I count myself lucky to live in an area that features an “A” level race such as the Chattajack. Every year, the excitement starts building around August, reaching a crescendo on the last weekend of October.
Social media starts to come alive with GPS photo evidence of longer sessions. Posse’s start meeting up to do long paddles and reconnoiter the Tennessee River, and as always, the good dinner and beers follow.
Around here, it becomes more and more common to see people along stretches of the river that are generally isolated.
I’ve never considered myself to be a distance guy in anything. I’m far too deficient in attention at handling the focus needed to do well in the long game. But every year come May, I compulsively register again.
With the way the race has been selling out, I know I no longer have the luxury of waiting to see how I feel about beginning the long training sessions needed in August. The choice is simple: either enter as soon as the registration opens, or run the risk of losing the opportunity completely.
So I register…
August-- No long training.
October is the last call to either finish or get out of the way, so, I’m gonna get out of the way and let someone else on the waiting list enjoy the challenge.
It might be different if this race didn’t sell out. I would likely leave my name registered as a show of support. But the CJ is different. People travel a long way to take part and the competition is fierce.
It will be difficult to feel like an outsider while seeing others making their final preparations. Race day will be even worse. There is an energy that is palpable, and not getting to experience it for the first time in several years will be tough. But what I really dread is missing out on the after race glow that all participants tend to radiate.
All the war stories, blister comparisons, and back slapping will be reserved for others this time.
Nevertheless, I believe the choice I’ve made is solid and I hope that my exit either opens the door for a true challenge to the top step (Lee Mcgregor--are you reading this?) or allows someone else the opportunity to have a great experience--maybe their first.
October 7th, is the cutoff for pulling out with a partial refund and should give another racer time to get their logistics in order to travel. For any of you out there in the same boat (intended), consider pulling out if you haven’t done the work. The Chattajack is not a race to be taken lightly. Anyone can float down the river for 31 miles, but to be truly ready for the challenge you’ve got to put in the work. Otherwise, it will be a very painful affair, and pain for the sake of pain really doesn’t serve any purpose.
Good luck to all the racers! Hope you have a memorable experience.