Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dodging the Bullet, Actually several Bullets - Race Report on the Lake Martin 50

You know things are bad when you start getting emails asking if the race will be canceled or just postponed. You also know you have runners entering their first ultra. Yes, the weather forecast was pretty bad for the inaugural Lake Martin 50 (50 and 27 mile trail races.) Weather prognosticators were predicting thunderstorms over night Friday Night and all day Saturday with severe weather hitting the area late afternoon. Sounded pretty ominous.

The race had sold out at 75 runners and we were thrilled with the everyone’s enthusiasm. At the pre-race meeting catered by Catherine’s Market and Caf'e everyone was really fired up and ready to go. There were more than expected no-shows Saturday Morning for the 6:30 start and I suspect the weather was mostly to blame. It did storm overnight but by the start conditions were good, cool and overcast and no rain. As it turned out the entire day was great. Temperatures never climbed out of the 50s and it stayed cloudy all day with occasional light showers. In fact, for those of us not running it was downright cold. We did have a squall come through about about 8:00 a.m. but it was mostly wind and no lightning. It did almost blow the Cabin Aid Station away and Marye Jo (my wife) along with it, but the day was saved by two of our great volunteers, Kyle and Ryan.

The course is the perfect step up from marathons and 50Ks to your first 50 mile race. Next year the Lake Martin 100 will be the perfect venue to run your first 100. The 50 mile course consists of two 25 mile loops with 4 aid station stops every loop. But there are only two aid stations. That makes race planning pretty easy for your fist 50 or 100 since you only have to pack two dropbags. The course is also very runnable with nothing technical anywhere in the race. We did have a lot of first ultra runners in the 50 mile race and the 27 mile “Fun Run” this year.

The Lake Martin 50 is held on the Russell Forest Trail System (Private land holding of Russell Lands) along the shores of Lake Martin near Alexander City, Alabama. The lake has almost 750 miles of shoreline is situated between Montgomery, AL and Atlanta. The trail system has over 80 miles of some of the most beautiful trails anyone will ever have the privilege of running. I must thank Robert Gunn, director of events for Russell Lands and Stanley Ingram Over the Russell Forest Trail System for allowing us to invade their trails. We had great support from everyone with Russell Lands but especially Robert who even managed to “borrow” fire wood to keep a fire going in the cabin all day Friday and Saturday. The room with the fireplace was also the location of the post-run food and as soon as race finishers cooled down, they headed straight for the fire. It didn't hurt that the food and drink, including Marye Jo's famous, steaming hot, Santa Fe soup was waiting . Many put the finisher glasses to good use while warming themselves in front of the fire.

This area of Alabama has very sandy soil that drains quickly, so despite all the rain overnight most runners were able to keep their shoes relatively dry all day. There are also a lot of creek crossings but all could be navigated without wading through water. What cannot be bypassed are the hills. They all are very runnable rolling hills but they are continuous. Total elevation gains is 7,388 ft in the 50 mile race, and the biggest climb is less than 250 ft.

Owen Bradly, one of those listed in Ultrarunning Magazine's Four Race Winner list for 2012, from Birmingham, added another win to his record by taking first in the 27 Mile Fun Run in a time of 3:23:09. Sally Evenden of Montevallo, Alabama was the first overall woman with a time of 4:55:09. To no ones surprise, John Cobbs of Birmingham took first in the 50 mile, with a time of 7:47:06. The top woman in the 50 was Holly Adams of Smyrna, Georgia with a time of 8:49:23. We had much higher than expected DNF rate. I think a lot of people underestimated the impact of all those hills.

As night fell, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for our area. The center of the storm was headed directly for our location. I went out and found the two runners still on the course and warned them of the approaching severe weather. By this time lightning was flashing all around but neither was concerned and charged on to the finish. Both runners successfully completed their first 50 mile race. In one of the most amazing stories of the day, Ashley Pare of Auburn, Alabama finished her first 50 having never run a race longer than a 10K and she was still smiling at the end.

All in all it was a fantastic event and everyone raved about the course and the beauty of the trails.

Next year the start/finish will be located in the Stables. Runners will actually run through the middle of the stables where the aid station and race timing will be located. That should be an interesting experience. Note: These are not your usual stables. They are rented out almost every weekend for weddings and receptions.

27 Fun Run Men's Winner Owen Bradley
Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the First Place Overall Woman, Sally Evenden.

50 Mile Overall Men's Race winner John Cobbs

50 Mile Overall Women's First Place went to Holly Adams 

Ashley Pare Finished the 50 mile Race.  She had never run a race longer than a 10K.
That is Truly Amazing.