Wasatch 100

Wasatch 100

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ryan Martin’s 2011 Mt. Cheaha 50K Race Report

The Mt. Cheaha 50K trail race, which is part of the Montrail Cup, is located near Oxford AL, which is between Birmingham and Atlanta. We arrived in Birmingham on Friday, and after exploring the city, we drove to the race check in. To ensure a good race we had our ritual pizza and a beer which helped us have a good night sleep.

The next morning we were off by 4:50am to Starbucks and then to the finish line for a bus ride (on a caged sheriff bus) to the start. We had perfect weather with sun, temps in the mid 40s, and no wind. Most of the race would be on the Pinhoti trail which is an Appalachian Trail connector from Alabama.

The beginning was great with the trail being covered in pine needles and rolling hills with the company of lots of racers. I was especially happy with my pace on this first part since I made past the first aid (Chandler Springs 3.34 miles) before a train crossed the path and delayed some other runners.

Following the second aid station we had a switch backing climb to a point with some great views of the surrounding hills/mountains. Before we hit the third aid station we were on a fast moving road for about a mile (see video at the bottom of the report).

The next section of the trail was the most challenging and different from western trails. Much of the forest is covered with leafy trees that had fallen on the trail and made it difficult to determine the true trail condition. Underneath the leaves in the next two sections were rocks that were obstructed by the leaves and I had no desire to twist my ankle by trying to go too fast.

For scenery the sections between the Hubbard Creek aid station (mile 18.37), and departing the Lake Chinnabee aid station (mile 21.97) were my favorites. The first part was running along a stream followed by several rolling hills until the descent where we crossed the Chinnabee creek. After a quick out and back, we ran a above the Chinnabee creek overlooking some great summer swimming holes. After a few miles, we reach the Skyway Motorway which was a road that lasted for several miles until we reached the Lake Cheaha aid station (mile 27.9).

After a bottle fill and trash drop it was the last leg of the race to the top of Mt. Cheaha. The first mile was the most challenging with a very steep climb with some scrambling to the top. At the top of the climb, we still had about 1 to 2 miles of running before the finish. In the last stretch, we had some pavement running as we past the summit of Mt. Cheaha before a final section in the woods to the finish. My time was 6:39:24

Personally, I started with an aggressive pace since I had not done a long run since the North Face 50k in December but I had start slowing down about mile 15. This still worked since my goal was to push hard to determine my current conditioning.
In conclusion, The trails were clean, scenery great, well organized, and nice people. I would highly recommend this race.
Below are four videos at various point through the race:

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