Our latest running adventure put us in Rocky Mount, Va. for the 2nd annual running of the Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra. As usual, I was joined by my partners in crime, the "5 am" crew of Lauren and Mo. We arrived in town Friday evening, with my Suzuki packed with enough food and clothing to survive a nuclear shock wave.
With the race start scheduled at a sleeper friendly 8am, we left the hotel a little past 7am. The sun was up, there was frost on the ground and temps were slightly below the freezing mark. We got to the park, and after a brief but intense debate about where to park and set up, we started to unpack and set up camp.
Lauren and her beloved hand warmers! Photo by M. Percy
This would be Mo's first 24 hour run. Lauren and I had done Hinson Lake before. We did not have a canopy nor a tent, and only one chair. If you make your surroundings too comfortable, you are more likely to stop running and start sitting. Or laying down. Or sleeping. BEWARE THE CHAIR! as we say in ultra land.
Frosty! Photo courtesy of M. Percy
We made our way to the start line, milled around a few minutes greeting friends, the horn sounded and we were off!
The course was a loop, measuring .950423 of a mile. Not being a nice even mile made for some difficult ultra math later on in the day, when all the blood had left the brain and was busy keeping the legs moving.
The thing I love about the 24 hour loop format is you get to run with a lot of folks throughout the course of the day. The 5am crew was separated early in the race. Then I was running with Lauren for a bit. Lauren had been fighting a cold all week and was taking it easy. She being the social butterfly of the group, I left her knowing that she would be chatting and singing her way along the course and making friends. I went ahead to see how Mo was doing. It took me a while to track Mo down, but I finally ran up on her and we settled in and started ticking off some laps.
The day wore on and the laps and miles piled up. Slowly it seemed! Mo and I stuck together and were grinding away.We finally got past marathon distance. Then we hit the 50K mark. Mo had not gone longer than 50 miles or 12 hours, so she was about to enter new territory! We ran through the 40 mile mark, remembering how long it took us to run the Uwharrie Mountain 40 miler last year, and what fools we are for signing up again for 2013!
As Darkness fell, Lauren decided to take a break and head back to the Hotel and rest for a bit. She is a tough girl, and had ground out 50K so far, all the while feeling under the weather. Mo and I put our headlamps on and soldiered into the night. We passed the 12 hour mark, another PR for Mo! Then came the 50 mile mark. It was starting to get cold, but we were still doing well and had our sights set on the 100K mark.
Details and events start to get foggy here. We came through the 100K mark and suddenly realized Mo had made it onto the women's leader board! We were still sticking to our method of running half the course and walking the other half. We would crest the big hill, enter the "abyss" the flat, cold and lonely section of the loop where we would run until we passed the overlook.
Ah, sweet delirium! We would come through the aid station, the volunteers would yell out our lap number, and within 200 feet of passing them we could not remember what number they told us! I was hearing birds chirping off in the woods. Mo heard them as well. We stopped to listen, but when we stopped, they stopped chirping! " Those damn birds are f***ing with us Mo!" This went on for many laps until I discovered the "chirping" sound was actually my nylon wind jacket sleeve rubbing against the side of the jacket!
We were stopping more frequently. It was getting colder too. After hours of sucking in cold air and talking non stop, my voice was now gone. I sounded like Joe Cocker with laryngitis! Then BANG! We hit a wall. I should say Mo hit a wall. I hit THE WALL! We staggered through a few more laps, then I told Mo "I gotta stop for a bit." Mo kept going. The Amazing Armenian! She was now near the top of the female leader board!
I texted Lauren to let her know what was going on. She had come back earlier in the night, with a life saving cup of McDonalds coffee for me, as well as for the volunteers. She then headed back to the hotel to get more rest. It was now close to 5am. She would be coming back at 6am to try and get in a few more laps. I had an hour to kill before I could nap in the car. I was really starting to feel sick, so I changed into some dry clothes, went into the heated bathroom, sat on the toilet and took a nap!
I vaguely remember hobbling out of the bathroom, seeing my car, mumbling something to Lauren and getting into the car. The door opened several minutes later, and just as I was about to cuss Lauren out, she put a blanket over me and tucked me in. A true ultra buddy! Nite, Nite! She was also kind enough to capture the moment on film!
Mo was still out there, plugging away. I drifted in and out of sleep, finally hearing the horn that signified the end of the race.
Mo crushed it! A stunning 83.5 laps for a total of 79.32 miles and second place female and 8th place overall! Lauren worked in a few more laps as well, finishing with a gutty performance totaling 41.30 miles. I finished with 68.43 miles, 10th overall for mileage and 7th place male.(All results are "unofficial" at this point)
We all made it through in one piece, a little banged up, sore, snotty but happy! I am happy to report my voice came back, a somewhat more soulful "Hootie and the Blowfish" type tone to it. I would like to thank my compatriots Mo and Lauren, who never cease to amaze and inspire me. I love you guys! Thanks to all my friends, old and new, who kept me going out there. It was great seeing everyone. Last but not least, a huge thank you to RD Ricky Scott and all the all the amazing volunteers that made this such a great experience!
For more info on the race check out http://www.crookedroadrunning.com/#/24-hour-event/4552535835