Zane Smith runs his third 100 mile ultramarathon
On Saturday, May 16, 2009, at 5:00 AM, Zane Smith, Farm Bureau Insurance Agent of Spring Hill, dressed for a bit of running, began a 100-mile ultramarathon. He was in Virginia within the George Washington National Forest’s Massanutten Mountains.
The evening before he and his wife, Laura, had carefully placed “drop bags” in designated containers and had made sure much of what he would need for the next two days of running was included. Zane was taking the last minute precautions of being sure key support items would be available to him during the upcoming run through the day and night and much of the next day.
This run was to be different than the two others he had completed. The weather was hotter, storms were predicted and he planned to run this race alone, with no pacer and no companions. He would rely on his support team and his growing experience in running 100 mile ultramarathons.
In his second 100 mile ultramarathon, the Pinhoti 100 in the Talladega National Forest in Alabama, Zane had done well by setting a faster pace and had finished in much better physical and mental shape than his first experience on the Massanutten Mountain 100 run last year. Finishing at or below last year’s time was his goal.
Zane finished the 100-mile run in 32 hours and 22 minutes. He was the sixty first runner to finish. 173 people started the run and only 101 finished. There were 19,000 feet of elevation climbed during the run…you read correctly. That is like climbing one of the highest peaks in the world. Of course the air does not get as thin, but other environmental factors sure do make an impact.
In this run, Zane faced searing heat on Saturday throughout the day. Late in the afternoon a thunderstorm caught him on Byrd Knob, among the highest peaks in the run. He was out in the open. Runners reported hailstones and one runner reported seeing lightening strike a tree. Needless to say Zane did make a quick descent from the peak!
Zane packed a rain jacket in one “drop bag” and got it just before the storm caught him. When the rain hit, even with a rain jacket, there was no way to prevent his feet from getting wet. Now, he was running wet with his shoes and socks soaked by the rain flowing in the trail.
His best hope to avoid hyperthermia was to keep moving…fast. Rain gear helps, but when rain storms hit runners who are heated and dressed in running clothes, hyperthermia can be a real problem. This may have worked to his advantage, as he ultimately was able to finish at his goal time.
The rain kept falling through the night and Zane kept a fast pace. Being prepared for the many extreme and varied conditions that each run presents is but one of the many things he must think of and plan to face. Without his knowledge and determination he might well have fallen victim to the elements as did some 70 others that day, during the night, and the next day.
But, being ready for the situation, he forged on through the night and early morning to the finish of this run. Of the ultramarathons Zane has completed over the past few years, three of them have been 100 mile runs. He has been running ultramarathons since 2005.
Zane tells of a special moment in the run when he paused at Shawl Gap, the last high point of the course, and for a few short minutes let the effect of the beautiful surroundings and the personal reward of the run just about completed flood his senses. He finds this ritual to be the most meaningful few minutes of the run.
This pause before the end of a run has become a tradition that began last year when he ran his first 100-mile run with a friend, Susan Donnelly’s help. He paused at Shawl Gap and asked her and two other running companions to stop for a moment.
It was a special time for them all. It was Zane’s first finish and they had helped him struggle through the night. A special bond was formed in that run.
Zane enjoys running and can be seen at various locations around Maury County as he often runs along the roads. He also travels to Frozen Head State Park in East Tennessee to get practice on the types of elevation changes he is likely to encounter in these grueling runs.
While many of us may never experience the euphoria of that special quiet moment of achievement that comes after running through the night for 100 grueling miles, we can admire Zane’s dedication and learn from his application of ultrarunning skills to everyday life.
Zane is a dedicated runner, but he is also my son, a loving husband and doting father, a member of Maury County Rotary Club and a local Farm Bureau insurance agent. Needless to say, I am proud of his accomplishments.
Ray Smith, (half of my son’s ultramarathon support crew)
Link to photos: