My Quest Into the Unknown
By Olga Varlamova
On April 4 I finished my first 100 miler – the Umstead 100M in Raleigh, North Carolina. I hope that this will not be my last race at this distance, because I have finally found what I have been looking for!
The Friday before the race I drove for 12 hours to Raleigh, North Carolina with my whole family including my father-in-law who was visiting from Russia. To keep myself from getting overexcited and to make the most of a long trip, we stopped for some sightseeing in Washington, DC. Of course this meant that we missed the registration night and the pasta dinner. Luckily the race organizers allowed me to pick up my number in the morning. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before, but finding the park was easy. My number – 65 – was the number of the high school I went to in Moscow and I decided that a good omen.
When I started to get into racing I read in a book by Bob Glover that one should have three goals in the race: a goal that was easy to achieve, one that you hoped for, and your dream goal. My “easy” goal was to finish the race. My hope was to break 24 hours (which, according to my long race results, should have been possible as long as I wasn’t injured and didn’t do anything wrong). The dream was to finish the race in 22:30.
The Umstead 100M is mostly run on carriage roads very much like the roads in the Rockefeller preserve. It consists of ten 10-mile loops with two spurs and two aid stations at each turn-around. There are five main hills in each loop: two are 1/2 mile long and three are 3/4 mile long. The downhill distance is equal to the uphill distance with some rolling-to-flat section between the hills. The total elevation gain and loss is 16,000 feet. I’m pretty slow on flats so my plan was to power-walk uphill, charge downhill, and run the rest at relaxed pace. I figured that if I were to average 2 hrs per loop for the first 50 miles and slow down after that, I would be fine. I went into this race with two injuries (I had shin splints on both sides and plantar fasciitis on one foot) and that really made me stick to my plan in the first loop. In addition, I had eaten a Boston Market dinner the night before and that turned out to be a bad idea; it led to quite a few extra stops in first 40 milesJ. Anyway, I warmed up slowly and talked to people.
This race is conducted as primarily a 100M event, but you can decide to run a 50M option ahead of time or after the fifth loop. If you drop out at any point after that, your time at 50 miles will be recorded as your finish time. The registration was closed at 200 starters.
I found something else to push me. Since the race was run in a state park, the gates were closed at night and were opened only on the hour (at 1am, 2am and so on). I figured that if I finished under 19 hours I could go straight back to motel and get an extra hour of sleep. Otherwise I would have to wait another hour until I could leave the park.
I crossed the finish line in 18 hours 46 minutes, first female and third overall, exceeding all my goals and feeling quite well and alive. It didn’t take long to receive my buckle and say thanks to all of the officials and volunteers. We rushed off to get to the gates before they closed. Not that it mattered – I didn’t sleep all night anywayJ. Ninety-eight people finished the 100M race and almost the same number finished the 50M.
That’s it. I had done it -- my first 100 miler. I ran smart. I felt strong. It was a feeling I could only compare to the feeling after having a baby. In fact both of my kids were delivered after 18 hours of labor – talk about coincidences! The 12-hour drive back the next day crippled in a car felt close to exhaustion and happiness in delivery room. It was nice to know that I can be patient and get my mind in control of my body. No matter how much it hurts, I still love it!
Web Editor's note: Olga ran the Boston marathon two weeks later. We are still awaiting her report on that race!
edited by Naomi Marcus