I'll run this race every year until I am dead. It's AWESOME!
This was my first ultramarathon and the third year of the event that takes place on Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail. The mountain is the gateway to the Appalachians and stretches 110 miles along Kentucky's southeastern border into Tennessee.
The trail itself is fantastic. I hiked a section of it a couple months ago with my friends, Red Belly, Bork, and Dave (that was one helluva hike in 96 degree heat). Whether hiking or running, Pine Mountain has outstanding views with knobs and gaps galore.
Back to Cloudsplitter. Since this was my first ultramarathon, I dipped my toes in the water with the 50K rather than the longer distances at 100K and 100 miles. Leading into the race, I kept a steady training regimen and peaked at around 45 miles per week. I was in great shape to run a solid race - nothing too fast or slow, just a steady effort to ensure a finish.
Joining me at the race were my Crossroads friends, Jack Adams and Rob and Lyn Gentry. Jack and Rob ran the 100K - a first at this distance for each of them. Jack and I camped out at the start/finish where Rob and Lyn joined us on race morning.
With a musket blast, we were off. The opening climb on Pine Mountain is long, steady, and steep. It's easy to try to take this ascent too quickly and burn too much energy, so most of us speed hiked while taking in breakfast on the move.
Once the initial climb was finished, it was a steady diet of knobs and gaps until finally reaching the high point at Birch Knob Aid Station. While not on the course, Birch Knob Observation Tower is right there and has the best views from Pine Mountain. As an outdoor enthusiast, it's irresistible - even in the midst of a first ultramarathon:-)
So, I met up with Lyn at the aid station, and we climbed up the 183 steps to capture truly fantastic views. Hey, I was feeling pretty fresh at the turn, so why not, right?
After taking in the scenery, I made my way back down, ate some outstanding potato soup and headed back toward the finish line.
On my way down, I smashed my foot on a jagged rock and sustained a 'rock bruise'. It swelled up and made for some tender feet for the next four hours it took to finish.
In total, my first ultramarathon experience lasted 13 hours, 17 minutes, and 9 seconds. I'll always remember finishing the race and cracking open a beer as one of the most satisfying feelings I've ever had. Mission accomplished.
NOTE: Cloudsplitter had to move to Norton, Virginia due to some issues with rights of way. The trails are at least as challenging and the host town was great. [read more]