Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rock/Creek Stage Race: Day 3 Signal Mountain 06.16.13

3 days, 3 mountains, 3 stages. Only appropriate that I ran with #33 all weekend.
Gosh! Where to start? I'm sitting here, showered, fed and relaxed but trying to look back at a jam packed weekend with old and new friends doing something that I love to do...trail running. "60 miles, 3 mountains, 3 days" with good camaraderie and wonderful trails is hard to beat. Before diving into today's recap of stage three, I have to thank Rock/Creek, Wild Trails, Randy and Kris Whorton, Jeff Bartlett, Mike Scott, the Ultrasignup crew, Tim Titarka from Salomon and all of the race volunteers, staff and fellow competitors for yet another fantastic Chattanooga Stage Race weekend! I am looking forward to doing it again soon, whether it's the Stage Race again or another of the Rock/Creek race series. Top notch!

Coming up the steps at Signal Point.
Photo Jeff Bartlett, Rock/Creek
Day three didn't start much different from the other two days. I showed up, picked up my bib number, visited with friends, stopped by the Salomon tent to pick up the test pair of Salomon Mantras and got ready at my car. Everyone was walking with a little stiffness, some more than others. My quads were sore from all the downhill running yesterday, but otherwise I was feeling pretty good. Everyone seemed ready to tackle day three. There was talk about the difficulty of today's course. The veteran stage race runners were explaining to the new ones that while today's stage was technical and difficult, it was easily also the prettiest of the three stages. With a few minutes to go, everyone gathered at the start and once again at 8am sharp, we were off!

We started off through the gravel parking lot and immediately onto the trail. Although it did bottle neck some, it wasn't the same traffic jam of day one. There was a bit more room on the trail and somehow things spread out pretty quickly. I did notice right away that the poison ivy was out in full force and it would be something to be watchful of over the rest of the course. The first few miles are a long descent past Mushroom Rock and down to a cable bridge. At first I ran with Brian from Indianapolis who I had run several miles with on both days one and two, but once we crossed the bridge and started the climb over the ridge to then go down into Suck Creek, we got separated. This portion of the trail is an out and back from Suck Creek back to Mushroom Rock and it wasn't long before we saw the front runners led of course by David Riddle. This guy is impressive to watch as he looked liked he was gliding along the trail. He set the course record on day one, barely missed it on day two and I would learn later that he would set a course record for day three. The guy is an unbelievable athlete. The guys behind him were cruising as well. I arrived at the first aid station at the bottom at Suck Creek, refilled one of my hand held bottles (I stuck with my two bottle strategy all weekend and I'm glad I did) with water and turned around to make the climb. It was fun to see everyone coming down and to cheer each other on. Lots of "Good job!" and "Looking strong!" comments being exchanged.

I made it back over the ridge and I was by myself when I heard some singing behind me. I knew right away that it was John Dove and he caught up to me in no time but then settled into my pace. I really respect John and I also enjoy hanging out with him, so when he decided to run with me, I was happy for the company. We made our way down to the bridge and John and I started talking and exchanging stories. We made it across the bridge and then back up to Mushroom Rock and took the right turn onto the trail that led to Emerald Point.

This part of the trail is beautiful with incredible views of the valley to our right and with trails that while having some degree of technical difficulty were still very runnable. We caught a few runners while we continued to talk and catch up about various things which made the miles go by relatively quickly. The weather was cooperating and I was glad it was. Earlier in the week, the forecast called for hot temps in the 90's but it would never get above the low 80's at any point of the race. It was definitely a bit more humid than the previous two days, but it wasn't suffocating.

We were cruising along and when we were starting to wonder when the next aid station would appear, we strolled into it at Emerald Point. I was feeling good and enjoying running with John, but I was also anticipating what was coming next. In 2011, it was at this point that I started feeling crappy and I was hoping to avoid that this time around. I had kept up my hydration in these first nine or so miles, but I hadn't been paying attention to my eating. I ate a salty potato, a small PBJ and a gel at the aid station. John and I then headed out on the next section of trail.

We heard church bells from the valley and realized it was ten o'clock. We were two hours into the race. I didn't forget my watch this time, instead I left it in my bag on purpose. I found from the first two days that running without the watch helped me run my pace and didn't stress me out to try to run a certain time. This was working well for me. It wasn't long before we hit some of the more technical parts of today's course. John was in his element and he soon took the lead in front of me and then proceeded to drop me. He got farther and farther away from me until he disappeared around a turn. I saw him briefly at the next aid station and then I didn't see him again until less than a mile to the finish. I found myself alone, but in good spirits and even more importantly feeling strong. The rocks along this part of the trail are huge and tough to navigate, but I was making my way over them pretty well. I caught a few runners before the climb up the stairs at Signal Point where the next aid station was located.

Me and Blaine on the short road section.
Photo: Jeff Bartlett, Rock/Creek
Once at the top of the stairs, my buddy Jason was there to greet me and refill my water bottle. It was good to see him (you should check out his blog sometime, click here). I refueled on some potatoes and fig newtons and took off up the road. It was on this road in 2011 that I went straight across and ran a few minutes off course with another runner, so I was sure not to miss my turn this time. I caught up to a runner from Johnson City named Blaine and together we ran for a bit. We ran in front of what seemed like an assisted living home and there was quite a crowd on the porch. Everyone cheered us on and it was uplifting since it's unusual to get any cheering while on the trails. After passing the cheers, the turn back onto the trail came up quick. Blaine got out in front of me while the trail stayed relatively smooth, but once we ran along a creek bed, the trail became much more technical and I was catching back up to him. We crossed a couple of cable bridges and then I passed him. The next couple of miles were tough due to the terrain. It's funny how in my head I was dreading the section between Emerald Point and Signal Point, but I had forgotten about the difficulty of this section along the creek. I caught up to a couple of other runners and as I passed them, I also went by these cool cliff sides that were dripping with water. It really was amazing to run by them. A creek stayed to our right for the rest of the way before the next aid station. I did a gut check and all systems were running fine. Maybe the conservative running of the first two days was paying dividends now.

I arrived at the last aid station. Refilled my water bottle and asked how much was left. I was told 3.6 miles. Sweet! Not much left to go. I was now on a double track trail that climbed up and I knew that meant we were heading back to the school where the finish was set up. I was still running much of the climb which gave me some more confidence. The double track turned onto a single track trail and I caught up to two more runners. I didn't pass these two guys right away, but I could tell that neither of them was feeling all that great. We also kept climbing until we came out onto the last section of trail which was identical to the Stump Jump finish and so it was very familiar. I managed to get by one of the guys and the other one was staying out in front of me. We crossed a road turned onto the last section of trail. I saw a tall guy a few yards ahead and realized it was John. I caught him and we both patted each other on the back. The other runner that was in front of me then all of a sudden stopped and put his hands on his knees. He was taking a quick breather I guess as I went by him. I knew the finish was really close. I could see two female runners in front of me and although I thought I could catch them, I never did. We came out from under the tree canopy, crossed a road and ran on the grass along the soccer field fence towards the finish. I crossed it with my arms up in the air. I was tired, but happy.

At the finish holding my sweet Marmot finishers jacket.
This year the race offered a new finishers award, a sweet Marmot ultralight running jacket. You even had a choice between two different colors, black or off white for the guys and blue or green for the ladies. I gladly picked mine up and then went to grab a bite to eat and something to drink before making my way to the kiddie pool with ice water to dip my tired legs. What a great day on the trails!

I finished the 20 miles in 3:53 which was almost 20 minutes better than my 2011 stage three time. However, I only beat my 2011 cumulative time by three or so minutes. I finished with a cumulative time of 10:23.

I'm leaving the stage race with several positive things going into my next event, the TransRockies Run in August. I learned to manage my effort better over consecutive days of running and finished feeling well on day three. I also learned that I could run on tired legs which will serve me well in Colorado. The next few weeks are going to be tough with lots of miles, but my confidence is high with just about two months to go. I just have to hang in there, train well and stay injury free.

My race results for stage 3: 3:53:16, 67th overall, 61st male, 168 official finishers
My race results for all three stages: 10:23:02, 81st overall, 72nd male, 168 official finishers

Stage three course map and elevation chart, click here.
Stage three race results, click here. 3-day cumulative race results, click here.
View race photos courtesy of Jeff Bartlett and Rock/Creek, click here.

Other 2013 Chattanooga Stage Race reports:
Hot Wing Runner: http://hotwingrunner.blogspot.com/2013/06/chattanooga-stage-races-2013-pool-balls.html
The Ale Runner: http://thealerunner.com/2013/06/19/chattanooga-mountains-stage-race-recap/
Run, Lala, Run: http://runlala.blogspot.com/2013/06/joyful-chattanooga-mountains-stage-race.html
Jason Green: http://bestpacescenario.blogspot.com/2013/06/dnf-chattanooga-mountains-stage-race.html
David Riddle: http://riddleruns.blogspot.com/2013/06/rockcreek-chattanooga-mountains-stage.html?showComment=1372079863291#c2630176842924214721

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