September 16, 2013

Ridge to Ridge Trail Race, 22 miles (plus Hotter n' Hell and Adios Summer)

So there were a couple of races in between my last race report and this one that I never told you guys about. I know you're shaking your fist at the sky right now. Well, quick summary for you right here and now. The first of those two races was Hotter n' Hell 18 miler that wasn't necessarily hotter than hell, but it was harder than hell. I hadn't run much during my month long summer road trip, and this many trail miles was a pretty scary way to break my legs back into running. My quads were cramping up horribly which isn't normal for me. The calves are my usual go-to cramper. It was a double-loop course, and it was really hard not to stop after that first loop. So hard that I walked for about ten minutes before I decided that I wasn't going to turn around.

Here's what the 9-mile loop elevation looked like. I finished the 18 miles in 3:44. And just for a bonus, I hiked it a third time to help sweep the course post-race. Where these brilliant ideas come from, I don't know.

That elevation chart tells me that I freaking earned this medal and shirt. 


My next race went a bit better. August 10th was the Adios Summer 15K at Ruffner Mtn. Ruffner is known for eating unsuspecting trail runners alive. It's got brutal hills, rough terrain, and wild (read: poison ivy filled) brush. But for some reason, I've so far had great luck with my trail races there. For my second time ever, I came in first overall in my event. The first time was also at Ruffner. So weird. 

I think it was due to Melissa's braiding skills. Also, thank heavenliness that I have had a haircut since then. My hair was getting out-of-control long, which equals hot. 

The best part of this race? No, not the hills. And why don't the hills look worse in this elevation chart? I swear they felt twice as high. 

No, the best part was definitely the awards. Useable frying pans. Cannot beat a skillet for a prize. Ever. Don't even try.

And here are some photos from the day that will speak a thousand words to you so that you don't have that much more to actually read. 

Coach Alex (yellow) and Olivia (blue) working the registration table.

Me and Kim (one of my Life Time runners!).

Melissa and me about to hit the trails.

Final instructions before we do this like Brutus. 

Kathleen, me, Mary, John.  You can tell by the sweaty messes who just finished running.

So now to the hopeful finale of hot summer races -- meaning: please hurry up, fall weather. The temps for the September 8th Ridge to Ridge 20 Mile Race (actually 24 miles) reached 90, making it the hottest of these three races. That didn't stop a lot of sweaty folks from hitting the trails that day. Plus a lot of these people had just been out to the free trail race the day before this. We've got folks gearing up for the three-day, 60-mile stage race at the end of this month, myself included, so they're intent on making life tough for their legs in order to prep.

These hydration pack carriers had the right idea. There was an 8-mile gap between aid stations, which feels even more brutal in 90 degrees.

And I'm pretty sure that the race director takes special pride in finding the most challenging path between two points. He either loves or hates us all a lot to go to this much effort to make the hardest race possible.

Double this loop for the longer course.

At one point, I wasn't even sure if we were actually following a trail anymore because it just turned into the side of a mountain. If it weren't for the occasional blue flag, I would not have recognized this spot as a trail. Note: slippery pine straw and steep hillsides are not the best mix.

Then there was the brutal hike/run down into and up and out of the other side of the waterfall. We were all so happy to see the photographer on the steep climb out (frown smile). 

Photo by David Christy Photography

For most of the first 10(or 12)-mile loop, we had a pretty long chain of runners going, and by the time we hit the second loop, most of the chain had dropped out. I think the main causes were heat and the extreme inclines and declines that were killing off legs/knees/quads. But mostly heat.

Me, Michael, Bob. Photo by Zachary, one of the random non-racing trail runners we saw out that day.

By the second loop, our numbers were fewer, but we were still pretty determined to make it a decent loop, or at least to finish. My trail pal, Michael, was using the day as a training run, so he stuck with me through both loops. Luckily he was there to lend me a little water when I ran out with a few miles left. Oops, guess I should have filled my pack up again at the 4-mile aid station, even though I thought it would last the whole loop like it had the first time around. Turns out that I was downing it quicker the second, hotter time around.

I was very slow moving up the steep climbs, and at the end of the race, I was talking to people who weren't there (I swear they were behind us at some point, and I just didn't realize that we lost them). The effects of the heat were definitely setting in, but Michael just kept chatting away like everything was totally fine, which helped me to focus on something besides the pain and desire to already be finished. There is usually a point in the long distances that I wonder what I was thinking signing up for this, but I keep coming back for the physical and mental challenge plus camaraderie of the other trail junkies. Oh, and we saw some deer bounding in front of us through the forest. So there's also that reason to come back for more.

But, man alive, I was happy to be finished. When am I going to learn that doing these moves after longer races causes serious cramp-age? I think the race director thought I broke my leg doing this when I immediately fell over in pain. Nope, no breaks -- just a giant, debilitating calf cramp is all.

Cramp!!! Photo by

My final time was 4:51, which was good enough for 3rd place that day, but I was just happy to be alive.

Photo by

And happy that I saw this Zombies Hate Fast Food shirt. 

Michael and Jennifer.

What was the hottest, toughest race/run you attempted this summer? Would you do it again? I like the challenge of the heat (even though I hate it in the moment) because I know it's going to make me so much stronger for the fall/winter races. But it takes it out of me for a couple of days afterwards when I give a huge effort on a really hot, humid day. So, yes, I would do it again! And Choccolocco 50K still wins the prize for the hottest, worst race of my summer.

Do you ever get useful running awards? The frying pan was up there, but we also sometimes use the mugs they give out as prizes too. But I would have to say that cash is the most useful of all. Too bad I never win any of that!


  1. I believe socks have been the most usful item given out. Running buddy got an ice cream dish for Banana Pudding festival 5k.

  2. Great post Lisa. I had just about gotten my legs back, but after reading this, I'm whipped again! Thanks for that. Good luck in the rest of the series. I'll be there, but after "go", I doubt I'll see you much until we're sitting after the race saying how much fun it was. Run long and strong - Al

    1. Here's to completing all three stages of the next race!

  3. I ran a trail half marathon in June. It was 95 degrees and about 95 percent humidity. Woof. Not my best day. Congrats on two awesome finishes!

    1. Are some people genetically disposed to performing better in heat? One of my persistent questions of running. Some people seem to handle it so well! Can you get a scientist from your school to figure that out for us?:)

  4. Um, I would LOVE frying pans as a prize. I really need new frying pans. Maybe I'll run all the races so I can get one ;) You are a machine and I envy your abilities. I ran a 5k on Saturday (my only race this summer) and it was hot and humid and straight into the sun for an entire mile. Congratulations on awesome finishes!

    Also, I love "do it like Brutus." I have never heard that before. You are too funny.

    1. Straight into the Florida sun is like running on the actual sun. Impossible and horrible! Is there ever an awesome time for racing in Florida? I ran the Ocala Marathon there in January, and it was even steamy then.

  5. Love that finish pic. I've gotten a couple of coffee mugs as AG awards but nothing more useful than that.

  6. You are amazing! I just did my very first trail race. It was a half marathon and it was my first race back after my foot surgery. The foot felt great but it was one of my worst feeling races ever! I did LOVE running the trails though! I'm hooked.

    I really don't like the heat. I'm pretty lucky that I can drive up a mountain and it's 20 degrees cooler then the valley. The humidity in Utah has been insane this winter but I think I'm getting use to that all body "wet" feeling.

  7. One thing I miss about living in Birmingham is running the trails at Oak Mountain. Or biking at Oak Mountain. I miss Oak Mountain. I wish I could bring Oak Mountain to the beach with me. That would be perfect!

    Congrats on all your races! Trail running is tough! Trail running in heat and humidity is HELL!! You nailed it!

  8. I've done a local 5k the weekend before Thanksgiving and they give the courses of Thanksgiving dinner to the top 10 male and 10 female...first gets the turkey. One year I won pumpkin pie stuff and the other I won the stuffing.

  9. I love the frying pan! You are inspiring me to do some trail races, you make it look so fun!


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