Dark Sky 50 2019

Communication gives us information. We can get information from just about anything if we are whiling to listen. Communication can provide connection or dis-connection. In the direction of dis-connection we also typical see some type of numbing behavior.  Either way we communicate part of our life’s story to whom ever maybe listening or gathering information. How we communicate and connect is different for many of us. I choose to do a lot of  communication through the trails and the connection that brings for me.

My latest time on the trail was this past weekend at Nashville Running Company’s Dark Sky 50. This is their 3rd year running this race and also my 3 time showing up to the start. I was greatly humbled this year as a few people I met on the trails have either read my blog or watched my YouTube video of this race from the first year.  I felt very moved to have people tell me that they were running this race because of me in some way. This information brought a great smile to my face and gave me a feeling a connection that stated with me throughout the race.

This year the theme of the race was around Star Wars (May the 4th be with you), and through the logo of the race. If you don’t know I am a big fan of Star Wars, because of the story of the Hero’s Journey that it betrays.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj3zszfMWww Simply put the idea is that a person who is a little insecure gets a call to adventure. This adventure is uncomfortable and outside of our normal realm of things we know how to do. However should one chose to accepte the call great opportunity awaits.

Star Wars TLR – The Hero’s Journey


I was very excited going into the race. It was a chance for me to get away and camp near the race start at Pickett State Park. https://tnstateparks.com/parks/pickett  I want to give the park ranger on Friday night a big thank you for helping me out with getting checked in as I had missed the office hours. I had a great camp sight even though it was on a hill and the forecast was for rain. So after check in the first thing was to get my tent water tight!

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park — Tennessee State Parks


There was no rain that night, but still I didn’t sleep very well. I did use the time to have my pack ready and get every thing I need laid out. This provide a stress free period before my race were I just made some coffee and hung out for once.

Well the race started and the first couple miles are through the Park at Pickett. This loop was through mildly technical single track of any ecosystem that resembled a rain forest. While you can pass around people in this area, you will need to be skilled and dialed in to do so. While I had started in the middle of the pack I did not feel comfortable passing people just yet. I notice that something was just a bit off for me and contented my self with the process.

What I did notice was that there was several unexperienced runners around me that wanted to pass. They then would pass at in-opportune times and then at the next technical spot would stop everyone’s momentum. I sat inside my self and had a chuckle at the goings on.  I sure wanted to pass all these people, but I hadn’t fully connected with the trail or gotten to where I needed to be for my flow state to start, so I had to laugh at myself.

The laughing at myself continued for most of the race. I mean what could I say I had to wait what seemed the whole race to get my legs going, so I had to find a healthy way to deal with the process. Soon we were out of that section and on to hard ball for the next couple miles to the trail head for Hidden Passage Trail. This trail starts out in a Pine forest ecosystem and goes on to a more tropical one with a few water falls down below (Crystal Falls, if you’re not racing take the side trail to see them). It then  moves on to an exposed ridged line with a view and a drop.

After crossing the ridge we went down and under the power  lines heading for Rock Creek.  We were now following the Sheltowee Trace and the John Muir Trail towards the first two aid stations. The sun is starting to come out instead of the rain and I start to notice that it was very humid. I was soaking wet before I even made it four miles. I kept it at a very manageable pace due to not feeling like I could push just yet. I felt that something was just a bit off and I was suffering a small amount. Note to self, I need to stretch out the calves beforehand. My calves complaining for a long time, I don’t think they warmed up until mile 37 going up that hill!

Getting to the first aid station (just a water point)  I noticed I was going to be eating a drinking a bit more than I planed on. I had been training on less, but less wasn’t helping me today. I was taking in a lot more fluids and nutrition than I thought I would be. I refiled my bottles and took off again. Of note for anyone who has not run this race about mile 5.5 there is a stream crossing and a mile latter there is another one. My feet were wet for rest of the day.

After leaving the first aid station we ran along the creek for the next few miles while the sun was poking through the leaves. I was whishing that I could just be a kid and hang out down by the creek for a while, but soon we took a left turn and starting climbing back up. In the middle of the runnable climb we hit a Pine Forest and then  the next aid station.

The second aid station at mile 13.7 I briefly stopped to refill bottles and grabbed a HUMA gel XL. I routinely use HUMA though the XL size was new to me. It was great and felt like a small snack that I had over the next four miles or so. I like this brand because them seem to have more natural ingredients than many other gels and they sit better on my stomach. Check out their web page here https://humagel.com/. 

Huma Gel – All Natural Chia Energy Gel


Huma Gel is an all-natural, great-tasting energy gel based on chia seeds. It fuels your endurance adventures. Enjoy your gel!

Leaving this aid station we continue to climb on a long gradual assent somewhat covered in pine needles. I had brought my poles along as I do most of the time I am out in the Big South Fork Area  https://www.nps.gov/biso/index.htm , You never know what your going to get into out there and they come in handy. I had gotten the poles out in the climb.

I decided to walk using my poles and it was a good choice. I quickly caught up to and passed several people who had passed me trying to run the whole thing.  For me, I use my poles to walk the large hills or hike the mountains and it allows me to recover and I usually pass thouse people who are faster runners in these climbs. A small tip use poles when you can it helps. A person can always say you don’t need them, but you can also say a person doesn’t need gels either, lol.  What ever works for you poles or not being able to recover while climbing hills is something that every one should learn how to do. It pays off at the end of the race.

Soon there was a flat stretch that wound round the bluffs and soon put us in an exposed patch of trail going over the first the No Business over look and then the John Muir over look I believe. It is a great place to take some pictures. I didn’t get many pictures this year. With the humidity being as high as it was I was soaked  most of the time and my phones screen stayed wet most of the time and I just gave up and put the phone away in my pack, in hopes it would stay drier there. So next time getting a waterproof bag to keep the phone in would have helped.

From here we started going down the other side on switch backs. I still wasn’t feeling great, but I was able to pick up the pace quite a bit and zoomed down the trails. On the decent I passed a couple of people who had passed me “running” up on the climb. Now they were bonking hard. I don’t know why but I have a habit of asking them if their doing ok. Of course they muttered something unintelligible and said they were find and soon I was at the bottom at the aid station.

I must have brought the rain with me on that decent. It started to rain as soon as I got to the aid station. I also brought some high spirits.   I had a good laugh joking with the volunteers asking them why they needed rain jackets and then put mine on. It was good times just for a minute, then I was off. This time I just filled my bottles with just water as I still had a little over 2-litters of Tail Wind left in my Bladder. Just let me make a shout out to Tail Wind. This product has been a run changer for me. I t has really helped substitute my nutritional needs and electrolyte intake. For much of my training I can go father and longer using just TW than I could using some other products. Check them out https://www.tailwindnutrition.com I guess this report is turning into several plugs, maybe I’ll get to be an ambassador or something for one of these companies.  

Anyhow, leaving out from that aid station we crossed another creek and I ran into another runner who look like they were having a ruff time. Sometimes the trail seems to set you up for things or meetings that you just don’t understand, however if your open to those opportunities  there seems to be a lot of joy in the experience. So I had been having a little bit of a ruff time starting out and it was hard to get into a grove. I was very happy about running down those last switchbacks and having my attitude changed. This I think opened the opportunity for me to help someone along that was struggling.  

I have began to see trail running as a type of spiritual practice and I plan on writing more about this in the future. I was not expecting for this person to start talking about how they saw running that way as well.

For me to have someone talk about running that way just gave me goosebumps. So while the heaven had opened up and was poring down rain we walked and slid through the mud down the trail, just talking about running. One thing I shared with them and that I will share with you is that over the last several years I have taken to giving the trees high fives in passing when I am feeling bad. I found that if I can be silly when I am bonking or feeling bad then I can also be creative and find a fix to the problem I am having. Over time this game I played with the trees had some real sense to it. I mean that while I am struggling to breath and I either high five a tree or use it to help pull me up, the treat is literally helping me to breathe.

Tree or no tree it makes me smile to talk about them as living things and so it helps my run. I was shocked that it was also helping another person as well. So as we are running I learn that this 50 miler is the person’s first 50. I also found out that they don’t know much about electrolytes, nutrition in an ultra. This is something you need to learn about! Now I feel that this is why I was here in this race to explain the basics of running and too make sure that this person gets to the next aid station. This begins the part of the race of witch I become very aware that there is something going on and I felt very humbled.

I as I began to teach my companion all about everything I could think of in ultra-world, I noticed that a few other racers would tag along from time to time. As the race went on they began to ask me if I had a blog and some one asked if I had made a video of this race. A few of these people told me that they chose this race because of my blog or the video. I just wanted to give a big shout to you all out there. Thank you so much for letting me know that the blog meant enough to you to come out and run with us! So this began to turn my day around, even though it wasn’t very bad it just got better. It was interesting that this was the best time of the whole race while I was on, in my opinion the worse part of the trail. 

This part of the trail from the aid station at mile 21 through till about mile 27 and on to Charit Creek Lodge at 31 can be quite ruff. I have seen many good runners lose their focus going through the horse trails. This year in part to the rain that we went through they were muddier than ever. I guess for that left me no excuse but to go right down the middle of them, instead of trying to pick my way around.  Soon we got to the aid station at mile 27 or so and I had my friends eat something so they could carry on and I grabbed a gel and took off.  

The next 4 miles went by quickly. I took one look at my watch and realized I need to move. I had spent a lot of time talking I guess. There’s not much to say except I started passing people and rung through mud up to my knees. I did get some ‘dirty’ looks, haaaa! It might have been they were trying to get around puddles and I ran right through them. I made it to 31 and it looked like there was a party going on.  It turned out it was a DNF’ing party. These are dangerous if you stay to long, you start wanting to quit and then you do. I got the rocks out of my shoes and took off for the twin arches loop and then swung back around to the lodge at 35. If you get the chance to stay at Charit Creek Lodge http://www.ccl-bsf.com/ do so. It is quite different and rustic with no electric, but still worth it and they have a great staff.

I tried to top off here, but with so many people crowding around the aid station that were dropping out I was getting edgy. I grabbed a gel, a quesadilla and refilled my water and took off. I crammed it down and started working up the hill. I knew that this hill was ruff but having been up it a few times before I got in to a rhythm of 1, 2, 3, 4 pick it up and repeat. Soon I had passed up a few others. Then there were a few that had quit but hadn’t made it out yet. They didn’t look so good, but I tried to encourage them on as I walked on by. This is a tuff hill for many people and it can be very deceiving with false endings to the climb. Soon I was at the top and to the aid station at 39.

At 39 they were yelling for me to hurry up. Un known to me the cut off was only 3 minutes away. They hurried and helped me get some Coke in my bottle and find my headlamp just in case. They remembered me from last year and were just yelling that I was going to make it this year. That might have been the fastest time I have every spent in an aid station, but I got everything I needed while I was there. I wish they all could be like that. So next was a little Jeep road next to the main road that lasted about a mile. Then it was on to the forest service roads that are hard packed dirt and gravel. Now this was my time to move and I started to pick up the pace. It still didn’t feel like I was moving that well, but in looking back I had to have been.

I got into a grove and headed in to the aid station at mile 42 or so and there were several people there. I quickly got another refill on Coke in the bottle and grabbed some jelly beans and I was off. I think I passed 3 people just by leaving the aid station before them. Here the trail went back down to rock creek. I was starting to move a little bit better, my calves were still hurting and never felt right the whole time. They were good enough to rocket a mile or two down towards the creek though. I love the down hills and at times I can fly down them. Even thought there was a lot of mud I used my poles and just keep going as fast as I could. I came up on a couple of other runners and they nicely moved over and shouted encouraging words as I thanked them for letting me by and I was gone.

I reach the bottom and the water point we had come across this morning at mile 7. Here I met 2 more runners and they took off across the creek while I got some more water. I was really putting the water and Coke down at this point. I was really trying to move but I felt like I had to work hard to do so. Down here at the creek it had been slippery climbing over rocks that morning now with the rain and the mud it was much worse and so at a couple places I found it easier walking through the creek up stream to get around then on the bank of the creek. Maybe those 40 some creek crossing a couple of week ago were worth something. Soon I was climbing back up the trail to Hidden Passage where we came from earlier that morning.

I climbed using the poles once again and it was working I hadn’t seen any one for a while. I was just hoping I could keep this up when I got up to the top. At the top the trail takes you across some more jeep roads instead of going back down Hidden Passage. This gave me a chance to switch my pack around put some headphones in, turn up some music and move out. The road led to a family group cabin service aria. Then to the hard ball were we took a left went about a mile down it and the finish was on the right. Rolling into the finish I had no idea what my time was. I read my watch and thought it had stopped, even though it was digital, that should have been a clue that I was pushing but I didn’t catch it. I crossed the finish and there I was. I had met and surpassed my goal of 13 hours by 2 minutes. I was so surprised.

I think this just goes to show that if you’re whiling to accept the trail the trail will in turn help you. It may be some kind of a Ying or Yang thing, but it is very interesting. Over all I am please with the result of this race. Trying to run conservative is kind of a different way to run. For me it created enough space to be able to run the last half of the race faster than the first. I think it also allowed for more personal awareness to take care of my issues that arose.

Some things I would do different are: first I would take a lighter pack. I would also take a hand held bottle for the first couple miles and pick my pack up when I came back through the start. For this race I and all the mud they may not have stayed on, but I would take a pair of gattors to help keep some of the rocks out of my shoe. I really like to run with my phone and listen to music every at the start and at a various points along the way. With the humidity I think I would take a water resistant bag to put the phone and head phones in. While I have water proof case on the phone the moister that day was so extreme that the screen cover never dried out enough to change anything on the phone or to take pictures.     

I did ruin a good pair of shoes on this run. I have been running in ON’s Cloudventure Peak. https://www.on-running.com/en-us/explore/mens/shoes/trail I love this shoe and was planning to run Kettle Marrain 100 in it.  I have run several runs through a lot of mud this year without gators and it seems to have ruined the shoe.  


I think this sums up the race. The recovery is going great and I am getting antsy to go on a long run. However, I am experiencing some great  recovery run in the mornings! I know have a little more time to enjoy the small things like in this video during recovery runs. Till next time run Unbridled.


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