This Race Report has been a little delayed because, well, the truth is, the race didn’t really go well for me this year. I had a great time at Lookout Mountain last year. It's a class event and a lovely course, and even though I knew I wasn't in great racing shape for the run, I didn't want to completely miss it this year.
Funny, though, how the spirit of optimism can carry you through almost everything but the finish line.
I got through the first 14.5 miles relatively unscathed – and then, much to my great surprise, the wheels came off. I’ve had tough stretches and difficult races and totally bad days, but I can scarce remember another time when I was moving along relatively well, and then, all at once, I had no energy to run anymore. Worse, at that point, I was at the bottom of Lookout Mountain and was about to begin a long 8-mile climb back to the top of it. Suffice it to say, about an hour into that ascent, I was cooked.
I might have slugged it out, but for the weather. It wasn’t bad, but the temps were in the low 30s and it was windy. The rain that had nearly cancelled the race the day before was mostly absent (at least, while I was on the course), but the after effects were still present, and parts of the trail were a sloggy mess. So, between the wet and the cold and the wind, I just wasn’t confident that I could keep moving rapidly enough to keep my core temperature high enough to stave off a mild case of hypothermia. (That’s not an exaggeration.)
So, I did the smart thing and called it a day when the course brought me back through the Start/Finish line at just over 23 miles into the race. I would have been a lot happier with my DNF if my drop point could somehow have been past 26.2 miles. Then, at least, I could say I ran an Ultra distance. As it was, I didn’t even get in a marathon, and that bugged me – but, still, it was the right thing to drop when I did. I’m sure of it. I’ve run the 50-milers. I’ve run the hard, hilly 50Ks. I made it 70 miles into my first shot at 100M. I know how my legs feel in those late miles. I know when my quads are trashed and even running down hill is a stiff-legged, difficult task. My legs felt like that after only 18 miles this year. I was done.
It’s all good, though. I had a lot of work the last few months of 2009, and I made some good money doing it. It wrecked my training time, but honestly, I needed some down time for my legs anyway. 2010 will shake out differently and I’ll see about taking another crack at 100kout Mountain. I’ll finish it again next time.
It was good to see some folks I got to know at last year’s race. Kris Whorton, last year’s RD, recognized me at the pre-race meeting and was glad to see me back again. I ran into one of the runner who I got lost with at last year’s race. She and I had a good time reminiscing about that as we ran. And Abigail was back running again, too. Unfortunately, she had a worse day than I did. She took a fall just 10 miles in, twisted an ankle and had to drop at the second aid station. I caught up to her as she was walking her way there, and walked in with her those last ten minutes, talking and catching up a little as we went. I joked with her that last year she had to slow down to escort me to my finish and this year, I was doing the same for her. I warned the aid station volunteers when we came in that she was dropping, but to watch out for her, because she was stubborn and might try and talk her way back out onto the course again. I told them not to let it happen because the injury was real and she needed to stop. Then I made sure Abi got a phone call in for her family to come get her, gave her a warm kiss on the cheek, and promised to see her again next year, at least.
I also met a guy (a kid, really) who, just a month before, had just finished a complete, summer-long, through-hike of the Appalachian Trail, Maine-to-Georgia. He was running his first-ever ultra after having entered the race only the night before on a whim on account of his weekend plans to drive to North Carolina for a friend’s wedding were cancelled because of a snow storm in North Carolina. Yup. He was a good-natured guy and had a lot of questions about ultras, this being his first one. A lot of his questions were really good ones, and I guess, after I answered his first one in a friendly way without laughing, he decided it was safe to ask me a bunch more as we ran. (I did my best to represent the Collective Wisdom as best I could without excessive pontification.)
He was a little on the short side, broad shouldered, and had an impressive, long, dark reddish beard – earned, I’m sure, with 4 months of cross-country hiking. He looked to me a little like John Rhys-Davies in “Lord of the Rings,” and in my head I couldn’t help but nickname him Gimli. Whether by my advice or his own natural fortitude (the latter, I’m sure), he finished all 50 miles in just under 12 hours. A great run for a first-timer!
Finally, I tried a new trick while I was on course for the race. Instead of just taking photos with my camera, I shot a few videos of myself giving in-race updates. They’re a little silly (at least, I feel a little silly about myself when watching them now), but they aren’t too long, and I’m going to dare to post them here. The only disclaimer I offer is that it was dang cold out there and my face (and mouth) muscles were not as agile as they would normally be. Anyhoo, here they are without further apologies. (My personal favorite is “UltraRunner Lamaze”, the next to last clip.)