Tag Archives: Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race

River Gorge Race Recap

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Pre-Race pic w/ RunWILD Crew

Rock/Creek’s River Gorge is a 10.2 mile race at Prentice Cooper State Forest. Nashville Running Compay‘s RunWILD: On the Rocks training group had been working towards this race since January, and I was so excited to bring everyone over to Chattanooga for the race, especially the newbies. The weekend started with picking up Phil, Duane, and Brandon on Friday. After a traffic jam, a pit stop for Phil’s new ride, and check-ins to our respective hotels, it was time for one of my favorite parts of the weekend – Lupi’s Pizza! A couple of slices and a few brews later, and it was bedtime.

The next morning was cool and clear – perfect race weather. We got to the start of the race with about a half an hour to spare. After gathering up our group for a “team” picture, I ran a nice warmup, said hellos to Jeff and Jobie (who graciously stood watch for my woodland bathroom stop), and took my place at the start line.

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Emerging from pit stop; practicing for AC100. Photo cred: Jobie Williams

The race starts on a road, uphill before taking a left onto a rocky jeep road. This is always a fast start, both out of necessity and adrenaline. It’s pretty important in this race to get a good position early as the trails narrows quickly. I decided to go out a little harder early on than I usually would in such a race. I knew there were some super talented girls, and my plan was to try and put enough space between them early on. And it worked . . . for about 3 miles. From almost the get-go, I settled in behind Rock/Creek’s Samuel Hammonds at a really good but hard pace. Just before the first aid station, I heard Jeannette come up behind me, moving really well. She passed me, and I was able to keep her in my sights for a mile or so. After a while, however, I couldn’t spot the bright NRC jersey. I told myself to just run for time – shoot for a PR. I could tell by now that CR was way off (originally, this was my goal, but my lack of training over the last few months screwed me on that). By the time we reached the jeep road climb around mile 7, I was ready to hike but also ready for the pain that I knew would follow. This is the point in the race that I look forward to the most. It’s where the race essentially starts. It’s the point in the race that I mentally prepare for the entire previous 7 miles – looking forward to the pain, excited for the suffering to come. I hiked a little more than I wanted to, and after passing the 2nd aid station and hiking most of the switchbacks, it was time to rock ’n’ roll. I tried to turn the burners on as much as possible before the rock garden slowed me down. I had resigned myself to Jeannette’s win and was happy that it would stay in the NRC family. I may have thought briefly that I was going to burn my jersey since I had yet to win a race in it, but I swear that was just a fleeting thought.

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Photo Cred: J. Williams

Soon, the terrain became rockier and the trail darker. Rock garden time, baby! Shortening my stride, I made my way over the increasing-in-size rocks. As I looked up to get my bearings, I saw Jeannette about 10 yards ahead of me. I think I audibly exclaimed “holy shit”. At first, I thought she was having trouble on the rocks, but turns out, she twisted her ankle a mile or two earlier. After checking to make sure she was ok, I continued on. And then thought “crap, now I gotta run this”. Even injured, I knew Jeannette cold be strong enough to take me down. I had never really run through the rock garden, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I picked it up and hopped rock to rock as best as I could. Jobie, Jeff, and Conrad were somewhere along the way, but as I was trying not to die (or at least not bust my teeth out), I don’t think I even acknowledged them. After getting out of the rock garden, I knew it was about ¾ of a mile and that I needed to RUN. My legs felt like they had just run 98 miles though. If Jeannette hadn’t been so close, I probably would’ve just hiked. However, I forced my legs to go as fast as they could. I caught back up to Samuel, and even though I knew how far we had, I croaked out a “how. much. further?” “Half mile”. . . which sounded like 17 miles in my head. We crossed the jeep road, and I thought the next climb was the one to the finish. WRONG. Finally, though, I could see the arch and made my way across the finish line. I finished and wanted to die – I thought “Phil would be proud”. There was definitely no smiling for a couple of minutes. I was freaking spent.

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 “Running” through the Rock Garden     Photo Cred: Jobie

Finishing time — 1:28: 37. First Female. Jeannette finished a couple of minutes later. I love winning. Like love it love it. Like love it more than anything (duh, I’m a Bama fan). But the win seemed a little hollow. This was Jeannette’s to win, and she even seemed on pace to break the CR if it hadn’t been for an ankle turn. The trail is a cruel mistress though – which is why I respect it, fear it, and love it.

Anyway, for the next hour and a half, we cheered on the whole RunWILD crew as they made their way through the finish. As much as I love racing, it’s just as fun to watch everyone else have a great race, or their first race, or their 12th race . . . especially this one. I absolutely LOVE this race. It’s probably my favorite race of all time. The course, the culture, having all of our crew down there, seeing all of our Chattanooga pals, all of it. I don’t think I could have asked for a better day. Big thanks to Rock/Creek for another awesome race, and HUGE congrats to our entire RunWILD crew!

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Post-Race Pic w/ RunWILD crew

Goals, Goals, Goals


Oh, Harvey. You’re such a hottie.

I love goals, and I love to plan. I make to-do lists and schedules for myself at least once of day. I have 2 paper calendars and a google calendar. I keep a legal pad that’s just for my “agenda”. For goal races, I’ll post my goal time on the mirror with a sticky note or on the fridge (usually near the beer drawer which is where it’ll get the most eye traffic). I always make A, B, and C goals for these races and write them down everywhere. As much as I love both of these things, I don’t think I’ve ever planned out my goals for the year (Maybe I have and there’s a previous blog post that’ll call me a liar, but I’m too lazy to go fact check myself). And for accountability/transparency’s sake, I’m sharing this with you, my loyal 22 readers.

General/Vague Goals — Faster/Stronger/Mentally Tougher

Mileage — 3000 for the year


Mt. Cheaha 50K (Feb 27) : no time goal really (no, I’m serious). Sub-6:00 would be nice but using this has a “get back in shape run”

River Gorge 10.2 (March 26): Course PR

WDW Star Wars 1/2 Marathon (April 17): PR BUT with Disney crowds this may be hard

Bend Marathon (or 1/2) (April 24): This is a questionable race b/c of time, finances, and the fact it’d be one of 4 straight road races. But another pour from my Smith & Lentz growler, and it’s about to be unquestionable

Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon -Nashville (April 30): running this in conjunction with Nashville Running Company and Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s fundraising opportunity

Strolling Jim (May 7): sub-6:00

Race Against the Sun: No expectations; just a “fun” night race in prep for AC 100

Angeles Crest 100 (Aug 6): Don’t die/Finish — and that’s lofty.

The rest of the year is kind of dependent on AC100 recovery and what not. Would love to do Upchuck 50K. Up to suggestions for end of year races!





Rock/Creek River Gorge Recap

As I described in the my earlier blog post, we made it to the start line of the Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race with only minutes to spare. My “warm-up” was the mad dash from the car to the start line as I put on my Nashville Running Company shirt. I quickly filled up my handheld, said hello to some of the awesome Chatty folks — Chris, Nathan H., and the RD, Brian — and then toed the line. I knew that I wanted to be pretty close to the front of the starting line, but getting too far in front still makes me uncomfortable. I found a spot that I liked just as we took off. From the outset, we were headed up a hill. People were already starting to jockey for good positions as we went up the hill and started down a graveled jeep road. I settled in behind Nathan G from RunWILD just as we went down the steep stone stairs and onto single track. We were in a pretty sizeable train of runners which was nice at the start. It forced me to go a little more conservatively than I would’ve had I been out on my own.

As we wound around a switchback and up some rocks, I saw Phil . . . and the second place female or “White Shirt”. As I typically do before a race, I ultrasignup stalked the competition. There was a chick on the entrants list whose name I recognized. Super strong, super experienced, super fast. I thought White Shirt was her coming up hot behind me. We were still in a pretty big train though so I wasn’t too worried. However, the slowness of the train was starting to get to me. While I was glad it forced me to conserve, the “easy” pace soon became too slow. People had definitely gone out way too fast and were already donezo. We were getting close to the first aid station. I could tell White Shirt was going to try and make her move on me. I kept telling myself to “run your race”  and “don’t worry about White Shirt.” Luckily, there was no spot for her to pass as we were still on single track and in the slow train.

Photo Cred: Timothy Neddleton

Photo Cred: Timothy Neddleton

As we came through the first aid station around mile 3.5, I was still behind Nathan G, and he smartly passed the slower leaders of the train. I followed suit. White Shirt was right behind me. The voice in my head shifted from “run your own race and don’t worry about White Shirt” to  “if you’re going to get beaten, have the guts to get beaten at the end, putting it all on the line, making everyone else work their hardest to beat you.”  Just as I thought this, White Shirt tried to step off the trail and around me.


Not here, not like this, White Shirt. So I picked up the pace until I settled in behind Ken, and White Shirt was a few guys behind me. I knew this section could make or break the race. It’s completely runnable, but I also knew what lay ahead. For the next 3 miles or so, we ran on beautiful single track with some rollers and awesome creek crossings.  At some point, I quickly glanced behind me to see who was back there. White Shirt had now been passed by another girl — Blue Shirt — who was running great. She looked strong and comfortable. I knew we were getting close to where the race actually started — mile 7 aid station. My goal was to hold her off until then. Pretty soon, we popped out onto the jeep road/climb up to the aid station. This is a pretty big climb that leads into a pretty big climb. I was ready to suffer and to put this race to bed.

I ran up the hill and through the aid station. As soon as you get back on the trail, you’re met with some pretty gnarly switchbacks. I knew these wouldn’t last long, but they are tough. I glanced back once more and saw Blue Shirt about 15 yards behind me. I decided to run the switchbacks at a pretty good pace instead of hiking them. As I made my way up, I looked behind me for the “last time”. Blue Shirt was still hiking up. This was where I wanted to make my real move — I wanted to get out of her line of vision and crush any hope she had.* I was at a completely runnable section, I was still feeling great, and I knew the rock garden was coming up — so I ran like hell. I passed one guy, but other than that, I was on my own the rest of the race. I kept up a pace that I was really pleased with, just trying to put as much distance between myself and Blue Shirt.

Soon, the terrain became rockier, and it became darker. The rocks became bigger and more frequent. I finally made it to the rock garden. I “ran” as much as I could through this section, but I struggled through here more than I had in the past. The rock garden also lasted longer than I had remembered. Finally, I reached the climb out and looked behind (I had told myself not to look to see if anyone was behind me after I left the switchback, but I couldn’t help myself). There was one guy but no females. I knew the section between the rock garden and the finish was pretty short so as I was climbing out I kept saying “hammer it home, finish in a way Phil would be proud of.” I glanced at my watch — I thought I was way off pace to break 1:30, but it said 1:24. I turned my legs on as much as they would go and made my way down and then up a half mile or so. I could see the tents at the finish and tried to pick it up even more. I crossed the finish line right under 1:29 at 1:28:54 and first female.

Photo Cred: Sir Speedy, Nathan Holland

Photo Cred: Sir Speedy, Nathan Holland

This was, obviously, really cool, but the best part of the race was yet to come. Watching everyone finish from the RunWILD group was incredible– the day couldn’t have been much better. (You can read all about that in my earlier blog post as well!)

My takeaways from this race:

I didn’t break last year’s time which was totally fine. I didn’t go into the race with any time goals or expectations. I do think, because I felt way too good in the final 3 miles, that I went out too conservatively. I did, however, enjoy the first 7 miles much more than last year. I also think what helped me the most was looking forward to the pain and suffering of the final 3 miles. During those first 7 miles, all I wanted to do was get to the climb up to the aid station and start hurting. Anyway, it was a great day, I learned a lot about myself at this race, and I’m ready for more.

*Blue Shirt and White Shirt (Molly and Heather respectively) were both incredibly nice and incredibly great racers.