Monday, November 30, 2015

The Tranquility Lake 50K Trail Race

The Tranquility Lake 50K & 25K Trail Race - Final race of the 2015 Southeastern Trail Series
Saturday, November 21st was the third running of the Tranquility Lake 50K at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama, just south of Birmingham. We had absolutely perfect running conditions with temps in the mid 40’s at the start and beautiful blue skies all day.

MRuns (Suman Silwal) picture just before the start of the Race.

We had 164 registered runners and about 150 starters. Runners make a short loop around the BMX track to spread out before hitting almost a mile of gnarly, narrow trail up past Tranquility Lake Dam, around the lake and up to the ruins of the old chapel at Camp Tranquility Scout Camp. From there runners follow the Group Camp gravel road up to the entrance of the camp then downhill on the camp road for another mile where they again enter the single track, Yellow/White Connector Trail for the longest climb in the park.

A shot of the sun coming up over Tranquility Lake as runners climb up along the dam just a few hundred yards after the start. I don’t know who took this, but if it is your picture, please let me know so I can give you credit.

Just over 2 miles into the race runners start the difficult, 630 ft. climb in just under a mile to the top of the West Ridge of Double Oak Mountain. Our mountain may be small by western US standards, but you will not find more difficult trails to negotiate anywhere. Once on top of the ridge, runners follow the Red Bike Road for a couple of miles along or near the top of the ridge before heading up the Green Trail over to the Peavine Falls Aid Station. Everyone had better stock up on water here. It’s a very long 6.8 miles to the next water at the North Trail Head.

After leaving the aid station runners stay on a wide gravel trail for about ½ mile before the very steep, treacherous descent into Peavine Falls Gorge. The trail loops around almost under the fall which was really pretty after several days of rain earlier in the week. Runners then follow Peavine Creek downstream for about 200 yards before starting up the short but very steep climb out of the gorge.

Peavine Falls by Lisa Booher

As runners leave the gorge they enter the Blue Trail for the 5 mile run to the north end of the park. The Blue Trail climbs slowly to the East Ridge of Double Oak Mountain, then along the ridge for several miles. The trail then abruptly drops off the ridge downhill for a short distance to the Eagle Nest Overlook trail where runners make a hard right for another short but very steep climb up to the overlook ridge. After a short run along the ridge runners start a very difficult, very steep descent down from the overlook to rejoin the Blue Trail about a mile from the North Trail Head.

At just under 13 miles from the start, runners finally reach the Water Only aid station at the NTH and begin the final 3 mile segment. After running along a very gentle section of trail for a couple of miles they return to Tranquility Lake and follow the shore line all the way around the north and west side of the lake, through the State Park Cabins, past the old dam and back to the Start/Finish aid station. That is the end of the race for 25K runners. The 50K’ers get to do it all again.

The Tranquility Lake 50K is the final race of the Southeastern Trail Series and is the race that determines the Series Winners. The STS consists of a Short Series and a Long Series with 6 separate points races, each with a short or a long race option, and one race, The Run for Kids Challenge, with one short race (a 10K) and two long race options (a 50K and a 12 Hour Race.) The points earned in each race are totaled at the end of the year and Points Champions get some really cool stuff including Salomon Jackets, gift certificates and entry into all 2016 Southeastern Trail Series Races.

This was the third year of the series and there were no surprises as Lisa Booher and Suman Silwal won the championship. In fact, Lisa and Suman have won the championship all three years. Things were a lot closer in the Short Series with Brian Boatman and Kay Estes winning the Short Series championships with outstanding performances in the Tranquility Lake 25K.

Lisa Booher and Jason Wheat, first overall in the 50K

This was the most successful year ever for Southeastern Trial Runs. All of our races grew significantly and it has been so much fun to watch our regular runners make huge improvements over the three years of the Trail Series. Some of our regular runners in the trail series started with very little running experience and have made great improvements in strength and endurance. Many have now run their first Ultra with us. Many have gone on to finish their first 100 mile race. It is great to be able to share in the success of all those that have participated in our races and cheer them on to their own personal victories and successes.

Great Job EVERYONE. I can’t wait until next year!!

The first race of 2016 is the Lake Martin 100. We only have three Lodge Rooms Left. If you want to stay at the only lodging close to the start better reserve a room now.