Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race – Day 1 – Raccoon Mountain
So as you all know, I’m training for this fun 6 day race in August, the TransRockies. I’ve never done a stage race before, and wanted to test the waters first. I happened upon this race, the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race. 3 Mountains, 3 Days, 60 Miles. And close to home! So I signed up.
I was super nervous pervous about this race though – even more than TransRockies – I guess because there is a cutoff time – 13 min miles per day (TransRockies doesn’t seem to have a cutoff time and…because TransRockies is not tomorrow and CMS was!). I know I typically run much faster than a 13 min mile – even on the trail…but I don’t typically run 18-22 miles per day, three days in a row, on crazy mountains.
A month before the race, Jamaican Sensation and our friend Steve, asked me to do a half marathon in Chattanooga. I am always up for a race – and a road trip – so I latched on. Turns out the Scenic City Trail Half Marathon was run on Raccoon Mountain on part of the Day One course. So I had a little preview. There was some cool rocky scenery, but I was trying to cruise so I didn’t stop to take pictures. The race was fun, but I didn’t start towards the front and got stuck running super slow for a while. All and all I finished strong at 1:48 and had a blast.
So going into Day One of the Stage Race – I had an idea of what I was getting into terrain wise. But I was still nervous about everything else!
I packed up my car chock full of crap. Seriously people. I can’t imagine what is going to happen for this six day race. I made myself some Black Bean Veggie Quinoa and homemade Almond Cashew milk. I bagged up pre-measured portions of Sunwarrior protein powder and Bob’s Redmill Gluten Free Muesli. I made small containers of cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. I packed trail mix and an avocado. Oh and a couple of bananas and green juice for good measure.
So I checked into the Comfort Inn at 2420 Williams Street. I say the address because if you are ever in Chattanooga you must stay there. I stayed there both times now and they are ridiculously nice. Plus it used to be a Hampton Inn, so you essentially get a Hampton at Comfort prices. First time, they extended my checkout to 2pm to so we could shower and pack post race, and this time I got my room which was so nice, but it didn’t have a fridge. I asked the front desk if they had a room with a fridge but mentioned that I liked my room and location. So the guy went and got me a fridge and put it in my room! He also got me salt and ketchup packets! And was just generally nice.
So I barely made it in time for packet pickup on Thursday night, but I made it. I settled in and made all my arrangements. Unpacked my suit case, arranged my food, laid out my outfit, prepared my breakfast, packed my bag for the race. I also heated up some of my food and had myself a nice little dinner.
Race morning was nice. I had ample time to go to the bathroom a hundred times, eat my super delicious muesli with berries, drink some tea and make my last preparations.
I got to the race early and easy. Awesome. I again had time to go to the bathroom a million times.
I then milled about awkwardly. The thing about these races is that it’s kind of like high school (but with nicer people), and everyone knows everyone. Well, everyone but me. In line for the bathroom everyone was talking to each other. The woman in front of me was talking about her next 100 miler and the guy behind me was training for Comrades (look it up!)! Sheesh. What was I doing here? Feeling totally ill prepared and inadequate, not to mention totally awkward due to my lack of ability to socialize and make friends with strangers.
They called us to the line. I of course had just exited the bathroom (again) with seconds to go. So I scurried up to the back and we took off! Zoom………um, NOT!
So immediately we jammed up and came to a screeching halt. I had to pretty much walk for over 20 minutes. Argh! I would’ve had to walk either way, but I really screwed myself by starting in the back. However, maybe it was a good thing, because it forced me to walk for 20 minutes and run really slow for probably a good 40 minutes. However, it is super annoying to be all bunched up in this mass of shuffling people. I hate it. I hate crowds, so of course I hate this.
Finally, maybe around 40 or 45 minutes in, I was slowly passing people although it was difficult. I happened upon a small group and passed a woman and ended up behind a really tall guy and a guy in a green hat. I came to find out that the woman behind me and the green hat guy were married. How fun! I apologized for separating them and the wife noted that the husband would be “taking off” soon. And take off he did – so I followed. And I followed. And I followed.
Poor guy, I followed him the whole race! But he was so good at passing and moving people out of my way! He had this slight Mississippi draw and would put a hand to people’s backs and politely get them to move to the side. And viola! We cruised on past a lot of people. We booked a good pace all the way in finishing at 3:02 ish. It was a little quicker of a pace than I had planned on, but I figured I might as well run while I could. I know the next two days are going to be full with even more walking.
I felt good during the race, nothing really bothered me. I didn’t even fall! The only injury was a jagger bush scratched my leg. It was a trail running miracle! However, I had some “gear” issues. They are a cupless race (yay!) and require you to carry water. I went with fuel belt…but my gels wouldn’t fit in it. So I added my Spibelt. But apparently its too big and both belts were slipping and sliding all over the place. Drove me nuts. Um, typically nothing is loosey goosey around my tum tum…but of course this is the day that it would suddenly be slim and trim…
After I finished, I went to the car and got my supplies. Yes, I brought a cooler with ice and my recovery potion and some cherries and a banana. I scarfed down the banana and recovery shake. And put on my flip flops. They had post race 10 minute massages for a dollar a minute. I signed up. Then I meandered around awkwardly trying to blend in so no one would notice the friendless freak.
I texted my mom dad and Pooky that I had finished. Mother Goat was not satisfied with said text and required a picture be sent to her so that she could see I was in one piece. I found a girl standing around who looked friendly and unoccupied. I made her take a photo of me to send to Mo. Then I struck up a brief conversation with the girl and a dude next to her. I thought, yay! I made friends. But then a bunch of their friends came over and suddenly I was awkwardly out of place and not in the conversation so I went to see about the massage again.
Eventually it was massage time. And it was awesome. I cannot wait for tomorrow’s! I am just now remembering that I don’t have enough cash for one. (Damn it snack monster – of course I had to break my $10 the first night to buy candy in the vending machine!)
Then I stood around awkwardly again. I approached a couple ladies with Dirty Spokes visors on and tried to strike conversation based on the fact that I love Dirty Spokes. However – fail!
Then I saw a girl that had an Urban Run Club shirt on (an Atlanta group!), and I saw her go towards these little baby pools. Then I realized – they had ice baths! I wouldn’t need to make one in my hotel bathtub. Excellent!
I sucked it up and got in. It was horrible. I HATE to be cold. I mean HATE to an undescribeable degree! But I forced myself in. In the pool I talked to Urban Run Club girl and two ladies from GUTS (Georgia Ultra and Trail Running Society)! They were all very nice and I was glad. I felt I met my goal of making friends was met for the weekend, and I could go back to my preferred lone goat status.
I completed my 15 minutes in ice bath and then none of us could get back up. I finally got out of that damn tub and made my way to the car. I drove back with the windows down and sunroof open – eating cherries – blasting my music. It was a gorgeous day. Not even humid.
Went to the hotel and unpacked, washed my stuff in the sink, showered, and heated up more of my homemade goods. I googled and facebooked and went through my emails while wearing lots of compression gear. I updated some stuff in the firm case management system and prepped a deposition for Monday …Comfort Inn poolside (note to self- do not wear your compression tights before you want to wear your bathing suit or else you will have lots of weird lines impressed in your body)
All in a days work for the Goat.
Reflecting on today it was an awesome Day One. I was a nervous wreck all this week before arriving. Pooky told me to just go and run and have fun and assured me I could do it. He was right. As soon as I got out on that trail, all my nervousness, all my worry, all my doubt disappeared. Just me and the open trail (and 250 other people) and all was right in the world. It was a good “I get to do this moment” and a good race always resets my head just right. Can’t wait to do it again tomorrow. I don’t know about Sunday, ask me tomorrow 😉
I went to Whole Foods and bought myself some random goodies for dinner….and lots of snacks…feasted and wrote this blog. And now I’m off to fill up my water bottles, order my wake up call – and do it all over again!
Happy Trails all!