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Month November 2010

georgia-cross in tennessee

cx

Well, some do consider Chattanooga to be a suburb of Atlanta, so I guess we qualified enough to host the latest race in the Georgia-Cross cyclocross series. Vantaggio hosted the event and designed another awesome course out at Camp Jordan. I had pre-registered, so despite the 21+ miles, 4.5 hrs of trail running the day before, I gathered my gear and headed out. I was running a bit late and didn’t get to pre-ride the entire course, but got some good tips about navigating the slick areas and how deep the sand pits were.

The Womens B race had 8 ladies start. The first part of the course included a ascending steep slick hill, followed by a chicane on this same hill. Not having been on my cx bike lately and not having practiced stuff like this (esp after rain), I chose to dismount early and run it. Despite my sore feet, this was a good, time-saving decision for me – I held my place, if not passed nearby riders. Quick remount, then a long section with some twisty cornering. In the middle was a tricky barrier right before a runup – it was angled in such a way that we were dismounting on the downhill so we could turn and jump the barrier. Luckily everything happened smoothly, although I had visions of not unclipping and faceplanting while sliding down the muddy hill. :)

Continuing on: More technical turns with some room for some speed inbetween… a double barrier (that not everyone cleared, as you can see from the photo above)… then a double feature sandpit. yes, one right after the other. It was deep stuff too. A good majority of people weren’t making it all the way through. Since I hadn’t been able to pre-ride this, I played it safe, dismounted, and ran through both, carrying my bike. This is where I was able to save time and get a gap on a few ladies behind me. The only problem was the sand jamming up in my cleats. I had one heck of a time clipping in after this (slipped off the pedal once and jammed it right into my Achilles. Not advisable!!)

The course was 3.0k, so we hit it about 5 times during our 30 minute race. I finished 5th, happy we didn’t have to go 45 min like the A race. This definitely did me in for the weekend! I had a blast though, which is what racing cross is all about. Definitely looking forward to more this season!

(hoping to have some pictures posted soon, but so hard for me to get to on the weekdays)

Upchuckin’ thru the woods…

upchuck

This race has become a bit of a legend in it’s few short years. As the race website says…. “Let us reiterate: this is seriously difficult.”  To enter, racers wishing to tackle this course had to submit a video stating why they should race – from Ray Jay (& his wife Jay Ray), to the daughter saying she wants her dad to have another throw-up shirt, we knew these racers would have the humor they needed to tackle one of the toughest 50k’s they’d attempt. (Check out the videos here.) But would they have the fitness?? (If not… well, the Grim Sweeper just might catch them!)

Now, before you think that I earned major badass points for completing this race, this was just a volunteer day for me. My mileage isn’t back up to 50k worthiness, and I don’t want to push my ITB too far too quick. Besides, good races don’t happen without good volunteers! I started my duties Friday night by baking 4 doz “anti-upchuck power cookies” and a few loaves of molasses oat banana bread to fuel runners at mile 18. We had a good crew stationed here – great volunteers, cheering supporters, and helpful rangers. Once Kathy (pictured above) came through, I paced her for an hour on the Soddy Segment of the Cumberland Trail. The hour run back made for a great run on a beautiful day.

On the way back I passed the Sweep and was quizzed on who I remember passing. Hmm..  In particular, he was looking for one individual that hadn’t checked in at the last aid station. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen him. Once I got back to my post, we talked with the ranger on what to do. It was closing in on 3pm and racers could still take another hour or two until they reached the finish line. We could wait… as it was possible he slipped by without getting checked off our list, but then we’d be playing nightfall – an entirely different ballgame for a search. With thoughts of the search party I nearly had to form at this year’s STRONG Adventure Race, we figured it was best to go ahead and run the trail backwards to the runner’s last known point – a concrete bridge 6-7 miles up the Possum Creek Gorge segment. (yeah, the hardest one…)  At least we had daylight working with us right now…

Another volunteer joined and the rangers promised to pick us up a the other end. We ran and hiked, calling for the runner. We passed a group of hikers that had hiked this entire section, but they had not seen him either. Shortly before we arrived at our pick up point, I received a call – the runner had hitched a ride back to the start. Phew!! Hearing his story, he definitely got turned around and once he finally backtracked onto the course, the sweep had gone through and the previous aid stations had already been torn down. Thankfully the day had a good ending…. although my legs might have a different idea after my run time doubled. (well, nothing like diving right back into the miles!)

shut-in ridge trail run

©Paul Christopher

I have a bad habit of doing the same races over and over… The problem is, I’m just so in love with a few of them that I can’t even consider not toeing the start line. The Shut-In Ridge Trail Run is one such event. My annual autumn trip to Asheville for this ass-kicker also provides me the chance to visit friends I don’t see often enough, and if I’m lucky, some awesome fall foliage. The race starts at the Arboretum, following a forest service road and dreamy singletrack as it parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, ending 17.8 miles later at the trailhead to Mt. Pisgah. (but only after it sends you up, up, and up the hellacious, quad-busting, cramp-inducing, I-might-have-to-crawl-on-my-knees-to-make-it-to-the-top climb the race is known for.)

Unfortunately this year the leaves fell early; however, Mother Nature gave us a surprise instead – SNOW! While this was exciting, it did pose some challenges: namely, where would the race end? The Blue Ridge Parkway closes once winter weather hits. The alternate road is a scenic, twisty, steep one that would make most cars groan if any snow & ice accumulated on it. Race morning the rumor was the Mt. Pisgah parking lot was a sheet of ice. With the race being a point-to-point, it looked likely for us to run a shortened course (this has only happened 1 time before in the race’s 31 year history).

We gathered with anticipation at the start line for the official word. Norm said…  We’d run the full thing! Their hopes were that once the sun had warmed things up, the road would be a non issue. However, they reserved the right to amend the course at any time during the race. With that caveat, we were off! My goals for the day were modest. Some crazy fatigue I’ve been having kept my training a bit random. I just really hoped I had enough energy on race day to make it to the top :)  Of course getting a course PR would be preferable, but I wasn’t sure how likely that would be today.

The trail was thick with leaves, hiding the rocks and holes and making some steps treacherous. Add to that some slickness due to melting snow and I knew it wouldn’t be a record setting day. It was, however, a beautiful day on the trails! Bits of snow dusted the mountain laurel and a few gold & red trees decorated the forest kept my mind off the burn in my legs as we climbed higher and higher. Somehow I made the perfect choice in clothing (details below), which made the journey perfectly comfortable (until perhaps the last 15 min when the wind starting biting). I did wear a small pack since I didn’t have support along the way. This would definitely save a bit of time, but the pack doesn’t bother me so it wasn’t a big deal.

©Erin Brethauer

The final climb (s!) were as brutal as I remembered. I fell back a little here, but was happy to keep forward momentum (not everyone accomplishes that on this section!). The temps dropped, the wind picked up, and I was definitely happy the end was near. One woman crept up during the last quarter mile, so I had to work a bit to hold her off! My finishing time was 3:47 – faster than last year, but not my best time on this course. The Curwens & Browns were cheering me on and taking pics at the end (and then a Citizen-Times photographer got this awesome shot of me.. haha!) I was ushered into a warming tent – a godsend! However with so many people inside, my muscles were aching for some space. I grabbed the prized finisher’s shirt and headed to our van to get some dry clothes on. Big thanks to Monica and Lorrin for changing my socks when my legs started cramping up and bringing me the carton of Doc Chey’s peanut noodles (great race sponsor!)

If you haven’t done this race, it’s a must-do at some point. It sells out early every year, so keep your eye on the website for the summer registration announcement. Just don’t send in your money before me :)

Gear List:
Icebreaker 180 wool short sleeve shirt
Patagonia Nine Trails jacket
Pearl Izumi Arm Warmers
Buff (UV!)
Mountain Hardwear  Power Stretch Gloves
Insport tights
Smartwool socks
Vasque Mindbender shoes
Nathan running vest
Nuun + Clif Shot Bloks

Great pics from the Citizen-Times and more on Jus’ Running’s Facebook page

new england autumn

fall

Well, the tail end of it at least. Despite Delta’s best efforts to delay my visit (& subsequent return), I caught a few late leaves while exploring some great trails.

The pic above is from the Mattabesett Trail (I think). It is a 50-mile section of the newly-formed 800+ mile long New England Trail (part of which is also known as the CT Blue Blazes Trail.) I didn’t have much time to explore (Anders was on a road ride), but what I saw, I liked! After an initial steep rocky ascent, it evened out a bit to some very runnable, beautiful singletrack. I can’t wait to explore this trail system more in the future!

We also had a few spins around Tyler Mill, both on foot and wheels. I’d really love to get out here on a “modern day mtn bike”, as the beast I’m borrowing must weight at least 10 lbs more than my Lynskey, and the front suspension has long ago stopped working. But, 2 rough wheels are better than none, and it was definitely fun to be out there. I’m not sure what I’d compare these trails to in the southeast – not as groomed, lots of trails crisscrossing, with everything from dirt road to big drops, creek crossings and more. Definitely easy to get lost out here!

Can’t leave out our other favorite place to stop – Gouveia Vineyards. Unfortunately they were sold out of their Cabernet Franc, but we indulged in some other deliciousness.

Anyways, the next trip should coincide with some white stuff on the ground – really hoping to check out this place!


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