Monday, May 30, 2016

Cruel Jewel 100

                                          Cruel Jewel 106

I'm still trying to fall asleep every 2 hours. It's been 36 hours after finishing. 

The hardest part about trying to keep your feet elevated is they are located on the lowest portion of your body!

Cruel Jewel is located near Blairsville Ga. Vogel State Park which was built by the CCC in 1931 acts as the start / finish and lodging center. Participants are let loose at 12pm Friday and given a generous 48 hr cut-off. A 48 hr cut-off should heed most to refrain from registering.You will run on parts of the Coosa Bald Trail, Duncan Ridge Trail and Benton Mackaye Trail with an added 12 miles of road. 33,213 feet of elevation is engulfed for a truly grand experience. Out and back format means you have a chance to test your limits on the Dragons Spine twice. This is one of the most difficult sections of trail in the country, not to scare you away or anything.

I quickly signed up last oct. thinking this race would soon be full, still spots available on the closing of registration. We have been hiking there 2 other times and love staying at Vogel so not to hard to get my wife Jen involved. Cabin booked and lets train. My longest run after a 6 week illness was a 5 mile hike and a 40 min jog. Best start. 

Warmed up to a local 50k in early January, followed by running the Uwharrie 40 in February. I hiked all but 4 miles of Uwharrie in 10:53 hrs.  

Started hitting the gym on Wednesday doing wall sits, weighted step ups, 30% treadmill incline, gauntlet stair climber, walking with med ball overhead and many other silly looking activities.

Jen and I being newly empty nesters put a focus on training somewhere new every chance we got. We found ourselves at some great parks including Eno River, Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, Grandfather Mountain and Leatherwood 50k. My training plan was to hike which offered many chances for us to train together.

I landed in the Physical therapy depot of ultra running with massive adhesions on my left IT band. Luckily it was able to be taken care of while slightly modifying my training plan. Lots of new exercises to keep up with. Just as I was coming through the other side my right adductor muscle went berserk. A visit to my friend Brian Beatty at Balance Movement Studio. He asked 'What are you doing?' I told him 'What I was doing.' Did you hear yourself?, he replied. You need to stop and let yourself heal up. I'm 6 weeks away for my event. He gave a stern stare and that was all. 6 days no running or hiking and your done with Wednesday gym workouts! Sad face. List of new exercises to accomplish.

I finished my training monster week at 79 miles. Ran my last run with Cliff 'Grub' Simpson who was also training for this event. Made it in 1 piece, let's see if it all stays together.

We left Thursday from my house about 10am. Jordan 'Lynx' Stafford and Sam 'Nymph' Terry the amazing ultra couple where our adopted kids for the weekend. They would be crewing and pacing with Jenny 'Lawst' Hill for both Grub and I.

We made the 6 hour trip with a lunch stop at White Duck Taco in Asheville, without much excitement.

Lawst had a well organized menu challenge. 1-gluten free, 1-vegetarian, 1-that might kill me eater and me who came up with a massive list of trail delicacies.

We joked around while eating a supper of summer veggie pasta and managed to go to sleep at 9:15.


We had homemade gluten free granola with fruit and yogurt for breakfast. The cabin was calm playing Grateful Dead. We kept getting updates from our friends wishing us the best. Let's get this started.

Go forth in Peace

Grub and I never planned to stay together, we just knew that was the deal. 12p and away. Our plan was to hike the majority of the race. We were the last 5 into the woods. I took the early lead as we calmly hiked up and down into Weaver Creek AS. Filled up with H20 and upwards toward the Coosa Bald Climb. 

We got the monster out and discussed what ifs.

We knew that staying together would be nearly impossible. We each had the goal to finish and if that meant going our separate ways at some point we would make the call then. Hike and hike fast. We got to White Oak Stomp felling energetic. We took a few extra seconds to fill up for the 8 mile push towards Fish Gap. Grub kindly took the lead.

Up Up Up!

Grub took the lead with our new mantra. The trail was wonderful, each new gap and mountain saddle had some new gem to discover be it flowers, rocks, hidden views, old road beds, trees and songs. We sang songs with altered lyrics that matched to current condition. I hope the fellow runners didn't want to kill our overly enthusiastic frivolity. 
Chipmunk cheek challenge

It's the crew

Lawst, Nymph and Lynx were the best. Lawst keep the food new, cold, hot and plentiful. Nymph and Lynx gave us very useful experience. It is hard to overstate the confidence a well honed crew gives you. Grub and I expressed our joy for them many times while rounding the mountain tops. 

Into the night!

Our first night was meet with an amazing sunset over the lake. The cooler temps were very welcoming. Grubs feet started growing blisters which began to require some trail side attendance. Our ability to predict the leads time to pass us was spot on at 1:15am. For some reason neither of us knew how long the Deep Gap loop section was. We both felt like a 3 mile loop was enough. What a joke as we neared 2 hours without finishing the loop. 

Onward to the road section. Crossing the bridge we came across someone moving the flagging. Grub asked which way? He responded with a To the right. Grub, Are you sure? Yes I am, I'm the race director!? Well then, guess we can trust him. 

Somewhere in here, 3amish-4ish, we both feel into our 'low spot'. I knew he was and he knew I was. Like a great ultra couple we never mentioned it to each other. 

The road was void of traffic and well enough lit by the moon to hike without headlamps.

It was just rain in my eyes...

We beat our crew to Camp Morganton at 5am. Grub somehow got someone to work on his blisters and get a foot message while I completely let my emotions go. My lower back had started to tighten up! This is a death sentence in my life. I was faced with the full reality of having to drop at some point.  So I did what all great ultra runners do, unleash the eye thunderstorms, open the lid dams, remove hydration from the eye spigots. My own wife, as an experienced crew member, knew what this entailed and did not feed into my thoughts on dropping out. 

No one else is gonna get you out of here. I'm not done yet. I started packing my vest. Lawst then started getting me to eat, drugged, caffeined and gear changed. I was glad to have moved thru that episode. We spent 40 minutes there. This was uncharacteristic as we always tried to pass thru AS asap! 

Headlamps and Pacers

We joked with Lynx and Nymph that Grub and I have spent so much time together that people may perceive us as a great ultra couple and they were our ultra kids. We were all reenergized with the sun rise. Lawst stayed and helped run the 50miler check-in. She is the greatest! Up Up Up we mantra'd thru the woods. Around the Deep Gap 6 mile loop which felt shorter this time. Down the dreaded Weaver Creek Road AS out and back. Many lead 50 milers passed us on the way down, few caught us on the climb back out. 


We dropped the kids off in exchange for Lawst. Grubs blisters were really hurting him. He rarely complained. The occasional cuss when his foot rolled wrong.

Lawst became worried when we climbed up our first long accent and we dropped her. She said she red lined her heart rate and had to slow, no worries as she easily caught us when the trail leveled or went down.

It is with sweet sorrow that we separate...80.5

Grubs blisters. I sat in a chair next to my friend contemplating how to best approach the subject of separation. I just stared at him while an EMT volunteer worked on his right heel. He glanced over and quietly said, You have to go. Yes, I replied, Don't let go of that number until you finish, I added. A quick hug. I turned around and told Lawst he was her responsibility and I was leaving. Lawst just told me to leave and not make this a bigger deal.  I was devastated. I cried as I climbed up another massive 1.5 mile mountain. It took me an hour to get myself together. Then I was worried darkness was going to set in before they made it to the next AS. 

Surprises and Slushies

To say I was hyper aware about my wife and friend whom may not make it here before dark would underestimate the past 2.5 hours of alone time. Nymph and Lynx took care of me and got ready to go help Lawst and Grub. An Orange slushy makes the world more bearable. Lynx and I left to face the remainder of the Dragons Spine as night began to fall. My right foot was swollen and causing me great pain on decent. I was extra careful on downhill sections trying to land mid foot and instep with my pole to keep weight off. I would pass people going up and they would then roll passed me on the way back down. Couldn't find my gloves at the last AS and tried socks. Socks don't work with poles. My hands got cold as the wind ragged at 25+mph. You could barley think the wind was so loud. Lynx kept giving me updates about Grub and his progress. Experienced Pacers know just the right amount of info to give their runner. Lynx let us be quite and me completely dictated our forward progression. 

One last push

Just before White Oak Stomp AS I calculated the chance to go under 40 hrs. This math took about 15 minutes.  I asked Lynx to verify. Within 10 seconds he ran down the calculations based on current pace and projected pace over remaining terrain. Yes, we can slow down by several minutes a mile and still make it. Ankle be damned now. I ran as quick as fast as I had all race. On your left, mind if I go around you, Lynx even helped alert people ahead.We got to the bottom of Coosa Bald descent and I asked Lynx if we missed some parts as I failed to recognize the last section of trail. He reassured me we were fine.

Turn the switches off, you got this

Lawst surprises me, she said it was planned. I yelled out are you ready to go! No. I said 3 million thoughts. Just go I'll see you there. Apparently my requests for where to meet next to run into the finish together were as jumbled as the night. In my excitement I fell for the first time, uphill. Silly Galoot. Meet Lawst at the top of the last climb. She was running us in to the finish. Her night vision hadn't set in yet and she fell. We all got a laugh out of that. We turned left on the campgrounds road and turned the headlamps off and relaxed.


I finished and was handed the largest buckle ever from RD. Lynx grabbed a quick bite and went back out in the cold windy night to find Grub and his girlfriend Nymph. Lawst and I sat around the finish area and talk to many other finishers. We got into the car and drove back to get the stuff from Grubs car, Lawst didn't remember if she locked it. I was passing out randomly on the drive. We made it back to the finish line a mere 10 mins before Grub finished.A few minutes after 6am Sunday our journey ended.

As the sun came up we made our way back to the cabin. First nap. Lawst made us some great crepes for first meal around 11:30.

Ankle, Where?
After second nap 2:30-5 we all went on a walk and the feared 100 yrd dash.  Lawst wanted to capture the funny body mechanics.

Thanks to all the race volunteers of which none of us would have enjoyed the experience as much. I received some tremendous trail Karma. Huge shout out to my Trail group, Trailheads, many of whom were up throughout the night checking statues.

My eyes are up here!

Respect to all, Run Smooth, Peace


Monday, June 4, 2012

 Con-quer \'Kan'Kar\ to overcome by mental or physical power

   Jenny and I finished a race in Roanoke Va. called Conquer the Cove 25K. Both of us are stunned by our performance and beauty of the course.  We left the day before via an out of the way, From the ground up potter Micheal Mahan. He is responsible for Uwharrie race pottery. Wonderful. We found our way to Roanoke Mountain campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Great location being 14 miles from the race site. We settled in with a fire and tunes, talking, laughing and relaxing. Jenny said at one point "This fire is really calming." We turned in about 9:45 with the backwards math alarm calculations showing a 4:50 wake up.

Roanoke Mtn campground on Blue Ridge Parkway

 We woke up wonderfully slept, got coffee, hot water for breakfast, trip to the bathroom to change to realize we where running late. I was slightly over the speed limit driving down a 55mph Hwy 220 when a police cruiser entered the HWY.  57mph, Sunday at 5:55 am mind you, really we are late. I thought to flag down the officer and ask for escort. The Krispy Kreme must have opened as the cruiser hit the next exit. Time flies by when you are hurrying. I may have run a light, didn't check the color anyway. Pulled in the parking lot at 6:19. Grabbed our packs and checked in.

                                                This is us not sad we missed the start.

After some pre race bathroom chatting, we were standing around not paying a lick of attention to the race briefing. Something pink black dotted ribbons, and follow the paint on the ground. A last kiss and good lucks we were off.


After researching last years results my plan was 8:45/55 mile pace for the first 8. Run the climb from 8-10.3 at a pace that kept my breathing and heart rate in check. After the climb there is a 2.7 mile decent, plan, don't fall. Remaining miles run to finish. Yeah.

Gun goes of and up hill we go on a paved road for 1.2 miles.  Left turn onto single track, steep ascent, heart rate pounding, walk. Flatter jeep road cruise and recover. Mile 3 saw the first downhill lasting for almost 3 miles. Glad to see the pace go from 9:30 back to 8:30 with the fast descents.  I had a 16 and 19 yr old just ahead of me since mile 3. Neither of which could keep a steady pace or knew to move to the side when they wanted to walk. Planned 2x caffeine gu at mile 6 which should hit mid climb. Ran into the 8 mile aid station grabbed some water, chips and walked the first 400m of the fire road climb while eating. 1:09:45, 8:45 mp. I felt great starting the climb. Reminded myself 25 mins of long and slow. About mile 9.5 my left hamstring stopped recoiling. oh, oh,OH. 5 mins later the left calf joined in the song. I could see the top and knew it was a 1.4 mile down/flat till the big descent. I starting walking on the flat, watching those behind me just sail by. Walking the flat losing all your hard work on the climb sucks. Hell I might as well run. I won't need those muscles for awhile. Pace still looked good and now fly downhill. I followed a guy who ran this last year and was on the look out for the stump he tripped over. 'Just call it out when you see it.' We clocked of a 6:15ish mile for 1 of the nearly 3 mile downhill. We missed the stump. I can make my sub 2:30 goal and need to run a 12 mp.


As I took the first steps off the descent both my legs screamed. They felt as thought the earths core itself was stretching them apart. Every single step felt as if I was lifting shoes stuck in knee deep mud up. 19 mins of this and you are done, RUN. So I ran. I can't recall many times when I've pushed that hard over such objection of my being.  Mile 14 marker came into view. Less than 2 miles. I hated thinking of running on the same road we ran out on. Really, what misery. I heard cow bells and walked, after a quick glace behind me. No one to see me walk now. Grabbed more water to cool down with. Run to the finish. Sub 2:30 in the bag. Less than 1/2 mile on the pavement we turned back into the woods, so much for listening to the pre-race. I can see the lake yeah. Stopped a few yards before the finish and walked across the line.

                           I didn't prepare a speech

Received my finishers metal and grabbed a chocolate milk. Started chatting with the group who was there for the race. Went over to grab some food and hydration and started stretching. Fellow racer and I stretched in the shadows of the 20 something winners. We joked that if we just stood around how we couldn't function in 30 mins. Just then the timing guy called to the guy next to me and asked his age, 49 he replied. Your 1st in your age group. Congrats I said. The timing guy called out 2 other age group winners who were sitting around. After a few more racers came through he looked at me and asked my name, Harold Hill. Your first in your age group. 

I cannot believe I won. I was so excited, still am. How could this be from someone who's last month mileage totaled 56. WoW. Once my winning adrenaline wore off the cramps began.  My legs hurt so bad. The muscle on the front of my shins wanted to pull my toes backwards. Off to the lake for a quick dip and cool the muscles down while I awaited Jen to finish. I watched the Marathon winner Shannon Price 3:08 finish. Talked to wonderful runners. Jenny came round the lake finishing in 3:37 pr.

 Full results here  with splits and all.

My legs are still recovering. We both had a great race on a pretty course in awesome weather.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Service [sur-vis] noun 1. an act of helpful activity.

This is what my letter had asked of me. Other than voting, many Americans do not have interaction with the greater structures of government. I was excited to show up Monday morning at 9, so I arrived a full half hour early. There were 32 in our Jury pool. We watched a video explaining Judicial divisions and simple expectations of us.

We headed across the street to the Historic Old Courthouse of Hillsborough, and were escorted upstairs to a grand well aged courtroom. 12 jurists were selected at random by the clerk from a stack of cards on her desk. So began the 3.5 hour selection process. I was the second to last person to be selected. The defense attorney made only on inquiry to me. "Mr. Hill how do you keep yourself looking so young? I began writing down student before I heard you say you worked at UNC for 18 years and had an 18 yr. old." I told him "exercise, a well balanced diet and lowering stress." With that I was in and we went to lunch.

This was not a headline news case. There were no paparazzi awaiting us outside, no hordes of reporters at the steps or even thoughts of a book deal about my experiences. (Now that I think of it.) I had become Reasonable person #7. RP7 was to be clear of judgment and analytical of facts.
This was like high school drama, awkward at best. I hoped RP7 would be clear of me. At the end of day 1 the Plaintiffs side had rested it's case. Several instructions on communication about the case from the judge we were released for the night.

We meet at the Jury room in the new courthouse and then escorted back to the Old courthouse. The Judge gave us some instructions about what today would hold on allowed the case to continue. The defense stood up and made it clear to the court they were not providing any evidence. On to closing arguments. After closing arguments the judge read us the law in which we were to answer our 2 questions on. Queation1: By the greater weight of the evidence to you the jury find blah-law-blah-law...Yes/ No. Question 2: If answer to Q1 was yes then the amount of $____.00 shall be paid to the plaintiff. The law read for 3 pages and seemed reasonable to understand.

12 random people, 2 questions, one a check box and the other a $ amount. We deliberated for 5.5 hours before returning a verdict.

My RP7 experience allowed me to realize how much I truly do value my fellow human. I am no different from you, you or you over there. I gives me hope that 12 RP can come to a consensus even if it meant bending far from ourselves to do so. I also learned that we as a people will meet the challenges ahead of us. Debate, listen ,construct and engagement are the foundry of our society. Truth and evil are a personal involvement whereas it is human to respect.

I have a more significant resolve that I live in one of the greatest countries to date. Our government has continuously evolved allowing more acceptance and respect to be freely shared equally among those who live here. It is service that renders me into the greater US.

Peace and many thanks, Harold

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A trial at Umstead

Opening statements:

"How to you plea Mr. Hill?", "I'm glad to have friends and good weather. I am looking forward to an enjoyable sub 4 hr. tour on such a great course."The Umstead Marathon claims Mr. Hill will have to conquer more than 26.2 miles today. We provide evidence that will justify DNF!"


Umstead: Mr. Hill ran a 10.4 mile commute to work on Monday 2.28.11!
Harold: Yes sir Umstead.
Umstead: He also had hopes of a sub 4 hr time which he has never done anywhere!
Harold: Yes Umstead this is also true.
Umstead: At mile 19 my many hills and warm weather made your legs cramp and your stomach churn did it not?
Harold: Yes Umstead this is also a fact.
Umstead: When you came to the red dress AS soon after you admit to taking 2 e-caps and a coke?
Harold: Yes I consumed e-caps and a coke there.
Umstead: Let it be shown that Mr. Hill has never before used E-caps before and was now nearing and end; True Mr. Hill?
Harold: Yes this is also true.
Umstead: Mr. Hill, Cedar Ridge lay in front of you and you left your drink pack and took no food to consume before entering my Wheels Came Off section.
Harold: Yes Umstead.
Umstead: As a hard course I saved the best for last. You nearly threw up 3 times on the way down, you could not walk a straight line, your vision was now blurred with Hallucinations, I send you many people who where worried about your condition. You took drink from strangers and friends alike. You lay along the side of the trail wasted, hallucinating and morally beat from my sheer superiority. This is defeat!
Harold: Yes Umstead you saved the best for last and you can give challenge to anyone who temps your trails, however in may defense: Cramps, wobbles, hallucinations and hard terrain do not=DNF. You sent friends who gave me support, liquid, encouragement and strength. Trail love is powerful. Being tested in endurance events leads to comprises. Time was your weakness Umstead and this is where I attacked you. Slow and rest aloud me the confidence to achieve a finish. Support and love from friends and volunteers is an incredible motivator. This you have no defense for.
Umstead: Yes Mr. Hill I can not defend love and support.


Umstead: Mr. Hill you must contend your sense of vulnerability and demoralizing achievement leads you to be hesitant to continue down the path of endurance events.
Harold: I will disagree Umstead. Part of any endurance race will be mental. Part of these sports will be hard. Parts of your course will tear up quads, toes, hamstrings, and may even draw blood this being said we are aware of these trials.

Harold: Umstead you do not know love and that is sad. Love will victor every time.

Umstead: Yes Mr. Hill I have lessons still to learn, I withdrawal my charge.

Sidebar Notes:

I could not have seen this coming and again cannot explain what caused my derailment. I am certain that Trail racers are the most caring racers anywhere. Thanks to all those who cared for me on Cedar Ridge trail. Without your support I may not have made it. Bless the EMT for checking in on me at the finish. A special thanks to Shannon for a drink and chips and the concern of everyone else who kept there eyes on me. One has a hard time putting to word the thanks he wishes to covey other than be blessed by your generous offers.

Jenny accomplished her goal of under 6hr, 5:34. We are really happy for her achievement as she has had this race as a goal for 3 years.

To the staff, volunteers and sponsors we bid you well and respect.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I find my self at home recovering. I left work sick yesterday and am out today. I plan on resuming work tomorrow. This is my body getting ready for the marathon on saturday. The golden light is Jenny is home. We had to drop the beetle off to have them finish. We rented Hangover to watch. Here's for getting better.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Running Down

I'm on taper an so is my body. Had a wonderful 10m run with Jen at Sewell school. Went to lunch and found Caris a backpack that fit her. Jenny tried on a wool summer weight dress that really looked good. She now wonders why she didn't buy it then? Split more wood and then went down hill. My body hurt, itchy throat/eyes and nose stopped up. Still have lots of chores to do today, including wood splitting, moving and running 3m. I know this is a taper illness and will leave me stronger than before however it still sucks. Weather for Umstead looks great, 35 for the start and near 60 by finish with clear sky all day.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I find myself in Taper Madness. I love when the running tapers to near nothing. 16 weeks ago I was pushing to keep up with the mileage I taper at. Next week is the Umstead Marathon and I will treat it as a long run. I have singed up for the Bel Monte 50K on march 27. I am hoping to finish in 6.5 hrs. Jen is doing the 25k.