Last year's fog on top of Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga, TN, kept all the scenic views at the overlooks hidden. This year it was cloudy in the morning, but no fog or real low clouds. Some GREAT views -- could see 30 miles or so even thru the hazy sky. Other than the Natural Bridge, KY, run 6+ years ago, this race setting has to be the most scenic of any ultra I've attended. At least half this course was changed from last year, but the organizers kept the scenic sites intact & even went by the waterfalls area twice this time!
I would classify the course this year as "fast" for a 50 miler. One real big hill and lots of runnable grades up & down. Unlike last year, there was no mud to speak of & no knee deep water crossings -- the trail conditions were excellent. I enjoyed chatting during the race with a couple runners I had met at previous races -- Ken Seidl & Beau Wendholt. Beau mentioned he had moved to Chattanooga from Indiana, but still directed a trail marathon there (Honest Abe Marathon). I also passed Troy Shellhamer (a LLTH veteran & a local runner from Louisville) on the out'n'back part of the course. He was in first place & ended up extending that lead!! CONGRATS Troy!
As for my race performance, I was disappointed once again (avg 14:41/mile) but I have only myself to blame for a silly mistake in the 1st half of the race:
Looking at the new course map prerace, I didn't notice (duh), or it wasn't obvious to me until I ran into it, was that I would be running the 1st 22.5 miles with only 2 aid stations in that distance (3rd aid station was at 22.5 miles). Under normal weather conditions, I usually need 20 oz every 45 minutes -- so at a pace of say, 14 minutes/mile, I would need seven 20 oz drinks. Since I only carried one 20 oz bottle (that was the mistake), there was no way I could drink all that I needed at the aid stations & not be bloated. Needless to say I became very thirsty & had to drag myself into the 3rd aid station.
Once I get behind on the hydration, it's hard to get back just right. Over the next 3 aid stations (spaced closer), I drank & I drank -- then it got to where I was peeing every 5-10 minutes! I backed it off but I didn't get it right till I finished.
Also, I almost repeated my blunder of last year -- missing a turn and going an extra 2 miles:
The course marking at this event is unique in all the races I've run. Generally, the trail itself was not marked with flags. Flags are placed in a line across turnoffs -- don't cross the flags & you'll be OK!! There is one major flaw/inconsistency to this & I discovered it last year & did so again this year: when you are on a paved road, you can't stick the flags into the hard surface when you need to show a turn (you need a sign or a person or pavement marking here). Once again this year, I missed a turnoff from the road but luckily was caught after only going a couple hundred feet by the observant gal behind me -- THANK YOU! With this kind of marking, if you make a mistake, you won't know you're off course till you come to a junction & there's no flagging . . . could be miles!
I was surprised to even see some "confidence" marking this year, that is, flags placed other than at junctions to let you know you're on course when you haven't seen flags for miles. Other than the one turn I missed, I thought the course was very well marked & would guess that there were 3 or 4 times the number of flags of last year.
Next for me is surgery on my cyst later this afternoon!