The Oak Mountain 50k,My First Ultra,by David Schoenberg

Race Recap

Congratulations to David Schoenberg,male winner of the Montrail-Trail Run Times “My First Ultra”Contest!  David receives a great gear package courtesy of Montrail.  Enjoy David’s recap of the 2008 Oak Mountain 50k in Alabama!

On Saturday,March 22,2008,I had be pleasure of joining around 100 runners at the Oak Mountain 50k outside of Birmingham,Alabama. It was my first official race at this distance,having covered it before in my training last fall while preparing for Santa Barbara 9 Trails (an injury prevented me from actually participating in SB9T).

The Oak Mountain race is actually more of a 50k+,with the overall distance hovering somewhere around 33 miles. With 3,900′of total elevation gain this race has some climbs but is not impossibly hard. Perfect for my first 50k!

My lady and I made the two hour drive to Alabama the morning of the race fully appreciating the hour time difference. The temperature at the start was a comfortable 50 degrees. Everybody was in good spirits. There were smiles everywhere. It was going to be a good day!

We started off on the yellow trail with some steep inclines forcing us to walk almost right away. My strategy was to run very conservatively until the first major aid station. I wanted to get through this part feeling fresh with plenty of energy left in the tank. It was here on the yellow trail that I met Andy,a local with whom I would zig-zag all day long. He was full of info not just about what was coming up on the course but also about the area. I loved talking to him!

Once we passed the first major aid station (1:15,North Trail Head),we were off to tackle our first big climb of the day. It was here that I realized my legs were feeling good today. At the top of the ridge I caught up with Andy again (I tend to take a while at aid stations). The trail was pretty much table top flat up there until we dropped down to the most beautiful point of the course:Peavine Falls.

It’s a rocky climb down to the base of the falls and then a steep climb back up. You definitely needed all four to make it to the top. It was awesome!

Soon after,we hit the Peavine Falls aid station (2:30). My lady was waiting for me with a couple of gels and a big smile. Fueled up and feeling great I hit the white trail. My legs started feeling a little tired during this section. I guess this race wasn’t going to go by pain free…

The white trail was beautiful single track and took us to the top of the race (Shackleford Point,1260′). From there we hit a steep and rocky decent back down to the North Trail Head station (aid 3). During this decent I caught a second wind and was flying as I reached the aid station and the beautiful spread of food (3:55). I was getting hungry,so I spent some time here eating. I used the entire 3+ mile incline on the red trail,which we were now headed up,to eat and then digest.

Once back up on top of the ridge,I was all alone for about 45 minutes. It was time for some tunes (Grateful Dead,Pearl Jam)! Getting to Aid 4 (back at Peavine Falls) was the biggest challenge of the day for me. Listening to the music and singing out loud made things a lot easier. Once I reached the Peavine Falls parking lot (5:05),I knew things would be all downhill from there. Literally. The majority of the rest of the race was mostly downhill.

The problem was that they told me I was in the top 30. 29th to be exact. “Whaaaa? Are you kidding??”I now had my lady pacing me and running downhill is my strength. Let’s see if I can finish in the top 30! It was on this downhill that I caught my third wind. I quickly lost my lady (we had discussed before the race that I would just go if I felt good) and continued to attack the downhill. It was here that gravity just took me for a ride. I probably ran about two miles somewhere in the low 7s. It was unbelievable! I passed five people before I finished with a lady who had I had seen on the course all day (she’s a GUTS member,but I didn’t catch her name). My final time was 6:09:41!  The results list me as 23rd overall,however,Enid Gonzales beat me. She was 23rd,I was 24th.

It was great to hang out after the race and talk to some of the other folks I had run with. Eventually I got talking to Alan Abbs (check out this interview by Scott Dunlap –Alan Abbs and his wife Bev Anderson-Abbs;they must be the best ultra-running couple in the world). Alan was in town to see his folks and just finished 2nd overall (DeWayne Satterfield won). We talked for a while as I was enjoying my post-race burger. Hopefully I’ll see Alan again at some other race either here or out West. He is extremely nice and awesome to talk to. I wish him and Bev the best of luck at Western States!

I want to thank RD Scott Parker and all the volunteers for a wonderful,wonderful race! It couldn’t have been better organized and I love the no-frills approach!


David Schoenberg is a trail runner,a GUTS member,and Cal grad student living in Berkeley,CA.  You can follow his running adventures on his site Running Trails in Atlanta (No More).

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