Cruel Jewel 106M, Blairsville, Georgia

Elevation Range: 1755' - 4271'      Elevation Gain/Loss: 33,000'

May 17, 2019 - Another trip to Vogel State Park to chase the dragon. As my health continues to improve, my confidence and ambitions grows in proportion. So I've lined up a number of tough challenges ahead to challenge my healing parts and get back in the game. Cruel Jewel is always tough. Relentless climbs. I enjoy running here, so I am back.

This time with friends, Tom and Fanny, each of which I was pleased to run with for several miles. The forecast for the race was hot and dry and with a noon start I knew I may have trouble in the early goings. Very deliberately, I began by walking the intial climb with Tom. Like me, Tom also has issues with heat - his are gastro-intestinal in nature; mine are more neurological.

Fanny must have started easy as well, because I caught her by the first aid station after Tom and I separated. Together we ran and chatted until each of us got impatient bringing up the rear of long trains. In turn we passed those ahead of us and moved forward. Eventually I moved ahead of Fanny as my tempo and climbing were quicker.

I took up with a woman named Annie for most of the afternoon. Back and forth, we were quite evenly matched in our abilities, except she was more reckless going downhill, while I climbed more strongly. Despite a long nature break, walking more, and stopping to help three separate runners who were in crisis along the trail suffering from the heat, I arrived at the Wilscot AS at mile 25 ahead of those I was running with, but not in good shape. Losing visual field in my right eye and suffering mild vertigo, I decided not to continue for health reasons. My legs and energy levels and attitude were good. I just cannot afford to pass out in a dead run and land in the rocks or impale myself or have another major concussion. A man must know his limitations. Heat is one of mine. I had three beers while waiting for my friends to arrive and had arranged a ride back to the start.

Fanny came in awhile after I was there, then continued on. It took Tom two hours more to arrive; he appeared to be in worse shape than I. Tom rested awhile until it was dark, then decided he was going to continue. I signed back into the race and told him we could run together. Before leaving with flashlight in hand I talked another runner named Nathan, who had also dropped, into continuing with Tom and I. So, the three of us moved on in the dark.

I felt surprisingly good, after more than a couple hours of rest. The beers re-energized me and I no longer had any brain issues after cooling off. We came up on another runner named Chris who was in real trouble with gastro issues, so I stopped to help him over the hump and nurse him before continuing. After Chris seemed good enough to go, I took off at faster than race pace to catch Tom and Nathan three miles later out to mile 31. At this point I was good to go, surprising even to me, but Tom was wasted beyond recovery. Chris rolled in another hour later as Tom was sitting comatose dealing with his misery. Both Chris and Tom had no choice but to drop. I stuck with them and asked Chris' pacer Johnny to give us all a ride back to the start.

So, our race was done. Perhaps I should have continued, but in the back of my mind I knew the hardest part of the event would be the next day when temps would rise to 90 degrees. For me, it was only a matter of time before I went back into crisis. With that, it was an easy decision.

Tom recovered, vowing to never again run 100 miles. Chris was probably alright; and Nathan, who I talked back into running, went on to finish the race. Kuddos. And Annie and Fanny went the distance to finish in 42 and 44 hours, a long hot run for sure.

No regrets on my part. Just another story. I survived to toe the line another time. It is all play. I stopped when I wasn't having any more fun. And that's the end of that tale!

with Tom Kaplan and Fanny Barrette