20 November 2010


What a great day for an ultra. What better way to complete my first year of ultra running than by running the race that started it all for me. I have to admit, the signs for the race for me personally were not that great. I had just experienced my first DNF at my first 100 mile attempt at the Pinhoti 100 two weeks ago due to some serious never before experienced knee pain and after laying off running for a week to recover and easing into running with 20 miles of easy training runs, I was not sure how my body would react. I knew mentally, I really needed a good race experience to make up for my disappointment. But physically, I had no idea what to expect. I had already registered for my next 100 mile attempt (Rocky Raccoon 100 in the "other" Huntsville in February 2011) and I knew I needed to be smart about this. In other words, as soon as I felt any kind of twitch, I would have to stop. Any race between now on February needed to be a training run. Ah, who am I kidding, I will always try to better myself when I participate in a race. I guess the trick would be to find a balance between both my competitiveness and my health concerns;-)

Race day didn't start out very promising. I had to ask Richard to pick up my race packet Friday afternoon, since I wasn't returning from a business trip until Friday at midnight. By the time I got my stuff ready for race day and went to bed, I had 4 hours of sleep remaining until I had to get up. I got up at 5AM, had my obligatory pre-race coffee to get things moving and left my house at 6AM for a 15 minute drive to the start of the race at Monte Sano State Park. Most people had already arrived and were making final preparations at the staging area, a picnic pavillion right next to the race start that we could use to leave our personal race stuff and any dropbags as we would come by this station 6 times before the race was over. Some runnrs would visit the aid station even more often since there also was a 40 and a 50 mile option. The race is laid out as a figure eight loop and the pavillion is located at the center of the figure eight. We would have to report to the timing table every time we would enter the station to confirm our arrivals after each loop.

The Race
Around 6:25AM Race Director Jeff Kyser got all racers together for some last minute instructions related to the course. At 6:30, we all lined up on the road and without any further comments, Jeff sent us off with something like "Let's go!". It was funny, some folks were not sure if this was the actual start of the race until they saw everyone taking off.

My plan was simple, hit a target pace of just under 11 minutes and run until my knee or other body parts would start acting up. At that point, I would drop out of the race. After all, my long term ability to run is more important to me than finishing a couple of races. The first little loop (2.3 miles) was pretty uneventful as I tried to find my running rhythm. This loop is only run an the start of the race. Afterwards, 50k Participants would run what's known as the North Loop (4 miles) and South Loop (5.59 miles) a total of three times each. I settled somewhere in the middle of the pack and hit my stride early on, chatting with a couple of different guys on the way, all from the Southeast area. I would meet some of them again later in the race. As always, this type of conversation makes time fly and before I knew it, I had completed the first North and South loops.

The North loop is the more technical section of the race with a few ups and downs, while the South loop is a rather flat loop with very little elevation changes. However, both of them are mostly single track trails and both provide some beautiful views across the Tennessee Valley, especially in the fall. Some would consider this trail 50K a fast race course, providing many the opportunity to shoot for a personal best. The total elevation gain for the 50K distance is slight over 2000 feet (according to Garmin Connect), not bad at all.

I completed the first full loop in just under 2 hours, if my memory serves me right. At this point, I took in my first SCap aloing with my second Gu. I wanted to stick to my usual plan of 1 gel and 1 SCap on every hour starting 2 hours into the race. I did choose to take in a gel after an hour just because it felt right, not because I felt I needed a boost already. I keep telling myself to take in food early and regularly, always expecting to one day "loose my lunch" late in a race at which point early food intake might prove essential to surviving a race to the finish.

I was using my Garmin Forerunner 305 during this race as my Garmin 310XT was acting funny the last couple of days. Unfortunately, I did not activate the auto-lap feature, so I had no immediate/constant feedback on my pace per mile. Instead, I ended up doing a little math in my head after each loop. Half way into the race, I was dead on track for a 5:30 finish, which would have been a PR. I ran a 5:58 here last year in my very first ultra. During that time, I was also on track for a 5:30 finish, only to blow up with 4 miles left in the race. I was afraid the same would happen again, so I stuck with my original plan...to run how I felt without being lazy.

When I completed the second full loo, I was still on track. My body was doing fine, my heart rate was well under control and fatigue had not become an issue, yet. I decided to try to keep it going and to push a little more on the downhills and to recover on the uphills during the final North Loop. It paid off. By the time I stopped at the aid station one last time before entering the final South Loop, I had slightly over one hour left to finish the race. If I could maintain my pace, I would possible finish in the 5:30 range. Fatigue was starting to set in and memories of my crash during last year's final loop started to creep up. But instead of getting down on myself, I kept reminding myself that I had a couple more ultras under my belt now and that stopping or even walking was not an option anymore. I knew I would get close to my target if I jsut kept moving...so I did.

The Finale
As I approached the finish line past the state park restrooms, I could see the race clock, 5 hours 29 minutes and 14 seconds. I actually broke the 5:30 mark I had set as a lofty goal for today. Not only was this almost 30 minutes faster than last year, but I even surpassed any other 50K mark of mine to date for a new 50K PR. To top it all off, Jeff and his crew were servinf cheeseburgers and cheesecake. What else could one wish for. This day was definitely a great leap to mental recovery after a disappointing DNF at Pinhoti 100. I am regaining confidence in myself and my abilities to finish a race and finish strong.


  1. Ultra Kraut, great race report and congrats on the new PR. It was a great race and great weather. Glad to see you getting the confidence back.

  2. Congrats on your PR. It was my first 50k. I spent the afternoon being lapped by speedy guys like you. :) It was a perfect day for a long run, however. I was wondering if your Garmin matched the course mileage. Mine was a mile off.

  3. @wells2123 Thanks, I am already thinking about Rocky Raccoon. That will be the true test.

  4. Auntie C, congratulations on completing your first 50K. Dizzy was my first last year as well. BTW, check out my Garmin Connect section in the upper right corner of my blog and click on the Dizzy Fifites link. It will give you all of my Garmin info. Mine was off by a mile or so as well.

  5. @Ultra Kraut, Yeah Rocky Raccoon should be an epic day for you. I've heard a lot of great things about that race and it's on my bucket list of races for sure. Good luck in your training and I look forward to reading about your journey along the way.

    keep moving forward



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