Stump Jump 50K

I signed up for the Stump Jump 50K as a training race for my planned “A” race – Pine Mountain 40. I knew the timing was not perfect, being only 3 weeks post Ironman Wisconsin and 9 weeks out from Pine Mountain, but John said it was a great race and it was only a 2 hour drive away. Since Wisconsin was a bit of a bust I was at least a little bit more prepared physically then I would have been otherwise. 

Come run the premier 50k trail race in the Southeast. Taking place on a beautiful dirt-packed trail with Tennessee mountain stone thrown in — and with a 5000+ ft. elevation gain — the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k benefits Wild Trails for trail access and maintenance efforts in the Chattanooga area. 

I couldn’t run for about a week while my knees healed from the damage done from my mis-aligned cleats. So that left 2 weeks to prepare. Prior to this, my longest run had been 14 miles back in August. Bottom line, 31 miles was going to hurt.

I got a bit of running done in the last 2 weeks. My new Hokas arrived and I did 3 runs in them but was concerned because I was experiencing a hot spot on my right arch. Stump Jump is a lot rockier than the nice trails we run on around here so I was worried about beating up my feet without the Hokas. Up until race day I was still waffling on whether I would actually wear them.

Friday afternoon we headed up to Chattanooga and we made it in time to check in and pick up our race packets. The race shirt was a Patagonia capilene technical shirt in hot pink – very nice! The expo looked great, lots of great vendors and good gear but since we arrived a bit late everything was getting packed up. The expo was in the park along the river and it was absolutely beautiful. The area surrounding the park was full of fun shops and restaurants. I would love to come back when we have some time to explore.

We grabbed some food and then headed back to the expo area for the North Face speaker series. The featured speaker was Diane Van Deren. Incredible woman, incredible journey. Check out her story here.

Next stop was to check in to the hotel, get our gear organized and then off to bed. I slept well since I was not nervous at all. I knew it was going to be a long day and that the course would be tough but I would get through it so I was not too worried. My only nagging problem was my shoes. I decided to go with my Montrail Mountain Masochists and take the beating.

Race morning we got dressed, packed up the car and we headed to the start. We parked and found Mike, Sandy, Leslie and Phil. First thing Phil said to me was that this course was going to make Sweetwater look flat. Joy! OK, well too late to back out. Let’s just do this thing. 

John, me, Leslie, Sandy & Eva, Mike, Phil

We lined up and the race was on. The first part of the race wound around the middle school where the race began. The school was huge and we spent almost 3 miles still in the vicinity of the school. Our group stayed together but I knew this would not last long. I am the slowest and I am used to running alone on trails. I had my camel bak and my iPod so I was going to be fine. The first aid station was at the mushroom rock. None of us stopped and we headed down a steep part of the course. This would be key because we would have to come back up it starting around mile 26 and I was so not looking forward to it. 

I soon lost the group because I am a little more cautious on the downhills than the rest. Eventually I came to a swinging bridge a little more downhill and then we headed across the road and the fun started. We climbed a bunch and then headed along a narrow trail overlooking the river. It was absolutely beautiful. I brought my phone to take some pictures so I knew I would stop on the way back. For now, I wanted to keep moving while my energy was high. I ran whenever the trail was relatively flat and walked up any steep inclines. I was beginning to get hungry and looked froward to grabbing some food at the next aid station. The second aid station had snacks but no PB&J so I kept moving. I was a bit surprised since all the ultras I had done prior to this always had great aid stations with lots of real food. This is not like a marathon where you grab some gatorade and carry your gels and gus. These races take a lot out of you between the distance and terrain and you need substantial food and calories. Thankfully I had a few granola bars and gus on hand.

The next aid station was at the Indian rock house and the start of the big loop. Yay! PB&J. I grabbed a bunch of the little sandwiches and was on my way again. While on the loop I kept looking for the “rock garden” John warned me about. He sad a lot of people got lost here and make sure you always see a flag. Meanwhile I was getting hungry again. The next 2 aid stations did not have any sandwiches – only pretzels, fig newtons (yuck!) and other snack like things. Where is the real food? At GRR we had grilled cheese sandwiches. Was I wrong to think they should have more food? Maybe we do stuff different in GA? Either way I was getting tired, grumpy and hungry. 

The miles kept ticking by and still nothing I would call a rock garden until I came upon 2 ladies who looked lost. I knew we were going the right way and encouraged them to keep looking for flags and basically took the lead. The path was not that hard to follow despite the moss covered rocks and lots of fallen yellow leaves that looked like the little yellow flags. Many of the trees had markings for the trail too so I was never worried that I was lost.  The rock garden done I continued on and back to the beginning of the loop. This was the one place that had sandwiches the first time around and thankfully had sandwiches again. Yay! I grabbed a bunch more and headed back to the finish. 

On the final stretch back I passed quite a few people since I still had some energy to run. I walked through the more technical parts but anytime there was nice clear trail I ran. That was until I fell. It was narrow section of trail and not particularly “rooty” so I am not sure what happened except I went down in a  cloud of dust. Thankfully the ground was soft and I did not hit any rocks – completely amazing since this race should more accurately be called Rock Jump. I dusted myself off, stretched my right calf since it cramped up when I fell,  and kept on moving. I was thankful for no scrapes or bruises and that I did not fall down the side of the mountain. I ran for a little bit feeling good and then looked at my Garmin to check distance. That’s when I noticed the crack! Apparently, I cracked the crystal of my watch when I fell. Damnit! It looked like it was still working so I tried not to get too mad about the whole thing and concentrate on finishing. 

Soon, we were back to the road, up a steep part of the trail which I navigated pretty well since I ended up passing a guy with 2 hiking poles because he was slowing me down. The trail leveled out again and then we were at the swinging bridge again. Now it was time to get back up all that steep section we came down in the beginning. I trudged up feeling not too bad and eventually I was at the mushroom rock again. Turns out it was not as bad as I had feared.  I snapped a picture of the Mushroom rock and then headed back to the school.

The trails here were nice and wide and I was amazed that I was still running. I looked at my watch and it was going to be close if I was going to make it in 9 hours. I was going to be ecstatic with a 8:30 finish but i knew it would be tough with the difficulty of the course and my lack of training, so 9 seemed pretty realistic. I pushed on and crossed the finish line with a Garmin time of 9:00:50. 

My time was not great by any means. Some lunatic finished this same course in 3:50! This race was an ultra championship race so some big talent was on hand. Based on the times of my friends and what I know of their speeds I did pretty darn good. Especially with the lack of running the past few months. The course was tougher than any that I had run in Georgia with lots of climbing and tons of rocks but I still passed a bunch of people on that last stretch. I was happy that I still had energy at the finish and felt pretty good. My calves were tight and my feet a bit sore but not too bad overall. The biggest problem was that I was hungry! The burger tent shut down just as I finished which seemed awfully early given that there were many more people still on the course. Thankfully, Leslie grabbed a few burgers just as they closed up shop.

Leslie and I rest out legs while I finish my burger and beer

Would I do this race again? Definitely! It was a great course, absolutely beautiful, wonderful people and volunteers but next time I will pack more food!

Looking forward to really putting in a lot of miles in the next few months and can’t wait to run an Ultra that I actually trained for – Pine Mountain 40, here I come!

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