Monday, October 4, 2010

Tennessee Stump Jump

Some days I feel fast and am able to translate that into fast running and fast times. On other days I feel sluggish and slow. Then there are the days where everything leading into a race I am feeling fast, healthy, ready, only to have a mediocre race. Last weekend was one of those mediocre races. After getting into Chattanooga late on Thursday night I wasn't able to settle down in my hotel room until late. Friday was a whirlwind of talking with fellow La Sportiva teammates and showing runners the current and new lines of shoes. There are some really cool new shoes that I'm looking forward to running in. The Electron with the Morpho Dynamic technology looks great (I can't wait to get this shoe for running in Yosemite), as does the new design and slight changes made to the Crosslite, and the new X Country. Seems like La Sportiva is going to be making some great changes for next year.
After talking to other runners about the shoes for 5hours I was exhausted. That evening I found myself tossing and turning most of the night trying to get a few hours of sleep before the race.

The race started very quickly with a large group of guys charging out hard. I laid pretty far back and got myself into a comfortable pace. I was feeling pretty good. The StumpJump course is a tough 50k lollipop through some of the forests just north of Chattanooga. The terrain is beautiful with great views of the Tennessee River and Signal Mountain. Photo credit:

Going into the race I was feeling good and happy to be out there running. I had a little trouble bouncing back from Burning River, but I really tried to focus on enjoying my runs and putting in good non-tedious miles for training. I probably only wore a watch 20% of my runs leading into the StumpJump.

The first 10miles I was feeling happy to be out there running and feeling like I was moving along somewhere in the top 20. Although I was having trouble running some of the steep technical downhill sections. While other people seemed to be flying down these spots I was doing all I could to not come crashing down. I know I need to really put some time in on running more technical downhills if I want to have a chance of hanging with some of the top runners out there.

At some point between miles 12 and 15 my mind started to fall out of the race. I'm still not sure why this happened; I was staying up pretty well on my nutrition and wasn't going too fast for my fitness. If anything I would think it was from lack of sleep over the days leading up to the race. For miles 12-20 I was not feeling the race, I was in a gap between the lead pack of runners and the chase pack behind me with nobody in site. Running in no-mans-land by myself I fell into a steady but non-inspired pace just feeling like there wasn't a lot of energy in my legs or my body for that matter.
I continued to take in my calories and kept moving at a comfortable pace, hoping I would snap out of it. I don't remember what aid-station it was but one of the volunteers told me I was in ninth place. I wasn't too thrilled to hear this, thinking I was higher in the rankings but I started to tell myself: "alright you're having a bad day, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy yourself out on the trails".

For some reason I kept thinking to myself I was having a bad day. This didn't sit well with me though. I thought if someone were to ask me what I did today I wouldn't be able to say "oh today was a bad day, I spent 5hours out on beautiful trails getting to do something I love." It just didn't seem like I could actually say I was having a bad day. Maybe not the day I wanted to have, or the race I believe I am capable of having , but in no way a bad day. I think once I started to tell myself this my pace started to quicken. I started to feel happy again to be out there and focused on what I was doing. I didn't care about what place I was going to finish in, I just wanted to be out there enjoying myself.

I kept plugging away at the trail making better progress than I had been and feeling pretty good about just being out there. With about 1 1/2miles to go I turned a corner and there was another runner... I didn't expect that! I passed them pretty quick and made another turn and there one switch back up was another runner...what? Well I closed that gap quickly and right in front of him there were two other guys running together so I pushed a little harder on the throttle and jumped by them. I was flying along at what felt like sub 7min pace at this point in the race enjoying some of the easier trail sections, knowing that I was opening the gap on the guys I had just passed. I was glad to be passing people this late in the race and with what felt like a sense of authority, but what was really great was I was having fun and feeling like I was pushing my body to go a little harder than I had all day. Then with about 1/2mile to go I saw yet another runner in front of me. I was able to give one final surge and pass him and hold on through to the finish line; catching up on 5places in the last 1 1/2miles.

So this wasn't one of my best races, and I know I could have done better out there but ultimately I enjoyed myself and finished well overall. I would have liked to make the podium but it just wasn't in my mind or body on that day for some reason. Maybe I just rolled over when I should have been pushing harder, I don't know and I don't really feel like analyzing it anymore than I already have. I'm fine with having a good day (even if not necessarily a fast day) out on the trails. I am pretty new to the trail running scene; I have done cross country, and put in some miles on the road over the last few years, but going out into the woods for hours with little more than a water bottle and some food is pretty new to me. One of the things I am finding I truly enjoy about running is where it has taken me. Being able to go out to Yosemite and run in back country that takes most people one or two days to get to, running from Cleveland to Cuyahoga Falls, or hitting some trails in Tennessee I would have never seen otherwise is one of the aspects of running that will always reaffirm why I am out there whether I am having a fast day or a slow day.

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