Sunday, April 10, 2011

Race Recap With a Twist: Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run

Editor's note:  Running 100 miles in and of itself it hard enough, but DARTer and ultrarunning veteran Jeff McGonnell had an experience at this year's Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run that was unprecedented.  I saw Jeff just after the halfway point and he said to me, "Have I got a story to tell you!"  Below is Jeff's story.

Blake Norwood photo
It’s always something –

I’ve done the Umstead 100 Mile Run a number of times, every time there is always something that goes a bit awry.  My first few of efforts included horrible blisters and a world class attack of the sleep monster.  I’ve finished, but I’ve always been delayed by something.  This year was no different; I struggled with the first 25 miles with a painful hip flexor – that supposed to be the easy section of a 100mi.  I stopped a number of times to stretch – any time you stop moving forward during a 100 mile means you are adding time to the clock.  Not a big deal in a short race – but after 20+ hours it really adds up.  Umstead is billed as one of the easier 100’s, the race consists of 8 12.5 mile loops, but as with any 100 there is plenty of time for something to go wrong.

After getting my hip flexor issue straightened out, I started to get moving again at my target pace, maybe even a little ahead.  I had some pretty good splits from 30 to 40 miles and the hip was feeling good.  At around 43 miles I linked up with Matt Smythe from Richmond, I’ve known Matt’s older brother Brad for years; Matt and I kept a good pace through the hilliest section of the 12.5 mile loop.  When we turned on the dirt road that heads back toward the main aid station we were moving pretty well, we had just 2 miles to get to the 50 mile half way point.

Teri Saylor photo
Ahead on the road Matt and I saw two guys out walking.  Umstead is a multi-use State Park, used by mountain bikers, horses, hikers and runners.  When we were still 50 yards from the two guys, the bigger one, let’s call him Orange Hat – punched the other guy, we’ll call him Slim.  Orange Hat then kicked Slim, followed by 2 quick punches.  Slim was getting beat like a rug.  By the time we got up to the guys Orange Hat was yelling at Slim – he was very unhappy.  Orange Hat is a big broad shouldered guy in his early 20’s – Slim has shoulder length curly hair.  Matt and I got in between the two and told Orange Hat to chill.  He yelled something about ketchup and chicken salad, followed by a string of expletives.

We tried to step in front of Orange Hat – he swung with a right and a left and caught me with his left on the side of the chin.  I thought he was just mad at Slim – apparently he didn’t like me either.  Orange Hat came at us again – I squirted him in the face with my water bottle – he didn’t even react to it, the look in his eyes said nobody was home.

Well, about that time other runners were coming behind us – Walt Prescott from Atlanta got just a bit too close and Orange Hat clocked him in the chin hard enough to drop Walt down on the edge of the road.  We rushed the guy and protected Walt – he’s a tough guy – took the shot hard, lots of blood, his lower lip was seriously split.  We got Walt up – Darris Blackford, his wife and 4 other women came up from behind – we were getting a real traffic jam.  Darris grabbed a big stick and started to swing – Orange Hat sat down on the road, back up back down and back up again.  He yelled a bit more – so did I – then he went off the road and stood behind a telephone pole – I think he though it made him invisible.  We got the traffic jam moving – Matt and I stayed watching him not wanting him to jump other runners, luckily come Mtn. Bikers came up on us – they had cell phones and called the park rangers.  They said they’d stay and warn other runners – so we took off.  My running was adrenaline pushed for the next 50 yards but then I had to slow to a shuffle and it took me a bit to regain any more than a jog.

By the time we got the 2 miles back to the aid station, the RD Blake Norwood already had a report that the Park officials had caught Orange Hat. It was a good thing – we had a few in our new band that were not going to go back out if he was still out there.

I was disappointed that Fred Dummar another runner in the 100 wasn’t with us; Fred is a Lt. Col with the Army’s Special Forces – I would have gladly hid behind him.

Walt finished just 7 min behind me.  He may have some dental issues.

The Park Service is getting the story from all involved, both they and the race officials did a tremendous job reacting to the issues.

Well I ended up with a PR of 22:39 for this course, with the stall out during the fisticuffs and the slow pick up I had afterward I’d say it cost me 10+ min.  Not a bad day after all, but it proves the rule that it’s always something.


  1. Wow, that's quite a story. I've heard bits and pieces but it's good to get it down all in one place. I've spent a lot of time in the outdoors hiking and so on and never had anything like that happen. Bizarre!

  2. Thanks for this race report. I came up after you must have left. I hadn't heard the full story. Did either Joe or the Park contact you after the race? No one is pressing charges, so they can't charge Orange Hat with assault! All they could charge with with was public intoxication. If Joe didn't contact you and you want to FU, just shoot me an e-mail: flilley at embarqmail dot com

    Glad no one got seriously hurt . . . (Hoping Walt doesn't have long term issues!). I heard Doom was ticked off he wasn't around when all this happened! That wouldn't have been pretty!

  3. Wow. I bet this was not the kind of problem you were expecting that day. Poor Frank got clubbed by Big Foot in Uwharrie. Now we have to watch out for crazies throwing punches in Umstead. This is a growing list of ultra dangers. I hope Walt is okay. Such an odd and terrible encounter. BUT congrats on a PR! You are amazing.

  4. " I heard Doom was ticked off he wasn't around when all this happened! That wouldn't have been pretty! "

    OTOH, while not pretty (for Orange Hat) it would have been fun to watch!

  5. Priceless - ketchup and chicken salad.....okay, next year NO FAMILY REUNIONS during Umstead week. It's too far to drive from Johnston county anyway....

    Tom H

  6. And now I have the entire story. My husband told me as we were leaving the race, now I can tell you. He didn't know details but knew some drunk guy jumped a runner. I had passed a runner with a bloody mouth/nose, I naturally assumed he did a face plant. Boy, was I wrong. It was very brave of the two of you to step in and continue to protect as you did. Denise


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