Tomorrow I run my first 50K. Only 8 years old, the Mt Cheaha 50K is fast gaining a reputation as one of the more challenging races in the Southeast. Highly technical trails, including loose round stones for a 3-4 mile section of the course, a one mile climb up “Blue Hell” at mile 28, a couple of deep stream crossings, bear warnings, and a total elevation gain of 7,000 feet over the course makes this a fun first 50K for me. (Of course, I say that now, before I run the race!).
Since mid-December, I’ve driven myself the 40 mile on-way trip to train on the course that takes us through the Talladega National Forest and into Cheaha State Park to the highest point in Alabama. Every Saturday at 7:30 we have trained on segments of the course– first half (much more technical and dangerous) and the second half (more traditional rolling hills, pretty scenerey, Blue Hell). I know the course well, and there are no surprises, except the weather, which now promises to be wet. Rain in the forecast, with temps ranging from high 30s to high 50s through the course of the day.
Funny thing about ultra raining. I recall one time my friend Mike (Dirtdawg50k on twitter) said about ultras, “Start slow, and go slower.” He’s right. For so long I’ve been fixated on road running, racing marathons, and meeting a prescribed pace and mileage goal. And it took me a few long trail runs to get over the fact that it was ok for a 4 hour run to result in only 14 miles! At first, I was shocked as my mind saw numbers only, not hills or mountains or creeks to be climbed and crossed.
And what’s with this “watching-where-you’re-stepping” business in trail running? On the road, I can zone out, lose myself and never look at the ground. On the trail, My mind is always on alert. “Is that a rock? or a deadly round snake!? What animal left that poop?!” After the first few long trail runs, my mind was exhausted from paying attention!
Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful break from road running and marathon pace training. I needed to slow down, enjoy the scenery, and fall in love with trails.
Race report in a few days. Until then, here is a GoPro video filmed by one of last year’s finishers. Gnarly stuff ahead. https://vimeo.com/37490583