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Mount Mitchell race report: a diff kind of success…

mount mitchell challenge

This Race and I have history.

I first attempted the Mount Mitchell Challenge (40 whopping miles, to the summit of Mt Mitchell and back) in 2007. A winter ankle injury messed up my training, so I switched to the marathon distance (aka the Black Mountain Marathon, which follows the same route to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where marathoners turn around and challengers proceed). The following year I again jumped at the Challenge. But oh… a groin pull but my training behind schedule, so I played it smart and again marathon’d it. Being frustrated with “settling for the marathon”, I went ahead and registered for the marathon in 2009. However my bad winter luck continued – can’t remember what, but I didn’t even run. (This happened to be the super-epic year at the race too. Weather so bad, people had to be rescued off the mtn.)

MMC 2010Then came 2010. Surely the weather would be better this year. Well, it kind of was… but the summit was like a frozen tundra – wind chills dipping well below zero, rime ice covering everything. I signed up for – and actually ran! – the full monty FINALLY. Well, sort of… the park service closed several trails, so we were on a modified course of only 36ish miles. I crossed the finish line in 1 piece, smiling, and as the 5th female.

So, this year. The race bumped things up a notch, with online registration only. A note was sent out morning of… I logged on right at 9am (waaay back in Sept 2010), registered, and got sucked into work meetings. Then at lunch I hear the race has already sold out. whoa. A few other friends got in; many did not. Knowing my history with this event.. was my success a blessing? or, a curse? Time would tell!

Training through the winter went well. Perfect. I was dialed in for this distance (big thanks to my coach Matt for always keeping me on track). I woke up to a weather forecast that was nothing short of perfect…  & a cough. The tickle that I had in my throat earlier in the week was not willed away, no matter how much I had tried. The chilly morning air did no favor to my lungs either. Still, I remained optimistic – bidding good luck to friends and team mates.

The race started at 7am. I had not yet made it to the stone arches of Montreat when I was already sidelined coughing. This was not good. These fits would happen periodically – good, because getting rid of stuff in my lungs made it easier to breathe; bad because coughing so hard twisted up my stomach so I wasn’t eating or drinking much. In the 3 other times I’ve done this race, I’ve never struggled so much to get to the parkway. I walked a ton. I had all kinds of scenarios going through my mind. Part of me still wanted to go to the top. I mean, come on! It was a blue skies day! My training had been spot on! I was ready! Other parts of me wondered if I could even make it to the turnaround (let alone under the designated cut-off time for challengers to proceed). Would one of the ATV med staff take me on a ride to the finish line instead of my own two feet?

Well, I made it there with 12 minutes to spare, although it was definitely my slowest split. Monica greeted me with a “Girl, I’ve been wondering where you were!”, to which I groaned “I don’t think I can do it.”  I was dizzy, nauseous, and had a bit of a headache – all signs of dehydration (not unexpected with my lack of nutrition/hydration to this point). Plus, the cough. I guess I was also looking bad, as several racers & aid station volunteers tended to me, making sure I got some liquids down. Eight minutes passed and I started getting ancy. (I also saw a few girls come and go; despite feeling bad, the competitiveness was still inside!) I made the hard, but smart decision to call it a marathon day, turning around and heading downhill 11 miles to the finish. I was determined to get there on my own.

About 30 minutes later I felt an energy burst. The miracles of nutrition :) I was happy to have some pep back in my body. I picked up the pace and actually had a great run back. I’ve never really liked the last part of the race  (after the Old Toll Road, there’s a nasty paved downhill at Appalachian Way, a bit more road until a trail alongside a creek, then a final paved road stretch that is seemingly never-ending before we hit Lake Tomahawk where we are forced 3/4 of the way around before reaching the finish line); today, however, it didn’t bother me. In fact, it was my fastest 2nd half ever. Go figure. (My final time was 4:55, not my fastest but not my slowest marathon time there. And remember, we have over 3000′ of elevation gain during this thing!)

The finish line was a welcome site. Jay welcomed me with a curious look, as he didn’t expect me for a few more hours. I hung out in the sun for the next 1.5 hrs while Elizabeth (2nd female!), Hunter & Daniel all conquered the Challenge – each looking deliriously surprised to see me hanging out.

The following day, still coughing, I stopped by the doctor on the way home. Diagnosis: sinus infection and acute bronchitis. Well, if I wasn’t sick before the race, I certainly was after.

So, another year passes with the full Challenge eluding me once again (although no one can discount my 2010 success to the summit, I really want to conquer the full 40.) Will I try again next year? I’m not sure. There’s a few other races in late Feb/early March that I’ve wanted to check out, so I might take a break to try something new. We shall see!

Big thanks to friend & teammate Jay Curwen for all the work organizing this event – it is truly top notch and should be on everyone’s bucket list of races. Also a shout out to Rock/Creek for their support throughout the year.

Race day gear:
Vasque Mindbenders, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Capilene short sleeve shirt, Icebreaker 200 long sleeve wool shirt, Patagonia beanie, Buff, Patagonia Nine Trails Jacket, Mountain Hardwear powerstretch gloves, Lululemon Run Inspire crop tights, Nathan running vest. Nutrition included nuun and an assortment of gluten-free fuel (mostly Larabars!)


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

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.

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

Mount Mitchell Challenge: press & pics

I survived! Still writing the race report, but there’s been so much great press about the race I thought I’d compile some here and get it up now. stay tuned…

Rock/Creek Pres Release

Photos by Chris Brown
Pics by Wilderness Adventure Photography
Post-race article from Asheville Citizen Times
Pics from the Asheville Citizen Times
Pics from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
Pics from Steppe’s Gap

the summit, 24 hrs before the big day

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1292133796988&ref;=mf

snowshoes, anyone?

Saturday I will be at the 13th running of the Mt Mitchell Challenge. Lucky 13…. yes, it will be a special year. Check out the weather report for today:

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT…NORTHWEST WINDS WILL GUST AS HIGH AS 60 MPH AT TIMES THURSDAY AFTERNOON INTO THURSDAY NIGHT AND FRIDAY. THIS WILL RESULT IN CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF SNOW…AND PERIODS OF NEAR-BLIZZARD CONDITIONS. W…IND CHILL VALUES IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS COULD REACH FROM 5 TO 10 BELOW TONIGHT….SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS.

Saturday’s forecast keeps changing… currently 38/22, with snow showers in the afternoon. Cross your fingers that it’s cold enough for it to just be snow – last year’s weather went from bad to worse, and runners were being rescued off the mountain. Of course the two previous years I’ve been out there (running the marathon distance), we had picture perfect sunny days. Maybe I’ll bring some sunshine again :)

I have no idea how ready I am. Sure, physically I feel great (thanks, Matt!) Mentally I am there, pulling from that adventure racing fortitude that I haven’t tapped into for a few years. I guess it comes down to gear and specific conditions. The course has been greatly modified due to the snow. (55″ and 10′+ drifts?!!) Some of the trails are closed, so we’ll be using the road to reach the summit. It was plowed this week, but after the snow today and tomorrow, who knows what sort of shape it will be in. Some folks are using snowshoes. I have yaktrax ready, but am not prepared with gtx shoes or gaiters. fingers (or rather toes) crossed that the fleece toe covers I’ve been using inside my Vasque Blurs all winter will be enough for the conditions ahead.

I’m taking my camera and will be sure to capture some epic conditions. Meanwhile, here are some my friend Chris took out there recently:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wncphotos/sets/72157623440072752/

And check out this article in the Asheville newspaper today.

And finally, a webcam from the summit. It’s dark out now, so I’m not quite sure what it looks right now. white, i’m sure!

Shut-In

Since I’ve been so bad at reporting back lately, I’ll write something quick while I can instead of waiting months… (uh, Leadville!)

One of my favorite races of the year is the Shut-In Ridge Trail Run, over in Asheville. It has quite the cult following, with the starting line crammed full of local, regional, and even some national hotshots. It sells out quickly and I was lucky to snag an entry again this year.


Autumn colors were at their peak, the skies blue and sunshine abundant, with small patches of snow greeting me in the Mt. Pisgah parking lot as a friend and I dropped a car by the finish early. While it was probably in the upper 30s to 40 at the start of the race (at the Arboretum), we warmed up quickly and I shed my long sleeves at the 2nd aid station. (I was wearing our new team shirt from Icebreaker, which was the perfect weight. And while I’m at it, my shoes were Vasque Velocity – definitely my current fav, although I’m itching to test their VSTs.)
I started off too quick as always, but that tends to be my MO. I knew after a mile or two I’d settle into my pace and all would be good for the next few hours. With this new heart thing going on, I’m trying to be more aware of my heart rate so that I can actually make it to the finish line. (although my tight achilles was worrying more race morning!) It took longer than I anticipated to settle in, due in part to the nice climbs that greet us from the start – afterall, the race is basically uphill! Most of the time we run along the ridge, following the Blue Ridge Parkway. Crossing it usually meant a steep downhill and uphill; otherwise it was a nice rolling ascent. The colors were stunning – sometimes you’d just be glowing from the sunlight filtering through the leaves. 
I was feeling great and running strong… amazing what a bit of frustration can do to power you up the mountain. I did see 2 girls on a switchback that made me nervous, but I dug in a bit deeper and never saw them again. All too soon, the final 2 miles were upon us – this is the epic section that goes (almost) straight up & is nearly unrunnable. (I’d love to see the leaders tear this up!) I had a girl on my heels most of this time and she didn’t want to pass…. but eventually did and unfortunately I never saw her again. I kept a good forward momentum, but my hammies & quads were quivering – I was really noticing my lack of hill work here. Once at the top, we had a short downhill that had my calves all but giving out on me. Finally the finish line cheers greeted me – yeah! 
My final time – for the 17.8 brutal miles with about 3000+’ of elevation gain* – was 3:41, 17 minutes faster than last year! This was good enough for 15th female and 97th overall (out of 195 finishers). The awesome stained glass awards were still out of reach though…  so my quest for a top 7 finish will continue next year hopefully :)
Big thanks to Lorrin & Jay for providing impromptu support (I left my gels in my car!) and cheering loudly along the way. 
* I need to confirm this, as my watch said 5000′… I’ve seen a few different references online.


more maps from black mountain

being the map geek that i am, jay sent a few others to me. looks like the elevation gain was around 2790′ (most of it being in the first half!). also, robert from wilderness adventure photography sent me a pic right before the first aid station. it was a pretty steep area; i had to fake my run :)


black mountain marathon

i am back from a wonderful weekend in asheville! the drive over on friday started off with rain, but blue sky peeked through as i was driving through the nanty gorge. the weather for saturday ended up being perfect! temps began in the mid-40s and probably got close to 60. as we gained elevation, the wind did whip around a bit and temps remained lower, but it was quite comfortable thoughout. sections of the trail were wet & muddy from the rain, but nothing to slow you down too much. 

the race starts in downtown Black Mountain (elevation 2400′). after running through the small town of Montreat (all of this being on pavement), we hit the dirt. these 2 sections seems to be the steepest uphill of the marathon course – or maybe it’s just the first one of any significance, so it feels that much worse. otherwise, the next 10 miles are just a steady uphill, with a few flat spots and maybe 1 or 2 teeny downhill sections. we spread out pretty quick, so the few miles on tighter singletrack aren’t problematic. the majority of the marathon is spent on an old dirt road (trestle trail?!), littered with lots of rocks.with a good bit of rain this past week, some sections were muddy and the rocks slick;  while i had a few good trips, i thankfully didn’t take any spills and my feet stayed dry.

map of the marathon
my plan for the first half was to remain consistent and strong, keeping any walking to a minimum (and only when my heart rate/effort felt too high). i kept fueled with the hammer gel & heed supplied at the great aid stations (and a few refreshing orange sections); i brought 2 espresso hammer gels for the latter half of the race to give me a kick. (i started the race with my water bottles filled with nuun – 1 kola, 1 lemon-lime. yeah, i did carry 2 water bottles – i tend to drink a lot and hate to go thirsty. while i do carry a bit more weight that way, i do save a little time going through the aid stations. not sure which is wiser though!) while i’m on the subject of gear, i was sporting my new orange shuffle, which arrived friday about 30 minutes before i hit the road – what timing! and on my feet, my trusty montrail hardrocks - hey, that’s annette (marathon winner) featured on that page!)
at the marathon turnaround on the blue ridge parkway (approx elevation of 5100′, around mile 14), the wind had picked up and we were covered in clouds. after checking in quickly, i turned around and picked up the pace. my time was 2:43 and if my counting was correct, i was in 10th place. it had been about 5 minutes since I had seen the last female, so i had my work cut out. (i had passed the leading female and eventual winner, annette bednosky, on her way down around 2:28; the winning male, jared crave, at 2:12). most of this section i was flying solo… i’d catch up to a few people (unfortunately always males), and a few would pass me (luckily just males). i got to the 2nd to last aid station shortly after 4 hrs. i was told almost 7 miles were left… hmm, a sub-5 time was going to be tight. it was mostly pavement which, while fast, hurt more. then there was approx .5 – 1 mile of what i think is the toughest section of the entire race – steep steep downhill, partly paved, partly dirt road. you want to fly down it, especially with it so close to the end, but that is just a recipe for knee issues and shin splints. after this bit of torture, we ran back through montreat (thankfully using a trail part of the time) then finally towards the finish at lake tomahawk. i felt great and ran as hard as i could (at a pace i knew i could sustain for 4+ miles). finally the lake came into view along with the finish line. now, just 1 loop around the lake path…  i came under the finish line banner feeling (& hopefully looking) strong, with a time of 4:52:53; 10th female, 50th overall (out of 139). this was 17 minutes faster than last year!
the post-race food was great, with homemade soups from the chamber of commerce. all finishers received full-zip fleece jackets embroidered with the race logo. after hanging out with friends, i went back to the curwens to force myself into an ice bath (i swear this was the most pain i felt all day, made bearable only with a hot latte & liz on the phone chatting). that night was the awards dinner back at montreat college – great food and more friends. the awards for the winners were amazing – gorgeous original watercolor paintings of mount mitchell by local artist scott lowrey (he has created something new every year the race has happened – this was its 11th year). 
the rest of the weekend was fab too. i went to the bike love party saturday night with a friend – this was a fundraiser for asheville on bikes to raise $ for the downtown bike locker initiative. it was a wonderfully diverse crowd, with young and old, athletes, industry folks & commuters, great live music and beer from the french broad brewery (abbey ale – mmm!) this was held at the wedge gallery, in the river arts district (looks like a cool place to check out one day). chattanooga really needs an event like this! sunday i got caught up on my play time with chilton – we goofed around with photobooth on my computer making pics & videos. we checked out a new place for brunch – cafe azalea. good food and away from the hustle of downtown, so service was quick.
i drove back to chatt sunday afternoon – a lovely 4 hours (not really; i got sleepy & my legs are now stiff). hopefully i’ll feel ok tomorrow and can have a good recovery week, followed by a taper week :) as i prep for my next event in 2 short weeks: the checkpoint zero adventure race



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