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.
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 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! http://www.pinhoti100.com/mountcheaha50k/default.htm