Georgia Sky to Summit 50K

So….I know I have neglected this blog a little bit over the last month or so. For that I apologize.  It has been hectic and I was in the longest part of training for an event that will never be forgotten.  Last Saturday Nov 7th 2015 I ran my 3rd Trail race and my first 50K!! Yes that is not a typo I said 50K!  As in 50 Kilometers (31 miles for those who don’t want to convert the measurement)

Yikes! Seeing as I have never raced more than a Half Marathon or really followed a strict running plan I decided over the summer to register for the Georgia Sky to Summit 50K.  This race came complete with hype video which inspired me to register for this amazingly beautiful and scenic 50K,  Now keep in mind I have only been running trails since March of 2015 as I became frustrated with and bored of road racing! As the event began to fill up I signed up one night and was able to get one the last remaining and coveted spots for this race.  The race is put on by Run Bum Tours and takes place in Sky Valley, Georgia.  The course traverses the trails over and around Rabun Bald mountain.  This is the second highest peak in Georgia at a whopping 4,695ft.  For all my Western runners I know it pales in comparison but I live in Georgia and I will take the elevation I can get.  Even though the height of the mountain is not the most impressive, this is one tough race.  The course is runnable, if you are used to lots of up and down, or Superman!  It boast 15,000 feet of elevation change roughly 7500 feet up and 7500 down. You get the privilege of summiting Rabun Bald mountain twice! Yes we went up the mountain twice in the course of 31 miles.  The views are breathtaking and you get to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls Georgia has to offer!

Now without further ado…a brief race report!

The race morning began with rain and temperatures in the mid 50’s almost perfect weather had it not been raining.  After brief safety meeting and introduction to the race by the race director we were off at 7:00 am.  The race climbs from Sky Valley to the summit of Rabun Bald immediately.  Over this 3.5 miles you climb almost 2200 feet to the top and quickly make your descent down the Bartram Trial toward Wilson Gap.  This is roughly 5 miles down.  This was still a tricky part of the race because it happens so early you have to restrain yourself from going all out.  Remember there is 31 miles total the descent will blow up your quads.  At 8 miles into the race your reach Wilson Gap.  There was a full aid station there with everything you need to fuel your body.  From Wilson Gap we made our way 3 miles toward Darnell Creek.  This part of the course was beautiful, muddy and had many water crossing to keep your feet wet! At about 10.5 miles you reach Darnell Creek which is roughly a knee to thigh water crossing.  This was the art I had seen on video and was dreading…mostly because I knew it would be cold.  Yes I was not wrong the water was cold but it felt so good to my already cramping calves and was like a brief ice bath.  We made our way out to the next aid stop and turned back to cross Darnell Creek one more time.  From there we cut up some steep and muddy paths that traversed along several flowing stream and raging waterfalls on our way back to Wilson Gap roughly 14 miles into the race.  Here I changed socks, removed my rain jacket and put on a dry shirt.  After fueling up we started our ascent back to the top of Rabun Bald.  5 miles of constant unrelenting climbing along beautiful single track trails and switch backs.  Mile 19 returned us to the top of Rabun Bald and we were able to climb to the top of the overlook.  The view from up here was amazing and despite the cloud cover and rain you had a pretty good view all around.  From here we had 3 more miles to the next aid stop at Three Forks.  This was another steep down hill ascent for 3 miles. Coming right of the top the trail was steep and covered in leaves so we took our time coming down this area.  This descent really put a pounding on the quads.  I had not felt sore until I hit this downhill stint.

Once we reached Three Forks we had another 7 miles back to the next aid stop.  This section was tough as my legs were pretty beat up overall.  We climbed up a constant grade of Forest Service Road and back onto the trails to run by Holcomb Falls and ascend the trail by the falls.  This seemed to be the hardest and steepest part yet.  Also the most treacherous as the bridges were very slick.  We were warned and believe me when Run Bum says the bridges are slick, they are SLICK!, I completely busted on the first bridge heading toward Holcomb Falls.  Yes this was caught on camera and you see the aftermath in the video! By the way Holcomb Falls…BEAUTIFUL!!! The rain really had the fall roaring! Once we exited Holcomb Falls we turned back onto Forest Service Road and continued to climb for what seemed like an eternity.  As we climbed higher we were directed back onto the Bartram Trail for another 3 miles back to the aid stop we passed at mile 2.  This section was beautiful single track with small falls within arms reach.  Even though I was fatigued and tired this was one of my favorite sections.  It was very runnable even with beat up legs.  Once returning to the aid stop at mile 28 we quickly refueled and prepared for a 3 mile down hill run back to Sky Valley and the finish line.  This sounds great but with your legs trashed this downhill descent on roads was going to be painful.  So down we went retracing our path from the start.  We were close, the finish is only a 5K away at this point.  With all I I had left in the tank I proceeded to bomb down the road at whatever pace I could go.  The first mile was uncomfortable and then my legs began to feel okay enough to push the pace back to the finish line.  I was amazed as I had never run that far that I could still move and pushed even harder down the hill.  Suddenly the finish line came into view with a small group cheering as we made the final left turn toward the finish moving in what I felt was an all out sprint I heard the race director call out “All right 230” I knew I was there! Crossing the finish line in I received a congratulatory high five and knew I had succeeded at the most difficult race I have ever attempted.  My training while not perfect had paid off I FINISHED my first 50K and qualified for a my next endeavor the 68 mile Georgia Death Race in March.

This race has it all, hills, views, waterfalls, creek crossings, amazing volunteers, a passionate RD and awesome people who encourage you all the way.  I plan to sign up next year and see if I can conquer those trails with a faster time! If you want a challenge with stunning views then this is the  50K for you! Go and check it out  at http://www.runbumtours.com and watch this awesome video from the go pro I carried on the race.  This was my first time using a go pro so I apologize in advance for the camera being on me most of the time, but I think the video is awesome!

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