Tag WildTrails

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!


 

 

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!


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