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At the Races

2013-2014 New Year’s Eve Ultra Run Report

There is an ancient saying, “Know thyself,” and, at least as a runner, I do. I am an ultra runner.

I was able to again successfully test my strength at the final New Year’s Eve Ultra Run held in Morganton, NC. During the 24-hour event, I completed 101.55 miles, good for 6th overall and 4th male. Before I left, Race Director David Lee confirmed that I had accumulated the most miles in the history of the event, 501.52 miles in the five years I participated.

Unfortunately, this event will not be held again because of declining numbers in the Brown Mountain Running Club. David; his wife, Rhonda; and son David kept the event afloat almost by themselves. Who could blame them if they want something different on New Year’s 2014-2015, as they put it, “indoors, warm, intimate, free from the smells of BO and vomit”? As always, they provided everything runners could have wanted: burgers, soup, PB&J sandwiches, drinks, hot rice, pizza, coffee, etc. Also, they posted results at least every hour so runners could confirm their laps.

And laps we did. I know those laps as well as I know my own backyard, for each lap is only 0.9859 miles of tarmac around the perimeter of Freedom Park, next to Morganton’s Freedom High School. While that short distance may seem like a hamster wheel and the three small hills seemed to grow during each lap, we were never more than a mile from the aid station, a bathroom, our own tents in which to change clothes, and the heated race HQ tent. That tent was a bit of a Siren’s song, as the winds stayed high for several hours and the temperature dropped so low at night that the cola turned into slushies, but I avoided that temptation. I also avoided the temptation to sleep for I knew if I took more than my scheduled rest breaks I would not reach my 100-mile goal. I made that mistake my first year.

As always, my remote cheering section helped me so much. The dozens of texts, voice messages, and Facebook posts that I received throughout the night from family, ERC members, and friends bolstered me through the dark and the cold. I also had the good fortune to get an impromptu cheering section. A few teens sat bundled in blankets on the course’s edge, there to support other runners that they knew, encouraged me every time I went by for at least a dozen hours.

My brother, Charles, and his family in Greensboro are the reason I attended this event, and they’ve paid for it dearly. Not only did they get the boorish relative for several days each of these years, but Charles also chauffeurs me to the race, two hours each direction when most people are sleeping. Seriously, I am always so glad to see the Southern Skara family, and this time my nephew Jason and niece Rachel accompanied Charles and me for my final lap.

Another of the highlights was admiring the efforts of the Johncock family. Grandfather Jerry set yet another American record in the 85+ division, sons Bill and Mark each ran more than 70 miles, Jerry’s grandson did at least a few laps, and a daughter-in-law kept their campsite.

Perhaps the best part of ultra running is the assistance the participants heap on each other. Though overall winner Greg Armstrong (130.14 miles) was trying to qualify for the national team, he always had a kind word for me as he passed. Runner-up Mark Rostan (120.28) told me he hoped I’d hit the 500-mile mark. Female winner Megan Stegemiller (115.36) and I talked several times on the path. During my breaks, I often heard participants inviting others to use their personal supplies.
This concludes a huge running year for me. In April, I set a PR at the Umstead 100, and in October I set another at the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon. A good part of that success should be credited to the Grumpy Grovers, without whom my training would not be as good as it became.

Mike Skara
New Years Ultra Run

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Verona Labor Day Classic

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