This is our first race report from Johnny Clemons, the newest member of the team and a certified beast on the trail. Great job, Johnny!
UPDATE: see below for Owen Bradley’s input!
The night before the first annual GA Jewel 50k I had a dream I had super speed and endurance. In my dream I was running fast, but could not figure out where to go. I kept passing the turns, and backtracking my steps. No matter how fast I went, everyone kept catching back up to me, and my record-breaking speed was wasted. Well, that’s a lot like what started to happened in this race.
It was a beautiful morning for a 50k. The weather had cooled to the low 40’s with no wind and it looked to be a sunny day. I was excited to be running a course that was easy with little climbs. After all, that’s what the course description read! LOL…
At the starting line, it was good to see familiar faces. It doesn’t take long to make friends at a trail ultra. We are there to spend the day together! My wife Rachel was already making friends as we toed the line in front of an old white farm house. I was happy to see Owen Bradley (Rock/Creek teammate) in the race; I knew I would have someone to run with.
As we started the race, Owen and I went out fast down a gravel driveway to the back of the old white house. We ran fast for about 400 yards then turned left into a cow field. We stopped running and looked around and to see where to go next. That is pretty much how the first 15.5 miles went. Remembering my dream, there was no way I was going to take off anymore. Owen and I worked the course together. We opened the gates and cut the paths. There was a lot of weeds and thorns everywhere. We made jokes about how the course description led us to believe it was an easy course. I said this race should be renamed to the Barkley 50K after the Barkley 100.
We ran together for the first 18 miles. A large portion of the course was not a trail… just thorns, grass, woods, and creeks. We got cut up a lot by the thorns… and barbed wire fences! Many creek crossings. It even had a hill that was a lot like blue hell from Mt. Cheaha 50K, which we had to run twice. It felt like it was straight uphill. Then there was another climb just over a mile long, which we climbed twice.
We ran with goats, dogs, and a lot of cows. The goats followed us for about a mile up the long climb, which was pretty cool. It felt like we were in a different country. The race was an honest 31.3 miles by my GPS; Owen said it was one of the toughest course he’d ever run.
I stayed way back from what I had planned for the first half and first loop at 2:14. After running 2 to 3 more miles with Owen, he told me to go ahead. I made sure he was OK then the race was on with the clock.
Knowing the path that we’d made, and with the gates now opened, I ran a negative split of 1:51. My last ten miles (with a mile long hill) was 1:07; an average of 6:42 a mile, with one mile in 5:18! I ran fast when I could… that was fun!
I stayed on top of nutrition and, honestly, I felt great the whole time. I won in 4:06. Not bad, but I feel like I’m ready for sub-4-hour trail 50k’s.
After the race I learned that we climbed over 5000 ft… and that I had poison ivy. I really had a fun time. It sure was an adventure! My wife and I made some friends, and that’s what it’s all about.
From Owen Bradley:
“Based on the over-simplified course description provided online, I was expecting a relatively flat and fast 15.5 mile loop course for the 50k. I could not have been more shocked with the chaos that ensued in the next 5 hours of my life. Here is my best effort at describing the course:”
“Racing in a field of high grass toward small pink flags, squeezing through a barely opened gate, running amongst cows, moving over the loose ground of a freshly cut bulldozer trail, climbing up three big hills in the first five miles spray painted at the top in Gary Cantrell fashion, frequent stops to try and determine which way to proceed in the leaf-covered forest, undoing a motorcycle strap to open a barbed wire gate, more bushwhacking through woods with no trail whatsoever following pink ribbons hanging from tree branches, being chased for over 1/2 a mile by a mangy looking dog and a herd of goats wearing bells, a tough mile climb on a gravel road followed by another climb to the water town and a massive decent, then throw in some creek crossings and spider webs since Johnny Clemons (my Rock/Creek teammate) and I were the first runners around the course. And that was just the first loop.”
“Johnny and I worked together on the fist loop since trying to stay on course required two sets of eyes. We completed the first loop in 2:14, which caused the race director to run a quarter mile down the road with us, questioning if we had missed a turn and cut the first loop short (which was not at all the case; we ran the entire 15.5 miles). My legs were exhausted after the first loop and my will to keep pushing had dissipated. I encouraged Johnny to press ahead while I took in some GU and nursed my twisted left ankle.”
“I walked most of the hills on the first 5 mile section of the second loop. I passed the start finish area and tried to improve my spirits, with only 10 miles to go. I ended up walking some of the next five mile stretch before the aid station, until I saw a bright orange neon shirt in the woods getting closer to me (the third place runner Aaron Bush). His presence instantly caused me to speed up out of fear of being passed. I ran hard enough the last 6 miles to be out of Aaron’s sight. I ended up getting second place overall and held off Aaron’s strong pursuit, in a time of 4:53:10. (My slowest 50k in a few years).”
“Overall, it was a frustrating course that was much more challenging than the description alluded to. I never got into a rhythm. The first lap was tough, and the second lap was a big slow down for me at 2:39. I guess you can say the unblazed trails and thorns won the battle. It should be noted this course is entirely on private property and shares no trails with The Georgia Jewel 100 mile course.”