Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Race Report: Rock & Root 30k

The second running of the Rock & Root 30k by the guys at Peak Mountain Sports went down at Haw Ridge Park in Oak Ridge, TN back on August 29. Yeah I know what you're thinking, wait long enough to write a report? Yeah,well when you're training for events you don't have time to blog, haha. I have to say that the Rock & Root is probably one of my favorite trail races and for a number of reasons.

The course is challenging to say the least. The Peak guys changed it up a little this year and added some extra vertical gain. There's one climb in particular called the Hill of Truth (H.O.T.) and in late August it's definitely HOT. It's a loop course and you have to run it twice. Thankfully, there is an aid station at the top of the climb put on by the Hill of Truth Hooligans. I'm always glad to reach this aid station because not only do they have water and/or electrolytes, they usually have some other libations if you so desire if you catch my drift. I call it motivation for getting up the hill.

Courtesy of: Matt Stegall
This year there were 42 finishers which slightly less than last year, but due to this it makes the atmosphere more pleasant in my opinion. I guess you can say a little more intimate for lack of a better term. You get a chance to talk to the other runners. There were several of the usual crew there either in support, or running or just coming to hang out.

Anyway back to the race, we started at 8 sharp after some announcements and race briefing from the RD. I tried to hold myself back as usual as I have a bad habit of going out to fast and then dying in the later stages of races. The first part of the course is about a quarter mile of greenway pavement to the first trailhead. Once on the trail I settled in pretty quickly and was towards the back of the pack.

It wasn't long before I was starting to pass a couple runners. After departing lakeside it was up the first climb and then back down toward lakeside again. By 5 miles in the line had spread and I was on my own for a bit and then the first trip up the Hill Of Truth started. Hill of Truth is a powerline cut through the park and is almost entirely exposed. Thankfully early in the race it was still cool and the sun was not in the sky. The second time around we wouldn't be that lucky. Scanning ahead I could only see but a couple runners further up the trail and occasionally would hear the cowbell from the H.O.T Hooligans as another runner reached their aid station. It wasn't long before it was me they were ringing the bell for and Ben was coming down for my water bottle to fill and offering me a beer. (Have I mentioned how much I love this aid station?) 

Courtesy of: Matt Stegall
A brief stop for a couple sips of beer and stowing my bottle, I was off again to climb the ridgeline, the highest point of the race and then bomb down to the back part of the course to complete the first lap. After finishing the ridgeline and doing some strides on a flat straightway, I reached the final aid station on the course before the start/finish line. There was Kirby and Misty and Donut holes. Honestly, could this race get any better. 

I soon parted ways with Kirby and Misty and headed toward the start/finish so that I could start the second and final loop. I was feeling pretty good still and once in the clearing for the second loop I knew it wouldn't be much longer until I'd have another race done. There was one runner who left out from the start/finish area just moments before I did. I knew I had to make the stop quick.

The second loop was much like the first, I was feeling good and continued to push the pace. I was hoping to beat last years time and reel people in during the last couple miles. Through the greenway and through the short lakeside section was good. I got to the first climb and there were a couple of guys there. It didn't take much to pass them. Still the lady at the midway point was no where in site.

Down to the next lake side section and I was still feeling pretty good. just prior to reaching the start of the powerline cut though, I had to make a pit-stop. It was just as I was finishing up, the lady i saw take off before me at the start/finish was running towards me on the trail. She must have had to make a pit stop too. I pressed on hoping to drop her. Up, up, up and onward. Finally got to the HOT Hooligans and again Ben met me part way up grabbed my bottle and off he went to fill it for me. A couple more swigs of beer and there I went.

Off to ridgeline, and the decline in my performance. By the time I got to the top I was feeling it a little. However, I knew I'd make it up on the downhill and did. The lady and I swapped positions a few times from the HOT Hooligans to the bottom of Ridgeline. By the time we were done descending I had put a good distance between us. I was on the way to Kirby and Misty and was just hoping to hold it together. 

The lady past me just prior to the aid station but encouraged me to keep it going. I tried to keep her in my sights and almost lost her. I got past Kirby and Misty and my hip was going south fast. It was 2 more miles to the finish and mostly small rolly stuff to the finish. Ever slight uphill I had to walk. Flats I shuffled as best I could. Downs I was able to do something similar to run. I was surprised to pass another runner not more than a mile from the finish. 

I finally arrived at the finish and was glad to have that one done. I was only off by a couple minutes from last years time. It was after all a bit tougher of a course with almost double the elevation gain. After finishing I promptly proceed to immerse myself in the ice pool. That felt great. After that it was time for a Haw Dog, beer, and comradarie. Another great race by the Peak guys as always.

Happy Trails,