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2013 Delano Park 12 Hour Ultra Race Report – Charlie Taylor

2013 Delano Park 12 Hour Race Recap
March 9, 2013

When I read the description of this race, I knew that it would be a good test of how ready I am to run my first 100 miler, so I signed up early in January.

Training had not gone according to plan most of the first of 2013, I am about 100 miles behind last year at this point, but last year wasn’t what I had wanted it to be either. Other than the 2 races I have run, a 50K and a 100K, I have not run but about 2 runs over 20 miles. Some of it was due to injuries that I had in early December and some of it as just plain lazy I guess. Last Saturday, I had intended to knock out a 20, instead, went on a trail run with my friend Doug Boomer on our pipeline course. We had discovered a new trail and as we ran through the woods, we came upon a property line fence. Boomer climbed over it and as I stepped on the bottom wire to cross and swung my leg over the top wire, the bottom wire broke, hurling me directly to the ground with 2 of the barbs gouging a big place from the back of the knee all the way up into my butt cheek. I was bleeding like a stuck hog and I know Boomer wanted to laugh, but I think he didn’t because he thought he might have to come over and help me get out of the clutches of the barbed wire. Well, we went on and finished our run, seeing that we were still 5 miles from the car, with my leg throbbing with every footstrike. So now, I have a 12 hour race a week later and I have cut the crap out of my leg. Just what I needed!

Fast forward to Friday night, March 8th. Because I am cheap, I decided to drive down to Decatur, Alabama the night before and try to get some sleep in the truck instead of leaving early Saturday morning. Terri thought that I might be uncomfortable trying to sleep in my Ford Ranger so she graciously offered me her van. It was only 140 miles away and I made it to Delano Park around 11PM, was happy that I could park within 20 feet of the course, and did so. It was about 35 degrees, not terribly cold, but I figured that I would be ok with a little bit of cover. I crashed pretty quick and sometime around 2AM, woke up freezing. At that time I decided that I probably should put on a few more articles of clothing and went back to sleep, having covered up a bit more. I must have slept pretty darn good because the next thing I remember, It was daylight and there were cars around me everywhere. I didn’t hear a one of them come in. Sure was glad I had the best parking spot on the entire place!!

The race started at 6AM and it was still in the mid 30’s. It is pretty nice on these kind of races because you have your stuff right beside the course and every mile, you pass your spot. I decided to start out with a bunch of clothes on knowing that I could shed anything I wanted any time I wanted to. I had set all my stuff out so that it would be easy to grab whatever I needed as I passed, wasting very little time. One thing I consistently see in these kind of races is runners spending a lot of time stopped at their spots. I don’t think many of them realize how much overall time they are wasting and if they could just cut the stops by a minute each, they would be able to get more miles in. My goal was to spend about 20-40 seconds at my stops.
6AM and the race is on. The course was one mile long and kinda wove in and out, backtracking itself in one place-separated by a banner, then a couple little rises (about 10 foot of climb in the entire loop), around a water tower, past Decatur High School, then back to the start/finish where you crossed over the timing mat to start all over again. I intended to start out at a respectable 8:40-9:00 pace and never get any faster than about 8:30. My mileage goal was 65 miles. Having never run a 12 hour event before, I was not sure how I would feel in the latter stages. I had run 54 miles last summer in a 10 hour event and was sure I could do it, but I do remember “falling apart” the last couple hours.

My first miles were right on target, 9:04, 8:44, 8:37, 9:01, and 8:36. At Mile 8, I took my first it stop and that one came in at 10:15. I hit the 10 mile mark in 1 hr 30 min, feeling pretty good. I continued back on my goal pace, stopping again at mile 13 and was at 15 miles in 2:18. It was getting rather warm, the high was supposed to get to 70 and I made sure to drink a lot of water and shed more clothes. I had also drank about 6 oz of ASEA before starting and intended to drink 2-3 oz every 30 minutes. I hit the 20 mile mark in 3 hours 3 minutes and felt like I might be able to top out at 70 miles instead of the 65 goal I had set.

I took a little longer break at mile 21 and stretched the legs a bit. My miles were starting to be in the 10:00-10:30 range and I crossed the line for 26.2 miles in 4:06, not a bad time considering that I still had almost 8 hours to run. My 50K split was only 15 seconds over 5 hours, which would have been a great finishing time on some of the 50k’s that I have run, however, some of them are crazy hilly and this race was flat.

My mile splits are getting a bit slower and this is the time in ultra races where the little demons start talking to you, making you want to quit and telling you how stupid you are for running. I pressed on, ignoring them as much as possible. When one runs ultras, there is a lot of time to think of things and if you don’t find something positive to think about, the negatives will kick your butt. My trick is to constantly do the math on the percentages of how far I have gone and what percentage I have left. When the clock hit 6 hours, I had just crossed the line for my 35th mile and from there it was downhill, halfway to the finish. Now as I’m sure everybody can imagine, this is easier to talk about than to do but it does do something in my mind, knowing that there is less time to go. Mile times crept into the 12 minute range and during this point, I took a 5-6 minute break and really stretched out. This 20:12 mile turned out to be my slowest mile. I hit 40 miles in 6:57 and then 45 in 8:04. I started feeling better and getting the splits back down into the 11’s. I remember thinking that I had 4 hours to run 20 miles and hit my goal. That should be easy. Should be, but then again, I had already run 45 miles. I started concentrating on getting 5 miles per hour, including my stops, which were coming more often. A lot of times, I would stop for 10 seconds and drink some more water. One good thing about running mile loops is that I did not have to carry anything.

As I got closer to 50 miles, I thought that I might be able to break 9 hours (I had run 8:55 in my 10 hour run last year), but crossed the line for 50 miles in 9:03. Now the finish was getting closer, but still a long way off. Mile 55 was at 10:07 and I hit 60 in 11:08. My last 4 miles were 10:31, 11:50, 10:03, and 8:50. When I crossed the line at mile 62, I had 23 minutes left and knew that I could get 2 more with an outside chance of 3. When I completed mile 64, there was a bit over 5 minutes left and I went on, thinking that I might get close and they might count it, but ended up being 3/10 mile short, officially finishing 64 miles.

I always knew how far I had run and occasionally later in the race, the race director would call out the distance as I crossed the line, but I never knew what place I was in. I did know about the guy who was first overall, heck he lapped me 14 times, but I knew there were several others that I had not lapped and had not lapped me and I figured there were several of us that would be close to each other. Turns out, first place was 78 miles, 2nd was 68, 3rd 66, and 4th thru 7th had 64. I was the last of those 4 and ended up 7th overall and first place Master division (over 40).

I felt good at the finish, however, I had finished pretty hard and immediately went to my chair and sat for 10-15 minutes. 12 hours continuous running really takes a toll on the human body! As I mentioned earlier, I have been drinking ASEA for year now, and drank about 16 ounces during the race and I attribute this to my amazing recovery process. After finishing, I had relatively little pain, which is a common thing for those who drink this amazing product.
With the race being over, I got my award, loaded the van and headed back home to Gallatin, cleaned up, and got a great night of sleep.

What did I learn while running this race? Call me crazy, but I like these kind of races.. a lot. There is plenty of time to think, the pace is much slower than marathon pace, and I actually do pretty good at long distances. I’m learning more and more how to eat before my stomach starts growling in races and how important that is to not bonking. I also got to see super Awesome Dewayne Satterfield win the 50 mile race in a crazy 6 hours 23 minutes (or somewhere close to that)

What did I like? The race was very well organized, plenty of food and drinks and most importantly, plenty of cheering folks to help you keep going. The one mile loop was nice because it allowed me to break each lap into halves, they did go by pretty fast (in my mind at least). Friendly North Alabama folks, as always. I have come to really enjoy those North Alabama races.

What did I not like? Nothing really. The gravel got a little soft in a couple places and it would mess with footing. That little 10 foot climb became something I dreaded every lap (you have to have something to dread). I really did not like having to stop and remove my shoes a couple times to get gravels out.

Will I do Delano Park 12 hour again? Definitely

What’s up next? This Saturday, March 16, I will run the Savage Gulf Trail marathon in Bersheeba Springs, TN. This thing runs down into what they call the grand canyon of the east with lots of technical footing, lots of climbing, lots of big rocks, and a couple creeks to cross. Me, Doug Boomer, and Scott Jordan are gonna go see what we’re made of.

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2013 Savage Gulf Marathon Race Report – Charlie Taylor

2013 Savage Gulf Trail Marathon

This race was billed as the toughest trail marathon in the country and was limited to 100 entrants. My friend Scott Jordan had entered early and everybody thought it would fill pretty fast but even a couple weeks before the race, there were still 20 openings. Scott had been talking me and Boomer about running it with him and one morning while running, after about 5 minutes of chatting about Savage Gulf Marathon, both of us decided to throw in and sign up. What were we thinking?

Savage Gulf is part of the South Cumberland natural area and lies just north of Beersheeba Springs, Tn. The 1000 foot deep gorge is shaped like a giant crow’s foot and contains the most spectacular rock formations in Tennessee. The race starts at the ranger’s station, goes through the woods for about 3 miles before dropping down into the gorge through a 10 foot wide, 150 foot deep split in the cliff called the stone door and that is where the fun really begins.
I had just run the Delano Park 12 hour ultra the Saturday before logging 64 miles, however, my legs felt great and I thought I was at least somewhat ready for what was to come. I have been drinking ASEA, a cellular replacement product for a year and sure as promised, my recovery has been phenominal. ASEA puts redox signaling molecules back into the body, the stuff in the body’s cells that help it to heal and to recover. As we age, our bodies, due to wear and tear, what we eat and drink, stress, and other things, make less and less of the “healing molecules”. That is why youngsters heal faster than we who are older. The result of ASEA is faster recovery, more endurance, and an increased level of antioxidents.

Scott, Boomer, and I decided to head out for Savage Gulf about 4:30AM, since it is only about a 2 hour drive from Gallatin. After a quick breakfast at the Waffle House and a quick meeting with Frank Schmidt (Smitty), we were on our way. The drive, once you get off I-24, through Pelham, up Highway 50 to Beersheeba Springs is beautiful. It reminded me a lot of some of the final part of last year’s VolState road race, just one mountain to the east. We arrived at the park with about an hour to prepare for the unknown. I think, deep inside, we all knew what to expect.

Runners were arriving, we stood in line to get our race numbers, and were happy to get some pretty good loot in our Goodie bags, a nice Tech shirt proclaiming the Savage Gulf to indeed be the country’s toughest trail marathon and a really nice $30 Rock Creek running cap. Rock Creek, a Chattanooga outfitter is really the bomb diggity when it comes to taking care of trail runners. They sponsor 10 our more great Chattanooga trail races including Stump Jump, Upchuck 50K, Lookout Mt 50 miler, and more, not to mention throwing out goodies at races like this. Thanks for the cap Guys!! I will wear it proudly (and often). We also got a cool Savage Gulf Window decal.

One thing I really like about running trail races is that the elite runners act just like the rest of us. If you didn’t know who they were, you would not know that they would end up winning the race. We met and talked to Brian Schmidt (Smitty’s son) who would indeed win this race with an outstanding course record time of 4:21 (yep, that’s super fast for this marathon). My friends Michal Scott, Phil Zimmerman from Nashville, Wilson From Rome Georgia, and several more were there. We all chatted a bit, tried to keep warm in the early morning 40 degree weather and got our race gear on, waiting for the final call. The weather forecast called for 72 degrees, warm for March in middle Tennessee and we all figured (except Scott Jordan) that we had better carry a little more water than normal. I had decided the night before to wear my Nathan backpack which holds an 80 oz water bladder, along with a few pockets, handy for my trusty Olympus Stylus Tough Camera, some Kramergesic skin lube, a couple 8 oz pouches of ASEA, making it easy to access any of my stuff. Boomer had a couple hand held water bottles but Scott only carried one. Big mistake!

The call was made, we all shed our outer layers, down to bare bones and hurried over to the starting area. We all immediately noticed the official starter, dressed in Colonial Garb, with a gun that almost looked like a small cannon. As we prepare for the start, we were told that the gun was a 96 calibre black power and was packed heavy. This thing had such a kick that it had to be mounted on a frame, I don’t believe 2 men could have held it when it fired. We were given a few instructions and that big gun went BOOM and we were off.

Like I said before, the first 3 miles were really runnable and run we did. I looked at my Garmin and noticed that I was doing a 7:50 pace and thought to myself, “what am I doing going this fast?” Everybody knows not to go out too fast. That would be slow in a road marathon but this wasn’t any old road marathon. After our initial 3 miles the course turned right and went down through the Stone Doors, a massive 10 foot wide split between the cliff, and about a 500 feet drop, violently into the gorge. Immediately, the terrain was different. As we descended into the gorge, there were big rocks and twists and turns, many switchbacks, fallen trees, and some runnable trail. At the bottom of the gorge, we made a hard turn to the left and crossed a 100 foot cable bridge over a dry creek bed. They tell me that after only a little rain, this creek is a mighty rushing river and when hiking in Savage Gulf, it is always a good idea to pay attention to where you are if it rains. The sign before the bridge warned that there was no running allowed crossing the bridge. If you weren’t paying close attention, any running would shake the bridge so violently that it could throw you off. I ran anyway, heck it was runnable surface!

Immediately after crossing the bridge, the terrain went back up, climbing up the grades and jumping over more rocks. There were several places where the boulders were covered with moss and footing was somewhat treacherous. At mile 7, there was another swinging bridge and the first aid station was on the other side of it. I still had plenty of water in my backpack so I passed on a refill. After a very quick food refuel, I was back on my way. The course ran alongside the dry creek before angling off to the left and back into the woods. About a mile after the aid station, the Chattanooga cave and rescue team had set up a rope system across the creek. The creek bed was dry but the rocks were slick as glass. I heard later about several runners taking big falls on those rocks. Immediately after crossing, the trail headed up the south side of the mountain. The sun was coming up pretty strong in the sky and as it bore through the tree tops, I wished that I had brought my sunglasses. The temps were rising and I guess that it was somewhere in the 70 degree range already. I looked up and could see some of the runners who had passed me earlier climbing the hill in front of me. My, my, they were a long way up the side of the mountain!

Running the switchbacks became a game. How many would there be before I topped out? Almost every time the trail would go back to the left, I had a bit of somewhat level trail and I made the best I could of it. As I neared the top, I came upon some awesome limestone cliffs on my right. Right beside the cliffs was very runnable but as I passed them, the terrain again became violent. Weaving in and out of rocks, jumping from one to another, watching every place the feet landed was the order of the day. Just a bit past the 9 mile mark, I came into a clearing and the view almost took my breath. I was about to cross another swinging bridge that crossed a raging stream and directly on the other side of the bridge was a massive overhanging cliff that I was to run underneath. As I came under the giant ledge, the dirt was well marked with the footprints of the 30 or more runners who were in front of me. The overhang was at least 50 feet over my head and extended another 50 feet to my left. The cliff was shaped like a giant crescent and I immediately imagined a thousand years ago how the Indians probably camped and lived underneath this shelter.

When running races, there is not much time to dwell on things except running so as I ran inside the semi-circle, I looked off to my left and the raging creek was just a foot slip away. The trail took another little jaunt through some trees and There I saw my friend Smitty and his grandson. Smitty had gone on ahead to cheer on his son Brian and graciously had carried a couple things for me to pick up at that point. He told us we were a little over a mile to the next aid station. The trail went back into the woods, more switchbacks and eventually wound up at the aid station. I found myself getting a bit hungry and made it a point to eat a couple boiled potatoes, some gummy bears, a few potato chips and refill my depleting water pouch. I usually do not waste much time at aid stations and found myself getting back in front of several runners who had passed me earlier. I never did see any of them again. I was informed that the next aid station was 6 miles away and that 3 miles of that would be easy trail through the trees. Best news I had heard all day!! I was tired of climbing on rocks and looked forward to being able to stretch it out a bit. They were right, there were almost 4 miles of ups and downs but most of it was easy on the feet, most of it running the ridge on what appeared to be the east side of the canyon. There were several places where you could see for miles and miles and the temptation to stop and stare was enormous but runners gotta keep running and on I went.

At about mile 15, I passed a Ranger taking pictures and he informed me that I was about 2 miles from the aid station. Just after that, the trail became a wagon road, filled with big softball sized rocks, and heading straight down the hill. This ¼ mile drop then made a hard right and again, followed directly under the cliffs that I had been running on before. All the way, there were some massive cliffs off to my right, many with pretty waterfalls coming toward me. The wagon trail that I was running on, I found out later was a stagecoach road, carved out of the hillside in the mid 1800’s by slave labor. Wow, what an experience! I cannot imagine pulling a stagecoach across these hills!

On my way down this hill, I came upon what appeared to be my friend, Doug Boomer. He was walking and didn’t look like he was doing well. As I came upon him, he turned around and said he knew that it was me behind him. We talked for a second, his foot was killing him and I said I was going on, and that was it. The rock infested road then made a left and back into the trees. I was about a mile from the next aid station and as I got closer and closer to the creek, the greenery increased and the path got easier. All of a sudden, I came upon the aid station, stopped for a couple minutes, refilled the water bladder, ate some more potatoes, drank some gatoraid, and was on my way again.

I was 9 miles from the finish and felt like I had already run 100 miles. The next 4 miles was backtracking where we had run coming into mile 7 aid station and since a lot of it was downhill, I knew that going back was UPHILL! It was, a lot of it technical and some of it smooth trail. Miles seem to go by so much slower when you are tired and they really went slow here. I remember hitting mile 20 and realizing that I still had 6 miles to go. I knew that the last 3 miles was probably the easiest part of the race but I was still 3 miles away from the final hill that I had been warned about. I came back to the first cable bridge, crossed it and started the dreaded climb back toward the Stone Door with all the switchbacks and rocks. As the trail passed by the turn where we originally came down in the beginning and proceeded on toward the final hill, the course would climb 300-400 feet, then drop back down almost to the creek. Every time I would get close to the creek, I was tempted to just take a dive but knew that I probably would not finish the race. I passed at least 3 scouting groups out on day hikes and they would look at me like I was crazy or something. At that point, I would have agreed with them. The cliffs on the right were massive and I knew that somewhere up there, there was indeed a finish line. I went on. Whenever it would seem that just maybe I was getting closer to the big climb, the trail would turn left and go down to the creek again. Then.. I started up another hill and just at the bottom, there was a ranger with a water cooler. He asked me if I needed anything and told me that I was a mile from the final aid station. That meant that I was getting ready to bust that big hill that everybody had told me about!

The final climb was brutal, however, not nearly what I had expected. It was rocky and steep, probably a 30 degree grade for ½ mile or so, but the hardest thing about it was that I had dreaded it so much. I really had expected like a 60 degree grade, something that resembled a Barkley Marathons hill. Don’t let me kid you though, it was hard. I passed a family walking up the hill and they were barely moving. I was barely moving, but I still passed them. About halfway up, I decided that I would lay down on a big flat rock that was on the left for a minute or so and that did help my attitude a lot. I got up after a couple minutes and went on. Eventually, I came to a right turn which consisted of a massive amount of exposed tree roots that were just begging to grab onto one of my toes as I passed by. Another few feet and, wow, it became flat!
From there, it was a short distance to the final aid station. I stopped for a second and then proceeded the final 3 miles. At this time, I had about 33 minutes to break 7 hours and for a moment I thought, “wow, this will be a piece of cake”. It was 2.9 miles to the finish and I found myself not really caring whether I busted 7 hours or not. Like the weinie I am in the late states of a difficult race, I decided that I really did not care. I was so worn out that I would run ¼ mile, then walk for a minute or so, then run, then walk. Every time that I would look at my watch and realize that I still could break 7 hours, my insanity would take over. To make a long story short, I turned the corner upon entering the highway, with a 200 yard uphill climb to the finish at 7 hours 20 seconds. I crossed the line in 7:01:21. Just knowing that I could have done it is good enough for me.

Upon finishing, I received a nice Outdoor Research cap and congratulations from all who were around. I sure was glad this thing was over! As I passed the finish line, I also passed a folding table loaded down with BBQ, beans, coleslaw and decided that I probably needed to go sit down for a minute before attempting to carry a plate. Scott Jordan was sitting at a picnic table and informed me that he had run a fine 5:58 and finished 25th overall and first in the over 50 division. Great Job, Scott!! Turns out that he had severely twisted an ankle on one of the rocks, had to have it taped, but had finished strong in spite of the injury. Scott had also not carried enough water and had paid dearly for that. He became really dehydrated and drank 5 bottles of water at the 17 mile aid station. Boomer had made it in via a 4 wheeler ride. Our friend Brian Schmidt had indeed won the race in a new course record time of 4:21 (the old record was 4:55). Actually the top 4 broke the old record. The first female also broke the female course record. I sat for a bit before getting myself a nice loaded up plate of Tennessee cooking.

After eating and resting a bit, my body started feeling somewhat better and we all loaded up in the truck and left. It was a good ride home, all 3 of us were hurting in our own way, probably Scott hurting the most.

I had no idea of where I had finished, thinking that I probably was around 60th. Sunday, when the race results were posted, I surprisingly found that I had finished 48th and 5th Grandmaster. There were several runners who did not finish, no shame at all in that. This is the toughest course I have ever run.

What did I learn? That if you keep on going and don’t quit, you can really do about anything you want to (might not be the smartest thing you ever did though). These Cumberland mountain trails are rugged but extremely beautiful.

What did I do wrong? I weigh about 20 lbs too much, have absolutely got to lose the weight if I want to do well in my racing career. I started a little too fast and was not aggressive enough on the uphills. I could have pushed harder

What did I do right? I carried the camera, glad I did. It is always cool to get good pics of a tough race, helps you remember it much better, not that I will forget this one soon. I carried the Nathan water pack. I did drink about 200 oz of water and could have drank more. I carried my body glide, no chaffing and no irritation of the barbed wire fence butchering of my left leg.
Will I run this again? At first I said no but after waking up Sunday morning and thinking about it a bit, I really do like this kind of race. If I plan on ever attempting Barkley, which makes this race look like playing in the sandbox, I will need many more of these for pain tolerance. Barkley is in 2 weeks so a race like this 2 weeks before will either have you ready or you are not ready, nuff said.

In summary, 7:01:21 finish time 48th place overall – 5th Grandmaster

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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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2011 Flying Monkey Marathon

Race Recap: 2011 Flying Monkey Marathon Nov 20,2011 by Charlie Taylor

Trent reminded us when he was giving out awards that this one would be remembered as “The One where it Rained”

I ran the Monkey last year as my first attempt at the marathon distance, and, in spite of going off course at mile 25 (for 3 extra miles), was really looking forward to running it again. The Monkey is one brutal animal, with about 3,500 feet of elevation gain, but the charm is the atmosphere that is there. Runners bring loads and loads of food for after the race and the swag is really special. A personalized long sleeved technical shirt is included with the Race’s logo displayed prominently across the back. If you have run this beast in the past, you have the number of monkey kills displayed down the arm of your shirt. Trent also includes a cotton monkey tee shirt that in itself is a nicer shirt that many races provide. A personalized race bib (you get to pick your race number), a car sticker, a race logo magnet, a temporary race tattoo, and some other goodies are in the race packet. Now that’s some race swag!

Registration opened for the monkey this year on July 30 and promptly sold out in 3 minutes 58 seconds! If you were slow to punch in your credit card numbers, you were not going to run the 2011 Flying Monkey Marathon. Trent has a special opening for registration 3 days prior to July 30 for those who had run the race the year before, and I estimate that about 100 runners signed up in this allowed time. I made sure to get myself signed up and did so the first available day. My other HRC buds that ran last year did the same. Tom Dolan, Doug Boomer, and Scott Jordan. So, we were in. Now, the 3 1/2 month wait for the race.

Skip forward to race week. I had run a fast 10 mile race the Saturday before, which is not a great idea 8 days before a big marathon race, however, I felt like I was in good enough condition that it wouldn’t hurt me. During the rest of the week, I only ran about 28 miles, all of it pretty easy. Normally, I would run one speed day but did not do it this week. I did run a 10 mile trail run in the rain and mud on Wednesday, but took it pretty easy and had a lot of fun running through the water.

Race morning: Since Terri and my 8 year old granddaughter, Caroline had volunteered to work the HRC water stop, which would be located at mile 3 and 23, we got up about 4AM, I made a big pancake, sausage, and egg breakfast and we were off. We met our buds in Hendersonville and made it to the race site in plenty of time to be able to setup our camp just barely off to the side of the start/finish line. We all jumped in and set up the canopy tent, having not really any idea that it would be raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock within an hour. The canopy was a great idea, thanks Tom. Our HRC signs went out, our Monkey logos and we all put on our safari hats to finish the scene. Runners started coming in and before long, it was time for the race to start.
Pictures were made at the starting line of all the Marathon Maniacs, a group from all over the country who, you guessed it, are real marathon maniacs. To get into this group at even the lowest level, you have to run 2 marathons in a 16 day period. The upper levels are crazy. One of the higher levels requires that a runner complete something like 40 marathons in a year. Now that, my friends, is a maniac! The other group, much smaller, was the Swampies; a group of runners that connected and stay connected on the Running ahead website. I am one of the Swampies.

Trent lined us up and yelled GO! And we were off. The race starts at the Vaughn’s creek cross country course and the first quarter mile or so is on grass. We went up the little hill, made the right turn at the big evergreen tree, then followed the path past 3-4 more of these trees before we went through a little clearing and onto the 11.2 mile loop road. Another quarter mile or so and we went right to cut across the park as part of the double loop of Percy Warner Park. The first mile and a half of the race has an elevation gain of 300 feet and Trent had a little sign that read, “You have just climbed 300 feet, you only have 3,200 more feet to climb” I’m sure this takes some of the wind out of the sails of many newbie runners. I had started somewhat in the front pack and hit my first mile in a comfortable 7:36 and by the time we got to the top of the hill, the 2 mile time was 14:50. Boomer was right with me and we ran side by side getting our pacing like we wanted it. Now, we were back on the main road, heading toward the Stone Gates at the Belle Meade Blvd entrance. Then it started to rain.

This course has several places where you run forever on gently rolling terrain, but when you get to the hills, they are merciless. There are actually 7 major climbs in the entire run. From mile 2-6 is one of those hills. We logged 7:24, 7:29, 7:42, and 7:33 times on these miles. Somewhere in this area, Boomer pulled away from me. It was raining harder and it does not take long in these conditions to get really wet. Right after mile 6, there is a steep descent of a mile at I hit that one in 6:59, then another mile up hill. Then from mile 7 to mile 8, you pass the stone gates and head back up the other side of the park and a couple easy, gentle down hill miles. Mile 8 was 8:21, then 7:33, 8:22 and I hit the 10 mile mark in 1:16:06. This was only about 9 minutes slower than my 10 mile race last Saturday and I began to realize that I had probably gone out too fast. Right at the 10 mile mark, I caught a young kid, probably no older than 14, who was running with his body swinging every whichaway. His arms were flailing from side to side and legs were doing the same. A lot of runners do not realize that when you have un-necessary body movement in your running style, you are wasting a LOT of energy and will tire much faster. Anyway, I passed him and left him in my dust. Several 200 foot climbs and 200 foot drops were in store for me. Really, the backside did not have any real crazy climbs until from 11.5 to mile 13. I hit the half marathon mark in 1:40 and knew that I had probably screwed myself with my too fast miles. Mile 11 was 8:03, 12 was 7:44, and 13 was 8:19.

At mile 11, we passed the starting area off to the right and from 11.5 to 13 was a good climb on the backside of the park. At mile 13, we turned to the left and went down the hill that we had climbed to start the race, hit the bottom of the hill at mile 14.5 and turned right to head back toward the stone gates. We had a 200 foot climb for ¾ mile, then a pretty easy run all the way back to the stone gates at mile 18. Mile 14 was 7:52, then 8:36 on the uphill, 7:59, 8:39, and mile 18 at 7:53. From mile 18, when you turn at the Stone gates is the hardest hill in the race. All the way to mile 20.5 is uphill. Several places have switchbacks and you never seem to get to the top. Somewhere in this hill, I started having a pain in my left hip. Halfway up the hill, Meredith Smith, who would go on to be the 2nd female overall passed me like I was sitting still. I ran mile 19 in 10:37 and 20 in 9:41. We had a decent little level run for a mile and I hit that in 8:20. That was my last good mile.

From mile 21 to 26, there are only really 2 hills, most of it being slightly downhill. Mile 21 was 8:20. Just before mile 22, my hip was hurting more and more and then, just all of a sudden, I had a massive Charleyhorse knot up in my right thigh. It took my breath away and I had to stop and pound on my leg to try and beat it out. I did stretch it out somewhat and manage to keep running, although slower. Mile 22 was a dismal 10:12 and 23 was 10:19 (and Im running flat land!) I passed the HRC aid station and got some Mt Dew and stretched some more. I only had 3 miles to go and was determined to make it work if I had to walk. After a couple more stretches, I managed to keep a decent pace the rest of the way. Mile 24 was a crazy 12:20 (walked a bit more) and as I got close to mile 25, My HRC buddy, Tom Dolan came up on me and left my sorry butt in the dust. In spite of my hurting and slow times, I must have been pretty far ahead of other runners, because nobody had passed me for at least 3 miles. I hit mile 25 in 9:19 and as I passed the place where I made the wrong turn last year, vowed that I would not do that again. From Mile 25 to the finish is pretty much downhill and I just hung on and ran the best I could. Just before I made the turn from the road to the field back to the finish line, my friend Teresa Saupe passed me. I had nothing left, she would have probably slowed down to run I with me, but I told her to go on. Past the evergreen trees then left and the finish was ahead. I crossed the line in 3:38:15 with my last mile coming in at 8:52. Teresa beat me by 10 seconds and Tom Dolan was finishing just before I rounded the last curve. He ran 3:37 and some change. I finished 22nd overall and 2nd Grandmaster, behind Tom. (they really did not have a grandmaster division, but if they had, I would have been 2nd)

I hurt pretty bad when I finished. Terri and Caroline had come from the aid station to meet me at the finish. I had told her before the race that when I finished, I would run the 3 miles back to where she was to cheer for fellow runners. I sure am glad she decided to come to me. I couldn’t have run back to her if I had wanted to.

It had rained pretty hard the entire race and part of the time, we were running into a cold wind. I started chilling when I finished and quickly changed clothes and sat down to rest. Boomer had run and amazing 3:15 and finished 8th overall!! Great Job Boomer!!!! When he left me about mile 7, he had not slowed a bit. I rested for a while. Our other HRC guys came in, Scott Jordan, then Jamie Abbott, then Marcia Steiner (running the Monkey as her first marathon).

Once I got myself back to where I could walk, I got something to eat. Did I mention how much food these people brought? The food was a welcome sight and I certainly enjoyed that. I spent some time chatting with friends, to many to mention by name, I did get a picture with Dorothy, who has run every one of the Monkey marathons, and another with my friend Mrs Ellie Foster, the official race photographer,

Overall, it was a great race, Considering what happened to me, I am pleased with my time and finish. I had wanted to run 3:25 and would have if I hadn’t started too fast or had problems. The winner, Ben Schneider, won in 2:38 and was Champion for the 4th consecutive year.

Caroline had a great time handing out water and more fun sliding in the mud after the race was over. Some kids really know how to have fun. She also challenged Super Start Stud runner, Scott Wietecha, to a race and beat him!! Of course, he ran holding a paper plate with a large muffin balanced in the middle of the plate. Not to mention that the race was about 30 feet. You go, Caroline!! I wish I could beat Wietecha. Only in my dreams.

Will I run this again? Of course. One of the finest races anywhere. I’m lucky to have this one in my back yard. Runners were here from all over the country.

What would I do different? Probably start 10-15 seconds a mile slower. Other that that, I wouldn’t do anything different.

Thanks Trent, for a class race.

Posted in Marathon, Running0 Comments


Team Nashville 10 Mile Run

Team Nashville 10 mile Run November 12, 2011 by Charlie Taylor

I ran this race last year for the first time and really enjoyed the rolling hills layout of the course. It is also a no-brainer since it is basically in my back yard. The only bad thing about the timing of this race is that it is only 8 days before the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon and it is not an ideal situation to race a 10 miler during a taper phase. Nevertheless, I could not resist the lure and signed up.

Saturday morning’s weather was ideal, about 37 degrees at 5AM and I made it to Moss Wright Park at my customary time of 90 minutes before the race. If you get there early, you can park right in front of the start/finish line, which makes it great to be able to stash a jacket or a water bottle immediately before going to the start line. I picked my parking spot and made my way to the registration area to pick up my race number and shirt. Team Nashville always provides a nice hoodie instead of another worthless cotton race shirt.

As always, I ran into many friends who were also running the race and spent a bit of time talking with many of them. Super Legend, Dallas Smith, age 71, who owns state age group records in every distance from 5K to marathon had driven 100 miles from Cookeville to claim another State Record. Scott Wietecha, one of our HRC team members, who would win the race; 2 great runners in my age group, Mark Carver and Keith Caruso were there. I always scout out the crowd to see who I will be competing against and I figured that with the stacked field, it would be tough to finish in the top 10.

I have recently changed my pre-race routine. Previously, my theory was that I needed to really warm up and I would go out and run 3-5 miles (easy) before a race and I was really getting tired during the race. Now, I stretch a bit and run an easy mile or so, mostly just knocking the rust off. It’s amazing how we get pre-conceived ideas of how to do things, then find out how stupid we were. Well, for now, I’m not knocking out a bunch of pre-race miles. A great part of my warmup today was with Mrs Margie Stoll, another local running legend. Mrs Margie, at 70 years old, won the National senior games 5K this past spring in a blistering 21 minutes! She also was 3rd Grandmaster in this race!!

As it got closer to 7:30 start time, we moved up to the starting line and right on time, the race started. Immediately, Wietecha jumped out front like we were sitting still. He was 100 feet in front of the rest of the field not long after we made the first turn. The first mile of this race is a clockwise loop around the park. As he neared the part where we would exit the park, it looked like Scott almost went left to exit the park instead of straight on. It’s easy to make a wrong turn in a race. By the time the front pack got around the park and started to exit, the 4 or 5 of us were well ahead of the rest of the field. I looked at my watch as I passed the mile mark and we had run a 6:22. At that moment, I knew I was going to have a good race.

We exited, crossed into the subdivision and headed up a pretty good little hill, around a little curve and up another hill before turning right at a stop sign and then a left after we crossed a bridge. Since I had run this before, I knew that the next mile was flat so I loosened up a bit and stretched out. I was in 8th place at this point and the guys in front of me seemed to be holding their pace very well. Because of the hill, my second mile was a 6:32 for a 2 mile time of 12:54. This flat road weaves along a creek and I made a point to try to run all the tangents along the course. You can pick up some time if you will try to run as straight a line as you can in a race. We came upon Long Hollow Pike, took a right and then a left onto Madison Creek. They had a water stop right at the 3 mile mark and I hit that mile in 6:43. My overall time was 19:47 and I was feeling even better. From that point until just past mile 5 is all uphill, not a great climb, you really don’t even notice it, but it does affect your time. My next 2 miles were 6:50 and 6:58 giving me a 33:35 5 mile split. I was calculating that if I could duplicate this, I would run a tad under 1:07. Right past the 5 mile mark is a real good, but short hill. I could see Caruso and another runner about 200 feet in front of me and they both seemed to slow a bit on the hill, however, as they topped it, they both resumed their pace. Since I have been doing quite a bit of hill work, it really did not hurt me much. I topped the hill and hammered down the other side, my feet slapping the ground like I was trying to stomp out a fire. I hate doing that but I guess that’s how I run down a big hill. Both the other runners were moving on, so I put my focus back on my race instead of focusing on catching either one of them.

Mile 6, because of the hill was a slow 7:08 but the next mile time came down to a 6:38. I still felt great and remembered to cut every tangent that I could. Some of the time I would be running in the middle of the road for 2-3 minutes to keep my line straight. I think I aced the tangent thing. Mile 7 had a couple little rises in it and some gentle downhill too. This course is basically an out and back with a 5 mile loop and as I headed back to where we started the loop, I had a good slight downhill portion with a 6:33 mile 8. We passed Madison Creek school and the water stop was right at the 8 mile mark, From there, it was back up on Long Hollow and then left with almost a mile of flat running ahead. I hit the 9 mile mark with a 6:37 mile and was less than a minute over 1 hour. Right before the bridge, I had a mile to go but it is a challenging mile, especially at the end of the race. As I turned right and crossed the bridge, the road started to rise in front of me. The one runner that I had been keeping my eye on was still catchable, I thought, so I pushed a bit more, Up a pretty good little hill and left and up another, then a real good hill. I worked those as best that I could but the guy that I was chasing would have nothing of me catching him and ran at least as fast as I was. As I made the turn to the left and could see the final downhill, he was crossing over the road and into the park. I kicked the last 1/3 mile pretty hard, into the park and the final straightaway to the finish line. I tried to get to the line before the clock said 1:07:30 but I was 4 seconds late. The guy in front of me had beat me by 50 seconds. Even with the last couple of big hills, I had run a 6:42 10th mile.

I did finish 8th overall and felt great as I crossed the line. I felt great but I could not have gone any faster. Very satisfied with the effort and the result. My HRC Buddy, Randy Smith was a minute behind me and Tom Dolan ran a 1:09. HRC represented very well, especially considering that Scott Wietecha ran a CRAZY 50:09!!!!!! That is a 5:01 average pace. He said really didn’t push it hard at the end but if he had known, would have pushed to break 50 minutes. That is insane. He was finishing when I was at the 7 ½ mile mark. Oh by the way, Scott also set a state record for a 10 miler, not an age group record, an OVERALL STATE RECORD. On a hilly course!! My hat is off to Scott on this one. Of course, he just ran a 1:06 half marathon a couple weeks ago too.

I won the Grandmaster Division, which is starting to happen more and more. That is real cool, to be the fastest old man. Not really though, since Mark Carver finished 3rd overall in 1:01 and Keith Caruso also beat me, but was 3rd in Masters Division. I’ll still take the Grandmaster win. My average pace was 6:42. I see my speed coming on more and more as I work harder, which is what it is supposed to do. When I run a race like this, I am finding that I really don’t even get sore anymore and usually run a good run even the next day. Hopefully, it won’t affect my performance this coming Sunday in the Monkey Marathon. I really don’t think it will.

Posted in Running1 Comment

Big Dog Backyard Ultra Race Report (Wartrace, TN)

Big Dog Backyard Ultra Wartrace TN

As Tom Dolan said, “What was I thinking?”

I had wanted to run the Big Dog, a 4.2 mile trail loop that is run once an hour, every hour, until the last man is left standing, when I first heard of it but, for some reason, did not sign up. Sometime early September, Forrest started talking about it and I decided to get in, then found that the 42 person limit was full. Along with missing out on getting in Umstead 100, I had already struck out twice.

Friday afternoon, I got an email, letting me know that a few runners had come to their senses and decided either not to run or could not make it and that there was a couple openings, and if I wanted to I could get in. I immediately decided that yes, I wanted to run, then figured that I really needed to ask Terri since she had our Saturday evening planned. I called Terri, all excited, and as dedicated wives usually do, was cleared to go “play in the woods”.

Sometimes short notice on something like this is really all you need. Dolan had been on me for 2 weeks to go to Chicago with him and run the 50 miler and I had thought about it, but really could not miss Friday and Saturday work. He had come by earlier and I gave him my half bottle of Hammer Electrolyte tabs. Never thought I would need them this weekend. Boy, could I have used them! When I got home from work around 6, I started getting my stuff together. I’m pretty anal about a lot of things when it comes to racing, everything has to be right or I stress about it. I got a loose pair of shorts, My red Strolling Jim Tee shirt, The Swamp2K singlet for when it got warm (70 degrees) light jacket, gloves, 2 pair of trail shoes in case I needed them and a pretty good selection of food (Fig Newtons, pretzels, Peanuts, bananas, 2 gallons of water and a 2 liter bottle of Mt Dew (great for long distance running), put it all on ice and went to bed around 9 for a 3AM wakeup.

The clock went off, and I quickly got my stuff in the truck and headed out. It’s about 65 miles to Laz’s house and I made it with about an hour and a half before the 7AM start time. I always like to get to a race with plenty of time to unwind. When I pulled up, there were about 20 tents set up in the yard with sleeping runners inside. Most of the 42 runners were from out of state, only 6 were from Tennessee. You really have to know Laz to realize the influence he has on crazy ultra runners. One of my intentions in running this race was to get to know him better, since my 2013 plans include running the Barkley Marathons at Frozen Head State Park and there are only 35 entrants allowed in Barkley, which is one of the hardest races in America to get into. I setup my folding table about 15 feet from the official race tent and right beside the trail that we would be running on. I spent a half hour getting my stuff just exactly where I wanted it so I could grab what I needed without having to dig. Body glide, bandaids, headlamps, clothing changes, etc would not be a problem finding.. Once I got setup, I spent the next 45 minutes mingling with the awakening runners. My buddy Naresh, who ran the Vol state 500k in July in a pair of Vibrams was one of the first to greet me (He wore the Vibrams here too), then Diane Taylor (no relation) who runs every ultra that she can. I met a bunch of folks that I had read about, some heavy hitters in the ultra community.

At 6:57, the whistle blew 3 times, then 6:58 two times, then one and at precisely 7AM, Laz rang the cowbell and we were off. The loop consisted of a short out and back on the highway so the runners could string out a bit before hitting the single track trail. From the start to the highway was a small rise, which turned out to really be a bear in later hours. Down a hill and a turnaround at the gas tank, which literally was a car gas tank laying 20 feet off the road. It was a bit wet as we circled the gas tank, which turned into slop in later runs. Back up the hill on the highway and the turn into Laz’s driveway, past the tents, up the hill, and the hard left onto the singletrack. At this point, I was in 3rd or 4th place and really did not know what to expect since I had not been on the trail. Most of the runners had walked the trail with Laz the day before and had some sort of familiarity with it. I quickly figured that there would not be a whole lot of passing once you got going. Immediately, Laz’s evilness showed up when, as we entered the trail on what should have been a short straight part, he had wiggled the trail between cedar trees, in and out and in and out for about 30 feet, just enough to break any momentum that you might have. Then across some big rocks that you literally had to jump off of as you descended the hill, curves, up another hill and on and on. At the 7/10 mile mark, we passed Laz’s backyard then an hard turn and down another hill. Where the ground appeared smooth, there were roots and little stobs where trees had not been cut even with the ground. Another left hard turn and at the mile mark was a small cedar tree that was leaning into the path and you had to lean over to keep it from slapping you in the face. At this point, I was in second place behind Sal Coll, who was about 50 feet in front of me.

More rocks to jump off of and then the first creek bed (on the return loop, this would be the One mile to go mark). The creek was 60-70 feet of big 10-15 lb loose flat rocks that would move if you didn’t step just right. Up the bank, another wiggle place in and out of small cedar trees and into a clearing for 100 feet. Back into the woods and a jump between 2 trees that were growing in a V shape. You almost had to turn sideways to get through them. Somewhat past this, you came into what would later be called the Perpetual loop. Up a pretty good hill with a bunch of stones (which I walked on most laps) then a right, up another hill with a cave on the left at the top of the hill. More curves, a 1/4 of downhill, which felt pretty good, then another creek bed to cross and up another hill. A great big shagbark hickory had fallen and it had to be climbed over. The rough shagbark would tear at your bottom as you scooted across it. This thing ended up being part of ending my race. As I threw my legs over, it caused a pretty good charleyhorse to work up in the back of my leg. At the 2 mile mark was a big rock that had enough room to scoot between it and the fence. The next 1/2 mile or so was up and down with at least 2 places where you ran between big rocks with lots of hard turns, then a long straight place, along a fence then a turn into another meadow that was slightly downhill with sagegrass and lots of loose rocks. A giant oak tree with a deer stand was on the left and then we made a hard right back into the woods, through some marshy ground, which got sloppy after a few loops and back up another hill, in and out of trees. Another long straight place, along a fence and then….the perpetual loop began. I did not notice that at the end of the fence, I was suppose to turn 360 and follow the other side of the fence, so I went on, back up the rocky hill and as I passed the cave on the left, Since I am quite observant of my surroundings, I quickly figured out that I had been here before. I was quite a bit in front of the 3rd place guy, so I stopped and listened for runners. I could hear nothing, so I turned around and ran back to the fence where I ran into Chase Cantrell. At that point we made the correct turn. 11 of the later runners ran completely around that mile loop the 2nd time and I think one ran it 3 times. The crazy thing is that most of these had walked the course the day before! In the daylight!

At that point, we were back on the original mile back, wiggle through the cedars, the creek bed with the big flat stones, jump through the V tree and follow the fence. You really had to watch your footing in this place due to the stobs and roots. A Hard turn to the right and up the hill to the backyard of Laz’s house. At that point, it was about 1/3 mile back to the finish. The final part had the big rocks that we had to jump off of, except this time, you were going the other direction. Once on top of the rocks, through a clearing with a telephone line overhead, wiggle through the cedars and a hard right onto the road back to the finish.

I finished my first lap in 44:00 or so, and felt pretty good. I took a small rest in my chair, drank some water, ate a bit and waited on the rest to come in. There was some worry in the camp that some of the pre-race favorites were not going to make in within the 60:00 cutoff time (they were on the perpetual loop) and as the time wound down, it was obvious that they would not make it. At that point, Laz decided that he would bend the rule and allow them to start the next loop as long as they could finish both laps in 2 hours. A couple did not make it and a couple hit it with only seconds to spare. At 7:57, the whistle blew three times, then 2, then 1 and at 8AM, the cowbell rang and we were off again. This time, I had a good idea what to expect and race my run under control. Needless to say, I never missed the loop part again. Someone had thrown down a red hat to mark the spot, which helped a lot. I finished 2nd again, in 42 something, about half a minute behind Sal Coll. Laz mentioned that we were running faster. At the end of lap 2 there were 2-3 runners already gone.

Lap 3 started at 9AM and again, I handled it with no problems and finished in about 45-46 minutes. I kept noticing that some of the guys were finishing in the mid 50s and decided that maybe that is what I should have been doing. Less time to cramp up, of course, less time to rest, but in some cases, rest is not good. I finished lap 3 in about 48:00, then lap 4 under 50:00. It was getting warm and at that point, I changed my tee shirt for a singlet and started carrying a water bottle. Lap 5 was in the low 50s, lap 6 around 52. Almost every lap, we were losing runners and by lap 7 there were about 18 runners left in the field. It was getting harder. I had run a hard 9 mile Longview hill run on Thursday, which I would have never done 2 days before a race and I was starting to feel the effect of that. Lap 7, I came in under 53 and then lap 8. Every time I climbed over the big shagbark hickory, my charleyhorse was working me, then I started having an issue with the left hip. When I finished lap 8, I had just about all that I wanted. I finished in the 54 min range and could have certainly gone on, but decided to call it a day.

I was really getting hungry, having run for 8 hours so I wolfed down a bunch of food and sat in my chair while lap 9 started and finished. I watched 9-10-11 and at the beginning of lap 12, darkness was coming upon us. The winner of lap 12 would receive $50 and we all watched Dave from Ontario whip the field to claim the $50 in the dark. By the time lap 13 had started, the field had dwindled to about 8-10 and runners were doing face plants. Laz had built a big bonfire and as it was getting cold, the survivors had pulled their chairs around the fire to warm up and cook some brats. My first attempt at the brat resulted in a half cooked brat, which after a bite of a slimy bratwurst resulted in several more minutes of cook time. Sal Coll’s wife had made some awesome nut bread which he gave a loaf to each person there and we ate brats, bread and told war stories while the remaining runners ran in the dark. Lap 13 finished at 8PM and at 9, the cowbell rang again. Runners were coming in without smiles on their faces and in some cases, barely made it in time to start again. Lap 13 had 2 runners to finish in 59:59. At that point, once lap 14 began, I went to get the truck to load my junk all up. I was tired, had a lot to do on Sunday and decided to trek it on home to Gallatin.

I ended up running 8 laps, finishing in 17th place, a pretty decent showing considering that almost all that were there were Ultra legends. Counting 2 runs to the truck and back and a small 3 mile run after I quit, I ended up with about 41 miles for the day. Not too bad, since I had no idea that I would be running the day before.

The race ended up going 18 laps and Tim Englund from Seattle WA ran one more lap than Dave from Ontario. I think the race finished at 1AM. I read about it all the next morning on the chat page.

What did I learn from this race? First, that if you are in really good shape, you can do just about anything you want to, That Laz has a demented mind. I met a lot of cool people from all over the USA and Canada that I will run with again.

What would I do different? I would run all my laps in the 53-55 min range with less time to rest. Those first 4 laps were too fast. I would not have quit at 8. My goal was 10-12 and I was a wienie for stopping. Winners don’t quit. If I had known that I was running earlier, I would have camped there.

Will I run this race again? Absolutely!!! Would not miss it for anything. Next year, I will drag some of my HRC buds to Wartrace with me to experience Big Dog Ultra.

Posted in Race Reports, Running, Ultra Marathon1 Comment


Stump Jump 50K Recap by Charlie Taylor

2011 Signal Mountain Tennessee (Stump Jump 50K):

This was my first attempt at any trail race and like I pretty much always do, I tackled one of the meanest 50K’s to see if I would like it or not. Stump Jump 50K is sometimes called “The meatgrinder” and I really had no idea why. I had read as much as I could about it and knew that it was a tough one. One of my friends, Brent Fuqua, had run this race in 2008 in about 7:40 or so and he had talked about the hills that made your ears pop when you went up or down. Anyway, I was determined to get my first 50K under my belt.

My summer and fall training did not go exactly as I would have liked it to go, I did get a lot of miles in, having put in a tad over 2,300 as of Sept 30. A lot of them were not real quality miles, but even bad miles are better than no miles. I kept my weeks pretty steady at 50-60 per week and most Saturdays I was knocking out at least 14 and a lot of 20 milers. Since the first of July, our running group had been doing a hill run on Thursdays that we called HAT day (Hilly A– Thursday) which consisted of a mile and a half run from Station Camp HS to the bottom of Longview hill. Then we ran from Longview to Long Hollow Pike and then back to the bottom of Longview for a total of 2.2 miles and about 500 feet of climb. We would run this loop about 3-4 times, then back to the high school. 1500 feet of climb in a 10 mile run was about all you wanted. I’m really glad that we decided to do the HAT run because as it turned out, that was really the only preparation I had made for the hills that I had to run at Stump Jump.

We had to be in Chattanooga Thur and Friday for a Sunday School retreat and were staying at the Choo Choo. We made it to the expo Friday about noon and picked up our race packets and had time to mingle just a bit, ask questions, pick up free samples and register for the giveaways (which we did not win). My wife, Terri, had signed up for the 11 mile trail run. She was really excited about her first trail run also. Some other Hendersonville Running Club buds were also running the 50K with me. Jamie Abbott, Scott Jordan, and Dave Morris. Terri and I made it back to our retreat, attended classes until 8PM and then had a giant piece of key lime pie from City Cafe.

The Clock went off in the morning and we quickly got dressed, excited like it was Christmas or something. We got out the door and decided to stop at Waffle House and put a little protein in our bellies. That was a great idea! Then we were Back in the van and headed up Hwy 127, around the twisty curvey hill up to Signal Mountain and to the High School. I am glad that we had checked out the location the last time we were in Chattanooga because there was absolutely NO directionals telling us where to go and it was foggy. We did make it on time and was directed to park on the back side of the school which was a pretty good walk from the start/finish.

We already had everything laid out that we wanted to carry and such so we loaded up, got our shoes and gaiters on and was pretty much ready to run. Since Terri was doing the 11 miler, she wore a fuel belt with about 20 oz of water and I had just purchased a Nathan hydration vest which held 80 oz of water and had a lot of pockets for whatever I wanted to put in them. I didn’t carry a lot, a Cliff bar, My Ipod, My running camera (Olympus Stylus Tough), some bandaids and tape, a squirt bottle of Hammer gel, and a container of Kramer body gel. After a couple bathroom breaks, we were ready for the race to start.

I normally try to start near the front and somehow I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the gun went off and found myself in the back of about 350 trail runners. I knew that if I had any chance at all of getting in the upper third, i would need to take every advantage I could when I had opportunity. Most of the first 3 miles or so was a bit spread out so when I could, I would pass as many runners as I could get around. I’m sure I pissed some people off, but, that’s how it goes. By the time we got to Mushroom Rock (mile 4), I had probably passed 150 runners and was running with folks with my same speed.

After Mushroom rock, we headed down the first (of many) big hills into Suck Creek. I see why they call it Suck Creek, it really sucks. Very steep descent, big rocks to jump over, twists and turns, bridges to cross, and then you cross another bridge and up another hill and across a guardrail onto a highway. Run up the highway for 200 feet and immediately turn left up and embankment and back into the woods. A lot of this race is pretty level running trails, however, most of it you are either going up or down. Not a lot of level running. Even when it could be level, the demons who designed the course, would have you go downhill a couple feet so you could make a hard turn and go back up. This part of the trail had a lot of big cliffs and pretty much immediately, we were running on the side of some pretty massive dropoffs with big cliffs on our right side. In many places, if you had taken a step to the left, you would have hurled 200 feet to your death (or dismemberment). After about 2 miles we could see the Tennessee river way down below us and we made our way around the side of the cliffs, exposing ourselves more and more to the widening views to our left. It was a most beautiful sight, really makes you glad (as Charlie Daniels used to say) to be alive and be in Tennessee!

Many places were so rocky that you had to watch every place you put your feet for fear that your ankles would turn. I did manage to turn ankles 5 or 6 times throughout the race, none to the point of sprains. There were places where nature had cut through the rock and we ran between 2 giant rocks that were only 2 feet apart. There were giant rocks as big as a house just sitting on the side of the mountain like somebody just dropped them out of an airplane. There had been a tornado in this area a year or so ago and there were a lot of downed trees. Several places, someone had simply sawed the tree into on each side of the trail, you just ran between it. Other places, the tree was still there and you had to crawl over or jump up on it and throw yourself off. The 10 mile aid station was called Indian Rock House and it was under a big cliff (I’m sure that Indians used to live under these cliffs). They had a great selection of food items, PNB, M&Ms, pretzels, and much more. I made it a point to eat a bit at each station. At that point I started drinking Mt Dew that they had in cups. Mt Dew added a good sugar burst and you could also wash down whatever you ate. I noticed that some of the runners that had passed me a while back were still at the aid stations. Some folks were wasting a lot of time at these stations. I quickly deducted that if you spent only 5 minutes at each station, you would finish 35 minutes later than if you kept running. My time at the stations were less than half a minute, then back to the trail.

At Indian Rock House, we continued on around the bluffs overlooking the river for a 10 mile loop around the mountain. I believe they called this Mullins Cove Loop. Again, many big downhills ad uphills. I remember one place in particular where up on the hill above us, big rocks were laying all over the side of the mountain. I meant to get a picture of them but didn’t. I want to hike back there sometime just to get a picture of those rocks!

Several miles later we came through the Snoopers Rock Aid Station, which was on the point of a big bluff, then winding on around the mountain and to Haley road Aid station. This was just a bit past the halfway point and my enthusiasm was not in the best of shape. I was getting tired, my quads were starting to hurt after all the rock jumping, and it was getting hillier. Maybe a couple miles after Haley Road, we came upon the rock garden which consisted of several hundred feet of trail that was nothing but big rocks, you could not see the flags at all and you pretty much had to guess which way to go. I’m sure there were some who got off the course at this point. I was running with a couple guys and we figured out after a couple short wrong ways which way to go and once we got out of the rocks, we were back on the trail.

At the 19 mile mark, many had left drop bags with a change of socks, meds, etc. i had elected to carry what i needed and did not do a drop bag. I had worn my Swiftwick Merino wool 5″ socks, which turned out to be a blessing. No blisters, not slipping around in my shoes, and they had quite a bit of cushion. Got another drink of Mt dew and kept on running. It was only a mile or so until we came back upon the Indian Rock House station. I was surprised that we were back there that quick, go some more Mt Dew and headed out again. i actually started feeling pretty good again and picked the pace up a bit. My original goal was to run this thing at a 10:00 pace (What a fool i was!). I had been noticing my Garmin splits and I was running 12:00 miles on average.

After Rock House, I started running with a guy from Nashville, Gavin Duke, and we ran together for about 5 miles, carrying on pretty good conversation as we ran. My left hip had been giving me fits since maybe mile 10, and I started stopping for 20 seconds or so and stretching, which made the pain go away for 3-4 miles. During one of these stops, my new friend, Gavin, went on in front of me.. We wound around, back through the cliffs and river overlook, through the tight rocks, down the ladders and back into the suck creek area, down the Highway, crossed the guardrail and down into the creek. I had kinda forgotten how much of a hill it had been coming down, but it was really bear going back up. I think I walked the entire up hill. My half mile split on that hill was 17 minutes!

Once i got to the top, wound around a bit, I came back upon mushroom rock. my Garmin had lost some measurement and I was thinking I still had almost 6 miles to go. When the people at the aid station told me I only had 3 1/2 miles to go, I about jumped out of my skin with excitement!. Now all of a sudden I have new life. Another big drink of My Dew, some M&M’s and I am ON MY WAY. At that point, I was thinking I might be able to break 6 hours 30 minutes. My pace picked up to sub 10:00 minute miles and I found it easier to run the more gentle hills. As I got closer, I could hear the announcers talking and that made me go faster. I did log one 7:50 mile at mile 30 due to some gentle downhills and flat running. During the last 3 1/2 miles, I did pass probably 15 runners and as we came out onto the road leading to the school, I passed my friend from nashviile that I had run with a few miles back. I like to finish hard with a smile on my face, so as I made the turn,I saw Terri and my son Matt and his girlfriend Madeline cheering for me at the corner and I powered it to the finish line as the clock read 6:35:15. My watch time was 6:34:14. I think that when the gun went off, everybody’s time started, instead of using the mats to start your time when you crossed the start line.

I was finished!! I was really glad too! That was one tough race. I see why they call it the meatgrinder. I walked around a bit, my quads were screaming, I got something to drink and decided to change my shoes. I told Terri that I was going to the van and when I got there (remember that it is 1/2 mile away), I discovered that she had the key, so I get to walk back to the finish line area without my fresh shoes. Got a hamburger and more to drink and watched my buddies come in. Terri had finished her 11 miler in 3:09. In my race, Expedition Dave Morris came in at 6:43, Jamie in 6:47, and Scott 7:11. I met and had my picture made with Rob Apple who had just run his 600th ultra race since 1982 and he is only 50.

Official time 6:35:15. I know its only a minute in a 31 mile race but I’m gonna count my time as 6:34:14. i was 133rd overall out of about 400 and 9th in the masters division (age 45-55). If grandmasters was 50 and over,like in most races, I would have been 4th grandmaster.

What did I learn? I learned that I like ultras. Being out there in God’s creation all alone for 6+ hours is a really peaceful time. Really makes you aware of the awesomeness of God and appreciate being able to live in such a diverse place.

Would I do this again? What do you think? As soon as I got home, I signed up for Mountain Mist 50K which is in northern Alabama Jan 28. Big mountains, lots of climbing, maybe snow, maybe cold, lots of fun. I’m also signed up for Recover from the Holidays 50K on new Years eve in Huntsville. What a way to end a great running year!

What would I do different? I would start more up front. I would have run some trail runs (with hills) (I did No trail runs at all), I would have taken more pictures than i did, although I did get a lot. I would have talked Doug Boomer into running this with me (although he would have beat me)

Ill be more ready next year for this puppy!

Posted in Running, Ultra Marathon2 Comments

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