On March 16th, 2020, the White House told American’s to avoid gatherings of ten or more. “Fifteen Days to slow the spread”. But Team HRB decided to ramble on and head to Tater Hole to complete the Mortimer 100. Fast forward a year and we were back at it. HTFU as they say.
As the Q of the 2020 team and someone who likes to be prepared, I knew it was important to start training. In reality our training began again the moment we got home in March of 2020. In reality, you are never truly prepared for this beast. More on that later. Defib announced Wednesday afternoon training runs at Crowder’s Mountain beginning in January. Stroganoff announced Tuesday morning runs leaving from his house to go run the “half-pipe” in Gastone’s neighborhood. It was on!
But then things started to change. I realized that the P200 was the same weekend as the Mortimer. I informed the Race Committee and they said, “really? oh well.”
Whoopee then had an epiphany and realized it was Spring Break and he wouldn’t be available so we added Short Sale to take his place. YHC ran the Coconut one rainy day in January and realized quickly that the pain in the lower leg was real. After finishing the 5 miles I googled leg pain. Shin splints get better when you run. Stress fractures get worse. I knew which one I had and made an appointment the next day to see an Ortho and was diagnosed with a stress fracture. No running for four weeks. Dang.
After strictly limiting any running for the four weeks and with the hope of hardening up and running the Mortimer, I got back at it on week 5 and ended up with about 20 miles that week which was a little much. YHC soon realized that too much too soon was a bad idea and I couldn’t run the Mortimer. Six years of F3 helped shape my response to this adversity. “Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t”. Going through the Q-Source two years straight, and Stroganoff’s candor telling me to shut it down, led me to pivot my focus on driving and leading the team through supportch. Before F3, I would have been leaking enough sand to form a beach. This year was just a quick acceptance and getting on with it. I ended up asking Radar to take my place on the team and he was a HC as he had been training to go with Sargento’s team in case they needed an extra runner.
Another lesson learned is to rent your transportation well in advance. I had a very difficult time finding a Sprinter van like last year. Fortunately, Stroganoff’s contact with Enterprise led me to Family Auto Rental and a Ford Transit that I could rent for the weekend if I was willing to go to Lincolnton to get it.
Fast forward to technically “the day before race day”, Friday, March 20th, 2021. Sargento, Q of Team 2 and I had our 2.0’s playing HS football in E. Rutherfordton. A quick logistical change required some additional help with Q-ing the logistics. I delegated Short Sale to Q the van in my steed as he helped me go pick it up and take it back. Sargento and I left the football game and drove to the Wal Mart in Granite Falls to meet the rest of the teams who had met at GSM Worldwide HQ to meet up. At WalMart we got loaded up and some runners bought last minute supplies before we departed to Tater Hole. We were the second or third car there. Mortimer Team Two had a Q-Fail and ended up driving two cars instead of a van. The cars were both M rides…two higher end SUV’s. You can imagine Cousin Eddie’s surprise when I told him both Gastonia running teams were present and accounted for. He snickered when he saw the van but was surprised by the luxurious SUV’s. I told him those guys were from “East Gastonia” with a pinky raised.
Slowly but surely the other teams started arriving in all sorts of trucks, 4×4’s, and even a minivan. We then received our RACE SWAG, just a Mortimer sticker that was passed around and a brief disclaimer by Cousin Eddie and then a nice prayer from our very own Breaker Breaker. The runners got ready and at the strike of midnight, leg one runners left from the dock. YHC drove our team to the next EZ while every other vehicle formed a convoy and drove the route for some reason. I think we arrived first at the next EZ (Experience counts)!
Settling in at the old gas station while we waited for Stroganoff to come in, Radar got ready to run. Stroganoff had a strong pace and finished somewhere towards the front middle of the pack and Radar took off. YHC drove to top off the Trusty Transit and then arrived at the EZ for leg 3 and 4, Hibriten Baptist Church. The temps were cold so most guys stayed in cars or walked around to whiz in the dark field beside the church. Some whizzed multiple times. It is always something to see how many times some people whiz during relays.
Radar came in and handed off to Defib who had to tackle Hibriten mountain for the second year in a row. YHC tried to give runners some new legs this year but as one of F3 Gastonia’s beasts, the toughest legs had to go to the workhorse. Defib took off up the hill and into the dark and we figured it would be an hour or so before we would see him again. Some guys caught some shut eye as we waited in the toasty van.
While we waited one runner emerged and stated that someone had badly sprained an ankle on the run down the hill. The first casualty of the race.
Defib emerged and out went Short Sale for a peaceful run in the dark for about 5 miles to downtown Lenoir. Breaker Breaker then left out when Short Sale returned. There was actually a port a jon in the parking lot that some runners abused.
Breaker had a 6.9 mile leg along some really rural windy and dark roads. We ended up at an old church where the wild dogs congregated last year. When I say dark and lonely, I mean it. Other than the relay runners, you didn’t see much of anything else. The temperature had dropped by this time and it was in the mid 30’s. Pretty ideal running weather but runners could get chilly quickly when they were done with their legs, or so I was told.
JJ had to HTFU this year and get the 2nd hardest legs behind Defib. He left from the church for some more rural running in the dark along narrow country, twisty roads. We drove ahead to the Collettesville Fire Department. This is the last leg that is totally paved for some time. Here is the description from the Race Committee: Paved. Use caution. Cars move quickly on Rocky Road. Valley View Road will bypass any
potential traffic. May increase encounter w/ dogs however. No promises. Collettesville Fire
Dept is directly across from the end of this route. But no showers, hot taters, or back rubs
available. You just need to HTFU, don’t you?
JJ came in and off we went to the next EZ of Harper’s Creek Trailhead. Clearly parking was an issue. The Transit had to park beside the creek as there was no room left in the modest parking lot. By now it was around 34 degrees and pitch black. The runners would be running a long time on Brown Mountain Beech Road. The creek runs beside the road but it is a long and lonely run that Stroganoff got to “enjoy”. In the meantime, the first runner from the fast team showed up because it was the only thing lit up out there in the gloom. As this runner approached and handed off to the next runner. This runner departed into the woods and you could see a light rising immediately and weaving until out of sight up a steep hill into the woods. This is the by now notorious Leg 8 that is more extreme hiking trail than running route. Stroganoff came up the road and was looking beat down as he handed off to Radar. While this was going on, Gashouse Team two had Quiche leave and return after 15 minutes to check his directions. Clearly there is a problem regarding where to go when you have a night run in the forest with multiple creek crossings (and it had rained recently). Radar left and eventually the other cars left to drive to the next EZ. This would take us to the T intersection of Betsy’s Country store which was last years EZ zone. We took a left at Betsy’s and drove onward, up and over the hills on some sketchy roads to arrive at the next EZ. We settled in. By now the sun was lighting up the world and most teams were out of the vans hanging out waiting for their runners to emerge from some direction that we really didn’t know. YHC learned from last year and decided we needed coffee. An extension cord, a Keurig machine, lots of bottled water and coffee, and a power inverter should make for some liquid heaven about 0730 in the morning. Unfortunately the “add water” light never went off on the Keurig and after numerous attempts to coax the thing into working YHC had to accept a big “L” on that effort. (Still a great idea though, and the Keurig went in the trash after further attempts at reconciliation failed at home) Also, some members of Team HRB took advantage of sleep which would have been a great idea except I was obsessed with said coffee maker for about 45 minutes.
The other teams were at the edge of the creek gorge awaiting their runners with some level of trepidation. Alas, the first runner appeared and traversed the creek crossing and up the hill to the EX. His time? 1:59 minutes for an approximate 8 mile leg. Shortly thereafter here comes Quiche looking weary and delirious. As he climbed the hill he announced “that was the worst thing I have ever done in my life!”
By now our team was almost the six. There was the other team with the minivan with a “I love sewing” license plate bracket. These guys were admittedly slow and seemed to be running the course in pairs but they had local knowledge that would come into play later. We knew that Radar had been gone for now 2.5 hours and should be appearing at any minute. And we waited, and waited, and waited. Some in the van were becoming worried. As team Captain, I was strategizing in my head of how we were going to break up the team to search for our missing runner. Sometime after 3 hours had elapsed YHC got a “spam” call on his phone. Then Defib got a “spam” call. Before I continue, let me say that when you have a team member “missing ” and overdue by an hour, you should really contemplate answering your phone anytime it rings. #Protip
Defib eventually answered his phone and talked to a fisherman who had picked up a hitchhiker and was at the Mortimer store, meaning Radar had made his way to the T-intersection. YHC told the other team we had located our missing runner and we would see them later. Radar had printed directions for his run but lost them in the creek. He made several attempts to find the right trail and when he did he had already run several miles and would have been so far behind he decided to find the road and hitch a ride like someone out of a Stephen King novel. We had to traverse up and down the mountain two more times to pick up our guy and by now we were really behind. There was some thought of blowing off the rest of the race and going to eat lunch at Woodlands but that would mean failure. YHC had a better idea. When we picked up Radar, he was at Betsy’s with the fisherman. He got to meet the Rottweiler which is the store mascot that was later murdered by some yahoo from Morganton. You may have seen the story. https://www.wbtv.com/2021/03/30/gentle-giant-dog-shot-killed-outside-store-during-suspected-robbery-caldwell-county/ The offender has since been identified and arrested so Team HRB doesn’t have to vigilante on his ass.
Upon returning to the EZ of leg 9, we sent Defib out for a brutal 5 mile, 1800 foot climb followed by 2 more miles of quick downhill. We drove ahead quickly to EZ 10 and let Short Sale start his run. We then drove ahead to EZ 11 and let Breaker Breaker take off on that leg. We then waited for Short Sale who cruised up from Linville quickly. We returned to EZ 10 and hit the convenience store where Short Sale bought me a 20 oz Cheerwine which was awesome. I enjoyed that goodness until Defib returned. #HIM
Defib came back to EZ (10)and we took off to the EZ 12 where Breaker Breaker was having a commune with the Boone guys. Obviously he had finished in good shape and was enjoying himself. JJ then took off up what is arguably the worst leg in the Mortimer. Our skipping ahead was working well to gain some time back to catch up to the other teams. #Modifyasneeded
We waited for JJ at the next EZ (13). This was the leg that kicked Whoopee’s ass last year. It is indescribably brutal. JJ knocked it out and returned no worse for wear somehow. Stroganoff then left on the next leg (13) and had to run to Trout Lake. We passed him on the Parkway and he looked like a broken man. We knew he would finish his final leg despite having recently hating his life and decisions up to that moment. Stroganoff definitely HTFU’d.
Radar had the next leg (14) which was started out as a windy trail run from Trout Lake under the BRP and to Bass Lake. There was some trouble locating the trail but he figured it out. The van then drove to the EZ at Bass Lake. It was crowded as by this time it was a blue sky, cool day in God’s country, Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We had a rendezvous with Team two again who had somehow driven to Chetola lodge instead of where they were supposed to be. YHC believes that Quiche had opted out of running leg 14 due to injury by this time. I also believe one of their two luxury SUV’s had by that time started the descent back to Gastonia. Radar came back in after his last leg looking weary and complaining about some knee pain. He gutted through it and HTFU.
Defib was the next runner (leg 15)who had to run another awful but beautiful leg from the bottom of Bass Lake up to the top of Flattop Mountain and over to App Ski Mountain parking lot. He announced that he was going to be a while as he didn’t feel that well. Yeah right….you are Defib we all thought.
After Defib left we drove to App Ski Mountain parking lot to EZ 16. Lo and behold there was snow and actual skiers on the slopes as we paid the two dollar parking fee. I think Stroganoff had the money but I can’t remember. The majority of the other teams were already there and we waited for the runners to arrive. Although we had basically caught up to the other teams we were still almost the six of the relay. We took mercy on Defib and inched a little closer to the parking lot attendants so he wouldn’t have to run as far. Suddenly someone noticed Defib coming in so we drove closer still. Defib looked awful. He wasn’t kidding that he wasn’t feeling it. He looked disheveled and his hair was jacked up. But we must admit that he beasted arguably the worst 3 legs of this relay. Without Defib running these monsters, we may still be in Boone waiting. His last run was 9 miles. For the record, his three legs were 22.5 miles and 4000 feet of elevation gain. He most certainly HTFU’d.
Short Sale was next to run towards Boone along some narrow, no shoulder roads. The van moseyed ahead to the Catholic Church EZ (17) which of course is up an insanely steep quarter-mile hill. Short Sale emerged walking up the hill with a Resting bitch face. I think that last doozy of a hill put him over the edge and he was cussing the Race Committee for being so cruel. He definitely had to HTFU.
Breaker Breaker then took off on his last run of the day. A 4.2 mile run up to Kidd Brewer stadium and around the neighborhood behind it and back down to where he runs in the woods behind the stadium and to the baseball field. We drove to the App State baseball field parking lot and waited for him. It was gameday and we got to enjoy the sights and sounds of an App State/Arkansas State college baseball game with the organ sounds and crowd noise. It was at this point in time my appetite got the better of me and I ate about half a bag of Rold Gold pretzels, sharing a few with Sargento. We decided to let JJ begin the glory leg early as we waited for Breaker to come in. Breaker emerged from the woods and said something about wanting harder legs next year. Yeah…BB HTFU!
We then had to drive the glory leg to the top of Howards Knob park. The van had just enough energy left to make it. We passed JJ along the hills and everyone, regardless of their personalities, felt a shitload of empathy for the poor guy. That hill is steep! When we made it to the gate it was locked, or so we thought! Short Sale figured it out and after a couple three point turns we got to the top and parked it and waited for our hero JJ to TOUCH THE ROCK! A few celebratory cold wheats were being passed around at the top of that hill while we waited for the runners. There were some photo’s being taken and our guy Magnum PI, I mean Buckeye was basically taking a shower. Lots of clothes were changed as people realized they were done for the day. JJ appeared running towards the top and we were telling him to touch the rock but he passed it and came to YHC and had me touch the rock! That was a very appreciated gesture but these runners deserved the glory on that day!
After a few moments of celebration we all wanted to get to Woodlands and hit the food. Fortunately we were there early enough to get three tables and those remaining from F3 Gastonia teams wolfed down wings, barbeque, chicken, and ribs. It was glorious. I can’t wait to go back. Stroganoff once again proved he is a class act by picking up the van driver’s tab!
This relay is a really bad idea but one that must be embraced. We need challenges in life and even if we get hurt preparing for it that is just like life. You don’t have a choice but to face adversity and carry on. Defib proclaimed that his Crowder’s Mountain training runs did nothing to prepare him for this race. While preparation is usually one of the keys to being successful, let’s face it, sometimes you can’t prepare for everything that comes your way. When that happens, your attitude makes all the difference. Will you be one to face the challenges in life or endeavor to persevere? I think the answer is clear. When that happens, we all need to HTFU.
I will say it again, these men deserve T-Claps for completing this beast of a relay. HC for next year.