I had run a 7:16 at the Hocking Hills 60k 2 months ago, so in looking at the 40.65 miles (approx 65k) in the Dizzy Fifties in Huntsville, Alabama, I had expectations of finishing in less than 8 hours on this very fast course - wrong! Final time on my watch was around 8:40!! About 6:16 at 50k. I didn't have any issues or excuses so it has me scratching my head on exactly what happened.
Driving 3 miles straight up a hill right out of Huntsville, I arrived at the top & it became pretty flat -- a plateau of sorts. It was breezy on top & chilly till the sun rose a little higher. There were nice scenic overlooks along the outer edge of this plateau thruout the course. The race consisted of 3 loops run multiple times with a centralized aid station, similar to the Stone Steps 50k format in Cincinnati. The small loop of 2.2 miles was run once, the north loop of 4 miles was run 4 times (for 40 milers) and the south loop of 5.6 miles was also run 4 times (for 40 milers). The most difficult was the north loop the 1st time around when the trail was covered with several inches of new fallen leaves. With all the rocks & roots hidden beneath, you had to step gingerly & hope the ankles held out! I only had one tumble but many twists & turns of both ankles -- nothing serious though. With all the foot traffic, the leaves were kicked out of the way or matted down as the day progressed & it became much better. This north loop had the only hill on the course as you dipped off the plateau for a couple miles. The small loop & the south loop were flat with the leaves already matted down & with only a few rocks & roots -- fast & easy running trails.
I was just over a 11 minute pace for the 1st few loops & then quickly faded. High stepping in the leaves on the 1st trip around the north loop apparently took something out of me. By the halfway point of the race, I was already reduced to the "shuffle" mode (slow) as my legs were gone. I stumbled & stubbed more toes dragging my feet thru the leaves that way, but I wasn't going fast enough to fall! I did get passed by one 50 miler. He was someone I had known from Lovin' the Hills & Stone Steps -- Tom Possert -- a tall fellow with long muscular legs. As I was walking up the one hill on the course on the north loop at about mile 34, he passed by me & started walking -- so he was human after all! Of course he was on mile 44 and walked faster than I ran all day. I could tell it was unusual for him to walk this hill as he commented (without me asking) that he would be running this if he needed to. He sure didn't need to as he finished easily over the next competitor.
I did wear two (2) watches this race: one of my favorite toys -- a Garmin 405 and my regular Polar watch. The Garmin's battery is not very good -- it only works about 6 hours for me, so I came prepared. Here are some pics that I made from the Garmin data, the first 3 are from the Garmin Training Center program & the last is from the Google Earth program (I've exaggerated the vertical scale somewhat in this pic to highlight the topography of the area) -- Click on pics for a larger view:
1st loop run once:
north loop run 4 times:
south loop run 4 times:
sample google earth pic: