Friday, December 23, 2011

A Trail Running Homecoming

Over the past 6 days, I have spent about 10 hours and covered nearly 60 miles on the Watershed Trails of Greensboro.  There are more than 42 miles worth of singeltrack surrounding Lake Higgins, Brandt, and Townsend and nearly all of it is within Greensboro's city limits.  This trail system, in my opinion, has to be one of the best urbran trail systems in the country.  It may not have huge climbs and soaring views, which is usually my favorite type of terrain to run on, but it has flat to rolling, technical at times terrain that hugs the lakes and pretty much provides a view of the lakes at all times.  It is very scenic and is quite an escape from the third largest metropolitin area in North Carolina.  These trails mean a lot to me, as they are the ones that started my obsession with trail running.  They were also the site of my first trail race, The Triple Lakes Trail Marathon.  There is just something about them that keeps me coming, no matter the low level of difficulty.  If you find yourself in the Greensboro area, make sure you check them out.  There are plenty of loops you can make and if your looking for more of a challenging route on them, I would suggest sticking with the Owl's Roost, Nat Greene, Laurel Bluff, and Townsend trails.  They have more hills than the others and those hills come in steep 50-80 ft burst.  I hope to log a few more miles out there in the next week.  Happy trails and Merry Christmas!
View from Laurel Bluff Trail

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Half PR at Mistletoe!

So the time had finally come.  I hadn't ran a road race since my first actual race 4 years ago (a 10k before I caught the marathon/ultra bug) and this was going to be it.  Now anyone that knows me knows that I absolutely hate running paved roads.  Heck, even running on paved greenways sucks in my view, although it is substantially better than the roads.  One disadvantage of not running a road race though is that you really do not have a clue how well you can sustain a constant solid pace over many miles.  Running trails requires varying your pace to the technicality and vertical of the trail and trails can fluctuate many times over the length of the run.  So this was going to be a true test of how good a runner I actually am.  I felt confident enough to believe I could go sub-1:40, but my goal was to run sub 1:35.

Race morning was a cool 38 degrees and I was finally feeling ready after feeling a bit nauseous a bit early.  The cannon fired and I took off (after walking about 30 seconds to get to the start line).  The plan was to try and run the first half at an average pace of about 7:20/mile and the last half in about 7 min/mile pace especially trying to push the last 3 miles into the sub 7 range.  Needless to say the plan went off perfectly.  I had conserved enough energy through the first half to run the second half quicker.  My last mile was the quickest of the day, a 6:50.  My legs were feeling the pain though and I was extremely relieved once I finally sprinted over the finish line.  I ran the last .1 mile in 38 seconds, crossing the finish line in 1:34:21 and setting a new half-marathon PR!  Actually this is really my first official half-marathon as the other previous one was about a mile too long.  I feel very satisfied with this run even though I think I can run faster if I would be able to train properly and not be hampered by injury, which luckily did not bother me too much during this race. Maybe next year I'll return and try to set a new PR at this distance, sub 1:30 would be nice!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Last weekend,  Hannah and I went down the road to Asheville and meet up with the good folks of WNC Trailrunner to run the annual Bent Creek Gobbler.  This run is a great figure 8 loop through the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and a highlight of my fall running season.  I was wanting to tackle the the full 50k this year,  but some lingering injuries and an actual race in the plans for the next weekend changed my mind and I settled for running the first 16 mile loop.  Needless to say,  I ran the first loop pretty impressively considering I hadn't ran at all the week leading up to the run and was still feeling tight in the hips.  I tried to stay with the lead pack for most of the way up the 6 mile gravel road to the intersection of the Shut-in trail.  I ended up running that section in about 50 minutes, which was really solid.  I ran with Matt Kirk on most of the Shut-in section, continually pushing the limits of comfortable pace trying to stay with him and his speedy turnover.  I love this section of the Shut-in trail, especially this time of year because the views through the trees are magnificent.  By the time we reached Bent Creek Gap Rd, Jon and Luna (woof) caught back up with us.  I tried to hang with them once we reached the road, but I had obviously ran a bit too hard for those first 14.5 miles and the tank was dry.  Plus, I didn't want to injure my aching muscles anymore than I already had on this steep descent.  I finally made it back to the start in about 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is definitely faster than last year's effort.  The real fun started though after the run, with hanging out waiting on the finishers and indulging in some select adult beverages.  Huge thanks to Adam Hill for continually putting on this fantastic run each Thanksgiving weekend.  Gobble Gobble!

Friday, October 21, 2011

FAC 50k Report

It has almost been a full week since the running of this phenomenal race and I am just now getting around to writing a report.  Kinda tells you how busy I have been lately.  Anyway, I can not say enough about how awesome the course is and the organization as well.  Mad A does a great job organizing this beast with perfectly laid out aid drops along the way.  I never ran out of water or gels for this run and I might have come the closest to eating and hydrating correctly in a run of this magnitude.  Although, I definitely did not run this race at "race" pace and very well could have bonked if I did.  Well, onto the detailed report...

...Damian, Isaiah, El Guapo, and myself headed off from the Folk Art Center around 7:20 right as the sun was rising.  The colors were amazing as the mornings light began to strike the golds, oranges, and reds of the autumn's leaves.  There isn't a better time to run than when the leaves start to change.  Usually, temperatures are going to be perfect, the skies are going to be clear, and the air will feel crisp.  It sure did today.  We all decided to stay together as long as we all felt good during the run and did just that for a whole marathon before splitting up as we headed over Blackstock Knob.  I tried to stay on Damian's heels, but he was obviously feeling really good and I was just feeling good.  Surprising considering we were 7+ hours into the run.  Running with Damian and Isaiah was great for keeping the pace easy and enjoying the run instead of fighting it for a fast time.  I had left my inhibition to set the FKT at the door that morning after feeling a cold coming on the night before.  What a great idea.  I haven't enjoyed a run this much since Rattle My Heart 50k back in February, although I have had some great runs during that time.  I never really felt tired until I got to the flat Buncombe Horse Trail and realized that I would have to actually "run" for the first time the whole day.  The running I had been doing before this was mostly aided by gravity.  So after "running" 29 miles and 8 hours I was actually running and I could only muster out 3.5 miles of maybe 10 minute pace shuffling before I knew I was walking the rest of the way up to Mitchell.  I really didn't care and was just glad to be climbing up Camp Alice trail less than a mile from the summit.  As soon as I hit the paved walkway to to viewing tower though, I picked the pace back up and ran all the way to the top (maybe 100m).  I asked a fellow observer of the beauty that lay before us atop Mt Mitchell the time and realized that I just finished my first FAC 50k in 9:10.  This is about an hour off the time I was wanting to do going into the run, but it was exactly the time I wanted to run that day.  You couldn't have asked for a better day to be running though the mountains!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

FAC 50k Preview

Its been awhile since my last post and a lot has happened since then including a phenomenally important training run for the FAC 50k, which is coming up this weekend.  The legs have felt good since that 29 mile outing on the MST a couple of weeks ago and I am ready to tackle this beast.  Here is a little background info on this run for those who follow me and aren't apart of WNC Trailrunner, which you should be by the way!

The FAC 50k is the half portion of the Pitchell 100k, a run that starts at midnight on top of Mt Pisgah to the top of Mt Mitchell 67 miles away on the Mountains to Sea Trail.  Here is what the info page says of the run: The Pitchell.....where to begin? This is one truly epic adventure! Hope you can be a part! Birthed by the mind of Mad A (Adam Hill) in 2004, this run has proven to be quite the challenge by the terrain layed forth in the mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, as well as the finicky weather in the month of October. Start at midnight on the summit of Mt. Pisgah and run, hike, and crawl 67 miles to the finish on the summit of Mt. Mitchell! Not ready for that much challenge? Join in for the FAC from the Folk Art Center to the summit of Mitchell with a start time of 6 am. Almost all of the route follows the Mountains to Sea Trail and is pretty much all singletrack with the exception of about 3 miles of doubletrack! (More info here- see Section 7,8, & 9). 

The weather is looking to be great this weekend with temps between 40-65 all day.  As much as I wanted to run Pitchell this year, that last 29 mile training run revealed to me that I was not ready to tackle this beast.  Two and half hours into the run I was already feeling pretty fatigued and this was on a much easier run.  Visions of me stumbling down Shut-In and into my car at the Folk Art Center already were creeping into my head.  I finally made the final decision to switch to the junior varsity race and attempt to run the FKT for the FAC 50k.  This will still not be an easy feat as the record is 8:29 set by Andrew Moore who is a solid runner and seems to be right with me on all of the big runs we've done together.  All I can do is hope that my body responds well to the challenge and doesn't shut down on me.  Either way it will be a blast and at least I get to run through the beautiful fall foliage and summit one of the most iconic mountains in the East. 

Oh yea,  Matt Kirk has just thrown his hat in for the 50k and if he tries to "run" it then I can kiss the FKT goodbye.  Matt just earned the title of Kitsuma Krunk!  'Nuff said!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another New Little Hump Challenge PR!!!!

Heading out Saturday morning from my new residence in Mocksville to the start of the challenge, I would have never thought I would even come close to beating my previous PR of 1:55:30.  In fact, I was expecting to run no better than 2 hours on this run.  I relayed the same message to everyone at the start and seeing everyone take off ahead of me was a bit demoralizing, but expected.  So I just put my head down (no views today anyway), and ran at a pace that I felt I could maintain.  I power-hiked all of the extremely steep stuff on the OVT, which I usually try to run a bit of and didn't really care what my watch said.  In my mind there was no way I was going to climb any faster than my previous best, but when I got to Yellow Mtn Gap and took my first split, it was 2+ minutes faster than my best.  I really didn't think much of it and just kept doing what I was doing the rest of the way up the AT to Little Hump.

When I took my split at the turnaround I realized I just took off two minutes from my fastest climb.  Maybe it was the lack of views, as I could only see 15 ft in front of me due to some heavy fog, but it revived me and I knew I could make it back down just as fast as before.  Then, I turned on the jets and shaved another 2 minutes off my time on the descent.  I set a 4 minute PR and came in at 1:51:10!!!  Here are the splits from my previous best 1:55:30 (48:28,20:12) - 1:08:40 (13:13, 33:37) - 46:50 and my new best 1:51:10 (45:55, 20:33) - 1:06:29 (13:05, 31:36) - 44:44.

All of this was very surprising considering I thought I wasn't in as good of mountain running shape as I was when I set my old PR.  I guess all the vertical  I got at Hanging Rock State Park this summer is still with me or maybe the speed sessions I've been doing is getting my legs used to quicker turnover.  Whatever it is, I just got a huge confidence boost in my running.  Now to go out and get some more miles on the legs on some new trail at Lake Norman State Park!

Also congratulations to Tim Weed (1:34:21), Adam Hill (1:35:20), Lindsay Weed (2:03:31), and Rick Merriman for doing an equally hard summit run, just to the wrong summit.  He actually summited Big Yellow Mtn, which would have been even more of a beautiful sight if not for the fog.  The bench mark has been set by Tim and Adam with their stellar times!  Those are going to be hard to beat!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Montreat Weekend Fun

I finally was able to escape the boring low lands of the piedmont this weekend and get some real mountain running in on the amazing trails of Montreat.   It was also good to see some good friends once again on the trails.  For Saturday, Mad A had planned a serious Pitchell training route for us that would send us up and down the east and west ridges surrounding the town.  He dubbed it "The Triple Threatdown."  Needless to say this route was brutal, with close to 4000 ft of vertical gain and 4000 ft of loss on 11 or so miles!  Mad A, Jon, William, Damian, Andrew, and myself all went forth from Lake Susan to tackle this beast.  It soon became clear to me that as soon as I started climbing up Rocky Head trail that I wasn't in great mountain running shape.  Although, I still had a blast and coming off a cold probably wasn't helping either.

Sunday, I was suppose to run with Damian, Dave, and Terry 17 miles from the Folk Art Center to Craggy Gardens via the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  But the 8 am start was a bit too early for me and I didn't make it.  I was pretty bummed too, because that would have been a great run on some unexplored trail on the Pitchell course.  At least I got a few more hours of sleep in and got some more school work done.  I then went back over to Montreat and ran up to the summit of Greybeard Mountain.  The Greybeard trail is phenomenal, especially the old trestle switchback section.  It is a must run trail as is the West Ridge trail I came down back into Montreat.  This was another run was about 12 miles with 3500 ft of gain.  Just amazing mountain running.

Next week, Little Hump Fitness Challenge!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A month has passed...

...and I haven't written a post!  Sorry for all the hold up, but it is really difficult to keep this thing up when you don't have regular access to the web anymore.  Anyway, a lot has happened since my last post and here is a quick break down. 

- I've sweated prefusly running up and down the hellaciously technical trails of Hanging Rock State Park and continued to get more of a tan working at the lake
- I went on a road trip out west for two weeks (helped pace and crew Mike Mason at Hardrock 100)
- Running suffered during the road trip and it was hard to get motivated when I got back because of 95+ temps with near 100% humidity everday, so two weeks with little to no running
- Finally got motivated again and will be attempting first true long run of the summer since RAM this weekend

Well obviously, the road trip is the highlight of the above mentioned list, but there is so much to share and remember to write down that I might be here for hours and would probably soon get so sick of typing a blog that I will never do it again.  I don't want that and maybe you don't either (doubt it, haha).  Anyway, you can check out pics from the trip here by following these links below.  Sorry there isn't more to this post, but maybe I'll have more to share from this weekends adventure next week.

Out West Road Trip '11
Hardrock 2011
Stephen's Rd Trip Photos
Daniel's Out West Photos I
Daniel's Out West Photos II

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quick Check-in

It has been really hard in the recent weeks to find the time to sit down and right a new post.  I just started a new job at Hanging Rock State Park and I have no internet were I am living at in the park, so you can see why things have been a laging a bit.  Even today, I am busy visiting family and friends on my day off, but I at least thought I could give a quick update on what has been going on in the past 3 weeks. 

1.  I am really enjoying the new job and have great co-workers.  I've been swimming and getting a sweet sun tan pretty much everyday.  Plus, I've got great trails to run in the park, with plenty of vertical.  My runs have been inconsistent and of shorter length because of the heat lately, but I can defintely tell an improvement in my running just because of how tough everything is at the park.  It's pretty hard to run easy runs when almost every trail is straight up or straight down on some of the most technical terrain you've ever seen.  It has been a blast though!

2.  I finally ran RAM (Roan Adventure Marathon) this year with the good folks of WNC Trail Runner.  This is the run that caught my attention and made me want to join the group and it provided everything I expected and bit more too.  The plan was to run this 28-29 milish run in around 6 hours.  On the way out, I ran 2:36 and never felt like I was pushing myself as I was chating with Scott Williams almost the entire way.  The scenery was outstainding as it always is though my favorite section of trail I've ran to date.  I pushed myself back up Hump Mtn to try and catch up with Adam and Jeremy and that is where things started to turn downhill.  I'm pretty positive that consuming two gels that had been sitting in my car for three weeks, being reheated on a daily basis, were the colprit to my feeling of illness the last 10 miles of the run.  I was forced to walk everything from that point on because my stomach would cramp up something fierce and my kidneys were screaming in pain.  It ended up taking my 5 hours to return back to the start.   I stuck with Damian on most of the return, as we were both having some issues.  At one point, I even began to get scared for my life, but I filthy water source and the sight of round bald 2 miles ahead rejuvinated me just enough to push it to the finish.  It took me a good 30 minutes of laying in the parking lot with a cold wet towel drapped across my body while Hannah hand fed my salty chips before I came back to life.  I'm glad I survived this one and I can't wait to take the lessons I learned from this years race and come back next year and get that sub-6 hour finish!

3.  I got to help out the Grand Kirk (Matt Kirk) on his MST thru hike journey as he stayed at my place in the park a hundred yards of the trail.  The Grand Kirk was looking strong and had pushed 49 miles through the last mountain range on the trail to get to my place for some brews, food, and shelter.  I woke up early the next morning to join him for the last 5 miles out of the Sauratown mountains.  Like, I said, he is looking strong and there is no doubt that he will be finsishing ahead of schedule and enjoying his break from the mounatins for at least a little while.  Check out this page to see daily updates on how his progress is going:

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Art Loeb Trail Run Vid

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I made a video of my Art Loeb Trail run from Black Balsam to Cold Mountain.  I have it posted below.  And a quick report on my Iron Mountain run, I got sick and only had the energy to make it 20 miles and not even all at once.  So there isn't really anything to report on it other than I felt horrible and I am really upset that I didn't get to complete the run.  Anyway, enjoy the video!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In an Appalachia Coma

Without a doubt the past 5 days have been the most memorable and jubilant Appalachia experience of my life so far.  To say that I took advantage of my two week summer break before my job starts is a understatement.  I'll have to break this post down into daily sections just to keep everything from becoming a blur. 

Friday - Day 1 - Warren Wilson
On Friday I headed down to Asheville to get a head start on the amazing few days I had planned ahead to meet up with Adam "Mad A" Hill around noon.  Upon arrival in Asheville the temps were approaching 85 and a run around Warren Wilson College along the Swannanoa River was a must.  Mad A and I tackled an absolutely beautiful 9 mile loop and ended the run with a a quarter mile drift down the river.  This was the first time this year that I had gotten completely in one of the cold mountain rivers of NC and it was perfect.  As we floated down the river we were greeted with the improvisation of a hippie's guitar and he even threw out some lyrics about us drifting by.  Quintesential Warren Wilson!  A trip to Highlands Brewing followed that evening and wrapped up a great Spring day in the mountains.

Saturday - Day 2 - May Mountain Mama's Half
Hannah made it in late Friday night to join us on Saturday for Mad A's May Mountain Mama's Half marathon out of the Turkey Pen Trailhead.  Eight others from WNC Trail Runner made it out for this super sweet loop in the Turkey Pen Area.  Hannah and I stayed together the entire run and I had decided to just chill and run super easy, especailly after making a wrong turn a quarter mile into the run.  When I say easy, I mean a trot.  The easy 13 mile loop ended up taking us 2 hours and 40 minutes.  I never run that slow, but I knew it would be wise considering the next couple of days that were planned.  I still really enjoyed myself and the trails were fantastic.  I love exploring unknown trails and this was just awesome.  Hannah and I had a blast crossing multiple creeks and strolling down beautiful singletrack.  Later that day, Hannah and I went over to Jeremy's home and had a good time hanging out playing some corn hole, corquet, and conversing with new aquintances.

Sunday - Day 3 - Art Loeb Trail Run
This was the main trail run I wanted to get in while I was in town.  Hannah and I had lost the trail the last time I was out here and I wanted to make sure I summited Cold Mtn this time around.  Mad A and his kids joined me on the hike up to Black Balsam Knob and then we parted and it was time to run to Cold Mtn and back.  The trail through Black Balsam and Tennent Mtn is phenomenal with 360 degree views the whole way.  Running through this section of trail, you do not even feel like you are in North Carolina anymore.  Its a different world on this section of the Art Loeb.  Running through Flower Gap, Stairs Mountain, the Narrows was awesome.  I was completely in love with the path in front of me no matter how challenging it was.  The climb up the trail to Cold Mtn might have been some of the sweetest mountain path I have ever set foot on.  Although the view from the top wasn't superb because of some typical smokey mountain fog it, was quite rewarding finally reaching the summit.  The return trip back to the car was quite slow, but I had the opportunity to do some trail discovering on some proposed section of a 100 mile route I would like to put together.  Although it was longer, the amount of climb was minimal and the trail was awesome and will be a must in the route. 

Monday - Day 4 - High Windy
It was now time to check out the Splashdown 15k route up to the top of High Windy with Mad A.  The climb up such an eclectic mix of trail was amazing.  The plan was to run the whole route, but the 42 miles of running the past three days were starting to catch up with me and I tweaked my calf crossing a flimsy bridge which sent me into walk mode for a bit.  After running for about 5 miles of 2500 ft of gain, it was time to return back to the car.  But both Mad A's and my energy levels had plummeted because of a lack of nutrition and fatique, and I was practically stumbling down the mountain feeling like I was about to pass out.  It was slow going, but we made it back and I got another amazing mountain run in.  Later that day we hung out at William's mountain house below High Windy and had a blast drinking some brews, splitting wood, eating a delicious vegetarian meal, and singing songs around the fire with many new and old friends.  This was definitely the highlight of the whole trip and I had tickets to see Amos Lee the next night.

Tuesday - Day 5 - Amos Lee Show
The weather today was horrible after 4 days of phenomenal weather, so i decided not run and I was extremely fatiqued from 52 miles in 4 straight days.  Rest was in order while I waited for Hannah to arrive for the show later that night.  The show was amazing and Amos ending up playing for about 2.5 hours, which is unheard of.  It was an exellent treat and was a great way to wrap up the trip.

Passing Thoughts
Huge thanks to the Hill family for housing me during my stay.  I always felt welcomed and had a great time hanging out with them.  I ended up running the biggest week of my running life last week with 73 miles.  Granted, I ran almost every single bit of this remarkably slow as to avoid injury and it worked.  I've built a huge base for training and after this coming weekends 43 mile excursion in the Iron Mountains it will be time to start getting some speed in the legs so I can tear up races later this summer.  I'll be putting up a video of the Art Loeb run once I get a chance so stay tuned for that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Little Hump Fitness Challenge PR!!! (and more)

Since school is over for me know, I thought I would go hit up one of my favorite runs and try and beat my previous time on the Little Hump Fitness Challenge.  I felt that this would be an easy task to break my previous time because I was shooting  footage  for the video on the last attempt.
View of Little Hump from South

So I headed out to Roan Mountain, TN and on the way picked up a couple of AT thru-hikers walking down US 19E to get some grub and a rest at the local hostile.  Just a word of advise, pick up thru-hikers if they need a lift into town, they are generally very nice people.  Anyway, after dropping them off at the barbeque place in town, I headed over to the start of the OVT.

Soon after heading up the OVT I remembered how hard this run actually was.  My heart rate had to be maxed out and I was doing my best to stay in running mode, but that soon faltered after about 1.6 miles and 1000 ft of gain later.  I broke into a walk for about tenth of a mile and started taking little walks breaks through the next 2 miles up to Yellow Mtn Gap (YMG).  As usual, the first quarter of mile up the AT out of YMG forced me into a walk, but I was able to run the rest of the AT up to the summit of Little Hump (1:08:40).

Once I reached the top I took a quick break to enjoy the views and down a Hammer Gel.  I ran into a few thru-hikers up at the top as well and chatted a little with them before I headed on down.  I knew this would be the opportunity to really take some time of my previous time and hammered back down the trail.  My knee felt good all the way down which is good sign considered the ramp up in training for the next 10 weeks.  I got back to my car in 46:50 in a total time of 1:55:30!!!  A new PR and almost 6 minutes of my previous time!  It was a great day for this run!  Check out the garmin data here: Little Hump Fitness Challenge

Ok, on to even more exciting news.  I will be crewing/pacing Mike Mason out at Hardrock 100 this July!!!  Since the race coincides around the time when I was planning my OUT WEST Road Trip, I will be able to help out a friend and a phenomenal runner.  Mike ran the fastest time out at Linville a few weeks back and even ran a bit extra to squeeze in a couple of extra miles after everyone else was done.  It will be an honor to pace/crew Mike, especially at the most revered (and hardest) ultra in North America. 

just a sampling of the course

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plans for the Future

My last "real" semester as a student at Appalachian State University is drawing to an end and because of this I have limited time to squeeze as much high country running in as I can before I start my summer job at Hanging Rock State Park at the end of May.  So this post will be covering the planned adventures I have for the next month.  But before I move into that, I would like to tell you that the new headline picture for my blog was taken last weekend on a run in the beautiful Grayson Highlands of Virginia.  Hannah and I went out for a leisurely run/hike/ford circumnavigating Mt. Rogers.  To look at more pictures taken on this run, follow this link and also check out the garmin data of the run here:  Mt Rogers Circumnavigate

Ok, now on to the main premise of this post in bullet form!

- I have to get in at least two more attempts on the Little Hump & Elk Knob Double Summit Fitness Challenges

- Got to head down Asheville way to get some runs in near Shining Rock and maybe do some camping.  Hanging out with the Hill's is mandatory when heading down that way as well

-  Run the May Mountain Mama's Half-Marathon with WNC Trail Runner May 14th

-  Hike up to the top of Rich Mtn Bald (near Boone), catch the sunset over the Roans, Beech, Grandfather, Unaka, and the Blacks, camp out for the night, wake up to a beautiful sunrise over Elk Knob and the Blue Ridge.  Should have some good company for this as well.

- I will be running the ~45 mile AT/Iron Mtn Trail loop out of Damascus on May 21st as my last hooray before I have to move out of my Boone lease and start my summer job the following weekend!  The good folks of Iron Mountain Trail Runner may be joining me and hopefully I can get some WNC Trail Runners to show up as well. 

-  Plan for my "Heading West" road trip! (to be taken at the end of July)

- Just thoroughly enjoy my short summer break!

This is pretty much what I want to accomplish while on my ~20 something day break.  My summer job should be a blast as well though.  I will be living inside one of the coolest state parks in North Carolina, running up a mountain most mornings, and lifeguarding at the lake during the day.  My place in the park is 100 yds from the MST!  Plus, I will only be 40 minutes from Hannah in Winston and and hour and 15 minutes from home.  This is looking to be a great summer before the real world of career sets in.
View of Hanging Rock

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Linville Gorge Madness Marathon Report!

But I can't wait to come back next year and do it all over again!

I'll give you some background information on this run before I get into the report side.  I came up with the idea of this run because I love the gorge.  It is without a doubt one of my most favorite places in the world.  So the thought of a run that would circumnavigate the gorge and reveal so many different aspects of its beauty had to be created.  And why not make it around the marathon distance?  I choose the trails we would run and made a 27ish (maybe 28) mile loop around the gorge with no thought of what the elevation gain of this run would be.  I knew it would be difficult, but it wasn't until I plugged the route into did I know just how hard it would be.  Approximately 10,000 ft of vertical gain in 27 miles! 19,000 ft of elevation change in those 27 miles!!!!  It hit me that I might have just created the hardest marathon in the country.


A few of us had decided to camp out near the start finish at Tablerock the night before and we thought, "Why not squeeze a run in before we set up camp?"  So Adam, Jeremy, Rob, and I ventured up the Jonas Ridge Trail up and over Sitting Bear Mtn and Gingercake Mtn for a quick 4ish mile run (Adam and Jeremy decided to hit up Hawksbil Mtn for an extra 3.5).  I had never been up to Sitting Bear and it was worth the trip.  I love discovering new trails and mountains.  After the run, we soon made it to the camp site and began setting up and trying to start a fire (took us about 2 hours).  Hannah and Martha joined us around 7:30 that night and we spent the rest of the evening cooking, conversing, and relaxing before the day ahead.  Sleep was hard to come by though.  As soon as we retired to the warmth of our sleeping bags and the coziness of our tents, a violent wind and ice storm come over the west rim of the gorge.  The wind was incredible to hear with gusts that must of reached 50 mph or more.   I kept hoping that our tents would survive the onslaught and by morning they had.  

The Run:

Everyone arrived around 8:30 except Matt Kirk who was running from his camp on the Pinchin Trail 6 miles away (plus the extra 20ish miles he ran to get to his camp the night before), but he arrived right around 8:45!  Matt is a beast! We gathered for a group photo and a little after 9 we began our arduous journey around the gorge. 

Back: Ryan, Andrew, Damian, Myself, Doug, Mike, Matt, Scott 

Front: Adam, Rob, Jeremy

What was really fun about this run was that we practically stayed close together the entire time.  Going over the Chimney's, down to Chimney Gap, up and over Shortoff Mtn, across the river, and up most of the climb to Pinnacle, we were all within a minute or two of each other.  It was great having all of the camaraderie through the run and I'm sure it helped everyone stay in good spirits.  The views, needless to say, were outstanding from Shortoff Mtn and it was fun running with almost the entire group through that section.  The river crossing was quite comical since the footing was slick with algae.  
The climb up Pinnacle was a bit tougher than I remembered it and the group soon began to disperse.  Mike was running the entire thing, and putting us all to shame.  Once you reach Pinnacle you hit Kistler Memorial Hwy and it still doesn't give you any relief as it steadily climbs up to our first aid station at the Pinchin trail head.   I ran with Rob, Damian, and Andrew on most of this section and was elated to see the aid station.  Hannah and Martha had everything set up out of the trunk of their Honda and being able to see everyone pretty much still there was another moral boost. 
Pinchin Aid
After refilling the bottles and loading up on food, everyone began the steep descent down the beautiful Pinchin Trail.  By the time we made it to the Linville Gorge Trail we were still pretty much all together and began what everyone agreed was the worst section in the entire run.  The trail is just rocks on top of boulders, down trees, branches, and so many little steep ups and downs.  It made for some really slow pace and just completely drained your energy.  Reaching the Conley Cove trail, which is straight uphill, was actually a relief.  This trail was beautiful by the way with generous switchbacks and non-technical terrain. 

By the time we reached the gravel rd again I was bonking, as was Jeremy, and we practically hiked the entire road to our next aid station at the Babel Tower trail head.  A few roadside campers offered us some PBR's and Coke's, but we denied the offer (Adam and Damian took them on that offer).  Seeing the aid station up ahead was a welcomed sight and the thoughts began buzzing in my head of dropping and hitching a ride back with Hannah.  But I was the creator and organizer of this run, I couldn't bail with only 6 miles to go.  So after some refueling I headed down the Babel Tower trail wishing I was sitting down in the car.  But after about 5 minutes, my legs came back and my energy seemed to be restored.  I was glad I had decided to keep going and was really happy throughout the second section of the Linville Gorge Trail, which was much easier and runnable than the first.  Andrew followed close behind me the entire way and helped my stay on the right path a couple of times. 
Tablerock Mtn from Linville Gorge Trail

By the time I reached the Spence Ridge Bridge, I had caught back up with Adam, Damian, and Ryan.  I wanted to hang with them the rest of the run, but I had no energy once the climbing began for the last 2 miles up to Tablerock Mtn.  They soon gaped me and I was all alone for the steepest of steep climbs up the Little Tablerock trail.  I felt like I was going at a snail's pace (probably was) up this steep ascent, but apparently I wasn't the only one.  Right before the summit of Tablerock a caught back up with Ryan and we summited together.  Adam was up there waiting on us.  I stopped my watch at 7:31:05 and had just completed the hardest run of my life. 
Little Tablerock from Little Tablerock Trail
Passing thoughts:
-Huge thanks to Hannah and Martha (our aid volunteers) for saving us on this grueling run.  Without you two, this run would have not been such a success.
-Thanks to everyone who came out and congratulations to all who attempted this run.  (Ryan, Adam, Jeremy, Matt, Rob, Mike, Andrew, Doug, Damian, Scott)
- Garmin data here: Linville Gorge Madness Marathon
- Make sure to stay tuned into WNC Trail Runner for future adventures
- Enjoy this little video I put together of the run and I hope to see you out there next year!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pisgah Running and Camping Weekend

After Hannah had been recently asking when we were going to go backpacking again, an opportunity presented itself for us to camp and then run sans backpack.  And let me just say, car camping and then running from the camp site makes for a really enjoyable experience (I don't think we will be giving up backpacking though).
Yum, pasta
Haily and Damian set up the Pisgah Running and Camping Weekend for all to enjoy and a solid crew assembled for the weekend's fun.   Hannah and I decided to meet Matt and Lily (check out Matt's report) at their home in Marion and follow them down to Brevard to the camp site.  We set up camp and soon we were dinning on some pasta and salad while enjoying some Dale's Pale Ale (apparently the beer of choice in this group).  Camp fire stories and smores were shared afterward before we all retired to our tents for the night, all of us wishing we were in the castle that Terry had set up for his family. 
The crew, Sultan style

Climbing up Clawhammer Rd

We awoke to gobbling turkey's and we all hoped that the rain would hold off long enough for us to enjoy some views on the run.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, but we were running anyway.  We all ran together up Clawhammer Rd before we began to separate and Damian, Hannah, I ran together for most of the run.  It was somewhat disappointing knowing that we wouldn't be able to see the expansive views from the Black Mtn Trail but Hannah and I had a blast running and conversing with Damian throughout the run in the rain, fog, and thunder.  We definitely will have to head back out there to do the run again in fairer weather. 
Hannah and I nearing the end


With the weather looking to get worse and having evening plans in Boone, Hannah and I had to pack up soon after the run to get back on the road.  We had a great time and a big thanks to Haley and Damian for putting this on.  We had a great time!  Now to look forward to next weekends Linville Gorge Madness Marathon!  Pics by Matt.



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mid-Week Treat

Since the days have grown longer and Spring was in the air in the high country, I thought I'd go take a trip to one of my favorite areas in the world to explore some new trail and old in the Roan Highlands.  By looking at an old AT map and reading some trip reports, it looked that the Overmountain Victory Trail (OVT) to Yellow Mtn Gap would be a sweet trip.  From here I could take the Appalachian Trail up to Little Hump Mtn to catch some 360 degree views before I headed back to the car.  The run looked to be right around 11 miles.  Perfect for a midweek run.
Start of the run

View from OVT on the way up
So I drove to the OVT trail head near Roan Mountain, TN and began my journey.  The trail begins and climbs on a farm road and meanders through pastoral pastures with horses grazing on the hill sides.  Along the way I had to go through several gates until the old farm road (after about 2.5-3 miles) finally surrendered itself to wooded single track trail.  The single track continued to gradually climb and then took a sudden steep turn downhill.  I was beginning to wonder if I was still on the right trail and then it turned right back up hill.  I can definitely tell that my fitness level is currently not that great after my injury hiatus from vigorous running, such as this run.  I was finding myself winded and walking on numerous occasions.
OVT singe track

After following the single track up along a stream bed, the trail took a right and I was soon back on double track.  I knew that I must be getting close to Yellow Mtn Gap because the top of the ridge line was close in sight.  After pushing through the climbing I finally made it, but then had to immediately take a left straight up the AT to Little Hump Mtn.  The steepness in this initial climb out of Yellow Mtn Gap is quite severe and one where running does you no good.  I grunted it out until the trail returned to a more tolerable grade.  After about a mile of ascent up the AT, I finally reached the open balds that lay before Little Hump Mtn and a string of beaten out dirt path winds its way to the summit.  It is a beautiful sight and one, in my opinion, everyone should experience.
View from the AT

The AT on the way up to Little Hump
I had finally made it to the top and began to soak in the views and felt overwhelmed by the immensity of  the great expanse that laid before my eyes.  I had to sit down a while and enjoy it before I made the return journey back to the car.  Which was equally as beautiful as on the way up.

The OVT on the way down
I made a video of the run and have also dubbed it the Little Hump Fitness Challenge.  Go here to check out the details and post your times! Little Hump Fitness Challenge.  Also check out the other fitness challenges on this page.  WNC Trail Runner Fitness Test.  Enjoy!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bouncing Back

After weeks of battling aches and pains, most notoriously IT band and Runner's Knee, the pain has begun to alleviate and I was able to put in my first solid week of running since two weeks before Uwharrie.  That is a long, long time and I would be lying if it did not make me a bit depressed.  Looking back to those initial days after Uwharrie, I discovered the route of what caused all my pain, which was a a lack of stretching post run.  I didn't stretch any after the race, no stretching the days following, none after my first run after Uwharrie, and none after a grueling and beautiful run in the Linville Gorge.  I don't know why I didn't but you can definitely see how this could tighten up my entire lower body and leave me practically crippled.  Lessons learned.

Ok, now onto this week.  I got a new pair of shoes and was itching to get out for runs, but still trying to save the knee.  So I took it comfortably hard and short for the week.  The new shoes were performing well and my knee was feeling better each run.  This was getting me excited for the Seven Sister Summit Run (SSSR) coming up this weekend. 

So, I decided to head down to Asheville a day early and hang out with Adam Hill (MadA) and his family.  We were  able to squeeze in a short run around Buzzbee Mtn between board games, soccer, and ice cream.  Needless to say, it was a pretty good afternoon before SSSR.  Always thankful to the Hill's for putting me up in their home when I head down Asheville way. 
 A good crew had assembled for the fifth running of the SSSR Saturday morning and I was itching to get going.  I laced up my new shoes (wondering if this would be a good choice because of a lack of grip) and after taking a few group photos we were off.  Adam and Jon took off out of the gates and they both seemed ready to lay down a solid time.  I followed closely for about a quarter of a mile before I realized that their pace would have me calling it quits in a half an hour.  Especially with the first nasty steep initial climb.  I ended up running with Damian and Scott over Rainbow Mtn and Lookout Mtn before Damian disappeared.  On my way up and over the next summit of the day, Matt Kirk (Grand Kirk) and Uwharrie finally joined Scott and myself.  We pretty much stayed together until Greybeard Falls and I began to hit a low point in the run.  I had woke up that morning feeling pretty thirsty and not knowing how long it would be till I could access a water source, I tried to conserve as much water as possible.   Once reaching Greybeard Falls my bottle was only halfway empty.  I was feeling pretty dehydrated.  It took about another full bottle in the next 2 miles up the amazing switchbacks of the Greybeard Trail till I was feeling good again.
View from Lookout Mtn

View from Walker's Knob
But once I started to feel good, my shoes began to fail me on the technical terrain of the rest of the course.  They are super light and feel great underfoot, but they definitely do not grip roots, rocks, and crushed leaves very well.  After summiting Walker's Knob and Greybeard Mtn. I was reduced to a ridiculously slow walk on all steep technical sections.  This is kinda of a bummer considering my forte is technical downhill running, but it might have been a good thing in helping me not to be too ambitious and screwing up my knee once again.  West Ridge trail is a blast though and cruising over the Seven Sisters is an experience in itself. 
View from Greybeard Mtn
After battling the West Ridge trail, I took a left onto Big Piney Trail to descend back to the finish in Montreat.  Most of this trail was less technical but quite steep.  Once off the trail I hit a section of gravel/pavement for the last mile to the finish.  I ran down this section hard to finish the run strong in 3:09.  Definitely will have to come back and lay down a faster time. 

View from Rattlesnake Mtn on Big Piney Trail

After the run, I kicked back with the crew and waited for everyone to come in while enjoying a Highland's Brewing Seven Sister Abbey Style Ale and some cookies brought by Greg and Anne.  After everyone came in we head over to Ole's for some delicious grub.  Always a good choice.

Since the day was still young after the relatively short SSSR, I decided to tour around the Asheville area and then check out a section of parkway previously unexplored from Asheville to Mt. Mitchell State Park.  I pulled over to take a quick trip up Craggy Pinnacle before heading to the start of the Big Butt trail.  The goal was to run to Big Butt and catch the sunset and the "supermoon" rise at dawn, but I forgot my headlamp and it was a bit to cloudy to catch a glimpse of the sun or moon.  So, I had to head back in enough time to get me back to my car no less than 10 minutes after sunset so I could see where I was going.  This means I missed summiting Big Butt, but I did make it to Little Butt and captured this beautiful pic of the Blacks. 
View of the Black Mtns from Little Butt

I took the parkway all the way back to Boone (it is actually the quickest that way) and was able to catch glimpses of the supermoon once the clouds cleared out.  It was a great way to end a great day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Case of the Injury Blues

Injuries.  We have all had them and they pretty much affect us the same way.  It usually leads into some slight depression at first and then turns into envy of your fellow running friends who are still running and you aren't.  It just flat out sucks.  I am currently having issues with what seems to be a mix of runner's knee and IT band syndrome (which is probably causing the runner's knee pain).  My first bout with ITBS was last year around the same time, two weeks after Uwharrie (same time frame as this year).  This resulted in a hiatus of running for the rest of February, March, and the beginning of April.   Which then turned into a good month of running coming back from the issue and then another meltdown as the oppressive heat of last summer made me into a non-motivated slouch. 

During the down periods between February and April, I started doing P90X and rode on a stationary bike 3-days a week to keep up my fitness.  It worked and when I started running again in April, I was laying down some really quick 5 mile runs but still lacked the endurance to run solid much longer than 15k.  I was pretty satisfied and figured I would be able to run the Iron Mountain 50M that coming September if I got my mileage back up.  But then came the summer heat, as mentioned before, and I ran about once a week for no more than 5 miles each run.  One run a week was all I was motivated to do and my fitness and endurance plummeted.  It wasn't until September that I started really running again.

Needless to say, I don't want that scenario to replay itself out again this year with the same injury showing it's annoying presence again.   I am so much more motivated and passionate about running this year and I don't want to fall into another slump.  I have  plenty of little fun runs on the calender coming up soon as well that I would hate to miss out on.  I want to deal with this injury and get over it as quickly as possible, but still be able to run during the recovery.  Long periods of complete rest don't ever seem to do me much good.  Especially considering that last week I took the whole week off and when I went to run for the first time in 6 days the pain was still there. 

So, I will probably start doing yoga again (something I probably should have never stopped doing) and start using a foam roller to alleviate the tightness of my IT band, which I am sure is the cause of the Runner's Knee problem as well.  Hopefully this combined with some flat, gentle, and unshod running for the next few weeks (as well as icing) will help the problem and get me back to running 50+ mile weeks as soon as possible. 

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on dealing with these types of issues, leave a comment.  It will be very much appreciated and might spur a pretty good conversation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rattle My Heart 50k Report

You know that little voice in your head that says, "Hey, your knee hasn't felt good all week.  You shouldn't run a 50k this weekend."  Well, apparently I don't like to listen to that little voice.  This is the story of that run (and the week leading up to it).

My last post was on my Linville Gorge run and that is where the knee began to start bothering me.  I took a hike instead of a run that following Sunday, took Monday off, and then ran a nice run with Dennis on Tuesday down in the Wilson Creek Area.  After that run, I knew that my knee would need some rest if I was planning on running the Rattle My Heart 50k the following weekend.  I promptly started taking ibuprofen and icing at lest three times a day.  I also did zero running for the rest of the week.  Friday night, I could still feel some slight discomfort in my knee, but I wasn't going to miss this run.

Hannah and I got to the start in Montreat a bit early and I was ready to get moving.  Hannah was planning to run over to Rattlesnake with us and then go off on here own to piece together some more miles on the trails around Montreat.  Slowly everyone else started showing up and we snapped a few pictures and then took off probably somewhere around 9:15.  We ran some paths through Montreat over to the first trail of the day and everyone was reduced to a power hike.  It seemed like everyone was in the mood to take it easy during the early part of the run and that was fine with me.  I was going to take it as easy as possible in hopes of the knee surviving 30 miles.  We soon made it to Rattlesnake Mt. and everyone was still together to take a few more pics from this scenic summit.  It was starting to get a bit toasty at this point and I decided to shed the shirt.

The crew on top of Rattlesnake Mt

View from Rattlesnake Mt

Youngs Ridge (Kitsuma Peak far right)

We soon were headed over to hit up the Kitsuma Trail and get our first aid of the day.  Everyone began to break up during the Kitsuma portion of the run and I began to run with Rob and Andrew.  We all stayed together down the roller coaster that is Youngs Ridge and the 2 - 3 miles of road to the beginning of the Heartbreak Ridge Trail, the highlight of the days run.  The exposed road section was really hot and the sun was blaring down on my back (have a nice tan to show for it now).  We soon hit Heartbreak Ridge and the last bit of aid for the run.  This trail is about 6 miles long and gains approximately 3000 ft in that time.  I stuck with Rob for about a mile on the trail and then decided to go ahead and push the pace a little.  But about as quickly as I decided to speed up, the grade got a bit steeper and I was reduced to a power hike for most of the climb.   The trail was beautiful and really wasn't that steep, but after already running 14 miles to get to there, it was steep enough to walk.  I would love to do an out and back run on that trail.  I also started to suffer through a bonk session about half-way up the climb and began consuming a few more calories than I had planned.  Subsequently, I was soon caught by Andrew and Rob once more for the final mile over to the junction with the Mt Mitchell Toll Rd.

View from Heartbreak Ridge Trail

Mitchell Toll Road
Upon arriving to the Toll Rd., Rick Gray was there waiting on us to give us a bit of encouragement.  He and his wife were out running 2 hours on the toll rd in preparation for next weeks Mt Mitchell Challenge.  It was great running into him after that brutal climb, but I couldn't hang around too long because Andrew had decided to take off.  I was going to follow him down the toll rd because Adam said there were some tricky turns that a lot of people miss and I had previously never been on that trail.  The toll rd was quite gnarly at times and I personally couldn't wait to get off of it.  Even though that grade was perfect for flying, the rocks kind of kept you from getting into a smooth rhythm.  Andrew soon disappeared (still in bonk mode) and I just decided to stay on the path of least resistance (which was a good choice) and hopefully see some flagging at some point.   There were quite a few people on the trail though, so I would just ask them if they had seen any other runners heading the same way to make sure I was still on course.

At the last tricky intersection, my knee finally decided that it had enough and promptly sent me into walk/stagger mode.  My energy levels were fine, but my IT Band was screaming.  I was worried about a runner's knee flare up before the run because that was what was hurting me this whole week.  Weird how the pain migrated over to a different region.  At least I was about 2 miles from the finish and I was able to slowly stagger on into Montreat.  I finished in 6:11.  I was pretty proud of that effort.  If I would have been healthy, I know I could shave at least 30 minutes off of that time and maybe even more. 

Afterward, most of the crew gathered at Ole's for some delicious mexican cuisine and brews.  Another great run with the crew and big thanks to Adam Hill for putting this amazing run on once more.  Hannah and I had a great time.  Here is the Garmin data:  Rattle My Heart 50k

Check out a vid Adam Hill (Mad A) put together of the run! Two Parts!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Linville Gorge Run with the Grand Kirk

Since I had to head down towards Hickory Saturday morning for a meeting, I decided to head down and do some recon on some of the trails in the gorge that we will be running for the Linville Gorge Madness Marathon.  Matt Kirk decided that he would like to join me  on this adventure since it was practically 10 minutes from his home in Marion.  We decided to meet up at the trail head of the Overmountain Victory Trail to start our run.  Matt would run 13 miles via the MST to the meet up, I would drive to the start instead.

I met Matt and Uwharrie around 2 pm and we headed on up the trail.  The ascent up the OVT had two open fields with excellent views of the Black Mountains to the West.  We soon hit Kistler Memorial Hwy for a mile of gravel road running to the entrance of the Pinchin Trail, which would be our route into the gorge.  I had never been on this trail until today, but have noticed it from Shortoff numerous times and couldn't wait to descend it's burnt out surface with expansive views.  This trail was everything I thought it would be and more.  It was beautiful!

We were soon at the river and it was time to take the Linville trail and a blue blazed side "trail" to the MST to ascend up to Pinnacle.  This section of trail was slow considering all the blow downs, lack of knowledge in trail construction (blue blazed trail), and super steep ascents (60% at some points)!  It was almost a relief when we got to the MST, but then we were faced with a 1100' 1 mile ascent up to Pinnacle.  The climbing of this run was starting to take its toll.  Although tough, this trail was a beauty too and the views from the top of Pinnacle were awesome.

After soaking in the landscape, Matt and I made our descent back to the car down the OVT.   We got back to the fields right as the sun was setting behind the Blacks and were able to get some good sunset shots before we ended the day a mile below.  My knee started to hurt on the descent and I had to slow down my pace just in case something bad might happen.  It seemed fine after the run, but it was a bit sore today.  Matt and Lily had me over for some dinner and good conversation afterward.  It was a great end to a great day.   Enjoy this little vid I put together of this run and see some of the beauty for yourself.  Here is the Garmin data: Linville Gorge w/ Grand Kirk

Monday, February 7, 2011

Uwharrie Mountain Run Report!

Saturday started early at 5 AM for Hannah, my mother, and I to get ready to head down to the best organized and "fun" race I have ever run.   I took a quick shower, ate some breakfast, and then got antsy waiting on my crew to get ready.  I had a good night's rest the previous night, but I still kinda woke up in a bad mood, knowing that it would be raining at Uwharrie for the second straight year.

We left the house around 5:35 and I was trying to make it to the race as quickly as possible, but the rain just got heavier and heavier, keeping my speed to a bare minimum to avoid wrecking on the curvy back roads of Randolph County.  The forecast was for light rain in the morning, not for a torrential down pour with a few claps of thunder and lightening.  My mood was getting even worse.  As soon as we got to the shuttle area, I rushed out of the car to get to the bathroom.  My stomach was not going to cooperate with me for the second straight year it seemed.  After spending too much time in the pitch black porta-john, I had missed the shuttle and needed my crew to rush me to the start before check-in closed.  It was still pouring and my mood continued to get worse and worse.  What a "crappy" morning.  Upon arriving to the start, I was telling my crew "Let's just go home, I'm so upset right now," which Hannah responded to with a masterful tone "No we are not, your getting yourself out there right now!"  Needless to say, I got out of the car, signed in, and stood in pity under the drop bag tent with at least 20 other crazy people (not sure if they were standing in pity though).  A few of them I knew and some I knew of from WNC Trail Runner (Rick Gray, Brian Bedhun, Mike Mason, David Olsen, & Jason Smith).
About to start
At 7:00, the race director called us out from the safety of our tent to toe the line for the start.  She gave us some pre-run info, one of which was that the military was doing a training exercise and not to be alarmed by camoed soldiers carrying automatic rifles.  I finally laughed and felt my mood beginning to change a little.  On the count of "GO" we were off and on to the first big climb of the day.  I walked this hill last year, but managed to run up it quite comfortably this year, except for an extremely technical and steep 100 yard section that even the eventual winner was walking through.  At the end of the 1 mile 400ft ascent I found myself in 11th place and with only one person I could see behind me.  I thought to myself, "Not bad, your heart rate never even got close to 160 on that climb."

The first 11 miles were pretty much uneventful other than one bathroom break and a pull off to the side of the trail to empty my shoe of sand after a creek crossing (the creek crossings were deep this year, one was up to my waist).  I felt solid the whole time and was hitting my splits dead on, despite the two breaks which may have cost me a total of 5 minutes.  I mainly ran by myself from the 5 mile point to the 8 mile point and after the bathroom break at mile 8.5, I started to run with a pretty cool guy I met named Jonathan.  We were pretty much evenly paced so it worked out running together.

At the 11 mile aid station, I got caught up and he went on ahead and I couldn't catch back up with him until mile 16 on the toughest climb of the day.  The section between 11 and 15 looks pretty easy on the map, but it always kills me and I lose significant time on it every time.  Its a constant roller coaster of short ups and downs and you can never get into a rhythm.  On the climb at 16, a caught 2 more runners and found myself in 8th place.  At the 17.5 mile aid station, I passed Jonathan and was in 7th feeling strong heading into the turn around.
Coming into the turn around

Heading back out after taking care of business
 I reached the turnaround in 3:25:30 and immediately rushed to the porta-john to get rid of some more stomach issues.  I got a clif bar and a new full bottle from my crew and headed out right at 3:30, right behind Jonathan and right were I wanted to be to try and make it back in uder 7 hours.  Jonathan and I chatted some more and ran strong together until the climb again at mile 24.  He stayed close behind until the descent when I lost him.  At the base of the descent I heard someone coming up behind me and I thought it was him, but it was Anthony and he was looking strong!  The last time I had seen him was at mile 20.5 and he was heading towards the turnaround.  After he passed me, I was in 8th place and would never relinguish that spot for the rest of the day.
Coming into the 32 mile aid station.

By the time I had made it to the 32 mile aid station, my legs were feeling really heavy and I could tell I was getting noticeably weaker.  I had already dropped 7 minutes behind schedule to break the 7 hour mark.  The first 1.5 mile after the 32 mile aid station, I tried to push it to make up the time, but I was really just staying even at 7 minutes behind schedule.  At the 33.5 mile spot, I almost caught the 7th place person, but the ensuing climb that laid before us broke me and I never saw him again.  At the base of that climb, I was 10 yards away from him!  I was just completely gassed and decided that I would just try and hang on to 8th place.  My legs had no more speedy turnover in them to push the pace on the flats and definitely not enough to help me run up the hills.  I was reduced to a walk/stagger on those remaining sections.  On the final ascent 1.5 miles away from the finish, I saw the 9th place guy about 200 yards back.  I picked up the pace as much as I could tolerate and blazed down the backside to the finish in a super fast 9 minute pace (I am being totally sarcastic about the fast part).  I crossed the the line in 7:19:41 in 8th place!  Twenty minutes behind my goal, but I still placed in the top ten for my fourth straight race!  I feel pretty satisfied, and can attribute that weakness in my legs at the end to only being able to log one 30 mile long run this winter because of all the snow we've had.
Crossing the finish!
I had a great time again this year and the finisher award this year is just awesome.  Big thanks to Micahel Mahan and his son for making all of these for everyone!  I hung around after the race for about half an hour to talk to some friends and check on how they did.  I also talked to the race director about organizing a 100 miler in Uwharrie.  They said that they were really interested and for me to send them a proposed route and they would look into getting everything else together.  That would be sweet!  Thanks to all the volunteers who make this race possible, you do an outstanding job!  Also, HUGE thanks to my mother and Hannah for crewing for me for the second straight year!  They battled logistics and muddy roads to keep my bottles full and energy replenished.
Glad to be done
In parting, I really love this race,  but I think next year I might be running the Mitchell Challenge 40 instead of this one, but I will definitely at least be running the 20 next year.  This is one race that I just love being a part of, no matter what the conditions!

Check out the garmin info here: Uwharrie Mountain Run 40M