|Start of today's stage one with Randy Whorton addressing the runners. (Photo Chattanooga Stage Race Facebook page)|
I've met some great people already. There's about a dozen or so, Tejas trail-runners that are nice as can be and I've also met Tim Waz from Bluffton, SC and owner of Palmetto Running Company (thanks again for the shoes and the shirt, Tim!) We all met in the parking lot, exchanged "good lucks" and lined up at the start. Randy Whorton, the race director, made some announcements and we got started at 8:00am sharp. With only about 500 yards of asphalt to semi-thin the crowd, we bottle necked right away on the single track trail. It took some time to settle an order and even then, it was well over an hour of running before I felt like I had found my spot in the pecking order of things. The trail follows along a dam reservoir with over looks into the valey below. At one point early on, you could look over to our left and see Chattanooga below. You could also look across to the site of tomorrow's stage at Lookout Mountain. The first hour of running was just trying to pull back the reins and not get too fast, but it's hard when you get caught up in the excitement. Once things thinned out, this was harder still. Since the temps were comfortable, I wasn't running out of water and I was still able to maintain a good level hydration. We hit the first aid station and I felt good.
The next few miles went by quick with a small stretch on a gravel jeep road. Normally these stretches get hot, but since it was overcast, we were fine. A couple of guys passed me here, but once we were back on the single track, I stayed with them pretty well. Soon, we hit aid station number two. I try not to spend too much time at the stations. One of the volunteers asked me more than once if I needed my bottle topped off, but I still had more than two-thirds of a bottle and I thought I'd OK. He said, "You sure? It's five miles until the next station." Which made me hesitate, but I decided to go on. Luckily, I didn't have to regret my decision.
From here, we had quite a bit of downhill which was quite a bit of fun and then we hit a section called "the small intestine". And rightly so. It was twisty, windy and covered just a few acres with a few miles of trails. It was in this spaghetti of trails that I took a good spill. My foot caught a root and down I went. I was in a train of runners when it happened and only a couple looked back. I jumped up and caught up with them as quickly as I could. My bib number hung by one safety pin the rest of the race.
Runners started showing some strain and many were dropping back. I did a gut check and asked myself if I was going too fast but I was feeling good and decided to just maintain my pace. I caught up to a couple of the TX runners and soon passed them. Pretty soon, we hit aid station number three.
I didn't stick around. I refilled my bottle, grabbed something to eat and headed out. When I exited, a couple of the guys I had been running with stayed behind. I then also caught up with another runner who had passed me earlier on the gravel road and I soon put distance on him. The rest of the way, I spent it mostly on my own with no one to see ahead of me or behind me. This probably lasted for more than a couple of miles which allowed me to settle into a groove and get my breathing to where it should be. I caught up with Tim and he had decided to ease up since this is really a training weekend for him as he's getting ready for the Arkansas 100 later this year.
|Nothing like an ice bath in a trash can.|
I finished in 2:40 and 38th overall. Not bad, but I hope I didn't cash in all my chips. There's still two more stages. I took an ice bath in a tub and got something to eat. I hung out with other finishers for a while and the gang from Texas and then made my way out. I feel good, but we'll see how it goes tomorrow. Lookout Mountain awaits with lots of climbing and way more technical trails. Until then, happy trails!