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Title:Look Inside for What You Seek -- Last Annual Vol State 2012 Race Report
Date:Thursday July 12th, 2012
Author:Juli Aistars
I woke up this morning, July 21, after a restless night interrupted by a strong
urge to throw my clothes and backpack on and head out the door to
reach the next town. But I didn't have to -- I was home in IL. But
there will be no rest until all the Vol Staters are "home" at the
Rock. I started this report this morning, but just read that Dusty
finished. Four more making their way home... Congratulations to all
who have finished and those who will in the next few days! Starting
Vol State takes so much courage, knowing how many things can go wrong
and that the possibility of not making it to the Rock is greater than
the possibility of getting there.

So much to say about the experience, it is overwhelming... Pure joy
alternating with moments of despair and sadness. The down moments were
few and far between. Joy is the company of fellow Vol Staters, like
when I asked Sulaiman how he was feeling when we got on the short bus
to take us to Dorena Landing. He responded, "Scared to death!" This
young man is nothing if not real, as real as this experience we were
about to embrace. Joy is the company of fellow human beings who reach
out to you or respond positively to being approached, "Excuse me, I am
running low on water. Could you spare some?" No offense taken when one
driver went right through a stop sign to avoid talking to me --
surprised this didn't happen more often since I looked like a bag
lady. Most were "kinder than necessary". Many stopped to check on me,
especially when I was working on my trigger point for the iliopsoas
once my back started to hurt. This trigger point is just above the
groin and laying over the guard rail with my butt up was the ticket,
though it didn't look too good. It did get me offers of help :). Val
said, "You actually waved cars down when you ran out of water?" I
answered, "Only if I had to, but when you need something, you do what
you have to."

I ran with Jan most of Day 1. Jan had never run more than a marathon,
and only 3. She delighted in reaching her first 50K, than first 50
miles. We ate at a BBQ place just off-course in Dresden. They asked
questions and they seemed to be having so much fun talking with us.
They filled our packs, gave us ice, waived the charge for our meals.
We were 1/4 mile away when Jan realized she forgot her bottle. She ran
back and I waited. The lady told her she was about to get in her car
and bring Jan the bottle. As she got back, Paul had joined us. Paul --
what can you say about this man that would adequately describe him?
Kind and considerate. Jan's water bladder had sprung a leak. We had
tried to fix it at the Napa store and let it cure. Jan discovered it
was still leaking. Paul sat with us and attempted to repair it with
tape. He gave Jan the suggestion that got her through -- carry bottles
in the space where the bladder was. On our way out of Dresden, 4 of us
ran together, Rita, Paul, Jan, and myself. I got ahead and found
Sulaiman on a corner. We ran together for a while. Sulaiman is from
Nigeria originally. He was a delight to talk with and he did not seem
scared anymore. He was running out of water. We asked a man to use his
water spiggot.

As we cross new 22 a man stops to hand us bananas from his car window.
At another point on the course, a woman insisted on giving me money.
She said she had a feeling I needed it. When I hesitated, She said, "I
have a feeling you really NEED this." No matter what you believe about
religion or God, belief in him seems to make people kinder. I feel it
in Tennesseans. If it serves no other purpose, it promotes kindness
and that can't be a bad thing.
I end up running with Paul at night and I try to stick with him. I am
afraid of being on the roads alone in the dark. Paul is great company.
We sleep outside twice, the last time being on carpeted church steps.
Paul points his bottle in the direction we need to go upon awakening.
Does Fred know about this? :) Paul mentions John's umbrella and says
he got one too. It gets me thinking. Eventually, Paul moves ahead. I
shuffle on and watch the sun rise, lost in my thoughts but ever aware
of the threat of dogs. I listen closely to their barking and I learn
their language. "Don't come on the property, or I will eat you." "I
would love to get a piece of you -- come on over!" "There is someone
out there -- what a nut." The occasional dog comes on the street and
shows aggression. I take a tip from Jan and step toward the dog, a
little aggressive myself, and the dog retreats. I have power, just as
Laz has tried to tell me.

I run to Lexington through a T-storm, taking a long break at the Day's
Inn. I find out Jan is heading in and I text her that I will leave the
room key at the desk. I head out, only making it to the next town of
Parsons before I cry uncle once again and check in for the night. As I
am leaving early in the morning, I see Sherry. We talk for a few
minutes and I push on to Linden. In Hohenwald, I stop to eat pizza. I
wash my clothes in the bathroom and when I come out, I see Carl and
Laz. They are always a welcome sight, a reminder that I am not
dreaming but I am still in the Twilight Zone. I also see Naresh and
Abi. Abi tells me what happened to her but she feels better. She looks
cute wearing Naresh's jeans. I am surprised by another free meal and I
am on my way. I meet Wanda and Karen at the Dollar Store. It is
raining hard again. I buy a blue umbrella, a disposable poncho and a T
shirt. Wanda and Karen help me and tell me to be careful. As I'm
leaving town, I call Carl to make sure I am really on track. On foot,
it takes forever to see a sign and streets have various names. I will
not get lost, I will not get lost... I wonder if the umbrella has real
metal and can act as a lightning rod, as the lightning blossoms
overhead and the thunder crashes.

I make it to Hampshire and the "porch" with the vending machines. The
Coke is sold out -- I understand Joe's frustration. I try to make a
comfortable bed on the porch but to no avail. Teenagers pull up in
trucks to use the vending machines. Then a man comes with a key to
Mack's Store. It is Mack with his family. We talk and he offers the
Men's Club to sleep in. His wife protests, saying it isn't clean --
this turns out to be an understatement. The Men's Club is an old
converted garage -- cigarettes and beer cans are everywhere. The
bathroom only has a urinal. There are rules on a board like, "No
drinking to excess". I eye all the empties. There is a list of members
with their names on labels from a label maker circa 1970. I get
comfortable on the couch. Jay comes in. He takes one look and says he
will sleep outside. He is back in 5 minutes and finds the other couch.
I ask him if I can leave with him so I don't have to run alone at
night. It smells of cigarettes and bugs crawl on the floor, but it
doesn't seem to matter. We push off about 4:30AM. Jay's feet are too
sore, so I move ahead. I get challenged by a black dog, but again, I
show him who is in charge -- as long as I have the fiberglass stick in
my hand. I found it on the road and it seemed like a good dog trainer.
I think of it as Dumbo's feather. As long as I have it, no fear of

I reach Columbia in the morning. A car stops and a man is calling my
name. It turns out to be Joe Kowalski. I get to a breakfast place and
we eat and talk. So nice to have Joe's company. His excitement renews

After arriving in Culeoka and passing the Bench of Despair without
realizing it, I see Gary, Carl and Fred again. I stop to eat before
heading on to Lewisburg which I reach about 6:33PM after a long, hot,
unshaded stretch, running out of water again. I stop for pizza,
getting two for one so take some with me. I am running for the hotel
when I see a laundrymat and stop to wash clothes. I had a nice chat
with the lady who owns the place. On the way to the Celebration Inn, I
get lost and run an additional 1.5 miles. Kathy at the Inn directs me
by phone. I am running with pizza, a Coke and talking to her on the
phone, but I finally get there about 10PM. I dropped my Patagonia
jacket on the way. Oh, well, just a thing. I was not going back. I
told Kathy about it and she said she would look for the jacket on her
way home. The next morning, it was on my hotel room door :). I left
the hotel about 5:30AM, running into Thomas Mikkelson. How do these
coincidences happen? I run with him for a while as I finish a few
pieces of last night's pizza and hear about one of his wrong turns. We
see his crew Greg, who had seen me running through town with pizza
last night. Thomas tells me Jay and Sulaiman are still at the Walking
Horse Lodge. This is where they were before their famous circling of
the bypass.

On to Shelbyville. The umbrella really helps keep the sun off me, but
the spokes break with all the big trucks whishing by. On the way to
the town square, I ask everyone I meet if they have an umbrella to
sell. A lady suggests the Dollar Store. It is down a big hill and off
course. I head into the square and stop at an antique store. I ask the
two surprised ladies if they have an umbrella. I explain. They come up
with a black & white designer umbrella. I offer $10 - sold! I am
happy! Leaving town, I call Carl to make sure I am going the right
way. You get the picture -- I was a little bit of a pain, but I did
not want to go the wrong way. Paul is not all that far ahead and I
think I can still catch him.

On the way to Wartrace, I am running out of water. A pickup stops to
adjust its load and I pounce. They give me two bottles of water -- it
is hot! I keep chasing a patch of shade until I realize it is the
clouds and that is why it keeps eluding me :) In Wartrace, I sit at
the gas station to eat lunch. I have a great conversation with two
loggers from town. They are enthralled by the road stories. I am on
the Strolling Jim course, one of my favorite events. Fred Davis stops
by for the last time. He has to get home for a trip. It is always so
good to see Fred! I read "Mad Dogs Next 40 Miles" and I hope to test
my new skills. I pass the campground, not knowing Paul has stopped
there, and forge ahead. Laz and Mike M stop by and I turn to ask them
for water. Darn! Laz notices I am leaning slightly -- I have had the
back pain for several hours but it is not getting worse due to the
massage and rest breaks. Laz suggest I ask a man in the driveway I am
passing. I had an offer earlier to camp on a man's land on this
stretch and I think this is the man, but it is not. His name is Turley
and he invites me in his home. I tell him I will wait on the porch.
His wife, Syra, comes out with a pitcher of ice water and fills my
pack. We talk. She brings me candy and a bowl of snacks, inviting me
to take what I want along. We are sitting on the porch watching the
traffic, talking about the race which they were never aware of, about
their lives in TN. These two have the kindest of hearts, good through
and through. They invite me back next year. I want to stay right here,
but I must move on.

Josh catches up with me and I see his crew, Mikki and another runner.
We run together for a short while, do the evening check-in, and Josh
moves ahead. He is running well and looks fresh. We head for
Manchester. I make it there as it is getting dark, and it is raining
again. I camp out on the bank porch and try to sleep, but it is too
uncomfortable. I move on to McDonald's, eating while I see the Days
Inn sign from the window. I don't want to run alone at night so I
check in there after I eat. I leave early in the morning. It is hotter
than it has been so far. I get through the small towns on the way to
Monteagle, stopping to rest in the grass under the shade trees. I have
another "vending machine encounter" in Pelham, needing water but
unable to obtain it. I cry and then tell myself I am silly. I find a
store on the other end of town, owned by 95 year old Jewel. I eat ice
cream and chat with her. She asks me how old I am and she gives me her
words of wisdom. She says she saw a young man (Dan) the previous day.

I know the climb to Monteagle is next. I am grateful for the umbrella
and the water I got at Jewel's store. Abi is called in to crew Paul
who is back in Manchester. She stops to talk as she passes by and she
takes a photo of me with the stick through my backpack. I am using it
to massage my back and must turn sideways when cars pass. Abi
appropriately calls me a "wide load". All I need is a streamer on each
end of the stick. She tells me there is more shade ahead in the
mountains. The climb is difficult, so I rest a lot. Mike comes by to
tell me how far I have to go. I am again running out of water, but
think I can make it in. I eat lunch in Monteagle and decide to rest my
back. I check into a hotel and rest until the afternoon. I don't sleep
well, but at least I am cool. I want to get to Tracy City before dark
since that is where the 2 mean pit bulls are. I have to buy a new
flashlight, since I lost my Fenix at a gas station in the morning. I
buy two, because the beams are so dim. I call Mike M, knowing he has
stopped his run, and ask him to crew so I can run through the night
safely. He questions my decision to change from uncrewed to crewed. I
will think it over. By call-in time, I'm in Tracy City. I keep
stopping, trying to remember where the house was where the pit bulls
live. I flag down a cop and tell him of my concern. He says he doesn't
know of any loose pit bulls. He is young and lights a cigarette. I
tell him I have a good stick and a new-found courage. He doesn't look
convinced, and I don't feel convinced. I get through Tracy City with
no pit bull sighting. I head on to Jasper on 64. I dump the umbrella,
thinking I have no further use for it and need to lighten my load.

This is a long stretch and I watch the beautiful lightning show. It
takes a while for the storm to start, but I know I made a tactical
error by throwing away the umbrella. The rain is torrential with
thunder and lightning. Cars stop and offer me a ride. I explain I
can't take the ride but thank them. I am running low on water so ask
if they have any. A young man, Nick, says he will go get me water.
Mike M comes by when the storm is at its worst. He tells me to get in
the van. I refuse because I don't want to be crewed. He tells me to
run to the community center a few miles ahead where there is shelter.
After I get to the porch, which is lighted and has a plug-in for my
phone, I see Nick coming back with water. He is so excited, telling me
that he saw another runner (Paul) almost get hit by downed power lines
near Jasper. He brings me water, Gatorade, a banana and snacks, saying
that nothing will be open. This is unbelievable -- I feel like crying
and I offer to pay for the supplies, but he declines. He wishes me
luck. I sleep on the porch for a few hours until I am sure the storm
is over and then go on. I pass several barking dogs, but I feel no
fear. I eventually get to Jasper, where a policeman stops me and says
they are looking for a missing woman runner, but they don't know her
name. I run through town, feeling close to finishing, though I still
have miles to go.

I get to the McDonald's in Kimball at 5:36AM. I relax, eat, clean my
clothes in the bathroom. I take an hour to get ready for the push to
the rock. As I am heading towards So Pittsburgh, I call Carl again to
reaffirm directions. Unbeknownst to be, they are sleeping in a nearby
hotel. Carl is half-asleep (sorry!) and he doesn't get what I am
asking. I call Abi and she explains. Carl calls back and affirms. This
section is fairly easy all the way across the TN River. I don't
remember what the rest is like but it turns out to be long, long, long
and hilly and steep. It is getting hot again, but no rain. Before I
reach CR 132 to the Caste Rock estate, a man stops me. I explain I am
almost done with the state crossing and that I am again out of water.
He gives me a bottle -- my last Good Samaritan. I see Carl at the
corner. Dan and Rita had passed me with much-needed encouragement on
the way up Sand Hill. Laz was also there as I crossed the Alabama
border. This was not at all like the long, painful, bent over ascent
of 2010. I felt good and strong, though my feet were quite painful.
Carl and Laz drove ahead and waited at the turns since a few others
had gotten lost in the cornfields. There were orange streamers to mark
the way, but I was grateful for some guidance. I get to the end and
Carl directs me to the rock. I stand straight and walk to the rock,
remembering how bad I felt in 2010.

The best part is spending time sitting at the finish line, telling
stories with other Vol Staters who have finished. Pure joy...

6D 4H 18M but more importantly, uncrewed and on my own! I made great
progress in overcoming my lifelong fear of dogs, When I had no one to
rely on, I found the strength, the fortitude and the courage within
myself to do whatever I needed to do. I learned to have no fear of
rejection and found kind souls when I was not close to a store. I made
some mistakes, but I always found a way. The most valuable things I
carried were a 3L water bladder, small scissors, the stick, and the
umbrella. The compass was also very helpful :) What I didn't need was
extra clothes, sunscreen and sunglasses. I know what I would do
differently for next year. You really don't have to bring much from
home because you can always find what you need and throw away what you
no longer need.

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Posted:July 22nd, 2012 12:22 pm
Last Update:July 22nd, 2012 12:24 pm
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