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Stumpjump 50k (Read 997 times)

    JK asked me about this race in Chattanooga, TN--he's considering it for his first ultra. Well, here's my response: Race url: http://www.rockcreek.com/events/StumpJump/sj_basic_info.asp I'm partial to this race for a couple of reasons: 1) It was my first ultra (story below). 2) It is run in beautiful Prentice Cooper on top of Signal Mountain overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge. You get some great views of the river. 3) The race is sponsored by local outdoor store Rock Creek Outfitters, and the gear they give for signing up almost compensates for the race fee: backpack, smartwool socks, technical (Marmot) t-shirt. 4) The pre-race pasta dinner is righteous and home-cooked. About every third runner who attends the dinner wins a pair of trail running shoes. 5) Chattanooga is a gem of the new south--definitely worth a weekend visit, and it's during the fall color boom. 6) Aid stations every 4 miles chock full of goodies like gu, m&m's, bananas, sports drinks, etc. make it easy to stay fed and hydrated. 7) The course is well-marked. 8) And to the point--I think it's a great first trail ultra in terms of terrain. It's tough (2500 feet of elevation change), but there are also long stretches of rolling trail with good footing--so it's not killer. And for those of you planning on your first ultra, here's a story about how to do it the wrong way: My First Ultra--Stumpjump 2003 It all started at my buddy's wedding reception 10 days before the race. Smack talk over a few beers led to boasting about how fast I used to be and that ultras are basically just glorified jogs, etc. etc. So, a friend of mine tells me about the upcoming Stumpjump. Money where your mouth is and all that. A few beers later I vow to sign up. Next morning I send in my entry fee. At this point I had been working at a boarding school and living and breathing my job. I was running about 30 miles a month. This was 30 miles at once. Naturally, my goal was to win the darned thing. Just a bunch of dang ultra runners anyways. So, I commenced my training strategy--the infamous reverse taper, logging more miles over the next ten days than I had in the previous two months and bumping my long run up to an hour from 30 minutes. The main facet of my training was carbo-loading the night before. I pounded that eggplant parmesan like it was a 3 hour run. I felt ready, I guess. O.K., actually, I tried not to think about it. Race morning I ran around looking for some kind of body glide from a good friend, wiped the sleep out of my eyes, and got ready to hit the trail. My strategy was to go out with the leaders. I figured they would be the smartest runners and obviously I had been very unintelligent in my approach, so I was hoping, I guess, for speed (and intelligence) by proximity. We headed out at a solid pace. I went down on a slippery bridge in the first mile, bloodied my knee a bit, but that just made me feel a bit tougher. This ultra thing wasn't so bad. Slowly Dewayne Satterfield, Jamie Dial, and I separated ourselves from the field. It was nice chatting with them. Dewayne, from Huntsville, is a bonafide rocket scientist at NASA. He was about 45 at the time. I thought no way this old geezer can beat me. We talked about his childhood in Alabama. I was teaching physics at the time, so we talked about education. Jamie is a mountaineer and adventure guide here in Nashville. Great guy. Where else, but in an ultra do you have the time to get to know your competition? We also chatted a bit about race strategy. I noticed they were both carrying water bottles. And food. I'd never thought of that. I was faced with a choice at every aid station as they dumped precious gatorade into the bottles and headed on--stay at the aid station and drink out of a paper cup, but lose contact? Or sip a couple of ounces as fast as I can and stay with the leaders at all costs? I chose unwisely--stay with the leaders. Around 12 miles into the race I was feeling great. Then Jamie told me something that made me a little nervous--it all changes after mile 20. After mile 20? I had never run farther than 15 miles in my life. How could it change? What was to come? At mile 16, Dewayne and Jamie walked up another hill--I was tired of walking. I wanted to run. Screw it, I said, and took off. Neither runner responded. This is a cinch, I said to myself. I was cruising, holding 7:00 pace, flying through mountain laurel and rhododendron. Ain't nothing to it. Mile 18 smooth. Mile 19 easy. 20. 21. 22. Just as I thought--ultra running is glorified jogging. The next thing I knew I was stumbling and weaving my way forward. It took all my concentration just to stay on the trail. Dewayne came by with a big grin and a "Howdy!" I let him go. Jamie was close behind, flying down the mountain. I put on a brave face and hollered, "Go get him!" I think it came out like, "Googeetahimaah" I was trying to keep the wheels on, focusing as hard as I could on staying on the trail, but I ended up following a dry creek bed down the side of the mountain. My mind was gone. My muscles were cramping. I had met Mr. Bonk. And it was not pretty. I couldn't find the trail, but fortunately I knew the area well--if I kept heading downhill I would hit the road. I came out about a half mile downhill of the aid station at mile 25. It probably took me 10 minutes to cover that half mile. I was still in third place, but there were 6 miles left to go. It took me 4 bananas, 6 bottles of gatorade, a couple of gu's, and two hours to run that last six miles. My legs were cramping so badly that I would take a couple of steps forward, then lie down on the trail and wait for my quads and calves to come loose. Runner after runner passed, but I didn't care. My goals had changed completely. I had changed completely. The point was, no longer, to beat others, to win the race. The point was to gather myself together, to make it to the next tree, to the top of the next hill. I didn't care about the stupid bet I had made at the wedding party, about my time, about my place. I just wanted to finish. At that point it was nothing for me to run 6 miles in 40 minutes. But this was a real 6 miles. This 6 seemed waaay longer than the 50k had to me the night before. But I made it. Tears came to my eyes when I saw the finish line. Dewayne and Jamie had been there for about an hour, relaxing and eating pizza. But I didn't care too much. I was proud of myself. Not for disrespecting the distance, but for overcoming the consequences of that disrespect. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, the hardest race I've ever run--and the slowest. I swore to myself I would never run an ultra again. That promise to myself turned into a promise to run 50k the right way. That race refueled my interest in running. I'll be headed back to the Stumpjump again this October. This time, like the first time, I'll be hoping to win. I'll bring a water bottle with me. I'll have some long runs under my belt. Oh yeah, I'll bring with me a bit more respect for the distance, too. And for myself. Hope to see you out there!
      Oh, dude. I am so frickin' there. And you should really consider switching to a career in sales. Now some questions, since the website seems stuck in 2006, and you're handy: 1) What exactly is the entry fee? (It seems like some ultras are pretty cheap, and some are hundreds ...) 2) How many runners in this thing? I see it sold out last year and I don't want to miss it. Is there a rough deadline by which I better get my application in? 3) Do I need trail shoes? Did you wear them? 4) Have you competed in other ultras since? Great, great race story, by the way. You're far too fast to know this, but there is nothing on Earth us turtles like better than reading stories about the hares being humbled. Great story, and lots of good advice. Fortunately, I have an advantage over you: I'll never dream of winning, so just finishing is just peachy by me. I've actually got a few more ultra questions but I'll start a new thread with them one of these days. They all boil down to this, though: if miles 22-26 of a marathon hurt so much, how exactly do you handle miles 26-31 of a 50-k? Or miles 31-50 of a 50 miler? Is it all about slower pacing ("glorified jogging") to keep the bonk at bay? Thanks for the post, Jeff. I'll be there.
      E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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        1) What exactly is the entry fee? (It seems like some ultras are pretty cheap, and some are hundreds ...) I don't remember, but it's not that bad. I want to say $50-$75. 2) How many runners in this thing? I see it sold out last year and I don't want to miss it. Is there a rough deadline by which I better get my application in? I don't know what the cap is, but it is getting more and more popular, so you'll probably want to monitor the website. 3) Do I need trail shoes? Did you wear them? My personal opinion is that you don't need trail shoes. I didn't wear them the first time I ran. I wore them the second time. If you are comfortable on trails in your normal trainers, then you should be fine. 4) Have you competed in other ultras since? I went back to the Stumpjump two years ago and placed third, running with a couple of buddies from out of town. I consider the Trent's Monkey to be ultra-ish. But those are my only two long races I've run. As for keeping the bonk at bay, it's all about eating and drinking and using the long run to build a glycogen warehouse. If you use gu's during your long runs now, you might consider laying off of them to practice running without energy. Fun stuff. But I've found (in my very limited experience) that feeling good in an ultra just demands eating a bunch. I'm sure Lynn has much more to say along these lines. Go for it, brotha!
          I especially like two things about this story. First, you did sober what you'd said you would do drunk. But more importantly you paid your penance for disrespecting the distance and finished the sucker come hell or high-water. Nice. Great report. Some day when I have much more time on my hands I will try an ultra. Not a crazy 48-hour whacko thing but a nice trail 50K somewhere interesting.

          Runners run.

          Scout7


          CPT Curmudgeon

            Great report. Some day when I have much more time on my hands I will try an ultra. Not a crazy 48-hour whacko thing but a nice trail 50K somewhere interesting.
            There's a nice 50k trail ultra outside Reading, PA in late Sept / early Oct........ Blues Cruise 50K.


            A Dance with Monkeys

              Stump Jump is a great last long taining run for the Monkey.
                Stump Jump is a great last long taining run for the Monkey.
                That was my intention this year, but injury kept me out of the 06 'jump. Mike, you should try the trail 50k--I'm not sure how much more time or training you'd need. Ultra runs are all about the lifetime base...
                  Yeah right now it's not so much about the training as it is the day to go and do it. I have 4 kids from 8 1/2 months to 9 years, so weekends are pretty tight right now. My wife is awesome but when she's been playing 1 on 4 zone all week while I'm off at work, she's not to keen on me taking off for a day to go run a race. I'm doing very little racing at all right now. We're discussing my running a fall marathon, with Boston '08 after that. If I can do that then I'm sure I can work in a trail 50k somewhere in the calendar. We'll see. A friend of mine here in the office is trying to get me to run a trail 50K in Topsfield, Ma this weekned, but that's not gonna happen.

                  Runners run.

                    Yeah right now it's not so much about the training as it is the day to go and do it. I have 4 kids from 8 1/2 months to 9 years...
                    Understood. That's an endurance contest much tougher than any 50k. But more rewarding, I imagine. Now I know why you run so dadgum early in the morning!
                      So, Jeff ... the new avatar? That's not Foucault in a beard is it? Did your dissertation shift topics? Just curious.
                      E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                        Same topic, different philosopher. Would you like a hint? You nailed Foucault in about 5 seconds...I thought you'd have this fellow figured out by now.
                          Same topic, different philosopher. Would you like a hint? You nailed Foucault in about 5 seconds...I thought you'd have this fellow figured out by now.
                          I'm guessing Mr. Hand from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' is not the right answer here ... ... let me work on it.
                          E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                            First hint: Not Mr. Hand. Or Spicoli, despite what you think about all of us philosophical types.
                              Okay, I realize now that the guess-the-philosopher game is not as enticing as I had first thought. Imagine! Roll eyes The avatar is William James, early American pragmatist and radical empiricist. Some quotes: "Owing to the fact that all experience is a process, no point of view can ever be the last one." "Truth in our ideas means their power to work." And my favorites: "Whatever universe a professor believes in must at any rate be a universe that lends itself to lengthy discourse. A universe definable in two sentences is something for which the professorial intellect has no use." "If a man's good for nothing else, he can at least teach philosophy."
                                Okay, I realize now that the guess-the-philosopher game is not as enticing as I had first thought. Imagine! Roll eyes The avatar is William James
                                Damn. Right on the tip of my tongue, too. I was debating between him and Alex Trebek. And for the record I found it deeply enticing.
                                E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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