March 2010
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Month March 2010

Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Races – Choose your own adventure

This race, second in the Rock/Creek Trail Series, featured 2 distances: 6.5 miles and a 10.2 miles, both with their own list of pluses and minuses. People automatically assume that since I am (primarily) a distance runner, I would sign up for the longer event. Sure, it’s a great distance and a gorgeous course along the Cumberland Trail (the Mullen’s Cove loop – the same one that teases runners in the StumpJump 50k.) But I have to say that I don’t like rocks. In fact, sometime I despise them, especially when they are mossy & slick. I think it dates back to the Fall Creek Falls Adventure Race many moons ago (a canyoneering section after 9 hrs of racing, with lots of slipping, falling, bruises and us getting stuck after dark and having to climb out – or rather, up. Straight up. I think I’ve been permanently scarred from this ordeal…)

Anyways, I’ve run the 10m race loop a lot this spring, but when it comes down to it, that just isn’t my ideal race course. And, this was a race, so given the option, I’ll take the one I think I’ll do better at. Even if it has a heinous climb (or rather 7) on a forest service road that is both mentally and physically demoralizing in it.

Race morning was gorgeous, although a bit cool. I swear once you taste a bit of spring, you become a wimp to the early morning chill (mid 30s – a month ago that would have been balmy!) I think the key to this event is getting a good position going into the woods. While passing is an option, it’s not always that easy. I had a good start, 2nd female hitting the singletrack (my teammate Deb was 1st). My goal was to stay steady and save a bit for that aforementioned nastiness. I settled into a nice pack, no one real anxious to push it harder. As we neared Snoopers Rock (which signaled the beginning of the road climbs), I snuck around a few guys that were relaxing a bit too much. I had Deb in sight on the road, but a bit too far to be within reach (although I have to say I was thrilled to be able to see her – she is one fast chicka!).

I attacked the roads, hoping I had a bit of an advantage knowing what each hill would bring. A few of the guys near me dropped off, which is always nice mental boost. The rest of the course was uneventful, except for 1 near wipeout on a creek crossing – so thankful for good balance! The race ends on another uphill, about 3/4 of a mile, so you’re huffing & puffing nicely at the finish line. I finished in 1:02.34, good enough to hold on to 2nd place (and 3 minutes faster than the 2nd place finish I had here in 2008).

rivergorge gals

The 6.5 mile podium: Kara, Cathi, & Deb

Big thanks to all the wonderful sponsors that supported this race – the swag bag alone was worth twice the registration fee!
Patagonia, Montrail, Smartwool, The North Face, NikWax, Marmot, Hammer Nutrition & Greenlife (they brought a ton of organic fruit to the finish – yum!). And HUGE thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters & the Wilderness Trail Association for putting on a fantastic event!

Also big thanks to Archer PT (for both her first aid support at the finish to those that got eaten by the rocks, and for helping me the last few weeks zap the bursitis out of my knee), Christian Stegall Massage Therapy (who is painfully helping get my quads back in working order – not sure what I did!), and my coach Matt Hart (who always knows the perfect amount of work + rest to keep me feeling fresh!)

Gear List:

  • Patagonia Capilene 1 Shirt
  • Patagonia  Nine Trails Jacket – so light it’s barely there, but amazingly warm
  • Pearl Izumi Aurora Splice Knickers
  • Headsweats Hat
  • Smartwool Socks
  • Vasque Mindbender Shoes – seriously, they make my feet so happy
  • Ultimate Directions Handheld, filled with nuun of course!

Read Rock/Creek’s recap & see more pics here.

yeah, i’m found!

after an omg-moment earlier (when i somehow uploaded someone else’s blog – uh, hello life that isn’t mine!), i have successfully migrated the new blog over. yeah!!  a few more things to figure out – getting rid of the old one, fixing alignment issues, fixing some feeds, etc – then i can play around with some ideas to tweak the look. (i’m sure some of you will think this is plain, but it is a grid-lovers dream :)   shift-opt-g reveals the awesomeness. yes, i can be a geeky designer just like a geeky bike owner too.

meanwhile… if you see any broken links or something that looks like it’s in dire need of attention, do drop me a note. thanks!

temporarily misoriented

I will be back soon… perhaps not this monday, but hopefully by the next! Blogger is discontinuing their support of domain-hosted blogs, so I’m forced to migrate over to something new. This is good because I’ve been wanting to freshen things up! However, this is bad because I’m pretty slow with this sort of technical thing and don’t have a ton of free time to do it in (what can I say, I run too much :)

Meanwhile, the old site is still up! Just visit

See you soon!

Mount Mitchell 40… um, 36… miler

I have a history with this race.

I first signed up for it in 2007. I’d heard stories, seen pictures, and wanted to get get a piece of the action. ITB soreness (and beating myself up a few weeks earlier at Mountain Mist) caused me to drop down to the marathon distance (still an accomplishment but not what I set out to do). I was back in 2008… but this time a groin pull had me out for a month prior, so I played it smart once again and settled for a mere 26. Then 2009… oh, what a bad winter. Ankle injuries had me out for 2.5 months. No race at all.

2010. This was THE year. I was going to do it. Mother Nature, on the other hand, had a different plan. I’m not quite sure what happened to the south this year, but we’ve had crazy amounts of snow. The good: I got lots of training runs in thru snow and over ice. I was prepared, both mentally & physically (Thanks Matt!). The bad: due to the obscene amounts of snow on the trails in Mount Mitchell State Park (we’re talking 50″+, with drifts well over that), the course had to be modified. So instead of 40, we got a mere 34-36 miles. Still, with snow, ice, wind gusts topping 50mph and single digit temps at the summit (no, that’s NOT including wind chill! remember, we’re on the highest peak east of the Mississippi. that means extremes!), we were promised an epic race.

The race weekend started by escaping work early and driving to Asheville with teammate Kathy and R/C trail series race director Jonathan out to spectate & support, and NOT direct for a change!). We met up with more teammates, Natalie, Krissy & Matt at the pre-race briefing, where Jay wow’d us with amazing photos from earlier that day. It was not just winter up there – it was more like a desolate frozen tundra. gulp.

After some catching up, we retired to our accommodations at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly – a very cool lodge minutes from the start. (Thanks William & Adam!). Dinner, race prep, sleep.

Krissy & I, ready to get moving

We gathered at the start, thankful to have Matt & Jonathan to grab our down jackets before the gun went off. The race began with a 3.5 mile road run from downtown Black Mountain and thru Montreat. Normally we catch some singletrack, but our first reroute had us skipping this and heading straight up some heinous hills that warmed you up quick. From there we accessed the Toll Road – a 9 mile forest service road that led us so the Blue Ridge Parkway. Normally pretty rocky, the snow and ice almost worked to our benefit here to fill in the gaps and smooth things out a bit. The hard part was negotiating the narrow “path” left by the snowmobiles. Sometimes it was nice and wide; other times a bit too narrow for 2 feet to easily fit. After a few slips and increasingly tentative steps, I pulled on the Yak Trax – definitely good move, giving me the confidence to step wherever I wanted.

My Pics from Mount Mitchell 2010

There was a strict cutoff for the Challenge once runners got to the Parkway. Make it before 10am, and you can motor on to the summit. 10:01, and you turn around (but can still complete the Marathon as an official finisher). I cruised thru at 9:22, feeling strong and rather positive. Onward and upward! I took a moment to refresh at the aid station (all of them were lavishly stocked! I took a liking to the animal crackers today), take off the Yak Trax (we would now be on a plowed road), and put on some more clothes. Once we rounded a turn, the winds coming thru the gap stopped me in my tracks. Seriously. So strong I could barely move. Luckily this would be the worst of it, but I hung around a group of others as we slowly climbed up to 6,684′. Clouds hung low, so we saw no spanning vistas; instead, we were transported to a crazy land where the trees were not only covered with snow, but reminded me of those fake white christmas trees you see. Surreal! I snapped a few pics, but the temps kept my fingers tucked inside warm mittens. Finally, a few hundred feet from the summit, we escaped the pavement and hit some trail. The early runners probably had it easiest – walking on top of a frozen crust of snow & ice. But by now it had been stirred up and I had to negotiate thru a mess that was nearly up to my knees. Once we tagged the sign at the summit, we were signed off and now officially half way done! It was all downhill from here. Literally. How hard could that be? (well, Black Mountain does sit around 2,300′….)

Me all bundled up! © Asheville Citizen-Times
When you don’t run on pavement too much, it’s a killer. There was a nice, snow-free road luring you down… begging you to haul ass and make up some time. My knees & hips were warning me though, so I was somewhat conservative. I was super happy to hit the toll road once again – snow & ice was better than asphalt. I cruised down, trying to ignore some of the aches that started to pop up. I forgot my iPod, but enjoyed listening to the woods or chatting with other runners. Time passed. And then the evil road was here again. Somehow that last 3.5 miles always takes an eternity. In my head I thought 40 minutes; 3.5-4 miles…. I can average a 10min/mile pace and make it right around 7 hrs. That should be no problem. Um, yeah. Not quite. At least half those steps were painful (I swear my kneecaps wanted to pop off my knees); sometimes I was just happy to keep a forward movement.

Finally the Lake Tomahawk came into view, along with the finish line. I hobbled across, happy to have finally made it! 7hrs, 10 min. This was good enough for 5th place which I was thrilled with! I think I surprised from friends there too :) After some delicious hot soup, dry clothes, and picking up the prized finisher’s fleece, we headed back to the lodge to get cleaned up. Kathy had finished the marathon earlier that morning with a great time as her debut back after foot surgery last year. Natalie had a strong day, finishing 4th. Krissy easily won the women’s division, in a speedy 5:10. It would have been great to stick around for the awards ceremony that night, as the podium went thru 5th place (Rock/Creek ladies representing!!), but the long drive back had us ancy.

me + monica, happy to be done! ©Chris Brown

Jay & I. um, not quite sure what I’m doing! ©Chris Brown

my set up. much more than i normally carry, but I have to say

I was 100% happy with the choices I brought along. ©Chris Brown

Definitely happy to finally check this one off the list! Thanks to Rock/Creek, Patagonia, The North Face, Vasque & nuun for all the support! And a huge thanks to Jay Curwen and all of the race volunteers, rangers, & medics on the course ensuring us a fun and safe race!

The gear:
Vasque Blur SL shoes – These are what I’ve been running in all winter, so I figured I shouldn’t change them up last minute.
Yak Trax
TNF Flight Series windstopper vest & momentum top
Hincapie wool longsleeve baselayer
Insport tights
Smartwool socks
Nathan hydration vest
nuun – banananuun flavor. thinking tropical to keep me warm. :)
Marmot Randonnee mittens – yes, my hands get REALLY cold, but these were worth a million to me!
Marmot Dryclimb jacket – outerwear for the ascent
Mountain Hardwear fleece beanie
Buff – the ultimate piece of gear. (wore as a neck gaiter, balaclava, and headband)
Tifosi sunglasses
CEP recovery socks
CW-X stability tights, worn for recovery afterwards