Leading up to the Mystery Mountain Marathon and 12 miler put on by #GUTS, I think I was feeling pretty good. I had recently done a very challenging hike in the North Georgia Mountains doing 3 peaks and a total elevation gain of 5700 feet. I felt prepared and ready for the challenge. I had ever been to Fort Mountain, but felt like I could handle the climbs.
It might be important to add here that I drove up in the rain and some heavy fog . It had been raining all night there at the park and the trails were muddy and wet.
My plan was just to begin in the middle of the pack and go at an easy pace. I gathered at the start line with several other friends I knew and chatted with them before the gun. A pretty normal start with a few hundred yards on the paved road before dropping into the trail which quickly started on a single track and at times very technical trail for probably 9 miles.
You can prepare for some things before a race such as training, before race food, clothing and such, but some things you just can’t always prepare for. As a trail runner you learn to adjust to the unexpected things that some up. Around a mile and a half into the run, a yellow jacket flew into my face and stung me on the eye. Yellow jackets are known to be vicious this time of year and don’t really appreciate several hundred runners disturbing them, go figure! Just as we came up to mile 3, there was a photographer at the top of a small set of rocks that informed everyone that there were yellow jackets just around the turn. I ran through the Yellow Jacket nest with a couple of other guys, everyone got multiple stings. Luckily that would be the end of the yellow jackets on the course.
Around mile 10 the course turned to go up some very steep power lines. To stop and look up to the top was an almost overwhelming view, but the look back from the top would add the satisfaction of accomplishment. On to some wicked downhill that was nearly as steep as the climb up but not a straight line. Once dropping out of the power line area it was on to around 7 miles or so of fire roads. Sounds like the easy part of the run, but heavy gravel fire roads are not usually what trail runners call fun. Sounds of water falls and some beautiful scenery gave way to the long fire road section that included constant hill climbs as well.
One thing we were prepped on about the course was that around mile 20 we could expect a serious hill climb. As promised that hill would turn out to be everything we were told it was. It was very long, and steep at times, a hill you were certain couldn’t keep going up but it did. Once to the top it would prove not to be the final hill by far. Finally the last major aid station with 4.9 miles to go. At this point everyone was just looking for some flat or down hill to start running again. A few rolling hills before another good climb back to the top of the power lines (gee this looks familiar), yep down we go. Finally to the bottom with some cheering volunteers to encourage us along, the last mile or so looping around the lake and back to the finish were we started. It was not an easy run for sure. I was with others for most of the run, few and fewer near the end. But while several runners were pulled from the course because of missing cut off times, or dropping; I finished! Every step is truly a blessing. The Mystery Mountain Marathon was very well run by GUTS race director, Kim Pike. The volunteers were so supportive and helped me get through this tough race.