F.A.T.S. is short for The Fork Area Trail System in North Augusta, S.C. This would be the fifth and final race of the S.C. Ultra Trail Series put on by Terri Hayes. I had the privilege of running all of her races & finishing for my second year in a row. I'm very grateful for the time and resources that she has put into South Carolina ultras. Her races have hooked lots of runners into the sport (including me) and given many the confidence needed to pursue and complete other goals. Thanks again Terri & all of the folks who volunteered to make these events possible.
I treated this race as my final long trail run for The Pinhoti 100 Miler on November 6th. The plan going in was to run a conservative pace similar to what I will run at Pinhoti. Well, that was the plan - you know how that goes!
I left for North Augusta around 4:45 AM on Sunday morning and enjoyed the 2 hour drive down through Greenwood. There a lots of nice little county towns to pass through with local culture. It's amazing what you see in some of these places before the sun comes up. Cops sleeping in their patrol cars, roosters pecking in the road, dogs sleeping on the highway.....great stuff!
It was great to drive into the parking lot and see so many friends preparing for the run. After thirty minutes of laughs and some last minute course instructions from Terri, we were off and running.
I was stuck in the middle of about 20 runners for the first 7.5 miles which was fun. I was enjoying a cool fall morning running on some beautiful trails while hearing the conversations go back and forth. We hit the first aid station and the crowd thinned out after that. I felt like running a little faster so I hustled through the aid station and got back on the trail quickly.
I'm planning on averaging a 16:40 min/mile pace at Pinhoti and I felt that a 14:00 min/mile pace today would be adequate to train with since there are no big climbs on this course. I hit a great stride for the next ten miles and ran nearly all of it around a 11:50 min/mile pace. This was way too fast for me after doing a 100K on the Foothills Trail last weekend, but I didn't care and just went with what felt good. That came back to bite me later!
I eventually ran up on my friend Scott around mile twenty who was moving well despite running the Stump Jump 50K on Saturday and finishing The Foothills Trail the weekend before! Unreal! I decided to hang with Scott for a while and we quietly paced together through the small rolling hills. We eventually ran up on Psyche & Charles who were walking her son Leopold back to the finish. Leopold is an incredible ten year old who has completed several endurance races and was trying for his first 50K today! Although he didn't officially finish the 50K, he still ran an "ultra distance" of 27 miles which is just incredible!
As Scott & I entered our final 7.5 mile loop of the race, I was getting really tired. I could feel all of the long & tough training runs from the previous three months on my legs, but I made it a point to keep running. I took a nasty fall about 3 miles from the finish and my head bounced off the ground. Luckily, I feel into a bed of pine needles and not rocks. Scott came over to help me up and we continued towards the finish.
I ended up finishing around 7:45 and I measured the course out to be about 33.5 miles. That put my overall pace at 13:53 min/mile which was just what I was looking for in the run. If I had it to do over again, I would have ran more consistent through the run, but overall, I'm very pleased in my final long training run before the 100 miler.