|Chattanooga Mountain Stage Race Day Two |
about half a mile from the finish.
(Photo by firstname.lastname@example.org)
The course for stage 2 travels through the Lula Lake Land Trust Preserve. It consisted of a five mile loop then a twelve mile loop and then a repeat of the initial five mile loop but in the opposite direction. Along the way, we would experience significantly more climbing and descending than what we did on stage 1.
I carpooled with the race directors that morning, so I arrived much earlier than most of the other runners. I was able to watch the start/finish area get set up while the volunteers showed up and then of course the runners. I was feeling good about this stage. I woke up with not much to complain about from day one's run. I was happy with my performance and I was still wondering if perhaps I had run it too fast. There was only one way to truly find out and that would be once the race started. After much sitting around, it was time to get this stage started. We were off right at 8:00am.
Unlike yesterday, we had almost a mile of gravel road to stretch the field and get folks into place before hitting any single track. This was nice, and it allowed me to feel out my legs and other than a slight tightness in my right abductor, I felt good. It would quickly loosen up within the first couple of miles. We made our way past the beautiful Lula Falls when we arrived to the first bit of singletrack. All of a sudden, I felt this sharp pain just above my right knee, then I felt it again on my shin. I reached down and smacked at what ever it was and I realized that I had been stung by a couple of yellowjackets. A couple of other runners cried out too. Seems we pissed of a nest as we ran by. Not how I wanted to start my race.
This occured right before a very, steep climb that I was familiar with from my experience at the Lookout Mountain 50-Miler last year. In fact, much of stage two's trails are part of that race, so it was familiar to me. Back to the climb, the race organizers set up ropes for the climb and there was a slight bottleneck as runners made their way up. Once at the top of the ridge, we thinned out again. I tried to get into my own groove and I wanted to run on my own, but I ended up running with a couple of runners along the ridge and then on the way down off the ridge. Before we descended, I tried to sneak a few peeks to my left into the valley below. Many of the trails in Chattanooga have great vistas and this one is fantastic. We ran the ridge for a while, descended down a long wide trail, then a single track down to a creek and made our way back to the start/finish area where we would hit our first aid station. First loop done and I was feeling good except for my yellowjacket stings. I had a little swelling, but it wasn't bothering my running. At the aid station, I grabbed a couple of apple halves, downed some Coke and headed off.
The next five or six miles were mostly uphill. The first section appeared to be a really abandoned forest road that was overgrown with small trees and we had to duck in and out of them. Once through that, we crossed a road, ran up a trail with mossy, flatrocks that were a little slick and then hit some singletrack. We climbed but the grade was gradual enough for most of it, that we could run. While we ran, we kept coming across debris that had landed along the trail from the tornadoes that hit this area back in April. There were a number of trees down too and the ones that had fallen across the trail had been cleared by chainsaw. I guess nature has to show who's boss every once in a while.
We reached a powerline cut out and did a short series of zig zags in and out of the woods and the cut out. On the last time we ran back into the woods, we were confronted with a mean climb straight up on single track. This was one of those, put your hands on your knees and push type of climbs. At this point, I was running with a female participant that had caught up to me and passed me, and I tried to keep up with her for a short while before getting dropped. We came back out to the power line section and this time walked up a long climb along the cut out. It wasn't long before we hit the aid station. I was still feeling good, but it had started to warm up and I needed to top off my water bottle. I left the aid station and enjoyed a wide, forest road for a while. I caught up with another runner, Robert Lewellen. Robert is one of the race directors for a new 50K in Georgia that will take place on the Duncan Ridge trail and the Coosa Back Country trail. It's the Duncan Ridge 50K/30K. That race is going to be a beast! Anyway, I ran with Robert for quite a while. Chatting with him made the time go by and we were making good progress. He decided to take a quick nature break and he told me to run on ahead of him. At this point, I was back on the same trail we had come up earlier but enjoying the descent. One of the Texas runners, Dat, that I had met caught me and passed me. He was looking strong.
Down past the mossy, flatrock, across the road again and down into the start/finish area. As I came in to the aid station, there were a number of spectators waiting around for their runners, but they cheered me on in. That was an appreciated ego boost and I picked up my step after grabbing something quick at the aid station. Only one more loop left and I knew it well by now. We ran along the creek, then up a quick incline to reach more single track that would take us back to the another gradual long climb that we had descended earlier in the day. I walked almost all of this until we hit the top of the ridge. I knew that was the last long one of the day and I was glad to be on the ridge again. I caught up and passed a couple of other runners and soon came up on the steep, rope assisted climb down and I was getting anxious about more yellow jackets. I joined a couple other runners who had bottlenecked on the rope and we made our way down. We went past the area where the yellowjackets had been earlier unscathed. Phew!
We were almost done. The rest of the way back was slightly different than the start earlier that morning. Instead of running back on the gravel road, we were directed off of it and made to run alongside a creek. Up and down short three and four foot little hills along the creek. It was tough on the legs. Ran that for over a mile when we then crossed the creek, the only time we truly got our feet wet on the course. Just a couple hundred more yards and there was the finish. Randy was on the mic and I heard, "Here comes number 24, Javier De Jesus, from Atlanta." I gave him the thumbs up and came through the chute. 3:33:34...good enough to crack the top 50.
I grabbed something to drink and got in the creek with the other runners that had finished before me. It felt really good to cool off in the stream and exchange "war stories" with others. After some time in the water I grabbed a bite to eat and got in line for a massage. Tomorrow was to be another day. The toughest yet of the three. I was looking forward to it.
*Read official race blog and find results and photos for stage two.