After some tossing and turning, it was time to get up and at ’em for the final day. I felt bad that Alicia had to get up so early, but like always, she was a huge help. We got our bags packed up since we’d have to check out of the hotel before we left. After loading up the car, we met Phil, Theresa, Charlie, Gretchen, and a sweet, sleepy BAZ for breakfast. A bagel later, Alicia and I were on our way to Signal Mountain with Gretchen and Phil. Before Stage Race, Signal Mountain was the only mountain that I had run on so things looked a little familiar as we wound around the mountain towards the Start/Finish. The Start/Finish was at a school which meant real bathrooms. Hallelujah! It’s the small things, folks… After a quick chat with Donna and Tracie, a last-minute pep talk from Alicia and Gretchen, and a hug from Roy, it was time to line up for the 3rd and final time.
The race started on a gravel road, but soon we hit the trail. We had a long descent after that. Quickly, we came up on a bridge. I didn’t think anything about until I started running across it. It was a freaking suspension bridge with about 10 guys and gals running across it which meant It.Was.Swinging. Sadie said I looked like a duck running across it, but I was seriously freaking out. After that near death experience, we were back to our descent. 800′ on very technical trails to be exact. At the end of the descent, there was an aid station and turn around point meaning we’d pass the front guys (and girl) before making it all the way down. It’s always nice to see the front-runners do their thing. They all looked like mountain goats hopping up the climb that we were descending. Soon, we were at the aid station, I filled up with water, shouted a “Hey Girl” to Lindsay who was helping out at the aid station, and started the climb back up. This portion is called Suck Creek. Suck, indeed. Just as the top guys passed us, we were passing the single file line of folks behind us. Seeing Erin, Daniel L, Daniel H, Steven, Phil, Theresa, Charlie, Sinith, Roy, Donna, and others really helped make the climb less sucky (see what I did there?).
At this point, Tracie was long gone, and I was just trying to keep up with Sadie who, by the way, hops around boulders and rocks like a mad woman. Trying to keep up with her, I stepped on a rock the wrong way and twisted the same damn ankle as Day 2. This time I could feel it as soon as I did it. Not excruciating, but it definitely was painful to land on. Anyway, soon, we were passing Danny at Mushroom Rock and found ourselves on a relatively flat ridgeline trail.
I got my nerve up to take my eyes off of the trail and look at the view– Holy Batman, it was spectacular. I caught up to Jeff’s friend, Matty, and ran with him to the Edward’s Point aid station (mile 9ish). Miles 9.4-11 were suuuuper technical so I stayed with Sadie. I could see Tracie up ahead, and eventually, all three of us were running together. As there wasn’t much running on this section, there were about 6 or 7 of us in a cluster working our way towards the next aid station. Before we could get there, though, we had to climb stairs, lots of stairs. I think I yelled out “This is really mean” a couple of times because let’s face it, stairs at mile 51 is kind of mean. As we were climbing up the stairs, I spotted Olaf sprawled out on a rock taking pictures (Unbeknownst to me, he had twisted his ankle and had to drop, which is a bummer because he was a great contender for the podium). It was great to see him because 1) he was super encouraging and 2) that meant the aid station wasn’t too far away. After some more climbing, we came to the Signal Point aid station. Boo Boo, Gretchen, and BAZ had come to deliver potatoes and to cheer on the runners. I was so flipping happy to see them. I grabbed some Mountain Dew at the stop — my first time ever drinking soda during a run, and let me tell you, it was glorious. I yelled good-bye to everyone and started out of the aid station.
We were on a paved road for a bit, part of which went by a retirement home where three residents were on the porch waving. Super cute. We ran down a residential road for a little bit, and at one point, there were two kids passing out lemonade and Coke. I chugged some Coke, and we were back on the trail really soon. It got technical quickly, and my ankle was angry at all of the rocks. Normally, I’m decent on technical trails, but not being able to push off of the rocks as well I normally could definitely slowed my pace. The trail wound around a creek a little bit, but all we could really see were rocks, rocks, and more rocks. I slipped multiple times, but never bit it hard which seemed like a win to me. We passed a couple who was watching us scramble by as they sat in lawn chairs drinking beer — it was really hard to turn down their offer to have a cold one. After even more rocks, we were climbing out of the gorge and getting to the final aid station at mile 16.4. I drank some Coke and saw Tracie take off. I quickly gathered myself and went after her. This final section wasn’t technical at all but was a steady climb. My legs felt pretty good, and Hunter told me to redline this section. I tried my best to catch Tracie, but the girl had legs for days. I chased after her on a couple miles of trails that were reminiscent of those on Raccoon Mountain. Soon, I popped out into the sunshine and could see the soccer fields which meant the finish line was close. I heard Alicia yelling so I turned it on as much as I could to finish strongly. 3:27:03 for 20 miles. 8:41:43 for the weekend. 3rd Place. Apparently, it was a 3rd place day for Nashville as Lee was 3rd for the men. This race was stacked with impressive athletes. The top guy and girl — a power couple who runs in/at Colorado– each broke the respective course records (who wants to sponsor me to go train in Colorado for a while???). Annie broke the female record by 23 minutes! Awesome. I was super happy for Tracie who snagged 2nd place– she had a great race as well.
Alicia and I went down to cheer everyone else as they crossed the finish line. Everyone looked so happy/relieved– it was great to watch! After the race was over, Alicia and I piled in with Gretchen, Phil, and BAZ and went to eat at Taco Mamacita. Delicious, as ever. Then, it was time for us to all go our respective ways. Phil, Gretchen, and Alicia headed back to Nashville, and I went back to Athens to stay with (my) Steven and Gypsy.
This race will go down as my favorite race ever. It was such an amazing weekend– running and great friends, what’s not to love?! A big thanks to Rock/Creek, Phil, Tara, and Alicia for their help over the weekend, huge thanks to Hunter, and giant thanks to friends/family for putting up with my obsession over this race for the past 6 months. Now on to Stump/Jump…
Also, if you’re interested in trail training for fall races, check it –http://www.nashvillerunning.com/products/runwild-training It’s where I got obsessed with trails.