A Foggy Start Clears to Reveal the Unwavering Spirit of the Trail Runner
The 2009 Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race started with many uncertainties –
Would everyone find the starting line after the drive up Suck Creek Road in the fog? Would the runners face a hailstorm at the finish line? And would the race organizers play retro disco music the entire morning?
Questions like these seemed to hover in the air… much like the threatened extreme weather. This 8th annual race started out with rain and a murky haze, and then continued with a wild wind that stirred up the trees over the runner’s heads along the course. Thankfully, though, we dodged the hail and thunderstorms that hit Alabama, and managed to have a muddy but lightning-free time.
Athletes came from ten states, along with parents and friends to cheer them on, from as far away as Wisconsin. The course was a technical one, with wet rocks resulting in some ankle rolls, but steep and slippery downhills caused most of the falls from what we gathered at the Medical Tent. Most of the runners, however, did manage to stay upright and enjoyed the challenge of staying focused on their footwork throughout the race.
Nicholas Selbo of Chattanooga won the 10.2 mile race with a time of 1:15 for the men, keeping the times pretty close to last year’s. The women’s race was led by Jan Gautier (for the second year in a row) with a time of 1:35. Jack McAfee and Deb Jones, both from Chattanooga, won the 6.5 mile men’s and women’s divisions, with times of 48:54 and 1:02:26 respectively. Jack actually beat last year’s winning time of just over 50 minutes. Congrats to all!
Big thanks to the sponsors: Rock/Creek, The Boonies, SmartWool, Marmot, The North Face, Salomon, Hammer Nutrition, Cleveland Toyota, and Greenlife Grocery.
Seeing the cheerfulness of those who run in these conditions no longer surprises me – trail runners are a gritty bunch as a whole. What has caught me off guard since this particular race was the reactions of some of the runners who were injured. It seems that some equate an injury with failure, even though they had the courage to finish, or the good sense to avoid further injury by choosing to walk back.
As athletes, it is good to set goals – they drive us to train harder and reach higher. Goals serve us well in many areas of life, providing direction and focus. Sometimes, though, hyper-focusing on goals may cause us to lose sight of what we’ve accomplished, and this narrow vision can undermine what the goals were meant to do in the first place. In other words, it’s great to set targets for training and our competitions, yet if we beat ourselves up for being a little short, it can rob us of the joy of being in the race. We can lose the pleasure of moving swiftly through the wild, crossing streams, toughing it out over hills, breathing hard, whipping past the trees and waterfalls…and isn’t that at least part of why we’ve chosen to run, regardless of the weather?
Storms happen, injuries happen – even to the best of athletes, with the best of coaches, nutritionists, and equipment at their disposal. Someone once said, “No wonder experience is the best teacher. It has to teach us things we don’t want to learn.” Life does come with unexpected speed bumps, and circumstances beyond our control. In those disappointing times we can choose to learn and grow, and get something good out of it all.
H. Weldon once said, “The crime is not to avoid failure, the crime is to not give triumph a chance.” I would add that as an athlete, just showing up at the starting line is evidence that you are not interested in avoiding failure. Remember to celebrate your good efforts, even in the face of disappointment. You can allow your goals to serve you as you shape your season, yet there is no need to allow them to rob you of your joy. My congratulations to all who entered and ran.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
–Henry David Thoreau
About the author:
Debra (Dee) Martin, MSPT, CLT
Owner, Archer Physical Therapy
Specializing in the Endurance Athlete, Lymphedema and Swelling
Debra brings her 15 years of experience as a Physical Therapist and years of running, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, climbing and cycling across the country together to provide top quality care to athletes in the GA and TN area. She also was a mean basketball player in high school – working the position of “benchwarmer” with great style. Her grandmother has accurately described her as someone who “only has a kitchen because it came with the house.”
For more information on how to turn your injuries into opportunities to become a better athlete than ever, call to make an appointment today at 423-693-5490.
Check out the Archer Physical Therapy website for Race Day Tips and learn more about Preventing Running Injuries at www.archerpt.com.
To see the full results and photography, visit the official race Web site:
The next races in the Rock/Creek Trail Series have opened registration. Check out these upcoming races:
Scenic City Trail Marathon & 1/2 Marathon, Presented by Vasque
May 23, 2009 – Raccoon Mountain – Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race
3 days of mountain trail running: 22 mile / 18 mile / 20 mile
June 19-21, 2009
Lookout, Raccoon, and Signal Mountains