they had gotten out of their goat fence.  They cussed me greatly (in dog language) (I could tell, I know dog cussing when I hear it) but I had the last laugh because I was outside the fence and then I started up the hill which went on forever, and forever, winding here and there.  There was an old chicken house on the right part of the way up the hill and I thought that might make a good place to sleep next year if I find myself needing a nap in these parts.  I’ll bet a man would have no problem rustling up a copperhead or a rattlesnake just getting through the brush to the chicken house though.  Maybe that’s why there are no chickens clucking over there, maybe the snakes got em. I had tried to call Terri when I started up the hill but the Laz curse was everywhere, even in phone service. I finally got her on the phone when I came out of the woods at the top and just barely after I got her, another cursing came at me.  Someone’s BIG pit bull decided that I had no right to pass by his house without permission and I was not going to ask permission.  While my wife was on the phone, this animal came within about 6 inches of me with a slobbering mouth and glistening teeth.  I had no time to find a stout stick so I grabbed my water bottle by the neck end and got ready.  He wanted me bad, and I dared him to bite me, or try to.  I kept saying, “come on buddy, you want some of me?  Come on, I dare you” hoping that would keep him at bay.  I think he thought about it, but I probably smelled so bad that he thought I must be a wild man that could take down cougars with my bare hands.  Anyway, it scared Terri pretty bad, but her hero stood up to Big Bad Pit Bull and he finally figured out that he wasn’t gonna win this fight.  I went on, right in a hard curve to the left was an old store with a soda machine on the porch and after the energy I expended bluffing my way past the dog, I needed a soda, but as I got near it, there was no power to the machine.  Dejected, but used to it by now, I moved on.  At least I had my sweetheart on the phone.  Finally we hung up and I made my way a mile or so later where a Campground appeared on my left.  Right beside the pool was a building was, guess what, a soda machine, and it was plugged in.  I had a soda and some snacks and took a small break on a picnic table.

 I got back on the road to where 16th something road merged into Hwy 41 and headed toward Manchester.  I headed on into town, stopping to refill with water and get a bit to eat, calling Carl (Laz had broken his phone) to report my location and kept moving.  I made it to the truck stop just past where Hwy 41 crosses the I-24 and started getting tired.  I stopped in the truck stop and had some food.   Carl had told me that the road between Manchester and the bottom of Monteagle hill was tough in the daytime and that many try to run it at night, so that Is what I decided to do.  I decided to find a place to sleep a bit then get up at 2:30 or so and run to Monteagle.  Just barely past the truck stop was a Nisan Dealership and as I passed, I noticed a vehicle display in front.  There was a new 4 wheeled drive truck on a ramp which was sitting on the hood of an old car.  Hmm, I thought, that might be a good place to catch a nap, and , since the sky was beginning to look like rain, would be dry.  I tried the door and it was unlocked.  This was a junkyard car with no dashboard and dirty, so I was certain that I was not going to hurt it so I crawled into the back seat pulled off the pack and my shoes and socks and crashed.  The car was not the most comfortable sleep I had but it was not bad.  I laid down about 10:30 and at 2:30 my internal clock went off and after doctoring the feet with ASEA and duct tape, I was off again.  I had some sticky candy stuff all over my pants where some kid had dropped candy in the back seat and I had laid in it.

 I had 25 miles or so to Monteagle and I thought I could make it to the top of the mountain by 10AM, check into a room, get a bath, 5 hours sleep, then hit the road toward the Rock by 5:30 PM and still break the 7 day mark.  The road was smooth, long easy hills, not a lot of traffic and part of it was walk and part run.  Fairly quickly, I arrived in Hillsboro and a little store was just opening so I stopped in and got a sausage biscuit and a chocolate milk.  Back on the road and there was another dog incident, this time it was 2 big dogs and they crossed the road, one in front of me and one in back.  These dogs knew how to take down prey.  They circled me, barking viciously, and each getting closer by the second.  Again, with no time to find a stout stick, my Pit Bull scaring water bottle came out.  I think they smelled the fear I put into the heart of the pit bull and did not come but within 15 or so feet from me, one on each side.  I played the same game with them, but I was defending front and back this time.  I eventually put the fear of wild man who smells like hell into them and they decided to go kill a mountain lion or something.  I went on, hardly having broken a sweat.  As the sun came up, I could see the monster mountain that I was about to have to climb, but it was still a long way off.  Hwy 41 was getting closer to I-24 and I was getting closer to Monteagle.  I pulled into the community of Pelham and made my  morning phone call to carl reporting that I was at mile 264 and had run 42 miles in the last 24 hours.  50 miles to the rock, and I had 24 hours to do it, heck anybody can run 50 miles in 24 hours!

I stopped at a restaurant in Pelham and got a sausage Biscuit and apologized to the waitress for smelling so bad and told her what I was doing.  She said, “Honey, you don’t smell half as bad as some of these pig farmers who come in here smelling like pig s—t”.  I thought that was the funniest thing I had heard all day.  But it was probably the only thing I had heard from a human all day.  I ate and moved on toward the mountain which I was told was 6 miles away.  New life sprang into me but I also wanted to hit the hill and the shade before the hot sun came out, so I ran that 6 miles in about an hour 20 minutes and reached the bottom of the mountain just as the sun got hot.  The road went up just a bit, then turned toward the left and off into a southern Tennessee mountain.  I walked/ran all the way and only stopped twice, once to look over the edge when I got to the power lines near the top and the second time was when a State Policeman blue lighted me to ask what I was doing.  We chatted a bit until a car came up behind him and his last words were “Be safe”  I moved on upwards and stopped and took a picture of the totem pole on the left.  When I got to the top, I immediately crossed a yard and headed straight for the nearest motel.  The kind lady put me in a room on the bottom floor and matter of fact, she gave me a handicapped room which was great about getting in and out of the bathtub.  I was beat, but starving and made my way after check in, across the parking lot to the nearest restaurant, a McDonalds.  In my opinion, there is nothing hardly worth eating at Mickey Dees but it was 200 feet closer than the Sonic and I did not want to walk any further than absolutely necessary.  I ordered a burger and a drink and devoured it before heading back across the parking lot.  The hot bath felt awesome, I treated my aching feet with ASEA and once I laid down in the bed, I immediately fell fast asleep.  It was 10:30 AM.

I woke at 5:30 PM and immediately dressed the nasty feet and got my stuff together and started outside.  Just passing the hotel was Sherry and I ran her down, offering my room to her so she could get some rest, which she accepted.  Again, I was on my way to the Rock.  Just past the hotel, I stopped in a Drugstore to get some final snacks and a new headlamp since mine had died.  All I could find was a $10 flashlight and figured that would have to do. (Those 16 hour batteries in it died about 2AM).  I was on my way again.  I called Terri and after a few minutes walking into town, I made a wrong turn, but figured it out pretty fast and then turned around and headed toward Tracy City instead of back toward the Interstate.  She and I talked a bit then I hung up and headed out for the last frontier.  I made my 7:30 PM call to report that I was at mile 278 and had twelve hours to run the final 36 miles.  I told Laz that I would be in under 7 hours.  As I came into Tracy City, I stopped for a chocolate milk and asked how far it was to the top of the hill going over to Jasper and the lady quickly told me 6 miles.  I headed toward Jasper and just a mile or so down the road ran into Joshua who was driving home. He had finished 2nd overall in a little over 5 ½ days.  We talked a few minutes  and we both went on our way.  As I left Tracy City, darkness started to fall.  I was getting pretty good at judging distance without my Garmin and as I arrived at close to what I thought should have been 6 miles, the road never did start down the big hill.  I grew frustrated pretty quickly watching cars go by me and as they went away, I could see that I was nowhere close to the downhill.  Again and again this happened and I just knew I had traveled more than 6 miles.  I found out later that this distance was actually 13-14 miles.  Wow, hardly a 6 mile jaunt.  What it really meant was that I was 7 miles closer to the Rock than I thought I was.  Just before I did arrive at the beginning of the downhill, I was thinking that I had made a wrong turn somewhere and was lost.  Now, I have run almost 300 miles  and gotten lost.  I was mad.  There were no road signs and as I came to an old store, I sat down in the ditch and had me a little pity party.  As I sat there, I decided to just go on and see what was ahead and within a mile I arrived at the top of the mountain. Imagine my relief when suddenly the road dipped violently in front of me, I was so excited that I ran the entire 3 mile downhill (off Monteagle Mountain) in 26 minutes, by far my fastest run of the race. I got into Jasper and within a couple miles I was passing the courthouse on my left, then made a right to head toward Kimball.  I was tired and getting thirsty and just past the turn saw a bench in front of a bail bond store.  Almost immediately, a car pulled up and some guy with a nervous twitch leaned out the window asking me if I needed him.  Then I realized that I was in front of a bail bondsman and told him no.  He drove off.  I went on to the south and very shortly found a Fred’s with a  soda machine out front and I rewarded myself with a cold one.  Back on the road and I made it on into Kimball.  I was hungry again and decided to get me some waffle house.  When I went in, nobody even acknowledged my presence.  I sat down, took off my pack, and sat there, and sat there.  Nobody was terribly busy but I never was waited on, so I just got myself up and walked out, going to the convenience store next door to get junk food instead.  Laz called me to see where I was and I told him I was ready to cross the interstate.  He said that I had a sub 7 day in the bag.  I went on, crossed under I-24 and into South Pittsburg.

 The bypass goes into  town but I was supposed to get off at the first exit in order to get on the bridge to cross the Tennessee river.  I didn’t get off the bypass and when I got underneath the road and could see the River Bridge in the morning light, I had to make a quick decision.  Either I had to turn around and go back ½ mile and get on the right road or climb the bank and get up on top of the road.  I decided to do the climbing and as I scaled the big rocks and got closer to the top, I found myself entering a mess of big briars.  Wow.  I waded in and big briars grabbed me all over, my legs, my clothes, my head.  Then there was a fence that I had to cross in the middle of the briars.  I went on, carefully, because briars digging into the skin hurt real bad.  I climbed up on the fence, put a foot into the square opening and put the other foot over the side but had no place to put my foot because the other on was in it’s way.  Also there was a giant 5 foot long briar that had ahold of me from the bottom of the backpack to the top of my head.  I finally got it loose and shifted my feet so I could get over the other side, wobbling all over the place, and gently eased down into hell on the other side.  It was scary thinking that I could slip and fall off the fence at any moment, crashing into those mean briars.  I made it through and crossed the guardrail up onto the highway with a river bridge directly in front of me.  I crossed the bridge and eased on down the road toward the Rock.  I went through some pretty good little hills and passed a pallet company on the right which had such a strong oak smell that even today, I can still almost smell it, a junky little trailer park, and came into a little community called New Hope and passed their city hall which was no more than a garage with a bench in front and a red door.  2 or 3 more hills later and I crossed the railroad, heading up a hill, then a left and down a hill where the railroad once again came up beside my road and Laz called me again, to make sure I was still good.  He wanted to make sure that I did not miss the turn into Alabama and as we talked, I came upon Hwy 377.  He laughed and told me that I had 6 miles to go and I had a “slight grade” to climb. 

The first 2 miles up sand Mountain is straight up, no relief.  Within a mile, there is a lookout and I was amazed that I had climbed so high in only a mile.  Twisting, turning, climbing, I made it to the top of the mountain in about 3 miles and after another mile I was on a more gently rolling surface, I turned left onto a county road and had 2 miles left to get to the Rock.  It was almost like Laz had everything planned for misery, the road was paved but the pavement was not rolled, which made it lumpy, kinda like cobblestone. On terrified feet?  Oh my!  What pain!  With 2 miles to go.  The fog was lifting and in the short distance I could see the castle towers that guard the farm.  As I crossed into Georgia and down the paved driveway, I felt great joy.  I was almost there.  I turned into the field, up a hill and through the mud and turned left at the big electric line and oak tree and made my way through the corn field.  I learned later that a couple runners had gotten lost in the corn maze and it took one over an hour to find his way out.  I had watched the corn maze pretty good when we left earlier and I knew where to go, so I made my way through the corn and into the woods.  ½ mile to go!  The limbs hung over the path and as I was brushing one aside, a big briar grabbed my finger tearing the finger and bringing blood and I went on.  Around a curve, another corner, and there it was, my silver truck and directly past it was THE ROCK!!!!! 

I was full of joy, thanking God for getting me through this terror filled adventure.  As I approached the Rock, Laz was there waiting and he made me slow down, making sure that when I got on the Rock I didn’t slip. One foot past the Rock was a 400 foot drop, sure to cause major bodily harm.  After finishing, I was allowed to sit in the King’s chair under the tent, because as Laz says, everybody who finishes is a King, you’re just not THE KING.  I sat for a few minutes and Laz, who is a man of few words of praise, told me, “Charlie, you are one tough guy.  If you could work on your pacing strategies, you would cut your time a lot.”  That meant a whole lot to me. Then he asked me if I was planning on writing one of my race reports on the run.  Boy, was I gonna write a race report! 

 Just the satisfaction of completing such a brutal multi-day race, one  that very few people would ever, or even could finish was phenominal.  My final time was 6 days 22 hours 56 minutes and some seconds and I finished 9th overall.  Richard, John, and Jay had each finished just a bit more than 2 hours ahead of me and if I had not taken such a long sleep break in Monteagle, I would have probably beaten them all.  There were still 6 runners on the road.  I heard later that I had been pegged as one who probably wouldn’t make it past Dresden.  That’s ok, I’m in sales.  I have very thick skin.  I love it when people doubt my toughness.  My dad and my High School Cross Country coach (the legendary Gordon Bocock) both taught me to be tough and not give up. Other than a few fleeting moments in the race, I didn’t even consider quitting.  My last day’s total was 50 miles with a grand total of 314 miles in less than seven days.

I went to my truck, took off my wet clothes and changed into something dry-took those nasty socks off my trashed feet, treated them with ASEA again, and got into my truck and drove away.  On the way down the mountain, I literally had to hold my eyes open with my fingers to keep from going to sleep.  I drove to Kimball, got a sausage and biscuit and parked the truck in the Walmart parking lot and slept 2 hours before getting on I-24 and driving the 170 miles back home.  I got home about 11 AM, took a shower and fell into MY bed until Terri got off work around 6:30 to wake me.  What a day!!

Now the part about ASEA:  My friend Ron had talked me into starting to use the product.  I had my 54 mile performance at Run Under The Stars (RUTS) without no pain and now I have run 314 miles in less than 7 days and MY BODY DOES NOT HURT!!!  I am SOLD!  I had carried 6 – 8 oz pouches of ASEA with me, drinking one per day and using some of it to doctor my feet, 2-3 oz in the morning and the same in the evening.  Since this is a cellular/molecular rejuvenating product, you can use it on injuries and it will work on the cells to help you heal faster.  The feet got progressively better after day 3 and by day 5, I was taping them less, even less by day 6, and so on.  Every day, I would have 8 ounces less to carry, but when I started volstate, I decided to see if the RUTS race was a fluke  and see if it really worked.  I really do not think I could have completed this race without ASEA!  Especially the shape my feet were in by day 3.  I decided immediately after volstate to go all in and get fully involved with helping others obtain the benefit that I had received.  My website is and there is much information and videos there to explain better than I can what ASEA can do for you.  There are also business opportunities there.   Because there are so many possibilities with ASEA in healing the body and increasing the endurance levels, I believe this will be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the century. Anybody can benefit from the product, it helps the body to heal itself.  I had a bad cut on my finger and only sprayed ASEA on it and it healed much faster than I normally heal.  Best part is that if you buy a case and you think it is not what they say it is, save your 4 bottles and send them back and ASEA will refund your money!  Check it out.  This is real!                                                                                                                         

What would I do different?  I would pack a bit lighter.  I didn’t have too much extra stuff, mainly the water filter but I believe I could drop 2-3 lbs from the pack.  I originally thought about not filling the 100 oz bladder at the start and waiting until I needed it, but with the best I could do, it takes about 15 minutes to stop and get water.  I would follow my original plan to run 40 miles or so the first day, then find a cool place to sleep through the heat of the day, and crank it back up at 5Pm, running until 11AM the next day, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Running in the daytime heat is tough.  Of course, there are no stores open in the middle of the night, the reason for carrying the water filter.  I could have pushed myself a little longer every day, 10 extra miles per day would have taken an extra day off the run.  I could have handled that.  I should have stopped and doctored the feet much sooner.  The blisters were bad partially because I did not take care of the hot spots and toe blisters early on.  I guess I thought they would go away.  I would have run a bit more when I was walking, which would have moved me forward more and allowed me more rest time.  Of course, if I had treated the blisters, I could have run more.

What did I do right?  I was ready for carrying the backpack.  I had probably run at least 150 miles with 18 lbs hanging on my back and quite a bit of it was in the heat.  I had the right backpack, an Inov8 with some cool little extras like a bottle holder on each side of my chest and a pouch in the middle making stuff easier to access and holding the pack together better.  I had plenty of great music and teaching on my Ipod, which helped me keep my mind on what I was doing.  Deciding to get on board with ASEA and making the plunge to carry 6 – 8 oz packs with me.  3 extra pounds, but it made a BIG difference.  Telling as many people as I could that I was going to run Volstate made it impossible to back out as the race drew nearer.  My wife and kids were behind me all the way, which means an awful lot.  Terri, your support was priceless!  Thank you.

Will I run Volstate again?  Absolutely!  I’m already making plans to be on the ferry next July (but I will finish a lot faster than I did this year.

Advice for anyone wanting to run Volstate.  You really cannot train for this kind of race, of course you need to have put in a lot of miles and have run in the heat, but the biggest training is training your mind.  You have to focus on what you are doing, plan on the race starting in Missouri and finishing in Georgia and not let yourself think any differently.  Don’t even let yourself think about quitting.  Start getting your stuff together as early as possible and look at it often, and anticipate the race, securing your victory in your mind.  If you are scared of dogs or the dark or of unknown things, work now on getting over it, it will just be a hindrance when you are out there on the road and you are beaten to a pulp.  Ask for advice from others who have done this and put your own race plan together, nobody runs it alike.  John, Richard, Jay and I finished 2 hours apart and we hardly saw each other, so we were all doing different things.  Allow yourself to do it, then do it.  Don’t worry about stinking, we all stink.  Matter of fact, one of the things Laz texted all of us about day 4 “Come run Volstate, where you get to live like a stray dog for a week”.

See you all on the Ferry next year

Charlie T



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5 Responses to “2012 Volstate 500K Race Recap – Charlie Taylor”

  1. Betcha all havent seen a 14,000 word race recap in a while, Enjoy!


  1. […] Charlie Taylor’s Vol State 500K Race Report (2012) […]

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