Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rules for the Trail - Part 1

I moved the original post up so the "Rules for the Trail - Part 2" made a little more sense.

A few weeks ago I read an article in Ultrarunning about things you should do to help insure finishing the ultras you start.  One of those rules in to never blindly follow the runner or runners in front of you.  Always watch for the trail marking yourself, especially at a trail intersection.

Saturday, I ran the Rock Creek StumpJump 50K in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is one of my favorite runs here in the southeast.  The run starts on top of Signal Mountain above Chattanooga and follows the Cumberland Trail.  It has 5,000+ feet of climbing and amazing vistas of the Tennessee River 1000 feet below.  It is also one of the largest 50K runs in the country with, I think, 350 runners.
After the start, the course follows a well maintained, very runnable gravel trail that circles the Signal Mountain High School and athletic fields before making it's way to the edge of Signal Mountain.  This is the location of the first aid station at mile 4.1, Mushroom Rock.  The trail then drops of the edge of the earth and descends over 400 feet in about 1/3 mile to a  very long suspension bridge across a branch of Suck Creek.

The trail then climbs up the other side of the gorge over the top of the ridge and again drops very steeply down to Suck Creek and the aid station at mile 6.1.  After a quick stop for water, runners cross the road and head up to the top of the next gorge.  About half way up to the ridge a gaggle of 8 or 10 runners including me missed a turn and headed down a really rocky, difficult trial for about a 1/3 mile before we met two runners coming back up the trail waving us back.  I remember thinking when we started down the section that I didn't remember anything this bad from when I ran the race in '08 and '09.  I turned around and ran back up the trail until I saw a long line of runners heading up the trail where we went down.

I had lost 8 or 9 minutes and because this error happened just over six miles into the run, I was now stuck behind a lot of slower runners.  I tried to get by some of them at the next aid station, Indian Rock House at mile 10.6 but there always seemed to be 10 or 12 ahead of me and no way to really pass unless someone lets you by.  I was not able to break free until Snoopers Rock aid station an mile 13.3.  For a few minutes I was able to run smoothly but finally came up behind another slow group.  I finally make my way through them but I had lost a lot of time.  Below is a picture of Indian Rock House and location of the Aid Station at mile 10.6 and 20.3.

I had hoped to better my time from 2009, 6:31:40.  I ran 6:32:??  I was close.  Maybe I need to go back an reread that article.  Here is a picture of one of many overlooks of the Tennessee River.  Usually I stop a couple of times to enjoy the view.  Not this year and you do not want to look without stopping.  It could hurt.

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