First off let me start by saying that I am NOT a morning person. Most people who know me find this out very quickly as I am usually not a happy or friendly person at the beginning of early morning runs. It should come as no surprise then that when Dreama said to meet at her house at 4:45 a.m. to go run 31 miles, I was less than thrilled. In fact, I did just about everything I could to get out of running, but thankfully Dreama would not have any of it. Me, Mark, Tyler, Sergio and Dreama all loaded in her car and drove to the finish in Soddy Daisy to meet Dreama's dad who was so kind to take us to the start.
It was still dark when we set out around 6 a.m. on the Rock Creek segment of the Cumberland Trail. We would be running the Upchuck 50k course which is in my mind the hardest, most technical 50k around including Mtn Mist and Stump Jump. I forgot my headlamp so the first few miles before the sun rose were pretty hairy as I followed closely behind Dreama so I could see. I was still pissed to be running at this horrible hour and wanted nothing more than to be back in my bed. Finally after the sun rose, my mood lifted a little but it was still a while before I even though about having a conversation on the trail. The Rock Creek segment is definitely the easiest of the three parts of the course and is also the shortest at between 8-9 miles. We all made good time here and made it to the start of the Possum Creek segment in much better spirits. There were also a ton of blackberries around here that everyone gorged on.
The Possum Creek segment is probably the most challenging part and lasts around 10 miles. We did not have any aid at the end of the Rock Creek segment meaning that everyone had to carry enough fluids and nutrition to get them through 19 miles. I had a waist pack and one hand held which would have been plenty except that I filled both containers with HEED. I can drink it when it's cold, but after HEED gets hot it transforms into HEAVE, as in take one sip and feel like you are going to puke. As the weather warmed up significantly while we were running the Possum Creek trail, my HEED got so gross I was having to force myself to sip on it, but it made my stomach so queasy that I was unable to eat anything in the first 19 miles. I felt ok until about 2-3 miles left and then knew that I would need to get a cold gatorade and some food at the Jones Gap gas station. My dad and Trey would be meeting us here to run the Soddy segment with us to the finish. We got to the trail head around 10:15, just minutes after Dreama had predicted, and found both guys waiting on us. Unfortunately, Mark had been having some bad leg spasms and decided to call it a day here, so he drove Trey's car back to Dreama's house. The rest of us headed up to the gas station to refuel where I promptly inhaled a power bar and a pack of crackers, forgetting the story which gave this course its name (Upchuck 50k). I could tell that I was much more tired than I had previously realized and feared that the last 13 miles would not be pleasant as my stomach was still feeling weird.
As we started off running, my legs simply did not respond. I felt like crap from the beginning of this last section and had major stomach issues for the first 5 or 6 miles. This probably exacerbated my dehydration from earlier in the day as well as depleted me of any nutrition that I had taken in. Dreama, Tyler, Trey, and Sergio went ahead a bit and my dad ran with me for a while before I told him that he could go ahead and run as he was feeling pretty good. After what seemed like forever, my stomach issues resolved, but not enough for me to be able to think about taking a gel. This section may not be as hard as Possum Creek, but it is no cake walk. There are substantial climbs and very technical sections including two creek crossing with boulders so big its more like rock climbing. Near the end, I could hear music from the July 4th festival going on in the valley and though we had to be really close. WRONG!!! I swear I heard that music for an hour before popping out at Hotwater Rd. where we would run down the mountain and back to the finish at a church. This last part went pretty fast as the others waited to make sure everyone knew the way. By this time, it was downright hot, especially on the exposed road. My stomach was completely jacked and I was running on empty, so seeing the church where the car was parked felt amazing. There were people everywhere with funnel cakes, BBQ, snow cones and any other kind of fair food one can think of. Although the last 13 miles were miserable for me, I am so glad to have gotten to run 31 miles with great friends. We all changed clothes and headed to Moes where we wasted no time stuffing our faces.