Tag GA

Racing south of the border

Sutallee Trace Trail Challenge

With so many awesome races produced locally, it’s sometimes hard to break the routine and fit something new into the calendar. However, when Mountain Goat Adventures (producer of my one of my favorite events, the Blankets Creek DIrty Duathlon) expanded their event calendar to include some trail runs, I knew I’d be heading south to Georgia a few more times this year.

a strong start

The Sutallee Trace Trail Challenge had something for everyone: a kids race, a 4 mile run, and a 10 miler for those really wanting to suffer. Starting on the trails of Boling Park near downtown Canton, we began with tight singletrack along the Etowah River – scenic, although the humidity was thick and kept all the roots and rocks quite slick (as well as the many wooden bridges we had to cross). We then had a series of climbs (deceptively small, but wow did they add up and take a toll on your legs!), before reaching a forest service road that followed a ridgeline for awhile. Here we got a much needed break to catch our breath and stretch the legs out – even more important with the graceful superman dive I performed after being clotheslined by a root. I am SO thankful it was in an area padded thickly with pine needles! At the time, I had been setting pace for a group of 5 or 6 runners. Everyone stopped to make sure I was ok, even getting my water bottle that had been flung aside. (trail runners are so nice!)

trying to hold it together at the end

The ridge road meandered for awhile and we all seemed to push eachother a bit. Secretly, I think we were feeling the heat rise and just wanted to reach the finish line (& chilled watermelon) faster! We eventually looped back onto the tight singletrack that would lead us to the park. While it was a welcome sight, we definitely had to stay on our toes not to wipe out on the roots in the final miles.

My finish was for the (slightly short of) 10 mile course was 1:40:34, placing me 6th overall for the womens race (and 1st in my age group). I was super pleased to be that close to these speedy GA ladies! (The 3-time winner of last weekend’s half marathon was 3rd!) Fellow Rock/Creek Race Team member Sheridan also made the trek down with his girlfriend Lori, both having great days (10th overall/1st age group, and 3rd age group respectively).

Definitely keep MGA events (both trail running & mountain biking) in your mind for the future – this husband/wife duo are well organized, have great sponsors & support, and strive to put on a race that they would want to race themselves.

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!

Big thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters for the gear, and Wilderness Adventure Photography for the action shots!



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.

the dirty du

blankets duathlon

This past weekend, I took a break from my normal trail running events to interject some multisport fun into the mix. The Blankets Dirty Duathlon is put on by regional standout athlete Lisa Randall. If you know her as a racer, you know that she’ll put on nothing less than a top notch event. This year (I believe the 3rd for this event) was no exception.

Since I lived in Atlanta for 8 years, I used to ride these trails a lot. Just when I’d get the hang of one trail, SORBA-Woodstock would add a new ones to keep things challenging. Let’s just say they’ve been quite busy the last few years; there were many new-to-me sections!

Last time I was here (in 2009), it seemed like every time I turned around I ran into an old friend. This year, only a handful (likely due to an unfortunate conflict with the Blue Ridge AR). In fact, besides one speedy biker friend (who insisted she’d finish nowhere near me), I had no idea who my competition would be. This was going to be interesting.

4 waves of competitors went off before the last one – where all the solo and team females were. Fortunately, the time inbetween allowed folks to spread out to minimize any traffic jams. Assuming that most of the women were local and knew these trails like the back of their hand, I was hoping to have a faster run split to gain precious minutes needed on the bike. Once we were deep in the trails, it was hard to keep track of who was where, as the coed teams started before us. After a 5 mile run at what I think was a pretty decent pace, we were back at the transition area to get on our bikes. I was able to beat at least 3 of the girls ahead of me out of the TA, and was full steam ahead.

van michael trail

© Kyle Roe

By now, the temperatures had climbed higher than we’ve had this year, and the humidity was at least 115%. Sweat was everywhere, mixing with bits of mud and dust. I had my Ultimate Directions Wink on, filled with nuun – and I was drinking every bit I could, but that was just not enough today. Towards the end of the Van Michael trail, there was a log/rock obstacle to power over. I hit it just wrong enough that it tweaked my calf, locking it up in one ginormous charlie horse. Yeowsers! While I was working it out, the fast girls that hadn’t slipped by me already did so now. Oh well…

I grabbed another Gu (Cherry Lime Roctane – yum!) and a long drink, and set off to tackle the Dwellings loop. There was still a lot of riding to do (we also hit part of the South Loop – the advanced rocky trail), so I rode hard where I could, and played it conservative & smart where I needed to, knowing the slightest wrong movement could send my calf spasming again.


me, Leah, Aimee

Luckily I had no other incidents along the way and was able to finish strong and with a smile. In the end, I was 7th overall and 2nd in my age group, sharing the podium with my old friend Aimee (remember the one that said she’d finish nowhere near me? Yeah, she was nipping my tail!), and new friend Leah – hope to ride/run with both of you in the future! Checking out the overall results was quite interesting: 5 of the 6 women ahead of me were in the 40-49 & 50-59 age groups. Hot damn! Talk about strong!! Hoping that means my best years are still to come! :)

Big thanks goes out to Lisa and her husband Chris for organizing another fantastic event. The sponsor support they get is incredible – $75 Van Michael giftcards  were given to the first 60 women that registered (a posh salon in the Atl area – guess I’ll be making another trip down!), and a Cannondale 29er was raffled off, generously donated by Outspokin’ Bikes. Mountain Goat Adventures has several other events coming up this year – definitelyl check them out!

Checking out the Pinhoti

The Pinhoti Trail is a huge network of trails reaching from Elijay, GA well into AL (where the Pinhoti 100 race is held each fall) – 324 miles in full! The Snake Creek Gap time trial series is also held here each winter, a 17 & 34 mile mountain bike race (I always loved the sound of this endurance event, but have always had a schedule conflict).

One particularly idyllic fall afternoon, I headed down to Dug Gap with a friend to check out a new-to-me running spot. It’s only about 35 min south of Chatt, yet somehow I hadn’t been there yet. Parking is limited, with only a few spots on the side of the road (although the nearby Dalton convention center should offer plenty of space fo carpoolers). The trail is well marked and easy to follow. With the trees bare of leaves, plenty of scenic vistas were offered. We had to keep our mind on the trail though, as the leaves were now covering all the rocks, making the footing a technical challenge. (hmm, maybe THIS is why I hvaen’t tackled the mtn bike race yet!)

Definitely put these trails on your to-do list. Easily accessible, great running, and more trail than your feet know what to do with!

getting dirty at blankets

blankets creek dirty duathlon (directed by local adventure racer lisa randall), i jumped at the chance to race on the trails i learned to bike on. they are just north of atlanta (in woodstock), so it was one of our local stomping grounds. after the bodbikegroup xmas party, we rode out here and i was surprised how much better i felt on the trails (yeah, i’ve improved a bit in the 2 years since i’d been here! ;)   so this could be a good race for me!

first, i’ll admit i slacked off with registering and before i knew it the race had filled! i got on the waitlist immediately and luckily a girl i knew couldn’t make it, so i was in. phew! i was able to crash at a friend’s house, so i drove down friday afternoon and was able to squeeze in a meeting with a client before meeting some people for dinner.
saturday morning came early and my plan to arrive at the race an hour early to get a decent transition spot backfired; oh, i was on time, but so was everyone else. i found a spot about 2/3 back – which technically didn’t make a difference as we all made a full loop around the pit. after claiming my spot, i spent the next half hour catching up with friends instead of organizing stuff and testing my bike (afterall, i just had the failed brake lever replaced! fingers crossed the hoff had it all finetuned!) 
the race started in waves to alleviate potential backup. the women went off 5th. as we waited, i checked out my competition – fellow bodettes jackie & mindy, multisport specialists kim & marisa, and sorella badass kerry. it would be a tough day! 1 minute after the masters men, we began our run. i darted to the front and found my pace. from the parking lot, we ran straight back to the dwelling loop, running it counterclockwise. i caught the back of the pack guys quickly, which energized me more. 3 women did pass me (although 2 were in the relay division so i wasn’t as concerned), but i was feeling strong and steady… that is until about 2/3 around the loop when my heart did that weird palpitation thing it does sometimes (like in the Waterfront Tri last summer and Hogpen Hillclimb 2 years prior). it was a very pronounce flutter, followed my a strange draining feeling throughout my body, leading to a bit of dizziness and my vision narrowing. scary, but at least i’ve gone through this before. i slowed, then stopped when i kept tripping. out of a lack of knowing what to do, i grabbed my inhaler which seemed to help settle things. i started jogging again after about 1.5 min, and was up to a run another minute or so later, although somewhat guarded. as we hit the stick of the lollipop that would take us back to the TA, kim caught up with me and we ran it into the pit together. (run time: 40:49.. approx 5 miles)

after a speedy transition, i was on the bike racing down to the right side of mosquito flats. this would have been a nice flat warmup, but there was a bit of a backup and of course its not always easy to pass on singletrack. i was a bit concerned, hoping this wasn’t going to be signs of things to come…   the course next took us through part of the new north loop (SORBA-Woodstock is doing a ton of work on this trail system, with this being their newest concentration – great job!!) kim passed me here, which was no surprise as she is an awesome cyclist; i had planned on chasing her anyways. next we hit the dwelling loop, again going counter-clockwise. this was interesting as all of times i’ve ridden this loop (like nearly a zillion), i’ve only been on it once or twice this direction. this will be interesting! luckily by now the crowd had thinned and i only had the occasional rider to pass (and vice versa). i had passed a few girls, so it was only kim in front of me – until kerry snuck by. grrr….   but a few minutes later (very near where my heart thing happened), i passed her on the side of the trail dealing with cramping. it did not sound good!  i crossed my fingers that the twinges i felt in my calf would not forth….
after dwelling we hit the south loop, which i have not been on in years. it is considered the advanced loop, with a few tricky technical spots and rock gardens – my favorite (not!) i was actually pretty impressed with my riding, easily hitting things that i don’t think i could before. but sometimes i paid a price – the power to get through a section would cause my left calf or right foot to cramp up. yeowsers! yeah, they didn’t stay away and i was left with a dilemma: power through a technical section and cramp, or get off & walk it (& feel like a tool), but not cramp. i ended up doing a bit of both… and at one point (with me off the bike and cramps attacking), jackie pedaled by. i cheered her on and got back on my bike. this loop seemed a bit long, but then again i couldn’t hardly remember it so i wasn’t sure how to pace myself. finally we started weaving through the pines and i knew we were close. after the drop off the hill (fun to zoom down even if i don’t catch any air), it was home james! i boogied it back in (although not catching anyone), finishing with a total time of 1:55… good enough for 2nd place in my age group (right behind jackie) and 3rd overall woman (kim won).  woohooo!!
we cheered on all the other finishers (it was a perfect spring day!) then got ready for the 2nd big event of the day: Outspokin’ Bikes had donated 2 sweet fsr specialized bike to give away. lisa devised a crazy race on clown bikes. it was hilarious! a young guy no more than 10 or 14?? won one, and the girl marisa i know won the other. congrats!!
the awards ceremony was short, sweet, and highly profitable. lisa really outdid herself the amount of prizes she was able to get for the race – over $14,000 of products & gear, with Outspokin’ donating over $9k themselves. (Thank you!!) We got to pick our own prizes, so i immediately went for a Thomson gift certificate (good for a seatpost or stem!) and the collective’s roam dvd  (the collective makes THE best videos out there if you haven’t checked them out yet). then i was also awarded the fastest transition time out of everyone there – yep, more than 200 of us out there and i was #1. hehe! i snagged some tifosi sunglasses. (i also won a bottle of monavie juice – intriguing stuff, where one shot it gives you all your fruits & vegis for the day. and it’s yummy!)

team amino vital! taylor & dayton raced the men’s relay, placing 2nd. 
lisa (the RD) + me, 2nd place age group / 3rd overall woman!

that night, my mtn biking friends had a party, so it was good to kick back, catch up, and drink a few. i drove back to chatt the next day and had a good (although slightly uncoordinated) recovery/easter ride with the hoff at raccoon. 

highs and lows of the weekend


i finally got back outside! the dr gave me some antibiotics on thurs and i was feeling a million times better by saturday. i got a short trail run in at lookout (45 min – didn’t want to push it on day #1 back!). on sunday i headed up to raccoon for a lap. it was perhaps a bit more than i should have done, (i was wiped out at the end!) but the temps were warm, the company great, and i’ve missed my bike a lot (haven’t been on since thanksgiving). we even went on some new stuff that was a blast!

ice on lookout mtn from last week’s hard freeze

on new years day, meredith emerson went hiking with her dog at vogel state park in blairsville, ga… a place i’ve trained and raced in many times. she never came home. the story was all over the news and it really hit home, even if i didn’t know her. tonight her body was found in Dawson Forest – the site of the two Midnight Rush Adventure Races Kevin Fordham and I put on a few years back. we knew that area like the back of our hand. to think of what happened there gives me the chills.
my run on saturday was solo. i must say i looked over my shoulder a few times and left the ipod at home. granted, i was on well-traveled trails, but that just isn’t enough sometimes. there has been much talk on the trailblazers message board about all the solo training we end up doing, whether it be on foot or bike. it’s always nice training with a group, but with work schedules, family commitments, etc, inevitably we go about it alone. shoot, even small groups aren’t foolproof. last fall i was with star & lisa on a 4+ hr ride on the forest service roads south of tanasi when 3 guys on motorcycles went by. we kept moving forward until we saw them stopped up the mtn a bit; we promptly turned around and hauled ass out of there. luckily they didn’t follow. 
this brings up the question (posed on TBARC) of personal safety when training in wilderness areas. i was surprised to hear how many folks have handguns they carry. but would it do any good in a pack? in your saddle bag? i don’t know what the answer is, but i think a lot of us will be searching for one. it won’t stop me from going out… and i don’t think that i have to be with a male at all times (as has been suggested by some people). but i will definitely be more aware, try to make smart decisions, and let people know where i am + for how long.
my prayers and condolences go out to meredith’s family & friends.

a very dorky xmas

I headed to N.Ga for the annual BOD xmas party this past weekend. It was good to see everyone and catch up. A few pics are below. On Sunday, Clifford, Matt & his friend Chris went biking at Blankets. Wow, it’s been over 1.5 yrs since I’ve been here. It was a bit weird, remembering the trail (as I used to ride here a few times a month) but not having it exactly as I remember. Matt also took us on a tour of the new North Loop that is under construction – very nice! SORBA Woodstock is doing a great job down there.

Rusty & me

me, Clifford, Mark

the gals: tracey, amy, lisa, natalie

trev’s handy work, always in demand during the gift exchange. 
regulation championship cornhole set
wall art made from barbed wire, scrap metal & a chainring.


this past weekend i joined fellow vixens lisa & star (both headed to the Leadville 100) and colleen & her husband franklin for a big ride that i’ve been wanting to do for awhile: the cohutta death march.

it pretty much lived up to everything i’ve heard: painful. brutal. epic. the death march is a ride that circumnavigates the cohutta wilderness management area in north georgia. the ride is on forest service roads, with tons of elevation. since it was a loop, the gain/loss equals out, but it certainly did feel like we went uphill a heck of a lot more! about 2hrs into the ride we ran across jeramie, who was out doing a diff loop. (i just talked with him and he said he saw a nice big bear hanging out on the road where we had just come from. we didn’t get to see any wildlife though.)

the pace was solid and the leadville gals put a hurtin on me. they’ve been training so much; their fitness level right now is quite impressive! i’m definitely not there, but managed to hang on, although i was looking at spandex-clad butts most of the day. we really lucked out with the weather. the morning started off around a cool 62 and didn’t get much above 80. the clouds increased as the day went on, but the rain stayed away from us. about halfway through, we used franklin’s filter to refill our camelbaks from a creek (at least this one could be classified as running water, unlike the puddle i used at the UOG earlier this summer). we kept well fueled and hydrated, but my legs still burned constantly. my pack was also hitting my lower side back funny, which was quite annoying. with 2 hrs left, we came across some houses with people outside that kindly let us use a well to refill our paks once again. i really wonder what they think when they see us ride up… i’m sure we looked/smelled grande…

not much more time to go and things have been pretty uneventful. no crashes, no bears, no bad weather, no freaky motorcycle guys… then on a nice descent (and i have to say, i’m getting much better at them, with the new bike & hydraulic brakes…), where i had a decent amount of speed, i hit a wasp of sorts. and of course it stings the crap out of me – the inside of my lower lip to be exact. yeah, NOT fun. i’ve only been stung by yellow jackets a few times, and this was much bigger and too black to be one of those. not knowing if i was allergic to this thing, i hightailed it down. when i met up with everyong at the bottom, i had tears running down my face, was trying desperately not to hyperventilate, and my lip was throbbing so much i couldn’t talk (like when you leave the dentist with half your face numb). i took a benadryl to help with the swelling… it did the trick. but it also sucked every last bit of energy i had. there was about 45min of riding left and it was sooo hard. my eyelids were heavy, legs not wanting to move like before. it was like the sleepmonsters coming after 20hrs of adventure racing. not fun!!

we made it back to our cars finally and hit a cracker barrel for dinner, consuming massive amounts of food. (i had all but passed out in the back of the car before, then had to fight off a food coma!)

i’m still pretty sore and tonight’s tuesday night ride was not an easy one. but, it was a great workout, and as i said, very humbling.

a few stats:
80 miles
approx 8000′ of elevation gain
8hrs 16min ride time
(total time about 1 hour more)

Raisin Hope with the Vixens

Today a bunch of the Velo Vixens headed down to Dalton, GA to participate in the Raisin Hope Charity Ride. The event was organized by local pro cyclist Saul Raisin (team Crédit Agricole) to benefit the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord injury rehab hospital down in Atlanta that was crucial in Saul’s recover from a serious bike crash overseas last April. Riders could choose from 3 ride lengths: 13, 35 & 50. Of course, we opted for the 50 miler, which included the climb up Fort Mountain.

Dalton is only 30 minutes south, so we drove down that morning. Unfortunately we weren’t ready to make the 8am start with the group. We didn’t have to start then, but this was my first road cycling event and I thought it would be cool to do so. I got a bit ancy, but once we starting rolling, all was good – and it was fun to pass people of course :) I had to get in the mindset that this was an event, not a race!

We had a 14mile warmup before we started the climb. Dalton sits around 800′, with the summit of Fort Mtn a bit over 2800′. Luckily the grade was very doable and I just spun it on up (afterall, wasn’t I still in recovery mode from the CPZ AR last weekend?!) It went on forever, but really wasn’t as bad as I had expected! (When Rebecca & I drove over it on our way to Helen I was getting a bit concerned). The group reconvened up top before beginning the descent (which was the same route we had just climbed). Going down was ok, but I still get freaked out with speed. The switchbacks weren’t too bad so I was able to let loose a bit more than normal. Still, I was the last one down! (but I was the first one up… so does that count for something?!) That descent really took a lot out of me (funny, as most people relax here! me, just stress + tension…). We had another 20 miles to go and I started to drag on a bit. I have trouble with the whole drafting/paceline thing, so I was usually fighting the wind myself. With about an hour to go, I got a bad pain at the bottom of my neck / inbetween my shoulders that lowered my spirits a bit. (It’s not an unusual thing – had it a few times last weekend during the paddle and toward the end of long biking sessions). But regardless of these little downers, getting to the finish was great. In fact, the whole day was pretty amazing. After the ride, a big bbq was served (ok, so not my ideal lunch, but I can still appreciate it), great items raffled off, and tents from vendors to peruse. Pro cyclists Kevin Livingston & Nathon O’Neill were also present. The Vixens tracked down Saul to get a quick pick before headed back home (we had a booth at the Outdoor Expo going on at Coolidge Park).

> see more pics here

about to head out…

last minute pre-race scrambling, no matter how early i tried to prepare properly. the weather in helen, ga is looking amazing this weekend – perhaps a bit too warm! i think we were all prepared to be racing in freezing rain & snow.

race details for the Checkpoint Zero Advenure Race
- starts tomorrow morning at 8am, ending at 2pm on sunday
- 30 hours of mtn biking, trekking, paddling, and navigation
- set in helen, ga

my teammates for this are daniel & hunter and we’re lucky to have Athens-based Charbon’s Outfitters as our sponsor. the race will have live reports from the field on Checkpoint Tracker. Send us a shout out to jazz us up when we’re sleepy, and keep track of our standing on the leaderboard. (it won’t have real-time tracking, but many updates are promised). we’re hoping to have a solid performance!