20 April 2019


Once again, I jumped into a race very last minute. In this case, I signed up 5 days prior because I needed a long run for the weekend. A challenging week loomed over my head. I was 2 weeks into this 3 week training block and was facing my highest mileage week for this training cycle, 100 miles. I was used to doing plenty of solo long runs in the past few years when preparing for a challenging race, but my motivation to run the usual local long run routes had vaned. This time around, I opted for more than a few trail races within driving distance to help me boost my weekend mileage and long runs. During the week, I continued to do my usual training runs. 

I had been to Fort Mountain State Park, the location of the Double Top 50K, many times before, either to run one of the Double Top race distances or to run the Mystery Mountain Trail Marathon. I knew the terrain and I knew this course wasn't an easy one as it provided both seriously technical terrain and plenty of vert to boot.

Initially, the plan was to drive up from Huntsville on race morning, but the thought of having to leave the house at 3AM started to look less and less appealing as Friday evening approached, so I changed my mind and left the house late Friday to crash in a cheap motel just outside the state park. I arrived at the race start for check in with plenty of time to shoot the shit with Perry and Brad for a bit before crawling back into my Jeep to get ready for the race. It was raining with temps in the low 40s and I decided to not only wear sleeves with my tank but a gore-tex rain jacket and gloves as well.

With the race start just 5 minutes away, 20 or so hearty runners toed the line for the 50K race scheduled to begin at 7AM. Everyone was wearing an extra layer or two to fight off the wet and cold conditions. When the countdown clock reached zero, we all took off, me slightly ahead of the main pack of runners.

While this was essentially just another piece in my training block in my preparation for a big summer of 100 mile races, I did come to the North Georgia mountains with a game plan. I had run this race a few years back in a rather conservative pace and I felt quite a bit stronger this time around. I had also looked up results from the previous years and based on performances, I came up with a goal time for myself. I didn't know any of the other runners, so I didn't want to just tag along or follow or run someone else's race. With that in mind, I took off at a comfortable pace with the plan to hike the steeper hills and run the flats and downhills strong.

This plan worked out near perfectly. I had no low points to speak off and when I checked my watch at mile 21 for the first time, the clock showed 4 hours. My goal was still within my reach, but only if I did not fall off. My goal was to break 6 hours on this course, which is a fairly challenging undertaking for me considering that the course has nearly 8000' of vertical gain. I knew I still have at least one major climb left to go, so there really was no rest to be had. I had to keep pushing while still maintaining a sustainable pace. After all, this was first and foremost the long run for my big training week.

I kept maintaining pace. Whenever my mind would wonder and I would appear to slow down, I reminded myself to just maintain, don't fall off don't push too hard too early. Save some for the last climb. While I did start to have some pain in the left ball of my foot every time I'd step on a protruding rock, it did not affect my pace or gait. I even had some energy to run most of the final climb. When I passed the final aid station and arrived at the finish line, the clock showed 5:55. I had accomplished my personal goal for the day and I was feeling pretty good physically. In the process, I managed to win the race collecting one of the cooler awards in the process, a beer tap mounted on a wooden plaque.

Huge shoutout to RD Perry Sebastian, Brad Goodridge, Deborah, David, Shannon, Nick, Joel and all he other volunteers that worked tirelessly all weekend to make each and every runner succeed. Conditions were less than ideal, which is to be expected for the North Georgia mountains, but you couldn't tell by the enthusiasm of each and every volunteer I encountered. Thanks again, you guys and gals made my day!

Below is a short clip from the race:

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