Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A little video for your viewing pleasure

I had a really great week of running last week! I got to explore some more technical and tough singe-track in the Uwharrie Mountain region of the Piedmont and head out to some of the very places that got me loving trail running. One of these places is highlighted in this video I made. It is Southwest Park, the newest member of the Guilford County Park system that borders Randleman Lake. The trails aren't the greatest in the world, but it does have a lot of up and down and can be a bit of a challenge at times. Still nothing compared to the Boone area, but the Park has a nice, very natural vibe. Hope you enjoy the video!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Uwharrie 50k - ish

The original plan this weekend was to go run ALTAR (Art Loeb Trail Adventure Run) with the WNC trail runner group, but after being stuck in Boone with snow everywhere for the past two weeks, I placed my money on some super deep snow and icy conditions on that beautiful trail. So, I backed out and retreated to the rolling hills of the piedmont. Huge mistake considering those that did brave the suspected conditions were met with only patches of ice and snow. Since I wouldn't be running one of the most memorable runs of my life, I decided that I could still get out in Uwharrie for a solid 30 mile training run on Saturday. This would be great training for the Uwharrie Mountain Run coming up in February and would give me an extra training run on the course. So, the weekend wasn't a total loss. Hannah said that she wanted to join me a for the last 10 miles and I was all for it, knowing that by the time I would meet up with her, I would be ready for some aid and emotional support she could bring.

Saturday morning, I made the long drive down to the 109 trailhead to stash a jug of water and a couple of gels for the 8 mile and 22 mile points of my run and then headed over to the Jumping Off Rock trail head to begin 30 grueling miles in the back country of Uwharrie. Right from the start, you tackle the longest climb and high point on the course to the top of Dark Mountain. This climbs get really rocky in some sections and you start to wonder if you are still in the Piedmont while you skirt by Mountain Laurel. After running across the ridge for about a third of a mile, you descend down the back of the mountain to the 2 mile point at Tower Rd. The ascent up Horse Mt. isn't a stuff as the first, mainly because it just skirts the side before descending down to the first creek crossing at Panther Branch. The next 4 miles to the 109 trail head are a rolling mix of short ascents and descents and seems to last forever.

After 8.4 miles and 85 minutes of running I made it to 109 and promptly refilled my water bottle and chomped down on my favorite lemon-lime flavored Clif Blocks. I lingered around a bit to talk to some hikers and then called Hannah to tell here that I was running on time. I then busted it down the trail for the next rolling 6.6 miles to the turn around at the base of Dennis Mt. During this section, it had began to sleet, snow, and rain on me all the way back to the 109 trailhead. This added slipperiness to the trail was not boding well for my ankle that has been bothering me for the past 3 weeks when I go longer than 15 miles. Actually, by the time I meet up with Hannah with 1 mile to go to the 109 trail head, I was fighting the pain. Once we reached her car (~22 miles in), I sat down and begged for some food and meds. I've been weary of taking ibuprofen on a run since I read what happened to Eric Skaggs, but my ankle was literally throbbing in pain and something had to be done. I will admit, at this point I was ready to throw in the towel. Hannah encouraged me to go on and said that if the ankle started to feel even worse we could always turn around and come back to the car and cut the run short, but at least we could get a few extra miles in even if it was only two. I agreed to this plan and we took off.

About a mile in, my ankle pain disappeared (thanks to the meds) and I knew that I would make it back to the Jumping Off Rock trail head. Hannah and I ran and were trying to beat night fall, considering our pace had fallen off quite a bit due to my ankle and her unfamiliarity with the trail. Shivering, wet, and cold we finally made it back to my car and totally skipped stretching and jumped right in to crank up the heat. We had made it. I ended up with 30.1 miles of running and covered all but 5 miles of the course. Next week, I'll be heading out to run the whole course one time through for a solid 20 miles. Here is the Garmin data for the run: Uwharrie 50k - ish

Friday, December 10, 2010

PR at Kitsuma!

Ever since my first attempt out at Kitsuma, (first fun run with WNC Trail Runner) I've been longing to get back out there and better my time. My time of 1:44:45 was, needless to say, disappointing. Granted, I did have a few excuses as to why my time was so slow. First off, the trail was utterly destroyed when I went out and ran it the first time. Someone had been contracted to "improve" the trail and they destroyed it a day or two before the Kitsuma Kookout Challenge. The run was the equivalent of running in the sand! Secondly, my fitness was just beginning to develop after a lazy summer of almost zero running. Thirdly, that was my long run for that week. I know what you are thinking, "It is only 9.25 miles long, that's not a long run." Granted, but like I said, my fitness was still developing. Yes, these are some valid excuses, but I know that even then I could have done better than 1:44:45! I really just did not give it my best effort.

So, since I was done with this semester's load of school and my fitness had obviously improved since September, it was time to take the trip back down to Kitsuma and lay down a time I would be proud of (somewhere between the 1:30-1:35 mark). I got up with Adam (a.k.a Mad-A), to see if he would want to join me for the klimb. He suggested that I head down and hang at it his place the night before and then wake up and drive the short 20 minutes over to the trail head and give it a whirl. It sounded like a solid plan to me, so that's what I did. Wednesday night consisted of some good brews and some definite "ultra-nerd" talk between Adam and I before we finally got some sleep for the spectacular day that lay ahead.

Thursday morning greeted us with ideal conditions for trying to put down a solid time. Temps were in the low 40's and the skies were clear. After taking care of some pre-run "stomach issues" I was ready to go. The plan was that I would lead on the first miles descending down into the Old Fort Picnic Area and then Mad-A would take the lead at the turnaround and pace me back up the near 2,000 ft of gain to the car.

The first mile of the the trail out from the Ridgecrest trail head is up to the top of Kitsuma peak. I decided that I would push it up hard and let my body recover on the long descent afterward and let gravity do some work. I might have pushed it a little to hard, because I was completely anaerobic (actually Adam told me after the run that he couldn't breathe on that first climb and he is a much stronger climber and better overall runner than me) all the way to the top and it took awhile for my body to recover and it sent my stomach into a fit all the way to the turn around. I just never could let my legs turn over as quickly as I wanted on the descent because of my stomach. Even with this problem, I made it to the turn around in 37:49! That was almost 10 minutes faster than my last split in this direction! All I had to do was hang on through the climb back and I would definitely be posting a time in the range I was shooting for.

Adam began to pace me up the long climb and allowed me a much needed walk break. I tried to get down a GU at this point, but my stomach was still giving me a fit and just the taste of what seemed to me, an overly super sweet energy concoction, almost made me throw up right there on the trail. I could only stomach about a quarter of the GU. Soon, Adam had me running again, which was actually welcomed. Although my stomach felt off, my legs were feeling really good at this point. I was also looking forward to getting back to the water we dropped about halfway up the trail to get the super sweet after taste of the GU out of my mouth. This definitely provided some extra motivation to get up this climb as fast, but comfortable as possible. It was also great having Adam right there in front of me telling when to run hard, when to lay back, and when to just push through. This really helped me from getting over taxed like I did on the first climb of the day and keeping a solid steady pace.

Adam had mentioned trying to get sub-50 at the turn around and I thought to myself that I probably couldn't, but I would give it my best. When we came around a bend in the trail that would signify one last short but extremely steep climb, Adam yelled out that I had about a 30 second cushion on going sub-50 if we kept up this pace. This news acted like a rejuvenating factor to my body and I bombed it down the short descent to the base of the day's final climb back up to Kitsuma peak. That extremely short climb though about killed me! Granted it is about 30%, but it is only like a couple of hundred feet long at that. After grunting my way up to the summit, I had just a bit more than 3/4 of a mile of switchbacking trail to the car. I did my best to push it down the switchbacks as fast as possible. When I got to the last bit of slight downhill, it was all straight an non-technical trail to the end. At this moment Adam yelled out that sub-50 was almost in the bag! Again this news lit a spark in me and all the sudden I became a track runner and about half-way down this stretch reality hit me and I was forced to settle back down into a more tolerable 5:30/mile pace instead of the 4:40/mile I was trying to muster up. Either way, it was still flying for me.

I finally hit the pavement at Ridgecrest, stopped my watch, gave Adam a high-five, and looked down at 1:27:36 displayed across the screen. 1:27:36!!!! I had made the return trip in 49:46, breaking the sub-50 barrier! Adam was more ecstatic than me, but that was because I was still trying to catch my breath and gather myself. I had just smashed my old time and completely smashed my expectations for the day! I didn't even think I was going to get under 1:35 . Obviously, my recent training routine of climbing notable peaks around Boone has paid off. I also cannot thank Adam enough for helping pace and motivate me today. I've joined the rank of Kitsuma Kid's with this run, but now it is time to try and get into the Kitsuma Klub. This would mean I have to shave another 7:37 off of today's run. This definitely seems out of reach in the immediate future, but we will see what another few months of solid training will do. Here is the garmin data: Kitsuma PR run

P.S. If you haven't got out to do this challenge, do it as soon as possible and post your times up on the WNC Trail Runner Kitsuma page!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Trail Adventure

Since I was in Winston-Salem for Hannah's first half marathon (which she rocked by the way in 1:49:07) I thought it would be a good idea to go run at Hanging Rock State Park close by. So I got up with Abran, a friend I made at my last race, and he got a group together (John, David, Darren) to head out to the best state park in the Piedmont.

Surprisingly, on the drive to the Tory's Den trail head it started to snow! Looking at the forecast minutes earlier, the weather was looking to be cloudy with occasional snow flurries, not heavy snow showers. By the time everyone arrived at the trail head and we were ready to go, there was at least a 1/2 inch on the ground. We all started heading up on the Sauratown Loop trail and the footing was a bit hairy. Mainly because all of the trails on this side of the park are a bit primitive and very technical. Technical terrain and wet snow that hides all the technical features in the trail make for one "roll you ankle every few steps" type of run. Despite this though, it was really fun and beautiful to be running through the snow.

After coming off the Sauratown Loop and joining the Moore's Wall Loop trail, we were soon charging to the top of the 2550 ft Moore's Knob (the highest peak in the Sauratown Range) . It was nice catching up with David on the easy climb up to the top. Upon arriving to the summit, the view was like looking down onto a winter wonderland. It was beautiful, but it was starting to get a bit cold standing on the exposed summit. So, Abran, John, and I speed down the never ending stone steps to park visitor center. By the way, I hate those stone steps!

At the visitor center, we all huddled into the lobby to try and warm our wet and cold hands. This is where Abran and I would drop John, David, and Darren and head down Indian Creek trail for an extra 7 miles before following there route back to the car. The first part of the Indian Creek trail goes down a series of wooden and stone steps and the inevitable finally happened. I completely ate it on one of the steps and landed hard on my right side. It was a shocking blow to the system, but I did what you must always do in those situations, get up and keep going and the pain and shock will soon disappear. After the steps, the trail evens out and becomes a nice graded path with a few cold stream crossings. This section would have been a lot more enjoyable if the continually falling snow wouldn't have changed into a mix with rain. The run was starting to go from extremely fun and enjoyable to just down right miserable. Abran said he was feeling the same way.

Coming back up the trail, I was trying to get back to the visitor center as quick as possible. I longed to get warm and dry out my gloves that were soaked. Abran and I probably hung out in the visitor center a bit to long. Even though I dried out my gloves, my hands were never colder than when we headed out for the last 5 miles back to the car. I thought that they we heading towards being frostbite and then Abran told me a good tip of balling up your hands inside your gloves. This definitely worked! After the first two miles, the trail began to become primitive and technical again on the descent down Tory's Den trail.. My left ankle, which has been bothering me the past few weeks, did not like this slippery terrain. I was practically walking down this section and Abran got a good ways in front of me. I was glad when we hit the tarmac again that would lead us up to the warm car.

The 22 miles of snowy trail running was finally over! I had a blast, but I wish the snow would have been a dryer one than what we had, but that is typical of piedmont snow. Other than that, it was a great run with some new trail running buddies and an epic one at that! Here is the garmin data: Snowy Hanging Rock Run

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Journey to the Archaic Hills of Uwharrie

For the past few years, I've made it a tradition to head out to the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness Area in the Uwharrie National Forest for a Thanksgiving morning run on one of the more challenging 7 mile trail routes that the Piedmont has to offer. Today would be no different, even though it is the middle of hunting season and the Uwharrie's are the Mecca of deer hunting in North Carolina.

The Uwharrie's are a string of ancient and most definitely dormant volcanoes that stretch through most of Montgomery and Randolph counties. They are believed to be the oldest mountain range in North America and it shows, since they have been whittled down over millions of years to mere 700 - 1000' stumps. These "mountains" are still pretty darn steep and offer some climbs of 500' or more, so it is the closest thing to actual mountain running you are going to get in the Piedmont. Actually, there is an annual 40-mile ultra held in these "mountains" that boasts a good 7,000 ft of vertical gain! That is pretty impressive.

Well, lets get on to the run. I arrived at the Robins Branch Trailhead and there were already 5 cars and trucks there. Along with one of the trucks, was a freshly cleaned deer hanging on a tree! I had thought while driving out there, "there are probably going to be some hunters," but I would have never imagined this greeting. Undeterred by the sight that laid before me, I laced up my MT 101's and took of down Hannah's Creek Trail. Not even a minute into the run I heard two gun shots of in the distance. Thoughts went racing through my head; "Am I the one being hunted", "Should I run faster", "I'm wearing orange, that should keep me safe right?" Not but a few minutes after the gun shots, I saw some bright pink ribbon tied to a branch and immediately thought, "That must be the ribbon that the hunter is using to help him find his way back to the trail." I was right, because as soon as that thought left my head, I saw the camoed, orange caped hunter stepping out of the woods. I said a quick "How ya doin'", with a cold non-response from the hunter, and headed on my way. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything, because that might have "scarred away" the deer?

Anyway, after the early barrage of all things hunting, things settled down and I felt that I was deep enough in the woods that no hunter would be out this far. My logic being that it must be pretty difficult to drag a deer 3 miles out of the woods. With this sudden feeling of safety, came the hills. On all of my previous runs on this loop, I had to walk up the two big climbs of about 300 ft each. This time that would not be the case, I mean I've been running up actual mountains this fall! These big hills are dwarfs in comparison. It paid off in my time as well. I had never ran this loop in under 1:05 before, but today I ran it in 56:36. I can definitely tell that my training is paying off. I'm becoming a much stronger runner. Not necessarily faster, but definitely stronger. Well, after passing by camp sites, old homesteads, and many minor creek crossings, I was finished. Here is the Garmin data: Birkhead Moutain Loop

I really cherish this loop, because it was the first serious hike that I ever went on and it paved the way to me doing what I do now. I'm glad that when I do return back to my hometown, that I have this rugged slice of North Carolina to keep me honest in my running. I really miss the mountains though, and I'm looking forward to frolicking around in the Bent Creek area this Saturday with the good people from WNC Trailrunner! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and lets remember to be thankful for places like Uwharrie and other nature playgrounds that we get to enjoy. Gobble, Gobble!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Roan Highlands Run to Big Yellow

After I finished my race last weekend, I was immediately thinking about this run and how I couldn't wait for this weekend to come. I have such a deep love for the highlands of Roan and have day hiked and backpacked there many times, but I had never attempted a run there. Also, after my last trip to the beautiful balds, I found out that I had missed one of them that was off the beaten path of the AT called Big Yellow Mtn. So after many hours of researching how to get out there, this weekend I was going for it! Huge pay off by doing so, but I'll get to that later.

The original plan this morning was to get up around 7:30 and then leave at 8:00 to make the hour long drive to Carver's Gap and arrive at the trailhead by 9:00. Well, getting home around 1:00 am and then having insomnia, which kept me up another 2 hours, pretty much put that scheduled wake up time on the back burners. So, eventually I arose from bed at 9:30, ate a couple bowls of cereal and headed of towards Carver's Gap at 10:10. I would be arriving at the trailhead a good 2 hours behind schedule, but at least a got some sleep.

As soon as I arrived, I shed my fleece, strapped on my water bottle, and pushed myself up through the majestic fir forest to Round Bald. It was a very easy climb and then the trail quickly descended down to Engine Gap and back up the shorter but steeper climb to Jane's Bald. Then came the long descent down the muddy switchbacks on the backside of Grassy Ridge to Yellow Mountain Gap. When I got there, I took a quick breather, a sip of water, and downed a couple of Clif Blocks. I knew that the climb going up to Little Hump was going to be quite strenuous at the beginning, so the quick rest was welcomed.

I tried to maintain a jog from Yellow Mtn Gap to Little Hump Mtn, but the grade at one point was so steep I could walk up it faster, so that is what I did for about a tenth of a mile and as soon as the grade settled back into a more tolerable 10%, I continued jogging to the intersection of the side trail that would lead me to Big Yellow. Trouble was, I couldn't find the trail once it entered back into the woods so I had to bushwhack my way for half a mile until I finally spotted the trail again. Let's just say that bushwhacking is something I would rather not do without a map. The trail was nice and it was a gentle climb to the wide expanse of grassy goodness that laid before me. This picture does not do it justice, but at least you can get a feel for what I was seeing. This was without a doubt the most beautiful bald in all of the Roan Highlands. Upon reaching the summit of Big Yellow, I let out a primal howl of pure astonishment! The views from the mountain were amazing! I could practically look down into Linville Gorge and see Grandfather Mtn and Grassy Ridge towering to the East and West of me. I stopped at a rocky area and started to assemble a rock statue at that location all while the wind was whipping through my sweat drenched cloths. Obviously, I started to get a little chilly and I figured that it was time to stop playing and get back to summit Little Hump before I turned back for the day.

It was easy going back down the side trail to meet back up with the AT. The side trail starts basically right below the summit of Little Hump, so as soon as I got back on the AT, I took a quick right to grab one more peak before I turned around. Upon reaching the summit, there is a fantastic view of Hump Mtn to the East, which is another one of my favorite mountains. If the training plan would have called for an extra 4 miles, I would have climbed to its peak as well. But, it was time to turn around and I was almost out of water.

I began to race back down the AT towards Yellow Mtn Gap to fill up my bottle and was welcomed with a pleasant view of the Overmountain Victory Shelter below me. This barn/shelter is about 200 yards from where I refilled my bottle with some cold mountain spring water and downed the remaining of my Clif Blocks; Needed energy for the 1200' climb back up to the flanks of Grassy Ridge. I was beginning to feel the fatigue in my legs from the weeks running at about this time and decided to employ a strategy of alternating walking and running on each switchback. It worked out pretty well and was greatly appreciated by my aching hip flexors. As soon as I reached Jane's Bald, I decided to take one more good look at the beautiful mountains and valleys that laid before me. I've often stopped at this spot and just soaked in what was around me for extended periods of time. This section of the AT is without a doubt the highlight of the whole trail. Well, after a couple of minutes, I raced back down to Carver's Gap to finish the day, pushing my fatigued legs as hard as they could go for the last 1.5 miles of crushed gravel trail that laid before me.

Today was such a great run in both beauty and my personal performance. Minus the time playing around on Big Yellow and the soaking in of my surroundings at the peaks, I ran 17.4 miles in 2:56:33. Pretty good considering that there was close to 3900 ft of gain throughout the run. If I can average a 10:07 mile on this run, I know I can at Uwharrie and achieve my goal of running that race under 7 hours. Here is the garmin data from the run: Carvers Gap to Big Yellow/Little Hump

Next week, the Bent Creek Gobbler!!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Overmountain Victory Trail Race Report

The morning started off way to early with me having to get up at 6 am (which is early for me, haha) to get ready to drive 40 minutes down the road to the beautiful rolling trails of the Overmountain Victory Trail along the banks of the Kerr Scott Reservoir in Wilkesboro, NC. This was the inaugural running of this race and it looked to be a great one! After reading the weather forecast for this morning, the temps looked like they would be perfect for shorts and a t-shirt. But once I got to the packet pick up at 7:20, it was still 32 degrees and I was freezing, just waiting to start the race and get my body warmed up.

After listening to the pre-race talk, informing us that the race would actually be 17.25 miles, not the 25K (15.53 m) advertised I couldn't wait to go. This didn't bother me, since I knew going into the run that this would be the correct distance. So, right before the start, I shed my fleece and toed the line ready to get going.

I probably took off a little to fast as I discovered that I was in first place after the first 3 miles, but I felt pretty comfortable and stayed in a comfortable, but still hard pace to the turn around in 2:06. I had one guy on my heels the whole way to the turn around which helped me give myself that push that I needed. We stayed close behind the lead group by about 30 seconds until the turnaround but I soon lost sight of them and the guy (Jose) following close by fell back and I was alone for the last 7 miles of the race. I asked him what happened after the race and he said his knees started to give out on him. He still ran a great race for him being a road runner at heart. So, I was in third place with no one around me and decided to run smart from there until the 2 miles left aid station to kick it in to high gear and try and catch the lead group. But, my legs just couldn't muster up the steam on what is probably the toughest part of the course. Oh well, I new I had 3rd place in the bag and was completely satisfied with my run in 2:16:47!

After the race I hung out and met some pretty cool people while waiting for the awards ceremony. This race was great, and I would definitely recommend it to anybody looking for a fast trail race or a beginner trail race. The course only had about 1,700 ft of gain over 17.25 miles, so not to hard. Just a lot of rolling hills! Check out the garmin report here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/56539787


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One crazy week sep. 20-26

Well, a lot happened this week in regards to running so I'll start off with the best news. I signed up for the Triple Lakes Half Marathon on Oct 9th! Second best news, I will be heading up a race on January 8, 2011 on the Tanawha Trail here in the Boone area. This will be a marathon, half, and a 50k.

Ok the runs this past week:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sep. 13-19th Week in Review

So the week started out with Monday and Tuesday off due to work, but by Wednesday the itch to get out and run was strong so I decided to do a nice little 5.5 mile run on the Boone Fork Trail. It had been awhile since I had ran this, and I definitely wasn't used to it. This trail was a bit more technical than I remember. Any way here is a look at it: Boone Fork Trail Run.

Thursday saw my first attempt to run up Howard's Knob. It was pretty awesome and I actually enjoyed the heart pounding, calve killing ascent and did not enjoy the quad torture of the descent. The elevation gain in the two miles up is 12oo ft. Pretty brutal but tolerable.

Saturday definitely saw the highlight of the week running the Kitsuma Kookout Challenge with the good folks from WNC Trail Runner. The Youngs Ridge/Kitsuma trail had been pretty much demolished in the last week and was a bit hairy to run on. It was like running in sand up a mountain. I wasn't completely satisfied with my time because I know I could have run more of the trail if I would have pushed myself a little harder. I just walked to many of the hills. Check out the run: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/49572523. What was great about the run was the potluck afterward. I got to meet some really cool people and enjoyed some delicious food and beer (thanks Adam and Matt).

To end the week I went on a pleasant recovery run with my beautiful girlfriend Hannah along the trails around the Boone Greenway. It was a perfect end to a perfect week of running.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Post

Hi everyone, this is my first post and I would would like to tell everyone what it is all about. My name is Brandon Thrower and I like to run, on trails to be specific. I have been running for about 3 years now and have run a marathon and a 40-mile ultra event. The marathon was the Triple Lakes Trail Marathon in Greensboro, NC on some beautiful rolling single track and the 40-mile was the Uwharrie Mountain Run, a very popular ultra in the Southest that takes place in the ancient Uwharrie Mountain range near Charlotte, NC. So this blog will be about my training and the beautiful trails that I run along the way. I will also include any hikes that I do as well. Hope you find this interesting and keep checking in. Thanks everyone.