All I Want to Do is Cry!
I had never done a 50k before, and as far as trail runs are concerned I've never gone more than 11 miles. That being said I'm not sure how John talked me into doing the Stump Jump 50k but despite the way my body feels I'm glad he did.
Karnazes in the House
When it comes to ultra running nobody is more well known than Dean Karnazes, he literally wrote the book, which I bought and will start reading soon. At any rate Dean was at the race to speak and run. Dean is an amazing runner, but he might actually be a better guy. Very gracious with his time even took a picture with John and me. He has been on some crazy tour for North Face and has been all over the world for the past few weeks. Not bad for a guy who broke a few ribs during a race in the Rocky Mountains a few weeks ago. He spoke after the carbo dinner, it was good stuff, a lot of insight and some humor. He shared some stories and some clips including his appearance on Letterman several years ago.
We'll leave the Light on For You (Although the bedspread is so bright you don't need it)
After the dinner and speech we drove to our motel, we opted for cheap and had a reservation ready for us at the Motel 6. There were some pretty frightening reviews, one that mentioned "credit card fraud" another strange men lurking in the parking lot. The guy working the front desk was possibly the slowest moving man in the world. He wasn't young and he had some sort of European accent. He gave off a somewhat friendly vibe, but All things considered I was pretty happy with the room. Sure it had some ridiculous bedspreads, a TV that only had VH1 for the first 3 minutes it was turned on, and a couple of odd mirrors, but it was clean. I slept pretty well and was ready for the race in the morning.
The weather was a lot cooler than I expected, it made me realize that Summer is really over. I was nervous, but at this point what could I do except run. There was quite a crowd, I heard some 300 people doing the 50k alone, a bunch more doing the 11 mile run. Parking was a nightmare.
A Fast Start... Too Fast???
So having never done one of these I didn't really know what to do in terms of pace. The race started in the parking lot and went around the school for about a half mile before we hit the trail. It was right then that Dean Karnazes comes right in front of me. So how do you not try and keep pace with him for a little bit. I was not alone, must have been about 15-20 people all grouped together in the Dean pack. The beginning few miles was pretty easy, some gentle hills nice smooth gravel and dirt paths. I stayed with Dean for two miles, I dropped back a bit and noticed there was almost nobody behind me. I cruised along for the next few miles and I was feeling great and the running was easy so all was good. I caught up with John at about mile 3, I was shocked to see him again I think we ran together for another 2-3 more miles including a real nasty decent, I loved it and I was flying, this was probably a mistake and my legs would pay for it later.
Wow the View
There are some parts of this race that are absolutely beautiful. There is an incredible 2 mile stretch or so that runs along a ridge overlooking the Tennessee River. It was still early and there was fog over the river so looking out over a fog covered river was just incredible and perhaps dangerous. I took several bad steps and experienced my first real fall. Luckily I fell right into some fairly soft ground and not left down several hundred feet into the river. I met a guy named Dave from Nashville along this part, it was his first 50k too and we enjoyed a few miles together before he went ahead.
The Thing About Aid Stations is...
When you are running through the woods you can hear the aid station before you see it. You hear cheering and it gives you hope. All of a sudden you are running to something and its close and it has goodies. The pain you are feeling goes away for a second, because help is just ahead. The problem is when you get there you realize they can't fix your blister, or your screaming calf, or throbbing knee, all they have is water, Gatorade, Gummy Bears, Pretzels and encouragement. Nonetheless, I thought the aid stations were great with very helpful, friendly and encouraging volunteers. They did a wonderful job all the way through.
I promise I'm going to start doing longer training runs but I can't change the past. Going into this run my longest trail effort was about 11 miles so by mile 17 I was really feeling it. I sang a little song in my head that went something like: F#@k Fu%# F$c%, F@*&ity F&@k F%#k, then repeat. Needless to say things were not looking very good for me. Then I hit the Rock Garden.
Can Anyone Actually Run This?
So the Rock Garden is really cool, unless you are trying to run through it. I've never seen so many giant rocks all together in one spot. It must have been about a mile worth of ground to cover and my pace was not at all fast. My thought is what do the elite guys do here? Do they run or are they slogging along like a 1-year-old learning to crawl?
A Second Wind
I had been thinking for several miles if I would hit a second wind and at about mile 20 I started to find it. This was the same section of trail overlooking the river on the way out. By now the fog had burned off and the river was clearly visible. I was making up time here and was thinking I might be able to get in under 7 hours. Then came a downhill and I was flying, passing guys left and right and feeling great.
What Goes Down Must Go Up
I know that sounds backwards, but in trail running that is law. The same decent I enjoyed around mile 6 destroyed me at mile 25. I actually passed a few people on this hill, but it took everything out of me and by the time I crawled up to Mushroom Rock I was a beaten man.
The Slowest Four Miles of My Life
The remaining terrain wasn't tough at all, but it also wasn't interesting to me either. The same joyful easy trail on the way out was now a painful boring trail that would not end. I would run some then walk even the slightest incline. One thing that made this last part tough were the soccer fields. You could hear cheering and then think, "I'm there I'm actually there!". Psych! It's a F&#KING soccer game. The trail finally ends and spits us out on a paved road, just a half mile to go. I didn't remember it being this much of a hill on the way out? Coming to the finish I see John lounging in the bed of his truck with his camera, thankful there is no audio to accompany the photo. Final time 7:08:18, I didn't cry, and I finished, I actually finished ahead of people too!
This is a wonderful race, and while I don't have a lot to compare it to in terms of trail races the setup and feel of this race is big time. The trails are tough and enjoyable with more than enough challenge for anyone and plenty of beauty to distract you. I highly recommend this race and anticipate coming back next year to go under 7 hours. While I felt pretty beat up on Sunday, I was feeling good enough to sign up for the Mountain Mist 50k in January, this trail running is addicting!