Four hundred trail running enthusiasts weathered unseasonably hot and humid conditions at Saturday's Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K. The 7th annual race sold out months in advance. "Despite the heat, this was probably the best StumpJump we've put on so far," said Race Director Jamie Sanders; "We were happy that it sold out early and that we were able to expand this year's race to accommodate increased demand." The heat did take it's toll, with over 20 runners pulling out of the race. It's doubtful that anyone set a personal record this year. Matt Karzen, veteran ultrarunner and
Rock/Creek Race Team member, summed it up well: "StumpJump 2007 was the toughest 50K I've run. The topography makes it a challenge, but the unseasonably warm temps this year made wise pacing and diligent hydration key. I didn't do either very well, and boy did I pay for it. Luckily the beauty of the course, including ridgetop views of the Tennessee river, martian-like rock formations and shadowy drainages out of Narnia, kept me smiling. I had a great time and I'll be back for sure."
The race raised $4000 for the Cumberland Trail Conference for trail work on the 300-plus-mile long Cumberland Trail. The Trail, still under construction, stretches across the state of Tennessee from Chattanooga to Cumberland Gap. The Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K course starts on Signal Mountain at Nolan Elementary and runs into Suck Creek Gorge into Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area, where the runners complete the Mullens' Cove Loop on Walden Ridge, then head back across Suck Creek to finish at Nolan Elementary. The 11-Mile race course is an out and back run following the same initial route but turning around at Suck Creek Road.
Eric Grossman from Emory, VA won the race with a time of 4:33:32. Several sponsored athletes showed up for the event, raising the level of competition. Salomon's sponsored runner, Glen Redpath, of New York City, took second. Rock/Creek's sponsored Race Team finished well in the 50K: Wendi Parker-Dial won the women's division and finished with an overall place of 12th and a time of 5:29:27. Josh Wheeler took 4th. Chad Wamack placed 10th. Matt Sims came in 15th, Natalie Sims finished 5th female, 24th overall. Jamie Dial finished 7th. Kris Whorton came in 7th female, 32nd overall. Randy Whorton finished 31st. Matt Karzen finished 54th. Stephen Taylor, last year's 50K winner, was set to take one of the top spots when he succumbed to the heat and took himself off the course around the 20 mile mark. The Rock/Creek Race Team also fared well in the 11 Mile race, sweeping the top spots. Geno Phillips won the race, Clay Warner finished 2nd, Tom Sell 3rd, Michael Green 4th. Even with all these sponsored runners, the 50K winner came in about 30 minutes behind the course record of 4:01, giving one empirical indication of how much the heat challenged racers.
Friday before the race, Rock/Creek hosted the general public for a Vendor Fair, and then served racers a catered carbo supper at the new Rock/Creek store at Two North Shore. Stephen Taylor, professional triathlon coach and Rock/Creek Race Team member, ran a clinic on distance running, pacing, nutrition and hydration strategies. About 300 people showed up for the meal and a few hundred more stopped by to see the new store and check out the latest gear at the vendor fair. The new store, located adjacent to Greenlife Grocery, opened Tuesday before the race. Greenlife plans to open on the 17th of October, and there will be a formal Grand Opening for the entire development the first week of November.
Both owners of Rock/Creek, Dawson Wheeler and Marvin Webb, are long time residents of Signal Mountain, and were heavily involved in the event. They appreciated the positive feedback from racers who had come from around the country and even from as far away as Japan. "The topography, the tremendous elevation gain, views of the Tennessee River, Suck Creek Gorge, enthusiastic volunteers, great sponsors, incredible race bags and prize packages: all these elements add up to make the Rock/Creek StumpJump one of the premier races in the country. The natural beauty of the Cumberland Trail cannot be matched," Wheeler explained.
"I'd especially like to highlight the hard work and continued support from our sponsors, volunteers, the park rangers, and Rock/Creek employees," said Sanders; "We couldn't have put this race on without their work. Many thanks to them." Mountain Hardwear sponsored the race t-shirts, which were technical running tees. SmartWool included a pair of wool running socks in each race bag, and the race bags themselves came from The North Face, and were screened with the event's date and logo. Montrail helped sponsor Friday's catered meal. Salomon, Patagonia, Black Diamond, CamelBak, Chaco, Keen, Deuter Packs, Nuun, Hammer Nutrition, and Powerade also sponsored the event. Noah Harper of River City Bikes started the race on a mountain bike, leading the racers from the starting line through the first couple miles of trail.
"The sponsors did not just write checks and step away, which is important to us. Everyone from local sales reps to national sales managers from these companies showed up to pitch in as volunteers and support the race by working aid stations and doing the hands-on work that really helps give the event a family atmosphere," Dawson Wheeler explained.
"We also want to send a huge thank-you to Pruett's of Signal Mountain,TN for donating hamburgers, veggie burgers, and all the fixings for an incredible post-race meal," Wheeler added. Rock/Creek organized the race in partnership with the Cumberland Trail Conference, the Chattanooga Track Club, The Wilderness Trail Running Association ("Boonies"), Prentice Cooper WMA, Nolan Elementary, and Hamilton County Parks & Recreation.
Be sure to save the date for next year's race, taking place October 4, 2008.
Photography available to the media by request. For full race results and photography, please visit the Rock/Creek StumpJump Web site at http://www.rockcreek.com/stumpjump/
Rock/Creek, member of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, is a specialty outdoor retailer with over two decades of experience in the Southeast. Along with its online shops, RockCreek.com and ClimbingGear.com, Rock/Creek provides quality outdoor clothing and gear for a host of activities including kayaking, rock climbing, camping, hiking, trail running, and adventure racing. Rock/Creek is committed to making a positive impact on the environment. For this reason, it uses outdoor retail as a platform to encourage outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship and to improve public access to the backcountry.