We couldn’t end 2015 with two DNF’s on our record. Carrie and I had a new determination and immediately talked about signing up for Lookout Mountain 50 Miler on our way home with our Pine Mountain DNF. We had been within 12 miles of finishing that race and we knew we could do this.
We signed up knowing that our friend Tom was also running it and trying to complete his first 50 miler. Tom is a strong runner and we were happy to run with him and see him to the finish of his first 50 mile race and earn our much anticipated redemption. We drove up together early that morning. The weather was perfect and we had heard that this was a beautiful course. Lisa had run it just the year before as her first 50 miler and talked about how much she loved the race.
Adding up the miles, we had just attempted a 100 miler the previous month and just 2 weeks prior had run 34 tough miles, our legs probably could have used more rest. Runners don’t always make the best decisions and sometimes emotions play into the equation. The race started and we were off. A beautiful course indeed as we enjoyed the early morning hours on the side of Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga, TN. Those were some of my favorite miles of the course and my favorite type of trails to run; single track technical. It was stunning. Eventually down the mountain and to our first AS. We all grabbed what we wanted quickly and were off. The next section was flat and should have been a great place for us to run good. I think Carrie and I had tired legs and we walk/ran this section but still moved at a very good pace. After the next AS it’s a big, and I mean BIG climb back to the top of the mountain and back to the race start area. We all kept moving and did well getting back up the mountain well before any cutoff at mile 21.
From there we were off to a long out and back section of the course. The next part being mostly downhill, we got some good running in and eventually dropped into another one of the prettiest parts of the course. It was a climb out of there that you need a rope to get up, but once on top, the view was unbelievable
We had another few miles to the next AS. Here we had drop bags and then a 5-6 mile loop that would return us to the AS and our drop bags one more time. This looped proved not to be quit as easy as others told us it would. Some climbs in here although a very pretty section. Soon our friend Tom as beginning to really slow down and struggled with his legs hurting. We gave him some Magnesium and Aleve to try and turn things around for him but he kept falling back. Soon Tom told us to go ahead and Carrie and I knew we had to press on. This was our redemption as much as we wanted to help him finish his race. Back off the loop we grabbed our headlamps from our drop bags to keep going. It was another 12 miles to the finish and we needed to keep moving. Our focus now was to get down the rope section before dark. We continued on our pace, Carrie and I determined more than ever. We didn’t feel the cutoff pressure because we were running ahead of that, but it was the DNF monkey on us that seemed to keep choking us. Just as it was getting dark we make it down the rope section and to the final AS. It was a long stretch back from there to the finish, but we knew we had time and kept up a good pace even when it got dark. We seemed to be not far from other runners during this whole section and even passed a few as we kept on the move. Just a mile or so away from the finish my light started to go out. I knew we were close and I needed to push on. It was very dark out and I didn’t want to have to finish with no light. I pushed hard and finally made it across that finish line smelling the victory. Carrie cross just a few minutes after me and we celebrated together waiting for our friend Tom to claim his first 50 mile finish. This race does not give you a single second over the finish time so we nervously waited for Tom to finally cross the finish. And we got a sweet hoodie that’s one of our favorites and one we wear with the most pride.
Just about a month after our DNF at Pinhoti, Carrie and I had signed up long ago to run the GUTS Pine Mountain 46 Miler. (Lisa was always the more cautious runner and thought we would need more time to recover and opted for the shorter 19 mile distance). We had heard it was a tough race but that did not stop us. We had both felt strong after Pinhoti because of course we only ran 65 miles not the 100! We were ready to tackle this tough course and get a little redemption for our Pinhoti DNF!
The race started early and in the dark but we lined up at the start line in good company with many of our friends. A couple we would run with for section but Carrie and I were so focused on our redemption at this point we didn’t want to commit to going someone else’s pace, this was our sweet redemption to get.
We fell into a good pace early on, again starting far enough up that we didn’t struggle to pass runners and settled into a good pace. We quickly cruised through the first AS and both felt good and had a positive attitude. We were on part of the course that had been added onto the previous year’s 40 mile course. We enjoyed the views of this section and weather was perfect. Quickly we dropped on the 40 mile course from the previous years and got to the next AS. Carrie and I had learned to manage AS stops very quickly, usually we chatted before getting to them about what we need to do, we would focus on those things and quickly be gone.
The trails from here became much more rocky and technical. We ran what we could and were careful through the tricky sections that were rocky. When we got to the next AS we had drop bags here and both dropped our lights off in them. We would head out from there and when we came back through this AS on the way back we could retrieve our headlamps for the finish. It was a long section out from here and we began to see some of the first runners headed back from long loop we were headed on. It included a very long, steep downhill section which a quickly mental note, you had to climb back up later. When we got to our next stop I was greeted by a running friend of mine, Della and it was so nice to see a friendly face. She cheered us on and sent us on our way.
The next section was a loop that would lead us to the Radio Tower AS. We struggled some through this section and it seemed difficult to follow the trail through some sections along the creek. Finally the Radio Tower AS was not far off but we were now just on the verge of the cutoffs. While we were with several other runners at the time, Carrie and I both knew we were running it in. It wasn’t over and we would not do a death march. How did we get here again, we could not figure it out. We ran well all day. We came running into the AS seeing familiar faces and friends. We were just minutes behind the cutoff but because we were running great, they sent us on. Carrie and I had gotten a pass and we weren’t wasting it. We knew we could get our redemption. Determined more than ever we ran well from there to the AS where my friend Della was still working. We had gained some time and were now ahead. We could do it. Again we were off. We knew we had some work ahead of us but aside from that one good climb we knew we could do it. Carrie and I powered on passing several other runners out on the trail but the end reward was ours to get. Once again we felt good and we were so proud of how hard we were pushing and climbing. We saw the next AS and knew we needed our headlamps from our drop bags. We had little time to spare so we ran in straight to our bags to get our lamps and were then told “your done girls.” What? “You missed the cutoff by 2 minutes.” We had run hard, we had put all we had into it. But we knew she was serious and wasn’t letting us go on.
So we are back on the DNF bus. We may have picked a really tough race to try to get off the bus but again we sit in good company with lots of other runners. If you are a runner or competitor you can imagine this begins to shake your confidence. But we awarded ourselves the “most determined” award because we never gave up or stopped until we were pulled! And we will keep that determined award and get ourselves off this bus! Soon…