Tuesday, April 3, 2012

20 For 20 – Race Report : 2012 Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run

I remember running my first 100-miler in September of 2007 at the Grand Teton Races.  It took 33 hours, 19 minutes and 36 seconds of suffering to finish, and when I finished I remember two distinct thoughts crossing my mind (among many others).  First, a typical thought, that I’d never, ever be doing something like this again.  Second, even if I did give 100 miles another shot, there is absolutely no way that I would ever break the 24-hour mark.  I returned to the Grand Tetons 100 again in August of 2008, again suffering a plenty with a 31-hour finish, and followed that up with a 26 hour Javelina 100 (26:41:36).  Same struggles…same thoughts.

Something that also remained consistent was the incredible people that were at these mass sufferings.  From the very first 100 at the Tetons, where I met a guy who has become a great friend and confidant (Bryan Powell), I have always had the honor and privilege of meeting amazing, inspirational individuals at these events, and I think that it is those great people, those great encounters, and the inspiration that they have provided, that has drawn me back to tackle the challenges of the 100+ mile distances.

Since those first 3 100s in 2007/2008, there have been 17 more (which includes 3 Badwater 135s and 2 Brazil 135s), with Umstead 100 this past weekend being the 20th finish of 100+ miles in 20 attempts.  So much for the I am never doing this again thought. 

This year’s Umstead 100 was a little different from the past three as far as approach goes, with the goal being to work on Badwater preparation (nutrition, hydration, etc…) with a target of somewhere in the 21-22 hour range.  The key at the end of the day is to be able to move right back into normal training without having to take too much time for recovery, something that has been improving vastly over the last few 100-mile races.  With that in mind, armed with my wife Ginette as the most awesome one-person crew, and, after a little drama with catching our flight out to Raleigh-Durham on Friday, we gave it our best shot.

Pre-race: Meredith Murphy, David Ploskonka and Me
Of course, we started a bit too fast, but, it wasn’t so much so that it felt anything more than a comfortable pace.  It was a bit odd this year as it felt as if the field spread out rather quickly, and I found myself running alone for much of the first 12.5- mile loop.  I am fairly certain that I ran the entire lap, including all hills.  Ginette was very quick to point out that a 1:57:06 first 12.5 miles was not the plan.  Apparently, it her stern warning to slow down didn’t register well, as the second 12.5-mile loop took 2:01:50.  However, I hooked up with Joe Laskey during loop #2, and we finally got to spend some time together (even though we share common friends and don’t live too far from each other, we hadn’t really chatted much aside from a bit here and there at Umstead in the past).  I also met a guy we called “Navy” John who was just awesome to get to know (he finished in 19:26:24, his first sub-20 finish).  His entire family was there with him, and they were fantastic support.  So, I blamed Joe for my second loop being “not according to plan” time-wise, which, naturally, did not fly with Ginette.

Me and "Navy John"
Promising to pull back some for the next two laps, I did just that, sharing the trail with “Navy” John for quite some time.  Loop #3 was 2:21:28, and Loop #4 was 2:22:41, putting my 50-mile time at 8:43:05.  The bad in this was that this was too fast for what we had planned.  The good was that all felt just fine.  I attribute a lot of that to Ginette’s great crewing work, and a fueling / hydration plan that Dan Rose had put together for me in connection with Badwater in 2011.  We stuck to all liquid and gels throughout the entire 100 miles.  No solid food at all.  Heed, Perpetuem, Ultragen (one serving at the 50-mile mark) and Hammer Gels.  That’s all that was needed, and there was never a point where I got that depleted feeling.

Loop #5 was even more relaxed than the last two.  The weather had changed quite a bit since the start.  We started with on-and-off rain.  By mid-day, it was sunny and humid, with temperatures reaching into the 80s.  This provided a perfect opportunity to focus on hydration.  A 2:35:35 loop #5 was perfect, and I knew that Jon (a friend of my good friend Brenda Carawan) would be there to do some pacing.  Little did I know that Jon’s idea of pacing would be to have me laughing almost the entire time.

We started loop #6 with “Navy” John (at least I’m pretty sure we did).  He soon would take off as he was running strong.  Ginette had forgotten to give me 2 gels for this loop, but like a pro, she found a nice guy with a bike to ride them to me.  Jon had said that he was good for 2 loops, leaving me on my own for the last one.  That became the source of a good deal of comedy, as I would try to con him into staying for the last loop, and he would say yes at one point, then maybe, then we will see, then yes, then maybe…..  I had to play the “I’m afraid of the dark and will cry if you leave me out here alone” card at one point.  Jon was a great pacer.  We chatted about anything that came to mind, passed and encouraged every runner we saw out there, and cruised our way to a 2:41:21 loop #6 and a 2:54:05 loop #7.  It was on loop #7 where I had brief, about 2-mile down-point (mile 80-82) where I just felt tired from an “I’ve been up all day” standpoint.  Shifting conversation a bit made that go away quickly.

I was happy to hear that Jon was pulling my leg about loop #8.  He was in, and I was thrilled.  He had me run the Airport Spur on my own (just a couple of miles), and I picked up the pace.  I have to admit that there was a brief moment where I thought that he might not be at the turn-off when I returned from the Airport Spur.  When I got back and saw him waiting with his back turned, I gave him a “hey, get your ass out here.”  I think he was surprised that I had returned so quickly.  On that spur I caught and passed “Navy” John.  He was moving fairly well, and he would eventually pick up his pace and pass me on his way to a stellar finish.

With about 7/8 or so miles to go Mother Nature decided to get one last punch in.  It started as a lot of lightning off in the distance.  That soon changed to lightning and thunder.  Closer and closer it came, until it was pretty much directly over us.  And then, the rain came.  It didn’t last very long, but it seemed like an eternity, and it left us soaking wet.  It did not slow or deter us from finishing.  No, we decided to play a role in that.  The Headquarters Spur is a little more than 5 miles in length.  It is a series of rolling hills that passes through two parking lots and a bunch of cabins, before a step-climb up to the start/finish area.  Along the way there are a few “forks” in the road.  Sometimes you go left, sometimes you go right.  It is very, very well marked.  Somehow, we took a left when we should have gone right.  After passing a dumpster or two, both of us started to question the direction we were headed.  We stopped, turned around, and saw two head lamps coming toward us.  We are going the right way.  Nope.  “Hey, are we going the right way?”  “No, you guys are lost!”  No big deal.  Just head back up the hill, turn left, and it was another 3/10ths of a mile to the finish line.  In all, we probably went about 6/10ths of a mile out of the way, costing us maybe 6 minutes or so.  Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.  Our last loop was 2:46:54, faster than the previous one, and probably faster than loop #6 when you consider the extra mileage.

We finished in 19:51:00, good for 18th place overall (again…same as in 2010). 

From a physical standpoint, I felt great, putting me in a position to continue with training for Badwater with much of a break.  Despite the rain in the morning, high humidity, and heavy rain in the evening, my feet were left nearly flawless – just 2 very small blisters on the inside of my left foot.

What We Used To Cruise

Shorts:          Race ready Men’s LD Sixer Shorts

Shirts:            1.  Ray Zahab provided impossible2Possible shirt
                     2.  Lululemon Cadence Tee

Hat:              Chris roman provided Challenged Athletes Foundation visor

Shoes:          1 pair Saucony Kinvara 2

Socks:           1 pair Drymax Lite Trail Running Socks

Fuel /
Hydration:   20 Hammer Gels (mostly mixed with Heed and/or water)
                     4 servings of Hammer Nutrition Heed (Strawberry)
                     3 servings of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (Caffe Latte)
                     1 serving of Ultragen (at the 50-mile mark)
                     Succeed S!Caps (1 about every hour to an hour and a half)
                     1 hand held bottle of Ginger Ale
                     2-3 hand held bottles of Mountain Dew
                     2 Nathan Quckdraw Plus Handheld

Light:            Cygolite Expilion 400

Of course, many, many, many thanks to the outstanding volunteers and race directors for once again working tirelessly to make this event absolutely incredible.

The entire week leading up to Umstead 100 ended up looking like this:

Total Miles This Week – 118.60
Total Miles Prior week – 90.00
Total Miles This Month (March) – 420.00
Total Miles This Year – 930.00
30-Day Rolling Total – 408.70

Monday, March 26, 2012
5:08 AM – 3.00 miles in 28:33 (9:31 pace)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
5:21 AM – 3.10 miles in 27:53 (8:59 pace)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
5:14 AM – 5.10 miles in 46:16 (9:04 pace)

Thursday, March 29, 2012
5:23 AM - 5.10 miles in 41:21 (8:06 pace). Worked in 4 1k repeats to loosen the legs a bit. Splits were 4:19.2 (6:58 pace), 4:20.7 (7:00 pace), 4:22.5 (7:02 pace) and 4:27.7 (7:12 pace).

Friday, March 30, 2012
4:58 AM – 2.30 miles in 21:07 (9:10 pace).

Saturday, March 31, 2012 – Sunday, April 1, 2012
6:00 AM – 100 miles in 19:41:00 (11:49 pace)

A few more pictures from the race:

Tom Triumph and Me

Meredith Murphy

Me and Kino Post-Race
Tammy Massie - Finished!

Steve Tursi Finishing

Joey, Steve and Me

Ethel Finishing

Meredith Murphy Finishing


  1. Awesome report and race Tony!! You continue to inspire me over and over again. Keep up the Badwater training, you're going to kill it this year! Say hi to Ginette!


    1. Thanks Brenda! Thanks also for hooking me up with Jon for pacing. He is a trip!

  2. Nice report and wonderful effort, Tony. Thing that amazes me is your consistency and your continued passion for the sport. I envy that passion considerably.

    Lemme know when you'll be at Rockefeller. I'd love to run some miles with you.

    1. Thanks Brennen! We are long overdue for some running, and I think I have gotten a bit "faster" such that I can keep up with you for a few miles. :)

      I'm pretty much there every weekend. I'll shoot you an email and we can pick a day.

  3. way to go Tony, good stuff. 20 for 20 is crazy

  4. Congrats to you, and to Steven for what I heard is many hours PR.

  5. wonderful and inspiring report -wish i had gone back with you to see ethel, meredith and steve and tammy finish!! Glad you went back and took pics.

    I take full responsibility for the drama and stress on the way down--i learned my lesson about leaving my id sitting places other than on my body. Thank you soooo very much for giving me a ride to the airport and glad it worked out-phew.

    1. It was great to go back and see others finish. I should have given you a call, but figured you had a flight to catch. The fun we had on the way to the airport made the entire weekend totally worthwhile. I'd do it again anytime...well, maybe not the getting to the airport part. :)

  6. Great report and what a fantastic race for you! It sounds like you are well on your way to a Badwater finish. Good luck in your running endeavors! Denise #100

    1. Many thanks Denise. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing you out there a few times.

  7. Tony,
    It was great to meet you and run with you. You kept me running well and slowed me down after the first fast 2 loops. I appericated all your advice during the run and seeing you out on loop #8 gave me someone to chase. It was a 3+ hr PR for me on minmal training. My legs feel good I hiked for :40 today and will bike tomorrow. If you ever come to WA state in the next 4 years you and yours have a place to stay and a running buddy.

    All the best,
    John Spannuth
    AKA "Navy John"

    1. It was equally great to meet and run with you. I had a blast out there chatting away with you. With your incredible experience, you probably didn't need much of my advice. :). Would love to come up for a visit at some point. Keep in touch.

    2. Great race report, Tony! Congrats again! You will rock Badwater this year!

      It's amazing how small the world is, especially the "runner's world". Navy John was my awesome pacer at Massanutten 100 in 2010.

    3. Navy John and I talked about you while on the trail! It is such a small world. Hope to see you soon.

  8. Another amazing run Tony! Way to go. Very exciting to see photo of Steve at the finish too. Peace E