Holly & Harley’s Top Ten Cheaha Lists – Mt. Cheaha 50k, 02.23.13

3

February 28, 2013 by trailcats

Holly’s Top Ten List for Mount Cheaha 50k

Mt. Cheaha 50k Elevation Profile

Mt. Cheaha 50k Elevation Profile

Oxford, AL – Whenever we drive through a town we like to play the game – how would I eke out a living here. Harley summed up Oxford best when he said he would own a bulldozing and wrecking company if he lived in Oxford. We drove around looking for some charm and we didn’t find it until we hit Anniston, its northern neighbor. But what econolodgeOxford lacks in charm it makes up for in carb-loaded dinners at Waffle House and decent, value-conscience lodging in the form of Econolodge – home of the $45/night stay.

Fog – The fog that descended upon the Skyway Motorway, the road to Cheaha State Park, made for the most harrowing driving experience of my life – and I got to make trip no fewer than FOUR times. We drove to Bald Rock Lodge on Friday for the race briefing and again on Saturday. And it blanketed the trails all morning too. I felt like I was running in a Tim Burton movie.

at Porter's Gap TH at the start

at Porter’s Gap TH at the start

Race start – Morning comes early at the Econolodge – too bad the coffee didn’t. We sprung to our feet at 4:30, showered (as a means of waking up), and hit the foggy road to Bald Rock Lodge which was the location of the race finish. At 6AM our school and prison buses departed for the race start at Porter’s Gap, about 40 minutes away. As laid back as trail runners are, I’ll never understand why the hell we race so early. I’m looking forward to the Hit-the-Snooze 50k. At the race start there was the creepy baby doll head on a stick, the Harlem Shake dance as interpreted by 200 trail runners, and instead of a On your marks, get set…there was Sweet Home Alabama blasting through the woods which meant GO!

Cheaha Waterfalls (photo by Olga King)

Cheaha Waterfalls (photo by Olga King)

The trails – This was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever run owing to the 7000+ feet of elevation gain and narrow trails along the mountainside with sheer drops and a good 3-4 miles of technical rocks (Pine Mountain’s rocks ain’t got nothing on this) – most of which were exposed slippery hazards or rocks covered by wet, potentially slippery leaves. Thanks to the rain the day before and OF the race, it wasn’t unusual to be running in 4-6 inches of muddy water in the middle of the trail. More on wet feet next. There was so much variety on this trail with the steep climbs, rocks, creek and river crossings, beautiful water falls and fallen trees that the distance went by fast. It felt more like an adventure race than a long run – though I was running most of the day. I was not running up Blue Hell – the freakish vertical climb of 800+ feet in half a mile up Mt. Cheaha.

Up Blue Hell (photo by Olga King)

Up Blue Hell
(photo by Olga King)

River crossings – Jesus Christ Super Star. How did I not end up with 500 blisters is as great a mystery as any. My feet were 100% soaked by mile 2 and never dried. I had NO idea there would be river crossings until the day before when I heard there would be three. In reality it was closer to 8ish. One of which was waist deep. I was using my prescribed metatarsal pad and toe spacers for my root foot – they were loose and swimming in my Montrails and Drymax socks all day. Luckily my Morton’s Neuroma was none the wiser. I’m glad these crossing were a sneak attack or I would have fretted about them all week! River crossing pics – Holly  and Harley.

Holly's crossing (by Brooke Nelson)

Holly’s crossing (by Brooke Nelson)

Injuries – This course was rife with injuries given the nature of the trail. I was running pretty fast as I approached one particular river crossing and jumped on a slick rock and watched my feet soar above my head as I landed hard on my ass. I thought I broke my pelvis and laid there for a minute lamenting the idea of a DNF. So I got up and started moving. Thank god I did as I realized it hurt – but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. At the end of the race I saw Katie’s race wound on her right cheek, Raggedy Ann style. But nothing was as bad as the guy who had to get airlifted out of Adams Gap secondary to what sounds like a shattered knee cap.

Me with the end in sight!

Me with the end in sight!

Happy to be done!

Happy to be done!

Post-race – “Number 75, welcome to the top of Alabama!” Wilson proclaimed as I neared the finish line (he was the announcer for the afternoon). I loved it! The rest of the afternoon consisted of pizza, IPA cupcakes courtesy of Joy’s imagination and baking skills, beer (courtesy of good planning), Maruchan ramen, pizza, Dr. Pepper, and cheering for all the awesome runners that day at the finish line. I shared my new GUTS gear idea with Sally and Marty who were sitting to my left – GUTS emblazoned flip flops to be worn post race. They totally one-upped my idea with their idea for a cool finisher’s prize (which I won’t describe in case they have proprietary rights on it). Then on my right I’ve got Nick Fisher talking about how beer addiction has a soundtrack that sounds like a musical beer opener on an endless loop and comparing that to a gambler’s soundtrack of a Velcro wallet opening. Such a fun day!

Post-race chatter

Post-race chatter

Best running partner – I am so lucky that Harley and I are tackling the trails together – and even more lucky that we run at the same pace!

Breaking goals – My primary wish for this race was not to injure myself before a ski trip planned for the following the weekend – miles 10-14 almost compromised my attack on the green slopes! My first real race goal was to finish in 7hrs, second goal was 6:30, third goal was between 6 and 6:15. Which brings me to….

By the numbers – I finished 31.11 miles in 5:55! 4th female (out of 49) and 26th overall out of 195 finishers. Harley, whose longest run since Frosty Foot 50k was 10 miles – finished in the top third with a time of 6:34.

Unique finisher award made by Todd Henderson, RD(photo courtesy of mRuns)

Unique finisher award made by Todd Henderson, RD
(photo courtesy of mRuns)

Harley’s “Bottom” Ten – by Harley Adams

1. Lameness. I really had lame war stories on the school bus to the starting line. It was a stretch to come up with the time I did a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim hike 10 years ago (~50 miles in 20 hours), and how I ran through streams with water-resistant Montrail shoes a few weeks ago.
2. Southern rock. The starting gun was Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama. It was a tease since we quickly ran away from the music.

some GUTS crew - John, Joel, Marty, Sally, Leah and Keith

some GUTS crew – John, Joel, Marty, Sally, Leah and Keith

At the start

At the start

3. Water, water everywhere, nor a drop to drink. I thought I was clever when I got across a few crossings with dry feet, but there were so many river crossings and wet trails washed out by runoff that this was a soggy slog.
Harley's crossing (by Brooke Nelson)

Harley’s crossing (by Brooke Nelson)

4. Pushed to the limit, and going beyond. Everyone has different preparation and ailments going into a long run. I finally enjoyed an ailment-free run, but my low training miles made the last 10 miles painful. It was nice to blame my cardio, and not a knee or foot.
5. Ankle breakers. Big, loose, wet rocks throughout the trail were a real danger, and caused bloody marks on hands, elbows, knees, faces, and hidden bruises everywhere else (but not on me). One guy was airlifted out of the race with an exploded knee cap, which made everyone else’s ailments seem pedestrian.
6. Post-race relaxation. Fold-up chairs, beer, pizza, chips, another beer, a DJ at the finish line with 5 rock CDs on endless loop, watching the tail of the race make it to the finish line, and a some congratulations and war stories to send us home.
cheaha 1
7. I got chicked, and Schicked. The Geriatric Express caught me late in the race as I started limping in. Richard Schick spoke a few minutes at the race dinner Friday night. His advice included to pace yourself, so I really wanted to stay ahead of him even as I started to tire out. He caught me around mile 25. I liked some of his other advice to not leave trail daisies (move off 10 feet from the trail if mother nature calls), yield to the faster runner, don’t litter, and thank the volunteers (cuz aid stations rock).
8. Wifey rocked. I tried to keep pace with Holly, but she dropped me around 18 miles, and I faded around 20 and gave up the chase. That means I was running faster than I should have, but it’s more fun to have a running buddy. I intend to get into better shape and finish with her, but for now I’m just so proud of how well she’s doing. She’s harnessed her inner spaz to be able to bound her way along each race…to the point she is putting up respectable times.
9. Trail running. Whether running, walking, hiking, or slogging, this race did it for me. It was an outdoor adventure, with some beautiful rivers and scenic vistas, but mostly a fairly isolated jaunt through nature. Forget the clock and standings (unless I get better), I got what I came for.
10. Next. The goal is about one per month, so looking forward to the next fun long trail run.

Trailcat Iris helping dry off our shoes

Trailcat Iris helping dry off our shoes

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3 thoughts on “Holly & Harley’s Top Ten Cheaha Lists – Mt. Cheaha 50k, 02.23.13

  1. Jason Rogers says:

    Congratulations! I loved the format of this recap from the both of you, and I’m impressed at your fast times rocking out this course, especially in those wet ankle-deep water conditions. Mount Cheaha 50K is such a great race, though, and it’s run by the friendliest people on the planet.

  2. […] training since Mount Cheaha has been less than ideal for running a first 50 miler. I think I’ve logged one 14 mile run and a […]

  3. […] of all of that, I had meager goals. Mt. Cheaha was the hardest ultra I’ve done to date and Jim B. got me all freaked out about SweetH20 as he […]

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Holly & Harley

A couple of trail running lovebirds who have their minds set on going the distance!

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