I believed Frank Sierra was ready to complete a 100 mile race.
I believed Frank would do well.
I saw these things happen this weekend in beautiful Umstead Park outside Cary, North Carolina.
Believing may be seeing, but seeing isn't always believing.
Some things I saw but I didn't believe:
As we were "running" on our 8th of 8 loops, we desperately needed the sun to re-appear over the horizon, because we were flat tired! Frank had already completed 88 miles and I was already at 55. We were dog tired. We weren't whipped, we were whopped! We were as worn out as a one-legged man at a butt kicking contest! I mean, tired! The five-minute nap we had at mile 82 had worn off (I suggested this to Frank when nothing else seemed to work, and it was like I was giving him the winning lottery numbers. He jumped on that suggestion like it was Heather what's her name that was in those night time dramas in the 80's! It took him all of 20 seconds to dose off beside the space heater in the little tent.) This five-minute snooze revitalized him so well that he wanted to try it again at mile 88. When I mentioned that we had no chairs, space-heater, or tent available, he didn't seem to mind, the tree stump on the side of the trail seemed to do just fine. Admittedly I was itching to get done, so I "may" have counted these in metric minutes (about 50 seconds long). So this nap didn't recharge those worn batteries quite as well, which may been the reason that.....
At mile 90 I stopped dead in the center of the trail and threw up my hands when I whacked face-first into a tree. Frank asked, "What was that?" "Didn't you see me whack face-first into that tree?" I asked. About that time I woke up, and realized there was no tree within 40 yards of me (I must have hit it pretty hard, because it was there, I must have vaporized it. Yeah, that's the ticket! I still can't figure out why it didn't leave a mark on me though.)
At mile 92 I had stopped on the side of the trail to take care of a little business when Frank came running by me, snoring the whole way. I was like Frank, "What's up?" to which he answered by snoring again. Frank came to a sudden stop about 20 yards in front of me, and said, "Mathews, where are you?" I answered, "I'm back here taking a pee break." He said, "I feel great, I think I just had a nap." I confirmed that yes, he had a nap, I knew because he was snoring as he ran by me.
Mile 93 was the car-wash mile. This time I was lucky enough to be awake, I think, when I saw three of my school track athletes, in their uniforms washing cars by the side of the trail at 6 am. My first thought wasn't, "What are they doing here?" It wasn't even, "What are they doing here in their track uniforms?" Neither was it, "What are they doing here in their track uniforms washing cars at 6 AM?" My first thought was, "How did they get water out here in the middle of the park to be able to wash these cars at 6 AM!" A legitimate question, don't you think?
Happily the sun came up soon after that and the trees disappeared from the middle of the trail and the car washes disappeared all together (which kind upset me, because my car was next!) When the sun had it's second rising of the race, as we predicted, our spirits soared and our legs turned back on and we ran. Frank ran, and I hung on. We ran downhills again, and we ran uphills. We ran flat spots (both of them!) and we ran past water stops. Frank was smelling the barn (he certainly smelled like one!)
We received another boost when Frank's better half, his beautiful wife, Theresa, his rock, joined us for the last 3-miles. What a great sight that was. This really put a hitch in his giddy-up, and she had trouble keeping up with him on those slight uphills even tough he'd been out there for 97 miles and 26 hours.
The three of us sailed into the race HQ and finish line in well under 27 hours. Frank was now a 26-hour hundred mile ultra runner. He earned it, he fought through the bad spells.
I'm going to end here except for adding pictures later today, and I'll let Frank comment on his troubles in loop 7, I know that was tough for him, and the fact that he kept the forward progress going impressed me greatly. I'll let him tell us about the grilled-cheese and light lady dressed like a tennis pro who finished about a dozen minutes behind us.
I'll say this, like my brother said, "It's a good thing he finished, because now no-one can say, Sierra missed!" You want Sierra Missed, I'll give you Sierra Mist!