Greatest, Most Fantastic-est Race Day Ever

Little Wayne gets his buckle

I should have at least showered first

I just got home from the race, walked in the door, cracked open an Izze and went straight to the keys to write.

What a weekend!

And, once again, I experience a race lesson.

I say experience, rather than learn, because I never really seem to actually learn anything …I just end up experiencing it, being moved by it, and maybe (read:most likely) writing about it.

But learning? ask around.

Weezy vs. Pinhoti

Weezy is my friend. “Little Wayne”, “li’l weezy”, “sleazy weazel”, “WEzy” …whatever. You know who I mean, and if you don’t, picture this:

Picture a man in love with life. Someone you want to be around because they are entertaining, genuine, funny and different.

In the south, we call it “good people”; and you won’t find better people ‘roun no’where.

I guess surviving cancer can do that for a person. It would make sense that survivors can seemingly find a deeper appreciation for life.

And don’t wonder why I hung his little “c” word, personal tidbit out there for the general populous – all you have to do is run with him and you’ll hear all about it within the first 20 minutes of meeting him.

Weezy’s a survivor.

And Saturday night, li’l weezy put on a survival clinic.

The plan was to run together

I swore off 100s until I was willing to train with the appropriate dedication for completing the distance in one day (24 hours or less)…

…but, come on! The Pinhoti 100 race is practically in my backyard.

And anyway, l’il weezy was running his first 100-miler ever, and since I finished the race last year and knew the course, I thought it would be really cool if we tried to run it together.

We talked about it and talked about it – for months we discussed it – and it was settled, we were going to run together.

But, when the horn blew, we weren’t anywhere near ‘together’.

The conga line

I’d let out a loud whoop scream, and he’d yelp something back at me, but there was a good 50 people or more behind me, and letting them all pass would be cumbersome and slow for everybody, so I just ran along and hoped we’d meet up along the way.

I went out with Kim Nosenchuck-Brooks (badass), Dreama Campbell (badass), and a few interesting dudes who knew me from this blog. Some of whom were completing their first ultra. “Wad up, dudes?”

Christian running into the 20-mile aid station with Kim Nosenchuck-Brooks
photo: it’s blurry ‘cuz of our blazing speed {wink} – Kim and I climbing in at 20 miles.

Shockingly, those dudes were concerned to be up running with me, and not shockingly, I was concerned to be running up anywhere near Kim and Dreama; but as usual, the day felt good, the trail smooth and easy, and I false-rationalized that I didn’t need to be painfully slow today.

And I just started running free.

“Where the hell was that little sleazy weazle, anyway?”

Something not to play with

{keer-thunk!}

“Damn, it’s happening again.”

My chest tightens and I get this cross between a heavy pressure building in my chest, and an almost stalling of my heart, which then results in a massive heart-beat pounding that takes my breath and energy away instantly.

“I’m just gonna slow down, walk, and let weezy and his group catch up so I can chill with them.”

I was uneasy, but planning to be silent about it and let it go away.

It’s been happening to me for a few months. Working behind the PC, or sitting in an office meeting, or watching a soccer game – it doesn’t matter – I’ll just get this tightness sensation in my chest that forces me to take an extra deep breath, and I feel my chest contract.

Lesson one: “Hey dude, it isn’t gonna just go away. Deal with it. You are 40 years old, not 22.”

Rapid hammering at 34

I waited for weezy at the 27 mile aid station, and I put on my most convincing face.

“hurry up guys…”

“come on, come on”

“I waited for you, let’s go!”

…when in reality, I just wanted some social company to take my mind off the fear of the inevitable with these heart poundings beginning to get more and more frequent during the race.

I staggered around with this group for awhile, but I just could not get in the flow.

No matter how slow I ran, my heart-rate would skyrocket, and my chest would pound. Hard.

But, when I saw a little bit o’ stars on the climb to mile 34, I knew I had to speak up.

“Weezy, I don’t want to _ _ _ _ up your race, or weird you out, but I need you to make sure our friends are waiting for me at Bald Rock.”

“Why? What’s wrong?” He asked.

I explained that I was having heart palpitations (which I don’t even know for sure if that’s exactly what I get, but it sounds right and has to do with your heart beating funny.)

I told him to go on and that I was gonna relax for a second and then slowly make my way 6 more miles, after the next aid, to our crews at Bald Rock.

Then I laid down, and another runner – seemingly someone with medical experience – appeared, heard what I said, and had me doing breathing exercises to calm myself down. I waved him on too, though. I wasn’t about to screw up anyone else’s race.

Or, so I thought…

The spirit of an Angel

Ok, everybody loves Shannon Farar-Griefer, so this will come as no surprise to her legion of ultrarunner family, friends and fans, but…

…I hear this woman singing – and its getting closer and closer.

It’s Shannon.

We do the usual trail greetings and I tell her my problem as I search for a patch of sunshine to sit down in again along the trail. I’m already acting a little loopy and unusual.

She picks up on it right away, takes my bottles, sits me down on the trail, and then sits down next to me.

She takes my pulse and feels my heartbeat, letting me know that its beating pretty hard.

Your mind races in these moments, and you automatically consider the worst scenarios, “Oh man, am I gonna have a heart attack and die? Right here in the middle of the nowhere?”

It kinda sucks.

But, it sure was nice to have Shannon there.

She refused to leave me, which made me feel both extremely guilty knowing she flew out from Southern California for this race, but also made me feel a sense of security ‘cuz deep down I did not want to be alone at that moment.

After some time, we got up and walked towards the aid station – me moving sloppily and lazily and slow, and asking politely not to have to talk.

I was scared.

Angel #2 clocks in

Kim Nosenchuck-Brooks, another free spirit personality that’s difficult to describe but similarly unique, caring and entertaining, shows up out of nowhere, coming right at us on the trail.

She was dropping at mile 34, which is unusual because A) she’s fast and never drops, and B) this is not a crew-accessible aid station, so dropping here is discouraged, and thus, rare.

But it just wasn’t her day and being the matter-of-fact kinda person that she is, she dropped anyway, and once she heard about my situation, she came backwards down the trail to find me and offer to get me out of there via her crew (husband).

I was saved.

And even better, Shannon could get on with her race. {phew}

Lesson #2: There are some really, really good people out there who think first of others, and who oooze shining examples of humanity. Shannon and Kim are both in this club and I feel just’a little bit closer to both of ‘em after my experience.

“Thanks ladies – both of you.”

Now, we interrupt this story for the “real race.”

Kim’s husband took me all the way to the top of Mount Cheaha, to the bald rock aid station, where I’d meet up with a collection of Atlanta running friends who charged up to the race to provide aid, pacing and support throughout the night.

Since my race was over, I jumped into the truck with Weezy crew #1, Vic’tah, Sus and Sully – and along with Weezy crew #2, Sean, Spanky, Haley and Charlotte, we planned to hit most of the crew-accessible aid stations and make sure weezy had everything he needed to get the 100 miles done in under 30 hours.

Vic’tah told Weez, “weezy, I only have one horse left in this race, you gotta bring it home.” (or somethin’ like that)

“weeeeezy!!!!!”

“who in the Hell is ‘weezy’?” I heard someone ask.

I think we might have to claim the award for the loudest, rowdiest crew of the night. I’d be sitting out in the freezing cold night, wrapped in a blanket, yelling and screaming when runners would pop outta’ the woods …and when Weezy came through, we’d go insanely crazy for him.

It was all about the weazel.

And, man, every time he’d head out into the freezing (literally) night temps, he’d come back out the other side of that section looking stronger, more focused, and even more excited than he did previously. He was a shining example of athletic ‘heart’ — his heart was in it and nothing or no one was going to stop him.

No one ever had to convince him to stay in the game.

No real pep talks needed, nor extra pampering or care.

Not even in the 2:00 a.m., 20 degree temps, with 65 or more miles in the tank.

People were dropping everywhere, but not Weezy.

A true warrior, smiling the whole way through, with the absolute best attitude one could have for completing 100 miles in the woods.

But he wasn’t the only one smiling…

I got as much satisfaction being out there pumping up the other runners, letting them know about the sections ahead, and offering encouragement and support, as I would have running the event myself.

When I wasn’t passed out in the back of the truck, I was living vicariously through weezy’s race, and it felt great.

Lesson three: Don’t be so selfish. There’s a lot of personal growth and enjoyment to be had sharing your stoke with other runners, helping them to continue on in the race, giving them support, and/or just being there to hand someone a cup of warm soup.

The finish

Hanging around the finish Sunday morning, cheering in the 24-hour plus finishers, was so exciting for me. I had so many friends running this hundo and it was cool to see them in a way I never usually do – finishing a race.

Many first-timers like Dreama Campbell, who I ran with earlier in the day, then watched progressively dig deeper throughout the night, really moved me when finishing strong and completely overwhelmed with emotions.

Along with Alabama friends, Florida friends, GUTS friends and a handful of new friends, we cheered and clapped for every deserving finisher that crossed that finish line. I felt proud for every single one of ‘em.

28:31

One of Weezy’s pacers, John, and I, walked out of the Sylacauga High School stadium in search of Weezy, now being paced by Sean O.

It was about time for him to be showing up, and we wanted to run along with him, getting him fired up, and making sure he hammered the 1/2 lap around the track before collecting his very first 100-mile buckle.

Here they come… ‘roun the corner …and I start screaming, “yeeeah weeeezy!!!”

“100 miles babeee!!!!!”

“whew!!!!!!!!!”

and he’s screaming back. His face is all red, partly from the sun, and partly from the hype and the yelling and the excitement.

“you did it dude!!! 100 miles!!!”

and he doesn’t even look tired.

Well, ok, he looked tired.

But he tore into the track, rounded the first turn, and with me running along the infield filming him, crossed the finish line in a respectable 28:31.

way. to. go. weezy.

video: so, I’m running alongside weezy to capture his finish on video, and true to myself, I trip over a mat on the inside of the track …but I still got the shot! …but you’ll hear everyone laughing at me wiggling around the inflield, and if you look really closely, in the left corner, you’ll see Tony G. rolling on the ground laughing just as Weezy finishes.

The tip of the iceberg

You might think this blog entry is long, but it could be a lot longer.

All the little activities, that I had to leave out for brevity, and that are probably only {really} special to the handful of us experiencing it, all compounded to make it one entertaining, exciting and exhilarating race experience.

This is one of those special weekend experiences with lessons around every corner, and a great bonding amongst friends, all centered around a true display of genuine athletic character.

I apologize if I was out-of-control crazy for my friend, but then again, no I don’t.

What I experienced was genuine excitement. Raw emotion that just spilled out over and over and over again and I couldn’t stop smiling before, during or after.

Even now I’m smiling.

I like to smile.

So, thanks sleazy, weezly weazel, for letting me, and all of us that were there, be part of your HUGE accomplishment and ultrarunning accolade.

You earned very single ounce of that buckle.

…and taught me (maybe us all) some valuable lessons along the way.

In the words of every runner, to every other runner, “you rock!”

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Comments

[...] participants, all busy chatting about their recent training.  Among the hotel guests I met was Christian Griffith, the burly, jovial ultrarunner who has become the “Hunter S. Thompson” amongst us for his gonzo [...]

Congratulations to the Weezy for finishing and to you for hanging out at the finish line cheering on all finishers! Get that medical condition checked out–Rob Y. could have nailed it. It could also be exercise induced asthma attack–happened to me once few years ago at the ING Half. Haven’t had any issues since but it scared the hell out of me when it happened. I still carry an inhaler just in case.

From one of the dudes who you met. “Whad up!” Congrats to your friend and as always, a great race report. It was a pleasure meeting you and killing the time with interesting, if sadly work-related conversation.

Had my own experience with your lesson #2 out there. Mile 78 or so, my light went out, and I’d packed batteries but didn’t/couldn’t think clear enough to pull them out of my drop bag at 65. I happened to be within 30 yards (which was extremely rare) of one of your fellow GUTS runners, Keena. She also happened have batteries which fit my lamp. Without her around I would have had to stop.. in the middle of the woods, in the cold, in pitch black darkness, in soaking wet clothing. I get nervous just thinking about that even now.

Anyway, it was good to meet you in person (having read your blogs). Look forward to running across you again at another one of these masochistic events in the near future. Stay strong, and get that heart thing checked out.

Rich

You made the right decision to take care of yourself rather than pushing on up to Cheaha Christian – your enthusiasm I’m sure helped Weezy along…but man, I had a HUGE lump in my stomach when he finished!!! Hope you guys took him over the Walmart to get that belt, haha!

@Sean: yes! John Cremers! …he started pacing Weezy, and they took off right when I got back to ya’ll, so I couldn’t picture him in my head. Cremers is HUGE part of this.

you forgot Weezy Crew #2 member John Creamers! Great experience, it was nice to have everyone there.

This post is beautiful, and beautifully written. Reading it and watching that finish line video was such thrill-I smiled through the whole thing! Thanks for sharing your passion-y’all rock : )

I introduced myself at the starting line as an admirer of your blog and a fan of the “Dirty Birds.” Strangely enough it seemed to calm my nerves as a first time entrant in a 100 mile race.

I met Weezy on thetrails and Im sure he doesnt remember me. His energy was infectious. and Im glad to read he kicked a**.

Hope you are feeling better.

Hey, Christian. I’m sorry to hear about the medical problems, but congratulations to Weezy. You and your crew helped me get a little bit further on in the race at Adam’s Gap with some encouragement and an LED flashlight. Over the course of that jeep trail I got hypothermic and nauseas. I heard you got past the chill at one point, but I couldn’t beat it this time. I appreciate the help and I want to return the light. Please email me the address of your friend so I can return the light at griffin.rowell@gmail.com

It was a big disappointment to all of us when we heard of your race status. Too bad you didn’t come up to AS#14 and sit by the fireplace waiting for Wayne.
He looked like a man possessed. Nothing could have stopped him from completing the 100 miles.

A great report as usual, Christian. Looking forward to you finding out your chest pain is nothing.

Best,

Connie Karras :-)

That’s awesome, Christian. Even though your race didn’t turn out how you may have imagined it, it sure did turn out to be one heck of a great experience. I’m freakin’ stoked for Weezy and I don’t even know who he is! Good on you for stickin’ it out and being there for your guy. You’re one heck of a dude, Christian, one heck of a dude!!

It was great seeing you out there Christian! Way to grasp the entirety of the race and envelope in Weezy’s stellar accomplishment! Weezy did a stellar job out there for sure. Many congrats to him for his big finish!!!

From your Facebook posts this weekend I thought you might have been crewing Isabel Sanford, but then I remembered that she’d already passed away and as far as I knew, wasn’t a runner… ;) So cool of you to hang around and support a friend when you could easily have just slunk away after another DNF. True class sir! Take it easy, seriously, and get to the bottom of your medical issue. Don’t overlook the possibility of a food allergy. I used to get this weird shortness of breath, acid reflux sort of issue at races that really cost me. Turns out I had a food allergy to bananas! That really sucks because I love bananas, but boy they caused me trouble when I try to run! Eliminated the bananas when I run and those symptoms disappeared!

Wow, good race report Christian! Congrats to Weezy! I hope you figure out the heart palpitations and resolve that issue.

Good to see you at Mile 85 Aid Station for a couple of minutes, Christian! That was one cold night, but worth every minute of it to help out friends, old and new, on their way to the finish line. Wayne was looking strong as an ox when I saw him at Mile 80 (Power Line) and I’m grateful that he made it through and got that buckle. Glad that you’re doing alright!

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