|Fun in the creek: mile point 21.5,day 2|
(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.|
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.
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.
|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|
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!
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!
|Top of Raccoon Mountain looking east to Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Rock Creek.|
Complete results for all stages and final here.http://fiveman.com/overall.txt
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.
Day 2, Lookout Mountain, 22 miles
|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!
|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.
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.
|Aid station view...courtesy of Rock Creek|
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!
|Finishing Stage 3 on Sunday morning|
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!