Race Review: Red Top Roaster – 2011

Summary: This race kicked my butt. Great venue, Well organized.   Hot and humid.  Not for the casual runner. 

Key Information

Race Name The Red Top Roaster
Location Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville GA
Elevation Profile Race takes place about 800 to 1,000ft.  Start and finish at the same location.  No major elevation changes, but many small hills.
Organization Well organized with many wonderful volunteers
Terrain Trail
Water Stations Enough, but carrying water anyway
Highlights The scenery and the 111F heat index
Other Events 5K
Good for Beginners? Only if they are in great condition and used to the humidity.  If there is any doubt, try the 5K

The first annual Red Top Roaster Trail run was held on July 30, 2011 at the Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville, GA.  The race offered runners both a 5K and a very difficult 15K route.  The humidity and the perpetual small hills made the race a challenge even for triatheletes who were used to the conditions.    I would not recommend the 15K for people like myself that are casual half-marathon runner who was not used to the heat/humidity. 

Lake Altoona

The Venue
The race is located in Red Top Mountain State Park, a few miles off I-75, just 40 miles outside  Atlanta. All in all, it was a beautiful venue. The organizers provided the address of the park office, which makes the race very easy to get there with help of GPS.   With the location of this race, I would be comfortable showing up 30 minutes before race start without fear of getting lost.  The parking lot, starting line and bib pickup are all close to each other.

Parking at the venue was $5, paid at the Park Office.   You do have to remember to go in and pay for parking, otherwise there might be a ticket on your car when you finish and that is a prize that nobody wants. 

 There were ample port-a-potties and there were nice clean bathrooms inside the Park Office.

Race Organization
The entire event was well-organized and communications were clear. There were many supportive volunteers placed at all the key points along the race. Red tape and cones made it marked where runners were and were not supposed to go. Lead runners in the 15K had a mountain biker guiding them across the trail. The rest of us just followed along. It worked well. I didn’t hear anyone complain about getting lost, but then again, by the time I finished, the awards ceremony was over and they were ready to deflate the finish line. EMTs were on stand-by during the race and a mountain biker kept track of those of us at the back of the pack.  I found it odd that even though there were runners behind me, after I crossed the finish line, they released the EMT.

There were two hydration stations with water and Gatorade. During the 15K, we passed one of those stations a total of three times. Water on the back of my neck never felt as good as it did that day. The staging of the stations was done so well, that about ¾ of the way into the race, I felt comfortable ditching my hydration pack.

The Weather
Day running in Georgia during July is not for the faint of heart. When we arrived at venue at 7am, the humidity didn’t feel that bad; however before I moved far from the car, there were beads of sweat on my forehead. By the time the race was over (for me), the temperature was in the mid 90’s and the humidity was at 64%.   The heat and humidty coupled together made for a heat index of 111°F.  My only suggested improvement for this race would be for it to start at 7am rather than 8:30.

The Trail Race
Both the 5K and 15K runners started together.  They ran out about half al mile and then separated.  The 5K runners took a loop that ran back along the road and the 15K runners took a loop that ran by Lake Allatoona. 

Lake Altoona along the 15K trail

After the 15k runners finish the first loop, they progressed to the loop the 5K runners took.  Again, there was a lot of small ups and down. From there, we came out near the start of the race and have to re-trace our steps back to the 15K loop.  That first loop was then run again, but in the opposite direction.  The trails were a joy to run. They were well maintained and for the most part, shaded by tall trees. One does have to watch the ground as there are a number of rocks that could cause a fall. My cousin, who ran the 5K, reported that a couple of people took spills on the trail and came back dirty and bloody. With these trails, one is either running up a small hill or down a small hill.   There were few flat stretches.

My Results
I run an average of 9 miles per week but with the humidity, I was gassed by mile 4. I found myself walking up hills and the last mildes of the race wore more of a fast hike than a run.   Nothing hurt, but by mile 6, my body refused to run more than a few hundred feet at a time.  It broke into both my gels about miles earlier than normal and neither one felt like they ever kicked in. 

Around mile 5, during the transitions between loops, I found myself passing by my car. I knew hydration was not going to be my problem the last 4 miles, especially will two visits to the water station still to come. I stopped and unloaded everything I could so I could move more freely.

At one point, for the first time in my limited racing career, I violated the “No Stopping” rule to take some deep breaths.   I considered taking my first “DNF”, Did not finish.  What stopped me from quitting was that I really wanted to wear the great technical race shirt from this race, if not with some modicum of pride, to say I finished.

Overall, I came in 149 out of 154 finishers (lower 96.7% percentile).  I am still aiming for that 80% percentile on races greater than 9 miles.  The 16-year-old who was the overall winner, finished the 9.3 mile course in 1:11:45 (7:45 pace).   The winner in my age group finished in 1:33 (10 min pace). My time was 2:34 minutes (16 min pace), which was just seconds longer than my last half marathon (13.1 miles).  On the plus side, this was the closest I have come to my age division winner in races greater than 9 miles.   I did, however, finish first (and last) among all the Californians entrance in the race.  All humor aside,  I know there were a lot of things working against me in this race, including the weather and the business trip with poor nutrition during days leading up to the race.  Although I finished the entire 9.3 miles, I still wish I had done better.

After the race, I went back to the hotel.  The fact that I had only 30 minutes until checkout kept me from laying in an exhausted heap on the bed.  I showered and finished packing, checked out and said good-bye to my cousin and her family.  I then drove to the airport and sat for 4 hours on a flight to Phoenix.   As my plane was an hour late arriving I had to make a mad dash across two terminals to get to my connecting flight.   My legs were stiff and hurting, but I made my flight.  As I sat in my seat, I could feel the cool air of the plane and perspiration of my body exchanging at the surface of the Red Roaster technical t-shirt that I earned the right to wear.

Other Reviews by Participants:

Race Review: Red Top Roaster – 2011

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