April 16, 2011
Sweetwater State Park outside Atlanta, GA
Course: This year, two loops on mostly single-track trail
It’s the weekend after Zumbro 100 so today’s theme is Fun Recovery. It’s also peak spring wildflower season in a peak year, which I hate to miss by racing other places, so today should be a colorful contrast to last weekend’s early-spring brown. With this theme, I’d like to run well but don’t need to, and that’s a powerful way to face a race.
Powerful is a good way to face this race. Ominous storms repeatedly slam the Atlanta area the night before. Rain floods the streets and the local tornado siren even wakes us up during the night. It will pass by day but this race includes two creek crossings deep enough for our feet to lose contact with the creek bottom and to need a line to cross on a normal day. It will be interesting to see what the creek is like in the morning.
To cross or not to cross is the question on everyone’s mind the next morning. We gather in preparation for the briefing and Steve Michael greets me with the news that Johnny Buice, the race director, has taken out the creek crossing. Rob whoops with joy. Nothing that happens the rest of this day can dampen his relief.
Johnny starts the field and again, I get carried away with the hubbub, the sprint down the fast road section, and all the passing that I lose attention on the way I am running until my problem hip almost grounds me to a halt.
At the trailhead, we turn and get our first look at the water across the spillway. It’s high and surprisingly hard to keep your feet under you. If the spillway is this high, the creek must be amazing.
A mile or so down the trail we get to see, as we run by what would have been the creek crossing. The water is fast and muddy, shuttling chunks of tree that would have easily taken out anyone crossing the creek. Good call, Johnny.
The creek is one thing and the day is another. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast to last night’s storms. The air is crisp and the sky cornflower blue. Most of the flowers held their blossoms and there’s such a variety that it’s hard to run and take them all in. Conditions may never be this primo again and I intend on enjoying it. Even the dreaded powerline section has transformed from death march trail to a chance to glory in the sunshine.
The hilly part of this loop reminds me Massanutten 100 is only a month away. Yikes, where did the time go??? It crept up on me and there are no weekends to squander so I’d better squeeze some specific training in today. I work each hill and wait for Rob at the top.
Surprisingly, water at spillway has risen higher. Water in creek has done the same. The paved surfaces in this metro area must be dumping water into the smaller tributaries so there’s almost a flash flood-like delay between the clouds dumping rain last night and those gazillions of drops collecting en masse in the creek today.
As many different flowers as we spotted on the first loop, we see more now. For an urban park, it’s an impressive bouquet. Even if you have no clue what they are, you have to agree this is a respectably long list:
- Sweet azaleas
- Flame azaleas
- Wood betony
- Dwarf iris
- Rue anemone
- Rattlesnake hawkweed
- Yellow-eyed grass
- Blue star (amsonia tabernaemontana)
- Yellow strawberry
- Purple violets
- Bird’s foot violets
- Hop clover
- Wild geranium
- Wood anemone
- Ox-eye daisy
- Green and gold
- Pitcher plant
The number of friends match the number of flowers. We met Vicky Begalle here on the first lap, all the way from Michigan, get to see Sarah Tynes both loops, and tons of other friends as we go. On the tail end of this loop, we now get to run with the Jasons – Rogers and Sullivan. These two blue-sky attitudes on a blue-sky day make mine extra bright.
With Zumbro still in mind, I sat back today and let things unfold without trying to make them happen one way or another. Sure, I didn’t plan to “race” race and I know I can finish, which automatically lets off pressure, but I still felt a huge weight off my shoulders at not having to have anything happen one way or another. The flowers could have been gone, the day could have been rainy, and the creek crossing could have been left in – I would have done the best I could and been glad to be doing it.
This way is so relaxing, like plugging into a power source instead of draining my power out. Now, if I can do that in a big race…