|Cool tech shirt logo and a bandanna with trail map to boot:-)|
I decided to take Friday afternoon off, so I could join Cary and a group of folks from Huntsville, Franklin and Chattanooga at a primitive group campsite located right at the start and finish line of the race at the Stone Door Ranger Station at Savage Gulf State Park. Folks brought a ton of food for a pre-race cookout and luckily, or so I thought, I wasn't going to have to set up my own tent, since Cary invited me to stay in his tent. I'm not sure if my memory left me for a moment or what, but it didn't remember Cary's favorite bodily function when I agreed to share the tent with Sir Fartsalot.
Cary assured me the next morning that he didn't relief himself of any post-digestive particulates in respect of me. Honestly, I don't remember much from that night, my memory is extremely hazy. I think Cary unleashed a silent but deadly Blitzkrieg of flatulence on me, putting me out of my misery for the rest of the night and allowing him to indulge in his favorite activity at will.
There were about 15-20 of us camping out, but there could only be one winner of the "most wicked tent" competition and that prize went to Daniel Lucas and his "floating tent". If you think this is one awesome way to camp out, give Daniel a holler or look him up on Facebook. He is a redistributor for these awesome shelters.
|Winner of "Coolest tent" at the pre-race campout.|
A musket was fired to signal the start of the race and 80 or so runners took off on one of the toughest, prettiest and most challenging trail marathons in the country. After barely a mile into the race, runners were greeted by this view to our right as we were running along a ridge (many of the pictures below courtesy of Sarah Coleman).
|Amazing views while running along the ridge line.|
|Another amazing view from the ridge line.|
|The entry just above the Stone Door.|
|View from lower section of the Stone Door.|
|Leading the train down through Stone Door:-)|
|One of the few "flat" sections of the course.|
There were some runnable sections and some ups and downs before I came upon the next and probably most popular site on this course. Throughout the race, I had to cross multiple suspended bridges across various creek beds, but this bridge was a little different.
|Suspended bridge crossing with view of waterfall.|
|Kodak moment #1.|
|Kodak moment #2.|
|One happy runner!|
|Beginning of the climb to the finish.|
When I completed the final climb and saw the aid station, my watch showed 5 hours 32 minutes. Oh well, 6 hours was out of the question now. No way was I going to run 4 miles in 28 minutes. And then the ranger at the aid station said the words that would ring in my head for the next 26 minutes "Only 2.9 miles to go to the finish and all of it runnable." Whaaaaa? Oh crap! If I've got anything left in my tank, I can actually break 6 hours. So off I went, passed one runner, then two and then there was Will Barnwell standing there waving and telling me "Just 1.5 miles to go! Get it done!" I barely had a breath left to say thanks. I kept pushing...longest 2.9 miles ever. And then the trail finally dumped me onto the final .15 mile road section to the finish. And who do i spot just ahead of me, Marc Davis. It's on! Unfortunately, he heard me huffing and puffing behind him and I had to concede victory for 29th place to Marc. Well done, Marc!
The finish area had plenty of food and I didn't see a single runner that didn't have a big @$$ smile on their face. A huge thanks goes out the the entire staff of rangers, who put on a top quality event. If there is just one thing I would suggest for next year, it's finisher's medals. A trail marathon of this magnitude "deserves" a finisher's medal. I am glad Cary convinced me to sign up and I am already rearing to sign up for next year. I see a 5:30 in my future:-)