Mystery Mountain Marathon, October 9, 2016

 

This was a hard one.  Well, all of them are hard, actually, but it does seem like some are harder than others.  Sometimes it’s just not our day.  Maybe we are tired, our nutrition might be off, our mind isn’t quite with it, or for whatever reason the run just seems like such a struggle.  We can try to just enjoy a beautiful day for running and some beautiful scenery, but it’s hard to enjoy that while our head is focused down on the trail.

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Fort Mountain, Chatsworth, GA

I had a goal, a plan.  I even shared it out loud.  Normally I don’t share a goal.  It’s like bad luck – I might jinx myself or something.  But there you go, I said it out loud – I really wanted a sub 6 hr finish.  This would be my third time running this race.  It’s 26 miles with 7,000 ft of elevation gain, lots of single track technical trails (my favorite), long stretches of rocky fire roads and some gnarly downhill sections.  Previously, my best time was 6:16 and each time I’ve run it, I’ve also been the Grand Masters Female 1st Place Finisher.  This year I have been training with a coach and felt like I was stronger and had a good chance of reaching my goal.  I also asked a couple of my running friends, Bill and Loren, if they would pace me.   I knew with a little push, I could stay running on sections I had walked in previous years, and that should help me reach my goal.

Promptly at 8am, the race started with a bang, literally from a cannon.  Like most races it started out on a short road section before entering the trails, then within a mile or so the trail narrows to some single track and very technical sections.  This is my favorite part of the course, but today it took me several miles before I felt like I really settled into a comfortable pace and run.  I know I’d pushed myself up to the front a little more than normal and was running strong with my two friends, Loren in front setting the pace and Bill just a few steps behind me.  We all stayed together and pushed through nearly 5 miles of trails before Bill took the lead and moved further ahead.  He had been struggling with stomach issues all week and I knew he was not feeling great, so I was happy to see him push ahead and find his own groove.  I also knew Loren would continue to set a good pace and help me to push even when I didn’t feel like it.

At each aid station, we got an update on how far Bill was ahead of us.  Sometimes it was a couple minutes, and later it was more like 5 or 6 minutes.  He would leave word that he expected us to catch up to him as he continued to struggle with his stomach issues, but he seemed to be having a great race anyway.

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I really was having a good time

Around mile 9 or so, I turned my ankle.  At first, I wasn’t sure just how bad it was, but I was able to walk it off within a few minutes and begin to run pain free again.  It did, however, make me more cautious so I wouldn’t turn it again.  This wasn’t my “A” race and I knew I didn’t want to injure it seriously.  After the mile 10/11 aid station, the fun really began with a steep power line climb and then a downhill that is called the “downhill of despair.”  I guess that should be description enough.  I was hopeful that once we finished the downhill section, the trail would smooth out and the fire roads would not be quite so technical – a little easier running.  But instead, we experienced more rocks and technical sections that made it difficult to settle into a comfortable stride.

Once we went through the next couple of aid stations that seemed to come quickly on the fire roads, we came to what’s known as Conte’s climb.  Most local ultra trail runners and any GUTS Member (Georgia Ultra and Trail Running Society) knows who Franco Conte is.  I’m sure his ears are burning as many of us go up this long climbing section named after him.  The climb isn’t hard because it’s so steep, but because it’s so very long.  Most Georgia runners are used to hills.  We run on them almost daily, and they are usually short and steep.  Long steady climbs that never seem to end are not our specialty, in most cases.  Two weeks earlier, I had been in the Grand Canyon, so this was right up my training tree.  I had this one.  Loren and I were looking forward to reaching  the Last Gasp Aid Station, but it just seemed to take forever.  By the time we got there, I felt I was a little past my Last Gasp.  We caught and passed a few runners here as we headed into the last section of rolling hills with more climbing.  By now, I’m just ready to be done.  Loren pushed us forward and I kept running even when I really wanted to just walk it in to the finish.   I knew I had to keep pushing to stay with him.  He kept track of our time on his watch and let me know we were doing great, but I didn’t really want to know exactly how we were doing.  As long as we were good, that’s all I needed to know.

Soon we were at the top of the power lines, headed down them and into the home stretch.  We both moved as quickly, but carefully, as possible.  We quickly checked in with the aid station crew at the bottom of the hill, and were off around the lake to the finish line.  I told Loren it would take all his strength to push me in, because I was done.  I kept moving forward, trying to finish as strong as I could.

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This was all the push I had left in me

I wish I would have been smiling as I crossed the finish line, because I could not have had more fun.  I got to run on a beautiful course with absolutely perfect running weather, and I spent time with a couple of my favorite runners.  But I was spent.  I gave it all I had that day.  Maybe on a different day it would have been more.

It took a couple of days before I realized I did reach some of my goals.  I did get a PR on the course by 9 minutes, finishing in a time of 6:07, and I was once again the Grand Masters Female 1st Place Finisher!

 

Pine Mountain 46 Miler Race Report, December 6, 2015

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.

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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…