The Chia Doc’s Smoky Mountain Relay Recap and Top Five Training Tips

Are you ready for marathon season? No doubt many of you are training for upcoming races. Our own Chia Doc, Dr. Gideon J. Lewis is prepping for his first race of the season, the Harvest Half Marathon in Cherokee, North Carolina. That’s coming up in October, then he’ll round out the season in April with a second go at the Smoky Mountain Relay.

That leads us to today’s question from Steve from Boston.

I entered my first marathon last spring and even after months of training, didn’t feel prepared. The weather on race day turned blustery and I wasn’t able to finish. How can I train more effectively to be better prepared?

Dr. Gideon J. LewisHey Steve,

I’m training right along with you, excited for race season! This April, I’ll be giving the Smoky Mountain Relay another shot after things kind of went awry last year. Maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. My 9.6 mile leg deep in the Smokies actually turned into an 18 mile, eight hour ordeal that ended in a rescue from the emergency team. I survived it all with just one bottle of Drink Chia!

Let me explain. If you’re not familiar with the relay, check it out here. I was assigned the infamous leg 9, which is 9.6 miles and a 2,250 foot elevation gain. No really, click on the link. See that…blackberries as a landmark?

Dr. Gideon J. Lewis running the Smokey Mountain RelayOn race day I felt great and was physically prepared for the task. But just as the relay baton was handed to me, Mother Nature had a change of plans. The temperature plummeted about 20 degrees within just a few hours and torrential rain began shortly after that. So what started as a pleasant day in the 60’s quickly turned into a wet, unbearable evening in the low 40’s.

After covering about 10 miles in harsh weather, I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t see any sign of a finish line, or for that matter, any signs of civilization. I did, however, see lots of bear droppings. My eight hour ordeal even landed me in the news.

So I definitely understand where you’re coming from with not meeting your goal. Here’s what I’m doing to get ready for this year, in addition to more hill training, which is pretty difficult in Florida. These tips can help get your started.

1. Study the race course, or even drive before race day it if that’s possible.

2. Know the terrain of where you’ll be running.

3. Review weather reports before race day, and stay up to date on changing conditions as race time approaches.

Smokey Mountain Relay team

4. Schedule a few training sessions in inclement weather. That way you’ll have some experience dealing with less-than-ideal conditions. I’m based in Orlando and use a weather app from a local TV station, but Weather Bug has a great app, too.

5. Don’t do it alone. Train and race with partners. Most importantly, consult with someone’s who’s previously done the race. I ran with the Cherokee Indian Running group. Shout out to my teammates Susan Paul, Terry Smith, Amanda Lapas, Trac

Like you, I’m determined to meet my goal and can’t wait to finish with my amazing relay team.

Good luck!

Shake It Baby,

The Chia Doc


Thank you for sending us your question! If any of our readers have a question they would like to Ask our Chia Doc, you can ask them via @drinkchia #askchiadoc on Twitter, or by email at

Don’t forget to Shake up your life, Shake up the planet…and Just shake it, baby!