The Holiday Lake 50k is directed by Dr. David Horton and takes place around Holiday Lake near Appomattox Virginia. It is also part of the Lynchburg Ultra Series and the Beast Series. The race is billed as the perfect ultra for first time runners and routinely draws elite athletes as evidenced by the top 10 fastest times on Ultra Signup that are all sub 4 hours.
The weather is unpredictable and this year was no different with temperatures around freezing at the start and freezing rain predicted for around noon. The start and finish are at the Holiday Lake 4-H center. There is a bunkroom or cabins that the runners can rent so that they don’t have to drive in on the morning of the race. Packet pickup is Friday night at the center and is organized. Runners get their shirt and bib and enjoy a meal provided at the center. Dr. Horton also does a race brief that evening and gives out swag that included nice Patagonia down jackets for Men and Women this year.
Race morning was filled with nervous energy. I really enjoyed that the runners and spectators sang that National Anthem before taking off in the predawn darkness to start the race. Headlamps are needed for the first miles and could be dropped at any of the 3 aid stations and picked up at the end of the race.
After the start of the Holiday Lake 50k, I went to Aid Station 3 where I volunteered. The course is a clockwise loop and then a second loop that goes in the counter clockwise direction. That means that runners visit Aid Station 3 at mile 12 and then again at mile 21. Our aid station was captained by Blake, who had run the race before, and a bunch of other runners and friends. We had the normal fare – pretzels, candy, pickles, chips and fruit. We also offered hot food – bacon, potatoes, sausage, and grilled cheese. We had water and Tailwind for hydration.
I learned a couple of lessons. We set up aluminum foil chaffing dishes with sterno to keep the food hot. This was key to making sure we had hot food for all the runners since we were out there for around 7 hours.
A second lesson learned was that pre-cooked bacon was everyone’s favorite. Since it was pre-cooked all we had to do was toss it in an aluminum foil pan and let it warm up. The grilled cheeses were also a hit as everyone seemed to appreciate them.
A third lesson learned was to use gallon jugs with water and tailwind to more easily fill water bottles when runners came in. This was much more efficient than filling from the large jugs. We also had cups of water and Tailwind for runners who did not have hydration packs or hand bottles. The gallon jugs allowed us to grab bottles and fill them while runners grabbed some food.
I also learned to dislike hydration packs. They are just a pain in the butt to fill. Hand bottles are much easier.
The camaraderie at the aid station was great. Everyone was focused on making sure we took care of the runners. The fast runners did not really stop or only did so minimally, but the mid pack and back of the pack runners are where we were really able to make a difference with encouragement and nutrition. It was great to see so many runners working hard to persevere through the challenging race.
The weather held out, and the rain did not come until around 7 hours into the 8 hour cutoff, and even then it was very light. 166 runners finished the race. Runners received a nice Sport Tek shirt at the check in and a Patagonia shirt at the finish. There was a separate shirt for both men and women finishers. There was also special swag for top 10 men’s and women’s finishers as well as age group winners. They really did a nice job of taking care of the finishers.
I enjoyed serving the runners during the race because the trail running community is amazing. I look forward to running this race in the future and I highly recommend this race.
Thanks for reading my race review of the Holiday Lake 50k.