Grindstone 100 Mile Endurance Run

October 5-6, 2012
Swoope, Virginia

By Mike Campbell

First of all I need to thank my crew (Team Campbell) for the third time this year completing another grueling 100+ miler with me. My son (Michael) came in from Houston with his expertise in taking charge as crew chief and with him was my daughters (Andrea & Jamie) and son-in-law (James). James paced me on a bad ankle and did the most anyone could ask for giving 150 percent in getting me through some tough times. We conquered sheer rocks known as “ankle-biters,” and trail ledges that fell off into nowhere … the kind that made you lean so you wouldn’t fall off or slide down the wrong side of the mountain. And last my grandson (Jason “LJ”) who not only drew an inspiring “Go G-Pa” sign, but got me started off by running with me into the trail coming out of a couple of aid stations.

Mike on the trailAfter all, this actually was a revenge race for me. In July 2011 I chipped a bone in my knee that resulted in no running in August or September. Then with 1.5 weeks to go, my doctor said I was good to run (my mistake I didn’t exactly tell him it would be 100 miles). I attempted Grindstone 2011 and by time I got to mile 66 I had two silver dollar sized blisters on the bottom of both feet. At that point I couldn’t foresee finishing even by walking. So this year in preparation I held back a bit on training runs so my knees wouldn’t have to take as many falls. I did get in a good 12-hour ATR run at Prince William Forest Park with Alex and Scott of Athletic Equation two weeks ago, and ended up covering the most miles and finished first. I definitely felt more ready this year going into Grindestone.

So this year Michael flew in for the race Friday late morning and as soon as he got in we headed out to Swoope with James. We did miss the race briefing and pre-lunch but got checked in with Clark Zealand right before 3 p.m. We parked in the field and “rested” for the next three hours. Then after a few prayers, we were off at 6 p.m. for the 5th Annual Grindstone race start. 

One thing I forgot to pack was my bottle belt I always run with. I was left to hand-carry my bottles until the next morning when Andrea and Jamie would be down with LJ to bring it to me. After the start there were not crew stops until mile 22 but there were two aid stations – one after 5 miles and another at 9.5 more miles. I carried both bottles because I’d need them for the 9-mile stretch. My pace was fairly fast around the lake and back through the Boy Scout camp and off into the woods – ran to the first aid station at mile 5.18 around 8.5-9 mile pace. I took a quick refill of electrolytes, which was GU Brew. This was the first time I tried it and it tasted like watered down Gatorade and thank goodness there was no conflict. I know the rule is “do not try anything new on race day,” but with the limited crewed aid stations (for Gatorade) I needed more than water.

Mike FanAround mile 10 I was in the lead of a 4 pack, and hit a stump or protruding rock (note that we’d been navigating with our headlamps for the last 4 or 5 miles, and I went down hard. My bottles flew and I came to a skid on my elbow. Subsequently both calves cramped to the point they were solid as rocks and wouldn’t release. My fellow runners asked if I was ok, I said yes - go ahead, and since we were on a single track, they all proceeded to leap frog over me and continued on the course. My cramps finally released and I was able to hobble up, collect my bottles and continue down the trail.

I came into Dry Branch Gap Aid Station (mile 14.63) with both bottles about empty after getting over the highest elevation of the course. I set my Garmin to beep every mile as my cue to take gulps of liquid to keep hydrated and ward off muscle cramping. During this jaunt I also had a pack of honey and gel. It wasn’t the best footing even though the trails were descending there were rocks and roots. At this point there was much less running and the darkness slowed things all the more. I got to mile Dowells Draft Aid Station (22.11) and met my crew for the first time. I downed an Ensure, got two new Gatorade bottles, and ran my Icy Hot stick over my calves, which were still feeling it from the last fall.

Blurry MikeWe had a good climb about 2,000 ft in the next couple of miles and my pace dropped to around 19-20 min per mile, Then I picked up with a down stretch and got back into 11-12 min pace before getting to Lookout Mountain (mile 30.45). I grabbed a piece of banana (figured a little more potassium couldn’t hurt) and refilled bottles.

Next on the course we ran into shale rocks, which lent to horrible footing and sliding at times. The trails were narrow - especially when climbing. I came into mile 35.91 and changed out of my Brooks Cascadia 7. Last year my mistake was not changing shoes here, else risking going 66 miles before swapping them out. No blisters, new socks (Injinji) and with my Brooks Cascadia 6 I was ready to go. Drank an Ensure, got one bottle filled with Ensure and one Gatorade since I wouldn’t have a crewed aid support before mile 66.55 and I also chugged a V8 Energy. I was dropping off feeling that I needed a nap, so I also took two NoDoz pills. It seemed to take 5 to 6 miles before I felt any better from their affect and actually what I needed was daylight that wouldn’t come before 6:30 to 7 a.m.

This section was another slow one, mostly uphill going around 20 min pace, only 3 miles per hour. I knew if I could get through these aid stations all named “…Knob,” (Little Bald, Reddish & Gnashing) I would feel good about finishing this year. I was surviving on a couple pieces of Oatmeal PowerBars, Gels and Starbucks honey packets … but mostly Ensure. I didn’t have an upset stomach so I took in regular cups of coke vice ginger ale at the aid stations (mostly to clear my head with the caffeine).

Getting past 41 miles, the leader, Karl Meltzer, passed me on his mile 69 and was on his way to breaking the overall course record in 17 hours (Grindstone is 50+ miles out and then return so you end up seeing everyone on the course). It was getting light before we hit the blacktop en route to Gnashing Knob to punch your bib at Reddish Knob loop. The turnaround felt good as the pace picked up on the road back into the 12-13 min pace with lots of downhill. James joined me at just after the 50-mile-mark and I downed a 5hr energy shot.

Getting through the blacktop and now descending on the trail, we were able to get in some good times over the next 17 paced miles (we were able to get in some 11 and 12 min miles). James said we were not going to let anyone pass us from now on, and true to that, I did not have anyone go by me for almost these last 50 miles.

Coming into mile North River Gap (66.55) and seeing my additional crew - daughters and LJ (with his sign) - gave me another lift in spirits knowing this was where I dropped last year. With refilled bottles and another change of my shoes I felt pumped up and took off.

I was out of Gatorade after the next 7 miles, so I nursed my Ensure and got a shot of water from a fellow runner until I was able to get into the next aid station. They gave me a 16 oz water bottle filled with GU Brew to keep me going. Next was a climb of around 3k to Lookout Mountain and some slow miles. I finished my confiscated water/Gu bottle as well as my Gatorade one, since it was from Lookout to Dowells Draft and there was 8.35 miles to the crewed aid.

At mile 80 James was ready to resume pacing, but this next section would be another 2.5k gnarly uphill rocky section that his ankle didn’t need to take, so I convinced him to lay low on this one. My heels were burning, so I got Jamie to cut some mole-skin that I stuck directly to each heel and then put my sock back over it. LJ helped get started for the first couple hundred yards from the aid station and I was off into another oblivion. Way up in the 20+ per mile pace, mostly hiking at this point, 7.8-mile section so it was good to have two bottles to go.

Finally got to mile Dry Branch Gap (mile 87.83) and James was ready to go. I got three more NoDoz pills to get me through these 13 or so miles. LJ again got us off to a good start insisting we run up the hill as he did. We had another climb around 2k returning to the highest point again before our descent. Slow hike that seemed to go on forever, at times there were rocky sections, and before we got to the top our headlamps had to be switched on. This was the point you wanted to delay - the second sunset - but hopes in finishing came closer so you had to think positive.

Once we hit the top there was the road section that dropped a couple thousand feet within 1-2 miles, heels and quads were taking a punishment because of the steepness since you had to hold back (although the mole skin did help). After hitting the bottom, we weren’t doing much more than shuffling through another long section, the time was not moving and these last 10 miles were killing us. Hallelujah we made it to the last aid station Falls Hollow (mile 96.67).

I couldn’t get out of this last station fast enough since at this point, I was just trying to get it over with. There was a slight uphill and trying to keep track of flags and rocks wasn’t the easiest thing to do at 10 p.m. after 26+ hours on the course. I did get into a 12-14 min per mile pace and was finally going around the lake and back past the totem pole to the finish.

Mike's WatchOfficial time: 28:24:24 and 36th place overall.

Set the new course record for Super Masters (60+) by almost 5 hours!!)

Average moving pace: 15:10
Calories: 8,648

Elevation Gain: 23,675 ft.

Elevation Loss: 23,714 ft.

Elevation Profile:

Total consumption:

·          9 bottles of Gatorade (180 oz)

·          12 bottles of GU Brew (240 oz)

·          10 bottles of Ensure (80 oz)

·          5 bottles of V8 Energy (40 oz)

·          15 S-Caps (electrolytes)

·          9 cups of Coke

·          1 cup of ginger ale

·          2 cups of soup

·          7 GU gels

·          1.5 Oatmeal PowerBars

·          1 banana  

Once again thanks to my lifesaver and son-in-law, James, who paced me through the first 17 miles coming out of the 50-mile section and then about another 9 miles toward the end until his ankle was thoroughly trashed (I hope there isn’t any permanent damage). My son and daughters and LJ, who were there all day and night, getting to each aid station on time and giving me all the support I could ask for. Michael in getting here as crew chief and keeping everyone in line. My wife, for stressing out at home wondering what mile I was at or why not. And last, but not least, is my mom from Wisconsin whose broken wrist is getting better. God Bless you all.

What’s next? On October 28 I’ll be running my 24th Marine Corps Marathon, and then on November 17 the JFK 50 miler.

See you on the trails …..thks Mike