Sunday, May 18, 2014

Run This Race! Cradle to the Grave 30k or 5k.

I'm pretty sure every muscle in my lower body is sore right now.  Tight calves.  Quads that groan when I go to stand up.  Buns and hamstrings that got worked!  They are sore and happy. That good sore that comes from a fantastic workout and pushing your body.  Then add the fact that this workout came from running free through gorgeous trails, rivers, forest and all things natural and beautiful for almost three hours and you have one happy, sore, heart-and-spirit full runner.

This was the second year I've been lucky enough to run the Cradle to the Grave 30k trail race.  Last year was the first year this race was put on and my first ever trail race experience.  I went into last year's race naive and ready for anything.  I'd just run two spring marathons (Napa Valley and Boston) and was going into this race as an extension to our Try NEW Things Adventure in moving out to Asheville for a year. I bought my very first pair of Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes and I was ready to be schooled in trail running.  I couldn't have found a better race to break me in.   I came out of it beat up, humbled, exhilarated, and wanting MORE. It wasn't like anything I'd ever experienced with running.  I'd gone on plenty of trail runs with plenty of trees, mud and water.  But I'd never run this long in a forest or experienced this type of trail experience.  It was thrilling!  Rain, rushing water, mud, roots, rocks, climbs, views, challenge, strategy (in my case last year there was no strategy), and lots of time running completely alone through nature with just your heart and head.  Really, I was like a giddy school kid visiting an amusement park for the first time.  At least until the end when I realized that maybe I should have taken in some sort of fuel or food along the way. Even then, I was smiling and happy to be out there taking part in this experience.

This year  was no exception.  A highlight of my running year.  I didn't think I was going to run this race this year since it was my husband's turn.  Living on the other side of the country away from family doesn't make for many opportunities to get away for things like this with my husband.  Not a lot of babysitters want to show up in the wee hours of the morning so we can take off for a trail run in the mountains.  And we wouldn't ask anyone to take all three of our kids for an overnighter just so we can go running through the forest together.  I'd accepted that it was my husband's turn.  Besides, I didn't think I'd be up for a 30k trail race after Boston anyway.  However, it didn't take long after Boston before I was craving some "fun" running where I just get to run for the pure love and joy of running and not just stick to a training plan.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  I was able to get entry into the race AND we found an amazing sitter to watch our kids.  Score!

Rising sun behind us, setting moon, and nothing but mountains and beauty ahead on the open road as we made our way to the Pisgah National Forest on race morning.  

I'm lucky to do this with someone I love and that shares in the same passion for running .

Here are a few facts about the Cradle to the Grave 30k and 5k:
  • If you're a seasoned trail runner or someone that's never tried a trail race or run and you're looking for a great race worth traveling for or just driving to locally, add this race to your list!  It's got it all:  pre and post run celebrations, gorgeous trails through the heart of the Pisgah National Forest, unique to Appalachian culture entertainment, local sponsors, a well-organized event, etc.
  • This was the Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association's (CFAIA) second annual Cradle to the Grave 30k and 5k Trail Race presented by Foot RX in Asheville.  

  • Involvement in this race means that supporting a local non profit organization while enjoying a beautiful weekend of trail running within Pisgah National Forest. 
  • You can read more about the course descriptions on the Cradle to the Grave website but here's a short description from their site:  "Come enjoy 18.6 miles of trail running in the birthplace of modern forestry! The second annual Cradle to Grave 30k starts and finishes at the Cradle of Forestry, located just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Sliding Rock. You will run out the lush Pink Beds trail past fields of wildflowers and beaver ponds, cross creeks on bridges and rocks, move along forest service roads in the heart of Pisgah National Forest, and climb up to one of the most unvisited and spectacular views of pristine forest land available. The return trip will utilize several different trails, each with their own unique topography, beauty, and characteristics. After race lunch and entertainment will be provided."
  • This entire race before, during, and after has a unique Appalachian flavor!  From a pre race party at the local Oskar Blues Brewery to camping, local food from Hob Nob Farm Cafe, a string band, and fantastic sponsors...this race is done up right!  Oh, and only a race in the Appalachian mountains would you see a pet goat tagging along with the local musicians and guy with a starting shot gun rifle like the one below! There were even a few fiddlers on the course.  Awesome!   
Morning music in the Cradle of Forestry center.

Yup, no joke. The band had a pet goat.  

So glad my friend got this picture of the guy starting the race!  You couldn't help but smile at how this added to this Appalachian race.
  • Two of the race sponsors that I'm particularly excited about:  Nuun Hydration (I hydrated with Nuun Energy throughout the race...electrolytes plus caffeine) and Huma Gel!  I'd tried Huma Gel once before since they sent samples to us as Asheville Marathon ambassadors.  I'm pretty sure I've found MY gel.  I had three of their strawberry gels during the run.  Not because I needed them every time I took them but I actually found myself WANTING to eat one.  They taste like applesauce with chia seeds!  I enjoyed them instead of gagging on them like I have with other gels.  If you have a hard time with gels and are looking for a natural, easy to eat gel, check out Huma! 
I've found MY gel! 

  • What's better than a cold beer right after a trail race?  Not much.  Thank you Oskar Blues Brewery for having such a fun selection of brews to choose from!  Oh, and for the unique beer medals!  
  • The post race gathering and award ceremony was worth sticking around for.  It made for some good laughs as well as connection with the local running community.  Plenty of cheers for even the runners that weren't able to stay.  

Happy with a huge improvement from last year.  First in AG and 4th woman overall.  And thanks to Huma and a 26.2 endurance run only weeks ago, I felt amazing at the end! I still stick to my story that these Oiselle Roga shorts make you run faster too.  Had lots of people ask me about my Nuun hat and what Nuun is...only they called it NUN (instead of Noon) just like I did at first.  And these Brooks Cascadias have seen some incredible trails from east to west coast!
  • The race shirts (picture above) proved to be of great quality again this year!  Last year's race shirt has come to be one of my favorite t-shirts to run in and wear casually and this year's will too.  Quality fabric and well made! This year's shirts were made by New Balance and last year they were Columbia
  • The volunteers at this race were so supportive.  Thank you to them for standing out in the middle of the forest to give their time and support.  Good volunteers really do make a race!
  • During much of the race I was alone or quite spread out from the other runners.  This course was so well marked.  Any chance of going in a different direction and there was clear marking to keep us from doing so.  I never felt like I was lost and I can tell that a lot of work was put into efficiently marking the race course.  A couple of pictures that my friend Kelley sent me:

View and picture opportunity at around mile 10?  

If you're a seasoned trail runner or someone who has never run a trail in your life but would like to give it a try and see what all the trail hype is about, this is the race!  There is a 30k and 5k.  The 5k isn't as much of a trail race as it is a race in the forest near the trails but you still get the trail race energy and pre and post experience.  I know many friends who have said they want to visit Asheville, North Carolina and surrounding areas and mountains.  Well, this is a great weekend to do so AND hit up a must-do trail race.  It's spring, the trees have their leaves back, the temperatures are perfect, and there's so much to see and do.  You can book a bed and breakfast, a cabin in the forest, or even a nice hotel surrounded by restaurants and local shopping in downtown Asheville.  Make a weekend out of it or take a week and enjoy the restaurants, scenic drives, hikes, outdoor adventures, good breweries, and so much more that the Asheville area boasts.  I know I'll be back someday...even if it means flying all the way from Bend, Oregon to get here.




  1. Wow! That looks beautiful! First in age group is amazing- congrats!! Looks like some great post-race food and fun, too.

  2. This looks like such a great race! Something that I would want to do for sure. It is so good to see you racing and loving it!! I'm really glad you were able to get the perfect sitter so you were able to be there.
    Great placement, Amanda :) !