50k Race Report

I Woke up at 6am on Saturday, race day. Made some hotel coffee which was actually pretty good and chowed down on a Clif Bar.  I slowly woke up and got dressed and packed all my stuff since I was driving back to Atlanta after the race.  I was feeling excited and ready! 

In the quiet morning darkness, I found my way to the race start. It wasn’t easy as I had to drive this very windy road to the top of a mountain and was difficult to see the street signs. I pulled into the middle school parking lot, along with a bunch of other crazies! This reminded me of the JFK start last year, cause the morning meeting place was at a school also. It’s pretty smart actually because it’s easy access, lots of parking, and BATHROOMS. Weather was PERFECT. High 50’s and clear. Went to the bathroom a couple of times and checked in and was trying to decide if I needed a drop bag or not…hmmm… I decided against it. I felt like there would be plenty of Aid Stations and since I was wearing my Nathan pack, I had room to carry all my gels, etc.. I didn’t think I would need to change shoes or clothes, so nope, no drop bag. What I noticed as I scanned the crowd while awaiting the race start was how few women were present. I thought about titling this post, “Hanging with the Boys”. Seriously, we women who were there are studs, man!!  🙂

I had my pack on and inside I had about 5 or 6 different gels. I figured anything else i needed i could pick up at an Aid Station.  

We were off at 8:05am. We had about 1/4 of road to get onto the first part of the trail. It was mixed trail with some narrow and some wider portions, a couple of low bridges to cross and then a long stretch of wider trail covered with small pebbles.  Not too many hills at first, which was a nice way to starrt!  Between the fist and second aid stations was maybe the one of the toughest climbs I have ever experienced in a race. TOUGH, TOUGH, TOUGH. STEEP. So steep that if you stopped and stood there, you would have a heckuva fall backwards. WOW. Lots of climbing. Somewhere in there was also one of many tough downhills, which just crushed the quads. I didn’t feel much in the beginning, but toward the end, every descent was painful. OUCH. Just before the second aid station, I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie: there was a high bridge crossing, but get this: the bridge was wobbly and shaky and it was a true adventure to get across. I cannot even remember the creek below us…i don’t think it was very deep, so falling would not have been a good thing. After crossing shaky bridge, got to aid station #2 and grabbed a bunch of snacks, one of which was a new discovery for me: square shaped pretzels filled with peanut butter. A PERFECT MIX! Salt and protein. I grabbed a bunch of these at all the stations! YUMMY. Leaving this station, we then grossed a road and headed up a mountin. We had to climb some built in rock stairs and then continue climbing up to a flater part of the trail. Basically, i think these next 20 miles, we ran on the near edge of this mountain. The trail was all single track. It was very forest like – huge trees all around and during different sections, i could look to my left and see the wide & beautiful Tennessee River below. Gorgeous. I had to stop a couple of times and take it all in. Gorgeous, untouched nature! Up there, it doesn’t matter whether you are a democrat or republican, doesn’t matter how much gasoline costs and even if you can get any, it doesn’t matter that the economy is in serious financial crisis that could last a long time; none of it matters…it’s just me and the trees and the water and the beauty of taking in some fresh air and taking on a challenge. Ok. back to the trail. 

There were rocks. And when i say rocks, i don’t mean a little rock you might find in your backyard, i mean seriously, big rocks and boulders; some very sharp and pointed, some slippery with moss, some just freaking BIG. Mile 17 was the absolute craziest. It was so rocky and treacherous, some of us had to stop and look around for the trail markings because we couldn’t see them! Good thing we went in the right direction and soon saw the little pink flags that marked the trail. Whew. That was a brutal stretch of about a mile or longer. You could not go fast here even if you wanted to. It was a crawl. At 17 miles. Nice. My feet probably got the most beat up in this section.  I banged my toes into rocks a couple of times, but no falling! Some rocky sections were runnable and I have to brag a little here..cause I am very good at this…navigating my way pretty quickly over these sections. Some of the women around me were taking these sections pretty gingerly, but not me, i just swiftly moved along. It’s a strong point.  My weak point is that I am not a fast walker or climber. On sections that require walking/climbing, I am just SLOW. I wish i was better, but not yet. Gotta keep working in it. There runnable sections were fun and freeing. It’s pretty motivating when you have a runner in front of you and you are watching their feet move. And it’s just as motivating when you have someone behind you…you want to keep going. You don’t want to slow up. In the later miles, we had 2 Aids stations where as soon as we left, we had long climbs that were not runnable. This was kinda deflating in that after getting some fuel, you want to be able to just take off…but it wasn’t like that…it was get some fuel and start walking, start climbing!! I was fortunate in that i never took to long at the aid stations. I only had to re-fuel for water in my pack once, so all i was doing at the stations was grabbing some snacks and then moved along. I never sat down.  I never chit-chatted with anyone. Just kept moving. In the late, late miles, around 23-29, on the hilly sections especially, i really felt like i was drunk or something…i was stumbling and weaving. it was funny. I think after a while, you do get a little delirious out there. especially on those sections where no one else is around. People often ask, “what do you THINK about for all that time?” Well, i will tell ya…i wan’t thinking about much other than the present moment. My thoughts were: “when did i take my last gel? ouch, my feet hurt. how many gels do i have left? wow, that guy seems to be moving fast. ouch, my right groin kinda hurts. my left ankle is hurting. man, i am feeling good all of a suddent, cool. wow, where did that guy come from and how did he pass me? cool, i can see that woman ahead, i’m gonna pass her on that rocky section.” these were my thoughts. up on the trail, it’s tougher to let your mind wander. you might fall on your face or on your ass if you do! 🙂

A couple of times, in the later miles, i was getting kinda irratated at the climbing. When this happened, I did have specific thoughts; i thought about when I was 12 years old, in the hospital with my legs up in traction cause they were broken. i thought about all the tubes coming in and out of me from my various other injuries. And i thought about a friend that I made while I was there: a young boy named Jagade. I remembered his beautiful smile and thought about how sad it was that he died. While we were in Children’s Hospital together, his Leukemia took his and he would never have a chance to be out in the mountains like me and tackle this kind of challenge. I thought about all the kids who never get this chance, for whatever reason! And I got pissed off and tried to climb faster and more determined.  

Soon enough, I knew I was coming near the end. I came to a crossing in the trail where there were 2 teenage volunteers. “Way to go”, they said. “you’re almost done.” I smiled. “only one and a half miles left”

Me thinking: WHAT, are you freaking kidding me? Ah, MAN. I thought it was maybe 3/4 mile left. Crap! “

I swear that was the longest 1.5 miles in my life! Once we got to the final stretch of road, i ran and passed a guy and never looked back. I crossed the finish line while some strangers clapped and cheered me on. I asked the timer person what the time was: 8:04 she said. I have to say that I am bummed to have not finshed under 8 hrs. My watch said 7:57, but i knew that wasn’t right because somewhere along the way, i inadvertently clicked the stop button and i didn’t know for how long time was stopped. However, overall I am proud and happy.  

I changed my clothes and got in the car. Went to a store in town a lot like Whole Foods (called GREENLIFE) and got 2 big slices of pizza and murdered them. Then, I got a cup of coffee and a protein drink and drove 2 hours back to Atlanta. 

 

It’s sunday as I write this report and my quads are super sore, but i got outside for a short walk. i did try to run, but it was too painful. I feel much better than I did after JFK. Not nearly as sore.  I have theories on this which i will write about next. For today, it’s been nice to savor in the satisfaction of personal accomplishment.  Thanks again for all the kind words of cheer and support!

 

What’s next??

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One Response to “50k Race Report”

  1. Great report! Congrats again. Sounds like a fun (if very very challenging) race. You should be very psyched today!

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