September 2007
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Month September 2007

Overmountain Extreme

Amazingly this was only my 3rd adventure race this year (CPZ in March, then the Greenway Challenge in May). With so many shorter events filling my schedule, my mind was a bit unfocused, especially considering this year’s OME had a 32hr time limit. Luckily, as I started packing up the gear and hit the road, the excitement and adrenaline was building.

The low point was driving 5.5hrs from Chatt to Morganton in the rain Friday afternoon. Alone. (I’m not a fan of driving.) Once there, we had a busy few hours organizing gear, getting it all into the support minivan, and working on maps & our route. I hit the hay around 12:30am….

The alarms sounded at 5:15 and we were up shortly thereafter. We were on task and in the car by 6am to head to the start, which was the same as last year: on top of Grandfather Mountain. However this time it looked much different. See for yourself:


While the temps weren’t that cold – mid/upper 50s?!, the fog was thick and wet and winds were sustained at 25-30mph, with gusts up to 50mph. WOW! It was a bit unsettling walking across the mile-high swinging bridge when you couldn’t see the other side. We followed the Grandfather, Daniel Boone Scout Trail, Cragway, Nuwati and Asutsi Trails that led us on a breathtaking trek across MacRae Peak (5939′) and Calloway Peak (5964′). This year we actually didn’t hit the top of MacRae because of the weather – a bit too exposed. There were a few ladder to rock face transitions that had me literally shaking. No room for error. But we all got through safely. Since we can’t race through the park, the race clock didn’t start until we got to Serenity Farms. That didn’t mean that we could lollygag through this section though – even though it was still morning, we were working against the clock. We wanted every minute we could get for the orienteering section later.

Notice the tree branches blowing sideways in the pics above & below. Yikes!

At Serenity was a bike drop. We transitioned quick (since the support crews weren’t there), stashed our trail shoes in our packs, and hit the road. After a quick paved section, we hit some gravel roads that led us to a trail that followed Yancey Ridge, where CP5 was. We actually blew right by it and realized our mistake once we hit a nasty rutted out descent. This should have been an easier point to find and we just didn’t track it right. I chalk it up to still getting in our groove :) We then had a few hours on forest service roads, including a stop at Little Lost Cove Cliffs. Here we were allowed to send 1 runner to get the CP, which allowed Daniel and I to rest our feet and study the maps. (Others just relaxed…)

A few hours later, we were running low on water and was able to use a local resident’s hose to fill up. He was quite concerned that it was too warm; we didn’t want to wait! But it was straight out of the mountain and delicious. From Gingercake, we followed some fabulous singletrack down to 181, which led us to our first encounter with our support crew at Bark House. We kept our transition under 10 minutes, paying special attention to our feet for the section ahead. It was good to see some friends in the chaos (Monica+Chilton, Lauren+Wyatt & Gavin). We left right around 6pm with a snack of boiled potatoes (unfortunately they lost the salt!).

The Mountains to Sea Trail would become our home for nearly the rest of the race. My memories of this trail from last year were not good – yes, it is scenic, but it crosses the creeks constantly which meant wet feet for hours. With all the rain we had Thurs & Fri, we were worried the creeks would be swollen. Somehow though we lucked out and the water was even lower than last year. In fact, it never took us more than 30 sec or so to find rocks to hop across on. We weren’t going to waste time looking for a dry route, but if it’s just sitting there waiting for us, why get wet?! The goal was to preserve the condition of our feet as long as possible. (And I actually made it through without any blisters, although the soles are bruised/sore). The orienteering section was basically a loop, partially in this area. We nabbed CP8 & 9 in the daylight, then it set on our way to 10. With headlamps on, we continued to run on towards 10 when a rock jumped up and tripped me. I fell hard and this section of trail was not very soft. I had a rock nail the upper side of my right ankle and I writhed in pain for a few minutes. It was hard to shake off that intense bit of impact. I was able to get up and move around more or less ok, although it would slow us down considerably. Hunter & Daniel were great in taking my pack so I’d have less load to carry. (I do feel weird doing that, but they are so strong, it evens things out a bit).

CP 12 was a bit tricky and took us an hour to find, but we did it which meant we cleared the o-section. Yeah!! However, getting back to the transition area would prove to be tricky. The USGS map showed a trail we were on connecting to the M2S trail; the Nat’l Geo Trails Illustrated map showed it not. The alternative route was a longer and on
hard paved road, so we took our chances. Well, it didn’t work out quite as planned. The trail terminated where we thought it might, so our next plan to bushwack north to the M2S went into action. It worked, but was heinous. Rhodo hell! Possibly worse that CP13 at CPZ.

We ended back at the Bark House transition area at 2am… about an hour later than we planned, but an hour earlier than the cutoff. After speedily refueling, we actually set off on our feet again. We had only 1 more CP to get before heading to the summit of Table Rock, but it was quite a treat to get. We came across a few teams on the trail that were doubling back, as they seemed to think the trail ended at a creek. We were a bit disappointed to see this, but pressed on… finding success. We hoped the others wouldn’t see where we went – they didn’t, and we were able to break away. The trek up to Table Rock was long. By now my ankle was bothering me more and I coudn’t run at all. I’m not exactly sure the elevation gain here, but TR sits at 3909′ and I know we were below 2000′… so a hefty hike to say the least. We had joked earlier in the race about seeing the sun rise here (we expected to only see stars). The sun came up on our hike up – the camera was stashed though, so no pics of that, but a here are a few from the top.

Back at the parking lot of TR another bike drop awaited us… it was around 8am I think. Chris (the race director was here) and seemed excited that we had gotten all the points so far – apparently many teams had skipped o-points. We fueled up and put on lots of layers for the descent ahead. The paved road was steep and full of switchbacks. I was getting too much speed for this hour of the day with no sleep, but made it down ok. Once we hit the gravel roads, I felt more at home. We grabbed 1 point on the way to the final transition area. The ride was about 2.5 -3 hrs, then we arrived at Lake James. Time to paddle!

We had the fastest transition recorded – we needed every minute on the lake. A few points had been eliminated to shorten the course, so the opportunity to portage twice saved us a chunk of time. I did have 1 mishap though getting back into the canoe after one portage – I lost my balance and fell right out… and into the water. Luckily I didn’t tip the boat over, although I got soaked and knocked the crap out of my calf on the side. The sun was shining strong and warmed me up sufficiently. As we got closer to the inlet where the finish was, we checked our clock. 58 min until the cutoff. There were 2 possible points to get on the lake… 1 being not too far away. We went for it. I timed us from a point across from the inlet, estimating the time to get in. We’d have a certain do or die time to get the point before we’d have to turn around. We paddled hard to the cove, which then seemed to go back forever. We went ashore with 10min available to find the point. We ran to the back point and only needed to spread out for a minute before Hunter saw it. Yeah!! While we wouldn’t have enough time to get the last point, we’d finish only missing the one.

We finished with about 20min to spare (compared to last year’s stressful 10 min!) Chris and Michelle had a great cookout going and we also celebrated Carol & Neal’s birthdays. mmm, brownies!

The final results for coed elite were:
1. Enduraventure
2. Black Dome (both of these teams predictably top place finishers)
3. Charbon’s Outfitters –> That’s us!! (we also got 3rd place overall, out of 27 teams)

We are all super psyched with our final results. We also won some $ which is nice to help offset the entry fee (and give a little thanks to our awesome support team of Robby & Christy). We are already getting amped for next year’s season, which looks to include 3-4 30hr races. We’re hoping our solid performance also nets us a more solidified sponsorship from Charbons. (Big thanks to them for supplying us with food and technical t’s for this race).

Thankfully, I was able to crash in Asheville with the Curwens and slept for a wonderous 13 hrs. I am feeling pretty ok now, although my feet were still sore when I tried to run last night. My ankle is still a bit swollen, but there’s really not pain unless I press the injured area. Now to recover quickly so I can keep the mileage up and be ready for Stumpjump in 2 weeks!

The Omnium

I had been waffling about doing the Omnium… the weekend was busy enough as it was. The River Gorge Road Race would certainly whoop me – 37 miles, finishing with a 3.5 mile climb straight up Raccoon Mtn. Then the 4 mile time trial that afternoon – in the middle of the afternoon. I’d be spent. Then, to try a criterium the next morning? I had no experience in this type of sufferfest. I polled my friends… “You’ll love it!” “OMG, they scare me!” I ended up going for it, figuring since the event was here in town, I wouldn’t be spending extra money on traveling and hotel expenses… so why not spend it on an extra race?!

The fun started Friday night with a Cowboy Mouth concert – my fav band, so I couldn’t say no. I did however slide out early… luckily Rebecca was with me, so the peer pressure helped with our self-imposed curfew of midnight. Unfortunately that gave us only 45 minutes of show time, but it still made me happy – and helped me fall asleep quick :)

Saturday morning we had an 8:50am start from Tiftonia. The women’s field was large, but I saw several familiar faces. We had a neutral start then most of us stayed together for a few more miles. A hill around mile 8 sadly spit me off the back with a group of others. 6 of us worked together for the next hour. I was the only Vixen, but recognized Marsha and Nancy from other races. Once we hit Whiteside, we were on the familiar roads of spring’s Raccoon Mtn Road Race. The stairsteps came around mile 20 and again I fell back a bit. The weather today was much more humid than it had been for the last 2 weeks and I didn’t want my asthma to blow up. Once at the top, it really didn’t take much effort to catch up to the 4 gals ahead (1 never caught back up to us). We worked together through the backside of 41. Once we we made the left turn onto the road that would lead us up the mtn, things split up. Again, I played it conservatively so that I would actually make it up. I had only done this climb once on a mountain bike (and in the rain), so I was a bit nervous (and mad at myself for not ever coming out to practice it). The 3.5 miles seemed to last forever. Half of it was in the shade; the other half had the sun beating on me. About halfway up, David Meek drove by and cheered me on. Once we were through the gates, I caught up with Marsha… and then the pro guys caught up with us. While it sorta sucked (because they rode much further than we did and literally flew by), I have to admit they pepped me up a bit :) I ended up finishing in 9th place in the Cat 4 division (out of 18).

marsha & i heading up the mountain… speedy guys creeping up behind…

me making a weird face & rebecca at the overlook, finally done!

Of course now that we were at the top, we had to ride back down to our cars – it was actually a nice cool down. I grabbed a sandwich and headed home for bit, although I was scared to relax too much. I went back up the mountain at 2:30 to get ready for the afternoon time trial. My start time was 3:53pm. We started at the entrance to the East Overlook and followed the reservoir counter clockwise. There would be 1 pretty good size climb, but mostly downhill from here. Reba and I did ride it a few times the week before, so I felt somewhat prepared. What wasn’t ideal is that I had the 2 fastest Cat4 girls starting right behind me… at a mere 30/60 seconds. I joked about “seeing them soon”…. and yeah, I did. Nicole passed on the climb and Andrea when we were on the dam. After making the sharp turn into Laurel Point, we had a fast downhill…. unfortunately there was a gradual ascent before hitting the finish line. I was spent and out of oxygen. Sure, I’m not used to doing these “speed workouts”, but I’m sure my asthma is playing a role in how I feel, as it’s usually my lungs stopping me before my legs. I didn’t do so hot here… finishing 10th/13.

at the start line… and me smiling big (to cover the nerves)

Saturday night was lazy… just rented a movie and hit the sack early. (partially because I thought I rented a comedy and it was more like a tearjerker.) Sunday was the big day – my first crit. I headed downtown early to warm up and watch a few races before ours (at 11:50am). Inbetween races I was able to take a spin around and get a feel for the road. I also watched the guys go around each corner to try to figure out where I should be. Honestly, I was clueless about the whole thing, but hey, why not dive in. At the start, 40 women gathered which was apparently pretty large for a women’s field. We tried to split up – it’s not that enticing for us beginners to hang with the pro/1/2/3 chicks (and they don’t want us newbies around either); but the officials kept us together. The actual start was ok… I was with the pack in the first turn. Then the 2nd turn came… then all of a sudden on the back I was alone. WTF?? I rode hard trying to catch up to the gals in front of me, but couldn’t quite make it. Soon I realized I wasn’t just alone, I was last. wow. I actually have never been in this position before and it was weird. unsettling. And the worst part was being in Chattanooga… with people I knew all rooting me on. I was hoping they wouldn’t recognize me, but alas, the did. sigh. After 3-4 laps I finally caught up to 2 girls in front, then we got another. We worked together for the rest of the 30 minutes. Yes, the main pack did lap us (but only once). Luckily we were not pulled from the course, which happens in most crits. Finally we were on the last corner. I really tried to sprint to the finish, but I had nothing. absolutely nothing. I think I sounded like I was about to keel over, as Monica asked me if I was OK. (yeah, you know, just can’t breathe.) Thankfully I did sneak past a few girls, finishing 12th/14.

I ended up with an 8th place finish in the omnium. Nothing fabulous, but hey, something new and different for sure. It was tough. And I’m not sure if I can call the crit fun. It was pure pain. (but oh yeah, I like that sometimes.) If I do another, I’ll have to definitely get some practice in. On the bright side, I did notice my cornering improve 150% during the course of the event.

BMW of Chattanooga Downtown Criterium

Since I’ve been slacking on writing about this, I can at least post the link to the pictures.

A few to check out from the pro/1/2/3 men’s race:

Tsali Challenge

This is one of those races that inked in on my schedule a year out – always a ton of fun with great competition – and this year was no exception. The weather was great, so Carol, Jim, Ted, Kate & I camped out (I even had to put on fleece tights & hoodie to keep warm at night!) Saturday was the solo competition. The last two years I was 9th and 8th in the women’s open division. While I definitely wanted to improve upon that, and felt I was in better running and biking shape, I’ve hardly paddled this year. In fact, I didn’t even have a boat secured until a few days prior. I used Jim’s squamish, rated a 5. Even though this was the most crowded wave, I think I had a better paddle than last year, when I had the Simril’s potato boat. With the water levels super low, the island we paddle around had a larger circumference, lengthening our paddle by about 1/2 mile (about 4.5 miles total).

As expected, my legs were all but asleep getting out of the boat. I tried to shake it off best I could before heading in to the trails for about a 4.5 mile run. Immediately we have 2 small (but hefty) hills that feel absolutely awful, but after that it’s flat and rolling and fairly manageable. I finished this leg feeling strong (although it looks like my pace was somehow slower than last year?!) and was excited to get on my bike. I think this was my racing debut with the Lynskey…. she did great! I haven’t ridden Tsali since the end of May, when Amanda and I were out there. The singletrack was dusty and loose. (Some call it fast, but I don’t often get to really use that word with my riding!). I liked the way my bike handled and felt pretty confident, with only a few areas tripping me up (like that one tight rocky/rooty area with a drop off right there…). Almost halfway thru I passed Shannon and another girl walking their bikes out. She had apparently crashed (and likely broke her wrist). She was leading at the time too… (heal fast!) The last half of the bike was fine – more climbing, but it was slow and steady (it’s nice to pass people walking up!) When I got close to the end of the final climb, I saw another person turning onto County Line Road… another girl?! As soon as I hit the top, I grinded it out as hard as I could. Carol and I had ridden the road Friday evening, so I knew where the soft sand and loose gravel were. A few turns from the finish I caught up, and passed, the girl I saw, which snagged me a 4th place women’s open finish. Yeah!! (Now, if Kim had raced masters instead of open, I could have gotten 3rd…. :)

kate at the start of sunday’s team relay

Sunday was the team relay. Carol and I were teaming up again, to defend our female team championship from last year. Ann was supposed to run for us, but is still recovering from an injury, so our plan was to scope out the attendees and snag someone fast. Friday night we saw fellow adventure racer/ultrarunner/general badass athlete Enid, who just happened to be unattached for Sunday’s event. Sweet! She’d run, I’d bike, and Carol would paddle. Carol actually was able to borrow Robert’s boat and improved her paddle time by several minutes. Enid had another strong run. My bike was actually 6 minutes faster. I felt good, although could definitely tell I worked hard the previous day :) When I headed out, I knew I was the 3 or 4th woman out…. it was hard to tell though who was coed and who was in our division. Immediately I passed 1 woman with a flat. Shortly after, I passed another. Hmm…. I yoyo’d with 2 guys a bit – it was nice to keep the pace up. On one tough switchback, I saw a bit of Norma’s jersey peeking through the trees. Darn! but it was good to see her riding strong again. She passed and I just couldn’t hold on. We ended up with a 3rd place female team finish. The competition this year however was much stronger, so I’m still pretty psyched with our finish.

me, enid & carol

more pictures here

is it called recovering or tapering?

last week wore me out. to top off 4 days of hard running, i met some atlanta friends at raccoon on sunday for nearly 4 hours of mountain biking (albeit leisurely done). then with monday being a holiday, i just had to get outside and enjoy some great weather, so we do the blue hole run at montlake. it’s one of my favorites and not that bad – just 10 miles… but sadly, my legs wanted no part of it. tis ok though; it was a great day and better to be out there than sitting at home (where i could have been catching up on work!)

i’ve been taking it a bit easy this week – which gives me no excuse for not posting a review of my first omnium experience (sorry mallie – it’s coming!) meanwhile, rebecca hurt her knee in an ultimate tourny last weekend, so my morning workout partner is temporarily on the DL. so i’ve been hitting snooze a bit more :)

this weekend is a race i’ve wanted to focus on, but haven’t quite done so: the Tsali Challenge. Last year I was 8th in the women’s solo division (and 9th the year before). so i really want to kick some butt… with monica pregnant, and shelley not coming this year, that should be 2 spots open ahead of me…. right?! carol and i are hoping to defend our female team championship as well if we can nail down a last minute replacement for our runner ann who is injured. regardless, a weekend in north carolina will be fab!

Stage Race: Day 3 & 4

Friday evening was a hard one – about 3.5 miles straight up Signal Mountain – about 1000′ of gain. It’s a time trial, so we go off one at a time. Signal Mountain Blvd (127) isn’t runner friendly, but for the most part car are courteous. It’s a long slow climb up and my legs felt every foot of gain. I finished in 34:10…. I think a tad quicker than last year.

Saturday morning: the Big Daddy trail run at Lookout Mountain – about 12.5 miles on very runnable trails. That doesn’t mean I could run it all today though… I think I’ve been sweating a lot more this summer than past (maybe due to the heat, but it was actually quite pleasant on the mountain, with a cool breeze), and not taking in enough water sometimes. I carried 2 bottles with me (1 water/ 1 amino vital), and stashed a third at the bottom of Sunset Rock, the only place we’d pass twice. I still ended up running out of liquids about 25 minutes from Sunset, and had been rationing until that point. I felt run down (well, this much running in a few days will certainly do that to you!) and alternated between walking and running on the last Bluff View trail section. (running made me more thirsty, but would get me finished quicker… catch-22).

I hung with Brian most of the time (until the Bluff trail) – always nice to have company (especially one that likes to talk, which makes things pass faster!). We both walked up most of the John Smart Trail – a painful section as it is basically a 2mile climb… but it’s good to practice a fast solid walk (at Mountain Mist, I could pass many people, as they slowly walked.)

Once I finally made it back to Sunset, I downed most of the water immediately. The climb out was rough on my tired legs/knees, but it was nice to finally emerge back onto West Brow Road. However, I took a wrong turn heading back to our starting point, which sucked. I just wanted to finish! My time was 2:50 by the time I made it back. Matt & Natalie had bagels waiting for us and hand-held water bottles as our finishers prize. They always do a great job with this for-fun event!

Final results to come, but only 3 women completed all 4 stages (Natalie, Me, Charlene), and I think 5 guys.