Monthly Archives: September 2015

Frozen Head: The Training Run

I’m just warning you. I am not a morning person.

This coming from my running compadre. I think she said this NOT because she is not a morning person, but because I TOTALLY AM. HA! She was not ready for my peppy, obnoxious self at 5:00 am.

One Starbuck’s stop and 3 hours later, we were there. Not knowing exactly what to expect, but knowing it was going to be a lot of uphill running, hiking, walking. I am pretty sure that I can speak for our small group (there were 3 of us, ladies), when I say that we were super excited and ready for an exhausting day of more vert (vert: vertical running) than our local park can provide in 15-20 miles.

There are many trails to choose from at Frozen Head, more than we had time to run in one day. We ran on 3: Old Mac, N Old Mac and the Panther Branch. Along those 3 we had a few short detours to “sights” to see, the Lookout Tower,  the Coal Mine, via Tub Spring, and the infamous “Yellow Gate”.

Frozen Head is the location of one of the toughest 100 mile races in the in the world, approximately 59,100 feet of climbing. Since the race began in 1986, only 14 out of 1000 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff time. We were running in a legendary place. The “Yellow Gate” is the start of the race. Laz Cantrell lights his cigarette and those runners begin.

We were not running in those footsteps, because we had a marked trail. Those folks run off the grid with a compass and without a GPS watch.

Old Mac:  Approximately, 3 miles. The first mile was a gradual, runnable uphill. Miles 2 & 3 were a bit more steep, still runnable but it was necessary for a few walk breaks. Third mile was the most challenging.

After you reach the top of Old Mac, you run on a wide, dirt, fire road. You can take this down to the Mine trail or up to the Lookout Tower. We took this road up to the Lookout Tower. I mean UP. This was easy to run on, but had a very steep pitch. LOVED IT. We made it to the Lookout Tower.  It is tall. I made it to the first landing and decided to stay there. Teresa and Kathy climbed the tower. Brave girls!! This chicken little headed to the safety of the ground as soon as they reached the top. 🙂

Mine Trail: From the Lookout Tower, you can run down approximately 3 miles to the Mine Trail. Again, a very steep grade down, down. (We revisit this fun road on the uphill.) The Mine Trail was a bit overgrown. Teresa and I proceeded down. Kathy was going to go part way down the road and turn and wait for us, this will be part of a funny story later. Then, the spider webs. Folks, Frozen Head spider webs, with large, visible spiders plus tall overgrown grass, perfect for a snake residence. We made it to the first mine and turned around. Too many spiders and the trail was too overgrown. BLEH! 

From the Mine Trail back to N Old Mac was unrelenting steep, fire road climbing, steep pitch, unending. AWESOME! It rivaled the CPSR. 

N Old Mac: Approximately 3.9 miles back to the car. Because of the uphill climbing, Teresa and I envisioned 3.9 miles of steep downhill. It was more gradual and almost entirely downhill. This trail was runnable and pretty. Kathy was not with us, story later. I am cautious, to say the least, on the downhill. I told Teresa that downhill to me is fear. Uphill is challenge. I’ll take the challenge any day to the fear. 🙂 She ran ahead of me and I only saw her because she would stop at the trail markers. She was fast!! I was happy and steady. 🙂

We reached the car and spent a couple minutes refueling. We left a note for Kathy and decided to head back up N Old Mac. We ran 2.5 miles up the trail and took the Panther Branch trail so that we could get our picture by the Barkley “yellow gate” at the end. 🙂 

Panther Branch: Um. . . yeah. . . this started out a bit reminiscent of taking the “gorge route” on the Fiery Gizzard Trail. It was very technical running. At one point, Teresa and I came to a waterfall crossing that had a tiny ledge and steep, steep grade down. The waterfall was barely dripping, but the rock was slick. One false move and . . . . The last 2 miles of this trail were nice. There was one waterfall overlook and the trail ended at the famous Barkley “yellow gate”. It was about 3/4 mile back to our car on the road from the gate. 

17.5 miles, 4 h 23 min, 15:23 pace and 4800′ later. . . we were done

Where’s Kathy? Where’s Liz? Where’s Teresa? Our plan, if we got separated was to wait at the trail marker or trail sign, until we all caught up. The three of us visited the Fire Tower together (mile 4.5). We began our run downhill to the Mine Trail. Kathy told me that she would run a bit and turn around and wait for Teresa and I to finish the mine trail. I understood that to mean, she would wait for us at the N Old Mac trail head. 

When Teresa and I got back to the trail head at (8 miles), Kathy was not there. We called her name a few times. We agreed to head back, thinking that maybe she meant that she would wait for us at the car. Nice downhill running meant that Teresa stayed way ahead of moi. 🙂 She stopped and talked to a few people at a trail marker, before I reached her. They said that they had not seen anyone, matching Kathy’s description. 

We got back to the car (12 miles). No Kathy. We waited a bit. We told a few people to look out for her and to give her a message, if they saw her. We wrote a note and left it on her car. Teresa was worried. I thought, nah, Kathy is a hiker. She is calm. She is okay. We decided to head back up N Old Mac in hopes of seeing Kathy on her way down. No Kathy. We headed down Panther Branch to get back to the car. I was still not going to worry, unless it was necessary. I think Teresa was a bit worried. 😦 At almost 1/2 mile from the car, A TEXT FROM KATHY. She was fine and she was waiting for us at the car. 

Here’s the FUNNY part: When Kathy turned around to walk back, after the Lookout Tower, she walked too far down the fire road and passed the Mine Trail sign. She ended up waiting for us at the N Old Mac trailhead for about 20 minutes, when she ran into the same people who Teresa talked to. They told her that they only saw one lady.  Kathy thought that all of us were separated. I think she was most worried about me because I tend to be a tiny bit directionally challenged. HA! 

Seriously, one of the greatest running trips. LOVED the hills. LOVED the company. Can’t wait to go back. 



The Unmaking

Looking forward to rest. After the Cumberland Plateau Stage Race, it was time to rest and start preparing for what is next. There is always a next, right? My week of rest was fun. Instead of running, I walked (WALKED) on the treadmill. Instead of running, I rode the stationary bike. Instead of running, I added an extra day of weight training.

Between the song at the end of this post and the book by Henry Cloud, NECESSARY ENDINGS, and the simple quote from Kristin Armstrong, “be more interested than interesting.” I had a great deal to think about and think about and think about. I need an “unmaking” of sorts. I need to be more interested than interesting. I am working on some “necessary endings”.

It is a process of becoming more like Jesus and less like Liz.

Lately, I have been moving toward longer races, with the potential for a 100 mile race one day. Each race is a journey. What can I leave behind that might not have worked? What is tried and true? What is new? What parts of me do I need to “unmake”? What am I gonna hold onto and do myself? What am I going to surrender?

“Losing myself” is not finding my way to a new self. It is not a re-creation. It is not a re-incarnation. It is not about forgetting the path that has brought me to where I am today. It is about being reminded, again, who I am made to be. God made me to run. He brought me down this path. So, what I am bringing that He does not want me to carry? What have I added? Sometimes, I add lies. I add pride. I add selfishness. I add boastful-ness. What I am is, His, and I am going through an “unmaking” right now.

This is where the walls gave way
This is demolition day
All the debris, and all this dust
What is left of what once was
Sorting through what goes and what should stay

Every stone I laid for You
As if You had asked me to
A monument to Holy things
Empty talk and circling
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do

What happens now
When all I’ve made is torn down
What happens next
When all of You, is all that’s left

This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking

The longer and the tighter that we hold
Only makes it harder to let go
But love will not stay locked inside
A steeple or a tower high
Only when we’re broken, are we whole

I’ll gather the same stones where
Everything came crashing down
I’ll build You an altar there
On the same ground

‘Cause what stood before
Was never Yours

-The Unmaking–Nichole Nordeman

Race Recap: Cumberland Plateau Stage Race: More FUN than RUN

I’ll be back in 2016 because:

  1. The tank
  2. Close to home, 2 hours 12 min., same time zone as Nashville
  3. The people
  4. It’s a Hardwin race-c’mon!

We arrived at 1:30 pm and checked in. I am beginning to love the Hardwin races. You are guaranteed adventure, hills and the potential for a bit of danger, snakes? Wild Boars? CPSR did not disappoint. After check in, we met at our cabin, me, Stacie, Kathy and Delaina. We hugged, talked, chose our rooms and dressed to run.

You had one of 3 choices for the CPSR. You could run all 3 days. You could run Saturday only. You could form a team of 3 and split up each day’s running. I chose to run Friday and Saturday.

The mess hall is where most of the action is when you are not running. This was where we met before each start and this is where you finish. It was fun finishing at the mess hall because everyone was either eating or hanging out. It was awesome to finish to the cheers of all your friends, new and old!

Day 1: Friday, 4 pm, 13 miles

We met at the mess hall at 3:30 pm to walk together to the start. John lead us in the runner’s oath. Right hand raised. . . “push myself”. . . “look out for my fellow runner”. . . “respect the land my feet run on”. We were off. I ran with Stacie for the entire 13 miles. I’m not gonna lie, this was a tough 13. I do not think my body was as prepared to run at 4 pm as it is to run in the early morning. If Stacie did not stick with me, I’m not sure I would have finished in 3h 10 min. This course was a good mix of running, mud, rolling hills, steep decants, steep ascent, sand and a gradual downhill. We did it! The Dr. Pepper at the end was SO GOOD!

dinner: spaghetti, texas toast, salad bar and chocolate cake

We left the mess hall around 9 pm after all four of us finished racing, eating and talking. I stayed up until about 11:00 pm, catching up on life, outside of running, with these ladies. We laugh A LOT. (It was hard not to smile all weekend.)

Day 2: Saturday, 8 am, 20 miles

We were up by 6:30. I woke up to the smell of coffee (seriously–image the Christmas Foldier’s commercial). Yum! I had coffee and oatmeal. We filled our packs, dressed and headed to the start.

I was not looking forward to this day because Friday didn’t feel that great. My body felt good and I knew I would be on the trail for the next 5 hours. I started out with Stacie and we hung together in the beginning, with a few ladies from yesterday.

I decided to push my pace a bit. I passed the ladies from yesterday and chose to lengthen my distance. Stacie stayed back and I ran this day by myself. I felt good. This day was tough and I loved the challenge. Some of the decants and ascents rivaled Zion 100K (I could have trained here). They were crazy steep 🙂 Man! The ascent from miles 5-6.5,  super steep! What went down, did come up! The first 11 miles were long jogs down and long hikes up.

The views from the top started around mile 11. It was also warmer up on top of the plateau. The breeze felt fantastic. I was drinking well and eating well. Miles 10-15 went by quickly. I did not really stop at any aid station, just grabbed refills and pressed on. I ditched my pack at the mile 15ish aid station. I ran the rest of the race with two bottles and one gel. This last section involved a lot of running on the sand. It was hot, we were exposed and the sun reflected off of the sand. The last mile was back in the trees and out of the sand. A gradual downhill to the slip & slide finish. I chose not to slip & slide. I finished the entire race without injury and I did not want to risk an injury, sliding into the finish.  I finished in 4 h 32 min, 2800′-DANG! LOVED EVERY MINUTE.

lunch: burgers & 2 pieces of Gail’s peanut butter bars

Day 1ate: water, heed, peanut butter crackers, sweet potatoes, peanut m-n-m’s wore: Hoka Challenger ATRs, Lululemon tank & shorts, Swiftwick socks, AK Ultimate Direction vest, trucker hat, Suunto watch

Day 2: ate: water, Gaterade, Powerade, peanut butter pretzels, peanut butter crackers, 2 choc/sea salt gels wore: Hoka Challenger ATRs, Lululemon compression shorts, Oiselle tank, Swiftwick socks, calf sleeves, AK Ultimate Direction vest, trucker hat and Suunto watch