Welcome to Pigeon Forge.
Yesterday I ran the Smokies Half Marathon. I signed up for this race for 3 reasons:
- It was nearby (3 hours from home)
- It was the right time of year (I love fall/winter races)
- I once read on article about how beautiful the Smoky Mountains are in an airplane magazine and have wanted to go there ever since
The race webpage described it as a run “in the hills of east Tennessee in mid-December, just north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” I envisioned a small-town run through the misty foothills. Sounds good to me.
Originally Paul and I were going to head up early and rent a cabin for a nice relaxing weekend, but then work exploded all over my life and we couldn’t leave early enough on Friday, so we just got a room at a local hotel and drove up Saturday.
Someone wanted to come with.
The morning of the race we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains.
The weather was very warm, but nice in the early morning. The pre-race scene looked something like this:
Santa hats everywhere! (Hi Mom!)
Since he forgot to bring his running shoes and couldn’t sign up to run last minute, Paul decided to volunteer. He donned his volunteer uniform with pride.
There is one road that runs the 13 or so miles from Sevierville (race start) through Pigeon Forge (where we stayed) all the way down to Gatlinburg. It is a busy road lined with tourist attractions. The course was an out-and-back along this road.
The fact that when I was originally looking for rental cabins in the area I had trouble finding one that did NOT have a heart-shaped tub probably should have tipped me off that where we were heading was not what I had envisioned when I signed up. It didn’t.
At 8am sharp we took off, a sea of Santa hats and beards (I didn’t wear mine, too itchy.) One by one we ticked by the wonders of the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge.
Not exactly what I had expected. Will have to make it back to the mountains some other time.
Physically, the run was kind of awful, and for no particular reason. Despite the fact that we were in the Smokies, the elevation wasn’t bad at all (mostly rolling hills, which is what I’m used to training on).
The first few miles seemed longer than usual, but I was keeping a (mostly) OK pace and figured I could hold on to it/bring it down as I warmed up. Miles 5-9 I got into a groove and felt good. Mile 9 the verping started. Mile 10 started a downhill to flat to the finish line, but the verping got worse and I started to really feel it in my back and legs. Mile 10.5 I blowed up real good. …and the rest was ugly. Tunnel vision, borderline vomiting…it took me a good few minutes after the finish before I could talk. I just felt awful.
Final time: 1:50:20. What. Way too painful for that result. But sometimes that’s how it goes.
The good news is by the time I finished, Paul had made a new friend and really found his place in the volunteer village.
Attractions we missed on this trip included: the Dixie Stampede Christmas Show, the Biblical Times Christmas Dinner, Lumberjack Feuds, and any of the many, many indoor water parks lining that strip. But the (more) good news is…we can always come back!
And yes, that is the Titanic museum from the pictures along the route, shaped like the Titanic colliding with an iceberg.
More detailed race report (about the course, aid stations, parking, etc) to be posted here shortly.
P.S. I placed 8th in my AG. That is a personal record for me on any run ever by like an order of magnitude. Maybe I should consider entering more races with less than 800 people. The sad news is if I were a dude, I would have placed 5th.