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.