The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K: May 1, 2020 – August 31, 2020

I’ve always scoffed at the idea of virtual races.  Really, my thinking goes, why even bother?  They are not ‘real’ races so what is the point?  I would never in a million years sign up for one.  But after having all my spring races canceled because of Covina 19, I began to rethink my dislike of the concept.  When Darcy and I decided to forego a July trip to Wisconsin for my initial six day race at the Dome (we are in a high-risk group for the virus and hesitated to fly/stay in hotels), a virtual race sounded reasonable.  Steve Durbin, RD for the Six Days in the Dome race, mentioned this Race Across Tennessee that he and Laz (of ARFTA fame) and Mike Melton (timer extraordinaire) were putting on.

After researching the race at RunSignUp, I realized that this virtual race followed the path of the Last Annual Vol State event – and since I am way too chicken to attempt the real race, doing it virtually would be a fine substitute.  Little did I realize that 19,000 other runners and walkers all over the world would feel the same way.  A walker friend mentioned that this was the 2020 version of Woodstock.  I did not want to miss out.  Besides, to accomplish the 635 mile journey required only a little over 5 miles a day.  If I wanted to put in the time and the mileage, I could even make the return journey before the August 31 deadline.

It took me only several minutes to make up my mind.  I registered, and on the May 1 starting date, I completed 15.1 miles.  My goal was to aim for 10-15 miles a day so I would easily be able to make the trip both ways.  Since that time, I have managed to do between 12 and 20 miles.  Having a goal has lifted my spirits and given me a focus to my training.  There is no real sense of competition (except among the frontrunners, some of whom are already on their way back) so I can relax and slow down if I want to.  However, I am enjoying the whole idea of pushing myself just a little more each day to see how much I can do.  The wilting Florida heat and humidity may soon change my mileage goals a bit but as the summer progresses, I plan to walk earlier and earlier in the morning.

RATS (as participants are called) get a tech tee shirt (which I plan to give away, since I don’t wear technical shirts – and the medium size is enormous) and a medal at the finish.  There is a category for dogs as well, but I thought 1000k was a little too burdensome for Shadow.

This concept of virtual races over long distances has caught on – there are a LOT of them out there – and I decided to sign up for several more, especially since it is fine with RDs to ‘double-dip’ (i. e, mileage completed for one race can be counted towards other races).  Since the idea is FUN (not winning) and most of the money goes to various charities, it seems an enjoyable way to spend my training miles while I wait for real races to begin again.

The other races I’ve entered are Chase the Jester Across California (beginning May 25 through December 31), the Florida Coast to Coast 400k Challenge (June 1 through July 31), and Tip to Tip – The Great Florida Traverse 901 miles (June 1 through December 31).  I even talked Darcy into doing the bronze level of the Jester race – that requires just 1 mile a day, and he and Shadow (yep, she’s signed up too, for that one) already do 1.3 miles on their morning stroll.

Now I’m a convert to virtual.

Staying Fit in a Time of Coronavirus

Like every other person who enjoys racing, I have been saddened over the rapid spread of this new viral scourge and the consequent cancellation of spring races.  I was registered for Operation Endurance in March and a new 24 hour Dragonfly race in April but both were postponed until 2021.  I was also looking forward to attending a knitting retreat in Massachusetts at the end of April but of course that too was cancelled.

My resulting disappointment pales in the face of the challenges faced by our health professionals who are dealing with the virus on the front lines and the financial problems of people who must deal with mounting bills and economic uncertainty over their livelihoods.

As a walker, I depend on getting outside to do several miles every morning.  Although my neighborhood lacks sidewalks, the streets are wide enough for me to walk them without running into too many people or cars, especially during the wee hours before dawn, my customary time to walk.  However, I depend, as so many of us do, on an occasional long race to thoroughly exhaust myself and raise my endorphin level.

I no longer have the determination or desire to do a long distance walk completely on my own.  I depend on races to do that, but now that option was gone.  I had to find a way to raise my heart rate and keep up my stamina.  I began to resort to playing the exercise DVDs in my collection.  Yes, I still have a huge old television that is not connected to cable or an antenna but does have a DVD and videocassette play built in it.  In fact, we have kept that old bulky television specifically so I could play those old cassettes.  I began exercising to Jazzercise and Richard Simmons and a few lesser known artists, but my favorites were the Leslie Sansone walking tapes.  I soon discovered that Ms. Sansone has a Walk at Home streaming service for under $10 a month.  After one free week of trying it out, I decided to subscribe.  That turned out to be my salvation, because I can easily do the suggested daily routine inside my house, with no equipment needed unless I want to add hand weights. She has an eclectic group of walkers with her – all ages, genders, and levels of fitness – so I feel like I’m in a class.  I often supplement the daily walk with one or more from her extensive library available to subscribers and can choose from 1 to 5 miles.  For more info, visit her website at  (This is not a paid endorsement – just my opinion, FWIW).

I’m not big into virtual races and I don’t have an elliptical or treadmill, so I will depend on my outdoor walks and my tapes and streaming to get me through these difficult times. I hope the readers of this blog stay safe and healthy as well.

SC Ultrarunning Festival (SCURF) 24 Hour Race – Beaufort, SC (February 7, 2020)

This is a new racing series sponsored by Grounded Running and directed by Tim Waz, race director extraordinaire. I’ve done several races that Tim has put on, including several Delirium 12 and 24 hour events and two memorable 50 mile Cremators. I had a lot of confidence in signing up for the 24 hour SCURF, especially after Tim assured me that there were heated restrooms available (it takes so little to make me happy, really – just give me a pleasant day with no rain and real bathrooms).

The series included a 6-day, 72, 48, and 24 hour races as well as an option to try for 100 miles (with a 48 hour time limit). I briefly considered trying the 6-day race as preparation for the Dome but quickly decided that weather was a critical variable for me. I did not want to be discouraged by putting my body through a difficult physical trial, only to be put off by rain and cold weather. I also was hesitant to sign up for anything longer than 24 hours without familiarity with the course or other criteria. That made it easy to register for the Friday to Saturday 24 hour.

We arrived in Beaufort Thursday afternoon and checked into an older but adequate Hampton Inn. After lunch at Outback Steakhouse, we drove to the race site at Burton Wells Park. It was reassuring to actually see the course, a .584 mile paved loop around an attractive lake. The single aid station was at the west end of the course and there were 2 sets of heated bathrooms at both ends of the course. The race was chip timed with an ankle chip and a large display was set up so runners and walkers could view their laps and miles immediately after crossing the timing mats. Every 6 hours participants changed direction.

While the early part of the week was relatively calm for the 6-day runners, Thursday held the promise of rainstorms as the 72 hour people began their race. Fortunately, the storms held off until late in the evening but when they did start, they were severe. The sleeping tent set up for people who needed a rest break was demolished and many people returned to their tents or hotels (or, in one case, a sleeping bag in one of the bathrooms) to stay dry. It was supposed to rain early Friday morning as well (when my 24 hour was to start) but I was grateful when that prediction changed to clear skies. Or so I thought.

Just 10 minutes after the 9 am races (24, 48, and 100 mile) began, it started to mist. The drizzle turned heavier and persisted for about 20 minutes, enough time for me to get thoroughly soaked. I had not worn anything to ward off wetness, and my rain gear was back at the hotel, so Darcy drove 10 minutes back to the hotel to bring me my rain pants and rain jacket. Just as he returned, the rain ceased but my clothes were wet; thus began the first of my several trips to the closest bathroom to change.

In fact, these bathrooms were to be my lifeline and not just for the obvious reasons. I had several ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and had to change clothes multiple times. This would have been impossible had there only been porta potties! In one case, I spilled some chocolate protein drink all over my pants and had to change. In another instance, it suddenly felt like a twig or piece of bark had entered the heel of my left shoe, even though I was wearing gaiters. When I checked (another trip to the bathroom, since it was too cold to remove shoes outside), I found that a label on the bottom of my orthotics had worked its way up to the top of the orthotic and was cutting into my heel. After I removed the offending irritant, that issue was resolved. But all these little things ate into my time, and even with a full 24 hours, it was easy to see that I would have difficulty managing to attain a decent mileage.

Still, I kept moving along the flat asphalt path, adroitly avoiding the heaves and bumps in the otherwise smooth pavement. These tripping hazards were marked in red paint and easily viewed during the daylight hours, but at night the course was dark and I frequently stumbled over them. My flashlight helped quite a bit here and so did the full moon. Eventually I began to accrue miles and felt that 50 miles was well within reach by dawn on Saturday.

The major drawback was the cold. It was predicted that temperatures would fall to 39 degrees in the early morning hours. In fact, the temperature was more in the 31-34 degree range, and no matter how many clothes I put on, I could not stop exposed areas like my face from freezing. Had it been a bit warmer, even 40 degrees, I might have been able to sit and rest for 15 or 20 minutes; that might have made a big difference in how I felt. But those wee hours of the morning, when my feet are sore and my muscles tired and tight, are usually my lowest point. It is too easy for me to give up or give in, and that is what happened here. By 5:30 am on Saturday, I was ready to quit. I had reached 100k and that was fine with me. Despite my muscle fatigue, I felt otherwise fine physically. I was not sleepy at all. I did want to take a short break, drink some hot coffee or soup, and warm up, but it was too cold and – mentally – I was spent. I texted Darcy to come get me. By the time he arrived, I had finished another mile, to end my 21 hour sojourn with just over 63 miles. Not great but respectable.

With hindsight, I knew I could have lasted the full 24 hours, but I made the decision to leave early. Although part of me regrets not staying, I enjoyed the race and would consider returning for another go.

Here are the pros and cons of this series:

The good stuff:

  • Since the course is .584, two laps equal just over a mile in distance. This, to me, is very rewarding, and I found the miles mount up relatively quickly
  • There are no hills or even slight inclines to challenge runners – it’s flat, flat, flat – except for the slight ridges and heaves
  • The two sets of heated bathrooms are a blessing
  • Since the park is open, with a dog park and basketball court, there are people and animals to watch
  • While there is the inevitable music playing during daylight hours, at least from 10:30 pm to the early morning the music is turned off and there is silence. That, too, is a blessing (at least to me)
  • While I did not partake of aid station offerings except for a few cookies when I had a hankering for something sweet, food was plentiful and there was an array of selections, some foods cooked to order, plus beverages like water, coffee, soda, and soup

The not so great:

  • Although the path is paved, it is not smooth and there are lots of heaves and bumps (marked in red paint but not fluorescent). It is not as ragged as the Endless Mile course and I did not suffer any blisters as I did at EM, but it is still worth noting
  • Some people did not need headlamps or flashlights but I certainly did, and I noted that a number of others did as well

This race series has many positive aspects and very minor flaws. In fact, were it not for the unpredictable of weather in SC in February, I would be tempted to sign up for a longer race here next year. I’d love to try for the attractive 100 mile buckle!

Savage 2 Plus – Ocala, FL (December 26 – December 30, 2019)

Sometimes things work out as planned, and sometimes they just don’t. This series of races was an experience that fell in the latter category. My saga began the day before we were to leave for Ocala. I checked in to the Homewood Suites online and tried to choose my room; usually, the Hilton app allows customers to select one’s desired floor and room. However, I was allowed no such option and instead was given a room adjoining the ice machine and mechanical equipment on a lower floor. This did not bode well, but I was hopeful I could change rooms once I showed up at the hotel.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. I was told the hotel was full and the earliest I could effect a change would be Saturday, 4 days away. That made me very grumpy; I knew that without a quiet night’s sleep, I would be unable to effectively complete the seven 50k races I had registered for. The first night, I wore my Bose headphones to try and drown out the clanging from the ice machine and other variable mechanical noises. The headphones only cushioned the aberrant sounds to a duller roar. Desperate, I resorted to taking a sleeping pill. Usually, I avoid taking any kind of sleep medication because I can feel the sequelae the next day, definitely not a good thing to do before a race when I want to be at my best. But I knew I needed some rest.

The alarm woke me up (how often does that happen? Rarely!) and I got dressed and ready for the first 50k. I was familiar with the course (this is where I had completed 13 marathons in 13 days two years ago, and in prior years I had finished both half and full marathons on individual days), I knew to bring a headlight for the first lap (it was still dark at 6 am), and I was prepared to do my best. Unfortunately, I was still a bit groggy from my drugged sleep so I moved cautiously around the park as best I could.

To complete the 50k, participants must do 6 laps of the 5 mile loop. On the very first lap, I realized I was bored and the thought of completing 6 laps seemed overwhelming. The idea of doing six laps every day for 6 more days was enough to put me in a tailspin. For some reason, I simply could not wrap my head around 6 laps. Five seemed reasonable – I could do 2 laps, then a third (over halfway), and by the time I started lap number 5 I knew I was almost done. But SIX laps!! When I finished lap three, I was only half done and had to do 3 more. Physically, I was fine (sleepy but otherwise okay) but mentally I just could not wrap my head around those required six laps.

I finished this first 50k in 8 hours. 29 minutes, not too shabby considering. But I dreaded going back to the noisy hotel room and then having to face six more races (36 more laps). At that point, I had decided I would not finish all 7 races. It would be better to cut our losses and return home early. That evening I told the hotel that we planned to leave on Monday, shortening our stay by 3 nights.

Thursday night was a repeat of the previous evening. I slept poorly, resorting to headphones and sleeping pill. I awoke Friday morning even grumpier than before. This day I took 9 hours and 15 minutes to finish and was the last person on the course. I began to consider dropping to the half marathon or perhaps the full marathon but that meant I would finish earlier (good) but then would have to spend more time in the noisy hotel room (very bad).

I was certainly not feeling the joy. My usual mantra is ‘have fun, don’t die’ – and while I was sure I was not going to collapse and expire, I was most definitely NOT having fun. Every lap was a slog. When Darcy picked me up after that second 50k, I was depressed. To make things even sadder, I had wanted to do some laps with friends, but it seemed that Joyce, Angela, Theresa, Cheryl, and others were always on the other side of the lane so we could only wave and exchange a few words in passing but that was all. I did manage a couple of laps with Clint, Race Director JC, and Frank and I was thankful for those opportunities. That afternoon we drove back to the hotel and as we entered, Darcy mentioned that he was able to change our room. Although we were still on the third floor, we were now in the center of the hallway, far away from dreaded machine noise and the elevators as well. In addition, we now had an actual suite with a living room and bedroom as well as a kitchenette. The previous room was much smaller, only slighter larger than an average hotel room. I was so relieved!

There are so many positives about this race and the park venue is great (smooth asphalt, real bathrooms, no time limit). But the fun had vanished; I realized that I still wanted to return home early. I did not want to push myself through those boring 6 laps a day. For the remaining 3 races, I dropped to the half marathon and enjoyed myself. I only had to do 2 ½ laps and that turned out to be fun. Of course, sleeping well in a quiet room (and without drugs) helped elevate my mood, but the truth was that 2 ½ laps was easy to do, almost like completing a 5k, and I could push myself and relax at the same time. And when I returned to the hotel at 10 in the morning instead of 4, I could spend the time reading, knitting, and recovering in a peaceful environment.

I finished the half marathons in respectable times – 3:17 on Saturday, 3:31 on Sunday, and 3:19 on Monday. My total mileage for the five days equaled just over 101 miles. While I was disappointed not to finish the entire series, I was pleased with what I did accomplish. As soon as I finished that last half marathon, we drove home, stopping in Gainesville to visit with our friend and former neighbor Karolyn and her son. And it was very satisfying to spend New Year’s Eve at home.

Third Time’s a Charm – The Stinger 24 Hour (Hampton, GA), November 16, 2019

This is SUCH a good race and it seems to get better with each passing year. Race Director Kevin and his wife Annie and their corps of volunteers do an admirable job of putting together an event that was great in its first year, excellent in its second, and now, in its third iteration, is near perfect.

I’ve written about my previous experiences at the Stinger on this blog, so I won’t go into extensive detail here. I will mention the basics (397.6 meter track, 6, 12, or 24 hour options, heated bathrooms plus portapotties, aid-station with snacks, drinks, and meals including hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon, and more) and simply note that my previous experiences were not my best due to cold weather and rain or frost. Both times I left 4-5 hours early because I was freezing. I achieved 58 miles in 2017 and 66 miles in 2018, not bad performances but I could only imagine how much better I could do if I could only last the full 24 hours.

That made my goal for this year a straightforward one – I wanted to stay on the course for the full 24. To deal with the expected cold weather, I brought heavy sweatpants, my thick worsted Norwegian mittens, warm pullovers and hooded coats, along with the usual plethora of hats, scarves, and handwarmers. I was ready! The good news was that the rain predicted earlier in the week for race day never arrived and – although it was cold – it was never freezing.

However, I began the race with only 2 hours of sleep the night before, from 10 to midnight. The rest of the night was spent in bed but awake. Why? I have no idea. I was comfortable with the race (after all, I did it twice before), I couldn’t get lost, there are a dozen heated bathrooms, and no rain predicted. Still, I could not sleep.

I had only two problems during the race – the first sign of trouble was the return of painful blistesr on the sole of my right foot. I began to feel the soreness around mile 10, not a good sign, but I pushed through regardless. I was determined not to let the blisters stop me. My foot hurt the entire race but I pushed on through the pain. Fortunately, the track had been resurfaced and felt glorious overall, much gentler on legs and feet than the asphalt at Endless Mile last month.

And so I persisted. I changed shoes several times, leaving my most comfortable Hokas for the last 8 hours. I put a soft sock on my sore foot over the Injinji to provide more cushioning. Aside from a couple of bathroom trips, I did not sit down until Darcy came to check on me at 4 pm (no noon visit, too many football games!) – I took 15 minutes to sit, eat, drink, and talk to him. Then I was up and moving (hobbling) again.

My other problem was noise. My lowest point in a fixed time ultra usually begins around midnight and lasts until around 4 am (my usual awakening time). During those midnight to dawn hours, I want it to be quiet, and loud music upsets me, makes me grouchier than usual, and gives me a headache. During the daytime, the music doesn’t seem to bother me so much but at night I am crazed by the loudness. I am sure the reason the music was set to blare level was to keep us awake on the track, but it was the main reason I strongly considered texting my husband to come get me. I asked the volunteers to turn the noise down a bit and they did – for a while – but soon it was loud again. I escaped to the bathroom where the noise from the heater drowned out some of the sound, but eventually I had to return to moving around. Only my strong desire to keep on course for the entire 24 hours – plus my hesitation to wake my sleeping husband – kept me strong and motivated.

I must admit to another reason I remained on the course during my weakest hours. My friend Joyce was following my progress on the Live Tracking site for the race. I was embarrassed to think she would feel I was giving up (or giving in) to sleepiness or pain. She knows how I like to return to my hotel room to sleep and recharge, but in a 24 hour race, unless it is pouring rain, that should not be necessary. I didn’t want to appear a wimp. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t wet, I was just irritated and limping. It didn’t justify leaving the race. I kept moving.

By 3:30 am I began to feel better. The music was still loud but the tape now had a few songs I recognized. More people returned to the course after resting in their cars or tents and the increased activity kept me involved and motivated. The remaining hours passed quickly and I achieved my goal of staying the entire 24 hours without further problem, with a total of 74 miles.

This third iteration of the Stinger had some major improvements:

  • We followed USATF track rules, which stipulate that lane 1 be reserved for runners and walkers who are ‘moving with purpose.’ This meant that I did not have to stay in the outer lanes unless I wanted to talk or move slowly. For me, this is a real boost. The second lane is reserved for passing, with the remaining lanes for groups and those shuffling along.
  • We changed direction every 4 hours (instead of 3) which made it easier to calculate in my mind
  • Timing was professionally done by Brandon Wilson and it worked perfectly, with large screens in both directions so we could easily keep track of our laps and miles
  • This year we received a warm hoodie instead of a long-sleeved cotton shirt. This was not necessarily better (since I really like the tee shirts) but it was good to have a different item

Highly recommended it for walkers and runners of all speeds but sign up early because this year it filled up quickly.











Endless Mile 48 Hour (Alabaster, AL) – October 18, 2019

There is not much new to say about this race. I’ve done the 24 hour here twice and the 48 hour once, so this was a return visit. I had really hoped to stay on the course the entire time because I usually end up leaving with at least 4 – 5 hours to go. The reasons for leaving are varied; usually the weather plays an integral role. Sometimes it’s too cold, or rainy, or windy, but this year the weather turned out to be just right. I cannot use that as an excuse. In fact, the short period of rain and wind that did occur turned out to be during the 5 hours I spend away from the course sleeping. That was pure chance but it worked out in my favor.

No, my reason for not sticking it out for the full 48 hours this year was a bad blister situated under a hard callous on the sole of my right foot. In rereading my previous reports about this race, I realized that I had had the same problem in past years. While the course is asphalt, usually a good thing (for me), the surface is jagged and broken in places and, combined with the inclines/downhills on the course, the result is a challenge to my sensitive feet. This year was no different. After 24 hours on the course, I began hobbling and changing my gait to accommodate the chestnut-sized lump on the sole of my foot. I decided to return to the hotel (the nearby Holiday Inn) to shower and get some sleep. I was optimistic that after a few hours with my feet elevated, the situation would improve.

That was not to be, however. After a welcome 5-hour rest and a change of shoes and socks, I began walking around the one-mile course once again. I was refreshed and ready to go (and had missed the rain shower), but my feet were still bothering me. Around 8 pm, my only objective was to get to 100 miles and receive my buckle. It took me until 1 in the morning to achieve that goal. During those midnight and early morning hours, I walked the course with Kimberly, and our chatting helped to pass the time. After she reached 100 miles, I decided to continue for another couple of laps, take a break, and then bide my time until a reasonable hour when I could text Darcy to come get me. My final mileage was 104 and I had spent 44 hours on the course.

Despite these blister problems, I enjoyed myself tremendously. I know a lot of the runners who return every year to do this race; it was great to visit with Joyce and Ray as well as Kim, Jim, Doyle, and others. The race director, his wife, and the many helpful volunteers are welcoming and pleasant. I’d like to give a special shout out to the kind man who controlled the timing booth for the entire race and always let me know my lap count. The food and drink were plentiful, there are real bathrooms, and other than my blisters, I have no complaint. Next year, I will probably attempt the 24 hour rather than the 48 and give my tired feet a break.

Six Days in the Dome – The Redux (Milwaukee, WI) 2019

The Dome in Anchorage, AK, was home to the first Six Days in the Dome in 2014. The Six Days – Redux series is currently being held this year at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, WI, from August 23 through August 31 (which means it is still going on – this is day 3). Steve Durbin of Durbin Race Management along with elite runners Joe Fejes and Traci Falbo are the masterminds behind the event.

By the time I heard about the 6 day race last April, it had already filled up and there was an extensive waiting list. However, there were opportunities available to register for one of the two 24 hour races or the 48 hour event. These were to start two days before the 6 day race was to begin. In a weak moment, I decided to try for the 48 hour but it too had completely filled up. Not willing to give up, I put my name in the waiting list lottery. Then I promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I discovered a message in my email that a spot had opened – was I still interested? I had to respond quickly. After discussing with Darcy, I decided to go for it. We bought plane tickets to Milwaukee and then I once again put it all in the back of my mind – until last month when RD Steve began sending us informative emails with lots of intriguing race details. Suddenly I realized that it had been years since I had to fly to a multiday ultra; I had a lot of planning to do!

I wanted to make sure I had sufficient clothes in case one of my suitcases got lost or misplaced, so I packed duplicate outfits and several pairs of shoes in both of my checked bags. In addition, I wore a running top and pants with injinji socks and running shoes on the plane. To say I was a little obsessive compulsive was an understatement. I didn’t want to chance anything coming between me and my best showing in this race.

Darcy and I left Thursday morning and arrived in Milwaukee in the early afternoon. We picked up our rental car and drove by the Pettit Center to make sure we knew exactly where it was and how long it would take us to get there on Friday morning. We checked into a pleasant Homewood Suites where we had a suite on the 5th floor. It was in quiet location and only about 3 miles from the Ice Center. An early meal at Olive Garden allowed me plenty of time to panic about what to pack in my drop bags and think about strategy (as if I hadn’t been thinking about that for weeks).

Packet pickup began Friday morning at 6:30 in the lobby and we arrived at 6:31. I had arranged to purchase a sleeping bag and rent a table and chair beforehand and everything was ready and set up for me. I got my bib, ankle chip, hat, long-sleeve cotton blend hoody, and a drop bag (personalized – my name was on it – how neat is that?!).

My friend Judy soon arrived and we commiserated on our nervousness and anxiety. Judy was doing the first day 24 hour so she brought a minimum of belongings. I envied her at that point, thinking maybe I should have signed up for the 24 hour as well. But heck, I was in this for 48 hours and I was determined to give it my all.

Because there are two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, in the Ice Center, that are designated for sleeping and/or resting, Darcy and I wandered around to each so I could decide where I wanted to put my sleeping bag. I also wanted to make sure I knew my way there and back –I have a tendency to get lost very easily and didn’t want to waste valuable racing time trying to find my way back to the track. I also had to check out the location of the several restrooms. The closest ones to the track were immediately outside the track double doors in a heated lobby area – convenient and a lifesaver.

Timing was done by Mike Melton and Brandon Wilson and there were large monitors that gave real-time results, including miles, kilometers, lap distance, and position. There was one fully-stocked aid station that provided the usual ultra staples plus scheduled meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I never went hungry, and the one time I made a special request (for my favorite drink of seltzer), Steve quickly brought several bottles.

Our pre-race briefing took place at 8:30 and Steve and Mike went over rules and procedures. At 9 am on the dot, we took off counter-clockwise and immediately I felt a surge of relief course through me. All that anxiety and worry disappeared and my only focus was to move forward and have fun.

The track is a 443 meter track with 3 lanes, each approximately 18” wide. We changed direction every 4 hours. Runners AND walkers were required to use the inner lane except when passing (in the middle lane). For sauntering or strolling but still moving forward, racers could use the third (or outside) lane. As a serious walker, I loved this rule – I was no longer relegated to the outer lane. I’m not sure how much faster runners liked it, but most were moving so quickly around me they didn’t seem too bothered about it.

The really great thing about an indoor race is the controlled climate. For a change, I did not have to worry about rain, thunder, lightning, snow, freezing cold, or heat-stroke highs. Inside the Pettit, the temperature is an almost constant 55 degrees with 30-35% humidity. I did not have to pack rain gear or heavy jackets, mittens, or handwarmers. I did find that the low humidity was a problem for me (there is a reason I live in humid Florida). My nose bled constantly, and my lips and fingers were chapped and sore. But that was a small price to pay for the lack of severe weather extremes.

There was music, lots of it, several tapes that played the same songs over and over. Some I recognized and enjoyed (oldies like ‘I Heard it through the Grapevine’) and others I tried to block out. During the first day, there were several hockey games taking place in the center rinks and the loud smashing of the hockey sticks and pucks competed with the musical refrains. Occasionally there were skaters, young and old, in one of the rinks. During the late evening hours, the center rinks were quiet, and the only sounds were the music tapes and runners moving past.

Those first 24 hours went by relatively quickly. I had no foot or leg problems, no pain or aches, just occasional dizziness from going around the track in tight little circles. I have experienced similar dizziness on outdoor tracks so this was nothing new. I had to concentrate on looking up and around me instead of down and at the center. That queasy feeling only occurs during track races and seems to be my personal bugaboo.

Except for changing my shoes or stopping at the bathroom, I never took a break. By 30 hours in, I was starting to get tired and a little sleepy. I decided to get some rest in the sleeping quarters downstairs (ironically called ‘the party room’). At least that was my intention. However, there were too many impediments to getting any real rest for me. Even with a sleeping bag and mat, the floor was too hard. I couldn’t lie flat and my legs wanted to cramp as I lay down and rose up. In addition, the room was filled with people snuffling, snoring, and coughing. Whatever was I thinking?? I am an insomniac who finds it hard to fall sleep even in an ideal environment. How was I supposed to sleep on a hard floor with a roomful of people around me? It wasn’t going to happen. I texted Darcy to come get me so I could get at least a few hours of restful sleep. By that time, I was up to 93 miles. I had a blister and hot spot on the sole of one foot. Darcy came around 4:30 pm on Saturday and took me back to the hotel where I soaked my feet and doctored my sore foot. I set my phone alarm for 7 pm and immediately fell asleep. The bed was comfortable, the room dark and quiet. I don’t even remember my head touching the pillow. The jarring noise of my phone woke me from a sound slumber. I really wanted to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep but I resisted. I quickly changed into clean new clothes and shoes and and returned to the track.

It’s amazing what a little bit of quality sleep will do for one’s physical and mental ability. I felt so much better after what essentially was a simple power nap – I really needed those 2 hours of sleep. From that point on, the only breaks I took were to visit the bathroom, change my shoes, or put my feet up for 10 minutes or so. I soon reached 100 miles and decided that next I wanted to get to at least 121 miles by Sunday morning. My 48 hour PR was 120 miles several years ago at UltraCentric in Grapevine, TX. It would be great if I could beat my own record, especially now that I was older and slower. I cannot remember at what time I reached that goal but I was still feeling pretty good, though my blistered foot was starting to bother me again. I realized that 200k was within my reach if I kept moving. I mentioned to another runner that my husband was supposed to show up at 8 am and when he does I will probably leave. However, by that time I was too close to 200k to stop. I persisted until I finally reached 125 miles (201k) and I carried the little 200k pennant around the track once more as the few remaining runners cheered me on. What a rush that was for me! I’m told that 125 miles is the USA age-group record for women 70-74. If accurate, that is even more reason to celebrate.

My mantra during races is “stagger onward rejoicing” (from W. H. Auden’s poem Atlantis) and that certainly kept me going here. I also remembered my friend Joyce’s advice to take occasional short breaks but stay on the course and keep moving. Joyce never seems to stop, even when she is exhausted, and as a result she often finishes in the #1 spot because of her persistence.   I have a fair amount of stamina and stubbornness but I tend to give up when I am too cold, wet, or tired. In this race I was only tired, so it was easier for me to keep moving and motivated.

Another bonus to this race – the buckle for achieving at least 100 miles is also personalized. I have several 100 mile buckles but this is the only one that has my name on it!

As I mentioned earlier, the 6 day race is currently taking place and I have a number of running friends who are now attaining major mileage numbers. I want to send lots of positive thoughts to Sally, Kevin, Jimmie, Doyle, Joe, Dr. Lovey, and all the other runners and walkers in the 6 day event.

Someday, maybe, I will try a six day race, but for now I will enjoy cheering on everyone still moving forward.


Southern Discomfort Resurgence – July 27, 2019 (Albany, GA)

Last year, stress fractures prevented me from doing my best at Southern Discomfort. I was overly cautious after spending 4 months in a boot and I left the race after only 10 hours on the course and less than 25 miles . It was an abysmal showing for a 24 hour event but I look back on it now as a wise decision.  Because I was overly cautious then about listening to my body to prevent further injury,  I managed to do 7 races between September 2018 and June 2019 without any major problem.

I eagerly anticipated this year’s Southern Discomfort (SD) because I planned to stay on the course the full 24 hours, taking rest breaks, and changing shoes and clothes as needed. As an added bonus, I would get to see my friends Joyce and Ray again, since Joyce had signed up for the 30 hour option. I had no goal in mind other than to get to at least a 50k (but of course I really wanted to do as many miles as I possibly could).

This year, as in previous years, the weather was hot and humid (no surprise there – what else could I expect in Georgia in July?) but unlike the course at The General and The Mrs. in Omaha, GA, the 1.1074 mile paved loop in Albany is partially shaded and almost completely flat. The 6, 12, 24, and 30 hour races all begin at 7 am (an hour earlier than previous years), although 6 and 12 hour people have the option to begin in the evening (and several took advantage of the relatively cooler evening hours).

As I’ve noted in previous reports about SD, there is a lot to like and that is why I come back every year. Race directors Kelli and John have all the essentials down to a science; it’s hard to believe this is only the race’s third year. Usually packet pickup is at the race site on Saturday morning before the races but this year we could also get our packets on Friday afternoon at Pretoria Fields Microbrewery in downtown Albany. In addition to bib with chip, soft cotton-blend tee shirt, cap, and bag, we received a coupon for a free pint of beer. I couldn’t resist that offer so I enjoyed a pint of Rye Charles IPA (highly recommended) while chatting with other racers.

After packet pickup we checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn near the Mall, and had a satisfying early dinner at Olive Garden. I slept fairly well (unusual for me before a race) and was anxious to get to the race site at Chehaw Park. We met up with Ray and Joyce, said hi to Anne, Sue, Drina, and Mike, and on the dot of 7 we were off. The early morning hours were pleasant, with a cool breeze, but as the afternoon wore on, the sun became oppressive. To survive, Joyce and I decided to do two laps and then a ten minute break. That plan managed to get us through the hottest hours of the day.

The well-staffed aid station had cold water, Tailwind, and lots of food, though I really didn’t have much of an appetite except for the watermelon and pizza. Although I had one bout of indigestion, it was quickly resolved by an Alka-Seltzer (thanks, Ray). I’ve decided that some of my previous digestive problems during races were caused by not eating enough protein so I made sure to consume some protein-hearty meals several days before the event.

Once I reached 50k, I felt relieved. My next goal was 50 miles and I achieved that sometime during the night. Most of the time after that is a blur and I kept going around and around, changing shoes when my feet started to hurt, resting occasionally, but mostly just going in circles, checking my lap count occasionally to be sure it was going up.  At some point, I began walking with Charlie, a young pilot from Fort Rucker in Alabama, who was going for his first hundred miles. He asked if he could use me as pacer for his last 3 laps and I said ‘sure’ – he was keeping a comfortably fast pace and that helped motivate me during those wee morning hours when I would otherwise be trudging slowly and looking for excuses to rest.  When he reached his 100 (and received his buckle), I had completed about 65 miles (yea!) and continued on but more slowly. As morning dawned and I was prepared to stop, Darcy arrived. When I asked at the timing tent about my mileage, I was told I was in FIRST PLACE (female) for the 24 hour! That spurred me on for one more lap; I finished with 68.65 miles, the best I’ve achieved in the past 1.5 years. I received a neat plaque as an award, plus a finisher beer glass (for completing at least 100k), and a painting done by a rattlesnake (a gift for all participants).

I would highly recommend this race for walkers and runners; it remains one of my favorites.

Hotter than H_ _ _ !! General and the Mrs. Run for the Heroes at Omaha (Omaha, GA)

Heat doesn’t usually bother me a bit, and I certainly prefer warm weather to cold, but this weekend’s race nearly did me in. Pity the poor runners who signed up for the 72 hour race; some – like strongman Kevin – did amazingly well, with over 200 miles at last count, while others suffered in the oven-like heat. Even my friend Sally, who wins practically every race she enters and, as a fellow Floridian, is accustomed to hot weather, decided to call it a day after reaching the 100 mile point. I was glad, under these circumstances, that I only registered for the 12 hour race, but even 12 hours was too much for me.

The course is a .85 miles loop located behind Omaha Brewery, a wonderful oasis in western Georgia farm country near the Alabama border. Although the terrain is primarily dirt and dust, there are a couple of small roots sticking upright or looping across the track. Of course, I managed to stumble over them and had to watch my footing carefully, especially as the day wore on and I got more fatigued. While the 72 and 48 hour participants started at 2 pm on Thursday and Friday respectively, those doing the 12 hour with me began Saturday at 8 am. This gave me a good 4 hours before the sun reached its zenith and during those hours I was feeling strong.

However, by 1 pm the heat intensified, and the few steep inclines and descents began to feel like mountains. I could feel myself huffing and puffing as I chugged up and coasted down them. There is no shade on the course except for a few places under the surrounding trees. On my way around the loop, I realized I was stopping in every one of those little spots to catch my breath and remove myself from the sun’s direct glare. My hopes of achieving a 50k in under 10 hours quickly dissipated. I decided a marathon distance would be achievable without requiring a trip to the ER, so I reconsidered my goal.

By 4 pm I must have looked sickly and pale because RD Kena approached me and asked if I wanted to sit in her air-conditioned car for a bit. I took her up on her generous offer. She also encouraged me to drink some electrolyte solution and had me check in with Doctor Joe, the MD on call, to make sure I wasn’t suffering from heat exhaustion. I decided to do a couple more laps to make sure I had at least 26.2 miles and then decided to call it a day. I collected my medal (a useful bottle opener) and thanked Kena and her crew for a fun if dramatically overheated race. Darcy and I packed up my chairs and drop bag and repaired to the air-conditioned brewery where we absorbed some of the local color by eating delicious food from the two food trucks, drinking excellent beer, and listening to live music.

In the future the race will probably be moved to a cooler time of year and that would certainly be a blessing. Whether I do the General and the Mrs. again is uncertain but I will definitely visit Omaha Brewery whenever I’m in the area.

Other things to note:

  • The tee shirt is a comfortable short-sleeved cotton in a subtle yellow color
  • There is no hotel or large grocery store nearby. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Columbus, which made it a 45 minute drive to and from the race site
  • There is one aid station with all kinds of ultra goodies, plus grilled sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers, water, soda (including ginger ale), electrolyte solutions. About halfway around the loop is a table set up with ice water and electrolyte drink and I made it a practice to stop there quite a few times
  • There were 2 portapotties on the course and 4 at the start/finish line. Despite my decision to only do races with real bathrooms, I made an exception in this case. I wanted to have something in-between Operation Endurance in March and Southern Discomfort in July and this seemed to fit
  • The race has 1, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hour options but only the 12 hour started in the morning. The other races began at 2 pm
  • If you are going to be racing during the evening hours, be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight. I was told it was extremely dark during the nighttime.
  • The races are a fundraiser for the Chattahoochee Valley Chapter of House of Heroes, so registration fees and monies raised by runners goes to a great cause

Results have not yet been posted but I was told I completed 27 miles. Despite my love of hot weather, I was not sufficiently acclimated to walking in 100 degree heat for an extended period of time. My usual training walks had purposely been in the early morning hours before sunup. This race experience made me realize that I need to do some serious heat training, especially if I want to do well at Southern Discomfort in late summer, another hot weather race.

Operation Endurance 24 Hour Race – March 23, 2019 (Columbus, GA)

Some races are just a lot of fun and I enjoy returning to them repeatedly. That’s how it is with Operation Endurance. This was my third attempt at the 24 hour and would have been my fourth if not for the stress fractures that sidelined me last year. I’ve also done the 12 hour version and found that to be near perfect, but stubbornness keeps me signing up for the longer race.

This year our usual hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, was full so we stayed at the Hampton Inn near Fort Benning and that turned out to be a good choice. It was very close to the race site (which is on the base) and the room was quiet and clean. The only negative was the lack of close-by restaurants but since there were several good brew pubs downtown, that was not really a problem. In fact, one of the highlights of this trip was the opportunity to have dinner and drinks with my friend and race director Kena and her BFF Stephanie at Nonic’s. The draft beer list at Nonic’s was extensive and I had a very satisfying IPA flight as well as a huge pretzel with beer cheese and mustard. However, the next day – during the race – I realized that I probably did not consume enough protein and, as a result, I encountered some digestive queasiness that might have been prevented with a heartier meal. But it seems no matter how many races I do, I always learn something I might have done better or differently.

On Friday afternoon, we stopped at the visitor center to get our weekend passes. Without a pass, one cannot enter the base, and it is so much easier and less crowded to stop the day before the race than the morning of. The weather was supposed to be clear and cold (40’s) at night and mid-70’s during the day, so I had to bring a variety of clothes so I could add and subtract as needed. Fortunately, there was NO RAIN and that was a blessing. However, the early mornings and late evenings were much colder than usual for this date in Columbus, and I was dressed in my usual 6 layers until the sun was up.

The track at Stewart Watson Field is just shy of a mile so it is necessary to do more than one lap to achieve one mile. After doing track ultras (where a mile is almost 5 laps), at first the miles seemed to come quickly but that sensation did not last long. A mile is still a mile. The course is relatively easy on one’s feet because of the packed dirt. I wore my gaiters to keep out the occasional pebble or two but I had no real problem with my feet or legs.

I did have a problem with my back, however. For some reason that I still cannot understand, I woke up race day morning with pain in my lower back. The bed at the hotel was a typical comfortable Hampton Inn bed so I can’t attribute the pain to my sleeping arrangement. I didn’t pick up or move anything heavy the day before. I seldom have back pain and have no idea as to why this happened. It did not stop me from starting the race, however, and I found that the very flat course did not make the pain worse, so I was able to continue racing for a total of 16 hours, broken into two segments. Yes, I succumbed as I often do when I get wet or cold or hurt and decided to spend the night in the hotel. My friend Mellody was doing the 12 hour and she generously offered me a ride back to our hotel and I decided to go (at that point I had completed 41 laps). I showered, ate several slices of pizza, drank some chocolate milk, brushed my teeth, and retired to bed. After 4 hours of sleep, I was ready to go again. My back was still sore but at least I was clean and rested.

It was freezing cold at 4 am on Sunday morning when I returned to the course but I was able to move steadily and consistently. I did not stop at all until I had it the 50 mile mark. Then I slowed down just a little but kept moving. During the still dark hours of the morning, I saw about 30 animals cross the course from one side to the other – these animals looked to be the size of medium -sized dogs and I thought perhaps they were coyotes. Only a few other runners were on the course at that time and we were all spaced far apart. At first I thought I might be hallucinating but when I caught up with the racer ahead of me (I was moving fast because I was nervous being out there alone with what might be wild animals!), I asked him if he had seen the animals too. He had (good!) and I was both relieved and apprehensive. When finished that lap, I asked Kena what these strange critters could be and she thought they were feral pigs, evidently a common animal in these parts. It was a neat experience once I knew the answer.

Other important stuff – our shirt this year was a light green cotton-poly short-sleeved tee, nice to add to my collection of Operation Endurance shirts. The race has a 6 hour and relay option in addition to the 12 and 24. Best of all, Smith Gym is open from 9 to 5 on Saturday and we can use their real bathrooms. If it had been open during the entire 24 hour period, I probably would have hidden there during the coldest part of the evening. There are also 3 portapotties but I much prefer the real bathrooms and I don’t care if I must walk a little bit to get to them. The aid station has typical ultra food, including pizza in the early evening.

The final results are not yet posted so I don’t know how I ranked, but I did manage to complete 57 laps which should equal 56 miles.