Dawson Forest "Area 51" 25K - Dawsonville, Georgia

Elevation Gain:~1700' ... Elevation Range: 1080'-1170'

May 29, 2021 - I needed a local tune-up race before a mountain 50K in Wyoming in two weeks; this one intrigued me with its name and bling and 8 a.m. start time, so I showed up to test my fitness and check out some new trails in Dawson Forest. Fortunate for all of us, after a day of rain, the temps dropped significantly so that we all enjoyed a run with cool breezes instead of the 94-degree balmy weather that preceded it.

With my 0400 wake-up I seemed to be half asleep at the start, so I headed out easy and let the field chase away with dreams of glory. I've come to like running from the back. I play this game I call Snoopy and the Red Baron, where I catch people through the balance of the race and gradually reel them in, adding them to my count as I move on. With a short event like this, there is not much time to make up lost ground so I have to step it up a bit on the back half.

I took it easy for the first four miles toward the back of the pack before "waking up" and beginning to apply my training. The course was one short out-and-back with a second convoluted loop to pick up the balance of the distance. It was a combination of gravel roads, fire roads and single track red Georgia clay leafy trails. While the course was pretty it was non-descript, without highlights, so I never pulled out my camera.

At race check-in I asked about the significance of the "Area 51" designation for the area and was told essentially that it was originally known as 'Air Force Plant #67", and was a 10-million watt unshielded nuclear reactor initially used in research to develop nuclear powered aircraft during the Cold War from the mid 1950s until 1971. Since then the reactor and associated out buildings, a rail line, and bridges have been dismantled. Stories apparently still abound about other possible uses and effects of Air Force Plant #67, also known as the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory. I didn't pick up anything that would tell me that the facility had anything to do with researching UFO's or warehousing alien technology; the Area 51 attachment is probably more of a local legend, but it is all fun nonetheless.

I managed to pull back seven runners over the course of the event, never falling or even stumbling throughout the day. Once I stepped it up, these old legs proved to be stronger than I would have guessed. I powered through to the finish, holding back enough to keep control, never mis-stepping, and finished in 2 hours and 53 minutes, a solid effort considering minimal training. My take-away is that I will need to extend my training runs in the next week to hold this tempo at the longer race in two weeks. Overall, I was satisifed, and aside from fatigue from the long day, I experienced no more muscle soreness than I would in a normal training effort.

Upon my return to the car, I found a note from a woman I met during the pre-race, Elizabeth James, who apparently was the first woman finisher... because she left me her award with the note on my windshield - a fine bottle of Georgia's best corn mash. Thank you very much, Elizabeth. My race number was once again #111, so I guess the angels were once again lifting me on their wings with blessings and safe passage.