Monday, June 20, 2011

Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race 6/17-6/19/2011

Fun in the creek: mile point 21.5,day 2
This post could have 2 subtitles, and I am not sure which I like better: A week's vacation in less than 3 days, or Bruise & Blood = Blessing in Disguise.
(Yet more on that later...)

The Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race is 60 trail miles divided over 3 days and 3 mountains all less than a 30 minute drive from downtown Chattanooga, TN.

Never having run a stage race before, and not having done much homework about this event, I did not leave Thursday after work with much of a plan. I had a duffel of running clothes, gear, and shoes, some groceries and a room reserved at Chattanooga’s brand new hostel, The Crash Pad.

Cool sign welcoming adventures.
Newly open, this hostel features "green" and sustainable building and an environmentally and socially responsible attitude and practices.
I choose to try out the hostel as I didn’t look forward to spending lots of hours alone in a campsite or motel room after running for a few hours in the morning. I figured with my own sleeping room at The Crash Pad, I’d have privacy and I looked forward to getting to know some of the other runners as the lodging was filled this weekend with only runners and supporters of the races. Indeed, this proved to be an excellent place to stay. That evening I met Joe, Dan, Ted, Wendy and many others. During the weekend I enjoyed several conversations with Wendy Grant Oates who is a runner, yet volunteered like crazy all weekend long this time around.

Day 1, Raccoon Mountain, 18 miles

This course circumnavigates Tennessee Valley water storage facility on Raccoon Mountain wavy, single track mountain bike trails. It is not a technical course, but rather packed dirt, banked switchbacks and well drained trails. Part of the course is so very squiggly it is called The Intestines and I could see runners on all sides traveling in all directions. I thought from above it probably looked like a choreographed dance!

At race start runners were asked to seed ourselves appropriately as we had only about 100 yards before going to single track. I got near the front of the pack and went into the trail with 25-30 guys and gals ahead of me. I had no desire to start the day off sprinting so I wound up being part of a running chain for a mile or so. This kind of running was not my style so I eventually worked around several folks and found a bit more freedom to do my own pace.
Aaron Saft and Dan Mueller (eventual winner of each stage and overall) run on the typical trail of this stage. Photo courtesy of Rock Creek
Several of us switched places yet were holding a solid steady pace until I tripped around mile 7ish and figured I should be a bit more conservative. I think Dorsal Fin got prematurely active and talked me back into picking up the pace and I did.

Without warning, a mile or so later, I bit the dust hard. No warning, no reason. I landed right knee on the ground, right elbow on a rock. I cried out in surprise and pain. Two runners just ahead of me came back to offer assistance: John from Mississippi and another kind man whose name I do not recall. I did not know if I was hurt or not. I feared since I landed on the bruise from Rothrock I did some real damage. I cried a little and tried not to hyperventilate as I got up and tried to jog . I couldn’t jog and hyperventilate at the same time, so jogging won out and soon as was running slowly the ups and flats and limping the downs. By the time I arrived at the 3rd aid station at mile 13ish, I’d found a truly conservative running rhythm and was enjoying the run again, just being extra careful to continue to land on my feet!
Top of Raccoon Mountain looking east to Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Rock Creek.
 I finished stage 1 in 2:30:31, totally surprised to find that I was first woman. Natalie Sims, who I passed in the early miles was in minutes later and Leslie Becht just minutes after that. I hoped my knee would let me continue to run as I was looking forward to racing with these 2!

Complete results for all stages and final here.

Finish line activities abounded. There was massage: 10 minutes for $5, a great deal!, Ice baths in garbage cans filled with ice and water, medic tent, food, music and general merriment. We learned North Shore Yoga in town was offering a special yoga/stretch class for $5 to runners each afternoon at 3pm.
Talented massage therapist Christian worked like crazy on many runners after each stage. Her work was an important element of me feeling good this weekend. Reach Christian Stegall at 423-504-3011. She does good work!
Rouge Racers, Drymax lightweight trail socks, pacer advance short, moving comfort sports bra, wicked lite tank top, Nathan Quickdraw Plus bottle.

Fuel: 1 bottle lemon-lime Clif Shot drink mix, 2 margarita shot blocks, 1 bottle Heed, 7 peanut m&ms. Post run fuel: water, Clif Builders Bar, followed by regular food an hour  later.

After leaving race site, I spent the rest of the day going to yoga, hanging around The Crash Pad, icing my knee, napping, eating,  and later in the evening more hanging out as the Crash Pad hosted a short gathering each night for all runners. Bed by 10pm.
Kitchen of The Crash Pad. Notice the concrete floors, expertly crafted counter made of reclaimed wood!
Race director Randy Whorton (in orange)  addresses his runners during Friday evenings gathering at TCP.

Day 2, Lookout Mountain, 22 miles

Fellow hostel resident Ed Lent and I carpooled over to race central. The adventure started early as my little Toyota Echo carefully navigated the big ruts and potholes which led downhill to the parking area of Lula Lake reserve. If the drive in was any indication, this course promised to have some good climbing and technical sections!

The general layout of this course:  5ish mile loop, run out, another loop, run back and repeat the 1st loop in the opposite direction. The race started on a gravel road downhill and runners quickly spread out before entering steep single track about a mile in. The loop varied with climbing and descending, double track ridge running, single weedy trail, and enough rocks to keep things interesting.
I don’t remember much about the rest of the course, only that I was thrilled the leg was working! There was more climbing and descending and somewhere out there, even while being careful, I relaxed enough to experience the freedom of flight. I just love to run! I did fall, just enough to get dirtier-not to draw blood or do any damage, thankfully!

After passing the last aid station and entering into the last loop I thought I heard people cheer for Natalie. If that was the case I had less than a minute on her and didn’t want to loose my position. So I took more risks and ran faster and nothing bad happened! Yay! Later I learned that wasn’t Natalie I thought I heard after all, yet the thought pushed me to finish in 2:56:44. I was tickled to be feeling good!
Ed chillin' post stage 2
While waiting for massages, Natalie and I talked and I shared with her that I was planning to go to yoga and then try to find the place my sister used to live near Manning Street. She told me she used to live in that part of town. When I asked how long ago, she responded, “Thirteen years ago.” Then her eyes widened, she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You are Cheryl’s twin, I see the resemblance now.” Go here for a post I wrote a year or so ago about Cheryl.

Natalie used to live on the street just above Cheryl and they were fond of each other as neighbors. Natalie remembered Cheryl’s kitty Rudy. Matt, Natalie’s husband whom she was dating at the time also knew Cheryl. She and I talked for several minutes and I felt gifted to have Natalie in conversation about Cheryl. This connection and remembering was an important and deep part of the weekend. In a wordless way, I felt part of me had come back home for a little while.

The post race recovery activities repeated the day before. Clothing, shoes, and gear the same,except I wore a new Mountain Hardwear jersey the Malina Tank.

After yoga I walked over to the neighborhood Cheryl and Natalie lived in, yet a thunderstorm rolling in very quickly drove me to run-in flip flops a  mile back to my car. Returning to the neighborhood in the car, I still didn’t find as the driving rain and electrical storm was in full force and proved to be too distracting for house hunting.

Another mellow, social night at The Crash Pad: food, wine, companionship, brief runner gathering watching a slide show of the days events, knee icing and bed by 10pm.

Day 3, Signal Mountain, 20 miles.

This is the stage I’d heard the most about with such words as nasty, killer, slick, breathtaking, gnarly, and horrendous used to describe it. In honor of  the  reputation I switched to Mountain Masochist for footwear this day. This run also had much more of a back country, wild feel than the others.
Aid station view...courtesy of Rock Creek
 This indeed was a very slippery and technical run. Down up, repeat! The storms the night before blew down many trees on the previously cleared trail and left everything absolutely soaked. I even decided to run with just a sports bra (an infrequent thing for me during a trail run) as I knew everything would be wet from sweat or rainwater in minutes.

I moved very cautiously through the wet rocks this day and did not fall on the trail, but rather took a turn at going down on my butt on one of the slimy swinging bridges. I had to laugh it turned out I shared the fall with another runner who plopped down just beside me. He made a quicker recovery and dashed ahead. I moved carefully the rest of the way across.
Despite having to be so very careful, I had a wonderful  time out there this day. It was beautiful and rich with the diversity of a healthy eastern forest. At one point I quipped out loud that I was glad we didn’t have to name all the plants out there into order to be official finishers. The runner just behind me agreed. Yet just for fun during the slog out of the Tennessee River Gorge I wondered if I could name at least ten. As it turned out that took only a few minutes: Eastern Hemlock, Mountain Laurel, Maple, Sourwood, Sassafras, Christmas Fern, wood violet, Poison Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Tulip Poplar and so on!
 Again, the miles proceeded quickly. I was told Sarah Woerner was wayyyy ahead, I could only feel pleased for her. Sarah is young, tough speedster who wins events from 5k to 100 mile trail races in the Southeast.  Before race start I invited Sarah to New River Trail 50k  with a comp entry and I do hope she will come.  I was not in a spot to race Sarah, yet pleased to be focused at this time only on staying on my feet, staying happy and getting to the finish line as close to Sarah as I could!
Finishing Stage 3 on Sunday morning
 I did finish in 2nd, about 6:30 behind Sarah and earned 1st place in the overall stage race with a total time of 9:02:07.
Annette, Sara Woerner and Natalie after Stage 3.
Sharing an ice bath after stage 3.
Stage Race (60 mile) Top 3 results:
Dan Mueller, 25, 6:58:59 (race record)
David Workman, 40, 7:36:09
Daniel Hamilton, 23, 7:46:28

Annette Bednosky, 44, 9:02:07
Natalie Sims, 37, 9:29:36
Leslie Becht, 27, 10:19:24
Feeling really tall at the podium!
This weekend in Chattanooga felt like a week’s vacation to me! The Crash Pad was just what I was looking for in clean, quiet, adventurous accommodation. $5.00 yoga, $5.00 massage were great. I really appreciated meeting Natalie and Wendy and so many other fine folks and runners. 
Of course the best part was getting to run each morning at 8am! The fall I took on day 1, I believe may have been a “blessing in disguise”. I was forced to slow down and be cautious the last 12 miles of that day. I think  the lack of Dorsal Fin for the remainder of day 1 and much of day 2 helped me have legs so I could really appreciate the morning at Signal Mountain on day 3. Thank you to the race directors, all the volunteers, kindred spirits in running, fine folks at The Crash Pad for this wonderful life-filled weekend!


The Sean said...

Nice work, Annette. Signal Mountain is tough enough on its own merit.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Great report! Congratulations.

A staged race sounds like a wonderful way to spend a long weekend.

TrackMan06 said...

Great job Annette. Looks like you had a blast...

eminnick said...

Nice Work Annette! I struggled between picking this race or highland sky this year. Sounds like it was a blast and I definitely plan on checking it out next year. I really enjoyed stump jump and chattanooga is such a fun place to visit! with the new hostel, it's even better!

jenn said...

nice job! annette! congrats!!!
I really loved this post. I really can't really place into the right words, but i'm just really happy that you were able to be in Chattanooga and meet friends of your sister's. Very special. It just makes me feel you were EXACTLY where you needed to be.

Rick Gray said...

What a special weekend. Not only a great weekend of running and socializing with fellow runners, but you got to stomp around where Cheryl use to live. I know that was the highlight of your weekend.

Randy said...

It was so great to meet you. You added so much to the event and we do hope that you come back often.

Anonymous said...

awesome post, annette. this gives me loads of ideas to make my race reports and such much better. it was nice to briefly meet you and i was serious when i said that you were on my 'bucket list' of runners to run/race with. if it works with my already expansive calendar, expect to see me at the new river trail 50k.


eric ashley loffland.

Rob Youngren said...

Congratulations! Was nice to see you again, been a while. :)

D.M. SOLIS said...

Great images and writeups. Your blog is intense without being melodramatic. You show what you know (not just what you do). Very fine. Thanks, peace,


shannon said...

You're an inspiration for us ultrarunner wannabes! Congrats on a awesome finish!

Christian Stegall said...

That was beautifully written. It was great to meet you Annette! You're an incredible athlete and I enjoyed talking with you. Thank you for coming out. I hope you will again!-Christian Stegall:)

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Anne said...

I just stumbled across your blog. You go, girl! I am also 44, struggling with trying to train for my first marathon. I didn't even know ultra running existed until a couple of years ago! Your account of the stage race is really inspirational. Thanks!

EdLent said...

Annette, I enjoyed carpooling, talking with you and finding our way back through all the fairy tale streets. Thanks! Ed Lent