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, October 3, 2010

Rollercoaster of Love (Stump Jump 50K 10.2.10)

"Rollercoaster of love. Say what? Rollercoaster, Yeah (ooh ooh, ooh ooh) Rollercoaster of love. Can you get off our love rollercoaster?" ~The Ohio Players

Me, Doug and James at start of Stump Jump 50K
Why am I opening with a song lyric from a song first made famous by The Ohio Players and then The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Well, it all started as a joke. You see, James is not a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers music and before the start of the Stump Jump 50K, Doug and I were doing our best to stick an annoying song lyric in his head. "Rollercoaster of Love" ended up being the song that would come up the most. But then, it actually got stuck in my head as we lined up with 800 other trail runners at the start of the race and it would be an appropriate theme for the day.

I have a love for trails and the Stump Jump course although not comparable to ultras out West in elevation changes, it still offers some challenging climbs and downhill descents. Thus earning the label "Rollercoaster of Love". So allow me to further describe my roller coaster ride.

The course starts at a middle school at Signal Mountain, TN, and we got there with a little time to spare. It was James' first 50K and needless to say, he was pretty excited and anxious at the same time. Doug and I were trying to keep him calm and told him to just run his race. Doug on the other hand had signed up for the 50K, but unfortunately had been dragging knee trouble for the last week or so and decided to run the 11-Mile option instead, which was the right choice for him. Race started at 8am sharp.

The first few miles were part of the school's cross country trails. We winded around the campus for a while and then descended towards Mushroom Rock. Here's where the fun really began.

Coming down the hill next
to Mushroom Rock
A sharp descent from Mushroom Rock lead down to a cable bridge that we all used to cross a creek. The sign over the bridge said "Maximum 20 Persons". We were way more than that. In fact, if I have one complaint about this race is that it took a very long time to thin out the crowd. For the first 16 miles, basically half the race, I was always in a bit of a trail runner convoy and much of the trail is tight single track too. But I am getting ahead of myself. We crossed the bridge, then came up to the top of a ridge with another long descent on the other side. We would painfully revisit that on the way back. "Rollercoaster of Love..."

We hit the first aid station and I was feeling good. My buddy Phil was there waiting on some other GUTS runners and it was good to get some encouraging words from a friendly face. Quick plug for Phil, he just came back from running his second 100-miler at Cascade Crest (congrats Phil!) We crossed a road and started climbing up to another ridge. This time we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the Tennessee River on our left and these amazing, I'm guessing, limestone rock walls that went up 20-50 feet at various points to our right. Next thing I know, we passed the aid station at mile 10 and for the next 14 miles or so, would stay on mostly very runable singletrack trail.

I was in a line of runners when we came upon a jeep road with a bit of a climb to  the aid station at mile 16. Since it was about fifteen or more of us, we slightly overwhelmed the station. I took advantage of everyone refueling and continued on the trail once again after downing a couple of Cokes and some peanut butter filled pretzels before anyone else got moving. The trail leading away from the station had a considerable grade for about a half mile, so I had to hike most of it. "Rollercoaster..." Around mile 18, the trail is covered in sizable rocks and you have to watch your footwork while getting pounded a bit, but by now I was glad to be partnered with two other runners on our own and we kept a good pace together.

The Mile 20 aid station came up rather suddenly. I refueled quickly and moved on. I was still with my new running buddies and we made a quick descent before coming back onto trail that we had already run on, but in the other direction. Which meant that we got to enjoy another view of the Tennessee River and saw all the same rock formations from before. We did take a short misguided detour at one point, but we luckily caught ourselves and were able to get back on course. At this point, I was starting to feel the effort of the day some, but I was enjoying running with our small group.

We came off the ridge and descended back to the road we crossed earlier. The aid station at 24 miles was a welcomed sight. I knew we had two considerable climbs coming up and so I did take an extra moment to rehydrate and get something in my stomach. I looked at my watch and realized that a 6-hour race was doable. However, I would soon learn that the climbs in the next three miles would put a bit of a hurt on me.

First climb slowed me down more than I expected. Some of the guys I had been running with got up the hill quicker than I did, but I would reunite with them at the top. Once we got over the next ridge line, we descended quickly back to the cable bridge. The next climb took even more out of me. This one was the climb back up to Mushroom Rock. By the time I came to the aid station at the top, I was really feeling it, but I was glad to hear that we only had a little over 3 miles to go. But they would end up being three really looooong miles. I could see one of the guys I had run with earlier up ahead for much of the way and I would soon catch him with about 2 miles to go. Meanwhile, I was "chicked", not once, not twice, but up to three times in the last two miles. Oh well! Those ladies that passed me had more in the gas tank than I did.

Coming up to the finish line at Stump Jump 50K
I came out of the woods and off the trail for the last bit of road down to the finish. A welcomed sight indeed as the sun had come out and now without the cover of the tree canopy, it was a little too warm for my taste. I crossed the finish line at 6:15. Not the 6-hour mark I had calculated earlier, but not too far off. I was happy to get it done.

Quick note to share, if you like race swag this race has it. The night before at the race packet pick up, I received a cool Patagonia race shirt, a pair of Skullcandy earphones, a pair of Smartwool socks along with some other goodies. Then once you cross the finish line, they handed out medals and a cool North Face fleece headband.

Doug was waiting at the finish and after getting some food, we stuck around for James. I wasn't sure when to expect James, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see him when we did. He crossed the finish at 7:39 exhuberant and really excited. I was really happy for him and glad to hear that he had truly enjoyed the experience, his own "Rollercoaster of Love". Congrats James and welcome to the world of ultrarunning!

It was also good to see so many GUTS buddies at the finish. Roxanne (she was #2 female finisher!), Sally (no slouch herself), Spurgeon, Sean B., Sean O., Wayne, Steve, Tyson, Robin M., John Dove, Johnny Buice and others. We missed Jason, but he came in a bit later.

The day ended with beers and burgers at the Terminal Brewhouse in downtown Chattanooga. I really enjoyed the "Rollercoaster of Love" at Stump Jump and I'm already thinking about the next one. Maybe it will be back to Chattanooga for the Lookout Mountain 50-miler. We'll see how things pan out in the months to come. Happy trails!

(Check out James' account of his day at Stump Jump 50K: http://thearcoftime.com/?tag=2010-stump-jump-50k or Jason Roger's at http://bestpacescenario.blogspot.com/2010/10/stumpjump-50k-10210-race-report.html)