Yesterday, I paced my first Ultra. Yes, there's a first time for everything and this weekend was my first of many.
When Tammy called me a couple of months ago, I thought one had to be insane to be running such a long distance non-stop, day in and night out.
Running a (half) Ironman was itself a balanced feat, but running an ultra is extreme beating on your feet.
So, I told her "no" at first. Had other commitments -- the National the week before, and of course my dreaded midterms (George Washington University). Surely, this was an excuse to cop out.
But after much contemplation, how could I say
"no" to Tammy -- sweet, unique and sensational.
Yes, she's really quite an inspiration and the Umstead 100 would open many doors, I know, even if it slams back on me.
So the race started promptly at 6:00 AM. And 11 hours later, I had the pleasure to accompany Tammy on her 6th lap, just over the midway hump. What should have been an opportunity for me to support and encourage became an interval of inspiration and encouragement I gained on each and every excruciating step.
Jill and Annette during their 6th lapNavigating
So finally 3:30 AM crept up on us. We had been up for nearly 24 hours -- Tammy had been running for over 21 hours and I had stayed up at the Aid Station, meeting other runners, pacers and seeing where I could be of help.
It was this time that I met Jill Perry and heard her amazing story of how she set a course record for the race.
For one, I was extremely impressed with the staff and support crew. Everyone was amazingly helpful. They treated the runners like royalty and even the pacers received first-class treatment, too.
Secondly, the food, both hot and cold was out of this world. Besides your typical bananas and bagels, there was pizza, chicken breast, burgers and dogs. I felt I was visiting In-N-Out rather than Running In and Out.
Mixing delicious Umstead Spaghetti sauce the dinner before
When we started in the pre-dawn darkness -- it seemed so thrilling that Tammy was starting on her 8th and final lap. Excitement filled the air but the air would soon grow cold and unforgiving.
Despite the full moon, in many spots, the trees towered over the dusty trails and darkness easily enveloped us.
But in no time, we were making good headway, only to face the rolling hills -- hills that got deeper and steeper, trails that got longer and stronger.
One of these days, I'll do a ultra, I thought. Not Umstead, but just a simple ultra -- something slow and less rolling.
Finally, with just a minute to spare, Tammy, her husband Tristan, and I all crossed the finish line at just under 25 hours (24 hours, 58 mins and 30 secs) -- hand in hand, face-to-face, smile across brow. I was so proud of Tammy that now I truly began to appreciate the sacrifice one has to make -- a sacrifice that I myself may be willing to take this October with the JFK 50.
But who knows, where I'll be then. The summer is long and lots of events between now and then. An ultra is a great goal but pacing is just as swell.