Two days before this year's Hinson Lake 24-Hour Run there were 166
registered runners from 18 states who were listed on the
Jim and I were two of the later ones, for reasons explained in the last entry,
but at least we didn't wait until race morning to register.
We did wait until Friday morning to decide for certain that we'd be driving
down to Rockingham, NC for the race, however. I'll talk more about that in a
If you scroll down the 2009 race
results page, you'll see
why Tom was concerned about running out of shirts, handsome insulated cups with the
race logo, and aid station supplies: by race
morning there were a whopping 215 people registered for the race, 194 of whom
toed the starting line! Two of t he late entrants were from Germany. I don't know if any additional
U.S. states were represented than those in the original list.
This year's short-sleeved t-shirt and mug
Not bad for a race that began with only 67 participants four years ago! I'm
not counting the last two folks that Tom lists in 2006 that he describes as
"some lady" and "some little kid" he met on the course!!
That's funny, and indicative of how low-key
this race is. I don't think they were officially registered.
WHAT'S THE DRAW?
Jim and I missed the inaugural year of this race in 2006. We hadn't caught the 24-hour bug yet.
2007 saw 100 official starters in the race, a 49% increase over the first
year. It grew to 138 in 2008, an increase of 38%. We did
run the race both those years, as training runs for the ATY (Across the Years)
24- and 48-hour races in late December. This year saw over a 40% jump to 194
participants at Hinson Lake.
Runners gather at the start.
I'm not sure if this type of increase in numbers is the stuff of race
directors' dreams or nightmares but Tom, his wife, and other
family members are very cool about it. If they were concerned about being
overwhelmed on race day they'd either set a deadline to register or limit the
number of entrants, whichever came first.
When I asked him if he'd limit the number of entrants next year, Tom said he
didn't think he'd need to. So far he and his volunteers have been able to keep
up with the annual increases and there apparently is no limit to the number of
folks the city will allow to run and walk around its beautiful lake. It's
probably one of the best economic stimuli in this town besides stock car racing.
More runners at the start
So what draws so many people to this race? I've enumerated lots of reasons
in my previous HL race reports on this website but here they are
- the intrigue of the 24-hour format (run and
walk as little or as much as you want -- it's all good, as the race
- the beautiful setting
- the soft, almost perfect footing
- the low-key nature of the event
- its proximity to many ultra runners in the eastern part of the US
- the accurate timing despite no computer chips
- the awesome volunteers, many of whom are Tom's relatives
- the yummy spread of food and beverages, including hot pizza and homemade
- the mix of folks who show up to run, from kids to grandparents, casual
walkers to elite runners
- the ease of getting into the race, even on race morning
- the ease of finding a spot along the course for your own
personal aid station
- the ease of crewing for someone on the 1½-mile
- real bathrooms
- the low cost (still only $24, a real bargain at $1 per hour!)
- and many other reasons.
This race is a gem. As it gets increased publicity from satisfied customers,
more and more people come out to discover what's so special about it.
Jim and I
can take credit for a little bit of the publicity because of this
Picasa photos from the last two years of the
race, my posts to the ultra list about the race, and off-line letters I've
written to runners inquiring about it. We were pleasantly surprised at the race
this year when several people introduced themselves to us and said they
appreciated all the information we'd made public about Hinson Lake; it
helped them decide to experience it for themselves. They are converts now, too.
What amazes me is that Hinson Lake still "feels" the same to Jim and me each
year, even though it has doubled in size since we first ran it three
Don't worry; runners quickly spread out
by the end of the first loop.
Before the race Tom crunched some numbers from the 166 registered runners he
already knew about. Two-thirds were men, one-third women. The average age for
both sexes was about 46 years old. On race day the ages ranged from 7 to
72. Over half were course "virgins" (first time at Hinson Lake) and over half
were from North Carolina, many of them from local communities. I think it is
very cool when an ultra draws so many people from nearby.
There seems to be excellent local support for the event even though not all
of the participants stay in local hotels or eat in local restaurants. Many
folks live close enough to drive from their homes to the race before its 8AM
start on Saturday. Some runners
who drive to the venue on Friday camp out in their vehicles or tents the night before the race. The
family has brought its Class C camper (below) to the race the last two years and parked near the lodge:
I'll talk more later about this couple and their five kids, age 8, 9, 10,
14, and 21, who ran the race this year. (Not sure how they all fit into that camper!) An 18-year-old son was also registered but didn't
run this time. Various family members have run the race since its inception.
Although we have a camper, it's kind of a hassle to take it out for only two nights. We've always driven our Honda Odyssey minivan to this race
and slept at one of the
motels in Rockingham on Friday night. We get a room with a refrigerator and
microwave so we can prepare our own supper on Friday night (there is no
official pre-race dinner) and breakfast on race morning. We can nap in the van
if we want during the race
on Saturday night; then we drive home on Sunday after everyone finishes
OK, LET'S GO
Jim and I didn't fully commit to attending this race until Friday morning,
only a couple hours
before we left our house in Virginia for the four-hour drive south to
Rockingham. I think that's a first for us. And yes, we forgot some items we
wish we'd taken!!
RD Tom Gabell (in foreground) and his
who did a great job keeping tabs on all the runners.
Because of the family medical crisis I mentioned in the last entry we ended
our summer trip out West three weeks early. Jim wanted something in late
September to fill the void of The Bear 100 and give him a long run before
Mountain Masochist (MMTR) in early November. Hinson Lake provided an easy
opportunity since we could enter it shortly before the event, it is only half
a day's drive from Roanoke, and it is inexpensive.
I certainly wasn't
ready for an ultra after so little running post-bike crash, and the flat
terrain isn't very specific training for Jim before MMTR . . .
. . . but we love this race for all the reasons above and we wanted to see lots of friends on the
entrants' list that we haven't seen for a while -- Joe and Hannah
Lugiano, Juli and Val Aistars, Susan and Fred Dummar, Pete Stringer, Mike
Lager, Tom Adair, Winston Davis, Bill Keane, Mike Brooks, Bill Gentry, Mike
Day, the Kirk family, Larry Robbins, Christian Griffith, Bryon
Backer, Marie Lewis, Rick Spencer, Doug Dawkins, the Gabels, and southern ultra "legends" like Doyle
Carpenter, Ray Krowelwicz, and Gary Cantrell AKA "Lazarus Lake.
David Lulkjak (white shirt), and his
8-year-old son Peter talk with Mike Melton before the race.
Still, the week before the race we had ambivalent feelings about going. We'd
just gotten back to our house after being gone for four months. We were tired from all the driving, unloading the camper,
getting reorganized and reoriented in the house, attacking the unkempt gardens,
etc. I mean, we're definitely not 35 any more!
And what's this -- rain predicted for Rockingham over the weekend??
We remembered the uncharacteristic mud and ruts on the course last year from the
massive storm the area got a few days before the 2008 race. Tom, his buddies,
and the city of Rockingham had tried valiantly to repair the extensive damage
but it was still more of a challenge to run than it was the year before. Would the crushed rock trail be a mess again this year? Would we
be miserable running and walking in the rain? Were we really up for this???
Juli Aistars is definitely no weenie,
she always wears a big smile whenever we see her!
When Friday dawned bright and clear in Roanoke, and the prediction looked
better for Rockingham's weather on Saturday, we remembered all the fun we've
had down there before and said, "Let's do it!" We set about
packing the car without our usual lists of what we needed. Although we
forgot a few items like Jim's sun shirt and sun hat that we could have used during the race
(we were apparently still in rain mode), we remembered the most
important things -- including Cody and all his doggie stuff. We made do
with what we had at the race and we're very glad we went.
Oh, and the course was in the best condition we've ever seen it. The city
(and volunteers?) do a fine job of maintaining it.
I set my personal bar so low for this "race" that I had nowhere to go but
up! That wasn't just a psychological tactic, it was my reality.
In the six weeks since my bike
crash in Silverton, Colorado, I had run and
walked an average of only 22½ miles a week. My
longest run/walk was 16 miles. The
entire month of August my total mileage was only 76+ miles, the lowest distance
I've run and walked in one month since I had foot surgery five years ago. My
highest week in September was 43 miles, just before leaving Teton Canyon in
Not only was I more "rested" than "trained," I
was trained for mountains and high altitude and cool, dry air, not a flat
course at an elevation of 211 feet with 85-degree heat and what felt like 110%
Jim faced the same
situation, of course.
Juli is dwarfed by the tall trees, which
fortunately provided lots of shade during the race.
It doesn't help that I have no solid race plans
this winter and, therefore, less motivation to crank out mega miles. Previously, I've used Hinson Lake as a training run for ATY. Each
year I have been under-trained for Hinson Lake because of injuries but have
exceeded my expectations by feeding off the energy of the other runners,
resting as needed, and simply plugging along as best as I could when I was out
on the course.
That same MO got me to 35 miles this year when
I expected 20 or less. I hope I don't regret it.
Jim was much better trained for Hinson Lake
than me. His
mileage has been consistent all summer, he just finished the Grand Teton 50-miler
two weeks ago with a good time on that mountainous course, and he has plans to
run several races this fall and winter. He had more reasons and motivation than
I did to
run well at Hinson Lake.
One of several sunrise pictures I took on race morning
With Mountain Masochist (MMTR) and his winter
fixed-time races in mind, Jim planned to do a solid, steady 50 miles, then
decide how many more miles he could
rack up. He has plenty of time to rest before MMTR so a 24-hour effort
shouldn't hurt him.
He went hard enough that first 50 miles to
decide to take a nap during the night and resume running in the morning. He ended up with 57+ miles,
placing 56th out of 194 participants.
Not a bad training run.
FRIDAY: PRE-RACE ACTIVITIES
We had an enjoyable, uneventful ride down US
220 to Rockingham, NC on Friday afternoon, arriving in plenty of time to check
in to our motel, go to Tom's house to get our race packet, and walk one loop
around the lake.
Here's something interesting we learned, thanks
to a bad experience the Dummars had at the Tahoe Rim race in July. If I
remember the story correctly, they found a significantly cheaper rate listed on
the motel's marquee when they arrived than what they'd booked in advance with a
special discount. The motel wouldn't give them the lower same-day rate so
Fred "out-ed" them on the ultra list.
Our experience was a little different but we
also found out we could get a cheaper rate the same day than our so-called
discount rate in advance. (Can you can tell we rarely stay in motels?)
Jim originally made reservations for Friday
night on the motel's website a few days before the race. When we
thought on Wednesday that maybe we wouldn't go, we cancelled the reservation
without penalty and crossed our fingers that we could still get a room there if we
decided to go down at the last minute -- and maybe even get it cheaper.
The sunrise continues to morph.
When we arrived at the motel Friday afternoon, Jim pulled out
the laptop to see what rate he could get online. He put in our various discount
categories to compare rates for Old Pharts, government workers, AAA members, etc.
was doing that, I went inside to see what rate the desk clerk would give us.
She said there was only one room left that met all of our criteria (no smoking,
queen or king bed, microwave, refrigerator). The cost was higher than our
original rate, which was different than what the Dummars experienced.
Uh, oh. Maybe we screwed up! I
said to myself.
I went back outside to tell Jim the quoted
price. Turns out, he found an even better same-day rate on-line than we'd gotten earlier
in the week on the internet -- and a lot better than we could get at the desk. We cut it very close, however. There really was
no more room at the inn that night . . .
After that bit of stress, we carried what we
needed into our room and headed for RD Tom Gabell's house. Instead of
doing all the race check-in at the lake in the morning as he's done previously,
he was able to keep most of the runners' bags at his house and have a more
casual registration process this way. All of us still needed to check in with his wife
and her helpers on race morning, however, so they'd have an accurate count of
runners in the race.
View of the Rotary Lodge from the Leath
Bridge at the far end of the loop
Then we drove to the park nearby and walked the
1.52-mile loop around the lake with Cody. A few other runners were
checking out the venue. Man, was it muggy! We knew we
were in for a hot, humid race on Saturday.
Continued on the
page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil