Ever wondered what it would be like to finish a 50k feeling great? Before this race I have completed 18 50k's not to mention marathons, stage races, 35 miler and 50 miler. All 18 ended the same way. Me sucking that last 6-10 miles. Why? Several reasons. I go out too strong the first 15; My nutrition during the race sux; My hydration sux; or I had Mexican the night before. Not "a" Mexican, but you know their deeeelishush food. The plan was to treat Cheaha as a training run for Thunder Rock 100 miler. Yeah easier said than done. Have you ever toe'd the starting line and not felt like racing? This race was different. I had to determine whether starting conservatively actually made a difference, or is 31 miles the same no matter what.
So a few of us are sitting in Tony's bus warming up before the start. All of a sudden this dude in front of us pulls out a kettle bell and begins Crossfittin right there. It's like he did the whole "Workout on Da Wall (WOD)" or whatever it stands for, right there in front of us. Is this dude seriously crossfittin right here before a 50k? Yep! His lady pulled out a 24" ipad and filmed him as he played with his bell. Well, we will get back to Crossfit Cletus later.
Sweet Home Alabama signals the race start and immediately we hit the trail head. Within 100 feet we are walking. Benj reminds me that this is just a training run. There were what seemed to be a couple of first time 50k'ers causing a train on the single track. My heart rate was down and breathing good. Fortunately this year there was no fog and you could actually see the wonderful views that I had heard about. The plan from Hot Daniel was for me to take a gel every 35 minutes. I stuck to that as best as possible.
So Benj and I are cruising nicely when we come up on this chic who when I talk, she thinks I'm talking to her...She was you know one of those easy on the eyes chic; long dark hair and a tan that would make an Indian jealous, not the Native kind you know the Subway owning kind...And whats the friggin deal with them only giving you one napkin with your footlong meatball? We begin a wonderful fast down hill and Pochahotchic is hammering down. We got to the bottom and she's grabbing her tights, then begins to tell us how they were falling down. A funny "quarter in a coin-slot" joke came to mind, but I thought it best to be quiet for once.
We come to a dirt road and there is the Crossfitin truck and a tire on the ground. I was gonna throw my E-Gel wrapper in the tire when I saw the sledge hammer next to it. Evidently, Crossifit Cletus was doing the Work Out on Da Wall (WOD) at various points. What? So we leave Pochahotchic and stay steady. Around mile 14 my knees began to hurt. By the time I made it to the 18 mile aid station I was able to get some Ibuprofen. Although beautiful, much of the first 18 miles is on single-track that is on a slant.
18 miles and I was truly treating this as a training run. No pressure, not worrying about the time...Just enjoying being in the woods with a great friend. We ate together, we drank together, heck we even pee'd together. We finally make it to the water crossings...WHOOOOOOHOOOO! The temperature had risen and we needed to cool off. Normally I would never just take a break and sit in water like this. However, there was no pressure today. The water was freezing cold. In fact I sat in it so long my butt-crack went numb. I seriously could not feel it. As we leave Tony and Gregg at the water I realize just how much that cold water did for me. I felt invigorated, refreshed and numb in my wipe alley.
I knew when we got to the gravel road that our finish was close. This time last year I was suffering and walking. Not today, we were smiling, running and passing a bunch of people. Ok, you know that feeling when people start passing you in the last six miles? Dink Taylor said that when that happens, energy transfers from you to them....It is true. Well today Benj and I were being SLAMMED with transfers. It felt great. We reach Blue Hell and start the suckfest....You know what? It went by quickly. What made last year so bad was that even when you reached the top of Blue Hell, you still weren't through climbing. Not today! The game plan worked.
Benj would not let me tell him the time during the race. All he let me tell him was that we would make our 7 hr goal. We hit the road up top and I told him where we were time wise. We were gonna blow out our goal. We crossed the finish line around 6:34. I had beaten my previous years races by 20 minutes. How is that possible? I wasn't racing and PR'd. I guess there is something to staying conservative.
For the first time in my 50k career I came across the finish line jumping in the air. I felt great. Even better was sharing the experience with such a great guy.
As we are leaving Martin is trying to get my attention...I look over and Cletus Crossfit is lifting 985lbs on a barbell while Jill and the 24" iPad records him. So, the point was? Maybe my Crossfit friends can help me understand what this guy was doing. I hope he doesn't read this. Pretty sure he could kick my butt, or stick that kettle bell up my brown eye.
It was great seeing my Huntsville, Birmingham, Georgia and Chattanooga friends. There is nothing like getting to know all these freaks who do this crazy stuff. My name is Cary Long...and I am an UltraRunner.