One Mutant’s Last Annual Vol State 500K Race Report (2012)

Vol State: A Tale of Regeneration and Falling Forward 1,657,920 Feet

The Intro

Every dreaded race report has more I’s than an optometrist’s office the day after a solar eclipse.   So I want to start this race report with ‘we‘.  We did it!  That we encompasses many people including family and friends that made sacrifices of varying levels to help me perform at a very high level over several days.

I must start with my wonderful wife and children who let me sacrifice my body and time for a second straight summer running/hobbling/crawling/walking along my beautiful home state of Tennessee.  They were in California for the week for my wife’s high school reunion and to visit family.  While far away, their sacrifice was close to my heart and my thoughts of them fueled me throughout as to make sure the time away from my family was not wasted or without direction.

My crew was amazing! I truly admire all the runners who do the race without a crew, but I’m very thankful to mine and what big of an asset they were to me during those days.  I can’t thank Mikki Trujillo enough for anchoring my crew and being with me throughout the entire journey. She was extremely mature, professional, and on top of everything I needed at all the right times.

She was joined throughout the race by several close friends who helped crew me through some of the toughest stretches and longest nights.  Jonathan Harrison helped for the second year in a row. He helped the first night as I marched towards my ambitious goal of reaching Lexington within the first 30 hours. We were able to do this in less than 23 hours thanks to the work Jonathan and Mikki did in taking care of me throughout that first night.

The next two nights Mikki was joined by my good friend and former Vol State 500K finisher Naresh Kumar.  Naresh wasn’t afraid to jump right in and help my feet feel better.  He was a great encourager and is one of my best running friends. The help he was able to provide during the next two nights was crucial as I survived some of the longer and tougher sections of the race.

Naresh was joined by college friends Kirk Catron and Scott Flowers on Saturday night as Mikki retreated to the hotel for rest. This was vital as a fresh crew is just as important as a fresh runner. Their company lifted my spirits and drove me through some very tough and painful miles.  I looked forward to each time I’d approach the crew vehicle to exchange stories with them and reminisce on yesteryears.  During this time I was very thankful for high school friend Jennifer Morrison driving to meet us shy of Columbia to help with laundry and truly keep us ‘fresh.’ I truly appreciate the sacrifices all of you made, and I will never forget them.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I hate writing race reports.  I don’t believe I’ve written one since last year’s Vol State 500K race report.  It’s kind of like covering the Super Bowl then being asked to report on your local high school football team’s Jamboree victory.  That’s how I feel about writing race reports since the one I wrote after my first Vol State finish last year.  Don’t get me wrong, many people enjoy and love race reports. I just can’t really muster the energy to discuss a 26.2 mile race. “I ran really hard and then there was a turn and a water stop and I started to have a negative split until I hit that last water stop.”  It all seems mundane after 314 miles through Tennessee in crazy conditions with some of the most interesting mutants on the planet.

This race report won’t be as detailed as last year’s race report.  I had less time to take photos and take in everything.  I don’t want to bore everyone by repeating too much from last year anyway. If you want to read last year’s massive Vol State 500K race report then you can by clicking HERE (300+ photos, 11,000+ words).

The Last Annual Vol State 500K is a race that gets in your blood like a bad virus once you get on the ferry in Dorena Landing, Missouri, and it never leaves your system.  I dreamed of it for weeks after the race was over last year. I’d even be moving my legs in my sleep as if the race never ended. In some ways it never did.  Not many days passed since finishing last year that I didn’t think about the race.

So you might have thought it would be an automatic that I’d enter the race once again this year.  Not true! It’s a brutal race that taxes you in ways that you would never wish on your worst enemy.  I decided one week before the race this year to do it again.  I had it in the back of my brain for months before, but I was unwilling to commit to it.  I knew that if I did I’d be more aggressive than last year and take more chances.  Last year I finished in 8 days and 7 minutes. My goal for 2012 was to finish in the 6-day range and at best take two days off my time from last year.

I felt like if I could get it under 6 days that I’d have a chance at winning, but it was never my focus. I knew I could only control my performance and effort.  The race is too long to worry about your competition and what they are doing.  In the last 24-36 hours of the race you can start to think about placement if you’ve worked hard to put yourself in a good position at that point.

Not everyone will be able to finish this race.  You know it when you get on the ferry to start the race. The first year Laz said, “Look to the person on your left and right. Only one, maybe two of you will finish this race.”  I felt sorry for the person to my left and right.  I never have thought about not finishing Vol State. It requires too much effort. But then, I never think about the finish either.

I just focus on the next step. I break everything down into extremely small races within the race.

Vol State is a race where you are a hero if you are able to finish it. You are respected for just starting it.  If you are close to the leader in the last 72 miles then you might start to think about winning it or holding another runner off for placement. If you think too much about it early on then you will be the one knocked out of the race.

Day 1: Dorena Landing/Hickman, KY to Lexington, TN – Miles 1-92

Two nights before the race I booked my first planned stop/hotel room in Lexington at mile 92 of the race. I wasn’t going to stop or go down for sleep until reaching mile 92.  I had written out a loose yet aggressive plan that had me arriving in Lexington at 10:30am on Friday morning…27 hours after the start.

Due to good weather (mid 80’s) I was able to run well the first day and throughout the night at a nice pace.

Jonathan Harrison showed up around sunset to help Mikki crew me throughout the night and keep me strong. They worked exceptionally well as a team.

The last 10 miles from Parker’s Crossroads to Lexington was a bit slow and painful, but I pulled into Lexington at mile 92 at 6:16am. I had the lead at the 7:30am checkin on Friday as I started to rest and recover at the hotel. I didn’t care about the lead, but I was pleased to have reached Lexington so quickly. I knew it would enable me to sleep/be off my feet for a bit longer and put me back on the road ahead of schedule.

So I had the first 92 miles done in 22 hours and 59 minutes – roughly.

The stop at the hotel in Lexington was my first hotel of 2012 Vol State.  The hotel in Lexington last year was my third hotel of the race…to put it in perspective.

Eventual winner Daniel Fox said he thought I went too far to start. Maybe, maybe not! I did what felt good at the time. I actually regret not going further before going down for sleep. I only slept about 3 hours roughly when I did crash in Lexington. I was off my feet for about 6-7 hours if I remember correctly. It wasn’t easy to sleep….a trend that would continue til the end.

Day 2: Lexington, TN to Hohenwald, TN – Miles 92-140

The hotel I stayed at in Lexington was about 2 miles from where I stopped to come in for rest. So once we had the car packed up I thought I’d be moving on foot again in about 5 minutes. Well perhaps the odds were against my restart because it was standstill traffic for those 2 miles. It took about 45 min to get back to where I had stopped. Valuable time wasted sitting in a car. Finally, I was back on the road and started a slow walk from Lexington towards the river.

I wasn’t sure how far I’d make it after putting down 92 miles just a few hours ago. It was hot starting back. I can’t remember if I had on my ice hat or not. I just started plodding away. Soon I realized my crew was lost or perhaps had decided to quit and return to society as a normal human being. My bottle went dry, the miles became longer, until finally I got ahold of Mikki on the cellular phone. She had stopped at the Walgreens but upon getting back on 412 she went West instead of East.  She is originally from Colorado, perhaps she was trying to flee towards home. Eventually she found me, refilled my bottles, had a Subway sandwich for me to fuel up on, and I was quickly on my way again after a fast change of socks.

Shortly after I came up behind Jay Dobrowalski. We talked for a bit. Jay was strong and was pushing on. Soon after walking and talking with Jay I came upon Daniel Fox coming out of a little store where he had been refueling.  He wasn’t very talkative, but I persisted to talk for a bit knowing we’d likely not see each other again until afte the race was over.  You would have thought the sky was falling according to Dan. He talked about how horrible his day had been going, and that he didn’t know what he had left moving forward. He would go on to become King Dan. At this point though he was King Sandbagger but I knew that. I had done my research before the race. I knew he was a very strong runner and had done extremely well two years ago uncrewed. I knew he was being a sly Fox towards me and perhaps for good reason. He likely didn’t know a thing about me except that I had just put down 92 miles and had the lead after Day 1. I was feeling good though and was running at this time so I wished him luck and kept on.

My crew was waiting for me at mile 100. Jay and Dan were 500 yards or so behind me. I waited on them so we could get a ceremonial mile 100 photo together. I knew after this point the runners would really start to spread out, and I’d likely not see two other competitors at the same time again.  This turned out to be true.

I felt good after mile 100, and I ran well into Parsons. I saw fellow Run It Fast Club member Nathan Judd as he shouted at me from his car.  It’s always good to be shouted at or yelled at during this race even from people you don’t know.  It gives you a jolt, wakes you up, and makes you feel like someone is paying attention to what you are doing or, someone is about to shoot you.

I continued to move on towards the Tennessee River. My good friend and Vol State alumnus Naresh Kumar joined Mikki to help crew as I was nearing the river. When I finally made it to the river we all stopped for a photo before I crossed.  It’s always a significant milestone crossing that river the first time. It signals to me that the first part of the race is over….113 miles in the bag. Roughly 20 or 21 miles since I restarted back in Lexington.

The goal after the river becomes Linden which is at mile 125.  The miles from the river to Linden are very dark and lonely. It was after a bit before midnight, and it was just me and the road and an occasional bat that would fly towards my headlamp.

I don’t remember much about the march towards Linden. I do believe I was moving well and running a good bit. When I stopped around mile 126 on the east side of Linden I remember another car pulling up and stopping. The man got out to ask what we were doing. Naresh or Mikki explained to him about the race. His wife was waiting patiently in the car for him. He went on to give us religious pamphlets about the end of the world or perhaps the upcoming revival at his church. It must be pointed out that it was about 3 or 4am when this took place. Weird, odd…Vol State!

Upon leaving Linden it somehow gets even darker as you cross the low lying bridge that is like walking the long green mile before the big hills slap your hammys awake.  But unlike last year, it was dark, cooler, and I marched onward, upward, and downward into the abyss.

As I came to the fork in the road around mile 128 that turns into Old Coon Creek Road (412) I met Naresh and Mikki at the gas station there. They were waiting on me, and I was glad. My feet were hurting and a blister was rubbing me from having put down 128 miles in the past 43 hours or so. Naresh went to work on my feet and did a great job. I might have changed shoes. My feet were in a good bit of pain. However, I got right back on the road as quickly as possible. I knew I was going to Hohenwald and the quicker I got there, the quicker I could get off my feet and rest. However, I didn’t know how hard those miles would become or how deep I’d dig to cover them.

I also wasn’t expecting an injury to happen…at least how it did. I debate now whether to even mention it here in print.  But Vol State is about the highs and the lows. It’s a race where you can be flying high to have it all of a sudden end in the dumps….literally.  I guess it was around mile 133 when I asked Naresh for the wet wipes, a ziplock bag and about a 5 minute head start before they packed up and passed me.  That’s a code even the French could break. So I walked on up the road, turned my lamp off, and went for a squat there in the middle of the road. All went well until I stood up….I’m not sure what I did but I did something to the back of my knee. It was extremely uncomfortable and immediately turned my thoughts to whether I could finish the race with over 170 miles remaning.  The moral of the story is that even a supported runner shouldn’t take unsupported squats. The lesson was painful, but it was not forgotten the rest of the way.

So the back of the knee issue along with the bruised and blistered feet made the miles longer and kept Hohenwald a good distance away. I wanted to get to mile 144 in Hohenwald where the hotel was located. The miles were becoming very slow and painful. I was averaging 23 minute miles from mile 135-140.  The last two miles I was walking 40 feet then sitting in the middle of the road for 10 seconds before getting back up to walk 40 more feet….sit down, repeat.

I learned from last year that it’s often better to head to the ‘house’ and get rest than put down horrible, slow, painful miles. Go rest, recharge, and come back and do the miles faster and with less pain.  I didn’t make it to mile 144 like I wanted to. I told Naresh it was time to call it for then and go get some rest. So I went to the hotel in Hohenwald with 140 miles done. It was about 6:30am. I had the lead in the race, and I knew when I returned to the road I wouldn’t have it. I was exhausted, spent, and didn’t really see how I could get back up off the mattress and finish this race. I knew I would….I just knew it would be at a horrible pace and be very painful.

Day 3: Hohenwald, TN to Columbia, TN – Miles 140-175

I tried to sleep in Hohenwald. I was extremely exhausted and spent yet the sleep wouldn’t come. I was shivering from the muscle rub (Ben Gay) as the AC hit it and the shooting pains in my legs were a constant buzz that made it clear that sleep wouldn’t likely happen.

But it was time off my feet and often that is all mutants need.  Vol State started this year with 24 of us from all across the globe. All the starters drain everything from their bodies until they curl up on the road in a ball of exhaustion, then they get up off the asphalt after regenerating and continue their kamikaze march towards Castle Rock.  The strongest of the mutants make it to The Rock. Those that don’t make it to The Rock aren’t failed by their bodies, but their minds.

So I started back upon leaving the hotel only to be lambasted by a big rain storm. Mikki found me so I could sit in the car and hopefully wait for it to pass. It continued for 30 minutes until I decided I’d rather be back at the hotel to use the restroom and lay across the bed to wait it out.  I ran into Laz and Carl back at the hotel. They were checking in and they looked exhausted. It’s not easy to be in charge of an event of this magnitude. Laz and Carl do an amazing job of checking in on the runners over the course of 314 miles.  It was good to spend some time talking with them. They informed me that I was now in 5th place.

Finally, the rain eased up and I started back once again. Naresh and Mikki did a good job of making sure I was ready to hit the road for Columbia. The delay had cost me some valuable ‘awake’ time and energy, but it was smart to avoid the beat-down and misery of moving in that monsoon.

I put down maybe 5 miles, enough to get clear of the Hohenwald city limits, when the skies opened up once again. I was out in the open, exposed, no where to hide, but thankfully it was campaign season. I steped over into the ditch under the tree, grabbed a congressional campaign sign and held it over my head.  I thought for sure my crew would find me and give me an umbrella or something, but not this time.  So I just stood there in the ditch with my sign.

My crew finally returned with an umbrella. One that likely came with a Barbie Doll. It was better than nothing so I marched forward with my mini-brella.  I had a couple of good college friends, Kirk Catron and Scott Flowers, coming to help crew and relieve Mikki who was exhausted. She had been working her butt off and had needed sleep.

It was a beautiful sunset as the rain lifted. I was looking forward to seeing Kirk and Scott and appreciated them coming down to help (even though Kirk wouldn’t touch my feet). ;)  I’d meet them every 3-4 miles when I’d change socks and doctor my feet. It was a good mental break to talk to them about things not related to running. Naresh eventually caught up and joined them.  The miles from Hohenwald towards Columbia wer not easy. I just kept pushing forward and tried to minimize the time with my crew to keep a good pace.

My feet were aching and I was tired around mile 163 so I told Naresh I was going to sit in his car for a bit. I had hoped to fall asleep but I didn’t.  I’ve never slept in a car during Vol State. Uncrewed runners think there is some advantage for crewed runners sleeping in their crew car but I’ve yet to.  After about 20 minutes I returned to the road and towards Columbia.

The miles into Columbia were slow and painful. After the race, Kirk told me that he thought I was done and didn’t see how I’d be able to finish the race. I just needed a hotel and finally after almost 14 hours after leaving Hohenwald I reached Columbia at mile 175. It was roughly about 7am and at the day 3 call-in I had 175 miles and was in 4th place behind Dan (179), Paul (179), and Juli (177).

The ritual at the hotel is not a quick one. It’s an ice bath, followed by a shower, then a foot soak in Epsom Salt, followed by blister/foot care. It takes time and delays sleep or the possibility of it, but it seems to work for me (or either I’m just superstitious).

Day 4: Columbia, TN to Shelbyville, TN – Miles 175-221

I always joke that I have about 20 cheeseburgers a year and that 15 of those are during Vol State.  So after a couple hours of sleep and being off my feet a bit longer I started back on the road in west Columbia with a Cheeseburger and vanilla shake from Hardees (way better than McDonalds).  While running across all these small towns in Tennessee you usually have two choices for food: Hardees or Subway.  I had a couple of subs early on in the race but then went to cheeseburgers for the majority of it.

It was very hot starting back so I started walking to get loose and conserve resources in the heat.  It takes about 5 miles to get through Columbia. At about mile 180 Carl and Laz pulled in front of me, stopped, and got out to speak to me for a bit. I believe someone else might have been with them but it slips my mind now.  

I continued to walk until the turn at mile 184. At this point you are finally off 412 and on a country road that rolls up and down the countryside in between green yards with houses that were built some time ago. The fear on this road is running up on an old lady checking her mail or a wild dog running up on your leg.

The sun continued to beat down, and I returned to the walk from mile 184 – 189. This is some of the most beautiful part of the course during these miles. I just tried to play it smart and conserve until I saw the sun start to retreat just a bit. I was then able to run and walk in towards Lewisburg after crossing under I-65 (another semi-landmark – mental high-five).

I was feeling good coming into Lewisburg. I was going to go down for a nap at the hotel there regardless but upon nearly the square around mile 200 my crew told me that Juli was just a few hundred yards ahead. It energized me, not necessarily in a competitive way but in a way that there was race companionship ahead. So after 27 miles in 9 hours I headed to the hotel and went through the ritual and slept maybe 1-2 hours.

I started back at the square in Lewisburg and quickly made it through the town as I downed a couple of Hardees cheeseburgers.

The stretch from Lewisburg to Shelbyville is dark, lonely, and full of horse farms.  I ran well during this stretch and covered the distance through the night and early hours of the morning rather easily.  I could have kept on past Shelbyville to Wartrace but decided to hit the hotel in Shelbyville.  I had realized I was really strong for 26-28 mile stretches and with a couple hours of sleep I was able to do that distance again without pain while feeling good. It was right around the day 4 check in when I called in my distance at 221 miles which was good for third place behind Dan and Paul. Juli was fresh though and would pass me while I tried to sleep.

Day 5: Shelbyville, TN to Monteagle, TN – Miles 221-271

So when I hit the road again around noon (if memory serves) I was in 4th place behind Dan, Paul, and Juli. The sun was blazing as I left Shelbyville.  There are several rolling hills over the half marathon from Shelbyville to Wartrace.  I walked those hills and tried to hide under my ice-hat from the sun.  Fred Davis stopped his mini-van and got out to offer me some encouragement along the way. I was surprised to see him and learned he had dropped from the race. However, Fred didn’t offer me any directions or a map of any stores! ;)

I was slow entering and leaving Wartrace. I was trying to be patient with the sun, but I was ready to run.  Around mile 135 as I was changing socks a ladybug landed on my Zensah. I took it as a good luck sign to turn it on and motor towards Manchester so I did that.

Chris Estes, one of my great running friends, met my crew around mile 140 with a restock of Gu Roctane and hung around for a few miles to talk when I’d meet my crew.  Around this time I saw Juli about 1/2 a mile in front of me. It really helps out in this race when you have a target you can run towards. Someone or something that gives you that extra gear. Juli provided that and one of my more enjoyable parts of the entire race was catching up with her and talking with her for a couple of miles as we moved forward. Juli is a legend of the sport and won Vol State year before last. She was doing it this year uncrewed and she was in straight beat mode dominating the race.

I passed Juli as the sky started to darken from not just the sun going down but from a big rain cloud that had developed overhead. I was running well though so I ran it fast from around mile 142 to mile 150. It was raining hard at this point and my crew had already secured a room and ice. I could have kept going but decided to stick to my plan and dodge the rain. I had been really good for that 29 mile stretch. I planned to sleep for a couple of hours then advance towards Monteagle before attacking it.

Around midnight I took back to the road and made great time towards Monteagle. It was dark and I owned the road.  I knew Dan was far ahead and couldn’t be caught so I set my focus to finishing the race in second place.

I believe Manchester (mile 250) is where you can finally start to think about the finish line and strategize towards it. My goal was to finish in second.  When I started back at midnight I didn’t know where Juli or Paul were in the race. I knew we were all close to each other.

It didn’t matter though. I was going to push as hard and as fast as I could from Manchester to the finish. But first one has to get to Monteagle. My goal was to get there before the 7:30am Day 5 call-in. So I ran throughout the night with some walking mixed in naturally and at 7:30am I was at mile 271 which was a couple hundred yards up Monteagle (see pic below – mile 271).

At the Day 5 checkin the standings were Dan (303), Joshua (271), Juli (259), and Paul (250).

The Last 17 Hours: Monteagle, TN to Castle Rock, GA (The Rock) -Miles 271-314

Monteagle is a beast of a mountain to climb up in a car much less 271 miles until a 500K, but I always seem to do pretty well getting up it. I just put my head down and dig. The last two years I’ve had an umbrella with me to occupy myself and hands.  I was about half way up Monteagle when Mikki drove by blasting ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and telling me that I was in second place. It really energized me and gave me an extra boost….almost too much.

I say too much because instead of stopping in Monteagle I kept marching on past it and decided (with my crew) that I’d try to go all the way to the finish some 39 more miles away.  This came to a screeching halt when the sun came up and I had a McDonald’s burger and shake…..not Hardees. I immediately felt like crap and although my pace didn’t really slow, my spirit to continue at that point did as my stomach headed south of the Mason-Dixon line.  I needed a nap and to get off my feet before attacking. I wanted to be fresh to finish so I went to the hotel and went through the ritual. I think I might have even slept for about 90 minutes.

I had no clue where Juli and Paul were when I started back. I tried to text and make some calls to find out, but no one seemed to know. I figured Juli was close.

When I did start back it was about 98 degrees. One thermometer read 105. So I wore my ice-hat and walked these miles. The finish that once seemed nearby now seemed a 50K away…at a very slow pace.  I decided to walk in the intense sun and be patient. I’d be coming off the mountain, which is steep and intense, at about mile 295.  At that point the sun would be setting, the ground would be level, and I could run like I wanted to.  It all worked perfectly and I flew through Kimball and Jasper City to mile 300 and beyond.

Everything was going great. I was even ahead of my projected finishing time I had set two dozen miles ago when the nastiest storm I’ve ever witnessed came reigning down around mile 307. I had been flying and had 7 miles remaining in the race. I was so close and ready to finish when the rain got so bad I couldn’t see and debris from the trees (nuts, acorns, leaves, small branches) started hitting me in the head.  So I did the smart thing and got in the crew car.  The storm was nasty with the most intense lightning and rain I’ve witnessed. I kept thinking it had to be over soon but it was relentless.  The clock kept ticking as my body kept stiffening up.  My wife texted me to tell me that she had read on Facebook that Paul was about 10 miles behind and pressing on through the rain. Knowing that Paul was moving while I was sitting made it extremely tough to sit. I really wanted second place.

However, I continued to sit and play it smart. Even at this point I realized it was just a race and that I cared more about my wife and children than finishing in 2nd place.


Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock!

After a long hour of sitting in the car the storm dissipated a bit.  It was still a good rain coming down but the lightning was more distant now. I decided I was going to go for it. I wasn’t happy for wasting 65 minutes in the car. I could have been finished by now. My body also wasn’t pleased as it was extremely stiff. I felt like the Tin Man in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ I needed some oil.

I walked and started to jog from that point until I got to the turn at mile 308 that starts up Sand Mountain.  It’s a real mountain and very steep at some points. I had wanted to finish in 5 days 16 hours and change. I knew this wasn’t going to happen after losing 65 minutes, but I said screw it…

I started to run up Sand Mountain and run as hard and as focused as I ever have. I sprinted up the mountain as fast as I could. Faster than I could have even if I hadn’t already had put 308 miles on my legs in the prior five days. My crew met me about every 1/2 a mile with a bottle of water and I’d drink it and pour the rest on my head as the rain continued to come down.  I watched my pace get closer to what I needed to break into 5 days 16 hours. With each step I turned it up even more.

I could tell as it was unfolding that I was doing something epic. Something a bit Hollywood in the most un-Hollywood setting one could imagine.

I could feel Naresh and Mikki were well aware of how focused and driven I was running up that mountain. They were afraid to speak yet willing to do whatever it took to help push a body that was already beyond limits it could have ever imagined in the past.

The ground finally leveled out and I pounded 2 miles of rolling hills as I desperately attempted to reach the cornfields and eventually The Rock.  I made the left hand turn into the cornfields to find the ruts were slippery, muddy, and filled with water from the rain. I turned it up even more and ran through the puddles as I knew I was getting even closer to the finish. I checked my pace and it was exactly what I calculated I needed to reach my egotistical time goal.

Then I realized that the course was a big longer than expected. That my measurements since leaving Monteagle were probably off a bit with some zig-zagging and crew stops. There was no disappointment though. I just continued to run as hard as I could for the remaining distance left in the race.

When you come around that last bend of trees and hear the roar of Laz, Carl, your crew (Mikki and Naresh), and others you feel something so rare that you realize you will only ever feel it at Vol State upon finishing one of the most epic races in the world.

Laz said that my 55 minute 10K to finish up Sand Mountain might have been the fastest to date. I finished strong up it last year as well. There is something about being able to taste the finish that really enables me to dig deep and find an extra gear that wasn’t there before.


[2012 Vol State Podium: (l-r) 2-Joshua Holmes, 1-Daniel Fox, 3-Paul Lefelhocz]

My finishing time was 5 days 17 hours 4 minutes and 49 seconds.

I finished in 2nd place out of the 24 starters. 15 finished the race.

My crazy goal before the race started was to finish in 6 days. I beat that goal by 7 hours thanks to good fortune, an amazing crew, never wasting a single second, and being relentless. The time was 55 hours faster than my finishing time last year of 8 days and 4 minutes.

The Last Annual Vol State 500K is a race that can be an intense competition, but it’s a race of you against yourself. The ultimate detox from a fast moving world and life.

The best part is that everyone that does Vol State becomes part of a super closely knit family…the ultimate fraternity – for everyone knows what you have battled and overcome to finish it, no matter if you are the ‘King of the Road’ or Don Quixote (Marv Skagerberg) and his trusty sidekick/crew Sancho Panza (Stu Gleman) who finish the race against nearly insurmountable odds.

Big thank you to Laz and Carl for putting on an amazing race!


“Oh, the race started?”

Tidbits from my 2012 Vol State 500K:

  • “In comic books published by Marvel Comics, a mutant is an organism (usually otherwise human) who possesses a genetic trait called an X-gene that allows the mutant to naturally develop superhuman powers and abilities. Human mutants are considered to be of the subspecies Homo sapiens superior, an evolutionary progeny of Homo sapiens, and are considered the next stage in human evolution, though whether this is true or not is a subject of much debate.Unlike Marvel’s mutates which are characters who develop their powers only after exposure to outside stimuli or energies (such as Hulk, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and Absorbing Man), mutants are born with the genetic potential to possess their powers, although the powers typically manifest at puberty.” – Wikipedia (Mutant – Marvel Comics)Vol State is the greatest collection of mutants known to the world.
  • My diet during the race consisted purely of Gu Roctane, tangerines, Vespa, Nuun, Hardees cheesburgers, milkshakes, a couple of smoothies, chocolate milk, Endurox, two Subway sandwiches/cookies, Gatorade, and fruit rope.
  • The injury to the back of my knee near Hohenwald remained throughout the end of the race. I just ran through it and ignored it the best as I could. I’d put muscle rub on it when I’d go to hotel.
  • I started the race in last place. When the race started and everyone left the ferry I was still in the portapotty.  It gave me a chance to talk with every runner as I passed them and spend time with them.
  • My last 4 miles of the race were my fastest of the race – 9:27, 8:29, 8:16, 7:30
  • I slept a total of 13 hours in 6 days.
  • A dog followed me for about 9 miles in Wartrace. He would hide behind me when the bigger dogs would come after me.
  • I was the only runner during the race to record more miles during the night than the day which resulted in the nickname ‘Creature of the Night’ (a KISS song reference) from RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales.
  • Charlie Taylor claimed the night before the race at The Last Supper that he could take a dump while walking. Luckily I never witnessed this act.
  • The most severe injury happened to my crew when Mikki thought she was stuck in a ditch. She got out to check and fell in a hole, spraining her ankle in the process.
  • Jonathan Harrison is the only person to help crew me both years.
  • The notes and well wishes that dozens of friends and Run It Fast members sent to Mikki to put up where I could see during the race/during crew stops meant so much and were so encouraging.
  • All five people that helped crew me during this year’s race are in Run It Fast – The Club.
  • I used my pepper spray probably three times on dogs.
  • The race fee to run Vol State is $0.00
  • No bling, medal, buckle, or souvenir mug is awarded for finishing the race.
  • ‘Falling Forward’ is a phrase that was coined by the great Dallas Smith. Read his books if you ever get a chance.
  • As Laz says, ‘You finish Vol State just far enough into Georgia so that you can piss on Alabama.’ (see photo below in gallery for demonstration)
  • Anyone who finishes Vol State is worthy of the utmost respect. This year I’m extremely happy for two Vol State finishers: Shannon Burke and Marv Skagerberg along with all the first time finishers including Run It Fast members Sulaiman Seriki and Shannon.
  • This one was for the late, great Angela Ivory.

If you were bored by this race report then you will really be bored by last year’s Vol State 500K race report.  You can read it by clicking HERE.

– joshua holmes (@bayou)

2012 Last Annual Vol State 500K Results

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- who has written 1049 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 150 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 31 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Google+

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