the final push
as i write this,
dale is in a motel room in monteagle, sleeping.
in a little while, he will be getting out of bed and heading out on the road.
this is nothing new.
this has been dale's life for the last 8 days...
but, today is different.
today, dale will be heading for the rock.
it makes my blood pulse a bit harder to think about it.
one last big push.
no more caution,
no more saving something for tomorrow.
no more stopping when the sun comes out.
today, dale is going for it all.
this is a special thing for me.
i have known dale for a long time.
i always respected dale.
i valued his friendship....
but, i never thought he had something like this in him.
why would a man,
established in his profession and his community, put himself in such a position?
why would he spend those long hours training?
why would he leave the comfort of the real world behind, to face the hell that is the vol state?
why would he embrace the heat, the hills, the hunger, the thirst, the fatigue, and the uncertainty?
why would he get up each day;
sore and tired,
and push back out on the road
on aching feet,
to toil away the long and lonely hours
down the endless white line?
i cannot tell you.
only dale could tell you.
maybe, even dale does not know.
but, for two weeks,
in the heat and hills of a tennessee july, dale is tracking down his dream, with the relentless determination that drives our species to accomplish the impossible.
i am just fortunate,
that he allows me to feel the vicarious thrill of the dream.
of the struggle...
and sometime very soon, now,
the ultimate victory.
he, and 81 others, just like him,
each with the same obstacle
each with the same goal.
yet each different in how they came to that place.
this was an unusual vol state.
a lifetime ago,
when we boarded the ferry,
2/3 of these people were strangers.
for 9 days, i have followed them.
i have seen some fall by the wayside.
i have seen others persevere,
i have seen them all reach places when they could have quit.
where, maybe, they should have quit.
yet the survivors have not.
relief has never been more than a phone call away.
tempting in its ease.
seductive in its ready justification.
no one would blame them.
no one could criticize.
they only have to answer to themselves.
now, as i greet them,
one by one,
at the rock.
there are no more strangers.
these are special people.
every one taking their rightful place on the thrown, to enjoy their moment at the center.
what do they win?
a few dollars worth of trinkets
bought with sweat and blisters?
they win their place in a special band of brothers and sisters.
a band whose membership cannot be bought, but must be earned.
i am proud to be counted among their number.
(if they did not stink so bad, i would hug them all)
i wish i could call every name.
and tell every story.
but, there is not time or space...
and maybe none, save us, would care.
dale is only one of us.
but, he is also all of us.
unlikely men and women,
who have no reason to challenge their very soul.
striving to accomplish something so purely hard.
those who cannot escape the need to reach beyond their grasp.
vol state goats,
who want the most,
the grass that is hardest to reach.
i count myself a fortunate man
to be allowed to witness their quest.
god bless those who have already reached their goal.
and god speed those who can almost taste victory.
i will be waiting for you at the rock, dale.
The Vol-State is not just another ultramarathon. It is much more than that. The Vol-State is a journey, an adventure, and an exploration of inner space. It begins with a ferry ride across the Mississippi River, from Missouri to Kentucky, and finishes at “the Rock,” high atop Sand Mountain in Northeast Georgia. What lies in between are 314 miles of the great unknown. From the time the Vol-Stater steps off the Ferry, until they reach the Rock, they are totally reliant upon their own physical and mental resources. For the next four to ten days, in the face of the heat and humidity of July in Tennessee , the Vol-Stater must make their way on foot, along highways and backroads, from one small town to the next, over hills and across rivers, up mountains and down long valleys, all the while accounting for all of their most basic needs; “what will I eat?” “When will I find water?” Where will I sleep?”
Success is not guaranteed. There are no aid stations, teeming with volunteers waiting to tend to your every need and encourage you to continue. There are just miles and miles of empty road. Your friends can follow your progress from afar, but no pacers can carry your burden for you. If you do encounter another runner, theirs is the same desperate plight as your own. You will have doubts. Finishing will often seem an unfathomable dream. Your worst enemy may become the knowledge that an air conditioned ride to your car at the finish (in the dreaded seat of disgrace”) is but a phone call away.
Many will fail. But, for those who find the steely will and muster the sheer dogged tenacity to overcome the impossible obstacles, and reach the rock on foot, the Vol-State can be a transcendental experience. No words can adequately describe the sense of combined relief and amazement to be experienced at the Rock. No one can explain the regret that this incredible journey has actually come to an end. Former King, Barry Crumrine probably summed up the Vol-State experience as well as it can be put into words;
“I found in myself something that I never knew was there.”
Do I enter as Crewed or Uncrewed??
I know this is always a source of confusion. The race does not differentiate in the results between runners who run the race "crewed" and runners who run the race "screwed." The purpose of having the two categories has to do with how you will get to the starting line....
Most of the runners will be parking at Castle Rock on Wednesday morning, and riding the buses to Union City (driving the course in reverse). Those runners will have a lunch provided on the way, and double occupancy motel rooms for Wednesday night. After a good breakfast on Thursday morning, transportation will then be provided to the Ferry. Following your arrival at The Rock, we will assure your safe transport to a motel. This is important, as most runners arriving at The Rock are unfit to drive until after they have gotten some sleep!
It does not matter if you will have a crew for part, or all of the race, if you are riding the bus, you need to enter as "Uncrewed." It does not matter if you will run the entire race without a crew, if you are providing your own transportation to the start, and from the finish, you should enter as "Crewed."
You should consider long and hard, before selecting your category. The logistics of getting to and from the start/finish are not simple (as they are on opposite corners of a very long state) and many runners have ended up having to make a complicated transaction to switch to "uncrewed" before the race... also, many runners consider the bus ride to be one of the fun features of the event. It is the one chance to get to know your fellow Vol Staters before the race begin (and while everyone still feels good!) and to get a good look at the entire course, receiving tips and advice from seasoned veterans.
Refunds; 90% refunds are available until December 24, 2016
Local time: 1:01 AM
Wait List; A wait list will be maintained after the race has filled... Withdrawals replaced from the wait list will receive a 90% refund. (Race filled last 2 years)
Unaided (screwed) runners will park their vehicles at the parking area at Castle Rock Ranch and ride tour buses backwards on the course to Union City, Tennessee, where they will be lodged in double occupancy Motel rooms overnight, and then provided bus transportation to the start. Runners with crews are allowed to enter as screwed, and take the bus ride. Runners without crews can provide their own transportation to the start, and enter as crewed.
Crewed and Screwed categories are unofficial, as all results are kept in a single finish list. Runners may have crews for any part, or all of the race, as desired.
Check-Ins: All entrants are required to report their location by phone at 0730 and 1930 each day. Texting will suffice, and runners planning to be on break at check-in time may report early..... Failure to check in will result in a search for your body.
Dropping Out: Runners may choose to drop from the race at any time, by simply calling in and requesting a ride to the car park. Transportation will be furnished at the earliest feasible time.