Tag rock/creek

the super scenic city trail marathon (& half)

scenic city marathon

Situated at the top of Raccoon Mountain (map) and overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge, this race is absolutely scenic. And as part of WildTrails’ Rock/Creek Trail Series, you know the event is going to have top notch organization and sponsors. Basically, this race just won’t disappoint! (But it will sell out, as it did a few weeks before, so get a jump on it in 2012!)

While I planned to use this race as a good tempo run in gearing up for the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race next month, I still wanted to have a solid race. But with temps predicted to climb into the mid-80s (after a week of chilly 40s & 50s), it was hard to tell how the body would respond.

After a little delay at the start (at least the portojohn lines were empty!), we were off! A record number of participants participated this year. In order to accommodate the increase and hopefully limit bottlenecking on course, the beginning changed slightly. While about a half mile of pavement was added, I think it did wonders, as we flowed onto the singletrack much more orderly.

pre-race

me + dreama, pre-race

The first half went pretty well – I felt I was running strong, keeping my heart rate in check (despite the fact that the battery in my Suunto is dead and no one can get the case opened), and hydrating constantly. My goal was to run smart – keep a swift foot turnover, take the hills a little slower but with good momentum, and pick it up a bit more when gravity helped out. I was running with a group of 6 or so guys and we had a great paceline going. Until my shoe came untied on the Six Flags section. Dang! I bent over to retie it and could feel my hamstrings tighten a bit. No problem yet, but definitely something to watch. At this time, Sara (one of the Smartwool reps in town for their nat’l sales mtg) caught up to me. She stayed behind me for a few miles while we chatted a bit. I learned it was her first trail race, but she had a lot of experience on the road. Yikes and double yikes – for not being experienced on trails, she was strong on the hills, with a spring in her step; and with the last 1/3 mile on pavement, I figured she’d have an advantage. Trying to keep focused – this was still a race afterall! – I quickened my step during a flowy downhill section, weaving by the dam. But halfway up the hill on the otherside, Sara was back. I relented and she slipped by. I tried to stay on her heals, but I guess that CO altitude was working in her favor. As predicted, as soon as she hit the pavement, off she went – a solid finish! Mine, much less glorious, but still respectable.

I finished the half marathon in 1:52:53 – 49th place overall (out of 288 runners) and 14th among the women. Interestingly, I was 2.5 minutes faster than last year’s time, when I placed 5th. That equates to a LOT more fast ladies out there! Kudos to you – really glad to see the competition, even if it doesn’t always work out for me.

After some quiet time (I was quite nauseous and dizzy when I finished) and a change of clothes, I was off to my duties managing the food for the marathon finishers. It was a long day, but I fed lots of smiling faces!

Big thanks to all the sponsors involved – Greenlife, Blue Smoke Coffee & nuun kept me nourished; Rock/Creek, Smartwool, Patagonia & Salomon kept me covered up; and Vasque, The North Face, Marmot, Toyota, Hammer and WildTrails rounding out the list. Without you, we’d be running around naked and hungry!

Race day gear:
Montrail Mountain Masochist, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Draft Tank, Patagonia Multi Use Skirt, Headsweats hat, Ultimate Directions handheld filled with nuun and Gu along the way!

 

River Gorge – a race from two perspectives

river gorge finish

A lot of hands and a lot of time goes into making each race in the Rock/Creek Trail Series a success. First there’s the behind the scenes work – permitting, registration, sponsors, shirts, race bags, trail work, and more. Then comes race weekend, which begins early Friday with set-up, course marking, and registration. Saturday morning, volunteers are at the race site when runners are still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. It is these volunteers that forego sleeping in to stand in the elements, get sticky from mixing buckets of Heed and Powerade, point delirious runners in the right direction, sweep the course following the last runner (including picking up all flagging and trash), then taking down everything that was set up in the last 2 days. Phew! Sometimes I wonder who has it harder – the Volunteers or the Racers?

On days like this past Saturday, the answer is clear: the Volunteers, hands down.

I awoke Saturday in the role of Racer, to bright flashes of lightning and roars of thunder, rain soaking the ground. I wanted to press snooze and cuddle up some more – there’ll always be another race, on a sunnier day. But the old adventure racer part of me sort of likes those inclement days, where perseverance plays just as much of a role as speed. (well, I could do without the lightning…) At the start line deep in Prentice Cooper WMA, racers were trying to find dry space under pop-up tents, while volunteers registered , double-checked timing systems, and made piping hot coffee (big thanks to Blue Smoke Coffee!!).

Just prior to the start of the 6.5 mile race, I peeled off rain gear and sucked it up for a quick warmup (I use that term loosely, as I was anything but warm). Then, we were off! Inside I was thinking, I can handle anything for an hour… just deal with it. I found a comfortable, fast(ish) pace and stuck with it through the first few miles of singletrack. While I saw the bright rain shell of our eventual winner (teammate Sarah) disappear into turns far ahead, the last thing I wanted to do was push it a bit too much, slip on a rock, and take myself out. So, steady as she goes was my mantra.

Snoopers Rock marked the halfway point of the race, (a fantastic aid station with smiling, soaked volunteers), and the start of a fire road section that seemingly turned into a slip-&-slide with the mud. Unfortunately for us, we were going uphill the whole time (7 of them actually), so there were no time gains to be had. Just when you’re mentally beaten up and ready to throw in the towel, back to trail we go – except this time, it’s perhaps the toughest section: a steep spur that lead us from the top of the road back to the main trail at the bottom by the creek. With all the storms and water runoff lately, this was not an easy task, as I was so ungently reminded when I lost my footing and slid down a muddy spot on my rear.

Once at the bottom, we retraced the trail back to the start, seemingly all uphill again. Even though I was running just over an hour (1:06 to be exact – good enough for 3rd overall female!), the finish line was a welcome sight. Time for dry clothes! And to transition to my next role… Volunteer.

Due to the nasty weather (made all the more chilling after last weekend’s sunfest), it wasn’t our typical post-race celebration. After quickly recapping their race experience with friends and comparing battle wounds, most people traded their soaked, muddy singlets for cozy dry fleeces and warm cars. As soon as our fantastic sweeps of the 10 mile course finished (it’s one thing to do this in sunshine, but on a day like this they deserved a medal!) and the last  racer departed in search of a hot shower, the rest of us started clean up: packing up shirts, emptying drink containers, consolidating food, popping down tents, and loading up the uhaul. I am thankful that so many people stuck around to help things move quickly – although I had dry clothes, I apparently didn’t bring enough and was shaking, fingers frozen.

A huge thank you goes out to all of the race volunteers! Without you, these events simply wouldn’t happen. If you haven’t had the opportunity to volunteer at a race yet (whether it’s a Rock/Creek Trail Series event or another one near you), please do. Even if you can’t bear to miss running in the event, there are always plenty of pre- & post-race duties where you could lend a hand.

More thanks to the race sponsors, including Greenlife & Blue Smoke Coffee for food & fuel, The North Face and Montrail for prizes, Lucas George Photography, and Wild Trails & Rock/Creek Outfitters for race organization.

Another big thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters for their continued support throughout the year. Check out the next event (register before it sells out, like River/Gorge did!) on May 21 – the Scenic City Trail Marathon & Half Marathon.

women's podium

© Lucas George Photography

Jenny Smith (2nd), Sarah Woerner (1st), me! (3rd)

Race day gear:
Vasque Mindbenders, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Capilene short sleeve shirt, Patagonia Nine Trails Vest, Mountain Hardwear powerstretch gloves, Headsweats hat, Lululemon Run Inspire crop tights, Ultimate Directions handheld filled with nuun. And I can’t leave off The North Face rain gear that kept me dry at the end!


 

 

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!)


southern 6 review / mt mitchell preview

© 2010 Deborah Martin

This past weekend kicked off the 2011 Rock/Creek Trail Series – 9 events, ranging from 1k to 50 long beautiful miles. The Southern 6 is a 6k’ish hilly trail race on the Biology Trails at Southern Adventist University, followed by an energetic Kid K for all the lil ones that will soon be whooping us :)

While I didn’t want to miss this opener, it came just a week before my big winter race, so the plan was to use it as a short speed workout, but not take any chances. For a short course, it’s tough – one would never think so many hills are hidden in those trails! My aerobic capacity & legs were certainly tested. In the end, I finished as the 4th overall female, ironically the same place I took last year.

Big shout out to my teammate Sarah Woerner (with me above), who showed up for a recovery run, after WINNING the Black Warrior 50k the day before. She blew past me on the back ridge, taking 2nd female.

Gear list:
Vasque Mindbenders, Smartwool socks, Patagonia Capilene short sleeve shirt, Patagonia Multi-use skirt, Headsweats Hat, Go-light handheld with nuun (orange-ginger!)

On a sidenote, I hope to spend more time on these trails in the future. There’s a big trail dev project going on right now that will be adding some fantastic mtn bike routes. Check out the plans here (and support Friends of White Oak Mountain in any way you can!)

Looking ahead to this weekend – Mt Mitchell, here I come! For the most part, my prep for this race has been great – my coach Matt has my legs dialed in; just a few bumps along the way to keep me on my toes (like throwing out my back in an erging competition! and now spring allergies attacking my respiratory system!) The winter in the south this year has been brutal, but we’ve been lucky with a bit of a thaw these last few weeks. Trails to the summit that required snowshoes at the beginning of the month have been reduced to merely a sheet of packed ice. (Uhh, that is better, right?!) :)  It will definitely be an adventure!

Here’s links to some pics… from the summit this past week and my gallery from last year.

Upchuckin’ thru the woods…

upchuck

This race has become a bit of a legend in it’s few short years. As the race website says…. “Let us reiterate: this is seriously difficult.”  To enter, racers wishing to tackle this course had to submit a video stating why they should race – from Ray Jay (& his wife Jay Ray), to the daughter saying she wants her dad to have another throw-up shirt, we knew these racers would have the humor they needed to tackle one of the toughest 50k’s they’d attempt. (Check out the videos here.) But would they have the fitness?? (If not… well, the Grim Sweeper just might catch them!)

Now, before you think that I earned major badass points for completing this race, this was just a volunteer day for me. My mileage isn’t back up to 50k worthiness, and I don’t want to push my ITB too far too quick. Besides, good races don’t happen without good volunteers! I started my duties Friday night by baking 4 doz “anti-upchuck power cookies” and a few loaves of molasses oat banana bread to fuel runners at mile 18. We had a good crew stationed here – great volunteers, cheering supporters, and helpful rangers. Once Kathy (pictured above) came through, I paced her for an hour on the Soddy Segment of the Cumberland Trail. The hour run back made for a great run on a beautiful day.

On the way back I passed the Sweep and was quizzed on who I remember passing. Hmm..  In particular, he was looking for one individual that hadn’t checked in at the last aid station. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen him. Once I got back to my post, we talked with the ranger on what to do. It was closing in on 3pm and racers could still take another hour or two until they reached the finish line. We could wait… as it was possible he slipped by without getting checked off our list, but then we’d be playing nightfall – an entirely different ballgame for a search. With thoughts of the search party I nearly had to form at this year’s STRONG Adventure Race, we figured it was best to go ahead and run the trail backwards to the runner’s last known point – a concrete bridge 6-7 miles up the Possum Creek Gorge segment. (yeah, the hardest one…)  At least we had daylight working with us right now…

Another volunteer joined and the rangers promised to pick us up a the other end. We ran and hiked, calling for the runner. We passed a group of hikers that had hiked this entire section, but they had not seen him either. Shortly before we arrived at our pick up point, I received a call – the runner had hitched a ride back to the start. Phew!! Hearing his story, he definitely got turned around and once he finally backtracked onto the course, the sweep had gone through and the previous aid stations had already been torn down. Thankfully the day had a good ending…. although my legs might have a different idea after my run time doubled. (well, nothing like diving right back into the miles!)

Stage race, Day 3: Perseverance or Stupidity?

Endurance athletes are a different breed. We like to go long, thrive in the hours upon hours of time in the woods, be it on foot or bike. We push past our comfort levels to get “there” (wherever there may be). I’d like to think we are fairly intelligent and wise, preparing adequate nutrition, hydration, and clothing for our adventure at hand. Then comes our bodies. Yes, we train consistently (and hopefully smartly) to ready ourselves for longer, harder, & further. We often push through the pain, but take notes of the little aches we feel along the way. Sometimes, decisions must be made.

For me, the first decision came at mile 8 of Stage 2. My knee was officially not cooperating – to the point I could not ignore it. Do I DNF today? pull out of the whole series? attempt tomorrow? I found a happy medium in the fact that I could still walk halfway normally, so while quite slow, I did finish that day. And, it kept me in the running for an overall finish.

©Mark McKnight.

Sunday came… with not a fantastic sleep and no appetite. The only plus I had going was my body & feet felt pretty good since my exertion level the day before was all but nil. Today would be a very challenging 20 miles. Starting from the soccer fields on Signal, we’d run thru the gorge to Suck Creek and back to Mushroom Rock. That itself would be considered a tough run; making it miles 42-46 of a 60 mile race is just cruel. There’s roughly 1250′ of elevation gain and another 1250′ of elevation loss during this section – and I’m not sure which was worse! Regardless, it did a number on my knee/ITB, and from here on it would be mostly hiking. (although I have to say, I’m developing quite the power hike :)  We stayed on the Cumberland Trail to Edward’s Point, then on to Signal Point. I’d run small sections that were mostly flat and not technical – nearly nonexistent out here. Then came the infamous Rainbow Lake section we scouted last week. Talk about slowwww going. At least most everyone was slow during these sections.

Since I came into day knowing I’d walk a lot, and that my only goal was to finish, I was in much better spirits than yesterday. People could see me struggling and ask if I was ok…  Sometimes I said yes, sometimes sorta… but that I knew I could finish. Doubt never entered my mind. The last 4 miles were a highlight. A new section of trail meandered by a creek, where some of the race staff (friends of mine) were camped out, encouraging folks with offers of cold beer and cold creeks. Since I wasn’t in it for the time, I indulged. I took a can, walked out to a lounge chair they set up in the middle of the creek, and took a seat. I’m not one for cheap beer, but damn, did that frosty Miller High Life hit the spot! While I was kicking back, Wendy & Mary came running through, so I hopped out and tagged along with them for the final few miles. It was great to finish up with some friends – the support was mutually appreciated, as the last 2 miles really felt like double.

I was thrilled to finish the stage, even if I was 2+ hrs off my anticipated time. It was a different experience, one I hope I can improve upon in the future. As for my knee…  Did I make the right decision in continuing on? Afterall, I knew 30 miles into a 60 mile race it was just not right. Call it Perseverance or my Taurean Stubborness; I just don’t like to quit. I guess only time will tell if it was a stupid decision, but I’ll do what I can now to rest & mend my body. I think my bikes have missed me anyways :)

Huge thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters, Wild Trails, Smartwool and all the volunteers for another wonderful event!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stage Race: Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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 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


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