Mystery Mountain Marathon 2010.....for me a chance at redemption, and a chance to share some trail with my 12 year old son Avery. Fort Mountain Park in Chatsworth is my absolute favorite state park to run in Georgia. Dramatic views, cascading waterfalls, challenging terrain, and tons of wild life, make for a great trail run. This was my second year running it, and the first for my son. Avery volunteered last year, and ran the 12 mile option this year.
Early that morning the temperatures were running about 42 degrees, some of the first cold weather of the season. I knew that it would be pushing up in to the 80's later in the day, so I hoped to run fast early. It was a neat feeling to shift some of my pre-race jitters on to worrying about my son's race. We chatted with some of our other running friends, and lazily made our way over to the start line....all the while I was giving my son last minute instuctions and pep talks.
And we're off!....My son took his place at the middle of the pack, and I took my usual spot at the back of the lead group. After one mile around the lake, I smiled as I made the correct turn on to the Gahuti Trail. Last year, not knowing the course, I followed a group back around the lake and lost 15 minutes!!! At this point I was running 5th, and feeling good. The first thing I noticed about the course as we crossed Big Rock Creek was that it was bone dry. There is usually a healthy creek with a substantial waterfall here. This is extremely unusual for Fort Mountain, which is usually full of water and springs. The next portion of the course consists of fairly short climbs that lead you up to a ridge that you follow in to the first aid station.
As I rolled in to the first aid station, I was able to announce my most recent news that my wife and I were expecting. I actually announced this at every aid station that day! Other than that, I blew through the aid station, and continued on. Sean Blanton came up behind me and we shared a couple of miles chatting about Costa Rica. He took off, putting me back in 6th....he would end up in 5th for the day. The next portion of the course was a decent climb to the summit of Ft. Mountain and the mysterious wall....the best overlook in the park is here too. I passed one guy, but was passed by two, now Im in 7th, but feeling great. In my opinion the next 4 or 5 miles are the easiest on the course....rolling hills that normally take you through a picturesque and wet part of the park. But alas, the creeks were all dry here too. I ran these miles with some of the 12 milers, and when we rolled in to the aid station at 11.5, I said goodbye, feeling great about the second half of the race. The temperatures were no longer cool, probobly around 65-70 degrees by now, which still felt good as I traveresed the long steep powerline hill. I had some time here to wonder about my son, Avery, had I trained him well enough for this?
Downhill....after cresting the powerline summit there is about 1 1/2 to 2 miles of continuous downill rugged terrrain. This is generally my specialty, but after not running much in August or September, I felt it in the quads. The next aid station was just after the half-way point....I ate some S-Caps due to the increasing heat, really hydrated and took off. I knew that it was 5.2 miles to the next aid station, and 80% of that is uphill. The temperature reallly started to shoot up on this section, and I lost another spot....8th place....still felt good running in to the aid station, and stopped to chat up Bryce for awhile. The next aid station was a 5k away, and extremely difficult. It is a massive climb next to one of the most beautiful cascading mountain streams I have ever seen....but once again...dry, or almost dry. It was at this point that my lack of training for the last couple of months caught up, as did four other runners. It was a little discouraging, but my fault for being slack in my training. I settled in to 12th....and was prepared to start towards the last two aid stations and the finish.
I had forgot to mention that by this time I was cramping...it started at about mile 18, and I never recovered from it. The cool morning gave me a false sense of being hydrated, so I didnt take in the proper amount of water. As the heat picked up, and the sweat started to pour I was behind in my hydration and just couldnt catch up, even though I tried. Anyways the next 4 miles were fairly uneventful, and not the most scenic areas of the park, so I put my head down and gave it all I got. I actually picked up two of the runners that had passed me, and I really got a burst of energy thinking that I could still pull off a top 10 finish.
AT mile 25.2, I was flying down the power line hill that we had previously ascended at mile 12. I could hear Susan Breeding cheering for me, and I took off. And then it hit...a cramp in my side that almost put me to the ground, and made me completely stop for about 15 seconds. One runner passed, then I started to walk...then another runner passed....the pain was getting worse. I have never before, and have never since had a side stich/cramp like this. I can only assume it was from my hydration issues. For a second I wondered if I would finish....but I dont have quit in me...and would crawl if I had to. I rounded the lake in some real pain and crossed the finish line holding my side. I had shaved off 8 minutes from the previous year, and finished 12th, 8 spots better than last year.....I should have been thrilled, especially since this was still only my second year running, but I felt twice as bad as when I had finished the year before. I was upset with myself for not coming in prepared.
My son, Avery, rocked the twelve miler. He is currently the youngest to ever finish(but just by months), and ended up around 48th out of 140 or 150 runners. I was completely ecstatic for him, and sooo proud as many of the stories at the finish line contained someting about him. He immediately asked when the next big race is, and I am still beeming ear to ear. How proud can a father be when he hears things like "...and he hasn't even begun to reach his potential", or " keep this up and you'll be running in college!".
All in all, another amazing GUTS run. I am lucky to be a part of, in my opinion, the best ultra and trail running club in America. Thanks to all of the volunteers that made it possible, and a special thanks to Kim Pike for doing an amazing job at RD!!! See ya next year!!!!!....or better yet, see ya a t Pine Mt.