Thursday, December 24, 2009

What was I thinking???

You'd think enough is enough for me in 2009, but oh no... I just had to push it ONE MORE TIME... so I decided to give the Lookout Mtn 100K a go after arriving home from Ironman just two weeks before. I mean.. IT IS a great local race with an outstanding venue. Can you spell DISASTER waiting to happen?!!

It was COLD, wet and foggy that morning..... and I... against my better judgement... lined up for the race. The race had already been scaled back to a 50miler due to weather conditions and some issues with the Land Trust. Maybe I should have taken that as a sign, but OH NO! The first few miles went okay and I even lead the women's race for a bit. I thought I felt a little tired, but hoped that it would pass. Things were going pretty well and I was second place female until around mile 18-19. And ugh... MY BODY REBELED!!! From there to mile 23 was a complete struggle. It was all I could do to walk at times. What was I thinking trying to do this 100K right after Ironman and all the other stuff I did in 2009!? It finally all caught up with me. I knew it was gonna happen sooner or later... AND IT DID!

I quit at mile 23 with a smile on my face. Yep... I was actually okay with quitting. Let's face it... 2009 was a pretty amazing year for me. I am a happy camper and glad to announce that I'll be taking the next couple of weeks off!!!

Gonna chalk this one up as my "stupid moment" for 2009! : )

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ironman Cozumel

And so the big day arrived on November 29th. Ironman Cozumel. The last BIG event I would do for 2009.... and my chance to become an Ironman for the 4th time.

This would be my second Ironman event this year with Ironman Louisville being just 3 months earlier. I had no idea how I'd do, how I'd feel or if I'd even be able to finish! The only thing that has been consistent is my running during training for this event. Biking and swimming kept getting put on the back burner since I've been having such a blast running on the trail. I did start swimming regularly about a month before this event, but biking miles were almost non-existent in comparison to training for my first two Ironman events. I went into this event hoping that my running fitness would pull me through as it had for Ironman Louisville.

Before the race:
Trey and I flew into Cozumel on Friday before the race. The race was on Sunday... so this would give us time to check in and do packet pick-up. We went straight from getting off the plane to our car rental place and over to the race headquarters. After we were done there... we went to the resort to relax.

Raceday.... The swim:
The swim was an in the water mass start. Water temperature that day was 81 degrees... which means no wetsuit. I usually panic during the swim (especially a mass start), but I went into this one feeling much more confident since I had been taking Master's Swimming at Baylor back home. The water was so clear that it looked like the ocean floor was just one or two feet away... it wasn't though... it was VERY deep. I remained calm and just kept swimming wondering when the panic attack was going to happen. IT NEVER DID. I was so focused on the beautiful starfish, sea rays and other beautiful fish that I never thought once about all the horrible things that could happened out there. Before I knew it... I was at the turnaround and then at the finish. I came out of the water in 1:10... A HUGE Personal Record for me!

The bike:
Now I test out the bike legs... LOL! Fortunately... I was riding on some borrowed Zipp wheels from East Ridge Bicycles ....and they had also fully serviced my ride (thanks to John Karr). The first loop of the bike wasn't too eventful. There was headwind and crosswind most of the way, but nothing like the second and third laps of the bike! The third lap was horribly bad winds. They made IM Arizona in 2008 look like a vacation. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the course goes along the coast for quite a ways and a little storm was blowing in on the third lap. Boy... was I EVER happy to get off that stinking bike! Even with all the wind... I had a nice Personal Record on this leg of the race... How did that happen?!

The run:
Ahhh.. the run.... Something I can usually feel good about. NOT TODAY!!! My legs were spent from fighting all the wind on the bike! The course was three loops (all flat). I did the best I could, but I didn't bust out the run split I was hoping for. Fortunately I was able to hold the same run time as my IM Louisville race. The third lap was awful... Between the blood sucking mosquito's and lack of humph in my legs.... I really had to dig deep to get myself to the finish line without walking too much. Finally.... I made it... and I beat my best Ironman time by 40mins!!!

This race has a great venue and I would recommend it if you are considering doing an Ironman outside of the United States. The Island is beautiful and the Mexican people were all very nice. There is much to do on the island or on the main land. We spent the rest of our vacation exploring and having fun!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Upchuck 50K Trail Race

November 14th I lined up to run the second Upchuck 50K. This race is my absolute favorite trail race in the area. It is a point to point run that goes over some of the hardest terrain the Cumberland Trail has to offer. The best part is.... I didn't have to travel anywhere to do the race!!! It's only a 20-25min drive from my house!

The race:

I started the race very very conservatively and planned to keep it that way all day since Ironman Cozumel was only 2 weeks away. Everyone said I was crazy to even attempt this before an Ironman, but I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to run on these trails.... They are my favorite after all!

The first part (The Rock Creek Segment) is the fastest and easiest part of the 50K. While this section is beautiful... it is very uneventful until the very end where there is quite a climb to the first aid station.

The second part (The Possum Creek Segment) is probably the SLOWEST section of the 50K. This segment provides many grueling ups and downs including a VERY LONG climb out of a gorge that leaves you crying for mama! It is also filled with many creeks, pine forest, rhododendron gardens and rock gardens along the way. This one is tough from beginning to end. Seeing the aid station was quite a relief.... and this is where Lance would meet me to pace me in on the last segment as well.

The third part (The Soddy Creek Segment) is pretty fast for the first quarter of the way... then the fun begins. It is very similar to the second segment in technicality and also very diverse. The one thing about this section is that there are no bridges across two very wide (and sometimes deep) creeks.... no matter what... you will get wet!!! The leaves on parts of this trail made for interesting running as well.... they were so thick and deep in areas it was like guessing where to step and what might.. or might not... be a good footing! I held true to my word and kept the pace conservative... so once Lance and I made it to the road... I was ready to open it up a bit more going down the mountain to the finish line.

When we rolled into the finish I found out that I had placed 2nd overall female and was just delighted to hear such news!!! And.. just a few minutes later... my good friend Anna came in right behind me to take 3rd overall female! What a great day!

If you like tough 50K trail races.... this one will send you home happy!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cumberland Trail 50K

Soooo... call me crazy....

I decided that I'd run the Cumberland Trail 50K race the weekend after Stump Jump 50K. Wasn't sure how it would turn out, but eh... what the heck. You never know until you give it a go. And.. I was able to talk a fellow trail runner Anna Morgan to enter the race and feel some pain with me.

The travel to Knoxville was wet and rainy the evening before. Not a good sign for race day. Did I mention there was a chill in the air too? We stayed with my best friend Michelle in downtown Knoxville and the race venue was only 20-25mins away. Race morning we woke up and grabbed a quick breakfast and were on the road to make our 6:00am start.

The Race:

The start was cold, rainy and DARK. Yes... we ran with headlamps for about the first hour to hour and a half. I couldn't see too much during that first part of the race, but there was a mean uphill for quite some ways. Maybe it was best that this part was in the dark... LOL! Later I found out that this was a 3,000 foot climb all in one whop!!! It was muddy, slippery and wet. My legs were screaming! Once the darkness went away I started to look at all the beauty around me such as brightly colored fall leaves and lush moss on rocks. This took my mind off of the pain I was feeling from the brutal climb and I remembered why I was out there.

Almost to the half way point... I hit another low and wondered again... "why am I doing this again?". But shortly after this... I had an encounter with an Elk and all was right in my world. This would be enough to fuel me for a good finish. I happily ran back soaking in all the scenery and even enjoying the slipping and sliding in the mud. The creek crossings were cold, but they sure did aid in washing off the mud from my shoes... so I didn't even mind that so much. Much of the way back was all by myself and I was even okay with that. It was just me and the trail.

I did see Anna when I was barreling down one of the hills on my return and gave here a high 5 and told her she was 2nd overall and doing great. She looked much like me on the way up to the turn around, but I knew she'd perk up after seeing the Elk if it were still there.

Finally... I finished the race coming in 1st overall female. An unexpected bonus considering I had run a 50K the weekend before. Once I stopped moving I became cold quickly too!... I hurriedly changed into warm clothes!

It is a VERY challenging course, but is also very beautiful. It's harder than Stump Jump 50K and Mountain Mist 50K as the times reflect, but if you are into pushing your limits... I highly recommend you put this one on your race schedule for 2010. Susan Donnelly did a great job organizing this event.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stump Jump 50K

On October 3rd I lined up to run one of my favorite trail races in the southeast... The Stump Jump 50K

The best thing about this race is that it's right here in our own backyard. We are able to train on the trails weekly.... so there are no surprises going into the race with the terrain. An added bonus this year was that Dean Karnazes made an appearance and wowed us with a little speech/book signing the night before and then he ran the race!!! If you don't know who Dean Karnazes is.... check this link out. He is a super stud in the ultramarathon world.

The race:

Trey and I decided we'd run the most of this race together. Since I was just coming off Ironman Louisville... no record times would be set today! We started pretty conservatively and built up to a nice pace (for 50K). We both have our strengths on the trail. Trey's is the downhills and technical areas. Mine are the rollers and hills... though... I AM becoming much faster on the descents!!!

After the Rock Garden... Dean Karnazes caught up with us. We all stopped at the next aid station for hydration and fuel. I couldn't believe that I was running with THE Dean Karnazes. WOW. Before we left out of the aid station... I noticed that Dean was using the same gel as I do... E GEL by Crank Sports. This made me feel like I had a solid choice for nutrition to see someone who is such as endurance athlete using the same product. We ran with Dean for a bit and I was on such a high that I must have picked the pace up because when I looked back at Trey he told me "go on... I'm not running that speed". SO I DID. The next 45mins were run alone with Dean. We talked about normal type stuff like our children, places to visit, races to do, nutrition and so forth. This guy is sooo down to earth and it made for the best Stump Jump I've had to date! Eventually Dean split from me and went on, but DANG... that was cool!

I ended up coming across the finish line 8mins faster than my 2008 time!!! Trey came in not far behind me. We both had a good day on the trails despite my recent Ironman and Trey's lack of training for this event.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adventures in Austria....

Three days after Ironman I loaded myself up on a plane and flew into the Munich Airport in Germany. Once there... my good friend Jim was waiting for me at the airport. We then took a train to the city of Salzburg in Austria and the adventure week had begun! The next day we were joined by three others (Karen, Rebecca & Cathi) in Leogang.

My first day in Leogang consisted of a trail run followed by a nice dinner with the others. I was in awe over the beautiful scenery.

The second day in Leogang all the girls went on a guided mountain bike adventure with Martin from Bikepark Leogang. I wasn't sure how the post Ironman legs would hold up during this ride, but somehow... I made it.

The third day the group met in Zell am See for some hiking and trail running. Jim had rented a guide for the day to help navigate the trail. We mostly hiked to the first peak... the Maurerkogel. Myself and Cathi ended up spliting from the group and did a little running to another peak... the Oberer Gernkogel. The views were stunning from those peaks!

The Fourth day the whole group went for a touring bike ride. This ride turned out to be quite an adventure as we weaved in and out of

little towns along the way. Every now and then we would even stop to pet animals. At one point we even stopped and toured some caves. What a great way to see Austria!

The fifth day the whole group went to see the Zum Krimmler Wasserfall (the Waterfall in Krimml). We along with our bikes were shuttled to Krimml. After viewing the waterfalls Karen and I made our way back to the city of Zell am See on our bikes where we would meet the rest of our group for dinner. Another day of weaving in and out of little towns and sight seeing! Awesome!

The sixth day I opted to do another guided mountain bike ride along with Cathi. The rest of the group stayed to play at the bikepark. Our ride took us to another peak called the Hundstein. A climb that took us to nearly 7,000ft elevation. The locals say it is the highest peak in which you can reach via mountian bike. WOW... my post Ironman legs felt this for sure! There were times I wondered if I'd even make it to the top! Unfortunately for me... I had no real nutrition for the day.... so that along with being tired from my event were not a good thing. Lesson learned... Always take your own nutrition from home. Chances of finding the proper nutrition that work for you in a foriegn country are slim to none!

After putting in a grueling ride the day before... Jim and I headed for the Eisreisenwelt (Ice Caves) in Werfen. AMAZING... that one word about sums it up. Beautiful ice formations inside a massive cave. It ws downright COLD in there too! Getting to the cave was not easy either. We had to purchase tickets.. then walk to the lift... then once off the lift we had to walk to the entrance of the cave. I was hoping to have pictures from the inside of the cave, but photos were not allowed inside.

The next day we loaded all our stuff up and headed back to Salzburg for a day in the city and then dinner with Jim's dear Austrian friends Christian and Claudia. Karen and I did mucho shopping and Jim took the other girls for some sightseeing. The place we stayed in that night was a very swank 450 year old hotel gone modern... The Art Hotel.

Sunday morning I was up at 4:00am to catch my shuttle to the Munich Airport. Goodbye Austria... till next time!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ironman Louisville

Sooo... I've been pretty quiet on here lately. Guess it's time for an update as I previously stated I'd do. The latest news is that I did indeed become an Ironman for the 3rd time on August 31st! A recap of the race is below... If you care to read.

Before the race:

Before the race Trey, Xian and I drove up to Louisville on Friday. We jetted over to the expo once we arrived and picked up my race packet and did a little shopping. The next morning we returned to the race site on the river and did the bike drop-off, transition bag drop-off and took care of some odds and ends. We also decided to rent a neat little bicycle for 3 or 4 persons to tool around on. Wow.. what a great way to see the city and riverfront area.

Raceday... the swim:

The swim always makes me nervous. It's not my favorite leg... and for those who know me well... know that I don't really log in the time I should for this discipline.

The swim start actually took place about 1 mile up the river from the race site. It was a long walk and there was a bit of chill in the air. I had on a jacket and my new compression socks for added warmth before I needed to hand them off to Trey. Since this race is set-up as a Time Trial Start.. the wait was rather long... so it took a while before I was in the water. Once in the water I felt pretty calm and my stroke felt good too, but the swim felt so long and I kept wondering if I would ever finish! The water was dirty and smelled of gasoline and diesel fuel... ugh... so polluted. First and last time I'll intentionally swim in the Ohio River. Boy was I glad to be out of that water!

The bike:

The bike went down about like I figured it would. I felt good for the most part and had a low spot around mile 75-80. Tried to stay positive and kept telling myself it would pass. Shortly after this... I stopped for a bathroom break and when I got back onto the bike... I felt like a new person. The rest of the miles were mostly pleasant and uneventful. I will say that the bike course was beautiful. It was much Hillier than I thought it would be, but the pastures and horse farms were stunning along the way. Around mile 100 my right hip started to bother me... soo... when I got off the bike at mile 112... I was more than ready for the run.

The run:

Running was actually something I looked forward to as I was ready for a new position after the long bike. Miles 1-4 were pretty fast and I felt so good. Trey saw me around mile 4 and ask me "What are you doing?! You are running 8min pace.. that is crazy!" After he said this to me.. I figured I might wanna back-off a bit before I run out of energy. I did back-off a bit and stayed strong for the most part, but there were ups and downs along the way. When I got tired... I would do a really fast power walk until running seemed okay again. When I hit mile 24.. I knew I was going to set a personal record and I began to speed up. From mile 25 to 26 I ran in at 7min pace to finish up the race. WOW! I had beat my best IM time by nearly 30mins!

After the race:

Man.. I was tired, but felt decent. I was in alot better shape than most people around me... so I was thankful. Trey and Xian were waiting on me at the finish line and had cheered me on throughout the day. I am so lucky to have such a supportive family!

The next morning we meandered over to the expo to pick-up some finisher's items. After that we headed south and stopped at the Lost River Cave for some touristy type stuff... then we were on our way back home.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Coming soon... I promise.... Training has been BUSY!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sweet H20 50K.....

Saturday Trey and I lined up for the Sweet H20 50K Trail Race just below Atlanta, Ga. The day brought some grueling heat along with a very challenging course. I've written a race report below.

(Photo of Trey at the start line) We started the race on a paved road that seemingly went for over a mile. Running on pavement is never something I choose to do in trail shoes, but I know it was set-up this way to thin things out and let each individual settle into their own pace before dropping onto the single track trail. The front end of the course wasn't too bad. At least... I don't remember it being too bad. I was cruising along at a very comfortable pace until we hit a series of powerline trails that looked much like roller coasters! Up, down, up, down, up, down!! There must have been at least 6-8 of these! This part of the course broke down many runners. I ran as much of this as I could and kept things positive. Shortly after this Trey and I decided to go our separate ways. I just kept plugging along and found myself running with some guys that I had met at other trail events in the southeast. I remember telling a guy named Jeff that I was just going to run the best I could and see what happened.... and also explained to him that I had run a trail marathon the week before. He also... had done a race the weekend before. I swear.... we trail runners are just plain sick! Not long after this I got a little burst of energy and was able to increase pace a bit.

(Photo of the creek)
I was on my own for a while and found myself delirious the second time around on the powerline trails! "Just keep going... Just keep going".... I would say to myself and I ended up running more of the powerline that I thought possible! The aid station at the top of these powerlines was a sight for sore eyes! I refilled my hydration pack, drank some gatorade and took some ice and kept trucking. This must have given me a new burst of energy as I was able to run a decent pace again. In fact... I passed a group of 4-5 guys on one of the descents! Time seemed to go by fairly quickly after this... UNTIL mile 20. Mile 20 was the creek crossing. Only 1 person at a time was allowed to cross. My wait to get across the creek was 8-10mins. Once across... I found my running legs again and was able to overtake another couple of runners.

(Photo of a snake skin around mile 29... possibly a rattlesnake skin. There were signs warning of them along the course)
At Mile 29 I found myself sick to my stomach and even thought I was gong to puke! Somehow... I was able to pull it together and talk myself out of throwing up and kept going. It was like a battle to tell my body to keep going. Every time I wanted to stop and walk I would tell myself "NO... you are going to break 6 hours you wuss!".

Sure enough the finish line was close and I knew I could break 6 hours. I rolled in at 5:57. A very respectable time on a tough course with temperatures in the low 90's! I was 9th overall female in a group of women who were tough as nails!... And a new PR for me on 50K distance. Trey rolled in around 6:43 and this was also a good time considering he had only run 20miles for the month leading up to this race.

(Photo of Sal and I after the race)

I would rate this course as tougher than Mtn Mist 50K... If anyone needs a comparison. Not sure that it is harder than Cheaha 50k, but it ranks up there with some of the harder races in the southeast.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Scenic City Trail Marathon

On Saturday I lined up for the Scenic City Trail Marathon. This would be my 3rd race for the month. I had no real expectations for myself... just wanted to use this race as a solid training run.

Sergio and I agreed to run as much of the race together as possible. We started about 3/4 of the way back in the field and quickly realized we were going to have to work our way up. The first lap went pretty well and we were able to pass alot of folks. We also ran about half of the first lap with Randy Whorton and Doug Dooley. Hanging with them really pumped me up! The second lap got a little more interesting.... Sergio took a few tumbles on the trail and eventually had to fall back. I kept trucking and was very surprised when I overtook Natalie Sims on the trail. She is way strong and must have been having a bad day out there is all I could figure. After passing Natalie I ran with a couple of guys who ended up passing me by.... at this point I was running solo until I ran up on Brenda Simril. Brenda turned and saw me and quickly speed up! This went on for a good 20mins or so until I couldn't keep her in sight anymore.

At the last aid station Kris Whorton told me that I was 2nd overall female and all I could think is "legs... please don't stop now!" Brenda ended up with first overall female and I rolled in with a time of 3:58 and a placement of second overall female. WOW.... I even beat my best road marathon time.. ON THE TRAIL!!!!

Now... let's see how the Sweet H20 50K goes next weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Twisted Ankle 1/2 Trail Marathon....

Trey and I ran the Twisted Ankle 1/2 Trail Marathon on Saturday. The race is in Summerville, Ga and is approximately 1 hour from our house. We were the only Chattanoogans signed up for the 1/2. Most everyone else came up from the Atlanta area or came in from other larger cities within 2-3 hours away.
On the drive down to the race I wasn't feeling so spectacular. Can't put a finger on exactly how I felt, but I just didn't feel like I had "it". We've all felt like this at some point. Needless to say.. going into the race.. I wasn't gonna place any expectations on myself.

We started the race and upon mile 2 was the biggest damn hill I've ever seen in my life. Nothing could have prepared me for this!!! Needless to say EVERYONE was walking this mother. I saw no one running it. Probably lasted for 3/4 of a mile... felt more like 2 miles! Once we were at the top I started feeling sick and my stomach was in knots... had to stop and walk for a bit. Trey said I must have gas and told me to get rid of it!! YEAH... like it's that easy to do! We walk for 4-5 minutes and during this time I was passed by 4-5 girls. ARGH... why was this happening to me! Finally the knots went away and I began to jog and eased back into my run. Somehow I was able to go faster and faster and before I knew it I had passed every female that passed me during my little episode! The last bit of the race was a gnarly downhill then it flattened out. On the downhill I was able to pass a few more girls and gained a 1/2 mile or so on the last one I passed. Upon crossing the finish line I learned that I was 3rd overall female! YAY!!

Now.. let's hope the stomach issues never creep up on me again... ugh....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Motivation found at Gulf Coast 1/2 Ironman.....

So... it's been a while since I last posted. Been busy with LOTS of trail running and working on speed! Hopefully it's all gonna pay off in the long run.

May 9th I competed in the Gulf Coast 1/2 Ironman with very little bike or swim fitness. For once... I was ready for that grueling hot run though! The swim was terrible.. I'm pretty sure that was the worst swim time I've EVER posted in my life. Maybe it was the 6-7 foot swells?! Maybe it was the lack of swimming on my part?! The bike went very well to my amazement. Ended up pulling off a 20.5mph average for the 56miles. The run was solid, but I could have most likely gone faster with some bike fitness under my belt! Ended up with 9th in my division and walk away from the awards ceremony with my first EVER award from this huge event that attracts the best from all across the country! Sooo.. I'm a happy camper.

Maybe next time I won't sign-up last minute and will have put more than 5-6 rides in and more than 4-5 swims in. Good news is that this event has motivated me to get back on the bike get back in the water too!

No pictures from the race. Enjoy the ones we took at the beach instead!

Monday, March 30, 2009

River Gorge Trail Race (10.2 miles)... Push on.....

Saturday Trey and I ran the River Gorge Trail Race. the weather was rainy and foggy as you can see in some of the posted pictures.

(Trey and I after the race)

We had a goal of 1:45, but with a very slippery rock garden, wet & muddy course and the lack of umph in my legs I turned in a time of 1:48-1:49ish. Still waiting on results to be posted to record the "official" time. Looks like I was 7th or 8th overall female.

The creeks were flowing quite nicely. Trying to keep shoes dry was a joke! I ran right through the first one and kept plowing through all of them the entire course. A year ago I would have searched for other ways to get around these very same creeks to avoid getting wet, but after a season of ultra marathons with not so great weather conditions.... I am forever changed and have a whole new mindset on this topic!

(overall women 1. Jan Gautier, 2. Heather Stone, 3. Brenda Simiril)

After this race I am motivated to get faster on the trail. I'm pushing myself out of comfort zones to obtain faster times... this has taken quite some time for me to do. Anyone who knows me... knows this is a huge barrier that I've recently broken through. Hopefully I'm on the brink of taking my running to a whole new level.

(overall men Sam Linhoss takes 3rd)

Push on.... Push on.....

Friday, March 6, 2009

David Meek... The trails will never be quite the same without you....

I am still digesting this terrible news. David Meek was killed this morning commuting into work on his bicycle. He was hit by a truck on Ashland Terrace. He... of all people... would have been the last one I'd ever imagined this would have happened to as he preached and practiced safe cycling and lit himself up like a Christmas tree when riding in the dark or overcast weather.

He was kind, encouraging, generous and loved life... living every minute of it to the fullest. There is no doubt in my mind that he had a positive impact on the lives of those he was around. I know that he made me want to be a better person, friend and athlete. I guess what I'm trying to say is... he was one of the good guys.

We ran alot on the trails together and had many deep conversations about life and so forth. He listened and gave advice when he thought it was needed. He also loved to talk about his family... that man loved his family. I think he loved just about everything... family, friends, nature and adventure.

David Meek... I will miss you. See you at that big finish line in the sky one day my friend.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mount Cheaha 50K.....

First... here is a little description of the course (taken from the Mount Cheaha website):

A Point to Point trail run that finishes in the Cheaha State Park at the summit of Cheaha Mountain. At 2,407 feet this is the highest point in Alabama. What you will see along your run? Scenic overlooks, creek crossings, lakes, water falls, hardwood and pine forests, and 80% beautiful single track trails touring through the Talladega National Forest.

Packet pick-up:

Friday Mitch and I made our way down to meet Cat in Atlanta from Chattanooga. The weather was awful! Rain, wind and cold. Visibility was horrible on the interstate. Once we hit Atlanta... traffic was backed up for days. Fortunately... we called Cat and she gave us an alternate route to her place. When we finally arrived to Cat's place we took a quick bathroom break... loaded up the car and made our way to Alabama! Again.. a little more traffic.... bad rain and poor visibility all the way to the lodge on Mount Cheaha where packet pick up was. We grabbed our stuff and made sure everyone was fed and left the lodge around 7:30pm (Alabama time). Our hotel was in Anniston, AL... which was about 30mins away from the lodge. Upon checking in to our room... we were surprised to see a sign at the front desk with weather warnings (see picture).

Race Day:

Race morning we woke and all seemingly had a good night's rest, ate some breakfast and headed back up to the lodge where buses would take us to the start. It was pouring rain and windy. We were

sure this was not going to be a fun race start! All of a sudden the race director informs us that the buses were stuck in mud and would need to be towed out before they could come get us. This meant our

race start would be delayed by an hour and a half! Fortunately... this did allow for the rain to move through and we were off! Unfortunately.... the ground was saturated from all the rain and in many places the excess water just stood there as there was no place else for it to go!
The first 8miles were miserable for me... I couldn't get into a groove and did not warm-up for a while, but once all that was worked out things got better. Aid station #1 was at a train track and we had to wait for a train to pass before we could hop onto the trail on the other side. It was here that I tried to regroup and get my pace under control. By aid station #2 I was cruising and much more comfortable about things.
The course was rolling... up... down... up... down. It was muddy and standing water was unavoidable. Finally I stopped trying to dodge the water and just gave into the fact that I was going to be wet all day! There were many creek crossings... anything from ankle deep to chest deep! A couple of the creeks were carrying a nice current too! I was glad to be running with Sarah out there as we were able to keep each other in check and keep the pace going. Along the way we did pick-up a guy named John who ran with us most of the way. He was nice enough to escort us across two of the creeks that may have very well swept us away without his help!
The weather got a bit cooler as the day went on and the skies started to spit rain again. If I had stopped moving at any point during the race... I would have gotten very cold. Sarah got a bit tired toward the end and I kept moving (slowly at times). I figured that I needed to keep moving... no matter how slow or fast. John stayed with me until mile 28 where the nasty 1200 foot elevation gain began. Up... up... up... till finally to the top! It wore my legs and lungs out! Finally... I was able to resume an easy granny jog and made my way to the finish line. Shortly there after John came in and then Sarah was not too far behind him. It was nice to be finished with such a brutal 50K and very rewarding at the same time. My time was 6:43.... probably the worst finish time ever for a 50K in my history, but considering the course and all the water and creek crossings... It was a solid finish.... and the only injury I walk away with is a blister on my big toe.

After the race I changed, ate and hydrated and then hiked back on the course to see if I could find Cat. I wanted to see her to the finish line for her first ever 50K race. Sure enough... here she came trotting along and found enough in her to run it out to the end. Big congrats to Cat!
If you want a tough trail race... one that will kick your butt... sign-up for this one next year!