The drive towards the Alabama mountains began after work on
Thursday. Although the 8ish hour drive could be made in one day, I find the
cost of a room at a budget motel worth the price of more rest and less stress.
Wanting to avoid Friday morning traffic in Atlanta, I took the northern route,
I-81, to I-75, stopping for the night in Chattanooga, TN.
The last time I was in this city was in 1997, days after
Cheryl died. As I drove along, I recognized highway exits and locations where
I’d been during previous trips when she and I spent time together. I thought of
Cheryl and her running and kitty Rudy. If it wasn’t 9:30 at night when I
arrived, I might have driven to her old neighborhood or gone for a run across
the bridge she and I shared runs upon. I miss Cheryl and I was reminded, as I
often am, that my late twin continues to help me grow into the person I am and
am becoming. (Please see this previous post for more about Cheryl
I used a highway motel coupon to get a room at an Economy
Inn: relatively clean, quiet, coffee maker and microwave. Just what I wanted
for an 11-hour stop over.
All the time alone on the drive and night alone left much
time for pondering-about Cheryl, life and Mt Cheaha 50k. This would be the
longest distance I will run since October 2010 when I was injured preparing for
World 100k. I felt strong and well prepared for re-entry back into the ultra
world and would strive to better my 2010 time of 5:09:?? Although competing
wasn’t in the front of my mind, I definitely was hoping to run well enough for
a top finish.
Friday morning’s drive to Mt Cheaha State Park was easy and
fast. While driving I made a 6th phone call in 2 days to the lodge
office to see if there were any cancellations. (Generally you must stay 2
nights on a weekend, unless there is an opening the day before or day of your
stay). Luck! A non-smoking room was available for Friday night! Minutes prior
there was a cancellation and while on the phone, I was put on hold for another
line to be answered and was told it was another party looking for a
I looked forward to arriving in the State Park and not
leaving until the next morning. This would give time to consider what to share
as I prepared to be a 5-minute “guest speaker” at the night’s pre-race meal.
Todd (the race director) emailed me earlier in the week to see if I was up for
it, of course I said “YES!” yet until this day, I hadn’t given it much thought.
I ran 35 minutes on some mountain bike trails and the last
1.5 miles of the course, before going for a walk down the blue blaze trail, (Mt
Cheaha runners call it “Blue Hell”) to consider how not to bore this evening’s
group of kindred spirits. Wow! This trail was steep! I was already looking
ahead to tomorrow and anticipating what would surely be a very slow mile in the
As I made my way back to my room to make notes on my
musings, I had to laugh out loud at blue hell and the adventures we runners
venture into. Running 31.1 miles, climbing to the Top of Alabama is normal for
the sub-culture of ultra runners and completely wacko for most everyone else
visiting the park this weekend.
These are the notes I made to use for the evening:
many of you are wondering what to wear and to carry with you? Me too, this
is most often my greatest night-before run dilemma! It gets easier to
40 miler…my 1st ultra. It is okay to walk!(sometimes).
emotions, you are real, ultra running demands realness. (Example of my
crying the trails) Just try not to hyperventilate (explain)
in my ears. I sometimes train w/ipod, yet never race w/one I use mantras.
Ex: (WS100, 2007: “Annette you are having a great day and you are getting
stronger” (after mile 85, “you are having a great day, and keep on being
you feel intimidated or nervous? Consider dedicated miles or on some
courses (I gave my Mad City 100k 2010 example) loops to people or things
in your life you are grateful for…
does this alone (remembering PA system from 2005 WS 100) Give thanks to
those who love and support you!
who we love and who we must support get in our way of training…soooo race
day is a time to only worry about
a) not hurting yourself
b) not hurting someone else!
you are motivated by the negative, when you hit a rough patch, try, “I’d
rather be here than stuck in Atlanta traffic” or “ having a root canal” or
“locked out of my car in the 40 degree driving rain with no one around!”
the freedom to be all of who your truly are! Get muddy, get wet feet! And
keep in mind Saturday, 2/26 only comes once in a lifetime!
|Abby Meadows and I...Google her and you will know the meaning of "tough and tenacious"!|
|Sally Brooking looking relaxed.|
The pre-race meeting was fun and social, a good change after
spending much of the past 24 hours alone. I felt privileged to share my
thoughts at the meeting and don’t think too many people were bored!
Before leaving, I met up with John Dove, who would be a
person of influence this day. John and I talked about race goals- I spoke to
wishing to better my time from last year. He verbally poked me to run a sub
5-hour race. I appreciated this interaction and before heading for sleep,
figured splits for a 5-hour finish.
The next morning, I sat with Dan, a veteran runner of varied experiences, in the front seat of the prison bus as
we rode for 45 minutes to the Porter’s Gap race start. We had conversation
which converged on our race experiences and seeing the world through the eye of
an ultra runner with all it’s peculiar norms and culture.
Race start was at 7:30am to the first notes of the loud
speakered, “Sweet Home Alabama”. Off I went, running in a short line with Dink
Taylor, John Dove and a few others. We ran together for until the first aid
station at mile 3ish. I was feeling
plucky and happy and thrilled to be running in the woods. Bouncing along the
trail, the first hour passed. I couldn’t keep pace with these boys on the ups,
so happily adjusted my pace to run within myself.
And then just about an hour into the run, the bouncing and
pluckiness went away. Legs were heavy, I felt uncoordinated. It is like I
bonked before starting out. I started to walk that which I usually scamper up.
I was passed and passed. This could not be helped-this early in the run; I had
to go with my body signals, rather than my will to go forth.
I ran through AS #2 10 minutes off my goal pace, 2nd
woman and 20th overall. In this next section, again I was passed and
passed and I ditched my ideas of pace and just tried to work through this
funk. For several miles, I
ran between Christian Griffith, 40, and Laura Hill, 37, who was 3
paces behind me.
Several times between miles 5-15, I had thoughts of dropping
out and taking a nap and turning this into a pleasure outing of hiking and
jogging…HA! These options were not within the embrace of my current reality: so
long as I could move without hurting myself or someone else, I would proceed as
though things would improve.
I drank Heed and ate a Clif Shot just before AS 3 at mile 15ish. Maybe
my problem was lack of calories? A
generous volunteer filled my water bottle and opened a gel pack for me as I
scarfed a bite of a pb&j square. I took a Succeed! capsule, and ate 2 Clif
Shot Margarita blocks each 30 minutes for the next while…Wheels were coming
The Christian and Laura sandwich continued…then I decided to try
a Chi-Running technique on posture I’d been working on last week…I tightened my
lower abs to take the stress of my legs, and “ran” the little steeps instead of
hiking. Calories and posture helped and soon my confidence started to return
and I lost sight of my running buddies.
After a quick stop at AS 4-again seeing
and greeting Ken who was here last year, I transformed into hunt mode (I was told 3
runners had just come through). “Hunt mode” and downhill running allowed me to
pass 3 runners, including Laura
Fulton, 26. She seemed very steady
and relaxed the couple times I saw her, I think she ran well and smart!
The next person I saw was 26 year old Emily Ansick. She was
coming back from an “out n’back section of the course” and looked very strong.
Just going into the “out” section and needing to stop for refueling, I knew
she’d be about a 3rd to a half mile ahead of me. So I refueled and
ran to chase!
The next time I saw Emily was miles later during a straight
road portion of the course…I estimated she was .4 mile ahead and I worked to
get closer-yet this girl clearly is strong and I didn’t see her again. Seeing
her goaded me into continuing my pursuit, though I felt after trying to play
catch up for 12+ miles I was at the edge of abilities. I passed though the last
aid station, having been informed the last person to go through was Emily. I
gave what I could during “blue hell” and even saw some blinky stars in my
vision from the effort as I neared the top. (This scared me and I backed off
the effort: finishing strong was now the goal, not passing out with 1.5 miles
left to go!)
I saw a figure in front and then beside me. Byron Backer.
Damn! He was running so darn super strong when we last saw each other at mile
4…and he is tenacious and tough… and I know he is strong enough for a sub
5-hour finish…yet he is not a hot weather runner. This day is was now approaching
70 degrees and Byron was worked and still working as he slogged his way up the
trail. I slogged next to him and then ahead. He told me Emily was hurting and
worried about me. I said I was hurting too, wished him well, and continued my
quest to catch the young woman.
Catch her, I did not. She ran with courage and/or
desperation and finished in 5:21:15. I came in 5:25:11, 3rd woman and
Sarah Woerner, 21, won with a time of 5:01:22 , a new course record!
Congrats to you, fast girl!
The men’s race was: Owen Bradley, 31: 4:35:09, Jason
Hamilton, 37: 4:42:48, DeWayne Satterfield, 46: 4:54:57 (What’s this with the 3rd
place overall being 1st
masters on both Male and Female sides?)
Full results here.
I was pleased with my ability to rally after some unexpected
tough miles early on, yet not pleased with the mistakes I clearly made to
contribute to this extended low point. After finishing there was no time for
self-pity, or even healthy reflection: I had a Montrail tent and shoe table to
set up and hang out at!
Fifteen minutes later,
I was positioned under the tent with shoe samples, give-away goodies and many
interested runners! The rest of the afternoon passed fielding shoe questions,
registering comments and wishes about shoes and generally listening to stories.
Mt Cheaha 50k was another challenging, quality event put on by Todd and his crowd of volunteers and
Weather: Mid 40’s to mid 70’s, sunny!
Shoes: Montrail Sabino Trail
Clothing: Dry Max mid weight trail socks, Mtn Hardwear Pacer
Advance Shorts, MH arm warmers, MH wicking shirt, Patagonia glove liners,
Patagonia Sports Bra
Clif Shot gels, Clif shot blocks, Succeed caps!
Fuel, aid stations: peanut butter pretzels, sandwich
quarter, gel, electrolyte drink
|Photo taken evening of 2/25 from the Cheaha Lodge|