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