The race director’s daughter Maria was diagnosed with epilepsy before she was 3 years old. In her honor, he decided to put on this endurance race and raise money for epilepsy research. I had an open weekend and decided to use the 12 hour option as training to increase my stamina for a couple of longer ultras on my upcoming schedule. This would be my 5th marathon/ultra in 6 weeks.
My husband and I left around 7 am for the 6 ½ hour drive to Kennesaw, a suburb northwest of Atlanta. We stayed at a relatively new Embassy Suites in a shopping center one exit away from the race site. The area had a variety of retail stores and restaurants. Our dining choice for both Friday and Saturday evenings was a sports pub called Taco Mac that was situated right in front of our hotel. I know the name sounds like it serves Tex-Mex food but in reality it was a casual grill that offered burgers, ribs, chicken, and fries (including sweet potato fries), plus a wide selection of draft micro beers. Food and service were excellent both days.
Packet pickup was from 5-8 pm at Big Peach Running Company in Kennesaw or at 7 am on race morning. I opted to get my bib on Friday evening, since I wanted get everything ready that night. In addition to the bib, I received a white long sleeve tech tee shirt with an attractive purple design.
The course was a relatively easy non-technical trail around a pristine lake near an office park in Kennesaw. The trail was a bit wider than single-track, although it did get a little narrow in spots. The terrain was soft pine needles, grass, and dirt with – of course – a few major roots (i.e., tripping hazards for me) on about a third of the route. My favorite parts were the wooden footbridges that joined the trail sections; I moved swiftly along those flat surfaces. There was no elevation to speak of, although there was one tiny incline that seemed to grow much larger as the day wore on.
The distance for the loop measured along the tangents was .65 miles so 50 loops would equal 32.5 miles. One of the other runners, fellow Maniac and Darksider Malissa, was kind enough to make a laminated chart with all the laps and their mileage distances but I had already figured out the important ones I needed to know. My goal was to stay long enough to complete 50 laps so I could get at least a 50k before it got dark. I knew that it would be much harder to avoid tripping over roots after the sun went down, especially when fatigue set in, but just in case I had a headlamp and my knuckle lights with me.
The weather on race morning was perfect – in the mid-50’s to start, slightly overcast with a drizzle that continued most of the morning; it soon warmed up to the mid-60’s but with no sun. There was quite a lot of shade on the trail and it was never too hot or cold. I wore 2 jackets, mittens, and a hat while waiting for the race to begin at 8 am but then quickly shed all my outer layers and was perfectly comfortable in long pants, turtleneck, and long sleeve tech tee. I never needed sunglasses or cap. I set up a chair with my drop bag but I never really needed it during the day. All my food and drink needs were met by the aid station and I never needed to change shoes or socks. There were 2 porta potties that were up a hill about 10 feet off the trail. It was a little slippery getting to and from the porta potties but nothing unmanageable.
Race Director Mark Vescio was on site all the time and exceedingly helpful. The volunteers were great and offered a lot of vocal support to racers, especially the aid station lady, Karen Kaye from the Big Peach Running Company. Food and drink were plentiful, erything from pizza to peanut butter sandwiches and cookies. There was upbeat music and positive patter from DJ Jarian Rich (aka MC Richie Rich); I especially enjoyed the oldies but goodies from the 60’s. There were several timekeepers, including Vikena Yutz (Across the Years 72 hour female champion) who did a masterful job of making sure that everyone received credit for each loop. Between Karen, Kena, and Jarian, I felt as if I had my own cheering section every time I completed a lap.
I managed not to do a face plant but I did slip and fall once as I reached over to throw a water cup into a trash barrel. I fell sideways, scratching my face, banging my knee, and throwing my glasses out of whack. This happened around lap 18 so for the rest of the race I had to keep readjusting my glasses so I could see. At least I did no damage to my wrist and there were no broken bones!
As I began my 48th lap, I called my husband back at the hotel to let him know I was almost done. He appeared at the lake just as I started my last lap. Although official results are not yet up, it looks like I finished 32.5 miles in approximately 8 hours 35 minutes. Instead of medals, finishers were given heavy glass tavern mugs with the Miles for Maria logo on them. Then it was back to the hotel to relax. There was no need to set an alarm for Sunday morning, so we had a good night’s rest, a hearty breakfast at the hotel when we awoke, and then a long drive home. Of course, we had to stop at the Nut House on I-75 for some pecan delicacies and to stock up on Thanksgiving goodies; a stop at Lenscrafters fixed my glasses. All in all, it was a fun trip.
It looks like this will be an annual event. It’s a good choice for walkers who want to try out a timed trail race that is fairly easy (just watch for those occasional roots) with lots of support.