It is so nice to run and not have a tight cut-off looming over my head. I finished my 4th Black Warrior 50K in 8:21:38 in Moulton, AL at the Bankhead National Forest. I felt great all day. I love it when that happens! I love this course, and more importantly, this course loves me, lol. As long as Keith, the race director, puts on this race, I'm there. It's my streak race. I'm 4 for 4, coming there every year that it's been held. My previous finish times at the BW50K are 8:10:34, 7:32:39, and 8:05:31, so I am very happy with my finish this year.
It was cold at the start, but quickly warmed up to comfortable. The stream crossings were low this year, just covering the shoes. The first year I did this race, the biggest stream crossing brought water up to my thighs, and it was a lot colder that year than the last two years or this year. The mud was still there on various portions of the trail, but it wasn't as bad this year either. The race is majority single track horse trails, so you're really not sure if you're stepping in mud or horse poop. Keith says in his race instructions that if you're not stepping in horse poop, you're probably off-course. I agree!
We start on a 3 mile mostly uphill gravel/dirt road, and then we're on trails for the next 25 miles, before returning to the mostly downhill gravel/dirt road. There's plenty of pine needles on the trail, a few roots, a few rocks, little ups and downs, but all very runnable. We pass a few water falls, which are very pretty and soothing. Another runner commented during the race that he didn't realize he'd be sightseeing during his run. It's just that beautiful! That same runner also helped to pull me out of the mud, when one foot got stuck. I'm struggling to pull my foot out without losing my shoe, and this kind runner stops to give me a hand. By the next stream crossing, however, my muddy shoes get a good washing, lol.
My favorite running couple, Walt and Kendel from GA, were there. We ran a lot of the course together. Andy from FL was also there. It turns out that he was also at the Pensacola Marathon last weekend, and we just missed each other. I saw Diann and Graham there who are also BW50K streakers. Graham told me that he was taking it easy today, not wanting to burn himself out for the Mt Cheaha 50K the following weekend. He and Diann still finished a long time before I did, lol. Mona ran the 25K race as a last training run for the Mt Cheaha 50K also. Mona was the trail sweep the first year that I ran this race. Since I was the last person that year, she ran and talked with me, helping me to finish. We've been buddies ever since.
There's a portion of the course that we run twice, and the faster runners will loop the back of the packers on this portion. Walt, Kendel, and I were still running together when a runner came along and told us that we had missed a turn about 1.5 miles back. I knew that couldn't be right. If we had turned off the trail, we would have had flags on our left. From the race instructions, the flags are always on the right, and where the course overlaps and there are flags on the left and right, we were instructed to always follow the flags on the right. So, I knew we had not missed a turn, but I doubted myself for several miles afterward. All I could think about was that I could have been mistaken, and I had led two other runners off-course. My fears turned out to be unwarranted. We were definitely right where we should have been. Whew!
There had been controlled burns in the forest recently. We even passed a tree that was still on fire! I'm sure controlled burns are necessary for the health of the forest, but it's so sad to see the forest floor black as tar, with very few trees remaining in the area. The smoke aggravated my breathing and made it difficult to run in some sections, but I made it through okay.
At the finish, I ate a veggie burger and two brownies. A perfect ending to a perfect day, lol.
4 years ago