We were checking into our Air B&B and Jeff was not happy.
“This house has no furniture.”
“I know. Remember I told you –“
“There’s nothing in the kitchen. It’s empty.”
“Yeah, it’s supposed to be, remember I said we were going to – “
“There isn’t even a shower curtain!”
I had definitely mentioned to him that we were getting a really good deal on an...um...empty...Air B&B in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that was to serve as Base Camp for the upcoming Stump Jump 50k/11 Miler.
I couldn’t blame him for not remembering. A key to the success of our marriage has been that I only expect him to hear 40% of what I say. This must have been part of the other 60%.
I’m sure it went down something like this: I was rambling on and on about this race (he was most likely not listening during this part as I tend to talk about running a lot) and how awesome it would be to go to Chattanooga (which likely sparked his interest a bit because he loves to travel and we’d always wanted to visit Chattanooga) and then I likely mentioned the Air B&B (which he would have been quite happy about) and by the time I mentioned the fact that this particular Air B&B was an empty house and we would be kind of camping inside of it, he had probably started thinking about something else and the last bit of this plan probably sounded to him like Charlie Brown Teacher Speak. So when I then said, “Ok, great we’re going to book it!” he most likely said, “Sounds good.”
Flash forward and well, it wasn’t super good.
“How am I supposed to hang out in this empty house during your race if there’s no furniture?”
“You’re coming to the race! It will be so fun! You can hang out all day and watch runners come in and then when –“
I could tell he wasn’t listening. I suggested we buy a shower curtain on the way to the race expo.
The Stump Jump is a 50k (some years they have had an 11 Mile option as well) trail race on Signal Mountain with 4,400 feet of gain on crazy single track and rocky terrain with amazing views. Rock Creek Outfitters is a sponsor of this race as well as a lot of other great Chattanooga trail races. The Stump Jump is legendary.
We arrived at the expo, being held at the Rock Creek store, the mecca for trail runners in Chattanooga. It’s such an awesome/terrible idea to have a trail race expo at a genius gear store, especially with a sale going on. I couldn't resist “just trying on” a new pair of Hokas and I’m sure you know the end result of that – I was, in quick order, the proud owner of yet another pair of Hokas.
As we were browsing shoes and gear and picking up packets and looking around, Jeff wandered off and then reappeared. With a race packet in his hand.
We all stared at him. He stared back. “What?” he asked.
We stared more. At him and the race packet, complete with an official bib number, in his hand.
It’s not that Jeff can’t run. He just doesn’t particularly like to run. He’s an epic hiker. He has hiked 550 miles across Spain twice, hiked 100+ miles of the C&O Canal as well as nearly every trail in Shenandoah National Park and countless miles of the Appalachian Trail.
But he really doesn’t like to run. He likes to stop and take pictures. Of every flower. And he likes to identify plants. All the plants. He’s not a hurrying sort of guy. He’s a yoga teacher and the woods are a meditative place for him, not a racing place.
So, you can imagine that we were all slightly confused when he appeared to have, on the fly, registered for a race that we had all started training for months before.
“Well, I can’t hang out at that empty house and I’m not going to sit around at the race all day waiting for you guys, so I decided that I’m going to do it too.”
Jeff and the brothers Tolbert officially registered for Stump Jump. Jeff is thinking, you people are insane.
Oh, and that's me ready to make my 11 Miler debut
It kind of made sense. This is the part of the story where every runner should stop reading and thank any non runner who ever came out to cheer, hang, crew, be at a race for you. It's a lot of waiting around and may not be quite as exciting as we feel like it would be for someone who is likely to only see you for one second, crossing the finish line. We told Jeff he’d be amazing and we helped him pick out a hydration pack (carrying your own hydration is a requirement for this race) and went out for a pre-race dinner.
The next day arrived in the night and we huddled around bonfires waiting for the race to begin. The vibe of this race is what I call Classic Ultra. Ultra laid back, ultra cool, ultra friendly, ultra amazing coffee and snacks available. All of that and we were about to spend the day running on some of the most beautiful trails in the southeast - it's pretty much my idea of heaven.
Waiting for the sunrise to warm us up
Before we had a chance to think too much about it, we were off and racing into the woods with close to 500 other runners. And when it was all over Matthew, Michael, Jeff and I all had PRs. As we cheered Jeff across the finish line he smiled and said, “I took some amazing pictures and I beat a girl who twisted her ankle.”
Four started and four finished. Success for all.
We all decided we'd be back as soon as possible to hang out in the great city of Chattanooga and that we'd definitely all race Stump Jump again. And Jeff said that next time, he'd pick the accommodations.