{Half}-SCARed, but Smarter

a li’l Preface: so, I’m sittin’ here feelin’ like everything is right in the world. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and the trees that surround my sun room are in full, luxurious bloom. Reggae music, and I mean molasses-smooth crucial reggae, is streaming melodically through my speakers and I feel a physical sense of completeness.

…even though I missed “completion” by a mile.

make that, …30 miles.

But I now have one of those stories. One of those experiences. Like surfing the raw expanse of Costa Rica, or paddling out at dangerous Pipeline on the north Shore of Hawaii, or being chased by waves the size of strip malls off Diamond Head, or the hundreds of stories in my head from teenage years of traveling the country skateboarding, …I now have another adventure notch that has made a significant and life-long impact on who I am as a runner and a person.

Yup, it was that cool. Check it…

Photo (left to right):
Vic’tah, Three-kids-Tony, Suwee, C$ (that’s me), and Rockgut. Both Jeff (of Jeff and Nancy hiker support fame) and a thru-hiker were taking photos, hence some of us looking a different direction.

First of all, what is the SCAR?

From the email I sent to friends and family the day before leaving for he run:

“Five us are attempting to cross the Smoky Mountain range section of the Appalachian trail [AT]. The run is known in the trailrunning, ultramarathon world as the SCAR

The route is 71 miles, with 18,800+ feet of total elevation gain, with various summits as high as 6,700 feet (Clingman’s Dome). The run is completely self-supported since there is no way to bail out along the way except for Newfound Gap at 41.3 miles. This route is sometimes popular with hikers who usually carve out 5-7 days for this – we are going to try to run it 24 hours.”

Here’s a little more about SCAR if you’re ever considering it.

Whaddya want, signs?

“Dude, what time is it?”


“What??!! We need to get some sleep”

Five guys, hyped to the max, but a little lost on the edges of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Our goal was to drop my car at end of the 71 mile route, at Davenport Gap.

Finding a “gap” along the Appalachian Trail proved to be much more difficult than us “city geeks” had anticipated. Dashboard Garmin navigational toys are great for helping you find a Starbucks, but they can’t help much with trail landmarks.

We had to resort to good ol’ fashioned map reading …which whittled a group of business “professionals” down to collection of drooling, sleepy, stumblin’ dopes looking like they were trying to read braille.

Ok, so maybe not that bad, but I promise, before this year is over, I’m going to take an orienteering class. I learned, very succinctly, just how “resourceful-lame” I truly am when outside the comfort and convenience of the city.

In bed by 2:00, up by 4:30

We eventually stumbled upon Davenport gap in the pitch black.

“dude, shine your phone on that sign”, Jason yelled as we jumped out of the truck in the pitch black of a mountain road somewhere on the edge of the Smoky Mountains.

photo: Appalachian trail sign at Davenport Gap (which is really nothing but a mountain road crossing)

We found it.

But there was nowhere to leave the truck.

We found a ranger station about two miles away, transferred all of our gear from one truck to another, and set out for Gatlinburg, TN to get some sort of sleep before continuing preparation logistics, and hitting the trail by 9:30 a.m.

But we got lost. Sorta.

Bailed on Gatlinburg, found the nearest hotel, and tried to crash.

But who can sleep knowing that the adventure continues in about two hours? (well, that and the fact that two of the guys snored like buzzsaws – but let’s keep the stoke going)

Riding with Jeff

Up at 4:30a.m. and back on the road to drop off the “bail out” vehicle at Newfound Gap, and catch a ride from Jeff Hoch, co-owner of the well-known Hike Inn and friend to hikers and trail runners of the Appalachian Trail.

We hired him to drive us 40 miles to the start of the trek, Fontana Dam, a HUGE dam about one mile from the official start of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies. This was a highlight of the trip. Dude was a character with a strong side of giving spirit coupled with an equal amount of grizzled, mountain-man rough edge.

He had great stories of hikers and ultrarunners, some who fared well, and some who experienced year-after-year of total smack-downs, only to keep coming back for more.

He warned us of bears and wild hogs, the latter of which had proven to be a real problem lately and he was especially cautionary with regards to them. Apparently these feral hogs (?) are nocturnal animals and not as easily scared away as the bears were supposed to be.

He says that he mostly discourages hikers from hiking at night, but said, “but you runners, …well, …it is what it is, I guess.”

Good answer, Jeff.

Giddyup boys

And just like that, we’re off on a nice, easy trot across the dam, up a short hill, and onto the Appalachian Trail.

…and immediately start climbing.

Two took the lead, two of us settled into the middle, and our “tracking” man brought up the rear. Vic’tah was carrying the SPOT tracking device for both safety purposes, and to test the device’s tracking capability. More on that later…

The first landmark was Shuckstack Firetower, at about 4,500 feet, and we must’ve climbed almost 3 miles to that Firetower, and it took us roughly an hour getting steeper and steeper as we got closer to the tower itself.

Rockgut already started getting blisters.

But alas, no Goldie Locks

We had settled into a series of rocky ups and downs when a crackling came across our radios we were all carrying.

“Guys, I gotta stand-off going on over here with some bears”

Three bears crossed the trail in front of Vic’tah and because we were all ahead of the bears, he was there all alone.

photo: Vic’tah takes a little souvenir parting shot as the bears moved on.

Being the self-centered friends that we are, we answered with,”Yell and scream and throw things”, and continued on.

Up one mountain, then down, nope, up, another mountain. Short downhill, then up another mountain.

“How is it possible to go up so much, but rarely go down?”

Can anyone really run this entire route? Really?

Even 75% of it?

I just don’t think so, but maybe I’m naive. This felt more like a fast-pack to me, than it did a run. I feel like I was power hiking ridge after ridge, running when I could, but in really small increments.

Early into the run, a few things became apparent to me for which I did not consider during preparation:

  1. I’m not sure how heavy my two running packs were, but I had too much stuff, and all this added weight really increased the physical impact of each foot fall.
  2. Just about every water stop involved a sharp descent, significantly off the trail; and also take note, just because there’s a wooden sign pointing to “water”, there’s no guarantee.
  3. Heat. Temps shot well up into the 80’s and none of us were a single bit heat acclimated.
  4. Food. I didn’t bring enough because I never imagined in 1000 years it would take me over 16 hours to go 42 miles. I’m not super fast, but seeing as how I did the hilly Pine Mountain 40-miler in 8:40-ish, I couldn’t imagine it taking me TWICE as long on the AT.
  5. SCaps save lives. {this I already knew, but they saved me}
  6. Talking to thru-hikers is very interesting and inspiring. I got jealous a few times.
  7. My head lamp sucks.

Between miles 5-10, a section I’ll call “the shelters”, there were sections of run-ability within some really beautiful, rolling ridge lines. The footing would get pretty rocky and “dug-out” in sections, and of course, climbs would end up in the mix as well, but it was nice to open up a little and get my Tarzan on.

Through the trees I could see these wide-angle views of the huge, steep mountains and wide-open valleys, as far as the eye could see. This was pretty much the case all day.

Sometimes I’d just stop. Stand there. Think about taking a photo, but realizing that there is no way my little point-n-shoot could capture the scene like I was seeing it.

…so, I’d just take a deep breath, thank the trail Gods, and move on…

It reminded me of being surrounded by the loud silence of the huge Redwood trees in Humboldt County, California.

Sometimes nature has a presence that commands attention and respect.

“Welcome to the Terrordome”

After Spence Field shelter, the scene opened up into these sort of mountain top meadows with tremendous climbing.

I had no idea where I actually was, but I had a “feeling” I was approaching Thunderhead Mountain. It was an interesting mixture of incredibly steep climbing, but with mountaintop rewards of incredible views, easy, breezy winds, and bright sunshine.

Hard and hot, but heavenly.

By the time I got to the summit of Thunderhead, I could barely breath. The open summits had baked my skin in the 80+ degree heat and sucked the life out of me. I tried to radio the others, but no one responded.

I was all alone on the mountaintop, but really wanted to share, so I broke out the cell phone and Twitter’d a message to the world:

“…I’m sittin’ on top of Thunderhead, 5,527 feet…”

photo: Marker on top of Thunderhead Mountain – one brutal climb.

And then started down the other side.

Talking to myself during the steep, technical descent, I kept trying to remember the name of the mountain I just crested, and was now descending, but the name that kept popping into my head was “terrordome”, so I started singing Welcome to the Terrordome loudly and aggressively, as I tripped and stumbled down the northern side of the mountain.

Finally, some decent running

At Buckeye Shelter (or maybe Derricks Knob shelter), I learned that I was only 22 miles into the run, but had chewed up almost eight hours.


I caught up with Suwee and he was not doing very well. He was having trouble eating and was feeling very low. He decided to stay at the shelter and wait for Vic’tah who was a few miles back.

As quickly as I had found someone, I was alone again. I ran 95% of this run alone.

But after this shelter, the trail became incredibly nice. I was glad to finally get some good running in here and running actually lifted me out of this funk that developed from the constant slow grind of excessive technicality with relentless climbing.

I continued to sing, this time 80’s hip hop, and had a nice smooth trot going. I figured if I could keep this up, I could make up some of the time for this second half of the run.

Ten hours in, only 25 miles or so… from christian griffith on Vimeo.

Ran through a few shelters where the greeting from thru-hikers was generally the same:

“Are you one of the runners?”


“well, your buddies are about an hour ahead”

“yea, I know …keep an eye out for two more coming up behind me”

“ok, are you guys gonna run through the night too?”

“that’s the plan.”

“you’re crazy”

“I know, …where’s the water?”

Clingman’s Dome: My final breaking point

It was already dark when I rolled into the final shelter before the three mile climb to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, at 6,643 feet.

I had all kinds of moments here that are really funny looking back. During this three mile, brutally long, technical climb, I experienced the following:

  • Cussing like a sailor, swearing off ultrarunning forever
  • Heard one, or more, of those wild hogs and started screaming frantically to make them, or it, run away. …even picked up a thick branch and ran with it expressing loudly to the mystery pig that I’d be having some bacon if he popped out of those dark woods.
  • Saw two eyes reflecting off of my headlamp and jumped 10 feet. Literally felt my heart thump in my chest and I almost fell down. …it was a bunny rabbit. {sigh}
  • I laid down on the trail multiple times for 30 second stints.
  • Because I was so high up, my phone showed service, so I called my wife and proudly proclaimed I was bailing at 42 miles. She was relieved.

Finally, I arrived at the top of Climgman’s Dome, and thinking I was vey close, like less than a mile from the finish, I rejoiced and plopped my butt on the ground for a rest.

As I was resting and feeling beat-up but satisfied, I looked over at a trail sign:

“8.7 miles to Newfound Gap”


I don’t know what I was thinking, but I thought Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap (where our car was) were almost side by side.

They aren’t.

It was almost 10:00 pm, my light sucks and was already starting to dim, and doing the math, I realized that I was still going to be on the trail for 3 more hours.

I broke down.

I spent 10 minutes sitting up there trying to figure out a faster way to get out of this. Considered trying to descend the road to Clingman’s Dome and hitch-hike, but it was dark, no one around, and would have no assurance that I’d end up where I needed to end up.

I had no choice but to descend Clingman’s Dome, and make my way almost 9 more miles to Newfound Gap.

Out of water, out of food, in tremendous pain and the mountain just didn’t let up.

The last stretch was even more technical, more gnarly with steeper drops and step-downs, loose rocks, and twists and turns that confused the hell out of me since my whole world consisted of a dimming circumference of light.

Mentally, I just checked out and kept moving. Surprisingly, when presented with tiny stretches of runnable terrain, I could move pretty well, but they would last for maybe 20-50 yards max, and the trail would again become sharp rocks, drop-offs, or fallen trees.

Newfound Gap

At 1:30 a.m., I reached Newfound Gap. The first sign of civilization since hitting the trail 16 hours earlier.

I found Three-kids-Tony sleeping my sleeping bag on the concrete next to the car and Rockgut piled into the front seat with heat on inside the car.

“wow” was pretty much how I greeted the boys. It was pretty obvious that no one was in any condition to continue to Davenport Gap.

I knew Vict’ah and Suwee were still out there and I felt for them because the dark was really creepy in the Smokies – especially alone – but about 1.5 hours later, they arrived, having completed the last 20 miles together.

At about 3:00 a.m., we piled into the van, drove to a Gatlinburg hotel, and slept like babies for a few hours before heading home.

Success? Failure?

Well, we failed at completing the entire SCAR; but, I still feel awesome!

I wish that I could truly explain what I experienced out there. All alone, relying on myself for total survival in some of the most unforgiving terrain I have ever seen in my life.

It was really that gnarly.

You hear this alot, “tough terrain”, but until you’ve actually been out there and experienced it, you are probably not prepared for just how gnarly it really is.

We’re going back.

Like most who attempt SCAR and bail out early, it becomes that monkey on your back and you realize that 80% of getting through it is proper planning and preparation.

Logistics analysis

Next time, we’ll be better prepared and most likely will discuss some changes before the next attempt. I will mention these items both for my own reference as well as for others who may be interested in attempting the SCAR.

What I did wrong or can improve:

  1. Packs: I need to figure out a way to carry less weight. I wore two packs, a Nathan and an Eddie Bauer 2-litre water pack. This was too much gear on my back and became a problem very early on.
  2. Train: This is the wrong kind of thing to do on a whim. Next time, I will train with a pack before heading out for something like this without any pack experience.
  3. Sleep: I really did not get any sleep the night before. Not one wink. This was a problem for me and most likely contributed to my early attitude decline.
  4. Map: Vic’tah made maps for us complete with water locations, but I lost mine before we even started. I had to walkie-talkie the guys every time I was running low since I was clueless where I was and I ran 95% of the run alone.
  5. Food: Like an idiot, I didn’t plan food properly at all. Throughout the entire 16 hours, I only consumed two beef jerkys and two small single-servings of Combos pretzels. What the heck was I thinking?
  6. Route: I’m just not sure, but I have to believe that north to south would be easier. We climbed much, much more than we descended, so it stands to reason that coming the other way would offer more downhill sections – but, that being said, terrain is terrain, and that terrain is uber-gnarly whether climbing or descending.

What I did right or felt good about:

  1. Water: Having both a handheld water bottle and bladder was a good idea for water management. I would drink the bladder dry, since I never knew how much water I had left in there, and then used the handheld to manage remaining fluids until the next creek.
  2. Shoes: NB 800s was the right shoe choice. I never had foot issues, other than fatigue from the rocks. The terrain required the ‘bite’ of the 800 tread, and 790s would have been really tough for me at my level of minimalist-shoe development.
  3. Shuttle: Three cheers for Rockgut for setting up the shuttle to the start. That made things easier and now that I know “Jeff”, I will use his services exclusively

So when is SCAR v.2?


Just kidding, but I’m going back soon. This is in my blood now. This was one of the most incredible journey’s of my short three-year ultra career.

So it’s back to the grind.

Back to training.

Back to the trails.

The Florida Keys race is up next – and I’m not underestimating a thing.

New Balance 100 Trail Shoe Replaces the 790

Update: THE SHOE IS NOW OUT! …and we have a thorough MT100 Trail Shoe review complete with feedback, photos and spec sheet from New Balance.


The information below was written BEFORE the release of the shoe. To see a review of the released version of the MT100BK trail shoe, please see the latest review.


Love the NB790 Trail Shoe?

I mean, what’s not to love? The New Balance 790 trail shoes are light as a feather at a measly 7.6 oz., “ultra”-comfortable, simple, flat, …and quite honestly, look damn good with a pair o’ baggy jeans and t-shirt.

…but yea, I know what your thinking, and I also have issues with the tread – could be a little grip-e-er. The shoes could also dry a little faster when they get wet. …but all that gnarliness is what 800s, now 840s, are for.

For a legion of us, the MR790, for the ladies, WR790, is the best trail shoe ever.

Here comes the NB100, New Balance 100 Trail Shoe

This is all hearsay. I only know what I hear. I’m not an in-depth reporter, nor shoe reviewer with the “inside scoop”. I know a few dudes who work in shoes, and I ask around, and I put together other things to try to understand what’s happening.

A friend sent me some pics of the New Balance 100 trail shoe which, I was told, will be replacing my beloved and cherished MR790.

Oh man, I’m gonna say it – “those are some big shoes to fill”.

New Balance 100 Trail Shoe Pictures

Side of the New Balance 100 Trail Shoe

…the other side of 100s

NB 100 trail tread

NB 100 Trail Shoe Information

So whaddya think?

This is what I think I know, and more will be posted here as I learn more:

  • The NB100 is supposed to come out sometime around October 2009
  • The shoe is supposed to weigh a measly 6 oz.
  • The shoe is rumored to be a collaboration between NB athletes Kyle Skaggs and Anton Krupicka
  • The shoe appears to be quite a bit different in design

NB100 Updates and Web Information

I will add resource links and updates here as I find ’em out:

  • 4/19 update: Inexpensive 790s can be had in black for $44.90 – all sizes
  • 4/20 update: I have learned that the 100 is now in the retailer/wholesale catalog for dealers.

A Perfect Day at Crowders Mountain

photo: Ray K and I before the race

The way ultrarunning used to be?

“Awesome”, said Matt Silva when he received his number at check-in. The number was a recycled Turkey Trot 5K number, presumably straight from Ray K’s 2008 race participation inventory.

Every race number was that way and every single one was unique. It was classic and in stark contrast to the new, white numbers runners get at most races.

Already, the race had character.

Standing on the starting line, which consisted of a line in the dirt that Ray K drew with his shoe, I was 100% clueless. None of us Crowders newbies had any idea what to expect.

Robert Youngren would be proud.

There was no race web site complete with race instructions, course maps, race reports, nor course descriptions – nothing.

Just a printable application, and a warning that they “reserve the right to refuse anyone who they don’t like from running in this race.”, and that’s it.

So standing at the base of Crowders Mountain everyone was sorta wondering what was about to happen, and just before the start, a female sheepishly spoke up and asked Ray K, “is the course hard?”

“it’s not impossible…”, he said.

Why not start with two miles of climb?

Ray said go, and the field of 16, or so, started the tromp up an inclined gravel jeep road.

It took me about 3 switchbacks to figure out the beginning of the race was going to be an uphill grind, straight to the top of Crowders Mountain. “Betta’ back off a little, this could go on for awhile”

It did.

It’s roughly two miles to the top, with some very steep patches – but all I could think about was the upcoming White River 50 miler and how I need experience with as many of these long climbs as I can find.

Bring it!

We ran to the top, danced across a rock garden near the communications towers, and began a steep and drastic downhill, including 588 steps built into the mountain. 

A chance to open it up

After climbing up and over Crowders, we took a hard left (thanks Mike Day for not letting me drift off), and dove into some rocky, rooty, rolling single-track trail.

My favorite.

Push off a rock, leaping to another rock… stutter-stepping roots, …mountain-bike type whoop-di-do hills, all tons and tons of fun for me. I really picked up the pace here. The weather was cool, the terrain technical and fun, and I was feeling fantastic.

Here’s where I want to applaud Sam and Ray, the RDs, for somehow providing EMTs, park officials, and law enforcement as aid station volunteers. This was incredible and a total first for me. More volunteers than runners, I think. Every single aid station was manned by someone tactical, radio-in-hand, and genuinely interested in the race success of the runners.

Each station consisted of just the bare essentials – water, Gatorade, ice, potato chips, and Fig Newtons.

Again, how I picture ultra races in the early years.

Pay attention, ’cause it’s out-n-back

Which I didn’t really do, and paid for it later, but we’ll get there in the story shortly.

The approach to the ridgeline trail was another gravel jeep road and here is where I may have had one chance to capture second place. I could see the #2 runner up ahead of me, but he was moving pretty well, and faster than me.

I lost him about as soon as I saw him.

The ridgeline trail was awesome. Lots of steep downhill running, beautiful foliage and nature all around …including pollen, and nice, wide-open single-track.

I still felt awesome, had a smile on my face, and was really enjoying the morning.

I love gettin’ my Tarzan on.

And before I knew it, there’s the sign designating two miles to the Visitor’s Center (Kings Mountain, maybe?).

This visitor’s center is the halfway point where 30K runners end their race, and 60K runners turn around and run the course backwards.

My carpool buddy, Matt, easily won the 30K in 2:17, and was there volunteering for the 60K runners.

Matt offered tons of encouragement, filled up my bottle, challenged me to catch the #2 guy, and shuffled me out of the aid station to prevent possible floundering.

30K down, 30K to go

I love halfway points.

Up until the halfway point, I always seem to count up in miles, but after the halfway point, I always count down. It helps me mentally and emotionally, I think.

And I needed help.

I have no idea what happened, but I went from feeling fantastic, to complete and total crap in less than two miles. The mile before and after the turn-around is extremely nice single-track that cruises along a creek, with lots of greenery, and LOTS of boy scout hikers. They kept encouraging me, telling me I wasn’t too far behind the 2nd place guy, and to “run hard”.

Great group of kids.

But dancing around them was unusually fatiguing for me – kids with heavy packs aren’t as agile as they could be, and I found myself starting and stopping and running off-trail since these water trails were so thin and the foliage so thick.

By the time I reached that same two mile sign, only now coming back, my legs seized up, my head went a little fishy, and I had to walk.

What goes up, must come down

Having to walk made me mad.

Worse, I’m already aware of my race idiosyncrasies and my habit of second-guessing myself during the middle portions of a race, so I start complaining to myself about so many back-to-back races lately, and “who do I think I am”, and wah wah wah…

…then Mike Day comes up behind me, extends his hand, and says, “Mike Day”, and I, being an insecure, sorry-ass, immediately start making excuses as to why I am now falling into fourth place.

He shuffles on, outta sight, and I’m still struggling, now feeling the intensity of the rising temperature, and trying to take inventory on my recent Scaps usage and fluid intake.

I couldn’t keep a thought and reasoning skills were not there – Not a good sign.

I walked about 1/2 mile and figured my wife would have me walking all day Sunday anyway, so I might as well pick up the pace and start running again.

It felt good to get the legs moving again.

“You must have rocks in your head”

Remember, earlier in the story, when I went on and on about the downhill running? Well, I was paying the piper on the way back.

I was sorta running on autopilot.

I was tired, but running anyway. I couldn’t really think very well, but ignorance was bliss at the time since too much reasoning might have caused me to slow again.

It was hot, and getting hotter by the hour.

I was noticing odd behavior by the EMT volunteers when I’d leave an aid station.

“why is that dude on the radio”, I thought to myself as I left one of the aid stations.

“hope he’s not talking about me”

Turns out he was.

Apparently, these guys were radioing back and forth and reporting on the condition of runners, especially necessary as the heat started kicking in.

I guess my reports weren’t too good, and as I found out later, Ray K had even thought for a moment I might be dropping.

At one station, the EMT asked me to sit down.

I refused.

He made follow a pen, with my eyes, side to side.

I passed, I guess, and he let me leave, but not before saying, “that boy must have rocks in his head.”

Next aid station… “Are you sure you don’t want to stop for a minute?”

“No, sir, it’s hot and I just want to finish”, I said with a smile and handful of potato chips. “Which way to the trail?”

It was right in front of me.

Road to recovery, trail-style

And just like that – like just about every race I do, I came alive.

Earlier, I had regained 3rd place, and got a lift from that, but now I was running the last 6-8 miles as hard as I had run in the beginning. I didn’t want Mike Day to catch me, and kept looking back at the top of every climb.

No Mike.

I sort of kicked into this weird, arm-circle, rhythmic run that seemed to keep me moving at a good clip with minimal exertion. It felt really nice and pleasant, and although I was tired, I was sure I was going to be able to run strong to the finish.

More hiker encouragement, more recognizable turns and landmarks, more excitement at getting close to Crowders Mountain again – all contributed to my improving state of mind and being.

…and then the steps.

A steep climb and 588 steps

The race director, Sam, his wife, and a few others were hanging around the last water stop, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember anything that was said or done at this aid station. I just remember drinking two large cups of Mountain Dew, and making my way towards the steep climb, and the 588 steps built into the mountain.

And yes, I counted each and every step. (however, I cannot confirm my accuracy)

At the top of the steps, there’s still a little more rock climbing to get through, with some technical rock gardens to negotiate, but I was feeling home-free.

Only two more miles to go and it’s all downhill from here.

Downhills are the devils of ultrarunning

The jeep road from the top of Crowders Mountain to the bottom is long, steep, and fast.

Super fast.

My quads and calves were screaming, causing me to scream out every now and then myself, and ask every single passing hiker, how far to the bottom, dammit?”

I was getting a little grouchy.

But sure enough, I see the picnic tables, and Ray K standing at the make-shift finish line, holding his watch and counting down to sub-7.

6:59:33 – good for third place and finishing just about where I wanted.

A race, or a gathering?

This felt more like a gathering than a race. Ray K is one of the most colorful and entertaining characters in the sport, and I was honored to participate in the event. Sam Baucom, and his wife, did a tremendous job ensuring that the runners were well taken care of, without adding a bunch of unnecessary fluff.

The EMTs and other volunteers were priceless, the course was challenging, the other runners were all class acts, and the weather was gorgeous, albeit a bit a hot for my level of 2009 heat acclimation.

I think the single element making this course as tough as it is comes down to the easier sections near the turn around. How a runner manages these easier sections is important because miles 24 and later, are really, in my opinion, the most difficult sections in the race.

Hope I’m not giving away the secret.

See ya next year.