My Music City Ultra 50K Story – Brian B. Williams
My Music City Ultra 50K Story
Every time I think I have really started to figure this running thing out I get truly humbled by a race. The Cheatham proved to be another race like that for me last weekend. Don’t get me wrong I can’t say enough good things about the race. I just was not mentally prepared for the level of difficulty of the course. In my head I was planning on running the first few miles at about a 9 minute pace and then settling in for whatever felt good for the rest of the race. Cody, one of the race directors, had told me the night before that after a few hills in the beginning there were some good sections where you could really leg it out if you wanted. Let me tell you that got me very excited. Well, my first 2 miles averaged right under a 12 minute mile and not knowing what to expect from the rest of the course I was afraid to really push at any point in the race. I just settled in for what I now knew was going to be a long wonderfully challenging day in the woods.
This was the first race in a very long time that I was not super nervous about for weeks before the event. I knew I had trained hard, was healthy and have now run enough 50K’s that the distance is sort of demystified for me. I know there are parts of every ultra that are going to suck, but if you just keep moving they will eventually pass and you will eventually get to the finish line. You just have to live by what I have now learned is a tried and true ultra slogan, “If the bones not showing, keep going!” I have also learned that for me it is so much easier to be in my own head for long periods of time in the woods than it is for any road race. SOME of the hours really do seem to fly by.
The race started with a motivational speech from a race director painted Braveheart style on a horse in the middle of his family farm. He had a Scottish sash made from tied together running shoes over his shoulder and paced back and forth on his horse giving the you can take our lives speech. My first thought was how corny is this, but it turned out to be really great. It was light hearted and really got to point about what we were about to do, which none of us knew was possibly take our lives. The horse decided it wanted to run off in the middle of the speech which was the comic relief everyone needed as well. Then it was time to run.
The race started with beautiful quarter mile of flat family farm before you turned into the woods. Immediately after you turned in the woods you started your first ascent up the ridgeline. I did not think much about it because the race director had told me hills were the first thing to expect. I crested the first up and now it was time to go straight back down the other side. I was halfway down before I realized I was running down the hill out of control and my entire foot was stuffed in the front half of my shoe. When I got to the bottom it was straight up the other side of the ridge. No words can describe what the first hills were really like. I don’t think anybody would expect that kind of terrain from the Nashville area. It was awesome. The top of the second hill or ridge is where the race started to thin out and you had time to regroup and rethink your day.
About mile six we were already spread out enough to feel like you were alone in the woods. I was at the bottom of another hill and standing in the first of many creeks trying to figure out which way to go. The creek was one of the slow, shallow, smooth, rock creeks and they were very slick. I stopped in the middle to look for the next flag to point the direction and when I found it I tried to take off in that direction. Well the creek had other plans and the slick moss put me on my butt. Thankfully, it was early enough in the race where I thought it was funny and laughed, while checking to see if anybody had seen my fall. At the turn around point for the 25K I was feeling sorry for the 25K runners. I thought they had an out and back course and would have to repeat what they had just done. Yes it was that hard, but thankfully they got to go a different direction.
It was mile 11 before I saw another person and mile 14 before I saw another runner. I saw 2 women who had gotten lost in the creek bottoms. I tried to point them in the correct direction but they did not believe me and it cost them about 2 miles in an area of the course that had about 20 creek crossings. I can only imagine how tired they were of going over those slick moss covered rocks.
Somewhere around mile 16 I ran up on a doe and fawn in the woods. The baby was so young it still had spots on it. I spooked the two deer and the mother ran away but the baby was so spooked it bolted right at me. It was a very surreal moment. I thought I was about to be run over by a baby deer. Now, you would think that would not be a big deal but it was not so cute running full speed directly at me. It was almost close enough to touch when it changed directions and I got out of harm’s way.
At mile 20 I hooked up with another runner. He was running his first 50k and was having a pretty good day. We talked and passed each other back and forth for the next long while. When we got back to the aid station where the 25K’ers turned around we saw a guy throwing up in the woods and needing help. I wonder what happened to him. I asked the folks working the station if we had to go back the same way we had come in and to my relief we got to go a different direction full of all kinds of new torture to discover. I looked at the guy I had been running with and asked him if he was ready to go because at this point in my race company was worth a lot more than a few minutes shaved off my time. He said yes and that he agreed about the company so we headed out together. He started cramping only a few minutes later and I shared some enduralytes which he had never heard of. He told me later that I saved his life out there and he never would have done so well without the company and help. I felt the same way.
The last 5 miles turned out to be relatively uneventful. The terrain was such that you could run the entire time although the switchbacks down the last mountain where truly the devils plaything. The last 2 miles you knew you were getting close but you felt like you would never pop out of the woods. I had been jockeying with 3 runners for position the last 3 to 4 miles. One of us would break ahead giving everything we had left and then stalling letting the rest pass. Then it would happen to the next leader and around it went for the last 30 minutes of the race. I ended up having enough left where I could push in and finished very strongly. The only other thing that I am more proud of is the fact that I did not get lost and I got to pass that torch Jack who got to see some of Cheatham several times.
I loved this race even though I had to sacrifice 3 toenails to finish it. The race directors were genuine and truly cared about the experience everyone was having. I loved the hills, nature, animals, slimy creeks, fallen trees, heat, humidity, rain, friends new and old, rain, my borrowed yellow shirt, the bologna and wings, and the horse that almost ran away with John the race director.