2013 Flatrock 101K – “Go Time!” or “Wanna be Friends?”

DSC_9349_s_jpgSo the Inaugural Flatrock 101K Trail Race is this Saturday. Registration is closed and there are 39 total badasses ready to go all in.  We are prepared to step up to the line, stare directly into the eyes of a nearly invincible force, and charge fearlessly into battle. Will everyone finish? Probably not. Will it hurt? Absolutely.  Everyone that even attempts to slay this dragon is a badass. So long as they give it everything they have, they have already won. Overcoming the fear of failure and pain and just TRYING something that you know might be outside your physical limits is a victory, and is what separates true EPIC ultrarunners.  This is a field of amazing people that I am super proud to be a part of – regardless of individual outcomes.  The tenacity and spirit of these people who are determined to live and experience life in a way that most people wouldn’t even dream of  truly inspires and impresses me beyond words.  And if you didn’t sign up because you were too scared to try, I say, “Bahahahahaaa!!!!!  Suck it up WUSS.”

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…SOON…

That said, I want to get to know you all.  I want to hear your stories.  I want you to talk while we are running in a group.  I want you to come find me and talk to me.  Ask me about the blog… ask me anything you like.  I love making new friends and want to get to know anyone and everyone who has a passion for ultrarunning.   One of the best parts of these ultrarunning experiences is the interaction with like-minded people who can truly understand why you do what you do!  Don’t pass on the opportunity!  Come to the pre-race pasta feed and lets make it the social event of the year.

Once I cross the finish (assuming I am not dead or DFL), I will be sitting at the finish line with a cooler of cold beer and everyone is welcome to join me cheering on every last finisher in this unadulterated show of supreme badassery.  Join me.  Oh…and good luck to all of you 39 psycho bastards about to do a double-battle with “The Rock!”

Be EPIC!  — Zach

Zach Adams

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2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part III – “Yetis in the Mist” or “Hand me my Lightsaber…”

DSC_9349_s_jpgPrairie Spirit 100 Part I

Prairie Spirit 100 Part II 

Previously, on “Prairie Spirit 100″…  Our unlikely hero has arrived in Ottawa in an effort to reach his goal of completing a 100 mile trail run.  A fun filled evening of dinner and camaraderie with other ultrarunners is ended with a restless night of sleep.  The morning greets our hero with overcast skies, cold temps, and the possibility of catastrophic weather conditions later in the day.  Undeterred, our hero gears up and sets out.  Having reached the Iola turnaround with his fearless companion Adam in less than 11 hours,  Zach connects with pacer Lisa and dives headlong into a burgeoning blizzard – determined not to let his solid 50+ mile effort be in vain.  Will the weather stop our determined friend and his companions?  Will they finish the race in spite of the screaming winds and the falling snow?  Will they be buried under ice waiting centuries to be thawed and reanimated?  Stay tuned to “Prairie Spirit 100, Part III – Yetis in the Mist” to find out!! 

So there I was, no bullshit… (every great story should begin with those words) getting ready to  leave the Iola aid station restocked and ready to rock.  Feeling good.  Joking, laughing, taking some pictures, and just having an overall great time.  I knew the weather was going downhill and that I had 51 or so miles to go, but I still had not for a single second entertained the idea that I might not be able to finish.  At almost exactly 5:00 p.m. I stepped out from behind the Iola shelter and started a jog directly into the whipping north wind.  I turned to Lisa and said, “HOLY F*&^#^g SHIT… IT’S GONNA BE A LONG NIGHT!”  Having that wind at your back was one thing; looking forward to it blasting you in the damn face for the next 16 or more hours is something totally different.  But we did what we do… we set our jaws and starting putting our left foot in front of our right foot.ps100lisa

I don’t know that many ways to keep describing the blowing wind and snow.  I was cold, wet, windy and snowy.  There were some places along the trail that offered some decent protection from the wind, and that became the goal.  Instead of running to the next aid station, we decided we would run to the next wind break.  Lisa talked to me while I just kept concentrating on keeping the fuel schedule right and kept moving as quickly as I could.  A few hours passed and we made it to Colony in pretty decent time, probably between 3-4 hours before the cutoff.  I was starting to get chilled from the wind and moisture but not bad as long as I was moving pretty good.  Coming into Colony, my goal was to get in and out ASAP so I didn’t get cold.  Adam had gotten out ahead of me and was already at Colony when I got there, heading to sit in the car with his wife and warm up some.  He hadn’t packed nearly as many drop bags as I had or as much cold weather gear either.  At Colony I busted open 4-5 hand warmers and shoved them in the fronts and backs of my gloves and in my balaclava on my face. I also grabbed another pair of bigger glove shells to wear and a big fleece hood with a drawstring around the face.  It was dark by now and I had a light clipped to my hat with the hood over the top, drawstring cinched tight.  I must have looked like Kenny from Southpark with a beam of light shooting from my head.  It was quite comical I am sure.  Lisa and I left Colony before Adam and wouldn’t see him again.  61 miles done.  Next stop Welda.

Not much to say about the trip from Colony to Welda – except that about a mile out of Colony I lost my water bottle from its waist holster.  Now I am taking Hammer Gels and Endurolytes every 30 minutes for the next 2-3 hours without water.  If you don’t already know this – be aware- cold gels are hard as hell to swallow with water.  Shit.  Now I am starting to feel like I am royally screwed.  I begin to get colder in my core, despite the fact that my hands and feet are still fairly comfortable.  Lisa reassures me that we will find a new bottle at Welda, which reminds me that Travis will be there and I convince myself somebody will hook me up.  We make it to Welda and Ben and the Trail Nerds contingent once again hook me up with that awesome broth.  I end up just grabbing a half full Sam’s Club water bottle off the table that they said had been there for a while, filled it up and headed out.  I did not want to linger, I could feel the cold really starting to set in.  I grabbed some food, ate a gel, put on another layer of jackets (I think) and we took off again.  Almost conciously feeling my body temperature dropping, I said, “C’mon, we gotta go.”  to Lisa.  So, after a less than 5 minute stop, we went.  Sixty-nine miles down.  Garnett, here we come.

The next couple miles were very hard for me.  I was starting to shake really badly right out of the aid station and had to start fighting the urge to go back and call it a day.  The weather was getting worse by the second.  Stronger winds, colder temps, heavier snow, and less tree cover all combined with my dropping core temperature were giving me serious doubts.  These doubts served to anger me, and I just kept telling myself, “Move and get warm or stop and freeze.”  Over and over I kept telling myself this.  Eventually I did get a bit warmer and maybe 6 miles from Garnett, I was moving pretty good again.  It was so hard to even see the trail at this point, much less find footprints to follow. Judging speed and distance was downright impossible.  The snow was getting deeper and was starting to take its toll on my feet.  Every step was just getting tougher and shuffling wasn’t much of an option with how much deeper it got.  Once again I slowed to the point that I quickly started to get really cold. The best I could manage was a swift walk.  This was not enough to keep my temperature up, and unfortunately, about an hour away from Garnett I was shivering uncontrollably.  My thoughts started to get cloudy and I was getting disoriented. Once I thought I had gotten turned around because Lisa got a bit ahead of me and I contemplated turning around.  Then I realized the footsteps I were going to follow were mine.  Honestly, it was getting pretty scary.  Getting close to Garnett, I could see the glow of a town in the distance and this gave me some renewed hope.  The Garnett train station was warm.   All I had to do was put on some warm, dry clothes, warm up for a while, and then I could go on.  At this moment, I realized I wasn’t shivering anymore and that my lips felt “asleep”  – like your foot when you sit cross-legged too long.  Yeah, this is not good.  Exclusively walking at this point, it took about 30 more minutes to get to the train station.  We got there really close to 12:30 am.  77.5 miles done.  Less than a marathon to go.

Courtesy Fun Memories Photography

The cutoff for Garnett was now 4 a.m. so I feel like I have plenty of time to eat and get warm before going back.  I sit down and grab some ham sandwiches and start eating.  I really had a hunger for real food.  While I was eating, something strange happened.  As I warmed up I began to violently shiver.  I mean VIOLENTLY.  It was like the warmer I got, the colder I felt.  This was the beginning of the end for me.  People were dropping like flies at Garnett.  It is getting worse and worse by the second.  Then, without warning, the power goes out.  Of course there is no problem with light, as all the runners have headlamps, but it is dark.  The ranger in charge of the trail shows up and offers to get a radiant propane heater.  I overhear talk that roads are being closed and people are getting stuck.  Power is out all over town.  I see RD Eric Steele talking to him and although I didn’t hear the words, I feel like they are discussing when to pull the plug.  After an hour I am colder than when we were outside, and upon trying to stand up to go to the bathroom, I realize my legs are locked up.  After shuffling to the bathroom I go outside and the snow is blowing from EVERYWHERE.  I think to myself, “Well.  I’m done.”

That was it.  I told Lisa I was done, and she almost looked relieved that she didn’t have to go back out.  She called her sister who would come from Ottawa to get us…. assuming she could.  We eventually made it back to the hotel and I think I found a bed somewhere around 4:30 a.m.  I was upset but would find out that even if I had gone on after Garnett that the race was officially stopped around 5 a.m., and that I would have likely pulled at Richmond.  Adam gave it up a mile out of Welda, calling his wife and declaring that enough was enough.  All said and done, there were 5 official finishers in the 100 mile race.  FIVE.  Congrats to those five insane bastards.  I know there are others who would have finished had the race not been stopped, so cheers to them as well!

The logistical concerns of 100 & 50 mile races with nearly 150 combined participants are immense under even the greatest of weather conditions.  Race Director, Eric Steele, was facing weather conditions which could only be described as horrendous.  As a race director he was forced to walk the edge of a razor and ultimately make the decision at which point it was no longer safe enough to let his 100 mile runners continue.  Caught in the middle of an all out shootout between loved ones SCREAMING to shut it down and ultrarunners hell bent on finishing AT ALL COSTS, Eric ultimately had to make the decision.  As a hardcore ultarunner himself, he knows what it means to give it everything you have to achieve your goals, and well understood the heartbreak it would cause to stop a runner that physically could continue.  I did not envy his situation in the slightest.  Ultimately, it came down to a question of  life and death, so when the Park Rangers informed him Sunday morning, shortly after 5 am, that they could no longer access the trail, he knew it was done and had to pull the plug per his agreement with them.  If a rescue was needed and could not be made, a runner could die.   I appreciate that Eric kept the 100 mile race going as long as was possible given the circumstances, and I truly feel that if there was any possibly way to even somewhat safely let the runners keep going he would have.  I applaud his efforts and those of his Epic Ultra Brigade.  And if you are one of those who was screaming at him, smacking his car windows, or possibly threatening him over it – for EITHER stopping or not stopping the race – then I say, why don’t you pull your head out of your ass, quit acting like a thumbdick, and shit and fall back into it…just my two cents.

What an adventure!   It was only in the following few days that I was really able to pull the entire event into perspective.  Amazing is the only way to describe it.  Everyone involved contributed so much to make this event what it was… Epic.  That is the only word I have to describe this race.  EPIC!

Final thought.  I would have finished this race.  I know under any other weather, that this is true.  You can guarantee that I will be back for redemption.  Until then, I will content myself with a ‘little’ 100K down at the Flatrock 101K next weekend.  Join me, who knows, maybe it will be even more EPIC!!!  If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments I would love to hear them.

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

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Live Ferociously

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On the Boston Marathon bombing…

Ironically, while I was out doing what I love, helping prepare the Elk River Trail for the FlatRock 101K, a group of runners in Boston was cowardly attacked – while doing what they loved.  I offer my most sincere condolences to all of those impacted by this violence.  My heart mourns everyone’s losses while my spirit rages and demands justice.  While I greatly sympathize with how these people were so unfairly cheated of life, I can only hope what everyone will remember the most is how they LIVED.  These people were living their lives to the fullest up the the very last second.  Let this loss be a reminder to everyone that the last words you spoke to a loved one may be the last.  Whether it is finishing a 100 mile trail run or mending a broken relationship with a family member, follow their example and get out there and LIVE.  “Live ferociously!”  Run down YOUR dreams.  I promise you this will honor those killed and wounded at Boston more than changing your profile picture, sharing someone’s status, or wearing a black shoelace.   Words can’t begin to fully convey what I am feeling.

Zach Adams

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2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part II – “A Tale of Two Races” or “I Heard it Might Snow”

In case you missed part one of my Prairie Spirit 100 adventure, I suggest you go back and read it.  If you are really that lazy or computer illiterate, I’ll make it easy.  Click here for Prairie Spirit Part I.  That brings us up to the morning of the race.

As usually is the case I did not sleep worth a shit.  Almost unequivocally, I do not sleep well in a hotel.  Add this to the fact that I am facing a 100(+) mile race in the morning and the result is a tossing, turning, miserable attempt at sleep.  All the while my scumbag brain repeatedly bombarding itself with a torrent of random thoughts ranging from drop bag contents to the why there was only one female Smurf.  Despite this, I felt pretty damn good once my alarm granted me the mercy of a wake-up call.

Everyone was hanging out inside the building at the start milling around and chatting.  The energy was palpable in the room even though the tone was subdued and pretty quiet.  One of the main things I love about ultramarathon culture is the people, so I had set a goal for myself that every time I was with the group of runners I would try to meet at least one new person and find out a little bit about them.  I was doing very well executing my strategy– with one flaw – I am terrible at remembering names.  So, if I talked to you friend me on Facebook and we can connect.  As expected, everyone that I talked to was freaking awesome.

Eric gave us last minute instructions and sent us on our way.   When he yelled, “GO!” I really could feel my heart beating in my chest.  A twinge of nervousness was definitely there and I could feel the adrenaline pumping.  Consciously, I knew this was the start of a possibly 30 hour journey that would be consist of good times, bad times, pain, suffering, and despair.  Still, this was not enough to kill the euphoric feeling generated by my  love of this sport.  Luckily I had ‘ice-cold’ Adam Monaghan to set our pace and I didn’t race off like I was in a 5K.  We run pretty close to the same pace, use the same general walk run strategy, fuel plan, and had planned to try and make it to Iola turnaround together between 4:30 and 5pm.  At this point I would meet my pacer Lisa and see what happened.

The weather was really good for running offering no real risk of overheating, yet making it easy enough to stay warm.  Getting through Ottawa took a while and everyone was pretty bunched together but started to thin out once we got out of town and on the true Prairie Spirit trail.  The trail itself was fine gravel and very smooth with almost nothing in the way of hills.  Sufficient tree cover lined both sides of the trail in most spots which provided pretty good protection from the wind, that was mostly out of the east.  Honestly, other than chatting with Adam and few other runners here and there, the trip out to the first aid station at Princeton was mostly uneventful.  The Princeton aid station crew was excellent.  Every single person there offered me specific items to eat or drink, asked me what I needed, and told me what they had, or told me I was looking great.  I was curious if they would tell me that in 24 hours or so.  Although Eric said it was not the Epic Brigade’s job to massage my feet, I have a feeling that they would have, had I asked.  Here I also saw my friend from Talequah OK, Travis Owens.  I met Travis at Midnight Madness 50 miler back in 2010, and later he also set me up with my pacer Lisa.  Travis was crewing for someone else, but he also made it clear that if I needed anything, he had me covered.  I love ultrarunners.

The next stop on the way to Iola was Richmond.  Again, the run between Princeton and Richmond was mostly uneventful.  Adam and I were comfortably sharing pace and conversation.  We were also yo-yo running with a guy and gal who were running during our walk breaks.  It became a game that we seemed to play with several people on the way to the turnaround.  The catchphrase became, “Tag you’re it.”  and “Hello again!”.  At Richmond a very nice woman had a huge pot of ramen soup cooking and eagerly obliged me with two steaming cups.  I popped a Hammer Gel that tasted like a cinnamon apple pie from McDonalds and washed it down with ramen juice.   Yeah, I know its gross, but I have an iron stomach and just think of it as fuel during a race.  Offhandedly, I made the comment that the gel was cold, difficult to squeeze out, and was hard to swallow – only to look up and see her (the aid station worker) warming some gels up over the burner!  Talk about service!!!  Another amazing aid station filled with Epic attitudes, which I tried to reward with my gratitude.  Sixteen miles down and we were off to Garnett.

It seemed that every aid station was marked with a grain elevator, so you could always tell when you were getting close.  Pavement greeted you at the north end of Garnett and another mile or so got you to the aid station.  Adam and I were still pacing each other and he was looking forward to seeing his lovely wife (and crew chief) Sarah and his baby daughter.  I was looking forward to grabbing some sandwiches and reapplying some Vasoline, A&D Ointment, and Desitin mix to protect my feet and a couple other “sensitive skin” areas.  I learned this mix from the legendary badass Ken Childress and I also now swear by it.  I have no clue how Ken came up with this, but that shit works wonders for blisters and chafing.  The parents of RD Eric’s girlfriend Polly had been assigned the Garnett aid station which was in an old train depot building.  They were awesome!  They had everything in there that a good aid station could possibly ask for including running water, flushing toilets, and HEAT.  The warmth inside the building almost matched the warmth of their greetings.  I knew this was going to be both a blessing and a curse on the way back – in the dark and almost certainly snowy night it would seem like an oasis.  Hopefully, it wouldn’t be like the call of the Sirens, luring you in and never allowing you to leave.  As we checked out and got back on the course, we were offered many cheers and much luck.  It was now 11:30 a.m. with about 25 miles done.

I left Garnett a little bit before Adam but jogged slowly at first and he caught me within a mile or so.   From Garnett, the tree cover lining the trail really thinned and we started getting a lot more wind, still primarily out of the east.  I don’t think there was a grain elevator in Welda, but there was a blue tarp-tent and an enclosed trailer staffed by the KC Trail Nerds offering aid to weary runners.  I chatted with fearless Trail Nerd leader Ben Holmes and received aid in the form of some excellent homemade soup, which they gladly poured into my Ultimate Direction water bottle.  Side note – this bottle is perfect for soup, as it has a rubber spout with an X cut into it like a baby bottle nipple.  Or at least it was, until I lost it in the blizzard later that night.  Adam stayed in the car with Sarah for a bit as I went back out, thirty-four miles now done.

This is about the time the sleet started.  Rainy, sleety, icy crap was being spit at me from above.  It did eventually start to soak in and I knew this was going to be a long night.  As of now, I was feeling amazing – not feeling much different after 35 miles than 10 miles.  Cruise control was engaged and all I needed to do was keep putting gas in the tank and try not to blow a tire.  Adam caught me before we got to Colony and again we got aid from the most finely staffed aid stations I have ever had the privilege to utilize.  This was a quick stop, as we were still on pace to make it to the turnaround at Iola between 4 and 5pm.  At this point the wind was blowing like hell and the ice was coming down pretty damn hard.  It was a windy and cold stretch south out of Colony and I knew this was going to SUCK on the way back.  The wind was blowing hard and we were getting decently wet but I didn’t really feel cold yet.  Really I was feeling great about the way things were going and basically trying really hard not to think about what “might” happen with the weather and how it would affect the return trip.  Adam pulled ahead before getting to Iola as I felt the uncontrollable urge to investigate a nice sheltered spot off the trail under a large cedar tree.  I was sick of carrying that spare sock I need to get rid of it.  A short time after I got back on the trail, the snow began to fall.  HUGE snowflakes, nearly the size of pancakes, were coming down in the most beautiful snow showers I have ever seen.  It was amazing!  It was also beginning to accumulate.  Quickly.  Unencumbered by the extra sock, I caught Adam in Iola.  At 4:44pm I check in by my bib number and had 51 miles done.

Warren took spectacular care of me, getting me geared up for the long, cold trip home.  Travis was also here, offering me anything I might need, as he had at every single aid station along the way.  My body and mind were both really feeling good at this point.  I honestly did not feel like I had done been running for the lats 10 hours and 44 minutes.  They had a nice fire going next to the shelter house and the smell alone got me ready rock.  I ate, reapplied my skin goo, found my pacer Lisa, and I was ready to roll!

Since this really was a tale of two races, I think I will stop there.  Nowhere to go but home at this point.

If you want to hear about the return trip, please comment.  Also any questions you might have I would be more than happy to answer.

Stay tuned for Part III – “Yetis in the Mist”  or “Hand me my lightsaber, I saw a Tauntaun”

Until Next Time….  Be EPIC!!!

Zach

Zach Adams

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I Call Bullshit

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While working on the next part in a series of Prairie Spirit 100 blog entries I am affectionately calling “A Series of Snowfortunate Events”, I began to notice a bubbling cauldron of horseshit on social media that I have to call out.  It seems that there is some serious whining going on.  People are whining about not getting the chance to finish the Inaugural Prairie Spirit Trail 100 Mile Ultra Race because the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism shut the course down.  People are whining because they deserve (cough cough) a 50 mile buckle at least.  I saw some whining that the course should have been shut down sooner because it was getting dangerous.  I’ll make sure and call the organizers of Badwater to piss and moan that the elevation and temperature changes make it hard to train when you live in Kansas.  Blah.. waaa… waaaa.  Not epic.  Not epic at all.

You really want a buckle that says “100 mile finisher” when you did not finish the course?  I don’t care if you quit because you sprained your eyelid or Mother Nature took a giant shit on the trail that you couldn’t climb over.  I want that 100 mile buckle real bad but I don’t want it unless I earn it – regardless of mitigating factors.  I don’t want a 50 mile buckle because I ran almost 80.  Look… I am disappointed too.  This is my second try at 100 and second DNF.  I am freaking 0-2.  I plan on taking the disappointment and burning it as fuel in my next attempt.  I want to carry my sore, stumbling ass across the finish feeling one step away from death – so I get the full experience.  After all isn’t  this what ultrarunning is all about…  the EXPERIENCE?  I dare you to say that this was an experience you will ever forget.  Oh, and if you ever felt in mortal danger, you should have dropped, regardless of whether or not they were “shutting down the race”.

So take your feeling-sorry-for-yourself, its-not-fair attitude and your elitist roadrunner mentality and go sign up for a nice spring half-marathon on a flat, shady, chip-timed, certified course with an aid station every 1.5 miles.  This is ultrarunning… there is no room for this cancerous attitude here.  This is the draw of running off-road ultras.  The people involved, the collective badassery, and the indestructible spirit – even in the face of failure and adversity – is what made me fall in love with running ultras.  Don’t screw it up…  If you read this and get all butthurt, I am sorry.   I am sorry that I am running on some of the same courses as a big ass whiner with a sense of entitlement.

Don’t we start running ultras because there is a chance we won’t be able to finish them?       </rant>

Stay EPIC.

Zach

2013 Prairie Spirit 100: It Was Indeed EPIC – Part 1 – “Pre-Race Jitters” or “What in the Hell Was I Thinking?”

DSC_9349_s_jpgPrior to Prairie Spirit 100, the longest race I have completed was a 100K put on by the KC Trail Nerds.  In October, I tried 100 miles but was unsuccessful in my first attempt.  For me, 100 miles is still my number one running goal.  The DNF in October really left a cat shit taste in my mouth and has provided EXCELLENT training fuel and motivation.  My training was very tenacious and consistent all winter long, racking up several 80-100 mile weeks that included several back to back 25-35 mile training runs.  All were solo miles almost exclusively outside in the elements and on minimal fuel.  The only exception was  a single mind-numbing  25 miles on the dreadmill, which I look at as more mentally challenging than any run outside.  Having no nagging aches and pains and a great tapering rest period, I felt like I had done what I needed to get my mind and body ready for my first 100 mile finish.  Plus the official “EPIC ULTRAS Prairie Spirit 100 Mile Inaugural Belt Buckle” is FREAKIN’ RAD!  I want this thing sooooo bad I can all but taste it.

MY PRECIOUS

Prepping for the logistics of the race for me was pretty easy.  I had booked a cheap room at the Days Inn Ottawa from hotels.com.  A few weeks earlier, I invited my friend Lisa Pivec, who paced for me in my first 100 try, to come back and help me cross the finish in Ottawa.  More on Lisa later… she is AWESOME.  As far as drop bags go, I made one for all 6 aid stations and they basically consisted of some fuel and every piece of winter running gear I own; this is important, as I don’t think I would have made it as far as I did had I not done this.  Again, I will provide more on this later.

I rolled into town about 4 pm, checked into my room, carried up my bag, and headed to packet pickup.   It was only a few minutes from the hotel, and I found it easily – gotta love smartphone navigation apps!  It was indoors with plenty of room.  The areas to drop off drop bags were well marked and easy to find.   Everything at packet pickup went like clockwork and was handled efficiently and effectively.   I got my bag from the very sweet and charming Polly Choate and proceeded talk to several other runners and their friends, family, and crewmembers.  I also briefly got to talk with a very rapidly moving Eric Steele, race director, who was in full on RD mode.  To be honest, Eric looked busier than a one-legged kickboxer in a battle royal.  Eric was very busy doing all the things that race directors of 100 mile races do – but he still took the time to greet many of the runners, introduce himself, welcome them, and wish them luck.  There was a great buzz of excitement in the air, as well as some pretty serious nervous energy about what the weather was going to do.  Snow… blah… blah… wind, blah… blah… sleet… blizzard…   Whatever.  We are ultrarunners!  We don’t care about the weather.  Right?

This time spent hanging out getting to know people is one of my favorite things about ultra events.  The people make an ultra amazing.  Ultramarathons take a bunch of folks, who to most of society seem borderline insane, and put them in pursuit of a common goal.  They all know what it will take to push further than most people feel is possible, they understand each other’s desire to cross the finish, and they can relate to one another.  In many cases people who were previously strangers can immediately bond – and in some situations will forge lifelong friendships.  Very cool .

From packet pickup I drove to the location of the pre-race meal and briefing.  The food was pretty damn good and I got to talk to some of the people I have met over that last 3 years at various ultras.  Race Director Eric Steele gave us a rundown of the event and went over most of the information in the race info document.  This thing was great!  It was loaded with gobs of information covering all aspects of the race.  In fact, I don’t think I had a single question that wasn’t answered in the race brochure (including the one I asked out loud during the meeting…oops).  Great work to the Epic Ultras staff for putting this thing together – I wish more race directors would follow their lead.  I am sure they will use this experience to do an even better job at the inaugural Flatrock 101K (which I will also be running – JOIN ME).  That makes me cringe a little inside just thinking about it.  Can’t wait.

Polly kickin ass and takin names

It was nice to catch up with friends -old and new.  We talked about other events that we had recently run, races we were running in the near future, strategies for the race, and, of course, the weather.    Again, the air just had this electric vibe to it.  It was a mixing of feelings of anxiety, excitement, fear, courage, defiance, determination, and anticipation – all thick enough in the air to almost form a tangible cloud.  I think I had butterflies the whole time.  The packet pickup and meal just served to build even more tension that would not be released until 6 a.m. the following morning.  As the crowd started to disperse, I decided to make a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some hand warmers based off of a recommendation from another runner at the dinner.  This turned out to be a GREAT idea.  My final stop was my deluxe master suite at Days Inn, to try and get a good night’s sleep.

So concludes part 1.  Stay tuned for part 2:  “A Tale of Two Races” or “I Heard it Might Snow”

Comments?  I would love to hear them.  And Oh… remember… BE EPIC!

Zach