Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back Over 2013 & Goals for 2014

This year in my running has had many ups and downs, high times and low times, healthy times and unhealthy times, but still was magnificent!  Looking back over the goals I set last year, I only accomplished 4 of my 10 goals, but hey maybe 10 goals for a year was little much, so I'll try to limit myself to only 5 this year which seems more attainable.  I raced much more this year and had  success in most of those races and still managed to make it out to numerous WNC Trail Runnner runs.  I PR'd in the 5k (19:42) and the marathon (3:18:35) so I have to be happy about that.  I also joined up with another group down in Davidson this year, DART, that really made me enjoy road running a tiny bit more, as well as southwest food.  So below you'll find my year in review.

I Got Married!!!

Ok, this really isn't running related, but I couldn't leave it out of my year in review.  On October 5th, I swore my vows to the greatest girl in the world, Hannah.  The first few months of marriage have been great and she still lets me run on my crazy adventures!  I am truly looking forward to our life together.

Most Satisfying Run

My most satisfying run this year happened very early in the year, but it was finally breaking the 7 hour mark at the Uwharrie 40 Miler.  I trained smart, showed up the race healthy, and perfectly executed my race plan.  I couldn't have been more happy to finally get that monkey of my back, one that I've had since I started running ultras 4 years ago at Uwharrie.

8 miles to go, on schedule

Most Disappointing Run

I don't really feel like I had a disappointing run this year that really sticks out.  I did have a really disappointing summer of running though, so I'll put that in to fill this gap.  Summer time running has always been hard for me due to the heat, but this year I thought I was going to change that a bit, but injuries both running related and non-running related came up and bit me and left me with quite possibly the worst summer of running for me so far.  I did have some good runs this summer though, so all was not a loss.

Big Surprise

I've finally decided to take a real stab at race directing.  I've put on numerous fun runs each year and designed race courses for others, so I finally thought it was time to take that leap.  I will still be starting off slowly, as I'll only be co-race director of the Table Rock 50 coming up in the fall of 2014!  I've changed the course a lot for next year's running and am really stoked about the route.  Hopefully the USFS will issue us our permit and we will be ready to go.  I'm looking forward to it and in some ways dreading it.  Haha.  I will still be putting on my regular fun runs as well with Pisgah Nation!!!!

Favorite Place You Ran

This one is really tough and will probably have to go down as a tie between doing the NAR loop back in April through the Nantahala National Forest and my recent exploration of the trails in the Wilson Creek Area.  In fact, I did some more exploring in my new "back yard" today.

Hottest Run

The hottest run I ran this year was one I didn't even run, just one I volunteered at.  Watching 50 people sign up and run my brainchild of a course at South Mountains State Park in the middle of August was enough for me.  The race is called the Annihilator 50k for a reason.

Coldest Run

The temperatures this year never got real crazy cold so I was wondering when I would run a run that was worthy for coldest of the year.  Well that happened a couple of weekends back at my 3rd running of ALTAR.  The forecast and early warm temperatures we all experienced at the beginning fooled us and by the time I reached 6,000ft, the temperatures had dropped 20 degrees, it was raining sideways, and the wind was cutting right through my t-shirt and arm warmers.  I thought I might go hypothermic if I didn't get to lower elevations fast and luckily there was a trail that took me there and some other friends that wanted to tag along.

Isaiah running over Black Balsam....yeah, nasty conditions 

Favorite Pics I Took This Year

early morning sun on the gorge

first podium finish

purple trillium on the Snowball trail


record breaker

yeah, I golfed a lot this year....can't you see why

phyllis on the MST at Doughton Park

early fall on shortoff

tommy on mt. craig

what the mitchell

Benn Knob in the fall at SOMO

burnthouse falls

kayaker waiting to plunge Harper Creek Falls

evening light on the Black Mtns from Table Rock

heading to the summit tree of bluff mtn

reflection of SOMO's high points

The Numbers

Miles = 1,908.2
Time = 361hrs2min
Vert = 323,445'
Marathons/Ultras Run = 12
Runs over 12 miles = 42

Weekly Averages

Miles = 36.7
Time = 6hrs57min
Vert = 6,220'

Running Goals for 2014

1. Finish my first 50 miler (Leatherwood)
2. PR in the 50k (hopefully at Mill Stone)
3. PR in the marathon (maybe Peak to Creek again, but that really hurt) & 5k.
4. Cross train much more!
5. Remember to have fun, keep exploring, and stay healthy while training for these goals.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Post Fire Trip to the Gorge

I've been trying to find a day lately to go check out the Table Rock area to get a scope of the fire damage, but every recent weekend opportunity has fallen through.  So I decided to take a half day at work today and head on up there finally.  I began my run/hike/scramble at Sitting Bear TH and marched up the Ridge trail over to Hawksbill to catch my first good glimpse of the effected area.  It was a great way to start off an great trip with crystal clear views today.  Things didn't look too bad from Hawksbill, so I headed down Ledge for the first time to connect into Spence.  Wow, what a trail Ledge is WooHoo  Finding my way down was fairly easy, although a pesky root ripped a part of my shoe and I had to slide on my butt down a steep leafy section of the trail.  Man what a fun rock hopping adventure that was.  I was obviously slowed up by the terrain but I didn't mind, it was beautiful.  I did worry about getting impaled by an icicle though Chuckle.  The trail was well marked through the rock draws with a couple of flags and cairns.  I found Ledge-Spence Connector very easily and it was well flagged all the way to Spence.    

Hitting Spence I finally saw evidence of the fire.   I had really been concerned on the condition of LTR trail, so I headed that way to check it out.  The trail seemed in great condition all the way up and like Darkbryd has pointed out in some of his trips near there, the fire looks to have taken more of the shape of a controlled burn through this area.  Most hardwoods seemed unaffected and had little to no scaring from the fire.  The rhodo was burned up pretty well though and smaller sapling trees probably won't stand much of a chance.  I do predict a green spring for this section.  After I checked out some of the views on LTR, I made my way to the Chimneys.  This is where things really looked bad.  Some sections of the trail are scorched on both sides as you walk along.  Things more or less stayed the same with some patchy scorched sections as you followed the MST south.  

Once I began the decent down to Chimney Gap, things got a lot worse.  I figured if the fire reached that patch of young pines along the trail, it stood little chance of survival and I was correct.  This was the worst affected area by far.  Many of the pines are now just black silhouettes on the hill side.  This is a bummer, because those trees were just getting tall enough to provide some good shade on that decent.  That climb out of the gap is going to be hot again this summer.  Once at Chimney Gap, I hopped onto the fire rd that runs along the base of the Chimney's to return to the Table Rock summit rd.  This was also another new trail for me today.  From Chimney Gap to Blue Rock Rd it has recently been regraded as a fire line by the FS.  It was successful all the way to that point, but not after.  The rd lacked maintenance from this point on and the fire burned on both sides.  Along this stretch I had originally planned to get water out of one of the creeks it crosses, but didn't originally think about the fire affecting it's quality so I had to refrain and ran out of water by the time I got to the gate.  I didn't have too much longer to go and hoped that some folks at the parking area might have some to spare.

I trotted up the pavement to the parking area and no luck.  I'd be fine for a few more miles so I headed on up to check out the views and damage on Table Rock.  Luckily, I bumped into some gracious climbers and they lent me some of there water as I was marching up the climb.  Very thankful for those two.  The summit trail had a good amount of ice on it and the burn did not look too bad through here at all.  I got some great shots of the sun setting over the Blacks from the summit and then headed down the MST back to FS210.  The MST on the way down looked very much like LTR so it should recover quite well.  I finally hit the road and it was nice to finally follow some easy terrain back to the car a couple miles up.  It was a great trip and I'm glad I finally got out there survey the damage for myself.

Trail Status on route followed:
Jonas Ridge - good
Hawksbill - good
Ledge - good, a bit leafy
Ledge/Spence Connector - good, flagged well
LTR - good
MST heading south to Chimney Gap- good, lots of fire damage through here, but trail tread is clear
Fire Rd - good for 1/2, a few blowdowns on the second half nearing gate
Table Rock Summit - good, icy
MST north - good

Trip stats:
Miles - ~16
Time - 4hs10min
Gain - 4800 ft

Shoe carnage from Ledge Trail
Fire scorched earth along MST approaching Chimneys
MST heading down towards Chimney Gap
Sunset over the Blacks from Table Rock

Saturday, November 30, 2013

PR's and Turkeys Cooking

I have been wanting to sign up for a 5k for the past few months so I could attempt to break 20 minutes, a goal I've had since last year.  The Greensboro Gobbler presented itself so Hannah and I signed up the day before.  Now I had done zero speed work since my marathon (didn't really do speed work for that either), so I was a little concerned about actually making it under 20 minutes.  My plan was to go all out and just push the entire time and see what happens.  I felt like the past 5k attempt almost a year ago was to planned out and my plan ended up backfiring on me.

The morning came with sub-freezing temps but some bright sun.  I was decked out in tights, gloves, beanie, and two long sleeve shirts, which kept me comfortable in the 22 degree temperatures.  Not really my ideal wardrobe for setting a PR.  Hannah and I warmed up for the last 15 minutes before the run and my legs felt good.  I took a spot at the front as to not get stuck in traffic and soon we were off.  I put on the gas and by the first turn I was starting to feel like I may have gone out to fast as I was starting to get passed a bit more.  I focused on the shoulders of the guy in front of me and just tried to hold on.  I crossed the first mile marker in 5:58!  This was obviously a bit too fast for me and I kept hoping I could at least use the fast start to my advantage and run a typical 6:30 for me to get to the 2nd mile marker by 12:30, a split I felt I must get to keep the goal alive.  The course was a bit more uphill at this point and I made an effort to keep pushing.  My breathing was heavy but my legs kept rolling and by the time I made it to the 2nd mile marker I split at 12:31.  I knew the goal was in play still, but I could see that the course was about to go up some major hills.  I hit the hill and pushed harder and passed 4 people on the first pitch.  As the first hill flattened out I was passed back by two, but the last .3 miles were uphill as well and I made a push again.  I was inhaling and exhaling on each step and just put my head down and pushed.  I hit the 3 mile marker and I was at 19:04.  I knew that I would get sub 20 now and I began to back off, but someone tried to pass me and I couldn't let that happened.  I put the hammer down, passed 3 people in the last 100 meters and crossed the line in 19:42!

I had made my goal and came in 34th place overall and 4th in my age group.  I was pumped, but I immediately headed back to the finish line to see Hannah come in who was also trying to PR.  Her goal was to run 23 minutes flat, which would be a PR by 30 seconds.  It happens though that she came in well before that and crossed the line 21:31 for an almost 2 minute PR at the 5k!  She also ended up taking 1st in her age group!  I've got one talented wife!  She is hoping to take that speed into her half marathon next weekend for another PR.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Exploring the Creek.....area

Ever since Peak to Creek, I've been longing to get out and explore some more trails in the Wilson Creek Area and in Pisgah around Steels Creek.  The past two weekends I got to do just that.  I was thoroughly impressed with all the runs I had out there during the past two weekends and I'm looking forward to getting back out there to explore some more unkown trails, especially considering how close I live to there now (less than 50 min).  Below are run reports from each trip.

Table Rock Scope Out Route

I met up with Den, Phyllis, and Mark to check out a potential course route for a future trail race coming up next year.  Mark and I had talked it over and now was a chance to cover all of the course except the first 3 miles.

We started at the top of Craig Creek Rd and began our warmup jog of 4.5 miles to our first turn.  This stretch on Craig Creek Rd was beautiful.  Although just gravel, I really enjoyed it as it gently climbed alongside a small creek and then ramped up the grade the last mile or so to the turn off, weaving in and out of small drainages.

We then turned on FS 198, a less maintained gravel rd that one could consider a double track since most of it had a nice grass median up the middle.  The views toward Brown Mountain and out onto the Catawba valley where very nice and the grade was gentle.  We found ourselves running more of this road than we anticipated.  After about 3 miles, we finally hit the Mountains-to-sea trail and would follow it for most of the remainder of our run.  This section of the MST is one of my favorites!  It is all runnable and follows and old road bed from years gone by.  It bends and turns through coves and is a joy to run.  But soon, you have to cross Upper Creek and then it gets real.  The next 1.25 miles is about a 900' climb back up to NC 181.  We all just settled into a hike and before we knew it, it was over.

After refilling our bottles from Den's water drop, it was time to tackle a brand new section of the MST for me, the Steels Creek Trail.  I've heard a ton of good things about this trail from friends and I finally got to see it for myself.  The trail starts off very similar to what you just got off of, with it following an old road bed.  You cross a few cold streams, but it is nice to cool off the feet sometimes.  Soon, it turns to a lush single track that hugs the cliff down to the creek and follows it for the rest of its journey.  If you look over towards the creek you could catch a glimpse of numerous waterfalls trickling down the mountain.  Some were quite large and I would have loved to get a closer view, but the big mileage of the day did not dictate it.

At the bottom of this trail, I rolled my ankle pretty good and the rest of the day became pretty painful.  I still had about 15 miles to go as well and a huge climb up to the top of Table Rock.  The climb went well with it being about third running, a third walking, and a third crawling.  Man that mountain is steep!  We took a few photos from the top and started our way back down the leaf strewn MST to cross back over Steels Creek and finish on a FS rd back to the car.  I was running funny back down due to the ankle and was ready to get onto the gravel so I could start running normal again.  Phyllis decided to get some actual running in once we hit the gravel road to get away from us smelly men and beat us all back to the car.

At the end of the day, we traveled 29 miles, climbed 8000ft and enjoyed the immense beauty of the creek and the gorge.  On a sad note, just 3 days after our summit of Table Rock, some idiot let a camp fire get out of hand and today more than 2000 acres of the gorge, including the route we took to the top is burned and still burning.

Weekend of Waterfalls New and Old

Due to the gorge being on fire, I decided to explore some more trails I hadn't previously been on in the Wilson Creek area.  One of those is called the Greentown Shortcut trail that apparently leads to a waterfall.  I convinced Tom to join me on the exploration and we got started on a foggy Saturday afternoon.

We parked the car about a mile down Craig Creek Rd and began our ascent up FS 197 that was following Upper Creek for a 1.5 miles before it ends and the trail begins.  The first mile of the trail was easy enough, but soon the trail got tighter, steeper, and more slippier.  It had rained the night before and the leaf coverage was a ton, so grip was little to none.  Oh, and this trail was on the side of a cliff.  We got turned around a couple of times on this unmarked trail, but soon found our way after a lot of hard power hiking and sliding.  Once you cross a small stream emptying into Upper Creek, you follow it up steam a couple hundred yards until you come to a massive mossy surine cliff with boulders strewn all around at its base.  The water trickles over the cliff and dives about 40' onto the boulders below and then squeezes and drops it way through those.  This waterfall, called Burnthouse Branch Falls had both Tom and I in awe.  It was well worth the hard climb to get to.

From the waterfall, the trail ends (I think) and we just decided to bushwhack up the mountain about a quarter of a mile to intersect the MST, which we did after some more power hiking and sliding.  Once on the trail, it was sweet relief to know that we could actually run almost the entire rest of our planned route.  Because of the fog, I abandoned the idea of summiting Chestnut Mountain and decided to show Tom South Harper Creek Falls as well.  We enjoyed our jog over to the view of the falls and then soaked in another amazing feature of the Wilson Creek area.  Nothing quite like viewing a 200'+ sliding falls, from a perched up 300' cliff.  Good times, good views.

We decided to take FS 198 back (same as week before) and I really enjoyed the views going down the road as to compared to going up it like last week.  I really like this stretch and plan to implement it a lot into future runs.  Still got to summit Chestnut Mountain that there is a clear trail to that isn't on the map. Love exploring unmapped trails and penciling them into the map.

The next day, since the church Hannah and visited was so close by, I made another trip into the Wilson Creek area.  This time I check out the Pine Ridge Trail.  This trail starts right behind the visitor center and it was a beauty.  It climbs steadily for the  first couple of miles on pristine and smooth single track.  I imagine the views were nice from the trail, but the fog wasn't letting me see any of that.  The trail soon begins to follow and old road bed similar to the MST between 181 and South Harper Creek Falls.  It was a nice gentle descent as it was looping me back to the car.  But soon, it falls off the face of the planet on a tight single track beside a small tributary stream and dumps you out onto the MST.

Since I was so close to Harper Creek Falls, I decided a nice side trip out to it was in order so headed on over.  I wasn't expecting to see anyone there due to the crummy weather, but I guess some dare devil kayakers had the same thing in mind.  As I arrived, two kayakers were climbing up the falls to attempt to head down them.  I couldn't help but stay and watch and found a nice rock and waited for the kayaker to take his plunge.  It took awhile, but the dude did it and it was awesome.  I gave him a wheehewww!!!! before I took off and tried to warm myself back up.  The rain was really picking up, but I enjoyed the cool feeling of the rain and it made me run faster.

After getting dumped back onto Brown Mountain Beach Rd, I high taled it the next 2 miles back to the car and my exploration weekend of the Creek was done.  Looking forward to the next few weeks to get out there and do some more exploring.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Peak To Creek Marathon Report

It only took 6 years, but I finally ran my first "road" marathon.  I couldn't think of a better marathon for me to run than Peak to Creek, a mostly gravel, scenic route through the Pisgah National Forest in the mountains of North Carolina.  I've been eying this one for quite awhile and finally decided to attempt it this year.  This would also be the first marathon for my brother in law, Tom.

The day came quickly and I was feeling a little nervous about achieving my original goal of sub 3:05, especially since training wasn't ideal.  Therefore I made a secondary goal of at least running under 3:20, but would still make an effort for the 3:05, reassessing that goal during the run as to what felt comfortable.

Hannah dropped Tom and I off at the start to a clear, but extremely chilly morning.  It wasn't long before we were off, everyone trying to warm up as we traveled the winding paved road through beautiful  multicolored views of the high mountains and hills of western North Carolina.  I bumped into a few friends and acquaintances while trying to hit the planned 7:25 pace on this first 6 mile section.  There is a spot on this section that opens up to grand views of the Roan Highlands and I couldn't help but think that is where I should be, high up on the AT.  I snapped back to the race at hand though and realized that at least I was on the most beautiful road marathon I could think of and was about to hit gravel for the most of the remaining 20 miles, just another reason why I chose this marathon over others.

I hit the gravel road at mile 6 right on pace schedule.  I decided to try and stay relaxed for the first 2 miles down to the first aid station where I would drop my extra shirt and ear warmers, but hoped to stay on the targeted pace of 6:45 for this long 9 mile downhill section.  I ended up hitting the aid station 1 minute behind, but wasn't too worried.  I began to pick up the effort a little to try and sneak it in under the 7 minute mark.  I felt like I was running fairly quickly, but by the time I hit the half marathon mark I was already 4 minutes behind planned pace.  I don't really know how this happened, but my hamstrings were beginning to start feeling tight, so I decided to abandon the 3:05 goal and switched to trying to go under 3:15.

I made it the turnaround in Edgemont at the bottom of the hill with 10.5 miles to go and plenty of time to reach the goal 3:15 if I could average 7:30 for the last 10 miles of this flat section.  I began picking off runners over the first 3 miles of this section and was hitting or going under 7:30 for each mile and it felt comfortable.  But around mile 19 my stomach started to feel off and I believe that started my slow down in pace.  I wasn't exactly sure of my splits during this section, but it felt very long between each mile marker.  I tried to hold off the inevitable pit stop for as long as I could, but somewhere around mile 23 I could wait no longer.

The stop cost me about 3 minutes.  As soon as I was back on course, I picked up the pace to try and make up some of the time and not having to worry about my stomach, it felt a lot easier to go faster.  I started passing many of the runners that had gotten in front of me during my pit stop, but the miles were still seeming to come very slowly.  Near the end the goal of 3:15 was looking unlikely, but I kept pushing to squeeze under the minimum goal of 3:20.

Soon the surface changed back to asphalt and I spotted Hannah and Michael cheering me on.  I was near the finish and I picked it up some more.  Then at the entrance of the campground loop I saw Mad A!  That really got me pumped to bring it in strong as I was not expecting him to be there at all.  I made it past the turn to head back to finish and saw someone in front of me and couldn't help but try and reel him in before the finish, so I picked it up even more.  I got by him with about 100 yards to go and crossed the finish line in 3:18:35.  I was spent and just stopped as I stepped down on the finish mat.

I am very happy with my time, although I still think of what could have been if training would have been better and if I could solve my stomach issues during runs.  I gave it the best I had on the day though and still came in under my minimum goal.  Tom really killed it as he ran his first marathon ever in 3:29:08!

I will say this as a final note.  Road marathons freakin' hurt! 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Peak to Creek Training Week 3

Mon - off

Tues - 41min/ 3.6m/ 1000' - SOMO - Went out to attempt a 9 miler with a long downhill to work on some turnover, but the achilles was like "uh, NO!"  Therefore I turned back early and took it home to not further an injury that may be occurring.  Soaked in the river for a few minutes as well in hopes the cold water would help.

Wed - off - XC meet took up almost all of my evening.  At least we won!

Thurs - 43min/ 4.9m/ 500' - DART - Got some new shoes in the mail specifically for work, but thought "hey, lets go run in these minimus zero trails with a bum achilles.  That sounds like a great idea!"  So as both my calves were now screaming at me saying, "You #*@$ing idiot!" I turned back a bit short as to try and not push it anymore and walked a bit.  Wow, am I dumb.

Fri - 34min/ 3.2m/ 200' - Latta - Another nice a mellow run with the XC kids.  I wore a proper pair of shoes today and my achilles thanked me.

Sat - 3hr30min/ 17m/ 3700' - Tour de Doughton - Meet up with Phyllis and Allen for this beautiful loop in Doughton Park north of Wilkesboro.  We couldn't have picked a better morning to run, as the temps started around 60 and never got hotter than 75.  Fall is definitely back in the air in the mountains at least.  I have done this loop once before a few years back, but I forgot how gorgeous it actually is.  Phyllis and I kept it relaxed most of the day, dodged and ran into a ton of spider webs, and I properly got smoked on the climb back up to the car.  Dang, Phyllis can climb and make it look easy.  I should definitely get out there more often.  Even with that big loop, there is still about an extra 15 miles of trail in the park that I've yet to set foot on.

Sun - 1hr45min/ 10.6m/ 1000' - Grey Rd/ Fisher Farm - Met up with Dave this morning to get in 10 miles and to catch up on some lost training due to the achilles issue this week.  I started out feeling ok, but by the time we hit the trails in Fisher Farm, my body started to give out.  I had zero energy left and the hills of Abersham and Grey Rd were killing me.  I ended up walking quite a bit, but still made it through for a very slow run.  Was thankful that Dave stayed back with me despite my slow pace today.

Total =

Time - 7hrs13min
Miles - 39.3
Vert - 6400'

Well, running 50 miles last week really bit me in the butt.  I did too much, too soon and paid the price this week.  Luckily, my body and achilles had recovered enough to still make it out to Doughton Park for a beautiful run. Hopefully the body has adjusted now to higher mileage and I can get back to strictly following my training plan.  Pics of the Doughton Park run below.

The start
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

One of many of my spider web shields
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

Running down Bluff Mtn
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

Tree at the top of the mtn
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

Beautiful bald on top of Bluff Mtn
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

Phyllis cruising on the MST
Photo: Me

Talkin' with the ranger at Brinegar Cabin
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

The climb up Flat Rock Trail
Photo:  Phyllis Tsang

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Peak to Creek Training Week 1 & 2

Week 1

Mon - 63min/ 7m/ 900' - Riverbend Park - Met up with Jose and let him drag up and down every hill in this park.  Great place to run, but definitely feeling out of shape.

Tues - off

Wed - 59min/ 7m/ 700' - Hickory City Park - First downhill X2 workout in preparation for the downhill of Peak to Creek.  Jose met up with me again for this one.  I took the first 1.5 mile downhill greenway repeat in 9:15 and the second one in 9:45.  Still feeling very much out of shape.

Thurs - 43min/ 5.1m/ 500' - DART - Felt slow, but ended up faster than expected so that was good.

Fri - 34min/3.8min/ 200' - Latta - long run for the ms XC kiddos.  Good first optional practice for them.

Sat - 105min/ 12m/ 1200' - Lake Norman State Park - Tom and I hit up some trails that were covered in spider webs, which made running fun for a bit until we decided to flip it (which was a great idea). My body felt good and I felt somewhat in shape.

Sun - 34min/ 4m/ 400' - Davidson XC - Tom and I got out for a few miles after a long day of golf earlier.

Totals =

Time - 5hrs36min
Miles - 38.9
Vert - 4000'

Week 2

Mon - off - successful first meet for the XC team

Tues - 70min/ 7.5m/ 1600' - SOMO - Great run out at South Mountains.  Headed up past the falls and then came down Shinny.  Great loop with lots of eye candy.

Wed - 49min/ 5.9m/ 400 - Jacob Fork Park - First fartlek workout of the training plan and it was hot!  Felt really slow, but tried to keep the pace up on the 1min hard sections.  Imagine that those were all around 6:50 pace.  Which is to slow, but it was hot!

Thurs - 51min/ 6.3m/ 600' - DART - We all did a prediction run for beer today and thankfully I didn't lose.  I ended up being 30 seconds off my predicted time but Matt nailed it with being 6 seconds off.

Fri - 38min/ 3.8m/ 200' - Latta - Another good optional XC practice for the team.  Kept it slow due to the 90 degree heat with them.

Sat - 4hrs45min/ 22m/ 4000' - Dupont Waterfall Bonanza - Great run with the Pisgah Nation, but I wasn't prepared physically or mentally.  On the hole it was a great run with great friends and sweet waterfalls.  I felt slow all day, but was feeling pretty beat up from the week.  First real long run in a long while though, which is good.

Sun - 53min/ 4.8m/ 1500' - Linville Gorge - Had a great easy run up to the tops of both Hawksbil and Sitting Bear after a great round of golf earlier.


Time - 9hrs5min/
Miles - 50.3
Vert - 8300'

Well after the first two weeks of training, I'm feeling pretty good but am hoping the speed will return soon as I will need it for Peak to Creek coming up soon.  We will see how this weeks speedwork goes.  My legs feel pretty good after this weeks heavy mileage so that is good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Sluggish Summer

Well my summer break is almost over and once again it was a sluggish summer for running, that eventually led to an injury.  Which is weird, considering that most over use injuries involve the fact that you have to use said injured muscle a lot.  Oh well.  Below are some lackluster highlights from my summer of running.

  • Things started out well with a decent run at the Roan Adventure Marathon
  • Had a great time at the second Wilson Creek sWEaTfest.  We had a good crew show out and camping the night before was a blast.  The weather turned out great and the waterfalls and swimming holes felt great!
  • Went to the beach for a week for the first time in 2 years, which was good and had a couple of good easy beach runs, but then on the last day......
  • BEACH CRUISER ACCIDENT!!!!!!  This sounds ridiculous and it was.  On the last day of our trip I decided to ride the beach cruiser down and back to the beach from my parents home on Oak Island (about 8 mile round trip) and 2 blocks from being back the house I wrecked.  I had decided to see how fast I could get the fixed gear beach cruiser up to and started cranking hard on the pedals and got up in the saddle.  Just as I believe I approached 20mph, the chain flew off, locked up the pedals, caught my flip flop in between the chain and rear spokes, and promptly slid about 10 feet down the hot cement sidewalk, crushing my awesome basket along the slide as well. :(  I got a pretty good case of road rash on my knee, elbow, and shoulder which kept me from running for about a week.
  • I PLAYED A LOT OF GOLF!!!!  Which is awesome, but may have contributed to the end of the summer injury.  I know, really?
  • Put together and ran the inaugural Midnight Manor Marathon on the trails in Cone Park at night! Great course, great weather, awesome moonlit views, and cows.  My run was a little "crappy", but it was a good time and felt good to get a marathon in during the hot month of July.
  • Ran a middle school cross country camp that went really well.
  • INJURED my plantar fascia!  I did something similar back in November last year and I guess I never really let the injury heal.  With the added pressure on it because of golfing so much, yes I said golfing, I believe my arch said enough is enough.  I hobbled around for a few days, and then decided not to run for the next 2 weeks.  A lot of icing and massaging in those 2 weeks have got me back on the trail this week and so far no pain after two runs.  Hopefully, I've given this thing enough time to heal and I can get back started in training for Peak to Creek Marathon.
  • Got to witness Matt "the Grand" Kirk finish and break the self-supported Appalachian Trail Record on top of Springer Mtn, Ga.  Talk about an unreal experience!  Matt is amazing.  You can watch all his videos and a photo essay on his site at http://sub60.wikispaces.com/
Looking forward to another solid fall running season now!  Let the training begin, and more blog post!

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Balance RC 1600 Shoe Review

I've been wanting to write a shoe review for a long time now.  As my fiance can attest, I go through quite a few pairs of shoes a year, so I think I can offer some great insight for those who prefer to run in shoes in the more minimal/ lightweight categories.  I would like to begin by sharing my thoughts on one of my favorite shoes I've ever worn, the New Balance RC 1600.  This shoe is marketed as a lightweight road racing flat for 5k to marathon, but I have worn it beyond those prescribed limits and it has performed quite well.  Below, I will try not to concentrate too much on the specifics of the shoe, but more on how the shoes perform in a variety of conditions.  At the end I will provide a rating scale of the shoe on different types of surfaces and distances as I believe that shoes should be used as different tools for different situations.

Official Specs

  • weight - 5.4 ounces (size 9)
  • drop - 6mm
Upper (9/10)

The upper of the 1600 is one of the best I've ever worn.  It is mostly comprised of a dual density mesh with a system of honeycomb shaped overlays that wrap the foot on both sides and locks the shoe down onto the foot.  The tongue is made of the same material.  I found that the fit of the shoe was quite good for my foot as my heel is locked in, but my toes just have enough wiggle room to splay out on impact.  I have logged a total of 400+ miles on my original pair  and they isn't a single tear on the entire upper.  What makes this really impressive is that more than half of those miles have been on trails (technical and smooth).  I really like how the upper locked down the foot as well as I covered technical trails with less lateral movement issues than any other shoe I've worn.  The upper also drains very well, and after stream crossings they are almost completely dry in a couple of miles. The only negative I can say about this upper is that it sorta makes my feet hot when going sockless.  This problem isn't an issue when wearing socks though which is really weird.  Regardless, I haven't had a single blister from these (although I rarely get blisters ever).

Midsole (8/10)

The midsole of the 1600's is comprised of New Balance's excellent REVlite foam.  I really like how light this foam is and I think it nails a zone for me on firmness vs. softness, but it does have its slight drawbacks.  But first the good.  I feel like the foam provides just enough protection, even without a rockplate on most trails, gravel, and roads.  I've logged many miles on the gravely like surfaces of South Mountains State Park in these and rarely get poked.  The foam just dissipates the impact forces very evenly across the shoe.  Even on extremely technical trails, I've found the shoe to provide just the right amount of protection.  But all of this impact dissipation seems to come at a very slight cost.  The foam is only lacking the pop that some runners look for and you can definitely tell this on the roads.  It doesn't feel dead, but just needs something to make it just a bit more springy (which the foam does have in another shoe later to be reviewed).  Durability of the shoe has been great, but I feel that the foam starts to break down about 20 miles into a run so I haven't done any ultras in them.  This could probably be fixed with another 2mm of foam to the current stack heights (heel-21mm, toe-15mm).  Breakdown of the foam over time has been solid and I could probably get another 200-300 miles out these shoes on runs 10 miles or less.  Overall, I think the midsole is one of the best I've every worn.

Outsole (Road 10/10, Trail 7/10)

The outsole for this shoe is one of the greatest designs I've ever seen for a racing flat.  A lightweight, but very grippy rubber compound is found only on high impact areas of the shoe at the forefoot and lateral heel.  Very lightweight, and surprisingly durable, rubber nubs complete the grip near the toes and  at the back of the ball of the foot.  If you are planning on using these only for roads, this is all the grip you would ever need, even in wet conditions.  On most racing flats or traditional road shoes, there is either an over abundance of rubber that rarely makes contact with the ground and adds a ton of weight to the shoe or not enough rubber on the shoe which makes the shoe almost useless in wet conditions.  This outsole however strikes the perfect balance of those mentioned above and is perfect for roads.  Now for trails, it is a different story.  If you are running on gravel, buffed dry single track, or moderately technical rolling trails then the outsole is just as good as it is on the roads.  But if you are running on slickrock, muddy, leafy, and steep trails (+20% grades)  then it is another story.  The grip just doesn't grip well enough on those types of treads and you invariably start skiing up or down the mountain instead of running (which is quite fun if the trail isn't treacherously rocky).   Plus, there aren't any lugs on the tread so forget it in the mud.  Durability of the outsole is pretty good as the tiny little rubber nubs are still mostly present after 400+ miles of mostly trails, but the rubber on the forefoot kinda lost its slight lug potential very early on.

picture from Runningwarehouse.com

Overall Impression

I love this shoe and it has been my go to for everyday training and road racing for the past few months. I love it so much that I just recently purchased my second pair.  The thing I love the most about this shoe is that it is super lightweight, but extremely durable, a combination rarely found.  The upper is by far the best upper I've ever worn, although I can still think of improvements and the midsole strikes a great balance of firmness and softness.  Although the outsole leaves something to be desired on the trail, it out performs on the roads and that was what it was designed for anyway.  You can find these shoes here at Running Warehouse and I believe that they are on sale right now for around $70.  Below is a rating scale for the shoe on different types of surfaces.

Dry Road - 9/10
Wet Road - 9/10
Gravel - 8/10
Dry Buffed Trail - 9/10
Muddy Trail - 4/10
Moderately Technical Trail - 9/10
Extremely Technical Trail - 7/10
Leafy Trail - 5/10
Steep Mountain Trails - 7/10
Grass - 6/10
5k - 9/10
10k - 9/10
13.1 - 9/10
25k - 9/10
26.2 - 8/10
26.2+ - 7/10

Branching Out

This blog has mostly just chronicled my training and racing over the past few years, but I finally think that it is time to add a different element to some post on here.  Over my now 5 years off running, I've figured a few things out and I am really beginning to see the benefits of all my trial and error.  I still don't have it all mastered and never will, but I would like to begin to share some insight into things that I think work and share some opinions on other things revolving around the ultra community.

In this way, I am branching out and adding some new and potentially useful elements to this blog instead of it just being, "look what I did."  This is not to say that I want chronicle my training and racing anymore, but will try have some post related to different running subjects including: shoes, gear, cross training, wilderness tips, trails & other open spaces, etc.

Expect to see some of these post coming soon...

View from hawksbill rock off the snowball trail looking out to lane pinnacle

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Racin' Season

The past two weekends I have actually participated in sanctioned races.  This is typically a rare occurrence for me as I usually only race "official" races at most 3 times a year.  It seems that I have already filled that quota in 5 months and have at least 2 more official races on the calendar for the year!  What is happening to me (probably a paycheck).  Below I will give brief reports (yea, right) on two vastly different races.  Hope you enjoy!

The Drool Deer aka Stone Mountain Run

the crew... I look thrilled
Over many a day of perusing the interwebs, I discovered what looked to be a small little race with my type of vibe at Stone Mountain State Park.  The race's webpage and race director were quite eccentric and hilarious and I had to contact him to join.  One thing I found intriguing on the website was that bandits were welcomed.  How cool is that!  I let the "Rabid Squirrel" (race director's nickname) know my intentions and he was all for it.  I couldn't wait to race up and over Stone Mountain.

Race day arrived, and I began to fill guilty for not paying the extremely cheap entry fee, so I showed up with it to show my appreciation for Mr. Squirrel and his dedication to making this race as fun and goofy as possible.  The course would be the 5 mile Stone Mountain Loop trail.  It began by falling of the face of the earth down a ton of wooden steps beside a cascading waterfall, then leveled out for a bit, but soon enough climbed 700 ft up plenty of stone steps to the top of the appropriately named Stone Mountain.  After reaching the summit, you descended down a loose gravel trail, with plenty of switchbacks back to the start.

at the summit in 1st
After sizing up my competition, I thought that I had a really good shot of making the podium or even winning this thing, although that really wasn't the whole idea behind the "race".  It didn't matter too much as I was planning on putting out a race effort to be my last tune up before the next weekend's half marathon.  Soon we started and I found myself in a group of 4 runners headed to the stairs.  Upon arriving at the the stairs I was quickly dropped by 2 of these folks.  Apparently, I need to start doing downhill stair repeats because I was ridiculously slow.  By the time I reached the flat section, I was about 200 yards behind the duo that dropped me.  I began to kick it and hoped to gain ground slowly, which I did.  I was within 100 yards by the time we reached the climb and I had a feeling that I should catch the guys since they were both flatlanders.  I finally caught up with them mid way up the climb, but once I was back with them I decided to take a break and hike with them to the summit, which in hindsight was a mistake.  I was moving very well up the climb and running past them while they were hiking could have played some mental games with them and may have given me a better edge.  Once we neared the final summit push, I finally made my move and took over 1st place.  They weren't too far behind though as we hit the descent about 100 ft apart.  I tried to hammer it down the loose gravel trail, but the switchbacks were slowing me down considerably and they were making up time on each one.  The course finally started to even out and I began to pick up the pace even more.  I created separation between one of the runners, but I wasn't quite sure which runner was still close behind.  Once we finally hit the last .4 mile return section, I saw who it was and was surprised.  Surprised and concerned.  He soon caught up with me and we were running neck and neck until the final 100 yards of the course.  It ended on a slight uphill and he cranked it and I had nothing left to match him.  I crossed the finish line 2nd, losing the race in the last 100 yards.

getting out kicked on camera....great
Obviously, I was a little disappointed, but it wasn't a big deal.  We both ran a great race and I underestimated the guys downhill speed.  In the end I had a great time, got to hang and chat with some really good folks, and even one a door prize (which made me glad that I decided to pay the entry fee).  The Rabid Squirrel put on a great event and I hope to make it out to some of his more ridiculous races in the future.

Pisgah Nation represent!

New River Half Marathon

starting line
I haven't raced a half since the Mistletoe in 2011, and with Hannah's brother Tom wanting to attempt his first one, I suggested the New River Half and said that I would join him.  If I was going to run a road half, I wanted to make sure it was a beautiful course and you cannot go wrong with the High Country of NC.  I began "training" for a sub 1:30 time once the plan was set in stone, but after the first week of too much speed work, I tweaked my achilles and I was in recovery mode.  Before I could even begin to ramp the speed sessions back up I hit the 3 marathons in 2 weeks part of the training plan (isn't that how you are supposed to train for shorter races?)  Therefore, I cut the speedwork out and concentrated on recovering from those 3 runs.  Obviously, training didn't go as planned, but I did have a great time and some great runs during this phase.  Plus, I would rather have fun while running than strictly sticking to a regimented plan for 12 weeks.  Anyway, I still was feeling pretty much in shape and had recovered well from the 3 marathon efforts.  Sub 1:30 seemed very much unlikely, but a PR seemed possible so that became the goal.

post race
The night before the run, Beth Frye kindly opened up her home to Hannah, Tommy, Martha,  Michael, and I so we could avoid a long morning drive to the start of the race near Todd, NC.  It was nice to be back in Boone and even got a chance to slackline in Durham Park a bit (slacklining is kinda my new thing, even though I had seen the hippies in Boone do it for my entire tenure there).  Race morning came and we all hoped that the forecasted rain would hold off.  It was quite chilly at the start and we all decided to shed our warm layers right before the gun and hand them to Michael.  I found Scott and chatted a bit with him and then the horn sounded and we began to pound the pavement.

scott and i walkin' to the start

and we're off
The first mile I tried to take it easy knowing that a huge hill awaited during the next mile.  Apparently, I had taken it a bit too easy and was already off my planned pace. I picked it up and climbed solidly over our first 300ft climb of the day.  I was moving well, but my pace over the next few miles would vary quite dramatically.  The rollingish terrain of the middle part of the race I had underestimated.  I was clicking of miles everywhere from 7:30's to 6:20's.  Not really what I was expecting.  

Around mile 6 I began to fill the dreaded stomach issues.  This was probably some of the reason for the variance in pace as I was trying to keep everything in.  I kept debating on using the jon or not the entire last half of the race.  When we hit the next big climb of the day, I decided to relax a bit and hoped to crank down the last 4 miles which were all downhill/flat to make up time.  During these last 4 miles the stomach issues really began to bother me and I was beginning to wonder if I would just have to find a spot in the woods.  I kept pushing the pace though and hoped that I could hold out as  I was still near pace to PR.  During the last 3 miles though, a stiff headwind greeted us runners and it never relinquished its hold.  As we neared the final mile and the finish line, it actually got stronger.  When I hit the 12 mile sign, I really began to pick up the effort, although I think it had little affect on my pace as the wind had picked up as well.

final stretch
With about a quarter mile to go, my friend John Sugg had finally caught up with me and said "keep pushing".  I really kicked it then and began running as hard as I could.  I made the turn onto the grass finish chute and hurled myself over the finish line.  I crossed the line in 1:34:49, a mear 19 seconds off my PR time.  I was disappointed and collapsed into the grass to regain my breath.

Although I am still slightly disappointed, I do feel that I ran a PR effort especially while battling stomach issues, a stiff headwind, and a tougher course than my previous half.  If it would have been a flatter course without all those issues I could seriously see that effort turning into something closer to a  1:31.  I do not believe though that I can get under 1:30 just yet for the half so that goal is still on the mind and maybe something to shoot for at this year's Mistletoe.  I ended up finishing 16th overall in the half, so I am pretty proud of that and I can tell that I am getting faster and stronger and that is always a good thing.  

hannah at the finish

tommy at the finish
I would also like to proudly mention that Hannah and Tommy both ran an excellent race.  Hannah finished this course in 1:56 and Tommy finished his first half ever in 1:41!  Great efforts by both of them on a tough course and on a tough day.

it hurt so good