02 May 2015


Most of the Huntsville running crew at the start of the SJ40.
I was looking forward to yet another birthday run at the Strolling Jim 40 Miler (well, it's really 41.2 miles, but there's no point in being too specific once you go beyond the 50K distance:-). I hadn't been feeling exceptionally fast these last few weeks, so I knew this could be a long tough day out there in the rolling hills of Tennessee.

Ryan Chaffin was kind enough to agree to pace me and we headed to Wartrace, TN very early Saturday morning. We almost didn't make it as transmission and tire issues almost cut this road trip short, but we got lucky. We arrived in Wartrace with 30 minutes to spare. The place was already busy with excitement. You'll see and meet lots of exceptional ultra runners at this event and this year was no different. Just check out the race results on Ultrasignup and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Physically, I was feeling fine today, but I had had some early morning stomach troubles requiring multiple bathroom stops before the race even started. I popped a couple of Immodium just to be safe. However, those issues probably affected my pre-race hydration just a little bit.

I decided to go out very conservatively, shooting for a sub 6 hour finish. I felt that I should be able to do that without going too deep into the well. Well, I was wrong:-) I managed to hold my target pace until the marathon distance, then things fell apart very quickly. Once again, my mind was ready to call it a day. What the what? Two weekends in a row? Come on! Get your sh!t together! You better not let Ryan hear that, he'll kick your @$$. Sure enough, any suggestion of backing off or even quitting was quickly snuffed out by Ryan when I saw him next. Alrighty then, it's not going to be pretty, but I'm not going to DNF my freakin' birthday run. After all, I also had big dinner plans and still needed to work up the appropriate appetite:-)

Mid race with a goofy smile.
Early on a ran a few miles with my buddy Jeff Deaton, who has helped me to my most rewarding ultra finish to date at last year's Pinhoti 100 and who was using SJ as his last long run before Thunder Rock 100 (Good luck Jeff, I know you've got some unfinished business there and you are definitely ready to take care of that!). We chatted about races past, present and future and hung together for quite a while. When the serious hills started, I put my head down and started to get to work.

By the time I had reached "The Walls", I was already done. Ryan provided some a needed pep talk and ice before I entered this section. I managed to get through the walls relatively well, but I had no gears left. It was first gear all the way to the finish, which meant sloooooow. I did enjoy the race, but I had had higher hopes in regards of my finish time. At the end, I got a narrow course PR and sometimes that just has to be good enough. I'm still early in my training cycle and I am keeping my eyes on the prize (UTMB). Another year, another birthday, another birthday run complete. I had even more fun hanging out at the finish with the entire Huntsville crew, enjoying pickles and an ice cold beverage to boot:-)

Crossing the finish line at SJ40 for the third time.

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