Scott’s first 50k at Yamacraw
I’m writing this race report but really this race isn’t so much about me. I found out about Yamacraw from my brother-in-law Scott West. Last fall, he asked me if I might be interested in running Yamacraw 50k with him. This was quite a surprise since Scott hadn’t ever run more than 13 miles and really hadn’t been interested in running or racing for the 20 years that I’ve known him.
Scott had a different reason to run this 50k race. It turns out that he grew up in Stearns, Kentucky, the location of the race. He wanted to run it because it was in his hometown. It was clear that he wanted to run at least one 50k and he wanted it to be Yamacraw. Since I had a little bit of experience running 50k races I think he believed he had better chances of successfully completing the race if he and I ran it together.
Anyone who knows me knows that I encourage everyone to run. Running has become my drug of choice and I spread the word every chance I get. If you’re physically capable of running, I believe you should do so. It fixes so many things (physical and emotional) in your life if you stick with it. So, if I can help anyone run their first ever 50k, I’m doing it. The fact that it was my brother-in-law just made it that much more meaningful.
It’s safe to say that Scott’s co-workers were not quite as supportive as I was. In fact, they started a pool and started betting against him finishing the race. They probably did Scott a favor as that only motivated him more to finish.
Training for the race wasn’t an issue for me. I’m training for UTMB and Pinhoti this year so basically I’m in full on training mode until November. In my case, I started building my base in February for a UTMB in September. For Scott, he started doing what his schedule allowed. Scott’s a school teacher and a girls’ basketball head coach. Yamacraw is a spring race so it was at the end of the ball season. He’s a good coach and has some good players so the team almost made it to state. This really cut into his training time. The point is, he ran this race with minimal training under his belt. He also had a few injuries that he had encountered due to the sporadic nature of his training. Any experienced ultra runner will tell you, you can’t rush training, it’s a gradual process.
Knowing that his training was off a bit, we adjusted his goal for finish prior to the start. He knew that he was a little behind on his training but he was still determined. At one point, we thought a 7-8 hour finish was possible. We adjusted that goal based on the current reality of things. Now, we were targeting 9 hours.
The night before the race we settled into a campground very close to where Scott lived when he was a small child. When we drove to packet pickup from the campground he was pointing out streets and churches that he remembered. It was a trip down memory lane for him.
When we arrived at Heritage Hall in Stearns I saw Rick and Martin walking out of packet pickup. We had to chat with them a bit before picking up our packets. It was great seeing some local Huntsville runners at the race.
Packet pickup was pretty cool. The RD was in the process of giving the race briefing. They had a small expo setup. You could buy shirts, hats or socks. Scott and I had to buy a thing or two for our support crew. Since it was Scott’s first 50k, he picked up a few things for himself. After we picked up our bibs and spent some money, I started looking around the room. I was looking for Doug Daniels. He told me he was running the 20k and I figured this would be the only chance I had to see him. After looking for a few minutes, we headed out. It’s worth noting that we didn’t listen to the brief. We were in a little bit of a rush to get back to the campsite and finish getting everything setup.
Race Day Morning
The routine was a little off from my normal routine since Wonda and I slept in a tent next to Scott’s RV. Before going to bed I prepared and went through my normal checklist for a 50k distance race. Yamacraw is known for the stream crossings, so I made sure to apply plenty of vaseline to my feet prior to putting on my socks. I headed back to the campsite and stood by the fire with Wonda. Wonda was trying to make me some coffee but it wasn’t getting hot due to the temps being 32-33 and our little propane stove just wasn’t doing the trick. We ended up using the fire to heat the coffee.
I was starting to wonder about Scott and it was getting close to time to leave. I yelled to see what was up. He came out shortly after that. We made sure he was ready to go and headed out to get on the bus.
Later he told me he seriously considered not running the race.
We all loaded up into the Honda pilot and I sped to Heritage Hall where the buses were staged. I rushed to get there because I thought we were running late. Wonda took a picture or two and headed back to the campsite. She was going to get everyone else up so that they could meet us at the first station. I thought the buses were leaving at 6:40 am. I’m used to the bus drive being an hour or so to get to the start. That wasn’t the case with this ride. It was pretty short. I don’t think we left Heritage Hall until 7:10-7:15 am. The point being that we had rushed for no reason. I suspect the RD tells everyone to get there earlier to ensure no one is late.
The bus we were on reminded me of the bus I took to school when I was in grade school in the early 80s. Scott was curious if it could have been one of the buses he rode as a kid. The drive to the start was short. We were dropped off and walked up to the trail head. We were on the first bus so we went straight to the porta-potties the RD had staged at the start. After that, I searched for the Huntsville runners and found Rick, Martin and David. Real quick we had a picture taken of the Huntsville group. I gave Rick my bottle to use and we settled into the proper place waiting to start.
The Start to AS #1
The race started and we made a point of going slow and staying in the back. Scott’s biggest concern at the beginning was one of his calves that he hurt in training. He was running defensively paying close attention to it. This was good as we needed to be going slow anyways.
The stretch between the start and aid station 1 was smooth sailing. At first, it was a little difficult for me since we were going quite a bit slower than I’m used to at the first part of a race. But, after a few hours, I settled into a groove and the easy pace didn’t bother me at all. The reality is that when I run UTMB I’ll probably be moving at the same pace Scott and I ran Yamacraw. The one thing I noticed immediately was just how beautiful the trail was. I realized it was a perfect opportunity to take some pictures. I kept my phone close by so that I could easily snap a few shots of the most scenic sections of the course.
I don’t recall Scott have any problems during this first leg of the race. He didn’t care for the hill that we climbed up going into the aid station. But, I think that it is normal for someone that hasn’t done much training on hills. When we got to the top I saw our kids walking towards us. I knew then the aid station was close. The kids were having a great time hanging out with each other. Scott’s wife Mickey was happy to see him not suffering much.
AS #2 to AS #3
We fueled up at the aid station and headed out. The next aid station was only 3.8 miles away and we were going to see both Yahoo falls and an arch on this section. When running past Yahoo falls we bumped into our crew. They decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see the falls before heading to the next aid station. Yahoo falls was spectacular and the race had a photographer there snapping pictures of runners as they run under the waterfall. I thought that was pretty cool. We had already crossed a few streams. Scott was learning that although crossing the streams make your feet wet, the cold water does wonderful things to you. Before the race he was concerned about the stream crossings, now he was looking forward to them.
AS #3 to AS #4
We made it to the second aid station before our crew. That didn’t really surprise me since we saw them at the waterfall. The aid station was great, we refueled and headed out for the next one. Come to find out our crew made it to the aid station but we had already left. The aid station was five and a half miles away. Scott was starting to feel the effects of running a 50k with minimal training. This section is the first time he mentioned his feet hurting. But, his spirits were up and he was still rocking and rolling. When I say he was rocking and rolling I mean this literally. He is a true music lover. Even though we are running together he kept his music playing on his Bluetooth headset almost the entire race. For much of the run, he sang along with the music. This didn’t bother me or the other runners. I guess that means his singing isn’t that bad.
We had a little scare on this section. If you remember, I mentioned above that we didn’t listen to the pre-race brief at packet pickup. Yamacraw is advertised as a point to point race. On this section, the course doubles back onto itself for two or three miles. I was leading and paying attention to the trail and the markers. Suddenly I noticed that we were on the same trail we ran earlier that day. I started wondering if we took a wrong turn. With us moving slow, there really wasn’t any way to tell. After discussing it for a few minutes we debated on doubling back. It’s a good thing we decided not to double back because we kept moving and finally we branched off onto a different trail than we had run earlier. It was a good thing we didn’t double back.
Thinking that we were lost made us temporarily forget about our physical pains. It’s funny how all the pain came back when we got back on the trail. At this point, we only had a few miles left before we met our crew at the Yamacraw bridge. Scott wanted to take more time at this aid station so he could roll out some of the areas that were causing the most pain. We met with our crew, refueled and Scott tended to a few aching muscles.
AS #4 to AS #5
After a pretty long break, we got back on the trail. Leaving the aid station we run directly across the bridge. We had 4.1 miles until the next aid station. Within a mile of the bridge, we came to the biggest river crossing on the course. It had a rope stretched from one side to the other to hang on to while crossing and the water was about knee deep. It felt great and Scott and I enjoyed it. He really appreciated how the cold water helped ease some of the symptoms he was dealing with.
During this stretch had plenty of climbing heading up to Devils Knob. We had plenty of time so I told Scott that if he needed to rest, go ahead and rest. At this point, our expectations of finishing around 9 hours were updated to trying to beat 10 hours. We knew we weren’t last but figured we were pretty close. When we got to Devils Knob, Wonda and Mickey had made us both some awesome egg sandwiches. Scott spent some time rolling out the tight spots and we refueled and headed out onto the last section of the race. At this point, Scott was confident he was going to finish. Something I don’t think he knew for sure earlier in the race. But, he knew he had time and I think he knew he physically could finish it. He just had to keep moving.
AS #5 to the Finish
This last stretch is a little longer than seven miles. It’s not really hard but it did seem to drag out. Scott was singing louder than ever. I guess the singing was helping him deal with the pain and discomfort one experiences on a 50k. Scott and I kept moving at a similar pace that we had kept earlier in the race. At this stage of the race, we were passing others who had decided they needed to walk. We had a few of our fastest miles during this last section.
Before we got to the bridge that takes you to the finish line, we bumped into our kids again. The were walking in from the finish. When we run up to the bridge that took us to the finish I could tell Scott was happy. He ran all the way in. The RD gave us our finishers award. He had done it. He finished his first ever 50k.
I’m happy for Scott. He did a great job. It’s a perfect example of how showing up is the hardest part. He told me that he seriously considered not running that morning. But, he was extremely happy that he did. It didn’t matter that it was a bit slower than planned. Unless you’re an elite runner, ultras aren’t really about speed. They’re about discipline and character. It’s not easy to step outside knowing that you’re going to travel 33 miles on foot. It not easy for the 5-hour runner and it’s not easy for the 10-hour runner. Each one deals with similar pain. One deals with the pain much longer than the other.
To my surprise, Scott immediate started talking about how he would like to run another 50k. He wants to see how well he can do if he runs one with more training. And of course, I want to come back to Yamacraw and see how fast I can run that course.
We all went to eat dinner after the race. I hear they have a great post race celebration but we had the entire family with us so we opted to just go to a restaurant.
Here’s the Strava data from the run. https://www.strava.com/activities/933903552