Tuesday, March 2

Mount Mitchell 40… um, 36… miler

I have a history with this race.

I first signed up for it in 2007. I'd heard stories, seen pictures, and wanted to get get a piece of the action. ITB soreness (and beating myself up a few weeks earlier at Mountain Mist) caused me to drop down to the marathon distance (still an accomplishment but not what I set out to do). I was back in 2008… but this time a groin pull had me out for a month prior, so I played it smart once again and settled for a mere 26. Then 2009… oh, what a bad winter. Ankle injuries had me out for 2.5 months. No race at all.

2010. This was THE year. I was going to do it. Mother Nature, on the other hand, had a different plan. I'm not quite sure what happened to the south this year, but we've had crazy amounts of snow. The good: I got lots of training runs in thru snow and over ice. I was prepared, both mentally & physically (Thanks Matt!). The bad: due to the obscene amounts of snow on the trails in Mount Mitchell State Park (we're talking 50"+, with drifts well over that), the course had to be modified. So instead of 40, we got a mere 34-36 miles. Still, with snow, ice, wind gusts topping 50mph and single digit temps at the summit (no, that's NOT including wind chill! remember, we're on the highest peak east of the Mississippi. that means extremes!), we were promised an epic race.

The race weekend started by escaping work early and driving to Asheville with teammate Kathy and R/C trail series race director Jonathan out to spectate & support, and NOT direct for a change!). We met up with more teammates, Natalie, Krissy & Matt at the pre-race briefing, where Jay wow'd us with amazing photos from earlier that day. It was not just winter up there - it was more like a desolate frozen tundra. gulp.

After some catching up, we retired to our accommodations at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly - a very cool lodge minutes from the start. (Thanks William & Adam!). Dinner, race prep, sleep.

Krissy & I, ready to get moving

We gathered at the start, thankful to have Matt & Jonathan to grab our down jackets before the gun went off. The race began with a 3.5 mile road run from downtown Black Mountain and thru Montreat. Normally we catch some singletrack, but our first reroute had us skipping this and heading straight up some heinous hills that warmed you up quick. From there we accessed the Toll Road - a 9 mile forest service road that led us so the Blue Ridge Parkway. Normally pretty rocky, the snow and ice almost worked to our benefit here to fill in the gaps and smooth things out a bit. The hard part was negotiating the narrow "path" left by the snowmobiles. Sometimes it was nice and wide; other times a bit too narrow for 2 feet to easily fit. After a few slips and increasingly tentative steps, I pulled on the Yak Trax - definitely good move, giving me the confidence to step wherever I wanted.

My Pics from Mount Mitchell 2010

There was a strict cutoff for the Challenge once runners got to the Parkway. Make it before 10am, and you can motor on to the summit. 10:01, and you turn around (but can still complete the Marathon as an official finisher). I cruised thru at 9:22, feeling strong and rather positive. Onward and upward! I took a moment to refresh at the aid station (all of them were lavishly stocked! I took a liking to the animal crackers today), take off the Yak Trax (we would now be on a plowed road), and put on some more clothes. Once we rounded a turn, the winds coming thru the gap stopped me in my tracks. Seriously. So strong I could barely move. Luckily this would be the worst of it, but I hung around a group of others as we slowly climbed up to 6,684'. Clouds hung low, so we saw no spanning vistas; instead, we were transported to a crazy land where the trees were not only covered with snow, but reminded me of those fake white christmas trees you see. Surreal! I snapped a few pics, but the temps kept my fingers tucked inside warm mittens. Finally, a few hundred feet from the summit, we escaped the pavement and hit some trail. The early runners probably had it easiest - walking on top of a frozen crust of snow & ice. But by now it had been stirred up and I had to negotiate thru a mess that was nearly up to my knees. Once we tagged the sign at the summit, we were signed off and now officially half way done! It was all downhill from here. Literally. How hard could that be? (well, Black Mountain does sit around 2,300'....)

Me all bundled up! © Asheville Citizen-Times

When you don't run on pavement too much, it's a killer. There was a nice, snow-free road luring you down… begging you to haul ass and make up some time. My knees & hips were warning me though, so I was somewhat conservative. I was super happy to hit the toll road once again - snow & ice was better than asphalt. I cruised down, trying to ignore some of the aches that started to pop up. I forgot my iPod, but enjoyed listening to the woods or chatting with other runners. Time passed. And then the evil road was here again. Somehow that last 3.5 miles always takes an eternity. In my head I thought 40 minutes; 3.5-4 miles…. I can average a 10min/mile pace and make it right around 7 hrs. That should be no problem. Um, yeah. Not quite. At least half those steps were painful (I swear my kneecaps wanted to pop off my knees); sometimes I was just happy to keep a forward movement.

Finally the Lake Tomahawk came into view, along with the finish line. I hobbled across, happy to have finally made it! 7hrs, 10 min. This was good enough for 5th place which I was thrilled with! I think I surprised from friends there too :) After some delicious hot soup, dry clothes, and picking up the prized finisher's fleece, we headed back to the lodge to get cleaned up. Kathy had finished the marathon earlier that morning with a great time as her debut back after foot surgery last year. Natalie had a strong day, finishing 4th. Krissy easily won the women's division, in a speedy 5:10. It would have been great to stick around for the awards ceremony that night, as the podium went thru 5th place (Rock/Creek ladies representing!!), but the long drive back had us ancy.

me + monica, happy to be done! ©Chris Brown

Jay & I. um, not quite sure what I'm doing! ©Chris Brown

my set up. much more than i normally carry, but I have to say
I was 100% happy with the choices I brought along. ©Chris Brown

Definitely happy to finally check this one off the list! Thanks to Rock/Creek, Patagonia, The North Face, Vasque & nuun for all the support! And a huge thanks to Jay Curwen and all of the race volunteers, rangers, & medics on the course ensuring us a fun and safe race!

The gear:
Vasque Blur SL shoes - These are what I've been running in all winter, so I figured I shouldn't change them up last minute.
Yak Trax
TNF Flight Series windstopper vest & momentum top
Hincapie wool longsleeve baselayer
Insport tights
Smartwool socks
Nathan hydration vest
nuun - banananuun flavor. thinking tropical to keep me warm. :)
Marmot Randonnee mittens - yes, my hands get REALLY cold, but these were worth a million to me!
Marmot Dryclimb jacket - outerwear for the ascent
Mountain Hardwear fleece beanie
Buff - the ultimate piece of gear. (wore as a neck gaiter, balaclava, and headband)
Tifosi sunglasses
CEP recovery socks
CW-X stability tights, worn for recovery afterwards

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Sunday, February 28

Mount Mitchell Challenge: press & pics

I survived! Still writing the race report, but there's been so much great press about the race I thought I'd compile some here and get it up now. stay tuned...

Rock/Creek Pres Release

Photos by Chris Brown
Pics by Wilderness Adventure Photography
Post-race article from Asheville Citizen Times
Pics from the Asheville Citizen Times
Pics from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
Pics from Steppe's Gap

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Thursday, February 25

Kicking off the race season, Southern-Style

Sunday kicked off the 2010 Rock/Creek Trail Series, with the 2nd annual Southern 6 hosted on the beautiful Biology Trails of Southern Adventist University. The school is located in Collegedale, east of Chattanooga. Not near Lookout, Raccoon or Signal Mtns and not as far as Cherokee, but fear not: those ridges in the hills over there are something to respect!

Our random weather patterns actually worked in our favor today, with gorgeous sunny skies and warm temps. Spring fever fueled many, with over 180 runners toeing the start line - lots of fast folks itching to start their season and lots of first-timers acting on their new years resolutions. With my big race looming next weekend, I wasn't expecting much, but it's hard to stay away from a great local race :)


The race started with a short road prologue before hitting the trails. I tried to get a decent position going in, with a few strong ladies in front of me. Then the trail turned… straight up. And then up some more. Wow! I was immediately happy I shed my jacket moments before the start as I was overheating already. I was testing out a new pair of shoes today that I was super excited about - the Mindbender, a new addition to Vasque's spring line. When I first put on this shoe, it felt like it was made for my foot. The low profile kept me nimble on the trail, with solid footing the whole time. (totally toying with the idea of using these next weekend, although I know they may be too new to commit to a big race. hmmm..... ) I tried to keep a consistent, easy pace, keeping speedy Belinda and young 13-year old running whiz Sarah within sight. It was hard to hold on at times, but finally I got my chance to slip by Sarah on a downhill, hoping my longer legs & experience could hold on. Once we hit the pavement, I pushed harder - even though I knew I couldn't catch Belinda, I could hear footsteps closing in and didn't want any last minute surprises. (and I held off that surprise by 2 seconds - phew!)


I finished 4th in the women's open division - very happy to be so close to such speedy talent!

The gear:
Vasque Mindbenders - on the feet
Patagonia Capilene 1 - shirt
Pearl Izumi - knickers
Smartwool - socks
Ultimate Directions - handheld
Nuun - in the bottle
Headsweats - visor

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Monday, December 14

Gettin’ Dirty in GA

Last weekend I made the trek down to Macon for the finale of the Georgia Dirty Duathlon Series. Originally scheduled for mid-Nov at Dauset Trails, the race had to be rescheduled due to a pesky hurricane that had blown thru the week prior. This go around was at the Children’s Industrial Home trails. (Earlier series stops were at Blankets Creek and Fort Yargo). After staying with an old adventure racing teammate in Atlanta Friday night, I drove the rest of the way the next morning. Unfortunately the threat of rain and cold temps in the upper 30s greeted us - perhaps this kept some folks at home. While the crowd was small, we were all enthusiastic to be there and ready to get started!

The format was a run-bike-run (3-9-3 miles). A bit short for my 3.5hr trek south - I usually have a “I have to race as long as I drive” rule, and that would not be the case today..... but, it was the finale and I had set an early season goal of podiuming in the series. Plus, it was a fund raiser for SORBA-OMBA, to raise money for new trails at Arrowhead. (With the original race and mountain bike festival being cancelled, I know they’ll be hurting to meet their fund raising goals for the year.)

We had a mass start up a short hill, breaking things up a bit. I settled on the trail in 3rd place, keeping an eye on the gals ahead. About 2/3 of the way thru 1 more passed me, but with lots of time ahead, I wasn’t too concerned. (With winter clothing covering our bodies, we couldn’t have our divisions written on our legs so it was hard to tell if any girls ahead were racing as a relay). The run was nice, through hard-packed, twisting trails that had you guessing who was ahead and who was behind. After I was barely warmed up, it was time to transition to the bike. I haven’t been riding much lately (concentrating on running!), so I was happy for a course that wasn’t too technical or had a ton of climbing. It was (as previously mentioned) full of tight, twisty sections where you couldn’t let up your concentration. Some areas were bone dry, with slippery pine needles; other times we were riding through huge mud puddles, fighting to gain traction on slippery roots. Regardless, it was lots of fun. The final run leg was a bit harder than the first. With temps so cold, normally I’d wear shoe covers; but in a short duathlon with quick transitions being key, using these was not an option. Therefore, I was running on half frozen toes for the next mile - not an easy task. Finally they felt alive and I had a normal stride again.

I ended up finishing 2nd overall female and first in the 30-39 age group.
Overall for the series, I finished first in the solo women's division.

Big thanks to the race directors for putting on a great event and persevering the many challenges it took to make it happen. They did a great job utilizing the available trails and recruiting top notch volunteers!


Sunday, May 24

scenic city trail marathon report

Now that the countdown to Tahoe gets closer, it's time to indulge in some longer runs. Up till now, I've done a few 2.5-3 hr runs with my ankle reacting favorably. Fingers crossed it would go the distance in the marathon.

A little about the race... This is the 3rd year we've held it, although it was in a different location the first year (Possum Creek Gorge segment of the Cumberland Trail - gorgeous trail, but more of a scramble than run in some places and aid stations weren't easy to set up). Now it's at Raccoon Mountain, a favorite mountain bike spot for me; it's definitely weird to run somewhere that you love to bike - just not the same experience :) But a great location for a race. The half'ers did 1 loop, while those running the full did 2. Can I tell you that I'm just not a fan of multiple loop courses? It messes with your brain... Oh you're at the finish line. but HA, you have to go out and do another loop!

OK, back to race day.
I started near the front to get a decent position going onto the singletrack (there was a few minutes of road running to spread people out before dipping into the woods). Once on the trail, it was your typical early race backup.... a long line of runners ahead and behind. A few people chose to pass, but most just hung out as the pack naturally disintegrated.

There's really not that much to say about the next few hours... my heart rate was too high for the first 45 min or so and it was hard to get it down, but that seems to be the norm for me. The terrain is pretty varied. 90% hardpacked singletrack I'd say, with a few real rocky areas. In general though, it is very runnable. You wind through open areas with grasses to your shoulder, pine forests, hardwoods, blooming mountain laurel, with the occasional view of the Tennessee River Gorge. It seems at most points you're either going up or down, but most of the climbs were relatively short. The first half was much more social - twice as many folks were running the half, so there were plenty of people around to chat with. I ran with a guy from Steamboat for awhile - and he knew my uncle. Small world!

After the rock sidewalk by the dam, the 2 distances split up - the second loop was pretty quiet and all but void of people. I turned on the Shuffle to jam a bit (a little Disturbed always makes the hillclimbs a bit easier!) After the final aid station (manned by teammates Wendi & Jamie Dial - always nice to have familiar faces cheering you on), we had about 2 miles to go. Thank god... my body was feeling it. I had tripped earlier, causing a muscle cramp in my right calf that never seemed to fully let go. My left ankle was hurting - same spot as the previous "injury" that was never diagnosed, and the top of that foot seemed to want to cramp up too (weird spot!) I was persevering the pain.. when out of nowhere a girl with too much late race energy passed by me. Dang! There was only a mile to go, but at this point I had nothing in the reserves to chase with.

The race ended with me officially in 6th* place in the women's field, with a time of 4:27:09 (a trail marathon PR!) (*or should I say 7th... Jaclyn and a group of guys took a wrong turn to the finish, causing her to be DQ'd. She led start to finish and would surely have been our winner...). After crossing the finish line, my body seemed to know it was quitting time. I sat down, stuck my foot in a bag of ice (thanks to stephanie & dawson for warm clothes needed to combat my resulting shivers), then had my calves worked on by Dee at Archer Physical Therapy. Then refueling time with yummy grilled Boca burgers at the post-race cookout.

Of course we had re-fueling #2 that night at the Terminal - their Oatmeal Stout does wonders for sore bodies :) We also caught up with a few people in town for the race from Boulder. It was great to get an insiders view of the trail running community there... and more contacts for my next visit west!

Race day gear:
Patagonia top & shorts
Smartwool socks
Vasque Velocity shoes
Nathan hydration vest
Nuun, Cliff Shot Bloks, Hammer Gel & Endurolytes
Fresh oranges... mmmm!

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Monday, January 26


the great thing about being a multisport athlete is that when you can't do one thing, there's always something else. right now, my ankles are making me gimpy. i must have done something at the lookout mtn 10k nearly 5 weeks ago. i did rest, but then did something silly (like running 15 miles in a new pair of shoes never tested on the trail) and have been suffering from what is likely an overuse injury in both ankles. (meanwhile I have a bone scan later this week to check out the original problem that is still present as well.)

so that leaves me with no running, which is untimely, as mentally i've been in this running mode. thankfully though, i have yoga, swimming, & cycling to fill in my time, work my body, and give me some much-needed stress release. and what better way to indulge than signing up for a race at the last minute. :)

cross-a-nooga was a weekend of cyclocross races here in chattavegas - and nothing to do with cross-dressing (as one of my not-so-cycling-oriented friends inquired!).  i did 2 or 3 cross races last year - loved them, but definitely not the type of event for an endurance person. my goals were to just go out there, have some fun, race hard (and see how my breathing problems that plagued me last fall are doing), and hopefully not wack my ankle too bad. 

the women's cx-4 division started about 30 seconds behind the men's cx-4 group. the horn blew and i jumped to the front, with star (old adv racing friend and current vantaggio rider) taking the lead into the first turn. the first half of the course had a lot of action. right off, there was a steep hill and a 180. then there was a twisty area where the course designer really maxed out the open sloping hillside, including one barrier + a runup. it was right after this that i slipped by star and a male rider, taking the women's lead. 

with this race being the last of the day, the muddy spots were thick and grooved by the previous riders. good balance is key; just let the bike dance under you. one large muddy area was followed by a deep sand pit- lovely. lots of loose sand to hang on to the mud already in my tires. (since i don't have a cross bike (yet!) i used my mtn bike - light enough to be fairly competitive, but i didn't change out my tires, so my knobbies held in lots of crap.) next came a long out and back, great for getting some speed and hopefully putting some distance between me and second place. at the end of the course (about 1.5 miles long), there was a double barrier to jump over and another chicane before we got to do the whole thing over again. (and again and again - 4 laps total for me). the remaining laps were fairly uneventful. i was trying my best to hold on - legs & lungs both burning. i put a few seconds on star each lap, but 1 mishap could ruin it all for me. luckily that didn't happen and i held on for the win! my vixen teammate carol nabbed 3rd place.

sunday's course was rearranged a bit, with 2 chicanes added on steeper sections that forced (me) off the bike for some runups. one i probably could have ridden, but i didn't think the effort would save me time (i was neck and neck with one guy for 3 laps - he rode, i ran, and we stayed together, so i think it was an ok decision). i took the lead at the start this time and stayed there till the end. i even passed a few guys :)   carol took 2nd place today, with helen (another vantaggio rider) placing 3rd.

big thanks to scenic city multisport in putting on a fantastic event! and thanks to all the volunteers out there making things happen. there is talk about expanding the series next year -  a fantastic idea!

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Friday, January 2

a look back at '08

One year ended and another began with 3 days of cycling (I must have tweaked my ankle during the Lookout 10k, as it's been hurting while running ever since... so Matt says no running for a bit.) The 31st & 1st was FRIGID. (although my legs were toasty with my rockin new hincapie bib tights. merry christmas to me!) During Thursday's 3rd annual Frosty Challenge, we even had to dodge a section of ice on the road on top of the mountain.

the starting crew: Lance, David, Dreama, Lee, Brenda, me

at the transition: David, Carol, Me, Leigh, Dreama

Now for a recap of the past 12 months...

The year began with great news - I was asked to be on the Rock/Creek Race Team. How could I say no?! :-) R/C happens to be my favorite store in Chatt and amazingly supportive of local outdoor initiatives, from running to climbing to paddling. The 16 other race team members are all kick ass and very inspiring. Huge thanks to Rock/Creek, along with Patagonia, Vasque, Icebreaker, and La Sportiva for their sponsorship & support throughout the year. (And I'm excited to be reprezentin' again in 2009!)

There are a few races that automatically get written on my calendar - the Black Mountain Marathon is one of them. Not only is it a great event, it takes me to beautiful Black Mountain, NC, which means I get to visit with friends in Asheville I don't get to see nearly enough. This year I was once again signed up for the 40mile challenge, but once again winter injuries had my training behind schedule, so I had to drop back to the marathon. I had a great race, nabbing a top 10 finish in the women's race and besting last year's time by 17 minutes. Hmm, I'm starting to like this marathon distance... what will '09 bring?!

March was just a great month. Was my new coach working his magic this quick?! At the Blankets Dirty Duathlon, I got a 2nd place age group/3rd place overall female finish. At the end of the month, I had one of my best running races ever, finishing 2nd overall female in the Rock/Creek River Gorge 6.5mile trail run.

April showers bring.... muddy mountain bike races! The Cohutta 100 luckily featured a 65mile option this year - perfect distance for me on a mix of terrain that suited me well: about 50% singletrack/50% gravel roads, with just under 11,000' of elevation gain. yeah baby! I was having a superb race until chain suck tortured me & my bike just after the last aid station. Lesson learned: carry a small bottle of lube. I finished in 7:32, grabbing 5th in the women's open division. I was psyched to share the podium with studettes that usually race expert division in xc. Even better than this though was having my sister, bro-in-law, and nephews at the race to watch Aunt Cathi try to go fast. Evan thought I was pretty funny covered in mud at the end!

My shortest accomplishment... winning my age group for the Market Street Mile, and surprisingly setting a new state record for my age. How cool! I also finished in the money at the Greenway Challenge... although I lost a pair of sunglasses during the paddle and the money didn't quite cover the replacement cost. dang.

My big June event (Cherohala Challenge) was replaced by something else (a root canal). So not much to report here, other than lots of time on my bike which took me to some beautiful areas. Big thanks to Zeke for the endless hours of training time & touring!

Bald River Falls

The countdown to Leadville begins with a training trip out west. We rode about 80% of the course, including the toughest hill twice: Powerline. wow. I am SO not a downhiller! On July 4th, we went rafting on the Arkansas River. wow again. My first time in water that big. The weekend was complete with a party with the Melanzana folks and fireworks over Leadville that started some small sagebrush fires (quickly extinguished, of course). Exciting times!

The big day arrives - the Leadville 100 "Race Across The Sky" mountain bike race. I've never concentrated on one event so much. I didn't like having all my eggs in one basket. I was either going to make it or not. Somehow I still found the gray area, finishing in 12:46, which race directors deem "officially unofficial". So I got the finishers medal but no belt buckle. Dang! That means I'll be back again some time.... The experience was amazing and I had an incredible time. I had some R&R before and after in Steamboat with family & friends - life can't get much better.

a group of friends from Chatt did the Wild West Relay, 
then stayed at Steve & Lorraine's with me for some recovery time.

me + Tawnya riding the red to the finish line!

My favorite race, the Tsali Challenge, yielded a 4th place in the women's solo, and a 2nd in the women's relay. It also showed that my lungs were having problems recovering from fun at altitude. (or something like that... I'd spend the next few months getting various tests from lots of specialists around with still not much being figured out. quite frustrating!) The end of the month, I raced in the Black Bear Rampage, a 44-mile mtn bike race out at the Ocoee. I was having a great day, but a mix up with results weren't clarified for another week. I ended up winning the women's sport 34 & under division, but didn't get to stand on the cool podium (that would have been my first time on a #1!). And I didn't get cool new Oakleys that other winners got, which was a bummer since I lost another pair of sunglasses when I crashed on one tight corner.

Rock/Creek's annual StumpJump 50k is usually on my calendar, although with all the cycling this year, I opted for the 11mile option, finishing 4th female overall. Also this month was the YMCA Strong Adventure Race that I direct, along with my friend Kevin Manning. We moved the event to Camp Ocoee, which enabled us to also add a 12hr course to the events (a 6hr and youth adventure race also occurred). The event was hugely successful, raising over $5000 for the Strong Kids Campaign!

Another favorite race... (do I have too many?!) Shut-In Ridge in Asheville. Colors are at their peak on the parkway, I get too see my Ash friends, and the race is killer - uphill for most of the 17.8 miles. My time was 17 min faster than last year (was that this year's magic #?) During Thanksgiving, I went on a canoe camping trip on the Suwannee River. Normally I don't miss FL too much, but I really got to experience the best. I love the lushness of the forest with live oaks and palms and the peacefulness of padding at night and seeing stars everywhere. This was probably the highlight weekend of the year.

view from the Blueridge Parkway

Sunset on the Suwannee

Holiday adventures with my nephews! The whole family hiked the La Chua Trail, which extends into Paynes Prairie. We were treated with view of hundreds of alligators and thousands of sandhill cranes. An amazing way to end the year.


Wednesday, November 5


Since I've been so bad at reporting back lately, I'll write something quick while I can instead of waiting months... (uh, Leadville!)

One of my favorite races of the year is the Shut-In Ridge Trail Run, over in Asheville. It has quite the cult following, with the starting line crammed full of local, regional, and even some national hotshots. It sells out quickly and I was lucky to snag an entry again this year.

Autumn colors were at their peak, the skies blue and sunshine abundant, with small patches of snow greeting me in the Mt. Pisgah parking lot as a friend and I dropped a car by the finish early. While it was probably in the upper 30s to 40 at the start of the race (at the Arboretum), we warmed up quickly and I shed my long sleeves at the 2nd aid station. (I was wearing our new team shirt from Icebreaker, which was the perfect weight. And while I'm at it, my shoes were Vasque Velocity - definitely my current fav, although I'm itching to test their VSTs.)

I started off too quick as always, but that tends to be my MO. I knew after a mile or two I'd settle into my pace and all would be good for the next few hours. With this new heart thing going on, I'm trying to be more aware of my heart rate so that I can actually make it to the finish line. (although my tight achilles was worrying more race morning!) It took longer than I anticipated to settle in, due in part to the nice climbs that greet us from the start - afterall, the race is basically uphill! Most of the time we run along the ridge, following the Blue Ridge Parkway. Crossing it usually meant a steep downhill and uphill; otherwise it was a nice rolling ascent. The colors were stunning - sometimes you'd just be glowing from the sunlight filtering through the leaves. 

I was feeling great and running strong... amazing what a bit of frustration can do to power you up the mountain. I did see 2 girls on a switchback that made me nervous, but I dug in a bit deeper and never saw them again. All too soon, the final 2 miles were upon us - this is the epic section that goes (almost) straight up & is nearly unrunnable. (I'd love to see the leaders tear this up!) I had a girl on my heels most of this time and she didn't want to pass.... but eventually did and unfortunately I never saw her again. I kept a good forward momentum, but my hammies & quads were quivering - I was really noticing my lack of hill work here. Once at the top, we had a short downhill that had my calves all but giving out on me. Finally the finish line cheers greeted me - yeah! 

My final time - for the 17.8 brutal miles with about 3000+' of elevation gain* - was 3:41, 17 minutes faster than last year! This was good enough for 15th female and 97th overall (out of 195 finishers). The awesome stained glass awards were still out of reach though...  so my quest for a top 7 finish will continue next year hopefully :)

Big thanks to Lorrin & Jay for providing impromptu support (I left my gels in my car!) and cheering loudly along the way. 

* I need to confirm this, as my watch said 5000'... I've seen a few different references online.

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Sunday, October 12

StumpJump 08

This is one of those events that makes my race calendar every year - not only because it's sponsored by my team and the Boonies, but because it's a great course in a beautiful location that is always well organized and a ton of fun.

a picture-perfect morning

The past few years I've run the 50k, but I just didn't have the miles under me this year since I focused so much on Leadville. The 11 miler I thought should be doable. As the race got closer, I still had the breathing problems that was forcing me to walk a lot more than normal. It was the Wed before the race that I found out the basics of my heart condition. I didn't get the full description yet (and refused to Google it, lest I come across something less than positive), but the dr gave me the thumbs up to run.... so it couldn't be that bad, right?! Race morning came and I was ready to run, although honestly not sure if I'd be able to finish. I'll just see what I can do...

This year the race started at the new Signal Mountain Middle/High School; this meant more parking, more space, and real bathrooms! The beginning of the course changed slightly - starting now with a short paved section (uphill - but that meant a downhill finish), and some new trails before dropping on to the standard course. I started off easily and was 3rd woman into the woods. I kept the pace consistent and within myself, trying not to be concerned when people passed. The first half of the race went well. I walked up the 1 gorge climb as expected and took the technical downhills a bit easy. At the turnaround I was told I was 4th woman; fab!

On the way back we had 2 big gorge climbs that I took easy. One woman from Atl had been on my heels for awhile and I was hoping I'd hold her off. We talked a bit but she didn't want to pass. Fine; I'll set the pace. At the Mushroom Rock aid station, she veered towards aid; I shook my bottle, felt there was enough to finish, and pressed on, hoping to gain a minute or two. (even though Sheridan took it personally that I didn't get aid from him!). I tried to pick things up a bit, but a few climbs forced me to walk (I can tell when my heart & breathing rate is getting a bit too high, so some walking is better than sitting on the side of the trail trying to recover). I looked back during some curving areas and didn't see her; great! I kept on... then bam, she appeared out of nowhere. Dang! We exited the woods together and had about a half mile of paved road before the finish line. There was a bit of a climb first; I picked it up slightly. I didn't hear the footsteps responding. So a bit more... at the top of the hill I glanced back and saw I did in fact put some distance on her. Yeah! Next came that nice long descent to the finish line. I pushed it a bit more, not wanting to have a finish line sprint. Thankfully I didn't have to, and I crossed the finish line in 2:10.27, good enough for 4th place overall female and 44th overall (out of 170 finishers). I lucked out when awards went through 4th place, so I snagged some new Salomon shoes, La Sportiva bottle, and my fav "this is not a plastic bag" cotton grocery bag from R/C.

4th thru 1st place, women's 11 miler

Overall, I felt pretty good, but knew I had to walk a lot more than I usually do on that course. The key though will be to listen to my body and do what I need to do; sometimes hard when you have that competitiveness set in (and someone nipping at your heels). After I crossed the finish line, I had the same thing happen to me that happened at Tsali. I finish strong, then walk around to get the breathing regulated... but it gets worse instead of better, and next thing I know I'm doubled over gasping for air (almost like hyperventilating a bit.) Thanks to of my fav people to making sure I was feeling ok (Sara from North Shore Yoga and Christian from Body Wisdom massage- check these ladies out; they're the best!) To complete the fab weekend, my old adv racing teammates Hunter & Daniel came up & stayed for a few days & rocked the 50. It was good to catch up!

r/c team member matt sims

r/c race team members michael green & john anderson

the start of the 50k


kevin, me, michael

more pics here

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Wednesday, October 8

TN River Blueway Canoe & Kayak Race

This is a local event that Outdoor Chattanooga puts on, so I wanted to join in the fun and support them. Originally I was going to borrow one of Ted's kickass fast boats, but seeing as how I didn't have the time to practice (they are a bit tippy), I teamed up with Dale Tillman who's teammate backed out last minute. I knew we'd be in for a good workout after lifting that barge off her car - plastic sit on top tandems just aren't light :)

It was a gorgeous day out and we had a ton of fun out there, finishing 3rd in the recreational tandem division (and I think we were the first all-female tandem team too). A few pics are below! (I LOVE my new NUMA sunglasses!!)


Monday, June 2

in the green at the Greenway Challenge

jim and carol put on a small adventure race, the greenway challenge, every year to benefit the north chickamauga creek conservancy. in the past, it has been a team-oriented event; this year though, jim changed it up offering only solo & relay divisions. unfortunately the event didn't sell out this year, but we still had a great crowd and raised between $2000 & $3000 for the conservancy (much needed after a fire they had this spring that destroyed a barn full of paddling equipment).

while the masses may not have liked the new format, it suited me well with the training i've been doing lately. well, sort of. the short speed stuff hasn't been a focus, but hopefully i've had enough of it to not totally blow up after the first leg. it would be an interesting race though - some top female athletes were coming and it ended up being one of our hottest days yet.

the open men solo started at 9:30, then we took off 10 minutes later. (the remaining divisions were scattered after us which seemed to ease potential congestion on the trail.) we staged our bikes at the top of a hill and had a le mans start. the problem was, i dropped off my bike when not many were up there so i hesitated a minute before finding it and hopping on. lisa & patsy already built up a nice lead - i knew they'd be duking it out the entire race and that i wouldn't factor much into their game. heather was right there with me and we yo-yo'd during much of the bike leg. she's a super fast runner, but i haven't seen her on the bike in awhile so i thought i might have a chance. we wound around the wildflower field and encountered a few cyclocross barriers. yeah! i definitely made up time here and pulled ahead; however, it proved to be not enough, as she passed on a paved section a bit later. darn! i was trying to pace myself as i was already dripping with sweat, but at the same time knew that the race was short and you had to go all out the entire time (and perhaps suffer the consequences). 

next up was a short singletrack section that i think i got to ride for the first time. usually things are so backed up here that we are forced to walk, but the new format helped. we encountered the lead males as they ran a short section on foot, but there was plenty of room for us to work around eachother. back to the gravel roads and then it was full steam ahead to the transition area - but not before gingerly stepping through a giant cobweb challenge (imagine knee-high strings crisscrossing... you had to carry your bike across and try not to trip. luckily i cleaned it both times we had to go through it). 

back to the TA - change shoes, grab water, gel & ecaps - and off on the run. we began with a rarely used trail that abruptly ended with a 200' scramble to the highest point on the farm. i heard this was going to be nasty, but it actually wasn't as bad as i thought. i was able to pass 3 guys here that were thinking way too hard about finding the best path. just go! the only thing that sucked about this was the mega amounts of poison ivy that seems to flourish in this drought the south is having. (and yes, it started popping up on me within 30 hrs of exposure, despite scrubbing twice with Tecnu. normally it takes me 3-5 days to see symptoms; i really hope this isn't going to be a bad case!)

once on top, we hit a trail and could once again run in a normal gait. the problem was my entire torso was cramping up and i was doubled over doing the old man shuffle for a bit. i think my waistpack was too loose and the bouncing around was the culprit. ?!?  anyways, after 5 min of this (and frantically looking over my shoulder to make sure no girls were behind me), i was feeling normal again. we ran through the rope challenge area and had 2 obstacles here (easy!) then off for a loop on the boy scout trail. i was doing most of the passing until my rock/creek teammate jaclyn was nipping at my heels. (i was hoping she'd be whooped still from her win at the scenic city marathon last weekend, but alas, she has superhuman legs.) i let her by and tried to keep her in sight for as long as possible (which wasn't long enough!). we hit the razorback ridge trail alongside the quarry (beautiful, but treacherous with rocks and cliffs), then another singetrack section before heading towards the TA. 

after another rope challenge (crawling underneath a bunch), we ran to where our boats were staged. i had one of those weird heart palpitation things when carrying my boat to the water. i had to slow to a walk just so i could keep moving forward and not fall over. i was happy that i could get off my feet and recover quick; when this happened during the duathlon run, it lost me several minutes. sitting down in the boat helped and i was able to regain focus quickly. the paddle was nice and peaceful and mostly shaded (yeah!). i passed a few boats here - thanks to carol for letting me borrow her speedy perception cadence (hhmm, maybe this would be a good tsali boat?!) only 1 mishap on the water - when going under a low hanging branch, my tifosis got snagged and fell in the water. dang! i'm moving forward at a fairly decent speed; do i stop in hopes of finding them, but risk 6th place catching me? no! (i figured they sunk quickly anyways.) so on i go. i could see jaclyn ahead, but our paces were similar so there was no catching her. 

my final time (1:39.42) was less than 1.5 minutes behind her. 1st place (patsy!) was at 1:27, so the 5 of us were relatively close together (6th was another 10 min back). in all, i was super pleased with the result. everyone that i thought would be head of me was; no one snuck by that shouldn't. and best of all, i finished in the money! granted it was just $20, but will come to great use in replacing the sunglasses. (and at least this green won't give me a blistering rash that drives me nuts for a week or two. ugh!)

the day ended with complimentary pressure point massages, lupi's pizza, lots of smiling faces and lots of sun (but no burn thankfully!). it has been fun to hear about the experiences of the AR newbies - hopefully they had a great time as well and will try one again soon (and practice running up hills in the meantime - yes, even if there's not a trail we still run!)

i don't have any action shots of me yet, but here's a nice video from the local paper, as well as a few pics.

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Saturday, May 17

market street mile

so i impulsively signed up for the market street mile this morning. it would be short, fun, and i'd get an idea of what my time for running 1 mile could be. of course i always have high expectations, but realistically, i have hardly done speedwork since the groin injury around thanksgiving. (that was right before a planned time trial in early december that was going to be my benchmark. oh well...)  i was hoping for around 7min. i think my fastest clocked mile was back in 7th grade: 6:59. (i just haven't timed one since!) 

we lined up by age group. actually, 2 were combined at a time, so the 30-39 females were together. i was disappointed at the turnout - maybe 10 of us total? i didn't know anyone so it would be interesting. the horn sounded and we were off. i sprinted to a quick lead and then settled in to my "pace" (who knows what that actually is). the course was U shaped - i used this turn to look back and see where the next girl was. (not close - yeah!) coming down the homestretch, some idiot driver pulled into a parking lot in front of me, almost making me slow. (i'd have been pissed if that happened). i crossed the mat at 6:33. WOW! my fastest ever. joey was cheering me on - i think i surprised him, with my lack of running as of late (he figured on a track i could easily knock another 10-15 sec off). my legs felt good, but my lungs were shot. my chest was hurting/burning for a good 15 minutes after. (maybe the cool air irritated them?)

awards were delayed (when they called me up, they announced a 9:27 mile. whaaa??  so i caused a 15 min delay while results were redone). i did snag 1st in my age group (probably close to 3rd overall - some chick ran a 5 something!). i think i might have set a new state record for my age in the mile - somehow it is listed at 7:39, so that would be supercool. (32 & 34 are both sub 6, so i had my birthday just in time!). fellow running buddy sergio whipped out a 6:02 to crush his age group and set a new record - he's 67!!

this afternoon i'm off to the ultra o-gaine. i'm sad i'm not racing it this year, but 12 hrs on my feet just isn't included on the road to leadville. i'll take my mtn bike and ride around for a few hours to cheer on the sufferers :)

--update: state record confirmed. cool!!

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Friday, March 28

getting dirty at blankets

blankets creek dirty duathlon (directed by local adventure racer lisa randall), i jumped at the chance to race on the trails i learned to bike on. they are just north of atlanta (in woodstock), so it was one of our local stomping grounds. after the bodbikegroup xmas party, we rode out here and i was surprised how much better i felt on the trails (yeah, i've improved a bit in the 2 years since i'd been here! ;)   so this could be a good race for me!

first, i'll admit i slacked off with registering and before i knew it the race had filled! i got on the waitlist immediately and luckily a girl i knew couldn't make it, so i was in. phew! i was able to crash at a friend's house, so i drove down friday afternoon and was able to squeeze in a meeting with a client before meeting some people for dinner.

saturday morning came early and my plan to arrive at the race an hour early to get a decent transition spot backfired; oh, i was on time, but so was everyone else. i found a spot about 2/3 back - which technically didn't make a difference as we all made a full loop around the pit. after claiming my spot, i spent the next half hour catching up with friends instead of organizing stuff and testing my bike (afterall, i just had the failed brake lever replaced! fingers crossed the hoff had it all finetuned!) 

the race started in waves to alleviate potential backup. the women went off 5th. as we waited, i checked out my competition - fellow bodettes jackie & mindy, multisport specialists kim & marisa, and sorella badass kerry. it would be a tough day! 1 minute after the masters men, we began our run. i darted to the front and found my pace. from the parking lot, we ran straight back to the dwelling loop, running it counterclockwise. i caught the back of the pack guys quickly, which energized me more. 3 women did pass me (although 2 were in the relay division so i wasn't as concerned), but i was feeling strong and steady... that is until about 2/3 around the loop when my heart did that weird palpitation thing it does sometimes (like in the Waterfront Tri last summer and Hogpen Hillclimb 2 years prior). it was a very pronounce flutter, followed my a strange draining feeling throughout my body, leading to a bit of dizziness and my vision narrowing. scary, but at least i've gone through this before. i slowed, then stopped when i kept tripping. out of a lack of knowing what to do, i grabbed my inhaler which seemed to help settle things. i started jogging again after about 1.5 min, and was up to a run another minute or so later, although somewhat guarded. as we hit the stick of the lollipop that would take us back to the TA, kim caught up with me and we ran it into the pit together. (run time: 40:49.. approx 5 miles)

after a speedy transition, i was on the bike racing down to the right side of mosquito flats. this would have been a nice flat warmup, but there was a bit of a backup and of course its not always easy to pass on singletrack. i was a bit concerned, hoping this wasn't going to be signs of things to come...   the course next took us through part of the new north loop (SORBA-Woodstock is doing a ton of work on this trail system, with this being their newest concentration - great job!!) kim passed me here, which was no surprise as she is an awesome cyclist; i had planned on chasing her anyways. next we hit the dwelling loop, again going counter-clockwise. this was interesting as all of times i've ridden this loop (like nearly a zillion), i've only been on it once or twice this direction. this will be interesting! luckily by now the crowd had thinned and i only had the occasional rider to pass (and vice versa). i had passed a few girls, so it was only kim in front of me - until kerry snuck by. grrr....   but a few minutes later (very near where my heart thing happened), i passed her on the side of the trail dealing with cramping. it did not sound good!  i crossed my fingers that the twinges i felt in my calf would not forth....

after dwelling we hit the south loop, which i have not been on in years. it is considered the advanced loop, with a few tricky technical spots and rock gardens - my favorite (not!) i was actually pretty impressed with my riding, easily hitting things that i don't think i could before. but sometimes i paid a price - the power to get through a section would cause my left calf or right foot to cramp up. yeowsers! yeah, they didn't stay away and i was left with a dilemma: power through a technical section and cramp, or get off & walk it (& feel like a tool), but not cramp. i ended up doing a bit of both... and at one point (with me off the bike and cramps attacking), jackie pedaled by. i cheered her on and got back on my bike. this loop seemed a bit long, but then again i couldn't hardly remember it so i wasn't sure how to pace myself. finally we started weaving through the pines and i knew we were close. after the drop off the hill (fun to zoom down even if i don't catch any air), it was home james! i boogied it back in (although not catching anyone), finishing with a total time of 1:55... good enough for 2nd place in my age group (right behind jackie) and 3rd overall woman (kim won).  woohooo!!

we cheered on all the other finishers (it was a perfect spring day!) then got ready for the 2nd big event of the day: Outspokin' Bikes had donated 2 sweet fsr specialized bike to give away. lisa devised a crazy race on clown bikes. it was hilarious! a young guy no more than 10 or 14?? won one, and the girl marisa i know won the other. congrats!!

the awards ceremony was short, sweet, and highly profitable. lisa really outdid herself the amount of prizes she was able to get for the race - over $14,000 of products & gear, with Outspokin' donating over $9k themselves. (Thank you!!) We got to pick our own prizes, so i immediately went for a Thomson gift certificate (good for a seatpost or stem!) and the collective's roam dvd  (the collective makes THE best videos out there if you haven't checked them out yet). then i was also awarded the fastest transition time out of everyone there - yep, more than 200 of us out there and i was #1. hehe! i snagged some tifosi sunglasses. (i also won a bottle of monavie juice - intriguing stuff, where one shot it gives you all your fruits & vegis for the day. and it's yummy!)

team amino vital! taylor & dayton raced the men's relay, placing 2nd. 

lisa (the RD) + me, 2nd place age group / 3rd overall woman!

that night, my mtn biking friends had a party, so it was good to kick back, catch up, and drink a few. i drove back to chatt the next day and had a good (although slightly uncoordinated) recovery/easter ride with the hoff at raccoon. 

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