16 May 2015


The three amigos before the race start.
This was yet another race I had selected in preparation for UTMB later this year due to it's significant elevation gain. It was also my second trip to the Dragon Spine, a section of the Duncan Ridge Trail with extremely technical and steep terrain that was also part of the GDR course. This race offers 15,000ft of elevation gain over 56 miles of mostly single track trails. Runners race from Blue Ridge to Vogel State Park.

Thankfully, Paul is a glutton for punishment, so he volunteered yet again to run a nutty race with me. Rich also joined to see how his training for this year's Pinhoti 100 was going. We drove to Blairsville, GA Friday afternoon. Paul had reserved a nice and quiet hotel. We checked in quickly and headed to a local Italian place for dinner. The goal for race day was to stay relaxed and just make it to the finish in a "reasonable" amount of time.

We drove to the finish line on race morning to jump on one of the shuttles taking us to the race start of this point to point adventure. Our race start was also the turnaround point for the 100 mile runners. when we arrived at the start, there were indeed some 100 mile runners arriving and departing. They looked like they've already had a really tough day. I kept reminding myself how lucky I was to only have to run 50 miles. It could have been worse, I could have been as crazy as Jerry, who had signed up for the 100 and who we expected to be out there fighting a good fight.

The race started on time and we slowly made out way down a country road before starting the first climb. I had decided to run this race the same way I planned to run UTMB, walk every hill/climb/mountain with trekking poles and run everything flat or runnable downhill. Paul, Rich and I stayed together through the first couple of climbs before Paul and I pulled slightly ahead at one of the aid stations. We wouldn't see Rich again until the finish line.

We continued to slog ahead at a slow and steady pace. At least the trails were dry this time unlike the conditions at GDR a few months earlier. The aid stations were spread out nicely, 10 of them all along the course. We did have a secondary goal, which was to beat our rather slow GDR times. That would mean a full refund of our Cruel Jewel entry fee, a pretty cool RD gesture in my opinion. Anyone with a faster finish time at Cruel Jewel than GDR would get a full race entry fee refund. I would have to run faster than 18 hours, which should be doable considering I ran GDR with a bum ankle. Paul and I chugged along and continued to crack jokes about the stupidity of running the Dragon Spine more than once...and in less than a year.

We continued to make our way closer to the finish,  but the extreme heat was getting to us. In fact, we were overheating and nausea was getting to me. We decided to slow down, we had plenty of time. When we finally arrived at Vogel State Park, the race clock showed just over 16 hours, 2 hours under my GDR finish time. Goal accomplished and another training race done.

I've really been enjoying running these tough races with my running buddies this year. It has allowed me to enjoy these races rather than suffer through them by pushing hard every time.

This profile says it all.

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