Tag TN

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!

 

maybe i’ll just be a road runner.

hornets

Things that buzz, circle, swarm (& occasionally hiss) are all dangers of the woods that trail runners come to expect. In small doses, I can handle. I’ve somehow even gotten used to yellow jackets – it’s inevitable that we’ll come across a nest a few times a year. But ground hornets are a different breed of buzzy things. Maybe it’s their size, their number, or how they seem to just come out of nowhere (ie, invisible holes in the ground). And they just circle their prey until they find the perfect landing spot.

Our Wednesday night run was at one of my favorite spots tonight – the North Chickamauga Gorge section of the Cumberland Trail. The trailhead is always crazy, but once you fight through the rednecks, miles of luscious singletrack await. And if you persevere, 5 miles down is a secluded swimming hole that is always a treat on a hot day.

Tonight however I had work waiting for me to finish, so I cut my run with the group short and headed back solo.  I passed some latecomers that warned me of bees on the way back (Chris remembered I didn’t like them. That was an understatement.) I went a bit further down, and whoa, they were everywhere. I backtracked to wait it out a bit, but those suckers were not taking a break. Meanwhile, my anxiety was building – not a good thing during a stressful week. (insert full-on anxiety attack here.) Finally, 20 min later, the first fast guy was on his way back. Yeah!! We ended up doing a crazy bushwack around those flying devils. Crisis thankfully averted.

Of course I won’t avoid the trails… it’s the part I love most… the peace and the escape. But I just might have to cross the North Chick off my list until they hibernate again. (or someone goes out there with a flamethrower and destroys every last buzzing terror).

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!


 

 

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.

ESNP aka Enterprise South aka the VW trails…

esnp

I had a rare Monday off work (and didn’t fill up the entire day catching up with cleaning & freelance work), so I used this opportunity (and sunshine!) to check out the new trails at ESNP. These trails have been in the works a long time, with the local chapter of SORBA contributing an insane number of hours to get them in tip top shape. Even after the mountain bike trails were completed, Hamilton County still had “other stuff” to finish up before the official grand opening in mid-December.

Once inside the park, you’re greeted with a maze of roads to navigate. Note to mtn bikers: take the first right onto the one-way gravel road to access the main trailhead parking. A few things I noticed about the trails in general: What they lack in technical root and rock sections (nothing out here resembles Mega-Watt!), they make up for with hardly any flat sections and lots of twists, turns, and opportunities for catching some air. The SORBA folks even set up several log balance beams (and I’ve heard they have a few other things up their sleeve for future skills-building fun).

There’s about 10 miles of singletrack available to mountain bikers right now. At an easy-moderate pace, I was out there for 1h20m, so while not a place for epic long rides, it’s a great place for a 1-2 hr ride. I think riding everything in the opposite direction would give you an entirely different experience. One note: because the trails are bi-directional, you definitely need to keep a heads-up for oncoming traffic. It’s easy to pick up a bit of speed, but with all the turns, the last thing you want is to have a header with someone. (esp when the sun is low and blinding, like this afternoon!) Might be nice to have alternating directions, like Blanket’s Creek.

After my ride, I went for a run, exploring both the pedestrian trails and non-vehical paved roads (friendly for road bikes too). I found these trails to be a bit soft and cushy for running on – lots of mulch, etc, piled up. It’s also quite hard to figure your way around the place. Definitely don’t leave home without a map! Hopefully future signage will include some maps and you-are-here markers to help you get back to your car.

One thing I am disappointed in is the outer loop being closed to bikes. While the surface quality isn’t exactly road bike material, the big climbs were calling my name. Would be fantastic if they opened it up to bikes sometimes!

Final kudos go to the variety of terrain included in the park, and its accessibility to all levels, from kids on training wheels to handicapped individuals. It’s a true family-oriented place and yet another reason why Chattanooga outdoors rocks!

a double feature weekend: sewanee cx

cx

Time for some more mud!! On Sunday, Scenic City Velo was hosting a cyclocross race up on Monteagle. Wanting to support the local club and have some fun, I made the trek over. Since I had friends staying at my house for the Lookout Mtn trail races the day before, I didn’t get an early start and have much time for a warm up. I got registered, pinned on my number, got ready to get on my bike and… where is my damn helmet? BIG oops! Huge thanks to Kym for letting me borrow her helmet.

The Women’s B race had 8 of us starting. The beginning was a short gravel road, before we veered off onto muddy grass/trail – not much time to really get into position. There was some twisty, muddy corners that moved into a series of chicanes on one of 2 hills on the course. It wasn’t until the double barriers that I was able to pull away from Grace (having a ton of fun in her first cx race ever). I tried to hold onto a few Cumberland Transit girls through the next section of mud, that ended with a hill that definitely required a dismount; however, I was having so much trouble clipping into my pedals that I lost a ton of time on the straightaways. (I had this problem at Cross-a-nooga too, but had totally forgotten to look into the issue – actually hadn’t been on my bike since then!)

The rest of the laps were pretty much the same. I did spice things up on my third lap when my rear wheel totally washed out and I went down sliding. Luckily the mud wasn’t too thick or wet there… Anyways, local collegiate cyclist Stephanie got her first cx win, with Kristi nabbing second. Great job! I finished 5th, not too bad for minimal practicing and racing the day before. I’m really looking forward to the Rome Winter series in January. The challenge with the cx races is that they are so spread out, all over GA and TN. (and TN and AL too)… it’s hard to justify driving a few hours for a 3o min race. Rome should be close enough to have some fun and not eat the whole day traveling.

a double feature weekend: Lookout 10k

10k

Saturday Dec 18th was the final date in the 2010 Rock/Creek Trail Series – the Lookout Mountain 50 mile and 10k trail races. With temperatures starting in the upper 20s and only climbing into the mid-30s at best, you were going to suffer a bit no matter what distance you chose. I’m focusing on a race in Feb (the Mt Mitchell Challenge again), so the 10k was my fun for the day.

The race started & finished at the Covenant College athletic fields. The first part of the race (map here) followed their cross country course – despite the hills, it was a pretty fast section. Then we turned onto the powerlines and the “fun” (not!) began. Powerlines just are never fun. In adventure races, it always meant thick, nearly impassable underbrush. Thankfully in a trail race there is at least a trail to follow, but big climbs (and descents) are the norm, with a service road that doubles as a creekbed during storms (watch out for deep ruts). It’s never particularly scenic either. After we followed this for awhile, the finish was near – just 2 (big) climbs left. I had kept a girl that passed me earlier within sight, hoping that she may crack a bit on the climb and I would surge past. Well, it didn’t quite play out as I imagined. Somehow that first hill energized her, and at the top she grew wings and darted through the trees. Dang. My next hope was to just hold on to my current position (top 10 I believed) and make it to the end. That last climb took everything out of me. Thanks to Robert of Wilderness Adventure Photography for capturing the pain and agony I was experiencing. As if that climb wasn’t hellacious enough, we had another 250 agonizing meters of pavement before we hit the actual finish line. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely done (& sick) before.

After getting into some dry clothes, racers huddled around a bonfire to keep warm until the awards. One of my friends up from Athens, GA (who didn’t decide to race until she caved to peer pressure race morning) took the overall female win with a speedy 46:29. I finished 7th, in 52:58.

That night, Carol and I swept the last section of the 50 mile race, from Lula Lake to Covenant College. (Yes, while I was staying warm and working inside, all those ultra runners will still out there running!) All the racers made it in safely, making for a great close to another race. (Yeah for no search & rescue in sub-freezing temps!)

Thanks to WildTrails and Rock/Creek for the great event!

race day gear:
Patagonia beanie
Smartwool NTS short sleeve shirt
Patagonia Capilene 1 silkweight long sleeve
Patagonia Nine Trails jacket
Lululemon Run Inspire Crop tights
Smartwool socks
Vasque Mindbender shoes
Buff
Mountain Hardwear powerstretch gloves
Ultimate Directions handheld with Banananuun!

georgia-cross in tennessee

cx

Well, some do consider Chattanooga to be a suburb of Atlanta, so I guess we qualified enough to host the latest race in the Georgia-Cross cyclocross series. Vantaggio hosted the event and designed another awesome course out at Camp Jordan. I had pre-registered, so despite the 21+ miles, 4.5 hrs of trail running the day before, I gathered my gear and headed out. I was running a bit late and didn’t get to pre-ride the entire course, but got some good tips about navigating the slick areas and how deep the sand pits were.

The Womens B race had 8 ladies start. The first part of the course included a ascending steep slick hill, followed by a chicane on this same hill. Not having been on my cx bike lately and not having practiced stuff like this (esp after rain), I chose to dismount early and run it. Despite my sore feet, this was a good, time-saving decision for me – I held my place, if not passed nearby riders. Quick remount, then a long section with some twisty cornering. In the middle was a tricky barrier right before a runup – it was angled in such a way that we were dismounting on the downhill so we could turn and jump the barrier. Luckily everything happened smoothly, although I had visions of not unclipping and faceplanting while sliding down the muddy hill. :)

Continuing on: More technical turns with some room for some speed inbetween… a double barrier (that not everyone cleared, as you can see from the photo above)… then a double feature sandpit. yes, one right after the other. It was deep stuff too. A good majority of people weren’t making it all the way through. Since I hadn’t been able to pre-ride this, I played it safe, dismounted, and ran through both, carrying my bike. This is where I was able to save time and get a gap on a few ladies behind me. The only problem was the sand jamming up in my cleats. I had one heck of a time clipping in after this (slipped off the pedal once and jammed it right into my Achilles. Not advisable!!)

The course was 3.0k, so we hit it about 5 times during our 30 minute race. I finished 5th, happy we didn’t have to go 45 min like the A race. This definitely did me in for the weekend! I had a blast though, which is what racing cross is all about. Definitely looking forward to more this season!

(hoping to have some pictures posted soon, but so hard for me to get to on the weekdays)

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!)

finding some miles

Soddy Creek section of the Three Rivers Gorge segment of the Cumberland Trail. A great run… it’s been too long!

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