June 5, 2010

Cotton Row & Cahaba River Ramble

COTTON ROW: On Memorial Day I ran the Cotton Row 10K in Huntsville, then accompanied my Daughter Allison as She ran the 5K for that race. Add a 1 Mile warm up, and I completed over 10 miles and it took me about a total of 1:37 to do the distance, and I took it very easy that day, didn't push myself. I was there to enjoy the festivities. We had nice cloudy weather, and anticipating humid conditions, I kept myself well hydrated to prepare for the race. The temperature was very tolerable for the 10K portion of the race, but it did start getting warmer for the 5K.

For weeks before the race, I had been warned about Cotton Row's "Hell Hill". "You can skin your nose going up that hill"; a friend told me. The first half of the course was all uphill which ended in a steep quarter mile hill before starting to descend. I was prepared and I even ran the hill while most other people walked it, got over it without a problem. It was a great race thru the heart of Hunstville to commemorate Memorial Day.

(Click on the pictures to view them in a larger format)

Cahaba River Ramble: That Cotton Row hill was nothing compared to facing the hill at the end of the Cahaba River Ramble, but I must confess, I was not as prepared for this run as I had been just a week before.

After a short hour and half road trip from Prattville, Mike, Heather and myself arrived at the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, south of West Blocton, Alabama on US Highway 24. I had been canoeing on the river before, and it's just as I remember it, very scenic and shady, small rapids. The river rapids and the famous Cahaba Lilies (shown on the website) blooming on rocks in the middle of the river, added to the awesome scenery of the along the river.

The temperatures were warm, and the air was about a muggy as it can get around these parts, but there was lots of shade.

The registration process was quick, and we all had extra "schwag" in our bags, although not all of got the same goodies. The first sign of trouble was when we learned that the race would start late because the "hovercraft" guy didn't show up, so we were waiting for the canoe guy, which they needed in order to set up one of the aid stations.

The race got under way about 15 minutes late. The first part of the run was on a dirt road, and it seemed like we were at the turnaround for the 5K in no time at all. Immediately following that point we had to cross a creek. The water was only about knee deep, if that, and there was a rope to help us get across. Then the trail went beside the river for about a mile, in soft sand. Soft sand is not easy to run on. Once the trail branched away from the river we were quickly into a lengthy uphill portion which had me walking more than running. After the 5K turnaround, there was only one water stop about at about the 4 mile mark (which we would pass again at 6 miles). At this point sweat was pouring from me and I needed the water. At the top of the hill (mountain?) we had a very nice breeze, but the sun was beating on us. We came to the turnaround for the 10 mile race quicker than I expected. It did not feel like 5 miles. We turned around and headed back down the same way we came up, except it was mostly downhill this time. I made up for lost time soaring down the hills. Mike, who is usually a slower runner than myself, took advantage of the downhill portion and pushed way ahead of us. We got down the mountain, ran in the sand, crossed the creek and were back on the dirt road heading for the finish.

At this point we're feeling good. Less than a mile and a half to go. YEE-HAW. Then we turn a corner and there is two guys standing in the middle of the road not letting anyone pass. WTF!?! They point to the trail, which was been marked by small orange flags, going straight up a very steep incline. I turned to Heather and said; "Did you want to trust two country men telling us to go off the main road into the woods?" The orange flags marked the way, so I guess it was to be. Climbing slowly up that incline was most winded I've ever been in a race, it didn't help I was getting very dehydrated and felt a little dizzy. As slow as I was going, I was actually passing other runners who had decided to stop completely to catch their breath, some even sitting on the ground. That was the most brutal hill I've ever had in a race, it was even steeper than the infamous road on the Meteor Crater 5K.

The run finished about a mile after we topped that last mountain. It was my personal worst (1:59:--) for a 10 Mile run , EVER, but I don't expect to do well on trail runs because I like to take my time when I'm on the trail and enjoy it.

I think if I ever do this run again, I'm going to do the 5K and jump in the river after I'm finished.


Anonymous said...

That Cahaba race sounds crazy! Not sure if that is good or bad. Maybe I'll give it a try next year. The temperature is so brutal this time of year I can barely stand to run outside at all though. Good job!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this blog! Sounds like a Killer race - but a great experience - just bring your own fuel belt next time ;)

Bamarunner said...

I've done that a couple of times .... tried to "warn" ya about the hill ... better known as the "Equalizer" . I pulled off a 1:24 a couple years ago but we had an unusual cool spell that day. I will probably do it next year, fun little 10 miler

Mauigirl said...

Wow, sounds grueling! I'm impressed that you made it through the whole ten miles!

Am trying to catch up with my blog reading after a few months of stress taking care of my mom; and am happy to find you still here and posting. Sounds as if you are enjoying life! And I'm with you - just do the 5k and jump in the river next time!