Cloudland Canyon 50k – Don’t call it a comeback!


February 13, 2018 by trailcats

2018 Pre Cloudland 50-Half Sam-1416

My last post was February 7, 2014.  Since then I’ve had two adorable kids. No amount of endurance running could’ve prepared me for biggest endurance event of them all: parenting. Sure I’ve wanted to DNF a couple of times; usually after a night of no sleep, or six months of incurable diaper rash, or a tantrum that a two-year-old kept trying to perfect day after day, or after picking a turd up off the floor for the third time in a day. But I’m going for the buckle – the one that reads “Mom of the Century!”

Since these kids are all time consuming, my running tempo has slacked off a bit. Like a BIG bit. I ran the Sweetwater Half Marathon last February and felt pretty strong at the time despite little training leading up to it. You’ll see that’s a trend of mine. Trying to eke out a trail run on little training. I just don’t have time for it. I’d rather just suffer for six-ish hours on race day and then for about 50 hours the following week. Then I decided to run the Atlanta FatAss 50k this January. I seriously managed this one on 4-6 mile training weeks. My hammies thought they were going to explode but my dear friend Molly ran with me the whole time – which was VERY slow for her! If not for her – I don’t think I would’ve made the six loops in freezing weather at Sweetwater SP. The thing of it is though, 32 miles sounds totally nutballs and undoable. But I knew I had done that and over three times that before – so I knew it was physically possible. And that’s when I was like – fuck it – let’s just do it.


And because I did FatAss, I decided to sign up for Cloudland Canyon 50k – which I, by the grace of god and a bit of tenacity on my part, finished this past weekend. So here’s how I’m going to structure this race blog – by listing the things that got me to the finish – in no particular order.

  • I’m about to turn 40 and I refuse to do it gracefully! I mean I’ve never done a graceful thing in my life! I want to age in dirt, sweat and tears. But no vomit – which is what I felt like doing the second half of the race. I have never experienced any GI issues before so this was a nuisance to deal with for what felt like a gazillion hours. My first DNF simply couldn’t be the one right before turning 40. How lame!
  • I mouthed off to someone early on that training was over-rated. Well egg on my face if I didn’t finish! So in order not to be that asshole, I felt compelled to finish. After all, I had introduced myself to him and I couldn’t have him look me up on Ultrasignup later and be like – yep, I knew she wouldn’t make it.
  • I was wearing my special Scottie 4.0 airbrushed hat that my super awesome friend Jen made for me and 11 other college friends for our 40th birthday trip to Scottsdale last October. It kinda gave me a super power – much like you’d expect from a cape. It also had a nice wide brim which would prove essential at keeping all the rain out of my face.
  • I heard someone talking about the fast bunnies at the beginning of the race. He was referring to newbie ultrarunners who go out too fast and will likely bonk and DNF. I totally felt like he was talking loud enough for ME to hear. I took offense to this because this wasn’t my first rodeo – he doesn’t know I used to be a fairly good runner. And yes, I was going out way too fast. Like waaaay too fast. Harley would say “Hit pigeons flutter” here. I did the first nine miles in 90 minutes. That’s like waaaay faster than I can even run on the road! So I could not be THAT person – I just had to finish.
  • Right before the race started, I got a video text of Winnie, my almost 3.5 year old. She said: “Run fast on the mountain.” I mean I couldn’t go home and tell her mom’s a quitter – what kind of lousy life lesson does that teach her!
  • This race ain’t gonna run itself. Yes, I’m the dork that got a magnet made for her car with that saying. I just love it. I was so over this race with the nausea and the slippery mud and rain in my eyes. But the quickest way back to my car was by running – not walking and pouting and feeling sorry for myself. I got myself into this and only I could get myself out!
  • I was feeling really crummy the second half of the race. Beaten down and nauseous and the lollipop portion of the race at the Ascalon AS did nothing but bring me down more. The fog set in again and the orange blob on the radar finally caught up with us. I called this three mile loop the Sleepy Hollow lollipop because it was so spooky. This was truly the longest three miles of my life. And I suspect that sentiment might be shared with the other folks who were running back there with me at the time. Which brings me to volunteers.
  • While I appreciate each volunteer I encountered that day, the volunteers at Ascalon AS saved my race. When I rolled in there after the Sleepy Hollow Lollipop, I pictured myself talking someone into driving me to the finish with my tail between my legs. But the lively banter punctuated with cursing and heckling boosted my spirits. I refueled with some salty boiled potatoes and hot veggie broth. When I left there, I thought I was still as good as dead but within a couple of minutes I perked up. I think part of this was because I saw runners heading towards me (it was an out and back) that hadn’t even started the worst three miles of their lives. Somehow, in a sadistic way – this made me feel better about my situation.
  • During my little pity party at the Ascalon AS another female sneaked past me. I thought I was in 6th place but it was actually 7th. In any case, I was excited to be thinking that I could be finishing in the top 10. I mean, this was only my second ultra in four years and haven’t even been “training.” So that was encouraging too.
  • And it’s much more fun to do a FB post saying I ran 50k versus I ALMOST ran a 50k and blame it on rain, mud, upset stomach, bad attitude or tight hamstrings 😉

Here’s another take away. This state park is crazy beautiful! How the hell have I lived in GA for 22 years – a mere two hours away – and never visited this place!? Anyone who is reading this in GA/TN/AL owes themselves a trip to Cloudland Canyon. RunBum Sean Blanton did a helluva job showing off the pearls of this SP like Cherokee and Hemlock waterfalls, Sitton Gulch Creek and the 500 stairs that you get you there.  The first part of the course also had fun technical single-track – with lots of rocks and roots. Sean also had a fun crew of volunteers, including the locally famous Jarian aka Mr. Inspiration who


gives free hugs, high fives and glitter love. This was my first RunBum race although I did volunteer at his inaurgural Georgia Death Race. Even back then, I was so impressed with his race orchestration – truly no detail is overlooked. In summary, sign up for a RunBum race, be happy spending time outdoors surrounded by natural beauty and don’t be a pussy and DNF.


4 thoughts on “Cloudland Canyon 50k – Don’t call it a comeback!

  1. Tom Pinotti says:

    Way to go Holly! Can’t imagine running that far but can see you (and Harley someday again) doing it! -The Pinotti Family

  2. kats319 says:

    Love your magic cape trucker hat. You’re amazing! So glad to know you! 🙂 loved this recap!

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Holly & Harley

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




runners get there faster

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