Stage race, day 2: Worst.Race.EVER.

Let me preface that by saying the race organization, course, volunteers, etc. were stellar; it was my own personal performance that failed.

I started off slow & easy, feeling ok. I knew the trails of Raccoon inside & out, so mentally I was prepared for the 18 miles ahead. Somewhere before the switchyard, my knee was getting stiff. I looked down and realized I had forgotten to wear the ITB band/strap thing that has been the magical little piece of gear that has kept me moving. Shit. Sure enough, it locks up on me a few minutes later. I hobble stiff-legged to the next aid station, at the entrance to the small intestines trail loop. I gave a friend my keys to get my strap (hoping it was in my car), and meanwhile sacrificed my Buff to make a sort of tourniquet thing to tie around my ITB and apply some pressure (and hopefully gain some relief). Then I set out on the trail… and walked every bit of that 3.5 miles. QUITE frustrating. a few tears even.

Luckily when I looped back around to the aid station, my band aid was waiting. YEAH! I had been seriously contemplating what to do if it wasn’t there. Do I withdraw? Is a DNF the smartest thing to do? Or do I persevere and hike it to the finish? (Or is that just being stubborn and stupid?) Thankfully I took the finding to be my sign, and carried on.

I walked. and walked. The band wasn’t so magical that I was able to start running right away, but it did loosen up enough to shuffle through MegaWatt slightly faster than a granny’s pace. I listened to a storm rumbling through Sequatchie Valley and met some nice folks along the way. A few miles from the end, the sky opened up. At first, it was refreshing. cleansing. But then the lightning started, and boy did that put a pep in my step. All pain was forgotten and I focused on getting to the finish line asap.

Finally, it came. A few minutes after 4 hrs. wow. A whole hour after my predicted time. This was definitely the most trying day I’ve had on the trail. Mostly due to the frustration of my dang knee pain and not knowing how to fix it. Any progress I thought that I’ve made is out the window. (Goodbye WR50… maybe next year). I think some solid rest (or at least, time off the feet) is in order after tomorrow’s final stage.

Stage Race: Day 1

22 miles. 3000′ of climbing. temps climbing into the mid-90s. classic southern humidity. yeah, it was going to be a big day no matter how you looked at it.

While the distances alone aren’t scary, add them up on consecutive days, with the aforementioned southern summer, and I know that I’ll have to play it smart if I want to survive. I started this race off much slower than any other, hoping to save some leg for what will certainly be a killer Day 3. (I’m also using this as a training race, so no big pressure to perform well… although I suppose the desire to do well never fully leaves your mind).

The first loop around the land trust was uneventful, although an extra trail added in that we didn’t prerun played some mental games with me (more so on the last loop). The run out to Covenant College was fine – overall more flowy and not as technical. I did take one nosedive – tripping on a stick or something. A friend behind asked if I was ok.. then he tripped on the same dang stick, headed right towards me. Luckily all ended well and we got a good laugh. The final (repeat) loop at the end started playing games with me – by now I was ready for the day to be over. I was running alone for most of it and it seemed like the trail just wouldn’t end. Perseverance…

The best part of the trail was the creek crossing at the end. It was probably around knee-high, and just begging to be neck-high; yes, a full body dunk was in order. Only a half mile or so to the finish, so why not? (It was FANTASTIC!)  Anders was waiting for me at the finish line, which was the best part of the day :) After a quick lunch, he got ready to head to Memphis for a bike race, and I dragged my sore body & throbbing feet to work for the afternoon. (Note to self: Never go back to work after a race. Talk about a lack of focus…)

I finished day 1 as the 10th female, with a time of 4:17:25. My body feels a bit beat up (although the knee is doing pretty ok!)… tomorrow will be interesting!

National Trails Day

June 5 was National Trails Day, so of course, we had to indulge. It was also a designated open gate day at the Lula Lake Land Trust… which so happens to be the site of Stage 1 of the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race. Ah, everything falling perfectly into place!

The race itself has 2 loops (opposite directions) inside the park, with a middle section that takes us out to Covenant College and back. With steamy high temps, we kept inside the park (close to the water) and fully explored what we’ll soon be running. I’ve only been up here 2 other times, both for races, so it was nice to take it easy and soak in the scenery for a change. It’s really a hidden gem – a mere 25 minutes from my house, and you all but forget there’s a city just at the bottom of the mountain.

After 2 hours of running fun, the crew sat in the creek and ate watermelon; but I still needed 30 minutes, so back out I went. I took this opportunity to hike to the bottom of the waterfall – awesome! peaceful, serene, with a cooling mist filling the gorge. I highly recommend a visit!

final recon for the stage race

The Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race begins on Friday and, knee-willing, I will be at the start. I’m not sure how much of a race it will be for me – I just want to get through all 3 days with my knee intact (the plan is for this to be a prep for the White River 50 at the end of July). The other thing I hope to survive is the heat. It’s been just plain nasty – and this weekend’s scouting mission up on Signal was the perfect practice for such suffering.

We were on the trail by 8:30am, planning for 2.5 hrs. We started from Signal Point, planning to run all but the Suck Creek Gorge and school sections. Things got off to a bad start when we couldn’t find the trailhead, so we hopped on the road until the next intersection with the trail at Rainbow Lake.  (I later found out we will follow the road; why the map shows differently I don’t know.) Once on the trail, we ran around… and apparently around some more, as we nearly did a complete loop. The trails criss cross a lot, so we couldn’t keep track of precisely where we were. (And the map was so minimal that even the resourceful ex-AR navigator in me had no way to orient it to my compass). Apparently gut feeling wasn’t working, but some nice folks we met on trail got us moving in the right direction. Once I saw a familiar red blaze, I felt better… that is, until it was so overgrown and laden with slippery rocks that we all felt surely this was not the race course. We persevered and eventually hit a FSR that led us to where the Edward’s Point Rd aid station will be. (I also later found out that this was, in fact, the one and only race route. Wow. This will break souls. and maybe ankles.)

From here, we were at least 30 minutes behind schedule if not more, so we stuck to a familiar jeep road that would bisect this part of the forest and take us right to Edward’s Point (pictured above). Emily actually hadn’t been here before, so it was cool showing such a beautiful spot to someone new. We then hopped on the Cumberland Trail and ran that back to Signal Point. While a bit brushy, the growth wasn’t too bad and a decent pace was kept. (Until the final climb out to where the aid station will be, at the top of umpteen wooden stairs.)

The temperatures were ridiculous – the heat index well over 100 – so a dip in the cool waters of a nearby waterfall were definitely appreciated. Unfortunately this luxury will NOT be a part of the race course :(

the JMT in TN

When someone mentions the John Muir Trail, thoughts of the amazing 215mile trail out west comes to mind. Little do people know we have a touch of the great man here in eastern Tennessee as well! It begins at Childer’s Creek near Reliance, on the northern bank of the Hiwassee River. From there, it stretches east 20.7 miles, following a route Muir took many moons ago. I’m going to steal a quote here, from his book A Thousand Miles to the Gulf, as it to eloquently describes the beauty of the area:

My path all to-day led me along the leafy banks of the Hiwassee, a most impressive mountain river. Its channel is very rough, as it crosses the edges of upturned rock strata, some of them standing at right angles, or glancing off obliquely to right and left. Thus a multitude of short, resounding cataracts are produced, and the river is restrained from the headlong speed due to its volume and the inclination of its bed. All the larger streams of uncultivated countries are mysteriously charming and beautiful, whether flowing in mountains or through swamps and plains. Their channels are interestingly sculptured, far more so than the grandest architectural works of man. The finest of the forests are usually found along their banks, and in the multitude of falls and rapids the wilderness finds a voice. Such a river is the Hiwassee, with its surface broken to a thousand sparkling gems, and its forest walls vine-draped and flowery as Eden. And how fine the songs it sings!

BTW, that link seems to actually be the whole book online…  will have to mark that to read!

Anyways, back to the run! We had a great group meet out there – about an hour from Chattanooga, so not too bad of a drive. We parked at Hiwassee Outfitters, running across a bridge, then accessing the JMT not too far down the road. The first section was flat and fairly wide, following the banks of the river. There was a few miles of pavement to get us to the Apalachia Powerhouse (mile 6), where the dam is. Hikers can duck under the bridge and access the rest of the trail. This section, being tucked away a bit, isn’t as well-traveled, so some bushwacking around fallen trees spiced things up. We didn’t quite make it to the end – the trail crossed a the river (or was it a feeder creek?) and we were tempted by the sunshine for a snack break, ultimately making this our turnaround (around mile 9.5).

On the way back, Wendy had conveniently stashed her car for use as a water stop – definitely needed as I had sucked all 100oz of nuun from my bladder by now! Refueled, we hit the trail for the last few miles…. however, my knee did NOT want to cooperate. I tried to shake it out, but it was just done. So, my day was over early, although I was happy to have ticked off 16 miles (the most in several months). I drove the car back to our start (convenient!), soaking in some sun while icing my knee.

The afternoon ended with everyone safely returning & happily exhausted, followed by a long soak in the chilly river and much-needed nourishment at the best food in the Ocoee Gorge: The Ocoee Dam Deli!

The mountains are calling and I must go.
John Muir

More pictures here

picture perfect @ the scenic city

©2010 Lucas George Photography

This was just one of those great mornings. Blue skies, fog filling the Tennessee River Gorge, a touch of coolness in the air (not that it would stick around that long)… Cars orderly lined up along the road to Laurel Point, start of the Scenic City Trail Marathon (& Half Marathon). While only in it’s third year, registration nearly doubled from last year, with 430+ racers toeing the start line – a great sign of the growing popularity of trail running.

With my knee still tweaky (my mileage has probably been cut in half and I haven’t been able to run more than 30 min without discomfort – Plica Syndrome they say…), I didn’t really have many expectations coming into this race; if the discomfort turned into pain, my plan was to stop. Meanwhile it was business (or rather fun) as usual!

the two race team kathy / cathi 's. ©Debra Martin

The start was crowded, but the self-assigned corrals helped to group people by predicted finish time. After .5-.75 miles of pavement (good for spreading folks out), we ducked into the trails. There was a long line of us, but everyone was kind & orderly, keeping a pretty solid pace. (If I was wearing my heart rate monitor, I’m sure it would have said I was going a bit too hard…) After 10 minutes or so, I was able to settle into a comfortable pace with a nice empty space around me – my fav way to run. People would pass.. small chats would be had… I would pass… and so on.

About a third of the way through, I was thinking how happy I was not to be running the full today. It was hot. And humid. The rain from the previous day kept the woods damp, with thick air. The few breaks we had in open space had to be at least 10 degrees cooler. My bottle of nuun was going quick… and since I wasn’t going to be out there for long, I didn’t bring a backup tab for a refill; nor did I bring any electrolytes. oops. My knee discomfort would wane as my focus went to my feet that started getting twinges of cramping. I chose my steps a bit more carefully, as one simple trip would send me into one huge charlie horse.

©Celeste Sneed

Shortly after the visitors center was a section called Mega Watt – some rocky sections and swooping hills. I was able to gain a bit of time here, catching back up to 2 women that had passed me on Grindstone. I think this is when my local knowledge helped. When we were a few miles out, I upped the pace a bit and was able to get some distance between us. I was actually feeling surprisingly fresh and was able to finish strong, with a final time of 1:55:23 – good enough for 5th overall woman in the half marathon. (Turns out those 2 ladies I passed ended up being 1 & 2 place masters). On an interesting note, all 4 women placing ahead of me were older than me – with 3 of them 40+. Maybe I have some speed to look forward to as I age?! :)

My post race hanging out time was a bit rushed as I had a letterpress workshop to dash to…  but not before I had a great massage from Christian and some fruit & coffee courtesy of Greenlife and Blue Smoke Coffee.

Overall, this was yet another fantastic race in the Rock/Creek Trail Series. The fields are growing larger and attracting top regional racers, and WildTrails continues to up the ante with a terrific race experience. Next up is the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race in a month – toes crossed my knee is back to normal by then!

©Debra MartinRace day gear:
Headsweats visor
Patagonia Capilene tank
Moving Comfort sports bra
Patagonia Multi-Use Skirt
Smartwool PhD socks
Vasque Mindbenders
Ultimate Directions handheld
nuun
Clifbloks

buymebuymebuyme

Yes, lots of good gear that must go! I’ve collected way too much over the years… stuff to test, stuff I’ve won, and stuff that I simply can’t use. I’m posting here and on a few forums before I go the ebay route. If you’re in the Chattanooga-area, I can meet you to try on. give me a shout!

Stuff includes:
packs by Deuter, Ultimate Directions, The North Face
shoes by inov-8, END, La Sportiva
awesome watch by High Gear (um, i’ll never need to know the rate at which i descend a mtn skiing…)
a nightpro light system with wiring issues (going for $0!)

Here’s a pdf with pics, pricing, details, etc.
gear to sell (updated June 14)

Ride of Silence

Tonight at 7pm, thousands of cyclists rode in silence at more than 300 events in 22 countries worldwide, to honor those that have been injured or killed while riding on public roadways. We had a great turnout in Chattanooga, both on bikes and those that came outside their home/business to show their respect on the sidewalks.

We were, however, one person short. David, you were in our hearts today.

An Appalachian Birthday

I played some birthday hookie last Tuesday and joined a friend (ex-pro-mountain biker turned competitive disc golfer turned hiking fanatic Hoff) for an epic day hike on the AT. We dropped the car at the NOC and grabbed a shuttle ride up to Stecoah Gap, where we would begin our 13.5 mile hike back to the car. (still trying to get the elevation change – definitely hefty, judging from how sore I was the next few days!)

Even though it was mid-May in the south, it was a bit chilly higher up, esp with the fog & mist making everything damp. During our lunch stop at Sassafras Gap Shelter, I actually had on 4 layers up top – a Patagonia Runshade shirt & 9 Trails Jacket, TNF TK100 fleece, and a Precip rain jacket. and still shivered! Having a hot meal was delightful – a big thumbs up for the Moosilauke Goulash (although seriously, is all that sodium needed?) While the clouds hid any sort of view most of the time, it made our surroundings lush – with all the birds singing constantly (that’s really the only wildlife we saw, much to Hoff’s dismay), it felt like we were in a rainforest (albeit a cold one). A little gorillas in the mist-ish…

It was early enough in the year that we encountered many thru hikers on their way north (our route was south). Definitely cool (& inspiring) to hear their stories! In hindsight, I should have asked if any were blogging their journeys – would have been neat to kept up with them. I’m not sure if I’m cut out to be on the trail that long… but I wouldn’t mind trying it out for a week or two sometime.

Once back at the car, we indulged in the NOC’s 25¢/minute for hot showers. What luxury! Then dove into the carrot cake I had stashed – my fav! Overall, the day was almost as perfect as it could be (without having my other half around ;) ).

More pics here.

A few licks of the Triple Loop Scoop

Triple Scoop stickers

I’ve had this nagging on-again, off-again knee injury that keeps resurfacing at the most inappropo times…. such as for Wendy & Mark’s fun run, The Prentice Cooper Triple Loop Scoop. This was to be 2 loops of  the Mullens Cove trail (from the recent River Gorge Race’s 10.2 mile course) and 1 loop of the 6.5mile race course. Fun event, fun people, good snacks, good weather. The only thing missing was my good knee. So as to not miss out on everything, I took a nice hike out to Snoopers Rock (insert a scenic break here) and back. Sure, it was tough to keep it slow on such a gorgeous day (with everything exploding in color!), but I was happy to just be in the woods for a bit.

trail?!

I swear there's a trail thru there

Chillaxin' at Snoopers

1 scoop with lots of pollen sprinkled on top (the shoes really aren't supposed to be that yellow!)