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Josh's Cruel Jewel 50, DNF

Cruel Jewel 50 DNF

Pre Race

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I started out my pre-race routine the same as I did for the Lake Martin 100.  Why change it if it worked?  Got up took the kids to school with Amanda and then went to breakfast at Waffle House.  The Pre-Race Waffle House date is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the race weekend.  I also got a batch of fresh baked Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies to take with me.  

Bruce showed up at the house about 9:15am we loaded up his truck and headed North.  We made a few stops along the way.  We were not in much of a hurry.  We stopped at REI, a must if traveling though Atlanta for a Racing or Hiking adventure.  Stopped at Big Peach Running Store so Bruce could get a new pair of running shoes.  After that we continued on to Dahlonega GA.  If you haven’t been you should check it out sometime.  Its a cute little North GA Mountain town with lots of charm, little shops and restaurants to visit.  After a quick lunch we headed up the last little bit to Vogel State Park to set up camp. 

We were tent camping for the weekend and the weather didn’t look to promising.  We hurried things along and got the tent and canopy set up before the first rain shower hit us.  All was good we had 2 places to get out of the rain or so we thought.  

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We got a settled in, ate some dinner, and got a camp fire going.  I spent some time tapping my feet as the forecast was calling for an 80% chance of rain during the race.  I wanted to avoid a repeat of the blisters I had at Lake Martin.  My feet have just recently finished pealing after the trauma they endured at Lake Martin so I figured the skin was probably soft and could blister easy.  I tapped the entire sole of both feet.  Went for a little test run and it felt good.  After that we let the fire burn down, packed up and went to bed around 9pm.  

About 1am we got hit with a nasty thunderstorm.  Many bands of heavy rain soaked the ground and overloaded the drainage of tent pad we were set up on.  Water started to puddle up under the tent and then soaked though the floor.  At 2am I turned over and set my arm into a large puddle of water.  After getting my flashlight and sitting up I realized that I was basically on top of a large puddle.  The only thing keeping me a little dry was my sleeping pad which had went completely flat.  

In Ultra Running we talk about embracing the suck.  We usually mean during the run but for me it seemed to start about 2am still 6hrs before the race would even start.  I sat there on my pad in the middle of my little puddle for about 15 minutes.  Just trying to figure out what I should do.  Should I go get in the truck?  Should I call it quits before the race even starts?  After a bit of time I decided to try and move things around.  I took my wet fleece blanket and laid it over the puddle, moved my flat sleeping pad which was acting as a water barrier over to another spot of the tent.  Its one of those ultra light backpacking kinds.  You know just barley big enough to keep you off the ground if you lay on your back legs together and arms crossed over your chest.  I got to a slightly drier but still wet part of the tent tucked my sleeping quilt around me to keep it out of the water and to put something between my skin and the cold ground.  Wrapped up like a mummy I was able to get about another probably 90 minutes of sleep before it was time to start getting ready for the race.  

Once I got up things seemed ok.  It wasn’t raining anymore, most of the stuff under the canopy had stayed dry.  I made some breakfast.  Bruce made us some coffee. I got dressed, hit the restroom a few times and we headed off to the race start about a 50 minute drive from he campground.  

Race Time

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We got to the starting area a few minutes ahead of the shuttle busses so no line for the bathrooms or packet pickup.  At least that was going in my favor.  Once the busses showed up I walked over to see if I could find Lindsey who I knew was racing as well.  Spent some time talking with her and made plans to run the first few miles together.  

Then it was go time, we lined up in typical Ultra Fashion. Ready Set Go and we were off mostly waking until the crowd thinned out.  

The first mile is on a road and allows things to thin out a bit.  It has a small road climb then hits the trails.  The trails were wet and slippery.  Lots of mud and a good bit of sliding around.  I stuck with Lindsey and we made good time to the first aid station around mile 3.  You then do a 5 mile loop with 2 climbs one that goes up about 800 feet and back to the same aid station.  During that time we hit some good runnable flats and downhills and we were cursing along really well.  Having a great time being in the woods with like minded people.  We then hit a step 2ish mile decent that took us to down to Weaver Creek aid station about mile 13 about 3ish hours into the race.  Once you get your aid you get to turn around and go right back up.  The climb up was brutal.  Looking at my Garmin data we had to climb 1,200 feet which took me about 90 minutes.  During this time Lindsey started to struggle a bit and since we had talked about it all ready I kept my pace steady and pushed on.  

Once I got to the top of the climb you spend a few minutes on the ridge and then its right back down. Once you get to the bottom you are about at Aid Station number 4.  

After this aid station you are on the road for about 4.5 miles.  That sounds like a good break but by now the sun was out, the humidity was as high as it could get without raining and I was bouncing back and forth across the road looking for shade wherever I could find it.  It was at this point I really started to have doubts about finishing.  I felt ok, I have felt much worse and was able to knock out 15 minute miles just walking down the road.  But I really didn’t want to be out on the course anymore.  I wasn’t looking forward to being in the woods any longer, I wasn’t enjoying myself.  There is a plenty of times when you might not enjoy running but with a strong enough desire to finish you can overcome that. I didn’t have that desire.  I was over it.  But I knew that could change just keep going, keep putting one foot in front the other and things will look up soon.  So that is what I did.  I kept at it.  I got to the aid station, Bruce was at this one. I got some water, got a snack.  And was back on the trail in just a few minutes.  

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The next section was all trails and it was tough. I climbed from 1,900 feet back up to over 3,200.  You cross 3 mountain peeks, dropping down and then back up after each one of them.  It took me over 2.5hrs to do those 5.5 miles.  And the whole time I had the same attitude that I had during the last segment. It hadn’t changed.  I wanted to be done and I had been thinking that for the last 10 miles and 4ish hours.  It wasn’t going to change.  I knew what was still to come.  Another 25+ miles of hills worse then what I had all ready been though. Probably 12 more hours many of which would be in the dark and I didn’t want to do it.  I am usually good at pushing those thoughts out of my mind but not this time.  I didn’t have the desire to go on.  I got to the aid station walked straight to Bruces truck and sat down.  I got a coke and told him I was done.  He kind of looked at me like.  Ok but your going to get up and keep going right?  I said it again and he tried to encourage me to continue.  He gave me some ideas of things that might help me out. Listening to music, my podcasts I had downloaded and so on.  I called Amanda talked to her for a bit and of course she fully supported me no matter what I decided.  I called Kat she told me she knew I could finish it but if I didn’t want to they dont.  I sat there for a bit longer.  We talked about how the next section was harder then the last.  How it would be no earlier then 4am when I got to the finish.  How if I dropped now we could go get our camping stuff get on the road and sleep in our own beds.  Normally that wouldn’t have won out but this time it did.  It was over for me.  I went to the Aid Station Captain and told them I was finished.  Hopped into the truck and off we went.  

To do a race like this you have to really want it.  I didn’t want it bad enough to overcome the obstacles in my way.  Maybe next year I will.  As I sit here writing this report I am thinking that I could do better.  I could beat that course and next year I may attempt to do just that.  I believe that my outlook is better today due to my decision to drop out of the race then it would have been if I had spent all night on course and finished it.  I am motivated to get back to my training and back to running trails.  

Josh Winters