Thursday, August 23, 2012

LAVS 500K - Part 3: They're Off (Way Off)

This Race Is So Long It Takes 2 Days To Get To The Start
Although the race start date is Thursday, July 12, if you plan on riding the bus to the start of the race, you need to meet up with all the other bus-riders at a private ranch in Georgia called Castle Rock on Wednesday morning. You then partake in a secret ceremony featuring Kool Aid.pile into a bus and travel as a group to the start. The traditional "last supper" is held Wednesday night, with the runners retiring to their respective hotel rooms afterward to await the ride to the Ferry the next morning. 

A Word About Vol State Logistics

I'm pretty sure I just made that sound easy, but let me tell you, getting your head around logistics for this one is a bitch. After two weeks of sweating out what the hell to put in my pack, I realized I hadn't thought about the fact that you don't want ANY extra baggage when you get on the ferry. I wondered, what do people wear to the "last supper"? Do they all wear what they're going to run in? They must, right??  I placed a quick call to Dusty Hardman to ask her about this aspecct of things. Given Dusty's detailed to-the-ounce gear list, if she didn't have the answer, no one would. However, all I remembered hearing was something about a "4 ounce dress" and "maybe go to the Goodwill..."  Hmm. Note to self: must... work...on...listening...skilz.

Psyche: "You are yankin' my chain, lady! That dress weighs at LEAST 12 ounces."

Because I like you, and I think you're special, I'm going to tell you the secret to handling Vol State logistics. Are you ready? Are you sure? Because this is really important, so you should be ready, OK? OK, then. Here goes: Don't waste your time packing, planning, and preparing.

None of it will matter.

Just get yourself to the start with your ID and a credit card. And possibly your health insurance card- Nah, strike that. If you knew insurance would pay, it would be far too tempting to throw yourself into oncoming traffic just to make it stop. Better to not have a safety net.

A Word About The RD's

Seriously? It's Laz and Carl. Think about it. If Laz and Carl had a baby, it would look like this:
Vol State: Demon child of Laz and Carl

The Start: And They're OFF (...Way Off)
To start the race with a simulated Ferry Ride simply added to the surreal quality of this race.  Here's some pics of the photo ops and socializing that took place prior to the start.

This almost looks like the start of a "regular" race

Laz's Angels
(Stop laughing! I said shut UP!!!)

Sherry Meador, Me, Marvin the Awesome, and Dusty

23 Start...

This picture virtually screams, "I have no IDEA what I am in for."

I'll end this post with a recap of the start by the RD's:

Vol State Update 1: They Are Off (Way Off)
we got lucky.
the ferry is sitting in the mud,
the crew is doing repainting and other maintenance tasks.
they allowed us to board the barge to start.
at 07:17:42 we started atop the riverbank in kentucky
and ran to the ferry.
following a 20 minute "simulated" ferry ride,
used for photos ops and socializing just like normal,
the gates were opened,
and the runners set out on their magnificent quest.
there were 23 starters, and they passed by the mississippi river overlook in hickman in this order:

1) sal coll
2) richard westbrook
3) charley taylor
4) julie aistars
5) jan silverman
6) thomas mikkelson
7) joshua holmes
8) rita barnes

9) dan fox
10) sherry meador
11) abi meadows
12) shannon burke
13) dusty hardman
14) mike melton
15) sulaiman sericki
16) psyche wimberly
17) ericka matheny
18) john price
19) fred davis
20) paul lefelhocz
21) jay dobrowalski
22) marvin skagerberg
23) diane taylor

in a little while we will go out to get the 20 mile splits...the last time we'll be able to sit in one place and watch all the runners go by.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

LAVS 500K - Part 2: Getting To The Ferry

Figuratively and Literally - Getting to the Ferry Is Everything.  
Figuratively, my own journey to the ferry began when I started running. I say that because it was clear to me from the start that (ultimately), running is an expression of self transcendence. By its nature, running is about pushing beyond personal limits.

However, to be honest, I never really experienced the "transcendence" part of running until I began running ultramarathons. The reason for that, I believe, is that it takes something extraordinary, epic even, to truly push you to your limits.  And part of that is that you can't be sure you can actually do it.

Literally, it took me about a year to get to the ferry. About this time last year, I sat reading Naresh's Vol State race report, just like you're reading mine now. In his report there is a quote from Laz, which, if you are the type of person Vol State calls to, will make running this race truly irrisistable:

a run like this is not just a race
it can be (is) a life changing experience.
vol state is a journey thru personal hell
you WILL be discouraged.
you WILL feel self doubt.
you WILL want to quit.
but if you persevere.
if you dog it out, step by step.
you will find in yourself a strength you never knew existed.
the vol-state is not a time to be concerned about teaching the young or helping out friends.
you will need every ounce of your mental toughness just to reach the rock

As soon as I finished Naresh's incredible account of his experiences last year, I knew I was in.  I remember I texted Charles and said something like, "Sorry, honey, but I'm (we're) gonna have to take 10 days off in July." 

Fast forward 11 months. 

As Vol State neared, the race weighed heavily on me. The race was here, but I was in a position where I couldn't afford the expense of food and lodging for 7-10 days plus the time off. I struggled with the decision because given the circumstances, doing something of this magnitude wasn't the responsible thing to do. For a couple of weeks, I went back and forth with my decision.

Then, one day I came across an email from Jason Sullivan that had gone to spam that I had never read. It was from the Foothills List, and it was about Angela Ivory. Angela lost her battle with cancer in May after a long fight, and although I didn't know Angela on a deeply personal level, if you ever met her, or even knew of her- you could not help but be moved by her story. In this email, Jason talked about how Angela had always wanted to run the Foothills Trail, and how he had told her he would run it with her. Now he would never share that victory with her. 

Angela's desire to run the Foothills Trail is something I didn't know about her, and for some reason (even now) I am deeply moved by Jason's heart felt words. I started thinking. Who knows what next year will bring.  All I know is that THIS year I have an opportunity to do this race because Leopold is able to stay with his dad - who is also fighting cancer. THIS YEAR, I'm able to take the time off from work.

In that moment, I decided to refuse to look back and wish that I had done this race. That is not the life I want to live. Right or wrong, I decided to run and live with the consequences.

Smartest thing I ever did, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LAVS 500K: Part I - An Adventure Of a Lifetime

"There is no fee, no disclaimer, just 500K of open road.
And the adventure of a lifetime. If you have what it takes to do it" -Laz
It really is a selfish thing to commit a week to a race, but if you get the right thing out of it, it could be the smartest thing you ever did. -Charlie Taylor

I've lost track of the number of times I’ve started to write this report.  I’m virtually desperate to put this experience down on “paper” yet…I'm resigned to the fact there's simply nothing I can write that will do justice to the magnitude of this experience or convey what it took to complete this race.  In fact, it's still hard for me to even believe I ran (and I use the term loosely) 314 miles (more like 330 miles if you count all the “bonus” miles).

In Linden on the morning of day 4, I was ready to QUIT. The rains that hit us on day 3 (Saturday), resulted in the worst blisters and most tender feet I've ever had. I couldn't put weight on my feet. I couldn't put a shoe on my left foot. Yet somehow, I ran 51 miles that day and I kept going...Day after day...after day...after day....I kept going. For six more days.

The daily mileage went something like this:

Day 1/ 57 miles to McKenzie
Day 2/ 58 miles to Parson (50 miles to Parson +8 bonus miles)
Day 3/ 21 miles culminating in a nervous breakdown in Linden
Day 4/ 51 mile push to Columbia after pep talk from Naresh
Day 5/ 49 miles ending with the wildest night of all in Wartrace
Day 6/ 29 miles and a decision to take on crew. And by crew I mean Charles.
Day 7/ 22 miles to Monteagle
Day 8/ 26 miles to Kimball
Day 9/ 14 miles to finish

I ran the last 70 miles or so without shoes- without shoes! THAT'S how wild this story is.

Those highs make you feel like you can ride them right to the rock. The lows like you will never feel better and the rock is a million miles away. - Fred Murolo

In the weeks since Vol State, I've had time to digest the experience for the most part. Vol State is like the most intensely joyful and inspiring running experience you've ever had combined with the funniest running thing that's ever happened to you while you're running the most painful, grueling and disgustingly disappointing race you've ever run. And it goes on for a WEEK.

It's been incredible to read the other runners' accounts and race reports. They are all so good, and are such a source of inspiration. They confirm that indeed I am part of an experience that very few people will ever share. They confirm that it really was as wild as I thought it was.

In his race report, the winner of this year's race, Dan Fox (all Hail! King of the Road!!) likens Vol State to a Mandan Tribe ceremony called the Okipa. He succinctly answers both "Why?" and "How?" when he talks about Vol State as a means to "being the Hero in a myth of your own making"

He perfectly describes the race when he says, "the loose organization of Vol Sate provides just the right proportion of freedom/safety to go hard. And a defined goal: get to the Rock as fast as possible - provides the context. The back roads of Tennessee make a fitting Underworld in which to do battle. Add in the searing weather elements and the stage is set for epic performances." Indeed.

A more epic road race cannot be found. Nor can I imagine that a more intense race experience exists.

The challenge of this race report is to tell both my story and the story of the race. I find it hard to come up with a cogent format in which to relay the race and my own personal tales of the road- they are so intertwined. 

So, what will follow in the next few posts is a sadly inept accounting of the race (which relies heavily on Laz and Carl's updates to the various ultrarunning lists), along with the highlights and lowlights of my own personal experience. It is a long, long, story- and by the time you are done reading it, it will seem as long as the race itself.

But it's a good story. They are good stories- and great experiences. Ones I will cherish for the rest of my life and always look back on with fondness, and a sense of longing.

For I now know that life will never seem quite as alive as it does at Vol State.