Last updated: 15-Nov-16
By David Tosch
Perfect Day, Awesome Runners, The Best Volunteers on Earth, It just doesn’t get Any Better!
We could not have asked for better conditions for the Tranquility Lake 50K, the final race in the 2014 South-eastern Trial Series. Temperatures were in the mid-40s at the start with beautiful clear skies all day. Over 150 runners toed the line November 22nd for the 7:00 AM start at 10000-acre Oak Mountain State Park, in Pelham, Alabama, just south of Birmingham.
Most people think of Alabama as rather flat, that is, unless they have run trails in the area. Located just at the tip of the southwest tip of the Appalachian Mountains, our hills may not be very tall, (Double Oak Mountain, which runs the length of Oak Mountain State Park, rises only a little over 600 feet above the surrounding terrain) but what they lack in size, they make up for in shear ruggedness. Tranquility Lake 50K is actually two races, a 25K, one loop of the 15.6 mile course and the 50K, two loops.
The 50K course had 4,390 ft. of elevation gain and is 93% single-track trails with only about 2 miles of gravel roads closed to cars.
The run starts with a spectacular but very short climb up the trail along the spillway of Tranquility Lake to the top of the Dam. From there, runners follow the western shoreline for about 1/3 mile before another short climb up to the old Boy Scout Camp, Camp Tranquility, now being restored. They follow the gravel road up another hill to the entrance of the camp before starting the very fast one mile descent to the first real climb, the Yellow/White Connector. This rugged trail climbs 600 ft. in about 3/4 of a mile.
Runners then head southeast along the West Ridge Trail for three miles to the Aid Station at Peavine Falls Parking Lot. From there, the course follows the Blue Trail for about 5 miles along the East Ridge of Double Oak Mountain before dropping down to the North Trail head and a water-only aid station. The West Ridge Trail and the Blue Trail offer spectacular views, especially the West Ridge, where you run along the ridgeline itself. It is not a good idea to spend too much time sightseeing while running up there. Sections are very rocky.
The descent to the North Trail Head is a bit tricky with a few steep sections and lots of loose rocks and roots. From the trailhead, runners follow relatively docile trails with gentle climbs for the final 3 miles back to the Redbud Pavilion and the finish for the 25K. For 50K runners this is the location of the next aid station before heading back out on the second loop. Near the end of each loop runners circle the east side of Lake Tranquility called the Old Lake at Oak Mountain.
The Southeastern Trail Series is a series of 7 races in the Birmingham Area. The series starts in April with a 5K and 10K and builds throughout the year, culminating in the Tranquility Lake 50K. The series is designed to transform roadrunners to trail runners and help short distance runners finish their first ultra. Runners earn points based on their time for each race run in the series. Going into the final race of the series, the 50K, the 3 lead women were separated by just two points. The lead four men were less than 10 points apart. This was going to be a very competitive race.
Photo credit: David Tosch
Donna Arrington came into the 50K leading the series by 0.783 points over Lisa Booher, our 2013 South-eastern Trail Series Points Champion. Vanessa Stroud was just 1.4 points behind Lisa. We knew this was going to be a race to the end. Donna and Vanessa had run the Pinhoti 100 just three weeks before giving Lisa a slight advantage and she took that advantage winning the Women’s race by almost 25 minutes (6:02:54) over second place Donna Arrington (6:27:21).
Beverly Brower, of Jackson Mississippi, took third in 6:29:20 and Vanessa Stroud came in fourth at 6:49:54. Lisa is the 2014 Women’s Points Champion in the South-eastern Trail Series.
On the men’s side, John Brower of Jackson, Mississippi, took first in 4:47:59 and set a new course record. Second went to Douglas King of Marietta, Georgia in 4:58:19. Third place was taken by Todd Lytle of Mineola, Florida in 5:02:10. Two of the three men competing for the South-eastern Trail Series Championship, points leader, Suman Silwal and second place Mark Beggs, also ran the Pinhoti 100 three weeks earlier.
The first of the points championship contenders to finish was Mark Beggs in 5:47:45. Logan Cook, third in the point’s championship, finished in 5:58:43. Suman finished in 6:21:14 but his points lead was just too much for anyone to overcome. He is our 2014 Points Champion for the second year in a row. For more information on the series and individual races, including the Lake Martin 100, check out our website, SoutheasternTrailRuns.com
By David Tosch, Race Director