He is always sustaining me, every step, every climb, every fall. . . no matter how long I take to finish. (I believe that I will find the most joy in the difficult places, when I choose to acknowledge HIS provision to get me to the end.)
. . . I climbed. I fell. It took a while. . . 6 hours 39 minutes.
This was an awesome race. Hardwin adventures put on this 1st annual 1/2 marathon and full marathon, located about 20 minutes from Mont Eagle, TN in the South Cumberland Recreation Area. It started in grandiose fashion. Our right hands were raised, we were repeating after the tall broad shouldered man with the bull horn–John Hardin. I do not remember all of the words. I just remember that at one point we were hugging the racer next to us, after we looked them in the eye to say, “I am going to beat you. ” We were off. . .
When you start with a mixed group, like 1/2 and full marathoners, you will start out fast, unless you move to the back. If you move to the back, you will be expending energy passing people. So, you choose your poison. I started fast (for me). My plan for the day was to NOT get lost. John sent out an 18 page pdf titled, “A Super Sweet Novel By: John Hardin”. I memorized some important details about trail markings and tricky spots. My fav bullet point was that we should wear something bright because part of the course was on private property and it is hunting season in TN!
The run to the first aid station (AS1) measured 7.4 miles on my Suunto. They were not hard miles. They were actually pretty runnable. There were moments of scrambling down rocks in the beginning and then again around mile 2.6. It took me 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach AS1. That is a 14 minute mile, folks. That is slower than I normally run, but I was smiling and feeling good. After grabbing a handful of peanut butter filled pretzels and refilling my bottles, I was waving goodbye to the half marathoners and pressing on. (This was the turn around for the half marathon runners–the course was actually 14.8 for them, due to trail access issues, for those providing aid to runners.)
The section of the run from AS1 to AS2 (aid station 2) was tougher in my opinion than the start to AS1 at mile 7.4. There were a few more sections with rocks and roots that slowed me down a bit. This portion of the run was breathtaking. Really, the entire race was breathtaking. There were portions when you were running right on the edge of the gorge. Then, you would go back into the woods. The turn around point was at the pavilion at Grundy Forest parking lot. There was a BATHROOM!!! This is a luxury in the trail running world, my friends. This was my only pit stop and it was in a bathroom with toilet paper and soap! HA. I grabbed some animal cookies and filled my bottles and I headed out.
At this point, mile 13.1-ish. My lower back was bothering me. I was SO tired of my pack. (I currently wear the AK Ultimate Direction race vest.) This vest does not have a bladder in the back with a straw to drink. This one has a place for two 20 oz water bottles in the front. I have been carrying a handheld lately, and I have loved that and felt confident with that.
There were two reasons why I chose to wear my vest in this race. I was nervous about getting lost, so the vest would give me the ability to carry more liquid hydration and more calories, tylenol, benadryl, etc. The other concern I had was that this was a marathon, 26.2 miles and there were only 3 aid stations on the course. The last thing I wanted to do was to sabotage my run because I did not carry enough fluid or calories. NEITHER concern was warranted. In my opinion, the course was well marked on its own, without additional flags. The weather was also GREAT. Because it was cool, I did not need as much water ‘on hand’ as I originally thought. I would have been fine with a couple handhelds or a hydration belt. These are good notes for next year, because I am running this again!!!
Back to the race narrative. . . I had to do something about my vest. My back was hurting and I wanted to alleviate the discomfort without taking Tylenol. So, at about mile 14, I decided to dump the contents of one of my water bottles and stuff the empty bottle in my pack. I decided to carry the other. It was almost instantly that I felt better. (This could have been 60% mental, and 40% physical, who knows?) I still had a smile and overall, I felt okay. At this point in the race, I had fallen 3 times, twice on my right hip, once on my left. I tripped on roots and rocks that were covered with leaves. The falls were a solid, thud, then, slide. I would recollect myself and press on. None of the falls caused any pain or discomfort as I continued running/walking.
There were a small number of marathoners, maybe, 32? I was running at the back of the pack. This was okay. I think mentally this might have been a tougher place then running mid-pack and trying to maintain a particular pace. I did make a friend, Mike from Missouri, before mile 13. We pretty much ran the last 13 miles together. This was his FIRST trail marathon. I think I told him, like 3 times, that he chose a “doozy” for his first trail marathon!
Here’s how the last 12-ish miles broke down.
- miles 15-17 decent into the gorge
- 17-17.5 climbing back up
- 17.5-23.5 ridge line running
- 23.5-25 moderately up/down
- 25.2 down the rocky decent of Climber’s Access 1
- 25.2-26.2 (ish) ROCKY/BOULDERING/STEEP ascent. No fast finish. A climbing finish, after 25.2 miles. WOW! Awesome!
Long sleeve lululemon top, Run Swiftly Tech Top. I love this top. I have not found anything, yet, that I like as well.
Road runner brand compression shorts. These are okay. I bought them to replace my athleta presto compression shorts. They do not make the prestos anymore. The prestos were my favorite and I am having a hard time replacing them.
Swiftwick twelves. LOVE my Swiftwick socks.
AK Ultimate Direction vest. It is just okay. I am looking for something to replace it for Zion.
Nike Kiger’s. OH MY GOODNESS! I love these. This is the first time I have been on my feet more than 4 hours in these. These were plenty shoe for this endeavor and my feet felt great the entire time. Highly recommend them.
I ate 2 salted caramel Gu’s, 1 organge-vanilla Perpetuem packet, 1 tortilla with nutella, 2 handfuls of peanut butter-filled pretzels, handful of animal crackers, 2 bottles of gaterade, 2 bottles of water.
*This was plenty. The tortilla with nutella tasted the best.