A few weeks ago, NINR senior budget analyst
Kevin Green and three friends were running
along a mountain ridge west of Harrisonburg,
Va. They came upon a clearing and heard
a rustling in the bushes; a black bear cub
| NINR’s Kevin Green is an ultramarathoner.
Green wouldn’t have seen the cub had he
not been training for the Grindstone 100, a grueling 101.85-mile race that winds through Virginia’s scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Next month, he’ll race up and down some of the highest mountains in Virginia. Organizers bill it as “the hardest 100-miler east of the 100th meridian.”
The race begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2. Green expects to start then, run through Saturday and finish sometime on Sunday. If he finishes, he’ll have climbed and descended roughly 23,000 feet in under 38 hours. All the while, he’ll carry food, three water bottles, a windbreaker and a headlamp.
“I want to be on a mountain top at dawn and see the sun rise over the Blue Ridge,” Green said.
When he’s not training, Green works in NINR’s Office of Financial Services. His responsibilities include oversight of the formulation and execution of his institute’s budget. Before he started at NINR, he was part of a team that helped deploy the NIH Business System, which helps staff manage business operations. He also worked at NCCIH.
Green came to NIH in 2000 as part of the Presidential Management Fellows Program. For 5 years, he led a sedentary life. He’d go home and turn on the television. After a while, he “got tired of watching the evening news.” So he started running. At first, he stopped after a mile. Sometimes he ran, sometimes he walked. But he kept with it. Soon after, he was running 5K races, 10Ks, triathlons and then marathons.
| Recently, Green ran the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim trail. It begins at the canyon’s South Rim, winds down to the Colorado River, climbs up to the North Rim and then back to the South Rim. It takes 10-14 hours to run.
He joined the Montgomery County Road Runners, an area running club. There, Green built friendships with local runners, many of whom offered advice on how to improve his race times and reduce his risk of injury while training.
“I was running 3 marathons a year as well as triathlons and Ironman competitions,” he said. “After a few years of keeping high miles, I needed a change.”
His friends suggested he run ultramarathons—technically, any race longer than 26.2 miles. Most ultramarathons, however, are 50K or longer. He started training for a 50K trail run because “training for a marathon and a trail run are similar.” He’s been running 50Ks and 50-mile races since.
The Grindstone is his first 100-mile race. To prepare, Green has trained 5 days a week for the last 6 months. During the week, he runs 7 to 10 miles a day after work. On Saturdays, he covers 25 to 30 miles. On Sundays, he cuts back to 16 to 20 miles. He rests on Monday and Friday.
He trains in the mountains during the weekend. He’s run in Shenandoah National Park and Catoctin Mountain Park near Frederick, Md., and along parts of the Appalachian Trail and the Grindstone course. At the moment, he’s cutting back the mileage so he’ll be healthy on race day.
“The most important thing is putting time on your feet,” said Green. “I don’t care about my pace. I tell people, ‘I’m going on a 7-hour run and following it up with a 3- to 5-hour run the next day.’ I’m conditioning my muscles and skeletal structure for the race.”
| For the last 6 months, Green has been training for the Grindstone 100, a grueling 101.85-mile race in Virginia’s mountains.
Part of his training includes figuring out what he can eat. He’s learned that homemade energy bars made of chicken sausage, eggs, sushi, rice and soy sauce give him more energy than store-bought energy bars. During the first part of the race, he’ll eat as much solid food as possible.
“At some point, my body won’t be able to take in solid foods. My stomach will shut down and my throat will swell,” he said. When this happens, Green will consume a sports drink consisting of potassium, magnesium, carbohydrates and electrolytes.
The Grindstone’s evening start time is unusual for ultramarathons. Typically, races begin early in the morning to give racers a full day of light. Green believes the late start time will force him to take the beginning of the race more slowly than usual. In some places, he’ll walk briskly because the terrain is so rocky.
“There’s no way I’m starting too fast,” he laughed. “This isn’t a marathon where you’re thinking about your time.”
Along the course, he’ll pass aid stations staffed by volunteers who provide runners with food, water and energy drinks. He can also place “drop bags” of personal items—like clean clothes or his special energy bars—at these stations ahead of time, so they’ll be there when he needs them.
He anticipates there will be low moments because “there are always low moments” during long races. His feet will hurt, his muscles will fatigue and cramp. He’ll be running alone in the dark and want to quit. To get through, he’ll have to figure out ways to motivate himself. Sometimes, the motivation might be as simple as saying, “I don’t know if I can run another 20 miles, but I can get to the next aid station.”
Green is running the race so he can grow as a runner and see what he can endure. The races are the only time he sees many of his friends. He hopes to see them at the finish line, where there will be a picnic.
“I won’t forget those moments,” Green said.