LAVS 2017

Posted: July 31, 2017 by smrtnsasy in Adventure Running, Race Reports, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

 

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.

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

“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

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

Richard Westbrook

Comments
  1. tsmith1970@comcast.net says:

    Wow! Very good read Richard! Congratulations on another LAVS!

  2. That tower in Clarksburg! The worst! When my daughter and I were leaving Huntingdon, looking up ahead I mistook it for the last red traffic light going out of town. We kept going and going, but it never got any closer. Maddening! Really nice report.

  3. Jim Barnes says:

    Congratulations on finishing this one again. I still recall our start from Cumberland Gap to Nashville with the bike riders.

  4. Lynda Webber says:

    Great report on the 2017 Vol State Road Race, Richard! CONGRATS on yet another finish!!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s