Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review "The Summit Seeker" by Vanessa Runs

While most books on running focus on the physical demands and rewards of running, Vanessa Runs new book "The Summit Seeker" delves into the psychological and spiritual side of trail and ultra running and how it has helped her overcome the many challenges in her life.

   From her first 5K to her third 100 mile distance, Vanessa takes your along on her journey. On the way, you will encounter her struggles, adventures and triumphs, and see how running helped transform her life.
  Early in the book Vanessa mentions a quote from her writer friend and race director Shelley Viggiano: "When you finish your first ultra, you are transformed from a weak person to a powerful one. There is nothing in life that feels insurmountable any longer, not once you've willingly wrestled with demons that big. When you know what you are capable of, you can take charge of your life. That's what running ultras did for me."  This passage rang true for me. After running and completing ultras over the past few years I gained strength and confidence. I left my job, which I had held for many years. It was a good source of income, but I had not fully realized how miserable it was making me. Ultra running had given me the strength to see that I was not "trapped".  I could make positive changes and survive. I am in a much better place today because of it.

   The Summit Seeker is  filled with great advice on life and running, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable to read. There are great stories of epic trail runs and the personal insights that come along with them.
  If you are a fellow ultra and trail runner, there will be many moments in the book where you will find yourself smiling and nodding in agreement with the familiarity of the situation Vanessa describes. One of my favorite sections, entitled "On Time and Distance" sums up the ultra distance perfectly:  "Running an ultra is like living an entire lifetime in the span of one day. You go through good times, bad times, happy times, sad times. It's truly a journey and every race changes you. It's an accomplishment that nobody can take away."
  Folks who do not run ultras or trails will also be inspired by the many life lessons contained in "The Summit Seeker" as well!
  So if you are looking for some inspirational running reading this spring or summer, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of the "The Summit Seeker".  Prop your feet up, grab a drink and settle in for a great read. Just make sure you get your run in first!

"The Summit Seeker" on Amazon:

Learn more about Vanessa Runs at:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report

As I drifted off to sleep the night before Umstead 100, I felt my dog Culliver nudging me as I lay in bed. He wanted to go out. I recall mumbling "not now dude!" before dropping into a hard, dreamless sleep. Upon awakening at 3:30am, I discovered Culliver had left a present for me on the living room rug. I assume he was wishing me luck. Hopefully this was not a sign of things to come!

   I had packed everything the night before, so all I had to do was grab some coffee, eat some toast and head out the door at 4:15am. The drive to Umstead would take about a 1/2 hour. The park gates opened at 4:45am, race start was at 6am. I felt relaxed and ready.
  After several out of town races, Umstead would feel like a family reunion! I not only knew a lot of people in the race, but pretty much everyone who was responsible for putting on the race as well. The week before I had been in Florida helping my buddy Caleb Wilson with his fine event, the Fort Clinch 100. Getting to hang out with Dave James and the folks with Florida Ultra Runners Club was extremely inspirational! For more info on the Fort Clinch 100, check out

     I got to the park, got my stuff set up at headquarters (AS 1) and chatted with friends. I downed a GenerationUCAN shake and headed outside to the start. Right at 6am my friend Charles West shot off the starting fireworks and we were off!! We would be running in the dark for the first hour or so and I had my Fenix "Mothership" headlamp lighting my way. The plan was to do each 12.5 mile lap (eight in total) in about 3-3.5 hours. I was constantly reminding myself during the days prior to the race to not go out too fast. I ran with my buddy CH for the first two miles or so, until he took off down a hill. I let him go right ahead! As the sun came up I was settling in and felt good. I power walked the hills and ran everything else. It was going to be a great day weather wise and I was looking forward to finally running in some warmer temperatures. I had glanced at my Garmin a few times, but did not pay close attention to it, so I was rather shocked when I finished the first lap in 2 hours, 30 minutes! Way too fast!
  I dropped off my headlamp and chugged a UCAN shake. I found my friend Jennifer Frahm, who had also gone out too fast, and we agreed to run together so we could slow each other down!
Lap 2 was much better, coming in right at the 3 hour mark. Jennifer and I ran/walked more, and talked about our dogs, other ultras, run coaching and other miscellaneous trail talk and the miles ticked off easily. We set off on lap three, agreeing to stick together. We got through AS #2 (7 miles into the lap) and cruised along. We fell in with a few other people and I started to pull ahead of them while Jen stayed back. I finished lap 3 by myself and saw Jen finishing her lap 3 as I was heading out for lap 4. She was having some Gall bladder issues and told me she was going to do lap 4 and drop at 50 miles. I gave her a hug, told her to stay strong and headed out for lap 4. Jennifer would take a break at HQ, then go out and finish 50 miles. That is one tough girl! Anyone else probably would have gone to the ER.
 Lap 4 I would run by myself, with my Sony Walkman W cranking out all my favorite Metal songs. One I kept re-playing over and over was by the late, great Ronnie James Dio entitled "Push". It would also get multiple plays at the end of the race as well!

I was still feeling good at the end of lap 4 and looking forward to picking up my pacer Mika for lap 5. I came into HQ at the fifty mile mark in 11 hours, 30 mins. I knew this pace would not hold up for the next 50 miles.
First 50 done!    Photo by M. Percy
 I was greeted by my friends Mo, Lauren, Liz and my next pacer Amy. It was like having four moms at once! They were great to me, asking me what I needed and helping me get in and out of HQ promptly.

I changed shirts, grabbed a quick snack and some Gatorade, found Mika and we headed out for lap 5. I could now feel a little fatigue from the first 50 miles creeping in. We walked the first mile or so while I ate. We then ran/walked our way through the course, talking and laughing as we went.
Mika and I have logged many a mile together, and it was great to have her there with me as darkness set in.
Mika and I at HQ!
 We finished lap 5 in 3.5 hours. It was 9pm, I had 100K under my belt and although I was feeling a wee bit tired, I was confident I could tame this beast. My dear friend Amy was pacing me for lap 6. I had paced Amy for her lap 6 last year. Her feet were a mess at that point, and her inspiring performance and finish was one of the main reasons I wanted to run the race this year. It also helps that we can make each other laugh. A lot. And hard!  Her daughter Kayla tagged along with us for the Airport spur, so I actually had two generations of Surrettes pacing me! Epic!
 I was now incorporating more walking into the running and Amy was great at keeping me going. I had a little "Tokyo Drift" working at this point, and seemed to have a fondness for keeping to the extreme right of the trail. It wasn't long before Amy and I were cackling our way through the lap, singing odd 80's songs, telling insipid "knock knock" jokes and quoting from the video "shit ultra runners say". 
 We rolled back into HQ around 1 am, a four hour lap. 75 miles done. My feet and legs were feeling okay. I had some serious "monkey butt' developing, but I kept marinating my nether region with Desitin and Vaseline. I had been doing great with eating and hydration all day, staying with a UCAN shake each lap, supplementing with a PB&J sandwich now and then to keep the hollowness out of my belly, and consuming a lot of liquids. My friend Liz would be taking over pacing duties for lap 7, then Amy would be back with me for the eighth and final lap.
  We headed out for lap 7. I had Liz call my sister Diane in upstate New York to give her an update. My sister and I always joke about our genetically predisposed ability to worry, a gift from our mother. Even though it was 1am, I knew Diane would like an update. Liz spoke to her and advised I was 75 miles into it, and was still moving well. I walked the entire Airport spur on this lap, and started to run on the gentle downhill slop right after mile two. Liz was awesome! Not only did she pace me, she was also the volunteer pacer coordinator for the race as well! Her organizational skills and her vast knowledge of pro and collegiate sports were a huge asset, along with her pack that contained a spare jacket for me, PB&J sandwiches, napkins, ibuprofen and probably a flare gun as well! Liz kept me rolling through a tough lap. She made sure I kept drinking, and by the end of our lap I was updated on the NCAA tournament and all recent trades in the NFL too!   I rumbled back up the stairs to HQ, got some dap from Liz, got a little Lentil soup and Amy and I set out for the final lap. 5am. 87.5 miles done. Deep breath cowboy, here we go!
  We hit the turn around at the airport spur. They always say "It gets darkest before the dawn", but they never say how f*$%ing cold it gets before the dawn! Amy and I were freezing! I had put on another fleece jacket, had my gloves and beanie on, but couldn't get my hands warm. I also began to feel nauseous.  I did not eat or drink anything for a while, hoping it would pass. Slowly the nausea subsided, then the "Tokyo drift" returned. As we trudged up the long hill at the start of Turkey Creek, dawn began to break. I shut off the "mothership" headlamp. It was good to see daylight again. i was still struggling a bit, but Amy did an awesome job of keeping me motivated and moving. We came through AS 2 for the last time. 5.5 miles left. We marched up the steep hills on the back side of Turkey Creek, looking forward to making that left turn onto Graylyn for the last time and rolling down "Power Line" hill. As we approached the downhill, I turned to Amy and said "okay, let's go" and we proceed to bomb down Power Line at a 9 min/mile pace, passing some guys we had been chasing for the last few miles. That run seemed to jump start my system again. I was warmed back up now and shed my other jacket. I apologized to Amy, put my Walkman W back on and cranked up the Dio song and we began to run again on the downhill slopes around mile 11. 1.5 miles to go. To quote my buddy "Jimbo" Plant: "Any fool can run 1.5 miles!" We made that final right turn that would take us back to HQ for the final time. I was extremely focused on not losing my shit at this point, as we passed the sign saying 1/2 mile to go. I walked a little bit here, wanting to save that last bit of energy to run up the stairs at the finish. Next thing I knew I was bounding up the stairs to the cheers of friends and onlookers! I made it. 100 miles in 26 hours, 55 minutes and 14 seconds.
My buddy Lauren was kind enough to capture the moment on video as well!

 I t was epic to have so many friends there at the finish to greet me! I cannot thank my pacers Mika, Liz and Amy enough for helping me make it through.

With Super Pacer Amy and My Buckle at the finish!

Enjoying a much needed post race cup of coffee!

Gear used: I am somewhat amazed that I ran the entire race in my Saucony Virrata! They held up great and although I had other shoes with me, I never felt the need to change out of them. Thanks to Balega and ProCompression Socks as well for keeping my feet blister free the whole way!
Ultimate Direction hand held, Brooks Shorts, Garmin 305, GenerationUCAN and Klean Athlete supplements!