April 15, 2014

Tranquility Lake 6 Mile: where I hurdled a snake

When I finish a marathon, I walk like a cowboy the rest of the day and am usually sore in my hips for a couple of days. When I finish a 10K or 5K, I feel completely normal afterwards, but my obliques kill the next day. 

This tells me that I need to rock some oblique workouts to get stronger in these short distances, especially on the trails. 

Tranquility Lake 6 Mile was no exception. Oblique killer! 

Still smiling post race. Probably because their obliques are stronger than mine. 

This is the first race of the Southeastern Trail Series, where participants can choose the short or long series. The long series builds up to a 50K for the final race, so along the way, you are slowly graduating to longer distances. The only exception is the Run for Kids Challenge, which is next month, that has a 50K and 12-hour option. 

I'm in for the long series, which is why I went with the 6-mile option on Sunday. Plus it jived better with my training plan. 

As always, these races feel like family. There are a lot of the local Birmingham Ultra Trail Society runners who come out, but it's also not uncommon (and is very cool) to see some regulars from around the state and surrounding states.

The course: This course has some gentle curves and hills. For the most part it is very runnable and great for a beginning trail runner (shout out to my friends who made this their first trail run and only fell once!). I didn't have my watch synced so I don't know the exact distances on things, but there is one steeper, longer climb about halfway into the course that I decided to hike. But I ran the rest with no regrets. 

Course designer and race director, David Tosch.

While it's a relatively easy course, you still get to run around the lake, through some rocky single track, and over some bridges, giving you enough variety that it isn't boring. The longer distance is a double loop, so be prepared to hike that big hill twice.

Race director and results coordinator, Marye Jo. 

My race: I was going to use my watch for this race, but the GPS on my Garmin never synced. So I went out completely on feel. Was I breathing to hard or not hard enough? Were my legs burning a little or starting a small fire? I felt like I was pushing my edge the whole time, but I wanted to be careful not to go over it because six miles is still six miles. Not short enough to go all out and not long enough to warrant being conservative. Basically, my plan was to totally wing it and try not to see too many people pass me. Unfortunately they didn't work out too well on the second loop. A lot of guys passed me, but fortunately they were guys and not girls (minus the rockstar 3-miler girls who passed me on the first loop). So I came out in the first place slot for the 6-mile ladies in 53:03. I really wanted to try and speed up with the guys passing, but I also didn't want to burn up and regret it in the last mile. I'd love to go back and see what would happen if I attempted to run the one really giant hill instead of hiking. Boom or bust?

Scariest moment: My first time jumping over a snake that looked ready to strike. On the first loop, we passed some cabins with kids out on a little patch of asphalt riding their bikes in a circle in the middle of our path. No big deal, free obstacle for us to weave through. On the second loop through, the kids had cleared out and were sitting with their adult chaperones on the cabin porch watching the runners fly (a very generous description of my own performance) by. As I neared, I saw it. A black and red striped snake that was rearing its head to strike. See below for an idea of how it looked. 

Almost exactly what I imagined witnessed.

I saw it about two steps before its fangs were poised to sink into my ankle, so I jumped over it and yelled "SNAKE!" to warn the children so they wouldn't die. 

The rest of the mile or so to the finish line, I day dreamed about how brave I was to leap over a snake and how this probably counted as some type of trail runner graduation, like now I was in middle school for trail runners since I had successfully navigated past a striking snake without hesitating. Bonus points for simultaneously shouting out warnings to nearby possible snake victims. 

I crossed the finish full of the joy and anticipation that surrounds an impending dramatic telling of your own heroic tale. But before I could spill how cool I was, I heard someone say that the kids at the cabins had planted a fake snake. So instead of them being grateful to me for warning them of a possible snake attack, they were laughing their butts off at how gullible I was. Laugh it up, kids. One day you'll be the pansy adult screeching and leaping over fake reptiles and rodents.  

Best moment: Watching our friend Bob cross the finish line of his first race back after months of chemotherapy. Look at the smiles on everyone's faces. The happiness radiating from him in that moment was totally contagious. 

Overall: Do this race if you are wanting to build up to a 50K through the series or if you are looking for an easy way to break yourself into trail racing. Also do this race if you are just looking for a really fun Saturday morning with some cool people.


And now for a totally unrelated Boston update. The weather forecast for Monday/race day is my perfect marathon weather. Kind of makes me wish that I actually had a time goal in mind, but I'm still really into my goal of getting the most high fives. I just wish there was a way to prove that I win this.


  1. So, I know we talked about it Sunday but do you have any advice for us newbies considering crossing over to the 50k? I think our longest trail run was 10 miles. I know there will be a big difference in road marathon vs trail ultra. Any "must know" info?

    1. I would say that if you can get in one or two trail runs per week that would be ideal. Which one are you thinking of doing? Depending on the course, you'll want to focus some time on hill repeats. And don't be afraid to walk hills from the start. And get used to holding a water bottle or carrying a pack. It just makes things soooo much easier!

    2. We haven't picked THE one yet. I'd love to do the Run for Kids but just don't have time to prepare. I think we'll go to OM this weekend & wander around trails just to get a better feel for how technical some are. I occasionally carry my water so im off to a start!

  2. Yikes. Snake jumping would freak me out. I run by lots of small grass snakes, but never ones that look ready to strike.

  3. Wow! A fake snake?! What a cruel joke to play on runners in the midst of a race. Congrats on the WIN!!!

    1. It really threw some people off -- like they ran way out off the path to avoid it. Not cool, kids!

  4. I can't believe Boston is so soon :) I'm so excited for you! When do you leave?

    Also... I am determined to figure out your snake... was it striped long ways or across it's body? And it was just red and black? I'm thinking it's non-venemous but I wanna know what it is :) Nature nerd in me. So proud of you for avoiding lots of pain ;)

    Congratulations on your first place finish!!!

    1. Well, it was just red and black stripes, but it was just a generic fake that some kids planted. I was also going over what kind of snake it could be in my mind before I figured out it was fake. I kept thinking, there should be yellow too!

    2. Aw :( that's not a very nice prank to play on runners!!

  5. Oh, I can't even believe those kids planted a fake snake like that! Silly kids!!! I think you should stick with your original story about hurdling a snake that was fixing to strike!!!

  6. Lisa, one year I was doing the Mt Mist 50k. At mile 28, there is a one mile hill called Rest Shelter Hill because at the top is a rest shelter that doubles as an aid station during the race. Well, these aid station devils put a fake snake across the trail about 30 yards from the AS. They had some good laughs watching these runners with 29 miles in their legs trying to jump a snake. Nearly gave me a heart attack!

  7. Fantastic snake story but I would seriously have given the kids the stink-eye! So nasty. Do you know the rhyme about how to tell if a snake is okay or not? Red on yellow can kill a fellow, red on black is a friend of Jack. So if the red bands are next to a yellow band, then you can die. If the red bands are next to a black band, you're fine. If you're running, then obviously you won't see until it's too late!!

    Good luck at Boston...I'll be rooting for you all day!

  8. I'll be thinking of you and my other blogger compatriots who will be out there running Boston! Good luck! On this race, I think it's kind of cool that you were out there not using your watch and going by old-fashioned feel, and you won!

  9. I'll be in Boston this weekend, too (I actually ran near you for most of the race you qualified at). I'm excited--I might have to compete with you on the high fives!

  10. I wore insoles for a while after I had some issues with shin splints, but I don't remember what kind they were. I stopped because I didn't like spend the money after already buying expensive shoes! So lately it's just been what the shoe comes with. And catching up on older posts, yes, LOVE break dancing. We own half a dozen break dancing movies, despite the lack of plot and acting! When Brian and I were dating we had one night each week that we dedicated to trying to learn a break dance move, but, like you, found it to be incredibly difficult and put our lifelong dream of breaking on hold. : ) And we loved the tranquility race last year! That was our first trail race and I was hooked. We'll see how much trail running happens with a baby... Have fun in Boston!! So excited for you!


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