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 loss....in 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!!