Monthly Archives: June 2017

Race Recap: Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”” — J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I had no intention of running this race. I signed up the Wednesday before I ran. I was  coming off of a race in CA, Leona Divide 50, where I dropped at mile 40. I left Leona with a tender right hip that was diagnosed a few weeks later as “hip tendonitis”.

3 training weeks prior to signing up:

  • May 22-27: 46 miles
  • May 29-June 3: 67 miles
  • June 5-10: 56 miles

Tried a few new things: The adage goes, “don’t try anything different on race day.” Sometimes, I say, “why not?” I packed my running vest, but I chose to run with only one handheld. I drank SPRING electrolyte drink the entire time. I did not cramp. My hands did not swell, and my stomach felt great the entire time. I did not use water. I used only SPRING. I ate gels, peanut butter pretzels and a few cups of trail mix, each day. This was a big change up for the weekend.

Weekend Mantras: My thoughts for this weekend? “Run now, hurt later”, “let me be weak, so that God can fill me with his strength”, “Each day is new and it is only 20 miles more”, “Use each day to prepare you for the next”.

Songs on repeat:

  • “Out Of The Woods”, Taylor Swift
  • “Thank You”, Alanis Morrisette
  • “Patience”, Guns & Roses
  • “Good Life”, OneRepublic
  • “It Is Well”, Bethel Music
  • “Castle On A Hill”, Ed Sheeran

It was a very good running weekend for me! Some of my best, aggressive, joy-filled running.

Friday, Stage 1: Raccoon Mountain. Per my watch, 1800′ ascent and 2:55. By far the fastest day. Our weather was decent, 70s, cloud cover and humid. (I love running in the humidity, in case you were wondering 🙂 ) The time cutoff for this day is 4 hours. I am confident that all the runners who I run with could finish this day in 4 hours. The trail is nice and the ascent is almost half of what you will experience on the next two days.

My goal for this day was to run by feel. I was not going to look at my watch and tell myself to slow down. I ran hard. I breathed hard. Gave it almost all that I had. I saved some for the next day.

Saturday, Stage 2: Lookout Mountain. Per my watch, 2800′ ascent and 4:03. This was the hardest day for me. The weather was good, again! The temps were in the mid 70s. The time cutoff for this day was five hours. The cutoff was extended by fifteen minutes on race day.

I think this day felt more humid than Friday, or it could have been that I was running for one hour and eight minutes more?! My body felt great at the start of this day!! I was running with a handheld and gels for this day. I decided to run in a sport’s bra and shorts today. We started and finished at the Lula Lake trailhead. This course seemed quite different to me than the Lookout 50 course, and I LOVED it. There were a few crazy climbs!! My strength is definitely on the climbs. I push the hiking hard. I do not use the climbs to catch my breath or eat. I use them to push past those who are using them to catch their breath/eat. (Get on the treadmill and practice this type of hiking!! Ask me for specifics.)

Oh my word! I think it might have been the last 1-2 miles of this day that we descended to the falls and then, hiked a crazy steep section back up from the falls!! LOVED it. This is the day that I cried a bit. 🙂 I breathed hard the entire time. I ran hard. I hiked hard. My fav song for this day was WEAK by AJR.

This was a tough day for a lot of runners. The food at the end was good. I did not leave right away. I spent some time talking with fellow runners and helping out a runner or two with nausea and heat exhaustion.

I believe this would be the most challenging day of the 3 for any runner because of the time cutoff, steep climbs and the final miles, down to the waterfall and back up.

Sunday, Stage 3: Signal Mountain. Per my watch, 3200 ascent, 4:17. This was my favorite day. Most technical day. Most climbing. LOTS of rocks. In places, this course reminded me of Savage Gulf or the gorge section at Fiery Gizzard. The cutoff for this day was five hours and thirty minutes.

Signal Mountain provided the BEST views, LOTS of briars, poison ivy. . . cuts and scrapes. I enjoyed weaving in and out of the overgrown trail. It felt like I was running away. . . It felt like I was being chased. . .

My heart rate and breathing rate were well under control on this day. I think the mix of climbs and rocks kept my heart rate down, so that I could run well on the runnable spots.   Again, the climbing was in my favor. The scrambling over rocks was also something I enjoyed and there was plenty of it!

One of my fav parts of this day was the “break” in trail from about mile 11.4 at Signal Point, past the assisted living facility, Alexian Village of Tennessee. It was a small break, after a steep stair climb on a paved road. 🙂

I think this day is challenging but in a different way from Lookout. It is a slower day because of the technical trail. It takes a mindset of “just keep moving”. It would be easy to slow down and get discouraged on the rocks.

The run to the finish line from the last aid station is totally doable, mostly double track, non-technical. Great finish to the last day of running.

A few things: I would recommend this race, if it fits into your training schedule. Running with a handheld is doable in this race. Each day is different. Focus on each day. I chose not to hold back on any day. I looked at this race as 20 miles each day, NOT a total of 60. Plan on hanging out a bit after. The people are fun. It is fun to share stories and meet new people.

 

Female WINNER of the Hillbilly Half, Her Story

And our first place female runner, from Franklin, Tennessee, 15 years old, with a time of 1:37….Kathryne Hirt!! The announcer said. I couldn’t help thinking, how on earth did I get here?

 The summer before seventh grade, I made the decision to start running. I got up every morning and ran 1.5 miles. When I began, I could barely even make it to the corner of my street without stopping, and I really hated it. But I was determined. And when I’m determined, there’s so stopping me. Little did I know that in just a couple of years that I would run to relax.
Fast forward to freshman year of high school. I decided to run cross country instead of playing volleyball. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I could make! The team was more than a team, it was a family. The coaches were very nice and encouraging, but between you and me, could have done some more actual coaching. I made so much progress as a runner, falling more and more in love with running,  every day. By the end of the season, my 5K race time was about 21 minutes. Even thought the season was over, I ran every day, and not just a little bit. I was running 7 miles a day, and boy did I pay for that. I ended up with a stress fracture in my hip, which took two months to heal. Any runner knows that not running for two months is torturous, and it was hard.
I signed up for my first half marathon, THIS June, with my sister, and part of me thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But, my hip healed in perfect timing. I had a couple weeks to get back into shape, and then my training officially started. I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan. To be completely honest, most of the time I didn’t follow the plan. I almost always ran more than I needed to. And rest days? I hardly took them, unless the weather was too bad. I made sure to cross train, running 3.5 miles and doing a 30-40 minute ab workout on the same day. I also made sure that all of my runs included hills, which was not hard to do, living in Middle Tennessee.
My favorite part of training was the long runs. As an endurance athlete, I live for and love running long. The farther I ran, the happier and better I felt. As my runs progressed into the 9 mile and above range, I started to experiment with fueling. I tried raisins (not the best for me since they took more work for my body to digest) and GU energy gels. At first, I was hesitant to put something artificial into my body, but I soon realized that they were the best for me. And the flavors covered every base! Fruit-y, chocolate-y, coffee-y, and even maple bacon! These long runs did mean, however, that my training was coming to an end. And training coming to an end meant one very exciting thing: THE HALF MARATHON!!!!!
This brings us to June 3rd, 2017. My half marathon of choice was the Hillbilly Half. It would begin at 6:30a, which meant I had to wake up a little after 5:00a. I had learned from my training runs that I did not need much for breakfast, so I had Greek yogurt and mixed some Honey Bunches of Oats into it about an hour before running. I made sure to pack extra clothes and shoes, as well as my water bottle and energy gel. I was so excited, and a little bit nervous. So as every runner does, I made a last minute trip to the (disgusting, smelly, gross, etc) port-a-potty before the race began.
All my training was leading up to this moment. And with a ‘bang!’ it began. I weaved between people, moving around them left and right, for quite a few miles. After a while I found my pace, and maintained the same speed. Sticking true to its name, the course was constantly going up and down. It seemed like as soon as we ran down hill, there was another hill waiting for us. I ran by myself for most of the race.
About 3/4 of the way through, I ran alongside a guy going about my pace. We didn’t say anything to one another, but both of us knew we were using each other as a pacer. When we hit another hill, I took the lead. For the last 5K, I sped up. As I hit the last couple water stations and “hecklers” (volunteers dressed up as hillbillies to encourage and to entertain runners), the volunteers were cheering me on loudly, screaming “you go girl!” It made me wonder, was I the first female? And I was! As I rounded the corner to cross the finish line, I saw my mom screaming for me, and the men at the finish pulling the banner across for me to run through it. After I crossed, I got my medal and, best of all, my fresh Georgia peach from the amazing Peach Truck.
After the race, I snacked on some fruit, waiting for the awards to begin. It felt like forever.  When my category was announced, I was ecstatic to have won my very first half marathon at age 15. For the rest of the day, I was on a high, smiling whenever I thought about that morning.
Right now, I’m training for my second cross country season. My goal is to qualify for the state meet this year. Looking ahead, I want to run in college, but have no idea where yet. I love running, and cannot wait to see where it takes me!

Treading Water

MAY 2017

last month of school for 3 children

email from my parents, “we are moving to Michigan on July 24th”

my brother having open heart surgery

my 14 year old headed to High School

my 14 year old having new friends

In the summer of 1993, I completed lifeguard training.

  • swim 200-400 yards without rest
  • tread water for 2 minutes
  • grab 10 pound brick from 8-12′ of water and swim back with it
  • CPR/AED

Fast forward to May 2017, twenty-four years later. I have been treading water, this time,  for 30 days. I swim, then tread. I swim, then, tread. Then, tread/swim some more,  all the while, holding on to a 10 pound brick for the duration.

It’s been physically tiring, mentally tiring, and spiritually tiring.

At times, going under. . . at times, heaving for breath. . . at times, crying so hard that I could not breathe. . . at times, my heart, beating so fast. . .

Swimming, treading water, holding on is a lot harder than running.

So f a i n t, I just wanted to collapse. So w i r e d that nothing in my mind could settle down. So c o n s u m e d, I did not want to eat. So e m p t y, I lost a bit of me.  Truly, the only thing that I had to offer my friends and Jesus was my need, my demand, my urgency, my longing.

Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget,

TRULY FORGET,

how much you have always loved to swim. . .

-Tyler Knott Gregson