2010 SweetH20 ‘fiddy K

When your having a bad day, the best way to have a better day, is to focus on someone else’s day.


Sweet H20 creek crossing
photo: Coming back for trip #2 across the river.

My fourth SweetH20 50K

The SweetH20 50K is one of my favorite races. Shockingly, I’ve run it four times now – more than any other ultramarathon since I started running back in ’06.

Wow – sittin’ here, I can’t believe I almost – almost – could be considered a non-rookie.

Nah, I’m still a rookie.

A few changes to keep things killer

You probably already know that the park was washed out from the 2009 Georgia floods, so Johnny and the DCRR crew had a bit of a challenge when creating the new course.

The hard parts didn’t change.

“Top of the World” was still “Top of the World” [TOTW]. A series of rollarcoaster climbs and descents ripping through a powerline cut. (minus the powerlines)

“Yellow loop” still had that nasty climb, straight-up a dry creek bed.

And, “Jack’s Hill” is still just a pain in the @ss.

But, to keep things continually changing and improving, the RD threw in a few “surprises” for the runners – just to make sure they knew they were running “rogue-style”. These changes included:

Rough day from the get-go

Within in the first 3 miles, I knew I was running on dead legs.

Honestly, I hadn’t really recovered from my Barkley loop, which I did before recovering from the ING Georgia Marathon, which I ran sore from trying to chase 5 and 10K speed goals, which…


I just have a problem with rest; but that didn’t stop me from having fun.

At the start, I spent the early road section running and chatting with Abigail Meadows, stoked to see her at one of our local races, before ducking into the woods to tear through some of the “sweet” single track.

Down and across and up over the rope-assisted spillway, and I was moving pretty well.

Once you hit the blazed trails in Sweetwater State Park, you enter a series of rapidly changing trail sections that forces runners to pay close attention. Lots of blowdown branches, thick stumps, beachy soft sand, …but it’s mostly flat, so if you’ve got some skills, you can move quickly through here.

News to me

After crossing the bridge that leads out of the park, the course takes a different direction than years’ past, along some rolling, well-maintained and tree-covered trail.

I liked this trail, but it’s long. I was told a mile – but its a long mile.

And after that pleasant mile, it dumps you into an exposed single-track trail wedged into field of dry high-grass.

Honestly, I didn’t love the field. It was not my favorite addition to the course, …but remember, I was grumpy and running on dead legs. {wink}



After that long field romp, racers were dumped onto a short climb up a gravel jeep road. It wasn’t so bad, but it was steep, and you knew it was taking you to “Top of the World” – just didn’t know when.


Before I had a chance to recover from the climb, I turned a corner and BAM! – there they are – the roller coasters of “Top of the World”.

Every report ever written about this race drones on about TOTW, so I’ll just agree that, yes, it’s tough and nasty and gnarly and hot and exposed and slow and grueling - but, for some odd reason, it’s my favorite part of the course.

If you read my Barkley report, I suppose TOTW is just another example of me “loving that which sucks the life out of me.”

Water should be part of every ultra

The water crossings rocked! Both of them.

It was peaking into the 80′s by the time I got there, so I was ready for a li’l splish-splashin’… (say that 3 times, fast)

The first trip across was far more wild as I was tripping and falling everywhere trying to get across, but the water was cold and refreshing and it felt awesome on my quads.

There was a beach’s worth of sand on the other side, so I was given the chance to conquer the yellow loop, with it’s gnarly climb and fast descent, with plenty of soaked-shoe sandy goodness.

Clap your hands everybody 

Christian Griffith finishing the Sweet H20 50K
photo: Glad to be finished!

After the water crossing, it was pretty much the same drill.

A second loop.

So, just take what I wrote, multiply by two, and there ya go – not much else happened on the second loop except for finding my good buddy Sean Oh dehydrating on the second crest of Top of the World and stuffing Fig Newtons in his mouth like a starving child.

I was also out of water, and hot as hell, So I figured I’d do pretty much the same.
(Biiiig shout out to Spyder Tynes for saving runners with ice cold water up there)

Sean and I chilled together through the next aid station, but he found a new awakening and dropped me like I never caught him.

Ultrarunning phenom, now injured-kid-swimming his-@ss-off, Matt Kahrs came looking for me about 2 miles from the finish and ran along with me for some much needed bro-catching-up-ing. I sure hope ol’ Matt heals and comes back to the sport. It’s too fun watching him rip it up

And after 33-ish miles and 6:35, I finally rolled up to the finish and put this one in the bank.

34th finisher out of about 175 runners.

I was not at all happy about that finish time, but felt a little better when I was told the race was long; and since I had plenty of ready-made excuses stemming back from all kinds of over-training and zero recovery, I felt well-armed with plenty of come-backs for “what happened?” should someone feel the need to test me.

…and yea, around mile 25 or so, I got “Schicked” …again.

Damn that Schick.
(but thanks Rich, for the Barkley chaps – mighty kind of ya)

Hanging around for the rest of the troops

But the highlight of my day was sitting on the finisher road with various other race finishers and volunteers cheering on all the other runners as they made their ascent up the last hill to the finish. Kate Brun and I spent a lot of time cheering on folks before being joined by Bryce Carlson, Dreama Campbell, Sarah Woerner and others both looking for their friends and cheering on strangers.

That lifted my spirits more than I can express.

I then hung-out to make sure that all but one of my local running group members crossed that finish line.
(Sorry, JR, but now you have a chance to get me back in our “contest.”)

Thanks all around

Thanks to the DCRR runners, Johnny Buice, all the aid station folks and all the positive people who shared the trail with me in the spring’s  first 50K scorcher.

Like I’ve said in all three of the other reports, SweetH20 is a the perfect 50K. Rocks, roots, sand, water, tough climbs, wild descents, gnarly gravel, sopping spillways, crushing concrete, open fields, dense single-track …and some stairs thrown in for completeness.


(and yea, I’m gonna crank up the redesign on the SweetH20 web site next year. It’s due.)

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Nice report. How does sweetwater compare to Twisted Ankle?

how many water stops/aid stations are there in the 50k? and how are they spread out?

Great race report. I already wanted to run this race next year and now I want to do it even more. Sounds like a great challenge for ultra and trail runners!

We have begun to post some short video clips from the race at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmh1XPmcHpg (or go to the tjhoupt Channel). More video, including the river crossings, will be added over the next several days.

We should be ready to post a couple of short video clips from the race online later tonight.

@Tracy: Cool! can you send any of the footage yet?

Christian, excellent report again! Your report last year was the reason I signed up for the 50K this year. My favorite part of the course was the entire 1st loop (+ the 2 water crossings) – I’d rather not talk about the 2nd loop. I also agree that my fellow DCRR runners were all super terrific with all of the preparation and support they gave to make it a great race! It was really cool having you, Kate, and the others cheer us on near the finish! Oh, and the helmet camera worked pretty well also. We have some good footage of you, Shawn O, John Ross, others running in front of me along the major portions of the 1st loop. I’m planning to get the video to Johnny B soon and then he will decide what to do with it, but there should be some good clips for the race website at the very least! And thanks for the advice on the S! Caps. I will try them next time around.

No sarcasm! Christian, you are inspiring and watching all you studs/studettes at Sweetwater made me want to get my butt back out there and push myself again!!!! But… I will wait until AFTER the wedding:)

@Lauren: nice job out there. You’re right about peeps “cheering you on” – really helps elevate the spirits when your asking yourself “WTF am I doing?”

I too made the mistake of thinking I could have a fast time out there. Yikes. It hurt so much more than expected, but that’s the beauty of this long stuff, right? I do feel better now looking at the results and realizing everyone had a slow day. Those water crossings made everything worth it!

Best part by far though was the reception across the finish line. I know y’all don’t know me, but as a GA running follower and a huge fan of Christian’s blog, it means so much to see Georgia running badasses cheering you on at the finish. THANKS! Kate (didn’t know your name just your face til it was mentioned here) I’ve watched you tear up courses all over the south, bought shoes from you at Big Peach, and having you cheer me and everyone on throughout the course felt awesome. It’s the little things like this that make the ultra community rock.

@Jason: still on the fence with Woods Ferry. Wife wants me to run a local 10K with her. We’ll see. ….and dude, I called out a sub-6 (and didn’t get that either)

I think you’re right. Sweet H20 is the perfect 50k race. I cringed when I saw you sitting on the hill near the finish when Weezy and myself came running in at 8:13. After calling out a sub 7 finish on the way to the race I appreciate you not making me eat those words. Good stuff – time to lay down 80 miles at Woods Ferry, you in?

@Kate: This must be sarcasm.

You are a Georgia running legend. I’m just another big dude, tryin’ to get smaller, on two feet. {wink} But thanks for chiming in. I’m equally honored.

WOW! So pumped, I got the back of my head and name in one of Christians reports:) Who would have thought, I could have had that much fun at a race and not run it. It was a blast seeing all you studs out there giving it your all on a tough day/course. Truely, my favorite part of the day was cheering with you, Christian, near the finish! It was a blast! Also, once again, GREAT REPORT:)

@Julie: WOW, coming from you that’s quite a statement. I think I’ve done about a 1/100th of what you’ve accomplished. But I’m chasing it all. {wink}

Congratulations Christian! You ARE a vet! Nice report.

JR: bro, just focus on the contest now. I’m definitely coming in 12 pounds less, so you better beat me!

Great report, Christian! TOTW was rough, but it’s an excuse for big guys like me to hike during an ultra. That “Are We There Yet?” long park trail going to TOTW is what nearly did me in, though. I hear ya. It did put some wind in my sails to see you, Sean Oh, Richard Schick, Jon Ross, and others running in the other direction when I was on my way to TOTW. Thanks!

Thanks Charles, but yea, I still feel like a rookie – constantly learning from each experience.

Nice report Christian—TOTW was also my favorite part of the course, ha! I’m with you though, that long approach to power lines was mentally grueling. This is really a great race…good to see you out there – rookie my a$$!

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