Mystery Mountain Marathon

Mystery Mountain Marathon
Post Race

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thrill in The Hills Trail Marathon

Thrill in the Hills Trail Marathon,...I'm not really sure how to start this one.  This was an XTERRA Race, which means I knew it was going to be on mountain bike trails, which are not always my favorite. I tend to enjoy more technical running surfaces.  The race took place at Ft. Yargo State Park in Winder, GA. I had never been there before, which is a little odd considering I went to UGA, and it was not too far away.  Nevertheless, I showed up race morning, early! Mapquest told me it would take 1 hour and 25 minutes, but I made it in an hour flat.  I noticed driving in that the park was pretty with a large lake and the namesake old fort taking up the majority of the center of the park.  I found my parking spot, put on my jacket because it was chilly, and headed to registration.   The first thing I noticed at registration was a line about 50 people deep...sigh.  The next thing I noticed was that the long line was for the half marathon option, and no one was in the full marathon registration line.  I walked right up, grabbed my number, and headed back to my car for a little heat.  I kind of chuckled to my self really.  This race was my consolation for LOST 118, which I was supposed to be running this weekend.  But, If you have read my previous reports, I'm just fresh from an injury, and not ready for a 118 mile race, unfortunately.

I sat in my car pondering the race.  I wasn't feeling a 100% in my knees, not bad, but not perfect either.  I also really haven't raced too many marathons.  Considering all of the Ultras I've run, I have only raced 4 marathons.  Weird huh? So, I tried to ponder what time I would run.  I set my goal at sub 5 hours because I wasn't feeling race ready.  I run street marathons at about 3:30, and my fastest trail marathon was 3:57 at Scenic City last May. 

About 15 minutes to start, I put on my brace, grabbed my aid, and headed towards the start.  As I jumped out of my car, the girl in front of me looks up and says "Are you Ryan Cobb"?  "Why yes I am!"  It was Jenn Coker, who I had not met before, but she told me that we shared some mutual of whom was my 6th grade girlfriend from Texas.  How random!  Anyways, that's another story altogether.  I had not seen anyone I knew until I reached the start and chatted up Beth McCurdy, I saw Cindy Ralston, and heard Blanton yelling Chef Cobb...Chef Cobb!!!  At least I felt a little bit more at home now, GUTS and the Rogues were represented. 

And we're off!  The first .7 miles were on asphalt to spread out the runners, which was necessary as there were 500 of them.  Finally, in to the trails by the lake.  There had been a recent brush fire, which encompassed the first two miles.  The air was thick with smoke, and some of the tree stumps were still smoldering.  Despite the spreading out, there was still alot of jockeying for position through the first couple of miles, which were rolling switchback, heading down towards the lake.  Then, back on to a half mile of road, across the viaduct at the north end of the lake, and towards the first aid station at about 4 miles.  I felt pretty good at this point, the next three miles were real easy, and I found myself battling it out with people I knew were only running the half, but I felt fast, so I went for it.  I blew through the second aid station, just like the first....nothing for me yet.  The next notable portion of the course came in the 7 to 8 mile mark when we arrived at the bottom of the dam...left the trail, and headed towards this dreaded power line section I had heard everyone talk about before the race. Ummmm......not so much, a gentle groomed hill about .4 miles long, followed by an easy downhill....obviously the vast majority of these runners hadn't run Sweetwater!!!  After winding around the lake for a little less than a mile, we hit the second power line hill which was similar to the first, maybe a .10 of a mile longer.

At this point I was hurting a little, or at least I thought I was....maybe it was all in my head, I hadn't run long much this year.  at 9.8 miles I smiled for the photographer, raced down a hill, and took flight after meeting a root head on with my toe.  That's what I get for playing to the camera :). Anyways, I jumped up and continued on through the 10.5 mile aid station, up an 8 foot dirt wall, and towards the start/finish.  The last mile towards the start/finish area seemed to take knees were aching.  finally, I turned a bend, up a hill, and I was being ushered out for my second loop.  I was thinking that I knew the first lap was done, and I didn't have to push it on the second lap.  I slowed down, took a GU, and was passed for the first time in the day at 13.5 miles in.  I kind of looked over my shoulder, saw no one else, and started jogging, at a much slower pace for the next two miles.  I had let a sense of complacency set in...odd for me at only 15 miles.

Then, it happened.  I remembered who I was. I am an ultra runner, and have gone through much worse than this.  The pain was really minimal, and why was I bitching?  I picked the pace up at about 16 miles and felt fine.  I continued on for the next 3 miles without stopping, or seeing anyone else.  My I-pod was cranking, and I felt good.  At about 19 miles I saw another runner coming behind me.  My competitive juices started flowing, and I picked up the pace some more, and left him.  I was now approaching 20 miles and hit the mini power line section again...breezed up the hill, caught a runner, which energized me, picked up the pace some more, and continued to feel even stronger.  The next major hill, I caught another runner, and breezed by him Sally Brooking style with a low to the ground power hike!!!  On the second power line Jason Spruill caught up to me.  He actually took me surprise and startled me!  I didn't think anyone could have caught me because I felt so strong.  We chatted for a minute, but I was determined not to be caught so I really kicked and took off.  After I passed my landing area from the previous lap, I dropped my pace to 6:50's and never went above a 7:20 pace the remaining 3.5 miles in.  I just kept smiling because I couldn't believe how great I felt.  It had been a long time since I had caught the runner's high,and I was basking in it. With 1 mile left I caught the one runner who had passed me at the 13.5 mile mark, much to his dismay.  I dropped to a full on sprint for the final .5 mile and finished strong....3:56.  A PR for a trail marathon race.  I was totally stoked, and actually wished that the race was a little longer!!

The time was good enough for 16th overall and 3rd in my age group, which meant I would bring home some hardware.  I coudn't have been more happy.  I stood around and talked to Sean Blanton, we shared a box of his Tag-a-longs, and I headed home, re-energized and ready for my next run.  Good job XTERRA an thanks Tim. 

Whats next?  Southern Blue 200 mile relay, running the Silver Comet unsupported,...then what?.......
---happy running!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Red Top Rumble 'Lets get Ready to Humble!!!!'

I will try to keep this a short report for a short race. Red Top Rumble 2011 took place in a veritable heat wave in comparison to last year.  No Ice on the ground!  The race sold out in less than 24 hours this year at over 300 runners.  This is the largest race in number of people that GUTS puts on.  The race takes place at Red Top Mountain State Park in Acworth, GA, on the shores of Lake Allatoona.  The park got its' name from the past iron mining that took place there, and as the iron was exposed it would turn red due to oxidation.  The trails are fairly un-technical, and consist of numerous rolling hills.  The RTR is an 11.5 mile trail race, if you ran all of the trails out here you could get in 13.1.

This year, as it was last year, I was able to volunteer and run.  I prepare the post race food for all of the runners, and get out on the trails and run the race while other volunteers tend to keeping the food hot.  I really enjoy the opportunity to volunteer, and place that over actually running the race.  The fact that it is a GUTS sponsored race means that I will have a bunch of friends out there, and get to see alot of people that I haven't seen in awhile too.  This year, instead of BBQ, I prepared breakfast food for the post race runners.  I thought that this would be easier than last years massive BBQ, but keeping breakfast food hot is a challenge...eggs lose heat fast!

As the race start neared, I started to mentally prepare for the race.  This time last year I was running for the lead, and was in great shape.  This was the week before IronHorse last year in which I went on to run a top 10 finish in the 100 mile event, and easily go sub 24 hours.  If you have been following my blog, you know that I am not in that shape this year.  Today only marked one week of pain free running, and I hadn't run over 6 miles since FA50k.  I told myself that if anything hurt I would turn around at the halfway mark and saunter back to the start to keep an eye on the food.  I had very low expectations, and figured sub 2 hours would be a good time for me. 

I threw on my I-pod, cued up some Lil' Wayne, and toed the start line.  Ready, Set, ruuummmblle!!!  We were off, I left the gate faster than I had planned, but still conservative enough not to stress anything.  The first 3.7 miles of this race is the easiest part, which takes place on the Iron Hill Trail.  The Iron Hill is a mountain bike trail with only about 187 feet of elevation gain and other words flat.  I was only giving 80%, and had no intentions of anything else.  Nevertheless, I was in the top 20, and was surprised.  I spent some time taking in some pretty lake views, and the last part of the sunrise.  At 3.7 miles you take a left and hit a little single track trail over to the other side of the park, and the hiking trails.  This is my favorite part of the race, I don't know why, it just is.  There are two little creek crossings, and some good roots.  At the end of this section the runners end up at the Visitors Center and head out on the Homestead Loop. 

Upon entering the Homestead Loop I felt pretty good, and I think I ramped it up just a touch.  I reached the creek, gave Aaron Dwileski, who was surprised to see me running, a high five, and headed towards the road crossing.  After passing the road crossing and an aid station the runners are out in the heart of the Homestead loop...roughly a 5k of continuous switchback rolling hills that weave in and out of the Lake Allatoona's little finger coves.  There isn't a single difficult climb, they are just never ending.  For some reason, I always get lulled in to a false sense of ability, and take them too hard and pay for it on the last hill or two.  Today was no different, and on the last climb I had to stop and walk for a hundred yards.  My knee was tweaking just a little, so it was probably a good break. 

Eventually the runners return to the road crossing aid station, then parallel the road on the Sweet Gum loop that takes them by the old Lodge.  Back in to the woods there is a bout a mile of slight descent back to the creek, then a slight climb up to the Visitor's Center loop, a sharp descent and ascent that is about .6 miles back to the main road.  At this point I was feeling the fact that I had lost some of my endurance, but I knew it was almost done, so I shrugged it off and headed back on the campground loop and on to the funky little single track.  I was still giving about 80%, and was happy for that even though about 30 runners had passed me in the last 7 miles.  I need this humbling, its good for me. I learn from it. 

As I returned to the Iron Hill Trail my knees felt about 85-90%, which was better than I expected.  I made the final turn back towards the Start/Finish and mustered up a sort of weak kick to the Finish Line. 1:35, 8 1/2 minutes slower than last year, and about 35 places further down the list.  I was cool with it....Two weeks earlier I was thinking I would never run without pain again. 

Post Race was the best part, as my wife joined me with the dogs, and we got to hang out with some great GUTS people.  If you haven't volunteered for a race, this is a part you cant understand.  There is just a different comradery than just running the race.  Oh, and by the way, I had no left overs!!! The food seemed to go over well!! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fat Ass 50k 'Suffering is a Choice'

Fat Ass 2011 brought a change of venue, but the sub-freezing temperatures remained the same.  I guess to be fair it was warmer this year. It was a balmy 19 degrees at the start, up two degrees from last year!  At 5 a.m. when the alarm went off, I still wasn't sure if I was going to run this.  I have hardly run at all since Pine Mountain a month ago, and I hadn't run one mile in the last two weeks.  After Pine Mountain, I had a really painful bout of tendonitis flair up in both of my knees.  I have been trying to be really good; lots of rest, minimal if any running, taking anti-inflamatory meds, broke out the knee braces, strengthening the quads, etc, etc.  I had suffered with a bout of this two years ago, and basically with the help of a brace and anti-inflamatory meds I ran through it.  I keep hoping the same will happen here, but it hasn't.  I have seen slight improvement, but when race morning came I considered my right knee questionable and my left knee was definitely still in pain.

Nevertheless, three hours later I toed the start line with one of my good friends and upcoming 100+ pacer Brett Luna.  In my head, before the start, I planned on being a 'half ass' and only running 15.6 miles.  After the first step, I knew I was going to run the whole matter how long, or how bad it hurt.  At the moment, I had no idea on the answer to how long or how bad it was going to hurt though.  I did have one thing on my side , this years' race was at Sweetwater State Park, and I knew these trails like the back of my hand.

Off on the first loop, and I felt great!  We ran down the parking lot and headed for the blue trail.  The blue trail is a gently rolling fairly easy 2 mile stretch with good views of the river.  Brett and I settled in somewhere in the back of the top ten runners, and started our 31.2 mile conversation.  There was no one else I'd rather run a Fat Ass race with than Brett.  I knew that the entire day was going to be one joke after another, and we would truly be embracing the spirit of a Fat Ass run.  After two miles, we were down some washed out rail tie stairs, and off on to the White Trail.  The White trail is my favorite of all the marked trails at Sweetwater, three miles long with great river views and Jack's Hill.  A little over a mile in to the White Trail, I felt the first twinge in my left knee....and so it begins.  Nevertheless, I tried to ignore it, and up Jack's Hill we ran and then through the pine forest to the Start/Finish.  One loop down, five to go.

The second loop was fairly uneventful, this was the one loop that I chatted with some other runners.  I got to see Javier de Jesus and Kate Brun on this loop.  The pain was still there and becoming more evident on the downhills, which is common for patellar tendonitis.  The Blue Trail was the main aggravator of my knees for the rest of the day, and I often looked forward to getting next to the river on the White Trail.  At the start of the thirs loop I was entertaining the idea of only running a half ass.  I was really upset that the downhills hurt so bad.  I am, after all, nicknamed The Salamander....because of the way I pick through technical downhills.  By this time the level and uphill sections hurt too, so I guessed it didnt really matter.  On the thids loop, I had to stop and walk for  aminute or so....I was hurting.  At least the company was good, and the weather had not yet turned bad.  We decided that we wanted some tunes, so at the end of the third loop Brett grabbed his I-Phone, we cranked up some Bob Marley, and headed out on the fourth loop.

At this point, I had gotten really quiet.  I really wasn't sure if I was making the smartest decision continuing on.  Sharp pains had started in my knees whenever I landed anything but perfectly square on my foot, and on trails that meant greater than fifty percent of the time.  Brett was doing a lot of talking, and I was doing alot of listening, to Bob Marley that is.  We made up our own lyrics to the songs, one of my personal favorites was 'Buffalo Runner'!!!!  I would have moments that I could perform, but more often than not I was just in pain.  At the end of the fourth loop, I spent alittle extra time at the aid station refueling, which was a mistake.  In the matter of a couple (literally) minutes, my knees had cooled down enough to when I started running again, they didnt want to.  The pain was really excrutiating, and I started some weird kind of hitch in my step where I would kick my left leg way out in a roundhouse motion to keep going.  And why did I keep going, especially in a Fat Ass run?  I DONT DNF....PERIOD!!!!  We had switched to listening to Incubus on the fifth loop, and that is pretty much all I did.  Listen to the music, and talk trash about myself, and my performance.   The fifth loop was the longest loop of the day, both in time, and in my head!

At the Start/Finish Line after the fifth loop, I knew there was only one more loop!!!!  I tore away in an odd hobbit style gait, and headed for one more punishing loop.  After a short period of time my knees warmed back up, and I actually started a somewhat normal run.  The sixth loop brought some weird hard core metal that Brett had in his phone.  Oh well, whatever does the trick.  The last loop brought a bunch of trash talking and jokes that we hadnt seen for a coulpe of hours.  I got to take one more look at the beautiful Sweetwater Creek, one last painful descent down to the creek from blue to white trail, and one more trudge up Jack's Hill.  My knees were shot....

In case you didnt know, The definition of trudge is "to walk with purpose".  I always do, and always will.

We finished in 6:30, my second slowest ultra ever, and 1 hour and 45 minutes slower than last year.  Te weird thing was, I enjoyed the hell out of it.  I faced demons and crushed them.  I proved one more time that I am just that tough.  I had a blast running every step with one of my best friends.  I enjoyed being humbled, and I learned from it.....and that was the best part and the most important lesson to me. 

See ya at Red one way or another....