Sunday, March 18, 2012

Graveyard 100

Sorry for the slow report but Liz and I didn't get back from NC until after midnight on Monday morning and I've been working every night since.  12.5 hour shifts, commuting and sleeping, not to mention unpacking and all of life's other little time consumers doesn't leave much writing time.  But I got called off tonight so here we go!

The Graveyard 100, another inaugural event, went fantastically well.  This unique event follows state highway 12 along the Outer Banks in NC for all but about 4 of it's 100.7 miles.  We were running forever within a stone's throw of the Atlantic Ocean.  As this race goes forward look for some crazy stories to come out of it.  The name comes from this section of the coast being called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" due to the number of shipwrecks that have occurred just offshore here.  March is also know for its nasty weather and I believe that is why RD Brandon Wilson and his wife Heather decided to have the race this month.  They didn't want the runner's to get bored!  Ha! I think that's also why the website poses the question "Will the graveyard sink you.....?"  While the course is almost dead flat and paved, it is also exposed to the elements like few parts of the country are.  How easy or difficult the race is will be entirely dependent on the weather conditions on race day.

That being said, we were watching the weather closely as the weekend approached and it looked dicey.  There was a major frontal system that was set to hit the coast from the west right around Friday and Saturday.  The chance for rain and wind on Saturday steadily decreased as the week wore on and by Thursday it was pretty clear that if there was any rain during the race it would only be briefly on Saturday morning.  It turned out that the rain ended on Friday but the wind did not.  It blew and blew and blew on Saturday.  More on that below.

For this race we had the pleasure of Liz's brother (Robert) and sister-in-law (Jane) as crew.  They drove  up from Charleston, SC and picked us up at the Raleigh airport late Thursday afternoon.  As we drove toward the coast we caught up with the storm and ended up driving through some light rain.  We found a cheap room in Rocky Mount and settled in for the night.  It was nice to have the extra night and extra time to sleep in and not have such a hectic Friday.  Getting away Friday morning it was still overcast and a bit drizzly but the big weather issue was the wind, and as the day progressed it got colder and colder.  Pulling up to the race briefing building, which was part of a pier jutting out into the ocean, the wind was blowing a gale and it was definitely down jacket weather.  The thought of being out in this cold and wind at 5am was daunting to say the least.

The briefing started right on time and Brandon did a great job of outlining what we could expect the next day.  He had one of the unmanned water station contraptions in the hall so we'd know what to look for and he was careful to describe the few place where one could take a wrong turn.  Given the course he had the pleasure of not needing to do hardly any course marking though there were a couple of aid station where you had to go slightly off hwy 12 but in those spots he had people on the road to direct you in and out of the station.  There were some logistical details having to do with transporting people to the start and back from the finish but with Liz and I having crew we didn't have to worry about all that.  Soon we were off the hotel to try to get some rest before the early wake up.

Unmanned water station contraption.

Waking up in the morning it didn't feel nearly as cold as Liz and I thought it would so we settled on slightly less clothes than we thought the night before.  The start is truly at the end of the road.  We were standing in sand as we started the race.  Very cool.  I love point to point races and the thought of following this same highway the entire race along this narrow ribbon of land, past historic lighthouses, and through Cape Hatteras National Seashore was exciting.  So while it didn't seem as cold as we expected that isn't to say it wasn't cold.  It was!  The wind was blowing probably 15mph and the temp was probably around 40.  The good thing (and a very good thing indeed!) was that the wind was from the north and we were running south.  Have you ever run 100 miles straight with a tailwind the entire time?  I hazard to guess not many have, but the finishers of the 2012 Graveyard 100 have!

It was awesome!  It was chilly and windy but with the wind at our backs it was very comfortable.  The sun was out the entire day (enough to give me a nasty sunburn on my lower lip) and the wind never really let up.  I'd say it blew from 10-20 mph the entire day.  It was just pushing us along.  You'll never hear me say that running 100 miles is easy but this one was about as easy as it gets.  It was like a gentle downhill the whole way.  The first 30-35 miles are all through pretty heavily developed areas but then you hit the National Seashore which has no development at all.  After that it was off and on developed and desolate with more development towards the end.  The highway was busier than I had expected and that got to be kind of a drag but most drivers courteously gave us room.  And there was a generous shoulder the entire way with sidewalks also available in many of the developed areas.  I never felt that the course was at all dangerous.

Lighthouse at aid station 2
The course is designed with only 4 full service aid station but water stops inbetween at about 6-7 mile intervals.  Some of the highlights of the race were the lighthouses at two of the aid stations.  With gps they're no longer used for navigation but they had been maintained as sort of museum pieces and were quite striking and large.  Another stand out from the race was the 2.5 mile long Bonner bridge.  Liz and I ended up running the bridge together in the late afternoon.  This was the one big hill on the course rising almost 50 feet above the water.  About halfway it turned to east a bit and we had the wind off our shoulder rather than directly behind us and that made a huge difference in how cold it felt.  We didn't freeze but we weren't hanging out enjoying the view either.

2.5 mile long Bonner bridge

After the bridge there was a long stretch where the road had sand blowing across it and there were even  some small sand dunes forming across the road.  Here's a couple of pictures from that stretch:

I can't emphasize enough how nice it was to have the wind at our backs.  It would have been an entirely different race if we had been running into that relentless wind.  Not only would it have been physically harder to run into the wind but it would have been freezing despite the sunshine and in some of these sections the blowing sand would have been nasty.  And if the race had been one day earlier we would have been out in that wind AND rain.  One year runners will have different conditions than we did and there will be some stories to tell.....

After the bridge there was a long lonely stretch going into the next aid with 3 water only stations inbetween.  Having a crew at this race really makes it a lot easier logistically.  Uncrewed you would have to wear a pack with food and extra clothing while the crewed runner can see their crew not only at the water stations but at many other spots along the way as well.  My hat is off to Claude Hicks and Mike Smith who were uncrewed and finished ahead of me.  (There are probably others but they're the only one's I know of.)

As usual the final 15 miles seemed the longest.  Having only worked one day in the week before the race I didn't struggle so bad with sleepiness though I did curl up behind a trash barrel for about 10 minutes around mile 90 or so.  Another cool thing about this course is that the finish is at the end of the road where one needs to get on a ferry to cross a channel to continue on hwy 12.  This is also the exact spot where the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum is located.  The whole point to point aspect on the barrier islands has a wonderful aesthetic appeal.  This race is sure to stand out in my mind as one of the most unique and enjoyable races I've ever done.  I haven't worn a watch for any of these races yet this year and I was really surprised to find out that I had finished the race in 21:12 for 8th place over all. I really thought that I had slowed in the last 15 miles and I also thought that there were a lot more runners ahead of me.  Liz finished shortly after me in 21:39 for 3rd place among the women.  Congrats to winners Brenda Carawan in 16:33 and Andrei Nana in 19:27.  Results are here.

I can't say enough about how great of a job Brandon and Heather did organizing and executing this race.  There was obviously a tremendous amount of thought and planning that went into the weekend.  And I can only imagine all the permitting and legal stuff they went through to be able to run through so many towns, parks, and a National Seashore.  Brandon did relate to me some of this related to the National Park Service but I'm sure that was only the tip of the iceberg.  Many thanks to you two for all your hard work.  One unexpected and very pleasant surprise that really shows how these two took care of all us runners is the rooms at a nearby hotel that they rented and provided for the runners to rest in and get cleaned up in after the finish.  This was unadvertised and as I understand it, a last minute (and expensive!) decision.  I don't know if that will be a regular feature of the race but it sure was nice to be able to shower and nap in a bed before starting the drive back to Raleigh.

Once again the volunteers were exemplary.  We didn't see race volunteers all that often in this race but they were there when they were needed and very very helpful as well as knowledgeable about what a runner wants and needs to get in and out of an aid station with all that they need in as little time as possible.  The burgers and hot pizza were awesome!

A special thanks are also due to Robert and Jane for giving up their weekend to help Liz and I.  Robert had brought some LED christmas lights that he was able to plug into the car and drape all across the top of the car so that we could pick out their car from all the other crew cars after dark.  What a nice and thoughtful touch, Robert!  He and Jane met us at innumerable spots along the way in addition to the aid and water stops.  They got no more sleep than we did once the race was underway.  Thank you!

Our next race is the NJ Ultra Festival this coming weekend.  We've participated in the McNulty's 3 Days at the Fair and are looking forward to a great weekend.

The one fly in the ointment for me after Graveyard is some achilles tendonitis.  When I woke up late on Monday morning my left achilles was sore and having experienced achilles tendonitis before after my first 100 miler I reached down and pinched the tendon as I flexed and extended my foot.  Sure enough, I felt that familiar creaky, grinding feeling indicating inflammation.  So soon after the race I couldn't really assess it fully due to the edema and general soreness but now I'm hoping that it is a relatively minor case that I can get it resolved before NJ.  I've been taking 600mg of ibuprofen 3x a day since Monday and icing the tendon when I can.  The creakiness is gone but there is still some soreness.  After my first 100 I had it in the right tendon and it was much worse but I was out for about 6 weeks then.  I'm hoping I'll be able to stay healthy though these next busy months but only time will tell.  Any advice on managing this would be much appreciated as long as the advice isn't "Stop running so much you idiot!"  : )  I'm planning to stop the ibuprofen in the next day or two and know I need to stretch my calves but I don't know if that is wise at this point or not.  Any stretching I do will have to be VERY gentle.  Wish me luck!

Race count now stands at:  Liz (7)  Scott (5)


  1. Scott, great job out there and those are some awesome photos of the dunes! I hope the achilles heals up quickly for the next run. What kind of shoe did you wear for the Graveyard 100? Maybe a more cushioned shoe and a slower pace (consider the cut-offs) are on cue for making it through the next 100s unscathed.

  2. Thanks, Matt. I wore some addidas and saucony road shoes for this one. Your point about going easier is well taken. I plan to go real easy in NJ but I never really felt like I was pushing hard at Graveyard. My effort level was easy and even. The fast time was from the wind. I'm thinking the culprit shoe/races are the new NB MT110's at Rocky Raccoon and Doubletop. The 110's have 4mm toe drop compared to 10mm on the 101's which i was more used to. I did no transition between the shoes with my first run being 52 miles and the second about 90. I think this put extra strain on the tendon which I didn't feel until after Graveyard where there was very little variation in stride on the flat pavement. I think the constant unvarying footstrike probably focused the strain to the point where the tendon got inflammed. Now I've just got to get it fixed!

  3. What?! After you talked me into pulling the trigger on a pair of 110s?!?! Just kidding! Really liking my 110s. Sounds like you have a good idea what's going on. What was the cut-off for Graveyard? It may have felt like you were taking it easy, but I'm guessing you could've taken it a lot easier! ;-)

  4. Good seeing you again at Graveyard, Good luck to you and Liz on your quest! Love your blog!!

    Frank Lilley

  5. Sounds like an awesome event. Perhaps Kathy and I will tackle this one day. Like the fact that it's point to point and in an area I'd love to visit. Congrats to you and Liz, another step along your journey is complete!

  6. You make it sound the road 100 appealing, really! Great job you two (and Claude is machine as you are guys). For Achilles, may be try to stretch and massage well your plantar and calf, and also your quad (weird, I know, but yesterday at the CE for LMT they told us that, and simple touch the knee got easier).

  7. Good job, you two! Keep the machine rolling! (with higher heeled shoes, of course ) ;-)

  8. Thanks everyone! And Olga, thanks for the massage suggestion. That sounds a lot safer than stretching. Cheers and good running! Scott

  9. Scott, Great run after that tuff 108 miles the week before!
    I'm thinking i might sign up for that 100 on the salt flats. Would you and Liz care if i helped on the hotel cost and if you are having to get a rental i would spit the cost. The run is almost full so what do you say?

  10. Congrats to you and Liz for another hundred on the books.I met you guys at the race breifing and was excited to meet Liz again. I actually met Liz at my first ultra last year at Delano 12hr. Loved reading your race report and seeing your perspective. I was right in front of you and finished in 21:00. I did this race uncrewed with no pacers. Pretty lonely race to say the least. Between aid station 3&4 I did not see another runner. Really nice to see Liz's brother at mile 98...liked the Christmas lights! Best of luck to you and Liz on your amazing journey. BTW...I am also a nurse(ER) and work the night shift. Working nights definitely gives us an edge over other runners on these hundreds.I have no problem staying awake :-)

    Happy Running,
    Kelley Wells

  11. Thanks for the story. It really helps to make a decision to do the 100k for 2013. I am new to the sport and experienced plantar fasciitis after my first trail 50-miler. These injuries are interactive on the posterior kinetic chain. Three weeks later - just seeing recovery progress now with 3x ibuprofen and 3x icing bottle roll on arches. Did u recover in time for the NJ Ultra?