Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 LAKE MARTIN 100 Mile Endurance Run

"When I saw the sun rise for the second time on the same run..."

I read this statement in a race report three years ago, and it symbolized for me the magnitude of running 100 miles.


The Lake Martin 100 Mile Endurance Run was my second 100 mile finish.

My first 100 mile run (2015 Tunnel Hill) began after sunrise.

It had 2,500 feet of elevation gain, a rails-to-trails surface, and I enjoyed the company of a pacer for the last 24 miles.

This one would be different.

Originally, I planned in my annual schedule to run the Pinhoti 100 the first weekend in November, but I forgot that is when my wife usually plays in a tennis tournament in Gulf Shores. While researching other potential races like Thunder Rock (May) and Arkansas Traveler (Oct.), it became clear that Lake Martin was the one I needed to run.

I signed up on January 11th; ten weeks before the race. I ran my previous 100 miler last November, rested a month, then ran the Rocket City Marathon, Recover From the Holidays 50K, and Mountain Mist 50K in December and January.

Garmin Training Runs
Building on this, my plan was to run 50 miles per week for a total of 500 miles before the race. I made it to 310 averaging 38.75 miles/week for 8 weeks and rested for two weeks.

The second part of my plan was to average 1,000 feet of gain per 10 miles of running. I averaged 910 feet.

The third part was to reach my peak in training at the Black Warrior 50K and Mount Cheaha 50K on back to back weekends one month out.

These two 50Ks have 3,000+ and 5,000+ feet of gain, respectively. When I completed them, I felt Que Sera, Sera.

My last long run was 18 miles on the northern "loop" of the Lake Martin course a week after the 50Ks and two weeks before the race.

I did not run during the two weeks leading up to the race.

LAKE MARTIN 100 Elevation Profile
With 12,000 feet of elevation gain, I viewed it as an appropriate challenge and a gateway to the more technical trail races with higher gain that I may like to do in the future.

I could not be happier with my choice.

                                            PACKET & PIZZA PICK-UP

Entrance to the Lodge
Leaving a sunny and warm Huntsville in my wife's blue, 2005 CRV in khaki shorts and a t-shirt, I arrived in a cool, damp Alexander City, Alabama.

I felt somewhat under-dressed and that I could've checked the weather better, but it had been unpredictable all week. 

Looking back, I think this was the theme of the race for me: unpredictable.

Some things you cannot know until you do them. You prepare as best you can, you think you know what's going to happen, because you've run a 100 miler before, but I would learn soon enough that all 100 milers are not the same in more ways than you can think of beforehand.

I parked off the driveway to The Lodge at Cocktail Slough and walked down the hill in a light rain.

I passed through the upstairs of the lodge toward the kitchen and a lady announced it was time to eat. I asked her where packet pick up was and she said it was downstairs. I scurried down the stairs past a lady with a newborn baby and into the basement to get my packet. 

Back of Lodge Lake Martin
The rain had picked up a little by now. I looked out the back door at the lake for a few moments and went back upstairs. I sent Laura a text. I had not checked into my hotel room yet and I was hungry.

I surveyed some Google reviews on Pizza Hut and Papa Johns. Papa won the Review War.

I phoned it in and drove to the race start/finish that was a couple of miles north of the lodge and on my way back toward town.

The race director's truck and trailer were there and one or two tents. I knew it would look differently in the morning. I snapped a pic of the playground at the start-finish and sent it to Laura, so she would know the kids would have a place to play while they waited on me to finish.

After packet pick up, I went to pizza pick up, gassed up the car, so it would be ready for my Mom to drive me back on Sunday. She,  Laura and the kids were coming the next day during the race. I checked in the Hampton Inn in Alexander City, turned on March Madness, and chowed down on my three topping special.

That night I needed to prepare only one drop bag for the "Heaven Hill" aid station.


Appropriate to its name, the aid station was heaven sent during the run.

These People Are Rock Stars
The BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) had loud music blaring that could be heard on and off for miles around which were welcome and encouraging sounds later when running and walking alone in the middle of the night. They strung Christmas lights from vehicles to their food tent, and two or three volunteers would approach runners asking if we needed anything.

They offered us grilled cheese and/or bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches, Ramen noodles, coffee, Tailwind, and water. You name it. They offered to change batteries and get ice, not to mention the positive words of encouragement of how great we were doing regardless how we must have looked.

They were persistent & wonderful!

Meanwhile, back at the hotel... The night before the race, I feel asleep around 10 p.m. and awoke at 1:15 a.m. I would not sleep again until 2 p.m. Sunday.

I had packed my 'Heavenly Aid' and laid out my gear. At my last race, I almost missed the bus for Mt. Cheaha 50K, and would have if not for the RD's sister sitting in her van while the bus pulled off with me running and waving it down.

I made sure that I got up early for Lake Martin.

I drank my usual Ensures and Coffee.

I watched the Weather Channel for about an hour while I got ready.

About all of the rain from the night before had moved out, but I believed that we would get soaked at least once during the race, but it never came. The rest of the weekend was perfect for running during the night and next morning.

I got to the race cabin-start-finish early and secured a great parking spot across from a sidewalk where we entered and exited the course. I was thankful to beat the line of cars coming in to find a spot 15 minutes later. I set up my two chairs and laid out my aid in the back of the car. I could open the swinging door and sit down after my 18 mile and 7 mile loops.

The Race Director, David Tosch, did a great job letting everyone know about the 10 minute delayed start time and Tailwind that was available at the cabin.

Smooth, Red & Sandy
The set up was as I expected. Lots of tents, people cooking and laughing, head lamps shining and lots of smiles. I walked back and forth from my car to the cabin a few times making sure I was finally ready.

I needed to name and bib-number my drop bag, and helpful people were available with markers and duct tape. I got everything done and stood near the back of the pack at the chalked-start line.

Suddenly, a gun went off!

Startled and smiling, I walked slowly and started my watch. I wouldn't stop it for 29 hours and 9 minutes. I charged my watch after 50 miles with a portable charger I got free at the Strolling Jim marathon last year.

I also charged my phone with it during the race. I love that thing!
Southern Loop Saturday
We ease up the gravel-turned-paved road and I check for my sunglasses on my head. Nope! So, I ran straight to my car while everyone else turned left down the sidewalk.

We exit the starting area by Catherine's Market and Spring House restaurant after a half mile before descending a steep, red dirt hill like the one in the pic above.

We would crisscross a number of these red-dirt roads throughout the race and run on them for a few miles during some portions of the race.

They are a welcome sight with their wide open feel and smooth surface, especially at night contrasted with the narrow single track we run for most of the race.

About a mile into the race, we turn right, and there it is--the first of many, many HILLS! By the fourth lap this 7.5 mile section sought to be my nemesis.

Dark Valley Trail
The Lake Martin course consists of a northern "loop" of 18 miles and a southern loop of 7 miles. 27 mile runners run it once, 50 milers twice, and 100 milers four times. Interestingly, there are only two aid stations. Heaven Hill and the cabin-start-finish. Runners visit each aid station 8 times during the hundred.

I completed three full laps in under 21 hours for a sub 7 hour average. I ran the last 25 miles in a little over 8 hours.

I ran the first 25 miles in my new Dry Max socks and Montrail Trail shoes.

The Fam...
I felt so-so until mile 17 when I felt my first rush of adrenaline. I got a boost from songs that I had recently downloaded onto my iPod.

I felt rubbing and hot spots from the socks, so that concerned me being so early in the race. With so many creek crossings, I was sure they would be the ticket to my success, but the creeks were surprisingly low, even with rain the night before.

You could literally never get your feet wet crossing creeks 50 times during the race. The second loop felt great!

I looked forward to seeing my family and I had changed my socks and shoes feeling confident that I could--and needed--to run in my HOKA Cliftons the rest of the way if I was going to make it.

Southern Loop Sat. night
My lowest point was the first section of the 18 mile loop on the last lap. The 7 mile southern loop you run before this section is tough and then you have to run this section. I could look forward to the sunrise during these miles (75 to 83), but the darkest hours were before the dawn...

I was THE WALKING DEAD for about 2 hours.

I kept splashing cold water on my head and reaching under my shirt with my cold, wet hands shocking myself to stay awake. I never got sleepy at Tunnel Hill, so this was another unexpected element of the race.

I eventually felt that I may not finish. I thought that I may lay down, fall asleep and die of hypothermia!

ALL I could think about was that lead singer of AC/DC who fell asleep in the back of a car and died in the 70s. I took off running to raise my heart rate and get warm! RUN. OR. DIE. Whether it was true or not, it worked. The hills had lulled me into thinking I was done running, but I never felt like I was done.

All along I felt that at some point I would no longer run but walk it in, like I did at mile 82 at Tunnel Hill--but it never came. I ran some of every mile all the way to 100 after I woke up.


It's amazing how the sun rise wakes you up. I was a completely different person after that. Wide awake. I was so thankful. I thought my race may be over.


After the sun was up, and I passed the Heaven Hill aid station for the second-to-last-time, the red-dirt road hills started getting to me. They didn't feel this steep before, nor did it seem that there were as many of them during the three previous loops. I've been more miserable on shorter runs, but I wanted to be done.

I mentally divided what I had remaining into three sections. The 5 miles between the  Heaven Hill aid stops. The 5 back to the start-finish, and the southern loop. I wanted to be on that southern loop!
Holding Daddy's Buckle!
I was on schedule to take two Aleve when I passed back through the start-finish to begin the final southern loop, but I'll let you guess what happened...

I felt every rock, root, and downhill step. Not expected...

Laura brought the kids to play on the playground and I texted her that I would finish around noon.
I couldn't believe it when I saw that I finished 9th. 

My time was 29 hours 9 minutes and 36 seconds.

I burned 10,282 calories.



  1. Great report Scott, I'm considering running this one in 2018.