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!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rock/Creek Stage Race: Day 2 Lookout Mountain 06.15.13

Good day on the trails. Me shortly after finishing.
Day two is done. I'm feeling it, but after a good half hour in the creek I cooled off and my legs are not too sore. Today's stage was fun and I always enjoy the variety in the terrain, especially after the gentler, more rolling course from yesterday. Here's how it went...

Test drove the Salomon Mantras
After taking a wrong turn on my way to the Lula Lake starting area, I arrived around 7:10 with plenty of time before the start. Every day we have to pick up a new bib. It's the same number, but a different color. Yesterday's bib was black, today's was blue. We'll see what we get tomorrow, but it'll probably be red. I got my number and bee lined toward the Salomon tent. Yesterday's experiment with a pair of Salomon's turned out alright and since my current shoes that I brought are trashed, I thought why not try another pair for today's stage. Tim from Salomon put me in a pair of Mantras and immediately they felt better than the Cross Max's I ran in yesterday. A much lighter shoe but not missing out on the tread and cushion. With bib number and shoes in hand, I went back to my car and got ready for today's stage. I stayed with my strategy of two hand held bottles and I'm glad I did.

Action shot. Courtesy of
Jeff Bartlett and Rock/Creek.
We lined up and took off right at 8:00am sharp. There were 205 official finishers in yesterday's stage, so I can only assume that the same number lined up today. We had about a mile of gravel road to stretch out which was nice. We passed Lula Falls on our left and it was a gorgeous sight. Once passed the falls we hit our one and only bottle neck. There's a steep, rope assisted climb up a cliff and it takes a bit for the single file to get up it. The last time I ran this race, there was a wasp nest wreaking havoc but they were no where to be found today, thankfully. Anyway, we made our way up and over the short cliff and got on single track up onto the ridge. I was running with Brian, who I finished the race with yesterday, and Brendan (@thealerunner on Twitter). We some what were together for most of the portion along the ridge. The views to our left were stunning over looking the valley below. Brendan even stopped at one point to snap a photo. Several people were still jockeying their position, but I felt like I had found my pace and I wanted to stick with it. It wasn't long before we were on our way off the ridge, down Turkey Trail and towards the creek. I had forgotten my watch again for this stage, so I had no idea on time. I'm learning that this may be a good thing if I'm trying to run conservatively. We made it down to the creek and ran along it for a short time, soon coming out at the first aid station which is the start/finish area. The first loop is 5-6 miles and I was feeling pretty good. I ate a salty potato, refilled one of my hand helds and took off up the hill.

This portion of the race is all on the same course as the Lookout Mountain 50 that I ran back in 2010.  That day, I took a wrong turn right at this point except that was about 40+ miles in on a 50 mile course. I was not about to miss my turn today and even shared that past experience with another runner. So we made our way up to the road, crossed it and kept going up hill. We crossed a creek that I didn't recall and then stayed with three other runners while we made our way up to the first powerline cut out. When we reached it, one of the runners mentioned that we were about an hour and a half into the race. In my head, I was thinking that I was doing pretty good since we were probably 8 or so miles into it.

We crisscrossed the power line cut out a couple of times, took in a couple of hefty, but short climbs before coming back out onto the powerline cut out for a climb up to the second aid station. The sun was out, but despite my fears it actually wasn't too hot. My friend Jason was at the top and it was good to seeing him. Unfortunately, Jason missed the cut off of stage one, but he was out here cheering other runners on and volunteering as well. You have to admire that. At the aid station, I refilled my hand held, ate another salty potato and grabbed a PBJ and a piece of apple before heading down the trail.

A guy I passed at the aid station soon caught up to me and he introduced himself. His name is Mark and he also lives in Atlanta. He mentioned that he had ready my blog (I'm glad some one reads this. Ha, ha!) I thanked him and we ran together for a few miles. Somehow I forgot that we would skirt Covenant College (the start/finish of the Lookout Mountain 50), until we ran along a technical trail along a creek and came out to a different powerline section. Then I realized that we were on the 50 miler course again. Once back under the tree canopy, we made our way down. At this point, we were about 13 or so miles in and I thought to myself that I needed to just cruise down this long descent. Mark got out in front of me and Lara who I had run with earlier (and who crossed the finish line just ahead of me yesterday) passed me as well. I would never totally lose either of them out of my sight, but it was enough to where I wasn't catching back up to them.

We finished the descent, crossed a road and then kept going down back to the first aid station. While descending, we could hear the PA announcing the faster finishers and as we came out into the clearing we could see runners finishing while we still had to finish up a 6 mile loop. I fueled up at the aid station, crossed the foot bridge and ran along the creek. Some where along here, I kicked it in to a higher gear. We ran a single track for a while where I put a little distance between me and some runners and then started the last big climb of the day. I actually ran most of it, only walking the last few yards at the top before getting on the ridge. Again, it was hard not to look to the right and enjoy the amazing views. Mark who had stayed in front of me was just a few dozen yards ahead. I wasn't sure if I would catch him. I arrived on the thin trail that led to the cliff with the rope and all of a sudden I passed Mark and there was another runner just in front of me who I could tell was not running at his best. We all used the rope to get off the cliff and when we hit the gravel road near the falls, I took off.

In 2011, this part threw me off because I thought we would finish on the gravel road, but I was prepared this time for the detour. The course took us on a more technical trail along the creek. Here I caught several people to my surprise, even my buddy John Dove. I had pep in my step and decided to finish strong. I crossed the creek and knew that I had half a mile at the most left. I was surprised at how well I felt and inside was hoping that it wouldn't come back to bite me in tomorrow's stage but we'll find out then. I crossed the finish line at 3:31 and then stuck around to high five a few of the runners that I had run with in the latter part of the race.

I found out that David Riddle won today's stage as well although he did not set a course record this time. I'm sure if he runs it again, that it won't stand for long. I had a chance to chat with him after the race and thanked him for the Q&A he did a few months back for this blog. Very nice guy!

Hanging out in the creek.
Because this stage is on private property, there are no park rangers to discourage alcohol, so the race provides several coolers of beer as well as water and sports drink. I grabbed an IPA, a bowl of pasta and headed to the creek to sit in the cool water for a while. I wasn't the only one.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's stage. I feel like I did reserve myself pretty well today even after picking up my pace in the last several miles. I just want to do better on day three than the first time I ran this event. We'll see.

My race results: 3:31:08, 84th over all, 74th male, 195 official finishers (under the five hour cut off)

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

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