Friday, June 29, 2012

Birmingham Sage Race

Everything is just about set for the race.  We felt the original date was really pushing things so we moved it back to October 26, 27 and 28.  We plan to have the first stage at Red Mountain Park and it will be in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 miles.  The second stage at Ruffner Mountain and will be about 14 miles.  The final stage at Oak Mountain State Park will be 24 miles.  We will adjust the distances as necessary to hit the 50 mile mark.  The race will be tough.

Registration will be through and they should have everything ready sometime next week.  Runners are welcome to sign up for one or two individual stages at a reduced price however shirts are only available to those competing in all three stages.

Here is a link to the website.  Birmingham Stage Race

Monday, June 25, 2012

Announcing a New Race Here in Birmingham - Date Adjustment

Marye Jo and I have had a blast putting on the Run for Kids Challenge the last two years and decided we would enjoy doing another race.  Trouble is, what kind of race do we want to put the effort and time into.  It will have to be something special.

Last weekend I ran the Chattanooga Stage Race put on by Rock Creek Outfitters.  Actually the race directors for all Rock Creek events are Randy and Kris Whorton. (They also do the Stump Jump and Lookout Mountain 50 mile among a number of others.)  On the way back to Birmingham, Marye Jo and I decided that is what we want to do.  A stage race right here in Birmingham.  We started planning and have three tentative courses in mind.

It seems most logical is to use Oak Mountain for two of the races.  Saturday I "found" a course that would be mostly on nonexistent trails.  I followed some very old mountain roads (when I could locate them) at the north end of the park, a section virtually never used.  These roads climb Double Oak Mountain to where they joined private lands owned by a local corporation.  If we can get permission to use the land this would be one awesome stage using only about 1.5 miles of the existing park trails.

Another stage would be at the south end of the park and would utilize the lake trail, used by the Run for Kids before climbing up the mountain for a tour of Double Oak Mountain.  For the third stage I would like to use more of the private land owned by the same company that is not contiguous with Oak Mountain State Park but not far away.  The total distance would be in the neighborhood of 50 miles for the three stages.  If we are not able to get permission to use the private land we will probably use Oak Mountain and Red Mountain or Ruffner Mountain.

As in the Run for Kids Challenge, we plan to have two different races in one.  The long race will be something like 14 miles, 16 miles and 20 miles with some very difficult climbs and rough terrain.  We also plan to have a short version with sections about 6 miles, 10 miles and 12 miles on less difficult terrain but still ultra length.

The tentative date is September 28, 29 and 30.  The only problem for me is this is the weekend I have signed up to runt he Gringstone 100 in Virginia.  Well, I have already run one 100 mile race this year and I could still enter the Pinhoti 100, that is, if Todd will let me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chattanooga Stage Race - 60 Miles, 3 Mountains, 3 Days

As always, Randy and Kris Whorton did an awesome job putting on the Chattanooga Stage Race this year. Randy and Kris also are the Race Directors for 8 trail races in the Chattanooga area including The Rock/Creek Stump Jump 50K, (one of the nations largest ultras), Lookout Mountain 50 mile, Upchuck 50K and the Rock/Creek Trail Marathon.

By the way, take a look Kris' bios.  Kris Whorton.  She is fast. Her time in the 2009 Umstead 100 was 16:05:34.  That is amazing!  Below are Randy and Kris.  She also holds the Master Women's record in a bunch of races.

The Chattanooga Stage Race is three stages on three days, each very difficult running.  The first stage on Raccoon Mountain is the easiest and relatively flat (by Eastern Tennessee Standards) which means it is not flat at all.  There are just no big climbs.  The terrain is very runnable but you sure have to pay attentions.  One mountain bike section was really interesting called the "Switchyard."  There must have been two miles of trails in what seemed like 50 acres of land.  We zigzagged all over the place.  The first stage in 18 miles and about 1,500 feet of elevation gain.

The second stage started at Lula Lake land trust.  This section has one long climb up Lookout Mountain and two trips up a shorter climb in the land trust.   The race starts at Lula Lake and follows a gravel road along  Rock Creek and past two beautiful waterfalls, one about 120 ft, before hitting a climb that is about 100 feet and so steep runners have to pull themselves up via ropes for the last 30 or 40 feet.  After reaching the crest of the ridge the trail follows a ridge for about 1.5 miles with some absolutely beautiful views of Western Georgia and the area around the Chickamauga Battle Field.  The trail here is good enough that you can actually cruise up a gentle climb and enjoy the view without worrying too much about crashing.  The descent off the ridge is a little tricky in a few spots but again all runnable.

After returning to the aid station at the start finish runners begin the long 700 foot climb to the top of Lookout Mountain.  The trails up Lookout Mountain are good and 100% runnable although the first half mile or so is pretty steep and most of us walked up a ways.  We made a big loop up top and had a chance to enjoy running under two power-line easements for a while. (What fun!)  We came back down the same route to Lula Lake where we ran the loop around the land trust in the opposite direction.  They do throw in a little surprise at the end though.  Instead of following the road the last mile you are sent off to the other side of the creek through the most miserable section of the entire course and finally cross the creek and head to the finish.  The stage has 2,500 feet of climbing, not a lot for 22 miles.  A real plus to the start/finish is that it is located next to an upper section of Rock Creek.  Everyone grabbed a beer and climbed down to the creek and sat down in the icy water.  It was wonderful and I don't even like beer!

The following photos were taken by Jeff Bartlett and are posted on the Rock/Creek Stage Race website. Below are two shots of the extremely steep descent off the ridge in the Lula Lake Land Trust.  We climbed up this section on the first loop in the land trust before heading over to and up Lookout Mountain. On the second loop in the trust we ran the opposite direction and descended this hill about 2 miles from the end of stage two.

The bridge over Rock Creek at the completion of the first loop in the land trust.

Under the bridge following the finish of  Stage 2.  Rock Creek in Lula Lake Land Trust

The third stage on Signal Mountain is the killer.  Although it only had 2,700 feet of elevation gain, (200 ft more than the previous day) the issue is not the climbing, it is the terrain itself.  From the start to the first aid station at mile 3.3 and back to Mushroom Rock at about mile 5 is on the Stump Jump 50K course so I knew how difficult this first set of climbs would be.  We then began a 6 mile traverse around the crest of the cliff band on Signal Mountain.  These cliff bands (Bluffs) around the tops of all the mountains in the area make for some spectacular scenery along some intimidating trails.  This section was mostly runnable although we were constantly up and down and we had to frequently slow almost to a stop for a few very technical, rocky sections.  There were also long sections where grass overlapped the very narrow trail so you could not see where you were stepping.  At one point I was running along thinking to myself I had better pay really close attention because I cannot see where I am stepping.  As I finished the thought my foot caught on something hidden under the grass and I slammed to the trail.  No damage done so I hopped up and continued.

Two shots of the trail on an early descent down to Suck Creek

This section was spectacular with the mountain dropping almost straight down below the path all the way to the Tennessee River probably 1,000 feet below.  There were a lot of places you would not want to fall along here but I found myself taking my eyes off the trail for a quick glance at the view.  I did stop once just to look but the pace of a race is fast and you don't want to loose too much time.

We finally reached the third aid station at Edward's Point (mile 9.4 in the picture to the left) and things immediately went down hill, figuratively and literally.  We began a very gentle descent, per the profile, to Middle Creek, but this was where things got tough.  The trail just about disappeared because we were running in a jumble of rocks about 70% of the time.  I am comfortable running over rocks because that is what I run on all the time here in Birmingham.  I make good time and passed a lot of other runners in this section but this was as technically difficult as any trail I have ever run and it was exhausting.  We were either climbing up steep rocky sections or descending steep rocky sections.  Even thought the section was less than 3  miles long it totally zapped me.  Finally, near the end we hit a section of very steep stairs climbing almost straight up through the cliff band to the top and the aid station at Signal Point. 

This is what much of the flat sections of the trail looked like.  Climbing was easier!

I slowed a little after passing Butch Holt being helped up the trail.  At the end of the first two days Butch had a 1 hour 30 minute lead over me and about 30 minutes over anyone else in the 60 to 70 age group.  He had a rag wrapped around his head and another held to his face.  There was blood running down from his head and cheek and his shirt was covered in blood.  I asked if I could help and the person helping him said there was help on the way down.  He was still about 8.5 miles from the finish.  I was sure he would not be able to go on.

By this time it was hot and the Signal Point aid station had pop-sickles.  They were great!  I continued up a road for a few hundred yards where we cut in front of an assisted living center with a bunch of people in wheelchairs on the porch.  The staff waved and cheered as we went by.  Some were probably thinking I needed to be in the "nursing home" not out there running.  We then shifted on to a nice gravel path for a few more hundred yards then back to the piles of rock.  I guess I had not completely made the mental shift back to difficult terrain and no more than a 0.10 mile into the rocks tumbled again.  This time it hurt.  Rocks are hard, but again no damage done, just a few sore spots.  From there things began to get a little better.  We finally reached a long gentle climb following a creek that seemed to go on forever but easy to run.

Finally, the Guardrail aid station at mile 16.4.  Only 3.6 miles to go!  From there we started up a very long climb on a smooth gravel road.  It is a lot easier to run up a road when  you are really tired and I took advantage of it and relaxed a little.  Big Mistake!!  I didn't even see anything to trip on but I did.  Another hard fall but with a nice recovery roll.  This time there were a few skinned places but the worst was the "ROLL!"  I was very hot and sweaty and the road is covered in dust and there is no creek at the top to wash off in.  This time a walked a minute to regain my senses and get back into a rhythm.  Then I was off again.  Soon I began to recognize the tail as part of the finish of the Stump Jump course and I knew we were near the end.  I raced with several other runners headed to the finish which helps keep the pace up.  As always, there was Marye Jo at the end to cheer me to the finish.  There may not have been a creek at the end but there was a water hose and it felt really good and cold and I washed off most of the dirt.

Today, three days after the final stage my ribs hurt, my arms and shoulders hurt, my elbow and knee are sore and I am still really tired.  But I feel Great!!  It is amazing how good going out and totally wasting ones self can make you feel.  My legs even feel good but the recovery run at Veteran's Park yesterday was REALLY slow!

Here is a link to all of the Rock Creek Pictures for the Stage Race.
And here is the map of the final stage.  Stage three

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Not on top of the Food Chain.

Yesterday I received an email from an Rick Trujillo of Ouray, Colorado.  I met Rick lost year while doing tail work for the Hardrock 100.  I also did a post about him called "A Running Legend, Rick Trujillo" posted on 8/8/2011.  I contacted him about this years Hardrock trail work and getting together with him for lunch one day while we are in Colorado.  He is a mining engineer and currently working in Kensington Camp, Alaska.

He attached this article from the Anchorage Daily News which ran in the paper on 12/7/2011.  It will make you stop and think.  Maybe it is a good idea to always run with a partner, something I almost never do.  The only dangerous animals in this part of the country walk around on two legs!  Come to think of it, those may be the most dangerous of all!  Snakes don't count.