Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Woods Ferry 24 Hour Race

The Woods Ferry 24 Hour Run kicked off the first of five ultras put on by Terri Hayes in the South Carolina Ultra Trail Series this year. After running my first 100k, 100 miler, and a tough 50K at Sweet H20 two weeks ago I was looking forward to a laid back – low key event. Sure the clock would be running for 24 hours, but I was not feeling any pressure to produce massive miles or definite splits. My plan was to have fun, run easy, and rest when I felt like it.

Christian & Wayne offered to pick me up on Friday afternoon and carry all of this stuff down to the race. I offered to help Terri out with some equipment to be used at the main aid station. No, I didn’t run with that backpack on – it just had all of my camping stuff in it.

I camped with a few running friends including Mike Riggins. We only talked for a short time, gobbled down some pizza that Mike had brought and I was into the tent sleeping before 10:00 PM. The campground was medium size and only has about 30 sites, but two tents are allowed at each one. I felt safe there for the most part, but there were some interesting sights of the “local culture” on the way into the park. Banjo pickin’ rednecks and the movie Deliverance come to mind, but I’m gonna leave it at that.

I can relate to the ‘necks’ because I felt like a hobo myself. No car or way to retreat now. Just a backpack, tent, and running gear.  I felt like I was in for the long haul.

I slept great on the air mattress in the tent Friday night dreaming about a great run to come the next day. The night past quickly and I heard runners driving in and moving about around 5:00 AM. I drifted back & forth to sleep until 6:00 and decided it was game time!

It was so nice to wake up at the race and not have to worry about driving directions, getting lost, finding a parking spot, etc. I just walked 100 yards down to the picnic area and had everything I needed in my hands or in my backpack.  This is the main aid station, check-in, start & finish.  The Broad River is behind the picnic shelters.

I never get tired of the buzz before an ultra.  The air is electric!

Mike Riggins getting ready to run...

Wayne "Weezy" D. getting his game face on....

Several runners chipped in and hooked Terri up with a birthday cake...

About 60 runners were off and running the course at 7:30 AM. I had a feeling that lots of runners would get off course on the first loop and I was correct. As a matter of fact, I did myself! I ended up doing the top of the figure “8” loop twice on the first time out so I had to make up miles before heading into the main aid station to come up with 20 for two loops. It took me five hours to run the first 20 miles. While I will admit that I was taking it easy on the trail, I realized that this course was going to turn into a little beast when the sun warmed us up into the 80s around noon.
I ran some of the 1st/2nd loop with Abbi and Matt. The miles just ticked away as we jawed about running stuff and life in general.  The trail heated up into the 80’s on the third loop and I decided to slow my pace down, grab the camera and have some fun.  Looking back, this was probably the smartest move that I made all day.

Here is a photo tour of the course and then I'll let you know how the rest of the race went.

Looking back as I leave the aid station...

Go through the parking area and turn right onto the forest service road...

Turn left into the forest onto the Purple 1 mile trail...

Some runners on the Purple trail...
Continue on Purple and Have a Drink of Clip2!

It was hot and I was taking it pretty easy through the 30 mile afternoon loop...

Some more of the rolling Purple trail...

More Purple trail....

Winding closer to the Blue trail intersection...

Passing some runners heading back in from a loop...

This group was having a blast.  I had heard them getting closer from a mile away..

This was Sam's first ultra and she ended up running 40 miles!  Great job!

After the 1 Mile Purple Trail take a right onto Blue.  It seemed to have about 2 miles of uphill...

This was one of my favorite sections.  A tough uphill that was full of wildflowers!

Blue trail gives you a little bit of everything...

We stayed on blue for 4.6 miles of gnarly fun...

The forest service had recently set a controlled burn...
Take a right onto a steep logging road...

The climb continues nearing the end of Blue..

Take a left onto Yellow trail and go downhill to see this great spot by the creek...

Spend about 4 miles total on the Yellow.  These shots head up to the 2nd aid station...

Leave the aid station and do about 1 mile of gnarly power line trail.  There were lots of confused runners through here.  Some took a gravel road to the right of the trail (easier option).  Some took the yellow trail the entire way.  Some stayed on the yellow trail and then the forest road.  Confusing huh?  Me - I did the yellow trail 4 times and the gravel road twice in the dark.

I think this was the toughest part of the course...Look at these four photos...

Just after this section you take a left and run through some trail ripped to shreds by horses.  Then you come out into this field...

You then head back to Blue for a short time and take Purple back into the aid station to complete a 10 mile loop - I was sweating a LOT here...

Each lap I past my stuff on the way into the aid station.  I spent some time sitting after each lap...

My mother volunteered for the night portion of the race and she was waiting with pizza after loop three.  That was great!

One of the highlights of this race was learning how to run downhill a little better. I practiced relaxing my body and letting gravity carry me down the hills without putting on the brakes so much. There is a give & take to this method. You gotta pay closer attention to your footing because you move faster, but your legs feel much better at the bottom of the hill.
I continued on running a loop with Sam and a loop with Wayne. After heading into the night portion with Wayne my spirits were soaring and I was feeling strong. Its amazing how quick things change during an ultra.
Life got interesting at mile 50.

Terri (the race director who is attempting to run her age – 67 miles) stumbles upon Wayne and I around mile 50 while she is heading out to run the 40s. She lets us know that she needs someone to be ready to run the final 17 miles with her because her friend Angela was having horrible blister problems.  Angela runs lots of ultras and this was a testament to how gnarly the terrain was out there.

After 14 hours at this point and 50 miles Wayne and I decide to call it a night and walk away feeling strong with a good run under out belts.  Christian heads back out for another lap and turns in a 100K then both guys call it a night.

I found Mama at the aid station and laid around while watching the other runners come and go for about two hours.  I tried to fall asleep while laying in my sleeping bag on top of a picnic table, but I was too wired up.  At midnight I knew that I was going back onto the course.  My mom just laughed and told another volunteer that she knew I couldn't stand to lay there and watch other runners going back out without me.  She was right.  Besides after getting off my feet for a few hours I felt good to go.

I headed back into the darkness alone with the plan of running the 2 mile out-n-back purple trail as many times as possible.  I got in one mile before meeting up with Terri.

Terri came running in finishing her 5th loop around 1:15 AM and I promised her that I would run the final 17 miles with her until the end.  We set out and moved slowly through the first loop.  The ruts, roots, and rocks that were easy to avoid during the day beat us both down during the night. 

We finished the 10 mile loop and still had to get 7 more miles in to make her birthday run official.  After 60 miles over 21 hours of running, the last thing that I wanted to do was leave the warm aid station and head back out into the darkness.  Well, promises are promises and there is no way that I would have sent Terri back out there alone.  So off we go staggering into the darkness with seven miles between us and the finish.

The final seven miles were brutal.  My feet were burning.  I wore holes in both socks and had hot spots all over my feet.  Every step sent fire up my legs and kicking a root or rock nearly brought me to tears.   My feet are so caloused that I rarely get blisters.  Instead they just burn - not sure if the trade off is worht it or not.  We tried to keep our minds off the run by talking about everything under the sun.

The hallucinations began around 6:00 AM (22 hours into the run).  I looked over my right should and saw a beautiful white farm house with a lush green lawn.  The sun was rising over it and I wanted to turn left and go into it.  Five seconds later I snapped back to reality and found myself behind Terri wondering off into the dark woods. 

Another mile down the trail we reached the top of a hill and I saw a big lake in front of us.  I wondered how we would get across it and how it got there.  There was no lake there - EVER!  My mind was all over the place!

Terri even warned me about a car moving down the road when in fact  all the vehicles were parked with no one inside of them!

So around 7:30 AM we reached our final mile and took the victory lap into the aid station.  There were a few volunteers clapping including Dan Hartley, my mother Joyce, Terri's family, and a few other runners.

I will admit that this was a strange experience for me.  It was weird to run and then take a nap, then run some more.  The park was beautiful, but it even had a strange feel to it for some reason.  The highlight of my run was not personally completing 68 miles.  It was seeing Sam run 40 miles (first ultra) and seeing Terri battle all day & night to run her age.  Here are a few other side stories that I followed through the day...

These guys worked the 2nd aid station all day long and I appreciate it!  The guy on the right is running his first ultra in a few weeks....

Joy ran a solid 50k and looked strong out there - great job & very inspiring!

These fellas ran their first 10 miles on trails.  Up & coming ultra runners!

When I stopped running at 50 miles I was awarded and then when I completed the 1 mile + 17 with Terri they gave me another one...


Around 7:15 Terri gave us the pre-race information describing the course and aid stations. The course was a 10 mile figure “8” loop that started and finished at the main aid station. I had never ran a 24 hour event, but I knew that this would be a tough course to maintain a steady pace on for that long. I’ve noticed that most 24 hour events are on flat track type surfaces that are typically no longer than a 3 mile loop.  No way was I going to start this race off moving fast!


  1. That is awesome!! Loved all the pictures and race report :)

  2. Congrats on 68 big ones. Your pictures are awesome! Course looks really pretty, but I'm sure those hills get old real quick. Looks like Larry Macon was in one of your photos. Did you get a chance to meet him? He's an incredible runner and inspiration. We ran Flying Monkey together.

    PS. Hallucinations still scare me!!

  3. Great job on the 68, Jason! Thanks for helping Terri celebrate her birthday. I'm sorry that I missed y'all out there, but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Chattooga River 50K.

  4. Love the report, Jason! Looks like it was a hot day there, but the trail pictures are really pretty :) Woohoo!!

  5. Fantastic! That was a tough 10 mile loop. Beautiful with sneaky hills.

  6. Good report. great to see you at WF. See you next month.

  7. Charles RaffenspergerApril 20, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    Nice report and pictures Jason...looks like a really challenging course for a 24 hr event...way to "tough it out"! See you @ Buncombe in a coupla weeks :)

  8. Congratulations on a great run! I loved the race report and all of the cool photos. It was good to see you again. Give your momma a hug for me. She was great company after I wimped out, lol.

    Take care and happy running!

  9. Love your blog Jason!

    and I love what you are doing - the ultras. I am a new runner myself and jsut ran my first 5k at 49 yrs old this past weekend. I have volunteered at teh Umstead 100 though and aspire to run ultraS one day - next is a 10K, then a 1/2 mar. then the marathon, then a 50K.

    Will be following your adventures!
    John G.

  10. Congrats! That was an extremely tough course for a 24 hour run. I thought about coming down to run it for all of 2 seconds then decided to run the Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon instead :-) I think I'll be at Enoree next weekend but only running 30 instead of the full 40. Terri is letting maniacs cut it short!