17 December 2022


Check out the full race video on my YouTube channel here. December was just around the corner and both my better half and I though we had time for one more trail race in 2022, so we signed up for the Lookout Mountain 19 Miler and 50 Miler, respectively. It had been 5 years since I last ran this event and just like back then, I was once again severely underprepared or at least I felt undertrained as I hadn't done much training since running the Fall Creek 100 Miler 4 weeks earlier.

So later Friday afternoon, we jumped into our camper van and headed to Chattanooga, Tennessee to try to still make packet pickup at the local FleetFeet and visit our favorite vegan joint before headed back out of town to the Cloudland Canyon State Park campground, which is just a short 20 minute drive from the race start and finish area at Covenant College atop Lookout Mountain.
Both races would start at 7:L30AM the next morning, so we actually got to "sleep in" a little before heading to the race start. I had zero expectations other than experiencing this beautiful course once again. I had faint memories of some amazing bluff line trail running as well as lots of creeks and a massive waterfall, so it should be a good day regardless of my performance. As expected, the day turned out to be much longer than desirable, but I was fine with that. As it turned out, I was at the frontend of another COVID infection, which explained my inability to move better.
We arrived at the staging area for the race with plenty of time to finalize our running kit setup. Temperatures were near or below freezing with the highs predicted in the 40s, so I chose to go with two layers, a long sleeve tech top plus my favorite Patagonia Houdini windbreaker. I kept on a pair of gloves with hand warmers for the entire day. It never really wanted up enough for me to shed any layers, especially since I wasn't moving particularly fast.
The race started on time and we were off. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable. However, what started out as comfortable pace would turn into an unsustainable pace later on. Aid stations were close enough and temperatures were cold, so I only needed to carry on bottle in my UltrAspire Legacy 2.0 vest. I put an empty spare bottle into the back of my pack, just in case. I also carried my preferred waist light Lumen 600 3.0 along with a small headlamp. For nutrition, I stuffed 10 Spring Energy gels (Canaberry, Koffee and Awesomesause) into my pack along with various endurance fuel drink mixes for added calories. 
Both my gear and nutrition choices worked out well. As expected, the first 19 mile of the race were absolutely spectacular. I spent a lot of time with my GoPro in hand. The 19 milers and 40 milers start at the same time and run the first 19 miles together. While the 19 milers finished at the same start/finish area, we would refuel and continue on now heading in the other direction on the mountain. 
Shortly after leaving the start./finish area around mile 21 I started to bonk or at least it felt like a bonk. I'm no longer certain that I was struggling due to being undertrained, but rather hampered by another COVID infection that became full blown a day after the race. No matter, I was out here now and I was not going to collect another DNF in 2022. 
From this point forward, my day mostly consisted of trying to keep moving and getting fuel to maintain some kind of progress. I started to cramp, so I doubled up on some salt, which I had avoided until now. Eventually, the leg cramps subsided, either because of the salt or to my slower pace. I continued to take in the scenery to keep my motivation high. There was a lot of moaning, but there were no thoughts of quitting. There are always lessons to be learned in an ultra and today was no different.
I continued to work my way from aid station to aid station, continually being passed by fellow runners who were having a better day than me:-) When I finally reached the last aid station, I received another gut punch. My mileage math had been way off for some reason, so when I expected to just have a short 3 miles to the finish the aid station crew informed me that I had closer to 8 miles left to go. It took the better part of 30 minutes out on the trail for me to accept it and move on. 
After twelve and a half hours in the woods, I finally spotted one lights ahead and was thankful to realize that it was indeed the finish line with my wife patiently waiting for me to finish. I immediately started shivering pretty violently and after picking up my finisher swag (sweatshirt and pint glass) headed back to the van for some warmth and food.
If you've never run this race, do yourself a favor and put it on your calendar. It is a bit more challenging than the elevation profile suggests, so just be ready. You won't regret the views afforded to runners during this southeastern classic. Thanks to Randy and Kris from Wild Trails for putting on an amazing event.

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