Brandi paced and crewed with me at Umstead, and here's her write-up of the experience.
Umstead 100 Miler – N. Carolina - 40 miles pacing
I was at The North Face 50 miler last fall & came upon a guy I gave an Alieve. I have a lot of interaction with people during ultras, so when he was with his sons & he thanked me afterwards, I sorta didn’t really remember him. Not because I didn’t care, but because I really care about everyone out there, especially those who may not be having their best day. Someone sent me his blog & I went to TNF50 FB page & he thanked me on there. So, basically, I helped him, he got connected with our NLUR group & I guess he was hoping I would give him another Alieve or something (foreshadowing) I didn’t, for his 100 miler cuz he asked me to pace him.
I got there with my family & immediately see my friends Karen & Jen. Whew. Two solid women who will take care of themselves & anyone in their paths. The times I saw Leah...wow. There are no words for a woman who runs 100 miles with the same joy, peace & tranquility as a casual bike ride. It practically frightened me. If running 100 miles for her is this easy, does she have any idea what she is capable of? Only time will tell. Seeing her on the course, at the A/S, finishing, it’s all a piece of cake for her. Eric, her fiance was out there too, always wearing colors that no doubt were manufactured just for him. A small group from Illinois, but we made lotsa noise.
I spent about half of the time Cory was out there with him. When he started, I would have his Dad give me updates. Ugh. He started off too fast. That first half marathon, darn it. And his 50 mile point, come on Cory, remember those pacing talks we had? I know what this meant. I told his Dad a couple times to tell him to slow down. He will learn on his own, that’s why he is out there. I got there before he went out for his 5th lap, “Are you here to pace me?” I was so hungry to run, but I wanted him to look foward to me jumping in, spend a loop thinking about the company he would get next time he gets here. I went out with him for a bit, we made small talk, but I was really intimidated by that dang Go Pro & wanted to get the heck away from it. So, I stopped at a place I could see Eric. I helped runners & crew members with directions (if u know me, u know how crazy this sounds), took their trash, encouraged them – every single one of them are my heros. Especially the mom with the 4 real little kids, cheering on her husband. I took her camera & got a picture of the clan. She is a true hero.
I was talking to some 20-somethings in a truck after chatting with Juli Aisters & they looked familiar. They said their dad was out there. I looked at their eyes, their perfect skin, all their “prettiness” & realized I talked to their Dad several times. Tom. He was so happy. I called them the kids in the truck. The kids that weren’t gonna pace their dad? Wtheck? I told them how insane their Dad was & how tuff it gets. One daughter then said she would go out, like, um, the last loop. Yeah, I thought so, lol!
Why pace when you can race? Let’s face it, I didn’t earn my way there, I just got a “pacers pass.” And I’m o.k. with that. I love authentically complementing runners when they pass by. I love having tons of energy & being able to be that person who can entertain, engage, if only for a moment. When I first met Michele & Juan, I remember feeling like I didn’t want to do “these”, but I could use my “spiritual gifts” (1 Peter 4:10) of mercy, service & helps for others. I still feel that way. I have run so many ultra distances without metals, without proof, but with tons of fun, with one friend or several dozen to see the finish. I get to put miles in without any pressure & in a sense, at events/group runs like that of the ultra distance – we all pace each other. Nothing ever goes wrong for me when I am pacing because I am not there for me, just others. Once, I was doing math in my head. STOP, I said! Loops. Focus on loops. Only 3 loops.
The guy who I reminded him of some actress named Samantha was the main AS comic relief. I mean, besides all the exposed feet & falling bodies & “move aside, we have a runner coming in” people who weren’t so lucky. I loved Irish Joe. He just looked like a character, smiled like one & had an attitude we all should have. Until I “got” that attitude, I wondered what drugs these people where on to be happy during an ultra, because I would try to fake it, but it took me a while to lock it in & live it.
The mom who didn't come to run 50 miles, she came to run 100. Wow. I wonder if she finished. The entire med team was working on her feet for about an hour. They were perplexed, never saw anything like it yet, not sure if they can fix her up & even if they did, they aren’t sure if her feet are going to hold up. As tears streamed down her face & her daughter was at her side, I wanted so bad to say the thing to her that would dry her tears. Tell her how proud I am of her & I know she worked so hard, spent countless training hours...and....and what? Will they let her go back out? I sat next to her, said some things to her with all my heart. She is a mom. She is an ultra runner. There is a kindred spirit there.
Dr. Tom had been in NC for only 4 months, he is gonna rehab, do a 50 & qualify for Umstead & how fun would it be to be at “his” aid station next year to serve him. He fixed Cory's feet, telling me “you made me realize I can do more than just hand out coffee, now look at me, I’m a Dr.” Always making me laugh. You just never get to meet those people unless you do the work to get on course. Then there was the 2 back surgeries - can't do IM or ultras anymore, so she volunteers. She said that with a smile, but I sensed the disappointment. JT was there too, “u better get outta this aid station or I'm gonna start chargin’ u rent.” So cute.
The frog was orange & yellow. Weird. Camoflauge or something. Up ahead a little more – the snake matched the frog. I love reptiles. I admired him stood beside him looked down at his coiled body & upturned head. It was pitch dark, but yay for my headlamp. “You aren’t from around here are you? If I were you, I’d keep moving,” a couple said, “That is a copperhead, a poisonous snake.” I kept questioning them, I wanted to play with & hang out with him for longer, so I did. I had lost Cory, anyway. The last A/S, he went into the bathroom, & just before that I told him to never worry about me. If I stop to talk or whatever, keep going, I’d catch up. Plus, it gave him time to breathe & think without me there. Maybe his body was saying something, but he couldn’t hear it cuz I was there. I told myself he snuck outta the bathroom, & ran at breakneck speed, past the four people I ran past. The Haiti guy who came back, took Ambien, & showed up an hour late to the start. Oops. Duh, Brandi, call Cory. Viola. Reunited.
The song rings true, the freaks come out at night. The energy I would sometimes see made me think they better check themselves before they wreck themselves. Some guy booked past us, “It must be the french toast.” He said as he sped by. Cory & I looked at each other - there was no french toast, I said, maybe he did too, idk, but it entertained us forever. U stretch moments, thoughts, anything u can out there because one thing u have out there is time. I heard heavy breathing, cheetah like footsteps, fast, faster, pounding, “I AM RUNNING 6’s UP THE HILLS!” What? Michael was dying whenever I saw him. Cory met him earlier when he was still coherent. He was a flipping madman. He said some funny things we will never forget. I wish I had a video of his reflective gear because u wouldn’t believe what coffee & Gu can do to a guy in the middle of the night towards the end of a hundo.
Oh yeah, then there was Cory. Booking away from me whenever I would have to revisit an AS, or when I would stop to chat with people. The guy who said he wasn’t doing good, but I can tell when people aren’t doing good. He was doing great. He was determined. “Sorry I can’t talk, but can u talk. Tell me a story.” Bam, u got it. It was pretty ideal for me. As long as I didn’t have to touch those feet that kept exposing themselves at A/S’s & on the trail. I’ve never had so much as a blister, so I just deemed myself “unhelpful” in that arena, but I could find others who could help him. Clothes, even dirty clothes, food, finding stuff, I’ll do that, just leave the feet to the pros.
There was a difference between pacers on the course & runners. Hey what’s up, how are you, singing a song, calling something out to them, whatever I did to interact kept me entertained & pacers would typically respond. “Oh u r the pacer,” I would say. Yep! Not this time. Tony from Boston responded & he started name dropping people from Chicago, I think he used to live here. Ed Kelly was one I remember. “Why are you so alert?” I asked. "Just a training run." For Bad water. Yep, that’s the kind of people you meet at 100 milers.
There was the peeved off woman in black not looking the part of a rapper at all, but blasting hip hop music while her two friends chatted & walked behind her.
The 27 hour guy. He runs the circuit down here & doesn’t put space between his sentences, I could listen to his energy forever in the middle of the night. “I used to care about time.Now I don’t.27 hours, that’s what I do 100’s in.No one cares about your time, sheit, u just ran 100 miles.I run 100’s.Woo.Hoo!Yeehaw!Giddyup, ride ‘em cowgirl.” He must have said this 10 different ways & I coulda heard it 100 times over. I just like time to pass & interesting things to happen. Those two things, I am always certain of in an ultra. I really liked everyone’s accents.
Have you ever ran in the dark, all night, never feeling there was an end to it, but not really caring? Feeling as if this was what it was & how it felt? I remember Karen telling me, “There is something about running all night & until the sun comes up. When it started happening, I remembered, here it is. The beautiful sky is visible again, trees you could get lost in (heck I would have if it weren’t for Cory). We ran all night. Dang. We are THAT good.
Speaking of Cory, when he would eek out a teeny complaint, I didn’t hear it. Telling him there is nowhere else I'd rather be, this is where we were meant to be, right here right now (watching the world wake up from history ☺. I don’t remember what we even talked about for so long. Music, parenting, nutrition, idk, I think I just told him everything about me, and Logan’s Run, & my neighbor, my stepdad, idk, just anything to keep his mind on something other than how insane he was to be still out here.
Dan Peironi we met towards the end. He has done 44 ultras (I thought he said 100 milers), this was his slowest, 71 years old, biking 300 miles next weekend, we were holding him back, he wanted to start running up the hills, but liked the company.
Oh yeah, Cory. I don’t feel like I really did anything for him. I was there, I knew he was going to have to figure everything out on his own. I COULD mule, but why? Muleing isn’t something that typically happens in an ultra, so I didn’t want to do that for him, although it was legal here. He was educated about nutrition. I felt like I could be his company. His bumper, in case he was gonna turn in the gutter. The worst thing for me is someone pushing me, annoying me, acting like they know stuff when they don’t. I wanted him to know I was there for him, that’s it. And to have a boatload of fun. Well, I could be whatever he wanted me to be, but just my luck, what I liked to do, he wanted. I was waiting. Waiting for Cory to fall apart, waiting for him to lose it, waiting for him to puke so I could tell him it was o.k., “get it out, there ya go”, like moms do. But nope. None of that. I WAS “on” I FELT “on”, I didn’t realize how “on” I was until I turned off. I turned off immediately when I saw the hill of the finish. I ducked into the woods, letting Cory & Dan finish on their own & just before I did that I heard Dan, “You go first, go ahead.” I never tire of hearing that. Someone gives up their place for you. So, I see Russ, Cory’s Dad, & the curtains close on me. I wanted to go change out of my stage clothes, shower, but wait. One more smile for the camera. In the aid station, Cory offered me a sincere hug of gratitude, said some words I don’t remember, but I had already left my mind. Now, I am tired. We hopped in the car & my eyes closed & that was that.