Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Looking Back and Forward to RAM

This is the one!  The run that lured me into joining the WNC Trail Runner crew almost two years ago.  The run that takes place on my favorite section of the AT and maybe my favorite section of trail period.  It's RAM (Roan Adventure Marathon)!!!!  I hadn't looked forward to a run with as much excitement and nerves as my own inaugural running of RAM last year.  This was the run I had been waiting for since I joined the crew.  I had ambitions of running this one in sub 6 hours last year and even after the first half of the run I was on pace and feeling pretty good about my body.  I had just run the first 14 miles with Scott (a much more talented runner than I) and came into the aid at US 19E in 2:30.  I was right on schedule.  But all of that confidence was about to go by the wayside.

The next 5.5 miles were all up uphill, 2500' to the gorgeous and exposed summit of Hump Mtn.  After fueling up at the aid station, I began to run back up the mountain.   I was feeling pretty strong at this point and ran most of the way up to Doll Flats about 3 miles up the trail, but it was getting really hot.  This is where things began to go horribly wrong.  I realized that I had already drained a full bottle and was already tapping into my second with another 7 miles to my next reliable water source at Yellow Mtn Gap.  So, I refilled at the spring off the beaten path at Doll Flats and then took a Vanilla Hammer Gel.  Let me give you a bit of background on this gel.  This gel had been sitting in my car for well over a month, maybe two, baking in the hot sun.  I'm no scientist, but there is no doubt in my mind that something that has been getting super heated and cooled for the past two months probably shouldn't be ingested.  But hey, the expiration date wasn't for another 6 months.  Almost immediately my stomach began to turn south and running was making me nauseous.  Even power hiking had me feeling the same way and the majority of the last two miles is a gentler grade.  I slowly walked up to the top of Hump, briefly joined by my friend Damian, who wasn't feeling much better, and then summited the mountain for the second time that day.  And you know what, things were looking up!  My stomach was beginning to feel back to normal. 

I stumbled/ran down to Bradley Gap and then began my climb to Little Hump.  The heat of the day had me hiking, but I was making good enough time.  Once I reached the summit of this "little" mountain, I partook again in another Vanilla Hammer Gel, and guess what, this one had been sitting in the car too for just as long as the other.  Almost exactly after taking it down, the stomach went south again.  I had to walk down this mountain the pain was so bad and my kidneys began hurt in a way I had never felt before in my life.  By this point, I had realized that the gels were to blame, but it was a little to late.  I thus began my death march. 

Things were getting progressively worse as I went own and was soon caught by Damian once more shortly after Yellow Mtn Gap.  He still wasn't feeling good either and I believe we were both happy to have someone to share our sufferings with as we crawled up the side of Grassy Ridge.  At one point I sat down and began to give Damian instructions on getting someone to come save me once he reached Carver's Gap, but I believe he was thinking to ask me the same thing.  I believe it was a telepathic decision to stick with each other until one of us fell by the wayside.  After climbing for what seemed an eternity, we reached the side of Grassy and at the intersection of the side trail that leads to its summit we came across a trickle of muddy water bisecting the trail.  Both of us had drained both our bottles by this point and Damian only used the water to cool off with and dared not drink it, but was much relieved by its sight.  I on the other hand stuck my face down into the puddle and began lapping up the water like the Black Lab that was just there.  I didn't care, I was extremely dehydrated, hot, and my kidney's seemed to be in utter failure.  I drank from that murky water like I had been stranded in the Sahara for days.  Thoughts of obtaining any water born illnesses did not matter at this point as they wouldn't rare their heads for at least a few more weeks.  In my mind, this was life or death.  By the way, I might add we were only 2 miles from the finish.  I was that desperate!

With the end in sight, literally, and my thirst quenched, I began to shuffle back down to Carvers Gap.  It was slow going and the last downhill the kidneys flared back up and I began to walk down the gravel singletrack with Damian only to be caught by Doug with a bag of tortilla chips in hand and a huge grin on his face.  We all stepped onto the tarmac together in 7:35 and I began to lay in the hot sun on the asphalt parking lot.  I was in an enormous amount of pain and was soon given cold towels to put on my body and sea salt chips that I slowly nibbled on for the next few minutes.  I stayed like that for the next 30 minutes contemplating if I was going to need to be rushed to the hospital and how it took me FIVE HOURS to run 14 miles!  Anyway, I soon recovered and was able to down a beer and then cheer on the remaining runners as they came in until we left.  The heat, the bad gels, and the terrain had gotten the best of me and truly humbled and scared the crap out of me.  I couldn't wait to get back out there and do it again though.

Fast forward to today, and the run is only 3 days away!  The goal of sub 6 hours has been reinstated as the weather this year doesn't look to climb out of the 60's.  I had completely thrown this goal out the window after last year's sufferfest, but I believe the cooler weather, along with GOOD gels and solid food, as well as a years experience will make this goal achievable.  I still plan on trying to reach the turnaround in 2:30 as I did it last year comfortably and plan to walk most of the way up to Doll Flats and then run the more runnable remaining section up to Hump.  I believe this will result in a sub 6 finish, but in reality, as long as I don't have a repeat of last year's run, these Golden Calves will be extremely happy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Beat Week XXI

Mon - 50min/ 2.1m/ 300' - Crowders - Hiking experience for two students at my school.  Fun little outing with some mild bouldering (kid appropriate).

Tues - 0hr

Wed - 2hr24min/ 13.5m/ 3200' - Crowders - An out and back to the boulders overlook on Ridgeline from the visitor center.  Felt extremely crappy today and was just pushing myself to keep running at times.

Thus - 45min/ 4.5m/ 1000' - MST - Out and back to Tom's Creek from Woodlawn.  Was planning on doing a loop with the Harris Creek Horse Trail, but my legs and hips were not cooperating after yesterday's run.  I didn't have too much time to do that loop and at the rate I was going there was no way I would be doing an 8 mile loop in about an hour.

Fri - 0hr - driving to the beach after work, so no running although I had a bit of time.  It was too hot anyway. 90+

Sat - 45min/ 6.2m/ 20' - Oak Island - Nice half road half beach run with Stephen.  Ended this run with a recreation scene from Rocky 3!  It had some beach goers looking at us pretty weird. Haha!!

Sun - 0hr - pure laziness and wanting to rest up some more for RAM this coming Saturday!

Totals =

Time - 4hrs44min
Distance - 26.3m
Vert - 4520'

Well this week goes down as another dud, as the body was just not feeling it and life was getting in the way.  Instead of trying to force getting the time in for the week, I decided to relax and let my body recover down at the coast.  Funny how each of the weeks before I have gone to the beach this year has resulted in very poor weeks of running.  Strange.  Anyway, enjoy this vid of what Stephen and I recreated after our run on Saturday.  Mainly just to last bit of this montage.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Assault on Week XX

Mon - 0hr

Tues - 60min/ 6m/ 1300' - Crowders - Took it easy on this Crowder Mtn loop.

Wed - 50min/ 5m/ 300' - Poston Park - Felt really sluggish on the trail, so jumped off after 3 miles and finished the day with 2m barefoot on the fields.

Thurs - 45min/ 5m/ 300' - Davidson XC - just an easy run on the 8k course with Hannah.

Fri - 0hr - Preparing and driving to Asheville to attempt the Assault on Mt. Pisgah Marathon tomorrow!

Sat - 4hr54min/ 26m/ 5500' - Assault on Pisgah - Awesome course and felt really good!  More below...

Sun - 75min/ 7m/ 2000' - Eden Rock - Just a spectacular run on the Rock2Rock course with Adam this morning.  I climbed pretty well considering what I had just done the day before.

Totals =

Time - 8hr44min
Distance - 49m
Vert - 9400'
Barefoot - 2m

What an extraordinary loop Mad A has put together for the May Mountain Marathon, a.k.a "Assault on Pisgah."  I cannot say enough about how awesome this route is!  Due to extenuating circumstances, Hannah and I were not going to be able to join the WNC crew for this run next weekend so we decided to jump the gun and do it this weekend.  This was also to be Hannah's first marathon.  How about that!  The girl decided that for her first marathon she would practically run a "sky marathon."  Which I could say the same thing about myself.  Anyway, we started around 9:50 and began steadily climbing up Yellow Gap trail only to descend back down to the N. Mills River and follow it to one of the best trails I have ever stepped foot on, the Big Creek Trail.  This 5 mile trail gains about 2300' and all but 300' of that climb is gained in the last 2!  I decided to take it easy on the way up to Pisgah and didn't ever really push myself the entire climb which lead me to feeling great.  I made it to the Pisgah parking area in 2:25 and then waited for Hannah to join me for the last 1.5m, 700', super technical climb to the top of Mt. Pisgah.  After soaking in the views for a few minutes, I gave a kiss goodbye to the "Pisgah Nymph" and headed back down the mountain to join the Laurel Mtn Trail only to run into about 100 mtn bikers ascending the same trail.  I was feeling pretty well the entire descent, but I had to pull of the trail to let a biker go through about every 2 minutes.  That got really old, very fast.  Soon enough, I hit Yellow Gap Rd. and started clicking of 7 minute miles for the last three miles back down the car and some Shiva soaking in the creek.  I felt extremely well considering I had just ran downhill for the last 13.5 miles and sat down and read some John Muir while waiting for Hannah to finish  her first marathon, which she did and she feels very satisfied with it.  Now, to recover and prepare for RAM in a couple of weeks.  That one is going to hurt!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Everything Else is Secondary

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." - John Muir

If there ever were the need for a reason why I run, this eloquent quote would sum it up for me.  This topic has seemed to hit a button in the spectacle side of the ultra world lately due to some, if you must say, brash articles and intuitive interviews.  This brash, and brilliant I might add, article has really been the main focus of a lot of aggression towards the young author.  The "scene" has begun to grumble of his supposed  immaturity and seemingly contradictory manner as to what he writes and how he lives.  But I see exactly where he is coming from and it doesn't seem immature and I see little to no contradiction in his words and his actions.  All that the author is trying to convey in my opinion is that no matter what "hype" may be created organically or commercially, running is running, and we shouldn't lose focus on what really draws us to such a ludicrous activity.   Although I love looking at race reports, checking out new shoes that are hitting the market, religiously follow running blogs of friends and elites, that is not what makes me want to run.  That is completely secondary and an almost entirely unnecessary part of it all.  I run for many reasons, but mostly I run for its transcendent qualities of being in and around Nature.  Throughout each day I hear a calm, but demanding voice calling me to the mountains.  When I gaze upon a lofty summit, the urge to climb its precipice is so immensely strong that I feel I have done myself and the mountain a disservice by letting it be, untouched by my feet, its grand view not to be seen by my eyes.  It feels wrong at the same time to run past an unknown path or trail that looks so inviting, no telling the grandeur it may hold.  In this way, running ultras is the gateway that allows me to explore and be a part of something bigger than myself and doing so in a manageable amount of time.  I believe and hope that this is what drives most in the ultra community to take part in this enthralling activity.  Everything else is secondary.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Foot Ache Week XIX

Mon - 0hr

Tues - 80min/ 7.4m/ 1700' - Crowders - Easy effort out and back on Ridgleline with a Pinnacle Summit.  What I think is a neuroma in my foot was really acting up today, so I called the run a bit short.  Also, I completely wiped  out coming down Turnback and scrapped the elbow and knee pretty good, but nothing other than some trail love.  Every time I fall, I just can't help but laugh at myself.

Wed - 80min/ 6.5m/ 1200' - Poston Park - First time visiting this park and I spent an exceptional amount of time exploring the Spencer Mtn section of trails.  Went up the powerline cut first to the summit which was a scramble most of the way.  400' of vert in a quarter mile!  After walking up and then back down that, I discovered an actual trail that eventually did take me near the top of Spencer.  This trail was really tight singletrack, but was a joy grunting up.  I didn't even get to run the majority of the mountain bike trails out there, that are from what I hear pretty up and down as well.  I spent the last 12min of the day running around the soccer fields in the park barefoot.  Apparently this can help alleviate neuromas and it does help improve your form.  I'll probably try to get out for some barefoot miles at least twice a week from now on.

Thurs - 0hr - Had to attend an afterschool function.

Fri - 75min/ 9m/ 350' - Tanglewood Park - With my foot still feeling pretty horible, I decided to take a break from the technical trail side of running and hit up on old favorite of mine near Winston-Salem as I headed back home for Mother's Day weekend.  Did my typical 7.5m route that is basically the horse trail loop with a bit of an extension (road) at the northern end.  Finished the day off on the soccer fields barefoot for 1.5m.  I ran at this park about 3 times a week when I was student teaching in Mocksville this past fall.  I love this place, but it's really too flat for me

Sat - 2hr40min/ 20m/ 1250' - Watershed Trails - Met up with the cuz Stepheno and me friend Jeremy for a 20 mile juant around Lake Brandt and Lake Townsend.  I felt great today and ran a stellar time.  Jeremy had us really pushing the pace on the Piedmont trail.  The weather was perfect as well.  I love these trails.  Route was as follows:  Nat Greene, Owl's Roost, Piedmont, Laurel Bluff, Reedy Fork.

Sun - 91min/ 10.5/ 500' - Davidson XC - A really nice enjoyable wet run in Davidson.  1 mile of barefoot near the end of the run on the fields.

Totals =

Time - 8hr6min
Miles - 53.4
Vert - 5000'
Barefoot - 4m

 Not a whole lot of exciting stuff happened this week other than discovering another new park in the area with elevation and having two stellar weekend runs.  The nueroma on my foot was really acting up badly earlier in the week and I finally started to do something for it.  That would include zero running in my narrow Nike Zoom Streaks (which I love by the way, but most be the root of the problem) and trying to get in some barefoot on the grass mileage in.  The reasoning behind this is that the neuroma gets inflammed when the 3rd and 4th metetarsals get scrunched together so narrow shoes are bad and barefooting it means there is no pressure on the toes.  I believe that it is working out quite well as my foot has porgressivly hurt less since implementing this strategy.  Anyway, looking forward to next weekend's Assualt on Mt Pisgah!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Muchos Cruces de los Ríos Week XVIII

Mon - 0hr

Tues - 70min/ 8m/ 1000' - Itusi Trail - LNSP - combo of the Laurel and Hawk Trails

Wed - 30min/ 3.7m/ 200' - Davidson XC Trails - easy effort with about 3/4 mile of barefoot at the end.

Thurs - 70min/ 7.5m/ 1000' - Riverbend Park - first run at this super sweet park.  A lot of ups and downs on plush double track with some technical singletrack thrown in randomly.

Fri - 52min/ 6.2m/ 800' - Warren Wilson - With Mad A running along the river trail to connect with the Jones Mtn trails.  Climb up and down Jones in the middle.  Nice soak in the Swannanoa afterwards.

Sat - 5hr20min/ 23m/ 3000' - Cinco De Mayo Sombrero Extravaganza - What a day.  Took way longer than expected on trails that were unexpected.  More info below.

Sun - 0hr

Totals =

Time - 9hrs
Distance - 48.4m
Vert - 6000'

Saturday's run was quite a blast.  It was wet, wild, and confusing!  The loop that Tim had designed for us to run while celebrating Mexican Independence looked like a nice and easy loop with nominal vert and plenty of places to cool of in if the temps got a bit too hot.  Let me tell you, there were more than enough river crossings!  But I really didn't mind them.  I actually enjoyed the cool flowing waters of the S. Mills river as it provided a walking break and cleaned my shoes of all the muck I was dragging them through most of the day.   The loop out of Turkey Pen was as follows: Bradley Creek, Riverside, Bradley Creek, Laurel Creek, Squirrel Gap, S. Mills River.  I had been studying the route for most of the week and had all the turns memorized so I wouldn't have to bring a map with me as I figured any written directions/map would immediately be ruined by one slip crossing the river.  So, after running the first 13 miles with the Grand Kirk, through numerous river crossings, pastoral fields, and rolling singletrack,  we began to separate down the final switchbacks of the Squirrel Gap trail to the South Mills River.  This is where things got really interesting.  At this intersection there is a bridge that crosses the river and a path, a well worn path at that, that leads to the right after the bridge and begins a gentle switchbacking climb.  This is the S. Mills River trail, the trail that we are supposed to take to get back to our cars at Turkey Pen.  But, this trail is going upstream, not down as the directions and map had shown.  I thoroughly remember that we were supposed to take a left onto the S. Mills River trail, not a right.  But I followed the path of least resistance and my compadre's footprints up the switchbacks until I ran into some bikers and asked these two questions.  One of which my compadre's seemed to have forgotten to ask the same folks.  Here is the conversation:

Me: "Is this the S. Mills River Trail?"
Biker:  "Sure is!"
Me:  "If I were wanting to get back to the Turkey Pen Trailhead, do I go the way I am going, or the opposite way?"
Biker:  "The way you are going is to Buckhorn Gap, you need to go back down and find the trail to the left after the bridge."
Me:  "Awesome, I thought that this seemed wrong."
Biker:  "Are you with a group of other runners?  They passed by us about a mile up ahead."
Me:  "Yep, sure am!"
Biker: "Well they are heading up to Buckhorn Gap."
Me:  " Yep, they're screwed."

Well, that may haven't been the exact conversation, but close enough.  Either way, Tim and Scott were way of course and were in for quite the return trip once they realized their mistake.  By the way, I would like to add that Tim designed this course!  Haha.  Anyway, I went back to the bridge and still couldn't find the trail going downstream.  I looked at a hikers map and after seeing a shadowy figure pass by across the river bank, I found the trail.  It was completely overgrown in doghobble and full of mud.  In order that Hannah not get lost as did the others, I began making a sign in the trail to point her in the right direction.  Hannah later told me that it was a beauty and she knew immediately that it came from my hands.  So, after spending probably 30 minutes trying to figure out were the trail was and then marking the intersection, I began running again, well sort of.  Actually, I was pretty tired, the trail was extremely muddy and it crossed the river a dozen or so times over the next 4-5 miles.  I proceeded to walk most of this section until the S. Mills River trail that I knew emerged from this sorry excuse for a trail.  I was also nervous in wondering if Hannah would find my sign or not, and my heart rate was out of whack from it, making running through mud less of a desire.  This trail was taking its toll on me and it was all practically flat.

Oh well, I finished and Hannah finished.  And I found out that the shadowy figure that showed me the trail was the Grand Kirk himself, realizing as I did, after taking the wrong turn for awhile, that the trail is supposed to go downriver.  Tim and Scott managed an adventurous trip to the Pink Beds where they hitched a ride back to Turkey Pen with some geocaching hippies in a van!  And then the majority of us drove on over to the Weed residence for some great food, beer, and conversation.  It was a great run and a great time and I can't wait to do the loop again, minus the 4-5 mile section of the S. Mills River trail.  I may never step foot on that one again.  Photo cred to Matt Kirk (Grand Kirk)

the crew at the first river crossing

Sombrero wearing compadres

Myself running through a field on the Bradly Creek Trail

Cliffs above the S. Mills River

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Great Eyrie Week XVII

Mon - 0hr

Tues - 0hr

Wed - 65min/ 7.3m/ 800'

Thurs - 0hr

Fri - 0hr

Sat - 4hr15min/ 16.3m/ 6000' - Was supposed to run the whole marathon loop, but I banged my leg (rectus femoris to be exact) and bruised it pretty bad on the Linville Gorge Trail.  I tried to run it off and ran a extra 13 miles on it, but it wasn't getting any better.  With the upcoming 1800' decent off of Pinnacle, I didn't think that the quad would like that and be able to make it back up Shortoff, so I threw in the towel.  Extremely disappointing considering it was my run and I was feeling extremely well energy wise. More details below.

Sun - 1hr/ 3m/ 0' - Walking to the grocery store.  Felt  like that was all I should do with the bruised quad.  Feeling better.

Totals =

Time - 6h20min
Distance - 26.6m
Vert - 6800'

Well originally I was trying to heal the foot by not running but once during the week knowing that the weekends Great Eyrie Marathon would take care of my time goal for the week.  Little did I know that I would be not completing the entirety of the run due to an unfortunate encounter with one of the old growth blow-downs on the LGT.  This was a by-product of me being extremely pissed off after the upper on my brand new shoes just ripped.  I was paying to much attention to the carnage of my shoe instead of the obvious, and I mean extremely obvious obstacle that was in my path.  I called my run short more on the basis of wanting to run next week instead of finishing a run that will always be there.  It was a tough decision considering I was feeling great after 16 miles.  Congratulations to Jeremy Waldrop and Brian Kistner for toughing it out and finishing in a great time of sub 8hrs.  Really hated that I didn"t get to join them for the rest of the way.  Good news it that the leg is feeling better today and should be fine for running on this coming week.

Group at Tablerock

Levitating Asa

Shoe carnage

Myself and Jeremy at the first aid