Brian Johnson (MM8807, HF7287, DA707). One of my goals since I qualified for Marathon Maniacs was to try to level up to at least the Iridium Level. (4 stars) After 5 years of trying I finally got there at the Pistol Ultra/Pistol Creek Marathon in Alcoa Tennessee March 19-20
First, the formality: (yes the blogger gets out and runs races)
- Ultra-Marathon 5
- Marathon Distance or better races 30 & 31
- State 16 (and holding)
- Pistol Ultra/Pistol Creek Marathon (Alcoa, Tennessee)
One of the 4 requirements to reach the Iridium Level for Marathon Maniacs is;
“2 Marathons in 2 days (or 48 hours) must finish both races!”
I originally tried in 2017 to “Earn my Mittens” by racing Wisconsin and Michigan on the same weekend. I finished Wisconsin but was so sore when I got to Michigan that I took the DNS the next day.
I tried again in 2020 2 weeks before the world changed, running in Jackson Mississippi and Atlanta. Again the travel got me. I was so sore and tired in Atlanta that I could only complete the half and not the full marathon.
Enter, the Pistol Ultra Weekend.
The Pistol Ultra Weekend is a timed event. It starts Saturday morning at 8am. The 50K, 100k and 100 Mile people all started that morning. The 50 mile racers started later. It’s a great course in Alcoa, Tennessee. It is completely paved, but with a good little bit of hill work to it. It goes along the trail from Alcoa to Maryville and back. You get to see a lot of things and a lot of nature over the course of the day.
If you aren’t ready for hills you are going to have a bad day
The weather for the 50k was cold and windy. I loved being in the forest. I hated being in the open. The wind made it miserable.
I kind of did and kind of didn’t have a bad day. My whole weekend became a game of understanding interval running and staying very strict with it. I started doing 4/1 run walk. I changed to 3/1 at mile 10. By mile 13 I noticed my timing was getting off so I changed to 2/1 (run walk). I also had to walk a bit. I got to have some great conversations with a few people.
This race did teach me one rule a few years ago. Body Glide does wear off. I was fully anticipating having to reapply at mile 20. It just became an issue about 5 miles earlier than I hoped.
The trick with doing a 2 day event, is not going all out in day one. You have to leave something in the tank for day 2.
Going into day 2 I am pretty sure I set myself up for a memorable day. The night before I had 3 beers and 2 glasses of wine.
Enter day 2. I started the marathon doing 2/1 intervals. I knew the course having been on it the day before. I also knew that I would have to watch my time. The marathon had a strict 8 hour cut-off time. So, banking time would be key.
I actually did ok with the first part of the race. I noticed early that I was tired. My 2/1 became a 1:30/1 (run walk). That helped for quite a while. I was great until just about mile 17.
At mile 17 I had 3 hours left and 9 miles to go. I figured I was going to be ok. Then the leg cramp hit. Panic set in. Thankfully it was just before the hilly area of the course that I was planning on walking anyway.
By the time I hit the next aid station, the cramp hadn’t let up and I had to ask for Pickle Juice.
Pickle juice is just nasty. But it also saved me. within a half mile of the first shot of pickle juice, the cramp was almost gone. At the next aid station, I asked for another shot. Still tastes nasty. It still helped. I was able to get back to running within the next half mile.
When I hit the Lucky Leprechaun Aid Station I did another shot of it. It truly saved the day for me.
I got to mile 23 with an hour to go. Half Fanatic and Cheer Coach Julie Maxwell was there.
Julie asked if I needed a pacer for the last 3.1 miles. I told her “It wouldnt hurt.” as I ran on by. She sent a pacer after me to help me with the last mile. By this time, my 1:30/1 had changed to a 1/1 (run/walk). Again I was just tired. Luann paced me for the 1.5 miles out. On the way back, I made a comment in passing that I bet we would cross the finish line at about 7:50.
We made it back to the end, crossing the finish line at 7:50:01. It was a pure guess. When shaking hands with the race director at the end, I told him that I was figuring I was “DFL”.
He laughed. Turns out I was right.
57 miles in 2 days. Lots of friends around, and good food. It was a great weekend.
What’s the food on the course like?
The food for an Ultra Marathon makes it all worth it. If you left an aid station hungry, you were doing something wrong.
The Run Family
This is a race series that is very popular with the Marathon Maniac/Half Fanatics. I got to see quite a few members of the run family on the course.
It as also cool to be there for my run friend Stacie who was completing her first 50k.
This is definitely a race to do if you are looking for an ultra, or to level up in marathon maniacs. I finally got to accomplish my goal, after a lot of years of trying
Photo and Post Credit Brian Johnson