GUEST POST: The long way round… (A Georgia Jewel 50 Miler Race Report by Liz Canty)

Today, I am honored and very pleased to be hosting a guest post from my friend and fellow ultra runner, Liz, a MA area runner living in AL temporarily who I know through my local trail running community (but sadly never actually get to run with because SHE’S SO FREAKING FAST). She doesn’t have a blog, but she’s totally should because she’s a hilarious, super chill, all around bad ass boss lady who constantly amazes me with her race performances. Sit back and enjoy her tale of running awesomeness at the Georgia Jewel 50 miler!

“I bought a ticket for the long way round, the one with the prettiest of views….
               It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to make you shiver but it sure would
                            be prettier with you” – Anna Kendrick, Cups

My feet still hurt a little bit – my two mile run yesterday morning kept my heart rate pounding – oh ultramarathon recovery you fickle b*tch. I did promise Chelsea gratuitous song lyrics and creative swearing, and I am definitely not one to disappoint.

Friday afternoon I left the office, speed packed my Focus and went to snag Lea and Kevin on our way to the Georgia Jewel in Dalton, Georgia. With a 35, 50 and 100 mile option on some of the most beautiful pieces of Pinhoti how could we possibly turn it down! Lea was taking on her first 35-mile ultra, Kevin was taking the 35 miles as a training option, and I had decided a solid 50-miler would be a good test mentally and physically for my upcoming 100k goal – TARC100 back in Massachusetts. [Since I can’t write in a Boston accent, just imagine while you read if you haven’t met me in person ☺ ].


I think my 100k has 1/2 this elevation gain…


We arrived a little late to the pre-race meeting and packet pick-up, scrambled to drop off drop bags and collected some increasingly awesome swag. Jenny Baker’s prerace meeting was adorable, as she pleaded with us all to drink water and Tailwind and simply not to die out there; the expected Saturday high temperatures were going to be in the 90s. After some quick chats with all our ultra-buds we headed out for some Cracker Barrel, last minute candy purchases and panicking [me].


Representing my buffalo tribe back in MA & always #runsteepgethigh

The 50-miler started at 7 AM, with the shuttle from the hotel leaving at 5:45 AM to the start location. The Hilton Garden in Dalton was gracious enough to provide some early morning breakfast options for us crazies, so I was able to scarf some oatmeal and banana at 4:00 AM hoping things would digest appropriately. I headed to shuttle pick-up, chatted with the infamous Dave Riddle (who would go on to demolish the course record and generally be amazing), checked in and hooked up with the rest of the Huntsville Crew taking on the 50 Miler – Rick Rawls, James Falcon and Jerry Abbott. Gratuitous selfies and nervous conversations later, we arrived – at a gas station – in the dark – in Georgia. Twenty minutes later we were off!

The first miles were powerline cuts, up and down, and up and down, oh and up again. I love me some powerline cuts, and enjoyed these immensely. I kept up with the first place female – my girl Jackie Merritt – till I got caught up in some metal wire (what the what?) and took a second to untangle, catch my breath and just slow down. This is my first 50, my experience level is lower, I’m still figuring out nutrition, I was training through the race, SLOW THE HELL DOWN ELIZABETH. Still enjoying my miles on the cool trail, I got to see the sunrise over the ridge – before things went FUBAR.

Side note: I had spent the last day slightly distracted by a certain someone taking on some truly awful conditions at the Bear 100 in Utah with zero cell service – worrying he was dead and frozen on a mountain had my mind marginally preoccupied.

Long story short, I missed a left drop off onto Pinhoti and instead continued onto a jeep road completely alone. Two and a half miles later, running out of water, and watching 11 miles tick by off my watch (where the aid station would have been) I realized I was lost. Grabbed my ViewRanger app with the loaded course and realized if I continued (about 3 miles) I would eventually meet the course back. I decided to continue on rather than turn back, either I would have run by the aid station or I would end up in front of the aid station with extra mileage. Either way I was running 50 miles today come hell or high water (or no water…).

Finally, meeting back up with the course I encountered a runner who told me she had about 9.5 miles on her watch, whilst I was creeping up on 15 – AWESOME. We had yet to encounter the aid station as well so I knew I would get to finish this thing after all. Running like James Earl Ray from Brushy State (hehehe BFC reference) I started passing as many runners as I could, throwing down 9:00 minute miles like this was 50k and doing everything I could to make up time. David Holliday filled my pack – told me gently I was screwed if I didn’t hustle – and sent me on my way.

I met every aid station with a plan to get out ASAP, ran every downhill and flat I encountered, power hiked like a mad woman, and sucked Tailwind like it was the nectar of the gods while we all raced in the devil’s sauna. Climbing John’s Mountain (peaking out around ~1800 ft) was near as miserable I got, but the elevation meant I finally got cell service and was able to talk sob to Luke. Finally saw a friend I knew, and after chatting for a moment, I realized I had finally made it back into the women’s podium. With Jackie and another girl in front of me – I knew I had a chance.

At the Snake Creek Aid Station – Mile 35 [Liz Canty Mile 41] I was able to overtake the second-place female, and started the final arduous section which included several more gorgeous climbs, barely runnable rock sections and a never ending ridge. At Mile 40 I had the scariest moment of my running career, I tripped on a rock, stumbled and my entire left leg seized. My hamstring, quad and calf muscles were rock hard and I couldn’t move except to flop wildly and hyperventilate. I knew I had been salt deprived, but Holy Moses this was unbearable. I had undertaken this last section with a great guy named Rob; I’ll credit him with saving my life and getting me off the ground while I hobbled for a few steps. I inhaled my last salt tab and began praying for pickles at the next aid station.

The last aid station – Mile 42 [Liz Canty Mile 48]. Ten Miles to the finish, no pickles, 2 Salt Caps and a filled bladder and we were off. I knew this last section would eat me alive. I started to leave Rob behind, blasted some tunes and decided to deal. Mantra – “Hike it out, b*tch”. I dreamed of beer, Mexican food, a shower and the downhill finish.

AND THEN I FOUND LEA. The love of my life, trail sister and surrogate mom was up ahead on trail hiking through a bum ankle and this miserable, rocky baloney.  I bawled, I whined, checked the course map and saw we were almost off this god forsaken ridge. Just the 2.5 miles of gravel road and highway between me and the finish line. My watch having died an hour ago, I spent this last bit of the day cursing the gravel, the highway, inconsiderate dadsadrivers, the sun, Donald Trump, the blister on my heel, mankind, etc. And then I saw the finish, 11 hours and 33 minutes after I left the start, over an hour behind my goal time and some extra miles just for fun. I pulled off Second Female (#secondplacequeen), *ahem* First Place in the Liz Canty Memorial 58 Mile Race, and didn’t have any water left in me for another tear. Just smiles 🙂

Lessons Learned:

  1. It doesn’t hurt any more after 40 Miles – but it doesn’t get better. I can deal with that.
  2. Pay attention.
  3. Turn up the Mary Poppins soundtrack, tuck your curls in a trucker cap and deal with it.
  4. TARC100k is gonna be AMAZE-BALLS

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