Until the latest edition to the Yeti Trail Series, it had been a while since I hit the ultra distance. The Yeti Snakebite 50k was based in and around Sweetwater Creek State Park (familiar territory to me) and advertised as a “great course for first time 50kers.” With the aforementioned stats- along with awesome volunteers as well as premium adult post-race beverages- I easily can say that this inaugural 50k was a blast.
However, what I didn’t expect was stifling heat and humidity on race day (yes, it was August in Georgia but our summer has been fairly mild). We all know that it’s been rainier here than Seattle, WA (and I would know because I just got back from a 2-week trip which included a jaunt to the summit of Mount Rainier), but the previous week squeezed out several pretty hot and humid days that. To prepare for the heat, I chose a Mountain Hardwear racing vest and coated my Scottish skin with SPF 50. I had a few snacks just in case I felt stranded, but the aide stations on this course had plenty of goodies like salted steamed potatoes and my summer racing treat, watermelon!
The course was an out and back with one small lollipop at the beginning to ensure the 50k distance was reached. After Jason, the race director, yelled out the start, the field headed out on a short stretch of pavement before the single track. The fast 50miler men went out to mark their territory (including fellow RC race teammate Eric Loffland) with a few 50kers in tow. The first lollipop was exclusively state park trails (as opposed to Jason’s hand-cut single-track on adjacent property). At the first water aide station the runners were addressed to cross the bridge and make a loop. This loop- which I would have to tackle again, but in the opposite direction- included a gravel road (a terrain I am not particularly fond of) and one steep hill. I took a mental note that I would probably struggle on this loop on the way back, but I pushed the thought aside and kept in mind the next 16miles I would encounter before returning to the dreaded loop.
Once back over the bridge you get to cruise along flat terrain right next to the river with a few groomed trails next to the visitor’s center. Here I approached the first food aide station. There were tons of goodies and I was in heaven. I grabbed the traditional gummy bears, a few steamed potatoes, and some watermelon for the go. I made it back to the river shortly after the pit stop and eventually headed out of the park to tackle Jason’s winding trails on the other side of the park boundary. Within this section was only one unmanned water station, followed by three miles to the turnaround. These three miles included some more single track, a grass field, a little bit of pavement, exposed gravel road, and some power-line cuts before the final pavement to the Oz Pizza Aid station (a pizza joint conveniently located near the trails).
At this point the 50milers would continue their endeavor along the Chattahoochee River and some seriously exposed terrain, while the 50k racers started their return to the finish. At the Oz Pizza aid station I was doted on by numerous volunteers. One volunteer asked to take my hydration pack and new, environmentally friendly reusable water cup (provided to each runner in our race packet) with ice and PowerAde. I grabbed a few more treats such like Rice Krispy Treats, more gummy bears, and more watermelon. I splashed myself with the cold sponges to cool off my core and extremities and made my way back over the next 13miles of which I had just tackled. After about ten minutes or so, I reached the second female and made a mental note of what time I was working with to try and reach the finish line with my placing intact.
In contrast to my run to the turn-around, the return had a lot more walking. My body finally realized it was running a distance that I hadn’t run in a few years, and she wasn’t happy. I made it back into the Sweetwater Creek Park and tried to maintain the distance I had in front of the pack of women I had seen near the turnaround. There were a few 50k men in front of me and I reached one that I had just met earlier that day; he was lying down on a bench.
I told him to get his butt in gear and come shuffle along these last 8 miles with me. He agreed to get up and continue the race, which made my last portion more enjoyable too. It was a win- win situation: he had an encouraging coach to push him through his heat exhaustion and I had someone to keep me company during the last stretch.
I refueled at the last aid station and crossed the bridge for the last time and made my way back to the shelter where the finish line and supporters patiently waited. I crossed the line at 6hours, 8min and change as the first female 50k finisher.
This time was about twenty minutes slower than my last 50k, but I know that the heat and humidity got the best of me.
I am so thankful for everyone who contributed to a great inaugural race and also very proud of my friends- old and new – for completing and finishing their first 50ks or first 50 milers. With the 13 hour cut off, many runners accomplished their goals and I was happy to cheer them on. Huge thanks again to all the volunteers, the race director, and those runners who pushed me through to the finish line!