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.

 

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