Ah, Hotter ‘N Hell. The race that chews runners up and spits them out in tiny, broken pieces. The race where you’d better have good arm strength, because it’s a long fall should you let go of the rope going down into Peavine Falls. In other words, everyone’s favorite race they love to hate.
With a race accurately named Hotter ‘N Hell in Alabama at the end of July, you need a survival game plan. This was my third year racing, so I knew exactly what to expect. Don’t get tired and drop at the first loop like in 2013, and don’t fall and tear your ankle ligaments to shreds like in 2014.
So, armed with plenty of questionable experience, I present to you the How to Survive Hotter ‘N Hell Guide:
Brace yourself for the gun—Southeastern Trail Runs now have an actual gun start. Remember that. Your heart rate will get plenty high along the course—don’t let the gun get your adrenaline going too soon. And don’t be afraid of the shotgun-wielding man, be afraid of the course. Very afraid.
Embrace the hills—If it’s a David Tosch race, there will be hills. Lots of them. Put on your big girl panties and suffer through them. Sing, talk with those around you, curse Tosch if it helps—he doesn’t mind.
Hang on tight—Whether you’re mentally on the struggle bus questioning your sanity, or literally hanging on for dear life as you’re descending into Peavine Falls, don’t give up. Things will get better, and then worse, and then better again. And then you finish and there’s beer. Hold out for that beer!
Fuel your tank—I get it, one loop of any Southeastern Trail Run looks like a manageable distance. 6 miles, 9 miles, 10.5 miles. An easy day on the roads. False. Oak Mountain is no road, nor is it even Red Mountain. Take fluids and fuel with you, and then enjoy the hell out of those aid stations. If your ego is bigger than your common sense and you don’t respect the course or the weather, I will silently chuckle as I pass you moaning and groaning.
Act a fool—Unless you’re out to win the entire race or have a desire to set a race PR, don’t take it so seriously. It’s too hot for such nonsense. Skip, tell stories, hug the landscape and thank it for bringing you such misery.
I followed these five steps and had a fantastic race this year. I took the first loop nice and easy and ran the second loop with Lisa, goofing off the entire time. And voila! Hotter ‘N Hell transformed into a fun, tolerable sufferfest.
How tolerable was it, you ask? I loaded up my Walkman with all new tunes, and didn’t turn it on once. Once! I could have had five hours of uninterrupted Tanya-music time and I didn’t need it. Boom. Success.
So if you too have a bone to pick with Hotter ‘N Hell and want to kick ass and take names next year, follow this guide and I guarantee you will have one hell of a good time. Or, you can pray for rain and a cold front.