Powering Up at SweetH2O 50k

Running lighter today and loving it.

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.

Getting ready.

Lap 1

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.

Hmm. Heading down into the spillway.

And across. Vicky Begalle in the lead of our pack.

Still bunched up at the next narrowing down of the trail. Naresh Kumar smiles back in blue.

Tricky section down to creek level.

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.

This would have been our crossing - see our rope dipping into the creek in the middle?

Rob's so happy about the creek crossing he could hug Johnny.

Graham Gallemore treads cautiously along what was the trail.

Wet feet all day today.

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.

Still red clay but at least we're not baking on it today.

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.

Time for hill work.

And some downhill work too.

Lap 2

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.

Even decorated with azaleas, the creek intimidates.

The waterline's definitely higher this loop.

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
  • Jasmine
  • Bignonia
  • Rattlesnake hawkweed
  • Yellow-eyed grass
  • Trillium
  • Blue star (amsonia tabernaemontana)
  • Yellow strawberry
  • Purple violets
  • Bird’s foot violets
  • Hop clover
  • Wild geranium
  • Wood anemone
  • Pussytoes
  • Bluets
  • Phlox
  • Dogwood
  • Sweetshrub
  • Ox-eye daisy
  • Fleabane
  • Green and gold
  • Pitcher plant
  • Sweet azalea.

    And it's cousin, flame azalea.

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.

(l-r) Jason Sullivan and Jason Rogers.

Ronnie Hines at the start.

Randy Saxon leads a group of Mississippi runners.

Lori Ladd and Iva Lightsey catch some sun.

Naresh Kumar stretches his stride.

Rob with the most excellent Sarah Tynes.

Yep, this is a happy bunch. Rob, Jason Rogers, and Jason Sullivan.

Vicky Begalle and Diane Taylor pause to pose.

Steve Michael at the finish. I love how he always calls me "kid".

Looking Back

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…

3 Responses to “Powering Up at SweetH2O 50k”

  1. Jason Rogers says:

    As always, I had a lot of fun running with you and Rob at this race. This was a day blessed with perfect weather and amazing friends.

  2. Al Di micco says:

    Amazing race report Susan. Sounds like you had a ball in a race that defines why we like what we do. Good luck in your very busy race schedule. Sure enjoy reading your blog.

  3. Susan says:

    Thank you Al, I really appreciate it!

    Jason, that’s one of those days I wish I could bottle for later. The best I can do is just be there 100% while I’m there. Thanks for helping to make it such a wonderful day!

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