Latest reviews by Stacey F
I'm a big fan of the Tennessee State Parks Running Tour series. The races take place all over the state in 20 different state parks. It combines my favorite things: visiting parks + running!
This was a great race and such a good experience! Definitely recommended!
--> I love the small and uncomplicated feel of the Running Tour races.
--> The registration, with a shirt included, was only $22. It would have been only $20 but I registered late. Considering I frequently pay $75+ to run a race, this is the best price ever.
--> The shirts are great -- dri-fit with a nice-looking 40th anniversary logo on them. The shirts are very, very similar for every race in the series (the colors change and the back sometimes has extra graphics depending on the race) so it's nice to basically only need to buy one shirt for all the races.
--> The people who race the Running Tour events are so friendly and are often the same people year to year. It's nice to have a nice, relaxed post-run time. The organizers are often the same people, too, so it's nice to see familiar faces!
--> Though I only ate bananas, they do provide a nice spread of bananas, cookies, and pretzels at the finish line.
--> Monte, who takes the photos for a lot of races in the series, is an excellent photographer and as someone who often goes to races alone I'm grateful for on-course photographers!!
--> Not that it was any fault of the organizer's but IT WAS SO HOT. High 80s in October! Man. We really needed an earlier start for this race.
--> No idea if this could ever be arranged, but I wonder if either of these have ever been considered: (1) closing one lane to car traffic during the race only on the main road 2 mile segment or (2) moving the course to the Trail of Tears trail that parallels the main road? I know moving the race course to a trail changes the race, but it would make it a lot less stressful for participants and for car traffic... plus that trail was SHADED and we needed shade!!
--> The medal and shirt are VERY cool looking.
--> The race website has lots of good info on it about the course and about the race! I'm learning how important that is!!
--> While there was no 'official photographer' one of the RDs was on the course taking photos in two spots. As of this writing, these pics haven't been posted online yet, but I'm hopeful they will be. :)
--> The course was challenging but doable. I appreciated the lollipop route but I do wish it had been more "runnable" overall, however most of the 'stick' of the lollipop was pretty runnable.
--> The course was pretty in several spots and definitely was nice that it was not an entire out-and-back.
--> I know that measuring trails can be challenging but this was most definitely more than a 30K. Every map (even the one on the race website) indicates it's close to 20 miles. I tracked 19.78 on my garmin. Why not just add a little bit and call it a 20 miler?? It's definitely more than a 30K!
--> The location for this race is pretty far away from Nashville and pretty remote. It took a while to get there and once there, nothing was open (not even the camp store). About 5 hours was a long way to travel.
--> There was a little bit of a mix-up involving buying an extra left-over shirt from the race and it left a bad taste in both my and B's mouth. The RDs weren't consistent in whether shirts were available or not and just generally didn't handle the situation well or in a friendly manner.
--> While they were trying to take pics as finishers came in, it was a bit hit or miss, and unfortunately they weren't ready when I came in. Insert frowny disappointed face here.
--> I can imagine that on a gorgeous sunny warm day, the start/finish area would be perfect. As it was, I'd have paid money for the protection of a pavilion! Or to simply be away from the shoreline and the wind. There was also no where to sit after the race, other than on the ground so we wound up back at the campsite by a warm fire!
On Saturday, September 28 I ran the Big South Fork 17.5 Mile Trail Race. It was my first time running the race (though I'd read about a couple of years ago and honestly thought "that's something I'll never be able to do!). I was wrong! I did it!
The race is within Big South Fork National Recreation Area and is actually two races: a 17.5 miler and a 10K. In all, about 150 people ran both races - they start together and the 10K only runs the Litton/Slaven Farm Loop.
--> The course is very, very runnable which is SO nice. Granted, it didn't stop me from tripping a few times but no falls so I'll take it.
--> The course is also very, very pretty - lots of variation in the different parts. Some felt almost tropical (near Fall Branch Falls), some was definitely woods, some along farms, some along cliffs, some skirting enormous rocks and overhangs... a little bit of everything!
--> Everyone I encountered on the course was SO NICE and there was no intense pressure to go, go, go, go. I think starting at the back of the pack was smart and influenced the more laid-back mood.
--> The aid stations, while super simple, were great and well placed. The people were nice and helped me make sure I was heading in the right direction. GU was available every time (even had flavor choices!) and Tailwind was appreciated!
--> The location and timing of the race is perfect, especially for camping. Big South Fork is one of our favorite places to go and the weather in late September was great!
--> They had plenty of post-race food (bbq and sides) but not a lot of simple stuff that I wanted to eat, like bananas or oranges, etc.
--> No medals!! In my dream world, they would not go 3-deep in age group awards for both races (those folks got custom backpacks) and would instead only give out overall winner awards for each race... that way they could spend the money on medals for every finisher.
--> The awards part post-race was a bit confusing and hard to hear. I enjoy hearing the race times for the fastest of the fast people and though we were right under the pavilion I couldn't hear much of anything and never really knew which person was getting an award for which place in what race.
Overall: HIGHLY recommended and I'm already looking forward to next year!!
This race sucked. In a good way.. but it still sucked. HAHAH!! I guess that's how you're supposed to feel after a trail race, right?! I am sore and tired. My legs are tired and my eletrolytes/energy/will to live is depleted.
* The medal is awesome and the shirt is cute. One I'd definitely wear.
* The course was very well marked and there wasn't a confusing part or intersection anywhere.
* Parking was easy (we were able to park within steps of the start/finish)
* The race wasn't super expensive.
* It was a small field of runners (300) and that's definitely about the right size.
* Every runner I met, talked to, ran with, passed, or who passed me was super friendly and not aggressive at all. I so appreciated that. It made a difficult course a lot easier when people weren't right on your heels or passing you with very little room.
* This race is close enough to Nashville that you can drive down on the morning of the race (though it does mean a super early alarm!)
* There wasn't much food to be had post-race. I guess bananas and gatorade is the standard fare though. I need to start the trend where there's some guy making popcorn or kettlecorn at the finish line and everyone gets a hot bag of all-you-can-eat popcorn. I mean.. isn't that what everyone wants? Hot and salty? I do. Or maybe a baked potato guy. A career to think about! hah
* I know it's in the "trail runner's nature" to make a course as difficult as possible, but that hill - the "death mile" at the end was SO unbelievably hard. It humbled me about 60 times over. I would have given my kidney to divert the course to a flat or downhill for the last mile. Smashrun rated this course as a "10" for elevation difficulty!
* Zero photographers. :( They did create a little race video of the start along the park road but there were no photographers anywhere on the course. I love it when there are - especially when it's a course that is difficult to spectate at and/or when I'm at a race alone.
* I totally get that volunteers are hard to find (and am totally grateful to the people who volunteer their time and energy to man aide stations - it's awesome!) but the folks at this race needed a little bit more info than they had. One station wasn't sure if they were the second or third aide station... another didn't have any sort of first aid kit on hand nor knew the exact location of where they were (to provide this info to EMTs trying to find the spot). The people were kind and friendly and supportive, but just a handout of the basics and a map and some bare bones information would have probably been very helpful!
Oh, and one more Pro --- there are SO MANY trails in the park! I had no idea! We hit up the Sinks and Stone Cuts loop after lunch and it was so pretty! Definitely want to go back and explore!
So this is the second year that I've run this race. It was a different experience this year for a variety of reasons including: (1) it was pouring down rain, (2) I had my dog with me, and (3) I was much more prepared and have done a TON of training this past year.
So my updated pros/cons and general thoughts:
- As always, the folks at NRC are kind and super responsive and I enjoy chatting with them before/after the races.
- The shirt design was fun (as always) and the shirts are some of the only race shirts that I ever wear!
- As with last year, Bowie is a place I rarely drive to for a run so it's fun to have an excuse to run the trails there.
- The rain on the morning of the race turned the trails into a muddy, water-sodden mess but to me that's a pro. I love stomping through the mud and the muck! That's part of the fun, right? But it's a con too (see below).
- The trails are well marked and the course is easy to follow. Plenty of flags up and people at the one possibly confusing intersection at mile 5.
- This is in no way the fault of the organizers (let me say that first!) but man, the people who tend to run the NRC trail races are sometimes pretty aggressive runners. Maybe all trail runners/racers in TN are, I don't know (I haven't experienced this to be the case in GA!), but the staying right on your heels and then not allowing you to pass definitely gets old. I've experienced that at just about every one of the 6-mile series runs, no matter whether I start in the middle with similarly paced runners or in the back because I have a pet with me.
- Again, no fault of the organizers, but the rain made the trails a mess. Ankle deep water in many spots and deep slippery pudding-like mud in other spots (especially in the fields near the power lines). To me, this is just part of it, but for others it meant tip-toeing back and forth across the trail and trying to walk very carefully to avoid all mud and water... I was like JUST GO! It was frustrating to have long stretches of trail where people were zig-zagging and stopping right in front of you to avoid a puddle.
- There were no race photos this year. :( On a course where it's hard to have spectators (who can be your personal paparazzi, lol) any photos are much appreciated. But none this year.
- There wasn't much (was there any??) food available after the race. For upwards of $30 registration fee a participant I'd have appreciated some bananas at least.