Monday, April 29, 2013

Leatherwood Mountains Ultra Thoughts

First off, I did not race.  I am simply a friend of the RDs and many of the runners who took part in this inaugural running of a race, which I ended up feeling I should have went ahead and signed up for.  Below are just some of my thoughts from a spectator, volunteer, crewing, and pacing stand point.

Having never been to Leatherwood Mountains Resort, and knowing that it was mainly horse trails, I had my reservations.  This combined with a fee deterred me from signing up, (not that the fee was outrageous, I just don't like to pay to run most of the time) I decided to head out and volunteer instead.  I headed up to the resort after work on Friday to grab a camp site and partake in the pre-race dinner that included a guest speaker that happened to be a friend of mine.  The dinner was an excellent spread and the community gathered was great.  I was having trouble catching up with all the people I knew who attended.  After the dinner, I just walked a few hundred feet over to the bar and had a few with some friends before retiring to my tent only a couple hundred yards away.  How neat is that!  Plus, my campsite was right beside Elk Creek, which meant I had a nice sound machine going all night.  I slept like a baby.

The run consisted of 3 runs, a 50m, 50k, and a 10m.  There were 3 loops that the course followed and each loop had a different color to follow.  On top of that, the RDs made sure that each time you changed a loop, you would have a wrist band that corresponded with the flagging.  Of the 23 miles of the course I ran that day, I thought that the course was extremely well marked, even if some of the loops overlapped.  I would almost say that the course was too well marked.  Meaning, that you pretty much could always see a flag ahead from the one you were currently beside.  This is nice, but also makes you worry on the rare case you didn't see a flag for a tenth of a mile.

I did like that they allowed pacers for the final 10 mile loop of the 50 miler.  I know that it really isn't needed, but I had a great time pacing Brew in and catching up with Doug while out on the loop.  I'm sure Brew appreciated my presence as well...I guess so?

After the run, there was live music, some more delicious food, and plenty of friends to hang out with.  I would highly recommend this run for folks, and I might even be running it myself next year if the calendar aligns.  You can't beat a beautiful course, thoughtful RDS, a great finishing location, and a lot of friends.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Linville Gorge Madness Marathon Reflection

First off, I am still planning on running the New River Half Marathon in 2 weeks, but "training" has fallen off the back burner due to FUN!  This doesn't mean that I haven't been putting in good miles, it is just that those miles don't fit the specificity needed for a road half.  But who cares when you are having awesome experiences in the mountains!  Everything else is secondary.

The next two post will concentrate on two back-to-back weekends that were completely awesome in different ways.

Linville Gorge Madness Marathon

The time had finally come and my second favorite run ever was here.  I got off early from work to start ironing out some final logistics for the weekend and Hannah and I were on the road to Tablerock for a fun night of camping.  I had made all the necessary purchases, printing and laminated maps and directions, and packed up my order of shirts to commemorate the run.

Hannah and I made it up to a near empty parking lot at Tablerock around 5:45pm and began to set up camp, collect firewood, and take short hike over the Chimneys.  On our return from the stunning vistas and dramatic cliffs less than 1/3 of a mile away I spotted a hairy black and white creature with one blue and one brown eye starring right back at me.  The beauty of this animal had halted me in my tracks and I thought to myself, "It couldn't be?"  But I knew immediately who this creature was and cried out, "LUNA!!!!"  She ran to me and I to her and soon we were joined by her fellow companions Jon and Melissa.  I hadn't seen all three of them since this summer when Hannah and I had returned home from Leadville, CO.  We began to catch up on life while eating, collecting firewood, and waiting on our other friends to join us later that night.

Slowly, the others ( Mad A, 4trunks, Lauran) began to show up, even some previously unknowns from South Carolina (Brian and Dana), and we sat around the fire talking of past adventures and speculating on future ones.  Around 10pm, everyone began to retire to their tents, or bouldering crash pads, and waited for the sun to rise to start off another epic Pisgah Nation Adventure.

We woke to clear skies and cool temperatures after a windy night near the top of the mountain.  The forecast called for crystal clear skies, highs in the upper 60's, and a slight breeze.  We couldn't ask for better weather.  All others that decided not to camp the night before soon began to show up in the parking lot before our 8:40am summit push to the start, all except one, but more on that later.  Everyone settled into a nice conversational hike up to the summit of Tablerock that would mark the start of our run.  The views from the side of the trail we already stunning.  We soon made it to the summit, took a starters photo, and soon we were off!

I was bounding down the trail alongside Jon and Jeremy all the way to the Spence Ridge trail bridge that spanned the river about 2000ft down and 3 miles from we started.  As we turned onto the Linville Gorge trail, my main thought was to not slam my leg into a tree as I did on this section of trail last year, which eventually ended my day 10 miles from the the finish last year.  This roller coaster of a trail is definitely not my favorite, but it was nice sharing it with Jeremy again this year.  However, I didn't fully escape banging into a tree, but at least this time it was a branch that about punctured into my left arm.

It wasn't long before we started ascending the beautiful and more gentle Babel Tower Trail.  I was actually even able to break into a running stride a few times during the climb when the grade got to a more reasonable 10%.  Jeremy and I soon met back up with Jon at the road as he was waiting for us to give him directions.  We cruised down the road at a decent clip and arrived at our first aid station, giddy to take our first steps onto the Rock Jock Trail.  This trail is gorgeous!  The views that you get along the trail as you hug the edge of the cliffs almost makes you forget that you've been on a 3 mile steeplechase, almost.  I mean there were a ton of downed trees, like every 50 feet, but all the other runners and myself were just mesmerized by the beauty from the trail.  After completing the steeplechase, the trail decides to give you a nice easy break, for about a quarter mile, then rewards you with climb of 700ft straight up and completely exposed to the sun.  Here I bumped into some GorgeRats and then looked behind me to see a spry Mad A running up this 30%+ grade.  Dude is ridiculous!

To be honest, I was surprised I was still ahead of Mad A at this point into the run (~13 miles).  After restashing my pack with food and water for the remainder of the run, I tried to keep up with the pace Mad A and Jon were setting on the road to Pinnacle.  I did not succede in hanging with them, but only fell behind by a couple minutes once at the summit of Pinnacle.  Then came the drop straight down to the pits of hell on the MST.  I was alone, it was getting hot, and my knee was like "Slow Down Fool!" Soon the trail leveled out for awhile and I knew I was almost to the river, then BAM, lets go straight up hill over this knob instead of going around it to the river.  I had forgotten about this climb, but I will not again.  I found a stick to help me over the hill and intended to use to help cross the river and climb Shortoff as well.

By the time I reached the river crossing I had caught back up with Jon and Adam, as they were about half way across as I plunged in.  Surprisingly, the water never came above my waist considering the heavy amount of rain the area had just received the day before.  The stick definitely helped in the crossing though.  But before I got out of the river, I made sure to go for a full submerging before I began climbing the completely exposed ridgeline the lead to the top of Shortoff Mtn.  This section was stunning, with brown grass blowing in the breeze and coming up just under my arms.  By the time we had reached the spring at the top of Shortoff, we were joined by 4trunks and Action, and my cloths were completely dry.

After filling my bottles at the spring, I was soon dropped by our group as I tried to choke down some cheese crackers.  I was only about 6 miles from the finish, so I wasn't too worried and I hoped that I would catch back up after my snack.  While crossing Shortoff, which has had some amazing trail work done recently, I finally caught back up with Jon, who had fallen off the pace set by Adam as well.  We decided to stick to together to the end and soon were dropping down to Chimney Gap to face our final grueling ascent.  I picked up another stick and began pulling myself up the ridiculously steep trail.  Looking at my watch, it looked as if we could possibly finish in under 7 hours if we were able to get to the top of the climb in 20 minutes.  We succeeded and all we had to do was finish the last mile to the parking lot in about 15 minutes to finish under 7.  We did so in about 9 minutes, while crossing the magnificent views from the Chimneys, and back down the parking area where our crew was waiting.  My official time was 6:53:54!

After the run, we all hung out for a bit while waiting for most everyone to finish and I was informed that Abran had finally made it to the start about 2 hours behind schedule, but still managed to snag a copy of the map and directions from Hannah as they drove passed each other.  It turned out that Abran had used his Nav system and it took him to the middle of nowhere on an ATV trail.  He luckily got back to the main road and finally asked for directions at a local gas station.  What is even more awesome than that he actually made it out to run, is that he wasn't our last finisher even though he started 2 hours behind everyone else.  Dude is strong!  Of the 20 starters we only had 2 drop from the course.  That number was amazing and I was super proud of everyone who attempted this gnarly run.  It seemed like everyone had a comparable day out in the big ditch of the east.  This one was a huge success and one of the most beautiful loops out there.

Below is a slideshow of pics from various folks that ran out there.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New River Training Week 6 ( NAR )

Mon - 31min/ 4m/ 100' - WWC - After the previous week's running, I developed a pain in my hip/quad that was mildly painful, but had me really worried for tomorrow's NAR run.  I'd been stretching and foam rolling it all day and then decided that maybe a short run could loosen it up some more.  So that is what I did.  Ran the first 2 miles with Mad A on the River trail, then flipped it back to the car.  I think it definitely did the trick.

Tues - 7hrs10min/ 26m/ 6500' - NAR day 1 - Meet up with my other NAR compadres (Brandon Smith and Andrew Swistak) at the NOC and then shuttled our cars out to start this two day adventure loop connecting the Bartram and Appalachian trails.  We started from Appletree camp and enjoyed the first two mellow climbs and descents down to the Nantahala river.  Then it was time for the long 5 mile 3000ft ascent up to the top of Cheoah Bald.  This trail was steep, rugged, and absolutely gorgeous.  I felt like I was somewhere tropical as we followed closely by to Ledbetter Creek and it's many cascades.  So far on the day we had seen zero folks on the 17 miles of the Bartram that day and as soon as we hit the AT we saw 8 people before we even got to the summit of Cheoah .2 miles away.  It was definitely thru-hiker season. The views from Cheoah were amazing and revealed our route for the following day.  The descent down the AT back to the NOC was joyful and fun.  For the day we ended up seeing nearly 40 people on the AT though in just 8.5 miles. A visit to the Nantahala Brewery followed.

Wed - 8hrs/ 27m/ 8000' - NAR day 2 - After a good nights rest at nearby Tsali Campground, we headed back to the NOC to start day 2.  Out of the gate the trail would climb from 1700' all the way to 4300' to our first overlook at Jumpup Rock.  Most of us decided to pick up a hiking stick for the long climb.  Not to long after our first overlook we at the top of Wesser Bald and its firetower.  What a view we had from that vantage point.  We ended up soaking it all in for a bit too long though when we realized that we had only gone about 6.5 miles on the day in 2hrs40min.  At our current pace, we would be finishing in the dark.  So, everyone started to get a bit more pep in the steep as it would be a long 12 mile journey to get to our next landmark of Wayah Bald.  Most of that would be uphill as well with a few downhill breaks thrown in for good measure.  The views along the trail were excellent as usual and the volume of thru-hikers was astonishing again.  By the time we reached Wayah Bald we had already passed by 80+ hikers on the AT.  And by the time the Bartram trail finally split off the AT we ended up counting 100 hikers for the day.  That is an insane amount of traffic, but once we pulled back onto the Bartram we were back to solitude.  The grass lined Bartram hugged the ridge for the first few miles down to Sawmill gap and then we started our last substantial climb of the trip to the side of Jones Bald.  Then the trail decided to fall off the face of the earth back down to the lake.  This descent was a blast and to much of our surprise we ended up seeing are only 2 people on the Bartram about a mile from the finish.  So chalk it up, AT -140 Bartram - 2.  After driving back to the NOC to pick up the other cars, Nantahala Brewery was calling again, so we paid them another visit.

Thurs - off

Fri - off

Sat - off

Sun - off

Totals =

Time - 15hrs41min
Miles - 57
Vert - 14,600'

Well I only ran 3 days this week, and I think you can see why.  I was planning on running on Sunday, but it just didn't pan out.  I was just a bit too lazy.  Anyway, you still can't be upset with those numbers.  Below is the video of NAR.  Hope you enjoy!

Monday, April 1, 2013

New River Training Week 5

Mon - 60min - Yoga - Took most of the P90X yoga routine and condensed it down to 60 minutes instead of 90.  This was pretty much done by just holding each pose for 5 breaths.  In the DVD, sometimes the guy starts talking and you end up holding one side for like 10 breaths, which is why it starts to hurt so freakin bad sometimes.  Without his voice and having to wonder about what was next, it was nice to have each pose written down and do it at my own pace with my own music choice.  You can see my yoga routine under one of my tabs in my training log if you want to try it out.

Tues - 2hrs10min/ 12m/ 2100' - SOMO - Did a run and then some exploration afterward.  The route was HQ, Possum, Horseridge, Lower CCC, Upper Falls, Shinny, HQ, Little River, Raven Rock, River.  This totaled 11.5 miles and was run in a total time of 1:43:21.  I ended up running Shinny Trail to the car (3.8m) in 27 minutes and I thought I was going easy, so that is good.  After the run I went and explored a waterfall I had seen off HQ trail when heading up.  It looked to be a long way down, so I followed Shinny Creek up, wading and rock hopping, to the base of the falls.  It was a nice falls that was probably about 20 ft.  Funny how this falls is closer to the parking lot than High Shoals.

Wed - 48min/ 5m/ 50' - South Fork Trail - Didn't have much time for a run today so I headed close by to nice flat .8 mile natural surface trail near Lincolnton to do some repeats. Did out and back for a warm up and then did the first speed out in 4:42. Came back, explored a side trail that fizzled out then did another speed out in 4:53.  I could tell be the second one that my achilles wasn't ready, so I decided not to do another repeat and just cruised it back in.  On the way back I explored some other side trails that lead to no where and were really nothing but deer paths.  I was satisfied with the 2 laps, just wish I could have gotten another in.

Thurs - 45min/ 5.4m/ 500' - DART Run - Caught up with Jeff during today's DART run out on the Davidson XC trails.  Took it pretty easy to prepare for the NAR run next week.

Friday - 65min/ 6m/ 1000' - Cove Creek/ Cannery Bottom Loop - Met up with Terry Foxworth's family for a weekend of running, camping, and hanging around the fire.  Decided to check out a few trails from the campground.  This was also the first run trying out my new Ultimate Direction pack.  The trail was perfect, but my body was feeling a bit beat up.  There was an amazing waterfall during the run which was a surprise as I didn't see it on the map.

Cove Creek Falls

Sat - 3hrs45min/ 18m/ 4000' - Pisgah - Did a big loop from the campground that was Cove Creek Rd, Daniel Ridge, Farlow Gap, Art Loeb, Long Branch, Butter Gap, Cat Gap, Davidson River, Cove Creek Rd.    Decided to take it relaxed today, but obviously I pushed it on some the down hills just for fun.  Farlow Gap trail was a fantastic trail.  The trail was a nice gentle railroad grade at the beginning, but soon became more sinister with plenty of big rocks and steep pitches to the gap.  After heading over Pilot Mtn I accessed the Long Branch trail and enjoyed a fast section of single track although my energy was waning.  During one descent a long branch reached out and scraped right across my eye.  Guess that is how the trail got its name.

Running across Pilot Mtn

View from Pilot Mtn

Sun - off - farming - Went to Kevin and Kate's farm to hang out, enjoy a delicious meal, and help a bit in maintenance of some cows through helping put up a new fence and milking (first time ever).  I really appreciate Kevin and Kate opening up their home to me to visit.

Totals =

Time - 8hrs33min
Miles - 46.4
Vert - 7550'

Had a great week exploring some new places but the body was feeling run down early on.  As of right now I have a nagging quad injury that is making me a bit worried of the upcoming NAR adventure.  Hopefully it will be a non issue by Tuesday.