Losing loved ones is hard. My grandfather, Pappy, passed away in early December and in November, my dog, T, a boxer who had been with us for 13 years, passed on. I've realized death is both absolute, of course, but also therapeutic for loved ones in an amazing way. Losing Pappy and T has shaken me out of my routine in a number of ways. It's reminded that friends and family are truly the most important thing to me....and they won't last forever. It's also made me consider what my legacy will be. My grandfather was a great man who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. Finally it has reminded me what an impact I have on the personality and happiness of my kids and their kids and their kids. Because I know that many of my traits can be traced to my grandfather. Aspects of structure, respect for others, and a love for cooking certainly came from my grandfather.
So I vowed to run the Lookout 50 Mile Race for Pappy and T. And I needed everybit of their strength to finish it. First of all the race was great. It was an absolutely beautiful course and Lula falls was going off! The race started at 7:30 at Covenant College on top of Lookout Mountain with my crew/family shivering and looking on. I had a final average pace in my mind and was determined to be conservative so I let everyone take off.
The course was great as it cruised along a bluff along the side of the mountain, then dipped down to the base of the mountain for a surprise. Due to all of the rain on Friday, we had to run through about 250 yards of thigh deep water that had covered a portion of the trail that ran beside a creek. It was cold! It took a few yards of running to get the feeling back in my legs. And then we climbed back to the top of the the mountain.
After about 15 miles I started to feel my quads and calves getting tight. I believe it was a result of running the race so close to the grand canyon r2r2r. I am amazed at how some folks can run these long races back to back to back so soon. I really need plenty of time to recover. So I started taking ibuprofin and that really seemed to help. I continued to take vitamin I throughout the day.
For much of the race, my state of mind was in and out of determination and despair. I really considered dropping since I saw my family (and car) at mile 34 and 38. But I've never DNF'd a race and that would have been monumental. Despite the sea changes in my motivation, I was running pretty good and passing folks. I was also calling on my grandfather and T for courage....I'm pretty sure they were with me.
I ran back by the raging and beautiful Lula falls...perhaps the biggest I've seen in the South due to the recent heavy rains. As I got to the final aid station at mile 44, I grabbed my drop bag with my headlamp that I had thrown in just in case. I wanted to just carry it back even though it was daylight so that I didn't have to wait for my drop bag to come back after the finish. As I was fumbling around with it, I ran straight through the flags indicating a turn....and ran....and ran before I realized there was no one around. I went almost a mile before I realized I was off course. This was hugely disheartening. It may seem like only 2 miles but after 44, just 6 miles takes a lot of courage, much less 8. I turned around and headed back and finally got back on course. This was at least a 20 minute mistake and very deflating for the remainder of the race.
I struggled back in and finished, which was a huge accomplishment for the day. My family was waiting as always which is always uplifting. I ended up finishing 9th overall in 8 hours and 39 minutes. Even though I didn't get passed all day, I saw three guys that I had passed who were already finished...so they must have gone by as I was running the "bonus" miles. Oh well, it was my fault and staying on course is part of trail racing. I keep joking that I won the 52 miler.
In the end, the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile race was great. I actually have fond memories of the day. Now it's time to do some serious recovery and have fun running trails for a while. I'm sure I'll start picking next year's races soon! Happy holidays to everyone out there!