Larry and I registered for Lookout Mountain 50 M quite a while ago on my quest to explore other states beyond the usual destination races: PNW, UT and CO. This one fit the bill, and then some! We flew to Nashville, TN, got in the car and in 2 hrs were in a most beautiful surrounding - may be in a weird sounding way for those who live in PNW or Rocky Mountains, but...We grew up in something similar, and as we get older, I think the memories of childhood make us more sensitive. The naked tall trees that lost leaves felt just right - how they supposed to be in a very late Fall. Not ever-green Fur Trees of West Coast, and not ever-green shrubs of Texas, but normal sadness of the nature seasons. The rolling hills were just perfect size, up to about 2,000 feet high, basking in the sun. Chattanooga, TN, puts Austin to shame - with life bustling and so much to offer! It was a lovely visit.
So was the race. It was THE first time in my life for a few things: for having not being even remotely trained/prepared/ for not having any kind of expectations, and for not meeting a single person I knew, saw or heard of. Yet the race was capped at 300 runners! Crazy! It was wonderful!
It stared with first light at 7:30 am, and we took off on a single track snaking around the bluffs with long drops and very rocky trail covered in thick layer of fallen leaves.
|Course photos courtesy of race management.|
|Photo property of race management and Jeff Bartlett full set|
|Photo property of race management and Jeff Bartlett full set|
As we entered the AS, somebody called out my name, and it was Tiana, a gal I coached. Talking about not knowing anyone! I filled the bottle, and next 7 miles sulked in my thoughts of why am I there...that section was so runnable, and I suck in running so much! But as we got to mile 15.5 AS, I see a huge climb right past it, and I perk up - as others drop their heads! My God, I am revived and alive! I love climbing! I started smiling, talking non-stop, as I steadily made my way up, passing people and giggling! I knew from now on I will be just fine...and it was just beautiful.
|Photo by Abigail Meadow|
Larry was waiting for me at start/finish mile 22.5 AS. He (smartly) decided to instead of suffering through a 50 un-prepared simply make it a 22.5M training run, hard, went with the leaders, ran like crazy, then was free to crew me - my favorite person to see on the course. He fed me my tomato juice and baby food pouch and sent me off.
Then there was a mile of dirt ATV road, and I think: I need to let them go. Then turn to the side and hurl. A lot. 4 times a fountain. And smile. It felt so much better after! But considering how much, I figure it's all I consumed since mile 22, and my water bottle is almost empty...
We weave around some water body (lake? swamp?) on freshly cut trails, see some front runners coming back, and then pop on a half a mile road stretch to the AS at mile 34. Larry is there waiting for me as I walk up with Eric.
At first iced water settle me in, then my right knee hurts like crazy (training is NOT over-rated, my weak legs can't take well all the downs and ups!), then the stomach is filling up, again, and not processing. I emerge back, announce that my finishing time is non-essential (not that it ever was), but I intend to finish - and in good spirits! I smile!
I pass 3 ladies running together 2 miles from the finish, where the trails flatten out and weave again. A few minutes later a lady I passed right after the last AS comes back alive and I encourage her to go strong - it really is awesome to see people come back like that! I tag behind, she runs it all, I run it some.
The only personal semi-goal I had was to make it to the finish line without putting the headlamp on. With official sunset at 5:30 pm (10 hrs into the race) and fading light at about 5:45 pm, I had no choice but to break it on. The trail was a bit messy there, and I knew if I fall, I will seize. But somehow smelling the barn, I ran a lot of stretches. And then I turned my i-Pod off and heard a wonderful music of the finish line.
And there it was. I took a headlamp off and practically sneaked in. 10:35.
And I was walking after that just fine!!!
A few words about the race. It's a gem I haven't expected, even though read about it - and I ran some 85 ultras (it was my "marathon and above distance" race #105). The organization was class "A", top-notch! WEBSITE. The course marking was impeccable - not over-done, no confidence ribbons, just ground flagging blocking the wrong trail (which is smart, as on this technical rocky terrain you're bound to look down, not up). The AS are enough, but not too often (7-8 miles). The swag (if you're into this) is best I've had in a long time: long-sleeve hoodie, Patagonia technical shirt, a beer glass, and lots of serious prizes for top performances. The quality of top runners, judging by times, is impressive to say the least. Just because well'known "top dogs" don't come, doesn't mean locals can't run. They could put lots of those well-known names to shame! Just like marking would shame North Face championship and money-dispensing UROC and Rabitt 100 championship! They should give lessons!
I am so thrilled we went there to widen our horizon. There is SO MUCH to see around the country! Low-profile yet awesome races and courses are there waiting for us!
And with not getting into Hardrock, my last chance at it, my "career" as a 100-miler is ended. I cried. I really had a huge plan for this summer, for my family, for my personal challenge, that had little to do with being in "the race with others", but rather doing it, alone, my repeat Hardrock, so different than all the other 100's I had done alone, because it is a 2-day-2-nights alone, and different from my first Hardrock...and it's gone, and I am not going to just finish some other odd 100 for the sake to throw my name into a lottery bucket, again, for the sake of going through planning and sadness of not getting in...like Larry stopped trying to get into WS100...my count of 100's stopped at 19. Not a bad number. I had done what I wanted, and I am in such a different state of mind, and body...and I am still sad, but with all the changes around me IN the sport, I am OK and moving on as well. I am thrilled about running, visiting new places, spending quality time with my sweetheart Larry, doing low key events just to keep in shape, training moderately with plenty of time to pay attention to my family - and my health, and may be eventually picking up on some of my previous hobbies too.
And running. Still running, always running, because this is life.
A weekend full of great memories. A weekend that went without a glitch in any way or shape or form. A weekend full of life.