Heat doesn’t usually bother me a bit, and I certainly prefer warm weather to cold, but this weekend’s race nearly did me in. Pity the poor runners who signed up for the 72 hour race; some – like strongman Kevin – did amazingly well, with over 200 miles at last count, while others suffered in the oven-like heat. Even my friend Sally, who wins practically every race she enters and, as a fellow Floridian, is accustomed to hot weather, decided to call it a day after reaching the 100 mile point. I was glad, under these circumstances, that I only registered for the 12 hour race, but even 12 hours was too much for me.
The course is a .85 miles loop located behind Omaha Brewery, a wonderful oasis in western Georgia farm country near the Alabama border. Although the terrain is primarily dirt and dust, there are a couple of small roots sticking upright or looping across the track. Of course, I managed to stumble over them and had to watch my footing carefully, especially as the day wore on and I got more fatigued. While the 72 and 48 hour participants started at 2 pm on Thursday and Friday respectively, those doing the 12 hour with me began Saturday at 8 am. This gave me a good 4 hours before the sun reached its zenith and during those hours I was feeling strong.
However, by 1 pm the heat intensified, and the few steep inclines and descents began to feel like mountains. I could feel myself huffing and puffing as I chugged up and coasted down them. There is no shade on the course except for a few places under the surrounding trees. On my way around the loop, I realized I was stopping in every one of those little spots to catch my breath and remove myself from the sun’s direct glare. My hopes of achieving a 50k in under 10 hours quickly dissipated. I decided a marathon distance would be achievable without requiring a trip to the ER, so I reconsidered my goal.
By 4 pm I must have looked sickly and pale because RD Kena approached me and asked if I wanted to sit in her air-conditioned car for a bit. I took her up on her generous offer. She also encouraged me to drink some electrolyte solution and had me check in with Doctor Joe, the MD on call, to make sure I wasn’t suffering from heat exhaustion. I decided to do a couple more laps to make sure I had at least 26.2 miles and then decided to call it a day. I collected my medal (a useful bottle opener) and thanked Kena and her crew for a fun if dramatically overheated race. Darcy and I packed up my chairs and drop bag and repaired to the air-conditioned brewery where we absorbed some of the local color by eating delicious food from the two food trucks, drinking excellent beer, and listening to live music.
In the future the race will probably be moved to a cooler time of year and that would certainly be a blessing. Whether I do the General and the Mrs. again is uncertain but I will definitely visit Omaha Brewery whenever I’m in the area.
Other things to note:
- The tee shirt is a comfortable short-sleeved cotton in a subtle yellow color
- There is no hotel or large grocery store nearby. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Columbus, which made it a 45 minute drive to and from the race site
- There is one aid station with all kinds of ultra goodies, plus grilled sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers, water, soda (including ginger ale), electrolyte solutions. About halfway around the loop is a table set up with ice water and electrolyte drink and I made it a practice to stop there quite a few times
- There were 2 portapotties on the course and 4 at the start/finish line. Despite my decision to only do races with real bathrooms, I made an exception in this case. I wanted to have something in-between Operation Endurance in March and Southern Discomfort in July and this seemed to fit
- The race has 1, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hour options but only the 12 hour started in the morning. The other races began at 2 pm
- If you are going to be racing during the evening hours, be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight. I was told it was extremely dark during the nighttime.
- The races are a fundraiser for the Chattahoochee Valley Chapter of House of Heroes, so registration fees and monies raised by runners goes to a great cause
Results have not yet been posted but I was told I completed 27 miles. Despite my love of hot weather, I was not sufficiently acclimated to walking in 100 degree heat for an extended period of time. My usual training walks had purposely been in the early morning hours before sunup. This race experience made me realize that I need to do some serious heat training, especially if I want to do well at Southern Discomfort in late summer, another hot weather race.