Racing south of the border

Sutallee Trace Trail Challenge

With so many awesome races produced locally, it’s sometimes hard to break the routine and fit something new into the calendar. However, when Mountain Goat Adventures (producer of my one of my favorite events, the Blankets Creek DIrty Duathlon) expanded their event calendar to include some trail runs, I knew I’d be heading south to Georgia a few more times this year.

a strong start

The Sutallee Trace Trail Challenge had something for everyone: a kids race, a 4 mile run, and a 10 miler for those really wanting to suffer. Starting on the trails of Boling Park near downtown Canton, we began with tight singletrack along the Etowah River – scenic, although the humidity was thick and kept all the roots and rocks quite slick (as well as the many wooden bridges we had to cross). We then had a series of climbs (deceptively small, but wow did they add up and take a toll on your legs!), before reaching a forest service road that followed a ridgeline for awhile. Here we got a much needed break to catch our breath and stretch the legs out – even more important with the graceful superman dive I performed after being clotheslined by a root. I am SO thankful it was in an area padded thickly with pine needles! At the time, I had been setting pace for a group of 5 or 6 runners. Everyone stopped to make sure I was ok, even getting my water bottle that had been flung aside. (trail runners are so nice!)

trying to hold it together at the end

The ridge road meandered for awhile and we all seemed to push eachother a bit. Secretly, I think we were feeling the heat rise and just wanted to reach the finish line (& chilled watermelon) faster! We eventually looped back onto the tight singletrack that would lead us to the park. While it was a welcome sight, we definitely had to stay on our toes not to wipe out on the roots in the final miles.

My finish was for the (slightly short of) 10 mile course was 1:40:34, placing me 6th overall for the womens race (and 1st in my age group). I was super pleased to be that close to these speedy GA ladies! (The 3-time winner of last weekend’s half marathon was 3rd!) Fellow Rock/Creek Race Team member Sheridan also made the trek down with his girlfriend Lori, both having great days (10th overall/1st age group, and 3rd age group respectively).

Definitely keep MGA events (both trail running & mountain biking) in your mind for the future – this husband/wife duo are well organized, have great sponsors & support, and strive to put on a race that they would want to race themselves.

Race day gear:
Montrail Mountain Masochist, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Draft Tank, Patagonia Multi Use Skirt, Headsweats hat, Ultimate Directions handheld filled with nuun and Gu along the way!

Big thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters for the gear, and Wilderness Adventure Photography for the action shots!



the super scenic city trail marathon (& half)

scenic city marathon

Situated at the top of Raccoon Mountain (map) and overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge, this race is absolutely scenic. And as part of WildTrails’ Rock/Creek Trail Series, you know the event is going to have top notch organization and sponsors. Basically, this race just won’t disappoint! (But it will sell out, as it did a few weeks before, so get a jump on it in 2012!)

While I planned to use this race as a good tempo run in gearing up for the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race next month, I still wanted to have a solid race. But with temps predicted to climb into the mid-80s (after a week of chilly 40s & 50s), it was hard to tell how the body would respond.

After a little delay at the start (at least the portojohn lines were empty!), we were off! A record number of participants participated this year. In order to accommodate the increase and hopefully limit bottlenecking on course, the beginning changed slightly. While about a half mile of pavement was added, I think it did wonders, as we flowed onto the singletrack much more orderly.


me + dreama, pre-race

The first half went pretty well – I felt I was running strong, keeping my heart rate in check (despite the fact that the battery in my Suunto is dead and no one can get the case opened), and hydrating constantly. My goal was to run smart – keep a swift foot turnover, take the hills a little slower but with good momentum, and pick it up a bit more when gravity helped out. I was running with a group of 6 or so guys and we had a great paceline going. Until my shoe came untied on the Six Flags section. Dang! I bent over to retie it and could feel my hamstrings tighten a bit. No problem yet, but definitely something to watch. At this time, Sara (one of the Smartwool reps in town for their nat’l sales mtg) caught up to me. She stayed behind me for a few miles while we chatted a bit. I learned it was her first trail race, but she had a lot of experience on the road. Yikes and double yikes – for not being experienced on trails, she was strong on the hills, with a spring in her step; and with the last 1/3 mile on pavement, I figured she’d have an advantage. Trying to keep focused – this was still a race afterall! – I quickened my step during a flowy downhill section, weaving by the dam. But halfway up the hill on the otherside, Sara was back. I relented and she slipped by. I tried to stay on her heals, but I guess that CO altitude was working in her favor. As predicted, as soon as she hit the pavement, off she went – a solid finish! Mine, much less glorious, but still respectable.

I finished the half marathon in 1:52:53 – 49th place overall (out of 288 runners) and 14th among the women. Interestingly, I was 2.5 minutes faster than last year’s time, when I placed 5th. That equates to a LOT more fast ladies out there! Kudos to you – really glad to see the competition, even if it doesn’t always work out for me.

After some quiet time (I was quite nauseous and dizzy when I finished) and a change of clothes, I was off to my duties managing the food for the marathon finishers. It was a long day, but I fed lots of smiling faces!

Big thanks to all the sponsors involved – Greenlife, Blue Smoke Coffee & nuun kept me nourished; Rock/Creek, Smartwool, Patagonia & Salomon kept me covered up; and Vasque, The North Face, Marmot, Toyota, Hammer and WildTrails rounding out the list. Without you, we’d be running around naked and hungry!

Race day gear:
Montrail Mountain Masochist, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Draft Tank, Patagonia Multi Use Skirt, Headsweats hat, Ultimate Directions handheld filled with nuun and Gu along the way!


maybe i’ll just be a road runner.


Things that buzz, circle, swarm (& occasionally hiss) are all dangers of the woods that trail runners come to expect. In small doses, I can handle. I’ve somehow even gotten used to yellow jackets – it’s inevitable that we’ll come across a nest a few times a year. But ground hornets are a different breed of buzzy things. Maybe it’s their size, their number, or how they seem to just come out of nowhere (ie, invisible holes in the ground). And they just circle their prey until they find the perfect landing spot.

Our Wednesday night run was at one of my favorite spots tonight – the North Chickamauga Gorge section of the Cumberland Trail. The trailhead is always crazy, but once you fight through the rednecks, miles of luscious singletrack await. And if you persevere, 5 miles down is a secluded swimming hole that is always a treat on a hot day.

Tonight however I had work waiting for me to finish, so I cut my run with the group short and headed back solo.  I passed some latecomers that warned me of bees on the way back (Chris remembered I didn’t like them. That was an understatement.) I went a bit further down, and whoa, they were everywhere. I backtracked to wait it out a bit, but those suckers were not taking a break. Meanwhile, my anxiety was building – not a good thing during a stressful week. (insert full-on anxiety attack here.) Finally, 20 min later, the first fast guy was on his way back. Yeah!! We ended up doing a crazy bushwack around those flying devils. Crisis thankfully averted.

Of course I won’t avoid the trails… it’s the part I love most… the peace and the escape. But I just might have to cross the North Chick off my list until they hibernate again. (or someone goes out there with a flamethrower and destroys every last buzzing terror).

the annual birthday adventure

bday ride

In my ongoing quest to have an adventurous birthday (last year’s was spent on the Appalachian Trail), I decided to head to the mountains of north Georgia for some two-wheeled fun on the Pinhoti Trail. I recruited my friend Zeke – now retired, so he didn’t have to worry about playing hookie for a mid-week escape. Back when I was training for the Leadville 100, we used to have regular epic rides. I could *almost* keep up with him then; I admit I was a bit worried to embark on a day-long ride when my longest one in the past… year or so?.. was only 3 hrs. Fingers crossed my running legs had enough endurance for the day.

overlook at bear creek

We met at Mulberry Gap down in Ellijay. If you haven’t been here yet, DROP EVERYTHING and go NOW! This really is the sweetest place around. While it’s called a mountain bike getaway, it really is the perfect escape for anyone loving mountain trails (over 80 miles are accessible within minutes!). They have several bunkhouses & campsites, along with hot showers (& a hot tub), rec room w/wifi, bike wash & stand, and home cooked meals that are supposed to be fantastic. (Need to plan a weekend here!)

Pinhoti 3

Pinhoti 3

A quick recap of our ride – I had Zeke write down the trails, as I have only ridden them once years ago and can’t keep them straight! From the MG, we had a quick warmup on the gravel road, then another long climb up Pinhoti 2.  I like cilmbing, so I was immediately happy. Then we took FS90 up to the Overlook (a beautiful day!), then on to the Bear Creek downhill. The upper portion has just enough tight, steep switchbacks to keep you humble, followed by the most amazing section of flowy ups and downs that I was in a constant state of permagrin. The foliage was nearly fluorescent, with blooms everywhere and full happy creeks. (The only time I wasn’t happy was when the hornets were doing loops around me. Thankfully they got the memo it was my birthday, so none stung me, but wow did I get uptight.) Then we hit P1 and back down P2 to the main road. We waffled a bit, but threw in P3 at the end for bonus points. I will freely admit that it was here that I finally found The Wall.  My engine was done.

zeke and i

zeke & i

In all, we had about 4.5 hrs in the saddle (with some scenic breaks), 23.5 miles of riding, and 3,700′ of climbing. This equates to approximately 1.5 years of reverse aging. I have to throw out props to Zeke, who continues to amaze and inspire me. 30 years my elder, I was eating his dust the entire time.

the dirty du

blankets duathlon

This past weekend, I took a break from my normal trail running events to interject some multisport fun into the mix. The Blankets Dirty Duathlon is put on by regional standout athlete Lisa Randall. If you know her as a racer, you know that she’ll put on nothing less than a top notch event. This year (I believe the 3rd for this event) was no exception.

Since I lived in Atlanta for 8 years, I used to ride these trails a lot. Just when I’d get the hang of one trail, SORBA-Woodstock would add a new ones to keep things challenging. Let’s just say they’ve been quite busy the last few years; there were many new-to-me sections!

Last time I was here (in 2009), it seemed like every time I turned around I ran into an old friend. This year, only a handful (likely due to an unfortunate conflict with the Blue Ridge AR). In fact, besides one speedy biker friend (who insisted she’d finish nowhere near me), I had no idea who my competition would be. This was going to be interesting.

4 waves of competitors went off before the last one – where all the solo and team females were. Fortunately, the time inbetween allowed folks to spread out to minimize any traffic jams. Assuming that most of the women were local and knew these trails like the back of their hand, I was hoping to have a faster run split to gain precious minutes needed on the bike. Once we were deep in the trails, it was hard to keep track of who was where, as the coed teams started before us. After a 5 mile run at what I think was a pretty decent pace, we were back at the transition area to get on our bikes. I was able to beat at least 3 of the girls ahead of me out of the TA, and was full steam ahead.

van michael trail

© Kyle Roe

By now, the temperatures had climbed higher than we’ve had this year, and the humidity was at least 115%. Sweat was everywhere, mixing with bits of mud and dust. I had my Ultimate Directions Wink on, filled with nuun – and I was drinking every bit I could, but that was just not enough today. Towards the end of the Van Michael trail, there was a log/rock obstacle to power over. I hit it just wrong enough that it tweaked my calf, locking it up in one ginormous charlie horse. Yeowsers! While I was working it out, the fast girls that hadn’t slipped by me already did so now. Oh well…

I grabbed another Gu (Cherry Lime Roctane – yum!) and a long drink, and set off to tackle the Dwellings loop. There was still a lot of riding to do (we also hit part of the South Loop – the advanced rocky trail), so I rode hard where I could, and played it conservative & smart where I needed to, knowing the slightest wrong movement could send my calf spasming again.


me, Leah, Aimee

Luckily I had no other incidents along the way and was able to finish strong and with a smile. In the end, I was 7th overall and 2nd in my age group, sharing the podium with my old friend Aimee (remember the one that said she’d finish nowhere near me? Yeah, she was nipping my tail!), and new friend Leah – hope to ride/run with both of you in the future! Checking out the overall results was quite interesting: 5 of the 6 women ahead of me were in the 40-49 & 50-59 age groups. Hot damn! Talk about strong!! Hoping that means my best years are still to come! :)

Big thanks goes out to Lisa and her husband Chris for organizing another fantastic event. The sponsor support they get is incredible – $75 Van Michael giftcards  were given to the first 60 women that registered (a posh salon in the Atl area – guess I’ll be making another trip down!), and a Cannondale 29er was raffled off, generously donated by Outspokin’ Bikes. Mountain Goat Adventures has several other events coming up this year – definitelyl check them out!

River Gorge – a race from two perspectives

river gorge finish

A lot of hands and a lot of time goes into making each race in the Rock/Creek Trail Series a success. First there’s the behind the scenes work – permitting, registration, sponsors, shirts, race bags, trail work, and more. Then comes race weekend, which begins early Friday with set-up, course marking, and registration. Saturday morning, volunteers are at the race site when runners are still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. It is these volunteers that forego sleeping in to stand in the elements, get sticky from mixing buckets of Heed and Powerade, point delirious runners in the right direction, sweep the course following the last runner (including picking up all flagging and trash), then taking down everything that was set up in the last 2 days. Phew! Sometimes I wonder who has it harder – the Volunteers or the Racers?

On days like this past Saturday, the answer is clear: the Volunteers, hands down.

I awoke Saturday in the role of Racer, to bright flashes of lightning and roars of thunder, rain soaking the ground. I wanted to press snooze and cuddle up some more – there’ll always be another race, on a sunnier day. But the old adventure racer part of me sort of likes those inclement days, where perseverance plays just as much of a role as speed. (well, I could do without the lightning…) At the start line deep in Prentice Cooper WMA, racers were trying to find dry space under pop-up tents, while volunteers registered , double-checked timing systems, and made piping hot coffee (big thanks to Blue Smoke Coffee!!).

Just prior to the start of the 6.5 mile race, I peeled off rain gear and sucked it up for a quick warmup (I use that term loosely, as I was anything but warm). Then, we were off! Inside I was thinking, I can handle anything for an hour… just deal with it. I found a comfortable, fast(ish) pace and stuck with it through the first few miles of singletrack. While I saw the bright rain shell of our eventual winner (teammate Sarah) disappear into turns far ahead, the last thing I wanted to do was push it a bit too much, slip on a rock, and take myself out. So, steady as she goes was my mantra.

Snoopers Rock marked the halfway point of the race, (a fantastic aid station with smiling, soaked volunteers), and the start of a fire road section that seemingly turned into a slip-&-slide with the mud. Unfortunately for us, we were going uphill the whole time (7 of them actually), so there were no time gains to be had. Just when you’re mentally beaten up and ready to throw in the towel, back to trail we go – except this time, it’s perhaps the toughest section: a steep spur that lead us from the top of the road back to the main trail at the bottom by the creek. With all the storms and water runoff lately, this was not an easy task, as I was so ungently reminded when I lost my footing and slid down a muddy spot on my rear.

Once at the bottom, we retraced the trail back to the start, seemingly all uphill again. Even though I was running just over an hour (1:06 to be exact – good enough for 3rd overall female!), the finish line was a welcome sight. Time for dry clothes! And to transition to my next role… Volunteer.

Due to the nasty weather (made all the more chilling after last weekend’s sunfest), it wasn’t our typical post-race celebration. After quickly recapping their race experience with friends and comparing battle wounds, most people traded their soaked, muddy singlets for cozy dry fleeces and warm cars. As soon as our fantastic sweeps of the 10 mile course finished (it’s one thing to do this in sunshine, but on a day like this they deserved a medal!) and the last  racer departed in search of a hot shower, the rest of us started clean up: packing up shirts, emptying drink containers, consolidating food, popping down tents, and loading up the uhaul. I am thankful that so many people stuck around to help things move quickly – although I had dry clothes, I apparently didn’t bring enough and was shaking, fingers frozen.

A huge thank you goes out to all of the race volunteers! Without you, these events simply wouldn’t happen. If you haven’t had the opportunity to volunteer at a race yet (whether it’s a Rock/Creek Trail Series event or another one near you), please do. Even if you can’t bear to miss running in the event, there are always plenty of pre- & post-race duties where you could lend a hand.

More thanks to the race sponsors, including Greenlife & Blue Smoke Coffee for food & fuel, The North Face and Montrail for prizes, Lucas George Photography, and Wild Trails & Rock/Creek Outfitters for race organization.

Another big thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters for their continued support throughout the year. Check out the next event (register before it sells out, like River/Gorge did!) on May 21 – the Scenic City Trail Marathon & Half Marathon.

women's podium

© Lucas George Photography

Jenny Smith (2nd), Sarah Woerner (1st), me! (3rd)

Race day gear:
Vasque Mindbenders, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Capilene short sleeve shirt, Patagonia Nine Trails Vest, Mountain Hardwear powerstretch gloves, Headsweats hat, Lululemon Run Inspire crop tights, Ultimate Directions handheld filled with nuun. And I can’t leave off The North Face rain gear that kept me dry at the end!



Mount Mitchell race report: a diff kind of success…

mount mitchell challenge

This Race and I have history.

I first attempted the Mount Mitchell Challenge (40 whopping miles, to the summit of Mt Mitchell and back) in 2007. A winter ankle injury messed up my training, so I switched to the marathon distance (aka the Black Mountain Marathon, which follows the same route to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where marathoners turn around and challengers proceed). The following year I again jumped at the Challenge. But oh… a groin pull but my training behind schedule, so I played it smart and again marathon’d it. Being frustrated with “settling for the marathon”, I went ahead and registered for the marathon in 2009. However my bad winter luck continued – can’t remember what, but I didn’t even run. (This happened to be the super-epic year at the race too. Weather so bad, people had to be rescued off the mtn.)

MMC 2010Then came 2010. Surely the weather would be better this year. Well, it kind of was… but the summit was like a frozen tundra – wind chills dipping well below zero, rime ice covering everything. I signed up for – and actually ran! – the full monty FINALLY. Well, sort of… the park service closed several trails, so we were on a modified course of only 36ish miles. I crossed the finish line in 1 piece, smiling, and as the 5th female.

So, this year. The race bumped things up a notch, with online registration only. A note was sent out morning of… I logged on right at 9am (waaay back in Sept 2010), registered, and got sucked into work meetings. Then at lunch I hear the race has already sold out. whoa. A few other friends got in; many did not. Knowing my history with this event.. was my success a blessing? or, a curse? Time would tell!

Training through the winter went well. Perfect. I was dialed in for this distance (big thanks to my coach Matt for always keeping me on track). I woke up to a weather forecast that was nothing short of perfect…  & a cough. The tickle that I had in my throat earlier in the week was not willed away, no matter how much I had tried. The chilly morning air did no favor to my lungs either. Still, I remained optimistic – bidding good luck to friends and team mates.

The race started at 7am. I had not yet made it to the stone arches of Montreat when I was already sidelined coughing. This was not good. These fits would happen periodically – good, because getting rid of stuff in my lungs made it easier to breathe; bad because coughing so hard twisted up my stomach so I wasn’t eating or drinking much. In the 3 other times I’ve done this race, I’ve never struggled so much to get to the parkway. I walked a ton. I had all kinds of scenarios going through my mind. Part of me still wanted to go to the top. I mean, come on! It was a blue skies day! My training had been spot on! I was ready! Other parts of me wondered if I could even make it to the turnaround (let alone under the designated cut-off time for challengers to proceed). Would one of the ATV med staff take me on a ride to the finish line instead of my own two feet?

Well, I made it there with 12 minutes to spare, although it was definitely my slowest split. Monica greeted me with a “Girl, I’ve been wondering where you were!”, to which I groaned “I don’t think I can do it.”  I was dizzy, nauseous, and had a bit of a headache – all signs of dehydration (not unexpected with my lack of nutrition/hydration to this point). Plus, the cough. I guess I was also looking bad, as several racers & aid station volunteers tended to me, making sure I got some liquids down. Eight minutes passed and I started getting ancy. (I also saw a few girls come and go; despite feeling bad, the competitiveness was still inside!) I made the hard, but smart decision to call it a marathon day, turning around and heading downhill 11 miles to the finish. I was determined to get there on my own.

About 30 minutes later I felt an energy burst. The miracles of nutrition :) I was happy to have some pep back in my body. I picked up the pace and actually had a great run back. I’ve never really liked the last part of the race  (after the Old Toll Road, there’s a nasty paved downhill at Appalachian Way, a bit more road until a trail alongside a creek, then a final paved road stretch that is seemingly never-ending before we hit Lake Tomahawk where we are forced 3/4 of the way around before reaching the finish line); today, however, it didn’t bother me. In fact, it was my fastest 2nd half ever. Go figure. (My final time was 4:55, not my fastest but not my slowest marathon time there. And remember, we have over 3000′ of elevation gain during this thing!)

The finish line was a welcome site. Jay welcomed me with a curious look, as he didn’t expect me for a few more hours. I hung out in the sun for the next 1.5 hrs while Elizabeth (2nd female!), Hunter & Daniel all conquered the Challenge – each looking deliriously surprised to see me hanging out.

The following day, still coughing, I stopped by the doctor on the way home. Diagnosis: sinus infection and acute bronchitis. Well, if I wasn’t sick before the race, I certainly was after.

So, another year passes with the full Challenge eluding me once again (although no one can discount my 2010 success to the summit, I really want to conquer the full 40.) Will I try again next year? I’m not sure. There’s a few other races in late Feb/early March that I’ve wanted to check out, so I might take a break to try something new. We shall see!

Big thanks to friend & teammate Jay Curwen for all the work organizing this event – it is truly top notch and should be on everyone’s bucket list of races. Also a shout out to Rock/Creek for their support throughout the year.

Race day gear:
Vasque Mindbenders, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Capilene short sleeve shirt, Icebreaker 200 long sleeve wool shirt, Patagonia beanie, Buff, Patagonia Nine Trails Jacket, Mountain Hardwear powerstretch gloves, Lululemon Run Inspire crop tights, Nathan running vest. Nutrition included nuun and an assortment of gluten-free fuel (mostly Larabars!)

southern 6 review / mt mitchell preview

© 2010 Deborah Martin

This past weekend kicked off the 2011 Rock/Creek Trail Series – 9 events, ranging from 1k to 50 long beautiful miles. The Southern 6 is a 6k’ish hilly trail race on the Biology Trails at Southern Adventist University, followed by an energetic Kid K for all the lil ones that will soon be whooping us :)

While I didn’t want to miss this opener, it came just a week before my big winter race, so the plan was to use it as a short speed workout, but not take any chances. For a short course, it’s tough – one would never think so many hills are hidden in those trails! My aerobic capacity & legs were certainly tested. In the end, I finished as the 4th overall female, ironically the same place I took last year.

Big shout out to my teammate Sarah Woerner (with me above), who showed up for a recovery run, after WINNING the Black Warrior 50k the day before. She blew past me on the back ridge, taking 2nd female.

Gear list:
Vasque Mindbenders, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Capilene short sleeve shirt, Patagonia Multi-use skirt, Headsweats Hat, Go-light handheld with nuun (orange-ginger!)

On a sidenote, I hope to spend more time on these trails in the future. There’s a big trail dev project going on right now that will be adding some fantastic mtn bike routes. Check out the plans here (and support Friends of White Oak Mountain in any way you can!)

Looking ahead to this weekend – Mt Mitchell, here I come! For the most part, my prep for this race has been great – my coach Matt has my legs dialed in; just a few bumps along the way to keep me on my toes (like throwing out my back in an erging competition! and now spring allergies attacking my respiratory system!) The winter in the south this year has been brutal, but we’ve been lucky with a bit of a thaw these last few weeks. Trails to the summit that required snowshoes at the beginning of the month have been reduced to merely a sheet of packed ice. (Uhh, that is better, right?!) :)  It will definitely be an adventure!

Here’s links to some pics… from the summit this past week and my gallery from last year.

ESNP aka Enterprise South aka the VW trails…


I had a rare Monday off work (and didn’t fill up the entire day catching up with cleaning & freelance work), so I used this opportunity (and sunshine!) to check out the new trails at ESNP. These trails have been in the works a long time, with the local chapter of SORBA contributing an insane number of hours to get them in tip top shape. Even after the mountain bike trails were completed, Hamilton County still had “other stuff” to finish up before the official grand opening in mid-December.

Once inside the park, you’re greeted with a maze of roads to navigate. Note to mtn bikers: take the first right onto the one-way gravel road to access the main trailhead parking. A few things I noticed about the trails in general: What they lack in technical root and rock sections (nothing out here resembles Mega-Watt!), they make up for with hardly any flat sections and lots of twists, turns, and opportunities for catching some air. The SORBA folks even set up several log balance beams (and I’ve heard they have a few other things up their sleeve for future skills-building fun).

There’s about 10 miles of singletrack available to mountain bikers right now. At an easy-moderate pace, I was out there for 1h20m, so while not a place for epic long rides, it’s a great place for a 1-2 hr ride. I think riding everything in the opposite direction would give you an entirely different experience. One note: because the trails are bi-directional, you definitely need to keep a heads-up for oncoming traffic. It’s easy to pick up a bit of speed, but with all the turns, the last thing you want is to have a header with someone. (esp when the sun is low and blinding, like this afternoon!) Might be nice to have alternating directions, like Blanket’s Creek.

After my ride, I went for a run, exploring both the pedestrian trails and non-vehical paved roads (friendly for road bikes too). I found these trails to be a bit soft and cushy for running on – lots of mulch, etc, piled up. It’s also quite hard to figure your way around the place. Definitely don’t leave home without a map! Hopefully future signage will include some maps and you-are-here markers to help you get back to your car.

One thing I am disappointed in is the outer loop being closed to bikes. While the surface quality isn’t exactly road bike material, the big climbs were calling my name. Would be fantastic if they opened it up to bikes sometimes!

Final kudos go to the variety of terrain included in the park, and its accessibility to all levels, from kids on training wheels to handicapped individuals. It’s a true family-oriented place and yet another reason why Chattanooga outdoors rocks!

annual christmas hike


When I’m down in Florida for Christmas, we’ve started a new family tradition of a hike somewhere cool. We were torn this year – exploring somewhere new, or visiting a faorite, the La Chua Trail out on Paynes Prairie. The hope that the sunny weather would lure the alligators out won over the latter.

We were not disappointed.

A few favorite pics are below. For more, visit my picasa gallery.

gator and mustang

bird and ethan

alachua sink

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