Well ok maybe my third full here wasn't as good a race as my first, but it was the best on multiple levels if that makes sense.The course:
Last year, thg did an incredible job at the last minute redesigning the entire course to fit it in the state park because of a stupid federal judge decision which kicked us off federal lands and forced (err graciously allowed) us to run up Becky's Bluff twice.
This year we again were allowed on hallowed federal trails, but our intrepid RD somehow tweaked the already-incredible original course for the better, incorporating things from last year, including the brutally fun firebreak trail.
As well as reinstating the best trail in any trail race anywhere, which had to be cut last year because it was on stupid federal lands.
In short, I can't imagine a better trail marathon course, and there never ever will be a better finish to any race anywhere than the footbridge across the lake.The peeps:
With forum peeps not bothering, or bailing for various reasons, this was the smallest contingent yet but it was the closest and best including pancakes' sil and cookiemonster's sig.
Y'all who missed it, you really missed it and what happened at TA stays there.
As far as runners, the half sold out but the full was far from full with only 73 registrants and I don't know how many started, but that added to the intimacy (and sometimes loneliness) on the trail. Trail races always are friendly but this one was particularly so.My race (short version):
Even though I finished near the bottom of the small pool of finshers, I'm really pleased. 3rd AG but there might only have been three of us.
Whatever, I finished and ran smart and hard and had great fun.Race and goals (longer version):
Goals were to START SLOWER than last year, to finish stronger than last year and to have fun.Starting slower.
Going out too fast in any race still is a problem of mine after nearly 45 years.
And that's maybe a big part of why I nearly was crawling to the finish at last year's TA.
But this year, I've been preaching to myself for weeks in capital letters to START SLOW START SLOW START SLOW. Well I did, with the first half in 3:09 instead of last year's 2:35 but then again the first 13.1 of this year's race had the three toughest components of the race: the firebreak trail (with steep muddy cambered up-and-down ravine hills and a net gain of about 400 ft in a mile); Becky's Bluff, no explanation needed; and up the backside of the big mountain on the Pinhoti Trail. So even though it was slower it wasn't really easier but it definitely was smarter.Finishing stronger.
So ok I was really trashed at 13 miles like last year.
But unlike last year: I never thought about quitting, didn't cramp at all, never stopped moving, ran almost all of the second half, picked it up towards the end and somehow found a gear to fend off a scary bearded guy the last 3 miles and last quarter mile. It wasn't a strong last 13 miles but strong enough.Having fun.
I positively demolished this goal.
Besides all the fun at thg's house, the spaghetti dinner, the cabins, the campfire, breakfast this morning blah blah. From the start, the race was particularly fun. Running with cookiemonster, then with cookiemonster and ft, then with thg jumping in to run with the three of us (and nearly running me into a truck side mirror
) then with ft. Usually I mostly run solo in races except for impromptu hookups with friends and strangers but this race I spent more time running with friends especially cookiemonster than I ever have.
But many times, with so few marathoners, I totally was by myself with the sights, sounds and smells of the forest.
At about mile 3 the half marathoners go right while the marathoners go left. Fast turtle was in the middle of a story and was surprised by the split.
She kept trying to go left although she was doing the half and I finally almost had to forcibly turn her in the right direction.
I though later that I should have let us trade courses at that point.
I caught up to cookiemonster and was just a bit behind him through the firebreak trail. On the very first of the several seriously significant ravine uphills, a girl in front of me slowed almost to a stop and asked whether this was Becky's Bluff.
In my best understanding voice while trying not to be scary I said, "uhhh well no, this is just a tenderizer." She looked really scared after my gentle words.
At the end of the firebreak, I followed cookiemonster into the woods. i.e. woods, not trail as we obviously were off trail into virgin forest.
We both missed the turn, but soon bushwhacked our way back to the trail without losing a lot of time.
I enjoyed going past the cool air and waterfall at the marble mine with cookiemonster and even actually enjoyed the gutbusting climb up Becky's Bluff with him.
As well as the run on the ridge until letting him go. But we still got to see each other on the turnarounds, which is a really cool feature that this race has. From elite-level runners to the end peeps, EVERYONE exchanges encouragement and good wishes to runners passing in the opposite direction on the singletrack.
At the top of Becky's Bluff, I gave totally drenched sweaty hugs to one of thg's sons and to woodstockjesus.
Then took off along the ridge with cookiemonster.
Going down into the valley on the Pinhoti is the most fun and surreal trailrunning you can find in a race and I really missed it last year. S-turns through trees and pine needles. Rocky trail on a precipice. On mud through a tunnel of leaves. And more.
It's not as fun going back up but it's still fun and at the top you are halfway done...
I love GA ridges of the Appalachian mountains. PA's mostly are pretty level but in GA you are running little mountains on top of the mountain.
After getting back to the ridgetop at 13.1, you have 6 miles on the ridge to the watermelon turnaround station then 3.5 miles back on the ridge before turning down the mountain. The watermelon at mile 19 is the best freaking watermelon I've ever had in my life!
I feel like a wild animal slurping it down.
At about mile 21 on the ridge, the skies open up.
Torrential rain with an occasional lighting flash. It's been humid as anything the whole race and I've already sweat out and tried to replace a couple gallons and this downpour is welcome.
And ridiculously funny too, sending me into giggles running up and down the mountain ridge mini mountains with the rain coming down in buckets.
Ready to kind of ease it in after running down the mountain, the aforesaid scary beaded guy is making a real effort to catch me going around the lake to the finish. I'm forced to run hard over the damn dam and even up the damn gravel road hill.
He's still pushing right before the footbridge over the lake but I beat him to the bridge and sprint the best damn finish of the best damn race anywhere.
This thing always is fun, but this year especially so. The course was tougher but the best and funnest yet. I'm happy with my race and of course being with special peeps, but especially sad that it's over.