Monday, March 3, 2014

Thunder Rock pre-run

Despite my back problems & level of fitness, I'm signed up for several long races this year.  The first one, Potawatomi 150 next month (signed up early last yr) appears physically out of reach at this time so I'm looking at dropping down the distance.

The 2nd one, Thunder Rock 100 in 2 months is a brand new & very scenic race in Tennessee & I jumped on it at registration opening (filled in 48 hrs) as there aren't very many races like this that are within driving distance of Louisville.  Last weekend the Race Director, Randy Whorton, had a pre-run on the first 40+/- miles of the course over a 2 day period.  I had never done back to back long runs before as I've always been too tired after the 1st day.  But I really wanted to see what I had gotten into plus I could quit after the 1st day if needed.

There would be a couple other challenges, other than having back to back long runs:  1. the course was basically unmarked & you had to follow an EVERYTRAIL map that the RD had posted.  I did not have the recommended EVERYTRAIL app to use while on the trail, but I did try to memorize what I could by following a GPS track on Google Earth.   It appeared most trails would have trail blazes, however the old forest roads looked troublesome.  2. With several thousand feet of elevation, it would be tough.

Day 1:

I knew it was going to be a long day in the 1st mile of the run.  About a dozen or so of us runners began on a wide gravelly trail on a slight downhill grade.  Trying to keep up with the group I still fell behind -- problem was they were running an 8:30 pace.  I was expecting a more leisurely pace.  Just before entering single track at 2 miles, I could see over a 1/4 mile ahead & they weren't in sight!

I ran alone, did alot of walking & did some wandering.  The 1st trails had old blazes on the trees, but they were few & far between.  Some intersections were a big guess & I ended up having to run down several trails/roads to try to determine which way to go.  One place in particular was bad & if it hadn't been for someone placing sticks in the road for a makeshift directional arrow pointing off the road, I would have never found my way!  It turns out one runner didn't see those sticks, got lost & had to be tracked down. 

Day 2:

The RD had a different plan the 2nd day since there were several others who had trouble the 1st day.  This day would have more turns & some totally unmarked trails so he would be running sweep.

Surprisingly, I felt OK the 2nd morning as I slept long & well (pretty tired!).  My back (w/brace) would not be an issue either day.  The biggest challenge I could foresee this day was not getting lost!

 bringing up the rear again:                                                     

The 1st day was scenic, but this day took the cake.  If you like running with the view & sound of water rushing by for miles, this is the race for you.  Lots of whitewater rapids too.  One view from about 250 feet straight above a creek was one of those WOW moments.  The trail was so narrow here too & since I have a fear of heights, I had to lean up against the hill on the other side thru this section.

This is a video of the runs:

Again I was running behind the group this day (with the RD running sweep a few minutes behind me this time taking pics & video) but a couple times I would catch the group when they didn't know which way to go & had stopped to wait for the RD.  At one intersection I stopped & waited for the RD because I heard the group ahead up on a hillside where they shouldn't have been.  Turns out they did go the wrong way -- the RD ran after them.  I didn't go so I inherited the lead . . . until I got off course!

One of the new directions (RD changed them from the posted course) I heard just before we started was:  after about a couple miles after the right turn at the 1st intersection on the gravel road, turn left at the orange gate.  Well, I did that.  Turns out there was ANOTHER orange gate (the correct one) just a little further down!   No trail blazes this end of the course, so I was on my own.  After a half mile & down a 300' hill, the forest road became increasingly overgrown & difficult to traverse.  I had also passed a "50/50 guess" intersection down the hill -- should I have turned?  Well, I decided to turn around & go all the way back to the orange gate. 

Luckily, the RD (who had ran down the off course group earlier) was passing by on the gravel road!  So I was able to run to the finish with the RD.  When I got home & checked my GPS with the final miles WITH the RD, we did NOT run on the course we were directed to!  Wo!

Oh yes, I get motion sickness easily & on the very hilly/curvy van trips to the start & finish on these point to point runs, I got sick!  We even had to stop once for me to recover . . .


Chris said...

This new 100 looks interesting. I'm entranced by the Potawatomi 150. I may do it next year! Good luck to you. Hope to see you at LBL. Jeff Riddle and I are both doing the marathon.

ed said...

Thanks Chris! Looking forward to seeing you & Jeff. I hope to redeem myself after last year's collapse.