Croom Fools Run 50 Miles - a very late and very abbreviated race report
50 mi, 9:33:20, 11:28 avg pace
10th overall, 3rd AG (40-49)
I've always loved this race and this was also 4th time running (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016), it was also a redemptive race after the very challenging time I encountered at the Georgia Death Race just two weeks earlier. I felt like I was actually running this time. So, while 11:28 is not blazing fast, it is definitely faster than walking.
The race starts out on a paved road, and mostly downhill for 0.7 miles, then goes onto a dirt forest service road before turning onto single track for a short loop (about 5 miles) back to the starting area. First couple of miles felt nice and easy as did the whole first 5 miles.
Then, we start the first of the three big loops, running down tucker hill through the heavily rooted sections, up and over some small hills and through a narrow glen that I heard another runner refer to as "beaver gulch", first time hearing that name. The first loop overall was uneventful and mostly pleasant. Temperature wise, things were not so great but fortunately would not get worse. Start temp was low 70's and humid. Fortunately some light rain kept things feeling kind of nice (and made the air in the controlled burn areas a little more tolerable). Towards the end of the first loop I could see a pine tree near the trail, burned at the base and smouldering, with its trunk slowly getting smaller.
Finished the starter loop and first big loop in about 3:40ish. For the start of the second big loop it felt like the rain was on its way (along with some lightning). I prefer running without lightning but there is also a feeling of figurative electricity in the air that makes me want to run faster (this is what I felt at the start of loop 3 right before the big storm hit). But unfortunately it was only the start of loop 2 so I still had to conserve. Lightning got a little bit closer but soon passed. Light rain was on and off for a good part of the race, not nearly enough to soak, just enough to cool. Also, I had insurance, brought a cheap rain poncho with me just in case things got bad - so, they never did get bad and the poncho stayed in its packaging for next time.
The start of the 3rd loop was my low point, I had trouble getting going back to a running pace, extending my walk break more than planned and then when I did start the run pace was not much faster. Overall, pace was not super fast and hopes of breaking 9 hours were gone. Two secondary goals - finish under cutoff (12 hours), finish under 10 hours. For the cutoff I'd just have to keep walking, to go under 10 hours I'd have to actually run (i.e. not walk) most of it - average faster than 15 minute pace. So, eventually I got moving again and looked at each mile under 15:00 minutes as minutes I'd be under 10 hours. They have an aid station just after going through the "pits" with about 4 miles left in the race. Passing through there for the last time, thanked the volunteers and told them that this was my favorite aid station to go through for the third time (although the one on Croom Road was pretty entertaining). Did miles in the 11:00 and 12:00 pace range, one mile at a time until finally was heading back up Tucker hill for the last time.
Last year and 2012 I was under 9 hours, but 2014 my time was 9:38 - that was the year I was training for Western States so my training was pretty serious and I had an annoying nagging cough that day. No cough today, just a little worn from the Death Race two weeks earlier but I did it, kept on moving - past the looming storm which never really got bad (they did get hit pretty bad more towards home), past the low point until done. The race just sort of progressed.
And as always, the race director here, Andy and his volunteers put on a top notch event that feels like family and coming home.