Its been two years.
Two years since I had my heart set on coming back to the race I did my first 50k at...
For two years I have wanted a comeback. Last year I switched over to run road and ran my first road marathon, The famous Chicago Marathon in October so I wasn't able to race StumpJump. After doing 3 marathons in 3 months last year I was ready to switch back to where my heart was calling me...TRAILS. It was just what I needed. I was back in my happy place.
I trained really hard this year knowing what I needed to do in order to excel at this race. Longer runs, more hill work, strength training, excursion runs leading up to race, and even threw in a stage race, and an easier 50k race to prepare me for a harder race day.
I ran Music City Ultra 25k in April: I placed 3rd female, 23rd overall with time of 3:13:04.
I ran Still Hollow 1/2 in Aug: I placed 1st my age group with a time of 1:56:59.
I ran Cumberland Plateau Stage Race in August for my birthday: 3 day stage race totaling 50 miles. I placed first my age group.
I have so many more pictures from that race so I will need to follow up with another post for that one!
And I ran Stanky Creek 50k in Sept: I placed 1st Female. 12th overall. Finish time of 5:42:34.
Excursion run to Chattanooga to run part of race course:
And Sewanee Perimeter trail:
Happy smiles as I headed out with some of my Ultra Dirtbag girls to Chattanooga, TN...
Arrival at our hotel...
Pre race dinner...
In 2013 the weather was a brutal record high heat day of 87" for October. Saturday morning the weather was a lot cooler with a high of of lower 70's. I was happy for the cooler weather! But another big issue was RAIN. It had been raining for 3 days leading up to the race so conditions would already be tough. They were calling for rain at start, and then rain again around 1pm but that was not what happened in reality. It rained the whole time.
The ULTRA DIRTBAGS ready to start! These guys are are my second family. This is my trail family!
Time to go!
The week before they also added a course change. We would now run a section of the previous 11 miler course since that distance option was no longer available. This meant more technical single-track, a little added distance,and an added 1000 ft elevation. But the change also eliminated the "spiral of death" finish; running for miles and people saying your almost there while hearing the shouts and cheers from finish line but not being able to reach it, and having to run a bunch of road leading to the finish. This also meant we were able to run along more bluff line for some beautiful views which didn't disappoint for sure. It was a foggy dreary day from the start but I actually didn't mind that at all.
There was something so calm and beautiful about running in the woods in the rain. The sound of water cascading from the clouds and slowly trickling down the trees. It was like cleansing the soul as you ran in it. The fog over the lookouts was beautiful!
Lot of Photo credits to Jessica Brinks!
I passed through the first two aid stations at miles 4.8 and 7.9, they said I was 7th female. Still early on but I was happy with that. I made it through the first 12.6 miles in a breeze feeling super strong and on fire to come into Indian Rock House aid station. Nothing like being greeted by a bunch of your fellow runners and friends!
I was still on time for my goal. I was holding back still and taking it super easy because I knew the day was still long. As I rolled into Indian Rock House I pulled off my pack to refill with tailwind. I have been training with Tailwind Nutrition for almost a year now and its helped me so much on the trails. Its like liquid gold to me. My heart dropped when a volunteer said they couldn't find my spare bag of tailwind powder in my pack, "It's gotta be there I said, I put in it there this morning". I dug through my pockets of my pack with no luck. I was wearing a hydration vest I had borrowed from a friend that was working great for me with all the extra room it had. I was a little in freakout mode but tried to remain calm when I couldn't locate my electrolytes. I had more in my drop bag in next few aid stations. Problem was with the new course change instead of drop bags being at mile 19 as in previous years in now brought drop bags and cut off location to mile 21.7. I now had to go 9 miles without my electrolytes and normal calories. At the time it didn't seem too big of a deal though I just tried to push worry aside and move on. I had them fill pack with water and left.
Still 7th female I was feeling great! My plan was to slowly pick up my pace around mile 17 or so before 18.8 Haley road aid station. What I had planned on and what happened in reality were two separate things by far. Without my nutrition I started slowly crashing hard. A wave of tiredness I couldn't shake came upon me and my legs came to a slow. I finally hit a wall. First time I have ever hit a wall that hard. I couldn't even get my legs to turn over and found myself walking a lot. When I arrived at Haley road aid station my spirits were hitting a low too. I stopped for some real food there as one female passed me putting me 8th now.
The next 3 miles another female passed me putting my in 9th and I reached an even lower low. Stopped in woods to pee and was passed by another female. I was in a dark place at that point. I knew I just needed to make it to the drop bag point to get my tailwind and some more nutrition and hopefully some Coke for energy and caffeine. The dreaded "Rock Garden" well it was slow through there as I knew it would be with all the slippery rocks and considering I was already at a low walking to begin with. I had found a friend to run with a clung behind him to make it through this point.
FINALLY the drop bag point!!!! It was like angels were singing the chorus "Hallelujah" from the heavens! There were lot of people and COKE!!! Volunteers helped me fill my hydration vest with my beloved Tailwind and I grabbed some more gels and nutrition from my bag. I stayed at that aid station a little too long as a few more females passed me but I knew I needed my nutrition in order to even have a chance of finishing at this point. My goal times adjusted twice between miles 12.6 and 21.7. Now I was at the point of please just let me finish and please let me at least beat my time from my first year here by at least a min! Crazy how you can go from I got this like superwomen to holding on for my dear life.
Pack filled and had eaten some more solid food there I was off again. We crossed over the long bridge at some point although I couldn't even tell you at what mile that was.
All the stairs and bridges were so slippery all day. My fear of heights must have shown at that point as guy behind me told me he was slowing down behind me to try not to shake the bridge too much. I'm sure he wanted to just push me out of the way with my death grip on the sides. He said hey the fall can't be that bad, at least its into water....
I ran with a few people for a while but we were all pretty silent as we were just focused on moving one foot in front of another at this point. Having started on this section we knew what to expect coming back but the trails had before a mud pit by this point. Every step had to be extra careful as to not slip. One part I came though holding onto the weeds along the side having seen where peoples feet had slid in the mud right along the edge of the embankment but had pulled themselves away from it. I looked over and that would have been a long fall down. Lets just hug these weeds instead since I am allergic to them anyways and as if they would catch me from falling. The very last aid station had beer but I passed, I wanted to save that for the finish line. My slowest mile was mile 30 with a 22 min mile. Coming out of the woods to the finish line I gave it everything I had just to run it in. I crossed the finish in 7:43:46. The announcer called out my name and as I crossed..."Kara Molitor, you are now an offical StumpJumper!"
11 min PR from 2013 and although not my first or second goal but I will take it after the day I had. I finished 112th overall, 4th my age group, and 14th female. In 2013 I placed 231 overall and 35th female so even though my time wasn't a huge improvement my placings were and with the course change on top of that its a great thing! Soggy and cold I was never so happy to see my friends at the finish! And I never fell! In those dang 31+ miles in the crazy mudd!
Some crazy course elevation!
5, 451 feet elevation gain.
5, 471 feet elevation loss.
When I arrived home Sunday and cleaned out my hydration pack guess what I found....
Rather then being super upset about it I take it as it was a learning experience. I know now that Tailwind Nutrition works for me and I don't do well without it! And that pack has some really deep pockets!
My facebook post leaving Sunday: Goodbye Chattanooga and mountains. You gave me my money's worth yesterday, and a hard earned metal that I am proud of because it was the hardest I have had to fight yet to finish. Slick course after having rained for days before and then rained almost the whole race. Course change this year added around 1000 feet extra elevation and more technical single track. The longer into the race parts of course you had to hold on to trees to not slip off embankments. I bonked early on in race, something I haven't experienced yet in a race and it was humbling to say the least. The fight is not over yet... I will be back... #gonnamissthemountains #chattanooga #stumpjump50k
Positives from race:
1. No falling. I tripped multiple times and slid to my butt once on a rock but never had a full out fall.
2. No yellow Jacket stings
3. No chaffing! AMEN to that! Big plus!
4. No heat
5. Having so many friends there!
6. Gummy bears, chips, and coke at aid stations!
7. I FINISHED!
8. Recovered fast and ran again on trails by Tuesday with no specific muscles feeling injured or hurt.
So now what's next? Well I might have signed up for a 50 miler next month.....