Where do I begin? This was the inaugural Uwharrie 100 Mile Trail Run and my first 100 mile race. I was lucky enough to be one of eight finishers. I can’t say enough good things about the race and its directors. Dan and Amanda Paige put a lot of hours into making this event special and they surpassed my expectations. This was by far the best ultra I have ever been a part of. The buckle, race shirt, and goody bag were all awesome. The wooden Uwharrie 100 magnet for the fridge was a nice touch to remind me daily of my accomplishment.
The Uwharrie 100 was a loop course, all single track. The most technical race I have ever run from start to finish. The rocks, roots, creek crossings made you have to look down constantly. Adding to the difficulty and humor was seeing the big climbs named Sasquatch Summit, Soul Crusher, and Hallucination Hill every loop. There were also mile markers every mile, this was a good thing early, but late in the race very demoralizing when the miles began to get slower. Dan said after the race that the distance was 102.5. Going out on training runs my elevation gain was always around 3000ft per 19ish mile loop.
Victor’s aid station in the middle of the figure 8 loop was the first aid station for runners. They always had plenty of food and drinks, even when I was last runner on the course late in the race. All the aid stations were nice and had a variety that included bacon, waffles, grilled cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, pretty much whatever you needed. Kelly’s Kitchen was at mile 11.5. I mainly remember having the potato soup a couple times, it was excellent. The out and back was to make this aid station more accessible for crew and volunteers. The longest distance that was ran between aid stations was about 6 miles, which was an eternity late in the race. The start / finish area was great and looked just as good if not better than larger races. There were banners above the exit and entrance to the trail.
I signed up for this race mainly because I had the urge to run a hundred miler, and it was less than an hour from home. Me and a few friends decided this would be our first hundred mile race attempt before actually going out to train on the course. I thought before signing up, how hard could this be… its not in the mountains, and just over on the other side of Albemarle. Little did I know, a bunch of technical ups and downs can be just as challenging. A few months prior to the race, we began going out for training runs at Uwharrie. I also went for one of the planned group runs with Dan and some of the volunteers for the race, this is when I realized that I had been running the trail in the wrong direction. After each training run, I always wondered how in the heck was I going to run this loop 5 times.
My training had consisted primarily of 50-60 mile weeks with about 25% done on trail. My weekly mileage peaked at around 70 miles. Most of the running was on my lunch break at work. This is all road and mostly flat. Looking back, I don’t think training on the road prepared me for the difficulty of this race. To be more prepared, I needed to get in a few 50 milers on the Uwharrie trail. If/when I run this race again, I will be sure to take Amanda’s advice and train more on the Uwharrie trail.
Lap 1 – Time est. 4 hours 40 min
Started out at 6am Saturday morning in the dark. Ran with Garett, Stu, and John during this lap, we stayed together the entire time. This lap went by very quickly and felt great. This is what I had done in training and in about the same time. In staying with the group, I ran this first 20 miles faster than I planned. My calves were already starting to cramp during this loop.
Lap 2 – Time est. about 6 hours
Still running with Garett, Stu, and John I think. My nutrition strategy was to eat real food at every aid station. I tried to remember alternating Gatorade and Nuun with salt/caffeine tabs every 2 hours. This proved to be too much for me to think about, so I just drank and ate when I felt like it. Heed was available at the aid stations which is not my favorite so I left that alone. This lap is where I began to feel significant pain in my left knee and calf. When trying to run, my calf would seize up. I was unable to really run downhill because of the pain in my left knee. I have found that when my legs get tired or weak, my running form gets off. When this happens, my left knee is the first to let me know. I could not believe that with over 60 miles to go that I was already in significant pain. Sometimes you have to just deal with it and keep moving, that’s what I did. After this loop, I changed shoes and socks. Put on some ompression socks and that calf pain went away for the most part. But I was distracted by the fact that I was in pain from the waist down.
Lap 3 – Time est. 8 hours
The last half of this loop was in the dark. My knee pain was preventing me from running at all on the down hills. My feet began to noticeably blister on this loop, I didn’t take the time at aid stations to fix my feet. I also took my trekking poles as an experiment, they helped going across creeks and the up hills, not sure about anywhere else. I should have taken more time to fix my feet before and after this loop, this was a source of pain for many hours to come.
Lap 4 – Time est. 9+ hours
This lap is where I picked up my pacers Tin and Shane. Ditched the trekking poles because they just didn’t feel right and nothing else did either for that matter! I was so stiff and hurting from the beginning on Lap 4. Had some good conversation with my buddies though, and they tried to take my mind off of the pain. Ran into Garett at Victor’s aid station, looking strong as usual. I sat down in a chair and slept for a few minutes. We actually ended up running a good portion between mile 12 and 15 after Kelly’s Kitchen during this loop as it is one of the only runnable stretches on the course. This is where Shane took a video as I give him a fake smile while running by. Tin mixed up shots of caffeinated Tailwind a few times that really gave me a boost out there. I took my first couple Tylenol as well during my last lap. I usually try and stay away from any Advil/Tylenol during races, but just couldn’t deal with the pain and needed something.
Lap 5 – Time est. 11 hours (death march)
This lap was during the day till the last 5 miles of the loop. John, who I ran with early in the race passed me looking good with his pacer. The only female finisher came by me as well during this loop, we exchanged a few words and she took off like it was a jog in the park. I have a lot of respect for these two, being out there that long and still having the strength to run like that. I reached Kelly’s kitchen aid station about an hour after the other 2 runners on the course passed me.
I have ever been in a worse place in my life. The only other runners behind me on the course had just passed me, I was hurting and knew I was not going to make the 36 hour cutoff. I had spent over 30 hours on the trail and was worried I was about to be pulled at the next aid station. I reached the 91 mile aid station at 3:30 Sunday afternoon. This gives you an idea of how slow those last 9 miles were! I was in a really bad place, sitting in a chair I asked the aid station volunteer if I had to quit. He called Dan Paige and his words made me want to fight even more to finish. Dan said that he would wait as long as it took to give me my buckle and he would be waiting on me at the finish line. Just then, my wife came running in tears asking if I was ok? It was really good to see my kids, they all came up and gave me a hug. I was not ok and they could visibly see that. At this point, from the waist down felt like a really really bad toothache. My knees and ankles were swollen and red and hot to the touch. I told her I was going to finish no matter what. Then gave her a hug then struggled to get up and stagger back onto the trail. She had my headlamp and phone in her van, I really wish we would have thought to get those. My emotions were so high at this point from seeing my family and Dan saying he was at the finish with my buckle, it was really a crazy moment. Grayson, my 8 yr old did give me his Spongebob flashlight just in case I needed it. In hindsight, it would have saved people a lot of worry later on in the night if I had my phone. We then made our way slowly back to a brisk walking pace for a few minutes, I had new life because people believed in me that I would finish. Tin would remind me to swing my arms and move as fast as possible. He never rushed me, always encouraging… a way better pacer than I would have been in dealing with me. Tin and I got to the last aid station at mile 95ish just before dark around 5:30pm. I sat down for a few minutes at Victor’s aid station and had a panini, some coke and made sure my pack had enough water for the hours ahead. Those last 5 miles would take an eternity. The pain level was at the max, but in my brain I wouldn’t let myself quit. Tin and I would sing “Lean on Me”, it was the only song I could think of at the time. Tin was trying his best to keep me awake, we would count up each hill… 1,2,3 over and over. I was at the point where I tried not to blink, I was so afraid I would fall asleep and not get back up. Tin deserves an award, but won’t take any credit for the 20 hours spent running with me on the trail. I had a ton of Peanut Butter and Espresso Hammer Gels during, aid stations always had bunches laid out on the table. Those last few miles I began hallucinating from complete exhaustion. Every few minutes towards the end of the race I would ask Tin if we were lost. I almost made him believe me at one point even when the course was marked well with flags and chem lights every 10 yards it seemed.
I still cannot believe I was on my feet for over 39 hours. I am just amazed at the support this race gave me and that I didn’t give up. My goal was to finish what I started from when the pain started 30 hours earlier. I have heard of runners having a bad day and just quitting, not me.
The first words from my son Grayson when I got home was, Dad- Did you finish? How sweet it was to be able to say YES!! He could care less about my time, its about finishing the race. I will always remember that smile with a wow look on his face, it was like Christmas morning.
During the course of a 100 mile race, you learn a lot about yourself and life in general. I started out confident, thinking about how all my training would pay off. Next thing I knew, the confidence was gone and the pain started to set in. People around me were quitting, and I started thinking about how in the world was I going to make it to the finish line. Throughout the race I kept my focus on the finish. No matter how long it took or how much pain I was in, I made up my mind to get that first belt buckle.
I couldn’t write this without including how much I love my wife and family. Karla is so supportive and really cares about me and my love for ultra running. I have never really thought about running for my family or the impact it has on my kids before writing this. I hope this is one way I can be a good example to them. Most of the people involved in ultra running are all very compassionate and giving, always concerned about others before themselves.
The finish is another good lesson for me to think back on. My official time, which I wasn’t sure would even be counted in the results was 39 hours 25 minutes. That is a freaking long time. There were no lights, it was dark, and just a few people stood around. The finish was sweet. Getting that belt buckle and shaking Dan’s hand at the finish will be a lasting memory. Little did I know that my wife was at work and very worried about me… she had my dad on the way to my rescue (thinking I was dead on the trail somewhere) he came speeding into the parking lot with a blanket and a flashlight. I had maybe been through the finish 5 minutes, when everyone around me was like “Whoa, whoa!! Who the heck is that speeding into this parking lot”?? I just smiled knowing it was my dad.
Mileage and race specific training does matter. Just remember that before you get to the starting line of an ultra, the most important part of training for a race like Uwharrie 100 is getting your mind right. If you truly care about finishing, pushing through that barrier in a 100 miler will give you the confidence to tackle so many other challenges in life.
1. Take time for my feet, one of the things that slowed me down big time late in the race
2. Train more on race specific terrain
3. Get stronger (weight training/crossfit)
4. Family and friends make this worth it
5. Mental toughness and changed my perspective of any race I’ll ever do
7. Always have my phone with me
8. Take time at aid stations to sit down, relax, and take care of myself
9. My heart rate average was 115 for the race, aerobically fit but not strong enough
10. Cushion isn’t a bad thing, Cascadias were great but some cushion would have been nice
11. Chafing was brutal, reapply body glide as much as possible
Got home from race about 11pm on Sunday, needed crutches to get in the house
Day 1 – couldn’t walk, night sweats, leg pain, knees and ankles swollen twice the size of normal
Day 2 – went to work, still couldn’t walk, night sweats, leg pain, knees and ankles not as swollen
Day 3 – went to work, night sweats, minor leg aches, knees and ankles still a little swollen
Day 4 – starting to writing this, little toe nail fell off, big toe nail is next. blisters/soreness, ball of right foot is the worst pain when walking
Day 8 – walking normal. bottom of right foot still feels bruised. still having night sweats.
Day 10- went on my first 4 mile run. Going to ease back into the miles and definitely some strength training.
Tin Ha is the man, wanted to say that. Nicest guy in the world and best pacer in the history of pacers.
The conversation I had with Martin Thorne a few days before the race stuck with me as well to not give up. I kept thinking about how much he would love to be out there racing with me. An injury has him sidelined for now, looking forward to his return and him getting a buckle one day.
Thanks for reading. Hope you read something that can be applied to your running or life in general and inspires you to keep going. I know the lessons I learned out on the trail at Uwharrie will stay with me.
I have one of the eight Uwharrie 100 mile buckles in the entire world!!! How cool is that!