The Duncan Ridge Trail 50k takes place in North Georgia near Blairsville, starting and finishing from Vogel State Park. Billed as the ‘toughest 50k in the southeast’; it utilizes the Coosa Backcountry Trail and the Duncan Ridge Trail. At just over 31-miles, with 10,000ft of vertical climb (and equivalent descent), the course promises a challenge to any runner. So I decided to give it a whirl!
Since I've never run those trails, I drove down the day before the race to scout portions of the trail. The Race Director (RD) also offered a pre-race packet pickup that Friday evening. I always prefer pre-race packet pick ups so I can see what kind of bib, or number, or timing chip is being used so I may make the necessary adjustments. Got to have everything dialed in and reduce as many race-day surprises as I can.
Ever integrated your alarm clock into your dreams? Yea well I got to the race venue just 15min before the start. So much for reducing race-day surprises... I whipped into the parking lot, ran my stuff to the bag-drop, and then went back to my truck for final preparations. It was cool out (~50*), windy, cloudy, and misty; I was expecting just a +/-5* temp change as a high-pressure system moved in over the day. I tend to run hot on race day so just shorts/singlet/visor should suffice, right? I'll come back to that.
The bEast Coast mountain trails were as expected, tons of wet leaves, roots, and rocks. Most of the climbs were strait up and over peaks; the trail was riddled with mud and fallen trees to climb or dip under. There were even points when the trail was barely there and thankfully that’s where the RD placed orange surveyor flags to keep runners on course.
I was prepared and expecting these rough conditions. I regularly run trails in Pisgah National Forest and got a good deal of training in at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park this summer; but the wind and cold got to me Saturday. I couldn't feel my hands for more than half of the time, with wind chill it dropped MUCH more than the anticipated +/- 5deg.
Racing makes you do silly things sometimes. I attempted to run with my fingers under my armpits at times for added warmth. It looked like your imaging, like a bearded distance runner doing the chicken dance while covering intense single track over a mountain as quickly as possible: awkward. The chicken dance posture didn't work well so I just focused on keeping moving, not only for the race, but for warmth and the thought that the faster I run the sooner this will be over.
I was pleased to not see the front-runner until ~1mi from the turnaround of the out and back course. At the 15.5mi mark I did the drop bag thing, I crushed a double espresso and a handful of roasted almonds. Now back to the start/finish line! The return trip was tough, slogging up steep mucky pitches, beaten up by runners before and after me... I thought the return trip was supposed to be easier!
Now my goal to the finish, NOT GET PASSED. I convinced myself that there was always someone behind me just around the bend, just out of sight. It worked. I made it back to the start line in 6hrs, 49minutes. Earning 6th place overall in my first 50k race!
The Duncan Ridge Trail 50k is NO JOKE. While it is a tough course, the race is very well run, the aid stations are well stocked, and the volunteers I met along the way were great and very supportive! I suggest this race (or the 30k ‘short’ option) for any runner looking for a challenge. The cut-off times were generous allowing participants of almost any pace to finishing the course. There were ample options to drop-out in the event of an injury or being ill-prepared. This race is for the ‘purists’ out there, no awards or age groups, just a finisher’s prize (a nice synthetic hat or a pint glass), and of course, bragging rights.
This year there were 185 starters, 163 total finishers, 72 30k Finishers, 91 50k finishers, 22 DNF's, and 19 dropped to the 30k from the 50k.
If I find myself still on the East Coast next year, I'll definitely be back for more!
Mark your calendars for November 22, 2014!!!
Adventure Geek Racing Team Member
I read the rant and the retort. I have my own unique take on it. From old military days and mind/war games to bouncing and bodyguarding to now marketing in radio for 25 years, I've learned to recognize a reaction similar to the primal 'fight or flight'.
The male creature much more often than not responds to things they are ignorant or fearful of with faux anger, often laced with weak attempts at humor or irony. Stafko is a large, unfit man with a type of Napoleonic complex. He can't be you or beat you, so he'll attempt to berate you. Rather than admit ignorance and learn, his tact is to defer from him to you. He's the bully on the playground who's the frightened kid in reality. The frat boy who still calls a beer a "brewski" long after the last kegger, and he is in loathing of himself.
Suck it up buttercup, from one fat bald old guy to a younger fat boy, better to be a moving target than a bump on a log. Grow some stones rather than throwing them. Lace up a pair of sneakers, struggle through a 5K and finish dead damn last, but feel the honest rush of knowing you finished it and no one can take that away from you. Back away from the buffet big boy, you'll find a lot of athletes willing to share, teach, cajole and love you into being more than a bitter self hating asshat. Phew! Was that a B.A.R.? And as an aside, Fartleks still make me giggle.
~Adventure Geek Russ
Big Elk Marathon
Starting from the fairgrounds, the course will travel north on road for approximately ¾ mile before turning right onto the Orange trail. The orange trail consists of mostly double-track with some single track sections and enough rock gardens to make you thankful you chose to wear your trail specific racing shoes. This segment will feature some light rolling hills for about 1.5 miles before turning onto some unnamed single track. After a quick downhill and easy stream crossing, the course will zigzag up and down a series of hairpin turns before letting out on a short, steep rocky downhill that will serve as a great separation point for the mountain goats from the trail sprouts. At the bottom of this trail, runners will follow some grassy double-track along the Big Elk Creek before crossing over on a bridge and reaching the first aid station (~mile 3.5).
From the first aid station, runners will proceed briefly on some double-track/service road before jumping on uphill single track bringing you to the Route 273 crossing. After going over the bridge, you will have a brief flat gravel road to stretch your legs out before turning right on some more single track. This single track is mostly non-technical but will bring you through a series of sharp turns before letting you out back onto the gravel road surrounding the creek. Water and aid will be waiting for you at the end of this trail (~mile 5).
After another brief (.25 mile) on gravel road along the water, you will again cross the Big Elk creek onto the Yellow trail. You will follow this single-track rolling trail on the west side of the creek for slightly over a mile before crossing over the gravel road (possible self serve water-refill spot) and through a field to get to the 7 Bridges trail. This single-track section will feature some significantly technical sections from roots, with a few steep changes in grade as you wind through the woods in this area of the park. This trail will let you back out onto the gravel road which you will follow up to Gallaher Rd, and crossing into the parking lot for the red trail where full aid will be waiting (~mile 8.5).
The race will then travel through the inner red-loop featuring some rooted sections and small stream crossings for 1.5 miles, before traveling uphill towards Big Elk Chapel Road. Water will be waiting at the road crossing (~mile 10.5). You will then continue through a field before entering trails surrounding the training grounds. This trail will wind around and gently roll, as well as featuring some small stream crossings. The course will then continue along the edge of the field travelling east with a quick aid station available (~mile 11.5).
In the final segment of the course you will travel briefly uphill on some moderately rooted single-track trail, continue across a training field before joining the last 1.5 mile segment of rooted single track bringing you back to the fairgrounds.
Overall, the course features rolling hills with no significant “climbs”. Depending on the rainfall leading up to race day, keeping your feet dry may be an option, although it may require a bit of extra effort! The course has some technical elements with rocks along the first several miles of the course, leaving way for significant roots waiting to trip you up over the last half of each loop.
Dear Plotting Runner,
Listen, I’ve known runners that run up to 140 miles a week just to compete on the track in 5ks and 10ks.
And I’ve known runners that have completed marathons averaging less than 20 miles a week in training.
While both of those are almost always poorly conceived plans, you can see how varied mileage can be. And yes, it’s not easy to know what the exact amount is that’s right for you.
But I think we can narrow it down.
Here’s the first step
It probably won’t surprise you because it’s so stupid simple: Start easy and build up.
When I say easy, I mean easy. You should be saying to yourself, “man, is that it?!”after every run for your first couple weeks. Most beginners would do best to run no more than 4 runs of 2-4 miles in their first week. Target 12-15 total.
Most veterans ought to start at half the volume (or less) of their peak mileage to date. For me, that’s 90 miles. So I’d never start a fresh training block with more than 45 miles in week 1.
How to build your mileage
You should increase your mileage every week or every two weeks. Try to increase by no more than 20% at a time. Otherwise, you’re asking to get hurt.
Beginners should build up to 30 miles a week at the most. If you get there quickly, simply repeat each week until you feel great doing it. That’s a remarkable achievement for your first training cycle! At 30 miles, you will be well prepared for any race shorter than a marathon.
Keep in mind, many high school distance runners race at all-state level off of no more than 30 miles a week.
Now, what to do if this ain’t your first rodeo…
Start incorporating your past experience. If you’ve already gone through a training cycle, your weekly mileage now depends on many factors for which you have a personal knowledge base, so evaluate how it went last time.
If it went well, look to build steadily until you’re running 5-15 more miles per week than you’ve ever ran before.
If it went poorly, build your mileage to the point where training soured last time. This is your opportunity to work on your durability with complimentary core and stability exercises. And relax – you can, and will, still race fast.
In fact, I’ve seen many outstanding college runners race fastest during some of their lowest mileage seasons. You can do the same, no question. Success is about far more than mileage.
I hope you now have an idea of where to start and finish. But we’re not quite done. Here are several other tips for setting a mileage schedule that can work for you:
· Pull out a calendar and backtrack from your race date. Now plot out how to steadily increase your mileage toward your “peak mileage” in even increments. I suggest hitting this peak 2 weeks before your race.
· Be realistic about the time commitment needed to pull off the mileage you’re considering.
· If this is one of your first few “serious” training cycles, consider tracking by minutes instead of mileage. You’ll do better that way, I promise.
· Record your training daily in a running log. Tabbing up each week will be easier. More important, a log keeps you accountable and will be a valuable resource next time you decide how much training you should bite off.
· Stick to your schedule and execute it evenly. I can’t tell you how many people I know damaging their opportunity at good fitness because of inconsistency.
I hope you agree that the best way to improve your running ability and prevent injury is to listen to your body and stay patient. Don’t let your mileage goals conflict with that broader strategy. It’s better to take an extra week to adapt to your current mileage than to push ahead when you sense you’re fatigued.
A final thought
Mileage is part of a balanced training plan. Nothing is better for your running ability than running, BUT remember to do all the little things (stretch, sleep, hydrate, eat) to complement your miles.
Best wishes for healthy running and fast racing!
Adventure Geek Race Team Applicant
P.S. My suggestions are based off of more than 10 years of experience. I have not researched these notions extensively in the lab or the literature, so if you’d like, please comment to this article with your respectful two cents or any questions.