The Rabid Raccoon: Ripping Descents, Rugged Climbs, and the Newest Member of the Rock/Creek Race Series


Rock/Creek is excited to announce the addition of the Rabid Raccoon 25k to the 2016 race lineup. Potentially a cult classic, the Rabid Raccoon is a fell running style event where top finishers will walk away with an actual raccoon skull. Registration is open now.

The Rabid Raccoon is a true Southeastern TN mountain trail race in which the conquering pain of top finishers will be assuaged with the reward of an actual raccoon skull.

Race director Brian Costilow as well as race series assistant Chris Luberecki explain that this race was designed as a good middle-distance race, longer than a half marathon but less than a full. The Rabid Raccoon will take place for the first time on May 7th. Costilow explains: “We were looking for a way to incorporate the trails now that extend down off the mountain from the original loop trail, and then have runners make their way back up to the top.”

rabid raccoon rock/creek 25k chatt tennThanks to the efforts of SORBA with their countless volunteers, the new(ish) Live Wire and High Voltage trails make this race possible. “Our goal was to build a challenging trail that met both the needs of our members and land manager,” says SORBA-Chattanooga’s former president Erik Rippon. “This required major efforts to avoid sensitive plants, streams, and several archaeological sites while adhering to specific design constraints related to grade and sediment runoff.”

“You’ll have a beautiful river view both up and down the mountain,” Costilow said. Luberecki explains that the scenic beauty of these trails played into the course decision from the start: “When we were looking to create new races for the Rock/Creek trail series we looked to do them in places that not only challenged your ability but also showcased the beautiful terrain we have here in Chattanooga”

The sun comes up over the Tennessee River Gorge

The sun comes up over the Tennessee River Gorge

“The trails are pretty smooth, with some technical sections, and are very windy and beautiful along the bluff. There is a nice, long five-mile descent from the top of the mountain, then a highly-challenging 3.5 mile ascent back up to the top.” The downhill section might be the highlight of the run, especially since it’s unusual to get such a sustained downhill in the Southeast.

Luberecki explains: “The Rabid Raccoon course design includes an epic five mile downhill section. Because this section was built for mountain bikers, the trail has banked corners and multiple switchbacks, which allow you as a runner to just open up your stride, open up your lungs and get a grasp of that feeling of joy we are look for in our running! Lots of opportunity for ‘Woo-Hoo’s’ and ‘Yee-Ha’s’ as you smile your way to the bottom.”

Here’s a blow-by-blow for those of you who know the trails: Start/finish will be at Laurel Point, with runners heading out of the parking lot and running back towards the dam, up the road about 200 yards, then taking a left onto the Megawatt trail. Runners stay on that trail and wind their way around the visitor’s center to Grindstone Ridge, then take Lower Chunky to Livewire I and begin descending into Livewire II. From there, the course takes runners up the sharp switchbacks of High Voltage back up to summit via Split Rock, winding from Split Rock back onto the road to Laurel Point. “It ends up being a little under 16 miles,” Costilow says, “We have 15.5 and 15.6 with two different GPS units, so it’s pretty much at a 25k. I don’t think we’ll have a lot of people asking for more.”

So, who’s the audience for this? Costilow says it’s going to be open to anyone, but you should be up for a challenge; “We’re going to have a very, very soft cut-off time, since it’s the first year and we don’t really know how long it might take. Maybe something like 4-5 hours? People will remember this race as being hard, but also being a lot of fun…and that the endurance of pain can be rewarded with the bones of a dead raccoon. That is what people will take home from this race.”

People will remember this race as being hard, but also being a lot of fun…and that the endurance of pain can be rewarded with the bones of a dead raccoon.” – Brian Costilow, Rock/Creek Race Director

Costilow says people have already started signing up from area cities like Nashville and Atlanta, but there are some locals already registered as well.

Luberecki outlines a few types of runner who might enjoy this race: “This distance should be attractive to many different levels of runners. If you just ran your first half marathon and are looking for your next challenge as you build towards a full marathon or ultra. Or, if you are transitioning from road to trail and are not quite ready for a 50k. Additionally, if you finished your last ultra and are looking to push your self to a new trail PR. This is your challenge; this is your race!”

While the top ten men and women will walk away with a raccoon skull (assuming they want it), the next 100 finishers will get a raccoon jaw bone to remember the race. Notably, the race will provide trucker hats rather than t-shirts, because many runners already have a wide variety of race tees in their drawers at home.

Costilow says he decided on the jaw bone “just trying to think up something unique, playing off the skull for the top 10. The company I got the skull from said that there was a shortage this season so I was lucky to get them. They come from hunters sending them in to some trading company in Missouri that specializes in this kind of thing, with animal pelts and bones. I guess there weren’t many raccoon hunters this season!”

Sponsors include Kelly Subaru and Patagonia. Whole Foods will have fruit and some snacks. A portion of race proceeds will be donated back to the local mountain biking group, SORBA, who are responsible for organizing the trail building and upkeep work.

Rock/Creek’s Chad Wykle speaks to the long-term vision of the company when it comes to events in the area and the importance of conservation funding: “SORBA has created an incredible resource on Raccoon Mountain, a fantastic collection of trails for bikers and runners alike. Thanks to SORBA and other very active regional non-profits and interested land organizations, the quality of our outdoor recreational resources continue to grow and improve here in Chattanooga. Rock/Creek is excited about the upcoming Rabid Raccoon 25k, and proud to have the opportunity to highlight one of the more unique trail systems in the Chattanooga area. We look forward to working closely with regional land managers to continue to bring quality events that encourage the community to get outside, improve our health and enjoy our incredible natural resources.”

There are a few other races coming up in the series as well:

Some of our shoe suggestions, from left to right: Altra Lone Peak, La Sportiva Mutant, Brooks Cascadia, Salomon Speedcross, Hoka Stinson. All available now at Rock/Creek.

Rock/Creek’s tips for running through the woods:

  • Get a pair of trail shoes. Off-road tread will help you stay upright while running on dirt and rocks. Every shoe fits and performs differently and you should be custom fitted by one of our shoe experts. Stop by one of our locations or set up an appointment for a custom fitting.
  • Take some food and water. If you’re running familiar terrain in under an hour, you should be fine with a handheld bottle. If you’re going for a longer run you may want to take two bottles or even consider a waist belt or running pack.
  • Replace your electrolytes. Electrolyte minerals are essential for the body to absorb water. Consider a drink mix like Skratch or Heed. We have also had really good luck with tablets like Endurolytes and Salt Stick.
  • Watch the weather. If rain is pending, take a light windbreaker to help regulate your body temperature if you get chilled.
  • Take your phone. Putting it on airplane mode will conserve battery life.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.
  • Make sure you don’t lock your keys in your car.

Our staff would love for you to stop by one of our area Rock/Creek locations and talk about anything related to trail running — destinations, gear, nutrition, hydration, etc. Seriously. They would love it.

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