12 November 2023

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One of the many signature bluff lines along the Cumberland Trail
I closed out 2023 with one of my all time favorite ultras, the somewhat local Upchuck 50K in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee just a short 90 min drive from home. The Upchuck 50K is a technically challenging point to point trail race boasting 5500 feet of elevation gain on the Cumberland Trail. Runners are shuttled to the start line by school bus from the finish. This race has the same homecoming feel/trail family gettogether vibe as my local Mountain Mist 50K and as such, it is also the only race besides that race that I love doing again and again whenever I can. This would be my third running of the Upchuck.
Bridges are another frequent feature on the race course.
I headed down to Soddy Daisy Friday afternoon straight after work. I caught a ride with my buddy Jeff, who'd reserved a camping spot a short minute drive from the starting line at an RV park. As a result, I was able to get a bit more sleep on race morning before we headed to the race finish where we would leave our cars, pick up our race packets, and take the shuttle to the race start. By the way, this race always has some af the coolest race swag and this year's didn't disappoint, either.
While the race did not go as planned, it was as awesome as my previous two experiences. It was fun to catch up with a lot of my southeastern trail family, RayJay AKA RD Matt Sims was in his usual form entertaining runners and the Grim Sweeper even honored us with the National Anthem and a version of the dueling banjos on his banjo. 
Regarding my actual race performance, my only goal was to make it to the finish line and enjoy the experience. However, I did not expect to be a full two hours slower than my previous two finishes. In the end, I did not care, but I was surprised to be that much slower and that I couldn't really go much faster. Everything felt much more difficult than before. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the year had taken a toll on my body, both from a fitness perspective as well as from a mental perspective, and that a proper break after this race would be needed before I kicked off a new year of adventures. 
Almost the entire course runs along the Cumberland Trail
If you're an ultrarunner living in the southeast, you need to put this race on your bucket list. Be sure to note the registration date as this race sells out in mere minutes. Trust me, you will not regret it. As for me, I am going to lean back on my couch and continue to sign up for new adventures as I take time to reflect on and recover from the year that was. If 2023 is any indication, I still have lots of gas in the tank to take on some of the more challenging ultra adventures. I also have lots of room for improvement, still, in terms of performance and how far to push my body.






The Grim Sweeper sending runners off with a dueling banjos solo.

RayJay AKA Race Director Matt Sims welcoming runners at the start line.

 

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