Nature 6 Terry 2

First of all, I was rather upset yesterday when I got to work and realized that I forgot my Jump Drive at home. My Jump Drive has all my personal folders, my website and bunch of other thing on it and I left at home. The worst thing was that I left it on a Monday when I have lots of things to update after the weekend. Oh Well. So here it goes the post that should have been yesterday.

The Big South Fork 17.5 mile Trail race was on Saturday. It is held in the national park on the TN/KY border and is about a 1.5-2 hour drive from Knoxville. Since the race was starting at 8:30 am, I needed to leave Knoxville at 6am, to insure that I made it on time plus, I had some time to warm up. I knew that the weather was going to be cool and comfortable and that there was a small chance of rain in the afternoon. Therefore, I packed my older shoes, and a warmer shirt to change into after the race. The drive there was rather uneventful. Well, uneventful until I was about 30 minutes away, that is when it started to rain. It was raining steady but not hard, for the last 30 minutes of the trip. I stopped by a McDonald to get a chicken biscuit and to use the bathroom, then proceeded to the race site. At this point the rain had stopped, but it was still overcast with a threat that more wetness might in our future. It was perhaps a little cooler than anticipated and went back and forth on whether to wear a long sleeved shirt, short sleeved or both. I ended up wearing the short sleeved because it would be cooler after an hour of running and if there was more rain to come, it wouldn’t be as heavy. 218 people ran the race, and the race sweatshirt (YAY! no white t-shirt) had a cool design. In fact, the BSF trail race have historically had good sweatshirts in the past. I personally like the 2001 one.

Anyway, the race starts and after 1/4 mile, we are on an access road in the park. I checked my watch and 4 minutes into the race, the race starts. Nice steady, cold rain. At this point, the appearance of the rain breeds excitement for trail runners. Having these conditions, are unique to the trails, as the road stays basically the same whether wet or dry. The trail becomes a gremlin and footing become dynamic when it becomes wet. After a few minutes on the access road, we hit the trail head and go from having 12-15 feet of width to run on to 1 foot. I was in the middle of a group of runners running single file on the trail. The front runner sets the pace for the rest of the group, so being in the middle has a couple disadvantages. 1) You can’t see things on the trail until you are on top of them, so reaction time is limited. 2) You are having to constantly changing your pace as to not run into the person in front of you. Once we hit the trail, the rain started to come down much harder, and started to flood the trail.

Nature 1 Terry 0

The early part of the trail had few opportunities to pass anyone or to be passed for that matter. So, I was stuck at the pace of your group. The group that I was in was going at a comfortable pace for me but I thought I could be going slightly faster. In retrospect, they could have been going slower and that would have been better for me. So during this stretch of the course, the puddles got bigger, the mud got muddier and the course became more treacherous.

Nature 2 Terry 0

For a short period of time in the race, the trail opens up to about a 6 foot width. At this point the rain finally began to quit. I checked my watch when it had subsided and the rain had lasted about an hour. Everyone was completely soaked. Our shoes where soggy, our legs were muddy, but we were having fun. Until…

Shortly after it stopped raining. we came around to the scenic part of the course. Here, you run along the rim of the South Fork and can look down toward the river and the view is awesome. When I passed by the views, there were clouds in the valley, so even though you could not see the river, the view was magnificent. If I had just had that digital camera. There was a warning on the entry form that there have been known to be yellow jackets on the course in past years. In the previous 3 times, i have ran this race, I have not seen one. Well, we ran into a cloud of them. I was pacing behind a big guy (6’2″ish) and we came across another runner who was standing there warning us of the eminent “yellow jackets”. The guy in front of me stopped immediately and I stopped also to avoid running into him. In an instant I decided that it would be better for me to sprint through the cloud than to wait until they subsided.

Nature 3 Terry 0

I sprinted through there and thought I was home free until very shortly afterwards, I felt a sharp sting on my left ankle. One of the bees had gotten my left ankle (through my sock) and it hurt enough to be annoying and uncomfortable but not enough to stop. I have had bad reactions to other bee stings in the past, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be waylaided out on the course, or if I would be okay. I knew the halfway point wasn’t too far away and there would be aid there. Unfortunately, it is the remote aid station and so there might not be any real help until the 12 mile aid station, but that would be about 40-50 minutes away! I made it to the aid station and my self evaluation was that I did not need any assistance and I could continue. At this point, the group that I was running with was only 4 people and since I was starting to hit the wall, I did not mind being in the back. I tried staying with the group I was running with, but just after the 12 mile water station, I hit the wall.

Nature 4 Terry 0

I could no longer keep up the pace on the very difficult trail conditions. Some of the muddy sections were pretty tough to navigate and often involved shifting directions quite a bit. So while I walked, I tried to increase my breathing to get more oxygen into my body (using pilates technique) to help increase my energy. By this time I was alone on the trail, except for people who would pass me. Since the trail was so narrow, I would step off the trail and wait them to pass me before I continued running. Whenever, I felt better, I would run for a short distance until I was beat again. Unfortunately with the layout of the course, the last part of the course is much hillier than the first. The last aid station before the finish was at mile 15. I stayed at that station for about a minute, which is a longtime for runners, but I wanted to make sure that I got a couple of powerades in my system, I wish that they had had some powergels there, I could have used them. The last leg of the course was rather eventful. Despite the fact that I was beat, the ground was muddy, and I was ready to get the “H” out of there,but I scored my first “point”. At one point the ground was excessively muddy and I lost my footing. My legs slipped out and I lost my balance. Somehow, I managed to be quick enough to get my right foot down and planted squarely on the ground. I was able to to some tactical moves and was able to avoid falling. I was amazed that I had the quickness to do that, after all, my legs were dead.

Nature 4 Terry 1

A couple of guys passed me and decided that I would pace with them. Why should I prolong the agony, but get the race over with? I was following the second guy about 15 feet behind him, when all of a sudden he does the “Bee Dance”. Jumping wildly he yells “Yellow Jackets!!”. I was now about where he had been when he “discovered” the bees, and decided (again) I better just sprint. So I ran through the cloud as fast as I could and ended up getting stung twice. I got hit in my left ankle again and on my right calf.

Nature 6 Terry 1

There is a point on the course where you have to climb up a 10′ ladder. It’s a nice break because you can get your arms to do most of the work and you know that it is about a mile to the finish. I came up with a plan to walk to a certain point on the course that I was familiar with and then at that point run the rest of the way. When I came to that point I “sucked it up” and started at a slow steady pace.

The finish of the race is outside on of the campground and there is 1/2 mile you are not on any trail. There are a number of volunteers present to make sure you know the way. As a matter of pride, this was the basis of my plan to finish the race running, I didn’t want to look like a sissy. It was pretty tough running the first half mile to the point where you first encounter volunteers, but then the adrenaline of finishing took over. Out of the trail, with 1/2 mile to go, I picked up the pace a bit. I found that I could not slow down, the increase of pace was easier to maintain than the slower one. My legs would just not slow down. I came up to a guy about 1/4 mile from the finish and exchanged pleasantries that we were almost there. I came through the little batch of trees and saw the clock, it was 3 hour 10 minutes. I knew that was my slowest time for the 4 times I had run the race, but I had made it. That night, I checked the race results and found out that the guy that I passed was in my age group. So, instead of coming in last, I came in next to last in my age group.

Final Score: Nature 6 Terry 2

About planet3rry

I'm a husband, father and runner in the Knoxville area. I love the way that running makes me feel and how it has changed my thinking. I am always looking for the new PR whether in the 5k or the marathon