Monday, November 21, 2016

DIZZY FIFTIES 50K Race Report (2016)

Gregg Gelmis: We Run Huntsville
The 13th Annual Dizzy Fifties 50K, 40 & 50 Mile Race was sunny, breezy and colorful.

My first race since dropping at mile 87 of the Georgia Jewel 100, my main goals for the DF50K were to finish under 7 hours and make my latest race a finish instead of a DNF.

I took two months off from racing to recover and create a break between my running seasons of 2016 and 2017.

Fall of the year begins a new season for me mentally, since it's the best time of year to run in my view. 

By the time January rolls around, we're 3/4 of the way done with the Grand Slam and three months into the cold weather, so it's hard for me to think emotionally that January is the beginning of a new running year except for annual scheduling purposes.

Start/Finish Pavilion (G. Gelmis)
I get to the top of Monte Sano Mountain a little before 6 a.m. and ease into a parking spot on the side of the road next to the start/finish pavilion. Everything is going smoothly until I start removing my run backpack and bag chairs out of our CRV.  

I did not feel rushed, but I parked on a slant, so I'm trying to hold the heavy, rear swinging door open while I gather things and it puts a small strain on my back. 

"Why did I park on this slant?!" I should have relaxed and moved the car down a little to the flat, but Nooooo... I fight it and show that gravel bank who's boss for about a second and a half. I move away from the door, set some things down and take a deep breath.

The pavilion was hopping, but with a concerned Cary Long. He mistakenly swallowed an Ambien, he said, and was facing two choices: Be asleep in two hours or have a great race. Thankfully, it was the latter. All I cared about was whether it would constipate him or not. That cannot be allowed to happen. Too many people depend on his ability to answer Nature's Call and write about it!

From This to 5:24:38 (G.G)
As I made another trip to my car and back to the pavilion, I couldn't figure out where the welcoming pit fire was and that was because there was no fire. I kept looking for it, since I knew it was certainly cold enough for one, but then I remembered the "burn ban" sign at the entrance to the park.

It had rained the night before, but it was still too dry for a fire on the mountain. Run boys run!

And that we did after the new RD Ryan Chaffin made a few announcements and founding-and-outgoing RD Don Alan Hankins offered prayers and thanks to God for the day. A wonderful day it was. 

A two-lane paved road next to the pavilion leading to the Observatory and Overlook fills with runners seconds before the 6:30 a.m. start. The race annually starts with a loud shotgun blast, but this year's race begins with a shotgun "click." 

Everyone chuckled when the shotgun didn't go off, but that quickly ended when we all realized, the race had still begun! "Was that it? Yep!"
Mark (G. Gelmis)
Just before the click and chuckle, 'the godfather of my marathon philosophy,' Mark Zaremba walks up. He imparted his knowledge to me on my second marathon in January 2012 in Mobile, AL where his dad lives.

I've run every race with the relaxed attitude he expressed to me that morning. Mark has run a marathon in all 50 States once. Is on State 43 his second time around and told me he plans to do a 50 States Ultra. Wow! He drives to all his races which is even more hard core!

We head downhill toward the hiker & biker's parking lot inside the park at the "Y" for the one-time, two mile loop at the beginning of the race. We chit chatted for a while until Mark left me in the leaf strewn dust.

The remainder of my lone style run is 3 "dizzy" loops totaling 9.59 miles each. One loop is 4-ish miles and the other is 5-ish. One is flat, one is not. Thankfully, the hilly loop is the shorter one. Two years ago when I ran the 40 miler, it was 24 degrees at the start of the race. This morning the temp is hovering near 40.

My phone-photos from miles 6 to 15
I expected the wind may be a nuisance all day, but it seemed only to be a factor on the north side of the mountain. It's somewhat concerning to run in the woods among tall trees and wind. 

With the ground being so dry, I wasn't worried so much about a tree falling on me as much as a dead limb dropping. I've never had any problems running on Monte Sano, I just try to stay alert. Not much you can do anyway.

After the two mile loop we start the hilly loop which begins in the Japanese Tea Garden on the North Plateau, followed by Cold Spring, Mountain Mist, and Sinks Trails. 

They were beautiful.

The variation among dark and light green with reds, browns and yellows changed drastically sometimes within a quarter mile on the same trail.

(G. Gelmis)
Most of the pictures in the collage above are from the hilly, north loop: Sinks, Mountain Mist, and Cold Spring Trails.

Dizzy Fifties is limited to 108 runners each year, so signing up early is a must to get in on this beautiful course and ideal temperatures in mid November.

Especially, if you plan on falling down in front of the start-finish like I did. It's great. Or falling on North Plateau Loop and smashing a hole in your water bottle. That's pretty fun, too. 

It's just part of the journey. It's surprising that in 31 miles we don't stumble and fall more, since the trails are covered with leaves hiding small stubs and roots. Most of the time you catch yourself. Other times you tuck and roll or do a falling push up.

We Run Huntsville Photos
I felt better the day after this race than any other it seems. Not sure why. Maybe the two months off helped. Maybe we just get used to it over the years and our bodies adapt to quickly recover. I know that there is a tremendous difference in my ability to recover now than when I first began 5 years ago.

I used to read other runner's race reports and think, "How do they go to work the next Monday?" "How do they even walk around?" It was something I didn't understand, because I had not done it for myself.

Now it's just another day

Recovery is an important part of ultra running. Maybe the most important part as we age. More people have problems from running too often, too fast, and too far. Since longevity is my primary purpose in running, I definitely don't want to do any of those! :-)

We Run Huntsville Photos
I admire faster runners. They work hard and make us all better, but I love to take pictures while I'm out on course for my memories. If I didn't take pics, I would forget so many of the things I do.

The running community is also a wonderful group of people to be around. People challenging themselves to be better than they were, or to at least stay moving in the later years. They are the true inspiration. 

So get out in the woods and run! Or hike, or walk, or just stand there. 

We Run Huntsville Photos
I'll be out there, because it's fun and great people are there to run with, behind, in front of, over, under, in between, on your left, on your right, and they're all cheering for you!

The Dizzy Fifties 50K is an ideal first ultra because of the 2 loop design that returns to the start/finish pavilion every hour or so. You can set up your personal aid station with your own chairs.

The pavilion is also piled high with bagels, bananas and beaming with beautiful smiles. No one ever regrets joining the running community!

Thanks to OTBX for sponsoring the free pictures!


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