Day 2 of the Stage Race was Lookout Mountain. 5:15 am came more quickly than I expected. After a quick assessment of my legs (they were still there, only now with a few newly found muscles), I got ready and met up with my breakfast crew of Phil, Theresa, Charlie, and the new addition of Whitney who had driven down the night before. Soon, we were loaded up and headed towards Lookout Mountain by 6:30 am. Just the drive up the mountain was beautiful. We passed the spot where you can supposedly see 7 states. I wondered out loud where Alabama was, Whitney responded with “Look for the tire fire”, and then we all had a good laugh at the expense of my home state. (Roll Tide) We got to the Start/Finish area and saw all of the usual suspects of the Nashville trail community that were running that day. Finally, it was time to line up to take on 22 miles.
The first mile or so of the race was on a pretty wide road, and I was just trying to keep up with Jeff as I knew we’d be stuck in a bottleneck soon. Sure enough, we slowed down and filed into a steady climb on single track. After a little bit, the climb got steep enough to where there was a rope to help us up. I had been worried about this part, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. In fact, I think we probably could have made it up without it. . . but it did make for some cool pictures. After the climb. we hit the ridgeline.
I was right behind the 2nd place girl, Tracie, so I stayed with her for a bit. We were running on a slight incline the entire time on the ridgeline, but my legs felt really good. We looped back through to the Start/Finish area and hit the first aid station around mile 5. We passed Roy’s wife Darlene, as we headed back into the woods, and I enjoyed seeing a smiling, familiar face.
The trail looked a lot like day 1’s trail for a while, and I just focused on staying near one of the guys ahead of me. I remember thinking at one point, “Holy crap, I’m ahead of Jeff.” But alas, my moment in the sun was fleeting as I soon heard him talking and coming up from behind just as I was climbing up a pretty annoying hill. I quickly turned around to say hey, and he looked awesome. After the annoying hill, we hit the sunshine and began what some call the power line hill. Basically, it’s a super long climb that is near some power lines. Aptly named, I suppose. At the top of the climb was the second aid station. I could see the 1st place girl and a couple of guys stopping to fill up. It would be a solid 4 or 5 minutes before we’d make it up to there though. At the aid station, I got some water and ate some honey stinger chews. Jeff headed on, and I wouldn’t see him again until the finish. After this aid station, I struggled for a few miles. The trail led us into the woods for a bit and then popped us back out near some more power lines. I had a mini panic attack because I thought not only was I lost but I’d have to climb that giant ass power line hill again to figure out where I was. Luckily, I stuck to the trail and discovered I was headed in the right direction. I headed back into the woods for some switchbacks and a few climbs/downhills. I began running with a few guys as we hit a more technical part of the trail. Soon, I saw Danny and knew that we’d be coming up on the 3rd and final aid station pretty quickly. We popped out on the road, I saw Darlene again (praise be!), and we went through the Start/Finish aid station. At some point along the way, I tweaked my ankle. At the aid station, I explained/yelled this to Whitney using some colorful language. My delayed apologies to any virgin ears that were at the aid station.
After the aid station, we headed across a bridge and ran a backwards version of the loop that we began the day with. We hit the ridgeline, this time the incline in our favor. However, this time it felt longer, much longer. I decided to eat some more honey stinger chews, and as I did, I basically just fell over and on to the ground. I really don’t think I tripped on anything. Luckily, I landed in some tall grass, and I must say it was probably the nicest fall I’ve ever had. After a while, we hit the steep downhill and had to use the rope to climb down. I was definitely thankful for the rope this time. We took a different road to the left to add on a couple of miles to this version of the loop. This gave us a spectacular view of Lula Falls. I asked a guy how much further we had around this point. A mile or so was left so I decided to pick it up a bit. The trail kind of wound around a creek and became a little harder to follow. Soon though, we hit the sight that I’d been looking forward to all day. The creek crossing– this meant only a half mile or so to go! And the water was awesome! I heard Lindsay yell my name as I was running (or trying to run) through the creek which was an added boost.
The last half mile was a waterlogged one, but it was great. I finished the day as 2nd place girl with a time of 2:51:24. After crossing the finish line, I chugged some Coke like I was freaking sponsored by them and then hit the stream that was only about 20 yards or so from the finish.
After a few minutes, I got out to watch everyone else finish their race. Tracie crossed very soon after I did, and since we didn’t talk much during the race, we chatted for a bit after. She’s an awesome runner and just a sweet, great person. I really enjoyed meeting her this weekend. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– trail runners are some of the best people around. Sadie and Daniel L finished up and then Daniel H and Steven were done. Theresa, Charlie, Phil, and Whitney (He ran the last 7 miles with Phil like a champ) finished up. Phil, Whitney, and I hit the creek with some brews. Perfection. When he got done, Roy “The Machine” jumped in the creek. Always great to see Roy– the man races almost every weekend. Like I said, machine. As we left, Donna, Sinith, and others had already finished. Another great day for Nashville runners.
We grabbed burritos at Mojo Burrito where I inhaled a burrito as big as my face. Almost in a food coma, we went back to the hotel for an extended rest. I exchanged some emails with Hunter about the day’s run and strategy for tomorrow. At 6pm, I met up with my weekend crew, Charlie, Theresa, and Phil. Phil’s lovely wife, Gretchen, had come down with their baby, Belén (adorable!), so we all headed to the Crash Pad for a beer. While there, I got a chance to talk to Sadie and Danny some. I also met a great runner from Nashville, Cody, who’s planning a stage race in August and talked to yet another great Nashvillian runner, Olaf (seriously, Nashville has some great talent. Very cool to be in their presence and learn from them all weekend). I talked to Donna, Meredith, and Roy for a bit, and then the weekend crew went to grab dinner at Elemental. My Boo Boo, Alicia H, drove all the way from Nashville after work and met us at the restaurant. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G to see her! We had a fantastic dinner (pesto gnocchi = to die for). After dinner, we went back to the hotel. Alicia helped me ice down my tweaked ankle (it started swelling right after the race) and helped calmed any nerves I had for the next day. I sent some final, semi-frantic texts to Hunter which were immediately responded to with some encouragement, advice, and just a simple “have freaking fun” which really is the point of all of this, huh? Then, it was bedtime — finally!
Overall– fabulous day of running and awesome friends.