Carter: ‘I’m hooked on ultras’

Women’s course record in jeopardy

Previous coverage:
* Sept. 23: Porter a late addition to Hinson Lake field
* Sept. 22: Keane ‘all charged up’ for Hinson Lake ultra
* Aug. 2: Hinson Lake = 1.5032
* July 27: Hinson Lake field jumps by 60 percent
* July 13: Hinson Lake RD celebrates marathon in hospital

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of profiles planned this week that will highlight competitors in Richmond County’s only 24-hour footrace.

By Kevin Spradlin

Stephanie Carter is coming to Richmond County on a mission: One part redemption, one part revenge.

The 37-year-old Wilmington runner is one of 354 runners registered for the Mangum Track Club-sponsored 9th annual Hinson Lake 24-Hour Ultra Classic, set to begin at 8 a.m. Saturday in Rockingham. But the loop around Hinson Lake, all 1.5032 miles of each lap, over and over again for 24 hours straight, isn’t the main thing on her mind. Getting over that DNF — Did Not Finish — at the Umstead 100-mile endurance run in early April.

Carter is a contender for the women’s overall championship. She is one of 19 women who told race director Jerry Lindstrand they’re aiming to complete 100 or more miles this weekend. The course record of 114.6 miles, set by Georgia’s Liz Bauer in 2008, is in jeopardy. Carter is one of three women who told Lindstrand they plan to run at least 110 miles. Carter said 114. While Andrea Stewart, second on the women’s all-time course record list (114 miles in 2013), withdrew from the event, still Cheryl Yanek (120) and Amy Surrette (110) have a shot.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

To hear her tell it, Hinson Lake isn’t, by its nature, her thing.

“I hate loops,” Carter posted on the Hinson Lake Facebook page. “I don’t like crowds. I mostly listen to music when I run and don’t talk much because I always run along, so I often find groups overwhelming. For those of you who know me, holler out at me and remind me to keep going even if I am bored. Just remind me of Umstead and the vengeance I am taking out on the knee.”

It was a bum knee that forced a lame Carter to pull out after 87.5 miles. She was one lap short of completing the race. She had done well; at the 50-mile mark, she was third female overall and feeling good.

Somewhere near mile 68, “I felt something pop in my knee,” Carter said in a phone interview Wednesday with The Pee Dee Post, forcing her “to kind of run, walk, shuffle, then ultimately just hobbling another two laps.”

“My knee cap was vibrating, bouncing up and down on its own accord. I was in excruciating pain, crying, which I never do. I wanted to keep going, foolishly. At that point, I had plenty of time.”

She had eight hours to complete only 12.5 miles.

“I could have crawled that,” Carter said.

Carter didn’t go another step. Onsite medical personnel told Carter she risked permanent damage if she continued. Her race was over.

Two months of no running — exactly what a runner doesn’t want to do. A doctor recommended arthroscopic surgery. Carter declined. She has a high deductible, and instead decided she was “gonna just do my own thing.”

Carter, who began running only four years ago, said this was just her second summer of training. She doesn’t like the sweltering heat and humidity North Carolina traditionally offers. This year, though, she trudged through it and ran between 40 and 75 miles a week.

No racing. The good news? Her knee feels just fine. Here comes Hinson Lake. As for the women’s course record, she’s less sure about that. The food and friends? That’s guaranteed.

“I probably know half the people,” said Carter, who received entry into the increased field when she accepted a bib number from another runner who chose not to run. “There’s always a friendly face. That’s just a huge encouragement.”

That, along with “the aid station and volunteers … they make it so easy to try and attain the goal. Really, I would just like to get above 100.”

Other women who hope to reach the 100-mile mark and earn the coveted belt buckle include: Michelle Bingley, Veronica-Carreon-Johnson, Nicole Creech, Tamara Hardee, Lin Hurd, Cherie McCafferty, Wendy Norvell, Catherine Quaintance-Kramer, Grace Ranson, Missy Rice, Regina Sooey, Suzanne Weightman, Kelley Wells, Kathleen Wheeler and Vikena Yutz.

As for the course record? Maybe it won’t be her. Maybe it’ll be Surrette —third female in 2013 with 102.86 miles. The Raleigh resident’s performance last year put her 13th on the event’s list of top 24 all-time performances among women.

“I think it’s doable,” Carter said. “I think there’s a lot of women runner who could do that distance.”

Carter emphasized that in order to break the course record, she believes she’d have to do much more planning — hitting distance goals by certain times of the day, limiting rest stops, etc. — than she’s accustomed to. All that planning, she said, is simply not her style.

“I don’t think about running when I’m running. I just run. No strategy, no pace, no Garmin. I always get surprised when I see the clock.”

Carter began running in the spring of 2010 just before turning 33. She didn’t have much of an athletic background.

“In high school, I was the big fat girl who refused to run around the lake,” Carter said.

She paired up with a friend to walk regularly. That friend convinced her to train for a half marathon. En route to that race, she ran her first 5K (3.1-mile) race in Wilmington.

Kevin Spradlin | Amy Surrette

Kevin Spradlin |
Amy Surrette

“I about died,” Carter recalled. “I felt like I had been put through a washing machine. I couldn’t walk for days.”

Nevertheless, she continued with her half marathon training. En route to the start line there, she came across the Gator Trail 50K at Lake Waccamaw State Park. She had one reaction: “Oh, that sounds fun.”

“I dont’ know if I had one too many Guinnesses that night … the paper registration ended up being sent in.”

She ran the half marathon and “I didn’t die.”

Then she ran the Gator Trail 50K and never looked back. In 2011, Carter earned her MTC membership by way of the now-defunct Wild Card Two Bridges Run, a 50-mile road run. She discussed the difference between a 5K crowd and an ultra crowd.

“It’s like taking your kids clothes shopping and taking your kids to Toys R Us,” she said. “I’m just hooked on ultras. The longer the better.”

There’s no finish line this weekend at Hinson Lake. Not at least, until the horn sounds at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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