12 February 2022


Dashing through the forest (PC @schreinerphotography)

Fourth consecutive weekend, fourth ultra. This time, I decided to revisit the Eagle Ridge 50K in Guntersville, AL. I've had pretty good showings there a couple of times over the last few years and I knew the course. I figured this would be another great training run. However, I still underestimated the elevation gain on this course. Im sure this will be an unpopular statement among some of the southeast trail and ultra runners, but this course is more challenging than both Mountain Mist 50K and Mount Cheaha 50K. I have run all of these courses nearly 20 times combined, so I feel I get to have an opinion:-)

Either way, this would be another great training run. I planned to be somewhat conservative from the start, and since this was a double loop course, decide at the beginning of the second loop whether to push the pace. Unfortunately, I used a bunch of half marathoners nipping at my heels as my pace gauge. I didn't realize until they turned left for the finish 12 miles in while I turned right to continue the longer first loop laid out for the 50K runners.

It was at this point that a friendly volunteer (thanks Alan) notified me that I was running in third place overall. To be honest, it really didn't matter as I was already feeling the effects of the quicker pace. I dialed it back right away, but that only prolonged the inevitable slowdown that would occur eventually. The remaining 18 miles turned into me looking over my shoulder at each and every rustle of the leaves, expecting a runner to pass me from behind. It wasn't that I was worried about getting caught, I was actually hoping someone would pass me so I'd stop worrying about it and just slog it in for a finish.

That never happened. The unexpected warmup seemed to get to all of the runners as well, not just me. It seemed the entire field slowed a bit as the race progressed. As a result, I never did get passed, which meant I had to keep moving as best as possible as a "death march" is never fun. After all, I may not have cared about my overall placement, but I also didn't just ant to give up third place because I decided to walk it in:-) 

In the end, I actually had to sprint uphill for the final quarter miles just to come in under 6 hours. I'm happy to say I managed. As always, this was another well managed race brought you by the crew from RunningLane. The course was well marked and aid stations provided everything I needed. If you want a challenging race early in the season to see where you're at, this one is worth the trip.

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