I’m about to pull the trigger on signing up for my first ultra – a 50K in late September to commemorate advancing an age group. And not just any 50K; I have my sights set on the Tortoise and Hare 50K which boasts an overall elevation gain of 5500 feet, including the Stanley Gap that gains roughly 2500 feet over three miles (gulp!).
This wouldn’t be such a crazy idea if I had a marathon or two, or even several trail races, under my belt. As it happens, I have a Baker’s Dozen of race experience and I can recount, in order, each race. Only one of my Baker’s Dozen of races was a trail race – the Cubihatcha Challenge 7.5M/15M/50K this past March.
I originally signed up for the 7.5 Mile race, thinking it would be a good way to determine if I liked trail running and the ultra atmosphere, plus that weekend was meant to be a taper week for a half-marathon. When I arrived at the race site, the Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center, I immediately changed my race distance from the planned 7.5 miles to 15 miles. The distance wasn’t the issue; I had run 15 miles on pavement around Stone Mountain (once). It was the terrain that was the challenge. The course description promised a mostly flat, non-technical, wide jeep-track with gravel.
The course was, indeed, as described, except the gravel. I thought the gravel would be small river pebbles, not 3″-4″ granite rocks covering quarter mile or longer swaths to support heavy construction tractors. The7.5 mile trail through woods and around the lake was peaceful and beautiful. There were people fishing the lake and every so often to pop of shotgun. I have no idea what’s in season for hunters. I should probably find out for next time. The two aid stations were fully stocked, especially the start/finish line station (chicken nuggets and pretzels never tasted so good). The volunteers and RD were fantastic, too. We always think of the runners as amazing, but the organizers and volunteers are a special breed of people – hanging around courses for 10+ hours through heat/cold/damp/wind. They have my deepest gratitude.
I survived my trial (trail) by fire with a respectable newbie time on a day that day was unusually hot and humid. I learned a few things.
First, I have a lot to learn about trail running. Second, I need some different gear (yay, new shoes!). Third, I need to run trails. Lastly, this is going to be fun. And hard. But mostly fun.
31 miles of intermediate mountain trail…
If I don’t chicken out.
Don’t let me chicken out.