Monday, March 18, 2013

Oak Mountain 50K Race Report

"Don't stop till everything's gone
Straight ahead never turn round
Don't back up, don't back down
Full throttle, wide open
You get tired, you don't show it
Dig a little deeper when you think you can't dig no more
That's the only way I know" - Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Eric Church

On March 9th I was joined by approximately 130 runners for The Oak Mountain 50K.  Oak Mountain State Park is located in Pelham, Alabama just outside of Birmingham.  Having grown up in Pelham, I spent many hours mountain biking and running the trails at Oak Mountain so I knew what to expect coming into this race.  The course had two aid stations, and you went to each one twice. One station was at the bottom of a ridge and the other was at the top.  The course was actually 33 miles long and had 3900 ft of climbing, so I knew this was going to take a little longer than The Black Warrior 50K.  Even though I didn't quite have the race I was expecting at Black Warrior, I looked at it as a chance to get a good, long run in 3 weeks out from the Oak Mountain 50K.  The next 2 weeks were spent building on my Black Warrior fitness, and I knew I was coming into this race in better shape.

My wife and I drove down to my mom's house on Friday evening - she lives about 20 miles from Oak Mountain State Park.  After a good night of sleep, I woke up around 5 am to get ready for the adventure that was about to take place.  

At 7 am, on what felt like a perfect spring day, we made our way on to a paved road towards the Yellow Trail. The Yellow Trail consists of short, steep rolling climbs which makes it difficult to get into any kind of running rhythm.  After a mile, I let someone else take the lead. He quickly pulled ahead of me and went out of sight.  I had to force myself to let him go knowing that I could not win the race in this section but I could lose it.  I pulled into the first aid station (7ish miles) in about 55 minutes and my crew told me I was about 2 minutes back from the lead guy. 

Start of the race

1/2 mile into the race getting ready to turn onto single track

I quickly exchanged water bottles with my crew and headed up the Blue Trail.  This next section of the race was hands down my favorite section.  We had a 2 mile climb that lead to the top of the ridge followed by a few miles of trail running bliss.  I was feeling good and pushing the pace.  I finally caught a glimpse of first place and timed him at 1:30 ahead of me.  The next time I saw him he was only about 45 seconds ahead.  I was about 1.5 miles from the next aid station and wanted to catch him before then. At Peavine Falls we had a rocky climb down to the base of the falls, and I made my attack there. We made the steep climb out of the gorge and ran into the second aid station together.  

My crew did a perfect job getting me in and out of the aid station without wasting any time.  I took the lead at this aid station.  As I left I knew I was running well and wanted to put as much time as possible ahead of second place.  I was in what could only be described as a trail running euphoric state of mind.  With every step I took, my foot glided over the rocks and roots and landed perfectly on the trail.  It was a steep rocky decent but I was running effortlessly and in control.  I made it to the bottom of the decent and picked up the pace.  I crossed a few bridges and was running on perfect trail all the way to the next aid station.  

Another perfect crew stop
Once again I quickly switched water bottles and headed down the Red Trail towards the final major climb back to the top of the ridge. This climb was about 2-3 miles on a dirt road and not nearly as steep as the climb up the Blue Trail.  Even though I was in the lead, I was acting like I was in second place and chasing first. Once I made it to the top of the ridge, I knew no one would catch me. It was now not a race against others but more of a race against the clock.  I turned off of the dirt road and onto a beautiful single track back towards the Peavine Falls Aid Station.  I started seeing outbound racers and knew I was less than half a mile from the final aid station.  As I pulled into the aid station, I started to feel a little dehydration setting in so I had my crew mix half a cup of gatorade in with my water.

I left the aid station at 3:43 into the race.  I had between 5-7 miles left, and my goal was to break 4:30.  My crew passed me in the car and yelled at me to run faster, so I took their advice. I turned off of the road onto the B.U.M.P trail and my leg started cramping up.  I took a quick minute to stretch and then started running again but the cramp would not go away.  This trail crossed the road several times and each time my  crew was there waiting for me. Once I arrived at the bottom of the trail, I knew there were only a couple of miles of rolling trail left.  Even though I was still cramping, I tried to enjoy the last leg of the race as much as possible. I came out of the woods and made one last turn towards the finish.  I tossed my water bottle to the side and threw my hands up in the air knowing I had just won my first ultra.  I crossed the finish line in 4:31:32.

Crossing the finish


Check out some more pics from the race:



  1. great work and nice post. sounds like you pushed the envelop just enough!