By: John Cash
Like a lot of you, last March I watched the documentary The Barkley Marathons. I was inspired. Within minutes of the credits, I was logged onto Ultra Signup registering for a race that I had been interested in running for more than 2 years. As I confirmed my spot on the Vol State Race page, terror set in. A 500 K on the roads of TN directed by a character known almost exclusively for always difficult, often misleading and hard as shit races.
Recently, I have made some great but difficult changes in my life. That was how I viewed Vol State, great but difficult. I have no previous multi-day race experience and 24 hour races have yet to go seamlessly. Honestly, I didn’t know that much about the race. I had the John Price book. I knew the course hit several states. I knew there was climbing. What knowledge I had was fuzzy having been pushed out of the way to focus on 24 Hour Races and Marathon Training. I assumed there would be plenty of time to research before July.
Aside from scouring race reports in my “free time” at work, my concentration was pulled to other things, life, kids, a move, starting a business…mountain biking. It was the weekend before and I had not driven the course, half my crew had to bail and basically I just had a drape hat, some arm sleeves and some printed copies of maps. My training still felt focused on 24 Hour Racing and Vol State was basically going to get jammed in there.
I got lucky by reaching out and finding a close friend, John Schupp, who was available to come out and help Meghan, my girl friend, in crewing me. My daughter, Megan, I know…that can be confusing or make things easier…returned home from a trip to Florida early and she was really interested in joining us for the adventure, as well. In the days before, we began recruiting more interest from friends that offered to stop in along the route and ended up being met by Shari Munier and Greg Wells in the second day. I can’t believe these people were all willing to travel such a distance, to travel a larger distance, just to help me fulfill an obligation made on an inspiration. I wanted very badly not to let them down.
I know every one of them had special experiences traveling the Vol State course. It seems every time I met up with them they had a story to share and an overwhelming report that family, friends, the club and even people I have never met were actually following the race and interested in this crazy thing I was participating in. It was very motivational learning how many people were remotely along for the adventure with us.
I have only ever written one race report and it was pretty terrible. My reason for writing this down is to first, thank all those people that sent a message, kept in touch, thought about the race…maybe even got a little inspired themselves. Secondly, there are a few things that I wish I had known before attempting a multi day and while they are fresh, I want to remember them.
So, thank you guys. I am reading over all the posts, comments and looking at some great pictures. Recently I have been forgetting my race experiences shortly after they are done. What I can’t feel from Vol State in a week will still be there in my thoughts thanks to so much interest and involvement from the people of my community. I say thank you only because I don’t know how to better express my gratitude to so many. Thank you everyone.
Other things I will have to try to remember if I ever multi day again:
Eat the right way: Heavy fatty meals for slow burn, small carb calorie boosts until hunger
Stay dry: Especially your shoes, change them, change socks, tape feet, avoid wet shoes at all costs (additionally, watch water in other areas and be liberal with the lube)
Sleep enough: You need to hit REM sleep but not much more than that to feel awake. A half hour won’t cut it. 1.5-1.75 hours is good enough without jeopardizing run time
It has amazed me how an after thought documentary inspired me to commit to something so great and difficult on nothing much more than a belief that I could do it. Maybe not do it well, but as long as I could walk, I knew would get to Castlerock. Ok, I didn’t foresee walking being such a burden in my planning, but like I said, that is part of the reason I am typing this up. What I have found even more amazing is the actual reach of this experience. I didn’t think anyone would care about this race or how I was handling it. I found though, that this experience wasn't just mine. My crew, Meghan and my daughter each appreciated aspects unique to them. All of the people that said tracking the race led to inspiration for them really made me think about the race differently. All I can say is that I am grateful that I was inspired, I am grateful that such a crazy opportunity exists and I am grateful to have felt such support from all over. I hope any one that felt inspired by the race finds their own Vol State and goes for it.