Everything was perfect for a perfect race. The weather was beautiful, just on the tolerable side of cold. I was well rested, well trained, well fed, and well dressed. I carried two handheld squeezable flasks filled with Hammer Gel, providing easy access to fuel whenever I needed. If every there was a day to swing for the fences, this was it. Umstead, however, is like a well-trained boxer. It throws perfectly timed jabs and counters, hooks and straights. It sees your punches before you even think to throw them. Umstead might let you win a round or two, only because it’s easier to beat up someone who isn’t running away. You can either try to outsmart the course, or outfight the course. I chose fight, and started a-swingin before the bell stopped a-ringin.
Before we begin, I would like to apologize to those of you who were hoping for the debut of a new addition to my running wardrobe, tights. For a while the forecast was predicting colder weather, and I was strongly considering such drastic measures. Instead, the conditions were perfect for bareleggedness. Which may or may not be better or worse.
Vapor Glove review to come soon, keep your pants on. Wait, I should talk…
photo by Scott Lynch
Big congrats are in order to the Wife for finishing her first “official” marathon. Welcome to the club! Sorry I got you involved in this running cult. Also to ac, it was a pleasure beating you to and through the trails. Shannon and Scott, nice PRs for the course!
This is my favorite marathon. Everything about it is perfect. The organization is great, the people are wonderful, and the logistics are so stress-free with the easy parking and the lodge. The park is beautiful. The course has a little bit of everything. Well, except for flat.
There was a guy giving out free massages after the race. I took advantage of the offering, but forgot to tip. I thought he did a good job, so here’s a plug instead: anyone in the Durham area looking for a massage therapist should check out Stiner Massage.
Without further ado, I present The Rock n’ Roll Umstead Marathon!
Check Yourself Before You Wet Yourself
I finished the race in 3:21:51, twelve minutes slower than hoped for but ten minutes faster than last year. This was the plan that got me there:
1. Get to the single track (mile two) as far up front as comfortably possible.
2. Run the trails fast, but without racing anyone. DON’T TRIP OR TWIST ANKLES.
3. Get to Mile eight in about an hour.
4. Start racing and chasing on the familiar hills of the bridal path.
5. Get to halfway around 1:35.
6. Continue racing and chasing till the end.
7. If at any point I start feeling overworked, slow down to a recovery pace. Recover. Resume racing and chasing.
8. Don’t drink too much water so I wouldn’t wet myself.
I should mention, by the way, that the Garmin signal was all wackado throughout the park, especially on the single track. My watch read the course three-quarters of a mile short, Iris’ about a mile-and-a-half. The race directors suggest the course might actually be a little long. Who knows, it’s trails. Who cares. So any splits mentioned are from memory at the mile markers.
I arrived at the trailhead in 13:30, in around seventh place. The effort felt a little harder than I wanted it to, so I took a small gulp of gel and expected to get in the groove. The trails felt good, and I ran them faster than I thought I would. No ankle twists, no trips. Have some gel, just to be safe. This was the part I was most worried about, and I ran it really well. Ta da! Reaching mile eight I was a little tired, but two minutes ahead of schedule and very confident. I took some more gel, this time with a little water. Pushing on up and over the hills to mile thirteen, I maintained the pace but it felt harder than I wanted it to. My stomach was complaining a bit, and my legs were feeling tired. Surely I’ll get a second wind, I thought as I sucked down more gel. I didn’t have to pee, fortunately, because I was hardly drinking anything at all.
Mean Mister Mustard
I thought about bringing along a packet of mustard in case I started to cramp. I never tested it out, because I never cramped in training. I couldn’t find the mustard packet race morning, because I had already put it in my shorts pocket and forgot about it. So as my left hamstring started to cramp, I was cursing myself for not bringing the mustard when in fact I had indeed brought the mustard.
Oh, We’re Halfway There
I made it to the thirteen mile marker in 1:34:xx, but wasn’t feeling so chipper. Time to employ the recovery pace strategy, which is tough to do on the choppy steep hills of Turkey Creek. I felt the presence of a runner slowly reeling me in as I spent the next few miles trying to convince myself I felt fine and that I would feel better soon, which is kind of a hard thing to do at the same time.
Shiny Happy People
Running towards the field on the outnback, I was greeted by so many cheering friends. They apparently chose to outsmart the course instead of fight it. I still held good field position, and their shouts of encouragement reminded me to not waste what I had and hang on. But the recovery never came. Some runners passed me as I continued to relent under Umstead’s relentlessness, all the while I passed a few other relenting runners who were relenting harder than I was. It was a relentfest. What do you give up for reLent? Time!
Ships Passing in the Night
I saw Iris. She said “Gnurgh.” I replied “Ack.”
My Body is a Cage
While definitely miserable, I didn’t hit anything resembling a wall. I was just stuck in a low gear. The fumes were enough to get me up and down and up and up and up and down to the finish, but I didn’t dare to press the gas pedal. Two more runners passed me. I was offered and took some Fritos, but forgot the water. That’s ok, I still had two miles left and I wouldn’t want to have to pee, right? That was a new level of drymouth. What the hell, let’s wash it down with some more gel. Why not? A third runner was bearing down, getting closer. In the last mile, I picked it up enough to hold my position: tenth overall, ninth dude.
photo by Helen Bac
This year’s mascot was a handsome ringneck duck, and I’m pleased as punch to have another wood for the wall:
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and smells like a duck, it’s Umstead!
I’m a little disappointed to not have met my goal, or to beat ac’s PR, but given the struggles of the day I think I should be proud to have done as well as I did. Now I rest and do the “should I or should I not take Advil” dance. Thank you, Umstead people, for everything you do to make the perfect race.