Guest Blogger – Brad Smythe – Hinson Lake 24-Hour Classic 2007

Hinson Lake 24-Hour Classic
September 29-30, 2007
-As seen through the eyes of El Brad

Short version:

El Brad (EB) won with 115.52 miles.

Longer verison:

It was a dark and stormy night…well, ok, it wasn’t anything like that. It was actually a very nice day – for sitting on the beach (or by the lake fishing in the shade, I suppose for running too, whatever.)

I’ll begin by saying I am a really big fan of the Mangum Track Club. I have been ever since Mr. Long invited me down for a shirt run waaaaay back in 2002 on one of the Crowder’s sadistic loops. I can’t think of any members that I don’t like, a lot, but there is a core group that I’ve known for a while that I really enjoy being around. Fortunately for me, they don’t seem to mind me too much either, so it works out well. RD Tom (or RDT for the rest of the story – sounds like Paul Harvey, no?) falls into this elite category.

What else does EB like? Well, for one, his wife. For two, 24 hour races. I could go on but this isn’t exactly supposed to be a list of things that EB likes, but rather of some silly dizzying event that took place this past weekend in the rural metropolis that is The Rock, NC. I had visions of grandeur at last year’s race and was in great shape. Alas, as it would turn out, EB went out too hard and packed it up with five hours to go, finishing in 3rd place. I’ve thought about the 2007 version since last year.

The 2007 event would be momentous because it marked WA’s (that’s my Wife Andrea), cross over to the dark, mysterious, underground world of ultrarunning. Well, ok, she isn’t exactly new to the game as she’s witnessed many spectacular disasters of mine over the past five or six years, but as far as her actual running, she would be in uncharted territory.

We picked my friend CS (or coach Sean – mind you he doesn’t coach me, I’m sure he would classify me as “uncoachable” or something, but that’s beside the point) up at his house Friday afternoon and headed down to the Rock. After a relatively uneventful trip in el coche nuevo, we secured our room at the Royal Plaza Hotel where we met DAD (or Dad, that would be my Dad, or WA’s Dad-in-law). For those of you ever needing quality accommodations when visiting the Rock, check this place out. The showers are great and the location is right across the street from a great Italian restaurant and just above Dairy Queen. Dinner was a great Greek Pizza at aforementioned Italian place (courtesy of BD’s (that’s Boogie Doug) recommendation.

We woke up early Saturday morning, ate some left-over pizza, chased it with black coffee, and headed over to the lake. We set up our kite, actually a tent rain fly that CS somehow rigged to a tree and our chairs so that when it got windy the kite dragged our stuff all over the place, and picked up our numbers. We saw old friends and did all our usual pre-race stuff before assembling for the start. The format was the same as last year, run in circles until they tell you to stop, etc.

RDT let us in a brief spiritual moment then shouted go as he pressed the start button on his watch timer. RDT let us for the first mile or so before turning on the rockets and dashing to the finish area “to get ready to help count laps”. Personally, I think he just wanted to be in the lead for a while – not that there’s anything wrong with that. So it was underway. I’d been looking forward to this day for a long time and now I could just get down to business. I had lots of goals for the race, but really I wanted to win. There, I said it. I had optimistic (unrealistic?) mileage goals but really I wanted to stay on the course for the whole 24 hours and cover more miles than anyone else.

I spent the first ten laps running with CS who kept the pace honest, though since I didn’t wear a watch, I had no idea of how fast we were going (definitely slower than BK (Brian Kistner) though as he continually whipped by us). It became apparent early on that I wasn’t running nearly as quickly or as easily as I did last year. As the day got a bit warmer this became more frustrating. Luckily, it was still early. I joined WA and covered the last five of her initial 20 (20 laps gives approximately 30 miles) laps with her. WA had covered quite a bit of ground but her knee was beginning to make continuous running difficult, if not impossible. We ran when she could, walked when she couldn’t run yet continued to move forward. WA finished her first “ultra” and after BD (Ben Dillon) snapped a picture of us, I continued on.

I had my first (of two) meltdown while closing in on 50 miles. I was really struggling, both mentally and physically, and didn’t really feel like being out at the lake running anymore. I wanted to wait until I got to 50 miles to change shoes but I decided to do it a couple laps early. After putting on some new treads, I laid down for ten minutes. For the record, ten minutes is not a very long time. After forcing myself back on the course, WA went back to the hotel for a well-earned shower and nap.

Back up and on the course, I finally hit 50 miles, but almost two hours slower than last year. Frustrating. DAD gave me a generic Ensure, and that worked pretty well (the Mountain Dew also may have helped) and I began running again (as opposed to walking dejectedly). This lasted all of sixteen miles or so, because my second meltdown came right around 66 miles (if I remember correctly. And if I don’t, it was somewhere between 66 miles and 90 miles. Anyway it was dark this time and was beginning to cool). I sat down for about ten minutes and was pretty wiped out. Luckily, WA was back out at the lake and convinced me to walk a lap with her. First off, I put on a shirt as I was shivering quite a bit. The shivering continued for a while, but after that lap, I was back to shuffling along and had warmed up quite nicely.

CS and DAD alternated doing laps with me for a bit and I finally found a run/walk rhythm that I could keep up for multiple laps in a row. Both CS and DAD were able to keep up quite easily, but I continued to move forward. Run, walk, eat, drink, repeat. I love running at night, especially when it cools off. The course was easy enough to not warrant a light for most of my laps, and for most of them, I didn’t even carry a light. When CS, DAD, or WA were with me, we usually had some sort of light though. Though running at night is really nice, I was getting pretty eager for the sun to rise. Through the dark hours, I moved my way up the leader board and settled into second behind BAL (bad-ass Lilly). I really respect BAL and was pretty content to settle for second if it meant he would win. Unfortunately, BAL was having some knee “issues” that slowed him to a walk (must have been a dang fast walk) since he was still three laps ahead of me with two and a half hours to go. I was still able to “run” most of the loop at this point and the next time I got around, BAL was prone on a bench. Wow, now I was only two laps back. Next time I came around BGD (Boogie Doug) told me BAL had gone to lie down. After being awake for 25 hours and running for 22 my mind was beginning to go wacky. I pulled even with BAL around 6:40 in the morning but no one knew if he had gone back out on the course. Dang! Ok, after one more lap and I was in the lead for sure. Yea!

I decided to walk a couple more laps and since WA was almost to 40 miles, I asked her to join me. I put on a long sleeve shirt and some gloves and we headed out. In my paranoid state, I kept looking behind me to make sure BAL wasn’t running at 5k pace for the last hour. Hey, I don’t put anything past him! We finished the lap and still had 35 minutes so we walked another. We were getting pretty silly and picked up some chem lights on a stick as our flag. Since I was tired, I decided to call it a day with 9 minutes left, confident that BAL couldn’t do three laps in nine minutes.

The finish was pretty anti-climactic, perhaps due to my state of mind, but it was sure good to be there at the end. I was tired. It was fun just sitting on the dock, talking with the people I had spend the last 24 hours with. All very high quality, without exception (though I can’t say that for sure about the SC contingent who discretely left under the cover of darkness).

The shower at the hotel actually felt really good, for once, without the usual monkey-butt (Mike Day’s terminology, not mine), nasty blisters, etc. Apparently, I had done a good job of preventative maintenance throughout the race, especially by wiping off salt and grime and reapplying body-glide.

That’s pretty much a summary of how my race went. There were other highlights from the race that made it more memorably. In no particular order:

· Running with Joe and Pam at like, 2 in the morning, and having Joe tell Pam that the sunrise is just around the corner, just before I say only four more hours of darkness. Oops.
· Trading barbs with Mark throughout the event. Mark conquered the sleep demons, more or less, and was out there until the bitter end.
· Having Susan offer encouragement at 3 in the morning when most others were asleep.
· Andrea staying at the lake the entire night to offer encouragement and company on walking laps. On some laps, I didn’t even wake her up when I passed.
· Doug kept the vegetarian ramen soup hot and going throughout the night and this became one of my staples.
· T-rey was out there the entire time, helping out doing his stuff. I appreciated the camaraderie immensely.
· Lucinda puking her guts up with 25 minutes to go. What an effort.
· Sean covered 53+ miles. Beat that, Ryan!
· Dad got his last training run before his b2b marathons in two weeks.
· Andrea did her first ultra covering 42.5 miles. That goes along with the two difficult marathons she’s done already this year, plus six other race wins. If only I was that good.
· Tom and his family doing and excellent job with the race. He was pretty anxious to get things started and he had a lot to worry about, but did a flawless job.
· Darrell Elliot covered 100 miles for the second year in a row. Very impressive – like a machine.
· Also, Jay and Anita compiled excellent totals and for a while, I thought Jay would win the thing for sure, and that also would have been fine with me.
· I think we counted at least eight husband-wife pairs who competed. That was really cool.
· Fred joining us after his vacation in Southwest Asia. Glad to have you back Doom.
· Richard certainly got the most out of me. He set a pretty high bar and made it difficult for someone with no vertical leap like me to clear.
· Running with some legends of the sport. That’s one thing I love about ultrarunning. Even the best at it are representative of the rest of us with regards to personality. Some focused, some talkative, but most all people I love to spend time with. It was great to get encouragement from and to encourage said legends.
· That cute puppy!
· All the laps I spent running/walking with other racers. The conversations were as varied as the competitors themselves.
· All the laps I spent running/walking alone with my thoughts (or lack thereof)
· I know there are other highlights that I may remember some time down the road, but I’m not functioning at 100% mental capacity quite yet.

I wanted to win and was fortunate enough to succeed. It wasn’t easy at all, and I’m not entirely happy with my fitness at the moment. That being said, I’m pretty happy with my race in that I finally cracked the barrier of racing for the whole 24 hours. So, I sit here still a little tired and sore, but not much worse for the wear. Thanks to all!

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