Tag race report

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

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!

Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Races – Choose your own adventure

This race, second in the Rock/Creek Trail Series, featured 2 distances: 6.5 miles and a 10.2 miles, both with their own list of pluses and minuses. People automatically assume that since I am (primarily) a distance runner, I would sign up for the longer event. Sure, it’s a great distance and a gorgeous course along the Cumberland Trail (the Mullen’s Cove loop – the same one that teases runners in the StumpJump 50k.) But I have to say that I don’t like rocks. In fact, sometime I despise them, especially when they are mossy & slick. I think it dates back to the Fall Creek Falls Adventure Race many moons ago (a canyoneering section after 9 hrs of racing, with lots of slipping, falling, bruises and us getting stuck after dark and having to climb out – or rather, up. Straight up. I think I’ve been permanently scarred from this ordeal…)

Anyways, I’ve run the 10m race loop a lot this spring, but when it comes down to it, that just isn’t my ideal race course. And, this was a race, so given the option, I’ll take the one I think I’ll do better at. Even if it has a heinous climb (or rather 7) on a forest service road that is both mentally and physically demoralizing in it.

Race morning was gorgeous, although a bit cool. I swear once you taste a bit of spring, you become a wimp to the early morning chill (mid 30s – a month ago that would have been balmy!) I think the key to this event is getting a good position going into the woods. While passing is an option, it’s not always that easy. I had a good start, 2nd female hitting the singletrack (my teammate Deb was 1st). My goal was to stay steady and save a bit for that aforementioned nastiness. I settled into a nice pack, no one real anxious to push it harder. As we neared Snoopers Rock (which signaled the beginning of the road climbs), I snuck around a few guys that were relaxing a bit too much. I had Deb in sight on the road, but a bit too far to be within reach (although I have to say I was thrilled to be able to see her – she is one fast chicka!).

I attacked the roads, hoping I had a bit of an advantage knowing what each hill would bring. A few of the guys near me dropped off, which is always nice mental boost. The rest of the course was uneventful, except for 1 near wipeout on a creek crossing – so thankful for good balance! The race ends on another uphill, about 3/4 of a mile, so you’re huffing & puffing nicely at the finish line. I finished in 1:02.34, good enough to hold on to 2nd place (and 3 minutes faster than the 2nd place finish I had here in 2008).

rivergorge gals

The 6.5 mile podium: Kara, Cathi, & Deb

Big thanks to all the wonderful sponsors that supported this race – the swag bag alone was worth twice the registration fee!
Patagonia, Montrail, Smartwool, The North Face, NikWax, Marmot, Hammer Nutrition & Greenlife (they brought a ton of organic fruit to the finish – yum!). And HUGE thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters & the Wilderness Trail Association for putting on a fantastic event!

Also big thanks to Archer PT (for both her first aid support at the finish to those that got eaten by the rocks, and for helping me the last few weeks zap the bursitis out of my knee), Christian Stegall Massage Therapy (who is painfully helping get my quads back in working order – not sure what I did!), and my coach Matt Hart (who always knows the perfect amount of work + rest to keep me feeling fresh!)

Gear List:

  • Patagonia Capilene 1 Shirt
  • Patagonia  Nine Trails Jacket – so light it’s barely there, but amazingly warm
  • Pearl Izumi Aurora Splice Knickers
  • Headsweats Hat
  • Smartwool Socks
  • Vasque Mindbender Shoes – seriously, they make my feet so happy
  • Ultimate Directions Handheld, filled with nuun of course!

Read Rock/Creek’s recap & see 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

Kicking off the race season, Southern-Style

Sunday kicked off the 2010 Rock/Creek Trail Series, with the 2nd annual Southern 6 hosted on the beautiful Biology Trails of Southern Adventist University. The school is located in Collegedale, east of Chattanooga. Not near Lookout, Raccoon or Signal Mtns and not as far as Cherokee, but fear not: those ridges in the hills over there are something to respect!

Our random weather patterns actually worked in our favor today, with gorgeous sunny skies and warm temps. Spring fever fueled many, with over 180 runners toeing the start line – lots of fast folks itching to start their season and lots of first-timers acting on their new years resolutions. With my big race looming next weekend, I wasn’t expecting much, but it’s hard to stay away from a great local race :)

©LGmacfan

The race started with a short road prologue before hitting the trails. I tried to get a decent position going in, with a few strong ladies in front of me. Then the trail turned… straight up. And then up some more. Wow! I was immediately happy I shed my jacket moments before the start as I was overheating already. I was testing out a new pair of shoes today that I was super excited about – the Mindbender, a new addition to Vasque’s spring line. When I first put on this shoe, it felt like it was made for my foot. The low profile kept me nimble on the trail, with solid footing the whole time. (totally toying with the idea of using these next weekend, although I know they may be too new to commit to a big race. hmmm….. ) I tried to keep a consistent, easy pace, keeping speedy Belinda and young 13-year old running whiz Sarah within sight. It was hard to hold on at times, but finally I got my chance to slip by Sarah on a downhill, hoping my longer legs & experience could hold on. Once we hit the pavement, I pushed harder – even though I knew I couldn’t catch Belinda, I could hear footsteps closing in and didn’t want any last minute surprises. (and I held off that surprise by 2 seconds – phew!)

©LGmacfan


I finished 4th in the women’s open division – very happy to be so close to such speedy talent!

The gear:
Vasque Mindbenders – on the feet
Patagonia Capilene 1 – shirt
Pearl Izumi – knickers
Smartwool – socks
Ultimate Directions – handheld
Nuun – in the bottle
Headsweats – visor

Gettin’ Dirty in GA


Last weekend I made the trek down to Macon for the finale of the Georgia Dirty Duathlon Series. Originally scheduled for mid-Nov at Dauset Trails, the race had to be rescheduled due to a pesky hurricane that had blown thru the week prior. This go around was at the Children’s Industrial Home trails. (Earlier series stops were at Blankets Creek and Fort Yargo). After staying with an old adventure racing teammate in Atlanta Friday night, I drove the rest of the way the next morning. Unfortunately the threat of rain and cold temps in the upper 30s greeted us – perhaps this kept some folks at home. While the crowd was small, we were all enthusiastic to be there and ready to get started!

The format was a run-bike-run (3-9-3 miles). A bit short for my 3.5hr trek south – I usually have a “I have to race as long as I drive” rule, and that would not be the case today….. but, it was the finale and I had set an early season goal of podiuming in the series. Plus, it was a fund raiser for SORBA-OMBA, to raise money for new trails at Arrowhead. (With the original race and mountain bike festival being cancelled, I know they’ll be hurting to meet their fund raising goals for the year.)

We had a mass start up a short hill, breaking things up a bit. I settled on the trail in 3rd place, keeping an eye on the gals ahead. About 2/3 of the way thru 1 more passed me, but with lots of time ahead, I wasn’t too concerned. (With winter clothing covering our bodies, we couldn’t have our divisions written on our legs so it was hard to tell if any girls ahead were racing as a relay). The run was nice, through hard-packed, twisting trails that had you guessing who was ahead and who was behind. After I was barely warmed up, it was time to transition to the bike. I haven’t been riding much lately (concentrating on running!), so I was happy for a course that wasn’t too technical or had a ton of climbing. It was (as previously mentioned) full of tight, twisty sections where you couldn’t let up your concentration. Some areas were bone dry, with slippery pine needles; other times we were riding through huge mud puddles, fighting to gain traction on slippery roots. Regardless, it was lots of fun. The final run leg was a bit harder than the first. With temps so cold, normally I’d wear shoe covers; but in a short duathlon with quick transitions being key, using these was not an option. Therefore, I was running on half frozen toes for the next mile – not an easy task. Finally they felt alive and I had a normal stride again.

I ended up finishing 2nd overall female and first in the 30-39 age group.
Overall for the series, I finished first in the solo women’s division.

Big thanks to the race directors for putting on a great event and persevering the many challenges it took to make it happen. They did a great job utilizing the available trails and recruiting top notch volunteers!

scenic city trail marathon report


Now that the countdown to Tahoe gets closer, it’s time to indulge in some longer runs. Up till now, I’ve done a few 2.5-3 hr runs with my ankle reacting favorably. Fingers crossed it would go the distance in the marathon.

A little about the race… This is the 3rd year we’ve held it, although it was in a different location the first year (Possum Creek Gorge segment of the Cumberland Trail – gorgeous trail, but more of a scramble than run in some places and aid stations weren’t easy to set up). Now it’s at Raccoon Mountain, a favorite mountain bike spot for me; it’s definitely weird to run somewhere that you love to bike – just not the same experience :) But a great location for a race. The half’ers did 1 loop, while those running the full did 2. Can I tell you that I’m just not a fan of multiple loop courses? It messes with your brain… Oh you’re at the finish line. but HA, you have to go out and do another loop!

OK, back to race day.
I started near the front to get a decent position going onto the singletrack (there was a few minutes of road running to spread people out before dipping into the woods). Once on the trail, it was your typical early race backup…. a long line of runners ahead and behind. A few people chose to pass, but most just hung out as the pack naturally disintegrated.

There’s really not that much to say about the next few hours… my heart rate was too high for the first 45 min or so and it was hard to get it down, but that seems to be the norm for me. The terrain is pretty varied. 90% hardpacked singletrack I’d say, with a few real rocky areas. In general though, it is very runnable. You wind through open areas with grasses to your shoulder, pine forests, hardwoods, blooming mountain laurel, with the occasional view of the Tennessee River Gorge. It seems at most points you’re either going up or down, but most of the climbs were relatively short. The first half was much more social – twice as many folks were running the half, so there were plenty of people around to chat with. I ran with a guy from Steamboat for awhile – and he knew my uncle. Small world!

After the rock sidewalk by the dam, the 2 distances split up – the second loop was pretty quiet and all but void of people. I turned on the Shuffle to jam a bit (a little Disturbed always makes the hillclimbs a bit easier!) After the final aid station (manned by teammates Wendi & Jamie Dial – always nice to have familiar faces cheering you on), we had about 2 miles to go. Thank god… my body was feeling it. I had tripped earlier, causing a muscle cramp in my right calf that never seemed to fully let go. My left ankle was hurting – same spot as the previous “injury” that was never diagnosed, and the top of that foot seemed to want to cramp up too (weird spot!) I was persevering the pain.. when out of nowhere a girl with too much late race energy passed by me. Dang! There was only a mile to go, but at this point I had nothing in the reserves to chase with.

The race ended with me officially in 6th* place in the women’s field, with a time of 4:27:09 (a trail marathon PR!) (*or should I say 7th… Jaclyn and a group of guys took a wrong turn to the finish, causing her to be DQ’d. She led start to finish and would surely have been our winner…). After crossing the finish line, my body seemed to know it was quitting time. I sat down, stuck my foot in a bag of ice (thanks to stephanie & dawson for warm clothes needed to combat my resulting shivers), then had my calves worked on by Dee at Archer Physical Therapy. Then refueling time with yummy grilled Boca burgers at the post-race cookout.

Of course we had re-fueling #2 that night at the Terminal – their Oatmeal Stout does wonders for sore bodies :) We also caught up with a few people in town for the race from Boulder. It was great to get an insiders view of the trail running community there… and more contacts for my next visit west!

Race day gear:
Patagonia top & shorts
Smartwool socks
Vasque Velocity shoes
Nathan hydration vest
Nuun, Cliff Shot Bloks, Hammer Gel & Endurolytes
Fresh oranges… mmmm!

cross-a-nooga

the great thing about being a multisport athlete is that when you can’t do one thing, there’s always something else. right now, my ankles are making me gimpy. i must have done something at the lookout mtn 10k nearly 5 weeks ago. i did rest, but then did something silly (like running 15 miles in a new pair of shoes never tested on the trail) and have been suffering from what is likely an overuse injury in both ankles. (meanwhile I have a bone scan later this week to check out the original problem that is still present as well.)

so that leaves me with no running, which is untimely, as mentally i’ve been in this running mode. thankfully though, i have yoga, swimming, & cycling to fill in my time, work my body, and give me some much-needed stress release. and what better way to indulge than signing up for a race at the last minute. :)
cross-a-nooga was a weekend of cyclocross races here in chattavegas – and nothing to do with cross-dressing (as one of my not-so-cycling-oriented friends inquired!).  i did 2 or 3 cross races last year – loved them, but definitely not the type of event for an endurance person. my goals were to just go out there, have some fun, race hard (and see how my breathing problems that plagued me last fall are doing), and hopefully not wack my ankle too bad. 
the women’s cx-4 division started about 30 seconds behind the men’s cx-4 group. the horn blew and i jumped to the front, with star (old adv racing friend and current vantaggio rider) taking the lead into the first turn. the first half of the course had a lot of action. right off, there was a steep hill and a 180. then there was a twisty area where the course designer really maxed out the open sloping hillside, including one barrier + a runup. it was right after this that i slipped by star and a male rider, taking the women’s lead. 
with this race being the last of the day, the muddy spots were thick and grooved by the previous riders. good balance is key; just let the bike dance under you. one large muddy area was followed by a deep sand pit- lovely. lots of loose sand to hang on to the mud already in my tires. (since i don’t have a cross bike (yet!) i used my mtn bike – light enough to be fairly competitive, but i didn’t change out my tires, so my knobbies held in lots of crap.) next came a long out and back, great for getting some speed and hopefully putting some distance between me and second place. at the end of the course (about 1.5 miles long), there was a double barrier to jump over and another chicane before we got to do the whole thing over again. (and again and again – 4 laps total for me). the remaining laps were fairly uneventful. i was trying my best to hold on – legs & lungs both burning. i put a few seconds on star each lap, but 1 mishap could ruin it all for me. luckily that didn’t happen and i held on for the win! my vixen teammate carol nabbed 3rd place.
sunday’s course was rearranged a bit, with 2 chicanes added on steeper sections that forced (me) off the bike for some runups. one i probably could have ridden, but i didn’t think the effort would save me time (i was neck and neck with one guy for 3 laps – he rode, i ran, and we stayed together, so i think it was an ok decision). i took the lead at the start this time and stayed there till the end. i even passed a few guys :)   carol took 2nd place today, with helen (another vantaggio rider) placing 3rd.
big thanks to scenic city multisport in putting on a fantastic event! and thanks to all the volunteers out there making things happen. there is talk about expanding the series next year –  a fantastic idea!

a look back at ’08

One year ended and another began with 3 days of cycling (I must have tweaked my ankle during the Lookout 10k, as it’s been hurting while running ever since… so Matt says no running for a bit.) The 31st & 1st was FRIGID. (although my legs were toasty with my rockin new hincapie bib tights. merry christmas to me!) During Thursday’s 3rd annual Frosty Challenge, we even had to dodge a section of ice on the road on top of the mountain.

the starting crew: Lance, David, Dreama, Lee, Brenda, me

at the transition: David, Carol, Me, Leigh, Dreama
Now for a recap of the past 12 months…

JANUARY

The year began with great news – I was asked to be on the Rock/Creek Race Team. How could I say no?! :-) R/C happens to be my favorite store in Chatt and amazingly supportive of local outdoor initiatives, from running to climbing to paddling. The 16 other race team members are all kick ass and very inspiring. Huge thanks to Rock/Creek, along with Patagonia, Vasque, Icebreaker, and La Sportiva for their sponsorship & support throughout the year. (And I’m excited to be reprezentin’ again in 2009!)
FEBRUARY
There are a few races that automatically get written on my calendar – the Black Mountain Marathon is one of them. Not only is it a great event, it takes me to beautiful Black Mountain, NC, which means I get to visit with friends in Asheville I don’t get to see nearly enough. This year I was once again signed up for the 40mile challenge, but once again winter injuries had my training behind schedule, so I had to drop back to the marathon. I had a great race, nabbing a top 10 finish in the women’s race and besting last year’s time by 17 minutes. Hmm, I’m starting to like this marathon distance… what will ’09 bring?!

MARCH
March was just a great month. Was my new coach working his magic this quick?! At the Blankets Dirty Duathlon, I got a 2nd place age group/3rd place overall female finish. At the end of the month, I had one of my best running races ever, finishing 2nd overall female in the Rock/Creek River Gorge 6.5mile trail run.

APRIL
April showers bring…. muddy mountain bike races! The Cohutta 100 luckily featured a 65mile option this year – perfect distance for me on a mix of terrain that suited me well: about 50% singletrack/50% gravel roads, with just under 11,000′ of elevation gain. yeah baby! I was having a superb race until chain suck tortured me & my bike just after the last aid station. Lesson learned: carry a small bottle of lube. I finished in 7:32, grabbing 5th in the women’s open division. I was psyched to share the podium with studettes that usually race expert division in xc. Even better than this though was having my sister, bro-in-law, and nephews at the race to watch Aunt Cathi try to go fast. Evan thought I was pretty funny covered in mud at the end!


MAY
My shortest accomplishment… winning my age group for the Market Street Mile, and surprisingly setting a new state record for my age. How cool! I also finished in the money at the Greenway Challenge… although I lost a pair of sunglasses during the paddle and the money didn’t quite cover the replacement cost. dang.
JUNE
My big June event (Cherohala Challenge) was replaced by something else (a root canal). So not much to report here, other than lots of time on my bike which took me to some beautiful areas. Big thanks to Zeke for the endless
hours of training time & touring!


Bald River Falls


JULY
The countdown to Leadville begins with a training trip out west. We rode about 80% of the course, including the toughest hill twice: Powerline. wow. I am SO not a downhiller! On July 4th, we went rafting on the Arkansas River. wow again. My first time in water that big. The weekend was complete with a party with the Melanzana folks and fireworks over Leadville that started some small sagebrush fires (quickly extinguished, of course). Exciting times!


AUGUST
The big day arrives – the Leadville 100 “Race Across The Sky” mountain bike race. I’ve never concentrated on one event so much. I didn’t like having all my eggs in one basket. I was either going to make it or not. Somehow I still found the gray area, finishing in 12:46, which race directors deem “officially unofficial”. So I got the finishers medal but no belt buckle. Dang! That means I’ll be back again some time…. The experience was amazing and I had an incredible time. I had some R&R; before and after in Steamboat with family & friends – life can’t get much better.

a group of friends from Chatt did the Wild West Relay, 

then stayed at Steve & Lorraine’s with me for some recovery time.
me + Tawnya riding the red to the finish line!

SEPTEMBER
My favorite race, the Tsali Challenge, yielded a 4th place in the women’s solo, and a 2nd in the women’s relay. It also showed that my lungs were having problems recovering from fun at altitude. (or something like that… I’d spend the next few months getting various tests from lots of specialists around with still not much being figured out. quite frustrating!) The end of the month, I raced in the Black Bear Rampage, a 44-mile mtn bike race out at the Ocoee. I was having a great day, but a mix up with results weren’t clarified for another week. I ended up winning the women’s sport 34 & under division, but didn’t get to stand on the cool podium (that would have been my first time on a #1!). And I didn’t get cool new Oakleys that other winners got, which was a bummer since I lost another pair of sunglasses when I crashed on one tight corner.

OCTOBER
Rock/Creek’s annual StumpJump 50k is usually on my calendar, although with all the cycling this year, I opted for the 11mile option, finishing 4th female overall. Also this month was the YMCA Strong Adventure Race that I direct, along with my friend Kevin Manning. We moved the event to Camp Ocoee, which enabled us to also add a 12hr course to the events (a 6hr and youth adventure race also occurred). The event was hugely successful, raising over $5000 for the Strong Kids Campaign!


NOVEMBER
Another favorite race… (do I have too many?!) Shut-In Ridge in Asheville. Colors are at their peak on the parkway, I get too see my Ash friends, and the race is killer – uphill for most
of the 17.8 miles. My time was 17 min faster than last year (was that this year’s magic #?) During Thanksgiving, I went on a canoe camping trip on the Suwannee River. Normally I don’t miss FL too much, but I really got to experience the best. I love the lushness of the forest with live oaks and palms and the peacefulness of padding at night and seeing stars everywhere. This was probably the highlight weekend of the year.

view from the Blueridge Parkway

Sunset on the Suwannee
DECEMBER
Holiday adventures with my nephews! The whole family hiked the La Chua Trail, which extends into Paynes Prairie. We were treated with view of hundreds of alligators and thousands of sandhill cranes. An amazing way to end the year.