REFLECTIONS FROM A ’47 ROADSTER

Posted: April 3, 2018 by coachwestbrook in Daily Runs & Reflections, Uncategorized
APRIL 2, 2018 (MONDAY)

Today, I was running on the Silver Comet Trail starting at mile “0” in Smyrna.  Unlike the weekend, the SCT was sparse with people. So for me, that made my run that much better.  I like running alone.  That’s probably because I’m too slow to keep up with other runners…which would put me in solitude anyway.  So, I might as well like it.

A full promise of spring was evident on the trail with blooms and green bursting out all over.  Birds were evident represented by a lot of cardinals and sparrows.  A lone hawk flew about six feet over my head and across the trail to perch high on a tree and, I’m sure, was looking for prey.

My run was enjoyable on the multi-use trail which is one of my favorite sites at which to run.  I ran steadily with a goal of 12 miles but felt so good that I extended it to 15 miles.  There were a lot more cyclists than runners on the trail, but even with that, they were few and far between.

My only problem was that the water fountains at the start and at the 4.2 mile point were not working.  But, it was a small problem and didn’t change my run in any way.  Slow is slow any way you look at it.

It was the first day this year that I ran in a singlet.  The sun felt good and not hot on my skin.  Everything (except water fountains) worked out well to make it a memorable day of running at a great site for running. 

Leading up to my first marathon, knowing my training had been completely pitiful, I ate some high protein and then high carbohydrate meals. I was trying any angle to help me since my training had fallen to the way side. I began running with a specific mileage schedule all planned out. I assume I jumped in miles too quickly resulting in killer shin splints. I constantly massaged them but then just stopped running to heal up. Soon after that, I was driving home with my teenage niece and saw a dog get hit by a truck and fly off the side of the road. When I looked over the dog was struggling to get up. I still can’t believe the total A*#HOLE in the truck didn’t stop. I jerked the jeep around and parked in a ditch to run and check on the dog. To make a long story short, I attempted to carry the large dog to no avail, so my niece and I put him on a blanket and carried him to the back of his house. As I went to stand up I felt a twinge in my back and knew I did something. I slept on a heating pad that night but could barely get out of bed the next morning. It took me a week to walk normally again, so needless to say, even more time with no miles in. He stood a fighting chance but to this day I am not sure if the dog survived.

Dad was registering me for the marathon and we continued looking at different ones. He told me about each race and the course and said to decide. Obviously the later the date the better, but so much was going on I thought I just needed to go ahead and get this over with. An additional week or so would not keep me from dying out there. Plus, the marathon I chose had a kid’s run and training log where my 4 year old could run 25.2 miles up to race day and then race one more mile to complete a marathon of her own.

CAR MAGNET FOR BRAYLEE

All that being said and after a lot of deep contemplation, I chose the Knoxville Marathon with it’s gentle rolling hills. (Feel free to laugh your ass off right here). That decision left me with about 10 days to prepare for the 26.2 miles. I had never run more than 20 miles before and even that seems like a million years ago.

My shin splints and back were much better but still not completely diminished. I ran slowly at times and walked others with my daughter to get in her 25.2 miles. She finished some long walks with Mommy. The trick here is to keep her talking throughout. When she grows tired and starts to whine you strike up an interesting conversation to distract her. Also, all her walking was to “help Mommy get ready for her race.” Mission accomplished.

Dad drove my mom, my daughter, and I to Knoxville for the races on Saturday. We checked into our hotel and headed over for the expo to pick up our race packets. It was cold and raining outside. We picked up our packets and shirts and listened to Bill Rodgers speak. I tried to keep Braylee (my daughter) form running around and playing too much since she was about to run her race soon. All races finished in Neyland Stadium so eventually we sent Mom ahead to meet us there. Dad, Braylee, and I went out the amphitheater to wait until the start. It was a staggered start dependent on grade levels. No one could tell us what time we actually started so we walked up and stood in the last group of kindergarten and younger division. I remember thinking it was cold and wet, but she seemed excited. We were off, and she was running along holding my hand. I told her she could run better if she didn’t hold my hand. She let go and ran up the street, turned left and began walking up the hill. I let her walk up the hill and tried encouraging her to run but it only grew worse from there. Her tights were ill fitting and falling down so she would not stop holding on to them from the waist in the back. She cried the entire mile for the most part. It was not until we could see the stadium that she finally smiles and started running so she could beat her Paw Paw. She had a great finish after her walk and received a medal at the end.

BRAYLEE FINISHING HER MILE RACE TO COMPLETE HER MARATHON

We met Mom and walked to meet Dad with the truck. It was still cold and wet and baby was still miserable, so I carried her a lot of the way. It was hurting my lower back and all I could think was how everything was NOT conducive to my marathon the following morning.

We went for dinner, and I had a large waffle with peanut butter and syrup and chocolate milk. The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed to the race to ensure a parking place. We sat in a parking garage where Dad instructed me to eat some sport beans with water. They tasted like jelly beans, so it wasn’t bad. At one point I told Braylee that I was going to run further than I ever have before and not sure if I would make it. She said, “I want you to race Mommy because you are the best!” That gave me some encouragement. I knew even if I was slower than an aging turtle I would complete the 26.2 miles without a finish to run into. The allotted time to complete the race was 7 hours. I registered with a hopeful 6:30ish time frame in mind but thinking closer to 7 or longer. I would simply run to Braylee. I was also having heart palpitations at this point and a growing need for the restroom. In all seriousness, what if I couldn’t do it?

Dad and I said bye to Mom and Braylee in the truck, so we could get to the start. Mom asked if we needed anything at the finish. I told her an ambulance would be nice. The start was insanely packed! So many people! It was a combined half-marathon, marathon, and relay start. We found a spot in the crowd and I departed for the port-a-potty. Ugh! The lines were too long. There was no way all these people would make it. I found a good spot and made my own line. One woman opened the door on a poor girl in front of me. Myself and the two ladies behind me were about to tackle her. Did she NOT see the lines here? Come on! Once I came out there were even more people and slim hope to find Dad again. I plunged into the crowd to search and heard him calling my name. He had moved over onto the sidewalk, so I could find him. Now we had to merge into the race crowd when it all started.

It was still cool but fortunately no rain. If only it were that way for Braylee’s race. We began running at a nice slow, steady pace. Dad had already told me to keep my strides really short. I did and paced myself off of him. Throughout the race Dad watched the time and instructed me when to consume more sport beans, Powerade or water, gel, or chia seeds. I had only tried gel once before and not while running. I knew it wasn’t good by any means but after so many miles, it is very difficult to even get down. I believe everything helped me tremendously though. There were several times I was hurting but thinking I miraculously have energy coming from who knows where and still going. There were port-a-pottys throughout the course which I stopped 2 or 3 times to use.

Anyone who describes that course with gentle, rolling hills is an idiot! Every hill hit me hard. A few short ones I was able to lean forward and trudge up them, feeling rather depleted at the top. At 4 miles I thought this is all we have done. (I know, sad right? It was still way too early for that). Mile 6-8 is when I started to think I was beginning to feel it, but no. Mile 10-11 I could feel it in my lower back where I was hurting from my dog rescue, then my left hamstring grew tighter into my glutes. This was still ok, but we hard far to go so who knows how it would all play out. The course had aid stations sprinkled throughout, people dressed up and cheering everyone on, and live music. It all helped but I would be perfectly fine to never hear the song “Rocky Top” for the rest of my life. People were dressed as a pair of feet, sunflowers, Minnie Mouse, dinosaurs, and so forth. One lady was running the race in a T-Rex costume. She was ahead of us for a while and between her, the Detour, and Pink Lady, I had to get ahead of them all. The Detour was a very large man with a bright orange shirt that we passed, and he passed us, and we passed again (the same with the Pink Lady) it was driving me crazy. Dad had said the man was so big it was like taking a detour to get around him. Very true. Eventually, we left them all behind somewhere.

Also, at various locations in the race were hilarious signs. I have to give someone credit. Signs reading, “He got plantar fasciitis…for a free banana,” “A marathon is like a mullet, the party is in the back,” (totally agree by the way), things about chafing and pain and the finish is near, then just kidding. In one neighborhood they had a complete finish line set up. I remember trying to figure out why. Did the half-marathon finish here? Have we gone 13.1 miles yet? No. What in the world? Then I see the just kidding signs. WTH? That is not funny! Who thinks that is funny? The signs and music all helped though and people cheering us on. Even certain runners would pass and give words of encouragement. That was good because I probably looked like death.

SIGNS TO ENTERTAIN ME THROUGHOUT THE MARATHON

People were now saying, “You are almost there, finish strong.” That is for half marathoners. I am stupidly running a full marathon. With 13.1 miles done, I was definitely feeling it now, thinking I am hurting already so I would have been good to just do a half-marathon here and incorporate more time and training for a full marathon. Why am I doing this again? Oh yeah, to be able to have that 26.2 magnet on my car. Another sign, “How can you tell if someone has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they will tell you.” True. I am telling everyone I did this. The entire world needs to be aware! I knew army training and experiences were difficult, and they were, but this is a voluntary slap in the face and punch in the gut, or maybe being run over by a truck.

I informed Dad that mile 21 would be the furthest I have run in my life. He said after mile 20 is when the marathon really hits you. He told me if I could keep going through mile 17 or 18, then I would have it. After that it won’t get any worse, not any better, but not any worse. I can do this! I was managing my race through 6 mile increments. Through mile 6 was easy enough. Through mile 12 was manageable. I was feeling it though but not hurting extremely bad or anything. At mile 18 I was praying. At this point I was relieved with every mile marker I saw. Around mile 20 I took ibuprofen. My right knee had started hurting somewhere back there and it was worse now. My hips were sore, and I could feel every time I lifted my legs. I am not sure how I began running again after walk breaks. Something willed me to go but, it was not easy.

We ran through a neighborhood from mile 21 to 23 or 24. It was nice neighborhood and I knew coming out of it would be the last couple miles to the finish in the stadium. Dad stopped at a port-a-potty and I walked through a phone call to Mom and Braylee to tell her where we were. She was telling me great job and asking if I was dead. Braylee said hi. That got me going again. Before Dad caught up I began running again. I tried to run ahead of him for as long as I could. He caught up and I was feeling pretty beaten down at that point. My right knee had locked up or something and I took a funny step or two into a walk but then told myself to run through it or I would only walk on forever. It can’t get any worse.

We kept seeing a pace group in front of us for a while. Before I wanted to catch them but eventually gave up on that. All of a sudden there they were again and walking. Dad said to catch up to them and walk with them. It was a difficult struggle, but we did. All I could imagine was as soon as we would get there and walk, they would probably start running and I would have to watch them go ahead. They still walked as we joined them, to my great fortune. The two pace women were great. They asked if it was my first marathon and told me I was doing great. It was the group’s first as well. She told them they were just under 6 hours and could go ahead whenever they wanted. They went ahead of us but eventually I passed them and moved on. I asked Dad a few times now if we could make it to beat 6 hours.

We were in downtown and Dad stopped to pick something up, so I was running alone again. I know my face was showing pain. I had to make sure I knew where I was going. There were people milling about everywhere, some aware of the race, others not so much. I saw the guy in front of me look back when he came to an intersection, questioning. I told him straight. I really didn’t know but said it anyway and hoped I was right. I was. He looked in pain as well. I probably shouldn’t have, but I felt good passing him. Dad caught up. I said I hoped this was the last hill. He said it probably is. We were both wrong. Dammit!

I looked up at some point and saw the stadium. HALLELUJAH! Wait, why are we turning right? WTH! I need to finish in the stadium. How much further now? Where is this course taking me? I asked Dad, “Where the hell are we going?” Needless to say, I was ready to finish. Finally, we are on the last stretch, the same route Braylee ran for her mile straight into the stadium. I got excited for a second but then looked up to see a hill. OH, MY GOODNESS, REALLY! Excitement gone. I thought there was no way I would beat 6 hours now. We kept running and walked up some of the hill. I knew we were close but not exactly sure where. I guess I looked like death because an angel came to me. She as a blond lady dressed in running gear with the bright yellow volunteer shirt on. She immediately approached my side and ran with me, or she may have been walking since I was going so slow, not sure. She asked if I knew how close I was. I made a gesture of some sort. She said, “Oh, you don’t.” She continued to point out a brick building and say that around that curve was the entrance into the stadium and I would hear the crowd cheering. I almost cried so I got choked up and had to walk a few steps to catch my breath again. I felt like I was not getting enough oxygen now and kept having to take an extra deep breath now and then. I got to the building and she asked if I could hear the people and told me congratulations and disappeared. I will never know who she is but at that moment in time I loved her! She gave me that last push I needed.

We ran into the stadium and I immediately saw Mom, but she was looking away. I wanted to yell her name, but it was impossible. I couldn’t yell if I could barely breathe. She turned around in time and suddenly Braylee was in front of her waving. OK, NOW LET’S DO THIS! I ran onto the grass of the field and tried my best attempt at striding out and increasing my pace for a strong finish. I was surprised but I guess it worked because I saw the time overhead. They announced my hometown and name, which I am sure no one there has heard of either and then Dad’s. We finished just under 6 hours. 5:55:22. I immediately received a finisher’s medal, hat, and towel/car seat cover. Good news…I could still walk and didn’t feel like complete death.

There were a couple of ladies that ran along with us for a lot of the latter part of the race. The first one had obviously run this before and was encouraging her friend and me. We saw her at the finish (she finished just a bit before me) and chatted. She took our picture and told us congrats and it was her friend’s first marathon too. Then her and Dad talked awhile. She was impressed and said she hoped to be running like him at his age. Of course, don’t we all?

DAD AND I JUST AFTER THE FINISH

We met up with Mom and Braylee and headed to the post marathon food room. I guzzled several little chocolate milks, grabbed an iced coffee and some pepperoni pizza but didn’t want either. It was a great feeling to be in that room with other marathoners. There is a sense of comradery that makes one understand why people seem to get it when talking to other marathoners. You may have nothing else in common in your lives but that grueling 26.2 miles but that is enough to exchange those knowing looks, head nods, and smiles. I laughed at one girl who tried to shake her butt to her friend. She looked at me and said, “yeah but did you notice how stiff I was?” I completely understood and told her, “yes but you can still do it!”

BRAYLEE AND I IN THE POST MARATHON FOOD ROOM FOR CHOCOLATE MILK AND PIZZA

BUMPER STICKERS AND CAR MAGNETS FOR BRAYLEE AND I

NOTE TO OTHERS: Do not mow the lawn 2 days post your very first marathon. Not the smartest idea!

ASIDE: Both my parents told me I did better than they thought I would which made me feel great. I surprised myself as well. Considering the training was non-existent I pretty much pulled a marathon out of my butt, ahemm, out of nowhere. Hmmmm, I wonder what else I can do?

~ Season Westbrook ~

 

READY FOR THE “HOT PURSUIT GLOW RUN 1 MILE” IN GADSDEN, ALABAMA

BRAYLEE (AKA “RAINBOW”) IN THE LAST HALF OF THE RACE.

KICKING IN TO THE FINISH LEAVING MOM BEHIND…that’s me in the orange shirt…way behind.

THE MEDAL.

MOM AND DAUGHTER AFTER THE RACE.

FACE PAINTED AFTER THE RACE

 

DITTO.

RAINBOW ‘N ME AFTER THE RACE.

Image  —  Posted: August 16, 2017 by coachwestbrook in Uncategorized

A VOL-STATE PHILOSOPHY FROM A ’47 ROADSTER

    Philosophy seems to have a variety of meaning to a lot of people.  I think for most, it is the general beliefs, attitudes, and concepts of the individual.  For some, it could be summed up as a pursuit of wisdom.  Or, in general, it is a search for understanding values and answering the question of, “What is real?”

    Personally, I tend to lean toward a definition espoused by Dagobert D. Runes.  That would be “philosophy is the search for the indefinable.”  That leaves things wide open and, more or less, a mess.

    I think everyone is a philosopher whether they realize it or not.  That does not mean that we all sit around “thinking and meditating” through life.  If we did that, normal life would kind of kick us in our flabby ass.  The French philosopher, Rene Descartes, stated, “I think, therefore, I am.”  We all think.  So, we exist.  We are real.  But, what else is real?

    After the running boom got into high gear, it has been said that our running for distance is the western world’s form of meditation.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

    The Vol-State Road Race is indeed a distance run.  It is real.  The 314 miles gives one plenty of time to meditate, plenty of time to think, plenty of time to become a zombie.  What one thinks about on the way to The Rock is as varied as differing personalities in the race.  And, all those different personalities have different goals, different attitudes about the race, different racing plans (with some, the plan is to have no plan…which is a plan), and different levels of competitiveness.  While traversing the Vol-State course, everything can change and usually does. 

    It is interesting to talk to other runners during the race.  After some chit-chat, each one usually gives an indication of their philosophy about this thing to each other…whether the “other” wanted to hear it or not.  They tell each other their goals, their racing strategy (plan), their problems, how they feel at present, and what they are planning in the immediate future…“immediate” meaning in the next mile or two.  If one listens carefully, one can tell a lot about the runner doing the talking.  And, some will talk and talk and talk to the point that you would wish that they would take a break…or, you fake some excuse to take a break in order to return to some semblance of silence.  A “restroom” break usually does the job quite well…even though, women tend to wait on each other, so another strategy might have to be hatched.

    A runner or walker in Vol-State will come to the point that they are staring eyeball to eyeball at themselves.  We begin to see who we really are, beginning to answer “What is real?” on a personal level.  What we find out can be exhilarating, or, heaven forbid, depressing.  It’s hard to escape reality when our bones hurt, we have been soaked with sweat for most of the day, we’re thirsty, we’re hungry, we’re tired, and there’s no end in sight.  We see a fellow runner and hope we do not look that bad…but, we do, or worse.

    Spending a lot of miles alone on the road can be mind-opening experience.  It is when some questions are answered.  Questions such as, “Why is running important to me?” Or, you find out it isn’t as important as you thought it was.  “What are my goals in running?”  Or, right now, after that 33rd plus mile for the day…your goal is to find a place to rest.  “Is this really worth all I’m going through?”  Or, this chafing is rubbing me the wrong way.  

    Many questions asked, many questions answered.  There is truth in the distance.  As stated in the X-Files, “The truth is out there.”  Way, way out there, probably beyond forty miles.  At that point, if you’re not a zombie, you can face it.  Zombies are the walking dead, and the dead are out of the race.

    We all come to the ferry from different backgrounds and are melded in one common pursuit, getting to The Rock.  We are more alike than different.  We all share some characteristics such as strength, commitment, toughness, endurance, dedication, focus, fitness, as well as, fatigue, stink, dirty, uncoordinated at times, forgetfulness, hallucinations, impaired speech, and general insanity.  But, we are all an athletic event of one.  The most important thing about Vol-State is how “we” do in the race.  How does our finish compare to our previous finishes.  Down deep, it is a matter of survival.  It is our own personal adventure.

    We may change because of the Vol-State experience.  Some of us are in the “one and done” school of experience.  Others of us keep coming back for more.  Obviously, we like what we experience, what we feel.  We return for more or different changes in our psyche.  Or, we just reinforce changes we have already experienced in previous Vol-States. 

    Race director, Laz, understands the intricacies of change and experience in the distance of the race.  He understands and respects what the race throws at the individual.  (He doesn’t care, he just understands and respects.)  His creation gives the ultrarunner the opportunity to have this great experience.  We have the opportunity to accept a grand challenge.  In doing so, we learn about ourselves, the world, people, and reality. 

    The learning from the experience is itself reality.

*********************************

“There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.”

                                                                Kristin Armstrong, author and runner

*********************************

Richard Westbrook

 

LAVS 2017

The LAST ANNUAL VOL-STATE ROAD RACE.  Every year I get emails stating that the writer was going to run this but was sad to hear that this version was the last one.  They just don’t know.  It is the last one until the next one is run.  It all comes from the convolutions in the brain of Lazarus Lake, the race director.  I tell them that if they want to run the LAVS, think long and hard about it…because, the race is long and hard.

This was my fifth finish of this, my favorite race.  This is on the present course.  I had some finishes on previous courses which are not counted in the mix.  I had a dreaded DNF (did not finish) two years ago because of severe pain in my lower back that worsened even after breaks and walking gingerly.  I stopped in order to run again another day.  That was very late in the race which increased the mental anguish melded with the physical pain.

For me, this 2017 race was plagued from the outset shortly after coming off the ferry in Hickman, KY.  I was planning to run by “feel” through the hilly town and then settle into run-walk pattern to, hopefully, carry me through the heat.  My best time in this race is 5d:23:49:59 (5 days, 23 hours, 49 minutes, and 59 seconds).  This year’s time of 8d:00:44:24 of was not in that neighborhood, but it did improve upon last year’s time which I did not think would happen.  I ran more last year, albeit on blistered feet in the last half of the distance.  Oh well, the best laid plans…stepping off the ferry and all that leads to ?????

This thing is tough enough without having trouble pop up so early in the race.  But, that’s what happened.  I quickly changed goals of improving on last year’s blistered run (that’s “with” blisters, not a blistered pace) to staying ahead of Oprah.  Singer Toby Keith and his, “I’m not as good as I once was…” kept bouncing around in my head as I tried to run out a tight and painful hamstring.  It didn’t happen.

Still, I enjoyed the race…and, I had a lot of time for that enjoyment.  I got to the point that I could only run five steps and then walk five steps.  I just had to adapt.  Overall, I walked more than I ran.  For the past two years, problems have arisen that I worked to solve afterwards in order to do better in the next one.  Now, that is for three years and back to the drawing board. But, there’s always next year.

Being one who thrives on solitary running, I had pleasant experiences with other runners in the race.  We talked, suffered, complained, joked, encouraged, helped, hurt, and generally just had the normal Vol-State experience.  I fondly keep these moments on the road in my mind.  They involve BJ Timoner, a man of many facets and a treasured companion…until he left me behind.  Also, there were Sherry Meador who talks her way to the Rock, and Ed Masuoka, Ken Chappell, Johnny Adams, Chris Valenti, Dallas Smith, Cherie McCafferty, Byron Backer, Tait Robinson, Tasha Holland, Noah Moore, Shenoa Creer, Harold Donnelly, Olivia Coker and others whom I do not know their name or (as happens) I’ve forgotten their names through the stress of the road.  For that, I apologize.  Some of these runners were outgoing, some very taciturn in nature.  But, all were bright spots in my mind as we all shared in the adventure, and I thank you all for that.

But, through all the miles, I missed Charley.  I had good memories of Charley and I running easily at the same pace and sharing rest stops…and guzzling down chocolate milk; and shaking a drink machine that took our money in the middle of the night; and hanging on until we got to a store that we hoped would be open.  I passed places in this race that Charley and I shared, and Charley was there.  His spirit pervades.  His enthusiasm and jovial outlook helped me endure.

Thank you, Charley Taylor.  You will always be there.

In a broad scope, this report will not finish with my details of my daily trial and tribulations.  It will finish with a generalization of the race and some observations.  And, that will be it.  This will not satisfy some who thrive on in-depth reports and will delight those who don’t.  And, for those who don’t care to read it, it won’t matter.

I have a sense of adventure, so I run the LAVS for that reason but not that reason alone.  I run to compete even though that hasn’t been evident in the last few races.  I run to see a UFO in the night sky (or day sky even) but that has yet to happen.  I run for the comradery of like-minded individuals and to see friends whom I only see at this race.  I run at the speed of human endurance to see the countryside of the USA of which I am enamored by its beauty and grandeur.     

I started with my 6.2 pound pack carrying all that I thought I would need.  This pack was two pounds lighter than the last few years.  Even with this, I found that I had some stuff that I would not pack next year.  Getting lighter and lighter but running slower…something’s wrong here.  Am I getting older?

The night running is special in the LAVS.  I look forward to it.  I am invisible out there running beneath the stars on the open road.  I carry a headlamp but only use it when channeled into a narrow trek with oncoming vehicles.  I feel that I am safer if I am invisible in the darkness.  By the time a thug decides to hassle me, he has already passed me since he couldn’t see a light in the distance.

At times when using a headlamp because of the complete darkness from the lack of moonlight, it seems I am running in a world that is only open to the light ahead of me.  And, it immediately closes up in the darkness behind me.  There is a world on either side of me but is only detected by sound.  My footsteps, my light, the sounds, the road is the only world existing for me during the run in the dark.

I like the beginning roads into Union City, TN with its rural variety.  From Union City to Martin is comfortable and scenic, and running through Martin, a college town, is pleasing…as is Martin to Dresden.  Dresden is a picturesque town with its puzzle-like route through it.  It has improved with the farmer’s market aid station on the way out of town. 

Dresden to Gleason is one of my favorite stretches.  I’m usually there in the dark and have a frog concert entertaining me as I run through the low, wet areas.  The night sky is usually ripe for a UFO, but I’ve been out of luck so far.  But, Gleason has one of the best (if not the best) aid station set up at the fire station.  They do everything to please the runner and make it a memorable stop.

Gleason to McKenzie is so-so, just a vanilla stretch to get to the next town.  That sets up the open range going into Huntington.  Divided highway, SR 22, no shade, rolling hills, nothing to write home about.  Huntington is the reward at the end of the rainbow.  Places to eat, places to stop and take a short rest, a place to get mentally ready to head for the I-40.

I’m always glad to get that part of SR 22 done and arrive in Clarksburg even though it seems like I can never gain on that freakin’ tower as I approach the small town.  A store for refreshment and then on the way to Parker’s Crossroads.  That means McDonald’s and a place to cool-off.  Crossing I-40 puts footsteps on the way to Lexington for the big left turn.  I find this part deceptive as to when I’m approaching the town.  That seemingly endless sidewalk eventually gets this tired runner into town.  I have slept here at times when going through at night.  Atop a staircase behind a building makes a good hide-a-way for a snooze, and there’s a store close by.

I like passing through the large town of Lexington to get on the road to Parsons.  I’m usually refreshed for this scenic trek to make it enjoyable.  I aim for Parsons and the Sonic so I can fill by gut with a milkshake. 

There are parts of the route that I do not like.   The worst is the stretch from Parsons to the Tennessee River.  I hate it and am glad to get it behind me.  I usually hit it in the heat, and the hills and lack of a road shoulder to run on makes it a little piece of hell.  Slightly better is the segment from the Tennessee River into Linden though there are parts of that road than gleam.  From Linden on is good stuff.

Hohenwald pops up after Linden and is one of my favorite towns on the course.  There is a motel if needed (I don’t use them) and places to eat.  A Walmart going out of town is handy for supplies if needed. 

After Hohenwald is Hampshire, a unique little village with a deli for food.  It is looked forward to by most runners.  I took a nap on the post office floor which was already occupied by Bryan Backer and Solane Machado.  Then, it is on to a biggy…Columbia.  In my mind, things are getting good (as well as it could) once into Columbia.  I get my tacos, drink, rest if needed.  The course gets a little easier going out of town. 

Passing through Columbia, the route collects various towns such as Glendale, Culleoka, Mooresville, and then Lewisburg, another biggy.  I could get food and drink in Lewisburg that I would need for the upcoming distance through Farmington, Wheel, Bedford, and into Shelbyville.  I was struggling trying to stay ahead of Oprah, trying to survive.  I was reminded of a remark stated by a European in my race across the U.S. in 1992, “There are no winners, only survivors.”

Shelbyville, Wartrace, Manchester…trying to get them behind me.  Slowly but surely.  Nothing great.  But, still moving.  Relentless forward motion.

One of my favorite stretches of road is from Manchester to Monteagle.  The towns of Hillsboro and Pelham sit in a beautiful valley of farmland.  It is a treat to run on U.S. 41 through this valley and then up to Monteagle on Monteagle Mountain.  This is the beautiful U.S.A in its glory and grandeur.

Like a slow moving phantom, I run-walk through Tracy City and White City, headed for Jasper.  But, there is a mean downhill coming off of Monteagle Mountain.  I was stopped by police on my way down.  They said it was reported that I was in obvious physical distress and needed help.  I convinced them that I was OK and was not in danger.  But, it was good to know that there are concerned people out there willing to offer help.  I looked forward to the aid station at Steve Smalley’s house, nineteen miles from the finish.  Steve, a fellow member of the Chattanooga Track Club, offers up a good aid station with drink, food, and a place to nap if needed.

Jasper and then on to Kimball and South Pittsburg and New Hope gives the runner the aroma of the finish line.  The blue bridge across the Tennessee River (the second time) has been an area of severe and very realistic hallucinations for me.  I was talking to people that were not there.  This year was no different.  I passed through New Hope with the hallucinations behind me.  I zoned out and passed the turn that goes up Sand Mountain, and the next thing I remember, I found myself on my knees with my head in my hands on the ground.  I was on a patch of grass beside the road near a warehouse type building.

I popped up and wasn’t sure which way to go.  I had to flag down a car in the dark to ask in which direction was road 377.  How long I was on the ground in the zone, I did not know.  But, I found 377 and headed up and finally onto Castle Rock Road and onto the trails to the Rock.  The uneven terrain of the trails caused more pain in my leg and in the uprising sore area in my foot.  But, I would finish ahead of Oprah!  Whew!

The run was largely uneventful for me, but I was drawn to the route, the landscape, the runners, the goal of 314 miles, the achievement.  Comradery with Laz, Bill, Mike, and Sandra at the finish is always a welcomed treat…mainly, because it is over.

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“The real opponents at the Vol-State are not the other runners. They are heat, hills, humidity, blisters, cramps, fatigue, hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation, and incredibly sore feet.”

                                                                           Lazarus Lake, 2014, Vol-State Race Director

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Richard Westbrook

'His 5 hour energy drink timed out. If only he had taken it 3 seconds later.'

THE RACE IS OVER for Richard Westbrook. Finishing 38th of 59 in his division and 44th overall of 88 initial, total runners. 15 quit the race all at different times and locations. At this point, well after Westbrook’s finish, there are 15 runners remaining on the road (10 of them in his screwed division).

Westbrook completed the deathly hot, very hilly, 314 miles in 8d 00:44:24 – 8 days 44 minutes and 24 seconds. He started the race with hamstring pain and hoping it would at least diminish if not disappear all together, he struggled with it the whole way through to the finish. In compensating for that pain, he planted differently than normal and now has some foot pain on the opposite side. We have also discovered a rash here and there, which is to be expected, and many bites (chiggers?) all over, eww!

All in all he finished and with everything going on, that is saying A LOT! The old man rarely ever gives up, just when his body absolutely makes him. Now it is time to deal with the post race issues…fun stuff!

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NUMBER 67 – Tied for 40th of 59 screwed runners, along with 2 other people, Westbrook has finished 303 miles and is at Blue Bridge in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. As of this point, another runner in the unsupported division has quit. Actually she quit a while ago and headed home but everyone was unaware until now. HE WILL FINISH TODAY! This was his 730am check-in.