January 3rd, 2009, start time- 8:00am, weather- overcast, Hi 70 expected.
If you're looking for a marathon that is not your "run of the mills" type, try Athens-Big Fork 26.2 miler. Trust me... it is one tough dude. Check out the Elevation Chart below. The website states you should be an experienced trail runner to run this. For the most part...yes, that is true. This trail run has lots of big time hills. I say hills, because the climbs are somewhere around 3/4 to 1 mile (at a very steep grade), whereas mountains are somewhere around 3 to 4 mile climbs. But with 8 climbs one way, they soon become mountains. Thats the difficulty of the course. There are plenty of rocks along the course, but most are runnable. And some creek crossings.
The race starts at Big Fork Community Center on a nice paved road. That ends about 1.5 miles, then head west on dirt road for another mile. The fun now begins with a nice long steady climb. I get to the top in good time. As soon as I hit the top, it was downhill at good grade. I took it easy as not to trash the quads in the early stage of the race. I popped out at Tatur aid station (~mile 4) at the bottom of the first hill. We hit our first creek crossing. It was cold, but felt very good.
Not more than 100 ft, we started our second climb. I was beginning to have some problems with my right calf. About a week before the race, I did some climbs at Turkey mtn in preparation for this race. In the process, I must've stain my calf muscle pretty good. It hadn't completely healed up, but I thought it was gonna affect me that much. I was wrong. It really bothered me the first half of the race.
Back to the race. With each climb, I was trying not to push off straight up with my right leg. This really slowed me down. However, the downhills were feeling great after doing a couple of them. I got into a groove on each downhill. But I was still very cautious though. I knew that with each downhill, there is going to be an uphill coming up.
Basically, we went up and down hills for 10 miles to the halfway point. We did run about 1/3 mile on good dirt road to reach the halfway aid station. My time was 3 hrs. 13 mins. at halfway. Now, just have to do that again, and I was should make it back in good time. I down some chicken noodle soup and some bananas, and was off again. I finally getting into the climbing thing now.
The first climb back up seemed to abit easier this time, and my calf muscle was not hurting me as bad now. Guess it just needed some distance to stretch out. As soon as I hit the top, I would start running downhill. I was picking up pace now. When I reach the bottom, I was ready to attack the next hill. I was on a roll now.
I got down to the bottom of one hill at a creek. When I hit that creek, I noticed a white blaze across the creek, and immediately jump the creek, and kept going on a trail. This was at about mile 19. I kept going for some distance and it was just flat. Then it hit me.... DID I MAKE A WRONG TURN? I haven't seen any white blaze in awhile, and the trail is just flat. I turned back to the creek crossing. I thought...maybe someone behind me will show up soon and tell me I'm still on the right trail. But no one showed up. When I was almost back to where I jumped the creek, I met another guy heading the way I did. I told him he's going the wrong way. We got back to the creek crossing, and found out we missed the pink ribbons stayed along the creek. And the white blazes continued from there. I went 3 miles out of the way, and lost about 45 minutes. (see the map where I went wrong)
When I finally got back on the right trail, I started to pick up the pace again, hoping that I gain some time back. I did for the next two climbs. But then just about every ounce of energy was depleted. I was not really in the game now. My thought was now...if I can just make to the next aid station, I'm just walking in it.
I came into Tatur aid station all dejected. I took some downtime and chatted with Brian and Ken before I tackled the last climb. Up to this point after making the wrong turn, I had lost about an hour or more. After reaching the final top, I finally got back to running the last downhill.
I'm finally out of the woods for the last two mile stretch to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 7 hrs. 50 mins. 47 secs...for doing 29.1 miles. I was glad to be done. A little bit disappointed, but I'm sure next time will be better. It was a great practice run.
Below shows my worst mishap along the way. And this happened at the top of the last downhill. Thanks to the all the volunteers who help put this race together.
4 years ago