page 1 . . .
We were up before 6AM for the 8AM start about a ten-minute drive away from
our motel. Our
arrival at the park was perfectly timed, although we couldn't remember exactly when we
got there last year to score the perfect parking spot. Just luck both times!
We have experimented with two ways to park and to crew ourselves at Hinson Lake.
Two years ago no one could park at the Rotary Lodge -- which is very close to
the start/finish area and aid station -- until about eight hours into the race.
After that runners could crew from their vehicles at the lodge only if they or someone else took 10-15
minutes to move from one parking area to the other. Since we were both running
that year we just et up our table and
canopy along the dam that year, as close to the aid station as possible. The
location was very convenient but we had some problems with wind blowing off
the lake. Some people had to take their canopies down and it was very chilly to sit or sleep there after dark
unless you were inside a tent.
Most runners still set up their personal crewing stations along the dam just
past the aid station. It is very cool to walk or run through this "gauntlet" on
each loop because the crews are so encouraging to everyone on the course.
The last two years 40-50 runner vehicles have been able to park at the
lodge during the entire race. We decided to crew ourselves from our car last
year and it worked well for us. We liked the spot we had and wanted to get close to it again
We were happy when the Lugianos parked on one side of us (and offered to share their canopy
so we didn't have to erect ours) and the Dummars parked on the other side.
It is farther off the course to use our vehicle as our base than
to have our canopy and table right next to the course along the dam but it's easier to attend to Cody and
have access to all of our stuff in the car. It also saves us older folks from
having to drag our gear and supplies back and forth several hundred feet across
the parking lot, bridge, and dam.
Having such easy access to your stuff at a small-loop course has its
advantages and disadvantages. The advantages should be obvious. The main
disadvantage is the amount of time you can waste going to your personal crewing
station too often!!
Some of the vehicles parked at the
lodge before the race began; ours is the tan van in the center.
Fortunately for me, it didn't matter this year. I wasn't aiming for major
miles like I have at ATY. I knew I had to walk more this year and take more
breaks. I also wanted to save some energy for after dark. I love being out on
trails at night. Since I'm too slow to run 100-milers now, my best opportunity
to run and walk during the night at a race is in a 24-hour event.
Jim had to exercise more discipline at Hinson Lake than me and not get sucked into
the vortex every loop. He seemed to do fine with that, although I
didn't see him very often when I was on the course. He was always ahead of me
and moving a little faster. I stopped often enough that the only times he "lapped" me
were when I was taking a break or tending to Cody.
Speaking of dogs . . . the last two years Cody-the-ultra-Lab has
done just fine sleeping in the van during the race (the first year we had
Tater, too, and they both stayed home). We left the front windows and back door
of the van open all day, as shown above, so he got
plenty of air. He also got plenty of walks and attention, although most people
didn't even know he was in there; he never made a peep all day or night. He's
a very good boy.
The park is open to the public during the race and dogs are allowed on the trails
around the lake. Both local trail users and some HL24 runners bring their dogs on race
weekend. Each year several runners, including Jim, have taken their dogs with
them on one or more laps after a fair number of the race participants have left
the course and the remaining ones are quite spread out.
(Note how few
miles some folks do in this race. This
year 38% of the participants ran or walked less than 50K. Many of them were
done and gone by late afternoon.)
Jim took Cody on only a couple laps Saturday evening because it was still
quite warm after sundown this year and we didn't want him jumping in the lake
to cool off (something about a large, wet dog in the car with us . . .
It was simple to set up our supplies this year. We opened up the back door
of the van and set our supply table against the bumper. If it had rained we could
have set up our canopy, too. Instead, we helped Joe and
Hannah put theirs up (photo below); when our spot was sunny in the
afternoon, we set our chair(s)
under their canopy in the shade during short breaks.
L-R: Susan Dummar, Jim, Joe and
Hannah Lugiano socialize before the race begins.
One of the things we wish we'd brought this time was our 5-gallon cooler
filled with water and ice. Although there were plenty of fluids and ice at the
race aid station it would have been simpler to mix our bottles of Heed
and Perpetuem if we'd had water at our table like we've always done previously
at Hinson Lake and ATY.
We took a smaller food cooler this time and it was adequate.
We had plenty of time to relax and visit with friends before the race. Some
who entered late were a pleasant surprise:
Lynn DiFiore, who ran a few
miles and then worked the aid station until the end of the race:
Sarah Lowell, who shared a lap Saturday afternoon with Juli Aistars and
me after she ran 50 miles in 9:37 hours as a qualifier for Western States:
Sarah (L) and Juli run a relaxed loop in the afternoon.
Sally Squire, volunteer coordinator at the Umstead 100, who ran and finished the
Lean Horse 100-miler only three weeks before Hinson Lake (note that she's 67
L-R: Doug Dawkins, Joe Lugiano,
Sally Squire, and Hannah Lugiano
wait for the final runners to come in
from the "banana lap" the second morning.
Liz Bauer, who won the female division of the race this year with intense
focus and determination:
And Abi Meadows, who was there in the afternoon to crew for her 15-year-old son, TJ
Nagies, in his first ultra attempt. I'll talk more later about the impressive distances some of the children and
teenagers ran and walked at this race. TJ's photo is at the end of this page.
One of the no-shows was our friend Pete Stringer from Cape Cod. We were disappointed to learn that he
wouldn't be coming.
I had fun walking around before the start of the race talking to
friends, watching the beautiful colors morph across the lake and sky as the sun rose,
taking pictures, and working off some nervous energy. I wasn't nervous
about the race. I just wanted to get moving. I probably walked a mile
before my laps were being recorded. (I wouldn't have done that if I had been
There was quite a crowd at the start (see photos near the top of the first
of this entry). Tom lines us up on the far side of the
bridge across the dam outlet and we run and walk past the timing area/aid
station until the crowd thins out enough to go our own planned paces.
in a hurry at any time during the race, even the first loop (especially
the first loop), so I stopped many times to take photos of people ahead of and behind me:
I put more of those pictures on our
Picasa site. That's quite a crowd above but people seemed to queue
themselves up well at the start. The ones who wanted to run fast from the start
were at the front and the ones who wanted to warm up slowly stayed near the
back. Or so it looked to me.
By the second loop the runners had already spread out quite a bit.
The next photo was taken about the same place as the one above:
A little pool of sunshine on the second
By the time it was dark, probably half the runners were gone and those who were
left were a little lonely out there (but not as lonely as most trail
JIM'S RACE & THE "BANANA LOOP"
Jim was in game mode from the get-go. His goal was to maintain a steady
run-walk pace of about 15 minutes per mile, including stops, so he could
complete each 1.52-mile loop in about 22½
minutes (or three miles in ~ 45 minutes). He did the first half mile about my
pace, then picked it up from there.
The heat and humidity got to him by mid-day. Like most of the other
runners, his pace slowed down and his stops got longer as the day wore on. He
didn't keep track of his loops and times as closely this year as he did in 2007
and 2008. He finished the first 50 miles slower than intended, then tried to
sleep for several hours before going back out.
Jim heads out slowly on the first lap
(he's just ahead of the woman and boy in the foreground)
Jim didn't sleep much in the van. He was warm inside but there was simply too
much noise and light in the parking area during the night. I had the same problem,
but I had no intentions like he
did of getting back out on the course in the morning so it didn't matter as
much if I slept or not.
Jim got up about 5:30AM to run some more miles. Despite not sleeping
well, he was able to get in several more loops (a total of 37 complete laps)
and a partial lap (almost an additional mile) after the "banana lap" began.
This is a cool feature at Hinson Lake. When the clock starts bearing down on
24 hours, runners who want to go out one more time are given a banana with
their race number on it to carry on their last lap. When the horn blows, they
are to drop the banana on the course and return to the finish in whichever
direction is shortest. Tom and his
volunteers go out to collect the bananas and record the distances of each
runner. Those distances are added to their final miles.
Jim walks with Tom Adair for a little
bit on the first loop.
They are right behind the two runners in the
Some folks are quite content to stop after a complete loop and watch the end of the
race instead of going back out for a partial lap, knowing they may have to walk
or run back -- up to 3/4 mile that isn't counted.
I can see stopping at the end of a complete lap if you know you can't add much more mileage but that
can mean a finish lower in the standings. Check out the
results page to see how a partial lap put some runners a little bit
ahead of their competition.
I was watching the "banana loop" with fascination when I noticed that there
were so many runners taking advantage of this feature this year that Tom ran
out of bananas! After some scurrying around for a suitable substitute, one
runner left with a numbered orange. That was comical.
Late-afternoon power nap
Jim wasn't real thrilled with his pace but I think he did well considering
he wasn't prepared for flat terrain, heat, and humidity after being in the
Rockies all summer. He was using the
same muscles over and over for the first time since ATY last December. The high
heat and oppressive humidity affected nearly all the participants. Some of the guys ran
without shirts all day AND night, it was so warm. It probably would have been
better if we'd gotten some rain to cool things down. (I can't believe I said
Because he did slow down and take more breaks, Jim didn't have any problems with
getting enough fluids and calories during the race. He wasn't nauseous
or dehydrated. He did not have any trouble with his feet, either.
that spells "s-u-c-c-e-s-s" in my book.
I already mentioned how casually I took this race. I ran and walked fast
enough the first seven loops (10.64 miles) to average 16 minutes per mile,
including stops. Then I just walked the remaining miles. I still had a decent
19-minute pace after 15 laps (22.8 miles), when I took my first long
After that, I'd do two or three laps and stop for a while again again. I
spent more time at the car resting, mixing Jim's drinks, walking Cody around,
and visiting with people. As other runners began slowing down, I started walking
with some of them at a pace at which we could talk. That made some of my
slowest laps go the fastest because I was so engrossed in conversation.
The other end of the Leath footbridge
was a good place to take photos of the runners' faces.
I saved some energy to do a few laps after dark. I didn't hear the frog
chorus across the swamp on the far side of the course this time (near the
bridge above) but I sure did
enjoy the night time hours out there. It was a beautiful night in the park.
I almost didn't need a flashlight because the
moon reflected so much light off the nearly-white surface of the trail. However, there
were just enough roots for me to trip over that I kept my light on most of the
time after it got dark. Some runners like Laz, who have better night vision and
more coordination than I do, walked or ran without any lights. (I'll have more
to say about Laz, one of ultra running's more colorful characters, in the next
It takes 21 loops (31.92 miles) to get at least 50K (31.2
miles) at Hinson Lake. Since I don't know
where the 50K mark is, I recorded my time at 21 loops as 12:15
hours (8:15PM). I went from an overall 19-minute pace per mile at
23 miles to an average 23-minute pace per mile at 32 miles. That's a
reflection of all my down time, however; I was still walking each
1½-mile loop in about the same time.
One of many photo ops along the course . . .
I took a break after reaching 32 miles. I had plenty of
energy left to go more miles but the bottoms of both feet were blistered
and very painful.
I don't think the blistering was caused by a poor shoe or sock choice,
but other factors. I began the race
in my comfortable Asics 2140 trail shoes, then changed into a wider pair of
Asics 2140 road shoes
when my feet started hurting well before I'd gone even 20 miles. My toes were fine in my Injinji toe socks but they don't
always prevent blisters on the outsides or bottoms of my feet. What was
unusual was getting blisters so early in the game this time.
Part of my problem with running at Hinson Lake is the trail itself --
not just the fine grit that works itself in even with gaiters on, but the
slant of the trail.
I will never be able to do major miles on this course because of my unique
biomechanics. I already knew
that from my two previous runs there but these were the worst blister
problems I've had at Hinson Lake.
My problem is that most of the
trail around the lake is canted down to the left -- toward the
lake -- as we go counter-clockwise in the race. We never change
directions in 24 hours. My left ankle is very unstable from unsuccessful
surgery to repair the peroneus brevis and longus tendons that I severed
in a bad sprain at Western States in 2001. Even when I wear my ASO ankle
brace, that ankle splays outward and anyone who ever follows me when I'm
running wonders (or asks!) why I run so funny. My left foot needs to be higher than
the right, not lower, for me to have any semblance of a normal gait.
I think that factor, plus the fine gritty surface, high humidity,
possible dehydration and consequent swelling of my feet, no preventative
foot taping, AND my lack of
training all combined to destroy the bottoms of my heels. Other folks
reported more blistering than normal, too.
A welcome, tempting sight at the end of each loop:
So I'm sitting in my chair enjoying some hot soup about 9PM and Laz
walks by . . .
Laz and the friend he rode to the race with were parked near
us. I told him I was probably done. He had been going slower than me and
was one or two laps "behind" me. I think by then he'd also exceeded his
expectations in the race but he wasn't ready to quit. Something he told
me spurred me to get back out on the course for two more laps. I'll talk
about the lesson he taught me in the next entry.
Those two last loops were actually more comfortable than the two before
them. I changed into my Keen Venice 2 sandals, which pretty much eliminate my
unstable ankle problem.
I've done this before; I wore them the last two hours at ATY last
December. Although the Keens don't have enough arch support
for lots of miles, my heels fit so low and securely in them that my
left ankle doesn't flop to the outside.
Unfortunately, the open sandals get so much trail debris in them that I
use them primarily on pavement. They are so comfortable that I'd love to wear
them more on trails. I didn't have any problem with the grit
at Hinson Lake those last three miles, however, and wondered later if I should have put them
on even earlier.
At 10:45PM I really did call it a day and withdrew from the
race. I had gone just shy of 35 miles, which was a stretch at that point in my
training. Any more miles and I could do my body more harm than good.
I think I've made clear throughout this entire web journal that one of the
reasons we love attending ultra marathons so much is the people that run,
crew, direct, and volunteer at them. Even as we slow down and have increasing
difficulty finishing the darn things, we still enjoy being involved as
participants and volunteers at races.
It was the people we expected to see at Hinson Lake that really compelled us
to attend the race this year. As expected, we had a great time talking to old
friends and making new ones. It always surprises us a little when people come
up to us and say they feel like they know us from this web journal, even though
we've never met before. That happened several times at this race. I love that!
These guys lapped me a lot: Ray K (on
left) and RD Tom Gabell (R)
One lady amused us when she told Jim that she reads our website and
basically asked him if that was OK! I know I get pretty personal
sometimes (about us, not other people), so maybe she was feeling a little
A woman from Atlanta commented to me that I was the one who
introduced her to ultra running back in 1996. I don't remember that specific
conversation thirteen years ago, but I remembered her and I've certainly talked
to lots of other runners about my passion for the sport. After all, that's how
I got into ultra running myself -- the influence of runners like Janice
Anderson and Rich Schick that I knew when I lived in the Atlanta area.
Although Jim and I have influenced some other folks to accept the challenge
of ultra running, we are also constantly inspired by others in the sport --
not just the "legends" like Laz and Ray K, but also very young runners,
runners who are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, ultra newbies, runners who beat the
odds or overcome various handicaps (some of which aren't visible), runners
who go above and beyond to help others find success in the sport, runners who
hang in there long after others have ended their running "careers" because they
are well beyond their peaks . . .
You get the idea.
Hinson Lake is perfect for runners of all ages and
The group of runners at Hinson Lake that most impressed me this year, even
more than the success of many of the older runners and the near-flawless run of
Jonathan Savage, who appeared just as fresh after finishing 132 miles as he did
before the race, is the youngsters.
Try seven years old. That would be Evan Baxley, who completed
five laps (7.6 miles). Two eight-year-old girls got six miles (four
loops) around the lake this year: Mary Fogelman (who also ran last year
at age seven) and Carson Roman.
Nine-year-old Thomas Walsh finished nine laps for over 13½
miles, while Nathan Fogelman, also nine, stayed out long enough for nineteen
complete loops, almost 29 miles -- definitely an ultra! Nathan wore
a bright orange shirt and red shorts, making him easy to spot. He amused many
of the grownups with his competitive surges during the race. I enjoyed several
letters from runners to the ultra list who commented on Nathan's ability and
Nathan and one of his older brothers
head into the woods after crossing the Leath Bridge.
Nathan is also cunning. Last year his brother
David, who is one year older, beat him by about six miles. This year Nathan
decided to run one more lap than David after the now-10-year-old dropped out
with 27+ miles and left the park with some of his family members to go to a
wedding or something. That's pretty funny. Nathan is shown above with another older
brother, Brad I think, who ran 57+ miles in the race this year.
Those Fogelman kids definitely inherited some
good running genes (environment has a lot to do with it, too). Both parents
also participate in the race.
Even more astounding was the performance of eight-year-old Peter Luljak from
Maryland. He circled the lake with his father David for 33+ loops, a grand
total of 50.84 miles!!
Peter walks with his dad Saturday
afternoon. He did quite a bit of running, too.
Although Peter needed some time off during the night, he got back out there
in the morning and even went out on the "banana loop" to squeeze out another
2/3 mile. He was the talk of the race. Peter has obviously inherited some good
running genes and acquired a lot of mental discipline, too. His father has run
156 miles in 24 hours previously. I haven't been able to confirm if that is or
was a record of some type (age group, national, etc.) but it's an excellent
There were several other youngsters and teenagers in the race, too. One in particular who
charmed the adults was Abi Meadows' 15-year-old son TJ Nagies, who ran almost the
entire time by himself. He increased his previous longest distance of 30K to
50K, waking his mom up to join him for the lap where he reached that benchmark.
TJ (curly hair and black shirt) stands
behind two ultra veterans
before the race begins: Byron
Backer (L) and Bill Keane.
Although I didn't talk or run with TJ, other runners commented on what a
polite and determined young man he is. Abi is very proud of his accomplishment,
as I'm sure all running parents are when their offspring voluntarily begin
running for the sheer joy of it and not because of parental pressure.
This is an excellent venue for parents whose kids want to run or walk a
few laps with them. It's safe, casual, and fun. Most of the older runners are
accommodating, if not outright happy to have them along. There are lots of
teachable moments and all the runners, younger and older, seem to have a great
Are you beginning to understand why this race has grown so fast? It has
something for everyone.
You can see this year's full race results
For more pictures of people and scenery from the race, check out our
Next entry: lessons from Laz
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil