With 36 hours to go, things were looking pretty Rosy here at volstate. We hadn’t had a dropout in a couple days, and the remaining runners looked to be hurting but steady.
I guess someone felt the field deserved a break from the carnage of the first 6 days…
But that break ended last night. Just before dark, we got word of a tornado watch encompassing all the remaining portions of the course. Without the forecast, you’d have thought we were in for a perfect night. Within a few minutes, I received a check in from the blue bridge that meant we had a total of 10 runners in the last 11 miles.
We sent out a PSA to those still on course…encouraging them to keep tabs on the weather and be prepared to hole up.
Then we battoned down the hatches on The Rock, and discussed the logistics of how to get 10 exhausted runners off the mountain in the sights of a high intensity storm.
Shortly, Cherrie McCafferty came in, followed by Ray Baum. We got them down the mountain, and breathed one sigh of relief.
Clay Vick’s wife arrived, with the promise of a couple extra seats for transport. We enjoyed some life advise from the Heath’s, and they left while the winds started picking up.
Next was Michael Crenshaw, avenging his first try DNF. His wife skidded in ahead of him, along with Rhonda Marie-Parke’s crew, who headed out on foot to verbally guide his charge through the gauntlet of the farm tracks and the woods.
Rhonda, being nearly completely blind, had worried more about the last mile than anything on the entire route. Clearly her training was effective, as she didn’t appear to be slowed by the rough footing. From the sounds of it, she exceeded her expectations from the beginning to the end.
Checking the radar, the forcast was pushed back an hour, so while we were far from out of the woods, we were comforted by the fact that most of our finishers were headed to the hotel.
BEEJ Timoner came in a day over what he should have run, extolling the benefits of taking it easy for a year…and vowing to come ready for a big PR next year.
The storm was stalled over Chattanooga, and we were witnessing 5-7 lightning strikes per second for over an hour. BJ waxed on for over an hour, only slightly detered by the heavy eyelids of his audience.
Finally, Sarah Oliver and Jeff Russell, came in, also miraculously beating the storm cell. We sent them off a few minutes after 0200.
That was all that had checked in from the bridge, but we weren’t certain that was all on the course, so as the front blew in we jumped in the car and decided to ride it out on the rock for the duration.
The rain came, the wind picked up further, and the lightning camped right above us. With the bluff just feet away, we wondered about the odds of being blown off the mountain.
The tent flapped violently, the oak that buffers us from the cliff looked like a palm tree in a hurricane. I watched the radar every few minutes, wondering about our fate…
At the same time, it turns out, 3 runners were down the mountain getting blasted by an even more powerful cell. Ditch was hunkered down under the awning at Sonic, Veronica found a random angel at 4am let her sit in his car. Beth Hosick’s crew saved Veronica, while leaving his wife under a church awning so they all stayed within the race rules of not riding in a car!
As the storm subsided around 0400 we passed out hard in the car….there was just nothing else to do.
And then we woke up, to clear skies and cool temperatures, along with limbs down all over the mountain. Power was out all over the valley below….but all the volstaters were accounted for, and the 10th day was about to begin…..