Stump Jump runners, you know the one I’m talking about. Trottin’ along that bright green, over-grown, thin single-track ridge, just’a ’bout one mile before “the loop” portion of the lollipop course – stops you dead in your tracks, huh?
The view makes the mountains look huge, and the river look cool as those ridge temps rise, and once again you’re reminded you why you love the trails so much.
Welcome to Stump Jump.
Stump Jump has more of a marathon feel. Lots of big name sponsors, thick swag bags, expensive product giveaways, and flawless race management. Not to mention a slew of runners from all over the Southeast – many of whom have made this race an annual deal.
It’s easy to see why.
The usual local speedsters were there – Todd Henderson, Marty Coleman, the Whortons, Youngrens etc… and the race certainly carried a strong runner-family vibe that made post-race chillin’ very comfortable.
So you think your special?
I guess I am so cocky, living in my own head of la-la-land, that I don’t believe I need to ever recover. Like somehow, even though I am still a newbie, I don’t need to take recovery seriously.
But, since September 7, after completing my first 100-miler, I have succeeded in avoiding rest almost completely. Instead, I found myself:
- CrossFit competing, locally and nationally, with Fight Gone Bad (twice)
- Busting a 10K for time so that I could secure a good Peachtree qualification for ’09
- Pacing my son in another local 10K
- Practicing the olympic lifts and kettle bell training incessantly
- and of course, now running the Stump Jump 50K …and sadistically shooting for a PR
Well, the PR wasn’t gonna happen. People who know the course quickly assured me of this fact, which only made me feel silly and stupid; but worse, I really had no business running a 50K at all right now – with or without all the ridiculousness I’ve been involved in over the last 30 days.
I wasn’t recovered.
So there, I got it out of the way. I had to say it, but I won’t dwell on it. The race itself deserves much more than me droning on about my idiocy regarding my over-training, lack of rest/recovery, and obsessive disorder to run myself into the ground.
A first time in the Tennessee mountains
Surprisingly, this is the first ultramarathon I have run in Tennessee. Chattanooga is a cool little town, with some rugged mountain trails, and I sort of fell in the love with the place from packet-pickup, through our night on the town, and on into the vibe at the race start.
I rode up Friday night with Jason Rockman, a local speedy dude, and after swinging by Rock Creek Outfitters to gather our race packets, we headed to out for a pre-race meal of bone-in ribeye steaks and salad …and one, …well, maybe two, micro-brews at Big River Grille.
Standing in the dark, crowded parking lot, as the race director was shouting out the last of the race announcements, he asked, “how many people are running their first 50K?”
Lots of hands raised. Like, about of a quarter of the group…
“God help us all”, was his last comment.
And with that, we were off.
First trip up “the stick”
The race course is shaped like a lollipop.
Runners head up “the stick” of the lollipop which begins with some trail that seemed to probably be part of a high school cross country course. Well manicured, with some tiny gravel mixed in, and gently rolling.
This is a good place to pick up the pace early if you’re feeling strong because the trails in the first handful o’ miles are double-track wide and not-too-technical.
The “easy” part ends after the first aid station, and runners are presented with a very fast, technical descent, followed by a steep ascent, before yet another very fast and technical descent. Some of these descents were hairy when negotiated with quick feet, and a couple of times I felt the fears of a misstep.
After aid station 2, Suck Creek Road, the “stick” of the lollipop becomes a stretch of rocky, ridge-running, which presents a bunch of vast, gorgeous views – but don’t take your eyes off the trail for too long or you’ll become acquainted with it up close – and with a thud.
Loopy in the loop
The loop part of the course felt very different to me. It was darker, gloomier …felt more remote; and for the most part I was really enjoying it. A few hills, but nothing crazy, and although the feelings of over-training were rapidly descending upon me, I was in trail running heaven.
Then the rocks came.
There was this ridiculous boulder field that during any other time, I might of thought of as cool; but not at that moment. All the pains experienced during, and post, my Superior Sawtooth 100-mile race, were coming back to visit me – and coming back hard and strong.
I might be wrong, but to me, it seemed this boulder field was at least a mile long if not longer. My legs took a beating both from slippin’ ‘n jacking them on other rocks – to – simply tweaking and cambering my ankles and feet in odd stepping contortions from one rock to another.
Again, normally, I’d love this, so I’m sure others probably liked this stretch, but in pain, it made for a difficult challenge.
Then, of course, comes the notorious 17th mile climb.
A steep dirt road makes for some interesting foreshadowing. Once runners take a sharp left off the dirt road, the trail gets even steeper, heading straight up.
But it’s still not as steep as the climb out of… well, I’ll get to that inna’ minute…
After that welcome summit, runners get a little more single-track, forest running, to finish the 10.5 mile loop.
Back on “the stick”
This stretch at the end of the loop, to Suck Creek Road about 4.5 miles away, was some painful running for me. Although we had run it the opposite direction in the beginning, it seemed at lot longer with 21 miles on the legs.
I saw some casualties on this stretch.
Runners sure can bellow some pretty unique noises during a good bust-ass, and sure enough, I heard a familiar, yet one-of-a-kind, loud grunt, followed by a thud.
Rounding the corner, I laid eyes on a bummed out guy sitting on a rock, rubbing and cringing from a calf cramping dirt dive.
I just have to say, that the climb out of Suck Creek Road is just plain, east-coast-no-switchbacks hard. I was woozy and walking up the mountain like I was drunk. The beginning and end of this section, to the 28 mile point, is really, really steep and I had to use my hands to finally crawl up and out to that last aid station.
A little surge to the finish
The guy I rode up with is completely opposite, but when I realize I am within five miles of a finish, I tend to find some new found energy and extra pain threshold.
I started to push it a little for much of the last stretch to the finish, running strong, and passing a few people who snipped me earlier.
I crossed the finish line in 7:17 disappointed, very tired, loopy, and hungry.
And that was it.
No nutty experiences.
No Spiritual awakenings
No new friends.
Just a solid realization that I am significantly over-trained, under-nourished, and in need of rest.
The Stump Jump 50K is a top-notch event, perfectly run with awesome swag bags, giveaways, and post race experience; but this is the lamest race report I’ve ever written.
I guess that just happens sometimes.