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!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rock/Creek Stage Race: Day 1 Raccoon Mountain 06.14.13

Stage one race start. Photo courtesy of Jeff Bartlett and Rock/Creek
First day is done. I purposely did not go back and reread my race report from a couple of years ago, the last time I ran the stage race. Just so that I would have a fresh perspective for today. But once I got out on the course, I couldn't help reliving some of it obviously. It was a better than expected morning on the trails, much of it because I feel better prepared going in than I have felt for any race in a while, but also because the weather gods were a little on our side and didn't crank up the heat until after the stage race was over.

Bib #33. Cool Marmot race shirt too!
I've learned that in Chattanooga distances are not that far. So this morning I took my time getting ready and leaving the hotel. I had picked up my race packet the night before so I had everything I needed. My bib number was 33. A good number since it made me think of Larry Bird and Tony Dorsett. Good company, I thought. I arrived at the first day's start line area with plenty of time to kill. I'm a little bummed that my friend, Mike, couldn't make it, but I stopped by the packet pick up and got his race shirt for him. I hope to give it him in Colorado when we see each other in August for the TransRockies Run. After picking up his shirt, I ran into another buddy who now works for Salomon and realized that he was letting people try on a pair of shoes on the course. Normally, I wouldn't try anything new on race day, but being that my current trail shoes were pretty trashed and that I haven't had a chance to get a new pair, I slipped on a pair of Salomon Cross Max's and that's what I ran the race in hoping that I wouldn't regret it. I dropped off Mike's shirt at the car, chatted with other runners for a bit and then timed the trip to the porta-john with just a few minutes to spare for the race start.

Me before the race.
Photo Jeff Bartlett.
If I have one complaint about this particular stage, it's the start. I've run several of the Rock/Creek races and I love how well they're organized, but man, it sure would be nice if they made us do a lap in the parking lot or something before putting us all on the single track trail. There's probably less than a hundred yards before the trail and well, it bottles up instantaneously. Every one kept calm and just did their best to single file it onto the trail. Surprisingly, the portion of the trail convoy I ended up in turned out to keep its pecking order for a good while. I didn't pass anyone and very few passed me. I was behind two runners who I would share the trail with for the first hour or so. In fact, I was appreciating the pace and I was trying hard to keep it easy and steady. I forgot my running watch back at the hotel, so I was clueless as to the time. While approaching the East Overlook aid station at mile 4.7, I asked the runner in front of me what his watch showed and he said 52 minutes and change. I liked what I heard. That meant I was running 11+ minute miles. Nice and easy.

We went through the first aid station. For me, just enough to refill one of my hand helds. I was concerned about the heat, so I was running with two bottles, one with nuun and the other with just water. I stuck with the water for most of the race. I finished with some still left in the nuun bottle. I did a  good job with hydration for this race which I hope will pay me back on the next two days. Anyway back to running, I stayed with the two runners from the earlier section and we picked up a few more folks. We all stayed pretty much together for the next few miles until the next aid station. I was feeling strong and still feeling like I was conserving myself. We came off the single track trail and crossed a lawn towards the aid station at mile eight. I popped a GU, drank some Coke and jumped back onto the trail.

The next section is a lot of fun. It's called the small intestines and it's easy to see why. It's twisty with lots of turns and little switchbacks. At one point, you can look up and see runners to your left on trails above you and runners to the right on trails below. At this point, I had some how picked up other runners and we ended up chatting for a while. This went on for a few miles until some where along the way, I think just after the small intestines section, I passed the runner in front of me while she decided to walk a hill and then I was alone for a while. I was feeling good and decided to pick up the pace a bit. That's when I started passing people at first only by coincidence, but later by design.

We hit a long climb, the only one in this stage, and I ran most of it. I knew that I had to hold off a bit, but I figured I had been good for the first half and thought why not have some fun on the second half. It wasn't long before I arrived at the last aid station at mile 13 or so. Less than five miles to go. "Let's do this!", I thought to myself. It seems that there was another guy who had the same thought I did. His name is Brian and at first I was just tagging along behind him, but as we both passed several people together, we started to chat a bit. While talking, we came in and out of the tree canopy by the dam and I was commenting how grateful I was that we didn't have to run for long out in the open. The sun was up high by now and it would be miserable to stay exposed to it. Back under the tree canopy, we could see a female runner a few dozen yards in front of us. I mentioned that we were near the finish and both of us picked it up to catch her. We caught her but didn't pass her, because we came off the trail and were back on the asphalt. Knowing that there were just a few yards to go, we all stayed together. Lara was the female runner's name and she ran out ahead of us a bit right before the finish line. Brian and I came in side by side.

I looked back at the clock and I realized I ran a sub-three hour race. Then I tried to think back on two years earlier and I thought that I may have beaten my previous time. That sounds good normally, but when you have two more days to race and last time I burned out on day three, I immediately got a little worried that maybe I went too fast. However, I looked up my time from 2011 and I ran a 2:40 (it was much cooler that year too) and this year I ran a 2:58. Hopefully, I kept enough in the tank for days two and three.

David Riddle won the day's stage and annihilated the course record with a blazing 1:52:51! He wasn't the only fast guy though, up to five runners came in at sub-two hours.

I hung out at the finish line and saw several friends among them John Dove, Todd Henderson and others. I returned the Salomon shoes I ran in (just one little hot spot), grabbed something to eat and then sat in one of the kiddie pools for an ice bath. Capped it all off with a couple of beers. I had a good time on the trails, met some really cool people and I can't wait for tomorrow. My only disappointment was that a few friends didn't make the cut off.

My race results: 2:58:38, 109th over all, 92nd male, 205 official finishers (under the four hour cut off)

Stage one course map and elevation chart, click here.
Stage one race results, click here.
View race photos courtesy of Jeff Bartlett and Rock/Creek, click here.

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