Sunday, December 22, 2013

Inaugural Bearly Ultra

Let me paint you a picture...

It's a few days before Christmas, I'm alone in an Applebee's booth with a winter lager, a bacon cheeseburger, slow Christmas music playing and everyone is staring at me...

In reality it's really not as bad as it seems. My wife is out of town and my buddy Blake just left the restaurant, so to the incoming diners... I'm that depressed, lonely guy, that has to eat alone for the holidays. I'm really happy as can be and just downing calories, going through the normal night before an ultra routine. Usually it ends there... however, I promised Kati's sorority sister Leila I'd go out for a drink with her. I met her and a few of her friends for a few beers. "I'm not taking that." Clink. I took it. Baby Guinness shots shall not be passed up. Delicious. A quick stop by Wally World for some silky Santa boxers, a mistletoe headband and then it's time for bed.

The Bearly Ultra was the first official race from the BUTS group (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society). The BUTS community has been around a little over a year and it has BLOWN up thanks to some amazing folks. They've hosted tons of group runs, cookouts and have set up some of the most amazing aid stations at races like the Pinhoti 100. Needless to say... a freakin awesome group to be associated with.

After a few words from Dan (RD) we set off on the 27 mile adventure.

Dan's the one standing on the ladder... and a big thanks to local trail runner Chris Ferrell for pointing out how Dan looks like The Vulcan.

I started off a lot faster than I had intended, but I didn't want to get caught in that middle pack where it could get congested. The first few miles were spent chit chatting and catching up with a few BUTS members. Despite putting in a good amount of miles through the week, my legs felt strong and fresh. I started the climb up to the first aid station located at mile 4. What makes the BUTS aid stations the best? Dance music. "Relax, don't do it, when you want to go to it" blared from the speakers. I got up to the top and felt like I should kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia... instead... I opted for some gummy bears and banana slices.

The next few miles were rolling jeep roads with a few long stretches, so I picked up the pace a little bit. The only thing that broke up the loop was a quick out and back to Grace's Gap. I really like this section despite being so short. I hit Grace's Gap and saw my buddy Suman ( on the return trip. He smiled and said I had better pick up the pace because he was coming for me. I hit the gravel road and ran down until it opened up into the 2ish mile powerline trail back to the start/finish area. I filled my bottle, grabbed a banana and headed back into the woods.

At this point in the race it felt like an every day run. I was running alone like I normally do. The silence was broken by the delightful screams of a group enjoying the Red Mt zip line course. It's always good seeing people outside enjoying themselves! I winded up and down through the park enjoying the singletrack until I started the climb back up to the aid station. From my understanding... a new type of twerking was created sometime since my last visit...

I left the aid station and again picked up the pace during the next few miles. I came face to face with Suman again on my return trip from Grace's Gap. "I'm gaining on you!" When I came out of the woods and onto the powerline trail, I big gust of wind and mist hit me. It misted all the way to the start/finish area. I quickly filled my water bottle, grabbed a banana and a Little Debbie snack and headed out for the final loop. And yes... I somehow managed to wear the mistletoe headband the entire race...

I few miles into the loop I started to feel my legs tighten up a little. I've not raced since October and haven't really pushed myself that hard in a while. My right achilles was also giving me some problems. I think it mostly had to do with me switching shoe brands. I've always ran in Salomons, but I can't seem to find anything from the new line that feels right. I recently switched to Brooks Cascadias. I love them so far, but they're a little less rugged than my old Salomons.

I knew I had a decent lead over Suman, but Suman is fast. He can kill some flats and it made me a little nervous because after the aid station the course had a lot of open, flat areas for him to gain ground.

I cruised into the aid station at mile 22, filled my bottle, stretched a little and headed out for the last 5 miles of the race.

On the back side of Red Mt park there's a long straightaway. I got close to the end and looked over my shoulder. Suman. You could see that neon shirt from a mile away. Ugh. I started to pick up my pace. I came up on my buddy Drew Morton who was well on his way to completing his first ultra. We exchanged a few words, but Suman paranoia was creeping in so I had to jet. I hit Grace's Gap and headed back to the gravel road. Looking out over the powerline trail I knew I had it. 2 miles lay between me and the finish line. I had to stop and stretch a few times the last 2 miles because I had pushed it pretty hard since I left the last aid station. I walked up the final hill and smiled as I crossed the finish line.

I finished 2nd overall with a time of 4:28, 7mins behind Bo Martin. I had a blast racing, catching up with some old friends, and hanging out with the BUTS gang. Hopefully, now that I've got a new job and more of a set schedule, I'll be able to attend more BUTS events and get the opportunity to race/volunteer more!

For now... I'm about to grab some wine and dive into the chicken and dumplings that have been brewing in the crock pot the last few hours...

Till tomorrow...

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