Lisa Randall knew the Lula Lake Land Trust 5-Points 50 was the perfect adventure as soon as she heard from one of her extremely strong rider friends that the race "cracked" him. You see, Lisa's not your average rider: her perfect course would include several thousand feet of climbing, as well as twisty and technical singletrack riddled with roots and rock gardens, and if the singletrack could be uphill, rough, and bumpy, well, that would be even better. Randall loves hike-a-bikes (sections that require a bike carry), creek crossings, and sub-freezing temperatures. And for these reasons (minus the sub-freezing temperatures), Randall loves the 5-Points 50.
“Anything that makes it hard and raises the attrition level is good for me,” she says. “The more suffering, the better.”
This is evident from a quick look at some of the races she's completed in the past. One that stands out, and one that she considers her most "character building", was the Trans North Georgia Adventure in 2013. Randall finished the 350 mile course (replete with 55,000’ of climbing) in a demanding 46 hours, riding nearly non-stop and not sleeping. She loved every minute of it. And she considers it her most memorable experience.
Other notable races include the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race (PMBAR) and Pisgah Double Dare, both demanding events due to their length and high concentration of technical trails and sketchy descents. Randall loves any race or trail that gets her outside of her comfort zone, as she finds these are the types of events that help her grow as an athlete.
A little closer to home, Randall's favorite riding spots include many of the trails at Snake Creek Gap and a handful of the more technical trails at Raccoon Mountain.
Growing up in Northern Illinois, Randall was a self-described tomboy until high school. Although she did cycle and run, she wasn’t serious about either sport, and mountain biking didn't even enter the picture until she joined the Outdoor Club at Georgia Tech as a wide-eyed 19-year-old undergrad. She and the other club members cut their teeth on the local singletrack of Covington, GA, and one year later, Randall entered her first XC mountain bike race. It was love at first ride.
After graduating from Georgia Tech with Bachelors and Masters Degrees, Randall worked as a Civil Engineer for ten years. While it helped her and her husband get well established, it really wasn’t a profession she was passionate about, and mountain biking became her outlet.
In 2008, she organized her first race solely as a volunteer for SORBA Woodstock to help raise money for the chapter. It was a huge success and started her thinking about a career as a race director. When her daughter was born in 2009, and Randall had to leave her at daycare every day to go to a job she didn’t find fulfilling, she resigned from her senior level engineering position and created Mountain Goat Adventures. The first year, 2010, she organized 5 events and also offered mountain bike skills clinics and coaching. By 2012, MGA had 10 events.
Race directing is the perfect gig for Randall. She loves to see other athletes get excited about finishing an event or reaching a personal milestone in their health and fitness. She’s helped convert non-athletes into athletes and watched countless participants change their lifestyles and physical appearances through exercise and being active. On top of that, MGA has been able to fundraise and donate over $80,000 since 2008 to various trail groups (primarily SORBA Woodstock) through their events.
Additionally, it makes her a better participant: “Being a race director has taught me to be much more forgiving in an event.”
Knowing how hard race promoting is and what little there is to gain financially, she appreciates the massive effort that goes into the events that she participates in–even the ones that aren’t perfect. “I try to be extra supportive of other race organizers because I know how busy and stressed out they are. And the event volunteers are amazing."
She adds: “As a race participant, you only see an aid station volunteer for about 20 seconds, but as a race director, you see them standing out there ALL DAY in the rain, sleet, fog, heat, tired and hungry, doing whatever it takes to get the job done and they do it with a smile because they want to be there.”
Although Randall has had a year filled with big events, including a couple of National Ultra Endurance Series events (100 mile mountain bike races), she admits the 5-Points 50 will be a refreshing change of pace. After being on the bike for 100 miles, “a 5 hour race almost seems short.”
In addition to less time on the bike, an added bonus with the 5-Points 50 is access to “a lot of exceptional trails that aren’t normally open.”
Randall admits she’s not a huge fan of the first 15 or so miles of the singletrack course. "It’s mostly fast, flat, and non-technical, really none of the things that I’m particularly good at.” But once the race hits the dips and drops of the Tailings Run Trail, that's when things start getting interesting. Her favorite aspect of the race is that the biggest climb on the course is all the way at the end: "That’s exactly how I would have designed it,” she says.
This year, Randall is hoping for good weather and a fast race. But true to her typically unorthodox motives and preferences, it's not so much that she wants to improve upon her 4:55, 1st place finish in the Women's Open from last year; she just wants to get to the food and the after-party a little faster.