I felt most at home on the cut trails but really enjoyed the bushwhacking (despite nearly bleeding out after the first loop). The roads were not as scary as I had imagined, but still my least favorite.
Summary: 2nd place finish with 56.5 miles on a variety of running surfaces including bushwhacking, newly cut trails, fields, and some road. Some representative pictures of each of these below...
The lead pack including Will, Case, Carl and I set out on a good pace for the initial 2.5mi road section of the North Loop, arriving at the field and cut trail all together. The lead swapped around every time someone took a wrong turn here and I think I was a couple back when we crawled through a hole in a fence and began the singletrack section over some interesting exposed rock (picture to left). I danced into the lead and stretched it out a little through here. Case later remarked that I took off so fast on this section he didn't even notice I was gone. I think that was probably just because we were all watching our feet so closely! It was great toward the end of this section seeing Laz and some of the race volunteers as they cheered us through the woods. It took 49 minutes to complete the 5.5 mi North Loop the first time and then it was out on the more challenging terrain of the 4 mi South Loop.
I burned a few minutes trying to figure out how to begin the South Loop, backtracking to the start at one point and shouting to Laz, "Hey, where's the course go?". Definitely should have taken a look at the course before the race started. Will and Carl caught up to me here and probably had a good laugh as I was approached by a feral pit bull looking mongrel dog(i.e. the TN welcome committee ). This thing would not leave me alone so I picked up and started swinging a big stick. Finally I got away and started bushwhacking my way through the briers and brush. Will was just behind me and we overlapped a few times as I would stop and scurry about looking for markers. (Note: Terrible race strategy to be out in front at this point!). I finally got back to the start/finish concluding the 1st full figure 8 loop in 1:30 (World Record). The race volunteers were a little shocked to see anyone and said, "did you miss a turn or something?!", to which I had to laugh... "No, I missed about 10 turns, and had to backtrack to get back on 'course'"!
The next figure 8 started with a reverse direction North Loop. 20 or 30 minutes in I saw Carl and Will coming at me with Paul Melzer not far behind. First thought was: Hey, this is a reverse loop, right? They confirmed that it was, but that I must have missed a turn and got back on course going the wrong direction. This seemed unlikely to me at the time since I felt like I had always been following markers, but there are sections of the North Loop that are like cerebral cortex and I probably left course briefly and picked up markers again without even noticing. (Drat, burned my lead). Carl later said I probably picked up an extra .6mi. I have no idea. Carl and Will were engrossed in a conversation about something at this point and somehow I had gotten in between them and was making it harder for them to communicate, so I asked Will if I could step through. I kept a small lead back to the start and we all headed out together on a reverse South Loop. I finally regained some sense here and settled into a nice pace with Carl and Will on point. Much easier to follow them than find the markers myself! At this point we were already able to see the beginnings of a trail forming. (This would continue until later in the day someone described the South Loop as a "Superhighway" ... at least compared to the first pass through.) Will, Carl and I wrapped up this loop together and headed back out on the North Loop again in the initial CCW direction with Will and Carl gapping me on the road.
I lost sight of Will and Carl when we got to the field and singletrack sections of the 3rd North Loop. I was carrying 1 bottle here and thought I was drinking about half a bottle at the start/finish aid station, so I was surprised to notice that I was pretty dehydrated. This got worse as the loop progressed and by time I got back to the start I was in the ditch. Novice mistake. A smart person even tried to warn me about this and I still blew it. I happily accepted a second hand bottle here and spent some time trying to get some more fluids down. My North Loops at this point were 49, 1:04 and now 1:07, but I had been off course that 2nd one so my pace was slowing worse than it looks.
One more South loop in 50 minutes and an out and back got me to the 50k in 5:37. My South Loop splits were 40, 43, and 50 - definitely some dehydration slowing me down there.
2 more figure 8s brought me to the 50M point in 9:23. I got my North Loops back to 1:01s and South Loops were very comfortably 50 and 56 with some walking and fw conversations with folks going the other way (John Price and Abi Meadows). When I got back to the start Carl was wearing pants and lounging in a chair. I congratulated him on some fantastic running and let him know I wasn't quite done yet. I thought maybe he'd want to join me for another loop, but he was pretty satisfied with the day and his weekly mileage in prep for Mother Road 100 coming up. Carl's the man. Vol State Winner a couple yrs ago and super nice guy.
I took one last easy North Loop in 1:16, doing some walking and taking in the sights. I went reverse direction from Will so I saw he was ahead by a couple miles and knew there was no catching him with time remaining. When I got back to the start I had 55.6 miles and Will had taken off on one more South Loop to try to get as close as he could to the 100k mark. Carl had a pretty firm grip on 3rd place but had to put his flip flops on and walk a couple of the .5 mi out and back sections to hold off Paul Melzer. I opened a Two Hearted Ale and joined the shenanigans, adding another mile for 56.6 total for a podium finish in my only race in 2010!
This weekend was a total blast. The course, the volunteers, the support, perfect weather... Great crowd of Hardrock/Barkley/Vol State veterans and up and comers. And Laz...the whole Cantrell Clan really including Sandra, Case, and Amy... just priceless. Couldn't ask for more in a weekend. Some very special people came together to support this madness. People who do this because it is simply what they enjoy doing with their time. Hoping to spend a lot more time with these folks in the years to come. Thanks all!
Final Results that Laz sent out:
1) will taggart 61 miles
2) joe lea 56.5
3) carl laniak 51
4) paul melzer 50.5
5) mark dorion 47
6) abi meadows 44.5
7) shannon burke 41
8) case cantrell 40
9) josh weisner 36.5
10) john price 35.5
11) leonard martin 33.5
12) thomas nagies 33
13) michael hall, iliana dimitrova, diane taylor, mike potter, susan thompson, stuart gleman, mike dobies, naresh kumar, mike melton, mike o'melia, mike samuelson, steve durbin 31