Famed Stump Jump helps kick off Chattanooga's RiverRocks festival

photo The StumpJump 50k trail race is established as a local event that pulls in elite athletes from afar, and it is one of the highlights of this year's RiverRocks. Rock/Creek photo by Andrew Kornylak

As the RiverRocks festival continues to be shaped, featuring in its third year a collection of 10 varied adventure sports events, it has some proven posts to hold it up.

The internationally known StumpJump 50k trail race (and 11-mile option), for one. And the Triple Crown of Bouldering, this year actually a double crown with the Stone Fort area leg being decisive for rock climbers.. And the Chattanooga Head Race for rowers throughout the Southeast.

Then there's the Swim the Suck 10-mile race, in its fourth year down the Tennessee River Gorge. Like the StumpJump and the Triple Crown in particular, it brings in some of the world's best in its particular discipline, including last year a guy who had swum the Amazon River.

That's the RiverRocks theme this year: Showcase the Chattanooga area's natural beauty and multitude of outdoors pursuits, and bring in elite athletes to call attention to all that throughout the nation and beyond.

The 12th annual StumpJump from Signal Mountain Middle High School is part of the first Saturday, Oct. 5, of the 2013 RiverRocks, along with the Sequatchie Valley Century bicycle ride from Sequatchie County High School in Dunlap and the RiverRocks Canoe/Kayak Race in the morning and RiverRocks SUP Race in the afternoon from Ross's Landing in downtown Chattanooga. That last competition caps the Tennessee SUP Championship Series for 2013.

The next Saturday, Oct. 12, includes the Urban Nature 10k run on Stringer's Ridge, the Chattanooga Head Race in the Tennessee River, the Triple Crown of Bouldering's Stone Fort segment, the debut of the Five Points Fifty mountain bike challenge on the Lula Lake Land Trust and the Swim the Suck hosted by the hardy Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers and Outdoor Chattanooga.

The first RiverRocks Duathlon wraps up the medal events on Oct. 13 with two 10k runs sandwiched around 13 miles of mountain bike riding in the Enterprise South Nature Park.

The StumpJump sold out in early August. Capped at 1,000 entrants, it includes 600 registrations for the 50k and 400 for the 11-mile run, Rock/Creek marketing representative Mark McKnight said Wednesday. That race is part of the Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series every year, and Rock/Creek also has lead sponsorship for the fledgling canoe and kayak race that will begin before the StumpJump ends.

"We're going to be pretty busy," McKnight acknowledged, noting that the paddling competition will be relatively small in number of participants but will be big in who takes part and their investment in the sport. Their small boats cost in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.

Chad Wykle is a Rock/Creek buyer who started the Triple Crown for rock climbers, and the locally based outfitter also is helping quite a bit with the Urban Nature run and the duathlon. Rock/Creek co-owner Dawson Wheeler is on the board for RiverRocks, so the company is heavily involved throughout. Its StumpJump Vendor Fair from noon to 6 p.m. on Oct. 4, the eve of the race, is one of the ways the festival reaches out to the public, and Rock/Creek also is hosting a book signing by Cody Averbeck on Oct. 11. He's a local man whose climbing guidebook will be available through Rock/Creek before any other outlet in the country, McKnight said.

Other festival sponsors include the Benwood Foundation, the Lyndhurst Foundation, EPB Fiber Optics, Subaru, Unum, TVA, Chattanooga Coca-Cola and the Set In Stone concrete designers, 102.3 FM Radio and Channel 3 Eyewitness News.