May 2011
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Month May 2011

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.