2008 The year of many First

By Richard Michael 

Iíve always said that I didnít care how much I weighed as long as I could still do the activities that I liked to do. Iíve always enjoyed hiking and being outdoors, but after ten years of a sedentary lifestyle and gaining 100+ pounds one day it dawned on me that I couldnít do a lot of the things anymore. So in the summer of 2007 I started to walk, at first it was 2 miles, then 4 and then eventually up to 8 miles a day. By September I was down 50 pounds to a mere 245lb. so I wanted to start running again.  With the goal of running the Bedford Christmas Classic 5K in December I finished the race and was ready for my next adventure.

My brother-in-law had just run the Richmond marathon and that seemed like a good challenge, but running the city streets just didnít appeal to me. So I searched the internet and found this neat little race in my backyard called the Promise Land. This was to be my next challenge. With a little more searching I found Davidís web page and ran across another little race called Holiday Lake that was supposed to be a good introduction to ultras. With just 2 Ĺ months to prepare I started to work on distance and with a little luck and a lot of help from friends I finished my first 50K++. Then came Terrapin Mt and Promise Land each with there unique challenges, I was having fun and these races were starting to get addictive. I even did my first sprint Triathlon (Angles Race) in April.

Somewhere in all of this I got the hair brain idea to sign up for Grindstone which meant I had to find a 50 miler as a qualifier before October. So I dragged the family (wife and 3 boys ages 7, 5 and 2) down to Ellerbe, NC for a little Midnight Boogie (my first 50M) and then up to Beverly, WV for some Moonshine Madness. With each race I could feel myself getting stronger and learning more about myself. I met many new people this year each willing to help me and share their advice. So with a lot of hard work and help from friends and family I finished Grindstone, my first 100 Miler (and maybe my last).

I had originally signed up for the LUS, but now that I had finished Grindstone I had a chance to complete the Beast. Just two more races to go, but I was starting to get scared of the Masochist and the cut offs since Iím not a fast runner. I had just spent the last three months practicing climbing steep grades and hadnít spent much time running, my weekly mileage was around 80 but only 30 was running miles. So after 1 week+ recovery from Grindstone I only had two weeks to get my running mileage up. I was very worried that I would not make the cut offís so on the road section I started off fast (for me anyway) and everything just clicked. For most of the races that I ran this year it was always hard work and a struggle but for two of these races, Masochist being one of them everything just seemed to click, it wasnít a struggle, it just felt natural and good. There are not too many things more enjoyable than running thru the woods in the fall when every thing just fells good. What a great day! So now for Hellgate I knew I had this one until one night at the beginning of the week as I went sprinting to the bathroom. The gears in my head went into overdrive, what was I going to do. I became more and more worried as the days went by and I wasnít feeling any better. Itís defiantly not a good thing to lose 3 pounds in the taper week. By Friday I was starting to feel a little better and was able to keep food down all day, so I popped a few Imodium and thought I can do this. As the race started I felt pretty good for about the first mile and pit stop #1. I thought this is OK I should be alright for a while as I started to sip on my water to make sure I didnít get dehydrated. So over the creak and thru the woods to AS1 I went and filled my water bottle up and within the first mile up the mountain out came the water. A lot of ultra runners have digestive tract issues during races and I have never given much thought to it since I normally have a stomach of steal and can eat what I want whenever I want. After Saturday morning I have a new respect for anyone that has to fight GI tract problems. This year I have run races with toe nails falling off, a broken toe, shin splits, and rubbed raw in places I canít talk about and for the most part I could ignore the pain and keep going, but not this. By the time I reached Camping gap I was out of TP and was totally dehydrated. I hated to do it but I had to drop, no amount of will power can pull you thru when you canít refuel.  I was glad that I showed up and tried, it helps me live with the outcome of my first DNF.

I would like to thank all of the volunteers that give up their time to come and help out. I have never had time to talk to any of them before because it is always in and out of the aid stations as fast as you can. This past Saturday I had a chance to spend some time and chat with a few of them and help out at some of the different aid stations (another cool first). I also would like to thank David and Clark for all the time and effort you put into the sport and encouraging the new people.  Most of all I would like to thank my family and friends that sacrificed a lot of their time this year to help me achieve a lot of these firstís. How do you properly thank someone that hand delivers a McDonaldís double quarter pounder to you in the middle of the forest at midnight? Congratulationís to all of the Beast Series finishers it takes a lot of effort and a little luck to be able to complete that many races and not have the wheels come off at some point in the year.

            What does the future hold for me, I donít know? Lord willing I will be running a few of the races next year.  Some of my friends have decided to run Holiday Lake as their first Ultra and I will help them in whatever they need whether it is crewing or running with them. (Good luck Tommy, Matt & Travis). I donít think I will try the series again for a while, I enjoyed it, but it required too much of a sacrifice on the family. First of all I will have to tackle the Hellgate course again next Saturday morning at 12:01AM; I donít want this defeat hanging over my head for more than a week.


So thanks to all for your help and encouragement and I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Richard Michael

Forget Weight Watchers go on the Horton - Zealand Diet.