Monday, June 29, 2015
The troops were warned of the road crossings, dreaded hill, and impending doom that was heat exhaustion. They had come prepared, gathered, volunteered, and drafted from all over the South and beyond.
The orange course markings would become quite the hard find in the night vision that the running soldiers would soon possess. But that was only a small shred of their worries. Four o'clock sharp (aka 1600), and they were off to battle, like a pack of wild dogs chasing down a meal of highly satisfying Swedish Fish. Their fangs would drip red from their newly found plunder.
The first lap brought a cluster of runners and race numbers, like the front lines armed in Kevlar, blurry in passing. Hydration packs storming with salty sea waters bobbed down the trail like destroyers taking over the oceans of the navigable world.
The element of sweat had not yet peaked, but there was still clearly a brutal heat and humidity present. It was to be expected, of course. But thank the (only) 90 degree heavens that the longest heat streak in the history of Georgia had ended a few days ago. The rain was a welcome ration to feed and fuel the spirits of this infantry.
Laps continued. Runners dropped. The remaining troops busted out the MREs like swamp lions rising from an afternoon nap. Chips and salsa, cookies, Coke, PBJs, watermelon, and chocolate cake washed down with Gatorade greener than lime-tinted watercolor paint in a 4th grade art class kept them moving and surviving.
Half marathoners began to finish. More of them finished than had started. The above 100% finish rate had arisen out of the difficulty of the 27 and 31 mile distances. People were dropping distances like sandflies.
There were heat cases. And vomit. And chills. And peak season for aforementioned quantities of sweat. And dehydration. And casualties. We sent out the medics and handled things with the encouragement typical of anyone with a red cross on their shoulder. The troops were finding out their limits.
A few hours in, and concerned runners raced to the aid station checkpoint yelling, "Man Down!" Apparently one runner was laying facedown on the trail telling his fellow warriors to continue without him. We sent a tank in his direction. Over a mile is no cake walk when you are zapped of energy, endurance, electrolytes, and emotion. He called it quits and agreeably headed back to rest on the camp chair stretcher.
Later, a mighty woman warrior came to take the overall win, and the first place man of victory was minutes behind her. He was not taking the aftereffects of battle with total relief and physical triumph. He was feeling sick and the cramps had set in like bullet wounds. And you will never guess what happened next. The man who had been eating dirt rose from the trail grave, got out of his chair, and marched over to him, coaching him through his bouts of heat-induced nausea and misery. It was brotherhood in the shirtless flesh.
Hours passed, darkness fell, and the peaceful moon planted itself like a monumental white flag in the night sky. Troops were on the mend, and battles were being concluded and won. They cheered on their comrades and threw a welcome home celebration of 'Merican Mountain Dew and Jelly Beans of Justice.
Sixty-eight pairs of human feet had taken off like a blazing cavalry that day, and only thirty pairs had completed the full journey, but everyone had played a valiant part in winning the war. One man had conquered his 315th ultra-battle. And many fought their first. They had tested their astounding limits of strength...a test which would prove to be great training for the next battle.
Friday, June 5, 2015
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Day 1 would be held at Whitemarsh Preserve and runners would run a bunch of laps on a beautiful, flat course, spotted with mildly menacing roots and meandering lizards.
Day 2 was at one of my favorite trails (dreaded by most). Tom Triplett Trail. It was a 6.2 mile, winding, rooty, copperhead-housing, spider-hosting trail weaving around the sea level swamps and trekking through a bright, coastal forest.
Day 2 Part 2 was an old dairy farm trail that entered a marsh, coasted past ancient live oak trees showered with Spanish moss, and traveled through a patch of reedy grass 7 feet tall that threatened to decapitate runners with its green, thick, razorlike blades blocking all horizontal view.
Day 3 would be a gorgeous straight shot mile under a fairytale canopy of overhanging trees along a historical packed dirt road.
We explored the dairy farm first in preparation for the event. The reeds had overtaken the trail completely. We were running straight into the mouth of the marsh, its grassy teeth gnashing our arms and legs to bits. It was nearly impossible to run or even to see where you were headed. The cuts began to sting. Small streaks of blood showed themselves in seemingly random locations all over our exposed skin. I realized why they called these things "blades" of grass, although they would be more appropriately deemed "samurai swords" of grass. We arrived at the turn around with about 80 cuts and continued back through the devilish patch once more. The route continued along a canal then a neighborhood road and ended in the open field of the lovely farm. I was thankful not to have to run that 3 more times, and Dan felt compelled to take his machete out a clear the trail for the runners so that they could avoid at least a little bit of pain from the ominous overgrowth.
The next step was to mark the Tom Triplett Trail. I got the honors of this duty since I frequent the nearby trail on runs and somehow manage to get lost back there 87% less often than most other trail runners in town. It was a good thing to have this forested trail near me. I love the coastal feel of many of the trails in Savannah, but for some reason, this one just makes me feel like a kid on an epic adventure; I can run it freely and get a chance to play in the woods and take all of those paths less traveled.
I marked the trail and came up a bit short. That's never good for an event. They can run over. Extra credit is acceptable. But no shortcuts for the beloved Grit. I used the nerdy directional sector of my brain to retrace my route and compare it to the map, coming across the section I had missed. Clearly, I had missed it because no one ever runs it. Ever. I tasted each spiderweb along this portion of the trail, and came to the turnaround point. It was still short, overgrown with branches everywhere, had potential for poisonous snakes, possessed terrible navigational qualities, and concluded with a dead end. I decided to find another out and back section of trail and avoid this headache of a path. I crossed a few mini trail connectors, but the confusion level would be at an all time high if these intersected the original path. So I headed for the tracks. The train tracks provided a gateway out of the woods and into the open. This should work.
But it would still be an interesting race. Tough. Long. Seemingly unending. I wondered how many people would drop. And how many would earn the buckle.
It was then time for runners to set up camp. There were tents along the tree line of the farm and even one perched on top of a Jeep with an accompanying ladder. In the down time, we chatted like most people do when they don't really know each other. It wasn't awkward. Just new. Little did we anticipate how well we would become acquainted by mile 70.
Packets were distributed and the courses were discussed. Everyone was excited but needed to channel that energy into finding a way to get some sleep.
At the start, we organized ourselves and gave a quick reminder about course markings. The runners would have 33 laps to complete-a huge mental challenge. The volunteers prepared to hand out a variety of foods, and the timers made themselves ready to count 1,000 laps for the group and take down splits-also a huge mental challenge.
We said a quick prayer, thankful for the freedom to run. For having the health to run. And for all of those who had fought and gave their lives for us.
Then they were off. Everyone was excited to watch the group unravel into distinct paces that would fight for the lead.
The first lap brought a cluster of runners, and we rushed to get times and aid for them. And they were off again...with fresh legs and excited spirits.
Fast forward to lap 17. Halfway is a good feeling. But despite the freak cool front that started the day with a balmy 61 degrees, it was getting toasty now. Many people were already losing count of their laps, thinking they had run further than they had. Good old running brain. It's hard to break the news to a tired ultrarunner, but it's better if it breaks at lap 17 and not lap 30. The only runner who actually was a lap further ahead than he originally had thought was Dan. He didn't mind the additional good news.
Spirits stayed high among volunteers and runners. The positive energy was contagious. Some running warriors were fueled by hope, some by sarcasm, and others by salted watermelon. Dread wasn't an issue. Even the runners who dropped made the call out of a sound mind. Their strength was not to be doubted. They tried and certainly did not fail.
Still some pressed forward. The day was hot and many trips were made for more water and ice. With them came the miracle of pizza, the glory of subs, and the realized fantasy of precooked bacon. New foods became an interestingly effective fuel for success and endurance.
The day's results were amazing: fast-as-lightning runners flew to the win, cheerful midpackers shared their enthusiasm for the race, and inspirational runners brought in the rear despite a common theme of suffering. Faithful volunteers stayed well past the aid cutoffs to ensure the success and safety of every last runner.
Nighttime experiences varied among the crews and runners. Some enjoyed a restful slumber, others only grabbed a taste of sleep. Morning came, and we were all back at it again. Tired eyes. Tired legs. But living hearts. Today would be a challenge. But challenges lead to victory.
The trail was technical. The few roots of Saturday were forgotten, and in their place rose numerous monuments of distress. This dynasty of roots posed threats of disheartening injuries and infuriating frustrations. Snakes lurked, plotting their trail-front appearances like disfigured monsters in a horror film. Soreness made distorted shadows in the hard-pressed spirits of the exhausted runners. The sun rose with a burning heat that replaced the air's energy with humidity. The only option was to overcome. To overcome all of this.
The markings had remained in place, but the switchbacks were nothing but mentally troublesome. The forest ate people's fast, upbeat times and regurgitated a sluggish pace that resembled an out-of-tune chorus blasted eerily from a dusty organ.
Day 2 was taking a lot out of people. The longer laps required more planning, hydration, and nutrition. A few more runners dropped.
The lap timing process proved to be easier than the day before. And as the heat rested its weight in the day, the runners became more and more spread out. The smiles were fading. Negativity attempted to take the fire road in, stick out its bony foot, and trip the spirits of the runners. Only grit would allow them to overcome the journey that today had for them.
Trail runners began to trickle in to the finish, and another stage of the day awaited them.
As quickly as they could, they would drive to the dairy farm and wind down from one stage while mentally preparing for the next. And then they were off. Again.
The vertical forgiveness of the packed sandy trail was a curse to the calves. The reeds sliced through their flesh providing an external sting to legs that already possessed great internal pain a soreness. Extremely creepy masks served as signs for the turnaround points in the night.
And as they continued the loops, their tents beckoned them to enter and rest. But they had to persist. Quick times were barely a thought in these tired minds. Finishing was the new essence of the goal.
The night grew dark. Headlamps lit the fields, mirroring the stars that were waking in the nocturnal sky. The moon whispered its amends to eyes that no longer wanted to be open.
And the runners didn't falter. They chose the former of "grit or quit."
Helping hands were becoming tired. But the aid knew that there were still needs and so it fulfilled them. Timers sat on the edge of their seats to see who might have the next burst of strength. And who was hiding behind the beam of the next headlamp. And there were many champions. There was great victory.
One stage left.
The third morning led to more excitement as the race was coming to a close. Runners would sprint a mile. The distance seemed laughable compared to the more than 100 miles they had already covered in two days. But it would be a display of joy and of a realization of the strength they had had on their adventure.
Some flew. Some trotted. Some walked. Some limped. But they had done it.
Pictures were taken under the ancient arch. Smiles had returned. Everyone applauded. It would soon be time to return home. What did this mean? The end of a triumph? Or the start of a new one?
Certainly running is not the meaning of life for everyone. But the unseen character and love and personality that is molded into true life can be displayed in the endurance of a runner.
The grit can shout louder than the grime, making the visible wounds, sweat, and dirt pale in comparison to the abstract, invisible quality that brings humans through a physical trial. The smiling disposition yells above the noise of each painful footstep. And the completion of the journey overpowers the sound of the voice that told you that you would never make it. You are marked as a finisher. You have beaten the odds. You have won before yourself and onlookers and creation. You became an example to nature by passing through it. And you conquered.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
It was early!!! We started tired!! After all, it was zero o'clock, or perhaps closed-gate o clock, or maybe 5:30. But we conquered the lake loop, road loop, and trail out and back. Everyone did great, and supported each other, got endorphins, and shared the joy at the end of the run.
We saw a gnarly momma spider who definitely did not shave her legs.
But we ran extra for her, too.
Highly Official Results from the latest technology (aka cardboard):
Pam ran 21, Bren ran 20, Jennifer, Becky, Brian, April, and Lindsay ran 16, Ashton ran 14, Missy ran 11, Amy ran 10.5, Verity Gray and 10, Kim, Shelley, Lynne, Michelle, Tyler also came out to get in some miles. And the only losers were the people who didn't run for slept in.
Friday, April 3, 2015
April 25, 2015. Saturday. 5:30 AM to 12 noon.
Three 1.31- mile routes will be set up. Do them each 24 times for 31.2 miles, or do your favorite 24 times. 10 times makes a half phone, 20 times mixed marathon, Or choose any distance you like. Limited to 40 runners. All registered runners will receive a band bracelet. Register by emailing me at what ultra at yahoo.com with your name, age, state, and projected distance.
Bring all the stuff you will need. Highly recommend bringing a sharpie to count laps in tallies on your arm.
Your brain turns to mush before your legs do.
You will record your results by hand at the finish.
This is perfect training for Bad Marsh 50k!!
See you there!
Saturday, March 21, 2015
I steered myself onto the real trail. My feet escaped a singular puddle. I progressed. At the sight of the next puddle, my thought was, "Why would I avoid that delightful puddle, when my feet could dance in it instead?"
I splashed and splattered, my pace decreasing while inversely my joy was increasing. This is what it's about. Not numbers and splits and phones that cannot even survive underwater. But about thousands of droplets of mud invading the mesh in my shoes to envelop me in a liquid embrace.
I trotted down another trail, tasting the papery silkness of a Spring spiderweb. I grabbed the nearest 2-foot stick and held it in front of my face. My shield made me feel like the world's most liberated native. Like a welcomed member of a tribe of running hunters. I had my sword to combat the enemy, namely, spiderwebs. It worked stealthily as I felt the webs break on my shoulders and not the bridge of my nose.
I sloshed and ran with my stick and my water bottle. I sprinted, walked, climbed, descended, crossed bridges. And once I had reached my goal of 12 miles, I noticed that my time had gotten pretty terrible, my legs had been destroyed with mud, and I had had a very fun adventure.
That's why I run through mud puddles. That's why I run through spiderwebs. That's why I run trails.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Here's a quote for training motivation!! :)
Thursday, February 12, 2015
LOCATION: Off Middle Rd, Ladys Island/Beaufort, SC (directions will be emailed)
& special junk for winners.
DOMINION LANDSCAPING (*email*D o m i n i o n L a n d s c a p i n g G A @ gmail.com)
Jessica Wigley of Exclusive Georgia Properties ( *link* HERE! )
Juggernaut Gym Wear (*click this link* JUGGERNAUT GYMWEAR)
MORE SWAG: JUGGERNAUT Tees & more for sale on race day.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
With our smiles ignoring future pain and embracing future glory, we departed the starting line for the first time. The loop was just shy of 1.7 miles of southern charm. A field gave way to a tunnel of regal pine trees. The golden pine needles cushioned each of our swift footsteps. The still frosty trail promptly wound around a hidden lake blanketed with ethereal fog. The sunrise pointed at us with such an angle as to give us a shadowy friend to run with. Massive trees stuck out of the water, gentle giants whose reflections waved serenely and steadily to each passerby.
The path pushed us on a delightfully slight downward incline into the kind woods. A creek flowed beside the trail, collecting cool droplets of frost that had just turned to liquid. And we trotted down into a harmonious scene of nature.
Quickly, the trail became a celebratory finish line and it was our trustworthy mission to begin another lap of all the strength and speed we could muster.
This beautiful cycle continued for all the laps one could handle in 24 hours or fewer. Perhaps weariness made it seem less beautiful lap by lap as participants became (not ironically) delirious on account of running. But the mental effects of exhaustion could not subtract from the inherent and actual beauty that existed along the trail.
The company was just as warm and pleasant. There were no rotten egos or viciously competitive agendas, but we were encouraged, gregarious, safe, and in good hands. I met some of the friendliest people. The kind who effortlessly exhale a greeting of "Great Job!" to every runner they pass, mile after tiring mile.
And although it was the last year for this well-loved and well-organized event, the perfect weather waved its sincere farewell. And the best was saved for last.
Monday, February 2, 2015
Sponsored by: DOMINION LANDSCAPING,
JUGGERNAUT GYM WEAR, &
Jessica Wigley at Exclusive Georgia Properties.
(links to come)
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Triple Threat Trail Running will direct local ultras and trail races for DIRT cheap. The name was thought up by the coolest man with the best BEARD in all of the universe. A Triple Threat Challenge from us could very well include running, eating, and gnat swatting. Or running, push-ups, and brownie-eating. Maybe even running, wrestling trivia, and completing a Calculus problem. You never know...
This whole deal was born out of a love for the trails and a realization that great events do not have to cost great fortunes. Low maintenance runners will enjoy high energy races. The best reward is adding races to your life...and maybe the occasional t shirt or practical swag that's cooler than all the other garage-occupiers.
Another goal at hand is positivity in the midst of the sport of perseverance. You will read happy words here, not complaints. You will embrace thoughtfully-written race reports. But the blog won't blow up every day because, after all, real human time is more important to us than drifting off onto technological tangents.
So check us out for FREE events and fun runs, affordable races from kids runs to 5ks to ultras, and good old-fashioned dates with dirt in Savannah, Pooler, Richmond Hill, and more!