Monday, April 6, 2009


(Louisville’s Lovin’ The Hills 50k, February 14, 2009)

Louisville’s Lovin’ The Hills 50k was originally concocted by one of our country’s top ultra runners and former Louisvillian, Eric Grossman. He has since moved on to Virginia, but LLTH still remains a deep winter Ultra tradition here in the shallow south, as well as one of the toughest 50k races this side of the Mississippi. The race course runs through the single track trail systems of Jefferson Memorial Forest, and covers 14,000 feet of elevation change (there is maybe three total miles of flat running). On top of that, race day often brings some of the nastiest winter weather of the Season. Because the race is always scheduled to be near (and sometimes fall on) Valentines Day, bringing a lot of love to the race is a good idea! Two weeks before the race, Kentucky made national news when a severe ice storm brought down thousands of trees, and left 600,000 people without power. Days after the storm, the Forest Service announced that there was so much damage to the trees in the forest, we either had to cancel or postpone the race, or select a section of the race course for them to clear so that we could run an abbreviated course to reach the 50k distance. Neither of these seemed like a good option. Race Sponsor Jim Ball of The Trail Store, and Race Director Cynthia Heady immediately mobilized crews of people to start clearing the trails of any debris that could be moved by hand, leaving the big chainsaw work for the ones certified. Over one weekend, almost 50 volunteers showed up to save the race- clearing everything from start to finish! In the week leading up to the race, the Forest Service phoned in updates of their progress with the big stuff, and by Thursday night they were done! The race was on.
Race day could not have brought a better day- a beautiful sunrise, “running shorts” temperatures, and nice cushy dirt (not mud). This year Valentine’s Day landed right at the peak of skunk mating season, so when the starting call was given, the pace went out fast. Leading the charge this year was 19-year-old Scott Breeden of Bloomington, IN, trail racing newbie Matt Hoyes of Bardstown, KY, last years winner Russ Goodman, and myself. Behind us, though, were dozens of people that could all of sudden be on our heels by mile 25. This is the general nature of Lovin’ The Hills- with so much elevation change pounding on you, anyone can crash and burn at any time, and anyone can reel you in if you let up. This year was no different. Once again Russ Goodman gradually turned up the heat on those in front of him to take first place with a course PR of 5:01. As I came off the Purple Heart trail with 2 miles to go, I was told that Scott Breeden was only a minute ahead of me. As I crested a hill I could see him and I began to try reeling him in. By the time we hit the climb to the finish, a 1/4 mile to go, I could see Scott was hurting pretty bad after hammering the pace courageously all day long, so I pushed on by to take 2nd place with a course PR of 5:05. Scott made it to the top just a minute later. In the women’s race it was Sharon Hathaway of Powell, OH taking 1st place in 5:58, with Susan Donnelly and Julie House (in her first Ultra) rounding out the podium. Any time Cynthia Heady RDs a race, you do not go home hungry. Besides being a great RD, she is a great cook! Thank you to all the people that came together and made this race happen!
Put it on your calendar . . . the closest Saturday to Valentine’s Day . . . and bring lots of love.
Tim Barnes (Wasatch Speed Goats/Trail Store)

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