I had been putting in lots of miles for this race with it being my first 100 miler and was ready for this race. Mark Farnsworth and my endurance running buddy Ryan Liska headed up on Friday and did all the normal pre-race check-in. We drove out to where Aid Station 2,3,5 and 6 were going to be located since they were all the same location.
Saturday morning came quick and we were out the door by 5:30 to head over to the race. We got a few sprinkles of rain, but they quickly went away. We lined up for the start and we were off. The first 5 - 6 miles were all on the road leading us out to the big climb that would last for 9ish miles. I was nervous about this climb since I had never climbed for that long and not knowing how my legs would take it. Mark and I were together on this climb passing other racers going up and we had a good pace of 9-10 mph. I knew it was suppose to get steeper the closer we got, but my legs were feeling great. After about 7.5 - 8 miles I backed off because my legs were feeling it and somewhere around 8.25 - 8.5 miles into the climb I was not turning my cranks as hard and jumped off and started pushing the bike knowing I would save some energy and hopefully catch back up. I got back on once it flattened out and started making up my time I had lost. I caught a few of the guys that passed me while walking. I skipped the first Aid Station at mile 18 and kept rolling to Aid Station 2. The decent from the top was roughly 2.5 miles with 1500 ft of elevation loss and parts of it were steep and was winding down the mountain. Had some more climbing and another hike-a-bike section that everyone had to push their bikes up. I could see Mark about 50 yards up the trail, so I knew the walking didn't hurt me earlier. I hit Aid Station 2 (27-28 miles) after some good singletrack trail and Ryan was there waiting to help get whatever I need. Having someone there with you to be support crew makes endurance races go smoother. I knew I would be coming back around on the other side of this Aid Station area which was number 3 (40 miles into the race).
There was some more fire road that we were on and then it dumped off onto the single track and it was more good flowy trail. I was coming into a downhill section around miles 37 when another rider was standing there having us slow down for an injured rider. There was only 2 other riders standing there and I stopped not knowing if they needed help moving him or what the deal was. Come to find out he was going fast into this blind turn and went wide left and hit a good size bump that sent him over his handlebars landing hard on his hip area. We were figuring out where all the injured rider was hurting when he said he had a warm feeling in his pelvic region, his leg looked to be shorter than the other, and over the next 2 hrs of waiting his leg was changing colors. One of the other riders there Eddie is a ER nurse and Robin was an anesthesiologist which it was great to have those guys there to keep an eye on Marcus's vitals and any change that most people may not have picked up. We talked to the rider a lot because Marcus was in some serious pain and was trying to make him as comfortable as possible until EMS got up to us. We were trading off between us on standing up the trail to slow riders down coming down the hill and around the blind corner. After my buddy Ryan running the 3 or so miles from the Aid Station and he hung around for about 30 minutes. He told us that EMS had been at the Aid Station for at least 15 minutes before he made the run and by this time they may have been there for at least and hour. We decided that he should run back down and grab a litter since the EMS down there seemed to not be making there way up even though they were trying to have a John Deere "Gator" come up a different way which would not work in this terrain. You should know it is a lost cause with the Gator when you are having to cut trees to make it down the trail. It took Ryan and 2 other guys to get this litter with some big wheel under probably an hour to make that mostly uphill climb to us. In the meantime a couple other volunteers had made their way to us also. It was time to move him and they got him loaded up and we started the trek down the mountain with roughly 6 people on the litter at a time constantly rotating out. It took well over an hour to go the 3 miles. While another volunteer and I hung off the back of the group by 10 yards or so to keep riders from running up on us we came across a yellow jacket nest and both of us got stung at least 2-3 times. We got him down to the Aid Station and my buddy Mark was coming through with roughly 21 miles left to the finish. It took close to 5 hours from his accident until we got him to the Aid Station and then EMS took him to the helicopter. There were so many more details, but this was the Reader's Digest version.
Ryan filled a couple bottles for me and I took off on the bike to catch Mark and give him some company to the finish. I ended up catching him after a good 6-7 miles and he was very appreciative of that extra push, and I would have been the same way. He cross the line in 9:45 and next thing you know they were calling him up for 5th place in the single speed category. He rode a good race and was well under what he had expected for his finishing time. This course was great that I had ridden and Mark said the other parts were awesome also. The promoters put on a great race and had done all they could do with the situation from placing the phone calls and there were some great volunteers that made multiple trips and helped get Marcus off the side of the mountain.
Unlike the local EMS that sat on their asses for at least 2+ hours at the Aid Station instead of making the effort to hike up there and do their job. They are willing to put on the uniform of a civil servant then they should uphold the oath they took to protect the injured. Maybe they need to go back and read what they have on their website: "It is our mission that the men and women of Lumpkin County Emergency Services provide protection of life, property and rapid emergency response services to the citizens of Lumpkin County and its visitors. Above all, be courteous!"
On Sunday we got up and went over to the Fool's Gold Trail Race for Ryan to run the 6 mile course of hills. Ryan didn't know how he would do after putting 12ish miles on his legs the day before going up and down the side of the mountain. He ended up placing 2nd overall and 1st in his age group. As Mark said, "Those 12 miles were like priming the pump for the race today."
I'll be back next year to race it again. Great location and well organized by 55nine.