Last Annual Vol State 2014 by Laz Lake

Last Annual Vol State 2014 edition

By: Lazarus Lake


life on the road

July 10, 2014


the sight of 65 runners streaming off the ferry was something to see.

many old friends, whom I have come to know well.

many new faces, that I am still attaching to names.


over the next 10 days I will come to know them well.

I will find out things about them, that their own mothers don’t know.


the combined spirit carried everyone up the first big climb

to the Mississippi river overlook in record time.

not fast enough to keep up with sal (rabbit) coll.


lots of smiles, lots of laughter…


lots of joy, to have the great spirit quest finally underway.


these people have a lot of life to live in the next 10 days.

I cannot help but envy them.

life has become simple,

reduced to the barest necessities….


and the need to keep moving.


already time to go start taking 20 mile splits.





the long thin line

July 10, 2014


I wanna be there when they come

I wanna see them when they come

I wanna see them

I wanna be them

I wanna be there when they come


how can it not stir the blood,

to see the long thin line pass by?


12 hours since they stepped off the ferry,

the field is spread out over 40 miles.


at the front,armstrong and steene have separated themselves from the rest.

they are a stark contrast.

armstrong is tanned the colour of leather from long hours of training in the sun and heat.

he is attacking the course with power and determination.

steene is fair, he has yet to see temperatures above 70 in the northern climes of Sweden.

he runs light on his feet, but with the same determination.


behind them, the runners have strung out in a long thin line,

running and walking with a single purpose;

to reach the rock ahead of as many people as possible.

in the days ahead, many will change their goal

to reaching the rock at all.


as impossible as the 314 miles may sound at home,

it can feel even more unreachable on the road;

when the feet are blistered, and the muscles weary;

when the eyes are heavy from lack of sleep,

when thirst and hunger tell you that the body’s resources

are being burned faster than they can be replaced.

the vol state is a test of more than mere athletic ability,

it is a test of the soul;

of the ability to transcend physical limits

and do the impossible.


12 hours of running in 90+ temperatures and humidity may sound like a lot,

but the vol state runners have only scratched the surface.

now they face the long and lonely night.

to survive it only brings another sunrise and another day of heat.


days and days just like these stretch before them;

until they can scarcely remember any other existence.


and so, when I watch the long thin line pass by,

I marvel to seem them running, and walking with a purpose,

eyes fixed on the prize.

they know what is coming.

but they do not waver.

some will succeed, some will fail.

but they do not waver.


how can it not stir the blood,

to see the long thin line pass by?


I will post the link to follow the runners’ progress on a map, as soon as I receive it.






July 11, 2014


while you were sleeping

things were happening on the vol-state course.


we lost another in Dresden.

we have a third who is teetering on the brink.


Armstrong has extended his lead and is at 118 after 24 hours

steene is holding strong at 106.


a lot of people were happy to see the sun come up,

and end a long night….


give it an hour or so to heat up,

and they will be begging for night to return.

it is predicted to get hotter every day.

yesterday’s low 90’s will be sorely missed!


the race is starting to take shape thruout the field,

as the runners establish their run-rest patterns.

by the time the sun sets,

this thing will be starting to get serious.





the meat wagon

July 11, 2014


holes are appearing in the long thin line.


5 more runners were hauled off in the meat wagon today.


things heated up nicely out on the highway,

and everyone paid the price.

those who were able to make the payment,

without going emotionally bankrupt,

now get the privilege of running on into a second night.


at this point, everyone is hurt.

the rest of the race will be a study in pain management…


and no one has reached the halfway point.

it is not going to get any easier.


there was an error in this morning’s report.

as it turns out, steene and armstrong had swapped leads all night long,

and were together at 106, after 24 hours.


thru the heat of the day,

steene’s lack of a crew finally seemed to have an effect,

and armstrong did pull out to a substantial lead.

but the slender swede must be made of braided steel.

he was still running as if he had just gotten off the ferry.

and we are heading back into the darkness,

where he was dominant on day 1.

this race is not over yet.


the two leaders had opened up a sizeable lead,

but the competition hardly ends there.

scholl and nunez have been trading 3rd and 4th place back and forth.

juli aistars is in relentless pursuit.


in all, 13 runners have passed thru 100 miles.

and, hurting or not, everyone seems to have plenty of fight left.


there is no way to predict what we will find,

when the sun comes up tomorrow.





with bated breath

July 13, 2014


the first thing I think when I wake up,

is ”where am I?”


this happens when you awake in a different bed every morning.


my second thought,

is ”where are they”


while we have slept, the battles have raged out on the course.

every runner is now deep in a private war.

some are fighting for position.

some are fighting the need for sleep.

some are fighting the limits of endurance.

way back around Dresden,

a brave band are fighting to hold off oprah.


everyone is fighting injuries.

blisters, chafing, sore and broken feet

are the currency of the vol state.


for each and every one,

the first glimmers of predawn light bring both hope and horror.

for the screwed runner it is hope for sustenance.

maybe there will be someplace to get food and water.

for the crewed runner, it means they have survived another night.

for everyone it means their implacable enemy, the sun, will soon be back.

with it will come the heat.

sweltering, suffocating, crushing heat.

the humidity never left.

water drips from every surface.

but for the dry pavement, it would appear that there was rain during the night.


for an unhappy few,

morning may bring the meat wagon calling for them.

the war between the body and the mind envelops them all.

from the leaders chasing the crown, and the records

to the last stragglers,

feeling oprah’s hot breath on their neck,

the real enemy lives within.


and so I await the calls with bated breath.

I have come to love these hardy souls;

running, walking, limping, absorbing punishment.

but I cannot do anything except cheer from this room,

and wait to see who has survived the night.

these are private wars,

that each runner must fight alone.






July 13, 2014


it is hard to pick out someone’s story to tell.

every runner in the vol-state has their own circumstance,

their own adventure.

from the patrol vehicles we only see bits and pieces.


we can tell a lot.

we see who is moving well, and who is struggling.

there is no missing whose feet are hurting.


we see people at their high points,

and during their crashing lows.


the battle between nelson (greg) Armstrong

and johann steene

has been riveting.

they must have swapped the lead 20 times already.


time and again, it looks like greg has taken control during the day,

only to see johann come storming back at night.


neither has taken more than naps.

johann, sleeping in the ditch

and greg making brief stops in motels.


greg has a crew

johann has the road angels.


greg is now the color of walnut.

I cannot see johann without thinking of legless,

the elfin hero of ”lord of the rings”


after 2 1/2 days,

greg is still running with power

legless is still dancing across the asphalt, light as a feather on his feet.


both remain fixed on the task at hand.


somewhere out there,

now in their third night,

two magnificent footwarriors are writing a story for the ages.


there is still that last hundred miles to cross,

but it looks like someone will be reaching the rock around nightfall tomorrow.


tennessee will crown a worthy king of the roads.

and a new legend will added to those that are told,

of the great kings of old.






insanity on the roads

July 13, 2014


no time for much right now.

rd duties are reaching a fever pitch.


balancing keeping 2 runners trying to fight off oprah on course

arranging pickups for fatalities,

and getting an injured runner with no English to the airport in time for his flight…


and making sure the finish line is manned for the new king.


whew. I hope we can fit in at least a little bit of time for the minor stuff

(eating and sleeping)


once the runners start reaching the rock, it gets worse.


armstrong seems to be in command

but steene is not far behind

(the unbreakable screwed record might be doomed)


if time allows at some point,

I need to address the trememdous battle for third,

now down to Emilio nunez, sue scholl, juli aistars, and randy ellis….


the order changing by the hour.


they have all been quite impressive…


like anyone still out there is anything less.







July 15, 2014


the long, thin line marches on


it is the 5th afternoon now.

heat climbing ever closer to 100.

not a breath of a breeze can penetrate the suffocating humidity.

the birds have stopped singing.

there is no sound,

except the rush of the metal boxes passing by.

the occupants of the boxes are in a different world,

where miles are counted in minutes

and the space between the air conditioned boxes

and air conditioned buildings

is considered an uninhabitable no man’s land.


yet on the footsoldiers go.

propelled by a single imperative…




the numbers have thinned.

gaping holes have appeared in the long thin line.


crudely fashioned headgear all but hides the faces.


all but.


there is no missing the haunted eyes,

with the thousand mile stare.


no one is thinking of the rock.

all ambitions have been surrendered, save one.

the prime directive.

the single imperative…




for to stop moving means to be loaded onto the meat wagon.


the meat wagon passes the miles in funereal silence.

the full load of casualties lost in their own thoughts,

watching the passing  survivors moving on.


how can you look at those who fight on without asking yourself the hard questions?

everyone in the meat wagon is there for a reason.

no one would question putting an end to the journey.


but we question ourselves.

”I am hurt.”

but everyone is hurt.

why do those continue,

and i have stopped?


out on the road there are different questions.

where will I find water?

when will I eat again?


and a single driving imperative.




move, or die.


the grand adventure is constructed from a thousand difficult moments

and a million painful steps.


the long thin line is not made of the people who will set amazing records,

and hear their praises sung by a throng of voices.

it is made of ordinary people,

with a hunger to do extraordinary things.


in the end, it is in their own heart

that they will find greatness.


but on this one difficult day,

the most extraordinary achievement is the most deceptively simple.








July 15, 2014


0330 and the phone rings.


i am not quick enough to answer it,

but i know what it is.


emilio is on the blue bridge.


while I listen to the voice mail that confirms my suspicions,

carl’s phone rings.

it is emilio, covering his bases.


you don’t break 5 days by not covering all your bases.


as I knew we would,

we have come to know the survivors over the past week…



ever smiling,

dauntless emilio.


most years, his time would be enough to win.

this year, his amazing performance has been almost lost.

king greg’s dominating victory.

legless breaking the unbreakable screwed record.

sue redefining women’s standards.


to those of us who nave been here watching,

emilio is a superstar.


it will bring us joy to see this man reach the rock.

it will not, unfortunately, allow us sleep,

but the vol-state exacts a toll from all who participate.

if you want to play, you have to pay.

for the rd, there is no meat wagon.




late yesterday afternoon, a line of thunderstorms raked the field.

a few were lucky enough to be caught near shelter.

most simply bore the brunt of the storms,

just like they have everything else.

there is the promise that it will bring cool temperatures….


we will find out when the sun comes up.


sue got to log her finish in a pouring rain and high winds.

her celebration had to move to the threshold of her room at the super8.

I wish I had the time to tell her story,

but I must go and meet emilio at the rock.


I can almost see his smile now.






July 15, 2014


compression wave.


it starts innocently enough.

one runner in the home stretch hears how close they are to the runner ahead.

smelling an improved finish place

smelling blood in the water

they pick up their pace.


somehow, out on the road,

up and down the long thin line,

news travels.


and, at the speed that news travels

a compression wave forms.


the intended victim hears about what is happening behind,

and speeds up.

”not after all these miles. not after all this hell….




the victim speeds up.


it doesn’t take long for the next runner up the line to get the news.

”there is a guy behind you, running like hell.”


”oh no you don’t….




it passes up the line like an electric shock,


no one wants to give up a place in sight of the rock.






vol state quote of the day:


”(name redacted) passed (name redacted) like he was hunched over, barely walking….


which he was.”



by the way

July 15, 2014


the promised cold weather has arrived.

supposed to hit the 50s….


subtract 10 degrees for those crossing monteagle mt.


everyone is trying to figure out  what will work as a jacket.


vol state fun!






July 16, 2014


the long thin line grows shorter every day.


one by one, the runners reach the rock.

it is worth it all, just to see the looks on their faces.


even having been there myself,

it is difficult to describe the emotions.

there has been so much to endure;

so much to experience;

in such a short time.


it had come to feel as if the end did not really exist.

the rock was a myth

and finishing a fable.

the goal was set beyond reach,

but somewhere deep inside,

there was a refusal to surrender.


it was, in a few short days,

a lifetime.

a quest that had no end.


and then there was suddenly one last hill to climb.

the legendary monster called sand mountain.


the final landmarks ticked off just like the rest of the race before.

the climb was steeper,

and the miles longer,

than imagined.


the road became a driveway

the driveway a pair of ruts thru the fields of castle rock ranch.

then into the woods…


an interminable run in a green tunnel.


and then everything opened up,

and it was there before them.

a simple, mossy rock ledge

at the edge of the precipice.

beyond it only space,

a view of the Tennessee river far below,

and mountains stretching into the distance.


it was the end.

there was no where left to run.


there are still many days left,

many runners still to reach the promised land.


after the finish, they collapse into the thrown.

a moment of singular glory for each runner.

a moment when they are the center,

and all around listen eagerly to their stories.


for every runner has their stories to tell.

they have lived a life that seems to many so small.

in a world where a single peach is a treasure

a drink of water the gift of life,

they have come to appreciate what is truly important.


they have seen the world as few are lucky enough to see it.

a world where strangers are kind to people in need,

where a family living in a car will offer a precious dollar

to someone they think less fortunate than themselves.

they have seen the beauty and immensity of this land

and the goodness of the people who live on it…


and they have seen that there is greatness within themselves;

the ability to endure the unendurable,

and accomplish the impossible.

nothing will never be quite the same.


here in this place,

they are surrounded by those who have been where they have been

and seen what they have seen.

the stories are told.

with laughter….


and sometimes tears.


for so long, they only wanted it to end.

and, now that it is done…


they are sad that it is over.


the adventure may end;

but the stories will last forever.





fight for life

July 17, 2014


lost among the glamour battles at the front

are the life and death struggles against oprah at the back.


multiple vol-state veteran, diane taylor, was in dire straits last night.

oprah was far ahead, and diane needed a huge night just to get back on track.


this is a double trouble,

as a big effort last night only puts her in position

to put out another big effort today.

it is going to take a tremendous push to pull out her race.


not in quite as desperate a position are the mchenri.

the quintessentials of awesomeness have never been far from oprah,

and enter day 8 with about a 0.3 mile lead on the queen of tv.


the mchenry nation (as their fan base likes to call itself)

is on the edge of their seats,

waiting to see if the pair can cling to that tiny lead

as the race approaches monteagle and sand mountain.


up on the rock,

carl and laz are left to ponder how they can be freezing in georgia in july.

when packing for our annual sweatfest

anything resembling warm clothing seemed like a foolish waste of space.

now we have plundered our vehicles for every scrap of cloth.

tonight i have to choose between using the newspapers i found in my trunk

to stuff my clothes, or start another fire.

carl is lucky. he found a flannel shirt belonging to a small child.


the food situation is no better.

this morning carl found my stash of vanilla wafers.


you know things are bad, when you start calling vanilla wafers real food.

(thank god, he didn’t find my half sleeve of ritz crackers!





the end of time

July 19, 2014


and so it is, the vol-state limps into its final day.


5 runners remain on the road to the rock.

the last hardy survivors of a dying breed…


40 people have finished, 20 have dropped.


now a new enemy has been added to the list…


the clock.

relentless, implacable time;

going by the nomme de guerre of oprah.


wayne maccomb is in Kimball.

bracing himself for a final push to the rock.

paul heckert and abi meadows are bracketing jasper

after all night pushes across the Cumberland plateau

in the freezing cold rain.

all are in ”good” shape to finish.

they must only shrug off the fatigue and pain to persevere.

after all they endured, stopping now is beyond comprehension.


the last drama rests with the mchenri.


resting in tracy city after a long, difficult push during the night,

they have 34 miles to go.

oprah is 3 miles ahead.


oprah has been ahead much of the race,

but she has not broken them…


not that there have not been close calls.

not that they have never wavered.

it is not courage to never waver.

it is courage to reach the end;

and go on.


the mchenri have peered into the abyss,

and seen what is there.

they got what they came for.

they have been pushed to their limits,

and then beyond.

oprah has had her foot on their throat.


but they have looked deep inside themselves

and found that something they never knew was there.

something that exists inside us all.

something few people will ever find.

something few will ever seek.


now they have 34 miles between them

and victory over the ultimate enemy.

their own weaknesses.


it is not quite over.

their plan is to head back out at 10:30.

they have 21 hours to cover those 34 miles…


the lonely plateau.

the dreaded descent into jasper.

the interminable stretch thru kimball to south pittsburg.

the hair raising miles thru no hope.

the bone-crushing grind up sand mountain.

before the endless run down castle rock road,

thru the beanfields and into the woods.

until they reach the end of the road,

and there is nowhere left to run.


1.5 miles an hour…


it does not sound like much.

until you have reached a place beyond a death march,

and lived there for days;

with oprah’s hot breath down your neck.


courage is not pretty.

it is not exciting.

it is grimy and dirty.

it is doing what you have to do,

when quitting is as easy as climbing into the meat wagon…


and no one would blame you,

except yourself.


now the mchenri represent us all.

every one of us who has dared to reach beyond our limits.

their victory is their own.

but their joy will be felt by us all.


vaya con dios, Patrick and Kimberly.



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