Georgia Jewel is the race to run if you’re training for the Pinhoti 100 miler. You probably shouldn’t run the 100 miler but the 50 miler is perfect. The 50 miler at Georgia Jewel is actually 52 miles. It has over 8000 feet of elevation. It starts at the halfway point of the 100 mile race. I’ve added a screenshot of the elevation profile from my Strava data.
This year I paired up with James Falcon on the road trip. He was running the 50 to get in shape for his epic Katy Trail run. James and I normally aren’t running buds but both our kids are on the same high school cross country team so we have known each other for awhile. In 2016 it worked out well for the two of us to help each other out in preparing for our big events. We commuted to and from Georgia Jewel 50 and James paced me a whopping 60 miles at my fourth Pinhoti 100. I really appreciate the help James gave me during that time period and I hope we can train together again preparing for the next big event. Rumor has it he may go after Pinhoti in 2017.
It’s kinda strange to write up the 50 miler as I’ve already written up the 100 miler a few years ago and the course is the same. But, every year a race is different. The most notable thing about this year is the new race director. Karen and Jeremy had to give up the job. A couple from Chattanooga, Franklin and Jenny Baker took over as race directors. They changed a few things and I think they would like to change more when they figure out what will work. They are trying to get race enrollment up.
After being bused to the start we stood around and socialized with all the running folks we knew at the race. The race starts just after the sunrise. The race starts out running up a powerline cut. It’s a pretty decent climb to the top. I personally thought it was difficult. However, at one point, I looked up at the top of the powerline climbs and saw David Riddle running up the last climb to connect to the trail. It amazes me to see someone like David run those difficult sections of the course.
After getting to the top, we connected to the trail. It was flat as it gets in this race for 3-4 miles. In my case, it was a good thing. It wasn’t that warm yet, but the humidity was thick and I was already overheating. I have an especially tough time running in the heat and humidity. I know that everyone does to some degree but my body chemistry I think puts me at a disadvantage. I think I sweat more than anyone else I know. I look like I’ve just walked out of a shower when I finish my runs during the warmer months. My shoes fill up with sweat which means I must keep two or three pairs of shoes that I can rotate through.
The first aid station after the start is a water station. By the time I made it to the aid station I was melting down. The humidity was working on me as I expected. The next few aid stations slip my mind. It’s worth mentioning that the volunteers at all the aid stations are great. The aid station that sticks out in my mind this year is the John’s Mountain aid station. By the time I got to the top of the mountain where the aid station is, I was dehydrated and overheating. I asked them if they had a chair for me to sit down in and of course, they did. Since it was heating up, they had coolers of ice and was making ice wraps to help the overheated runners to cool down. At first, I refused to get an ice wrap on my neck. I hadn’t ever really done that in a race and I was concerned how it would affect me. But, even though I was sitting, I wasn’t really cooling down. Finally, I took one and it was the best thing ever. In just a few minutes I started feeling better. I took a few pictures, ate some pickles and pretzels and took the ice wrap with me down the mountain.
The temperatures continue to rise throughout the day. I was happiest when the wind picked up a bit to cool me down. I wasn’t moving very fast but I was still moving as I moved through Snake Creek Gap aid station. I was suffering from ultra-brain so I don’t remember exactly what I did at the aid station. It seems like I had a drop bag and I might have changed my shirt. There’s one more aid station after Snake Creek and it’s a water aid station. This year the local Fleet feet set up a standard aid station. They had a cooler of ice and everything. They only did this during the heat of the day to help runners suffering from the heat. It was a life saver for me. I was able to get more ice for my paper towel wrap I had from John’s Mountain. I filled the paper towel up with ice and balanced it on top of my head. Then I filled my water bottles with ice water instead of warm water and continued on with the race. This extra bit of ice really helped me out. It kept me cool during the last few hours of heat. The sun was setting and I was on the last section of the course.
My goal was a simple one now. Finish this race before dark.
As the temperatures dropped, my pace sped up. Soon the sun was starting to disappear and I was feeling great again. I knew I didn’t have much time and I was now in the famous rock garden. About six miles from the finish, runners start running through a gnarly rock garden. It’s really not that bad unless you’re tired. However, when you’re tired, it seems like the rock garden will never. You just have to keep your head down and push to get through it. If you think much about it, it becomes a mental hurdle to overcome. I passed multiple runners doing exactly that in that section. I came out of the woods onto the road and I could tell I didn’t have much daylight left. I pushed as hard as I could. It was easy running so I was hoping I could pull it off. About a half mile from the finish, I decided to turn on my headlamp. It was dark and I didn’t want to risk getting hit by a car on the road.
I finished! The RD gave me my finisher award. A very cool trucker hat with the Pinhoti trail marker on it. I then collapsed into a chair. James had finished about 25 minutes before me. I almost caught him. I had wondered where he was on the course when I passed through Snake Creek. I finished in 13 hours and one minute. Considering how hot the temperatures were that day, I felt good with my performance. Out of 63 finishers, I was 23rd.
James and I took a parking lot shower with some water bottles that were warm from being in the car all day. We sit around and watched some other runners finish until we felt rested enough to make the drive back to Huntsville, AL.
My Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/723849490