2012 Stump Jump 50K

Stump Jump 50K Race Report by Coach John

I have really enjoyed this race course, Chattanooga, and the people who put it on Rock/Creek.  So much so that not only did I sign up for this race but also the Upchuck 50K and the Lookout Mountain 50 miler.  We arrived into town Friday afternoon for packet pickup and the expo. Afterward we went to a nearby bar for some dinner and beer on the patio until the panel of speakers at 7:00. Each year the race has really cool prizes and interesting speakers. While we were listening to a panel of three pro ultra-runners hot air balloons were being filled in a nearby park. The weekend of this race kicks off a week long river festival in the city.

This year the race offered the opportunity to camp at the start/finish line on a nearby soccer field which was much cheaper and more convenient than a hotel so we took them up on the offer.  Camping worked out great. We could sleep in a little longer, had our own bathrooms near the race start so we didn’t have to use the porta-potties, and they had breakfast. Everything was going great until I started to hear rain on the tent. The 0% chance of rain turned to 20% the night before and apparently 100% race morning. The temperature wasn’t bad and I don’t mind running in the rain but this is a technical course and I was certain rain was going to be a problem.

We decided to try and drive closer to the start and were surprised that with less than 30 minutes to go we were able to get a parking space next the start line.  We waited in the car out of the rain until the last possible minute. We walked to the start with 5 minutes to go and got in the back of the pack. This race is very big by Ultra standards with 500 or more doing the 50K and several hundred doing the 11 miler. This becomes a problem on the technical single track if you get behind slower people because it is very difficult to pass people. Being in the back was definitely going to affect my time.  The race started and Jennifer and I crossed the start line wearing matching skeleton outfits from INKnBURN. We quickly parted ways as she turned onto the 11 mile course and I went on the 50K. She was originally signed up for the 50K but her coach decided that she hadn’t had enough recovery time since Ironman Louisville and that she should drop down.

My race plan consisted of watching only HR. My Garmin display was set to display only my HR in very large numbers that my over 40 eyes could see without my reading glasses. Based on testing my anaerobic threshold is 146 so the plan was to never let it go over that number. I was wearing a bottle carrier with an extra pocket for stuff. I had a premixed bottle of sustained energy that was about 700 calories. I had a Ziploc bag of accelerade for another 300 calories that I planned to use later. I had some emergency gels I hoped to not use, some ginger candies, salt pills, and a tube of aquaphor in case I got a hot spot anywhere.

Things were going pretty good but this course should really be called rock jump not stump and the rain was making mud and slippery rocks. I was only about three miles in when I slipped and did a superman head dive while running downhill. I scraped my thigh up good and smashed my palm on a rock. I got up and started running again pretty pissed and found a stream to clean up in not long after. This was to become a pattern. I fell several more times exceeding the sum of all my falls since starting to trail run years ago. It was really starting to affect my confidence on the technical sections slowing me down. At least my HR rate plan was going well. I would slow down or walk once I got neat 146. The course was still very pretty but the rain, clouds, and fog were obscuring some the really nice vantage points on the course.

I was running alone but once you settle into a pace you will be around people of similar pace most of the day occasionally running into each other around aid stations. Since my bottle mixture was pretty strong I topped it off with water when I passed through aid stations but that was as long as I stayed. My philosophy has always been always be moving. I grab what I need and take care of things while walking after the aid station. Once my bottle was empty I mixed up a new one with my Ziploc bag. Nutrition was going well and with the cooler temperatures hydration and electrolytes were less of a problem. I wouldn’t say time was flying by because I didn’t really know. I never looked at time, pace, or mileage which was a first for me. I have run the race twice before so I am aware of relative locations of things and mileage but that was the only sense of progress I had. I wasn’t very pleased with how I felt I was doing. Falling probably had a lot to do with that and maybe the rain. I just told myself this was the first in a series of races I am signed up for to get me ready for a 100 miler in April and I shouldn’t stress about it.

The course is a lollipop with about a 9 mile stick and 13 mile loop. On the loop there is an all rock section called the “rock garden” It is kind of pretty but also kind of painful. The rocks were beginning to take their toll and win the day against my mood. I started asking why in the hell did I sign up for this race and that I’m never going to do this again. Depression like that is usually a sign that you need some sugar so I took one of my emergency gels. I still didn’t want to do the race next year but I felt a little better and made it to the end of the loop and started my way home. This part would be great except that I was fully aware that predominately downhill section I was on was going to be paid for with a long steep climb up to mushroom rock. Oh well time to follow the advice I had been giving all day to people who haven’t done the race. If you find a section that is runnable, run and run fast. There is so much of the course that isn’t you must make up for it when you can. I ran as best I could to the road crossing. This is about the 26 mile point so only 6 to go from here. My motivation at this point is I know they have beer at mushroom rock so I start power walking up hill like a man on a mission. About three miles later I am treated to an ice cold Genesee cream ale.

Now properly fueled with beer I’m ready for the final push. This section screws with your mind heavily. I have no idea what the course looks like here on a map but I can only imagine it is some kind of cloverleaf. You get very close to the school were the start finish is only to divert away. The first time I could see the soccer field we camped in. The second time the football field. The third time you get oh so close only be told you have less than 2 miles to go. For the third year in a row I had picked up the pace too soon and had further to go than I thought. The end is almost here so just do the best you can. You pop out of the trail onto the road with about .4 miles to go. There is a hill here and I see some people I want to pick off so away I go. I move up about 5 place and hear my name at the finish line. They know my race history so they announce me as a Bartram 100 mile finisher and three times Stump Jumper. For the first time today I see my time which I thought would be horrible. Turns out I took more than 20 minutes off of last years’ time.

As the pain fades I’m sure I will do this race again.