|The first batch of runners awaits the second shuttle.|
The start runs up a paved road for about .6 miles. It's a gradual climb that Sean said rose 300', though that seemed a bit high. I had thought about running with Martin, but worried we had different approaches and didn't want to throw him off of his plan. Once on the trail, the vast majority of us began to hike or power hike. This would be a recurring
|Finally reached the top of the first climb.|
I reached the first aid station at about 8:15. Here, we had our first creek crossing. I rock hopped across, refilled my water bottles, and got a banana. On the return trip across the creek, I just went through the middle and it actually felt really good on my feet. Now, for the long, long trek back up the hill. I fell in and out with various people during the climb, making small talk along the way. Since this was an out-and-back, I got to see everyone else I knew along the way. I had seen the two Brandons coming up on my way down. When I was going up, I saw Beth (close behind me,) Martin, Rick, Tyler, Doug, and several people who knew me, but whose names I couldn't bring to mind--I really need to work on my face/name pairing skills. I think one of these was Alisha's brother Greg, since he was at the race. There was a water-only stop on the way back up and I was surprised to see Quez there. He had gotten called in to help at the last minute. I refilled and carried on, eager to reach the ridge.
|I am headed somewhere over there...|
|Heading for Big Tom. The last of the three big climbs.|
At this station, we had a short out and back up to Big Tom Mountain so we'd hit the same station twice in under a mile. I filled up my bottle and drank nearly all of it in that mile. It was a very steep, dry creek bed climb that really had me jelly-legged at times. On my way up, I saw both Brandons and Beth coming down. Fortunately, the turnaround, where we stamp our own bibs with "Really?" wasn't at the top of the mountain so I actually came up on it quicker than I expected. The descent, however, was not any easier and I may have actually moved slower. It got a bit congested in this stretch as the trail was narrow. I saw Martin heading up as I neared the aid station. At the station, Brandon was stretched out on the ground. Apparently a victim of leg cramps. I headed on, fully expecting to see him come up from behind once we hit the downhill.
There was a fairly flat section after this last aid station. I was really worn out but when I saw a guy ahead of me running, that prompted me to do the same. I continued behind him for what must have been at least a mile, until the course turned off this road and went down a trail toward Black Mountain Campground and the finish. This is a fast-dropping, technical trail. I had faint hopes of catching up to Beth on this stretch, not knowing how much of a lead she had and how fast she was on technical trails. I was able to hang pretty close to the guy ahead of me going down this stretch until I caught a root and did a header into the trail. Nothing was injured but by the time I regathered myself, he was long gone. I could tell rain was coming and used it as an incentive to finish quickly. I knew I had a bit of a walk to my car from the finish.
Finally, the trail bottomed out and I headed into Black Mountain Campground. The course followed a nature trail where a number of campers were casually walking along. I continued until it eventually came to the campsite Sean had booked for the finish. He caught me shortly after I finished and asked me how it was. I was honest and said it was tough. Some of my difficulty came from my own lack of preparation and just not having a good day, but even on a good day, it would have been a real challenge. A few minutes after I finished, the rain set in. I decided to not hang around any longer and made the longer-than-I realized walk back to the car.
I'm not sure if this is one I'll repeat or not. Mainly because I can go do the best parts of this course on any given weekend. But, for anyone looking for a serious challenge (and not a 50K PR) this is definitely one to check out.