Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trail race spotlight: Georgia Death Race 03.16.13

Sean Blanton running on a segment of the Duncan Ridge Trail and the Georgia Death Race.
A couple months ago I saw a post on Facebook from local Georgia ultrarunner, Sean Blanton, describing a new race he was working on that he called the Georgia Death Race. While I wasn't impressed with the name he chose for the event, I was intrigued by the route he had selected. 

Basically, the race will start in Vogel State Park, hit the Coosa Backcountry Trail up to Coosa Bald and then get on the Duncan Ridge Trail, easily the toughest trail in Georgia. I've run this trail and the Coosa Backcountry and both are challenging trails. Another race, the Duncan Ridge Trail 50K has the same route except you turn around after 25K to head back to Vogel State Park. 

The Georgia Death Race continues on the Duncan Ridge Trail and connects with the Benton McKaye. You should look back through my blog to read my running of the Duncan Ridge Trail last year. There are no switch backs. It is straight uphill running and then straight, quad busting downhill running for several miles. Although, you are rewarded with amazing scenery. 

Once the course reaches Three Forks, it takes a series of non-traveled trails and forest roads all the way to Amicalola Falls in an effort to avoid the Appalachian Trail. Not due to difficulty, if anything the race route is harder, but because organized race events are not permitted on the AT. The course covers 60 miles and promises over 30,000 ft. of elevation change on mostly challenging single track trails.

Sean recently announced that race registration for the Georgia Death Race would open on Monday, October 8. Obviously, runners like to test their mettle, as 25 participants signed up in the first 48 hours. Before you rush to register for the Georgia Death Race, take a moment to read my Q&A with Sean regarding the race.

Sean, you've traveled the world and run trails from Hawaii to Nepal to Switzerland. How do the trails in North Georgia, your home base, compare to other trails in other parts of the country and the world?

Trails here are awesome. They are rocky, hard and untouched. Trails around the world get lots of wear and tear from locals and tourists. Not many tourists to North Georgia and most locals don't hike or run much on the trails we selected for this race, the Duncan Ridge Trail and a section of the Benton McKaye Trail. The majority of hikers and runners go to the Appalachian Trail or stay in the state parks. Our trails have some incredible views. I have run for 40 miles on these trails on a Saturday and not seen a soul. I hope to share these trails with others.

What was your inspiration behind creating the Georgia Death Race and why did you choose that name for it?

The inspiration for the race came from me and Brad Goodridge always trying to come up with god awful run ideas up in North Georgia. This was a mutation of one. Our favorite trails and the hardest trails we know. The name is more for show. No one is going to die. I mean how many races do you hear the name and have no idea where it is. This begs the question. Plus it sounds awesome to say you finished the Georgia Death Race.

With a cap of 150 runners, describe some of the challenges and the highlights that race participants will encounter while racing the GDR.

First of all, the runners will experience running at night on single track trail with a 4 am start. With the leaves being down around this time of year, the views are stunning and runners will be able to see into the distance at the mountains around them. They will see the sunrise over the back of Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. There are several rocky peaks along the Duncan Ridge Trail that allow for amazing unobstructed views. You will cross over a fun swinging bridge. We will have some fun surprises at the aid stations. The hardest climb will be done in the dark. You will think it goes on forever. It's about 2,300 ft. gain in just 3.8 miles. There is close to 20,000 ft of elevation change in the first 40 miles. 

What would you advise to anyone eyeing the Georgia Death Race as their first race longer than a 50K?

I would advise them to look at the race as a fun organized hike run. We have a 28 hour cutoff. You can walk it in that time, I assure you. But it is all about training properly. I would focus more on up and down more than distance in training. Hiking would be a good idea because unless you're an elite runner (and even then) you will be hiking most of the up. Don't be scared. I will do everything in my power to help you cross that finish line. We'll have aid stations every 4 to 8 miles.

What about the race swag? What is each participant receiving with their race registration and when they finish?

Everyone will receive a custom Race Ready tech tee for the race. Top 3 male and female will be receiving A LOT of prizes from our sponsors as well custom awards. All finishers will receive the coveted Georgia Death Race nail. Its an old railroad spike engraved with "Georgia Death Race Finisher". Why? Because if you finish, you're tougher than nails! Also we will have SO much stuff to raffle off at the pre race meeting its not funny! You will leave with a smile and some gear.

I understand you are trying to string together the Georgia high peaks into a race course. What other race courses are you planning?

That is a fun run as it takes place in a lot of wilderness area. I am planning on about two to three races next year. And four to five in 2014. My races are different than all the other trail races. I see a lot of people just picking any old trail and hosting a race. Those races end up with rolling hills through the woods with no views and no reward. I plan to change that. EVERYONE OF THE RACES I PUT ON INCLUDE A VIEW AS A REWARD. When I run, I have a lot of fun and I have my own epic races coming up. I run to see beautiful things I can't see from my car. I use this philosophy when designing race courses. I promise, if you run the Georgia Death Race or any other race I put on that you will stop mid race to admire the view. So carry a camera! 

Last one…describe the Georgia Death Race in five words.

I only need one.....EPIC!


There you have it. Ready to earn your GDR rail spike (that has got to be one of the more original race bling out there)? Then register at UltraSignUpThe race is capped at 150 runners and starts at 4:00am on Saturday, March 16, 2013.

Follow Sean Blanton on Twitter at @runbum or like the Run Bum page on Facebook, and hit him up if you have questions about the Georgia Death Race. Happy trails!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trail runner Spotlight: Hal Koerner

The North Face sponsored ultrarunner, Hal Koerner
A week or so ago I received an email from The North Face asking me if I would be interested in asking Hal Koerner a few questions for my blog. After pondering this for a moment (more like a nanosecond), I said, "Interview Hal?! This year's Hardrock 100 winner and all out ultrarunning living legend? Duh, hell yes!" I was flattered and honored for the opportunity. I didn't waste any time in typing up a few questions and I forwarded them on. I waited patiently to get the email back with the answers and I was excited to see the email today with Hal's responses. Below's my Q&A with Hal…enjoy!

Congrats on your Hardrock 100 win this year! Will you briefly share how that experience went for you and what it meant to you to win that race?

Hardrock is such a special race, it takes a ton of commitment both physically and mentally.  The extremes are unlike anything in ultrarunning and with that, the highs and lows become incised like no other endurance event I know. It was really special for me to head back to Colorado, where I grew up and cut my teeth as far as trail running is concerned, and then to have my family and friends there to experience it well that is what ultrarunning is all about.     

I was reading on your blog that you've had some time to rest and recharge. How are you feeling going into The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 in Georgia?

Hal refueling at the Western States 100
(photo: ultrarunnerpodcast.com)
Funny that you mention that, I’m actually writing you from Utah where I’ll be competing at the Bear 100 this weekend.  I’ll have to get at the recovery side of things here on Monday, but I always look forward to the shorter distances after a hundred. They just seem to fly by.  At The North Face EC race in Georgia, I would like to run faster this year, because I was out there for a long time last year and I do enjoy the finish line festival. 

You ran and won this race last year. What do you recall of running the Pine Mountain trail last year and what would you advise to someone running the course for the first time this year?

It’s deceivingly long in that you would think a first rate effort for a seemingly “flat” course would take much less time. That being said, I think folks need to take it easy and prepare for being out there a long time.  Execution will be key, take the time to stay up on nutrition and hydration as well as pacing. Then, when you think you have nothing left you can tap into a little bit of that ultrarunning grit to get you across the finish line. Also, watch out footing wise. It’s a rather technical, windy/weaving course that doesn’t allow for much speed. Knowing that will keep you from burning out on the front end.    

As far as racing is concerned, what's left for you in 2012 besides the TNFEC Georgia and what do you have planned for 2013?

My oh my, I’m still trying to figure all that out.  I would like to run in New Zealand this year as well as take a stab at UTMB one more time.  I’m looking into some cool expeditions with my TNF teammates like traversing the Wind River Range in Wyoming as well as attempting a speed record on the John Muir Trail in California.  I’m sure I’ll find a few other things as well.  

Seems that running the fastest Grand Slam in history is a goal for several top ultramarathoners next year. Is that something that appeals to you and would we ever see Hal Koerner running the ultramarathon Grand Slam?

Definitely, although I don’t think it’ll be next year.  I want to be really competitive at Leadville 100 and Wasatch still and that’s an impossibility considering the SLAM.  I like the idea of running well at Western States too, but it’s a quick summer when you start running a 100 every few weeks.  More power to them, I hope they set the bar high.

Last question, can you hook me up with a Rogue Valley Runners sticker?

Sure, it's in the mail. Ha, ha!

Thanks Hal and good luck at Bear 100!


Hal tackles the Bear 100 in Utah this weekend before making his way to Georgia in a couple of weeks for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler on Saturday, October 13th. You can follow Hal on Twitter at @HalKoerner and you can follow his blog at http://halkoerner.com/. Visit his The North Face team profile page at http://www.thenorthface.com/en_US/exploration/athletes/4-hal-koerner/.

You can toe the line with Hal at The North Face Endurance Challenge Georgia which takes place at Pine Mountain, GA on October 13-14 weekend. Register at http://tnf.ec/0o and follow @TheNorthFaceECS on Twitter. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trail runner Spotlight: John Dove

John Dove crossing the finish line on the final day of The Dragon's Back Race in Wales.

When I think of the local ultrarunning community here in Georgia, I'm hard pressed to name someone with a more impressive racing history than John Dove. There are only a handful of others that surpass his accomplishments. A veteran of thirty 100 milers, an avid adventure racer and a dedicated mountain bike rider, John is at once humble and personable. He's always good for a laugh and he's supportive of trail running enthusiasts of all abilities.

John recently found himself looking for a new challenge. A buddy clued him into a multi-day stage race in Wales called The Dragon's Back Race. It's a grueling five day stage race covering almost 200 miles and an insane amount of climbing along a Welsh mountain range. Originally run in 1992, it took a twenty year hiatus until the next time it was produced, which was earlier this month. Only 29 out of 90 participants finished all five stages this year.

After returning back to the States, I recently had an opportunity to catch up with John and ask him about his experience. Here's how it went…

John, congrats on your Dragon's Back finish! I'm curious, how did you hear about this event and what inspired you take it on?

Thanks! My friend Jon Barker saw the race mentioned on the Sleepmonsters website. We had been talking about doing a multi-day adventure race or multi-stage running race for a few years. We signed up back in November, so I had a lot of time to think about what I was getting myself into. I wanted to do something out of my normal ultra running comfort zone. Not to say that a 100 miler is ever easy, but after completing thirty of them I wanted to do something that challenged me in a different way, something unknown to me.

What would you say is the biggest difference between racing in the states and racing overseas?

The biggest difference is the navigation aspect of most of the races in the UK. This was not a marked course. Each morning you were given a map with several checkpoints marked on it. It was my decision what route to take. Now some of the route choices were very obvious, trails, roads bridal paths, but sometimes your best route didn't include any kind of path or trail, just pure cross country running. We scrambled up climbs and ran through miles of grassy, sometimes muddy open land to get to the checkpoints along the course. The closest thing we have to this in the States is our adventure races, but the navigation in the Dragon's Back was much more straight forward.

Racing stage races involves a whole different approach than racing ultra distance races. How did you prepare for the Dragon's Back Race and what would you advice to someone considering their first multi-day stage race?

I ran every day for 131 days leading up to the race. I would run the day after an ultra when I really felt bad, run in the rain, run when I was lazy, anything that would mimic how I might feel during the five days of the race. I did a few three day weekends where I ran 30, 30, and 20 miles and the Chattanooga 3-Day Stage Race in June to see how that third day would feel.

My biggest advice would be to make running routine especially back to back long runs. Also try a lot of different food in training. What I eat during 100's is fine, but on day 3 of the Dragon's Back I was absolutely sick of my food choices and had a hard time getting it down. Luckily, we passed through a couple of villages and I was able to grab some food. Taking 60 gels and a handful of bars was not the best food plan. I will have a much bigger variety at the next one I do.

What was the most grueling day of the Dragon's Back race and why?

I would say day one. It was 37 miles and had 15,600 feet of climbing. That's a lot of climbing in such a short distance! Most of the day was spent on the ridges so there was no water sources. I went a couple hours without water in the first half of the day and really paid for it later. I felt my best on the final day, Friday, better than I did all week. Guess it was knowing it was the last day.I was surprised that I had any pep left in the legs on Friday and that I was still able to run well for the second half of the last day.

Next up for you is the Pinhoti 100 in November, a race you have won in the past…how are you feeling going into that race and how are you managing recovering from Dragon's Back Race to racing a 100-miler a couple of months later?

Right now I am not thinking too much about Pinhoti. I know I will feel better closer to the race, but it is too early in the recovery process to start thinking about running a 100 mile race. I had been doing some short runs and some mountain biking up through the weekend (a week after the race) and felt okay. I got my weight back up to what it was going into the Dragon's Back, so I thought I was coming along well. Then I ran for an hour at lunch on Monday and went back out that afternoon for another hour and thought "ok I am ready for some mileage." Tuesday morning I was dead and I dragged along all day at work. I got home and couldn't motivate myself to get out and run.

So 11 days after the race and I am still feeling fatigued. I will listen to my body and not force anything for the next week to 10 days. I am racing the Stump Jump 50K in 17 days on October 6th. That will be a good time to push hard and really see how my recovery is coming. After that I will have a month to run some higher mileage weeks to get ready for Pinhoti. I hope all the training I put in for the Dragon's Back and the 192 miles I ran during the race will help me at Pinhoti.

What's in store for you in 2013?

For 2013 I will throw my hat in for another chance at the Hardrock 100. If I could run only one 100 miler a year that would be my choice! Also put in for Wasatch 100. I have never run it and the course looks great. I will do a few endurance mountain bike races again early in the year and a couple 50k's. I will also run the Chattanooga 3-Day Stage Race again in June to see if I learned anything over in Wales. I want to run the Double Top 100 in March and of course, Pinhoti 100 again in November and maybe the new Deliverance 100 mile in South Carolina in late November.

Ha, ha! John you went from saying you'd like to run one 100-miler every year to rattling off five different 100 milers in 2013. What'll it be?

Too many races out there to choose from, I guess.

John, Thanks for answering a few questions. Good luck at Stump Jump and Pinhoti and hopefully, if my injury recovery goes well, I'll see you at the Chattanooga 3-Day Stage Race next year.

Thanks, my pleasure! See you then.


You can follow John on Twitter at @jcddove and you can follow The Dragon's Back Race at @TheDragonsBack. Check out John's blog and his race report of the race at johndoveblog.blogspot.com.

View an amazing gallery of photos from The Dragon's Back Race on the UK's Guardian website, click here.

Great recap videos of all five stages are on YouTube, click here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Trail runner spotlight: Julie Wolfe

Julie Wolfe crossing Sweetwater Creek during her first ultra race at the 2012 SweetH20 50K.
Last week, I posted an interview with Roxanne Zobava, a veteran trail runner with a number of ultrarunning highlights on her running resume. To contrast that, I seeked out someone who, while may have the road miles under their belt, was just getting their feet wet, literally, in the world of trail running and ultra distance races.

I caught up with local Atlanta TV "backpack reporter", Julie Wolfe, for a quick interview. You'll read in her own words how running has been a part of her life for some time now but also how she's getting started in the trail running community. As a reporter, Julie has a crazy schedule, but she still manages to get her training in. She's getting geared up for a very busy Fall racing season including The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Georgia in October.

Here's our little chat...

Crossing the finish at Mayor's Alaska
Marathon with Team In Training.
How long have you been running and when was your first marathon? What attracted you to trying 26.2 miles for the first time?

I grew up in a family where my three sisters and I would shudder with embarrassment when our dad came running down the block in his tiny bright-blue nylon shorts. My whole life, my dad has been a runner.  I was never interested until I turned 19. A young man I went to high school with was killed in a car crash during his senior year. It marked the time in Metro Atlanta before license restrictions when it seemed like teen driving tragedies came so often we were numb. My dad was a member at his church and started a 5K to raise money for the scholarship in his name. I couldn’t run 5K when I started training, but I ran it that day and never really looked back.

Over the years, as I’ve moved from city to city following my career in television, I’ve always sought out local running groups for support and friendship. When I first told my dad I was running a marathon, he laughed. But that was 15 full marathons ago and too many halves to count. It includes a few my dad and I have run together. He still owns those blue nylon shorts.

What was your favorite road marathon experience and why?

Every marathon is good and bad for different reasons, so that’s hard for me to say. My favorite destination was Anchorage. My favorite post-race was Napa to Sonoma. My fastest time was in Buffalo, NY. My most social run was in Chicago. I haven’t found the “perfect” marathon yet. I guess that’s why I keep running them.

Earlier this year, you decided to try your hand at trail running and you ran your first 50K. What inspired you to do so?

I was bored. I either had to get faster or run longer. Running is like therapy to me.  I believe every person with a stressful job must have an outlet. Your choice is whether it’s going to be a healthy one or a destructive one. Running relaxes me and brings back focus. Because of that, I’ve always shied away from the intense training effort I’d need to put in to push my times into the competitive region. I own a Garmin, but I don’t want to be a slave to it. I’m afraid of making running another job, of making it a source of stress instead of a stress reliever. And so, running longer was the only choice left.

How would you describe your experience at the SweetH20?

I loved it. It’s been so long since I ran a race I wasn’t even sure I could finish. I forgot how scary, fun, and exciting that can be. Everything that was making me feel stifled in marathon road races was nowhere to be found on that trail. Both draw amazing, incredible athletes and intense competitors. But there is such a feeling of community on the trails that you don’t feel in a road race, even the smaller ones.

What first attracted you to racing a TNF Endurance Challenge race?

After the SweetH2O, I was searching for another 50K. The TNF was close to home and good timing, so it was an easy choice.
After the 50K distance, do you have plans to go even further in a race? Why or why not?

I’d like to do a 50 mile race in 2013. Right now, I have no desire to do a 100 miler. But if you’d asked me five years ago if I’d be running ultras, I would have laughed. So, we’ll see what the future holds. If I’ve learned anything from running over the years, it’s that the “post-race glow” is a strong pull towards the next big challenge.

I think the biggest hurdle for me on increasing distance is training time. Between working six day weeks during the Olympics, getting sick with the cold that’s sweeping Atlanta right now, and traveling; getting those extra long runs (20+ miles) has been a real challenge this year. I’ve learned if you want to be a distance runner and you want to have a life, there are compromises on both ends. I think like all of us, I do the best I can and hope it’s enough on race day.

What is your goal at this year's TNF Endurance Challenge?
Leading up to my first 50K I posted my 3 goals on Facebook: (1) To not die (2) To Keep Moving Forward and (3) to not get swept.  I wasn’t really kidding. Because I’d never run an ultra, I had no idea what to expect. This time, I have a reference point. Still, I’ll keep those original goals plus the hope of finishing in a better time. This ultra is part of a triple-header I’m running this fall: Wineglass 26.2 in September, the North face Challenge in October, and the Savannah Rock n’ Roll 13.1 in November. Instead of treating them as individual races, I see it as one big “fall race plan”.
What would you advise to someone trying trail running for the first time?
Curb your expectations and just let go. For me, trail running is very different than road running. You use so many different muscles. You have to stay mentally engaged. You burn about 15% more calories, so I’m also much hungrier after and during long trail runs. But I think us running nerds over think it. It’s still just putting one foot in front of the other. Consider leaving your watch at home. Explore the trails. Stop to take pictures of the sunset and gape at the deer staring you down. There’s something about trail running that makes me feel free and very, very far away from everything. It’s a whole new kind of running high.

It is still about putting one foot in front of the other and I agree, go exploring. Thanks Julie and good luck with your races this Fall.

Thanks and my pleasure!


I was glad to catch up with Julie and get her thoughts about her upcoming races. You can follow Julie on Twitter (@JulieWolfe), and drop her a note of encouragement as she gets ready. You can also join Julie at The North Face Endurance Challenge Georgia which takes place at Pine Mountain, GA on October 13-14 weekend. Register at http://tnf.ec/0o and follow @TheNorthFaceECS on Twitter. Happy trails!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trail runner spotlight: Roxanne Zobava

Roxanne Zobava tearing it up at the
'08 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler in Wisconsin.
I've used this blog to mostly share my adventures while trail running or to post race reports, but I want to give the blog a new dimension. I want to explore connecting with other runners in the trail running community and sharing their love of the sport. I thought I'd start with a good friend of mine who I have had the pleasure of running many trail miles together, but who is an accomplished runner with an impressive resume. 

TNFEC Madison finish.
And since I'm busy helping The North Face folks promote their upcoming Endurance Challenge in Georgia, what a better way to connect the two but to talk to someone who has run at three different TNFEC events. Rox took 2nd female at TNFEC Madison 50 miler back in 2008 and took 5th female at TNFEC Washington 50 miler in 2010. Her resume also includes winning her very first 50K in 2007 and standing on the podium at 16 more races after that including 2nd female at the 2009 Pinhoti 100. Rox is on the Rock/Creek trail racing team and is also a GUTS member.

I had a chance to sit down with Rox and ask her some questions. Here's a recap of that interview:

How long have you been running and racing on trails and what attracted you to ultra distance races?

My first ultra distance race was back in 2007, the inaugural SweetH2O 50K near Atlanta. I love being outside and being out in nature. I prefer wilderness and mountain running much more than the roads or city. I like the community of trail/ultra runners too. Its a very chill environment which suits me. Once I ran one ultra I was hooked and now I want to run all over the U.S and even the world.

Which race destinations have you run in The North Face Endurance Challenge race series and how did you place at each?

I first ran The North Face Endurance Challenge Madison 50 mile in 2008 and I was 2nd female. That same year I ran TNFEC San Francisco 50 mile where I was 12th female and third in my age group. In June of 2009, I ran my third and last for now TNFEC race in Washington D.C. I raced the 50 mile where I was fifth female and third in my age group.

Which one was your favorite and why?

I loved TNFEC Madison because my family was out there and it was a PR for me. TNFEC San Francisco was SOOOO beautiful. I take a little something from every race. They are all wonderful in their own way. I meet such amazing people at every event!

What first attracted you to racing a TNF Endurance Challenge race?

I wanted to run a 50 mile race that was close to my aunt. She had never seen me race before, so Madison was a perfect place for me to plan a race where at the time she lived close to that venue.

Sharin' the hardware 
with Nikki Kimball!
What is it that TNF Endurance Challenge races do better than others?

The event is VERY well run from course markings to the swag bag. It is a very well oiled machine and organized event! The fact that there are so many distances to choose is a great draw to TNF events also.

You haven't run TNF Endurance Challenge race in Georgia before, but you have run the trails at FDR State Park near Pine Mountain. How would you describe the trails and what would you advise to someone on how to get ready for them?

Pine Mountain has a little bit of everything. Some good climbs and descends with awesome single track. Depending on the time of year, the trail could get a bit technical with leaves covering the rocky trail segments. Recently, a tornado storm went thru FDR park and there is still some evidence of that. Its not a speedy course, but you definitely run well if you're trained and in the right mind set. It's a beautiful place to run. I wish it were even closer to Atlanta.

TNFEC Georgia will be your fourth in the series, what is your goal at this year's TNF Endurance Challenge?

This will be my first race back from injury, so I want to finish the race strong and feel good the whole time. I'M EXCITED!!

Thanks Rox and good luck at TNFEC Georgia in October. I can't wait to get some trail miles together while you get ready for the race.

Thanks Javi! It's been my pleasure and I can't wait either!


I'm excited to see how Rox does at TNFEC Georgia in about a month and a half. Her race calendar the rest of the year also includes the Duncan Ridge 50K in November, one of the toughest 50K courses in the Southeast.

You can join Rox at The North Face Endurance Challenge Georgia which takes place at Pine Mountain, GA on October 13-14 weekend. Register at http://tnf.ec/0o and follow @TheNorthFaceECS on Twitter.

Come back to the blog in a couple of weeks as I hope to interview and post about another local trail runner, John Dove, after he comes back from a unique mountain stage racing experience in Wales, the Dragon's Back Race.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The North Face Endurance Challenge Georgia 10/13-10/14: Free Race Entry Give-Away!

2010 TNFECS Georgia 50-miler winner,
 Geoff Roes, on the Pine Mountain trail.
The North Face Endurance Challenge race series is coming back to Georgia. It's a big weekend packed with races in nine different distances. Everything from a kids race to a 50 miler and all on beautiful trails mostly the Pine Mountain Trail leading out of FDR State Park near Warm Springs, GA. The Georgia edition of The North Face Endurance Challenge takes place on October 13-14, 2012. It's two days of challenging racing and you have an opportunity to win a free entry to the race distance of your choice: 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, 50K or 50 miler. Of course, if I were you, I would use it to register for the 50K or the 50 miler. 

And by the way, if you are into great swag…nothing beats the goodies you receive at any of The North Face Endurance Challenge race. 
The Finish Line Festival features music, refreshments and food. Not to mention, it will also offer free samples, product trials, demonstrations and raffle prizes from The North Face, GORE-TEX, and more.

Expect to hob knob with the big dogs too...2010 50 miler winner was Geoff Roes and last year's 50 miler winner was Hal Koerner!

Meet & greet with Karnazes! A Meet and Greet with Dean Karnazes will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at The North Face Retail booth at the Finish Line Festival. Dean will be answering questions, taking photos and signing autographs during this time.
So how do you win the free entry? It's easy really, all you have to do is help me spread the word in order to enter a random drawing and here's what I ask you to do. To qualify for the drawing, you will receive one entry for each one of the tasks you complete below:
Complete all five equals five entries!
Once you have completed any or all of the tasks above, come back to this blog entry and let me know by posting a comment on what you completed. I'll start the contest now and close it on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. EST (midnight). 

Each entry will be assigned a random number and the winner will be pulled by selecting the entry with the highest assigned random number. Drawing will be held by Monday, August 27th, 2012 and the winner will be announced on the blog. You must be a US resident to qualify and be at least 18 years of age.

Check back on the blog too, as I'll be posting stories and interviews featuring 2012 TNF Endurance Challenge participants in the next couple of weeks.
Don't wait? Start earning your entries and best of luck! I hope to see you on the trails.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's happened and what's next?

Me and my buddy Wes just before the start of the SweetH20 50K earlier this year.

It's been a strange last few months regarding my running. I haven't posted on here as a result, but I decided to dust of the cobwebs and share with you what has happened and also share some thoughts as to the future of this blog.

Love the blues and purples.
After coming off the high of the Double Top 100K back in March, I was looking forward to my last race of the Spring season, the SweetH20 50K in April. Knockin' out the 60+ miles of the Double Top course and doing it in 14 hours had me buzzing about my fitness. As long as the weather would cooperate on race day at SweetH20, there'd be no reason not to do well on that course too. However, a few weeks after Double Top, I twisted my ankle on a routine group run with friends and that changed things. It was a stupid injury too. I was just running along and I stepped off a curb and some how had my foot turned where the weight of my body made me come crashing down on it. I heard a pop and I thought it was bad. After a few minutes though, I was able to get up and walk it off. I iced it when I got home and hoped for the best. I gave it a few days before trying to run on it and when I did, iIt surprisingly felt better than I thought it would given the hematoma still coloring the swelling around my ankle. However, it was definitely not feeling 100% and I had to dial back some mileage. Heading into SweetH20, I was without a double digit run since Double Top which didn't help my confidence much.

Looking down at runners
coming up the gas cut out.
Race day arrived and I lined up at the start with everyone. I was particularly excited for some friends, Julie, Wes and Angela who were racing their first 50K that day. We were all gathered at the start when a Civil War era cannon was fired and off we went, a little over hundred runners down the road before hitting the trail. In the early miles, the ankle felt fine and I was keeping a good pace. I stuck with a buddy named Spurgeon for a bit, but it was obvious he was feeling fresher and so I dropped back. I've reported on here before about running and racing at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Johnny, the race director for SweetH20, loves to change things up, some times out of necessity like the flood a couple of years ago that took out a bridge over the creek, and some times by design. This day it was by design and it would again be a slightly different course than the previous time I ran this race. I was having fun for the first 8-10 miles. We ran on trails that I hadn't been on before, but soon the ankle started complaining. We were in some tall grass at one point and I slightly rolled it again. I got through the gas line cut out, then "Top of the World" and an out and back to an elementary school along a forest road when I started doubting my chances of finishing the day across the finish line. The power line cut out was particularly difficult and my pace started to give. Re-entering the park, I told myself that I just had to get to the creek crossing and I would be fine. A few miles later, we arrived at the ropes to cross the creek. Jumping in the water felt refreshing and instantly made my legs and even the ankle felt better. Then we hit a tough little loop before having to cross the creek a second time and when I made it back across the water again, I was done. I'm not sure as to exactly the mileage, but I don't think it was even 18 miles of the race course. The ankle was throbbing and trying to finish it off would have been senseless. I'd had a good racing season starting with the Stump Jump 50K back in October with a couple of other races in between that and this race. So I DNF'd. I was OK with it. I stayed on the creek side and cheered some friends crossing the creek. I saw Julie, Wes and Angela and they all looked great coming across. They would all go on to finish and earn their first 50K finish. I was so happy for them.

Little hardware in my shoulder.
So what was next? I didn't have anything immediate on the calendar so I thought I'd take it easy for a few weeks, let my ankle heal and maybe even get back on the bike. My wife started training for a triathlon too, so that further had me lowering my mileage and just running to run. No training involved. Eventually, the ankle improved and I was running and cycling just fine. And then another injury happened that unfortunately now has me doing nothing at all. In the first week of July, I dove after my toddler son who was falling back down a flight of stairs and when I hit the landing, I separated the ligaments in my collar bone. I tore it right out of my AC joint. Luckily, my son was fine, but I had surgery to reconnect the clavicle. A steel plate and three screws later, I haven't been able to run or bike at all since. I have physical therapy twice a week, and until the shoulder gets stronger, I won't be able to do anything impactful. Which puts me at an odd place. In a couple of weeks, I will be registering with a friend of mine for the 2013 TransRockies Run, a six-day, 125 mile two-man team race through the Colorado Rockies. I have time to get ready since it is not until August, but I'll be anxious to get going soon. I was looking to sign up for The North Face Georgia Endurance Challenge 25K in October or the Duncan Ridge Trail 30K in November and I can still make it, but I won't be racing either by any means. We'll see. I also have tentative plans to race a couple more 50K's in the winter and spring and then the Chattanooga Stage Races next June as a tune up for the TransRockies Run. I have goals and now I just need to be patient, heal and then get back at it.

As for the future of this blog, I want to include additional content besides just my race reports and occasional account of long trail runs in the mountains. I'm planning on adding interviews with other trail runners. I want to hear about their adventures, goals, achievements and basically, their shared passion for this sport. I'd be happy to interview an elite trail runner, but I am more interested in those like me who run and race on trails because we love it too, but are not at the front of the pack necessarily. If that's you, leave a comment below and we'll figure out a way to connect even if by phone or Skype. I'm also going to use the blog to run occasional contests. In fact, stay tuned as I'll be rolling out a contest to give away a free entry to The North Face Georgia Endurance Challenge on October 13-14 in FDR State Park. If you win, you'll have your choice of running anything from a 25K to a 50 miler on some of the most beautiful, but technical, trails Georgia has to offer.

That's where I'm at the moment. I'll be back at it soon. I hope you'll follow along. Happy trails!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Running in the Cohuttas: Double Top 100K 3.3.12

Up the forest road to the top of Potatopatch Mountain at around mile 22 and about 2,500 feet with the Cohutta range behind me.
This past weekend, I ran the inaugural Double Top 100K in the Cohutta Mountains in North Georgia. It was a memorable weekend with a race that had amazing scenic views, perfect weather and great camarederie. As a first time race, it had its hiccups too.

Rox, me and Kelly before the start of the race.
Dodging the storm

The forecast for the race, an out and back course that follows the Pinhoti Trail and a few forest roads, was totally up in the air for days. We were having unseasonably warm weather in Georgia for this time a year, but a cold front was moving in and meteorologists couldn't agree on how exactly it would play out. At one point, it was supposed to rain all weekend, but as race weekend got closer, the media was prognosticating doomsday and in some parts of Tennessee and Georgia, it kind of was just that. I drove up to Fort Mountain State Park, the site of the start, on Friday and didn't run into any bad weather at all. Meanwhile, Chattanooga, just a few miles north, was getting pounded by hail and tornadoes. South of us, a big storm system pushed through the northern suburbs of Atlanta sending people into their homes to hide in their bathrooms. Somehow, we managed to only get a few inches of rain and some strong winds. The 100 milers were set to start at 4:30am and from what I was told, they had a bit of rain to start. Us 100K participants started at 7:00am and the rain clouds were long gone along with the storm to the north and south of us. It was to be partly sunny skies and temps in the high fifties for us. Basically, perfect weather. We dodged it alright. My friends and cabin mates, Rox and Kelly, and I rolled out of bed around 6:00am to the start. Rox had the foresight to reserve a cabin months ago and it was just about a quarter mile from the start and finish. A luxury that we enjoyed indeed.

Running with the pack

After a few minutes catching up with fellow runners, a little over thirty of us lined up for the start. Perry, the RD, made a few short announcements and with out much fanfare, we were off. We stayed on asphalt for a little over a mile before getting on one of the mountain bike trails in the park. Rox was gone with the leaders, leaving me and Kelly to find our groove in the pack. Within the first couple of miles, we would be joined by Bret from Virginia and Bailey from Alabama, and we would soon pick up Larry from Pennsylvannia (turns out many of the race participants were from out of state). The five of us ran about 15 miles of the first 20 miles together. When we came out of the park, we headed down the Pinhotti Connector to the first aid station. This trail is not well traveled and I found myself instinctively removing branches and other obstacles out of the way. I kept thinking that I had to climb up this trail in the dark later that night and I wanted to make that return as easy as possible. There's nothing easy about that trail, but more on that later. Kelly, Bailey and I made it to the first aid station pretty quickly. Not much need to fuel up this early in the race, but I forced myself to get something to drink and munched on a couple of pretzels. By the end of the day, I would end up proud of my nutrition and hydration as I did a good job with both through out the day and it would lead to my having a good day on the trails.
Creek crossing. One of many early on.

After the first aid station, we kept going down until it leveled off at the lowest point of the race for a few miles and about five or six creek crossings. When I ran through here weeks earlier, the creeks weren't much of a concern at all, but with all the rain I was worried that we would have quite the difficult time dealing with them. When actually they were fine. The worst one was maybe shin deep as you can see from the picture I took of other runners. I had taken care that morning to cover my feet in Bodyglide and I wore my Smartwool socks that have never let me down. I would end the race with absolutely no blisters or hot spots, despite running through creeks this early on in the race and towards the end on the return.

From there, the five us hit the first real climb of the day, up this single track trail and onto a forest road heading North. This portion of the route is on Tatum Mountain. We ran down a bit until we found a gate with the race markers that we obviously had to go around and continue on the forest road. This was the gate we missed weeks ago when on the practice run and I was on the look out for it. The five of us were still together with Kelly and Bailey a few yards ahead. We were trotting along when I noticed a single track trail that splintered off to the left with race ribbons marking it, but that was missed by Kelly and Bailey. We called out to them until they finally turned around and came back. We later learned that this same scenario would play out for many of the runners through out the day and at various points on the course. The trail led down to Georgia highway 52 and we ran east on that for about a half mile, the only stretch of asphalt we would be on besides the start, until we hit aid station #2 at the Cohutta Overlook. 11 miles seemed to go bu just like that. I guess it was the company. We were all sharing stories of past experiences, and Bert was letting us know how he was getting ready to run Leadville later this year. Everybody looked like they were feeling pretty good, but of course, it was still early. After the aid station, we got back on the Pinhoti trail for the next 4-5 miles. Along this section is a series of switch backs first going down and then heading back up and over Turkey Mountain. It's a fun, very runnable trail and I found myself putting some distance between me and the other four. Not intentionally, but more because I was enjoying the trail and I was on a pace that was comfortable. Exactly what you want to feel while in a long distance race. We soon arrived at the Three Forks aid station and Kelly and I ended up leaving together and some how breaking up our little group. Kelly and i followed yet another forest road for a little over a mile and then back on the Pinhoti single track for what is probably my favorite part of the course. Lots of pines in this area drop tons of needles and make the trail what a good friend of mine calls "pine straw nirvana".

Kelly coming up the Pinhoti trail.
There was a group of mountain bikers out on the trail participating in a small race and this is where we would have our first "run in" with them. One of them coming down the trail happened to be John Dove, long time local ultra runner, adventure racer and just all around nice guy. He recognized me before I did him. I would have loved to talk to him for a while, but it was race time for both of us and the greeting was brief, but genuine. It was good to see him. We ran into a few more riders coming down the trail as Kelly and I kept climbing up it. We caught up and passed one of the female 100K participants and it was interesting to note how Kelly, probably without realizing it, picked up the pace to pass her. Anyway, we soon made it to the Double Top aid station and I was surprised to think back on how quickly the first 20 or so miles had gone by. The next 20 miles was all on forest roads and it is definitely the toughest part of the entire course.

Chasing Mike

As we were leaving the Double Top aid station, we saw Bailey coming in, but we were ready to go and he stopped to fuel up. As soon as we left the aid station, we passed the trailhead to get back onto the Pinhoti trail. There were a few ribbons leading down the road, but I can see how several of the other runners took this turn without realizing that the course actually followed the forest road. Kelly had run this portion of the course a couple of weeks ago, and she kept us in the right direction. The next four or so miles is just one long ass climb up Potatopatch Mountain. Kelly and I started it together, but I don't know where she find an extra gear, but she started putting a gap on me. Slowly, but surely she got away and after a short while, I could no longer see her. Bailey was too far back to wait for him, so this left me alone on my way up. Along the way, I did catch up with a few other runners including a couple of the 100 milers, and we would exchange "Good job!", but everyone was all about the business of getting up this incline. I did stop at one bend where we had a great view of the range around us. Brad, a 100 miler that I caught up with, shared that we were at 2,500 feet or so at that point. The Double Top aid station we left behind is at 1,830 feet according to the race organizers and the top of the climb is at 3,520 feet. From the bend with the scenic view we would still climb another 1,000 or so feet before the climb was done. Ugh! My hands swelled up from having them at my side for so long and just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Still, I was catching a few others and that definitely kept me going. No sight of Kelly though. She was long gone.

Once at the top, the forest road tees into another one and the race ribbons went to the right, but for some reason this was another trouble spot for some of the others. A couple of mountain bikers that had also made the climb saw that I went right and they called after another runner that had gone left. This runner was Mike Scott and once he turned around, he caught and passed me and I would end up chasing him for the next twenty or so miles. Thankfully, we did have a reprieve from the climb but it was short lived, the next several miles to the turn around point were a not-so-gently rolling rollercoaster of forest road running. I kept Mike in sight but I was definitely feeling the big climb and I was trying to keep my pace. The downhills were starting to hurt too. Bob, another 100K runner, would end up running behind me at a distance for most of this section, but I could sense that he was there and that kept me going too. Coming into the next aid station near Betty Gap, I was realizing that I was doing a good job with my nutrition, but I still took advantage of the food on the table. PB&J sandwiches were a staple of my race diet through out they day, but I also incorporated gels and some squeezable baby food fruit packets in between aid stations. While the baby food fruit packets don't provide much caloric value, they do provide some electrolyte replacement and something different from the more synthetic tasting sports gels.

Kelly and Rox shortly after
the turn around point.
Mike took off from the aid station and I soon followed. It seemed that would distance himself on the downhills, but I would slowly inch up on him on the uphills. This pattern was the same for several miles. Along the way, we passed Mountaintown Overlook which again had amazing views of the valley below and the Cohutta rage around us. Some where around this point, we were passed by the 100K race leader. He was looking strong. Up and down we went on the forest road until finally, we headed down about two or so miles of downhill running into the turn around point with more of the runners in front of us going the other way. Right before we got there, I saw Kelly coming up the forest road and she was the first female runner I had seen. Immediately, I wondered where was Rox but I soon found out when I saw Rox about thirty or so yards behind Kelly. Kelly was looking really good and I was not surprised to later find out she held her top spot. I would later catch up with Rox myself, but more on that later. I was glad to get to the turn around point. Considering the distance covered, I thought I felt pretty good. Again, my nutrition and hydration needs were being met and other than the pain associated with covering 30+ miles, my legs felt OK and I was able to still run. When we were making our way down the forest road into the aid station, I was concerned about the climb back up, but some where I found a renewed excitement and I think it was the fact that I was passed the half way point and this carried me for several miles. That and the fact that I was now determined to stay on Mike's tail for some friendly competition. It is a race after all.

Smiling at the turn around point. 50K to go!
Back up and over, and then down and back up, past the Mountaintown Overlook, past the Usti Yona aid station at Betty Gap, I followed Mike. The whole time he stayed a good twenty to forty yards in front of me but I never lost sight of him. We did see all of the other runners that were behind us coming at us as they made their way to the turn around point and I realized that we were a relatively small group. I also realized that I never saw Bert and Larry who I had run with in the first twenty miles. The thought crossed my mind that they must have took a wrong turn or they DNF'd or both. I never found out for sure, but after what I learned about people dropping out, I assume that's what happened to them too. Mike and I made the long downhill decent back to the Double Top aid station and I was happy to get here and get into my drop bag. Mike didn't waste much time and he headed out after going thourhg his drop bag and refueling at the aid station. I on the other hand took a few minutes to sort through my things, and figure out how to distribute everything, so that I didn't have to leave anything behind. I put my fresh long sleeve shirt in my running pouch and my headlamp on my head even though I wouldn't need it for a couple more hours. I ended up having to carry my vest and gloves in my hand because I had no where to put it, but I was later glad I brought them and didn't leave them behind. As I was getting my things, Greg who was managing the aid station was catching me up on what had happened with some of the other 100K and 100 mile runners dropping out. Apparently, there were quite a few from this point. Remember I mentioned John Dove earlier, well turns out that he rode his bike up the trail and "rescued" several of these lost runners earlier in the afternoon. I guess they would have gone further, if it wasn't for John.

Bringing it in

With twenty miles left to go, I knew that it was in the bag sort of speak, but in ultra running you never can be sure. Before he left the aid station, I remember Mike saying, "We'll probably hit darkness some where between the last two aid stations." and ended up being right about that. But while there was delight, I was set on covering as much ground as possible. I left the Double Top aid station up the forest road and then finally back on single track trail. It was such a relief to get off the forest road, even if there were still a few miles of it in the last segment. Going up hill, I was feeling the miles and the earlier effort, but down hill running hurt too. Yet although I was tired, my body was reacting well at this stage in the race and I felt that my "engine" was running well and ready to take on the last miles of the race. I came down the single track trail without much to do and I was soon back at the Three Forks aid station. Mike had made it into the station and left before I got there. And as I was leaving to start the climb back up the trail and Turkey Mountain, I saw Bob coming into the station. I was walking the climb, but also keeping a good pace. I stopped half way up the trail to put on my long sleeve shirt and adjust some of my clothing because the sun was starting to set and the temps were also starting to drop. Bob passed me while I was changing and admittedly, I set out to catch him once I got going again. It looked like Bob was trying to put some distance between us since he would jog a bit up the climb, but I thought I could catch him if I just kept up my pace and sure enough, that's what happened. I caught and passed him as we crested the climb and reached the saddle that led to the switchbacks on the other side. Now it was my turn to try to put some distance between us and I started running. To my mild surprise, I was holding the run and it wasn't long before I couldn't see Bob over my shoulder. Mike on the other hand was no where to be seen ahead of me.

I reached the aid station at Cohutta Overlook and there the volunteer was enjoying a Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA and I joked that I would love to have one. It sounded so tasty! But I had my own brew goodness waiting for me back at the cabin near the finish and I think that snapped my attention to the job at hand. After leaving the aid station and covering the short segment on Highway 52, I was back on the Pinhoti trail and I picked up a runner that was in front of me, a guy named Chris from Florida. We ran together and covered the next few miles rather quickly and soon had Mike in our sights. We steadily caught up to Mike and by the time we were back on the Tatum Lead forest road, the three of us ran together for just a short while. I pushed on with my pace and while darkness settled around me, I soon found myself by myself with two headlamps bobbing up and down in the distance behind me. This boosted my confidence and I worked hard to keep that distance or widen it. I reached the single track trail again that descended down into the valley where the creeks we crossed earlier laid waiting for me.

As I reached the bottom, I saw the light of a headlamp in front of me and I wondered who it was. Soon I realized it was Rox. I caught up to her and it was good to see her. She encouraged me and I pushed on past her. The creek water felt good when I reached the first crossing and I didn't mind getting my shoes wet. After the first couple of creeks, I came out into an open field where all of a sudden I lost the trail among the tall grass. It took me a second to realize this, but I stayed focused and looked around to figure out my situation. I saw another headlamp to my left and I ran towards it. It was my buddy, Brack, and he had been roaming this field for about twenty minutes trying to find his way back on the trail. We tagged together and headed towards our right along a tree line and then we saw two other headlamps ahead of us through the trees. It was Rox and Chris. We bushwhacked through the trees and across a creek to get to them. Thankfully, we were back on the trail. We all ran together for a bit, but soon Brack and I left Rox and Chris behind. Before long, we were at the last aid station. It was like a lighted oasis in the dark. The volunteers cooked me up a grilled cheese sandwich and while I waited, I munched on some cold pizza. It all hit the spot! All that was left was the last big climb up the Pinhoti Connector. I grabbed my grilled cheese sandwich and Brack and I headed up the trail. Munching on my sandwich, we made progress up the climb. The darkness had definitely settled in and we had to really watch our step. The Pinhoti Connector is covered in leaves and of all the single track trail we had been all day, it was the most technical with loose rocks and down branches all over the trail. Combine that with the grade, and this was easily the hardest part of the course other than the big climb to the top of Potatopatch earlier in the day. It took a while, but we finally made it to the entrance of the park. Only about three miles left to go.

Brack and I entered the park and settled into a pattern of walking then run-walking the rest of the course. We did almost make a mistake when the trail intersected with the gahuti Trail, but managed to stay on the correct route. As usual, the last couple of miles seemed to be endless. Anticipation stretches the last miles out, it seems. After some time, we reached the park road and then the lake where on the other side we knew Perry was waiting for us. Making our way around the lake, we soon started to see the finish line tent and the Xmas lights hanging from them. Even though we were excited, we didn't really pick up our pace much. We were happy to just trod around the lake and finish up the race. Looking behind us, we couldn't see any headlamps, so we knew that we wouldn't be caught by anyone. Soon, we saw Perry's smiling face adn when we reached the tent, he congratulated us and handed us our finisher's Double Top 100K coins. Kelly was there waiting for us too. She told us that she had finished an hour earlier and that she had won the women's race. I was so happy for her. Brack and I finished in 14:03 and were 6th and 7th respectively overall. I exceeded my expected finish time by about an hour, so I was very pleased with my finish and pleasently surprised by my position in the race. I later learned that there were more drops and that only about 20 or so finished the 100K course.

All finishers received this cool coin at the finish!
I high fived Brack and thanked him for sticking with me for the last couple of miles and hugged Kelly. We waited for Rox to finish and while waiting for her, Chris arrived first about ten minutes behind us and then Mike, who I had chased for many miles earlier in the race, came in shortly after him. We were starting to get worried about Rox when we saw a headlamp and from out of the shadows she appearred. Apparently, she had taken a wrong turn with about a mile to go and spent ten minutes or so retracing her steps. We were glad to see her and she was even more glad to finish herself. After a short break, Kelly, Rox and I headed to our cabin for a much deserved shower, food and a change of clothes.

Getting turned around and dropping out

I couldn't have asked for a better day or race. As challenging as the course is, I still found it enjoyable and what I liked about it the most was the change in landscape and especially the amazing views. For much of the course, you get frontline views of the Cohutta Mountains all around you. I know that when Perry designed this course, he wanted it to be challenging, but he also wanted people to really appreciate it for how beautiful it is. In the original plan for the route, there was a section of the Pinhoti trail at Bear Creek that was supposed to be a part of the course, but due to restrictions from the National Park Service, these trails were off limits to the race and an alternate route was designed along forest roads. With that, it is still a beautiful course with an incredible array of different vegetation including awesome, green lichens along one section of the Pinhoti trail and scenery that rivals any on the east coast. The route also has its drawbacks, however. There are several turns that are easy to miss and even some that can lead the participant astray. I, personally, did not have any major problems on the course, but a good part of that was because I had come out weeks earlier to preview the first 20 miles and also I was running with others that knew the course as well. There were two or three turns that were questionable and that I was glad I had either some one with me or that I had the route map the race organizers provided with me.

During and after the race, I heard of many who dropped out simply because they had taken a wrong turn, missed a turn or just went down the wrong way. There was an entire group of ten or so 100 milers that went ten miles out of their way on the Pinhoti Trail before finally realizing that they were off course. Some of the 100K participants also made the same error and then dropped once they made it back to the Double Top aid station. Yet another small group of 100 milers went down too far on the Tatum Mountain forest road and missed the single track back to the last aid station. Local forest emergency services were called to find them and once found, the race was temporarily suspended. Causing about two or three of the 100 mile runners to drop out because they were stuck at the Cohutta Overlook aid station. Of the 80 or so participants that were registered for both races, less than half finished. With most having dropped mainly from disappointment of having gone too far in the wrong direction. I feel bad for those participants and I can sympathize with their frustration, but at the same time, I feel that this is part of our sport. The race organizers took steps to provide all the tools to successfully navigate the course including sending a detailed document two nights before the race with every trail, forest road, aid station, elevation points, etc. They also held a race meeting the night before where these details were presented and every participant was provided with a route map inside a ziploc baggy. The course was marked with blue/white and blue ribbons and occasional signs. I agree that the ribbons were sparse in many sections and for a couple of turns, hard to see. Which was the problem and they certainly were difficult to find in the dark during the night. I provided what I hope was constructive feedback to the race organizers that for future races, the reflective orange survey flags would work best. All in all, it's a bummer that so many missed out. It really was a good course and the race has potential to become a classic on the Southeast race calendar. All inaugural events have kinks to work out and I hope the people that walked away frustrated will look back and realize that given the opportunity to do it again, they would line up at the start with other enthusiastic runners. I know I will. Even classic races like Western States have their route troubles, the 2011 race comes to mind when Killian Jornet, Nick Clark and others ran off course for a few miles in the early stages of the race, but still finished it. In the end, that's ultrarunning. That's our sport.

2012 Double Top 100K race results

2012 Double Top 100 blog roll: