This race report comes from our very own Kris Whorton, who punctuated a long comeback from injury by placing 2nd Overall Female at Black Warrior 50k in Alabama’s William B. Bankhead National Forest. Thanks for the write-up, Kris, and great to see you back out there getting after it!
My first 50k race finish since 2009… can I tell you how good it felt to finish?
After nearly 3 years of injury and rehab and a complete lack of confidence about being able to run long enough to complete a 50k, I pulled it off at a race I’ve done 6 of the 7 times it’s been put on. And boy did it feel good to be on the gently rolling trails in the Bankhead wilderness again.
The Black Warrior 50k has so much to recommend it from the great race staff, to the small size (75 runners), to the variety of distances (5 miles, 16 miles, a relay, and the 50k), to the completely runnable trails (no significant climbs or descents so it is possible to run the whole thing), to the fantastic food at the end. Many people do it year after year, as Randy, Doug and I do, and it is always great to see old friends, even as we’re making new ones on the trails.
I did the 25k last year and enjoyed it but the 50k is one of my all time favorites and it felt good to be working toward the goal of finishing it for the 5th time. The race starts with a long dirt road climb, which you get to run down 30 miles later (so it seems like a fair exchange) and then the race becomes single track for about 26 1/2 miles. The course is beautiful with mossy rock outcroppings and creek beds, surprising stretches of bright green grassy hills, and a tremendous variety of denuded trees.
For anyone who hasn’t ventured to the Bankhead for this race or any other time of the year, you’re missing out. Yes the trails are typically muddy in February, and they were for the race, and there are numerous creek crossings, so your feet will get wet, but it’s a trail race, not a road race, and I don’t see a problem with the conditions. In fact, I love them and think they are ideal. I get to slop through mud and before too long I get to run through water and get the mud out of or off of my shoes. No worries.
I had the pleasure of running with Yoli Bell, a friend from Chattanooga, for nearly the entire day. We kept each other going, chatted now and then, and mostly just enjoyed the beautiful woods together. There were moments when I was running where I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. I run in the woods nearly every day but the silence in the Bankhead was so complete it was surprising, comforting. Odd and wonderfully calming.
The weather was perfect, overcast and cool, and the rain held off until we finished. I counted about 30 runners (and perhaps there were more) in all the events from the Chattanooga area… what a great turnout for our fine city!
I kept going throughout the day using my old Hammer Nutrition standbys for fueling: Heed and Perpetuem mixed in a bottle, a couple of Endurolytes and an Anti-fatigue capsule every hour, and Clif bloks in delicious tropical punch whenever I remembered them. The Mountain Dew that I can’t quite resist at the aid stations was awesome too.
Gear choices (for cool, overcast February weather and muddy trails):