Thursday, March 7, 2013

Umstead 2013 - Report from the back of the pack

Work bosses:  "Shannon, we need you to go to Japan and Singapore for a couple of weeks."
Me: "Sure, no problem.  Can I plan it so I get back a couple days before the Umstead Marathon so I have an excuse for putting in a bed-shitting performance?"

This was my third Umstead, and I felt the best trained for this of any.  My previous PR was a very pedestrian 4:47, but I was hoping for a 4:20-ish finish this time.  I had been doing all of my long runs at Umstead without specific mileage in mind, just going as far as I could at a 10 minute pace.  During training I was up to 16-20 miles at this pace, and figured I'd just try to hang on during race dayblah blah blah blah....fffffffffftttttttttttttt.

The Wednesday before the race I found myself landing at RDU Wednesday night after a couple of weeks across the Pacific.  The timing was bad, but I decided to suck it up, sleep about 4 hours out of 48 on the double-Wednesday and try to cope that way.  On Thursday I was fine, to bed early and up early.  Only issues were sudden bouts of fatigue and some GI issues.  Hello foreshadowing.

Weather was perfect on Saturday.  Right around freezing before the start, with highs forecasted in the low 50s.  No precip.  The cabin was abuzz with activity pre-race.  It's cold outside, so almost everyone warms themselves by the fire.  This race also seems to have a cult following - the same faces are there year after year and so a lot of catching up takes place.  I don't blame them - this is hands down my favorite running event ever.

This is what pre-race looks like if you are a creepy-looking guy photographing strangers while standing on a table.

So anyway, the race starts, I feel OK, get to the single track and at mile marker 2 I have an overwhelming desire to lay down next to the trail and sleep.  Not a good sign, but this subsides after 20 minutes or so.  I run into bigger problems around mile 6.  Vomit.  Working its way up my esophagus.  I'm at a 9:30 pace at this point, so I'm not overexerting.  I walk up a steep section of single track.  Urge to vomit subsides.  Start to run again.  Vomit in esophagus redux.  Goddammit.

I lose the 10 minute/mile pace at 8 miles, and I'm down to 11 minutes/mile at mile 15.  I'm bitterly disappointed, and have to try hard to talk myself out of quitting at 15.  But it's hard to be pissed off at a race when the other runners are so friendly and the volunteers are so wonderful and enthusiastic.  It pisses me off even more that I can't be pissed off.

The rest of the race is running until nearing vomit status then walking.  I finished in 5:10:51 - my worst of the three Umstead for me.  But, I got a cool pint glass with a ring-necked duck and I have plenty of beer to fill it, so life ain't so bad.

Finisher of both the race and the bottle.  If you look carefully at the bottle, you'll see Lone Rider brewed something very similar to the Peacemaker for me to enjoy post-race.  Based on my time they offered to sponsor me next year.

If you're thinking of signing up for this race, don't.  It sucks.  Really badly.  Also, available slots for the race don't fill up quickly.  If you're not thinking of running this race, it really is the best event I've ever participated in, and it gets better every year.  I plan to run it until 2020, at which time I'll fail to make the 6 hour cutoff if my finishing time trend continues.

A hearty thank you to the race director, volunteers and fellow runners for making this such a great event.  And congrats to Brandon Carter (2:54:01holyshit) and Lorraine Young (3:03:59 courserecordholyshit) for their victories.


  1. Hey, you finished! That's a big achievement in itself. I'm glad I wasn't the only one out there suffering with their GI demons though.