Blister Party -|sponsored by|- Hinson Lake

“Next time, I’m just going to hire a pack of teenagers with baseball bats, and get this over a lot quicker”

- Gary “Laz” Cantrell, 6:00 a.m.~ish, Day 2.

Lazy, Cocky and Stupid

Hinson Lake 24-hour race - Day 1
photo: Perry captures me in fine, “fat-man-running” form – thanks dude. {sigh}

Picture this:

It’s about 1:30 in the morning.

I’ve been running for over 17 hours, and assuming I’m remembering this right, have about 78 miles in the bank.

I had finally made the leaderboard, sitting in 6th or 7th place which was killer since I’ve never made the leaderboard before.

Hinson Lake leaderboard

Over six hours to go, and I only need 22 miles to complete my dream goal of 100 miles in 24 hours.

I’ve circled this 1.52 mile loop at least 50 times, so 16 more should be a walk in the park, right?

Wrong.

Those rewards are reserved for those who run strong, humble and smart – not lazy, cocky and stupid.

A Hinson Lake Homecoming

A record 200 people lined up at Hinson Lake to spend 24 hours running a 1.52 mile loop around the lake, attempting to gobble up as many miles as possible.

The field of runners was legendary. Gary “Laz” Cantrell was looking to continue his yearly ultra streak of 34 years. Ray K was running and gunning for 100 miles. Successful Appalachian Trail through-hikers Sue Norwood and Jim O’Neil made it out, and legendary, timed event record-holders from way before my time were also at the starting line.

Other names that you may recognize were Joe Lugiano, Juli and Val Aistars, Fred and Susan Dummar, Liz Bauer, Tom Adair, Byron “badass” Backer, Joe Ninke, Brad Smythe, Matt Kirk, Denise Davis, Larry “git-a-goin” Robbins, Trans USA runner Doug Dawkins, and so many more awesome runners, current/previous record holders and all around swell ultra folks.

That’s right, I said “swell.”

The Hinson Lake Course

Hinson Lake 24-hour is directed by Tom Gabell whom I met for the first time this year at Laurel Valley. Like most of the Magnum Track Club, Tom is one of those genuine runners with a great personality and an obvious love for, and dedication to, ultrarunning and ultrarunners.

Plus, at only $24, making a decision to run his event was an absolute no-brainer.

The course was mostly hard-packed dirt, with a bunch of short wooden bridges, tucked into the woods surrounding a big, beautiful lake. The race course was generally “flat”, but did have some gradual climbs and descents that seemed to grow with each cumulative lap.

After 50 laps, I started to refer to climb on the backside as Mt. Hinson …and Mt. Hinson got walked a whole lot more often than he got run.

The weather was warm, climbing into the 80′s with heaping helpings of humidity to remind you that you were in the South. I decided to run shirtless, allowing to the rest of the field to enjoy my jigglin’ belly and man-boobies.

woo-woo.

The night time, at least before midnight, wasn’t much cooler and many of us remained shirtless and fabulous for most of the night as well.

Get to the $%$#! Race Report Already…

Hang on there skippy.

It’s hard to write a blow-by-blow race report when the entire race consisted of a course that only stretched a mile and a half long. Yeah, it was pretty the first time. …even the fifth time; but after about 13 laps, it became mostly about the grind and “gettin’ it done”.

And of course, the people.

In fact, it became all about the people.

In a typical, point to point trail race, you see some people pre-race, and again post-race, but because you’re usually trying to work your way up the pack, rarely do you get to spend much time with lots of different people throughout the entire race.

Timed-event races are different.

Christian’s Race ’cause It’s my Web Site

This is easy.

My race can be summed up as follows:

  1. I created a false sense of talent in my own head.
  2. I believed I was ready to tackle 100 miles – even though I just completed a tough mountain 100 a couple o’ weeks before.
  3. I forgot that I have only been running ultras for two years and that I’ve only gone 100 miles, three times.
  4. I showed up sore from weight-training all week, with the attitude of “who cares? it’s a flat, timed event, 100 miles is in the bag”.
  5. I taunted Vikena Yutz. (Huge mistake)
  6. I started out too fast.
  7. I continued too fast.
  8. I had a total, “where’s my mommy” pitiful breakdown.
  9. I tossed and turned in my truck, on the ground, and under our tent, feeling sorry for myself and feeling tremendous blister and chafe pain.
  10. Looked up, saw Laz hobbling down the lane, stood up, walked with him in the dark, and never stopped until the end of the race.
  11. Finished the last lap looking like a complete and total idiot having never heard the final horn to stop, huffing and puffing across the gravel, barefoot and blistered and carrying a banana, trying to prove who-knows-what…

Drama Queen.

But, in between all the mistakes and all the personal drama and reality-checks, I was still lucky enough to score some of those great moments that we live for as ultrarunners:

  1. I never get sick of the new friends coming up to me asking me, “Are you Christian?”I just love that. It makes me feel good and when people tell me that my race report, or my list post, inspired them to do something special and meaningful, I can’t help but feel especially proud. It’s part ego-padding, but it’s also a genuine love for seeing the recognizable stoke in someone else.
  2. I must have run 40 or more, of my 85 miles, with DOOM – Mr. Fred Dummar – and we really had something special going. For awhile there, we had a lap routine that looked like it was going to carry us to about 110 miles. All we had to do was stay steady. Yeah, all we had to do… regardless of the outcome, Fred and I became better friends on that lake and I’ll never forget it.
  3. I got to trot a few laps with Byron Backer, who many may know is one of my all time favorite ultrarunners. Byron is a great guy, but waaay too fast and he blew me up a couple of times, but it was worth it to run alongside of him to put a couple faster miles in the bank.
  4. I got to watch Vikena Yutz, a local friend and similarly-experienced ultrarunner, rack up 104 miles and 2nd place female. I may have thrown down the gauntlet, but she beat me over the head with it, and spanked me all the way home.
  5. The encouragement – from the basic “looking good guys” to Laz’s “lemme see some six minute miles”-type heckling, the jovial, fun atmosphere coupled with genuine encouragement helped keep me going when things looked grim.
  6. The volunteer lap-counters and food girls nicknamed me “smiley” and I enjoyed that. I tried very hard to come in after each lap smiling and letting them know how much I appreciated them being there. Without them, we’re just a bunch of freaks running circles.

Even with them, we’re still a bunch of freaks running circles.

But, the moment that stands out as the most unique of the event for me was my time with Gary “LAZ” Cantrell.

Laz is a staple in our community. A legendary runner, race director and writer with more varied talents and smarts than I could ever hope to have. Coming into the event, I was very excited to meet him and secretly hoped I’d get the opportunity for some one-on-one time with him.

Stay with me for as minute and try to imagine the scene

It’s dark and it’s late. …or “early”, depending on what you call 5:30 a.m., and the race would be ending in a little over two hours.

A sorry-looking, dejected, shivering Christian Griffith is sitting in a chair, trying to find some warmth from a Coleman lamp that wasn’t even designed to be warm.

Sad shape at Hinson Lake

I had announced I was quitting about 4 hours earlier. (’bout 1:30-ish)

I had 78 miles in the bank but somehow had lost my way. Pain set in. My brain melted. I entered a moment of weakness, and it beat me.

With only 22 miles to get my goal of 100, and almost 7 hours to do it, I gave up.

I crawled into my truck, but the truck light wouldn’t go out and I was too stiff and locked-up to move to turn it off. This attracted a million bugs inna ’bout 2 minutes, and I found myself covered in bugs, and sweating to death from the lack of moving air in the vehicle.

I staggered to the wooden floor near the outdoor restrooms, and saw Ray K sleeping in a sleeping bag there, so I figured it would be a great spot.

It sucked.

For one thing, millions of mosquitoes kept buzzing in my ears while I tried to sleep; but it was futile anyway, because my feet, legs, chafe and blisters hurt so badly that I couldn’t get comfortable in any position on that wooden deck.

Plus, every time I heard a runner coming through the start/finish area, announcing their number to the lap counters, I felt worse and worse about my decision to quit.

I was sticky, dirty, sleepy, sore, grumpy and really just about as miserable as any one person could be.

My body temperature was so jacked up – I’d go from hot and sticky to cold and shivering – so, I got up and staggered back to our tent along the course and that’s where we pick the story back up…

Christian – shivering away in a zip-up, grey GUTS jacket, with it stretched out and pulled down over his knees …head in hands and really feeling like tee-total shit.

And here comes Laz.

Laz wasn’t exactly sprinting and was all alone; and since I was freezing my @$$ off, it seemed like a great opportunity to get in a few laps with him while also taking my mind off my terrible state.

I got up and joined him as he passed by…

…but my blisters hurt so badly that I yelled out, “Laz, you’ll have to go on without me, man, my blisters hurt too much”

and he said, “if you just keep going, they’ll hurt less.”

And that was the beginning of me being part of Laz getting to his new goal of “Strolling Jim” distance (40 miles) as well as the beginning to my ability to continue on, another 5-7 miles, pushing me over 85 miles for the race.

We must have looked pretty comical as we snail-paced that loop, laughing a whole helluva lot and not really paying much attention to the clock anymore. Hopefully, he was happy for the company, and I was happy that I wasn’t dying anymore and instead, actually feeling pretty good and a little energized.

I’ll tell you this much, it’s definitely the first time I ever waited for anyone in between loops, and MOST definitely the only time I ever waited for someone to finish smoking a Camel cigarette in between loops.

That is just too damn classic.

Along that 3.04 miles of walking with Laz, I came to realize that I was not going to quit. His effort inspired me to keep going no matter what, and when he got his 40 miles and found a comfortable chair along the track, I kept going.

Crocs and all.

And when the Crocs even became too much for my blistered feet, I took ‘em off and kept going barefoot.

I wasn’t going to quit.

I thought I knew how badly it felt to quit but I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson.

I was trying to redeem.

And when I took off with that banana, with 23 minutes left until the end of 24 hours, my feet hurt so bad I was crying without anyone seeing it, and grunting when no one was near, and wiping the stray tears once I got passed those who were packing up.

I felt so much, although I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was, but I was consumed.

How could I quit so easily earlier, yet now I was running, …and running really hard, trying with everything I had to make it back and finish that loop before the final horn.

I passed a few walkers and they gave me encouragement, “go get it, don’t stop!”

And I ran my heart out. Barefoot.

I turned the corner and heard Mike Melton say, “good job, Christian” as I staggered and rock-hopped the big gravel, heading towards the bridge…

“Hell Yeah, I’m gonna make it before the horn!”

And I hit the bridge…

…looked up…

…and the clock wasn’t moving.

“What the…”

I missed the horn.

It blew.

I didn’t hear it.

I failed.

I felt really stupid charging across that finish line.

I staggered to my chair, sat alone, sulked a little, and examined my SHREDDED feet.

And that’s how the race ended.

I still have a lot to learn about ultrarunning.

but…

For your enjoyment, I introduce the Blister Videos

…and don’t forget the toes…

I realize I probably just stopped 1000 people from ever visiting run100miles.com ever again, but that’s ok.

Toodles.

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Comments

Sorry I am just catching up. What a crazy race, and how amazing that you came back to give it your all. Inspiring!

Christian – I’d never heard of ultrarunning until reading the news this morning about Natero-Armento. Then I googled ultrarunning and found your blog. Thanks for the great play-by-play! What an adventure! You are inspiring and funny and just totally cool.

AND – you look hotter than you think without your shirt! ; )

Thanks for a great introduction to the sport!

Kitty

I didn’t hear the horn either. I was running like crazy, to get every last little morsel of distance I could get. However, I was running completely out of ALL energy and couldn’t understand why the horn hadn’t sounded. Finally I turned back to check with the guy behind me to see if he’d heard it and he was STOPPED! “Did it the horn blow?” “Yes” “Where was I?” “Right there, where you are.” So I dropped my banana. By the time I dragged my body back and finished packing up only a couple of fishing folks were left…

Another great race report!! I was one of those new friends asking, “Are you Christian?” It was fun seeing you at the Chattooga 50K (my FIRST ultra) and again at Hinson Lake (my SECOND ultra). And it was fun reading your account of the race again. But, you forgot to mention that you got “chicked” by the two slowest runners out there! Hahahaha – Anne and I had fun on the course, and we enjoyed your cheerful “hellos” every time you lapped us. I, too, ended up with bad blisters on this one – at least you had the fortitude to change into crocs and then bare feet and keep going. I gave up at 50 miles. Looking forward to seeing you at another race! Lianne

Great report. Ah Lad, you’ll learn. Give yourself time to heal and your body (immune and endocrine systems) to recover. While it is great to do all these different races, you have to take time to recover. There’s always next year and the year after. Your young so enjoy each event. Go into them primed and raring to go.

I’ve been running for over 30 years but have only been running ultras for the last 20+ years. My first few years were tough as a lot of the technology we enjoy today wasn’t around back then. Tech fabrics for shorts, shirts, jackets, socks, etc., didn’t exist. Different types of energy drinks and gels didn’t exist. And we learned the hard way that pounding down steep mountain trails and roads only led to trashed quads, hamstrings and lots of blisters. The advancements that are available in these areas today, makes running long distances more enjoyable and safer.

Give yourself time to analyze what went right and what went wrong with your race. And figure out a plan to fix them. Sometimes it takes experimentation to find the right combination of socks and shoes, food and fluids, clothes, lubes and other things. If you do this, you will come off as a smarter runner who learns from his mistakes and the results will be more enjoyable and less painful. Consider your pacing plan. How much you walk and how much you run.

The best of luck in your next events. Sorry we didn’t get more of a chance to run together.

Hi Christian,

Glad you got up and toughed it out through the pain. That is much more admirable than logging a certain amount of miles. Particularly when you are running around in monotonous circles all day and all night. Who would ever sign up for such a thing? :) (I am sticking to single-track point-to-points from now on.) Congrats on honing that mental toughness!

Niagara toe! Oh man I knew I shouldn’t have watched those videos before I ate my breakfast.

I just got on the ultra list a couple months back and was very fortunate to find my way to your site. I just started running ultras this year and your race reports provide a wealth of info beyond what you typically find when researching this topic. I was on the fence about attempting to run 50 at an upcoming timed race, but this report has inspired me to give it a shot. Thanks for all that you do with your site…it is MUCH appreciated!

Seth

Christian! you are a fool who runs in laps but you are a very entertaining and inspiring fool. I have just run a marathon where I got cocky, blew up, cried, walked, staggered and finally found my mojo again 1K from the finish.. Your story is very recognisable to me. You will rise again and do something equally (or more) harebrained again and you will do better but you wouldn’t have done that without this race. Well done mate – rest those feet..

Yep, I certainly see why so many ‘older’ people excel at these events. I am still young in the head…and thats the most important part of these things.

Are you Christian?

Enjoyed the few miles we hung out together bro.

All the best people I know finished in Crocs – and seeing you hobble around for your last coupla laps – well it was the inspiration I needed, I just had to go and finish what I had started 23-1/4 hours earlier, despite my one-man-pity-party just before dawn.

Look forward to our trails crossing again.

Cheers

Jim

Christian,

Great run. We’ll just pretend we’re like CUB Fans, and we’ll get ‘em next year.

5 miles an hour…5 miles an hour…

It was a pleasure to share some miles with you at the lake brother. Catch you on the trail.

Cheers,
Doom

@David Ray:

Cascade leftovers coupled with laziness. I should have emptied the rocks and dirt from my shoes more.

Maybe tape, but I’m clueless on that front.

Socks were good.

“think I just lost 2 pounds” :) That’s pretty nasty alright. Thanks for sharing.

Good job on the race and report! Nice to hear about the lows and the highs. Fill us in on your thoughts on the blister causes. Socks? Need tape? More lube? Cascade leftovers?

So much for that vichyssoise dinner that I had planned…

Christian, you really bring a lot of smiles to Ultra List faces. Thanks for
sharing another of your adventures in your own humble, funny way; such fun
to enjoy with you.

Christian,

Thank you for all that amazing introspection. You are a special person! I love your reports.

Congratulations for toughing it out. You rock!

Hugs.
Rajeev

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