BULL MOUNTAIN EPIC 55K - Dahlonega, Georgia
Elevation Range: 1538 '- 2696' ........................... RESULTS
October 2, 2021 - What was slated as a mountain 50K ended up being a long course at 55K or more. While I enjoyed the race immensely, at times it seemed like "a race that never ends". The Dahlonega Ultra Marathon Association (Dumass) always puts on a quality show. This event, deep in the Nimblewill area between Dahlonega and Amicalola Falls, was all new to me. It traced through lovely north Georgia mature forests on mostly singletrack trails, up and down Bull Mountain and rolling through fairly non-descript but very enjoyable woodsy scenery the rest of the way, crossing three wide streams up to knee deep.
The route consisted of three lollipop loops. Each was reported to be about ten miles or so, but by my clock times I would judge the loops to be 10M, 12+M, and 12-M. The 0800 start at 65 degrees saw 64 of us heading out on the quick first loop. Despite a week of rest, my injured left knee was still limiting, as I babied it through my paces with a target of a 15-minute pace. Finishing the first loop in two-and-a-half hours seemed about right. Most of the field had moved ahead, so I was left to myself to focus on tempo as I headed out to climb Bull Mountain in the second loop.
I kept a steady rate of leg turn as I gradually climbed the thousand feet or so to the top of Bull Mountain. My knee was becoming increasingly flexible, but still I had little confidence when the trails turned down, so ran very deliberately coming back down. Throughout the day I only walked a couple of times when the trail became steep. Other than that I was able to run the entire time without need to walk for weariness. Running slower has its benefits as the legs really never get tired, and breathing is always in control.
The second loop seemed to take forever to complete. Only one person passed me in the second loop, and I passed only one other. When I completed the loop with a cumulative time of six hours, I knew the course was long, as I knew I had remained true to my four-miles-per-hour tempo despite the climbs. I did give up some time socializing a bit with runners and at the aid stations and for nature breaks, but this was nominal. My race was unfolding as planned.
The third loop was supposed to be the easiest, but it ended up being long and challenging at times. Nonetheless, I maintained my paces throughout, still not stopping to walk, even on hills. Four runners with younger legs passed me on the last loop. My knee was swollen from inflamation, but it finally seemed to reach a greater range of flexibility, so for the last six miles of the event I challenged it more on the downhills. It responded better than expected, and on the day after, it shows no sign of trauma from yesterday's effort. I am encouraged that it is gradually healing; I just need to keep doing what I've been doing and be patient.
The problem for me is that I am stuck at running 15-minute miles, as that is all I have been able to muster for months now. When I step it up, as I did the previous week at Vogel State Park, my knee lets me know it is not ready for faster running yet. So, I was shocked that it took me 9H and 13M to complete the event, but analyzing it later, I was satisfied that I maintained my target pace throughout. With a few compromises to pace and the course being long, the finish time seems larger than it actually is.
It was a good day. Nice people. Good organization. Temps got into the mid seventies, so it did feel a bit warm in the afternoon, but as I wound toward the finish I in no way was anxious for it to be over. I could have maintained my effort much longer if needed. It is all coming together. I am old and injured; I just have to deal with it with a smile.