So, this past weekend was definitely an adventure like no other! I participated in a three stage mountain race that ended up totaling 35.63 miles (I got lost a couple of times adding on extra miles to what was supposed to be a 50K race). This race took place in a tiny town called Oliver Springs at Windrock Park. Windrock Park has 72,000 acres of ATV, mountain bike, and cross country trails and is also home to the Tennessee Valley Authority Windmill Farm, which powers much of the surrounding area. I won a free entry to this race through the event- Dirty Bird Events- and was stoked to do my first ultra-type of race.
The first leg of the race took place on Saturday morning and was a four mile loop on a very technical single track trail. This trail was pretty steep and I was so excited, that I ended up charging all of the hills with full energy! I learned very quickly that this park was very rocky and that I would need to wear better shoes for the next legs, as I stubbed my toes several times on some pretty sharp rocks. This trail was a great warmup and taste of the next two legs of the race. I probably shouldn’t have pushed so hard during this first event (I placed first for females) because I needed that energy for the next two events!
The second leg, taking place Saturday evening was the “10K” uphill climb. I place 10k in quotations here, because it was actually a 7.5 mile course, but ended up being 8.25 for me after getting lost. This uphill climb took place on ATV trails, which provided it’s own challenge of dodging four wheelers and dirt bikers speeding down the steep mountain terrain! On this leg of the race, I climbed about 3,000 feet to to part of Buffalo Mountain where you can see the entrance of the windmill farm that we would get to enter the next day. Parts of this course were so steep that I literally bear crawled my way up to the top. This course was not for the weak minded and definitely tested my limits! At the end I could hear fellow participants shouting my name, but I could not see the finish and I seriously thought I had a psychotic break and was hearing voices. Luckily, it was only a .25 mile stretch and I learned, that I was not losing it! I placed 4th in females for that leg of the race.
The third leg of the race took place on Sunday morning. I had so many doubts running through my head after having done the first two legs the day before. My body was so tired, but I was determined to accomplish my goal of completing all three stages. This course had a very rough start of steep climbing up several jeep trails to the top of Buffalo Mountain. We also climbed boulders, rocks, and ran through deep mud at several points of the course. At mile four, I almost caved and actually shed a few tears after realizing how much pain I was actually in. I told myself that I would just get to the aid station and probably hitch a ride back to the finish. However, by the time I reached the aid station two other runners had reached me and I told myself, If I can hang with them for a few more miles, I will re-evaluate how I am doing. This worked, I ran with these two runners for several miles after that and was informed that they all thought about quitting as well. The three of us kept each other motivated and pushed each other up almost 3,400 feet of elevation to the Windmill Farm. When registering for the race, I really thought the Windmill Farm would be the best part of the course. While, this farm is not open to the public and we really were getting a treat to run through it, that 2.5 mile stretch of gravel road seemed to never end. We had run 13 miles up Buffalo Mountain to get there and by that time, I was so physically and mentally exhausted! I get to see these windmills everyday on my drive to work and I never imagined them to be so HUGE up close! They are pretty amazing to see up close! I also realized that there are at least 30+ windmills up there, but can only see 3-4 from the bottom of the mountain! Once we got out of the windmill farm, we only had about four miles of Steep downhill running to finish. I thought, “oh, this will be great on my legs…”. WRONG! Running straight down a mountain after being in physical pain and fatigue is very hard. I slipped and fell several times, so I literally rolled down some parts of this descent. I have scrapes, cuts, and a sore shoulder as a result, but I made it down alive!
At several points, I never thought I would finish that race. I felt like I was in a Saw movie and someone had played a sick joke on us to see if we could make it out of the woods alive. I was very glad to have taken food, water, and gatorade with me as I would have passed out if I had not had proper fuel. I know I burned over 4,000 calories just in the 22 miler (my watch died and lost signal at mile 12 so I don’t have an accurate count) and I burned about 3,500 the day before. I lost six pounds in one weekend from the events and that was with eating the whole run (picky bars, bananas, and even a pb&j sandwhich) and consuming two plates of spaghetti and three angry orchard ciders on Saturday night. To be honest, I probably should have done a less challenging 50K for my first ultra, but I am so glad that I did this one because I feel so accomplished. Every time I drive to work and see those windmills I will know that I can conquer anything that I set my mind to. I would definitely recommend this race to someone who wants a race that will change their life and their outlook on what they can accomplish with their bodies and minds! I also made several new friends to hopefully share new adventures with!