Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sweetwater H20 50K - FINISHED IT!!!

This was my 2nd year running the Sweetwater H20 50K (5th year for the race) put on by the Douglas County Rogue Runners (DCRR) and Johnny (RD).  Not to forget some high energy volunteers who made it a very special day.

I rode down to Georgia on Friday and stayed with my buddy Weezy the night before the race.  We chowed down some great Mexican food and were in the bed at 10:00 PM to ensure lots of rest.

After a short hour drive to Sweetwater Park about 250 registered runners (race filled up) lined up to begin the race.  Pictured above from left is me, Jason Rogers, and Weezy.  The race is widely known for its two river crossings and due to heavy storms the night before the course had to be changed.  This changed included removing the river crossings from the challenge.  I think lots of runners were a little bummed about it, but it was for the best.

The race began promptly at 7:30 and we were off and running.  The first mile section is ran on pavement and gives plenty of space and time for runners to seperate and fall into their correct positions.  I ran this section very slow and decided that this was the day for me to finish a race and not blow up.  I found my friend Jason Rogers and decided that I would run with him for a while.

After a paved 2 mile warm-up run the course promises everyone that they will have wet feet.  You lower yourself down a 10 foot incline and cross about 30 yards through a spillway from the lake.  The water was moving very swiftly this year and it was a bit slick on the bottom.  Everyone (including me) always looks so goofy navigating through here.  None of us train to run through a spillway and its always a good laugh. 

Of course when you reach the other side you have to pull yourself back up and onto the trail.  So after only two miles in your feet are soaked.

I was feeling great through here and still buzzing off the excitement of the race.  It was a blast to joke around with Jason and some other runners as we made our way towards the river section of the race.  I've realized that the social aspect of ultra running is just as important to me as the running itself.  We work so hard to train and get in shape for this stuff.  It's OK to enjoy other's company while you are racing.

We went down a very technical/rocky trail that took us to the river.  This is a tricky section to get through, but it doesn't last long at all.  And once your through it the views and terrain beside the river is incredible!  Soft & sandy rolling little hills as you hear the water raging beside you.

We reached what would have been the river crossing and there is no doubt that race official made the correct choice in shutting it down.  The river looked like it could be a class 4-5 rapid and it would be way to dangerous for fatigued runners to cross.

We ran a lot of this section with David who I met at FATS 50K and Pinhoti.  It was great to pace with him and share some of the old war stories that we had from the prior year.

After my previous four months of general running burnout I was really hoping that Jason R. would be able to pace well and that we could stay together today.  For me it was all about getting a solid 50K finish under my belt and I knew this would be easier with a friend.

This course is deceptively easy for the first 6.5 miles.  Wow, then the fun really begins!  You begin to leave the river portion and enter what the race calls TOTW - "Top of The Word".  See the entrance to TOTW here:
So we ran through this section in good spirits and came to the 2nd aid station of the day.  I grabbed several GU gels and a couple P&B sandwhich squares and hit the trail again.  I was very impressed with Jason R.  He looked very strong.  I knew that we would both take a beating in the next few miles.  At this point I knew that we would both finish this race, but I had a dread looming over me for how I would feel during the 2nd loop.

It was now time to enter the toughest part of the course: TOTW.  Since this is a 2 loop course you have to do it two times:
As I crawled up the final hill in this brutal section, I heard Weezy give me a yell from up above.  He had already made the climb and we heading back down towards the river which was about 2 miles ahead of me.

Jason and I met up with Lynne during this section and she was slowly working the up and down climbs along with us.  I invited her to join in and pace with us and she took us up on the offer which was great.  Jason and I looked like her personal body guards going down the trail!

We hit the aid station at TOTW and then begin to make our way back down to the river. There are a few treacherous sections through here that will burn your quads as you go straight down!

I was surprised how easy this section was!  Sure, I was moving slow through it, but I still felt great.  I kind of thought that would change soon when all of the work caught up with my legs, but for now I was fine.  I was even more excited to see Jason R. still pacing strong with me.  He was great company along the trail.

So the three of us kept working away towards the end of the first loop...

We hit the half-way mark at about 16.50 miles and were still moving well.  I think we all three dreaded running the paved mile section alongside traffic, but shifted the conversation elsewhere.  At this point I hit a low point mentally.  I began to doubt that I could do another loop since my longest training run over the last three months had been 16 miles.  I just fed off of Jason's & Lynne's positive energy. 

Before I knew it we were crossing the spillway again and making our way down to the river.  Lynee crept ahead of us on this section and we never caught up to her again.

I hit an even lower mental bonk along the river.  Jason was pulling me through this section!  I just wanted to walk but he kept running and I kept behind him the best I could.  I forced myself to keep laughing and joking around.  There was no way that I was going to quit today.

We finally hit the aid station along the river around mile 20 and I felt a little better after getting some Coke and real food in me.  We both agreed that we could finish under 9 hours and that became the goal for the day.

TOTW section came and I cannot believe how well we navigated it.  We slowly moved up and down the big climbs but didn't stop one time!  This gave me a TON of confidence and I was able to turn the mental corner of doubt in my mind.  I've been battling for this edge for the past 4 months and to finally get it was incredbile!

TOTW aid station had some Papa John's cheese pizza and of course I grabbed a piece to eat as we left.  This gave me a HUGE power surge and I was ready to take off!

I knew we only had about 4-5 miles to go and the major climbs were behind us.  At this point we met up with well known ultra runners Susan & Rob.  It was nice to spend a little time running with them before the eventually moved ahead...
Jason and I passed a few other runners as we headed closer and closer to the finish.  We seemed to actually be getting stronger as we got closer.  Finally we were in the half mile home stretch and we ran hard into the finish line.

It was great to finish with so many friends cheering us on!  Psyche, Charles, Mar, Thomas, Weezy, Tom, Kim, Kena, Perry, Sally, Marty, Victor, Phil, Dan, Dean, and many many others.

I was blown away with how strong Jason R. ran and was ecstatic to have finally finsihed another ultra!  Man, it was a great day in Sweetwater Park.

Thanks again to Johnny and all of the hard working volunteers who made this such a special day.

I'm very excited about running the 40 Miles at Enoree Passage in a few weeks.  I hope to spill this momentum over to that event as well.



  1. It was an honor to run Sweet H2O 50K with you this year, Jason! Your sense of humor and positive frame of mind really helped me all along and got me fired up for the journey. You're going to shred Enoree 40 and I'm looking forward to hitting the trails at Black Mountain with you in a few weeks.

  2. Nicely done, my brother. I talked to Mark and he told me about the Laurel Valley run. Sounds like a fun one! And he got me thinking hard about Pinhoti this year. Hope to see you out there soon!

  3. Awesome job, Jason. It's exciting to see you have such a good race- lots of determination showing through. Congrats

  4. I had a great time running with you and Jason R! Thanks for all the positive encouragement and laughs. Body guards :-) Pizza? Must have missed that cause I would have grabbed some of that. Congrats on a good race! See you at Enoree.

  5. Hey, really great blog post… I've enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy you put into each post. I actually run AceHealth.org, a blog of my personal research and experiences. If you're interested, I would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: bob.mauer65(at)gmail(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  6. Hi Jason. Thanks for the cool report. It was a pleasure running with you. See you at Sylacauga, and probably before then!

  7. Good job Jason. I ran this race 2 years ago and it must've been 120 degrees. I joked with locals on the first trip up TOTW, "I thought this was supposed to be bad!" The next time around, I literally had my hands on my knees creeping up one... step... at a... time. So slow. I thought I would die. Like you, I spent a little time at the aid station and it was a turning point. I really feel like the volunteer intentionally kept me there longer than normal to see if I was OK. After that I was. Hey, are you using some kind of device to stabilize the camera in those videos. Not very shaky at all. I'm not sure seeing you zip along TOTW does it justice and I'm not sure I like remembering what it was like, but it was neat to get a good view of it. Take care.

  8. I'm happy to see the confidence you're building with each run you do. This run had me shaking my head...oh! that was just the hurling! Never mind:))